'This Week' Transcript 10-22-17: Former CIA Director David Petraeus

A rush transcript of "This Week" on October 22, 2017.

ByABC News
October 22, 2017, 9:48 AM


ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

MARTHA RADDATZ, HOST: A four-star fight.


RADDATZ: Trump's chief of staff calling out a member of congress.

KELLY: Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.

RADDATZ: But General Kelly got the facts wrong. So why is the White House refusing to back down?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you want to get into a debate with a four-star marine general, I think that that is something highly inappropriate.

RADDATZ: And is all this mud-slinging distracting from the bigger question? What really happened in Niger. Former CIA director and retired four-star General David Petraeus standing by.

Plus, racing against a nuclear North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not out of time, but we are running out of time. We're running out of time.

RADDATZ: Is the window for diplomacy closing?

We are on the flight deck of The USS Reagan in the Sea of Japan.

Our exclusive look at the military buildup around the Korean Peninsula.

And it's a story I've been following for more than a decade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uncommon valor was common that day.

RADDATZ: The 2004 battle in Sadr City, Iraq. The soldiers and families who sacrificed on and off the battlefield about to become a television miniseries. We're one on one with lead actorMichael Kelly and the real life inspirations behind The Long Road Home.

From the White House to your house, we take on the moments that matter, This Week.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.


RADDATZ: Good morning. As we come on the air this week, we're seeing success in one war, with the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa, Syria. Preparations for what may be the war ahead. You see us there on the deck of the USS Reagan during an American show of force this week in the waters off and an emotional war of words here at home, sparked by debate over President Trump's phone calls to families of the fallen, and to one widow in particular, the wife of a Green Beret killed in Niger earlier this month.

On Tuesday, Trump called the family of that fallen soldier, Sergeant La David Johnson. But a long-time family friend, Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson was also listening in and said the family was not comforted by the president's words.

By Thursday, Chief of Staff John Kelly was in the briefing room defending the president. Kelly's words were raw, emotional, and personal, as he spoke about the loss of his own son in Afghanistan in 2010.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me, because he was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into. By joining the -- that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were, because we're at war.


RADDATZ: If General Kelly had stopped there, this debate would likely be over. As a nation, we almost certainly could have agreed to make those painfully intimate words the last words. Instead, using the language of a political operative, Kelly then attacked that Florida congresswoman who had criticized the president, accusing her of being disrespectful at a 2015 building dedication to fallen FBI agents.


KELLY: And a congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that, and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building. And she just called up President Obama. And on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million to build the building, and she sat down.


RADDATZ: the problem with that account, it just wasn't true. As video from the 2015 event shows, wilson using most of her remarks to pay tribute to the fallen.

But instead of apologizing, indeat of correcting the record, the White House doubled down.


SANDERS: If you want to get into a debate with a four-star marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.


RADDATZ: Sanders later said, anyone can be questioned. But her defense didn't sit well, even among some of Trump's allies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House press secretary today said it was highly inappropriate to get in a debate with a four-star general. Do you agree with that?



RADDATZ: But this did happen in America.

And let's turn now to another retired four-star general, and former CIA director, David Petraeus. Good morning, General Petraeus. Great to see you here this morning.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, (RET.) FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good to be with you, Martha. Thanks.

RADDATZ: I want to start with what the White House said, about it being highly inappropriate to debate a four-star general.

PETRAEUS: Well, I think we're all fair game. And I certainly experienced lots of that in testimony on Capitol Hill during the surge in Iraq and subsequent endeavors in Afghanistan central command and so forth.

We, in uniform, protect the rights of those to criticize us, frankly. I remember opening The New York Times in the morning of the big testimony on the surge at the six-month mark, and there was a full-page ad attacking me personally.

I didn't appreciate it, needless to say.

RADDATZ: I remember that. It said, "general betray us."

PETRAEUS: Yes. But at the end of the day, we are fiercely protective of the rights of our Americans to express themselves even if that includes critizing us.

RADDATZ: General Petraeus, you saw the emotional response that John Kelly had about the Gold Star family and the call the president made. But -- he also had very harsh words about Congresswoman Wilson. Is that appropriate? Especially given that he was wrong?

PETRAEUS: Well, it was obviously an unfortunate situation. We need to unite behind our Gold Star families, to embrace them with compassion and support, not to drag them into partisan politics.

