Senators Dick Durbin, Lindsey Graham debate US foreign policy in Middle East

Written by Fox News / Published October 21, 2012 / Fox News Sunday

Special Guests: Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

The following is a rush transcript of the October 21, 2012, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.

The sprint to Election Day begins with a final presidential debate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE (voice-over): As Obama and Romney face off one last time, on foreign policy, we'll have our own debate -- on that terror strike in Libya, the upheaval in Syria, and, Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin versus Republican Lindsey Graham. Durbin and Graham -- only on "Fox News Sunday."

(on camera): Then, it's been a rollercoaster ride in the polls.

(voice-over): We'll talk numbers with the man in charge of Gallup, the grand daddy of polling firms, editor-in-chief, Frank Newport.

(on camera): Plus, we are down to the final 16 days of the campaign.

(voice-over): We'll ask our Sunday panel, what to expect, in the race to the finish line.

And, from a tense debate, to laughs over dinner, it was quite a week on the trail.

All, right now on "Fox News Sunday."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: And, hello, again from Fox News in Washington.

With just 16 days until the election, President Obama and Governor Romney meet one last time Monday night for a debate on foreign policy.

We want to preview the issues with a debate of our own, Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, joins us from his home state of Illinois, and a top Republican on foreign policy, Senator Lindsey Graham, is in his home state, of South Carolina.

Senators, let's start with breaking news, a report in today's New York Times that Iran and the U.S. have agreed in principle to one on one talks about Iran's nuclear programs. But the White House said late last night that they had not agreed to talks, but that U.S., the administration, is open to the idea.

Senator Graham, let me start with you.

What do you think of one-on-one talks with Iran? And what do you make of the timing of this coming out two weeks before the election?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, I think the Iranians are trying to take advantage of our election cycle, to continue to talk. As we talk with the Iranians, whether it is bilaterally or unilaterally, they continue to enrich. And the vice president and the president said we will do nothing without coordinating with Israel. So we've talked with them in Moscow, we've talked with them in Baghdad, they continue to enrich, enrich.

I think the time for talking is over. We should be demanding transparency and access to the nuclear program. They doubled their centrifuges.

So, I think this is a ploy by the Iranians. I hope we are talking to the Israelis. And, as we continue to talk, they continue to enrich and they are trying to break apart the coalition.

WALLACE: What do you think of the timing of the story coming out, one assumes from U.S. sources, not Iranian, just two weeks before the election?

GRAHAM: Well, I think it is pretty obvious, they are trying to continue a dialogue using our election cycle, and, in a pretty clever way and I hope we don't take the bait. And we had a chance in 2009 to speak up during the Iranian revolution and we did nothing, it was a huge mistake.

And I would like to talk with Israel before we make any major decisions with Iran.

WALLACE: Well, Senator Durbin, Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, says in The New York Times article that Israel should not be rewarded with one-on-one talks with the U.S. What they should get instead are even tougher sanctions.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-ILL.: I can tell you, Chris, the president put together a strong global coalition imposing sanctions on the Iranians, including not only Europe, obviously, which is -- made a dramatic impact on the Iranian economy but Russia as well. And it's had its month.

This month of October, the currency in Iran has declined 40 percent in value. There is unrest in the streets of Tehran, and the leaders in Iran are feeling it. That's exactly what we wanted the sanctions program to do.

And this is an indication, I think it's a clear indication, the sanctions regime that President Obama has put together with Israel and many nations around the world, is putting pressure on Iran to sit down and finally acknowledge that they cannot have a nuclear weapon. I think it is a positive step forward.

WALLACE: And, briefly, why, if we have this international coalition, why not continue talks in the P5-plus-1, as it is called? Why do it one-on-one instead?

DURBIN: Well, I think that there are many options. I'm not going to say one is better than the other. If direct negotiations are a path toward a peaceful resolution with Iran giving up on the notion of nuclear weapons pursue it. If meeting collectively is better, pursuit that as well.

But as Nicholas Burns said, who was the negotiator for President George W. Bush, in Tehran, it would be unconscionable for us not to meet and talk. He said we don't want to drive into the brick wall of war in 2013, without sitting down and speaking to the Iranians.

WALLACE: All right. Gentlemen, let's turn to Libya and whether --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: OK, go ahead sir.

GRAHAM: If I could say, the effort -- the purpose of sanctions is to top the Iranians of building a nuclear program and enriching Iran. It's been a miserable failure. During the four years we've talked to them, they've quadrupled the amount of 20 percent enriched uranium to produce a bomb.

There is a pattern here -- we talk, they enrich, it needs to stop, we need to have redlines coordinated with Israel and end this before it gets out of hand.

WALLACE: All right, gentlemen, let's turn to Libya if we can. And the question is to whether or not the president and his administration could have done more beforehand to protect those four Americans who were killed in Benghazi on the anniversary of September 11th. We now know there were eight attacks, eight attacks against Western interests in Benghazi, in the six months before the attack and we now know that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens sent repeated memos to Washington, even on the day he was killed, asking for more security.

Senator Graham, is it conceivable that President Obama didn't know how dangerous Benghazi was for Americans?

