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Joe Biden, Lindsey Graham, Stephen Breyer, Roundtable

Fox News Sunday

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace. Outgoing Defense Secretary Rumsfeld called for major changes in Iraq policy, next on "Fox News Sunday."

U.S. policy at a crossroads: Will a new report on Iraq offer a way forward for democracy and a way home for U.S. troops? We'll discuss the options with two key members of the Senate: Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Lindsey Graham.

Active liberty and the courts: We'll discuss the Constitution, abortion, and the war on terror in a rare and exclusive interview with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Also, President Bush pledges support for Iraq's prime minister.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's the right guy for Iraq, and we're going to help him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: But can Maliki do the job? We'll ask our Sunday panel: Charles Krauthammer, Mara Liasson, Paul Gigot and Juan Williams.

Plus, our power player of the week lays down the law in the nation's capital.

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.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, just two days before he stepped down, sent a classified memo to President Bush saying the administration's policy in Iraq was not working and, quote, "It is time for a major adjustment." In the memo, first reported in The New York Times, Rumsfeld offers a number of options, from troop withdrawals to putting more pressure on the Iraqis. But he does not recommend a course of action.

Meanwhile, in Iraq's Anbar province today, U.S. forces destroyed a militant hideout. Six suspected insurgents were killed. And in Baghdad, the death toll from Saturday's triple car bombing has reached at least 53. With the White House reconsidering its policy in Iraq and an independent commission about to offer its ideas, we want to take a look at where we may be headed.

We're joined by two key senators: Democrat Joe Biden, incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Lindsey Graham of the Armed Services Committee. Both come to us today from their home states.

Let's start, if we can, gentlemen, with the Rumsfeld memo.

Senator Biden, what do you make of the recommendations and of the fact that at the same time the president was attacking Democrats for, as he said it, trying to cut and run, the defense secretary was at least raising the same idea?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, there was a clear disconnect between what the administration's been saying the last year and what's been going on on the ground. And the Rumsfeld memo makes it quite clear that one of the greatest concerns is the political fallout from changing course here in the United States politically and how to deal with that.

But the bottom line is there is no one, including the former secretary, who thought the policy the president continues to pursue makes any sense.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, whether it's the Rumsfeld memo or this very critical memo that came out this week from National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley about Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, are you concerned about, as Senator Biden put it, the disconnect, the difference between what the administration has been saying in public and what it's apparently been thinking in private?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, very much so.

You know, Democrats weren't the only people attacked. I've been saying for quite a while that the current strategy is not working.

My problem with the memo is that he suggests that the political leadership in this country lowered expectations.

My suggestion is that the political leadership, led by the president, needs to tell the American public a failed state in Iraq is a dramatic loss in the war on terror. And we need to reconnect the outcome in Iraq to the overall war on terror. And that's what I think has been lacking.

WALLACE: Well, let's look forward to this bipartisan Iraq Study Group that's going to issue its recommendations on Wednesday. As both of you know, a number of those recommendations have already leaked out, including the basic idea of pulling U.S. combat troops out by 2008, dependent on conditions on the ground.

Senator Biden, is that too much of a timeline or too little?

BIDEN: I think it's the right timeline. It's what I put forward in my proposal, which you interviewed me on about six months ago, Chris, four months ago, because it recognizes the reality: that, by the end of 2008, one of two things is going to have happened.

We will either help broker a political settlement where the violence is abated in that country and/or things will be totally out of control. In either circumstance, we'll be in a position where we will not be either able to keep as many troops and/or want to keep as many troops.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, do you favor this idea? Is that about right, the idea of pulling U.S. combat troops out dependent on conditions on the ground by early 2008?

GRAHAM: I reject any proposal coming out of the Congress, any commission, the Pentagon or any other source that sets a deadline or a timeline.

To sum it up, my whole view of Iraq is based on how the outcome affects the overall war on terror. I believe it is the central battlefront in the war on terror.

The Islamic fascists that we're fighting in the war on terror have several goals: to drive us out of the region, not just Iraq. So if you redeploy to a friendly country, they're coming after us in that friendly country because they want us to leave the region. They want to tackle all moderate regimes, all regimes that are unfaithful to their view of religion. They want to replace these regimes with religious theocracies that have a very dark view of humanity. And finally, they want to destroy the state of Israel.

We must stay, fight and win in Iraq. I reject timetables.

