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ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" - Transcript

Interview

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RADDATZ: Still very serious. Thank you very much, Christiane and Alex.

We're joined now by Senate Armed Services Chair Carl Levin of Michigan and House Homeland Security Chair Peter King of New York.

Thank you both for joining us this morning.

KING: Thank you.

RADDATZ: I'm going to start with you, Senator Levin. How serious is the situation in Israel?

LEVIN: Well, it's very serious, and Hamas has obviously made it serious. They've decided that they're going to attack Israel with rockets, and Israel has decided, as every country I think would decide, they're going to defend themselves.

RADDATZ: And do you believe this will escalate?

LEVIN: It could escalate. And I think the potential is there. However, President Obama and others are doing their very best to see if they can't turn Hamas' attacks off. And the role of Iron Dome here should always be remembered. It's a very critical weapons system. It's a defensive system.

RADDATZ: Which protects...

LEVIN: Protects Israel against these rockets. It's had a 90 percent success rate. And the president and Congress here are entitled to, I believe, a lot of credit for providing that system to Israel. It's a very effective system.

RADDATZ: Congressman King, I want to ask you whether you believe this will turn into a ground war, and should it? Is it the only way to stop those rockets?

KING: Well, let me start off on a bipartisan note. I fully agree with Senator Levin. Israel -- Israel is our main ally in the Middle East. Israel has the absolute right to defend itself. All of us, Republicans and Democrats, should stand with the president in supporting Israel.

And, quite frankly, I'm not the militarily expert. I was a Spec 5 in the Army. That's as far as I got. But having said that, I think Israel should do whatever it has to do to defend itself. Obviously, the president is going to work diplomatic channels. But I'm not in a position -- nor do I want to -- be second-guessing what Israel has to do. Obviously, no one wants a ground war, but Israel has to determine what it has to do to preserve its security.

RADDATZ: Senator Levin, President Obama has been in touch with both sides. What do you think of the response by the Egyptians?

LEVIN: It's pretty weak so far, from what I can tell. The Egyptians have a real interest here in the region not exploding, in the peace agreement continuing to be abided by, by them, the agreement that they have with Israel, but I think that they're going to have to take some very serious steps diplomatically to make it clear to Hamas that they're going to lose support in the Arab world if they continue these rocket attacks on Israel.

RADDATZ: I want to move to another hot spot in the world, Libya, and certainly, Benghazi. Last Friday, we had testimony from David Petraeus and others about Benghazi. You, Congressman King, have been very critical of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. You were critical in TV appearances right after the attack on September 11th. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Either Ambassador Rice was deliberately misleading the American people or she showed and demonstrated such a lack of knowledge and sophistication that she shouldn't hold that position anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Now, during Friday's hearings, David Petraeus -- and we'll get to other incidents with -- other news with David Petraeus later -- but David Petraeus basically said he knew it was a terrorist attack and that those points were taken out of Susan Rice's talking points. So do you -- do you feel differently about Susan Rice now?

KING: No. First of all, as far as General Petraeus, what was clearly was that the intelligence community had this right, and they put together talking points, and somewhere after it left the intelligence community, somewhere in the administration, there was very vital language taken out.

Now, Susan Rice, though, I would hope, if she's going to go on national television, is going to rely on more than unclassified talking points. She has...

RADDATZ: But if the information wasn't in the talking points, what is she supposed to do?

KING: Well -- well, as -- as U.N. ambassador, she had access to all the classified information from the State Department. She certainly could have gotten a classified briefing. She would have sat down with the National Security Council, and she would have known that those talking points had been watered down, and she could have caveated that -- her statement, which she didn't.

She left a clear impression that this was a spontaneous demonstration based on the video. And as President Obama said, don't blame Susan Rice, because she had nothing to do with Benghazi, then why do they send her out as the representative to the American people?

RADDATZ: Senator Levin, there are some who are calling for Watergate-style hearings because of this. First, your reaction about Susan Rice.

LEVIN: Well, it's one of the most unfair attacks I've ever seen in Washington in 34 years. Susan Rice was using the unclassified talking points, which were provided by the intelligence community. They were a consensus report. They...

RADDATZ: Why didn't they send out Hillary Clinton? Tell me why they didn't send out the secretary of state?

LEVIN: I have no idea. But that's not...

RADDATZ: Shouldn't she have been out there?

LEVIN: That's not the issue. The issue is whether or not Susan Rice should be pilloried for using a intelligence report which David Petraeus signed off on, which the DNI, the director of national intelligence, Mr. Clapper, signed off on. Were they part of a cover-up? Did they do something wrong?

Ask them. They told us. Look, we were there. Congressman King was there for two days of hearings.

RADDATZ: He says -- he says she should have asked more questions. She shouldn't just go out and read talking points.

LEVIN: Well, you mean she should look at the other intelligence? Should David Petraeus have looked at the intelligence? Of course. He's the head of the CIA. Should the head -- the director of national intelligence? He has access to the intelligence. They all had access to the intelligence.

But this is the key, Martha, and I want to hear Representative King deny it. Those talking points were signed off on by Petraeus and by Clapper. Does she not have a right to rely on them?

RADDATZ: Congressman King, very quickly on this.

KING: No, the fact is that when General Clapper and General Petraeus signed off on those talking points, it had different language in them. When they went over to the administration, we don't know whether it was the White House, the National Security Council, the Justice Department, or the Defense Department, that language was changed. That was not the language that was sent over by the intelligence community as a consensus statement...

LEVIN: They signed off on the final...

RADDATZ: Gentlemen...

LEVIN: Now, wait a minute. They signed off on those talking points.

RADDATZ: You've made the point. You've made the point. I want to -- I want to move on.

KING: Well, they had no choice. They had no choice at that stage.

(LAUGHTER)

RADDATZ: I want to move on to the other issues with David Petraeus. He, again, was in -- giving testimony on the Hill. What was the mood like, given the sex scandal surrounding him?

LEVIN: We felt, I think, that he has been a person who has provided great service to the United States and that the mistake he made was a personal mistake. It was not a public mistake. It was a personal mistake.

RADDATZ: I sat down with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. We'll hear more from that interview, but let's listen to what she said about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: So you don't think he should have resigned?

PELOSI: Well, that was his decision. That was his decision. My...

RADDATZ: But if you just think it's a personal matter, why should he resign?

PELOSI: Well, what happens in his life is not my business. What happens on the Internet is, I think, stupid. But those are decisions that he made. I think he did something that wasn't good, and he made the honorable decision to resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Congressman King, should he have resigned?

KING: I think all the fact is, yes. I have a great regard for General Petraeus. I consider myself a friend of General Petraeus. And he's handled himself with great dignity and class over the years. He's been an outstanding leader.

Obviously, mistakes were made here. I think we have to reach a stage, though, when you think of so many leaders in the past who have had sexual indiscretions and they stayed in office, in the modern world in which we live, I guess it's almost like zero tolerance for any -- any type of sin.

But I come from a tradition that believes in original sin. None of us is perfect. But I guess in the world in which we live today, with the Internet, it would make it difficult for him to stay on, but it really is the nation's loss, losing David Petraeus.

RADDATZ: Senator Levin, shouldn't there be some line? David Petraeus -- I know we're all talking about him as a great general -- he was the CIA director. Shouldn't there be some line where someone should resign and we say that's not acceptable?

LEVIN: The behavior is not acceptable. It's personally unacceptable behavior. But in terms of the public nature of it, there's no indication that there was a violation of our intelligence rules, that he divulged classified information to anybody. There's none of that. It's a very personal decision. I'm sorry that it came to that point, because I think we've lost somebody who really made a contribution and...


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