Fox "Fox News Sunday" - Transcript
FOX "FOX NEWS SUNDAY"
HOST: CHRIS WALLACE
GUESTS: ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF; SENATOR JON KYL (R-AZ); REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI)
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MR. WALLACE: I'm Chris Wallace and this "FOX News Sunday."
(Intro music plays.)
The president sets a timeline for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31st, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.
MR. WALLACE: How will the Pentagon manage the end game there, as well as the growing commitment in Afghanistan? We'll find out from the nation's top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Then, President Obama offers a budget brimming with big spending and higher taxes for some. Where will the GOP make its stand?
We'll ask Jon Kyl, the number two Republican in the Senate, and Paul Ryan, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee.
And after this week's events, we'll ask our Sunday Regulars whether Barack Obama is on course to be the most transformational president since Ronald Reagan -- all right now, on "FOX News Sunday."
(Intro music ends.)
And hello again from FOX News in Washington.
President Obama made good on a campaign promise Friday, laying out how he intends for the U.S. war in Iraq to end.
Here now to explain exactly how that will work is the nation's top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
And Admiral, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."
ADM. MULLEN: Thank you. Good morning.
MR. WALLACE: Let's start with President Obama's announcement Friday that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq will end in August of 2010, and that he will pull roughly two-thirds of our troops out.
You and I discussed that scenario when you were last on the show. Let's take a look.
(Video clip begins.)
MR. WALLACE: If I were to say to you let's set a time line of getting all of our combat troops out within two years, what do you think would be the consequences of setting that kind of a time line?
ADM. MULLEN: I think the consequences could be very dangerous in that regard. I'm convinced at this point in time that coming -- making reductions based on conditions on the ground are very important.
(Video clip ends.)
MR. WALLACE: Admiral, why was a time line dangerous in July, but not now?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, conditions have changed fairly dramatically since last July. In particular, the military situation, as a result of the surge, has gotten a lot better. Iraqi secretary forces have improved. And those kinds of things, all those trends, are in the right direction.
Additionally, we have a timetable since that time. In fact, the status of forces agreement requires us to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
And most importantly, at this point in time, is we have a new mission. And it's important for us to recognize that mission and carry it out safely over the period of time that we've been given, which is to get to a new mission of no more combat forces in Iraq at the end of August in 2010.
MR. WALLACE: Back in July when we talked -- and you made it clear that any decision should be based on conditions on the ground -- now you are, between now and August of 2010, going to be continuing to monitor conditions with General Odierno, our commander on the ground.
Has the president assured you that if conditions change and you so advise him, he is prepared to slow down or stop this withdrawal?
ADM. MULLEN: What -- and I'll use this process as an example. The president listened to General Odierno, General Petraeus, all the chiefs throughout this process, which was -- very thorough and very deliberate. And I have a great deal of confidence in that process.
And as we look down the road and execute this plan over the next 18 months, I am sure that I'll be able to address any issues that come up with respect to change in conditions.
However, I mean, I'm optimistic that conditions continue to improve. We've just had a good set of elections in Iraq, well supported by the Iraqi security forces, and that as those conditions continue to improve, we'll be able to execute this mission.
MR. WALLACE: Now, you said you're confident you'll be able to address if conditions change. Has the president assured you that he'll listen and that he is prepared to alter the timetable, depending on the conditions?
ADM. MULLEN: The president has listened extensively in the time up to making this decision. And if past is prologue, I certainly expect that he would do so in the future.
MR. WALLACE: One of the things I noticed in the president's speech at Camp Lejeune on Friday is that he didn't talk -- and in fact he almost never talks -- about our winning in Iraq. He never talks about victory in Iraq.
ADM. MULLEN: I think he focused very specifically on the success that has occurred, and a great deal of that success has been generated as a result of the military success that we've enjoyed there.
And I'm -- a little bit reluctant to talk specifically about winning and losing.
We've turned it around over the last two years, and in great part that's because of our incredible young men and women who've served us so well.
And they've created the conditions that look to the possibility that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government can have a better future. There's still --
MR. WALLACE: But are you prepared to say we're winning in Iraq right now?
