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MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS
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NBC News MEET THE PRESS
Sunday, January 2, 2005
GUESTS: Secretary of State Colin Powell;
David Broder, Washington Post;
Kate O'Beirne, National Review;
William Safire, New York Times;
Evan Thomas, Newsweek Magazine
MODERATOR/PANELIST: Tim Russert - NBC News
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Secretary of State Colin Powell and the president's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, leave this afternoon for Asia, for a firsthand look at death and devastation as the debate continues over the Bush administration's response to the tsunami crisis. But before he goes, the secretary of state will stop right here at MEET THE PRESS. Our guest, Colin Powell.
Then, what were the biggest stories of 2004, and what stories and issues will emerge in 2005? Insights and analysis from David Broder of The Washington Post, Kate O'Beirne of the National Review, William Safire of The New York Times, and Evan Thomas of Newsweek magazine.
But first, joining us now is the secretary of state, Colin Powell.
Mr. Secretary, welcome back.
SEC'Y COLIN POWELL: Thank you, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: In a matter of hours, you, with Governor Bush of Florida, leave for Asia. What exactly is your mission?
SEC'Y POWELL: We are going to be meeting with the countries in the region and international organizations that are at work in the region to see what more we can do to assist with this relief effort. It is one of the most massive relief efforts ever mounted in response to one of the worst catastrophes the world has ever seen. So I'll be going to Thailand, initially Bangkok and Phuket, where a lot of life was lost, and then down to Jakarta, Indonesia, then out to Aceh, which is the place where we've seen the greatest loss of life. I'll also be participating in an international conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on the 6th of January with Kofi Annan and a number of other leaders. And then I also hope to be able to get to Sri Lanka on the way out.
MR. RUSSERT: Is this the worst national disaster you've seen in your lifetime?
SEC'Y POWELL: Yes. And I've been through a lot of these in the course of my public career; Hurricane Andrew, Ivan earlier this year in the Caribbean. And this is the worst in terms of the number of countries involved and in terms of the loss of life, which now seems to be approaching 150,000 people with millions of people displaced and tens of thousands missing and tens of thousands injured, and so it requires an international response on a massive scale, and we are seeing that. It's happening.
MR. RUSSERT: Will the president go to the region?
SEC'Y POWELL: I don't know that the president has any plans. He is coming back from Crawford and will be here next week, and we'll see what he believes is necessary. Right now, I think we have good representation out there. We don't want to complicate the relief effort. We want to make sure that the trips we are planning, the congressional trips that we're planning, Jim Leach--Congressman Jim Leach is going, Senator Bill Frist will be over there later in the week. We want to make sure that we are complementing what's going on, not getting in the way.
MR. RUSSERT: In terms of the warning, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sensed the earthquake and the tsunami hours after it began to occur but didn't know who to call. In the future, will there be some apparatus set up where they can call the State Department, embassies, somehow get word to people?
SEC'Y POWELL: I think we have to take a look at this, and it's not just what we do here in the United States but what the countries of the region do. They have to take another look as to whether or not they should be investing in the kinds of systems that will sense this kind of an earthquake and can predict the kind of results that might happen from such an earthquake, such as a tsunami that's heading their way. And so we have to look at this as an international problem. And you can be sure that the United States will work with the scientific community, the international scientific community to see what more has to be done.
MR. RUSSERT: As you well know, there's been a lot of discussion about the administration and its response to this crisis. The New York Times on Thursday wrote this editorial. "We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poor countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities."
It's now up to $350 million, but was the initial response too timid?
SEC'Y POWELL: No, I don't think so. These things have a life cycle. Last Sunday we all started to receive word of this tragedy, and it looked like several thousand lives were lost. The enormity of it had not yet hit. But what we do in circumstances such as this is our ambassadors on the ground immediately offer aid, which they did. It's not much, $100,000 in each of the countries, but it shows that we are committed and engaged. By last Sunday afternoon, evening, I had started calling all the foreign ministers of the immediately affected nations and on Sunday evening, and then getting them all finally on Monday morning with time changes, I said to them the United States was following; "Let us know what you need. Please let our embassy know what you need," and reached out to them. So they knew we were committed right away, on Sunday afternoon.
The president then, Monday and Tuesday, called heads of government and state, said the same thing. The first request we got for aid was from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. On Sunday they asked for $7 million. The United States immediately gave them $4 million of the $7 million. That's a pretty good start. On Monday we upped it to $15 million. By Tuesday, when things were starting to jell a little more with respect to what was needed, we upped it to $35 million. And then we waited to get some assessments in. But while waiting, we dispatched teams, we diverted ships with food, we launched our military forces from our Pacific Command. The Bonhomme Richard has been launched. The Abraham Lincoln carrier was launched. So we really started to move out.
We began working with the international community. The president made a statement on Wednesday which demonstrated his concern and also created a core group to begin making sure that all of our efforts were aligned. The president was kept informed constantly from Sunday afternoon on. I spoke to him on Monday, noon, before I went out and made my first press statement. And as we got our assessments in and as the magnitude of this really hit us, then the president decided, based on a recommendation from me and administrator of the AID, Natsios, that we should go to $350 million.
