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tv   Dick Cheney and Leon Panetta Discuss Trump Administration Defense Policy  CSPAN  December 22, 2016 12:13am-1:29am EST

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library in simi valley, california, dick cheney ended lyons panetta talked about donald trump's defense policies and choice of james mattis to head the pentagon. is one hour and 50 minutes.
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>> ladies and gentlemen, welcome to panel session eight. former secretaries of defense, assess the state of our national defense, where we are and where we need to go. please welcome barbara starr, cnn pentagon correspondent. [applause] >> i guess they are not going to introduce us. [laughter] >> the vice president of the united states. [applause]
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>> are we taking a picture? >> you all know the other two guys. [laughter] >> alright. here we go. >> we are taking a group picture, against my will. let me set the stage for this session. i have standing room only and i guarantee that nobody is here to hear what i have to think. we'll have a very, interesting session. unlike most of the things i do, this is special to me because i do as a longtime pentagon correspondent i know both of , these men. secretary cheney has given me permission to call him secretary cheney. he promised me he did not mind. that is how i know him. the vice president was the first defense secretary i ever covered. secretary panetta was the first
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one i ever had to sit and take out when he moved to italian in his soundbite when he was upset about something. [laughter] barbara: i really cannot put that on tv. never really sure what he was saying. [laughter] i do not really think we need to go through introductions, if you do not know who they are, you are probably in the wrong place. [laughter] but i am going to start with a couple of anecdotes. i am taking the prerogative of the chair. we have everybody up there, too. hi. one of the things about defense secretaries, when you cover the pentagon and all 17.5 miles of core doors in the pentagon, you keep an eye out because you never know when they will leave their office and go walking around. both of these gentlemen have a long history of doing that. secretary gates, secretary hagel also.
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secretary rumsfeld showed up in the cafeteria to eat lunch. secretary gates would walk around wherever he felt like it as a former cia director. and secretary hagel would walk around and either stop tourists or stop young troops, and start talking to them and ask them what they did. secretary cheney would be found walking outside on his own, getting fresh air because he wanted to. he was also quite well known for turning up in hallways where you do not expect him. so one day, as a young reporter, i found him in a corridor, in an army corridor. i believe you were with the deputy defense secretary and they were walking around. i was like, i think they are lost. [laughter] no way he is meant to be in this corridor. do you go to the defense secretary and say, are you lost?
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he gave me a chance to talk to him. i asked if he was lost. he was so gracious and told me the office he was looking for. turned him around and said, sir, you want to go that way. but, you know, get out and walk around. secretary panetta, same thing, but i want to share a different anecdote. he would bring the late, dearly departed bravo, a golden retriever, to the building. one day, they turned up in the press area to visit the press, bravo and a security detail. and we are all having a nice conversation. it became apparent bravo was ready to leave and go back. bravo had had enough. so bravo turned around and walked out of the press room, this is the dog. the dog news exactly where the office is. he is not lost. bravo turns around, this golden
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retriever, going down the hallway and he knows exactly where he is going, followed by the secretary keeping up with bravo, followed by the secretary of security detail. i go to that old adage in washington, get a dog. [laughter] barbara: i think the pentagon press will be interested to see where general mattis turns up in the building, if confirmed. and so that takes us to probably what everybody's interested in, the shots from both of the -- the thoughts on the first and perhaps most immediate question. so we now have general james mattis as the president-elect's nomination to become secretary of defense. i do not think anybody questions his capabilities. but you are both previous members of the house, let's start with you, secretary cheney, your views on a waiver for a general, member of the
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military to serve as secretary of defense, what are your thoughts on this? and both of you, i want to ask you to address this because it is general mattis, are we all saying, great, let's go ahead. or are there issues to reflect upon and think about why this country has that law that there is civilian control and active duty military person should be out of the military for a number of years before they lead the armed services? what are your thoughts? sec. cheney: first of all, i think mattis is a great appointment. i would wholeheartedly endorse his selection. the question of passing a waiver, of course, is a serious matter when you believe very deeply in civilian control.
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and it was set up in such a way that we are not going to move people in the active-duty military, move them into that slot. it will always be a civilian or if it is former military within seven years, you have to have a waiver. we have only done that once with george marshall. just a quick story with respect to george marshall. when i was sworn in as secretary, jim's picture was behind my desk in the office. and, the first secretary of defense, i took it down. i did not want to come to the same end as he did. [laughter] sec. cheney: i should not say that. barbara: only a few tv cameras. sec. cheney: i put george marshall up instead for the service he rendered. he was a special case, obviously. and i do not think we have abused the waiver.
