Ed Berliner: Welcome back to the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra, joined now by the veteran Democratic strategist and speechwriter with Catamount Strategies, LLC, Christian Hanley. Christian, thanks for joining us. Pete, good to see you again. Christian, let me begin with you first here. When Donald Trump says that people around the world, the terrorists he speaks of, see us as weak and stupid, quite frankly he's right in many ways, because that's exactly how they do see us. So every single attack that happens he drives that home. Democrats have got to be concerned, because it plays not just into his hands, but the fears of people that these attacks are coming here to America, sooner or later, and our people are too weak and stupid to stop it.
Christian Hanley: Well I mean it's insulting to our armed forces first of all to say that our country and our military are weak and stupid. Nothing could be farther from the truth. And that's a shocking –
Berliner: No, I don't think, wait a minute, let me just make a point here if I can, Christian.
Hanley: Yeah, yeah.
Berliner: I don't think it's the American military that we're calling weak and stupid.
Berliner: I believe what's happening is people overseas and government, but the killers especially, the terrorists, see our government as weak and stupid, because they keep saying they're going to kill ISIS, they're going to route them out, they're going to take them out, and these guys are still working every single day and they're making new bombs every day. They're laughing at us.
Hanley: Well that's part of their propaganda is to show the United States as being this big, hulking, stupid, old country. And that's part of their propaganda, right. That's got nothing to do with reality. And so Donald Trump playing off of that is really a harsh and frankly stupid move to make. Democrats shouldn't be worried about that for the purposes of elections. They should be worried about that because his video segments, his clips could quite easily end up and already have been, probably, ended up in ISIS propaganda and recruiting videos. That's the bigger concern here.
Berliner: Pete, Christian using the phrase, 'a stupid move to make for Donald Trump,' and I imagine that you might have something to add about that, because there are people out there who say it's not stupid, it does its job every single day because of what the current administration is doing.
Pete Hoekstra: Donald Trump and his excerpts on videos, or whatever, they're not providing the fodder for ISIS recruiting. What's providing the momentum for ISIS right now is the United States supporting the overthrow of a friendly regime in Egypt led by Mubarak, and you know, now we had Sisi, we had Morsi and now we have Sisi and still having a cold shoulder to Egypt, so we don't have a staunch ally in Egypt anymore. This administration overthrowing Gadhafi and taking an ally in Northern Africa and turning it into a failed state, this country and its leadership deciding that we needed to get rid of Assad in Syria, that we needed to change our strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to three more failed states – Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – that's what's providing the momentum and the recruiting stories for ISIS. They have the momentum and they're winning. That's what attracts more followers to them, not something that Donald Trump says in Washington, D.C., or New York or wherever he may be. They're winning, they're having success, and we're not.
Berliner: Let's go ahead and spin to the second issue here we want to talk about and that is the Benghazi Commission, the Republican Benghazi commission from yesterday. Before we do this, the National Rifle Association is running a $2 million Benghazi-themed ad campaign for Donald Trump. Now here's a piece of the ad that is now beginning to run around the country.
[From NRA television advertisement]:
Male: Hillary as president? No thanks. I served in Benghazi. [Video clips of building on fire.] My friends didn't make it. They did their part. Do yours. [Graphic over video: 'Stop. Hillary. Now'].
Male voice over graphic reading 'Trump 2016:' The NRA Political Victory Fund is responsible for the content of this advertising.
Berliner: Christian, I think I'm going to start with you first on this one. What's interesting is the State Department is pushing back today, some of the government officials are pushing back, saying, 'Wait a minute now, we can't be held totally responsible for this; this is ridiculous, we did everything we could.' Come on, Christian. Isn't it time for whether it's Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, whomever, the Pentagon, the State Department, just to own up and say, 'Hey guys, we screwed the pooch, we blew it, we made mistakes, people died.' At least come clean on it for a change, other than basically continuing to hide.
Hanley: Well it's interesting you say that, because the report actually criticized State and Defense. It didn't criticize Hillary Clinton. It didn't point to Hillary Clinton as being the root cause of this problem –
Hanley: – and the way the situation was handled. What the report pointed to was bureaucratic bungling by State and Defense. So they, it's unclear why Hillary Clinton is in any position to apologize or own up for it. She's already testified for 11 hours straight, she's already taken responsibility for the State Department when she was at the helm, so there's really nothing else that she can say. I mean the sad thing here is that Americans died, we have a very complete timeline now as to why and how this all unfolded, and it's been turned into a political circus. It's really disgraceful.
