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Lieberman on "Fox News Sunday"

Lieberman on "Fox News Sunday"

Fox News Sunday - July 20, 2008

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace, and this is "Fox News Sunday".

Iraq and Afghanistan -- we'll get a war on terror progress report in our exclusive interview with the nation's top military officer, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Then Barack Obama goes to the war zone. What does his trip do to the presidential campaign? We'll ask Senator Joe Lieberman, who backs McCain, and Senator Evan Bayh, who supports Obama.

Also, it's anchors away for the evening news shows. Does following Obama overseas show good news judgment or political bias? Our Sunday panel weighs in -- Brit Hume, Jill Zuckman, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams.

And our Power Player of the Week offers the greatest generation a final salute, all right now on "Fox News Sunday."

And hello again from Fox News in Washington. Senator Barack Obama is on the ground in Afghanistan on day two of his high-profile trip to the Middle East and Europe.

The presumptive Democratic nominee met in Kabul today with Afghan president Karzai whose government he has sharply criticized. Earlier Obama talked with U.S. military officials and he had breakfast with the troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: (inaudible) see young people (inaudible) like this who are doing such excellent work, with so much dedication and drive (inaudible).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Later, Obama is expected to fly to America's other war zone in Iraq.

Joining us now for his first Sunday show interview, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who's recently back from his own trip to the region.

And, Admiral, welcome...

MULLEN: Good morning, Chris.

WALLACE: ... to "Fox News Sunday".

MULLEN: Thank you.

WALLACE: President Bush and Iraqi prime minister Maliki announced Friday that they have set what they call a time horizon for the transition to Iraqi command and further withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Now, they are saying that these would be goals, not deadlines, but what's your sense of how fast that transition might come?

MULLEN: Well, I think -- I'm not yet able to put an exact time line on it per se. I think the strategic goals of having time horizons are ones that we all seek because eventually we would like to see U.S. forces draw down and eventually all come home.

And I think part of what I see going on is healthy negotiations for a burgeoning democracy, and I think these discussions are indicative of that.

WALLACE: Will this time horizon have a date, even if it's just a goal, for when U.S. combat troops would be out and the Iraqi military would have control of their own security?

MULLEN: This right now doesn't speak to either time lines or timetables, based on my understanding of where we are.

WALLACE: So what would the horizon say?

MULLEN: Well, I think it sends a signal that there is one, that eventually we do want to bring our troops back, and that -- and right now that -- with where we are, conditions are improving in Iraqi. Certainly, when I was there a week before last, that was indicative.

And if those conditions continue to improve, we should be in a position to start to bring our troops home.

WALLACE: Prime Minister Maliki was quoted in a German magazine this weekend saying he thinks that Senator Obama's plan to pull all U.S. combat troops out within two years, by 2010, is -- and let's put it up on the screen -- the right time frame for withdrawal.

His spokesman has now backed away from that a bit, so that any pullout is based on continuing progress on the ground. What do you think are the consequences if we set a time line for pulling all troops out within two years?

MULLEN: Well, my current mission under the current commander in chief is to give him advice and recommendations based on our progress there, and that's exclusively based on conditions on the ground, and that's the mission that I've got.

Should that mission change, and we get a new president, and should those conditions be conditions that get generated or required in order to advise a future president, I would do so accordingly.

Based on my time in and out of Iraq in recent months, I think the conditions-based assessments are the way to go and they're very solid. We're making progress, and we can move forward accordingly based on those conditions.

WALLACE: But I'm asking you in the absence -- forget about Obama. Forget about the politics. If I were to say to you, "Let's set a time line of getting all of our combat troops out within two years," what do you think would be the consequences of setting that kind of a time line?

MULLEN: I think the consequences could be very dangerous in that regard. I'm convinced at this point in time that coming -- making reductions based on conditions on the ground are very important.

We've been able to do that. We've reduced five brigades in the last several months. And again, if conditions continue to improve, I would look to be able to make recommendations to President Bush in the fall to continue those reductions.

WALLACE: Why dangerous to set a timetable now for what's going to happen over the next two years?

MULLEN: When I have discussions with commanders on the ground, basically -- and I did a couple weeks ago -- they are very, very adamant about continuing progress, about making decisions based on what's actually happening in the battle space, and I just think that's prudent.

That's served us very well in -- certainly, since the surge, which has been very successful, and I think will continue to serve us well based on the overall conditions that I see in Iraq right now.

WALLACE: And why? What would happen if you don't do it as condition- based? What if you sit there and say, "Right now, timetable, two years, all combat troops out?" What's the downside?

MULLEN: Well, it's hard to say exactly what would happen. I'd worry about any kind of rapid movement out and creating instability where we have stability.

We're engaged very much right now with the Iraqi people. The Iraqi leadership is starting to generate the kind of political progress that we need to make. The economy is starting to move in the right direction. So all those things are moving in the right direction.

And from the standpoint of moving forward, I think it's a pretty good path right now.

WALLACE: Now, you, as we said, are just back from Iraq, and when you came back you said that security is so much better that you may well be able to recommend more troop cuts this fall.

Can you see more troops coming out of Iraq before President Bush leaves office?

