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tv   Newsmakers  CSPAN  February 8, 2015 10:00am-10:31am EST

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>> are just joins us -- our guest joins us from -- we have leo mcshane -- leo shane and craig whitlock.
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>> it seems there is new momentum to consider supplying weapons to the government of ukraine, although that is something the obama administration and its european allies have resisted for a while. where do you stand on this? craig:rep. smight: -- smith: it is pretty clear the strategy russia has employed. they are going to try to militarily engage in companies underneath the surface, so it doesn't appear they are actually engaged. they will use third parties, bring their soldiers in in ways that we cannot see. certainly, they did that in crimea. now they are doing that in eastern ukraine. we want crane to be independent. if this works for russia and
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ukraine, there are a lot of russian speaking people in other countries around there. estonia, poland. where does russia stop? when you read the rhetoric coming out of the highest levels of government in russia, it is not encouraging. we have to help ukraine stop this before it spreads. we have to show russia there will be a high price to pay for this type of military intervention. if ukraine is not properly armed, if russia can relatively easily wind up dominating half of the country, then they are not paying that price. >> how do you think vladimir putin will react? will this cause them to step things up in ukraine or in some of the other countries in the region that you mentioned? rep. smith: i think it causes them to recalculate the cost. right now, crimea -- yes, facing and -- economic sanctions, but militarily, they continue to move forward.
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if it appears this is going to be relatively low-cost, there is a greater risk that he will continue to do it. there are risks on both sides of this. but we are defending a sovereign nation, by giving ukraine the legal aid that they need to protect themselves. if russia claims they are not actually there in the first place, they are going to have a hard time making the international case that somehow we are unfairly confronting them. >> congressman do you feel like that recalculation will happen? so far, we haven't seen any indication from putin that he is interested in backing down. what is the level the u.s. will need to get involved in order to create some sort of situation where they feel the u.s. is going to act? rep. smith: i think that's a legitimate point. perhaps recalculation was the wrong way to put it. it will become harder. putin and the forces he is using
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will become bogged down in ukraine, so they won't be in position to move on to some place else. i would put it that way more than recalculation. economically there have been devastating impacts on russia that have not caused putin to recalculate. but if they simply -- if it is simply a matter of militarily it is hard to advance in one place, that bogs them down, so that they then can't do this someplace else. leo: french leaders, german leaders headed to russia with a positive -- possible peace plan -- john: french leaders, german leaders headed to russia with a possible peace plan. what are your expectations for that? rep. smith: low. i hope it works. i think it is definitely worth the effort. the germans and the french are pretty into it. that would be the best possible outcome. putin has made a very bad choice here. the global economy has moved
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forward is -- forward. instead of embracing it and figuring out ways to work better with the west, he has decided that it is the cold war all over again and it is a zero-sum game. we can both benefit. i would hope that, eventually, we would be able to work out a more peaceful arrangement. it is a great disappointment that after the collapse of the soviet union, when there was so much promise in the 1990's, that russia has wound up where it is at. when you look at their rhetoric and the way they talk about their foreign policy it is the cold war all over again, the zero-sum game. you are either with russia and the east or the united states and the west. that is not the way the world is working today, and i hope that putin figures that out sooner than later. >> the middle east -- craig: the middle east and the fight against islamic state in iraq
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and syria it has been uneventful week. the islamic state burned alive the captured jordanian pilot -- been an eventful week. since then, there has been the reported death of an american hostage. how do you see these events playing out over the next couple of weeks or so? how do you think it will affect the coalition? we've heard reports of jordan scaling up its involvement while the united arab emirates has been pulling back a bit. how do you see this unfolding over the next couple days? rep. smith: the house armed services committee had a meeting with the king of jordan just a couple days ago. he made it clear that jordan is all in at this point. it is war, and they are going to do everything they can to stop isis. this is a long-term and very difficult struggle. the most important thing we need is we need sunni arab states engaged in fighting against isis. one of the biggest things we need is the sunnis in iraq