WALLACE: Well, so far at least, Senator Graham, President Bush seems to agree with you, because he seems, at least in public, not to be embracing the leaked recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.

Here's what he said after his meeting this week with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all. We're going to help this government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator Graham, what do you think the president should do? How should he handle and respond to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group?

GRAHAM: We need to respond to the agenda of our enemy.

If we redeploy to a friendly nation under these circumstances, the terrorists will see that as retreat and defeat, and they will come after us in that friendly nation. They will say, "A ha, we've got them to break and leave in Iraq. They've gone to this new country. They think they're safe. Well, we're going to show America you're not safe. If you want to be safe, America, leave the region to us. Let us have our way in this region. If you want to be safe, give us Israel."

That's their agenda. So we've got to win in Iraq.

And any strategy that unites the country and we lose I'm against. I'd rather be divided as a nation and win than united and lose.

This is, to me, the central battlefront in the war on terror. We need more troops, not less. The Iraqi people need some breathing space from this violence. We've screwed this war up in many ways. You can't have a democracy with this level of violence. When you have a high crime area, Chris, you don't send less police, you send more. We need more troops in Iraq, in the short-term anyway.

WALLACE: Senator Biden?

BIDEN: Well, look, I think that Lindsey makes a lot of good points, but the bottom line here is none of this is going to be doable unless there's a political settlement within Iraq.

You know, if, in fact, every jihadist in the world was killed tomorrow, we still have a major war in Iraq. And it's a sectarian war.

I have the constitution here in front of me, the Iraqi constitution, Chris. Everybody thinks I'm talking about dividing up Iraq. The fact of the matter is Article 120 of the constitution says that "federal authority shall have the right to exercise executive legislation." It goes on, "particularly to establish and organize internal security forces."

Let me put it to you another way. Does Lindsey or anybody else think in our lifetime you're going to see a Kurdish security force wandering around any of the cities in the Shia region? Does anybody think you're going to have Shia police or Shia military anywhere in a Sunni region?

We've got to get straight here. You've got to give the Sunnis buy-in and give them a piece of the oil, as they were promised in their constitution. You've got to give the people in the Shia regions the same kind of regional autonomy you gave the Kurds, with a loose federal government, like their constitution calls for.

It's a political problem.

In the meantime, we have to have forces there, I agree. And we've have passed the point, though, where we could put in the number of forces that could fundamentally change things. I called for that 2 1/2 years ago, to add 100,000 forces. My friend John McCain and others who are calling for it now said I was being hysterical. We had a chance to stabilize then. We don't have it now without a political solution.

And Lindsey is right. Just moving out without a political solution internally will result in the same thing he suggested. But you need a political solution. And Maliki I'm not sure is the guy that can carry the sleigh.

WALLACE: Let me move - well, I want to pick up on that for just a second, if I can.

GRAHAM: Could I comment on that?

WALLACE: Yes, you can respond to that, Senator, but let me ask you a question. Are we stuck with Maliki, Senator Graham?

GRAHAM: We're stuck with the elected representative of the Iraqi people. This man was chosen through a democratic process, which is sort of unusual for the region. And he's got more than he can handle. The troops on the ground have more than they can handle.

Joe has been pushing for more troops. I disagree with Joe in this regard: We still can turn this thing around.

When we talk about taking troops out, we deflate moderation and we embolden extremism. We have to boldly stand with the forces of moderation.

Maliki is a force of moderation, even though he's not done it perfectly. And we have to stand firmly against the forces of extremism.

We need a better security apparatus. No prime minister in Iraq can bring about democracy with this level of violence. No military commander can fight the insurgency, train the troops, and rebuild the police with this level of violence. The police force has to be rebuilt from the bottom up.

So when you set timetables and deadlines, you're really defeating, in my opinion, getting this right, because you deflate moderation and you embolden extremists.

We need more troops, with no deadlines.

WALLACE: Gentlemen, I want to switch to a related subject. The nomination of Robert Gates to be the new defense secretary comes up this week.

Senator Biden, you voted against Gates back when Bush 41 nominated him to be CIA director. Is the fact that he is not Donald Rumsfeld enough to make you vote for him this time?

BIDEN: When I voted against him, I said at the time it was a close call. I voted against him because there was a question of whether he hid information from the Iran-Contra commission, on the whole Iran-Contra affair.

I think Gates's position on Iraq is much closer to what we need to move to. I will vote for Gates, and I believe Gates will be able to do a good job.

