MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday: The president on the world stage at a
time of growing danger. The U.S. says Iran has a secret underground
nuclear facility capable of weapons production.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Iran is on notice that, when we meet with them on
October 1st, they are going to have to come clean and they are going to
have to make a choice.
MR. GREGORY: What now?
And Afghanistan; military commanders want more troops as the White House
considers a new strategy. With us, former President Bill Clinton on this
president's hard choices.
FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON: I think what the president is saying without
saying it, because he hasn't issued--said yes or no yet, is that an
American surge in Afghanistan may be a necessary condition for success.
MR. GREGORY: And the growing GOP opposition.
PRES. CLINTON: Their agenda seems to be wanting him to fail.
MR. GREGORY: Plus, a special debate on the way forward with Iran and
Afghanistan with Democratic senator from Virginia, Vietnam veteran Jim
Webb, and Republican from Arizona Jon Kyl.
Then, the White House intervenes in a high-profile race for governor in
New York, urging fellow Democrat Governor David Paterson not to seek
re-election. What will he do? And what does this race say about the
political mood of the country? Speaking out live this morning in an
exclusive interview, Governor David Paterson.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: But first, breaking news overnight. In a new show of
force, Iran test-fired several short-range missiles; the head of the
Revolutionary Guard Air Force telling reporters that a multiple-missile
launcher was tested for the first time, and that Iran would test medium
and long-range missiles during further drills in the next few days. This,
of course, just two days after strong condemnations from the U.S. and
allies over the existence of the secret underground uranium enrichment
facility in Iran. We'll get reaction in just a moment to these latest
developments with two key Senate voices, Democrat Jim Webb and Republican
MR. DAVID GREGORY: But first, news of the nuclear enrichment facility was
the first of many topics we covered when I sat down in New York with
former President Bill Clinton.
I'd like to start by asking you about these latest developments on Iran
and the discovery of an underground facility. The bottom line is, from
the administration's point of view, is this the time for engagement, or
is it the time to get tough?
FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON: Well, I--my answer is both. That is, you know, I
know what I read in the newspaper, but my impression is that the United
States knew about this for some time and then a couple of days ago, you
know, Iran gave a kind of half-hearted notification to the International
Atomic Energy Agency about this site. Then the U.S. must have shared what
they knew, because you got the very tough statement from President
Medvedev from Russia at the U.N., then the British and French leaders,
Prime Minister Brown and President Sarkozy, joined with President Obama
in issuing his statement. The Chinese, I'm assuming, have been notified,
because they've been working closely with the Russians and the Americans
on the North Korean nonproliferation issue to constrain the ability to
spread whatever technology they have or to allow the North Koreans to add
to their stock.
So I think when the secretary of State kept saying, "Iran's got a choice
to make, Iran's got a choice to make," it now looks, reading in the
newspaper, that what they were saying is, "We want to talk to you. You
can't avoid talking about this. We have to resolve this." And I believe
the president has now said by the end of the year, and I think Hillary
had said something like December. So my view is this is the very time to
talk to them, because we're in a difficult situation now. And it's not a
question I want to emphasize about whether we trust them or not, because
we've demonstrated that we have the ability to verify. And I think, I
think the U.S. wanted to talk because they knew about this and they knew
that Iran was about to get in a position where they might be irreversibly
putting themselves on a conflict course not only with us but, as you now
see, with the Europeans--the Germans endorsed a statement with the
Russians--and presumably with the Chinese. Just because they haven't said
anything, we shouldn't draw any negative conclusions. They normally take
a little longer.
MR. GREGORY: But is this a moment where the president says to Iran, "We
got you, and now it's time to act or you're going to face serious
PRES. CLINTON: Well, I think that's what they want to communicate with
them. And I think the reason they want to have talks is if they have
talks and they don't just hurl assaults in the, in the press about it,
they can more explicitly lay out things they may not be prepared to say
in public yet about what the options are if Iran continues down this
path, and they can also talk about where we might go together if they
reverse course. So I always think it's a good idea, if possible, to look
somebody in the eye and have a chance to have a conversation before
there's a total breach. But I, I think this is actually healthy that this
has broken. I--the, the Iranians must have known that the Americans knew,
somehow they must have found out that, or they wouldn't have voluntarily
notified the IAEA about this.
MR. GREGORY: From Iran to Afghanistan and the bottom line question there:
Will committing tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops to the war in
Afghanistan make America safer?
PRES. CLINTON: The answer to that is maybe. That's why the president
hasn't answered yet. That is, I think what General McChrystal has said is
that we have to have an Afghan version of the Iraqi surge in Anbar that
worked well there. I think what the president is saying without saying
it, because he hasn't issued--said yes or no yet, is that an American
surge in Afghanistan may be a necessary condition for success to make
America safer; that is, to constrain the al-Qaeda, to keep the heat up on
them, to keep the Taliban from taking over ever more of Afghanistan and
giving the al-Qaeda more freedom to roam and more options to plan
out-of-area terrorist attacks against us, the Europeans or anybody else.
