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updated 3/18/2007 1:50:46 PM ET 2007-03-18T17:50:46

MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday, the attorney general of the United States under fire. Why were eight U.S. attorneys removed? Did the Bush administration mislead Congress? With us, from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York.

And today marks the beginning of the fifth year of the war in Iraq. Is it worth the cost in life and treasure? Should the U.S. send more troops or bring them home? With us, former Congressman Tom Andrews, director of the Win Without War coalition; former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, author of "No Retreat, No Surrender"; Richard Perle, former chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board; and Congressman Joe Sestak, retired vice admiral of the U.S. Navy.

But first, the attorney general will be going back to Capitol Hill to explain his role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. With us, a man who will be a central part of those hearings, the senior senator from the state of New York, Democrat Chuck Schumer.

Welcome.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Good morning.

MR. RUSSERT: Will Alberto Gonzales survive as attorney general?

SEN. SCHUMER: I think it's highly unlikely he survives. I, I wouldn't be surprised if, a week from now, he's no longer attorney general. He has just miscast his role, misperceived his role. Instead of just being the president's lawyer who rubber stamps everything the White House wants, he has a role as attorney general as the chief law enforcement officer for the land without fear or favor. And on issue after issue, the U.S. attorneys is obviously the most prominent and most egregious. He's bungled it. And, Tim, if they--if Attorney General Gonzales steps down, the White House has a real chance to clear the air, to restore faith that the rule of law will come first and politics second in the Justice Department, not the other way around, if they nominate somebody who, by their reputation and career, shows that they put rule of law first, a person like a Michael Mukasey, a person like a Larry Thompson, a person like a Jim Comey. These are conservative Republicans, but they put the rule of law first. And I hope that's what the White House will do.

MR. RUSSERT: What is the state of the investigation? When will the hearings begin, and who will be part of those hearings?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, the investigation is moving along ever since it started when we were first told-- when we asked just the question why were these seven U.S. attorneys fired, and they said, well, they all had bad records. And then we got hold of their evaluations, and they were all excellent. And then we found misstatement after misstatement. What's happened thus far is this: The Justice Department has actually agreed to be cooperative, and this week the staff will take depositions of five Justice Department officials. Next week we will have them come to hearings. They've also given us all the documents.

Secondly, we have to get the same information from the White House. We've met with Fred Fielding. He is the counsel to the president. He said he wants to be as forthcoming as the Justice Department has been in terms of documents and witnesses. We've asked for Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, some of their assistants. And Tuesday will be D-Day because that's the day he's going to tell us whether he does this or not. I would give a--or I would offer a fervent plea to the White House to give us this information. It's going to come out anyway. There are too many people in the Justice Department who, who want the information to come out because they were so upset. Just last night we heard from his attorney that Kyle Sampson, Mr. Gonzales' chief of staff, is really--wants to come forward. It's a real possibility that he will voluntarily testify, and he's at the center of this. So that would really...

MR. RUSSERT: So Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to the attorney general who has resigned, is willing to come before your committee and testify under oath.

SEN. SCHUMER: He has said that he wants to do that, and I think that's a very likely possibility.

MR. RUSSERT: You cannot force White House aide Karl Rove or former White House Harriet Miers to come before your committee, can you?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, we can subpoena them. Senator Leahy has said he would. He's the chair of the Judiciary Committee. They could claim privilege, but the claim of privilege is considerably weakened because the Justice Department documents already mention Karl Rove, they mention Harriet Miers. So, the way the law works, you can't claim privilege on some occasions but not on others.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you be willing to testify--have them give a deposition rather than them come formally before your committee?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, I think all that would have to be negotiated. The bottom line for us is they'd have to come under oath and tell us the truth. For instance, Karl Rove said that he--Tony Snow, rather, the president's spokesperson, said that Karl Rove has said that he was against the firing of the U.S. attorneys, the 93 U.S. attorneys. If Karl Rove says that under oath, directly to us, that's a lot different than Tony Snow saying it. The White House spokesperson had said, for instance, that Karl Rove was not at all involved in the "Scooter" Libby incident, and he was.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Mr. Rove. He was at the--a week ago, talked about this very issue. Let's listen to the president's political adviser, Karl Rove.

(Videotape, March 8, 2007)

MR. KARL ROVE: Look, by law and by Constitution, these attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and traditionally are given a four-year term. And Clinton, when he came in, replaced all 93 U.S. attorneys. But this is the right of any president to appoint people to these offices. They serve at the pleasure of the president, and my view is that this is, and unfortunately, a very big attempt by some in the Congress to make a political stink about it.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Rove's point is that President Clinton dismissed all 93 U.S. attorneys. President Bush can fire any U.S. attorney he wants, and you're just simply making a political stink about it.

