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Debating Obama at Notre Dame; Sen. McConnell

Debating Obama at Notre Dame; Sen. McConnell

By Fox News Sunday - May 17, 2009

WALLACE: Joining us now, two members of the church with sharply different views. Father Richard McBrien, a professor of theology at Notre Dame, supports the decision to honor the president. Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, has been leading protests against Mr. Obama.

Gentlemen, as we said, Notre Dame has a long history of inviting presidents to speak there. Back in 2001, George W. Bush , the new president, spoke. And of course, as governor of Texas, that state had conducted 152 executions, which the church condemns. Father Pavone, can't Notre Dame invite a president of the United States to speak without signing on to all of his policies?

PAVONE: We're not here disagreeing with the president because he contradicts Catholic teaching or what it means to be Catholic. The problem is he contradicts what it means to be president.

This is about abortion. And in 2008 there were 37 executions. Just today there will be 37 babies at 21 weeks of gestation or more -- the size of a large banana -- dismembered, crushed, thrown in the garbage. And the president is not raising his voice, recognizing their right to be protected. That's the problem.

WALLACE: Father McBrien, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says that abortion is a, quote, "intrinsic evil." Doesn't that put it in a -- in a different category and make it even more unacceptable than other policies that go against church teachings?

MCBRIEN: Sure, an intrinsic evil is worse than other what I call run-of-the-mill evils, but all of them are evils, and we can't let people off the hook just because they differ with the Catholic Church's official teaching on something which we regard as an intrinsic evil.

There are many things that the Catholic Church opposes as evils. And evil is evil whether it's intrinsic or not.

WALLACE: But, Father McBrien, one of the issues here -- Father Pavone says it isn't just about Notre Dame, it's about President Obama as president.

But one of the issues here is what does it mean to be a Catholic university. In 2004, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said this, "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles." And yet President Obama's honorary degree to be awarded to him today says he is inspiring this nation to heal its divisions of religion, culture, race and politics in the audacious hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Father McBrien, Notre Dame's president says that this isn't an endorsement of Obama. It sure sounds like one.

MCBRIEN: Well, there's another sentence in that statement of the American bishops that should be quoted, and it said that those individuals should not be given awards, honors or platforms which suggest support for their actions.

And Father Jenkins, our president, has made it very clear that the honorary degree and inviting the president of the United States to address our graduates in no way suggests support for all of his positions, including his position on abortion and on embryonic stem cell research.

However, there are other -- there are other positions he has taken, whether it's on immigration or poverty or whatever, which are entirely consistent with Catholic social teaching.

In fact, Mike -- I mean, Chris -- I'm talking about your dad -- in fact, Chris, if we required 100 percent agreement with the Catholic Church's official teaching from everyone who speaks at or gets an honorary degree from a Catholic university, we would then not have any politicians of either party.

WALLACE: Father Pavone, do you think that Notre Dame inviting the president to speak at the commencement and to receive this honorary degree -- and we just quoted from it. Do you think in some sense that endorses his position on a variety of issues, including abortion and stem cell research?

PAVONE: Well, it certainly says that we're honoring this man. Now, I don't think there's anybody in human history that you can say they don't have some positions right.

But all of us can think of positions that someone could take that would make us say they shouldn't be invited to speak at a Catholic university -- for example, suppose they were an avowed racist or an advocate of terrorism.

The problem here is that we're trivializing abortion, and -- but the people are speaking out. People are getting angry that 1.2 million children are being aborted every year. Now, this honorary doctorate today is a law degree. Law is for the protection of human rights.

The president admitted on the campaign trail he doesn't know when the child gets human rights. How can you defend human rights if you don't know who has them?

WALLACE: Let's talk about the president's policy since he's come into office, though, Father Pavone. He said in his last news conference that he's trying to, quote, "tamp down the anger over abortion."

Now, while he supports choice, he has brought pro-life advocates into the White House to talk about trying to decrease unwanted pregnancies and to increase adoptions.

While he has lifted the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, he has also limited that just to embryos that would have been discarded anyway from fertility clinics.

Do you see him in any way tamping down, trying to reach some kind of accommodation here?

PAVONE: Chris, can you imagine somebody saying about the clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church that we should reduce the numbers of those instances but that it shouldn't be illegal?

We have to protect children. He's refusing to recognize that these children have rights. Now, I've held aborted children. I've buried them. I've picked up the broken fragments of their skulls. I don't know if Father McBrien has done that.

But the people around this country are tired of trivializing abortion. They're tired of mixed messages coming from Catholic institutions that are supposed to have a pro-life mission. We're tired of looking at abortion as just on an equal level with other issues. It's not.

And we're calling on the president to recognize that he doesn't have the authority to do anything except to strive to protect these children's rights, and he's denying that they even have them.

