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General Petraeus; Senators Durbin & Cornyn on "Fox News Sunday"

General Petraeus; Senators Durbin & Cornyn on "Fox News Sunday"

By Fox News Sunday - December 6, 2009

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

President Obama announces a new strategy for Afghanistan. We'll get specifics from the head of U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus, the man who wrote the book on counterinsurgency. It's a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.

Then, the Senate debates health care and considers what to do about the economy. We'll hear from both sides -- Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, and John Cornyn , the head of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee.

Plus, a global warming scandal erupts. We'll ask our Sunday group how accusations of cooking the books will affect the climate change summit.

And our Power Player of the Week, honoring America's greatest performing artists, all right now on "Fox News Sunday."

And hello again from Fox News in Washington. As the U.S. military gets ready to launch a troop surge in Afghanistan, we're joined by the head of U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus, the architect of the last surge in Iraq. He comes to us from CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

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

PETRAEUS: Great to be back, Chris. Thanks.

WALLACE: General, what are the prospects for success with this new surge in Afghanistan? And how do you define success?

PETRAEUS: Well, we define success as -- in Afghanistan, which has security forces that can see to the security of their population, and then governmental structures, many of them traditional, to be sure, but governmental structures that can see to the needs of their population as well.

And of course, that's what we will endeavor to help the Afghans achieve, especially now with the additional resources that have been committed. I think it's important to note, you know, the president, I think, set out to convey two messages. One was a message of resolve. That's the additional forces, additional civilians, additional funding.

Also a message of urgency, though, to get on with it. And that message to Afghan leaders, perhaps to some of us, perhaps to domestic, international audiences, recognizing how long this endeavor has been going on already.

And so with these additional forces, indeed, we want to get on with it and try to achieve those objectives that I just described.

WALLACE: General, how similar is this operation in Afghanistan to the troop surge that you launched in Iraq three years ago? PETRAEUS: Well, certainly, there are some similarities and the -- and the focus again on focusing on the security of the people is an important component of this.

But we have to be very careful to recognize the enormous differences between Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, in 2005, fall of 2005, Secretary Rumsfeld asked me to come home from a second tour in Iraq through Afghanistan to do an assessment of the situation there and the train and equip mission and report back to him.

And I came back and laid out, indeed, the number of differences. This is the time, of course, when the level of violence in Afghanistan was quite low.

But because of the enormous challenges of a country that had been at war already for 30 years, starting out as one of the poorest nations in the world, a country with illiteracy rates that are in the 70 percent range, and a host of other challenges, I said that I thought this might be the longest campaign in what was then called the long war.

And I think that that has been borne out to some degree, although clearly we are now devoting considerably more resources to it. We've tried to get the best people on the ground there on the military and civilian side as well and so forth.

WALLACE: One of the biggest differences, of course, is the fact that President Obama has announced a time line of July 2011 for beginning -- beginning -- to pull troops out of Afghanistan. Of course, George W. Bush , President Bush, refused to do that in the case of Iraq.

What exactly do you understand your orders to be when it comes to starting the withdrawal in July of 2011?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think the president made very clear and then Secretary Gates, if you will, explained that even further in his testimony this past week, emphasizing, as you did, the word "beginning."

That's a mark on the wall out there at which we begin to transition to Afghan security forces some of the security tasks. But it is conditions-based. And you'll remember those words from the Iraq period as well. It is a responsible draw down, again, echoing the president's Iraq policy and how we are drawing down there.

So I think that's -- that is a logical way to approach this. I think that, again, as I mentioned, that message of urgency is represented by that date. And again, that message has a number of different audiences out there, and among them Afghan leaders, perhaps even those of us in uniform.

As you've seen reported today in the newspapers, this moment, during these deliberations, when the president asked if we couldn't do this faster -- you know, can't we pull the bell curve, if you will, to the left -- and it just so happened we had a couple hundred of our logistic planners out in the forward headquarters in Qatar working on that very problem.

And we came back and said that well, you know, that deliberate 18-month deployment plan we had, we could indeed compress that, and that we would absolutely try to get the additional forces on the ground as...

WALLACE: But, General...

PETRAEUS: ... rapidly as we can.

WALLACE: ... I want -- I want to pursue this question about what the time line means and what it doesn't mean about July 2011. On that date, do you have any orders on how many troops to pull out and how fast?

PETRAEUS: No, not at all. No. In fact, as the secretary explained, this would be a district-by-district, as the conditions obtain, as the security situation is sufficient for the Afghan security forces that will be working hard to develop are capable of taking on those tasks.

So you know, it is important to remember also that in Iraq at a certain point, I did say in December of 2007 -- I announced this in September in the testimony, that in December 2007, we would start to transition tasks to the Iraqi security forces in that case as well.

WALLACE: But, General, would it be fair to say that based on conditions on the ground as you find them in July of 2011 that there could be tens of thousands of U.S. troops still in Afghanistan for some years?

PETRAEUS: Well, conditions-based, certainly. And again, there's no -- there's no time line, no ramp, nothing like that.

