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Newt Gingrich on Policy and Presidential Politics; Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman on Mideast Turmoil
Written by Chris Wallace / Published March 27, 2011 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Newt Gingrich, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Joe Lieberman
The following is a rush transcript of the March 27, 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: I'm Chris Wallace, and this is "Fox News Sunday."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE (voice-over): The 2012 race for the White House. Will one of the top Republican contenders make a run for it? We talk policy and presidential politics with a GOP big-thinker, former Speaker of House Newt Gingrich. It's "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.
Then, turmoil in the Middle East, from Syria to Libya and beyond. What should be the role of the U.S. military? We'll get an update from the region and talk with two of the Senate's most influential voices on foreign policy, John McCain and Joe Lieberman.
And healthcare reform one year later. We'll ask our Sunday group what is the long-term prognosis for the president's signature legislation?
All right now on "Fox News Sunday."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington. Before we talk with our guests, we want to bring you the latest on events in the Middle East.
In Syria, government soldiers have been deployed around the cities that have seen the biggest protests. In Yemen, talks for a peaceful transfer of power failed Saturday. Now authorities worry about al Qaeda gaining strength in that country.
And in Libya, bombing by U.S. and allied planes has paved the way for rebel forces to retake the key oil town of Brega. For more on Libya, let's bring in Fox News Correspondent Steve Harrigan in Tripoli. Steve.
HARRIGAN: Chris, a rapid advance by the rebels. They are moving west quickly toward what they say is an eventual battle right here in Tripoli. They have taken the first key town of Ajdabiya, but they have gotten a lot of help from the allied airstrikes. Those strikes have targeted Qaddafi tanks, rocket launchers, as well as artillery that's really paved the way for them to take the town of Ajdabiya.
But also more importantly, these resupply trucks from the government going down the long desert road they have been hit hard. So Qaddafi forces without fuel, without ammunition. They have had little choice, but to retreat in the face of running out of supplies.
They retreated also past Brega. At times, the Qaddafi forces are actually getting out of their military vehicles, getting in civilian cars to flee without being targeted. The next big test is likely to be Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte. That's where his popular base is strong, as well as his military.
If the rebels can take that, all bets are off. There could be a real battle here in the capital. As far as the Qaddafi government goes, they are objecting, saying it's an outrage what is happening. They say the allied forces are taking sides in the civil war, helping the rebels openly, going far beyond their U.N. mandate. In order to boost morale in the field, the Qaddafi government has given promotions and pay raises to all officers in the fight. Chris, back to you.
WALLACE: Steve Harrigan reporting from Tripoli. Steve, thanks for that. Joining us now fresh off of a weekend visit to Iowa, possible presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. Welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good to be back here.
WALLACE: Let's start with Libya. You are taking some heat for what a lot of people are calling is a flip on what the U.S. should do in Libya.
Let's watch what you said a few weeks ago about U.S. intervention and what you said this week about what the U.S. should do. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: Exercise no-fly zone this evening, communicate to the Libyan military that Qaddafi was gone, and that the sooner they switch sides, the more likely they were to survive.
I would not have intervened. I think there are a lot of other ways to affect Qaddafi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Some are saying that whatever the president does or doesn't do, you're against.
GINGRICH: Well, you should have played an earlier clip when I was on Greta's show in late February and I said we should be for replacing Qaddafi without using the U.S. military.
Now, the president on March 3rd changed the rules of the game. The president came out publicly and said Qaddafi must go. And so I was citing there my original position, which is if you are not in the lake, don't jump in.
Once you're in the lake, swim like crazy. Our goal should -- now that the president said Qaddafi must go, our goal should be the defeat of the Qaddafi government and the replacement of Qaddafi as rapidly as possible, ideally by using western air power with Arab forces, including I think Egyptian and Moroccan and other advisers to help with the ground campaign. But I see no reason for American ground troops to go in.
But I think the president has positioned us where once the president of the United States says Qaddafi must go, we have an obligation as a country to get rid of him.
WALLACE: Here is where I'm a little confused because on Greta's show on March 7, which is the first clip, you said that we should start the no-fly zone immediately. All she asked you was what should we do about Libya?
You made no mention about what the president had said, you just said we should intervene -- let me finish and you can answer -- right away. Even if all you were doing was being a good soldier, why on earth would you say I wouldn't have intervened after the president committed U.S. service men and women this last week?
GINGRICH: Because there is an earlier Greta show in February, which is where this all started. In February, I said we should find ways to get rid of him using the kind of strategies that Reagan and Eisenhower used, which was to help freedom fighters without using American force.
That became impossible once the president publicly said Qaddafi must go. So she said, this is March 7, four days after the president said Qaddafi must go and my answer was the context of if Qaddafi must go, you establish the zone, but notice immediately after I said it, you take steps and you need to get rid of it.
I'm against a no-fly zone if it's 90 or 120-day or six-month experience of the truce. The goal should be to get rid of Qaddafi. That should be communicated publicly so Qaddafi's forces lose their morale.
