Transcript: Feinstein, Chambliss, McGovern, Keane

"This Week" transcript with Feinstein, Chambliss, McGovern, Keane

ByABC News
October 09, 2009, 5:11 PM




(UNKNOWN): Barack Obama...

STEPHANOPOULOS (voice-over): A puzzling prize for peace...

OBAMA: I will accept this award as a call to action.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... as the president deliberates on war.

(UNKNOWN): What approach should we take in Afghanistan? I sayhumility.

CLINTON: There is no discussion going on about leavingAfghanistan.

GATES: The situation in Afghanistan is serious anddeteriorating.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Congress pushes forward on health care.

PELOSI: We're coming around the curve.

MCCONNELL: The bill it's referring to will never see the lightof day.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Two defining issues, two powerhouse roundtables.Afghanistan with key Senate leaders, the retired general who devisedIraq's surge and the congressman leading the charge for an exit fromAfghanistan, our "This Week" debate.

Then, health care, ethics and all the week's politics with GeorgeWill, Arianna Huffington, and our dueling strategists, Democrat DonnaBrazile and Republican Nicolle Wallace.

And, as always, the Sunday funnies.

FALLON: Along with the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama alsogets $1.4 million. Usually to get a check that big, you need toblackmail David Letterman.


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: What was the Nobel committee thinking? Whatimpact will the peace prize have on President Obama and his agenda?We're going to debate both those questions today, but we will beginwith the president's looming decision on the war in Afghanistan.

And for that, let me bring in our first roundtable. I am joinedby the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein...

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... the former vice chair of the -- the chiefsof staff for the military, Jack Keane, retired general, architect ofthe surge in Iraq, Congressman Jim McGovern from Massachusetts, theauthor of a bill calling for an exit strategy from Afghanistan, andSenator Saxby Chambliss, member of the Senate Armed Services andIntelligence Committee.

Welcome to you all.

And, Senator Feinstein, let me begin with you. You met with thepresident this week. He had a group of members of Congress andsenators down to meet with him. And I -- we -- we know -- and you sawSecretary Clinton say that, as well -- the president seems to haveruled out immediate withdrawal...

FEINSTEIN: That's correct.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... from Afghanistan or a major increase oftroops, in the hundreds of thousands. But did he reveal anything elseabout his thinking? And what did you recommend to him?

FEINSTEIN: Well, what he revealed was his thinking up to thispoint, and that the fact that he wanted to hear from various members,and some of us spoke up. And I'll tell you what I said. I reviewedall of the intelligence and looked at the situation, and it was prettyclear to me that violence was up 100 percent, 950 attacks in August.The Taliban now controls 37 percent of the people in the areas wherethese people are. Attrition in police is running 67 percent, eitherkilled or leaving the service.

And the mission is in serious jeopardy. I think GeneralMcChrystal, who is one of our very best, if not the best at this, hassaid a counterterrorism strategy will not work. The president said tous very clearly, just as you said, George, we will not pull out.

Now, if you're going to stay, you have to have a way of winning.The question is, what is that way? And I think the counterinsurgencystrategy, which means protecting the people, not shooting from afar,but securing, taking, holding, and providing security for a period oftime is really critical.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How many more troops does that take?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't know how many he's proposed. I onlyknow what I've read in the newspapers. At the same time, there has tobe a process of reconciliation. At the same time, there has to be aprocess of finding out, which of these people can we work with andwhich can we not, like the Haqqani network, which really need to betaken out? How do you grow this sort of feudal-type warlordgovernment into stability? How do you strengthen Karzai's spine, ifyou can?

And I think those are all questions that have to be put togetherinto a strategy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of questions there, Senator Chambliss.Does that lead you to believe that the president should approveGeneral McChrystal's request now?

CHAMBLISS: I don't think there's any question (inaudible) goingto have to, and I think it's the right thing to do. He sent GeneralMcChrystal over there in the spring and said, "You go see what it'slike on the ground. Give me a report, and let's devise a strategy forgoing forward." He's done that, and Dianne's exactly right. It's avery fractious government over there. It's a lot of corruption withinthe Karzai government and not much stability.

CHAMBLISS: But if we're going to move forward, we've got to dotwo things. First of all, we've got to think about the civilian sideand what we're going to do with that government. From the standpointof trying to help the Afghan people clean it up, in order to besuccessful at doing that, then we've got to quell the violence.

We've got to slow down the Taliban. That means prevailingmilitarily. And, obviously, that's where the additional resources inthe form of troops come in. That's where General McChrystal has --has recommended. And I think the president has got to follow hiscommanders on the ground...


CHAMBLISS: The situation in Iraq that Jack was very muchinvolved in is -- was not unlike where we are right now. The Iraqigovernment was very unstable. The violence was up. We stopped theviolence for the most part, and then you saw people have confidence ingovernment.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let's -- let's get into that, and I wantto bring General Keane in on that, because you were very involved inthe -- in the surge in Iraq. But there are differences, as well. Asunstable as the Iraqi government was, it did have -- the Iraqis didhave a history of having a strong central government, number one.Number two, the surge, as far as I understood it, led you to asituation where you had about one American soldier for every 100 or125 Iraqi civilians. Here, even if you approve General McChrystal's40,000, you're going to be at a 1-to-200 ratio.

