(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Paul.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman?
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, D-N.J.: Aye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten ayes, 7 nays, one present.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week passing a resolution to authorize U.S. military action in Syria.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has been a leading critic of the president's plan, and he joins us now from Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Senator, welcome back.
PAUL: Good morning.
WALLACE: You just heard the White House chief of staff. Let me ask what's your vote count? Will the resolution authorizing the use of force pass the Senate? Will it pass the House?
PAUL: You know, the most difficult obstacle they have to overcome is, is that if we go in on the side of the rebels, we'll be going in on the side of Al Qaeda. And most of us think we have been fighting Al Qaeda for 10, 12 years now. So, it's a hard obstacle or a big obstacle to overcome. They may overcome it in the Senate if it becomes a partisan vote.
Everybody is trying to say this isn't Iraq. But it also isn't a good situation when we are going in allied to Al Qaeda. I don't know if it will pass in the house. I have my doubts about whether it passes in the House.
WALLACE: You saw disturbing videos that the administration is now showing to members of Congress that allegedly show the terrible reaction immediately after this attack. Could the president say anything Tuesday night, Senator, that would change your mind?
PAUL: Well, the interesting thing is when I see the horror of the attacks my impulse is whoever would order that deserves death. I mean, someone who is a war criminal who would execute citizens and kill innocent people with any kind of weapon deserves death. But the question is the attack, as I have seen the plan, as I have heard about the plan from the administration is not to target Assad, not to target regime change and to really be so surgical and so specific that it doesn't affect the outcome of war.
And so, really -- all the horror of these attacks would mean you would want to do something about them. I don't think we're going to do anything to Assad for doing these attacks. I think it's more likely that the chemical weapons could become freed and go about between the rebels or into Al Qaeda's hands if we destabilize Assad.
WALLACE: Let me ask you about a new development just today. Secretary of State Kerry says the U.S. will, the administration will consider the French suggestion to go back to the U.N. Security Council and wait for the weapons inspection report there. Would that change your mind?
PAUL: Well, I think it's a better route. The thing is, is that the Security Council, we butt heads with Russia and China all the time, we have to figure out how to get them on our side.
Russia has said repeatedly they are against chemical weapons use. They have signed the treaty, the ban. So, I think really, if we can convince them this was perpetrated by Assad and if the Russians and the Chinese and Security Council are on our side it could change the outcome here.
WALLACE: But as you know, Russia has a tremendous, real interest, real politic interest in Assad staying in power. He's a close ally of theirs. Let me ask you a different question. Earlier this week you suggested that you might take to the Senate floor and engage in a standing filibuster as you did on the drone attack. Here's what you said, "Whether there is a standing filibuster, I've got to check my shoes and check my ability to hold my water and we will see."
Then, sir, you seemed to back off that. If attacking Syria is such a bad idea, why not take to the floor for 10, 12 hours and engage in another standing filibuster?
PAUL: Well, the filibuster can delay temporarily a vote, but it cannot put a vote off forever. It can be used to get something you want. And so, filibustering to try to get an amendment to a bill is sometimes worthwhile. Filibustering to try to get information from the administration is worthwhile. But I can't ultimately defeat the resolution.
I will insist that there is full debate on this, and I will insist that I get an amendment, and my amendment will say that the vote is binding, that the president cannot, if we vote him down, decide to go to war anyway. That's the way I interpret the Constitution, and I will insist on at least one vote where we try to say, hey, guys, this is not political show. This is not constitutional theater. This is a binding vote.
WALLACE: Well, let me pick up on that, because you say that if Congress were to reject the resolution authorizing the use of force, the president went ahead with the attack, you've made it very clear: you believe that would be unconstitutional. If that's the way it plays out --
WALLACE: Congress votes no, the president acts, would you support impeaching this president?
PAUL: You know, I think there are different ways to look at constitutionality of things because we debate them, often with good people on both sides. Sometimes, things go through the courts. But he's already been proven to go above the law in many instances, trying to appoint people in recess. There are several instances, trying to amend laws after the fact where I think he's taken extra- constitutional powers.