WALLACE: Father McBrien, do you feel that in any sense -- do you give President Obama any credit for, in a sense, trying to tamp down the anger, or -- and how to you intend to respond to the argument that the church says that the killing of children can never be justified? Doesn't that mean what it says?

MCBRIEN: Well, yes. And I agree with Father Pavone that we should never trivialize the outcome of abortions. I mean, they -- the outcome is always very, very ultimate. It's serious.

But there are other life issues that we also have to take into account. And beyond that, we have to also acknowledge that the approach that has been taken by a number in the so-called pro-life movement, which is really a pro-birth movement, has not worked.

We're looking to reduce, significantly reduce, the number of abortions. They were -- they were reduced under President Bill Clinton. They were increased under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush .

So it's not a question of a Democratic policy or a Republican policy. It's a question of identifying the causes that lead women to feel they have no alternative but to have an abortion and to deal with those issues, to deal with poverty, to deal with child care, to deal with all the issues that make abortion more attractive, if you will, or more compelling for many women who otherwise would not have an abortion.

WALLACE: Gentlemen, we've got less than two minutes left. With anything a president does, there's always a political component. I want to put up the latest Gallup poll which is interesting because for the first time in the history of Gallup surveys, it finds more Americans calling themselves pro-life than pro-choice.

Father McBrien -- and I'm going to ask you both quickly to speak to this.

Father McBrien, how do you explain that?

MCBRIEN: I can't explain it. I'm not a pollster. But I'm pro- life, too. But my pro-life position, like the U.S. Catholic bishops in their official statements every four years prior to a presidential election, includes a whole spectrum of life issues.

So when one says one is pro-life, we have to be careful that it is not confined to pro-birth, that it is pro-life across the whole spectrum from conception to death.

WALLACE: And, Father Pavone, you get the last word. How do you explain that for the first time in its history, Gallup now finds more Americans describing themselves as pro-life than pro-choice?

PAVONE: Chris, it's easy to explain. I travel to four states a week as director of Priests for Life, which is the church's largest pro-life ministry, and I see the women and men who have had abortions speaking out in the Silent No More awareness campaign saying, "Hey, I regret my abortion. I regret killing my child."

The pain is making more people pro-life. And also, these young students, including those that invited me here today to lead them in an alternate commencement ceremony -- they're aware, Chris, that they're survivors of abortion. It's very personal to them.

They were not protected when they were unborn. And today they're saying that that's got to change for our unborn brothers and sisters. We've lost thousands. We've lost friends. We've lost classmates. And they're speaking up all across the country.

The nation is becoming more and more pro-life because they're realizing a policy like we have, abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, is just not where the American people are today. It's not where they've ever been. The president's position on this is in the minority.

WALLACE: And, Father Pavone, very quickly, because you are going to be leading this alternative ceremony during the graduation in the grotto, a prayer vigil -- very briefly, the 2,600 students receiving graduate or undergraduate degrees -- how many do you expect to boycott the ceremony and come to your service?

PAVONE: That's a good question. I haven't heard any numbers, Chris. But I know that the ones who will be there represent a change that is coming across this country. We're going to see more of this in the months and years to come.

WALLACE: Father Pavone, Father McBrien, we want to thank you both so much. Thanks for helping us understand what the debate at Notre Dame today is all about.

Up next, Washington's most powerful Republican on how the GOP stays in the game with Democrats controlling the White House and Congress. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Joining us now is the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell .

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

MCCONNELL: Glad to be here, Chris.

WALLACE: We now have a direct confrontation between the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi , and the Central Intelligence Agency over whether the CIA lied to Congress. How should we get to the bottom of this?

MCCONNELL: Well, we know there's a dispute about -- between the speaker and the CIA over what she knew and when she knew it.

What we know also -- what we know for sure is that the CIA and our armed forces have kept us safe since 9/11. They've done a great job. And I think we should be applauding not only their efforts but the efforts of the armed forces.

With regard to your direct question about how to get at it, we have intelligence committees in the House and the Senate. They are good at having these kinds of inquiries. My own view is what is the point in going back and trying to figure out who knew what when. I think we know a good deal about this already.

WALLACE: But don't you think when you've got the number three constitutional officer behind the president and the vice president accusing the CIA of lying to Congress, which is a crime -- don't you think we need to find out whether -- who's telling the truth?

MCCONNELL: Well, I think the intelligence committees can do that, and there's no question that you've got a dispute here between the speaker and the CIA.

You know, I've -- the -- I've got it here in my pocket. I know you want short answers, but the -- the response of the -- of the CIA director was pretty specific. "Our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA employees briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing the enhanced techniques that had been employed."

I mean, we know what the CIA believes. And the speaker apparently disagrees with them. And I think the best way to resolve the dispute, if it's to be resolved, is through the intelligence committees.