ADM. MULLEN: I'm prepared to say that we have achieved a great deal of success, and we literally turned it around from what was headed to be exactly the opposite.
MR. WALLACE: And does it bother you that the president isn't willing to make those same declarations?
ADM. MULLEN: Not at all.
MR. WALLACE: Why not?
ADM. MULLEN: Because I think it's very difficult, in these kinds of wars, to pick a term that -- specific. This isn't going to be crossing the goal line or a situation like that. It --
Clearly, the conditions are much more positive than they were two years ago, and the conditions are set for the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people to take over their own country and be responsible for it and have a very, very positive outcome.
MR. WALLACE: Let me ask you a related question to this, and we'll move on.
Does it bother you that the president isn't willing to say the surge has worked?
ADM. MULLEN: The president was very clear that with the military effort over the last couple years that conditions have improved dramatically, from a security perspective.
And then he's laid out what he thinks the challenges that are out there, that still exist, from a diplomatic standpoint, political standpoint, and an economic development standpoint.
MR. WALLACE: The White House says that one way it's going to be able to cut the budget deficit is by saving hundreds of billions of dollars by dialing back in Iraq.
Did you ever project that we would be spending $183 billion on into 2019?
ADM. MULLEN: I haven't looked out that far in terms of the specific projections. Certainly we review routinely the costs as best we are able to project it in the budgets over the next several years, and we've done that.
And actually, there will be considerable costs, certainly in the near term, even as we draw down. It's not just the costs of being there, but it'll be the costs of coming home, in addition to the increasing costs of the war in Afghanistan and taking --
MR. WALLACE: Well, I'm going to get to that in a moment. But the question I'm asking is -- and you're saying, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, you did not have a projection of spending $183 billion in Iraq up through the next decade?
ADM. MULLEN: No.
MR. WALLACE: So when the Obama budget says that it's going to save hundreds of billions of dollars because it's not going to be spending $183 billion in 2019, that's a gimmick?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I'm not sure it's a gimmick. Looking out to 2019 so far, there are certainly uncertainties associated with that.
I have a very clear understanding in the near term of what we think it's going to cost us for these two wars -- and in the long term, and I think --
MR. WALLACE: But you didn't have that number, is what I'm saying.
ADM. MULLEN: No, I didn't have that number.
MR. WALLACE: Okay.
Meanwhile, the White House is budgeting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at $50 billion a year, starting in 2011. Given the fact that you're anticipating a serious escalation in Afghanistan, isn't that number unrealistically low?
ADM. MULLEN: I think the projections that have been made have been based on our best estimates thus far, and that conditions certainly could change one way or the other, and that over time we'll certainly adjust those estimates.
The budget projections that are out there right now are more contingency-based. They're certainly not an exact science, certainly, the further you get out to the right in terms of our budget. So I think they're an approximation.
And I'm confident that over time they'll become as accurate as needed to carry out the mission, and I think that's really an important part of this as well.
MR. WALLACE: The president has announced that he's sending another 17,000 troops to Afghanistan. Two questions:
Is that it, or do you expect you're going to have to send more troops behind the 17,000 the president has announced?
And have we -- is the mission in Iraq -- or in Afghanistan, rather -- still to create and help prop up a democracy, a centralized democracy, or have we scaled back the mission to simply trying to prevent al Qaeda and the Taliban from establishing safe havens?
ADM. MULLEN: The president has directed a strategic review, which has been ongoing for a while and will be completed here in the next couple of weeks.
The 17,000 troops he recently approved, 12,000 of which have been ordered, are part of the upwards of 30,000 troops that General McKiernan has asked for. Those troops will be focused principally on providing security for the Afghan people.
And then the overall objectives of what our strategy will be in the future will be part of this review, and I certainly'd wait for it to finish to see what the outcome will be and what the president's decisions will be.
MR. WALLACE: Meanwhile, we have continued drone attacks against Taliban targets in the tribal region inside Pakistan. In fact, there's a report that there was another drone attack just today, and there seems to have been a steady drumbeat of these.