Sadly this is a bit symptomatic of what I think is afflicting our country right now. Arguably, the most important threat the United States faces is not that of Russia, Iran, North Korea, or even Chinese competition, or ISIS, it's parochialism here at home, especially in this city, which is preventing us from resolving issues that could allow us to capitalize on extraordinary opportunities. As America is leading the world in the IT revolution, energy revolution, manufacturing and life sciences. We need to relearn the word of compromise. We need to take the volume down.

Look, I know John Kelly very, very well. He was a tremendous division commander, two-star commander of the Marine forces in Anbar Province during the half of the surge, served with him subsequently in other positions. I have to think that this weekend, he's sitting at home or in the White House, trying to figure out how to turn down the volume, how to get this behind us, and how to focus on what really is important to the country over all.

RADDATZ: But he didn't do that this week. I want to go back to that. He didn't do that this week. And he has been seen, as you say, as this voice of reason in the White House. But did he lose some of that authority by joining this political fight?

PETRAEUS: Again, my hope is that the John Kelly that we all know and respect enormously, whose family, obviously, experienced that personal loss of a service member, of their son, the last full measure of devotion as Abraham Lincoln termed it, went through that.

And again I just have to think that he is thinking how can we turn down the volume? How can we move forward and how can we focus the administration and thecountry on the issues that are preventing us from capitalizing on extraordinary opportunities?

RADDATZ: I also want to get your reaction to what Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the joint chiefs, said earlier this month.


ADM. MIKE MULLEN, FORMER CHAIRMAN JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I'm increasingly concerned about the dependence of the American people on Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, John Kelly, and Rex Tillerson.

I have been in too many countries, globally, where the generals, if you will, gave great comfort to their citizens. That is not the United States of America.


RADDATZ: Do you have any of those same concerns?

PETRAEUS: Well, I know them all, obviously, as does our great former chairman of the joint chiefs, Admiral Mullen, who whom it was a privilege to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you have to depend on some people, these are some pretty great people. I think the administration has a superb national security team, arguably among the best in recent memory. And by and large, they are guiding a policy that is really more continuity than change in a number of areas, although certainly there are changes in areas such as tax, trade climate and so on.

But, this is a superb team, and it's a team that has helped guide the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and in Syria, that has made the right call with the president approving on Afghanistan, I believe, that is seeking to get China's attention to deal with the North Korean situation in a way that is ever more pressing.

So, again, this is a superb group of individuals. They're not all military, obviously, Secretary Tillerson, our U.S...

RADDATZ: You know, General Petraeus, earlier this year in June at the Aspen Ideas Festival, you kind of dodged a question, saying that the team is important. You dodged a question about whether President Trump was fit for office, saying it was immaterial because of the team. Immaterial?

PETRAEUS: Look, I felt it was inappropriate for a former general to be judging whether someone who was elected by the American people is fit or not. He's our president. And what we need to do as a country is try to support those who are supporting him so that we can, indeed, continue this economic growth that we have had, so that we can shore up national defenses, so we can come to grip with issues like immigration reform, infrastructure investment, tax reform, and all the rest.

RADDATZ: And I do want to talk about Niger and what happened there, given they were ambushed. Was this an intelligence failure as some on the Hill are saying?

PETRAEUS: Well, we don't know, obviously, and that's why there's a team out there from the Department of Defense, which includes some FBI investigators, as I understand it, and we'll have to wait to see what they find out before there investigating. And we'll have to wait to see what theyfind before that kind of judgment.

RADDATZ: And you saw the fall of ISIS in the stronghold of Raqqa in Syria this week. What does that tell you about where we are. Obviously that is a success. But now what?

PETRAEUS: Well, it's a very important success. Because as I mentioned the last time we were together, the sooner ISIS could be shown to be a loser is the sooner it's not as effective in recruiting, in proselytizing and encouraging, inspiring and so forth. And that is now very much the case. Plus, their media center in Raqqa has now obviously been destroyed, as well.

But as I also said, the battle that matters most is the battle after the battle, it's what happens after the Islamic State is defeated. And we're already seeing that in Iraq. This is the battle over power and resources in countries that have a lot of resources, particularly in the case of Iraq. And what you have seen there is right after the defeat of the Islamic State, in an area around Kirkuk, because of an ill-timed referendum, pressure on the Prime Minister Abadi to keep going, and to reclaim areas from the Kurdish Peshmerga that had been occupied when Iraqi forces evacuated them in the wake of ISIS.

RADDATZ: And General Petraeus, I do want to get to North Korea, so stand by with me for a moment.

