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STATE OF THE UNION
Interview With Texas Senator Ted Cruz; Interview With Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard; Interview With Virginia Senator Tim Kaine; Interview With U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; Jordan Targets ISIS in Syria
Aired February 8, 2015 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: A triple threat to U.S. security: atrocities from ISIS, a land grab by Vladimir Putin, and Washington politics that could shut down the department charged with keeping America safe.
This is STATE OF THE UNION.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BASH: Good morning. I'm Dana Bash.
And we begin with the war on ISIS, Jordan carrying out new airstrikes on ISIS targets inside Syria. On the ground, there's a tense standoff between the ISIS fighters and the Kurdish Peshmerga in Northern Iraq.
CNN's Phil Black is in Irbil.
Phil, what's the latest there?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dana, everything we have seen and everything we have been told by front-line fighters on the ground here near Mosul suggests that there has been a significant uptick in airstrikes on ISIS positions in and around that ISIS-controlled city.
We were at a distance of some 10 miles from the southern gates of Mosul. We heard, saw multiple detonations. The sound of fast-moving aircraft overhead was pretty constant, this as Kurdish fighters on the ground are really digging in and holding defensive lines a small distance away from that city.
That's what they call phase one of this operation, to contain ISIS within that city. Phase two will be hard. It will be dislodging ISIS from that city. The Kurdish fighters say they will be ready to take part. The time frame is not yet clear. Some U.S. officials have suggested it could be as early as April. Kurdish officials think it's going to be longer than that.
But, ultimately, it comes down to when the Iraqi army controlled by the government in Baghdad is ready to go. And that's no small task, rebuilding, retraining, remotivating the army. It is the same force that ultimately abandoned Mosul when ISIS first invaded this region, Dana. BASH: Phil, no small task, that is an understatement. Thank you
very much for that report.
And here in the United States this Sunday morning, there is deep skepticism over the ISIS claim that the U.S. hostage Kayla Mueller was actually killed by a Jordanian airstrike inside Syria. A spokesman says her family remains hopeful.
CNN's Kyung Lah is Prescott Arizona, where her -- where she is from.
Kyung, what are you hearing?
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, everything that we have been told by people who are in touch with the family is that they still do not have confirmation. They do not know the status of their daughter.
And it is simply agony for the people of this town, as well as her family, made worse as we learn more about Kayla Mueller. She is a girl who grew up here, became a very dedicated woman to social justice. She went to Syria to try to help the refugees.
I spoke with a professor of hers who was a mentor. And that professor says that Mueller was very sober about the risk. She knew profoundly what was at stake here. She still went. And her family now also knew. They are still awaiting word. They have reached out in a public statement to her captors, urging them to reach them -- Dana.
BASH: Kyung, thank you very much for that report.
And a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee tells CNN there's no reason to believe ISIS is, in his words, moving beyond what until now have been aspirations to attack the U.S. homeland.
But, as the threat grows, the Department of Homeland Security may shut down in a matter of weeks because Congress is blocking its money in a partisan fight over immigration.
We're joined now exclusively by the U.S. homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson.
And, Mr. Secretary, thanks for coming in.
Before we get to that, I want to ask about what you just heard the report about Kayla Mueller. You heard her say that she knew the risks of going into a place like Syria. The State Department advises U.S. citizens not to do that.
Given that, what should the U.S. responsibility be to go in and get hostages?
JEH JOHNSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, obviously, we're learning as much as we can as quickly as we can about Ms. Mueller's situation. Our thoughts, our prayers, our concerns are with her family right now.
You're correct. The State Department advises against travel in that particular part of the region right now. It is dangerous. People need to be cautious. And we do what we can to ensure the safety of Americans who travel. That part of the world right now is obviously a very, very challenging situation.
BASH: Should the U.S. be responsible for going and rescuing hostages who are going, even though the U.S. State Department says it's just too dangerous?
JOHNSON: Well, we know from prior examples that, where we can, we do our best to secure the safety of Americans held hostage by terrorist organizations.
And so it's something that we continually evaluate our ability to do in this region, but it is a very, very challenging situation, obviously.
So, let's talk about the jihadists overall. Americans looking at this, looking at the fighting, you know, probably constantly saying, how does this affect me, how does this affect the United States, and say, why does it matter?
