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Bill Clinton, Roundtable

Fox News Sunday

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace. U.S. intelligence says the Iraq war has spawned a new generation of terrorists -- next, on "Fox News Sunday."

The interview everyone will be talking about.


WALLACE: Do you think you did enough, sir?



CLINTON: But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now.


WALLACE: Former President Bill Clinton in a combative discussion about his attempts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. He says his right- wing critics are giving President Bush a free pass.

Also, the new deal on terror detainees. We'll discuss the policy and politics with our panel: Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Fred Barnes and Juan Williams.

And our power player of the week, the doctor of Washington's favorite son.

All right now on "Fox News Sunday."

And good morning again from Fox News in Washington. Here's a quick check of the latest headlines.

The U.S. intelligence community says the Iraq war has helped create a new generation of Islamic terrorists. The National Intelligence Estimate, written in April but leaked this weekend, says the number of terrorists is growing, not diminishing, and the overall threat has gotten worse since the 9/11 attacks.

New accounts out of France that Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden died last month have been knocked down by Saudi Arabian officials. They say they have no evidence to confirm reports bin Laden died of typhoid in August.

And the Reverend Jerry Falwell says even Lucifer would not energize the Republican base in 2008 as much as Senator Hillary Clinton if she runs for president. Falwell's comments were made to a private gathering of pastors and activists but were caught on audiotape.

And now, our interview with Former President Clinton. This week he hosted his second annual Global Initiative forum in New York. More than $7 billion was pledged to tackle some of the worst problems in developing countries, such as poverty, disease and climate change.

As part of the conference, Mr. Clinton agreed to his first one- on-one interview ever on "Fox News Sunday." The ground rules were simple: 15 minutes for our sit-down, split evenly between the Global Initiative and anything else we wanted to ask. But as you'll see now in the full, unedited interview, that's not how it turned out.


WALLACE: Mr. President, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."

CLINTON: Thanks.

WALLACE: In a recent issue of The New Yorker you say, quote, "I'm 60 years old and I damn near died, and I'm worried about how many lives I can save before I do die."

Is that what drives you in your effort to help in these developing countries?

CLINTON: Yes, I really -- but I don't mean -- that sounds sort of morbid when you say it like that. I mean, I actually...

WALLACE: That's how you said it.

CLINTON: Yes, but the way I said it, the tone in which I said it was actually almost whimsical and humorous. That is, this is what I love to do. It is what I think I should do.

That is, I have had a wonderful life. I got to be president. I got to live the life of my dreams. I dodged a bullet with that heart problem. And I really think I should -- I think I owe it to my fellow countrymen and people throughout the world to spend time saving lives, solving problems, helping people see the future.

But as it happens, I love it. I mean, I feel it's a great gift. So, it's a rewarding way to spend my life.

WALLACE: Someone asked you -- and I don't want to, again, be too morbid, but this is what you said. He asked you if you could wind up doing more good as a former president than as a president, and you said, "Only if I live a long time."

CLINTON: Yes, that's true.

WALLACE: How do you rate, compare the powers of being in office as president and what you can do out of office as a former president?

CLINTON: Well, when you are president, you can operate on a much broader scope. So, for example, you can simultaneously be trying to stop a genocide in Kosovo and, you know, make peace in the Middle East, pass a budget that gives millions of kids a chance to have afterschool programs and has a huge increase in college aid at home. In other words, you've got a lot of different moving parts, and you can move them all at once. But you're also more at the mercy of events. That is, President Bush did not run for president to deal with 9/11, but once it happened it wasn't as if he had an option.

Once I looked at the economic -- I'll give you a much more mundane example. Once I looked at the economic data, the new data after I won the election, I realized that I would have to work much harder to reduce the deficit, and therefore I would have less money in my first year to invest in things I wanted to invest in.

WALLACE: So what is it that you can do as a former president?

CLINTON: So what you can do as a former president is -- you don't have the wide range of power, so you have to concentrate on fewer things. But you are less at the mercy of unfolding events.

So if I say, look, we're going to work on the economic empowerment of poor people, on fighting AIDS and other diseases, on trying to bridge the religious and political differences between people, and on trying to, you know, avoid the worst calamities of climate change and help to revitalize the economy in the process, I can actually do that.

I mean, because tomorrow when I get up, if there's a bad headline in the paper, it's President Bush's responsibility, not mine. That's the joy of being a former president. And it is true that if you live long enough and you really have great discipline in the way you do this, like this CGI, you might be able to affect as many lives, or more, for the good as you did as president.

WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on "Fox News Sunday," I got a lot of e-mail from viewers. And I've got to say, I was surprised. Most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn't you do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaida out of business when you were president?

There's a new book out, I suspect you've already read, called "The Looming Tower." And it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, bin Laden said, "I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of U.S. troops." Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the Cole.

CLINTON: OK, let's just go through that.

WALLACE: Let me -- let me -- may I just finish the question, sir?

And after the attack, the book says that bin Laden separated his leaders, spread them around, because he expected an attack, and there was no response.

I understand that hindsight is always 20/20...

CLINTON: No, let's talk about it.

WALLACE: ... but the question is, why didn't you do more, connect the dots and put them out of business?

CLINTON: OK, let's talk about it. Now, I will answer all those things on the merits, but first I want to talk about the context in which this arises.

I'm being asked this on the Fox network. ABC just had a right- wing conservative run in their little "Pathway to 9/11," falsely claiming it was based on the 9/11 Commission report, with three things asserted against me directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission report.

And I think it's very interesting that all the conservative Republicans, who now say I didn't do enough, claimed that I was too obsessed with bin Laden. All of President Bush's neo-cons thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office. All the right-wingers who now say I didn't do enough said I did too much -- same people.

They were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993 the next day after we were involved in "Black Hawk down," and I refused to do it and stayed six months and had an orderly transfer to the United Nations.

OK, now let's look at all the criticisms: Black Hawk down, Somalia. There is not a living soul in the world who thought that Osama bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk down or was paying any attention to it or even knew Al Qaida was a growing concern in October of '93.

WALLACE: I understand, and I...

CLINTON: No, wait. No, wait. Don't tell me this -- you asked me why didn't I do more to bin Laden. There was not a living soul. All the people who now criticize me wanted to leave the next day.

You brought this up, so you'll get an answer, but you can't...

WALLACE: I'm perfectly happy to.

CLINTON: All right, secondly...

WALLACE: Bin Laden says...

CLINTON: Bin Laden may have said...

WALLACE: ... bin Laden says that it showed the weakness of the United States.

CLINTON: But it would've shown the weakness if we'd left right away, but he wasn't involved in that. That's just a bunch of bull. That was about Mohammed Adid, a Muslim warlord, murdering 22 Pakistani Muslim troops. We were all there on a humanitarian mission. We had no mission, none, to establish a certain kind of Somali government or to keep anybody out.

He was not a religious fanatic...

WALLACE: But, Mr. President...

CLINTON: ... there was no Al Qaida...

WALLACE: ... with respect, if I may, instead of going through '93 and...

CLINTON: No, no. You asked it. You brought it up. You brought it up.

WALLACE: May I ask a general question and then you can answer?


WALLACE: The 9/11 Commission, which you've talk about -- and this is what they did say, not what ABC pretended they said...

CLINTON: Yes, what did they say?

WALLACE: ... they said about you and President Bush, and I quote, "The U.S. government took the threat seriously, but not in the sense of mustering anything like the kind of effort that would be gathered to confront an enemy of the first, second or even third rank."

CLINTON: First of all, that's not true with us and bin Laden.

WALLACE: Well, I'm telling you that's what the 9/11 Commission says.

CLINTON: All right. Let's look at what Richard Clarke said. Do you think Richard Clarke has a vigorous attitude about bin Laden?

WALLACE: Yes, I do.

CLINTON: You do, don't you?

WALLACE: I think he has a variety of opinions and loyalties, but yes, he has a vigorous...

CLINTON: He has a variety of opinion and loyalties now, but let's look at the facts: He worked for Ronald Reagan; he was loyal to him. He worked for George H.W. Bush; he was loyal to him. He worked for me, and he was loyal to me. He worked for President Bush; he was loyal to him.

They downgraded him and the terrorist operation.

Now, look what he said, read his book and read his factual assertions -- not opinions -- assertions. He said we took vigorous action after the African embassies. We probably nearly got bin Laden.


CLINTON: No, wait a minute.


WALLACE: ... cruise missiles.

CLINTON: No, no. I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him.

The CIA, which was run by George Tenet, that President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to, he said, "He did a good job setting up all these counterterrorism things."

The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until I came there.

Now, if you want to criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: After the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full-scale attack search for bin Laden.

But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan, which we got after 9/11.

The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would've had to send a few hundred Special Forces in in helicopters and refuel at night.

Even the 9/11 Commission didn't do that. Now, the 9/11 Commission was a political document, too. All I'm asking is, anybody who wants to say I didn't do enough, you read Richard Clarke's book.

WALLACE: Do you think you did enough, sir?

CLINTON: No, because I didn't get him.