As we mentioned, I traveled some 7,000 miles to the Sea of Japan this week. And it really felt like a world away from the political rancor here at home. The men and women who stand ready to protect this nation and its allies are laser focused on the mission and unrattled by the escalating threat of conflict with North Korea.


RADDATZ: The Sea of Japan is bristling with warships. This is the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear powered air craft carrier, where the roar of fighter jets is constant, the 5,000 sailors on board conducting five days of drills with South Korean counterparts, North Korea calling the exercise a provocation, accusing the allies of trying to frantically start a nuclear war.

In Washington on Thursday, the director of the CIA saying North Korea is mere months away from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear weapon.

MIKE POMPEO, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: We ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective.

RADDATZ: and the president's national security adviser warning patience is running thin.

GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We are in a race to resolve this short of military action. We're not out of time, be we running out of time. We are running out of time.

RADDATZ: Landing on The Reagan this week, a tailhook trap, the intensity of the exercises is evident.

Obviously, everyone is aware of the tension on the peninsula right now. Does that factor into your exercises?

CAPTAIN MICHAEL DONNELLY, COMMANDING OFFICER, USS RONALD REAGAN: We live with this type of stuff in balance all the time. And we're very keen, I think, and aware, of the tension.

RADDATZ: This is the carrier's third trip to the Sea of Japan in the last five months, the same waters where many of the missiles North Korea has launched have come crashing down.

ADMIRAL MARC DALTON, COMMANDER, TASK FORCE 70 AND STRIKE GROUP 5: The training that we conduct is about being ready to respond, and ready to respond to whatever happens.

COMMANDER TERRANCE FLOURNOY, USS RONALD REAGAN: I have control of everything that moves on the flight deck and on the hangar bay. One plus 30-minute cycle, we could launch an event from anywhere from 12 to 15 to 20-plus aircraft.

RADDATZ: With so many moving parts, live bombs and missiles, and no margin of error, coordination of every movement during these complex exercises is critical. And just before the fighter jet hits the deck, it goes to full power in case it doesn't hit any of the wires.

JOHN O'NEIL, SIGNAL OFFICER, USS RONALD REAGAN: Too high and you're not going to stop, too low, it can get catastrophic pretty quickly. So, we have the best pilots in the world out here, but any deviation from glide slope or center line can end poorly quickly.

RADDATZ: Commander Alex Hampton, call sign Waldo, has been flying for 16 years and is pretty confident that the U.S. navy can out maneuver Kim Jong-un.

ALEX HAMPTON, PILOT: The ability to target an aircraft and our ability to defend ourselves makes us -- makes me feel pretty good. So from a personal standpoint, I'm not alarmed.

RADDATZ: This carrier is only part of the military presence. The Marine Corps is leading the charge as well.

We are now at Iwa Kuni (ph) Marine Corps air station in Japan. This is the F-35. There's a squadron of F-35s here. These are the most sophisticated planes in the U.S. arsenal.

Major Bijon Derokshan (ph) has been taking part in the exercises, flying the F-35.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're kind of the nation's crisis response force. And we train to fight tonight. And we will fight and win tonight.

RADDATZ: And with the region remaining on the brink, they have to be ready to fight tonight.


RADDATZ: And we're back now with General Petraeus. Your successor at the CIA said we have about a 20 percent to 25 percent chance of a real conflict there. Can you see a diplomatic resolution at this point?

PETRAEUS: I think there's still an opportunity here. And really all of this rhetoric, frankly, is aimed not at North Korea but at China. This is about getting President Xi's attention, once he's done with the party congress, of course, which is still ongoing. So that China will really clamp down on the umbilical cord through which 90 percent of the trade that goes to and from North Korea transits.

China has the ability to bring North Korea to its senses, and doesn't want to bring it to its knees, because they don't want to see a reunified Korean peninsula and all that that would entail. But this is possible. And that's what this is all aimed at doing. The saber rattling, certainly the preparations, so that if there is some kind of military engagement that we will be the best prepared we can possibly be.

But needless to say any possible scenario is ugly. And that's what everyone is intent on preventing, but it requires China's action.

RADDATZ: And you talked about the rhetoric being aimed at China, but there has been a lot of rhetoric from President Trump. And he tweeted recently that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is wasting his time trying to negotiate with North Korea. You're saying all of this is just aimed at China?

PETRAEUS: This is aimed at China. And again Secretary Tillerson is undertaking the kind of strategic engagement that is very necessary here to build that relationship also in advance of a trip out there by the president himself.

But this is the essence of this. This is China's decision to take, whether they are going to do, which they did do one time before, 15 or so years ago, which was to get North Korea back to the negotiating table, halt the missile and nuclear testing where it is right now.

