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Sens. McCaskill and Graham on "Fox News Sunday"

Sens. McCaskill and Graham on "Fox News Sunday"

Fox News Sunday - April 19, 2009

WALLACE: I'm Chris Wallace, and this is "FOX News Sunday." The White House releases memos detailing how the CIA interrogated top Al Qaida operatives. Does that disclosure endanger national security? We'll ask former CIA director Michael Hayden in a "FOX News Sunday" exclusive.

Then, President Obama meets with Latin American leaders on drugs, violence on the Mexican border, and relations with Cuba. We'll get analysis from two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Lindsey Graham .

Plus, tax day brings a tea party backlash. Does the protest of high taxes and increased government spending have staying power? We'll ask our Sunday regulars.

And our Power Player of the Week, an opera diva with a common touch, all right now on "FOX News Sunday."

And hello again from Fox News in Washington. The controversy over the methods used to question top Al Qaida operatives ignited again this week with the release of Justice Department memos authorizing tough interrogations.

Joining us now is General Michael Hayden, director of the CIA until just three months ago.

And, General, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

HAYDEN: Thanks very much, Chris.

WALLACE: The White House says that four former CIA directors, including you, all advised against the release of these so-called torture memos. Specifically, what were you asked and what did you say?

HAYDEN: I wasn't asked. We weren't asked. We were informed as a courtesy by the agency that this was a pending decision, and all of us self-initiated, voluntarily, to call the White House and express our views.

I should add, too, that the current director, Director Panetta, shared our views. I mean, if you look -- if you look at what this really comprises, if you look at the documents that have been made public, it says top secret at the top. The definition of top secret is information which, if revealed, would cause grave harm to U.S. security.

And you had the current director and, according to the press accounts, his four previous predecessors all saying that those documents were appropriately classified, which means that they viewed the documents as -- the release of them would be a grave threat to national security.

Now, the president made a different decision fully within his authority. The president is the ultimate classification authority.

WALLACE: I just want to make this clear. Who did you speak to at the White House?

HAYDEN: I called the White House counsel, the national security adviser, the deputy national security adviser.

 

WALLACE: You spoke to them all?

HAYDEN: Yeah.

WALLACE: And you said this would be a grave threat to national security to...

HAYDEN: I probably didn't use those words, but I marshaled the arguments as to why I thought it would make America less safe.

WALLACE: Now, we should point out that you were CIA director starting in 2006, which means that you came in after these memos, and you came in after almost all of these interrogations took place.

But I do want to ask you -- explain the practical effect that you believe of how the release of these memos will help Al Qaida train its recruits, train its operatives, to stand up to future interrogations.

HAYDEN: Sure. At the tactical level, what we have described for our enemies in the midst of a war are the outer limits that any American would ever go to in terms of interrogating an Al Qaida terrorist. That's very valuable information.

Now, it doesn't mean we would always go to those outer limits, but it describes the box within which Americans will not go beyond.

To me, that's very useful for our enemies, even if, as a policy matter, this president at this time had decided not to use one, any, or all of those techniques. It still reveals those outer limits, and that's very important.

WALLACE: Now, the president says, and his people say, this has basically all been in the press already.

HAYDEN: There's a difference. There's a difference of leaks, and rumors, and rumors of this and that, and going out there and defining in an absolutely clear way what the limits are.

I mean, if that were the rationale -- "Oh, it's already out there" -- any time there was a leak of classified information, you would seem to argue then that we have to go out there and give the full story. I mean, that doesn't make sense on its face. WALLACE: Now, President Obama has ordered a review of interrogation techniques beyond the Army Field Manual. Can they find some techniques that meet his standards and that will still be effective in getting the information we need?

HAYDEN: I don't know. What -- I mean, it's not an unlimited universe of techniques that we would find acceptable as a people.

And what we have practically done is taken this body of techniques off the table even while this study is under way. That was one of the things that I discussed with White House officials.

This seems to moot the president's own commission to decide whether or not the techniques of the Army Field Manual are adequate in all cases.

WALLACE: So are you suggesting that we no longer will have, whatever he decides on, the ability to extract the information we need?

HAYDEN: I think that teaching our enemies our outer limits, by taking techniques off the table, we have made it more difficult in a whole host of circumstances I can imagine, more difficult for CIA officers to defend the nation.

There's another point, too, that I have to make. And it's just not the tactical effect of this technique or that. It's the broader effect on CIA officers.

I mean, if you're a current CIA officer today -- in fact, I know this has happened at the agency after the release of these documents. Officers are saying, "The things I'm doing now -- will this happen to me in five year because of the things I am doing now?"

And the answer they've been given by senior leadership is the only answer possible, which is, "I can't guarantee you that won't happen, but I do know it won't happen under this president."

Now, think what that means. The basic foundation of the legitimacy of the agency's action has shifted from some durability of law to a product of the American political process. That puts agency officers in a horrible position.

So I think the really dangerous effect of this, Chris, is that you will have agency officers stepping back from the kinds of things that the nation expects them to do. I mean, if you were to go to an agency officer today and say, "Go do this," and, "Why am I authorized to do this?"

