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Interviews w/Robert Gates, Joe Biden

Fox News Sunday

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace. A top candidate emerges to be the new attorney general, next on "Fox News Sunday."

The intense debate over the Iraq war ends with a plan to withdraw some U.S. troops.


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home.


WALLACE: What's the next step for the Pentagon? We'll find out from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Also, the president calls for...


BUSH: ... people who have been on opposite side of this difficult debate to come together.


WALLACE: But do congressional critics see any room for compromise? We'll ask a top Senate Democrat on foreign policy, presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Then why are Democrats running for president silent about this newspaper attack ad on General Petraeus? We'll ask our Sunday regulars: Brit Hume, Nina Easton, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams.

And our Power Player of the Week talks about his son following the family tradition, 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. Several news organizations are reporting that Michael Mukasey, a former federal judge in New York, is the frontrunner to be the next attorney general.

Sources say the president may announce his choice as early as Monday.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in a new book sharply criticizes President Bush for, among other things, not stopping what Greenspan calls out-of-control spending by Republican Congresses. Greenspan also says the Iraq war is largely about oil.

And here in Washington, several thousand antiwar protesters demonstrated Saturday. Almost 200 people were arrested after clashing with police. A few blocks away, a smaller but vocal counter-protest was held.

Well, with us now to discuss the way forward in Iraq, Iran and other hot spots is the secretary of defense, Robert Gates.

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


WALLACE: You made news Friday when you said that you hope we can get down to 100,000 troops by the end of 2008. What would it take? What would the situation on the ground have to be for that to happen?

GATES: Well, first of all, what didn't get covered was the fact that I indicated very strongly that that depended very much on what happened on the ground and that if we were to continue draw downs, it would be because the situation in Iraq had continued to improve dramatically.

The key here, it seems to me, is what kind of conditions we will have in Iraq in March when General Petraeus makes his reevaluation. Then we can...

WALLACE: But what is it we'd have to see in terms of improvement for troops to draw down?

GATES: Well, I think you'd have to see, first of all, the same thing that you're going to have to see for the draw downs between December and July, and that is not only continuation of the successes that we've had now but additional success, additional security, in Iraq.

WALLACE: Also additional political or some would say the beginnings of national political progress?

GATES: Well, there's so much going on below the national level that we didn't expect that has had a big impact -- for example, the turn in Anbar, obviously, that everyone's been talking about.

But there also, it seems to me, is growing unhappiness in the Shia areas with the excesses of Jaish al Mahdi, the Shia extremist group. And so you may see some political developments on that side.

But the other part is what the president has talked about, what we've all talked about, that although some of these laws haven't been passed that we've put as part of the benchmarks and so on, things are actually happening in terms of oil revenues being shared, provincial empowerment, Baathists from Saddam's army being brought back into the army and so on.

So there -- some of these things that we refer to as reconciliation are taking place on the ground.

WALLACE: Now, you made it very clear that this was your personal view about the 100,000 troops, but you're also a pretty careful guy. Fair to say that the president also shares this hope that, if things continue, you could get down to 100,000 by the end of the year?

GATES: You know, I didn't actually use the number. Somebody else -- one of the people who asked the question jumped to that number. What I said was...

WALLACE: But you said the math was...

GATES: What I said was that I hoped the conditions would improve in Iraq to the extent that not only could we complete the draw downs that General Petraeus has said he would like to make between now and July, but also that they could continue thereafter.

So everything depends on the conditions on the ground.

WALLACE: And because we're going to talk about this with the next guest, Senator Biden, let me ask you, what happens if we pull out too quickly?

GATES: Well, I think if I'm disappointed in the quality of the debate here in Washington about anything, it is the failure to address consequences.

If we get this next phase wrong -- no matter how you feel about how we got to where we are, the consequences of getting this wrong for Iraq, for the region, for us are enormous.

The extremist Islamists were so empowered by the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. If they were to be seen or could claim a victory over us in Iraq, it would be far, far more empowering in the region than the defeat of the Soviet Union.

So I think we -- as we think about -- everyone is focused on timetables and this, that and the other thing. What I think people need to also be talking about are the consequences of getting this thing wrong.

WALLACE: Let's talk about the situation on the ground in Iraq, because the president told the American people on Thursday about progress in the Iraqi military. But the one independent expert that he cited gave Congress a very different report. Let's watch.


BUSH: According to General Petraeus and a panel chaired by retired General Jim Jones, the Iraqi army is becoming more capable.



GEN. JAMES JONES (RET).: The Iraqi army cannot yet operate independently due to a chronic lack of logistics, supply, mobility, and national command and control capabilities.


WALLACE: In fact, Mr. Secretary, General Jones said that the Iraqi army is still 12 to 18 months away from operating independently.

So by talking about success or becoming more capable, wasn't the president sugar-coating the situation?

GATES: Well, I don't think so. I was briefed by General Jones and by several members of his panel, and in truth, they were very optimistic, very upbeat about...

WALLACE: Do you think that sounded optimistic?

GATES: Well, let me finish -- upbeat about the progress of the Iraqi army.

There's no question that they still lack the logistics capabilities -- that was what he was focused on -- and the ability to have their own intelligence, their own air cover and so on, and we will have to continue to provide those kinds of things.