It should be unequivocal. You can't find any unequivocal statement anywhere that Qaddafi must go. In fact, the alliance is saying, well, this is really humanitarian, it's really not directly, you know --
WALLACE: Well, OK. Let's -- enough of the past.
WALLACE: And the February Greta show versus the March Greta show. If you are President Gingrich and speaking to the American people as President Obama will be tomorrow night, first of all, would you say that I want the U.S. be in control rather than cede control of this operation, the entire operation, to NATO?
And secondly, you say Qaddafi must go. As president, what would you be willing to do?
GINGRICH: Well, I think I hope the president tomorrow night will be dramatically clearer than he has been up until now. I hope the president will say, first of all he is consulting the U.S. Congress, not just the Arab League and United Nations.
I hope he will say second that it's clear that the Qaddafi dictatorship has to leave, and that we are prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure the Qaddafi dictatorship leaves.
WALLACE: When you say "do whatever it takes," does that mean we should strike at Qaddafi?
GINGRICH: Yes. Once you engage air power, you should use the air power in its most effective way. You don't need to send in ground forces. We have been supporting and sustaining Egyptian, Moroccan, Jordanian and Iraqi forces for years. We should be able to find allies who are prepared to go on the ground. You don't need much ground force if you have air power. But you do need accuracy in the bombing campaign and you do need to be able to drive Qaddafi's forces to defeat.
WALLACE: But full-out, to defeat, topple Qaddafi and his regime?
GINGRICH: Yes. Otherwise, this campaign makes no sense at all. If Qaddafi is semi in charge -- this is a ruthless dictator with a powerful secret police. He is going to win a long-term stalemate.
So once you have the momentum -- the other point I'd make is American force has to be used as rapidly and as effectively as possible. You cannot sustain a six-month or a year or two-year campaign in Libya.
And I think the president should call on the Congress for a supplemental. The word from the White House yesterday that they were going to take it from the current Pentagon budget. I think it is impossible. I don't think the Pentagon can sustain a war within the current budget.
WALLACE: Meantime, there are protests and violent government crackdowns across the Middle East, in Syria, in Yemen and Bahrain. What should the U.S. do in those countries? And does it matter that Syria is an adversary and the other two are allies?
GINGRICH: Well, I think as a general principle, we want to be in favor of people being in charge of their own lives. That has a lot of complications in some parts of the Muslim world, because you do have al Qaeda and you do have extremists groups.
So it's not a simple thing, but I think in general, we should be in favor of moving towards freedom and moving towards self-government. But again, this is part of why I was very cautious back in February.
I don't think you want to have the U.S. in Syria and the U.S. in Bahrain and the U.S. in Yemen. I mean, this thing is going to unfold in all sorts of very complicated ways. And we don't have either the wisdom or the resources to get into every single place that has a problem.
WALLACE: Let's talk about 2012. You have been, forgive me, been playing Hamlet for several months now about whether or not you're going to run for the White House next year. Are you running for president?
GINGRICH: I think within a month, we'll have that taken care of and we'll be running. We're not yet running. We are looking at it carefully. We have a variety of reasons to do it in this methodical way. I think we're assembling a very good team. I have recently been in South Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, the places you need to go, as well as Texas and Florida and North Carolina, and the water is pretty warm. My hope is that within a month we'll be in swimming there very rapidly.
WALLACE: But you just said, "in a month we'll be running."
GINGRICH: I hope within a month, we'll make that decision. But we're still finishing up the exploratory phase and we have specific things we're getting done that we think we need to do before making a final decision.
WALLACE: Do you intend to run for president?
GINGRICH: It's my hope that all of this will work out and I'll be able to run.
WALLACE: Now, the fact is that you just hired Rick Perry, the governor of Texas' campaign manager. He's going to play a big role in a Gingrich campaign. Why wouldn't you run at this point?
GINGRICH: There are specific things we're getting done in terms of our private activity businesses and our private activity.
WALLACE: But you're basically saying it's the use --
WALLACE: It's logistics.
GINGRICH: Look, we sadly live in a world where lawyers define an amazing number of things. Federal Election Committee has very specific rules about different stages. And so, to some extent, we're over-lawyered because it's a requirement, objective of reality.
I was delighted that Rob Johnson agreed to join us as senior advisor in the exploratory process. He ran a great campaign for Rick Perry. He understands Texas politics very, very thoroughly, have earlier running the lieutenant governor's race. And I think he brings a level of talent to finishing up the exploratory process that's very formidable.
WALLACE: And you wouldn't have hired him if you weren't running for president.
GINGRICH: If we weren't -- look, this is a serious exploration. And I know (INAUDIBLE). This is a very serious exploration and we're bringing together very competent people. Katon Dawson in South Carolina is helping. Dave Carney in New Hampshire is helping.
WALLACE: The rap on Gingrich -- the look on your face -- is you're brilliant. You're brimming with ideas. But you lack discipline. And that discipline -- you've heard this. And discipline is vital in a presidential campaign.
I want to talk about your personal life. I hate doing it. But you know it's going to be an issue in the campaign.