But it won't be enough.
And my guess is, is what the president wants to do is to see how this
Afghan election is resolved. And if President Karzai is adjudged the
victor without having to run in a run-off election with Mr. Abdullah,
whether he will then turn around and include Mr. Abdullah in the
government and maybe even one or two of the other candidates for
president there—it leads to one other person that's supremely qualified on
the merits to be a part of a modern functioning government. So I think
that what the president has done here is not to dis the general or
say--but he, he's saying, "Look, my responsibility is not just to win
military battles, but to see that at least it's something bigger,
not--for ourselves and our security and for the people of Afghanistan.
And I got to decide whether we got a partner there," which means there
has to be a functioning Afghan government. He also--he and the secretary
of state have said on more than one occasion, and Mr. Holbrooke has, that
we, we have to have a development strategy there and a political strategy
that works at the grassroots level. In, in Iraq, when that surge worked,
you had Iraqis who were sick and tired of the al-Qaeda in Iraq who were
willing to, to, you know, hitch up with us and risk their own lives.
There are a lot of people now who are bringing up the ghosts of Vietnam.
What really happened in Vietnam was--all these things are, as I say,
they're away games for the American military. We're not on our home turf,
which means to succeed there has to be a partner. And the definition of
partnership is someone willing to risk their lives in their home area to
prevail because they think it's necessary to build a decent life and a
better life for their people. The South Vietnamese army was the fourth
biggest army in the world; it collapsed 10 days after the last helicopter
left with Americans and however many Vietnamese we could take. And I, I
just don't--we're not there yet. We may get there, and that's what the
president's trying to determine. And we should give him some time to make
MR. GREGORY: What specific threat does al-Qaeda pose to the United
PRES. CLINTON: They have proven that alone among all the nonstate actors
they have the power to organize and execute lethal assaults far from
their home base. Since we've basically driven them into the mountains of
the territories in Pakistan and the ill-defined border between Pakistan
and Afghanistan, their movements have been constrained, their
communications have been constrained and they've not been nearly as free
to organize and mount such attacks.
MR. GREGORY: And former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying this
week if you abandon Afghanistan, you'll have another 9/11 in the U.S.
PRES. CLINTON: Well, I think, you know, that's--it's, it's impossible to
know that with certainty, because our people have done such a good job
now, even going back to the time that I was president, of working with
the intelligence and law enforcement and money tracking people around the
world that we've prevented far, far more attacks in America and in the
rest of the world than have occurred. But I'd--I would agree with her to
the extent that if they have freedom of movement in Afghanistan it, it
will increase by some significant factor the likelihood that they will
attack successfully if not in the United States, somewhere else against
people that we consider our allies and that we have to be concerned
MR. GREGORY: Let me talk about the Clinton Global Initiative, fifth
annual, and what you've achieved here. The focus on girls and women, on
their economic empowerment around the world, but also on the direct
threats that they face. I had an opportunity to go to one of the sessions
this week, one of the dinners, and from a U.N. report, this is a
startling fact: At least one out of every three women around the world
has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime,
with her abuser usually someone known to her. And the concern is that
that fact, that problem, is not getting better.
PRES. CLINTON: Well, I agree with that. And what we wanted to do here was
to focus on both the positive things that need to be done in education
and access to the workplace, in health care, care for the children, and
in the negative things we need to stop, including violence against women.
You'd be amazed how many of the young women who work with our foundation
in countries around the world as advocates, trying to get people to
exercise prevention and not communicate HIV and AIDS, you'd be amazed how
many of them became HIV positive because they were raped going to and
from school. So we have to talk about that. And there's this whole
problem of trafficking, which has gotten worse in the economic downturn,
which disproportionately affects young women, but also affects some young
men who are sold into bondage, into basically servitude for indebted work
that they can often never escape from.
MR. GREGORY: This initiative's premised on your own frustration as
president with a lot of talking and not a lot of action.
PRES. CLINTON: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: What is it that you've been able to measure in terms of the
progress from CGI?
PRES. CLINTON: Well, we know that in areas of health, education, better
environment through fighting climate change and improving access to clean
water, and increasing people's livelihoods primarily through microcredit
and modest investments in agriculture and other things, that 200 million
people in 150 countries have had an improvement in their quality of life;
48 million people with access to better health care, 33 million people
with access to various kinds of educational advances, millions and
millions of people as entrepreneurs, getting microcredit loans. We can
measure all that. But we also know that in doing this we've helped to
strengthen what's called the civil society movement around the world;
that is we, we help to partner with governments, philanthropists, big
foundations like the Gates Foundation and small nongovernmental groups
all across the world to create more citizen power. That's a--and it's
really important in the women's and girls' issues. Now, we, we believe
that by doing this we're not only doing these specific things--yes, here
are 200 million people whose lives are better off--but we're creating a
sense of empowerment, a sense that citizenship in the 21st century
requires more than paying your taxes and voting and occasionally running
for office. That even if you're never in political office, you have
political responsibilities. You can make your society stronger and
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about some of the big challenges back home for
President Obama. And on health care, as this debate rolls through, you
remember it well, do you think the president has leveled with the
American people on this fact, that Americans are going to have to pay
higher taxes if they want healthcare reform?