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itself to fight isis. do that, we are going to need a strong sunni -- to do that, we are going to need a strong sunni arab coalition. it is good that jordan is moving in that direction. we do not have the credibility in the muslim world to come marching in and destroy isis. that will strengthen isis. we have to work with and build a durable partnership. that's going to be very difficult. craig: what about other sunni and arab partners? when the bombing started, there was a lot of attention paid to their work number of arab partners participating -- twoo there were a number of arab partners participating. it seems like it has tailed off. rep. smith: they have limited
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capabilities. that's why we are trying to support and train them. i don't get the sense that in saudi arabia or uae or any of those countries that they have reduced their opinion of what the threat is. i think the real challenge and the real problem is the continuing inability of the iraqi government to have a true power-sharing arrangement, to be truly -- arrangement, to be truly an iraqi government, not just a shia government. we saw this in some killings where shia militias killed sunnis in iraq in just the last couple of weeks. if the sunnis don't believe they are legitimate part of the iraq, it makes it much more difficult to bring together to fight isis in the way we need them to. leo: do you feel like america is all in on this fight? there has been a lot of criticism from conservatives that the u.s. isn't engaged
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enough. that we need to talk about boots on the ground or some sort of stronger in it -- intervention than what the president has been speaking of. what's the next step for the u.s. in this? rep. smith: i think those criticisms misunderstand the role we can play in solving the problem. they seem to think the more troops, more bombs, the more we shoot and use our military, then the more aggressively we are involved. the problem, as i mentioned earlier, is that the more the u.s. and the west is seen as leading this effort, the more it strengthens isis' argument. if we learned anything from iraq and afghanistan, it is, i would hope, the limitations of the massive use of u.s. military force to force change in a muslim country. understand the central argument of groups like isis and al qaeda. they have a lot of -- what they say to the muslim world is we are defending muslims against
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western aggression. that is their case. now, it is garbage when you consider the fact that they have killed more muslims than any other group arguably in the history of the world. but that's the case they make. if you have a huge military presence, it is easier for them to recruit. at all costs, we need to avoid that. what we need is we need, within the muslim and sunni world in particular, them to recognize that isis is not what they want. we can help and support them, but if it is our military that comes pouring in, the lesson of the last decade shows the limitations of that. it is not a matter of, oh, gosh, we don't want to do it because it will cost a lot, it is because it is not effective ultimately in defeating the ideology we are fighting. leo: what about the authorization of use of force there? we have seen no progress on
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this. we are hearing the white house made up some language on that. when can we see something progress on clarification of exactly what the u.s. role will be in that region? rep. smith: there has been progress behind the scenes. the white house is preparing to send up language, specifically on an aumf. we will see how it goes. there is a growing consensus that something needs to be done. i've also heard that the consensus is it some -- needs to be somewhat limited. that's where you're going to have a class. some conservatives are going to want a completely open -- open-ended umf. i don't think that will fly in congress. are we able to find a middle ground, language that the majority in the house and senate can live with? that's going to be a challenge. but i think that debate will begin in earnest probably over the course of the next couple of
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weeks. john: have you seen any change this week since the brutal execution of the jordanian pilot in how members of congas are talking about this upcoming debate on the authorization of use of military force -- congress are talking about this upcoming debate on the authorization of use of military force? rep. smith: isis has been brutal and inhumane for quite some time, so i wish i could say that is surprising, but given what they have done the brutal murders they have already done, i don't think it changes. it just reinforces the understanding of the threat. >> if i could -- craig: if i could shift to yemen, a country most americans aren't familiar with. the country has been a direct threat from al qaeda affiliates -- from the al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. there has been an awful lot of political instability in yemen. the president resigned.
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the shia group have taken control of the government. this is not a group that has had very good relations with the united states, to put it mildly. what do you see as far as the way ahead therefore u.s. counterterrorist efforts? it was held up as a model of how the u.s. should approach counterterrorism strategies. is there still hope for yemen in that regard, or are we back to square one? rep. smith: we are not back to square one, but it is not a good thing. it is a significant challenge. i say we are not back to square one, just because we have been involved in yemen and we can continue to be involved in yemen working with both tribesmen fighting against aqap. the problem is we are now not going to have his support of the government, and that makes it much more difficult -- have the support of the government, and that makes it much more difficult.
