'This Week' Transcript: John Brennan, Sens. Cornyn and Menendez

Transcript: Brennan, Cornyn and Menendez

ByABC News
October 31, 2010, 5:00 AM

October 31, 2010 — -- AMANPOUR: Welcome to viewers here and around the world. I'm Christiane Amanpour. And at the top of the news this week, a global terror alert.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: A credible terrorist threat against our country.

AMANPOUR: The threat from Yemen, and can the United States defeat Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula? Our guest this morning, the president's top terrorism adviser, John Brennan.

Then, the final days. Countdown to 2010.

OBAMA: This election is not just going to set the stage for the next two years, it's going to set the stage for the next ten.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OHIO), MINORITY LEADER: Do you have to take it?


BOEHNER: Hell no, you don't! That's what elections are for.

AMANPOUR: And the battle for power in the Senate. An exclusive debate between the two top Senate campaign chairs, Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican John Cornyn.

Plus, analysis of our new ABC News poll and the politics of coming together.

JON STEWART, HOST, DAILY SHOW: We work together to get things done every damn day! The only place we don't is here.

AMANPOUR: All on our roundtable. Tea Party organizer and former House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey joins ABC's George Will, Cokie Roberts, Jonathan Karl, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Arianna Huffington from the Huffington Post.

And the Sunday funnies.

JAY LENO, HOST, TONIGHT SHOW: This Sunday, Halloween, the scariest day of the year. Unless you're a Democrat, then that would be next Tuesday. That would be the scariest.


AMANPOUR: Hello again. A suspect is in custody, and Yemeni police continue to search for more terrorists connected to the bomb plot broken up on Friday. The administration has tied the plot to Al Qaida in Yemen. We'll get the latest developments from the president's top counterterrorism adviser in just a moment. But first, ABC's senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz explains how this poor country of 23 million people became the major training ground for Al Qaida.


RADDATZ (voice-over): Al Qaida first used Yemen to launch attacks against the U.S. in October of 2000, when suicide bombers rammed their speedboat packed with explosives into the USS Cole, killing 17 sailors.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN CUSTER, U.S. ARMY INTELLIGENCE: We've seen movement for many years. Recruiting, proselytization of young warriors, young jihadists.

RADDATZ: U.S. officials say Yemen now surpasses any other country in the world in posing a direct threat to the U.S. And the man they believe is most responsible for carrying out those threats is American-born radical cleric Anwar Awlaki.

The Obama administration has approved the targeted killing of Awlaki, an extraordinary turn of events. Just months after 9/11, Awlaki, who was an imam at a mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, was invited and attended a private meeting at the Pentagon as part of an outreach program to Muslims. But Awlaki knew several of the 9/11 hijackers, had been an e-mail contact with Major Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused in the Ft. Hood mass shooting, and was directly linked to the failed Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

We came to Yemen shortly after the attempted bombing, retracing Abdulmutallab's life, visiting the school where he came to study Arabic.

This is the third floor room where Abdulmutallab spent most of his time while he was at the institute here in Yemen. Just a bed, a desk, a closet.

But officials say it was not Arabic he was studying here. He was training at Al Qaida camps outside Sana'a, and building bombs with the direct help of the American Awlaki.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Getting Americans who understand the culture, understand the way Americans think, and potentially have the ability to come back to the U.S. with clean papers, that is the ultimate weapon for Al Qaida in terms of being successful.

RADDATZ: U.S. Special Forces are now training thousands of Yemeni troops in counterterrorist techniques to go after Al Qaida, and the U.S. has launched an aggressive campaign of its own. In the last year, there have been at least half a dozen ship-launched cruise missile strikes here, targeting training camps and Al Qaida leadership. But the man they are really after has eluded them. The man many U.S. officials believe is likely behind this latest terror plot.

For "This Week," I'm Martha Raddatz.


AMANPOUR: We're joined now by the assistant to President Obama for homeland security and counterterrorism, John Brennan. Thank you for joining us.

BRENNAN: Good morning, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe that there are any more explosives-laden packages out there, or just the two that we intercepted?

BRENNAN: We can't presume that there are none other that are out there, so what we're trying to do right now is to work very closely with our partners overseas to identify all packages that left Yemen recently and to see whether or not there are any other suspicious packages out there that might contain these IEDs.

AMANPOUR: So, is this threat still active? Is it neutralized?

BRENNAN: It is a very active investigation that is ongoing. We can't presume, again, that we have identified all of the packages that are out there. We need to make sure that we get to the bottom of this, understand who was behind it and what else might we be facing.

AMANPOUR: The woman who is in custody, is she the prime suspect?

