Return to Transcripts main page
STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Crisis in Iraq; Interview With House Majority Leader Eric Cantor; Interview With South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham; Hillary Clinton and Iraq
Aired June 15, 2014 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN ANCHOR: This morning on STATE OF THE UNION, for the first time,Eric Cantor tells us the inside story of an epic election fail. What brought down one of the most powerful men in Washington, and what does it mean for the Republican Party?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Obviously, we came up short.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: And, in Iraq, desperate days, a state of emergency and an urgent search for next steps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: Senator Lindsey Graham on the nightmare scenario, a bloody conflict that could drag in every country in the Middle East.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think it directly impacts our security here at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: And Hillary Clinton off and signing and plagued once again by the dicey politics of Iraq.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning from Washington. I'm Dana Bash.
BORGER: And I'm Gloria Borger. Candy Crowley is off today.
Dana, you have got the big interview of the day with the number two man in the House Republican Party. Eric Cantor shocked all of Washington by losing his primary this week. BASH: That's right. I just finished the interview. And there
were so many questions to ask.
BASH: The first, of course, was why he thinks he lost.
CANTOR: You know, Dana, I think the obvious is, I came up short in terms of number of votes.
BASH: But why?
CANTOR: But I -- I really don't think that there is any one reason for the outcome of the election, that there's just a lot of things that go through voters' minds when they go through the voting booth.
But I will tell you one thing. We ran my campaign the same way that I'm trying to focus my work here in the debate in Washington, and that is focusing on people who have real problems.
BASH: I just want to go a little bit to that night in particular. Obviously, the reaction for people like me and everybody who cover you was shock and disbelief.
What was it like to be you? Take us to the moment when you realized, wow, I'm going to lose here.
CANTOR: Well, you know, I was with my family. And it's very comforting, as you know, if you have a strong family. I have a wonderful wife of 25 years, three wonderful kids, two of whom were with me.
And I told them, I said, look, dad is going to lose. And I actually called my son who works up in New York and I told him. He said, you're kidding. And I said, no, I'm really not. He said, you're kidding. I said, no. I said, look, but things happen for a reason. We don't always know right here and now why.
And I think the perspective of time will actually indicate something that may have seemed really bad at the time can turn out to be really good.
BASH: Your pollster had you up 34 points. You ended up losing by 12 points.
Now, he sent us a memo overnight arguing that he thinks it's that Democrats voted in your Republican primary, which is allowed in Virginia. Let me just read you a quote. He said: "The untold story is, who were the new -- 19,000 new primary voters? They aren't Republicans. Certainly, the extra voter surge of non-Republican non- primary voters seriously hurt."
Do you think that Democrats came out for some mischief and voted you out?
CANTOR: You know, Dana, I don't think it's really worthwhile. I know there's going to be a lot of people and pollsters and analysts...
BASH: You're a pol. You're such a pol. You know you -- I'm sure you're thinking about it.
CANTOR: No. No, I'm not, because I'm looking forward. And I think, again, a lot of folks are going to be interested in that.
But, to me, the problems that people are facing in this country are a lot greater than any kind of setback, political setback, personal setback that I have got. So, I really am very focused on continuing on the mission that I have tried to be about here in Washington.
It's those reform conservative solutions that actually can be applied to people's problems in the working middle class of this country, the poor, and for everyone.
BASH: I was told that, the day after you lost, you came into the office. You were the one comforting your staffers who were crying. In the meeting with fellow Republican lawmakers, you were comforting people who were crying.
You mentioned just before your family and what a family man you are. I know that side of you because I get to cover you in the hallways of Congress every day.
Do you think that, looking back, maybe you were maybe perceived not as -- as -- that perception of you as a human being didn't get across as much, and that people crave authenticity these days? Do you kind of regret that?
CANTOR: Listen, I don't have any regrets, because I remain focused on the mission that I'm about. I have been so honored to represent the people of the Seventh District of Virginia, one of the highest honors of my life, and then to be privileged by my colleagues to serve as majority leader.
Huge. I mean, that's such a privilege. So, again, I am looking forward, having, I think, felt good about the kinds of things that we have done thus far while we have been in majority. And I know my colleagues will continue that...
BASH: I have -- I know you don't want to look back. I have two more questions on this, important ones.
Immigration. A lot has been made about whether immigration played a role into this. You -- what I want to know is -- I actually have maybe a different take -- is whether or not you supported and still support giving legal status to illegal immigrant children.
And -- and you sent some flyers out. And you made very clear, politically -- there you see it up there -- that you think that it's amnesty and that you're against illegal immigration. Is part of the issue that maybe you -- it was a little too wishy-washy and you didn't go all in?