WALLACE: So, I'm going to go there. You were asked recently about the fact that you cheated on your first and your second wives. And here's how you responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: There is no question that at times in my life partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard, and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Speaker, you've had more than a decade to come up with an answer. And in all honesty, there were a lot of people who thought that answer was kind of lame. I know it's heart-felt.
But let me explain why. You love your country and you're working hard. And so you strayed. That wouldn't work with my wife.
GINGRICH: No, it didn't work in my life. I went on to say that I had to seek God's forgiveness and I had to seek reconciliation and I had to believe that being genuinely repentant mattered. As you know, first, I have a great marriage.
WALLACE: I did know that.
GINGRICH: Two wonderful daughters, two great wonderful grandchildren. (INAUDIBLE) measured at 67. Have I matured? Am I a person that they can trust and rely on as a leader? And discipline is part of it. And I think that's a legitimate question.
I expect the American people in the end will be remarkably fair. They'll render judgment and they'll decide whether or not Newt Gingrich is somebody that they think can solve the country's problems and be the kind of leader they want for this country.
WALLACE: There's something else that bothers people. You were leading the charge to push Bill Clinton from office for lying about an affair and yes, he lied in a court proceeding, in a deposition, where he was sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, but nothing but the truth. At the same time, you were leading that charge, you were having an affair. Isn't that hypocrisy?
GINGRICH: No. Look, obviously, it's complex and, obviously, I wasn't doing things to be proud of. On the other hand, what I said, very clearly -- I knew this in part going through a divorce -- I had been in depositions. I had been in situations where you had to swear to tell the truth.
I understood that in a federal court, in a case in front of a federal judge, to commit a felony, which is what he did, perjury was a felony. The question I raise was very simple: should a president of the United States be above the law? I don't think the president of the United States can be above the law.
And it's not about personal behavior. It's about whether -- it's not about what he did in the Oval Office. You can condemn that. You can say it's totally inappropriate.
But it was about a much deeper and more profound thing, which is: does the president of the United States have to obey law? Or as long as he's popular or she is popular, can they flout the law and become a third world country where the leader gets to get away with anything they want to, but you and I obey the law?
I thought the notion -- I mean, I don't know what you would have had me do because I think the notion that the president of the United States committing perjury -- remember, he is a lawyer. This is not some accidental thing. And I thought the outcome was about right. The House indicted - in effect indicted him. That's what impeachment is.
WALLACE: But I'm just going to ask you man-to-man. Did you ever think to yourself "I'm living in a really glass house"?
WALLACE: Maybe I shouldn't be throwing stones?
GINGRICH: No. I thought to myself if I cannot do what I have to do as a public leader, I would have resigned.
Now, look, I think you have to look at whether or not people have to be perfect in order to be leaders. I don't think I'm perfect. I admitted I had problems. I admitted that I sought forgiveness.
But I also think over time, if you look at my total record, I'm a pretty effective leader. I fight for this country and I fight for the changes we need with tenacity and I take a fairly tough beating, including from you and others, in order to stand in the arena and stand up for what I believe is really important.
And I think this country is worth that kind of a fight. And we'll find out six months or a year from now whether people are forgiving and whether we put in context events that are 15 and 10 years old. We'll see.
WALLACE: Thank you for being so forthright in answering that.
I want to ask you one more thing. We only got about a minute left. You say that congressional Republicans should take a hard line on government spending and all funding for Obamacare this year. Would you let the government shut down? Would you refuse to increase the debt limit in order to push those two objectives?
GINGRICH: I would try to create a circumstance where the president had a choice. And the president either had to agree to some very substantial changes, or the president would have to bear a fair amount of responsibility. I think people in the city must understand the 1995 shutdown. Republicans came out of that and for the first time since 1928 were re-elected because we stood for something. We stood for balancing the budget, reforming welfare and cutting taxes. All I would say to Republicans today is: you better figure out what you're prepared to do so people believe you're serious, or you're going to end up caving to whatever Obama wants. And I think that would be a disaster.
WALLACE: And a government shutdown and refusing the debt limit -- you'd be willing to go to both?
GINGRICH: If the choice is cave in to Obama and allow Obama to dictate the terms, or to go to the country and say, this is how serious this is, they are far better off to go to the country and draw a sharp line because if they cave to Obama, they lose all their credibility to the country.
WALLACE: Speaker Gingrich, I want to thank you so much for coming in --
GINGRICH: Thank you.
WALLACE: -- and being so straightforward with us. Thank you, sir.
GINGRICH: Thank you.
WALLACE: Of course, we wanted to get the White House view on Libya. However, they chose to offer Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary Gates to ABC, CBS, and NBC, but not to Fox. Despite the fact that we routinely have more viewers than two of the Sunday shows, the Obama team felt no need to explain to millions of you who watch this program and Fox News why they have sent U.S. servicemen and women into combat. We thought you'd like to know.
But up next, we'll hear from Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman on Libya, Syria, and the growing unrest for the Middle East.
WALLACE: Joining us now are two of the Senate's leading authorities on foreign and defense policy: Senator John McCain, and in West Palm Beach, Senator Joe Lieberman.