Berliner: Pete, can we go ahead and say let's be honest here again, bureaucratic bungling, you got it, people screwed this one up from the very top to the very bottom in all this and made a lot of mistakes. And there's a lot of questions whether or not Hillary Clinton did mention a video to some serviceman's family, whether she didn't mention the video. A lot of it's in there. There are people saying that regardless, she lied. Either way, Pete, you've been there, you've been inside the Beltway. I know that this is anathema to a lot of people who are politicians, but look the American people in the eye, damn it, and say, 'We made a mistake, put this thing to bed and stop worrying about the, and stop working on this every single day.' Wait a minute, I'd better stop myself Pete. I'm on common sense here, this could be a role that could immediately give me a heart attack.
Hoekstra: Well I think what you're going to find in what's in the report is very clear, and I outlined it in my book. We screwed up on Gaddafi way back in 2011 when the U.S. government under Obama and Secretary of State Clinton decided that Obama, excuse me, that Gaddafi needed to be overthrown, so we allied ourselves with the Muslim Brotherhood and radical jihadist groups, people committed to destroying the West. We allied with them to overthrow Gaddafi. That night in Benghazi where four brave Americans died, it was the people that we trained and equipped and allied with to overthrow Gaddafi that turned their training and their equipment against the United States. And the little-known footnote in this report is that it was Gaddafi loyalists who came and were the first ones to provide assistance to the Americans, and pretty much made sure that it was only four and not 24 or more Americans that died that night. The sad story of this is that Gaddafi loyalists were more loyal to the agreement that they made with the United States than the United States made with Gadhafi and his regime.
Berliner: My God, my head is going to explode here. Everybody please take responsibility for crying out loud and stop this ridiculous dancing here. Let's get a couple of comments in here real quick. Phil from Ormond Beach, Fla. You believe Hillary Clinton should be held responsible for Benghazi. Give me 30 seconds. Stay on point. Go ahead.
Phil (caller): OK, I think that you know we still, we know that she missed a 3 o'clock phone call, we know that she sent emails to her daughter and other people saying that it was definitely a terrorist attack, and we know that there's a bunch of emails that are missing. I'd like to know what information is in those emails, where they went. And this idea that this server thing doesn't have any information regarding Benghazi I think is totally off base. And that's why all that stuff got deleted. And then you have her running around poking in the American people's face making jokes about delete button. It's absolutely infuriating. And I can't find anywhere in the Constitution where it says this level of secrecy is given to the government from the people.
Berliner: OK, very well put. I've got to move on here, I got short on time. Christian, to you, very quick answer here. If Hillary Clinton is serious about wanting to be the leader of the free world, why doesn't she look the American people in the eye and say, 'I made mistakes, everybody made mistakes, people died and I'm sorry about it.' Thirty seconds, why can't she just say that?
Hanley: Well and if we go back to her 11-hour testimony in front of the committee, she actually did take responsibility, answered all of their questions, and gave them nearly boundless time to explain what happened and to provide any answers they sought. And while doing that she did take responsibility for the State Department while she was at the helm. At this point we've gone on two years, wasted $7 million dollars in taxpayer money, what more can Hillary Clinton say or do at this point?
Berliner: OK, let me do that. Pete, I come to you with 30 seconds, and what more can she say? And is she right, do you just put this behind you now at this point or does she still owe the American people a straight up, right in the eye, going, 'we all screw up, hold us all responsible?'
Hoekstra: She needs to say to the American people, 'We screwed up, we allied ourselves with the Muslim Brotherhood and their affiliates, organizations that are committed to the destruction of the United States. We thought that by engaging with them they would change their behavior. And whether it was Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iraq or anywhere else where we are allied with them, we made a mistake. They took advantage of that opening. It's time to condemn the Muslim Brotherhood and all their affiliates and go after them full force.'
Berliner: See there you go, you come on this show, the three of us sit here, we all look people in the eye and we say things that are factual. If we could just get politicians to do it now. Oh wait a minute, I'm having that stroke again, it's happening right now. Christian Hanley, Pete Hoekstra, gentlemen thanks for much for joining us. We'll talk to you again soon.