CANTOR: Listen, I -- my position on immigration has not changed.
It was the way it is before the primary, during and now. And I took a principled position. I have always said that I am not for a comprehensive amnesty bill. But I have always said that I was for the kids who do, to no fault of their own, find themselves here and know no other place as home.
Now, I know that that can make a lot of people mad on both sides. But I do think it's the only plausible way forward in terms of immigration reform, that we focus on the things that we agree on, not that which we don't, and build the trust, so that we can get something done.
I have said this to the president. My colleagues are aware of my position. And, again, it did, I'm sure, aggravate people on both sides of the issue, but it is the principled position that I have taken, and I believe it's the right one.
BASH: The role of religion.
You are a Jewish Republican, the only Jewish Republican in the House. You started your discussion after you lost quoting the Old Testament, talking about your Jewish faith. Your district is one- quarter of 1 percent Jewish. And your opponent, David Brat, really put his Christian faith front and center.
I want you to listen to one of the things he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The miracle that just happened, this is a miracle from God that just happened.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BRAT: That miracle did not just float down from heaven.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Do you think that there was anti-Semitism involved in your defeat?
CANTOR: Listen, I don't ever want to impute that to anybody.
As you rightly say, I'm born and raised Jewish. My faith is very important to me. And, you know, I know that I'm going to continue to try and work with the lessons that I have learned from my early years in Hebrew school, learning about the Old Testament and much greater leaders than I with personal setbacks, but always focused on being optimistic about the future.
Our country has so much potential. I believe that the Republican Party is one that taps into that innate potential.
BASH: Well, on -- on that issue, when the shutdown ended at the end of last year, you said in private, my understanding is, your fellow Republicans should stop eating their own.
You got eaten. So, on that note, what does your loss mean for the Republican Party?
CANTOR: Well, I think that -- I have always -- and I said that day that we reopened the government that we, as conservatives and as Republicans, we may have some differences, but they pale in comparison to the differences that we have with the left.
BASH: But the voters in your own district didn't buy that. They voted another Republican in, instead of you.
CANTOR: Again, again, going -- going back is not what I want to do. I want to go forward.
BASH: But I -- but, I mean, as a forward-looking issue, if you can't beat a Republican, what does it mean about Republicans going forward?
CANTOR: I am -- I am determined to continue on the mission that our party needs to be one of inclusion, not exclusion.
There are so many more things that bind us together than pull us apart. And, frankly, if we compare that to the liberalism on the left and those who believe the government is going to provide all the answers, there is enough great difference between us as conservatives and the left for us to be focusing on that.
And I think, ultimately, our country needs a strong, robust Republican Party that believes in the principles of limited government, personal responsibility, a hand up, not a handout. And I'm going to continue to work on that mission as I go forward.
BASH: Are you going to vote for David Brat?
CANTOR: Listen, I -- I want a Republican to hold this seat. Of course, of course.
I -- this is about making sure that we have a strong Republican majority in the House. I'm hopeful we will take it in the Senate as well, very optimistic about that, so we can frankly have a real check and balance on the kinds of things that are making it so tough for people under the Obama economy.
BASH: What's next for you? I know it's soon. Any chance you would run for governor of Virginia?
CANTOR: No, I tell you, I -- I am right now looking forward to sitting down with my wife, Diana. And we have talked a little bit. But we're going to talk some more about the future and...
BASH: But you're not done with politics?
CANTOR: You know, I -- I'm not ready to close out any options right now.
I just think that, right now, there's a lot of opportunity. I have been very gratified by the people who have already called and say, hey, what are you doing?
And I know that in my almost, I think, 23 years of public service now between the Virginia House and the House up here, you know, there are ways to serve, not just in public office. And I'm looking forward to engaging in those kinds of things and to continue on the mission of reform conservatism, the way that we have here, that actually helps people by our applying those conservative solutions.
BASH: Mr. Leader, Happy Father's Day.
CANTOR: Thank you.
BASH: Thank you so much for coming in.
CANTOR: Thank you.
BASH: Appreciate it.
BASH: So, Gloria, I tried to get him off his talking points.
BORGER: You did.
BASH: I don't know how successful I was.
But the one thing that I thought was interesting is that he's definitely trying to be a good Republican soldier. He is going to vote for David Brat, the guy who just beat him in the general election.
BORGER: You know, what -- what struck me is that I think he's clearly thinking about a career in politics at some point in the future, because he did stick with those Republican talking points.
