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Adm. Mike Mullen, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jack Reed on Coalition Strikes in Libya; Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Crisis in Japan
Written by Chris Wallace / Published March 20, 2011 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Adm. Mike Mullen, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Jack Reed, Secretary Steven Chu
The following is a rush transcript of the March 20, 2010, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Right now on "Fox News Sunday", missile strikes. The U.S. and Britain fire more than 100 cruise missiles as coalition forces act to protect the Libyan rebels from Muammar Qaddafi. We'll have an update from Libya and talk with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, live only on "Fox News Sunday."
Then two leading senators weigh in on the mission, Lindsey Graham and Jack Reed.
Japan works to contain a nuclear disaster. What does the crisis there mean for energy policy at home. We'll get the latest from Japan and talk with the Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
Plus, we'll ask our Sunday panel if the president is taking the lead on these top issues or following. All right now on "Fox News Sunday."
And hello again from Fox News in Washington, where we are tracking two major stories. We have a reporter in Libya where the U.S. and its allies are using military force to protect the anti-Qaddafi rebels.
And in Japan, where officials are making progress toward bringing a nuclear plant under control. We'll have more on that later and talk with the secretary of energy.
But first, Libya. Allied officials say they hit more than 20 air defense sites. U.S. stealth bombers struck a major Libyan airfield trying to destroy much of the country's air force.
And Qaddafi called the raids terrorism and said the attackers will be defeated. Let's get the latest from Steve Harrigan in Tripoli. Steve.
STEVE HARRIGAN, FOX NEWS: Chris, those strikes overnight targeted not just Libya's air defenses, but the command and control center here in Tripoli as well. I'm standing about two miles from Colonel Qaddafi's compound, and the scene here about 2:30 in the morning got quite loud. There were at least three large incoming explosions.
They may have been cruise missiles or attacks from British war planes. They were answered immediately from anti-aircraft batteries here on the ground firing up from several different points. Right now, in daylight, reconnaissance missions are under way to try and assess the damage from the cruise missile strikes to determine if another round is necessary.
Libyan state TV is reporting 48 casualties, civilian casualties, from those strikes. That cannot be verified, and they have not been a reliable source in the past. As far as Colonel Qaddafi goes, he remains defiant. He says these attacks are a new form of Hitlerism.
He promises it will be a long war and that he will take revenge against military and civilian targets all across the Mediterranean. Interesting, he has been before the cameras for much of the week, but his last two addresses have been by telephone, taped and then replayed. Perhaps at this early moment in the conflict, the Libyan leader is already in hiding. Chris, back to you.
WALLACE: Steve Harrigan reporting from Tripoli. Steve, thanks for that, and stay safe. Joining us now to discuss Operation Odyssey Dawn and the role of U.S. forces is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. And Admiral, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
ADM. MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: It's good to be with you, Chris.
WALLACE: Let's pick up on Steve Harrigan's report. What is the latest on the military operation? Do we now control the skies over Libya and have you gotten any damage assessment of the action last night?
MULLEN: Well, we had a pretty significant impact in this first 24 hours, and as Steve pointed out, we hit a lot of targets, focused on his command and control, focused on his air defense, and actually attacked some of his forces on the ground in the vicinity of Benghazi.
There are French airplanes over Benghazi right now, and we will have a 24/7 cap, if you will, there from now on, and effectively he hasn't flown anything in the last couple of days. So I say the no-fly zone, which we were tasked to put in place, is actually in place.
WALLACE: Have Qaddafi's forces pulled back from Benghazi, which is what was the immediate demand, Benghazi and other cities, have they pulled back? And if they don't, will coalition forces take out his artillery and tanks?
MULLEN: Anything I think that is outside of the city that we see from a tank standpoint, artillery standpoint, I think will be taken out. We haven't seen him pull back and also haven't seen him moving in. We've got some sporadic reports that he is moving some forces around.
But it is a little early. I haven't received any extensive battle damage assessment across the totality of the strikes, but we have had a very significant impact very early in establishing this no-fly zone and supporting the mission, which is to protect civilians and also to be able to provide corridors or create the conditions for humanitarian relief.
WALLACE: Now, this is a very fast moving story and just came across the wires that Russia is formally calling on the U.S. and France and Britain to stop nonselective use of force. Has that been communicated to you? What does that mean? And are you going to change what you are doing?
MULLEN: Well, right now actually, and I was just in a conversation this morning with General Carter Ham, we continue from a coalition standpoint to press forward.
So we had expectations that today not just United States plans will be flying, but planes from other countries including the Brits, the French, the Danes, the Spanish, the Italians thus far.
So we continue to press on with the operation. We've seen him suppressed very dramatically. His air defenses are up sporadically, and they are really mobile air defenses at this point, tied to the position of his troops. So we continue -- we will continue to carry out the mission until directed otherwise, and I just received no other direction.
