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Transcript: Sen. Joseph Lieberman on Fox News Sunday

Following is a transcribed excerpt from Fox News Sunday, Dec. 8, 2002.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: Weapons inspectors are beginning to pour over thousands of pages of documents turned over to the U.N. Saturday by the government of Iraq. Kuwait's government, meanwhile, has rejected Saddam Hussein's apology for the 1990 invasion.

For more we go live to Baghdad and Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan.

Steve?

STEVE HARRIGAN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Tony, in about the same time that that big document flew out of here, U.N. weapons inspectors got back to their job. They visited two sites here, both outside of Baghdad. And one of those sites, a pesticide factory, a factory that at one point was linked to making chemical weapons.

Now, so far the inspectors have seen 23 sites. They're not saying anything about what they have seen, but they are saying that they are getting full cooperation from the Iraqis.

Now, as far as that big document goes, 12,000 pages long, it created a real media frenzy here. In fact, cameramen pushed each other through a glass door trying to get the first picture of it.

Over and over again, Iraqi officials have been saying that this document will answer all questions, that it will prove to the world that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.

It could be about a week before Security Council members actually get a look at it. That's because the inspectors want to edit out any part of that document which could give instruction on how to build weapons of mass destruction.

There was also a surprise announcement last night, about the same time the document was handed over to the U.N. Saddam Hussein made an address to the Kuwaiti people. It was read out by one of his ministers on television. It was an apology, for the first time, for the invasion of Kuwait 12 years ago. It was also an appeal to Islamic militants to work against U.S. forces on the ground, not to allow Kuwait to be used as a staging base for any attack on Iraq.

So far the Bush administration's reaction to this document, to the big document on its way to the U.N., has been brief and just a terse announcement with a hint of irony. The Bush administration said it would carefully examine what it called, quote, "an Iraqi document that claims to be a full disclosure of all of its weapons systems."

Tony, back to you.

SNOW: All right, Steve Harrigan, thank you.

Now, for more on Iraq and other issues, we're joined by Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

Senator, let's begin by taking a look at a statement made the other day by Mohammed Al-Douri, who is Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations. Kind of summarizes what we gather are the conclusions of the thousands of page of documents handed over to the U.N. yesterday. Let's hear the ambassador.

SEN. JOPSEPH LIEBERMAN, D-Conn: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMED AL-DOURI, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We said again and again that we have no more destruction weapons at all. Everything has been destroyed, and we have no intention to do that again. So Iraq is clean of any kind of mass-destruction weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Senator, in your opinion, is there any chance that the declarations that were handed over yesterday are truthful?

LIEBERMAN: Well, there's always a chance, but it would represent one of the most shocking and, I suppose, encouraging conversions in world history, which is that Saddam would start telling the truth instead of lying as he has been for more than a decade to the United Nations, cheating, deceiving.

This is 12,000 pages that they turned over to the U.N. yesterday, 100 pounds. But based on the fact that they told the U.N. during the '90s, when inspectors were there, that they had weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological, deadly, in the hands of Saddam who is a mass murderer, based on intelligence reports that I have seen, based on statements of President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, Prime Minister Blair have made that we know they have weapons of mass destruction, and based on the fact that as they turned this report over yesterday, the Iraqis nonetheless insisted that they don't have weapons of mass destruction, I think you'd have to say that what they gave the U.N. yesterday was probably a 12,000-page, 100-pound lie.

SNOW: If that's the case, will that constitute a material breach, in your opinion, of U.N. resolutions and, therefore, justify U.S. action?

LIEBERMAN: It would. America, unlike Saddam Hussein, plays by the rules. And I think we did the right thing in going to the United Nations Security Council.

So we now have an obligation to do exactly what our administration said we would do: go over these 12,000 pages that the Iraqis have given us methodically, set them against what they have previously said to the United Nations about weapons, chemical and biological, even a nuclear program that they had, set them against our intelligence and then reach a conclusion.

And if, as I would guess would be the case, that we conclude that what Iraq gave us yesterday is not the truth, then it is a material breach. And under the United Nations Security Council resolution, that would bring on serious consequences.  