MULLEN: If conditions on the ground continue to improve as they have, what I said the other day is what I believe, that I will -- think I'll be able to make recommendations for the president to withdraw more troops.

There's a mechanical, physical challenge with respect to moving troops around. You can't just do it overnight. So those decisions have to be taken -- those facts are taken into consideration in terms of making those decisions, and we're working through the details of that right now, and so I can't tell you for sure whether we could get more troops there before the end of the year or not.

WALLACE: You mean get more troops out.

MULLEN: Get more troops out.

WALLACE: Assuming this current glide path, which is, you feel, an improving glide path, is it your sense it would be possible to get more troops out before the president leaves office on January 20th?

MULLEN: You'd have to go through the assumptions, but certainly there are assumptions which you could make which would make that possible.

WALLACE: There's been talk about as many as three more combat brigades.

MULLEN: Again, I think that's pretty -- you have to look at the assumptions very carefully about that in terms of whether we could do something like that.

WALLACE: While we're talking here, Senator Obama is either on his way or at least headed to Iraq. He opposed the troop surge, while Senator McCain was one of its earliest supporters.

Again, having said that, try to divorce it now from politics. You say you're surprised at how much security has improved from when you came on your trip, that you were surprised that it's so much better.

MULLEN: Sure.

WALLACE: What's your best estimate of where we would be if there had been no troop surge, and instead of adding the troops over the last 18 months we'd been pulling them out?

MULLEN: Well, hard to -- that's a -- actually, that's a hypothetical that I would struggle really answering. What I saw on this trip was -- I had a certain mindset about improved security because I certainly knew it had.

And relative to where I thought it was, in fact, it was better, much better, than I had anticipated. And that has to do with walking around Sadr City and being in the Jamilla Market, which is a central market in Iraq, walking through Mosul, downtown Mosul, where a few weeks ago we couldn't go, what's happened in Basra, how we've made improvements there in terms of security, and also the confidence that the Iraqi security forces have, the Iraqi leadership has right now in terms of taking control of their own destiny. And so all of those things came together for me to sort of culminate in an assessment that it was much better than I had anticipated.

WALLACE: Do you think that could have happened without the surge?

MULLEN: No, I don't think it could have.

WALLACE: Let's turn to Afghanistan. General Petraeus, still the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq but headed on to become central commander, says that Al Qaida may no longer consider Iraq the front line in the war on terror and may, in fact, be shifting some of its foreign fighters from Iraq to Afghanistan. Do you see that shift?

MULLEN: I think he also said that there's no firm evidence of that yet. In my trip there week before last, certainly the whole issue of the FATA and the safe havens for foreign fighters, for Al Qaida, for Taliban and the insurgents that are now freely -- much more freely able to come across the borders -- a big challenge for all of us.

And it's having an impact on our ability to move forward in Afghanistan. The concern, certainly, is that safe haven exists and that we -- and when I say we, I think the international community...

WALLACE: We're talking about the safe haven between the Afghan- Pakistan border.

MULLEN: Right. Actually, it is a safe haven in Pakistan...

WALLACE: In Pakistan.

MULLEN: ... which is where these foreign fighters -- some additional foreign fighters have shown up -- not necessarily Al Qaida.

But what I do see in that part, particularly in the FATA in Pakistan, is a joining, a syndication, of various extremists and terrorist groups which provides for a much more intense threat, internal to Pakistan as well as the ability to flow -- greater freedom to flow forces across that porous border.

WALLACE: Given what I'm hearing here and what I've heard in your statements since you returned, is it fair to say that we're now winning the war in Iraq and losing the war in Afghanistan?

MULLEN: I think we've made a lot of progress in Iraq, and certainly every indication is that we're proceeding in the right direction. I would not say in any way, shape or form that we're losing in Afghanistan. In fact...

WALLACE: But we can't say we're proceeding in the right direction.

MULLEN: The attacks, actually, that have been publicized recently -- there was one, obviously, at Wanat which was a very serious attack -- it was a very sophisticated attack, and we lost nine soldiers there, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who sacrificed so much there and really throughout these wars.

But when I visit with the commander up in Korengal Valley just in the same vicinity -- I was there with him a couple of months ago. They've actually made progress and moved into small villages further in the valley.

When I visited with the Marines down south, which are an additive to our troops in Afghanistan, they've taken territory and held it and made a difference in ways that are very significant.

So I would say the progress is mixed there, but I am not concerned at all at this point that we're losing in Afghanistan.

WALLACE: Finally, let's turn to Iran. The news out of the nuclear talks in Geneva yesterday is that the Iranians refuse to say whether or not they will suspend their nuclear program, and the U.S. and our allies have given them two more weeks. Your reaction.

MULLEN: I'm encouraged by the talks. A few weeks ago I wouldn't have thought those were possible. And I believe that the international community needs to continue to bring pressure on Iran both economically, financially, diplomatically, politically, to continue to bring them to a point where we can all deal with this issue of nuclear weapons.

I fundamentally believe that they're on a path to achieve nuclear weapons some time in the future. I think that's a very destabilizing possibility in that part of the world. I don't need -- we don't need any more instability in that part of the world.

So I was encouraged. I will obviously watch what happens in the next two weeks to see if they come further or if they walk away.

