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CNN Larry King Live
Reactions to President Bush's Speech
Aired June 28, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When the history of this period is written, the liberation of Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq will be remembered as great turning points in the story of freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOB COSTAS, GUEST HOST: Tonight, President Bush tells Americans there's difficult and dangerous work to do in Iraq, but it's worth it. Can he persuade an increasingly skeptical public that his strategy can and will prevail?
Among those joining us, exclusively, former Democratic presidential candidate and decorated Vietnam veteran, Senator John Kerry, and Republican Senator John McCain, war hero and former White House hopeful himself. Their views and much more, next, on LARRY KING LIVE.
Continuing with reactions now in the aftermath of President Bush's address to the nation from Ft. Bragg. Bob Costas sitting in tonight for Larry King.
Senator John Kerry's time is short. We will go right to him. He joins us from our Washington bureau. He is of course, the former Democratic presidential candidate, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This morning, in "The New York Times," he authored an op-ed piece called "The Speech the President Should Give."
Senator Kerry, did President Bush give anything like the speech you would have liked to have seen him give tonight?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Not quite, no. I think the president had an opportunity tonight to really speak more of the truth of what has happened in Iraq and where we need to go.
Let me give you an example. Really, tonight, we heard sort of transformation into the third most significant rationale for the war itself. The first, of course, was weapons of mass destruction. The second was democracy. And now tonight, it's to combat the hotbed of terrorism.
But most Americans are aware that the hotbed of terrorism never existed in Iraq until we got there, and it has in fact grown increasingly as we are there. So the question tonight is not the speech itself. The question is really, did the president lay out a policy that is going to guarantee that our troops are as safe as they could be and that we're doing all that is possible to be able to have a success?
I believe there is much more that I laid out today. The training, the use of our neighbors, the border security, the transformation of the Sunni political reconciliation. All of these things could be done more rapidly and more effectively.
COSTAS: If you had been elected president last November, by this point what would President John Kerry have done in Iraq?
KERRY: Well, I laid out -- you know, I don't want to get in -- I mean, I think that's not quite the way to go at it. What I said continually is that you have to put the training on a wartime footing.
I visited Iraq in January. I visited with the leaders of the region, and I was really dumbfounded to listen to the king of Jordan or the president of Egypt or the chancellor of Germany or the president of France all say that they were prepared to do more in terms of assisting in the training, but they couldn't understand why the administration hadn't taken them up on it.
We now have a requirement that all of that training be in country, in Iraq. That is a huge stumbling block to be able to produce the number of troops and the level of training necessary to protect our troops as rapidly as possible.
We could do more with respect to the Sunni neighbors. They have a huge stake in the outcome and the success of what happens in Iraq. But many of them feel they're not consulted with. Many of them feel they're not part of a larger process. I think there is much more that we can do on a more active basis. All of us want to succeed. And I think the president did not lay out the full measure of those things that he will embrace.
And maybe he will do it in the weeks ahead. Maybe tonight he stood his ground, and we'll see a transformation. But I think a lot of people in America are looking for less talk about the progress and more talk about what we're specifically going to do to be able to be successful in creating stability and bring our troops home.
COSTAS: In the aftermaths of 9/11, did Democrats, yourself included, do a poor job of playing the role of the loyal opposition? Were they too docile and too compliant, and did they fail to ask the skeptical questions and raise the objections they should have in the run-up to war?
KERRY: Many of the questions were raised, but not enough. I plead guilty. And I think a lot of people in the party would. But I think a lot of Americans would.
The fact is that we all were unified. I think this is really important in light of Karl Rove's comments the other day. We were all unified as Americans. I mean, I will never forget sitting in a leadership meeting in the Capitol a little after 9:00, when this loud explosion took place off our right side, and we looked out and saw this plume of black smoke coming from the Pentagon, and we almost simultaneously received word that the White House was evacuating and we should evacuate.
And I'll never forget the emotions heading out of the Capitol and turning to a friend and saying, "we're at war." That was our emotion that was shared by all Americans. And we banded together. All members of the Senate present voted unanimously to give the president whatever he needed and to use force to retaliate. We all agreed we should go to Afghanistan.
I think questions were raised, however, when the president began to raise the specter of going into Iraq. But he guaranteed us in going to the United Nations and going through an inspections process, that we would go to war as a last resort. I think everybody would say today we did not do that, and the war was morphed from the war of weapons of mass destruction into democracy, and now, as I said, into the third rationale.