So even if you approve this, will there be enough for a fullcounterinsurgency strategy, as Senator Feinstein was talking about?

KEANE: Well, first of all, you don't have to do thecounterinsurgency strategy in the entire country. The south is reallythe center of gravity of the Pashtun insurgency and also in the east.So there are areas where we can focus.

The problem we have is, we know what the defeat mechanismultimately is. It is the Afghan national security forces, just as ithas been in Iraq, with the Iraqi security forces.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They have to take the lead.

KEANE: They eventually will come in full play. The problem is,they're too small, George. Right now, we only have about 200,000, and-- and most who look at this, to include the generals, believe we needabout 400,000. If that's the case, we can't get there until 2013,2012 at the earliest.

In the meantime, to put the counterinsurgency strategy in play,we need the additional U.S. forces. That's -- that's why this issuenow is so pregnant, in terms of timing, because we cannot wait forthat strategy to take hold.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me -- let me bring that question toCongressman McGovern. You and 99 other members of Congress havecalled now for an exit strategy, want that exit strategy by the end ofthis year. Does that mean that you can't accept more troops now as acomponent of an exit strategy later, if, indeed, the final exitstrategy means you need Afghan forces built up?

KEANE: Well, I think adding more -- more American forces to --to Afghanistan would be a mistake. I think it would becounterproductive. And I think there's a strong case to be made thatthe larger our military footprint, the more difficult it is to achievereconciliation. And, quite frankly, it's been used as a recruitingtool by the Taliban.

The reason why we want an exit strategy is in part because I wanta clearly defined mission, and that means a beginning, a middle, atransition period, and an end. And we don't have an end inAfghanistan.

When I voted to use force to go to war after 9/11, I think I andeveryone else in Congress voted to go after Al Qaida. That was ourenemy. And Al Qaida has now moved to a different neighborhood, inPakistan, where, quite frankly, they're more protected. And we'retold by General Jones that there are less than 100, if that, membersof Al Qaida left in Afghanistan.

So we're going to need to -- so we're -- we're now saying weshould have 100,000 American forces to go after less than 100 membersof Al Qaida in Afghanistan? I think we need to re-evaluate ourpolicy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That leads to -- that leads to a key questionthat I know the White House was debating, actually, this week. Inorder to defeat Al Qaida, do you need to completely defeat the Talibanor can you learn to live with the Taliban?

What's your answer to that question, Senator Feinstein?

FEINSTEIN: I think it depends on what you mean by "Taliban." Ithink if you take the Haqqani network, which I gather was generallyresponsible for the bombing of the interior ministry in Kabul, I thinkthey're hardcore fanatics.

If you look back, too, at Taliban control, when it had more inthe earlier days, and I've got to tell you, I particularly worry aboutwomen in Afghanistan, acid in their face of children, girl childrenwho go to school, women who can't work when they're widowed, huddledon the streets, begging, women beaten and shot in stadiums, you know,Sharia law with all of its violence, I mean, that's one element of the-- of the Taliban.

I think we need to look for those warlords that we can work with,those Pashtuns who want to work for stability, for good, solidgovernance. I don't think we can make the country into a Jeffersoniandemocracy, but I do think you -- you've got to stabilize this country.

You leave this country, and the Taliban are increasing all of thetime. They're taking over more. It will have a dramatic impact onPakistan one day. I really believe that.

FEINSTEIN: Now, should we stay there for 10, 12 years? General,I don't think so. I don't think the American people are up for thator want that. But I think -- I don't know how you put somebody in whowas as crackerjack as General McChrystal, who gives the president verysolid recommendations, and not take those recommendations if you'renot going to pull out.

If you don't want to take the recommendations, then you -- you --you put your people in such jeopardy, just like the base in Nuristan.We lost eight of our men. We didn't have the ability to defend them,and now the base is closing, and effectively we're -- we're retreatingaway from it. And so I think the decision has to be made sooner,rather than later.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you've got Democrat and Republican agreeingto accept the McChrystal recommendations right now. I think part ofthe reason, though, Senator Chambliss, that the president is at leastrethinking this right now is that concern that -- that CongressmanMcGovern talked about, about the footprint, about your increasing the-- the number of troops in a way that might be counterproductive, thatmight drive more people into the arms of the Taliban.

CHAMBLISS: Well, you're not going to increase the footprint justfor the sake of adding more troops. It's got to be done for the rightpurpose, and obviously, that's what the president's got underconsideration right now.

Two things, though. One, we've got an Afghan citizen that issimply a better fighter than what we had in Iraq. And I think we havethe opportunity to train those folks at a quicker pace than what wedid in Iraq and, ultimately, turn the -- both the military and the --and the police over to the Afghan people to run that country. That'sour goal there.