LIEBERMAN: The one thing I don't want to see, and I would guess a lot of other people don't want to see, is that we get drawn into seeing this as if it were a criminal case in which we're sending detectives out around a country the size of California to see if they can find a little chemical weapon here or biological weapon there.

The Iraqis have an obligation to tell us the truth. The burden of proof is on them. And if they don't, I think the longer we wait, the more danger there is that Saddam will actually take military offensive action against one of his neighbors or against us.

SNOW: Some members of your party have said that the president hasn't done a good enough job of assembling an international coalition, that people around the world are turning against us. Do you think that's true, or do you think the administration has, in fact, assembled a coalition capable of acting against Saddam Hussein?

LIEBERMAN: Well, this is a longer story. I do feel that the Bush administration has followed a foreign policy that has been too often unilateral and has been seen as arrogant by people around the world, including our allies in Europe and Asia. In some cases, not just related to Iraq, but problems that may seem as distant as climate change but it matters a lot to folks in Europe and Asia; some that are closer like the International Court of Criminal Justice or arms control treaties.

But in this case, though they had a slow start, I think the Bush administration has now put us in a position — and some of my colleagues have said we should never, if we have to go into Iraq militarily, we should never go in alone. We will never have to go in alone. Right now, if we had to act today, we would have a good number of our NATO allies and allies in the Middle East including significant countries in the Arab world.

SNOW: We expect to have as many as 100 weapons inspectors in Iraq by the end of the month. A couple of months ago, in early September, Vice President Dick Cheney, addressing a veterans group, expressed real skepticism about whether inspections can make any difference. Let's listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with the U.N. resolutions. On the contrary, there's a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow back in his box.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Do you agree?

LIEBERMAN: I think we have to take these inspections in the right light. And they're one part of the U.N. Security Council resolution. The other part is what the Iraqis gave us yesterday.

And, you know, you might view the inspectors — I was trying think of a parallel. It's as if a city council of a great city passed a resolution saying, "We know that over in this section of the city, people in houses have drugs. We know that as a fact. And now we're passing a resolution authorizing detectives to go into the houses in that neighborhood. And they won't get there for two, three or four weeks."

Well, presumably what the folks in the houses in that neighborhood would do was to get rid of the drugs and hide them somewhere else. And that's why I think the inspections are important, but they're only one part of an effort to get Saddam to do what he promised to do a decade ago, which is to disarm.

And if he does not, let's be careful not to let him, with all the fancy moves and the apologies to Kuwait, to lull us into some false sense of security. This man is dangerous. He's invaded two of his neighbors. He's killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and the Iranian neighbors. Every day he's there is a day of danger for his people, for the region, for America and the world.

SNOW: Let's turn to Democratic politics. We can put a close to the elections of 2002, Mary Landrieu winning yesterday.

But Bill Clinton last week gave a speech to the Democratic Leadership Council where he was talking about his conclusions. One of the things he said is that Democrats didn't show enough self- confidence. Let's listen to a clip from the former president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When people are insecure, they'd rather have somebody that's strong and wrong than somebody that's weak and right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Was that the problem? Did you guys just — were you weak and right?

LIEBERMAN: Well, no.

Let's first congratulate Mary Landrieu. Her victory yesterday, really against an onslaught, both Presidents Bush, Vice President Cheney — just about every other living Republican of note was into Louisiana against her — she won because she's a pro-defense, pro- economic-growth, pro-values Democrat.

And she puts a — her victory puts a happy ending on a tough year for Democrats and shows us that we can still win in places like Louisiana if we have the right package.

And I think that's what President Clinton was saying, that obviously, it's hard for the party that's not in the White House to compete with the commander in chief when it comes to projecting strength. But there's no question that we, as a party, are never going to regain the public's confidence if we seem to be an anti-war party or a party that doesn't have even better ideas than the current administration, particularly on homeland security. So it is the security, but it's also the economy.  

