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Transcript: Sens. Biden, Levin on 'FNS
Written by Chris Wallace / Published January 22, 2007 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the Jan. 21, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Well, joining us now are the Senate's two leaders on national security: from Delaware, Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; and from Michigan, Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Gentlemen, before we get to Iraq, let's start with the news that Hillary Clinton is officially now running for president.
Senator Biden, you're also a candidate. With her vast fundraising and campaign organization, with her grassroots support, does she blow away the rest of the Democratic field?
SEN. JOE BIDEN, D-DEL.: Oh, I think she's incredibly formidable and has got to be the frontrunner and the odds-on pick right now. But this is a marathon; there's a long way to go.
WALLACE: Is the nomination hers to lose? In effect, do you basically have to just hang in there and hope that she makes a mistake?
BIDEN: No, I don't think so.
WALLACE: Do you want to elaborate on that, sir?
BIDEN: Not really. I think, look, listen, we're a lifetime away. Hillary Clinton is going to have to make her best case. And there's a lot of us out there that are known but in a sense not known, and we're going to make our best case. And I don't think Hillary's best case versus mine or Barack's or anybody else's necessarily trumps us.
WALLACE: Senator Levin, let me ask you something that I hear from a lot of Democrats, that Senator Clinton can win the nomination, but that she has too much baggage to be elected president.
SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-MICH.: Oh, I don't think that's true. I think that we have a lot of candidates there that are able to not only win the nomination but also win the election.
I think there's a Democratic tide that is running in this country for good reasons. I think six years of the Bush administration have given people a lot of reasons to look for Democratic alternatives.
And it's now up to us to really show what those alternatives are in the next two years in Congress, now controlled by Democrats. And I'm very confident that the strongest candidate will emerge, but we don't know who that Democrat is yet.
WALLACE: All right, let's turn to Iraq.
Senator Levin, there is now, at this point, a scramble in the Senate to pass some resolution opposing the president's new troop increase in Iraq. The resolution that you and Senator Biden have co-authored says that it is not in the national interest to escalate the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
But the fact is that, in recent days, there has been a bit of good news from Iraq. We've seen people loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr arrested. The Iraqis are reportedly sending more troops into Baghdad. And we now have this draft constitutional amendment that would provide for a compromise, the federal government doling out oil revenues.
Senator Levin, aren't you rushing to write off a policy that, in fact, at least has a chance of succeeding?
LEVIN: Well, this policy has been a failure right from the beginning. It was poorly thought out. It was poorly implemented. And deepening military involvement now is not the answer.
Perhaps these recent events may prove that it's not a deepening in military involvement that is needed. It is a political solution which is needed in Iraq. There is no way to end this violence without it.
These recent events, it seems to me, prove that you can make some political progress perhaps without deepening military involvement by the United States.
But I'll tell you, Chris, even the prime minister of Iraq has acknowledged that it is the failure of the political leaders in Iraq that are the cause of this violence, and without their coming together, there is no end to it.
So what we've got to do is keep the pressure on the Iraqis to reach a political settlement and not deepen our military involvement, which adds targets but doesn't add much in the way of pressure.
As a matter of fact, it takes the Iraqis off the hook in terms of putting pressure on them, because it tells them, somehow or other, that our adding forces is a way to solve their political problems when it really isn't. Only they can solve it.
WALLACE: Last week, Vice President Cheney was here on "FOX News Sunday," and he said a resolution like the one that the two of you are introducing sends exactly the wrong message. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: We simply go back and revalidate the strategy that Usama bin Laden has been following from day one: that if you kill enough Americans, you can force them to quit, that we don't have the stomach for the fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Biden, I know that this is not your intent, but, in fact, wouldn't your resolution send a message that would embolden our enemy and discourage our troops in the field?
BIDEN: Absolutely not. And not only does Carl Levin and Joe Biden and Senator Hagel and Senator Snowe, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Iraqi Study Group, every single person out there that is of any consequence knows the vice president doesn't know what he's talking about.
I can't be more blunt than that. He has yet to be right one single time on Iraq. Name me one single time he's been correct.
It's about time we stopped listening to that ideological rhetoric and that "bin Laden" and the rest. Bin Laden isn't the issue here. Bin Laden will become the issue.
The issue is there's a civil war, Chris. I said way back in November last year, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, I said, "Does anyone support using American troops to fight a civil war? I don't, and I don't think the American people do. But if we fail to force a political consensus, that's exactly what we will have."
That's what we have. That's what the president has to deal with. And he's doing it the exact wrong way. And he's not listening to his military. He's not listening to his old secretaries of state. He's not listening to his old friends. He's not listening to anybody but Cheney, and Cheney is dead-wrong.
WALLACE: All right. Senator Levin, we talk about the criticism from the right. You're also getting hit from the left, from people who say, "Look, if you're against this troop increase, then you shouldn't just do a sense-of-the-Senate resolution; you should stop it."
Let's take a look at Senator Chris Dodd, who's also running for president and wants to put a cap on U.S. troops. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.: This is not a time for senators, in my view, to simply declare our individual opposition to this plan. It is time that we accept our obligations and offer meaningful action to stop this proposal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Levin, if you really believe that this is the wrong policy, to send 20,000 more American service men and women into Iraq, why not take hard action to stop it?