Secondly, you can't de-link Pakistan and Afghanistan. They arecoupled together. If Afghanistan falls, if we pull out and it goestotally in the hands of the Taliban, it doesn't make any differencewhether there are 100 Al Qaida in there right now or not or whetherthere are 1,000 across the board or in -- going back and forth. Weknow that the neighboring country has the opportunity to be reallyinvaded or encroached upon by bad guys.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to that question. I'm going tobring that to General Keane, as well.

But, first, Senator Feinstein raises a question that -- that I dowant to ask you about. How does President Obama put GeneralMcChrystal in, say that, "I want you to implement thiscounterterrorism strategy with a counterinsurgency element, as well,"and then not take his recommendations? You served in the military.What are the pressures like right now? And what does GeneralMcChrystal do if the president rejects his recommendation?

KEANE: Well, I can't speak for what General McChrystal's, youknow, reaction would be to a presidential decision that opposed him.I can say this. I mean, if you're a general on the ground, then youbelieve that a recommendation you made is the -- is the winningrecommendation in terms of strategy that'll accomplish the goals thatyou've been assigned.

And then you're told that you cannot execute that and ask thetroops to go out and do something else that you don't believe willaccomplish those goals, that gets very difficult, in terms of a moraldilemma, asking your troops to do something you believe is going tofail.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you resign?

KEANE: That would be up to face that. I mean, that's somethingpersonal for every general...


STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that what you would do in that situation?

KEANE: Probably, yes, under those circumstances, yes. But thefact of the matter is, you know, the -- presidents have a right tomake decisions, George. And one of the recommendations they get all(ph) from generals. That's -- that's the reality. And the presidentalso has a right to take information from -- from other sources toinform those decisions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And it -- and it's my understanding that that'sactually what's happening inside the White House review right now andthat several other options, in addition to what General McChrystal hasalready put forward, are likely to be generated.

So I want to bring that question back to you, CongressmanMcGovern. If the president lays out a clear mission, a focusedmission on Al Qaida, if he determines the -- and if puts a time limiton that mission, says that we're not going to be there forever, andthen -- but also says that we do need some -- 10,000, 12,000, maybeeven 20,000 troops to implement that strategy -- what would be wrongwith that? And could you go along with it?

MCGOVERN: Well, I'd have to wait and see the details of whateverhe comes up with. But, look, nobody's talking about cutting andrunning in Afghanistan and -- and this notion that if we lessen ourmilitary footprint, that somehow the Taliban is going to come back incontrol, I think, is wrong.

We have been in this war for 8 years. We have spent hundreds ofbillions of dollars. We have lost a great deal in terms of U.S. bloodand treasure already. We have trained their military; we have trainedtheir police.

One of the central problems in Afghanistan right now is you havea government that is corrupt and incompetent. And according to PeterGalbraith, who just got fired by the United Nations for beingoutspoken, 30 percent of Karzai's vote -- votes are fraudulent. Youknow, if you don't have good governance at the center of all of this,you can put all the troops you want in there, you can invest all themoney you want in there, and it won't make any difference.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't that right, Senator Chambliss?

CHAMBLISS: I don't think there's any question but what (ph)that's right. And that's why you've got to approach this from a dualpoint of view. Number one, you've got to stop the violence. If youdon't stop the violence, then, you know, we -- we can't hope for ahealing to take place in Afghanistan and hope for the people to takeover that government.

It is corrupt; there's no question about it. But we know, too,that if we don't prevail there, we have the opportunity for the badguys to come in and have access to nuclear weapons next door. Wecan't afford for that to happen.

We know that there is a training opportunity for Al Qaida inAfghanistan if we're not there, as well as in Pakistan. We can'tafford for that to happen.

So it's clear that, from a military standpoint, we've got tolisten to the guys on the ground who have the opportunity and theknow-how to make sure that those things don't happen.

One other component of this that we haven't given enough talk to,I think, is the civilian side. You have to remember that the Afghanpeople have a literacy rate of somewhere in the high teens or low 20s.That is -- there's no way for those people to develop any kind ofeconomy. The economy in Iraq this year is going to be about $900billion. The economy in Afghanistan, $900 million.

We've got to stop the violence, work towards influencing the --the Afghan people to make sure they take their government back anddevelop an economy for the long term. That's going to take a while...


STEPHANOPOULOS: It's going to take a while. It's going to takea lot of money. But -- and you -- you do have to put a cost-benefitanalysis on any decision like this. And this is something raisedinternally by Vice President Biden.

There's a report in Newsweek this morning -- it's actually on thecover of Newsweek, where the vice president is pointing out that thisyear we're going to spend about $65 billion in Afghanistan, about$2.25 billion in Pakistan. And according to the report in Newsweek,this is what the vice president went on to say in the NationalSecurity Council meeting: "By my calculations, that's a 30-to-1 ratioin favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question: Al Qaida is almostall in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for everydollar we're spending in Pakistan, we're spending $30 in Afghanistan.Does that make strategic sense?"

What's the answer?

