'This Week' Transcript: Sen. John McCain

Transcript: Sen. John McCain

ByABC News
June 19, 2011, 5:00 AM


AMANPOUR (voice-over): This week, are Republicans turning into doves with their calls to end the war in Afghanistan?

ROMNEY: Our troops shouldn't go off and try and find a war of independence for another nation.

AMANPOUR: ... and stop U.S. military action over Libya?

BACHMANN: We were not attacked. We were not threatened with attack. There was no vital national interest.

AMANPOUR: This morning, the last Republican nominee gives a stern warning that his party is headed in the wrong direction.

MCCAIN: I do want to send a message, and that is that we cannot move into an isolationist party.

AMANPOUR: Then, after the Republican debate, Romney breaks out, Bachmann shines, and Pawlenty stumbles. We'll size up the field on our roundtable.

And "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts joins us with an exclusive interview, President Obama on Father's Day.

OBAMA: I have this huge advantage. I live over the store. At 6:30, no matter how busy I am, for an hour to an hour-and-a-half, my only focus is them.

ANNOUNCER: Live from the Newseum in Washington, "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour starts right now.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, and happy Father's Day.

Senator John McCain will join us in just a moment, but first, some news since your morning papers.

In Japan, a new phase in the struggle to contain radiation at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. Workers will briefly open the main door to install a cooling system to avert another explosion. It's been more than three months since the reactor was swamped by that devastating tsunami.

Here in the United States, tens of thousands of people in the South are without power today after heavy storms battered the region. Heavy winds, pounding rain, and lightning hit Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina.

And Bruce Springsteen fans the world over are gathering today to mourn the death of the boss's longtime band member, Clarence Clemons. The saxophonist died last night after suffering a stroke early in the week.

Today also marks a milestone in America's war against Libya. It is now 90 days since the United States launched air strikes against Moammar Gadhafi. President Obama authorized that military intervention without congressional approval, but under the War Powers Act, he must get official Capitol Hill sign-off after 90 days of hostilities. Today is the deadline, but the questions remain: Will Congress cut off funding for the war, or with lawmakers vote to approve or disapprove continued U.S. intervention?


AMANPOUR: Joining us now, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain. Thank you for being with us.

MCCAIN: Thank you for having me on.

AMANPOUR: Let us talk about the debate really roiling and raging on Capitol Hill about what the president of the United States is authorized to do over Libya. And earlier this week, you issued a warning, an admonition to your own party. Let's listen to what you said earlier this week.


MCCAIN: I caution my friends, both here in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, that we don't want to do anything or pass legislation which would encourage Gadhafi to remain in power. And I would say to my Republican friends: If this were a Republican president, would you be trying to impose these same conditions?


AMANPOUR: So that was pretty stark. Were you saying that they're at risk of putting politics over national security and over policy?

MCCAIN: I think that's a great risk, coupled with war weariness, coupled with the lack of complete success in -- or apparent to some success in Libya, although I believe that Gadhafi is crumbling. But I think it's a combination of things. And it certainly is also a bit of partisanship. But the president of the United States, I believe, should have gone in with our air power and not given it to, quote, "NATO" because...

AMANPOUR: Not "leading from behind," so to speak.

MCCAIN: ... exactly, not leading from behind. But the point is that if we do not continue this effort in Libya, if Gadhafi remains in power, it could have profound consequences.

So the War Powers Act, every president has said that they don't agree with its constitutionality, but they have adhered to it. So the Congress of the United States should pass a resolution -- and Senator John Kerry and I have the resolution that's ready to go -- that would comply with the War Powers Act.

AMANPOUR: You said that you think Gadhafi is crumbling. We've heard the Europeans say that they might have to continue the bombing to the fall. I've heard American top military officials say the same thing. Are you prepared for it to take that long?

MCCAIN: I'm prepared, whether our European allies that -- 7 nations of the 28 that are actually in the fight have the assets is a legitimate question. We are providing all the logistical support, the intelligence, refueling, literally everything but combat aircraft, including Predators. Predators are in the fight. But it's an enormous strain on our allies.

AMANPOUR: Are you concerned, though, about the message we're hearing? You've talked about the partisan share, what's going on in Congress. Are you concerned, for instance, about what Speaker Boehner is saying about this?

MCCAIN: Well, I was more concerned about what the candidates in New Hampshire the other night said. This is isolationism. There's always been an isolation strain -- isolation strain in the Republican Party, the Pat Buchanan wing of our party. But now it seems to have moved more center stage, so to speak.


BACHMANN: Defense Secretary Gates, when he came before the United States Congress, he could not identify a vital national American interest in Libya. We were not attacked. We were not threatened with attack. There was no vital national interest.

CAIN: They are not simple situations. It's a mess. It's this absolute mess.

GINGRICH: We have got to have a totally new strategy for the region, because we don't today have the kind of intelligence we need to know even what we're doing.