PRES. CLINTON: Well, I think he's made it clear that it costs some money
to insure more people. But--and I have no criticism of what he's done.
He's been at a terrible disadvantage in that--in the lawmaking phase.
Remember what old Mark Twain said: There are two things nobody should
ever have to watch being made, sausage and laws. And he has a better
Congress than I did, and the--he doesn't have a committee chairman that I
had, demanding that he present a bill. So he said, "OK, I'll let you do
develop the bill." Well, while they're developing the bill he set out
certain principles, and he is vulnerable to whatever anybody wants to say
about any of the bills running through Congress, whether that's his
position or not.
He has said it's going to take years to fully reform the system. I don't
accept the fact that we have to charge a lot more money to cover the
100--the, the 46 million people that aren't covered. What he's saying is,
if we have the right preventive and primary care, if we start charging
for comprehensive care in the chronic cases, 10 percent of the cases take
up two-thirds of the medical expenses, and if we do more on problems like
childhood obesity, that we can, to use the parlance that's popular in
Washington, bend the cost curve and eventually reconcile this so our
costs will be closer to our competitors and so we can cover everybody.
Now, let me just say, I, I, I've had several big business leaders, to me
privately express extreme support for passing any kind of bill that
starts this progress, because they say this is killing America
economically. Look what's happened in the last several years, corporate
profits are up, the cost of health care's gone up three times the rate of
inflation and wages are flat. Median income before the economic collapse,
after inflation, was $2,000 a year lower than it was the day I left
office. Why? Because all the things that could've--first, we haven't
created enough jobs. But secondly, all the money that could've gone to
wage increases is going to pay the employer portion of employees' health
insurance. So I don't think it's fair to say that we're going to--that
the American people are going to have to pay a lot more to cover
everybody. What, what the American people will pay a little more for in
the short run, I think, is security. That is, everybody who's got health
insurance today could be cut out by--it often happens in America.
MR. GREGORY: But security could come and would come with additional
PRES. CLINTON: Well, yes, he'll have to raise some more money in the
short run partly because of the way the Congressional Budget Office
scores this. But if they string this coverage out, as he proposed to do
in his speech, over four years, then I think the revenues should be quite
MR. GREGORY: But let me ask you a broader question. In 1996 you declared
the era of big government over. Well, the era of big government being
over appears to be over in and of itself, whether it's the stimulus,
whether it's bailouts, financial regulation or this issue of health care.
Do you think the president's done a good enough job selling government as
PRES. CLINTON: I think that it doesn't matter how hard he sells, the
people have to see the results. And the president is suffering now from
what is, is something totally beyond his control. He's really got a bind
in this recession, because when you come out of a recession, even a, a
milder one than we've been through, what normally happens is the stock
market goes up six months, the GDP numbers go up six months, then after a
year people start hiring back. It's rational but painful. So what I think
we need here is a strategy both for the country and for the
administration to try to jump-start the jobs. The only strategy we have
is to move aggressively now to do much more than we've been doing in
energy efficiency. That helps us meet our climate change responsibilities
and it creates more jobs in less time for less money than any other
strategy available to the government.
MR. GREGORY: I know you and President Obama, when you get together, as
you did recently, you talk a lot about the economy. Has it come up yet
where he says, "Jeez, Mr. President, so what happens when you're nine
months into the job and the honeymoon is over?'
PRES. CLINTON: Well, we laughed about it. I think he gets that. And, you
know, that's what you--a president has to be prepared to spend political
capital. And you, you get hired to win for the country, not to be popular
today. I, I always tell everybody, any poll is a picture of an unfinished
horse race except the Election Day polls. And so I, I wouldn't worry
that--too much about it. I think there's still a lot of goodwill for him.
The American people know he is highly intelligent, they know he's working
his heart out, they know he's put together a good team, they know he's
thinking about the right things. Their ambivalence, their uncertainty
reflects, more than anything else, the--not only the stirring up in the
Republican opposition, but the real troubles average Americans are having
in their own lives. Keep in mind, health care's complicated, can be
misrepresented, it's personal, it can spark fear, it's expensive, and the
people who have got the money want to keep it. So the change is hard. But
I think we're going to get a healthcare bill, and I think he can then
swing into the energy and I think he'll get an energy bill. I think he's
going to succeed.
MR. GREGORY: Your wife famously talked about the vast right wing
conspiracy targeting you. As you look at this opposition on the right to
President Obama, is it still there?
PRES. CLINTON: Oh, you bet. Sure it is. It's not as strong as it was,
because America's changed demographically, but it's as virulent as it
was. I mean, they're saying things about him--you know, it's like when
they accused me of murder and all that stuff they did. He--but it's not
really good for the Republicans and the country, what's going on now. I
mean, they may be hurting President Obama. They can take his numbers
down, they can run his opposition up. But fundamentally, he and his team
have a positive agenda for America. Their agenda seems to be wanting him
to fail, and that's not a prescription for a good America. We actually
need a credible debate about what's the right balance between continuing
to expand the economy through stimulus and beginning to move back to
fiscal balance. We need a credible debate about what's the best way to
get to universal coverage.