FEINSTEIN: Well, this whole situation is a bit of a conundrum.I basically agree with Senator Chambliss in what he said. I thinkreconciliation -- the first thing has to be to stop the violence. Ithas to be security. The Taliban has to know it cannot take over allof Afghanistan because the next step in Pakistan. And that's veryserious.

And the Pakistanis are only recently beginning to show, I think,their mettle. I think Swat was a big wake-up call for them. Ilistened to the Pakistani foreign minister yesterday, and they -- theyseemed to have much more get-up-and-go, to really be -- be able towork with us in securing some of the FATA areas and other -- otherareas. So I think that -- that's really critical.

This is not an easy situation. Nothing is straightforward. Ourallies have 39,000 troops. That's a lot of people over there. They,I gather, will continue their involvement on that level. I think weought to press for them to increase it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not going to happen.

FEINSTEIN: I think obviously -- I know it's not, butfinancially, we ought to have more financing from the rest of theworld community. We cannot be everyone's gatekeeper, everyone'spoliceman, and I think what's lacking in the world is someuniversality of putting together movements which can change thedynamics in difficult situations.

STEPHANOPOULOS: General Keane, what do we do now in Pakistan?Three major attacks in the last week. Yesterday, the most brazenattack yet, the insurgents take over their army headquarters. Itwould be like coming in to the Pentagon. And how do you see theinterrelationship between putting more troops in Afghanistan andputting more pressure on the situation in -- in Pakistan?

KEANE: Yes, the elephant in the room with Pakistan -- and, also,to a certain degree, with Afghanistan -- has always been, their lackof understanding that we're going to stay in that region. They --they're not sure we are.

And -- and given our track record in Afghanistan and also inPakistan, there's reason for that skepticism. That's why Musharrafand this regime to this day has a hedging strategy with the Taliban.We have to convince them that we're there, that Pakistan's stabilityis in our national interest. And we also have to prove that, as well,by stabilizing Afghanistan.

I agree with the senators. If we ever lost in Afghanistan, thatcontributes directly to destabilizing Pakistan. So our actions inAfghanistan relate clearly to Pakistan.

KEANE: The other thing, to get specifically to your point, we'restarting to make some headway with Kiyani and the generals inPakistan, to pull forces away from the Indian front, so to speak. Wehave great difficulty convincing them that the major threat to thenation-state is, in fact, the ranging insurgency inside the nation-state and not the external threat of India. To us, it's self-evident,but to them it's not.


KEANE: And that's the reality of it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're just about out of time. I want to go oncearound the table with this question: What's the one thing you wantPresident Obama to have in mind as he makes these decisions?

CHAMBLISS: Our troops and the stability of our troops and -- andthe fact that we're giving our troops what they need. And I mean,from the top down, we've got to make a decision from the leadershipstandpoint whether we're giving more troops, but we've still got tomake that commitment of making sure that we're enforcing andreinforcing them like we need to.

MCGOVERN: I would urge them to keep in mind that stabilizingAfghanistan should not mean and does not mean enlarging our militaryfootprint there. I think it would be counterproductive.

I also think we're going bankrupt. We have wars in Iraq, inAfghanistan, hundreds of billions of dollars that are all going on toour credit card. Our kids and our grandkids are paying for this. Youknow, we need to be smarter about where we deploy our -- ourresources. And I think enlarging our military footprint inAfghanistan would be a mistake.

We need to come up with a strategy that includes an exit strategybecause it'll also put pressure on the government of Afghanistan tostep up to the plate, which it has not done so far.

KEANE: Well, I think he has the opportunity to be decisive, interms of our national interest in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan.The reality is, since 2003, when we shifted our priority to Iraq,Afghanistan has been a distant second priority. Now those resourcesare available to make it the main effort, and that we should do, andthat's what I mean by -- he now has the opportunity to be decisive, tocontrol the outcome in Afghanistan, and we can get the outcome that wedesire. FEINSTEIN: He said we're going to stay. If we stay, we cannotlose. What strategy, what tactics give us the best chance to carryout the mission? And the mission has to be to stop the violence andsecure the country and see that you have an honest government that canbegin to take care of its people. And to me, that's the plan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you all very much. Difficult problem,very enlightening discussion.

The roundtable is next, George Will, Arianna Huffington, DonnaBrazile, Nicolle Wallace. And later, the Sunday funnies.



(UNKNOWN): President Barack Obama for his extraordinary...

(UNKNOWN): This is the committee's preaching to America.

(UNKNOWN): Obama's ideas and principles are very much theprinciples of the Norwegian Nobel committee.

OBAMA: I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of somany of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize.

GORE: I think it's extremely well deserved.

LIMBAUGH: He's not only the first post-racial president. He'salso the nation's first post-accomplishment president.

MCCAIN: I'm sure the president understands that he now has evenmore to -- to live up to.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Another Friday, another shocker. Everyone's gotan opinion. Let me bring in the roundtable on all this.