He did not sound like somebody who is the number two person in the House who had just been buried by a political unknown. And so he sounds like he's kind of going to plot a comeback.
BASH: That's right.
BORGER: And -- but, today, Dana, we also have with us somebody who won his Republican primary. He beat back six Tea Party challengers from the right -- that's six of them.
BORGER: Senator Lindsey Graham, thank you so much for being here.
GRAHAM: Glad to be with you.
BORGER: And, you know, it's a conservative state, South Carolina.
BORGER: You beat them all back.
BORGER: So, here is the softball.
BORGER: What did you do right that Eric Cantor did wrong?
GRAHAM: I think I defined myself in a very good way.
I had an air game and a ground game very coordinated. Politics is war in another form. We had a lot of money, but we had 5,200 precinct captains. So, we prepared the ground game. Nobody saw that coming. We really overwhelmed them on the ground. But I was a conservative leader who gets things done.
BORGER: Well, you also talked about immigration, and your state of South Carolina so conservative. You're for immigration reform. You did not run away from it.
BORGER: You defended it. How did you manage to win doing that?
GRAHAM: Sixty-five percent of South Carolina Republicans support an earned pathway to citizenship. If you secure the border, have more legal immigration, and control who gets a job, 65 percent of South Carolinians say, learn the English language, pay a fine, get in back of the line, pass criminal background checks, wait 10 years. Then you can apply for a green card.
If you have done all these things, if you're a nonfelon, 65 percent of the Republicans in my state said that made sense.
BORGER: So, what did -- what did Eric Cantor do wrong, though?
GRAHAM: I don't think he defined...
BORGER: And what lesson is there for Republicans?
GRAHAM: I think the first thing you ought to do -- this issue is big, right? Take a stand. Thirty-five percent that disagree what I have said, I didn't run a campaign trying to change their mind. I ran a campaign talking to the 65 percent, but, more than
anything else, the biggest fault I -- attributed to me by my opponents was that I would work with the other side to get things done. I turned that into my biggest asset.
BORGER: Well, that was a problem for Cantor, particularly on immigration.
Senator, we have to squeeze in a quick break here. So, stay with us.
GRAHAM: To pay the bills.
BORGER: And then we are going to be back with Dana Bash. We're going to switch gears and we're going to talk about Iraq and whether the American people are ready to spend more money or risk one more life there.
Stay with us.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
Senator Lindsey Graham is still with us.
And, Senator, on the issue of Iraq, I know that you have said that you think U.S. airstrikes is the only answer right now. But I want you and our viewers to look at something, the toll so far when it comes to Iraq, 4,424 deaths, wounded, 32,239, and then the cost of money, $770 billion.
I have got to ask the question that I'm sure so many Americans out there watching are going to ask. Why spend one more dollar or risk one more life?
GRAHAM: Because Iraq and Syria combined are going to be the staging area for the next 9/11 if we don't do something about it.
The people holding ground in Iraq also hold ground in Syria. Economic instability that comes from a collapsed Iraq will affect gas prices and our economic recovery.
But the main reason is, if ISIS is not dealt with, that's the staging area for a new attack on the United States.
BASH: ISIS being the -- being...
GRAHAM: Yes, the -- yes, the...
BASH: ... the newer...
BASH: ... more dangerous al Qaeda.
GRAHAM: Yes. They -- the -- the predecessor -- they're the follow-on to al Qaeda in Iraq.
What they will do is use the area between Baghdad, Kurdistan and Syria to operate with impunity. They have a lot of wealth. They will plan an attack against our country. And my biggest fear is that they're going to march toward Jordan.
And I hope America understands that, if the king of Jordan goes, if he's the victim of these guys, then the whole Mideast is in turmoil.
BASH: And you really thinks that's possible?
BORGER: What makes -- what makes you think they have the organization to pull something like that off?
GRAHAM: What makes you think they don't?
Look what's happened. Look what's happened. They have basically occupied a portion of Syria. They -- they took the second largest city in Iraq. They're going into Baghdad.
My number one goal is, let us stop them from going into Baghdad, not the Iranians. If the central government in Iraq collapses -- and that's their goal -- they're trying to get the Iraqi government to collapse -- the Iranians dominate the south. They will own all the resources in the south.
These guys will operate from Baghdad to Kurdistan, all the way into Syria. They will consolidate economic and military power. They will march towards Jordan and Lebanon. And they will use that space to attack us. If Baghdad falls, if the central government falls, a disaster awaits us of monumental proportions.
BASH: Now, the question about the leadership there now, Prime Minister Maliki, he is somebody who perhaps has not done all the things that the U.S. should have -- wanted them to do, which is, I think, an understatement.