MCCAIN: If we had not intervened, Gadhafi was at the gates of Benghazi. He said he was going to go house to house to kill everybody. That's a city of 700,000 people. What would be saying now if we had allowed for that to happen?

AMANPOUR: Well, you were one of the key supporters. And what you're talking is all the Republicans on the stage of that debate on Monday seeming to waver from what's a traditional Republican position on national security.

MCCAIN: I wonder what Ronald Reagan would be saying today.

AMANPOUR: What would he be saying today, if he had heard, for instance, Michele Bachmann or Mitt Romney?

MCCAIN: He would be saying that's not the Republican Party of the 20th century and now the 21st century. That is not the Republican Party that has been willing to stand up for freedom for people for all over the world, whether it be in Grenada, that Ronald Reagan had a quick operation about, or whether it be in our enduring commitment to countering the Soviet Union.

AMANPOUR: So what do you say, then, to a Michele Bachmann who said that there was no vital interest in Libya?

MCCAIN: I strongly disagree with her and others. The fact is, our interests are our values. And our values are that we don't want people needlessly slaughtered by the thousands if we can prevent such activity.

Second of all, Gadhafi has the blood of 90 Americans on his hands. He is a person who has been involved in acts of terror against the United States of America, bombing of our embassies, et cetera. So...

AMANPOUR: Pan Am 103?

MCCAIN: Pan Am 103, the 90-some Americans that were killed in the blowing up of Pan Am 103, the bombing of the disco in Germany. So if Gadhafi remains in power, it's clear that you will see him engage in an escalated effort, of course, to harm the United States of America, obviously.

AMANPOUR: So let's turn then, for instance, to Afghanistan, where, quite amazingly, many of the candidates, if not all, were talking about a swift withdrawal from Afghanistan. For instance, Mitt Romney was one of those who said so, and let's listen to what he said at that debate.


ROMNEY: It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, consistent with the word that comes from our generals that we can hand the country over. I think we've learned some important lessons in our experience in Afghanistan.

Our troops shouldn't go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation. Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan's independence from the Taliban.


AMANPOUR: So there are several questions raised there. Number one, is this a war of independence that the United States is fighting in Afghanistan?

MCCAIN: I had never heard it described that way. He talked about the lessons of history. We abandoned Afghanistan once, and we paid a very heavy price for it in the attacks of 9/11. So that is an important lesson that we must learn.

Second of all, we are succeeding in Afghanistan. We have now gained significant control of the southern part of the country. We now have the challenge in the eastern side. And so we are succeeding.

By the way, it reminds me of the summer of 2007, when we were all ready to pull out of Iraq, and we had to stay the course, and we were able to -- the surge was able to succeed. That surge is succeeding again under the same general.

I wish that -- that candidate Romney and all the others would sit down with General Petraeus and understand how this counterinsurgency is working and succeeding. And it still has enormous challenges, the Karzai government, the latest problems with Pakistan. But for us to abandon Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the Taliban and radical Islamic extremists I think would be repeating mistakes we made before.

AMANPOUR: Another thing that Mitt Romney said was bring them back swiftly in accordance with what the general said, he added. But of course, right now that debate is going on. What do you think Congress will support? Will it oppose President Obama if he decides on, let's say, a 5,000 to 10,000 troop withdrawal this summer?

MCCAIN: I think that Congress will support a, quote, "modest withdrawal." One of the major reasons for that is because Secretary Gates, who is probably by all measurement one of the most respected men in America today, has called repeatedly for a, quote, "modest withdrawal." So the president really has Secretary Gates to back him up if he makes that decision.

One other pure political point: Suppose the surge continues to succeed, and the summer of 2012 the president was able then to announce a massive withdrawal? That would be very helpful to the president politically. I always try to help him as much as I can politically.

AMANPOUR: I can't believe you're giving him this strategic advice.

MCCAIN: But I think it's -- but it's also, I think, clear that we do need to move into the eastern Afghanistan and finish this fight with one more season.

AMANPOUR: So just to be clear then, what you're saying is that you would support a, quote, "modest withdrawal" of 5,000 to 10,000...

MCCAIN: Yes, mainly support troops.

AMANPOUR: ... as Secretary Gates has said.

MCCAIN: Yes, support troops, yes.

AMANPOUR: And you think Congress will give him that backing? They won't oppose him this time?

MCCAIN: I think there's going to be a huge debate about it. I think there's going to be a real struggle. But I remember, again, the summer of 2007, they were within one vote of 60 votes to force withdrawal. And, again, I would hope that Ryan Crocker and David Petraeus and General Allen, his successor, would be appearing before Congress. I think they can make a case.

AMANPOUR: Key to the success of Afghanistan and to America's strategic relationship is, obviously, Pakistan. And there's been so much talk about Pakistan in the news this week, including that they arrested the CIA informant who helped the United States kill Osama bin Laden. I mean, what does this say? Is it a chilling effect on the relationship even beyond what already exists? And can it be overcome?

