MSNBC "MORNING JOE" INTERVIEW WITH REP. PETER KING (R-NY)
SUBJECT: MINNESOTA SENATE RACE, HOMELAND SECURITY REPORT TO LAW ENFORCEMENT INTERVIEWERS: JOE SCARBOROUGH, MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MIKE BARNICLE
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MS. BRZEZINSKI: Here with us now, Republican representative from New York and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Peter King.
Can we ask you more than one question about the right-wing --
REP. KING: First of all, I want to know where was Scarborough the last half hour? This guy gets a big salary. This is what we had to put up with in Congress for all those years. (Laughter.) He was never there when you needed him. Where is Scarborough?
(Laughter, cross talk.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: I'm going back to bed. (Laughter.) I'm sick. Here I am, sick, dragging myself out here for you --
We just played a clip of Bernie Goldberg.
REP. KING: Yes.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: And I think that you and I, as conservatives, need to salute Bernie Goldberg and need to tell other conservatives to follow that lead.
When President Obama does something right, salute him. Say, hey, we're rooting for him because we're Americans. But when he does dumb things, we're going to call him out on that, too.
REP. KING: Yeah.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Aren't you glad to hear Bernie saying what Bernie said?
REP. KING: Actually, I am. In fact, on election night this year I said I hope that the Republicans don't do to President Obama what Democrats did to George Bush over the previous eight years and what Republicans did to Bill Clinton during his eight years.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Exactly.
REP. KING: We've had now 17 years of this stuff, of just trying to tear down the president and demonizing. There was no reason to demonize Bill Clinton, no reason to demonize George Bush, and we should not be demonizing Barack Obama.
With you -- I agree with him, by the way. I agree with President Obama on Iraq and Afghanistan and on some of his homeland security decisions. I think he's wrong on the economy. These are honest differences.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Well, an example --
REP. KING: And he won the election -- (inaudible) -- he won the election.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Bernie brought up a great point on the pirates. Yeah, hey, I'm glad we killed the pirates. I'm glad the president laid low while --
In case something went badly, I didn't want the headlines across the world to be 17-year-old kids humiliate president of the United States. I mean, come on. Let's say, good job. Way to go. You handled that one well.
REP. KING: No, we should be proud as Americans when something works well, and give the president credit. Listen, we have enough legitimate criticism of Barack Obama. And to the extent that we just pile on, we lose our credibility.
And part of the whole cable TV mentality, the whole talk radio mentality where you get your niche audience, you get them and meanwhile you leave the 20 (percent) or 30 percent in the middle not knowing where they're going.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Yeah. That's, of course, in prime time. "Morning Joe," we embrace every --
REP. KING: And you are truly an intellectual, and I -- (inaudible). (Chuckles.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: And while we're embracing everybody, Peter King, you are one of the most hateful human beings I've ever met. I can't believe I'm talking about coming together as a country with someone as hateful as you.
REP. KING: You know, for a redneck, you've got a lot to say. (Laughter.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: This is a guy who made fun of me in Congress, saying that hey, why don't you go back in your tent, you know, tent- revival, barefoot freak! That was his response to me.
REP. KING: (Inaudible.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: So -- nothing wrong with that.
So while we're enraging our conservative brethren by talking about being reasonable, let's talk about Minnesota.
You may be a United States senator one day soon. Don't you think it's time for Norm Coleman to give it up and tell the people of Minnesota, you deserve two senators. I lost this one. I may come back.
REP. KING: Possibly. I want to see what the actual decision says. If it's based on questions of fact, then he probably should give it up. If there's a real question of interpretation of law and he has a legitimate shot, then he should keep it going.
But I agree with you. It's reaching a stage where you're depriving people of their representation. And again, if it was on the other side --
I think it's important for us to step back sometimes and say, what would the Democrats be saying about us, what would the media be saying about us, how would we be reacting?
So yeah, I think it's time --
MR. SCARBOROUGH: The media would obviously tell Al Franken to fight it until the bitter end. We know that. But you know what? We've got to be better than that. We've got to look at the facts --
REP. KING: Yeah. (Inaudible.) I'm just saying I want to see what the supreme court actually says, the state supreme court, what the actual reasoning is. Are they talking about facts, are they talking about law?
If it's a real question of interpretation of law, then stay in the fight. If not, then I think it's maybe time to do the right thing.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: You've got the Twin Towers on your lapel.
Lot of young men and women are fighting overseas because of that horrific event and all of the events that unfolded after September 11.
Are you concerned that Janet Napolitano's report that came out yesterday from the Department of Homeland Security, told police officers they need to be wary of veterans returning home possibly being recruited, that these --
And again, I'm more concerned about what does that say, a 19-, 20-year-old kid from Ithaca, New York, that's fighting in Iraq now, risking his life for this country, knowing, hearing that when he comes back he's a member of a suspect class.
REP. KING: Yeah, Joe. I'm very concerned about the mindset here. Janet Napolitano testified before the Homeland Security Committee several weeks ago, never once mentioned the word terrorism. Nowhere in the statement was the word terrorism.
