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RADDATZ (voice-over): Good morning. Welcome to "This Week."
Firestorm. One week after his re-election, the president faces the Middle East on the brink.
A deepening sex scandal.
(UNKNOWN): David Petraeus in the hot seat.
(UNKNOWN): The scandal spreads.
(UNKNOWN): This is the "National Enquirer."
RADDATZ: New questions about Benghazi.
MCCAIN: What did the president know? And what did he do about it?
RADDATZ: And fiscal cliffhanger, holding the economy hostage. The politics, the policy, and what it all means for you, with our headliners, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Homeland Security Chair Peter King, and Carl Levin of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
And insights and analysis with our powerhouse roundtable, with George Will, Donna Brazile, Jonathan Karl, Newt Gingrich, and Congressman Xavier Becerra.
Plus, America's favorite tasty treat turns into another political football. Is it twilight for the Twinkie?
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos. Reporting from the Newseum in Washington, Martha Raddatz.
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RADDATZ: Good morning. George Stephanopoulos has the weekend off.
We begin with breaking news from the Middle East, where despite talks of a possible cease-fire, the air war between Hamas and Israel is continuing. So let's get right to it. We have Alex Marquardt in Gaza City and Christiane Amanpour in Jerusalem.
And, Alex, let me begin with you. Give us a sense of what's been going on there in Gaza.
MARQUARDT: Good morning, Martha. It's been very consistent pummeling of Gaza by the Israeli air force and a consistent launching of rocks by these various Palestinian militant groups. We are hearing the bombings going off rather incessantly. Just a short while ago, a Palestinian group launched a rocket from just a short distance away.
This goes on throughout the day, into the night. Around 2:00 a.m. this morning, we were woken up by this barrage of artillery fire coming from the Navy ships just offshore, the Israeli ships.
The big question today is whether we're going to see a cease-fire brokered by Egypt and Turkey, obviously, with the pressure of the U.S. and Great Britain, or are we going to see that ground invasion by Israel? Prime Minister Netanyahu said today they are ready to significantly expand their ground operation. We know that Egypt and Turkey are working feverishly to try and strike some sort of deal, but the signal, the sounds that are coming out of Jerusalem is that they aren't finished with this operation yet, but certainly here in Gaza, people are hoping that some sort of cease-fire will come about very soon. RADDATZ: Thanks to Alex.
And now let's bring in ABC's global affairs anchor, Christiane Amanpour, who joins us from Jerusalem. Christiane, what is the situation there militarily? Are there still fears of a ground war?
AMANPOUR: Martha, from the military point of view, they want to just get rid of as much of Hamas' rocket-launching capability as possible. I just talked to a senior military official here, an Israeli official, who said they seemed to be quite pleased with what they've done so far. In about 1,000 sorties, they tell me, they've taken out quite a lot of the rocket-launching capability.
So if there is to be a ground offensive, it looks like they're amassing to keep the military track going, to give a threat to Hamas, to say they're serious, to, as they say to me, cocking the trigger, ready to pull it, if Hamas does something like kill a huge number of Israeli civilians here in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
And from Hamas' point of view, they have also shown something, that they can now reach the distances to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. So will that be enough for both to get off the exit ramp? We'll see.
RADDATZ: Just quickly, Christiane, could you tell us diplomatically what's going on? The reaction of Egypt, the U.S., Turkey, what's going on there?
AMANPOUR: Well, in short, there's a huge amount of effort to de-escalate this. The United States trying to get Egypt and Turkey to pressure Hamas to de-escalate this and to seek a way out. And also, the Israelis saying they're working very hard, as well, to try to make sure this is resolved diplomatically. So in short, it's a two-track situation right now.
RADDATZ: Still very serious. Thank you very much, Christiane and Alex.
We're joined now by Senate Armed Services Chair Carl Levin of Michigan and House Homeland Security Chair Peter King of New York.
Thank you both for joining us this morning.
KING: Thank you.
RADDATZ: I'm going to start with you, Senator Levin. How serious is the situation in Israel?
LEVIN: Well, it's very serious, and Hamas has obviously made it serious. They've decided that they're going to attack Israel with rockets, and Israel has decided, as every country I think would decide, they're going to defend themselves.
RADDATZ: And do you believe this will escalate?
LEVIN: It could escalate. And I think the potential is there. However, President Obama and others are doing their very best to see if they can't turn Hamas' attacks off. And the role of Iron Dome here should always be remembered. It's a very critical weapons system. It's a defensive system.
RADDATZ: Which protects...
LEVIN: Protects Israel against these rockets. It's had a 90 percent success rate. And the president and Congress here are entitled to, I believe, a lot of credit for providing that system to Israel. It's a very effective system.
RADDATZ: Congressman King, I want to ask you whether you believe this will turn into a ground war, and should it? Is it the only way to stop those rockets?
KING: Well, let me start off on a bipartisan note. I fully agree with Senator Levin. Israel -- Israel is our main ally in the Middle East. Israel has the absolute right to defend itself. All of us, Republicans and Democrats, should stand with the president in supporting Israel.
And, quite frankly, I'm not the militarily expert. I was a Spec 5 in the Army. That's as far as I got. But having said that, I think Israel should do whatever it has to do to defend itself. Obviously, the president is going to work diplomatic channels. But I'm not in a position -- nor do I want to -- be second-guessing what Israel has to do. Obviously, no one wants a ground war, but Israel has to determine what it has to do to preserve its security.
