Transcript: Daschle Wants War Plans

Following is a transcripted excerpt from Fox News Sunday, March 3, 2002.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle set off a political feud this week by raising questions about the aims and direction of the U.S. military operations in the war on terror.

He joins us now to talk about that and other issues.

Mr. Leader, welcome.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Thank you, Tony.

SNOW: Let me just read a quote. You said, "I think there is expansion without at least a clear direction to date."

What's unclear to you about the direction of military operations?

DASCHLE: Well, we really don't know what the direction is, frankly. We talk about going into Yemen. We're talking now about going into the Philippines and other places.

And I think, before we go into a lot of these other locations, I think it is important for us to better understand what our purpose is, how long will we be there, how many troops will be there, how does it affect our efforts in Afghanistan. And I think those are the questions that a lot of members have -- and, you know, just what role will our allies have?

SNOW: But you have said so far, no questions about the operations so far.

DASCHLE: Correct.

SNOW: Which would include putting troops in the Philippines to train Philippine fighters to take on terrorists in their midst. Is that OK?

DASCHLE: Well, I think, Tony, what I've said is that there is no question about the success of the effort thus far. I think that even though there have been some tough moments, as we've seen just in the last 24 hours, I believe that there is strong bipartisan support for the effort overall.

But we have a constitutional obligation to ask questions and to ensure that...

SNOW: No, I understand that, and that's why I'm -- the president said, "Look, we've got terrorist cells spread over 60 countries. We're going to try to go after them wherever we can." We've talked about the Sudan in the past. You've got troops training in Georgia right now trying to help deal with Al Qaeda forces.

Are you afraid that our forces are getting spread too thin?

DASCHLE: Well, I guess I'm not afraid, necessarily, of anything at this point.

What I am afraid of is not having all the information, not being the co-equal branch of government, as we make these decisions that I think are so important. So I think that it's critical that we be full partners, that we have the full plethora of answers to the questions that we're asking.

And, you know, we're going to be committing $4.7 trillion to defense over the next 10 years if the president has his way, $600 billion more than what was originally anticipated. Before we commit those resources, before, we better question, I think, the issues involved around that funding. I think it is important for us to be fully aware of the implications of all of this.

SNOW: Do you think it is possible, at this point, to answer to questions you're asking? After all, you're dealing with inchoate forces. You're not dealing with states, you're not dealing with governments, you're not dealing with entrenched armies. You're dealing with people who can, merely by purchasing a plane ticket, pick up and move their operations from one country to the other.

SNOW: Are you saying that Congress ought to be able to have access to all the operational details of what's going on?

DASCHLE: Well, I do think that some in Congress, especially the Intelligence Committee, needs to have access to that information. I don't think the entire congressional membership probably needs to know, but certain members of Congress with the responsibilities of oversight and the responsibilities of funding these operations need to know what's going on.

SNOW: So again, you -- right now, I'm trying to figure out, you do or don't have qualms about what we're doing in Georgia and the Philippines and Sudan?

DASCHLE: Well, for what I know, I don't have any qualms, but I don't know that I know everything. And I think that it is important for us to have a better understanding of the questions I've asked. Just what kind of a commitment are we going to make? Are we going to have help from our allies? How long will we be there? What is the specific goal? How can we determine whether or not it's been achieved or not? Those are questions...

SNOW: Let me ask you, if you were commander in chief, how would you measure success?

DASCHLE: Well, I said the other day, one of the measures of success, it seems to me, is whether we find bin Laden and Omar. I think that they are the ones who have funded the Al Qaeda network. They are the ones who are really the backbone of the effort thus far in the acts of terrorism, and so that's one criteria.

Breaking the back of Al Qaeda and making sure we have definitive proof that we have broken the back, regardless of where it may take us, I think is at least one of the criteria we'd want to look at.

SNOW: Now, if we catch Omar and Osama bin Laden, is it over or not?

DASCHLE: Oh no, it's not over. That's only one of the criteria, but it is a very important criteria.

SNOW: Breaking the back of Al Qaeda, again, you've got it spread over 60 countries. You keep asking the president, "Tell us exactly where we're going to go." We don't even know where the bad guys are right on. Isn't that an impossible question to answer?

DASCHLE: Well, it is if you said "I'm going to answer with absolute clarity in all of the circumstances we're going to be facing in the course of the next year." We're not asking for that. We don't want to be unreasonable here.

We're just simply asking for the operational information that would allow us to make as good a judgment about the overall success of the operation and the need for the resources that the president has requested. As I say, that is a constitutional obligation, that isn't just something nice to know. It's something we need to know.