CLINTON: But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried.

So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti- terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke, who got demoted.

So you did Fox's bidding on this show. You did your nice little conservative hit job on me. What I want to know is...

WALLACE: Well, wait a minute, sir.

CLINTON: No, wait. No, no...

WALLACE: I want to ask a question. You don't think that's a legitimate question?

CLINTON: It was a perfectly legitimate question, but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of.

I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, "Why didn't you do anything about the Cole?"

I want to know how many you asked, "Why did you fire Dick Clarke?"

I want to know how many people you asked...

WALLACE: We asked -- we asked...

CLINTON: I don't...

WALLACE: Do you ever watch "Fox News Sunday," sir?

CLINTON: I don't believe you asked them that.

WALLACE: We ask plenty of questions of...

CLINTON: You didn't ask that, did you? Tell the truth, Chris.

WALLACE: About the USS Cole?

CLINTON: Tell the truth, Chris.

WALLACE: With Iraq and Afghanistan, there's plenty of stuff to ask.

CLINTON: Did you ever ask that?

You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch's supporting my work on climate change.

And you came here under false pretenses and said that you'd spend half the time talking about -- you said you'd spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7-billion-plus in three days from 215 different commitments. And you don't care.

WALLACE: But, President Clinton, if you look at the questions here, you'll see half the questions are about that. I didn't think this was going to set you off on such a tear.

CLINTON: You launched it -- it set me off on a tear because you didn't formulate it in an honest way and because you people ask me questions you don't ask the other side.

WALLACE: That's not true. Sir, that is not true.

CLINTON: And Richard Clarke made it clear in his testimony...

WALLACE: Would you like to talk about the Clinton Global Initiative?

CLINTON: No, I want to finish this now.

WALLACE: All right. Well, after you.

CLINTON: All I'm saying is, you falsely accused me of giving aid and comfort to bin Laden because of what happened in Somalia. No one knew Al Qaida existed then. And...

WALLACE: But did they know in 1996 when he declared war on the U.S.? Did they know in 1998...

CLINTON: Absolutely, they did.

WALLACE: ... when he bombed the two embassies?

CLINTON: And who talked about...

WALLACE: Did they know in 2000 when he hit the Cole?

CLINTON: What did I do? What did I do? I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him.

Now, I've never criticized President Bush, and I don't think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq.

And you ask me about terror and Al Qaida with that sort of dismissive thing? When all you have to do is read Richard Clarke's book to look at what we did in a comprehensive, systematic way to try to protect the country against terror.

And you've got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever. But I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it. But I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could.

The entire military was against sending Special Forces in to Afghanistan and refueling by helicopter. And no one thought we could do it otherwise, because we could not get the CIA and the FBI to certify that Al Qaida was responsible while I was president.

And so, I left office. And yet, I get asked about this all the time. They had three times as much time to deal with it, and nobody ever asks them about it. I think that's strange.

WALLACE: Can I ask you about the Clinton Global Initiative?

CLINTON: You can.

WALLACE: I always intended to, sir.

CLINTON: No, you intended, though, to move your bones by doing this first, which is perfectly fine. But I don't mind people asking me -- I actually talked to the 9/11 Commission for four hours, Chris, and I told them the mistakes I thought I made. And I urged them to make those mistakes public, because I thought none of us had been perfect.

But instead of anybody talking about those things, I always get these clever little political yields (ph), where they ask me one-sided questions. And the other guys notice that. And it always comes from one source. And so...


CLINTON: And so...

WALLACE: I just want to ask you about the Clinton Global Initiative, but what's the source? I mean, you seem upset, and I...

CLINTON: I am upset because...

WALLACE: And all I can say is, I'm asking you this in good faith because it's on people's minds, sir. And I wasn't...

CLINTON: Well, there's a reason it's on people's minds. That's the point I'm trying to make. There's a reason it's on people's minds: Because there's been a serious disinformation campaign to create that impression.

This country only has one person who's worked on this terror. From the terrorist incidents under Reagan to the terrorist incidents from 9/11, only one: Richard Clarke.

And all I can say to anybody is, you want to know what we did wrong or right, or anybody else did? Read his book.

The people on my political right who say I didn't do enough spent the whole time I was president saying, "Why is he so obsessed with bin Laden? That was "wag the dog" when he tried to kill him."

My Republican secretary of defense -- and I think I'm the only president since World War II to have a secretary of defense of the opposite party -- Richard Clarke and all the intelligence people said that I ordered a vigorous attempt to get bin Laden and came closer, apparently, than anybody has since.

WALLACE: All right.

