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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Panelists React to President's Speech on Iraq War

Aired December 18, 2005 - 21:00   ET

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


(PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President speaking for about 16.5 minutes, promising to complete the job in Iraq, despite the difficulties. I'll be back right at the top of the hour. A complete hour of "THE SITUATION ROOM." But for now, let's go to Larry King. He's got a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Larry?

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf. And we'll meet a special panel of two panelists and journalists as well, later. But first, we're joined in Greenville, South Carolina, by Senator Lindsay Graham, republican of South Carolina, member of the center on Armed Services Committee, who's- just back from monitoring the elections in Iraq.

And in Wilmington, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, a democrat of Delaware, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who's also just returned from back from monitoring in Iraq elections.

Senator Biden has been a strong critic of the administration. We'll start with him. Did this speech impress you?

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Larry, it was positive, but the president seems to have -- let me put it this way: If we defeated every single terrorist in the world, we'd still have a war in Iraq. Americans would still be at risk from being killed in Iraq. There is a major, major conflict between three major groups trying to take control, or be the prominent force in that county, and we need a political solution. The next six months is going to determine that. Again, there is terror, that's real.

But there's also the so-called insurgency, Larry, which is made up for former Saddamist and Ba'athists, for the vast majority of the people, and we'd better figure out how to deal with that and we have six months to do it. That's the time in which they choose a new government, in which they'll have a constitution.

And if they don't choose a government -- for example, they very well choose a government -- we don't know what the election outcome is, it may be a Shia government, that is an Iranian style government that oppresses women. That's still up in the air. We don't know the answer to that. We better impact on what they do and we better impact on the kind of constitution they write to get everybody to buy in. In other words, it's an all out civil war and there's still possibility, but we have six months.

KING: Senator Graham, your thoughts. SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I thought the president did a very good job of being candid about mistakes in the past, about making the case that we can't leave before the job's done. And he mentioned a very important phrase: Constructional democracy.

I believe deeply that the outcome of what happens in Iraq is relevant with the war on terror. Joe's right, there's problems in the county if there was no terrorists, but the antidote to winning the war on terror -- the antidote to terror is tolerance and if we can have a constitutional democracy where Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds can live together and women have a say about their children, then we changed the whole dynamic of the Mid-East and we're really presenting a death blow to the terrorist.

But Joe's right, in this regard, the next six months will tell the tale. There are problems in Iraq the president didn't discuss that need to be discussed. The Ministry of Inferior, the people who own the police force are seen by many Kurds and many Sunnis as being an agent of a religious organization, not a fair arbitrator of the law.

There are armed militia in the south and the north that represent political parties where no central government execute democracy as long as you got armed groups larger and stronger than the army so got obstacles to move forward, but I am optimistic.

I think the glass is half full and I congratulate the president on being honest and candid about past problems and telling us how hard it's going to be, but how necessary it will be to get it right.

KING: Senator Biden, do you think he swayed public opinion?

BIDEN: Well Larry, I'm not smart enough to know that, but I do think Lindsay is correct, if -- we must succeed in Iraq because succeeding in Iraq will have an impact on the rest of the world, it will have an impact upon -- on terror in the region. Or to put it another way, if we fail, it will become a terror state and to be somewhat facetious, it'll be a Bush fulfilling prophecy. We will have a center of terror in that part of the world. So there's a great deal at stake.

The only point I want to make is, the American people should understand there's also a simmering civil war that we're dealing with and the only solution to that is -- was written by a very conservative columnist named David Brooks, today -- is either you either partition that county, which would be a disaster or you get a political solution.

And that requires us to use all the influence we have, Larry, and do what I've been suggesting, quite frankly, and Secretary Kissinger, very recently, and Secretary Schultz -- we have engage the regional powers and international powers to put pressure on the constituent parties, Sunni, Shia, and Kurds, to make a compromise that everyone can live.

Absent that, you know, as the old nursery rhyme goes, "All the kings horses, and all the kings men" will not keep Iraq together if it ends up if it ends up in a full-blown civil war. That will be determined by what the government looks like and what the constitution reads.

KING: Senator Graham, do you think the American public, at large, knows of the inner conflicts in Iraq itself?