WALLACE: If it turns out that Speaker Pelosi is wrong and has misled the country about what the CIA did in alleging that CIA lied to the Congress, should she step down?

MCCONNELL: Look, I'm not going to start answering a hypothetical like that. I think the speaker clearly has a problem here with the CIA, and at some point we'll find out what the truth is.

WALLACE: The Senate is taking up a spending bill this week, and one of the big issues for you, I know, is a Democratic proposal to provide $80 million to shut down the prison at Guantanamo, conditioned on the administration coming up with a plan on what to do with the detainees.

Will you support that provision?

MCCONNELL: Well, I think we ought to leave Guantanamo open. It's a $200 million state-of-the-art facility. No one has ever escaped from there. It has courtrooms for the military commissions trials which the president has now correctly, in my view, decided, you know, maybe that's a good way to try some of these terrorists after all.

My view is it's the perfect place for them. We know how Americans feel about them coming here. Two years ago, I offered an amendment on the floor of the Senate giving the Senate an opportunity to express itself on the question of whether or not terrorists should come to the United States. It was 94-3 against.

WALLACE: There are two specific issues here, assuming that you are going to close Guantanamo, as the president says that he wants to -- first, whether detainees can be tried and imprisoned in the U.S. -- we have done that in the case of a number of terrorists -- secondly, whether any detainees should be released, set free, in the U.S.

And I want to have you listen to what Attorney General Holder said about that this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: In making determinations about the release, transfer, of the people at Guantanamo, the thing that's going to guide this administration more than anything is the safety of the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator McConnell, don't you trust the attorney general?

MCCONNELL: Look, this whole thing has been about making us popular in Europe. We know how the American people feel about it. Correctly, they don't want them in their neighborhoods.

And you know, there's been a position stated by some in the administration that there's no problem incarcerating terrorists here. It is a problem.

Ask the mayor of Alexandria. They had the Moussaoui trial there a few years ago. It created significant disruptions. In addition to that, it makes whatever town that has the terrorist a potential target for terrorists.

There's no reason in the world to bring these people to the United States. I don't think there's a community in America that's going to be interested in taking them.

The president made a mistake by picking a date certain to close Guantanamo. He's changed his mind about a number of things. This is one, I think, that requires an adjustment in his position because I think he -- Chris, he's going to have a very difficult time figuring out what to do with these terrorists.

WALLACE: We expect President Obama to announce a Supreme Court nominee in the next week or two. Are you prepared to commit right now that you will oppose a filibuster of his choice?

MCCONNELL: What I'm prepared to say to the president, as I said to him in a meeting the other day with Senator Sessions, is that what we are looking for, we meaning Republicans in the Senate are looking for, is a nominee who will apply the law without partiality.

Each federal judge takes an oath to apply the law to both the rich and the poor. Their personal views ought to be irrelevant. I think Chief Justice Roberts had it right during his confirmation hearings.

He said the -- a judge ought to be like an umpire -- call the balls and strikes but don't make the rules. That's the kind of individual we're looking for. We know it will be someone of the political left. But a number of leftist judges have been able to put aside their personal views and call it like they see it.

WALLACE: But are you ruling out a filibuster or are you leaving that possibility open?

MCCONNELL: Under the rules of the Senate, all things are possible.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that, though, because back in 2005, when Democrats were blocking President Bush's nominees, you were prepared to impose the nuclear option which would block filibusters, and I want to put up what you said so eloquently at the time.

MCCONNELL: Yeah.

WALLACE: "Regardless of party, any president's judicial nominees, after full debate, deserve a simple up-or-down vote." So if filibusters were wrong under President Bush, shouldn't they be wrong under President Obama?

MCCONNELL: Well, the Senate rejected my advice, and the Senate is a place that frequently operates on precedent. So I think the Senate deliberately decided not to take a position one way or the other.

And as you know, we did have to have a cloture vote on Justice Alito, which the president, by the way, opposed. In other words, he opposed...

WALLACE: Shutting off debate.

MCCONNELL: ... shutting off debate on Justice Alito. So the president himself has indicated that all options are open.

But I think it is way premature, Chris, to be predicting what kind of procedural moves will be taken when we haven't even seen the nomination yet.

WALLACE: Yesterday, President Obama's former campaign manager, David Plouffe, sent an e-mail to supporters that I want to put up called "Swiftboating Health Care," that says opponents are pumping millions into deceptive T.V. ads to, quote, "torpedo health care reforms before it sees the light of day by scaring the public and distorting the president's approach."

Senator, are we headed for another battle like the one over "Hillarycare" in 1994?

MCCONNELL: Well, health care is about 16 percent of our economy. It is a big issue. It's extremely important to everyone. All of us care about our own health. We know that health care needs to be made better in this country. There are changes that are needed.

