Interviews

'Factor' Exclusive: Scooter Libby on Iran, Obama's Foreign Policy, Plame Case

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," September 7, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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MONICA CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight: a "Factor" exclusive with Scooter Libby, who was chief of staff for former vice president Dick Cheney.

Mr. Libby joins us now. Hi, Scooter.

SCOOTER LIBBY, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR DICK CHENEY: Hi, Monica, good to be here.

CROWLEY: All right. So let's talk about the Obama foreign policy, and I want to begin with Iran, because it's certainly the biggest threat in the Persian Gulf and I dare say the entire world. Yesterday, the U.N. nuclear watchdog group, the IAEA, came out with a scathing report on the Iranian nuclear program saying, "Hey, look, they are stockpiling enriched uranium. We can't get to it. They won't tell us how much they have, where it is." They're not disclosing anything. No big surprise. And also, they're not letting in inspectors. And, in fact, they just evicted two inspectors from the country. We have now had two years of Obama's policy of engagement with the Iranians. What has it gotten us?

LIBBY: I think it's useful to go back to where candidate Obama was or actually President-elect Obama in his very first press conference said that a nuclear weapon in Iranian hands would be unacceptable, and then he launched on the policy that you mentioned of engagement and sanctions as a fallback. In June of this year, the CIA director, Leon Panetta, I think on one of these shows said that two things. One, the Iranians are about a year away from the bomb.

CROWLEY: Right.

LIBBY: And secondly, that -- he was asked would sanctions work, and he said probably not.

CROWLEY: Right. So here you have Obama's own CIA director saying the Obama strategy probably won't work. And now we're seeing, and the U.N. of all people, are now saying, look, sanctions aren't dissuading the Iranians from their pursuit of a nuclear weapon, so if we still are relying on sanctions -- and I do know that the European Union upgraded their own set of sanctions. The United States is sort of behind the eight ball on this, but sanctions are not working here. So where are we right now in terms of a policy of dealing with Iran?

LIBBY: Well, it would be interesting to be sitting in the sit room these days and listening to the debate on what to do next, because if their own team is saying what they're doing is not working, and if it's truly unacceptable, we have a problem.

CROWLEY: What are the options? Do you think, Scooter, that the Bush administration made a mistake by not dealing more aggressively with Iran when it had the chance?

LIBBY: I would say that back in 2003 or so, there was more that might have been done with the Iranian opposition, for example. At that point they were seven years away from a nuclear weapon, and as we know there is a lot going on inside Iran. There's a crisis of legitimacy, twofold, a crisis of legitimacy going on inside Iran. The 2009 election had to be stolen, in most people's minds, by Ahmadinejad. So there might be something to be done on that score.

CROWLEY: We now know that the Iranians are working 24/7 to get a nuclear weapon. I don't think anybody is under the illusion that they're not doing that. Isn't it advisable to deal with an enemy while you still have an advantage, OK? And once the Iranians get the nuclear weapon, once they get the bomb, we have lost our strategic advantage.

LIBBY: It will be quite a problem once they have a weapon. That's why he called it unacceptable. It's interesting to think about what the region will be like if they have a weapon. You think about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for example. There's a reason that the world reaction was so mild to that invasion. When you think about the North Koreans sinking a South Korean ship, everything becomes more difficult when the bad guys have that type of weapon.

CROWLEY: Scooter, you mentioned Afghanistan. I know that you had been working on the Iraq surge before this ridiculous, politically  motivated case against you derailed your effort and actually set back the Iraq surge program for years and probably cost us a lot of lives and time in Iraq. Since you were one of the leading early authors of the Iraq surge, give us your read about the surge in Afghanistan, and do you think it will work, especially under the guidance of General David Petraeus?

LIBBY: Well, of course, the surge came after I left. The notion of a counterinsurgency strategy, I think, is a legitimate one, for Iraq proved that way. And is also a legitimate one for Afghanistan. They have General Petraeus in command. He's about as good as you could get for that. He's a smart guy. He's already reporting back some problems with the implementation so far, but it's clearly too early.

CROWLEY: General Petraeus also just asked for 2,000 additional troops in Afghanistan. He just did that in the last 24 hours. What does that tell you about how the military leadership is perceiving this surge and whether or not they're actually going to be able to stick to President Obama's timetable about starting to withdraw August of next year?

LIBBY: Well, it's their job to win, and I believe that General Petraeus will do what he can to win. It's interesting what President Obama said when he started the Afghan surge back in April of 2009. He said there were two reasons to do it. One was to get the Al Qaeda leadership that's along the border. But the second reason he mentioned was because Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And what he was saying is that if they have nuclear weapons, there's a danger. If Pakistan is destabilized, that those weapons will find their way into the hands of terrorists. Translation: We would wake up one day, or we could wake up one day with a nuclear weapon going off in New York or Washington or Chicago or...

CROWLEY: And that's the strategic value of Afghanistan, right?

LIBBY: That is why he's -- among the two top reasons he said we had to have forces in Afghanistan. And so, when you think about Iran having nuclear weapons, you know, if you liked -- if you liked "Halloween 1," wait until the sequel reaches theaters near you.

CROWLEY: I know. Do you think that President Obama has a clear, coherent foreign policy?

LIBBY: I think it's hard to say from my point of view, because I haven't had a chance to sit down with those guys and talk through with them. They put out a national security strategy, but like most of these documents, they're not really a strategy. That's the art form for Democrats and Republicans alike. He has a world view. I think that's clear. And whether that world view matches the reality of the world is a question to me.

CROWLEY: Scooter, final question for you. That absurd political witch-hunt that you were subjected to during the Valerie Plame case. Your sentence was commuted, but you never did, in fact, get a pardon. Are you still hopeful that eventually you might get a pardon?

LIBBY: Well, Monica, I worked 13 years, maybe 12, something like that, for the federal government on national security. In that time I met Czechs who had their lives stunted under communism. I met Kurds who had suffered under the atrocities of Saddam Hussein. I met American families who had lost kids overseas. I learned two things from this. One is the world is not just. And the second is it doesn't do a lot of good to whine.

CROWLEY: You are a class act, Scooter Libby, and had Monica Crowley been president of the United States, you would have gotten that pardon.

LIBBY: I look forward to that campaign, Monica.

CROWLEY: Scooter, thank you very much, sir. Great to see you.

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