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TAPPER: This week, President Obama used the gusher in the Gulf to push the Senate to move on a comprehensive energy bill which Democratic Senator John Kerry introduced earlier this year. He joins us from Concord, New Hampshire now. Also joining us this morning, Republican Senator John Cornyn, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which helps elect Republicans to the Senate.
Senator Cornyn is in Austin, Texas this morning. Senator Kerry, Senator Cornyn, thanks for joining us.
KERRY: Thank you. Glad to be with you.
TAPPER: Senator Kerry, starting with you. Do you think the Obama administration has been too cozy or too trusting with BP?
KERRY: No, I think they are holding BP's feet to the fire, but obviously this has been, as you just heard Admiral Allen say, it's continued to dissipate, it continues to provide challenges. I think they've got an extraordinary number of workers, 17,500 National Guard, over 20,000 workers, almost 2,000 vessels. It's growing. They are growing to meet the demand. And I am convinced you're going to see the Congress of the United States and the administration together hold BP and the drilling process accountable.
TAPPER: Senator Cornyn, how would you rate BP's response? Should its CEO, Tony Hayward, stay or should he go?
CORNYN: Well, BP's response has been lousy. They are the ones that started this problem, and unfortunately, Jake, here we are 48 days into it, and I'm glad to hear Admiral Allen saying we've accumulated the human and physical assets we need to deal with this problem, but it sure has taken a long time. And I think a lot of the confusion has been because no one has really known who's in charge. Is it the president of the United States? Is it the CEO of British Petroleum? Who is it? Is it Admiral Allen? So I think really, we need the president to step up and assert himself and to say, let's cut through the red tape, let's cut through the chain of command, and let's get the assets where they need to be in order to protect the beaches and the people of that important region.
TAPPER: Senator Kerry, you were smiling during that. You want to respond?
KERRY: Well, it's sort of fashionable (inaudible) right now to try to blame the Obama administration for this disaster, which occurred because of a drilling problem that occurred with BP and Transoceanic (sic) and so forth. From day one, from the first moment, from within hours of this happening, President Obama was notified. The next day, he held the principals meeting in the White House. He's been down there three times. Every major person in the administration has been there. You have the best minds in the country being brought to bear on this. But everybody understands, the government of the United States doesn't do the drilling. The government of the United States doesn't have the technology. They have been racing to try to make up for BP's mistakes and for the absence here of a sufficient level of emergency.
Frankly, we had eight years, as many of us remember, of secret oil industry meetings where they wrote the oil laws, where there was an incestuous relationship with the MMS, and everybody understands this relationship has to change.
I think it is changing now.
Here's what's important. Not to be throwing the blame around, but to put America on the course to true energy independence and self-reliance and to begin to wean ourselves from our addiction to oil. And the Congress has staring it in the face an opportunity to catch up to the rest of the world. China, India, Germany, Japan, other countries are using American discovered technologies in solar and wind, and they're rushing them to the marketplace. The United States is losing a major economic transformational moment. Until we begin to do something -- you know, since 9/11, we now actually import more oil than we did before 9/11. It's insulting to common sense.
And what we need to do is pass an energy comprehensive policy that prices carbon and begins to move America to the future so we can get into the marketplace. We'll have less pollution, better health, better national security, better competitiveness, increased ability to provide our own national energy policy, and we will create millions of jobs.
TAPPER: Senator Cornyn, your response? Senator Kerry obviously advocating for his energy bill.
CORNYN: Well, there are parts of the bill that Senator Kerry and Senator Lieberman have introduced that I think are positive steps. The acknowledgment that we can't completely cut off ourselves from domestic sources of oil and gas. That we need to explore nuclear power. That's certainly an important part of the overall picture.
But where I disagree with them is that we need to tax the American consumer and the American business at a time when -- with an energy tax -- a new energy tax, when unemployment is at 10 percent.
You know, if we do that then we're going to kill a lot of jobs that currently exist. And together with the moratorium that is of uncertain duration, particularly in the Gulf states, Governor Jindal and others have expressed their concern, I share that concern, that a lot of people who make their livelihood in the oil and gas industry are going to be out of work.
