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Vice President Cheney, Roundtable

Fox News Sunday

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace. A special interview with the vice president, next on "Fox News Sunday."

A new plan for Iraq brings new questions. Will more U.S. troops stop the violence? And will the Maliki government finally do its part? We'll talk about Iraq, other world hotspots and domestic politics as well in an exclusive interview with Vice President Dick Cheney.

Also, from our minimum-wage increase to stem-cell research, Democrats push their agenda through the House. We'll talk about Team Pelosi's first days in power with our Sunday regulars: Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams.

Plus, the nation remembers a fallen hero.

All right now on "Fox News Sunday."

And good morning again from Fox News in Washington. Joining us now, the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney.

Mr. Vice President, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."


WALLACE: Let's start with the president's speech this week in which he said that U.S. forces in Iraq -- and let's put it up on the screen -- are "engaged in a struggle that will determine" -- his word -- "determine the direction of the global war on terror and our safety here at home."

If you and the president really believe that, why not send even more troops into Iraq? And why depend on the Iraqi army and government, which have failed us again and again? Why not say, "This is a U.S. war, and we will do whatever it takes to win"?

CHENEY: Well, in effect, we have said that. And we are putting in the force we think is what's required to do the job. It's based on the best military advice we can get.

It can't be just a U.S. show, in the sense that ultimately the Iraqis are going to have to be responsible for defending Iraq, for governing themselves. That's always been our ultimate objective, and that hasn't changed.

But it's clear, based on recent developments, that they need help, that we can provide that help by putting additional forces in for the foreseeable future, and work in conjunction with the Iraqis.

The Iraqis will be there, too, right alongside us. This is not just an all-U.S. show. It's always been a question of trying to balance what's the right amount of American force and American leadership with the question of handing over authority and responsibility and transitioning to the Iraqis.

We're still very much engaged in that process. We've clearly made a judgment here, both the Iraqis have and the United States, that we need to do more to get a handle on the situation in Baghdad.

WALLACE: But to repeat my opening question, ultimately, will the U.S. do whatever it takes to win?

CHENEY: I believe we will.

I think that if you look at the conflict that's involved here and remember that Iraq is just part of the larger war -- it is, in fact, a global war that stretches from Pakistan all the way around to North Africa. We've been engaged in Pakistan. We've been engaged in Afghanistan. We clearly are working closely with the Saudis, with the Gulf states, with the Egyptians.

That we have gone in and, aggressively, since 9/11, gone after state sponsors of terror, gone after safe havens where terrorists trained and equipped and planned and operated to strike the United States.

And we've got people now like Karzai in Afghanistan and Musharraf in Pakistan who are great allies, who put their lives on the line every single day that they go to work -- assassination attempts on their lives.

And for us to succeed in all of those other areas, those people have got to have confidence in the United States, that they can count on us. If the United States doesn't have the stomach to finish the job in Iraq, we put at risk what we've done in all of those other locations out there.

Remember what bin Laden's strategy is. He doesn't think he can beat us in the stand-up fight. He thinks he can force us to quit. He believes that, after Lebanon in '83 and Somalia in '93, that the United States doesn't have the stomach for a long war.

And Iraq is the current central battlefield in that war, and we must win there. It's absolutely essential that we win there, and we will win there.

WALLACE: Over the last 46 months, the president and you have repeatedly said that you are on the path to victory, sometimes proposing exactly the opposite policy of what the president did this week. Let's take a look.


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight.

BUSH: Not only can we win the war in Iraq, we are winning the war in Iraq.

BUSH: Will we be nimble enough? You know, will we be able to deal with the circumstances on the ground? And the answer is, yes, we will.

BUSH: Absolutely we're winning.


WALLACE: Mr. Vice President, why should we believe that, this time, you've got it right?

CHENEY: Well, I think if you look at what's transpired in Iraq, Chris, we have, in fact, made enormous progress.

Remember where we were four years ago: Saddam Hussein was in power, a guy who'd started two wars, who had produced and used weapons of mass destruction, violated 16 U.N. Security Council resolutions, prime sponsor of terror, paying the families of suicide bombers.

Saddam has been brought to justice. He's dead. He was executed, as we all know, here a few weeks ago. His government is gone.

There have been three national elections in Iraq. There's a new constitution. There's a new government that's been in place now for all of nine months. A lot of people are eager to go out and write them off now. I think it's far too soon.

The fact is we've come a long way from where we started in Iraq. We still have a lot to do. It's been tougher and taken longer than we thought it would. One of the things...

WALLACE: But the fact is, some of these policies that you've proposed, that we talked about there, haven't worked. Why should we believe this policy will?

CHENEY: One of the things that, in fact, transpired that's changed the circumstances over there was the successful strategies that Zarqawi pursued. We went up, until the spring of '06, the Shia sat back and did not respond to the attacks on them. They sat there and took it. But after they got hit at the Golden Dome in Samarra, that precipitated the sectarian violence that we're seeing now.

We've got to get a handle on that in order to be able to succeed. We do have to change and adjust and adapt our tactics if we're going to succeed from a strategic standpoint. But that's what we're doing.

