Analysis with Peter King
SHOW: FOX SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRIT HUME (18:21)
May 24, 2004 Monday
GUESTS: Peter King
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCLELLAN: Tonight's speech is focused on our strategy for success in Iraq. The president will update the American people about the clear strategy for the way forward to a free, democratic, and peaceful Iraq for the Iraqi people. And he will talk about the specific steps we are taking to achieve our goals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: The president will have many audiences tonight, here and overseas. You just heard Scott McClellan mention the public; but one other audience surely will be members of his own party in Congress, an increasing number of whom have been publicly-mostly privately though, worried and wavering on Iraq. Some Senate waverers, McCain, Hagel and Graham are well known, but there's anxiety in the House as well.
And for some sense of that we turn to New York Republican Congressman Peter King, who joins us tonight from Long Island.
Congressman King, I know you're not a waverer. But I know you must hear the sentiments expressed in the halls and elsewhere among Republicans in the House. What do you hear?
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: Yes, Brit, I do. A number of them are concerned that the-that it's out of control in Iraq, that the president has lost basically control of where it's going. Others, you know, are elected several years ago going back to 1994, of-you know, platforms on campaign finance reform, or term limits, or other issues like that, balancing the budget, and they're really not comfortable with foreign policy. And then there are others who were just comfortable, isolationist type districts. So he has to bring all of them together.
I think it's important for him tonight to show that he is on top of the situation. I'm convinced he is. But he has to lay it out. And he has to convince a lot of these Republicans that in turn the president will be able to convince the American people. Not just convince them, but you know-not just convince the congressmen, but also convince the American people and that we have a steady course.
Also, though, I think it's time for, you know, some of these Republicans to, you know, to buck up, to realize we signed on to this war. We understood-we should have understood what it entailed. There's no such thing as a neat and tidy, or easier war. What happens now is happening in every war. And we owe it to the president and to our country to stick with them. But he has to, I think, make it clear that he knows where we're going. And he has to start laying out also all the positives that have occurred.
HUME: Well, is it your sense that he-that the president-the president is going to speak, it's estimated by the White House, 30 to 35 minutes. That's relatively long address. And if he did it from the Oval Office, it may be an almost unprecedented length for a speech of this kind. Is it necessary for the president tonight to have something new to say, either a new announcement or-or some new policy, or a new initiative, or change? What's your thought on that?
KING: Not necessarily, Brit. I'll tell you why. Because really over the last four to six weeks, the American people, I think, have lost a lot of focus as to exactly what's happening. They see most of the national media; they're reporting every bomb that goes off. They seem the prison abuses, and it's just been building up. This is out of control. It's not. But that's the image that's out there.
So what he has to do, I think, is stabilize it. That is he has to put it in perspective, show what's going right, show what's going wrong, and show where we intend to go. and make it clear that this is part of the overall war on terrorism. I think by focusing and crystallizing the issues, to many people that will be new. But it really-you know, it doesn't have to be new. It's just that it will be a new image, or a new understanding for the American people of what's been happening. And if the congressmen feel that he is getting out of course with the people, then they will feel more secure and confidence.
HUME: The president will-obviously is going to cite achievements. We done some of that here at Fox News on "FOX NEWS SUNDAY" in particular, cited a notable list of achievements by the U.S. military in Iraq. Obviously you've got Saddam is in jail, his two sons are gone, a whole range of the old high command there in Iraq is either in prison, or otherwise taken care of. It's also obviously much of the military situation, much of the country is also relatively calm.
The president has said all that before. Presumably these members of Congress know that. What do they need to hear about, say, the security situation? What do they need to be told? Do they need to be promised, for example, guaranteed almost, that situations such as occurred in Najaf and earlier in Fallujah will not reoccur?
KING: We have to show why they're less like to reoccur. Show the tremendous steps we've taken over the last several weeks. Our troops have killed an awful lot of the enemy. Al Sadr's militia has been virtually decimated. We are making real progress. We have to show that that progress is being made at the same time that General Petreaus, who has been brought over from the 101 First Airborne, will be able to train and begin the effective training of a Iraqi defense force. So we have to show that security will be coming.
You know, the other issues, the humanitarian issues: the schools, the hospitals, the roads, the water plants, all of that is important. But I think he has to show that the security situation is getting better. We intend it to get much better, and slowly the transition is going to begin to having the Iraqi defense force taking over. What we have to show is we have the situation under control.
HUME: There's some members of the military, senior commanders say as the situation gets closer to the turnover, and even in the aftermath of the turnover, the level of violence could very well increase again and things could get worse. Is that a message-if it's either stated by the president or not ruled out by the president that will fly in your judgment?
KING: Yes, I think it will. Again, you know, we are supposed to be sophisticated, mature adults, and we have to realize nothing is easy. Certainly a war is never easy. So yes, I think he has to show there's real progress being made, there's a real plan, there's a real pathway here to peace and to us ultimately getting out be. But then there are going to be bumps along the way. We're playing for the high stakes that we are, not just with the insurgents in Iraq or with international terrorism. We can't expect this to be easy.
But again, if he brings this back to September 11, if he shows it's part of the overall war on terrorism, that he knows where it's going-and believe me, he does, make that clear. And then also show that still despite that, there are going to be bumps along the way. And it's tragic, but there are going to be Americans killed. Lay all that out. I think, yes, we can accept that it's up to us to get that to the American people.
HUME: All right. Congressman King, thanks very much for your insights. We'd like to check back with you later after the speech. Thank you.
KING: Thank you, Brit. Thank you.
HUME: We have got to take a break to bring you the rest of the headlines now. But when we come back, some people suspect members of the national media thinks differently from regular folks. We have evidence; it's next on the "Grapevine."
HUME: More SPECIAL REPORT in a moment. But first, let's get a check of the day's other headlines and a preview of tonight's "FOX REPORT WITH SHEPARD SMITH" in the New York newsroom-Shep.