Transcript: Sen. Joe Lieberman on Fox News Sunday

Published May 25, 2003

| FoxNews.com

Following is a transcribed excerpt from Fox News Sunday, May 25, 2003.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: Today on Fox News Sunday, a crucial Israeli cabinet meeting on the fate of President Bush's Middle East peace plan.  [...] The cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved President Bush's so-called road map to peace in the Middle East. [...]

Let's talk a little bit about what's going on in the Middle East.

U.S. SENATOR JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT): Good.

SNOW: First, there is conversation now about a possibility that the president will get together with Abu Mazen, the Palestinian prime minister, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Should he do that before he has some agreement in hand?

LIEBERMAN: Yes. My reaction to that is, "About time." I mean, the Bush administration has effectively been disengaged from the ground in the Middle East, and when that happens, nothing good will happen between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

We're indispensable there. They need us because we're the only one they trust.

SNOW: So, the president needs to go there even if only to broker disagreements between the two men and come home empty-handed?

LIEBERMAN: Well, that's you know -- that's the risk of trying to be a peacemaker.

But the obvious fact is that it's not going to get better between Israelis and Palestinians unless the United States is there. It's gotten worse over the last couple of years.

There's a moment of opportunity here. As you know, Tony, the Israeli cabinet, this morning, did approve the process of the road map.

They haven't approved a road map. It seems to me is that what they have approved is the destination, which is peace with the Palestinians. And they've effectively agreed to get in the same car with the Abu Mazen and the United States.

But it's not going to get to peace by that particular road map.

SNOW: The other person involved here is Yasser Arafat. American policy is, "Don't talk to this man." Do you agree that the United States should not be speaking with Arafat?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I absolutely agree. I mean, Arafat's leadership of the Palestinian cause has hurt the Palestinians and their aspiration to have a state. He has repeatedly missed opportunities to achieve a better life and an independent state for the Palestinians, and right now he's an obstacle.

The coming to power of Prime Minister Abu Mazen is a hopeful step. I know him well. But the question is whether Arafat will let go. And, of course, the most important question is will Abu Mazen effectively declare war on terrorism? Once he does that, I think the Israelis will respond, and we will press them to respond. But that's the first step that has to occur.

SNOW: Meanwhile, there are some diplomatic obstacles. Yesterday, or the day before, Secretary of State Colin Powell was sitting side by side with Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister.

Secretary Powell made the point that we don't want people talking to Yasser Arafat. What I want to do is show you at a tape of subsequent comments by Secretary Powell, followed by comments by Dominique de Villepin.

LIEBERMAN: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE UNITED STATES: We have made our position well known since last June that we would not be dealing with, and we felt it was important for us to have a new interlocutor representing the Palestinian people.

DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER: Now, I will be meeting, as you said, with Yasser Arafat and Abu Mazen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: So here, you have, once again, the French poking their thumb in the eye of the United States. Is it time for the United States to say, "Enough of this quartet nonsense. We are the chief broker of peace in the Middle East"?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, because the Israelis -- you know, you need two parties to make peace. The Israelis will not make peace with the quartet. The Israelis don't trust the Europeans when it comes to the peace -- don't trust the United Nations. So we're it.

And when the French foreign minister continues to meet with Arafat after the United States has correctly said that Arafat is an obstacle to peace and we will not meet with him, that does nothing but make it harder for there to be peace in the Middle East.

And I do think we've come to a point where we have to say to the French, "Come on, face the facts, get with it. You are not being a good ally of ours and you are not being an effective proponent of peace in the Middle East if you continue to foster Arafat's illusions that he is the power; that won't work."

SNOW: There also are reports that French passports were found in Iraq, presumably for use by fleeing members of Saddam Hussein's regime. Has France actually not only been less than an ally, but, in some cases, an enemy of American policy?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm hesitant to go that far based on those stories. We ought to look at them.

I was very offended, leading up to the war against Saddam -- which, as you know, I supported -- that the French not only took a position against that, which they have a right to do, I thought it was the wrong position, but they went out and lobbied in the United Nations, in the Security Council, for other nations not to join with us.

I remember the trip that Prime Minister Villepin took to Africa to lobby some of the nations there. That was not the act of an ally.

And we -- it is in our interest, and it is even more in the French interest, to get our relationship back on track, even acknowledging occasional differences.

But the French had not taken any of the steps that would make that easier, and it's unfortunate.

SNOW: The Washington Post is reporting today that the administration is contemplating a change in policy, forgetting the notion of engaging the government of Iran, and instead seeking regime change. Is that the proper goal?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I think so. I've actually been saying that for quite a while, that we've got to begin to look at Iran the way we looked at the Soviet Union for a long time, which is the people are on our side. Every poll says that. Every time they get a chance to vote, the Iranians vote for reform.

There is a small group of extremists at the top of the Iranian government, very much like the small group of communists at the top of the Soviet Union, who will not deal with us.