Now, the one Republican who's come up with a good idea is Senator Snowe.
She deserves a lot of credit for saying when we did this Medicare
prescription drug bill, instead of giving the government the power to
negotiate for lower prices we gave the drug companies a chance to offer
them, but we held the power in reserve. And if there was any state in
America where there was no competition, you could do it. So let's do that
for health care. That's a good idea. That's, that's the kind of debate
the country needs, and I hope that the Republicans will come forward with
MR. GREGORY: But do you worry about a repeat of '94 politically?
PRES. CLINTON: It, it--there's no way they can make it that bad, for
several reasons. Number one, the country is more diverse and more
interested in positive action. Number two, they've seen this movie
before, because they had eight years under President Bush when the
Republicans finally had the whole government, and they know the results
were bad. And number three, the Democrats haven't taken on the gun lobby
like I did, and they took 15 out of our members out. So I don't think
it'll be--whatever happens, it'll be manageable for the president.
MR. GREGORY: Before you go, Mr. President, you left the presidency but
you've hardly had a low profile, with the Clinton Global Initiative and
other things. Do you think about a return to either public office or
another form of public life?
PRES. CLINTON: No. That's Hillary's job now. I--we've totally switched
roles. She spent most of her life in the nongovernmental sector, and
that's what I do now. I love what I do now. And while I can't touch as
many lives and as many things as I did as president, the things I do
focus on we can have a huge impact. And I'm trying to convince people
that all of us need to be doing the kind of thing I'm doing now. I think
21st century citizenship is going to be exciting, and I like being a part
MR. GREGORY: Will she run for president again then?
PRES. CLINTON: That's up to her. I don't--you know, we're not getting any
younger. But I'm proud of what she's doing now. I think she's doing a
good job and I'm honored that--I think it's pretty thrilling that she and
the president have established the relationship they have. And it's a
good argument for reconciliation and remembering the big things for all
the rest of us.
MR. GREGORY: Mr. President, thank you.
PRES. CLINTON: Thank you.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: Joining us now to discuss the way forward on both Iran
and Afghanistan, a key Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations
and Armed Services Committees, Jim Webb of Virginia; and the Republican
whip of the Senate, Jon Kyl of Arizona.
Welcome to both of you.
SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ): Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Kyl, let me start with you. The news overnight, the
Iranians test-firing missiles in, in the wake of these developments this
week on an underground enrichment facility. Has Iran now upped the ante
with the United States in this confrontation?
SEN. KYL: I don't know that I'd put it that way, though it always seems
that they can't wait to, to show us that they have the capability of
moving forward with their missile program or their nuclear program at the
very time that we're trying to get them to talk. And I think it
illustrates the fact that at a certain point talking is counterproductive
rather than productive, because time it not on our side. All the Iranians
need is time to develop their nuclear weaponry and, and their missiles.
And as a result of that, at some point you have to say that the talk has
to stop and solid action in the form of sanctions or some other way of
stopping them is necessary.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Webb, this issue of a nuclear program, is it in your
mind now clear as day that the Iranians are trying to build nuclear
SEN. JIM WEBB (D-VA): I think what, what we have right now is a way--a
process in place where we can really start to explore with the Iranians
what their intentions are. This is the, the value of opening up the
dialogue in, in the way we're going to see in, in the coming week. And I,
I have two very important concerns right now with respect to the Iranian
situation and also to others. The first is we're going to, we're going to
face this situation with other countries in the terms of nuclear power
proliferation around the world, where we're going to be seeing these
sorts of challenges. And the other is it's very important now to get the
international community writ large involved in tightening the, the way
that we talk to countries like Iran about the situation. And China is
key. We've seen European nations step forward here. You know, this
was--we say this was United States and its allies, but it was basically
the United States, the UK and France, with Germany coming in later. We
had a good, strong statement from Russia for the first time, with the,
the hint that they might agree with sanctions. But China, as always, has
been neutral. And China's become Iran's greatest trading partner. They
have been giving Iran approximately 30 percent of the gasoline that it's
been receiving right now through shell companies. And let's not forget
that China enabled Pakistan to become a nuclear power.
MR. GREGORY: But do you think Iran is building weapons?
SEN. WEBB: I think we have...
MR. GREGORY: Isn't that a key question now?
SEN. WEBB: I think we have the formula through which we can now fully
explore that issue. I'm not going to sit here in the United States Senate
and make that judgment. But we do have the process in place where we can
fully explore that issue in a way that will hold them publicly
MR. GREGORY: Well, Senator Kyl, is there any doubt in your mind that
they're building weapons?
