Rumsfeld blasts House Dems' criticism of new Benghazi panel

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 7, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right. As the Benghazi select committee takes shape, House Democrats taking to the attack.


REP. XAVIER BECERRA, D-CALIF.: Some would actually call them sessions that lead to inquisitions that hearken back to the days of the McCarthy era.

REP. JOE CROWLEY, D.N.Y.: Stop the games and the circus.


CAVUTO: All right, we have got Donald Rumsfeld with us right now, the former defense secretary of the United States.

You do not call this a circus, Secretary, joining us on the phone right now. You say that this is way overdue. But you -- what happens if no Democrat joins that panel, joins that committee?

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, it would be a mistake from their standpoint, in my view.

I think that this is a serious matter. The fact that the former Secretary of state Hillary Clinton asked the question famously what does it matter, it does matter. The sequence is clear. The facts after the beginning of it are not clear.

But when you have a warning when it's about 9/11, an anniversary date that's important, when the British pull their people out, when the U.S. forces, people, State Department people ask for security assistance in Benghazi, and they're not provided it, but they're also not pulled out, and four Americans are killed, it seems to me that that is an important thing for the Congress to pursue, understand and require that the executive branch provide the detailed information as to who was where when and whether or not additional forces were requested and turned down.

And it's a serious matter. And I think that they do them their political party harm and, indeed, their country harm, more importantly, by not participating. So I hope they will.

CAVUTO: You know, Democrats come back, as you know, Secretary, well, it's rich of Donald Rumsfeld to say, or Republicans in general to say, because we admit -- that is the Democrats saying this -- that we botched the intelligence on this, but they go back and say Republicans botched intelligence too, back and forth, back and forth.

What do you think of that?

RUMSFELD: Well, there's no question but that there are times when there are intelligence failures.

And in the case of Iraq, the Democrats in the United States Senate, Jay Rockefeller and chairman of the Intel Committee saw the same intelligence the president did, and said it was an imminent threat to the United States.

So that is a totally separate question, it seems to me. What the question here is, why did the White House and the State Department make a series of decisions that resulted, first of all, in the four Americans being killed? But then why days, many days later did Mrs. Clinton go up and tell the families of the people that were killed that they were going to find the man who made the video, when everyone knew the video was not the cause of that, that there hadn't been a protest?

Why did President Obama go to the United Nations and talk about the video and call it despicable?


CAVUTO: Are talking points illegal, though, or criminal? And I say that because a cynic could look at that and say, well, they were all on talking point after this horror.

And Democrats come back and say, with all due respect, Secretary, well, Republicans were all on talking points in the early days of the bust-up in Iraq. What do you say to that?

RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, the latter point is simply not true.

And, of course, people try to figure out in government -- first of all, let me just say these are tough jobs. Let's admit that, that being president or secretary of state or the director of CIA, those are not easy tasks.

On the other hand -- and people do talk and try to understand what the facts are, and then they develop talking points about what the facts are.

CAVUTO: Right.

RUMSFELD: Now, to the extent that facts are ignored and the talking points reflect hope and a desire to be politically correct and to fit into a campaign structure, that's just not being straightforward with the American people.

CAVUTO: Well, let me ask you then about if this committee proceeds without a single Democrat, are you worried that nothing ever comes of it or that, whatever the American public thinks, it's viewed through the prism of a political hatchet job and nothing gets solved?

RUMSFELD: I think that the argument that people are turning this into a political issue, when it's a tragedy and a serious case of government not functioning properly, arguing that it's a political case is kind of a silly thing that I doubt would take with the American people.

Anything is political, in the sense if someone says it.


RUMSFELD: But in this case, I think that if the Democrats do decide to not participate -- and, as I say, I really hope they will -- I think the task for the chairman and the members of the committee will be more difficult because they will have to see that every issue is developed and both sides of every issue is developed for it to be highly credible with the American people, which it has to be.