But they were very upbeat about the quality of the army, about the ministry of defense, about their fighting capability, about the numbers, about the training, about the quality of the soldiers and their ability to carry on the fight.

You know, the situation in Iraq is not just one -- all one color, if you will, and I think General Petraeus talked about this. You know, there are some provinces where there are no coalition forces at all.

There are others where the Iraqi army is in the lead, and then there are the others where the heaviest fighting is going on where we're in the lead. So you have to look at the different parts of the country as you evaluate it.

WALLACE: The Democrats' lead idea to try to change the president's plan at this point seems to be a measure that's going to be offered by Senator Jim Webb that would require that troops spend as much time at home as they do deployed in the field.

It sounds like a good idea. What's wrong with that? And would you recommend that the president veto it?

GATES: Well, I think it's a well-intentioned idea. I think it's really pretty much a back-door effort to get the president to accelerate the draw down so that it's an automatic kind of thing rather than based on the conditions in Iraq with all the consequences that I talked about earlier.

I think that the -- if, as I believe, the president would never approve such a bill, it would mean that we would -- if it were enacted, we would have force management problems that would be extremely difficult and, in fact, create -- I think affect combat effectiveness and perhaps pose greater risk to our troops.

We would have to be looking at gapping units where there would -- a unit pulling out would not be immediately replaced by another, so you'd have an area of combat operations where no U.S. forces would be present for a period, and the troops coming in would then face a much more difficult situation.

We'd have to look at potentially making greater use of the Guard and Reserve. We'd have to cobble together units from individuals and other units. We'd have to track the service in Iraq of each individual soldier.

So it becomes a very difficult, if not impossible, force management issue if we were to be constrained in that way.

WALLACE: Direct question: As secretary of defense, given all of that, would you recommend, if it does pass the Congress, that the president veto it?

GATES: Yes, I would.

WALLACE: General Petraeus said this week that Iran is training and equipping Shiite militias to fight a proxy war against us in Iraq, and I asked him if he knows where this is being done across the Iranian border.

Let's take a look at what he had to say.


MAJ. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: We believe that we know where some of the training camps are. We believe that we know where some of the weaponry is made.

WALLACE: You're a straight-talker. Have you have ever discussed cross-border action?

PETRAEUS: As a straight-talker, I've learned to go around certain minefields rather than go through them, and that is one that I'd rather avoid.


WALLACE: I'm going to take that as a rather -- that non-answer as an indication he has discussed this up the chain of command.

As the general's boss, why not cross the Iranian border to take out these camps that are endangering U.S. soldiers?

GATES: Well, first of all, there's a question of just how much intelligence we have in terms of specific locations and so on.

But beyond that, I think that the general view is we can manage this problem through better operations inside Iraq and on the border with Iran, that we can take care of the Iranian threat or deal with the Iranian threat inside the borders of Iraq -- don't need to go across the border into Iran.

WALLACE: Let me ask you a more general question, because there's a lot of chatter in Washington now that the administration is more actively considering various plans to take military action against Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment program. First of all, is that true? And secondly, can you promise that the president will consult -- will go to Congress for approval before he would ever take any such action?

GATES: Well, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals about what he may or may not do.

I will tell you that I think that the administration believes at this point that continuing to try and deal with the Iranian threat, the Iranian challenge, through diplomatic and economic means is by far the preferable approach. That's the one we are using.

We always say all options are on the table, but clearly, the diplomatic and economic approach is the one that we are pursuing.

WALLACE: That's on the front burner still.


WALLACE: Let's turn to another part of the world. Is Syria involved in a covert nuclear program with North Korean assistance?

GATES: Well, I'm not going to get into things that may involve intelligence matters, but all I will say is we are watching the North Koreans very carefully. We watch the Syrians very carefully.

WALLACE: How would we regard that kind of effort both by -- in terms of the Syrians and the North Koreans?

GATES: I think it would be a real problem.

WALLACE: Because?

GATES: If such an activity were taking place, it would be a matter of great concern, you know, because the president has put down a very strong marker with the North Koreans about further proliferation efforts.

And obviously, any effort by the Syrians to pursue weapons of mass destruction would be a concern for us.

WALLACE: And you can give us no confirmation that, in fact, they are involved in that kind of program?

GATES: Will not address that.

WALLACE: Let me ask you one other question. Was there an Israeli air strike on Syria last week?

GATES: We don't talk about the military operations of other countries. You'll have to ask the Israelis.

WALLACE: Well, they're not going to answer us, but you can't blame me for trying.

Finally, let's talk about that ad about "General Betray Us" that has caused a lot of comment. What are your thoughts about an attack on the integrity of a U.S. commander leading American men and women in the middle of a war?

GATES: I thought the ad was despicable.

WALLACE: Would you like to go on about that?

GATES: No. That says it all.

WALLACE: And what do you feel about the unwillingness of people running for president, running for commander in chief, refusing to denounce that ad?

GATES: I think they'll have to be the judge of their own reactions to that kind of thing and the voters as well.

WALLACE: But you think it's despicable. And do you view it as something that says something about a candidate for commander in chief that they would refuse to denounce that ad?

GATES: I'll just leave it where I did.

WALLACE: Mr. Secretary, we want to thank you for coming in. Thanks for coming in today and talking with us. And please come back, sir.