Let's start with what Secretary Gates said on one of the other Sunday shows, Senator McCain. He says that he doesn't think that Libya is a vital interest for the United States, but that we have a vital interest in that part of the world. Would you be sending American servicemen and women into harm's way for something that was not a vital interest to the country?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: No, but, obviously, we could quibble over what the definition of "vital interests" are. We said after Srebrenica that we'd never, again after Rwanda, never again, after the Holocaust never again.
The fact is that Qaddafi's forces were on the outskirts of Benghazi. He said himself he would go house-to-house and kill and murder people. Thank God, at the 11th hour, with the no-fly zone, the quote, "no-fly zone," we prevented that from happening.
Now, clearly, the momentum has shifted dramatically and the initiative is in the hands of those who are -- the second aspect of it, of course, is that if you had allowed Qaddafi to do that, as soon as the signal to the other leaders in the Middle East, dictators and not, it's OK to massacre your own people to stay in power.
And, finally, well, this is a moment of historic proportions. And this will give us a golden opportunity to help with democracy and freedom throughout the Arab world.
WALLACE: So, Senator Lieberman, what should President Obama tell the American people tomorrow night?
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: Well, I think president Obama should begin in exactly the terms that John McCain just described -- explain why we are there, why it's vitally important that the United States is part of an international coalition of Libya.
There are two reasons. One is that we are there to avert the humanitarian disaster. I mean, the fact is that if the coalition forces had not gone into Libya now about a week ago, we'd be on the Sunday show be mourning -- really crying over a humanitarian disaster in Benghazi, a slaughter of thousands of people. We would be asking, why didn't Obama do something? Why did the world stand by?
Instead, today, we averted that. Longer term, what is happening now in the Middle East, Chris, is remarkable. We have for too long defined the choices in the Arab world as between secular dictators and radical Islamist dictators.
Now, the people of the Arab world had said, no, we want another choice. We want democracy. We want freedom and economic opportunity.
These revolutions, in Tunisia and Egypt, and the one that started peacefully in Libya, are the most profound repudiation of al Qaeda and Iran, who represent the most serious threats of American security in the world today. And, therefore, we're --
LIEBERMAN: -- in going to Libya, we are saying we are with the "Arab Spring." We want to keep it going and not let the brutal dictators respond --
WALLACE: Let's get to some of the nuts and -- let's get to some of the nuts and bolts questions, however.
Senator McCain, NATO has taken command of all aspects of the Libyan operation, both the no-fly zone and also the civilian protection. Given the fact that the U.S. is already tied down in two wars in Muslim countries, in Iraq and Afghanistan, is President Obama right or wrong to turn over so much of the control of this operation to NATO, to Arab countries and European countries?
MCCAIN: As long as the United States does what it always does and we actually lean. The assets -- many of the assets that are there are uniquely held by the United States of America.
But I just repeat again what Joe is saying. This really should be the focus of our attention right now. Some have compared it to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Some have compared it to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
This is historic times of enormous opportunity and proportions. And we should be doing whatever we can to not have brutal dictators remain in power without the commitment of U.S. ground troops in Libya or anyplace else.
WALLACE: Senator Lieberman, let me ask you about one of the other nuts and bolts question -- and that is the confusion over the mission. The president says Qaddafi must go, but the U.N. resolution, as you know, only calls for protecting civilians.
So, what should the U.S. do? How do we back up our rhetoric? Do we get Qaddafi out? Do we arm the rebels? Do U.S. forces -- as Speaker Gingrich just suggested -- at least from the air, target Qaddafi and the regime?
LIEBERMAN: Well, it seems to me that the only acceptable way for this to end in Libya is for Qaddafi to go. And in that sense, President Obama was absolutely right.
You know, though the rhetoric surrounding this action at Libya, the diplomatic rhetoric has been confusing at times. I think what's not been confusing is what the coalition forces have been doing over the air of Libya. And that is we're taking aggressive action, not only to keep their planes on the ground but to stop their forces from attacking.
We have taken a side in Libya. And it's the right side. We ought to be open about it. We are taking a side of the freedom fighters in Libya against one of the most totalitarian regimes that has ever existed in the world, which is Qaddafi's. And in the end of this, Qaddafi has to go, one way or the other.
WALLACE: Well, do you think because -- supposedly we haven't taken a side. I understand that it's just protecting civilians. But, you know, now, apparently the rebels have taken Brega, they are headed on the way to Sirte, on the way to Tripoli. How much should the U.S. do to advance the rebel move on to the capital of Tripoli?
MCCAIN: If three week ago, we would have imposed a no-fly zone, this thing would have been over then. It's very clear that air power is a decisive factor in battlefields of this nature. We found that out in World War II.
So, we should continue to make sure that the civilians are not harmed or massacred or killed by Qaddafi forces. The day the French aircraft flew over, the Libyans stopped flying.
This policy has been characterized by confusion, indecision and delay. And it's no wonder -- the nature of your question -- that Americans are confused to do exactly what our policy is because on one hand, it's humanitarian. On the other hand, they say Qaddafi must go.