GRAHAM: No. There's a 1,400 year dispute between the Sunnis and the Shias and I dare say less than one percent of America understand the difference and I'm not so sure I do, but it's important.

The problems in Iraq are not unknown to mankind, you're trying to overcome religious differences, you're tying to elevate the status of minorities who've been oppressed, you're trying to create a rule of law nation versus a rule of gun nation. Three years ago it was a dictatorship where everybody was afraid and the law meant nothing.

Our first generation of political leaders wrote a constitution, but we had slavery and women couldn't vote for 100 and something years. So, to be patient, I think, is to be required. But Joe's absolutely right, we can have an affect on the outcome, we can't win Iraq militarily, but we can empower people who want to live together in tolerance with a constitution that protects everybody's interest just not the chosen few.

There will be no mutual outcome in Iraq. It will either part of the solution or a bigger part of the problem. And in the next six months we'll know the answer.

KING: Senator Biden, you reiterated...

BIDEN: ... Larry, can I add one point?

KING: OK, go ahead.

BIDEN: If the ambassador, who's one of the best ambassadors I have ever worked with, and I think Lindsay would agree with me, he's a really knowledgeable guy. He said something on television today that I think everyone should take note of.

He said: the violence will begin to cease and we'll succeed if -- if, two big ifs -- if we get a government that is not a religious government based on an Iranian style state. And we don't know who got elected.

If this guy Maddi (ph) got elected we have a problem. If somebody else gets elected we have a better chance. And he said secondly, the big if will be, if in fact we get a constitution the Sunnis can buy into. And so he's the one that's leveled the most with everyone.

And the fact of the matter is democracy as we know it is not in the offering. That is not a realistic expectation. The -- what's as realistic is to have a nation that is secure within its borders, not a treat to its neighbors, not a haven for terror and that all the major parties think they have a better deal being in the deal then out of the deal.

KING: All right.

BIDEN: That's the best we're going to be able to do.

KING: Senator Graham, do you agree completely with that statement?

BIDEN: And that's good.

GRAHAM: Yeah, I think he's pretty much dead on. Two major obstacles in the short term. We cannot have a democracy where you have militias. You can't have a democracy where you got political parties with armies strong than the central government forces. And you can't have a police force that a minority of the population believes doesn't have their best interests at heart.

You know these secret prisons you been reading about Larry, in Iraq? They're being used by the Shia majority to oppress the Sunni minority and they're being sanctioned by the police commanders. We've got to make sure that the Sunnis understand that the rule of law means that they can be protected by the law and not killed by the law.

So I'm looking to see if the Iraqi people will prosecute the Shia who've abused the Sunnis because that never happened under the Saddam the other way.

Here's the bottom line, will the people who've been oppressed all of these years do better than the ones that they're replacing? That's hard, but I'm hopeful they will.

KING: You're watching a special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll spend some more moments with Senators Lindsay Graham and Joe Biden, who monitored the elections, following the president's speech. And then we'll have a major panel discussion.

And then another hour of "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer at the top of the hour. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Senators Graham in Greenville, South Carolina, and Biden in Wilmington, Delaware.

It wasn't in the speech tonight, but I would certainly be interested in your thoughts, Senator Biden, on the president acknowledging over the weekend that he ordered domestic spying and vows to continue it; it's all a part of the war on terrorism. What do you think?

BIDEN: You know, Larry, I heard the vice president, after the president spoke, saying that the only people we're spying on are people who have contact with terrorists. If that's true, there's no need for this without going through the courts. We have a secret court, called a FISA court, which I helped write the law for, when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee, years ago. And what is says is, the government can go there and say, they can eavesdrop on anyone for up to 72 hours without permission, as long as within that time they go to this court and say this is why we're doing it. And the court says, well, entitled or you're not entitled.

If in fact, this is what is happening, only those people who are in contact with known terrorists, that's one thing. They should go to the court. If it's not that, then it is something very different and the America public is not about, in my view, to give up their personal freedom and privacy in return for this amorphous notion that it is the generic war on terror.

So, I think, the president is still out of bounds here. And I'm, quite frankly, confused. Why did he have to do this so massively when he has the power right now to intercept any communications, for up to 72, as long as he goes to the secret court. Doesn't have to tell anybody. Go to the court and say, this is why I'm doing it.