GRAHAM: No. No administration is going to send the president of the United States out into the public arena not telling him about an attack in April and June. What if the president were asked by reporters in June, tell me about the consulate attack in Benghazi, "What do you think about it," and he said, "I don't know"? So, I find that inconceivable.

This is going to be a case study, studied for years of a breakdown of national security at every level, failed presidential leadership, senior members of the Obama administration failed miserably. The Benghazi, Libya consulate was becoming a death trap. The British left. The Red Cross left because of the deteriorating security environment. We were requesting additional security, it was denied because we wanted to normalize relationships with a nonexistent government.

We should have closed the consulate long before September 11th, or heavily reinforced it, and I put that on the president of the United States. This was a national security breakdown before, during and after the attack.

WALLACE: Now, Senator Durbin, I think we would all agree the president doesn't get down into the weeds and decide the actual security level in Benghazi. But given all of these warnings, why didn't he and his administration do more? Whether it was to beef up security or to close the consulate, why didn't it do more to protect those four Americans who were killed?

DURBIN: Well, Chris, I can tell you that Senator Graham and I were in a closed briefing, classified briefing just I guess two weeks ago in Washington, when we came together with Secretary Clinton, the CIA and others. They are engaged in a comprehensive investigation of what occurred here, and that's what we've got to have.

Think back in history. It hasn't been that long ago. We lost over 230 Marines in the barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, under President Ronald Reagan. These acts of terrorism, as horrific as they are, have to be understood as being part of living in a dangerous world.

Now, let's ask the honest questions, let's gather the evidence, let's make sure that we understand exactly what did occur. But jumping to conclusions, I think, Darrell Issa does a documentary dump on his Web site of sensitive information about those in Libya who were helping keep America safe, it shows the lengths many will go to, to try to politicize this tragic situation.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, is that what you are doing -- politicizing the situation?

GRAHAM: Well, thank God for a media that will ask questions. Thank God for some Republican control of one branch of the government. If you left it up to this administration to inform the American people, we'd still be believing it was a spontaneous riot spurred by video. There was no mob, there was no riot.

So, no, I am totally convinced this is going to go down in history as one of the most major breakdowns of national security in a very long time. It's exhibit A of a failed national security strategy.

This conflict was under siege for months. It had been attacked twice. Everybody else has left Benghazi but us. We were refused additional security request because we wanted to normalize relationships.

For over seven hours on September the 11th, the day of heightened concern throughout the world for America, the anniversary of our September 11th attack, this consulate was attacked for over seven hours and there were no land forces available to reinforce the consulate, no Air Force -- no air power sent over to help these people for over seven hours.

WALLACE: Let me --

GRAHAM: And after the attack, you had one convoluted, distorted, deceiving explanation --

WALLACE: We're going to -- Senator Graham, we're going to get to the accounts, the shifting accounts in a moment.

But I want to press my question with you, again, Senator Durbin, because you didn't really answer it. Why didn't -- with all of the warnings, I mean, we had repeated memos from the ambassador, and repeated requests from the security team on the ground, why didn't the administration do more to protect these people in Benghazi?

DURBIN: You know, that question is going to be answered, Chris, when we gather the information together. But let me also --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: But, Senator, a skeptic would say, yes, and guess when the investigation is going to end? Sometime after Election Day.

DURBIN: Well -- and shouldn't this investigation be done in a thorough, professional and complete way? As Senator Graham can tell you, when we sat down for this classified briefing, they said it was days, literally days, before we can put our investigative on the ground in Benghazi.   

WALLACE: Well, doesn't that tell you an indication of how dangerous Benghazi was then beforehand, if we couldn't get the FBI there for a couple of weeks?

DURBIN: Of course, it was dangerous. Of course, it was dangerous. And we lost three Americans -- four Americans.

But look at the situation on the ground, immediately afterwards, when the Libyans were demonstrating in the streets in support of the United States. It is a volatile situation. It is always easier the day after to say how you could have won the football game. But what it boils down to is let's get the facts together.

This idea of Chairman Issa that he's going to dump the names in public of Libyans who are risking their lives to support America and keep us safe in an effort to get a political toehold in this election is unconscionable. It is unacceptable. I'm sure that Senator Graham doesn't support that.

WALLACE: Well, let's move on to the question of the shifting story after the fact. The president said in the debate this week that on the day after the attack, on September 12th, that he called it an act of terror. Here's what actually happened in the Rose Garden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed on an attack in our diplomatic post in Benghazi.

We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.

Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks.

No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator Graham, we did it that way to show that there was quite a gap between various things that he was discussing in the Rose Garden.

Did the president, did his team, call this an act of terror from the start? And do you really believe that they were playing politics with the way they were spinning out the story?

GRAHAM: Well, I believe this administration has a history of playing politics, with foreign policy.

This is the very administration that leaked every detail of our bin Laden raid, to make themselves look good. This is the administration that leaked details of cyber attacks against Iran. The underwear bomber plot was foiled. And, they leaked the details of the double agent we had that put our allies at risk and operatives at risk.

