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New Leaks from Hillary Clinton's Book; GOP Over-politicizing Bergdahl?

Aired June 5, 2014 - 18:28   ET


VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Let's get started with some political news that's breaking right now. Here's CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar -- Brianna.


Well, CBS News has obtained Hillary Clinton's much-anticipated book, "Hard Choices," out officially on Tuesday, and in some of the excerpts, we see a break between Hillary Clinton and President Obama on some issues of foreign policy.

For instance, on Syria, Clinton details wanting to initially arm the rebels, something that President Obama was not in favor of and has not done. She says to that point, "No one likes to lose a debate, including me, but this was the president's call, and I respected his deliberation and decision."

She also talks about Benghazi, and she says that it will never -- "there will never be perfect clarity on everything that happened." So it's really a hot-button issue. It's going to continue be a political flashpoint. Certainly, that's not something that Republicans will be satisfied. Nor do I think that Hillary Clinton expects that they will buy that.

And finally, a really interesting little vignette that she shows in her book, obtained by CBS News, the meeting, the first meeting between she and then-Senator Obama when it became clear that he was going to be the nominee.

In this part, she says right before the convention, this meeting they had, "We stared at each other like two teenagers on an awkward first date, taking a few sips of chardonnay. Both Barack and I and our staffs had long lists of grievance. It was time to clear the air. One silver lining of defeat was that I came out of the experience realizing I no longer cared so much about what the critics said about me."

And I think, Van, we can agree that's a quality that will be serving her well in the months and years to come.

JONES: Absolutely. Thank you for that great reporting.

Now Senator Clinton is also making news about Bowe Bergdahl. We're going to give you those details in a moment. But first, let me walk you through something to get this debate

started. I know that there are legitimate questions about the trade that led to Bergdahl's release. I get that. But the Republicans have just gone nuts over this thing. They can't help themselves. They just have to attack this president no matter what.

Last month, don't forget, the same Republicans were slamming Obama for not getting Bergdahl home. So Obama got Bergdahl home. Now the Republicans like Lindsey Graham, Allen West, are actually talking about impeaching the president for doing that. OK?

Republican congressmen like Duncan Hunter are now playing these swift-boat political games, trying to compare Sergeant Bergdahl to John Kerry's anti-war protests. Really reaching.

Worse than that, Bill O'Reilly is busy attacking Bergdahl's father. Listen to this.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: He has learned to speak Pashto, the language of the Taliban. And looks like a Muslim. He's also somewhat sympathetic to Islam, actually thanking Allah right in front of the president.


JONES: Mr. O'Reilly, this is America. It's OK for you to be a Muslim if you want to be, and it's a little bit much to slur all the Muslims just to try to get at the president.

Now, O'Reilly isn't even alone. Here is Joe Scarborough -- yes, Joe Scarborough -- also slamming the parents. Listen to this.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Barack Obama has his arm around a man who is reaching out to pro-Taliban forces, talking about killing Americans.


SCARBOROUGH: Don't -- who wants to "wait" me here? Who wants to "wait" me here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe, let's not -- don't criticize the parents. Don't criticize the parents in here.

SCARBOROUGH: I can criticize parents that have reached out to the Taliban.


SCARBOROUGH: Oh, my God, Chuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are missing a child. Their son is missing for five years.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what? It is not logical. You cannot handle it.

SCARBOROUGH: If my son -- I've got a 26-year-old son. And if my son is out on the wire, and he is out there with fellow troops. And he writes me up and says he hates America and he's thinking about deserting and he's thinking about leaving his post, I can tell you, as a father of that 26-year-old or 23-year-old son, I'd say, "Joey, you stay the hell right there."

I would call his commander. I would say, "Get my son. He is not well. Get him to a military base in Germany."

I would not say, "Follow your conscience, son."


JONES: You know, I am a father, myself, and it's very easy -- I wish it were that easy to parent troubled kids from abroad.

This soldier was a pawn. He was a pawn in Afghanistan. Does he -- Newt, does he have to be a pawn here in America, too? This is -- I mean, to me this is ridiculous.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: Well, part of it's ridiculous; part of it's real. It's a national story. Five terrorists were released. And I think people have a right to say -- we're going to do it right here in the next few minutes.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Mark Jacobson. He was an advisor to General Petraeus and McChrystal in Afghanistan. And Clare Lopez, a former CIA operative who specializes in terrorism.

Let me start, if I can, with you, Mark. I understand the standard line that my good friend here just gave us, which is if the president does something really totally stupid, it's really because the Republicans are mean.