And I think a lot of Americans are very uneasy about the current way in which the president keeps talking in the same language.
Take the training of troops tonight. He says they're 167,000. He said there are a lesser number prepared to fight. Well, it's about less than 3,000. There are 10,000 to 15,000 that might be able to do something with us.
I think two years after the invasion, Americans have a right to expect a higher level of accomplishment, and a higher level of safety and security.
COSTAS: You know all about the fog of war. Representative Chris Shays will be on this program later, has made several trips to Iraq, and he contends that the significant progress, the successes of Bush policy are being lost amid the day-to-day reports from the war zone. Is that a valid point? I mean, no one thinks that Iraq is going to be Switzerland, but Saddam is gone. There is a democracy of some kind in place. The vast majority of the Kurds in the north and a substantial majority of the Shiites in the south would probably say they're better off than they were just a couple of years ago. Is Bush getting an unfair shake here?
KERRY: To some degree, I think that's true. And I've said that publicly. We've made progress. There's no question we have made some progress.
But the measure here is not whether or not you've made some progress. The measure is, are you doing all that's necessary and appropriate and available in order to provide the best policy for our troops?
You know, the president said tonight that what we can do on July 4th is fly the flag and honor the troops. Well, every American that I know of flies the flag on July 4th and we always honor our troops. The question of honoring the troops, it seems to me, is to provide them with the best protection possible. And when you don't address the borders that are sieves, when you don't deal with this training issue, to provide adequate transformation on a rapid basis, we're not doing all that is possible.
When you underfund the VA by a billion dollars and try to hide it, you're not doing all that's necessary to honor the troops.
So, I think Americans are smart. They know how to measure this. And, increasingly, as they're beginning to become aware of the gaps in the performance from the promise, people want to demand more. We owe those troops more. We owe the American people more.
Yes, there is progress, but the measure is, again, to do the best that we can do. And I think a lot of people feel we're failing to do that.
COSTAS: We have less than a minute here, Senator. In hearings with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld last week, your fellow Democratic senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, said that Iraq is becoming, quote, "seemingly an intractable quagmire." Quagmire, that's that Vietnam-era word that you know much about. Was that over the top, or was it close to accurate?
KERRY: No, I don't believe it is that yet today. But it could become that if we don't make the right choices. And the key, what I laid out today, were a series of steps on the border, the inclusion of the neighbors in the region, the building of a stronger regional security plan, the training of troops, the investment -- not of the donor countries. It's not just donors we're looking for. It's investment from various businesses other than Halliburton.
There's a very significant amount that we could do with respect to border security, and there is more we could do in the region in the long run to reduce the potential of radicals joining in to the jihadist movement.
A lot of those things have been left on the table, and I think what Americans, again, want is the effort to best honor the troops by providing them with the maximum set of options possible.
We can do better. We owe them the leadership that's equal to their sacrifice. And I think we have yet to provide that.
COSTAS: Senator Kerry, thank you for your time tonight.
KERRY: Thank you.
COSTAS: As we continue on LARRY KING LIVE, still ahead, a few moments from now, Senator John McCain will be with us. LARRY KING LIVE continues from New York and from Washington after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We have more work to do. And there will be tough moments that test America's resolve. We're fighting against men with blind hatred and armed with lethal weapons who are capable of any atrocity. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTAS: Bob Costas for Larry King on this Tuesday night in New York. And from Washington, Jay Carney, the deputy Washington bureau chief of "Time" magazine is joining us. Richard Wolffe, chief White House correspondent from "Newsweek," and from CNN's Baghdad bureau, CNN correspondent Jennifer Eccleston.
Jennifer, let's start with you. From the vantage point of the Iraqis and the U.S. military personnel watching in Baghdad, did they hear tonight what most of them had hoped to hear from President Bush?
JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think from the vantage point of the Iraqis, they will be waking up this morning and they will frame this speech within the context of how it's going to improve their day-to-day lives. And you know, despite the undeniable progress here in Iraq one year after the handover of sovereignty today, the grinding violence, the lack of personal security, the day- to-day hardships, not enough water, not enough power, inadequate sanitation -- this limits most Iraqis' abilities to believe that their government and the American assertations that life is indeed improving, it's hard for them to see, for lack of a better phrase, the forest through the trees, because day-to-day living is just so tough.
