Woodward: Not Wrong at All
This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", April 21, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: To the first guest, the author of "Plan of Attack," Bob Woodward.
Bob, good to have you with us. Welcome to the program.
BOB WOODWARD, "PLAN OF ATTACK" AUTHOR: Thank you very much.
COLMES: How did you get this access to the president?
WOODWARD: I started it at the low level, more than a year ago. Trying to figure out exactly what would happen, get documents and notes, working up through the mid level. Eventually compiled a 21-page memo outlining what I'd found sending it to the White House. And they realized I was going to write the book anyway.
And I think the president wanted to talk about this. He wanted the story out about what had happened and what his emotions, prayers, decisions, what the conflict was, and how long it took to make this final decision to go to war.
COLMES: Why is it he spoke for attribution in the book but nobody else?
WOODWARD: No, Don Rumsfeld did for over three hours and everyone else spoke on background.
COLMES: Well, I should have said Rumsfeld, as well. Why only those two?
WOODWARD: Because it's Washington. And...
COLMES: Is that the answer? I mean, did you urge him to speak on the record? Was it a goal...
WOODWARD: Certainly. You would much rather have everyone speak on the record, but people won't. You often can get much more candid comments on background.
But when you get information like that you have to check it within an inch of its life.
COLMES: Some of the more controversial issues have been widely discussed, but there's new reactions breaking almost every hour. Prince Bandar (search) spoke just today at -- in the driveway of the White House, and he said in terms of what he knew about the war -- and this seems to be key here -- whether it was March or whether it was January.
And he says now, "I didn't know about the war until one hour before the attack. I was informed by the White House." That is what he is now saying.
WOODWARD: Well, that's the time they're going to launch it is, as I report in detail and quote Secretary Rumsfeld on the record in the portion of that transcript they deleted and now we have published.
Rumsfeld himself said he looked him in the eye and said, "This is going to happen. You can take it to the bank."
And Rumsfeld said they had received a signal from the president. The president confirmed all of that sequence on the record in the interviews I did with him. I don't know why there is the -- this ungraceful attempt to walk away from what occurred.
COLMES: Prince Bandar saying that what was told to him this is the plan if all else fails. That is what he is claiming now.
WOODWARD: Yes, well, Rumsfeld on the record, other participants, General Myers, the chairman of the joint chiefs who was there, said my account was essentially accurate.
COLMES: Why do you think the Pentagon had their version redacted, taken off the Web site. And now of course they restored it. They said they had an agreement with you that was reached last Friday about this.
WOODWARD: Well, I went over it with Larry Durita, who's Rumsfeld's chief spokesman. We had a misunderstanding, apparently. He seems to think I agreed to delete that.
And if you look at what it is, the idea that a reporter would want something that corroborates on the record from the secretary of defense what he had written, you know, use your common sense. Of course I would not want that deleted.
There was one paragraph I understood they were going to delete on that page. They deleted the whole thing. And I am confident that I didn't want the whole thing. I mean it would be absurd. Why would I want that out of there?
COLMES: When, then, can we agree the decision for war was actually made? Was it made by January 11, or was the actual decision, as the White House seems to be claiming, made this march?
WOODWARD: Well, you know, if you take any decision, major decision like going to war, and I think the book demonstrates this, it is incremental.
People have written and said in books and articles, well, the White House was obsessed with Iraq. They decided in the early months of the Bush administration. That is not true, based on my reporting.
But what happened, the president, 72 days after 9/11 took Rumsfeld aside and said "What's the war plan?" And then they began planning. That's not a decision for war.
The president told me that in September of 2002, when he went to the U.N. and said, "the U.N., or a coalition is either going to disarm Saddam or I'm going to do it," that that was a decision if diplomacy doesn't work we're going to war.
In January the president told people that he had decided on war. As I report in the book, Andy Card (search), the White House chief of staff, concluded that that decision at that point was not irrevocable, that they could turn back. In a practical sense he's quite right.
At the same time, the language the president used on this was very direct, like to Colin Powell, "Time to put on your war uniform." That doesn't mean you're just planning. After all, Powell knew they'd been planning and working on this for over a year.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Bob, welcome to the program.
WOODWARD: Thank you.
HANNITY: Congratulations, you're well on your way to your 10th No. 1 best selling book. I don't think there's any doubt about it.
WOODWARD: Thank you.
HANNITY: So congratulations on that.
One item in your book because it's gotten so much media play, Bob -- do you think either the media, the Kerry campaign or anybody else has taken it overblown or taken out of context? Because I think that's a fair question in light of all the coverage you've gotten.
WOODWARD: Do you mean -- are you asking me what specific part or...
HANNITY: Yes, because you've heard a lot of what people are focusing on. What do you think has been overblown or taken out of context?
WOODWARD: Well, I think one thing, there are two sentences in there about the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar, saying that the Saudis hoped to lower oil prices in the months before the election. And, you know, it turns out Prince Bandar said that publicly April 2, went out on the driveway of the White House and said this.
Senator Kerry took what was in the book and called it a secret deal, I believe. And that, I think that was not in my book and not in the facts as we know them now.
HANNITY: Prince Bandar also was out there today and said President Clinton (search) had asked for the same thing back four years ago, which is interesting, because ...