RADDATZ: Senator Levin, President Obama has been in touch with both sides. What do you think of the response by the Egyptians?
LEVIN: It's pretty weak so far, from what I can tell. The Egyptians have a real interest here in the region not exploding, in the peace agreement continuing to be abided by, by them, the agreement that they have with Israel, but I think that they're going to have to take some very serious steps diplomatically to make it clear to Hamas that they're going to lose support in the Arab world if they continue these rocket attacks on Israel.
RADDATZ: I want to move to another hot spot in the world, Libya, and certainly, Benghazi. Last Friday, we had testimony from David Petraeus and others about Benghazi. You, Congressman King, have been very critical of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. You were critical in TV appearances right after the attack on September 11th. Let's listen to that.
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KING: Either Ambassador Rice was deliberately misleading the American people or she showed and demonstrated such a lack of knowledge and sophistication that she shouldn't hold that position anymore.
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RADDATZ: Now, during Friday's hearings, David Petraeus -- and we'll get to other incidents with -- other news with David Petraeus later -- but David Petraeus basically said he knew it was a terrorist attack and that those points were taken out of Susan Rice's talking points. So do you -- do you feel differently about Susan Rice now?
KING: No. First of all, as far as General Petraeus, what was clearly was that the intelligence community had this right, and they put together talking points, and somewhere after it left the intelligence community, somewhere in the administration, there was very vital language taken out.
Now, Susan Rice, though, I would hope, if she's going to go on national television, is going to rely on more than unclassified talking points. She has...
RADDATZ: But if the information wasn't in the talking points, what is she supposed to do?
KING: Well -- well, as -- as U.N. ambassador, she had access to all the classified information from the State Department. She certainly could have gotten a classified briefing. She would have sat down with the National Security Council, and she would have known that those talking points had been watered down, and she could have caveated that -- her statement, which she didn't.
She left a clear impression that this was a spontaneous demonstration based on the video. And as President Obama said, don't blame Susan Rice, because she had nothing to do with Benghazi, then why do they send her out as the representative to the American people?
RADDATZ: Senator Levin, there are some who are calling for Watergate-style hearings because of this. First, your reaction about Susan Rice.
LEVIN: Well, it's one of the most unfair attacks I've ever seen in Washington in 34 years. Susan Rice was using the unclassified talking points, which were provided by the intelligence community. They were a consensus report. They...
RADDATZ: Why didn't they send out Hillary Clinton? Tell me why they didn't send out the secretary of state?
LEVIN: I have no idea. But that's not...
RADDATZ: Shouldn't she have been out there?
LEVIN: That's not the issue. The issue is whether or not Susan Rice should be pilloried for using a intelligence report which David Petraeus signed off on, which the DNI, the director of national intelligence, Mr. Clapper, signed off on. Were they part of a cover-up? Did they do something wrong?
Ask them. They told us. Look, we were there. Congressman King was there for two days of hearings.
RADDATZ: He says -- he says she should have asked more questions. She shouldn't just go out and read talking points.
LEVIN: Well, you mean she should look at the other intelligence? Should David Petraeus have looked at the intelligence? Of course. He's the head of the CIA. Should the head -- the director of national intelligence? He has access to the intelligence. They all had access to the intelligence.
But this is the key, Martha, and I want to hear Representative King deny it. Those talking points were signed off on by Petraeus and by Clapper. Does she not have a right to rely on them?
RADDATZ: Congressman King, very quickly on this.
KING: No, the fact is that when General Clapper and General Petraeus signed off on those talking points, it had different language in them. When they went over to the administration, we don't know whether it was the White House, the National Security Council, the Justice Department, or the Defense Department, that language was changed. That was not the language that was sent over by the intelligence community as a consensus statement...
LEVIN: They signed off on the final...
LEVIN: Now, wait a minute. They signed off on those talking points.
RADDATZ: You've made the point. You've made the point. I want to -- I want to move on.
KING: Well, they had no choice. They had no choice at that stage.
RADDATZ: I want to move on to the other issues with David Petraeus. He, again, was in -- giving testimony on the Hill. What was the mood like, given the sex scandal surrounding him?
LEVIN: We felt, I think, that he has been a person who has provided great service to the United States and that the mistake he made was a personal mistake. It was not a public mistake. It was a personal mistake.
RADDATZ: I sat down with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. We'll hear more from that interview, but let's listen to what she said about this.
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RADDATZ: So you don't think he should have resigned?
PELOSI: Well, that was his decision. That was his decision. My...
RADDATZ: But if you just think it's a personal matter, why should he resign?
PELOSI: Well, what happens in his life is not my business. What happens on the Internet is, I think, stupid. But those are decisions that he made. I think he did something that wasn't good, and he made the honorable decision to resign.
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RADDATZ: Congressman King, should he have resigned?
KING: I think all the fact is, yes. I have a great regard for General Petraeus. I consider myself a friend of General Petraeus. And he's handled himself with great dignity and class over the years. He's been an outstanding leader.
Obviously, mistakes were made here. I think we have to reach a stage, though, when you think of so many leaders in the past who have had sexual indiscretions and they stayed in office, in the modern world in which we live, I guess it's almost like zero tolerance for any -- any type of sin.