KING: Senator Graham, do you think Americans will, on the one hand say, I understand the invasion of privacy because of threats in the world, or on the other hand, say, don't come inside my house.

GRAHAM: I think Americans understand we're at war. And when you're at war the law operates differently than when you're at peace, but we're still a nation of laws even during the war. I think most Americans understand when you're at war you have to have different techniques. During World War II we had the War Powers Act that was designed to prevent the Nazis and the Japanese from infiltrating our country, to blow us up. We need the Patriot Act to prevent the enemy from coming into our country and killing a bunch of Americans.

But here's my bottom line on this, Larry. Whatever the law requires during the time of war, we must follow it, because that's the reason we're fighting the war, to be a nation of laws. If the court was dealt out here, improperly, I want to know about it. The president has a lot of authority as commander in chief, and there are a lot of statues on the books that may have given him the ability to do this. The bottom line for me is, if the courts should have been involved, I want them involved. And I don't know the answer to that yet.

Because you're at war, it doesn't justify doing away with the process that keeps you free.

KING: Were you surprised, Senator Biden, that Dick Cheney the vice president went to both Iraq and Afghanistan and said, that we are making remarkable progress?

BIDEN: No. I'm never surprised by what he says.

Look, I mean, this idea we're making remarkable progress. The president has made some changes in policy. I wished he had talked about them. For example, he's beginning to train up the Iraqi security forces better, but he acknowledged, the police aren't trained at all.

Lindsey and I, and others, have been saying there is no police training program worth a darn. This year, General Casey said this coming year will be the year of training the police. They're a problem, they're not an asset.

He's changed the way in which we let contracts. We have learned, to my great satisfaction, that instead of 90 percent of the contracts going to mega companies in the United States, that don't employ Iraqis, 75 percent of those contracts are now going to local Iraqi companies to get that 40 percent unemployment rate down and change the situation on the ground.

So, he has made some progress. But the notion that this is remarkable, you would not hear the -- our ambassador say that. You would not hear General Casey say that. You would not hear anybody on the ground there say that. We are making some progress. We've made some monumental mistakes, we're correcting them now. We must continue over the next six months to get it right.

But, Larry, the question here is are we going trade a dictator for chaos? Are we going to trade a dictator for stability? And if we end up with a Shia dominated state, that is an Iranian style, is anybody going to call that progress? The jury is still out on that, but we can affect it. We should get about doing that, affecting it.

KING: Senator Graham, why does it take so long to count the votes?

GRAHAM: Well, you could as that of our country.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAHAM: I was so impressed. I was so impressed with what happened. I've still got the purple ink, Larry. I know Joe does, too. Eleven million voted; I'll never forget this experience as long as I live. Not a car on the street, thousands of people walking to the polling stations. Being there on the ground was an amazing experience. We have reason to be optimistic. But now the hard part begins. We have democracy started. But there are two groups. Joe is absolutely right.

There is one group that wants to use democracy as an excuse for political payback and create a theocracy not a democracy. Another group made up of all three parts of the country, are willing to live together, write a constitution that will allow the rule of law to trump the rule of the gun. Nobody knows how it's going to come out yet. But I can tell you this, if Saddam was in charge, I could tell you how it was going to come out. It would come out terrible. There is hope now where there was no hope before.

KING: Senator Biden, there were no exit polls?

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: No, there were no exit polls, Larry. And you know, this election, to put it in American terms, is kind of like you have the election, and now there is the primary. Now you choose the candidates. Now the debating goes on, who is going to be the prime minister? Who is going to head up the ministries? And this is really, as I look at it, Larry, the end of the beginning. Not the beginning of the end. It's the end of the beginning, to paraphrase Churchill.

And now the beginning really is underway. And, look, the question here is are we going to end up with broadly representative government that is non-sectarian, both in its operation and in its constitution? That's our goal. If that doesn't get accomplished, then we've traded a dictator for a chaos.

KING: Thank you both very much. Two distinguished members of the Senate, frequent guests on this program, always great to see them. Thank you, Senators Biden and Graham.