WALLACE: But do you have any understanding or any reaction to what the Russians are calling for?
MULLEN: Well, actually I don't, at this particular point.
WALLACE: When -- you mentioned a number of countries that are going to be involved in an operational sense, when will we see the Arab nations join the fight?
MULLEN: Well, actually the Qataris have started to move their airplanes in the theater, and we expect to -- as soon as they get in, which I expect in the next day or two, that they'll be in the fight.
And there are significant engagements abroad, engagements with Arab countries, to see what additional capabilities would be committed, and that is being worked very hard.
WALLACE: Why haven't you gone after Qaddafi's command and control compound in Tripoli as President Regan did in 1986?
MULLEN: Well, the focus of the United Nations Security Council was really Benghazi specifically and to protect the civilians, and we've done that -- we have started to do that.
Clearly we have taken down the important nodes that remove his capability, and it is -- this is not about going after Qaddafi himself or attacking him at this particular point in time. It is about achieving these narrow and relatively limited objectives so that he stops killing his people and so that humanitarian support can be provided.
WALLACE: I want to get to that mission in a second, but first I want to just follow up on what Steve Harrigan said. Qaddafi is calling this operation colonial crusader aggression. The report today from Libyan state media is that he is handing out weapons to a million of his citizens, and his regime says that there have been 64 now, 64 civilian deaths. Your reaction?
MULLEN: We've worked very hard to absolutely minimize and eliminate any civilian casualties. I have seen no reports of civilian casualties, though I've heard that he has so stated. He hasn't been very reliable in the past.
The military capability that we have seen so far has not been that effective. That doesn't mean that he can't do some damage in the future, but we will continue to press him very, very hard in that regard.
WALLACE: Let's talk about the mission, because I think it's fair to say that over the last few days, Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama have sent conflicting signals. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: We do believe that a final result of any negotiations would have to be the decision by Colonel Qaddafi to leave.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are not going to use force to go beyond a well defined goal, specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
WALLACE: Admiral, as you understand your mission, not the U.N. resolution, but your orders from the president, have we given up on regime change, ousting Qaddafi from power?
MULLEN: This particular military mission is very focused on ensuring that he can't kill his civilians and that we are able to support humanitarian efforts.
And then specifically for us, we are currently in the lead to move to a support role over the next few days, and I don't know exactly when that is going to occur, in terms of the coalition taking the leadership here positions of the operation.
And we are on track to do that. I think to know where this is going long-term from my perspective on the military, from the military perspective, it is not -- I haven't been given a mission beyond the one that I just described.
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you, however, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, does it make sense to leave Qaddafi in power, even if it is just in Tripoli, where he can create an enormous amount of trouble for the world?
MULLEN: Well, I think he clearly has been isolated internationally. He has had the Arab League, his own peers, if you will, or colleagues vote very strongly against him. We have got an arms embargo that is more effective than the one that has been put in place in 1970.
WALLACE: Under those similar conditions, he brought down the plane at Lockerbie. He bombed the nightclub that killed Americans in 1986. I mean, even a cornered, isolated Qaddafi can be -- I don't have to tell you, sir, very dangerous. MULLEN: No, I mean, he is a very dangerous guy. He's very unpredictable, and certainly I think all of us will continue to bring a lot of pressure. But to say exactly what the outcome is right now, I just can't do that.
WALLACE: You say in there, a couple of times, you used a caveat in saying this is the mission for now. Are you saying that it is possible that the mission may change and that they become taking out Qaddafi?
MULLEN: Well, I wouldn't speculate on what the missions will be in the future.
WALLACE: How long will the U.S. be engaged in Libya? You talked about what that we're in the lead role and then within day, we're going to move. There has been a report that the president has ordered that U.S. military involvement in this mission will be days, not weeks.
First, is that true? And second, is it realistic?
MULLEN: When I talked earlier about getting into a support role and expectations are that we will continue to support the mission, particularly with unique capabilities that we have, which would include intelligence support, jamming capabilities, and focus on the continued enforcement of the no-fly zone and the mission overall. But I don't have an exact date in mind and I don't -- I haven't been given a date by the president where U.S. military participation here would end.
WALLACE: There are reports that Defense Secretary Gates and the top military command -- I assume it includes you -- did not favor this mission but that President Obama sided with the foreign policy crowd, including Secretary of State Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Samantha Powers with the National Security Council over the Pentagon's concerns. Question: Is that true?
MULLEN: As I have spoken to this before I got direction to execute it, I spoke to this as a very complex operation and it as complex operation. And as any military operation is, it's a dangerous one. And I wouldn't -- you know, my job certainly isn't to speak to how we got here. My job now is to execute the orders that the president has given me and that's what we're doing.
WALLACE: But is it fair to say that he sided with this group that I talked about, the foreign policies group, over the Pentagon and military group?