RADDATZ: But you have heard this rhetoric. It may be aimed at China, but North Korea is hearing it, Kim Jong-un is hearing it. Does this exacerbate the situation? Does it make conflict more likely?

PETRAEUS: Well, before you get into a crisis, this probably gives the other side a bit of pause. The problem with this kind of approach is that if you end up in a crisis, even inadvertently, then you don't want the other side thinking that you might be prone to take the slack out of the trigger, because they may pull the trigger first.

RADDATZ: And what is the strategy if China doesn't do its part, if it doesn't work?

PETRAEUS: Well, China has got to understand the new strategic reality that would result, which is very uncomfortable for them. If they didn't like the air defense system, the anti-ballistic missile system that wept into Korea, they really won't like all the other stuff that is going to follow, or that which will go into Japan. At what point do nuclear weapons have to go back into South Korea?

At what does Japan get truly offensive capabilities? What does Japan do about the nuclear issue? Does it gets its own nuclear program?

And this, I think, is what China has to really come to grips with, and then decide that once and for all they are going to dramatically tighten what goes in and out of Korea and that Russia does the same, and they all approve the UN Security Council resolutions that should, indeed, should do just that.

RADDATZ: Let me just ask you this simple question there, as we sit here right now are you concerned that there could be a real nuclear war with North Korea?

PETRAEUS: WEll, certainly concern. Again, the question is how concerned.

RADDATZ: Likely?

PETRAEUS: I don't think likely. No. I think, in fact, that again all of this is a communications strategy that is trying to make sure that China understands that this administration is in a very different situation from any of its predecessors, that North Korea on this president's watch could have the capability to hit a city in the United States with a nuclear weapon.

RADDATZ: We hope they don't do that.

It's very nice talking to you this morning, General Petraeus. Thanks so much.

PETRAEUS: Great being back. Thanks, Martha.

RADDATZ: Thirteen years after an army platoon was ambushed on the streets of Sadr City, Iraq, their battle and their bravery is the subject of a powerful new miniseries. Actor Michael Kelly and two of the real life heroes portrayed in the series join me after this short break.


RADDATZ: This week, much has been said of the sacrifices and the bonds shared by soldiers, something I have had the privilege of witnessing up close over years of reporting on America's wars. At the outset of the conflict in Iraq, I had the honor of getting to know one unit in particular. A harrowing street fight in Baghdad bonded them as brothers. I wrote about their experience in a book called "The Long Road Home," now being made into an eight-part miniseries by National Geographic Channel.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost indescribable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably the loudest thing I've ever heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire came from the right-hand side of the street, and the left, and from the front, and the rear.

RADDATZ (voice-over): April 4th,2004, a ferocious battle in what was supposed to be a peace-keeping mission, 19 soldiers, ambushed, pinned down in an alley in the slum of Sadr City, in Baghdad. The rest of the battalion racing to rescue them. Unprotected, exposed, facing masses of armed insurgents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some guys have seen some things that no one ever wants to see.

RADDATZ: In the wake of that ambush, dozens wounded, eight dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you go to a veteran's ceremony, and you see the old veterans get together and hug and cry and you never really understood it, I understand it now.

RADDATZ: Thirteen years later, we return to a different Sadr City, this time, in Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These should be basically a match to the real buildings, right here.

RADDATZ: These painstaking reconstructions, erected at Fort Hood for the National Geographic mini-series, "The Long Road Home."


RADDATZ: It's the story of the battle, heart-pumping action, but also the story of the heartbreak of the families left behind.



RADDATZ: Actress Kate Bosworth is playing Gina Denomy (ph), wife of Troy, one of the wounded in the battle. We met her shortly afterwards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just an unbelievable feeling of fear of not knowing, you know, who is hurt, who is no longer with us.

RADDATZ: That pain is all too real again for the families who lost their loved ones in the battle now visiting the set.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just feeling that emotion.

RADDATZ: Painful for the widows and for the soldiers, reliving those moments with the actors who play them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there moments that you have where you're like, oh, maybe if I turn to the left as opposed to the right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. The guilt is that I didn't get shot, they did. That's it.

RADDATZ: It's a responsibility for all the actors to get it right.

MICHAEL KELLY, ACTOR: We wanted to do the men who did this in real life the justice that they deserve. You know, so, I think that part is really special.