SNOW: You said you're not going to sign a blank check. Has the president asked for one?

DASCHLE: Well, the president has asked for contingency funds, which is an advanced supplemental that has not been asked for before. I would want to say with some clarity that I understand what these resources are going to be used for and that this really is the overall assessment of the budgetary ramifications of the operation so far.

But I would say that this is something we take a step at a time, a month at a time, perhaps a fiscal year at a time.

SNOW: All right, so you're not going to say to the president, no -- you're saying to the president, "No long-term funding right now for the war on terror."

DASCHLE: Well, what we're saying to the president is, "Give us as much information as you can to allow us the best assessment of what we can do and how we're going to do it, what the goals are and how we define success."

SNOW: You've also raised questions about notification, saying that you haven't been notified sufficiently. Now, since the war on terror began, there have been 15 appearances on Capitol Hill by Cabinet members involved in this. That's about one a week, given the vacation schedule that Congress has had.

Isn't that pretty good notification?

DASCHLE: Well, presence and notification are probably two different things, Tony. There is a lot of presence. And I have my opportunities to meet with the president at breakfast on occasion, and that's good.

None of us knew about the secret government. You know -- so, not knowing things as basic as that is a pretty profound illustration of the chasm that exists sometimes with information.

DASCHLE: Now, that isn't the first time that's happened; it's happened before. But I do think that it's an illustration of the need for a better communications process, a better communications than what we have right now.

SNOW: Let me ask -- you raised this in conversations with reporters on Thursday. You also had a meeting that day with the president. Did you raise your concern with him beforehand?

DASCHLE: I didn't know beforehand that...

SNOW: But you were talking generally about notification.

DASCHLE: That is correct.

SNOW: It wasn't simply about the so-called secret government.

DASCHLE: Exactly.

SNOW: Have you raised your concerns with him about that, about notification on military...

DASCHLE: I have not had the opportunity to talk to the president directly since we were made aware of these issues, but I intend to raise the question, clearly.

SNOW: And you will tell him what, if he doesn't notify, you won't finance?

DASCHLE: No, I don't want to use threats. I don't think that's my style or it's appropriate. But I do believe that it is important for the leadership of Congress to be made aware of matters of that import, and also to insist that there be some recognition that we've got three branches of government. And if we're going to have some secret plan for some disastrous set of circumstances, that it not only include the executive branch but the congressional and judiciary branches, as well.

SNOW: You've got a secret hideaway. Doesn't Congress have one? It used to be at the Greenbrier; it's someplace else now. Don't you?

DASCHLE: Well, no, we don't have a secret hideaway. We have contingency plans for actions to be taken.

SNOW: And have you shared those in full with the White House?

DASCHLE: Oh, absolutely.

SNOW: OK. Now, this so-called secret government. You've actually been to the site, September 11, correct?

DASCHLE: Well, I don't know if that's the site.

SNOW: I'm told it is, so now you know.


So you've been to the site. Is it not at least reassuring to you that they do have contingency plans, much as you do?

DASCHLE: Well, no, I think it's reassuring, but I don't know what those plans are. And I don't know if there is -- as I understand it, they're there now and that there is some activity ongoing. And, of course, the Congress has nothing like that. We just have an alternative location for Congress to meet, should circumstances require it. As I understand it, this is way beyond that.

But that's the point. I don't understand; I don't have the information upon which to make that judgment.

SNOW: So, you don't know whether it's a good idea or bad idea. If somebody...

DASCHLE: Well, no...

SNOW: You think it's a good idea, but you want to know more?

DASCHLE: That's correct.

SNOW: OK. Now, a couple of other things about the war. U.S. presence, you talked about dealing in Afghanistan. Do you think we need to have more troops in Afghanistan, trying to make sure that the government of Hamid Karzai succeeds?

DASCHLE: Well, again, this is an issue that I think Congress needs to explore. I'm not suggesting today that I have the information that would give me the best judgment about more troops.

I do believe that we have to do all that we can to stabilize the entire country, that we can't do it alone, that we need to rely upon the cooperation and participation of allies, especially Britain and perhaps Turkey in the future. I think that it's essential that we not allow the country to revert back. So, clearly, some additional role is going to be required.

SNOW: Obviously, you've got pretty extensive British participation and some Turkish. The United States has said, well, you know, we want to get out of there. And Senator Byrd, I think, wants to get out of there, as well. That was part of the -- the gravamen of some of his comments earlier this week.

Do you think we ought to be getting out, or staying in until we're sure it's stable?

