'This Week' Transcript: S&P's John Chambers, Governor Martin O'Malley and Senator Jeff Sessions

RADDATZ: Well, this -- this area, Wardak province, Logar province, I went there years ago when the surge forces just started coming in, and they made a real difference. But lately, the insurgents have started to return; the Taliban has started to return. It is really going downhill in some areas. Of course, the president doesn't talk about the war very much. I do think this drawdown will continue on pace.

AMANPOUR: Martha, thank you so much. And we will keep watching it precisely for that reason.

And now we turn to the other big story, the economic crisis here, as Wall Street braces for the unknown just hours from now. International markets will begin to register reaction to the first-ever downgrade of America's AAA credit rating. Standard & Poor's handed down its verdict late Friday evening, and the White House has been pushing back hard ever since.

S&P managing director John Chambers joins me now from New York.

Thank you for being with me.

CHAMBERS: Thanks for having me.

AMANPOUR: I hate to say, but you must be in some quarters at least the most disliked man in America right now. And let me tell you what the White House is saying. Gene Sperling, the economic adviser, has put out a statement to say the magnitude of their error -- your error -- and the amateurism it displayed, combined with their willingness to simply change on the spot their lead rationale in their press release, once the error was pointed out, was breathtaking. It smacked of an institution starting with a conclusion and shaping any arguments to fit it.

Of course, that's all about the $2 trillion mathematical accounting error. What do you say to that? It's pretty blistering, isn't it?

CHAMBERS: Well, you know, we've been saying for some time that the fiscal trajectory of the United States was on a bad path and that the political gridlock in Washington leads us to conclude that policymakers don't have the ability to proactively, you know, put the public finances of the U.S. on a -- on a sustainable footing.

We said that in April. We said that again in July. We think our message has been pretty consistent. And we also think that the numbers speak for themselves.

AMANPOUR: So do you think, since you've also -- also said that there is potentially a further downgrade, it's still on a watch list, could it -- could you downgrade again?

CHAMBERS: Well, it's not technically on watch. We have a negative outlook, which is -- leads to a longer timeframe, from 6 months to 24 months. And if the fiscal position of the United States deteriorates further or if the political gridlock becomes more entrenched, then that could lead to a downgrade. The outlook indicates at least a 1 in 3 chance of a downgrade over that period.

AMANPOUR: Wow. So what is it going to take, then, for the AAA to come back? What can America do now to bring it back? And how long would that take?

CHAMBERS: Well, if history is a guide, it could take a while. We've had five governments that lost their AAA that got it back. The amount of time that it took for those five range from 9 years to 18 years, so it takes a while.

Our concerns are centered on the political side and on the fiscal side. So it would take a stabilization of the debt as a share of the economy and eventual decline. And it would take, I think, more ability to reach consensus in Washington than what we're observing now.

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