So the question is, would an administration who leaks detailed classified information over a series of weeks to create a narrative that they are strong on foreign policy, would they deceive and deny? The reason they do not want to admit it was an Al Qaeda-inspired militia attack that could have been seen coming for months, in a deteriorated security environment where the British and Red Cross and everybody left but us, it undercuts the narrative that by killing bin Laden, Al Qaeda was dismantled, on the run and the wars are receding.

This is exhibit A of a failed foreign policy. Al Qaeda is alive and well in Libya, Iraq, Syria and the wars are not receding. And what happened in Benghazi is a case study in failure at every phase, before, during, and after.

And what they did after the attack, I think is just absolutely unacceptable. They tried to confuse, delay and deny, create a narrative this was a spontaneous event when it was not, because the truth of the matter is -- the Benghazi, Libya conflict was a death trap long in the making. And this is failed presidential leadership at its worst.

WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator Durbin. Despite what the president said, his team clearly refuses to call it an act of terror for at least a week. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is not case of protests directed United States, writ large or at U.S. policy. This is in response to a video that is offensive.

AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo, as a consequence of the video.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

WALLACE: Now, during the second debate, the president said that he is offended by any suggestions, Senator Durbin, that he or his administration was playing politics with this. How do you explain, then, the continued refusal to call it terrorism, even as the evidence proved that it was?

DURBIN: Take a look at the article by David Ignatius. He puts on the record the CIA's posting, the information they sent to Washington after our ambassador and the others were killed. And they said, they believed it had something to do with the video. But they were going to gather the evidence to be sure.

And, then, of course over the next few days, more information came in. That was an indication that the fog of war, as they say, was operative in this situation.

What I find really hard to accept, I have to disagree with my friend, Senator Graham, is this notion about the president's foreign policy. The president has been a strong and steady leader.

We have responsibly ended the war in Iraq, we are going to end the war in Afghanistan, and, Al Qaeda as a shadow of its former self, Osama bin Laden is moldering in some watery grave somewhere, and we've now put enough pressure on Iran with the sanctions regime so they won't develop a nuclear weapon that they want to sit down and talk. These are all positive developments, moving us toward a more stable nation, a more stable world, and, when we faced threats of terrorism at every direction.

WALLACE: Senator Durbin, I --

DURBIN: This president has been a strong leader.

WALLACE: Senator Durbin -- I hate to interrupt, but we are running out of time. I have just one question -- and you are quite right, there is a report that the CIA put out talking points that said that it was a spontaneous demonstration. But, if that was what the CIA's best intelligence was, then why does Obama -- then why does President Obama claim that he called it terror the day after?

DURBIN: Well, of course it involves an act of terror whether the result of a spontaneous demonstration or something that was planned. You know, this is unacceptable that you would attack another embassy and kill the ambassador. It is terrorism in any form, whatever --

WALLACE: But his administration refused to say it for the first week. They were asked repeatedly.

DURBIN: No, of course not. Let me try to channel Candy Crowley for a minute here. This president said acts of terror and you can play the tape on FOX any way you wish, but he said it and it was an act of terror.

And we were waiting to find out what the real motivation and driving force was behind it. We did a thorough investigation to get to the bottom of it. And as the president said hold those accountable who did it.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, you get the last word.

GRAHAM: Chris, Chris, this was not a spontaneous riot. There was never a mob. There is a video of the conflict. Nobody was there.

Ambassador Stevens met the Turkish ambassador. There was an assault around the compound. There were 125 people using heavy mortars. It was a seven-hour planned attack, preplanned in the making.

The intel was Al Qaeda is on the rise in Benghazi, Libya. Everybody else left but us, the CIA chief said this was a militia attack within 24 hours. The president of Libya said it was an Al Qaeda attack. There was no mob, there was no riot.

Iraq is falling apart.

Bin Laden may be dead. Al Qaeda is on the rise. If you don't believe me, go to the training camps in Iraq that have come up after we have left.

Syria is a contagion affecting the region -- 32,000 people have been killed while we are doing nothing. Islamic extremists are beginning to infiltrate Syria.

And as to Iran, they've got quadruple the amount of enriched uranium to make a bomb they had before Obama got into office.

Nothing is working. The whole region is falling apart.

WALLACE: Senator --

GRAHAM: Leading from behind is a failure and overselling the death of bin Laden finally caught up with him in Libya.

WALLACE: Now I really do feel like one of the moderators, because you both ran over me, Senator Graham, Senator Durbin, I want to tank you both. Thanks for joining us today. We'll see if the candidates do as well as you guys did tomorrow night.

DURBIN: Thanks, Chris.

WALLACE: We now have sad news to report. Former senator, South Dakota Senator George McGovern died this morning, the Democratic nominee for president in 1972, losing to Richard Nixon. McGovern was 90 years old.

Up next, the head of Gallup, the granddaddy of all polling, helps us sort out all the conflicting numbers on the presidential horse race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: The Gallup organization has been polling presidential races since 1936. But just why its latest survey is attracting a lot of attention, Gallup's seven-day tracking poll now shows Romney leading Obama, 51 percent to 45 percent among likely voters. That's six-point margin.

