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Gun debate opponents gear up for fight; Sens. Blumenthal, Ayotte on president's picks for his new national security team
Written by Chris Wallace / Published January 13, 2013 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Neera Tanden, Larry Pratt, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Sen. Richard Blumenthal
The following is a rush transcript of the January 13, 2013, 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.
With Vice President Biden about to release his plan to prevent more massacres, the battle lines in Washington are already forming.
WALLACE: Both sides in the gun debate are gearing up for a fight over tighter controls. Who will win? We'll ask two people at the center of the argument: Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress and Larry Pratt from Gun Owners of America.
Then, a confirmation showdown over the president's nominees, to top national security policy. From defense to the CIA -- the men the president wants in his new Cabinet are coming under heavy fire. Will the Senate approve them? We'll hear from two members of the Armed Services Committee, Republican Kelly Ayotte and Democrat Richard Blumenthal.
Also, the president is taking a more aggressive approach as he begins his second term. We'll ask our Sunday panel if Mr. Obama has the clout to win the fights he's taking on.
And our Power Player of the Week -- the wife of a Washington insider makes her own mark.
All right now on "Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: And, hello again from Fox News in Washington.
In the wake of the Newtown school shootings, Washington is getting ready for a battle over how to prevent more acts of mass violence. Joining me are two people at the center of what is likely to be one of the first big political issues this year -- Larry Pratt, executive director for Gun Owners of America, and Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress.
And welcome to both of you to "Fox News Sunday."
LARRY PRATT, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: Thank you.
NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Thanks.
WALLACE: Vice President Joe Biden is expected to present his plan to prevent more massacres on Tuesday. But I want to put up some remarkable numbers that I saw this week.
Take a look. The NRA contributed $20 million to federal campaigns last year, $20 million and gun control groups gave $4,000. And, 50 percent of the members of the new Congress, in fact, more than half have an A-rating from the NRA.
Ms. Tanden, given all of that, how do you and other groups that feel as you do, hope to take on the gun lobby in practical terms? How do you match their money and their clout on Capitol Hill?
TANDEN: Well, look, the NRA spent a lot of money on the elections last cycle and they didn't have a lot to show for it, especially if you look at the Senate. So, a lot of their candidates lost. They have very -- we're looking at return on investment, they had a very low return on investment.
But, of course the NRA is a very strong lobby and, I think the issue here is -- who is going to represent the voices of the American people in this debate? We are talking about things that seem like common sense to the American people and they understand that we need to protect people's rights to own a gun in their own home and protect themselves.
But there is something tragically wrong when there is mass slaughter. So, we have to solve this problem and I think getting the voice of the American --
WALLACE: But are you going to launch a campaign? I mean, there is talk about raising money, big grassroots effort, organizational.
TANDEN: Absolutely. And, I think the issue here, really, is bringing the voices in. So, we need the leadership of the president and I expect the president to play a strong leadership role, but progressive organizations will be working to -- working with the states to show that we have the voice and really have the American people.
And even gun owners who support these proposals, their voices at the table as well.
WALLACE: Mr. Pratt, I think you would agree the national wave of horror over the slaughter of those 20 small children in Newtown last month, do you see any sign that Ms. Tanden and her allies can change the national conversation and get members of Congress to pass the first tough gun controls since 1994?
PRATT: We don't think there is much likelihood that the Congress is going to move on making gun control laws worse than they are. In fact, already, there are a couple of bills that have been put in, one by Representative Steve Stockman, outside of Houston, that would remove the gun-free zones that have been so much like a magnet to invite mass murderers into zones where they know nobody else will be able to shoot back.
And, that, I think, is where the debate is likely to shift.
You know, are we really better off when we say no defense is a good defense?
WALLACE: I want to put up an ad that gun control advocates have start running, against Democratic senator -- new Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota after she said some of the president's ideas about gun control are extreme.
Mr. Pratt, you see the ad there. Will it work? Can Ms. Tandem and her allies -- and they have suggested they can drive a wedge between people like you, between the people like the heads of the NRA, and some of their members who may not be as hard-line as you guys are on gun controls?
PRATT: Well, I think the senator from North Dakota is reflecting the views of the people that sent her to Washington. So I don't think there is much room to drive any wedge, I think she is representing them rather faithfully and it is noteworthy that a Democrat who would be under a lot of pressure within their caucus to take a gun control point of view, is not having anything of it.
WALLACE: Ms. Tanden?
TANDEN: That's' not true. Heidi Heitkamp has said now -- she's heard from people from both sides of the issue and she's now said that she is open to discussion of these issues. And I think the challenge here for the leaders, of the NRA and the leadership of the gun movement, et cetera, is that 74 percent of NRA members, over 80 percent of gun owners, recognize that we have a challenge in the background check system, they want an inclusive background check system, they want to keep the guns out of the hands of people who are dangerous.
This is just common sense to mothers, fathers, parents in the United States. We have a poll out this week that over 75 percent of parents think we need to take much stronger action to strengthen our gun laws.