Again, I think it's very important to note, as many have observed, this is not -- this doesn't trigger a rush to the exits. It triggers a beginning of transition to Afghan security forces and, over time, a beginning of transition of tasks to Afghan governmental elements as well.

WALLACE: But some of your colleagues in -- your former colleagues in the Bush White House say that setting any kind of time line is delivering exactly the wrong message to the Afghans, which is, in effect, don't throw your lot in with the Americans because they're going to leave and the Taliban is still going to be around.

And you talk about testimony in 2007. In September of 2007, you very much opposed the idea of a time line. Let's watch, sir.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETRAEUS: Our experience in Iraq has repeatedly shown that projecting too far into the future is not just difficult, it can be misleading and even hazardous.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WALLACE: General, honestly, would you have preferred no time line to be set publicly?

PETRAEUS: Well, you know, we actually had a discussion of this and allowed as how there's some benefits to a time line. And again, that's why I emphasized up front these twin messages which I don't see as being mutually exclusive at all, although there is undeniably some tension between them.

And to those, to the Taliban, to others who impute too much to that date, I would caution that they again should re-read the president's speech, should read the secretary's testimony, because it makes quite clear there the level of resolve, that other message, and that this will be conditions-based, responsible, and a transition starting, but not a race to the exits.

WALLACE: General, I want to do a lightning round, if I can, with you, quick questions and quick answers. According to a long story in today's New York Times, a kind of tick-tock of the three months of deliberations, on November 11th, the president said to you, "What I'm looking for is a surge." Is that true?

PETRAEUS: He -- what he wanted was to pull this bell curve, which showed the deployment of forces, to the left. And that's accurate. And we said that yes, we thought we could indeed compress the time line for deployment.

WALLACE: Did he ever acknowledge to you in any of these meetings that the surge in Iraq was a success?

PETRAEUS: He did, in fact, although I will also tell you that we have spent a lot of time taking the rearview mirrors off the bus and avoiding re-litigating, if you will, you know, past battles and all the rest of this, and focusing to the future. That's what this has been about.

And I think, interestingly, as I think back on this process, this several-month period of deliberations and of pretty intense intellectual discussion about topics and assumptions and concepts, there's a bit of some team-building that took place in all of this as well.

WALLACE: But I -- I -- it is interesting, because, of course, he refused to say during the campaign, and even as president, that the surge was a success. You're saying that in these meetings, he finally acknowledged that.

PETRAEUS: Well, we talked about the elements. In fact, he asked at various times to describe how did reconciliation work. As you know, that was a very important component of the surge. Talk about population security and the various elements of what it was that we did in Iraq.

Again, these were good discussions, and everyone tested each others' thoughts and principles and ideas on this, and these were also very lengthy sessions. You know, for the president to have -- I think it was 10 or even 11, if you count the Oval Office session this last Sunday night, and several of these two and a half to three hours long, that's a lot of really weighty debate that took place right there.

WALLACE: General, I just want to remind you you're under lightning round rules, so we're going to try to get a couple of more quick...

PETRAEUS: You're under lightning round rules, Chris.

WALLACE: That's true. You can do anything you want. You're the commanding general of CENTCOM, sir. Well played.

In the last week, Iran has announced plans to build 10 more uranium sites and also plans to enrich uranium to a higher level, almost to weapons grade.

Given all that, does that change your assessment of the threat that Iran poses -- the threat Iran poses, and also the likelihood -- the speed with which Iran may develop a bomb?

PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, I think a lot of experts have questioned Iran's ability to do anything remotely approaching that.

But second, President Ahmadinejad and the Iranian leaders continue to be the best recruiters for U.S. Central Command as we embark on our security architecture efforts and partnership plans.

They have caused enormous worry and concern by those on the western side of the Gulf. There's a great deal of activity there that was not taking place a couple of years ago and, indeed, it does cause serious concerns about what it is that they have in mind, and -- as do their continued activities to arm, train, fund and direct extremists in Iraq, southern Lebanon, Gaza and, to a degree, western Afghanistan.

WALLACE: And finally, General, you have agreed to speak next May here in Washington at the American Enterprise Institute, where you will be honored, and it has been noted that this will be the first time that you have spoken at a partisan conservative event. Are you dipping your toes in politics, sir?

PETRAEUS: No, not at all. Actually, I -- and, by the way, I've spoken to AEI before. I've spoken to the Heritage Foundation. And I've spoken to elements on the other side of the spectrum.

I stopped voting back in 2002. I have tried to serve the commander in chief, whatever party he was from, and to be an apolitical officer. At times that's difficult when you obviously become associated with a particular policy.

But no, I have been -- I feel very privileged to have served our country in uniform and have no desire whatsoever to seek elective office.

WALLACE: I just have to follow up real quickly. You have decided not to vote in elections? PETRAEUS: When I was promoted to major general, it seemed like a quiet little thing at the time, but it has perhaps taken on some bigger ramifications.

And you know, more recently, I've taken to quoting that country song "What About No Don't You Understand" in answering these kinds of questions.

