'This Week' Transcript: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice - ABC News
The Presidential transition of Barack Obama began when Barack Obama won the United States . Jim Leach and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to meet with the delegations. . Obama held near-daily press conferences as President-elect to announce his administration nominees to the public. . Susan Rice. Ambassador Rice, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS. . Now, let's be clear, the government, once President Obama called President Morsi, immediately in. Susan Rice: U.S. 'Is on the Side of the Ukrainian People' . This is how President Obama described Syria just a couple of weeks ago on the.
So that's going to be a third thing. But the most immediate thing I've got to do starting on January 1st, if Congress doesn't act before the end of the year, is make sure that taxes are not going up on middle class families. Because it is going to be very hard for the economy to sustain its current growth trends, if suddenly we have a huge bite taken out of the average American's paycheck.
Do you have the stomach for the political fight for new gun control laws? And all of us have to do some soul searching, including me as president, that we allow a situation in which 20 precious small children are getting gunned down in a classroom. And I've been very clear that an assault rifle ban, banning these high capacity clips, background checks -- that there are a set of issues that I have historically supported and will continue to support.
I'd like to get it done in the first year. I will put forward a very specific proposal based on the recommendations that Joe Biden's task force is putting together as we speak.
And so this is not something that I will be putting off. And, yes, it's going to be hard. I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools.
Why she was targeted individually, for the kind of attacks that she was subjected to, Is there anything about Chuck Hagel's record or statements that's disqualifying to you, should you nominate him to run the Defense Department? I've served with Chuck Hagel. He is a patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate. Somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam. And is somebody who's currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job.
With respect to the particular comment that you quoted, he apologized for it. And I think it's a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people's attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country.
And that's something that I'm very proud to have led. OBAMA, on a cliff deal: Winston Churchill used to say that we Americans, we try every other option before we finally do the right thing.
And I think that that's true for Congress as well. And I think it's also important for Americans to remember that politics has always been messy. Look, A, I never compare myself to Lincoln and, B, obviously the magnitude of the issues are quite different from the Civil War and slavery.
The point, though, is democracy's always been messy. And we're a big, diverse country that is constantly sort of arguing about all kinds of stuff.
But eventually we do the right thing. Was he trying to nudge Morsi? The president wasn't signaling any change in the nature of our relationship. Obviously, the president had a conversation with President Morsi and a very productive one, in which he underscored that it's, of course, the responsibility of the Egyptian government as host to protect diplomatic personnel and facilities, including our own, and we saw that President Morsi, immediately after that, took dramatic steps to improve the security of our facilities in Cairo and elsewhere, and then went out and repeatedly made a number of very important and powerful statements condemning the violence and conveying the message that, however hateful such a video may be, there is absolutely no justification for violence against the United States or other Western partners.
So what we've seen is that the president has been incredibly calm, incredibly steady, and incredibly measured in his approach to this set of developments. And his interventions, his leadership has ensured that in Egypt, in Yemen, in Tunisia, in Libya, and many other parts of the world, that leaders have come out and made very plain that there's no excuse for this violence.
We heard Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey say the same, we heard the Grand Mufti in Saudi Arabia say the same, that there's no excuse for violence, that violence is to be condemned, and that governments have a responsibility to protect United States personnel and facilities and those of all foreign diplomats. I know you have to go, but very quickly, was the president in that interview trying to nudge President Morsi, "Get your act together"? I think that the president communicated directly with -- with President Morsi and had the opportunity to -- to understand our expectation that Egypt will do what it can to protect our facilities.
So that -- that was conveyed very directly, and the results were immediate and quite satisfactory. Rice, thank you so much for coming here today and answering our questions. Good to be with you.
Christiane, let's begin with you. You covered the Arab Spring. And, Christiane, I know you've interviewed the prime ministers of Libya, Egypt, and the spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood. What are they telling you about these protests? And who's behind the attack in Benghazi?
Well, what they're saying, first and foremost, is that obviously this has nothing to do with the governments, they don't support this, they've called them back, they say, and today the Muslim Brotherhood has said that we've made plenty of arrests and we should know in the next few days, that they're trying to recalibrate and put their relations with the United States back on the correct track.
