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NBC News MEET THE PRESS
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Moderator/Host: Tim Russert, NBC News
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Last week, a scathing report from a presidential commission called prewar intelligence "dead wrong." Who is to blame? And what now? An exclusive interview with the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Pat Roberts and Democrat Jay Rockefeller.
Then Bob Dole, the former presidential candidate and Senate majority leader, has written a new book, "One Soldier's Story." Then we'll also look back at Senator Dole at his very first MEET THE PRESS appearance 33 years ago.
And the pope is laid to rest. What will be his legacy? And who will be his successor? Plus, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay remains under fire. Is this a case of a liberal attack machine or a serious ethical violation? Our Roundtable, Kate O'Beirne of The National Review magazine and Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post discuss these issues and more.
But, first, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission report on prewar intelligence. We are joined by the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senators, welcome both.
Let's go right to the report. This is the conclusion: "We conclude that the Intelligence Community was dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. This was a major intelligence failure. Its principal causes were the Intelligence Community's inability to collect good information about Iraq's WMD programs, serious errors in analyzing what information it could gather, and a failure to make clear just how much of its analysis was based on assumptions, rather than good evidence."
Senator Roberts, do you agree?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS, (R-KS): Yes, I do. I think the commission did a good job. We had Judge Silverman and we had former Senator Robb before the committee along with other commission members. We explored not only their findings, which were by the way very duplicative, Jay, of what we found in our WMD inquiry or investigation about a year ago. And they filled in some of the gaps. More importantly, Tim, they enlisted 74 recommendations that we're going over very carefully on how can improve intelligence. I called it an assumption train back when we released our report and Jay had very similar comments. So I think this report really confirms what we found.
I think the good news is is that this was a commission that was asked for by the administration, and the president has agreed with this. And we're moving ahead with a director of national intelligence, our intelligence reform bill and both Jay and I feel that, you know, we learned our lesson. Our committee has now determined that we're not going to take any intelligence at face value, we're going to be very pro-active and very pre-emptive to look at the capabilities of the intelligence community on the tough threats that face our national security. It was a good report.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Rockefeller, Bob Woodward wrote a book called "Plan of Attack" and he captures a meeting December 21, 2002, when the director of the CIA and the deputy director are briefing the president. And he--this is his account. Bush turned to CIA Director George Tenet, "`I've been told all this intelligence about having WMD and this is the best we've got?' From the end of one of the couches in the Oval Office, Tenet rose up, threw his arms in the air. `It's a slam dunk case!' the DCI said."
How did we get from slam dunk to dead wrong?
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER, (D-WV): Slam dunk was part of what led us to dead wrong. I mean, the point is that there's a critical point I think. You collect intelligence, you analyze intelligence and then you produce intelligence. And then there's this grand canyon and on the other side stand the policy- makers, I mean, the White House and the CDOD, etc. And there's meant to be a big vacuum between those two. In fact, there is not. And there is so-called use of intelligence by policy-makers or misuse of intelligence or hyping of intelligence or making policy statements before the intelligence has been fully explored, which, in fact, influences or pressures the intelligence makers. It's a small but very critical point. This commission, for example, did not have the authority to look into the use of intelligence, the hyping of intelligence, the misuse of intelligence, and thus half the report really has been left out.
MR. RUSSERT: It's interesting because The Washington Post did this summary of our intelligence. "Of all the claims U.S. intelligence made about Iraq's arsenal in the fall and winter of 2002, it was a handful of new charges that seemed the most significant: secret purchases of uranium from Africa, biological weapons being made in mobile laboratories, and pilotless planes that could disperse anthrax or sarin gas into the air above U.S. cities. By the time President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein of the deadly weapons he was allegedly trying to build, every piece of fresh evidence had been tested--and disproved--by U.N. inspectors according to [the WMD report] ... The work of the inspectors--who had extraordinary access during their three months in Iraq between November 2002 and March 2003--was routinely dismissed by the Bush administration and the intelligence community in the run-up to war, according to the commission ..."
Dismissed, and if you go back and read, Senator Roberts, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency, "After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq."
The State Department in this dissent, in effect, to the National Intelligence Estimate, "The activities we have detected do not ... add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR (State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research) would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons."
And Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, said this. He attacked the "spin and hype behind U.S. and British allegations of banned Iraqi weapons used to justify war against Saddam Hussein. Blix, who said ... he believe Iraq had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction 10 years ago, told BBC radio that Washington and London `over-interpreted' intelligence about Baghdad's weapons programs. Comparing them to medieval witch-hunters, he said the two countries convinced themselves on the basis of evidence that was later discredited ... `In the Middle Ages when people were convinced there were witches they certainly found them...' said Blix."