WALLACE: Well, you know, that country song wasn't written for political reporters in Washington.

(LAUGHTER)

General Petraeus, thank you. We want to thank you so much for joining us today and, sir, the best of luck with your new mission.

PETRAEUS: Thanks very much, Chris. Good to be with you.

WALLACE: Up next, we'll discuss the battle over health care, the economy and climate change with two of the Senate's top leaders. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: We're joined now by two top Senate leaders. John Cornyn of Texas is chairman of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, and Dick Durbin of Illinois is the Senate's number two Democrat.

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

Senator Durbin, despite your close ties to President Obama, you have so far withheld support for his new policy in Afghanistan. Are you prepared today to say whether or not you support his troop surge?

DURBIN: I understand the president took the time to reach this decision after more than seven years. We were at a point where we had to really reassess our strategy.

I'm skeptical as to whether 30,000 more troops will make a difference. We have over 200,000 now when you count NATO forces, American forces and Afghan military forces. But I think at this point the president is moving forward.

The thing that I find encouraging you probably find discouraging, and that is the fact that he has said to the leader of Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai, "There's a limit beyond which we will not leave American troops. We're not going to make Afghanistan a protectorate of the United States. You have to change your government. You have to show that you are willing to stand up and fight for your own country." I think that message is long overdue.

WALLACE: So specifically, you will vote to fund these 30,000 more troops.

DURBIN: Well, I'm going to meet with the president, I'm sure, and have conversations about that deadline which appears to be interpreted different ways by different people.

But I would like to believe by July of 2011 that we will be in a part -- a position, rather, where we're going to see our troops really coming home. That's important to me.

WALLACE: Well, let me just quickly ask you that before I bring Senator Cornyn in, because it seems increasingly clear from what we just heard from General Petraeus and what we've heard earlier this week in congressional testimony from Defense Secretary Gates, they don't think it means much, it's just a beginning, but it says nothing about how quickly or how many.

DURBIN: Well, the pace of our troops coming home, I understand, depends on conditions. We certainly don't want to leave our troops in an unsafe situation.

But for many years now in Iraq, we have been urging the Bush administration for goodness sakes, put a limit to how long we'll stay so that the Iraqis will finally face up to their responsibilities. The same is true today.

You know, if you take a look at Mr. Karzai and his leadership in this country, there's a lot to be desired in terms of the last election and corruption in his government. Are we going to let American soldiers stay there indefinitely while they dither, in Vice President Cheney's words? I don't think we should.

American lives are at stake. And so I want to know, at least from my point of view, what the president's meaning is when he talks about this deadline.

WALLACE: Senator Cornyn, how do you read what General Petraeus, what Defense Secretary Gates, has said? To me, it doesn't seem like it's -- the deadline means very much.

And specifically, I want to ask you, as you understand the plan now, would you and other Republicans support funding for these 30,000 more troops?

CORNYN: I support the president's decision to change the strategy to a counterinsurgency strategy and to add the troops necessary to do what General McChrystal said needs to be done in order to stabilize Afghanistan and protect against a destabilized Pakistan.

What I'm -- I do have some questions about the announced deadline. I hope it is conditions-based because, frankly, I don't see the benefit of telegraphing to our adversaries when we are going to quit and come home.

I don't think that will be the end of our national security interests in the region. And I hope it is conditions-based.

WALLACE: Let's turn to health care reform. President Obama is making an unusual visit to Capitol Hill today to meet, Senator Durbin, with you and your fellow Democrats. Is that a sign that debate on the Senate floor has stalled and that Democrats need another presidential pep talk?

DURBIN: Not at all. We are down -- thanks to Senator Harry Reid 's leadership, we're down to two major issues, abortion and public option. And I think we're coming to closure on those issues. We're likely to come to a vote on the abortion question maybe by tomorrow.

The president is going to come in and urge us to bring this ball across the line, to finish this, as he should. This is an historic opportunity. You have to go back four decades or more to a time when we addressed an issue which has such importance to every family, every business, every individual in America.

And I'm glad the president's coming. It's always good to see him. He's a former colleague of many of us in the Senate, and his counsel and encouragement, I think, will be appropriate.

WALLACE: Senator Cornyn, are Republicans succeeding in dragging out this debate? And what do you think that's accomplishing?

CORNYN: Well, Chris, I regret that the president is going to continue what has been a partisan approach to health care reform.

Obviously, the president and Senate Democrats have made a decision to do it their way without accepting input from Republicans both at the committee level and in the Senate.

And our goal is not just to deal with things only like the public option and the abortion issue, but also to point out that this cuts a half a trillion dollars in Medicare and people cannot on Medicare Advantage, for example, keep what they have as the president promised, that it will actually raise taxes on small businesses during a recession, and it will -- it will limit people's choices to -- in many cases, to a government-run program like Medicaid, which is essentially a health care gulag, because people will not have any choices but to take that poorly performing government-run plan.

WALLACE: Senator Durbin, I know you're going to want to answer a little bit of that, but let me ask you, if you will, in the course of your answer to focus on one specific issue.