In comparison, the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls shows a dead heat, with Obama leading by 1/10 of a point.

Joining us now from New York is Frank Newport, Gallup's editor-in-chief.

Frank, how do you explain the fact that your poll is so out of line with seven other national polls, which show Obama with a small lead, or Romney with a lead of just one point?

FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP EDITOR IN CHIEF: Well, there are many different explanations for that. We spend most of our time, Chris, looking at our own poll -- you know, our own methodology, how we're doing rolling average. It's a seven-day rolling average. The one you quoted is through last Friday, a large sample size -- 3,500 registered voters, 2,700 likely voters in that sample.

We don't spend a lot of time looking at the methodology or how other polls might be done. But what we can say is that if we have been here a week ago, we would have said the race was dead even ourselves in our Gallup poll. But during this last week, night by night with our fairly large sample that we aggregate together, we have seen Romney move out to that 51/45, seven-day average that we talk about. And that's what we are showing among our likely voters nationally. Registered voters, it's about closer to being even.

WALLACE: You also had a poll this week of 12 battleground states. And let's look at that. It shows Romney leading by four points. This is in the 12 battleground states, 50-46. And at that gender gap among women is gone. Obama leads by only one point, 49 percent to 48 percent.

Again, most polls show Obama leading by more in the battleground states and with a much bigger lead among women?

NEWPORT: That's right. That was a couple weeks ago actually when that field work was done. So I think that's to some dome degree ancient history. As we mentioned, these things change quite a bit when we go week to week.

Nationally now, in the aforementioned large sample poll that we're talking about, Obama does have a lead among women, actually a seven-point lead among women, which is certainly down from where he was in '08. But nevertheless, he is maintaining his strength among women proportionately.

It looks like to us, his bigger problem, Obama's is, that he has lost more among men than where he was back in '08.

WALLACE: Now, the Obama camp, not surprisingly, is pushing back hard. They say your polls are, quote, "way out of line", and have deep flaws. How do you respond to the Obama campaign?

NEWPORT: Well, that's not unusual. Going back to Dr. George Gallup, who founded our company, as you mentioned, going back to 1936, he found a heated commentary, shall we say, from either side on polls and we certainly found it in the six election cycles that I have been involved here at Gallup, going back to 1992, that people come at you from either side if they don't like the results.

We do not have deep flaws in how we do things. We are highly transparent and have a team of methodologists and scientists at Gallup, best in the business, constantly looking at what we do and how we do sampling. We tweak sampling. We tweak how we interview. We just added actually more cell phones to try to take into account the growing number of people who don't even talk on land lines, with these phone samples.

So I think our methodology is extremely solid. And we are very open about how we do it.

So I would say we're doing great, and it's not unusual, of course, that people would fight back at you if they don't like what your findings.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk a little bit and maybe get into the weeds, because people seem very interested in polling methodology this time.

The big complaint that is made about the Gallup poll is how you judge who is a likely voter and they say, you put too much emphasis on how enthusiastic a voter is, and that therefore you may tend to overstate the effect of a big event, like, for instance the first debate, which may have boosted one side, in this case, Romney's supporters, and, depressed another side, in this case, Obama's supporters.

And what about the argument that there's too much -- and therefore, we see these big swings, based on enthusiasm or intensity, based on events in the campaign?

NEWPORT: Well, you know, how you isolate likely voters is a very fascinating methodological question that we do here at Gallup and most of the polls do it. Actually, enthusiasm isn't one of the questions that we ask when we measure likely voters. We use seven questions that we have tweaked over the years.

But they include questions about knowing where people vote, or how you vote, if you vote by mail, how much attention you're paying to the campaign, how much thought you have given to it, how certain you are to voting your own self-definition and your history of voting, which we take into account for young people who couldn't have voted previously and we put all that together and isolate likely voters.

It can certainly be susceptible to events and the environment, but that's the whole idea. If events in the environment cause one group or the other to become more likely to vote based on these measures, that's what it reflects.

And, you know, when we have, Chris, a Democratic incumbent, as we do now, running for re-election, the likely voters make a big difference. Back in 1996, had all voters voted based on our estimate, Clinton would have beat Dole by like 15 points. And, of course, he only won in the high single digits that's because the turnout was disproportional to Republicans.

And back in 1980, we had another Democratic running and, of course, when the dust settled, Ronald Reagan won more than we or anybody else had said because the Republicans were more energized.

So, I think likely voters, trying to take into account all of these factors that I just mentioned about who's going to show up and who isn't is extremely important, particularly in an election like this which actually may have lower turnout than we saw in '08.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about the other big controversy, and this isn't just for you. It's all for all pollsters, and that's the question of how do you weight by party. What percentage of Republicans, what percentage of Democrats?

Some people say, do you use the 2008 model? As to how many -- what the percentage of Republicans and Democrats are? Did you the 2010 model? Which obviously is different.

How do you weight by party?

