or Login to see your representatives.

Access Candidates' and Representatives' Biographies, Voting Records, Interest Group Ratings, Issue Positions, Public Statements, and Campaign Finances

Simply enter your zip code above to get to all of your candidates and representatives, or enter a name. Then, just click on the person you are interested in, and you can navigate to the categories of information we track for them.

Public Statements

NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript: Syria

Interview

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

DAVID GREGORY:
As always, I appreciate your time. I want bring in the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, Republican Senator Roy Blunt, who's a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will join us in just a moment. Chairman Menendez, I want to start with you. You heard Senator McCain. You have said this past week that anything short of punishing Assad would be a mistake. Well, he's not getting punished, not at the moment.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ:
Well David look, this is a diplomatic breakthrough that is full of opportunity and fraught with danger. The opportunity is that we actually end up in a better place than we envisioned with the use of force, which is the elimination of all of Assad's chemical weapons and his production facilities. In essence, closing down these factories of death.

The fraught part is that, in fact, Assad, who has still not said whether he has signed on to this agreement, ultimately, even if he begins to move forward with some of the beginning elements of the agreement, doesn't fulfill elements of the agreement as we move along. The Russians find, as they often do, saying, in their minds, some plausible reason why there should be no enforceable action at the United Nations. And we're back to where we started, except that Assad has bought time on the battlefield and continued to ravage innocent civilians.

That's the challenge here. And so I'm looking forward to keeping the use of credible force on the table, because that's the only reason we've gotten to this point, even to this possibility. And it is the only reason, for example, in the past, that Quaddafi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, when the issues were about them giving up their chemical weapons originally, believed that the use of force against them was real, and therefore, gave up those weapons at that time.

DAVID GREGORY:
Senator Roy Blunt is here, as well. And before I ask you what you would have done along the way, you opposed a military resolution. You opposed military force in Syria. That's what the president was after. Do you think Congress will keep the threat of military action alive as this process goes on?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:
You know, I think it depends a lot on what kind of military action the President's talking about. In fact, until--

DAVID GREGORY:
Well, we know precisely what it's not.

SEN. ROY BLUNT:
Well, we also know precisely what he said he was going to do.

DAVID GREGORY:
Yeah.

SEN. ROY BLUNT:
And this is not the president coming to us and saying, "I'd like to do something in Syria. This is the president coming to us and saying, "Here are the two things I'd like to do. I'd like to do something that's incredibly small but consequential," whatever that means, "and Assad will still be there when it's over."

That's-- that's a different verification. As late as March of this year, I was for establishing a safe zone of some kind of in Syria for the refugees, and probably the insurgency. That, as the insurgency got more complicated, I'm not sure that that was still as viable in March of this year as it was a year earlier, when I thought it was the right thing to do.

But I didn't think what the president was proposing, in such specific terms, was the right thing to do. And I think it would have been a mistake for us to have a small attack that Assad was still-- said, "Look, the Americans took their best shot at me," which it wouldn't have been, but he could say whatever it wanted to be, "and I'm still here." I think Assad's a lot stronger today than he was two weeks ago.

DAVID GREGORY:
But Chairman Menendez, for you, as well. Look, Senator McCain disagrees about this, right? Senator McCain would have done a no-fly zone. He would have sent lethal weapons a lot earlier. He would have tried to bolster that opposition in a way that this administration did not.

But the reality is that the goal that this president has is not to get involved in a civil war, and to try to stand up for a principle, which is that you shouldn't use the worst weapons in the world, no matter what kind of conflict that you're in. That's it. That's the limited American goal. And the public's not even for that. Chairman Menendez, to you first?

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ:
Yeah. Well, look, David. Number one is I think I've heard the president say there are two goals. The immediate goal is the punishment of Assad, and in this case, if you can achieve giving up all of the chemical weapons and all the production facilities, then you've even gone beyond that, for the use of chemical weapons, and to send an international message that, "Do not cross that line."

And also, my view, strategically sending a message, for example, to the Ayatollah in Iran, "Do not think about marching towards nuclear weapons. There is a consequence." Or to the dictator of North Korea. The other one independently that the president has said, apart from the specific set of contemplative actions that he had, is that he has said that Assad must go.

Now, that is through, hopefully, a diplomatic process. Part of the-- when I say this is full of opportunities, if we could not only eliminate the entire chemical weapons program and eliminate all the chemical weapons, it might also create a foundation in which you could finally go to the negotiated agreements that Russia and the United States were going to pursue in what they call Geneva Two. That's an opportunity.

But there's a lot to go before we realize the opportunity. But I have heard the president say that Assad must go now. I agree with Senator McCain in this regard. Dramatically more assisting the vetted moderate Syrian opposition is, I think, incredibly important to achieve the first goal. And I also hope that we will pursue Assad for war crimes, even the comments of Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General--

DAVID GREGORY:
Right.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ:
--of the United Nations, are very significant, he's very reserved most of the time. The comments that he has committed crimes against humanity--

DAVID GREGORY:
That is-- yeah.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ:
--is something I'd like to see pursued.

DAVID GREGORY:
That's interesting. I want to underline that. Because I've heard others, and heard from some viewers, too, about that being a big issue, whether he's pursued for war crimes. Let me give you the last word here, Senator, before we--

SEN. ROY BLUNT:
Well, I would think, you know, Senator Menendez mentioned Iran.

DAVID GREGORY:
Yeah.

SEN. ROY BLUNT:
I think Iranians should understand that what's happened in the last two weeks is not the template for Iran. A nuclear capable Iran is not acceptable. This would be a totally different debate in the Congress. I hope the administration's reaction would be totally different.

And frankly, I think what's happened in the last two weeks is going to take us awhile to recover from. Our friends wonder what we'll do. And our adversaries have taken heart in seeing the uncertainty of the last two weeks.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. We're going to leave it there. Senators both, thank you very much. Andrea, you're sticking around. You'll be right back, along with Tom Friedman, Jeffrey Goldberg and Robin Wright, with analysis on America's role in the world. And what is it we're seeing here? What are Americans saying about what they want out of U.S. leaders in the world? The debate over intervention versus isolationism coming up.

Plus, five years ago today, the U.S. economy was near collapse after the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression. Are we any better off today? Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is here, along with one of the chief Wall Street watchdogs at the time, former Congressman Barney Frank. Later, our political roundtable, and what the crisis in Syria means for the President's broader agenda. We're back here in one minute.


Source:
Back to top