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we are not going to get the cooperation we had with president hadi's government, and that is going to make it more difficult for us to carry out missions to control aqap.bitcoins out the larger problem, -- it points out the larger problem, going to isis as well. we have these extremist groups like isis and al qaeda. on the other hand, you have this undercurrent of asea -- of a s unni-shia civil war that has been going on for a thousand years. i think that is where arab states get pulled in different directions. they are very concerned about the rise of shia power in yemen and iraq and elsewhere while also concerned about the extremists on the sunni side. yemen is the best example of how that confusion makes it difficult to successfully get back to a point of stability get back to -- instead of having shia fighting sunni and extremist groups in
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the sunni world fighting everybody else, actually having stable governments that provide for their people. yemen shows how difficult that can be. leo: i want to shift to the defense budget and get your reaction to what the president's request was this week. a lot of provisions you saw last year and talked about and saw defeated on the hill. when we are discussing sequestration and other base closure -- sequestration another base closure round, are we just in a never-ending cycle of the pentagon, the president throwing ideas out that they know will never pass on capitol hill? rep. smith: there are two huge problems. number one is sequestration, something we should get rid of tomorrow. it was a bad idea when it was put in place here at it is a worse idea now -- it was a bad idea when it was put in place. it is a worse idea now. when it's at a certain amount of deficit savings had to be achieved or sequestration -- when it set a certain amount of
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deficit savings had to be achieved or sequestration would happen, we have achieved a far larger amount. unfortunately, the way the law was written you had to specifically do it before the end of december of 2011 orrick became the law of the land. -- december of 2011 or it became the law of the land. sequestration doesn't make any sense, not for defense or domestic spending either. it is having a devastating impact. how do we get around sequestration when there is no consensus? republicans continue to insist they won't just get rid of it. any savings that trumps sequestration has to be replaced by cuts in other spending programs. no revenue. that is the endless circle you described. the second problem is, sequestration is there and we
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are living with it, the pentagon is trying to figure out how to put together a sensible strategy and budget. they come up with these ideas, and you mentioned a couple of of them brac, rearranging active-duty components, the idea of a allayup on several marine and navy vehicles. congress, in its parochial way -- if you want to move five c130's out of a base somewhere, the local congress member goes crazy and tries to block it. if we are not going to get pentagon the money and not end sequestration and tell them we can't make cuts and we can't offer any as a reasonable alternative, then it lines up leaving the pentagon with no choice but to cut readiness. it's the last thing out there. they spend less money on fuel, ammunition. they repair less equivalent.
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we wind up with a force that is not ready. -- less equipment. we wind up with a force that is not ready. we should have a bra for examplec. we cannot offer no alternatives and leave the pentagon in a very bad spot. unfortunately, i don't see any evidence of that pattern changing at this point. leo: what is your prediction for sequestration this year? do you have any confidence a deal can be reached before that deadline? rep. smith: it is quite possible. i overheard two republican colleagues talking. one takes the position that, look, the white house is the white house. yes, we took the senate, but the president hasn't gone anywhere.
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we don't have a veto-proof majority. we should be talking about how to come up with a budget the president will agree to. the other one saying no, we have to push it. we have to push republican values. we won this election. we have to go for our plan. i think the latter member of congress will have the better of that argument. the republicans are going to try to do a big, hug reconciliation package -- huge reconciliation package which speaks to their views on "dynamic scoring." it will end up being more of a tax cut than a tax reform. that is what dave camp's very legitimate reform package showed. if you are going to read -- retain the same amount of revenue, you cannot cut the rates to the level the republicans are arguing for. that put them in a tough position, so they came up with dynamic scoring. this reduces taxes primarily for
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corporations and wealthy people. they will slahsshj al -- will slash all other government spending, which the white house will not stand for. i just wish -- it has been four years since the republicans took over congress. my confidence in their willingness to try to seek compromise as a first option, let's just say it is very low based on experience. leo: i think to most americans it sounds like -- craig: i think to most americans, it sounds like a completely dysfunctional and broken system when it comes to financing the pentagon. last week, we have the joint chief of staff, on the hill and give all of these doom and gloom scenarios of what's going to happen to this it -- to the armed forces if the budget caps are kept in place. it didn't seem to gain a lot of
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traction. there was sympathy from lawmakers, but not enough to change the political calculus. do you think -- what do you think it will take to change things and break the logjam? rep. smith: i'm going to say something that probably most politicians shouldn't say. the public have a role to play in that dysfunction. there is a reason for this whole dysfunction. basically, what we want, we don't want to cut any popular programs, you don't want to raise any taxes, and we want a balanced budget. that simply doesn't work. if you look at polls and swing districts, if you were to closely analyze the argument that any swing district -- argument at any swing district race, and look at the broader arguments, the messages that all these people are sending is i support a balanced budget agreement, i don't want to raise taxes, i don't want to cut popular spending programs. why?
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in races like that, they are pulling every day. that's what people are asking for -- they are polling every day. that's what people are asking for. things the federal -- 80% of people think the federal budget should be balanced. you asked them what should be cut. the answer to that is nothing. there is not majority support for cutting any particular program. if you want to cut government in the abstract, cut it 10% and we will just magically come up with that 10%, there might be support for that. if you talk about cutting a specific program, no. that is -- those are the people who are being elected. they are being elected on a platform of balance the budget, but don't raise taxes and don't cut any spending programs. that is impossible. that's what causes us to be in this trap.
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the only way out of this trap is to honestly say to the american people look, we've got to make a choice. i know where i'm at on that choice. i respect that other people will be in a different place. i don't think we need to balance the budget tomorrow. i think we need to keep the budget -- the deficit under control. we have cut taxes. i think we need to go back and get some more revenue. yes, i think there are areas within entitlement spending where we might be able to save money. we could put together a reasonable budget. but as long as the opinion is 2+2 has to equal 6 or you're an idiot, there is really no where to go. we have to approach that debate and be honest about the numbers. john: i want to talk about an area near and dear to your heart, veterans programs. can you talk about funding for veterans programs in the president's budget and if you think that is one area where there will be some agreement with republicans? rep. smith: i think so.
