'This Week' Powerhouse Roundtable

Bill Kristol, David Remnick, Peggy Noonan, and Tavis Smiley discuss the VA Scandal.
7:48 | 06/01/14

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Transcript for 'This Week' Powerhouse Roundtable
And we're back now with the roundtable. I'm joined by bill kristol, David remnick, editor of the new Yorker, Peggy Noonan from the Wall Street journal and Tavis smiley from pbs. Bill kristol, I'm surprised the criticism coming out after this announcement. I'm impressed by the courage of the republicans willing to criticize which is an unfortunate deal made by the president of the United States. Everybody is happy to have sergeant bergdahl back. It takes some political courage to say, wait a second, let's look at the long-term national interest of the country. We hated having to do this. We don't want to set a precedent. But in this case, we reluctantly made this decision. They're spinning this as it's wonderful day for America. There's a fair point in terms of the rhetoric. David remnick, what's the alternative? Senator Cruz said there was another way to get him home. Well, I think -- look, it's a joyous occasion that he's coming home. But it's ambivalent occasion. You have to acknowledge that. What Mike Rogers says, it seems to be wrong. After all, what would those, you know, terrorists, friendly Israelis do, Israelis have released terrorists they known have killed people on any number of reasons. In order to bring home their own. For political reasons, for humanitarian reasons. So the idea that this is somehow unprecedented, in the history of the west, is just wrong. But I think you have to acknowledge that you're releasing people that are bad actors. Killers in some instances. And that has to be -- this war is coming to an end, thank god. What were we supposed to do? Leave our American soldier in custody of the Taliban? Peggy, ambassador rice said there are assurances there. But can't specify what they are. Yeah, and we're just not sure what will happen. It's hard to keep people who have been hardened terrorists and professionals and high up in their organization, it's probably going to be quite a job to make sure they don't go back to mischief. This, I think, is the cloud that comes on this story, there's the beautiful light on the fact that this young man, American soldier, is coming home. But, there is also this sense that if you are trading five known bad guys, terrorists, for the soldier, you have just told terrorists in the world and the Taliban, we can tell you now how to get your people out of gitmo, it's taking an American soldier. I'm glad Peggy raises gitmo. This is the one conversation that's not on the table. Like everybody else on the rouchbdtable, I celebrate that sergeant bergdahl is coming home. It underscores the fact that halfway through president Obama's second term this campaign promises has not been kept. Gitmo is still open. We can bedate that. Not a debate whether gitmo should still be open. There are some high-level detainees as well. Raise the questions that we're seeing in Qatar as well. I do want to move now to the big news at the end of the week, the VA, Eric shinseki resigns. Peggy, I was struck by your column on Friday, you said that this is a sign of the president's lackity in leadership. That's what you get when you have a huge, sprawling, intense, deep, wide federal government and you do not have managers slopping it into shape each day. Making speeches is a good job. You actually, if you're an executive, you have to slop this thing into shape each day. The VA scandal is systemic. I mean, I think that's very clear. It's not new. It's been going on for years. But it has worsened in the past three or four years. Somebody should have been on the case. I was very struck by Mr. Shinseki questioning the integrity of the information he had been given as the head of the VA. I think that tells you there are cultural problem with regards of what you tell the boss. You think he should have stuck with shinseki. Eric shinseki has won a purple heart, lost most of his foot in battle, his integrity and devotion to this country is not in question, but what's in question is his ruling over the VA. It has done a terrible job and it has ruled in a way that's completely ineffective. It's an outrage to the veterans themselves. A change was needed. But it's a tragic thing to see a guy like Eric shinseki have to walk out the door with a degree of shame. But I think, David, we're talking about the symptom not the problem. I'm concerned, if we don't get the diagnosis right we won't get the prognosis right. The bottom line is, Peggy, this problem has become worse because we have engaged in more wars. When you engage in more wars, you're going to have more veterans. As more veterans come home, and they're reliant upon a system that's dysfunctional, doesn't has the capacity to give them the support of what they need, the more wars the more veterans, if the system isn't equipped to deal with their needs, this problem will continue to get worse still. More veterans have come back and gone to college. How have they gone to college? The G.I. Bill. The VA is flawed. Because failed big-government bureaucracy. Funding has gone faster than the number of people they're serving. The VA needs to be fundamentally reformed. One way it can be reformed is take a voucher instead of going to the VA to get the services. Just like we did with the G.I. Do you think there needs to be a veterans university? There's no need for a huge sprawling veterans administration. I'm not suggesting it ought not to be reformed. But it's not the answer to everything. Veterans coming home, falling into poverty more and more every day. It's shameful the way we treat our veterans. Here's the real problem, this problem -- this issue becomes significant for us when veterans don't get the health care they need and we want to play politics with this. Failed by health care system that the republicans want to repeal every progress we're making to serve everyday people whether they're veterans or not. How is that failing veterans? Well, we'll have to take a break right there. In that silence.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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