Guests: Richard Wolfe, Evan Kohlmann, Jack Jacobs
PAT BUCHANAN, HOST: Welcome to Friday‘s edition of the show, the last in 2006.
Saddam Hussein‘s days, maybe hours, appear numbered. We have been getting conflicting reports all day about just where Saddam is, and it‘s not clear just when Iraq‘s justice minister will carry out his death sentence. But most of the information out of Iraq seems to indicate the hanging will happen soon.
NBC‘s Richard Engel filed this report out of Baghdad.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The streets of Baghdad were empty Friday and tense as Iraqis await Saddam Hussein‘s execution and the violence they fear will follow. Saddam himself is also preparing.
His lawyers said Thursday that Saddam has met two of his half brothers, also imprisoned in Baghdad, to say good-bye. Saddam reportedly told them he is ready to die.
Sources close to the Hussein family told NBC News that U.S. officials contacted Saddam‘s Raghad, who is living in exile in Jordan, to ask her to come to Baghdad, but she refused. Saddam, she said, didn‘t want his wife or daughters to see him weak.
In Baghdad, Iraqis who expressed little interest in Saddam‘s trial are now captivated by his execution. So many have scores to settle in this ancient country that invented the concept “an eye for on eye.”
At an auto repair shop, Al Salim (ph), a Shiite we interviewed at random, said Saddam‘s security forces killed 27 members of his extended family, accusing them of belonging to a radical party. “The execution should be done without delay,” he said.
In a nearby coffee shop, Haji Ala (ph) said, “When Saddam was executing people, he never asked for anyone‘s approval. Iraqis must do it because we suffered.”
But Saddam‘s supporters, many still attacking U.S. troops, say they will retaliate. The U.S. military will go on high alert to try and contain an expected surge in attacks.
BUCHANAN: That was NBC‘s Richard Engel, reporting from Baghdad.
Joining me today with their analysis and insight are Richard Wolfe, “Newsweek‘s” senior White House correspondent, and retired Army colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs.
Let me start with you, Richard.
Baghdad is eight hours ahead of us. That makes its midnight as of right now, and I believe when you have a holy day begin, it begins the minutes after midnight. And we are now in a Sunni holy day of Eid in Baghdad, and it appear the hanging of Saddam Hussein is imminent.
Now, if they hang him on a holiday, does that make much sense?
RICHARD WOLFE “NEWSWEEK”: No, it doesn‘t. And, of course, you know, this is one of the biggest topics of conversation between the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the Bush administration, how to seem to be fair in the Shia treatment—this being a Shia-led government—Shia treatment of the Sunnis.
Now, treating Saddam and executing Saddam obviously doesn‘t directly make a statement on how Maliki treats the Sunnis. But making this kind of statement on a holiday would clearly be controversial and doesn‘t speak to anything like the commitments Maliki has made to the Bush administration that he will indeed be fair and respectful in treating the Sunnis.
BUCHANAN: Jack Jacobs, we have been getting reports that the hanging seems imminent. There‘s a tremendous focus on it, but then we get these reports of the Sunni holiday—holy day, which I believe begins right now, because they‘re eight hours ahead of this, and the Shia holy day begins 24 hours later. So we‘re very much in a holy time over there.
Is this a wise thing to do right now?
COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, I think they‘re going to do it anyway whether it‘s wise or not. You know, the Chinese have a saying, be careful of what you wish for, you‘re liable to get it. We wished for Saddam Hussein to be condemned and for there to be an independent Iraqi government, and we got both of them. And now we are powerless to prevent whatever it is that the Iraqi government wants to do.
We have been dragging our feet for awhile, and now there‘s nothing to do but do what the Iraqi government wants, and that‘s turn him over and have them kill him when they want to. I mean, it‘s very unusual to have this long, drawn-out affair like we had with the trial, which was farcical, to say the least. Typically, justice in this part of the world, particularly in Iraq, is swift. It‘s very unusual for this to go on for as long as it has. And the Iraqis themselves, particularly the Shia-dominated government, want to get it over with yesterday.
“The New York Times,” Jack, says, look, basically no good—they basically say they‘re sense in doing this, no good‘s going to come out of it. When we captured him it didn‘t stop the insurgency, when we kill him, or when the Iraqis kill him it‘s not going to stop the insurgency.
Do you see any good coming out of this.
JACOBS: The only good that‘s going to come out of it is to get rid of him sooner rather than later so that the government, if it is going to move on, can move on. As long as Saddam and his brother are around, there‘s going to be this overarching subject of Saddam Hussein, despite the fact the majority of the Iraqi public has not been paying much attention to it. Once he is gone, if the Iraqi government can ever move on, that‘s the only way it can move on.