MCCAIN: I think it's one of the most -- probably the most frustrating aspect of this whole issue. We have known for years that the ISI had contacts and relations with -- with the Taliban, the Haqqani network in particular. Part of that, by the way, was the result of the fact we abandoned Pakistan with the so-called Pressler amendment some years ago.

But -- so it seems to me that to restore our confidence in our relationship with Pakistan, they have to make certain steps. And we have to sort of set up some benchmarks as to what we expect.

After all, the United States is investing billions and billions of dollars in Pakistan. And we have -- taxpayers have a right to have a return on that. So I want to -- and I think we will -- set up some benchmarks for Afghanistan, add (ph) the same kind of thing we did with Iraq, and some benchmarks for Pakistan that we really expect them to meet. And it's going to be very difficult obviously is the enemy has sanctuary.

AMANPOUR: Do you see any hope in actually getting this relationship back on any kind of decent footing?

MCCAIN: I do, but part of it has to do with the Pakistanis' belief in the length and depth of our commitment. If they think we're leaving, they have to stay in the neighborhood, and it's the toughest and most dangerous neighborhood. If they think we're willing to see it through with them, I think it's much more likely we'll get their cooperation.

AMANPOUR: Let's move to domestic politics, which obviously shapes all of this, including what you called war weariness, but also the weariness of paying the immense amount of money that it's costing. ABC poll says somewhere between 45 percent and 46 percent of those polled say that they're not satisfied with the candidates as yet. Are you -- and they want somebody else. Would you consider yourself satisfied with the slate that's already up there? Or you one of the 46 percent who wants to see somebody else jump in?

MCCAIN: I'm satisfied. I think there may be others who jump in, but I'm satisfied. This is the beginning of a process. But I'm confident that we will come up with a candidate that will be very competitive with President Obama.

AMANPOUR: And are you ready -- will you endorse somebody?

MCCAIN: I think it's inappropriate for me to. But I do want to send a message, and that is that we cannot move into an isolationist party. We cannot repeat the lessons of the 1930s, when the United States of America stood by while bad things happened in the world. We are the lead nation in the world, and America matters, and we must lead. But sometimes that leadership entails sacrifice, sadly.

AMANPOUR: Senator McCain, thank you very much for being with us.

MCCAIN: Thank you for having me on.


AMANPOUR: As you heard, strong words from John McCain on Pakistan. And up next, I'll ask that country's ambassador, what will it take to save the American-Pakistan alliance? And Liz Cheney will join us to lay down some benchmarks of her own.


AMANPOUR: A key question this week: Are Republican hawks changing their tune on America's wars? And how does the United States mend relations with Pakistan, which is a crucial ally in the fight against terrorism and extremism? That relationship has been sorely tested since Osama bin Laden was discovered hiding in Pakistan. And this week, another setback, when we learned that the Pakistani military had rounded up some of the informants belonging to the CIA who had led the United States to bin Laden. And that triggered this testy back-and-forth on Capitol Hill.


LEAHY: How long do we support governments that lie to us?

GATES: Most governments lie to each other. That's the way business gets done.

LEAHY: Do they also arrest -- do they also arrest the people that help us...

GATES: Sometimes.

LEAHY: ... when they say they're our allies?

GATES: Sometimes.

LEAHY: Not often.

GATES: And sometimes they send people to spy on us, and they're our close allies. So...

LEAHY: And we give aid to them.

GATES: That's the real world that we deal with.


AMANPOUR: I'm joined now by Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. Also with us, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Liz Cheney and David Ignatius of the Washington Post.

Thank you all for being here. Let me get straight to you, Ambassador. You heard that testy exchange. This is the real world. We understand. But why has Pakistan done that with these CIA informants?

HAQQANI: Pakistan has rounded up more than 30 people as part of the investigation about the Osama bin Laden compound. Of course, we were taken by surprise. And among those are, of course, people with all kinds of information. We will be dealing with each one of them on the basis of what information they have.

As far as the concern that there are people amongst the people that we have rounded up who are informants for the CIA, we will deal with them as we would deal with a friendly intelligence service, and we will resolve this to the satisfaction of our friends, as well as to our own laws.

AMANPOUR: So are they being punished? Will they be punished?

HAQQANI: No one is being punished. Basically, this is an exercise in trying to find out what has happened. As Secretary Gates would say, that's the real world. When something like this happens, you want to know what happened and how and who was involved.

AMANPOUR: But you can imagine, of course -- Liz Cheney is sitting here, David Ignatius -- to the Americans, it looks like people who led them to the most-hated, most-wanted terrorist are being punished and detained.