CAVUTO: If I could switch -- this may be a little more overtly political, Secretary, but if you will indulge me, much has been made of my prior guest's win in North Carolina, Thom Tillis, the non-Tea Party candidate, who easily won that nominating battle and got more than the necessary 40 percent to prevent a runoff.

And many are saying that this should teach the Tea Partiers a lesson that their day in the sun is done, rally around the establishment party and that he represents that and that's good for the party. Do you agree?

RUMSFELD: Oh, you know, I have been out of politics for so long. I'm just -- generally, generically, I think our country is very fortunate to have two great political parties that compete and contest.

I think a multiparty system in our country would be a weakness for our country, because a minority party could pull the party -- the government down. And...


CAVUTO: Well, what are you saying there? Are you saying that the Tea Partiers risk doing that, fragmenting the party?

RUMSFELD: No. No, what I'm saying is, I'm for a big tent.

CAVUTO: I got you.

RUMSFELD: I'm for including everybody.

CAVUTO: Because a lot of Tea Partiers are sore. That's the reason why I mentioned it, Secretary. Do you think they should be? How should the establishment party, if that's what you want to call it, treat them, relate with them, move forward, kumbaya with them?

RUMSFELD: Well, you're -- you're asking somebody who's just not as current and knowledgeable about...


CAVUTO: Oh, I think you are. I think you are.

RUMSFELD: No, I really am not.

I don't know either of the candidates from that particular situation.


RUMSFELD: And I'm really -- I know what I know, and I know what I don't know, and I don't know.


CAVUTO: Well, here's what I -- here's what I related it to. And as someone who does the numbers around here at FOX, and you were exasperated filing your taxes. And I think you say -- I'm paraphrasing here -- I have no idea if these are accurate.


CAVUTO: Why did you say that, why did you do that, and -- and were you making or saying something bigger going on here, the complicated nature of our tax code or what?

RUMSFELD: Well, of course.

It's absolutely mindless that the tax code is thousands of pages. And I work hard, and I try to be accurate in my taxes. And when I finish, it's a thick stack, and I know I don't know if it's accurate.

CAVUTO: Well, you have accountants doing it, right?

RUMSFELD: Of course I do. And I say to the accountants, and I ask them to explain it to me, and I still can't under...


CAVUTO: And when they do, what do they tell you, that we think this is accurate?

RUMSFELD: They do. They say, we think it's accurate.


RUMSFELD: And I want them to know that I'm signing it, and I don't know if it's accurate. I know they say it's accurate.

But it's inexcusable in the United States of America in the year 2014 that the American people are not capable of understanding their taxes. And I'm not, nor is my wife.


RUMSFELD: And I just thought, doggone it, I'm going to tell them the truth.

Now, is it the IRS' fault? No, partly, because they're the bureaucracy that drafts all these regulations.

CAVUTO: Right.

RUMSFELD: But it's basically the Congress of the United States and the president. And doggone it, it's inexcusable that we don't simplify the tax code.

CAVUTO: All right.

Very quickly, the NSA under a lot of heat for stepping on a lot of people's privacy toes. Do you think that the criticism is valid? Do you think they have gone too far under the guise of keeping us safe?

RUMSFELD: Well, you know, I'm some years away from the government, and I'm not involved in classified information. I will say this. I think it is a balance that people need to keep in the front of their minds that, by golly, the lethality of weapons today is such that we cannot afford to make a mistake.

And we need to protect the American people. And we need to be a reliable friend and ally to the other countries in the world.

CAVUTO: All right.

RUMSFELD: And, by the same token, we have to put on the other side of that scale the risk of being too intrusive in terms of the American people. My impression when I left the government was that the balance was pretty good.

CAVUTO: OK. It's very good having you, Secretary. Thank you very much.

RUMSFELD: You bet, Neil. Good to be with you.

CAVUTO: Donald Rumsfeld, the former U.S. secretary of defense.

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