But I come from a tradition that believes in original sin. None of us is perfect. But I guess in the world in which we live today, with the Internet, it would make it difficult for him to stay on, but it really is the nation's loss, losing David Petraeus.
RADDATZ: Senator Levin, shouldn't there be some line? David Petraeus -- I know we're all talking about him as a great general -- he was the CIA director. Shouldn't there be some line where someone should resign and we say that's not acceptable?
LEVIN: The behavior is not acceptable. It's personally unacceptable behavior. But in terms of the public nature of it, there's no indication that there was a violation of our intelligence rules, that he divulged classified information to anybody. There's none of that. It's a very personal decision. I'm sorry that it came to that point, because I think we've lost somebody who really made a contribution and...
RADDATZ: I should point out this is not over. The CIA is also looking into this. But thanks to you both. And Chairman King will be answering the questions you submitted on Twitter later in the program. And when we come back in just two minutes, our exclusive interview with the powerful House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, as talks begin to avoid the fiscal cliff. The word of the week is "constructive," but will we get a deal before it's too late? We'll be right back.
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LENO: Well, we are getting closer and closer to this fiscal cliff everybody keeps talking about. Is there going to be huge military cutbacks? In fact, the Pentagon might have to lay off as many as 6,000 mistresses. That's what they're saying.
(UNKNOWN): We need to talk about the fiscal cliff, but I'm dying to ask you about this scandal, because it's all anyone's talking about.
COLBERT: Yeah! This sex scandal is all anyone in Washington can talk about. I wonder why the country's in financial ruin?
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RADDATZ: The late-night comedians had some fun with it, but that looming fiscal cliff is serious business. With taxes set to rise on all Americans starting January 1st, along with massive budget cuts, all of which could push the economy back into a recession.
On Friday, President Obama and congressional leaders sat down to start negotiations about how to avoid that cliff and came out sounding optimistic.
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BOEHNER: And I believe that we can do this and avert the fiscal cliff that's right in front of us today.
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RADDATZ: So on Friday, I went to the Capitol to ask House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi how realistic it is that we'll get a deal done.
RADDATZ: Leader Pelosi, you all came out of the meeting with the president sounding pretty optimistic, pretty confident. But you've been there before. You said, in July of 2011, called your talks with the GOP about a grand bargain "constructive," saying you were optimistic that we could find a place where we can come together.
Obviously, those talks failed. So what's changed? And why do you believe this optimism after this meeting?
PELOSI: That was then. This is now. The urgency is so much greater. So I'm optimistic because I think it's very clear the American people expect and deserve and want to see us get this job done.
RADDATZ: Did anything that Speaker Boehner said make you optimistic? Was it just that urgency that you're talking about?
PELOSI: Well, it's the urgency, but I think that the spirit at the table was one of everybody wants to make the best effort to get this done. Hopefully that is possible. Hopefully it is possible by the middle of December, so the confidence of the markets and, most importantly, the confidence of the consumers returns to infuse our economy with -- with demand, which creates jobs.
RADDATZ: You said afterwards there would be these milestone of success. How would that work? What are the goals? Are there interim goals?
PELOSI: Well, my suggestion was that we, at some point -- not necessarily today -- decide on what our goal is in terms of the amount of deficit reduction that we can achieve, some date by which we'd like to do it -- the middle of December, so this doesn't take us up to Christmas -- some milestones along the way so that progress can be demonstrated that we're moving in a forward direction.
RADDATZ: I spoke to Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado earlier this week at the Atlantic Ideas Festival, and he said this really comes down to Speaker Boehner and President Obama. So what do you see your role?
PELOSI: Well, we have to have the votes in order for something to pass. I think Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Senator Reid and I would all agree that we have to have something that will pass both houses that the president will sign. And so, you know, really, what is important is getting the job done.
RADDATZ: Well, let's talk about the details. The focus does seem to be on the revenue side of this. Your side is insisting on tax rate increases, but have you seen any indication that the Republicans are open to raising rates?
PELOSI: Well, they have said that they know that revenue has to be on the table. And that is why I have said, when we talk about revenue, what are we talking about? Are we talking about closing loopholes? Are we talking about raising rates? Are we talking about both?
And they're talking about entitlement restructuring. What does that mean? If that means harming beneficiaries, I don't think that that's such a good idea.
RADDATZ: Could you accept a deal that does not include tax rate increases for the wealthy? We've seen talk about a possible compromise that would leave rates the same, but cap deductions for high-income earners. Is that something that's acceptable?
RADDATZ: Not at all? No way?
PELOSI: Well, no, I mean, the president made it very clear in his campaign that there is not enough -- there are not enough -- what you just described is a formula and a blueprint for hampering our future. You cannot go forward -- you have to cut some investments. If you cut too many, you're hampering growth, you're hampering education, our investments for the future.
So just to close loopholes is far too little money, if it's -- and it could be they have said they want it to be revenue-neutral. If it's going to bring in revenue, the president has been very clear that the higher-income people have to pay their fair share.
RADDATZ: I know you're optimistic about this and confident this will happen, but last week on the show with George Stephanopoulos, Senator Patty Murray said she thought if you don't have a deal by December 31st, we should just fall into the fiscal cliff, fall off the fiscal cliff.
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MURRAY: We have to make sure that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share. If the Republicans will not agree with that, we will reach a point at the end of this year where all the tax cuts expire, and we'll start over next year.
