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FOX NEWS "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript - Israeli Airstrikes on Syria and Discussion of Benghazi


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WALLACE: Amateur video out of Syria said to show Israeli airstrikes on military targets near Damascus. If so, it is the second Israeli strike inside Syria in three days.

This comes one week after President Obama walked back threats of a red line if the Assad regime used chemical weapons. We wanted to discuss all this with Senator John McCain, one of the GOP's leaders on national security.

And, Senator, welcome back.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: What can you tell us about the Israeli airstrikes first Thursday night/Friday morning, and a much more extensive airstrike overnight?

MCCAIN: Well, apparently, the Syrians and Iranians have crossed a red line for the Israelis. That means that weapons of an advanced nature, probably missiles, have moved from Iran into Syria with intentions of moving them to Hezbollah. The whole thing is escalating. The leader of Hezbollah committed to helping Bashar Assad, the conflict is spilling over into Lebanon and Jordan.

MCCAIN: The whole situation is becoming more and more expansive, and fortunately the red line that the president of the United States had written was apparently written in disappearing ink.

WALLACE: Well, I was going to ask you -- when you look at this escalation, and the increased involvement, two strikes in three days by Israel, what does that say about what the Obama administration should do?

MCCAIN: Well, the Obama administration should be cognizant of what George Shultz, former secretary of state, once told me when he was in the Marines Corps, his drill instructor said, never point a weapon at someone unless you're ready to pull a trigger.

So, the President of the United States said there was clear red lines. Those red lines in the view of those have been crossed and he has failed to act.

First of all, he shouldn't have drawn the red line. Second of all, the red lines were a green light to Bashar Assad to do anything short of that. Chemical weapons are terrible, but isn't it pretty terrible when you launch Scud missiles against your own people, where you massacre over 70,000 peep, drive a million into refugee camps? Those seemed to have been acceptable to this administration, and it's deplorable.

WALLACE: What do you think the message is when Israel is acting and the U.S. is not?

MCCAIN: I think that it will probably put more pressure on this administration. But one of the things I worry about is an incremental -- I saw this in the Vietnam War -- incremental escalation. We need to have a game-changing action. And that is no American boots on the ground, establish a safe zone, and to protect it and to supply weapons to the right people in Syria who are fighting for obviously the things we believe in.

Every day that goes by, Hezbollah increases their influence and -- excuse me -- the radical jihadist flow into Syria and the situation becomes more and more tenuous.

WALLACE: Now, in the wake of the red line and the alleged use of chemical weapons, the administration says it is now rethinking arming the rebels.

MCCAIN: Well, I hope they are. I also hope the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who has testified repeatedly, these air defenses that the Syrians are so tough, we would have such -- the Israelis seem to be able to penetrate it fairly easily.

One thing I've learned about some of our military -- some of our military leaders, they don't want to do something, they can invent lots of ways not to do it. The fact is we are capable of taking out their air on the ground with cruise missiles, cratering their runways, where all of these supplies, by the way, from Iran and Russia are coming in by air, and we could obviously also, with the use of Patriot missiles, defend a certain circumscribed area.

And to -- and to allege somehow that the United States of America can't do that, means we've wasted a hell of a lot of taxpayer dollars.

WALLACE: Senator, you've just heard our very spirited discussion about Benghazi in the last segments, two months you called this, a, quote -- your words -- "massive cover-up by the Obama administration."

My question is, a cover-up of what? Clearly, there were serious misjudgments made particularly about the security situation in Benghazi before the attack, but do you believe that either President Obama or Secretary Clinton, or any of the other top officials, did something wrong?

MCCAIN: I think they are guilty of crimes of omission rather than commission. Don't forget, this is in the height of a presidential campaign, and the whole narrative by the Obama campaign was that al Qaeda is done, the war is over, everything is fine, the tide of war is receding.

So we start with the talking points that you discussed previously. Obviously, those were not only wrong, now we know recently in the last few days, that recently, in some of those were active members of al Qaeda. Then, of course, you move to the fact that the survivors were moved to Germany and were never interviewed? That could have resolved of these issues as to who was behind it, whether it was a spontaneous demonstration or not, and Secretary Rice may have told you a very different story if they had just gotten the facts from those people who are survivors.

