Criticizing the War: How Far Can Public Figures Go Before It Hurts the Troops?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 24, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN KASICH, GUEST HOST: Hi. I'm John Kasich reporting tonight for Bill O'Reilly. Of course we want to thank you for watching us. Our "Top Story" tonight is a hot one: Of course the political debate behind the blowout between Rosie O'Donnell and Elizabeth Hasselbeck. Of course everybody is talking about it. Rosie is vehemently opposed to the war and always makes her opinion pretty clear on "The View."


O'DONNELL: Six hundred and fifty-five thousand Iraqi civilians are dead. Who are the terrorists?

ELIZABETH HASSELBECK, "THE VIEW": Who are the terrorists?

O'DONNELL: Six-hundred and fifty-five thousand Iraqis. I'm...

HASSELBECK: Who are you calling terrorists?

O'DONNELL: I'm saying if you were in Iraq and another country the United States, the richest in the world invaded your country and killed 655,000 of your citizens, what would you call us?

HASSELBECK: Are we killing their citizens or are their people also killing their citizens.

O'DONNELL: We are invading a sovereign nation and occupying a country against the UN.


KASICH: Well Rosie, of course, takes a lot of heat for that sort of thing and often gets into it with Elizabeth who is a conservative. But yesterday, they really reached a boiling point.


O'DONNELL: Do you believe that I think our troops are terrorists? And you would not even look me in the face Elizabeth, and say no Rosie.

HASSELBECK: What are you talking about?

O'DONNELL: I can understand how people might have thought that. Why don't you take this opportunity like I'm six.

HASSELBECK: Because you are an adult and I am certainly not going to be the person for you to explain your thoughts. They're your thoughts. Defend your own insinuations.

O'DONNELL: I defend my thoughts.

HASSELBECK: Defend your own thoughts.

O'DONNELL: Every time I defend them, Elizabeth, it's poor little Elizabeth that I'm picking on.

HASSELBECK: You know what? Poor little Elizabeth is not poor little Elizabeth. OK?

O'DONNELL: That's why I'm not going to fight with you any more because it's absurd. So for three weeks you can say all the Republican crap you want.


KASICH: Well, the question is, how far can you go in criticizing the war before it hurts the troops in the field that are fighting for our country?

Joining us now from Philadelphia, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, and he is an American studies professor at Temple. And from Washington, Fox News military analyst Captain Chuck Nash.

Doctor, did Rosie go too far? I mean was her rhetoric such that it began to hurt the troops in the field?

MARC LAMONT HILL, AMERICAN STUDIES PROFESSOR: Absolutely. The only thing that hurts the troops in the field is our president's insistence on sustaining a war and prosecuting a war that is unjust, unfair and probably un-winnable.

The issue here for Rosie O'Donnell is whether or not her rhetoric hurts the troops and whether or not the rhetoric is over the top. My answer is no.

Because as a commentator it is her job to raise questions. She implied that we need to consider the role that the United States plays in occupying force in a territory that leads to the bloodshed of innocent people. That's a fair question that we need to confront as an American public and as a government.

KASICH: Well, let's get your take on this, captain. What Rosie said in her statement was you know, if the richest country in the world invaded your country and killed 655 of your citizens wouldn't you call them terrorists? I mean that to me was right on the edge. What's your take on it?

CAPTAIN CHUCK NASH, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Well there have been a lot of people, not just Rosie, but people on Capitol Hill making very irresponsible statements while the country is at war. And although I agree with Dr. Hill, that commentators can bring things out, Rosie and many others are not allowing facts to get in the way of their position.

And in fact they're making up numbers and throwing things around wildly. And if you have to make numbers up to make your point, perhaps you have no point.

So I would just say that if people are going to listen to this kind of argument, not debate, argument, meaning all the emotion in it, they shouldn't take away from that argument a position and then make decisions especially in the ballot box or with our national decision making capability on that kind of raw emotion. We should be dealing with facts.

KASICH: I don't even think she is a commentator. I think she is an entertainer and I think you got to be careful when you are on television in terms what of you say. You can raise issues. But the question was, really, doctor, did her rhetoric go so far as to cause pain. Not just to the troops but the families.

I bet if you took a poll you would find out it was true. But let's talk about other people that have done this. Let's talk about Jane Fonda sitting in a gun turret in North Vietnam. Or lets talk about Cindy Sheehan who says these insurgents are freedom fighters. I think you would agree they've gone too far. Correct?

HILL: I think they have a right to voice an opinion. Some people have gone too far. To call insurgents freedom fighters may or may not be true depending upon the context.

KASICH: To sit in a gun turret - but what we were - let me ask you a question about Jane Fonda. You would agree Jane Fonda should never have sat in that gun turret, correct.

HILL: No I don't agree with that. But the point I am making is these people are not merely representing their own ideas. These people are representing the sentiments of everyday American people who are against this war.

The overwhelming majority of American people do not believe in this war and whether or not.

KASICH: But doctor, the overwhelming majority of people may not like the war, but you know they love the troops. And that's the criticism here.

HILL: They absolutely love the troops. When Rosie O'Donnell is listing the number of troops who have died she is not exhibiting a lack of love for the troops. If anything she is exhibiting an extraordinary amount of love, such a profound sense of love that she wants them to return home and wants the president to stop prosecuting this unwinnable war. That's the point here.

And whether or not the numbers or 600,000 or 400,000 or 5,000, the number of troops — the success or lack of success of this war does not hinge on numbers.

KASICH: I understand that. And captain, here is my point. You can criticize the war without getting into calling our people names. Like calling insurgents freedom fighters or sitting in a gun turret in North Vietnam or somehow implying that U.S. activities border on terrorism. What impact does that have on troops and on families, captain? What impact does it have?

NASH: Well I think it has a negative impact because what you have is public figures denigrating what is a very honorable thing which is the nation called these young men and women to go forward. It was our national policy. It is our national policy. They went forward at great peril to themselves. And they went so willingly.

And then to have people first denigrate the institution of the military and then start to focus in on the individuals, now we're going to the same way that things went back in the Vietnam Era when all of a sudden the troops became baby killers.

KASICH: Captain, how do you oppose the war and not undercut the troops? Because what the doctor is saying is he doesn't like the war, he likes the troops. What's the right way to handle that?

NASH: I think what you do is you express it at the ballot box. You express it to your congressional and Senate leaders. You contact those people. You don't go on the air and denigrate people who are in harm's way.

KASICH: Well, it's tough issue because there are people against the war, like the doctor, but not against the troops.

HILL: But U.S. troops aren't the only people in harm's way. Innocent Iraqis are also in harm's way.

KASICH: Doctor, we're out of time. I'm sorry about that. I wish we had more. Guys, thanks for being with us.

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