As to whether or not we have a huge fight over this or come together, I think it will depend entirely on what the administration tries to do.

If they want to have a government plan that puts the government between you and your doctor, if they want to establish some kind of national rationing board that basically denies care and delays care, then I think we'll have a huge debate.

On the other hand, there are a whole -- a big, serious debate of differences. On the other hand, there are a whole lot of other things that both sides want to get at -- the problem of the uninsured, for example. I think everybody knows that we need to make progress on that.

So I think prejudging exactly how big a fight this is will depend upon what they try to do.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about what seems to be part of their plan, although I think we'd both agree that it's not very specific at this point. The president says that he wants a public health insurance option...

MCCONNELL: Yeah. WALLACE: ... to compete against private insurance options. Is there any public plan, as just one of a series of -- on the menu, that you could support?

MCCONNELL: Well, that would mean a government plan that would inevitably put the government between you and your doctor, and there would be no more private insurance.

WALLACE: Why?

MCCONNELL: Because the private insurance people will not be able to compete with a government option.

I think the vast majority of Republicans and a number of Democrats will not support a government plan. I think that is exactly what we ought to avoid doing.

I think the president would be wise to put that aside and see if we can't come together on a whole lot of other issues that still avoid having a European-type single-payer system.

WALLACE: Well, just to press the point, Senator Schumer, a Democrat, says, "Look, you can put regulations in that would not allow the public plan to have an unfair advantage." It would have to be the same regulations, it would have to pay the same rates. Or maybe you don't have a single government federal plan, but you have state plans which wouldn't have this huge economy of scale.

Is there any provision there that you see where you say, "Yeah, as a series of options, I could accept a government plan?"

MCCONNELL: Now, that's a bait and switch. What he -- what he really wants to do is create a government plan, and we all know where that leads. None of the private plans will be able to compete, and you'll soon have a single-payer European-type system. They may call it something else, but that's the game plan.

WALLACE: Now, there has been talk -- and again, this is not something they're necessarily going to do, but they have passed a provision that would allow the health care plan to be passed under what's called reconciliation.

I don't want to get too far into the weeds, but very briefly, that's a budget plan that allows it to be passed by a simple majority, not by the super majority of 60 votes. Is that a nuclear option if they do that?

MCCONNELL: Well, I mean, they have that -- they have that option. That's the good news for them. They could pass it with a simple majority, as you suggest.

The bad news is they're going to have to pay for it. And they're beginning to look at all the taxes they'd have to raise to raise the $600 billion or so to pay for this.

WALLACE: You're saying if they pass under reconciliation, they can't just pass the plan, they also, because it's a budget plan...

MCCONNELL: They have to pay for it, which means they're going to have massive tax increases across the board on a whole lot of people, and a lot of different entities are going to be affected by this, and so Americans are going to be looking and seeing how their taxes are going up to supply the revenue for a government-operated plan. I don't think that's a good path to take.

WALLACE: Finally -- and we have a couple of minutes left -- I want to talk a little politics with you. I guess we've sort of been talking politics all along here.

Do you have a problem with Dick Cheney stepping up so visibly in opposing President Obama's national security policies and, in a sense, becoming one of the leading voices, faces, of the Republican Party?

MCCONNELL: Well, these are serious issues. And I think it's noteworthy that in the last week the president himself has been adjusting his positions.

He's no longer decided to release additional photos from Abu Ghraib. He has revisited the issue of whether or not the military commissions that we passed a couple of years ago are an appropriate way to try terrorists.

We know he changed his mind in Iraq and decided to follow the advice of the military generals. And we also know that he's now ordered a surge in Afghanistan just like the one that was successful in Iraq.

So I think the administration has responded to the critique of the vice president and others that it might have had the -- might be drifting off in the wrong direction on national security issues.

WALLACE: Do you see that as a vindication for the Bush policies, the fact that the president is adopting some of them?

MCCONNELL: Absolutely. I mean, it's no accident that we've been safe since 9/11. The policies of the Bush administration in the war on terror kept us safe since 9/11. It's not in dispute.

WALLACE: And you see what the president is doing as what?

MCCONNELL: I think he's adjusting his sails on all of these issues now that he is president and knows that his -- one of his principal responsibilities is to keep the American people safe.

WALLACE: Finally, your fellow Republican senator from the state of Kentucky, Jim Bunning , is mad at you, I think it's fair to say. He says you don't want him to seek re-election and that while you've given money to other GOP incumbents, you've stiffed him.

You can put this all to rest right now, Senator. I'm going to give you the opportunity. Do you endorse Jim Bunning for re-election?