As you say, one of the big issues is the public option, and there's a compromise that's out there to try to bridge the gap between the Joe Liebermans and the Blanche Lincolns of the world and some of the more liberal Democrats, which would be to give the states the power to set up their own plans -- give them the power and the money to set up their own plans to create affordable health insurance coverage -- no federal program. Is that something you could support?

DURBIN: I'm looking for an alternative which creates competition for the health insurance companies, because they at this point enjoy a virtual monopoly. People don't have much choice. And they are exempt from antitrust laws, so they can fix prices and allocate markets under the law and do it legally.

I have to say to my friend Senator Cornyn, the Senate Republicans have made such a heroic effort to help the private health insurance companies when it comes to Medicare Advantage.

Despite the fact that we are sending them a $170 billion federal subsidy, the Republicans every day come to the floor and plead with us, "Let this subsidy continue for these private health insurance companies," which enjoy some of the biggest profits in American business and award their CEOs with the highest salaries in American business.

And they come each day without embarrassment and say, "We've got to give them more. We have to stand by these private health insurance companies."

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WALLACE: Well, all right. I'm going to -- I have to give him a chance to respond, but I just -- to get the answer to my question, you say an alternative that provides more competition. Could there be an alternative that is not a federal public option?

DURBIN: There are many alternatives. I have to tell you, you have cited one. There are several others that are being discussed at this point. Bring competition. Give choice to consumers. And I might say to Senator...

WALLACE: But a public option is not -- a federal public option is not...

DURBIN: It's never been a federal public option. The investment at the outset...

WALLACE: It's never been what?

DURBIN: It's never been a federal government agency.

WALLACE: No, I didn't say it was.

DURBIN: Well, at the outset, there would be an investment to start a not-for-profit insurance company.

And I might say to Senator Cornyn -- I'm not sure if he's one, but most of us in the Senate are in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, a government-administered program. I don't find any Republicans who find government health insurance repugnant bailing out of their own health insurance plan that they enjoy as members of Congress.

WALLACE: Senator Cornyn?

CORNYN: I'm just -- it's breathtaking to me, Chris, the disdain with which this administration and Senate Democrats have for the private sector. If you eliminate the private sector when it comes to health care provision, you're left with only the government, which many fear is the reason why this public option is, as Joe Lieberman said, a Trojan horse for a single-payer system ultimately.

So I would point out -- I think, actually, Senator Durbin has underestimated the amount of tax dollars that will go to insurance companies under the Reid bill. I think it's $450 billion which will go in the form of tax credits that will be directed by the treasury secretary to insurance companies.

But this shouldn't be about demonizing the private sector and, you know, glorifying the government sector. This ought to be about, you know, how do we bring down costs, how do we lower premiums, how do we keep taxes low, and how do we avoid these cuts to Medicare. That's what...

WALLACE: I'm going to let the two of you -- because you're debating this on the Senate floor, and I'm obviously going to let you do it there, because you're not going to settle it here.

Let's turn to climate change. The president has just announced that he is changing his schedule and he will attend not the beginning but the end of the climate change summit in Copenhagen on December 18th.

Senator Cornyn, how will Republicans view any presidential commitment to cut emissions and to give billions of dollars in U.S. aid to developing countries, especially in the midst of this new controversy over the science of global warming?

CORNYN: I think the cap and trade bill is just another job- killing proposal that will kill 313,000 jobs in my state alone in Texas. It's -- the last thing we need is an additional burden on consumers and on businesses in the agricultural sector that this bill would impose, and that's really the problem.

It's not just that the president has neglected the jobs issue in order to pursue these other issues like health care expansion, government control, cap and trade. It's been that the very policies he's proposing have a negative impact on the very businesses that creates those jobs.

WALLACE: So to answer my question, how will Republicans -- first of all, is cap and trade going to get passed in the next year?

CORNYN: I certainly hope not in its current form. There are better alternatives, by looking to clean energy alternatives like nuclear power and expansion of the use of natural gas, an American energy supply which is relatively cheap and available, to deal with environmental concerns.

So there are alternatives, but this cap and trade bill, as far as I'm concerned, should be dead on arrival.

WALLACE: And if the president commits the country to a level of reducing emissions and spending billions for developing countries, can he make good on that?

CORNYN: Well, we're not a dictatorship. The president can promise whatever he wants. The Congress has a role. If there's some proposed treaty, the Senate will vote on it. He can't bind the 300 million people of America. I think Congress would be required to join in in that effort in order to make that happen.

WALLACE: Senator Durbin, whatever the president announces at the summit, is there the will among Senate Democrats to pass climate change legislation and to commit billions of dollars in foreign aid to this effort at a time when we have so many other problems?

DURBIN: I don't know where you came up with that billion...

WALLACE: Billions of dollars for -- to developing countries.

DURBIN: Well, let me say that at this point -- let's take a...

WALLACE: That's part of what the commitment is.

