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Face the Nation Transcripts September 28, 2014: Blinken, Kaine, Flournoy

The latest on the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and politics back home
September 28: Blinken, Kaine, Flournoy 46:39

(CBS News) -- Below is a transcript from the September 28, 2014 edition of Face the Nation. Guests include: Tony Blinken, Tim Kaine, Gen. Carter Ham, Michele Flournoy, Michael Morell, Kimberly Strassel, Peter Baker, Ruth Marcus, Michael Crowley and Michael Gerson.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I'm Bob Schieffer. And today on FACE THE NATION: The president makes the case for war.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Part of our solution here is going to be military. We just have to push them back.


SCHIEFFER: We will preview Steve Kroft's "60 Minutes" interview with the president and hear his plan to turn back the new terrorist threat.

We will hear from Virginia's Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, says Congress has given too much authority to the president.

We will get the latest on the mission and what it entails from Deputy National Security Adviser Anthony Blinken, retired General Carter Ham, former Pentagon official Michele Flournoy, and former Deputy Director of the CIA Mike Morell, plus an all-star panel for analysis.

Sixty years of news, because this is FACE THE NATION.

And good morning again.

In the interview with Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes," President Obama revealed new details on how the terror group ISIS used the chaos and confusion of the Syrian civil war to rebuild its own force and why he concluded that the new U.S. strategy had to include a military component.

Here is part of the interview.


STEVE KROFT, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: How did they end up where they are in control of so much territory? Was that a complete surprise to you? OBAMA: Well, I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.

Essentially, what happened with ISIL was that you had al Qaeda in Iraq, which was a vicious group, but our Marines were able to quash with the help of Sunni tribes. They went back underground.

But over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swathes of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos, and attract foreign fighters who believed in their jihadist nonsense, and traveled everywhere from Europe to the United States to Australia to other parts of the Muslim world, converging on Syria. And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world. And they have been very savvy in terms of their social media. In some cases, you have old remnants of Saddam Hussein's military that had been expunged from the Iraqi military, which gave them some traditional military capacity, and not just terrorist capacity.

And this is one of the challenges that we are going to have generally, is where you have got states that are failing or in the midst of civil war, these kinds of organizations thrive. That is why it's so important for us to recognize part of our solution here is going to be military. We just have to push them back and shrink their space and go after their command-and-control and their capacity and their weapons and their fueling, and cut off their financing, and work to eliminate the flow of foreign fighters.

But what we also have to do is, we have to come up with political solutions in Iraq and Syria in particular, but in the Middle East generally, that arrives at an accommodation between Sunni and Shia populations that right now are the biggest cause of conflict, not just in the Middle East, but in the world.

KROFT: You mentioned James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. He did not just say that we underestimated ISIL. He said, we overestimated the ability and the will of our allies, the Iraqi army, to fight.

OBAMA: That is true. That is absolutely true.


SCHIEFFER: And more of Steve Kroft's interview with the president can be seen on tonight's "60 Minutes" after football.

An international coalition led by the United States continued attacks in Iraq and Syria this weekend.

CBS News correspondent Holly Williams and her team have made their way Irbil in to Northern Iraq -- Holly.


More than 150,000 people have fled ISIS over the last week-and-a- half, after the Islamic militants tightened their siege of the town of Kobani in Northern Syria. Now, those people certainly welcomed the U.S.-led airstrikes, but they have told us they need more of them.

It's very similar to what we are told here in Iraqi Kurdistan, where they're fighting against ISIS on the ground. They welcome U.S. help. They just need more of it. Now, the airstrikes so far have targeted things like ISIS vehicles, barracks, training facilities, and the oil fields that ISIS controls. And they will degrade the strength of ISIS.

But destroying ISIS is another matter entirely. And it may be impossible from the air, because the Islamic extremists are entrenched in towns and cities. And airstrikes on those areas will kill many more civilians, which the U.S. and its coalition certainly partners want to avoid.

SCHIEFFER: Holly, do you think these airstrikes are welcomed by everyone there?

WILLIAMS: No, they are not.

ISIS has popular support amongst some Sunni Muslims in Syria and Iraq, including in cities like Raqqa and Mosul. And the strikes haven't just been against ISIS. They have also targeted a group that linked to the al-Nusra Front, which is very popular with Syrians who are opposed to the regime.

And it even fought alongside the so-called moderate rebels who are backed by the U.S. Now, al-Nusra has called on its supporters to attack the U.S. and other coalition partners in retaliation. And many ordinary Syrians are outraged that the U.S. would launch strikes against al-Nusra, while it's failed to take any military action at all against the Syrian regime, which has been indiscriminately bombing its own people for more than three years -- Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Thank you so much, Holly. And be safe.

