Transcript: Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
"This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Debate on Foreign Relations
May 17, 2009
ABC'S "THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS" MAY 17, 2009
SPEAKERS: GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST
SEN. JON KYL, R-ARIZ., SENATE MINORITY WHIP
SEN. JIM WEBB, D-VA.
[*] STEPHANOPOULOS (voice over): Good morning and welcome to "This Week."
Harsh charges from the speaker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We were told that water-boarding was not being used. The CIA was misleading the Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Course corrections from the president...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... and a P.R. blitz from the former V.P.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: We'd successfully defended the nation for 7 1/2 years. I believe it was possible because of the policies we had in place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is Cheney right? Is Pelosi in trouble? Are Obama's choices making us more safe?
That debate, this morning, with two key senators, Republican whip Jon Kyl and Democrat Jim Webb. Plus, an expanded powerhouse roundtable with George Will, Democratic strategist James Carville, John McCain's campaign manager Steve Schmidt, Katrina Vanden Heuvel of the "Nation," and the former State Department official now joining her father on the front lines, Liz Cheney -- and, as always, the Sunday funnies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, HOST OF "THE TONIGHT SHOW": She spent eight years telling everyone how dumb President Bush is and then, the minute you're trouble, "He fooled me!"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From the heart of the nation's capital, "This Week," with ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos, live from the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue. STEPHANOPOULOS (on camera): Hello again. It has been a week full of accusations, confrontation, recalibration and new calls for investigation here in Washington -- just another week.
And with apologies for that burst of rhyme, we welcome our headliners to this morning's debate, Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia and the Senate's Republican whip, Jon Kyl of Arizona.
Gentlemen, welcome to you both. And there is so much to talk about this week. But let's start with that war of words between speaker Pelosi and the CIA. She says the CIA lied about these 2002 briefings. Leon Panetta came out on Friday, said, no, they told the truth.
And former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has weighed in, saying that this is despicable behavior, take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I think she has lied to the House and I think that the House has an absolute obligation to open an inquiry. And I hope there will be a resolution to investigate her. And I think this is a big deal.
I don't think the speaker of the house can lie to the country on national security matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kyl, how big a deal is this and how should it be investigated?
KYL: Well, it is a big deal, obviously. She is the speaker. And at that time she was the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee. And she was one of four people who got the briefings. And it is pretty clear that Leon Panetta, her former colleague in the House from California, now CIA director, totally disagrees with her recollection of events.
Let's give her the benefit of the doubt and say she doesn't remember, although that's a pretty important thing not remember accurately.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So does it need to be investigated?
KYL: I am less interested in investigating whether her memory or correct or she lied about it than I am in the policies that flow from the debate that we're having. I am not one who thinks we ought to have truth commissions and all of the rest of it and keep looking backward. I agree with the president. We've got enough on our plate, we need to look forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the irony here, Senator Webb, as Speaker Gingrich says, investigate. He wants a separate House investigation. Speaker Pelosi says, fine, let's have a truth commission, the one that Senator Kyl doesn't want. Where do you stand on this? WEBB: I just don't think it's that big a deal. I mean, I think we have selective memories...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... is not a big deal?
WEBB: Well, I mean, they're going to have a fight. But in terms of where the country is right now, where we need to go, there are a lot of issues of accountability in terms of looking back as to the conduct of the past administration in a number of areas.
But really, in terms of what we need to be focusing on, let's accept that torture is inappropriate behavior. And I've interrogated hundreds of detainees and enemy combatants when I was a Marine in Vietnam, torture doesn't work.
Let's all accept that, separate it from these other issues that we're talking about in terms of having to resolve issues, like Guantanamo, and move forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no truth commission?
WEBB: I think this will resolve itself without something like that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's move on to some of the other issues, because President Obama this week did make two significant shifts on national security policy. He said that the photos of that detainee abuse would not be released, he would fight that in court.
And he also shifted on the issue of military tribunals, even though he had been for them in the past, he heavily criticized the Bush tribunals, now he is bringing them back with some reforms.
And let me show you some of the human rights groups' reaction to these moves by President Obama. The ACLU says: "These military commissions are inherently illegitimate, unconstitutional, incapable of delivering outcomes we can trust."
Human Rights Watch: "By resurrecting this failed Bush administration idea, President Obama is backtracking dangerously on his reform agenda."
Human Rights First: "Reinventing commissions so deeply associated with Guantanamo Bay will merely add to the erosion of international confidence in American justice and provide more fodder for America's enemies."
Now you were also against the commissions during your campaign. Do you support what the president is doing here?
WEBB: I wasn't against commissions per se. I think that -- my view on...
STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know -- well, let me just interrupt you there, because I have an AP story from April 2007 where you said -- it says that you told reporters that detainees should either be declared prisoners of war or charged in the American judicial system.