I am joined, as always, by George Will, Nicolle Wallace, formercommunications director in the Bush White House, Arianna Huffington ofthe Huffington Post, and Donna Brazile.

And -- and, George, I have to confess, when I found out aboutthis, I first wanted to know what White House thought. The next thingI wanted to know, what you thought, given your history with the NobelPrize committee.

WILL: Well, the Nobel Prize committee would with this decisionhave forfeited its reputation for seriousness if it had a reputationfor seriousness. The president has a problem in Afghanistan. He hasa real problem in Scandinavia, first Copenhagen, then Oslo.

The award set off a global cry of two words: For what? Well,the committee answered that. They said, after 263 days of hispresidency, but, really, after 11 days, because the -- it was February1st that the nomination list closed, he was honored for values andattitudes -- notice the word "attitudes" -- values and attitudesshared by a majority of the world's population. This is an award forattitudinizing.

BRAZILE: It is well deserved, because after 11 days...

WILL: Well deserved?

BRAZILE: Come on, George. I am a forward-looking optimisticperson, and the president has -- in my judgment, he has -- it is notonly well deserved, but he must also earn it.

George, in 11 days, President Obama overturned many of thepolicies that much of the world disliked. He ended -- banned torture.He proposed closing down Gitmo Bay.

WILL: You mention Gitmo?

BRAZILE: And he -- yes. Yes. It's a proposal, and he has towork with members of Congress and states to get it finally closed.


BRAZILE: He closed secret prisons, CIA prisons across the globe.And he reversed the global gag rule. So, yes, in 11 days, hecommitted a great deal...


STEPHANOPOULOS: Nicolle, Donna went even farther than thepresident...


BRAZILE: He was humbled and surprised. I was shocked and -- andexcited.

WALLACE: I love Donna Brazile.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he did, I think, take out some of the stingof whatever embarrassment might have been felt by coming right out on-- on Friday and saying, "I don't think I deserve this."

WALLACE: "I didn't deserve it." Right, there wasn't a debate inthis country about whether he deserved it or not because he came outand said he did not.

But, look, I think Republicans have to resist the irresistibletemptation to be too snarky with this, because I think it is often anoutside event that a White House -- you know, White House stafferswork hundreds -- you know, over 100 hours a week, but it is often thatoutside event that you never saw coming that crystallizes a narrativethat undermines a president.

And I think, in this case, you know, the ads that the McCaincampaign ran against the one who would part the seas and heal thewaters and the air, you know, this is really an affirmation of thatcaricature. And I think, no matter what they do, I don't know thatthey'll ever be able to get beyond the image of Obama, the one --style over substance.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, they -- but they clearly seemed aware ofthat, which is, I think, what drove the president's statement onFriday. But, Arianna, it does lead to the question of what kind ofimpact this has on the president's agenda going forward. And,clearly, the Nobel committee wanted to encourage the kinds ofdecisions that Donna was citing there.

HUFFINGTON: But, you know, my first reaction was actually tocringe on the grounds that this wasn't hubris, this wasn't egos flyingtoo close to the sun. This was another theme in Greek mythology,George, which is, when there's too much good fortune piled on someone,the gods get jealous and they want revenge. And so it really...

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the revenge is the Nobel Peace Prize here?

HUFFINGTON: And the revenge is whatever is going to happen next.And the -- and the revenge could be in the form of Afghanistan,because if the president makes the wrong decision in Afghanistan andescalates, this could be a bloodshed, an attack on civiliansinevitably that will make giving Henry Kissinger the Nobel Prize in'73 seem OK.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me -- let me press you on that -- on the --on the politics of that, we don't know. But if that idea were lurkingsomewhere in the minds of those in the Nobel committee, I don't thinkthey understand the country. I mean, if anything -- I don't there'sgoing to be political impact here at all. I think the president willbe disciplined about making a decision for non-political reasons. Butif anything, this would drive him into the arms of General McChrystal,wouldn't it?

HUFFINGTON: Well, I hope it doesn't. I mean, I hope that he isgoing to make a decision based on the best interests of this countryrather than on what the Nobel Prize committee did.

But there's no question, listening to the roundtable here thismorning, that in the end there's going to be so much pressure on himthat he's not going to be able to withstand, to split the difference.And that's what's problematic about this White House. Splitting thedifference is not leadership.

At some point, you've got to be on one side or the other. He'sgot to listen to George Will. This issue is beyond left and right.And there are many conservatives who actually recognize that this isimperialism that has absolutely no good point to be made for Americannational security.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The -- the only thing that probably you andGeorge will -- will agree on in this -- in this season...

WILL: And I wouldn't quite characterize my position as anti-imperialism at this point. But I -- I want to go back to somethingyou said about the narrative.

If there is a narrative that's developing that's -- that'sproblematic for this presidency, it is the belief that there is a cult-- in which the presidency, president himself, is a communicant --that is entirely detached from accomplishment, that this is entirely apresentational presidency, and that's where we come down to.