This is also consistent with what other nations had been doing. I'm so pleased the Japanese have gone to $500 million, but they also started out at a much lower number, as did so many other nations. After you see the impact of this and the enormity of it, then you scale up your efforts. But it is not just a matter of money. It's a matter of getting supplies to the region and then, once you get these supplies to airports and ports, how do you make retail distribution out to the people in need? And this is where trucks, helicopters, C-130 aircraft, they come into play. There's no point spending a lot of money to put all of these supplies in the region unless you can distribute these supplies.
So one of the things that I will be looking at on my trip with Governor Bush and our FEMA director and other people is, is there anything we can do to help these countries, which have never been exposed to this kind of catastrophe, to help them organize themselves to deliver the aid, and also to consider the reconstruction effort that's going to be required?
I might add two other points, if I may, Tim. One: Our Defense Department is spending a great deal of money, which doesn't count as part of the $350 million, to put our assets in the region and to fly our helicopters and other aircraft and ships to assist with this. And the other thing that's so exciting is the response from the private sector of America. I mean, companies are matching the contributions of employees. I know that you're doing things right here at your network, so many other networks. Amazon.com is allowing you to one-click a contribution to the American Red Cross. So tens and tens of millions of dollars are being raised within the private community, which suggests the nature of our society, the compassion that we have for people in need.
So I think the American response has been appropriate. It has been scaled up as the scale of the disaster became more widely known. And the reason I want to linger on this a bit is I want the American people to understand that their government and our society has responded appropriately. I will tell you who is not churlish or disappointed in our response, and that's the nations who are receiving aid. They have been very thankful and very appreciative of what we have done, and we will do more.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that the United States contribution will go beyond $350 million?
SEC'Y POWELL: It may well have to go beyond $350 million, but it's the time now to step back and assess, see how best to use the $350 million. $350 million hasn't been spent yet. It'll be spent over time and it will be spent for supplies. It'll be spent for infrastructure rebuilding. It'll be spent for reconstruction efforts in due course. And so whether we will need more remains to be seen. But right now the international community and especially the United Nations is very pleased with the response that we have seen. Over $2 billion have been pledged just in official money, plus a lot more in terms of private contributions.
MR. RUSSERT: There was discussion in the country and around the world that the president wasn't heard from for some three days after the crisis began. Someone who worked at the State Department, David Phillips, was quoted as saying this in the Los Angeles Times, "Allies and critics of" President "Bush said that the administration had bungled its response to the tragedy, missing a chance to display goodwill at a time when the country was facing opposition abroad to the war in Iraq. Much of that opposition comes from the Muslim world, and several of the countries hit by the tsunami have large Muslim populations. `This was a golden opportunity for President Bush to speak to the victims of the tsunami and the Muslim world by showing care and compassion,' said David L. Phillips, a former senior advisor to the State Department under Bush and President Clinton and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. `Instead the U.S. is on the defensive, trying to explain its approach.'"
SEC'Y POWELL: I don't think that's the case at all. We were engaged on day one, hour one with the standing up of task forces. The president was involved from the very beginning and was kept informed. He went out on Wednesday after we had a better assessment of what was going on. He made a statement to the world. He created the core group. It's been seven days, and in seven days, we have launched a carrier battle group. We have launched an amphibious battle group. We have contributed $350 million. We have assessment teams all over. We have energized the private sector. We have put together a core group that is assisting these nations. The nations involved are very pleased with our response. The secretary-general and the other international organizations we deal with are very pleased with our response. There is always some former official around, some Rolodex ranger that always shows up to criticize what we are doing. But I want the American people to know that they should be very proud of what their country has been doing and what our private sector has been doing to help these desperate people in need.
MR. RUSSERT: In terms of winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, how important is it that the West be seen as so much more than indifferent to their needs?
SEC'Y POWELL: We should be seen not just because it's a Muslim nation but because these are human beings in need. The fact that it is also a Muslim nation, I think, contributes to the importance of the effort. But if you're looking at your television screens this morning, those are American helicopters that are landing and delivering supplies. Know that it's our GIs who are on the ground that are doing this. And we did that in just a period of a few days. And so we have nothing to be embarrassed about.
Our response scaled up as the scope of the disaster scaled up. And I have been through this many times and this is the general pattern. And if you look at our European allies, if you look at our Asian allies such as the Japanese, they responded in a similar way--an initial contribution, an assessment and then scale up the contribution. These amounts of money are not simply laying around. All of us will have to go to our Congresses and our parliaments to get this money approved or replenished into the accounts from which the money is now being taken.
MR. RUSSERT: Before we talk about Iraq and the Middle East, I want to show our viewers a Web site from the State Department, www.state.gov, .state.gov. You can find out the welfare of American citizens who may have been affected by the tsunami, but also it provides links to all kinds of charitable organizations where our viewers can make their own contributions.
In terms of Iraq, Mr. Secretary, why didn't our government follow the Powell doctrine in Iraq, using overwhelming force in order to win that war and win the peace?
SEC'Y POWELL: Well, at the beginning of the operation, I mean, those were heavy armored forces that went into Iraq and rather swiftly defeated the Iraqi army, what remnants were left, and you saw a very successful execution of the initial conflict. The challenge came afterward when we did not sense the growing insurgency and we were not able to anticipate how bad the insurgency would become and then put forces against it. But we audible these things and we make changes and what my military colleagues have done is they have gone back up in size in terms of the number of U.S. forces that are there, back up to 150,000, were supposed to be much lower.