And we turn now to Anthony Blinken. He is the president's deputy national security adviser.

Mr. Blinken, as the president sort of succinctly outlined it and as you just heard from Holly Williams, this is an extremely complicated situation.

TONY BLINKEN, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It is, Bob, but we have a comprehensive strategy to deal with it.

You have seen the president put together a broad international coalition. We had five Arab countries flying with us the other day. We have more than 50 countries now part of this effort, not only dealing with the situation on the ground, but also trying to stop the flow of foreign fighters, stop the financing, delegitimize ISIL.

It is a comprehensive campaign and it has a broad coalition. It is going to take time, but we now have the pieces in place to do it.

SCHIEFFER: How do you feel it's going so far?

BLINKEN: Well, I think we have had a very good start.

You saw again the president proceeded very deliberately, as well as decisively. We wanted to get an inclusive Iraqi government in place so we would have a partner to work with in Iraq. We wanted to get support to train and equip the Syrian opposition. And we had a broad bipartisan vote in support of that in Congress.

And this broad coalition with more than 50 countries, and the first night in Syria having five Arabs flying with us is a very significant development.

SCHIEFFER: What do you think was the tipping point for the president on this? I mean, this does represent a different way of thinking, it seems to me. What caused him to finally say, you know, we have to go out after these guys? They don't understand anything but force.

BLINKEN: Bob, you know, actually there is a very strong continuum in the president's approach to this.

And that is, he has been relentless about dealing with terrorism wherever it emerges. And that goes back to before he was president, when he said he would go after bin Laden in Pakistan, even if the Pakistanis didn't want us to.

Wherever it's emerged, we have dealt it. Core al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been decimated, but the problem has moved elsewhere. But this is a very different approach than what was taken in the past. It's not tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of American ground forces. It's not trillions of American dollars.

It's helping local forces with some of the unique things we have, airpower, training and equipping them, assisting them, and it's getting a broad coalition together. And it's not falling into the al Qaeda trap of putting tens of thousands of Americans on the ground to be bogged down and bled.

SCHIEFFER: Speaker Boehner told ABC this morning that, although the president has the authority for military action in Syria, he says he will bring Congress back to vote on it if the president wants him to do that. Does the president want him to do that?

BLINKEN: Bob, we would welcome Congress' support. We already have it for the train-and-equip program.

And that support can manifest itself in different ways, including a new authorization to use force. So, that's something we would welcome. We do not require it. We have the existing authorization from 2001. That is a basis for proceeding. But we would certainly welcome Congress showing its support.

SCHIEFFER: He also said this morning that if other nations don't step up and put ground troops into Syria, his quote, "We have no other choice."

BLINKEN: We have been very clear that there will not be a U.S. ground invasion of Iraq or Syria. This has to be local forces stepping up and fighting for their own country.

What we can do, what we are doing is to provide some of these unique assets that we have, including airpower, but they have to be the ones doing the fighting on the ground. Again, we are not going to repeat what we did before, hundreds of thousands of Americans on the ground in the Middle East getting bogged down. That is exactly what al Qaeda wants. That's not what we're going to do.

SCHIEFFER: We also hear reports that the administration may be considering a no-fly zone in Syria. Is that a possibility?

BLINKEN: We are looking at different things as this campaign moves forward.

But in the first instance, what we are looking at and what we're doing is setting back ISIL in Iraq and also in Syria, moving them from their toes to their heels, getting them thinking about protecting themselves, instead of killing other people and taking territory, and as we're doing that, building up our local partners.

And so other ideas that may come into play down the line, we're looking at all of that. But, right now, we are setting ISIL back.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

Mr. Blinken, thank you so much for joining us.

BLINKEN: Thanks, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: We really appreciate it.

And joining us now from the state capitol in Richmond is Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine.

Senator Kaine, thank you for coming.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Good morning, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: As I understand it, it's not that you disagree with what the president is doing now, but you think Congress should go on record and vote on this and put some end date to this operation, however it turns out. Am I summarizing your view correctly?

KAINE: Bob, you state it correctly.

I think the president's definition of the mission has been careful. And that's why I have introduced an authorization to essentially authorize the mission as he described it with some key limitations. And I also think the administration has done a great job of bringing together the multinational coalition.

But we are not supposed to start a war without Congress. I'm sitting in the capitol that Thomas Jefferson designed here in Virginia. He, James Madison, George Mason and others who participated in the drafting of the Constitution made a critical break from previous history where war was a matter for the monarch or the executive, and said that wars shouldn't be started without Congress.