NEWPORT: We do not weight by party at all. We never have, we don't now. We think party identification is an attitudinal variable that fluctuates just like who you're going to vote for. So, we let that be floating, whatever people tell us near at the end of the survey, when we say -- as we say at Gallup -- as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, an independent, or a Democrat, that's what we just measure at the end for the informational purposes.

But we make no effort to try to weight by it. There are no national numbers on party identifications. The Census doesn't measure party identification.

The exit polls in '08 are flawed themselves because they are a poll and certainly nobody things that nothing will have changed over four years. You don't have to register in some states, so there is no national registry of what party ID, quote, "should be". We know what age should be and gender because the Census measures that. But we don't know if the party ID. So, we don't weight by party IDs.

WALLACE: Frank, let me just interrupt for a second. Because I just -- this is the thing the critics ask, if we see a poll and we see, well, it's 39 percent Democrats in the poll and 30 percent Republicans, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's biased or skewed?

NEWPORT: No. I mean, you can have -- that's like saying you see a poll that shows Obama up by nine points over Romney, is that biased or skewed? Well, it may be a particular poll has a spurt as we call in the business, that is, you know, margin of error, unusual one way or the other. But usually if the ballot is going one direction, the party ID will follow right along behind it.

Again, party ID is just as much in many ways an attitude as who are you going to vote for. So, we certainly don't think -- and actually most of the major national polls do not weight by party ID because that's a concept which doesn't have a lot of science behind it.

WALLACE: So, Frank, with a little over a minute left, as we look at this race, 16 days out, where do you see it?  

NEWPORT: Well, we don't make predictions here at Gallup. And again I told you, a week ago we had it even and now we have Romney up. But that movement suggests it could move the other way over the next week or two.

So, I would say, as of today, certainly Romney on the national level has an edge. That's what our data are showing. All the swing state polls and individual states are very hard to make sense of, but they look close themselves.

But I think right now, I wouldn't predict. I would say, we've got two weeks to go and a big debate tomorrow night.

WALLACE: And just looking historically over the long history of Gallup polling, a six-point lead which you have now, 16 days before an election, how solid is that?

NEWPORT: Well, not solid at all in the sense that things can change, change from a week ago, and we might talk again next Sunday. Be nice to talk with you again and we can see where we stand and it could be significantly different.

Things move in elections. That's why they are still spending hundreds of millions of dollars on both sides to try to move voters. You know, the campaign hasn't stopped. It's in full steam ahead at this point.

WALLACE: Frank, we want to thank you. Thanks for talking with us today, and we'll be following your poll and the others, all the way to Election Day.

NEWPORT: My pleasure.

WALLACE: Up next the controversy over the Benghazi attack keeps growing. We'll ask our Sunday group how it will shape tomorrow's foreign policy debate and the rest of the campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Every piece of information that we get and as we got it, we'd laid it out for the American people.

MCCAIN: For his to say that every piece of information that they got they laid out for the American people is one of the most disingenuous statements I've ever heard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: President Obama and Senator McCain with very different views about how open this administration has been about the attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans. This time now for our Sunday group, Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst, Liz Marlantes of the Christian Science Monitor, Bill Kristol from The Weekly Standard and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams, but before we get to Libya, Brit, what do you make of the lead story in the New York Times today, that the U.S. and Iran have agreed in principle to one-on-one talks after the election about Iran's nuclear program.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't know what to make it. First the Times reported that they agreed to talk and it was all set, or suggesting it was all set and then, there was the White House came back and said, no, no, no, we haven't really agreed in any final way to anything. So, I think it remains to be seen and also, obviously the question is, the one that Senator Graham raised, which is, all right, so we sit down and talk to them, they love to talk. Meanwhile, the nuclear program goes forward. And, I think that is sort of where we come out of that.

WALLACE: The way I read the article, is at the times said that they've agreed in principle and the denial from the National Security Council was kind of weak, they've said, well, we haven't agreed to the actual talks but we're open to the idea, which sounded to me like a kind of non denial-denial. Do you think it is a boost for Obama and it helps him in the debate? The idea of, well, we may have this breakthrough and my policies are working.

LIZ MARLANTES, THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: I think it will give him a talking point in the debate, I don't know that he is going to classify it as a breakthrough, given that there are still a lot questions about what exactly this means, but sure it will give him a talking point and the way the Obama campaign has been trying to frame the Iran argument against Romney is really, you know, we're doing everything we can to not go to war, and he's the one who would actually, possibly take us to war, I mean they are really trying to emphasize that there is not a lot of difference between what Romney is saying and what Obama is saying unless Romney is actually saying we should go to war. So I think in that sense it helps Obama flesh out his argument but like I said, I'd be surprised if he classified it as some huge breakthrough.

WALLACE: I want to switch -- I want to switch to Libya, Bill, two big developments in the Libya story this week. First we found out that U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens had sent -- and you can see them there on the screen, a series of memos to the State Department over the last few months, asking repeatedly for more security and reporting how dangerous Libya was. Question: Can the president fairly be held responsible for the fact that we failed to protect our people there?

