'This Week' Transcript: Ambassador Susan Rice and Sen. Ted Cruz

<b>Below is the rush transcript of "This Week" on June 1, 2014. It may contain e

ByABCNEWS (syndicate)
May 31, 2014, 1:49 PM
PHOTO: ABC News Contributor and The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, The Wall Street Journal Columnist Peggy Noonan, The New Yorker Editor David Remnick, and Television and Radio Host Tavis Smiley on 'This Week'
ABC News Contributor and The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, The Wall Street Journal Columnist Peggy Noonan, The New Yorker Editor David Remnick, and Television and Radio Host Tavis Smiley on 'This Week'
ABC News

June 1, 2014&#151; -- Below is the rush transcript of "This Week" on June 1, 2014. It may contain errors.


ANNOUNCER: ABC's This Week, breaking news.


ANNOUNCER: American POW Bowe Bergdahl finally free. His dramatic release. And new controversy, was it an illegal trade for terrorists? The latest details on how it happened from our team around the globe and the presidential adviser at the center of the swap.

Then, Senator Ted Cruz here live. The Tea Party star taking on the president, Hillary Clinton and his Republican rivals.

Shakeup -- the VA chief quits. What's next in the shocking scandal?

Plus, phenomenal woman -- our last interview with a legend.

From ABC News This Week with George Stephanopoulos begins now.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: America's last prisoner of war is heading home. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl landing in Germany this morning, his first full day of freedom after nearly five years in captivity.

Lots of questions this morning about the secret deal that secured his release and the price America paid. We're going to get to those with the president's national security adviser Susan Rice.

First, all the latest details from ABC's chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz. Good morning, Martha.


Sergeant Bergdahl is being evaluated at the U.S. military hospital in Germany this morning before returning to American soil. The president making a stunning announcement of the release Saturday in an appearance in the Rose Garden with Bergdahl's parents.

U.S. special operations forces were involved in getting Bergdahl out of Afghanistan. But this was a special operations raid, this was a prisoner swap. Bergdahl was exchanged for five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo. The special operations forces picked up Bergdahl Saturday near the Pakistan border in a secret handover after negotiations through intermediaries with the Taliban.

There were nearly 20 Taliban there to hand him over to the special ops teams. Bergdahl was taken out by helicopter. On that noisy ride, Bergdahl scrawling on a paper plate SF with a question mark, meaning are you special forces?

Bergdahl broke down in tears when he was told yes and that they had been looking for him for a long time, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Back in Washington, Martha, a chorus of criticism from Republicans in congress on the trade. They say it was deal with terrorists, breaking policy. They also say the president may have broken the law.

RADDATZ: Yeah, top Republicans like Senator John McCain and house intelligence committee chair Mike Rogers have both said they are thankful for Bergdahl's release. But take a look at this statement from Rogers, "I am extremely troubled that the United States negotiated with terrorists. I believe this decision will threaten the lives of American soldiers for years to come."

As for the legality, there are allegations by some in Congress the president broke the law by not giving congress the required 30 day notice that detainees were to be released from Guantanamo.

But Chuck Hagel saying this morning, Bergdahl's health was in danger.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Martha Raddatz, thanks very much.

The debate just getting started in Washington, but in Bowe Bergdahl's Idaho hometown, nothing but happiness this morning. They're ready to welcome him home with yellow ribbons and a huge rally. Here's ABC's Neal Karlinsky.


NEAL KARLINSKY, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: For five long years, Bowe Bergdahl's parents have been waiting for this day to hear that their son was free from his Taliban captors, never imagining they'd be at the White House.

OBAMA: Wonder. It's a good day.


KARLINSKY: In their hometown of Hailey Idaho, people were overwhelmed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today was just -- it's a -- I think everybody to burst into tears or couldn't get a silly grin off their faces.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't put makeup on for about four hours, I was crying with joy just for hours. I mean, it was just -- it was such a relief.

SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL, U.S. ARMY: I'm afraid I might never see them again.

KARLINSKY: The only sign of Bergdahl has been in scarce video snippets of the then 23-year-old American soldier who went missing under mysterious circumstances in June of 2009. There are reports he may have been off base at the time.

BOWE BERGDAHL: Release me. Please. I'm begging you. Bring me home.

KARLINSKY: The Bergdahls rarely appeared in public, but waged a relentless behind the scenes campaign to get Bowe released, speaking at a rally last year.

JANI BERGDAHL: Bowe, you are not forgotten. You are the reason all of us are here today.

KARLINSKY: His father vowing not to shave his beard until Bowe came home, learning some Pashtun, Afghan culture and speaking directly to the Taliban on a video he posted on YouTube.

BOB BERGDAHL, BOWE BERGDAHL'S FATHER: It's past time for Bowe and the others to come home.

KARLINSKY: Today, in Hailey, Idaho, fresh yellow ribbons replace the ones that have been a reminder for half a decade. The posters demanding his return now covered by new ones to welcome Bowe Bergdahl home.


KARLINSKY: Later today we'll hear more from Bergdahl's parents. They're flying home to Idaho this after noon to address reporters. At that time, we hope to learn more about when they expect to finally be reunited with their son.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Lots of questions ahead. Thank you, Neal Karlinsky.