SEN. KYL: No. I, I--well, they're trying to build a nuclear weapon. They
first of all have to get he fuel to do it. And that's--it's very clear
that they are trying to make that fuel. And it's also clear that they are
getting closer to the delivery capability, putting that nuclear weapon on
top of a missile that could either reach Europe or eventually a place
like the United States. It's clear what their intention is. And the
question is, how do you get in there to see fully what they're doing and
find a way to stop it? Without international support, it's very hard. But
we haven't even exhausted the possibilities for unilateral U.S. sanctions
that could also squeeze that leadership to the point that they might--I
mean, what we're trying to do here eventually is to get a regime change
with a group of people in there that are more representative of the
Iranian people, who we really can talk with in a way that might end up
with a good result. I think it's very difficult to do that with the
current leadership and especially the elected president.
MR. GREGORY: Well, Senator Webb, that's an important point. What should
the American people be prepared for here in terms of a confrontation with
Iran? Is it sanctions, or is it military action?
SEN. WEBB: Well, I don't think--as people have said and, and I agree
with, you don't take any of options off the table. But we also shouldn't
be playing "what if" here sitting on the outside, as, as Ronald Reagan
always famously said. We have a process now. I believe that Russia coming
forward for the first time now and saying that in concept they are not
opposed to the idea of sanctions is a, is a key indicator that we're,
we're starting to get true international consensus. But again, China
needs to be much more overt in its--assuming its role as an international
power. Not just in the Iranian situation; you see it in many other
places, such as Burma, where I was just dealing with a very similar
situation in terms of unilateral sanctions on one side, you know,
European countries and the United States, with China becoming a principal
MR. GREGORY: Senator Kyl, to you that question as well. What should the
American people be, be preparing for as this confrontation escalates;
sanctions as you talk about, or does the United States need to think
about military action?
SEN. KYL: Well, I, I agree with Senator Webb that you never take any
option off the table. You also don't play "what if" games. And I think
that he is also absolutely correct that China remains intractable. They,
they have a lot of reasons not to want to help us in dealing with Iran.
And if you go through the United Nations, China is a critical partner.
There are things that the United States can do unilaterally. There are
things that we can do in connection with our European partners. But it
always seems as if the sanctions are just a little bit away, but maybe if
we talk for another three months we won't need to impose them. I think
the point has to be to the, to the Iranians, we're going to impose these
sanctions; in fact, to do something so that they see that we have the
capability of doing it, and then say, "But we'll lift it if you will
agree with our demands to have IAEA inspections," or whatever else we're
going to be demanding.
But I think without that kind of stick, just the carrot approach does not
work with these people. They know how to play rope-a-dope, they've been
doing it with us for years.
MR. GREGORY: All right, Senators, we're going to take a break here and
come right back to tackle the other major foreign policy challenge facing
the president. That, of course, Afghanistan. After this commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: More of our debate on the way forward in Afghanistan with
Senators Jim Webb and Jon Kyl after this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: We're back to continue our discussion with Senators Jim Webb
and Jon Kyl.
Let's turn to the issue of Afghanistan. And, Senator Webb, here was a
portion of the assessment from General McChrystal, the commander on the
ground in Afghanistan, as reported by The Washington Post this week: "The
top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent,
confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the
next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict
`will likely result in failure,' according to a copy of the 66-page
document obtained by The Washington Post. General McChrystal says
emphatically: `Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent
momentum in the near-term," the next year, "while Afghan security
capacity matures--risks and outcome where defeating the insurgency is no
longer possible.'" Can and should the president do anything but say yes
to the idea of more troops?
SEN. WEBB: I think that the president is taking the right approach here
by, by examining carefully where to go forward. And you're seeing that
from all his top advisers as well. Because the real question for us right
now is, as a country, are we going to formally change from a
counterterrorism policy to a counterinsurgency policy? And if you're
moving toward a counterinsurgency policy, you have to have a couple of
things. One is you have to be able to move the people that you're trying
to win over toward a valid system. And, and Afghanistan, it is
questionable whether there is a valid national government. And secondly,
you have to be able to do so in a way that you have a clear end point for
the, the involvement of your own military.
And here's the situation we're in. We're talking about increasing the
United States' military presence; you may reach a tipping point where
they become viewed in historical terms as an occupying force. At the same
time, we're saying we want to grow the Afghan national army and police
force to 400,000 people. Now, Afghanistan has never in its history had a
valid national army larger than about 90,000, and that was only for a
brief period right before the Soviet invasion. So can they grow their
military into--and, and their police force into a 400,000-force with a
viable government? And before we jump forward with a, a total formal
change in policy, we need to be examining what is achievable.
MR. GREGORY: Secretary of Defense Gates says it is a mistake to fix an
end point, to set a deadline for troop withdrawal.
SEN. WEBB: I wouldn't--I would agree. And I, and I've said that before.