HAQQANI: That is an incorrect characterization for the simple reason that the people who led the Americans to the OBL compound included many people from Pakistan's government. After all, the first intelligence step that enabled the U.S. to piece together the intelligence that got them there came from the Pakistani authorities.

AMANPOUR: Is it a satisfactory response from the ambassador to this incident of the detention of these people?

CHENEY: You know, I think there's no question but that it is, you know, an embarrassment that bin Laden was there for as many years as he was there. But I think it's also -- there's no question that this relationship is hugely important, and it's one in which we have worked together to do very important things, the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the capture of Abu Zubaydah, continuing to fight terrorism.

I think that the extent to which you've got extremists who threaten U.S. interests in Pakistan, they also threaten the Pakistani government. And the surest way for those extremists to win, frankly, is if we react in this sort of a knee-jerk fashion here in the United States or, as Senator McCain said, if we decide that we're going to pull out, that we cannot be counted on to maintain our commitment in Afghanistan until we've been able to make sure we prevail there.

AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a moment. But, David, what mechanisms are there, do you think, that the United States and Pakistan can reset their relations for this vital and crucial endeavor?

IGNATIUS: My contacts on both sides, U.S. and Pakistan, tell me that there is now an effort to create what you could call a new normal, after the bitter shock and disappointment of recent months, which culminated in the May 2 raid on bin Laden's compound. It's shocking to us that the Pakistanis allowed him to be there. It's shocking to the Pakistanis...

HAQQANI: We did not allow him to be there, David. He just happened to be there.

IGNATIUS: The American perceptions of this, Ambassador. And it's shocking to Pakistanis that their air space and sovereignty was violated.

So there is something of a low ebb, as it's been described in reports, and I think an effort to put things back together in a new framework, with new rules of the road, that -- sources speak about a new joint task force on counterterrorism, where the two sides will work together more closely, other things like that.

I think the American feeling is, this new normal will take a while to develop, and it won't ever be quite as strong as we might like.

AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you, you just said we want to know what other information they have. I mean, everybody presumably now is watching very closely Ayman al-Zawahiri, who this week took the lead of Al Qaida. Is anybody here concerned that this person now is going to feel pressure to launch a major attack on U.S. or U.S. interests, Liz?

CHENEY: Well, certainly. I mean, I think that whoever is the leader of Al Qaida, that's clearly their objective, and I think they'll continue to want to make themselves known, and I think, once again, that's why the sort of strain of isolationism that we began to see from some of the Republican candidates is so very concerning.

I think that we have to remember we are at war. The notion that we can somehow retreat, pull back from Afghanistan, for example, as you heard Ambassador Huntsman say, is very naive.

And I think a situation in which the United States, led by the, you know, Republican Party candidates for president begins to adopt a position where we believe our safety is guaranteed if we simply come back within the boundaries of our nation, is one in which we will surely be attacked again and one in which we are clearly less safe.

AMANPOUR: So let's talk about that. It's clearly -- it appears to be sort of a turning point moment right now. That debate on Monday in New Hampshire, with all the traditional defense and national security hawks, which is what the Republican Party has traditionally been, really sort of pulling back, you know, in a way that's alarmed the foreign policy establishment. Is this just a momentary change because of the budget problems, because of war weariness? Or do you think this sets a new benchmark for the Republicans?

CHENEY: Well, I think it's very important for Republicans to speak out, for Republicans who recognize how dangerous that path is to speak out. Clearly, you've got polls now that shows there is war weariness. Obviously, we've got huge and significant debt issues that we've got to be able to address.

But it's important for people to remember that the cost to us of pulling back, the cost to us of not finishing the job in Afghanistan, of not leading -- you know, President Obama himself clearly is contributing to this. He's very hesitant to lead, really doesn't want to lead, is not standing up and explaining to the American people why we must prevail in Afghanistan, is not standing up and explaining why it's so important for us to prevail in Libya.

And in a situation in which the president, the commander-in-chief is not leading, and the leading Republican Party candidates are responding in some instances to poll numbers that show the unpopularity of these policies, we run the risk of a very dangerous foreign policy path.

AMANPOUR: And looking at it from your perspective, number one, do you have any information on Zawahiri?

HAQQANI: The U.S. side and Pakistan are working together on any information that any side has. The U.S. will share the intelligence. The Pakistanis will act. Whatever we do, we will do jointly. Ayman al-Zawahiri is definitely the top priority for both Pakistani and U.S. intelligence.

And one point I would like to make in continuation to what Liz Cheney was saying, if there is war weariness in the United States and there are concerns about the budget, try and imagine the pressures on President Karzai in Afghanistan and President Zardari in Pakistan, and then...


HAQQANI: ... and then look at the context. Just as, for example, one private first class got annoyed with the war and caused Wikileaks to happen, there are people like that in Islamabad, there are people like that in Kabul. So that is the context in which we should be judged instead of this assumption that anything that goes wrong is definitely because Pakistanis just don't want to be America's allies. We want to be American allies. We are American allies. Sometimes things just don't go as we all want them to go.