And I say, "Well, it's authorized by the president. The attorney general says it's lawful. And it's been briefed to Congress." That agency officer's going to say, "Yeah, I know, but I see what's going on here now. Have you run it by the ACLU? What's the New York Times editorial board think? Have you discussed this with any potential presidential candidates?"

You're going to have this agency on the front line of defending you in this current war playing back from the line.

WALLACE: Now, is this just you saying this, or is this what -- you have talked to current CIA officials and operatives who are saying that this is their mindset?

HAYDEN: I don't -- I don't want to betray any particular confidences, but I am confident this is the thought process going on in the agency now.

WALLACE: Not only, as you point out, did the president go against four former directors of the CIA, as you point out he also went against the current CIA director, Leon Panetta.

And here's how White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded this week to the claims that the release of these documents makes the country less safe. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is the use of those techniques, the use of those techniques in the view of the world, that have made us less safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: What does that tell you about President Obama's approach to the war on terror?

HAYDEN: It's difficult for me to judge the president. I don't think I would do that. But Mr. Gibbs' comments bring another reality fully in front of us. It's what I'll call, without meaning any irreverence to anybody, a really inconvenient truth.

Most of the people who oppose these techniques want to be able to say, "I don't want my nation doing this," which is a purely honorable position, "and they didn't work anyway." That back half of the sentence isn't true.

The facts of the case are that the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work. The president's speech, President Bush in September of ‘06, outlined how one detainee led to another, led to another, with the use of these techniques.

The honorable position you have to take if you want us not to do this -- and believe me, if the nation says, "Don't do it," the CIA won't do it. The honorable position has to be, "Even though these techniques worked, I don't want you to do that." That takes courage. The other sentence doesn't.

WALLACE: Let me -- let me get directly to this, because I think it is one of the key issues. Did these techniques work? In Friday's Wall Street Journal, you and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote an article. And let's put up what you said.

You wrote, "As late as 2006, fully half of the government's knowledge about the structure and activities of Al Qaida came from those interrogations."

But the New York Times reports that all the information that Abu Zubaydah, the first one who went through all of these techniques -- all of the information he gave up came before he was subjected to waterboarding, before he was slapped, before he was slammed against a wall. And it says after the harsher enhanced interrogation, he gave up nothing.

HAYDEN: I should correct you -- before he was slammed against a false flexible wall with something wrapped around his neck so that he would not be injured.

In September 2006, President Bush gave a speech on the Abu Zubaydah case. He pointed out that he -- Zubaydah gave us nominal information, probably more valuable than he thought. He clammed up. The decision was made to use techniques.

After that decision was made and the techniques were used, he gave up more valuable information, including the information that led to the arrest of Ramzi Binalshibh. After the New York Times story yesterday, I called a few friends to make sure my memory was correct, and I guess, to quote somebody from your profession, we stand by our story.

The critical information we got from Abu Zubaydah came after we began the EITs.

WALLACE: The AIT (ph)?

HAYDEN: The enhanced interrogation techniques.

WALLACE: Not before.

HAYDEN: No.

WALLACE: One of the concerns about the memos is the lengths to which the Justice Department went to justify some of the techniques.

I want to put up a 2002 memo that defended waterboarding. "Although the waterboard constitutes a threat of immediate death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result to violate the statutory prohibition on infliction of severe mental pain or suffering."

Question: Are you satisfied that waterboarding is not torture?

HAYDEN: I'm satisfied that the Justice Department, in a series of opinions -- ‘02, ‘03, ‘05 -- said that it was not. Now...

WALLACE: Well, we know that.

HAYDEN: But keep in mind, waterboarding had not been using since the spring of 2003. Waterboarding was one of the techniques that I took off the table formally and officially when I became director and reshaped the program.

WALLACE: Because you thought it was torture? HAYDEN: No. I reshaped the program because the legal landscape had changed, the operational landscape had changed, and we knew more about Al Qaida, all right, and the sense of threat under which we were operating had changed.

WALLACE: But...

HAYDEN: I never -- I never committed the agency to using waterboarding, and I've been asked this question before. I had to make my own tough decisions. I thank God I didn't have to make the kinds of decisions that my predecessors had to make in 2002 and 2003.

WALLACE: But here, I think, is the question that some of the critics, some of the people who don't like what was done, would say. The international standard is cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The CIA standard is treatment that would shock the conscience. According to a report that's out today -- and maybe you can confirm this. Is it true that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month?

HAYDEN: The president has made public some aspects of the CIA interrogation program. Other aspects he has not. And these -- this is one of the operational details that has not been declassified, so I'm not at liberty to talk about it.

WALLACE: Can you say honestly that waterboarding does not shock the conscience?

HAYDEN: Well, first of all, you said the CIA standard is shock the conscience. Actually, that's not quite correct. That's the American standard.

If you look at the legislative history, the international treaty obligations were all tied in to the provisions against cruel and inhuman punishment in the 5th, 8th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which collectively are described as do they or do they not shock the conscience.

That isn't our standard. That's the standard in American law. We are a customer of the Department of Justice.