Whether you impeach someone is a different question and it's obviously a big one. I wouldn't make a judgment on that. But I would say that the Constitution was intended to let Congress initiate war and the president execute war.
I don't think any of that's changed. In fact, the War Powers Act reinforces that. It's Congress's role to initiate war and the president's role to execute it.
WALLACE: Let's discuss some of the deeper policy issues involved here. During the Senate Foreign Relations Commission hearings this week, you had quite a back and forth with Secretary of State John Kerry.
Here is one exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: If the United States of America doesn't do this, Senator, is it more or less likely that Assad does it again? Do you want to answer that question?
PAUL: I don't think it's known.
KERRY: Senator, it's not unknown. If the United States of America doesn't hold him accountable on this, with our allies and friends, it is a guarantee Assad will do it again. A guarantee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator, the White House says that's the basic question. If Congress votes no, won't Assad, won't Iran, won't North Korea, won't the rest of our enemies in the world see it as a signal that they can defy the international norms and go ahead and develop weapons of mass destruction?
PAUL: No, I think it is unknown. I think there is a chance he's more emboldened if we do attack him. For example, what's the worst case scenario? The worst case scenario is that the stockpiles of Sarin gas begin to move about the country, and maybe they go to Hezbollah and they go into Lebanon and become more of a threat to Israel. I think that's more likely to happen if we attack Assad than if we don't attack Assad.
With regard to North Korea, I think the North Koreans know and should know absolutely if gas or conventional weapons were used on our troops ever, that there would be an overwhelming response against them. They are completely separate situations.
Here's the thing is -- this administration won't even react when Americans are killed in Benghazi. They have done absolutely nothing. And so, here is a situation in Syria that doesn't involve Americans and they want to get involved. To me, they've got it backwards.
WALLACE: You wrote an article, looking at another aspect of this, you wrote an article in Time magazine this week in which you said the following: "War should only occur when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened."
The question I have, sir, is there no place for humanitarian issues in the Rand Paul doctrine? What about Rwanda, what about Kosovo, what about in World War II, the Nazis exterminating the Jews? Is there no case where President Paul would say, we need to get involved militarily to stop that?
PAUL: You know, I consider myself to be a realist when it comes to foreign policy. We look at every individual situation and you have to access the facts. And then there is the process. How does war begin? It's initiated by Congress.
So, really, Congress, the people's representatives, we look at every individual situation. And I wouldn't say there's absolutely no case to get involved. But I would say that typically, America has to be involved or American interests have to be involved. We have a lot of allies in the Middle East -- Turkey, Israel, Jordan. A lot of those come into play when we decide whether or not to get involved.
But the thing is, is I think if we get involved in Syria, it's more likely to be unstable or create instability. One of the big things is the administration has admitted that they would use ground troops if the chemical weapons are threatened to be moved. They also have admitted it would take 75,000 American troops to secure these chemical weapons.
So, my question to the administration is, if you bomb Assad, is it more likely or less likely that the chemical weapons will become unsecured and they could go into rogue elements such as Al Qaeda, which is fighting with the rebels against the Assad government.
WALLACE: Senator, I want to get into one issue with you. There is clearly a split inside the Republican Party now between the so- called interventionists like John McCain, Lindsey Graham and then, on the other side, people like you who they call isolationists.
Where is the future of the party?
PAUL: You know, I think name-calling isn't the future. And I'm not an isolationist. I do believe in intervening when American interests or national security is threatened.
What I would say when you talk about who's winning this battle, talk to any American. I was in the airport yesterday and I talked to the father of a son who is on an aircraft carrier over there now and whose nephew was burned severely in the Iraq war. And his words were to me: stand up and fight them on Syria. We should only go to war when we have to.
That's what our young people think, too. If you talk to our young soldiers, men and women who are fighting, who have volunteered, they're willing to fight for America, but they want it to be a clear cut American purpose and that we are going to win. They don't want to fight for a stalemate.
President Obama wants stalemate. He doesn't want victory.
And if you're not going to fight for victory, we should never be involved in a war.
WALLACE: Senator Paul, we want to thank you -- thank you for talking with us. It's always good to talk with you, sir.
PAUL: Thank you.