This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", March 30, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Joining us former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger. Dr. Kissinger, thanks so much for being with us tonight.
You're the perfect person to comment on this. The issue of national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, whether she should go under oath in front of the 9/11 commission. There has been some back and forth about this. What should she do?
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: National security advisers generally don't testify. In fact, I don't know of cases where they have testified because of the confidentiality of their relationship with the president. I think in this case, she should go.
It's a very special case. It's a very special commission. It isn't really strictly speaking a Congressional committee. I think she could settle the Clarke dispute. She has all the facts.
COLMES: Why do you think they're balking at that, though? Is this a mistake?
KISSINGER: They don't want to break the principle of the separation of powers and open the flood gates to having all presidential assistants being asked to testify, because the president has access to very few people that he can really let his hair down to.
COLMES: According to Richard Ben-Veniste, who testified last week, said that Zbigniew Brzezinski did it, Sandy Berger did it, Lloyd Cutler did it, so this wouldn't be unprecedented?
KISSINGER: Well, I know in the administration in which I served it was not done. There were complicated methods worked out. I went to Senator Pratt's house for dinner with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but I didn't testify in open session before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
COLMES: Is she making a mistake by going on the media and talking to journalists, so she's being knocked for that, but at the same time, saying she's wouldn't - or the administration...
KISSINGER: It's a separation of powers problem. I think she should do it in this case because she will conclusively, I think the knowledge that Clarke has -- but at any rate, she'll conclusively settle what happened, who said what and when.
COLMES: Bill Frist (search) and the Republicans want to declassify Clarke's testimony, things that he had said when he was national security adviser or antiterrorism counselor, and he said this past weekend, Clarke said, that's fine but then let's declassify emails between Condoleezza Rice and myself, and let's declassify a whole bunch of things to get the context.
KISSINGER: This is where things get totally out of control, because you can't have any confidential relations within the government and any free exchange of ideas if it is all released in a political season.
What I would recommend with respect to issues like this, is let the 9/11 commission (search) appoint two people, one Republican, and one Democrat, to go through this material and make a report to the commission to see if it's consistent with what has been testified to.
COLMES: Is there a credibility problem? She had claimed that there is no way the administration could have known that Al Qaeda (search) or anybody else was going to use airlines as missiles to hit buildings and yet it was reported, and we'll put it up on the screen, this is from 2001, U.S. and Italian officials were warned in July that Islamic terrorists might attempt to kill President Bush and other leaders by crashing an airliner into the Genoa summit of industrialized nations.
They did have that information. She said they did not have that information.
KISSINGER: You know, what happened -- of course, I don't know about the specific thing, but what happens in the government is every day, you get dozens of intelligence reports, probably because the intelligence agency cover every conceivable base so that they can't be accused afterwards, but unless they call you special attention to it, as something that might happen seriously, the things get sort of drowned in the material that comes through.
And then afterwards somebody pulls out one document like this and says, you knew all along. I see absolutely -- there is no rational reason why an administration, being aware of a danger like that, wouldn't meet it.
COLMES: By the way, it's Genoa. I want to get the pronunciation correct.
Is this a political blunder, is this happening because it's a political season, is that why this is all going on right now?
KISSINGER: Well, I have every hope and every confidence that the commission is going to come up with an unbiased report. But during the season, everybody is concerned as to who gets blamed for what did or didn't happen.
But actually, the fundamental facts are not that difficult. The Clinton administration was faced with a series of attacks, which you can say, in retrospect, they did not react to with the violence that we now see.
On the other hand, they didn't realize, they couldn't realize at the beginning that these were not individual acts of terrorism but a whole system that had been elaborated. So you can call the Clinton administration a process of learning what the system was.
Then the Bush administration comes in and they issue a directive saying we want to deal with this as a system, but we don't want to go and make individual retaliations. We want to get it altogether.
In order to do this they have to improve relations with Pakistan (search), improve relations with Uzbekistan (search), beef up the CIA. And so it took a few months to get it all going. You can argue about presidential transitions and whether there is too much of a slowdown as new people come in, but this, in fact, is what happened.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Dr. Kissinger, are you as amazed as I am at the degree to which the Democratic party, I know we're in a political season, but they have so politicized our nation's national security that all they want to do every day when they wake up in the morning is blame George W. Bush for something.
And when you hear prominent senators, prominent Democrats, concocting theories about this president, that he knew about 9/11, that he attacked Iraq and preordained it before 9/11 ever happened, are you as stunned as I am?
KISSINGER: Well, on preordaining Iraq, there was a Congressional resolution that passed unanimously in 1998 and it was signed by Clinton, unanimously in the Senate and by a huge majority in the House, calling for regime change in Iraq in the national policy of the United States.