The reason they did it, we shouldn't be putting our service men and women in harm's way if there is not a political consensus that the mission is worth it. So, I think the president's assertion that he can do this, I think he doesn't have the Article 2 constitutional authority to do this entire mission without Congress, and neither of the authorizations passed by Congress in 2001 or 2002 cover it.

We should be debating and voting on this entire mission.

SCHIEFFER: Well, how detailed and what exactly do you want the Congress to vote on? What would be included in this resolution if you had -- to be what you want?

KAINE: Bob, the resolution that I have introduced -- and some other members have introduced similar resolutions -- basically tracks the president's four-point plan, humanitarian aid.

Of course, that is not controversial, and the U.S. is the biggest provider of humanitarian aid in the world to Syrian refugees. Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, counterterrorism operations to go after ISIL leadership wherever they are, and, in addition, the training and assisting of ground forces, whether it's the Iraqi security force, the Peshmerga in the Kurdish area, or vetted opposition in Syria.

So that is what we propose. And then there are some key limitations. I include a sunset, where the president would have to come back and keep Congress informed to extend the mission beyond a year, a limitation on ground forces, a repeal of the 2002 Iraq authorization, so we don't have dueling authorizations out there, and a careful definition of who the target is.

The notion of kind of we can go after people who perpetrated 9/11 and it's now being used to go after groups that didn't even exist when 9/11 happened suggests we have got to be very careful in how we define who we are at war with.

SCHIEFFER: So far at least, you are sort of a lone voice. I know there are some others that agree with you, but the majority of Congress seemed just delighted to be able to get out of town and not have to go on record on this. What do you think about that?


Bob, this -- it really concerns me that the president would assert he has the ability to do this unilaterally, when, as a candidate for president, he made very plain that the president cannot unilaterally start a war without Congress. He was very clear about that.

But you are right. To the extent that there's some culpability here, it probably is more on Congress' shoulders. We adjourned on the 18th of September. That's the second earliest recess before a midterm since 1960. And you know what? If the president had asked us to stay, like David Cameron asked Parliament to come back, we would have.

And the vote that Congress passed on the one piece of it that we voted on, the training of Syrian opposition, was -- showed strong bipartisan support in both houses. We could have given the president and, more importantly, we could have given our service men and women the strong backing of our political class before we asked them to risk their lives in what could be a very extended mission.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

Well, Senator, we want to thank you very much for being with us this morning.

We will be back in one minute to talk to our panel of experts. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: We want to bring in our first panel for some analysis.

Michele Flournoy was the number three person at the Pentagon earlier in the Obama administration. She now heads the Center for New American Security. General Carter Ham, the former commander of the multinational brigade in Mosul and more recently head of the U.S. Africa Command. And Mike Morell, who was number two at the CIA, he is now a CBS contributor.

And, Mike, I want to start with you first. There was a report that we had gotten the head of Khorasan, this new, heretofore unheard of group of terrorists who has suddenly sprung up. But so far, there's been no confirmation of that. Do you have any information on that?


And I think if he had been killed, we would know by now. I think the bigger question is, this group was planning a very specific attack to bring down an airliner using some very sophisticated explosives. The question is, have we disrupted that? The answer is, we really don't know yet.

Sometimes, you get intelligence that you have disrupted such a plot. Sometimes, you don't. But, Bob, I will tell you, in my four years of serving as deputy director, we probably went through this 10 times, where we had a specific plot. The president took action both to increase our defenses and to go after the terrorists. In every case, we disrupted it.

SCHIEFFER: General Ham, I want to ask you, from a military standpoint, how effective do you think this campaign has been so far?

GEN. CARTER HAM, COMMANDER, U.S. AFRICA COMMAND: Well, it's clear that the airstrikes to date have halted the advance of ISIL, and certainly caused them to change the openness with which they -- that they have been operating under.

The next phase will be much more difficult. As ISIL forces blend into the cities and into civilian populations, identifying and targeting them will become increasingly difficult.

SCHIEFFER: Michele Flournoy, you were at the Pentagon for a while. You worked for President Obama. You were at the very -- among the top policy people there.

I asked this question to Tony Blinken just now, but I want to ask you. What do you think was the tipping point for the president on this? Because this represents a fairly different way of thinking, it seems to me, when he decided to go into Syria here. What did it? What caused him to say, I got to do this?


I think it was the spilling over of the ISIL threat into Iraq, and with a speed and success that I think surprised everyone. I think it was the flow foreign fighters, the fact that you had thousands of people coming into Syria to wage jihad who had Western passports, who could back to Europe or the United States without getting visas.