DASCHLE: Well, I don't think we ought to leave today. I will say I think it's important for us to make sure that the job is done.

And as I say, that's one of the other concerns that we have about moving to phase two or three, or whatever phase we're contemplating here. We haven't finished phase one. We haven't found bin Laden. We haven't found Mr. Omar. We haven't stabilized the countryside. We're still having major disruptions. We had a conflict yesterday where American lives were lost.

So, clearly there's a lot of work left to be done in Afghanistan. We can't leave that job half done.

SNOW: Do you think we can do another job at the same time we're still minding the shop in Afghanistan? Or is it your preference we finish there before moving on?

DASCHLE: Well, not necessarily. And once again, that begs the question, just what is the overall objective, and just where do we go, and how much in additional resources will it require if we go there? Those are the kinds of questions that I think need to be vetted a lot more appropriately and completely than they have so far.

SNOW: Now, you mentioned Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. Is it your assumption that they're not only alive but actively directing operations against the United States right now?

DASCHLE: Tony, I really don't know.

DASCHLE: I don't know that anyone can make an assumption about their whereabouts or their current circumstances, their status.

But I do believe that we have to assume that, because they were so central to the entire Al Qaeda operation, because they were so incredibly engaged in the financing of this effort, that, until we have a better understanding of their status, we can't consider Al Qaeda as anything other than still alive and very threatening to the United States.

SNOW: Similarly, there is talk about the United States going after Iraq at some point. Tony Blair, evidently, is going to present a bill of particulars to colleagues soon against Saddam Hussein, saying that he has weapons of mass destruction.

Would it be inappropriate for the United States to act against Iraq without the full support of our allies?

DASCHLE: I don't think it would be inappropriate. I do think it is very important for us to make as strong a case as we can, to engage our allies and all of those in the Middle East, in particular.

The worst thing would be that whatever unilateral action we took destabilized Egypt or destabilized Jordan or destabilized any one of the countries in the Middle East, and that we had an even wider concern in the Middle East than we have today.

But I think that you could understand that there are circumstances that would require a unilateral action, even though I would be very apprehensive about taking that action in the first place.

SNOW: All right, Senator Daschle, stand by. We're going to take a quick break.

When we return, we'll have more with the majority leader. Stay right here.

SNOW: And we're back with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Also here with questions, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News.


BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Senator, you spoke in the earlier segment about what you were calling the "secret government." I know of something that's called the "shadow government," which, I take it, is an emergency contingency plan that would allow the country to continue to operate if the whole executive branch was decapitated.

Are you alleging here that there is some sort of secret government in action, that is functioning in secret and actually governing?

DASCHLE: No, I don't think they're governing right now, Brit, that I know of -- that's the thing, we don't know. We were left in the shadow, so to speak. We don't know what the role is, what their current authority is, what their purpose is at this point, other than to be prepared if an emergency of some kind would take place.

HUME: Well, do you have any reason to believe that anything other than simple emergency preparedness is at work here, which would seem kind of a reasonable precaution for the executive branch to take?

DASCHLE: Well, Brit, I don't have any reason to believe that they're doing anything other than standing by.

But that's the thing. You'd think somebody in Congress, one person in Congress somewhere, would know what they're doing and how many there are and what their role is and how the transition takes place and why a congressional and judiciary component are not included. Those are the kinds of things I'm simply asking that we be provided the answers to.

But I have no reservations about having some kind of a shadow contingency government in place, should something occur.

HUME: Let me just follow up with you, if I can, about the questions you're raising about the war. Do you sense that some policy has changed here?

The administration, you'll recall, said -- and I believe you enthusiastically supported the idea -- that we must pursue the Al Qaeda network wherever it operates. And so far, it seems, virtually every other operation -- the Philippines, Yemen, other places that we've gone -- are in pursuit of Al Qaeda operations and training bases.

Do you feel that this represents some change in policy, there's been some switcheroo done on Congress here?

DASCHLE: Not at all. In fact, I think -- it has to be repeated again that we are strongly in support of what has been done to date and very appreciate of the tremendous job our troops have done across the board.

I think what we're simply asking is that, as we move to other phases of this conflict, that we have as clear an understanding of what the goals are and how we define success.

I think we define success in Afghanistan by how quickly we could replace the Taliban, you know, whether or not we find bin Laden and Omar, whether we stabilize the countryside, whether we can have a government there that will function as completely and successfully as we hope it might.

Those are criteria by which we judge success in Afghanistan. What is it in Yemen? What is it in other places? And I think those are the answers that need to be forthcoming from the administration.