Now, no war ever goes smoothly all the way. Lots of times you have to make adjustments, and that's what we're doing here.

WALLACE: Throughout this war, the president has said that he listens to the generals on the ground and he gives them what they want.

But in November, General Abizaid, the commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, spoke before the Senate committee and said that, after meeting with every divisional commander, that sending more troops into Iraq would prevent the Iraqis from taking on the responsibility they should take. Let's take a look.


GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID: General Casey, the Corps commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, "In your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?" And they all said no. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Mr. Vice President, why did you and the president decide to overrule the commanders?

CHENEY: Well, I don't think we've overruled the commanders. The fact is the plan we've got here now has been embraced by Abizaid, by General Casey, by...

WALLACE: But how do you explain what he said right then, less than two months ago?

CHENEY: Well, it was two months ago.

We've, in fact, looked very carefully at the situation, and we have a plan now that has, in fact, been endorsed by the generals, including Fox Fallon, who's the new CENTCOM commander who's about to replace General Abizaid, and Bob Gates, who's the new secretary of defense.

Part of the debate has been, Chris, over this question of how much emphasis you put on the priority of transitioning to Iraqi control and how much you put on the question of using U.S. forces to deal with the security situation. And there's a balance to be struck there.

And the old balance basically, in the past, placed the emphasis on transition to the Iraqis. But we've made the decision and came to the conclusion that, until we got a handle on the security situation in Baghdad, the Iraqis weren't going to be able to make the progress they need to make on the economic front, on the political front and so forth.

And so, the conclusion is that, with the plan that we put in place now, that we're going to place a greater emphasis upon going after the security problem in Baghdad, that that has to come first. Political reconciliation is important, economic progress is important, but that we've got to get a handle on the security situation in Baghdad. That means more Iraqi forces; that means more U.S. forces.

WALLACE: Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, I think it's fair to say, has disappointed us over and over again. Let's take a look at the record.

In mid-October, he demanded that the U.S. military free an aide to Muqtada al-Sadr who was suspected of leading a death squad. On October 31st, he made the U.S. end a blockade of Sadr City, where we were searching for a missing U.S. soldier. On December 30th, he ignored our calls to delay the execution of Saddam Hussein, leading to an event the president says was right below Abu Ghraib as an embarrassment for our country.

Question: How direct has the president been with Maliki that he can't fail us again?

CHENEY: Well, we've been very direct with him. And I think Maliki and his government understand very well that they, in fact, need to step up and take responsibility; that we need to have new rules of engagement, that there will not be any political interference, if you will, phone calls from government officials that interfere with the legitimate military activities of the security forces...

WALLACE: Let me ask you a specific question about that. If U.S. forces want to go into Sadr City and take on Muqtada al-Sadr, can you pledge to the American people we'll do that regardless of what Maliki says?

CHENEY: I believe we'll be able to do whatever we need to do in order to get a handle on the security situation there, and Prime Minister Maliki will be directly involved in it.

This is just as much his program as it is ours. He's the one, ultimately, who has to perform, in terms of the capabilities of Iraqi forces.

So I think we do have the right understanding. Time will tell. We'll have to wait and see what happens here.

But I do believe that, based on the conversations we've had with Prime Minister Maliki and with his senior people, direct conversations between the president and Prime Minister Maliki, commitments that we've made to him and that he's made to us, that, in fact, we do have an understanding that will allow us to go forward and get the job done.

WALLACE: The question a lot of people ask is, "Or else?" In other words, the Iraq Study Group said if Maliki didn't live up to his promises, we would begin to cut aid, support troops. What do we do if he doesn't live up to his promises? Is there an "or else"?

And specifically, because there's all this talk about, "Well, it's a democracy," would the U.S. consider backing another Iraqi?

CHENEY: I'm not going to get into that, Chris. We've got a good plan. We're just now beginning the execution of the plan. Why don't we get together in a couple of months and see how it worked.

WALLACE: Well, that's an invitation that I'll accept.

CHENEY: All right.

WALLACE: But the question is, is there anyone else?

CHENEY: I'm not going to go beyond what I've said. We're focused on making this plan work.

WALLACE: But it's not an open-ended commitment.

CHENEY: We're focused on making this plan work.

WALLACE: Does Congress have any control over how you and the president conduct this war? CHENEY: Well, Congress certainly has a significant role to play here. They have clearly been instrumental and a major player, in terms of appropriating the funds to support the force and the activities in the global conflict as well as our operations in Iraq.

We talk to the Congress a lot. We consulted with over 120 members of Congress before the president made his pronouncement.

We agreed to set up an advisory group, if you will, that draws on the chairman and ranking members of the key committees of the House and Senate, as we go forward.

So Congress clearly has a role to play. It's an important...

WALLACE: But that's a consultative role. The question I'm asking...

CHENEY: It is a consultative role.

WALLACE: ... though, is, if they want to stop it, can they?

CHENEY: The president is the commander in chief. He's the one who has to make these tough decisions. He's the guy who's got to decide how to use the force and where to deploy the force.

And the Congress, obviously, has to support the effort through the power of the purse. So they've got a role to play, and we certainly recognize that.

But you also -- you cannot run a war by committee, you know. The Constitution is very clear that the president is, in fact, under Article 2, the commander in chief.