They're very, very concerned that this should not disrupt their relations with the United States, whether it's the Egyptian prime minister who told me that, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Libyan prime minister.
And I think it's also important to recognize that this is a seminal moment, Jake, for these Arab emerging democracies. The people have spoken. By and large, they've gone well. By and large, this is a success story. But as we've seen, there are elements that are out of control, most particularly in Libya, where you've got these armed people who are not yet under the government control, not brought into the, you know, under the rule of law.
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But in Egypt, they say that they've got it under control, and they're very concerned that they want to maintain their relationships and not have this, you know, deter them from their strong relationship with the U.
Brian, let's talk about the homeland for a second. This week, there were three college campuses where there were bomb scares, apparently all false alarms, but they were false alarms. But they were called in. Is there a worry that these -- this wave of attacks could spread to the United States, to the homeland itself? Well, there's concern, but those bomb threats washed out as a real threat.
There was an arrest yesterday in Chicago, an year-old who had wanted to blow up a bar in Chicago as part of -- sort of a sympathy for what's going on in the world against Muslims.
But in general, they see no organized plan to disrupt or to attack in this country, but there are the independent operators who could be inspired. Martha, you've been to these embassies. How is security arranged? How is it decided who gets Marines, who doesn't? How do they decide, when the protests are coming, what they can do to calm things and -- and when they will actually make things worse if they get involved?
Well, I think that's a real fine line. In Yemen particularly, I was watching this week, and that embassy is very, very hard to breach. You have the host nation usually on the outer perimeter. They're in charge of security there. But getting inside, you usually have Americans there backing them up, whether they're contractors or security. If you saw those mobs coming, I suppose you -- you would say, "Let's go after them," but they can't really do that in all these cases.
I think particularly in Yemen, they did a pretty good job of just letting them climb the walls, but not get over the walls. You don't want to use deadly force if you don't have to, because it makes it much worse. But there are a lot of questions, Jake.
You asked a very good question of Susan Rice. Why weren't there Marines in Tripoli, in particular? She didn't answer it. I'm pretty sure there are Marines in Paris. Why weren't they in Tripoli? And I think that's a question the State Department is looking at right now.
And Benghazi, I think you had 25 or 30 people in the entire consulate. How many of those really were security? They overran the perimeter so quickly and were able to get to that main building so fast, that is a huge question. And, Brian, you heard them talk about the YouTube video. Rice talk about the YouTube video. They're hanging a lot on this YouTube video. You've been looking into the guy behind -- some of the -- the filmmaker, the main filmmaker behind it.
What was his motivation? Why did he, first of all, initially falsely claim to be a Jew, an Israeli Jew? And what was he trying to do with this video? Clearly he was trying to stir things up with his false claims that he was an Israeli Jew, as he put it, that the money for this came from Jewish donors. In fact, the money came from his wife's family in Egypt, and he was attempting just to stir things up, I think, with this very provocative film.
He's a Coptic Christian. But he sought to create a hate film. The film was never really produced, just the trailer that was put on YouTube. It's really like a home video Like a home video. I was going to say, it's so interesting that the actors that were called to say the words -- "Master George" was the main bad guy there.
Then they dubbed in those three syllables with "Mohammad. I mean, it was clearly a film designed to incite. And it's a film designed by an extremist with extremist views here that plays right into the extremist provocateurs over there.
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But one thing I was really worried about, first of all, this cynical and dastardly attempt to stoke more hatred by pretending he was Jewish, and now it reveals that he's a Christian. You know, there have been very tense relations with Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt, and the one thing I asked the Muslim Brotherhood, is this going to cause a backlash? They said, absolutely not. We're standing absolutely firm.
We're not going to let this have any impact on our relations, because that's possibly a very, very, you know, difficult fallout that could happen. I'm pleased that nothing happened in Afghanistan.