BASH: So is he the right man for the -- to lead Iraq right now?
GRAHAM: No. Stop the march on Baghdad. Form a new government. Send Petraeus and Crocker over, somebody who knows...
BORGER: How do you form a new government? It's a democracy.
GRAHAM: There are plenty of voices over there.
He should resign. He's incapable of bringing the Sunnis back into the fold. Three things have happened in 2010 and '11 to create this. How did we get there should be the question. Al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to ISIS, was on their back, just about gone. Syria blows up. They get reinforcements from Syria into Iraq.
Maliki withdrawals from the coalition. He becomes a sectarian leader. Obama's administration is completely hands-off, and we withdraw troops in 2011. That's the perfect storm.
BORGER: But whose fault was that? You know, the...
GRAHAM: That's President Obama's fault.
BORGER: Why is that President Obama's fault? Maliki didn't want to leave a residual force there.
GRAHAM: Bush -- no, that is not true. That is absolutely a lie.
I was there on the ground, at the request of Secretary Clinton. Maliki, Barzani and the Sunnis were willing to accept an American force. We wanted the agreement to go through parliament, which would have been a disaster.
They got what they wanted. The Obama administration wanted to say: I ended the war in Iraq. I'm going to end the war in Afghanistan.
This was as predictable as the sun rising in the east. I blame President Obama mightily for a hands-off policy when it comes to Iraq.
BASH: Because, I mean, we can debate this probably for a long time, because Maliki...
GRAHAM: Look forward.
BASH: OK. So, looking forward, Iran, Bloomberg News had an interesting op-ed today, saying that they are sort of the frenemies of the U.S. right now in Iraq.
GRAHAM: Yes, exactly.
BASH: And people might not realize this, that Iran, who is generally no friend of the U.S., is now potentially working -- going to work with the U.S. on Iraq.
GRAHAM: We have common interests.
Why did we deal with...
BASH: How -- does that make you feel comfortable or comfortable?
GRAHAM: No. Hell no, it doesn't.
Why did we deal with Stalin? Because he was not as bad as Hitler. The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure Baghdad doesn't fall. We need to coordinate with the Iranians. And the Turks need to get in the game and get the Sunni Arabs back into the game, form a new government without Maliki.
But, yes, I don't want Iran to dominate Iraq. And that's where they're headed. If the central government falls, the Iranians are going on the Shia area of -- of Iraq, the south. Don't the Iranians save Baghdad. Let us save Baghdad, so there will be a chance at a second government.
BORGER: And we're going to go to Nic Robertson, our correspondent in Baghdad.
BORGER: Very quickly, I know you have been in discussions with the White House.
BORGER: Do you -- is it your prediction that, eventually, this White House will go for airstrikes?
GRAHAM: I think they have to.
And it's stunning to me that nobody in Congress is saying, you have got to come to us first. Everybody in Congress is scared to death of what's going to happen in Iraq. They won't come out and admit it. But nobody is saying, Mr. President, don't use airpower. The air force in Iraq, I think, has been grounded. But Nic will know that better than I do.
BORGER: Well, and let me -- and let me turn to Nic right now.
First of all, Nic, can you tell us how close ISIS is to Baghdad, where you are right now?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. They're about three-quarters-an-hour drive to the northeast of the city.
Overnight, Iraqi army was told to pull out of the main base in Baqubah. I spent a lot of time on that base with U.S. troops, covered the first elections in Iraq after Saddam Hussein for there, a big base, an important town. That's now fallen to ISIS.
The government told the army to pull out of there. So, this is significant. They have bypassed the line in the sand that the prime minister drew in Samarra, that's about two hours' drive north of the city. They're getting closer. They're close in Fallujah.
But I just want to flip this conversation back, if I may, briefly, to what we were talking about there, the threat to the West. Look, think of ISIS as the new al Qaeda when al Qaeda was in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It straddled the border. It made it hard to tackle them. ISIS straddles the border in Syria and Iraq. Four weeks ago, a gunman, an Islamist gunman went into the Jewish
Museum in Brussels, shot and killed four people. When he was captured in France, the prosecutor there said that he had been to Syria, this fighter had been to Syria, got training, and was coming back to attack the West.
There are thousands of foreign fighters with ISIS. This is a very real threat. They're working with Sunni tribes. The Sunni tribes don't share their views. There's a lot of scope here for a lot of work and talking to be done. But tackling ISIS for the West is an important issue.
And, Nic, I'm going to ask Senator Graham, do you have a question you might want to ask Nic in Baghdad?