And then I think ultimately it was the beheading of the American journalists and the fact that that brought it home to Americans in their living rooms watching the news. So, I think those things combined gave him a sense he had to act.

SCHIEFFER: What is your sense of that, General?

HAM: I agree with Secretary Flournoy.

I think it was this compilation of events that unfolded and a recognition that ISIL presents a different kind of threat than one we have faced before and that military action was required, but only as one component of a much broader-ranging overarching strategy.

SCHIEFFER: Mike, what do you think?

MORELL: I think it's two things.

One is, it's the threat that they pose to the homeland today and the threat that -- the significant threat they could pose down the road. But it's also the fact that they pose a significant threat to the stability of the whole region, the failure of Iraq as a state, the possible failure of Syria as a state, and what that would mean for the whole region.

I think you put those two things together, it forced him to act.

SCHIEFFER: I thought the president, it was very interesting to hear him say that it was this chaos created by the Syrian civil war, that ISIS was sort of operating under the radar there, and that is how they were able to reinforce and rebuild their forces and emerge as a threat.

What is your sense of that, General?

HAM: I think that is certainly partly true.

We don't have great visibility -- didn't have great visibility into what was going on inside Syria, and to a degree post the U.S. drawdown in Iraq, did not have eyes and people in force on the ground in Northern Iraq to detect that this situation was evolving.

SCHIEFFER: Ms. Flournoy, who do you think is the most influential adviser in the president's circle right now?

FLOURNOY: you know, I think he hears from a number of key people, certainly his national security adviser, but also Secretary of State Kerry is very important, as are General Dempsey and a number of his military advisers. In my experience, this is a president who hears all points of view and weighs those. But I think the most important thing here has been the putting together of this coalition, because this coalition will actually not only help us fight ISIL, but also get some to our larger objectives in the Middle East.


MORELL: I just wanted to say something about this coalition, because I think it is very important that we have got so many countries working together.

But there's something that happened a couple days ago that I want to mention about the coalition. Many Americans don't believe there is a such thing as moderate Muslims. But a couple days ago, we had an Emirati pilot, a female Emirati pilot flying a fighter jet over Syria dropping weapons on ISIS.

And it's great symbolism that there are moderate Arab states.

SCHIEFFER: General, what is the problem going to be ahead? Everybody we hear says you can't get this done without some sort of ground combat troops in there. Do you agree with that?

HAM: I do.

Ground forces will be required to dislodge ISIL from the towns, villages and the large city of Mosul that they control. The challenge -- the question remains, will it necessarily be Western ground forces? And that has yet to play out.

SCHIEFFER: Ms. Flournoy, will the Iraqis ever get their act together here? Do you see them as a viable ground force here?

FLOURNOY: I think they will likely get their act together with our help. I think having our special operators in there, our intelligence officers, and most importantly having a new government that will be more inclusive of the Sunni population, that is the key to the confusion of the force.

SCHIEFFER: All right, we are going to take a break here.

We're going to ask you to stick around for part two of our broadcast.

And I will be back in a moment with some personal thoughts.


SCHIEFFER: Some will say the president made a wrong turn. Some -- and I am one of them -- believe it was the right way to go.

Reality is not always to our liking, but it is reality. The president's decision to go after ISIS was a recognition that the war on terror is not over and won't be over until the terrorists say it's over, which they will never do and which is why they must be destroyed.

Some will criticize the president for being too slow to act. And I do believe he should have acted more quickly. But reluctance to put American lives on the line until absolutely necessary is not a bad thing.

Critics on the other side will argue he is taking us into another war, when he campaigned to take us out of war. I have said before that we went to Iraq for the wrong reasons and left in the wrong way. But that was then, and this is now. No one wants more war, but we can't pick and choose when to confront threats to our national security. We do that when the threat emerges.

Last week was a turning point for the administration. But, to my mind, the president had no choice but to do what he did.

Back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SCHIEFFER: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but, for most of you, we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, so stay with us.


Back with our panel, Michele Flournoy, former defense undersecretary now at the Center for New American Security, Army General Carter Ham, who led the multinational brigade in Mosul; and Mike Morrell, the former number two at the CIA.

General, let me ask you -- we keep hearing reports of setting up a no-fly zone in northern Syria. Is that a good idea? And what does that entail?

