Some Dems Call for Rumsfeld to Step Down

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", May 6, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: We get right to our top story tonight, the growing Iraq prison abuse (search) scandal.

Some Democrats are now calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (search) over what they are calling torturegate.


SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: Mr. Rumsfeld, because of his actions and his statements and his policies during his tenure as secretary of Defense, is ultimately responsible. And that's why I've called today for his resignation.

And if he doesn't resign, the president of the United States should dismiss him forthwith.


HANNITY: President Bush says that America was sick and sorry over the issue, but he is still supporting his secretary of Defense.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Secretary Rumsfeld is a really good secretary of Defense. Secretary Rumsfeld has served our nation well. Secretary of Rumsfeld has been the secretary during two wars. And he is an important part of my cabinet and he'll stay in my cabinet.


HANNITY: So should Defense Secretary Rumsfeld resign or should he be fired?

We're joined by Virginia Republican Senator George Allen. And also joining us, New Jersey Democrat Senator Jon Corzine.

Senator Corzine, you are a Kerry supporter. You're going to vote for Kerry for president. Just to get that...

SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: Very good probability.

HANNITY: All right. Are you similarly calling for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, calling for him to resign?

CORZINE: I haven't spoken out publicly, but I think the pattern of failure we've seen under the administration of our military affairs, not necessarily our military campaigns but the military occupation, I think justifies it.

The latest breakdown of command and control that endangers our troops undermines the reputation of America across the globe. I think is grounds for calling for that resignation.

HANNITY: All right. Now, I want to go down this here. Because Donald Rumsfeld didn't do this. We have 140,000 troops here. We're talking about maybe one in 10,000 or even perhaps one in 20,000 soldiers that acted inappropriately.

And I condemn it, just for the record, senator.

But here's the problem I have. You're going to vote for John Kerry (search). John Kerry, in 1971, admitted, "I committed the same types of atrocities as thousands of soldiers." He admitted he violated the Haag Conventions and Geneva Conventions.

He went on to explain in detail. We're going to show a tape of this a little bit later on, how he did search and destroy missions in which he destroyed the homes of noncombatants and burned them to the ground.

So here is my question for you. Here's a guy that admits to atrocities, admits to violating the Geneva Convention, admits to burning down the homes of noncombatants.

You're voting for him, but you're calling for -- wait a minute. You're calling for the resignation of a guy that was monitoring 140,000 people of which seven committed, did something wrong. Explain that logic.

CORZINE: That's all we know at this stage. And the fact is...

HANNITY: Well, you're calling for the resignation at this stage.

CORZINE: We're calling -- I actually think it's a greater pattern of failure, the failure to recognize that we needed more troops to protect the troops that are on the ground to carry out the mission of occupying and stabilizing Iraq so that we can move on with the strategy of turning it into a democracy.

A failure to actually recognize that we needed to bring international support.

HANNITY: But that's not -- Let me go to Senator Allen. That's a different issue, though.

Senator -- Hang on a second, Senator Corzine.

Senator Allen, here's the point. They're calling for Don Rumsfeld's firing today because of what these -- what these pictures show. And that's what they are saying.

But yet every guy that I know that is calling for this is supporting a guy that admits to committing atrocities, admits to burning down the homes of noncombatants, admits to violating the Geneva Convention.

So I've come to my little conclusion here that these Democrats, once again as they have throughout this entire war, are playing politics with our national security. Have I made the right conclusion?

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (D), VIRGINIA: Yes. I think No. 1 it shows how disingenuous this political posturing is on the part of the Democrats. Listen to Senator Corzine on this.

He should have been asking, I suppose, for Secretary Rumsfeld to resign last week before anyone knew about this, because the rationale and reasons have nothing -- are really not related to this abhorrent abuse of these prisoners.

Let's look at the facts. The facts are we have brave men and women in uniform right now in precarious, dangerous positions in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have folks that are American heroes like Pat Tillman (search), who just lost his life.

COLMES: Senator -- nobody denies that, senator.

CORZINE: Nobody is denying that, George.

COLMES: Nobody is denying that. It's Alan Colmes. Welcome to the show.

Let me ask you...