Let's bring those questions to the president's national security adviser Susan Rice. Thank you for joining us this morning.

Let's begin with how Bowe Bergdahl is doing right now. We know he's landed in Germany. What more can you tell us about how he's doing, his health?

SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, George, first of all, this is a joyous day. The fact that he is now safely in American hands and will be reunited with his family and his community is incredible.

He's now in Landstuhl hospital in Germany. He's going through all of the requisite evaluations and care. And he is said to be walking and in good physical condition. And we look forward to the days to come in which we'll have an even better sense of how he's doing and we look forward to when he can return to the United States, continue his rehabilitation and be reunited with his family.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Have we been able to learn anything yet about his years in captivity?

RICE: It's too soon, George. You know, there's a very refined and precise protocol for how we treat and support prisoners of war who have just been released. He going through this process of being supported and cared for and evaluated, but it's way too soon to get into the details of what transpired during his captivity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it true, though, that he's having trouble speaking English?

RICE: George, I think his father mentioned that yesterday. But I think we ought to wait. It's really been barely 24 hours since he's been back in American hands. We need to see how he does in -- as he goes through this evaluation.

But our primary interest is in his health and well being and his full recovery and the opportunity for him to be reunited with his parents whom I had the privilege to meet yesterday.

They are overjoyed as any of us would be as parents, and all of us are as Americans, because finally after almost five years he'll be home.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And this has been an almost five year effort to bring him home. The U.S. has gotten close before. What made the difference this time?

RICE: Well, George, things have come together. I mean, this has been something that the United States, we've been committed to getting him back as we're committed to bringing every American taken on the battlefield back. And we never leave them behind, but this has been a process that has extended off and on over a period of almost three years.

Toward the end of last year, we had some indications that it might be possible to return Bowe Bergdahl. Those discussions mediated by the government of Qatar really came to fruition over the course of the last week. But it really wasn't until yesterday morning just before 10:30 eastern time that we knew for sure that he was back safely in American hands.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you've seen, the criticism already coming in. Martha Raddatz mentioned some of it from Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House intelligence committee. We also have the top Republicans on the armed services committee saying this is going to put Americans at risk, threaten American lives, because you broke the policy of trading with terrorists.

What's your reaction to that?

RICE: Well, George, this is a very special situation. Sergeant Bergdahl wasn't simply a hostage, he was an American prisoner of war, captured on the battlefield. We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our Republic to do our utmost to bring back our men and women who were taken in battle. And we did that in this instance.

If for some reason we took a position now in the 21st Century when some of our adversaries may not be traditional state actors that we would not do our utmost to bring our prisoners of war home, that would break faith with the American people and with the men and women who serve in uniform.

So regardless of who may be holding an American prisoner of war, we must do our best to bring him or her back.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Also questions about whether the president violated the law, that charge has come from congress as well, that he was supposed to notify members of congress before the transfer of any GITMO detainees.

RICE: Well, George, in fact what we had to do and what did do, consistent with the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief, is prioritize the health of Sergeant Bergdahl. We had reason to be concerned that this was an urgent and an acute situation, that his life could have been at risk. We did not have 30 days to wait. And had we waited and lost him, I don't think anybody would have forgiven the United States government.

We have in the past had extensive consultations with congress. They were well aware that this idea and this prospect was one that the administration was seriously considering, but when it came to fruition, the Department of Defense, in consultation with the Department of Justice, determined that it was both appropriate and necessary for us to proceed in an expedited fashion, and that's what the president decided to do. And as a consequence, we have Bowe Bergdahl back.

STEPHANOPOULOS: These detainees being sent back to Qatar, they're fairly high level Taliban detainees. We know that they're going to be -- have to stay in Qatar for at least a year.

The question, though, is the law requires assurances that they're not going to be able to return to the battlefield. Senator Saxby Chambliss saying those assurances so far are feeble. What assurances do you have?

RICE: Well, the law says that we need to have sufficient confidence that the risk can be substantially mitigated. And we do have those -- we do have that confidence based on a detailed understanding with the government of Qatar based on President Obama's personal communication with the emir of Qatar on Tuesday when it looked like this possibility might be imminent.

And those assurances relating to the movement, the activities, the monitoring of those detainees give us confidence that they cannot and, in all likelihood, will not pose a significant risk to the United States.

And that it is in our national interests that this transfer had been made.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what are those assurances and what happens after a year? In the past we have seen high-level Taliban who have been released go back to the battlefield.

RICE: Well, George, I can't get into the specifics of the understandings, but they relate to restrictions on travel, movement, and the activities of the individuals who will be in Qatari care.

But those assurances, I can tell you, are such that we are confident that risk has been substantially mitigated, and that this is, in fact, consistent with the national security interests of the United States.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is this an opening for broader peace talks?

RICE: That remains to be seen. I mean, obviously this engagement indirectly through the Qataris with the Taliban was for the specific purpose of releasing Bowe Bergdahl.

But we have long said and long hoped that there could be Afghan-led reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and its opponents, including the Taliban.

So if this exchange opens that door a little bit, then we would welcome it. And we would certainly hope that in any event that the reconciliation, which we have all long said is essential, can proceed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, on this point, Sergeant Bergdahl, there are a lot of questions about how he originally was captured and whether or not he had deserted, had left his post.