BUCHANAN: Richard Wolfe, let me bring up an analogous incident.
In 1918, as the reds and the whites began the civil war in Russia, the communists—Lenin ordered the execution of the czar, his four daughters, his wife, and his hemophiliac son, murdered them, sending a message to the whites, look, whatever you do in the civil war, the Romanov dynasty is done, it is over.
In that sense, does the execution of Saddam Hussein really say to the Ba‘athists, if any of you are fighting for a restoration of this regime, it‘s over?
WOLFE: Yes, two points.
First of all, the end of the era, no turning back. But Jack is right.
This is right, this is—and you as a student of history is right as well.
This is an assertion of power in its most brutal form. As a declaration of strength by a fundamentally weak government, this is it.
And, of course, an assertion of the judiciary that is now free of Saddam‘s control. That was an important piece of this.
The one point where I differ with Jack is this: Yes, this trial was drawn out.
WOLFE: Compare it to Slobodan Milosevic, compared to how that dragged out and ultimately ended...
BUCHANAN: Well, that‘s the Europeans. That‘s that they way they do things up in The Hague or...
BUCHANAN: But, no, let me—seriously—let me take up Jack‘s point, because I think it‘s well taken.
Look, this was a three-year exercise since we captured this guy. You‘ve got three of the defense lawyers are assassinated, witnesses assassinated. You had a circus of a trial, and it‘s long, drawn out, and now this thing has been messed up, apparently, if they are going to execute this fellow on a Sunni holy day.
And does that not show at least, you know, a government that‘s not really in control of itself?
WOLFE: Well, the violence on the street shows the government isn‘t really in control. But there is an important point about the trial working its way through.
As chaotic and ridiculous as it was at times...
WOLFE: ... this whole mission has been about establishing a democratic Iraq. You can‘t have summary justice, even for a tyrant like Saddam, and pretend like you are trying to establish the rule of law.
You know, if the Bush administration wants to back off of that and say, we‘re just into control and power and security, that‘s fine. But that‘s not the stated goal. They needed to show that they could establish a legal system in Iraq.
BUCHANAN: All right.
Let me ask you that, Jack. Did at least the Iraqis show that they can conduct what appeared to be something of a fair trial?
JACOBS: Yes. I agree that it‘s much better to have gone through that circus than it would have been for summary justice. Though, as we discussed yesterday, I was strongly in favor of doing what you‘re taught to do when you‘re very, very young, and that is to roll a hand grenade into the hole in the first place.
But having failed to do that, having been saddled with Saddam Hussein, it‘s better to go through the farcical trial that we went through and had to watch than to have had summary justice. At the end of the day, though, most important thing for the new Iraqi government is to get him out of the way, and they are fighting very, very mightily to get that done soon.
Coming up, Saddam Hussein will die at the hands of his countrymen, perhaps today. Will Saddam‘s execution unleash still more violence in Iraq? We‘ll examine the possibilities when we return.
BUCHANAN: More violence or national celebrations? How will Iraq react when Saddam Hussein is put to death? We‘ll talk about it next.
BUCHANAN: When Saddam Hussein is hanged, will his death ignite reprisals against the Americans in Iraq? For an analysis of this question, I‘m joined by the terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann. He‘s also founder of globalterroralert.com.
Mr. Kohlmann, thanks for coming on.
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Thanks for having me.
BUCHANAN: Saddam Hussein says that he is a martyr. Would that be a way—a part of the Iraqi public will perceive him, a slice of it?
KOHLMANN: I think a very, very small segment. There really are not too many people left who support Saddam Hussein.
I‘ve just finished a report, actually, detailing the various Sunni insurgent groups who make up really the bulk of the insurgency. And these groups, I should add, include groups like the Mujahideen army, which are made up, including members of Saddam‘s former military, people that trained in the Iraqi military, that were members of the Iraqi military, that still use weapons that they stole from the Iraqi military. And yet, even these groups, even these Sunni groups, they say—they call Saddam “the tyrant.” They talk about his murderous regime.
And I think it‘s important for us to understand that, number one, when Saddam Hussein was in power, it wasn‘t simply that he benefited Sunnis over Shiites. He benefited his own tribe, his own family over other Sunni tribes.
BUCHANAN: Right. The...
KOHLMANN: So there is—there is some resentment there.
Number two, this is no longer a battle about nationalism, this is no longer about the Ba‘ath Party. This is about sectarianism. This is a sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites.
BUCHANAN: All right. Let me interrupt you.
KOHLMANN: Now, (INAUDIBLE) insurgent group has issued a statement with regards to this.
