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Transcript: Sens. Lieberman, Bayh on 'FNS'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published July 20, 2008 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the July 20, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now to talk about Senator Obama's trip and its effect on the presidential campaign, two key supporters who are on the vice presidential watch lists — Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent Democrat who supports McCain, and Senator Evan Bayh, who backs Obama.
And, Senators, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday".
LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Chris.
WALLACE: As we discussed with Admiral Mullen, Iraqi prime minister Maliki seemed over the weekend to endorse Obama's plan for pulling combat troops out of Iraq by mid 2010, within two years. Now he's apparently backed off that.
But, Senator Lieberman, the Iraqis clearly want us out sooner rather than later, and they would like on a timetable. Why is Senator McCain resisting that?
LIEBERMAN: Well, we — Senator McCain and I and others — want us out of Iraq sooner rather than later, but we want us out in a way that does not compromise all the gains that American and Iraqi forces have made in Iraq, which Admiral Mullen spoke to.
And frankly, we want to stay there to a victory because we don't want all those who have served in the American uniform there to have served or in some cases died in vain.
Remember this, Chris. We wouldn't be having this discussion about how to get out unless the surge, which John McCain courageously fought for, taking on the president of his own party, popular opinion, risking his campaign, and which Senator Obama opposed, worked.
So I think that's the good news. I think everybody — that is, Prime Minister Maliki, President Bush, people like John McCain and I — agree the sooner we're out, the better. But it has to be based on conditions on the ground.
Senator Obama doesn't seem to feel that way. It looked like he did a little bit after the primaries were over. But then he, pushed by MoveOn.org and others on the antiwar left of the Democratic Party, is back to a rigid time line. And that's not wise.
WALLACE: Let me talk to Senator Bayh about that.
Admiral Mullen didn't mention Obama, but he did say this idea of a timetable for getting out in two years is dangerous. Why not agree that you're going to make any decisions based on conditions on the ground, Senator?
BAYH: Chris, I think it's important to note that Barack Obama's judgment about these issues has been excellent from the beginning, the kind of judgment you'd want in a commander in chief, and others are now beginning to adopt his positions.
We wouldn't be discussing surges in Iraq or anything else if Barack had had his way. We wouldn't have started that war to begin with.
He was right about Afghanistan. That's the place from which we were attacked. He's been calling for more troops there now for over a year. And John McCain, to his credit, has now come around and adopted Barack's point of view on that.
He has been for, as you say, a phased withdrawal from Iraq. As we heard, Prime Minister Maliki has embraced a more definitive time line, whether it's the 16 months or something else. But clearly, they want a more definitive time line.
And even President Bush now is coming up with a variety of euphemisms — aspirational goals, time horizons. I mean, it's starting to sound pretty much like a timeline to me.
So it's common sense, Chris. Any important enterprise, certainly something as important as a war — you want to have a plan. And a plan has to have some idea of what it's going to cost, what the adverse consequences are going to be and how long it's going to take.
So 16 months seems to be a reasonable goal. Let's work toward that. Let's bring this to a conclusion in a responsible way and focus on Iraq (sic) where the focus should have been all along.
WALLACE: But, Senator Bayh, even the Washington Post criticized Obama this week for — and let's put it up on the screen — his iron timetable, accusing him of foolish consistency and that he's ultimately indifferent to the war's outcome.
And here's an exchange between Obama and McCain this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I'm really astonished that he should give a policy speech on Iraq and Afghanistan before he goes to find out the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Again, two questions, really, Senator Bayh. Why the, quote, "iron timetable" that the Washington Post talks about? And secondly, this issue — why announce your policy before you go to Iraq and talk to the generals and the Iraqis?
BAYH: A couple of things, Chris. First, General Petraeus was asked recently about whether a 16-month period was a reasonable period of time, and he said it would depend on a variety of factors. He didn't say it was unreasonable.
We've been there — will have been — 16 months from when the next president is inaugurated, almost seven years. We've spent $700 billion. Just think of all the other things we could have done — finished Afghanistan, energy security for our country — with those amount of resources.
What's really surprising is that John, a man I admire and respect, says that even knowing there were no weapons of mass destruct in Iraq, knowing all the consequences that have been adverse in Afghanistan because of our fixation on Iraq, he would do this all over again. That's what is really surprising.
So Barack thinks that 16 months from January is a reasonable period of time. Let's go for it. Let's see. Let's try and bring this to a conclusion on that time frame. If there are difficulties, we'll address them when they arise.
LIEBERMAN: Look, the fact is that if Barack Obama's policy on Iraq had been implemented, Barack Obama couldn't go to Iraq today. It wouldn't be safe. Barack Obama and John McCain saw the same difficulty in Iraq.
John McCain had the guts to argue against public opinion, to put his whole campaign on the line, because, as he says, he'd rather lose an election than lose in a war that he thinks is this important to the United States.
The reason I say Barack — if Barack Obama's policy couldn't — had been implemented — if Barack Obama's policy in Iraq had been implemented, he couldn't be in Iraq today is because he was prepared to accept retreat and defeat.
And that would mean today Al Qaeda would be in charge of parts of Iraq. Iranian-backed extremists would be in charge of other parts of Iraq. There'd be civil war and maybe even genocide.
And the fact is that we are winning in Iraq today. And you know, you can't choose, as Senator Obama seems to think, to lose in Iraq so you can win in Afghanistan.
The reality is if we lost in Iraq, which Obama was prepared to do, we would go to Afghanistan as losers. Instead, Al Qaeda has its tail tucked between its legs as it's exiting Iraq to go — to try to...
WALLACE: I'm going to...
BAYH: I have to respond to that. Barack Obama was not for losing in Iraq. Barack didn't want the war to begin with.
