Is It Time for Rumsfeld to Go?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 21, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY HOST: Now for the top story tonight. Conservative commentator Bill Kristol has actually said Rumsfeld and Colin Powell might want to consider resigning.  Mr. Kristol joins us now.  He's the editor of "The Weekly Standard" (search). And from Washington, Peter Brookes, senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, who sees things a bit  differently.

All right, we'll start with you, Bill.  Am I off base here on Rumsfeld?

BILL KRISTOL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  No, I think you're right.  I mean, I admire Don Rumsfeld.  I admire what -- a lot of what he's done, but his post-war planning for Iraq was miserable.  It's pretty clear.  He got all kinds of things wrong.  He had to change course.

But the one thing he's been obstinately refusing to change course on is to send in more troops.  And lots of people said more troops were needed six or seven months ago.  He refused to send them.  We're paying a price for that now.  They're needed now.  And he's still resisting.  I don't really understand why.  I think that the president needs to really take charge though and get the troops there to win the war.

O'REILLY:  You don't understand why.  And you're the editor of probably the most influential conservative weekly in the country.  All  right?  I don't understand why.  I'm not hostile at Rumsfeld.  This is more disturbing than I think the action itself that in this war -- imagine a military family sitting there.  Son or daughter in harm's way.  And you can't get an answer -- a straight answer out of Donald Rumsfeld? Something wrong.

KRISTOL:  Well, he'll give you an answer, but I think the answer's driven by a kind of theology that he doesn't like a big army.  He doesn't like lots of ground  troops.  It's supposed to be a new high tech, 21st century, transformed whiz-bang army.  But it turns out to do something like what we have to do in Iraq, a classic counter insurgency against very nasty killers who you have to go in and flush out and kill, you need lots of ground troops.  And Rumsfeld resists that conclusion.

O'REILLY:  All right, do you think Rumsfeld should walk away and maybe get somebody else in there to head this department?

KRISTOL:  I think Bush should take charge and order Rumsfeld to change course.  And if that's too difficult to do, and if Rumsfeld's too obstinate, sure, let Senator McCain become defense secretary.

O'REILLY:  All right, what do you think, Mr. Brookes?

PETER BROOKES, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION:  Well, I think no military plan survives contact with the enemy.  And nobody  can predict the future.  We had a plan.  We executed it.  And now we need to make adjustments depending -- based on the reality on the  ground.  I don't think it would be --  it's -- the secretary of defense serves at the president's discretion.  I don't think at this point right now where we are in Iraq it would be helpful to -- to  switch horses midstream.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Now I know it would look bad, but aren't you disturbed that Rumsfeld does not come up and answer these questions?  I mean, in my hand here I have a question that was put to the joint chief's boss Richard Myers that there was an estimate before the war that only 60,000 U.S. troops would be needed to keep the peace after Saddam was removed.

Now I want to know who made these estimates, who made these mistakes?  You got to think the C.I.A. was involved with this.  I mean, and Rumsfeld basically doesn't give you anything.  We don't get any information out of him.  Doesn't that disturb you?

BROOKES:  Well, he may not be answering questions to your satisfaction, Bill, or Bill KRISTOL's, but the fact is that perhaps in his own mind he is...

O'REILLY:  Well, how about in your mind?

BROOKES:  ...and the president may believe so.

O'REILLY:  How -- whoa, whoa, whoa.  They don't run the  country, all right?  We run the country.

BROOKES:  Mm-hmm.

O'REILLY:  All right, that's the problem here.  Rumsfeld and the crew think they're the country.  They're not the country.  All right? They're not the country.  They owe us and the military families an explanation.  Don't give me any of that?  Are you, Mr. BROOKES,   satisfied with the secretary's answers to these very important questions?

BROOKES:  I think he has answered them.  I think he has answered them.  The question is do we...

O'REILLY:  All right he has answered them.  Then if he's answered them, then you tell me the answer.  Why did the Pentagon underestimate the danger in Iraq after Saddam fell?  Give me that answer.

BROOKES:  Who could predict the future, bill?

O'REILLY:  That's not an answer.

BROOKES:  If you can tell me what's going to happen tomorrow...

O'REILLY:  That's a question.

BROOKES:  But they may -- they had a plan.  And the plan did not call for 60,000 troops.  That's something that was talked about.  There was somebody else, another Army general, talked about 600,000 troops.  Right?

O'REILLY:  It was on the Pentagon charge...

BROOKES:  Exactly.