BUCHANAN: All right. But we hear—we hear—you know, out in Anbar Province, you hear al Qaeda is out there and Sunnis, and you hear Ba‘athists and Saddamites. Are there none fighting right now?
KOHLMANN: There is not a single major insurgent group left that consists of Saddamists or Ba‘athists. If there are Saddamists or Ba‘athist that are in these groups, they no longer consider themselves to be that. They consider themselves to be Islamists.
BUCHANAN: All right. Look...
KOHLMANN: And they are opposed to Saddam Hussein.
BUCHANAN: All right. Well, we‘re getting—these threats are coming from Sunnis, terrorists or extremists, saying the Americans better watch themselves not only in Iraq, but in other places around the world. Our troops obviously are on alert.
And you‘re saying that you think the danger is being exaggerated?
KOHLMANN: Again, not a single Sunni insurgent group, not a single major group, not the Islamic army in Iraq, not al Qaeda, not the Mujahideen army, no group has issued a statement with regards to the execution of Saddam Hussein. They call him a tyrant.
Certainly, the Shiites are not shedding any great tears over this. So, while there—it‘s certainly possible that there‘s going to be violence when Saddam Hussein is executed, most likely that violence is just going to be part and parcel of what is going on in Iraq right now.
Most likely, the execution of Saddam will have no great effect on the level of violence going on there right now. Unfortunately, as it happens, al Qaeda and other groups are in the midst of a raised campaign of their own, entirely separate and unrelated to the execution of Saddam.
BUCHANAN: So you don‘t believe that anyone will attack us or will attack American troops in Iraq in response or in reprisal or in reaction to this fellow‘s hanging?
KOHLMANN: I think the chance is extremely small. Again, these groups have all had an opportunity now to respond to this execution. Everyone has known it‘s been coming.
BUCHANAN: Has anyone condemned it?
KOHLMANN: Not a single major insurgent group has condemned this execution. Not a single one.
BUCHANAN: All right. Well, let me ask you, might it not be possible that they don‘t condemn it because they know how loathed and despised Saddam is among the 60 percent Shiites, among the Kurds, and among some Sunnis, and so they are not saying it publicly because they want to maintain the alliances they have?
KOHLMANN: Well, it‘s possible. Again, it‘s certainly possible there‘s a small contingent of Saddamists or Ba‘athist left who will try to wreak havoc when—when this man disappears. But the reality is, again, you know, at one point Iraq was a country of Ba‘athists, of Shiites, of others. Today it‘s between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Those are the three groups.
You identify with one of those groups or you‘re killed. And frankly, the Saddamists and the Ba‘athist that were left, most of them have become Islamists. And I really don‘t see too much sympathy for their former dictator.
BUCHANAN: All right. All right.
KOHLMANN: So I find it hard to believe that they would—they would do anything exactly timed for this execution.
BUCHANAN: All right. Well, you don‘t think there‘s any possibility that Saddam could be considered really a martyr of the American imperialists, someone who led his country in war for eight years, led them to victory, something of a victory over Iran, resisted the American invader, and that his stature will grow in time?
KOHLMANN: Well, I‘m not so sure about that. And I think particularly if you look at Saddam‘s history as a military leader, Saddam really led his military to disaster against Iran.
BUCHANAN: So did Nasser.
KOHLMANN: It‘s true, but in Iraq Saddam Hussein led his troops to loss again and again and again. It was defeat against Iran, defeat against Americans, defeat even against the Kuwaitis in the end.
KOHLMANN: And that was a terribly embarrassing defeat for them. I really find it hard to believe that too many people will shed tears at the loss of Saddam Hussein, whether they‘re Sunnis, Shiites or Kurds.
Well, thank you very much, Evan Kohlmann.
Coming up, President Bush says he‘s made good progress on his “new way forward” in Iraq. Will Saddam‘s death affect his plans? Will the new Congress block the president?
BUCHANAN: As President Bush prepares his “new way forward” in Iraq, politicians are weighing in on both sides of the anticipated surge in the U.S. troop presence on the ground.
With us to discuss this are Richard Wolfe, “Newsweek‘s” senior White House correspondent, and retired Army colonel and Medal of Honor winner, Jack Jacobs.
Let me start with you on this one, Richard.
Obama says a surge is an escalation. And he says, “I was opposed to this war from the beginning, I am opposed to this escalation, this surge.”
Does that not give him a sort of moral clarity as against Edwards, who was, I was wrong, I wouldn‘t have done it if only I had known, and Hillary, who‘s got the same position? He‘s got, if you will, the pure (ph) position inside the Democratic coalition.
WOLFE: Yes, it does, and it speaks to the base of the party. I mean, Edwards repudiates his vote, but famously presidents don‘t get to have do-overs. And there‘s a problem in backing away from his own vote. There‘s a question about whether he has decisive powers and what kind of a commander in chief he would be.