HAM: I worry sometimes that, when people say "impose a no-fly zone," there is this almost antiseptic view that this is an easily accomplished military task. It's extraordinarily difficult. Having overseen imposing a no-fly zone in Libya, a force that is vastly inferior in air forces and air defenses to that which exists in Syria, it's a pretty high-risk operation. We can do it. Certainly, the Air Force, the United States Air Force and the aviation components of the Navy and the Marine Corps, the best in the world, unmatched, and they can do it. But it -- it drives the risk up pretty high.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what -- what does it entail?

HAM: It first entails -- we should make no bones about it. It first entails killing a lot of people and destroying the Syrian air defenses and those people who are manning those systems. And then it entails destroying the Syrian air force, preferably on the ground, in the air if necessary. This is a violent combat action that results in lots of casualties and increased risk to our own personnel. SCHIEFFER: Well, what about this whole idea -- Bob Kagan, who writes a lot on security matters, said last week that we ought to disable the Syrian air force, bomb all their runways and just keep their air force on the ground. How -- how does that strike you, Ms. Flournoy?

FLOURNOY: Yeah, I think that would be a significant escalation and a real broadening of the objectives that the president has defined. Right now we are focused on beating back ISIL, not entering into the Syrian civil war. So I think that is something that, you know, needs to be seriously debated before we go down that road.

SCHIEFFER: And, Mike, the whole idea -- I mean, we, kind of, get to talking mostly about tactics really, when you come back -- tactical decisions: go after the, you know, anti-aircraft units or trucks on the ground. How does this new strategy that the president has outlined give us a broader overview of where we are on this and where we're going?

MORRELL: Bob, this is not the first time that an Islamic extremist group has taken territory. Some people think it is. It's not. Al-Shabaab had territory in Somalia. They still do. AQIM, which is an Al Qaida group in North Africa took a tremendous amount of territory in Mali. AQAP in Yemen took almost a third of that country before it was taken back by the Yemeni military.

So this is the fourth time it's happened. I think we are going to see this kind of situation more and more in the future, across the whole swath of geography where we see Al Qaida today. So in the next five years, 10 years, 15 years, we are going to see Islamic extremist groups take territory, and we are going to have to figure out, in each case, how to take it back.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just go around the table here. The president, the new strategy, do you think it's a good idea? Do you have problems with it? Just how do -- how would you sum it up, in your feelings about it?

MORRELL: I think -- I agree with Michele. I think the strategy is very strong in Iraq. I think we are going to see success there. The strategy is weaker in Syria because we don't have a strong army on the ground to work with.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Michele?

FLOURNOY: I would agree with that. And the other thing I would say is that I think we need to set expectations that this is going to take years to execute. We are not going to see easy or quick wins. This is a matter of patience and perseverance to be successful.


HAM: I'd agree with Mike, who says that Iraq's a little bit easier than Syria. It remains to be seen if the Iraqi military can get their act together, with assistance and advising, to accomplish the necessary tasks on the ground. SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thank you all very much for helping us with this, this morning, and we will be back with our reporter roundtable to talk about the president's new way forward and the rest of the news.


OBAMA: No god condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning, no negotiation with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.


SCHIEFFER: And now, to get a whole new take on all of this, our reporter roundtable, Kim Strassel of The Wall Street Journal; Peter Baker, White House correspondent for the New York Times; Michael Gerson of The Washington Post; Ruth Marcus, also with The Washington Post; and Michael Crowley, the deputy Washington bureau chief for Time magazine.

Well, Kim, give me your thoughts on the events of this week. Because I see this week as, kind of, a turning point.

STRASSEL: It is. It's always good to have a president who has a plan rather than not. So yay on that. And he gave a very good speech at the U.N.. and, I think, has also been very careful what we saw Mr. Blinken saying, too, of not putting a timeline on this, which is better than what we have had in the past, and that he is actually, I think, gearing up America for the understanding that this going to take a while.

I do nonetheless think that there are some real problems, though, that we still face, one of which is that, yes, we are going in with allies and many of those are allies who are still very distrustful of us, given his walk-back on the Syrian red line in the past. I think the scope of the mission is still not necessarily big enough to get done what needs to get done, and that includes taking out Assad in Syria. And, I think, the promise on ground troops, no ground troops, is going to come back and be a problem for the president and for our ability to succeed.

SCHIEFFER: Peter Baker, you cover the White House. What do you -- I've asked this question about three times this morning, but I am going to ask you, too.


What do you think was the tipping point for this president?

BAKER: Yeah, I know, it's a great question. Because I do think we see, especially in this last week, as Kim was saying, a different approach. And I know Tony Blinken wanted to tell us how consistent this was, and you could certainly make that argument. But this does not feel like a president who is leading from behind. He is taking ownership of this campaign. He is in fact putting American troops in the front, even as he's talking about the coalition. And he's speaking about it in repeated ways in public in a way he really didn't do in past foreign policy crises, where he, kind of, would give a speech and then return to domestic issues.

