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Transcript: Sens. Lott, Feinstein on 'FOX News Sunday'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published June 24, 2007 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the June 24, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Well, joining us now, two key senators, the number two Republican, Trent Lott, and one of the Democratic leaders, Dianne Feinstein.
And, Senators, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: Thank you very much.
SEN. TRENT LOTT, R-MISS.: Glad to be back, Chris.
WALLACE: Let's start with the controversy over talk radio, because, Senator Lott, you stirred up quite a hornet's nest this week when you said this, "Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem."
And here was the reaction from some conservative talk show hosts.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Talk radio is the American voter. That's what bothers Trent Lott.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL SAVAGE: Trent Lott saying today that talk radio is running America and we have to deal with that problem is gangsterism.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator, your response?
LOTT: Dianne and I were just talking about that. One of the mistakes that we have made many times on legislation is it's introduced, it comes out of committee, we bring it to the floor. We never bother to explain what we're trying to do and what is in it.
I think that was the mistake that was made with immigration. Talk radio defined it without us explaining that there were reasons for it and the good things that were in it.
So the onus is not on them, it's on us to do a better job of communicating what we're trying to do.
And I just want to make — you know, look, I've been defended by talk radio many times and I will support their right to tell their side of the story, right, left or the middle, forever.
I don't think this fairness doctrine that would try to require that there be X amount on both sides is fair. So you know, it's caused quite a stir, but, you know, it goes with the territory.
WALLACE: But, Senator, I'm not going to let you off the hook quite that easily. Take a look at this. You said this also last week. "I'm sure senators on both sides of the aisle are being pounded by these talk radio people who don't even know what's in the bill."
Now, I talked to some of the talk radio people, and they say you make it sound like they're leading around their listeners like a bunch of sheep. They say look, they know what's in the bill, their listeners know what's in the bill, and they don't like it.
LOTT: Well, let me tell you why I said that. As a matter of fact, I do talk radio in my own state in particular, but others, and I'm sure Dianne does, too.
I was doing one interview, and the talk radio host said, to his credit, "What are you trying to do here?" And I explained that we were trying to improve a bad situation. And that's a summation of it.
Then he said, "Well, tell me four things in this bill that you think are significantly better than the current law." So I ticked them off. He said, "That's in there?" I said, "Yeah."
See, that's the point. It's not that they're maliciously trying to, you know, distort it. And this is a complicated bill with a lot of moving parts. Some of it I don't like.
You know, I'm not committed to voting for the final product. The wheels may come off. But I am committed to trying. That's what the United States Senate should be trying to do...
WALLACE: All right. Let me...
LOTT: ... address a problem.
WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator Feinstein.
Oklahoma Senator Inhofe says that he overheard Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton three years ago complaining about talk radio and saying that there should be a legislative fix. Both of them deny it ever happened.
But let me ask you about yourself. Do you have a problem with talk radio, and would you consider reviving the fairness doctrine, which would require broadcasters to put on opposing points of view?
FEINSTEIN: Well, in my view, talk radio tends to be one-sided. It also tends to be dwelling in hyperbole. It's explosive. It pushes people to, I think, extreme views without a lot of information.
This is a very complicated bill. It's seven titles. Most people don't know what's in this bill. Therefore, to just have one or two things dramatized and taken out of context, such as the word amnesty — we have a silent amnesty right now, but nobody goes into that. Nobody goes into the flaws of our broken system.
This bill fixes those flaws. Do I think there should be an opportunity on talk radio to present that point of view? Yes, I do, particularly about the critical issues of the day.
WALLACE: So would you revive the fairness doctrine?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm looking at it, as a matter of fact, Chris, because I think there ought to be an opportunity to present the other side. And unfortunately, talk radio is overwhelmingly one way.
WALLACE: But the argument would be it's the marketplace, and if liberals want to put on their own talk radio, they can put it on. At this point, they don't seem to be able to find much of a market.
FEINSTEIN: Well, apparently, there have been problems. It is growing. But I do believe in fairness. I remember when there was a fairness doctrine, and I think there was much more serious correct reporting to people.