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, I think Karl Rove doesn't get it. Here's the problem. Of course, every president has the right to hire and fire U.S. attorneys at will. Every president, when they come in in a new term, like President Clinton did, basically cleans house and puts in new U.S. attorneys. Ronald Reagan did within his first year, George Bush, the first, did within his first year, and this president, Karl Rove's employer, George Bush, our present President George Bush did it. All the U.S. attorneys were replaced. What's different here is not simply that the president wanting this choice, not that choice, but, in these instances, the evidence is becoming more and more overwhelming that certain U.S. attorneys, and only certain ones, not all of them, but certain U.S. attorneys were fired because either they wouldn't prosecute a case that was politically advantageous to the White House or they were prosecuting a case that was disadvantageous to the White House. Every legal commentator, left, right, center, says you can't do that, that's the one thing you can't do.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, let's be specific about this because I want to show you what the attorney general said in January testifying before your committee. Let's watch Alberto Gonzales.

(Videotape, January 18, 2007)

MR. ALBERTO GONZALES: I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney position for political reasons or if it would, in any way, jeopardize an ongoing serious investigation. I just would not do it.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Do you have any evidence that a U.S. attorney was removed and that removal jeopardized an ongoing investigation?

SEN. SCHUMER: We do have evidence. In fact, four of the U.S. attorneys who were fired believe that played a role in their removal. Remember, these folks were called up all of a sudden on December 7th. They thought they were doing, doing a good job. They said, "You're not doing--you're fired." "Why?" "We can't tell you." Then they say--there's a little pressure. They say they weren't doing their job right. We get hold of the evaluations done by their peers, the judges, everyone in their district, they all get outstanding ratings. And then it comes out that in four of these instances, they were asked to pursue cases, individual cases, not a general policy, they were asked to pursue individual cases that they thought they shouldn't or they were perhaps pressured to stop. So, yes, there is evidence there in the--in the U.S. attorney's mind.

But, Tim, we don't have proof yet, conclusive, beyond a reasonable doubt proof. That's why we have to go forward with the investigation.

MR. RUSSERT: But this is a very serious charge, Senator. Let me show you a map of the United States and where these U.S. attorneys come from. There you'll see up in Michigan and then we have them in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Arkansas, Washington state and two in California. Where specifically did a U.S. attorney stop investigating or was a criminal justice case interrupted because of one of their removals?

SEN. SCHUMER: The most notorious is the Southern District of California, San Diego. Ms. Lam, the U.S. attorney, had already brought about the conviction of Duke Cunningham. It came out in the newspapers that she was continuing to pursue that investigation and it might lead to others, legislative and others. And in the middle of this investigation, she was fired. So I asked the deputy attorney general, "Why was she fired?" He said, "Well, she wasn't doing enough immigration re-entry cases." I said, "Really?" She--he said, did you tell--I asked him, "Did you tell her?" She said yes. I said, "Well, did she improve?" This was back in the summer. "Did she improve?" He said, "I have no idea." Well, gee whiz, if you're firing someone in the middle of the most heated political investigation in America, don't you think you ought to have a reason and know the reason?

MR. RUSSERT: But go back to, again, Bill Clinton, back in 1993, when he fired all the U.S. attorneys. The New York Times wrote an editorial saying that the president had tainted the political process and the judicial process, and there was concern that, in fact, a U.S. attorney who was investigating Ways and Means chairman Dan Rostenkowski, a Democrat, was removed a few weeks before he was going to make a major decision regarding an investigation.

SEN. SCHUMER: But with Bill Clinton, it was all of the U.S. attorneys at the beginning of his term, which every president has done. The New York Times may think that U.S. attorneys should stay on regardless of the president. There's a good argument for that, but that's apples and oranges. That is not picking out individual U.S. attorneys who are involved in very hot political cases and getting rid of them because things were getting too hot. It's a world of difference.

MR. RUSSERT: But if you cannot prove that, in fact, a criminal investigation was interfered with, then this is all just political complaint and nothing happens.

SEN. SCHUMER: Oh, no. Tim, this is very serious stuff. Now, whether it reaches the level of criminality is one thing. But the U.S. attorneys are the chief law enforcement officer for federal law in each of their districts. At the head of the Justice building, on top of each Justice building, when you walk in, is that eagle with the arrows clutched in her claws, and that symbolizes law without fear or favor. And if U.S. attorneys, when they're doing hot political cases--we've had a tradition--we've had a tradition for decades that they have some independence while--once they're appointed and once they're in office with an existing president. And if U.S. attorneys are to fear that if they pursue these cases against politicians that they will be fired, they won't do it.

And let me make one other point. Let us say, a month from now, some U.S. attorney somewhere in the U.S. indicts a politician, and that politician's lawyer gets up and says what lawyers often say in these situations, "It's politics." Now more people are going to believe that. So the rule of law, without fear or favor, is so important to this country. When you fire U.S. attorneys for political reasons, it's serious. And look, this is not just Chuck Schumer or the Democrats. They say it's political? Ask John Sununu. Ask Gordon Smith. Ask the large number of Republican officeholders who have said this is very wrong as well. This is far deeper than politics.

MR. RUSSERT: Paul McNulty, the deputy attorney general, came before the Judiciary Committee in February, was asked about this, and this was his response.

(Videotape, February 6, 2007)

MR. PAUL McNULTY (Testimony, Senate Judiciary Committee): All of the changes that we made were performance-related.

(End of videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Is that accurate?