So we need to be very careful here. I think rather than try to hit a grand slam home run, I'd like to work with Senator Kerry and others to try to do -- you know, hit some singles and develop nuclear power, battery technology that will help us deal with our environmental concerns. And then let's look to divert more of our demand to natural gas, which we have in plentiful supply. It's American, and it's much less of an emissions problem than other forms of energy.
TAPPER: Senator Kerry, I want to let you respond to the...
KERRY: Well, you know, Jake, if I...
TAPPER: Go ahead.
KERRY: Yes. Well, if I can just say quickly, look, I'm delighted to hear John say he'd like to work with us. And obviously I've been working with Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman, we want to reach across the aisle and we want to reach accommodation.
But let me tell you, you know, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams and Babe Ruth never stepped up to bat in the World Series and said, I want to try to hit a single. The fact is, the United States right now is behind in an enormous challenge globally where China, India, and others are spending billions of dollars to take the discoveries that we made, and they're taking them to the marketplace.
The fact is, we're in a race against the science. The science tells us we need to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and there are many, many -- every major study that has been done by a legitimate group, most recently the Peterson Institute of Economics, shows that there are hundreds of thousands of jobs to be created if you pass our legislation, and if you wind up pricing carbon.
Now there is no tax in our bill. Unfortunately, there are some folks who call anything and everything that's dreamed up in Washington a tax. There is no tax. What we do is have a system where those who are polluters in a country have a requirement to reduce their pollution.
And in doing so, we create any numbers of jobs by moving to natural gas, to nuclear, to alternative and renewable energy, to energy efficiency, to conversions of vehicles to natural gas, to retrofitting homes and reducing our energy use.
There are countless ways in which we can put America work with jobs that stay in America. And every one of those studies says this will not raise the cost of energy for most Americans. And it will in fact protect the consumers even as we create those jobs.
TAPPER: All right. I want to move on. We have a lot to talk about today. I want to move on to the situation in the Middle East right now, if I could.
Senator Cornyn, if I could start with you, although the details are still murky, it has become clear that Israel killed a U.S. citizen in international waters with this flotilla incident. What should the U.S. response be when an ally kills a U.S. citizen?
CORNYN: Well, like you said, Jake, we don't know all of the circumstances yet. But it appears to be a premeditated provocation of Israel, and to attempt to run the blockade that has existed since Hamas took over the -- took over Gaza.
Hamas, of course, is a -- was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by Bill Clinton in 1995...
TAPPER: They took over Gaza...
TAPPER: They took over Gaza through elections, I mean, we should point out. Elections pushed by the Bush administration.
CORNYN: Well, they are a terrorist organization, no matter how they came to power. And so you can understand why an organization committed to the elimination of Israel, our only reliable ally in the Middle East, is a matter of some concern to them.
And they are entitled, as a matter of their self-defense, to look to see whether weapons or other items were being smuggled in. Egypt has the same sort of blockade, although there are numerous tunnels going beneath the border there between Egypt and Gaza.
So this was pretty clearly a premeditated provocation, and it's unfortunate that lives were lost. I think, you know, it should have been a situation like it had been before. If the people organizing this flotilla had been committed to a peaceful activity as opposed to provocation, this would not have occurred and Israel would have been able to examine the contents of the flotilla and they would have been delivered to the people in Gaza who needed help.
TAPPER: Senator Kerry, General David Petraeus recently said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in CENTCOM's area of operations and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world."
And the head of the Mossad, Israeli intelligence, Meir Dagan, said this week, quote, "Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden."
Do you believe the state of Israel has become a strategic liability for the United States?
KERRY: No, I don't believe that. But there are obviously tensions with respect to certain policies. We've seen that.
But let's begin at the very beginning of a big picture here. Israel has every right in the world to make certain that weapons are not being smuggled in after the thousands of rockets that have been fired on it from Gaza.
And Israel has every right in the world, as recognized by the international community -- because it is not just Israel conducting this blockade; it is Israel and Egypt. So you begin that Israel has this right to protect itself.
Now, that said, Gaza is a -- is a humanitarian challenge, and Israel understands that, I think. And this has underscored it.
TAPPER: But, why...
TAPPER: If I could just interject for one second, Senator, if I could, you were there; you were in Gaza in 2009. You found that they could not even bring pasta into Gaza. It was on a list of prohibited items. You went to the Israelis and you said, what gives? They -- I think they bent on that and allowed pasta in.