WALLACE: Let me move on to the underlying issue, which is immigration.
Senator Feinstein, Democrats are going to bring back immigration reform this next week. Where does it stand now, and what are the chances that you're actually going to pass something?
FEINSTEIN: Right, right. Tuesday there will be a cloture vote on the motion to proceed. It will ripen on Thursday. We'll see if between the two parties we have 60 votes.
Both Senator Lott and I are on the same side with respect to this. And I'm hopeful that we will.
Let me point something out that's a little different this time. There will be mandatory spending, $4.4 billion up front, to do the following before anything else happens — that's about 600 miles to 700 miles of border fence and vehicle obstructions, UAVs, employer verification, no more catch and release.
There has to be detention of people coming across the border. So there will be border enforcement, 3,500 additional border patrol, before any other part of the bill goes into place. People don't understand that.
WALLACE: Senator Lott, a group called NumbersUSA is running an ad in Mississippi that attacks your support for the bill. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Why is Senator Trent Lott selling out Mississippi in favor of illegal aliens? He's joined with Ted Kennedy in strong-arming senators to support amnesty for millions of illegals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: And, Senator Lott, if you think that's bad, I want to show you this quote. "Since the security of our border is where there is the most agreement, we should tackle border security first, then work out a tightly constructed temporary worker program, no amnesty and no expedited citizenship."
And if you wonder who said that, it was you...
LOTT: It sounded like a good quote to me.
WALLACE: ... in your weekly column on June 1st, 2006. Weren't you saying then exactly what your critics are saying now?
LOTT: Look, I agree with a lot of what they're saying, and so does Dianne. I do think we need to secure the border. And when people say, "Well, you haven't had the law enforced all these years," no.
Going back to the '80s, beginning with President Ronald Reagan, our presidents and our administrations, Democratic and Republican, have not, in my opinion, sufficiently enforced the law.
That's why a lot of what is in this, you know, changes the law and puts mandates in there to actually do what they say. Yes, we should secure the border first, but there's more to it than that.
We do have people here in the country. We don't even really know who they are. There are no requirements as to how we're going to deal with them in the future. We need to do that. They are going to come in here and look for jobs.
Look, there's a powerful force involved here. It's called freedom and opportunity for economic advancement. We need to harness that. We need to make sure we know who these people are, where they're going, that there's a job for them, that they are not treated like animals, and that they have to go back to their homes of origin.
I really haven't changed. But I am trying to get a result here. Look, the people in — I have been in Congress for 35 years representing the people of Mississippi.
They know that I would not consciously do anything that would hurt my state, but also I want to do the right thing for my country. And I do think they are compatible in this instance.
WALLACE: This all brings up a bigger question, and take a look at these numbers from the latest Gallup poll. Only 24 percent of Americans now approve of the job that Congress is doing, while 71 percent disapprove.
And look at this. Just 14 percent now have confidence in Congress. That's an all-time low for the Gallup poll.
Senator Feinstein, why is Congress sinking like a stone, especially, I've got to tell you, in the last few months, among Democrats?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I'll tell you, that reason, in my view, is Iraq. Most Democrats want us out of Iraq. Virtually every Democratic candidate running for president says the first thing they will do is get us out of Iraq.
When we took over the House, took over the Senate, although the Senate is just a bare majority, I think people had the expectation, not knowing the rules of the Senate, "Wow, we would be able to move this country out of Iraq." Well, the Senate works very differently.
You need 60 votes for virtually anything that's controversial, and so it's not that easy to obtain the goal. I think people don't understand this. I think people think we wanted it done now. It hasn't been done now.
Health care is another area where people have wanted reform. Many of us believe we may well have to change presidents before some of the major areas that people find they want reform is actually achieved.
WALLACE: Senator Lott, why do you think Congress has fallen into such disfavor? And to be honest, haven't Republicans contributed to this by trying to play obstructionist on almost every issue?
LOTT: There's no question that Iraq is, you know, a big part of the problem. I do think that how we deal with immigration reform is a part of the problem.
But over the last three years, Republican and Democrat Congresses quit acting. We quit producing results. We couldn't find a way to come together on anything, on energy, on health care.
