tv State of the Union CNN June 19, 2011 6:00am-7:00am PDT
it's time for candy crowley and "state of the union." candy starts right now. in a town gates has been a standout. the only defense secretary to serve two presidents from different parties, robert gates was always direct, and heading in a direction he has taken directly to a new art form. >> how long can we expect the government to lie to us? >> most governments lie to each other. that's how business gets done. >> plenty to say and no reason not to say it.
today, outgoing defense secretary, robert gates. >> i just want people to face up to these realities. >> gearing up to david axelrod. >> the values that drove him to get into politics are what drives him today. >> i am candy crowley, and this is state of the union. we begin at the end of a chapter about a eagle scout whose dad sold oauto parts. >> secretary gates, i look forward to you coming home to our home state at some point. i know you must be looking forward to that. >> 15 days. >> 11 days now, and counting. i sat down with defense secretary gates yesterday afternoon. secretary gates, thank you so much for joining us. let me get to some news here over the weekend.
and that is president karzai from afghanistan says the u.s. is talking directly to the taliban in peace talks. is that so? >> i think there has been out reach on the part of a number of countries, including the united states. i would say that these contacts are very preliminary at this point. >> at what level is it? >> well, it's being carried out by the state department. >> so it's a diplomatic level not at the level of secretary of state? >> no. and other countries are involved as well. >> when you say preliminary, how long has it been going on? >> well, i'm not sure. a few weeks, maybe. >> is the nature of it how can we get peace here? >> i think first question we have is who represents omar, and who really represents the taliban? we don't want to end up having a
conversation at some point with somebody who's basically a freelancer. my own view is that real reconciliation talks are not likely to be able to make a substantive headway, not until they feel under pressure and they need to believe they can't win before they are willing to have a serious conversation. we have said all along a political out come is the way most of the wars win, and the question is when and if they are ready to talk seriously about meeting the red blinds that president karzai and that the coalition have laid down, including totally disavowing al qaeda. >> and two questions come out of that. the first here, is there any part of you knowing what the taliban has done, which is basically protect and help the
folks who made an attack on the u.s. on 99/11, any part of you uneasy with this sort of talk? >> i think first of all we just killed the guy that was responsible for attacking us on september 11th. and we have taken out a lot of other al qaeda as well over the years. look, we ended up talking to people in anbar province iraq who had directly been involved in killing our troops. that's the way wars end. >> and the secretary question coming out of that is that you seem to, again, be making the case that june is not really the time for a major drawdown or even a significant drawdown as the president said he wanted of u.s. combat forces in afghanistan, if you say, as you do, the taliban needs to feel pressure this winter?
>> well, the president has added something like 65,000 troops to afghanistan since he took office. whatever decision he makes he will have a significant number of troops remaining in afghanistan. he announced in december of 2009 with all of our support that the drawdowns would begin in july of 2011, and that the pace and the scope would be based on the conditions on the ground. well, one of the conditions on the ground is we have made a lot of progress over the last 15 months. we have basically thrown the taliban out of their home turf of kandahar, and i think we will present the president with options and different levels of risks associated with the options and he will decide. >> but you made no secret of the fact that you think there should not be any kind of major
drawdown at this point, during the critical time that you want to protect the advances that you talked about and you are now talking about the taliban needing to feel the pressure of u.s. forces, so am i right to say that you want still a modest drawdown? >> what i also have said is that the drawdown must be politically credible here at home. i think there is a lot of room for maneuver in that framework. >> there certainly is. you know senator carl levin that suggested 15,000 troops by the end of the year. is that doable as far as you are concerned? >> we can do anything that president tells us to do. the question is whether it's wise. >> so let me ask you that more correctly, is it wise? >> i am not going to get into any advice that i may or may not have given the president. >> yes, and i totally understand those have to be private conversations. but publicly lefin said i think you can get 15,000 troops, so i want to see if you think that