Of course, the Iranians even are more detached from us, and more extreme than the Soviets were. And I think what -- we want to have a policy that looks for the Lech Walesas and Vaclav Havels of -- and in some senses the Gorbachevs -- of Iran, and encourage them in every way we can.

SNOW: Do you believe Iran is ripe for a regime change?

LIEBERMAN: Well, yes. I mean, I think it would be in the interest of the world, and most particularly of the Iranian people, to have a regime change in Iran.

I'm not suggesting military action by us, but Tom Friedman of The New York Times, I believe, said recently -- or a while ago that there's no nation in the world where the government is more anti- American and the people are more pro-American than Iran, and that's the equation we have to flip.

SNOW: Senator, let me race through a series of issues here.

Homeland security: There is concern that the administration is trying to bottle up a September 11th inquiry, an 800-page report. Do you think administration concerns about publicizing the president's daily security briefing and all that are legitimate, and is there some way to work those out, or do you think there's a stonewall going on?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I think, when it comes to September 11th, that the administration ought to open up all the information that it has, because we've got to find out -- and that's why John McCain and I fought for the commission that now exists. The administration fought us on that commission all along the way, I couldn't understand why. Finally, it got adopted. They tried to underfund it. We fought for more funding. Now that funding is there.

Now they're resisting turning over information to the commission that the joint congressional inquiry came up with. I think that's a mistake. We're not going to be able to say that we're doing everything possible to prevent another September 11th-type terrorist attack unless we know everything that happened before September 11th.

We haven't really held anyone accountable, and there were tremendous failures, in intelligence, and perhaps other parts of our government, that we have to correct. And so the only way to do that -- this is, the truth will make you free. And until we get all the information, we won't know the truth.

So the administration right now looks like it's stonewalling, begrudging cooperation, that ought to end. Everybody gains from letting the truth come out.

SNOW: Congress passed an interesting tax cut this week. It's a tax cut that has expiration dates for various parts. Some expire in 2004, some 2005, some 2008.

If you were president, would you allow those tax cuts to expire, and taxes to go back up in the years 2005 and 2008?

LIEBERMAN: Well, it depends where the economy is at the time. I mean, of course, you'd rather -- and it depends which taxes. There are some middle-class tax cuts that naturally you'd like to keep in place. There's other tax cuts that I think are extremely wasteful.

I mean, this administration essentially has one fiscal policy, and it hasn't worked. They have drained the national treasury, the national bank account, and the economy is still in stagnation. Even after it was clear that the latest Bush fiscal proposal was going to pass, the markets yawned.

I mean, these folks are making a bet. They're basically doubling a bet that they made in 2001 that they thought would help our economy grow that hasn't helped our economy grow, and the problem is they're betting our money. We're going into the greatest debt in the history of our country. It's coming out of the Medicare and Social Security trust funds. Our kids and we are going to have to pay it back.

This administration -- this is a...

SNOW: I constantly hear it's coming out of these trust funds. There are plenty of other ways that the government could do it, including cutting spending. Surely you're not saying that if this is written into law; nobody has said that it will come out of those trust funds.

LIEBERMAN: No, but the fact is that this president and this Republican-controlled Congress are not cutting spending. They're actually increasing spending, and depriving the government of revenues. And when you do that, you put the nation on a course to a kind of bankruptcy, which all of us will pay for.

The real crying outrage of this fiscal program that has just passed is that we need a stimulus right now. The president has pushed through this $350-billion minimum-cost program. Only $60 billion will be spent this year on tax cuts. We need $150 billion this year, and no more after that for a while.

SNOW: Sir, we've got about a minute, and I want to ask you a question, because I know you want to talk about this.

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

SNOW: There is some controversy about whether Tom DeLay got improperly involved in Texas redistricting. What is your concern?

LIEBERMAN: Well, you had a local political dispute about redistricting. The Democrats went to Oklahoma to avoid being forced to vote for a plan they didn't want to vote for, and now we have evidence that the local -- the state police involved the Homeland Security Department at a time when those resources really should have been devoted to homeland security. You've got Tom DeLay now admitting that he called the FAA and the Department of Justice.

This smells, and I'm going to ask Andy Card of the White House to get into this this week, to examine any contacts that any federal officials had with federal departments...

SNOW: Do you think there's a possible federal law violation?

LIEBERMAN: There could be a federal law violation. There could be a misuse of federal resources and an abuse of power. I want to know whether anybody at the White House was contacted by Tom DeLay, or anybody in the Texas Republican Party, to get involved in this.

This is a local political dispute, at a time when the nation was heading toward a code orange security alert. We ought not to be spending our security resources basically trying to get a bunch of Democrats to come back and do what Republicans want them to do in Texas.

SNOW: OK.

Senator...

LIEBERMAN: That's wrong.

SNOW: Senator Joe Lieberman, I know that you have a health-care plan. I hope you'll come back and talk to us about it at length.

LIEBERMAN: I do. It's an attempt to try to cure some diseases that afflict 100 million Americans every year.

SNOW: Senator, thanks for joining us today.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Tony.

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