GATES: Thank you. Happy to do it.

WALLACE: Up next, we'll get a very different view from Senator Joe Biden, the Democrats' top man on foreign policy and an outspoken critic of the president's war plan. Stay tuned.


WALLACE: Joining us now from the presidential campaign trail in Des Moines, Iowa is Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, you just heard Secretary Gates talk about his hope of getting down to 100,000 troops by the end of 2008. What do you think is possible?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, I think a lot more is possible, Chris. Look, I think that the main thing is getting the American forces redeployed out of the fault lines of the middle of this civil war and to move along the lines of General Jones' objective, which moves them back to the border, have their mission focus on training Iraqis and protecting -- and force structure protection.

We don't need anywhere near that many troops for that purpose.

WALLACE: Let's talk, though, about the consequences of leaving, because it's something that Secretary Gates talked about. President Bush did as well.

He said this week that if we pull out of our forward combat position too early, there will be a humanitarian crisis, Al Qaida will get new recruits, Iran will be encouraged to dominate the region.

You just heard Secretary Gates talk about the fact that this would be more devastating in terms of encouraging the terrorists than the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan.

Clearly, stabilizing Iraq is no -- is only a possibility. But isn't it certain that we would pay a terrible price if we were to pull out of Iraq?

BIDEN: If we pulled every troop out of Iraq now, I think that would happen, but there's a terrible consequence of staying the course.

WALLACE: But even if we went down to what you're talking about.

BIDEN: No, not at all. Absolutely not. There is no evidence to sustain the assertion that if we were on the border protecting that inflow of material and men coming from Iran and other places, if we were training Iraqi troops and dealing with taking out Al Qaida in large swaths of area they try to occupy, there is no suggestion -- no suggestion -- that would be anything remotely approaching abandonment.

It would be a fundamental change in tactic. And what is the tactic we're engaged in now? What is the consequence of it? The consequence of it is unremitting American casualties, loss of support for the war, an overwhelming desire on the part of the American people to get out completely, which would cause that consequence you've spoken about.

So there's not only consequences of pulling out completely, there's consequences of staying in the manner and mode we're in now.

And, Chris, the fundamental strategic strategy Gates and everyone else clings to is that there's a possibility to establish a strong central government in Iraq.

That will not happen in your lifetime. It will not happen, and today's op-ed piece by Henry Kissinger reinforces that. There is no possibility. They have no political strategy.

WALLACE: But he also talks about the fact that the dangers of withdrawal -- I mean, if the Democratic Congress...

BIDEN: Sure, you're setting up a straw man.

WALLACE: If I may ask the question -- if I may ask the question, sir.

BIDEN: Sure. Sorry.

WALLACE: If the Democratic Congress were able to force the president's hand, and the headlines around the world were "Democrats Force President to Pull Troops out of Iraq," not all of the troops, but most of the troops out, and to change his policy, you don't think -- and I'm just asking the question.

You don't think that Al Qaida would play this as a huge victory and a defeat for the U.S.?

BIDEN: No, I don't. I think the rest of the world would say they're finally getting smart. I think the European allies would say they're finally getting it right. I think, in fact, the regional parties would begin to think, "Whoa, these guys are starting to figure this out."

Look, Chris, why are we in the middle of Baghdad? Why are we on all these fault lines? What are we doing? The president's express purpose, he said, was to surge into the midst of this civil war. For what reason? To get a political reconciliation in the central government.

I think everyone would say they finally started to come to their senses. They finally started to figure out the only way this is going to work is with three regions in this country that are loosely federated, and they'd begin to focus on establishing that.

And they'd have a diplomatic surge -- they brought in the rest of the world to say, "Hey, pal, let's get this straight here in Iraq. You guys stay out. Here's the way this is going to work. There's going to be a regional government." I think they'd think we came to our senses.

WALLACE: Senator, let's talk about this idea of partition, because that is your central idea for Iraq, to...

BIDEN: Not partition.

WALLACE: Well, let me...

BIDEN: Not partition. You keep saying that. It's not partition. Kissinger's not talking about partition. I'm not talking about partition. Gelb's not talking about it.

It's regions within a whole government, with a defined border, with a central government distributing resources and protecting the borders. That's what it is.


BIDEN: Not partition.

WALLACE: So to have regional governments with a...


WALLACE: ... and divide it, though, along ethnic-sectarian lines -- the Kurds, the Shia, the Sunnis...

BIDEN: Right.

WALLACE: ... with a limited central government to do things like share oil revenue.

But I want you to address a recent poll taken of Iraqis. Let's take a look at that, if we can. Sixty-two percent of Iraqis now said they favor a unified Iraq with a central government. Only 28 percent want regional states and a weaker federal government.

So, Senator, how do you impose your plan on the Iraqis, especially when they don't want it?

BIDEN: Well, first of all, that poll is misleading. You don't want to start comparing polls with me because you got 78 percent of the Iraqi people saying it's all right to kill Americans.

So polls -- you don't want to get into that with me, Chris, because you have no argument at all.

WALLACE: Well, I'm perfectly happy -- this was a poll taken by ABC and the BBC of 2,200 Iraqis.

BIDEN: Right.

WALLACE: The indication seems to be by a margin of more than 2- 1, they don't want -- whether you call it partition or regional governments, they don't want it.

