The following is an excerpt from the transcript of "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Blitzer's interview of Helen Thomas. Helen speaks out about PNAC and their order of priorities, including Iran. I have editted out the rest of Blitzer's show without Helen, but I plan on purchasing the DVD of this entire show. Purchasing information is at the bottom of this transcript... she's a "keeper"!
http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/ ... om.02.html
"THE SITUATION ROOM
President Bush Tries Another Approach To Make Case For War; President Bush Called Reporters In For News Conference And Suggested U.S. Troops Will Be In Iraq Awhile; Helen Thomas Interview; Alan Dershowitz Interview; Pepsi's Gatorade Sues Coca-Cola's Powerade; High Drama On Israeli Highway; Where Will The Next Breakthrough In Medicine Come From?
Aired March 21, 2006 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time....
BLITZER: President Clinton once said of her -- and I'm quoting now -- "Presidents come and go, but Helen's been here for 40 years now." And that was back in 2000.
The veteran reporter Helen Thomas has covered every president since John F. Kennedy. And they've all faced her no-nonsense questions, including President Bush today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Helen, after that brilliant performance at the Gridiron, I am...
HELEN THOMAS, REPORTER: You're going to be sorry.
BUSH: Well, then let me take it back.
THOMAS: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly, at least, has turned out not to be true.
My question is, why did you really want to go to the war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your cabinet -- cabinet officers, intelligent people and so forth, what was your real reason. You have said it wasn't oil, quest for oil. It hasn't been Israel or anything else.
What was it? BUSH: Yes, I think your premise, in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist, is that I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just -- is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect.
BUSH: No, hold on for a second, please. Excuse me. Excuse me.
No president wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true.
I -- my attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people.
Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy, but we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life. And I'm never going to forget it, and I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people, that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.
Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq.
Hold on for a second. Let...
BUSH: Excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did.
The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda they trained and -- Helen -- excuse me.
That's where -- that's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.
I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council. That's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed, and the world said, disarm, disclose or face serious consequences.
THOMAS: Did they say go to war?
BUSH: And therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world, and when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir. Secretary Rumsfeld... THOMAS: Thank you.
BUSH: You're welcome. I didn't really regret it. I kind of semi regret it.
THOMAS: Let's have a debate.
BUSH: That's right. Anyway, your performance at the Gridiron was just brilliant. Unlike Holland's (ph). It's a little weak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Helen Thomas is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM on today's exchange she had with the president.
Helen, thanks for coming in.
What, it's been about three years since he agreed to answer -- take a question from you. Is that right?
THOMAS: It's been a long time.
BLITZER: What do you think the reason was? Because I know, you know, you have been a fixture for decades at these presidential news conferences. Americans have grown up watching you ask questions.
THOMAS: Well, I didn't merit a first or second question because that's a tradition for the wire services and I was no longer in the wire service.
BLITZER: You used to work for UPI. That's why you always got either the first or second question.
THOMAS: Right. Now I work...
BLITZER: But you left UPI a few years ago. Now you're a columnist for Hearst.
THOMAS: That's right. So -- well, he wasn't calling on me because I think he was avoiding what he considered very tough questions that I would be asking. And I don't blame him for that. That's his privilege.
BLITZER: You did say in January of 2003, you said -- you said, "This is the worst president ever. He is the worst president in all of American history."
THOMAS: I never said that on the record, but it certainly got out.
BLITZER: It got out.
THOMAS: Yes. I think that there's room for improvement.
BLITZER: You can't really blame him, if you are calling him the worst president, for him saying, you know what, I'm not going to call on her.
THOMAS: Oh, I agree with you.
BLITZER: So what do you think...
THOMAS: I wasn't -- I wasn't surprised that he didn't call on me.
BLITZER: What do you think happened today? Why do you think -- I know you were in the Gridiron. I was at that dinner. And you did a nice performance, skits, and you were -- you know, satirical skits on the president, the vice president, and everybody else.
BLITZER: And you did an excellent job, as you always do, singing and dancing. But what happened? What do you think happened?
THOMAS: Well, I think -- I think we smoked a peace pipe. I think that, you know, there's a different rapport now, which is good.
