Sunday Morning Fights: Brit Hume and Bill Kristol Tag Team Juan Williams

For those that missed it, a classic – and sometimes heated – debate about the Iraq War transpired on the most recent installment of “Fox News Sunday”. In the left corner was NPR’s Juan Williams. In the right corner, as a fabulous conservative tag team, were Fox News’ Brit Hume, and the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol. This one did not disappoint (video available here).

The fun really got going when Kristol made the following observation about recent changes in position regarding the war: “Some of the Republicans are going wet or squishy, or whatever one wants -- that was a shock. Sam Brownback said to you just a few minutes ago he has growing impatience with the war in Iraq. Senator Smith said he's at the end of his rope.”

Williams eventually took issue with this:

Let me just say this. Squishy, impatient, you know, they'll be in the land of milk and honey -- the insurgents will be? What do you imagine, that somehow there's -- an American administration is coming in, Republican or Democrat, after President Bush that's just going to lay down and run away like scared little...

And that’s when the party started (partial transcript follows, but it really should be read along with the video to capture the priceless expressions on the faces of the participants):

HUME: It will not be phrased that way, but if you listen to the -- listen. Listen, Juan, it's very simple.

WILLIAMS: But you know what? This is really -- I'll tell you something. Sometimes I just want to scream. You guys have been going on since this thing began. I mean, you don't give credit to people -- Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, Barbara Lee, people who said from the start this is a mistake. You put them down.

Now it's everybody's a surrender monkey, or impatient, or squeamish or weak. Why can't you say hey, there's a real problem in Iraq?

HUME: I know, Juan, but there is a real problem in Iraq. Everyone recognizes that. I asked Nancy Pelosi the very simple question, do you think it's more important to end this war or win it, and her answer was this is not a war to be won, this is a problem to be fixed, to be solved...

WILLIAMS: Right.

HUME: ... an issue to be resolved.

What she wants, and what a great many Democrats want and, I fear, an increasing number of Republicans want is to get the war over with one way or another and make it look as good as possible.

That is not a formula for success, and it is certainly not a formula for victory.

WILLIAMS: All I'm saying to you is let's define what you mean by victory. And I know the president keeps using that word and, in fact, there was criticism coming from the right for the Iraq study group not using the word victory and not talking about democracy.

HUME: No, but they did use the word success, and they did adopt the president's goals.

WILLIAMS: OK. All right.

HUME: I do not believe...

WILLIAMS: Let's just talk for a second about what we mean by victory. And my suggestion is to you is the reason Nancy Pelosi says to you it's a problem to be fixed is we're not fighting against Iraq. We're trying to develop stability in Iraq.

We're trying to find a way to get these sectarian groups to live together, and to protect Israel and to stabilize the Middle East. That's what we're trying to do. You shake your head. Am I wrong?

KRISTOL: How did Israel come into that?

WILLIAMS: Because I think Israel and the fact that so many of the -- so many of the Al Qaida types want to pick on Israel and say Israel is the source of their problems. We want to get that out of the way.

KRISTOL: And that's why the Shia are killing the Sunni...

WILLIAMS: No, I didn't say that.

KRISTOL: ... and the Sunni are killing the Shia.

WILLIAMS: I said that's what -- that's a convenient example for the extreme people, the Islamic extremists, to say that that's the reason for them to engage in terrorism. And we want to do away with that cause.

KRISTOL: I missed that excuse. Is that why the Shia are killing the Sunni in Iraq, because of Israel?

Marvelous. Simply marvelous. What follows is a partial transcript of this entire segment.

WALLACE: Well, I have felt for some time that the big story over the next few months will be how long congressional Republicans, not Democrats, but Republicans stand by the president's policy. From what we heard from Sam Brownback today and what we saw from Senator Smith, Bill Kristol, not long.

KRISTOL: I guess not. I mean, I think the president can hold if he articulates a strategy for victory, and I think the key for that probably would be more troops and especially saying -- acknowledging that we haven't -- we put other things first, or let's get out of Iraq as soon as possible instead of putting victory first.

But I agree. Some of the Republicans are going wet or squishy, or whatever one wants -- that was a shock. Sam Brownback said to you just a few minutes ago he has growing impatience with the war in Iraq. Senator Smith said he's at the end of his rope.

But this is a war, you know? There's a terrific e-mail from a 24- year-old sergeant in the Army Reserve, T.F. Boggs (ph), who wrote, "I feel like all my efforts, 30 months of deployment in Iraq and the efforts of all my brothers in arms are for naught. I thought old people were supposed to be more patient than a 24-year-old."

