September 14, 2007

MSNBC: Live with Dan Abrams

On September 10, I appeared on MSNBC's Live with Dan Abrams along with fellow MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan. Here is a transcript of that segment:

Live with Dan Abrams

September 10, 2007 Monday

DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Speaking of Britney, later in the show, we`ll ask how her team of many actually allowed her to go on stage. Does she not have anyone who loves her enough, even likes her enough to say, Don`t go?

But first, the other eagerly anticipated September appearance, General David Petraeus and his long anticipated report on the progress in Iraq. Amid hecklers and microphone problems, he announced we will be able to start reducing a tiny fraction of the troops, and by next year, back, hopefully, to the level they were at earlier this year.

My take. The goalposts keep moving. The've changed the definition of victory, of success, of violence and now apparently of September, General Petraeus saying we need to wait for another assessment in March. The surge was implemented to offer Iraq political stability and stop the violence. Instead, it seems we`re constantly trying to get back to where we were the previous year. In terms of progress, violence and now troop numbers, when you look back at President Bush`s past comments and compare them to what General Petraeus and especially U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said today, it`s kind of depressing.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know that free societies are peaceful societies. So we`re helping the Iraqis build a free society with inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interests of all Iraqis.

RYAN C. CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: But rather than being a period in which old animosities and suspicions were overcome, the past 18 months have further strained Iraqi society.

BUSH: And on the economic side, we`re helping the Iraqis rebuild their infrastructure, reform their economy and build the prosperity that will give all Iraqis a stake in a free and peaceful Iraq.

CROCKER: Unlike our states, Iraqi provinces have little ability to generate funds through taxation, making them dependent on the central government for resources.

BUSH: We`re reaching out to Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, asking them to support the Iraqi government`s efforts to persuade Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and accept national reconciliation.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER: We believe that Saudi Arabia is still probably the largest country in terms of the foreign fighters, although that again may be diminishing somewhat, and there are certainly others that come from North Africa, Jordan, Syria, and so forth, into Iraq.

ABRAMS: So even if you take Petraeus and Crocker at face value, still major discrepancies between what was hoped for and where we are now.

Joining me now, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, MSNBC military analyst, and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. Gentlemen, thanks for coming on. Appreciate it. All right.

Colonel Francona, I mean, do you not think the goalposts seem to constantly be shifting?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Boy, it sure looks that way. You know, when the general was testifying today and he said we`re going to be able to reduce our troop strength starting in December, and then moving through March and then into next year, he said, basically, we`re going to get back to where we were a year ago. So that`s correct. But he didn`t even commit to doing that. He said, We`ll start the withdrawal, and then we`ll take another look at it in March. So if you assume that the only piece of this that`s even working is the military side, you've got to even question that, given what the general said today.

ABRAMS: Pat, I mean, it constantly seems like we`re trying to get back to where we were the previous year.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, where we`re going to wind up, Dan, is in November of 2008, exactly where you were in November of 2006, with about 130,000 American troops in Iraq. And this, I think, is the president`s objective. He doesn't want this to fall and collapse on his watch. And I think, politically, he`s succeeded because I think the anti-war Democrats are basically beaten. They are not going to try to substitute their judgment for General Petraeus's.

ABRAMS: But Pat, isn't that kind of sad, that what you just said is that there`s a political decision being made here, when we`re talking about American lives and a war in Iraq?

BUCHANAN: Well, I do believe this. I believe the president speaks the truth when he says if we pull out and draw down too rapidly, as General Petraeus said, we will have disastrous consequences. I think both men believe that, Dan, and I think they believe if you pulled out the troops rapidly, that would happen. And I think the Democrats believe that. That`s why they won`t defund the war.

ABRAMS: Right. But Rick, is the only choice here bringing down the number of troops rapidly and basically bringing us back to where we were earlier this year? I mean, it seems to me that there`s got to be another choice in there, which is to slowly bring down the troop numbers.