WALLACE: So answer my question. Does it shock the conscience?

HAYDEN: It would depend on the circumstances. That's why Judge Mukasey could not answer the question during his confirmation hearing. It shocked -- you have to know the totality of circumstances in which something takes place before you can judge whether or not it shocks the conscience.

WALLACE: Meaning how important the information is?

HAYDEN: Right, all of those things. What is the imminent threat to the nation? Look, again, I thank God I never had to make that tough decision. WALLACE: Let me ask you a couple of questions. We're beginning to run out of time. One more on this, and then on a couple of other subjects.

President Obama says there will be no prosecution of CIA officers who relied on these memos. Is that the end of it, or do you expect something further in terms of congressional investigations and more lawsuits?

HAYDEN: Oh, God, no, it's not the end of it. If you look at the letters that Director Panetta and Director Blair put out to the intelligence community workforce, near the end of both letters they make it very clear -- I mean, literally, explicitly say -- this is not the end of it.

In fact, they suggest it's just the beginning. There will be more revelations. There will be more commissions. There will be more investigations. And this to an agency, again, I repeat, that is at war and is on the front lines defending America.

WALLACE: I want to turn briefly to the president and his meeting at the Summit of the Americas right now. Some people see a possible thaw in relations with Cuba. Cuban President Raul Castro late this week talked about that his country is willing to discuss human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners.

Having left the CIA just three months ago, how seriously do you take the idea that this regime in Cuba might relax its repression of its own people?

HAYDEN: I wouldn't be overconfident about it. But I do think increased contacts with the United States will actually create the kinds of pressures on the regime that we would like to see anyway.

WALLACE: So you would favor engagement.

HAYDEN: I would.

WALLACE: And when you say you wouldn't be overly confident, are you saying that you see some pressures to increase -- to relax repression?

HAYDEN: I've seen -- I've seen no relaxation of oppression. All right. Now, we've used some of the tools that we have available to us as a nation to try to effect that kind of change.

Additional contacts, exposure of the Cuban people to the American people -- all those kinds of things may actually increase the pressure on the regime to relax its oppression and to change its behavior.

I think we ought to go about this step by step. We shouldn't jump into the deep end of the pool right away. But it will be interesting to see how this play out.

WALLACE: And finally, Hugo Chavez, meeting with the president, is now talking about the two countries, the U.S. and Venezuela, restoring their ambassadors to each other's capitals.

From your time in the CIA, do you see any indication that there might be a change of heart on the part of Mr. Chavez?

HAYDEN: Here's a case where I would watch for behavior, not for rhetoric. And the behavior of President Chavez over the past years has been downright horrendous both internationally and with regard to what he's done internally inside Venezuela.

WALLACE: So you don't buy it.

HAYDEN: Well, there are a lot of options out there, but I wouldn't say I'm overconfident about this.

WALLACE: General Hayden, we want to thank you for coming in. Thank you for sharing your views with us. It's always a pleasure to have you, sir. Please come back.

HAYDEN: Thanks. Thanks, Chris.

WALLACE: Up next, we'll ask two leading senators about the CIA memos, the president's opening to Cuba, and those taxpayer tea parties. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Joining us now, two of the leading voices in the Senate, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, from St. Louis, Democrat Claire McCaskill , one of the president's key congressional allies, and from Greenville, South Carolina, Republican Lindsey Graham .

Well, you both just heard General Hayden.

Senator McCaskill, when five current or former -- or current or present -- let me try again. When five current or former CIA directors all oppose the release of these documents and the details contained within them, and suggest that it may actually harm national security, why do it?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think transparency is not something that comes easily to CIA directors. But it's very important to this president. And this has been a dark chapter. We had lawyers in our government that were approving illegal activity.

And I think what the president has decided -- that in the long run, clearing the air and saying to the rest of the world that we're going to return to a place where setting a better example as to what democracy and the rule of law means.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, you fought against some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, especially waterboarding. Do you think it was wise to make all this information public?

GRAHAM: No, but I do believe we have changed our behavior as a nation. The law now is very clear. It's not the "shocks the conscience" test. The Military Commissions Act codified the new War Crimes Act, which clearly outlaws waterboarding.

I'm concerned that these memos are going to chill receiving input in the future by a president and has overly informed our enemies of the things that may await them, but the idea of waterboarding being legal is certainly not the case anymore, and I always thought it was a procedure that would come back to haunt the nation. And quite frankly, it has.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, what do you think of the transparency argument, the openness argument, that Senator McCaskill just made?

GRAHAM: I don't care to be transparent and open to Al Qaida. The one thing you want to do in a war is to keep the enemy off their timing.

And to release the Army Field Manual, which is online, and to say, "That's the only interrogation technique available to the United States, here it is, go learn about it," is a mistake.

Releasing these memos, where some techniques I do believe are Geneva Convention compliant, do not violate the War Crimes Act -- and showing the outer limits is a huge tactical and strategic mistake done for political reasons and has hurt our nation's ability to defend herself.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill?