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Look, an American ambassador and three other Americans were killed by Al Qaeda affiliated individuals in Benghazi, a country where we had helped depose the dictator, which is a good thing a year ago and then have done nothing to basically help secure the situation, we had no Marines there to guard our ambassador, we don't simply pay much attention to what was happening on the ground, so it was terrible, and we also had apparently an intelligence station nearby, that was overrun and the consulate obviously was torched. So it is a humiliation for the United States and the tragedy, of course, is the four who were killed and has repercussions elsewhere in the Arab world and it gives the sense that as this turmoil goes on in the Arab world, which is both hopeful and worrisome, we are not on top of things, we are not shaping it in a hopeful way, we are in the retreat and it's bad for the country and bad for the administration.

WALLACE: Juan, on the specific question of what they could have done beforehand, to save these guys' lives, when you hear that the -- the security people on the ground in Libya were asking, over and over again for more security and now we get these memos including one on the day he died, from Chris Stevens, saying how dangerous the situation in Benghazi and in Libya was, how responsible can the administration be held for failing to respond to that?

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think both President Obama and Secretary Clinton have said they are in charge and they are responsible, the buck stops here. I think in realistic terms, we all know that any request for additional security is not going to go up to even the secretary of state. The testimony on Capitol Hill in the past few weeks has indicated, I believe Charlene Lamb, one of the under secretaries in charge of security said it got as high as her and she made the determination. I will -- I'll also add that there is an important distinction, to be made between Tripoli, the capital and Benghazi, where the attack took place. According to the testimony on Capitol Hill even with additional forces in place, remember the additional forces, the request was for Tripoli, not Benghazi, that the heavy armaments that were used by the people who perpetrated the attacks could not have been stopped by a few additional men on the ground.

WALLACE: If you want to take ...

HUME: A couple of point about that. One is, that some element of any added security would have stayed with the ambassador, he's the person principally ...

WALLACE: He specifically asked for more bodyguards.

HUME: Exactly. And we can't know how -- what effect it would have had on that night. Dreadful night, in Benghazi. The second point about this is, the woman at the State Department who made the call was acting within the framework of policy and the policy toward Libya was, attitude was, that this was now a country of friendlies, we had helped them depose the hated dictator and the situation was -- we're normalizing the situation there and we have good ties. Libya is one of the success stories. So, the idea of sending in extra security, because the place is in bad shape, would be against that story line. So, one can understand how a senior official of state would be hesitant to do that and resist doing that. Now, there's -- it has been said that the failure was not -- did not have to do with a lack of money. There was testimony to that effect. So, you know, the attempts to blame this on stinginess in Congress I don't think worked very well. This was a major security -- and I think intelligence failure, and it grows to some extent, I think out of the attitude embodied in the administration policy.

WALLACE: Yes. There was a specific memo in March from the security personnel in Tripoli, to the State Department talking about the effort by state to change this transition from an emergency to a normalized situation. So, there does seem to have been that move. I want to talk about the other development that we learned this week, Liz, and that is that we now know that the CIA -- and this is what Dick Durban was referring to -- put outtalking points on September 15th, this is the day before Susan Rice went on all of those Sunday shows, and here's what the CIA says: "The demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstration." Liz, does that get ambassador Rice off the hook? Was she just following her brief?

MARLANTES: Well, this was -- I mean this is what Rice has said all along, is that, you know, even before the talking points came out, we knew there was a CIA intelligence assessment saying basically that, that had been given to the Hill and Rice and others. And, that she was just reporting on the best information that she had been given, at the time. And I do think, you know, to some extent, one thing that has happened, is I feel like this debate has shifted a little bit, recently, from, you know, the -- all the questions about what the -- exactly the administration said in the aftermath and when they've changed their story and all of that, which, to some extent, I think, you know, Romney has scored points on that, but, it has seemed like a very political argument, also, to a lot of voters, I would imagine and, you know, as we saw Obama was able to turn it around in the last debate, but I think the questions, you know, the fact that the debate seems to be shifting a little bit more to questions about what happened in the run-up to the attack and what the failings may have been there, I think Romney will be on stronger grounds, there.

WALLACE: But, let me just -- let me just bring in, Bill, quickly. We have less than a minute, do you think that gets Susan Rice off the hook?

KRISTOL: Not really. It doesn't get the administration off the hook. The administration misunderstood what happened, even though they were on the phone with the State Department, as things happened, there was no demonstration, a and, b, the video had nothing to do with it and, no one is quarreling with those two facts and that what was the point of what Susan Rice says, sitting right here, the video, the video, the video, what did President Obama say two weeks later at the United Nations, it's six times he mentioned the video, once he mentioned al-Qaeda.

HUME: And those CIA talking points ...

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: Those CIA talking points are almost inexplicable, in light of the fact that the State Department knew in real time what was happening and had to have known that there was no protests such us those that were spoken of in those CIA talking points. That that whole thing was inconsistent with what the State Department knew, so the CIA can put out all the talking points it wants, but, an official at the State Department, (inaudible) ambassador was in the position to know better, and I suspect she did.