Nic, what's your information about the ability of the Iraqi air force to engage the enemy?
ROBERTSON: We don't have any accurate information about them.
All I can say is, I'm in Baghdad, and I'm not hearing or seeing anything flying in the air here. What we do know is that ISIS have captured helicopters. They have got pilots from Saddam Hussein-era army flying them for them now. They have co-opted part of the old Baathist army that -- that we disbanded, essentially.
BORGER: OK. Thank you. Thank you so much, Nic.
And I want ask Dana, last question for Senator Graham?
BASH: I just want to clarify one thing, Senator. Did you say that we -- we absolutely should be working directly with Iran on -- to deal with Iraq? Can you just clarify that?
GRAHAM: We should -- we should have discussions with Iran to make sure that they don't use this as an opportunity to seize...
BASH: Because, so far, the State Department and the White House are saying we're not talking...
GRAHAM: ... to seize control of parts of -- of Iraq. They're in this. They're already on the ground. We need to put a red line with Iran, you know, you can help stabilize...
BORGER: How do you do that?
GRAHAM: Well, you just sit down and talk with them. When you get Turkey involved...
BASH: I'm sorry. I can't -- it's sort of hard for me to believe that I'm hearing a Republican saying, sit down and talk with Iraq -- Iran.
BORGER: Sit down and talk with Iran?
GRAHAM: Do you realize what's happening here?
If Baghdad falls and the central government collapses in Iraq, the Iranians are the biggest winner. We're the biggest loser. ISIS, as Nic says, operates with impunity from Syria to Baghdad. They will hit us again. They will march on Jordan.
Three things very quickly. Put American airpower into the game. These guys are not 10-feet tall. Stop the advance on Baghdad. Get people on the ground that the Iraqis trust. Maliki must go. Get a new government in place, right, and hit Syria. If you don't deal with Syria in a coordinated fashion, maybe with Turkey, regional Sunni Arab states, you will have this happen all over again in Iraq.
BORGER: Do you think the United States should now open a back channel or put it -- or do...
BASH: He's saying a front channel. Right?
BORGER: ... a front channel with...
GRAHAM: I think we...
BORGER: ... with -- with Iran in order to deal with the situation in Iraq?
GRAHAM: We should be the ones who save Baghdad, so the central government can survive. But to ignore Iran and not tell them, don't take advantage of this situation, would be a mistake.
BASH: One -- one last question. We started the segment by showing the toll to the U.S. in dollars and, more importantly, in lives.
Looking -- if you're a -- if somebody out there has a friend or a loved one who died in Iraq and they're looking at this situation now, how do they not think perhaps that their loved one died in vain?
GRAHAM: Well, the Iraqi -- here's my -- the good news.
The Iraqi people don't want to be governed by ISIS. The Shias don't want to be governed by Iran. They actually want to move forward. We were well on our way. The lack of a residual force, the stubborn-headed president we have who thinks he knows better than everybody else, who withdrew troops, and exposed this country to the inevitable needs to change his policies quickly. If he does, we can still save this.
BORGER: Stubborn-headed president?
GRAHAM: Stubborn-headed, delusional, detached president. But that's the last bad thing I'm going to say. Mr. President, a lot of people want to help you, because we're in
it together. The number of people that could die in this country from getting this wrong is going to be far greater than 4,000, because they're getting weapons they didn't have before.
The economic chaos to the world is going to be far greater than the money we spent in saving Iraq. This is another 9/11 in the making. The FBI director has warned us in Congress that Syria and Iraq present a direct threat to our homeland. You got foreign fighters from America and Western Europe occupying this battle space. They're operating with impunity.
Get into the game, Mr. President. You can -- leaders are judged not by the fact that they never make a mistake, but how they adjust to their mistakes. Bush made plenty of mistakes. I have made plenty of mistakes. Obama has made plenty of mistakes.
But we have an opportunity -- and time is running out -- to turn this around. Get involved with airpower. Stop the march toward Baghdad. Deal with Syria. But get a new government in place as quickly as you can that will bring the Iraqis back together for a counteroffensive.
BASH: Senator, we...
GRAHAM: If we don't, if we don't, God help us, because we're next.
BASH: Senator, we could talk about this for hours and probably not scratch the surface.
BORGER: Thank you.
BASH: Thank you very much for coming in.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
BASH: Appreciate it.
And up next, we're going to hear from the U.S. general who trained the Iraqi army, that same army now taking off their uniforms and abandoning posts under attack from jihadist fighters.
BORGER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Gloria Gorger.
BASH: And I'm Dana Bash. Candy Crowley is off.