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RADDATZ: Do you agree with that?
PELOSI: Well, I think she was stating a fact. If we don't have a deal by December 31st, we will go over the fiscal cliff.
RADDATZ: If you don't get a deal, are you willing to just walk away?
PELOSI: Well, the -- I want a deal. I want an agreement.
RADDATZ: I know you want a deal, but would you be willing to just say, if we don't get what we want...
PELOSI: I don't think that's, in my view, as one with a seat at the table, I don't think it's my role to go to the table with a threat. I think it's my role to go to the table with some ideas, to be receptive to what we can come to agreement on. I'm not criticizing statements others make, but what I am saying is that there's too much at risk.
And even if you went over the cliff for one month and then corrected it, you would still have a loss of GDP.
RADDATZ: I think you said in September, you said categorically the country can't go over the cliff.
PELOSI: Absolutely. I completely -- look...
RADDATZ: You agree with yourself?
PELOSI: Yeah, I agree with myself. I do.
And I quote myself from time to time, as well. And here's the thing: We're all grownups. I mean, we talk about maturity and age. We're all grownups. We have a responsibility to the American people. The elements who are in agreement are there. Time is of the essence. The quicker we do it, the more confidence we instill, the better it is for the economy and for the American people.
RADDATZ: Just finally, you seemed genuinely taken aback and almost upset the other day in your press conference when you were asked if it was time for younger leadership.
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PELOSI: Let's for a moment honor it as a legitimate question.
Although it's quite offensive, but you don't realize that, I guess.
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PELOSI: I said I quote myself, and I do. But I do not agree with the characterization you just gave. I was amused. I was surprised at the response of my colleagues, because they just were very offended by...
RADDATZ: Not you at all?
PELOSI: Well, for me, I laughed, because I thought, oh, they don't know what questions I have to be subjected to here all the time. For me, this is a matter of course.
But my colleagues, the women, we had 60 women gathered up there. And if you ever wanted to ask that question, you should save it for another day.
RADDATZ: Our thanks to Nancy Pelosi. And when we come back, our powerhouse roundtable, so much to talk about. They're ready to weigh in with more on the fiscal cliff, plus the widening Petraeus sex scandal, and the Middle East on the brink of war.
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BUSH: The people made it clear what they wanted. Now let's work together. That's one of the wonderful -- it's like earning capital. Let me put it to you this way. I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.
OBAMA: I've got one mandate. I've got a mandate to help middle-class families and families that are working hard to try to get in the middle class. That's my mandate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: President Bush in 2004 and President Obama this week with different ideas about the power of their mandates after re-election. And we'll get to that with our roundtable in a moment. We're joined, as always, by George Will, Donna Brazile, Jonathan Karl, Congressman Xavier Becerra, the vice chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Thank you all for being here. George Will, I want to start with you, and I want to start with Israel. This is a conventional war that we've been looking at in the past week.
WILL: We've come, in a sense, a full circle from the war of independence in 1948, which was one essentially with small arms by Israel, to the great tank and air battles of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Israel's enemies tried to destroy it with conventional warfare. Having failed at that, they went to terrorism, suicide bombers, and all the rest, and Israel, which before had to be on the offensive, because it had no strategic depth, went on the defense. They built a fence. The problem is you can get over a fence with rockets. And there are rockets by the tens of thousands there now.
Now, Senator Levin a moment ago praised, rightly, the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, but any missile defense system can be overwhelmed by numbers, and the danger is -- and Israel will not sit still for this -- but they will have to go in and stop the source and supply of the rockets.
RADDATZ: Speaker -- Speaker Gingrich, just a few minutes ago, Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that they are ready to escalate this. What do you see? Where do you see this going?
GINGRICH: Well, I think two things. One is, end all this talk about the peace process. You have a permanent war in the region. You have people determined to destroy Israel. They spend all the periods of non-war building up the weapons to have war, and then when they think it's appropriate, they wage war. And then they go back to saying, "Oh, no, let's talk about a peace process while we accumulate more weapons."
Second, I think the Israelis -- this is very deliberate. The Israelis have analyzed an Iranian wing of Hamas and an Egyptian wing. They are methodically destroying the Iranian wing. I think they will -- they will stop when they decide they've optimized their destruction, but they are very methodically killing people and taking out assets that relate -- these are -- these are Iranian rockets that are hitting Tel Aviv right now. They came in probably through the Sudan.
RADDATZ: Congressman Becerra, we give up on the peace process, you think?
BECERRA: No, you want to be militarily strong so you don't have to go to war. And so whether it's Israel or it's the United States, you want to always be strong. But what you want to do is get to the negotiating table, because that's where you broker the best agreement. And so I think the president has been clear, he's been forceful. America is speaking with one voice, and we have to see us get back to the negotiating table.
RADDATZ: Jon Karl, what happens if this does escalate? How should the U.S. be approaching it, in your view? How is the U.S. approaching it? Are we doing enough?
KARL: Well, what's interesting is you see absolute agreement across the board, as you always do when it comes to Israel, that Israel is -- is within its rights to defend itself, that that is what this is about. This is responding to, you know, persistence attacks on its territory with these rockets.
But the administration's also made it clear they don't want this to escalate, and that's the message they are sending, the president is sending to the Israelis.
BRAZILE: But this is a big test for President Morsi. Remember, Hamas is...