MULLEN: Well, I think the president has spoken about how difficult these decisions are, how seriously he takes them, and there's always a debate on major decisions like this. That said, that debate has occurred, the decision has been made, and we are all about now carrying out the president's direction.
WALLACE: Finally, you're -- again, I don't have to tell you, you're already fighting two wars against Muslim nations in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was already concern that the military was stretched too thin. How can you take on a third operation? Is something going to have to give?
MULLEN: Well, there's no one that understands better than I the stress and strain that we have been under for a long time in our 10th year of war both in Iraq and in Afghanistan. That said, we are within our capability and capacity to be able to execute this mission. It's -- as I -- as has been the direction given to me, it is limited, very focused and in that regard, we are more than able -- as has been shown in the last 24 hours -- to carry it out and carry it out very effectively.
WALLACE: Admiral Mullen, we thank you so much for coming in today. And our thoughts, of course, are with our troops.
MULLEN: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Up next, we continue our coverage of the military operation in Libya as we get reaction from two key members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
WALLACE: Joining us now are two leading members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. From his home state of South Carolina, Republican Lindsey Graham, and here in the studio, Democrat Jack Reed.
Senator Graham, let me start with you. What do you think of the military operation in Libya so far and the support role that the U.S. is going to be playing?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, I'm glad we are finally doing something. We -- I don't know how many people have died as we wait to do something. Thank God for strong women in the Obama administration.
I don't know what finally got the president to act, but I'm very worried that we're taking the backseat rather than a leadership role. The British and the French have been great. Prime Minister Cameron said this action is necessary, legal and right. President Obama is talking about limited action of days.
Qaddafi is not the legitimate leader of Libya. He is an international criminal. He should be investigated by Attorney General Holder for actions in Pan Am.
We should isolate this regime. We should order all troops back to their garrison. We should knock out his radio and TV ability to communicate with his own people. We shouldn't pay Qaddafi's forces any money when it comes to Libyan oil.
Isolate, strangle and replace this man -- that should be our goal.
WALLACE: So, I just want to make clear I understand -- are you saying that the problem is the definition of the mission or the fact that we're letting the French and the British take the lead?
GRAHAM: The definition of the mission, we used to relish leading the free world. Now, it's almost like leading the free leader is an inconvenience. I want to be a good partner. I want the Arab world, young Arabs and young Iranians, see us as a strong, effective partner for their hope and dreams of being free. And I think the president caveated this way too much, it's almost like it's a nuisance.
This is a great opportunity to replace a tyrannical dictator who is not a legitimate leader, who is an international crook. And we should seize the moment and talk about replacing him, not talking about how limited we will be.
WALLACE: Senator Reed, two aspects. First of all, the formulation of the coalition and the question of whether the U.S. should be taking a lead role or letting the British and French take the lead role. And then, also this question of the definition of the mission which we just heard the chairman of the joint chiefs say is simply to get him to stop killing civilians but is not regime change.
SEN. JACK REED, D-R.I.: Well, first, I think the president and his colleagues, Secretary Clinton, have done a superb job in building international support. Without the Arab League's endorsement, there -- I do not think there would have been a successful U.N. resolution and we would be frustrated now. And, in fact, we might have been pulled into this without the international support we need -- not just militarily but financially, particularly at this critical moment when we're struggling with a deficit.
So, I think the president's leadership created the conditions for an international coalition. We're shaping the battlefield right now. Initially, we have that capacity. But we'll be able to hand off very quickly to French, to Arab forces, like the Qataris and others. That I think will send a strong signal to the Arab world that this is not about American interests. It's about democracy in Libya.
WALLACE: But let's get to maybe the more important question which is the mission. Now, that we have taken on Qaddafi, now that we have -- I was going to say bloodied his nose, we have done a lot more than that -- can we allow him to stay in power? I mean, he can create an awful lot of trouble in the world, even in a very weakened state, as the king of Tripoli.
REED: Well, I think what we've done now is taken the first step. But because we have a U.N. resolution that provides for robust operations to protect the people of Libya, there is the possibility of, I think, expanding this operation, not with U.S. forces but, frankly, with other forces, like the French, the British, the Qataris. That I think will send a strong signal to Qaddafi that his days should be limited.
We have to consider -- not U.S. but internationally -- some type of stabilization force. That's the most significant step I think going forward. But the flexibility of the U.N. resolution gives the United Nations and the international community the ability to --
(CROSSTALK) WALLACE: Are you saying you want boots on the ground?
REED: Not United States forces. I think the president has rightly ruled that out.
But there are many forces that are capable of helping. But the situation I think is such at this juncture that we will protect the citizens of Libya and I think eventually what you're going see is the Qaddafi position becomes less and less tenable, then you have international mechanism, a special envoy to the U.N. who can move in and begin to start the negotiations.
Hopefully, they will eject Qaddafi from power, but also coordinates with the elements in opposition and try to develop a stable government.