Is that going to be investigated? And if it's found that he did, indeed, leave his post, will he be disciplined or has he already paid the price?

RICE: Certainly anybody who has been held in those conditions, in captivity for five years has paid an extraordinary price. But that is really not the point. The point is that he is back.

He is going to be safely reunited with his family. He served the United States with honor and distinction. And we'll have the opportunity eventually to learn what has transpired in the past years.

But what is most important now is his health and well-being, that he have the opportunity to recover in peace and security, and be reunited with his family, which is why this is such a joyous day.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, we're about to hear from Senator Ted Cruz. And the president, of course, laid out his foreign policy vision this week at West Point. Senator Cruz has criticized the administration, saying that it has been far too willing to abandon and alienate our allies, and far too willing to appease and demonstrate weakness to those who would do us harm.

Your response?

RICE: George, the United States is the leading power on the world stage. We are recognized by everybody as such. Our military has no peer. Our economy is the strongest. We have extraordinary human and natural resources.

We're reaching energy independence. We have the greatest network of alliances and friendships of any country around the world. And we are leading in a fashion that is redounding to the national security benefit of the United States.

It's only the United States that can rally partners and allies to pressure a country, for example, like Iran, and bring it to the negotiating table so that we have at least the potential for a comprehensive nuclear deal that would take forever nuclear weapons off the table in Iran.

The United States, working with our European partners, has rallied to isolate and pressure Russia for its activities in Ukraine. That's the kind of leadership that only the world's greatest power can bring to bear.

I can't speak for Ted Cruz and what his particular perspective might be, but I can tell you when we go to Europe next week, as we will again for the second time this year, and we went to Asia back in April, that all of our allies and partners looked to us as their indispensable leader, and want to work and coordinate with us closely because they know their security, our shared values, and our future depend on it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Ambassador Rice, thanks very much for your time this morning.

RICE: Thanks, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we will hear from Ted Cruz next. We'll get his reaction to the Bergdahl deal, Hillary's Benghazi defiance, his presidential plans, and why his party had this "Duck Dynasty" star at their leadership conference.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": So what was your first thought at the invitation.

PHIL ROBERTSON, REALITY TV STAR, "DUCK DYNASTY": My first thought was that maybe I'm sensing a little bit of desperation on the part of the GOP.




SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I think where we are today is uncannily, is eerily like the late 1970s. By the way, if there is one person on earth thrilled about the job President Obama is doing, it's Jimmy Carter.



STEPHANOPOULOS: Texas Senator Ted Cruz lighting up the crowd at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans yesterday. He won their presidential straw poll after that speech.

Senator, congratulations for that. Thanks for being here this morning.

CRUZ: Thank you, George. It's great to join you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: First let's get your reaction to the Bergdahl deal.

CRUZ: Well, look, all of us celebrate with Sergeant Bergdahl, with his family, I mean, looking at his parents there, I mean, that's emotional and it's powerful.

At the same time the terms of the deal are very troubling.


CRUZ: Well, for one thing, how many soldiers lost their lives to capture those five Taliban terrorists that we just released? You know, Ambassador Rice basically said to you, yes, U.S. policy has changed. Now we make deals with terrorists.

And the question going forward is, have we just put a price on other U.S. soldiers? What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists we've gone after.


CRUZ: I mean, that's a very dangerous price.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If you were president, you wouldn't have negotiated?

CRUZ: I do not think the way to deal with terrorists is through releasing other violent terrorists. I mean...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what if that's the only way to get Bergdahl home?

CRUZ: It's not the only way. We can go in and use military force, as needed, to rescue our fallen compatriots. But, look, Sergeant Bergdahl was fighting to capture these terrorists.

Can you imagine what he would say to his fallen comrades who lost their lives to stop these people who were responsible, either directly or indirectly, for threatening or taking U.S. civilian lives.

I mean, that's why we sent our soldiers there. And the idea that we're now making trades, what does that do for every single soldier stationed abroad? It says the reason why the U.S. has had the policy for decades of not negotiating with terrorists is because once you start doing it, every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, that policy has been broken in the past. But your policy being no trades, never?

CRUZ: I think it is very disturbing that we are releasing five acknowledged terrorist Taliban leaders in a deal with terrorists. That precedent and -- you know, unfortunately, George, it's part and parcel with the pattern we've seen of the Obama administration across the board.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you saw Secretary -- I mean, Ambassador Rice's response to your criticism of that pattern. Your response to that?

CRUZ: Well, you know, I just got back last week from traveling to Israel and Ukraine and Poland and Estonia. And it was striking -- you know, one of the things Ambassador Rice said that was absolutely correct is that American is the indispensable leader.

But what our allies are expressing over and over again is that leadership is missing. And the most frequent thing you hear when you talk to an ambassador, a foreign minister of our friends and allies is they pull you aside quietly in hushed tones; they say, "Where is America?"

When America's weak, when the American president is weak, it leaves our friends and allies vulnerable and it makes the world a lot more --


STEPHANOPOULOS: So you say -- you say you were in Ukraine.

What would you have done different there?