But the real solution is not just more U.S. or coalition forces. The real solution will be increasing the size and capability of Iraqi forces, military forces, National Guard forces and police forces, in order to dominate the communities and to dominate the ground so that insurgents do not get a free ride.
But we are dealing with a difficult insurgency but even in the midst of this insurgency, the people of Iraq have made it clear they want to vote. They want to vote on the 30th of January. I talked to Ambassador Negroponte in Baghdad just a little bit before coming to your show this morning, Tim, and he says that they are moving forward toward this election on the 30th of January. Even in the Sunni areas where people are being threatened, people are coming out to register. People know that this is their chance to decide how they will be led and they are not inclined toward this kind of violence and these insurgents. These insurgents have to be defeated, and we should not expect that even with the successful election, the insurgency will be over. It will continue and they will have to be defeated. Why? Because they don't want democracy. They don't want the Iraqi people to decide how they will be led. They want to go back to tyranny and terror and threatening of neighbors, and that can't be allowed to happen.
MR. RUSSERT: In light of the fact that the insurgency is as formidable as it is, that we did not find weapons of mass destruction, and in fact the Iraqis may choose a government that is much closer and more sympathetic to Iran than certainly Saddam Hussein was, knowing those things, would you recommend going to war now?
SEC'Y POWELL: We went to war because of the facts that the president was presented--one, that the considered judgment of the intelligence community was that there were weapons of mass destruction, intention, which no doubt there was, capability to develop such weapons, a lot of unanswered questions over a period of 12 years, the absence of inspectors for five years, and a belief on the part of the intelligence community of the United States and other nations that there were stockpiles of such weapons. And there was a terrorist background to this organization, this regime, and 12 years of ignoring U.N. resolutions. So I think the president made the correct choice in light of the factors that existed at that time.
Now, what we haven't found are the weapons of mass destruction, the stockpiles. The capability and intent were there. But what we have to do now is look forward and have a successful election, allow the Iraqi people to decide. The Saddam Hussein regime is gone just as the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is gone, and we've gotten rid of two terrible dictatorships. And what we have to do in 2005 is to build democracy.
Now, Iranian Shiite thinking and Iraqi Shiite thinking are quite different. They're two different groups, and the new government that comes into place in Baghdad, the Transitional National Assembly, will be majority Shia. That's the majority of the population. But the transitional administrative law under which it's being held will protect the rights of the Kurdish minority, the Sunni minority and other minorities so that we have a government that may be majority Shia but respects the rights of others. And my sensing right now is that even though there may be Iranian influence, and the Iranians will try to influence, of course, there is sufficient difference and past serious disagreements and conflicts between Iranian and Iraqi Shias that the Iraqi Shias will stand on their own two feet.
MR. RUSSERT: There's a front-page report in The Washington Post today that the administration is considering a prison to detain alleged terrorists where they do not have enough evidence to bring them to prosecution. What's your role in that and do you seem...
SEC'Y POWELL: I am not familiar with that and I can't talk to it.
MR. RUSSERT: The State Department is involved.
SEC'Y POWELL: I just don't have the facts on that one.
MR. RUSSERT: Why would the United States detain people for life without bringing them to trial?
SEC'Y POWELL: I have no information on this one, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you about the Middle East. This is a photograph seen around the world. Mahmoud Abbas, who in all likelihood will be the next leader of the Palestinian people, being carried around by terrorist organizations. Zakariya Zubeidi and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and one of Israel's most wanted men is carrying him on his shoulders. How can we tolerate that?
SEC'Y POWELL: Well, it's disturbing. And I know that what Mr. Abbas is doing is running for election. And he has to reach out to all parts of the Palestinian community. Now, even though that picture is disturbing, what he has been saying with respect to the need to end terror and the need to try to persuade all segments of the Palestinian population to move away from terror and to move toward this opportunity for peace, that I believe is his prevailing position. And I think that if he prevails in the election on January 9--and that's up to the Palestinian people to decide who should be the president of their authority--I think he knows that the only way forward with a successful election behind him is to reform the Palestinian Authority, end corruption, make sure that it's an authority that rests on law, reform the security services.
And what he's going to find is that the Israeli government will be ready to work with such a partner for peace. And the Israeli government has already indicated it's going to continue to get rid of those settlements this coming year or this year in Gaza, and we have the prospect of moving forward.
Now, if the new leadership of the Palestinian Authority--and let's assume it is Mr. Abbas--if they don't move in that direction, then we're going to be stuck again. So we need reformed Palestinian leadership that deals with this terrorist threat. Mr. Abbas said he hopes to persuade them. But that may not be enough. The challenge may be greater than that and he may have to undertake operations against them. And if he does that and shows a real commitment to end terror, I think he will find an Israeli partner ready to work with him, and he will certainly find the international community and especially the United States ready to play an important role.
MR. RUSSERT: This past week, he seems to be pandering to the terrorists.
SEC'Y POWELL: Well, as I said, that particular scene was disturbing, but I don't think it reflects Mr. Abbas' overall approach to governing.
MR. RUSSERT: You'll be leaving as secretary of state. What's your biggest disappointment?