WALLACE: So let me ask you a couple of specific questions. If Congress passes a resolution opposing increasing the troops in Iraq, will that stop you?

CHENEY: It would be a sense of the Congress' resolution, and we're interested in it and what Congress has to say about it. But it would not affect the president's ability to carry out his policy.

WALLACE: What do you say to members of Congress who may try to block your efforts, your policy in Iraq? Would they be, in effect, undercutting the troops?

CHENEY: Well, I think they would be.

But I think, more than that, Congress clearly has every right to express their opinion and to agree or disagree with administration policy, and they will. They haven't had any qualms at all about that. But there's a new element here, I think, Chris, and that is to say, the Democrats have now taken control of the House and the Senate. It's not enough for them to be critics anymore.

We have these meetings with members of Congress, and they all agree we can't fail; the consequences of failure would be too great. But then they end up critical of what we're trying to do, advocating withdrawal or so- called redeployment of force, but they have absolutely nothing to offer in its place.

I have yet to hear a coherent policy out of the Democratic side, with respect to an alternative to what the president's proposed in terms of going forward. They basically, if we were to follow their guidance -- the comments, for example, that a lot of them made during the last campaign about withdrawing U.S. forces -- we simply go back and revalidate the strategy that Osama bin Laden has been following from day one, that if you kill enough Americans, you can force them to quit, that we don't have the stomach for the fight. That's not an answer.

If, in fact, this is as critical as we all believe it is, then, if the Democrats don't like what we're proposing, it seems to me they have an obligation to put forward their proposal. And so far we haven't seen it.

WALLACE: Mr. Vice President, it's not just Democrats, though, who oppose the plan. This week there were a number of leading Senate Republicans who also came out against it. Let's watch.


SEN. NORM COLEMAN, R-MINN.: I'm not prepared, at this time, to support that.

SEN. DAVID VITTER, R-LA.: Too little, maybe too late.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, R-NEB.: The most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.


WALLACE: Aren't you losing a lot of support in your own caucus?

CHENEY: Well, I don't think Chuck Hagel has been with us for a long time.

The most dangerous blunder here would be if, in fact, we took all of that effort that's gone in to fighting the global war on terror and the great work that we have done in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and across the globe out there and saw it dissipated because the United States now decides that Iraq is too tough and we're going to pack it in and go home. And we leave high and dry those millions of people in their part of the world that have signed on in support of the U.S. or supported governments that are allied with the U.S. in this global conflict.

This is an existential conflict. It is the kind of conflict that's going to drive our policy and our government for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years.

We have to prevail, and we have to have the stomach for the fight, long term. And for us to do what Chuck Hagel, for example, suggests or to buy into that kind of analysis -- it's not really analysis; it's just criticism -- strikes me as absolutely the wrong thing to do.

These are tough decisions, but the president's made it. It's a good decision. It's a good policy. We think, on reflection, it's the best way for us to move forward to achieve our objectives...

WALLACE: I want to ask you one more question about this, and then we'll talk about other issues.

Iraq was a big issue in the November election. I want you to take a look at some numbers from the election. According to the National Exit Poll, 67 percent said the war was either very or extremely important to their vote, and only 17 percent supported sending in more troops.

By taking the policy you have, haven't you, Mr. Vice President, ignored the express will of the American people in the November election?

CHENEY: Well, Chris, this president, and I don't think any president worth his salt, can afford to make decisions of this magnitude according to the polls. The polls change day by day...

WALLACE: Well, this was an election, sir.

CHENEY: Polls change day by day, week by week. I think the vast majority of Americans want the right outcome in Iraq. The challenge for us is to be able to provide that. But you cannot simply stick your finger up in the wind and say, "Gee, public opinion's against; we'd better quit."

That is part and parcel of the underlying fundamental strategy that our adversaries believe afflicts the United States. They are convinced that the current debate in the Congress, that the election campaign last fall, all of that, is evidence that they're right when they say the United States doesn't have the stomach for the fight in this long war against terror.

They believe it. They look at past evidence of it: in Lebanon in '83 and Somalia in '93, Vietnam before that. They're convinced that the United States will, in fact, pack it in and go home if they just kill enough of us. They can't beat us in a stand-up fight, but they think they can break our will.

And if we have a president who looks at the polls and sees the polls are going south and concludes, "Oh, my goodness, we have to quit," all it will do is validate the Al Qaida view of the world.

It's exactly the wrong thing to do. This president does not make policy based on public opinion polls; he should not. It's absolutely essential here that we get it right.

WALLACE: Mr. Vice President, we have to take a quick break here, but when we come back, we'll talk about Iran and the Democrats taking control of Congress. Back in a moment.


WALLACE: And we're back now with Vice President Cheney.

The president talked very tough about Iran this week. And it's not just rhetoric. He has authorized the arrest of Iranians making trouble in Iraq. He has moved against Iranian banks. You've sent two carrier groups and air defense systems into the region.

What's the message that you're sending to Iran? And how tough are you prepared to get?

CHENEY: Well, I think it's been pretty well-known that Iran is fishing in troubled waters, if you will, inside Iraq. And the president has responded to that, as you suggest. I think it's exactly the right thing to do.

