Senate Minority Leader Reacts to Obama and Cheney Speeches on National Security and Gitmo

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This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," May 21, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, coming to a supermax near you.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders.

Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal supermax prisons.


CAVUTO: All right, welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto.

Super prisons, super strong, super reason to bring Gitmo detainees here? Well, the president certainly thinks so, says so. Minutes later, a former vice president says, not so. The big guy still wants to shut Gitmo down, the former number-two guy delighted the president's own party won't let him shut it down, all on a day that stocks were down, way down.

More on that — more on this, authorities in New York foiling a terror attack that luckily never went down.

And now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell here — and only here - - with the lowdown.

Senator, what do you think of the president's push to say, look, if push comes to shove, we can get some of these detainees and deal with them in the U.S. prison system at a super-max type facility? What do you think make of that?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: A really bad idea, Neal. And, look, we do have dangerous people in these super-max facilities. They were almost all arrested in the United States trying to carry out some terrorist act. Totally different from the people we have at Guantanamo captured on the battle field overseas.

Now, what happens if you take these overseas terrorists and transfer them to U.S. prisons? The FBI director himself said just yesterday there's a good chance that they will begin to organize the other prisoners, a good chance to they themselves will become targets of terrorist attacks and those around them.

There's absolutely no reason whatsoever to bring any of these detainees captured on a foreign battle field into the United States. We have a place for them. It's called Guantanamo. It's a $200 million state- of-the-art facility. It has courtrooms there for military commissions which were established by Congress just two years ago. It strikes me what we need here out of the president is a real plan, not just another speech.

CAVUTO: Well, he's apparently having some difficulty even getting the funding to shut Gitmo down. I know you were leading efforts in the Senate, twice in fact, in a little more than two days. Efforts were rejected by Democrats there.

So what happens now? If the money isn't going to be there to shut it down, Gitmo isn't shut down. So what happens?

MCCONNELL: Well, nothing bad happens. You know, we haven't had an attack since 9/11 here on the homeland. A good reason for that — a good part of the reason for it, of course, is a lot of the people who had the ability to plot and scheme against us are down at Guantanamo.

Why in the world would we want to bring them into U.S. courts? That generally creates a problem. We've tried a few foreign terrorists in U.S. courts. They did it over in Alexandria, Virginia a few years ago. Ask the mayor of Alexandria how he felt about it. It was a huge, huge problem.


CAVUTO: But it's bigger than that, you know what I mean — Senator, I didn't mean to interrupt you. But, you know, the vice president, earlier today, had said that Gitmo still houses some of the dangerous ones. So a point he had echoed with me last week in this interview. I want you to listen to this.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The ones that are remaining, about 245, are the hardcore, the worst of the worst.

CAVUTO: Where do you think they're going to end up?

CHENEY: Well, I think they need to keep Guantanamo open. I think it's a mistake to try to close it. I think if you didn't have it, you'd have to invent it. If you bring those people to the United States, I don't know a single congressman who's going to stand up and say, gee, send me some terrorists. I would like to have some Al Qaeda types living in my district. That's not going to happen.


CAVUTO: And, indeed, it hasn't happened, Senator. Do any of your colleagues who don't share your views, either in the House or the Senate, ever volunteer to bring any of these guys to their district?

MCCONNELL: I haven't heard any volunteers yet. I mean, we had several votes yesterday related to this very subject. A Brownback amendment passed without dissent related to take terrorists into a jurisdiction without consultation with the governor and local officials. I don't think there's any community in America that wants these people. And why are we trying to bring them here?

Look, this ought to be not about, Neil, trying to be popular in Europe. It ought to be about keeping the American citizens safe. And we know that Guantanamo, in keeping these dangerous terrorists incarcerated at Guantanamo, has played a major, major role in us not being attacked again since 9/11.

CAVUTO: Many in your party kind of roll their eye, we are told, when Dick Cheney comes to the microphone. Is that true? Or is that a creation in the media that actually you or many of your colleagues welcome him speaking out?

MCCONNELL: Well, I took at look at his speech today. I thought it made a lot of sense. I happen to have agreed with every word of it.

And if the president is going to keep attacking the previous administration over the handling of the post-9/11 period, it's not inappropriate for some private American citizen who knows something about the subject to be responding.

You know, I'm still trying to figure out what the current president doesn't like about the fact that we were not attacked again here at home since 9/11. I know that he is grateful that we haven't been attacked. I hope he doesn't think that was just an accident or just good luck.

I mean, as a result of the conscience policies of going after terrorists over seas, the ones we didn't kill, many of them, we captured, they're at Guantanamo from which no one has ever escaped, a $200 million state-of-the-art facility. It has none of the complications associated with bringing them into the United States.

What is wrong with this policy that needs to change? It ain't broken. It doesn't need to be fixed.

CAVUTO: Well, that was the point echoed by the vice president himself, the former vice president, I should say, Senator.

So when we settle all the dust on this, it looks to me, at least, that Gitmo isn't going to be shut down any time soon or those detainees moved anywhere else any time soon. No state wants them. No district wants them. No other country outside the United States wants them.

So we're back to kind of square one here, right?

MCCONNELL: Well, I think square one is a pretty appropriate place to be. Guantanamo is open. No one has escaped. They're safely incarcerated there. I think the president ought to rethink his arbitrary decision to close Guantanamo by a date certain. Rethink it. It doesn't strike me as the right way to go.

CAVUTO: You know it's been amazing watching just the Senate in general, Senator, is the fact that Republicans, though fiercely outnumbered, have been able to do some pretty interesting parliamentary moves, you know own efforts to sort of force these votes to raising funds to shut Gitmo down are some examples.

I'm wondering, though, whether everything changes, assuming eventually — and we could be wrong here. But Al Franken is seated as the senator from Minnesota and now and then they have that filibuster- proof majority you hear so much talk about. And you're dramatically weakened.

What do you make of that?

MCCONNELL: Well, you know, we — we had 90 Democrats who voted with us yesterday on Gitmo. I think if our policies are correct, Democrats are going to have a hard time voting against them. And they have been voting with our proposals on Guantanamo over the last two days overwhelmingly.

CAVUTO: Is that a preview then to coming attractions, sir? In other words, as you know, the Democrats are a very aggressive legislative agenda to wrap up by July 31st, everything from a health care package to regulatory reform package to, assuming the president gives a Supreme Court nominee, passage of that nominee.

Is that all doable by the end of July?

MCCONNELL: Well, you know, I think it's going to be hard to do all that by the end of July, but you mentioned the health care, I believe. You know, Republicans are overwhelmingly against having a government plan that puts the government between you and your doctor. Interestingly enough, so are a lot of Democrats. You know, we probably will be able to defeat the administration on one of the principle pillars of its health care proposal. And we only have 40 members.

So I think if the policy prescription the administration is offering goes in the wrong direction, we can still defeat some of those things and help craft policies that make more sense for the American people.

CAVUTO: Senator Mitch McConnell, thank you. Always good having you.

MCCONNELL: Thank you.

CAVUTO: All right.

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