Just -- just -- I mean, the president -- today there are moreAmerican troops in Iraq and Afghanistan combined than there were whenthe winner of the Nobel Peace Prize became president.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, this is not just about BarackObama. It's about the movement he represents, the movement forchange, the movement that ignited so many ordinary citizens to take tothe streets and get out to vote for the first time.

I think the Nobel committee also recognized that this was a newera in American politics, an era that will defined more about ourengagement with the rest -- with the rest of the world and not ourisolation.

So I think there's something much larger than just giving one mana prize. It's acknowledging that there's something else going on inthis country.

HUFFINGTON: But, Donna, you're in touch with this movement, andyou know this movement is deeply disillusioned, and this movement isdisillusioned on many fronts.

The fact is that, right now, it appears there are two set of lawsin America. One applies to Wall Street and the powerful inWashington; and one applies to the rest of America. And it's notclear where Barack Obama is. Increasingly, it appears that it iswhere Larry Summers and Wall Street is, while millions are losingtheir jobs, their homes are being foreclosed, their credit cards arebeing defaulted on. And where he is? Where is his leadership?

BRAZILE: I think that is -- that is, in essence, what the WhiteHouse must now grapple with as they not only come to a decision aboutAfghanistan, but as they confront, really, a big problem in thiscountry, and that is the rising number of unemployed Americans.

The movement clearly want the president to act boldly and to takeon the status quo and not to allow this need for bipartisan or need tocompromise to rule his agenda. That's been the problem.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the -- the chair of the RepublicanNational Committee, Michael Steele, in his first statement -- and heprobably took it a little too far, was a little too sharp, but he didgo straight to jobs and the economy. And I think that's why, allthings being equal, the White House probably would prefer the NobelPrize for economics so they could focus more -- more on -- on jobs.

WALLACE: That's right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But how -- how big of a problem is this for thepresident now?

WALLACE: Well, look, the other problem with the movement is thatit's shrinking, and it's not nearly as exciting to support anincumbent president as a candidate for president.

So, you know, I think there was a joke during the Bush years thatbeing president is hard work. And I think Obama is confronting thesame reality.

But, you know, I think to the extent that he has become insulatedfrom the gritty realities, I think that is furthered by this prize. Ithink when you are adored by European capitals and viewed as detachedfrom the concerns of everyday Americans, that is never good for apresident.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meanwhile, you talk about...

BRAZILE: But there's no evidence that he's detached.

WALLACE: Well, the approval numbers are down to 50 percent from78 percent. So I think there is evidence that he is losing touch...


STEPHANOPOULOS: It's between 50 percent and 60 percent.

HUFFINGTON: Yes, I don't think that's the main proof, though.The main proof is that the special interests that he ostensibly cameto Washington to counter are more powerful than ever. The banks thathad to be bailed out to the tune of trillions of dollars are actuallywriting laws in Congress, watering down foreclosure amendments, arewatering down credit card reform. What happened?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, in fact, on Friday, the other event thepresident had was coming out for this Consumer Financial ProtectionAgency...

HUFFINGTON: Which has already been watered down.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They're trying to water it down. He's pushingfor it.

HUFFINGTON: And were it not -- were it not for Elizabeth Warren,who's a real American heroine, who is actually driving this reform,this would have been even further watered down.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you've got to give the president creditfor pushing it. He is out there pushing it.

WILL: Here's the problem, Arianna, is that the Democrats whocontrol the Senate and the Democrats who control the House and theDemocrats who control the White House, what is the problem with thischange you don't seem to be believing in?

HUFFINGTON: Well, this problem is that we have a Washingtonbipartisanship that exists only when it comes to how laws are made.The power of lobbyists in this city is really overwhelming. I mean,millions of dollars...

WILL: You think there's excessive bipartisanship? HUFFINGTON: ... are spent every day...

WILL: That's your...

HUFFINGTON: On -- in this one issue, in this one issue of howlaws are made.

WILL: How many Republicans voted for the stimulus?


HUFFINGTON: In this one issue of the power of special interests,that's bipartisan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- and we're about to see how many vote forhealth care. I'm going to switch topics here right now, because youtalked about gritty realities. There was some grinding forward onhealth care this week, the Senate Finance Committee likely to vote onTuesday.

After a -- a report from the Congressional Budget Office, whichkind of affirmed some of the president's goals in -- in this FinanceCommittee legislation, says it will reduce the deficit by $81 billionover 10 years, cost about $829 billion. And -- and the White House isnow trying to get at this issue of -- of partisanship by pointing toRepublicans who are supporting their efforts of reform.


(UNKNOWN): Bob Dole said, "I want this to pass. We've got to dosomething." Bill Frist said that, if he were still in the Senate, "Iwould end up voting for it." Tommy Thompson said that failure toreach an agreement on health care reform this year is not anacceptable option. But some Republicans are siding with the insurancecompanies and just saying no to health insurance reform.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, as ads are wont to do, that left out someother comments by those same gentlemen who indicated that they hadreal problems with -- with some of the bills. But there does seem tobe momentum behind the president's efforts. This week, more of thoseRepublicans out of office coming behind it. It appears it will passthe Finance Committee and a change in the psychology among Democrats,feeling now this really will pass, this is going to happen this year.