WALLACE: We are running out of time and I want to talk about a couple of other things. But let me get to this, Senator Graham. Do you think you can negotiate Muammar Qaddafi out of power?
GRAHAM: No, I think he should be branded for what he is. I think our government should investigate the role he played in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. I think he's an international criminal.
We should isolate his regime, as Jack said. We should knock off his radio and TV stations. Any military units in Libya that come to his aid should be destroyed. We should not pay him or anybody on his side of the ledger any oil money.
And let me just put it simply: this is the best chance to get rid of Qaddafi in my life. If we don't get rid of him, we will pay a heavy price down the road. The Obama administration owns Libya with Qaddafi.
Get rid of this man. Don't be uncertain in your statements. Be bold. Be effective. Work with the international community. Replace this international outlaw sooner rather than later.
WALLACE: Let me take you to a couple of other quick issues -- and I'm going ask you both to be brief about it.
Senator Graham, President Obama went to the U.N. Security Council to get approval, authorization for this use of force. Should he go to Congress?
GRAHAM: I don't believe he needs to come to Congress. I'd gladly vote on what he did. I think it's inherent within the authority of the commander-in-chief to take such action. We have been overly cautious, unnervingly indecisive. This thing melted down.
I wish we would have acted sooner. I don't feel a need to bless this action before he took it. I'd be glad to vote on it afterwards.
One word of caution: the U.N. Security Council has not been used every time we've had force. If you are going to take the freedom agenda and turn it over to the Russians and the Chinese, that would be a huge mistake. I'm glad we have international support but I don't want the model to be that you have to go to the U.N. to deal with tyranny. Those Russians and China are going to be less than friendly to getting rid of dictators, because in many ways, there are countries run by dictators.
WALLACE: Senator Reed, should the president get authorization from Congress?
REED: The president should notify under War Powers Act, like all his predecessors who'd probably say it doesn't apply. But I think he will know the powers. That gives us the opportunity to review what he's done.
Like Lindsey, if there's a proposal coming before the Congress, then I would have no difficulty in supporting the actions to date.
WALLACE: Finally, we have a minute left. And we are taking this action ostensibly to prevent Qaddafi from brutally attacking -- repressing and killing his civilians, protesters in his country. Meanwhile, our allies in Yemen and in Bahrain, they have been doing the same to protesters in their country. In fact, 47 were killed by the government in Yemen on Friday.
Question -- each of you have 30 seconds.
Senator Graham, should we be intervening in those countries? They are all our allies. But should we be intervening?
GRAHAM: We should stop the -- we should push back against using live ammunition against people who are protesting. This whole deterioration in the Mideast is because of indecisive leadership. The people in Yemen and Bahrain do not believe there's a downside of shooting their own people because we let Qaddafi come back and get stronger not weaker.
So, if we deal with Qaddafi decisively, we'll have better leverage in Bahrain and Yemen, and the Iranians will think twice. But if we don't deal with him decisively, all hell is going to break loose in the Mideast because nobody is going to follow a weak America.
WALLACE: Senator Reed?
REED: Unlike Libya, we have constant communication with the leadership of both Yemen and Bahrain. Secretary Gates was in Bahrain, making it quite clear to the king there and our diplomats in Sana'a, Yemen, making it clear to President Saleh that they have to respect the rights of the people. They have to allow peaceful protests. They can't use violence to suppress the legitimate concerns of the people.
That's the message we have to send and we are sending it.
WALLACE: Senator Reed, Senator Graham -- we want to thank you both so much for coming in and weighing in on this fast-moving story. Thank you, senators.
REED: Thank you.
WALLACE: Up next: Japan battles a nuclear meltdown. What does it mean for the U.S.? Answers from the secretary of energy, when we come right back.
WALLACE: Now, the crisis in Japan where that country is still struggling to get a nuclear power plant under control.
Here is the latest: Authorities now you say once the emergency is resolved, the entire complex will be scrapped. Power has been restored at the nuclear plant but they have not yet tried to turn on cooling systems at the most damaged reactors.
In Tokyo, radioactive iodine has been detected in drinking water, while food from some farms now shows increased radiation levels.
Greg Palkot is tracking the story from Osaka -- Greg.
GREG PALKOT, FOX NEWS: Chris, mixed news on several fronts of this story. Authorities spent the weekend dousing with water the two most dangerous nuclear reactors. They are trying to cool them down.
They are trying to bring radioactivity levels down. There was a spike in gas in one of the reactors. They're keeping an eye on that.
And yes, there is electricity hooked up to yet another reactor. The folks want to turn the coolant pumps on in the reactor. That hasn't happened yet.
Meanwhile, shoppers here Sunday reacting wearily to the news that radioactive iodine or traces of this stuff have been found in milk and spinach coming from the affected area. Also, smaller traces in the water.
