This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," July 22, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL O'REILLY HOST: Now for the top story tonight, joining us from Washington, Governor Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission and vice chair Congressman Lee Hamilton.
Again, congratulations, gentlemen. I thought it was an excellent report. I agree with everything you said. Counterterrorism center should be set up. Current position at the CIA should be replaced by a national intelligence director. Sub cabinet — levels, posts — I think you really did an excellent job.
All right, governor, in my analysis, am I making any mistakes or overlooking anything important?
THOMAS KEAN, 9/11 COMMISSION CHAIR: As usual, your analysis is pretty good. I would spend perhaps a little more time on some of the recommendations. We think there are two important jobs we have to do, of course.
One is to tell really the definitive story of 9/11. And I think we did that, bringing some new facts to light.
But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is looking forward with these recommendations. And the things we learned about 9/11 enabled us to make these recommendations, which we think if we can get them enacted, will simply make the American people safer.
O'REILLY: When I concentrated on the overall global war on terror, including Iraq, I did it for a reason. I took your report, Congressman Hamilton, and I wanted to present it to the American people, because they have to make a very important decision come November.
And there's a lot of slander and defamation and outright lying about the war on terror, which I believe is vitally important. And that's why I think your document, your investigation is so important because it gives Americans some level of truth to counteract the propaganda. Do you see that?
LEE HAMILTON, 9/11 COMMISSION VICE CHAIR : I think it's very important to point out here that we are not investigating, did not investigate the war on Iraq. We investigated 9/11.
In your comments a moment ago, I think you are on the mark. Your language about chaos in the CIA, I think, was a little overstated. But I think there were clearly problems there.
I think you correctly stated how we assessed President Clinton and President Bush's reaction to al Qaeda and Usama bin Laden. Both of them thought he was a threat. Both of them took a number of steps, diplomatic, military, and others. None of them were successful. But they were genuinely concerned about that threat.
But they did not perceive, as indeed the American people did not perceive, the gravity of the threat in the sense that we could lose 3,000 lives in an hour's time.
But I want to be very clear that our statement with regard to Iraq — the contacts which you mentioned between Iraq and al Qaeda and Usama bin Laden, we think they occurred. We do not think there was a cooperative, collaborative relationship...
O'REILLY: Yes, and I see that.
HAMILTON: ...with regard to the — that's right. With regard to...
O'REILLY: And that's clear, but...
HAMILTON: With regard to 9/11.
O'REILLY: Congressman Hamilton, I want to ask you a very direct question. You put yourself in the position of the president of the United States, all right, right after 9/11 happened. You're being told WMDs are in Iraq, all right, by the Russian intelligence, British intelligence and your own CIA
You know — because you guys found this out, that Saddam had a relationship with bin Laden. Clearly the president of the United States shouldn't — couldn't just let Saddam Hussein sit there. And that's the point I was trying to make, sir.
HAMILTON: I understand that, but you're drawing me into waters I don't want to go into.
O'REILLY: I know you don't. That's what we do here. How about you, Governor Kean? You want to weigh in on that?
KEAN: Not really, because that isn't the main subject of our report.
O'REILLY: I know, but it's important for the nation, you see? Because this — they've taken the terrorism thing — you guys know this — because you saw it in your own — and one of the good things about your report is unlike the hearings, you stripped away all of the partisan b.s. in the report. And I admire that. But you know that your report is going to be used for political reasons. And that's why I'm bringing this up.
KEAN: Well, you know something? I think the American people at this point — on this subject and the subject of protecting themselves from terrorists, I think the candidates who try to spin this for political reasons are taking a risk. Because I really think — I mean, we had just a news conference with a number of Republicans and Democrats led by McCain, and Lieberman, a bunch of people in the House.
We got wonderful comments from President Bush, good comments from Senator Kerry. There seems to be, at least in my mind, and maybe I'm naive, but some sort of a bipartisan consensus forming around this issue of protecting a nation against terror. And I think this is what the American people want. I think those politicians who choose to spin this and polarize it and to partisanize it are going to get themselves in some trouble.
O'REILLY: OK, well that's very interesting. And I agree. I don't think anybody can oppose this report. But I do know they're going over it and trying to point out things that'll help.
KEAN: We had an interesting thing, by the way. When we got into a discussion on the commission, and we started to really disagree on some things, we had a mantra. And it's let go back to the facts.
KEAN: We have to agree on the facts.
O'REILLY: And that's why this report is fascinating, because it is factually based.
Now Congressman Hamilton — you and Governor Kean are patriots, by the way. And I can't tell you how much I admire you both. And I hope the audience knows that. You're patriots. You did this, you were called out of your other lives to do this. And you did an excellent job.
You, sir, Congressman Hamilton, what is the one thing, the most important thing you took away — and I'm going ask you the same question, governor? The one thing? Most important thing?
HAMILTON: Well, the most important thing by far is the manner in which the American people responded to 9/11. Tragedy of untold proportions. We listened to testimony that would rip your heart out. And yet if you see the resilience and the strength of the American people in responding to that, it's really a very inspiring story. And that story continues. It doesn't cut off...
HAMILTON: ...in a few weeks after 9/11.
O'REILLY: How about you, governor, the most important thing you took away? 30 seconds, sir?
KEAN: How unprepared, really, we were, for what happened. Starting with Blackhawk down — these people were trying to kill Americans. They killed a number of Americans along the way incident after incident after incident. We knew they had the capability to do so. We knew they were threatening citizens in the United States, whether military or civilian. And yet, nobody put it together, either for the president of the United States, the Congress, or for the American people.
O'REILLY: Well, some of the guys did, but they couldn't get it through.
KEAN: Very few, very few.
O'REILLY: Right, the FBI guy in New York.
KEAN: Yes, that's correct.
O'REILLY: Gentlemen, thanks very much. We really appreciate it. And I recommend everybody read this report. It's excellent.
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