Transcript: Sens. Dodd, Kyl on 'FOX News Sunday'

Written by Chris Wallace / Published May 18, 2008 / Fox News Sunday

The following is a partial transcript of the May 18, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: So how would a general election campaign between Obama and John McCain play out? To preview that debate, we turn to Senator Jon Kyl, who supports McCain, and, from Connecticut, Senator Chris Dodd, who supports Obama.

Senators, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

SEN. JON KYL, R-ARIZ.: Thank you, Chris.

SEN. CHRIS DODD, D-CONN.: Thank you, Chris. Good to be with you.

WALLACE: Before we get to that, Senator Dodd, I know that you are a close friend of Ted Kennedy. What have you heard, if anything, about how he's doing?

DODD: Well, I think the report is a very accurate one. I spoke with Vicki Kennedy yesterday. I spoke with his son last evening. And I think the reports sound good.

You've described it rather well, and there'll be some tests I guess on Monday, but he seems to be doing pretty well. And we just hope for the very best for him and are confident he'll be fine.

WALLACE: All right.

Now, let's get to the — with that very good news, let's get to the debate, and let's start with the argument that we had this week over national security.

McCain and, by implication, President Bush hammered Obama for his willingness to meet with rogue leaders like Iran's president Ahmadinejad.

Senator Kyl, American presidents met with Soviet leaders, with Chinese leaders at the height of the Cold War. Why is this idea over the line?

KYL: First of all, let's recall what Barack Obama has said he would do — that he would meet personally and without preconditions. That's not what former presidents have done.

And they certainly haven't met with state sponsors of terrorism. That's the problem here. What would Senator Obama be talking to Ahmadinejad about, this man who calls Israel a stinking corpse, who has personally said that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth? It's hard to know what you would talk to Ahmadinejad about.

Now, that's not to say that envoys can't talk to each other. In fact, I believe that there are both DOD and State Department officials who have talked to lower level Iranians about their involvement in Iraq and so on. That's all permissible.

But to say that without preconditions he would go to Ahmadinejad and sit down and negotiate I think is — well, it shows weak judgment and, frankly, naivete.

WALLACE: Senator Dodd, when you were running against Obama in the Democratic campaign, you called him on foreign policy inexperienced and confused.

Does it make sense for an American president to sit down without preconditions with someone like — a zealot like Ahmadinejad?

DODD: Well, first of all, without preconditions — that is you're going to insist that the person you're sitting across the table from is going to give up all of their positions. I think that's what clearly Barack Obama was talking about. And you framed the question well, Chris.

I mean, certainly, Mao Tse-Tung and the Soviet leadership were supporting serious opponents of ours all over the world and groups that would have done us great, great harm.

John Kennedy I think said it very well in 1961 in his inaugural address. You never negotiate out of fear, but you never fear to negotiate.

Certainly, every American president — Richard Nixon may be the classic example, meeting with Mao Tse-Tung. People have used rhetoric to describe us and our goals and ambitions in terms equal to that of Ahmadinejad in the past.

But Richard Nixon understood the value of seeking to find some way to break through, not to give up the use of military force if you need it, but to try and avoid that option if you can by engaging in robust diplomacy. That's what Barack Obama is talking about.

WALLACE: Can I just ask you...

DODD: That kind of leadership I think is what people are looking for.

WALLACE: Can I just ask you briefly, though, to answer Senator Kyl's question?

DODD: Certainly.

WALLACE: What does Senator Obama say? What carrots does he offer him to get him to change his mind?

DODD: Well, there's been a lot of issues on the table. We have a complicated historic relationship with Iran. It goes back — remember, this is one of the few countries in the region where the general population of the country have very favorable attitudes towards the United States.

We've got a lot going for us here. And let's not be unmindful of why is this an issue today anyway. The fact of the matter is Iran has become more of a problem for us because of the failed foreign policies of the last eight years in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan.

Iran is on the rise here because of, frankly, what we've failed to do over the last eight years. That's why it's an issue, and American leadership beginning in 2009 needs to have a different course and Barack Obama, I think, is going to provide that for us.

WALLACE: Senator Dodd, in a speech on Friday, Barack Obama mentioned Bush and McCain in the same sentence 10 times in 10 minutes.

Given how many times that McCain has broken with President Bush over torture, earlier on how to wage the war in Iraq, and also a multiplicity of domestic issues, is that really fair to tie McCain to President Bush?