SEC'Y POWELL: Oh, I never list big disappointments or big successes. I leave after four years, and I'm very pleased with so many of the things that we've done over the last four years, whether it's the removal of two dictatorships, whether it's the millennium challenge account, which is the most significant increase in development assistance to developing nations in the world since the Marshall Plan, increase in all kinds of development assistance; the contribution we're making in the war against HIV-AIDS, how we've expanded our trans-Atlantic alliance, to the increasing the size of NATO and watching the European Union expand, the good relations we've created with China, the preservation and improvement of our alliances in the Pacific with South Korea and with Japan and Australia and so many other nations and the relationship we have put together with Russia.
Yes, there are some challenges in our relationship with Russia, but remember, Russia was concerned about the expansion of NATO. They were concerned about how this would affect the Baltic states. All of that was dealt with. We have de-nuclearized Libya, and we have put international spotlight on Iran and on North Korea, recognizing that their nuclear weapons programs are a concern. But the whole international community is now seized with that. We did it in a multinational, multilateral way working with our friends and partners; the role we played in assisting India and Pakistan and dealing with some of the challenges that they were facing a couple of years ago.
So I leave feeling pretty good about what we have done, but recognizing that we have major challenges. The two challenges that I know my successor, Dr. Rice, and the president will be working on, get the Middle East peace process moving. If I had to list one thing that I wish we had been able to do more about, get the Middle East peace process moving and consolidate Iraq. Get a successful election under our belt, defeat that insurgency and get Iraq moving in the same direction that Afghanistan is moving in.
MR. RUSSERT: Were you worn down or frustrated by the philosophical differences with Secretary Rumsfeld or Vice President Cheney?
SEC'Y POWELL: I work for the president of the United States. He's always allowed me to present my views. More often than not, the views of the senior leadership of the administration, myself, Secretary Cheney--excuse me, Vice President Cheney; I still remember him as my secretary when I was chairman-- Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Dr. Rice--more often than not we agreed with one another. When it came to--notwithstanding what you hear in the press, when it came to how you approach Korea, how to approach Iran, there was more agreement than disagreement. Libya, China, Russia, expansion of our development programs, yes, there was pretty solid agreement. But were there debates about these issues? Of course there were.
The president is well served when he has people within his administration who have strong views, and if these strong views sometimes diverge, then that's what presidents get elected to do: Listen to diverging views and make a judgment in the name of the American people. It's not my foreign policy and it's not Don Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney's foreign policy. It's the president's foreign policy, and he develops his foreign policy in a manner that he believes is consistent with the mandate he's been given by the American people. And it's been my privilege to serve President Bush four years, and I am pleased that he always allowed me to present my views in an unvarnished way, and he usually received them in an unvarnished way.
MR. RUSSERT: Will you ever run for elective office?
SEC'Y POWELL: No.
MR. RUSSERT: Never?
SEC'Y POWELL: No.
MR. RUSSERT: What are you going to do?
SEC'Y POWELL: I don't know yet. I'm still looking at the opportunities that are out there after I retire. I'm sure there will be opportunities to serve in a public way. I don't intend to go hibernate for the rest of my life. And so we'll see what happens. I hope to continue to serve the country in some way in private life.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you Colin Powell on New Year's Eve. This is New York City with Mayor Bloomberg, pushing down the ball at Times Square. Any interest in replacing Dick Clark on New Year's Eve?
SEC'Y POWELL: That's not a bad idea. That's not a bad idea.
MR. RUSSERT: General Colin Powell, we thank you as always for joining us and sharing your views.
SEC'Y POWELL: You're already calling me general again. Happy new year, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Secretary.
Coming next, David Broder of The Washington Post, Kate O'Beirne of the National Review, William Safire of The New York Times and Evan Thomas of Newsweek look back at 2004 and ahead to 2005. They are next right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: A look back at '04, a look ahead at '05. Our political roundtable is next.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
Welcome all. Happy new year.
MR. WILLIAM SAFIRE: Happy new year.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me start with the whole tsunami disaster. The Bush reaction to it, David, has there been too much criticism, too less criticism of the Bush response?
MR. DAVID BRODER: I think it would have been helpful if the president had made a brief statement immediately, but I think this criticism is way overblown. As Secretary Powell said, the American response has been large and it will continue to grow.
MR. RUSSERT: Kate O'Beirne?
MS. KATE O'BEIRNE: Tim, I'm inclined to see a political angle far more often than people with a more normal perspective on these things. This one totally escapes me. The incomprehensible scale of loss--this is not about us. It's not about what Bill Clinton said or didn't in London. It's not about George Bush. It's not about us. Of course, there's going to be more help from America. There is always more help from America.
MR. RUSSERT: Bill Safire, but the U.S. always has to be conscious of the way the world is viewing it?
MR. SAFIRE: I thought the way Colin Powell handled it on this program a few minutes ago was right on the button, that you don't come rushing out and saying, "I'm going to solve the problem." The government gathered the information, and within 48 or 72 hours, comes up with an initial plan and it's changed and it copes with the circumstances as it goes and it's easy to take potshots, but in this case, I don't it's deserved.
MR. RUSSERT: Evan?
MR. EVAN THOMAS: I agree with that. I mean, Bush doesn't like to be rushed into anything. So maybe he could have come out a little sooner, but, look, this is a massive U.S. response. I think the initial reluctance is going to be forgotten.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's take a look back to the election of 2004. The folks at MEET THE PRESS have put together a little video summary of the campaign. We'll watch that and come back and rehash it all. Here we go.