SEN. SCHUMER: That's totally inaccurate. Paul McNulty himself, I know him, he called me on the phone and said, "I am sorry that I didn't tell you the truth. I was not told that these things were happening by the people who were supposed to brief me." Now, one of those people is Kyle Sampson, Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to the attorney general. And Kyle Sampson says everyone knew what was going on here. We have to get to the bottom of this.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, in fact, Kyle Sampson's attorney, Brad Berenson, wrote this last night--on Friday, excuse me. "The fact that the White House and Justice Department had been discussing this subject since the election was well-known to a number of other senior officials at the department, including others who were involved in preparing the department's testimony to Congress."

SEN. SCHUMER: You bet.

MR. RUSSERT: So the people who prepared Paul McNulty knew about this?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, that's what Kyle Sampson says, and we have a conflict in testimony. And we have the stories keep changing from so many people. You know, a good lawyer will tell you, when the witnesses keep changing their stories, they're usually not telling the truth and they have something to hide. Our investigation has to get to the bottom of just that.

MR. RUSSERT: There was an e-mail on Friday that was released from two members of the White House counsel staff regarding Karl Rove, and it said this: "Karl Rove stopped by to ask you, (roughly quoting) `how we planned to proceed regarding U.S. attorneys, whether we were going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them." Now, Mr. Rove could easily say he was simply asking the question: What was the White House counsel's office doing or recommending?

SEN. SCHUMER: That is exactly true, and we don't know yet Karl Rove's exact position and actions. That's why we want to talk to him under oath directly. But I will tell you this, just a few days before, the White House said that the only person who was involved in this decision in the--in the White House was Harriet Miers. Then two days later, it comes out that Karl Rove has done it. here is my advice, for what it's worth, I don't know if they'll take it or not, to the White House: Gather all the facts. Gather them all together. Come clean with them. Give them to our committee. Let the witnesses testify. Let's see where this all goes, and then we can take corrective action to make sure it doesn't happen again. To let it leak out, to let stories keep contradicting each other is no good for the administration, it's no good for the Justice Department, and, most of all, it's no good for America. So let's, let's get all the facts out. Let's look at them thoughtfully, carefully, thoroughly. Let's not flinch from them, but then let's take corrective action and move on.

MR. RUSSERT: There are some supporters of the president who are saying "Schumer--Chuck Schumer's a member of the Judiciary Committee, but he's also chairman of the campaign committee to elect Democratic senators, and this is all about politics."

SEN. SCHUMER: Yeah, this is much too serious to be about politics, and the bottom line is our committee is simply looking into the misdeeds in the executive branch, in the Justice Department, in the administration. Anything that has to do with any elected official, any congressman, any senator, will be handled by the ethics committee. So there's no conflict whatsoever.

MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. Senator Chuck Schumer, we thank you for sharing your views.

SEN. SCHUMER: Thank you, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: And our viewers should know, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales declined our invitation to join us this morning on MEET THE PRESS.

Coming next, the war in Iraq. The debate continues as we enter the fifth year of fighting that war. Should we stay or should we leave? Four men with very, very different views join us next, coming up right here only on MEET THE PRESS.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: The war in Iraq. It began four years ago. An in depth discussion about it after this brief station break.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: And we're back. Welcome all. The war in Iraq four years old, and let me show you some of the numbers after the first four years. U.S. troops killed, 3,192; US troops wounded, 24,042. The cost is $351 billion. If you include budget requests, it would be about $500 billion. And the Iraqi civilian deaths, some 54,000.

Congressman DeLay, is the war in Iraq worth the cost in life and treasure?

FMR. REP. TOM DeLAY (R-TX): Well, you said it yourself, Tim. It's been four years since American has been attacked by these terrorists. We seem to forget that we are at war, and when you're at war, you've got to fight that war to win rather than fight the war for political posturing. We have been fighting that war. Sure, it--it's been tough. We've had to write a complete new war manual on how to fight terrorists that want to kill women and children. If you compared that note to, say, the Vietnam war in the same period of time, you're talking about much more in casualties and, and relative spending.

I think if we keep our eye on the ball, and that is to put terrorists in a cell or a cemetery, no matter where you find them, I think we are winning this war.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Andrews, worth the cost in life and treasure?

FMR. REP. TOM ANDREWS (D-ME): You know, Tim, it's incredible to me to hear Mr. DeLay start his answer with--to your question by saying that, you know, we were attacked on 9/11 in answer to a question about Iraq. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. We know that for a fact. Despite what the administration said, despite what their supporters said in Congress, they had nothing to do with it. As a matter of fact, because we took our eye off the ball of those who actually were responsible for 9/11, according to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, we are now emboldening them, strengthening them. In Afghanistan and in the Pakistani border where Osama bin Laden happens to be, they are strengthening precisely because we have diverted our attention and our resources away from Afghanistan, away from the war on terror, on Iraq.