I mean, I think what's really important is to know that, again, this is a seminal moment. These governments have mostly done the right thing, you know, not just now, but in the lead-up to -- to all of this. They want good relationships with the rest of the world. Yes, the people are going to have a voice, because these are democracies now, in foreign policy going ahead. But as Susan said and as others have said, look, in Libya, more than half the people support not just U.
So I think that should be the takeaway, I think. Martha, before we end this roundtable, I do want to look forward. And right now, we have in the gulf the largest naval exercise ever in the history of the Middle East.
What is the message that the United States military is trying to send here? Is it directly aimed at Iran? I think it's a pretty obvious message, and I don't think anyone would actually tell you that on camera, Jake.
But I think it's pretty obvious the message to Iran is: Don't even try to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. They've got all these mine-sweeping exercises. It is an enormous exercise. Yes, they -- they normally do exercise, but nothing like this, and they're building up all sorts of missile-defense-type things in there, as well.
And, Christiane, just looking forward, the United Nations General Assembly meets this week and there's a lot of tension right now between Israel and Iran, but also between Israel and the Obama administration. What do you anticipate will happen this week? Well, we've all been, you know, listening to how they're not going to meet the leaders of the United States and Israel.
But I think what's really interesting -- and I've talked to a lot of people about this -- you know, Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, is starting to walk back the idea of an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. The internal intelligence and defense by and large inside Israel has been very lukewarm, if not downright negative, on the idea of a unilateral Israeli attack.
I'm being told that -- that that's possibly sort of receding as a possibility, at least any time now. But then -- and, of course, the Israeli people do not want to see their country unilaterally attack Iran. And I think, really, what we have to know is whether there's going to be any real, significant chance for proper negotiations, this negotiation that's going on right now with Iran and the West and -- and the United States, whether that can come to some kind of agreement, beyond -- you know, short of a kind of military intervention.
And, Brian, very quickly, because we're running out of time, what are your sources telling you about how far the Iranians are when it comes to actually building a nuclear device?
Four to six weeks away, if they'd made the decision to do it. They are able to acquire That -- that is some of the intelligence. But they haven't made that decision. But, of course, it's so vastly disparate. I mean, others say, you know, it could be a year after they So, you know, this is a guessing game that's gone on for years. Yeah, right, that's the latest claim. All right, Christiane, Brian, Martha, thanks so much for joining us.
When we come back, our powerhouse roundtable weighs in on all the week's politics. There's a new poll out today. Maybe we could wrap this election up tonight. We make it a Pay-Per-View -- we could wipe out the national debt in one night if we had them fight.
With polls showing a slight Obama lead, is it time for Republicans to start worrying?
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And the iPhone 5, economic stimulus? Today Apple unveiled the iPhone 5, which is 20 percent lighter and 18 percent thinner. In fact, it's just a piece of paper that says, "You saps will buy anything. There is something I want you all to know. I'm not worried, not in the least. Our campaign has a secret weapon, and that secret weapon is speaking right now in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Let's take a look. Hello, I'm Mitt Romney. For example, this summer, one of my horses failed to medal at the Olympics, so I know hardship. Lots to chew over. George, this week, Romney's senior foreign policy adviser, Richard Williamson, said of the situation in the last week unfolding throughout the Muslim world, "There's a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you'd be in a different situation. The great superstition of American politics concerns presidential power.
And during a presidential year, that reaches an apogee and it becomes national narcissism. Everything that happens anywhere in the world we caused or we could cure with a tweak of presidential rhetoric. Jay Carney participated in this when he said the riots in the Middle East are not about U.
Actually, they're about neither. If the video hadn't been the pretext, another one would have been found. There are sectarian tribal civil wars raging across the region that we neither understand nor can measurably mitigate. Liz, Mitt Romney was criticized a lot this week, not just by Democrats, but even by some of his fellow Republicans for responding too quickly and for what was he saying in his response.
You actually are not among those critics. You think he got it right. I think he did get it right. I think that actually the statement this week that should have received more criticism and attention was the president's, when the president went into the Rose Garden 24 hours after the Cairo embassy attack, rightly, of course, condemned the killing of our ambassador in Libya, failed to even mention the Cairo attack.