WALLACE: All right. I'm sorry. We're just out of time here and I don't want to steal it from the next segment, we have to take a break here, when we come back we'll discuss what to look for in the final 16 days in the race for the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OBAMA: You have heard of the new deal. You have heard of the square deal, the fair deal. Mitt Romney's trying to give you a sketchy deal.

ROMNEY: They have no agenda for the future, no agenda for America. No agenda for the second term. It is a good thing, they won't have a second term.

(cheers)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: President Obama and Governor Romney continuing to attack in advance of their final debate, Monday night in Florida. And we're back now with the panel. Well, the early indications from the polls are, that as heated as it was, that the second presidential debate, the town hall, had very little impact on the polls. It didn't really move voters one way or the other and that the majority of voters seem to have made up their minds, so the question was in short of a major blunder, what do you expect in terms of the impact of tomorrow night's poll?  

WILLIAMS: Tomorrow night's poll?

WALLACE: Tomorrow night's debate.

WILLIAMS: Tomorrow night's debate. Well. I think the second debate hasn't moved voters the whole lot, but I think it may have stopped what was Romney's momentum going into that debate. You look at some of the polls and when you start to see a little bit of a decline -- or increase, I should say, for President Obama now, even as Mitt Romney maintains the lead. What you are really looking at is advertising now, you know, states like Florida, I think still are in play and you see lots of advertising there, in some of the southern states now, North Carolina, in particular, you start to see, I think, Romney take a hold, but overall people are looking at the swing states, and, Obama retains the lead even in a controversial state like Iowa.

WALLACE: Let's take a look, if we can, at the latest Real Clear Politics electoral map and what they do is average the most recent polls, state by state and it looks like a -- I don't know, a pointillist painting by George Seurat, let me trying to explain it to you, it shows states solid or leading Romney in various shades of red with 206 electoral votes, states solid or leading Obama in shades of blue, 201 electoral votes, and the number of tossup states, those are the states in gray, actually growing, more and more toss-up states, too close to call, ten states now, 131 electoral votes. Reminder, it takes 270 electoral votes to be elected president. So what do you make of that map and the fact that the number of states, Brit, that are too close to call is growing, not decreasing?

HUME: Well, the most striking thing about the map when I first saw it to me, was, that holy cow, Romney has -- Romney -- Ryan have a slight lead in electoral votes. That is the first time that has occurred, in this cycle. So, that confirms, I think, the trend that has been evident since the first debate. And, you know, these -- and the question really is, whether this lead, small, or large, depending on whose poll you are looking at, that Romney and Ryan seem to be enjoying in many of the polls, will soon translate into places like Ohio, where then they don't appear to be hit. I don't think he got a mere bounce, Romney, out of the first debate. And I think he got a surge and I think it may have faded some, but it still persists and we keep seeing it in the polling and if it continues he may well be on a course to upset the president and win the election.

WALLACE: You know, I was talking, Liz, to a top Obama adviser this week and he suggested -- he didn't say it but he was suggesting, and this picks up on what Juan was saying, that the southeastern swing states of Florida and North Carolina and Virginia are beginning to move Romney and they now have what seems to be their last standard of final -- this -- the Obama camp, their final firewall in the Midwest, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin.

MARLANTES: Yeah, absolutely. I mean it is ironic, because not too long ago I feel like we were talking about how, you know, Romney was really having all these problems in Ohio and maybe should even pull out and find another path to victory. And, now you are actually hearing talk about whether Obama should pull out of Florida. And, there was a piece in New York Times, about that just this weekend. Yes, and so, I think, you know, in that sense, the Midwest is really where this is going to be won, and, although Romney does have paths to victory without Ohio, he still very much would like to win Ohio because it's threading the needle awfully close if he doesn't and so far that has been Obama's firewall. He has had a lead in that state throughout the entire campaign cycle and he is still at the head, not by as much, certainly, Romney narrowed the gap but pretty much every poll shows Obama ahead in Ohio, and that does make Romney's lift as much harder.

WALLACE: So, Bill, starting with the debate tomorrow night, what do Romney and Obama need to do in these final 16 days?

KRISTOL: Incidentally, two different private polls over the last few days have Romney down one in Ohio, so he has gained a lot in Ohio. And I love -- people always say, well, he's behind in Ohio, and we've just seen him move by five, six, seven points. He can move another two or three or four, especially since Ohio is demographically not bad for Romney and has generally outperformed the national average.

If Romney's really up a point or two, which I think he is nationally, it's hard to believe he's going to trail his national vote in Ohio by much.

What Romney has to do tomorrow night is be presidential. He has to be less the challenger to the president, the prosecutor of the president's agenda. He has to be the next president of the United States.

And a foreign policy debate -- it's not like a domestic policy debate. Voters don't have checklists; do you agree with me on abortion; do you agree with me on guns; are you for tax cuts or for saving Medicare?

Most voters -- with very few foreign policy issues do voters have a kind of, you know, firm view about exactly what should be done, what our negotiating strategy should be with Iran or exactly how we handle Syria. They want to see, especially for a challenger to an incumbent president, they want to see him as someone who is up to being president, with the judgment, the maturity, knowledge, toughness but sort of soundness, to be president.