And as far as the American troops are concerned, indeed, they will be out listening from the various posts around this country. They want to hear that level of support. They want to hear it from their president. All U.S. forces overseas want to know that they are facing support, not only from their president, but also from the American people. And if that speech tonight went some ways to do that, then, indeed, they will see that as a very positive sign -- Bob.
COSTAS: Jay Carney and Richard Wolffe in our D.C. bureau, there's an element of theater in any presidential address. So the president in this case goes to Ft. Bragg, well aware that the American public supports the troops. A majority now, we are told, according to recent polls, of the American public does not support President Bush's policy. He's clearly trying to blur the distinction between support for the troops and support for his policy. Was he successful in that regard?
JAY CARNEY, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME": Well, I think, Bob, there were a lot of distinctions blurred tonight, as has been pointed out, the, you know, the fact that the president once again reintroduced and sort of conflated 9/11, the events of 9/11 with what's happening in Iraq, and I think that while that has worked for him in the past, making the war on terror one broad event, that began on September 11th, 2001 and continues to this day in Iraq, has worked for him politically, I'm not sure it will continue to work for him. And then there was the blurring of distinctions on, you know, the troops, as you say, versus what he needs to get done in Iraq and the plummeting support for the war.
And the problem that the president faces really is that he's trying to make a public relations pitch, showing that he understands the concerns the Americans have, but he cannot effect with this speech what's happening on the ground, and that's what most Americans have been watching on television and reading in the newspapers. And unless the situation improves on the ground, I don't think his plight, politically, will improve.
COSTAS: Richard Wolffe, your reaction?
RICHARD WOLFFE, "NEWSWEEK": Yeah, look, there's a reason why he has gone after the terrorism angle on this, because that's the one number the president has that has held up over all this period. When you look at the numbers of people who say, was the war worth it or not? That number has been on the slide since April, May of last year. It really took a downward turn in September, before the president got reelected.
One speech isn't going to turn that around. But yes, he's trying to blur it, he's trying to draw on his own support, but the numbers really don't look good, and they have been on a bad path for a long time.
COSTAS: Again, to both of you, with less than a minute here, because Senator McCain is standing by, the word "quagmire" came up in the last segment, a Vietnam-era word. We are also hearing the term "credibility gap." There were no weapons of mass destruction. There has been no contact or connection between Iraq and al Qaeda or 9/11 established. Vice President Cheney says the insurgency is in its final throes. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says the insurgency could last a decade or more. Does the Bush administration now face a credibility gap?
CARNEY: I think so. I think that in fact, if you look at these poll numbers, that's where the president has his most serious problem, is that if he has come to a point where the public will not believe what he says about Iraq anymore, then no matter what he says or no matter what the format of his speeches are, his situation won't improve.
WOLFFE: And on the question of the terrorists, which is what he presented his whole speech as, you know, the American people are going to be confused, frankly, because for a long time, we were told that the people who were on the other side in Iraq were the dead-enders, the Baathists, and there's a basic problem there in terms of what the public understands, what it's been told up to this point, and what the president said tonight.
COSTAS: Richard, Jay, Jennifer, thanks to all three of you.
When we come back on LARRY KING LIVE, we'll be joined by Senator John McCain.
COSTAS: Senator John McCain of Arizona joins us now from Capitol Hill. Senator McCain, you are, no doubt, familiar with what your Senate colleague, Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said recently. But to refresh the memories of our audience, I'll read it. "Things aren't getting any better. Things are getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is, we are losing in Iraq."
What say you to that?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, with respect to my friend -- and he's a dear friend -- I completely disagree. There are signs of progress. Yes, it's tough, and it's hard, and we've made mistakes and we paid a heavy price for those mistakes. Unfortunately, in wars, serious mistakes are made.
But we've seen a number of signs of progress, including that of the capabilities of the Iraqi military, agreement with the Sunnis as framing the constitution, a decrease in suicide bombers from Iraqis and more and more coming in from the outside. By the way, that's the good news and bad news piece of it.
And there is a legitimacy to the Iraqi government that, frankly, the government of South Vietnam never had.
So, I think that there is progress.
We cannot afford to fail. I think the president said that very articulately tonight, and the benefits of success throughout the region are already being felt.
COSTAS: Are you satisfied with the message President Bush delivered tonight and the way in which he delivered it?