WALLACE: I want to ask you two questions about Iran. How do you weigh as a military man, as the top military man, the downside risk if either the U.S. or Israel were to militarily strike Iran in terms of blowback from Iran and its allies in the region, increased turmoil in that area, increased turmoil in the oil market?

MULLEN: I think it would be significant. I worry about it a lot. I've said when I've been asked this before right now I'm fighting two wars, and I don't need a third one to -- I would be concerned -- not that I couldn't -- not that we don't have the reserve to do it in the United States. We do.

But I worry about the instability in that part of the world and, in fact, the possible unintended consequences of a strike like that and, in fact, having an impact throughout the region that would be difficult to both predict exactly what it would be and then the actions that we would have to take to contain it.

WALLACE: On the other hand, how do you weigh the downside risk of doing nothing? MULLEN: There is significant concern with that as well. I mean, it's a very, very tough problem. But that's where I think this international community -- and the pressure has got to continue to be brought specifically on Iran to not proceed in this regard.

And again, I believe they're headed in that direction.

WALLACE: Headed in the direction...

MULLEN: Headed in the direction of building nuclear weapons and having them in their arsenal, and that needs to -- we need to figure out a way to ensure that that doesn't happen.

WALLACE: Admiral Mullen, we want to thank you. Thanks so much for coming in, and please come back, sir.

MULLEN: Thank you, Chris. It was good to be with you.

WALLACE: Up next, we'll talk with two top campaign advisers and possible running mates about Obama's trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Joining us now to talk about Senator Obama's trip and its effect on the presidential campaign, two key supporters who are on the vice presidential watch lists -- Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent Democrat who supports McCain, and Senator Evan Bayh, who backs Obama.

And, Senators, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday".

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Chris.

WALLACE: As we discussed with Admiral Mullen, Iraqi prime minister Maliki seemed over the weekend to endorse Obama's plan for pulling combat troops out of Iraq by mid 2010, within two years. Now he's apparently backed off that.

But, Senator Lieberman, the Iraqis clearly want us out sooner rather than later, and they would like on a timetable. Why is Senator McCain resisting that?

LIEBERMAN: Well, we -- Senator McCain and I and others -- want us out of Iraq sooner rather than later, but we want us out in a way that does not compromise all the gains that American and Iraqi forces have made in Iraq, which Admiral Mullen spoke to.

And frankly, we want to stay there to a victory because we don't want all those who have served in the American uniform there to have served or in some cases died in vain.

Remember this, Chris. We wouldn't be having this discussion about how to get out unless the surge, which John McCain courageously fought for, taking on the president of his own party, popular opinion, risking his campaign, and which Senator Obama opposed, worked.

So I think that's the good news. I think everybody -- that is, Prime Minister Maliki, President Bush, people like John McCain and I -- agree the sooner we're out, the better. But it has to be based on conditions on the ground.

Senator Obama doesn't seem to feel that way. It looked like he did a little bit after the primaries were over. But then he, pushed by MoveOn.org and others on the antiwar left of the Democratic Party, is back to a rigid time line. And that's not wise.

WALLACE: Let me talk to Senator Bayh about that. Admiral Mullen didn't mention Obama, but he did say this idea of a timetable for getting out in two years is dangerous. Why not agree that you're going to make any decisions based on conditions on the ground, Senator?

BAYH: Chris, I think it's important to note that Barack Obama's judgment about these issues has been excellent from the beginning, the kind of judgment you'd want in a commander in chief, and others are now beginning to adopt his positions.

We wouldn't be discussing surges in Iraq or anything else if Barack had had his way. We wouldn't have started that war to begin with.

He was right about Afghanistan. That's the place from which we were attacked. He's been calling for more troops there now for over a year. And John McCain, to his credit, has now come around and adopted Barack's point of view on that.

He has been for, as you say, a phased withdrawal from Iraq. As we heard, Prime Minister Maliki has embraced a more definitive time line, whether it's the 16 months or something else. But clearly, they want a more definitive time line.

And even President Bush now is coming up with a variety of euphemisms -- aspirational goals, time horizons. I mean, it's starting to sound pretty much like a time line to me.

So it's common sense, Chris. Any important enterprise, certainly something as important as a war -- you want to have a plan. And a plan has to have some idea of what it's going to cost, what the adverse consequences are going to be and how long it's going to take.

So 16 months seems to be a reasonable goal. Let's work toward that. Let's bring this to a conclusion in a responsible way and focus on Iraq (sic) where the focus should have been all along.

WALLACE: But, Senator Bayh, even the Washington Post criticized Obama this week for -- and let's put it up on the screen -- his iron timetable, accusing him of foolish consistency and that he's ultimately indifferent to the war's outcome.

And here's an exchange between Obama and McCain this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I'm really astonished that he should give a policy speech on Iraq and Afghanistan before he goes to find out the facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Again, two questions, really, Senator Bayh. Why the, quote, "iron timetable" that the Washington Post talks about? And secondly, this issue -- why announce your policy before you go to Iraq and talk to the generals and the Iraqis?

BAYH: A couple of things, Chris. First, General Petraeus was asked recently about whether a 16-month period was a reasonable period of time, and he said it would depend on a variety of factors. He didn't say it was unreasonable.