WILL: Well, the CBO report was very important because it said itwill only -- a new way of thinking -- only be $829 billion. But theCongressional Budget Office, a real nest of honest people in thistown, did what they are statutorily required to do, that is take thebill at face value, at what it says will happen will happen.

But what the bill says is, the most expensive provisions begin in2013. The 10 years they priced it for were 2010 through 2019.Therefore, an honest accounting of this, which the -- the bill waswritten to prevent -- an honest accounting would say, in the first 10years of the full implementation of this, it would be $1.3 trillion.Now, they -- they wanted to get below $1 trillion. They didn't comeclose by an honest accounting.

HUFFINGTON: You know, it's really always interesting what wesend to CBO and what we don't. Like, we did not say to CBO, can youplease tell us what's going to happen if we go into Iraq? Can youplease tell us what's going to happen if we escalate in Afghanistan?Or can you please tell us what will happen if we desegregate theschools?

Whenever we consider something really important...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it's not really their job, but I'll takeyour point.

HUFFINGTON: Whenever we consider anything really important inthis country, we do it. So this is one of those fundamental reformsthat needs to happen. My problem with the Max Baucus bill is that itwas really written by the health insurance industry. It does notinclude a public option. It concedes a lot to pharma. And,basically, it's not going to bring about the cost containment that isessential if there's going to be real reform. There is no competitionallowed in it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is one of the questions, Donna. Anotherone is that part of the way that it achieves this deficit reductionover the first 10 years and the second 10 years is with this tax oninsurance companies, the high-priced health insurance plans. Now it'san excise on -- on insurance companies.

And that's the only way you could get real deficit reduction, yetyou've got at least 170 Democrats in the House who say there's no waythey're going to go along with it.

BRAZILE: George, I do believe, at the end of the day, that issueis going to be resolved, because the White House is clearly engaged atthis point, whereas before they took -- they had a hands-off approach,let the committees handle all of the details. Now that we're -- we'reat the -- the final leg of this -- this jigsaw puzzle, the SenateFinance Committee, the White House will be working side by side withReid, Baucus, Dodd to produce a leadership bill that meet all of their-- the goals that the president stated from day one, which was to makeit deficit-neutral, to bring down the costs, more choice incompetition, and if you like what you have, you can keep it, if youdon't have anything, you'll have more -- more options.

Now, that said, I do believe that this issue of reducing theoverall costs of the Medicare expenditure, that is -- that is acontentious issue. Should we tax the -- the Cadillac plans? Shouldwe give more tax credits to the middle class so that they can affordhealth insurance? These issues will be resolved, but I'm confident,at the end of the day, the president will have something on his deskby Christmas.

WILL: Donna, they have been -- Congress has been required by lawto cut Medicare since 2003 and always puts it off. What makes youthink they're going to cut it now?

BRAZILE: I do believe this administration, working withCongress, it's on the table, George. It's on the table.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that -- that -- that could end up beingpolitically perilous for Democrats going into next year. But Iwonder, Nicolle, to flip the question around, you saw the ad by theDNC right there.

WALLACE: It looks like a tryout reel for "Dancing with theStars."

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, a lot of former...



STEPHANOPOULOS: ... a lot of -- a lot of serious formerRepublicans all saying, "Get behind this effort." Isn't there somepolitical peril for the Republican Party in being seen as not part ofthis process?

WALLACE: Well, I think it exposes the degree to which theDemocrats have successfully mischaracterized the Republican positionon health care. All Republicans are not against reform; they'reagainst this reform.

And I think this health care debate has brought Obama down toEarth. His numbers came down to Earth when the American publicstarted to seriously contemplate an expanded role of the federalgovernment in their health care.

And I think what's happening in Washington is certainly a focuson -- on the Baucus bill, but what's happening in America isincreasing anxiety, not decreasing anxiety, about an expanded role forthe federal government in the way they receive health care.

HUFFINGTON: But that -- but that anxiety is really the anxietyabout what's happening in people's lives and the anxiety about wherethis administration put its priority, in terms of how much we gave toWall Street. There is an opportunity cost in everything.

The fact that we gave trillions to Wall Street in order to saveWall Street -- there has been no connection to the real economy.Remember...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the White House is -- and I think theywould concede that. But what does the president do about it now onhealth care?

HUFFINGTON: But it's -- it's very significant, because the angerthat we've seen unleashed is very related -- the minute you asked thesecond question -- to the bailout. And the fact that this is nowfocused on health care, it's because that is what is on the table. But the president needs to address this. He cannot ignore thefact that we saved Wall Street in order to save the real economy, andthere has been no credit extended to the real economy, to small-business people, to families, any of that that was supposed to be thereason for saving them.

WILL: Let me give an alternative explanation of why people areanxious. Why? Only 1 in 5 Americans believes that under the billproposed their insurance would be improved. This is a $1.3 trillionprogram that leaves 25 million Americans still uninsured and includes,for example, $40 billion tax on the makers of medical devices.