So, I think the issue here is really not, you know, one extreme versus another. It's the broad middle, rising up and saying, you know what? We can do something about it.
After Newtown, the idea that we do nothing is a tragedy.
WALLACE: Let's look at some of the ideas -- and he has been open about them, that Vice President Biden is suggesting and will offer to the president on Tuesday. New limits on assault weapons, new limits on high-capacity magazines that hold 30 rounds, maybe even 100 rounds, universal background checks and a crackdown on gun trafficking.
Ms. Tanden, which of those that I specifically mentioned do you think would do the most good in terms of solving the problem? And which of those do you think is most likely to get through Congress?
TANDEN: Well, the universal background check is really important. Right now, 40 percent of guns sold in the United States don't have any check system. That's more than Swiss cheese full of holes, you know? So, we really need to address that challenge.
I think that -- those are areas, where, again, gun owners support a comprehensive gun check system. So, I think that's an area where, hopefully, there can be some bipartisan support. Some of these issues are going to be tougher. But I think once the president engages in a conversation with the American people, he has shown time and time again that when the American people get engaged, that's how you change Washington.
WALLACE: Well, let's pick up on that. You and the NRA and other gun rights groups say the problem isn't the weapon, it's the person who is firing the weapon.
So, let's talk about universal background checks, because, I was surprised to find out, as Ms. Tanden suggests, that in 40 percent of the sales, there is no such screen on the person buying the gun. What's wrong with universal background checks?
PRATT: Well, I think it's a false security to think that somehow we're going to spot problems when there's really no way to spot these problems. Some of the most horrendous of the mass murders that have occurred recently, including the one in Newtown would not have been stopped by a background check. The gun is stolen. The person has no prior criminal record.
And, so, to assume that this is going to be our firewall against mass murders --
WALLACE: Well, I'm not -- I don't think anybody is saying it's a firewall. But what's wrong with the idea, if you're going to get a gun, whether you buy it from a registered dealer or whether you buy in a private sale, that you'd have to go through some background checks just in case, to find out whether somebody is a felon, or whether somebody has a mental health problem.
PRATT: We are wasting our time and going in that direction when we should be talking about doing away with the gun-free zones which have been so convenient, such a magnet to those who would come and slaughter lots of people, knowing that there's nobody that's going to be legally able to defend themselves in these zones.
That's where we're really making a big mistake.
WALLACE: Let me just pick up on that, Ms. Tanden, because even Barbara Boxer -- and I say even because she's a liberal, pro-gun control senator from California -- even she is talking about $50 million for federal funding, of putting more police, more armed security in schools.
TANDEN: Look, we've had situations where people are armed. We've had situations where Columbine, other places, where there are armed guards and they haven't protected people.
PRATT: Yes, they fled.
TANDEN: So, here's the issue --
WALLACE: But, wait, aren't you saying the same thing that Mr. Pratt --
TANDEN: No, no, no.
WALLACE: Wait, wait, Mr. Pratt just said, well, it wouldn't have helped in this case. Maybe it wouldn't have helped in Columbine, but it might help in another case.
TANDEN: You are absolutely right. So, I'm willing to consider those actions and I hope that Larry Pratt is willing to consider having the simple thing, that police officers want. You know, our law enforcement wants is a background check system.
So, I think the challenge of the background system is it's absolutely wrong that this hasn't matter, that it wouldn't matter. But look at the Virginia Tech shooting. That was because we had a faulty background check system, that that person wasn't caught. He shouldn't have had a gun, because he had -- he had problems with mental illness and yet, our faulty system allowed that to happen.
So, you know, people would be protected today. People would be alive today if we have these kinds of things in place.
WALLACE: Joe Biden has indicated that in addition to this legislative action that he's going to suggest to the president, that the president can also take executive action -- but, not on big things like banning guns or universal background checks.
What kinds of things do you believe the president can do on an executive action basis, unilateral basis, that could make a difference?
TANDEN: Well, he can just start by ensuring that the federal government, people within the federal government, turn over their records, also, through the background check system. So, you know, the Defense Department needs to do that. Others --
WALLACE: So, more information-sharing.
TANDEN: More information-sharing within the government.
WALLACE: Mr. Pratt, would have a problem with that kind of executive action?
PRATT: Again, we are just avoiding the reality that we have been moving in the direction that somehow self-defense is not valid. That we can somehow protect ourselves by this background check idea. And, in fact, background checks wouldn't have stopped most of the last of these mass murders that have occurred.
The gun gets stolen, the person has no background, that would have popped up, so, we have got to face the reality that we have got to empower average people, including teachers, and other people in schools, to be able to defend themselves.
WALLACE: OK. I want to get into one last issue, a bigger issue. Mr. Pratt, you say, one of the -- maybe the basic problem here, is that President Obama's disdain for the constitutional right to bear arms and, in fact, you have compared him to George III, British monarch during the American Revolution.
PRATT: He might be learning from his example.
WALLACE: Yes. But when the Supreme Court ruled on the Second Amendment in the 2008 case, the Heller case here in D.C., I want to put up what Justice Scalia said. Let's put it up on the screen.