BRENNAN: The Yemenis have announced that the two individuals, a woman and her daughter, are the individuals presumed to have delivered those packages to the FedEx and UPS offices in Sana'a. And so we're working very closely with the Yemenis. They're questioning those individuals right now. We're hoping to get the results of those questions soon.

AMANPOUR: Do you think there was somebody else involved, or those women deliberately did that?

BRENNAN: I think the sophistication of these IEDs shows, at least in my mind, that it was an Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula effort, and that there are a number of people that are involved in this. And so it's not just these two individuals. We're looking for a lot more.

AMANPOUR: Are you looking for the 28-year-old bombmaker Hasan al-Assiri (ph), who also is apparently alleged to have made the bomb of the underwear bomber on Christmas Day?

BRENNAN: The individual who has been making these bombs, whether it be the one that was given to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, or was the one that was attempted to assassinate Prince Mohammed bin Nayef of Saudi Arabia, or the ones that were found in these packages, is a very dangerous individual, clearly somebody who has a fair amount of training and experience. And we need to find him. We need to bring him to justice as soon as we can.

AMANPOUR: You say individual. Do you think it's the same individual?

BRENNAN: I think the indications are right now based on the forensics analysis that it's an individual who has been responsible for putting these devices together, the same.

AMANPOUR: Now, Qatar Airways has just announced that the package laden with explosives that ended up in Dubai actually traveled on two of its passenger planes from Yemen to Doha, and then from Doha to Dubai. And they're saying that this PETN explosive simply evaded their X-ray screening, their sniffer dogs.

BRENNAN: It's my understanding--

AMANPOUR: I mean, that's very dangerous.

BRENNAN: Well, it is. What we need to do is to take a look at the procedures that are in place, the different airports out there. Again, working very closely with them. See if there needs to be any type of adjustment of procedures or screening methods or technologies. We need to be able to detect these packages, whether they be on a cargo flight or whether they be on a passenger flight.

We've stayed ahead of a lot of these adaptations of Al Qaida. We need to continue to do so. But that's where we--

AMANPOUR: Can you? Because if it's avoiding and evading those screening mechanisms, what can you do and particularly on a passenger plane?

BRENNAN: Well, I think what we've tried to do over the years is to have layered defense, and have a multidimensional effort here. And that's why we rely heavily on our intelligence and security services and working very closely with others. We are very fortunate that our Saudi partners were able to support us in this effort.

AMANPOUR: How did that happen? How did the Saudis tip you off? How did they find out?

BRENNAN: They -- once they got the -- received the information, they contacted us immediately, and it was a race against the clock to find those packages, to neutralize them. And so we owe a debt of gratitude to the Saudis. I think their actions really saved lives here.

AMANPOUR: How did they do it? How did they find it?

BRENNAN: Well, I'm not going to go into details about how the Saudis came on to some information. But once they did, they didn't hesitate whatsoever, and they needed to handle that very quickly and pass it to us right away so that we were able to track those down. They were actually in movement, those packages. So it was I think a very good example of the cooperation that exists right now between U.S. agencies and our foreign partners.

AMANPOUR: You're saying that there needs to be better and more procedures put into place to screen these, particularly on passenger planes.

BRENNAN: Well, what I'm saying is that this has been an evolving process. We continue to upgrade and to enhance our screening procedures and to take stock of attempts by Al Qaida to penetrate our defenses. And we make adjustments then as well. And so we continue to do it. We've already done it since the discovery of these packages the other day. We have made adjustments in it, and so what we're trying to do is be as confident as possible we will be able to detect these packages wherever they may be.

AMANPOUR: And what about cargo planes, where I understand in ABC's reporting that perhaps 90 percent of cargo is simply not screened?

BRENNAN: Well, all cargo aircraft and all cargo coming into the United States is looked upon as something that we need to look at very carefully and identify those packages coming from different places that we need to screen. Sometimes there are different types of screening technologies. Some are with technical means. Some are actual physical inspections. So we look at all cargo coming into the United States as potentially pieces of cargo that need to actually have this intrusive inspection.

AMANPOUR: Is the United States safe from these threats?

BRENNAN: I think the United States every day I think is getting safer and safer in terms of ensuring that we're able to take the steps that will respond to the most recent attempts by Al Qaida to try to penetrate our defenses.

AMANPOUR: The British say that these explosives could have brought down a plane.


AMANPOUR: You say and apparently they were intended for synagogues in Chicago.