And then if you look at some of the intelligence reports coming out, they are now telling us that this is inflaming international terrorism, the fact that we're in Iraq. It is the single most important tool that is being used by the terrorists to recruit new terrorists in their organizations. So we're--we've taken our eyes off the ball, we're strengthening international terrorism in Afghanistan, we're strengthening them by getting bogged down in Iraq, and we have just got to get straight what is terrorism, how do we defeat terrorism. And we start defeating terrorism by getting out of this civil war in Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Perle, is the war, war in Iraq worth the price we've paid?

MR. RICHARD PERLE: Forgive me for saying it, but I think it's the wrong question. It's a bit academic for one thing. But the question is what is in our national interest now, what is going to make Americans safer. I disagree with what we've just heard. A defeat in Iraq brought about in the worst instance by precipitous withdrawal would have terrorists around the world celebrating. It is the idea that the United States can be defeated that motivates terrorists. And we have Osama bin Laden himself saying that and saying it repeatedly. So the question the country faces now is not is this a reason--is this a bargain, is it a reasonable price. The question is what do we do. And I think we have to win this war, and I hope that the new strategy that's been adopted will enable us to do that.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Sestak, has the war been worth the price we've paid?

REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA): Tim, I was on the ground in Afghanistan two months after the war began, over Christmastime, for a very short period of time. I saw what had to be done. I then brought my aircraft carrier battle group back for the retaliatory strikes in that country. I went back to Afghanistan on the ground 18 months later and saw what hadn't been done. As the general said to me, "Joe, we've got our finger in the dike," because we had diverted our resources and our attention to Iraq, a tragic misadventure. Civil affairs forces, Special Ops forces went to Iraq. This war was never a clear nor present danger. And Afghanistan is a poster child for how our security is hurting around the world as it becomes prey to terrorists and Taliban take over the southern province.

Second, how we went about this war. In that carrier battle group, I had--I had 30 ships. Only 10 were United States ships. We were on the Indian Ocean doing our retaliatory strikes when we were told to go into the Persian Gulf to begin potentially the running start to the war. Most of those ships, I had Japanese admirals, I had Australian ships, I had British ships, Italian-Greek ships. Except for the British and the Australians, they were the only ones who went with us. We went into that war having left behind that coalition of the willing that helped us in Afghanistan. We went into that war with less than 10 percent of the troops, non U.S. We went to Bosnia and to the first Desert Storm with over 50 percent U.S. Wrong war. That's hurting our security. Second, we went about it the wrong way.

MR. RUSSERT: What about to Mr. Perle's point, if you get out precipitously, you will say to the terrorists all around the world, the United States will not stay and fight, the United States can be defeated on the war on terror?

REP. SESTAK: No. I disagree, with all due respect. The central front of terror is not in Baghdad. Osama bin Laden has not moved there. The central front, as this bill that is in the House is about to come forth, is in Afghanistan, including Southeast Asia. We have to remain in that region and be strong in our bases in Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, on our carrier battle groups there and our amphibious readiness groups. And we have to then take the time and the effort to go where terrorism is, even as Secretary of Defense Gates said, "Those who are causing the violence are almost exclusively those who live in and are citizens of Iraq." No. We brought this terrorism there. What we need to do-- they are such a little--the main elements we now need to focus elsewhere in this world, and that's why a different strategy that can give us success in Iraq is exactly what's embedded in the House bill.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: But that--I, I got to tell you, Tim, it, it--from their perspective, they are saying it's not a central front, but if you listen to the terrorists and you look at what the terrorists themselves are saying, they claim that Iraq is the central front on the--on the war on terror. We are fighting them, we are going after them where we can find them. Some say that the terrorists are coming to us because we're in Iraq. Wouldn't it be better--isn't it better to fight them there than over here or spread out all over the world? They're coming to fight us there. We are killing--and if you put up the chart of how many terrorists we are killing and how many terrorists we are capturing and how much information we are getting in this war, it, it, it would be a legitimate comparison.

And the biggest question here is, sort of what Richard said, what these two gentlemen fail to understand is the question of then what. Then what? The admiral says, "I want to fight them all over the world." Yeah, we're--we are fighting them all over the world now. It's not--we--we've got people all over the world, in Indonesia, even in Europe and other places, in Africa and others, that we are--we are fighting these terrorists. But the point is, is that it is a central front in a larger war. It's not segregated by Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia. It's a new kind of war that we are fighting. And, yes, we're learning how to fight that war. But to pull out and just surrender because it's tough and it's hard is, is not going to support the national security of this country.

REP. SESTAK: But if I might, just on this one point, the issue here is is our strategy working. No. There's been no dent in the violence. In fact, this surge is merely doubling down on a bad military bet.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: Congressman, that's just not true. The reports that are coming back over the last month or two has shown that, that this recent surge and this new strategy, violence is down.

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: By...(unintelligible)...percent.

REP. SESTAK: In Baghdad, it is slightly down...

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: In Baghdad.

REP. SESTAK: ...but it's like a water--it's like a balloon. You squeeze it, now we have more violence. But if I might, it is a different strategy that is being proposed. We know that this civil war that we're refereeing has no military solution. What this new bill does is give the date certain. It is the remaining leverage--the only remaining leverage we have to change the incentives so that the Iraqis understand that they must accept the difficult political compromises that must be taken in order to seize what is sectarian violence.

