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Transcript: Sen. Chris Dodd on 'FOX News Sunday'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published May 07, 2007 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the May 6, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Well, today we continue our series Choosing the President with an in-depth interview of one of the Democratic candidates. Senator Chris Dodd joins us from his home state of Connecticut.
And, Senator, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
SEN. CHRIS DODD, D-CONN.: Thank you. Thank you, Chris, very, very much.
WALLACE: Senator, Ross Perot used to talk about putting his plan for America on a bumper sticker, so let me ask you, in just a few words. what is your core platform?
DODD: The core platform is to get America back on track again both at home and abroad, with strong leadership that knows how to bring people together.
Americans aren't divided. Our political establishment is. They want to see us solve the problems of energy and health care, secure America's future in the world, make us less vulnerable, less isolated in the world.
We want to once again feel good about our country and leave a generation coming along with more opportunities than they're going to get under the present set of circumstances.
WALLACE: Let's talk about one aspect of that. The Democrats now seem in a race to try to come up with a plan to get out of Iraq.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two Al Qaida leader, says the bill that you Democrats sent the president is proof of the American defeat in Iraq. And we'll talk about the details in a moment.
But does your party run the risk of being seen by the American people, as they were after Vietnam, as soft on national security?
DODD: Not at all here. Again, this is a civil war going on in Iraq. This is not the United States versus Al Qaida. It's Shia versus Sunnis tearing each other apart. It's gone on for centuries, but particularly here right now.
The United States is being asked to, in a sense, referee a civil war. And at $2 billion a week, $8 billion a month, Americans believe that we have done all we can possibly do, and Iraqis have to decide whether or not they want to end this civil war and the sectarian violence.
The idea that this is a winnable conflict by the United States -- every military leader from the very outset have said this is not a situation where there's a military victory for us here.
That was the conclusion of the Baker-Hamilton report, the conclusion of General Casey, General Dempsey. Every senior military official who's been involved, Chris, in Iraq has said from the very beginning there is not a military solution to Iraq here.
So the point has arrived, I think, for all of us that the status quo is unacceptable and that we should begin redeploying our troops.
WALLACE: But, Senator, if I can just press this point, though...
WALLACE: ... Here you have Zawahiri in a video -- he seems to think that Al Qaida has a stake in this fight.
DODD: Well, they may think that, but I'm not going to let my foreign policy be decided by Mr. al-Zawahiri. Obviously, he's playing his game here.
He'd probably like to see us stay down there, bogged down, at the costs we're increasing here, the loss of lives, not to mention the isolation of the United States. The status quo is unacceptable.
The American people are so far ahead of Washington on this issue. They want a change in policy, a change in direction.
We should begin that redeployment, in my view, and begin to do the things we should have been doing a long time ago, recommended by senior people of both political parties, senior knowledgeable people about the Middle East, and that is to begin to work the diplomatic, political, economic side of this issue to help Iraq achieve that stability we've been talking about.
You're not going to achieve it, Chris, when you've got 60 percent of the Iraqi people think it's all right to kill Americans. Eighty percent think we're the cause of the chaos in their country.
You need a change in policy here. That's what we're trying to achieve. The president wants the status quo. That makes us less secure and more isolated, in my view.
WALLACE: Senator, let's talk some practical politics here. You have an impasse now between the White House and congressional Democrats over this war funding bill.
Everyone agrees money is going to begin to run out probably by the end of this month. Would you support a stopgap measure as a compromise that would send the president money and give him a way to sign a bill?
DODD: Well, I'm a supporter of the Feingold-Reid legislation, Chris, which says that you begin redeploying and complete that process within a year.
I think that kind of clarity is need both at home and within Iraq. That's my view on this issue.
Now, I respect what Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have to wrestle with here. You've got a caucus. They're trying to produce the necessary votes.
I'm going to either offer or support Senator Feingold, if he'll offer that proposal, when the supplemental comes up this week, or next week, whenever it comes up here.
If that doesn't work, I'm willing to look at other issues here. But I think we need to press ahead here with a conclusion of change in strategy here. Just going along after one try is not satisfactory to me.
WALLACE: I understand that, and we'll talk about Feingold in just a moment.
But the question is your money is going to run out soon. So we've seen -- have we lost the picture?
WALLACE: Oh, OK, good. We thought we'd lost the picture of you for a moment there, Senator Dodd.