"We can't just continue to hold people in limbo without charges for this period of time and still call ourselves Americans."
WEBB: If I said charged in the American judicial system, I would mean under the traditions of the rules of evidence and these sorts of things. But my view has always been that we need to move these people forward.
We need to find those people who should be held accountable and hold them accountable. And people who have been held inappropriately should be released.
But I don't believe that the situation with people in Guantanamo, as opposed to others who have conducted activities in the United States are the same. I think that the people who have been held in Guantanamo are being charged essentially for acts of international terror, for acts of war, and they don't belong in judicial system, and they don't belong in our jails.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is what the commissions...
WEBB: And I don't believe -- I do, I do. But with this caveat, we need commissions like this because there are issues of evidence that you cannot take care of inside the regular American court system, classified information that might have an impact on how we collect intelligence and those sorts of things.
And there are facilities built in Guantanamo right now that are able to do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Agreement here?
KYL: Yes. I agree. There are some people that you try, very few, some more that you try in the military commissions, and we've always had military commissions of one kind or another.
Some that you can't because of the evidence and other factors try, and if they are the equivalent of prisoners of war, in this case, enemy combatants, you can hold them until the end of the war that you're in.
And then, of course, there are those who, on an annual review, you decide can be released. Unfortunately a lot of those that we have released because we thought they no longer posed a danger, have come back to the battlefield and have fought us.
But the president has made some changes in the military commissions to give these people some additional rights, and perhaps that helps to balance the situation. Congress, after all, passed the Military Commissions Act.
This would liberalize it to some extent. We'll have to wait and see whether it liberalizes it so much that they don't work anymore. But I'm happy to see how they work out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You laid out nicely the various groups of detainees that the president has to deal with, which, of course, brings us to the question of, what to do with those detainees once Guantanamo is closed, as the president has called for.
I know this is creating a lot of controversy in the Senate because of the possibility that some of these detainees may have to come to the United States.
And the attorney general, Eric Holder, was asked about this at the Senate this week, and he said very clearly that no dangerous detainees will be released in the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't know, whatever quantum of proof, however you want to describe it, to believe that a person posed a danger to the United States, we will do all that we can to ensure that that person remains detained and does not become a danger to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: And is that enough assurance for you, Senator Kyl?
KYL: Well, understand that we've already released those who, after careful examination, we thought didn't pose a danger. And the number is somewhere between 30 and 60 who turned out to continue to conduct their activities against us after they were released.
The remaining 240 or so do pose a danger. So there aren't any left that can easily be released because they don't pose a danger.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's not exactly true, right? And I want to bring Senator Webb in on this, because I know there are about 17, I believe, Chinese Uighurs, they are called, who have been ordered released by a federal court, they've determined not to be a threat to the United States.
And the administration has been working on plans to bring them to Virginia. Can you accept them in your state?
WEBB: Well, let me back up for a minute. The answer is no.
WEBB: No. And I'll -- and then let me explain why. But to back it up, the numbers that we've seen in my office are about 800 people have gone through Guantanamo.
The majority of those who have been released, we're down to 220 to 240, so the majority of those that have been released have been released to third countries, not actually released out into the open -- you know, to where they can... STEPHANOPOULOS: Just let out the door, right.
WEBB: Yes, right. So we don't know really where they have gone. This other group deserves due process. They deserve, in the right kind of environment, and I support what the president is doing on the military commissions, to have their cases examined, to see whether or not they should continue to be detained.
The situation with the Chinese Uighurs that you're talking about, on the one hand, it can be argued that they were simply conducting dissident activities against the government of China.
On the other, they accepted training from al Qaeda and as a result they have taken part in terrorism. I don't believe they should come to the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not to the United States and not Virginia.
WEBB: No, I don't believe so.
KYL: No, I totally agree.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about this, there is also the group that might have to be brought to the United States for trial or to be detained here. And the Republicans in the Senate have put out legislation -- not introduced legislation that says no detainee should be brought to the United States in any way unless the state legislature and the governor of the state passes -- signs off on that.
One, do you have the votes to pass it? And, two, will you block any funding for the closing of Guantanamo without those assurances?
KYL: That was a motion by House Republicans. We're taking up the bill next week. There will be an amendment that would preclude -- it would similar to that, but perhaps not identical.
A similar resolution passed a couple of years ago 93-4 saying, don't bring these detainees to the United States. And my guess is that none of this supplemental funding will be allowed to relocate detainees into the United States, that that amendment will be adopted.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will you support that? Because you support...
WEBB: We spend hundreds of millions of dollars building an appropriate facility with all security precautions in Guantanamo to try these cases. There are cases against international law.
These aren't people who were in the United States, committing a crime in the United States. These are people who were brought to Guantanamo for international terrorism. I do not believe they should be tried in the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet back in January, you supported the president's decision to close Guantanamo.