The president, I hope, will clarify that in his speech on Monday night.
WALLACE: And would you like him to commit the U.S. to at some role in toppling Qaddafi?
MCCAIN: I would like to say -- hear him say Qaddafi should be either with Hugo Chavez, with Hitler and Stalin or the International Criminal Court, and we should take actions to make sure that happens over time.
WALLACE: All right. Both of you have talked about what some people are calling the "Arab Spring" -- this extraordinary spread of people power in a lot of repressive regimes. The complication, of course, are: what follows it? Some of the dictators are on our side, some of them aren't.
Let's talk first of all, Senator Lieberman, about the astonishing situation in Syria.
WALLACE: A violent crackdown there. But given the fact that President Assad is no friend of the U.S., he is Iran's biggest ally in the Middle East, what should we do about Syria?
LIEBERMAN: Well, let me say, first, that it's very important for everybody to understand that what we're doing with the world community in Libya is what the Arab world wants to us do. What the Arab street wants to us do. So, finally, we are on the side of the mass of people yearning to be free within the Arab world.
Secondly, I think the world has made a clear statement in Libya heard by both the Arab people and the Arab dictators elsewhere in the region. And I say with regard to Syria, that Assad, the dictator there, out to and probably is getting a clear message. If he turns his weapons on his people and begins to slaughter them, as Qaddafi did, he's going to run the risk of having the world community come in and impose a no-fly zone and protect civilian population, just as we're doing in Libya.
And, therefore, Assad has one choice -- and that is to negotiate with the freedom fighters in Syria to create an entirely different government there --
WALLACE: Let me just say interrupt briefly, Senator Lieberman, we are running out of time. But are you suggesting that you would support some kind of international coalition to go in and do in Syria what we're doing now in Libya?
LIEBERMAN: If Assad does what Qaddafi was doing, which is to threaten and go house-to-house and kill anybody who's not on his side. There's a precedent now that the world community has set in Libya. And it's the right one.
We're not going to stand by and allow this Assad to slaughter his people like his father did years ago.
LIEBERMAN: And in doing so, we're being consistent with our American values, and we're also on the side of the Arab people, who want a better chance for a decent life.
WALLACE: Let me switch to Yemen, though, Senator McCain, which is a little bit more complicated, because President Saleh has been helpful in the U.S. war on terror. And if he steps down, Al Qaeda, in Yemen, may take not control of the country, but is going to have a kind of free vacuum that they can fill. And there are new reports that al Qaeda in Yemen is planning terrorist strikes.
What do we do about Saleh and Yemen?
MCCAIN: First of all, I'm sure -- let's give some moral support to those people who are risking their live against this brutal regime. Every one of these countries is different. I'm very optimist that over time, Egypt and Tunisia can make transition to democracy.
Yemen is entirely different. This is going to be a huge problem because it is basically a tribal society. As you know, cobble together the country by the British, and so it's going to be very difficult in some of these countries.
And frankly, I don't know what we do about -- I have to be honest. I don't know what we do exactly about Yemen, except that, obviously, the president has to step down, as he has agreed to do so.
It's going to be very complicated and complex in that some of these countries that have never known a modicum of democracy, or even national unity. Egypt is the key. Do not take our attention off Egypt, the center of the Arab world.
WALLACE: Finally, Senator McCain, on a different note, HBO is making a movie about the 2008 campaign. And I'm sure you're happy to relive.
If you look at the screen, you will see that they have cast Ed Harris to play you. I don't know who they're going to get to play Lieberman. Maybe Brad Pitt.
What do you think, Senator?
LIEBERMAN: I was hoping. Thank you, Chris. Yes.
WALLACE: What do you think of Ed Harris?
MCCAIN: Oh, I think he's a very fine actor and a great actor. I obviously haven't read the book, so I don't think I'll be watching the film.
WALLACE: You know how it turns out anyway, right?
MCCAIN: I'm made very aware about its depiction of me, and it is what it is.
WALLACE: Senator McCain, Senator Lieberman, we want to thank you both for joining us today. Always good to talking with you, gentlemen.
MCCAIN: Thanks for having us on.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Up next, our Sunday regulars on how the president is handling Libya and what he should say in his speech to the nation tomorrow night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is how the international community should work -- more nations, not just the United States, bearing the responsibility and cost of upholding peace and security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: This command and control business is complicated, and we haven't done something like this, kind of on the fly before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: The president and Defense Secretary Gates, with differing views of how smoothly the coalition effort in Libya is going.
And it's time now for our Sunday group: Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst; Nina Easton of Fortune magazine; Bill Kristol, from The Weekly Standard; and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.
Well, it certainly hasn't been smooth. But as we sit here at week's end, NATO has taken command not only of the no-fly zone, but also of the civilian protection mission. Qaddafi forces have been pushed back from Benghazi and then Ajdabiya. And now Brega.
Brit, messy or not, is President Obama's policy working out?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: So far, so good, I'd say. And I think what the president may be noticing here is, for all that he is now saying about how we're not really front and center in this mission, and it's really a multinational operation, and so forth, this shows the inevitability of American leadership in the world.
