Published November 30, 2009
The following is a rush transcript of the November 29, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Tuesday night President Obama lays out his new military strategy for Afghanistan. Joining us now, two senators whose support the president will need — from Arizona, Jon Kyl, the Senate's number two Republican, and here in studio, Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh, who sits on the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.
And, Senators, welcome back and happy Thanksgiving weekend.
SEN. JON KYL, R-ARIZ.: Thank you, Chris.
SEN. EVAN BAYH, D-IND.: Thank you, Chris. Same to you.
WALLACE: President Obama will announce his plan Tuesday night in a speech to the nation from West Point.
Senator Kyl, what will you be listening for? What do you want to hear in the president's speech?
KYL: Let me divide it into two pieces, Chris. First of all, we'll want to hear the details. Will he follow the recommendations of General Petraeus and General McChrystal in moving at least 40,000 troops into the area as quickly as possible? And add the other two key elements, both the political and the economic elements of counterinsurgency.
But in a broader way, the second part of this I'm going to be looking for is as follows: let's don't have talk of a phased deployment — we'll send a few troops immediately and then we'll see what happens, see how it plays out, maybe send some more.
That's kind of reminiscent of Vietnam. That escalation — that slow escalation didn't work there. You need to put in everybody you can as quickly as you can and deliver a knockout punch to the enemy. Secondly, talk of an exit strategy is exactly the wrong way to go. And I hear that on the — in the media. I certainly hope the president doesn't do that, because all that does is signal to the enemies and also to our allies, to the folks in Pakistan as well as the Afghanis, that we're not there to stay until the mission is accomplished.
And they've got to know that we will be there for them until the mission is accomplished, or they'll make other arrangements and it won't be to our benefit.
WALLACE: Senator Bayh, what are the keys for you? What do you want to hear from the president Tuesday night?
BAYH: Chris, this is a very complex situation, so I'm looking forward to hearing the president's rationale for choosing the strategy that he has.
I think he's going to adopt the optimal strategy, but there are other good arguments, and I'd like to hear him address those. That's number one.
Number two, I'd like to hear him address the costs of the situation and be very forthright with the American people about that.
Number three, and probably most important, Chris, how are we going to keep the pressure on the Afghans and the Pakistanis? Because ultimately, this is not up to us. Ultimately, it's up to them.
And there, I agree with much of what Jon said. I think we need to get the troops in the field as quickly as we can. There are some issues there about the capacity, the infrastructure in Afghanistan to absorb them right away, but get them there as quickly as we can.
My slight area of disagreement, though, is we have to keep the pressure on the Afghans and the Paks to do their part. If we just give them an open, you know, check and basically say, "We're going to be there forever, don't worry about it," well, then they're going to back off some of the hard things they have to do. So it's a fine balance.
We've got to show that we have the determination to see this through on the one hand, but keep the pressure on them to do their part. And by talking about an exit strategy under the right set of circumstances, I think you do that.
WALLACE: Well, let — let's break it down, because you both gave me overviews, and there's a lot to chew on here.
Let's talk, first of all, about troop levels, Senator Bayh. Senator Kyl made it clear he would like to see the full 40,000 that General McChrystal, the U.S. commander on the ground, asked for. Is that going to be your way of measuring the president — how close he gets to the 40,000 McChrystal request?
BAYH: No, I'm going to trust the tactical judgment of Secretary Gates, who was, we will recall, the secretary of defense under President Bush as well. I mean, this is a serious man.
I think the president and the secretary of defense have to show some deference to the general's recommendations, but these are just recommendations. They're not the 10 Commandments, after all, Chris.
You'll remember General Westmoreland in Vietnam wanted more troops even at the end. I think — wasn't it — General MacArthur in Korea wanted to drop nuclear weapons on China. You don't always go with the recommendations of the battlefield commander. You take them into account and then make the appropriate decision.
So as I understand it, we're going to go with 30 to 35,000 American troops. We're going to try and make up the difference with NATO. They're probably not as good and effective as Americans, but I think it's good that we have some burden-sharing.
After all, the American taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for this whole thing if our allies are willing to step up and do their part.
WALLACE: Senator Kyl, I want to talk about — and you raised it — this question of the president sending a dual message on Tuesday night. It's been described as a policy of escalation and exit.
Yes, there are going to be more troops, but the president is going to indicate our commitment is not open-ended, that he has a strategy to leave.