WEBB: I think Guantanamo has become the great Rorschach test of how we feel about international terrorism. We should, at the right time, close Guantanamo. But I don't think that it should be closed, and in terms of transferring people here.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but I -- I just want to press this one more time, because, actually, in January, on January 23rd, you said the president has given a reasonable timeline here in sorting this out. You no believe it's reasonable?
WEBB: Well, no, I don't, actually. You know, having sat down with my staff and gone through the numbers in detail, and looking at, you know, the facilities that have been built there, and coming to the point where I have to, you know, personally weigh in on this in a detailed way, I think what we're doing is the right way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you will not support funding for closing down Guantanamo?
WEBB: We should close down Guantanamo at the right time. I think what has happened is Guantanamo has become the issue rather than how we process these people who were detained there.
Let's process them the right rules of law, the right due process, within the constraints of how we have to handle these cases, with military intelligence and that sort of thing, but the facility is there at Guantanamo to do it. And then close it down.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So the January deadline should be relaxed. The president should not meet that January deadline. You don't believe Guantanamo...
WEBB: I think we should -- you know, I think we should defer to the judgment of the administration who is looking at this. I think we all are moving toward the right direction. But we shouldn't be creating artificial timelines.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the administration said January.
WEBB: They've said a lot of things and taken a look and said some other things. So let's process these people in a very careful way and then take care of it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me come back to you, Senator Kyl. Yesterday, President Obama appointed the Republican governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, to be ambassador of China.
A high profile governor, he had been looking at a presidential run. Are you disappointed that he took this job?
KYL: No. He's a very capable guy. He speaks Mandarin Chinese. He had a post in Singapore similar to this in the past. He is very experienced. He is knowledgeable about trade issues. And I think it's great to have a highly qualified person like that.
And to the fact that the president reached out to appoint a Republican is a good thing. I'm not at all disappointed. It's, I think, good for the United States.
WEBB: I'm chairman of the East Asia Subcommittee on the Foreign Relations Committee, I'm happy to take a look at his qualifications.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Webb, Senator Kyl, thank you both very much for your time this morning.
Straight to the roundtable now. So as our panelists take their seats, take a look at Robert Gibbs from Friday's press briefing, showing just a little bit of exasperation after a week of taking a lot of heat from both sides.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You started out on Monday wondering why we were being so opposite of George Bush in all of these questions. And on Friday, I'm answering questions about, why are we so much like George Bush on all of these questions?
I'll let you guys discern what inflection point -- what period of days that all changed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we'll let the round table discern what period of day that all changed.
Let me bring them all in right now. I've got George Will as always, former State Department official Liz Cheney, Steve Schmidt, John McCain's former campaign manager, James Carville, Democratic strategist, also the author of "40 More Years, How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation". Making George Will laugh. And Katrina Vanden Heuvel of "The Nation" magazine.
George, let's begin with the decisions President Obama made this week. He decided not to allow the release of these photos of detainee abuse. He decided to reinstitute military commissions. You saw there a lot of human rights groups upset. Jim Webb apparently not all that upset as a Democrat. How significant are these shifts and are they the right moves?
GEORGE WILL, COLUMNIST: Well, they come after he essentially affirmed warrantless wiretapping and escalated in Afghanistan. So you can see why a certain faction of the Democratic Party is unhappy.
On the other hand, he has changed his mind on the photographs, but he's changed his mind by keeping a promise. The promise he made during the campaign was I will always consult with my commanders. He consulted with the commanders who said among other things, the 10 days after the Abu Ghraib photos were released, there was a spike of violence in Iraq. They strongly urged him not to release these and he won't.
Now there is a court involved in this and the court has so far said that under the Freedom of Information Act, they have to be released. He can appeal that, he can lose, and he can then say I did my best and the photos come out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That good enough?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, "THE NATION": Obama was elected in part to correct the illegal shameful policies of these last eight years. I'm interested in the military commission's decision. Because he sided ...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you support him on the photos?
VANDEN HEUVEL: I don't. And I think they will come out and I think Obama could've set a clean break by saying we will never allow these policies to happen again. They should be released to a commission. That's what I think he should have said if he wanted to elide the full disclosure. But on the military commissions, he sided with the military over his Justice Department, which weighed in and said that the federal courts have a long and good tradition of safeguarding the government's national legitimate interests as well as safeguarding intelligence information and the due process of suspects.
I think that it was a mistake. And I think what he's done, President Obama, is made it harder for some of his supporters to support him. And he will need them. He will need them in the fights ahead. And he can't -- my final point, he cannot evade any longer the need for full true transparency and accountability. The momentum for a commission, a nonpartisan independent commission is so powerful at this stage.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure that's true. If you heard those senators today ...
VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, we're not just inside the Beltway, George. I think there is interest in this country as more and more comes out if he's going to pursue what he wants to pursue in terms of his agenda.
LIZ CHENEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I would imagine listening to Katrina that you would agree, then, that the president ought to declassified the memos the vice president's asked for, so the American people can see the effectiveness of this program. And I think the president deserves some credit for coming to the right place on military commissions and on the photos. But I do think it gives the American people some pause to sort of have watched the stops and starts here. The president on Guantanamo second day in office announces it's going to be closed before I think he had a real understanding and a handle on what the alternatives would be and how difficult it would be.
And with the pictures, I think also, you saw again, an announcement they would be released, and then having to walk that back, and even an admission, frankly, that he hadn't looked at the pictures before announcing they'd be released. And I think on issues that have to do with national security and war and peace, the American people would like to see a little bit more consistency in terms of their commander-in-chief.
STEPHANOPOULOS: George, the White House is obviously sensitive this charge on flip-flopping, but does it matter if you're going to end up in a place where you are going to get a lot of support?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: First of all if you say my generals said I shouldn't release, it would cause a spike and the president says, OK, I won't release it. I think as George pointed out, that was something he said during the campaign. We would be awfully uncomfortable as Democrats if he were releasing these pictures tomorrow and it was these things that General Petraeus and Secretary Gates and the new commander coming into Afghanistan, General McChrystal, would've said let's don't do this. So let me tell you, as a Democrat I'm very happy that he decided to listen to his commanders. And it may very well be that as it winds its way through the courts the courts will release them anyway. I don't know.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That may be, and maybe part of the calculation is they are going to come out eventually. But we're at a critical time in Iraq now as troops are moving out of the cities, we're heading towards elections. And Afghanistan, the timing here did matter.
CARVILLE: It did. And again, you would not want to be president and have the secretary of defense and your top commanders come back and say we advise against doing this. That would make me uncomfortable and I'm a pretty good Democrat.
CHENEY: Those same people advised against doing it before the White House publicly announced they would release the photos. It's a little disingenuous to say he made the decision based on what the military commander ...
VANDEN HEUVEL: But it's also buying the military argument -- It's buying the military argument that the release of these photos will increase violence. These photos, Guantanamo, Bagram, that has been the cause for anti-Americanism and our actions, our policies in escalating in Afghanistan.
CARVILLE: I agree with you. We became infatuated with torture. We should've never done that. However, and the reason you have these photographs is because they exist. Having said all of that, if these generals come in and you're the president and he says -- they say you shouldn't do it right now.
VANDEN HEUVEL: You don't envy ...
CARVILLE: I don't envy the decision, but I'm more comfortable as a Democrat with him making this decision than another decision.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Steve, he's also facing, we saw with the senator as well today, some more controversy over Guantanamo. And this was the next big political controversy that's going to be coming down the pike for the president. He said he wants Guantanamo to close, Democrats in the House say they're not going to fund it. And now appears the Democrats in the Senate are going to say exactly the same thing and what you've got above all is a huge consensus developing in the Senate that no one wants a detainee in their own state.
SCHMIDT: Well, there are a lot of very dangerous people committed to kill Americans that are housed at Guantanamo Bay. It was a very irresponsible decision to announce the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison before he had any idea where the detainees there were going to go.
The decision he made this week was the right decision. Katrina said he bought the military story. When an American military commander says you're going to get soldiers killed if you release these photos, commander in chief made the prudent decision, he made the right decision, and he deserves credit for it here.
More and more, though, you see over this course of his young presidency him adopting policies that he criticized on the campaign, because now he's in the real world. He's leading our country and we are a nation at war. And he is making decisions, thankfully, that are responsible with regard to the security of the country and the lives of our men and women.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the things you see is the president is pretty unsentimental about it. He's showing unsentimentality. He's also showing great flexibility, which is, you know, useful in a president, but he is getting criticism on this Guantanamo issue for not giving his own party cover. I mean, he's got his secretary of defense saying we're going to have to bring some of them into the States. He's got his attorney general saying we're not going to let any dangerous people into the States, but we might have to allow some detainees here, yet he's been relatively silent.
WILL: Well, you know, the supermax prisons in our country are full of Americans who have killed Americans and are perfectly safe. So the idea that we can't find a place to house these very few people who are really dangerous strikes me as preposterous.
And I don't think the country minds it when a president changes his mind. It indicates that he's looking at the evidence.
VANDEN HEUVEL: I agree with George on the supermax. But you said, George, that the next big controversy is Guantanamo. The next big controversy is the mounting evidence showing that torture was used to extract evidence to create a link, a false link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida. That is a crucial area of investigation and anther reason...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me try to get a little bit more context here and we'll let Liz respond.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me just explain to the viewer what Katrina is talking about, a little more context on what she's talking about.