We, we, can't say that on a certain date, but we should be able to say
clearly what are the conditions under which our military mission is going
to end. And, you know, we're sitting here with, with two very interesting
models to examine in terms of how you fight international terrorism. On
the one hand we've got the situation in Somalia a week ago, where we had
a special forces unit come in over the horizon, take out four al-Qaeda
terrorists in a, in a country that's totally destabilized, Somalia, and
then went back on the ship, got the people we need to get, left no
infrastructure behind. On the other hand we've got Iraq, which, contrary
to what President Clinton just said, is al-Qaeda's dream right now
because we put in a huge infrastructure, which a lot of it is still
there, in order to supposedly go after al-Qaeda, which is long gone. They
were gone by the time to surge began. They're mobile. Which way is the
best way for the United States to, to approach this problem? And
Afghanistan's somewhere in between, and we deserve to have very careful
consideration before we start moving in a direction of nation-building.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Kyl, why are more troops the answer in Afghanistan?
SEN. KYL: Well, I think General Petraeus and General McChrystal are the
ones who can best explain that to us. The hints of that are in the report
that you cited. General McChrystal makes clear that to successfully
pursue this counterinsurgency policy you not only have to beat the
Taliban, but you have to keep them from coming back in. And that's what
we haven't had enough troops to do and the Afghan army and police don't
have the capability of doing yet. The problem is you take an area back
from the Taliban, you kick them out, but then if you can't leave enough
people there to hold the area, stabilize it so the folks there know that
they don't have to worry about the Taliban anymore, if you leave they'll
be right back in. And that's why you need more troops. I think that's
what General McChrystal would, would tell us if he were allowed to come
back to Washington and testify.
MR. GREGORY: Well, in fact, former secretary of State and national
security adviser Condoleezza Rice said this week, she put it bluntly in
an interview, "It's that simple. If you want another terrorist attack in
the U.S., abandon Afghanistan." If the president does not say yes to
40,000 additional troops, as General McChrystal wants, would you say he's
SEN. KYL: Well, what I would say is that it is a recipe for disaster. And
again, that's almost--those are the sentiments of General McChrystal.
You, you quoted part of that report in which he made that clear. And by
the way, Secretary Clinton herself said, "If you let the Taliban back
into Afghanistan, I can't tell you how quickly al-Qaeda will be back in."
And of course it's true that if al-Qaeda has the opportunity to roam
freely in Afghanistan, to train people there, to plan more 9/11s, they'll
surely try to do that.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Webb.
SEN. WEBB: I don't think anybody's saying that we should abandon
Afghanistan. The question is how you fight terrorism, international
terrorism. And in this case we're, we're widening the envelope to say
Taliban. Taliban means government. Are you really going to say that we're
going to be responsible for putting in a viable national government in a
country that really hasn't ever had one? So...
MR. GREGORY: So why not then...
SEN. WEBB: ...so what we need to do...
MR. GREGORY: Why not have a lighter footprint?
SEN. WEBB: What we need--we, we--well, we need to be smart, and that's
why we need to have this debate. When I was a journalist in Afghanistan
in '04, I was out with the Marine Corps and with the Army. I was with
22nd MEU, which was doing a fine job mobile. They'd been out for 93 days,
going out, killing the bad guys. And, and that is really what you need to
be doing if you're going to fight insurgencies, you need to kill the
people that need to be killed and allow the local forces to come together
around the people who should be protecting them. That should be our
ultimate strategy, and I think that's what the debate is going to be.
MR. GREGORY: But, but, but that--it gets to the larger question of
whether you can do that with fewer troops, as the vice president and
others have argued, that we don't need a surge of, of forces in
Afghanistan to accomplish the goal that we, we first went to, to war with
eight years ago, which was to defeat al-Qaeda.
SEN. WEBB: Well, and, and again, Iraq is the classic example of that.
When, when we went into Iraq, there weren't any al-Qaeda in Iraq. We,
we--it, it was al-Qaeda's dream that we went into Iraq, built this huge
fore-structure on the ground that tied our military down. Al-Qaeda came
in for a while, they left before the surge. My son was in Ramadi when,
when the al-Qaeda started pulling out. So you don't need a large
infrastructure in order to fight a, a terrorist force.
But it's a very complicated situation in Afghanistan. I don't want to be
misunderstood here. Because of the situation with Pakistan and the
regional implications, we want to do this smartly. And honestly, I think
that's what you're seeing with the administration taking a careful
approach right now.
MR. GREGORY: Before we go, Senator Kyl, I want to get your views on
another important topic, that's the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It appears
now that the administration will not meet the deadline to close
Guantanamo Bay. Was it a mistake to set a deadline initially coming into
SEN. KYL: Sure, and I think the president realizes that now. You, you
don't do something like that without having a plan on, on how you're
going to deal with it. This is life and death. This is important for the
security of our country, and you need to get it right.
If I could just make one more comment about the point Jim just made.
It--let's don't refight Iraq. The point is, al-Qaeda was in Afghanistan,
al-Qaeda wants to be in Afghanistan. And rather than play armchair
general here, I, I want to listen to what General McChrystal and General
Petraeus have to say. It appears that they believe we need more troops to
make sure that we can successfully carry out this counterinsurgency
policy, that we have perhaps no more than a year or so to accomplish
that, and therefore the more time we take making the perfect
decision--which you can never do in the middle of a war in any event--the
less likely we're going to succeed. I think the president needs to get
about it. He'll have Republican support if he effectuates the
recommendations of General Petraeus and General McChrystal. I think he
needs to make that decision as soon as he can.