(Videotape, January 11, 2004):
SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA): Tim, I'm going to do great. I'm going to surprise you and a lot of people.
(Videotape, January 19, 2004):
SEN. KERRY: Iowa, I love you.
(Videotape, January 19, 2004):
DR. HOWARD DEAN, (D-VT): And then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House. Yah!
(End of videotape)
(Videotape, February 1, 2004):
DR. DEAN: No, it wasn't very presidential, but it was a lot of fun.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT, (D-MS): My pursuit of the presidency has reached its end.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, (D-MA): My campaign for the White House has now come to a close.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, (D): This is the end of the campaign for the presidency.
DR. DEAN: I am no longer actively pursuing the presidency.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, (D-NC): I've decided to suspend my campaign for the presidency.
(Videotape, February 8, 2004):
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: I look forward to a good campaign. I know exactly where I want to lead the country.
(Videotape, February 22, 2004):
MR. RALPH NADER, (I): I've decided to run as an Independent candidate for president.
(Videotape, March 16, 2004):
SEN. KERRY: I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.
(Videotape, April 11, 2004):
SEN. JOHN McCAIN, (R-AZ): I am supporting President Bush. I've already campaigned for him.
(Videotape, April 18, 2004)
SEN. KERRY: George Bush has no record to run on.
(Videotape, July 7, 2004):
SEN. KERRY: We've got real plans, we've got a better sense of what's happening to America, and we've got better hair.
(Videotape, July 25, 2004):
STATE SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL): I'm really not somebody who's comfortable with a liberal, conservative label.
(Videotape, July 29, 2004):
SEN. KERRY: I'm reporting for duty.
(Videotape, August 1, 2004):
SEN. ZELL MILLER, (D-GA): It was the same gobbledygook, same bafflegab that you have always heard from John Kerry.
(Videotape, August 3, 2004):
LT. COM. GEORGE ELLIOTT: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.
MR. AL FRENCH: He is lying about his record.
(Videotape, August 29, 2004):
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, (D-NY): The smear tactics used very effectively by this group in, you know, conjunction with people very high up in the Bush campaign.
(Videotape, September 2, 2004):
PRES. BUSH: I accept your nomination for president of the United States.
(Videotape, September 30, 2004):
PRES. BUSH: Of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that.
(Videotape, October 5, 2004):
VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: Your rhetoric, Senator, would be a lot more credible if there was a record to back it up.
(Videotape, October 10, 2004):
SEN. EDWARDS: This is the president and vice president who sent about 40,000 American troops into this war without the kind of body armor that they needed.
(Videotape, October 13, 2004):
SEN. KERRY: I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian...
(Videotape, October 21, 2004):
Unidentified Woman: You shoot any geese, Senator?
(Videotape, October 24, 2004):
MR. ED GILLESPIE: At the end of the night, John Kerry will be the president-elect of the United States of America.
(Videotape, October 25, 2004):
FORMER PRES. BILL CLINTON: From time to time, I have been called the Comeback Kid. In eight days, John Kerry is going to make America the comeback country.
(Videotape, October 31, 2004):
FORMER MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI, (R-NY): I think that bin Laden should be discounted in this election, but there's no question that he very much opposes George Bush.
(Videotape, November 3, 2004):
SEN. EDWARDS: It's been a long night, but we've waited four years for this victory. We can wait one more night.
(Videotape, November 3, 2004):
SEN. KERRY: I spoke to President Bush, and I offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory.
(Videotape, November 3, 2004):
PRES. BUSH: The voters turned out in record numbers and delivered an historic victory. Earlier today, Senator Kerry called with his congratulations. We had a really good phone call. He was very gracious.
(Videotape, November 4, 2004):
PRES. BUSH: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.
(Videotape, November 7, 2004):
MR. KARL ROVE: His victory came from a wide variety of places. People of faith played a big role in that.
(Videotape, November 14, 2004)
MR. JAMES CARVILLE: You know what I say? I've got egg on my face.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Carville, who had predicted a victory for John Kerry, with egg on his face. Evan Thomas, Newsweek, headed by you, put out this book, "Election 2004." You just interviewed John Kerry a couple weeks ago. What did he tell you? Did George Bush win or did John Kerry lose this race?
MR. THOMAS: Well, he will tell you that Bush won, that--he was a little bit defensive, but he was pretty chipper for a guy who just lost a presidential election. And he gave off all sorts of vibes of wanting to run again. How much of that is just warding off the blues I don't know, but he really was, you know "I'm going to do this better the next time," was very much the sense I got from him. He didn't seem sad. He was looking for ways to make the most of it.
MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, looking back at the race now, why do you think that George Bush won and John Kerry lost?
MR. BRODER: A lot of things, but if I had to pick out one, I think the roots of the Bush victory were found in the first 10 days after September 11th, 2001, when our country really needed a president to rally around. He was that president. And I don't think that was ever forgotten by the American people.
MR. RUSSERT: Kate O'Beirne?
MS. O'BEIRNE: I agree. I think he got high marks from the public for his leadership in the overall war on terror. And despite discomfort on the part of the public with what's been going on in Iraq, the mounting casualties and the problems post-toppling Saddam Hussein, they weren't inclined to either hold George Bush directly responsible or think that John Kerry had any kind of a solution that was going to make the job in Iraq that much easier.