BRENNAN: They were addressed to locations that have been associated with synagogues in Chicago. The British believe that these IEDs were going to be detonated while they were on board the aircraft, wherever that might have been. But what we have to do is to look very carefully at whether or not they were going to be detonated on the aircraft or they were intended for the destination, and that's where they were going to be detonated.

AMANPOUR: And very quickly. Even though this is a threat and you are saying you're still investigating it, the fact that it was intercepted, the fact that the underwear bomber did not explode in midair, does that show that they are getting more sophisticated or less able and sophisticated?

BRENNAN: I think it shows that they are trying to again make different types of adaptations based on what we have put in place. So the underwear bomber, as well as these packages, are showing sort of new techniques on their part.

They are very innovative and creative. We need to stay one step ahead of them. So I think this is a good example of the success that we've had, again working with our partners, not relying on a single technology or a single screening procedure. We need to have multiple ways that we can identify these types of threats early and stop them before they're able to be carried out.

AMANPOUR: John Brennan, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

BRENNAN: Thank you very much, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Now on to politics. Our last ABC News/Washington Post poll before the election shows the Democrats have lost the mantle of change. In 2008, voters who wanted new ideas and a new direction overwhelmingly supported President Obama. But in this midterm election, 57 percent of so-called change voters support Republicans; 36 percent support Democrats.

The change label has hurt Democrats this year. Our poll shows that if the election were held today, 49 percent of likely voters say they would vote for the House Republican candidate in their district. 45 percent say they would vote for the Democrat. That has narrowed significantly, though, from our last poll in September.

But compare it to 1994. Democrats had a two-point advantage just before the election, and they lost more than 50 seats.

Joining me now, the two top senators leading their party's election efforts, Republican John Cornyn and Democrat Robert Menendez. Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining me.

CORNYN: Good to be with you.

MENENDEZ: Good morning.

AMANPOUR: So you saw the polls. Do you feel that you have the wind in your back? Do you think that the Republicans will have the momentum to grab the Senate?

CORNYN: Well, I think we'll make a lot of headway. I'm not predicting that we will get the majority this cycle. I think it probably is going to take two cycles, but there is certainly a potential there, depending on just how high and how broad this wave election is.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about Joe Miller in Alaska. Our Jon Karl, political correspondent, is saying that you're basically, the GOP is giving up on Joe Miller, or thinking that he's not going to win.

CORNYN: Well, that's not the case. We, what we have done, we are supporting the nominee of our party, which is Mr. Miller, and -- but are concerned.

AMANPOUR: Do you think he can win?

CORNYN: Well, I think that polls are very close now between Senator Murkowski and Joe Miller, and what we want to make sure of is that the Democrat doesn't win, Bob's candidate doesn't win in November.

AMANPOUR: And Senator Menendez, your candidate there, you're pouring a lot of money in to hope that he actually can win in Alaska.

MENENDEZ: Well, we're not pouring a lot of money in--

AMANPOUR: Last-minute ad money.

MENENDEZ: But we believe that Scott McAdams actually has a real chance of winning this race. Mr. Miller has obviously plummeted because it's about ideology versus about Alaska. Lisa Murkowski wanted to privatize Social Security. Scott McAdams is all about Alaska, so I think he has a real opportunity here.

AMANPOUR: Do you think, looking at the polls, looking at what we've just seen, do you think this is as bad as 1994?

MENENDEZ: No, this is not 1994. No. 1, in 1994, the Republican brand, its image was much better than it is today. In every poll, Democrats as a brand fare much better. And, secondly, in 1994, it was a surge at the end. We've known that this midterm election is going to be challenging, and so our candidates for the U.S. Senate have been ready for this and have been creating the contrast in each election between their Republican opponent, who wants to bring us back to the economic policies that brought us into this mess in the first place, and their own policies that are working to get us out of it.

AMANPOUR: Senator Cornyn said they don't think they will get it this cycle. But you're saying that you're blaming the economy on President Obama's predecessor, but clearly the voters are not saying that. They are taking this economy very -- to heart and very badly.

MENENDEZ: Christiane, we understand that people are hurting in this country. But our goal is to have them understand and channel their anger on election day against the Republican Party that brought us to the verge of economic collapse in November of 2008, when financial institutions in this country were ready to collapse.

AMANPOUR: So why hasn't the message got out better, then, for instance on precisely this issue? A recent Bloomberg poll found that most Americans think that taxes have gone up since President Obama took office; that the economy has shrunk; that TARP, the corporate bailout, won't be mostly paid back. I mean, all of those are untrue. Why is the messaging so bad?

MENENDEZ: It's true that all of those are untrue, and I think the challenge is, when you're hurting economically -- and we have gone from negative job growth to positive job growth, from negative GDP growth to positive GDP growth -- but if you're still unemployed, none of that news makes that much difference to you. And that's the challenge in this election.