And Iran's a problem in a much larger sense. They have begun to conduct themselves in ways that have created a great deal of tension throughout the region. If you go and talk with the Gulf states or if you talk with the Saudis or if you talk about the Israelis or the Jordanians, the entire region is worried, partly because of the conduct of Mr. Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, who appears to be a radical, a man who believes in an apocalyptic vision of the future and who thinks it's imminent.

At the same time, of course, they're pursuing the acquisition of nuclear weapons. They are in a position where they sit astride the Straits of Hormuz, where over 20 percent of the world's supply of oil transits every single day, over 18 million barrels a day.

They use Hezbollah as a surrogate. And working through Syria with Hezbollah, they're trying to topple the democratically elected government in Iran. Working through Hamas and their support for Hamas in Gaza, they're interfering in the peace process.

So the threat that Iran represents is growing, it's multi- dimensional, and it is, in fact, of concern to everybody in the region.

WALLACE: So what message are you sending to Iran, and how tough are you prepared to get?

CHENEY: I think the message that the president sent clearly is that we do not want them doing what they can to try to destabilize the situation inside Iraq. We think it's very important that they keep their folks at home.

They've been important, for example, in providing improvised explosive devices to some of the forces inside Iraq.

The presence of U.S. military out there, not only in terms of what we're doing in Iraq but also with our carrier task forces, for example, is indicated as reassurance to our friends in the region that the United States is committed to their security and that we're a major presence there now and we expect to continue to be one in the future.

WALLACE: So are you increasing the pressure on Iran to stop these activities?

CHENEY: Well, the pressure, obviously -- we're focused diplomatically on the nuclear problem. We've gone through the United Nations. We've gotten the U.N. Security Council resolution unanimously through that body to impose sanctions on Iran.

There's no reason in the world why Iran needs to continue to pursue nuclear weapons. But if you look down the road a few years and speculate about the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran, astride the world's supply of oil, able to affect adversely the global economy, prepared to use terrorist organizations and/or their nuclear weapons to threaten their neighbors and others around the world, that's a very serious prospect. And it's important that that not happen.

WALLACE: Well, you say it's important that not happen. In fact, it was the basis of the Bush doctrine: You will not allow the world's most dangerous powers to get access to the world's most dangerous weapons.

Can you pledge that, before you and the president leave office, you will take care of the threat of Iran?

CHENEY: I think we're working right now, today, as we speak, on key elements of that problem, specifically through the United Nations, for example, with the nuclear program...

WALLACE: They're continuing the cascades...

CHENEY: ... through our military presence in the Gulf, with respect to our friends and allies in that part of the world, and obviously inside Iraq in terms of the actions we've taken or ordered be taken against Quds Force personnel that are making trouble inside Iraq.

WALLACE: There's a report in the New York Times today that's been confirmed by administration officials that the Pentagon and the CIA have been obtaining financial records about hundreds of Americans suspected of involvement in either terrorism or espionage.

Why involve the CIA and the Pentagon in domestic intelligence- gathering?

CHENEY: Well, remember what these issues are. This is a question, as I understand it, of issuing national security letters that allow us to collect financial information, for example, on suspected -- or, on people we have reason to suspect.

The Defense Department gets involved because we've got hundreds of bases inside the United States that are potential terrorist targets. We've got hundreds of thousands of people, innocent Americans...

WALLACE: But why not let the FBI do that, sir?

CHENEY: Well, they can do a certain amount of it, and they do.

But the Department of Defense has legitimate authority in this area. This is an authority that goes back three or four decades. It was reaffirmed in the Patriot Act that was renewed here about a year or so ago.

It's a perfectly legitimate activity. There's nothing wrong with it or illegal. It doesn't violate people's civil rights. And if an institution that receives one of these national security letters disagrees with it, they're free to go to court to try to stop its execution.

So, you know, this is a dramatic story, but I think it's important for people to understand here this is a legitimate security effort that's been under way for a long time, and it does not represent a new departure from the standpoint of our efforts to protect ourselves against terrorist attacks.

WALLACE: Your former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, goes on trial this coming week on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury.

As I mentioned to Mrs. Cheney when she was here a few weeks ago, I happened to notice that you invited Mr. Libby to your Christmas party, which you also invited me to.

Given his legal troubles, why?

CHENEY: Why what?

WALLACE: Why invite him to your party?

CHENEY: He's a friend. He's a good man. He is one of the finest individuals I've ever known. And I did invite him to the Christmas party. The last two years he's been at our Christmas party and before that...

WALLACE: Is he honest?

CHENEY: I believe he's one of the more honest men I know. He's a good man. And I obviously appreciate very much his service on my staff over the years and have very high regard for him and his family.

WALLACE: Libby's lawyers say they're going to call you as a witness. And we've had presidential scholars scurrying; it appears that it may be the first time ever that a sitting vice president has testified in a criminal trial.

Will you participate in a videotaped deposition, or will you go into court and raise your right hand?

CHENEY: Chris, I'm not going to get into the trial. That's a matter that's before us. I have indicated from the very beginning my whole-hearted cooperation with the investigation and with whatever legal proceedings emerge out of that. And this will all unfold here in the very near future, so...