Would you have sent -- would you have used military force?

Would you have threatened military force?

CRUZ: There's a whole range of activity short of what President Obama did at the West Point speech, for example, is he set two straw men.

One, invade or two, do nothing. And there's a whole range of intermediate steps.

Number one, President Obama should have spoken out clearly in support of freedom, in support of the protesters when the protesters began in the Maidan Square.

I had the privilege of traveling through the Maidan Square, being led by 16-year-old high school girl who saw her compatriots shot by army snipers. And they continue to protest for freedom. America should speak out for freedom.

But then after that, we should stand with our allies and not give into Russia. We should, number one, right now, install the anti-ballistic missile batteries in Eastern Europe, in Poland, the Czech Republic, that were scheduled to go in 2009, that President Obama canceled in an effort to appease Putin. That hadn't worked.

And number two, we should be using energy as a tool to help liberate the Ukrainian people and to impose costs on Putin. There are over 20 applications to export liquid natural gas bottled up in the Obama administration. He should approve them because that would be a meaningful step to stand with the Ukrainian people and free them from Russia's economic blackout.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We've seen the first chapter of Hillary Clinton's memoir, "Hard Choices;" it's about Benghazi. Pretty defiant chapter. Here's what she had to say about Republicans in Congress.

She says she "will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans. It's just plain wrong and it's unworthy of our great country. Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me."

It sounds like she's says -- suggesting, perhaps, that she's not going to testify in these new investigations.

Should committees force her to testify?

CRUZ: You know, the sad thing with Secretary Clinton is that it seems to be all politics all the time, that from what we know about this book chapter, it's pure political spin. And she's more focused on blaming the so-called vast right-wing conspiracy than on the terrorists.

The truth shouldn't be partisan and there's a pattern in this administration. The pattern is when a crisis, when a scandal emerges, to express outrage.

We all remember President Obama during the debate with Mitt Romney getting angry and emotional, saying no one is more upset about what happened in Benghazi than I am. And yet it seems that's the last time he ever uttered the word "Benghazi," because after that, after expressing outrage, they stonewall for months or years.

And then they say it's old news --


CRUZ: -- we need to get to the truth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- Rand Paul said her handling of Benghazi is disqualifying her from the presidency.

Do you agree?

CRUZ: What I think is that she has deliberately stonewalled. We know, for example, that her chief political aide, Cheryl Mills (ph), went to senior foreign service officers and told them, don't talk to the press; don't talk to members of Congress.

You know, I had an exchange on the Senate floor, when I asked the Senate, introduced a unanimous consent resolution for the Senate to form a joint select committee with the House to get to the truth of Benghazi. And Bob -- Senator Bob Menendez from New Jersey stood up and objected. And I laid out a dozen questions that still haven't been answered.

And his response was, he said, I have no idea -- this is Menendez speaking -- whether President Obama was awake or asleep while this terrorist attack was happening. And he went on to say, I have no idea whether there was anything President Obama could have done to have saved those four brave Americans who died.

But those questions aren't worthy of being answered.

Listen, if the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee doesn't know the answers to those questions, we're not getting the truth and we deserve -- the American people deserve the truth; our men and women in harm's way deserve the truth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the 30-second case against Hillary for president?

CRUZ: That her policies, domestically and internationally, haven't worked, that domestically the Obama economic agenda is a disaster; we've got the lowest labor force participation since 1978; millions of hardworking Americans, their lives have gotten harder.

And internationally the Obama-Clinton foreign policy is a disaster. Every region of the world has gotten worse; America has weakened, our enemies have been strengthened. We're in the middle of cutting a deal right now with Iran that I fear is repeating the mistakes of the Clinton administration in 1990s, setting up Iran, acquiring nuclear weapons capability.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You took on what you called the gray beards in the Republican establishment yesterday at that Republican leadership conference.

But hasn't the establishment had something of a role in these primaries, beating back the Tea Party again and again and again? And aren't factions of the Republican Party going to have to come together if you're going to have any hope of defeating Hillary Clinton or any Democrat in 2016?

CRUZ: Look, there is a debate in Washington, how Republicans win. I think 2014 is going to be a fantastic year for Republicans. I think we're likely to retake the Senate and I think 2016 is going to be a very strong year for Republicans.

But the debate we're having right now is how do you win.

Some in Washington think the way you win is you put your head; you don't rock the boat, you don't stand for anything.

Every time we do that, George, we lose. From the perspective of the Democrats, they've got to be thrilled when Republicans do that because in '06 it failed; in '08, it failed; in '12, it failed.

The way we win is doing what we did in 2010 or, for that matter, in 1980, drawing a line in the sand, standing for principle, drawing a clear distinction and making the case to the American people than an election matters.

So for example, in 2014, we should be saying -- and I think a great many Republicans are saying -- we will repeal every word of ObamaCare because it isn't --


STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of Republicans starting to run away from that.

But you sound like you're ready to run for president.

CRUZ: You know, what I'm ready to do is to make the case to the American people that the path we're on isn't working, that the people who have been hurt the most by the Obama economy are the most vulnerable among us. They're young people; they're Hispanics; they're African Americans. They're single moms.