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i think it's appropriate and i would support it. sec. panetta: i have, by the way, i kept marshall behind my desk, plus ike, both of them were behind my desk in great tribute to the leadership that was there at the defense department. i think jim mattis is, having worked for me as a commander, he is a great soldier. somebody who really understands defense and is really thoughtful and i, too, and very pleased with the appointment of jim mattis to that position. i do believe, obviously in the rule of civilian control. i think that is important. because you always want a secretary that understands military policy, but also understands the congress, the
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american people, relates to the issues that the president has to deal with and brings all of that into the context of defense policy. so, i do not view the military background as disqualifying or -- disqualifying for secretary of defense. we have this ability now to provide a waiver. and i guess my view would be in the course of providing the waiver that congress will have hearings. i think that would be an opportunity to make sure that jim, and i think jim does understand this, understands the role that he has to perform certainly of civilian side as well is on the military side. that is an opportunity to basically make sure jim understands that role as well. i am pretty confident that in the end the congress will provide the waiver and jim mattis will be our next secretary defense. barbara: is the inclination of
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congress to move towards this waiver, and there's all indications that they will, is it because it is mattis because he is by all accounts what of the most respected generals of this era? does it have a more to do with him in particular, than the issue of a waiver? sec. panetta: i do not think it is any question that people have tremendous respect for jim mattis and that obviously is an incentive. at the same time, who the hell are we kidding? seven years, where did it come from? [laughter] sec. panetta: somebody figured after seven years, somehow you become a civilian. there is no magic here. the reality is they built it into the law and we're having to deal with it. i think there's a greater willingness for the congress to provide their waiver with somebody like jim mattis. it might not be the case if it were somebody else.
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that is the nature of politics. barbara: let me -- please. sec. cheney: i think we are living in a special time and there are special problems and obligations of this administration going forward. i find it especially important to have somebody with jim mattis' background, a great marine. he has the experience to prove it. he has a perspective on what needs to be done with respect to the military and defense department. that somebody else without his background may not bring to it. i really think that because of the circumstances that we find ourselves in in terms of threats, capability, the task before the next secretary, it is especially appropriate to have somebody with his experience. he has been there and out on the point of the spear, and had to
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command troops in combat and that is not bad experience for somebody who is going to serve in that post. barbara: you said the new administration will have special problems and obligations that they will have to deal with. let's have both of you, starting with you, sir, drill down on this a bit. what are the special problems and obligations you see topping the list for the trump administration? sec. cheney: i am sure it has been discussed before this session. during the course of the conference. but if i look at what is going on in the world, i look at the increasing threats, the russians and chinese, the problems with respect to isis and terrorism in the middle east. i think the challenges are very great. i think we have, unfortunately, over the course of the last many years, done serious damage to our capabilities to meet those threats.
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what happened in respect to the budget, the sequester process, the fact that we no longer build defense budgets based on the threat but on the sequester, which is outrageous, frankly. it was deemed to be outrageous when it was put in place on the supposition it was so bad it would never survive, but lo and behold, everyone has become comfortable with it. i do not mean to be partisan in my comments, but i believe in the last eight years, the military has suffered egregiously because of the circumstances we have had. i love general dunford and his comments at noon today, but i think there are responsibilities for what has happened. i am very worried about the circumstances we find ourselves in. and frankly, part of the burden
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falls on the political side of of the house, not the military side of the house. we have not kept up our share of the bargain in terms of supplying the resources needed to do the job. sec. panetta: to follow up on what dick said, we are living with a lot of very dangerous flashpoints in the world. probably more instability and flashpoints than we have seen since the end of world war ii. and you know the full spectrum. you discussed it, whether it is isis or terrorism, whether it is collapsed states in the middle east, whether iran, north korea, russia, china, the whole area of cyber warfare that we have entered into, we are dealing with a whole series of potential threats.
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were a number of flashpoints in the world at that time related to some of the same challenges we are facing now. terrorism. failed states. territorial disputes. fragile alliances. all of that. and failed leadership. the inability to deal with those challenges. any one of those things, the failure to deal with those created by the result of world war i. we are living in that period. that are a lot of flashpoints. and the new administration is going to have a look at that kind of world. and obviously, to find policy that we need in order to deal with that. but then, develop the defense policy to confront that kind of world. and the biggest problem right now is that, in line with what
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dick said, you cannot have a strong defense. you can talk about all of the things you want to do in terms of the defense budget. but the reality is you cannot do any of that. unless congress agrees to a budget and provides some certainty as to where the hell we're going. you cannot operate a defense establishment based on a cr. you cannot try to develop defense planning for the future when you are operating under the threat of sequester and the possibility you will have to slash spending from the defense budget. it is dysfunctional right now. the ultimate challenge is going to have to be to be able to get a budget, to have congress moved forward and do what it should have been done a long time ago. it was done in the time when dick was secretary, when we were both in congress.
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it was the ability of both republicans and democrats to sit down and do a budget. you have to put everything on the table. you cannot just pretend you can solve the budget problem by doing discretionary spending. it will not solve it. when two thirds of spending is wrapped up in entitlements. so you have to put everything on the table. that is what i went through. we did it in the reagan administration, the bush administration. bill clinton did a budget that included all of those areas. that created a balanced budget. more importantly, we had a certain budget. where you knew what you were dealing with and could plan. somehow we have to get back to that. all of the things everyone is saying about the great things that will happen on defense, that will happen with weapons systems and with structure, none of that will happen if you do not get a budget put in place that you can plan on. barbara: secretary cheney, let's
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drill down, take this one step further. because all of this dysfunctionality comes as threats are getting bigger. i do not think anything is getting better. sec. cheney: i would share that view. [laughter] barbara: when the new admission comes in, and on inauguration day, things can happen. hopefully not, but things can happen. bad things. so walk us around the world in your assessment and what your advice would be. and you as well, secretary panetta. let's start with the three biggies. north korea, iran, and russia. north korea -- all indications are they are moving ahead with their nuclear program. what is your advice to a new administration on what to do about that?