Here's what I don't understand. You've had Secretary Panetta, who was then at the CIA, who opposed it. You've had Secretary Gates through an adviser today say he's very doubtful about it. Hillary Clinton expressed doubts earlier. Now in her book, we've learned she said that opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war. Apparently Panetta, Gates and Clinton all opposed this deal two years ago.

So isn't it fair to say that there's actually a broad bipartisan case to raise questions about releasing five senior terrorists?

MARK JACOBSON, FORMER ADVISOR TO GENERALS PETRAEUS AND MCCHRYSTAL: No. I mean, this was two years ago. You're talking about the president making a call as commander in chief with the information he had at the time. Making sure to leave no man behind. And that's the right call. That's exactly what should have been done. And I have no problem with that.

GINGRICH: So you don't mind putting five people who are senior terrorists back in the field where they presumably are going to go back -- in fact, I suspect by today they're back being helpful in Qatar, because Qatar is a major source of financing terrorists. Why doesn't it bother you to have five terrorists of that caliber being released back into the field against Americans?

JACOBSON: Look, Newt, there are always risks when you release people onto the battlefield. President Bush faced the same problem in 2002 through 2008 releasing people onto the battlefield.

But the fact is if these individuals actually do go back to Afghanistan and start to fight, all they're going to hear every day is that buzz of drones over their head. In fact, I'm pretty content with this idea, because sometimes, you know, you're going to have to let the wolf go and let them run back to the pack.

GINGRICH: I just have to ask one more question. This fantasy buzz of drones, if it was that easy we would have been able to find Bergdahl. The fact is the drones haven't defeated the Taliban. The drones haven't found the girls in Nigeria. The drones haven't found the terrorists in...

JONES: But we know where these five people are, and we do have the ability to...

GINGRICH: They're in Qatar right now.

JONES: I want to get -- you're a former CIA operative, one of the most respected people in your field on this. I want to bring you into this conversation.

I am totally confused now by the Republicans on this. Does President Obama not care about the troops? That's what they were saying before. He doesn't care about the troops, doesn't care about America.

Or does he care about the troops too much? Because now that he's done what he was being encouraged to do, remove all stops to bring him home, he's being attacked for that. Do you think that President Obama cares too much about our troops? That just occurred to me.

CLARE LOPEZ, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Look, when we have an American troop, a soldier in enemy hands, it is the right thing to go after him and to bring him back. It is not the right thing to trade off with terrorists in negotiations five of the top Taliban commanders, the worst of the worst of all the jihadis that have ever been held at Gitmo, in return for that troop. What should have been done...

JACOBSON: Clare, why is it worse than when President Bush let people go when he didn't even get anything for the deal? LOPEZ: We know who these five are. We know they were the deputy

director of intelligence for the Taliban. Another deputy minister of defense for the Taliban. Another one, governor of the province of Herat who negotiated before 9/11 the agreement between al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Iran. We are headed right back with these guys on the loose.

JACOBSON: But the war in Afghanistan is not in the same place it was in 2003. You're talking about an increased ANSF capability. We're talking about a Taliban in al Qaeda that is decimated. You're talking about the road to a political settlement in Afghanistan.

In fact, what I think the Obama administration has set up is an opportunity to start driving the Afghans towards a deal with the...

LOPEZ: Actually...

GINGRICH: This idea of driving the Afghans, the fact is every report we've had so far, the Afghans who are on the American side are terrified Obama is going to release everybody else from Guantanamo. Nobody who's an Afghan on the American side thinks this is a good idea.

And you may be right. We sort of decimated the leadership, so now we're going to refuel it by giving them back the people...

JACOBSON: There's context here. First, it's President Karzai who released 72 individuals from Bagram just in January. So I think the Afghans have a better sense of the situation and what it's going to require to reach a political settlement.

The second thing is, as I said before, these people go back to the battlefield. You can kill them. There is a bigger picture here.

JONES: Let me ask you a question. So you're saying that this is a terrible idea. It's awful; it's awful. Why do you think that the president and the joint chiefs of staff went along with it? Is it your view -- and it's starting to get out there. Is it your view the president of the United States is not doing everything he can to protect us from terrorism? Is that your view?

LOPEZ: I think this was a grievous error on his part and the administration's part. And the reason is that there's a Rand study that came out earlier this week that talked about the absolute increase in the number of jihadis in the world. The number of jihadist organizations. Number of jihadist attacks. Al Qaeda is not decimated.

JONES: Why do you think the president -- Do you think President Obama let these guys go because he's on the Taliban side? Is that your view?

LOPEZ: That is not my view. I think that it's a mistake. I'm not inside of the White House. I was not part of the decision making. But I look at it from the outside. It is a mistake.

GINGRICH: We're going to come back to this in a minute. I'll be glad to share with you why I think he did it.