MCCAIN: I am, and I would like to comment. I watched Jay Carney and Mr. Wolffe there earlier. The reason why I think the president made a reference to terrorists is that those people that are coming in, that I just referred to, that are coming in from the outside of Iraq through Syria, they are terrorists. They're the same guys who would be in New York if we don't win in Iraq. And so, we are facing a certain element of terrorism.
We're also facing an element of people who would wantonly take the lives of innocent people. And I do believe that that kind of activity, over time, cannot sustain the support of the public. And the reason why they're focusing most of their attention on the Iraqi military and security forces, they know if they succeed -- those forces succeed, the insurgents fail.
COSTAS: Senator McCain, I hope this question doesn't seem impertinent, but we often hear that if these terrorists are not confronted in Iraq, they'll be in New York or wherever. What is to stop them from being in New York simultaneously, if they could get here? We know that they would if they could, and they still might.
MCCAIN: Because I believe, Bob, that Iraq would turn into a hotbed of radical Islamist extremism and training, with equipping. It would be a center for Islamic extremism, and also a failure on the part of the United States would set a chain of events in motion, particularly in the Middle East, that would eventually reach the shores of the United States, I believe.
COSTAS: Are we up against a situation here that maybe we should take a big-picture look at? Iraq isn't really a natural country. It was cobbled together by force after World War I. There are different regional and religious factions. It was always held together by brutal central governments. And might it not naturally go the way of the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, where these factions just naturally break off once that central force is removed? Now, I realize that would destabilize -- in the view of many, would destabilize the Middle East, but are we trying to hold together a country that has no democratic tradition and is not really, in the true sense, a country?
MCCAIN: I don't think so. Most polls that we see, Iraqis identify themselves as Iraqi first, and Kurd second, Sunni, Shiite third -- I mean, second. But I -- I -- and I believe that what this has more to do with power within the country of Iraq rather than a desire to break it up. The Shias, as you know, have been the underdogs for centuries, and the Sunnis have governed.
Someone very smart likened this to a 1950s state of Alabama. All of a sudden, the African-Americans begin to rule the state. This would be -- this is a huge change. And yet, I don't see the Sunnis now saying, we're going to have an independent Sunni entity. They want power, and many of them are sympathetic to the insurgents, because they believe that may be a way to regain it.
So, yes, those lines were drawn in an attempt by British colonels around 1917 or 1918, but I think they've been a country long enough that that is not the forces that would drive them apart. I believe what would drive them apart is a belief, for example, on the Kurds' part that they had no rights in a government. And that's what I think would cause a problem like you described.
COSTAS: Are you hopeful about the attempt to split some of the Sunnis who support the insurgency, to split them away from the outside terrorists who have come across the borders, to make them feel as if they have a place in the mainstream, to change some of the procedures so they're likely to have more seats in parliament, and thereby, reduce the size of the insurgency? Is that a realistic hope?
MCCAIN: Yes, and I do believe that the Sunnis' agreement to enter into the framing of the constitution was a significant step forward.
But I'm a little nervous about including some of these insurgent factions into the government and giving them amnesty. There are some pretty bad people out there. So, yes, we want to bring Sunnis in, but I would be careful about some kind of blanket amnesty for some pretty atrocious things that have happened. So I would be a little nervous about it, but clearly, we have to get the majority of the Sunnis into participating in this new, this young democracy.
COSTAS: Senator McCain, we are where we are, and most people believe that if we just up and left, chaos would ensue. But suppose, for the purposes of this exercise, there were two buttons in front of you. You could only push one. If you push button number one, the best possible realistic outcome, as we speak now, ensues in Iraq. If you push button number two, we never went there in the first place. Which button would you push?
MCCAIN: Oh, by far, button number one. Look, I believe we're making progress towards a democracy in Iraq. That's already having an effect in the region. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya has already had an effect. There was a bad guy. Weapons of mass destruction or no weapons of mass destruction, the sanctions were eroding, and if Saddam Hussein were still in power, he would be attempting to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction.
I think the president laid out tonight an excellent scenario of what the realities are and what we face. They needed that. Now we need to show some progress on the ground.
COSTAS: We have a minute left here, Senator McCain. We now find that more than 60 percent of Americans recently polled think that President Bush has no clear plan for victory in Iraq, and now more than 50 percent believe it was a mistake to go there in the first place. What would you say to a father or mother whose son or daughter is being recruited -- there is no draft -- is being recruited to join the military under these circumstances?