DURBIN: Well, let's take a look at where we are today. As of today, we have -- the two largest countries in the world, China and India, have acknowledged they need to join us in moving forward on this.

They understand the peril that we face if we don't accept the premise that there is climate change taking place, that we do have some dangers to life on earth and development as we like to see it in this country.

And I think this is an opportunity. I know that many on the Republican side don't see it as such. But if we start moving toward energy efficiency and green technology, America can become a global leader.

If we ignore it, put our head in the sand, we're going to find countries like China leap-frogging us, moving forward. That's going to create jobs for China, but not for America.

I think this is a job creator. It not only reduces the likelihood of danger from climate change, it creates an economic opportunity. There are many ways to write this bill.

Senator John Kerry is now leading our effort in the Senate, and I think President Obama with his appearance at Copenhagen is confirming the fact that we as a nation want to be part of this global strategy.

WALLACE: So is legislation going to be passed -- cap and trade legislation in the Senate -- in 2010? And will the -- will you -- will the Democrats support giving billions of dollars to developing countries to help them reduce emissions?

DURBIN: You know, you are presupposing many things about what this bill might contain.

What I will tell you is that I believe we will address this issue. We will create opportunities for job creation in new green technology, clean technology and clean energy opportunities.

I think that is the future for the world, and America should be leading.

WALLACE: Thirty seconds -- you get the last word, Senator Cornyn.

CORNYN: Well, Chris, you know, the president had a job summit this last week and seemed amazed that the private sector was sitting on the sidelines, when the fact is that there's great uncertainty in the private sector, people who are the job creators -- if I hire a new employee, what additional burden will Congress impose on me in terms of health care costs, higher taxes, more regulation and the like.

And I think we ought to be growing jobs not in the government sector, which is what the stimulus bill primarily has done, but allow the private sector to do what it does best and create jobs. But unfortunately, the message they're getting out of Washington is stay on the sidelines because you don't know what's going to be coming at you.

WALLACE: Senator Cornyn, Senator Durbin, we want to thank you both so much for coming in today.

DURBIN: Thank you.

WALLACE: Always a pleasure. Please come back, gentlemen.

CORNYN: Thank you.

WALLACE: Up next, our Sunday panel weighs in on next week's climate change summit and the growing scandal known as climate-gate. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: There is no single piece of legislation that can do more to create hundreds of thousands -- millions of jobs in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER JR., R-WIS.: These e-mails show a pattern of suppression, manipulation and secrecy that was inspired by ideology, condescension and profit. They read more like scientific fascism than scientific process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: The debate over global warming heating up on Capitol Hill as supporters continue to push for cap and trade legislation while critics raise new questions about the science of climate change.

And it's time now for our Sunday group -- Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, former White House press secretary Dana Perino, and Juan Williams, also from National Public Radio.

Well, Bill, what do you make -- how much do you make of the fact that the president has switched his schedule, he's now going to attend not the beginning but the end of the climate change summit? And given the political realities in this country, how much of a commitment can he really make for the country?

KRISTOL: Not much. It's not going to -- the summit's not going to result in anything. There's no treaty planned to be signed, so it'll be a lot of talk. Apparently the summit is a green summit. They've gone out of its way to be -- not to, you know, emit too much carbon into the atmosphere.

Nonetheless, I read that it's going to emit 40,000 tons of carbon. The equivalent of the entire carbon footprint of Morocco is what we're going to admit into the atmosphere so these guys can get together and talk pointlessly in Copenhagen. And the president will join them and talk pointlessly for the last day or two.

WALLACE: But, Mara, it isn't quite as pointless as Bill suggests.

LIASSON: No. No, look...

WALLACE: While there's not going to be treaty, there are going to be pledges made on...

LIASSON: There are going to be pledges...

WALLACE: ... on limits on emissions. And also, despite my conversation with Senator Durbin, there are going to be commitments made about giving money...

LIASSON: Right.

WALLACE: ... developed countries to the developing world to help with...

LIASSON: That's what...

WALLACE: ... reducing emissions.

LIASSON: Right. That's one of the biggest pieces of this. And look. The president changed his mind. Originally he was going to go at the beginning, which is more of a symbolic appearance, almost signaling that he didn't think much would come out of it, therefore he didn't want to be there at the end.

Now the White House thinks there is a chance that some -- something substantive -- not a treaty, but some kind of commitments from these countries that would lead to maybe a binding agreement in 2010.

And I think that he is really putting a lot of political weight behind the outcome now. He was hedging his bets before by going at the early part. Now he's throwing his lot in and he's showing how important this is to him.

And no, nothing big is going to come out of this. But a little bit of progress is going to be made.

WALLACE: Dana, all this, of course, comes amid the growing controversy over global warming, what some people are calling climate- gate.

It involves more than 1,000 e-mails that have been leaked that indicate that some of the climate scientists were apparently fudging the numbers and trying to suppress opposition comments. How damaging do you think that is to the whole global warming camp?

