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Transcript: Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.

The following is an excerpt from FOX News Sunday, Jan. 11, 2004.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY:  Joining us now from the campaign trail in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he hopes to make his stand, is Senator Joseph Lieberman (search).

Senator, good morning. Good to have you with us.

U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT) : Morning to you, Chris. Great to be with you. Thank you.

WALLACE: Let's start with these comments from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill (search) about his years in the Bush administration. He says the president was so disengaged that top officials had to guess what he wanted from them, and he also says that talk about toppling Saddam Hussein started way before 9/11 (search) -- in fact, within days of the Bush inauguration.

What do you make of all this?

LIEBERMAN: Well, the comments about the president's personal leadership involvement are really disconcerting. And, you know, Paul O'Neill has been a very tough critic of the Bush administration's economic policies from within the administration. It sure looks like that's why he was fired.

And, of course, I think he was right. This administration has taken us into the largest fiscal deficit in our history. The dollar is at an all-time low, and 3 million people lost their jobs. Last month when the administration said we'd expect to see 150,000 new jobs created, we ended up seeing 1,000 -- a very lame performance.

And it speaks to the hurt that the Bush administration economic policy has brought to average American middle-class families. They need help, they need a new president, they need a fresh start.

WALLACE: Well, Secretary O'Neill also said that during his 23 months in the Bush administration -- we should point out that he sat on the National Security Council -- that he never saw what he calls real evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

What do you make of that? And can't Howard Dean say to people like you, "I told you so"?

LIEBERMAN: No. I mean, what Paul O'Neill says there is what a lot of other people are beginning to conclude, that there was an overstatement by the Bush administration of the weapons-of-mass- destruction part of the argument for going to war against Saddam Hussein.

But let me be really clear. I decided long before George Bush became president, more than a decade ago, that Saddam Hussein was a terrible tyrant, a brutal dictator, killed hundreds of thousands of his people, did have weapons of mass destruction because we know he used them against the Iranians and the Kurds, and wanted to control the entire Arab world which would have been dangerous, terrible for them and the rest of the world. He also supported terrorism. He was an enemy of the United States.

And I said way back in the early '90s that former President Bush should have taken him out after the Gulf War then. 1998, John McCain, Bob Kerrey and I and others put in the Iraq Liberation Act, which said it ought to be our policy to get rid of Saddam. And incidentally, that bill was passed and signed by the president. So we did the right thing.

I worry more about the Bush administration's one-sided foreign policy that forced us to go to war against Saddam almost alone and their total lack of preparations for what to do after we overthrew Saddam, which is part of the reason that we've had such chaos for the last several months there.

We can do better. I will do better. I will make it international. I will stay the course, and I'll create a stable, democratizing, modernizing Iraq, which would be a tremendous step forward in the Middle East and the Islamic world and in our war against terrorism.

WALLACE: Senator, let's get to your race. I think it's fair to say that no Democrat has been any harder on Howard Dean than you have been. And let's review some of the things that you have said in recent days.

You said, "We're not going to convince the American people to replace George W. Bush with someone who's taken repeated impulsive positions and then constantly had to explain what he said."

And you described Dean's policies as weakness of defense, silence on values, raising walls of protectionism around our country and raising taxes on the middle class.

Senator, impulsive, weakness, raising taxes? Do you take any of that back?

LIEBERMAN: Oh, not at all. I mean, that's what a campaign is all about.

Look, I'm running for president for a reason. And I said from the beginning, almost a year ago, when I declared that I would be the one Democrat who could provide the American people leadership and strength in the world and here at home, that they wouldn't have to choose between a president who says he'll protect their safety and a Democratic candidate who says he'll make their lives better here at home on health insurance, job security, retirement security, et cetera.

And Howard Dean has just taken a series of positions that are totally the opposite. He's running to meet Bush's polarization with anger and polarization of his own. And I believe the American people don't need that. They need a unifying president. I've always been a bridge-builder. Thirty years of my career, I've rejected the extremes of both parties.