John (sic) Steinbach, who is the FBI's counterterrorism division head, told CNN's Pam Brown about an example of why it should matter. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There are ISIS cells in the U.S.
MICHAEL STEINBACH, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COUNTERTERRORISM: There are individuals that have been in communication with groups like ISIL who have a desire to conduct an attack, yes.
BROWN: That are living in the U.S. right now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: People who are in contact with ISIL living in the U.S. right now. How many are we talking about?
JOHNSON: Well, Dana, I would put it this way. We have evolved to a new phase in the global terrorist threat, in that, 13 years ago, when we were attacked on 9/11, we had a relatively conventional command-and-control structure from core al Qaeda that would dispatch, deploy operatives to commit terrorist acts.
The situation now is more decentralized, more diffuse, and frankly more complex, in that terrorist organizations such as ISIL or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula use the Internet, use social media to communicate and to inspire acts of terrorism in individuals' home countries.
And for that reason, we need to be particularly vigilant here at home, working with state and local law enforcement, working with the public through campaigns such As If You See Something, Say Something.
JOHNSON: It is a more complex situation, very clearly.
BASH: Certainly complex, but, if I may, can you shed more light on what we just heard? Do you have a handle on who the individuals are and how many there are in the United States who are in contact...
JOHNSON: The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security do a pretty good job of tracking the travel of individuals of suspicion, of investigating potential acts of terror or material support to terrorism.
Just this past Friday, there were arrests of five individuals who were providing material support, allegedly, to ISIL. So, our law enforcement community does what I believe is a pretty good job of tracking these individuals. And we work with them to track the travel of individuals of suspicion.
BASH: Can you give us a sense? Are we talking about five, 10, 100, 1,000? What's -- give us the context of the...
BASH: ... that we're talking about.
JOHNSON: Well, what I can say is this.
The numbers that we see are larger in European countries. And that's one of the reasons why we're concerned about travel to and from Europe and making sure that we have got the appropriate security assurances from countries from which we -- for which we do not require a visa.
But here at home, we do a pretty good job of tracking these individuals. And we have, in a number of instances, arrested people for material support, for attempting to travel to Syria, for example.
Obviously, there's an unknown factor, but I believe we have the systems in place to do a pretty good job of tracking these individuals through law enforcement, through -- through travel, through our efforts to monitor what they're doing.
BASH: So people should feel you have got it covered?
JOHNSON: People should be vigilant right now. Yes, we should have a lot of confidence in our homeland security
law enforcement capabilities. We have come a long way since 9/11. But this also requires working with the public in campaigns through If You See Something, Say Something, working with state and local law enforcement, the cop on the beat working in the communities, which is why we're working more closely now with municipal police departments, county sheriffs, state law enforcement, through fusion centers, task forces, and so forth.
Given how the homeland security challenges we face are evolving, it's becoming all the more important to do that.
Let's turn to the Department of Homeland Security and the fight that's going on right now that could potentially shut down your department or at least keep funding out of your department.
I also want you to look at the calendar to -- so people understand how close we are to the deadline for that happening. It's February 27. Here we are, just a little more than two weeks away, and we should note that, by the way, Congress is out of town. They're not working for one of those weeks, so it makes it incredibly difficult.
Tell us where things stand right now. It is a standoff over the idea that Republicans are trying to push funding this bill along with making sure that the president's executive order on immigration doesn't happen.
JOHNSON: Dana, I am on Capitol Hill now virtually every working day talking to Democrats and Republicans about the importance of a fully funded Department of Homeland Security in these times in particular.
We're on a continuing resolution right now, which, as you point out, expires on February 27, which is less than 20 days at this point. And, as long as we're on a continuing resolution, that, in and of itself, creates uncertainty about how we go about our Homeland Security missions.
And, if we go into government shutdown, for example, that means furloughing employees, furloughing Homeland Security officials. As Craig Fugate, the administrator of FEMA, pointed out the other day, if we go into government shutdown, he's got to furlough something like 80 percent of his FEMA work force.
And so I'm on the Hill every day stressing the importance of a fully funded Department of Homeland Security, separate and apart from riders to try to defund our efforts to reform the immigration system.
BASH: And are you getting...