CLINTON: And you guys try to create the opposite impression, when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke's findings and you know it's not true. It's just not true.

And all this business about Somalia -- the same people who criticized me about Somalia were demanding I leave the next day. The same exact crowd.

WALLACE: One of the...

CLINTON: And so, if you're going to do this, for God's sake, follow the same standards for everybody...

WALLACE: I think we do, sir.

CLINTON: ... and be flat -- and fair.

WALLACE: I think we do.


WALLACE: When we return, we finally get back to the Clinton Global Initiative. And you'll also hear why the former president says the White House is selling fear in the fall campaign.


CLINTON: Well, I don't blame Karl Rove. If you've got a deal that works, you just keep on doing it.


WALLACE: We'll be right back.


WALLACE: We're back now with the rest of our interview with former President Clinton. After that long discussion of how he fought the war on terror, we returned to his efforts as an ex-president to help solve the problems in developing countries.


WALLACE: One of the main parts of the Global Initiative this year is religion and reconciliation. President Bush says that the fight against Islamic extremism is the central conflict of this century. And his answer is promoting democracy and reform.

Do you think he has that right?

CLINTON: Sure. To advance -- to advocate democracy and reform in the Muslim world? Absolutely.

I think the question is, what's the best way to do it? I think also the question is, how do you educate people about democracy?

Democracy is about way more than majority rule. Democracy is about minority rights, individual rights, restraints on power. And there's more than one way to advance democracy.

But do I think, on balance, that in the end, after several bouts with instability -- look how long it took us to build a mature democracy. Do I think, on balance, it would be better if we had more freedom and democracy? Sure I do. And do I think specifically the president has a right to do it? Sure I do.

But I don't think that's all we can do in the Muslim world. I think they have to see us as trying to get a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. I think they have to see us as willing to talk to people who see the world differently than we do.

WALLACE: Last year at this conference, you got $2.5 billion in commitments, pledges. How'd you do this year?

CLINTON: Well, this year we had -- we had $7.3 billion, as of this morning.

WALLACE: Excuse me?

CLINTON: $7.3 billion, as of this morning. But $3 billion of that is -- now, this is over multi years. These are up to 10-year commitments.

But $3 billion of that came from Richard Branson's commitment to give all of his transportation profits for a decade to clean energy investments. But still, that's -- the rest is over $4 billion.

And we will have another 100 commitments come in, maybe more, and we'll probably raise another, I would say, at least another billion dollars, probably, before it's over. We've got a lot of commitments still in process.

WALLACE: When you look at the $3 billion from Branson, plus the billions that Bill Gates is giving in his own program, and now Warren Buffet, what do you make of this new age of philanthropy?

CLINTON: I think that, for one thing, really rich people have always given money away. I mean, you know, they've endowed libraries and things like that.

The unique thing about this age is, first of all, you have a lot of people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who are interested in issues at home and around the world that grow out of the nature of the 21st century and its inequalities -- the income inequalities, the health-care inequalities, the education inequalities.

And you get a guy like Gates, who built Microsoft, who actually believes that he can help overcome a lot of the health disparities in the world. And that's the first thing.

The second thing that ought to be credited is that there are a lot of people with average incomes who are joining them because of the Internet. Like in the tsunami, for example, we had $1.2 billion given by Americans; 30 percent of our households gave money, over half of them over the Internet.

And then the third thing is you've got all these -- in poor countries, you've got all these nongovernmental groups that you can -- that a guy like Gates can partner with, along with the governments.

So all these things together mean that people with real money want to give it away in ways that help people that before would've been seen only as the object of government grants or loans.

WALLACE: Let's talk some politics. In that same New Yorker article, you say that you are tired of Karl Rove's B.S., although I'm cleaning up what you said.

CLINTON: But I do like the -- but I also say I'm not tired of Karl Rove. I don't blame Karl Rove. If you've got a deal that works, you just keep on doing it.

WALLACE: So what is the B.S.?

CLINTON: Well, every even-numbered year, right before an election, they come up with some security issue.

In 2002, our party supported them in undertaking weapons inspections in Iraq and was 100 percent for what happened in Afghanistan, and they didn't have any way to make us look like we didn't care about terror.

And so, they decided they would be for the homeland security bill that they had opposed. And they put a poison pill in it that we wouldn't pass, like taking the job rights away from 170,000 people, and then say that we were weak on terror if we weren't for it. They just ran that out.

This year, I think they wanted to make the questions of prisoner treatment and intercepted communications the same sort of issues, until John Warner and John McCain and Lindsey Graham got in there. And, as it turned out, there were some Republicans that believed in the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and had some of their own ideas about how best to fight terror.