We've been there -- will have been -- 16 months from when the next president is inaugurated, almost seven years. We've spent $700 billion. Just think of all the other things we could have done -- finished Afghanistan, energy security for our country -- with those amount of resources.

What's really surprising is that John, a man I admire and respect, says that even knowing there were no weapons of mass destruct in Iraq, knowing all the consequences that have been adverse in Afghanistan because of our fixation on Iraq, he would do this all over again. That's what is really surprising.

So Barack thinks that 16 months from January is a reasonable period of time. Let's go for it. Let's see. Let's try and bring this to a conclusion on that time frame. If there are difficulties, we'll address them when they arise.

LIEBERMAN: Look, the fact is that if Barack Obama's policy on Iraq had been implemented, Barack Obama couldn't go to Iraq today. It wouldn't be safe. Barack Obama and John McCain saw the same difficulty in Iraq.

John McCain had the guts to argue against public opinion, to put his whole campaign on the line, because, as he says, he'd rather lose an election than lose in a war that he thinks is this important to the United States.

The reason I say Barack -- if Barack Obama's policy couldn't -- had been implemented -- if Barack Obama's policy in Iraq had been implemented, he couldn't be in Iraq today is because he was prepared to accept retreat and defeat.

And that would mean today Al Qaida would be in charge of parts of Iraq. Iranian-backed extremists would be in charge of other parts of Iraq. There'd be civil war and maybe even genocide.

And the fact is that we are winning in Iraq today. And you know, you can't choose, as Senator Obama seems to think, to lose in Iraq so you can win in Afghanistan.

The reality is if we lost in Iraq, which Obama was prepared to do, we would go to Afghanistan as losers. Instead, Al Qaida has its tail tucked between its legs as it's exiting Iraq to go -- to try to...

WALLACE: I'm going to...

BAYH: I have to respond to that. Barack Obama was not for losing in Iraq. Barack didn't want the war to begin with.

John McCain opposed surging troops in Afghanistan until last week.

LIEBERMAN: Yeah, but what...

BAYH: Excuse me. Was John for losing in Afghanistan? I don't think so.

LIEBERMAN: Of course not.

BAYH: And now you have Maliki, even President Bush, are moving toward Barack Obama's position on this.

WALLACE: I want to...

BAYH: His judgment was right.

WALLACE: Gentlemen, I want to -- we could continue this...

LIEBERMAN: Those questions -- bottom line, no question that Barack Obama was prepared to lose in Iraq.

BAYH: That's not true.

WALLACE: All right. All right.

LIEBERMAN: Forget what's right or wrong...

WALLACE: Gentlemen, you're going to have to agree to disagree. I want to move on to the whole issue of his trip this week.

Senator Lieberman, the McCain camp seems divided about whether this is a legitimate fact-finding trip or a political stunt. After McCain and the Republican Party taunted Obama for not going to Iraq, has that, in fact, backfired on them by making this an even bigger story?

LIEBERMAN: No, I don't think so. I think John McCain's challenge to Barack Obama is very important. And frankly, it says a lot more than whether McCain was right about Iraq and Obama was wrong.

It says what kind of leaders these people will be as president. Obama reached -- John McCain reached a decision about what to do in Iraq based on what he saw there, what he heard -- what he heard from the generals and from the soldiers, and then he had the guts to fight big interests to see - - including public opinion, to see that that would happen.

Senator Obama was taking positions about Iraq to put us on a rigid time line to get all troops out by March 2008 -- all combat troops. That's what he said. That would have been accepting defeat there. And I think what it says about the two of them -- this is the kind of president John McCain will be on the economy. We're in crisis. We need a president who will listen, learn, decide what's right for the country, not what's right for their political campaign, and fight for the American people to make...

WALLACE: I want...

LIEBERMAN: ... that happen.

WALLACE: I want to ask Senator Bayh about another aspect of Obama's trip.

He plans to make a big public speech in Berlin. There was first talk it was going to be at the Brandenburg Gate. They announced today it's going to be at the Victory Column, a golden column in the heart of downtown Berlin.

Why would someone running for president of the United States hold a big rally in Germany? Wouldn't it be like a candidate for German chancellor holding a rally in front of the Statue of Liberty?

BAYH: A couple of things, Chris. First, getting back to Iraq, I just have to disagree once again. Barack Obama is for success in Iraq. His judgment about this was right from the beginning.

If you agree that knowing what we know today you would do this all over again...

WALLACE: With all due respect...

BAYH: ... then vote for John McCain.

WALLACE: Gentlemen, I think we both have been there.

BAYH: But I just couldn't let Joe get away with saying he's for defeat. That's not true. He has a better path to victory. His judgment's been right about this.

WALLACE: Now answer my question.

BAYH: Now, with regard to Germany, look. I was with Barack the last time he made one of these trips to Iraq. We met with the Iraqi president, the prime minister, our generals, our ambassadors. He was very substantive, very knowledgeable about the challenges that we face.

Now he's meeting with some of our European allies. We need to rehabilitate these relationships. They frayed over the last eight years. Our reputation in the world has been damaged because of some of the policies this president has pursued.

If we are going to be strong, if we are going to confront Iran, we need allies and friends with us. Rallying global opinion to America's side is an important responsibility for a president, and that's one of the things he is attempting to do. WALLACE: All right. Finally, I want to ask you both about your political situations.