BIDEN: Well, the Kurds sure want it. That takes care of about...

WALLACE: I know. They were the one group that does want it.

BIDEN: And the other ones who want it now are -- the Shia began to want it.

WALLACE: Actually, not in the poll, they didn't.

BIDEN: The reason the Shia want it -- they want to have a -- well, look, Chris, polls taken in the middle of a war -- I don't know what they mean.

But I do know one thing. I was there last Thursday and I met with the Shia vice president who supports a regional form of government. I met with the Sunni vice president, Hashemi, who said his heart tells him a central government, his head tells him a regional government.

I met with the deputy vice premier of the -- the vice prime minister - - deputy prime minister who happens to be a Kurd who thinks that's inevitable, the way we're going.

This is about the same thing we did, essentially, in Bosnia. What did we do? We got the world powers in. We got the Russians, the French, the Germans, everybody in one room.

We brought in the warring factions. We sat them in a room and said figure this out, but there's not likely to be a strong central government in Sarajevo that can hold this country together.

Same thing pertains here. This is what you call diplomacy. This is what a president's supposed to do. A president is supposed to bring about a diplomatic solution.

This president is AWOL. He continues to cling to a failed strategy that he somehow thinks relying on a Maliki government or anyone else is going to establish a strong, central, unified government that's going to end this civil war.

And that is an abject failure. It's proven to be a failure. We should get off of it.

WALLACE: Senator, let's talk about what Democrats are going to do, because the leading ideas I talked about with Secretary Gates in the Senate at this point is the Webb plan, which would require troops to be home as long as they are deployed overseas.

You just heard Secretary Gates say it would be a disaster in terms of manpower, you'd end up splitting up units, you'd end up having -- regarding -- involving the National Guard and the Reserves even more.

And I can tell you, because I was at a lunch with the president, he says Congress has no role in telling the Army how to deploy its troops.

In fact, one of your colleagues, Senator McCain, has just said this morning that it would be unconstitutional. Your reaction.

BIDEN: First of all, the president doesn't know a lot about the Constitution, based on his conduct. He has a very unitary view of the Constitution, number one.

Number two, we do have a right to make such a judgment.

Number three, let's talk about consequences. What are the consequences of continuing to do what we're doing with -- essentially the way in which we're deploying these troops?

As the military has said, we're breaking -- we're breaking the United States military, flat breaking it. And what we're doing is we're going to end up in a situation where you don't have people signing up. You're going to end up having to go to a draft.

This long-term consequence of keeping these kind of deployments is absolutely disastrous for the United States of America and for the United States military.

It's not a good thing the other way either. You choose two very bad alternatives -- one very bad and one OK. And if you don't figure out how to get these folks some time home, you are going to break -- break -- this military. That's what this is about.

And we can do what we need to do in Iraq with significantly fewer troops. That is my contention and the contention of a whole lot of other people outside this administration.

WALLACE: Senator, let's turn to the ad that we've been talking about, about General Petraeus. When you were asked about it last week, you said, "I don't buy into that. This is an honorable guy."

But I want to ask you directly. Was wrong to attack the integrity of General Petraeus?

BIDEN: is as frustrated and angry and can't -- with this policy. What you saw is a burst of frustration. It was more about than about the war.

And look. The idea that they have said -- they use one phrase, that somehow these guys are a bunch of un-Americans who should be run out of the country or something -- this is great political tactic for people to use. They were wrong in saying what they said, in my view.

But speaking of moving on, we should move on and decide what we're going to do about whether or not this continued failed policy that's chewing up American lives, chewing up American dollars, with no end in sight, is worth some disdain on the part of a lot of Americans who are really angry.

That's what you saw. You saw frustration there. And so, you know, this is what it is. I think it was a mistake. But I don't think it's a capital offense.

WALLACE: Fine. And you have just said that you thought that it was a mistake and you thought it was wrong.

And I'm not asking to you speak for them, but people are noting the fact that Senators Clinton, Senator Obama, Senator Edwards have all refused to say those simple words that you just said.

And it raises the question whether there are some people in your party that are pandering -- that are scared of the antiwar left.

BIDEN: Look, I'm confident all the rest of those colleagues, all those others that are running as well, feel the same, and I think probably the majority of probably regrets the way it came out.

But I think what you saw here is something that is -- it's over. It's done. They went, in that one instance, I think, overboard. But the point they were trying to make was still valid.

The point they were trying to make is that the American public hasn't been told the truth about this war from the beginning, and they don't think they're being told the truth about it now.

And this president -- you know, the earth moved when the president spoke the other day. He made clear what I said, I think, on your program 10 month ago: There is no plan to end this war by the time he's president. This is all about handing it off to the next president.

As one of your colleagues in the media said, he's using the American troops as a cork in a bottle which is to keep the very bad things from happening, spilling out into the region.

But there's no plan. There's no plan here to end the war. What's the plan? We're going to stand up the Iraqi forces? Here we are, 4.5 years later, $20 billion later. They still can't stand up.

And if you read the whole report that was put out by General Jones, it's going to be another four years before they're fully capable.

The American public are not prepared to keep American forces there just to keep bad things from happening.

WALLACE: Senator, we have about...

BIDEN: They want to know what you're going to do to be good.