The Democrats -- as long as the American people believe that we take this seriously and we have our own approaches -- and we may have differences over Iraq -- I think we'll do fine in this election.

But even if they agree with us about the Iraq war, we could be hurt by Karl Rove's new foray if we just don't make it clear that we, too, care about the security of the country. But we want to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, which they haven't for four years. We want to intensify our efforts in Afghanistan against bin Laden. We want to make America more energy-independent.

And then they can all, if they differ on Iraq, they can say whatever they want on Iraq.

But Rove is good. And I honor him. I mean, I will say that. I've always been amused about how good he is, in a way.

But on the other hand, this is perfectly predictable: We're going to win a lot of seats if the American people aren't afraid. If they're afraid and we get divided again, then we may only win a few seats.

WALLACE: And the White House, the Republicans want to make the American people afraid?

CLINTON: Of course they do. Of course they do. They want us to be - - they want another homeland security deal. And they want to make it about -- not about Iraq but about some other security issue, where, if we disagree with them, we are, by definition, imperiling the security of the country.

And it's a big load of hooey. We've got nine Iraq war veterans running for the House seats. We've got President Reagan's secretary of the Navy as the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Virginia. A three-star admiral, who was on my National Security Council staff, who also fought terror, by the way, is running for the seat of Curt Weldon in Pennsylvania.

We've got a huge military presence here in this campaign. And we just can't let them have some rhetorical device that puts us in a box we don't belong in.

That's their job. Their job is to beat us. I like that about Rove. But our job is not to let them get away with it. And if they don't, then we'll do fine.

WALLACE: Mr. President, thank you for one of the more unusual interviews.

CLINTON: Thanks.


WALLACE: President Clinton in New York, as he wrapped up his Global Initiative for this year.

Coming up, our Sunday panel weighs in on the Clinton interview. What kind of job did he do in fighting Al Qaida? Stay tuned.


WALLACE: And it's panel time now for Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News, and Fox News contributors Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams, also from National Public Radio.

Well, let's try to sort through the facts, the statements that President Clinton made in that interview.

And, first of all, he talked over and over about Richard Clarke, who was his anti-terror adviser and also George W. Bush's anti-terror adviser for a while, as the authoritative source on all this.

Well, we looked through what Dick Clarke said, and he gives Mr. Clinton much more mixed grades than the president said.

On the one hand, Clarke says this, and let's put it on the screen:

"Bill Clinton was obsessed with getting bin Laden. Bill Clinton ordered bin Laden assassinated. He ordered not only bin Laden assassinated but all of his lieutenants. The CIA failed him."

But after the bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, President Clinton ordered a cruise missile attack on an Al Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, and here Clarke is not so positive. Take a look.

"Clinton bombed them once. The public reaction was negative to that. Remember 'wag the dog'? Everyone said Clinton is just bombing Afghanistan to divert attention from the Monica business, and so he didn't bomb them again."

And, Brit, we also found that in the 9/11 Commission report, the bipartisan report of the 9/11 Commission, they said that, in December of 1999, Dick Clarke sent a memo in the Clinton White House, as the Clinton adviser, urging an attack on Al Qaida bases before the millennium, when everybody thought there would be a terror attack. Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton's national security adviser, wrote on the memo, "No."

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON MANAGING EDITOR: Let's be clear about one thing: Nobody did enough before 9/11. Not the first Bush administration, not the Clinton administration, and not, in the brief time it had, the current Bush administration.

Nonetheless, I must say I was surprised at that thunderstorm that you ran in to when you posed the question. And, you know, it's hard to know exactly what happens. You know, he's given to these flashes of temper. I weathered one one time. It didn't go on as long as the one you dealt with was. They usually blow over pretty quickly, and he's back to his jolly self. This, obviously, went on a bit.

And the sensitivity probably owes something to the fact that this notion that he didn't do nearly enough on bin Laden is sort of lethal to his legacy.

America had a wonderful time during the Clinton administration. The economy boomed. The Cold War was over. It was almost an eight- year party.

I think this president believes, President Clinton, that he did many good things, but I think he's in danger, in his own mind and the minds of others, of being remembered as the guy who did bad things with interns, or at least one intern, and failed to recognize and deal with the threat of terrorism that came home to roost on 9/11.

WALLACE: But, Mara, what about -- let's go back to the facts here. What about the basic argument that Clinton makes, that he did a lot more in his eight years to fight bin Laden than President Bush did in the eight, nine months before 9/11?

