Sestak Responds to Obama's Afghanistan Speech

Published December 02, 2009

| FoxNews.com

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 1, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: just a short time ago, President Obama announced that 30,000 additional troops will be deployed to Afghanistan, and that decision is not sitting well with some members of his own party. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD, D-WISC.: I'm terribly concerned about this. Give the president a chance to articulate his views, but I think the ground of us here and many others will be taking action if, in fact, the decision has been made to greatly increase the troops in that area.

REP. JIM MCGOVERN , D-MASS.: Unfortunately, if the reports are true, I believe he's reached the wrong conclusion. Sending 34,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan will make it 34,000 times harder to extricate ourselves from this mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: Now, other Democrats have come out in defense of the president's announcement, and here now to give us his take is Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak. I think I said "John" earlier. I apologize, Congressman. Thanks for being with us.

All right, on the eve (ph) of the president's speech, Gallup has a survey, and what they found is that Obama's approval on Afghanistan is at 35 percent, which is down from 49 percent in September, 56 percent in July. Why do you think there's been such a dramatic decline in his approval rating on this?

REP. JOE SESTAK, D-PENN.: Look, this war in Afghanistan has gone on for eight years. What most chilled me was when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff two years ago said, in Iraq, we do what we must. In Afghanistan, we do what we can. This president was dealt a very weak hand, and Sean, we have to admit that.

HANNITY: All right...

SESTAK: This is a tough venture but President Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: Joe — Congressman, he's been president 11 months. Why is the public — this is the Gallup organization. Why has his approval rating on Afghanistan declined so dramatically? Is it in large part because he couldn't make a decision for three months on the issue?

SESTAK: Absolutely not. Absolutely not, Sean. Look, I was on the ground in Afghanistan when I headed the Navy's anti-terrorism unit. I worked in the White House as director of defense policy for President Clinton. There is no more important decision than placing the sons and daughters that I led into combat into harm's way. He has now doubled the amount of our troops there. We could not fight during the wintertime over there, and you know that, Sean.

HANNITY: But wait a minute...

SESTAK: It's the spring offensive that we must be ready for.

HANNITY: The reality is...

SESTAK: So therefore, he has accelerated our troops timeline. This president has done it well.

• Great American Blog: Sound off on Obama's speech!

HANNITY: All right, but the reality is the decline in his popularity, the dramatic decline, coincides with the time that General McChrystal asked for the additional troops, which he couldn't make a decision on. Now, let me ask you this question. The Washington Times has an article this week about the rules of engagement. And they're saying rules — from interviews of U.S. forces — tell me if you think this is a proper way to fight a war — that there will be no night or surprise searches — this is what the troops are saying the rules are. Villages have to be warned prior to searchers. U.S. soldiers may not fire on the enemy unless the enemy is preparing to fire first. I don't know how you determine that. U.S. forces could not engage the enemy if civilians are present, and troops can fire at an insurgent if they catch them placing an IED but not if they're leaving the site of where they just placed on.

Now, you're a former soldier. Do those — do those sounds like the rules of war that you can actually use to win? That sounds like, you know, we're trying the hands of our troops.

SESTAK: May I ask you, Sean, were these validated rules of engagement that the Pentagon said they actually are the rules over there? When I was on the ground, they weren't. Now, let me understand. Who validated that these are actually the rules?

HANNITY: Well, the captain — Army Captain Casey Thoring (ph). He said it's a framework to insure cultural sensitivity and planning and the execution of operations. And there've been multiple media reports that confirm that these rules exist. Are you saying that, in fact, that the soldiers that are quoted are lying?

SESTAK: In my talks with anyone in the military, I have never heard of these rules of engagement. Do I believe that we want to make sure that what I went into Afghanistan for initially, and I had to report directly back to Mr. Rumsfeld, that I was — part of my mission there was to find out why the rules of engagement...

HANNITY: All right...

SESTAK: ... were causing undue civilian losses. Now, if we are tightening up those rules so that we're able to also exterminate Al Qaeda, exterminate the Taliban that are very radical, but not to...

HANNITY: All right...

SESTAK: ... exterminate the support from civilians, then I'm supportive of those. But those are not the rules that are out there that I'm aware of.

HANNITY: Let me ask you one last question. You are going to challenge Arlen Specter in a primary, so we hear. Apparently he came out opposing the president's plan tonight, and I wanted to get your reaction. Will that be a part of the campaign goes on in the primary?

SESTAK: You talked about polls. If this president or anyone is making their decision about polls or trying to keep their job, that's not the kind of senator you want.

We have watched Arlen switch on the public option. We have watched him switch on card check. We have watched him switch on the defensive marriage act. He gave his vote to President Bush for that tragic misadventure on Iraq. I do not know where he is coming from.

My issue is this. What is important for America's security? And this president has made a very tough decision, which is the right decision for our security, and I am very supportive of that.

HANNITY: But it sounds like you are saying you admire a president that does not go by the polls. I guess that is a lot of admiration for George Bush because that's kind of how he governed the war. He went according to his conscience.

SESTAK: Except the difference was with George Bush, if you remember, we now cannot respond to any other war plan in our arsenal because of that misadventure in Iraq.

HANNITY: We've got to run. But his surge worked, and his surge was successful, and a lot of Democrats opposed it. But I've got to run.

SESTAK: But at what cost, Sean? That is the key question.

HANNITY: But it worked.

SESTAK: He never assessed the cost. The cost isn't ...

HANNITY: What if we would have lost? What cost then if we had lost?

SESTAK: The cost is that we cannot have an army that has done any training in over four years in anything but counterinsurgency. What's the cost to an army that nearly broken?

HANNITY: Thank you.

— Watch "Hannity" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET!

Content and Programming Copyright 2009 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, LLC'S and CQ Transcriptions, LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/12/02/sestak-responds-to-obama-afghanistan-speech