tv Meet the Press MSNBC December 29, 2013 11:00am-12:01pm PST
breaking news, a bombshell report in the "new york times" could change the debate over the deadly attack on benghazi in 2012, one of the hot political topics of this year. from nbc news in washington, the world's longest running television program, this is "meet the press" with david gregory. and good sunday morning. happy holidays. the "new york times" concludes there was no involvement by al qaeda in the attack that killed four americans, including u.s. ambassador christopher stephens. they also said the attack was in part fueled by anger over an american-made video critical of islam. so does this bolster the obama administration's initial
response to the attack and undermine its critic? coming up, i'll have exclusive interviews with the journalists who broke the story in the times and one of the republicans in congress who claimed there was indeed a cover-up. also, some of the key questions in 2014. will obamacare survive in its present form? and how much does the u.s. have influence around the globe? and what is in store for edward snowden? first the developments in the benghazi story. joining me here in washington on our set is nbc chief news foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell. and from vermont, "new york times" cairo bureau chief. david kirkpatrick, thank you for being here. it changes the narrative, it changes the report on benghazi, and let me lay out the context
of what you conclude. months of investigation, you write, by the "new york times" centered on extensive interviews with libyans in benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that al qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. the attack was led instead by fighters who had benefited directly from nato's air power and logistics support during the uprising against colonel gadhafi. and contrary to claims by some members of congress, it was fueled by islam. two key points. how do you know it wasn't al qaeda? >> well, i don't think i'm out on a limb there. i think honestly if you asked anybody in the u.s. intelligence business, they would tell you the same thing. i've talked to some of the
people who i believe were lead perpetrators, and it's just obvious from them and the people around them, they're purely local people. their pasts are known, their records are known, when they were in prison, who they hung out with in prison, who their associations are. there is just no chance that this was an al qaeda attack if, by al qaeda, you mean the organization founded by bin laden. i've tried to understand some of the statements coming out of congress blaming al qaeda for this, and the only way they make sense to me is if you're using the term al qaeda a little differently. if you're using the term al qaeda to describe even a local group of islamist militants who may dislike democracy or have a grudge against the united states, if you're going to call anybody like that al qaeda, then okay. certainly there were some anti-western islamist militants involved in this attack. but to me that's a semantic difference and not a useful way of answering the original question, which is, did the
group founded by osama bin laden lead this? >> andrea mitchell, in the days after the attack on this program and others, then u.n. ambassador, who is now the president's national security adviser, susan rice, came on the program and i asked her if there was a terrorist element involved. this is what she said. >> putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in cairo. almost a copycat of the demonstrations in our facilities in cairo which were prompted by the video. >> she says the video was a part of this, this was a spontaneous event in part by the video. that's being bolstered by this original assessment by the "new york times."
>> if i can interrupt you, i would say, no, we're not bolstering that original assessment. in fact, she made some clear misstatements there. this was not a street protest and it was not a copycat of what happened in cairo. that was an unarmed street protest. this was a group of armed men, who inspired by a video, deliberately attacked the compound. so what she's doing there through her misstatement is actually setting up kind of a false dichotomy. either it was a spontaneous street protest or it was an armed terrorist attack. neither of those turns out to be exactly the case. it was an armed terrorist attack motivated in large part by the video. >> but that's the point of the role of the video as opposed to an attack that was carefully planned and orchestrated. >> i think you can parse the words. it's very clear and it was clear from the review board's report that the state department itself had commissioned. that review board led by mike mullen and ambassador pickering said there was a terrorist
element here. so the question is how much were they motivated or sparked by the video, and how much was it purely terrorism, anti-u.s. and anti-western terrorism, showing how vulnerable the consulate was. in susan rice's defense and the state department's as well, in those first few days everybody was trying to cover up, appropriately, they thought, the fact this was a cia outpost. it was a cover for an outpost to try to disarm the very militias that ended up attacking. >> so david, a finer point here. one thing that is not removed is the sting against this administration for inadequate security for a diplomatic outpost on the ground in post-war libya. >> yeah, i would say in addition to inadequate security, there
was a real intelligence failure here. there is a substantial cia operation tasked with trying to figure out what are the threats to american interests among these militias, and it's clear that the united states fundamentally understood the dynamics of those militias. the people who attacked the compound were members of the militias the u.s. expected to protect, the same mission. >> david, thank you for your reporting and coming on the program this morning. i appreciate it. happy new year to you. with us republican darrell issa of california. i'll also speak to joaquin castro in texas. mr. issa, let me start with you. back in may, after the independent review came up with its conclusions about what happened, you and i had the following exchange. i'd like to play it and ask you about it now. >> the fact is we want the facts. we're entitled to the facts. the american people were effectively lied to for a period of about a month. that's important to get right.