In a few weeks ago I was in Nebraska and a single mom came up to me to rally and she hugged my neck, George. And she said -- she said, I have six kids at home. My husband left me. He's not paying child support. I'm working five jobs. None of them are even 30 hours a week because of ObamaCare.

I'm having a hard even putting basic food on the table for my kids and I never see my kids.

What we're doing isn't working and those are the people we need to be fighting for so that Americans can have a chance at the American dream.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We just heard a preview at a speech. Come back when you're ready and make the official announcement.

Senator Cruz, thanks very much.

CRUZ: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Coming up in just two minutes, the V.A. chief steps down. We'll debate all the fallout on our Paris roundtable and have them weigh in on Hillary's White House style rollout of her new memoir.

First, our big winners of the week.



STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're back now with the roundtable.

I'm joined by Bill Kristol, editor of "The Weekly Standard;" David Remnick, editor of "The New Yorker;" Peggy Noonan from "The Wall Street Journal" and Tavis Smiley from PBS and a host of other things.

Bill, let's begin with this news breaking over the weekend as Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl coming home.

Bill Kristol, I have to tell you, I've been surprised at the vehemence of the criticism coming out after this announcement.

BILL KRISTOL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I've been impressed by the courage, actually, of the Republicans who were willing to criticize what is, I think, an unfortunate deal made by the President of the United States, obviously at what's happy to have Sgt. Bergdahl back and therefore take some political courage, I think, to say, wait a second, let's look at the long-term national interest of the country. Let's not just say, as Susan Rice said twice, it's a joyous occasion.

I was very struck by that. She didn't say what normally presidents say of a country that has to make a really difficult, sort of unfortunate decision like this, which is we hated having to do this, we -- we -- no, we don't want to set a precedent, but in this case, we made a very -- reluctantly we made a decision.

They're just spinning this as if it's a wonderful day for America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that...

KRISTOL: Is it really?

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- I think that's a fair point in terms of the rhetoric.

But I guess, David Remnick, the question is, what is the alternative?

As Senator Cruz said, there is another -- there was another way to get him out.

REMNICK: Well, I think -- look, it's -- it's a joyous occasion that he's coming home, but it's an ambivalent occasion overall. And you have to acknowledge that. And I -- but what Mike Rogers says, seems to me, absolutely wrong.

After all, what would those molly-coddling, you know, terrorist-friendly Israelis do?

The Israelis have released prisoners that they know to have killed people, their own people, on any number of occasions for the reason of bringing home their own, for political reasons, for humanitarian reasons.

So the idea that this is somehow unprecedented in the history of the West is -- is just wrong.

But I think you -- you have to acknowledge that you're releasing people that are -- that are bad actors, killers, in some -- in -- in some instances, and they -- that has to be...


REMNICK: This was is coming to an end, thank God.

What were we supposed to do, leave our American soldier in -- in the custody of the Taliban?

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it's complicated...

REMNICK: What was the alternative?

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- complicated, Peggy Noonan, because, you know, as Ambassador Rice says there are assurances there that these Taliban aren't going to return to the battlefield, but can't specify what they are.

NOONAN: Yes. And, um, we're just not sure what will happen. It is hard to keep people who have been hardened terrorists and professionals and high up in their organization, it -- 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 of the fact that this young man, an 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 take an American soldier.

SMILEY: I'm glad -- I'm glad Peggy raised this GITMO, because this is the one conversation that is not on the table as yet. Like everybody else on this roundtable. And I certainly celebrate the fact that Sergeant Bergdahl is coming home.

But it underscores the fact that halfway through President Obama's second term, this campaign promise has not been kept. GITMO is still open.

And for those Americans who care about human rights and civil rights and the rule of law, the fact that we still have this place open where this prisoner swap could be made in the first place is a conversation we have to have.

So we can debate prisoner swaps and whether or not that makes sense as the basis of foreign policy into the weeks to come, but there ought not to be a debate about whether GITMO ought to still be open (INAUDIBLE)...

STEPHANOPOULOS: And probably more than half the detainees at GITMO are relatively low level...

SMILEY: Absolutely.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- but are some high level detainees, as well, and that would raise all the questions...

SMILEY: Precisely.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- that we're seeing now in -- in Qatar, as well.

I do want to move down to the big news at the end of the week, the VA. Eric Shinseki resigns. The president accepts his resignation with reluctance...




STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Peggy, I was struck by -- by your column on Friday. You said this is a sign of the president's laxity in leadership. And you says, it encourages -- I hadn't seen this word before -- a slobocracy.

What is that?

NOONAN: A slobocracy is what you get when you have a huge, sprawling, intense, deep, wide federal government and you do not have managers slapping it into shape each day. Being a visionary is a good job. Making speeches is a good job.

But you actually -- if you are an executive, and the president is the chief executive, have to be trying to swat (ph) 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, essentially, of the information he had been given as head of the VA. I think that tells you that there is -- there are cultural problems with regard to what you tell the boss now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: David Remnick, one of your columnists -- columnists made the point that he should have stuck with Shinseki.

REMNICK: Well, let's remember, Eric Shinseki is a guy who's won three Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, lost most of his foot in battle. His -- his integrity and devotion to this country is not in question.

