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Hannity

Haig: Blame Thirty Years of Misjudgment

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", March 30, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will now testify under oath in front of the 9/11 commission. For reaction, we bring in former Secretary of State General Alexander Haig.

General, good to see you. Was this the right decision by Condoleezza Rice and the White House?

ALEXANDER HAIG, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think, given the circumstances, probably yes, but marginally so. Because this has been an issue that has been fought, mostly protected -- these privacy of presidential advisers has been protected by the Republicans, and the Democrats have constantly tried to tear it down.

I went through it during Watergate. Many of us have. There have been exceptions.

But I wish somebody would talk a little bit about the requirements that the White House put on this, and that is that it would not be a precedent and that the -- no other witnesses would be called from the White House.

HANNITY: But look, I'm not playing devil's advocate here. I mean, this would not be a precedent, but yes she's doing it.

I mean, is it only in word but not in reality? Because the way I view it, Mr. Secretary, is we have competing interests here and that being the Constitution and the whole concept of separation of powers and the political ramifications that are driving this whole thing?

HAIG: No question. Well, this is never-never land when the quadrennial silly season starts in Washington.

HANNITY: Quadrennial.

HAIG: Look at this. When we -- look at what's going on. I mean, people are literally looking at our president, this president, as being possibly responsible for 9/11.

Dear God, he was only in office eight months. He's the only president in the last five who have taken dramatically strong action against international terrorism. And the people know it.

And they also know that Mr. Kerry is a fellow who's voted 38 times to cut defense budgets, reduce them, transfer them or otherwise make them inoperative.

HANNITY: But it's his career. He didn't want Reagan to bomb Qaddafi that wasn't proportional. Although he admits Qaddafi's a terrorist.

Didn't want the death penalty for convicted terrorists who kill Americans. He wanted a nuclear freeze when Reagan was running the Cold War. And he's cut every defense system, as you point out here.

But isn't this part of a strategy now that we're going to see for the next 217 days? And the strategy is here that they have decided to go after the president's strength. And the strength is, he has been a very tough wartime president, and the public views John Kerry as weak on national security and defense.

Is that a good strategy?

HAIG: Well, it's hard to say, because sometimes the lies get so big and the mischief so tremendous -- I lived through it during Watergate. You believe me, things are happening that no one would believe would happen. And same -- some of the same old players, like Mr. Ben-Veniste is right in the center of these hearings.

MATTHEWS: Unbelievable. Yes, well, you've got your old friend John Dean, by the way. Apparently, he's coming out with a book worse than Watergate. Bob Woodward's got a book. You've got a whole series of these Bush-hating books now. Apparently there's a market for it.

But you know, I mean, there's clearly a lot of resentment towards the president.

What concerns me, though, at the end of the day, I guess politically, they had to make this decision. But in spite of this special agreement that this isn't precedent setting, it really is, in my view.

And it is now -- we're now at a point where I don't think the president and his advisers are going to be able to feel free thinking that behind any corner there's going to be some congressional investigation or committee that's going to demand to know what advice they gave the president.

HAIG: Well, I think the White House lawyers were clever enough to put the conditions of this acceptance in such a way that they can't recall this as a precedence. They can't do that, and I don't think they will successfully.

But you know, remember, we're going to have Condoleezza Rice speaking to the public. And she's going to draw the differences between what is written in Clarke's book, which is largely full of imprecision.

And you know, I heard some of these commission people today saying, well, if you had these kinds of charges made. But what they should be saying is, if you had these kind of inconsistencies in your book that have shown up already in Clarke's book, nobody would be reading it and nobody would be buying it.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: General, it's Alan Colmes.

HAIG: If you want to be that way, I hope.

COLMES: Good to have you back on the show, sir. How are you doing?

HAIG: Alan, I have missed you.

COLMES: I can tell. I can tell.

First, I don't agree with the analysis of Kerry's record. We'll debate that, I'm sure, for months to come. He's voted to increase defense spending on many issues, while President Bush 41 voted and talked about and Cheney did, reducing certain weapons systems as a peace dividend after the Cold War.

But look, Condoleezza Rice is now going to appear largely because of political pressure on this administration. They caved and they buckled because they knew they had to, because public opinion was not with them.

Isn't that really what's going on here?

HAIG: No, it's not. And I would challenge what you're saying, Alan.

Our Democratic candidate voted against the supplemental for Iraq and Iran, the $65.8 billion supplemental. That meant less body armor for our soldiers, exposed to enemy fire. It meant an elimination of the program to help the families in health, and the reservists who are over there called away from their jobs fighting for our country.

And you don't fool anybody. You don't fool our veterans, and you don't fool the American people.

And the polls confirm that they trust Mr. Bush to conduct the war against terror and they do not trust Mr. Kerry.

COLMES: General, they closed seven V.A. hospitals. We have reservists and National Guard people bringing their own body armor over there now. We have reports that they're not getting the equipment they need.

This debate, I'm sure, will go on for months to come, but I want to talk about Rice here. She's appearing publicly now and will do it under oath because of the pressure brought to bear to this administration because they knew the public was not with them on this. They want full and open disclosure here.

And why not go under oath? What would be hidden here?

HAIG: No, no. They did know that -- the president did know the public was not with him. Because the Republicans on the committee themselves joined the opposition in saying make the exception, we're not a body of the Congress. And in a sense they're truly not that.

So you know, we don't want to get too hung up on the legalities of this particular issue, which I fought for all the time I've ever been in the White House, and that's a number of years.

But you know, that's not the issue. This commission is looking at two presidencies. And the terrorism we're confronted with today is the product of 30 years of misjudgment, one president after another.

