This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, October 10, 2002, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: The president making it very clear he's very happy with the vote today in the House of Representatives. An easy victory for the president on his resolution to go ahead and get tough on Iraq, 296-133. Among the 296 voting in favor of that, this next fellow, Tennessee Democrat Harold Ford, Jr.
Congressman, you were on the fence, you got off the fence. Why did you vote for it?
REP. HAROLD FORD, JR., D-TENN.: I was never on the fence. I was where most Americans were, wanting to hear the case. And the president over a period of time was able to develop it. I applaud the leadership here in the House and the Senate for working to negotiate language, the draft language that eventually made its way before the House which narrowed the region the world in which we would work, being just Iraq, which called on the president to exhaust all diplomatic means and call on him to work closely with the U.N. Security Council, not making it a condition, but asking in the strongest of terms that we work through the Security Council to ensure that we have broad international support for any effort or any action that has to be taken.
CAVUTO: But Congressman, if this vote were to take place after the midterm elections, would it have been this much of a landslide?
FORD: Who knows? It's a hypothetical, it doesn't need to be considered at this point. I called for back in August for the vote to take place before -- I urged all of my colleagues to rest whatever objections they had to a vote occurring before the November recess. I thought it was critical, not because elections were coming, but because we were going to be in recess and to assemble us all would have been very difficult. Today's victory is a victory in a lot of ways for the world community here in the House, largely because we have made clear our foremost objective is to disarm Saddam Hussein of all weapons of mass destruction. We're going to work closely with those in the world community. And if our interests or if we face some clear or imminent or present danger, the president would have the right to act with or without U.N. security approval. I might add he had that authority long before we voted. And quite frankly, that's embedded in the Constitution.
CAVUTO: But Congressman, something changed, sir; right? I mean, it wasn't too long ago when they were doing sort of independent polling of the House that it looked like it was evenly split, if not more against going into Iraq or giving this president this leeway. And then the pressure seemed to build in public polls and the like that showed the vast majority of Americans were in favor of taking this action. Is that what prompted a lot of other Democrats to go it alone?
FORD: Be careful. This is not a Democrat or Republican issues. Chuck Hagel and others in the Senate, who I might add, is a Republican, has raised concerns about this. And frankly over the last few weeks you've seen according to the surveys, support for an effort abroad without international support actually declining. So if we did not have international support, many Americans said slow down. We should view this in a prism that it ought to be viewed, which is a victory for America, a victory for disarming Saddam Hussein, and a call on this president to work as hard as he possibly can, diplomatically, and if that fails, he should know that this Congress and this nation, many in this nation prepared to support what action has to be taken to disarm Saddam Hussein.
CAVUTO: Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., thank you very much, sir, we appreciate it.
FORD: Thanks for having me on.
CAVUTO: Not all Democrats supported this resolution, some with major reservations, one of them joins us right now, Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.
Congresswoman Lee, thank you for joining us.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, D-TEXAS: Thank you for having me.
CAVUTO: Why did you vote against it?
LEE: Well, first of all, I think all members of Congress did not support this particular resolution. And might I say, that as I listened to the debate and I made mention of the fact that this was a heartfelt decision for all of us as Americans and as patriots, it was clear to me that much of the talk was, we should support the president. I prefer to go to the floor of the House and listen to the facts and support the people of the United States of America and as well, to support the Constitution. I believe that the debate moved away from a factual premise and basis, and that was that the national security of Americans will be jeopardized if we did not vote today. And that was purely untrue. The War Powers Act of 1973 and as well, the laws given to the president as commander-in-chief that if we were under imminent threat, imminent danger, if we had to be in a defensive mode, the president has right to command the troops of the United States. But the key element here is that there has not been a nexus made on the imminent danger.
CAVUTO: So, you didn't see a clear connection to justify this action.
LEE: No. And throngs of Americans did not see it.
CAVUTO: Well, actually throngs of Americans, as you know, Congresswoman, throngs of Americans -- three quarters of them -- support this.
LEE: We abdicated our constitutional responsibility in declaring war. It is a constitutional right for the Congress under the laws of this land and we abdicated that. You're right, the polling showed large numbers of individuals who were in support of going to war behind the president of the United States. That's the nature of Americans. But when you broke the polling down and asked them did we want to go by way of a first strike or unilaterally, no one agreed with that in totality. Those numbers went down. Most Americans believe that the United Nations was there to provide for both world peace, for world collaboration. This particular resolution abdicates that premise, clearly, puts us in position to breach international law because what it says is that we give full authority to the president for a first strike without the collaboration of the United Nations. We don't say governed by the United Nations, or led by the United Nations, but in collaboration.
CAVUTO: OK. But do you feel now that some of the leaders in your party, led by former President Clinton and Al Gore, who made this a front-burner concern when you were talking about the economy and how bad it was and all that, do you think your leaders let you down by pushing this so soon?
LEE: Absolutely not. I happen to one of those that thought that the president should join those with of us who wanted to hold this after the elections so that we could have a full and unfettered debate as we should have full and unfettered U.N. inspections. But this was not a Democratic- Republican issue. I would think that the economy is neither a Democratic issue. But it is on the shoulders of the Republican president and Congress.
CAVUTO: All right.
LEE: That the economy has basically collapsed on their clock. But I do not attribute the questions of war and peace, life and death, to politics. And I would never do that. I am patriot. Those who voted today are patriots. I believe that the decision today was wrong. I believe that a large group of Americans who are members of Congress followed their duty and their hearts by voting against the resolution, realizing that the Founding Fathers did not want them to accede their constitutional duty of declaring. That's what we did today. And I hope we'll have another opportunity to look at this matter to save lives of our young men and women around the world and innocent lives around the world.
CAVUTO: Congresswoman, thank you very much. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat from the state of Texas.
LEE: Thank you.
CAVUTO: Good having you on.
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