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sec. cheney: i think it is important to be honest and direct in terms of our current status. if you look at north korea -- we have lived in a world where there have been nuclear weapons and russia had nuclear weapons, are for theut they , most part -- we obviously do not agree on a lot of things, but they are governed by rational people. can't say that about north korea. the proposition we are faced with now is the real possibility that north korea will be armed with a nuclear weapon and that they will also have ballistic missile capability to deliver those to the continental united states. that is a very scary prospect. we have to spend all of the effort we can, persuading the chinese to join the effort to
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shut them down. but i do not think we can bet the farm on that. i think we need to be very aggressive about building and deploying defenses against missiles systems. that includes the ability to take out on launch systems coming out of north korea. we need to deploy the thaad system in south korea. they have agreed to it. we need to be prepared to station ships offshore. and we are going to have to be aggressive about it. the chinese will not like it, but they have to live with it unless they are prepared to join in and actually make progress against the north korean threat. it is very, very real. i worry not only about their capabilities in terms of where the resources are. --ays remember the day when
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walked into my office and started throwing down colored photographs of the north korean built nuclear reactor. the spring of 2007. the north koreans were providing nuclear capability to one of the worst terror sponsoring nations of the world, syria. thank goodness, the israelis took it out or it would have ended up in the caliphate. it was very serious business the north koreans were to be concerned about. those are two of the reasons. barbara: secretary panetta, north korea. you have certainly been aware of the intelligence all the way along. what is your assessment on how soon they could put all of the pieces together? a warhead? a missile? and perhaps either an , intercontinental or mobile launch system? sec. panetta: they have the capabilities to begin the process of putting it together
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within the near future. when and where depends, but the fact is, they are developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. they are testing them. i think it is not too long before they have that capability, if they do not have it now. they have nuclear weapons. they are developing mobile nuclear systems. they are trying to develop the delivery capability for nuclear weapons. it is a very real threat. with a very unpredictable leader. i mean we do not know what this , guy is going to do. there is no certainty here. the only guy he seems to get along with is dennis rodman. [laughter] sec. panetta: so you do not know what is going to happen. with that kind of unpredictable leader.
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and so, it is really important to continue to strengthen our relationship in that region. we have a strong defense relationship with the japanese. we have a strong relationship with south korea. we have 25,000 troops will in -- troops still in south korea. we have to build up their capabilities in order to confront north korea. we have to develop a relationship with other countries as well in the asia-pacific region in order to develop a really strong coalition. we have to put pressure on the chinese. dick is right. china has the ability to be able to influence north korea. they do not like what is going on in north korea. but they also want to keep them friendly. but china has to put additional pressure on them to be able to move it in a better direction. and the end result is that -- we had 60 years since that war came to an end. the fact that we have built up
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our capabilities, built a strong defense system in south korea, the fact that we have made very clear we would take action to go against north korea if they tried anything, has, in many ways, prevented a war in that area. we need to send the same signals that if they decide to do something drastic, that we are prepared to take action against north korea. you have to draw that line. so they understand it. barbara: for both of you, that is very interesting. that has been the u.s. message, that the u.s. will respond. no question about that. but it has been a very carefully shaped, diplomatically transmitted message. a very controlled message from any u.s. administration. candidly, are you concerned that the trump administration, at least in the opening weeks or months, could -- we will say
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inadvertently -- be too casual in its language? is this so serious now that they must be very careful in how they communicate u.s. policy in the pacific on this matter. sec. cheney: it is one of the reasons having a man like general mattis as secretary of defense to focus on those threats -- he fully understands these kinds of things. i always -- i agreed with him, for example, when he disagreed with the obama administration in using military force against the iranians. and their program. one thing that has worked against nuclear proliferation is military force, the threat of it. whenis true going back to 1981, the israelis took out the nuclear reactor outside of baghdad. when we took out the program that existed in 1991 in respect
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to desert storm. when we took down saddam hussein, we shut down any possibility that he would move forward with the program. and five days after we captured saddam hussein, he announced he those nuclearr arms. and another leader in that area surrendered his. it's not some pie-in-the-sky diplomacy, like the administration settled with the iranians. barbara: do think the threat of military force should be more public, more stepped up? sec. panetta: you asked about the trump administration's approach to that. i do not think anybody knows what the hell the approach would be at this point. [laughter] and, you know, there are a lot of questions. and frankly, which donald trump will enter the oval office. whether it is the tweeting donald trump, the reality tv donald trump, or whether it is
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the business person, businessman trump, who seems to be much more willing to engage in the realities we have to deal with. i am pleased he appointed someone like jim mattis, because i think that could be an important key to making one of the right decisions. i hope that he appoints somebody to secretary of state who understands the world and understands what plays out in our world. if you does that, obviously, he will have some experience there to guide him. because these issues are going to break the day he walks into the oval office. every president i have seen in my time who has walked into the oval office -- i do not care how experienced they are -- when they saw the awesome responsibility the president of the united states has, it is overwhelming. it is overwhelming. and i think it will be true when
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he enters the oval office. he is facing an awful lot of responsibility. he is going to have to have some good people who will provide guidance. i think as a result, exercise some care. because the problem is president's words count. this is not something where you can say whatever the hell you think and expect you can change your mind the next day and say , well, i did not mean that. when you are dealing with foreign policy and countries abroad, your words count. and so i guess my hope and my prayer is that he will have a willingness to work with people who understand these issues and be able to provide the kind of policy we will need in order to protect this country in a very dangerous world. sec. cheney: one of the most important things he can do is exactly the opposite of what his predecessor did, with respect to
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iran and nuclear weapons, and don't make the mistakes that the situation he is inheriting from the obama administration represented. with respect to our status in the world, the capabilities of our forces, the belief on the part of, i believe, many of our friends and allies that they can no longer trust the united states or count on our guarantees. i think we need to do major progress and reverse the obama policies and that's not a place -- not a bad place for him to start. barbara: but secretary cheney -- mr. vice president -- you are someone who has a long history of being very precise in your words, in your thinking, in your analysis. i am not aware of any time you have said anything very casually. [laughter] sec. cheney: now, barbara. [laughter] barbara: at least i cannot recall.