Every one of those presidents, with the exception of Mr. Bush, have made serious flaws in judgment, and they brought about what was the al Qaeda attack.

COLMES: Part of the deal that this commission has made, they want it in writing that the -- the White House wants in writing that the commission will not request additional public testimony from any White House official, including Dr. Rice. That's part of the fine print of this agreement.

Doesn't that again give the impression that they don't want full and open disclosure and want to limit what can publicly be said about this?

HAIG: No, no, not at all. I mean, after all, you can see Condi Rice any time you want. Just turn on your television. She's talking before one of you gurus after another.

COLMES: Is that what we are? I didn't realize that.

HANNITY: Some of us are. Some of us.

COLMES: Gurus. Right.

HAIG: But remember, these are advisers to the president. And if they can't feel that they can talk frankly to the president...

HANNITY: Absolutely.

HAIG: ... then presidents are going to be deprived of the kind of advice they should have.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now the commission and leaders of the United States Congress have given written assurances that the appearance of the national security adviser will not be used as precedent in the conduct of future inquires.

The leaders of Congress and the commission agree -- they agree with me that the circumstances of this case are unique because the events of September 11, 2001, were unique.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLMES: That's President Bush today explaining his change of heart, letting Condoleezza Rice face the 9/11 commission. We continue now with former secretary of state, General Alexander Haig.

General Haig, I bet if there were a change of fire for John Kerry, you'd call it a flip-flop, right?

HAIG: I wouldn't call that a flip-flop. I would call that recognizing the inevitable and realizing that Condi Rice is going to do a superb job. And the American people are going to see it. She always does. And they're going to really understand that Mr. Clarke is the real problem here and politicizing a book and trying to make additional money and maybe pandering a job in the Democratic Party.

COLMES: Let me ask you about that. Let me ask you about Mr. Clarke. Was he being disloyal by writing that book about the Bush administration and the Clinton administration?

HAIG: Well, I think -- you know, if he was so upset during the time he worked for the president, he should have stood up and so stated and resigned. I've done that twice.

COLMES: Yes.

HAIG: So I think that's what a man of principle would do and not stay in there and kowtow to an administration and then stab them in the back as soon as you leave them.

COLMES: Let me ask you a question.

HAIG: This guy is not a man of laudable character. That's all there is to it.

COLMES: You wrote a book called "Caveat" in 1984, and you said the Reagan administration was running like a ghost ship. Now is that something you at the time when you were in the administration stood up and said to Ronald Reagan and to the people you were serving in the administration?

HAIG: Oh, indeed I did. I did. As a matter of fact, it was terrorism that caused me to resign from that administration and the handling of the Lebanon case when we brought the Saudis too close to the White House.

COLMES: And so you left the administration for that reason?

HAIG: That's exactly right.

COLMES: And you feel...

HAIG: The record's very clear on that.

COLMES: And did Richard Clarke make a mistake? Is he -- Would you call him disloyal?

HAIG: I would call him disloyal if he served an administration and then left it and then turned against it, especially since he knew better because he spent eight years with the Clinton administration where nothing was done against affront after affront, including even an attempted assassination of our president, and that was Saddam Hussein.

COLMES: You say nothing was done. I hear Republicans say this. When Clinton did respond to terrorism by bombing Sudan and Afghanistan, he was accused of wagging the dog. When he actually did do something, the accusation was he was diverting attention away from domestic scandal.

So is it fair to make that accusation and then say, well, Clinton didn't do anything?

HAIG: You never heard me say that he was diverting attention away from the domestic economy. I used to -- I used to be in a state of tantrum all the time, to see affront after affront: a frigate blown up in Yemen, two embassies destroyed, Black Hawk down when we left with our tail in our legs in Somalia. Come on.

And you know when we reacted against the al Qaeda for -- or the Iraqis for trying to murder President Bush, former President Bush, we sent rockets at night so we wouldn't hurt anybody.

HANNITY: You know, yes, he bombs an aspirin factory and dropped a few bombs in Iraq but didn't finish the job. You know, and I think it was clearly the timing of it was certainly suspect. There's no doubt about it.

I want to ask you this. There's talk about whether or not we should release the other testimony of Mr. Clarke and look for inconsistencies to see if he lied before Congress, because his stories, clearly at this point, we see they constrict each other.

If he constricted himself clearly under oath, and it's clear that he lied under oath, should he be gone after for perjury?

HAIG: Well, I don't know enough of the facts to...

HANNITY: If. I'm saying if, if he did these things, if they could prove that.

HAIG: Then he should be dismissed for incredibility. He has no credibility.

HANNITY: Yes, I mean, because I don't think politically -- I think you ought to let this guy go, let him go sell his book. He's gotten more attention than anybody in the history of book selling could ever dream of getting.

But it clearly shows one other thing. You've been around Washington and political circles for a long time, General. Did you ever see a media more willing to accommodate anybody in an effort to hurt a president like this?

Inasmuch as, you know, Gary Aldridge was deemed trustworthy enough to be around a president. But yet when he wrote a book, the news media universally decided not to interview him, because of what they thought was an inconsistency.

Here this guy is contradicting himself a hundred times, and everybody is falling over themselves to get an interview with the guy.

HAIG: Well, that's a sad commentary on what I call liberalism, and it's extreme.

And we're in a phase now where we have the most liberal U.S. senator nominated for the presidency of this nation. And let me tell you, that gives me pause.

And of course there are a number of our press who are part of the liberal establishment. There are some exceptions. And I see them every day. Thank God for them. But there aren't enough of them.

COLMES: hey, general, good to see you. Liberal to me is a good thing. We thank you for being with us tonight.

HANNITY: That's your problem.

COLMES: You poor thing.

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