MCCAIN: First of all, I think the president laid it out pretty well tonight. And I think he did a good job in his praise of the men and women of the military, and appeal to a cause greater than our self-interest.
If we can bring about a functioning democracy in Iraq, it will be a legacy for generations in the Middle East. We will have freed innocent people of the yoke of a cruel and despotic dictator. We will have moved the effort of democracy and freedom throughout the Middle East. And, you know, the noblest tradition of the United States of America is fighting and sometimes sacrificing in defense of someone else's freedom.
COSTAS: We don't have to ask about your own service. So, I take it in this hypothetical, if you had a child who was liable to be sent to Iraq, you would send him or her there not just proudly, but believe that he or she was putting his or her life on the line for a worthy and noble cause?
MCCAIN: I cannot tell you the pride I would feel if one of my children served in that fashion. But I also can't tell you that I wouldn't be nervous and worried as any other parent is.
COSTAS: Senator McCain, as always, a pleasure to speak with you.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
COSTAS: Thank you for being with us.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
COSTAS: When we come back, we'll be joined by Senators John Warner and Evan Bayh. Stay with us on LARRY KING LIVE. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So, we'll fight them there. We'll fight them across the world. And we will stay in the fight until the fight is won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTAS: Senator John Warner is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana is a member of that committee. Senator Bye, you asked President Bush, earlier this week, to present and unvarnished version of the situation in Iraq.
Did he do that tonight?
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Well, Bob, he did a good job of saying things that the American people already agree on; all of us Democrats and Republicans. We all want to be successful in Iraq. We all support the troops. We all want to be successful in the War on Terror. What the president didn't do as well at, Bob, was to lay out a clear plan with benchmarks for progress that will end in success and I think that's what the American people were looking for and that's essential that we do that to maintain the moral that will be necessary to stay in the course here. And in a word, Bob, we need accountability for progress and I think he could've done much better about that tonight.
COSTAS: Senator Bayh, at this point, what defines, realistically, success in Iraq?
BAYH: A country that does not threaten its neighbors, a country that does not harbor terrorists that could strike us or the rest of the civilized world, and a country that is Democratic and more representative, certainly, than Iraq has been in the past. I don't think we can expect perfection, Bob, but a combination of those three things, I think, we would constitute as success and would certainly enable to us to come home with pride.
COSTAS: Senator Warner, are you more satisfied, than you were an hour or so ago about the way President Bush now stands with his the American public? Did he do a good job of making his case tonight?
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Well, let the American public answer that. I'll give you my own thoughts and they are very clearly that I spoke -- as the president spoke with a great confidence, a strong resolve to stay the course and I disagree with my good friend over here. There's more than enough benchmarks for progress.
Show me one area in which the terrorists have achieved their goals. They tried to stop and disrupt the elections; they were held on time. They have tried, in many ways, to destroy the police force and each time they inflict terrible harm on police, killing them and so forth, twice the numbers show up the next day to volunteer to take their places. You can see many, many examples of a slow, but steady progress and at the same time, we're not unmindful for a minute of the losses of our own men and women in uniform and those that are injured.
It's very is at the heart of the president, but I have to say that if we stay the course and if we take an attitude back home in everything we say and do, whether we're Democrats or Republican, Evan, and not talk about quagmires and not talk about how maybe the conservatives are more patriotic than the liberals and be more respectful and send a strong bipartisan message that we're behind the men and women of our armed forces and the coalition forces and for the Iraqi people to move ahead and make steady progress with their new government and not, hopefully, let that August 15th deadline for the constitution slip.
Those are the types of benchmarks that we look to, to signal that progress is being made and we don't want to set any deadlines and the American people spoke strongly today in the polls. They don't want to cut and run, and we're not going to do it.
COSTAS: But in those same polls, more than 60 percent said that they felt President Bush had no clear plan for victory in Iraq and now, more than 50 percent say it was a mistake to go there in the first place. I say this respectfully. Virtually all Americans strongly support the troops. All Americans were horrified by 9/11. All Americans know that we face evil and ruthless enemies. They're united in their option to the likes of Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. What they differ on, in good conscience; loyal, patriotic Americans differ about Bush policy.
WARNER: All right. First, you gave two examples, that they feel we shouldn't have gone there, but the facts are, as you said earlier in the program, we're where we are and we have paid a heavy price in men and women, lost lives and those that have been injured and the families who have suffered tremendously.
Secondly, the president stepped up to the plate tonight and in a very convincing way, I believe, said to the American people: Look, if we don't stop the terrorists where they are in these remote places of the world, be it Afghanistan or Iraq, they're likely to come here in greater numbers.
You pointed out earlier: Well, what's to stop them from coming now? Well, I think we've done a great deal in terms of our homeland defense and we've put up checks and balances and deterrents and we thank the dear Lord, it seems to be working.
But if we do not contain terrorism abroad and send a strong signal that America, together with its coalition partners, are going to stay the course and defeat their attempts to bring more harm to civilization, whether it's in Afghanistan or Iraq or wherever it is, they will most certainly come back at us.
COSTAS: Senator Warner, Senator Bayh, stay with us.
We're going to take a break and when we return, we'll be joined by Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut and Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.
So, there will be four on our panel from Capitol Hill, when we continue on LARRY KING LIVE after these messages.
COSTAS: Bob Costas sitting in tonight for Larry King. Congresswoman Jane Harman of California sent her regrets a moment ago. There was a congressional vote going on. If she can cast her vote and get back to our studios in time, she'll join us before the end of the hour, but we are joined now by Connecticut Republican Congressman Christopher Shays. He is the chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations. He's made eight trips to Iraq in the past 25 months, the most recent being in late May, and it's your contention, Congressman Shays, that the reports of daily carnage, which are significant and newsworthy and awful, but nonetheless that they have skewed perspective on Iraq and American policy in Iraq. Is that a fair summary of your view?
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: I mean, that's part of the issue. The other part is we transferred power in June of last year. The president was determined to do it, and all of his critics said he shouldn't do it. And then when that succeeded, they went to another criticism, that we shouldn't have the elections when we did. We had the elections, I was there on election day. I saw Iraqi women force their men to come vote with them, because they were going to vote. Now we're seeing a constitutional convection take place. We're seeing the Sunnis, we are seeing the Kurds reach out -- excuse me, we are seeing the Shias and the Kurds reach out to the Sunnis.
The Sunnis have a problem, though. They had 100 percent of the power. They say, OK, we'll compromise, we only want 50 percent. But they're only 20 percent of the population. So that's an issue.
The president made it very clear -- we're working on it in two levels. We are training their security, their police, their border patrol, their army. We're training them. They are able to take our places in different ways, and they're getting the equipment now that they need. And there's far more than Senator Kerry said that are capable. We're doing that.
At the same time, we're negotiating with the Sunnis to say, back off.
The only people who need an exit plan, in my judgment, are the Syrians and the Saudi Arabians and the Iranians. They're the ones that need to find a way to exit out of the mess they're getting themselves into.
COSTAS: Congressman Shays, you're aware that Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, recently said: "Public support in my state is turning." Congressman Walker Jones of North Carolina, Republican congressman, is among those who have submitted a bipartisan resolution that would call upon the U.S. to begin troop withdrawals from Iraq no later than 2006. This isn't the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party. These are solid Republicans, and they and their constituents are increasingly concerned about where we're going here.
SHAYS: Well, they're good people. And you know what? Abraham Lincoln would have lost the election if it was a few weeks or months before the actual election. So, public opinion is obviously huge. And the president needs to bring that public opinion back.
But, you know, what the Iraqis -- the Iraqis aren't asking us to leave. In fact, when I say what's your biggest fear, it's not the Sunnis, it's not the fighting. They say that you will leave us. That's their biggest fear, that we will leave them.
COSTAS: Congressman Shays, I put this to you, because it is best put, I think, to a member of Congress. President Bush is obviously in his second term. A situation different from that of most vice presidents, Dick Cheney is not viewed as a presidential hopeful. He has made that clear.
So neither of them will stand for reelection, but Republican members of Congress will, and with public support for American policy dwindling, this has to be a concern and there has to be some pressure being brought to bear behind the scenes by loyal Republicans to President Bush and Vice President Cheney, expressing concern that this is going to doom them or at least effect them in some way in upcoming elections.
SHAYS: Well, I think that's true. I think we all feel impacted by this war. And some may lose because of their position, but I think they're taking the right position. And I think the president needs to get off Social Security a bit, and recognize that when you have men overseas risking their lives, that it deserves more of his attention and dialogue and interaction with the American people.
COSTAS: Senator Bayh, like every other member of the panel, you voted in favor of the resolution in 2002...
SHAYS: I think I'm going to get on my way.
COSTAS: Congressman Shays has just told us -- I don't know if the audience could hear us -- that he is heading for the same congressional vote Congresswoman Harman is presently a part of, and we thank him for taking a few moments to be with us.
So now it is Senator Bayh and Senator Warner who remain with us.
Senator Bayh, back in 2002, you voted for the resolution that would empower the president, if he so chose, to use force in Iraq. Do you now regret voting in favor?
BAYH: I think we can still be successful in Iraq, Bob. And I think we need to do everything humanly possible to achieve that goal. If we are successful, I think history will record that it's the right thing to do. But in order to get there, we need a game plan for success. My colleague, John Warner, said stay the course. And I understand that, but we need sign posts along the course to tell us that we are, in fact, making progress. The president, for example, tonight, Bob, mentioned 160,000 troops. How many should we have this time next year? There are about 450 attacks every week in Iraq. How many should there be in six months or a year, so that we can tell whether we're making progress? And, Bob, most importantly of all, that there is accountability for success in making that progress.
I think there has been much too little of that. And if we have that, then we can be successful, and this will be a contribution to peace and stability.
COSTAS: Senator Bayh, in your view, what is the single biggest mistake or miscalculation that the administration has made?
BAYH: When I was with my friend, Senator Warner, in Iraq in December, our top intelligence official said at that time to us that things would be 100 percent better, 100 percent better, Bob, in Iraq today if we had only not sent the Iraqi army home. These were hundreds of thousands of young, heavily armed men, unemployed. And we sent them home. We needed to remove the generals, the human rights violators, but the privates, the sergeants, the corporals, they should have been kept in place. We should have said to them -- most of them were Sunnis -- we should have said to them, this is your country, too. We need you to provide stability and law and order for your country, even as we're helping you reconstitute a democratic government.
That was a tragic mistake.
COSTAS: Senator Warner, do you buy that?
WARNER: Well, factually, and I followed that conflict daily, many of the Iraqi troops didn't stand and fight. They dropped their weapons, and put on their robes and fled to the desert themselves, in fear of the shock and awe of the American forces.
Now, the senator is correct that perhaps some of the leaders we could have recruited and put back in. Not those that were the hard- line Saddam Hussein, but the professional army. And, undoubtedly, history will reflect that perhaps we didn't think through as carefully as we should the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad. Because much remained, and we've learned a lesson.
But, you know, here we are. And I want to refocus back here at home, that we need a stronger bipartisan voice on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, in support of our troops, and I think backing our president, who spoke out very courageously tonight. He didn't pull any punches. He didn't give a rosy picture. He said it's going to be a long, hard, tough slog, but we're going to stay the course, and we will achieve the goal of enabling the Iraqi people to take over their nation, have the security forces to maintain what they need to do to preserve their sovereignty, and to join the democratic nations in the world in some form. And I think Americans will look back on this chapter as one of the most important in contemporary American history.
COSTAS: We'll continue with Senators John Warner from Virginia and Evan Bayh from Indiana right after this break. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden.
For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTAS: Back on LARRY KING LIVE, Bob Costas sitting in. A few more moments here with Senators John Warner from Virginia and Evan Bayh from Indiana.
As you both know, army recruitment is down, below projected levels. I put this question to each of you. Is there any circumstance under which you could see a return to the draft? Senator Bayh?
BAYH: No, in a word, Bob. It would take something completely unexpected. I think a crisis in North Korea or Iran, for example.
I am worried, however, that we're not doing enough to particularly shore up the guard and the reserve forces, which are being strained in the maximum. That's why some of us have worked on trying to alleviate the financial hardships that those families are facing, so that these service men and women aren't put in the unconscionable position of having to choose between doing right by their families and doing right by our country. We need to enable them to do both, and we should do more along those lines.
COSTAS: Senator Warner?
WARNER: I was privileged to be secretary of the Navy when the decision was made to abandon the draft. And that was in the latter stages of the Vietnam conflict, and it was the right decision. It was a tough decision. And out of that decision grew the finest armed forces in the history of mankind in many respects. A magnificent, all-volunteer force. Every one of those individuals, brave men and women, who proudly wear that uniform, raised their hands and said, "I volunteer to defend my nation."
But let me just point out, I am concerned. And I'm not going to try and gloss over it. I am greatly concerned about the recruiting, and, as Evan said, the impact on the guard and the reserve. And it is a function of the Armed Services Committee, on which both of us proudly serve, to remedy that problem, to work with the Department of Defense, and turn that curve around.
COSTAS: Senator Warner, Senator Bayh, our thanks to you both. When we return in the final segment of this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, we'll be joined by the mothers of two soldiers, each of whom lost his life in Iraq. One still supports Bush administration policy. The other was opposed from the outset. They'll articulate their positions when we come back.
COSTAS: We've just received a CNN-"USA Today" flash poll of 323 adult Americans, all of whom watched President Bush's speech tonight. This is significant, and the pollsters have asked us to make note of it. The audience was 50 percent Republican, 23 percent Democratic, 27 percent independent. And the reaction of those 323 adult Americans, very positive reaction to the president's speech tonight -- 46 percent. Somewhat positive, 28 percent. Negative reaction, 24 percent. A flash poll from CNN and "USA Today."
We're joined now by Cindy Sheehan, who is the co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace. Her 24-year-old son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in action in Baghdad on April 4th, 2004. He had been deployed in Iraq for only two weeks.
Glenda Kiser's son, Chuck Kiser, 37-year-old staff sergeant, was killed in Iraq a year ago last week, on June 24th, 2004. She says her son believed he was bringing freedom to the Iraqis, that he died protecting his comrades and doing his duty.
So, I take it, Ms. Kiser, that you are still in support of American involvement in Iraq?
GLENDA KISER, ARMY SON KILLED IN IRAQ: Very definitely. I do support them. I support our president and what he's doing.
COSTAS: Mrs. Kiser, President Bush has met with the families of some of those who have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Have you had an opportunity to speak with the president?
KISER: Yes, I did.
COSTAS: And how did that exchange go?
KISER: I met with him personally.
COSTAS: How did that exchange go?
KISER: It was very good. I couldn't have asked for a more sincere person than talking to our president about losing our son.
COSTAS: Cindy Sheehan, you are the co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace. You say you hold President Bush responsible for your son's death, and you say that your son opposed the war, although he went and did his duty, and you opposed the war before his death? Not -- you didn't change your point of view after your tragic loss?
CINDY SHEEHAN, SON KILLED IN IRAQ; CO-FOUNDER, GOLD STAR FAMILIES FOR PEACE: Correct. It was a war based on deceptions. They told us Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. He didn't have any weapons of mass destruction. He said that -- they said that there was a link between September 11th and Saddam. There was no link. And something that people have been mentioning over and over again here tonight, is if we don't fight them over here, we're going to fight them over here. Why are we making the innocent Iraqi people pay for our battles? We are bringing terrorism to their country, and their country is being destroyed? Innocent Iraqi people are being killed. Our own soldiers are being killed. And why is that OK to fight our battles on their soil?
This invasion never should have happened. It was a mistake from the beginning, and if it was a mistake to begin with, then it should end as soon as possible. We should allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their own country, and rebuild their democracy, and build whatever government that they want to have, because it's their country, and -- and we shouldn't be fighting our battles on other people's soil, and we should bring our troops home.
And that's the way we can support our troops. We all love our troops. They are doing the best they can. My son was doing the best he can. And the way we can support them now and to honor my son's sacrifice is to bring our troops home.
COSTAS: I apologize that our time is short. Glenda Kiser, having heard what Cindy Sheehan just said, you are united in your respective losses. What would you say in response to what you just heard?
KISER: I totally disagree with her, because my son was in the military police. He totally believed in what he was doing. And he saved many lives, and he was so very proud of what he -- he was doing. And I feel sorry that she does not -- we shouldn't be fighting over here. My son felt like he was over there fighting for the Iraqi freedom, and also for our freedom over here in the States.
COSTAS: Ms. Sheehan, we have to leave it...
KISER: And he totally believed in that.
COSTAS: We have to leave it at that. Cindy Sheehan, Glenda Kiser, we thank you both for being with us, and of course extend our condolences for your loss.
SHEEHAN: Thank you.
COSTAS: That brings us to the end of this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Standing by, as always, Aaron Brown, and just guessing here, I believe his program should contain significant speculation and reaction about what transpired tonight at Ft. Bragg. Am I right in that assumption, Mr. Brown?
AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": Good to see you.
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