And second, it changes all the incentives for the Iranians and the Syrians that are involved destructively in this war, because we're bleeding profusely. But now, with the United States saying we're redeploying but remaining in the region, all their incentives change with the five million refugees of Iraq that have been dislocated, two million have overflowed their border where they don't want to have that instability continue into Iraq.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: (Unintelligible)...where you going to deploy to?

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Perle and Mr. Andrews, go ahead.

MR. PERLE: Well, I think it is certainly true that setting a date certain would alter the leverage. Unfortunately, it would alter it in favor of the terrorists. If they know that we're going to leave on a date certain, they will adjust their strategies to take full advantage of that. You have a military career. If you knew the enemy, your enemy was going to retire from the field, wouldn't it affect your strategy, your planning? Of course it will. What a date certain will do is guarantee the defeat to the United States' effort in Iraq. Guarantee it!

REP. SESTAK: Yes, but, Richard, the point here is we're not fighting the terrorists there. Secretary Gates and others have said they're such a small little element that are insurgents from outside. Second, the United States should not just do what terrorists say and follow what they say they're going to do. Take the initiative. Go to where the adversary is--Afghanistan and Southeast Asia and other places. Right now, our Army at home is broken. Not one unit can deploy to a contingency.

MR. PERLE: The shift...

REP. SESTAK: This is hurting our security.

MR. PERLE: The shift in strategy is, what, about 30 days old? You're not going to give it a chance.

REP. SESTAK: We did.

MR. PERLE: You want to say now, before we contest, whether this refocus on bringing some measure of security to urban areas in Iraq, beginning with Baghdad, you want to write this off 30 days into it. That is not the best way to, to develop a strategy.

REP. SESTAK: Well, Richard, that's not what I'm saying.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: (Unintelligible).

REP. SESTAK: What I'm saying is, we have tried this before and it hasn't worked. We've put 14,000 troops in Baghdad with no dent in the violence since August. Second, I'm proposing a change in strategy...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: They should...(unintelligible).

REP. SESTAK: ...a change in the incentives.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: You've got a bill that you introduced, and let's just take a look at it. You said redeploy in any regions all over the world, including, if you can't get anybody else to accept you, you go back home to the United States. Now, that is a military strategy? First of all, have you asked any countries in the region that they would accept us in the redeployment? Because if you did, you would-- you would find a no. And the second is, then you say in your bill, only our special forces and our planes can go in, in and out. Do you think that that is going to create any sort of stability and security, where we're sending in strategic forces into Iraq, in and out?

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: It was--no...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: It is absolutely crazy.

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: Tom, with all due respect, I think I'd be much more comfortable taking the military strategy advice of Admiral Sestak than, than Tom DeLay. And listen, you know, we in Washington love to talk about what's in the best interest of the, the people of Iraq. We've been doing this for years and years. Why don't we ask the people of Iraq what they think? If you ask the people...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: Well, let's ask what's in the best interest of the American people.

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: Well, ask the people--let's ask--let's ask the people of Iraq, OK?

FMR. REP. DeLAY: No, let's ask the American people.

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: What is--let's ask them first, OK? Because listen, they're the ones that have the most at stake. They're the ones that have the most at stake.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: I'm more interested in the American people.

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: They're the ones that live day after day with these attacks that would--that we're all talking about. Seventy-eight percent of the Iraqi people believe that the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq make things more violent, not less violent. Eighty percent of the Iraqi people believe that we should be setting...

MR. PERLE: That poll...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: Is that your poll?

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: That we--hold on, hold on--that we should be setting a date certain, as well as 60 percent of Americans believe that we should set a date certain for Americans troops to leave. Sixty-two percent of Iraqis, Tim, 62 percent...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: Is this a poll from Win Without War?

MR. PERLE: There--there...

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: ...feel so strongly about this, they support attacks on American troops. What Joe was saying, I think, is extremely important. And what most reasonable observers of the situation agree, there is no military solution to the problem in Iraq. It's only a political one. And the reason that the Iraq--the bipartisan Iraq Study Group was so opposed to the surge that is now going on that the-- President Bush has now instigated is because, according to them, it would take away the very conditions that're necessary to forge that political reconciliation that is going to be necessary for a resolution to this crisis. Because the Maliki government that is now filled with and supported by and propped up by some of the most vicious militias that exist in Iraq that are attacking our own troops, they are getting supported by our, our military. And as long as that happens, as we've seen over the past several months, the Maliki government is going to be unwilling and has demonstrated its continuing unwillingness to make the compromises, to make the tough decisions necessary in order to find a political accommodation.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: Well, Tom, then what? We're not in the Senate.

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: The Iraq Study Group has made it clear.

MR. RUSSERT: Let Mr. Perle--let Mr. Perle speak.

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: Unless you have, unless you have those political conditions, it--this thing cannot be won militarily. And they're right.