ALLEN: But here you all are turning this into political battle, where clearly Secretary Rumsfeld, the military investigated this as soon as it arose. No one condoned it, and no one was actually giving orders.

COLMES: Senator, it's Alan Colmes. First of all, I'm not calling for his resignation yet. I'm not there yet. And I think the president has actually struck the right chord.

I think he did the right thing by going on Arab television. I think he said the right thing. I think they controversially apologized today. Probably some Republicans and conservatives don't like that he did that. I'm glad he did it.

Let me ask you this. Do you expect any Republicans, Senator Allen, tomorrow to get up and call for Rumsfeld's resignation?

ALLEN: Well, I think what all senators ought to do is actually listen to Secretary Rumsfeld ask him questions, determine what actions were taken by the secretary and others.

COLMES: That wasn't my question. Do you expect they will call for his resignation?

ALLEN: It's hard to predict. It's hard to predict. I think that they want to listen. And I think that those who are jumping in a knee-jerk political partisan way, saying that he ought to resign and be fired before even listening to him shows how partisan they're being.

COLMES: Where does the buck stop on this stuff?

ALLEN: First and foremost, those who were involved in this abuse. Secondly, those who were their superiors, who knew about this, condoned it. And also superiors who should have known about this and by their neglect were absent from providing the right...

COLMES: What should Donald Rumsfeld have done about it? There was a report that came out about three months ago. By all press reports he has not read it yet. The president hadn't read it yet -- hasn't read it yet. A number of administration officials hadn't read it yet.

Should they have seen it by now, and does not the buck stop in those higher echelons of the administration?

ALLEN: Leaders are always responsible. But you have to look at those who are culpable for these actions. And there are those who are involved in it and their immediate superiors.

From everything that I have read and discerned from this, and again we all share disgust about this despicable abuse of prisoners, which are contrary to the values of Americans.

The point is as soon as we -- they found out about it, they started investigating it with criminal actions, court martials for those who are, again, responsible for these actions.

COLMES: Senator Corzine...

ALLEN: The leaders were acting exactly the way you'd want them to.

COLMES: As I understand it, Senator Corzine, while we may debate whether or not Rumsfeld should resign, the president has expressed displeasure about the way he found out about this and the fact that these pictures appeared on television before he got to see them. And he feels...

CORZINE: And by the way, there were many Democrats and Republicans that feel like they were left out of the loop.

We had a private briefing that was supposed to inform us about what was going on in Iraq on the very day that "60 Minutes II" (search) was going to release pictures, which the Defense Department had been working on for two weeks to try to shape the story.

Why people wouldn't convey what kind of information was going to be most shocking to change the direction of what was happening in policy and the position of our troops on the ground, it's hard for me to understand.

Everybody agrees that we want to protect our troops and we want to honor what they're doing. But what has taken place here undermines our credibility, enrages those that want to be our enemies and puts them at risk.

And that's why I think the secretary of defense, in a chain of command, has a responsibility to be held accountable. And you can put that into the context of the other issues that are failed with regard to implementing security on the ground.

COLMES: Senator Allen, yes or no, should the president and Donald Rumsfeld and Richard B. Myers have read that three-month-old report by now?

ALLEN: I would have wanted to read it. I don't know why they haven't. You'll have to ask them. I would have wanted to read it.

I think that they recognized, at least I know from Secretary Rumsfeld that he knew about the investigation. It was criminal investigation. It will be an interesting question that will be posed to him tomorrow about how much did he know about it, and if not, are there some criminal procedural reasons for the confidentiality.

COLMES: And it was out there three months ago. I'm glad to hear you feel perhaps they should have read it by this point.

Would it have been smarter for the White House to break the story earlier on, rather than wait for a network to come on with those pictures? Would they have been smarter to get out ahead of this story and handle it differently?

ALLEN: I think they handled it exactly the way they ought to have handled it, as a criminal investigation or a court-martial.

The revealing of these pictures have done a great deal of damage to our troops. And that's one of the deplorable aspects -- the additional deplorable assets of these abuses, in that 99.9 percent of our troops are serving honorably.

Moreover our enemies and those who are combating us in this war on terrorism use this to say the United States is just as bad as Saddam Hussein.