That goes to Senator Rockefeller's point. Was this information over-interpreted or shaped or molded by policy-makers?
SEN. ROBERTS: I don't think so. I know we have disagreement there in regards to what Jay has indicated. We agreed to take a look at the use of intelligence. We agreed to take a hard look at the statements made by the administration and then compare it to the matrix of intelligence, which we've done, and not only the administration, but all public officials. There were many very declarative and assertive statements that were wrong. They were based on intelligence that was not credible. What this report also says that they found no pressure to pressure any kind of--any kind of analysts.
Now, in 1991, David Kay, being one who was taking a look at the capability of Saddam Hussein, learned at that particular time that Saddam was about a year and a half away from a nuclear capability. Everybody scratched their head at that particular time and said, "Well, by golly, we're not going to let that happen again." About that time, I think this assumption train started, and you've indicated exactly what happened, not only was it a failure of U.S. intelligence, it was a failure of global intelligence, all of our allies, all of those agencies.
MR. RUSSERT: But the people who are criticized most...
SEN. ROBERTS: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...Hans Blix, the weapons inspector, and Mr. ElBaradei, the International Atomic Energy Agency, were on the money. They were saying it didn't exist and they were being dismissed by our government.
SEN. ROBERTS: Well, not only were they being dismissed, but so was the Department of Energy, so was the State Department, so were other basic...
MR. RUSSERT: Why?
SEN. ROBERTS: ...intelligence collection people.
MR. RUSSERT: Why were they being dismissed?
SEN. ROBERTS: Because, as I said, it was a group think. It was an assumption train. Every intelligence agency, even the Russians, even the French, assumed that Saddam Hussein would have the WMD. So once we had found that out, then it was very difficult for the caveats, or what Jay and I call red-teaming people, to go in and say, "Challenge these things," you know, "take another look."
Basically what this report has done has duplicated the effort that we put forth in regards to the WMD investigation that we conducted. But again, you can look in the rear-view mirror with 20/20 hindsight and see all of the bad intelligence and the fact it wasn't credible and the fact that most of the statements made by members of Congress and the administration were based on that bad intelligence.
The good news is, is we're going to have a new director of national intelligence. We have an intelligence reform bill on the books. This committee, our committee, is going to take a very proactive stance. We've learned our lesson. We're not going to take any assumption by the intelligence community at face value. We are going to be--we're going to look at the capability of the intelligence community. Do we have the collection? Do we have the right analysis? Can we please come up with a consensus threat analysis to the policy-maker that makes sense before this happens, before you put forth a National Intelligence Estimate?
This is a bad news story. But I think we're headed in the right direction, more especially with accountability, with Porter Goss being the new director of the CIA, with the new national intelligence director, and we're going to have those hearings as of this week. So I think we're headed in a better direction than we were.
MR. RUSSERT: Six--in June of '03, President Bush was still saying, "We're going to find the weapons of mass destruction." Senator Rockefeller, why was Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei just dismissed when, in fact, their sense of what Saddam Hussein possessed seemed to be much more accurate than our own intelligence gathering?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: That is correct, and if you go back before Hans Blix to Ralph Ekeus, who was head of UNSCOM before that, the U.N. inspectors, his view generally was that the weapons of mass destruction that were left over in Iraq were the ones that he had prepared for the previous war against Iran for the previous 10 years, and that most of them were destroyed.
I mean, it's an extraordinary situation of failure, and it takes right back to the place where you were touching, and that is: Did the administration--had the administration made up its mind, which I believe, that it was going to go to war? I believe it made up its mind very shortly after the 9/11. Started with Afghanistan but quickly moved to planning for Iraq. They had made up their mind they were going to go to war. They saw this as an opportunity and something they needed to do. And then there was a whole series of settings, and not just of shaping of intelligence. The molding of American public opinion to make them more responsive to a decision which had already been made, but also pressure being put on analysts.
And let me just say that in--this is a very good study, what Pat and I agree on, this study. But it has a conflict in it. It says there wasn't any pressure put on analysts, but it--then later in a footnote it says that 7 percent of all of those people in WINPAC, which is kind of the weapons of mass destruction and the nuclear proliferation, and that kind of thing, in the CIA, felt that they had had to change their intelligence to suit the customer, i.e., the executive branch. Now, we can argue that one out, but the point is John Bolton and others clearly tried to exercise pressure, put pressure on George Tenet, told Pat Roberts and I that face-to-face...
MR. RUSSERT: That John Bolton put pressure?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No, no, that the pressure was being put on his people, said it happens.
MR. RUSSERT: When was that?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: That was in an interview a long time ago. He also--the Kerr Commission...
MR. RUSSERT: Who was putting the pressure on him?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: That people were putting pressure on analysts. There wasn't at that time a specific person.