MR. PERLE: It seems to me, you, you can't describe the Maliki government as you've just described it and then turn around and say things are going to get better if we leave. And I, I don't accept for a moment that we are supporting the militias. We're not supporting the militias. It's tough to get the militias under control, there's no doubt about that, but we are certainly not supporting them. And I don't understand the idea of citing polling statistics when there is an elected government in Iraq. Let me remind you, people voted, risking their lives to vote. There is a government there and if they ask us to leave, I have no doubt that we will leave. They've not asked us to leave because they don't agree with those polls.

REP. SESTAK: But Tom--Richard...

MR. PERLE: And I'm not sure the polls are valid in the first place.

REP. SESTAK: But, Richard, that's the challenge here. There's a culture of dependency by the Iraqis. That's why they haven't asked the government for us to leave. Their troops, it's not a matter of their training. We've trained all 325,000 of them, of which half of them never show up for work. The problem is their allegiance and their motivation. That's a political issue, Richard. This...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: That's not a culture--that's not a culture of dependency, that's a culture of a lack of security. The point is is that they are not capable of providing the security for their own people. We have to do that. You cannot have a democracy, you cannot have an exit strategy until you have security in the region.

REP. SESTAK: Yes, but, Tom, at what cost?

FMR. REP. DeLAY: That's not dependence.

REP. SESTAK: There's a wonderful saying in the Middle East, "Inshallah," God willing, tomorrow. Tomorrow, for our own security, Tom, is no longer good enough. We--there's only one leverage left that they recognize that, as the president has said, there is not an open-ended commitment from us. A date certain then gives the leverage, the catalyst, for them to understand they must step up to the plate, don't have a culture of dependency. We will remain in the region on bases we do have already in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, and that we will then bring our forces home to where not one combat unit at home is ready to deploy today to another contingency. Tom, you're right it's about security, ultimately, our security, that we can be better and bring about a better security for the United States throughout this world.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: But surrender does not bring security.

MR. PERLE: You must be...

REP. SESTAK: Tom, it's a different strategy.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: No, it's surrender.

REP. SESTAK: That brings about a more--no. Tom, we've learned so much in the military that...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: "This is hard, so I want to surrender."

REP. SESTAK: Absolutely not.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: That's exactly what it is.

REP. SESTAK: You never just keep banging your head against the wall, we learn in the military. Is there a better way to go about it? And that's what this bill does is it takes the last leverage we have to make it happen.

MR. PERLE: You must be the first admiral in history to argue that announcing to the enemy that we're going to pull out is going to lead you to victory.

REP. SESTAK: But, Richard, the enemy here are civilians, citizens that are in the country fighting among themselves.

MR. PERLE: No. The enemy--the enemy...

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: This is a civil war.

MR. PERLE: The enemy...

REP. SESTAK: This is a civil war.

MR. PERLE: The enemy are people who are placing roadside bombs, suicide bombers who are recruited often from outside Iraq because they're very much a part of the war on terror, very much a part of the terrorist threat that we face. The enemy is identifiable, and what you're saying is that we should pull out. Setting a date certain only anticipates the pulling out, but it will unleash forces that will be completely uncontrollable. And the consequences of an American pullout will not only be a defeat for the United States and a setback in our effort to combat terror around the world, it will be a catastrophe for the people of Iraq.

REP. SESTAK: Obviously...

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: This is the fatal flaw--this is the fatal flaw to what we've just heard, is this argument from Mr. Perle. The enemy is not identifiable. The Madhi army, the Badr brigade, these very violent militia forces are embedding themselves into the police units, into the army units that we are training. We are saying...

MR. PERLE: But...

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: We are saying that our kids, and this is--the consequence of, of this is is the fact that we have our kids, our young people in these units, working with these units, who are, by night, these, these people who are kidnapping, who are torturing and who are murdering people by the thousands. And these are Shia, primarily, in these units. And, at night, they are going and attacking and murdering Sunnis. We have now been engaged in, and now we're identified as combatants in a civil war. And we don't know--and more importantly, our kids don't know--our kids don't know...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: I know. I know. I know, Tom.

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: ...when they're in these--in these garrisons...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: Who's identifying them? You?

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: ...and when they're out there on the streets of Baghdad, whether the people that they're next to are, are the--are the enemy or their--or their allies. And that's the very point. They're losing their lives as a result.

REP. SESTAK: Richard, I think, and this is an important point...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: But...

MR. RUSSERT: One at a time. One at a time.

REP. SESTAK: Iraq is a set piece within an overall global environment of security that we desire. Just to reach back for one moment, even George Washington at the Battle of Brandywine understood, after this initial clash, that he had to redeploy and go elsewhere in order to assume the strategic victory. That's what this is about. Is there a better way to handle Iraq...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: OK, but tell me, where are you going to deploy to?

MR. PERLE: Right.

REP. SESTAK: ...and then to be able to handle the entire security environment.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: Where are going to deploy to? Answer the question. Where are you...

MR. PERLE: Redeploy...

REP. SESTAK: Oman, Bahrain, at home to get our...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: They haven't...(unintelligible)...that.

REP. SESTAK: Yes, sir, we have bases there.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: They have not accepted this redeployment.

REP. SESTAK: We have aircraft carriers...

MR. PERLE: Why not--why not bring them back home? Redeploy...

REP. SESTAK: We do need to bring some home to get our forces ready again.

MR. PERLE: Redeploy--redeploy is a euphemism for cutting and running and you know it.

REP. SESTAK: No.

MR. PERLE: You use the term redeploy. Explain to me why having American troops sitting in Oman is going to affect the outcome in Iraq and give us a prospect of success in Iraq.

Offscreen Voice: The war on terror.

REP. SESTAK: One of--one--one of the great tragedies of this war is it's diverted our attention from Iran. What happened here is we outsourced our leadership to Iran to the European Union six years ago. We need to remain in that region because there are interests. I asked General Eikenberry, outgoing three- star general from Afghanistan, "General, does Iran at times work towards the same interest we have in Afghanistan?" The answer was yes. It doesn't want the Taliban there, it doesn't want al-Qaeda there. It has put $300 million to $500 million in roads for stability. There are interests that can be commensurate with ours. For instance, Syria had troops alongside us going into Iraq, so remaining in the region and ensuring that the influence of Iran does not control that region is extremely important.

MR. PERLE: Did you--did you ask General Eikenberry whether he thought American troops in Oman would help us win in Afghanistan?

REP. SESTAK: I asked him if more troops in Afghanistan...

MR. PERLE: Would it help us win in Afghanistan?

REP. SESTAK: ...I ask...

MR. PERLE: Of course they won't.

REP. SESTAK: Yes, I did.

MR. PERLE: And they won't help us win in Iraq either.

REP. SESTAK: I said--I said would more troops in Afghanistan help? The answer is yes. U.S. generals have asked for that.

MR. RUSSERT: Let--let me just...

MR. PERLE: But you're talking about Oman, not about Afghanistan.

MR. RUSSERT: Let, let...

MR. PERLE: Ask him if more troops in Oman...

REP. SESTAK: It's called presence.

MR. PERLE: ...is going to help win in Afghanistan.

REP. SESTAK: But that's where you have bases so that you are able to redeploy at--within the region.

MR. RUSSERT: Four years into the war there are many critics, Congressman DeLay, who are saying that leading up to the war, the debate in Congress, when you were majority leader and the president and the vice president came forward and said, "Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, and we will find them. We do not need several hundred thousand troops as General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, said. Lawrence Lindsay, the chief economic adviser of the White House was dismissed because he said the war may cost $200 billion. There would not be sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites. Based on all those, what we now can see were misjudgments, are you willing to concede that serious errors and mistakes were made and perhaps those who are now criticizing the management of the war have the opportunity to be listened to as providing an alternative to something that has gone wrong?

FMR. REP. DeLAY: Well I think I feel the same way as, as, as most of the American people, and that is we're frustrated that it's not over in, in Iraq, that we haven't been able to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish as fast as we are. I'm not...

MR. RUSSERT: But in--but in--but in your book, you praise Secretary Rumsfeld and said he gave strong and effective leadership.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: If--Tim, if I could finish my answer, I, I--I'll be glad to answer your question.

MR. RUSSERT: Please.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: The premise of your question is always put forward without the rest of the story. And maybe we ought to have Paul Harvey here to, to talk about the rest of the story. As I was in Congress voting for this resolution, I understood it as the war on terror, not just going into Iraq. That there were indications that it was Saddam Hussein, and certainly he's not--he wasn't a stupid man. It was in his best interest to, to participate in one way or another in this war on terror on the wrong side. And, and there were training camps in--we found out. He had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He had the capability, and it's very easy, especially--and look what's happening right now. Chlorine being used. And you don't think if he--that over time, if we did not go in there, he would not have been helping the terrorists around the world against the Satan United States that's giving him so much trouble, that invaded his country and stopped him from taking Kuwait, and the multiple resolutions that he violated and thumbed his nose at the world. And there's just all kinds of other reasons. But the real point is, is the main focus was the Middle East for the war on terror. There were more leaders and terrorists in the Middle East, and we had to go in there as part of the war on terror. Secondarily, it was good that we eliminated this despot, this disgusting dictator Saddam Hussein.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Andrews, in the same vein, those who, who opposed the war, like yourself, and said you weren't sure whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction at the levels being suggested, that it would take more troops, and there would be sectarian violence, all that's true. But, now there, what would happen if we left immediately?

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: Well, first of all, no one is talking about leaving immediately. We're talking about...

MR. RUSSERT: Within, within a year.

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: ...what--OK, fine. What we believe, what our coalition believes very strongly, we should take all the resources that we have available, we should take them and use the time that is necessary for a safe and secure redeployment out of Iraq. That would stabilize--first of all, it would take our kids out of harm's way who find themselves in the middle of a civil war. You know, I debated right here on this--on this program before the war, and Mr. Perle and I debated on other, other programs, and I remember Mr. Perle saying, "You know, I will not be surprised that a year from now there'll be a boulevard in Baghdad named after George W. Bush."