MR. RUSSERT: Bill Safire?
MR. SAFIRE: I think Kate put her finger on it. The story of 2004 were the two stories together, the war in Iraq and the election. And what happened here, amazingly, was that in the midst of an unpopular war and rising casualties, that the majority of Americans, a clear majority, decided to go with the president it had and affirm that we are going to stick with this war and win it. That's--when you talk about Vietnam syndrome and it being overcome in the first Persian Gulf War, it wasn't then. It was in this past year.
MR. RUSSERT: Evan Thomas, John Kerry said to you that he realized he had a hard time connecting with the American people. What was he talking about?
MR. THOMAS: He is very interested in this whole question of political rhetoric now. He knows that he didn't--he was not a great speaker. He was a little defensive about it. But he knows that he sounded a little bit too highfalutin and high-minded, and he is looking for a way to speak to regular Americans that reach them. And again, he's defensive, but he knows he didn't find that message and that voice.
MR. RUSSERT: President Bush talked about spending political capital, David Broder. How much of that political capital might be spent in Iraq?
MR. BRODER: More than he wants. We're a long way from being in the clear on Iraq. The path is not an obvious path even after the election comes off on January 30, which I think it will. But they are not prepared to take responsibility for their own security, which means that our troops are there for the indefinite future, and that will be a continuing wound and a continuing drain on the president's capital.
MR. RUSSERT: Bill Safire, when the president talks about political capital, does someone who won the way he did, by 2 or 3 percentage points, have a lot of political capital?
MR. SAFIRE: Absolutely, yes. You have a mandate with one vote, and he treated it that way in his first term, and that's the way the system works. And now, with a 3, 4 percent popular vote mandate, he is going to go for the big ones. And from Social Security to sticking with and winning the war in Iraq, I think you'll see a strong, activist presidency, at least for the first two years.
MR. RUSSERT: One of the big ones, Kate O'Beirne, is nominations to the Supreme Court to the United States. James Dobson, one of the nation's evangelical leaders--"James C. Dobson, the nation's most influential evangelical leader, is threatening to put six potentially vulnerable Democratic senators `in the bull's-eye' if they block conservative appointments to the Supreme Court. In a letter his aides say is being sent to more than one million of his supporters, Dr. Dobson,...the founder of the evangelical organization Focus on the Family, promises `a battle of enormous proportions from sea to shining sea' if President Bush fails to appoint `strict constructionist' jurists or if Democrats filibuster to block conservative nominees. Dr. Dobson recalled the conservative efforts that helped in November defeat Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senate minority leader who led Democrats in using the filibuster to block 10 of Mr. Bush's judicial nominees. `Let his colleagues beware,' Dr. Dobson warned, `especially those representing "red" states. Many of them will be in the "bull's-eye" the next time they seek re-election.'"
What can we look forward to in terms of Supreme Court, the kind of person George Bush will nominate and how the Senate will respond?
MS. O'BEIRNE: I don't think those Democratic senators representing Bush-friendly states need Jim Dobson to tell them that they're going to be the center of attention on judicial nominations. President Bush, when he campaigned very aggressively in 2002 for Senate candidates, he didn't appear on behalf of anyone without mentioning judges. He's convinced it's a politically winning issue. He's convinced it's part of his legacy. The federal bench really matters, these lifetime appointments. I think the president's going to move aggressively. I think the president is not going to disappoint his conservative base. He cares about his legacy. He cares about the bench. I think he's going to appoint conservatives.
MR. RUSSERT: Howard Wolfson, a Democratic consultant, adviser to abortion groups, has said that the Democrats have to rethink their language on abortion, David Broder, and he said, you know, if the president simply replaces someone who is against Roe vs. Wade with someone who's against Roe vs. Wade, he may not get a fight over that.
MR. BRODER: He'll get a fight. The Democrats, as beaten down as they are and as they feel these days, will stand up on their hind legs to fight about a Supreme Court appointment of somebody who is clearly prepared to change that Roe vs. Wade decision. I'm not convinced, Kate--you know much better than I do--but if the president is serious about also doing Social Security reform, which I think he is, I don't see why he would want to start out this year with a knock-down drag-out fight over a Supreme Court appointment when there are confirmable conservative judges and lawyers in this country that he could put on the court without that kind of a fight.
MS. O'BEIRNE: Well, I think that it'd be a confirmable conservative. It's going to be a conservative who is extremely well-qualified, terrific academic credentials, maybe someone who has been put on an appeals court bench by this same Senate. Many Republicans think that they can break a filibuster, should the Democrats mount one, on a Supreme Court justice given the kind of attention that those nominations receive.
MR. RUSSERT: To get a sense of President Bush's thinking about the Supreme Court, way back in 1999, I interviewed Governor Bush and asked him about the Supreme Court. Let's watch:
(Videotape, MEET THE PRESS, November 21, 1999):
MR. RUSSERT: Which Supreme Court justice do you really respect?
GOV. BUSH: Well, that's--Antonin Scalia is one. He's an intellect. The reason I like him so much is I got to know him here in Austin when he came down. He's witty. He's interesting. He's firm. There's a lot of reasons why I like Judge Scalia. And I like a lot of the other judges as well. I mean, it's kind of a harsh question to ask because it now pits me--some of whom are friends of mine. I mean, it's--and so in all due respect, Judge Thomas and...