LEVIN: It will be a very powerful message if a bipartisan majority of the Congress say that they disagree with the increased military involvement in Iraq. It's so powerful that the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has said that they're going to filibuster against this bipartisan resolution — two Democrats, two Republicans.
So the power of this resolution is a first step to urge the president not to deepen our military involvement, not to escalate this matter. That is a first step. If the president does not take heed to that step, at that point, you then consider another step.
But the worst thing we can do is to vote on something which is critical of the current policy and lose it, because if we lose that vote, the president will use the defeat of a resolution as support for his policy.
The public doesn't support his policy. A majority of the Congress doesn't support his policy. And we've got to keep a majority of the Congress — or put a majority of the Congress in a position where they can vote against the president's policy, because that is the way in which we will begin to turn the ship around that is leading us in the wrong direction in Iraq.
WALLACE: Senator Biden, let me ask you a couple of quick questions, sort of housekeeping. There are about a half-dozen resolutions currently being offered to oppose the president's plan.
As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, do you plan to work out some compromise so you can avoid sending a muddled message to the president?
BIDEN: No, I don't think there's any muddled message here. There's an overwhelming bipartisan opposition to escalating the worth, overwhelming consensus that we should de-escalate the war — bipartisan.
The fact of the matter is, the quickest way to effect the change — and it's going to take five months for this escalation to fully be put in place. We have time in that — the quickest thing we can do is make it clear to the president he doesn't have any support.
We will bring up other resolutions...
WALLACE: But then how do you decide, sir — if I may, how do you decide which of these resolutions is going to get voted on and which isn't? Are they all going to get to the Senate floor?
BIDEN: Oh, I think they'll all get a chance to get voted on — basically all of them. And I think we'll have some discussion.
For example, I'm not for capping for a simple reason: It maintains the status quo. I don't want a cap; I want to reduce. Capping goes out there and says the status quo is just fine, number one.
Number two, if we're really going to do something about this, which if, in fact, we can't dissuade the president by showing him he has no support, then I think we have to change the authorization for the use of force and make it directly deal with this straight up. Capping and limiting funds are constitutionally able to be done, but they will not get the job done.
And I think we should be talking — I've drafted; I'm not going to introduce it right now — an authorization for the use of force that renders the last one null and void.
We're in a civil war now. Saddam's gone. There are no weapons of mass destruction. And we should be instructing the president of what the limitations on his use of force in the region are if he does not — if he does not — begin to move in the area of consensus, "consensus" meaning, "Mr. President, no more troops, begin to reduce troops in order to get a political settlement. A political settlement has to deal with oil and has to deal with local control. Mr. President, get about it."
WALLACE: Let's turn to a couple of other trouble spots, and we have about three minutes left here.
Senator Levin, your colleague, Jay Rockefeller, chairman of Senate Intelligence, says that he's worried that the president is building a case against Iran very similar to the case that he built before invading Iraq.
One, do you think that this president intends to use force against Iran? And does he have the legal authority to do so?
LEVIN: Well, I think that he wants to keep the military option on the table.
Some of his rhetoric goes beyond that, which is too bad. Some of the recent rhetoric goes beyond simply keeping the military option on the table, and it suggests that he has the authority and is going to move into Iran relative to trying to stop Iranian support for Iraq. That was clarified later on by his chairman of the Joint Chiefs and by his secretary of defense, saying, "No, no, he did not mean that he's going to move into Iran in order to stop things from coming into Iraq to support the insurgents," that that's not necessary.
But I think some of his rhetoric has been very loose and plays into the hands of the fanatics in Iran. We ought to tone down the rhetoric, keep our strength, keep an option on the table, speak a little more softly, carry the big stick but tone down the rhetoric which plays right into the hands of the fanatics in Iran.
WALLACE: And, finally, Senator Biden, China, which showed this week that it has the capacity to launch missiles and take out satellites in space — how provocative an action? And what do we need to do about it?
BIDEN: I think it is provocative. I think we have many options to deal with it.
We accomplished that goal 25 years ago. It was a kinetic kill, as they call it. It did not use lasers. There are ways to blunt that.
But one of the things we have to talk about is whether or not the, sort of, ideological base notion about how we deal with space and weapons in space and the use of weapons from space is something that is a path we should continue to follow.
This is basically — this administration's policy has been the Rumsfeld proposal prior to him coming in as secretary, and it radically changed our view of how we're going to use space.
I think it's worth us beginning to consider it, but I don't think we should be overly worried about this at this point. We have ways to deal with that ability that they've demonstrated they possess that will put us in a position where we still have clear eyes in space.
But the other side of that is, though, this is not the direction we want to go, in escalating competition in space. And we should be talking about it.
WALLACE: Senator Biden, Senator Levin, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you both so much for coming in this morning and talking to us.
BIDEN: Thank you very much.
LEVIN: Thanks, Chris.
Chris will sit down with Green Party Presidential Nominee Dr Jill Stein, to discuss her controversial push for a presidential election recount in several states.