What's in question is his rule over the VA, whether it was effective or not, at a time when thousands and thousands of veterans are coming home from -- thank God, from Afghanistan and Iraq, that this bureaucracy has done a terrible job and that it's been ruled in a way that is completely ineffective is an outrage to the veterans themselves.

A change was needed.

But it is a tragic thing to see a...


REMNICK: -- guy like Erid Shin -- Eric Shinseki have to walk out the door with a degree of sh---

SMILEY: But I...

REMNICK: -- with a degree of shame.

SMILEY: But I think, David, though, that we're talking about the symptom and not the problem. And I'm concerned that if we don't get the diagnosis right, we won't get the prognosis right.

The bottom line, Peggy, is that this problem has become acutely worse, in part, because we have engaged in more wars. When you engage in more wars, you're going to have more veterans. And the more veterans come home and they are reliant upon a system that is dysfunctional, that doesn't have the capacity to support them, to give them what they need, you can change the secretary of Veterans Affairs every six months, but the more wars, the more veterans. And if the system isn't equipped to deal with their needs, this problem is going to continue and get worse still.



KRISTOL: -- more veterans have come back and they've gone to college.

And how have they gone to college?

They got the GI Bill.

And you know what?

There's no crisis of veterans getting into college. The VA is flawed because it's a failed big government bureaucracy. You can't fire anyone. It's gotten more money each year under President Obama. Its rate of increase of funding is in -- has gone up faster than the number of people who...


KRISTOL: -- than the number of people they're serving.


KRISTOL: And the VA needs to be fundamentally reformed. And one way it could be reformed is to, in fact, let people take a voucher and go to a hospital -- the same hospitals we all go to -- instead of having to go to the VA to get special...


SMILEY: I'm not saying...


SMILEY: -- I'm not saying it shouldn't be...


KRISTOL: -- fundamentally reform the VA and reduce it.


KRISTOL: -- privatize -- yes, just like we did in the GI Bill.

Do you think there needs to be a veterans' university?

And furthermore, I would keep some centers for excellence for research on special things that affect veterans, some centers of treatment. That's fine.

There is no need for a huge...

SMILEY: I'm not suggesting...

KRISTOL: -- sprawling...

SMILEY: -- I'm not...


SMILEY: -- I'm suggesting...

KRISTOL: -- Veterans Affairs...

SMILEY: -- I'm not suggesting...

KRISTOL: -- hospital...

SMILEY: -- I'm not suggesting there ought not to be reform. But privatization, Bill, is not the answer to everything.

And the fact of the matter is there are veterans coming home who are falling into poverty more and more every day. It is shameful the way we treat our veterans.

Here's the real problem. The problem is we -- this issue becomes significant for us when veterans don't get the health care they need and we want to play politics with this. But there are millions of Americans...

KRISTOL: I couldn't agree more...

SMILEY: -- every day...

KRISTOL: They need to get...

SMILEY: -- who are being failed by a health care system and Republicans want to repeal every bit of progress we are making to serve everyday people, whether they're veterans or not.

KRISTOL: If they got a generous voucher to use to purchase the health insurance they need or the health care they need, how would that be failing veterans?

REMNICK: Well...

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to have to take a break right there in that silence.

Stand by, though.

Before we go to break, our Powerhouse Puzzler, inspired by this week's national spelling bee, the first time in more than 50 years, here's Sriram Hathwar, one of the co-champs.



Hi, Powerhouse Roundtable.


HATHWAR: I would like you to spell the word psephology, which, according to MerriamWebster.com, means the scientific study of elections.

Good luck.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Back in two minutes to see if the roundtable and you can spell psephology.


STEPHANOPOULOS: So how do you spell psephology?

Here's spelling bee co-champ, Ansun Sujoe.


ANSUN SUJOE: Psephology is spelled P-S-E-P-H-O-L-O-G-Y.


STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, let's see who got it right. I pronounced it wrong. It's psephology.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Across the board, everybody, from the spelling bee champ to Tavis Smiley.



When we come back, Hillary Clinton rolling out her new memoir. What does it say about the coming campaign?



HILLARY CLINTON, FRM. SECRETARY OF STATE: All of us face hard choices in our lives, some face more than their share. We have to decide how to balance the demands of work and family, caring for a sick child or an aging parent, figuring out how to pay for college, finding a good job and what to do if you lose it, whether to get married or stay married.


STEPHANOPOULOS: That was the first leak of Hillary Clinton's memoir "Hard Choices" a little bit from the forward. That was the beginning of this week. By the end, a full chapter on Benghazi had been released to Politico.

We're back with the round table right now.

And I think not very coy here, just everything is being (inaudible).

This is, as I said earlier, a White House style campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This kind of book has been happening since the days of Andrew Jackson. These are not books, as such, they're products. Look at the difference between Barack Obama's first book, which is real book, and the second one, which is a kind of modulated product to roll out the possibility of a presidential campaign.

And the task of this book, I think, in large measure for Hillary Clinton is both to embrace her time as secretary of state and her relationship with Barack Obama and also very quietly to put certain distancing factors between the two of them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But very quietly on the distancing. They've actually hired one of President Obama's former deputy press secretaries, Tommy Vietor to go through the book and see where there might be points of difference. Bill Kristol, they also followed a classic strategy of getting, you know, what might be considered the bad news out first, that chapter on Benghazi.