RADDATZ: The actor, Michael Kelly from "House of Cards" is portraying then-Lieutenant Colonel Gary Volesky, now a three-star general, perfectly capturing that heart and care all those years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uncommon valor was common that day, because there were soldiers doing things that we talk about, but you don't teach stuff like that. And they all just performed magnificently. So I'm honored to be able to serve with soldiers like that.


RADDATZ: And joining me now, actor Michael Kelly, retired Army Sergeant First Class Eric Bourquin, who served in Sadr City battle, and Gina Denomy, whose husband was wounded in the battle and led one of the rescue squadrons.

Good morning, everyone. It's great to see you.

Eric, I want to start with you. You were 23 years old when you were trapped on that roof. Thirteen years later, is it hard reliving this?

SGT. FIRST CLASS ERIC BOURQUIN, U.S. ARMY (RET): You know, initially it was, but it has been such a great experience being able to go through this and being able to expose myself and learn so much about it throughout all my time on the set, and being able to see this.

So, it was hard going through it, but it has been very, very helpful.

RADDATZ: I should add you were a technical adviser as well. You were there every day.

BOURQUIN: Yes, ma'am. I was there on-set quite a bit. And I was a technical adviser while I was there. I was responsible for helping make sure that everything was as authentic as it could be and it was true to the story as it could be.

RADDATZ: And, Gina, when you think back on that day, and you haven't changed a bit since that early interview, Troy left for that -- for Iraq thinking it was a peacekeeping mission, three, four days after your son, Merrick (ph) was born.


RADDATZ: When you look back on that day now, what do you remember about that?

DENOMY: Oh, there were so many emotions. You know, obviously, the fear of the unknown and concern for the guys going over there, but also having this newborn baby and thinking, wow, OK, this belongs to him as much as me and I've got to get this right for a whole year by myself and do it right.

And I remember just thinking, this is -- this is going to be a long year. And trying to, at the same time, keep spirits up, you know, to send him off the best way possible.

RADDATZ: And, Gina, that day, the day of the battle, when you -- fewer than 1 percent of our nation serve. We have heard John Kelly talk about this, this week. People really don't understand what that's like. After this battle, they fought for 80 straight days. What is it like knowing eight soldiers died that day, Troy obviously survived.

DENOMY: Right.

RADDATZ: What don't we understand about notifications?

DENOMY: Wow. The -- it's a very scary thing to think about someone showing up at your door with that kind of news. And being part of the care team, we went through some training of -- to go in after they're notified to kind of lend support and help to the families. And it's a training you go through, but it's something you never want to actually have to use.

And, it's -- it's hard thing, because there is never the right words to use. So, and then, the notification system, it's -- it's put in place in a way to protect the families as much as possible. But then there's always the issue of people wanting to know things as soon as possible. But they have to be notified through the correct channels.

RADDATZ: I know you told me recently that after that day, whenever you would leave and you would leave out the back door to your car, what did you do?

DENOMY: Well, so whenever -- the way our house was in Texas, the access to the garage was through the back, from the street behind the house. So whenever I would go somewhere, on my return, I would drive around the front of the house first to make sure there wasn't a car waiting.

RADDATZ: Pretty serious stuff. Thank you.

Michael, you have taken on the role of one of the heroes of this battle, Gary Volesky. I know you met him, well into theshooting. Why -- why was this so important for you to do? I know you're the son of a marine. But you're a busy guy.

KELLY: Yes. Well, you know, after I was offered the role, I sat down that night and I read four other scripts. And as I'm reading it, I couldn't stop reading it. I just -- I'm rifling through it. And I was like, this is incredible. And so I started to -- and it wasn't working out with my schedule so, I went off to do the project but I was like, let me Google this Gary Volesky guy.

And I Googled him, and I saw some interviews that you had done with him. And it was the things that he said, and the way that he spoke about his wife, and that she was a true hero, much like hearing what Gina (ph) goes through and all these women go through at home. I was just like I've got to play this guy. I've got to -- if they think I'm the right guy for this role, then I've got to do it the best justice I can do. Because here's a man who, still to this day, as a three-star general is, you know, puts his life on the line for us.

For me to be able to do the fun things that I get to do in my life, to be an actor, and to have the free comes to that I enjoy. So I was just like, I've got to get this right. I've got do everything I can to do this man the justice that he deserves.

RADDATZ: I was struck, and still am, and all of us have a bond together over this, by the bond you created, you had with the real -- with an Eric Bourquin. One of my favorite photos from this, a young actor named John Beavers plays Eric Bourquin. And Eric actually has those tattoos. That is make up on John Beavers. And I don't know, is that makeup on your, Michael Kelly? And you call that the Band of Bourquins. I love that.