There were some reports this week that the vice president's office actually back in 2003, in April of 2003, I believe, sent some sort of word to Iraq that a detainee in custody should be waterboarded in order to get information to establish whether there was a connection between Iraq and Al Qaida, or more information on weapons of mass destruction. Your response.
CHENEY: Well, two things. It's easy to sit here inside the Beltway and say gosh, no problem to put terrorists in Colorado. And I think, frankly, the people in Colorado would have something to say to that to object.
On this particular allegation, you know, nobody who is talking about this in the press has any knowledge of specific detainee treatment. And you saw the CIA yesterday come out and say absolutely unequivocally waterboarding was not used to establish this kind of a link.
VANDEN HEUVEL: I have not seen...
CHENEY: Well, you should...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I want to press one thing there, because there was a report -- no, but you explained one part of it. I just want to ask you to explain another part of it. The report, though, that the vice president's office did ask specifically to have information about Iraq-Al Qaida connections presented to this detainee, do you deny that?
CHENEY: I think that it's important for us to have all the facts out. And the first and more important fact is that the vice president has been absolutely clear that he supported this program, this was an important program, it saved American lives.
Now, the way this policy worked internally was once the policy was determined and decided, the CIA, you know, made the judgments about how each individual detainee would be treated. And the vice president would not substitute his own judgment for the professionals...
STEPHANOPOULOS: No one in his office either?
CHENEY: ... at the CIA. So I think it's very important for us to look at exactly what the facts are. And the facts are that three people were waterboarded. The people that, you know, claimed to have been waterboarded in these articles are not any of those people. And I think, frankly, you've also got to look at the source of some of these allegations, and one of the big sources is Colonel Wilkerson. Now, Colonel Wilkerson gets coverage because of his associations with General Powell.
STEPHANOPOULOS: His former chief of staff.
CHENEY: And has made a cottage industry of out, you know, fantasies about the vice president...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he's not the only one reporting it, but it's good to get your answer.
We're going to have to take a break right now. This roundtable's going to continue after the break. The Pelosi-CIA showdown. Who will win? How much trouble is the speaker in?
STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll be right back with the roundtable and the "Sunday Funnies."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Madam Speaker, just to be clear, you're accusing the CIA of lying to you in September of 2002.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER: Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States, misleading the Congress of the United States.
Everything that I received, we were not told that -- in fact, we were told that waterboarding was not being used.
No, I wasn't -- I was informed that a briefing had taken place. Now, you have to look at what they briefed those members. I was not briefed that. I was only informed that they were briefed but I did not get the briefing.
So, yes, I am saying that they are misleading -- that the CIA was misleading the Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi under fire but not backing down one bit in her Thursday press conference. Let me bring our roundtable back in to talk about it. George Will, Liz Cheney, Steve Schmidt, James Carville and Katrina Vanden Heuvel.
And, George, I love the way that Dan Balz of The Washington Post analyzed this. He said: Her performance -- "The speaker's performance in the Capitol was either a calculated escalation of a long-running feud with the Bush administration or a reckless act by a politician whose word has been called into question."
WILL: The Bush administration is gone and people addicted to attacking it really have to get over that. Her charges are so shrill, so specific, and so grave that they turn something that was arguably advisable, a truth commission, into something that's becoming mandatory to find out whether or not we can trust the CIA. That's a very serious charge she made.
CARVILLE: You know, seven years ago, the CIA says something. She says -- and she and Senator Graham and Senator Rockefeller say something. I just -- I don't think that Democrats really want to be at war with the CIA. We had that, you know, before and that's not particularly productive.
I think that she and the CIA director should sit down and they should as best as we can determine this is what happened. It was seven years ago. I'm a little bit like Senator Webb. I mean, we could...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But then why go the extra step and say they lied?
CARVILLE: Well, you know what -- and I love the speaker, she's a great family lady and everything else, I probably wouldn't have done that, OK?
CARVILLE: I just -- you know what I mean? It raises to the level of some kind of a -- "she has got to resign" or this or that. No, I probably -- if I would have been there I would have probably said, look, I have a very different recollection or something along those lines.
This is something that happened seven years ago. There's some support that they didn't tell us. There is some support that they did tell her. But she and Leon Panetta are from the same part of the country, they're from the same political party. It seems to me that somebody could sit down and say, this is our version of it or whatever and we need to get a better way to do this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it doesn't look like the Republican Party is going to let that happen.
SCHMIDT: No, look, I think if you watch that news conference, I mean, she couldn't have looked worse, totally not credible. I think what's totally exposed here is her partisan witch hunt against former Bush administration officials.