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where was that air force general you fired? well, that was another story. we will get to that later. so, come on let's hear it. , you hear this casual language. and when i say that, don't go out tweeting "i'm anti-this" or "anti-that." the language of tweets is not necessarily as nuanced and contextual as u.s. foreign policy is. i think that is something that we can all agree on. so when you see this, seriously, what concerns does it cause you? if you were sitting with him and could give him some advice about all of this? about language, about meaning of words? what would your advice be? sec. cheney: well, first of all, i am not sitting with him. barbara: would you, if asked? sec. cheney: certainly.
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barbara: ok. sec. cheney: if the president of the united states asked for advice, i would be happy to advise barack obama. but he never asked me. [laughter] [applause] barbara: so again, language and words. [laughter] barbara: see, the man never says anything casual. [laughter] sec. cheney: i think he needs to be careful. but he will learn as he goes along. i think he is putting some brains and good people with him. i am a big fan of mike pence. i know mike well from his 12 years in the house. i think he is a great choice as vice president and will play a major role. i think mr. trump is taking very, very seriously the job he has now, staffing up the administration. i think one of the reasons people get so concerned about the tweets is his way around the press.
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he does not have to rely upon -- [laughter] [applause] sec. cheney: rely upon the modern era, modern technology. he's at the point where we don't need you guys anymore. [laughter] sec. cheney: i apologize. [laughter] [laughter] barbara: the question i asked, which none of you heard because you were all laughing -- do you see risk in that? it is all -- you are two of the men who know, more than anybody, who has stepped foot inside washington, it is all about risk. sec. cheney: and you do have to be careful. there was a time when i made a mistake. i had been secretary for about a week, or 10 days. back in 1989.
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i was asked by a reporter how i felt about mr. gorbachev. and i said nice things about him, but then i went on to say i thought ultimately he would fail and be replaced by a regime a lot more like the old soviet leadership than gorbachev had. one of the first calls i got was from my friend jim baker at the state department. [laughter] sec. cheney: he said i was out of my mind. i learned my lesson. i was right, but i was a few years ahead of time. [laughter] barbara: so let's talk about the russians. sec. panetta: he would've tweeted about that today. sec. cheney: where is my twitter? [laughter] barbara: are you on twitter? sec. cheney: i do not know how to do it. [laughter] barbara: well, this is the perfect segue into the russians. so both of you, if you were
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sitting down with vladimir putin, would you trust him right now? or what level of trust on what issues would you have with him? secretary panetta, let's start with you. sec. panetta: look, you do not trust putin. you have to deal with putin. putin has his objectives. there is not a lot of mystery here. i think putin is someone who really does want to restore the old soviet union and tried to, obviously, restore strength to russia. that is his goal. that is what he is after. i think it is really important, when you are dealing with putin, to deal with him from strength . you have to deal with someone like that from strength. if he senses weakness -- and he senses weakness -- he will take advantage of it. that is what he has done in the crimea, in the ukraine, in
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syria, what he is doing with all of this hacking business. he is taking advantage of it. i think it raises real concerns about someone like putin going into estonia or another country because he feels like he may have a license to do that. so in order to deal with that, you need to make very clear what the lines are. and that the united states will not stand by and allow him to go into another country. that we will have a strong nato alliance. we will work together. and will respond in kind if that happens. make that very clear. make very clear that we will maintain a presence in that part of the world. make very clear that we have objectives and will achieve those objectives. that is what it is all about. those are the kinds of signals you have to send to a putin so he understands where the lines are. and then can you deal with him? , of course you can deal with
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him. you can talk to him and try to negotiate and deal with some of the challenges we face and try to make progress. but you cannot do that from a position of weakness. you have to do it from a position of strength. barbara: so what would have been the answer, in your mind? crimea, eastern ukraine, do you go to war over russian moves into the crimea and eastern ukraine? how do you demonstrate that strength? sec. cheney: i think there is no question mr. putin is a , dangerous man. he does not even have a politburo he has to respond to. like many of his predecessors did. aspirations to restore as much as he can to the old soviet empire. i remember when the soviet union went out of business and europe was reunited that he described that as one of the disasters of the 20th century.