WALLACE: Briefly, Senator Graham, why do you think that Bob Gates will do a better job on Iraq than Don Rumsfeld did?

GRAHAM: Because he has a chance to start over with the American public. He has a chance to produce new ideas. He's not a stakeholder in past mistakes as Secretary Rumsfeld was. He has a chance to re- engage.

I intend to vote for him unless he convinces me that he will not support a strategy to win. I'm looking for strategies to win, not political strategies.

WALLACE: Let me switch, if I can, to one last subject. We've had this real-life spy thriller, Russian spy thriller, playing out this week with the radiation poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Question, and I'll start with you, Senator Biden: Do you believe -- I understand it's speculation, but do you believe that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is involved? And whether we can prove that or not, how should it affect our relations with Russia?

BIDEN: Well, I don't know whether he's involved, but our relations with Russia have to get straightened out to begin with.

Russia is moving more and more toward an oligarchy here. Putin is consolidating power. He's been doing it for the last six years. We have basically been giving him a bye. I think that Russia is sliding further away from genuine democracy and a free-market system and more toward a command economy and the control of a single man.

So I'm not a big fan of Putin's, and I think we should have a direct confrontation with Putin politically about the need for him to change his course of action.

WALLACE: When you say - and very briefly, sir...

BIDEN: In Russia.

WALLACE: Let me say, when you talk about a direct confrontation, Senator Biden, would you expel him from the G-8 industrial summit?

BIDEN: Well, no, but I tell you what: I would consider laying down markers about whether or not, as he continues to consolidate power within that economy and in that country, whether or not he warrants continued membership. I would raise it.

And I would do it privately. I wouldn't make this a public confrontation.

WALLACE: And, Senator...

BIDEN: But I'd make it a direct -- sorry.

WALLACE: No, no, I was just going to bring in Senator Graham.

In the time left, your thoughts about Putin and what the U.S. needs to do?

GRAHAM: I think Joe is right on. I think Bush misread his soul. I think this guy is taking Russia backward. He's a problem, not a solution, to most of the world's problems. He could help us with Iran if he chose to. He is becoming basically a one-man dictatorship in Russia. And we need to be tough with him.

Russia needs to be part of the international community in a constructive way. They're going backward, not forward. And now's the time for the international community to speak with Russia with one voice: "Change what's going on in Russia. Help us with Iran."

WALLACE: Senator Graham, Senator Biden, I want to thank you both for coming in and sharing part of your Sunday with us.

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

WALLACE: up next, an exclusive interview with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. We'll ask him about judicial activism, the court's rulings on the war on terror and other key issues. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: It's highly unusual for a member of the U.S. Supreme Court to come on a Sunday morning talk show. In fact, it's never happened in the 10-year history of this program. That is until this week, when I spoke with the author of the book "Active Liberty."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Joining us now in studio, Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court.

And, Mr. Justice, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."

STEPHEN BREYER, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT: Thank you.

WALLACE: Let's start with the title of your book, "Active Liberty." I'm sure that there are some conservatives out there who break out in hives when they hear a judge talking about activism. They get the idea you think it's OK to read all sorts of things into the Constitution so you get the results you want.

BREYER: I think the best description in one sentence of that title, "Active Liberty," is that the point of the book is we don't need activist judges; we do need activist citizens. And it's about not how judges should be activists. To the contrary, it's about how every citizen should participate in government.

WALLACE: But let's talk about that. Because in your book, you say that judges have various tools when they decide a case. And more important even than the language of the law, you say, are the purpose of the provision and the consequences of deciding it one way or another.

I want to put up a quote from your book and take a look at it, if you will. Here it is: "Since law is connected to life, judges, in applying a text in light of its purpose, should look to consequences including contemporary conditions, social, industrial and political, of the community to be affected."

Justice Breyer, when a judge takes it upon himself to interpret what purpose the founders, the framers meant when they put something in the Constitution, doesn't that allow them, a judge, to do almost anything?

BREYER: No, I think it's the contrary. You see, it takes place in a context. I think whether you are a judge on my court or whether you are a judge on a court of appeals or any court, and lawyers too - and if you're interested in law yourself, you'll be in the same situation -- you have a text that isn't clear.

If the text is clear, you follow the text. If the text isn't clear, you have to work out what it means. And that requires context.