>> i want to be clear what you believe the lie was. >> this was a terrorist attack from the get-go. it was never about a video. >> have you changed your mind based on the "new york times" investigation? were you wrong about that? >> well, the "new york times," quite frankly, david kirkpatrick did some very good work. but interviewing people in benghazi after the fact, after the world has been told about this video, is really not realtime. we have seen no evidence that the video was widely seen in benghazi, a very isolated area, or that it was a leading cause. what we do know is that september 11 was not an accident. these are terrorist groups, some of them linked to or self-claimed as al qaeda linked, but i think david -- before i go on, i wanted to make a very good point that david put out. look, it is not about al qaeda as the only terrorist
organization any more than jihad or hamas or hezbollah. >> you said repeatedly it was al qaeda, and the reason that matters is you and other critics said the president won't acknowledge al qaeda because it's an election year and he wants to say that after bin laden, it's been decimated and would make him look bad if it were al qaeda. >> al qaeda wasn't decimated and there is a group there involved that's linked to al qaeda. what we never said, and i didn't have security look behind the door, that's for other members of congress, of what the intelligence were on the exact correspondents with al qaeda, that sort of information. those sorts of methods i've never claimed. what i have claimed, and rightfully so, is ambassador stephens and others alerted well in advance that they had a security threat, including, of course, the two attempts to kill the ambassador, the british ambassador, the closing down of these facilities and so on, on the day the ambassador was killed, it was not a question of if, but when there would be an attack.
so we had warning beforehand, and instead of increasing security, we reduced security. during the attack, in 8.5 hours, we didn't launch so much as one m-16. the question is what the military capability is in response there and why there wasn't greater security. and lastly, there was this clear attempt, and andrea said it very well, there was an attempt to put a bright spot, and maybe it was to cover up cia activities, but they went out on five stations and told a story that was at best a cover-up for cia, and at worst, something that cast away this idea that there was a real terrorist operation in benghazi. and by the way, there is nobody from the u.s. government in benghazi today. it is too dangerous to go there. >> andrea, a question? >> one point is they were denying a cia outpost in the initial days because it was too dangerous and because we don't talk about intelligence.
the point of why use the term al qaeda? because you and other members of congress are sophisticated in this and know that when you say al qaeda, people think central al qaeda. they don't think militias that may be inspired by bin laden and his other followers. so it is a hot button for political reasons from the administration's view. >> andrea, it was accurate. there was a group that was involved that claims an affiliation with al qaeda. now, al qaeda is not a central command in control. it was, in fact, a loose group that could take general statements and act on them. the important thing in our investigation, in the oversight committee investigation, where people have said under oath repeatedly they were not given the security they asked for in advance, they can't understand why there were not clear attempts to help them during those 8 and a half hours -- >> these are separate issues, chairman. the key question is, do you stand by that the administration lied about who was behind it and what initially happened given this reporting?
>> i think david kirkpatrick very clearly says the statements made were false and misleading. he says that in his report. i don't have to state anything. i'll stand, quite frankly, behind what david kirkpatrick said. >> with the amount of information they had at the time, isn't there a distinction between fog of war and an attempt to deceive? >> gregory hicks hearing the last words of stephens to the outside world was told, we're under attack. and under oath when asked, if the ambassador had seen a protest or anything else earlier, would he have reported it, he said of course, yes. the fact is people from this administration, career professionals, have said under oath there was no evidence of any kind of a reaction to a video and, in fact, this was a planned attack that came quickly. that's the evidence we have by people who work for the u.s. government and were under oath.