MCCASKILL: You know, I've got to say that I do think that our enemies -- the Taliban and Al Qaida -- knew that we were torturing, and it was a great recruitment tool for those who want to do harm to our country.

We have removed that recruitment tool, and this president has shown his commitment to going after the enemy by what he is doing in Afghanistan right now.

Even though some on the left of our party are chewing on him pretty good, he has said very clearly we will continue our commitment to fight terrorism and to root out those people around the world that want to do America harm.

People should relax. This isn't a president who's going to back down from a fight if someone's trying to hurt America.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill, members of Congress are now talking about more investigations, a possible truth commission, even the prosecution of top Bush administration policymakers who authorized the interrogations.

What do you think should happen? What do you think will happen?

MCCASKILL: Well, this morning you're talking to a couple of former prosecutors, and so I will say this. I think it's the right decision that the attorney general has said no one -- no agent of the CIA should be held to any kind of legal, criminal standard as a result of taking this legal advice.

They should be able to rely on the advice they get from the government's lawyers, and there should be no prosecution or any further action there.

On the other hand, the lawyers that gave this advice -- what's scary to me, Chris, is one of them got a lifetime appointment on the federal bench. Yikes -- you know, a lawyer that's responsible for this kind of advice that clearly went too far in terms of stretching what our law is. It worries me that he's sitting on the federal bench right now.

Now, whether we should go down the road -- I don't think we want to look in the rearview mirror. I think this president has made that very clear. We've got big problems ahead of us we need to focus on.

But I do think there probably needs to be more questions asked of the lawyers who gave this advice.

WALLACE: Let me just ask you one specific question there, and then I'll bring in Senator Graham. Would you favor the impeachment of Judge Bybee?

MCCASKILL: I don't know. I think we have to look at it. But I think we do need to sort out, you know, how do you get lawyers at the top levels of the Justice Department that could give this kind of advice.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, what do you think's going to happen? What do you think should happen?

GRAHAM: Well, I agree with Claire that the agents involved should be left alone. They were following procedures and policies approved by higher-ups and they were doing their job as they were told to do their job.

The idea of criminalizing legal advice after one administration is out of the office is a very bad precedent. You can argue many different aspects of the law and how to interpret it.

We've cleaned up this mess by passing the McCain amendment and changing the war crimes statute to put people on notice now as to what you can do. I think it would be disaster to go back and try to prosecute a lawyer for giving legal advice that you disagreed with to a former president.

WALLACE: Let me turn, if I can, to the president's meeting with Latin American leaders that's going on this weekend. And one of the main subjects that has been mentioned, as I discussed with General Hayden, has been the possible improvement of relations with Cuba.

As I mentioned, Raul Castro, the Cuban president, talked about discussing human rights, but we have to point out -- and this hasn't been widely reported -- it was in the context of a long anti-U.S. diatribe.

Senator Graham, how should we proceed with Cuba?

GRAHAM: "Release the prisoners and we'll talk to you."

WALLACE: Simple as that. Put up or shut up.

GRAHAM: Put up or shut up.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think we're taking the right steps, and I think the ball is now clearly in Cuba's court. They need to respond and say what they're willing to do. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Lindsey. I must also say that opening up the market of Cuba to Missouri's farmers is very important to this United States senator. I think we have markets there that our agricultural economy in this country needs, and I think we need to look at that as a long-term goal.

But there clearly needs to be more done on the part of Cuba to send the right signal to America that they're willing to engage as a -- as a trade partner or to go any further down this line of normalizing our relationship.

WALLACE: As President Obama has traveled the world the last couple of weeks, he has spent a lot of time apologizing for previous action by U.S. presidents and administrations. Let's take a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There have been times where America's shown arrogance and been dismissive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: A demand for these drugs in the United States is what is helping to keep these cartels in business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We've at times been disengaged, and at times we've sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator Graham, is this reaching out to other countries constructive or is it just pandering?

GRAHAM: Well, I tell you, the fruits of this effort will determine how successful it is. It doesn't set well with me, but he is now my president. The key is can he rally the world to stop the Iranians from producing nuclear weapons.

Can he rally the world to do something about a North Korea missile program that is moving forward? Can he rally the world to impose sanctions on North Korea after they kick out the weapons inspectors?

If talking poorly about the past in the United States can do that, good. I don't believe it will. We're looking now for action, not just rhetoric, not political rhetoric.

He has a chance and an opportunity and a requirement to do something about Iran and North Korea by getting the world involved, China and Russia particularly. We'll see if he's able to perform that task.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill...

GRAHAM: That is his job now.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill, constructive or pandering?

MCCASKILL: Constructive. History has shown many, many times that diplomacy works. And it's not rhetoric. It's diplomacy. And we have been arrogant sometimes.

I think this is a pragmatic president. He's going to be tough and firm with our enemies, but he also is going to do what's necessary to reestablish our position in the world as a leading country to be admired and to be joined in these challenges we face, whether it's North Korea or Iran.

And I know the president shares my view and Lindsey Graham 's view that nuclear weapons in Iran is a non-starter, and that we must do something about North Korea and the missile launch that they did.