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i think he clearly has aspirations to take advantage of weakness. i think he has perceived weakness in the united states in recent years. i worry that it does not necessarily require military action. certainly, the threat is there, but i think you would like to undermine nato. to use his capacity to influence politics internally with respect to the baltics. there are pro-russian parties in those very states and he could easily provide financial support to create opposition. he could threaten to cut off energy supplied to the baltics so they are 100% dependent on russia for natural gas. he could create a crisis, i think, in terms of simply threatening, if you will, for
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example, to perhaps be even more active and hostile unless the baltics withdraw from nato. the question is, how does nato respond to that? we have to be careful about it. i think if he sees weakness, he will act on it. i think he has perceived weakness in recent years. i think it was a mistake to cancel the antiballistic missiles program. that we had started to deploy in poland. and the czech republic, he believes given the fact that we have operated a pretty dramatic reduction in our nuclear capability, we have not responded to what the russians are doing and the chinese, to upgrade their capabilities. we operate under the idea that if we deemphasize our capability , then north korea and others
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will not go forward. that is obviously a flawed , concept that president obama has adhered to. barbara: so what is your view, then, again, whether you have any concerns or what are your concerns that the president-elect has been publicly favorable towards vladimir putin? and may want to change his language on that? sec. cheney: i am not here today to advise mr. trump. in terms of how he changes his language, i have expressed my views. i believe the signals he has -- i believe putin is a very dangerous finger. i believe the signals he has received from the u.s. indicate weakness. i believe our friends in europe are nervous to the degree the united states is committed to nato. i think we have to reinforce that degree of commitment. we have to be prepared to
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reverse course on the defense budget. rebuild the u.s. military. and reassert our responsibilities and leadership role in the world. that is important both to our allies, but also important to our adversaries, like russia. barbara: secretary panetta, what are your views? i think there is no question there has been publicly repeated favorable language for about an n from thed about puti president-elect. do you think this could be sending the wrong signal or not the signal that there should be down the road to the world and to putin himself? sec. panetta: certainly i am concerned about that, because it creates an impression that somehow, we're not going to be strong with regards to nato, we're not going to be strong with regards to dealing with assad, with dealing with isis. that concerns me.
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because as i said those are , words during the campaign. words understand they are in the campaign. but people abroad do not understand that it is just a campaign. and may misread the messages that are being provided. having said that, i am a little more encouraged by this recent attitude in regards to dealing with nato and with some of the other issues that we have to confront in the world. and that he is beginning to understand that all of these things have implications. so i guess like dick, i have a , feeling that once an individual enters the oval office and enters the responsibilities of the president, that you're going to be a hell of a lot more careful.
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about how you deal with the issues. i hope that is the case. it may not be. but i hope that is the case. because the reality is this is a dangerous world. a very dangerous world. we are dealing with a lot of these flashpoints. and, very frankly, the relationship with regards to russia is one of those that is extremely important in terms of the security of the world. and our continuing to exercise strong world leadership that makes very clear to the russians -- and this is something that goes back to the truman doctrine. it was harry truman who made the decision, when russia was trying to influence other countries, walking into greece and other countries, that the truman doctrine was not going to allow that to happen. it was what led to nato. it was what led to the marshall
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plan. because we were willing to draw lines on russia. and very frankly, drawing those lines is what ultimately led to the failure of the soviet union. we have to continue to do that with regards to russia today. make clear where those lines are. yes, we will deal with them. yes, we will talk about issues that concern both of us and try to see if we can develop areas of agreements. but at the same time, we just have to make very clear that there are lines, that we will not allow them to cross. i think that is the way you deal with putin. barbara: go back for a minute to iran. you mentioned general mattis was someone discussing the notion of military action against nuclear proliferation. a lot of people analyze or say
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that if you -- if the new dealistration leaves the pulls back from the nuclear , agreement, this puts -- that they will restart the effort. at this point, are we so far down the road in the nuclear agreement that you cannot pull back without iran then going to resume its program and the u.s. and israelis have to consider military options against it? is it too late to pull out of it? is the risk of an iranian restart too great at this point? sec. cheney: barbara, my point was, with respect to general mattis, i have not discussed it with him, but the press reports at the time that he left his job as commander, was that he
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disagreed with the obama administration policy on iraq. and i also disagree with the policy on iran. barbara: where we now? sec. cheney: i think when we look at the long-term consequences, the choice that president obama made, we have already paid a price. if you come back to my belief that the things that have worked to retard or work against military action, that when president obama took military action on the table and he had a pattern, that when there was a crisis, the first thing he would announce is what he was not going to do and this was one of them, we ended up in a situation where military was no longer a possibility and from that point on, the iranians have had their way with respect to using the first negotiations or the
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agreement now, to get anything they want. billions of dollars, sanctions lifted, u.s. sanctions, even to the point, for example, when it was time for the president to act on the red line that he drew for syria, chemical weapons against their people, he threatened to take action, and when the chips were down, he backed off. i personally believe, the reason he backed off was the iranians threatened the nuclear deal and negotiations. they are at the point now where they are able to influence policy throughout the middle levernd their lover -- is the nuclear agreement. barbara: that is what i asked, is it too late to do something about it? sec. cheney: i do not think it