And while I disagree with some of the policies, particularly with regard to waterboarding, sincerely the vice president and others sincerely believe these were the policies necessary to keep this country safe, which was kept safe for seven-and-a-half years. And I think the ludicrousness of we're going to try to prosecute, we're going to try to haul people before congressional committees. I mean, you look at the committee hearings on the auto companies, it's inconceivable to me what the circus looks like when we start to investigate the intelligence agencies in a time of war.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Hey, guys, this is about truth and torture. Illegal, immoral, wrong torture. This is not a political football game. I'm not here to absolve or condemn Nancy Pelosi. I'm saying we need to use this time to get to the truth of what a party in power in 2002, with all of the power in the world did in terms of briefings, insufficient, incomplete briefings on a range of issues, WMDs, 9/11 Commission, Iraq.
We need to use that. We need to declassify the briefings material and not cherry-pick as your father, Liz, wishes to do, is releasing...
CHENEY: My father doesn't wish to cherry-pick -- no.
VANDEN HEUVEL: He just wants two documents. But we need a truth commission with General Taguba. That is my proposal. The man who ran the Abu Ghraib report. Have a military man oversee and have real power to get to the truth of what we need to do to move forward responsibly.
Steve, to bury this will tarnish and undermine and subvert the justice and power of this country...
CHENEY: Katrina, there is absolutely actually no confusion on our side of this issue. On our side of this issue, you know, you can say you agree or you disagree with the policy, but these were policies that kept the country safe.
The vice president, as an example, has been very clear in saying absolutely I supported these policies.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but...
CHENEY: No, but you let her go, George. You've got to let me finish.
The vice president has been absolutely clear in saying these are the right policies.
CHENEY: Now the people who seem to be confused are, you know, the Nancy Pelosis of the world who supported it but then they didn't support or who were really offended by it but they made no response to it. So I think it's very important here to be clear about what the facts are and in fact what happened.
CARVILLE: George, absolutely stunning finding and in line for four more years where Democracy Corps asked the American people, sometimes it you want to know an answer, best thing is ask the question. We said when it comes to national security policy, do you think President Obama is doing better, worse or about the same as President George W. Bush? Very fair question. The results were startling. Fifty percent said President Obama, 25 percent said President Bush. We're living in a world where twice as many people think that this administration is doing a better job on the signature Republican issue. This is somewhat of a -- this represents -- this is, again ...
CHENEY: It depends which polls you quote. No, but, James, there is a Rasmussen poll out that that says 58 percent of the American people polled believe that the release -- I'll show you my polls too believe that the release of the interrogation memos actually made us less safe so you can quote a whole range of polls on your question, James.
CARVILLE: Liz, this is just fact.
CHENEY: That's right. I'm telling you the response here.
CARVILLE: Twice as many people think that this president, on the question, who is doing a better job of keeping the nation safe, so what is clearly working is that this, quote, offensive, this talk radio offensive that somehow or another Obama is keeping us less safe is blowing up in their face and I'm all for letting the offense go.
CHENEY: I know you've been in the Seychelles but what's going on in the United States in the last week really bears little resemblance to what you just said.
CARVILLE: Again, this poll was conducted ...
VANDEN HEUVEL: Last week has been a coordinated campaign ...
CHENEY: Last week is actually the American people saying, wait a second, we do not want a president who is going to dismantle the things that kept us safe without studying them and thinking about them. And when the White House announces they're going to release pictures then turns the decision around and says, we're not releasing the pictures that tells you that the American people who are speaking out are actually having an impact ...
CARVILLE: Can I repeat this ...
WILL: Surely ...
CARVILLE: Fifty percent President Obama ...
CHENEY: In your poll. Which poll, James?
So, James, my poll says 58 percent of the American people actually believe we're less safe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: George Will in first and then Katrina.
WILL: Surely the point is smaller than this cosmic question we're talking about our national safety is did the CIA lie to Congress and if not, is the speaker, the third person in line to be president of the United States, is she truthful at this point? Now, Senator McCain was he says briefed on waterboarding and vehemently, his word, protested. Jane Harman who replaced Nancy Pelosi as ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee says she was briefed and wrote a strong letter of protest. Let's find out what -- who is telling the truth, the CIA or the speaker.
CARVILLE: Senator Graham, who takes copious notes, says that he wasn't as did Senator Rockefeller as did Senator Feinstein. I'm all for -- it is imminently conceivable that seven years ago people have two different memories of a meeting. That's not outside the realm of possibility. But we can -- just like we need to find out if torture was used to extract confessions to talk about links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein which we know that al Qaeda had nothing to do with 9/11.
CHENEY: Al Qaeda had to do with 9/11 ...
VANDEN HEUVEL: Can this table agree that we need a commission to investigate -- to investigate the full range of abuse, misuse of intelligence, in addition, what we've seen over the last week, Liz, and we may live on different planets is a coordinated campaign to distract attention from the true architects of a torture campaign which has made this country less secure, I think that is what millions of Americans have seen and the polls, which show that President Cheney who has given interviews ...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Vice president ...