The freedom of speech. Do you know what it means? Basically. But you don't know its entire content, and it doesn't tell you itself. Those words, "the freedom of speech," "Congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech." Neither they, the founders, nor those words tell you how to apply it to the Internet.

So what can you use in a tough case to figure out how the First Amendment applies to cable television and requirements that cable carry over-the-air stations? How do you do it?

WALLACE: Well, let me give you another example, a very specific example. You voted in 2003 to uphold the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law.

Now, you acknowledge that by setting spending limits on advertising that you were, as you put it, interfering with free speech. But you said that there is a higher purpose here.

Higher than the First Amendment?

BREYER: That isn't quite what I said. I think what I said was, when you get a case like that, you start to look to slogans to decide the case. It won't work.

The First Amendment itself, "the freedom of speech," doesn't tell you the answer. Nor does a slogan.

If you want to use the slogan, "Money is at stake, not speech," that seems to work. That means they can regulate anything. But if you think about it for two minutes, you realize that money is very important to speech, because no one can run for office and have his message heard without money. So the First Amendment is involved.

Then if you think the opposite, "Well, wait a minute, these campaign finance limits, what they're doing is they are telling the person who wants to give $20 million that he can't finance all the speech he wants. Doesn't that violate the First Amendment?" I'd say that's a slogan. Why? Because think about that First Amendment. It was done, enacted, passed, to help our country of now 300 million citizens run fair and free elections.

The very point of speech in an election is to get a message across. And that may mean, in part, that you don't want one person's speech, that $20 million giver, to drown out everybody else's. So if we want to give a chance to the people who have only $1 and not $20 million, maybe we have to do something to make that playing field a little more level in terms of money. If you accept that at all, you've suddenly bought in to the proposition that there are First Amendment interests on both sides of this equation.

And once you're there, you see this problem is complicated. And once you see it is complicated, you begin to factor in to what extent do we defer to Congress. And the answer is going to be quite a lot but not completely.

You see what I've done? I've showed you how to go back to that quote.

WALLACE: Right.

BREYER: I used that word, "purpose," to help me in a case where the language isn't clear, where the history isn't clear, where the tradition isn't clear, where the precedents aren't clear, that we have to decide how in that realm of ambiguity to apply the value that's permanent and always there, free speech, to a modern, difficult situation.

WALLACE: You talk a lot in the book about the fact that the Constitution promotes active liberty and, as you put it in the answer to my first question, encouraging democratic participation, encouraging democratic conversation.

From that point of view, isn't one of the reasons that abortion has remained such a hot-button issue in this country because the Supreme Court took it out of the political process, took it away from the legislatures when it was being decided as part of that democratic conversation in 1973?

BREYER: Well, I purposely chose my examples in this book to illustrate a theme. And I didn't choose abortion as one of them. Because more important to me in writing a book -- I mean, I'll decide abortion cases when they come up, but I know perfectly well that anything I say on that subject is enormously volatile. And so, I don't want to talk about that subject, particularly in a public forum that isn't the court.

WALLACE: Even the question as to whether or not...

BREYER: No, not any question to do with abortion. I go back to book.

WALLACE: All right. Let me ask you another question, because this is something I know you have talked about.

BREYER: Yes?

WALLACE: Precedent.

BREYER: Of course.

WALLACE: You say that - well, pro-choice supporters say that Roe v. Wade is precedent, is settled law, and it has been since 1973. On the other hand, Plessy v. Ferguson was settled law, was precedent for 60 years. That was the Supreme Court decision that established separate but unequal in education. That was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which I think we would all agree ended segregation of schools.

How do you, as a justice, decide what's good precedent and what's bad precedent?

BREYER: There are principles that help you decide, because you're quite right in saying no precedent is 100 percent secure, but the more the precedent has been around and the more people rely on it, the more secure it has to be. And...

WALLACE: Well, Ferguson was around a long time.

BREYER: Yes, that's right. There are a number different factors. And it's going to take more than 12 minutes if I go into them here. But I can tell you, you can read some of them in Casey v. Polino (ph), in the decision that Justice Souter, Justice O'Connor and Justice Kennedy wrote.

But precedent is important in this way. My message in this book and the reason that I wrote it in respect to the law is to try to show people what we do. And there we use precedent, we use text, we use tradition, we use history, we use purpose of the provision, and we use consequences, not any old consequence, but the consequences that are relevant to the provision at issue. Fourth Amendment: privacy. First Amendment: speech. And I try to show how that's done.