The ability that was shown to quickly impose a no-fly zone and begin to amount the air attacks that have turned back Qaddafi's forces on the ground was carried out essentially by American warplanes with help from some other countries. Now, of course, the matter goes to NATO control.
The supreme allied commander in NATO is, of course, an American. NATO, itself, its military prowess, is heavily American. This is a sign of the old adage that not much good can really happen in the world without American leadership. And the president, despite his attempts to disguise it, is exercising American leadership.
WALLACE: Nina, it seems to me the biggest issue now is, what do we do about Qaddafi? Can we afford to allow him to stay in power? Do we either explicitly target him or do we, under the fig leaf -- and there seem to be a bunch of fig leaves here of protecting civilians -- push the rebel push west towards Sirte and then eventually to Tripoli?
NINA EASTON, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: I think the answer, you continue doing what it takes to say what President Obama said had to be done a few weeks ago, which is that Qaddafi has to go.
WALLACE: But the NATO coalition didn't say that.
EASTON: And, you know, there is wiggle room within that U.N. resolution to arm the rebels and to provide enough oomph for them to go after Qaddafi. And, you know, the key behind this, by the way, is that this is a multinational -- a multilateral effort. And he has been criticized for that, the president.
But I think the explosion in Syria and Bahrain shows that this should be multilateral. But being multilateral doesn't mean you have to be weak and defensive and give a signal that you are not that interested in victory.
And when you read the president's Saturday address, that's what it is. It's apologetic, it's defensive. I'm afraid that that's what we're going to hear again on Monday.
George H. W. Bush built a multilateral coalition in the Persian Gulf War. You can be strong, determined, clear about the need for victory, and be multilateral. And I think that's what this president needs to recognize.
WALLACE: Well, you bring me to the next subject, Bill and Juan -- and let me start with you, Bill -- what should the president tell the people tomorrow night? What does he need to say?
BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: He should listen to Nina. So often good advice.
WALLACE: He's probably sitting in the White House right now taking notes.
KRISTOL: He should be. He should be strong, unapologetic. I think, above all, he has had several failures, though I think the policy is working, and is working -- may end up working more dramatically and more quickly than people expect in terms of actually rolling up Qaddafi's forces and getting rid of him. But I think the one thing the president hasn't done as much of as he could have is put this in a broader context.
Why are we in Libya? I mean, if this were happening in 1993, and it was just a one-off popular insurrection against a brutal dictator, people like me might have intervened even then, might have argued for intervention even then, but I don't expect a Democratic administration would have intervened. And we didn't in Rwanda and we didn't in other places, obviously.
This is in the middle of the Arab Spring. This is a huge moment in the region, obviously what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt, what's happening in Syria. It would be crazy to step back and let Qaddafi reverse not just the hopeful momentum in his own country, but throughout the region.
And I think the president needs to put this in the broader context of the Arab Spring and explain why Libya is important and why success in Libya is important. I think that's the -- the discussion has been a little Libya-focused to the exclusion of the regional imperatives here. That's why it's so important that we prevail. And I think the president will make that move on Monday night and put this in a broader context.
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that, you know, lots of people seem to me to ignore the clear fact that it was a brutal regime, it was brutalizing its own people. It had the threat to destabilize the region. And what is unique about this is you had not the general international community come together as an umbrella, but, in specific, you had Arab countries, the Arab League, which only goes around trumpeting Arab unity, saying oh, no, this is a bad guy and he is hurting our people, he is hurting Arabs.
And you hear people in Libya asking for help at this moment. That is a distinction. I think that made it imperative for the U.S. to respond for just the reasons you laid out.
WALLACE: But what should the president say tomorrow night?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think tomorrow night, the big problem for me is the question of, well, what happens if Qaddafi stays? Is the United States willing to live with this?
The president has said Qaddafi has to go, but he has not outlined steps the United States is willing to take to oust Qaddafi. That's the big problem. And you've got to be clear about this.
HUME: That's not precisely, true, Juan, because he has spoken of what he calls the range of other measures that are in place to oust Qaddafi. These are non-military matters. I don't know how much effect they're going to have.
WILLIAMS: Well, freezing his assets, stuff like that.
HUME: Yes. Freezing his assets, the trade embargo, and the rest of it. And that obviously would put some pressure on Qaddafi.
I think one thing that is important here is what we have seen so far in these uprisings in the Middle East is the more benevolent of these autocrats, Mubarak, the leader in Tunisia, and so forth, have been easiest to topple because they were unwilling to brutalize their own people in the way that, clearly, Qaddafi has shown himself willing to do. And that sort of has become the logic of this whole Arab Spring, which is this is going to be tough on the more moderate autocrats and less so on the brutes. This Libya situation provides a potential example of the idea that it might be just as tough on the brutes because the world, led by the United States, is ready to step in.
WALLACE: Well, I want to talk about one of the brutes with you, Bill, and that is Syria. Because I must say, I am shocked to see what's going on in Syria, a very repressive regime.