PALKOT: No health risk is implied by that, according to authorities, but they are deciding on what to do on that the next 24 hours.
Finally, the relief and rescue efforts continue following the quake and tsunami. A remarkable story on Sunday.
Found amid the rubble, an 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson, discovered alive after nine days. Considering all that time in the rubble, they are in pretty good shape.
Still, the death toll and missing, 20,000 and climbing. That number, Chris, expected to go up in the coming days.
Back to you.
WALLACE: Greg Palkot reporting from Japan.
Greg, thanks for that.
Joining us now, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
And Mr. Secretary, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."
STEVEN CHU, SECRETARY OF ENERGY: Thank you.
WALLACE: What is the latest from Japan? How are officials there doing in cooling the reactors and the pools of spent fuel on top?
CHU: Well, they are using fire trucks to spray the spent fuel pools. They are looking at the reactors. Power is being restored, and we expect that perhaps today they can try the standard pumps in the reactors.
WALLACE: So are you hopeful? How would you characterize the situation?
CHU: I think with each passing hour, each passing day, things are more under control. And so, step by step, they are making very good progress.
WALLACE: I don't want to minimize the threat, but are we overstating -- and by "we," I think the media, primarily -- overstating the danger from radiation, especially in the U.S., but even in Japan? More Americans die from air pollution each year than all of the people that were killed from Chernobyl, and the radiation levels in Japan are nothing like that.
So are we overstating the danger?
CHU: Well, I think you make a very good point. The people in the United States, U.S. territories, are in no danger. It's unlikely they will be exposed to danger.
There is concern about U.S. citizens in Japan, and we are monitoring the situation very closely. But we'll see what comes. And as I said, day by day, hour by hour, the focus is on mitigation of this issue.
WALLACE: There are reports that TEPCO, the company that owns the property, delayed in taking steps to control the crisis such as using seawater because it didn't want to destroy its property.
First of all, is that true? And secondly, should TEPCO simply bury the reactors in sand and cement, as the Russians did in Chernobyl? Would that solve the problem?
CHU: Well, first, I don't know the exact chronology, but my understand was TEPCO, very soon after, began to use seawater to cool the reactor, and that was the right decision. And you're quite right, once you use seawater, those reactors are not recoverable. But the most important thing was to keep those reactors cool, and that's the step they took.
WALLACE: But do you have any indication that TEPCO -- because there have been reports -- delayed in some actions because it was trying to protect its investment?
CHU: I don't have any indication of that. And then, going beyond that, I think what the Russians did is -- it appears unlikely that you need those scenarios. There is partial meltdowns in the three reactors. There may be a containment leak in one of them. But far less drastic things could be used to put it under control and to minimize the contamination.
WALLACE: This week Germany ordered that its seven oldest nuclear reactors be shut down pending a three-month review. Why isn't that being done in this country?
CHU: Well, the NRC has a very deliberative process about what to do about the reactors. The German -- I believe the German order was to review the life extension of those reactors. I'm not sure about the shutdown. But I think the NRC is a very diligent organization, and they will be and are reviewing the situation very closely.
WALLACE: But the Germans, clearly -- and we seem to disagree, because our reporting was that they actually called for shutting down the seven oldest plants -- they are taking more drastic actions than the U.S. Are they overreacting or are we under-reacting?
CHU: I can't speak to the Germans. If they did order the shutdown of those reactors, I don't -- I can't speak to that directly. But the NRC is looking at all of the reactors, and they are a very prudent agency, and we'll see what they do.
WALLACE: Let's take a look at the situation in this country. There are now 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S. The last permit for construction of what is now a fully operational plant was issued back in 1978, and three -- or rather of the U.S. reactors used -- or rather 23 of the U.S. reactors -- I couldn't read my own writing here -- use the same Mark 1 design as the plant in Japan. And critics questioned the safety of that plant, of those reactors, and the pools for spent fuel on top.
Question: Do you have full confidence in all of our reactors, and is it possible that this long moratorium on building new reactors has saddled the U.S. with out-of-date technology?
CHU: Well, it is true that 23 of the reactors now operating in the United States are that design. Since those reactors were built, there have been upgrades in the safety of those reactors. And that's a process the NRC continues to do. There are additional safety measures taken over the years, and with this accident in Japan, there will be a thorough review going forward about all of the reactors in the United States.
WALLACE: But do you think it's possible? I mean, it's pretty amazing that there isn't a single fully-constructed plant in this country that the permit was issued since 1978. Do you think, in fact, that long moratorium after Three Mile Island has worked against us in terms of having state-of-the-art technology in our nuclear infrastructure?
CHU: No, quite to the contrary. The reactors are constantly being upgraded. There are new designs that have been developed. Some of the newer designs from Westinghouse and GE are safer than the earlier designs. That was a Mark 1, and notice the number 1. So that was a very early design.