MARA LIASSON, NPR: Well, I mean, eight years versus eight months -- I think you could say he had a lot more time to try. He says he tried and failed. But he wants credit for trying. And I guess he feels sensitive that he's being attacked by some people for not doing enough.

I mean, in terms of being motivated by worrying about his legacy, I mean, legacies take a long time to get settled. But right now, it doesn't seem to me -- and the reason why I was kind of mystified by Clinton's outburst is that it doesn't seem to me that the consensus is forming that he is somehow to blame for 9/11 more than the Bush administration.

As a matter of fact, you've got the 9/11 Commission saying there's plenty of blame to go around. You have today the NIE, the most authoritive national intelligence estimate that there is in the government, saying that the situation in Iraq has made the terrorist threat worse.

So I don't -- I'm wondering why he feels so beleaguered about this, unless it's just because of the ABC docudrama, which I think that his people were pretty successful in undermining.

WALLACE: How do you, Fred, think the president did in recognizing the threat and dealing with the threat of Al Qaida and bin Laden? Obviously he would say, "I failed." He didn't get them; he didn't stop 9/11. But how do you think he did during his eight years in office?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think he did a lot. Look, our view of bin Laden and Al Qaida and the terrorist threat changed dramatically on 9/11. So I think it's difficult to fault either this President Bush or Bill Clinton for not doing enough. We didn't realize what we faced as a country with this terrorist threat.

I do think he is unusually worried about his legacy, about his reputation. Look, this is what former presidents do. They have to polish their reputation. That's one of the main things they do.

And, Chris, I don't know whether you sensed this when you were sitting there with him, but it looked to me like he was spoiling for a fight. He had this ABC report, which I think only one small part of it was changed after all the complaints, the hot letter from Bill Clinton...

WALLACE: Just briefly, we should say, this was a docudrama on ABC called "The Path to 9/11." It was supposedly based on the 9/11 Commission report. It later turned out there were at least three parts of the docudrama that, in fact, had been made up and were directly contradicted by the 9/11 report. And the Clinton team, as you point out, made a big stink about it and got some of it changed.

BARNES: And yet, it was shown all over the world. I know it was shown on BBC, for instance.

And President Clinton, he did one clever thing when he was talking to you, and that is to try to isolate the criticism of himself about bin Laden and terrorism and so on, that it's just some right- wing neo-cons who are the ones who were doing it. He said that over and over again, and to really dismiss it because it's a bunch of right-wingers saying that.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: Well, he's mad. He's mad about the right-wing conspiracy. And he's particularly mad...


BARNES: Which one?

WILLIAMS: ... at the idea that -- neo-cons, he says, in this Bush administration, you know, for all their talk, didn't do much to go after bin Laden.

So I think that he has a right to say he's mad at Fox. He somehow sees Fox as part of this conspiracy. And you're going to make your bones, Chris, on this.


But he's...

HUME: Do you agree with that?

WILLIAMS: I don't think Chris is -- I think, in fact, you did a very good job. I thought you held yourself together...


WALLACE: It wasn't always easy.

WILLIAMS: ... in the force of the gale winds.


BARNES: ... President Clinton didn't.

WILLIAMS: But I think that when you stop and you think about it, "wag the dog" was all over this town. You know, people did think that he was reacting to what had happened with Monica. There's no question about that.

And if you ask about whether or not he was persistent in the aftermath of the Cole incident, if he was after Somalia, you know what? I think he acted in an aggressive fashion.

And if you come into the first few months of the Bush administration, what you see is that Richard Clarke is demoted, ignored. There are reports that people don't even talk about bin Laden. "Who is bin Laden?"

That, to me, is the rewrite of history that's going on here. I don't think it's less, Brit, about Clinton's legacy. I think that what we've seen subsequent is this Bush administration making a concerted effort to say, "It's not our fault that on our watch the United States was attacked."

HUME: Let's talk a little bit about the political will that existed in the country after 9/11. Bill Clinton didn't have anything like that behind him when he was trying to do what he tried to do. So what could a president have done?

If you look back at the first World Trade Center bombing, he was president; it was 1993. And he chose to treat that as a law enforcement matter.

And, you know, in retrospect, he could've made a different decision. He could have sounded the call and said, "This is a major attack. It requires a major response." He would've had to make a huge deal out of it and use the presidential megaphone to the fullest.

The same is true after the bombings of the embassies. The same is true after the bombing of the Cole. He could've elevated those.

The country would've swung behind him, as the country always does at times like that. The politicians probably would have, too. And he probably would've gotten what he needed to mount -- the political effort needed to mount a larger-scale undertaking.

