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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Guantanamo Bay Treatment Defended

Aired June 13, 2005 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: The Guantanamo Bay question -- does the Bush administration see a future there amid growing allegations of prisoner abuse?

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we didn't have that facility at Guantanamo to undertake this activity, we'd have to have it someplace else.

ANNOUNCER: Iraq anxiety. Public support for a troop pullout is on the rise, even as the president's poll numbers have been sinking.

A belated apology for a deadly chapter in American history. Why is the Senate finally saying it's sorry for never outlawing lynching?

Arnold Schwarzenegger appeals to the people. Will the California governor get the special election he wants and make his reform agenda a reality? Now from Washington, CNN INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us, I'm Candy Crowley.

We begin with the intensifying debate over whether to close the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The White House says all options remain open, but Vice President Dick Cheney sounded today like a man who had who had made up his mind. He defended America's treatment of detainees there, a stark contrast to concerns being raised by some fellow Republicans, as well the administration's Democratic critics.

Our correspondents Ed Henry and Suzanne Malveaux are on Capitol Hill and at the White House today. First to you, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Candy. It was a top Democrat, Senator Joe Biden, who first championed the idea of shutting down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, but it's now an idea that's picking up steam among some Senate Republicans who think this might be time for the Bush administration to cut its political losses.

These Republicans, like Senator Chuck Hagel, say this may be the best way to, in fact, get this issue off the table to end this public relations problem that they say is making it harder for the United States to win hearts and minds, specifically in the Muslim world. Hagel, of course, makes somewhat -- makes something of a habit of being a thorn in the side of the Bush administration, so it's not so surprising necessarily that he would say this.

But what is shocking is that Republican Senator Mel Martinez, a former member of the Bush cabinet, really got this Republican tide turning on Friday. He spoke to Florida newspaper editors and he said there he's wondering whether the political costs of Guantanamo are outweighing the benefits. I spoke to Senator Martinez' office a short while ago and they confirmed that, in fact, the senator believes that the Bush administration should at least consider shutting down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo.

That, of course, was followed as well by Senator Hagel yesterday on CNN's "LATE EDITION."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, (R) NEBRASKA: If, in fact, we are treating prisoners this way, it's not only wrong, but dangerous and very dumb and very short-cited. At a time that we need to reach out to the world, we need to enlist the world, we need to form alliances to battle these insidious forces against us and other nations -- terrorism, proliferation, weapons of mass destruction -- this is not how you win the people of the world over to our side. Especially the Muslim world. So if this is going on, it needs to stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: But other top Republicans like House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter are holding firm and insisting that they believe the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are actually treated very well. And in order to illustrate his point a short while ago with reporters, Congressman Hunter actually trotted out the menu and specifically the food that was on the menu yesterday for the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. I can report that, in fact, these prisoners dined yesterday on oven fried chicken, rice pilaf, green beans and carrots, as well as pita bread and a glass of tea.

Chairman Hunter's point is that he believes, in fact, these prisoners are treated well. He believes a lot of this talk about abuses -- that they're actually been overdone and that this report by Amnesty International suggesting that, in fact, Guantanamo is a gulag is not true, categorically denied by both Chairman Hunter and of course, President Bush at a press conference a couple of weeks ago. In fact, Chairman Hunter also noted that while the Senate -- a couple of different Senate committees are thinking...

CROWLEY: Ed. Ed Henry, I'm sorry. Ed, I'm sorry. It's Candy. I'm going to have to cut you off there. We have some breaking news out of California.

END

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