Our hope and our message and the contrast is you want to give the power back to the people who got us in this mess or do you want to continue to move progress forward?

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Senator, because so many of the people we talked to say that they really want to see cooperation, bipartisanship, less of the poison, and solutions. And yet your leader, the Republican leader of the Senate, has said that if you win in November, "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." The Republican leader in the House, John Boehner, said this is not the time for compromise.

That doesn't sound like putting partisanship aside and working for the people. Is that the sum total of the policy?

CORNYN: Well, President Obama himself said Republicans have come along for the ride, but they have to sit in the back of the bus. But really what we need to be focusing on are jobs, spending and debt. That's what's created this coalition of support, disaffected Democrats, independents and Republicans that are going to sweep many Republicans into office on November 2nd.

AMANPOUR: I'll get to that specifically in a moment, but the fact that leaders of the party say that, that certainly sets the tone, doesn't it? It doesn't sound like moving forward. It sounds like another recipe for gridlock.

CORNYN: Well, I don't think gridlock is going to be acceptable when it comes to runaway spending and unsustainable debt and 9.6 percent unemployment. I agree with Bob that that's why people are reacting the way they are. I don't agree with him about accountability. The administration and Democrats, who have been in charge now in the House and Senate for four years and in the White House for two years, don't want to seem to accept any responsibility. I think that's what this election is about, is assigning responsibility, and giving Republicans a chance now to deal with the matters that concern them most.

AMANPOUR: Do you have any hope of bipartisanship? Certainly President Obama has been talking about it. Is there any hope of that coming up?

MENENDEZ: Well, I certainly hope so. You know, we--

AMANPOUR: Or is it a daydream?

MENENDEZ: We reached out to Republicans from the very beginning. It's not about being at the back of the bus. But when President Obama came to Capitol Hill when we were trying to get this economy moving on the Recovery Act, before he got to the Capitol, Republican leaders were saying dead on arrival, before he even got to engage them.

So I thought the No. 1 job that we had was not to make Barack Obama a one-term president. I thought it was about creating jobs and growing the economy.

AMANPOUR: So the Democrats, it seems, the people are saying, simply have not succeeded in removing people's suspicions about what exactly is health care, what exactly is the stimulus, all of those policies that they still are not quite sure about. The Republicans, on the other hand, have basically said no and moved on. But this has been a very specific-free, substance-free, content-free election. For instance, you talk about moving the economy. But there are no concrete proposals on, for instance, how to slash the deficit.

You look at Britain. They have, whether you like it or not, or agree with it or not, put out a really severe austerity program, chapter and verse, dollars and cents. None of that has happened here.

CORNYN: Well, there will be on December the 1st a bipartisan debt commission report that I know that we're waiting to see what they come up with. But there will be very specific proposals dealing with debt and spending and to try to get the American job engine -- get the people back to work again. Those are the three issues that concern folks the most.

And I submit that even if we have a good election, which I think we will on November 2nd, that unless we address those three issues, then we're going to have another election in two years where people will throw out those of us who haven't been part of the solution but who have been part of the problem.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about taxes, because presumably that's going to be an immediate issue. People are talking about taxes and the battle for taxes starting right after this election. Is there any way, Senator, that Congress will agree with President Obama's plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest and preserve them for the middle class?

CORNYN: I don't believe we ought to raise taxes on anyone during a fragile economic recovery, and I think there is an increasing bipartisan support for that position. So I hope we'll continue the current tax policy for the near term, perhaps the next couple of years. Perhaps there's a bipartisan solution there.

AMANPOUR: Well, is there a bipartisan solution? There have been reports, for instance, Senator Menendez, that the White House realizes that there will not be any compromise on what the White House wants to do, and that perhaps one would preserve the tax cuts for the middle -- for the wealthiest temporarily while preserving them for the middle class.

MENENDEZ: Well, first of all, we had an opportunity to preserve permanently for the middle class tax cuts that Democrats proposed, and ultimately Republicans held that hostage to giving the wealthiest in the country a tax cut.

So what we can't have is what the Republican leader in the Senate has, which is saying that he wants to make them all of the tax cuts, including for the most wealthiest in the country, permanent. That is a $4 trillion cost. That is not going to happen, because you can't say you want to be responsible on spending and then spend $4 trillion on tax cuts.

AMANPOUR: But is there a compromise in the works?

MENENDEZ: Well, I certainly believe that there may be some opportunity for a temporary approval of some of these cuts, but--

AMANPOUR: A year, two years?