Now, the purpose behind the purpose -- and we're getting close to the real purpose. The purpose behind the purpose is that I want to say, having read that document, the Constitution, that when those framers sat down, their primary objective was not to have judges decide how people should live. Their primary objective was to create a democratic system so that people themselves could decide in their own community what kind of rules that wanted.

Well, what do we do? What I, in the book, call us is I say we're the boundary patrol. There are limits. It's a constitution that protects a democratic system, basic liberties, a rule of law, a degree of equality, a division of powers, state, federal, so that no one gets too powerful.

Well, those are the limits. And within those limits, there is a vast area for people to decide for themselves. And we're there to patrol the limits.

Now, life at the boundary is sometimes very hard. And you bring up abortion. And I understand how difficult that is, how difficult it is for people to decide to whether it's on one side of the limit or the other. Many cases are like that.

But the moral, the purpose behind the purpose behind the purpose, is I don't want to forget that big area where their participation is necessary to decide whether and how our democratic system will create rules. Because if they forget that and they forget to participate and they forget that the decision-making power is theirs ultimately, then our Constitution won't work.

WALLACE: You have voted at least twice to limit the power of the president to fight terrorists.

You talk about consequences. How do you satisfy yourself, as a justice in that white marble building up there, that when you vote to strike down a tool that the president, as commander in chief, is using in the war on terror, that you're not endangering the country?

BREYER: I don't think it was argued in - well, perhaps - but the case, for example, that we had, which was several years ago, probably the main one, was whether a person who is held as a prisoner in part of the United States, even if he was an alien at Guantanamo, had a right to come to court. And we held that he did have a right to come to court.

And there are...

WALLACE: But there's also the interrogation of prisoners, there have been other issues.

BREYER: We haven't gone into the - there have been a lot of issues, but, I mean, you're asking what we, in particular, have taken...

WALLACE: What I guess I'm asking...

BREYER: But your basic question is, how does the judge know? And the answer is that the judge has to look at the record and the testimony and what's being elicited, just as he does in all difficult cases.

Ultimately we have a Constitution that guarantees a democratic system and that guarantees certain individual rights. I show that in this book. I discuss some of them. The rights are important.

Of course, as Justice Goldberg said, as Justice Jackson said, the Constitution is not a suicide pact. Everyone understands that. And that's why that Constitution in the Fourth Amendment uses words like "reasonable." There is flexibility in it.

The court has made terrible mistakes sometimes in its history, now recognized. Eighty thousand Americans, Japanese Americans, citizens of the United States, were brought during the early parts of World War II to camps, camps where they were held against their will, even though J. Edgar Hoover said there's no need to do that and even though every historian says there was no need to do that.

But it happened, and the court ratified it over three votes -- Jackson, Murphy, Roberts -- who said, "Don't do this."

So what you've done, Chris, which is correct, is that you've shown how difficult that problem is. We can't ignore the civil liberties aspect. You can't ignore -- you can't ignore the security aspect. And what judges try to do in that situation is to listen to what they're told by the lawyers, the witnesses and the others, and then they do their best not to make a mistake.

Not as mistake as to their personal opinion, by the way, but a mistake as to how those words that guarantee freedom in the Constitution apply to this situation.

WALLACE: Justice Stephen Breyer, the name of the book, "Active Liberty." Thank you for joining us, sir.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Coming up, our Sunday panel at a key moment in the war in Iraq. We'll discuss the Bush-Maliki summit and that report from the Iraq Study Group, due out this week. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: There's one thing I'm not going to do. I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: That was President Bush this week seeming to indicate he plans to resist pressure to start pulling U.S. forces back from the front lines in Iraq.

And it's panel time now for syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer; Mara Liasson of National Public Radio; Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal; and Juan Williams, also from National Public Radio.

Well, before we get to the recommendations of the Iraq study group, we've now seen this memo that Don Rumsfeld apparently sent to the president two days before he was forced from office in which he says that it's time for a major change in policy and, in a menu of options, raises the possibility of a major withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

Paul, what do you make of the memo?

PAUL GIGOT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, the president -- Rumsfeld himself had been telling the president weeks before we need to look through fresh eyes, so -- and nobody thought the policy was working.

I'm a little surprised, though, that in the memo he didn't even consider adding troops to Baghdad and to provide more security to Baghdad but did seem to be saying we have to take troops out in order to put more leverage on the Iraqi leaders.