SNOW: Speaking of the war effort, Al Gore has been highly critical of it. He gave the famous speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

Barney Frank this week did a series of interviews where he was talking about John Kerry, who's thrown his hat into the ring as a presidential candidate. He says he likes Al Gore, but he's got some reservations. Let's listen to Barney Frank.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BARNEY FRANK (D-MA): A reporter called me up and asked me what I thought about John Kerry once he announced, and I said I thought John was the best candidate now, and that I did, unfortunately, conclude that Al Gore — and I regret this, he's a very able guy — but I don't think he can win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Is he right about Al Gore?

LIEBERMAN: Well, we don't know. I mean, Al's doing really quite well in the polls that we've seen of Democrats around the country.

And he is going to make a decision, Al Gore is, by the end of this year and announce it early next year, as to whether he's running or not. So let's leave it to the former vice president to start that process.

SNOW: You know, an interesting thing. The guy who runs second in those polls is, oh, Lieberman, Lieberman, Joe Lieberman.

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SNOW: Now, you had said in the past that you weren't going to run if Al Gore was going to run. He said, ah, he doesn't have to stick to that promise. So, are you still contemplating a run?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I am, if the former vice president announces early in January that he's not going to run, I probably will become a candidate. I've thought a lot about it. I've been talking to my family, my friends, my supporters in Connecticut and around the country. And I think this is a moment...

SNOW: I've never heard supporters say, "Don't run."

(LAUGHTER)

LIEBERMAN: That's right. We don't talk to those supporters.

(LAUGHTER)

SNOW: And if Al Gore says he is going to run, do you completely rule out getting into the sweepstakes?

LIEBERMAN: I do.

SNOW: Oh, OK. Now, one of the things you've said is that, if you do run — Al Gore's not one of the contestants — you might consider John McCain as a possible running mate.

Now, Senator McCain has said that he wouldn't do it. Do you think that's his final answer?

(LAUGHTER)

LIEBERMAN: John's an awful stubborn guy, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

Look, there's nobody I'm closer to in the Senate than John McCain. He and I work together on everything from foreign and defense policy to sex and violence in the media to climate change, and the September 11th commission, homeland security.

So, who knows? It's far ahead. John's a Republican, I'm a Democrat, but we're really good friends. And I just have the highest respect for him.

SNOW: Now, you have said — that's very good, very diplomatically...

LIEBERMAN: Yes, well, it's all true. So, you know, we'll keep working on McCain.

SNOW: Should United get a bail out, United Airlines?

LIEBERMAN: I'm not sitting at the table seeing the proposal that they're making. But, you know, this is why our economy really needs a lift. Too much in America's breaking down today. The fact that our airlines — this is the second one going into bankruptcy.

I would have supported some loans to this airline to keep it, literally, in the air, because this is going to affect not only a lot of people working at the airline, but our economy overall.

And that's the critical part of this change at the White House, with O'Neill and Lindsey being shown the door. This needs more than a change in personnel, it needs a change in policy. And I get troubled when I see administration spokespeople saying, "Don't worry, we just need better communicators." That's not true.

Our economy is in trouble. People are losing jobs. More than a million have dropped out of the middle class into poverty. And business investment is the lowest it's been, in the two years of the Bush administration, in 50 years. This economy needs something different from what President Bush has given it.

SNOW: So, the president says he's going to have a pro-investment package in the State of the Union address. I presume, if he does come forward with that, you're for it?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, it depends on the details, but I've been saying since May that, instead of spending more than a half a trillion dollars on the next phase of President Bush's tax cuts, which mostly go to people making over $300,000 a year, we need short-term stimulus for this economy.

That means putting money into the hands of middle-class families, working families. And it means giving business some incentive to start investing again, although it'll take a sweet incentive. It probably means some investment in public works too, including particularly homeland security money to the states and localities.

And then we've got to try to regain our long-term fiscal discipline. This country is going way into debt in a way that'll make it hard for us, ultimately, to pay Social Security and Medicare benefits.

SNOW: All right. Senator Joseph Lieberman, I wish we had more time, but we don't.

LIEBERMAN: Me too.

(LAUGHTER)

SNOW: Thanks for joining us.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Tony.