But having said that, I think the approach he's taking is pragmatic, but it's very smart, and I think it will bear the kind of fruit that will make America safer.

WALLACE: Senators, we've got about two minutes left, and I want to ask you each one question about the tea parties this week. On tax day, thousands of people held tea parties across the country to protest taxes and big government.

Senator McCaskill, you're now on Twitter, and you sent this Twitter. Let's put it up. "The tea party thing confuses me. We've just passed one of the biggest tax cuts in American history and we had a record turnout in November."

Senator, are you saying there was no reason to protest?

MCCASKILL: No, I respect the protests that occurred. I think they were grassroots. I think it was a remarkable turnout in many places in our country.

I did want to point out that this wasn't a tax increase that had gone into effect -- in fact, we just passed a huge tax cut -- and that we had great representation in our elections last November.

But I think we've got to do more. We've got to cut spending. And I'm glad the president -- for his first formal cabinet meeting on Monday, what he is going to say to all of his cabinet heads is, "Figure out where we can find spending. Let's find wasteful programs and let's start cutting spending."

This former auditor -- that's like music to my ears. I think we've got a lot of work to do on the spending side.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, a final question for you. The Congressional Budget Office says that the federal income tax burden is near its historic low. Former Congressman Dick Armey, who was one of the central organizers of these rallies, says right now the federal income tax rate is at a good level. Why protest?

GRAHAM: If you're looking at what we're doing in Washington and you're not upset, the problem is with you, not the protesters. The Obama budget triples the national debt. In 2019, we'll pay more interest on the national debt than the Defense Department.

He raises taxes on job creators. He cuts the defense budget dramatically over a 10-year period. This is a budget that's a nightmare for the country. The stimulus bill and the omnibus bill together have spent more money in 90 days than we did in Iraq, Afghanistan and Katrina combined.

People need to be upset. This is a complete, absolute abandonment of fiscal discipline, and the Obama budget is a road map for disaster that will bankrupt this country. I am glad people took to the streets. There's nothing wrong with you. The problem's wrong in Washington.

This is not the change people were hoping for. This is unbelievable growth in government at a time we can afford it the least.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, Senator McCaskill -- obviously strong views there -- thank you both. Thanks for coming on today. Please come back, both of you.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.

WALLACE: Up next, those tax day tea parties have some wondering, "Is this the start of a grassroots movement?" Our Sunday regulars give us their thoughts after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): We want people to know that our government is out of control. Their spending is out of control.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): It seems like it's the other way around in Washington. They're telling us what they're going to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Some highlights from the April 15th tea parties that took place across the country.

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

So, Brit, some are comparing these tea parties to the antitax protests in California in the ‘70s that led to Proposition 8 and -- or Proposition 13, rather, and perhaps eventually to Ronald Reagan's presidential election.

What are the chances, do you think, that this grows into a grassroots movement?

HUME: Well, it's way too early to say, but this was a grassroots protest. And despite the efforts of some, perhaps, in the Republican Party, other activists and so on to fan the flames of this thing, the spark for this -- and indeed, the flame of it -- was really a spontaneous thing, and I think it bears watching because of that.

As we all know, no matter -- no lobby, no matter how powerful, is nearly as powerful as an aroused public. And obviously, this represents a subset of the public.

But it was striking that there were so many of these, they sprung up in so many different places, pretty well attended, ignored by some in the media. Despite that, we had them. So it represents sentiment in the country against big government, I think, more than anything else -- taxation and spending. It bears watching.

WALLACE: What's your early sense -- and Brit is certainly right, we don't know yet, but do you think this has legs?

LIASSON: I don't know yet, but it certainly is something that -- for a Republican Party that's really down in the dumps, it's something -- it's a straw to grasp onto and build on.

I mean, this was a cyber-organized event, so it shows that the right is beginning to use the tools that the Obama campaign and the left have kind of perfected over the past number of years, so that's a sign that the playing field might be getting a bit more level, and maybe this will go somewhere.

I think one of the refrains you heard from these protesters was, "We're afraid that Obama is going to raise our taxes in the future. He hasn't done it yet." Now, I think that on that level, the White House does take this seriously.

I think on another level they kind of dismiss the protests. But Obama -- on the very day that the protesters were out there, on tax day, he was repeating his pledge to not raise taxes for people who make less than $250,000.

That's going to be a very, very hard pledge to keep, just as a practical matter, because the Congress has rejected some of his ideas to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for things like health care. He doesn't like their ideas to tax premiums in one case.

So it's going to be hard for him to pay for all the things he wants to do while sticking to that pledge to not raise taxes for people under 250,000.

WALLACE: But, Bill, there are some big differences from the ‘70s and California and the big anti-property tax revolt -- Howard Jarvis back then.

President Obama has cut taxes so far, not raised them. As I discussed with the senator, historically speaking, that -- the federal income tax burden is near its low for the last three decades, and there's a Gallup poll last week that found one of the most positive assessments in the public mind of the tax burden in decades.

KRISTOL: The same Gallup poll actually showed, surprising to me, hostility, though, to big government and to spending. Forty-four percent of the public doesn't think we should have much bigger government even now in this emergency. Another 39 percent say OK for now but not permanent. I think 14 percent say let's have bigger government going forward.