>> and again, the reporting today indicating that there was no evidence to be found of direct al qaeda link, this was clearly an attack like people on the ground felt it was. >> david kirkpatrick doesn't have the classified information that mike rogers and others have, and neither do i. >> classified information can also be based on incomplete information. it's realtime. if intelligence were always right, we wouldn't have a lot of the oversight in this country we have. reports are often wrong, are they not? >> what we know, david, is initial reports did not name this video as a prime cause. there was a small piece of information in a cable, they seized on it along with a lot of other information and chose to use that as a talking point. andrea, i think you hit it right on the head. if this was always about trying to deflect the fact that there was another large facility, fine, but the administration should honestly say that. we've already had director
clapper say he lied before the congress. >> didn't the administration's own independent review board come to the conclusion that the security failures you cited from gregory hicks and other witnesses were accurate? and it was a slamming report. >> it was a slamming report. my concern with that report is it doesn't go high enough, it doesn't go to undersecretary kennedy and others who had direct responsibility. but having said that, yes, they made it clear they should have had security they didn't have. mullen, when asked, if they had had a fast team like yemen had or like libya has today, would there have been an attack, and in his opinion, with those kinds of forces behind the walls, there wouldn't have been an attack. >> before i let you know, i quickly want to touch on obamacare, which is a big area of concern for you, especially the oversight committee. your colleague ron johnson told the times this on friday. it's no longer just a piece of paper you can repeal and it goes away. there is something there. we have to recognize that reality.
we have to deal with the people that are currently covered under obamacare. some 400,000 in your state of california have signed up and enrolled in obamacare. will obamacare survive, whether you like it or not? >> obamacare is a reality. unfortunately, it's a failed program that is taking a less than perfect health care system from the standpoint of cost and making it worse. so the damage that obamacare has already done and will do on january 1st, 2nd and 3rd will have to be dealt with as part of any reform. some of these things the administration talks about as good are, in fact, large expansions in medicaid, the fact that people well into the middle class are going to get subsidies is going to cause them to look at health care differently. health care sort of in a third world way of do we get subsidies from the government for our milk, our gasoline and, oh, by the way, for our health care? so as americans, we're going to have to ask the question of have we done anything to drive down the cost of health care? the answer is obviously no, we're going up.
are we making it more affordable with government subsidies? yes, but are government subsidies the answer or do we really need to look at the cost drivers of health care to get effective health care delivered at an affordable price which was the stated goal of the affordable care act. >> congressman, thank you very much. would have loved even more time on health care, but we're out of time this morning. hopefully you'll come back and joaquin castro, let me bring you in on this. give us your opinion on the aftermath of benghazi and the report this morning. does it change the debate? >> well, it certainly does, david, and i hope that chairman issa and others have learned a lesson from this. chairman issa and members of that committee crusaded for over a year on what was really a fairy tale claiming that the administration knew that al qaeda was involved and wouldn't admit it. and the fact is when a tragedy like this happens, whether it's something like this or a mass shooting on the a school, there is a lot of information that
comes out at the beginning that later has to be verified. but the important thing is that susan rice and the administration were trying their best to level with the american people, and some of the information that came out early, although it may have been wrong, that was their best effort. darrell issa and others took that and crusaded against the administration in a way that i think has been a big distraction for the american people. >> let me ask you about health care. the news this morning is that there have been 1.1 million americans that have enrolled via healthcare.gov, a surge we have seen in the last days and weeks. back in september, the secretary of health and human services, kathleen sebelius, said this was the standard of success. >> what does success look like? well, i think success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of march 2014. >> so we're about 1.1 million now, certainly far short of that standard of that goal. if you don't reach it, what are
the implications? >> well, obviously, we're going to try as hard as we can to reach it. the affordable care act is something that's good for the country. it really is a new day for the american people. they can't be denied now because of preexisting conditions. they won't hit lifetime caps, and we have been a little bit behind the curve. but on christmas eve and the day just before that, there were about a million people either on the website or made a phone call to enroll, and so we've seen the numbers spike up incredibly since november 1st. >> do you believe that the individual mandate will have to be delayed? is that something worth considering? >> no, at this point i think that we should continue with the law. you know, the administration, of course, has made some adjustments, but david, there is not a single big law like this that america has passed, probably in our history, where
there haven't had to have been changes made to it to tweak it to make it better. so some of those delays you see the administration making are really in the best interest of the american people and made with the intent of serving the american people and getting people health care in a better way. >> the fight coming up in the new year will be over the economy and jobless benefits that are set to expire for americans who are out of work. what are the economic ramifications of letting those benefits expire? >> well, obviously, you've got about 4.1 million long-term unemployed in this nation. in texas alone, we've got 66,000 people who as of yesterday lost their benefits. 235,000 people in all who will lose their benefits through midway in 2014. so it's not only the benefits which, by the way, only average about $300 a month. so it's not only the benefits to them but also all of that economic development for the country, for retailers, for grocers, et cetera, so it's
going to have a huge impact on our country if congress doesn't do something about it. >> thank you very much for your time. happy new year. >> happy new year. thank you. we're back here in one minute with one of edward snowden's lead attorneys. are more surprises in store for 2014? plus, this holiday season, praying for billy graham. >> he felt god did this to put him in that place so he could be a spiritual counselor and adviser, and every one of the presidents always, at some point in that relationship, would talk to my father about spiritual things. >> my colleague harry smith with a special look at a man who has been a spiritual leader to millions for more than half a century. plus, our roundtable is back with its analysis and insights about the u.s. and its position in the world. what are the biggest threats to the u.s. in 2014 and how will president obama handle them? this is george.