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is too late. you will need to reverse course , i wouldnd a signal want to send a strong signal, that the military option is very much there and it is on the table and i would not begin by saying there is no military option. not in compliance, most people believe they are not. i believe you need to be prepared to reverse course with respect to the policies of the obama administration pursued on iran. the change in terms of our relationship with friends in that part of the world, the thetians, the saudi's, israelis, turning our back on the historic relations with them in order to set up to the iranians and get an agreement, is a major blow i think to u.s. policy in that part of the world. barbara: those of us that were there, new that you looked at this question very carefully, of
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what it would take to do a military strike against iran's nuclear problem -- program. let's say it came to that, walk us through that scenario, the problems you face getting there, the israelis going unilaterally, tell us that challenges of going through that airspace, that r, what we even know about the targets? let's, without i think it is- safe to say that we developed a military plan, if necessary, take military action against iran. and that it was a well thought out plan and i developed a kind of approaches that would have
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been effective, if it was necessary. having said that, most liketant, with iran is, north korea, we need to confront an iran that is trying to support terrorism in that part of the world. involvedhezbollah, is in syria now fighting with the russians, continues to be a destabilizing force in the region. we have to be willing to make very clear that iran cannot continue to do that. and at the same time, look, everybody has certain objections about the nuclear deal that was put on the table, but there were five other nations that joint the u.s. in putting it together
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and i think at this stage in the game, while maybe you do not like the idea, i do not like the idea, but it allows within some time for iran to go back to building nuclear weapons, but it is a time where they are required not to develop a nuclear weapon and i do not think we should throw it out the window. i think we should continue to work with other countries to try to enforce it, but we should not back away from allowing iran to continue these other things. i think frankly, the thing we have not done effectively is to build a strong working coalition of other countries in that region. the modern era of country, saudi arabia, georgia, uae, turkey, israel, we should have a working coalition club because they all have the same concerns about iran. they have the same concerns
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about isis, about terrorism, and frankly that kind of working coalition would be very effective to deal with the challenges in that part of the world. and b, we need to have a coalition that can provide a support system for some of these failed state. we go in and defeat terrorism and we leave and there is instability going back in, we need to develop a support system that will provide some kind of stability for countries like libya, egypt, yemen, those are areas frankly where we do not have a strong approach as to what we are going to do once we have been able to establish a degree of peace and that part of the world. i think with a new president, that new president must establish a strong working coalition in the middle east to confront iran, but to also
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confront isis and other threats. barbara: when you say isis, this fascinates me, it takes me back, it seems like desert storm was the last time there was even timeing that we saw at the , victory over and objective. it has not happened since then. when you cover the pentagon, you hear discussion about defeating isis in iraq, in syria, but we know that neither of those things, the pentagon knows it as well, defeating violent again,sm -- what would, your analysis, where would you tofrom here on trying contain, is not defeat -- if not
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defeat, the threat on a global basis of violent extremism? sec. cheney: i think our number one priority should be to rebuild america's military capabilities and adopt the consensus that we have had for 75 years on a bipartisan basis, between republican and democrat, that the united states must be the leader in the free world and we must have first-rate military capability and the willingness to use it if necessary. i think that consensus, frankly, did not carry into the obama administration. i think president obama had a different worldview. and i think there is a lot of work that must be done to capabilityt kind of that we called on when it was time to do business. we had a magnificent performance by the military, we had significant investment over the
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years, and we ended up with a $60 billion war that only cost $5 billion because everybody else chipped in and it was a great success. we have gone away from that and we are in a situation now where we need to invest now and provide leadership to persuade the american people it is necessary that we can restore america's place in the world as the preeminent power and that allies can trust us and adversaries needed to fear us. sec. panetta: i do not disagree said, theyid -- dick need to establish strength with to the to the net -- military. you want to know the greatest threat is the national security? it is the dysfunction in washington. and very frankly, there is a lot
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of blame to go around on both sides when it comes to dysfunction in washington. the leadership of the congress on both sides had been unable to come together when it comes the major issues facing the country. whether it is the budget, immigration reform, whether it is dealing with energy, whether it is dealing with authority, they have not been able to do it. they are dysfunctional. and nothing is going to happen here unless the dysfunction is broken down and unless the leadership in congress, working with the new president, is willing to sit down and deal with these issues. we are not going to have a strong defense if they are not willing to negotiate what exactly are we going to do with regards to the budget, with the defense goals for the future. it has to be done pursuant to what we do best in a democracy,
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we govern. we have not governed for a hell of a long time. sec. cheney: everything is ok now. republicans are in charge. [laughter] [applause] sec. cheney: ok? [laughter] sec. panetta: you dreamer, you. [laughter] barbara: that was actually my question. [laughter] barbara: yes, you have republican control across the board. both of you, as former members of the house, explain politics to me. does that mean they can do whatever they want, they do not need to regard the democrats? does it put a burden on the republicans that they have not had with a democratic white house, because they could always point the finger at the white house and essay that was the
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problem. -- say that was the problem. sec. cheney: we talk about back in the day. defense,s secretary of my number one ally on capitol hill was a democrat, the chairman of the -- committee. jack would come down and we would have breakfast in the pentagon and we would get out a piece of paper and on one side with everything he had to have and on the other side was what i had to have and that was basically the structure of the bill. we once took a multibillion-dollar defense bill s --passed it, no amendment [laughter] sec. cheney: i do not know if we can go back to that point. he is dead and i am no longer in office. [laughter] sec. cheney: we are well-qualified to tell them how they should have done it.
