This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," November 30, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
DAVID ASMAN, GUEST HOST: For the Republican take of the president's speech, we are joined now by Sen. John Warner. He, of course, is the Virginia Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Senator, thanks very much for coming on.
SEN. JOHN WARNER, R-VA.: Delighted.
ASMAN: Are we winning or losing in Iraq, Senator?
WARNER: We are making good progress, good sound progress. We perhaps lost a year in getting really started to train the Iraqi forces, but once Gen. Petraeus arrived six or eight months ago, at least he got it started and we've made a lot of progress and we're seeing the Iraqi units, just as the president said, fighting right alongside coalition forces and particularly American forces in major battles today.
ASMAN: Now, you say we lost a year. I don't want to do too much Monday morning quarterbacking, but why and how did we lose a year?
WARNER: Well, you know, you go back and I was very much part of the scene as chairman of the committee, questioning the witnesses. We felt that we were getting a good start, but I think perhaps the Iraqi people really didn't come to grips with the fact that Iraq had been liberated, their sovereignty was returned to them. They were a nation.
And the people just too slowly, I feel, began to pick up the responsibilities of exercising security, rebuilding, and other major tasks of a sovereign nation.
But they are underway today, and I'm very pleased with the way the president gave a strong speech to shore up our troops against a background of a lot of division back here in this country and debate on this subject, and at the same time sent a message throughout the world as to his resolve and hopefully the resolve of our people in the next four to six months to really give solid support to our troops, to the Iraqis as they endeavor to pick up sovereignty and rebuild their nation.
ASMAN: Now, Senator, one thing that hasn't changed even before we went into Iraq is the presence of Zarqawi running around doing mischief in Iraq. Why can't we get this guy?
WARNER: Well, I have been to Iraq six times and almost each time or at least the last three times, I have met with those units that are working on that task. And he has been an elusive individual, but it's not for lack of effort on our part to find him. And I think to the credit of those, we have almost gotten him at least two times but we have gotten a number of his principal lieutenants. We're not going to give up until we get him.
ASMAN: Now Porter Goss was kind of teasing us with information Tuesday saying that he knows certain things that he is not saying about where Zarqawi is. Of course, he shouldn't say everything that he does know. But do you know what Porter Goss knows about Zarqawi's whereabouts?
WARNER: Well, I'm on the Intelligence Committee and he comes down and he testifies before us but we just don't talk about what goes on in that committee, so I guess you better move on to the next question.
ASMAN: All right, I certainly will. Now, the vote last week about confidence — or some people say it was a no confidence — Sen. Biden said it was a no confidence vote in the president by 70 odd senators to a minority.
WARNER: Wait, wait, wait a minute.
ASMAN: No, I will give you a chance to answer. But Sen. Biden himself on "Meet the Press," he was on with you last Sunday, said that was a no confidence vote in the president. What would you say to that?
WARNER: Well, in the first place, why would all the Republicans have joined me with the exception of a few? We had 79 senators. I repeat, 79 senators send a strong bipartisan message. I worked on that resolution with Majority Leader Frist in such a way as to get some bipartisanship.
We must show here in the Congress the strongest of bipartisan support for our troops, for the efforts of the Iraqi people to restore sovereignty to their nation, and that was the reason. Some wish to criticize it. But on the whole, I think Biden, in my recollection, voted for it and he is, I think, playing a little bit of presidential politics. After all, he is running for the office.
ASMAN: All right. We've got to leave it there. Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, good to see you.
WARNER: Thank you.
ASMAN: Now let's hear from the other side. We are joined by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. Terry, good to see you.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, FMR. DEM. NAT'L. CMTE. CHAIR: Good to be with you again.
ASMAN: Thanks very much for coming in. I'll ask the same question I began with the Senator. Are we winning or losing in Iraq?
