Thank you, one and all, for being here. I want to start off with the interview with the vice president, because as is his wont, he did make some news in some various areas.
George, the vice president said that we are not engaging in nation-building in Afghanistan. And yet if you look at the cover of this week's "Newsweek," the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, says, "Rethinking Afghanistan, nation-building isn't working." Are we doing nation-building in Afghanistan or are we not?
WILL: We are. Nation-building is what counterinsurgency is, as defined by David Petraeus. It is to protect the people. It is to make them loyal by giving them local services, inventing a government, in effect. That is nation-building, which means that the Obama policy in Afghanistan is much more ambitious than was the Bush policy.
The vice president said something else that was very interesting. He said, "We are making considerable progress against Al Qaida, which is our primary target. We're taking out significant numbers of the leadership in Al Qaida." The latter is true, but they're doing that in Pakistan, because, as you established with Leon Panetta three weeks ago on this program, you asked him, "How many Al Qaida do you think are in Afghanistan?" Panetta, "I think at most we're looking at 50 to 100, maybe less."
TAPPER: Nicolle, one thing that I heard out of the vice president's mouth that I thought might be of interest to you was towards the end of the interview when he was talking about what -- how great it would be to have Iraq this shining example of democracy in the middle of the Middle East. Did that resonate at all with the former...
WALLACE: Yes, imagine that. Imagine making that case. Obviously, these are the kinds of arguments that you make when public support starts to wane. And, you know, as the commander-in-chief -- and Obama still gets pretty decent marks in his capacity as our commander-in-chief. Republicans, actually, I think are encouraged by the fact that General Petraeus is -- is heading to Afghanistan to -- to replace Stan McChrystal.
But where I think this will get complicated for him -- and where you already see his numbers in Afghanistan sliding -- is when he starts talking about timetables, when they promise to pull troops out. It deflates the morale of the men and women of the military, and it makes the public -- you know, the public is very smart, voters are very smart, and when they hear them talk out of both sides of their mouth, that's where the politics of the war and the responsibilities, the solemn responsibilities as commander-in-chief collide.
TAPPER: Let's talk about the roundtable -- I mean, the timetable, Clarence, on the roundtable...
TAPPER: ... which is, for the first time, we've had the vice president say that when he told Jon Alter in that book that a lot of troops leaving in July 2011, he said it could be as few as 2,000.
PAGE: Yes, we're hearing these little rollbacks in the rhetoric all around, insofar as how much of a pullout we're going have next year. And, you know, as the administration has said again and again, it's only the beginning of the -- of the drawdown that they're shooting for, and the president says it's contingent on conditions.