JOHNSON: If people in Congress want to have that debate about immigration reform, let's have that debate, but don't tie that to funding public safety at Homeland Security for the American people. We need a fully funded department right now. BASH: Actually, since you mentioned the -- the potential risks,
I just also want to point out that, in your own contingency plan in 2013 if there were a shutdown then, nearly 90 percent of Border Patrol agents would still have to work, 85 percent of ICE agents, and 93 percent of TSA officials. They would have to come to work without pay, but they would have to come to work.
So, is it really going to be that big of a deal to most of your agency to -- when it comes to the risks to this country?
JOHNSON: Yes, it is that big of a deal.
Let's not forget the Department of Homeland Security interfaces with the American public more than any other department of our government at airports, at ports. And so to just say, well, we will just make them come to work without pay, first of all, is a real challenge for the working men and women of my department.
Second, it means furloughing at least 30,000 of our department and cutting back very significantly on our operations, our operations to pursue homeland security. So, this is not a situation to make light of. In these challenging times, we need a fully funded Department of Homeland Security right now.
BASH: And you mentioned the continuing resolution. That's sort of official Washington-speak for the fact that this -- that your department has -- they have kicked the can down the road for many years, and not started -- started anew.
And what has that meant for your ability to face new threats? Because threats change every day.
JOHNSON: As long as we're on a continuing resolution, we are, first of all, restricted to last year's spending levels. But we are not allowed to fund new initiatives, new initiatives for border security, for example, new initiatives to hire more Secret Service agents for the coming presidential election cycle, new initiatives to fund grants.
We fund in excess of $2 billion a year in grants to state and local law enforcement for homeland security, for surveillance equipment, for communications commitment. And, as long as we're on a C.R., I cannot fund those new initiatives, which should be of serious concern to sheriffs, police chiefs, mayors, and governors.
BASH: Before I let you go, I have to ask you about the Secret Service, which is underneath your department.
It seems like, every week, there is some kind of breach at the White House. This past week, we saw what happened with the drones. The Secret Service is now acting without an actual director. How far away are we from your interview process finishing up on that?
JOHNSON: We're not far away.
We're taking a serious look at candidates for permanent director. And the president and I recognize that the Secret Service is the finest protection service in the world, but we -- we need significant change in how the agency conducts business.
That was one of the findings of the independent panel. And I thought that their work was fair and thorough. And so we're looking at a new permanent director. And I think we will have one pretty soon.
BASH: And, as somebody who oversees the Secret Service, when you hear a drone has landed at the White House, do you say, are you kidding me? Again?
I mean, what is your reaction when you hear this kind of breach? Because the public is also -- is obviously saying, how does this kind of thing...
JOHNSON: In the last couple of months, we have added security to the White House compound, in light of the fence-jumping incident.
It's important to remember that securing the White House compound, the protection of the first family and other national leaders is a balance between providing for their physical safety, but we live in democracy where people want transparency, they want access to their national leaders and the buildings and the structures of government. And so it means striking the appropriate balance.
BASH: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much.
I think I'm going to see you roaming the halls of Congress, looking for some kind of solution to your funding problem in the next couple of weeks.
JOHNSON: You certainly will. Thank you.
BASH: When they're working, at least.
Thank you. Thank you so much.
And up next, Republican Senator Ted Cruz on this Homeland Security fight, the war on ISIS, and getting tough with Vladimir Putin.
BASH: Top officials from the United States and Europe are in Germany this Sunday for urgent discussions about security and the growing threat posed by Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Vice President Biden is there. And he's sounding and talking tough, sort of like Ronald Reagan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Given Russia's recent history, we need to judge it by its deeds, not its words. Don't tell us; show us, President Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Republican Senator Ted Cruz, a member of the Armed Services Committee, is also at the conference.
BASH: Senator, thank you so much for joining us.
Let's start with the fight over what to do about the Ukraine. The German chancellor, the French president have been trying to negotiate some kind of an agreement. And Angela Merkel of Germany has specifically said she does not think it is time to arm the Ukrainians yet.
Why do you think she's wrong?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Well, what she said at this conference is that she did not believe there was any prospect for Ukraine to be successful in defending itself against Russian aggression. I think that's mistaken. But, at the same time, I think Chancellor Merkel's position is not surprising, given where President Obama's position is.