So I think, for Romney, tomorrow night, if he can be the next president of the United States and not a kind of guy who's arguing with the current president and challenging him and fact-checking him -- I think, if Romney can be presidential tomorrow night, I think he's in pretty good shape, actually.

WALLACE: How do you think he should play -- talking about not prosecuting, how do you think he should play Libya?

KRISTOL: I think he should stipulate that a terrible thing has happened which has been a real setback for us, that he should stipulate the Obama administration hasn't handled it well, but then he should be more -- more about himself. I mean, why did he do so well in the first -- more about what he would do well for the next four years and less picking on every flaw of the Obama administration.

It's hard to resist if you're someone like me and I think like Mitt Romney who sees all those flaws and wants to, sort of, prosecute the case against the Obama administration. But I think the key for tomorrow night is to be less of a prosecutor and more of the next president.

WALLACE: And if you were advising President Obama, what would you say he should do tomorrow night?

WILLIAMS: Well, just let me say I thought Bill was on target. I don't think going back to Libya is going to play. And what I hear from the top people in both campaigns is they don't intend to -- they don't think they're going back to Libya in the same -- with the same power that I think some conservatives would like, given how big that issue has been.

I think, for President Obama, it has to be that he has a greater depth of knowledge about foreign policy, having been the president, having dealt with foreign leaders. If he can demonstrate that Romney really doesn't know the spiel, has no experience here, big advantage.

Secondly he's got to speak to young people and women. And all that we've had here on this program, your interview with Frank Gallup, what you see is that -- Frank Newport, I should say, from Gallup.

(LAUGHTER)

What you see is that young people and their turnout levels and women are going to be key to this election. If President Obama is able to say "This is a warmonger that I'm dealing with here; all he does is increase and talk in bellicose terms; he lacks the sophistication to negotiate, to pull us out of wars, as I pulled us out of Afghanistan and Iraq," that will be a winning hand for the president.

WALLACE: He and Biden have both made that claim, that Romney's going to get us into another war.

WILLIAMS: Correct. That's -- and it's speaking to Americans generally who are war-weary but specifically to American women.

WALLACE: And how does -- Bill, how does Romney handle that?

KRISTOL: If you read Ronald Reagan's answer to the first and only debate in 1980, where the first question was, "Governor Reagan, your opponent, President Carter, has accused you of being a risk- taker, a warmonger; you're likely to get us into war," Reagan gave a fantastic answer, "I'm for peace through strength. I've got children and grandchildren and the last thing I want to see them do is fight abroad; I've seen wars in my lifetime, but here's why my policies are less risky than the current Democratic president."

WILLIAMS: And here's what Obama would say -- Obama would say, "So what exactly are the differences between my policies and your policies, even with regard to Israel?" And the answer's going to come back "Not much."

KRISTOL: Obama can see -- we can't have it both ways. Is Romney a warmonger or are his policies not that different?

And on Iran, which we were talking about, I think Governor Romney figures, well, that's not going to be a problem tomorrow night. He'll say, "You know what, if the Iranians want to negotiate, I want to negotiate, but I'm going to be a better and tougher negotiator than President Obama, who has failed in his negotiations."

WALLACE: Well, thank you, panel. We'll see you next week. And folks, you really don't need to watch the debate tomorrow night...

(LAUGHTER)

... because you basically just saw it here.

(LAUGHTER)

Don't forget to check out Panel Plus, where our group picks right up with the discussion on our website, foxnewssunday.com. We'll post the video before noon Eastern Time. And make sure to follow us on Twitter @foxnewssunday.

Up next, we go on the trail.   

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: The presidential campaign this week featured a knock- down, drag-out debate, the invention of new words, and some laughs at a white-tie dinner, all to be found, On the Trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had...

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: I had a question, and the question was, how much did you cut them by?

OBAMA: You want -- you want me to answer a question, I'm...

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: I'm happy to answer the question.

ROMNEY: I love these debates. You know, these things are great.

OBAMA: He's going to wait until after the election to explain a plan to you. They don't have a pleasant surprise in store for you.

(LAUGHTER)

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama is not telling you what his second term plan would be.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN.: Romney's plans were awful sketchy.

(LAUGHTER)

Sketchy. Well, I -- folks, I don't think they were just sketchy, I think they were etch-a-sketchy.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: In the spirit of Sesame Street, the president's remarks tonight are brought to you by the letter "O" and this number $16 trillion.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: After my foreign trip in 2008, I was attacked as a celebrity because I was so popular with our allies overseas. And I have to say I'm impressed with how well Governor Romney avoided that problem.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: If you say you're for equal pay for equal work but you keep refusing to say whether or not you'd sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work, you might have Rom-nesia.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: They've been reduced to petty attacks and -- and silly word games. Just watch it. The Obama campaign has become the incredible shrinking campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: And just two weeks from Tuesday, the candidates stop talking and we, the voters, finally get our say.

Now, this program note: Tune into this Fox station and Fox News Channel at 9 p.m. Monday for the final presidential debate. And that's it for today. Have a great week. And we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."

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On the Show

Sunday December 28, 2014

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