September 12, 2007
On September 12, 2007, David Gergen, along with Mike Paul, joined
Rick Sanchez on CNN to discuss Gen. Petraeus' testimony to Congress
on the state of the war in Iraq.
RICK SANCHEZ: Joining us now, two guys who know
something about this. Harvard University professor David Gergen
has worked in the White House, advising both Democratic and Republican
presidents. He's there on the left. Mike Paul is the president
and senior counselor of MGP and Associates. That's a public relations
David, let's start with you. -Thanks, by the way, to both of you
for being with us.- Are they doing this right?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well,
I must say that six months ago, we all thought that, by now, in
September, October, there would be a huge debate in the Congress
and the Congress would force a change in strategy on the president,
that there would be a rapid withdrawal of troops and the purpose
of the troops, they would stop being combat troops and start training
And I think that despite all the frustrations, despite the failures
on the political front in particular, General Petraeus has turned
out to be the best single weapon that George W. Bush has had in
convincing a skeptical Congress to give the president more time.
He's had much more credibility on Capitol Hill than the president
SANCHEZ: In fact, in fact, David, we have got
a poll that we can put up.
Will, see if you can find that poll that we were looking at just
a little while ago. Have we got it there?
The American people asked in this poll, who do you trust most
to resolve the war in Iraq? Let's look at this from the bottom
up, because I think it's interesting and quite revealing. The
Bush administration, 5 percent, 5 percent. Congress, 21 percent,
not that much better. And look at military leaders, 68 percent.
You say what to that? (CROSSTALK)
GERGEN: Absolutely remarkable. Absolutely remarkable.
And when you get 12 times more support for military credibility
than for the president's own credibility...
SANCHEZ: You have got a problem, right?
MIKE PAUL, PUBLIC RELATIONS CONSULTANT: Yes,
but let me say this in their defense.
There are two things that are very strong here. Number one, this
is a third-party endorsee. These are the experts, the generals
that are on the ground. The American people are saying, as well
as Congress, by the way, are saying, we want to hear from the
guys that are out there that actually do this. We don't want to
hear the spin. We don't want to hear inside the beltway, number
SANCHEZ: But is Petraeus that guy? Is he the
guy who is actually out there or is he the guy who has been assigned
by the White House to present the sell job?
PAUL: Petraeus is that guy.
SANCHEZ: All right.
PAUL: He has that experience. He's out there
with his men. He's finding out what is happening on a day-to-day
basis. And that is what the American people want to trust.
So, to me, this makes a lot of sense.
SANCHEZ: How do you sell a lousy product, though?
And you're in the P.R. business. So, this is a lousy product.
That statistic, if nothing else, proves that. How do you do that?
PAUL: Well, I also work in crisis P.R. And this
is certainly a crisis.
One of the things that you have to do is, you have to lean on
the experts from the outside. And that's exactly what the president
is doing. There's no mistake here by him reaching out to Petraeus.
SANCHEZ: But here is the thing, David. Petraeus
has been kind of the setup guy for the president. He's been doing
his job all this week, and tomorrow, the president takes his message
to the American people. Has the setup guy done enough to clear
the ground for the president?
GERGEN: Not for the president. If anything, I
think the president's speech tomorrow night is going to probably
be anti- climactic, that the real news this week was General Petraeus.
That's what going to be the memorable part of the week. And the
president apparently doesn't have much new to say.
Now, if he were to endorse the Michael Hirsh report and what was
presented there, that would be significant and he would change
the whole conversation.
GERGEN: But let me just add, this is not just
about P.R. I think that's a mistake to say that, to see this just
as a P.R. offensive.
General Petraeus wouldn't have anywhere near the credibility he
has right now on this issue were it not for the fact that there
are some changes on the ground at last. We have been talking for
years about how bad things are going on the ground. He's at least
got some news that sort of gives you pause and say, well, maybe
there's a way out of this. Maybe we're not heading toward a horrendous...
SANCHEZ: David, that's a great point.
PAUL: He also has a lot of credibility because
he's also saying that he has a lot more work to do. Every single
message is showing that he can be trusted. And I think trust is
the key message by saying there's a lot more work that needs to
GERGEN: I agree with...
SANCHEZ: Mike Paul, David Gergen, we are going
to have to leave it there. We will get you both back. Good conversation.
We certainly appreciate it.