But it really been a powerful bond, hasn't it?

BOURQUIN: It really has been.

I've been fortunate enough to, along this journey, I have come along and I've made quite a few friends. And it's been pretty special to be able to see that the American public and the people outside the military community actually care enough about, just like Michael was saying, you know, how important it is to get the stories out there, because this story in particular, it's a human story. And it's about love, and it affects all of us. Anybody can be able to identify with any aspect of the show, regardless of what side or what military service they were in.

RADDATZ: And Michael, you went through about three weeks of basic training. Learned a lot about things?

KELLY: Nothing like what these guys go through. But it was -- I did learn a lot. And that was another part that was really important for all of the actors.

And, you know, John Beavers, who plays Eric, we took it so serious. We wanted everything to be as real as we could make it, because, again, just wanting to do these men the justice they deserved.

And so we, we worked hard, man. We -- like I said, nothing like the real thing, but we learned how to clear buildings in groups of one, two, and four, eight. And we just wanted to make it right.

RADDATZ: I love when some of the the real soldiers in the battle first saw you and thought, I don't know. I don't know if this guy is going to make it.

KELLY: Eric was introducing me to a couple of, at the kickoff party that you had for us. And it was the first time meeting a lot of these guys. A lot of the soldiers were fortunate enough to meet their guys before I did. So it was my first introduction meeting the rest of the guys.

And I go into this bar, they're like, hey, guys, this is Michael Kelly. He's playing Gary Valeski. And they're like, oh, really? Good luck, buddy. They were dead serious. And I was like, guys, this is hard enough, man.

RADDATZ: Playing a legend. Playing a legend.

KELLY: Gary Valeski is on a pedestal here. And you know to have to play someone that these men, to this day, would follow into hell, every one of them has said it to me. They're like, I would follow that man into hell. And to take that on as an actor is scary. I was so scared.

RADDATZ: Well, I will say I'm not a film critic, but you do a magnificent job. And you captured Gary Valeski and everybody like him so beautifully. Thank you so much, Eric. Thank you so much, Gina. The script is written by the fabulous Mikko Alanne. It premiers on National Geographic Channel on November 7th.

The war of words over condolence calls from the commander-in-chief overshadowed the other big headlines this week from tax reform to new health care compromise. The roundtable takes on all of it when we come back.



BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, that demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up, because it provides a short-term tactical advantage.

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.


RADDATZ: Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush lamenting the state of politics. What many perreceived as a direct rebuke of President Trump. Last night, though, a message of unity, with all five former living presidents gathering together as a benefit for the victims of this season's devastating hurricanes.

Let's bring in The Roundtable now to tackle all the week's news. ABC News political analyst Matt Dowd; Politico White House Reporter Eliana Johnson; Perry Bacon Jr., senior political writer for 538; and ABC News commentator Cokie Roberts.

Good morning to all of you.

I want to go back to John Kelly again. It was a big week. And I do think the debate would have ended there after his emotional briefing on that.

But there were aspects to his remarks that you, Matt Dowd, found especially troubling.

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEW POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I thought the initial part of his conversation, obviously, and how a soldier comes home after they're killed and what happened in that process was very emotional and very touching. The problem is that I have is you ask the question is, does he know who he works for? He talks about the sacredness of Gold Star families and that we have lost that when he work for a guy that attacked Gold Star families and attacked John McCain as a prisoner.

He talks about the sacredness of women, and he has somebody that said certain thing on tape things that were at best predatory, at best predatory and has been accused by 12 or 14 different women of behavior. He says we lost the sacredness of religion, and he works for somebody that wanted to ban Muslims. And if he read the Sermon on the Mount he would probably think it was Martian, the president did.

And so I think part of what John Kelly did was, it was touching, but also it left wide open the question of, does he really know the guy that he works for?

RADDATZ: Eliana, do you think he was possibly was talking about President Trump or not? There has been debate about that.

ELIANA JOHNSON, POLITICO: I said this right after the fact. Look, I think John Kelly is smart enough to know that the least effective way to communicate with Trump and the get through to him is to criticize him directly. So, I -- and I also think, you know, it was clear that he was tacitly criticizing the president by -- and rebuking not only the Democratic congresswoman who politicized this, but the president who politicized the Gold Star families, first during the campaign, and then again this past week. And, who clearly is culturally coarse in the way he has talked about women and treated women in his employ and places -- in his place of work.