would be a wise decision to pull out 15,000 troops by the end of the year, combat or otherwise? >> we're all aware of what senator levin has called for. >> i want to play you something, and this is from hearings on capitol hill. >> what is the mission and what is the goal? >> how much can we achieve, and how much of that actually benefits our strategic objectives, and that's what i have been struggling with more than a year now. tell me how it ends. i just don't so how it ends. let me reform yulate that? >> i don't see what is so complicated about it. how this ends is essentially the same way it ended in iraq, with
us playing a key role for some period of time, building up the local security forces, in one case iraq, and in this case afghanistan, and degrading the capability of the taliban where the afghan forces can take care of them, and then the responsibility turned to the afghans. a quarter of the people live under afghan security leadership, and what you will see between now and 2014 is the transition of the rest of the country over a period of time, as the afghan forces get better, we can pull back into training and partnering role and more into counterterrorism, and so i think this transition to afghan leadership, so that they can keep control of their own country, so that al qaeda can no longer find a safe haven in
afghanistan, and the taliban cannot forcibly overthrow the government of afghanistan. that doesn't seem that hard to me for people to understand. >> i think maybe it just seems that this has been a very long war. as you know by looking at the polling and listening to the folks up on capitol hill which i know you often have to be up there, that the political will is not there anymore? i understand that you understand that people are weary -- >> i know the american people are tired of war. but, look, the reality is the united states has a very limited commitment in afghanistan until well into 2008, and we did not have the right strategy and the right resources for this conflict and a lot of resources, those needed to do the job, until the late summer of 2010. the president made this decision for the second surge in december of 2009, and it took us some
months to get the additional surge in, so i understand everybody is war wary, and we won the first afghan war in 2001, and 2002, and we were diverted by iraq and we neglected afghanistan for several years. when i took office at the end of the december in 2006, 194 americans had been killed in five years of warfare. that is the level of conflict that we were engaged in. so i understand we have been at war for ten years, but we have not been at war full scale in afghanistan, except until last summer. >> we will take a quick break. when we come back, more on afghanistan and other trouble spots around the world.
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we're back with robert gates, outgoing pentagon chief. i watched you over the past couple weeks. you have made a lot of appearances and said good-bye to the troops in afghanistan, and there has been emotional fair wells to the troops which i think are understandable, and the mission of the toll that has taken on you, and watching and
knowing you are partly responsible for these young men and women going overseas and into war, and then this caught a lot of attention at west point at the end of the february. >> in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advices the president to send a big american land army into asia or into the middle east or africa should have his head examined, as general macarthur so delicately put it. >> the totality of the speech was about the army needing to readjust what it does and how it trains and that kind of thing, but i can't help but wonder whether you are leaving with regrets? as i watch you, i think you are sorry about some things and i can't figure out what it is. were these the right wars? >> well, i have said all along, first of all, only time and history can answer that question. what i do know, and what i do
have confidence in is that once there failure is a huge challenge for the united states. and failure will have costs of it's own that will linger with us for a long time, as was the case in vietnam. so my objective in both of these wars has been to end them on terms that enhance the united states' security, and that uphold america's prestige in the world and our representation and advance our interests. if we can accomplish that, then bringing them to a close as quickly as possible, i think is the right thing to do. >> and when you say this, i know that history judges this, but i can't help but get the feeling from you that you have judged at least in the near term about these wars, and what do you feel? >> well, first of all, we had no choice in iraq and afghanistan, i should say. we were attacked out of