What we're doing with regard to Ukraine and with regard to Russia makes no sense, and it isn't working. It is long past time for us to step forward and provide defensive weapons, so that the men and women of Ukraine can defend their nation.
They are our allies. In the Budapest memorandum, we committed ourselves to standing with Ukraine to defend themselves -- to defend their territorial integrity.
BASH: You mentioned the fact that you think that the German chancellor is wrong. There seems to be a pretty significant rift here between -- within the Western powers on how to deal with this.
Do you think that the U.S. should just arm the Ukraine over the objections of the Germans?
CRUZ: Well, look, there isn't a rift.
I mean, what we're seeing is, when America doesn't lead, Europe can't be expected to step into the breach. What is missing from this is the president of the United States. And I have got to tell you, Dana, I'm part of a large bipartisan congressional delegation here. And it is striking that, across bipartisan lines, the delegation is united on the need for us to get serious and provide defensive arms to Ukraine.
BASH: The president wasn't there speaking out this weekend, but the vice president gave a very strong speech. He even got applause from some of your fellow Republicans, the secretary of state as well, with a pretty robust message toward the Russians in defense of Ukraine.
Isn't that leadership?
CRUZ: Look, the vice president, I thought, gave an effective speech, but I have got to tell you, in the room, what everyone kept saying is, interesting speech. We have no confidence that President Obama is listening to the vice president.
Listen, what we needed here and what we have needed for six years is strong American leadership. The Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy has been consistently wrong. It's been wrong on Russia. It's been wrong on ISIS. It's been wrong on Iran.
What we needed today with regard to Ukraine was presidential leadership that stood up and said, we're going to honor our treaty commitments. We're going to provide defensive weaponry for the Ukrainians who are fighting to defend their own nation, to stand up to Russian aggression. That's a message that would be heard by our allies.
But it's also a message that would be heard by our enemies, nations like Iran, who are looking at the weakness of this administration and viewing it as an invitation for them to move even faster towards acquiring nuclear weapons.
BASH: Senator, you mentioned ISIS. Let's turn to that.
Lindsey Graham, your colleague who's there with you in Munich, has called for 10,000 U.S. troops on the ground back in Iraq to confront ISIS. Is that a good idea?
CRUZ: Well, you know, we met today with the president of Kurdistan. And the Kurds on the ground are fantastic fighters.
The Peshmerga have been our allies. They have been our friends. And they're actually fighting every day to stop ISIS. Now, Dana, what makes no sense whatsoever is, the Obama administration is refusing to directly arm the Kurds. We need to arm the Kurds now because they are our boots on the ground.
I don't believe it is necessary to put American boots on the ground if we are arming the Peshmerga. They're fighting there. Just today, they didn't ask us for boots on the ground, but what they did say is they need the weaponry to stand up and destroy ISIS. And the Peshmerga on the ground, combined with overwhelming American airpower, can take out ISIS.
But we're not seeing leadership from the administration to get that done. Instead, they continue to send weaponry to Baghdad, who doesn't pass it onto the Peshmerga, and it doesn't get put to use effectively.
BASH: So, you're saying Lindsey Graham and even some in the Pentagon who apparently are considering about 10,000 U.S. troops on the ground, that would be a bad move?
CRUZ: In my view, American boots on the ground should always be the last step, and we need to exercise other steps before that. We have the availability of overwhelming airpower, and we have
boots on the ground that are ready and eager to fight the Peshmerga, and they lack sufficient tools and equipment to do so.
BASH: Senator, I want to turn to the plight of the U.S. aid worker Kayla Mueller, who is allegedly -- according to ISIS, they say that she died at the hands of a Jordanian airstrike.
We don't know the -- her fate. But, big picture, do you think it should be the position of the United States to negotiate in order to get aid workers or Americans who are hostages of groups like ISIS? Because, currently, it is not.
CRUZ: Well, look, the reports coming from the ground are murky right now. We don't know her fate. Certainly, our prayers are with her and her family. We hope these early reports that she was killed are inaccurate.
I don't think it is a wise policy to be negotiating with terrorists. The Obama administration has gone down that road. For example, in the negotiations for Sergeant Bergdahl, it released five senior Taliban terrorists. There are now multiple reports that one or more of them have returned to actively fighting against Americans, trying to -- trying to kill Americans.