VANDEN HEUVEL: Oh, I'm sorry. I always thought of him as president. Has given interviews to the compliant media is now 56 GOP insiders think he's doing damage to the Republican Party. What does that suggest?
CHENEY: Well, Katrina, I really appreciate your concern for the Republican Party and I think you and I do live on opposite planets but I do think that it's the case that the American people, you know, when President Obama first came into office, he was asked do you agree with Vice President Cheney's advice that you ought to take a long, hard look at these policies and at the intel and what we've learned before you make changes. He said I actually do, I agree with that. Day two, he comes into office and he doesn't just change the policy but he releases to the terrorist, to the enemy the list of the techniques that we used so those techniques are now out there in the legal memos, they're out there for the terrorists to train to. Then he comes in and says, listen, we're going to prosecute potentially people who worked in the Bush administration who worked very hard to keep the nation safe. Now, in my view that's un-American. That's not something that's ever happened before in this nation.
SCHMIDT: It's Banana Republicanism is what it is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he's pretty much taken that off the table, the prosecution...
CHENEY: Yes, but come on, George, to even suggest it, I don't he has taken it off the table.
VANDEN HEUVEL: When is democratic accountability banana republicanism?
SCHMIDT: ... thousands of Americans murdered in Lower Manhattan and across the country by these attack, anthrax, the belief that more attacks were imminent.
The public officials in the Bush administration who worked to keep this country safe, you may disagree with the policy, but to want to do these prosecutions, to haul people before the congressional circus up here is nonsense.
And at the end of the day, at the end of the day, the president made the right decision, in my view, to stop the practice of waterboarding. There are profound issues facing this country. We ought to move forward, not look backward. There is an obsession on the left with get Bush, get Cheney, get Bush administration officials, the Democrats now run this city and they should leave it in the past.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to go to the politics just a little bit because Katrina talked about that National Journal Insiders Poll where 57 percent of Republicans say they don't think it's helpful.
And I know you probably believe what your father is doing is helpful, obviously. But I want to get Steve as John McCain's former campaign manager, I know a lot of your former colleagues, Republican operatives, think it's not that helpful to have a former vice president coming out this early in this way. SCHMIDT: It doesn't matter. Dick Cheney will never be on a ballot again for national office. What you've seen him be able to do, though, is to put great attention onto an issue and to impact this issue in a very marked way over the last week.
The party doesn't have a leader right now and the party is not going to have a leader until we have a nominee. And so there's a lot of voices in the party and I think he has been a voice in this country on issues since the late 1960s and he has every right to speak out.
CARVILLE: I don't have a problem. He's the former vice president. He wants to go out. He can speak all that he wants to, just like Rush Limbaugh can speaks all that he wants to. There is a debate in the Republican Party. I think it is a good debate. And the vice president, Rush Limbaugh -- Rush Limbaugh says we ought to kick John McCain and Meghan McCain out of the party, good riddance to Specter. I'm sure it's going to be -- Monday, it's going to be good riddance to Huntsman.
I think it is healthy for the country for the vice president to be out there. I'm all for this. I don't have an objection to it at all.
STEPHANOPOULOS: George, has that brought a smile to your face?
WILL: Yes, I'll be you are all...
WILL: It's campaigning 101 to define your opponent. And your side thinks it is advantageous to define the opposition party as Dick Cheney. Pro-Cheney, anti-Cheney, doesn't matter because a rising generation of new Republicans are coming along and by the time we get into another election they're going to be the story.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet, one new -- one member of that rising generation, Jon Huntsman, has decided he is going to join Obama's team.
WILL: Sent to China. And that may be a tribute from the Obama administration to the political potential in Mr. Huntsman. I don't know. He also speaks Mandarin Chinese. He would be a good ambassador.
CHENEY: I would like to say something about the next generation of Republicans. Look, it seems to me that, you know, our opponents like to spend a lot of time talking about who is up and who is down.
The future of the Republican Party is going to be built based on substance. And a key part of that substance is a strong national defense. And what you see all across the country today, frankly, are the rise of conservative groups, people who say, I'm not Republican, I'm not Democratic, but I'm conservative.
And they've got a set of core beliefs, strong national defense, belief in the Second Amendment, individual liberties, low taxes, limited government, those are the things that this party has long stood for and that made America great.
The national security piece of it is one in which the vice president has, in fact, been very effective in the debate over the course of the last two weeks, not just in influencing public opinion but, frankly, in influencing the Obama White House.
So I think, you know, it's great for me to sort of hear James and Katrina talk about, you know, where they think the party is going. In fact, I think that the Republican Party has got to stay true to those core principles. And when it does, I think we'll be back to winning elections again.