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe Clarence Thomas was the most qualified man in the country for the Supreme Court?
GOV. BUSH: I do, and I think he's proven my dad correct.
MR. RUSSERT: Bill Safire, would George Bush nominate Scalia or Thomas to replace William Rehnquist as chief justice if there were a vacancy?
MR. SAFIRE: I think that would be a good move. You get a two-fer if you do that. So if you put in Scalia as chief justice, that means you have another appointment to replace him as associate justice. And there's where compromises can be made. But when you asked about Dobson, Dobson is what Colin Powell called "a Rolodex ranger." Nice phrase. I like it. And he's somebody you call if you want to stir up trouble.
MR. RUSSERT: My guess is your e-mail's going to get filled after that comment, Mr. Safire.
Evan Thomas, Scalia was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a vote of 98-to-nothing. People forget that. If the president now nominated him to be chief justice, if a vacancy occurred, what would be the reaction amongst Democrats?
MR. THOMAS: I think they would oppose him bitterly, tooth and nail, and it would be a real fight. You know, I wonder how much of a true believer Bush really is in the social issues. I know he's a fan of Scalia, but I think that has more to do with Scalia's social--Scalia's a good guy; he likes him. I question how much Bush is going to go to the wall on things like abortion and trying to please his right- wing base on the social issues.
MR. RUSSERT: Kate O'Beirne, do you think the president would go to Scalia to be chief justice?
MS. O'BEIRNE: I think he could. I think he could go to Justice Thomas. I think he thinks these are winning issues. He thinks that, in part, the Republicans have the margin they do in the Senate owing to the issue of judges. It's not a bad thing to be a conservative judge. Being a liberal judge is a bad thing. I think the White House is ready for this fight.
MR. RUSSERT: We're going to take a quick break and come back and talk about other issues that may emerge in 2005. A lot more, right after this.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
David and Bill, you were mentioning many of the issues on the Bush agenda. Geoffrey Kemp, who worked for Ronald Reagan and now works at the Nixon Center said this: "We can't have a war that is at this point unwinnable and costs soaring, and a military that desperately needs more support. That means a net rise in the defense budget, but we can't do that and have a tax cut and reform Social Security--and not have us pay a price for it."
Can George Bush do all the things he wants to do, David: win the war in Iraq, help the people with the tsunami fallout, the tax cut reform, Social Security reform, permanent tax cuts? How do you do it?
MR. BRODER: He...
MR. RUSSERT: And cut the budget in half. I'm sorry.
MR. BRODER: I think the tax cuts reform or the tax--whatever you want to call it--is manana. That's going to be pushed way back. And the other things represent a heavy lift. I mean, the question in my mind is he clearly has won, as Bill said, a lot of political capital out of this election. I'm not sure that he's won enough to change the Social Security system in this country. That's going to be a fascinating and vitally important battle.
MR. RUSSERT: Bill?
MR. SAFIRE: I think he will pick that as his number one, big historic moment, fixing Social Security and will have a blue-ribbon commission and it'll discover, my God, in the past century, life expectancy went from 45 to 75, and in this century, it's going to go to 100 by the end of it. So that's going to change everything in terms of Social Security. And so people under 50 will look forward to a retirement of 70 or 72, and that'll have a huge effect on the Social Security system.
MR. RUSSERT: The president would raise the retirement age.
MR. SAFIRE: The president would appoint a commission that would urge that and then everybody would say, "Well, it's nobody's fault and it's everybody's fault."
MR. RUSSERT: Kate?
MS. O'BEIRNE: The president feels very strongly about introducing personal accounts in Social Security. He ran on it in 2000. Senate candidates who ran on it, did so successfully. I think he's very committed. I do think it's his legacy priority. It is going to be a very big fight, not only with Democratic members of Congress, but he has reluctant allies on the Republican side of the aisle. They can make the case for tax cuts. They're not all that controversial. Republicans are all on board. That is not the case with Social Security. They're extremely nervous. They want the president to be out there making the case, selling the plan. They're not confident based on Medicare prescription drugs that the White House is committed enough to selling the plan. So first he's got to make sure that he's got his Republicans who are facing re-election unlike himself willing to do this for him. It's an important reform, but it is a very big issue.
MR. RUSSERT: Evan Thomas, how does the president do all this, maintain the war in Iraq, reform Social Security and the transitional costs could be quite high--he will debate that but most seem to agree with that--have his tax cuts permanent and still cut the deficit in half?
MR. THOMAS: Well, let's look at the recent history of second-term presidents. Nixon and Clinton, you know, were impeached. Reagan would have been impeached but people thought he was senile. I mean, the...
MR. RUSSERT: Over what?
MR. THOMAS: Over Iran-Contra. I mean, I think the recent history of second-term presidents is a disaster because events have a way of coming up and the real risk for Bush is hubris. He has a--there's a confidence that people admire, but it can turn into cockiness. And if he's too arrogant and pushes that too far, he could pay for it.
MR. RUSSERT: Hubris, a Greek word, Mr. Safire.