president president obama and the u.s. intelligence world were rocked this year by the leaks from edward snowden. here's this week's front page of the "washington post." snowden was interviewed for hours and he said, quote, the mission is already accomplished, i already won. but questions remain for key plans in 2014. snowden's key adviser in the united states ben wizner joins me now. ben, good to meet you. >> good to be here. >> what happens legally when he says, mr. snowden, i've already won. there was a ruling in the u.s. district court that concluded the following: no doubt the bulk
telephoney met adata collection program vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from or within the governments counter punch. the cost of missing such a threat could be horrific.punch. the cost of missing such a threat could be horrific. the bulk telephone metadata is to reconstruct and eliminate al qaeda's terror network. so here's a district court judge disagreeing with another district court judge. if it's going to go to the supreme court, the u.s. court of appeals has to do something. is this where it's headed? >> it is, but let me say this district judge is not just agreeing with another district judge, he's also disagreeing with a panel that included a former counterterrorism adviser concluded they had seen no evidence that the bulk telephone metadata program had been uniquely successful had stopped any kind of attacks. so there is a dispute about whether this is effective or even legal.
but yes, i think we always expected that there would be differences of opinion in the lower courts. there is no question that it's time for the supreme court to weigh in and to see whether, as we believe, the nsa allowed its technological capabilities to outpace democratic control. >> one of the key claims is this is an abusive program. this is an abuse of government authority. i can understand the argument that there is the potential for abuse by this kind of bulk collection. what is the actual abuse that's occurred? >> well, this is a general warrant. this is what the framers of the constitution were worried about when they said that the government needed to have individualized suspicion before it collected records from the american people. what the nsa has done is they flipped that on its head. they said, we're going to collect everything now because we can and we think it will be relevant to some investigation in the future. >> the supreme court said that was okay.