And, you know, I think that -- that in a situation in which an embassy has been attacked, the flag's been ripped down, the Al Qaida flag has been flown, that America's president not to even mention it clearly sends a signal to radicals across the region. And, you know, I would disagree with George to the extent that we've now had three-and-a-half years of Obama policy, and it looks an awful lot like, whether you're talking about the Mexico City speech inthe Cairo speech inthe extent to which he's been apologizing for America, he's abandoned some of our key allies, like Israel, Poland, Czechoslovakia, he's attempted to appease our enemies, the Iranians, for example, the Russians.
He's now getting ready, as we watch these scenes unfold on the air, to slash our defense. And so the president himself's got a terrible record on national security. And it's clearly something that Governor Romney ought rightly to be pushing. I suspect, General Clark, that you disagree with what Liz Cheney just said. I do disagree, because I think this is a consistent Republican narrative that Democrats are soft on defense, but we've a Democratic president who's been strongest on national security.
He's completely taken the foreign policy and national security argument away from the other side. He reinforced in Afghanistan. He got us responsibly out of Iraq. We took Osama bin Laden. So I know what the Republican narrative wants to be, but when you get below the rhetoric, there are no facts to support these charges.
In fact, we've worked anti-missile defense. Other nations in Europe seem to be happy. We've got the strongest relationship with Israel I think we've ever had. It's very good relations there.
So I -- I just don't find much ground in these comments from the Republicans. And, Jon, let me just go to some polling, because I want you to weigh in on this.
If you look at how the American people feel about who would be better when it comes to foreign policy and terrorism, trust to handle foreign policy, Obama, 51 percent, Romney, 38 percent, trust to handle terrorism, Obama, 51 percent, Romney, 40 percent.
Could the events of the last week change those numbers? It's a question of where it goes. I mean, I think, Liz, despite what you're saying, I think even the Romney campaign thinks they mishandled the way they initially played this. Look at the difference in tone from Mitt Romney between when he came out right after the attack to where he is now. Well, the Romney campaign doesn't always get it right. Well, there you go.
But -- but in terms of the longer-term implications here, this is really a potential, you know, danger for the president. There will be questions asked. No doubt there will be hearings up on Capitol Hill about what happened, why there was not more security in Benghazi. There will be questions about the overall situation in the Middle East. Was this really about one YouTube video or trailer for a movie that had been out, you know, for months actually and was finally translated into Arabic and put on an extremist television show in Egypt?
Or is there something more fundamental going on? This was a president that was going to, you know, transform our relations with -- with the rest of the world, particularly with the Arab world, and now the Arab world is to a degree inflamed with -- with very visible anti-Americanism. That's the kind of thing that could potentially erode the president's numbers long-term, even though Mitt Romney severely mishandled the situation.
And, Gwen, how much do voters care about foreign policy? How much could this actually change the course of this election? But, you know, I find it really interesting, Jake, that a week ago we were post-convention and we were completely consumed with what we talked about at those conventions, not foreign policy, not at either convention, unless you count every Democrat talking about Osama bin Laden.
I picked up on that. But I find it striking that Liz would say the Romney campaign doesn't always get it right. That -- that shows a little bit of disagreement within the Republican Party about how this week went. But more interestingly to me, getting back to your question, I don't think people were paying attention to this, even though you can argue very clearly that this is the most important power that any president would have.
So it boils down to a point that Mitt Romney was really trying to make, after all, the -- the timing issues, which is, who is in a better position to lead? The tough position, if you are the guy trying to take out the incumbent, is to make the case that you would be better.
Presidential transition of Barack Obama
Of course the president does better in this poll, because he is the president. He is currently the commander-in-chief. But I don't know that Americans, when they go to the polls in the end, are going to say, "Well, I think I like the way he handled Benghazi.
Does he feel like someone who could be president? I want to clarify. I think that the governor handled it exactly right when he went out and condemned the embassy statement.
Jonathan's point that the campaign now feels like it needs to back is where I would fault them, if that is true. I cannot imagine a more important set of issues. And I think, frankly, you know, it would be a tragedy for the nation if President Obama is allowed to effectively claim that he's been a successful national security president. And it'd be a tragedy for the nation if the Romney campaign doesn't push this issue very hard.