KISSINGER: So it was natural for President Bush to follow this. One can make a strong case, as I would, that the war in Iraq was part of an overall strategy, which the war against terror also figured, that's the president's job. To make...
HANNITY: I agree with that. But we've heard one allegation after another here, and I think -- leading up to this guy Clarke, I mean, here's a guy -- by the way we just found out today, this is a guy that apparently invoked privilege himself back in 1999. We'll get to that in just a second here.
This is a guy that laid out the case that we went from a strategy of rollback with Al Qaeda over the course of five years to a new strategy of rapid elimination, that the Bush administration, you know, increased CIA resources five fold to go after Al Qaeda but now he claims they did virtually nothing.
In other words, everything here has been politicized, and there is nothing that George Bush has done, even though he liberated 50 million people in this political season, there is nothing he's done right in the minds of liberals.
KISSINGER: I think that Clarke hurt his case by not sticking to the things he knew and entering the political world. And whatever you can say in the partisan disputes that are inevitable at this period, on terror, the president has an extraordinary record.
KISSINGER: And he took from the beginning the position that he didn't want to fly swat at this. Then came 9/11 and he moved on Afghanistan. He didn't move on Iraq until over a year after he had moved against the Taliban.
HANNITY: All right, I want to go back to this issue of separation of powers. I want to go back to this issue of Condoleezza Rice testifying.
Interestingly, we found out that Mr. Clarke himself, and I'll put it up on the screen, Robert Bennett, July 22, 1999, he was scheduled to testify, and this is what Mr. Bennett read to the committee that was there.
"Last night, into the evening, we were notified that the legal staff of the National Security Council had determined that it would be inappropriate for Mr. Clarke to appear. I have just spoken to him on the telephone. The rule apparently is that any member of the White House staff who has not been confirmed is not to be allowed to testify before the Congress. They can perform briefings but they are not to give testimony. And that in response to that rule, Mr. Clarke will not be coming."
The very issue that Condoleezza Rice. Can you explain why it's important from a separation of powers standpoint? This is a very important issue.
KISSINGER: Once they testify, it is appropriate to ask them what advice they might have given, or what the deliberations were in which they and the president engaged, or even that the people around the president engaged.
The theory is that these are the personal advisers of the president and that the separation of powers would make it inappropriate if the Congress can second-guess what the personal advice is. Constitutional offices, that is, offices confirmed by the Congress, the Congress has a right to call into account. That's been the theory.
HANNITY: Would a compromise be that, for example, that they could work it out where they would negotiate a compromise that would allow the public release of her testimony after they had vetted through it? Would that be -- would that -- I don't know if anything will satisfy the hardcore left in this country, but would that be a reasonable compromise?
KISSINGER: That sounds like a reasonable compromise, or that you ban -- exclude questions, dealings that deal with the advice given to the president or what the president said at meetings.
COLMES: Dr. Kissinger, isn't there a difference between testifying before Congress and testifying before a committee like this?
KISSINGER: The 9/11 commission is a unique institution. It was specifically created by the Congress, but it is -- you can argue whether it's technically a Congressional committee or is not, and this would be a distinction that could be invoked. I personally favor that Condi Rice testify.
KISSINGER: Because I think she could put this whole controversy...
COLMES: It's not just liberals that are saying it. You're saying it; John Lehman called this a political blunder of the first order. Slade Gorton, former senator of Washington says she should do this for the American people.
KISSINGER: I can understand why the confidentiality of presidential briefings should be maintained. But I think in this case, it's a very special case, and it's a very special committee, and I think she would be advised...
COLMES: You would say this is different than the idea of testifying before a Congressional committee?
KISSINGER: The president should approve it only with the proviso that this is not testimony before a Congressional committee, but before a special institution. There could be other restrictions such as the one that you mentioned.
KISSINGER: That the testimony is released afterwards.
COLMES: Did you ever find yourself in a situation like this when you were secretary of state or national security adviser? Were you...
KISSINGER: I was never -- secretary of state, I testified as a matter of course. And as security adviser, it never came up in that manner. I met a lot with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But it was not in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee room and it was not published.
COLMES: They're going to work something out probably. I'm guessing they will work something out. Is that because of political pressure that they are doing it, not because of a desire to share with the American people information that I believe the American people should know?
KISSINGER: I would take what Dr. Rice said yesterday on "60 Minutes" seriously, that she said she could make the best case, and it would be highly in her interest to testify.
KISSINGER: And I think it would be.
HANNITY: Dr. Kissinger, always good to see you. Appreciate you being with us, as always.
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