MCAULIFFE: We are not making significant progress and the only people who do not realize that are George Bush and Dick Cheney. As you know, the insurgents are up. The number of insurgents is up probably to 20,000 now and we now have our U.S. soldiers getting 100 attacks a day upon our U.S. forces. So George Bush, Dick Cheney do not see reality and the speech Tuesday was just more of the same. It was more slogans, stay the course and that's a failed strategy. We need benchmarks for success.
ASMAN: But, Terry, you know, you say that Bush and Cheney are the only ones who see it that way. Sen. Lieberman, Democratic senator, you probably read his piece in The Wall Street Journal. He says just what the president is saying. He says, does America have a good plan, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes, we do. And he goes on to outline essentially the same plan as in the president's plan put forth Tuesday.
MCAULIFFE: But what Joe Lieberman says and what all the Democrats say and our strategy is, is that 2006 needs to be the year where we turn over sovereignty to Iraq and they take control of their own government. So next year in 2006, we have got to give the Iraqis total control of their country. And all the Democrats from Harry Reid to Nancy Pelosi to Joe Lieberman are all in agreement on that.
ASMAN: But, Terry, you have to admit there is a split. I mean, they admit that there's a split between Hillary Clinton, between Joe Lieberman, between Congressman Murtha. Now Congresswoman Pelosi says she's with Murtha. There are very different strategies among Democrats about how to deal with Iraq.
MCAULIFFE: Sure there are different strategies. But as I say, we are all consistent on the thought process and the method that we need to get everybody out as soon as possible. In 2006, we need to turn it over to the Iraqis and let them run their government and let them run their country.
George Bush has not laid out a plan, and I think that's what most people are upset about. Tuesday's speech was just more of the same. You saw a 79-19 vote last week. It was no confidence in George Bush. Republicans and Democrats came together and said, "You know what? 2006, we have got to get our troops out of there and turn it over to the Iraqi forces." We are all in agreement on that.
ASMAN: Terry, you say no plan, but I'm going to throw it right back at you. Sen. Lieberman, does America have a good plan? The senator's own word, plan. "Yes, we do," he says, and the plan is simple. He uses three words. He says, "clear, hold and build." That's the plan. Is it a good one?
MCAULIFFE: I agree with Sen. Lieberman on what we have to do in Iraq, but we clearly can't say today when the insurgent forces are growing after we've been on the ground fighting them. Our troops, now, as I said, over 100 attacks a day on the U.S. forces, we can't say that that's success.
Are we safer today in this country now because of what George Bush did in Iraq? No. We have read stories this week about what's happened in Afghanistan. The Taliban is coming back. We have chaos in Afghanistan because George Bush pulled the troops out too quickly, sent them to Iraq. And now we have a mess on our hands in Afghanistan and now in Iraq, and that clearly is not a plan.
George Bush needs to get his head out of the sand and understand what's going on, quit the pep talks, give us benchmarks for success, and give our troops hope over there in Iraq.
ASMAN: But you know, you say we have a mess in Afghanistan. Do you think Afghanistan was better off under the Taliban?
MCAULIFFE: Absolutely not. But you know what we should have done? We should have stayed there and finished our operations in Afghanistan.
ASMAN: We're still in Afghanistan. We haven't moved out.
MCAULIFFE: But we're not in forces that we need. Don't take my word for it. Many of the U.S. generals who were on the ground in Afghanistan have written extensively that George Bush and the Department of Defense and Secretary Rumsfeld pulled our troops and our equipment out too quickly. And that's the Generals who are on the ground saying that.
Of course we're better off with the Taliban gone. But we should have stayed there and finished the job. They wanted to race into Iraq, they wanted to go into Iraq from day one, and it was a failed strategy with no plan for peace.
ASMAN: I wanted to ask you how your replacement is doing, Howard Dean. I guess, in a one-word answer, good, right?
MCAULIFFE: Great. He is doing great.
ASMAN: Terry McAuliffe, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.
MCAULIFFE: Thanks, David. You bet.
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