Transcript: Gingrich, Biden on 'Fox News Sunday'

The following is an excerpt from FOX News Sunday, April 4, 2004.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Foreign policy has been at the top of the news this week, with that vicious attack in Fallujah and the president's decision to allow National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to testify in public and under oath before the 9/11 Commission.

Joining us now to discuss the latest on both, Senator Joseph Biden, the Democrats' leading foreign policy expert, who joins us from Wilmington, Delaware; and former House Speaker and Fox News analyst Newt Gingrich.

And welcome to both of you. Good to have you both with us today.

GINGRICH: Good to be here, Chris.

BIDEN: Good to be here.

Hey, Newt.



WALLACE: Well, good, we've gotten all of the pleasantries out of the way.


Gentlemen, let's start with Fallujah and the savage murder and mutilation of those four American security guards. When you add that to the killing of 49 American soldiers this month, the second-worst month since the end of major combat -- and, Senator Biden, let me begin with you -- where are we in Iraq right now?

BIDEN: Still in desperate need of security -- more security, more forces.

And we need to, in my view, take the total American face off of this. This is an American occupation. And I'm sure the folks in Fallujah who were responsible for this thought that if they were grizzly enough, they may get a Somali result -- that is, America pull back or pull out or pull away.

But the bottom line is, there's no trained Iraqi security forces, notwithstanding the talk about having 200,000 trained Iraqis. And we're the game, we're the whole deal. And as long as we're the whole deal, we're going to get the whole brunt of this outrage.

WALLACE: So briefly, Senator, how do you take the American face off the occupation?

BIDEN: Well, I think what you do is what some of us have been calling for for a long time, including some of the administration, and that is, when Bremer has wheels up on June the 30th, you have the heavy replacing Bremer a version of a high commissioner, where there is a reporting directly to the Security Council, where every nation is in on the deal; where you bring NATO in, as all of the nations I've spoken with, including the heads of state in France and Germany and other places, would agree to let NATO begin to take a larger role.

And that's how you do it; you have a plan. And thus far, the plan -- I don't see a plan. I don't know who's going to replace Bremer on June the 30th, because whomever it is is going to be put in the position of having to make some very difficult decisions. They're going to be very unpopular but are necessary.

BIDEN: And as long as it's an American making those decisions, America is going to be the one who gets the brunt of all the anger and terror.

WALLACE: Let me bring Newt Gingrich into this.

Mr. Speaker, is that the answer, to have a U.N. high commissioner and to get a NATO military force there?

GINGRICH: Well, let me say, first of all, you're not going to get any NATO force there that doesn't have the Americans doing most of the heavy lifting. It's not possible for the other NATO countries to provide that kind of force.

And they won't do it. The Germans have had bad elections for their government. The French have had bad elections for their government. The Spanish have had bad elections for their government. I don't think they're about to add the notion of having their troops get killed as part of their burden they're carrying, not in any significant numbers.

Second, the real -- and I do agree with Senator Biden, we want to get the American face off of this. But the real key is to, as rapidly as possible, get an Iraqi face on it. We had our first graduating class of officers this last week, beginning to rebuild a new, more democratic Iraqi government. And I think it's very important, as rapidly as possible, to get the Americans out of the way, in terms of political decisions, and make the Iraqis come to grips with governing their own country.

But I think the idea of saying to the American people you're now going to have your young men and women risking their lives for a U.N. high commissioner is a very losing proposition. And I don't think the American people want to see a U.N. commissioner, who, if they're really in charge, making decisions that risk American lives.

This is a difficult situation. Our natural allies are the Iraqi people. And we ought to focus on turning over power to the Iraqi people as rapidly as possible.

WALLACE: Senator Biden?

BIDEN: If I could comment on that very briefly. A U.N. high commissioner would not in any way have a U.S. commander responsible to the high commissioner -- not at all. It would be a NATO command, number one.

Number two, Newt is right, the most that we could get in there initially is 20,000 NATO forces in my discussions with our NATO commanders and with our European friends at the NAC.

Number three, every expert, Newt, that I was -- and I spent time in Iraq, as you may have as well, and also in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. They've told us, from Bernie Kerik to our trainers for police to the military, it's going to take a minimum of three years, a minimum of three years to have a really genuinely trained Iraqi force able to handle itself.

