Stephanopoulos Embarrassingly Backtracks from Charge Iraq Precluded Korea Nuke Fix

On Sunday's This Week, during the roundtable discussion, host George Stephanopoulos embarrassed himself and had to backtrack after he raised Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry's recommendation -- that President Bush bomb the nuclear missiles on the launchpad in North Korea -- but then went a step further and combined Perry's proposal with blaming the Iraq war for preventing that type of action in 2003, only to be thoroughly refuted by George Will. “I don't even believe what I said,” Stephanopoulos sheepishly conceded, “So I take it back, you're right.”

Stephanopoulos had proposed: “What if in 2003, instead of invading Iraq, President Bush takes out the reprocessing facilities in North Korea, which according to Secretary Perry, President Clinton was willing to do back in 1993 before they started the negotiations? We would be in a far different place." How ground troops in Iraq precluded one of many Navy ships not committed to Iraq from firing off a few missiles at a target, Stephanopoulos did not explain. But Will pointed out how “the capital of South Korea is 30 miles away from the 38th parallel, North Korea, and we don't know what kind of spasm might result from this irrational regime. North Korea could destroy that capital without a soldier leaving the North Korea and using entirely conventional weapons." To which, Stephanopoulos offered his retraction and quickly segued to the Lieberman Senate race.

During the July 9 roundtable on the ABC show, with Democratic/ABC News consultant Donna Brazile, Peter Beinhart of the New Republic and columnist George Will, Stephanopoulos asserted:
"I think at this point, there's nothing to do but to learn to live with it. But you can dial the clock back to 2003. What if in 2003, instead of invading Iraq, President Bush takes out the reprocessing facilities in North Korea, which according to [former Defense] Secretary [William] Perry, President Clinton was willing to do back in 1993 before they started the negotiations. We would be in a far different place."

Will: "Well, Donna [Brazile] rightly says the capital of South Korea is 30 miles away from the 38th parallel, North Korea, and we don't know what kind of spasm might result from this irrational regime. North Korea could destroy that capital without a soldier leaving the North Korea and using entirely conventional weapons."

Stephanopoulos: "That is the problem. I don't even believe what I said [laughter from panelists]. So I take it back, you're right. Retaliation would be far too great."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center