And I think there is something over the summer, obviously -- you know, the fall of Mosul, the fall of Tikrit, the idea that these guys are sweeping through Iraq in a much more decisive way, you know, just turned things around inside his White House, and even before the beheadings. The beheadings obviously added to that, but I think that was before that happened.

GERSON: I think the U.N. speech itself was very, very important. I mean, this is such a contrast to, say, the West Point speech that was only a few months ago that talked about disengaging from the world. The president stood in front of the world community and asserted the U.S. has a leading role in the Middle East, and he asserted the doctrine of preemption, which says we are going after threats before they arise. And he talked -- it was really a moment of continuity. Because this is not the Bush foreign policy; this is American foreign policy for the foreseeable future. It's not the result of some ideology; it's the result of the briefing he gets every morning, which is scary. And I think it's good to have that continuity.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, I basically think the president had no choice here. I mean, you can't have Americans beheaded on television and not make some response to it. Whether that solves the problem or not, I think, number one, you have to have a response to that to let the American people know that, no, we are not going to stand for this.

MARCUS: I think that Peter makes an important point. The tipping point of needing to have American action actually came before the beheadings. The beheadings gave him the kind of public and political space to do what I think he understood needed to be done before that.

I think the critical question, and Kim kind of eludes to this is going forward what then? What if this air campaign doesn't work? The generals are all telling us you cannot get to success in Syria solely from the air.

So we are going to stand up this now notional force. What happens a year from now? A year from now, everybody understands the problem will still be there, but what if ISIS has expanded in a year from now, expanded into Jordan, expanded into Turkey? Where will we be? And that is a question that the president has not adequately answered.

CROWLEY: And our allies are worried about that, Bob. I was in New York this week for the UN General Assembly events. And I ran into an official in the government of one of these Arab coalition partners. And I said to him how long are you guys in this for? And he gave me a kind of crossways look and said how long are you guys in this for?

They don't entirely trust us. They don't entirely trust our resolve. I will say, Bob, though, I think we are seeing it's kind of a cliche, but I really do think we've seen a mission creep play out here.

Remember, this started out that first speech from the president, a humanitarian intervention to save the Yazidi on the mountain and protect Irbil.

Then it was about freeing the Mosul dam and then we started hearing about the Haditha dam, now we are striking Syria -- ISIS in Syria. There's also another group now, Khorasan, in Syria. Well, no ground troops -- well defined ground troops. Would that mean special forces on the guy doing spotting? Now we're hearing about a buffer zone and a no-fly zone.

So where is it headed? It feels very improvised and open-ended. At the same time we have allies worrying that we are not going to follow through.

STRASSEL: I note this morning that Tony Blinken said we are not going to repeat a ground invasion in the Middle East, but that -- the question, though, is ground troops.

Look, the nature of this strike has already changed just in the past week and that when you have got armored personnel carriers you can target it's one thing, when people are blending into the crowds you have to have people on the ground that are gathering intelligence and directing strikes and special operations teams that are going to take out terrorists. And I don't know he keeps that promise in particular with his own military saying that he is going to have to get there at some point.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, it seems to me the president has to do whatever is necessary. If there is a credible threat and they make the evaluation that this is threat the homeland of the United States, then the president has to be prepared to do that.

MARCUS: Well, but it maybe that a president Clinton or a President Cruz or somebody is going to have to do that presidential thing and take -- I hope it doesn't come to that but whatever might be the necessary steps to take the next step you call it mission creep, I just might call it important steps for the national defense and we need to be prepared for that.

CROWLEY: But also we should keep a sense of proportionality here. I think there's been an understandable emotional revulsion toward ISIS after we saw those beheading videos, but al-Qaeda in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and also as we have seen these Khorasan guys who are part of the al-Qaeda core based in Pakistan they are still coming at us and actually I think if something, god forbid, were to happen tomorrow, I would think it would be likely that it would be al-Qaeda in Yemen rather than ISIS. So let's keep a sense of proportion.

BACKER: Part of your previous panel, Bob, had mentioned the distinction between Iraq and Syria. The border is gone but our approach is different in each of these places, because we don't have a ground force in Syria to work with the way we do in Iraq. The Iraqi army has proved to be quite dysfunctional, but there is at least an army there to work with and a government that we're now allied with.

In Syria, we had the Free Syrian Army, a group of supposedly moderate opposition figures. And the truth is, you know, they have not been effective. The president himself says it was a fantasy to think that we can arm them and they would be an effective ground force.