AMANPOUR: In the big debate that's going to come up over withdrawing U.S. troops, I don't know whether it's going to be a big debate like last time, but there's going to be a decision. How many, do you think, we're going to see withdrawn this summer?

IGNATIUS: The president has kept his -- his hand very close on this. The military recommendation is for a small number. It's usually pegged at 3,000 to 5,000 troops. The signals I'm getting from the White House is to expect something more than that, I would guess something approaching five digits, towards 10,000 in this first announcement.

But the larger point -- and this goes to, I think, all of the issues that we've been discussing -- is the president looks at what happened over the course of this last 18 months with his Af-Pak policy. He feels that the counterterrorism effort, that part of it, has been very successful, that we really have Al Qaida on the run. The symbol of that is killing Osama bin Laden.

Other parts of this policy, the attempt to stabilize the south in Afghanistan (inaudible) the Kandahar provinces, has been less successful, by the president's judgment.

So I think, looking forward, the key to policy will be, let's stress the things that are working, which are counterterrorism. Let's make sure we continue to push with that. And the success on that allows us somewhat more flexibility in removing troops.

I must say, Ambassador Haqqani, the focus on counterterrorism really does put the relationship between U.S. and Pakistan as a key variable here, because if that's not going well, counterterrorism efforts will really be hurt.

HAQQANI: Absolutely.

CHENEY: The counterterrorism efforts are critically important, but I think that if you talk -- as I know you do -- to the generals on the ground, they would say the counterinsurgency efforts themselves must also continue. And I think that's the concern, that if we pull back, you know, 10,000 troops, the counterinsurgency efforts -- which, in fact, have been quite successful, and now they will move into the east -- will suffer significantly.

AMANPOUR: We can see the battle lines being drawn between those two policies, as well. Thank you all for being with us.

And up next, the politics of war in the presidential campaign. Our roundtable weighs in on the newly dovish Republican candidates.

And later, President Obama, in a Father's Day exclusive with ABC's Robin Roberts. Tips from the parent-in-chief on raising teenage daughters in the White House.


OBAMA: I have men with guns that surround them often. And a great incentive for running for re-election is that it means they never get in a car with a boy who had a beer.





COLBERT: Just two days ago on "Fox News Sunday," Pawlenty jacked Mitt Romney right in the health care plan.

PAWLENTY: President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare and basically made it Obamneycare.

COLBERT: Obamneycare is perfect. It's the Brangelina of political attacks. So the Minnesota governor was totally primed and ready when John King lobbed him a softball...

KING: If it was Obamneycare on "Fox News Sunday," why is it not Obamneycare standing here with the governor right there?

PAWLENTY: It -- President Obama is -- is the person who I quoted in saying he looked to Massachusetts for designing his program.

COLBERT: Forget Obamneycare. I want to know how Minnesota's health plan keeps Tim Pawlenty alive without a spine.


AMANPOUR: Steven Colbert on Tim Pawlenty's debate performance. The former Minnesota governor wiped out in the first major showdown, so say many of the pundits of campaign 2012. The question now is, can he pick himself back up?

Joining me now, our powerhouse roundtable, ABC's George Will, Jacob Weisberg of Slate magazine, Matthew Dowd, former chief strategist for George W. Bush, and ABC political director Amy Walter.

Thank you all for being here. Let me go straight to you, because you are a big supporter of Pawlenty. We talked about it last week. And I want to know, is this fair, all this dumping on him? Can he recover from him? Is it just -- kind of a bump in the road, so to speak, on the way to the candidacy?

WILL: Well, I'm a supporter of Pawlenty in that I think he's one of the plausible presidents that they could nominate. One debate neither makes nor breaks a campaign, but he has to sorry a problem. On the one hand, he's behind, so he must attack. On the other hand, his virtue, his strength is that he's seen as a temperate, nice, Upper Midwestern mainstream conservative. And those -- so his tactics and his strategy are in conflict here.

AMANPOUR: Right. And I was just reading that, that there is this sort of conflict. Should he be precisely that, the sensible, or the attack dog? You think that he doesn't -- he's really had a problem in this debate?

DOWD: Yeah, but part of the thing is, is that -- one from the things in political campaigns is you have to be authentic and genuine, so he has -- starts this very personalized attack towards Mitt Romney and then shows up and he's with him in person and then backs off of it. Their campaign is -- and he knows it was a problem, which is why he tried to address it in the days after, which I don't think he addressed very well.

I don't think it's a death knell for a campaign, but when you start off that low in the polls and you have to do everything right -- basically, Tim Pawlenty to win the nomination has to just do about -- just about everything right.

This was a problem, when you show up for the first time and you're ready to sort of engage at a high level and you pull back, and George is right. You want to preserve authenticity, but it was a problem for him, and he can't make many more of these mistakes or he'll be done.