What is the situation in Gaza that the Israelis won't even let pasta in?
KERRY: There are still items -- there's confusion in the process. And I've talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu. I've talked to Defense Minister Ehud Barak about this. I believe that Israel is working now to try to put together -- and we need to work with them to make this happen. We need to guarantee that the supplies for building can go in to Gaza for reconstruction but that they are not going to be able to be used by Hamas either to build rockets or bunkers or to augment Hamas's position in Gaza.
So I think there is a way to do this. I think that what we need to do in the days ahead is put out a list of the things that cannot go in and have a clarity for those groups trying to get things in as to what can go in, and get back to the movement and access cooperation that existed previously, where we really have a better flow of goods.
Let me just tell you, it is in Israel's interest in its security and national defense interest, to deal more effectively with the Gaza situation.
Right now, you have Hamas building a seaside resort using goods that are smuggled through the Rafah tunnels, while the United Nations entity in Gaza has 40,000 kids on a waiting list to go to school, and they're trying to build 15 schools this year.
That is not in Israel's interest, in our judgment. And so I believe we need to work with Israel diligently in these next few days and get those goods moving.
But we also need to remember that -- that Iran is trying to foment a next intifada. There's nothing they'd like more than to create a violent explosion. And the tension is real enough that there is the threat of war in the Middle East. We need to work extra-hard in these next days to bring the parties together and to try to move the proximity talks to final status discussions as fast as possible.
Nothing would do more to address the concerns expressed by General Petraeus, to build trust and to diminish the ability of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and others to cause mischief than to get to the final status issues as fast as possible.
TAPPER: We only have a few more minutes. I want to switch to politics if I could.
Senator Cornyn, two weeks ago, you said about Connecticut Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal that he damaged his reputation by misrepresenting his war record, falsely claiming that he'd been in Vietnam during the Vietnam era.
You said, "the public is looking for candidate and office holders that they can trust and that have integrity."
Illinois Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk this week admitted he'd misrepresented his war record. He claimed he was personally awarded a medal he did not win. There are other matters like that. Do you have a different standard for Republicans who misrepresent their war records?
CORNYN: No, Jake, and Mark Kirk made clear that his company or his organization got that medal and not him personally, and he apologized for any misunderstanding.
I think the problem with Mr. Blumenthal was that when he misrepresented his service in Vietnam, he had a press conference shortly thereafter and said that he had misspoken. You know, that's like shooting yourself in one foot and reloading and shooting yourself in the other foot. I think, you know, people are human, they make mistakes. They ought to admit it, and hopefully people will forgive them and they can move on.
There are a lot of other very important issues in the Illinois race, and we do expect Mark Kirk to be the next United States senator from Illinois in the seat formerly held by Barack Obama.
TAPPER: Senator Kerry, last question. I assume you disapprove of what Mr. Kirk has done. What about Mr. Blumenthal? You are a decorated Vietnam War veteran. You served in Vietnam. Did that not offend you?
KERRY: Well, I think every veteran have their own personal feelings about it, and obviously it did not sit well with a lot of folks. But I think these candidates are dealing with it at the local level. I think that the electorate in both states will make their own judgments. And the only thing I would disagree with John Cornyn on is that I think Alexi Giannoulias will be the next senator from Illinois, but other than that, I agree with him.
TAPPER: But just very quickly, we only have less than a minute left. As a decorated Vietnam War veteran, what do you think? How do you feel when Mr. Blumenthal falsely claims to have been in Vietnam?
KERRY: Look, again, as I said, let the voters at the local level sort this out. I think all of us who served have witnessed over the last 30 or 40 years strange aftermaths surrounding Vietnam, as I think Rich Armitage said a couple of years ago when I was involved in the race for presidency, Vietnam seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. So we all have to sort of work our way through whatever it is that surfaces about it. But the voters in those states, you know, Dick Blumenthal has a long and distinguished record. He's been a terrific attorney general. I think the people in that state respect him. He stepped over a line. He's apologized for it, and it's time to move on.
TAPPER: All right, Senator Kerry, Senator Cornyn, thank you so much for coming with us -- coming onto our show today. We really appreciate it.
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