Hillary is sort of consistent in a sense in that she hasn‘t repudiated her vote. But, of course, the primaries, as you know, are a point where the base turns outs.
Obama has that buzz. He‘s holding that grab. However, as we move forward here, as this gets dissected more, people are going to look more and more at what withdrawal actually looks like. Are we prepared to sustain the cost of a totally failed Iraqi? And Obama is going to have to talk his way through what a failed Iraq would like and what his regional policy would look like.
BUCHANAN: Jack Jacobs, do you think Obama is wrong when he says this surge is an escalation?
JACOBS: Yes, I think he‘s completely wrong. But I have to say, the president is wrong, too, when he says what he‘s going to do is to announce and to employ a new strategy. Neither one of them is on the ball as far as this is concerned.
Sending 20,000 or even 30,000 additional troops to an area of operations which already has 150,000 troops, and employing them in ways no different or only mild different from what we‘re doing right now, to continue to do missions which we are already doing, just doing with more troops, that‘s not an escalation. And neither is the president correct in saying what he‘s going to have is a new strategy.
A new strategy would be to leave tomorrow. A new strategy would be to employ an extra 200,000 troops, move in to conduct a proper counterinsurgency campaign in the built-up areas.
But neither one of those guys knows what he‘s talking about, I‘m afraid. And Obama‘s wrong.
BUCHANAN: The description of the president‘s policy that he is working on right now, the—what is the new way forward, would it be fair to describe that as “stay the course”?
JACOBS: Yes, I think it‘s stay the course with a few more guys for a little while longer.
Don‘t forget what his objective is. It‘s to get out, by and large, before the election. And I think that‘s what he‘s moving to do.
BUCHANAN: But if the president says, you know, we‘re not winning and we are not losing, and he generally believes that, and General Powell says we are losing the war, stay the course means we are going to continue down the road to lose the war and the defeat is going to become more and more apparent the further we go down this road. And...
JACOBS: I think it‘s—I think it‘s painfully obvious to everybody that whatever you do, unless it is a huge escalation or a complete change in the—in what the military objectives are—and we‘re not having either one of those—that, in fact, we are on the road to losing if we haven‘t lost already. And I think the administration has already accepted that.
BUCHANAN: All right.
Talk to Richard‘s point, which is that Obama has got to, by the time the primaries come around, which will be 13 months from now in the caucuses, he‘s going to have to address the question, what happens if we follow Obama‘s “let‘s get out of Iraq” and address the disintegration and the collapse we talked about yesterday? And do you think if we stay the course, as the president‘s going to do, and if it is apparent we are losing and will continue to lose, that the whole country and the president are going to have to face that? And what will they do when they face that?
JACOBS: Well, I think they‘re—first of all, I don‘t think they‘re going to vote for Barack Obama no matter what he says. I think the guy who‘s most likely to come to the fore, despite the fact that he is talking about insinuating lots more troops into the—into the fray...
JACOBS: ... is John McCain. That‘s the guy who is really talking about doing something completely different, though what his plan for the use of the troops is remains to be seen.
Barack Obama‘s main thrust is merely that this president got it all wrong...
JACOBS: ... and the way to get it right is to pull all the troops back, and then he will then move on to more domestic concerns.
BUCHANAN: And that‘s not credible.
What do you think, Richard?
WOLFE: Well, a couple of things.
First of all, Jack is right. A new way forward, I‘m not so sure. The president has spent months looking at this...
WOLFE: ... and the strategy emerging is much like the old way forward, only better.
One thing where Jack is slightly wrong, I think, judging from my White House source says, this goes well beyond the next two years. The president is looking to hand this off to the next president. It‘s not going to be resolved before the next election. That really does put the spotlight very firmly on people like Obama.
Coming up, the Democrats take over the Congress this coming Wednesday.
How will the new majority on Capitol Hill react to the president‘s new Iraq plan?
BUCHANAN: Still to come, we‘ll discuss the security implications of Saddam Hussein‘s impending execution. Is the U.S. military ready for any reaction in the Middle East?
Plus, we are learning more today about the close personal relationship between Gerald Ford and President Richard Nixon. Was there more to Ford‘s pardon than just bringing the country back together. We‘ll get to that in just a moment, but right now, here‘s a look at your headlines.
BUCHANAN: There‘s almost certain to be some violence in the Middle East in the wake of Saddam Hussein‘s execution. So, is the United States military prepared to respond? here to help us answer that question, retired Army Colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs. Jack, do you share the view we got from Evan Kohlmann, again, that there really will be nothing happening, except big celebrations?