Stay here. There's a video I want all of us to see, but the White House won't let us.

But first, today's "CROSSFIRE Quiz." What's the longest time a U.S. prisoner of war spent in captivity? Is it five years? Nine years? Or 12 years? We'll have the answer when we get back.


GINGRICH: Welcome back. Now the answer to our "CROSSFIRE Quiz." The longest time a U.S. prisoner of war spent in captivity is nine years during the Vietnam War.

If President Obama wants to justify his hasty Bergdahl/terrorist swap by claiming the soldier was too sick to wait, then he needs to share his evidence with the rest of the country and not just a secret room of senators who, by the way, leaked to the media the second they walked out.

Unfortunately, last night what the Obama administration did was show the senators but not America. They played a propaganda video sent by the Taliban a few months ago to a room of U.S. senators as proof of Bergdahl's failing health.

But in an exclusive interview with CNN, Senator Tom Coburn, who's also a medical doctor, flatly disagreed with President Obama's assessment.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You saw the proof- of-life video.


BASH: What did you think of it?

COBURN: He'd been drugged. Either with an antipsychotic or a hypnotic drug.

BASH: What makes you say that?

COBURN: Because you can tell. It's easy. His speech was slurred. He was having trouble reading. He had what's called nystagmus. He'd been obviously drugged.

BASH: And you're not just speaking as a senator? You're speaking...

COBURN: I'm speaking as a doctor, yes.

BASH: You don't think it's possible that he just could have been beaten up?

COBURN: No. Not at all. Not at all. Not at all. That's a total response to medication.


GINGRICH: You might be wondering where can you see this video? Well, you can't yet. President Obama has arrogantly decided we Americans are not smart enough to see it and make up our own minds, but have faith, I'm certain in the near future the Taliban will release it.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Mark Jacobson and Clare Lopez.

Mark, don't you think it's reasonable, since this apparently was said to the senators last night that this video was a decisive purpose for them making the decision they had to move now, although the video is several months old? The Taliban clearly knows what's on the video because they took it. So wouldn't it make sense to share it with the American people?

JACOBSON: I don't have a problem releasing it if the Department of Defense and the White House don't feel it's going to endanger the lives of anybody. But I have a problem with the reaction to the video. And that's in particular this notion that, well, he was drugged, so therefore Bergdahl wasn't in jeopardy.

The military made a unanimous recommendation: we must go get him now. The president said, "Go do it; leave no man behind. That's the right thing to do."

And my concern is, what are we going to do? Wait and leave him there and have him end up on one of these Taliban beheading video?

JONES: Exactly. And I'm actually proud of this president for actually doing something and actually taking strong action. And he's criticized now for having done that. I want to get your view of this comment about the real peril that this sergeant was in.


SEN. ANGUS KING (D), MAINE: They had intelligence that, had even the fact of these discussions leaked out, there was a reasonable chance Bowe Bergdahl would have been killed.


JONES: So there's a reasonable chance that we would have been talking about a dead American POW today, not somebody who's home that we're criticizing in the process, but a dead American. From your point of view, knowing now that there was real danger here, do you think that it was right to move quickly?

LOPEZ: You know, Van, I think what we're looking at is a, say, a correction course by this White House. The last time we had four men fighting for their lives on the roof of a CIA annex in Benghazi with drone surveillance video feeding into the White House and every other military command, there were no military on the way to get them out, were there? JONES: So wait, now we're back to Benghazi? We're back to

Benghazi. Hold on.

LOPEZ: Now we're going to brick back this troop and it's right to bring him back, but not to trade for four terrorists.

JONES: Don't you find this disgusting that we sit here on national television and we politicize the murder of those four Americans in Benghazi? It's been an investigation into the death. It's been investigated even more now. But to lift that up.

And now we've got a U.S. POW who would have been dead. He would have been dead, but he's home now in America. And we're sitting here, we're going to try to make that into a baby Benghazi for political -- isn't this disgusting you? Don't you think this hurts America?

LOPEZ: No, I don't. I think what hurts America is releasing four of the top Taliban terrorists out of Gitmo to Qatar where they are going to be back in the battlefield. And remember, the battlefield in this day and age is anywhere there's technical connectivity. They don't have to be in Afghanistan. They are back on the battlefield now, at a time when our American troops...

JONES: Nobody is here cheering -- with all due respect, nobody is here cheerleading for these horrible people that were released. Nobody here is a fan of those people. What I'm talking about is the way that people are now -- I'm going to ask you this directly. Do you think this man's life was worth saving? Yes or no? Was he a deserter who should have been abandoned, or was his life worth saving? Yes or no?