afghanistan. and in a way, if i had it all to do over again i would have used different wording at west point, because if the united states is directly threatened i will be the first in line to say we should use military force and we should do so with all the power we have available to us. it's wars of choice that i have become more cautious about, and being careful about electing to send troops in harm's way wherever they may be. if it's a matter of choice as opposed to a direct threat to the united states. so that was really what i was trying to express, and frankly didn't do so very well. >> it got a lot of play as we well known. >> sure did. >> i will exstrapulate. you question whether we should have gone to war in iraq? >> what i said is the war in
iraq will always be clouded by how it began, which was a wrong premise, that there were in fact no weapons of mass destruction. >> using your measurement and your lessons that you take from recent history, how does libya fit into this? >> i would say that the broader point that i try to remind people of is the inherent unpredictability of war. churchill said something to the effect once the guns start the fire the statesmen lose control because nobody can predict what will happen. by the same token, i think the president's decision that we would go in big at the beginning, and establish the no fly zone, and then recede into a support role because of all the
other commitments we have in iraq and afghanistan, and humanitarian work in japan because of the earthquake and so on, and that's was his understanding with the other leaders from the very beginning of this thing, that that's the way this played out. he struck to that and made clear it would not be u.s. ground troops in libya and he stuck to that. i think he set a way in which the united states would participate at the beginning, and then once the no-fly zone was established, he stuck to that. and i think that has been very disciplined. >> in terms of just the action, the u.s. being involved with other nato members in essentially these ariel assaults, and no ground troops from anybody, really, and i think there are trainers and stuff, but nonetheless, this does not fit your category of direct threat from overseas? libya is not a direct threat? >> no, but let's look at it this
way. it was considered a vital interest. what was going on in libya was considered a vital interest by some of our closest allies. those are the same allies that came to our support and assistance in afghanistan. it seems to me the kind of limited measured role that the president decided on in support of our allies who did consider it a legitimate thing is the way he did it. >> they tend to take positions in afghanistan and elsewhere, where they are not in the kind of danger u.s. troops are in. our plan was to go in libya and then let nato, this group that you think doesn't pay its fair share in any way, shape or form, take the lead? >> i think what we have seen -- they have taken the lead and
performed. the interesting thing is some of the smaller air forces, like the danes and the norwegians contributed maybe 12% of the aircraft but hit 30% of the targets. some of these guys are punching above their weight. the british and french have significant forces engage that had that what i was reflected in my speech in brussels, because of the lack of investment in defense over decades that their forces are beginning to be stretched by a limited engagement against, basically, kind of a third rate dictator. >> sure. how long is the u.s. going to be in libya? how long should we be backing up -- we're not in libya. >> i think the allies are prepared to sustain this. we are seeing the gadhafi government weaken. this is not, i think -- i think this will end okay. i think gadhafi will eventually
fall. my own bet is he will not step down voluntarily, and somebody will make that decision for him, either his family or military. >> or somebody will kill him? >> possibly. >> i think the allies will be able to sustain this. we will support them. >> when we come back, we will talk about the future of u.s. forces with the outgoing secretary of the pentagon. my doctor told me calcium
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we're back with secretary of defense, robert gates. a couple wrap-up questions. june 6th was the deadliest day for u.s. troops in iraq in two years. these are not combat troops. what are your fears vis-a-vis iraq, especially when it comes to iran and its influence when we leave iraq at the end of the year? >> that is actually one of the reasons why the iraqis and we are talking about some kind of a residual american presence in terms of the helping them with beyond december of 2011. >> what does that mean, residual? >> a small number of troops to
stay behind to train and help and intelligence and so on. >> 10,000? >> the number will depend on what the mission is, and the mission is what we're discussing with them and what they are discussing among themselves. i am worried about iranian influence. most of our kids who have been killed recently have been killed by extremist shia groups, not by al qaeda in iraq but shia extremists groups and they are getting sophisticated and powerful weapons from iran. so i do worry about that. and frankly, based on what i have seen in the last few days, i think prime minister maliki is beginning to get worried as well and take serious these shia extremist groups. >> post bin laden, when they thought they were going to make an attack to retaliate u.s.