So maybe for that reason the president did need somebody new at defense in order to provide -- look at all the options and not be tied to some of the old thinking, because I think the security of Baghdad right now and ongoing in the future -- if we're going to have success there, that needs to be one of the major battlegrounds.

WALLACE: Juan, what do you make of the Rumsfeld memo?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: Well, I think it's just one more pea in the pod that says wait a minute, everything is building to the point where not only are you getting memos coming from the Iraq study group, coming now from the Pentagon, from the Democrats in Congress -- everybody's saying we've got to find some way to pull these troops out, and yet you're hearing the president still seemingly stuck.

I mean, it's like he can't quite get a way to walk this back. He can't get out of the hole. He seems to just keep digging it deeper. Yesterday in the Saturday radio address, he said that failure in Iraq is going to embolden the extremists.

I mean, what does he think is going on there now? I don't understand. But you know, it's hard to see how the president goes about -- he says there's no graceful exit. The Baker people are -- the Iraq study group are trying to give him a graceful exit by saying that they're not setting a hard time line, but they're saying we've got to pull people back. He doesn't seem to be hearing it quite clearly.

WALLACE: Well, let's move forward to the Baker study group, which is the Iraq study group headed by former Secretary of State James Baker, Charles, which is coming out this week.

A lot of its recommendations have apparently already been leaked to the papers. We don't know if that represents the total message it's going to send on Wednesday, but, one, from what you hear, what do you think of the plan? And two, how do you expect it to affect the president?

Is it just going to be another in the series of memos that he's getting, or in some way do you think it's going to have a political impact that he's going to have to deal with?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It will have a political impact and I think he'll ignore it. He's a man who does. And he's in his second term, at the end of his second term. He knows his legacy is Iraq. He doesn't really care about how popular he is today. He cares about what history is going to say. And he doesn't want to leave behind a catastrophe.

I think the recommendations have already -- as you say, were leaked. We know that it looks as if it's a classic commission report, half Democrat, half Republican, looks like a consensus, the document splitting differences -- yes, withdraw, but not precipitous; yes, in a schedule, but not a firm timetable; yes, withdrawal, but not complete.

It looks as if it was a compromise, and it's not exactly the kind of advice you want when you have to make decisive new decisions in a war. It looks like the kind of splitting of differences you want in a commission on Social Security or other long-range issues. So I think it's going to have a lot less impact than people are predicting.

WALLACE: But, Mara, I mean, I wonder about that, because James Baker, whom we've all dealt with over the years, I have found to be one of the savviest political operators, diplomats, whatever. But he doesn't tend to issue reports or come up with ideas that are dead on arrival.

MARA LIASSON, NPR: Yes, I think that it will have an effect, maybe not in ways that we can imagine right now. I don't think the president is going to adopt this wholesale. I don't think he's going to adopt any of these ideas wholesale.

The fact is that Washington is right now engaged in this frenetic struggle to come up with something that's going to work in Iraq, whether it's the Baker-Hamilton commission or the Rumsfeld memo. I mean, right now, I think this administration is desperate for something that's going to work there.

I mean, even Rumsfeld echoed some of these Baker-Hamilton-like suggestions when he says how about some modest troop withdrawals so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks. Now, that's an idea that's even echoed by Democrats who think if only we start drawing down, suddenly the Iraqis will step up to the plate.

Now, that assumes that they're not pulling up their socks because they're lazy, not that they're engaged in this violent sectarian power struggle, which I think is what's going on there.

But I do think that something different has to happen. That's what the Rumsfeld memo said very clearly. He included in some of his least desirable options doing the same thing.

WALLACE: I mean, let me ask you about that, Paul, because I mean, the fact is even Rumsfeld, who we thought of as being one of the stronger advocates of stay the course, is now on record as saying we've got to do something, we need a major adjustment.

You've got the Iraq study group. You've got the election, which certainly sent a message. The public -- and we saw this from Lindsey Graham, Republican, as well as Joe Biden, Democrat -- is losing patience with the way forward in Iraq.

At least by the State of the Union next month, doesn't the president have to announce some major change -- I'm not sure what direction, but doesn't he have to announce a major change in policy?

GIGOT: I don't think he has to adjust -- announce a major change. He has to announce that we need to work with Maliki, we need to keep working hard to get the American commitment, not pulling out.