your data between you calling someone else, just the data, not the content, that that's not private. >> the supreme court said that was right about one person, not all people. the nsa is collecting the telephone records of every american. but i want to go back to that "washington post" headline where mr. snowden said, i won and mission accomplished. he didn't mean that the mission was accomplished. what he meant was that what he had set out to do was to bring the american public into the conversation, to bring open federal courts into the conversation, to bring the whole congress into the conversation. he did his part. it's now up to the public and our institutional oversight to decide how to respond. >> this is the act of civil disobedience. the question is, why doesn't he come back and face the music, face charges? here's the president speaking in august of this year. >> so the fact is that mr. snowden has been charged with three felonies. if, in fact, he believes that what he did was right, then like
every american citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer, and make his case. >> would he do that? under what circumstances would he do it? >> here's the problem with that. the law under which mr. snowden is charged, the 1917 espionage act, a world war i statute, doesn't distinguish between leaks to the press and public interest. and i think we can all agree that some of this information has been profoundly in the public interest and someone who sells secrets to the enemy for personal profit. in fact, the judge has argued in certain cases that it's a worse violation to legal to the press than to the enemies because all gets to see it. >> he took an oath not to disclose classified information? >> he certainly signed the same agreement that everybody else signs, but his oath is to the constitution. if the law allowed him to make a public interest defense, if the
law allowed him to say, look how much good this has done, if the law would say there are no other disclosures, sure, he could do that. but he doesn't believe and i don't believe that it should mean a life behind bars. >> how are you in touch? >> we're in touch through encrypted channels. >> would he come back to the united states? >> sure, he hopes to come back to the united states. >> would we give him some deal, some amnesty? >> we don't really call it amnesty. lying to congress is a crime. torturing prisoners is a very serious crime. there are lots of times when people violate the law and society decides for one way or another to look forward instead of backwards. mr. snowden's disclosures had been profoundly valuable to the country and the world. they've really changed the whole debate here, and i think there is much the united states could gain through conversation with
him. >> i understand your point of view, and i wonder if you could understand those who believe that here is mr. snowden who has great faith in the american constitution who is in exile in russia, a country that does not have faith in our constitution or in the freedoms that it affords. >> absolutely, and i actually think if there is one thing we all should agree on, it's that edward snowden shouldn't be in russia. the reason he's in russia is the united states revoked his passport as he was transiting through there. and i open the u.s. sees it's in no one's best interest for him to be there, and if he transfers here, there should be somewhere he can live. >> what should we expect in 2014? >> there's a possibility he will emerge a little bit. people have been trying to get interviews with him, people have been trying to get book deals and movie deals. he prefers to stay out of the limelight, but i think he would
like to engage more in the public debate. >> certainly would love to have him here. thank you very much. coming up here, the u.s. and the world. how has president obama handled america's foreign policy, from syria to chemical weapons to the controversial nuclear agreement with iran. the roundtable will be back to go over the hot spots that will define america and the world in 2014 and beyond. that's up next. [ sniffles, coughs ] shhhh! i have a cold with this annoying runny nose. [ sniffles ] i better take something. [ male announcer ] dayquil cold and flu doesn't treat all that.
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oh what a relief it is. we are back. we have a special roundtable we put together to talk about the u.s. and the state of the world. back with me is u.s. chief foreign affairs andrea mitchell, also eugene robinson, robin wright, elliott abrams, former policy adviser to presidents reagan and george w. bush, and
dr. peter starns, first time on the program. he's here because i spent more than a month with you listening to your great courses on the brief history of the world. it made me sound very smart in front of my kids, even though they weren't as interested. welcome. welcome, all of you. eugene robinson, as we think about the u.s. and the state of the world, it's still my big question. what is the big story in the u.s., about the u.s., that dominates 2014? >> well, number one, this continuing conflict between two visions of government which paralyzes our government, and in turn, paralyzes the world in that the u.s. is the center of the world economy and the world political system. more government, less government, big government, small government. this whole approach is -- this conflict is going to continue. that's one thing. other big stories, we saw, of course, our domestic surveillance, the snowden story, you've covered that in the last segment.
and one story, huge story in 2013 that we kind of don't mention was the acquittal of george zimmerman and the racial issues and conflict that remain just under the surface that bubble up from time to time, that erupt. and i think you can predict we'll have more eruptions in 2014. we've come to big anniversaries of the civil war, big anniversaries of the emancipation, this and that, and we'll see more of that. >> and our historical context, the rest of the world looks at us and looks how healthy the united states is to be a world leader. and that becomes a lot about our domestic disputes, about idealogy, about world government, health care and the like. >> absolutely. obviously, the current paralysis in washington is an international embarrassment. hardly a signal advertisement for democracy, but i do think there was one other, if not story, process that's a little more encouraging, and that was however weak the economy is
still, the fact is economic improvement in the united states has arguably improved our global position. >> i think one story that is sort of connected to that in a perverse way is the growing income inequality. we're seeing, as we speak today, the continuing surge on wall street, but the fact that companies are not investing, they're sitting on their profits, and that the people at the lowest end of the income ladder are becoming more and more disadvantaged. that gap is connected to what gene was talking about, the role of government, which is perhaps best identified and symbolized by obamacare. >> if we throw this out there, the world leader compared to ten years ago, and it's fallen. you now have 53% saying the united states is less important and less powerful. >> i think this reflects something happening globally. we're seeing not only demands between countries but also among
countries. there is no post-cold war world, there is no major power. we are the biggest power because of our economy, because of our military, but there are other countries, whether they are upcoming countries like india and brazil who want to have a place in the decision making, whether it's the united nations or deciding the big questions. we're seeing the rise of china not just because of its economy but because of its growing kind of claim to territory, whether it's in the three seas, the south sea, the yellow sea, the east china sea, in a rivalry with japan that there are kind of a set of conflicts that are redefining our ability to influence. we're seeing what's happening in the middle east that's quite extraordinary with our alliances. a year ago saudi arabia and egypt were our close friends and now saudi arabia says it's moving away and egypt has gone through a military coup.