Now, you talked about the fact that it may send the wrong signal to our allies and our enemies. What about Senator Bayh's argument that it does send a message to the Karzai government, which obviously has been a disappointment so far, "Get your act together or we may be out of there?"
KYL: Yeah, you're sending that message in a different way. And I am in total agreement with Evan that you've got to continue to pressure both the Afghan government, the new President Karzai recently reelected, as well as the Pakistanis.
But I was in both countries in April and at that time, the Pakistanis did not seem to be committed to the effort as much as we wanted them to be. And our government — Dick Olber (ph) specifically asked me — he said, "Make sure that you send the message to them that we're there for the long run until the mission is accomplished."
Well, not long after we got back, they made the decision to really begin to press the terrorists in Pakistan. They went in in a big way, and I think a lot of that was due to our pressure, which is necessary. But they also did it because they believed that we would be there with them.
And you cannot signal that they are going to be doing their part but then, as soon as it's inconvenient for us to stay, we begin to leave, because that's exactly what we've done in the past. It's exactly what they fear.
I talked to a bunch of tribal leaders down in Kandahar. That's what they feared. They want us to make sure the job is done before we leave.
And that's why I think all of this talk about an exit strategy is really dangerous. It tells the Taliban just to lay low until we leave. And it does not encourage the Europeans, for example, or our other NATO allies that this is a cause worth sending their troops to support.
So I really hope that we can stay away from all this talk about an exit strategy.
BAYH: Well, Chris, I do think there's a difference between setting — circling a date on the calendar and saying, "Look, by X date, no matter what the circumstances are, we're out of here." That would be an inappropriate exit strategy.
What I'm talking about, and I think what the president is going to say, is to say to the Afghans and Paks, "We are with you, we're here for the duration, as long as you're doing your part." I think that's the kind of exit strategy he's talking about.
WALLACE: Senator Bayh, you brought up the question of cost, and the administration has put the cost — and this is kind of astonishing to, I think, a lot of people — $1 million per soldier per year, so if you sent 30,000 soldiers, that would be a $30 billion price tag.
Now, some top Democrats are talking about the idea — the new idea of a war tax to pay for the escalation in Afghanistan. Good idea?
BAYH: No, I don't think it's a good idea, not at this point, Chris. First of all, you need to provide for the nation's security regardless of your financial situation, and there's no bigger deficit hawk in Congress than I am.
I think we need to start coming to grips with this. We're going to have a big vote coming up on the debt ceiling. I don't think we should vote to raise the debt ceiling until we have a strategy in place to get our deficits down.
So we've got to take the fiscal situation seriously, but, number one, national security comes first.
Number two, we've got to look at cutting spending in other parts of the budget before we even talk about raising taxes.
And number three, if ultimately you're going to have to start talking about raising taxes, you shouldn't do it until the economy is robust and really on its — on some pretty good footing.
WALLACE: Senator Kyl, one last question about Afghanistan before we move on.
KYL: By the way, I agree with Evan on his points about taxes. This isn't the time to be raising taxes. But go ahead.
WALLACE: Some congressional Democrats have indicated they don't have much appetite for escalating in Afghanistan.
If there is a sizable number of Democrats who defect from the president's plan as he outlines it on Tuesday, will Republicans — will you and your colleagues in the Senate and the House make up the difference and support the president, particularly when it comes to supplemental war spending?
KYL: We will support the president — that is, we, Senate Republicans — I can't speak for every one of us, but I know that we've talked enough to know that this is not a political issue with us. We believe we've got to prevail over the Taliban and Al Qaida.
We've got to do what we need until that mission is accomplished. And obviously, that means supporting the president. What we hope is that his strategy will conform more or less to what General McChrystal and Petraeus have recommended, so that we can be very, very supportive of it.
I'm afraid that if it is less than that, or if we continue to hear this talk about an exit strategy, then as much as we want to support it, it's still not going to succeed.
So it is important for the president, as I said, to get as many troops in there as quickly as he can and to try to dissuade people from talking about eventually leaving.
We cannot leave until the mission's accomplished, and that's a message that we've got to send to our friends and to our enemies alike.
WALLACE: Let me switch, if I can, to health care. It's the other big issue in the Senate this month, and — starting with the debate on the floor this week.
Senator Bayh, what has to change in the health care bill for you to support it?
BAYH: Well, I'm reserving judgment until we see what the amendment process is, Chris. But starting with cost, we've got to get this deficit down. The CBO says this proposal begins to do that. That's encouraging.