WALLACE: Do you have any problem going into open court, sir?

CHENEY: I'm going to leave it where it's at. I'm not going to comment on the trial itself.

WALLACE: Given the fact that it now turns out that Libby wasn't the one who first leaked the name of Valerie Plame, what do you think of the fact that he's the only one who's being prosecuted in this case?

CHENEY: I have strong views on the subject, but I'm not going to talk about it.

WALLACE: Let me ask you, because your wife, when she was on -- and let's put it up on the screen -- said, "It's bizarre and does not reflect well on our judicial system."

CHENEY: I'm not going to talk about it.

WALLACE: Do you agree with your wife?

CHENEY: I'm not going to talk about it, Chris. I have strong feelings on the subject. I am likely to be a witness in this trial. It would be inappropriate for me, at this point, shortly before the trial begins, to enter into a public dialogue with you about my views on this issue.

WALLACE: But there's nothing that you have heard, nothing that you have read that shakes your confidence in Scooter Libby's integrity?

CHENEY: That's correct.

WALLACE: What's your reaction to what the congressional Democrats, especially in the House, have done during their first 100 legislative hours?

CHENEY: Well, I think it's interesting to watch. We've got a lot of people around town on my side of the aisle sort of wringing their hands, you know, "My gosh, what do we do now that the Democrats are back in control of the Congress?"

The fact is, for the nearly 40 years I've been in and around Washington, the Democrats were always in control of Congress. We've had a relatively new period of time here in recent years, but the fact that the Democrats now have control of the Senate and the House isn't unique at all.

Some of my friends have to adjust to minority status, if you will, and that's not pleasant always if you've been in the majority.

But I think the Democrats are proceeding about the way I would expect them to proceed. They've got a few things they wanted to push, and they're doing that early on.

But I think they've got to come to grips, as well, too, now with being in the majority. The fact of the matter is, when you control the levers on Capitol Hill, it's not enough for you simply to be a critic of the administration. You've got to put forward positive proposals of your own.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about at least one key issue. Treasury Secretary Paulson says that he wants to engage the Democrats on Social Security reform without any preconditions.

Does that mean that you and the president would consider an increase in the payroll tax as part of a grand bargain to make sure the system doesn't go bankrupt?

CHENEY: No. What it means is that Secretary Paulson is trying to get people to the table to sit down and talk about the subject of Social Security.

WALLACE: Does that mean, then, that you wouldn't consider an increase in payroll taxes?

CHENEY: The president's been very clear. I think, if you look at his philosophy over the years, he's been very, very consistent about it. We believe in keeping taxes as low as possible. We think that's been key to our economic success and to the progress that we've made on the economy, the creation of 7.2 million jobs in the last several years. And so, we don't believe a tax increase is necessary.



CHENEY: ... sit down and talk about trying to get people to the table to talk about Social Security, we've said, "No preconditions." And that's exactly what it means: Come to the table, and we'll talk.

WALLACE: So, conservatives who are worried that you're going to sell them out on payroll taxes shouldn't worry?

CHENEY: I think that this president has been very, very clear on his position on taxes, and nothing's changed.

WALLACE: A number of the new Democratic chairmen say that they're going to conduct investigations of various things that have gone on over the last six years in the Bush administration and are going to go on.

And you're considered something of a hard-liner when it comes to executive authority. What's the White House position going to be when it comes to requests for either documents or witnesses from the administration?

CHENEY: Well, we've been, I think, very responsible in that regard. And when there is a legitimate need for those documents to be presented to the Congress, and they have a legitimate constitutional or statutory reason to have access to them, we try to accommodate them.

Sometimes requests have been made that clearly fall outside the boundaries, clearly trying to get into an area, for example, that is preserved and protected for the president -- the president's ability to consult, for example, with people in private without having to publicize or tell the Congress who he's talking to.

We took that case on my energy task force, for example, all the way to the Supreme Court and won on a 7-2 decision. So it depends. We'll do everything we can to cooperate and work with the Congress. We want good relations with the Congress.

But if they come down and seek something that we don't think is appropriate, we'll defend our constitutional obligations and responsibilities. We take an oath just like they do to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States. And so we have strong feelings about it, and we've operated accordingly.

WALLACE: We've got about 30 seconds left. Do you and the president feel embattled these days? Do you feel isolated? You see the Democrats on Capitol Hill lining up against you. You see some of your support among Republicans falling away.

CHENEY: I don't, and the president doesn't either. You know, I've been here off and on a long time, Chris, going back to 1968. I've seen embattled administrations. This isn't one of them.

WALLACE: We just went through discussions of that with Watergate, right, with President Ford's funeral.

CHENEY: Right.

WALLACE: This is nothing compared to that.

CHENEY: Correct.

WALLACE: Mr. Vice President, we want to thank you so much for sharing part of your Sunday with us, and please come back, sir.

CHENEY: Good to be here, Chris. Thank you.

WALLACE: Up next, we'll hear from our Sunday regulars. What do they think of the president's new Iraq plan? Will it help win the war or just prolong the fighting? No holds barred when we come back.



PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time.


WALLACE: That was President Bush this week explaining his decision to send more U.S. troops into Iraq.

And it's time now for our Sunday regulars, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News, and Fox News contributors Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams, also from National Public Radio.

Well, Brit, let's get right to it. What do you think of the president's new plan? What do you think of the chances that it will work?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON MANAGING EDITOR: Well, I think that the big issue really isn't the troops. We're taking the troops up to levels where they've been before in this conflict. The issue is the plan and whether, indeed, it will work.

And I don't think any of us doubt that the American forces who will go in there, and those already present, will do a good job, and will do what they're assigned to do and do it effectively.

The question is what the Iraqis will do and whether they will hold up their end of the bargain, whether they will be willing or able to do so. And that operates on more than one level. Obviously, it operates in terms of the military missions they're carrying out jointly with American forces.

But it also has to do with the political pressures that are on Nouri al-Maliki to not go here, or go there, or whatever, and to deal ultimately with the sectarian violence which has to be, in the eyes of nearly everybody, more of an Iraqi mission than an American one.

That is the real question. And these politicians here in this country who are fretting about the infusion of troops, it seems to me, are looking at the wrong thing. The real question is how well the Iraqis will perform.

MARA LIASSON, NPR: Yes, I agree that that's a central question. I mean, even Secretary Gates said that Maliki's willingness to allow the U.S. troops to go after these various militias is, quote, central to the success of this plan.

And I think that's one of its key vulnerabilities, is that so much of this rests on the ability or the willingness of the Iraqi government to kind of step up to the plate on these issues.

However, you do have some concerns about the level of troops, and I'm not talking about just Democrats in opposition, who don't want one more troop to be committed, but General Keane, who's kind of the architect of this idea.

WALLACE: This is the former vice chief of the Army, Jack Keane.

LIASSON: Right. And he is concerned that the surge is already being watered down, that maybe the full complement won't go, that it's going to be less than 18 months. Secretary Gates suggested oh, maybe we won't be there -- we'll be there for a matter of months, but not 18. And that's also a concern.

And then there's the overriding concern which is maybe even though this might be a good idea, it's too little and too late.

WALLACE: Bill, as we all know, you have been calling for more U.S. troops for a long time now. What do you like about the plan? What don't you like about the plan?

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: I'm with Jack Keane on this. I was with him yesterday, actually. It is a good plan. It can work, I think. War is difficult and unpredictable. But if anything can work, this can work.

The key is the urgency, the speed and the full bore commitment that the U.S. government, across the board, puts on implementing this. Don't slow-walk the troops in. Front-load the surge. Get Petraeus over there. He's the commander who has to execute it. It's crazy to have Casey execute the first month of the plan and then have a transition then.

The administration's been slow already in getting Petraeus over to replace Casey. The government needs to treat this with the -- the administration needs to treat this with the urgency it deserves. If they do so, I think it can work.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: I mean, my sense is that the president, you know, makes the argument that it's about our will to win as an American people, and it's a critical geopolitical struggle, and yet I didn't find it was convincing in any new way, Chris, and I don't think this plan is new.

As Brit pointed out, we've had more troops on the ground there in the past than we have. SO it's not about the numbers. Then what is it about? It comes back, then, to our will to win.

And on that basis, you know, the vice president spoke about the need to understand that we've got to stop these terrorists there, but I just don't see that this is going to make a difference in that way.

So I think that when I hear from people like Sam Brownback, a Republican, that we need a political solution, from Hillary Clinton, who is there now, from others, I think well, why aren't we looking at a political solution.

Why don't we deal with the fact that these people are having a civil war and help them to settle their civil war as best we can? But putting American troops in the way of a civil war I just think is -- you know, it's like -- the analogy around town is you're doubling down on a bad bet. That's what it looks like.

HUME: You know, Chris, I think that there's another issue in this that needs to be considered, and that is this question of this president's ability to sustain the effort in Iraq in political terms.

He's got two years to go. Judging from the outcome of the last election, not just the fact that Democrats got in and are now doing what they feel like they were elected to do, which was to resist this, but the behavior of the Republican politicians on Capitol Hill has to have been dispiriting to the president.

I mean, you hear Chuck Hagel talking about this infusion of troops being the biggest blunder since the war and so on, Sam Brownback heading for the tall grass. I've talked to a number of Republican House members. They're all terrified to go to the voters in two years with this issue still out there.

So the hopes that this can be sustained for longer than the next couple of years, at most, in political terms, I think, is something that has to worry the administration, has to worry anybody who's concerned about this issue, because if that's what the people who are fomenting the violence over there are looking at, they may feel that they can wait this out, and they may be able to.

LIASSON: Well, you know, the administration's thinking on this, I think, is if they can show some kind of success on the ground there, they can change public opinion or at least staunch some of the bleeding in public opinion.

Don't forget the president and administration officials always point to all these various milestones in Iraq where the public has viewed positively -- the elections, you know, when we capture various major terrorist targets -- so I think the idea is to at least make something look different coming out of Iraq and more positive.

WALLACE: Yes, but Let me ask you -- and this brings me back to the original question that I asked Vice President Cheney. The president's language in his speech on Wednesday could not have been stronger. He said that this is a struggle that will determine the direction of the war on terror and our safety at home.