MCCONNELL: Well, what's happening in Kentucky, obviously, is the race has not yet formed. Senator Bunning has encouraged someone to file an exploratory committee. There are now two exploratory committees. And there's a Democratic primary on the other side. I think it's safe to say the Kentucky Senate race is unfolding.

WALLACE: I didn't hear an endorsement there. You usually endorse as the Senate...

MCCONNELL: Well, it's -- it's just not clear exactly who the players are going to be in Kentucky.

WALLACE: So you're not endorsing him.

MCCONNELL: It's not clear who the players are going to be yet.

WALLACE: I tried.

MCCONNELL: You did.

WALLACE: Senator McConnell, thank you.

MCCONNELL: Thank you.

WALLACE: Thanks for joining us. Please come back, sir.

MCCONNELL: Be glad to.

WALLACE: Up next, our Sunday group tackles the story that has everyone talking, Nancy Pelosi and the CIA accusing each other of not telling the truth. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Madam Speaker, just to be clear, you're accusing the CIA of lying to you in...

NANCY PELOSI: Yes.

QUESTION: ... September of...

NANCY PELOSI: Misleading the Congress of the United States.

QUESTION: And -- and also...

NANCY PELOSI: Misleading the Congress of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Well, that was House Speaker Pelosi this week in a heated news conference escalating her war of words with the CIA.

And it's time for our Sunday group -- Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst, Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Jennifer Loven, a panel first-timer and White House correspondent for Associated Press.

Well, you just heard Pelosi's attack, and late Friday CIA Director Panetta fired back. And I just want to quote it again -- this, incidentally, is what Senator McConnell just read. Let's put it up on the screen.

"Our contemporaneous records from September 2002" -- contemporaneous records -- "indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing the enhanced techniques that had been employed. This, of course, the month after Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times.

Brit, am I over-reading Panetta's memo, or did he just call the speaker a liar?

HUME: The effect of it is to call the speaker a liar after she had done the same toward the CIA. I mean, you really have to ask yourself who you believe, the memories of others who were briefed at the time about what they were told -- Porter Goss, for example, who said yes, he was told that it was going on -- contemporaneous records of the CIA briefers -- or Nancy Pelosi , who acknowledges, by the way, that she was told that such techniques were being contemplated and that the Justice Department lawyers had concluded that they were legal.

We have a whole big flap and potential criminal investigation of those lawyers regarding the judgment that the critiques (sic) were legal. So she knew then that such techniques might be used. She admits that.

And that's sort of because of what -- because she denies she was being told they were, in fact, being used, she's trying to skate past on that alone. I don't know -- I'm not sure I believe her on that either.

But it seems to me on the face of what she's admitted, she knew plenty. And did she do anything about it? Did she object? Did she say, "I'm troubled," to anybody, at any time, "by the prospect that Americans would use what I consider torture on these prisoners?" The answer is no. She did nothing.

Now, of course, she joins the chorus, the pack, who are calling for the scalps of these lawyers and others.

WALLACE: Now, Nina, late Friday, after Panetta fired back pretty darn strongly, especially for a former Democratic congressman, a Clinton White House chief of staff, and Obama's appointee to the CIA, Nancy Pelosi tried to walk back her charge that the CIA lied, and let's put that up on the screen.

She issued this statement. "My criticism of the manner in which the Bush administration did not appropriately inform Congress is separate from my respect for those in the intelligence community who work to keep our country safe." So did she undo the damage there?

EASTON: I think that statement's kind of like the statement that her spokesperson put out a little bit ago about saying well, she tried to fight against these enhanced interrogation techniques by taking the Congress Democratic. That's sort of a stretch.

I think, look, as you pointed out, if she thought Leon Panetta was going to throw her a lifeline, he instead, I think, threw her an anchor. Leon Panetta's not a CIA careerist. He's an Obama appointee. He's a Democratic pol.

The CIA, in addition to that statement, released a 10-page memo listing all the briefings. She's the first name. She's in the first briefing, according to this, in which it said techniques that have been deployed.

But look, I also think this is a bigger story than Nancy Pelosi . She's been caught parsing her story, but, you know, the other names that are all over that -- the briefing memo are Senator Jay Rockefeller, former Senator Nelson of Florida. There are a lot of other Democrats who were in those meetings -- Jane Harman , who did raise objections, by the way.

And so I think it's a broader story for the Democrats right now.

KRISTOL: I'm very struck by the fact that Leon Panetta, the CIA director, refers to contemporaneous records backing up the memo they had released saying that they had briefed about the enhanced interrogation techniques. I'd like to see the records. That's my view.

These things have been released in extraordinary circumstances before. The Bush administration released the August 6th, 2001 presidential briefing -- remember, the CIA briefing of the president that warned about the possible impending attack under pressure of what...

WALLACE: Al Qaida wants to -- in front of the 9/11 commission. KRISTOL: Right, and there was a lot of pressure. What did Bush know? When did he know it? And they relieve -- that was released.