The question is are you going to insist on sending him a troop withdrawal, which you know he isn't going to sign, or would you accept this idea of a compromise, probably political benchmarks that would put conditions for political progress on the Iraqi politicians, and if they failed to do that, then you would take foreign aid, not military aid, away from them?
DODD: Well, that's a possibility, Chris, to go forward here. But I think first and foremost we want to lay down a clear marker here.
I think there are a growing number of Republicans in the Senate and the House as well who are very uneasy about the president's policy here of no change, no benchmarks, no dates certain here.
I think they're beginning to move -- and nervous themselves because they're hearing from their constituents as well. This is not a Democrat versus Republican, independent versus conservative or liberal.
The American people, by and large, across political parties believe a change in policy in Iraq is absolutely essential at this juncture and that we can't continue forward here.
So we may disagree politically here, but remember where the American public is on this issue. They want a change. They think we're getting less secure, far more vulnerable today, Chris, than ever before, and they want a change in this policy.
I think we ought to stick with that idea here. We're going to provide whatever support our troops need. No one's going to deny them the kind of support they need during this period of transition here.
But the change in policy is essential and the president is really isolated on this issue.
WALLACE: One of the leading Democratic candidates, one of your rivals, John Edwards, says that Congress should keep confronting the president, keep sending up this troop withdrawal bill, and he's even running this ad. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: Don't back down to President Bush.
UNKNOWN: Send him the same bill again and again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator, you took a shot at Senator Edwards saying you wished that he were still in the Senate to fight this himself. What's your point, that it's easy to be tough from the sidelines?
DODD: Well, yes. Again, with all due respect, we could have used John's vote here in the Senate on these issues here. But look. A leader speaking out on these issues is certainly -- I accept that and welcome that here.
Just from time to time getting lectured by people on the outside, when people like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are trying to fashion a change in policy here -- it's a little easy to take those shots. That's all I meant by that.
WALLACE: Let's talk about the Feingold bill. And what this would do -- this is offered by one of your colleagues, Senator Russ Feingold.
This would start pulling out troops within four months after it's passed and would cut off all funds for U.S. troops by March of 2008, although it would allow money to continue, among other things, fighting Al Qaida.
And that's what I want to ask you about. When Al Qaida is responsible for some of the most savage bombings in Iraq now, inside some of these markets and business areas in Baghdad, inside the parliament building, how can you pull the vast majority of our troops out and continue to fight Al Qaida?
DODD: Well, look. Again here, let's go back to the point here. It is a civil war. If you don't accept there's a civil war in Iraq, then you may come to a different conclusion.
And again, if you don't accept what everyone else has said over the last four years -- there's not a military solution here that the United States can achieve.
WALLACE: Wait a minute, Senator. You certainly would agree that Al Qaida is involved and they are killing people in Iraq, aren't they?
DODD: They're an element there, Chris. But you don't let your whole policy in Iraq be determined by that. What are we doing? Why aren't we back in Afghanistan? That's where Al Qaida is re-surging and the Taliban is reemerging, in the epicenter of Al Qaida here.
We've now taken troops out. We're weakened there. They're regaining their footing in the very place we should have been going to in the first place here.
Come back to the point, Chris. This is a civil war in Iraq. That's the problem here. And we're being asked to referee and resolve a civil conflict. The Iraqis have to make that decision.
Al Qaida elements are taking advantage of that. But the assumption this is all Al Qaida I think is very, very wrong.
WALLACE: Well, no, no.
DODD: I don't know of anyone that believes that.
WALLACE: Senator, I'm not saying it's all Al Qaida, but it certainly, you would agree, is somewhat Al Qaida.
And the question is if you're going to pull the vast majority of your troops out of Baghdad, how do you fight Al Qaida when Al Qaida is killing people in Baghdad?
DODD: Well, because the whole idea of us staying around indefinitely here to deal -- why not go to the place where Al Qaida really poses some threats?
Why not go after Osama bin Laden where we know he's hiding out, instead of being bogged down in a situation where we're being used and isolated -- and radicalizing elements in that part of the world -- more and more every single day?
A change is necessary here, Chris. And clarity in that change I think is what has been missing here. I think too many Iraqis, Sunnis and Shias, would like us to stay there to satisfy their own particular interests.
I think it's after four years, after $400 billion, the amounts I've mentioned already financially -- $2 billion a week, $8 billion a month -- we clearly need a change in strategy here. This present status quo is not working at all.
WALLACE: All right. Let's turn to domestic policy where your big issue is energy independence and also fighting global warming.