If it is that much of an issue of national security, Brit pointed out, you know, the key is what's going to happen with the Iraqi government, what's going to happen with the Iraqi army, which are certainly grave concerns. Why don't we say we are going to win this war?

KRISTOL: We should. We should. And the president does. But the administration then sort of reverses the previous rhetoric. Bob Gates' testimony on Friday I thought was pretty pathetic, frankly -- you know, well, we hope to begin drawing down troops later this year. That's the absolute wrong message to send.

The message we should send over there is we're coming in, we're coming in big, we're staying, we're winning this war. Letting the Joint Chiefs slow-walk the brigades in I think is a big mistake.

So I think the president need to insist that his administration pivot and fight this as a war to win. Juan said that, you know, it's doubling down on a bad bet. But you know, it's not a poker game. I like poker as much as the next man, or woman, I guess, these days, judging from the world championship of poker. I don't want to be sexist about this.

It's not a poker game. You know, it's a serious war. And it's not doubling down on a bad bet. It's sending enough troops to win the war and to provide the time for the Iraqi army to continue moving ahead to progress.

Ultimately, of course, the Iraqis will take over. But for now, this is our commitment, our national interest, and we need to win it.

WALLACE: Let me switch to another aspect of this which I also asked the vice president about, Juan, and that is Iran. We heard a lot of talk this week from the president. We also saw actions being taken -- the arrest of those five guys up in Irbil, sending a carrier fleet and weapon systems, air defense systems, into the region.

How tough -- and I must say I think that the vice president ducked it to some degree. How tough do you think this administration is prepared to get with Iran?

WILLIAMS: Well, that's the fear. I mean, the fear is, one, that the U.S. may be in a position, so-called Plan B, that would require them, if they truly are serious about winning -- and I want to come back to that in a moment, because I think definitions of winning can vary -- that when they -- they can't trust Maliki.

They can't trust Maliki to deal with Sadr. They can't trust Maliki to deal with anything, including giving permission to take the restrictions off U.S. troops and let them fight fully, if that's what it's about.

But it comes down, then, to the spreading influence of Iran and the fact that the Iranian leadership is totally unpredictable and, in fact, threatening. So how do you deal with that?

And what you see now is that Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that he will force a constitutional crisis if necessary if he sees any indication that the president and the administration are going into Iran. That, it seems to me, is a real threat. Now, just to come back for a second to this idea of victory, you know, victory, Bill -- I think everybody understands that we want to win. But it may be that there is a political need to win, a political solution to victory, not just a military solution.

And when the president and vice president continue as they do, people have the sense that they're stuck in the same old thing, that they're not listening to anybody, and they're saying we know things you don't know. Well, wait a second. Why don't you talk to us? Tell us what's going on.

WALLACE: All right. We need to take a break here. But when we come back, we'll pick up with Iran. Also, the Democrats are now in control of Congress. How much can they do to block the president's war policy? And what about the domestic agenda they're pushing through the House? All of that after this quick break.


WALLACE: On this day in 1942, President Roosevelt required residents from World War II enemy countries to register with the Department of Justice. The proclamation started the internment of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans.

Stay tuned for more from our panel.



SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: Putting more U.S. combat forces in the middle of a civil war is a mistake.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: I wish they'd just say it. What they want to do apparently is to leave.


WALLACE: That was the Senate's Democratic leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell arguing about what to do next in Iraq.

And we're back now with Brit, Mara, Bill and Juan. Well, those clips make it sound as if the differences over the president's policy fell along party lines. But the fact is -- we've done some counting -- at least 16 Republican senators either oppose the troop increase or have expressed serious doubts about it.

Brit, how politically isolated is the president on this policy in this town right now?

HUME: He's considerably politically isolated at the moment, but he remains the commander in chief and is therefore able to execute the policy. Political support for it would be nice, and the problem is -- now, look. Before I say what I'm about to say, let's be clear about one thing.

We have a democratic system. And in time of war, the fact that dissent encourages the enemy is something we really can't do anything about. It's not being done for that purpose.

But it is an unfortunate fact of life that the defections among Republicans and the intensity of the opposition among Democrats has to be seen as a very positive sign in the eyes of the insurgents over there who have tried to foment this civil war and create as much havoc as they can in the hopes of getting us to leave.

And let's make no mistake about it. The Democrats' plan, to the extent there is one, is to leave. It is a strategy of retreat. And no amount of double-talking foolishness about defining victory can get around the fact. You can't win by retreating. They don't want to win. They want to end it.

As Nancy Pelosi said to me on the day after the election, this is not a war to be won. It is an issue to be solved. And their idea of solution is to get out.

LIASSON: Look. I think that the big political question for the president is about his own party. The Democrats have gotten even more intense in their opposition since he announced this plan.

And I think the question is right as you said. There's as many as 16 who've either expressed skepticism or outright opposition. Now, will they vote with the Democrats on these resolutions that are coming up? And maybe more importantly, will they vote against a filibuster, which Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate, says he's going to mount? And I think that's the real question.

Some of this opposition is coming from moderate Republicans, some who are up in '08 and clearly hear the anger and frustration of their constituents, and they're scared.