Obviously, the Obama administration released the legal memos from 2002 and 2005. I've been in CIA briefings when I was in government, not on the congressional side but in the White House. People don't just stroll in with a note card and some notes, you know. They have briefing materials prepared.

And I'm sure there are briefing materials in the files, a PowerPoint presentation or something, that would be very interesting to see.

WALLACE: And what...

KRISTOL: And there's no secret anymore, so release the Pelosi PowerPoints.

WALLACE: And hat if...

KRISTOL: That's my -- that's my...

WALLACE: ... it turns out that Pelosi's wrong and that she was told that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times last month?

KRISTOL: Well, it's pretty shocking, actually, for a speaker of the House to accuse the CIA -- she cannot pretend it's the Bush administration. These briefings are done by career CIA employees. The Bush administration didn't order them what to say.

Now, they can release the contemporaneous documents and maybe there's an e-mail from Dick Cheney saying, "Make up some stuff to brief Pelosi on." But I don't believe there -- I'd be surprised if there were.

And that's another reason to release the contemporary records. If the speaker of the House is accusing the CIA career employees of knowingly lying to Congress, which is a crime, and if she is proven to be herself making a false charge, you know, I think that's a pretty serious thing.

WALLACE: Jennifer, the president was already opposed to Pelosi's call for this so-called truth commission, and it was notable on Friday that from the -- from the White House podium Robert Gibbs did nothing to throw her a lifeline or to get involved in this at all. Where are they on Pelosi?

LOVEN: Well, you're right. They wanted to keep their distance from that, from what she was saying and from the controversy that it continues.

I think they would like to see this go away. But even more than that, what they would -- what they would like to see is for -- to be disaggregated from Speaker Pelosi and to have her not have taken on a war with the CIA.

President Bush found out just how dangerous it is to go to war with the CIA on any kind of a P.R. matter. It didn't turn out well for President Bush, particularly when you think back to those 16 words in his state of the union speech about seeking uranium in Africa -- Iraq seeking uranium in Africa.

The CIA won that round, and I suspect they'll win this round with Speaker Pelosi, whether they release the records or not.

WALLACE: So you think the White House is just going to hold both their coats and say go at it?

LOVEN: I think what they're -- what they would like to see is for Speaker Pelosi to try to do a better job of making this right. I think Nina is exactly right that the statement she issued Friday night is probably not the end of it, probably does not put to rest her, you know, dispute with the CIA.

But I also think the White House is worried. This is a distraction. It keeps this is in the news. It keeps the story going in a way that isn't particularly helpful and that doesn't -- they also would like to see her, I think, back away more fully -- well, fully -- at all from this idea of a truth commission.

WALLACE: Brit, beyond the substance of what Pelosi said was also her flustered performance during that news conference. Let's watch some of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI: My statement is clear, and let me read it again. Let me read it again. I'm sorry. I have to find the...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And it went on from there. Is this just an embarrassment for Pelosi, or do you think she's in any real trouble?

HUME: It's an embarrassment for Pelosi. I don't think her speakership is in jeopardy at the moment. But I think this about it: Getting into this kind of a scrap with an element of our national security apparatus -- in this case the CIA -- is the kind of thing that Democrats over a long period of time have had a tendency to do.

It's always the Democrats who seem more interested in investigating what our military is doing. It's always the Democrats who seem more interested in cutting the funding for national defense and so on.

Democrats have a sort of a reputation in this country of being soft on these issues, of being at times even anti-defense. It is politically very dangerous. It has gotten them in trouble in national election after national election.

This feeds that stereotype which, like most stereotypes, has the -- has a basis in truth. And this is just one more conspicuous example of that same tendency. And in this case it's obviously led to -- it's gotten -- it's caused real trouble.

WALLACE: All right. We have to step aside for a moment, but we're going to pick up on what Brit said.

When we come back, the president and national security -- some supporters are furious about his recent decisions. Some opponents are delighted. We'll sort it out with the panel in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: On this day in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. The ruling declared racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This legal black hole has substantially set back America's ability to lead the world against the threat of terrorism and undermined our most basic values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: That was candidate Obama last June attacking the Bush military tribunals on the campaign trail. But now President Obama has decided to continue a revamped version of those same military commissions.

And we're back now with Brit, Nina, Bill and Jennifer.

So, Jennifer, what happened? I know that they have made some changes to try to provide more legal protections for the defendants, but Why this really quite extraordinary U-turn on the military commissions by President Obama?

LOVEN: Well, I think you have to look at it on two levels. The first level is the details. When you go back through then Senator Obama's record, what he supported, what he didn't, on military commissions, what he is talking about doing here is pretty consistent with what he said he wanted and what he supported as a senator.