Has our policy of taking the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda inside Pakistan escalated since Mr. Obama became president?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I'm not going to talk a lot about our operations specifically.
There is a continuing concern with the existence of the safe haven in the FATA in Pakistan. And that has to be addressed, has been addressed, and needs to continue to be addressed.
We've brought pressure on both sides of the border, Pakistani military as well as coalition forces and Afghan forces. And we did, towards the end of 2008, and that will continue to happen.
And we need to continue to bring that pressure on both sides and continue to coordinate those operations --
MR. WALLACE: Has there been any change in policy in the sense that it is a more aggressive policy, an escalation in terms of our going after -- without getting into detail -- going after those targets inside Pakistan?
ADM. MULLEN: I think there's clear recognition, where al Qaeda leadership lives, is every bit as dangerous as it has been and that it needs to be continued -- we need to continue to address it and address it as rapidly as possible.
MR. WALLACE: Is there any difference between the policy under President Obama and President Bush?
ADM. MULLEN: I've got guidance right now from President Obama, and we're carrying out that guidance very specifically.
MR. WALLACE: The North Koreans are talking about launching a missile soon with a communications satellite, and the commander of American forces in the Pacific says the U.S. is prepared to shoot down that missile.
Why isn't North Korea entitled to a non-military space program?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I've certain read reports of what the North Koreans might be doing. I also am aware of the potential that -- down the road, that that could offer, based on what they've done historically.
But we've made no decisions. The president's made no decisions; I've made no recommendations with respect to anything the North Koreans might do.
I would hope that the North Koreans would not be provocative in their actions and, in fact, we're keeping a very close eye on what they're doing.
MR. WALLACE: And would firing a missile with a communications satellite be provocative?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, again, I'm not going to go into hypotheticals. The North Koreans have claimed, essentially asserted, that they intend to put a satellite in orbit.
And again, we're just watching it very carefully, and I wouldn't presume that, ahead of anything that happened, what we might do.
MR. WALLACE: Iran also launched a satellite recently. During the campaign, Barack Obama, then Senator Obama, expressed serious doubts about missile defense.
Have you been given any instructions to either slow down or stop the U.S. anti-missile system, the plans to install one in Eastern Europe, or is it still full speed ahead?
ADM. MULLEN: I haven't been given any instructions one way or the other, at this point.
MR. WALLACE: So, is -- given the orders you had under President Bush, does that mean it's full speed ahead?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, again, there are an awful lot of reviews that are on going under President Obama. And there's an awful lot on all of our plates.
So that's a review that will, I think, take place and over time that's much more a policy area than it is mine per se.
But again, I haven't been given any specific directions.
MR. WALLACE: So you're saying that the question of U.S. anti- missile defense is under review?
ADM. MULLEN: Clearly, over time, it will be. And then I think decisions'll be made, the policy decisions will be made, and we'll follow them accordingly.
MR. WALLACE: Finally, let's talk a little bit about the new president. During the campaign, Barack Obama made a lot of statements, including about Iraq, that he has since modified.
How would you describe the way he is dealing with and listening to the Pentagon brass and commanders on the ground?
ADM. MULLEN: Actually, I think you captured it. He's been very consistent to listen to us. He has come to the Pentagon, and we had a great two-hour session with him in which we had a terrific exchange across a host of issues.
He clearly has sought my advice. I feel very comfortable that, as a senior military officer and adviser to the president, that he is giving me the time and the opportunity to advise him accordingly.
MR. WALLACE: Having said that, a lot of people have noticed that both the president and top advisers very seldom talk about the war on terror. Why is that?
From your conversations with him, does he see our fight against Islamic radicals differently than President Bush did?
ADM. MULLEN: It's very clear in my engagement with him that he is very focused on the terrorist extremist threat. And my guidance is to continue to pursue that in every possible way.
MR. WALLACE: Does -- do you have any explanation as to why he doesn't talk about the war on terror?
ADM. MULLEN: No, I don't. I mean, I don't. I just told you what he's told me to do is focus very specifically on this threat led by al Qaeda.