MR. RUSSERT: Oh, I see.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: It was just the pattern of pressure. And you've got to remember something. It's not: Do you write a different product as a result of the pressure? It's the fact the pressure was being put on whether or not you write a different product.
MR. RUSSERT: Will you vote to confirm John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: I will certainly not do that, no.
MR. RUSSERT: You will vote against him?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Roberts, you mentioned your study with Senator Rockefeller of the Senate Intelligence Committee. That was phase one, which was the quality...
SEN. ROBERTS: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: ...and quantity of the intelligence. And in July of 2004, let me show you a discussion that you and Senator Rockefeller had with the press.
(Videotape, July 9, 2004):
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: The central issue of how intelligence on Iraq was--in this senator's opinion, was exaggerated by the Bush administration officials, was relegated to that second phase as yet unbegun of the committee investigation.
SEN. ROBERTS: As Senator Rockefeller has alluded to, this is in phase two of our efforts. We simply couldn't get that done with the work product that we put out. And he has pointed out that has a top priority. It is one of my top priorities.
MR. RUSSERT: Two days later you were on MEET THE PRESS, both of you, and I asked you specifically about phase two of your investigation, looking into the shaping of intelligence, and you said this.
(Videotape, July 11, 2004):
SEN. ROBERTS: Even as I'm speaking, our staff is working on phase two and we will get it done.
MR. RUSSERT: When will we see phase two of your investigation about the shaping or exaggeration of intelligence by policy-makers?
SEN. ROBERTS: I hope this doesn't take too long. There are three phases to phase two. One is to compare the public statements by the administration on all public officials, including the Congress, with the intelligence matrix that we have. Why did you say what you said in regards to some administration official, in regards to some policy-making? And you can go back over some declarative and aggressive statements. Also you can find the same people who are the very top critics of those comments making the same comments. And so you get down to: Did the intelligence--was it really credible? No. It was a mistake. That influenced the comments of the people concerned.
Now, we can put out 50 different statements by the administration, which we've been provided by the Democrats, and we can also put out 50 different statements by members of Congress, including me--I don't know about Jay, but I think that's the case--and say: "What was in your head? What were you thinking? What was the use of it?" My whole point is--and also to get back to the pressure--the pressure question really involves repetitive questioning. In my view, there wasn't enough repetitive questioning to make sure that the analysts at the DOE, State Department, whatever, that those concerns were put into the national intelligence estimate. I don't think that repetitive questioning of analysts, which they expect, amounts to pressure.
Now, there's two more things. One is the Office of Special Plans under the Department of Defense. Now, we've had a statement basically saying that some of the activities may have been illegal. Everybody down there got a lawyer. I would love to get Doug Feith, who is the undersecretary in charge of the Office of Special Plans, back before the committee. We are willing and able to do that anytime that the minority wishes.
And finally, there's the prewar intelligence on the postwar insurgency in Iraq. We have found to date that that was scattered all over the place. Everybody expected a humanitarian wave of assistance. It didn't happen. So they got that wrong, too. All three things we can complete, but we do also have the confirmation of the DNI working with the Intelligence Reform Act, being much more aggressive in terms of the capability of the hard targets that certainly face America. And to go back in and to keep going over this over and over again, I'm more than happy to finish this, and I want to finish it, but we have other things that we need to do.
MR. RUSSERT: But as you well know, when your report came out there were many people who said that you were not going forward with phase two about exaggerations and shaping because you didn't want to involve yourself, influence the election. You made a firm commitment to do just that.
SEN. ROBERTS: Yeah, we're going to do that, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: The United States went to war...
SEN. ROBERTS: Tim, we're going to do that. I will bring it here. We'll have the 50 statements. We'll have the intelligence. We can match it up and you can do it with members of Congress, who are very, very critical, who made the same things, and you can say, "OK," and you'll say "Well, Pat, it just looks to me that the intelligence was wrong and that's exactly why they said what they said." Now, I don't know what that accomplishes over the long term. I'm perfectly willing to do it, and that's what we agreed to do, and that door is still open. And I don't want to quarrel with Jay, because we both agreed that we would get it done. But we do have--we have Ambassador Negroponte next week, we have General Mike Hayden next week. We have other hot-spot hearings or other things going on that are very important. So we will get it done, but it seems to me that we ought to put it in some priority of order, and after we do get it done I think everybody's going to scratch their head and say, "OK, well, that's fine. You know, let's go to the real issue."
MR. RUSSERT: Will it be done?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: I hope so. Pat and I have agreed to do it. We've shaken hands on it, and we agreed to do it after the elections so it wouldn't be any sort of sense of a political attack. I mean that was my view; it shouldn't be viewed that way. I view use of intelligence, as I said at the beginning of this section, as absolutely critical. I don't care how good or bad an intelligence product you have. If policy-makers are going to misuse or shape or hype or change or try to pressure that intelligence into being something different, they're the ones who decide, the policy-makers, whether we'll go to war or not, not the intelligence community. This is at the core of what we have to be prepared for, to do correctly for the next 30 or 40 years during the war on terrorism.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me raise another issue. Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the former Iraqi exile, said repeatedly that he and his organization had no ties with this defector called Curveball. Now, The Los Angeles Times wrote an article; several times on this program, we made that association. He now feels exonerated saying that this report says no connection between Mr. Chalabi and Curveball. Is that accurate?
SEN. ROBERTS: Basically I think that we're going to find a lot more out about Curveball and what has happened here with the WMD Commission and then our investigation, there are gaps. And the WMD Commission has found out things that we were not able to do a year ago. We have a promise from the head of the CIA, Mr. Porter Goss, who is looking into who knew about Curveball and the fact that he was not a credible source in terms of any collection or any kind of intelligence. We're still exploring that. As soon as we get to the bottom of it, I think that I could answer you better.
MR. RUSSERT: But, in fact, for the record, there's no evidence that Mr. Chalabi was associated with Curveball.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Chalabi's footprints are all over virtually everything. I mean, where you have defectors, where you have, as Curveball was called, a fabricator, you're likely to find somewhere Chalabi's footprint.
MR. RUSSERT: But the report says there was no direct involvement with Curveball or linkage to...
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: So what does "direct involvement" mean?
MR. RUSSERT: Well, here's the way The Wall Street Journal wrote it, and we can talk about it: "Post- war investigations concluded that Curveball's reporting was not influenced by, controlled by, or connected to, the INC, (Iraqi National Congress). Overall, the CIA's post-war investigations revealed that INC-related sources had a minimal impact on pre-war assessments. The report's larger conclusion is that the CIA's intelligence on Iraq was faulty almost from start to finish, never mind Curveball. The attempt to finger Mr. Chalabi and the ideologues at the Pentagon was an exercise in blame-shifting to deflect attention from that enormous failure."
If there's no connection, it should be so stated.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Well, the fact that they stated that there was no connection is another way of saying that in so much of the other intelligence, which the administration was accepting, especially in the Office of Special Plans, Douglas Feith, came directly from Chalabi. And, in fact, Douglas Feith, who's no longer in that position, refused to tell the Central Intelligence Agency about what he was learning from Chalabi and took it directly to the White House, including the vice president.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me read one last thing from the report. This is from USA Today. "The commission made it clear it is concerned about the quality of intelligence on nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. `The intelligence community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors. In some cases, it knows less than it did five or 10 years ago.'"
It's so damning of our intelligence agencies, and yet in terms of balance, this is the same intelligence agency that took down A.Q. Kahn and his whole international network, took down the Taliban in Afghanistan. That kind of intelligence data helped our military. Libya with Qaddafi--their espionage helped bring about a resolution. Is that accurate that we know less now than we did five or 10 years ago?
SEN. ROBERTS: In certain aspects and certain targets, that may be true. One of the most disturbing things that I read and that we both agree on in regards to the WMD Commission is that, in terms of the hard targets--and we'll just be very frank, Iran, North Korea, whatever--that we still know disturbingly little. Now, that was, you know, a quote by the commission. I can tell you that steps are being taken to improve that.
Again, rather than look in the rearview mirror with 20/20 hindsight--and if you're in the intelligence community, it's very easy to take a brick bat because there's been a lot of what we call, "Oh, my God hearings," "Oh, my God, how did this happen?" and then it gets in the press. But the intelligence community and all the people that work for the intelligence community can't ever tell what they have done right. Now, you have just cited some of them. So, yes, we have problems, but in the recommendations, better human intelligence, better analysis, certainly a better consensus threat analysis to the policy-maker. Make sure our technology is up to speed. There's 74 recommendations. There's about eight of them that we both agree on. We can put that in our authorization bill. We can work with the administration to make sure that it is put in administratively. Some things the intelligence community has done have been great successes and we can't talk about. Others like this are egregious mistakes that must be corrected.
MR. RUSSERT: Can this president or the next president go before the country and the world and say, "I have data, intelligence, information, that says X, Y and Z about North Korea and Iran and, therefore, we have to take action"? Can he or she say that and be believed by this country or the world?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Those are two questions, and I think the answer to each of those questions is probably at this point no. In the unclassified version of this report, as Pat Roberts has correctly said, they say that our state of knowledge about certain countries is very, very bad, as indeed after the U.N. people pulled out of Iran, we really didn't have any assets on the ground, so to speak, to help us there. But I think the point of this, Tim--my colleague and good friend Pat Roberts just talking about looking in the rearview mirror--this is a seminal change since 1947 when the National Security Act was passed. Everything in intelligence and how the policy-makers respond to it has changed. There has to be a good deal of looking in the rearview mirror so that we can find out what we did wrong, not for the sake of playing gotcha but for the sake of finding out what we did wrong so we can correct it for the next 30 or 40 years.
MR. RUSSERT: That has to be the last word. Senator Rockefeller, Senator Roberts, thank you both very much.
SEN. ROBERTS: Hey, don't forget Bob's book.
MR. RUSSERT: It's coming up next. Bob Dole and his new book "One Soldier's Story," another plug from a fellow Kansan senator. Our Roundtable on the legacy of Pope John Paul II and the future of House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay all coming up right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: Former Senator Bob Dole, his new book "One Soldier's Story," our political Roundtable on religion and politics after this station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we're back.
Senator Dole, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
FMR. SEN. BOB DOLE, (R-KS): Good to be here again.
MR. RUSSERT: "One Soldier's Story," incredible book about your life, and it is so rich with letters that you wrote home as a young man when you went off to war. Let me show you one from March of 1945: "Dear folks, we are in a rest area now... We are living in a hotel, and I really enjoy sleeping nights in a bed instead of a foxhole. A foxhole isn't as bad as you probably think. We generally fill the bottom with straw which makes it pretty comfortable. I'm sorry to hear about all the Russell" Kansas "boys being killed or wounded, but I'm glad that you write and tell me anyway. I guess so many were meant to be killed in this war, there's nothing either you or I can do but trust in God, I pray that he will look after us."
That's a young scared kid, isn't he?
MR. DOLE: Yeah. Well, I think we are. I think everyone was scared. People would tell me, "Oh, I wasn't--didn't bother me, I wasn't afraid of anything," I doubt it.
MR. RUSSERT: A month later this is what you wrote happened 60 years ago this very week: "I felt a sting as something hot, something terribly powerful crashed into my upper back behind my right shoulder. ... My body responded before my brain had time to process what was happening. As the mortar round, exploding shell, machine gun blast--whatever it was, I'll never know--ripped into my body, I recoiled, lifted off the ground a bit, twisted in the air and fell face down in the dirt. For a long moment, I didn't know if I was dead or alive. I sensed the dirt in my mouth more than I tasted it. ... Then the horror hit me--I can't feel anything below my neck! I didn't know it at the time, but whatever it was that hit me had ripped apart my shoulder, breaking my collarbone and my right arm, smashing down into my vertebrae, and damaging my spinal cord."
April 14th, 1945, Hill 913, northern Italy. You remember it like yesterday?
MR. DOLE: Oh, yeah. I remember my--I think what they call a near-death experience. Your life kind of just...
MR. RUSSERT: Flashes?
MR. DOLE: ...floats in front of you. I thought about my little dog. I thought about my parents. I thought about my brother, my sisters, Russell, Kansas. All those things just sort of flash by you.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator, here's a photograph of you in bed in the Winter General Hospital, Topeka, Kansas.
MR. DOLE: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Many people had given up on you...
MR. DOLE: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: ...didn't think you were going to make it, but you had such a will, such a determination...
MR. DOLE: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: ...and your mom and dad.
MR. DOLE: My mother was--she was the star. I mean, she moved to Topeka, Kansas. She was there every day. She used--she hated people who smoked, but I'd picked up the smoking habit, and here she was--I was in a body cast. I couldn't use my arms and she was holding my cigarettes. And it was--well, you never know how much your parents really do for you until you get a little older and appreciate them more. I read "Big Russ & Me" and I know the close tie you had with your father, and I had about the same tie with your mother. So it just depends on what happens.
MR. RUSSERT: The older you get, the smarter your parents seem to be.
MR. DOLE: That's what you said, yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: One of the people you dedicate your book to is this sergeant, Craig Nelson, from Bossier City, Louisiana. At the end of last year you fell and hurt yourself, and hurt your good arm, shall we say.
MR. DOLE: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: You went to the hospital for rehab, and met Sergeant Nelson.
MR. DOLE: Met Sergeant Nelson.
MR. RUSSERT: Tell us about him.
MR. DOLE: I met him on Christmas Day, in fact. We'd been there--Elizabeth and I had gone out to have Christmas lunch with some of the men and women in the hospital who were very badly injured. And just as we were leaving the room, we heard just somebody shouting, `Senator Dole, Senator Dole!' And I turned around and it was Craig's mother, Lois Nelson. And she said, "Could you please go up and say hello to my son." And so obviously, you know, I was happy to do that. I went up and there was Craig in bed, couldn't move anything. I'm not certain he even knew I was in the room but I did-- said we'd be praying for him and we thank God that he was home. And two days later, or three days later he was gone.
MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, you have visited those hospitals so many times as a public official and as a private person. And in your book you write this, and I think it's so inspiring for those men and for everyone. "One of life's greatest milestones is when a person can look back and be almost as thankful for the setbacks as for the victories. Gradually, it dawns on us that success and failure are not polar opposites. They are part of the same picture--the picture of a full life, where you have your ups and downs. After all, none of us can ever lose unless we find the courage to try. Losing means that at least you were in the race. It means that when the whistle sounded, life did not find you watching from the sidelines."
MR. DOLE: Yeah. Well, life's not a spectator sport. And I often say when I'm speaking to different groups, if anybody in the audience can look me in the eye and say, "I've never had a failure. I've never had a setback. I've always achieved everything I had dreamed of," I'd say, "I don't want to meet you," because I don't think it's true. I mean, every one of us has setbacks. Every one of us has little bumps in the road. And it's how we deal with those little bumps in the road that determines our future.
MR. RUSSERT: You talked about your mom. Talked about your dad. He said to you, "Be a doer and not a stewer."
MR. DOLE: Not a stewer.
MR. RUSSERT: Talk about that.
MR. DOLE: Well, my parents--neither one finished high school. And--but they were energetic, industrious. They worked all the time. My dad had a cream and egg station where he took cream from the farmers and eggs and sold them chicken feed and all the other things. My mother sold sewing machines and gave sewings lessons to help us make ends meet. We moved into the basement of our apartment--of our house and rented out the upstairs and they did that to keep everything going. But my dad wore his overalls to work every day for 42 years and was proud of it. And, you know, he didn't-- some people wore suits, he wore overalls and they were pressed every day by my mother. And...
MR. RUSSERT: He was a doer. What is a stewer?
MR. DOLE: A stewer would just sit around and think about doing something and never get it done. They'll say, "Well, I'll do it today or I'll do it tomorrow." My dad used to say, "If you're going to do it, do it now."
MR. RUSSERT: And do it right.
MR. DOLE: And he never--he wasn't one to flatter us either. And he'd come home and say--after we spent all day, you know, fixing up the yard. He'd say, "Well, that's pretty good."
MR. RUSSERT: That's the best you got.
MR. DOLE: That's the best I got. My dad wrote about two letters, I think--four letters in his life, and I received one of them.
MR. RUSSERT: That's quite an honor.
MR. DOLE: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: One of the things you write about also, Senator, is the importance of a sense of humor.
MR. DOLE: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: And you recall the situation in January of 1997--10 years ago today you announced for the presidency and you challenged Bill Clinton, in 1996, lost the race. President Clinton invited you to the White House January 17th to award you the Presidential Medal of Honor. And you were supposed to offer--the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And you were supposed to offer some words of gratitude, and instead this is how Bob Dole began his comments.
(Videotape from January 17, 1997):
MR. DOLE: I, Robert J. Dole, do solemnly swear--Oops, sorry, wrong speech.
MR. RUSSERT: Does Washington need more humor?
MR. DOLE: I think so. I think there's quite a bit around. Pat Roberts, who was just on the program, is probably the number-one humorist in the Senate these days. But, yeah, I think you need a sense of humor. Your good friend Pat Moynihan had a good sense of humor. But we need it. Yeah, we need to break the tension sometimes and you can do it with just--without offending anybody.
MR. RUSSERT: It's gotten pretty bitter.
MR. DOLE: You don't make personal attacks on people, but you got to have a little fun in life.
MR. RUSSERT: Gotten pretty bitter, hasn't it?
MR. DOLE: Yeah, pretty bitter.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, in the sense of having some fun, Senator, I want to go back to July 16th, 1972, your first appearance on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. DOLE: I was probably scared to death.
MR. RUSSERT: You were chairman of the Republican National Committee. You've been on MEET THE PRESS 63 times, which is more than anyone else in history. On this program have you ever told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
MR. DOLE: Probably not.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's take a look. You were asked about Watergate.
MR. DOLE: Uh-oh.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's listen.
(Videotape from July 16, 1972):
MR. DOLE: There's no evidence linking the Republican Party, the Committee to Re-elect, or anyone else, the White House or anyone in the White House, with so-called Watergate caper.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you like to revise those remarks?
MR. DOLE: I'd leave off the last sentence there. I used to tell people, you know, when Watergate happened it was my night off. I was on a job in Chicago. That's how I take care of it. But it was my night off. In fact, Senator Irvin, who made the report--Sam Irvin from North Carolina headed the committee to investigate Watergate--made a finding, which is very unusual, that Senator Robert Dole was in no way involved in Watergate, which I appreciated very much.
MR. RUSSERT: So the Republican National Committee...
MR. DOLE: But some of that is not accurate, some of that statement.
MR. RUSSERT: Two years later President Nixon resigned, but...
MR. DOLE: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...Senator, as always, we thank you for joining us, 63 times, a record. The book, "One Soldier's Story"; what should people take from this book?
MR. DOLE: Well, hopefully those with disabilities will take some inspiration. Those who figure their life ends at 50 can take a look at me and say, "Well, this guy's still making a difference." But that's what the book is about, it's about me, but it's also about my generation. It's about your dad, Big Russ. It's about all those men and women in uniform and those who weren't in uniform in World War II. For once we were united. And it paid off, and we've become the greatest country in the world. And we're proud to say God bless America.
MR. RUSSERT: "One Soldier's Story," Bob Dole, thanks very much.
MR. DOLE: Thank you, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, the National Review's Kate O'Beirne and The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson talk religion and politics, right after this.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
Kate O'Beirne, Eugene Robinson, welcome both.
MR. EUGENE ROBINSON: Thanks.
MR. RUSSERT: Pope John Paul II--President Clinton on the way to Rome to attend the funeral offered these thoughts. "He's like all of us. He may have a mixed legacy. He was a man of God, he was a consistent person, he did what he thought was right. That's about all you can ask from anybody. And I think he clearly was a figure of historic importance."
MS. KATE O'BEIRNE: I'd say partially true. I would say he's not like most of us, was not like most of us. It's very hard to sort out what the legacy might be for this remarkable man. I suspect there won't be a single legacy. There's a lot of competition. Given his enormous achievements, the effect he had on, obviously, we saw this week so many around the world, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, clearly his indispensable role in seeing the end to the Soviet Union, all of the efforts he made toward Christian unity, the efforts he made towards Christian and Jewish healing, the catechism that he gave Catholics. If I had to pick a single stark legacy that we saw on display this week, it would be the young people. Millions, of course, came to Rome, his World Youth Days. He himself talked about the seeds he was planting for the church and a new evangelization. I'd say his effect on young people.
MR. RUSSERT: Gene Robinson?
MR. ROBINSON: You know, I really think it was the fact that he was the first global pope. It was his global evangelism; he spread the church. He kind of embodied what had become fact, which is that most Roman Catholics live outside of Europe. It's not just an Italian institution. He was a man of the world and I think he kind of made us realize that the church is not what it used to be.
MR. RUSSERT: It's difficult to categorize politically abortion, gay rights, embryonic stem cell research; on the other hand, against the war in Iraq, against the death penalty. You wrote a column this week, Gene Robinson, saying that the next pope is going to have to deal in the United States with issues like the sex abuse scandal that happened on Pope John Paul II's watch, the role of women, the whole issue of contraception and birth control.
MR. ROBINSON: I think the relationship between the next pope and American Catholics is going to be very interesting. The United States is not the demographic population center of the Roman Catholic Church now. Forty percent or more of Catholics live in Latin America, only 25 percent live in the United States and Europe. Yet those 25 percent are responsible for a lot of the wealth and influence of the Roman Catholic Church. They can't be ignored. They're much more liberal on social issues than Catholics in the Third World. The next pope is really going to have a balancing act to deal with.
MR. RUSSERT: It's an interesting decision for the Catholic Church, Kate O'Beirne, as they try to decide who can possibly follow Pope John Paul II's footsteps. Do they go back to the Italian model? Do they try to reach out to central South America? What's your sense?
MS. O'BEIRNE: Oh, Tim, I blew my prediction on the Iowa caucuses where you can't get American politicians to shut up and every single analyst is at your disposal. The voters this time have taken a vow of silence on the pain of excommunication. So with a major caution, I think Gene's point is well taken, this pope has redefined the expectations on the public role and the public charisma of the next pope. I would remind an American audience that we Americans I think may be particularly ill-suited to try to guess. We're so American centric in our view of the church. American Catholics, of course, make up only about 6 percent of the worldwide church. I suspect the cardinals have heading into a conclave on their minds a lot of issues that aren't necessarily the priorities of some American Catholics. Post- Christian Europe, the E.U.--the E.U. constitution that rejected its Christian roots, of course, bothered the Vatican very much. Islam--relations with Islam, the biotech revolution. There are enormous challenges ahead and I suspect challenges of that size are on the mind of the cardinals heading into the conclave.
MR. RUSSERT: And we await that result.
Let me turn back to domestic politics. Tom DeLay, very much in the news. I'll show you two headlines from last Wednesday, the first from The Washington Post. Headline: "A 3rd DeLay Trip Under Scrutiny. 1997 Russia Visit Reportedly Backed by Business Interests." And then The New York Times the same day: "Political Groups Paid 2 Relatives Of House Leader Over $500,000 Since 2001. DeLay Wife and Daughter Got Money for Work Tied to Campaigns."
This prompted Tom DeLay to say this. He "angrily dismissed [the] newspaper accounts...In an interview with CNN...He called the article `just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me'"... Gene Robinson?
MR. ROBINSON: Well, this is starting to kind of get serious, I think. It's not over yet for Tom DeLay, but the accretion of these ethical questions, I think, is very serious for him. As we reported recently, that conservatives have kind of--he's trying to rally conservatives to circle the wagons and defend him, essentially saying that an attack on him is an attack on the conservative movement. But I think that it's becoming a real problem for him.
MR. RUSSERT: Kate?
MS. O'BEIRNE: Tim, you can get a Washington--in the world of Washington, you can get into that zone where "ethical questions" are being raised, and you can sustain a little damage even if every question is answered, which is what the DeLay camp would tell you. They firmly believe that he's been singled out, and his colleagues agree. They do see it as a singling out of Tom DeLay for, you know, trips funded by private groups that are not uncommon. They pointed to the story this week about Tom DeLay's wife and sister--and daughter being paid about $50,000 a year in private campaign funds to work on the campaign. That is not an uncommon practice. That particular story about Tom DeLay's family was reported two years ago, and so they highlighted that story as a perfect example of the kind of attacks that are being made against Tom DeLay.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk--turn to one specific issue and that's the judiciary, which Congressman DeLay is really focused on. This is what the--Congressman DeLay said on March 31, talking about Terri Schiavo's death, "is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."
Vice President Cheney was asked about this view towards the judiciary. This is how The New York Post categorized it: "Vice President Cheney said he...strongly disagreed with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who wants retribution against judges who blocked restoration of [Schiavo's] feeding tube. `I don't think that's appropriate...There's a reason why judges get lifetime appointments.'"
A real difference of opinion within the Republican Party.
MR. ROBINSON: And Senator Frist has also essentially disavowed that sentiment that somehow the judiciary should be punished or was terribly wrong in the Schiavo matter. You know, again, I found the fact that Cheney and Frist stepped so far back, you know, may be another indication that DeLay is increasingly kind of out there by himself; not quite by himself, but being distanced a bit from the mainstream.
MR. RUSSERT: Kate, it is interesting that this attack on judges, if you will, George Greer, the district court local judge in Florida, a Republican Southern Baptist, and Judge William Pryor in the 11th District Court, Circuit Court, the president appointed, President Bush, by recess appointment, the Supreme Court, which has a fair representation of strict constructionists. Is Congressman DeLay accurate in this attack on the judiciary?
MS. O'BEIRNE: Well, what bothers him and I, I think he has quite a bit of company in this concern on Capitol Hill, is that Congress passed a law asking the federal court, only asking them, Tim, to take another look at the facts. That single judge, Greer, you cited is the only one who ever had the factual finding and, of course, it was given real deference as that case was appealed up through the states and the federal courts. They wanted a new look at the facts to make sure federal rights, which we all have under the 14th Amendment in her case, Terri Schiavo, weren't violated. Many members are extremely bothered at what they consider the judges' flicking away the congressional law. One judge, in dissent, one federal judge, chastised his two colleagues for doing that, explaining, you know, "Congress didn't pass this and have the president sign it for no reason. We do owe real deference to this federal law." So I think he has plenty of company in being bothered by that.
MR. RUSSERT: Seventy percent of the American people now say that Congress should not have gotten involved. Are you surprised by that number?
MR. ROBINSON: I'm surprised that it's so high. I'm not surprised that it's a majority. You know, the Schiavo case, as sad as it was, is not uncommon. Every family goes through death. Every family goes through a situation where it's time to let a loved one go, where difficult decisions have to be made, where sometimes there's disagreement on those decisions and the timing of those decisions. And I don't think any family wants Congress to be telling them how to make those decisions. And I think that's what you're seeing.
MS. O'BEIRNE: Yeah, neither the Congress--of course, they just don't want to be making those decisions on anyone's behalf either. I'm not at all surprised that the public's instincts were in favor of family decisions and privacy. But this case, given the family feud, was in the courts and, that being the case, Congress saw it had an obligation, felt they had an obligation, to make sure federal rights were being protected.
MR. RUSSERT: Kate O'Beirne, Gene Robinson, thank you both very much.
And we'll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: Start your day tomorrow on "Today" with Katie and Matt, then the "NBC Nightly News" with Brian Williams.
That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.
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