You're watching a special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE. When we come back, David Gergen, Michael Isikoff, Congress Shays, Congresswoman Tauscher, and from Baghdad, Aneesh Raman, CNN's Baghdad correspondent. And then "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer at the top of hour. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Now, let's meet our panel, in Baghdad, Aneesh Raman, CNN's Baghdad correspondent, in Boston, David Gergen White House adviser to many presidents, editor at large "U.S. News & World Report", in Washington, Michael Isikoff of "Newsweek", and on Capitol Hill, Congressman Christopher Shays, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Republican of Connecticut, also in Washington, Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, Democrat of California, member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Let's start with Aneesh Raman in Baghdad, who might comment on what we ask the senators about, why it takes so long, and was there any exit polling at all -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT: Yes, essentially, it's a great question, Larry. The reason it is taking so long for the results to be known is the security situation. They have to bring these ballots from the 18 provinces, that is not an easy thing to do.

Also, these want to make sure this process is seen as legitimate. So all the various political entities have a chance to comment, to issue complaints, they want to deal with those pre-emptively.

But as Senator Biden said, when the announce these results, and we expect them to announce the results in about 10 days or less, that is just the beginning of this process. Essentially, it is like the primary season is over. Then we will see weeks, if not a month or two, of political wrangling. The reason for that, is that no one list has the necessary two-thirds to control this government. So a coalition will have to be formed.

Whether that leads to a secular man, like Iyad Allawi, leading this government, or to a more theocratic religious government like Adalah Zul Mehdi (ph), of the Shia list, that is what we'll see. But this will be the first true test for Iraq's political leaders, how effectively they can build compromise and how quickly, Larry.

KING: David Gergen, you have advised many presidents. More than half the population is now against this war, though they're not in favor of pulling out. Did he change anybody tonight, David?

DAVID GERGEN, EDITOR AT LARGE, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": I think he shored up his support, Larry. And he's trying to buy time for this coming year, a pivotal year for him and for Iraq. And his biggest fear in the last few weeks has been that the bottom would drop out here at home.

That the support for staying in would disintegrate. Just going into this weekend there was a new Associated Press polls, shows that 57 percent of Americans do not want to pull out right away. I think he helped himself with that group.

KING: And Michael Isikoff, your thoughts on the speech?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK": I thought it was a sort of mid-course correction in the president's rhetoric. He acknowledged most prominently, although he has before, that much of the intelligence that was the basis for us going to war was wrong. He acknowledged that things have not gone as well as expected.

And that his own -- many of his own decisions have lead to, as he said it, a terrible loss. So there was a sort of humility there that we haven't always heard before from the president.

But, essentially, no, he wasn't announcing any new change in policy here. And I guess the one thing that leapt out at me is his references to we're facing this dark choice between victory or defeat; to withdraw without victory would be reckless. But hasn't really defined what victory is. Or will be in this case and makes it hard to know how he will -- how he carries that out in the future.

KING: Congressman Shays, what is victory? Is it a parade of ticker tape down Broadway and surrender of any kind? What is it?

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS, (R-CT), CHRMN., NAT'L. SECURITY CMTE: I think we're being very unfair to the president when we say he hasn't defined victory. He's said it time and again. And it follows the plan that was established to our military. And that was to basically train their military, their police, their border patrols, so that they can stand on their own, work with their government.

And just think, an election in January, an election in October, confirming the constitution. An election in December, with nearly 70 percent of the vote. So you've got the political side moving forward. And then the one area where we have I think a bit more problem, is with reconstruction.

But the bottom line is, this was an unbelievable successful election. And I envy the fact that my two senators were there. I got to be there in January. And it's thrilling to see Iraqis vote.

KING: Yes. Congresswoman Tauscher, will there be a day when we can say, the police are trained, the military is trained, everything is OK? Good-bye.

REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D-CA), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: Well, I hope there is, Larry, but the truth is it will be the Iraqis that make that decision, not us. I was just there two weeks ago, and what is still clear to me, as it was on my first trip two years ago, that we have really fumbled in understanding and the president I don't think was very clear tonight as to what exactly this fight in Iraq is all about.

Eight out of 10 fighters in Iraq are Iraqi. Two out of 10 are bad guys that have come into the country over the last couple of years, because we never secured the border, because we didn't have enough troops to provide security.