But certainly it's a top priority to focus on the terrorism and terrorists and the extremists that are out there who would do us harm.
MR. WALLACE: Last question. As the nation's top military man, do you believe that you are still leading a war against terrorism?
ADM. MULLEN: There is -- there are an awful lot of elements of terrorists and terrorism which threaten us, and we continue to very clearly pursue them, and we will until they're no longer a threat.
MR. WALLACE: Admiral Mullen, I want to thank you so much for coming in today. It's always a pleasure, sir.
ADM. MULLEN: Thank you, Chris. Good to be with you.
MR. WALLACE: Up next, President Obama sends a whopping big budget to Congress. We'll ask two key Republicans what they like and don't like, right after this break.
MR. WALLACE: Depending on your point of view, President Obama's new budget is a statement of our national values or a socialist experiment, which shows just how fierce the debate on Capitol Hill will be.
Joining us to discuss the plan are two Republican leaders. The number two Republican in the Senate, Jon Kyl, is in Phoenix, and Congressman Paul Ryan, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, joins us here in Washington.
Gentlemen, before we get into the details, I'd like to get an overview from both of you.
Senator Kyl, how big a change in direction does the Obama budget represent in the relationship between government and the American people?
SEN. KYL: Chris, I was going to quote this a little later, but since you asked the question that way, let me just quote from the Wall Street Journal on Friday, which certainly captures my sentiment.
They said the budget represents a historical shift in the ideological direction of U.S. economic policy. And then in their editorial they say President Obama is attempting to expand the role of government to such a dominant position that its power can never be rolled back.
I think it's terrifying in the policy implications, as well as mind-boggling in the numbers.
MR. WALLACE: Congressman Ryan, fair to say that the Obama budget is radical in the same sense that Ronald Reagan's was radical, FDR's was radical, Lyndon Johnson's was radical?
REP. RYAN: It's a breathtaking budget. This is probably the biggest re-write or transformation of our federal budget since the New Deal. And that's not necessarily surprising. The president said he was going to bring us sweeping change, transformation.
What surprises me most about this budget, though, is that they would bring this out in the middle of a recession. This budget takes the size of our government in this year to the largest level it has been since World War II.
They have a $1.4 trillion tax increase in it, in the middle of a recession. It doubles the debt in eight years. It never balances the budget; in fact, it proposes for the next 10 years that our deficits are the highest we've ever had on record.
MR. WALLACE: But gentlemen -- and let me take the flip side of that argument, Congressman Ryan -- we're in a crisis. We just learned on Friday that the GDP in the fourth quarter contracted by 6.2 percent, the worst number since 1982.
And while President Obama offers, whether you like them or not, sweeping proposals, what we hear from Republicans is the same old talk about spending restraint and tax cuts.
Don't -- what are your new ideas? What are the ways in which -- we're in an unprecedented situation. What are your new ideas for getting us out of this?
REP. RYAN: We will be bringing an alternative. It's not just enough for us to criticize. We're going to be bringing a full alternative budget to the floor in April to show how we would do things differently.
But the first thing you don't do is raise taxes in a recession. And you think these tax increases --
MR. WALLACE: Well, wait. Let me just hit you on the taxes issue, because the White House says --
REP. RYAN: We would cut taxes. (Inaudible.)
MR. WALLACE: The White House says that the taxes are going to be raised only in 2011, so it wouldn't happen during the next two years.
REP. RYAN: Let me get this straight. So the small business, the entrepreneur that's thinking about expanding, about whether to hire or fire people, they have these huge tax increases coming in about a year and a half's time. That's not going to affect their decisionmaking?
The assets that go into our pension funds, our 401(k)s, huge tax increases on those in about a year and half time, you don't think that's going to affect people's wealth, people's retirement funds?
And this cap-and-tax idea, this carbon cap-and-tax idea, we're going to bring this huge tax increase on the energy and manufacturing sector of America in just a couple of years.
You don't think that's going to affect the economy today? That affects planning. That affects small businesses. You know, more than half of the people who pay these higher taxes are the small businesses of America, which produce 70 percent of our jobs.