MENENDEZ: We'll have to see what can be worked out. But we will not support -- certainly what I will not support is a permanent extension, $4 trillion. You can't talk about spending and being responsible on spending and then spend $4 trillion that you don't have of our collective wealth to the individuals who have the greatest wealth in the country.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about a lot of the money that's been spent in this campaign on ads, on all sorts of things. Not only have there been strong complaints from the Democrats about a lot of the anonymous money that's going on ads, but some of the ads have been quite -- quite sharp in their tone, let's say. David Vitter has run one which I want to put up right now. His campaign ad.


(UNKNOWN): Charlie Melancon. Thanks to him, we might as well put out a welcome sign up for illegal aliens. Melancon voted to make it easier for illegals to get taxpayer-funded benefits. Melancon even voted against allowing police to arrest illegals. Thanks to Charlie Melancon, it's no wonder illegals keep coming.


AMANPOUR: So some people have called that racist. I want to know, do you think it's appropriate to finger Hispanics in that way?

CORNYN: Well, you--

AMANPOUR: Do you think it is appropriate?

CORNYN: I wish we had time to show Melancon's ads against Vitter. They're pretty tough.

AMANPOUR: But let me just ask about this particular ad.

CORNYN: Well, I think border security is a federal responsibility and one that the federal government has simply failed to deal with in an appropriate way. And I think it's appropriate to raise that issue in a campaign.

AMANPOUR: But do you think it's appropriate in this way? I mean, you're from Texas. You have a big Hispanic group there. Do you think it's appropriate? Would you have done that?

CORNYN: Well, I didn't write the ad. And I--

AMANPOUR: Would you have done it?

CORNYN: I think calling attention to illegal immigration -- and, you know, for example, this last year, Christiane, 45,000 people emigrated to the United States illegally from countries other than Mexico, including countries like Yemen where this bomb emanated from. So it's a national security issue.

AMANPOUR: But it's the style (ph) that I'm talking about, really, not the national security issue.

That's all we have time for. Thank you both very much, indeed. Senator Cornyn, Senator Menendez. We'll be watching on election night. Thank you very much, indeed.

And coming up next, a comic appeal for civility and unity on the National Mall.


AMANPOUR: And our powerhouse roundtable with ABC's George Will, Cokie Roberts, senior congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl, political strategist Donna Brazile, Tea Party organizer Dick Armey, and Arianna Huffington from the Huffington Post.

AMANPOUR: And as we turn to our roundtable this morning, we start with a massive rally that packed the National Mall yesterday that speaks volumes about these divisive times. Comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert cast partisanship aside in a music-and-comedy stand-up routine for civility and reason.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was less politics and more just a fun day out in the sun.

With entertainment featuring Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock and others, faux dueling rockers on the peace train. And the crazy train.


It wasn't the Beatles, but the message was come together.


JON STEWART, HOST, DAILY SHOW: Everyone has a right to be patriotic. Everyone.

(UNKNOWN) (singing): It's the greatest strongest country in the world and there's no one more American than we.

AMANPOUR: There was some silliness and plenty of skewering.


You know what our real problem is?


ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC: A country full of Joe the Plumbers.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Crazed tea baggers.


(UNKNOWN): Far-right cranks.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Far-left loons.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: Right-wing nut jobs.

(UNKNOWN): Practicing homosexuals.


MICHELLE MALKIN: Radical imams.

OLBERMANN: Un-American bastards.

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: Fabian (ph) socialists.

SCHULTZ: They are what's wrong with America.


COLBERT: I win again!

STEWART: The image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim.

AMANPOUR (on camera): What are you fed up with?

(UNKNOWN): I just don't like the way that our politicians aren't talking to each other.

(UNKNOWN): I think that it's raising awareness in the young community -- in the young generation now, and I think that's what's important.

(UNKNOWN): It's great to be able to actually have a conversation about being reasonable and being sane, as, you know -- in a time when there seems to be so much anger.

STEWART: We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here or on cable TV!



AMANPOUR: And joining me now, George Will, Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, Cokie Roberts, political strategist Donna Brazile, and also Dick Armey, head of Freedom Works and Tea Party organizer. And ABC's senior congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl. Thank you all for being here.

George, nothing wrong with a day out for civility and reason?

WILL: Nothing wrong with that.

AMANPOUR: I saw you rhythming a little bit there.


WILL: Nothing wrong with that until you begin to equate civility with the absence of partisanship, as though there's something wrong with partisanship.

We have two parties for a reason. We have different political sensibilities. People tend to cluster. We call them parties, and we have arguments, and that's called politics.