JACOBS: Well, I‘d be surprised if the Sunnis don‘t do something. And, as a matter of fact, neither the Sunni militants, nor the Shia militants, need any excuse to blow each other up. I mean, they do it all the time, but they may just use this as an excuse to increase the level of violence, particularly against people who can‘t defend themselves, bombs in marketplaces, and so on. I think it‘s interesting to note, however, that a significant number of people, particularly Sunnis have left built up areas. Those who are middle class, and who can afford to leave have left areas which are liable to be tinder boxes ahead of Saddam Hussein‘s execution, and leaving behind people who are not capable of defending themselves or getting out.
BUCHANAN: OK, let me go back to your view of what is going on down in Crawford, Texas and at Camp David. Do you think this is a lot of window dressing for a decision already made?
JACOBS: Oh, I think so. I think the decision is—look, the options that are available are few and far between. It‘s either send lots and lots of troops in there, and really do the job properly, as it should have been done before, but with far more troop than General Rick Shinseki originally said. He said 250. It‘s now three years further down the road. We probably need 300,000 or 400,000 in order to do the job right, and a commitment to do it properly, tactically. So we‘re either going to do that or make some small attempt at keeping the certain areas relatively safe long enough to do some more training of Iraqi police and army units, and then say at some juncture that we are going to pull the majority of the forces out, ahead of the election. I do think that we are going to keep forces there long after the election in 2008, but they are not going to be at these levels.
BUCHANAN: How do you explain the generals—the Joint Chiefs, obviously, somebody leaked that right out of the Joint Chiefs, in the “Washington Post,” saying, we are all against a surge, or they are all against a surge. You‘ve got General Powell followed up on that with the broken Army. You‘ve got General Schoomaker. You had General Abizaid. You had General Casey, all saying we don‘t need more troops, and now they all seem to say, we are going to go along with more troops. How do you explain that? Is it because you believe the decision has been made, and they‘ve been told to get on board?
JACOBS: Yes, I think the decision was made some time ago, and because the options are few, one of which is to have a small surge, and I don‘t consider 20,000 troops to be a really significant number, especially in view of what is really required there, and how many troops we already have. So you probably have that and that they can buy on to, as long as the use of these troops is strictly limited, and they are going to be yanked out after a while, which, of course, is going to give rise to lots more violence. So, they‘ve come on board and I think the decision was made some time ago on exactly what today. And, to go back to what you suggested earlier, these meetings, and so on, I believe are merely window dressing.
BUCHANAN: All right, well let me ask you as a military man, as you said, look, there‘s one option—McCain‘s only calling for, I think, 50,000 troops, at most. The Baker people want all 15 combat brigades out by early 2008, which does seem to me a recipe for defeat in Iraq, get out and let them handle it, and it‘s probably coming down. But the president doesn‘t seem to take either of the bold courses. He‘s, sort of, splitting the difference, a small surge and then we move more slowly to—a small surge in McCain‘s direction, and then we move more slowly in Baker‘s direction. This doesn‘t look like MacArthurian leadership.
JACOBS: Well, no, I mean, I think leadership is one of the things that‘s been lacking from the very beginning.
BUCHANAN: What would you do, Jack?
JACOBS: Well, my recipe would be one of two things. The first one the country is not prepared for, and that is to insinuate an enormous number of troops there, and isolate specific areas, fight the proper counter-insurgency war, stay there as long as necessary in order to get the job accomplished, and then leave and that is going to take years. The country is not prepared to do that. We‘re not prepared to do that, and so that‘s not going to happen. The alternative is to do exactly the course that the president is suggesting, and that is to give some breathing room to the Iraqis, in order to make sure that they have got some capability to get trained, and then leave before the election, leaving a small contingent of advisors behind.
BUCHANAN: But you don‘t think that is going to work?
JACOBS: No, I don‘t think it‘s going to work for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that in 2008, that‘s going to expose our advisors to enormous danger that I don‘t think that we are going to want either. So, I think what likely to happen is that we will probably yank out for more troops between January and November of 2008 than originally anticipated.
BUCHANAN: All right, well, how would you answer McCain‘s criticism of that position, which is, look, if we are not going to win the war, we should not squander American young, the best and bravest we have got, over there, carrying outs a slow motion defeat. If we are going down the tubes, let‘s get out. Cut your losses, take your loss, and retreat to a defensible position.
JACOBS: I agree with him as far as that‘s concerned. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the insinuation of a relatively small contingent of additional American troops is not necessarily going to result in that much more violence, and here‘s the reason why; the bad guys do not want to fight the American Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. And, as a result of that, they‘re going to continue on their way of conducting the civil war against each other and against the civilians, that they have started, and then they‘re continue to do. And our putting a few more troops into the areas that are most difficult is really liable to stabilize the military situation there, at least for awhile. The bad guys don‘t want to attack us, and they‘re probably going to stay away from us in any case.