MR. SAFIRE: Yes, and I like those ancient references. I think if the president has to worry about one initiative, it's his immigration reform. I think the Republicans are not going to go along with that, but on Social Security and on holding taxes down--look, when you elect a Republican, you reduce taxes. When you elect a Democrat, you increase taxes. It's always been that way with the exception of John F. Kennedy when he cut taxes and thereby cut the deficit. I think when a country makes a decision, you have a powerful combination of Congress and the president, and I think you're going to see some real Social Security reform and tax reform in this administration.
MR. RUSSERT: Is there a hubris alert on a second term, David Broder?
MR. BRODER: There ought to be, and it applies I think not just to Social Security but it applies equally to foreign policy. The guest that you had earlier has labored for four years to try to repair America's relations with the rest of the world. He had limited success because of the president and the president now has the job himself of trying to repair those relations. If he does not approach it with some sense of humility and really being willing to listen, I think he could have a very difficult time over the next four years.
MR. RUSSERT: In the 2000 debates for the presidency, Kate O'Beirne, they asked George Bush the kind of foreign policy he wanted and he said "humble."
MS. O'BEIRNE: Yeah. Absolutely. And then came 9/11, and as he has reminded us since, he will do anything he believes is necessary to protect and defend American lives, and that, of course, was his underlying rationale for Iraq. And if that alienates--some countries are unwilling to join us, so be it.
The optimistic case with respect to elections in Iraq, nobody expects I don't think for there to be a dramatic improvement post-election, but the optimistic case will be that it will become increasingly apparent that the terrorists are fighting Iraqi self-determination, not just the occupation, and maybe if there's some progress there, some visible progress, other countries will be more willing to help. But as I said, he is never going to let world opinion tie us down. He's made that clear.
MR. RUSSERT: How patient do you think the American people will be with Iraq?
MS. O'BEIRNE: I think there's a limit, Tim. I think it's important that the White House start reminding the public that post-elections is not going to make possibly dramatic difference, although it is true that in Afghanistan post-elections, the wind has gone out of the sails of the Taliban. Americans are inclined to see it through. Perhaps an elected Iraqi government will look to have our presence diminished. If they ask us to reduce our presence, we of course would respond. We would have to. But it's not endless, the American public's tolerance for the kind of casualties they're seeing.
MR. RUSSERT: How do you see Iraq, Evan?
MR. THOMAS: I think there's a good chance we will declare victory and come home, that within a year, we'll hope for some kind of Iraqi stability and come home.
MR. RUSSERT: Bill Safire?
MR. SAFIRE: I think we're going to win in Iraq. I think by the end of next year, we'll have begun to withdraw our forces. We won't have them out but we will have begun to withdraw. And the Kurds will be firmly in charge of northern Iraq. And look, you've got two-to-one, three-to-one majority of Shia over Sunnis, and they're going to run Iraq. And the Sunnis, who live in the middle, not with the northern oil fields or the southern oil fields, are going to have to live with it and come to grips with it. I don't see a long civil war there.
MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, before we go, 2005, what should our viewers be looking for, what issues, what stories?
MR. BRODER: Well, the best news is baseball in Washington, of course, and that's what I'm looking forward...
MR. RUSSERT: That's a home call right there, I'll tell you.
MR. BRODER: ...I'm looking forward to. We will have major fights over education and health care once again.
MR. RUSSERT: Kate?
MS. O'BEIRNE: I think the "I's" have it, Tim--Iraq, Iran, insolvency, infields, illegal immigration. I agree with you, Bill, it's a sleeper issue to the extent that on no other issue is a lead opinion so out of step with public opinion. Both parties are out of step with public opinion on that issue.
MR. RUSSERT: What to watch for in '05, Safire?
MR. SAFIRE: The beginning of the campaign for '08.
MR. RUSSERT: Who do you like?
MR. SAFIRE: I think the Democrats will nominate Evan Bayh and Bill Richardson and the Republicans will nominate John McCain and Condi Rice.
MR. RUSSERT: Look at that! Boy, you're--huh?
MR. THOMAS: That's good stuff.
MR. RUSSERT: Four years away; I like Safire. Evan, what shall we look for?
MR. THOMAS: It's always the unexpected event, isn't it? Isn't is always something that we didn't anticipate that catches us by surprise?
MR. RUSSERT: But what should we expect?
MS. O'BEIRNE: The unexpected is what...
MR. THOMAS: Exactly that. We should expect...
MS. O'BEIRNE: Is what it is.
MR. THOMAS: What I fear is a terrorist attack. We shouldn't forget that threat is still out there?
MR. RUSSERT: How about Safire throwing in with Evan Bayh rather than his old friend Hillary Clinton?
MR. THOMAS: I think he's wrong about Evan. Evan Bayh is not a Midwesterner. He went to St. Alban's School. He's an Easterner.
MR. RUSSERT: Nothing wrong with St. Alban's. Go Bulldogs.
Kate O'Beirne, Evan Thomas, Bill Safire, David Broder.
We'll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: Start your day tomorrow on "Today" with Katie and Matt, then the "NBC Nightly News" with Brian Williams. Brian will be reporting live from hard-hit Indonesia beginning tomorrow night.
That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS, and Buffalo Bills fans, you got to "Billieve," with two L's. If we win today, and the Jets or Broncos lose, the Bills are in the playoffs. Go, Bills. Happy new year.