I think it's fair to say that he and his administration chose not to do that. In retrospect, it looks like bad choices. But, no doubt, he did make some efforts. He's right about that.

WALLACE: Mara, what about the other point that President Clinton makes, that we hold and have held -- and I think he means the whole media, not just Fox News -- have held President Bush to a lower standard, in terms of what he did or failed to do before 9/11?

LIASSON: You know, that is the subject of probably the most intensely polarized debate in America right now. Was the media as tough on Clinton - - or, as tough on Bush as they were on Clinton? Did the Bush administration get a pass? I mean, that is a huge debate.

I don't think you can talk about "the media" as a whole. I think there are plenty of aspects of the media that have blamed President Bush every step of the way for every misstep.

And certainly the country has come to a kind of consensus about the war in Iraq. It's a kind of split one. But the war in Iraq is very unpopular. I think the president has, over time, come in for a lot of criticism.

Whether, you know -- presidents always feel like they're mistreated by the press worse than any other president, so it's hard to...

WILLIAMS: But the walk-up to this war and the weapons of mass destruction? What kind of...

LIASSON: Oh, on that one, he certainly did. I'm talking about...

WILLIAMS: Yes, come on. The press gave him a pass.

LIASSON: You know what? At that time...

WALLACE: Guys...

LIASSON: ... Democrats and people all over the world thought that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction. We learned later that wasn't the case.

WALLACE: All right. We're going to continue this conversation. But when we come back, we're going to add to it this fascinating new National Intelligence Estimate that the terror threat is getting worse, not better.

And the White House and top Republican senators cut a deal on terror detainees. Is it good policy? Is it good politics? Some answers ahead.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This agreement preserves the most single -- most potent tool we have in protecting America and foiling terrorist attacks.



U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): There is no doubt that the integrity and letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved.


WALLACE: That was President Bush and Senator McCain, each claiming victory in the compromise reached this week on the handling of terror detainees.

And we're back now with Brit, Mara, Fred and Juan.

Before we get to the compromise on terror detainees, Fred, let's talk about the news this morning: this National Intelligence Estimate, which was apparently written in April but was revealed to the New York Times in its issue this morning, that reportedly says the Iraq war is spawning a new generation of terrorists and, in fact, that the threat, the overall threat, is greater than it was at 9/11.

BARNES: Well, I haven't read the report. And we do know this: that there is this radical fever raging among Muslims all over the world, particularly among young Muslim men, that has led to terrorist attacks on Europe, Asia, 9/11, for instance, here in the United States. And so, it's growing.

The question is, would it continue to be growing, this terrorist threat, absent Iraq? I think it would be growing. Would it be growing as much? I don't know.

Remember, when was the biggest growth period of all for Al Qaida? When did Al Qaida grow? It was not when we were in Iraq. It was in the 1990s when it was growing like crazy, when there were attacks on the United States then, in the earlier World Trade Center attack and the one on the embassies and so on. That's when Al Qaida was growing. No Iraq then.

My guess is it would be growing anyway, because there's this historical trend among Muslims.

WILLIAMS: But let's go back to...


WALLACE: Wait one second. Let me just ask you this, and you can even fold it in. Because this is an issue, this is a point that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld raised in one of his famous memos early on: Are we responsible for the recruiting of more Al Qaida Islamic terrorists than we are killing them?

WILLIAMS: Well, as I said, let's go back to something President Clinton said. President Clinton said to you that he believed this administration has one-seventh the attention, the focus, the energy...

WALLACE: Well, no. He said one-seventh the number of troops.

WILLIAMS: Yes, the number of troops, dedicated to fighting terrorists in Afghanistan as opposed to this war in Iraq. And I think he separates out the war...


HUME: ... overall troops or American troops?

WILLIAMS: I believe it's American. And so, what you have...

HUME: Have you noticed, Juan, that one of the reasons for that is that NATO is in there with a large body of troops and has taken over the large responsibility there and it's now a multinational operation?

WILLIAMS: It's nothing compared to the American presence, Brit.

HUME: That is not so.

WILLIAMS: Yes. The American presence should be the dominant, and is the dominant, force in Afghanistan. And it's not anything comparable to what we have in Iraq. And so, you have to separate out the war in Iraq from the war on terror.

I think previously, Fred, what you could say was, you know what, it's the American bases in Saudi Arabia, it's the relationship -- although I think this is bogus -- between Israel and Palestinians that was generating this anti-American fever among the extremist Muslims.

But I think at this point, as the estimate suggests, it's become the war in Iraq. And it's not only generating anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, look at the reception our president gets at the U.N. The whole world is questioning our policy, and it leads right into this whole argument about how we interrogate and treat detainees.