So doing this now, saying in a couple of years this huge slew of spending and tax increases are coming, that doesn't affect the economy then; it also affects the economy now.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Kyl, let me bring you into this discussion. President Obama discussed the issue of taxes in his speech to Congress this week. Let's watch what he had to say.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, a quarter million dollars a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. (Applause.)
MR. WALLACE: Senator Kyl, at a time when income inequality has grown dramatically over the course of the last 10 years, what's wrong with increasing taxes on just the top 2 percent of wage earners?
SEN. KYL: Three points. First of all, he's not correct when he says you won't see your taxes go up, as Paul Ryan just pointed out.
This new energy tax hits everybody. Unless you never buy any gasoline or you never use any electricity in your home or you never buy anything that was made with this energy, which is, of course, absurd, it'll get every single person.
And, in fact, it's regressive, because a higher percentage of the income of lower-income families is spent on these things than with the higher-income people.
Secondly, the tax on the upper income has a direct and dramatic impact on job creation. As Paul pointed out, about two-thirds of the businesses report small business income, and small businesses create 80 percent of the jobs in the country. So you're directly punishing job creation with this kind of huge tax policy.
And finally, in your question you're basically assuming, Chris, the Obama philosophy of income redistribution as the basis for tax policy. It should not be.
Tax policy should be to provide what the government needs without harming the economy and American families.
Today, the people that he's talking about, the 250,000 (dollars) and above, pay 60 percent of the income taxes in the United States -- 60 percent. So how much more do you want this top 2 percent to pay?
There's a point at which, when you continue to tax them, they no longer produce the jobs that they're producing in this country. So it's a bad policy.
MR. WALLACE: But let's talk about this, Congressman Ryan, from a practical, political view.
Because what the Obama administration would say is yes, we are going to have this carbon tax, or this cap-and-trade, which one can argue is a tax, and that is going to get passed on. But on the other hand, we're going to take that money and we're going to use it for our middle-class tax cut.
So, again, the point is why shouldn't the middle class support a system under which the top wage earners, or the top taxpayers, are going to pay more, but they're going to get a tax cut?
REP. RYAN: A couple of things. Under this bill, small businesses'll pay a higher tax rate than the largest corporations in America pay.
Number two, this tax cut for middle-class families amounts to about 14 to 20 bucks a week. You're going to see energy prices, energy costs, go up by far more than that. So middle-class people are going to get hit with this as well.
If people don't (sic) think that this is only going to tax rich people, I've got some old lottery tickets I'd like to sell them. This tax is going to hit every consumer in the economy.
But more to the point, the engine of economic growth in America is small businesses. It's entrepreneurs. It's the people who start from new ideas and start businesses. This raises their taxes.
So it's not just Brett Favre and Bill Gates. It is those mom- and-pop small businesses that start with 10 employees and maybe grow it to 110 employees. Those are the people that are going to get hit with these kinds of taxes, and that is what is struggling in this economy right now.
MR. WALLACE: All right. Let's turn to the huge increase in spending, which is another part of the Obama budget.
Congressman Ryan, the president calls it -- and everybody uses their phrases -- a long-term investment in the economy. Will you at least grant him that we have been talking for years about reforming health care.
REP. RYAN: That's right.
MR. WALLACE: We've been talking for years, for 30 years, about let's do something to build up alternative energy so we're not dependent on foreign oil. At least he's prepared to do it.
REP. RYAN: Yeah, I think the way that they're preparing it, though, is to have the federal government more or less micro-manage these two sectors of our economy, energy and health care. That's 25 percent of our economy right there.
We spend more than two and a half times per person on health care than any other country, yet we have all these 47 million who are uninsured. Throwing more money at the problem has not been the answer.
We can have universal access to affordable health insurance in America without having the government run it.
So we're going to be offering alternatives in how you can achieve this without spending a trillion or so dollars, as this budget proposes to do.
The concern that I have with this budget, in the macro sense, is it's almost as if we're re-locating the headquarters of the American economy from Main Street, from New York, from Chicago, from Silicon Valley, to Washington, D.C., and putting Washington, D.C., in the driver's seat of the American economy.