AMANPOUR: Some called it poison. Some called it paralyzed. What do you think? Should there be partisanship? Is it an inevitable role of society, a fact of life?

HUFFINGTON: The rally was not against partisanship as such. It was against demonizing your opponents. He said specifically in his speech at the end, which I thought was absolutely magnificent, that, of course, we'll have animus. Of course we'll have disagreements, but we don't have to turn each other into enemies. And at a time when people are going through really hard times, you talked to people at the rally -- I talked to people at the rally. We brought 10,000 people from New York on buses. A lot of the people didn't have jobs, or graduated from college and could not get jobs. So this is a time when demonization and scapegoating can thrive. And this is really a--


ROBERTS: Everybody says they want the parties to get along, and my father used to say you could disagree without being disagreeable, and these days people agree and are disagreeable. But I think that the fact is that voters elect politicians who very specifically don't want to get along, and that's going to happen this election more than ever.

So, you know, they're saying two things at once. We want everybody to get along, but here's who we're going to elect. Someone who says I am going to stand up, I am not going to compromise, I am not going to cross the aisle.

AMANPOUR: And he actually did poke fun at the cable environment and the media environment in general for focusing on those extremes.

BRAZILE: For amplifying the negative and not giving people the information that they need to educate them about the important issues.

But you know, the word compromise is a dirty word now. It equals capitulation. If you don't follow the doctrine of the left or the right, you cannot seem to get along with those in the middle.

The middle right now is alienated. The right hasn't captured them. The left perhaps have lost them. So I think the rally yesterday was a way for people who believe in commonsense solutions, commonsense leaders, they came together yesterday to just basically show that they do care about this country.

ROBERTS: The middle is now -- more people are identifying themselves as independents than either political party. And that's of course why we're having these great swings back and forth.

AMANPOUR: Let me go to Dick Armey, who is joining us from New Orleans. Dick Armey, thank you for joining us. You obviously a big supporter and organizer of the Tea Party. Do you think that there's anything wrong with common sense and civility? Because a lot of people have said that the Tea Party is really helping the extreme end of the spectrum.

ARMEY: No, obviously we need civility. I agree with George Will. You don't be confused between having sharp and sincere differences of opinion and being civil with one another.

I thought yesterday was a fun day. I was quite amused at watching these very important national comics stand up and decry with such sincerity that which they do every day on their shows. And, you know, I said -- I thought it was so remarkable, I want you all in America to quit acting like we do on our show every night with our militant vilification of everybody with whom we have a disagreement.

HUFFINGTON: Actually, Dick, I don't know when was the last time you watched the show, but that's precisely what they are not doing. And I would highly recommend -- I'll send you a reel of their last good shows just to see how they don't do that.

What they vilified in a civil, reasonable way, was the fact that the media have stopped being what they call -- what Jon Stewart calls (ph) the unity (ph) of our democracy, and that is something that goes back to Jefferson. That--

ARMEY: Absolutely.


HUFFINGTON: One second, Dick. What we choose to do with our magnifying glass in the media matters. If we only magnify the extremism, that's going to be amplified.

AMANPOUR: Let me turn to --

ARMEY: And I am so certain that makes all the sense in the world to you, Arianna. But the rest of us don't believe it.

AMANPOUR: Let me turn to Jon Karl.

ARMEY: But let's face it, it just was a fun day. I enjoyed it. I thought -- I got a big kick out of it. I'm down here in New Orleans, and I watched that for a while, then I went out to the French Quarter last night, and I--


ARMEY: -- pretty well enjoyed the entire day.

AMANPOUR: OK, let me turn to Jon Karl. Because Jon, you've been around the country, you have been covering a lot of these races. What are you hearing from people? Because certainly obviously asking those there, they talk about wanting much more, a cooperation in terms of finding solutions for the very real problems that they have. What are you finding?

KARL: What I'm sensing is we're going to have a Congress that's going to be far more polarized than even this last one, which has been one of the most polarized Congresses in recent memory. You have a situation where the moderate Democrats or the conservative Democrats that are most likely to work with Republicans, they are going to be decimated as a group in this new Congress. You're going to have a more ideological, more left-wing Democratic Party certainly in the House, and you're going to have a more energized and ideological right wing in the House on the Republican side.

ROBERTS: And also -- and the people who have been aisle crossers have gotten a very strong message from this election, which is cross the aisle at your peril. And the people who have lost in their primaries have lost because they have done that. And so it's not going to be any -- there's no incentive now to try to work together.