CRUZ: It doesn't make sense to -- to negotiate with terrorists.
BASH: And real quick, when I said negotiate, what I meant was, what they want is money. They want ransom. And it is the United States' policy not to do that.
Families are very frustrated, because they want to do whatever they can to get their kid back. As a parent, do you understand that?
CRUZ: Oh, look, of course we all understand the agony of the families.
But giving money to terrorists that are using rape as a weapon of war, that are crucifying Christians, that are crucifying and beheading children, giving money just buys additional arms for them to kidnap more Americans, for them to murder more. That doesn't make any sense. The answer is to have serious leadership to defeat them.
BASH: OK, Senator, we're going to take a quick break.
And when we come back, we are going to talk about politics back home. And, believe it or not, there is another potential shutdown of part of the government looming. Senator Cruz is part of this debate.
And we're going to talk about that after the break.
BASH: And we are back with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who is joining us from Munich where there is an international security conference going on.
Senator, I want to bring it back home to the stalemate in Congress over Homeland Security funding. The government again, that part of the government, runs out of money in just a few weeks. Republicans are looking at you and wondering what is your end game here because this is a strategy crafted by you, the idea of holding up funding for the Department of Homeland Security in order to try to stop the president and his executive order on immigration.
So what is your end game?
CRUZ: Well, Dana, the premise of that question is not true, and it's frankly ridiculous. This is a strategy that came from Republican leadership. This is the cromnibus strategy.
If you'll recall I fought tooth and nail against cromnibus in December because I said in December this gives up our leverage and it puts us into effectively a boxed canyon. So I would say it's now up to leadership to lay out their strategy. I told them this was not a winning strategy and they went down this road anyway fighting tooth and nail.
But let me make a broader point. What we saw last week was stunning irresponsibility from the Senate Democrats. The Senate Democrats three times filibustered funding for the Department of Homeland Security. We have a bill on the floor to fund DHS.
CRUZ: And three times the Democrats stood together filibustered and said, we will not allow the Senate to take up this bill.
BASH: Senator -
CRUZ: At a time of growing national security threats across the world, that's irresponsible.
BASH: OK. Senator, with respect, it's not a ridiculous premise because what you wanted to do was hold up the entire government funding back in December and the cromnibus, we won't get too much in the weeds here, was a compromise to try to work around that. So, that's I think the reality of what's going on here.
On your point about the Democrats, yes, they are holding up the bill. They're not allowing debate, but in the reality that if there were a debate, this bill still wouldn't pass and, again, when I say this bill, it's funding the Department of Homeland Security but also stopping the president for his executive action on immigration.
The votes aren't there to pass that, right?
CRUZ: Well, Dana, number one, we need to fund the Department of Homeland Security. The Democrats need to stop holding national security hostage for partisan political objectives. What they're doing is wrong and irresponsible. Number two, when it comes to amnesty, amnesty, the president's
executive amnesty is wrong, it's illegal and it's unconstitutional. And you say it would necessarily get support in the Senate. Well, you know, it's interesting. We don't know that seven Democrats had publicly criticized it on the campaign trail. They told their constituents they didn't support the president ignoring federal law, ignoring the constitution and unilaterally and illegally granting amnesty to four to 5 million people here illegally.
I think we need to tee it up and give those Senate Democrats an opportunity to go on record to demonstrate...
BASH: And Senator, are you talking to those Senate Democrats?
CRUZ: ...whether they were telling the truth when they were talking to the voters back home or whether they'll just stand with President Obama instead.
BASH: Have you been workings behind the scenes to try to get those Senate Democrats to buck their president, to vote with you all and pass a bill that stops his executive action?
CRUZ: You know, unfortunately right now, Dana, the Democrats are working as a unit to filibuster funding for the Department of Homeland Security. And it's one of the patterns we've seen the last six years that's really unusual, is that Senate Democrats have consistently been unwilling to take on the president. It's part of why Harry Reid and the Democrats shut down the Senate. And I got to say it's unprecedented.