PERINO: Well, I think for the people who are going, the activists who are going to the meeting, the government workers who have worked so long to get to this point, to have a little bit of progress, which is basically following on multi-years of the same process we've been following, to get the major economies together, these e-mails coming at this point is a big deal, especially in how it affects domestic politics here. I think that some people think that this is untethered to reality. They're -- they feel like this is going off the rails, and they don't think the economy can withstand it. It doesn't -- I don't necessarily know -- I'm not a scientist, so I don't know, but I do think it's kind of curious that for years members of Congress, the Democrats, everybody accused the Bush administration of manipulating science for trying to add the IPCC language into one of our fact sheets.

WALLACE: What's the I.P...

PERINO: The International Panel on Climate Change...

WALLACE: Right.

PERINO: ... which is the governing body that this -- that these e-mails are talking about. We are trying to make sure that our science aligned with theirs, and now we find out that that whole thing has been manipulated. So I think that they have a bigger communications problem than they think.

But I think that the goals that President Obama will announce are reasonable in terms of ambition for 2020, exceedingly ambitious for 2050, but I also think that if the western Europeans would have wanted this deal, they could have gotten it under the Bush administration or even under Clinton.

But if President Obama goes and says, "Look, we're not going to break our economy over this," they might listen to him and that will be progress.

WALLACE: Juan?

WILLIAMS: I think there's -- look, with regard to this e-mail issue, I think there's no evidence that they have somehow tricked up the numbers to somehow indicate that human contributions to carbon dioxide emissions are, in fact, a fallacy, there's no reality to it.

No. If you come back to the reality, what we find here is scientists trying to change the language at times to make it less controversial in terms of the political discussion, but not to change the facts on the ground, the facts on the ground being that, you know, we continue to emit too many carbon dioxides and CO2 and other gases, and as a result we're capturing the heat from the sun and we're heating up the earth, and global warming is a reality.

Let's get past that discussion. Let's get past all that silliness and look at the fact you've got 90 countries now sending leaders to Copenhagen, including President Obama, and this is a real chance with China, the U.S., agreeing to get something done, to finally make progress on what has been a terrible, terrible track record with regard to taking care of the globe.

In fact, if you look back at it, I mean, there have been arguments going back -- the Bush administration, before that -- does global warming exist? We can't get a Kyoto treaty. All of that now is -- we are at a moment where we could put that in the past, Bill, and actually get something done, and you want to sit there and act as if it's snide -- "Oh, what a joke."

KRISTOL: I want to actually take a real look at the science. You say, "Oh, no one tricked anyone." Phil Jones talks about Mike...

WALLACE: Phil Jones...

KRISTOL: Phil Jones, who's the head of...

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: ... former CBS news correspondent. He was a scientist in East Anglia -- I don't know how East Anglia suddenly became the center of the universe. But it is a university, and they have a climate research unit...

(UNKNOWN): In Britain.

WALLACE: ... in Britain, and...

KRISTOL: One of the main places...

WALLACE: Right.

KRISTOL: ... that does the research...

WALLACE: And Phil Jones...

KRISTOL: ... on which all this is based.

WALLACE: ... is a scientist.

KRISTOL: Right. And he refers to Mike's Nature trick, which is the trick he pulled in a Nature Magazine article which made it look as if manmade global warming was much more radically true than previous episodes of global warming.

And in fact, there's a lot of evidence that the earth warmed a lot in the medieval period, then cooled down, and now it's warmed up some, and that seems to have stopped. They can't explain the (inaudible) of the last two decades.

WILLIAMS: Well, one thing...

WALLACE: Wait, wait.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Bill, I want to ask you a question, because...

KRISTOL: Yeah.

WALLACE: ... there's a very interesting article -- I'll give you a plug -- in the latest Weekly Standard -- very interesting, a little complicated. But in any case, what it basically says is that the scientists, like Phil Jones, were not acting as disinterested observers.

It also says, though, that there's not evidence that the entire argument is a hoax, that...

WILLIAMS: Right.

WALLACE: ... that there is no climate change, no global warming.

WILLIAMS: There is no...

KRISTOL: Well, it certainly...

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Let him answer the question.

WILLIAMS: Well, it's so obvious I'm glad you asked the question.

WALLACE: Well, thank you, if I could get a word in edgewise.

KRISTOL: There's certainly climate change. There's been global warming for much of the 20th century. There was probably more global warming in the -- between the 10th century and the 14th century. It's not clear how much of it is manmade.

And it is certainly not clear that these ridiculous proposals that these governments are going to pretend to agree to and then not implement would do much good either to stop the global warming, or that they're the most cost-effective way to do it, or that they won't cripple the economy, including the economy of developed nations.

It is much more important to help poor people in India and China get decent jobs, and have a decent economy, and everything that brings with it in terms of health care and longevity of life, than to change the amount of global warming by 0.1 degree, which is probably what these kinds of changes would do, unless they were draconian -- unless they were draconian and they would crush our economic...

(CROSSTALK)

LIASSON: That is an argument over the solution. That's the legitimate debate that is going on. The question that this -- that the e-mails raise is -- it's almost like they were framing a guilty man.