AMANPOUR: And on this note, George, when Mitch McConnell says our prime goal must be to make sure that President Obama is a one-term president, and when John Boehner says this is not the time for compromise, I mean, where does that get the country, in fact?

WILL: Well, it gets the country to a stark choice in 2012. We have a presidential system, and he who controls the White House is going to control the regulatory apparatus of the country and the initiative in shaping public opinion. So that's not an unusual thing to say, but let's note one thing. We constantly say there's going to be a Congress full of people who are inexperienced and anti-politics. The following seven states will in all likelihood on Tuesday elect fairly seasoned politicians as Republican senators -- North Dakota, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, and New Hampshire. That's not a rebellion against experience.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask Dick Armey, though, because obviously some of the candidates that you're supporting are challenging the establishment. That's the whole point. And former Republican Leader Trent Lott has said that once the election is over, we have to co-opt the Tea Party. Is that going to happen?

ARMEY: Well, I think the paradigm shift that you see, for too long the American people have said we're tired of having Washington squabbling with one another and telling us what we're going to get. We have decided to assert our citizenry, be involved, and tell Washington what we require of them and what we must have or they will lose their jobs. This is a great day where America is returning to its foundation root of the citizenry telling the government what we will tolerate from you, what we expect from you and what we require from you. It is an enormous return to the foundation roots of this great country.

HUFFINGTON: Dick Armey is making the mistake that a lot of people are going to make on Tuesday night, which is over-interpreting the results. This victory by Republicans, which I fully expect -- I fully expect them to take over the House -- does not mean that the nation is rejecting Democrats and affirming Republicans. It means that they are rejecting the way our institutions are working, that they have deep mistrust of all establishment, that basically our system has not worked for them.

ROBERTS: We hear this every time we have a president of one party and a Congress of the same party. The people in that party say, oh, this isn't a rejection in the midterm election. And it is, of course, a rejection.


ROBERTS: A midterm election is a referendum on the president.


ROBERTS: That's what it is.

HUFFINGTON: -- positive view of Republicans is to (inaudible).


AMANPOUR: How did the Democrats --

ROBERTS: It is a disaffirmation of Barack Obama.

HUFFINGTON: Absolutely, I said that. But this is not an affirmation of Republicans or a smaller government or of cutting spending, all this stuff that Dick Armey wants you to believe it is. It is not.

ROBERTS: Well, certainly the polls say people want smaller government and cutting spending.

HUFFINGTON: Because the current government has not worked.

AMANPOUR: The latest poll that ABC/Washington Post has just released today says that, in fact, President Obama and the Democrats have lost the mantle of change. The change slogan is now the Republican slogan.

HUFFINGTON: Owned by Republicans.


AMANPOUR: How did that happen?

BRAZILE: Well, it's simple. Because after a presidential election, people decide that, you know, OK, we've tried that. Let's go back the other way.

People are not voting to move backwards. They're moving sideways. And it's like asking somebody in a summer, do you want it to be cool or warmer? So clearly voters want change. That's what they're voting for, but I don't know if they're voting for the kind of wholesale change that Congressman Armey is talking about.

Look, the president issued a preemptive call for cooperation from the Republicans in his Saturday weekly video address. The Republicans will have to decide even if they win a slim majority in the Congress, they will have to decide if they will cooperate or come together to work with the president, or they want to shut down the government. The president will have an opportunity to show a contrast, that he wants to govern to get things done, while the Republicans just want to do more of the same and take a u-turn back to the mess that we got in.

AMANPOUR: George, Senator Cornyn pretty much told us that they didn't expect to win the Senate. Made some news here.

WILL: Doesn't matter, though, because if Mitch McConnell has 48 senators, he will always have 41 senators for whatever he wants to have 41 for.

Let me just say this. The Republican Party is being told to be the party of no. No more stimulus spending. No cap-and-trade. No card check. None of this other stuff. Gridlock is not an American problem. It's an American achievement. The framers of our Constitution didn't want an efficient government; they wanted a safe government. To which end they filled it with slowing and blocking mechanisms. Three branches of government, two branches of the legislative branch, veto, veto override, supermajority, judicial review.


ROBERTS: And we added to that the partisan rate (ph) so that we not only have institutional gridlock, we have partisan gridlock, which the voters overwhelmingly voted for.

WILL: What I'm saying, Cokie, is that when we have gridlock, the system is working.

ROBERTS: No, I understand, I understand that.


HUFFINGTON: But at the heart of this election, and the reason why Democrats have lost the mantle of change, that the administration completely underestimated the economic crisis. And ironically, the president on Jon Stewart said that when he gave credit to Larry Summers, he said a heck of a job, Larry, effectively, which Jon Stewart called him on. And that's why they're going to pay a heavy price. They did not expect unemployment to be where it is right now, Donna. You would agree.