And when the new Congress came in, the House of Representatives under Speaker Pelosi thought, "Well, we'll just pass our agenda and ram it right through." That's not the way it works in the Senate. That's not the way it works in Congress.
Nobody has the trump hand. I'm working on a bill now involving aviation reform. And I tell everybody, "Look, let's quit arguing over what we disagree on. Let's see what we can agree on that will be positive."
So the Democratic Congress has not produced their agenda, and yet right in the middle of things like energy and immigration, we have a no-confidence vote, which is non-binding, meaningless, on Gonzales, would have no effect.
This week, right in the middle between energy and immigration, we're going to have a vote on union card check. Not only is it not going to happen, you know, it agitates Republicans, and it just makes it more difficult for us to come together and produce a result.
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid...
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein? Wait, let me...
FEINSTEIN: Let me...
WALLACE: Let me bring Senator...
LOTT: ... are going to have to come up with...
FEINSTEIN: Let me just...
LOTT: ... a different agenda.
FEINSTEIN: Let me just respond to that. I think if you look at the actual record of the time the Democrats have been in power, you will see substantial things have happened.
You will see major ethics legislation that's in the process of being passed. You will see the minimum wage that was passed and into law.
You will see a major energy bill that we just passed out of the Senate this past week that will be going to the House. I think the record is replete with accomplishments.
I think one of the things — Trent's making notes. I think one of the things that is difficult to do is bring that case across to the American people.
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you, because the fact is you can say this, but the American people don't believe it.
There does seem to be tremendous frustration with both parties, which brings us to this issue of Michael Bloomberg, who announced this week that he's leaving the Republican Party and might, might just run for president.
Does that indicate a frustration with the two-party system? And how seriously should we take a Bloomberg candidacy?
FEINSTEIN: Yes, yes, it does. I think people are fed up with partisanship. And I think back here everything drives the bodies into intense partisanship. That's got to stop.
Many of us have tried to stop it. Many of us have tried to work bipartisanly, work across party lines, develop legislation that is bipartisan.
WALLACE: Do you think Bloomberg has a serious chance?
FEINSTEIN: The immigration bill is a bipartisan bill. You've got both sides coming together.
There's a lot that Trent doesn't like in this bill. There's a lot I don't like in the bill. But it fixes a broken system.
Don't smile like that.
Therefore, we're both prepared to say we're going to support it, we're going to work together, and we're going to see that the votes are there.
WALLACE: Senator Lott, she wouldn't answer the question about Michael Bloomberg. Will you?
LOTT: What do you want me to answer?
WALLACE: Does he stand a serious chance?
LOTT: I don't think he'll run. If he does, he'll go the way of that great American, Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party and Ross Perot and others. I just don't see that's in the cards.
I want to comment on the energy bill. Now, there's a case where, clearly, we need to do something, and it needs to be broad-based and bipartisan.
Yet the bill we came up with, while it had some good features, and we worked together on some of them like the CAFE or mile standards for automobiles, it's about a one-third bill.
It's not about that — energy should be about more production of everything, not just conservation and alternatives — the whole package, and we...
WALLACE: All right. No, Senator, we've got to take a quick break here. We're going to bring you right back.
And when we come back, we'll also talk about a new controversy involving Vice President Cheney. Stay with us and the battling senators.
WALLACE: And we're back now with Senators Trent Lott and Dianne Feinstein, who have been talking non-stop throughout the entire commercial.
We found out this week that Vice President Cheneyis refusing to comply with an executive order about classified information because he claims that as vice president and also as president of the Senate, he's not just in the executive branch.
Senator Lott, is this the kind of fight the White House needs at this point?
LOTT: Oh, I don't know that they need it, but I'm sure that the vice president and the president are willing to take it on.
Remember, Vice President Dick Cheneyserved in the House, was secretary of defense, and has been in administrations. He's been at the White House.
And he does feel that, you know, there are certain prerogatives the executive branch should have and should protect, and that Congress has over the years gotten out of control, Republican and Democrat, in probing and trying to get information or testimony, sometimes from the White House officials themselves they really don't, you know, deserve under the law.