WALTER: Yeah, and this is the real problem for Tim Pawlenty, is finding that niche. He wants to be the consensus conservative, but there already is a consensus conservative. That's Mitt Romney. So to be the alternative, he has to be the combative conservative or the controversial conservative. And he's not that person. And that person is Michele Bachmann right now.

AMANPOUR: Well, it looks like, perhaps, Michele Bachmann was the breakout. That's what, again, lots of people are saying after looking at that debate. Do you agree?

WEISBERG: She had a good performance. I mean, in a way, she's a like a Sarah Palin who makes sense when she speaks. You know, she doesn't think everything revolves around her. She doesn't think reality is like an elitist plot against her. And to be frank, she doesn't lie reflectively the way Sarah Palin does. So if there's room for one of them in the race, it certainly looks like it would be Bachmann now on the far right, rather than Palin.

DOWD: I don't think Sarah Palin -- I don't think either one of them would consider that a compliment, comparing one to the other on this situation. But I think Michele Bachmann, she had a great night. She came from nowhere. But I think this process is such a long process. She has been prone to make some mistakes. She does speak to a grassroots part of the party. But she's going to be affected if the governor of Texas -- Michele Bachmann more than anybody else I think will be affected if the governor of Texas gets in this race.

WALTER: You know who she reminds me, though, of, is she's sort of the Howard Dean of this election. She's coming in and talking to that grassroots base that nobody else is doing right now. You can see her getting to that place in Iowa, and then you're right. She has to see if she can have that...


WILL: But at this stage, also, in the process, biography is a good bit of what this is about. And her biography is terrific, the 23 foster children, the 5 children. She's walked the walk, and it resonates.

AMANPOUR: Well, George, let's leap to the governor of Texas, who brought down the house at the Republican gathering in Louisiana. Let's just look at what he said and the reaction.


PERRY: And our loudest opponents on the left are never going to like us, so let's quit trying to curry favor with them.


Let's stop this American downward spiral.


We're doing this. And it's happening because of too much spending, too much interfering, and too much apologizing.


AMANPOUR: So is he going to come in (inaudible) and what niche does he fill?

WILL: I think he will come in. He'll fill the niche of those who think there's something deeply flawed about this array of candidates, although I'm not sure how many people really -- I'm not sure whether more people feel that way this year than do normally. But he's -- he's friendly both to the Tea Party and to the social conservatives. They're not at all the same constituency, and he bridges that gap well.

WEISBERG: But are we really going to have an election about abortion, with all that's going on now with the economy, around the world? I mean, it just seems like a kind of throwback. You have all of this skirmishing on the right of the Republican Party, and all of these people trying to win over the base vote. Meanwhile, who is Barack Obama afraid of running against? I think he'd be most afraid of running against a Jon Huntsman or a Mitt Romney. He'd love to run against Michele Bachmann or a Sarah Palin.

AMANPOUR: So let's answer...

DOWD: I just think the governor of Texas -- I live in Austin. I've known Rick Perry for 25 years. I knew Rick Perry when both of us were Democrats, when he filed as a Democrat. I took his filing as a Democrat as a state representative.

I think -- while it may be true that there's not an appetite for a lot of social conservative issue, I think he best touches those issues quickly. He has got the best rhetoric anti-Washington. He was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool. And he ran a race in Texas against a very popular incumbent Republican senator and beat her badly with an anti-Washington race.

I think he is best positioned to run against Washington and run against the problems up here more than anybody else. Whether he not -- whether or not he gets through the process or not -- he's never been through that vetting process -- I think he's best positioned right now to do that.

AMANPOUR: A couple of question. How cool is the Tea Party still? Do they still have the fervor that propelled them to the 2010 midterm victories? Is that going to last now? Or is -- is it being tempered?

WALTER: Well, I think that clearly the Tea Party element -- whatever we're going to call this -- does have an influence in the -- in the primary process. And the reality -- I think this is where Rick Perry fits in, which is he speaks very well to that audience, which is true. He can do the rabble-rousing. He can do the anti-Washington thing. But he also has a record in Texas that's about creating jobs and the economy.

And that is -- I've talked to people who are around sort of the Romney and Pawlenty camps -- who say, you know, this is what primary voters are looking for, primary voters. They want to marry the rock star, Tea Party person with the establishment, somebody who can talk the language of this election, which is the economy, and that's where Rick Perry can...


AMANPOUR: So you brought up Jon Huntsman. Let's just take a look at some of the videos that he's been putting out in anticipation of his announcement, which is coming up on Tuesday. So there's the motor bike, there's the great outdoors, there's the wilderness. What do you make of that?

WEISBERG: Well, I think it's a little bit of scene creation, to be a man of the people. He's very wealthy. He's a Mormon. He's originally from Utah, so he's trying to downplay the things that might be distancing in a Republican primary and play up the things that make him resonate with ordinary people.