WALLACE: Senator, we have about a minute left, and I want to change to one last subject, and that is the choice of a new attorney general, because there is increasing reporting today that former federal judge Michael Mukasey is the leading contender -- may, in fact, have been given the job.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, what do you know about him? And could you support him?

BIDEN: The truth is I don't know anything about him. I mean, I know the name but I don't know anything about him. And as long as he can prove -- not prove; assert, and I believe, that he understands he's not just the president's lawyer but the country's lawyer, I could support him.

But I don't know enough about him, so he has to pass that test for me, go through that filter. Is he going to be the president's guy? Is he going to -- or is he going to stand up and defend the Constitution and be the people's lawyer as well?

And I just don't know the answer to that, Chris.

WALLACE: Senator Biden, it's always a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for coming...

BIDEN: Thanks, Chris. Thanks for having me.

WALLACE: ... off the campaign trail to talk with us. Safe travels, sir.

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

WALLACE: Coming up, did a controversial newspaper ad help reshape the debate over the Iraq war? Our Sunday regulars have some strong opinions and we'll get to them in a moment.



FORMER U.S. SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS: I'm sorry. I just haven't seen it, so it's very hard for me to comment on it.


WALLACE: That's Democratic candidate John Edwards, possibly the only politician in America who says he didn't see the attack ad against General Petraeus.

And it's time now for our Sunday gang: Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News, and Fox News contributors Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams, from National Public Radio.

Well, you know, I don't want to make too big a deal about the ad. What I'm really interested in is the reaction of the Democrats to the ad, because John Edwards says he didn't see it, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- who haven't come up with that excuse but also have refused to denounce the ad.

And it raises the question for me, Brit, why?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON MANAGING EDITOR: Well, I think the answer's fairly obvious. I mean, this was a remarkably scurrilous piece of character assassination which -- well, politicians and I think -- and certainly all Republican politicians, particularly McCain and Rudy Giuliani -- and John McCain recognized immediately there's something that they could go with right away.

Now, these Democrats had to know that, too, and yet they refuse to condemn it, with the exception of Joe Biden, who didn't quite condemn it but, to his credit, said it was wrong...

WALLACE: And a mistake.

HUME: .... and a mistake. And clearly, politically, it was a horrible mistake because the thing was so bad and it seemed like an atrocity to people, and it put the Democrats on the defensive.

I think that this is a party that is really in thrall to groups like, which has been very successful in raising money, organizing people, and getting behind the Democratic Party, which led one of its young leaders to say a couple years back that, you know, we bought the party, we paid for it, and now we're going to run it, or whatever -- it was a quote to that effect.

That's obviously an exaggeration, but it isn't all that much of an exaggeration based on what we saw this week.

WALLACE: Let me ask you, Nina, how much clout does have in the Democratic Party these days?

NINA EASTON, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: They have a lot. And I think Democratic candidates have to remember that and organizations like it -- they're cause organizations. They don't have the long-term interests of the Democratic Party in mind.

So we saw that in 2004 where a lot of Republican strategists thought that the ads that ran were so over-the-top negative that they actually backfired on John Kerry, particularly in Ohio.

You move up to this week and you see them taking the -- the big mistake of the antiwar movement from Vietnam and attacking a man in uniform and attacking his patriotism, which was a total misstep.

But you've got -- what you've got, then, is the fear that the Democratic candidates at this point have about angering them, and I think particularly this manifests itself with Hillary Clinton, who -- flash back a year ago, and she was being relentlessly attacked by the -- if you put in the whole context of the Net roots, the blogospheres and so on.

She was being relentlessly attacked. She's inched her way back, so she's not attacked every day by them over the war, and I think she's afraid to get in that position again.

But at some point, as the Democratic frontrunner, she's got to start looking to the general election and not just play primary politics.

WALLACE: I mean, Bill, it even has gotten to the point where MoveOn is now talking about mounting primary challenges against Democratic candidates who are -- Democratic office holders who aren't strong enough in opposing the war.

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, good luck to them. But look. I think we should take the Democratic candidates at their word. Hillary Clinton said, speaking to General Petraeus, that his testimony required a willing suspension of disbelief. Is she really that far from She also believes that General Petraeus was not telling the truth to the Congress.

The New York Times, a more respectable organization, I suppose, than, used the same phrase -- Petraeus is cooking the books -- in their editorial last week.

The Democratic Party is willing to take the position that General David Petraeus is not telling the truth when he testifies to Congress. And it's not simply that they're scared of They agree in large measure with

WALLACE: Let me ask you about this, Juan, because the ad and the comment by Senator Clinton when she was talking to General Petraeus gave Rudy Giuliani an opening this week, and he seized it, and let's watch their exchange. Here it is.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: I think that the reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief.



FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have no right to disagree with his integrity and to put his integrity into question. That is what's wrong with American politics today. Hillary Clinton, the New York Times, should apologize for what they did.


WALLACE: Juan, I have to give credit to Charles Krauthammer, who said that by going after Clinton, the New York Times and in a single sentence that Giuliani was hitting all the Republican erogenous zones.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: He definitely was tickling people. You know, what strikes me is Giuliani's poll numbers have shaken a little bit this week. He still remains in the lead among Republicans, although he's behind, obviously, in New Hampshire and in Iowa to Mitt Romney.