KRISTOL: Yeah, I know, it's a huge political campaign. Their spending apparently -- polling it and probably having focus groups for all I know of what you should talk about when she emerges in about a week or so.

The difference between -- it's a good example, a good comparison to the Barack Obama book. But that book, even though the second book was way inferior to the first, it was a forward looking book, kind of a classic presidential campaign, my agenda for America.

I think this is problematic for her. Honestly, she did it, she'll make a ton of money, she'll get some publicity, but she is now putting out on the record her account of four years, which were extensively covered. There's a huge amount of documentation, people are going to quite legitimately go through every single chapter and say, well, wait a second. You say you did this in the Middle East, what about -- why did you leave out this particular encounter? You know what I mean?

I think she's giving a lot of hostages to fortune here with this book.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But does she have any alternative?

NOONAN: Well, she -- it's probably a good idea for her in some respects to be trying to get her hands around her vision of being secretary of state and offer a template by which you can understand what she did, or was frustrated by. But what is most interesting to me about the Benghazi sections that have been leaked, is that is seems to me she's looking for a fight. The tone is defiant and I think defensive. She's looking for a fight. She's saying to the Republicans who have been questioning her, hey, you're kind of dancing on the graves of four dead Americans in order to make partisan gain. Them's fighting words. And at first I thought why does she want that fight?

And then I though, she wants that fight now. It's 2014. She would like it to be old news so that by the end of 2015 she can say, haven't we discussed this enough already?

STEPHANOPOULOS: And move to the future?

SMILEY: Yeah, three quick things. Number one, I'm not naive in suggesting this, but it is funny to me, comical for me, George, to watch Republicans chomping at the bit because they want her to be the nominee while nipping at her heels every single day. That dichotomy -- oh, they want this so bad. And the media wants it.

NOONAN: I think they'd take Martin O'Malley, my goodness.

SMILEY: Number one.

The second -- it's just funny, that dichotomy is interesting for me. They want her to be the nominee and they beat her up every day.

Secondly, I mean this in all sincerity, I do not believe that a coronation with all due respect to Hillary Clinton, I do not believe that a coronation of her as the Democratic Party nominee is good for the party or good for the American people. And I want to just say that, number two.

But thirdly, there will be another investigation spending more taxpayer money on Benghazi, you know, to find out the stuff that we already know just to make political hay over Hillary Clinton is not the best use of American taxpayer money, particularly when this same party won't get serious about investigation of anybody on Wall Street that pushed this company -- pushed this country, that is, to the brink of economic collapse, and nobody sits in jail today, but we're going to waste more taxpayer money on another Benghazi investigation?

KRISTOL: It's a bipartisan investigation. The House Democrats are participating. I'm all for investigating what happened in 2008. The Democrats controlled congress in 2009 and 2010, they control the Senate today. And they -- wait, they control the Senate and they should investigate what Tim Geithner did, they should investigate all the people who were part of the crisis in 2008 that ended up in very cushy positions in the Obama administration.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only thing I want to disagree with, with Tavis in -- with great respect is the fact that the Republicans want to run against Hillary. I really...

SMILEY: You don't think so?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they'd love to take a much bigger swing at Walter O'Malley (sic) or whoever it may be...

SMILEY: Martin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Martin O'Malley -- Walter O'Malley...


KRISTOL: Same thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Practically the same thing, practically the same thing in the Republican view.

Hillary is a very strong candidate, her history has been combed over so thoroughly, so thoroughly that everybody who has...


SMILEY: But I think they want run against a person they think they know than the person they don't.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That may be. We've got to go, though. I think, though, Bill's point is she's got get to the future not the past.

Watch Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview on Hillary Clinton's "Hard Choices" a week from tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

And up next, a firestorm over the president's new push on climate change.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Our closer look now at what could be the most consequential move of the Obama presidency on climate change. The EPA will release their new regulations to curb carbon emissions from power plants tomorrow, the first round in a massive political fight.

ABC's Ron Claiborne has the details.


RON CLAIBORNE, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Just this Saturday in his weekly address, the president priming his pitch on climate change.

OBAMA: As president, and as a parent, I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that's beyond fixing.

CLAIBORNE: His big announcement Monday, unprecedented steps to reduce carbon pollution, bypassing congress, a step all but certain to provoke a political firestorm.

Here's what he's reportedly going to call for: a 20 percent cut in carbon emissions from power plants by 2020; the administration would leave it up to states how to get there. Options include turning to natural gas, wind, solar and energy efficient technologies.

But all of those changes would come at the expense of coal-burning power plants, which release 30 percent of America's carbon pollution.

This 45-year-old coal plant in Jersey City, New Jersey, illustrates the challenge. It has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars to comply with existing EPA regulations. The concern is that any new requirements could drive up energy costs or cause plants like this one to close.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Environmental regulations that are coming to effect will retard 60 percent of today's coal flakes.

CLAIBORNE: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says new regulations would shrink the economy by an estimated $51 billion and cost 224,000 jobs a year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The climate has been changing forever and will continue to change. And we do know that humans are contributing to CO2 emissions. I think the question in front of everybody is what do we do about it, how do we do it and at what cost? This is too big of a hit for the economy.

