'This Week' Transcript: Two Powerhouse Roundtables

STEPHANOPOULOS: And in part because, you know, we still have this issue, Congressman Ellison, of the coming confrontation with Iran. You've got two different messages from the Iranian leaders this week. The supreme leader says no direct talks. President Ahmadinejad today maybe said he might be open to it.

ELLISON: But, see, I think on that score, the president can't be criticized for not being in support of trying to make sure that Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon. What I hope happens is that the president raises issues around settlement expansion. I'm very concerned...


ELLISON: Yeah, I mean, bottom line is, you know, after the U.N. vote, where the U.N. voted 138-9 to recognize Palestine's estate, there was housing settlements announced the next day, which was disappointing to me, in areas that -- that were thought to be part of the Palestinian state. So I hope after the president leaves this time, that there's no such announcement and nothing embarrassing happens.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I would be surprised if the president made a huge issue of that as he steps on Israeli soil.

CUTTER: Look, I think that they're viewing this trip as -- you know, it's our most important ally in the region. The president hasn't been there yet. It's an important trip. It's an important way for him to engage directly with the Israeli people, first and foremost. So I think that's the -- through the lens through which they're looking at this trip. Whether expectations are low on the ground, expectations -- keeping them low is always a good thing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: His new team should be in place by then. Secretary Kerry started this week, Secretary of State Kerry. Senator Hagel still waiting for his confirmation up in the Senate. And I was struck last night -- you were talking about Dick Cheney earlier. Dick Cheney giving a speech last night in Wyoming where he really took off on the president's appointments. Let me put it up here right now. He said that "the performance now of Barack Obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal. Frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people. Hagel was chosen because Obama wants to have a Republican that he can use to take the heat for what he plans to do to the Department of Defense." There is an unbowed Dick Cheney.

WALLACE: Well, listen, Senator Hagel didn't do his new boss, President Obama, any favors by looking befuddled and confused and totally clueless about what exactly the Department of Defense does, an agency where he's up to now run, so I don't think Senator Hagel did himself any favors or the president.

But I think that when you look at how Republicans have sort of stood back and I think given the president a lot of running room in foreign policy, it was because of a belief that Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates were incredibly competent and incredibly reasonable and really quite measured in their foreign policy worldview. There's trepidation that the coalition of Senator Kerry, Senator Hagel, and a sort of renewed former Senator Biden are going to have a much more left-leaning foreign policy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Senator Kerry approved overwhelmingly, but speak to this issue of Senator Hagel right now. The White House was not trying to defend his performance before the committee, but they're still pretty confident he's going to get confirmed.

CUTTER: Well, look...

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