RADDATZ: The Egyptian president.
BRAZILE: ... that is correct. Hamas is a member of the so-called Muslim Brotherhood, so President Morsi has dispatched diplomats to the territory to try to de-escalate the tension. He's in touch with Turkey, the Arab League to try to get Hamas to -- to bring back. He's also signaling to Israel that he wants to protect the Palestinian population.
You know, beyond the long-term threat of Israel's security, I mean, we have to look at, can we give back to the peace process at some point? Because ultimately, that's the only way that we're going to protect Israel. And that's the only way, given the neighborhood has changed over the past few months, that we're going to see any real peace in that area.
RADDATZ: I want to switch to Benghazi now. It seems that the Republicans are still digging in their heels about Susan Rice. Where does this go?
WILL: Well, they sent out Susan Rice rather than, say, the secretary of agriculture because presumably she could be...
RADDATZ: Or certainly the secretary of state.
WILL: Well, the secretary of agriculture could read talking points prepared by the CIA. Did she mislead the country? Of course she did, in saying that this was a movie review gone bad somehow.
The question is, did she intentionally mislead? Or did someone mislead her, by -- as some people are saying -- excising crucially parts of the CIA talking points, where the CIA said extremists linked to Al Qaida, and they just became extremists?
KARL: But I've got to tell you, the CIA talking points were not edited in the sense of talking about the movie. Both the classified version we now know and the declassified version referred to demonstrations in Benghazi growing out of what happened in Cairo with the movie. How was the CIA, how was -- how were our intelligence agencies so incredibly wrong about this? I mean, it was not just Rice.
Regarding her confirmation, I can tell you that she probably almost certainly wins confirmation if the White House goes forward with this, and the White House is signaling clearly that that is where the president is heading right now, whether or not he goes through it or not.
But -- but Democrats -- and I'd be interested to hear what you say about this -- but what I'm hearing from Democrats in the Senate is they don't necessarily want this fight right, because it will be three weeks of battles over the Rice nomination focusing on Benghazi, because it will be filibustered. Not all Republicans will go along with the filibuster. The filibuster will not be successful. But this will be a battle that will consume three weeks.
BECERRA: Martha, Secretary -- Ambassador Rice communicated what she had been given to communicate by the intelligence community. Senator McCain and Senator Graham's beef is with the intelligence community, not with Ambassador Rice. If Ambassador Rice had said something other than what she was told to say by the intelligence community, they'd be attacking her for having said something other than what she was supposed to say.
RADDATZ: Is this about something more? Is this...
RADDATZ: Is something more going on here?
BECERRA: November 6th passed, but in the eyes of some, it hasn't.
RADDATZ: The election's over.
BECERRA: In the eyes of some...
RADDATZ: And why are they digging in on this?
BECERRA: We're still in campaign mode, and that's unfortunate.
BRAZILE: Well, in the fog of war, I mean, this is -- you know, I mean, Colin Powell gave talking points, and Adlai Stevenson, during the Bay of Pigs, I mean, gave bad talking points. I mean, I think this is just the politics.
I mean, it's bizarre the way that Senator McCain just totally questioned her qualifications for a position she has not even been nominated for, and went so far as to even suggest that maybe she's not a smart person. And Ambassador Rice is a very extremely qualified, smart, dedicated public servant.
Clearly, I think the attacks are purely political. But there are all these investigations going on. Why don't we just let a lot of these investigations to conclude before we learn the lessons of four brave Americans killed in -- in Libya?
KARL: There is a larger issue: Why were they so wrong?
RADDATZ: Oh, absolutely.
RADDATZ: The intelligence is -- that issue seems to have gone away, and everybody's focusing on Susan Rice now, but I'd like...
BECERRA: So let's let the hearings tell us, rather than speculate politically.
RADDATZ: I'd like to move on to Dave Petraeus, who we've been talking...
GINGRICH: Can I just...
RADDATZ: Yeah, quickly, quickly. Yes.
GINGRICH: ... one brief point? Which is, if we didn't understand what was going on in Benghazi, a relatively open city where we actually had people, why do we think the intelligence community knows what's going on in Iran? I mean, this is a very...
RADDATZ: Well, those questions -- yes, we've had those questions for many years, and people -- and people are asking those questions.
WILL: And the CIA was consistently wrong in a consistent direction about Soviet missiles, about Soviet economic growth. The record of error is...
RADDATZ: I think -- I think...
BECERRA: So our beef is with the intelligence community.
RADDATZ: ... we'll have questions about a lot of those.
BECERRA: Our beef is with the intelligence community, not with Susan Rice.
RADDATZ: I think we've made that pretty clear right here. I think we've made that pretty clear. Let's move on to Dave Petraeus. You know he was in these hearings. We have -- we thought this might calm down this week; it has not.
Let me start with you, Speaker Gingrich. Is it a national security risk to have your CIA director involved in an extramarital affair?
GINGRICH: Well, I think Petraeus concluded -- and I think he's probably right -- that he couldn't be effective. I mean, I think what he did is he...
RADDATZ: You don't think it was because he got caught?
GINGRICH: Well, that's what made him ineffective. I mean, I think by definition, if something had remained secret, it would have been secret. He would have had no reason to confront it.
RADDATZ: But the president actually spent 24 hours thinking about it.
