Rumsfeld Memo Stirs Questions

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, October 23, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: We are still waiting for President Bush's speech from Australia. We'll bring it to you live when it happens just a few minutes from now.

First joining us here in our New York studio, the author of Shut Up and Sing, Laura Ingraham, and from Washington, Democratic strategist Victor Kamber.

Congratulations on your book. I now know what it's like to go through this harrowing book tour business.

LAURA INGRAHAM, SHUT UP AND SING AUTHOR: I know. We have such a difficult life, Alan. I don't know how we put up with it.

COLMES: Yes. Laura, good to have you with us.

Look, this Rumsfeld memo -- before we actually see the president speak live from Australia in a moment -- that got released today...


COLMES: ... that has Rumsfeld saying one thing internally to the Pentagon and something else, opposite to what the president's been saying, to us about how successful we've been in the war on terror. Did somebody release this to make Rumsfeld look bad? Why would this have gotten out?

INGRAHAM: I don't know. I don't know about that.

But clearly, Alan, you've been on your book tour already too long, because you're not remembering that what Rumsfeld likes to do in the Defense Department (search) is instigate discussion.

And what I read of the memo, it looks like a law school class discussion. He's pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing the envelope, doing the Socratic method, throwing out...

COLMES: Come on. That's spin, Laura. He's saying we're having mixed results with Al Qaeda, which is the opposite of what the president has said.

INGRAHAM: No, Alan. Until we win the war against terror, we haven't won the war against terror, period. And they said we've made progress. We have more progress to be made. And that is a fact. And he wants to push people to challenge his assumptions.

COLMES: Vic Kamber, Rummy says in the memo today, "We lack metrics to know if we're winning or losing the global war on terror." The president said just a few months ago we're winning the war on global terror. The exact opposite. What's going on here?

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. Well, if anybody knows Donald Rumsfeld (search), he doesn't like to be pushed, and he doesn't like to be questioned. That's the last thing that he wants. He doesn't push the envelope for discussion. He pushes people to have them follow him.

What's obviously happened is he's being truthful internally, and he's doing a P.R. image on the outside. I mean, it's the problem we've had with this administration all along on this war. They want the American public to support them. They don't have a solution to get out and solve the problem, and we're getting mixed signals.

COLMES: What he said in the memo is actually -- turns out to be true. We know there are problems in the war on terror. Why not acknowledge that to the American people?

INGRAHAM: But Paul Wolfowitz (search) has said -- he said weeks ago that, clearly, not everything was anticipated going into the reconstruction effort. That's a fact

COLMES: Right. Why shouldn't Rumsfeld tell us the total, honest truth?

INGRAHAM: Come on. What Rumsfeld is trying to do inside the Defense Department is to get people in his staff -- and Vic is wrong about this -- to challenge the whole presumptions on the table. That's what happened, and that's what he should be doing, frankly.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Laura, every...

INGRAHAM: He shouldn't be saying everything is great.

HANNITY: Laura, everything that they're saying, these Democrats, about what Rumsfeld is -- they've mischaracterized everything that he's said.

He's only repeating what the president has said from the very beginning, that this is going to be a long, hard road, and it's going to go on for many years and generations. And that's all Rumsfeld said and they're -- excuse me.

KAMBER: That's not what the president said.

HANNITY: Vic, your name is not Laura, is it? And what's happening here, this is just another in a long series of daily attacks, because they're on the wrong side of history. That's what this is all about.

INGRAHAM: They're trying to get Rumsfeld, and they've been trying to get Rumsfeld for a long time. But all I can say is that, you know, he has argued that we need to have a more compact, more strategic Defense Department.


INGRAHAM: He pushed for that reform, and it hasn't taken place. And he said when the Defense Department reform goes forward, it will be much easier for us to fight these types of battles.

HANNITY: Let me go to my good friend, Victor, here.

Victor, I had Zell Miller on, and he has a terrific new book out. He's going to be on our program very shortly. And he called them the naive nine.

Andrew Cuomo said in a rebuke of the Democratic Party that your party often appears bloodless, soulless, clueless, having fumbled your role in a post-9/11 world. And he praised President Bush for recognizing the challenge of 9/11 and rising to it.

There are members of your own party that are sick and tired of this daily assault by a bunch of appeasers in your party, led by the nine guys that want to be president.

KAMBER: Sean, I have read the reviews of Cuomo's book, one review. I haven't read the book yet. I interpreted something totally different from what you just said. He absolutely Democrats, as I understood it, for not stepping up and being Democrats, taking the president on. The president -- there's no question -- rose to the occasion and we all saluted the president on 9/11.

HANNITY: Lost in time, bloodless, soulless, clueless.

KAMBER: They are clueless about standing up. This man shouldn't have -- the president of the United States should not have had a free ride after 9/11 to get away with the economic policies.

HANNITY: You know what I think, too...

INGRAHAM: I think one other thing that's going on here is that the Democrats can't beat something with nothing. And what John Kerry and the rest are saying is, we need to reach out to France, we need to reach out to the United Nations (search). That's a bumper sticker. That's not a strategy. And unfortunately, the Democrats have bromides and cliches to fight the war on terror. And that's not enough.

KAMBER: Laura, I mean, obviously we're not winning this war right now. We're losing lives every day. This country is going bankrupt. There is no policy to solve the Iraqi...

INGRAHAM: The country is going bankrupt? What does that even mean?

COLMES: Let's get the Andrew Cuomo thing straightened out here, Laura. The fact is, Andrew Cuomo, as Victor pointed out, is saying what the Democrats needed to do was stand up to the president.

And I have a problem with the Democrats, too. Because any of them were against the war with Iraq, but they voted to give the president the power to go to war, even though that's not what they felt, for their own political purposes. And now some of them on the campaign trail are backing off. And see, you and I probably agree about that.

But what Andrew Cuomo is saying is they should have stood up for what we know they believed in ,not giving the president that power to wage war against Iraq.

INGRAHAM: Howard Dean (search) is calling it Bush light. And I guess that's what some of the Democrats were wagering on. That's not going to win them the election.

If they have a real dispute with this administration's foreign policy vision, lay it out on the table and stick with it. If your vision is we need to work with the U.N. to make America safer, try to sell that to the heartland. The heartland isn't buying that message. They might disagree with Bush, but they're not buying that message.

COLMES: Victor, let me ask you about Boykin and whether he should step down. The president's not asking him to step aside. John Warner (search), head of the Armed Services Committee, has said he ought to step aside until we investigate and find out what he said, how he said it, and he did say it in uniform.

So is this really a freedom of speech issue? An enlisted person could not have gotten away with making the statements that General Boykin made.

KAMBER: I don't often agree with Senator John Warner. On this one I agree. I don't know that he should give up his command. He should step aside for the moment. Let's investigate it. Let's get it resolved, and then if he is innocent, he resumes the command. If he's guilty, he deserves the punishment that comes with it.

COLMES: I hear a lot of people defending him on free speech grounds. You put on a uniform you don't have free speech to the extent you have it as a civilian. Would you not agree?

INGRAHAM: He has served as distinction as a military man. There is no doubt about that.

So when President Bush says this is not a war between Christianity and Islam, it's not. And unfortunately, he put himself in a very difficult position. I think probably 70 percent of America agrees with Lieutenant General Boykin. But unfortunately for him, I think his days are numbered.

COLMES: Well, then they don't agree with the president, because the president says this is not a holy war.

INGRAHAM: There's an over under on this in Vegas, and I don't think Boykin's going to last too long.

HANNITY: Thank you both.

Vic, thank you.

Thank you, Laura. Appreciate you being with us. Congratulations on the success of your book.

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