And I've got a very affirmative plan that he's taken the opposite position from: to keep us strong, to give affordable health insurance to every American and to cut the taxes of 98 percent of the income- taxpayers in our country, the broad middle class, which is hurting more than they have ever in my lifetime.

So, we've got a difference. Howard Dean wants to take the Democratic Party back to where it was before Bill Clinton in 1992. I don't want to do that. I want to build on the Clinton record and take us forward, united to a better, safer future.

WALLACE: But I want to pick up on that, because you have said that Dean would take the country back, or the party back, to what you call the pre-Clinton wilderness.

LIEBERMAN: Right.

WALLACE: If this campaign should not work out for you, would you become part of a Stop Dean movement? Would you back another candidate who would take the Democrats in the right direction?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I am thinking positively, Chris. And I believe voters are undecided. We're very encouraged about how things are going here in New Hampshire. Later this morning, I'm going to be endorsed by 250 independent voters who vote in the primary up here, a group headed by former Attorney General Greg Smith.

So I'm planning to be the candidate, and I am running affirmatively, and I'm going to say...

WALLACE: Senator, I understand that you want to be the candidate, but I'm not going to let you off the hook quite that easily.

LIEBERMAN: OK.

WALLACE: If, in fact, it doesn't work out for you -- and, you know, that certainly is a possibility, I think, you would grant -- would you be part of the Stop Dean movement, try to find someone else who you think takes the party in the right direction?

LIEBERMAN: I don't -- I really haven't thought about that. And I must say, I will continue, wherever the voters and the good Lord take me, to fight for what I think is right for the country.

I mean, I've gone through this campaign not saying different things to different groups. I know who I am after 30 years in public life, and I believe I'm the president that the American people can trust to make their lives better and safer. That's what I'm all about. And I'll continue to fight for those principles right through.

WALLACE: Senator, let me ask you another what-if question. If this campaign should not work out for you, but another candidate who gets the nomination says, "Joe, you did such a great job in 2000, I want you to run again as the vice presidential nominee," you would say?

LIEBERMAN: That one I can answer directly, Chris: No thanks. I mean, a great honor and opportunity in 2000. I've done it. I have no interest in running for vice president again.

WALLACE: All right. Let me take you into a different area. I want to ask you about comments you made recently about Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's abortion ruling, in which some people said you made a gaffe and other people say you did something even worse: you committed the truth.

(LAUGHTER)

Here's what you said: "What has changed is that the Court talked in terms of trimesters. But has viability, because of the extraordinary advances in medical science, begun to occur at an earlier stage? The period of time in a pregnancy when the right to choose prevails has been somewhat shortened."

Senator, do you stand by that?

LIEBERMAN: I do stand by the statement. I want to make very clear that my concern about an article, a headline in the Manchester Union-Leader in response to that statement was that it seemed to suggest that I was calling for a reexamination of Roe v. Wade. That was not the case.

I have been supportive of Roe v. Wade for decades. I am pro-choice.

The fact is that the advances in medical science with regard to fetal viability have altered the Roe v. Wade decision already, and that's been accepted by the court, in terms of rights before viability and after viability.

But the basic structure that works is Roe v. Wade. And, you know, I have said all along that, as president, I want to make abortions rare, safe and legal.

WALLACE: But let me follow up with something else that you also said in that interview with the New Hampshire paper, because I think it speaks to what exactly and what you're responding to is that some of the pro-choice people got very nervous when you made those comments.

You said, "After viability, the state can regulate that choice because the interest of the fetus goes up."

Now, let me just follow the logic of what you seem to be saying. You're saying, after viability, the state can regulate and the choice can be regulated, and you're also saying that medical science is moving up when the fetus becomes viable.

So, therefore, would it be fair to say that the state can regulate earlier in the process than it used to be able to?

LIEBERMAN: This gets really complicated, but the answer is yes.