WOODWARD: It is. It is. But I did not know that. But the general rule is that you help the sitting president with oil prices during an election year. I wish the Saudis would deliver on that pledge.
HANNITY: They should do it right now.
WOODWARD: Yes, exactly. And we talk about this as a controversy and a policy. But there are people out there who are really struggling who are paying...
HANNITY: I agree.
WOODWARD: ... really skyrocketing prices for gas. Everyone ought to kind of get together and say to the Saudis, "OK, let's get it below $30 a barrel." That would save a lot of money on gas.
HANNITY: I want to go back to this issue of Mr. Bandar here for a second here.
HANNITY: Because he's actually saying -- and we want to -- we've got to be clear about this. He didn't know -- he's saying he wasn't briefed until one day before.
Has that been misconstrued by people? Do you find that people like the Kerry campaign are trying to use your book or certain phrases to politicize what you're saying here? And have you noticed that? Would it bother you if they did?
WOODWARD: Well, it's a political year. And as you both have talked about many times, there are a lot of countercharges. It's a toxic atmosphere to a certain extent.
So everything is going to be politicized. I think that's kind of -- that goes with the territory. There's not much you can do.
I keep returning to what's in the book. And if you looked at it all, it's a multidimensional...
HANNITY: Bob, I had on my radio show Secretary of State Colin Powell (search), and one of the issues you bring up in your book is the strained relationship between Colin Powell and the vice president. I want you to hear the response that Colin Powell gave me on the radio show.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Secretary Cheney and I see each other on an almost daily basis. We talk to each other.
He's just back from an Asian trip. The day he left for the Asian trip, we had three conversations to go over Asian issues. And it's just not true to say that Mr. Cheney and I are not communicating and there's an estrangement.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HANNITY: You want to respond?
WOODWARD: Certainly. What I say in the book -- again, this one of these things where people have taken a few things in the book and say, "Oh, it shows they're barely on speaking terms."
What the book says is that, as you know and I think is well known, Powell and Cheney have very different worldviews. Powell is much more the cautious diplomat, and Cheney is a hard line believer, particularly in the case of terrorism and Saddam Hussein, that you've got to act in a very direct way; you have to have an offense.
It got it a point, as I report, that they could not sit down, just the two of them, and kind of have a lunch or a discussion to hash out and see if they could understand the other's position.
Maybe -- it is a tense relationship. But they do talk, they do deal with open other. But there is a lot of hostility. And this is not real news. This is well known to lots of people in the administration.
HANNITY: But there were hawks and there were doves and certainly -- and I guess it's all on a different scale. But certainly Colin Powell, as you pointed out, did point out some of negatives, as did Don Rumsfeld, which you point out in the book and I read there, too.
Let me give you a chance now to respond to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who was on this program with me last night. And he brings up the issue of Prince Bandar being briefed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: So the idea that the president told Condoleezza Rice, told yourself that Cheney knew and that somehow Colin Powell, the secretary of state was not told or was told after Prince Bandar.
DON RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Just not true.
HANNITY: It is inaccurate?
RUMSFELD: Can't be. Can't be. I mean, I was in so many meetings with the president, the vice president, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, George Tenet and Don Rumsfeld, that from the outset -- I didn't know the president had made a decision to go to war until he indicated to me that he had, which was very, late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Now Prince Bandar said now that he didn't know until the day before. Was -- Is Rumsfeld right there? Was perhaps in some way you get that wrong?
WOODWARD: Oh, no, that is not wrong at all.
Look, the president himself confirmed on the record with me in the Powell meeting that the president had with the secretary of state, where Rumsfeld was not present that he, the president, told Powell, "We're going to war."
There is an interchange in the book, which I went through with the president, and in fact, I spent 10 minutes in the Oval Office going through the details of that. And the president said, "Sounds" -- "Sounds like you've got it about right."
The president said that he told Powell, "Time to put on your war uniform."
I report in detail Powell's reaction going out of there, thinking to himself, "He's going to do it," that it was a momentous decision.
Now, did they continue diplomacy after that? Indeed. Was there a hope that there would not have to be a war? Indeed. Was the decision absolute and irrevocable? As I mentioned to you earlier, of course the president could have pulled back. Somebody could have shot Saddam.
COLMES: Given what you said about Colin Powell and his, you know, you break it, you own it and his dissent on this, why do you think he would stay with the administration and not resign if he felt that strongly that the administration was going in the wrong direction?
WOODWARD: Well, as I tried to show in detail in this book, Colin Powell warned the president that you will own Iraq if you invade. You will own the hopes and aspirations of 25 million people, that the consequences of this could be immense.
At the same time, as the book shows, Powell believes -- I think correctly -- that presidents make these decisions about war, not secretaries of state or advisors.
And Powell looked at this as you go into a fork in the road, you take -- you ride diplomacy, you plan for military action. The president decided that diplomacy had failed and not worked, and he went to war.
And Colin Powell, when the president asked him, "Are you with me," in this meeting that everyone seems to talk about who was not there, where the president is on record saying this occurred. The president asked Powell "Are you with me?"
And Powell said, "Yes, Mr. President. I am with you."
That's not about a plan or a maybe. That's about war
Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, L.L.C. and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.