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, some Democrats are suggesting to hold up funding for the executive operations budget for the vice president's office until he decides whether or not he's in the executive branch or the legislative branch.
FEINSTEIN: Well, that might not be a bad idea. Let me give you my view of this, and I differ 100 percent with Trent.
In my view, this is the height of arrogance. "I, the vice president, don't have to abide by any law, any act of Congress or any executive order, particularly," and I serve on the intelligence committee and have for a long time, "the laws as it relates to intelligence."
And I find this just amazing. Not only do you have all these signing statements where the president will say, "I will carry out this part of a law passed by Congress...
LOTT: I'd like to say I don't like those statements.
FEINSTEIN: "... but I won't carry out..."
LOTT: I agree with you. I don't like those.
FEINSTEIN: "... that part of a law," more than has ever been done by any president in history.
You now have a vice president saying, on something as controversial as intelligence, where we know prior to the war he made a number of trips to the CIA, a substantial number, saying, "I will not adhere to the rules that are set up by the executive branch over the handling of intelligence."
I think it's the height of arrogance.
LOTT: You know, going back to Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Jackson, there were conflicts between the Congress and the executive branch, and they were ultimately, in many cases, resolved by the third branch of government. Let the courts decide if there's something wrong here.
WALLACE: Do you really think that's unreasonable, Senator, to say that the vice president is part of the executive branch?
LOTT: No, I think he is a part of the executive branch.
WALLACE: Well, he doesn't.
FEINSTEIN: He's saying because he's president of the Senate...
FEINSTEIN: ... which is sort of a super numerary position, although it's in the law — he's using that as a dodge so that he doesn't have to comply.
LOTT: Look. There are certain conversations in the executive branch that they have with their staff and with the executive branch itself which they shouldn't have to, necessarily, turn over to the Congress, which likes to, you know, dig into these things. It's good media.
WALLACE: Well, actually, this isn't to turn over to Congress.
FEINSTEIN: This isn't turning over to the Congress.
WALLACE: This is to turn over to the National Archives.
FEINSTEIN: That's right.
WALLACE: But let's turn to Iraq, if we can...
LOTT: All right.
WALLACE: ... because the next big event is the progress report that General Petraeus is going to deliver to the president and to Congress in September about the status of the war.
And here's what he said on "FOX News Sunday" last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But you certainly don't think the job would be done by the surge by September, do you, sir?
MAJ. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: I do not, no. I think that we have a lot of heavy lifting to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, are you prepared to ignore the general if he comes back in September and says we need more time and renew your legislative request to cut off almost all funding by next March?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I'd never ignore anything that General Petraeus would have to say. There are four reports that are going to be due beginning July 15th, four reports that will comment on readiness as well as on the state of the benchmarks.
The Democrats — we will try to add something to the defense authorization bill, probably along the lines of having troops out by April, by the end of April. Whether we'll be successful or not is always difficult to predict, but we intend...
WALLACE: But you're saying that regardless of what...
FEINSTEIN: ... to continue.
WALLACE: ... General Petraeus is...
FEINSTEIN: I would say this. The death rate of our people has tripled between May and the early part of this year. The surge is in place. It looks like still there are not enough people.
We see no signs of the benchmarks being carried out. Ergo, the question comes, "How long should Americans be in the middle of what is essentially a civil war?"
I think September becomes an important month, because in addition to the four reports, you will have the assessment of General Petraeus, which most likely will say the situation is mixed.
Now, is a mixed situation such that the Congress is going to lie down and stay quiet? I don't think so. I hear even from some Republicans, "Well, September is an important month. We may well change. We know that this can't go on forever," in September.
WALLACE: Well, Senator Lott, let me ask you about that, because you and your Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, have both talked about a new strategy in the fall if Petraeus comes in and seems to indicate they're going to need more time for the surge, some months, possibly even into early 2008. Who's going to give?
LOTT: You know, war does not fit a confined description. It is a changing situation. You have to look at what's going on and make decisions at that point of where you want to be in the future.