I think the big problem with the Baker report is that it sent a message that we are going to consider precipitous withdrawal, and I think that's undermined Maliki. It's undermined the confidence that he has in our staying power.

I think the president's -- unlike Juan, I think the president's commitment of resolve this week in saying -- wrapping his arms around Maliki and saying we're going to be there with you is very important, because that's the only way that we can, I think, get him to make the very difficult decisions that he has to make, whether it be taking on the insurgency or disarming the Shiite militias.

So I don't think he has to announce some new grand strategy. The details in the Baker report suggest that there is no new grand strategy to be had. If there were some Hail Mary pass, some great ideas to be had, somebody would have thought of them before. Those ideas just don't exist, and that's why this is incremental.

WALLACE: Juan, what do you think happens if by the State of the Union the president basically says -- I mean, if he follows Paul's advice and basically says steady as she goes, more of the same?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's more bloodshed. I think it's more chaos in the Middle East. I mean, the State Department seems to be intent over the past several weeks now on trying to shift the focus to what's going on between Israelis and Palestinians, and saying, you know, we want this broader approach, and we hope that by taking the broader approach, by talking to the Saudis, as Vice President Cheney did, we can somehow then say we're dealing with a regional issue and bring more people into the game.

But, Paul, I think that if you look at what happened this week when you had Maliki snubbing the president, because the president is going in there and saying hey, you've got to deal with Muqtada al-Sadr and the extremists and cut down on the violence -- and Iraqis do have to pull up their socks.

I mean, and Maliki doesn't even want to be with him, and then the president says you're my guy, you're the right guy?

GIGOT: I don't think Maliki was snubbing the president. I think he was snubbing Abdullah of Jordan, who's a Sunni leader who has never trusted the Shiites, the new Shiites, in Iraq.

I think that -- look, we could put in more troops. I'd support more troops. Maybe the president needs to do that. I said before security in Baghdad is crucial. So I'm not saying just say do nothing new.

And the interesting idea this week -- the most interesting idea may not be what came out of the Iraq study group, but what comes out of the State Department, saying we need maybe to tilt to the Shiites and support them more, and the Kurds, since they're 80 percent of the country, and stop trying to appease the Sunnis, who are dealing with the terrorists and...

LIASSON: One of the problems with the Shiites is they're not even unified. The president's going to have a meeting with the head of SCIRI, which is this Supreme Council for Defense of the Islamic Revolution, and he's on the opposite side of Maliki. That's one of the reasons why Maliki had to make this devil's bargain with al-Sadr.

And maybe the United States can rearrange the Shiite coalition, but they certainly haven't been able to yet.

WALLACE: All right. We're going to have to take a break here.

But coming up, that real-life spy mystery. Was this man ordered to be killed by the president of Russia? Our panel weighs the diplomatic implications and tries to solve the mystery when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: On this day in 1989, President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ended a two-day summit on Malta. The leaders announced they had set the stage for ending the Cold War.

Stay tuned for more from our panel and our Power Player of the Week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA: I would hope that British authorities would not contribute to instigating political scandals which has nothing to do with reality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: That was Russian president Putin flatly denying any involvement in the radiation poisoning death of a former Russian spy.

And we're back now with Charles, Mara, Paul and Juan. Well, the case of Alexander Litvinenko grew even more intriguing this week. The outspoken Putin critic died, of course, on November 23rd from the highly radioactive polonium 210.

And since then, traces of the substance have been found all over London at hotels and restaurants and on planes flying back and forth between Britain and Moscow, and also on some people that the former spy met with.

Charles, of course, let me ask you the question I asked the senators. It's speculation, but, one, do you believe that Putin was involved? And two, whether we can prove it or not, what does it mean for U.S.-Russian relations?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the one thing that we know here is the title of Putin's upcoming memoirs, "If I Did It". You know, at least O.J. had the decorum to say that he would pursue the real killers. Putin's government says well, if the British are polite and ask officially, that they may cooperate.

People are talking about that this is a great mystery. It's not a mystery. You think it was rogue elements who poisoned the president of Ukraine in that election, or rogue elements who shot the British -- the Russian journalist who was looking into the war in Chechnya, or a crazed Turk with Bulgarian associations who shot the pope on his own?

The Russians have a long and distinguished history of political assassination, and this is an obvious example of it.