WALLACE: Brit, we've had the president, over the course of the last few weeks, around the time of the 9/11 fifth anniversary, saying that we're not safe but we're getting safer and we've done a very considerable job in degrading Al Qaida.

Does this kind of report, indicating that there's a new generation of Islamic terrorists and that, in fact, the overall threat is greater, does that contradict what the president said?

HUME: Well, it would seem to on the surface. The thing is we don't know what the overall conclusions of this National Intelligence Estimate were. We know this one piece of it.

When it says the threat is greater, does it mean the threat is greater to the United States mainland, to our country? Does it mean the threat is growing worldwide? It's not clear. Obviously, the threat continues to grow.

One wonders, too, about the idea behind it. I mean, what is it about our being in Iraq that so inflames Muslims who were supposedly less inflamed by our toppling this Muslim extremist government in Afghanistan? Hard to say. You know, it may be a recruiting ground, but for those who would -- the idea that those are people who otherwise would not have been recruited I think is something you have to question.

LIASSON: Yes. Look, I think that when the NIE said the situation in Iraq has made the terrorist threat worse, I don't think they're just talking about Al Qaida -- which, I agree with Fred, certainly they have been hurt to a large degree -- but there have been all these other local, decentralized, fairly independent groups now that take their inspiration from Al Qaida or get ideas from radical Islamic Web sites, and they're terrorists too.

Iraq is definitely a rallying cry. It's also a front line. I think it is a recruiting tool now.

To say, how would it have been any different if we'd just focused on Afghanistan and poured lots of energy into solving the Israeli- Palestinian issue, which I guess is kind of the alternative approach to this, it's impossible to say.

But the fact is, the situation, I think, worldwide has gotten worse, even though you could say, just by the fact that the U.S. itself has not been attacked, that there's been some progress there.

WALLACE: Fred, let's turn back to the subject that we were going to discuss at the very beginning of this segment, and that is the deal that was worked out this week between the White House and primarily three Republican senators about how to handle both interrogations and trials of terror detainees.

There is, as it turns out, in this compromise, no messing around with the Geneva Conventions, which is what the senators insisted on. On the other hand, there is some new definition of acceptable techniques in dealing with these in the War Crimes Act, which is what the White House wanted. It's awfully arcane, I think all of us would agree. Is it your sense that, in fact, the CIA has what it wants, has been cut back in what it wanted to do in terms of interrogating these detainees? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?

BARNES: Well, I think it's a good thing that they can have discretion up to a point of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention or something like that, or even small breaches, that they do have the discretion in interrogating these top-value Islamic terrorists, because we know what we've gotten as a result of that, in that attacks have been stopped and so on.

The interesting thing, Chris, is that, after all these negotiations between the McCain team and the White House team, they wound up pretty much where they started, where there was some redefinition, although it's put in a different piece of legislation and the president can decide what small or grave breaches are and so on.

I think the only thing that was sacrificed by the White House is water-boarding will no longer be used as an interrogation device.

LIASSON: Well, also, there's just more congressional oversight. I mean, you know, I spent all week kind of having a brainache, trying to figure out who came out ahead on this, because it's really hard to figure out.

But our esteemed colleague at NPR, Nina Totenberg, did a piece where her conclusion was it was 55-45 the White House. In other words, the White House came out without giving up as much as it could have. So they won by a little bit.

But I do think that it's so complex that, to the public at large, in terms of a political issue, it looks like it was a real compromise. The Geneva Conventions are preserved, and, you know, nobody was humiliated.

WILLIAMS: It looks to me like the president won. It looks to me like the president won. And what it comes down to is that it's going to be on the president's desk. He has to be the one that will say this is allowed. and he...

LIASSON: But he has to tell Congress that.

WILLIAMS: Well, ideally, I think that's what the Democrats and Senator McCain say. They want him to write it out, put it in the federal register, allow for oversight. The danger is that he would do something and say something and then subsequently say, "Well, we had to do that in that moment."

But the whole notion that torture is allowed I just find reprehensible.

HUME: Well...

BARNES: It's not allowed. HUME: Look, this business about torture being allowed is a whopper. We know what torture is. Torture has a definition. It's been laid out. It is not permissible under U.S. policy, and the CIA isn't engaging in it. So can we please get that off the table?

This was about what John McCain thought something would look like. He now has decided that, with this new language, the same thing in a sense, it won't look that way. He's happy. The White House is happy.

WALLACE: There you go.

Thank you all, panel. That's it for today. See you next week.

For more visit the FOX News Sunday web page.

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