We're continuing to discuss the situation in Iraq and with us now is retired army major general Paul Eaton. He was the commander in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces.
And General I just want to put up on the screen another stark number, $20 billion. That's what the U.S. spent to train Iraqi security forces. . MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Probably a conservative
BASH: It's a conservative figure. Wow. And I'm sure you've seen the images of what's happening now...
BASH: ...since you've left and that is uniforms on the ground, this army -- individuals who you trained they're running away.
EATON: That's actually what we found when we first went into the military bases in 2003, we found uniforms on the ground. And then we go in to the development of the Iraqi soldier, the Iraqi units and try to infuse that sense of legitimacy in the soldier who will cause -- that will cause soldiers to do great things. And if you don't have that sense of legitimacy, if that soldier does not believe that he is a legitimate actor on behalf of a legitimate government executing a legitimate mission, then you'll have what we see today.
BORGER: Now, I know you blame the prime minister for this in a great deal.
EATON: A great deal, yes.
BORGER: because he hasn't instilled the loyalty.
EATON: He's disenfranchised the Sunni population and he has created this drama that we're dealing with right now. He's done it since -- actually since December 2011 when we left. He has -- he has not had that guiding hand of Ambassador Crocker and our military.
BORGER: And you just heard Lindsey Graham, though. He said, air strikes. You don't think air strikes are going to work.
EATON: Air strikes are a problem unless you have execution level detailed intelligence. And the fact that (INAUDIBLE) you got to catch these guys when they're alone out in the open. They tend to hug the indigenous population. They tend to hug the people who are living in --
BORGER: They're embedded in the population.
EATON: And the optic -- yes. The optic of bombs landing on friendly Arabs is a very bad optic for United States. So, we have to have actionable intelligence and we get that by putting advisers on the ground which I believe is the least bad option available to the United States right now.
BORGER: So stay with us for a moment. We want to go back to Baghdad to our Nic Robertson there. And let me ask you to get into this conversation, Nic, because we're talking about what's occurred since the U.S. troops have left and Iraq has been immersed in violence. How bad is the situation right now, Nic? I mean, ISIS getting closer to Baghdad. I mean, do you see from your vantage point that there's a way to avoid collateral damage if there are air strikes?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's potentially very tough. Isis is certainly is aligning itself with the civilian populations, hugging the civilian terrain as we were just saying that. So, it's difficult and it's difficult politically as well. Because if you're trying to promote political dialogue, when you start shelling one side, the Sunni, because we'll be aiming at Isis and if there is any collateral damage among the Sunni population, or regardless the Sunni tribes within the west of Iraq, who fought with the U.S. Marines to crush al Qaeda back in 2006 -- 2007 who are now on the side of Isis because they want political change, not a caliphate.
They would feel that the United States is targeting them. I was talking with a tribal leader who told me precisely that he wants to get in talks with U.S. officials because he wants to mitigate against that kind of thing happening. But the reality is, if you have air strikes and there is collateral damage, you are taking a side, in the views of one of the parties, taking a side in the conflict. And that's going to make getting a political deal so much harder.
BASH: Nic, we want to back to the general. But in the break, I just have to tell our viewers, you were telling us the story about something that is really illustrative and an unfortunate anecdote about how hard it is right there now.
ROBERTSON: It is. I was listening to the discussion with Senator Graham there about the cost in lives to U.S. servicemen and blood loss. There is on the roof of this building a few feet from me a head stone for an American soldier, 23 years old, Michael James Stoeckly (ph). His father came here to Iraq, wanted to place that head stone at the place where he son died in Baghdad just a few miles from here in 2005. The stone has been sat here on the roof for the past year or so because it is still, still too dangerous to go and lay the stone where his son gave up his life for this country and for peace and stability, still too dangerous. And I'm sure there are many other cases like this. It is very telling and a very sobering thought.
BASH: Wow. Nic, I mean, what a story. In general I'm sitting here watching you listen to that, somebody who spent so much time, so much effort trying to change things. And you left thinking that things were much better.
EATON: This is tragic, watching what is unfolding right now but we can get it back. We can -- we can take this back. We can help the Iraqis stiffen their defense of Baghdad. We can establish fortress Baghdad from which we can sally port and retake the train that we've lost to this group, this Isis group. They're not huge.
The Iraqi army outnumbers them, outguns them and can out lead them. What we need to do is stiffen the spine of the Iraqi military and we do that by putting senior advisers on the ground to help the Iraqis, to link into the intelligence systems that we can provide them, logistics systems that we can provide them and, yes, the air power that we can provide if we can get actionable intelligence. BASH: Thanks so much, General Eaton. That sounds like an awful
lot to do in a very short period of time.