>> what links the internal to the external is president obama. 2013 is generally thought not to have been a good year for him. 2014 he has an off-year election. if he loses the senate, a lot of people will say, okay, he really is a lame duck. it's partly fundamental issues like the economy, it's partly a economy of national leadership. if you look to people in the middle east, arabs, israelis, they think the united states is receding. >> and the question is -- whether the issue is whether the united states chooses to use its influence, not whether it's lost its influence. something the economist wrote about in its "the world in 2014" issue which i enjoy every year. one of the leaders says this. obama has seemed a defensive president, retreating from iraq and afghanistan, unwilling to guide the arab awakening and keen to outsource responsibility in other regions to local powers. the question is whether the cautious mr. obama will use this to leave a mark on the world. like many second term
presidents, he will choose to focus on abroad. now that the nation is a little stronger, might he be a little bolder? what has come to define this era of world history and how obama plays in it? >> one point has already been mentioned. no matter what obama does, the world is becoming more multi-polar. it's not only democratization, it's industrialization. we won't have the vote we thought we would have 10 or 11 years ago. that's not going to happen. at the same time, we're dealing with the winding down of a second inconclusive war that probably did us no good in the world, and that's an area where obama can display leadership in helping us define, what's our mission after this? not to reclaim sole super power status. >> where is he bolder, elliott abrams? how does he make a difference? >> i don't think he's going to
be bolder. i think his main concerns are still domestic. and i do think there is a leadership gap here. if we look at what our middle eastern friends are saying, and some of those who are surrounded, really, by china, they're saying, where are you guys? you used to be the biggest power here. what are you doing? i say we see this in syria. in the middle east that's the thing they point to. the president stepped up and then he stepped back. >> the question, though, how well did that work out? how well did it work out for the united states to essentially believe it had the right to try to direct events in the middle east? i would argue that there is at best a mixed record, and i think president obama would argue that it didn't work out that well, that, in fact, we have to find a different road that doesn't, you know, make us the boss of everybody. >> two-thirds of americans in three recent polls indicate that they thought the afghan war was the wrong war to engage in, or it's gone on too long, that this
has been a failure. but the exertion of power or presence in the region, in the world generally, doesn't mean the use of military force. it often means the use of diplomacy. and that's where i think president obama actually scores points, that in dealing with iran, which is likely to be the big story of 2014, that he has tried a diplomatic initiative that has borne a little bit of fruit, and maybe the only way we can avoid another war in the middle east. and that on syria, there are some really ugly choices. there is nothing that is particularly attractive. and the story on benghazi this morning illustrates because some of the people who are responsible for the attack on the benghazi mission were those who have benefited from the u.s. nato strikes on libya. so our intervention in syria doesn't necessarily mean that those we like are going to win, and frankly, there aren't that many to like in syria on either side anymore. >> on syria, the main criticism you hear on multiple sides, not
just from elliott abrams, is we waited too long to decide who to back, and now that vacuum is filled by islamists and the people we want to train have fled. you can't make a statement assad must go and not take some action. one quick point is the israeli palestinian gambit. i think it shows, as robert was just saying, there is a boldness to the diplomacy of this second-term president that many may not have expected that comes from john kerry who is leaving again on new year's day for the middle east. >> the question i have is whether -- you see this after the armistice in world war i. churchill was a lone voice in arguing there were still threats that had to be confronted and the british society wanted nothing to do with it. that's a bit of what we're going through. we still face terror threats, terror safe havens in some of
the familiar places, the border of afghanistan. the president said we are committed to rooting out al qaeda, and yet we're in such a period of entrenchment on the left and the right, it makes it difficult for any american president to be bold in a way i think you would like to be bold. >> the problem is there is a huge price to be paid. if we pull out completely from afghanistan in 2014, you can see during this president's term a rebuilding of al qaeda there. look at the price in syria. we stood back and didn't do much in syria. 200,000 people dead, 6 million refugees threatening all the countries around them and 10,000 jihadis gathered there in the middle east. it's very dangerous, and what i fear is during this period of entrenchment, we'll see the threats go and you hand them off to the next president. that's not going to work. >> professor starns? how do you see the period? >> hard to say. i would like to make one other point, though.