But this is an Iraqi civil war that has been brewing and increasing in intensity over the last few years and it can only be solved politically. I think that that is what the president missed today, was to make it clear to the American people that we have maybe 90 days for this government to be announced and formed up, for them to begin to prove that they can have a non-sectarian government that will actually join Iraqis together. That will cause the Sunnis and the former Baathists, and the former Saddamists to put down their guns and perhaps join this government.

If that doesn't begin to happen. If it is a government that is too sectarian, too much in the sphere of Iran, then we're going to be in trouble. And 168,000 American troops are going to be in trouble, because we do not have enough Iraqis trained up right now to be independent and fight on their own.

And I wish the president would have really stressed how much the responsibility for what happens in Iraq is really up to the new Iraqi government. They have got to begin to handle their own domestic security much sooner than I think the president is willing to admit. And we need to get back to the war on terror, which is really the fight that is threatening the American people.

KING: All right. We've met every member of the panel, we'll be right back with more on this special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Aneesh Raman, in Baghdad, tell me about Vice President Cheney's trip.

RAMAN: Yes, he came in under the cloak of complete secrecy, Larry. Even the Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari didn't know he was here. He went to Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq and found out Vice President Cheney was there to meet with him as well. He met with top military commanders. He also went to Taji, a military base to see the training of Iraqi security forces. He spokes to troops as well, really here to boost moral among the U.S. troops that are here and also gauge for himself how that training is going. And when we speak of Iraqi security forces, Larry, two things to keep in mind next year. The first is that they are currently uneven. There is a disparity. There are those who are able to go off on their own, others who are just beginning. So next year the disparity has to even out.

And the second, we heard earlier, spoke of, are militias. These Shia militias, that by many accounts on the ground have infiltrated their way into the government security forces. That is something that will have to either end or be curbed for this government to be seen as legitimate on the ground, Larry.

KING: All right. If memory serves me correct, David Gergen, didn't Senator Hillary Clinton say earlier this week that Vice President Cheney ought to go to Iraq?

GERGEN: I think she did. And yes.

(LAUGHTER)

GERGEN: I have a feeling, Larry, he did not go because of her.

KING: It was interesting timing.

GERGEN: No, it was interesting timing. They are on a media blitz. You know, the president had back to back television addresses over a weekend. Have the vice president go to Iraq this way. They're clearly trying to fight back.

I'd say -- listening to the conversation tonight, Larry, what emerges to me is that what we heard tonight were two speeches. The first Bush speech was about the past and that was an excellent speech, one of the best -- I think one of the best speech he's ever given on Iraq. Because it was not only persuasive, but he was candid. He was humble.

He acknowledged all the problems, that intelligence was wrong, we've got -- you know the war has been more difficult than expected, the reconstruction has been going wrong.

But then there was a second Bush speech about the future. And there, there was extreme disappointment. Because he really didn't lay out, in a serious way, what the hard problems are of the future. Nor did he put pressure on the Iraqis to -- this is the year they have to pull themselves together and get themselves trained up. They cannot look to Americans for indefinite support.

KING: Michael Isikoff, accepting that, what David Gergen just said, is it possible to know?

ISIKOFF: To know what?

KING: What's ahead. ISIKOFF: No, I don't think so. The -- I just want to, just going back to something David just said about the political media blitz that the president is on.

He obviously needed to do this, because the polls were tanking in support for the war. And he has a propitious time with the elections, which is the one -- which is the best news out of Iraq since the voting in January. Everything in between has been dismal and sort of a steady diet of roadside bombings and Marines being killed.

But I think that sort of more strategically for the president, once again, using the speech to make the case that this is all about the war on terror and protecting the country and once again raising the specter of September 11. In some ways, I think the recent revelations about the domestic spying program may play into the president's hands.

Because despite all of the congressional criticism that has come, that this was done without any true consultation with Congress, outside the orbit of the FISA court, I think that the president's political advisers see that as part and parcel of their main political strength, fighting the war on terror. The president doing that which is necessary to defeat the terrorists and the more he can put all that together, I think the stronger they think they'll be politically.

KING: In fact, when we come back, I'll ask our two Congress -- folk, what they think about this invasion of privacy, so to speak, and the president's standing by it. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: All right, Congressman Shays, what do you make of the wiretapping issue?

SHAYS: Well, I just first have to jump in and say I think we're being very unfair to the Iraqis. They didn't attack us. We disbanded their army, their police, their border patrol and they're government. And we're saying they better get their act together.

In one year, they've established a government, created a constitution, so I think we should be a little more appreciative of what they've done. I've been there 10 times, and maybe it's the Peace Corps volunteer in me, but these folks have been amazing. They don't need a miracle like we needed in 1776, by the way we had 13 years, and they've done something in just less than a year.

In terms of the wiretapping, all the leaders knew about it. And for them to imply that somehow that somehow they're shocked and appalled. I do agree with Mr. Biden, that the president should work within the framework of the FISA court. But to be surprised by it, I think is a little surprising.

KING: You're saying all the leaders knew, all the congressional leaders knew?

SHAYS: I'm saying that the folks in the Intelligence Committee, those leaders, knew. Nancy Pelosi clearly knew.

KING: All right. What do you think Congressman Tauscher?

TAUSCHER: I think that we're a nation of laws, and I don't think the president is above the law. And its very clear that the FISA law gave both a front door opportunity to go to this court and get the wiretap very quickly, in an expedited way. And there's a back door, that if you had to do it very, very quickly, within 72 hours, to go to the court and get a decision. And we did none of that, apparently.

And there is a lot of record keeping now, that we're hearing about. Millions of Americans that are not really subject to any lawful search or any retrieval or records, are now having their records housed. So I think this is very important that we take a look at it. I don't think it is necessary to be partisan. Certainly the speaker new about it if Nancy Pelosi did.

But I really want to get back to the president's speech tonight, if I could, Larry.

The president missed a big opportunity to join the American people. This is really a typical kind of, my way or the highway speech. The context of this speech was very political. Lots of partisan shots, calling people either winners or losers or defeatists. I think that is really unnecessary.

And I think it is really much more important for the president to be honest with the American people that the hard slog is far from over. And we still have a lot of losses that we're going to take and it is up to the Iraqi people to help get this right.

KING: David Gergen, do you think he was unclear?

GERGEN: I thought he was unclear, with due respect to Christopher Shays. I think it is still unclear what victory really is. Some of the speeches in the past couple of weeks have suggested that if we really -- that we're going to leave it to the Iraqis to fight the insurgents. And we're really worried about, quote, the other terrorist who have come from the outside.

Well, I'm not at all clear that we'll know when we'll see victory. If anything, there is this other -- a third scenario, and that is that there will be an Iraq that will be unable to come together as a unified nation. It will be quite decentralized. There will be a Shiite south that is very closely tied into Iran.

SHAYS: Well, that would be a defeat.

GERGEN: Well, I'm not sure -- I'm not sure we're going to be able to do better than that. I'm not sure that is a defeat. That maybe something we can live with in the end. We may not have a unified nation.

SHAYS: David, I think you can agree that we've trained these troops. Now, they're getting experience. What they don't have is leadership and what they don't have some of the logistic support. So we're not going to be able to leave. They'll still need our air power. We'll have to be in the background.

But I think you can agree that they have been in so many of the attacks on recent cities -- they've been holding the cities. You can go into 14 provinces and feel pretty comfortable walking on the street. There has been immense progress and the press doesn't want to talk about it.

TAUSCHER: Wait a minute. I mean, the truth of the matter is what we really understand is that at the same moment that we're the only stabilizing force because the Iraqi force isn't strong enough. We're also...

SHAYS: ... in one year.

TAUSCHER: But we are also the destabilizing force, because we still have Sunnis coming up with IED everyday, coming after us.

KING: I'm going to have to interrupt guys. I'm going to have to interrupt, but one quick word from Michael Isikoff. Has the press mis-covered this?

ISIKOFF: I think the press has covered the story as it obviously would cover the story. When there is bombing, when Americans are being killed, that is always going to be the lead story for the press. And the fact is that, you know, we have 2100 Americans killed in Iraq, a lot have been killed over the past year. And that is always going to trump schools being opened and progress that is being made. That's the nature of the news biz.

KING: Thank you, Aneesh Raman, David Gergen, Michael Isikoff, Congressman Shays, Congresswoman Tauscher, and earlier, Senators Graham and Biden, on this special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE, following the president's speech.

Stay tuned now, because another hour follows a special night edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer. Indeed, it starts now.

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