HUME: Now, you mentioned the operation that's now under way, in which we had casualties yesterday. Said to be the largest military operation in the war so far.

Are you starting to become concerned, as Senator Byrd was, as Tony mentioned earlier, that there may be a quagmire factor here and that we may become bogged down in Afghanistan and that we may, as you suggested there's at least a possibility, may fail?

DASCHLE: Well, I'm not concerned about being bogged down at this point. I think that we've got a job to do. We knew it was going to take a while. The president urged us to show and demonstrate the kind of patience required here. I think that we're doing that. I think that it's important for us to finish the job, as I said to Tony just a moment ago.

SNOW: Senator, is the recession over?

DASCHLE: Well, if you look at the economic indicators right now, Tony, I would say that if it's not over that we're coming out of it.

Of course, unemployment lags behind official recession-ending reports, generally. We still have a huge unemployment problem that we have to confront.

But, by and large, I think the economic indicators are much more positive.

SNOW: Now, a couple of months ago, you gave an economic speech, and you talked about the president's tax plan. Let me read you a quote from that and then a follow-up thing from The Washington Post.

First you said, "Not only did the tax cut fail to prevent a recession, as its supporters said it would, it probably made the recession worse."

Now, The Washington Post had a news article, well, just yesterday. It said, "After-tax or disposable personal income was 1.6 percent in January in part because of the tax-cutting legislation enacted last year."

Do you stand by your earlier remarks?

DASCHLE: Absolutely. Absolutely, Tony. My feeling has always been that we exacerbated, significantly, the long-term interest-rate problem by creating the debt that we're in now.

You both have been very aggressive over the years in saying, you know, that fiscal management, fiscal policy is important. Fiscal policy is important here. The more we compete in the private sector for the available money, for whatever purpose, I think, the higher the interests rates are going to go. And interest rates...

SNOW: But at this point, long-term interest rates are down since the president took office.

DASCHLE: Long-term interest rates have actually gone up slightly last year. I don't know what they are today, but they have actually gone up. All the other interest rates were cut. We didn't see this same corresponding reduction in long-term interest rates that we saw in the short-term rates.

And the only reason for that is because most investors will tell you that they expect the government, once again, as we did in the '80s and early '90s, that once again the government was going to be competing with the private sector for available resources. And that's going to drive up long-term interest rates, and that will have an affect on housing and other long-term investments that we've got to be concerned about.

SNOW: Right now housing is going through the roof, so evidently they haven't gotten the memo yet.

But let me ask you, in terms of the economy, do we still need a stimulus package?

DASCHLE: Well, I think that there are aspects of the stimulus package that would be very helpful. I'd like to see a bonus depreciation provision.

Certainly we have to extend unemployment benefits for the 11,000 people a day who are losing their benefits. You know, over 200,000 people have lost their benefits now since we first originally planned the unemployment extension.

DASCHLE: And the House, of course, has just not been willing to accept that.

But we've got a need to address unemployment. I'd like to see us address business, as well.

SNOW: Let me ask you a question that a lot of people -- you know, they e-mail us questions all the time. They say, OK, you've got campaign finance reform; that's ahead of the stimulus package in the Congress. You've had a farm bill. You've had a whole series of things that are getting voted on. All of these don't take effect until next year.

Why isn't the Senate acting on a stimulus package that, if passed, could start helping people tomorrow?

DASCHLE: Well, that's the point, Tony. And, you know, if I think -- if you look back...

SNOW: But you're the guy who schedules the votes.

DASCHLE: Well, I do, but I don't have the votes. I don't have 60 votes for anything right now. What I have said is, "You give me an opportunity to find a way to reach that 60-vote threshold, I'll bring it back."

We thought we had something. We took the best ideas from both the Republican and the Democratic bill, laid them out in what I called a common-ground bill. They said, "Well, that's too stripped down. That's not good enough."

And yet, we still have not been able to find that right combination that brings us to 60. I'm not going to spend week after week, as I did in December and then again in January, deliberating, trying to find that right concoction, with all the other issues that are out there, including energy which we hope to take up this week.

HUME: Senator, there was a bill that passed the House, and all the headcounts said it would have passed the Senate as well but for the objection -- I recognize the 60-vote problem, I understand that.

DASCHLE: We got 48 votes...

HUME: I understand that, Senator. But most of those votes against that bill and that condition were in your party. Is it not part of your job to round up majorities or enough votes to get a vote on a bill when the resistance is coming from your own party?

DASCHLE: Well, listen, the resistance came from the Republican Party for our stimulus package.

HUME: I understand, but this is -- we're talking here about a bill that you know, we all know, had the votes to pass if an up-or- down vote were available.