Senator Bayh, if Obama asks you to be his running mate, what will you say?

BAYH: Well, I've said that's not the sort of thing you say no to, Chris, so...

WALLACE: Which means you'd say yes.

BAYH: Well, that's the kind of thing you do say yes to, and I've said that. But you should probably ask Joe. He has more experience with the vice presidential questions than I do.

WALLACE: Have you been asked to turn over personal information to the campaign?

BAYH: You know, that's their business, Chris, and I think you should direct those questions to them.

WALLACE: But -- oh, come on.

(LAUGHTER)

BAYH: Well, I'm trying my best not to make news on that this morning, so I hope you'll forgive me. But truly, they've established a process. It's their process. And I think it's up to them to respond to that.

WALLACE: Are you in the process?

BAYH: You know, I'd love to answer your question, but I think I really can't.

WALLACE: Senator Lieberman, some conservative leaders say -- on the Republican right say with your liberal stands -- obviously, you're not liberal or -- I don't know if those words mean anything.

But obviously, you support McCain on foreign policy, but with your -- what they call liberal stands on economic issues and social issues, for McCain to pick you as his running made would be a political, in their word, catastrophe. Do you agree?

LIEBERMAN: Well, they shouldn't worry about it too much because it's not going to happen. But I will say this. I hope that my support of John McCain, an independent Democrat supporting a Republican, is my way of saying that there's too much partisanship in Washington.

We need a leader like John McCain, a president like John McCain, who has always reached across party lines to get things done, to fight for the American people.

WALLACE: Real quickly, are you going to speak at the Republican convention? LIEBERMAN: I don't know yet.

WALLACE: If you're asked, will you?

LIEBERMAN: If John asks me and he thinks I can help him, because I believe -- this is no ordinary time, no ordinary election. John McCain is no ordinary candidate. I want to help him.

I'm not going to attack Barack Obama. I'm going to go to explain why I, as an independent Democrat, am supporting John McCain, hoping that I can convince other independents and Democrats to join me in choosing the man who is clearly more ready to be the president America needs today.

WALLACE: Even if that means Senate Democrats would kick you out of their caucus?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm following the model of John McCain. I'm going to do what I think is right for the country and not worry about the politics. And John McCain is definitely right for the country as our next president.

WALLACE: Senator Lieberman, Senator Bayh, we want to thank you both. We could have talked a lot more. Safe travels on the campaign trail to both of you.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

BAYH: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: Up next, what does our Sunday panel make of the big Obama trip and all those anchors and reporters following the senator halfway around the world? Some answers when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The food is excellent, but the company is even better.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: That was Barack Obama having breakfast earlier today with American troops in Afghanistan.

And it's time now for our Sunday panel -- Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News, Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune, and Fox News contributors Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard and Juan Williams from National Public Radio.

Well, if it's ever happened before, I sure don't remember it -- a candidate making a foreign trip in the middle of a campaign and getting the kind of attention that's usually reserved for presidents on especially important trips.

Brit, what do you make of Obama's trip and of all the fuss about it?

HUME: Well, I think he needed to make the trip. I mean, if you're going to make Afghanistan the central focus of your foreign policy, and you have a subcommittee that you -- with some jurisdiction there, where you never held a hearing, and you've never been there, it's good to go.

On the other hand, I think there's some pitfalls. And all this publicity that attends this -- you know, the network anchors are going, requests by some 200 reporters to go along and so forth -- presidential level attention can also mean presidential level scrutiny, and there are pitfalls.

I mean, for example, you had this sort of kerfuffle over the Brandenburg Gate and what came to be seen as the overwhelming inappropriateness of someone who's not elected making a speech where presidents have made celebrated speeches, particularly Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. You had that problem.

Then you have the problem, of course, that he started to adjust his position before going and let it be known that he would be open to refining it, and the left went crazy, and then he scuttled back.

And he goes now -- puts himself in a position where the McCain camp can attack him for making up his mind before he goes. So there are pitfalls. Now, he's so facile and charming that he may be able to pull it off, and I wouldn't count him out. But I think it's tricky.

WALLACE: Jill, how important do you think this trip is to Obama's campaign and especially to this continuing issue, I think probably his biggest issue -- does he pass the commander in chief test?

ZUCKMAN: I was just going to say that. There was a recent poll where -- how do you see the candidates as commander in chief? Obama lagged McCain by about 30 points. This is a huge issue.

He needs to be seen credibly mingling with the troops, meeting with heads of state and looking like he can handle it. And I think if voters see him that way, maybe he can close that gap to a certain extent.

So while there are certainly a lot of pitfalls -- he could say something wrong, and with all that press around everybody will jump on it. But I think just the image of him out there doing these things has a lot of benefit for him.

WALLACE: Bill, as we've been discussing, Prime Minister Maliki seemed to endorse Obama's plan to get combat troops out by -- in two years -- mid- 2010, and then -- and one wonders what kind of back channels there were between the White House and the palace and the Green Zone -- he backed off that.

But clearly, the Iraqis want a time line for us to get out of Iraq. Does that give Obama political cover against the attacks from the McCain campaign?