BLITZER: Did you talk to him privately or something? Did you meet him?
THOMAS: No, not really. But I sort of felt bad for the things that I had said that were not supposed to be -- I sort of apologized.
BLITZER: You did.
BLITZER: All right. So he called on you today...
THOMAS: And very nice of him to call on me.
BLITZER: And you asked him a tough question. Did you accept his answer? Namely, that he didn't come into the presidency believing he was going to go to war against Saddam Hussein, but after 9/11 his world view changed?
THOMAS: It doesn't -- it doesn't parse. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, it certainly had -- was secular, it was not tied to al Qaeda.
I think he wanted to go into Iraq because he had all the neo- conservatives advising at the top of their agenda for Project for a New American Century. First Iraq, then Iran -- then Syria, then Iran, and so forth.
BLITZER: So you believe even before 9/11, he was about -- he wanted to take out Saddam Hussein? THOMAS: Oh, I think this is very clear. You couldn't sit in that press room day after day. Every time -- every time it was mentioned by Ari Fleischer or Scott, they would say in one breath, 9/11, Saddam Hussein, 9/11, Saddam Hussein.
I don't -- I don't blame the American public for thinking there was a tie.
BLITZER: So you don't accept his answer today? You think, what, he was still spinning? Is that what you're suggesting?
THOMAS: It wasn't that. I think maybe in his own mind he didn't, but I think that everybody knows, everybody who was in the know, knows that Iraq was on target, it was on the radar screen from the moment he came into office. The Treasury secretary says it, people in CIA say it, and so forth .
Nothing would deter him. It was a very big goal.
BLITZER: You're thinking of Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury secretary.
BLITZER: Richard Clarke, who was one of the counterterrorist advisers...
BLITZER: ... who have made those kinds of suggestions.
Let's go back to this issue, being the worst president ever. And you've covered a lot of presidents, going back to President Kennedy.
Worse than Richard Nixon?
THOMAS: Well, I think what this president has done is really strike a match to the tinderbox that we all know is the Middle East. And I think that Nixon's crime, so-called, was the abuse of government power.
In the case, in the case of the president and his cohorts, I think they have really spread war throughout the Middle East. They have really encouraged all of the horror that is going on.
We have killed so many innocent people. I mean...
BLITZER: But you can't forget 9/11. Three thousand people were killed.
THOMAS: But the Iraqis didn't do it. I mean, how can you -- why don't you go bomb some other country? I mean, if you have no reason -- this is -- I don't believe in preemptive war, and it certainly is against international law. It's against the U.N. charter, it's against Geneva, and it's against Nuremberg. BLITZER: Tell our viewers, who, as I said earlier, have grown up with you, Helen, what you're up to nowadays, how you feel, what your goals are right now.
THOMAS: My goals are to seek the truth, wherever it leads me. And I do think that's the goal of journalists, and I think we fell down on the job.
BLITZER: The news media in general? That we weren't watching?
THOMAS: Come back. All is forgiven.
BLITZER: You're going to forgive us?
THOMAS: To the White House.
BLITZER: You're part of -- they're part of the news media, too.
BLITZER: We sat in those briefings for a long time together.
Helen, I hope you're around...
THOMAS: You ask very tough questions.
BLITZER: Well, I'm trying to do the best I can, like you.
THOMAS: You asked President Clinton why he wouldn't resign.
BLITZER: I asked him some tough questions, but that's another time. And this is another story right now.
It's always good to have you here...
THOMAS: Thank you.
BLITZER: ... especially in THE SITUATION ROOM.
THOMAS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Helen, we hope you're asking many presidents down the road tough questions to come. Thanks very much.
THOMAS: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: And thanks for all your excellent work over these years as a fellow journalist.
THOMAS: Thank you. You're very kind.
BLITZER: Thank you, Helen.
Just don't leave yet, because we are going to take a quick break.
Coming up, should the United States hit its anticipated enemies first to help prevent a terror attack? It's the policy of preemption. It's the central question in a new book from the esteemed Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz
He's standing by live. I'm going to ask him some tough questions. That's coming up. He's got a new book out on the subject of preemption....
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