OK what happens if that fantasy, then, doesn't work and we run out of targets that we can see from the air, as Kim was talking about not having spotters on the ground.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you about the political fallout from this. Do any of you think this will be an issue in these fall congressional campaigns? Because Speaker Boehner said this morning if the president wants a vote on this he said I will be happy to call everybody back to Washington and vote on it. But as we know congress they turned tail and ran home at the first available opportunity. They want to be on the record on this.

MARCUS: No. And it's only -- I'll be happy to come only, but if he asks and the president says I would welcome a vote but only if you guys go first.

I think the person who deserves credit this morning is Senator Tim Kaine who first of all took on his own president of his own party saying he doesn't have the necessary authority and he needs to call congress back to do it. And then he took on his colleagues for being feckless and not standing up to their constitutional responsibilities.

But I think the short version of it in terms of effect on the midterm not.

GERSON: I think it's likely to be marginal. There could be some rallying effect, there could be some dispiriting of antiwar Democrats, which is a significant portion. That's true. It's hard to measure. I think it's likely to be marginal.

This does help, though, internationalist candidates in the 2016 run up. Hillary Clinton is one of them, by the way, who was right on Syria and told everyone that that is true.

But it also doesn't help somebody like Rand Paul who a year ago could talk about drones and NSA and now he has to sound like Ronald Reagan, which doesn't -- he does not sound like Ronald Reagan.

STRASSEL: I think, though, in deciding that they were going to push this past the midterm has actually created a bigger political problem which we will address not two years from now but in fact in December in the lame duck and it's going to be a real problem, because you're going to have the president's antiwar left members of congress who were reluctant to do this anyway, they now will not have the pressure of an election to sort of push them along behind the president either. And you have his promises of no ground troops and he is going to be wanting more authority possibly at that point, and there could be a very huge and ugly debate that could not go his way.

MARCUS: A huge and ugly debate but a really healthy debate. Look what happened in Great Britain this week.

CROWLEY: But just looking past the midterms, you mentioned the NSA. This was topic A for us for so long a few months ago. And we are not hear being it now. And I think that effort is very much on hold and the people in support of much more aggressive surveillance feel like things have turned the tide turned their way very much.

BAKER: Here a good way it can affect the midterm elections -- it's taken the president's domestic agenda off the radar screen, right. He wanted to spend this fall talking about the minimum wage, about pay equity, about issues that might galvanize particularly women voters and get Democrats to the polls, he is not going to be able to get that message through at a time when we are focused on beheadings and air strikes.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just -- you mentioned 2016. Let me inject here one of the possible candidates is Hillary Clinton and she became a grandma last night -- Ruth.

MARCUS: Well first of all congratulations to all the Clintons and Mezvinskys.

What I thought most fascinating about this is the degree to which she and Grandpa Bill publicly embraced grandparenthood. You have a little bit of will she be a grandma or will she be a presidential candidate? Let's be serious. She is running for president. Having a grandchild doesn't make it less likely she is running for president and I would argue having a granddaughter makes it more likely she is running for president.

She does not want to be explaining to 10-year-old Charlotte that grandma could have been president but decided to stay home and change diapers. I don't think so. She's running.

SCHIEFFER: Does anybody think that Hillary Clinton is not going to run for president?

BAKER: Wouldn't put money on that.

MARCUS: And you can be president and still change diapers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In fact, they do it all the time, it's called congress.


SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about something else involving the White House, an absolutely stunning story in the Washington Post this morning about back in 2011 when somebody fired seven shots at the White House and obviously a deranged person from down on the Ellipse. The people, the Secret Service agents on top of White House, the ones there thought that the shots hit the White House. It had turned out that the president's children were there. The president and his wife were not there, and then suddenly a mysterious call comes over the Secret Service line saying everybody stand down there were no shots.

And then for four days the Secret Service put out a story there were stray shots because there was an exchange of gunfire between two gangs.

Later, a White House maid discovered one of the windows in the White House had been shot out four days after that. And they finally got to investigating this.

What are we to make of this?

BAKER: Well, one of the things we make of this is that the Secret Service has profited for many, many years -- and our presidents as well -- by the myth of invulnerability, the myth of infallibility, in fact, and the idea that the Secret Service can be on top of every situation is in fact not true.

And we have seen it again with the fence jumper with a knife. In this case, the Secret Service felt it was a very confused situation he was firing from 700 yards away. They didn't think it was involved at first. As you say, it took four days for them to find out.