KRISTOL: Well, the Iraqis want us to draw down in Iraq, as we do, and as we will do in the next administration now that we're winning the war.

They don't want us to get out of Iraq entirely, and I don't think we will or should, and I think -- no, I think this is marginally helpful to Obama in the sense that it makes his proposal look a little less irresponsible.

If McCain gets a moment to explain that Obama's original proposal, of course, was in January of '07 for a 14-month deadline, which would have lost the war by now, and Obama would not be able to have a nice trip to Iraq, and glory, as we should, in the amazing success of U.S. troops over there -- if McCain can remind people that Obama's judgment was fundamentally wrong on the surge, I don't know how much difference this really makes.

WILLIAMS: I don't know how you can make that argument. I mean, the judgment argument is should we have gotten into this war, and obviously Barack Obama was right on that point. We shouldn't have gotten into this war. KRISTOL: Well, I don't agree with that, but I won't -- we won't have that argument now.

WILLIAMS: But I think that on the larger point, what you see is Rahm Emanuel, you know, the Democratic Caucus leader in the House, said, "You know what? Barack Obama for right now is setting the tone in terms of foreign policy," not only in terms of the argument going on with the McCain campaign, but even for the Bush administration, if they're suddenly talking about horizons.

You know, the whole idea you're hearing from the military as well as the political establishment in this town now is moving toward getting away, not putting more forces in there. And in fact, the conversation is shifting altogether.

HUME: Oh, for Pete's sake.

WILLIAMS: And I think that's -- I think Barack Obama deserves credit for that.

Now, I think what he's doing going over there, with all of this -- and his aides, I must say, solicited a lot of this media attention. Going over in this way I don't think helps him.

I think it does play into what Brit described as the possibility if he makes a gaffe, as when he was talking about Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and all that, and got into trouble before, it means that it will have an explosive kind of resonance throughout the campaign.

WALLACE: Yeah, but, I mean, he wasn't going to slink over there and sneak over and nobody know it. I mean, it's a story.

WILLIAMS: No, it's a story, but you could go over and do the fact- finding and take your -- maybe take your normal contingent of press, especially on the European part of the trip.

But the part of the trip that's paid for by U.S. taxpayers, going to Iraq and going to Afghanistan...

WALLACE: But he doesn't have any press on that part of the trip.

WILLIAMS: There are press.

WALLACE: No, there's not.

WILLIAMS: There is press on the ground that's going to -- and Lara Logan is talking to him for CBS, and he'll likely end up on "60 Minutes" tonight.

WALLACE: I understand that, but they are on the ground. They weren't part of the traveling party, and the taxpayers are not paying for them.

HUME: I know, but Juan's right on this point. I mean, they dangled network interviews, and the anchors -- it was decided by the network chiefs that the anchors would do them. This could easily have been avoided.

If he wanted to make this a business only, no big publicity, I mean, there'd have been some coverage, obviously, but he could have kept it low key if he chose to.

But you sense a mindset here. You see it in the idea that they had that it would be good for Obama to speak at the Brandenburg Gate as if he were now a figure sufficiently large to merit that.

You see it in this level of coverage that they're encouraging, to treat him as if he is a savior of some kind who is now coming to save us all. It is dangerous.

ZUCKMAN: I think the big question right now is whether the media is going to look into itself and say, "Wow, look at this -- all this attention we're giving Senator Obama. How come we haven't gone with Senator McCain on his last three trips out of the country? And how are we going to cover him into the future?" Because there's no question there's a disparity between the coverage the two candidates get.

WALLACE: And do you think that's because by objective standards it's a better news story, or do you think that it shows political bias, Jill?

ZUCKMAN: I'm not sure if it's political bias. But for whatever reason, the media is excited about Obama. He's the new new thing, and McCain is not, and McCain is suffering for that.

For a long time the excuse was the Democratic primary was going on and on and on and the attention was focused there, so McCain was getting short shrift. But at this point there's no excuse. There are two candidates for their parties. They both deserve equal coverage.

KRISTOL: I think it makes sense to give him a lot of coverage. I don't begrudge it to him. Never before have we had someone running for president in a time of war who was so unqualified to be commander in chief.

(LAUGHTER)

No, I don't mean that -- I don't mean that...

WALLACE: I knew this was going to be a backhanded...

KRISTOL: I don't mean that in a political way. I mean it is just -- he's never been to Afghanistan which he says is the central front in the war we're fighting. He's been to Iraq once before the conditions changed.

It's good that he's going, God knows, and it's perfectly reasonable for the media to scrutinize what he does. But he's not going to -- he's not giving them any access to speak of anyway, so it's -- I mean, he'll do fine on this trip. It's not going to change anyone's mind. HUME: Was it Andrew Tyndall who measures such things -- found that over the past, what, two months or something -- this is really since Obama had clinched this -- that the networks -- the network evening newscasts have devoted 114 minutes or something like that to Obama and 48 to McCain.

Now, I think Obama is, in many respects, the bigger story because the novelty factor with Obama has not yet worn off, and some imbalance, it seems to me, would be reasonable news judgment. A hundred and fourteen to 48? I don't think so.

WALLACE: All right. We have to step aside for a moment.