BUCHANAN: Let‘s bring Richard Wolffe back in here for some more analysis. Richard, that makes sense to me, because you see Muqtada al-Sadr right now. He walked out of the cabinet, took his guys out. They‘ve been battling, and when what you call him met with Bush in Amman—Maliki. And now he is going to come back into the cabinet. He‘s going to come back in the government. And he is urging his people to stand down. It looks to me like what he is doing is he‘s saying look, Bush is going to surge here. We certainly are not going to fight the American Army, and the American Army is looking for a fight. And we are not going to fight them, and so we are going to be nice. As Jack says, we‘ll carry on our sectarian violence, but stay out of mixing it up with the Americans, until the American surge is over in six months, and they start to go home.
WOLFFE: Well, that‘s exactly where the question of American commitment comes in. If this is a temporary surge, then yes. It‘s their country. They can wait it out. I don‘t—
BUCHANAN: But you disagree with Jack? You don‘t believe it‘s a temporary surge.
WOLFFE: Yes, I do. The signals I hear from White House sources is that they think this is a much longer term venture, whether or not the surge is sustainable is a, sort of, capabilities question.
BUCHANAN: What numbers are you hearing? See, you don‘t hear 50,000.
You hear 17,000-30,000.
WOLFFE: It‘s less than that, but this exactly where, as I understand it, the details are being thrashed out right now, because you have the uniformed military saying—raising questions of what the ramifications of the president‘s decisions are. He is saying, I want to make this government work I want to stick with it for as long as it takes, and the Army and the Marines are saying, well, hang on for a second, the Army needs this. It needs more troops. It needs more money. It needs more resources. Equipment is broken. That‘s where the discussion is right now. It‘s how to execute—
BUCHANAN: I‘ve heard the talk of the Army basically went along with a surge and a longer war it does not want, in return for Bush building up the military and restoring all the weaponry, sort of an unwritten, unspoken deal. Do you see that?
WOLLFE: Right, right, absolutely, but that‘s a longer term deal. That doesn‘t deal with what they between now—the next six months, the next 18 months. So the question here is what signals is the president going to send to the Iraqis, to the troops, about how long this mission is.
BUCHANAN: Well, that‘s exactly right. Now, let me ask you this, look, if it‘s a six month surge of 20,000-30,000 troops, it seems to me that‘s not serious. Now, are you suggesting that the United States, President Bush, could have 135,000, 140,000 troops in Iraq January 20th, 2009, the day he gives up his office?
WOLFFE: Yes, absolutely. I think this president is committed to handing this over, in one for or another, to the next president. now, for that to happen, he has to show results. He has to show some progress on the grounds between now and then. That‘s essentially what his goal is between now and 2008. Because when those debates start, he has to have this in a better shape to hand over to the next guy.
BUCHANAN: All right, very quickly Jack, you don‘t think he will do that?
JACOBS: Well, I think it‘s unlikely—he‘s unlikely to do that. There‘s one interesting point that you just brought, however, and that is that the results are very, very important. You know, what‘s interesting here is that the Democrats, who control both Houses of Congress, don‘t get to vote. The only thing they can do is pull support, pull the financial support, refuse to appropriate the money, and that‘s the only way they can control the outcome.
BUCHANAN: After Vietnam, Jack, they ain‘t going to do that.
JACOBS: They ain‘t going to do that. So, it‘s entirely possible you are liable to wind up with 150,00 to 200,000 troops on the 20th of January, 2009, but that‘s going to be a big tactical mistake, quite frankly.
BUCHANAN: Well, it‘s going to be—We know what the issue of the election of 2008 will be. OK, thank you very much. Coming up, for 30 years, Gerald Ford‘s pardon of Richard Nixon was attributed to President Ford‘s desire to heal the wounds of Watergate and unite the country. New information just today suggests President Ford‘s decision had a deeply personal component. Back with that after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just wanted to express my appreciation for your note, tell you to keep the faith, and tell the guys, god damn it, to get off their (INAUDIBLE) and start fighting back.
GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we‘re going to Mr. President, and you did a hell of a job last night, and isn‘t any other way I can express it this morning, but you‘ve got a hell of a lot of friends up here, both Republican and Democrat, and don‘t worry about anybody being sunshine soldiers, or summer patriots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: You just heard an excerpt from a 1973 conversation between then House minority leader Gerald Ford and embattled President Richard Nixon. Today marked the beginning of six days of national mourning for President Ford. His family gathered at St. Margaret‘s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, California for a private prayer service this afternoon. That will be followed by a public viewing for the thousands who have traveled to honor President Ford in California. The tape you just heard shines some light on the deep, close, personal relationship between President Ford and President Nixon. So, was there more to Ford‘s pardon of Nixon than national healing? I‘m joined again by Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek,” and medal of honor recipient, Colonel Jack Jacobs.