So, I think it's possible. I think there's a relationship between John Kelly's remarks, which I think were addressed to Trump fans and Trump critics and the former President Bush's remarks that I think were addressed to Trump fans and Trump critics alike. They're not just talking to one segment of the population.

COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: Cuturally coarse toward women is a mild way of putting it. And in a week when we're having a lot of conversation about me, too and all of that. Look, going after Congresswoman Wilson was a mistake, and that's where he really made the mistake, in my view, was saying she politicized it, and he politicizes it by going after her. And gets it wrong, by the way.

And so it's just made it so uncomfortable for all of us. Nobody wants to be in a situation where we're having a conversation about the rights and wrongs of notifying someone whose family of someone who has been killed. It's just so -- it makes it so uncomfortable.

And that's really been true throughout this presidency. We just keep being made uncomfortable over and over again.

RADDATZ: Perry, the Gold Star families aside, and indeed that was extremely uncomfortable and painful to watch, and painful to watch John Kelly having to go through that again. But, do you think, given Kelly's very political remarks, and I did try to get to this with General Petraeus, does it change how we view him, because he was so political?

PERRY BACON JR. FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: It did for me this week, a little bit. I think of him as someone who reigns in the president, or takes the president away from his more political moments. And in this case I thought Kelly reinforced it. I was surprised he went out there. I was surprised he said the things about Congresswoman Wilson. I was surprised the things that were easily refuted by a video that was released less than 24 hours later.

So, his comments were not only, you know, very political they were also inaccurate. So, I was surprised by that. And I would be surprised if Kelly does something like that again, because I think he's generally has been seen by people in Washington...

RADDATZ: So what General Petraeus was saying that he's probably right now thinking...

BACON: I think General Petraeus is right.

ROBERTS: Last night made us all feel so great. I mean, those pictures of those five presidents, none of whom, by the way, voted for Donald Trump, are standing there together and trying to do good. Is just -- that's how we feel about America. That's what we love about this country. And instead of that, what we're getting constantly is this barrage of hatred, and it's very dispiriting.

RADDATZ: And Matt, I want to talk about those comments, by the former president. How significant is that?

DOWD: Huge. I mean, I think this is just another added effect. This is something -- George W. Bush is somebody that basically disappeared for eight years during Barack Obama's term. He went back to Texas, went about his business, never said a word. Those words that he said would not have been said but for Donald Trump and what has been happening in the campaign and Steve Bannon.

I think what you have to -- what has to be recognized now by Republicans and many conservatives who have resisted Donald Trump is that the Republican Party as they know it is gone. This is a party that would never nominate Lincoln again, would never nominate Teddy Roosevelt, and certainly wouldn't nominate Ronald Reagan in this. And that party is gone.

They might as well get H.G. Wells on the line, get back in a time machine, and find the party that they think still exists. It's gone.

JOHNSON: I think that's true. And Bush's remarks jumped out to me. I know we heard from President Obama this week, and we heard from John McCain. But Bush made a point of disappearing from the public stage for eight years during the Obama presidency, and that's a courtesy that he's obviously not granting to President Trump.

And he talked not only about bigotry and conspiracy theories, but about America's role in the world. And that's a debate that Trump has -- at first Rand Paul brought it up around his election, but Trump has really brought to the fore about isolationism and internationalism. And that's something that I don't think the Republican Party has resolved. It's at the heart of the debates we're having right now. But I do think that Matt is right, that the Republican Party is at a point of deep identity crisis.

But that being said, I don't think Bush speaking up about this is really going to have very much of an effect.

ROBERTS: I agree.

JOHNSON: I think the party is going to move forward. It is the party of Trump now.

RADDATZ: OK. We're going to hold it right there. Coming up, the Roundtable weighs in on the latest fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the impact of the me too movement. Stay tuned.


RADDATZ: For the latest on politics, the White House, and President Trump, download the ABC News app now and sign up for breaking news alerts. We'll be right back with more roundtable.


RADDATZ: And we're back now with The Roundtable.

And Eliana, I want to start with you. And a few things happening on Capitol Hill this week. Mitch McConnell met with President Trump at the White House. He says he and Speaker Ryan are focused on passing tax reform. There have been efforts in the past. Is there anything unique about it this time that you think it has a prayer?

JOHNSON: I don't think so.

I mean, the meeting with Trump was unique in that I think it was an act of political theater. I think it was pretty meaningless.

But they did pass a budget vote, which the White House is very excited about, I know.