ROBERTS: I think one of the things to watch for, though, Christiane, is that the president has to watch his left flank, as well. This -- extremism is not just on the right, it's on the left, as well. And what we do know is that any time a president is challenged in a primary, he loses in the general election. And there's very -- I would not be at all surprised to see this president challenged.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask Dick Armey again, because I'm fascinated, George, by what you say, that gridlock is good. And certainly there have been members of the Tea Party and others who have been speaking about what might happen after November 2nd. For instance, do you think that there could ever be a time when the Republicans with the Tea Partiers shut down government again? I mean, that was raised this week in an interview. Do you think that's going to happen?

ARMEY: No, I think what's going to happen is they're going to -- there's going to be the continuing contest in the big issues. Will the government be in control of America, which will ultimately destroy America, which is right now the obsession of the Democrat Party with their progressive core that controls the entire party, or will it be, in fact, restrained and responsively responsive to the desires and the needs of the American people.

The Republican Party, bless their heart, finally learned in this last year to listen to America rather than to join with the Democrats and tell America what they're going to get, whether they like it or not. And that's why the Republican Party is going to win.

AMANPOUR: All right. So --

ARMEY: Because they're listening to the voters.

AMANPOUR: They may not win the Senate, and Cokie is saying they are not going to shut down government. Do you call, for instance, one of the big issues you're talking about is health care. Would you say that in the first 100 days, that the Republican Party should try to roll back health care?

ARMEY: Well, let me just say, if you look at the vote when health care went through the House, the bipartisan vote was no. If the Speaker Boehner puts that vote on the floor, just put it out there and let everybody make a vote that is between them and their constituents, they will vote to repeal Obamacare, and at least 20 Democrats will vote with the Republicans, I'll guarantee it.

AMANPOUR: Let me just go to Jon Karl.

ARMEY: And it will be a reaffirmation of the original bipartisan vote by which it was passed in the first place, with only Democrat votes.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask Jon Karl. Jon, you heard me ask Senator Cornyn whether they perhaps had given up on Joe Miller in Alaska. He didn't really say that, but they're not expecting him necessarily to win. But you also were around with President Clinton, and he seemed to be making basically don't count us out, reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated. Is that just wishful thinking at this point?

KARL: Yes, that's kind of what he has to say. He also in that interview said that this is -- they're doing now what they did in 1994. I mean, Bill Clinton is as smart as anybody on this, smarter than most, knows that this -- I mean, it's hard to find a Democrat who honestly will tell you they think they still have a chance at taking the House. It comes down to how bad is the loss going to be.

AMANPOUR: And I want to switch gears for a moment, because I want to raise something that you raised in your column. The issue of the non-issue in this campaign, and that is the war in Afghanistan. Tom Brokaw also last week wrote an op-ed about it. How 10 years in it, it hasn't even surfaced. How can that be?

WILL: Tenth year of our longest war. This is the most deadly year in the decade in Afghanistan. And it is astonishing that it hasn't become an issue. And what's really interesting is that the rise of the conservative impulse in Congress is going to help the president if he wants to maintain this, what, adventure in Afghanistan?


AMANPOUR: It's true, though. The president will be helped by more Republicans.

HUFFINGTON: What I can't understand is why the way that we in the media continue to see everything as left versus right, completely breaks down. You know, you have George Will and Russ Feingold and me and many people across the political spectrum believing that our presence in Afghanistan is making us actually less secure the way we're conducting the war. We're spending 2 billion --


AMANPOUR: Yes, but the Republicans do support it, and it could be a big help for the president's policy.


ROBERTS: We don't know what a lot of the incoming members feel about it.

HUFFINGTON: Well, nobody has made it an issue.

ROBERTS: The fact that you -- that it had not been an issue means that they have not had to really take a position on it. And so it's a possibility that you could get a left/right coalition against the war, but I think it's more likely, particularly if the military commanders ask for support, that they'll get it.

BRAZILE: With all due respect to Afghanistan, I want to get right back to our election. Last word, this is what I heard in Evansville, Indiana. There is a blue thunder that is going to stop the red wave. These races will come down to three or four votes per precinct. '94 had a Republican blowout, but you know what, it was close. So it comes down to people still believing that they can make a difference.

AMANPOUR: All right, and you will be continuing this discussion in the green room at abcnews.com/thisweek.

Also, on election night, join our coverage of Vote 2010. It begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time online at abcnews.com. Our broadcast coverage begins at 9:30 Eastern time.