But I think the thing that Huntsman has going for him, really, is his expertise about the country that's going to have the biggest impact on America's economic future, namely China. You know, Huntsman speaks not one, but two Chinese dialects. He's just came back as ambassador. And, of course, in a Republican primary, everyone says, oh, how terrible, he worked for Obama. I think he can say plausibly, he didn't work for Obama, he worked for the United States of America.

AMANPOUR: Leading to that, the whole idea of foreign policy, you saw what happened on the stage in New Hampshire. The Republicans, who the world sort of knows as traditional defense, national security hogs, practically all the candidates there were talking about pulling back from all their overseas commitments. George, this is a big change -- whether you're a war-lover or not, this is a big change for the party, particularly for presidential candidates.

WILL: The United States -- the United States is engaged in hostilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, the tribal region of Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya. That's five wars. How many do these people want? With regard to Libya, did Libya attack us? No. Was it about to attack us? No. Were we obliged by a treaty to get engaged in a civil war, in a tribal society? No. Were Americans endangered? No. Find me a reason for this.

AMANPOUR: Well, the reason is the humanitarian reason.

WILL: Well, to say that people are isolationists, akin to those who didn't want to resist Hitler and the empire of Japan, because they don't want to prolong the folly of the involvement in Libya is preposterous. When Ronald Reagan, much quoted, saint of the Republican Party, made a mistake, as he did in Lebanon, he quickly liquidated it.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that this real admonition from John McCain to his fellow Republicans on this very issue, is -- how is it going to play in the Republican race?

WALTER: Well, you know, Romney and the rest of the Republicans actually have the polling on their side in this case, even among Republicans. So in a ABC-Washington Post poll, we asked the question, should the U.S. withdraw a substantial number of troops from Afghanistan? Seventy-three percent of all Americans said yes, including 59 percent of Republicans.

The tension part -- and this goes back to your question of the Tea Party versus the conservative -- the other conservative wing of the party -- Tea Party supporters, identifiers, 63 percent said let's pull out troops. Only 40 percent -- 48 percent, excuse me, of conservative, self-identified conservatives agreed with that.

DOWD: But part of the thing -- I think part of the thing is that -- Amy's right that there is a political problem here, and the candidates understand it, but there's also a budget problem here. When they sit there and talk about cutting the budget, cutting the budget, cutting the budget, and they -- they can't say, "Oh, by the way, let's stay in these five whatever we're calling wars, conflicts, whatever, that are spending billions and billions of dollars a month." That's the problem.

So pulling back the troops -- and it's not long ago when George Bush ran for president when he talked about we don't want to nation-build, we don't want to get in wars of our own choice, we don't want to do that, and then it became part of the Republican Party. They're just actually going back to where it was about 10 years ago.

WILL: We...

AMANPOUR: Last word?

WILL: We were engaged in World War II for 1,346 days. We had reached that point in Afghanistan on June 14, 2005, six years ago. We've been engaged in Afghanistan now twice as long, more than twice as long as we were in the Second World War. And to say that this is somehow disproportionate is not isolationism.

AMANPOUR: This is going to be a debate that rages as we go forth, particularly about the number of troops that are going to be withdrawn. And the roundtable will continue in the green room at abcnews.com/thisweek.

And still to come, the Sunday funnies and our very special Father's Day interview with President Obama.


OBAMA: Perfect day on Father's Day is just spending time with them. Malia and Sasha are the perfect age, you know, 13, 10. They're their own people, but they still actually want to spend time with you. You know, and that may not last that many more years.



AMANPOUR: And now the Sunday funnies.


O'BRIEN: According to a poll, over 50 percent of viewers thought that Mitt Romney won this week's presidential debate. They thought Mitt Romney won, yeah. Romney credits the win to his preparation, his grasp of the issues, and the good people at Mattel who built him.


(UNKNOWN): Republicans, if they play this right, they could run Lassie and win.

COLBERT: Yes, even Lassie could beat Obama. Of course, she'd never get the Republican nomination. Helping Timmy out of that well is socialism.

LENO: In more serious news, two U.S. F-15 fighter jets had to intercept a small civilian plane that flew towards Camp David while President Obama was there, pretty scary. Turns out it was just someone completely lost, no idea where they were heading. So apparently the pilot must have been one of President Obama's economic advisers...


LENO: Just no idea, just flying every which way, no idea where he's going.


AMANPOUR: And when we return, the president is the commander-in-chief, but his most important job may be dad to two daughters. An ABC News exclusive with President Obama, coming up next.



POWELL: Happy Father's Day, Mr. President. The question I have for you, Mr. President, is what more can we do as a government, but more importantly as a people to bring the presence of fathers into the lives of children?