WALLACE: And, Mara, assuming that is true, and we may, you know, be able to prove it or never be able to prove it, how should it affect western relations with Russia? LIASSON: Well, that's a big question. I mean, the other problem is that the United States is having trouble getting Russia on board on a whole host of issues. Now, one day they say they're with us on putting sanctions against Iran about nuclear power. The other day they -- the next day they don't like it.

I think that Russia has become a much less and less reliable partner for the United States on a whole host of issues.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about that, Paul. I mean, assuming -- and Inspector Clouseau over here at the end of the table -- Charles, you know, is probably right. The Russians probably are involved.

It's pretty provocative to kill a dissident in London with, you know, this highly traceable and very dangerous substance. Should there be fallout from that?

GIGOT: If there's evidence that they find that does trace it to the Russians and Putin doesn't pursue this aggressively in terms of a criminal investigation, I think it's going to be very hard for the G-8 to avoid this.

I mean, this is a fellow who hosted the G-8 in St. Petersburg this year, and he got all of the diplomatic hoopla that attends that, and credibility. I think the G-8 needs to really rethink that. And do you want to bring this guy, if he's leading his country in that direction, into this democratic group of nations?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, the problem, as Mara was saying, is how do we deal with it. You know, what does the United States -- what do western democracies do.

Putin is sitting there and, by all accounts, he supposedly has a good relationship with President Bush. I don't know if the president's going to ask him, you know, why don't you say that this is a tragedy that Litvinenko was killed and that you're going to help in investigating this. The British have asked the FBI and others to get involved in the case.

Now, what if it leads to Putin's doorstep? What does that mean in terms of going forward? I don't know that the U.S. has many options. We have more and more business interests in Russia. And what we're seeing is that they are getting beat up by the Russians. It's a corrupt government. It's corrupt. There's payoff, bribes. That's the way they work.

If that's the case, I don't know where we go. The most important item on the agenda comes back to Iran and comes back to sanctions against Iran, and we need Russian support there to go forward.

WALLACE: Well, that brings up a question. Do we need Russian support and can we ever count on it?

Charles, I mean, you know, this all comes against a backdrop -- as you say, it's not just a string of assassinations. It comes against a backdrop of the ending of some, more and more, the democratic reforms in Russia, the Kremlin taking on more and more power to itself.

Has this president, has this administration, fundamentally misjudged Putin?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it has, at least in the beginning, assuming he was a democrat. He's not. He's an autocrat. He's an authoritarian. He's centralizing power and dismantling his democracy. That's what's happening in Russia. It's not stoppable. It's not something that America or any other country is going to actually influence. It's a fact of life.

And the question is how are we going to deal with that fact of life. It was a mistake for the Clinton administration to admit fledgling democracies like Russia into the G-8, but it's now also a fact.

And the fact is that we're going to need Russia, particularly on Iran and on issues in the Middle East. It can help us. It's a ruthless dictatorship which acts in its interest. It may act in its interest in helping us on Iran.

And we are not going to allow, I think, one way or the other, this assassination to interfere with our relations. Look, assassinations are never traceable. State assassinations are always -- there are cutouts. They have a lot of experience here.

No one ever got Stalin on the assassination of Trotsky. It doesn't happen. It won't stop at his doorstep. Putin will not be implicated. And we will deal with him like any other dictator whom we need.

WALLACE: So is he a dictator we need and so therefore we're not headed for another Cold War, Paul?

GIGOT: Well, I don't think we're headed for a Cold War, but I do -- there is one lever we have, and that's entry into the World Trade Organization, which Russia wants.

And it would be nice to think that the Bush administration might actually get something in return, if it's going to allow Russia to get into the WTO, such as cooperation on some strategic issue like Iran.

WILLIAMS: Well, and don't forget that, you know, his time is up in 17 months. He's got less time in office technically than George W. Bush has left. Does he adhere to it? Does he allow the process -- the constitution says he's got to leave office -- to be held?

So that could be the basis, then, for going to the WTO and saying well, unless you leave office in an orderly fashion, obey the constitution, you have no place. But the question is what happens to people, you know, subsequent to Putin's time in office.

Are we going to see revolution in Russia? Are we going to see more of the kind of high-handed treatment of people who are political opponents that we saw after Boris Yeltsin? That's the question. We have to now get involved in managing the future of Russia.

WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. Thank you all, panel. See you next week.

For more visit the FOX News Sunday web page.

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