COLMES: And that is why, Senator Corzine -- I just wonder if Senator Corzine is -- Go ahead. Finish up, please.

ALLEN: Yes, let me finish. For those who say that, compared to Saddam Hussein, this is such a ruse. Saddam Hussein, if he had any of his troops doing something like this, they would have been promoted. These troops are not only being demoted; they're going to be prosecuted.

COLMES: We're not comparing this to Saddam Hussein. And we're talking about the standard by which we live in the United States and the conventions to which we are signators, which Iraq is not.

Senator Corzine, I'd like you to respond to that. And you know, I believe the administration could have done a lot better for itself if it had gotten out in front of the story, released it themselves and not waited for the media to do it. And they could have done some damage control.

CORZINE: I couldn't agree more. And furthermore, the investigation was started and apparently, Secretary Rumsfeld informed the president that there were problems with regard to the prison system as early as January or early February.

And if one thought this was going to kind of create the risk to the American troops that I think it subsequently has, I think there's reason for everyone to feel a responsibility to get on top of problems. I don't think it's...

HANNITY: Wait a minute. Let me set the record -- Senator -- Senator, let me set the record straight.

Our top generals, as soon as they became aware of what was going on here, a couple of months ago, they ordered immediately that day a criminal investigation.

Then an administrative investigation began.

And then many of the military personnel, they've already been put on leave. They've been removed from their posts. And they're going to be charged and prosecuted.

There was no cover-up. There were no excuses made.

CORZINE: Sean, General Myers says he hasn't read the report.

HANNITY: But I'm not talking -- I'm talking about these very...

CORZINE: He's the top general.

HANNITY: ... very pictures we're talking about. Immediately an investigation occurred and action was taken from day one. You guys are acting like this was some kind of cover-up. They acted professionally from the very beginning.

CORZINE: No one is acting like it's a cover-up. We're saying people weren't interested enough to follow up on something that was going to put our troops at risk and undermine the reputation of the American people.

HANNITY: You know something? You know something, senator? You know what bothers me about this?

From the very beginning, people like Senator Kennedy, when he came up with the little black helicopter theory that the war was manufactured in Texas for political gain, without any proof.

Or Al Gore screeching that the president betrayed his country and preordained it before 9/11.

From the very beginning, the left in this country have opposed this war and have politicized it. And they've attacked the president.

We have liberated 50 million people. We've finished the work that we started 13 years ago. I don't ever hear a good word from one Democrat about what we've done here.

CORZINE: That is just not true.

HANNITY: Yes, it is true.

CORZINE: That is absolutely not true. People are 100 percent supportive of everything that's going on in Afghanistan. And if they're critical, they're only critical because we haven't put enough resources...

HANNITY: I see more selective outrage here than I did from some people when we had 3,000 Americans killed.

CORZINE: Excuse me. That is not the case at all. And by the way, for somebody that lived in a town that lost 10 people, people I knew...

HANNITY: I lost kids I ... graduated ... school from.

CORZINE: ... that actually very, very hard to accept.

HANNITY: Well, you know what I find hard to accept? That American soldiers -- we lost 700 plus soldiers there.

We have 140,000 soldiers on the ground. We have people that have rebuilt the infrastructure of Iraq, people that are building schools and roads in Iraq.

You have seven, 10 or 12 people that didn't act properly and are being punished, and we don't get any credit for the work we've done for 13 years there after we liberated Kuwait. We've now removed Saddam Hussein. We were flying no-fly zones and getting shot at.

CORZINE: Who is saying nobody is giving anybody credit?

HANNITY: I'm saying...

CORZINE: Who's saying nobody is giving anybody credit?

HANNITY: Where are the people in the Arab world giving us credit? Where are the Iraqi people giving us credit, senator? All that we've done, instead of criticizing the reactions of seven people.

CORZINE: There is no leadership in those countries to make that happen.

COLMES: Senator.

HANNITY: I didn't hear you.

COLMES: Senator...

CORZINE: Where is the leadership that is encouraging the Saudis and Jordanians and other people?

HANNITY: When you apply that standard to John Kerry, I think that...

COLMES: We've got to take a break. We thank you both very much for being with us tonight.

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