EATON: We have allies. We have a natural ally in Iran. We have a natural ally in the Peshmerga with the Kurds.
BORGER: Thank you very much, General Eaton.
BASH: Thank you very much. And when we come back, we're actually going to talk to two others who served in the war. And there's real passion behind their thinking, because they're not just -- they're not just veterans, but they're actually now representatives in the House and they disagree in many ways on -
BORGER: They're good friends, too.
BASH: They sure are. You'll hear from the two of them when we come back.
BASH: Joining us now are two members of congress who are also Iraq war veterans. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat from Hawaii. She served 12 months in Iraq and is now a military police captain in the National Guard, and Congressman Adam Kinzinger, Republican from Illinois, a military pilot and major in the air National Guard. And he's flown missions both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
Now, both of them are on the foreign affairs committee I should tell you as well. I want to get to you Congresswoman Gabbard. First, we established that you disagree on what to do now. You are opposed to going in air strikes but I just want to ask you, as you answer that and explain why, also talk on a more personal level, human level, about what it feels like to see what's going on there given your service there?
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Yes. During my first deployment there to Iraq in 2005 I worked in a medical unit and really on a daily basis saw firsthand the incredibly huge and ugly cost of war and the toll and the price that our troops paid on a daily basis.
You talked earlier about the numbers who were killed as well as those who were injured there. Those friends of mine who spent time training the Iraqi troops. It's painful to see their hard work and watching the Iraqi troops literally shed their uniforms. This is one of my major concerns about those who are advocating for air strikes and getting our U.S. military back involved and really, truly, what is a religious civil war.
Your last guest talked about stiffening the spine of the Iraqi troops, increasing their feeling of legitimacy. You can't train away the core issue here which is that you have a Sunni versus Shia battle going on. You have Sunni commanders literally saying, Sunni soldiers will be defecting because of their displeasure with the Shia-led government.
BORGER: Well, let me ask Congressman Kinzinger about that. Your colleague and friend says, it's a civil war. I know that you must feel the pain at the thought of going back there in any way, shape or form. And yet, you say air strikes might be the answer.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Right (ph).
BORGER: How does this make you feel on a personal level when you're talking about U.S. involvement again?
KINZINGER: Well, on a personal level this feels terrible. I mean, I -- the base I was stationed at is either surrounded or taken over by now in Balad air base. And you know, I imagine when I was there being there at night sleeping and you get attacked by mortars but you never felt like anybody was going to come in the fence. It was secured. It's not like that anymore.
And it's very tragic. On the issue of air strikes, look, is this going to be the answer? I don't think this is necessarily the panacea. But to watch -- we are watching right now the worst case scenario happen. This is the worst case scenario.
So, I think the -- the United States military is not some weak animal that needs nurturing. We are very fierce and very good at what we do. And we have got to get in there, work with a political solution with Iraq, but push back this very evil organization, Isis, and give some breathing space for the Iraqi government to do what it needs to do and reform or whatever needs to happen. But look, this isn't new. This started a number of months ago. And we're acting like we're caught off by (ph) surprise. This has been in action for a very long time.
BASH: Congresswoman Gabbard, what about -- I know you say that it's a sectarian war. The U.S. doesn't have a place to go back now. What about U.S. national security interests? I mean, isn't what Congressman Kinzinger is saying, what Senator Graham said before, don't they have a point? That there's some danger there and there could be in the words of Senator Graham, another 9/11 brewing (ph) there?
GABBARD: First of all, I do agree with that. We have the fiercest strongest military in the world. We also have a responsibility to be very careful about how and where we use that military force so that it achieves the objective of what is in the best U.S. interest.
It is not in our U.S. interest to go and involve ourselves in the middle of what is a religious civil war. Are there specific security threats to the United States coming from terrorist actions (ph)? Yes, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and many other countries in the world. We have to focus our resources that we have, focus our great military on those direct and imminent threats rather than getting distracted by involving ourselves in another civil war that's occurring in another country between religious factions that have been warring for generations. BORGER: Congressman Kinzinger --
KINZINGER: Let me just say -
BORGER: Go ahead.
KINZINGER: I just want to say to that, I mean, if the establishment of a caliphate by an organization that makes al Qaeda look like a bunch of kitty cats is not the -- is not in U.S. national interest to stop it, I don't know what is. And the issue of the civil war, yes, there is some real tough sectarian issues going on in Syria and Iraq, but this is the same argument that we heard when it came to the surge. Everybody said, well, we can't do the surge in Iraq because this s just a sectarian civil war. And we saw great success with the surge despite some people's attempt to redefine the surge as a failure. We had the war won.