I mean, any time scientists act as if they're suppressing, doing anything but letting a completely robust debate with all the evidence transparent, it's bad for science. And it's bad for the people who make this argument, where there -- which has a consensus grown around it over the years, that global warming is real and probably manmade.

I think that any time scientists do that, it sets science, all science, back.

PERINO: Also, I don't think that you could find a single time -- and I remember on June -- in June of 2001 in the Rose Garden, President Bush said, "We know that there's global warming or climate change, and we know that it is largely caused by humans."

And so then for the rest of the years -- because he declined to go forward with Kyoto, which was ultimately the right thing to do because the major economies like China and India weren't at the table, he worked to get them at the table, and now this meeting is the next logical step in that process.

WALLACE: All right.

PERINO: Implementation will be very difficult.

WALLACE: We have to step aside for a moment.

But when we come back, President Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan -- will it work there? Will it hold onto political support here? Some answers right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: On this day in 1884, the Washington Monument was completed, honoring our first president. Made from marble, granite and sandstone, the monument took more than 30 years to construct.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: President Obama announcing his policy of both escalation and exit this week at West Point.

And we're back now with the panel.

So, Bill, you have not been, I think it's fair to say, uncritical of President Obama, but when it comes to this new strategy in Afghanistan, your line, your bottom line, as expressed in an editorial -- and you'll be happy to know, yes, I have read the latest edition of The Weekly Standard -- was, quote, "Support the mission, support the president." You're on board.

KRISTOL: Yeah, I tend to support presidents when they send troops to fight and win a war in which -- which is a just cause and a war we need to win.

And there are certain aspects of the decision I would, you know, quibble with and quarrel with in terms of the date for the beginning of the withdrawal in the speech and all that. But no, I think he made the right decision, and I support it.

WALLACE: Juan, if Bill Kristol likes the policy, does that mean you hate it?

WILLIAMS: I don't like the policy. But I must say I salute Bill Kristol, General Kristol, for being an honest man here, because I find it unbelievable that most Republicans this week came out and immediately attacked the time line as opposed to saying, "Hey, look at what this man is doing."

First year as president -- he's put in now, I think, 60,000 troops. They're going to have 100,000 on the ground. How can Republicans, who say they're all for this kind of military approach, argue with it?

WALLACE: So why -- so why don't you like it? WILLIAMS: Well, look. I think that the country is tired of war. I think the military, the U.S. military, is already stretched thin. I don't know how much more you can do. Eighteen months -- it may be the outer limit, and not to mention the cost of putting more troops on the ground.

President Obama is a man who ran as an anti-war president. I understand when he says this is a vital national interest to attack the Taliban and Al Qaida. But by all estimates, there are about 100 Al Qaida on the ground. Vice President Biden is rightly saying the real fight may be in Pakistan.

And when the president fails to properly articulate what is the vital interest, then he loses me. I just -- I understand the pressure from the Bill Kristols of the world. But Bill Kristol shouldn't be running the government. It should be Barack Obama .

KRISTOL: Well, that's Juan's mistake, I think.

LIASSON: Well, he...

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Once you say something like that, Juan, you're just losing your credibility.

WALLACE: Juan does bring up a good point, though. If our greatest national interest is to prevent another 9/11 -- and I think we all agree that's why Afghanistan is so important. We don't want those guys plotting.

The fact is they can be in Afghanistan, they can be in Pakistan, they can be in Somalia, they can be in Sudan. Is it worth this expenditure of blood and treasure to get a group that can be anywhere and is really more an idea than it is a network of people?

PERINO: Well, I would have to turn to General David Petraeus, your first guest. And I would follow him into battle anywhere. And he says yes. President Obama spent 25 hours in the situation room thinking all of this through. I assume that they think that this is the right thing to do.

We do have a global war on terror. I did think it was a little bit distasteful to try to tie the cost of what we're doing to our national security, in -- especially in the speech in front of the cadets. These are young men that -- you're asking them to possibly risk their lives to go. But at the end of the day, I do think people will ultimately be supportive.

There -- what I think is more interesting is how many Democrats weren't supportive, going to Juan's point. You could almost imagine that the Republicans would want to be critical of something, and he certainly gave them something to be critical of, which was the hard deadline of coming out in 2011, that we now know is really not that hard, and so I think everybody can support it. But it's the Democrats who are having a harder time, as I think one of your -- I think Nina Easton earlier this week said they were -- it was like chewing glass to be able to support it. I actually think that's more on the Democratic side.

And I don't know if it affects domestic politics or not. We'll have to see.

LIASSON: I think it might, but I think what the president did by putting -- I don't know what you want to call it -- the soft deadline, the beginning of a draw down in 18 months -- he bought himself 18 months with his own party. His party's going to give him 18 months to see if this works.

And I think in the end the president has -- he doesn't have a domestic political problem. He has a military diplomatic problem in Afghanistan. If he can solve that, if the Obama surge works, he's not going to have a domestic political problem.

If things look like they're going in the right direction and he actually can begin to bring troops home in 18 months, he's going to be OK.