DODD: Of course it is. I mean, this is — again, we've been — embraced the policies on tax policy, on the war in Iraq, on the critical issues, on major economic issues. John McCain is very much a supporter of where President Bush has been and where he is today.

In fact, he's changed his view on some of these major issues in the last number of weeks, on tax policy, on the war in Iraq the other day, announcing he's now all of a sudden discovered that we ought to be out of there by 2013.

That's a very different John McCain than even a few days ago. So clearly, I think associating the policies of this failed administration in foreign policy with a candidate who embraces the same view is very legitimate.

WALLACE: Senator Kyl, while they have had their differences in the past, wouldn't, as a practical matter, McCain continue the Bush policies on Iran, Iraq and the war on terror?

KYL: Not necessarily so. And, Chris, could I go back just a little bit, because I didn't completely answer your question about previous times when American presidents have engaged with countries that were enemy of ours?

Remember that Nixon went to China to drive a wedge between China and Russia, to gain leverage in that three-country relationship.

And with respect to Iran, Chris is right that there are a lot of folks in Iran who are actually very friendly toward the United States.

The last thing you want to do is to create a dispirited situation for them by granting the prestige of the presidency to sitting down with the head of the country who they don't like any better than we do.

WALLACE: OK. But let me get you to answer my question...

KYL: Sure.

WALLACE: ... Which is wouldn't McCain now continue Bush policies on Iran, Iraq and the war on terror?

KYL: No. Take a look at Iraq, for example. Who was it that was first pushing for more troops in Iraq and criticizing the policy that we were engaged in there? It was John McCain. And the president agreed, then got General Petraeus to develop the surge plan, and that's been working ever since.

With respect to Iran, I think you're going to see a John McCain want to engage in a much more aggressive way with the kind of things that we can do to bring pressure to bear on the leaders of Iran, the kind of economic sanctions, financial limitations and so on that could really do some good.

I've been critical of the Bush administration for not doing enough there.

And on economic matters and other issues, there have been significant difference between Senator McCain and President Bush.

WALLACE: But let me turn, if I can, to economic issues and the taxes.

Senator Dodd, McCain says that Obama wants to raise Americans' taxes and give more money to the government. Does that make sense any time, especially when you've got a faltering economy?

DODD: Well, John McCain's views on taxes are fascinating. We all took some heart, those of us who disagreed with the Bush tax cuts to go to the wealthiest of Americans.

We've always said — Barack Obama said not just — you ought to give people a break who are working Americans, not just who are wealthy Americans. And John all of a sudden has changed his view. John McCain has changed his view on this issue.

He's now saying that those Bush tax cuts were the right things. He was one of the great voices a few years ago from the Republican side who said this is economic irresponsibility.

WALLACE: But, Senator, I'm asking about Senator Obama...

DODD: So I'm sort of surprised and stunned...

WALLACE: I'm asking about Senator Obama's views and the fact that he would raise taxes on the wealthy and give more money to the government.

DODD: Well, I didn't say more to the government — giving tax breaks to working Americans. He believes that working Americans deserve a break.

You know, Chris, we still provide tax breaks for companies leaving the country when jobs are — unemployment rates are increasing in the country. Providing that kind of relief instead of providing the kind of real relief for working Americans is where Barack Obama and John McCain have significant disagreement.

You can't do it for everybody. Why not pick out the people who are working hard in this country and give them tax relief? And that's what Barack Obama is an advocate of.

WALLACE: Senator Kyl, as Senator Dodd started to mention, and I guess he anticipated where I'd go in my question to you, McCain was one of only two Republican senators who voted against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. He said that they were — in both cases they were too tilted to the wealthy.

Obama says that McCain was right then and he's pandering to the Republican base now. How do you respond?

KYL: Well, first of all, he explained that the reason he cast that vote primarily was because he was trying to urge a reduction in spending, and he thought that that should be a precondition for the reduction of the taxes.

But he's made it very clear now — in fact, I think his tax program goes far beyond what President Bush has proposed, and I can very enthusiastically support it. He's talking about reducing our corporate rate from 35 to 25.

We have the second highest corporate tax rate in the world, which is one of the reasons we're sending jobs overseas these days.

He would reduce the death tax, the rate down to 15 percent, and have a $10 million excluded amount. That has not been proposed by the Bush administration.

He would retain the rates on — the marginal income tax rates, capital gains and dividends. And Obama, on the other hand, would be increasing all of these. Eighty percent of the — of filers at the top income tax rate report small business income. That's who that would hurt.