VANDEN HEUVEL: You know, I certainly respect your father's right to go out and speak to the nation. I think those who disagreed with that have a kind of royalist mentality, that the vice president should disappear. I think two of the great speakers of our time have been Vice President Gore and ex-President Jimmy Carter.
However, what he's doing, it seems to me, is a kind of political suicide mission for the Republican Party with the Republican Party as his collateral damage. You talk about an evolving generation. That generation will find it harder, in my view, if the party is so allied with a failed and disastrous Bush-Cheney administration.
VANDEN HEUVEL: But my last point is, I do think there is energy in the Republican Party in an interesting area, which is libertarianism. George Will, smile or not, but I do think Ron Paul is not the right messenger.
But it was surprising that before Obama took off that a lot of young people found in Ron Paul's message, again, not the right messenger. But that's where you may see the strength.
On the other hand, the demographic shifts in this country speak to what Steve Schmidt spoke to when he spoke in defense of gay marriage and the need for a party to accommodate and be a big tent and not self-marginalize, which it has done.
CHENEY: ... give me time to respond to this.
CHENEY: Look, at the end of the day, what the vice president is doing is not about politics. And it's fascinating and interesting for all of us who care about politics to make these analyses.
At the end of the day, what he's doing is standing up because he believes that this country is less safe if we dismantle these policies, and because he believes it's wrong for an administration to come in and prosecute...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... helping the Republican Party?
CHENEY: Absolutely. No question.
CARVILLE: (inaudible) losing the next generation. And the generation coming up, the Republicans have all 32 percent of the young generation. The big problem that the party faces, and that's one of the reasons I think that people want to, 66-32 voted Obama over McCain in this election. That was -- even John Kerry carried younger voters.
As these younger voters come to the system, the Republican Party is going to have to think of a way -- I think that they will -- to address these voters and these concerns. Right now, they're not doing it. And, therefore, as a Democrat, I -- I wouldn't -- and it wouldn't be any good -- but I don't think anything that this vice president is going to say, maybe he doesn't think is political, but if you're a former vice president and you attack an incumbent president, it is by its nature political.
WILL: The secret of the Republican revival are the seeds sown by Democratic policies -- inflation and all the rest -- and I suggest that one day, "40 More Years" will be a title as memorable as the book titled "Dow 36,000."
CARVILLE: George, you and I won't be here for this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Couple of minutes left, and I want to -- as George is selling your book for you, I want to talk about the president today. He's going to be going to Notre Dame, facing a lot of protests on campus, George, from those who say he shouldn't be honored in this way by a Catholic institution. WILL: Well, the wrong principle is to say that whenever a speaker speaks at a university, the university is necessarily endorsing what he says or what he stands for. No one wants that.
On the other hand, the question is not what Mr. Obama will say today, but what Notre Dame says by inviting him. It goes against the guidance issued in 2004 by the bishops, reaffirmed this week by the protests from Cardinal George of Chicago and Cardinal Dolan of New York, saying that on a matter this important, on abortion, it is wrong for a Catholic university to muddy its message, because inviting the president suggests that the issue is not all that important.
CARVILLE: I think that what -- if it is that important -- and I'm not the best Catholic in the world, but I consider myself a Catholic -- what they need to do is get the faculty and make sure, like say, a constitutional law teacher there that would teach that Roe v. Wade is settled law, and that person has got to go. I mean, that's much more of an effect than anything like that.
I also found it interesting that the valedictorian, the young woman that's going to Harvard, to medical school said that she voted for Obama, that she was completely -- didn't agree with him on abortion. But if Notre Dame wants to get serious about this, I think they can go down and find -- I bet you there are a lot of pro-choice faculty members that might even be some that are in law school and find out what these people are doing.
SCHMIDT: As a Catholic, I agree with James completely on this. It always drove me nuts when President Bush was in office, he was invited to a commencement speech --and I'll defend the right of anyone to protest in this country, absolutely on anything -- but I think we do too much turning our back to each other in this country. He's the president of the United States. And that's an office that ought to be treated with respect. The university invited him, and I think he ought to be able to go and say his piece. And, you know, it's discouraging to me that you see, you know, time after time, let's turn our backs on each other, let's walk out of this stuff, and there's too much of that in this country.
VANDEN HEUVEL: You know, the protesters are more Catholic than the pope, the Catholic bishops more Catholic than the pope. This is an unwelcome intrusion of religion into academic life. This is a moment for people to listen to a president who is a listening president on the whole issue of abortion. It should be a decision between a woman, her family and her doctor, not the government.
And I think that there is a hypocrisy here. Where were these Catholic bishops on Iraq when the pope denounced it, or when George W. Bush, who presided over more executions as governor and then president, was invited to speak? So there's hypocrisy and a double standard.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm afraid that is all we have time for today.