CBS’s Schieffer Admits Cheney ‘Winning’ Security Debate

Bob Schieffer, CBS While discussing Thursday’s opposing national security speeches by President Obama and former Vice President Cheney, on Friday’s CBS Early Show, Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer acknowledged: "...the fact that the President of the United States had to make this speech, the fact that Congress had turned him down in giving him the money to close Guantanamo, I have to say that on points, I give it to -- to the Vice President on this...Right now I think the Vice President has made his case. And at this point I'd have to say he's winning."

Meanwhile, co-host Harry Smih at least admitted a draw: "I think it behooves everybody who cares a whit about this issue at all, that they go on Youtube, or go online, and read the transcripts of every single word that was uttered. Because both speeches were breathtaking, I think, in their scope, in their pointedness."

While both Smith and Schieffer recognized Cheney’s success at countering Obama on issues like closing Guantanamo Bay, near the end of the segment Schieffer still declared: "I think most people think that Guantanamo is an open sore. That it in many ways it's a recruiting tool for these terrorists." At the same, he acknowledged the newfound difficulty in closing the facility: "But, getting it closed, what do you do with these people? Because, I mean, let's face it, there's some bad dudes down there. And no congressman wants those people brought back in to his home district, even to be put into prison. The President has got to come up with a detailed plan on how he plans to do this."

Interestingly, on the 2005 Memorial Day broadcast of Face the Nation, Schieffer pleaded for Guantanamo to be closed, yet did not mention any political or national security difficulties in doing so: "I wondered if the greater danger is the impact Guantanamo is having on us. Do we want our children to believe this is how we are? Is this the code of honor we are passing on to the next generation?... As we reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day, let us remember first what it is that separates us from those who would take away our freedom."

Here is the full transcript of Friday’s exchange between Schieffer and Smith:

7:06AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: There were two high profile speeches yesterday on the war on terror from two men who could not be further apart in their views, President Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

BARACK OBAMA: I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. And I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation.

DICK CHENEY: The intelligence officers who questioned the terrorists can be proud of their work, proud of the results. Because they prevented the violent death of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people.

SMITH: Joining us is chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer. Bob, good morning.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: This was a debate in every possible way, except it was not face-to-face. Is it possible to say which case was more compelling?

SCHIEFFER: I think you could, you know, argue that either -- either case was compelling, because both of them were. But I have to say, Harry, the fact that the President of the United States had to make this speech, the fact that Congress had turned him down in giving him the money to close Guantanamo, I have to say that on points, I give it to -- to the Vice President on this. Just the fact that the debate took place, the fact that Congress, you know, turned the President down. President Obama's been in the driver's seat with the Congress up until now. But, Congress pretty much pulled him over to the side of the road on this issue. And until he comes up with a plan on how to close Guantanamo down, I think they're going to continue to deny him the funds to do just that. Right now I think the Vice President has made his case. And at this point I'd have to say he's winning.

SMITH: It's very interesting, I think it behooves everybody who cares a whit about this issue at all, that they go on Youtube, or go online, and read the transcripts of every single word that was uttered. Because both speeches were breathtaking, I think, in their scope, in their pointedness. The President was literally answering Dick Cheney, not the least of, from his appearance on Face the Nation two weeks ago.

SCHIEFFER: There's no question about that, Harry. And the interesting thing is, this is the debate that we did not have during the campaign.

SMITH: Exactly.

SCHIEFFER: Because if you'll recall, John McCain was one of those who said we ought to close Guantanamo. I think most people think that Guantanamo is an open sore. That it in many ways it's a recruiting tool for these terrorists. But, getting it closed, what do you do with these people? Because, I mean, let's face it, there's some bad dudes down there. And no congressman wants those people brought back in to his home district, even to be put into prison. The President has got to come up with a detailed plan on how he plans to do this. You know, it's not good for the President to lose a fight with the Congress. Because if he loses one, the Congress starts to smell blood, and the next thing you know, he's going to have trouble getting the next thing passed. He's got to come up with a plan it seems to me, Harry.

SMITH: Last but not least, another exclusive interview on Face the Nation this Sunday. Dick Cheney's former partner from the first Gulf War, General and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

SCHIEFFER: You'll remember that the Vice President really went after Colin Powell. Said he wasn't even sure he was a Republican anymore. They talked about this issue, well, my sense is Colin Powell will have something to say in response to that, Sunday, on Face the Nation. We'll talk to him about all of this and a lot more.

SMITH: Alright, Bob, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

SCHIEFFER: Thank you, Harry.

SMITH: Do appreciate it. And as we mentioned, Sunday on Face the Nation, Bob has an exclusive interview with former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Should be quite a broadcast. Check your local listings.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC