MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Only 51 days until the midterm elections. The Democrats must gain six seats to take control of the U.S. Senate. This morning, our Senate Debate series continues with another one of the most closely watched races of the year, Virginia, where incumbent Republican Senator George Allen faces off against Democratic challenger Jim Webb. Allen has served in the U.S. House of Representatives and as governor of the state of Virginia. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000 and is a son of the legendary NFL coach George Allen. Webb attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was a varsity boxer, even sparring with fellow classmate Oliver North. As a Marine, his service in Vietnam earned him several medals for valor. He later served as secretary of the Navy. George Allen vs. Jim Webb, only on MEET THE PRESS.
And they are both with us here now.
Mr. Allen, Mr. Webb, welcome both.
MR. JIM WEBB: Thank you.
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R-VA): Good morning.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me go back, Mr. Webb, to November of 2000. Here you are, standing with George Allen, endorsing him for the United States Senate, saying this: You endorse George Allen, “Webb said he believes Allen would be a better representative in the Senate on national security issues.” How can you endorse someone and then run against him?
MR. WEBB: I—for two reasons. First of all, I had thought George Allen would be bringing better leadership to the United States Senate, and I have not seen that kind of leadership, particularly in the area of national security, where we have become so vulnerable as a nation. The second is that if you look at what’s happened to the Republican Party over this period, they’re—I’m like a lot of people in this country who affiliated with the Republican Party based on national security issues toward the end of the Vietnam War, were never particularly comfortable with them, particularly on economic issues. And what you’ve seen over the last six years is a war that is an incredible strategic blunder of historic proportions. We’re now getting the—American people are now beginning to understand how bad that decision was. We need to do something about it, and we’re seeing the budget busted, and we’re seeing the divisions in our, our work force based along class lines as never before.
So A, I thought George Allen would be a leader, and B, I think that the Republican Party has reached the point where, in its Karl Rove era, it’s mostly negativity rather than affirmative leadership.
MR. RUSSERT: Did you go see Senator Allen and talk to him about the war in Iraq before it began?
MR. WEBB: Yes, I did. I wrote a piece for The Washington Post six months before we went into Iraq, laying out in my view this was not about WMDs, it was about our troops being turned into terrorist targets, and that there was not an exit strategy because the people in this administration who were doing this did not intend to leave. I went and saw Senator Hagel, I went and saw Senator Allen. I spent an hour with Senator Allen discussing this with him. And from that point forward I decided that, although I had perhaps a, you know, a political—a personal regard for him on one level, politically that I could not support him anymore.
MR. RUSSERT: According to The Virginian-Pilot, Senator Allen, “[Webb] says he became disillusioned with Allen several years ago when he personally warned the senator of the perils of invading Iraq. ‘The only thing I got out of him was, basically, “You’re asking me to be disloyal to the president.”’” Is that what you said to Mr. Webb?
SEN. ALLEN: President...
MR. RUSSERT: You supported the war as a way of showing loyalty to the president?
SEN. ALLEN: First of all, I’ve, I’ve shown great leadership for the people of Virginia as governor, as United States senator, making this country more safe and also more prosperous. And while my opponent now is upset with tax cuts and upset with energy ideas and education improvements for this country, make sure we are a land of opportunity for all, I’m going to keep fighting for those ideas because they will make our country more prosperous and more safe.
Insofar as leading up to the military action in Iraq: The issues were before us on a resolution, a resolution that stated that Saddam had 17 times defied and violated U.N. resolutions. It wasn’t just the United States, it was Britain and indeed the entire world community. There was good evidence that he had weapons of mass destruction—in particular, chemical and biological weapons. The resolution wanted to get the, the whole world community to enforce that resolution, and ultimately the president, in the event that he felt that it was important for the security of our country, may need to act, and need to act as best as possible in coordination, in concert with other countries.
Now, that action was taken, and I think the world’s better off with Saddam Hussein not in power. Saddam Hussein was one who was paying $35,000 to parents so they’d send their sons or daughter on these murder/suicide missions into Israel.
This has been a tough war, it’s not been easy. I was just with—at a funeral for a young man, Private Wolf. His mother held my hands—this was just on Monday, on 9/11. She wanted to be—have him buried, laid to rest that day. And she held my hands, and she said, “We can’t quit. We can’t give up.” And so this...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, let’s just stop right there. And let me, let me...
SEN. ALLEN: ...this—so it is tough. But...
MR. RUSSERT: But let me ask you a simple question. If the CIA said in 2003, “Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction. That is now our—the finding,” would you still have voted to go to war?
SEN. ALLEN: Tim, we, we made decisions. You can’t say, “Gosh,” five years later—and this is what my opponent’s campaign’s about is the second-guessing.
MR. RUSSERT: No, but it’s a serious question. People are saying, knowing what they know today, they still would have gone in. It’s a serious question. If you knew Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction, was it still worth going to war?
SEN. ALLEN: I stand by my vote, and the vote was based on the evidence and information before us. And we had a choice. We had a choice whether to listen to the critics and do nothing, and then have this world more dangerous if, if we were right.
MR. WEBB: We were...(unintelligible).
SEN. ALLEN: And if we were wrong, and if we were wrong, and, and deposed Saddam Hussein, the world’s still better off. Now, my opponent—now, you need, need to understand...
MR. WEBB: Define that.
SEN. ALLEN: No, hold it. My opponent...
MR. WEBB: I mean, this is the third time you’ve said “my opponent.” You know. When, when...
SEN. ALLEN: All right. Well, Jim, hold it. Hold it, Jim.
MR. WEBB: ...when, when we went in...
SEN. ALLEN: Let me finish this.
MR. WEBB: ...when we went...
SEN. ALLEN: Jim was opposed not only to the military action now to get rid of—and recently, but he—if it were up to him, Saddam Hussein would not only be in his palaces in Iraq now, he would actually be in Kuwait, because he was opposed to military action back in 1991.
MR. WEBB: That’s an absurd analogy. That’s an absurd analogy.
SEN. ALLEN: Heck, heck, the French were even for military action in 1991.
MR. RUSSERT: All right, just, just one second, Mr. Webb.
MR. WEBB: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Before I let Mr. Webb respond, did you say to Jim Webb you were voting for the war so as to not be disloyal to President Bush?
SEN. ALLEN: I was supporting our efforts of our administration. It was bipartisan support for this resolution, because I thought we needed to show unity of resolve so that Saddam Hussein, it was my hope, would see how resolved, how unified the United States was, as well as the United Nations, and would actually comply with the weapons inspections.
MR. RUSSERT: The, the concern being if in fact you cast that vote out of loyalty to President Bush...
SEN. ALLEN: No, it’s loyalty to this country, and making sure that our country is unified in, in this, in this effort to disarm Saddam Hussein. That was the point.
MR. RUSSERT: I’ll give you a chance to respond.
MR. WEBB: First of all, with respect to Gulf War I, I was testifying in the Nunn hearings. I was warning, 16 years ago, that the, that the worse job we did on Iraq, the more powerful Iran would become. And with respect to the French analogy, which he’s used before, my, my Marine son was home, and he said, “Wait a minute, OK, the French did support Gulf War I. Dad, you were—you fought in Vietnam, George Allen didn’t fight in Vietnam. Even the French fought in Vietnam.” I mean, what have the French got to do with any of this?
With respect to going in, in, in this situation, we did have other options. This was not a war of necessity at the time. We had inspectors on the ground, as opposed to the situation in 1998 when there were no inspectors on the ground. And we had plenty of strong military advice, not just from people like me, people like Tony Zinni, and other strongly—people with strong backgrounds, military backgrounds, who have endorsed my campaign, who were saying the same thing. This was a case, as you—last week Vice President Cheney was on your show, and he even declined to comment about the Senate Intelligence Committee report that showed how this—the intelligence that would be—was being used had been cooked. A lot of people on the outside knew that. There was no urgency to go into this war at the time that we went into it. And if we had the right people in the Senate, there would have been more questions asked and a better policy in place in order to defeat international terrorism. That is the focus of our country. We didn’t go into Iraq because of terrorism, we have terrorists in Iraq because we went in there.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me...
SEN. ALLEN: I’m sorry...
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Allen, let me, let me just show you The Washington Times op-ed piece that you wrote in January of ‘05, and here’s the headline:
“Stay the course.” What does that mean? How do you define victory in Iraq, and can it be won militarily?
SEN. ALLEN: Military and security aspects of it are absolutely essential. The people of Iraq have voted—last year three times, 70 percent turnout, walking like slow-moving targets to vote. And they do want a free and just society there, a country that does have respect for, for...
MR. RUSSERT: But what is staying the course?
SEN. ALLEN: Stay, staying the course is meaning that we don’t tuck tail and run, that we don’t retreat, that we don’t surrender. This is a central battle front in the war on terror, and it’s not just the president or the vice president or me saying that, that’s what al-Qaeda says, because al-Qaeda’s designs and their goals are to have a caliphate, Islamic caliphate from, from Indonesia to Spain, with the capital being in Iraq, an oil-rich area. And we cannot allow Iraq, which—where al-Qaeda was and is now, we cannot allow them...
MR. RUSSERT: Now, let me, let me show you, let me show, let me...
SEN. ALLEN: ...to have that haven for terrorist activity.
MR. RUSSERT: Let, let me show you a map of Iraq, and there on the west is Anbar Province. And this is what the Marine Corps has said about Anbar Province. “The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country’s western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.” That’s the military talking. What do we do? Do we seek a, seek a diplomatic solution, or stay the course militarily for years and years and years?
SEN. ALLEN: Anbar was always difficult to govern. The focus now is on the Baghdad area. When I was over in Iraq back in June, whether they were Kurds, Sunni or Shiites, they were all very grateful to Americans for liberating them from Saddam’s tyrannical regime. They all also recognize that the key for the country is to make sure there is better security in the Baghdad, the central area. The northern part, the Kurdish area, is doing very well. Gosh, they’re even running advertisements for investment in the Kurdish area. They’re building homes, there’s a convention center. And the southern part, the Shiite part, is, is, is fairly stable, too. The key right now, the focus, the adjustments, the adaptations that have been made, is to focus on the Baghdad area.
MR. RUSSERT: Two supporters of the war, William Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Rich Lowry of the National Review, said, “We are at a crucial moment in Iraq. Supporters of the war, like us, have in the past differed over tactics. But at this urgent pass, there can be no doubt that we need to stop the downward slide in Iraq.”
We are at a crucial moment
in Iraq. Supporters of the
war, like us, have in the past differed
over tactics. But at this urgent pass,
there can be no doubt that we need
to stop the downward slide in Iraq
by securing Baghdad.
There is no mystery as to what can
make the crucial difference in the
battle of Baghdad: American troops. ...
We need substantially more troops
in Iraq. Sending them would be a
courageous act of presidential
leadership appropriate to
the crisis we face.
RUSSERT: They end, “We need substantially more troops in Iraq. Sending them would be a courageous act of presidential leadership appropriate to the crisis we face.” Would you be in favor of putting more troops in Iraq, more American troops?
SEN. ALLEN: We’re going to need to do what it takes to succeed. Because...
RUSSERT: Including more troops?
SEN. ALLEN: Because it’s so essential to the security of the United States of America. Moreover, that is actually happening right now. If you look at the troop levels in Iraq, they are higher than they were several months ago. Moreover, they have been concentrated in the Baghdad area, so the troops are going to where they’re needed.
I would also point out, Tim, to you and, and fellow Americans, is that every single week you see more and more Iraqis and their military taking control. And many of the—now it’s probably about a third of the military options are being—military operations—are being led by Iraqis with the U.S. in a supportive role. And as more and more Iraqis take over those military operations, it’ll be ultimately up to them, their backbone, their minds, and their hands to build that free and just society that is safe and an ally in the war on terror rather than, than an enemy.
RUSSERT: Mr. Webb, should we increase American troop levels in Iraq?
MR. WEBB: We don’t have the troops. I think that you, you, you heard from—you’ve heard from other military observers on that. We, you know, we’ve got people now in the Army and the Marine Corps pulling their, their third and sometimes their fourth tours into Iraq. We’re burning out our people. It’s one of the things I was warning about early on when I said that this was a, a double strategic mouse trap. First of all, a mouse trap with—that was going to burn out our conventional forces, and second of all, a mouse trap in the sense that we have gotten so engaged in fighting the Sunni insurgency that we have allowed the Shia to get more power inside Iraq.
Now, we need, we need to make a couple of clarifications here. Saddam Hussein was not aligned with al-Qaeda, they were natural enemies. And this came out in, in the Senate Intelligence report—Committee report of last week, where we, we were being told that by our, our intelligence advisers, whether it filtered through this administration to get to the Senate or not.
And I agree on one thing, let’s be clear: We made a strategic error in going into Iraq, but we have a responsibility to, to reduce our presence in Iraq in a way that will stabilize the region. What I’ve been saying for two years is we need a commitment from this administration that we, the United States, do not want to be in Iraq as a permanent presence and a long-term presence. But secondly, that we have to get these other countries involved, the other countries tangential to Iraq, the countries that have cultural and historical interests in Iraq, involved in an overt way to move toward a diplomatic process.
I know what it’s like to be on the ground. I know what it’s like to fight a war like this. And there’s—there are limits to what the military can do. Eventually, this is going to have to move into a diplomatic environment. Now, that’s where this administration seems to have blinders. They’re not talking to Syria, they’re not talking to Iran. And there are ways that we can do this, move this forward.
If you look at what we did after Afghanistan, in the invasion of Afghanistan, we actually brought the countries around Afghanistan to the table—including Iran, by the way. Iran was cooperating at that time, before President Bush made his “axis of evil” speech and they stopped cooperating. The eventual way out of this—and it can be done soon, with the right leadership—is for us to get something similar to what we had with the, the Madrid conference in 1991 after Gulf War I, get these countries to the table, and have them work out a formula. Sooner or later, we’re going to leave. And when we leave, the countries that are tangential to Iraq are going to be players. We should overtly push that now.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask one...
MR. WEBB: Well, all...
MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask one question on troops. When you were last on this program in 1985, you said that conscription, the draft, was good for the military, the country, and the individual. Would you vote to reinstate the draft?
MR. WEBB: I don’t believe that this—right now, this country needs a draft. What I’ve done—one of the things I’ve done is I’ve proposed a 5 percent tax break for all people who serve honorably in the military. And one of the reasons that I have done that...
MR. RUSSERT: How much would that cost?
MR. WEBB: If, if you go to the, the typical income of a veteran, it’s about $30-something-thousand, so it’s not a high-cost program. And it’s targeted to people who’ve served. And one of the things that that would do, by the way, in my view, is to bring more people from across class lines into the military. One of the, one of the great problems we have right now in, in, in discussing this war is that very few people who have brought us this war have served and very, very few of the children of these people who have brought us this war have served. And if you have to wake up every morning wondering about a loved one, you will look at, at words like this much differently.
MR. RUSSERT: But you did say that “We have a lot of cleaning up to do:
Number One is to end the war” and that you think that we can be out of Iraq within two years. How would you do that?
MR. WEBB: Well, I—you know, here’s—the problem that we have with, like, this Karl Rove approach is every time you put a date on it, people are saying, “Oh, you’re trying to give a deadline.” I go back to what President Eisenhower said during the dark days of the Korean War when he said, “First of all, the administration that created this disaster is not the administration that’s going to repair it.” And then he said, “Anyone who can give you a date certain for the end of a war is—has not, does not know war.” But...
MR. RUSSERT: But how do you get troops out?
MR. WEBB: Here’s—you, you, you get, you get the other countries in this region overtly involved in the diplomatic process, you can get our conventional forces out. Some of them could come straight home. Some of them could be relocated to bases in the region. And you can still have the capability to fight international terrorism. Iraqis don’t like terrorism inside their country, either. You should—we should remember that when we got Zarqawi, we did not get Zarqawi by—from troops based inside Iraq. This was a unit that was based outside of Iraq. And you could do that. You could retrograde some of these troops to places like Kuwait and Qatar until we’re sure that the region is stabilized, and then bring them back.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Allen, you said we’re making process. This was the picture on Tuesday when the prime minister of Iraq went to, where? Iran. There he is, meeting, hugging, kissing, the president of Iran. The speaker of the parliament in Iran—Iraq. The speaker of the Iraqi parliament, the Dennis Hastert of Iraq, this is what he said, “The speaker of [the Iraqi] parliament accused ‘Jews’ of financing acts of violence in Iraq in order to discredit Islamists who control the parliament and government so they can install their ‘agents’ in power. ...
“‘Some people say, “We saw you beheading, kidnapping and killing,”’ said the speaker. ‘These acts are not the work of Iraqis. I am sure that he who does this is a Jew and the son of a Jew. I can tell you about these Jewish, Israelis and Zionists who are using Iraqi money and oil to frustrate the Islamic movement in Iraq. ... No one deserves to rule Iraq other than Islamists.’”
That’s the speaker of the parliament. Have we created a fundamentalist Islamic regime in Iraq?
SEN. ALLEN: No, we have not. I deplore those words, the fact that the elected leader of the unity government in Iraq meets with the leader of Iran, a, a country that is a state sponsor of terror who is providing rockets to Hezbollah, their surrogates in southern Lebanon, to rain in on Israel. There’s a concern; however, what, what my opponent was saying...
MR. RUSSERT: And the...(unintelligible)...leader of Iraq also refused to say Hezbollah is a terrorist group.
SEN. ALLEN: Yes, and they—and that—and they are a terrorist group.
MR. RUSSERT: So what have we created?
SEN. ALLEN: What we have created and helped create in Iraq is indeed, I think, a much freer and more just society than what they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein, who was, as I said earlier—and please remember—was paying families $35,000 to send their sons and daughters on, on these suicide missions, killing people in Israel. They do have freedom of religion in their constitution where rights are not enhanced nor diminished on account of religious beliefs. They do have the right of women and men to express themselves without fear of retribution. They do have a judicial system that they’re trying to put together.
It is a fledgling representative democracy. It is like an infant. We’re trying to help them learn and just normal things, like procurement and budgets. And they—because all the decisions previously were centrally decided by Baghdad, by Saddam Hussein, and there wasn’t any decision-making or discretion at the provincial level. But, but they are trying and we’re trying to stand them up.
And the key, there’s two or three key issues of matrixes of, of where you can see advances in Iraq. Number one is the training of Iraqis, their military forces and their police forces. The military forces are getting stronger every single day. And in fact the Iraqis, again, are leading those forces, not the U.S., and leading operational endeavors. The police need to get more, more up to speed.
The other aspect of this that I’ve, I’ve asked Maliki, I’ve said it to Jafari and all the ministers, is the key for that country, for their economy is oil. And I think that their oil ought to be a national asset, and they ought to create something like the Alaska Permanent Fund where everybody in Iraq, regardless of where they live, regardless of their ethnicity, has a share in that oil. They’ll care about building up the oil capacity, upgrading it—and they’ll certainly care about anybody who’s blowing up the pipelines, because that would be money out of their pockets. Alaska they get a dividend. Every citizen ought to get a dividend in Iraq as well.
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah. Let, let, let me ask you one, one final question on Iraq. In your mind, in your judgment, could the $300 billion we spent on Iraq had been better spent in other aspects of the war on terror: homeland security, port security, airline security, securing Afghanistan? Was this the best expenditure of $300 billion?
SEN. ALLEN: We have spent money on all those things. In homeland security, we just passed a port security bill this past week. And...
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah, but, but my question is $300 billion in Iraq. Could it have been better spent?
SEN. ALLEN: The point is, is we made a decision. You got to stand by your decision and you can’t be constantly second-guessing, Monday-morning quarterbacking. My opponent is—the whole theme of his campaign is we should not have gone in. The question is: where do we go from now? And as a practical matter, listening to Mr. Webb’s...
MR. WEBB: Let’s not go into that, too, George.
SEN. ALLEN: ...listening to Mr. Webb’s statements...
MR. WEBB: I don’t—I’m waiting for you to say where you want to go.
SEN. ALLEN: ...there isn’t, there isn’t that much of a difference insofar as the future.
MR. RUSSERT: Is that true?
MR. WEBB: That’s absolutely not true, you know. I, I have not...
MR. RUSSERT: Could the money have been better spent?
MR. WEBB: Yes. We could have, we could have contained Iraq. If you want to take out Saddam Hussein, there are ways to take out Saddam Hussein. We did not need to go into a country, decapitate the government and inherit the, the responsibility of rebuilding it. And eventually that is going to fall to the other countries in the region. It’s just going to.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Allen said your views are not much different in terms of the future.
MR. WEBB: I think, I think we have dramatically different views on how to approach this, because what I’m saying is what we need now a clear statement—if he agrees with this, then, then fine—we need a clear statement from this administration that we have no desire for a long-term presence in Iraq. And we need to convene an international conference with the countries in, in tangential and the countries that have cultural and historic ties to Iraq in order to have them move forward with us and, and assume some responsibility for the future of Iraq. The United States can’t do this.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you—wait, wait.
SEN. ALLEN: We have absolutely no interest—I have no interest and I—for us to be permanently in Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: So, no permanent basis.
SEN. ALLEN: I want our...
MR. WEBB: Then would you vote against...
SEN. ALLEN: I—of—I, I have voted...
MR. WEBB: ...would you vote against the appropriations for these four large bases in the remote areas of Iraq?
SEN. ALLEN: Look, we have voted three...
MR. WEBB: This came up again, this came up again this weekend.
SEN. ALLEN: It sure did. It sure did. I’m glad you noticed that this time.
MR. WEBB: Mm-hmm.
SEN. ALLEN: The, the point of the matter is, is I have no interest and the United States has no interest to be permanently in Iraq. I want our troops home the second possible.
MR. RUSSERT: So, no permanent bases.
SEN. ALLEN: Of course no permanent U.S. bases. But the four bases that my opponent will talk about all the time, that we’re building these bases, is a consolidation. It’s for force protection and so have...
MR. WEBB: And so how long are we going to be in these, in these bases?
SEN. ALLEN: Well, no longer than necessary. The Iraqis...
MR. WEBB: If your—if, if, if our conventional mission is done in the cities of Iraq, we should be getting our conventional forces out of Iraq.
SEN. ALLEN: Sure, of course. And you...
MR. WEBB: Not into the remote areas of Iraq.
SEN. ALLEN: Well, no, there—look, you cannot...
MR. RUSSERT: Let me...
SEN. ALLEN: Jim, you know this, it’s important for force protection. It’s important to have the military...
MR. WEBB: There is no—as long as the United States forces...
SEN. ALLEN: ...options, whether it’s ground forces or air forces.
MR. WEBB: ...conventional forces are in Iraq there will not be peace in the Middle East.
SEN. ALLEN: No, that’s not the...
MR. WEBB: That is the point. That is different from Kuwait, that is different from Qatar.
MR. RUSSERT: All right. Let, let, let me turn...
SEN. ALLEN: No, no, no, no, no. Let’s get on these bases. The bases are to protect our forces. They’re hardened, they’re buffered so they can’t be hit by, by terrorist attacks. They are being shared, they are being...
MR. WEBB: I think George has a fundamental misunderstanding of how the military is, is used...
SEN. ALLEN: ...they, they are being shared—no, you don’t under...
MR. WEBB: ...if he believes that you can—if that—you’re still going to be able to assist in these city areas like Ramadi from remote bases somewhere. That’s just not true. That’s just not true.
MR. RUSSERT: All right. Let me...
SEN. ALLEN: Hold it, whoa, whoa, whoa. Tim, you’re saying...
MR. RUSSERT: No, no, no, we, we have a...
SEN. ALLEN: ...you’re saying, you’re saying that we ought to move...
MR. RUSSERT: ...we obviously have a disagreement on this...
SEN. ALLEN: ...all these folks out of the area and, and that’s the way to handle it by moving them to Kuwait and elsewhere.
MR. RUSSERT: All right.
SEN. ALLEN: The point of the matter is, is the Iraqis will ultimately take over these bases.
MR. WEBB: Then we do not need bases—we do not need American bases in Iraq.
That’s the point.
MR. RUSSERT: All right. Let me, let me move...
SEN. ALLEN: We need to protect our forces.
MR. WEBB: Iraqis can build their own bases. You’re not protecting forces if you’re sitting in one area.
MR. RUSSERT: This is obviously an area of disagreement. But we have to move on. We, we have a limited amount of...
MR. WEBB: So let, let the record show that we are not totally aligned on this issue.
MR. RUSSERT: All right. Then let me move on to a different issue.
Senator Allen, this week you have to cast a vote. Senator John Warner, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, but your senior colleague in Virginia, John Warner, has a view about interrogating and prosecuting enemy combatants. It is different than George W. Bush. Will you vote for Senator Warner or for President Bush?
SEN. ALLEN: I’m going to make a determination once I get some more facts. There, there are three key differences in this, but there’s one that matters the most to me, and it’s not all the evidentiary aspects which I think we can do a better job than various proposals on that, and that has to do with the—some of the evidentiary aspects. The key—the two key points for people to understand as this debate goes forward, and whether we vote this week or next week, I will vote on it, you’ll know where I stand, but I want to let you know what I’m going to look at.
Number one, these interrogations have helped protect American lives and not just here at home but also in the battlefield. Secondly, the Geneva Convention is very important, and I don’t want to set a precedent that we change the Geneva Convention and then other countries will change theirs, and if one of our troops or one of our CIA agents is, is caught...
MR. RUSSERT: In Iran.
SEN. ALLEN: ...or captured—in Iran or Cuba or Venezuela...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, that’s Senator Warner’s view.
SEN. ALLEN: Right. Now, the key in all of this is I don’t want to stop these interrogations. I’m not for torture, I’m not for waterboarding, but some of these techniques have been very helpful to us, whether, whether they are sleep deprivation, or whether there’s loud music. And I need to be absolutely certain that what the interrogations—interrogators are doing now—which is completely fine as far as I’m concerned, protecting Americans—will not be harmed by the proposal.
MR. RUSSERT: You know, your critics say that you voted with George Bush 96 percent of the time your five years in the Senate. This time, would you vote for Senator Warner, or President Bush?
SEN. ALLEN: I’m going to vote for what’s in the best interests of protecting this country, and making sure that our people here at home, as well as our troops abroad and, and undercover agents for our country are protected. I believe it can be done. I think there can be changes. I actually look forward to taking action, to be a bridge—a bridge between these two proposals, which all have as the same purpose protecting America, and upholding our values. But they, but, but...
MR. RUSSERT: Colin Powell, Colin Powell, who’s a constituent of yours, said, “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3” of the Geneva Convention “would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.” Do you agree with Secretary Powell that the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism?
SEN. ALLEN: I, I don’t believe that the world is doubting our commitment and our resolve to fight these maniacal terrorists. I think...
MR. RUSSERT: No, the moral basis of our fight, is his quote.
SEN. ALLEN: The moral, the moral basis of our fight against terror, and these maniacal deviants...
MR. RUSSERT: So you disagree with Secretary Powell?
SEN. ALLEN: I’m not saying I disagree, I’d just use a different point of view. And our point of view is we, we need to win against these, these terrorist organizations.
MR. RUSSERT: Where do you come down on this? Are you with the Senator Warner-McCain version, or President Bush’s version of dealing with interrogating and prosecuting enemy combatants?
MR. WEBB: I, I’m with Senator Warner on this, and I think in terms of what Colin Powell is saying, that’s, that’s a very important piece of how we view—how we deal long-term with the Islamic world particularly, that we have to stay on the moral high ground. And what you’re seeing here is, is a split between the theorists, who have controlled so much of the policy in this administration, theorists who have never been on a battlefield, who have never put a uniform on, and who are looking at this thing in a totally different way from people who have had to, to worry about their troops and themselves possibly coming under enemy hands. This is a very easy issue for, for me to, to decide on.
MR. RUSSERT: But you would not end interrogation?
MR. WEBB: No. Obviously we have to protect ourselves, and we have to be able to get information out. But if you, if you in any way abrogate...
MR. RUSSERT: And you would protect the CIA officers...
MR. WEBB: If you, if you abrogate the, the standards of the Geneva Accords, you give other nations who have less fair standards than ours the, the justification, the moral justification to do that. We, we saw that in a, in a, in a way—I’m sure Senator McCain has, has long memories about this—during the Vietnam War when the North Vietnamese refused to call our prisoners of war prisoners of war. They simply called them war criminals. They said they, they weren’t a part of the, the Geneva Accords, and they didn’t respect the Geneva Accords. And I’m sure that’s on, on people’s minds. That’s certainly on my mind when I think about troops over in Iraq right now.
MR. RUSSERT: We’re going to take...
SEN. ALLEN: That’s—and that’s why the precedent here is so important. And we’ve got to get this right. We cannot shut down this interrogation effort and the techniques that we have been using that have protected Americans. I believe that people of good will can come together and, and craft that language.
MR. RUSSERT: We’re going to take...
MR. WEBB: But you have to worry about one thing also here, that tainted evidence often comes from torture, and I think John McCain has made that point very well. If we’re coercing...
SEN. ALLEN: Well, we’re, we’re not for torture.
MR. WEBB: ...coercing information—not all—you don’t always have the right information. That’s how we ended up in Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: We have to take a quick break. We’ll be right back with more of our discussion, our debate, the state of Virginia, the U.S. Senate seat, George Allen and Jim Webb, right after this.
MR. RUSSERT: The Virginia U.S. Senate debate: Republican George Allen, Democrat Jim Webb, after this station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we’re back with the two candidates for the U.S. Senate; from Virginia: Republican George Allen, Democrat Jim Webb.
Mr. Webb, an issue that has now been raised in this campaign, an article you wrote in 1979. Here’s the headline: “Women Can’t Fight.” And you write: “No benefit can come to anyone from women serving in combat. ... Their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation. By attempting to sexually sterilize the Naval Academy environment in the name of equality, this country has sterilized the whole process of combat leadership training, and our military forces are doomed to suffer the consequences. ...
“I have never met a woman, including the dozens of female midshipmen I encountered during my recent semester as a professor at the Naval Academy, whom I would trust to provide those men with combat leadership.”
Kathleen Murray, who entered the Naval Academy in 1984, had a news conference the other day, and this is what she said. Let’s watch.
CMDR. KATHLEEN MURRAY: There is no question that James Webb’s attitudes and philosophy were major factors behind the unnecessary abuse and hazing received by me and my fellow women midshipmen. This article was brandished repeatedly by our male upperclassmen. They quoted it and they used it as an excuse to mistreat us.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, you issued a statement said, “To the extent my writing caused hardship,” you were sorry. “And Ms. Murray has sent me a letter saying, ‘That’s not enough.’ It’s not to the extent that my writing caused hardship, the content of the article was just plain wrong and Mr. Webb should say that.” Do you agree?
MR. WEBB: I—this article was written from the perspective of a Marine rifle platoon and company commander, and to that extent, I think it was way too narrowly based. I wrote that article...
MR. RUSSERT: But was it wrong? Was it wrong?
MR. WEBB: I don’t think it was wrong to participate in the debate at that time. It’s, it’s been 27 years, it’s a magazine article, and it’s something, if, if I may say, I am fully comfortable with the roles of women in the military today. I’ve been all around the world at the, at the request of many, you know, women commanders. This issue was vetted twice in, in Senate confirmation hearings, 1984, 1987, and both times I, I expressed my views on women in, in military billets. And when I was secretary of the Navy, on my own initiative, I put together a task force where we ended up opening up more, more billets, operational billets, to women than any other secretary of the Navy in history.
MR. RUSSERT: When you say “Being in the Naval Academy is a horny woman’s dream,” you regret that.
MR. WEBB: Well, I do regret that. And I, you know, I’ve said...
MR. RUSSERT: There’s been, there’s been...
MR. WEBB: ...you know, I’ve said—there’s many, there’s many pieces in this article that if, if I were a, you know, a more mature individual, I wouldn’t have written. And I’ve, and I’ve tried to say that and I’ve tried to show by my conduct when I had positions in government that I, I am open to, to assisting women succeed in all the areas where that’s possible.
MR. RUSSERT: Twenty-two percent of the incoming class will be women. We’ve had 2700 graduates, women graduates, of the Naval Academy. But you also followed it up with an article in 1997. This is more recent.
MR. WEBB: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: In The Weekly Standard, “The War on the Military Culture.” And you write, “Political and military leaders must have the courage to ask clearly in what areas our current policies toward women in the military are hurting, rather than helping, the task of defending the United States.” I’ll ask you, where are our current policies towards women hurting the defense of the U.S.?
MR. WEBB: Well, I think one of the things I was pointing out in that article was the—was where the political process interferes with the military being able to make its own decision on those matters. And one of the things that I did when I was secretary of the Navy was I turned this over to the military side, to the uniformed side. As you know, I grew up in the military, my father was a career military officer. I had the military side go out—I, I put a task force together that was 50 percent male, 50 percent female, with a truth-teller on it, a woman officer who could walk into my office anytime she wanted. They went to all the Navy installations around the world. And then instead of reporting to me, the political side, they reported to the, the chiefs of the warfare specialties and then as the, the uniformed service reported to me. And that’s how we opened up all of those wells, so...
MR. RUSSERT: Bottom line, do you now believe that women can, in fact, provide men with combat leadership?
MR. WEBB: Absolutely. Other than that they’re...
MR. RUSSERT: So that’s a change.
MR. WEBB: Well, no, no. What I’m saying is, right now, I believe the situation is where a lot of people wanted it to be back in 1970, 19--9--1980 when people—social experimentation was in place rather than allowing the military to make these decisions. When I was in Afghanistan two years ago as a journalist, I went nine different places in Afghanistan. One place I was driven around in a CH-46 with a, with a woman pilot. You know, she gave me the ride of my life. We landed, she came over and had her picture taken with me.
MR. RUSSERT: But it is 2006. You have not changed your mind at all about women’s ability to lead men?
MR. WEBB: No. I did not say that. I—I’m fully comfortable with women’s ability to lead men.
MR. RUSSERT: So you have changed your mind?
MR. WEBB: What, what, what I’m saying is, in areas like the infantry and the artillery, where—which now remain all-male, I’m comfortable with that, too. And Senator Allen has his own issues on this, by the way. As recently as 2000, saying women didn’t belong in fox holes, and maybe you should ask him about that.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, I will. In fact, I want to ask Senator Allen about this. From American Enterprise magazine, “If [Virginia Military Institute] admitted women, it wouldn’t be the VMI that we’ve known for 154 years. You just don’t treat women the way you treat fellow cadets. If you did, it would be ungentlemanly, it would be improper.” Men and women shouldn’t be treated the same at a military institution?
SEN. ALLEN: The, the regiment at VMI and the way that it was—the curriculum, the training would, would be ungentlemanly to treat women the way that they were doing it. In Virginia, at Virginia Tech, we had women and opportunities for women to get military training in a co-ed approach. VMI and their board for many years, including with Governor Wilder, felt that they should continue the way that they had in the past. Now, here’s the difference.
MR. RUSSERT: But has women at VMI worked?
SEN. ALLEN: Yes, it has.
MR. RUSSERT: So you were wrong.
SEN. ALLEN: Yeah, it has worked, and we have been able...
MR. RUSSERT: So you were wrong?
SEN. ALLEN: Well, we were wrong. But here’s the point, here’s the difference: the Supreme Court said we were wrong, we applied—we complied with that decision. And here’s the difference: Mr. Webb goes and gives that—writes that, that piece, gives speeches criticizing women at the Naval Academies, three and four and five, six years after they were admitted. What we said, and what I said, is I’m going to deplore anybody who demeans women. And, in fact, what I was trying to do as governor was to make sure that we protected women from the demeaning, disrespectful viewpoints of people like Jim Webb.
MR. WEBB: I don’t—wait, I can’t, I can’t let that sit. That’s just ridiculous. I mean, I, I was not allowed to speak at the Naval Academy for, for several years after this occurred. When I went back there, when I spoke, one, one of the things that I said was a strong voice saying women—men and women, need to get along, they need to respect each other. And when I was secretary of the Navy, I, on my own initiative, strengthened rules against sexual harassment.
MR. RUSSERT: Right now...
SEN. ALLEN: And what would you—what, what would you say to the women with the comments you’ve made about the witch hunt of the Tailhook matter?
MR. WEBB: The Tailhook issue was a very complicated issue, and what was happening on that was the leadership of the Navy was not standing up for its own culture. They were allowing their culture to be torn apart rather than...
SEN. ALLEN: But you called that a witch hunt.
MR. WEBB: You know, I went on, I went on “Nightline” right after Tailhook, and I was asked what I would’ve done, and I said if I had been president at Tailhook, I would’ve relieved the senior officer present in that corridor.
MR. RUSSERT: Mister...
MR. WEBB: What they’ve done is they took one incident in one corridor and and tried to damn the entire culture of the Navy, and that was wrong.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Webb, there are 23,000 women involved in the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, we’ve had 62 women killed, more than Vietnam, Korea and the first Gulf War combined. What happens now is that the Pentagon, rather than assigning women to combat, attaches them to combat.
MR. WEBB: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: You know that.
MR. WEBB: Well, here’s the...
MR. RUSSERT: Shouldn’t we just be honest and say women can be in combat?
MR. WEBB: Well, I think what you have is a misunderstanding of the term that was, was being debated back in 1979. Women have always been in combat. We had women win Silver Stars in World War II. The question in place was combat military occupational specialties. That’s what, that’s what the issue was. Should, should all occupational specialties be open? Now, when I was in Afghanistan two years ago, I was with the Marine unit which had women attached to it for purposes of interrogating Afghani women, you know. And that was a, you know, they were in the same environment as the infantry troops...
MR. RUSSERT: Absolutely.
MR. WEBB: And that was an absolutely valid use of women.
MR. RUSSERT: LeeAnn Webster got the Silver Star for heroism.
MR. WEBB: Sure. And that’s, that’s an absolutely valid use.
MR. RUSSERT: For being shot at.
MR. WEBB: The question is, let the military decide whether, let’s say, in a rifle platoon, you want to bring women in. That’s the position that I had. The dead hand should not steer the rudder, and I’m very comfortable with where the military is right now on these issues.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Allen, you, too, have gotten in trouble with words that you’ve uttered. Let me bring you back to August 11th. You were at a campaign stop, and a young man who was videotaping it for the Webb campaign was there also. Let’s watch.
(Videotape, August 11, 2006):
SEN. ALLEN: This fellow here—over here in the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is, he’s with my opponent. And let’s give a welcome to macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.
RUSSERT: And here’s the young man, S.R. Sidarth, he’s a resident of Virginia, an American citizen, straight-A student at Fairfax High School and now goes to the University of Virginia. Critics say that “macaca” is a racist slur, and that you used it because he was dark-skinned. What did you specifically mean when you said, “Welcome to America and the real Virginia”? Why did you use those words toward a dark-skinned American?
SEN. ALLEN: Tim, I made a mistake. I said things thoughtlessly. I’ve apologized for it, as well I should. But there was no racial or ethnic intent to slur anyone. If I had any idea that, that that word, and to some people in some parts of the world, world, was an insult, I would never do it, because it’s contrary to what I believe and who I am.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, where’d the word come from? It must’ve been in your consciousness.
SEN. ALLEN: Oh, it’s just made up.
MR. RUSSERT: Made up?
SEN. ALLEN: Just made up. Made-up word.
MR. RUSSERT: You’d never heard it before?
SEN. ALLEN: Never heard it before.
MR. RUSSERT: What did you mean...
SEN. ALLEN: And if, and if I did, honestly, Tim, if I thought that that was slurring anybody based on their ethnicity or their race or their religion, I would never do it. It’s not who I am. It’s not how I was raised.
MR. RUSSERT: But why would you say to someone “Welcome to America, welcome to the real Virginia”?
SEN. ALLEN: Because he was the cameraman for, for Jim Webb. He was following us around all over, all over the state. And we were going to small towns and rural areas and places that, while my opponent that week was out in Hollywood raising money, and I was talking about Virginia values. And so the point was, as you’re talking to the cameraman, to talk to Mr. Webb, to say, “Hey, here’s—welcome to the real world of Virginia,” as opposed to Hollywood, which is a world of make-believe.
MR. RUSSERT: This is not the first time that people have looked at your record, and, and, and raised questions. The New York Times said, “In 1984, as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Mr. Allen opposed a state holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After being elected governor in 1993, he issued a proclamation honoring Confederate History Month.” And the Associated Press says, “Allen used to keep a Confederate flag in his living room, a noose in his law office and a picture of Confederate troops in his governor’s office.” Can you imagine black Americans, black Virginians reading that? What would they be thinking about George Allen, and why did you do that?
SEN. ALLEN: There are a lot of things that I wish I had learned earlier in life. I grew up in a football family, as you well know, and my parents and, and those teams taught me a lot. And one of the things that you learn in football is that you don’t care about someone’s race or ethnicity or religion, it’s a meritocracy, it’s a level playing field, and it’s what we should aspire to in our society. And that’s why I’ve always been advocating, making sure America and Virginia’s a land of opportunity for all.
There’s a reason why state Senator Benny Lambert, a Democrat, an African-American, the senior African-American in the legislature, this past week endorsed me, because he knows my record on a variety of issues, particularly in education, and improving the opportunities at historically black colleges and universities. Through the years I’ve learned and I’ve grown, and I’ve learned from people. I’ve learned in the civil rights pilgrimage that I went down to Selma and Montgomery and Birmingham, and, and listened to heroes of the civil rights struggle...
MR. RUSSERT: So no more, no more Confederate flags?
SEN. ALLEN: On the Confederate flag—look, I wish I had had these experiences earlier in life, because I would have made decisions differently. The Confederate flag—as, as a kid, I was rebellious, anti-establishment, I still am. And I looked at the flag as a symbol for that.
MR. RUSSERT: But you were governor.
SEN. ALLEN: Now as—and I look at the flag, also, and some others do, as heritage and as regional pride. But I’ve also seen, over the years, talking and listening and learning and growing, that that flag, to African-Americans, represents repression, segregation and violence against them. And I would never want to have anything to insult or offend someone, and so that’s why I would not be utilizing that flag, because that’s not who I am, and I would never want to have that image or, or harmful impact on fellow human beings who I want to make sure are part of team America, because we do need to compete much better against countries in six and seven times our population. We need more women, we need more African-Americans, more Latinos interested in science and technology and engineering for us to be the world capital of innovation.
MR. RUSSERT: I want you to respond to that, but also address your comments about affirmative action being “state-sponsored racism.”
MR. WEBB: May I respond first to what he just said?
MR. RUSSERT: Please.
MR. WEBB: I mean, start off with—I think this, this campaign, the Allen campaign, is like the a lot of the Karl Rove campaigns. They, they focus on personal invective, you can see it in the ads that they’ve already run against me. I may have been in Hollywood, what—or in L.A. doing fund-raising. I’m—you know, Senator Allen’s going to have an awful lot of money. Senator Allen’s raised a lot more money in Hollywood than I have.
But let’s talk about this incident. He not only bullied an, an individual in my campaign—and I know how hard it is, I’ve had a camera three foot from my face for eight months now in any public place—he not only bullied an individual, whether he was of Indian descent or not, but before he, he did that, he made comments that were deliberately misrepresentative of my own experiences in southwest Virginia. Ironically, he was standing in a place where 40 miles on one side my great-grandfather had been born, 40 miles on the other side my grandfather had been born. And I’ve spent a great deal of my adult life in southwest Virginia personally, not politically, in connection with relatives I have down there. In fact, Sidarth, the night before you insulted him, was spending the night at the home of one of my relatives in Gate City, Virginia. And I believe that, that the insinuation out of this, that, that person was separate, insulted a lot of the people down there, because that’s not their culture. That’s a very inclusive culture down there.
Now, with respect to affirmative action, my view on affirmative action has been that—and, and remains that it’s a 13th Amendment program. If you go back to the Johnson administration’s executive order on affirmative action, it was based on the 13th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, designed to remove the badges of slavery. African-Americans are the only ethnic group in this country that have suffered from deliberate discrimination and, and exclusion by the government over generations. When this program expanded to the present day diversity programs, where essentially every ethnic group other than Caucasians are included, then that becomes state-sponsored racism. And we should either move this program back to its original intent, which I support, or we should open up diversity programs to the point where poor white cultures—and they are cultures, as in southwest Virginia—have some opportunity.
MR. RUSSERT: We are out of time. Before we go, Senator Allen, you have said, “The Senate is too slow for me.” Would you pledge to serve a full six-year term if re-elected to the Senate?
SEN. ALLEN: The Senate does move too slowly. Having been governor I like action and I wish the Senate would move faster. But my focus is to keep fighting in the Senate for these ideas.
MR. RUSSERT: For six—will you serve a six-year term?
SEN. ALLEN: I’m the only candidate running on ideas on education...
MR. RUSSERT: OK.
SEN. ALLEN: ...and on energy independence. And I am focused...
MR. RUSSERT: I, I, I’ve read the—I’ve read the brochure. I’ve read the brochure.
SEN. ALLEN: ...and I want—I will...
MR. RUSSERT: But will you serve...
SEN. ALLEN: Sure, and you can put it in as a...(unintelligible)...of my family.
MR. RUSSERT: ...will you pledge to serve a full six-year term?
SEN. ALLEN: I pledge that I’m going to fight as hard as I can for our shared values and vision for Virginia for the next six years in Washington.
MR. RUSSERT: The one thing you both have in common is you both chew tobacco.
Is that the right image for young people? It’s a serious question.
SEN. ALLEN: I don’t—I, I don’t advise young people. That’s another one of the...
MR. RUSSERT: What about you? What about you?
SEN. ALLEN: By the way—by the way, I picked that up from the Chicago Bears training camp.
MR. WEBB: We all have—we all have our vices, Tim. And I’ve been chewing tobacco since I was 14 and it’s...
MR. RUSSERT: But is it a good example for young people?
SEN. ALLEN: No.
MR. WEBB: Probably, probably not, but it’s something that I’ve done for a long time outdoors. I don’t chew indoors, I don’t chew at ceremonies, I don’t chew when I’m in any official function, but there are times when I chew tobacco.
MR. RUSSERT: You’re both going to...(unintelligible).
SEN. ALLEN: Fine, fine, fine. Yes, I do dip. But let me, let me finish with Mark Twain’s quote: “Nothing needs more reforming than somebody’s else’s habit.”
MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. Jim Webb the Democrat, George Allen the Republican. A lot more to talk about. I wish we had three hours.
We’ll be right back. Our Senate Debate series will continue. Two weeks another closely watched Senate race: Ohio Republican Mike DeWine debates his Democratic opponent Sherrod Brown. Two weeks right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: Next week we’ll be on at a special time after the Ryder Cup Golf, 1 p.m. Among our guests: the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Check out our Web site for times in your area.
Congratulations to the BC Eagles and Tom O’Brien, the winningest coach in history. Go Bill, squish the fish. Redskins/Cowboys at 7 tonight on NBC. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.