Colonel Jacobs, or Jack, you had a personal relationship with the former president of the United States, Richard Nixon, did you not?
JACOBS: Well, yes, in October, 1969, it was president Nixon who decorated me. I think it was the 9th of October. It was an extraordinary experience. We gathered in the East Room. There were three other recipients from the Army, who got the award on the same day, for different actions, and President Nixon came up to me before we went outside onto the lawn of the White House, and said—he asked me if I was nervous. I was a 24-year-old captain. And he said, are you nervous. And I said, no sir, I‘m not. And he said, well I am, and he had perspiration all over his lip.
We went outside onto the lawn of the White House. They had given the entire government off, opened up—show you how times have changed—opened up the gates to the White House grounds, and anybody and everybody who wanted to come on to the grounds could come there, and there were people as far as you could see. You couldn‘t even see the gates around the White House grounds.
BUCHANAN: You know, Jack, I remember one of the medal of honor ceremonies in the East Room. It was about three or four years later, during Watergate, and there must have been 15 or 20, a lot of them posthumously, and they closed the door to it, and only the president and a few others were allowed in, and I was told the president of the United States broke down repeatedly when they were reading those awards. It must have been—Were any of them posthumously, when you --
JACOBS: No, all three of us survived, but more than 60 percent of recipients in history were posthumous awardees. We‘ve got two seconds, I‘ll tell an anecdote, very, very quickly, years later, I was teaching at the National War College. We got Richard Nixon to come and give his first public speech after his exile, down to talk to the students at the National War College, among them, by the way, were Jim Jones, now running Europe, used to be Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Tony Zinni, critic of the White House policies, were students then, as lieutenant colonels and colonels.
President Nixon gave an extemporaneous speech, just incredible power
on a wide variety of international subjects. Later on, came out into the
rotunda. All the students followed him out of there, and he was answering
questions left and right, and he looked across the circle of people there -
don‘t forget this is now 1985 -- he looked at me and he said, I know you.
And I said, yes sir. You awarded me the Medal of Honor in 1969, and walked across the circle and gave me a big hug. I told Ed Cox, his son in law, this story two years ago. He said that‘s the most incredible story I‘ve ever heard. He was the coldest man I ever met. True story.
BUCHANAN: Ed Cox said Nixon was the coldest man he‘d ever met?
JACOBS: That‘s what he said.
BUCHANAN: Amazing, well let me tell you something, Jack, if that was October 9th, 1969, and they opened the gates. That was six days before we closed those gates, because, as you recall, we had about 500,000 demonstrators, the first of the mobilization, and new (INAUDIBLE) and the moratoriums, anti war demonstrations outside the White House, 15th of October, 15th of November. Let me thank you Jack for those recollections. Let me, Richard, what do you make of this thing? I think it speaks well of Gerald R. Ford, doesn‘t it?
WOLFFE: Yes, I think it does. Everyone talks about his decency, and there‘s been ample testimony to that. One thing that does strikes me though about the stories of the friendship, as I it understand, the tape we just heard was before the smoking gun comes out. And really, you know, at that point, what else would you have expected from the Republican leader?
BUCHANAN: I can tell you what that tape there, right there, and I was in on it. That was the firing of Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Dean. And he had to go out and fire them that night. And he had this speech, and he was very broken up at it, had a very grim meeting with Ehrlichman up at Camp David. And he used to talk about it. He said, I had to go out and cut off my left arm, and then cut off my right arm. So Nixon was very emotional and very angry about it, and I‘m sure Ford would commiserate with him. That‘s 1973. There‘s no evidence, whatsoever, Nixon had a hand in Watergate, at the name.
WOLFFE: Exactly, and the point here about Ford, of course, is that we remember as a departed president, but he was a politician, and he was making political calculations, and to say a politician, Republican leader on the Hill, is doing things, saying things, in this period, without regard to politics, is kind of naive. I mean, Ford was obviously a successful politician, and that should be celebrated, not sort of sensationalized, in some way or other.
BUCHANAN: All right, well jack, you had that person relationship with President Nixon. Do you feel President Ford did the right thing in pardoning him in?
JACOBS: Oh sure. There‘s little doubt that he did the right thing, in my mind, and, you know, if hadn‘t done that, we have had this long, drawn out (INAUDIBLE). And, as we all know in life, life is short, and it‘s best to move on. And moving on was exactly the right calculus, and it worked out best for the country, I believe.
