On Monday's CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose cited how Hillary Clinton once referred to Bashar al-Assad as a "reformer," but didn't use the former Secretary of State's name in his question to the Syrian despot. When al-Assad asked to specify who had called him a "reformer, " Rose vaguely replied, "People who write about you; people who talk about you; people who analyze Syria and your regime." [MP3 audio available here; video below]
The veteran PBS host continued, "Now, they say – their words – a 'butcher' – comparisons to the worst dictators ever to walk on the face of the earth...Everything they could say bad about a dictator, they're now saying about you." The Middle Eastern dictator answered by bizarrely likening himself to a doctor:
BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA: ..[Y]ou have a doctor who cut the leg to prevent the patient from the gangrene, if you have to – we don't call him butcher. We call him doctor, and you – thank you for saving their lives...when you have a war, you always – always have innocent lives that could be the victim of – of any war.
Back in March 2011, during an interview on CBS's Face the Nation, then-Secretary of State Clinton denied that the U.S. would get involved in the Syrian civil war, like it had in Libya. Host Bob Schieffer asked her to explain:
BOB SCHIEFFER: ...How can that be worse than what has happened in Syria over the years, where Bashar Assad’s father killed twenty-five thousand people at– at a lick. I mean, they opened fire with live ammunition on these civilians. Why is that different from Libya? This is a friend of Iran, an enemy of Israel?
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, if there were a coalition of the international community; if there were the passage of a Security Council resolution; if there were a call by the Arab League; if there was a condemnation that was universal, but that is not going to happen – because I don't think that it's yet clear what will occur – what will unfold? There is a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress – of both parties, who have gone to Syria in recent months – have said they believe he's a reformer.
The transcript of the relevant portion of Charlie Rose's interview of Bashar al-Assad from Monday's CBS This Morning:
[CBS News Graphic: "One-On-One With Assad: Charlie Rose Interviews Syrian President"]
GAYLE KING: Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is breaking his silence, in his first TV interview since President Obama asked Congress to authorize a strike against Syria. Assad spoke with Charlie Rose in Damascus on Sunday. Charlie asked the Syrian president how he's changed over the years, and why many consider him to be a butcher.
[CBS News Graphic: "A Changing Leader: Syrian President On Being Called 'The Butcher'"]
CHARLIE ROSE (from pre-recorded interview): When I first interviewed you, there was talk of 'Bashar al-Assad – he's the hope. He's the reformer.' That's not what they say anymore.
BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA: Who?
ROSE: People who write about you; people who talk about you; people who analyze Syria and your regime.
AL-ASSAD: Exactly. So, the hope for American is different from the hope of Syrian. For me, I'm the hope of – I should be the hope of the Syrian, not any other one – not American, neither – no American – neither French, or anyone in the world. I'm president to help Syrian people. So, this question should start from the hope of the Syrian people. And if there's any change regarding that hope, we should ask the Syrian people, not anyone else in the world.
ROSE: But now, they say – their words – a 'butcher' – comparisons to the worst dictators ever to walk on the face of the earth – comparing you to them – using weapons that go beyond warfare. Everything they could say bad about a dictator, they're now saying about you.
AL-ASSAD: First, the following: you have a doctor who cut the leg to prevent the patient from the gangrene, if you have to – we don't call him butcher. We call him doctor, and you – thank you for saving their lives. When you have terrorism, you have a war – when you have a war, you always – always have innocent lives that could be the victim of – of any war.