BORGER: Congressman, what do you say to your stints who are so war weary? You know, two-thirds of the American public believe it was a mistake to have been in Iraq, that we got nothing out of it. Now we're talking about going back. What do you say to them?
KINZINGER: Well, look, the American people have a right to be war weary. American leadership does not. Leadership is about doing the right thing, even if it's tough. I'm glad that Truman at the end of World War II didn't say America is too war weary, we can't leave a residual force in Europe because Russia would be twice as big as it is today.
The point of leadership is leading a war weary public to the point of saying this is a national interest, we have to do it. Not standing in front of people and saying, I know you're tired, I know you're tired. It's standing in front of people and saying, I know you're tired, but we have to prevent a caliphate by Isis from being established.
BASH: Congressman Kinzinger, Congresswoman -- go ahead real fast.
GABBARD: Taking that action, taking military action, conducting air strikes, dropping bombs based on poor intelligence without having real-time intelligence and boots on the ground to provide that, taking sides in this religious civil war not only is not in the best U.S. national interest, it doesn't even solve the problem of what is existing there. If we want to take action...
KINZINGER: We should have started planning six months ago.
GABBARD: ...brokering -- we should push for brokering a peaceful agreement between these warring factions within the country and support leadership in Iraq that's willing to do that.
BASH: All right.
KINZINGER: Isis doesn't negotiate. They kill.
BASH: Congresswoman, congressman, thank you very much. Obviously the fact that you disagree so vehemently and you are, we should say, friends and obviously had similar experiences in Iraq is very telling.
We want you to stick around though because we want to change subjects (ph) dramatically and talk a little bit of politics with our politicians. So, stay with us.
BORGER: And they'll disagree on that too.
BORGER: And back with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
We can't have a Sunday morning show without talking a little bit of politics. And of course this week was the week that Hillary Clinton's book came out. She started making the rounds on her book tour. And one of the interesting things she said that sort of sparked our attention was that she said that it would be easier for a woman to run in 2016 than it was for her to run in '27 and '28. Let me ask the Congress woman, do you agree that it's easier for a woman now?
GABBARD: I think that very slowly, we're starting to see the numbers of women in elected politics growing. But the numbers are still too low. It is still too slow. There are still many women who are either hesitant to run for office for a number of different reasons or still need that extra -- that extra push. I think there are still challenges that have to be overcome.
BASH: We're not going have gender bias in our questioning here, Congressman. So, we're going to ask you. It's fine to ask a man that question. I mean, just you perceive the way things are in politics. Do you think it's easier for women now?
KINZINGER: Well, it seems. Look, I can't act like I know challenges of that and Tulsi is the best to respond. But I will say it looks like there's a lot more engagement from women and it seems like it's becoming easier than probably some of the challenges in the past. And Tulsi is a great example. She's an outstanding person, a good friend of mine and somebody that has been able to overcome challenges she face and being a very successful congresswoman (ph).
BASH: You ran against a woman. You know what it's like on the other side.
BORGER: How hard is that?
KINZINGER: It's tough. I mean, it's tough. You have to be very careful. Obviously, you don't want to look like you're being unfair, bias. But, you know, at the same time, women are fully capable of fighting. So, in my fight in 2010 against a female incumbent, it was a
pretty big battle. And they're plenty (ph) capable that's for sure.
BORGER: And we should say that Tulsi Gabbard has lived in a man's world, serving in the military. Not only a man's world anymore but succeeded in that as well.
So, thank you both, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
KINZINGER: Thank you.
BORGER: We'll be right back. Aloha.
BASH: Well, that was quite an hour. Just going back to the beginning, Eric Cantor, the fact that he wouldn't fail a lot. And it's pretty clear that he's not out of politics. He's got some kind of future. He just doesn't (ph) know what it is yet (ph).
BORGER: How about Senator Lindsey Graham? Conservative Republican saying, we need to engage a rock. I mean -- Iran, when it comes to Iraq.
BASH: You heard me. I mean you can almost pick my job (ph) up my (ph) table.
BORGER: I know, I know. He was quite adamant about it.
BASH: He sure was. Well, thanks, Gloria. This was -
BORGER: Thank you, Dana. Happy birthday, Dana.
BASH: Thank you. And that's it for us today.
Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. Candy Crowley returns next week.
BORGER: And a very Happy Father's Day for the dads and husbands in your life and in ours.
Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," starts right now.