CLAIBORNE: Dire predictions that the president says we've heard before.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Special interests and their allies in Congress will claim that these guidelines will kill jobs and crush the economy. Let's face it: that's what they always say.

CLAIBORNE: He argues doing nothing is even riskier. For THIS WEEK, Ron Claiborne, ABC News, Jersey City, New Jersey.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And let's bring in our experts, Frances Beinecke, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Hal Quinn, the president and CEO of the National Mining Association.

We saw those statistics that Ron Claiborne talked about, the Chamber of Commerce says this will cost about $15 billion a year, increase the average family's energy cost by about $200.

But Paul Krugman has pointed out that that's actually a relatively small fraction of the size of the economy in an average household income.

HAL QUINN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NATIONAL MINING ASSOCIATION: Well, we're going to see our policies that reach deep into every economic sector and that every American's life. And we've talked about a set of policies; it's the third in a series that is really designed to drive out low-cost electricity and replace it with higher-cost, more expensive and less reliable electricity.

So we're heard about flexibility from the president and the administration. But what they're referring to is cap-and-trade programs and we looking at those states that have been using them, California, for instance; their electricity's 45 percent higher than the average electricity rate in the country and New England, 36 percent higher.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The question is, is it worth the cost?

FRANCES BEINECKE, PRESIDENT, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: It absolutely is worth the cost and actually our analysis shows that this could be done very efficiently, economically.

One of the major ways to make this work is to invest in energy efficiency, which will actually save the consumer money. And we've seen that happen all over the country. Our energy system is getting cleaner; we're relying more on efficiency and more on renewables. and our emissions are going down.

The purpose of this rule is to really close the loophole on carbon pollution, reduce emissions as we've done with lead, arsenic and mercury and improve the health of the American people and unleash a new economic opportunity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And do you accept the premise that this is a problem that has to be addressed if the science is clear?

QUINN: We can address the problem; we can lower emissions. Coal plant carbon emissions are 24 percent lower than just in 2005.

What we do need to have is a balanced set of policies that allow us to build new baseload coal power plants that would reduce emissions 25-30 percent below the old subcritical plants that dominate the fleet today.

And that's what this policy doesn't recognize. It's not balanced in that sense.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I was a little surprised that the president emphasized the public health aspects, preventing asthma deaths and heart attacks rather than the environmental benefits.

BEINECKE: These have multiple benefits. Health benefits are paramount because coal-fired power plants emit particulates, which cause respiratory problems. There are enormous environmental benefits as well.

And I think we have to really focus on what the costs are that we're experiencing from climate disasters. We've spent $200 billion in the last two years on extreme weather events. For those of us here in New York, Hurricane Sandy was devastating. There are other events all over the country, drought, wildfires.

This rule is designed to get us on a pathway to clean and efficient energy, reduce the health effects, benefit American families and I think this is really important, invest in innovation and technology that's creating new jobs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm afraid that's all we have time for. We're going to be right back after this from our ABC stations.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Maya Angelou passed away this week at the age of 86. She inspired so many with her searing prose and relentless spirit.

ABC's Susan Saulny looks back.


SUSAN SAULNY, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Maya Angelou was an American original.

MAYA ANGELOU, POET: I will go. I shall go. I'll see what the end is going to be.

SAULNY: A teacher, a poet.

ANGELOU: Give birth again to the dream. Women, children, men, take it into the palms of your hands.

SAULNY: The true phenomenal woman, inspired, as she told us in her last interview with ABC News, by her mother.

ANGELOU: She is still very much with me. I have a photograph of her in my bathroom on the mirror. So it's morning; I go there to brush my teeth and I see her, smiling and looking at me and approving of me.

SAULNY: Angelou told us how she managed to find hope even in one of her darkest moments.

You were out with a boyfriend. He turned on you and kicked and punched and you were almost dead.

ANGELOU: Yes. He beat me.

SAULNY: How did you find the strength to overcome those sorts of things?

ANGELOU: First, I know that forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself. It's not for the other person. You must forgive. It's for your own sake to rid yourself of that weight.

SAULNY: Angelou led an astonishing life, stunning in its scope, from journalist to civil rights activist, author to actress and more.

Some of us are surprised to know that you were a calypso singer and a dancer.

ANGELOU: A very famous one.


ANGELOU: As far as that goes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miss Calypso herself, Maya Angelou.

SAULNY: Could you give us a sample of one of your favorite songs from those days?

ANGELOU: Favorite songs?

SAULNY: Yes. We'd love to hear.



ANGELOU: I haven't thought of that song in 200 years.

SAULNY: In 200 -- ?

ANGELOU: Good Lord!

SAULNY: But you hit every note.


SAULNY: It's still inside.

ANGELOU: It's there. Nothing is lost.

SAULNY: And for that, we are so thankful. For THIS WEEK, Susan Saulny, ABC News, Washington.


STEPHANOPOULOS: That was a treat and Maya Angelou, a giant.

And now we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.

This week, the Pentagon released the name of one soldier killed in Afghanistan.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS" with David Muir tonight and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."


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