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questionhere is no that there has been deadlock and plenty of blame to go around. i prefer to say, we have a fresh shark and we have a new president and a unified congress. ultimately, obviously, the democrats can, they can filibuster and create problems and we need to find ways to work together going forward. i think personally, what you need upfront is strong presidential leadership, and working with the congress to get them on board and i think many of them are already there. we need this as a number one priority. the u.s. military capability, national security policy, and our role in the world, we need to have agreement on the input for the resources to make it a reality and all the other debates, they are interesting
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but irrelevant until we solve the problem. sec. panetta: the new president will run into what all new into what all new presidents run into, which is into the wall of checks and balances. our forefathers designed it that way. they did not want to put power in a president. they did not want centralized power in a president. he did not want centralized power in a king or parliament, and they did not want to put power in a chambered court and that is why they developed a this remarkable system of checks and balances that served the country for over 200 years. hellit can be frustrating as -- as hell, and it can also be a formula for gridlock and that is what we have experienced over these last few years, is gridlock. at the time, i remember when i was chief of staff to bill clinton, and the house went republican and the senate went republican, and you know the , whole point was, can we work out some basis to negotiate here so we can try to resolve some issues? the first thing we ran into was
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the budget battle, and i can remember negotiating late into the night in the oval office, and you know we came up with the , last offer, and the decision was not to accept the offer, and the government gets shut down, and all hell breaks loose, and republicans suddenly realize this is not the right way to do it. and to the credit of speaker gingrich at the time, he said it may be better if we negotiate with the new president, and we did. and we were able to get welfare reform and budgets done, and a whole series of things working together. and i think somehow we have to get back to that process. even though it is a republican president and house and senate, you know damn well in dealing with the membership on both the house and senate side that they can basically dig in on any issue, republicans and democrats. that is the nature of our system. you are dealing with 535 members . some are honest, some are
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dishonest, some are smart, some are stupid, and some are crooks. that is the nature of democracy. welcome to democracy, and you cannot walk away from that. you know presidents can be , disgusted by it, but they have got to deal with it. that is how we govern in this country. you know abraham lincoln had to , basically bribe people to pass the 13th amendment. you know i can remember going , through that process with bill clinton. room, and we basically had to negotiate with every damn member trying to get them to vote the right way and they did the same thing. that is the nature of governing. that is what you have to do, and if you think you can suddenly stand up, and, you know in a , pompous way say "this is what ought to happen," and then not roll up your sleeves and go to work, it ate going to happen. it ain't going to happen.
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governing is a kickass process , it is the nature of it. it means you have to roll up your sleeves and engage. if donald trump is willing to do that and build coalitions around issues -- and i think you can. i think you can develop a coalition around funding infrastructure, for god sakes. it is something everybody agrees to. why not put that together? why not get it through congress on a bipartisan basis? why not do some kind of immigration reform on a bipartisan basis? why not do something on the budget to try to establish and approach not only to reforming entitlements, but reforming taxes? those are opportunities, but it isn't just going to happen. we have gotten to a stage where, you know, look in our day, , governing was good politics. understand? governing was good politics, and if we govern, we went back to our districts. the fact we could govern and get things done was in our political benefit. i am not sure that people think
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governing is good politics now. that is the problem. stopping things was good politics on both sides. somehow we have got to change that mentality and get both republicans and democrats and a new president sitting down in the same room and negotiating and compromising and getting things done. that is what the american people want to know. if you take -- we all know the american people were angry and frustrated as hell. and you know why? because of the dysfunction in washington. because both republicans and democrats were promising all kinds of things that they never delivered on, and if they can't break that gridlock, and we go ,hrough another four years watch how angry the american people will be in another four years. barbara: we have just a few minutes left, and i could not let this panel, both of you gentlemen, go by without bringing the people equation,
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the soldier-marine equation, the human equation into this discussion. one of the things that journalism is so struck by, and i think many people they certainly know it, and if you don't, you need to read up on this president george w. bush , really has made such a commitment in retirement to america's wounded troops and america's wounded veterans. it is clearly something he has very personal, very deep, very emotional feelings about, and it is pretty awesome to see that kind of commitment. it is not something he has to do. he feels it, and he does it, and i believe mrs. bush accompanies him in this effort. i don't even know what in particular -- what the question exactly is, but what strikes me is we are 15 years beyond 9/11. as someone who was in the building that day, you now have young troops joining who were what? maybe three or four years old on
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that day? you have a generation beyond that. just talk to us for a minute about about the human side of , this, that, you know we have this generation of wounded americans. we have new, young troops coming in. they don't join what -- i don't think they join because of politics. i don't think they join the military because they are democrats or republicans. what is the obligation of presidents and defense secretaries to all of them in the years ahead? secretary cheney: well, i thought chairman -- general dunford did an effective job today of talking about how enormously valuable that resource is. i know when you have been through the process in your civilian leadership or the pentagon or working with the military, i always, as i look back on the various jobs i had
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and that was far and away the best because of the people i got to deal with, because of the caliber of men and women who were willing to serve. it is just an enormous resource we have is a nation the fact , that we have hundreds of thousands, millions if necessary who are willing to sign up and go in harm's way on behalf of the rest of us. and we have an obligation, especially those of us who have served in government. i am no longer an office holder, but we have an obligation to provide the resources they need to do the job we asked them to do for us and not to let the gridlock, if you will, as leon talks about it, bog us down to the point where we are now sitting with a sequester and every year we go out there and take the knee back approach to the budget, 17% of the defense budget.