GINGRICH: But I think Petraeus, in offering his resignation, was communicating that he didn't think he could lead the CIA, he didn't think he could deal with the Congress, and that he would be consumed -- you're much better off to have people saying, "Gee, he's a great patriot. Isn't it a pity he's gone?", than to have people say, "Let me focus on this, why isn't he gone?"
And I think, from his perspective, he'd have been in a very, very difficult position, if he stayed in office.
KARL: Although he -- he thought he was going to get away with it, it seems to me. I mean, he -- he acknowledged to the FBI the affair and then went to -- on a six-nation tour to the -- to the region, went to Libya, looked at his own Benghazi investigation. He didn't decide to resign until James Clapper asked him to resign.
GINGRICH: Until it became public. I mean, the FBI calls you in, "We know this, you know this, no one else knows this," you're operating on one...
RADDATZ: Congressman Becerra, get in the middle between those guys.
BECERRA: Well, look, it -- there was a personal failing, a deep, severe personal failing. Does it break into the realm of the public world, the responsibilities that the general has?
RADDATZ: But what about judgment? What about judgment?
WILL: Well, that's surely the point.
RADDATZ: Isn't that the bottom line here, his judgment during that period?
WILL: The American people -- the American people are not Pecksniffian moralists about this. They never really gave us their affection for and job approval of Bill Clinton. This is a question of, you want your CIA director to have good judgment. He's not asking too much.
(UNKNOWN): Yes, absolutely.
WILL: And this was obviously a case of bad judgment. There's a -- but I would hope, by the way, that...
RADDATZ: And should it be just the CIA director? Should it be anybody? Where do you draw the line again?
WILL: Well, I don't know where you draw the line, but it starts with the CIA director, certainly.
RADDATZ: That's one of them?
WILL: This might also be a good time for the country to think about the militarization of the CIA. I'm not sure we should have military leaders leading the CIA, people in the military...
RADDATZ: That's been a long debate. That's why they wanted him to retire, correct?
WILL: I mean, they're waging the drone warfare. If the CIA is going to become increasingly a paramilitary operation, we ought to talk about that, because that's a momentous development.
BRAZILE: But just a few months ago, the Gallup poll indicated that our military was the most trusted institution in American life, so this was -- this was a huge blow, at a time when Congress is as popular as a root canal, to have another institution of government have failed so badly.
So, you know, we respect his -- his service to the country, his sense of duty, but this was a failure of judgment. And I thought his resignation had to be accepted. And I know he'll get on with his life at some point.
RADDATZ: Jon, does it harm the military, do you think?
KARL: Well, this isn't the first sex scandal to...
RADDATZ: There've been a lot of them lately. In fact, the Pentagon is investigating why there have been so many scandals lately.
KARL: Yeah. And...
RADDATZ: Is it deployments? Let me -- just quickly on that. Do you think we really do need to look at not only younger soldiers, but generals and what they've been through? Dave Petraeus has been deployed -- was deployed for six years.
KARL: I mean -- I mean, think about how much -- yeah, exactly -- how much time he has -- he's been more time deployed than he has back home. But, you know, I think you want to be very careful about making excuses.
But these -- I think the military is looking not only at this issue, but at kind of the whole culture at the upper -- at the upper ranks. I mean, the -- you know, the -- story the Washington Post has about, you know, how Gates realized that he -- he had to -- you know, living next door to Mullen. Mullen's got people making dinner for him.
RADDATZ: Can't rake his own leaves, right?
KARL: Yeah, so he's sort of blowing his leaves over to Mullen's yard, because he knew he had four people over there to deal with them anyway.
RADDATZ: Admiral Mullen, who was the chairman at the time. OK, let's -- let's go to another perhaps quite -- not quite as sexy topic, and that is the fiscal cliff. Meetings on Friday, everyone came out of those meetings and was so optimistic and thought they were so constructive. We've heard that before. What's different now?
GINGRICH: Did you look at the body language as they walked out of the White House? I have never seen a less enthusiastic, "I guess we will now go out and talk to the press. We will all be positive."
KARL: It was a "constructive meeting."
GINGRICH: It was very "constructive." Now, we have here somebody who's in the leadership, so maybe he can tell us if we should be optimistic...
RADDATZ: Should we be -- I heard Nancy Pelosi say we should be optimistic.
BECERRA: There's reason to be constructive and optimistic, because it's simple math. We've got -- I sat on Bowles-Simpson. I sat on the super-committee. You can only come up with so many ways to deal with the deficit. It is arithmetic, and so we should be able to do this.
RADDATZ: We can talk about that simple math for a long time. Is it really just that?
BECERRA: But it's not -- well, if I could just conclude -- if the math is simple, what the problem is, is the egos and the concern about the special interests. If you can hang your egos and the special interests at the door...
RADDATZ: Those have not gone away, those egos...
BECERRA: They've not gone away. That's the problem.
KARL: But, Congressman, are Democrats going to go along with entitlement cuts? Are they going to go along with cuts to Medicare and Social Security?
BECERRA: The president was prepared to make significant changes in some of our important mandatory programs. The president and Democrats were willing in both the super-committee, in the Biden talks, in the president's grand bargain, were willing to do -- put everything on the table. It's always been that way, and that's why I say it's arithmetic. It's simple math. We can do it. December 31st should not come and go.
RADDATZ: Simple math? And is there a mandate? Does the president have a mandate?