So what do we do in the meantime? If we had 20,000 NATO forces ready in -- and they're ready to come in. I have personally spoken to them. They've publicly stated it. If we had 20,000 forces coming in over the next three months, they could take over the entire responsibility of the border patrol. Secondly, they could have all the American forces out of the northern sector where the Kurds are. Thirdly, they could take over the coordination full-time in the Polish division down in the southern area. And fourthly, we could have our crack Marines and crack forces in the triangle, bringing order.

Instead, what have we done? We've pulled down from 140,000 people to 100,000 without any trained force to replace it and none in sight.

WALLACE: Let me just, if I can -- I want to switch subjects slightly, but you can certainly respond to that if you'd like to, Mr. Speaker.

There's a widespread feeling that, you know, we're approaching this drop-dead day of June 30th, the deadline for handing over power to Iraqis. And there's a widespread feeling that, as we approach that date, the insurgents, the terrorists are only going to increase the violence. In fact, there's talk about an Iraqi Tet offensive, not meaning it'll be that effective but it'll be an effort to make a big statement.

Should we hold firm to that June 30th date?

GINGRICH: First of all, I think we absolutely should hold firm to the June 30th date. We should insist on shifting more power to the Iraqis.

Of course our enemies are going to do everything they can to stop us. This is a real war. This war is going to go on, I think, for 20, 30, 40 years. The bombing in Spain as recently as yesterday is a reminder. This is a real war. It's a worldwide war. We have real enemies, and they want to kill us. I think that part we just have to come to grips with.

GINGRICH: Now, my only comment about Senator Biden's proposal was, he just named all the primarily nonviolent parts of Iraq as the areas that the NATO forces would take over, which would put the Americans even more intensely in places like Fallujah.

The key to a place like Fallujah is to move much more to what we did with the South Koreans in the 1950s: Have Iraqis patrolling with Americans. Have Iraqis on the street, risking their lives next to Americans. And make sure, as rapidly as possible, that we integrate an Iraqi police, an Iraqi military with the American effort.

Only the Iraqis, in the end, are going to hunt down and kill the evil people who do these things. And having a lot more Americans who don't speak Arabic, don't blend into the population and look even more like an occupying force, I don't think is the answer.

It's an honest difference of opinion. But I think we have to focus -- and I absolutely believe June 30th ought to be a deadline. We ought to force ourselves to bite the bullet and make the Iraqis be more and more responsible for running their own country.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about that, Senator Biden, June 30th. I mean, does it bother you that it's less than three months away and we don't know the Iraqi forum, the government panel that we'll be turning over power to?

BIDEN: We not only don't know the panel, we don't know what the follow-on entity for Bremer is going to be.

Who is going to be the one, when Chalabi cuts his deal with Sistani that eviscerates part of the constitution we think is necessary for a republican form of government in Iraq to take place, who is going to be the one to march in and tell them, "Fellows, back in the tent, and figure out another way," just like we did in Afghanistan with Karzai? Who's going to deliver that message?

Do we want that being an American ambassador delivering that message, an American ambassador who has the largest embassy in the world with 1,000 Americans and 2,000 nationals in that embassy? It seems to me that's counterintuitive.

And I agree with Speaker Gingrich that we need to have Iraqis being along with American forces in Fallujah and other places. But, Newt, find me anybody who tells you you can train that force with any efficacy that's going to take place and be usable any time in less than the next three years.

So something's got to happen between now and then, buddy, or else we're going to end up with a civil war there. We're going to end up with worst of all worlds. We're going to end up with a civil war in Iraq if in fact we decide we can turn this over, including the bulk of the security, to the Iraqis between now and then.

WALLACE: All right, gentlemen, I want to change subjects to another foreign policy area and what's going to be the big news this coming week: Condoleezza Rice testifying before the 9/11 Commission.

Speaker Gingrich, what do you think the commission needs to hear from her?

GINGRICH: Well, I think, first of all, they need to hear the truth. And the truth is that neither the Clinton administration nor the Bush administration had Al Qaida as its number-one objective. It's simply factually false to suggest that.

The truth is that the Bush administration inherited an intelligence community that had been very badly weakened, and that there was no strategic plan for going after Al Qaida on January 20th of 2001.