We all remember what this president's father, Hafez Assad, did when there were protests in Hama back in the '80s. He slaughtered 10,000 people.
Are you surprised that the unrest in Syria has gotten to where it is? Is that government and that regime in real trouble? And what should the U.S. stance be there?
KRISTOL: I think the U.S. stance should be to side, obviously, with the demonstrators --
WALLACE: But rhetorically, or more than that?
KRISTOL: No, more than that.
WALLACE: I mean, you heard Hoe Lieberman talk about a no-fly zone.
KRISTOL: Well, we should certainly put international pressure on Syria, economic sorts, diplomatic sort. We might recall our ambassador, we might try to organize other countries to pressure Syria, including Arab countries. I think it is time for that regime to go, too.
Just one word on Libya. I think three weeks ago, Qaddafi got -- we let him off the hook. He got himself off the ropes. It looked like he was about to fall.
Now the momentum looks quite extraordinary. The rebel forces are moving west very, very quickly. Towns are falling every few hours. I think it's very important to take advantage of this opportunity to help the opposition as much as possible, including with arms. Let's get rid of them soon. And then, I think, we turn our attention to other countries and we obviously help the Libyans, the Tunisians, the Egyptians make the transition. And we keep the pressure on in other countries.
WILLIAMS: But, Bill, I was going to say that the thing is, who is the opposition? I don't think that you can say the opposition are good guys or organized or not involved with Al Qaeda, and terrorism in some cases. So we have to be careful about saying we're going to support or recognize this provisional government.
I think the French have already done that. But I think the U.S. is right to be very careful. We want to support the ouster of Qaddafi. We do not want to put people in place who will later turn out to be anti-American.
WALLACE: I'll give you the last word and then we've got to move on. Go ahead.
KRISTOL: The more involved we are, the more ability we have to shape which parts of that opposition prevail.
WALLACE: All right.
We have to take a break here. But when we come back, Obamacare celebrates its first birthday. But is it already on life support?
Back in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, R-VA.: One year after the federal health care bill was rammed through Congress in a partisan vote, we now see it has more to do with expanding control by the federal government than actually reforming our health care system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, leading the charge against President Obama's health care reform plan as it marks its first birthday.
And we're back now with the panel.
So, Nina, one year in, how is health care reform working?
EASTON: Well, things haven't changed much in 12 months. We have a -- despite by, the way, ramped-up efforts by the White House which is going to ramp up again to explain the benefits of health care reform to the nation, we have a divided country.
Half the country hates it, thinks it's government overreach, possibly socialistic. We have got another half, though, which supports it or thinks it's not liberal enough. So none of that has moved. We do find out, however, it's going to cost more. The Congressional Budget Office this week said it's going to be $1.4 trillion, is now the price tag. And we do know --
WALLACE: Basically about $100 billion more because of the cost of the health care subsidies.
EASTON: Exactly. And we know that it's probably -- its fate is going to be determined by the courts. Virginia is asking the Supreme Court to take a look at the individual mandate and see if that's constitutional.
WALLACE: But let's break it down before we get to the politics of the Constitution and how it actually works.
What do you make of the fact that, already, the CBO says it's going to be $100 billion more? I mean, do we really have any idea how much this is going to cost and whether it's going to increase or lower the deficit?
KRISTOL: It's going to cost more than the Obama administration said it was going to cost, and it's going to cost more than the current CBO projection, which has -- the CBO is required to take into account certain unrealistic expectations that are currently in law. So its' going to cost more, if it were going to go into effect, which it's not going to, because Republicans are likely to win the presidency in 2012 and repeal it.
I honestly believe that. I believe Obamacare will -- and let me just say, I think March 21, 2010, will be the high watermark, historically, of big government liberalism and of the entitlement state. This is sort of the overreach that shows how insane the modern entitlement state has become. And they expected their support to build, because in previous entitlements, when they got passed, people liked them once they were passed.
That has not happened in this case. The polls haven't changed. They're not changing. And I think it's going to be a burden for the president and his re-election effort. And as I said, I think this will be repealed.
WALLACE: Juan, let's talk about another aspect of this. And there's a word that's been used, and we haven't focused on it a lot. The Obama administration has already granted more than 1,000 waivers to a variety of companies to say -- who say it would be a hardship to hand all the health care coverage that's imposed in 2011.
How big of a deal is that?
WILLIAMS: It's not a big deal. It's pretty much for low-income workers, and it's until the public exchanges get set up in 2014.
But the critics use it as evidence that this thing is a mishmash, we don't know exactly what is going on, look at all the waivers that are being granted as evidence that it's not working. Well, in fact, it is an incomplete package. So many of the elements don't take effect until 2012 through 2014. But the fact is, I just so thoroughly disagree with my colleagues here this morning. I think so much has changed. You look at the polls, the polls now indicate -- I think it was Gallup now has it 46-40, the American people support this health care reform effort.
WALLACE: Let me interrupt for just one second. We're going to put up a poll, a Wall Street Journal poll which does show a change. Let's put it up on the screen.
You'll see that it shows that now there is a split, is what Nina was saying. You're saying there's another one that shows it. But 39 percent think it's a good idea, 39 percent think it's a bad idea.
A year ago, the opponents led by 12 points. So even if there's not tremendous support --
WILLIAMS: Right. But let me finish this point. I just think that this is important to note.
Last year, we were all about this is death panel, this is socialism, this is government, and this is going to end the world. And what you see is that the American people, as we have closed the doughnut hole, we have said, you know what? Your kids can stay on your insurance until they're 26. Until we say, you know what, insurance companies can't eliminate people with pre-existing conditions, the American people are coming to say, you know what? This is a good idea.
And Republicans had nothing. They only want to repeal it. They had no ideas about how to improve the status quo and help families and corporations that have been under financial siege because of the high cost of health care in this country.
WALLACE: Brit, can you make a case for nothing?
HUME: Well, what I would say about this is, think how different this would be now had the president and the Democrats in Congress been willing to incorporate some Republican ideas, a serious attempt at tort reform, for example. He would have gotten, I think, not only much of what he, the president, wanted, the Republicans would have gotten some of what they wanted. A bunch of them would have voted for it. This notion that it's a partisan bill would be gone, and the whole picture would look different right now from the way it does.
I actually in my life have never seen anything like this. I've never seen a bill with this much consequence rammed through by one party alone.
And it raised questions about the legitimacy of the measure from the start. And those questions persist today. And that is why even with the polls that you and Juan cited -- and there are others that show something quite different -- the thing remains up in the air, and I think Bill is right in thinking it will be a burden to this president, because the people --
WILLIAMS: Well, why do you think that?
HUME: Because the people who dislike this feel very intensely about it. Very intensely.
HUME: And their intensity is what drives people to vote. And polls of likely voters, as opposed to all adults and so on, are the ones that are the most telling here. And I think this measure, with all that it does and the way in which it was passed, will be and will continue to be a burden.
WILLIAMS: These are people who weren't going to vote for Obama anyway. Let me just say this very clearly.
WALLACE: How do you know that? Wait a minute. How do you know that?
Well, let me ask the question. Independents voted for Obama over McCain by about 10 points. Independents voted for Republicans over Democrats by about 19 points. There was a big shift.
These weren't Obama haters, these weren't Tea Partiers. These Independents. It wasn't part of it, the whole narrative that Obama and the Democrats had overreached.
WILLIAMS: True. And so let's look at the numbers right now, a year out.
WALLACE: And isn't health care part of that narrative?
WILLIAMS: It might be, but let's look at the numbers now.
President Obama's ratings, in the latest Fox News Dynamic Opinion poll, is about 50 percent. Fifty percent.
Health care is not a drag on President Obama at this moment, not going forward towards 2012. It was supposed to be the issue that was going to be used by the Republicans to beat him around the head going into this campaign. It is not an issue.
EASTON: Obama needs Independents to win in 2012.
WILLIAMS: And he'll get them.
EASTON: He won't get -- there are a lot of Independents that are very concerned about the health care reform and are opposed to it.
WILLIAMS: They sure aren't showing up in the polls right now.
KRISTOL: Let's even take the 39-39 poll, which is better than most are for Obamacare. Is that a good number for your signature, landmark initiative which gives benefit to people? That was their whole talking point. They're going to burden the future generations -- you're going to love this. Your 26-year-old can stay on your insurance, you're not going to bumped off for pre-existing conditions. They offer all these classic welfare state benefits to people trying to bribe them to support this bad legislation, and it's 39-39. That is not good. That is not good for the president.
WILLIAMS: Remember, Bill, 39-39 includes people who think he didn't go far enough. He didn't go for the public option.
Brit said though he should have done more. He did compromise. The Republicans beat him up. You lied -- death panels, socialists, communists.
WALLACE: Would you agree at least with Brit's point that the opposition to health care reform is more fervent than the support?
WILLIAMS: Yes, I think people who are angry about it, who are threatened -- the seniors who worry about their Medicare benefits being cut have been outspoken. Those are the people who acted out at the town hall meetings.
But you say they're going to drive them to the polls and drive --
WALLACE: Acted out? Some would say they exercised their First Amendment Rights.
WILLIAMS: I would agree with that. They said what they wanted to say, but they were angry. That's the signature of that moment.
WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next week.
And 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 promise we'll post the video before noon Eastern Time.
Up next, we hear from you and a special program note.
WALLACE: Time now for some comments you posted to our blog, "Wallace Watch." And most of you wrote about the U.S. military action in Libya.
Bruce Slasienski wrote, "If the administration was so willing to let others take the lead in Libya, why all the discussion about goals and outcomes? That would seem to have already been left to others. This should have been called 'Operation Baby Huey.'"
And Tim Krebs is thinking about the final outcome. "We will have to wait until the new Libya is formed to find out what's in it. Will it be Jeffersonian democracy, Marxist democracy, or a Jihad democracy?"
Please keep your comments coming to FoxNewsSunday.com. Next Sunday, we'll talk with Congressman Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, as he unveils a dramatic new spending plan with major cuts for 2012.
But that's it for today. Have a great week. And we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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