And your big idea, somewhat controversial idea, is a corporate carbon tax on big polluters which you say would raise $50 billion a year.
Senator, wouldn't a lot of that be passed on to consumers and also put a real drag on the economy?
DODD: Well, not really. Look. The great barrier here to moving away from our dependency on foreign oil coming out of the Middle East and elsewhere is price, Chris.
The great elasticity in the price of oil can be anywhere from $70 a barrel down to $20 a barrel at still make profits at it.
So any time renewable and alternative energies come along to be competitive economically, that price of fossil fuels can drop and make them less competitive.
So until you honestly deal with the issue of price, as Tom Friedman has pointed out over and over again, you're going to be confronted continuously with the problem of getting these renewable and alternative energies online, dealing with global warming, dealing with the health issues, and getting us less dependent on a very hostile part of the world.
We spend $300 billion a year, Chris, on buying foreign oil. $60 billion to $100 billion of that $300 billion come from nations who are very hostile to our interests.
I think it's very little to ask here to put a tax on polluting emissions. It would allow these alternative ideas to be competitive with them economically.
Let's get away from that Middle Eastern dependency on oil. Let's develop our own technologies -- the solar energy, the wind, the biodiesel, the biofuels, the geothermal -- all of these ideas that can really make a difference for our country, reduce global warming, reduce the health hazards, and become an independent nation when it comes to our energy needs.
You can't do that unless there's a carbon tax. That's the big difference. I know it's tough. But frankly, if you don't have a real honest answer -- the American people can handle the truth. They just want their politicians to tell them the truth.
The carbon tax and a 50-mile-per-gallon standard that I'm also advocating here on automobiles will help us get there very quickly, in my view.
WALLACE: Senator, you talk about handling the truth. Let me ask you about -- and you also mentioned Tom Friedman, the columnist from the New York Times.
You don't seem to have taken what I believe is his top proposal, and that is to, in fact, greatly increase the gas tax. If you really want to stop people from driving, increase the gas tax. Why not do that?
DODD: Well, I think there's a better way of doing it, and that's why at the corporate carbon tax level, that money, that $50 billion to $100 billion, which is a lot less than the money we're paying today to countries in hostile parts of the world, would allow us to invest in a fast track to develop these technologies, provide the kind of financial relief to people out there who want to make these other choices but, frankly, can't afford to make them and provide the assistance to some of these people producing these polluting emissions, to allow them to make that transition here, many of whom want to make that transition.
You get a direct tax on gasoline -- obviously, that's going to hit consumers very directly. This proposal is less direct, provides relief for consumers, as well as allows us to invest these dollars in the technologies that I think we can bring online very, very quickly.
It's a very honest answer, Chris, on this issue. And again, with all due respect to my other opponents in this race, just talking about the goals without how we're going to get there really doesn't help us very much.
We all know what the goals are. We agree with the goals. But you've got to be tough on this issue and how you get there.
WALLACE: Senator, we've got less than a minute left, and I want to talk to you about the actual race itself.
You've been in the Senate a quarter century. Nobody questions your credentials, your bona fides, to run for president. But you're still at 1 percent or 2 percent in all of the early state polls. You trail in fundraising. You trail in campaign organizing.
And I guess the question is why are you putting yourself and your family -- I know you have two young girls, ages 2 and 5 -- why are you putting yourselves through this for what -- you're a political realist -- you know is a long shot?
DODD: Well, first of all, it's nine months to go before the first ballots are cast here. And Iowa and New Hampshire -- they love to prove you pundits wrong.
John Kerry would tell you he was at 4 percent in the poll with three weeks to go, 32 points behind Howard Dean in New Hampshire, and won the nomination. Bill Clinton was at 2 percent in the polls in October of '91.
Polling data at this point doesn't make a lot of difference. We have very good organizations in these states -- just spent three days in Iowa, had a very strong reception by people out there -- be back in New Hampshire this coming week.
We're running a very aggressive, very strong campaign, and people, I think, believe that this is a time for people with experience here. On-the-job training after six years of the Bush administration -- people want people in this job that know how to do this, how to bring people together.
That's what I've done for a quarter of a century, on family and medical leave, on child care legislation, election reform...
DODD: financial services. That's the kind of leadership, with bold ideas, that I think people will be receptive to.
WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you so much for joining us. And safe travels, sir, on the campaign trail.
DODD: Thank you, Chris. I appreciate it, Chris, very, very much.
This week: We'll have an exclusive interview with Sen James Lankford (R-OK), member of the Appropriations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.