On capital gains and dividends, 20 percent and 24 percent of Americans making less than — reporting that kind of income make less than $50,000 a year. So this is hardly the rich that Barack Obama would be taxing.

And finally, Obama talks about raising the payroll tax on Social Security. This would impact over 10 million Americans, increasing their tax liability by over $5,600 a year, hardly hitting the rich and taking care of the middle class.

WALLACE: Obviously, there's a lot more to talk about on this, but I want to get to another big difference between McCain and Obama, and that is on the question of judges.

Senator Dodd, McCain says he wants men and women who will exercise judicial restraint and not legislate from the bench. What's wrong with that?

DODD: Well, there's nothing wrong with it here. But I'm just watching this metamorphosis going on with a candidate sort of walking away from years of principles. What happened to the Straight Talk Express? It looks like it lost its axle here.

All of a sudden John McCain is sounding like someone many of us have a hard time recognizing on some of these issues, at least when he's speaking.

And the fact of the matter is he gave a speech the other day talking to groups here reminding us we may get some — again, these appointees that created so many problems for our country here, really ideologues in too many cases, instead of the kind of responsible, thoughtful jurists.

Barack Obama has talked about people like Justice Souter as sort of the standard of the kind of individual he'd look for. Remember, Barack Obama is an expert in constitutional law, taught it at the University of Chicago.

I think it would bring a great sense of balance to this in filling these vacancies that may occur on the Supreme Court or in other judicial posts around the country.

So I have a lot of confidence that Barack Obama will head in the right direction here, naming good, strong, balanced people who will not use the bench as a way to write laws.

But let me also mention here about the economy, to talk about the economy. The economy's in the worst shape it's been in for decades in this country, and to continue policies here that have the largest deficit in our history — we've got jobs we're losing in this nation. We've got a housing crisis of significant magnitude.

And here we have John McCain talking about basically continuing the same economic policies. I think most Americans want a change. They want a new direction for our country. They don't want more of the same. Of that I'm certain.

WALLACE: All right. Let me turn to Senator Kyl.

And let me bring you back to the question of judges. Obama says his standard for judges would be their, quote, "values, concerns and empathy." What's wrong with that?

KYL: Well, because a judge is supposed to decide the law. And of course, you bring all of your life experiences into the decisions that you make, but just because you're sympathetic toward someone doesn't necessarily mean that they should win the case.

This is very instructive. Barack Obama votes against people like John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States, and Sam Alito. Those are exactly the kind of people John McCain says he would appoint to the Supreme Court.

This is a fundamental difference between the two, and Americans should pay attention. And by the way, the last thing, talking about the economy, that you want to do when the economy is not doing well is raise taxes, which is precisely what Barack Obama would do and John McCain says we should not do.

WALLACE: All right. We've got a little bit over a minute left. And in keeping with our idea of a preview of a debate, I'm going to allow each of you to give a closing statement.

So, Senator Kyl, you're here. Thirty seconds. Tell us why John McCain would be a better president than Barack Obama. Look straight in the camera.

KYL: You bet. Well, I've worked with John McCain now in the Congress for over 20 years, and there is no more principled and experienced leader.

John McCain has spent time abroad. He has spent time in the military in the service of his country. He understands the kind of tough decisions that the president needs to make.

He is experienced. He has that kind of good judgment. And he would lead with a new kind of leadership, I believe, that the American people — independents, Reagan Democrats and Republicans — are looking for this year.

WALLACE: All right. Thank you very much, Senator Kyl. Gosh, this really does feel like a debate.

Senator Dodd, look straight into that camera. Thirty seconds. Why would Obama be a better president than McCain?

DODD: Well, I think most people recognize today after eight years of an administration where our economy is in tough shape — you've got oil prices at $126 a barrel — the cost of higher education, health care costs.

We see our reputation, our security in greater threat today than at any time in recent memory. We're looking for new direction in our country, truly looking for change both at home and abroad.

And I think Barack Obama's demonstrated in this campaign his ability to excite an awful lot of Americans who in the past have been reluctant to be a part of the political process, stepping forward, thousands showing up to hear this man, to hear what he has to say.

I think he brings character...

WALLACE: Senator Dodd?

DODD: ... he brings a background and a future I think America is looking forward to.

WALLACE: Thank you both. It was a vigorous debate. We just hope the candidates do as well. Thank you for previewing the sharp differences we'll see on the campaign trail this fall.

KYL: Thank you, Chris, and Chris.

DODD: Thank you, Chris.

Thank you, Jon.

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