troops killing bin laden. so far it has not happened. are they too weak to launch a strike against the u.s.? >> first of all, they have been significantly weakened. there's no two ways about it. killing bin laden, he's not the first leader we have killed in al qaeda. and so there have been real successes there. and second, most of their operations that we see do take some time to prepare, and get things ready. so we worry about al qaeda central there on the pakistani, afghan border. and we also worry about al qaeda and the iranian peninsula, and yemen, in north africa, and so this is a threat that in some ways has ma tsa sized. the question is, whether the new leader taking bin laden's place can hold these groups together
in some cainkind of a cohesive movement. or do they become more regional terrorists and focus on regional targets. we just don't know yet. >> there is something you said about the size of the millaire tea yp. >> we need to be honest with the president and congress and the american people and ourselves about what the consequences are, that a smaller military, no matter how suburb will be able to go fewer places and do fewer things. >> what do you warn against? do you think it would be a good thing to have a smaller mi military? clearly not? >> clearly not. what happened was in 1970s and to a lesser extent in the 1990s, and that's the across the board cuts where everything becomes
mediocre. >> what should not be cut in the military budget? >> the two things i have told the defense to not touch is the family programs and the training. the train something where we take the hit first when it comes to budget cutting. we have to make investments in the new tanker and in a fifth generation fighter. the chinese and russians are both developing such fighters and surface ships. there are certain areas -- our surface ships, the number of our surface ships in our navy will be at the smallest number since 1916. if you cut the surface ships, then the ability to do things like humanitarian work in china will be limited. if they have to make hard choices than rather the
political and expedient point by saying let's cut everything by a certain percentage. >> and some are saying why does the united states have to stay a super power? why do we have to go some of these places? i am okay with the cuts you are talking about, and why should the u.s. be a super power? >> the united states have global interests. we have had global interests for a century and a half. we have been a global power since the 19th century. we find that we have a bad history. when we turn inword we end up in a really big war. >> mr. secretary, a very emotional issue for some family members of service people who kill themselves while on duty, and is that the president traditionally over many years has not written con doleance
letters to people who commit suicide in the military. should that change? >> i have discussed this personally with the president. i have not done so either, so it's not just the president's policy. so i think the services, and the defense secretary and the white house all need to revisit this issue. >> in fact, you all are trying to make it a more open military to psychiatric services, people who need emotional help. this stands in opposition to that, does it not? finally, is this the last time you will retire from public service? >> yes, for sure. >> that's it for you. it's been nice having you in washington. have a good retirement. >> thank you. ♪ machines have a voice.
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featured seven republican rivals with different ideas about how to reach one mutual goal? >> we need a new president. >> this president has failed. >> the program that president obama has put forward has not worked. >> president obama is a one-term president. >> but in the end the re-election of president obama will have less to have to do with who they elect to run against him than cold hard facts. asked if they are satisfied with the direction the country is headed 78% of the americans said no, and it's rough economic terrain that could change the electoral landscape. strategists see these five states as the most vulnerable for a republican takeover in 2012. together they account for 79 electoral votes. i asked one top obama campaign official this week what he worries about most. his reply?
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this week i caught up with former senior white house adviser, david axelrod who returned home to his business in chicago earlier this year, and he doesn't work out of re-election headquarters but uses the comfortable political consulting office that he had even before he worked on the obama campaigns. here he hangs on what used to be on his white house wall, a picture by his daughter of the white house and the chicago skyline. >> something that the president said this week struck me. he said it's not as cool to be an obama supporter as it was in 2008 with the posters and all of that stuff.
i think he's right. i think it's not as right to be an obama supporter now. how do you get cool back into this -- >> i find it cool to be an obama supporter after having sat with him two years in the white house and watching him work with difficult things with intelligence and grace and equilibrium. i have great admiration for him. when you are the incumbent, it's a little different. i think ultimately, the people participating in the campaign in 2008 were not involved in some cultive personality, it was about the country and they cared deeply about the country. when the campaign gets fully engaged and the choices become clear you will see a great deal of activity out there on his behalf. i think that it may not be the same, but i think the level of energy will be very high. >> and when is fully engaged?