But I think this really was an attempt to boost himself with the base, because I think attacking Hillary and defending the military -- you know, those are the key points to hit for any Republican in this race.

And I anticipate he will get some bounce. Apparently he's already raised a substantial amount of money.

But let me get back to something that everybody else was touching on. I think people, when they say that this was a despicable ad, a terrible ad, are out of touch with reality.

More than half of the American people in repeated polls said that General David Petraeus is simply reflecting what President Bush wants him to reflect.

General Petraeus will not release numbers in terms of exactly how many Americans are being killed, how many...

HUME: That's not true, Juan.

WILLIAMS: Not Americans being killed... HUME: That's absolutely false.

WILLIAMS: ... but how much damage is being done, and we don't know the numbers because the GAO says that they have a different set of numbers than what the intelligence numbers are.

HUME: Juan, we know the reason for that. We know the reason for that. The GAO's reporting ended five weeks before the compilation of the numbers that General Petraeus used.

And that accounts for the difference. Those were five particularly good weeks for the coalition in Iraq.

WILLIAMS: All I'm saying is they won't release...

HUME: His numbers have not been...

WILLIAMS: ... the numbers. They should release the numbers.

HUME: Who won't release what numbers?

WILLIAMS: They need to release numbers...

HUME: Who's they?

WILLIAMS: ... explaining -- the U.S. government, the military. General Petraeus, if he's going to say -- it's based on his numbers.

HUME: Are you saying that...

WILLIAMS: Wait a second. His argument is you've got to trust me, I'm a military guy. And most Americans implicitly trust the U.S. military.

But here's a case where the president, as part of a political campaign, has associated himself with a trusted American institution. The president's numbers -- only 5 percent of Americans would trust the way that this president's been handling Iraq. Twenty-one percent would trust the Congress.

All the trust is invested in the military, so the president associates himself with the military. Does that mean that everybody is supposed to -- here, paraphrasing Hillary Clinton -- suspend any criticism of what David Petraeus presents?

I think that would be to say that we have no -- hands off, just let the military do what they want. We have civilian leadership in this country.

HUME: Juan, the one thing that's been striking about the testimony from Petraeus and Crocker has been their so obvious grasp of the details of what is going on over there. They paint no rosy picture.

If you listen to what Petraeus said, there's as much negative as positive. The fact is, however, there's more positive now than there was some months ago. This is a strikingly balanced portrayal.

And it is buttressed by facts and figures that even Michael Gordon and others of the New York Times who have been -- who have not been critics -- I mean, not been supporters of the American policy say are valid numbers.

Now, when you hear that testimony delivered, and then you see in the face of that an advertisement like the one taken out by or a phrase about suspension of disbelief by Senator Clinton, I think that it strikes a cacophonous tone to most Americans who think that doesn't reflect what would seem to them to be a logical reaction to General Petraeus' testimony.

WILLIAMS: Well, I think a lot of Americans, when they see the ads that come from Freedom Watch, the group being run by Ari Fleischer, who used to be the president's president secretary, they say, "Oh, my gosh. Oh, they look -- you're using Americans, injured American soldiers without their limbs, as props to say you must support the war."

So don't you think that people on the left think, "Oh, well, somebody should be fighting back with the same kind of passion and the same kind of dirty, you know, knuckle hardball that the right does?" And then when the left does it you say, "Oh, you guys on the left..."


HUME: So let me see if I have this straight. Your view is that when wounded soldiers come out and say themselves that they support the cause over there and...

WILLIAMS: Not all -- not all -- soldiers say that.

HUME: I didn't say that.

WILLIAMS: According to the polls, the military is as divided -- feels much the way the American people do.

HUME: I know, but those who say that aren't saying that all of them support it. They're saying that they support it.

You put that on a -- you put that on the same plane with the kind of character assassination that was attempted against David Petraeus? You'd really do that, Juan?

WILLIAMS: I do not say that it was character assassination. I think that what the ad said -- are you being faithful with the American people, or are you being faithful to your commander...

HUME: He said he was...

WILLIAMS: ... to the president who put you in this position after firing a whole other set of generals that he didn't like, and now he's picked one guy, and he's invested in this man.

And this man's mission is to succeed on a military basis... HUME: Juan...

WILLIAMS: ... and not to speak about the lack of political success and the fact that we have been there for five or six years now and that we seem to be on the way to 10 years.

WALLACE: All right. I'm giving Brit the last word, and then we've got to move to a commercial.

Go, please.

HUME: All I'm saying, Juan -- they accused the guy of cooking the books. That's not just raising questions about the policy.

WALLACE: All right. We do have to take a break.

Coming up, we're going to continue this conversation. We'll also talk about the fact that after a week of congressional testimony, prime time interviews and a presidential address, where do we stand now on Iraq?

Our panel has some answers when we come back.


WALLACE: On this day in 1940, Franklin Roosevelt approved creation of a military draft. The president signed the Selected Service and Training Act requiring all male citizens between ages 26 and 35 to register.

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


WALLACE: And we're back now with Brit, Nina, Bill and Juan.

I want to continue the conversation about Iraq, but there's another piece of news and I want to make sure it doesn't get lost, and that is the choice of a new attorney general. It's likely the president's going to make an announcement this week.