But Congress in the past, as you know, has sometimes not lived up to its commitment. So I think we need to have an enforcement mechanism in there, as best we can, to ensure that future Congresses will have the backbone to put some of these efficiencies into place. That's number one.
Number two, I'm going to be looking at — and we haven't gotten the score from the CBO yet; they're about to give it to us — what does this do for the cost of insurance for people who currently have it.
We want to cover the uninsured, yes, but we don't want to do it in a way that's going to drive up the costs for folks who currently have it. That's one of the biggest complaints that I hear from people. So I'm going to be looking very carefully at what the bean counters have to say about that.
WALLACE: If you don't get the changes you want, are you prepared to be the one Democrat who will break with your party — seriously — and kill health reform?
BAYH: Well, I hope to be able to vote for a good bill. This is a major challenge. And frankly, my major concern, Chris, is that this is such a big, complex issue.
The political process as it's currently constituted in Washington may just be incapable of coming up with an ideal solution. So we may be left with alternatives that are less than ideal. Number one would be to do nothing. I don't think we can afford to do nothing with costs going up 10, 15 percent a year.
The other thing would be to vote for a bill, frankly, that we continue to have some questions about. That may be the choice that we're left with. So my objective is to try and make that alternative of doing something as positive as we possibly can, realizing that there — at the end of the day it may be just imperfect.
And unfortunately, that's the way Congress works from time to time.
WALLACE: I want to sneak two things in.
Please give me a brief answer on this, Senator Kyl. Obviously, every Republican voted against health care reform. Do you have a plan to kill it?
KYL: Well, we would like to start over and write a bill that actually solves the problems that face the American people, rather than having a government takeover of our entire health care system, as this bill does.
There's no way to fix this bill. And that's why every single Republican voted against going to this bill. If you just look at what the House Republicans proposed, it actually reduced — according to the Congressional Budget Office, reduced premiums on the average family by about $5,000 a year.
And yet the Congressional Budget Office scored the bill that came out of the Finance Committee, which is roughly the same as the one on the floor now, as increasing insurance premiums for the average family — in Arizona, for example, of $7,400 a year.
So Republicans have better ideas, and what our hope is — that enough of our friends, like Senator Bayh, will say, "This bill can't be fixed and still work to the advantage of the American people. Let's write one that takes one step at a time to regain the trust of the American people and solve the specific problems that face us."
WALLACE: Finally, I want to ask you both, and I'm sure you talked about it over your Thanksgiving dinner, both of you — I know we did at our house — about the couple who apparently crashed the White House state dinner. Senator Bayh, let me start with you. How seriously do you take it? Should Congress investigate? What should happen to this couple?
BAYH: Well, Chris, it's an incredible situation. I mean, of course, people have been laughing about it because it is so incredulous, but it's not a laughing matter that people could get that close to the president and the vice president who aren't supposed to be there.
So the Secret Service has come out and appropriately said they're embarrassed. They're going to get to the bottom of it. You know, these folks could be like the — what is the name, Richard Reed, who changed the way everybody travels through the airports because of this one guy. This couple may change the way people go to the White House.
WALLACE: The alleged shoe bomber.
BAYH: Yeah. And I'm supposed to go see the president on Wednesday. I'm kind of wondering what I'm going to be facing to get into the White House this time. It's probably going to be a lot stricter than it has been.
WALLACE: Do you think that authorities should throw the book at this couple to at least send a message?
BAYH: You've got to send a very — yeah. Yes. I mean, you've got to — you've got to send a strong deterrent that people just don't do this kind of thing.
WALLACE: And, Senator Kyl, in about 30 seconds, your thoughts about a congressional investigation and about criminal charges for this couple.
KYL: I agree with what Evan said. I think you have to have a strong deterrent against this kind of thing. And therefore, if it's a federal crime to lie to a federal agent, and these people didn't tell the truth about their invitation, then they should be in some way brought to justice here, again, as an example to others not to do it.
But clearly, the Secret Service as well as the White House protocol office have got to beef up their tactics, their procedures and protocols for dealing with this kind of a situation. I don't know about congressional hearings.
I suspect the Secret Service is embarrassed enough to fix the problem. And of course, the White House protocol office has to get involved in that as well.
WALLACE: Senator Kyl, Senator Bayh, we want to thank you both so much for coming in and sharing part of your holiday weekend with us.
KYL: Thank you.
BAYH: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: And for coverage of the president's speech Tuesday night, you can watch on the Fox Broadcast Network as well as all of these Fox News outlets.
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