"There seems to us, no doubt on the basis of text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to bear arms. Of course, the right was not unlimited." In fact, in his decision, Scalia talked about restrictions on what kinds of guns can be --
WALLACE: -- guns can be sold, who can buy them and, where they can be carried. So, yes, he said, there is a Second Amendment individual right, but he didn't say it's without limits.
PRATT: Well, that was unfortunate because the Amendment does provide its own degree of scrutiny. It says shall not be infringed. And, we know that at least one justice, Mr. Thomas, takes that point of view.
This is not something where the government is supposed to be free to tell we, the people, the government's boss, how much -- how far we can go with the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is there to constrain the government. Not the people.
WALLACE: So you think that Scalia was wrong when he said that that right is not unlimited?
PRATT: He was not speaking from a constitutional perspective.
WALLACE: And, finally, Ms. Tanden --
TANDEN: That was the Supreme Court Justice.
TANDEN: That was the Supreme Court justice.
WALLACE: Well, you disagree with Supreme Court justices all the time.
TANDEN: I do. But I'm surprised he is disagreeing with Justice Scalia on this issue.
WALLACE: Let me ask you, though, you talked at the very beginning about presidential leadership and you worked in the Obama White House for a year or so. This president has to deal with the debt ceiling. He wants to pass major immigration reform.
WALLACE: He wants to do something about climate change. Have they told you -- has he told you, how much political capital he is willing to spend on what's going to be a very tough fight?
TANDEN: You know, I think that the president has demonstrated tremendous leadership on this issue. I think the country rallied around him. And, his leadership after Newtown because he really was a voice for those parents who lost they child --
WALLACE: But does he told you how much --
TANDEN: And I see from his actions, and we hear from the White House, and, we hear from the vice president, that they are going to lay down political capital on this issue. And I think the one thing I would say to this, people like Larry and others who say we can't do anything about these issues, is that whether it comes from the background checks or dealing with high capacity magazines, which was an issue in Newtown, we can take action and to say we should do nothing, really doesn't respond to those parents in Newtown who lost those children in this horrible tragedy.
WALLACE: Ms. Tanden, Mr. Pratt, we want to thank you both so much for coming in today. And we will stay on top of what is likely to be one of the first, tough contentious issues on this new Congress. Thank you both very much.
PRATT: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Up next, two key senators on the president's picks for his new national security team and what they say about his policies for the second term.
WALLACE: President Obama has announced that a national security team he wants for his second term and, bruising confirmation battles are shaping up over several picks, especially former Senator Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense.
Joining me now are two key members of the Senate Armed Services Committee: Republican Kelly Ayotte and Democrat Richard Blumenthal.
And, Senators, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONN.: Thank you.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, R-N.H.: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Before we get to national security, I want to pick up very briefly on the conversation we just had in the last segment about guns.
Senator Ayotte, you have an A-rating from the NRA. Senator Blumenthal, you have an F-rating from the NRA.
When you look at the ideas that Vice President Biden is talking about and that he's going to submit to the president on Tuesday, I want to ask you both what you can support.
For instance, Senator Ayotte, can you support the idea of universal background checks?
AYOTTE: Chris, let me say I think -- I think it would be important that we have the thoughtful discussion about this. We haven't -- I didn't hear a lot of discussion this morning with your prior guests about also our mental health system. My background before serving in the Senate, I was a homicide prosecutor. So I do come at it from a perspective that taking away the rights of law abiding citizens was not going to stop a deranged individual or a criminal.
That said, should we look at improving our background check system? I'm willing to listen to what proposals come forward on that. But, again, I don't know that that wouldn't have stopped what happened in Newtown, and I think we need to be very thoughtful in how we go forward with what happens and make sure that whatever is done, actually, is a solution to the problem.
WALLACE: Senator Blumenthal, you, of course, represent Newtown, Connecticut, the scene of that horrific shooting. With the strength of the gun lobby, which we demonstrated in the last segment, what are the chances that the Biden plan or some of the big elements in it could get through Congress?
BLUMENTHAL: Not only do I represent the state of Connecticut and Newtown, Chris, but I really lived through that very searing, painful grief in the weeks afterwards, speaking with families and the Newtown community and, anyone who lived through that period of time has been changed. And I think the nation has been transformed in the debate, and the discussions and conversations we are having about gun violence prevention now.
I think the nation is ready for more thorough background checks so that we cover the 40 percent that now are not covered. I think the nation's ready for a ban on assault weapons, and high capacity magazines, and, most important, Chris, I think there is common ground here in the need for better enforcement of the existing laws.
Let me give you one very, very important example. We have no background checks now on purchases of ammunition. It is against the law for a fugitive, a felon, a deranged person, someone seriously mentally ill, someone under a court order for domestic violence abuse, to purchase ammunition, and firearms. But there are no background checks on purchase of ammunition. So someone can walk into a Walmart, buy a shopping cart full of ammunition, walk out, pay, no questions asked.