I mean, look, Dana, if there's one thing that I think you would acknowledge I've been willing to do is take on my own party when my own party is not standing for the principles we're supposed to stand for. It is time to see some Senate Democrats willing to take on their own president but right now they're putting partisan politics ahead of principle and that's why they're filibustering the funding for Homeland Security. It's the wrong thing to be doing.
BASH: You are dead right. You have had your differences, it's an understatement, with your party. And there are some that we talk to who say, here we go again, Ted Cruz taking us into a fight that we can't win again.
What do you say to that?
CRUZ: Well, I think it's a good talking point for people who want to shift blame. Let's be clear, the cromnibus was leadership's plan. I said at the time it is a bad plan and it is a plan that is designed to lose.
BASH: I want to turn to 2016 politics before we go.
The former governor of your state, Rick Perry, gave an interview to "The Texas Tribune" and the "Washington Post," was asked about having you as a competitor potentially. And here's what he said. "It's one of the selling points, if you will, to the American
people as they decide who is going to follow Barack Obama. I think they're going to make a rather radical shift away from a young, untested United States senator whose policies have really failed."
Ouch. He's calling you the Republican Barack Obama.
CRUZ: Listen, I like Rick Perry. He was a good governor in the state of Texas. He's a friend of mine. People occasionally throw rocks in politics. That's his choice. I'm going say I think he did a good and effective job as governor of our state.
BASH: OK. Taking the high road there. Are you going to run for president, Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Dana, I'm looking at it very, very seriously. I think we're facing enormous challenges in this country.
The Obama economy has led to the lowest labor force participation since 1978. Ninety-two million Americans aren't working. Obamacare is a train wreck. We're seeing our constitutional rights under assault. And abroad the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy is an unmitigated disaster. Leading from behind doesn't work.
And I think this next election, 2016, is going to be a fundamental Fork in the road. And I believe the American people are looking for a new path. They want to get back to the free market principles and constitutional liberties that were part of the foundation of this country. And so it's something that I'm looking at very seriously. And I'll tell you, the support we're seeing both on the grassroots level and also among the donors has been extraordinary, really has been encouraging.
BASH: Wow, that certainly sounded like you've been practicing your stump speech in the mirror. Thank you so much, Senator Cruz. Appreciate your time.
CRUZ: Thank you, Dana.
BASH: And up next, Democratic senator, Tim Kaine, joins me for a very different perspective on what's needed to win the war on ISIS.
BASH: Now that Senator Ted Cruz has given us his take on Homeland Security and the war on ISIS, let's get a democratic perspective from the Senate. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
And Senator, I want to start with what appears to be the question of the day, ground troops. Do you believe that there should be ground troops in Iraq to go after ISIS, as many as 10,000 as some are calling for?
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Dana, I actually believe there should be ground troops but they should be ground troops from the region and not U.S. ground troops.
I heard the interview with Senator Cruz, the Peshmerga, that is the fighting wing of the Kurds, the Iraqi security forces, other regional actors. I think we've just got to be candid. We cannot police a region that won't police itself and so the ground troops need to be from the region but the United States' strong support via the air campaign, via training and equipping, via helping guide, via air campaign to make that effective, that's what we should do. That's what we are doing and we can do more of it.
BASH: Wow, first let's just say that you just agreed with Senator Cruz. I'm not sure that you expected to do that on many issues. But --
KAINE: No, on this one -- on this one we're in the same place because, again, we can't police a region that won't police itself.
I was with King Abdullah earlier this week. Very emotional after the death of this Jordanian pilot in a horrible way. Even (ph) he said this fight against ISIL, it is our fight. It is the region's fight. The U.S. can help us but you can't do it for us. We've got to speak out against the regional terrorism and it's up to us to do it.
BASH: Do you agree that the U.S. is not doing enough to fund and train the Peshmerga to go ahead and help those in the region who do have the capability but need more?
KAINE: Well, first, Dana, I'll say we're doing a lot. Today is the six month anniversary of the president starting the war against ISIL with this significant American air campaign. I have visited Al Udeid air force base in Qatar where we're directing the campaign. And we provided significant assistance to the Kurds and others. But I do think we can do more.
So, in terms of providing more arms and assistance to the Kurds, that's something that we should do. We should be building up the capacity, especially of the Kurds and the Iraqi security force, and also Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq because we've been able to kind of slow the advances of ISIL in Iraq but we have to push back and then move on to the tougher aspect of how to take the fight to ISIL in Syria.