Now, we all know, Arianna, corporations do not pay taxes; theycollect taxes. It will be passed on as a cost of doing business tothe great American public, which was, the president said, immune fromany tax increases.

BRAZILE: Once again, we're arguing maintaining the status quo,which I think everyone agrees is -- is unsustainable. Going back towhat Nicolle said, 80 percent -- some Republicans are saying theyagree with 80 percent of the bill. Well, fine. Let's get behind the80 percent that they support. They want more...

WALLACE: Well, Democrats control everything. I mean, I think ifthat's what the Democrats suggested...


BRAZILE: Well, and -- and -- and, look, the -- look, the...

WALLACE: That's not on the table, Donna.

BRAZILE: And -- and -- and let me just say this. TheRepublicans have had plenty of opportunities in the committees to putforward their ideas, and the Democrats have incorporated many of thoseideas in this bill. It's time for the Republicans to either put analternative on the table or to just basically say that they want tokeep the status quo, which means, for women, especially women my ageand under, that we will continue to pay higher premiums just becausewe're female.

HUFFINGTON: But, Donna, you know, there's really no point inpassing a bill that will be called reform, but will not be reform. Wedid that with education, remember...

BRAZILE: I agree.

HUFFINGTON: ... and nothing was reformed. And I think that'swhere we are headed. There will be some bill passed. There won't bea real public option. There will be a trigger or an opt-out or somecompromise. But in the end, we'll water it down.


STEPHANOPOULOS: ... part of a big political problem thepresident faces now, though? I mean, I -- I think that, you know -- Ithink the psychology that's going to take hold among Democrats in --in the House especially is the idea that, even if they have some ofthe concerns you have, that failure is not an option, that if -- if --if the Democrats and the White House fail here, the entire enterprisegoes under. As a supporter of President Obama, aren't you concernedabout that?

HUFFINGTON: Well, politically, in terms of 2010, I think it willbe very problematic, but this administration and the Democrats arefacing so many problems when it comes to 2010, including CharlieRangel, that I don't know what they're going to start focusing on. Imean, they have a real problem.

The approval of Congress is now down to 21 percent. It fell 10points over the last month. So either they're really going to standup for the change for which they were supposedly elected or they'regoing to be part of the problem and part of the status quo.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've brought me to my next issue, becausethere were two big ethics issues up this week. Charlie Rangel, thechairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, facing a series ofquestions about whether he reported income that he received for rentalproperties, whether he had the right disclosure of -- of -- of otherassets. The Ethics Committee announced that they were expanding aninvestigation after the House rejected a resolution criticizing himfor that.

Also, Senator John Ensign of Nevada facing questions aboutwhether he helped the husband of a former staffer -- another formerstaffer get jobs and lobbying contracts to cover up his affair withthe former staffer. Here's how they responded.


RANGEL: What is normally done is members wait until the EthicsCommittee completes its investigation and its report. That's what I'mhoping happens with the Republicans.

ENSIGN: We absolutely did nothing except for comply exactly withwhat the ethics laws and the ethics rules of the Senate state.


STEPHANOPOULOS: George, Ensign down to 22 percent support in hisown state, but it seems like, at least in the short run, more problemsfor the Democrats with Congressman Rangel, chairman of the Ways andMeans Committee, has tax issues. Now they've had to vote on theseresolutions I think at least twice and are starting to lose a littlebit of Democratic support. A couple leaked away.

WILL: Charlie Rangel is a genuine war hero, a delightful person,intelligent and a good committee chairman, but his committee writesthe tax laws. And there are some niggling people out there who thinkthose who write the tax laws ought to abide by them. Seventy-fivethousand dollars in -- in income that taxes were not paid on. Heunderestimated by about half his assets on his disclosure form toCongress. Do the rules mean anything at all? BRAZILE: Well, Mr. Rangel has admitted his mistakes, and he hascalled for this inquiry. I don't think we should adjudicate this onthe House or Senate floor, in terms of Mr. Ensign. You know, thereare other investigations.

Jerry Lewis from California is under -- he's under investigationby the Department of Justice. He's a Republican accused of sellingearmarks to family members and friends. Sam Graves from Missouri isunder investigation. You know, we will always have some form ofhanky-panky corruption up there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hence, Congress's low approval rating.


BRAZILE: But -- but I do believe, at the end of the day, that if-- if these -- especially for the leadership, they will have to decideat some point if Mr. Rangel needs to step aside, in terms of hischairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. I think the speaker andothers are waiting for some action by the Ethics Committee before theytake...


STEPHANOPOULOS: And they want to get through health care, but ithas to happen before 2010.

Fifteen seconds.

HUFFINGTON: Fifteen seconds, they should decide it on Mondaymorning. He should step down from his chairmanship of the Ways andMeans Committee if they want to improve their chances for 2010.Otherwise, they might see their approval rating come down to singledigits.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You guys continue this in the green room. Youcan all follow it later on and get our daily newsletterall week long, also on


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