That is not what we've done in this country. That's what they do in Europe, and it doesn't work very well.
MR. WALLACE: Part of your party's problem, Senator Kyl, and I think you'd agree with this, is that the GOP has lost credibility on the issue of spending restraint.
For instance, Congress is in the process of passing a $410 billion spending bill to basically pay for the government over the course of the next year, with almost 9,000 earmarks in it. But 40 percent of those earmarks are Republican earmarks.
And we're putting up on the screen, Senator, your earmarks, a long list of them, according to the Taxpayers for Common Sense, totaling $118 million dollars.
Question -- I think it's a fair one -- who are you to lecture the Democrats on spending?
SEN. KYL: Well, first of all, I don't see on the screen what you're talking about. I can defend everything that I have recommended in the budget, and I would suggest that they're not earmarks, under the definition, because we have a specific definition.
Let me make another point. I don't think you can contend any more -- you could have in the election three years ago -- that Republicans should be slapped on the hand for spending because we were in charge of the Congress. We haven't been in charge of the Congress now for the last two-plus years.
And what you talk about in this omnibus appropriation bill is the result of the Democrats' deciding to only fund the government for the first half of the year, waiting for President Obama to come in and therefore fund the second half, which starts next March -- or, this current March -- with the second half of the budget.
That's where this omnibus appropriation bill comes in that adds 8 percent more spending on top of the over-trillion dollars in spending in the so-called stimulus bill. Every House member and all but three Republicans in the Senate who are Republicans opposed that. So I don't think you can put that spending on Republicans.
And one more point I'd like to make. This isn't just an abstract proposition. This budget adds more debt to our country's future than all of the debt from 1789, when George Washington was president, right up through Franklin Roosevelt and -- and Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush.
In other words, in just the 10 years of this budget we will have more than doubled the debt of the United States of America from its 220-year history.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Kyl -- Senator Kyl, we're running out of time. And I don't mean to interrupt, but I do want to get to a couple of other questions.
Can Republicans block the Obama budget, especially given the fact that there's no filibuster in the Senate on a number of budget reconciliation votes?
SEN. KYL: Well, that's a good question. This is why the American people need to understand what's in this budget and, hopefully, act before it's too late.
Because of the control that would be exerted over health care and energy and education and our financial institutions, all of these things are critical for the American people to bring pressure to bear on the Congress.
And if they're able to do that, then I think there is a chance for us to be able to stop at least the most egregious parts of this budget. But it'll take the involvement of the American people to understand it and then to let their representatives know what they think.
MR. WALLACE: But you're saying the 41 Republicans can't stop it?
SEN. KYL: No, I hope that we can. But that means that all of us will have to be together on this, and there are only 41 of us.
So we have to be absolutely united on this, and we will be if the American people convey to all of us their desire that we get a handle on this budget and that they care about the future of our country enough that we should stop the most egregious parts of it.
MR. WALLACE: And let me bring in Congressman Ryan on the last 30 seconds.
In the House, there's nothing you can do the stop it, is there?
REP. RYAN: No. Look, to your earlier question, the House Republicans -- House Republicans were amateur big spenders, and we have a mixed record and we've got to clear that up.
We've got the professionals in charge now. We had a fiscal responsibility summit on Monday and we passed 9,000 earmarks on Wednesday. You can't stop this in the House. It is a complete majority rule. It's going to be very difficult to stop this in the Senate.
Only if a few Senate Republicans -- I mean, Senate Democrats turn their votes and vote with the Republicans can this thing be stopped, in my opinion.
MR. WALLACE: You don't think that the 41 Republicans in the Senate --
REP. RYAN: It'd be tough. I think you're going to have to get a few southern Democrats, probably, conservative Democrats, to say we're against this incredible expansion of government, this massive tax increase in a recession.
And if you can get a few Democrats to turn, then I think you can slow this thing down. If not, I'm not sure you can.
MR. WALLACE: Congressman Ryan, Senator Kyl, I want to thank you both so much for joining us today. It should be quite a debate.