I'm bearish in general about the -- congress getting really anything done just because I don't see the president focusing in a sustained way and delivering a kind of public pressure campaign on legislative issues the the way he does on sort of the NFL or I mean, we saw the Gold Star family this week. It just seems to me that that's where his focus and energy and attention is rather than the legislative issues.

If he surprises me and does that on tax reform, there's a chance of it passing.

ROBERTS: You know, the former member of the chairman of the ways and means committee, which writes taxes, David Camp, a Republican, says health care is hard to do, and it's one-seventh of the economy. Taxes are 100 percent of the economy. They are really hard to do it. And they're trying to do it on a partisan basis, which is not the way we write tax legislation in this country.

BACON: I think it has a chance. I think this is easier than health care, because health care had the perception you were taking away something from people. Right now, if they find a way to write a tax plan that just cuts everyone's taxes and maybe increases the deficit, that can pass. So, I think -- and also the thing is the party failed on failed health care, they know that. They are really determined on the Hill.

Lindsey Graham is saying this week, you know, the party's got to pass this or we're going to lose next year. I think there's more of a focus here. The president is not focused, but I think the members of congress are more unified and more focused. And I do think something could pass.

DOWD: Martha...

RADDATZ: I knew you would have something to say.

DOWD: I just a recipe for not getting something done is this, an unpopular president pushing unpopular policy with an unpopular congress. This is a tax cut that 80 percent of the benefits go to what the top 1 percent of the country. It's not going to help the working class. It's not going to help the middle class. It's not going to pass.

RADDATZ: OK. We'll give you the last word on that. But we'll see what happens. We'll play that tape again.

I want to turn to the very serious subject of Harvey Weinstein. And it has really sparked a national conversation about sexual misconduct. We have this me too movement that didn't start with Harvey Weinstein, it started about 10 years ago. So does it really have a chance of changing anything?

ROBERTS: I doubt it. And it makes me sad to say that. I don't know a woman who has nothad some experience, I mean every single one of us has had something happen. And, for those of us who are older, we just -- a lot of it went with the territory for a very long time.

I think it's great that people are talking about. I think that it's great that some men are suffering consequences as a result of it. But I don't think that it is likely to change behavior in any significant fashion, and I'm very sorry to say that.

RADDATZ: Do you think it would change behavior?

I guess a better question is, what does it take to change behavior? There's a big question for you.

JOHNSON: A couple of things. I do think that -- people had begun to think that these sorts of things don't happen anymore. And I do think this has raised awareness of the fact that with a certain type of man, we had Roger Ailes at Fox News and Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood, that there is more tolerance for disgusting behavior because of their rare genius and talent. I think that was true with both of these guys. And I think and hope that there will be less tolerance for that sort of thing.

But what I think is so insidious about these examples is that these men were using their powerand their talents to withhold and...

ROBERTS: Abused.

JOHNSON: Abuse -- excuse me for a second, but to, you know, either advance -- women had to participate in it if they wanted their careers to advance, and they had to fear they would fail in their career were they not participating.

RADDATZ: And pretty real fears.

JOHNSON: Absolutely. And these were industries that trafficked in young, beautiful women.

And so I hope that there is more awareness of that, and then less fear among younger women to speak up, the women we've seen speak up, of course, have now already made it.

RADDATZ: And again, you get a final thought on this, and I want to go to the fact that some power of women have come out from Hollywood and said he did that to me. Should they have come out earlier?

DOWD: Absolutely, it should come out earlier. But I think much of this depends on, I think women speaking courageously and then taken seriously and then not victimized for speaking out, I think our default position should be to believe a woman that comes out as opposed to not believing them.

Keep in mind, we have a president who has the same behavior surrounding him. This is the league of predatory gentlemen, right -- it's Donald Trump, it's Bill O'Reilly, it's Roger Ailes, and it's Harvey Weinstein, all of them have problems.

But until Perry and I are the totally men at this table, until men come out and put a stop to it and say when locker room talk shouldn't exist. Boys will be boys...

RADDATZ: The men have to do their part as well.

BACON: Let me say one more time. The New York Times, the media has done a really strong job here. And I think the media may change if there are more investigations by the New York Times and the New Yorker, that can make a difference.

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much to all of you. We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: Be sure to tune in for that tomorrow morning.

And as we close, just a final thought on the controversy surrounding President Trump's call to that Gold Star family. Let me quote a friend here. Everyone keeps talking about how difficult these calls are to make, perhaps there should be more emphasis on how difficult they are to receive.

That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out World News tonight. And have a great day.