how do you lay that out for me? >> he has a day job. candy, let's stipulate that you and i are junkies, we get paid to do it and we would be fascinated by it if we did not. most americans are living their lives trying to deal with what is in front of them. they just had an election, and they are not hankering to be in another one. and we have a great national debate. >> i know you look at the polls, and as much as you look at the polls, about as much as you hate to have me talk about them i want to ask you a couple things. in the latest poll that we saw, 42% of independents supported re-elect for president obama. that's compared to the 72 you got in the win. when you ask staunch liberals,
do you approve of the president, 64% approved of the president's performance, and 89% is what you had vote for him in the last electi election. why is your base unhappy? >> if we sat together at this point before the last election, the poll numbers that you quote me would be about as relevant as the farmers' almanac. >> it's a snapshot in time. >> that's true. let me emphasize. when we get to the election, it will be a choice between two candidates. i have no doubt that our base will be very, very solid. the polling that i have seen is contrary to that. i think our base will be very, very solid. they will understand what the choices are and the direction in which he wants to lead and the direction in which the republican candidate will want to lead. i think one of the things that will inform that campaign is whether that republican candidate can yield to some of the forces within his own party
or her own party that is driving their party further to the right. that will, i think, make independent voters step back. what independent voters want is for us to work together. both parties to solve the problems facing the country. they don't want harsh partisanship, and they don't want unremitting etiology. and they are trying to work with thim to solve the problems of the country. >> it's to your benefit whoever comes out of the process to -- >> i am not interested in characterizing the candidate as right wing conservative. one thing we will look at is not the positions the candidates take or their records, but the character of their leadership
and politics. part of the character is do you have the fortitude to stook with your positions or do you shift according to the political moment. >> that sounds like a romney argument. >> it's not unusual in politics for people ambitionio shus to change their point of view. >> the president did as a candidate over time change his opinion. he was hit for that, too. >> nobody in public life does or should never change an opinion. but the question is on the fundamental things, basic things. are you going to be consistent so that when people vote for you they have some sense of where you will be the next day. my experience with barack obama is he is one of the most consistent people that i have met. the values that drove him to get into politics are the values that drive him today. it's a fundamental
identification for middle class people and people struggling to become middle class. to push for that kind of opportunity that have characterized our country in the past, and we want to characterize our country in the future. >> stick with me, and we'll take a quick break, and when we come back we want to talk issues and size up the composition. ♪ [ heather ] businesses need a reliable financial partner. one who can stay in sync with their moves. my job at ge capital is to get bobcat all the financial and business support they need. we provide financing for every bobcat dealer in north america.
welcome back. we're here with senior obama re-election strat gist, david axelrod. >> i am not an economists. i believe we will make improvement just as we have made -- we were at 10.2 and it's down to 9. i think it will go down, but that's not the fundamental issue. the issue is do people feel like we're making progress and moving in the right direction, and do they feel like the person on the other side of the ballot will hold out greater hope. i am very confident that we will be in the right place. >> david, if you look at right track, wrong track, and i know a lot of pollsters put a lot in,
and overwhelmingly, a lot of people think we're on the wrong track. >> candy, here is what i think. people understand that the problems we're facing took years to create, and years to manifest themselves and it will take longer than anybody would like to solve them. but they want to know the approach taken is the right approach, and it has at its core their economic security and best interests. and the president has a balanced plan, a plan that has the middle class at its core and has broad growth has a goal. >> why don't they feel that way now? what i am saying he has been in office now, do the math, more than two years, and people feel that the country is on the wrong track. >> because we have been through -- we have been through a horrific recession that followed a lost decade -- >> can you run blaming george