I know how deeply Governor Romney cares about the country. So I hope very fervently that they will continue to push this hard. But there's no question but that we're weaker than we were when Barack Obama took office, and if he has four more years, we may well be unrecognizable. Actually, I don't think we are weaker.
I think the whole point of going into Afghanistan inwhich President George W. Bush articulated, was Osama bin Laden, wanted dead or alive. And it was Barack Obama who really put the pressure on and got him. There it goes again. Once again, Osama bin Laden. But I think it's a huge -- it was a huge marker. It was a presidential decision in the -- and he was very much aware of President Carter's problem with Desert One.
And he did against the advice Are you at all uncomfortable, though, with how political that -- I mean, that at the -- at the national political convention, that this military operation is used as a -- as a political talking point over and over again? But here's the -- here's the The vice president talking about putting him on bumper stickers? We've had, since the Vietnam War, the consistent refrain has been Republicans are the daddy party, Democrats are the mommy party, Republicans are strong, robust, Democrats are soft and weak and want to negotiate, want to apologize.
It's simply not true. Barack Obama has been a very robust, muscular -- has a very robust, muscular foreign policy. And as George said earlier, what's happened in the Middle East has lots of factors and lots of causes underneath.
It has nothing to do with rhetoric from Washington. I really do not think it's fair to fault the president for throwing Israel under the bus, as they say. Granted, he has a bad relationship with my good friend, Netanyahu.
But the relationships between the U. But politically, our profession, graphic journalism, with all these pictures of things in flames, tends to give the country the sense that the world is somehow in chaos. The world's always dangerous and all that, but the chance of dying on this planet from organized state violence is lower than it has been since the s. It's the disorganized state violence, I think, or non-state violence that everyone's worried about when they look at a map and see protests in 20 different places.
Yes, but it -- but it -- but it beast the heck out of wars. But with respect to the state of -- but with respect to the state of Israel, George, look, you're in a situation now, in the last 48 hours, the president of the United States reportedly has offered to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, who at a minimum allowed the attack on our embassy and has refused to see Benjamin Netanyahu.
There's simply no way that you can claim that that relationship is not strained. It is unpresidential peevishness. I take that point. And given -- and given the fact that Israel's facing an existential threat, which is also a threat to the U. So this -- this president's record is clearly abysmal. Well, look, I want to say inaudible this question about refusing to meet with Netanyahu. I'm not in the administration, so I wasn't a part of this.
But I ask it. I don't think there's been any direct request to meet. And I don't think there's been a refusal.
There's daily contact between Israeli government officials and the United States. Secretary of State Clinton has been out there meeting people. We know very well the positions on all sides. The uncertainties, the intelligence, the information is shared. This is a question of the best way to bring this Iranian program to a halt. And on that subject, George Stephanopoulos interviewed Mitt Romney this week and asked about the red lines, where the U.
And here's that exchange. The red line going forward is the same. And I recognize that when one says that it's unacceptable to the United States of America, that that means what it says, you'll take any action necessary to prevent that -- that development, which is Iran becoming nuclear. George, where does Prime Minister Netanyahu want this red line to be publicly drawn?
We've heard so much about this red line. President Obama has not stated what it is. Mitt Romney has not stated what it is. What does Bibi want? I'm not sure what he wants, because I'm not sure how you draw red lines when you can't have confidence -- not from incompetence, but just the limits of knowledge -- confidence in our intelligence system.
Last March, in an interview with Jeffery Goldberg of the Atlantic, President Obama said our intelligence service will give us a pretty long lead time in understanding where Iran is. Our intelligence services did not predict India's testing of a nuclear weapon, Pakistan's testing, didn't anticipate, didn't predict North Korea's, so I think he may have a faith in the ability of our intelligence services to draw lines and put down markers as to where the Iranian program is that we simply actually don't have.
And, General Clark, does the president -- I mean, is it in the president's interest to publicly state what the red line is?