That's why I have proposed that we have background checks not only on firearms purchases, but also ammunition and prohibit the Teflon tip and incendiary bullets. I think the bullets, along with the firearms, are what we need to focus on. And, my background also, is law enforcement. I was attorney general --
WALLACE: I do want to get to national security. As I said, you are both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will be holding the hearings on Chuck Hagel as new defense secretary.
Let's look at some of the issues that critics have raised about him:
On Iran, Hagel voted against sanctions. He says unilateral measures isolate us. He opposed naming the revolutionary guards as terrorist because he says President Bush might have used that as cover for a military attack.
On Israel, he said the U.S. should talk to Hamas. He opposed declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization. He also said -- this is the quote -- "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here."
Senator Ayotte, how troubled are you by the Hagel nomination?
AYOTTE: Chris, let me say I am very troubled. I think the hearings on this nomination are going to be consequential. I have not made up my mind. But here's where we are -- you put up his prior positions, it makes me wonder, it perplexes me why the president nominated Senator Hagel.
One of the things that troubles me that you didn't put up is the reaction of Iran -- one of the greatest threats that we face is that Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, some his prior statements seem to suggest that we could -- he thinks we can contain Iran. Well, that's against 99 senators. We recently voted and Richard Blumenthal is a great supporter of that, that our policy cannot be to contain a nuclear armed Iran.
Iran, this week, kind of reacted favorably somewhat. There were some statements favorable to his nomination. In fact, they said they were hopeful that with his nomination, they hoped that we would change our policies.
What I want to make sure is that Iran is actually not hopeful, but they are fearful as a result of our nominee for secretary of defense perspective, because that will cause them to stop marching toward acquiring a nuclear weapon, not hope that we'll change our policies, they need to change their policies.
WALLACE: So, is it fair to say you are leaning against his nomination at this point?
AYOTTE: Chris, I think it's fair to say that if you look at his prior positions, that he has a lot of questions to answer about this. And, I'm deeply troubled by it. I guess I also wonder what message are we sending to Iran, what message are we sending to Israel? And I'm perplexed that the president has nominated him, given the statements he made during his presidential campaign.
WALLACE: Senator Blumenthal, simple question: are you comfortable with Chuck Hagel's positions on Iran and Israel?
BLUMENTHAL: I'm going to want to ask questions about those positions. I'm not --
WALLACE: Are you comfortable with them?
BLUMENTHAL: I am not comfortable yet. I want to ask him questions about those two issues.
But two points have to be stressed. Number one, Chuck Hagel is someone of stature. He was a war hero. He's a combat veteran. He's a person of enormous personal distinction in his record of public service, in the Senate, but, also, in uniform.
And, second, you know, there are tremendously consequential issues that are equally important to ask about during this hearing. For example, the shift of focus to the Asian-Pacific theater. Will we have the undersea warfare capability, as well as air superiority to defend our strategy in that part of the world? Submarines, the Joint Strike Fighter, tremendously important to our future.
I want to ask Senator Hagel about his positions on those issues. I think we have reached a point in this country, unfortunately, where positions are taken on nominees, very dramatic, and staunch positions, before they have the opportunity to give their own positions.
MATTHEWS: But to make it clear, you are not -- this is a Democratic president naming his (INAUDIBLE) -- you are at this point not prepared to say you support the Hagel nomination.
BLUMENTHAL: I think Senator Hagel will be approved. I think the history of nominees shows and I think his own qualifications also demonstrate that he has the capacity. But I want to know his positions on those issues. And I reserve judgment until I hear his responses.
WALLACE: I want to get to broaden this out. The bigger issue with all of the president's national security picks it seems to me, Senator Ayotte is he seems to have come down firmly on the side of pursuing a light footprint strategy in his second term, ending the wars we are in, limiting new interventions and relying more on drones and commando, you know, Special Operations Forces, as well as multi- lateral actions.
As you look at that, are you -- are you comfortable with that as a foreign policy approach?
AYOTTE: Well, I'm concerned, Chris, about what this says and, let's step back for a minute.
Exhibit A on light footprint, what happened in the consulate in Benghazi? The fact that security was not what it should have been there, the fact that we relied on local militias that there was a rise of activity, by al Qaeda-inspired militias in the area and we didn't have the proper security there. And then during that attack, we didn't have the response within the 7-hour period that we needed to obviously save lives.
But, let's step back further from that, what we have seen is a pattern of the president, on numerous occasions where, none of us want to send men and women to war, if we don't have to. And, obviously we want to bring them home as quickly as possible.
But example A, another example, Iraq. We had the recommendations of his general, General Austin, 15,000 to 18,000 troops as a follow-on and then it was pared down to 3,000. They couldn't negotiate the Status of Forces Agreement. And now, you have al Qaeda coming -- we have al Qaeda activity in Iraq, and as well as Iran playing a greater role. We are seeing the same thing in Afghanistan, right now.
The problem is, is that the light footprint, if you don't leave the proper follow-on in Afghanistan and we have seen a pattern where he wants to withdraw, remember, during the fighting season, the election season when no military commander recommended it, we are seeing the same thing now with the recent discussions with President Karzai. And, the worry is, is that a light footprint approach can leave us in a situation where the Taliban come back in power, where al Qaeda is again given a launching pad to commit attacks against our country.
