Jesse Jackson's View

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," August 24, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson (search) is now apologizing for his comments about assassinating Venezuela's president. "The 700 Club" host says he was speaking in frustration about a man who claims the U.S. is out to kill him. But will that be enough for critics who are trying to turn this into a major political issue?

Let's ask Reverend Jesse Jackson, the founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. Reverend Jackson, thanks for being on.

In your statement Wednesday, you said President Bush and Secretary of State Rice should immediately rebuke and disassociate the administration from Robertson's comments. Well, where is there any connection between Pat Robertson and the Bush administration? Why should President Bush disassociate himself?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Well, there's a kinship between President Bush and Reverend Pat Robertson.

GIBSON: Because they're Christians? You're a Christian.

JACKSON: Well, no, because of their political relationship, and I submit to you that a democratically elected government in Venezuela faced a coup. We joined the coup and lost. Pat Robertson said the coup should have been successful.

Then another democratic election and Chavez won again. We're trying to manufacture a democracy in Iraq, trying to undermine one in our own hemisphere. That is irrational.

GIBSON: Yes, but Chavez is no friend of ours. You know the many hostile statements he has made about the United States. It should come as no surprise to anybody that the United States doesn't like Chavez and would rather he weren't president. So what...

JACKSON: Well, but we should resolve the hostility through negotiation and diplomacy, not through undermining and threats to overthrow.


GIBSON: But Pat Robertson isn't a member of the government.

JACKSON: Yes, but the fact is, his impact is substantially great.

This is to say that administrative leaders of this government have done the Pat Robertson show. He is a strong supporter of the government, a former Republican presidential candidate and a minister of great note in the evangelical community. And so, his statement carries weight.

I submit to you, in a hemisphere where we have been guilty of political coups and assassinations, so we had to pass laws to be against it. That was an irresponsible statement and dangerous. And our government must be very clear that we are against the desire...

GIBSON: Well...

JACKSON: ... and design to overthrow another government.

GIBSON: OK, but Pat Robertson has apologized. Frankly, he tried to weasel out of the statement, said he didn't mean assassination.

But now he has made a full apology and says that he has no intention to ask for the assassination of a world leader. And Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (search) was asked directly, "Does the U.S. have a policy about that?" And he said absolutely not. It's illegal.

I mean, really, what more is required from the U.S. government to disassociate itself from a private citizen making private comments?


JACKSON: It was illegal to go into Iraq on a preemptive strike with bad information. And so, we have a credibility crisis there.

But in our own hemisphere, here is a chance to build a bridge, not a war. After all, our largest energy producer in the hemisphere is Venezuela, number five in the whole...


GIBSON: Our largest energy producer is Canada.

JACKSON: No, the greatest source of energy is coming out of Venezuela.

GIBSON: To this country, the largest exporter of energy to the United States is Canada, bigger than Saudi Arabia.

JACKSON: Venezuela is number five in the world.

The point is, they can be an ally for stability. We should not drive them into isolation.

GIBSON: OK. All right. Fine. Now, look, this is what Robertson said, though.


GIBSON: He said, "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and get it over with."

Now, Wednesday, Reverend Jackson, there are 1,900 American dead soldiers in Iraq. Saddam Hussein (search) is alive. Don't you wish that were reversed?

JACKSON: No, I wish that we had used a policy of containment and not said that there were weapons of mass destruction, and there were not; Al Qaeda connection, and there was not.

And the fact is, we went in there...

GIBSON: But, Reverend Jackson...



We went in there preemptively on bad information. These Americans are dead because they made a very bad judgment on bad information.


GIBSON: That may be, but on the eve of the war, March 19, 2003, the United States launched an attack, a preemptive attack on Saddam Hussein, hoping to kill him while he was asleep. There wouldn't have been a war. Wouldn't that be better? Isn't there some logic in what Reverend Robertson said?


How perverse is it, the idea of overthrowing leaders of other countries through assassination, killing them in their sleep? Suppose if a major force in that society said of our leader, "We should kill him." We would call that terrorism.

GIBSON: Saddam Hussein did that.

JACKSON: Well, the fact of the matter is, we had Saddam Hussein contained, and we said to the American people, the president did, that...


GIBSON: But you are talking about the run-up to the war.


GIBSON: What about now? And what about what he said?

JACKSON: We were told weapons of mass destruction, imminent threat, Al Qaeda connection. We did not find that. And now we are literally, on a story on CNN, I guess Sunday night, dead wrong. We were wrong about that. We were wrong to...


GIBSON: That's a wrong thing to quote here, Reverend Jackson.


GIBSON: We may have been wrong about that, but we had some very good intentions and good reasons.

JACKSON: Well, the road to hell is paved with good intention, but bad information has resulted in very bad results.

GIBSON: If the bad information was so bad, how come the French believed it, the Russians believed it, and the U.N. believed it?

JACKSON: Well, apparently, they didn't. They thought that, in fact, that the U.N. inspectors should have been able to run their course. And we, in fact, we preempted that.

GIBSON: They may have, but they thought had he those things. They thought he had those.

JACKSON: Well...

GIBSON: They were wrong. We were wrong. Oh, well. The world thought so.

JACKSON: And so, 1,900 Americans dead later, 15,000 dead later...



GIBSON: Go back to my question.


GIBSON: Saddam Hussein is alive. Don't you wish it were reversed? If there had been one death and no war, wouldn't that have been better?

JACKSON: No. I think that's a bad option. I think we should have, in fact, used our power of containment to, in fact, drive in a new administration.

We made a big mistake. Don't make the same mistake in our own hemisphere. Chavez was elected democratically by a majority population. We, in fact, should negotiate, rather — I am going down there this weekend. I have been planning to go for about two months to meet with religious leaders, to meet with the parliament. And I hope we can focus on democracy.


GIBSON: You are not going to apologize to Chavez, are you?

JACKSON: Oh, no, that's not my role.

I'm going to address — Sunday is the 43rd anniversary of the March on Washington. I'm going there to address pro-democracy and human rights and the fair distribution of resources and income and health care. I am going there talking about human rights, which, in fact, should be our foreign policy, human rights and pro-democracy, human rights and pro-democracy, not assassinations and coups.

GIBSON: Reverend Jesse Jackson, thanks for coming on. I hope you'll come back and report on your trip.

JACKSON: Human rights and pro-democracy, not coups and assassinations.

GIBSON: Reverend Jesse Jackson...

JACKSON: ... that should be the American way.

GIBSON: ... thank you very much.

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