boldness is not just boldness in some of the conventional diplomatic areas, and i'm not trying to downplay the seriousness of terrorist threats. there are bold opportunities, for example, in leadership on environmental policy. i'm not trying to play political correctness. but a nation that works, for example, with china that's eager to collaborate on environmental issues for very selfish reasons. there are opportunities to develop new kinds of alignments and collaborations that don't ignore the more conventional operations but strike out in new ways that could be very fruitful. i think that's an area where bold leadership is possible. >> if we have a deal -- we'll look at the big calendar for next year coming up in a few minutes -- if there were to be a deal with iran in the middle of next year, how does that impact diplomacy around the regions? does that help to burn out the syrian civil war? does it have impacts beyond that? >> i think actually the iranians, having just come back from iran, are quite interested in seeing a settlement in syria, that they understand the damage and the dangers to the region because of all the factors that
elliott mentioned. this is terribly destabilizing in a way far in excess of what afghanistan and its conflict did so that i think they're prepared at this point to lob off the head, in other words, assad, but to keep the body. to see him go but to see whether it's a bath party remain or a coalition of the bath party and the coalition, that they have to work. but they also have to feel they're being participants in the political process. the stakes on this issue in iran are in many ways not just the nuclear issue but they're really the kind of things we want to in iran, whether it is the opening up of a political system, the inclusion of a wider array of political players, women's rights. when i talk to people in iran, they were all saying, everything depends on the nuclear deal. the women's rights people saying, if there is a nuclear deal, we believe the current new president, rouhani, will have more say dealing with reforms in the political process, dealing
with the united states and the gulf countries that are important allies to us. >> let me get a break in here. there is a lingering question on the state of world peace i want to ask you about, but i also want to ask about our place politically in 2016. plus, he's been a spiritual leader to millions for more than half a century. we're looking at the life and legacy of billy graham during the close of our holiday season, coming up after this. >> he was preaching god's message. [ male announcer ] this is george. the day building a play set begins with a surprise twinge of back pain... and a choice. take up to 4 advil in a day or 2 aleve for all day relief. [ male announcer ] that's handy. ♪ [ male announcer ] that's handy. "stubborn love" by the lumineers did you i did. email? so what did you think of the house? did you see the school ratings? oh, you're right. hey babe, i got to go. bye daddy! have a good day at school, ok?
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great image of pope francis. there were so many of them with the young boy grabbing his leg and stealing the show. this year's images to remember. and coming up here from one religious man to another, looking at the life and legacy of the world's most famous preacher, billy graham. coming up next. ♪
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because using energy responsibly has never been more important. energy lives here. ♪ a 3d white smile with crest 3d white toothpaste. it removes up to 90% of surface stains in just 5 days. unleash your smile with crest 3d white toothpaste. life opens up with a whiter smile. i'd like to semi-retire, take it a little bit easy, but i believe i've seen enough lives changed that i'm going to continue preaching the gospel as long as i can. >> that was legendary christian leader billy graham back in 1979. after a lifetime of preaching the gospel to millions worldwide and serving as pastor to the white house, reverend graham is now fighting for his life at the age of 95.
our own correspondent harry smith talks to franklin graham about his father's unwavering faith, his life and his legacy. >> just last month, billy graham delivered what might well be his last sermon. >> he said, i want to preach one more time. he said that to me several times. >> reporter: no longer capable of standing at a pulpit, franklin graham told us his father's message was recorded this past summer, and the film "the cross" was finished just in time to celebrate his 95th birthday in november. since then, billy graham has been hospitalized and he is not well. >> he's very weak. his vitals are good, blood pressure, heart rate, these things are good. and he's eating a little bit, but he's just extremely weak. so i've asked people to pray. people who are watching this program, i hope they would pray for him. he would appreciate it very much. >> reporter: billy graham had a gift. when he spoke, it seemed the world listened. he preached to millions and they came forward.