Now, in the short term, might it depress enthusiasm among the Democratic base for the 2010 midterms? Yes. But all those people on the antiwar left who are shocked and appalled at this weren't listening to President Obama, who campaigned on escalating the war in Afghanistan, who gave a speech in March and committed more troops to it and has said all along that this is a war of necessity.

WALLACE: But your basic point, which is in the end all that really matters...

LIASSON: Yes, is whether it works.

WALLACE: ... is what goes on in the ground, brings us back to General Kristol.

How -- you're getting tired of that, aren't you?

KRISTOL: No, it's OK.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: How will we know if the policy is working? What are the metrics of success in Afghanistan?

KRISTOL: Well, I think we'll know the same way we know whenever we fight any war -- if our enemies are in retreat, if after what will unfortunately probably be an increase in casualties as we engage the enemy, especially in the south, they start to lose control of towns and villages and cities that they have controlled, they lose the ability to intimidate the population.

It's not that hard to tell, honestly, whether you're winning or losing wars. We were losing in Iraq in 2006. We were winning in Iraq by 2008.

WALLACE: Is it possible, though, given the fact that as opposed to Iraq, where at least Al Qaida in Iraq was a foreign group, here you're talking about indigenous Afghans, couldn't they just sort of fade into the woodwork until July of 2011?

KRISTOL: Well, that would be great. That would give us a chance to work to build up the Afghan security forces, the Afghan police, the Afghan government. And it's not so easy to emerge from the woodwork once you've retreated for a couple of years.

And it's not as if we're going away in July 2011. We're going to begin a slow -- what I would predict will be a slow draw down then.

WILLIAMS: But I would say the one last thing on this defining success is the problem with the Karzai government, that if the corruption continues, the narcotics continue, and we can't hand off to them in 18 months, then where are we? We're stuck again. And then it's just like oh, you know...

PERINO: They said the same in Iraq. They said the same about Prime Minister Maliki, and look where we are now.

WILLIAMS: Well, I just think this is a much more dire situation with what's going on with Karzai and the fact that his brother's involved in the narcoterror. It makes it much more of a deeply ingrained problem. It's going to be difficult for the U.S. to hand off. And partnership was Obama's line of success. That was his definition.

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 continues the discussion on our website, foxnewssunday.com, shortly after the show ends.

Up next, our Power Player of the Week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: We often hear about how Hollywood and Washington are fascinated with each other. Well, one weekend every year, the nation's capital almost becomes Hollywood. Here's our Power Player of the Week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVENS: President Kennedy was fond of making the distinction between poetry and power, and he -- you know, he said power corrupts, poetry cleanses.

WALLACE: Thirty-two years ago, George Stevens came up with the idea this nation should pay tribute to its greatest performing artists. And every year since, he has produced the Kennedy Center Honors to do just that. Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope, Barbra Streisand -- they've all shown up in Washington in early December to watch current stars pay homage. And all they have to do is sit back and enjoy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: The honorees don't speak...

STEVENS: Right.

WALLACE: ... they don't perform.

STEVENS: Well...

WALLACE: How come?

STEVENS: ... I think the theory is not to ask them to sing for their supper. And it was a very good decision, because one of our early honorees, Cary Grant, never accepted any awards or honors because he had this fear of speaking in public. So we call it Cary Grant's law.

WALLACE: Honorees do have one obligation. They must attend.

Has there ever been anybody you wanted to honor but they didn't want to show up?

STEVENS: Katharine Hepburn was a reluctant debutante.

WALLACE: Stevens called her for years, but Hepburn always turned him down, until the producer finally got a bit cheeky.

STEVENS: I said, "Why don't you just summon up that Yankee courage we've been hearing about for all these years and say yes?" There was this long pause, and she snarled, "All right, yes," and hung up.

WALLACE: Sure enough, Kate Hepburn joined the honor roll.

One special feature of the evening -- the president always attends. Barack Obama will be the sixth to participate, and Stevens says despite the political stand some honorees have taken, it never interferes with the evening.

STEVENS: This is the stage where the show has taken place.

WALLACE: Stevens took us on stage where they were preparing for this Sunday. Stand-ins were sitting where the president and honorees will be. And everyone was bracing for a hectic weekend of rehearsals.

STEVENS: Some people only come in on Sunday because they have shows somewhere Saturday night.

WALLACE: Stevens has spent his life in the arts, working with his father, the legendary director on movies like "Shane" and "Giant," and now bringing his son Michael on as co-producer of the honors.

And this weekend George Stevens will put on another show.

STEVENS: Sunday night that theater will be full, and those great artists will be sitting up in the box. It's quite a rush of adrenaline to put on a show that captivates them and thrills them. And when you pull it off, it's very pleasing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: The honorees tonight -- Mel Brooks, Robert DeNiro, Bruce Springsteen, opera star Grace Bumbry and jazz great Dave Brubeck. And it's broadcast on CBS December 29th.

George Stevens tells how the honorees are chosen and even how some stars lobby for others on our website, foxnewssunday.com.

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

 

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