MR. GREGORY: Final thought on this. Guantanamo Bay, a mistake to set a
SEN. WEBB: I, I believe that it's, it's proper to slow this down in
And with respect to what Senator Kyl just said, we've got a lot of good
people looking at this situation with Afghanistan--Secretary Gates among
them, General Jones among them--people who bring a lot to the table, and
we should be having this analysis before we jump forward based on one
memorandum from one general who just took command over there.
MR. GREGORY: We will leave it there. Senator Webb, Senator Kyl, thank you
both very much.
Up next, after being urged by the Obama White House not to seek
re-election next year, New York Governor David Paterson joins us
exclusively to talk about his future and the political mood across the
country, only here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: We are back. And joining us now in an exclusive
interview, the Democratic governor of New York, David Paterson.
GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D-NY): Good morning.
MR. GREGORY: It has been quite a week. If you go back to March of 2008,
you were appointed governor after Eliot Spitzer's problem. New York's
first African-American governor, the first legally blind governor. And
now almost a year and a half later the headline in The New York Times
last Sunday, and here it is, it says, "Obama Requests That Paterson Drop
Campaign," meaning the campaign for 2010. What happened?
GOV. PATERSON: Well, David, first, before I begin, I spoke to Carolyn
Maloney, one of New York's senior congressional members, who lost her
husband this weekend. And I know right after this you're going to do a, a
tribute to "Big Russ" from Buffalo, also from New York, and I'll leave
that to you. But just want to give condolences to all of the families.
I've had confidential conversations with the White House, and I'm not
going to reveal what those conversations were other than to tell you that
the president has never told me not to run for governor.
MR. GREGORY: Has it made--been made clear by the president or others
working for him that they would like you not to seek re-election?
GOV. PATERSON: I mean, I've had conversations with them, but I don't--I
think that the people of the state of New York are the ones who should
choose their governor.
MR. GREGORY: All right. But let's be very clear here about what happened.
The president's team and others speaking on their behalf said to you, you
should not run. Isn't that right?
GOV. PATERSON: I can't say that, David. There are people who've told me
not to run. They're are a lot of people who've told--have told me not to
MR. GREGORY: But the White House specifically said don't run?
GOV. PATERSON: I don't know that.
MR. GREGORY: You don't know that? You certainly know you don't have their
GOV. PATERSON: Well, David, the White House has a country to run and I
have a state to run. And there's politics that, that go on all the time.
I'm blind, but I'm not oblivious. I realize that there are people who
don't want me to run. I've never gotten an, an explicit indication
authorized from the White House that I shouldn't run. But what I would
say is what I think I should be doing is managing the affairs of my state
and, when I run, making my case to the people and letting them decide who
the next governor should be.
MR. GREGORY: But, but, but--fair enough. But I just want to be clear on
this point. They certainly sent the message, did they not, that you would
not have their support if you ran and they have concerns about you
running, and that you should not run.
GOV. PATERSON: They certainly sent a message that they have concerns, and
I appreciate that. But let me just tell you at the outset, I am running
for governor in 2010. I don't think that this is an issue other than for
the people of the state of New York to decide.
MR. GREGORY: So you agree with that poll that found 62 percent of New
Yorkers believe that the Obama administration was wrong to intervene.
GOV. PATERSON: Well, what I agree with is that the overwhelming number
of, of people in the poll would like to make that decision for
themselves. I'll be running. And I, like other governors, want to make
the case for why we've had to make the difficult decisions that we have
MR. GREGORY: But let me ask about your reaction, because it was your wife
who told the New York Post on Wednesday that you were stunned after these
conversations at the White House. "[Michelle] Paterson said her husband
was shocked at the request." Quoting her, "`I think he was stunned. Like
I said, this was very unusual.'" What stunned you?
GOV. PATERSON: Michelle is very protective of me. I don't know that I was
stunned. I am not. I am not failing to stand up for my party; I fight for
the priorities of my party. I am fighting for the people of the state of
New York, who are having a very difficult time right now, I dare say a
lot more difficult than I am. So I'm not going to run away from a fight
when I know who I'm fighting for. And in--I'm not going to sit here and
tell you, David, that I haven't had a difficult week. But I, like a lot
of New Yorkers and a lot of Americans, are having difficult weeks because
we're having to make tough decisions. And the tough decisions that I've
made are that I've had to reduce spending by $30 billion in 18 months as
MR. GREGORY: And I want to get to that in just a minute, but I want to be
clear. If the White House wants you out, you're--you are undeterred, you
are all in, you're running for governor.
GOV. PATERSON: Well, I'm running for governor for the state of New York.
And as I was saying, the $30 billion that I was just talking about that I
had to reduce from deficit from the state of New York is more than if you
took all five of the state's highest annual deficits and added them all
together. I've also had to cut spending by a record amount this year.