FRANCONA: Well, that`s what he`s talking about doing. He`s talking about starting in December, bringing home a combat -- brigade combat team, and then more as 2008.

ABRAMS: Right. But by 2008, getting us back to the numbers we were at earlier this year.

FRANCONA: Right. Right. Well, he`s not going to withdraw -- he`s not going to reduce the troop strength any less than that, and the only reason he`s doing that is the Army basically cannot afford to deploy anymore troops. We are totally deployed, and if he doesn't reduce them, he won`t be able to keep up this ops tempo. So there are political -- there are military realities that are driving this.

But I think, to pick up on what Pat said, I think -- I think that what he did today, whether it was by design or not -- and I`ll let Pat make that analysis -- I think he really torpedoed the Democratic efforts to put some sort of timetable into legislation. I think that that is -- that ship has sailed.

BUCHANAN: Dan, the bottom line is the anti-war Democrats have been defeated horse, foot and dragoons. And quite frankly, they are not going to impose a deadline. They don`t have the ability to do it. They don`t want to do it. They don`t have the courage to do it. They`re going to follow Warner`s lead, and Warner is on all fours with General Petraeus.

ABRAMS: Let me play another piece of sound here. This is -- again, this is comparing President Bush to what was said today, this one by Ambassador Crocker.

BUSH: Victory is a government that can sustain itself, govern -- a country that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself and serves as an ally in the war on terror.

CROCKER: There will be no single moment at which we can claim victory. Any turning point will likely only be recognized in retrospect.

ABRAMS: Does anyone care? I think that we keep changing the terms of the conversation, that President Bush talks about victory, and then when it seems like they can`t get victory, we change the way we describe this? Let me go to Rick. I've talked to Pat about this before. Go ahead, Rick.

FRANCONA: No, I agree with you. You know, what was a grandiose plan years ago has morphed into...

ABRAMS: But no one admits it, Rick!

FRANCONA: ... Let`s just get us out of here.

ABRAMS: No one admits it. No one will say, We are changing the way we talk about this because it hasn't worked out the way we hoped.

FRANCONA: Well, of course, they`re not going to say that. But as they keep moving -- as you say, moving the goalposts, I think what they`re doing is reality is beginning to set in and they`re going to take what they can get. They want to be able to get out of there without allowing Iran to just waltz in there and take over to fill that power vacuum. And I think that`s what they`re trying to do, come up with that balance between not letting Iraq fall into the bloodbath that it is and Iran becoming the power broker in the region. It`s very difficult.


ABRAMS: Let me play one more piece of sound...


ABRAMS: ... comparing President Bush and what was said today.

BUSH: We`re helping Iraqi leaders to complete work on a national compact to resolve the most difficult issues dividing their country. The new Iraqi government has condemned violence from all quarters and agreed to a schedule for resolving issues.

CROCKER: It is no exaggeration to say that Iraq is and will remain for some time to come a traumatized society. It is against this backdrop that development in Iraqi national politics must be seen.

ABRAMS: So Pat, isn't it fair to say, then, considering what President Bush said the goals were, that in essence, what we heard today was we have failed?

BUCHANAN: Look, you`re exactly right here, Dan. We started off, It`s going to be a democratic, free, pro-Western Iraq with relations with Israel, a model for the Middle East. What we are doing now is -- Bush, I believe, and Petraeus and I think Crocker saying, in effect, We have to stay this course to prevent a strategic disaster and a humanitarian catastrophe and an Iranian takeover of half of Iraq.

ABRAMS: All right. Pat Buchanan, as always, appreciate it. Lieutenant Francona -- Lieutenant Colonel...


ABRAMS: Lieutenant -- I hate it when they put that in there! Colonel -- Colonel Francona.

BUCHANAN: Promote the guy. Promote the guy!

ABRAMS: Colonel. Yes. Good to see you. Thanks a lot.

FRANCONA: Good to see you.