The newer reactors being designed now --
WALLACE: But as I say, 23 of our reactors are Mark 1s.
CHU: Yes. And again, going back to that point, there have already been safety upgrades in those reactors, and there will continue to be in all the existing reactors if it warranted.
WALLACE: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has called for a 50- mile evacuation zone around the reactor in Japan. But in New York State, more than 21 million Americans live that close to the Indian Point plant that we are taking a look at right here which is just 34 miles from Manhattan. New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo has called for shutting down that plant.
Is he overreacting?
CHU: Well, I think, again, the evacuation plans of the Indian Point reactor will be looked at and studied in great detail. The Indian Point reactor is not in the situation like in Japan, but I think, again, we will be looking at whether those evacuation plans are adequate.
WALLACE: Well, to a certain degree, evacuation, you can't do anything about it because New York City is where it is and the plant is where it is. Is it safe to have a plant -- when we see what happened in Japan, obviously a huge accident, but the results was they said everybody needs to get away from 50 miles. Twenty-one million Americans live within 50 miles of Indian Point.
CHU: I think that that is an issue. And again, we're going to have to look at whether this reactor should remain. But, again, I don't want to make any -- jump to some judgment about what we should do going forward.
WALLACE: But are you saying the issue of whether to keep Indian Point in operation is in doubt, is something you're going to review?
CHU: Well, it's an NRC decision, but the NRC will be looking at that, I'm sure, based on events. But again, this is not to say that we believe that reactor is unsafe. We believe that reactor is safe. There is constant scrutiny of the reactors in all of our plants around the United States.
WALLACE: Would you, based on what's happened in Japan the last week, would you build a reactor within 50 miles of 20 million Americans?
CHU: Certainly where you site reactors and where we site reactors going forward will be different than where we might have sited them in the past, I would say. But --
WALLACE: This is a game-changer?
CHU: Any time there is a serious accident, we have to learn from those accidents and go forward.
WALLACE: What effect do you expect the events in Japan and in Libya to have on the price of gas at the pump this summer?
CHU: That's hard to expect. My intuition about how the events in, for example, Japan would affect the gasoline prices -- Libya, any uncertainty in the Middle East begins to show doubt. But we hope that those situations will resolve. The thing that the president has stressed is that the events in Libya have interrupted a small fraction of the world's supply, and we have excess capacity in the world.
WALLACE: On the other hand, with Japan, does that mean there is less demand for gas in the short term?
CHU: Well, that's the way the markets reacted. But, again, these are things that we go forward. And, you know, the markets say OK, less demand of oil in Japan; therefore, I think that is why the price went down. But in the long run, I have to say that we not only should look at what the price of oil is going to be doing in the next day and week, but we also have to be concerned about what the price of oil will be doing five, 10, 20 years from today.
WALLACE: In that regard, in 2008 you supported ramping up gas prices to coax Americans into more green energy cars and other uses, being more fuel efficient. You said this -- and let's put it on the screen -- "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Where it is now more than $10 a gallon.
In that sense, is the gas spike an opportunity for more green energy?
CHU: Well, what I said -- what I'm doing since I became secretary of Energy has been quite clear. What I have been doing is developing methods to take the pain out of high gas prices.
We have been very focused in the Department of Energy on that. And, in fact, the entire administration has been very focused on that.
So, the increasing of the mileage standards is one way of doing this. A very concerted effort in electric vehicles, where we think within reach, within maybe four or five years, we could be testing batteries that can allow us to go 200, 300 miles on a single charge in a mass-marketed car.
WALLACE: I understand all that, and that is certainly part of your effort. But is the spike in gas prices -- does that also help in making us more energy-efficient?
CHU: Well, the recent spike in gasoline prices following that huge spike in 2007, 2008 is a reminder to Americans that the price of gasoline over the long haul should be expected to go up just because of supply and demand issues. And so we see this in the buying habits of Americans as they make choices for the next car they buy.
WALLACE: Secretary Chu, we want to thank you so much for coming in today and answering our questions, sir.
CHU: All right. Thank you.
WALLACE: When we come back, from Libya to Japan to the debate over spending, we'll ask our Sunday regulars, is the president demonstrating leadership?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be in mercy.
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WALLACE: President Obama, on Saturday, during his trip to Brazil, explaining why it was time to act in Libya. And it's time now for our Sunday group: Brit Hume -- yes, Brit Hume -- Fox News senior political analyst; Mara Liasson of National Public Radio; Bill Kristol of "The Weekly Standard"; and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.
So I think it's fair to say that President Obama clearly changed course this week on Libya, going from serious doubts about military involvement, to pushing in the end for the use of force.
Brit, did he waffle or was he skillful in maneuvering a coalition in which the U.S. was not in the lead?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know. And I think it's very hard. I'm following this as closely as I can, and I think it's hard to tell.
It certainly wasn't really American leadership. I mean, clearly, other countries were calling for action and prepared to take action before the United States was.