When I questioned her on that, she basically said she didn't want to use the word terrorist. Even talking about al Qaeda or bin Laden, we cannot use the word terrorist. Certainly --
MR. SCARBOROUGH: So she doesn't use terrorist for al Qaeda or bin Laden, but does for our troops?
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.
REP. KING: Right. And that's the point. And they made a point of saying that this just generates fear, it generates hysteria, and we shouldn't use the word terrorist. So who would they use it for? Returning veterans and pro-life demonstrators.
Now, if we want to get into that, we can talk about Bill Ayers, you could talk about Reverend Wright, you could bring out all that stuff. And to put that in the context of a police directive --
This is going out to police departments all over the country, and you can't say look out for Islamic terrorists, you can't say look out for 9/11-type terrorists. But you can say, look out for potential terrorists from returning soldiers, returning GIs, or pro-life demonstrators.
It really shows a mindset which I'm -- I'm concerned about it.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Well, a mindset also when you're talking about veterans.
And -- (cross talk) -- were talking about that 19-year-old kid in Ithaca, New York, fighting in Iraq right now in Anbar province. He hears that the federal government is now telling police departments to be wary, that veterans may be recruited --
REP. KING: Right.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: And also -- comparing him to Timothy McVeigh -- and also notes that the commander in chief tried to make them pay for any injuries sustained over in Iraq, with the third-party insurers.
Again, it's this mindset that concerns me. And again, I don't think Barack Obama doesn't love veterans, doesn't salute veterans. But it's this mindset.
I think maybe this insensitivity to just how much they're sacrificing --
REP. KING: Yeah, and I'm giving President Obama a pass -- this for now. I think this was people in the Department of Homeland Security, which is why I am asking Bennie Thompson -- who I give a lot of credit for, for the letter he sent to Secretary Napolitano --
MR. SCARBOROUGH: For criticizing her.
REP. KING: But I'm asking Bennie to hold a full committee hearing as to what -- what's the genesis of this?
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Of the report, yes.
REP. KING: What prompted them to start targeting veterans? Again, these men and women are fighting, putting their lives on the line. We said we'd never repeat Vietnam as far as how we treat returning veterans, and we're doing it now.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: She actually addressed the question on our show this morning. We were allowed to ask one. She's in Mexico on other issues, and we needed to cover that as well. But here's what she said:
JANET NAPOLITANO (SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY): (From videotape.) These are routine intelligence assessments that are made for state and local law enforcement. They're for situational awareness. They're not accusatory, nor are meant to be accusatory.
The last thing we want to do at the Department of Homeland Security is infringe on anyone's constitutional or civil rights. And I think everybody needs to take a deep breath. There was -- I think there was a lot of Washington spin going on yesterday about this report.
But all it was saying is look, there's a constant and constantly changing threat environment in the United States. Our job is to protect against terrorism, whether it comes from abroad or internally.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Was that enough? What do you make of that as a response to the concern that we put out there.
REP. KING: You're only allowed to ask me one question. (Laughter.)
Seriously, on that, first of all, her answer was totally disingenuous. That Department and -- she has never put out a report talking about look out for mosques, look out for Islamic terrorists in our country. Look out for the fact that very few Muslims come forward to cooperate with the police.
If they sent out a report saying that, there'd be hell to pay. The New York Times, everybody'd be screaming.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Oh, they'd be blown up.
REP. KING: Instead, she sent this to police around the country. And she talks about intelligence; there's no intelligence saying we have to worry about veterans any more than you have to worry about anybody else coming back or anyone else -- any college student, or -- you said John Wilkes Booth, being an actor, or people who are angry. There's always angry people out there.
But to send out an official Department of Homeland Security report to local police indicates there's something there, and there is not, and she knows that.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: And again, the concern is what type of impact does this have on troops --
REP. KING: It has to be demoralizing. It has to be demoralizing.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: It has to be demoralizing. They have to be thinking, I'm risking my life over here, and I'm staying away from my wife and kids, or my husband and kids, my job, and my own government tells me to go out and kill terrorists, and then because they gave me the training to do that, now say I'm in a suspect class, that right- wing extremists may focus on me.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: It's not -- I characterize it differently, but I understand how you see it that way.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: It's the same impact on that young fighter overseas.
MR. BARNICLE: Well, I'll tell you one thing, when you talk about veterans, the one thing that would demoralize them more than anything that Janet Napolitano would send out is, you mentioned a veteran from Ithaca, New York or whatever, is the idea that you come home, you need treatment and you have to drive 150 miles to find a VA center to treat you.
We ought to take better care of them medically when they come back, for the issues that they come back with.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Exactly. And you have a president who, early in this administration, wanted to make them pay for injuries sustained while in battle. I don't get that.
REP. KING: I think it's important for the president -- I believe the president's -- (word inaudible) -- I think there are people in his administration who come from the liberal-biased wing of the Democrat Party, and President Obama's got to separate himself from them.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: It's -- he does, I agree with you. All right.
REP. KING: He needs more people like General Jones.
MR. BARNICLE: And would you say that you guys have to separate yourselves from the people who obsess on the right about Barack Obama?
REP. KING: That's a good point. I think it's wrong to be piling on --