That said, his rhetoric on the campaign trail was a little fuzzy, and so his supporters, particularly those on the left in the -- in the base of the Democratic Party, heard what they wanted to hear, which was he's going to get rid of them entirely.

WALLACE: Well, legal black hole sounds pretty sweeping.

LOVEN: Right, but he -- one of the things he said when he was a candidate was, "I'm going to oppose the act." That's the legislation that was passed under President Bush. It was the legislation that came after the one that then-Senator Obama supported.

But here's where I think the potential problem really comes -- is that it came in a week when he decided not to release these photos of abuse by U.S. personnel of detainees in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the narrative becomes oversimplified.

And so you stop putting together all the pieces of each one, talking about the details of each one, and the narrative, particularly for his most ardent supporters, is that he is turning against them.

WALLACE: Bill, as we say, the president made clear he's reforming the military commissions. Let's put up on the screen what some of those reforms are.

Statements from enhanced interrogations will be banned. Hearsay evidence will be limited. And defendants will have more latitude in choosing lawyers.

Are those serious changes, or are those basically -- are these basically going to be the same Bush military tribunals?

KRISTOL: Yeah, I like to call them the same Bush-Cheney military tribunals, just to rub it in a little bit with the left.

No, they're cosmetic changes. Hearsay evidence will still be permitted. There was already good -- they already got first-rate lawyers. Half the prestigious law firms -- all the prestigious law firms (inaudible) the country were letting their lawyers do pro bono work for these...

WALLACE: Yeah, but now they'll get a choice of which...

KRISTOL: ... terrorists.

(CROSSTALK)

They can choose the prestigious lawyer from Covington or from, you know, Skadden, I guess. And you know, lawyers I've talked to think this is very little different.

Incidentally, he's going to disappoint his supporters more because he has not ruled out preventive detention for some of those who have been captured, which means they will get neither the Article III court, the criminal trial, nor the military commission.

Some people are not going to be able to be tried, and he's going to hold them, and the only thing different is that he intends to hold them at Leavenworth instead of Guantanamo.

And I'm not sure he's going to reverse -- not going to reverse on that, because I think at some point the American public says, "So you're holding these people, and you're closing a $200 million state- of-the-art facility to move them 1,000 or 2,000 miles to a new facility we're going to have to build? For what? What's the point..."

HUME: In the United States.

KRISTOL: "What's the point of that?" So I think there are more reversals to come.

WALLACE: And then, as Jennifer pointed out, Nina, there was the president's flip this week. He had said a couple of weeks ago he was not going to fight the court case. He was going to release what apparently is going to be thousands of photographs of alleged prisoner abuse, detainee abuse, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And now he says no, he's not going to release them and he's going to fight the court case. Why that flip?

EASTON: Well, he's got -- I think he's got an uphill legal battle on that one, and so the -- I think the question on that is does he control the direction of the outcome of that.

I mean, it could be that he ended up infuriating the base and he doesn't win in court anyway. Legal people tell me that the odds of the Supreme Court even reviewing that are not high. So he's got that to contend with.

And don't forget the other piece of this is Afghanistan. There's people on the left that are furious that he's sending more troops into Afghanistan that want to set a timetable, that want to set benchmarks.

So you do -- as Jennifer said, it's a narrative. There is more of this narrative that is piecing together. And I would go back also to the campaign. You saw parts of this narrative coming out when he supported giving telecommunications companies immunity in the wiretapping case. That upset a lot of the left. So you know, you saw hints of this during the campaign.

WALLACE: So, Brit, let me ask you the question I asked Senator McConnell. Is it fair to say that the Obama White House is moving towards and in some sense vindicating the Bush war on terror?

HUME: Well, unmistakably. How can -- there's no other way to see it. What you have here is a president trying to make peace with the reality that he has found now that he's in the office he ran for, having said all these things about what he was going to do regarding Gitmo and the -- and the treatment of prisoners and all of that.

And he's finding that the last administration grappled with this and did the best it could with a -- with a legally murky situation, and now he's finding that some of the things he moved to do didn't turn out so well.

The release of those memos, I think, backfired and set off a firestorm that even he then ended up trying to quell.

In addition, the decision -- the announcement that he was going to close Guantanamo has left him with no other good options. And I think he's finally decided, "OK, I'm out on this limb already too far. I'm not going any farther."

And now you see him basically reversing his positions. And it seems to me he deserves credit for doing that, and it's encouraging to see him bucking his base, something that was questionable for a long time if he would ever be willing to do. Now he's doing it. Presidents always have to on the tough issues, particularly national security.

WALLACE: Jennifer, as somebody who sits in the front row in the White House briefings, how would they respond to the -- to the assertion that they are vindicating and -- and in fact, falling into line with the Bush policies?