This was, I think, more about debt and about spending than about taxes, which proves you can't mechanically apply something that happened 30 years ago today. I think this is actually a government- out-of-control rebellion. I mean, that clip you showed, I thought, epitomized it perfectly. I've talked to fearful people who've been at -- who were at these tea parties, and they said the general spirit was that government's out of control. Obama's own budget projects the debt growing by almost threefold in 10 years.

It's unsustainable. It really is irresponsible to have deficits of over half a trillion dollars as far as the eye can see. People have the sense that it's -- whatever we have to do in the short term, it's totally irresponsible to do that five, 10 years out. And I think that's what's behind this movement.

And I think it's real. I mean, this thing began two months ago, only two months ago, in Seattle when they organized a little grassroots protest on February 16th. Rick Santelli of CNBC -- his great -- you know, his thing -- take to the streets -- that was February 19th.

This thing happened awfully quickly, and over a quarter of a million people protested peacefully and, I gather, with quite good cheer. And I think the big government issue is much bigger than I would have thought.

WILLIAMS: I think the polls indicate most Americans think they pay about the right amount of taxes. There are some who think that we pay a little too much. But I don't think taxes are it.

So if we come back to your point that this is really about debt and spending, I think it's difficult for Republicans to get their hands around it, because you go back to President Bush's time in office and you say, "Gosh, look at the way that debt was climbing. Look at the way spending increased."

So now you get some people who are frustrated, and I think rightly frustrated, at the idea that government is spending these tremendous amounts of money. OK. So they're saying it's because we are in the midst of a generational economic crisis.

But when people look at it, they say, "Wait a second. Does that mean that we are burdening future generations? And does that mean that we're going to have to raise taxes down the road?" So this is all, I think at this point, prospective. It's not about a reality.

And so you wonder, "Who's out there, and who's generating this?" I think a lot of it's media generated. I think a lot of it is people who are -- you know, the same people who are getting Social Security and Medicare payments. They're the ones who are running out there -- say, "Oh, why is government growing at this time?"

KRISTOL: It's to the public's...

WILLIAMS: Government is insulating them against this economic crisis.

KRISTOL: It's the public's credit that it's prospective and it's about their children and their grandchildren. This is the media reaction. "You're getting a rebate. How can you be protesting," as if people are entirely present-oriented and self-interested.

It's very much, I think, to these protesters' credit that they actually care about the future, and they think these are unwise policies.

WILLIAMS: No, I don't think...

HUME: Think of it this way, Chris. One of the things that the Obama program has clearly done in Washington is to unite the Republican Party in Congress which had been divided by the Bush years, by discomfort among many conservatives over the level of spending that Juan just correctly mentioned, and so on.

Now comes some really big spending that dwarfs, really, what the Bush administration had done over time, and it has succeeded in uniting the Republican Party.

Now it appears it is beginning to unite people around the country who would be disposed in favor of the Republican Party because of the striking comparison between what it did and what the Democratic Party in control of Washington is now doing.

WALLACE: Which brings us, Mara, to the fact that the president is now ending his foreign trips, coming back to Washington, continuing the hard work of trying to get his budget passed.

Where do you think the country, where do you think Congress, are now in terms of his agenda of health care, energy and education reform?

LIASSON: I think that this Democratic Congress is relatively united on the goals that the president has. I think it's just the details that they're going to fight over. I mean, how are you going to pay for this stuff is going to be very, very hard, how fast you're going to do it.

I think it's clear -- you know, cap and trade might wait. Health care I think is something that they probably will get done this year, but how much of it will actually be implemented right away I don't know.

But I do think the president has a lot of tough decisions ahead on how to pay for these things. I think in general the public -- look at his approval ratings, look at the difference between the approval ratings of Democrats and Republicans.

I think the public wants the things the president says he wants to give them, and then we'll see whether they want to pay for them in the way that in the end he and Congress will decide that (inaudible).

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

But when we come back, the Obama administration's decision to release those interrogation memos. You won't want to miss this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WALLACE: On this day in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI, head of the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics. Benedict was chosen to succeed Pope John Paul II.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: We will not sacrifice our values or trample on our Constitution under the false premise that it is the only way to protect our national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL CHERTOFF: You're giving terrorists insights into the things they need to prepare for, and they do prepare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Attorney General Holder and former Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff arguing whether it was a good idea to go public with how the CIA got information from some of the world's most dangerous men.

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

So, Brit, is the release of these memos a way to end a dark and painful chapter in our history, as President Obama would have it, or does it endanger the country and just fuel the fire for more investigations and lawsuits?

HUME: My view is that it ends a dark public relations period for our country, and it shows you that this -- the fact that this decision was taken the way it was, the extent to which the Obama administration thinks that being thought of well in places like Brussels and Berlin is more important than the -- than what the intelligence professionals with virtual unanimity -- present CIA director and a string of past ones, one of whom you heard this morning -- thought was -- thought was the necessary tools at the agencies and the other intelligence operatives' disposal.