Bill Kristol, you've done some reporting. What do you know?

KRISTOL: Well, the Weekly Standard reported last night -- actually, I reported last night, but on, and it sounds better to say The Weekly Standard reported last night -- that Mike Mukasey is the leading candidate and almost certainly will be the nominee for the attorney general.

I think the president will make the nomination tomorrow. Mukasey is a retired almost-20-year federal district judge in New York, extremely well respected. I think he'll be easily confirmed.

WALLACE: Now, give us a sense of who this guy is and why the president would choose him.

KRISTOL: He was a prosecutor, then a New York lawyer and then a judge. He presided over the 1995 trial of the blind sheik and 11 other jihadists, was commended on all sides for doing this very difficult trial with, you know, honesty and great legal acumen.

He's tough on the war on terror. He's been generally supportive of Bush administration-type policies in the war on terror, but not down the line.

I mean, he was the district judge in the Padilla case. He upheld the administration's right to detain him as an enemy combatant but said Padilla was entitled to a lawyer, which the administration was arguing against.

So I would say he's a sort of hard -- a tough-minded conservative judge who will be a strong attorney general, not a movement conservative. I don't think he'll get into social issues, that sort of thing. Those Bush policies are already in place.

I think the best thing about him, from a conservative point of view, is he will be an extremely effective witness before Congress when FISA, the eavesdropping program, comes up for reauthorization, as it will in a few months.

On all war-on-terror issues, he will be to war-on-terror issues what Petraeus is, I think, to military issues, an independent, well- respected person who's pretty much in agreement with the president's policies.

WALLACE: Let me just ask you one more question in this regard. Chuck Schumer, the liberal Democratic senator from New York, had endorsed him, said, you know, this is the kind of a guy that if he were to be named attorney general he'd sail through.

And of course, for a lot of Republicans, that's the kiss of death. Are Republicans going to be upset about the possibility -- I saw one conservative blog where they said he'll end up getting more Democratic votes in confirmation than Republicans votes.

KRISTOL: I think every Republican will vote to confirm him. It's unfortunate that Chuck Schumer respects him, but you can't do that much about some people saying nice things about you.

He is widely respected on both sides of the aisle. But he will be a solid conservative attorney general, especially on war-on-terror issues.

WILLIAMS: I think this is an example of -- the president can't get who he wants. I mean, he really wanted Larry Thompson, who's over at PepsiCo, I guess, or...

WALLACE: Well, supposedly, Thompson said no.

WILLIAMS: Right. I'm just saying the president wanted him. And the president, I think, also, for most of this week, was expressing tremendous interest in Ted Olson.

But again, Olson is so politicized and seen as a favorite of the right that you had people saying he couldn't possibly get confirmed; Senator Reid, the Senate majority leader, saying he was going to block it.

So what you get is someone who has a history of saying, "You know what? The structure as we have it now in terms of civil liberties and the Justice Department isn't in keeping with the need to fight terrorists."

And that's what Bill's getting at. He will be a strong witness on that front. But the real question here in Washington is is he going to bring credibility back to the Justice Department. Is he going to reorganize a Justice Department at this moment that's quite depleted?

WALLACE: Brit, do you think that when Harry Reid this week said Ted Olson ain't gonna get confirmed -- this, of course -- Ted Olson, former solicitor general. He was one of the lead lawyers for George W. Bush in 2000 when he was having his election battle with Al Gore.

When he basically said he won't get in, do you think that that blocked or prevented Bush or dissuaded Bush from nominating him?

HUME: Well, I don't know how far along they were in the decision process, but the fact of the matter is that Harry Reid may not be able to get many things passed, but he could block a lot of things, and he's in a better position to block them than the Republicans are.

It isn't hard for the majority leader of the Senate to prevent a nomination from coming to the Senate floor, and he wouldn't have -- look, he'd have a lot of support for that in the Judiciary Committee.

I'm not sure that the Olson nomination could have gotten out of the Judiciary Committee. So you know, I think it's just a fact of life.

WALLACE: Nina, let's go back to Iraq. And you had an interesting thing this week where the president was -- in his speech to the nation very much made the point, it's a return on success. We are going to pull troops out, but we're pulling them out because of the fact that we're succeeding.

Senator Clinton and other people said this is like taking credit for the sun coming up in the east. The fact is because of manpower and that rotations were running out, he had to pull them out. Where do you come down on that argument?

EASTON: Look, I think this is a report -- when the Petraeus appearance was hyped all through the summer, we knew it was going to be politicized. We knew that each side would read into it. And guess what? That's what they did.

And you know what? The American people, as much as they're tired of this war, I think they're tired of hearing it being so politicized.

And we saw that in polls that Juan alluded to where people trust the military commanders on the ground to make the decisions more than they trust Congress, more than they trust the president.

And what did we see this past week? We saw the Democrats shoot down voices in the party that said, "Well, let's buy into the Petraeus recommendations for troop reductions."

They said, "We're going to do that. We're going to go to war over this." So we had Nancy Pelosi, House speaker, saying this is -- condemning this endless war.

But then on the other side, I thought it was a strategic mistake for George Bush to give a prime time speech branding this with his name all over it. I think this president -- people are tired of hearing from him about this war. He does have a lack of trust on it.