We still don't know the names of those people. We still don't know exactly what happened there. There are so many unanswered questions. I say there are errors and sins of omission because the families of those four brave Americans deserve to know.

WALLACE: I want to ask you one other aspect of this. This week, eight months after Benghazi, the FBI puts out a notice that shows the pictures -- you can see them right here -- of three people, three men, it says were allegedly in the compound, on the ground in Benghazi during the attack.

How do you explain the fact -- and the FBI is asking for information. How do you explain the fact it took eight months?

MCCAIN: I don't, I don't. This is another reason why we need, in my view, a select committee to review all of this, Republican and Democrat along the lines of Iran-Contra or others. We need a select committee to get to the bottom of all of this. Whether that will happen or not, I don't know.

But isn't this incredible, all this time later, there's so many unanswered questions?

WALLACE: I want to ask you about that. You were quoted recently as saying that you called for a select committee both -- I don't know if it's the same or separate ones -- both in Benghazi, and also in the Boston bombings, and --


MCCAIN: I don't -- you know, the Boston bombing, I think we need a full and thorough investigation. I haven't yet called for it, for a select committee on that. Although that certainly might be helpful, because these things are not disconnected, some of these things that are happening.

WALLACE: Well, I want to ask you about that, because when you called for that, at least the quote was you had called for Benghazi and Boston, you said, because people do not trust the president.

Is that a little harsh?

MCCAIN: I think they do not trust the information that they are getting. I think a majority of American people, according to polling, don't believe that. They need to have these answers.

How did this young man who supposedly was under humanitarian visa go back to the country that he was supposed to be not able to live in? Why is it that only the Department of Homeland Security knew when he left and nobody seemed to know when he came back because of the, quote, "misspelling".

And this whole issue of visas, over staying visas, 40 percent of people in this country illegally, not because they crossed our borders illegally, but because they overstayed their visas. Shouldn't we have procedures, to track down, as we enforce our borders, that we track down those people as well and enforce the laws of when visas expire, people should leave? That whole thing -- by the way, on the immigration reform bill, we should be looking at some of these issues as well, on how we practice our immigration laws as well as pass them.

WALLACE: I want to pick up on this question of Boston, and another issue, because as soon as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger brother was arrested in the Boston bombings, you and Lindsey Graham were very clear. You said he needs to be treated as an enemy combatant. He needs not to get his Miranda rights, because we need intelligence on him.

But President Obama, and some of these top officials, including secretary of homeland security, have persisted about talking about this as just two brothers acting alone. Take a look.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: One of the dangers that we now we face are self-radicalized individuals who are already here in the United States, in some cases may not be part of any kind of network, but because of whatever warped, twisted ideas they may have, may decide to carry out an attack.


WALLACE: Senator, why do you think the president and his people are pushing that narrative in advance of the investigation?

MCCAIN: I don't know, except that it's unfair to the American people. There are many questions. What did this young man do when he came back -- went back to Russia and was there for an extended period of time? What was the Internet activity? Why didn't we know of his Internet activities?

Why did we ignore apparently the warnings of the Russians, even though they didn't repeat the warnings or give us additional information? The fact that they warned us I think that have demanded additional scrutiny.

And whether they are -- we should assume nothing. We should assume that we need a thorough and complete investigation. And to say, all of a sudden, just as they did about Benghazi, that this was spontaneous, that to assume that this was all homegrown, is an assumption that I don't think we have the facts to make.

WALLACE: Finally, I've got a minute left. The president says he wants to go back to Congress to try to find a way to close Guantanamo.


OBAMA: Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.


WALLACE: Back in 2009, when the president in his first full day signed the bill to close Guantanamo, you supported him in that notion.

MCCAIN: I still do. But --

WALLACE: What would it take to get you to --

MCCAIN: There's no plan that they have presented. And, by the way, about a quarter of those who have been released from Guantanamo have gone back into the fight, and in leadership positions. So we really have to be very careful about that.

The fact is there's been no coherent plan presented to the congress of the United States as to how we do dispose of these individuals. And one of them is not to send them back into the fight where they can kill more Americans. WALLACE: Senator McCain, we're going to leave it there. Thank you so much for coming in today, sir. Always a pleasure to talk with you.

MCCAIN: Thank you.


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