>> god empowered him, and my father, when he stood to preach, he wasn't preaching his message, he was preaching god's message. >> reporter: while graham preached to packed stadiums, he was also a pastor in the white house, no matter the party of the president. >> he believes god put him in that place so he could be a spiritual counselor and adviser, and every one of the presidents always at some point in that relationship would talk to my father about spiritual things. >> reporter: franklin graham might have become a prodigal son. in the beginning, he was not about his father's business. >> i saw my father preach in madison square garden, and i was a little embarrassed, i think the first time i heard him preach. that's my father up there, and i kind of slid down in my chair. >> reporter: young graham was kicked out of his first college. but by 22, he returned to the fold. and while the resemblance to his father is striking, he is his own man. outspoken about islam,
questioning president obama's christianity for which he later apologized. >> well, i've never really been one to try to be politically correct. i just feel truth is truth, and sometimes i probably offend some people. >> reporter: with that kind of no-nonsense attitude, franklin graham has run samaritans purse for 20 years, a ministry that helps people when they need it most. graham's call to serve the less fortunate is something he shares with pope francis. and he applauds the pope to a point. >> he was asked about gays in the church and he said, who am i to judge? would there be a shift for you? >> god would have to shift, and god doesn't. god's word is the same yesterday and today and a million years from now, that it's sin.
to tell somebody that it's okay, i know the consequences of what will happen one day when they have to stand before god. i want to warn people, and i think the pope is right when he says he is not the judge. he is not the judge. god is the judge. >> reporter: franklin is also the head of the organization his father started and in that role helped his father fulfill his wish for a final sermon. >> help my father finish well. i feel that's what god wanted me to do is to help him finish well. >> reporter: and graham told us that sermon received more response than anything his father had done before. >> and when i told him, he was quiet for a second, then he just said, praise the lord! and he said it real strong with a loud voice, and he was excited. >> reporter: from "meet the press," harry smith. >> thank you, harry. when you think about big, sweeping, historical figures, billy graham -- and we've talked so much and we're going to talk
about pope francis and his potential to reach those heights as well. >> i think pope francis is the biggest thing that happened this year on the world scene. in the way that you think of pope john paul and the impact he had in eastern europe. this pope, not only in his flock, clearly, i'm not catholic, but i stayed up christmas eve just to watch the replay of that mass and to hear the homily. i am so moved by him and the message of caring for the poor and for those who can't care for themselves. >> and leadership in so much of the world, that he's providing principle and direction is striking. >> we look at the shadow he cast for years and years in this country, which is what makes the comparisons to the life of pope francis, but billy graham is an endearing figure. >> he not only emphasized the poor, he also emphasized peace. some discussion of what peace can mean and what role the
united states could play in helping to construct a more durable peace in key regions, i think, is one of the things that ought to be on the agenda. >> we end the year looking at some of the key dates in 2014. january 28th, state of the union, deadline to sign up for health care in march, approximate end of the 6-month timetable for iran deal. a lot there. >> mid-term election. elections have consequences, and so i think a lot of the year will be aimed at that election. one question i have about the campaign leading up to that election, mentioned by franklin graham, the culture wars. we've seen this year huge advance of gay marriage, a suggestion that maybe there
could be -- possibly there's a truce in the culture wars? it will be interesting to see if the truce holds or if war breaks out? >> and whether hillary clinton will run or not run. >> i'm going to leave it right there. thank you all very much for spanning the globe with me this morning. i appreciate it very much. that is all for today. i hope you have a very happy and healthy new year in 2014. we'll be back next week. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." if it's sunday, it's "meet the press."
are we there yet? one thing president obama and republicans can agree on is that 2013 was a mess. and they can't wait to ring in the new year politically. but the midterm mayhem might start earlier with a series of 7 senate primaries that could make our break republican hopes for complete capital control. and with just about 7 50 days before the first votes, are they facing a fight between the establishment. welcome to this special edition of the daily rundown. we'll look at the next two years of american politics. let's get to my first r