O'REILLY:  According to General Myers, it was on the Pentagon chart.  Now come on, I asked you a direct question.  You can't answer it.  Bill Kristol can't answer it.  And I can't answer it.  And we're three guys who do this for a living.  Don't tell me that Secretary Rumsfeld's been forthcoming.  He has not.  Am I wrong here?

KRISTOL:  Well, you know, General Myers whom you quoted, says that he did not believe the 60,000 troops number, which was the official number on the Pentagon chart.  He didn't believe it was  correct.

Now look, Secretary Rumsfeld made his best judgments.  And everyone makes mistakes.  And he's entitled to have overruled General Myers and General Shinseki.  And so I think we can do with fewer troops.  My objection is it became clear pretty early on that we couldn't.  It's clear now.  I'm afraid, that we can't.  And he refuses to change course.

O'REILLY:  All right, but I don't know if he refuses to change course because they're keeping the guys over there now, extending the tours and just adding...

KRISTOL:  But that's a tough way to do it.

O'REILLY:  Right you are, but that's war.  I mean, look...

KRISTOL:  Right.

O'REILLY:  ...I mean we're in a fight for our lives here.  And this is why this is so important.  I want a more open administration.  I want people to level with the folks.  There's obviously a giant screw-up here.  It's obvious.  And if you don't believe it, Mr. Brookes, I don't know what to  say.  This is a huge mistake.  It's on the level...

BROOKES:  Well, don't mischaracterize what I said.

O'REILLY:  ...of weapons of mass destruction.  It's on the level of not knowing that we're going to be attacked on 9-11.  This is an enormous mistake.  Now we don't cut and run.  That's ridiculous.  OK?

BROOKES:  That's right.

O'REILLY:  OK?  Everybody agrees that's just foolish.  We win...

BROOKES:  And we use the resources we need to to finish the job.

O'REILLY:  We need to fight, but we've got to know why we're making so many vital mistakes.  And we do not know that.  Tenet hasn't been fired.  OK?  You got to figure this is four for Tenet.  The fourth humongous mistake this agency has made, because you've got to figure the C.I.A. was giving the Pentagon estimates of what it would take after Saddam was removed to control the country.  You've got to think that.

BROOKES:  I don't think that -- see, Bill, I don't think the C.I.A. makes those judgments about numbers of troops.  That -- they might say...

O'REILLY:  No, but they give you intelligence.

BROOKES:  ...what the environment might look like...

O'REILLY:  And say this is what it's going to look like.

BROOKES:  They'll say what the environment might look like, but they're not going to tell the Pentagon.  Those are going to be planners on the joint staff that are going to make those sort of decisions and propose those to the Secretary of Defense.

O'REILLY:  Decisions have to be made on some kind of data, which is supplied by the intelligence agencies.  You have to know that.

BROOKES:  Right, they will say what they think the environment will look like.

O'REILLY:  All right.  We got about a minute and a half.  I want to get to Colin Powell.  I think Powell comes out looking like the smart guy here because Powell is the most skeptical.  And I believe  Woodward, when he writes that Powell told Bush, you break it, you own it.  I believe that.  From all our reports, Powell from the beginning didn't want to get involved with this.  What do you think?

KRISTOL:  Well, I was for getting involved, and still am.  So I disagree with Powell on that.  You know, look, he's part of the team.  He signed off on going to war.  I don't -- you know, he has had his own views.  He spoke with Woodward.  I suppose we can't criticize  him for that, but I think we're in a war.  We got to win it.  I think we all agree on that.

O'REILLY:  I agree with that.  It looks like Powell had the best view of this.

KRISTOL:  Right.

O'REILLY:  Looks like -- but is it helpful for him now to be letting Bob Woodward now on background that he had his doubts all along?

No -- yes, I don't think that's helpful, but he wants to make himself look good.  I'm going to give you the last word, "Mr. Brookes, because I worked you over pretty good tonight.

KRISTOL:  That's OK.

O'REILLY:  You take whatever shot you want...

KRISTOL:  No, I mean, I just -- I think that what Bill Kristol has pointed in his article, which I thought was a fine article, was important.  But I don't think we're changing horses right now as appropriate for the country.  The important thing that there's a political symbolism to doing that.  There's also a military symbolism to do that.

It's important that the president ensure that the Pentagon make the adjustments that are necessary for us to win in Iraq.  It's critical that we win there.

O'REILLY:  You want them all right.  You know, I don't disagree with you on that.  I think that changing Rumsfeld now, probably the timing as wrong, but maybe after the election.

Gentlemen, thank you very much.  We appreciate it.

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