BUCHANAN: You know—yes, there‘s a reason why the founding fathers put the pardoning power in the constitution for the president, and if this wasn‘t the ideal situation to get this over and done with, I don‘t know what was. Anyway, I‘m a partisan on this, as you said Richard. OK, thank you Richard Wolffe. Colonel Jack Jacobs, it‘s been a pleasure having you with us. Still ahead, Mike Tyson strikes a familiar pose for the cameras. We‘ll tell you how the former heavy weight champ got into hot water this time.
BUCHANAN: We‘ve had the death of a president and the impending execution of a tyrant. It‘s been a day of somber news, but Willie Geist is here to lighten things up a little bit. Willie, what have you got today?
WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hello Pat, before I lighten things
up, a quick piece of news here. The president and first lady on the ranch
in Crawford, Texas—there has been some severe weather in that area today
were moved into an armored vehicle. They have now been allowed out of the vehicle, but because of a tornado warning, they were put into an armored vehicle for security. They are now out of that vehicle, but a little bit of a scare on the ranch today.
But, in other news, Pat, sadly this modern image you are about to see of Mike Tyson becoming as familiar as the one of him savagely knocking out opponents in the 1980s. Tyson was arrested early this morning in Scottsdale, Arizona on felony drug possession charges, after police found two bags of white powder in his pocket. Police say Tyson was stopped after his BMW nearly sideswiped a sheriff‘s SUV on the way out of a night club. Authorities say Tyson admitted the powder that he had was Cocaine, and he said he uses Cocaine whenever he gets his hands on it. He appeared in court this morning, and was released without bond.
Now, Pat, this is actually a pretty sad story. He was a great fighter, but anybody you ask knows that this story is not going to end well. It is amazing he is actually still around.
BUCHANAN: No, it is not going to end well, and you are exactly right. He was a phenomenal fighter. He could have been a great heavy weight champion if he had been a more disciplined man. This thing is going straight downhill.
GEIST: It is. His personal problems will overshadow his career, unfortunately, I‘m afraid, Pat. Well, it is December 29th, but a Florida man now making a late run to be the year‘s dumbest criminal. Thirty one year old Claude King (ph) violently car jacked a black SUV in Boca Raton, crashed the truck, and then got lost while fleeing the scene. His solution to that problem, to stop at a pay phone and call 911. King told the police dispatcher, quote, I committed a crime. When asked where he was, King said, quote, I couldn‘t even tell you. Well, police eventually tracked him down and arrested him.
Now Pat, I have noticed this theme this year. We had a story just last week about a woman who went up to a police officer and complained that she had been sold some bad crack. There was another story about a guy who called his local police depot to claim some marijuana that had been stolen. He said that‘s my marijuana. Now, I want to speak to these people.
BUCHANAN: That is from the left slope of the bell curve.
GEIST: When you have committed a crime, folks, the police are not the people you turn to.
BUCHANAN: Doesn‘t Olbermann have awards for people like this?
GEIST: He does. I think you will see some of these people on that show tonight, as a matter of fact, as well you should.
Guys, for the last time, the year‘s almost over, don‘t go to the police when you have committed a crime. Call a family, go to your local church, Y.M.C.A., do whatever you‘ve got to do. Do not call the police. Just a little piece of advice.
Finally, Pat, it is the time of the year for those best of the year and worst of the year lists. As I have been reading through them a little bit, one name seems to keep coming up. That, of course, the name of our esteemed host, Tucker Carlson. I will let you guess which of those two lists his nationally televised dancing landed him on Pat. The closest I could find to a positive mention came on a list of things we did right in 2006. One of those things was, quote, we voted Tucker Carlson as the first one off “Dancing With The Stars.” Well, we will take any list we can get, and let‘s watch some of this routine, Tucker. I have to tell you, I traveled to Los Angeles with Tucker. I was there. As bad as that looks on TV, much worse in person. I can tell you.
BUCHANAN: I‘ll tell you, he is lucky he had that babe there with the orange on, because nobody was watching Tucker.
GEIST: That‘s right, divert the attention a little bit. Now Pat, any chance we will be seeing you on season four of “Dancing With The Stars?”
GEIST: Have they called?
BUCHANAN: No, no, they haven‘t called at all. No, no, I don‘t think we would be able to get out there for that one. It has been a long time since Elvis days.
GEIST: You know, it took some guts for Tucker to do it. I give him credit.
BUCHANAN: It took real guts. I give him credit too.
GEIST: Happy new year Pat.
BUCHANAN: Same to you Willie. Thank you very much. Folks, that does it for us. Thanks for watching us. Up next is “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. Have a terrific holiday weekend.
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