The Sunday shows have been filled with one report after another on the closing of twenty five embassies throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia, which, to a lot of us looks a bit too conveniently timed with the debate over the NSA gathering up all of our data that's been recently revealed. Of course, over in "Opposite World" on Fox News Sunday, it was an excuse to accuse President Obama of being soft on terror.
I've seen this line repeated on Fox so many times just in the short time since the news broke on the embassy closings, that they're already sounding like a broken record, whether it's Bloody Bill Kristol and his buddy, wingnut Heritage Foundation President, Jim DeMint here, or any of the other neocon pundits they've brought on the air recently. So it looks like this is one of the new talking points that will be repeated ad nauseum for the unforeseen future -- President Obama bragged that Al Qaeda is on the run, and now it's America "on the run" from the terrorists.
I'm not sure what the alternative is that Kristol and DeMint have in mind, but it's probably a safe bet that it involves invading more countries and dropping more bombs on people's heads, as opposed to these drones we're using now that apparently aren't enough to suit these two.
And one last side note, I hope Howie Kurtz likes his new spot at Fox, wedged between these two wingnuts and being cut off if he dares to inject even the slightest bit of reason into the conversation.
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REP. ED ROYCE, R-CA, CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS CMTE: We have had an ongoing threat. It's Al Qaeda linked. And based upon our experience of the past we know that when the information surfaces that shows that our personnel are at risk we should act on that information.
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WALLACE: Congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee discussing the extraordinary steps the Obama administration is taking to respond to the latest terror threat. And it's time now for our Sunday group. Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz, former Republican senator, now head of the Heritage Foundation Jim DeMint and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.
Bill, what do you make of the decision to close all those embassies, all those consulates as Mike Hayden has said from Algeria to Bangladesh. What does it say about the president's foreign policy and what does it say about our fight where we stand with Al Qaeda?
BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Four years ago President Obama gave a much heralded speech as outreach to the Muslim world. And now, four years later we are closing embassies throughout the Muslim world. The year ago the president said Al Qaeda is on the run. And now we seem to be on the run. I'm not criticizing the decision to close the embassies. That's probably the right thing to do for the sake of trying to save American lives and others, but it's a terrible thing. That, you know, just a year ago boasting Al Qaeda is on the run and Usama bin Laden is dead. And now an unprecedented closure of 22 embassies and the travel alert, which lasts for a month, which incidentally -- I'm not sure people understand that State Department hates to do that. You know, this -- this is the highest level of the -- the travel advisory they do (inaudible), and the travel alert, every host government dislikes that. It cuts tourism. They are objecting to the ambassadors there, the ambassadors are cabling back to the State Department saying, travel alert, are you sure we have to do that? For the U.S. government and the State Department to issue a travel alert for the next month means the threat is serious.
WALLACE: Senator DeMint, the president was criticized heavily last September after Benghazi for not doing enough. Is it fair now to criticize him for doing too much?
JIM DEMINT, HERITAGE FOUNDATION PRESIDENT: Well, it's clear that Al Qaeda may be more of a threat to us than they were before 9/11 now. And we don't know exactly what all the intelligence says, but as you have heard from a lot of the experts on both sides of the aisle in Congress, there is a very real threat there. So, I'm not questioning what he's doing. I think what Bill is saying is true. Is our attempt to placate parts of the world, reset whether it's Russia or somewhere else are clearly not working. And the perception of weakness in this administration is encouraging this kind of behavior.
WALLACE: Juan, what do you think about that? The idea that the Obama administration is in retreat and now we are on the run, not Al Qaeda.
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I mean I just think that's a miscast interpretation of events. Clearly, the Al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11 really has been denuded. I mean that line of command and control, and training centers that they had in Pakistan, Afghanistan. We as an American people have gone -- and we have paid a tremendous price to dismantle that operation. What we are dealing now with is this kind of loosely organized terror network often influenced by the Internet. You get these lone wolves like the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston.
WALLACE: Yeah, but we are talking about Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, which is an offshoot, which is, you know, their own creation. And so, what we have to do is I think get away from the politics for a second and understand the severity of the terror threat and the fact that it has sort of metastasized and it has this element here and there. This is a new kind of threat. And to simply play politics and say, oh, Obama -- President Obama said Al Qaeda was gone, that Al Qaeda has been dismantled thanks to Republican and Democratic efforts.
KRISTOL: (inaudible) Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is the original Al Qaeda.
KRISTOL: Where is Osama bin Laden from? Where is he from? Yemen and then Saudi Arabia. That is core Al Qaeda.
WILLIAMS: The people who attacked us were Saudi Arabians. But ...
KRISTOL: ... new threat is coming from.
WALLACE: Howard Kurtz, you're going to learn -- you have to jump in.
HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS MEDIA ANALYST: Let me pull a couple of elbows here. Maybe the administration is suffering from post-Benghazi syndrome and is over reacting. We don't know the classified details. And "New York Times" reports this is based on specific intelligence intercepts. So I don't think it is just an exercise. And at the same time, you know, it does dent the administration and narrative that Al Qaeda has been largely neutralized as a terror force. But to be fair, Barack Obama never rolled out a mission accomplished banner and said that the threat had been completely eradicated. And for all the chatter on something (inaudible) elsewhere, about whether or not the politics of this are smart, are they doing too much, or doing too little, that pales compared to what would happen if there were attack, if there were American casualties and everybody would be on the White House, why didn't you do something before the attack took place?
WALLACE: Senator DeMint, does the administration's policy -- I mean look, they don't need any excuse to hate us. They hate us. And they are going to continue to hate us, the bad guys in that part of the world. Has the administration's policies in any way contributed, however, to this?
DEMINT: Chris, it's hard to tell. But I can tell from you -- from talking to people all over the world who have come through the Heritage Foundation. And we have had discussions. There is a perception of weakness of this administration.
KURTZ: Perception? Was there a perception of weakness during the eight years of the Bush administration during those ...
DEMINT: I'm not -- I'm not ...
KURTZ: ... color-coded alerts?
DEMINT: I'm not making a comparison here.
WALLACE: No, no, but you are saying that -- you're saying that ...
DEMINT: The instability ...
WALLACE: ... the perception of weakness because of an alert.
DEMINT: The instability around the world is clearly related to at least a perception of a lack of resolve of the United States and a perception of weakness. Now, I'm not questioning what the president is doing here. In fact, I think he should probably be over cautious rather than under cautious after Benghazi. But I think what we are seeing is a reaction to a perception that the United States does not have the will to act.
WALLACE: Juan, let's just quickly in the time we have left -- what does this do to the debate over the NSA? You heard Justin Amash talking about invasion of privacy. There seems to be a real push in Congress, even among supporters. We've got to put new limits on it, on the (inaudible) probably through the NSA that we've got the electronic intercepts that gave us this information.
WILLIAMS: Look, you know, when you look at the poll numbers, what you see is Americans are concerned about violations of civil liberties. But it's still the case that a majority of Americans say it is OK if this is an anti-terror effort we believe in it. Now, they think that the government is liable to go too far, to use the data for political reasons, for personal reasons. But people think, you know what, if this is a legitimate thing, approved by Congress, approved by the president and they hear from the intelligence chiefs that they are being properly used, they say, go ahead, fight the terrorists.
WALLACE: All right.