You know, if you use common sense, before you go into a war of choice of your timing, you should at least think about and be prepared for the worst happening. We said "What"--and I asked Mr. Perle, "What happens when we're five years into the war and we're a, a military occupation in the middle of one of the most volatile regions in the world? What then?" And, and we were summarily dismissed. What's happened is, as a result, hundreds of our kids have died only because they didn't have the necessary protective equipment that would otherwise have kept them alive. Now they're being asked to stay in a civil war, to be combatants in a civil war, in an absolutely impossible position where they don't know looking left and right whether who's next to them is an enemy or, or, or an ally.

This is an impossible situation, Tim. We know that there is no military solution, only a political one. And as the--and as several generals who have been on the ground--General Casey, General Abizaid--has, has said that we, by increasing our troop levels, we are taking away the basic conditions that are required for a political settlement. It's not fair, it's not right. And all of those who dismissed all the concerns that we made in the years back, back then are now the biggest champions of keeping those kids in that impossible situation. And it's our kids, our soldiers who are paying the price.

MR. PERLE: Well, I'm, I'm not going to debate your characterization of the history of our previous exchanges, which I think are...

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: (Unintelligible).

MR. PERLE: ...which I think are not accurate. I never anticipated a five year occupation. There was nothing inevitable about a five year occupation.

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: Should've been planned for.

MR. RUSSERT: In fact, you were quoted as saying if you were Delphic that you probably would not have gone into Iraq?

MR. PERLE: Well, no. I think--I think Saddam Hussein posed a threat that had to be dealt with, and I think the decision to remove him was a correct decision. I think there were lots of things subsequent to his removal that might well have been--should have been done differently. But the fact is he posed a threat. Let me quote--I don't usually quote Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, but on this occasion I will. These are his words. "The war against terrorism will not be finished as long as Saddam Hussein is in power." This was not an eccentric view. This was certainly not a Republican view. It was a widely accepted view.

MR. RUSSERT: But he did vote against the war.

MR. PERLE: This was his view of it. Remember Vice President Gore? I'm quoting him. "We know that Saddam has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout the country. Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."

Tim, we went into Iraq to defend this country against the threat that, after 9/11, we understood to be an intolerable threat. That is that Saddam Hussein, with a history of weapons of mass destruction, with known ties to terrorists, might use that weapons capability by placing it in the hand of terrorists. We were right to take that threat seriously. Now we find we're in a difficult situation, and it makes no sense to abandon this fight without giving the new strategy a chance to succeed. It's accepting defeat unnecessarily, and it will be a catastrophe in the continuing war against terrorists who want to destroy us.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Delay, you raise an interesting point in an interview--in your political column. You talked about congressmen advocating withdrawal, and you conclude by saying, "Yes, I am questioning their patriotism." Why is that?

FMR. REP. DeLAY: Well, I--it, it is my opinion that when you go to war, we ought to all come together. You can debate going to war, that's a legitimate debate. But once you have our soldiers and our, our young people dying on the battlefield, we should come together, and we shouldn't have what we had yesterday on the Mall of, of, of--in Washington, D.C. When the--those are not, in my mind--my opinion, patriots that are talking about impeaching the commander in chief, that are--that are--work as, as Tom's group works....

MR. RUSSERT: But setting a date for--is setting a date for withdrawal...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: ...every step of the day, undermine--I think it's aiding and abetting the enemy. When you tell the enemy what your strategy is, that's aiding and abetting the enemy because they can use that strategy to come back and harm your soldiers.

REP. SESTAK: Tim, I spent 31 years in the service of our nation leading men and women into combat in war. And I always assumed, at least I always hoped, that the men and women back here, the policy makers, day in and day out, were spending hours, weeks, debating about the best use of this national treasure. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said it best a few weeks ago when he said, as someone asked him about this debate and what's going on in the House, he said, "Our men and women of our military are educated. They understand the democratic process." I remember when working for President Clinton as director of defense policy, when I didn't agree with you, Tom, but that there was the Buyer Amendment to stop in a year any more funding for our troops in Bosnia. And then there was, in 1999, the effort not to place any more troops not--in Kosovo. While I may have disagreed with you, I respected your office, that that is the constitutional duty of Congress, to take pride for the common defense.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: Joe, you're a congressman. Go back to Iraq and talk to those same soldiers and you'll get exactly a different response from those soldiers.

REP. SESTAK: I talk to them, Tom. I talk to them all the time.

MR. RUSSERT: To be continued.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: I do, too.

MR. RUSSERT: To, to, to be continued. "No Retreat, No Surrender" is your book, Congressman DeLay. Some interesting things about Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, George Bush in this book that...

FMR. REP. DeLAY: It's history as I lived it.

MR. RUSSERT: Tom DeLay, thank you very much.

FMR. REP. DeLAY: Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman, thank you very much.

FMR. REP. ANDREWS: Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Perle, thank you. Congressman, thank you. We'll be right back.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: On MSNBC tomorrow, all day coverage on the war in Iraq, the fourth anniversary. Join me and our NBC News team beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern tomorrow as we report on the war, four years, all day long, MSNBC, msnbc.com. Also, as we mentioned when he was here a few weeks ago, NBC News senior Middle East correspondent Richard Engel, his special "War Zone Diary" debuts this Wednesday night on MSNBC at 10 p.m. Eastern.

That's all for today. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.

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