I think that the atmosphere changed when the Arab League came out and called for the imposition of the no-fly zone. We haven't seen that much of that kind of thing from the Arab League before. It's happened. And then, of course, the U.N. had seemed prepared to act, at which point the president decided that he would like to participate. I think it's followership.
The question really is, will these military steps being taken by the U.S. and its allies be sufficient? And if not, will we look back on this and say, had the president been prepared to go sooner, with or without all these allies, that the tide of this conflict might have been turned, and if it comes out badly, and Qaddafi ends up prevailing in spite of this? That, I think, is the question we won't know the answer for a while.
Let's hope that these military measures are effective. Qaddafi is a certifiable coward. The mere fact of the bombs dropping anywhere near him may scare him off. Let's hope so.
WALLACE: Mara, you know, U.S. fighters are not leading the assault. We'll get to the mission in a moment, but the Arab League is on board, the U.S., as we say, is really following the British and the French, although we kind of shaped the battlefield in the first 24 hours.
Is that smart?
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, you know what? The White House thinks it is. And we are clearly -- as you said, we shaped the battlefield.
U.S. forces are in charge right now. The president just doesn't seem like he is leading the charge, and that is a really different model of presidential leadership than most people are used to.
WALLACE: But I think that's intentional at this point.
LIASSON: And I think it's absolutely intentional. The president has a vision of U.S. leadership in the world that acts in a multilateral way, not a unilateral way. He also has some good reasons in this particular region not to be out in front.
As a matter of fact, I think that the United States is taking more leadership than the president and the secretary of state are actually claiming to be. In other words, I think they are downplaying what the United States is really doing.
We are very unpopular in the Middle East. This is the third war that we are getting involved with, third shooting war. And I think that President Obama wants to be extremely careful so that America doesn't become the kind of target, the reason, the crusader for this. It's absolutely on purpose.
WALLACE: Bill, let's talk about the mission. You just heard earlier in the show Admiral Mullen say his orders are clear -- protect the civilians, don't overthrow Qaddafi, that's not the point.
Is that a mistake? Can we live with Qaddafi in any sort of power? He can create a lot of trouble.
BILL KRISTOL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Now, we cannot leave Qaddafi in power, and we won't leave Qaddafi in power. I think the immediate military mission Admiral Mullen correctly described, that the political goal is to remove Qaddafi and, ultimately, military assets will serve that political goal.
WALLACE: So how do we get from here to there?
KRISTOL: Well, first, we protect civilians and destroy his military capability. And then we help others remove him, indirectly, presumably, although I do not (ph) think the president will allow ultimately, perhaps, having to go in with peacekeeping and nation- stabilizing forces. And I wouldn't be surprised if we do that at the end of the day.
President Clinton ruled out ground forces in Kosovo. And then, finally, the threat of ground forces caused Milosevic to capitulate, and then we ended ups ending in peacekeeping forces and we eventually got rid of Milosevic.
I hope that happens sooner rather than later here. We need to get rid of Qaddafi, and I think we were slow in doing what we had to do. But we have to be effective.
Brit said but we'll see if it's sufficient. We can't, I think -- I hope the Obama administration is not taking the position of we hope this works out. We have U.S. forces committed. We can rhetorically pretend we are following, not leading. We need to succeed.
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's pretty clear the president has said, you know what? Qaddafi has lost legitimacy and most go. And he said that on Tuesday after that highly-controversial meeting at the White House in which, as Senator Graham said, it was the ladies of the Obama administration who said very clearly it as time to get involved in military action.
And I thought you heard in your interview with Admiral Mullen there were weapons (ph) on the part of the American military. That's always ascribed now to President Obama, but the fact is that Secretary of Defense Gates, a Republican and conservative, one was who said this is a difficult mission for the military, our third war, we don't want to get involved.
But I would add, in terms of responding to something Bill said, that what you have got here is a situation where the U.S. government has frozen Qaddafi's assets, where the U.S. government has embargoed purchasing Libyan role. This all serves to isolate Qaddafi and I think limit what he can do.
And this point to expedite the fact that Qaddafi is gone, I don't think there's any way Qaddafi stays in power. This is not about the U.S. going in there or bombing his home or anything like that. I think, leave that to the Arabs of the world, let them take the action, and take away the sting of blaming the U.S. for everything that goes wrong.
HUME: What Juan said -- I think Juan put his finger -- Mara suggested the same point -- on something that's important about this president's view of the world. To this president, the presence and the sight of American leadership in an operation of this kind or intervention of any kind is a stigma.
I think his predecessors and many people in this country believe that American leadership is essential and it is not delegitimizing in any way. And the worry I have is that if the president has this viewpoint about military and other interventions around the world, he is going to be in a position forever following. And the problem with that is it's not that it isn't a good idea to have allies, it's not even that it's not a good idea to have allies appear to be in the lead. The problem is that when it gets down to it -- and we are seeing it now over Libya -- American forces are the most capable in the world even as stressed as we are.