So I am concerned about this approach.
WALLACE: And, Senator Blumenthal, generally speaking, light footprint, less boots on the ground, less intervention, more drones, small commando operations, multi-lateral operations.
BLUMENTHAL: A lean, agile, very effective Special Operations Force is America's future in many parts of the world in fighting terrorism and, Special Operations and SEALs and drones together, in terms of intelligence gathering, as well as an effective fighting force, can be tremendously effective.
I think what we need to do, Chris, is define the mission. And that will, in turn, determine the size of the footprint. For example in Afghanistan, counterterrorism, fighting Special Operations as well as training will require some footprint on the ground. The question is, how many?
And I think Kelly Ayotte is absolutely right to be focused on these issues. By the way, we have worked together on a very bipartisan way. She and Senator John McCain and Senator Graham and myself, Senator Casey on Iran.
AYOTTE: And I have great respect for Richard on these issues.
BLUMENTHAL: And so, as members of the Armed Services Committee, we're going to continue working together, because there is no Republican or Democrat approach to national security. It ought to be one approach.
WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there.
Senator Blumenthal, Senator Ayotte, we want to thank you both. Thanks for coming in today. It's always good to talk with both of you.
AYOTTE: Thank you, Chris.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Up next, we'll ask our Sunday group about the president's light footprint policy and the national security team he's chosen to make it work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: With the devastating blows we have struck against al- Qaeda, our core objective, the reason we went to war in the first place, is now within reach. Ensuring that al-Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Obama, this week, announcing a faster timetable for getting out of Afghanistan. And it's time now for our Sunday group, Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst. Bob Woodward, of "The Washington Post, and author of the book "The Price of Politics," Bill Kristol of "The Weekly Standard" and, former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh. Well, the president made it clear this week that if it is not a rush for the exits in Afghanistan, it is certainly a brisk walk in that direction, Bret. He sped up the timetable for moving from a lead combat role to an advisory mission and all signs are he'll commit fewer troops to Afghanistan after 2014, than U.S. commanders want. Question, or two questions: what do you make of that and what do you make of all of this talk as we discussed with the two senators, alight pursuing a light footprint of foreign policy in the second term?
HUME: Well, I hope the president is right. I hope that we're near the moment, we as he suggests, where we can say mission accomplished in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda can never run free here again and use Afghanistan as a base for operations. The fear, of course, is, and he is not right and that the force that he leaves behind and the mission that they are assigned will be not -- be sufficient to further that goal and then you -- it gets, of course, to the question of, you know, his nominee for defense, and whether that nominee for defense, if he were to listen to the commanders and begin to think that their case was more powerful, would be willing to tell the president so and would the president be willing to listen to him?
WALLACE: Bob, same question. We'll get to Hagel in a minute, but Afghanistan and this whole idea beyond Afghanistan, writ large, light footprint?
BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, he believes in it. I did a book, a whole book, Obama's wars and his Afghan policy and President Obama is the one who added 30,000 troops initially, in 2009, a surge much bigger than George W. Bush's surge in Iraq. They've looked at it, and they think we can get out of -- remember, it is a new world now. We are kind of in a post -- the transition out of a post superpower world. And, Obama and his team are trying to find a way to adapt to that and I think getting out of Afghanistan makes sense. The question is, you needed some sort of insurance policy. And that would be some sort of troops left behind. What that number is, is up in the air, obviously.
WALLACE: As one of the founding members of neoconservative movement, Bill. What do you make of all of this?
BILL KRISTOL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, Bob said, getting out of Afghanistan. That is what President Obama wants to do. And I think it is deeply irresponsible, but I think it's going to be very hard for the Senate or the House to stop him from doing so, and I don't think it's going to work to leave a couple of thousand troops there. No serious analyst thinks that you can maintain -- that you can even support counter-terrorism operations, you can't even support Special Forces or drones with two or three or four thousand troops. They'll be defending themselves. I read in the paper today, and, then, we say, well the agency can do all this secretly, the CIA is not going to pull back rapidly and dramatically in Afghanistan. They need protection, too. So, President Obama is determined to take us down to a level, below which we can function seriously there. I think it's a very dangerous policy. I hope the Congress at least looks at it and we have a serious national debate on it. I hope President Obama explains to the American people, honestly what he is doing, if he has decided the game isn't worth the candle, that is his prerogative as president, he should say that, he should talk through the (inaudible) of as we are getting out. He should explain why he ordered the surge, that Bob mentioned, three years ago, and, that was -- and we sent an awful lot of kids over there, why he is now just getting out.
WALLACE: All right. You talked about Congress, let me flip to the other subject, which is that this comes as the president has named a new national security team, and as I discussed with the senators, the most controversial pick is Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary. Here's what Hagel said this week when he was named.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I'll do my best for our country. For those I represent at the Pentagon. And for all of our citizens. And, Mr. President, I will always give you my honest and most informed counsel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: The question, Bill, is what kind of counsel Hagel will give. We talked with the senators about his positions that he has taken on Israel and Iran and what we didn't mention is he also said that he thinks the Pentagon budget is bloated and needs to be pared down. Your feelings about Hagel?
