OTR Interviews

Giuliani: Obama apparently was doing a 'political calculus in matters of life and death for our troops'

Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani sounds off on former defense secretary Robert Gates' allegations in his forthcoming book

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 8, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: More scathing words from former Defense Secretary Gates. He also writes that he thinks President Obama didn't believe in his own strategy and didn't consider the Afghanistan war to be his.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani joins us.Good evening, sir.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Good evening, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, this book's excerpts and reviews, it's taken the nation by storm. I'm curious. We haven't read the whole book and I'm mindful what happened with ObamaCare when we didn't read the whole bill.

GIULIANI: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm curious, though, what do you think so far?

GIULIANI: Well, I think this is a pretty extraordinary, to say that the president of the United States was doing just a completely political calculus on a matter of life and death for our troops is astounding. It's hard for me to believe.

I worked for a president, for President Reagan. I can't imagine President Reagan ever doing that. I can't imagine any president doing that. And, also, similarly with Secretary Clinton.

These were political calculations they were making about matters of extreme importance to our national security, and, most importantly, about the lives of our troops.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's sort of interesting what he says about President Obama. And, you know, like the words that, you know, I really wish that they would have sent me an early copy of the book so I could have read every word.

But one excerpt from one review in the "New York Times" about it, it says that "Mr. Obama conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political."

When I see such sort of light words, I really sort of wonder, you know, could Secretary Gates have gotten it wrong and interpreted it incorrectly?

It says vaguely.

GIULIANI: Well, that's a pretty serious charge. If anything, it sounds to me like the secretary was kind of trying to soften the blow a little bit. But you wouldn't put any suggestion like that in there unless you were completely convinced of it.

And I know Secretary Gates, I don't know him well, but I know him. This is a man of complete, absolute integrity. So I can't imagine...

VAN SUSTEREN: Wouldn't it...

GIULIANI: -- I can't imagine he would have written that without carefully choosing the words that he used, and probably trying to go as easy on the president as he was capable of in good conscience.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, in terms of going easy on the president, that's what's so unusual. The media has seized on a couple of items.

But then if you dig a little deeper into some of those who've actually read farther into the book and repeated excerpts, he says the most glowing things about the president. He says he found Obama's methodical approach to problem-solving...

GIULIANI: Right. Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: -- "refreshing and reassuring" and commends his ability to make tough decisions regardless of domestic political consequences.

You know, but for that one political thing, it almost sounds like a Valentine for the rest of the book.

GIULIANI: Well, that makes it more damaging, doesn't it?

I mean that -- this is not a -- this is not one of those diatribes against a president he was angry at. This is a president that he largely admired, appreciated in many, many respects, but found this to be kind of extraordinary and something that you would never expect from a president, that a president would make political calculations about issues of war and peace.

And similarly with the secretary of state. He says very laudatory things about the secretary of state, but then says that she admitted that it was a complete political calculation with regard to the surge.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does it make any difference at all -- and I actually don't think it does for me, but it says that those political decisions had been with both U.S. Senators voting against the surge in 2007. That was the allegation.

Does it make any difference to you, in sort of your calculus, in terms of how you think of it?

Because when the president came to actually making the decision for the second surge, you know, that -- you know, there's no reference, at least as far as I can see, that that one was politically defined.

GIULIANI: Well, that one he was stuck with. I mean, remember, the other thing that's contradictory about what Gates wrote was that it was President Obama, during the campaign -- and I ran, you know, for a good deal in that campaign, so I remember it well. It was President Obama who talked about the Afghan War as the real war, the important war, the war that really made sense, in distinction to what he regarded as the Iraq War.

So apparently he didn't really believe that. That was another bit of political hyperbole and political exaggeration. And it leads me to believe if that kind of political, very crass, very determined political calculations are being made about this, weren't they doing the same thing about Benghazi a few years later? Isn't that just a pure political reaction to protect themselves, hide everything, obfuscate and hide -- and cover up?

VAN SUSTEREN: Mayor, as always, thank you, sir.

GIULIANI: Thank you.