But up next, some big changes in the president's foreign policy this week which may work to the benefit of Barack Obama. We'll discuss it after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: On this day in 1969, American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. More than one billion people watched from earth as Armstrong declared it one giant leap for mankind.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE: It should be very clear to everyone the United States has a condition for the beginning of negotiations with Iran, and that condition remains the verifiable suspension of Iran's enrichment and reprocessing activities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: That was Secretary of State Rice defending the decision to send a top-ranking American diplomat to sit down with the Iranians this week.

And we're back now with Brit, Jill, Bill and Juan.

So the president sent the number three man at the State Department, Undersecretary of State William Burns, to Geneva to join our allies in laying out a set of incentives and sanctions with the Iranians depending on whether or not they freeze their nuclear program.

Juan, you heard Secretary of State Rice say that's not a change of policy. Is it?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think it's obviously a change of policy. But just to give the devil his due, if you will, Secretary Rice, President Bush say it's not a change because they're simply sitting there as an act of solidarity, to say everyone is here, to make it clear that we intend to have a solid front with our allies against the Iranians, and to call for sanctions and actions where necessary to get them to step down from nuclear activity.

WALLACE: Bill, let me ask you. A couple of months ago, the president seemed to be going after Obama at the Israeli Knesset for his policy of talking directly with Iranian leaders. Let's watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have an obligation to call this what it is, the false comfort of appeasement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Does sending Secretary Burns to this meeting make it harder now for the president and McCain to go after Obama?

KRISTOL: Well, I prefer the Bush of the Knesset speech to the Bush- Rice policy of the last few weeks. It's a small step to send the undersecretary of state. It's not like meeting, you know, at the presidential level.

But you know, I think the signal we've been sending toward Iran is that we're sort of desperately hoping that diplomacy and sanctions will work, and we've moved our own goal posts a few times to try to make it easier for the Iranians to come to a deal. And they're not going to. They're not going to.

And so people have to face up to the fact that they want nuclear weapons, and either we're going to stop them, or someone else will stop them, or they'll get nuclear weapons.

WALLACE: So why do you think that -- and according to this report -- that Secretary of State Rice was able to persuade President Bush, "You know, you've said you're not going to sit down and meet until they suspend the program, now we're going to go to the meeting?"

KRISTOL: Because in those kinds of conversations, it's always a somewhat convincing argument to say, you know, go the extra mile. That way no one can say you didn't try hard. No one can say you didn't go to every -- whatever the Europeans asked.

And perhaps, if there's going to have to be military force, you're in a stronger position, having gone even further than you said you would go, if you're going to have to use force.

The downside of it is it sends a signal, in my view, of weakness and of retreat, and it strengthens the worst elements in Iran. That's the thing that I think they're not thinking enough about, frankly, in the State Department or the White House.

There are debates within Iran, presumably. Ahmadinejad does and more reckless things. And presumably some people internally tell him, "Hey, that's dangerous. You're going to pay a price." And he pays no price. And if anything, he can now say, "Look, I'm doing well. We're winning."

WILLIAMS: Yeah, but the contrary point of view from the Bush administration would be, "We're standing strong with our allies," and contrary to what you say and what John Bolton said the other day, it's not a case of the administration sinking to depths.

I mean, you guys -- the Bush administration is now taking shots from the right, but I think the more centrist position is the more responsible position, because you should go to whatever lengths you can go to to have peace.

HUME: Juan, in May of 2007, there was a meeting in Iraq hosted by Prime Minister Maliki. Iran had a representative there. The United States, in the person of Ryan Crocker, the ambassador, was there. This was a meeting to discuss the situation in Iraq with Iran.

Now, that was a face-to-face meeting. It was even arguably a negotiation to a greater extent than this is.

What I sense here is this is not so much a change of policy, and it is arguably -- you know, you saw the administration's steadfastness in insisting on not being in any meeting alone with North Korea, not negotiating with North Korea, except in the context of the three parties that were involved in the North Korea situation.

Now we have a similar situation. I think there's a lot less here than meets the eye in terms of a change, as Juan describes it, of policy.

WALLACE: All right.

Jill, I want to switch with you to the other alleged, and we can either say it is or it isn't, big change this week, and that was the president agreeing on Friday -- at least it was announced on Friday -- with the Iraqis to the idea of time horizons.

Now, as we know, the president has resisted putting any specific dates out there, even if they were aspirational goals, as they will be here, for how we're going to draw down and turn over authority to the Iraqis. How big a deal is this?

ZUCKMAN: Well, it certainly seems on the surface like he is moving in Obama's direction, so politically I think this is -- this is a plus for Obama.

But at the same time, they keep denying that this is a goal or a time line, that they're not doing what he wants to do. I think they're sending some confusing signals right now.

The question is if they don't want to be there forever, they want to wait for things to be good, you know, when do they decide -- when they decide it's finally time to come out, do they signal it in some way, and is this the signal?

WALLACE: Bill, let me ask you. I mean, what is the political impact here? Isn't it going to be tough for McCain and the president to defend time horizons but to attack Obama on time tables?

KRISTOL: No, because they're really quite different. Look, I was with a small group that was invited to Fort Hood to talk to General Odierno, who's taking over in Iraq from Petraeus around Labor Day, and he - - they've done a lot of thinking and planning for the rest of 2008 and 2009 and 2010.