And I want to be real clear about this. Roe v. Wade had a trimester system. First trimester, the woman has a pretty absolute right to make that choice. Second trimester, kind of in-between. Third trimester, the state has a right to regulate, so long as it protects the health and life -- the state's interest in regulating recedes and the interest of the fetus goes up, so long as the courts protect the health and life of the mother.

As science has advanced -- and the courts have accepted this; that's why what I said in the interview is nothing new -- the dividing line is fetal viability. Before fetal viability, the right of the woman prevails. Afterward, the courts have said, and I agree, the state has some interest in protecting the potential life, the fetus, but also making sure to protect the life and/or serious threat to the health of the mother.

I hope that's clear. But I think the basic format is Roe v. Wade, altered by the advance of medical science. And that's why I say that the goal I will have as president, as I have had as a senator and, before that, attorney general and state senator, is to make abortions rare, safe and legal.

WALLACE: Senator, let's talk about your living conditions. You have moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Manchester, New Hampshire, as I understand it. You also said this recently: "I feel like I'm running for a statewide office."

Given the fact that you are skipping Iowa next week, how well do you have to do in New Hampshire?

LIEBERMAN: We love it here in New Hampshire, and it is like running for a statewide office. I mean, that's -- the primaries are state by state. People here take this very seriously. They are totally undecided.

And we feel like we're gaining in strength. I've said from the beginning, when I was way down fifth, sixth, seventh in the polls, that I was going to do better than expected. And I'm confident that I will.

And with that momentum and my message of pro-jobs, strength on security, social progress, strong on values, that we're going to go on to the primaries the next week -- South Carolina, Delaware, Oklahoma, Arizona, et cetera -- and win some, and then be in the finals as we go through February with one or two other Democrats to secure this nomination.

WALLACE: Senator, I'm going to try...

LIEBERMAN: I am the electable Democrat.

WALLACE: I'm going to try to pin you down a little more than "better than expected." You're a Northeastern senator. You've moved into the state. You say you're running as if for a statewide office. You certainly are spending more of your time there than anyone else.

Why shouldn't we hold you to that you'd at least have to finish second there?

LIEBERMAN: Well, look, John Kerry and Howard Dean are from next door. If you look at the total number of days, they've been in the state a lot more than I have. I moved in here about a month ago to focus in on this first-in-the-nation primary.

Nice try, Chris, but I'm going to stick with "better than expected."

And let the voters have their say. I'm presenting them with a choice. I'm the only one to be for middle-class tax cuts. I'm the only one who's got record of real strength on security in the world and homeland security. I got a Clinton-like economic growth record, and I'm socially progressive on health care and education. So, let them choose.

WALLACE: Senator, I'm going to take one last swing at this, because there is a recent poll from New Hampshire that shows you running fourth, not only behind the neighbors, Dean and Kerry, but also Wesley Clark, who, last time I looked, was a general from Arkansas, and you're running well behind him, with 9 percent. How do you explain that? You're running fourth.

LIEBERMAN: In that poll, I'm fourth and rising, in a statistical tie for third.

The people up here are going to take a second look at all the candidates. They've started that with Howard Dean. They're doing it now with Wes Clark.

I mean, Wes Clark has taken six different positions on the war against Saddam, and the fact is that he ended up saying he would have voted against it. If Wes Clark had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, not in prison, and America would be a lot less safe.

I mean, Wes Clark said some things this past week about September 11th and terrorism, that he would promise that there'd be no more terrorist acts against the United States. We've got to be really careful not to overpromise and lose credibility with the American people. We have to level with them, and do the kinds of things I've been doing for years to get tough in the area of homeland security.

And Wes Clark put forward a middle-class tax plan, but it only helps a quarter of middle-class families, none without minor children at home. And mine helps 98 percent of the middle class.

So, I think folks are going to take a second look at Wes and decide that I'm the one who they know what will do as president, and I'm the one who can beat George Bush. That's what it comes down to.

WALLACE: All right, Senator. We're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for joining us. And we will see you in New Hampshire.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Chris. Look forward to seeing you, and have a good day.

WALLACE: Thank you, sir.