LOPEZ: The life of an American troop is worth saving. There are various ways to do that. Trading and negotiating with terrorists, setting a precedent that America negotiates with terrorists and releases top Taliban commanders in return for that soldier, is the wrong decision.

JACOBSON: There is no precedent here.

LOPEZ: It's wrong for American security, wrong for American soldiers.

JACOBSON: The Taliban, al Qaeda, what have you already have an incentive to kill and capture American soldiers and civilians. There is nothing that's added by the ability to get Bergdahl back. There is nothing added.

LOPEZ: There is precedent added.

JACOBSON: It's shameful to politicize this.

LOPEZ: We've never done that before. We have never traded top terrorists out of Gitmo for an American soldier. That's precedent.

GINGRICH: I find it amazing with both of you that an effort to talk rationally about something becomes politicizing it. Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban, announced publicly in a

very rare statement, this is an enormous victory. The only video we have of the transfer is that of the Taliban. The appearance in Qatar clearly was seen as a victory dance as they all arrived and are basically now back in the battlefield. You have people today, Taliban today before quoted as saying, "This really incentivizes us to find more Americans."

JACOBSON: You're going to trust the Taliban and what they said?

JONES: You think they're not going to score propaganda points? Of course.

GINGRICH: So -- so everything they say about how they won is they got precisely the people they demanded.

JONES: And we got precisely the person that we demanded which is the last remaining POW, the last remaining POW. We are left now apparently to the same Republicans who wanted him home yesterday, he would still be stuck over there.

GINGRICH: Wait a second. There's a real question about putting people in a battlefield. And part of the purpose is to defend the nation and to do what is necessary.

Admiral McCain served for years as the head of the Pacific forces while his son was in a Vietnam prison camp being tortured.


GINGRICH: OK. And when his son was offered freedom by himself, he turned it down and said, "I'm not leaving until the rest of them do."

Nobody at this point in that era would have said, "Oh, gee, why don't we do everything we can, even if it means we cave in to the communists."

I think it's an important question. We were here for a reason. These five guys, I believe, are going to end up killing people.

JONES: Well, first of all, there has to be a risk assessment. I want to -- I want to hear your view as well as yours. But there is no such thing as zero risk. The propaganda value of beheading the last POW, the last remaining POW, the propaganda value of that would have also been tremendous. And I believe that we did the right thing to make sure they didn't have that propaganda video.

JACOBSON: Absolutely. You bring him home. That is a great victory. This soldier is back. Frankly, you're going to learn a lot about the Taliban from what Bowe Bergdahl has to say. And that's going to be invaluable to those operators and intel folks, as well.

GINGRICH: Maybe. I'm told that we want to ask you to stay here.

We want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Should the White House release Bergdahl's proof-of-life video? Tweet yes or no using #CROSSFIRE. We'll have the results after the break.

We also have the "Outrages of the Day." I'm outraged about something that will make you hate the Department of Motor Vehicles even more.


JONES: Welcome back. Now it's time for the "Outrages of the Day."

Now Republicans have said a lot of crazy stuff about Obamacare, but one rising GOP star has taken Obamacare-phobia to a bizarre level.

Enter Dr. Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon. Conservatives love this guy. And he just said that he believes that Obamacare has been worse for the country than the 9/11 attacks. In an interview, he actually said this, he feels this way because 9/11 was an isolated incident.

So a health reform bill is worse for America than a terrorist attack that killed more Americans than Pearl Harbor? Dr. Carson, people say you should run for president. I think you should probably stick to surgery.

GINGRICH: I'm outraged at Virginia's DMV. Not because of the long lines, the rude service or the endless paperwork, but because they just made everyone's life much less convenient.

They banned Uber's car sharing service. If you don't know the name, it's an app that connects riders with part-time drivers who use their own vehicles. Anyone with a smartphone and credit card can order car service literally anywhere. You don't pay cash. The tip is included. And the cost is close to the price of a taxi.

That's the problem. The taxi cab lobby went to the DMV and won. Virginia now has banned Uber as well as its competitor called Lift. Once again, the prison guards of the past are refusing everyone a more convenient ride into the future.

It's time for Virginia's governor, Terry McAuliffe, to step up and prove he's on the side of the consumer and small business.

JONES: I agree with that. I love using Uber.

Now let's check on our "Fireback" results. Should the White House release Bergdahl's proof-of-life video? Right now 73 percent of you say yes; 27 percent of you say no. How would you have voted?

LOPEZ: I'm with the majority, yes.

JONES: And what about you?

JACOBSON: I'm yes. But I don't want it to endanger the troops.

JONES: Look, I want to thank you both for being here. The debate will continue online at as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left I'm Van Jones.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich. Join us next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.