BRAZILE: He has a mandate. He said -- he said he has a mandate to protect the middle class, to fight for the middle class. And I think what's important, before we start talking about entitlements, which the president has talked about before, is that the Republicans are now talking about revenue.
The question is, what Republican Party will show up, the Republican Party that still believe the Romney-Ryan math adds up or the Republican Party that understands the reality now that 60 percent of the American people, at least on Election Day, voted to put revenues on the table? That is -- that is the big question that we have to look at, as we look down the road. The president is going to play the long game. He's not going to play for a short-term deal.
WILL: The president denounced the House Republicans across this country as obstructionists. The country said, "We hear you," and they send them back to continue being a break on the president. And almost every member of John Boehner's caucus won his or her seat by a much bigger margin than Mr. Obama won his renewed term.
Look, the arithmetic is simple. If you cap at $25,000 the available deductions, you raise $1.2 trillion. That's a lot of money. If you cap it at $50,000, you raise about as much money as you would raise by letting the Bush tax rates expire. I don't think that's a problem.
You showed the clip a moment ago of Patty Murray saying, as a negotiating ploy, go off the cliff. Let me give you another theory. For 40 years, the Democratic Party's activist base has had two goals: substantial tax increases and substantial defense cuts. Going off the cliff implements the Democratic Party's agenda.
RADDATZ: Well, do you think it'd be so bad to go off the cliff?
GINGRICH: Well, I think it would be mildly chaotic, but...
RADDATZ: A recession?
GINGRICH: Well, it would be -- this is a gigantic country. This country can absorb lots of mistakes.
RADDATZ: A recession is mildly chaotic?
GINGRICH: We test that theory regularly in our history. I don't think you should negotiate out of fear. And I don't think you should -- you should have people say, "Oh, we have a gun at your head." The American people are faced with a flawed system. I agree with George Will.
The fact is there were two mandates, not one. There's a mandate for the president and there's a mandate for the House Republicans. And should the House Republicans consider some revenues? Maybe. But I watched Reagan get taken to the cleaners. I watched George H.W. Bush get taken to the cleaners. This idea -- give us the taxes this week, and we will presently someday eventually give you some spending cuts, is not a very appealing thing. And I would hope Republicans would be very careful about whether there are genuine reforms and entitlements.
RADDATZ: Jon Karl, you were shaking your head about it being mildly chaotic.
KARL: Well, you know, I think that what we're having now is both sides are hearing to a degree what they want to hear. So the Democrats hear the Republicans talk about revenues, and the Republicans hear the Democrats, you know, making, you know, vague statements about entitlements. But there's a lot -- there's a lot of space here. I mean, Nancy Pelosi told you directly that she would not agree to anything that did not raise rates.
RADDATZ: As a starting point, huh?
RADDATZ: OK, we had some controversial comments this week by Governor Mitt Romney in a conference call with donors. Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: What the president -- president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and -- and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote.
JINDAL: If you want voters to like you, the first thing you've got to do is to like them first. And it's certainly not helpful to tell voters that you think their votes were bought. This is completely not helpful. This is not where the Republican Party needs to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: What do you think of that? Is that where the Republican Party needs to go?
GINGRICH: I just think it's nuts. I mean -- I mean, first of all, it's insulting. This would be like Wal-Mart having a bad week and going, "The customers have really been unruly." I mean, the job of a political leader in part is to understand the people. If we can't offer a better future that is believable to more people, we're not going to win.
RADDATZ: And how do you do that, George Will? How do you do that?
WILL: Well, you begin where Bobby Jindal was. It's been well said that you have a political problem when the voters don't like you, but you've got a real problem when the voters think you don't like them. And that is -- Mitt Romney was picking up the theme he improvidently put before the country and inadvertently with his 47 percent video during the campaign.
Get back to -- quit despising the American people, particularly because a lot of what they're despising them for are Republican policies. When Mitt Romney said, "So many Americans aren't paying taxes," yeah, because the Republicans doubled the child tax credit for conservative reasons, yes, because they expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit, as Ronald Reagan did, because they thought it was an effective anti-poverty program.
RADDATZ: Congressman Becerra, let me go to you on this.
BECERRA: Yeah, it's deja vu all over again. It reinforces the 47 percent...
RADDATZ: What aren't -- what aren't Republicans doing to attract those certain members of -- of the Democrats?
BECERRA: I don't think they read the tea leaves from November the 6th, and I think they're still harkening to yesteryear. It's a new day in America, and they should be catching up.
He is the de facto leader of the party. Mitt Romney's still there. And so his comments remind folks of the 47 percent comment. And it's unfortunate for them, because they have to figure out a way to distance themselves from a guy who doesn't get it.
KARL: I have to say -- I have to say, he is not the de facto leader of the Republican Party. I think what this did is hastened Romney's departure completely from the scene. Romney has -- has -- I mean, I talk to Republicans now. They talk about how, you know, we'll never see him speak at a convention again. People are going to be going to his door, begging for his endorsement four years from now.
BECERRA: So if not, who's the leader?
KARL: That's a great question.
BECERRA: OK. Well, he's the de facto leader.
BRAZILE: His comments went over like a lead balloon with just about everybody...
KARL: Especially Republicans.
BRAZILE: And as we all -- especially Republicans. And I agree with my home state governor, Bobby Jindal. So -- but I have to tell you, I saw a lot of people over the last couple of days, and they kept saying, "Where's my gift?"