The case put here by Michael Hayden was a case against doing that. And as you heard, it was a very powerful and compelling argument.

What exactly beyond feel-good stuff about the eyes of the world is the case in favor of doing this? Where are the benefits? What are they? The answers so far have not been forthcoming. I give Claire McCaskill , whom I admire, high marks for trying today. She talked about transparency. And then, you know, here comes along Lindsey Graham and says, "Well, we don't want to be transparent to Al Qaida." It's pretty hard to argue against.

LIASSON: Look, the arguments that the White House is making is that the reason this is going to make us safer is because our image in the world suffered when these were our techniques. And now we're going to have a stronger moral ground to fight the war on terrorism from.

I think the big question -- and Hayden raised some of these issues -- is as this review is going forward, you know, they've decided that the Army Field Manual is going to be kind of the operative interrogation manual until they can review these techniques.

Well, they've just taken off the table a whole bunch of things. And you know, we have to hope that the administration has a whole bunch of other things that will meet their standards for morality and decency but will also do the job in terms of keeping the country safe.

You know, Attorney General Holder in that clip just said there is a way to do this, to keep us safe, without violating our moral standards. And I think that, you know, at some point the Obama administration, without divulging the details, has to explain what it is.

One thing that I am struck by is why, especially today, they have no one from the military intelligence community in the administration coming forward to explain this decision.

WALLACE: Actually, we asked, and we asked for Secretary Clinton or one of the top officials to come forward, a national security official. The White House said no.

LIASSON: Dennis Blair, or -- yeah.

WALLACE: No. No. I mean, let me pivot this argument a little bit with you, Bill. As you read the memos and you learn what we did and how top Justice Department officials justified it, are you struck by how brutal we were or how careful we were?

KRISTOL: How careful. I mean, has any other country at war gotten memos from the Justice Department -- extremely carefully reasoned, I would say, especially the Steve Bradbury 2005 memos -- before going ahead and trying to deal with a rather small number of terrorists who had been involved in murdering thousands of Americans and were very much intending to do more of that?

I think -- you know, you read those memos. You think, "That's what everyone's so upset about?"

Look, there are two separate issues here. One is do we need the enhanced interrogation techniques. I don't know. The president decided, right when he took office, that we didn't. I hope he did that really based on a consideration of reality, not based on campaign promises. But he did it. He's entitled to do it. That's what he ordered on January 22nd, I think, right? That's one issue. That's a public policy issue.

The second issue is what happened this week, which is the release of these memos, which I think is simply disgraceful. There is no justification for that. If he wants to order that we not use the techniques, and say, "We've changed policies," and have Attorney General Holder say, "We've withdrawn previous memos," that, I think, is a public policy decision he is more than entitled to make.

To release these memos and to create what's now going to be weeks, months, years of lawsuits and investigations -- I mean, it's really a disgrace to those who -- I mean, to people who, in good faith, tried to and, I think, did defend this country.

I really cannot see what the defense is for releasing the memos. And that's why none of them is out here. That's why the people who are defending this today are political operatives, not national security officials in the Obama administration.

WILLIAMS: Well, I think the president is out there. He's issued a statement with it. He said he regarded it as a dark chapter. And I think it's very clear that what you've got here is a situation where you had lawyers in the Justice Department trying to create rationales for what they knew were activities that were in contravention of our standards and the Geneva rules of war.

I mean, they knew this, and so they're in the -- you know, they're trying to go back and write the rules so that they can do what they want to do in terms of these interrogation techniques. And I think that's -- that sounds like a totalitarian government's justifying its actions...

HUME: But, Juan...

WILLIAMS: ... conveniently. So...

HUME: ... the memos...

WILLIAMS: Let me just finish, Brit -- that I think that what you've got here is a situation where the president says, "We're going to end the use of these devices, some of them are already known, but you know what? We shouldn't be engaged in torture. It's just wrong."

HUME: Juan, that's -- Juan, that's -- that train left a long time ago. These practices were ended. The Obama administration reaffirmed that they are ended.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

HUME: So please explain to me, if you can, what are the positive benefits now, years later, to releasing these memos with all the specificity about what was done, allowing those who might attack us to know what may or may not be used against them.

WILLIAMS: Well, I think it...

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: Well, let me -- let me answer.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Go ahead, Bill.

KRISTOL: No, no, one other question, which is how do you not release more memos. There's a 2007 memo that, in light of Supreme Court cases and other developments in 2006, gives new guidance to the CIA. There's a lot of information about what was happening.

WALLACE: OK. OK. Now let's let him answer.

KRISTOL: How do we keep anything secret now?

WILLIAMS: Well, let me just say that this does -- this does have -- and it speaks to some of what we heard this morning from the two of you -- it does have the effect of saying, "You know what? In terms of more inflammatory and erroneous assumptions about what Americans have done in the past, it's off the table, because we're telling you exactly what we did." And some, as you may assume -- you know what? This isn't as bad as we feared.

And secondly, in answer to your comment about, you know, from -- we're trying to make friends in...

WALLACE: Brussels.