KRISTOL: I met the comment that it was bloated in responding to Leon Panetta, the current Secretary of Defense's comment after sequester, that this would be -- this would be devastating cuts in the Pentagon. Leon Panetta is a Democrat, he was President Obama's own appointee. He is very worried about these cuts. Chuck Hagel blithely dismissed any problem and said the Pentagon budget is bloated. I don't think Chuck Hagel is the right man to be Secretary of Defense. We'll see if the United States Senate agrees with that.
WALLACE: Senator Bayh, you served with Chuck Hagel in the Senate. Your thoughts about him as Secretary of Defense?
FORMER SEN. EVAN BAYH, (D-IN): I think what is important, here, Chris, to remember is that it is not what President Kristol or even President Bayh might want in a Secretary of Defense. It is what President Obama wants. There is a long history of deference to the president's judgment and, you know, regardless of who the Secretary of Defense is, they're going to have to recognize certain economic and fiscal realities. And, part of that is going to be trimming the Pentagon budget. So, personally, he served our country, he has been wounded in combat, there is nothing that's personally disqualify him there and I think the hearings and the personal meetings are going to give Senator Hagel a great opportunity.
WALLACE: Are you troubled, though, when you hear some of the statements he has made on Iran, on Israel, on a variety ...
BAYH: You know, I have some difference of opinions on these issues, but that is not surprising. The important thing is, that he has the president's trust, he represents the president's thinking and in these hearings and meetings, Chris, his critics will have an opportunity to ask him about his views about Israel, about how we deal with Iran. I think you will find Senator Hagel will be very clear and strong in his support of Israel and will lay out a strategy for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. That's what's important going forward.
HUME: With all due respect, I don't think the most important thing is whether he has the president's trust, I think that's obvious and he wouldn't -- he wouldn't have been chosen if he hadn't. I think the moist important thing is whether he has the judgment to make the right decisions at a time of austerity, which is definitely going to affect the Pentagon and probably should, but must be done expertly and well and shrewdly, so that we do not diminish the strength of our military. The president keeps talking about how it remains the most powerful fighting force in history and so on and so forth. That will not necessarily end up that way, if this job of paring back Pentagon spending isn't done very deftly. One question is whether Senator Hagel, who, you know, for all of his service is not and never has been really a defense intellectual and so forth. So I think it's fair to question, I think his judgment is the key and it is reason -- and it is the most important thing.
WOODWARD: Well, it is not -- it's qualifying to about being a defense intellectual. I think what that Hagel served in Vietnam as an enlisted sergeant is a tribute to him and Obama. That they would pick somebody like this. I served in the Navy during the Vietnam era and I remember that and the lessons of Vietnam really are embedded in those who were there. And I think that is -- I think that's really good, and I think the issue really is, when we are going to go to war? How we're going to use military force? And what Obama and Hagel, I think, are saying here, is we're going to be very restrained. But, I think they both realize and I found in doing this book on Obama, he's willing to use force. There is no question about that. But it is with a lot of cautioned restraint and, let's face it, Obama's not going to bring back Don Rumsfeld for a third term, as Secretary of Defense.
HUME: Restraint is always a good thing.
HUME: ... in the application of military force. What you want to have, though, is restraint by choice, and not because you must be restrained because you lack the force necessary for certain missions. So that is the question. Do we have -- are we making -are we being restrained because we have to or because we decide to?
WALLACE: Very briefly.
BAYH: The important thing to remember, Chris, is that we're not going to have a Secretary of Defense, whoever it is, out there freelancing, making these decisions on his or her own. Most of these judgments will be made in the White House, implemented by the Secretary of Defense, and so it really is the president who is ultimately accountable for all of this, and his views were judged in November and that was decided and now he has an opportunity to implement those policies and we can judge them accordingly.
WALLACE: All right. We have to take a break here. When we come back, the politics of gun control as President Obama talks tough heading into his second term.
WALLACE: Still to come our power player of the week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My interest came not by choice.
WALLACE: Carol has written a novel about a 13-year-old girl going through the same experience.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Often you feel like. How am I going to get through this? But you do get through.
WALLACE: We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think we can do a great deal without in any way imposing on or impinging on the rights of the Second Amendment.
CHRIS COX, NRA LOBBYIST: It became very clear, very early that they were not looking to hear from gun owners, they were looking to blame gun owners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: The vice president and the NRA with very different takes on the plan for new gun control Mr. Biden will send to the president this week. And we're back now with the panel. Well, the Obama White House is clearly determined to keep up the pressure for more gun controls in the wake of Newtown. Bill, do you see any sign -- and you heard the conversation today, between Neera Tanden and Larry Pratt of a new willingness on Congress to pass this kind of legislation?