But he says he and his fellow soldiers understand that this will take time. He also wishes there were more troops, then they could clear and hold and build, but that it will take time.

It's pathetic. It's pathetic for adults to be impatient. The soldiers know it takes time and it's worth fighting. And Senator Smith and Senator Brownback -- gee, you know, it doesn't accord with their wishes of how the world would work.

WALLACE: Mara, I was going to ask you, you have a pretty good sense of what goes on on Capitol Hill. How restless do you think congressional Republicans are getting with the president's policy?

LIASSON: I think they are restless. I think they need to hear something from him that sounds like it's going to work. They just got drubbed, or thumped, as the president said, and I think there is a lot of restlessness.

You don't see this -- even John Cornyn, one of the most staunchest supporters of the president, has sounded impatient and frustrated. You have Brownback, you have Snowe, Gordon Smith.

I don't think this is a wholesale breaking with the president, but I think that he is not up for reelection again. They are. That's a truism. But the interests of the congressional Republicans and the White House are going to increasingly diverge unless, I think, Iraq can be gotten in hand.

HUME: The president may have been given a gift by the Iraq study group in the sense that it is generally in line with his purposes. Whatever he presents, if it seems to adopt a lot of what they say and represent what people seem willing, for reasons not clear to me, to call a new approach, may buy him some time politically.

Now, you know, he can be -- he can sustain this by virtue of the fact that he'll be commander in chief for the next couple of years. But if the political support ebbs away at the rate that it's going, it will be very difficult indeed.

And it will also leave the insurgents with the idea that all they've got to do is wait for this guy to leave office and they're going to be in the land of milk and honey in Iraq and will run the place.

So this is a tight spot militarily, where the options seem so few, and politically, where the ground is sliding away from the president.

WALLACE: Juan, let me...

WILLIAMS: Let me just say this. Squishy, impatient, you know, they'll be in the land of milk and honey -- the insurgents will be? What do you imagine, that somehow there's -- an American administration is coming in, Republican or Democrat, after President Bush that's just going to lay down and run away like scared little...

HUME: It will not be phrased that way, but if you listen to the -- listen. Listen, Juan, it's very simple.

WILLIAMS: But you know what? This is really -- I'll tell you something. Sometimes I just want to scream. You guys have been going on since this thing began. I mean, you don't give credit to people -- Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, Barbara Lee, people who said from the start this is a mistake. You put them down.

Now it's everybody's a surrender monkey, or impatient, or squeamish or weak. Why can't you say hey, there's a real problem in Iraq?

HUME: I know, Juan, but there is a real problem in Iraq. Everyone recognizes that. I asked Nancy Pelosi the very simple question, do you think it's more important to end this war or win it, and her answer was this is not a war to be won, this is a problem to be fixed, to be solved...

WILLIAMS: Right.

HUME: ... an issue to be resolved.

What she wants, and what a great many Democrats want and, I fear, an increasing number of Republicans want is to get the war over with one way or another and make it look as good as possible.

That is not a formula for success, and it is certainly not a formula for victory.

WILLIAMS: All I'm saying to you is let's define what you mean by victory. And I know the president keeps using that word and, in fact, there was criticism coming from the right for the Iraq study group not using the word victory and not talking about democracy.

HUME: No, but they did use the word success, and they did adopt the president's goals.

WILLIAMS: OK. All right.

HUME: I do not believe...

WILLIAMS: Let's just talk for a second about what we mean by victory. And my suggestion is to you is the reason Nancy Pelosi says to you it's a problem to be fixed is we're not fighting against Iraq. We're trying to develop stability in Iraq.

We're trying to find a way to get these sectarian groups to live together, and to protect Israel and to stabilize the Middle East. That's what we're trying to do. You shake your head. Am I wrong?

KRISTOL: How did Israel come into that?

WILLIAMS: Because I think Israel and the fact that so many of the -- so many of the Al Qaida types want to pick on Israel and say Israel is the source of their problems. We want to get that out of the way.

KRISTOL: And that's why the Shia are killing the Sunni...

WILLIAMS: No, I didn't say that.

KRISTOL: ... and the Sunni are killing the Shia.

WILLIAMS: I said that's what -- that's a convenient example for the extreme people, the Islamic extremists, to say that that's the reason for them to engage in terrorism. And we want to do away with that cause.

KRISTOL: I missed that excuse. Is that why the Shia are killing the Sunni in Iraq, because of Israel?

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.