And I think he should have just left it to Petraeus. He should have left -- and Gates. I mean, I thought Gates had this serious, sober assessment today, as did Petraeus. And I thought it further politicized the situation.

WALLACE: Brit has a particular aspect or vantage point in all this, because you actually asked the president about the wisdom of giving the speech.

HUME: I did, and he didn't seem amused by the question. And he said that it was -- he basically told us that this speech was going forward anyway, and he suggested that a negative thought was little bit like a negative thought in a golf back swing, not the thing you need before you're getting ready to try to do something.

But I had the impression from the answer that he gave that no consideration had ever been given to not giving the speech. It was just thought automatic, commander in chief. It's his policy, after all. It would be odd if he didn't, and so on. I just don't think they'd ever considered his not giving it.

KRISTOL: You know, why did General Petraeus come back to testify to Congress this week? Because Congress insisted on it. They insisted on set benchmark reports. And they insisted that General Petraeus testify before the second benchmark report, which was released on Friday.

It's always wonderful to see people hoisted on their own petard. Schumer's going to regret having said nice things about Mukasey, and the Democrats certainly regret the fact that they made -- I mean, believe me. I was over in Iraq.

I saw General Petraeus. He would have been happy to stay over there. He's working full time over there in command of the troops. He didn't look forward to coming back here for a week, although I guess he got to see his family, which was nice, but he didn't look forward to testifying before Congress.

The Democrats insisted on it. They got what they deserved, which was a serious general and a serious ambassador who really understand what's happening there.

And the contrast for the American people against a bunch of bloviating senators and congressmen -- do you really want Congress running this war instead of Petraeus and Crocker? I don't think so.

WILLIAMS: But it's not Congress versus Petraeus and Crocker. It's Congress versus a president that's not changing his policy.

I think the big deception this week is the idea -- and I saw lots of headlines like this -- you know, president agrees to reduce troops, embraces Petraeus report.

You know, we're going to have the same amount of troops there next year as we've had at the height, you know, before the surge, I mean, so it's not any reduction. We are essentially on the same path. And that's why I think there is a certain degree of deception involved.

That's why when we speak about Petraeus -- you know, I have all the feeling in the world for this guy trying his best. I don't doubt his patriotism in any way. But I had the same feeling about Colin Powell when he testified to the U.N. Or you can go back -- people make historical allusions this week to General Westmoreland coming back and saying, "You know, Vietnam's going OK, folks. We're going to be OK."

It just isn't the case that you can put these people -- Colin Powell, Westmoreland or Petraeus -- in isolation and say, "Trust that man. He's not -- don't pay -- pay no any attention to what the president's telling him, or that he's the president's choice, or he's out there to do the president's bidding."

WALLACE: You've got 30 seconds, Brit.

KRISTOL: Well, let me just...

WALLACE: All right, Bill.

HUME: I yield the floor to Bill Kristol.

WALLACE: Now you have 15.

KRISTOL: No one's saying trust him. You're certainly entitled -- one's entitled to criticize generals. I criticized the previous generals in Iraq.

On the other hand, one is not entitled to say that General Petraeus is betraying the country, and that is what the

WALLACE: Got to go. Thank you, panel. See you next week.

Time now for some mail about our Iraq discussion last Sunday. Tom Brady from Minnesota writes, "This badly bungled war created the circumstances for both the emergence of Al Qaida and the ethnic cleansing that is destroying that country now. It is long past time to admit this entire war was an ill-conceived idea that has also been incompetently executed."

But Jim Mitchell disagrees. "I believe most Americans want us to get done what has to be done so we can get out of Iraq. The liberal Democrats, on the other hand, simply want us to flee Iraq. The two do not mean the same thing. Civilized people abhor war. Liberals fear it."

Be sure to let us know your thoughts by emailing us at

Up next, a special Power Player of the Week.


WALLACE: There was only one choice for power player of this week, and that was General David Petraeus. But amid all the hours talking about Iraq, he took a moment this week to tell us about his 20-year-old son Stephen, who has decided to follow a family tradition.


PETRAEUS: He just went through jump school, and my wife and I were very proud to watch his fifth jump from the drop zone at Fort Benning, Georgia this past Friday and on Saturday morning to pin my father-in-law's jump wings on his chest.

This was his decision. We did not steer him. He went to MIT to become a computer engineer and, in his sophomore year, he called us up and shocked us, frankly, because it had not come up, and he said that he wanted to join ROTC and he wanted to serve in the Army.

WALLACE: And if he ends up over in Iraq?

PETRAEUS: We would be very proud to see him continue a tradition of service to our nation that included my father serving in the U.S. Merchant Marine as a Dutchman at the time, my father-in-law, who served some 37.5 years in the military, including World War II and two years in Vietnam.

WALLACE: General, we thank you for your service to our country.

PETRAEUS: Thanks, Chris.

WALLACE: And we thank you for your son's as well.

PETRAEUS: Thank you very much.


WALLACE: And we didn't want to let this week pass without noting that the former host of this show, Tony Snow, ended his service as White House press secretary Friday.

As Tony walked to his car to drive home, staffers flooded into the driveway to say goodbye. And we join them in wishing Tony all the best.

And that's it for today. Have a great week, and we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."

For more visit the FOX News Sunday web page.

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