HUME: But they passed a resolution, Mara, and the Republicans are going "so what".

LIASSON: I agree. It will have very little effect on the actual policy because the president doesn't need congressional approval. He doesn't even need extra money to do this. The troops are actually there. They're just going to be rotated around.

But I still think that is the political question for the president. Can he keep his own party with him?

WALLACE: Bill, can Congress -- for all the huffing and puffing, can the Democrats in Congress and with some Republican support -- can they affect the president's policy in Iraq?

KRISTOL: Sure. They could insist on a limit on the number of troops we would have in Iraq, as they did in the '80s with the Boled (ph) amendment on advisors in El Salvador. They can limit funds.

They can insist on all kinds of reporting requirements and benchmarks that would have to be met before further troops could be sent. They could try to do all that. The president would fight that and I think resist it successfully, but Congress can put a lot of obstacles in the way. And they are -- as Brit said, whatever their intentions, they are succeeding in making it harder for the president's strategy to work. It is unbelievable to me that the president announces a new strategy -- Democrats are perfectly free to say I'm dubious about it, I'm very worried that this won't work.

To actually pass a resolution criticizing it, which has no practical policy effects -- they can't change the strategy. They're not trying to. It purely weakens the U.S. as it implements the strategy. It gives comfort to those who oppose us in Iraq. It really does. I mean, that's just a practical fact.

And it will dispirit those who are our allies, who will think oh, boy, the president's all alone and Congress is passing and going out of its way to pass a non-binding resolution. This isn't an appropriations bill where Congress has to vote up or down, so if you're against the war, you should vote, presumably, to cut funds or to limit funds in the future.

This is a gratuitous measure to weaken the chance, to lessen the chances of this strategy working. And I really think it's deplorable.

And then Joe Biden, you know, who's a respectable fellow -- I've had a reasonably high opinion of him in the past. He's so upset about the possibility that we might be trying to deter Iran from killing U.S. soldiers and further fomenting civil war in Iraq that he says it's a constitutional crisis -- I think you asked Vice President Cheney about this -- if we go across the border into Iran.

So the position of the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is if there's a factory one mile across the border that is manufacturing IEDs and sending people across the border to kill Americans, we can't go in and hit it. That's the state the Democratic Party has come to.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about -- Juan, let me ask you about this. You'll answer any way you want to anyway, I know. But what about the argument -- and I do hear this from people -- that the Democrats, if they really are opposed to this war and this policy, have a moral obligation, because we're sending young American men and women there -- cut off the funding?

I mean, these non-binding resolutions -- it makes you feel good. It's a political gesture. If you really are against the war, cut off the funding.

WILLIAMS: Well, then you'll hear what Brit Hume just said. You'll say oh, Democrats -- you know, it may be unintentional, but they're aiding the enemy, and they're abandoning our young men and women who are putting their lives on the line, 3,000 gone.

WALLACE: But so what, if you're protecting people in a misguided cause?

WILLIAMS: Well, but that is the thing. The Democrats feel they are in a political box, and everybody's looking towards '08 and trying to position themselves on the central issue of our time, which is the war in Iraq.

And so they aren't saying essentially we have to move cautiously, and I think that's why the non-binding resolution actually is a good thing, Bill. It's a good thing when you have people not trusting that the administration is listening, responding to people -- not responding to the Iraq study group, a bipartisan commission.

You hear from people like Bill Nelson of Florida. You know, I've been supportive, the senator said, but I've been misled, I haven't been told the truth about this. You're hearing this from Republicans as well, who are now questioning on what basis did we go to war. Why are we there? Tell us. Explain.

And the administration responds we're doing things for the best interest of America, we're acting in the best interests of geopolitical concerns, but we can't tell you -- we're not explaining what we're doing. There is an increasing sense...

HUME: Juan...

WILLIAMS: ... you look at the polls...

HUME: ... have you not been listening? I mean, you heard -- the president this week laid it out for the umpteenth time. The vice president was just on this program explaining what the basis of the policy is.

Now, you may disagree with that, but the idea that nobody's been told is nonsense.

WILLIAMS: What is the basis for the policy at this point? If it wasn't weapons of mass destruction, if it's not spreading democracy, if it's not about oil, if it's not about deposing a man who the vice president said was an evil man and now gone, what is the...

KRISTOL: If these guys had been in charge of Congress in 1944, one week after D-Day they would have passed a non-binding resolution expressing concern that gee, there were a lot of casualties and this might not work.

If they believe what you just said, they should cut off funds for the war and find an orderly way to bring the troops home.

WILLIAMS: It's that the American people are losing trust in President Bush at this time in terms of his ability to make decisions. You see it in the polls. You hear it around the country.

Is he in a bubble? Is he hearing what's going on? Does he see what's going on on the ground, or is he just about proving that this is his fight and he's going to fight it his way?

KRISTOL: I think the American people would like to see reinforcements sent to help our soldiers in Iraq win the war.

WILLIAMS: Win the war, yes. Win the war possibly by getting some kind of peace in Iraq. WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. My guess is this is to be continued. Gentlemen, thank you all, and lady. See you all next week.

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