John McCain opposed surging troops in Afghanistan until last week.
LIEBERMAN: Yeah, but what...
BAYH: Excuse me. Was John for losing in Afghanistan? I don't think so.
LIEBERMAN: Of course not.
BAYH: And now you have Maliki, even President Bush, are moving toward Barack Obama's position on this.
WALLACE: I want to...
BAYH: His judgment was right.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, I want to — we could continue this...
LIEBERMAN: Those questions — bottom line, no question that Barack Obama was prepared to lose in Iraq.
BAYH: That's not true.
WALLACE: All right. All right.
LIEBERMAN: Forget what's right or wrong...
WALLACE: Gentlemen, you're going to have to agree to disagree. I want to move on to the whole issue of his trip this week.
Senator Lieberman, the McCain camp seems divided about whether this is a legitimate fact-finding trip or a political stunt. After McCain and the Republican Party taunted Obama for not going to Iraq, has that, in fact, backfired on them by making this an even bigger story?
LIEBERMAN: No, I don't think so. I think John McCain's challenge to Barack Obama is very important. And frankly, it says a lot more than whether McCain was right about Iraq and Obama was wrong.
It says what kind of leaders these people will be as president. Obama reached — John McCain reached a decision about what to do in Iraq based on what he saw there, what he heard — what he heard from the generals and from the soldiers, and then he had the guts to fight big interests to see — including public opinion, to see that that would happen.
Senator Obama was taking positions about Iraq to put us on a rigid time line to get all troops out by March 2008 — all combat troops. That's what he said. That would have been accepting defeat there.
And I think what it says about the two of them — this is the kind of president John McCain will be on the economy. We're in crisis. We need a president who will listen, learn, decide what's right for the country, not what's right for their political campaign, and fight for the American people to make...
WALLACE: I want...
LIEBERMAN: ... that happen.
WALLACE: I want to ask Senator Bayh about another aspect of Obama's trip.
He plans to make a big public speech in Berlin. There was first talk it was going to be at the Brandenburg Gate. They announced today it's going to be at the Victory Column, a golden column in the heart of downtown Berlin.
Why would someone running for president of the United States hold a big rally in Germany? Wouldn't it be like a candidate for German chancellor holding a rally in front of the Statue of Liberty?
BAYH: A couple of things, Chris. First, getting back to Iraq, I just have to disagree once again. Barack Obama is for success in Iraq. His judgment about this was right from the beginning.
If you agree that knowing what we know today you would do this all over again...
WALLACE: With all due respect...
BAYH: ... then vote for John McCain.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, I think we both have been there.
BAYH: But I just couldn't let Joe get away with saying he's for defeat. That's not true. He has a better path to victory. His judgment's been right about this.
WALLACE: Now answer my question.
BAYH: Now, with regard to Germany, look. I was with Barack the last time he made one of these trips to Iraq. We met with the Iraqi president, the prime minister, our generals, our ambassadors. He was very substantive, very knowledgeable about the challenges that we face.
Now he's meeting with some of our European allies. We need to rehabilitate these relationships. They frayed over the last eight years. Our reputation in the world has been damaged because of some of the policies this president has pursued.
If we are going to be strong, if we are going to confront Iran, we need allies and friends with us. Rallying global opinion to America's side is an important responsibility for a president, and that's one of the things he is attempting to do.
WALLACE: All right. Finally, I want to ask you both about your political situations.
Senator Bayh, if Obama asks you to be his running mate, what will you say?
BAYH: Well, I've said that's not the sort of thing you say no to, Chris, so...
WALLACE: Which means you'd say yes.
BAYH: Well, that's the kind of thing you do say yes to, and I've said that. But you should probably ask Joe. He has more experience with the vice presidential questions than I do.
WALLACE: Have you been asked to turn over personal information to the campaign?
BAYH: You know, that's their business, Chris, and I think you should direct those questions to them.
WALLACE: But — oh, come on.
BAYH: Well, I'm trying my best not to make news on that this morning, so I hope you'll forgive me. But truly, they've established a process. It's their process. And I think it's up to them to respond to that.
WALLACE: Are you in the process?
BAYH: You know, I'd love to answer your question, but I think I really can't.
WALLACE: Senator Lieberman, some conservative leaders say — on the Republican right say with your liberal stands — obviously, you're not liberal or — I don't know if those words mean anything.
But obviously, you support McCain on foreign policy, but with your — what they call liberal stands on economic issues and social issues, for McCain to pick you as his running made would be a political, in their word, catastrophe. Do you agree?
LIEBERMAN: Well, they shouldn't worry about it too much because it's not going to happen. But I will say this. I hope that my support of John McCain, an independent Democrat supporting a Republican, is my way of saying that there's too much partisanship in Washington.
We need a leader like John McCain, a president like John McCain, who has always reached across party lines to get things done, to fight for the American people.
WALLACE: Real quickly, are you going to speak at the Republican convention?
LIEBERMAN: I don't know yet.
WALLACE: If you're asked, will you?
LIEBERMAN: If John asks me and he thinks I can help him, because I believe — this is no ordinary time, no ordinary election. John McCain is no ordinary candidate. I want to help him.
I'm not going to attack Barack Obama. I'm going to go to explain why I, as an independent Democrat, am supporting John McCain, hoping that I can convince other independents and Democrats to join me in choosing the man who is clearly more ready to be the president America needs today.
WALLACE: Even if that means Senate Democrats would kick you out of their caucus?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm following the model of John McCain. I'm going to do what I think is right for the country and not worry about the politics. And John McCain is definitely right for the country as our next president.
WALLACE: Senator Lieberman, Senator Bayh, we want to thank you both. We could have talked a lot more. Safe travels on the campaign trail to both of you.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
BAYH: Thank you, Chris.