KRISTOL: Not much. I mean they might, I assume, they'll consider various measures, but ultimately those measures are not really going to do much about it, unfortunately. The mass killings we've had. The president didn't campaign on gun control and second term presidents do well when they actually try to implement things they've told the voters they are going to focus on. President Obama was going to focus on the economy, he was pro-Israel, and nominated one of the most anti-Israel senators to be Secretary of Defense. He didn't talk about gun control when he controlled Congress in 2009 and 2010, when the Democrats had huge majorities, they didn't reinstate the assault ban.
WALLACE: But we did have Newtown.
KRISTOL: We did have Newtown, but honestly, one incident doesn't tell you what policy should be and in any case, this -- as we pointed out -- as was pointed out a million times, the particular things Vice President Biden seems to be proposing would have nothing to do with Newtown, every -- there is not a single proposal on their menu that would have stopped Mrs. Lanza from buying those guns and having those guns, apparently.
WALLACE: Senator Bayh--
KRISTOL: She would have had to register -- there would have a registry, of which people would have known she had those guns. Would that have really helped?
WALLACE: Senator Bayh. I mean I was astonished this week to learn the fact that during the 2012 campaign, that the NRA contributed $20 million to various candidates and the gun control groups, $4,000 and that more than 50 percent of the people on Capitol Hill have an A- rating from the NRA. Do you see any movement on this issue?
BAYH: It is a very difficult, heavy lift, Chris. You think back to when Bill Clinton tried this in 1993, he had a large majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives. He was barely able to get anything done. Now, of course, the Republicans control the House of Representatives and you put your finger on it, the opponents have taken additional steps, tend to be much better organized and much better funded than the advocates. And so I -- my best guess is that most of the action here will be in the regulatory arena and the administration will look to see what they can do on their own, absent much prospect ultimately for significant legislation. WALLACE: Brit, I want to broaden this conversation, because, whether it's the fiscal cliff, whether it's now on gun control, the story today about a major immigration reform movement by the president, he seems to be, as he prepares for the inaugural, a more combative president, a more -- less, more confrontational, less interested even in the beginning in compromise. One, do you agree and, two, what does it say to you about prospects for his second term?
HUME: Well, I do and I think it is interesting. Because the president was elected in '08 by a more significant margin, notably more significant margin than he was reelected. He was not nearly the in your face guy in '09 and 2010, or the exception of Obamacare, obviously, which -- which the public turned out not to like and the stimulus. He didn't really -- he didn't have this level of -- and his level of intensity about things, and his supporters were insisting, throughout the day, he's really a moderate. He's really a moderate, but you don't say he doesn't look like a moderate now, having been elected -- having lost the Congress -- lost the House of Representatives, Republicans hold in the 2012 election, the House, he's in the less strong position than he was in '08-'09, and yet he's coming on more aggressively. One wonders if this will end well for him.
WOODWARD: It will and I think an interesting question, going on, is what is the role for the Republican House in divided government? And what is Obama's role? And, they're going to have to face that and the Republicans, I think, today and tomorrow, they are having leadership retreat and at the end of the week all the House Republicans are meeting and they've got to define what is that role, and, hopefully, gun control connects to immigration, connects to all spending and taxes issues and are they going to have some way where they're going to say, let's work together or are we going to have four more years of this petty, stupid fighting on things that makes everyone look ridiculous, and no one comes out the winner.
WALLACE: Let me -- let me -- before I get to you -- and what about the president's side of it? Do you agree that he has taken a more combative tone since the election?
WOODWARD: Yeah, he has. But, you know, we were going to have tax increases for everyone and he, and to Speaker Boehner's credit. They wound up agreeing as did Biden and McConnell, that we're going to give 99 percent of the people in this country a permanent tax cut. That is a big accomplishment, of course, everyone dumped on it when it happened, but the 99 percent of the people who got that tax cut, I think, are quite happy. I think they haven't figured out a strategy in the White House, just like the Republicans don't have one.
KRISTOL: But I want to distinguish two kinds of issues, issues the president ran on, his reelection campaign. I think there he has some credibility, to just say, hey, I won the re-election, I think he can say to Democratic members of Congress, you know, this is our platform, and to Republican members, you can say, don't you need to compromise with me on this? And that was taxes. He ran explicitly on raising taxes on the wealthy. That's why I always thought Republicans... WALLACE: He certainly ran on immigration reform. KRISTOL: And he ran on immigration reform. And I think, on those two issues, already on taxes and to come on immigration reform, he has a pretty good chance of holding a good chunk of his party and of persuading Republicans, look, let's try to work something out on this.
He didn't run on gun control, as I said before. And if I could just get back to the Hagel nomination one more time, he ran as an extremely pro-Israel and tough on Iran, pro-Iran-sanctions guy, and now he's nominated a defense secretary who is not on board with that, which is why I think Republicans feel no compunction about opposing Senator Hagel. And I think Democratic senators can say, wait a second, this isn't what we ran on in 2012, so there are two kinds of...
WOODWARD: There's some questions about it and he said some things, but I think, if he were here, and I think, in his confirmation hearing, he i going to be very pro-Israel and pro-sanctions.