I mean, no one believes that we're getting gifts from the government. I was at a party last night. Everybody said, "Can you tell the president we want some gifts?" I'm like, "Yeah, he -- the gifts that he will give to the American people, it will come with an improved economy, and that's what we all want."
RADDATZ: Quickly, George?
WILL: Well, we're all getting a gift. We're getting $5 worth of government services and being charged $3 for it.
RADDATZ: And -- and -- and where does the Republican go -- Party go? Mitt Romney, do you agree, is finished?
GINGRICH: I think Romney's not -- I think...
RADDATZ: He's finished?
GINGRICH: ... the Republican Party has many leaders. Well, I think he's finishing himself at this rate, but I think -- I think the Republican Party has many leaders. We have a whole new generation. Bobby Jindal is a good example, Susana Martinez. You're going to see a whole wave of new people coming along, and that's good for the Republican Party.
RADDATZ: All right. Thank you. Thank you all. It was a very fun roundtable.
Don't go anywhere. We're back with a tasty debate about that beloved American treat, the Twinkie. Who's to blame for its possible demise? Don't ask Chris Christie. He wasn't having any of that debate on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: This is a set-up, man, I know it. You people are the worst. This is a set-up. I am not answering questions on Twinkies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIMMEL: Hostess, you know, the company that makes Twinkies, cupcakes, Wonder Bread, that sort of thing, is in big financial trouble right now. I don't even understand how this is possible. This country has never been fatter. How are the people who make Zingers and Sno Balls losing money?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: And we're back now with our roundtable. And as Jimmy Kimmel said, after 82 years, Hostess is shutting down, following a bankruptcy filing and a nationwide workers' strike that ended in a stalemate, so goodbye to all of this. I know you all have your -- your last cupcakes there, perhaps.
GINGRICH: That's right. We're all -- we're all prepared for a good happy...
RADDATZ: Yes, we are. And you're -- and you're willing to talk about those cupcakes. Speaker Gingrich, what happened here?
GINGRICH: Well, my impression is that management and labor reached an impasse. The union preferred killing the company to accepting what they thought was a bad deal. And the management preferred killing the company to accepting what they thought...
RADDATZ: Look -- look who's shaking his head. Is that any surprise?
BECERRA: I see the comings of Twinkie-gate here. You fail to adapt, you bankrupt your company, you triple your salary, as the CEO, then you blame it on the workers. I mean, what about that sign that says, "The buck stops here"? All these workers were doing what they were being told to do, and now they're being blamed for a bankruptcy. Come on. This is not the kind of leadership you want to see in corporate America. We need folks who are going to stand up and say, "We're ready to adapt." Don't blame your workers. Your workers did exactly what they were supposed to do.
RADDATZ: Take that, Speaker Gingrich, huh?
BRAZILE: Six CEOs in eight years. As of the 2004 bankruptcy, the workers took wage and benefit cuts. It wasn't enough. The CEO gave himself a 300 percent raise. Look, this is -- I feel bad for the workers. Eighteen thousand people will lose their jobs. I hope somebody will pick this up, will sell them, and that we'll continue to have this delightful treat.
RADDATZ: Can we have -- can we a very quick thoughts of Twinkies in your life? Just -- not you, Jon Karl. You're too young. You're the youngest member of this roundtable. Did you like Twinkies growing up?
WILL: I liked Hostess cupcakes, but don't despair. Someone's going to buy -- someone's going to -- the brand has value. Someone will buy it.
RADDATZ: It's not the...
WILL: And they will go and manufacture it in a right-to-work state, where Hostess does not have to operate under 372 collective bargaining agreements.
RADDATZ: OK. OK. Quickly, just Twinkie memories.
BRAZILE: I remember when it was 25 cent a pack, when my grandmother -- it was two for five cents. It's $1.69. I would like the original Twinkie back.
KARL: But I just have to say very quickly, I mean, what about Wonder Bread? Wonder Bread's going, too.
RADDATZ: Yeah, that's...
KARL: And this is not just about Twinkies.
RADDATZ: You brought that with you, because you like it so much.
BECERRA: I'm a chocolate fiend. Hostess has a company in Sacramento where I was born and raised, saw it every -- almost every day of the week.
RADDATZ: Five seconds?
GINGRICH: I'm with George. Twinkie will survive in a new corporate framework.
RADDATZ: All right, thanks, all of you. Thanks. That's all we have time for with our roundtable. I'll be back in a moment with "Your Voice This Week."
RADDATZ: And now we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.
This week, the Pentagon released the names of five soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
And finally, "Your Voice This Week." Today's question comes from Cheryl Robinson, who writes, "What happened in Benghazi was terribly tragic, and now we're hearing of another Middle Eastern war on the brick. Let us and you, the media, not forget about the war that our own kids are fighting for us in Afghanistan. Why is there so little coverage?"
Well, because, unfortunately, very few people feel the way you do, Cheryl. There is a war-weariness with the public, and outside of campaign season, the war is not often mentioned. The administration talks about it largely to say we are leaving, but we should all remember that nearly 70,000 Americans are still in Afghanistan, facing death and injury, and we should remember we have promised our combat troops will remain there for another two years.
That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News" with David Muir tonight. George Stephanopoulos will see you back here next week.