BASH: Senator, you mentioned it's been six months, which is kind of hard to believe, since the airstrikes have started. It's been happening without a new authorization from Congress, which you have been calling for since day one. We now think that it's actually going to at least -- the wheels are going to start moving this coming week.
BASH: What took so long?
KAINE: Well, Dana, it is -- it is not a pretty sight and I'm really sort of very discouraged, frankly both by the administration and by Congress. When the president started this war on the eighth of August I
indicated right from the start that there were not existing legal authorities from 2001 and 2002 that would justify this action and as soon as we decided to engage in a war on ISIL, and that's what the administration has called it.
BASH: Senator, what --
KAINE: Congress needed to weigh in.
BASH: And what is the administration saying to you, a fellow Democrat who's been very outspoken about why they dragged their feet so long?
KAINE: Well, partly because the congressional leadership went to the administration in July. Both houses in both parties and I'm sad to say this, Dana, but the leadership went to the White House and said, do what you need to do. We would rather not take this up before a mid-term election.
So, I introduced a resolution in September authorizing limited military action against ISIL but Congress wouldn't vote on it before the mid-term. And then I pushed it after November and I was able to get a vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee defining this mission in a limited way. We voted out a bill in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December but the House hasn't even been willing to talk about this in a committee.
And I'll tell you what offends me about this. We've already lost American service members lives in this operation and we've done it without Congress being willing to do the job of having a vote. If we're going to ask people to risk their lives, then Congress ought to do our job and put our thumb print on this mission and say, it is in the national interest.
I think the White House will send an authorization up. There's going to be some hard questions about it, but I think the president will find strong support in both houses for taking appropriate military action.
BASH: Senator, let's just quickly drill down on the content of this resolution. There are differences over how specific Congress should be about the question ever boots on the ground because...
BASH: ...there's a lot of gray area there of what that actually means. I know that you support only having boots on the ground in limited circumstances.
BASH: Do you think that is (INAUDIBLE)?
KAINE: Well, I think that Congress in both parties would significantly support it. You heard Senator Cruz. He's not the only Republican who has
said to me that American boots on the ground is sort of a last resort. And so the resolution that I introduced that was passed, a version of it in foreign relations said, no combat troops except in following instances, the rescue of hostages or any Americans that are captured. Some directing of the airstrike campaigns to be more effective.
So I think the right answer -- and there is a difference of opinion about this, but the right answer is only combat troops in limited circumstances, and then there's some other differences of opinion, too, that we're going to have to work through in hearings in the Foreign Relations Committees.
BASH: OK. Well, people are looking for bipartisanship on Capitol Hill. We saw some here just this morning. Unlikely bipartisanship in opposition to ground troops but we heard it nonetheless. Senator, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.
KAINE: Absolutely, Dana.
BASH: And up next, the ever present backdrop of Washington's politics. When Homeland Security becomes a political football, does everybody lose? A current member of Congress and a former member of the Intelligence Committee joins us next.
BASH: In war and in peace, the one constant here in Washington is politics.
Joining me now Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq combat veteran who is now a Democrat from Hawaii on both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mike Rogers, CNN national security commentator and the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Thanks to you both.
I actually want to start with Kayla Mueller, the U.S. aid worker whose fate is unknown, and Diane Foley, who is the mother of one of the man who was beheaded, one of them, said this, "Kayla, along with our son and others were held for nearly two years and there were many opportunities along the way, several times when the captors reached out, several times when returning hostages brought sensitive information. And yet nothing was done to save our young Americans."
Knowing what you know, I'll start with you, Congresswoman, do you think that's true or is this understandably distraught feeling of a mother who lost her son?
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: Well first of all it's unimaginable to try to put ourselves in her position or in the position of the parents of each of these people who have either been beheaded or slaughtered by this radical Islamic extremist, terrorists.
I think it's important for us as a country, as leaders of this nation, to not allow ourselves to be terrorized by these radical extremists, not allow ourselves to fall into the trap that they are trying to set up. And understand that when these very difficult things happen, just as we've seen most recently in Jordan, that we must strengthen our resolve, we must strengthen our focus and commitment, understanding exactly who our enemy is, why they are perpetrating these horrific acts and then come up with an effective strategy to defeat them.
