Former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl On The President’s Incoherent Syrian Policy
HH: Joining me now is a man who really would have been in charge of whipping any vote had there been a whip at that time, Jon Kyl, former United States Senator from Arizona, our favorite ex-Senator, or used to be our favorite Senator, now I wish he was back in there. Senator Kyl, welcome, great to talk to you this Monday.
JK: Well, thanks a lot, Hugh. I’m kind of glad I don’t have to whip this one in a way.
HH: But you wrote with Joe Lieberman on Friday what I believe to be the case, that it’s necessary to support the President here. Has your opinion changed over the weekend, especially with your former colleague, John Kerry’s unbelievably small comments earlier today?
JK: No. The problem is that many people from the administration have handled this so incredibly poorly that it gives Republicans very little confidence that he will do things the right way, and gives Democrats an excuse not to follow his lead. And so it makes it all the more difficult to do what I think needs to be done in the national interest for the good of the United States, never mind the commander-in-chief. And to me, that’s the bottom line. The United States’ credibility is on the line. And though the President got us to this point through a series of bumbling mistakes and lack of leadership, in my opinion, we are where we are, and sometimes, you have to lay the politics aside and forget about hurting the President, because he’s hurting the United States. And if the United States is not able to act in concert when the world is watching, and we need to have our allies know that we will support them, and our enemies know to fear us, if we can’t act in that situation, then our credibility is diminished, and it will hurt us in the future.
HH: Now Senator Kyl, today, Secretary of State Kerry made an off-hand comment about if they gave up all their chemical weapons, we could avoid this. And the Russians jumped on this, and the Syrians jumped on it. Late today, Hillary Clinton jumped on it, and let me play you her clip, cut number 10:
HC: Now if the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control, as was suggested by Secretary Kerry and the Russians, that would be an important step.
HH: What do you make of that, Senator Kyl? What do you make of that?
JK: Well, it totally messes things up. In the first place, after Kerry said what he said, State Department spokesmen rushed to correct the record and say oh, he didn’t really mean that, that was just an off the hand comment, and they walked it back so as to make the point that he didn’t really suggest it. He was just musing that of course it would take a lot of heat off if he were to give up his chemical weapons. Now, the Russians very cleverly jump on it. What I don’t understand is how former Secretary Clinton could say what she said without clearing it with the State Department first. I mean, I wouldn’t think she would, in which case maybe he’s not walking it back. Is this another illustration of the total, I mean, uncoordinated, just really ineffective leadership coming out of the administration these days?
HH: Oh, it is a circus. It’s a carnival, actually, and a very sad one. But I keep going back to the cover of the Foreign Affairs magazine in front of me, the Ayatollah Khamenei, and what he thinks of us at this point. And if we turn the President, if your former colleagues in the Senate and the House turn down the President’s request, what does the Ayatollah, the supreme leader, and Putin, think of the President and of the United States?
JK: See, that’s my point. As much as I regret the way that the President has handled this, it’s really our country’s reputation that’s at stake. And by the way, the next president is going to have to make up for this. Unfortunately, early in the next president’s administration, there’s going to be some kind of a crisis, and he’s going to have to come down really hard just to let everybody in the world know that okay, the Obama administration debacle is over with, now get back to understanding that the United States will do what it says it’ll do. But will his ability, or her ability, be diminished as a result of all of this? Will the Congress then take its own, you know, take the reins and go its own way because there’s no punishment for not supporting the president? It really makes it hard. And to think that we’d have to live with this for another three years, even aside from the action with regard to Syria, is very, very problematic.
HH: Senator Kyl, there are three things out there that I’d like you to respond to in just a couple of minutes that we have. One, Chairman McKeon said hey, he might support this if we could get the sequester for DOD reversed. Number two, some of our Christian friends say we can’t ever allow al Qaeda, they’re killing the Christians in the country, to take over, and then number three, folks like my friend, John Campbell, say this could be the start of World War III. This could be like a World War I situation. Your responses to each of those things?
JK: Well, first on the Christian complaint, there have been so many very bad situations where Christians have been persecuted and worse, just decimated in several of the Middle East countries, and you just hear very, very little about it. And that ought to be publicized, and frankly, to some extent, that ought to be a reason also for the United States to pay attention to what’s happening in these countries where we have any influence over the situation at all. As to the third world war, no, this isn’t going to start the third world war. Are you kidding? Barack Obama? I mean, there may well be some response from the Syrians or from somebody else, but he’s already told them that don’t worry, all I’m going to do is lob a few missiles your way, and then you won’t have to worry about it anymore. So unfortunately, I think what, the way he’s handled this does call into question what happens next. My guess is that they would be more emboldened to act more strongly than they otherwise would, and then he will have a challenge on his hands. If he would just shut up and act like he’s supposed to act as commander-in-chief, I think he’d be a lot better off than talking it through with everybody in advance. And now I’ve forgotten…
HH: And the third was the sequester. Do you think some Republican votes would rally if he were to reverse the sequester at DOD?
JK: Well, to reverse the sequester for DOD, he would have to come up with $109 billion dollars per year, each year. And what he has said in the past is it’s got to be half through increased taxes. So it all depends upon how it’s done. If he would cooperate with Republicans in reducing spending by $109 billion dollars a year, that would be a pretty good bargain. But so far, he’s not indicated that, so I think it’s a false choice. I think it’s a false offer. Well, in fact, I guess it hasn’t been an offer. It was just speculation that maybe he might be willing to consider something like that.
HH: And so in all of your years in D.C., have we ever been in this bad of a fiasco, 30 seconds, Senator Kyl, with this weak of a president?
JK: In international affairs, no, I can’t remember any such time. And if you look at the Wall Street Journal today, there’s a very, very interesting op-ed that suggests that actually, this is all part and parcel of the President’s policy, that he actually intends for this result, that is to say, a weaker America. It’s an op-ed by Norman Podhoretz, very well-written, I commend it to all of your listeners.
HH: Senator Jon Kyl, always a pleasure. Thank you, Senator.
End of interview.