WILLIAMS: ... in Brussels and Berlin, and all that, don't you think it speaks, first of all, to the very nature of the terrorists, who think the worst of us, and think that we are monsters, to say, "No, we don't engage in these activities," and to protect our military men and women from that kind of treatment.

HUME: Do you seriously think that some Al Qaida terrorist, having captured an American, will be more merciful in the treatment of that American because of this?

WILLIAMS: No. I'm saying to you those -- listen, those people will chop your head off in a second, Brit.

HUME: There you go.

WILLIAMS: But what I'm saying to you is they will also know that we don't operate by their rules and they don't set the terms of engagement for us as Americans, that we don't live by standards of torture.

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: Wait a minute. Hold on a second. What are the positive benefits of that?

WILLIAMS: What are the positive benefits...

HUME: How does it work? Of their knowing that -- how does that benefit us?

WILLIAMS: Listen, it's not a matter of their knowing. They know that we are decent and we are law-abiding.

HUME: And how does that help, to have them -- have them...

WILLIAMS: How does that help?

HUME: How does that -- how does it help...

WILLIAMS: Because I think that...

HUME: ... for terrorists to think that?

WILLIAMS: I think that they...

HUME: Doesn't it -- doesn't it just simply make it...

LIASSON: Well, as a recruiting tool, the argument is that they can...

HUME: Oh, it's a recruiting tool?

LIASSON: Yeah. Well, look, that...

HUME: Where's the evidence of that?

LIASSON: Look, the image of the U.S. in the world does count. On a practical level, the question is can now terrorists kind of train themselves to resist everything that they know we're going to use or not.

KRISTOL: But also it's not over. I just want -- Director Panetta in his own letter to the CIA employees, desperately trying to reassure them, said, "This is not over. It's not the end of the road on these issues. More requests will come."

The idea that the ACLU is going to say, "Oh, fine, now we know everything. OK, that chapter is over" -- ludicrous. They're going to say, "We want to see all the other memos. We want the details of what happened...

WILLIAMS: What happened...

KRISTOL: ... what happened in mid-2002...

WILLIAMS: If the courts allow it.

KRISTOL: ... before the memos."

WILLIAMS: If the courts allow it, but...

KRISTOL: How does the Obama administration say no? They revealed all the secrets.

WILLIAMS: The Obama administration said we're going to...

WALLACE: The controversy isn't over, but this conversation is over. Thank you all. See you next week.

And don't forget to check out the latest edition of Panel Plus, where our group keeps it going on our Web site. You'll certainly want to watch it today -- foxnews.com/fns, right after the show ends.

Up next, our Power Player of the Week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: If an event in Washington is really important, chances are she'll be there. She's not a politician or some media celebrity. No, she's D.C.'s very own diva and our Power Player of the Week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRAVES: It is, I would say, the greatest honor of my career.

WALLACE: Denyce Graves was talking about singing at the Lincoln Memorial last Sunday on the 70th anniversary of Marian Anderson's concert there after she was barred from Constitution Hall because of the color of her skin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIAN ANDERSON: My country ‘tis of thee...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIAN ANDERSON: Sweet land of liberty, for thee we sing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRAVES: I don't think that many of those things would have happened had it not been for Marian Anderson. So she's sort of the grandmother for all these, you know, great African American opera singers.

WALLACE: Graves is not only a great singer...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAVES: ... of the brave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: ... she has become a national treasure. When the pope came to Washington, she sang for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GRAVES: We are one in the spirit, we are one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: When they held a national prayer service after 9/11, she was there.

GRAVES: But I still get very, very nervous, whether I'm performing for the pope or if I'm performing for my mother's church. For me, the responsibility is the same.

WALLACE: Graves was raised by a church-going single mother near a sewage treatment plant in Washington.

What did you dare to allow yourself to dream back then?

She says her mother provided inspiration and encouragement.

GRAVES: When we were children, she'd read us a story and she wouldn't finish it. She'd say, "OK, now, you finish -- you finish the ending." And she always told us that we could do whatever it is that we wanted to do, and we didn't -- we didn't know not to believe that. We just believed that.

WALLACE: Later, she would hear a recording of Leontyne Price. It was a revelation.

GRAVES: I thought, "I want to be just like her." And I didn't know that I couldn't do that.

WALLACE: By 2000, Graves was an international star, when her vocal cords hemorrhaged and she had to have throat surgery.

How scared?

GRAVES: I was out of my mind. I mean, I thought that was it. That was just a death sentence. That was the end of it.

WALLACE: She spent months recovering, staying silent most of the time.

Wasn't one of your first big performances back...

GRAVES: It was the first.

WALLACE: ... the National Prayer Service? You're going to be there before the entire world and you don't know what's going to come...

GRAVES: I didn't know what was going to happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAVES: ... from sea to shining sea.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GRAVES: I consider myself to be fortunate in that I do something that I enjoy, that I think makes me a better human being, and that brings beauty into the lives of people. So I'm grateful to be living the life that I -- that I lead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Denyce Graves is also a big sports fan. Last year she sang at the opening of the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium. And she says she got a lot of calls from old friends who would never watch her sing opera.

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

 

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