And the truth is that, until 9/11, the American people were not aware of, and neither was the government -- and this is not a partisan issue. It was impossible, looking at every problem around the planet, to select out bin Laden as the highest priority. I mean, in retrospect you can say that. But if the North Koreans had had a nuclear weapon, we would then be having a commission looking at North Korea. If the Iranians had broken out a nuclear weapon, we'd have a commission looking at Iran.

What I most disagree with about the last two weeks has been this notion that there is a magic bullet, that if only we'd done the right four things, that we would somehow have blocked 9/11.

We just learned in Spain, three years into this war, that it's not easy to stop these people, and they're going to keep killing for a long time. And we need a much more strategic approach to this than just scapegoating.

WALLACE: And what do you make, Speaker Gingrich, of Richard Clarke and his comments, which seem to fly in the face of almost everything you've said?

GINGRICH: Well, I was speaker of the House for four of the eight years he advised Bill Clinton. I was the -- I imposed a billion- dollar increase in intelligence. Clinton, the administration opposed that.

We worked with Dick Clarke on a number of issues. He was more concerned about cybersecurity than he was about getting bin Laden.

And the fact is, all of his major aggressive plans for going after bin Laden were rejected by the Clinton administration. So when he sits there and tries to draw partisan distinctions, I think he's just not telling the truth. He's not being honest with the American people.

WALLACE: Senator Biden?

BIDEN: Well, I agree with much of what the speaker said, but let me put a slightly different cast on it.

I made a speech in May before the 9/11 event, and then I made a speech to the National Press Club on the day before 9/11, saying two things: one, that the administration's priorities were skewed, they weren't focusing on terror.

And the reason I did that is -- I'm not such a smart guy -- is that I had looked at the threat assessment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- which occurred in the summer. And it said the number-one threat we were facing was, in fact, international terrorism and Al Qaida. That was number one.

And it was clear to me, we were not focusing on that threat. The very thing that makes this administration so effective, and that is its ability to focus on its objective, also is the weakest part of this administration. It was intently focused on building a national missile defense.

And, as you know, Newt, there's very few people in any administration, no more than a handful, who make the major decisions across the board. And they were fundamentally focused on the issue of national missile defense. That's neither right nor wrong; that was the focus.

And the reason I was prompted to go to the National Press Club and make the speech saying, "Terror is coming, we have a serious problem, we're not keeping our eye on the ball," was the analysis done that summer by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

So we did know. The military knew. They suggested that the number-one threat was Al Qaida.

And, by the way, I agree with Newt, there is no magic bullet. I don't believe, if the president had gone back and done A, B, C and D, we could've avoided 9/11. I'm not making that suggestion at all. But I am suggesting we have a tendency to take our eye off the ball.

And last point, Newt, as you'll remember, we had a proposal, during Kosovo, to try to get you guys in the House to go ahead and support the bombing campaign against Kosovo. Stopped by Mr. DeLay and others was the notion that we were, in fact, violating the sovereignty of Milosevic and Serbia.

Secondly, when the president went in with a meager attempt to get bin Laden with those missiles in Afghanistan, what was the uproar? The uproar was "wag the dog."

What really happened here is, I think, President Clinton's greatest sin was -- mistake was Monica Lewinsky, and that forced him to take his eye off the ball. He lost the ability to lead the nation to take some of the action that Clarke was suggesting. And this administration's biggest problem, in my view, it took its eye off the ball because it focused on national missile defense.

WALLACE: All right. Let me, because we have less than a minute left, let me bring in Speaker Gingrich.

You get the final word, sir.

GINGRICH: Oh no, Senator Biden is, I think, being pretty fair about this.

Let me just say that I was on the Hart-Rudman Commission, which President Clinton created. We said in March of 2001, the greatest threat to the U.S. was a weapon of mass destruction going off in an American city, probably from a terrorist.

The challenge is that this is going to be a long, complex war. It has many dimensions other than military. The Joint Chiefs were not prepared in the summer of 2001 to invade Afghanistan. They had correctly begun to identify the threat.

And I think Senator Biden -- let me just be fair -- has offered real leadership on a bipartisan basis in the Senate, recognizing this is a big, long struggle, not something we're going to solve in any short-term effort.

And I think both of us agree that America cannot get out of Iraq. We have got to continue to win.

BIDEN: Absolutely.

WALLACE: All right. Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. Speaker Gingrich, Senator Biden, thank you both very much for joining us today...

BIDEN: Thank you.

WALLACE: ... and please come back.