We are hearing today that America will soon turn over the command and control operation to other forces. Well, why did we have them in the first place? Because of our capabilities. They're so much greater.
WALLACE: But Mara --
HUME: So if we're going to be hesitant because we fear that American leadership is ugly in the world, it's going to be a problem for a long time to come.
WALLACE: But Mara, with the U.S. already involved in two wars, is it such a bad thing to have this attack announced by Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron, the British prime minister and the French president? I mean, is it so bad for us to be folded in the group?
LIASSON: I don't think so. Look, I can tell you, the White House thinks absolutely not. It's OK if other people are out there kind of waving the flag and we're actually doing the real substantive work of making this happen.
And don't forget, this is a complicated situation. It's not just Libya. There is Tunisia and Egypt, where the president, some people say too slowly, but he got on the side of the pro-democracy forces.
You've got Bahrain, where you have tear gas canisters lying all over the ground that are being used against these protesters, and they have "Made in the USA" on the side of them, where we are not willing to be as forceful in favor of the protesters. We see it as a sectarian struggle there that could end up helping Iran. So this is complicated.
And I think in the end, if Qaddafi is gone, the president will look like he exercised strong leadership.
WALLACE: I want to switch the pivot a little bit on this.
There has been a lot of criticism of the president this week, that he failed to show leadership whether it's on Libya or Japan or even the budget deal. And there has also been the optics of it. The president continuing with the trip to Brazil while U.S. forces go into war, playing golf while the Japan story broke. And then he also took time to go on TV to announce his NCAA brackets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you any kind of chance to see Jimmer Fredette from BYU.
OBAMA: Unbelievable. Best scorer obviously in the country. Great talent, but they've lost their inside presence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: As a bigger issue, has the president failed to show leadership on a lot of these issues, or at the least, has he been tone deaf as all of these problems stack up?
KRISTOL: Well, Butler defeated Pitt last night, blew up the president's brackets.
WALLACE: Not to mention mine.
KRISTOL: All of us. So that was good.
I wouldn't have advised him to spend quite as much time on his bracket picks and all this stuff over this past week. But at the end of the day, if the policy is right, the policy is right.
I'm not sure he knows (ph) anything about what he should have been doing about Japan. On Libya, I think he was too slow. I think we paid some price for that, and the Libyans killed, and Qaddafi strengthening himself.
But now he needs to make sure that Qaddafi goes. And if he does, people will forget that he was on TV talking about his bracket picks, and maybe they'll even forget that he was such a booster of Pitt's chances and underrated that fine little school in Indianapolis, Butler, knocked off the big giants.
WILLIAMS: I'll tell you where I think the conservative argument that he is dithering and passive has some traction, which is on the budget issue, and you saw the senators, a bipartisan group of senators here in Washington --
WALLACE: Sixty-four senators, 32 Republicans, 32 Democrats.
WILLIAMS: Correct. Send a letter saying, you know, it's time for you to exercise some leadership. You've had the deficit commission. You are the president of the United States. But the president looks to be --
KRISTOL: Say it again -- dithering. I love it when Juan's says that the president is dithering. That was good.
LIASSON: The letter didn't say the word "leadership," I don't think.
WALLACE: Go ahead.
LIASSON: I don't think the letter used the word "leadership."
WILLIAMS: NO, they want him --
WALLACE: But they say get involved.
LIASSON: They want him to be involved, yes.
WILLIAMS: Yes. They want him to take a stand. And what it looks like right now is he's like a poker player and he is just holding his chips and saying --
LIASSON: That's right. And that's exactly by design.
WALLACE: Then let me ask you, is that smart politics? Because that seems to be a very conscious policy on the part of the White House.
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, this is who is running the White House, is David Plouffe, saying, you know what? We're about getting reelected here.
I think he should be showing some leadership. I think the Libya/Japan thing, I think he's just done fine.
LIASSON: Well, you know what? On the budget, they say at the White House they have a plan, there's a timetable for this. I think the president will get involved, not just yet.
WALLACE: Not just yet. You've got to be patient, Juan. All good things to go (ph).
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. And we'll post the video before noon Eastern Time.
Up next, we hear from you.
WALLACE: Time now for some comments you posted to our blog, "Wallace Watch." And many of you wrote about the crisis in Japan.
Vern Williams sent this: "To not build current reactor designs because an 8.8 earthquake damaged several old reactors is equivalent to restricting all buildings to four floors because two were hit by airplanes on 9/11."
But P.J. from Seattle doubts the safety of nuclear plants. "Are we truly arrogant enough to think we can do what the Japanese could not? I don't think so."
Please keep your comments coming. You can reach us at FoxNewsSunday.com.
And that's it for today. Have a great week, and we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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