AMANPOUR: That was retired general, former Secretary of State Colin Powell with a question for President Obama this Father's Day. The president, of course, barely knew his own father. Barack Obama, Sr., was largely absent from his son's life.

And ABC's Robin Roberts spoke with the commander-in-chief about what that experience taught him, and she joins us now.

Robin, those lessons haven't just influenced the president decision as a father, but to Colin Powell's point, have they also shaped some of his administration's policies?

ROBERTS: That's a good point. And, yes, they have, Christiane. You know, President Obama knows firsthand the challenges one can face growing up without a father in the home and so has established many fatherhood initiatives, including this year's program, which is called Strong Father, Strong Families.

And the president really has sparked a national conversation, a dialogue about fatherhood and taking personal responsibilities. So I had a chance this week to go to the White House and sit down with the dad-in-chief.


OBAMA: Perfect day on Father's Day is just spending time with them. The great thing -- and some of this is Malia and Sasha are the perfect age, you know, 13, 10, where, you know, they are interesting and funny, and they're their own people, but they still actually want to spend time with you. You know, and that may not last that many more years.

And so now, as president, I have this huge advantage. I live over the store. At 6:30, no matter how busy I am, unless there was an actual national emergency, at 6:30, I'm up and I'm having dinner with the kids. And we're sitting around that dinner table. And so for an hour to an hour-and-a-half, my only focus is them.

ROBERTS: You are about to hit the teenage years.

OBAMA: Oh, yeah.

ROBERTS: Are you ready? Are you prepared for what's about to come?

OBAMA: I could not ask for better kids, and so I'm not anticipating complete mayhem for the next four or five years. But I understand, you know, that, you know, teenagehood is complicated.

I should also point out that I have men with guns that surround them, often. And a great incentive for running for re-election is that it means they never get in a car with a boy who had a bear. And that's a pretty good thing. So there are certain elements of these teenage years in which I will have some relief. And that means I'm going to be working hard on that re-election campaign.

ROBERTS: Do you approach parenthood differently because you've had this different background?

OBAMA: You know, a lot of my parenting skills come from thinking about, you know, what would my mom do in this situation? But, obviously, it's a little different for me not having had a father. You know, some of that stuff I had to learn on my own.

The one thing that my mother taught me, but I think is just as applicable as a father, is a combination of complete and total affection and devotion to that child, but also structure and limits and understanding that your child isn't your friend, at least when they're young. You're the parent. And so you've got to set limits for them.

ROBERTS: Were you aware as a child on Father's Day, "I don't have a father, he's not here"?

OBAMA: The fact that certain interests that I have, in basketball or jazz music, came from a one-month visit that I had from my father. You know, he gave me my first basketball. And it wasn't until I was in my 20s, and I thought back, "You know, no wonder I've been -- that's part of why I've been playing basketball this whole time," was it was that one signal of something that he had given me.

He took me to a Dave Brubeck concert, and suddenly, you know, shortly thereafter, magically, surprisingly enough, I was interested in jazz. And -- but as a kid, you don't make that connection. You think that, you know, you've thought of this all yourself. So -- so that absence, obviously, was -- was profound. But at the time, when I was young, I didn't think about it a lot.

On Father's day, it's not so much me thinking about the past, and it's more thinking about the present, and thinking about now. And there are times where I'll walk into the room, with Michelle and the girls are setting there, and they start laughing, and they start teasing me, and Michelle loves to jump in on that. And I'll be able to pull out of that moment for a second and say, "OK, this is really good. You know, this is -- this is important." And you sort of take a snapshot of that moment. And you say, you know, at the end of your life, when you think back as to what was worth it, this will be one of the things that's worth it.

ROBERTS: Happy Father's Day.

OBAMA: Thank you very much.

ROBERTS: Thank you, sir.

OBAMA: That's great.

ROBERTS: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Robin, so many funny and touchy reflections from the president there, but he really does seem, for obvious reasons, to really focus so much more on this day as a parent than as a son.

ROBERTS: He really does, Christiane. And we had a little 11-year-old boy pose a question to the president. And the question was, "Mr. President, do you miss your father on Father's Day?" And president Obama was like, "No, I don't," and that he, as he said, he focuses on today, and that is being a father to Sasha and Malia.

AMANPOUR: Thank you so much, Robin. Thanks for joining us.

ROBERTS: Anytime.

AMANPOUR: And when we come back, we will be back with "In Memoriam."


AMANPOUR: And now, "In Memoriam."

We remember all of those who died in war this week. The Pentagon released the names of 11 soldiers and Marines killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We'll be right back.


AMANPOUR: That's our program for today. And for all of us here in Washington, thank you for watching. You can follow me all week on Twitter, Facebook, and at abcnews.com. And be sure to watch "World News" with David Muir later tonight.

And we leave you with images of some dads and their children enjoy themselves here in Washington. Happy Father's Day, and we hope to see you next week.