And they anticipate drawing down troops, and they anticipate, to some degree, changing the U.S. mission from as active a combatant mission to strategic overwatch and support of the Iraqis.

So if it makes Maliki's political life easier in Iraq to sort of formalize this by saying that aspirationally we intend to draw down, to turn over more to the Iraqis, I don't think that's such a big deal. I think it's what you -- we're fighting with the Iraqis, and they deserve some deference, and Bush is giving it to them.

That's very different from saying that the point is to get out. That's the fundamental difference. Bush and McCain think the point is to win, and since we are winning we can reduce our forces and reduce the tempo of our - - of activity of our forces.

That's very different from making your priority, as Obama says to this day -- for all of his changes in position, Obama says to this day he's going to call those Joint Chiefs of Staff in the first day he's president and tell them, "End the war."

McCain's going to call them in and say, "Win the war. Now, how quickly can we draw down consistent with winning the war?" That is still a huge difference.

WALLACE: Brit, some people are taking a look at the meeting with Iran and the agreement, which clearly the administration didn't want to do even if it is a difference from a timetable -- for the time horizons, the negotiations with North Korea, and they say the Bush foreign policy is changing. Do you think that's fair?

HUME: I think there was a turn toward diplomacy at the beginning of the Bush second term. I don't think there's much doubt about that. And you saw this in the dealings with the North Koreans, and in situations like that, you get what you can.

Secretary of State Rice said to me something not to long ago -- she said not many countries practice diplomacy the way the United States does, which is, you know, we want you to do this, we'd like you to do this, and if you do you'll get this, and if you don't you're going to get this.

She said most of the countries who -- our allies -- their attitude is well, if diplomacy doesn't work, then you have some more diplomacy, and it's about suasion and convincing people to do the right thing.

The problem with that, of course, is in dealing with people like the Iranians and others, it doesn't work very well. So I don't think anything has deeply changed. She's been given a chance to try to bring these things about, but I don't think anything has deeply changed.

Remember what the word horizon means -- as far as the eye can see. That's not much change.

WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next week.

And we want to thank all of you for the warm thoughts and prayers you sent us about Tony Snow. We are sending all your comments to Tony's wife, Jill, and their children.

Up next, our Power Player of the Week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WALLACE: American veterans of World War II are now dying -- and this is an astonishing figure -- at the rate of more than 1,000 a day. The greatest generation is passing from the scene.

But as we first reported last fall, working hard to give them one last hurrah is our Power Player of the Week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORSE: Our purpose is to get as many members of the greatest generation out to Washington, D.C. so that they can see their memorial before it's too late.

WALLACE: Earl Morse was living out his dream last September...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORSE: We've got a special, very special, tour for you at 10:45.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: ... escorting veterans to the World War II memorial to see how their nation has honored them. It was the first and last time many will get to visit. And without Morse, it wouldn't have happened.

MORSE: They are my heroes.

WALLACE: Four years ago, Morse was working at a V.A. clinic in Ohio when the memorial was opened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORSE: How are you doing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: He says his World War II patients wanted to see it, but money and logistics got in the way.

MORSE: Not one of them had been to the memorial. And worse yet, they pretty much came to the realization that there was no way they were ever going to see their memorial.

WALLACE: So Morse, a retired Air Force captain, went to his local aeroclub and asked his fellow pilots to help.

MORSE: I told the pilots that you are going to have to come up with the $600 to $800 it costs to rent the airplane, and stipulation number two, you can't fly them to Washington, D.C. and drop them off.

WALLACE: In May 2005, six tiny planes took 12 vets to see the memorial for the day. The program grew, but not nearly fast enough to meet demand.

Enter Jeff Miller from North Carolina, who heard about the plan and wanted to expand it big time. He said, "Let's raise enough money to start chartering planes," which is how last September the Honor Flights program brought in 700 vets from across the Midwest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORSE: Now, you're his grandson?

(UNKNOWN): Great grandson.

(UNKNOWN): Great grandson.

MORSE: How old are you?

(UNKNOWN): Ninety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Make us look younger, now.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Bob Dole and Colin Powell were there to honor the vets. One of them, 87-year-old Robert Snodgrass...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT SNODGRASS: That's me when I first went in the Navy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: ... survived Pearl Harbor on the USS Raleigh.

MORSE: As people recognize them and honor them for their service, they get younger. There is a bounce in their step, and their shoulders are held back and their heads are a little bit higher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORSE: Oh, my pleasure. My pleasure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: What do they say to you?

MORSE: They thank me. For them to thank me for getting them to their memorial -- it really takes me back. And I just -- I just can't thank them enough for what they've done.

WALLACE: Honor Flights has brought in almost 10,000 vets so far, but the waiting list has another 7,000.

Morse says those with terminal illnesses go to the front of the line under the TLC program, or "Their Last Chance." And he's determined to keep faith with the generation he says saved the world. MORSE: I want every World War II veteran that's still alive that's capable of getting on a plane to come out here and see their memorial, and I'm going to keep going at this until every one of them has been out here to see it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: If you would like to contribute to the Honor Flights program, please go to our website at foxnews.com/ fns.

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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