LOVEN: I think they -- I think they would say two things. They would say that they think this is a gamble worth taking, to be seen on both sides of many issues, particularly on national security, that that's going to play well with the public at large.

And if it doesn't play well with their base right now, they would also say, although they would not say this publicly, that it may be a very good time to be angering folks at the ACLU and other groups on the left when they're about to drop a Supreme Court nominee.

KRISTOL: (inaudible) be nicer to the Obama administration than Jennifer. Maybe he's doing what he thinks is right for the country.

I mean, General Odierno told Secretary Gates, apparently, and (inaudible) directly told the president that releasing these photos would be incredibly dangerous in Iraq and could -- there's an Iraqi election campaign going on. It could stir up sentiments that would make it much harder for us to complete the mission for which we've sacrificed so much in Iraq.

And maybe the president, to his credit, listened to his generals and decided that his initial instinct, which was to approve the release of the photos -- I mean, you'd like to have a system where he listened to the generals, and there was a strong enough national security adviser to make this case early on.

But in any case, he listened to the generals and he reversed himself because he thought, "You know what? This will endanger our national security interests." (inaudible) this case will be accepted by the Supreme Court. They're not going to deny cert to the U.S. Justice Department on a case of this magnitude, on the photos...

WALLACE: And of a national security argument.

KRISTOL: ... I believe. And incidentally, he can -- in fact, it's only a question of what -- of interpreting the Freedom of Information Act. Obama can issue an executive order, I think, to prevent the photos from going out.

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

And don't forget to check out the latest edition of Panel Plus where our group here keeps arguing on our Web site, foxnews.com/fns, shortly after the show ends.

Time now for some mail. And after last week's interviews with General David Petraeus and Newt Gingrich, some are already thinking about the next presidential election.

Fran Opdyke from Las Vegas, Nevada writes, "Is it too early to propose a Newt-Petraeus ticket in 2012?"

But Bernard Houston from New York City had another suggestion. "I noted that Gingrich, when mentioning up-and-coming Republicans avoided including Governor Sarah Palin . Republicans and Democrats are all afraid of her charisma, smarts, looks and real conservative philosophy."

Be sure to let us know your thoughts by e-mailing us at fns@foxnews.com.

Up next, our Power Player of the Week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Its mission is nothing less than the increase and diffusion of knowledge. That may sound daunting, but it's what our Power Player of the Week has been doing all her life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STONESIFER: Those are the kinds of iconic symbols of our -- that help us remember our history, examine our history, that the Smithsonian collection represents.

WALLACE: Patty Stonesifer is chair of the Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum and research complex headquartered on the National Mall.

STONESIFER: ... knowledge in collections that are in 19 museums and the zoo.

WALLACE: With 137 million objects ranging from the Wright brothers' plane to Archie Bunker's chair, it's often called the nation's attic. Stonesifer disagrees.

STONESIFER: In the attic you keep the things that aren't so important. In the living room you treasure and display the items that are. So we like to think of it as America's treasures.

WALLACE: But that was overshadowed two years ago by stories that Lawrence Small, the man running the institution day to day, spent $2 million on housing and office expenses.

Why did the Smithsonian have a period of scandal?

STONESIFER: Well, any institution that's 160 years old has a series of ups and downs. And we had a recent down.

WALLACE: Small was forced out, and Stonesifer took over the board of regents, promising reform.

STONESIFER: All of the regents have signed on to a new job description, a level of engagement that brings us much closer to the institution...

WALLACE: The Smithsonian should get much better publicity starting next Friday with the release of a sequel to "Night at the Museum."

STONESIFER: And if we can reach the kids of America, and maybe kids around the globe, to activate their imaginations about what a night at the Smithsonian would be like -- if a movie like this can help cause that kind of diffusion of knowledge, then we're all for it.

WALLACE: Patty Stonesifer has been pushing ideas since the ‘80s when she joined Microsoft and became the top woman there.

Was it a bit of a boys club?

STONESIFER: Well, the technology sector writ large is a bit of a boys club.

WALLACE: But that didn't stop Bill and Melinda Gates from making her the head of their foundation in 1997.

In your decade there, how much money did you give away?

STONESIFER: I gave away over $25 billion.

WALLACE: Money that went to fight malaria in Africa, AIDS around the world, and to promote public education in this country.

Stonesifer, who is married to a liberal columnist Michael Kinsley, divides her time between the two Washingtons, D.C. and Seattle. But she says she's always followed the same guiding philosophy.

STONESIFER: All lives can be powerful. I think all of this work comes back to the power of the individual to have a quality of life and an impact with their life in the years ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Patty Stonesifer's experience should come in handy for her next big project, to make the Smithsonian even more special, not just for its 25 million visitors each year, but the 200 million who go on its Web sites.

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

 

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