I've been opposed by the special interests, I've come under a hail of
criticism from them for making these tough decisions, and that is what
accounts for the low poll numbers. But I wasn't making decision based on
MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, I want to come back, I want to come back to
some of the tough choices you're going to make.
GOV. PATERSON: I was--let me just, let me just finish this, David. Let me
just finish this. I was making decisions based on what I thought was
right for the people of New York. So I put the people of New York first
when I balanced two budgets in a recession. And I put...
MR. GREGORY: All right. But, but let me ask you about that, Governor.
GOV. PATERSON: And I put New York first when I called for a state
MR. GREGORY: You said the following on Wednesday, talking about how you
would think about the future. You said, "I think if I got to a point
where I thought my candidacy was hurting my party, obviously it would be
rather self-absorbed to go forward." You went on to say, "I am going to
keep doing it," in terms of running for governor, "until the public tells
me it's time to stop." Governor, your approval ratings, 80 percent of New
Yorkers disapprove of the job you're doing. Aren't you a drag on your
GOV. PATERSON: I don't think that I am a drag on my party, I think I'm
standing up for my party's priorities. I think that you fight for the
people of your state. That's what I thought being a Democrat was suppose
to be about. Let me tell you, David, poll numbers? I heard that
everyone--I appointed a lieutenant governor, and I heard--everyone said
that the courts would not uphold my appointment. This week the, the court
of appeals of New York upheld my appointment of Lieutenant Governor
Richard Ravitch. I have spent a whole life being told I couldn't do
things. I was told by guidance counselors I shouldn't go to college. I
was told when I was the minority leader of the Senate that we couldn't
win the majority; we won eight seats in four years and won the majority.
And so I think that what the court upholding my appointment of lieutenant
governor's message to me this week was that you don't give up. You don't
give up because you have low poll numbers. You don't give up because
everybody's telling what you what the future is. If everyone knew what
the future was, why didn't they tell me I was going to become governor? I
could have used the heads up.
MR. GREGORY: The, the opposition--you talked about race being a factor,
racism being a factor against you in some of this opposition, and that in
fact President Obama would be subject to the same thing. Is it still how
GOV. PATERSON: I think when you hear that quote, you're not hearing
everything I said. I was responding to news account of a story involving
my daughter. I thought that the story was not only written to attack me
personally and criticize my family, but that it also was entirely
stereotypical. What I was trying to say is that I don't think someone's
race should be the factor in assessing what kind of governor they are,
what kind of president they are or what kind of worker they are in any
workplace. Rightly or wrongly, I thought that that was a double standard
in that coverage. But just in case it got lost in the interview, let me
clarify that I don't think race has been a factor in my poll numbers, my
political fortunes or how I govern the state. What I think is that we
should assess all governors, no matter what color they are, by how they
run their states and how they help the people that they work for.
MR. GREGORY: Quickly, Governor, you talked about it before, the mood that
you're facing in New York and indeed the mood around the country has to
do with the economy and state finances. If you're all in, if you're
running for governor, how are you going to balance New York's budget?
GOV. PATERSON: Well, our budget is balanced. We have had...
MR. GREGORY: You face a deficit, potential deficit of $3 billion.
GOV. PATERSON: Well, we, we had a deficit last year. I gave a televised
address to the state, I warned New York and America that this would be
the worst recessions since the Great Depression. I brought the
legislature back and balanced the budget last year. We balanced the
budget earlier this year. And we have continued to balance our budgets.
Let me tell you, David, what has happened is that other states have had
difficulties. Twenty-one states have shut down early childhood education
and pre-kindergarten programs. Twenty-five states have laid off or
furloughed workers. Some states have even had to release prisoners
early to save money.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
GOV. PATERSON: The difference is in New York we have not had to do that,
because we knew about this crisis early.
MR. GREGORY: OK.
GOV. PATERSON: We brought--we acted quickly to, to avoid a disaster. And
even while we're cutting $30 billion in 18 months, we've continued to
invest in education...
MR. GREGORY: Governor...
GOV. PATERSON: ...we've expanded COBRA benefits for people who have lost
their jobs and we have increased unemployment insurance from 26 weeks to
MR. GREGORY: All right, Governor, we will have to leave it there. Good
luck in your campaign and thank you very much.
GOV. PATERSON: Thank you for having me.
MR. GREGORY: We'll be right back.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: Finally here, longtime viewers of this program are
very familiar with the man affectionately known as Big Russ. Tim
Russert's father died Thursday at the age of 85. Tim always use to tell
me that his first call after a program would often be to his dad to get
reaction to that day's guest. He called him the ultimate focus group. And
he even made a cameo appearance on this program back in 1994, rooting for
his Buffalo Bills.
(Videotape, January 30, 1994)
MR. TIM RUSSERT: I'll make you a deal. You cheer for the Buffalo Bills
and they win, I will not mention them on MEET THE PRESS for one year. I
promise. And most important, you'll make this guy, my dad, the happiest
guy in the world.
MR. GREGORY: There he was, Big Russ. The entire Russert family is in our
thoughts and prayers.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: That's all for today. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE