This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, November 5, 2003, that was edited for clarity.
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REP. CHARLES RANGEL, D-N.Y.: It’s with heavy heart that I come here this morning to demand Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Charlie says Rummy should hit the road. But is it all a little political hypocrisy?
No one has ever faulted New York’s most powerful Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel (search) for being subtle, becoming the latest and perhaps most noteworthy Democrat to blatantly say what others have only hinted: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should go.
Rangel’s created a media firestorm in both parties, and, a short time ago, I caught up with him and asked him why.
RANGEL: Actually, I was outraged at his performance on the Sunday talk shows where he just completely lacks the sensitivity to be concerned about our men and women that are placed in harm’s way, the whole idea of having a leaked report that says that there is no game plan, he doesn’t know whether we’re winning or losing, that he’s asking questions outside of the box.
He’s not supposed to be asking questions. He’s supposed to be giving answers to those questions. Our men and women that are dying every day are entitled to a game plan. I’m not even getting involved with how we got into this mess in the first place. But one thing is abundantly clear. We owe it to the troops to have some type of plan, and he’s the guy that’s responsible for this, then he ought to come up with a plan or resign.
CAVUTO: Isn’t it a little weird, though, Congressman, for a Democrat to be criticizing anyone on leaked memos? This memo that’s come out of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate that seems to purport a political way to take advantage of this Iraq war seems weird, doesn’t it?
RANGEL: What seems weird is that the whole idea of leaked memos is just now calmly accepted.
The president says have no idea whether we’ll ever find the person that leaked the background of a CIA agent. Now we find that secretary of defense -- he’s not even this much annoyed with the fact that a secret memo that he sent to four people was leaked.
And so I really don’t know what happened in the Senate, but it seems to me that, rather than just talking about leaks, we ought to issue press releases.
CAVUTO: But, by the same definition, Congressman, are you not incensed about this leaked memo in the Senate committee?
RANGEL: Let me make it clear I am not incensed about the memo that was leaked. I am incensed about the contents of the memo, which the secretary says was his thinking, and that is that he doesn’t know whether we’re winning or losing, he doesn’t know whether we’re creating more terrorists than we’re killing, and that he has no answer to the problems of how the hell we’re going to get out of Iraq.
CAVUTO: But, Congressman, with all due respect, I mean you’re an honorable man and all, but you seem to be selectively incensed. I mean there are a lot of people who are ticked off about that memo and about Democrats playing games with this war.
RANGEL: Let me make it clear, Neil, that whatever the Senate has done -- and I haven’t seen the memo -- they are not the secretary of Defense. I’m talking about life and death, I’m talking about our troops that are in Iraq, and I’m talking about the person that’s responsible for the safety as much as we can give. I’m talking about the secretary of Defense.
CAVUTO: But will you give him any credit, sir, for how he waged the war itself?
RANGEL: Well, I’m going to tell you one thing, Neil. This may shock you. I am not overly impressed that the great United States of America, with all of our economic and military power, knocked off the military that was running all around in Iraq. I don’t ever remember seeing one soldier fighting back.
But, you know, we got involved in the mess. We should have enough sense to go to the international community and get their help in making certain that we find the terrorists.
I mean what the secretary’s saying is he doesn’t know whether we’re winning or losing. That’s wrong! And if he doesn’t know, he ought to step aside so we can find somebody to tell us whether we’re winning or losing.
CAVUTO: Well, let me ask you something, Congressman. We had Bernie Kerik on who was running our security in Iraq for a while, the former New York police commissioner, who said it bordered on being un-American to constantly badger the White House on the strategy in Iraq when our soldiers are caught in the middle and that you’re doing more harm than good by talking like you are now. What do you make of that?
RANGEL: I think the most harmful thing that a combat soldier could read, having been one myself, is that the people back home have no clue to how long you’ve got to stay there, who the enemy is, and when can you possibly determine victory. It just seems to me that that is really what’s undermining the morale of the troops, not even knowing.
I’ll tell you something else that bothers me, too. If we have so many friends in this willing coalition, where are the Egyptians, where are the Jordanians, where are the Saudi Arabians? Why aren’t they helping us fight these terrorists?
And I’ll tell you something else that bothers me. Who are the people that’s being killed and dying there every day? Where do they come from? A recent report by Congressman Ike Shelton said that 46 percent of the killed in action and wounded in action come from poor rural areas. And guess where the rest of them come from? Minorities from the inner cities.
So it’s OK for people to say we can’t cut and run, bring them on, but I’m saying there’s a lack of sensitivity of those people that are dying every day in Iraq, and we’re saying we don’t have a game plan to win or to leave.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, finally, Congressman, I’m not suspicious of you and your motivations, but of Democrats in general who are looking at the economy and seeing it improve and saying, well, the hell with debating that issue because it looks like it’s a losing issue for us, let’s go after Iraq?
RANGEL: I am talking about life and death. I’m talking about 370 people. It’s unfortunate that I’m one of the members of Congress that have to attend these funerals of the people that’s dying. There are a lot of people in America that really have no idea what the sacrifice is all about.
We’ve got a bill coming on the floor that’s going to have corporate taxes cut $128 billion, an additional cut in taxes, and we’re talking about shared sacrifice. Neil, I’m saying that this great country of ours is at war, and, just because the flag is up, it doesn’t mean we have to salute it without asking questions.
And if you want to talk about the economy and things going better, why don’t you talk about the nine-million people that are out of work, ask them how good they feel about the economy improving.
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