KRISTOL: He didn't mean it when he said that his fellow senators were intimidated by the Jewish lobby?
WOODWARD: Well. that was years ago. That was years...
KRISTOL: He says that in 2006.
WALLACE: Let me just broaden this out even more, Senator Bayh, and that is that, if you look over recent history, whether its Reagan, whether it's Clinton, whether it's Bush 43, second-term presidents tend to have problems.
One, why do you think that is, in their second terms? And what -- do you think that there's -- do you see you any warning signs that President Obama may be falling into some of the same traps?
BAYH: Well, it reminds me when I first became governor, Chris, and was confronted with some difficult issue I had never heard of, and I looked at my chief of staff and said, "You know, I think most of the easy decisions were made before we got here." You know, most of the low-hanging fruit is picked in the first term. You have more political capital to use in the first term. It's a depreciating asset as you move on, month by month, in the second term. I think that's one of the reasons the president is being so -- more aggressive now.
But the reality is two-fold. Number one, the political divisions and the philosophical, the core philosophical differences between the two parties now are greater than I can ever remember. That makes compromise and progress more difficult.
And the fiscal and economic challenges we have hanging over our head, I think, is going to use most of the legislative capital, meaning that a lot of the action in the next couple of years is going to be in the regulatory arena, consolidating the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, things like that. And, you know, you're right. I'm glad we're all sitting down. In a matter of months, minds are going to quickly turn to the midterm elections, teeing that up, thinking, if the Democrats can regain the House, boy, it's open field running again, and the Republicans will say we need to keep that to force the president to compromise in his final two years.
WALLACE: Do you -- you know, you were saying you wonder whether this was going to end well. Do you worry or do you have concerns...
HUME: Remember this. The fiscal negotiations over spending and taxes -- the taxes one, I think, is closed -- come down to this: the reason we can't get a deal is that, for each party, each party is trying to get from the negotiations what they're being asked to give up in negotiations. Hard to get a deal that way.
WALLACE: All right. Thank you, panel. See you next week.
Don't forget to check out "Panel Plus," where our group picks right up with the discussion on our web site, foxnewssunday.com. We'll post the video before noon Eastern Time. And make sure to follow us on Twitter @foxnewssunday. Up next, our power player of the week.
WALLACE: Up until now, she has let her husband lead a public life while she's been as private as it's possible to be in Washington, but now she has decided she can help more people by stepping forward. Here's our power player of the week.
CAROLE GEITHNER: It's a part of everyone's life. It's universal.
WALLACE (voice over): Carole Geithner is talking about grief. For the last 20 years, she has worked as a counselor, a professor, now, a novelist, to help people deal with loss.
C. GEITHNER: Sharing their story, the happy memories, the sad memories -- that's all part of, kind of, coming to terms with this.
WALLACE: In case you're wondering, yes, Carole is the wife of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Timothy Geithner and Ms. Carole Geithner.
WALLACE: But that may be the least interesting part of her story.
C. GEITHNER: My interest came not by choice. It was because my mother died when I was 25.
WALLACE: Her mom, Portia, died of cancer, and Carole was her primary caregiver in her final years. Now, carol has written a novel, called "If Only," about a 13-year-old girl, Corinna, going through the same experience. "In our house, life was not as usual. We didn't put up our decorations. Our house is permanently changed. Our house is full of sadness, not holiday cheer."
How does she get through the day and the week and the year without a mom?
She lives with her dad, no siblings, and he's struggling with his own grief. So they have to find a way to support each other.
WALLACE: In the book, Corinna creates a memorial quilt from swatches of her mother's belongings. Carole did it in real life.
Why did she decide to write about a young teen?
C. GEITHNER: It's hard for them to ask for adult help, as you know, with teenagers. It's, kind of, like this, so if -- if you don't find a way to reach out to them, they're very unlikely to reach out to you.
WALLACE: Carole and Tim Geithner met as students at Dartmouth College and have been married 27 years.
(on camera): I understand that you considered writing this book under your maiden name? How come?
C. GEITHNER: I didn't want it to be connected to Tim or his work. I wanted it to really be just about this topic. But I've been married for more than half my life and I changed my name to Geithner at age 23 and I'm proud of him. So I didn't want to -- I decided that didn't feel right.
SECRETARY OF STATE TIMOTHY GEITHNER: I feel incredibly fortunate that my wife Carole and my family have been willing to allow me to do this.
WALLACE: How happy are you that your husband is going to be leaving the firing line?
C. GEITHNER: Happy. The loss of privacy is pretty profound in a public job like that, especially at a time of national crisis, and we have missed him at so many family occasions, so I look forward to him being more available.
WALLACE: But while her husband will be looking for a new job, Carole plans to keep helping people who have suffered a loss. And she's already writing another book.
C. GEITHNER: When they come in feeling stuck or depressed or just, kind of, undone, in some way or another, being able to help them get beyond that and -- that's wonderful.
WALLACE: Carole Geithner says her new book is aimed at older teens, and while there is another death in it, she says it goes beyond the issue of grief.
And that's it for today. Have a great week, and we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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