DASCHLE: My bill, Brit, got 56 votes; the Republican bill got 48. If anything the Republicans ought to be willing to go to conference. That was what I was suggesting. I said, "This is a ticket for conference. Give me four more votes, we'll go to conference, and we'll resolve our differences with the House."

The Republicans are way out on the right. You know, we're trying to put something in the middle here, where we can coalesce and find some compromise. But they won't even give me a ticket to conference. They won't even give me the opportunity to try to resolve these differences.

But that's exactly what I tried to do, and we got -- what did we get, eight more votes than they did.

HUME: Let me take you to another matter where 60 votes may be in play or possibly in play, and that is the nomination of Judge Thomas Pickering of Mississippi to be on the federal appellate court. The nomination appears blocked in committee. The president has expressed, at least publicly, the desire to see it voted on the Senate floor.

Would you be willing to ask the Senate Judiciary chairman to allow the measure, or the unfavorable recommendation if necessary, to reach the Senate floor so it can be voted on?

DASCHLE: Brit, we had an agreement last year, all through the power-sharing negotiations as well as when we took over in the majority, that Supreme Court nominees who even failed in committee would have the opportunity to be voted on in the Senate on the floor. And I'm willing to maintain that commitment for whatever length of time I'm majority leader.

What I'm not prepared to do is nullify whatever actions the Judiciary Committee makes on all other issues. It is unprecedented. We went back to try to find another case where an appellate or a district judge was voted down on committee and was taken to the floor, and we couldn't find one. So, it's unprecedented.

We've already committed to Supreme Court nominees regardless of Judiciary Committee action, and I have to respect the actions taken by the Judiciary Committee.

HUME: It's dead. That nomination's dead then, isn't it?

DASCHLE: Well, it depends on what the Judiciary Committee does.

HUME: You don't have any reason to believe that it can get out of the committee, do you?

DASCHLE: I don't know. They haven't voted yet, and I wouldn't presume what the committee's going to do.

SNOW: Now, Charles Pickering is a guy who represented black people against the Klan in the '60s, had his life threatened because he was standing up for black voters. He enjoys the support of all sort of the black establishment in his neighborhood.

And yet, he is targeted as somebody who's against civil rights based on what a lot of people think is a distortion of a single case.

Now, do you think that's an appropriate way to judge a person's entire life's work? And doesn't it make you feel a little bit leery about what's happening in Washington when that sort of thing is happening to people who have been nominated by the president of the United States for judgeship?

DASCHLE: Tony, Dianne Feinstein is about as moderate a Democrat as you'll ever find. She has looked at all of these facts, along with every other member of the Judiciary Committee. They aren't all liberals on that committee. And those moderates and conservatives within our caucus who have looked at it said they have some real doubt about whether he's willing to interpret the civil rights laws of this land in a fair and objective way. They also questioned the ethics...

SNOW: Is there any basis in the judicial record?

DASCHLE: They also questioned the ethics, frankly, of contacting attorney's who appear before your court, having them send in letters of recommendation to you so that you might aggregate them and send them in.

DASCHLE: That's almost unprecedented and certainly a question of ethical judgment.

SNOW: So, you have no qualms about what People for the American Way has done in the case of Judge Pickering?

DASCHLE: Well, what I have qualms about is making sure that we have given every opportunity to a nominee to be heard. We, in this case, heard Mr. Pickering twice. We've listened to all sides, and the Judiciary Committee now must make up its own mind.

SNOW: You're running for president?

DASCHLE: No, I'm not.

SNOW: Not yet?

DASCHLE: I'm not.

SNOW: Not ever?

DASCHLE: Well, I don't know what I'm going to be doing, but I'm not going to make that decision for a while.

SNOW: Now, let me show you, as we get ready to part, a Fox News opinion dynamics poll question we asked.

DASCHLE: I think I know which one you're going to say.

SNOW: You already know which one.


It has to do with the boxing match that keeps popping up, folks.

DASCHLE: That's right.

SNOW: Which bout would you rather see? Tyson-Lennox Lewis or Lott-Daschle? Well, it's not up on the screen, but let me just say that Trent Lott and Tom Daschle, clear winner.

What do you think of that?

DASCHLE: I'm ready, I'm ready. Bring him on.


No, Trent and I -- I'm going to have to ask him about that. I think it's great that people would actually rather see us than them.

SNOW: Well, no cannibalism.

DASCHLE: That's right. That's right, yes.


SNOW: OK. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, thanks for joining us.

DASCHLE: Thanks for having me.