Look, the Senate confirmed General Petraeus unanimously. We said, "We believe — we trust you," and then he was given an assignment.
The last of the troops, 30,000 that came in for the surge, just got there in the last two weeks. Let's at least give him and our men and women that are fighting a very important war there and, you know, putting their lives on the line every day — let's at least give them a chance, and see how it goes, and get a report as to how things are going come September.
At that point, we can make decisions about how we want to proceed in the future. I do think status quo is not acceptable. I do think the Iraqi government has got to do a better job in running their government, and trying to be more inclusive and deal with problems like oil revenue, obviously, but also the — how they deal with the former Baathists.
So this is an evolutionary thing. But the worst thing we can do is to say...
WALLACE: Senator, let me ask you something.
LOTT: ... on a date certain...
WALLACE: If you are about where you are right now, you haven't seen some tremendous change, and it looks unlikely in the political situation, what do you do in September? You say the status quo is not acceptable.
LOTT: Well, you used the word tremendous. I think it will depend on the circumstances. Let's wait and see what happens.
It does look like they're making some progress in Baghdad. They are sweeping down the Tigris. Violence has probably ticked up in other areas. That's what happens in war.
Even in battles, the circumstances change, and you have to be prepared to change with it.
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, where do things stand on Attorney General Gonzales and the subpoena of those two former White House officials?
Is Gonzales going anywhere? And what about the subpoenas of Harriet Miers and Sarah Taylor?
FEINSTEIN: Well, clearly, it's a deteriorating situation. You've now had five people on the top level essentially resigning.
I think the Department of Justice has never enjoyed a lower credibility, certainly in the Judiciary Committee of the Senate and, I think, among the American people.
My own view is that the only thing that can change this deterioration is some new leadership. Yes, I believe the subpoenas will be issued. Clearly, the chairman of the committee, Senator Leahy, will try to negotiate a solution with the administration.
But I think the administration ought to understand that what happened with the U.S. attorneys was really sold to us on false premises. It was sold to us on the basis that these were poor performers. It turns out they were excellent performers, but there were other reasons, and the reasons were political.
Do we want a Department of Justice to function on the basis of political decision-making in cases brought to court by powerful United States attorneys, or do we want a Department of Justice that is for the law only? So I think...
WALLACE: Senator, wait, let me bring Senator Lott, because we're running out of time here. We've got about a minute left.
I mean, Senator Feinstein is right. Regardless of what you think about the firing of the U.S. attorneys, a half dozen top officials have left justice since this whole controversy began.
Are you satisfied with the way the department is running?
LOTT: No, not really. But then, you know, I don't — if you talk about the Justice Department being at a low ebb, it has been consistently low ebb with me for, you know, 30-something years. So what's new?
But also, you know, the very idea — U.S. attorneys are going to be removed because, what, I mean, politics? Hey, by the way, how did they get their jobs? Some of them were not enforcing law or not following instructions to pursue matters that needed to be investigated.
This is all about politics. This is about trying to score "gotcha" points, and that's what we're masters at in this city. Who would want to stay at the Justice Department and take the pounding that these good men and women have had to put up with?
WALLACE: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Senate — and let's put the video on the screen. The Senate had Seersucker Suit Week this week with a bunch of you decked out.
Senator Lott — I understand you can't really see it there — that you were wearing pink socks along with your suit. I must tell you, you're a very secure man.
LOTT: It was the first day of summer, and as Dianne and I have noted many times, we need a little more bipartisanship. We need to loosen up and lighten up. And those outfits are certainly lighter.
FEINSTEIN: Yes, they are.
LOTT: And Dianne, by the way, is the one that made sure that the women were involved in this, too.
FEINSTEIN: That's right.
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, a good fashion statement?
FEINSTEIN: Well, it's exactly as Trent says. It's just an opportunity — everything we do is serious. We never have a chance to laugh at each other. And this was a good opportunity.
And you know, I thought Trent looked great. So we enjoyed it.
WALLACE: Thank you both, Senator Feinstein, Senator Lott. Thanks for coming in today, taking all our questions. Please come back, both of you.
LOTT: Thank you.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much.