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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript - Syria Intervention

Interview

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WHITFIELD: Syrian Americans talking about the crisis in Syria. The president of the United States making his case on punishing the Syrian government for allegedly using chemical weapons against its own people.

But in his Rose Garden speech, Mr. Obama said he first wants Congress to approve. Just outside the White House gate, protesters urged Obama to stay out of Syria, just as you saw across the country.

How will the debate play out? In Congress, already there is criticism from New York Republican Peter King. Peter King is stating he thinks the president is kind of bypassing his authority by now turning to Congress.

Another one of Obama's critics, Florida Congressman Alan Grayson joining me from Orlando. He opposes any intervention at all. So after hearing the president, Mr. Congressman, yesterday, did the president say anything to change your mind?

REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: No. It's not our responsibility. It's not going to do any good. It's dangerous and it's expensive. Nothing the president says changes any of those facts.

WHITFIELD: And what do you mean by that when you say it won't do any good when you hear Secretary Kerry spell out that letting a dictator like Assad go with impunity means it sends a message to other dictators who might have chemical weapons that they could harm their people as well?

GRAYSON: Actually, there's only four countries in the world that have chemical weapons. The largest of the four is the United States. So are we trying to send a message to ourselves? That's not logical.

I've heard that theory before somehow one country's actions will affect another country's and another country's and another country's. It's just the Domino argument again. We'll call it the bombino argument. It's not logical, doesn't make any sense.

WHITFIELD: So, when the president and Secretary of State Kerry says Syria threatens national security and that it behooves the United States to do something, you say this is not a national security issue?

GRAYSON: Absolutely not. And there is a huge number of Americans who agree with me. We set up a Web site called don'tattackSyria.com and got over 10,000 signature in less than 24 hours. The polls show people understand this literally has nothing to do with us. We are not the world's policeman. We can't afford this anymore, these military adventures that lead us into wars that last for a decade or more. It's wrong. We need to cut it off before it even happens.

WHITFIELD: Does this mean it's at least comforting then to you the president while he said he thinks justifiably the U.S. should strike but he still wants to hear congressional approval? Is that any comfort to you he wants Congress to be thoughtful about this and to give the green light or not?

GRAYSON: Yes. And in fact, the British went through exactly the same process a few days ago. They came to the right conclusion, that it's simply not their responsibility. We're not the world's policeman. We're not the world's judge, jury or executioner. No one else in the world does things like this, and there's no reason why we should. We have 20 million people in this country who are looking for full-time work. Let's tend our own garden for a change.

WHITFIELD: You mentioned your don'tattackSyria.com and that there are a number of petition signatures; people are on board with your point of view. But what about fellow members of Congress? Where do you believe the allegiance will fall?

GRAYSON: Oh, the allegiance will fall into what makes sense for them representing their districts. In my district if you ask people where does Syria fall on your list of concerns, it wouldn't even be in the top 100. We have to spend a billion dollars (INAUDIBLE) according to British authorities. The billion dollars of this attack will cost that money that is better spent on our schools, our roads, our bridges, our health care and so on.

WHITFIELD: So, if you had an opportunity to make your case to the president, what would it be? We understand that Senator McCain will be spending some one-on-one time with the president tomorrow. Senator McCain has been saying for a very long time the U.S. needs to act. If you had that kind of face-to-face time with the president, what would you say to him as to why the U.S. should not go this, whether it has allies or whether it means going it alone?

GRAYSON: Well, in fact, all the indications are we will be going it alone. Even French public opinion is overwhemingly against this, and the French are the only ones who are even entertaining the possibility. It should tell the president something that when he's trying to vindicate so-called international norms that there's 196 countries and no one-- no one -- wants to do anything like this.

But what I would tell the president is first, no Americans have been attacked. None of our allies have been attacked. It's an unfortunate circumstance, there is lots of unfortunate circumstances in the world. In Burma, for instance, there's a civil war that started more than 10 years before I was born. And 12 presidents have resisted the impulse to interfere in the Burmese civil war even though far more people have died in the Burmese civil war than have died in the Syrian civil war. And I can give you countless other examples.

Sometimes the highest international norm, the one to respect the most, is mind your own business. And in this case, it simply won't do any good. No one thinks we will determine the outcome of the Syrian civil war by lobbing a few missiles into Damascus. No one thinks we will even degrade or eliminate the possibility of future of chemical attacks by doing. And in doing so, we'll be wasting a lot of money and we'll be opening ourselves to a counterattack.

People forget this, but the embassy in Beirut, the U.S. embassy in Beirut is 15 miles away from the Syrian border, and just down the block from Hezbollah. So if we attack them and then they attack us, I think people can see where this is heading.

WHITFIELD: Congressman Alan Grayson, thanks so much. From Orlando today, appreciate it.

GRAYSON: Thank you, too.

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