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it is 50% of the cut. all of that, the troops that are not trained, the equipment that is not kept up-to-date, the maintainers that are needed to keep the marine corps f-18's flying, i mean, you go through the whole list, we are failing as a country if we don't provide them with the resources to do what they need to do and want to do on behalf of all of us. falls on all of us, and i think especially those of us on the political side of business are obligated to find a way to get it done, because we are in a situation where, as i say, and i think nearly everybody i have talked to at this conference agrees, the threats are rising and we will have to move heaven , and earth to make certain we always stay ahead of that, and then we can, in fact, deliver, and is to those young men and
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women that sign up and go into harm's way for all of us that we have an obligation to. secretary panetta: i agree with dick. the proudest proudest moments i , had as secretary of defense was having a chance to look into the eyes of our men and women in uniform who are out there, you know whether it was iraq, , afghanistan, other tough posts they had around the world, and you look into their eyes, having intohree sons, you look their eyes, and you see the fact that here are young men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line for our country. they are willing to fight and die for our country. and they do not ask a hell of a lot of questions. they are willing to do what is
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necessary to protect our country. and i have often asked myself, my god, if these are young men and women willing to put their lives on the line in order to protect this country, why the hell can't people who are elected to office use a little of that courage in order to govern the country and take the risks necessary to govern the country? because these men and women are prepared to do that. and they are, you know we talk , about the strength of our military, and i know you've got great weapons systems, and you've got great technology, and you've got great capabilities -- it is not worth a damn without the men and women who are the warriors for this country and who are willing to go into battle to do what is necessary. i think we owe them the ability to support them, to make sure they have the finest equipment, make sure they have the finest support they can have in order to do battle, but more importantly, to also support them and to support their
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families to make sure that, you know their families have decent , housing, have a good education, that, you know, they have the ability to -- because they sacrifice a hell of a lot for those on active duty to support their families, and then also to support them when they leave the military and become veterans. too often once they leave, we kind of forget the sacrifice that is necessary. if we are going to be true to our men and women in uniform, it has to be continual. we have got to support them not only when they are in the military but also support them when they are facing the tough challenges of being a veteran in this country. if we do that, then i think the united states can always be comforted in knowing that we have the strongest military on the face of the earth. barbara: let me -- i am noting that the clock says triple zero behind us. so that is a big sign, but let me wrap up five seconds by saying that both of these
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gentlemen when serving as secretary of defense embraced a very long tradition of talking to the secretary press corps without laughing -- [laughter] barbara: i am trying to say something nice here. [laughter] barbara: no, seriously, they both embraced a very real and set a tone of talking to the press corps and explaining oficy, taking us into trips some very interesting places overseas with them, letting us see everything they could about what they were doing and letting us have the access to report on troops across the world. it was so important. journalism is not tweeting. and -- [laughter] barbara: it, you know, i think everyone in the press corps is looking forward to see what comes next. we hope the next secretary of
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defense, i think he will, will have the same. it just today, you know, gives me an opportunity to say thank you to both of you for that because on behalf of the whole press corps, it is so important. it probably never was your favorite things to do to come down to the briefing room, but it is appreciated, and we thank you really all of us do. , [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> tomorrow night on c-span, at 8:00 eastern, the political career of vice president-elect mike pence. then our profile of the next senate democratic leader, chuck schumer. 10:10 -- 10:20 interviews with freshmen members of congress after their first term in the house.
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>> next week, "washington journal" will devote the entire program each day to key issues facing the new trump administration and congress. we'll look at national security and defense issues including challenges facing president trump's security team in years ead and a closer look at nominee james mattis. and examining how they could change current trade laws to create or save jobs. on wednesday, our issue topic is energy and environmental policy and discuss discuss how energy and climate policy mace be impacted by the new congress and trump administration. thursday, we'll talk about immigration and how president-elect trump and the new congress might change immigration policy. friday, december 30, we look at the future of the affordable care act and how


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