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there is a growing understanding we have fought two wars and are continuing actually to fight one of them over the course of the last oh, gosh, over 13 years now. and we have a lot of veterans who have come back, wounded veterans, veterans who have mental health issues. we are to need a robust system to take care of them. i think there is bipartisan agreement that we need to fund that measure to have adequate programs. john: we have to end it there. i want to thank you very much for being our newsmaker this week. rep. smith: thank you. i appreciate the chance. john: we continue with our roundtable, leo shane of "military times" and craig whitlock of "the washington post." let's begin with ukraine. on arming rebels, he said, "i think we should do it."
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where does that put him in relation to democrats in congress as a whole.? craig: there has been an appetite in congress to do this for a while now. one of the problems for the obama administration is how are they going to coordinate this with allies in europe. pretty much nobody in europe save for some of the countries that are very close to russia, are for arming ukraine. the german, french, and british, stalwart allies, don't want to touch the idea of giving arms to ukraine. even if the americans do, then you run the risk of dividing this alliance. they are very important when it comes to sanctions. are the countries going to agree on economic sanctions the members would like to increase on putin in russia? i think putin will see that as an opportunity to magnify some of these fissures in the alliance against him. leo: this is an issue the obama
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administration is really going to have to deal with a lot more seriously soon. we have a coalition of democrat and republican senators yesterday talking about this issue, saying it needs to be more arms sent to those ukrainian forces. the new secretary of defense nominee, ash carter, said in his testimony this week before the senate that he would be inclined to -- to support sending arms over there. this is an issue the administration is going to have to wade into very deeply very soon. john: low expectations for possible peace efforts with vladimir putin. where does the white house stand right now on some of those efforts to try to stop the fighting in eastern ukraine? craig: the white house is trying to show some patients -- patience. things on the ground have gotten worse. the russians have increased their back door and front door support for the rebels. the white house has taken a look
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economically. things are not looking good for the russian economy with sanctions, the fall of the ruble, the fall in oil prices. i think they are hoping that will really pinch moscow and putin to reassess. >>leo: it goes with the strategic patience outlined in the national security strategy outlined by the white house this week. the hands off, let's see how the sanctions are doing. there is a lot of impact. i think they would prefer to stand back and see what happens. we will see if their hand gets forced. john: on isis, expectations you heard from him and that you are hearing from your reporting -- what is going to be in the authorization for use of military force? leo: it will be interesting to see how they do that. we know there will be some sunset provisions. a lot about the authorization is less about what goes on in iraq and syria and more about setting limits, setting parameters for
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when one president can use force, sort of pulling back on the 2000 afghanistan general blanket authorization that was given. they have outlined a strategy that has arming the moderate rebels out there finding a way to get them to pick up the fight, engaging with partners out there. we have been hearing it could be next week. the authorization could be just days away. i will be interested to see if it shows up this week. john: if it doesn't happen this coming week, then congress is on a break after that. leo: an almost eight months since the fighting started without any specific authorization. john: congressman is no fan of sequestration. is he going to get his wish? do you think sequestration caps will be lifted for the defense budget specifically, but also for nondefense as well? craig: leo might have better
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insights than i do. maybe there would be a deal in the short term to provide some relief for the military. what do you think? leo: i'm not putting money on this that at all. we -- this bet at all. we have heard over and over that sequestration is terrible. we have not heard the same level of passion from republican leadership on either side. there is a lot of lip service this is bad, but no real solutions, no real plans to get rid of this. as we get closer and closer to the fall, we are looking at is becoming a gigantic issue. john: is it surprising that a veteran member of congress would say the public has some role to play in the dysfunction that is happening on capitol hill? leo: the congressman has said this in the past. at least for the last several years, he has lamented how much
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of this attitude there is. if we want a balanced ajit -- budget, we have to balance it by cutting services, especially the base closure rounds he spoke of. very few lawmakers have been supportive of that idea. he has. we need to get rid of excess capacity, find some way to make savings. that is one provision that has been wildly unpopular on the hill. nobody seems to like it. craig: i think the congressman has a point that there are crosscurrents going on in terms of public opinion, and it is hard to match everybody's expectation. i think the american people expect a certain amount of leadership out of congress, and that they shouldn't just be poll-driven in how they react. i'm not saying congressman smith is like this, but i think people have a next petition that their leaders in washington -- have an expectation that their leaders in washington will rise above that. john: thanks for joining us on "newsmakers" this week.


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