Interestingly about the story in Ruth and Michael's paper today by Carol Leonnig, a great story, it talked about how the president and the first lady themselves were angry, not just at the failures that night that recognized the threat, but to even tell them later on that they had found the bullets that hit the White House and that was a point of stress between the president and the people who protect him, which is obviously always a dangerous and difficult situation.

MARCUS: What concerns me, Bob, is that the inevitable response this is to remove the American people even further from being able to literally see their government. So we now have a new fence at the White House. Your getting moved further and further back. You can't -- it's difficult to get into the Capitol, it's difficult to see the White House.

We need to figure out a way to both prioritize protecting the president and the first family and to make sure that we are not just living in a fortress Pennsylvania Avenue situation.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, I mean, it really -- I mean, it breaks my heart to see. I don't want this story to be true. I don't want it -- I have known these Secret Service agents all the way back to the Johnson and Kennedy administration. They are brave men and women. They have devoted their life. They are willing to put their lives on the line. But something is going to have to be done here. This is a bureaucracy that, it seems to me, is just going to have to find some way to fix itself or somebody is going to have to fix it. And it's not fixed yet. CROWLEY: That may be true. We should also remember crazy things like this have been happening at the White House for a long time. So for people who are hearing these stories and may feel like suddenly there is this influx, there is a lot of attention being paid now. But there was a gunman who fired shots at the Clinton White House circa 1994, and also around...


CROWLEY: At that time, a man crashed a small plane into the White House, a very small Cessna that basically crumpled up and did no damage. So you are just never going to be able to do -- and you're never going to be able to solve the problem that the White House is a target of sorts for crazy people. And I think you just minimize the risk as much as you can while having a balance of some access to the public. And I think we are actually in a fairly good place right now, actually.

STRASSEL: That being said, there is a lot of reports out there about an agency that is under stress. It is undermanned; people are overworked. You hear about people coming into the -- out in a field office in Cleveland. They're supposed to come do a couple of weeks in Washington and they're here for months...

SCHIEFFER: Well, their budget has been cut, too.

STRASSEL: Their budget's been cut. And then also the bigger issue, which you talk about, which is maybe not always being exactly fulsome with things that have happened, which seems to be the bigger concern because there has to be absolute trust there between that agency and those that they protect.

So it seems like there has to be some sort of huge investigation and, kind of, a top-to-bottom review of how you fix this. Maybe this is...


SCHIEFFER: Michael Gerson, the other big issue that almost is getting -- well, it's not getting the attention it deserves because of, you know, we've gone to war here -- and that's Ebola.

GERSON: Right, exactly.

SCHIEFFER: Where are we on that?

GERSON: Well, right now, the disease has not spread to Nigeria and other places, as was feared. So we have a disease that is largely contained but absolutely catastrophic in the countries where it is now.

You could have -- the CDC had an estimate this week of a worst- case scenario of 1.4 million infections. That's not likely, but you could see hundreds of thousands of infections that would essentially break these countries. The response of the world has been significant and late -- probably should have acted two months ago. U.S. military action that the president announced is not likely to be in place for four to eight weeks, as we are having exponential increases in infection. And he pleaded at the U.N. this week for other countries to join this effort. So we have a huge humanitarian challenge here. This is not likely to spread to New York or Paris. We know how to control a disease like this. But it is catastrophic in the areas where it is now.

CROWLEY: And it could be worse, Bob. It's not likely to spread, but the nightmare scenario is that it mutates and becomes more easily transmittable. For instance, it's not transmittable through the air, but it's possible it would mutate and that would happen. And we have obsessed in this country for more than a decade about terrorists with a weapon of mass destruction, and part of what President Obama is trying to do now is to counter radicalization around the world, kill radicalization at its roots. We need a better public health infrastructure, particularly in a place like Africa, to make sure that we don't have -- Ebola doesn't in fact turn into a weapon of mass destruction that would -- could devastate these countries.

MARCUS: Ebola or other -- other health threats.

CROWLEY: Many other diseases.

SCHIEFFER: All right. We have to stop there. Thank you all so much. We will be back in a minute to say thank you to one of baseball's greats.


SCHIEFFER: With so many bad examples that we've had to report on lately, we couldn't leave you today without a shout-out to a good guy, Derek Jeter, whose retirement this week reminded us that nice guys do finish first: five World Series rings, 14 times an all-star, but just as important, someone who conducted himself off and on the field in a way that made thousands of little ball players want to grow up to be just like him.

I've never met him, but I'd like to say "Thanks, Derek." We'll be right back.


SCHIEFFER: Watch "60 Minutes" tonight, and we'll see you next week.


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