bush for the economy? >> i don't think anybody cares about pointing fingers of blame. >> you were talking about these are problems in the making? >> that's a fact of what has happened a fact of what's happened in the life of our economy. i don't think this is about the past. it's about the future. it is only relevant to talk about the past in evaluating the approach that people would take moving forward. >> i know as part of your job we talked about this, is to watch debates. we had a big debate in new hampshire this week. size up the competition for me. >> i think it's early to size up the competition. there seemed to be a unanimity of antipahy towards the president. i didn't hear a lot of ideas. first mayor daley said we have to rise to higher and higher
platitudes. i was watching that as i listened to the republican debates. ultimately people will ask for answers. and they're going to ask hard questions, if you're governor romney and you say i'm going to turn this economy around, i've got the answers. you don't offer them. then people have a right to say why is it that your state was 47th in the country in job creation when you were governor. if you're governor pawlenty and you say we've got to clean up the fiscal mess, people have a right to ask why did you leave your state with a $6.2 billion deficit? that's what campaigns are about. one thing about running for president -- we ran a very long campaign and i know a lot about this, is whoever you are, people will know who you are by the end of that campaign. they're very valuable in that regard. >> did anybody look particularly strong to you? >> you know, i don't know. i'll leave it to the pundits to grade that. i think congresswoman bachmann who was relatively unknown
probably did herself some good there. i thought governor romney for what he did did fine. but we were through 28 or something of these things in our democratic race. i know this is very early, and i think it's the later debates that become more revealing. we've got some candidates who weren't there who are about to join the race. that will add to the fight. >> john huntsman is getting in next week. size him up for me? >> well, i know him because he was president obama's ambassador to china. i got to meet him when we were in shanghai. i think he's a very bright, fluent person. it was a little surprising to me because when we were in shanghai we got a chance to talk. he was have ob few sive, this was in the fall of 2009, about what the president was doing. he was encouraging on health care and a whole range of
issues, he was a little inquiz cal about what he was going to do in his own party. you got the sense he was going to wait until 2016 for the storm to blow over. obviously circumstances changed. i was surprised when he's merged as a candidate. but i certainly take him serious. >> i interviewed him for last sunday's show, and i asked him if he thought, as does mitt romney that president obama has had a failed presidency and he said yes, he did, particularly on the economy. >> well, that is in conflict with what he communicated to us in 2009. if he had suggestions on the economy, he had an excellent opportunity to suggest them then when we were altogether in china. i think what has changed is not his view of the economy, but his view of his own chances to perhaps win the nomination. i understand that's politics. he's a politician and he sees an opportunity, but it is -- it's a
stark contrast to what he said when he wasn't on your program. >> sounds like you're a little ticked off at him. >> no. as george bush used to say, this isn't my first rodeo. i think anybody who wants to get in the pool should jump in the pool. and i believe in the process. i believe you get tested in this process, your character gets tested as well as your ability to read a script or a speech, and so he and all the candidates will be tested. ultimately i'm very confident about the outcome. >> david axelrod, senior adviser for the president, thank you very much for joining us. >> good to see you, candy. up next, a check of today's top stories followed by "fareed zakaria gps." okay, team! after age 40, we can start losing muscle --
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time for a check of today's top stories. the libyan government says a nato air strike hit a residential neighborhood in tripoli today killing nine civilians. nato says it's investigating those allegations. the incident occurred a day after nato acknowledged its aircraft had mistakenly struck libyan opposition vehicles in an eastern oil city. the taliban is claiming responsibility for a suicide car
bomb that target add nato convoy in northern afghanistan today. at least three people were killed and 11 others wounded. earlier on this program, defense secretary robert gates confirmed the u.s. is engaged in preliminary peace talks with the taliban. the greek prime minister pushed parliament for a vote of confidence in the new cabinet. he's trying to avoid what he calls a catastrophic debt default. the national weather service issued a warning to seven states in the southwest saying high heat, low humidity and strong winds are posing an extreme fire risk. firefighters are already battling dozens of wildfires burning in arizona, new mexico and texas. texas congressman ron paul won the latest republican presidential straw poll in new orleans while an absent john huntsman placed a surprising second. the poll was taken at