BASH: And you were in Congress chairing the Intelligence Committee when a lot of these issues were coming up. Is the U.S. doing enough? I mean --
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: It's a very difficult circumstance, obviously for the mother. I think she is distraught. She is trying to find rational thought in something completely irrational, the beheading of her son. That's set aside.
The United States took a pretty significant risk in sending a pretty daring rescue mission. Now, the intelligence proved to be able old. They were a little slow in implementing. But the fact that they would risk these soldiers and Special Forces community's -- personnel's lives in the rescue attempts shows, I think, that there were good faith efforts.
Remember, in the Foley case, the amount of money was something like $132 million, if my memory serves me correctly. That is not a realistic number for negotiation. They really never intended to turn Foley over. They were using all of this for propaganda and that, I think, adds also to the difficulty.
BASH: So, that' a -- I mean, that's an interesting point, because some of these parents and family members, are saying the U.S. -- it's the U.S. policy law to prevent us from giving money and paying the ransom to get our family members back. I'm assuming that you think that that is a good policy to stick with particularly since you think it's just a ruse propaganda.
ROGERS: I even think smaller amounts cause trouble. And remember, this is those hard decisions but that -- is that one person at risk really if you do this do you put -- how many other people do you put at risk? How many other Americans do you make targets on their head who (ph) were operating in that region? That's the problem. And so it is horrific because you get to know this person but think of the people who are exposed if you make these ransom payments.
BASH: Yes. Congresswoman, I want to ask you about what to do now with regard to ISIS.
You are somebody who actually has been there. You were in combat in Iraq. Do you think it is the right thing to be sending in as many as 10,000 ground troops that some are calling for in order to just try to completely annihilate ISIS once and for all?
GABBARD: Well first of all, in the question of ground troops, I agree with the two people, Senator Kaine as well as Senator Cruz who just spoke earlier that, yes, there do need to be ground troops on the ground to work in conjunction with the airstrikes that we and Jordan and some of the other coalition forces are conducting in order to be effective. But I think we also need to take it one step previous.
We need to start with the basics, which is, first of all, identifying who are enemy is, understanding that this war cannot be won, this enemy and threat cannot be defeated unless we understand what's driving them, what is their ideology. And the fact is when you look at what is happening today, we have over 40 different Islamic extremist terrorist groups going by different names. You look at the vast majority of terrorist attacks that are being committed around the world, there's one common element here and it is this radical Islamist ideology. And in order to defeat it, we have to do so militarily but simultaneously, it has to be an ideological defeat as well as a political solution that's offered.
BASH: And on that note, you know, we've been hearing so much talk over the past couple of years about the fact that you've got to have a strong leader in the region to do the things that you just talked about. Now, unfortunately because of what happened to the Jordanian pilot, you have the king of Jordan now being able to rally his people.
Is he the leader that the United States and western world has been looking for in order to combat the Islamic extremists?
ROGERS: The king who spent a lot of time of Washington, D.C. over the last few years really talking about this growing extremist problem for the region in eastern Syria. So he's been laying out plans literally for three years on how he thought that the United States should help the region. This could act as the catalyst for discussions that have already happened.
And I think the king believed he couldn't wait any longer. And this was, in an odd way, his permission to engage in the very plans he's been laying out. He understood probably more than any other leader in that region the danger of this extremist group and what it meant to all of the leadership to simulate (ph) (INAUDIBLE).
BASH: And having been on the ground there, do you think that this was an unfortunate but maybe --
BASH: Galvanizing and turning point?
GABBARD: ...were not only for the leadership of some of these more moderate Muslim and Arab countries but also for the people there to be able to support those actions.
And I think, again, going back to my last point, the king of Jordan when he was here just a few days ago, he made that point that this is about having a decisive military strategy coinciding with and ideological war that's existing now within Islam. And this is something the king of Jordan said has been going on now for the last 1400 years. And it's time for leaders to step up and take action.
BASH: Congresswoman, thank you so much. Former congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
GABBARD: Thanks and aloha.
BASH: We will continue this discussion for sure. We'll be right back.
BASH: Thank you so much for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash in Washington.
Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," starts right now.