Joe Lieberman on McCain-Obama Iraq Fight

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," April 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, CO-HOST: Well, the battle between Barack Obama and John McCain over Iraq getting more and more heated. Obama again pummeling McCain saying McCain supports troop presence in Iraq for the next 100 years.

McCain today hitting back, accusing Obama of having a, quote, "fundamental misunderstanding of history and of national security issues." But is that an effective revolt? McCain backer, Sen. Joe Lieberman, joins us live tonight.

Hi, Senator.

Video: Watch the interview

JOE LIEBERMAN, I-CONN., MCCAIN SUPPORTER: How are you, Megyn? Good to be with you.

KELLY: I'm well. It's great to have you.


KELLY: So, OK, it goes on and on. What about Obama's refined position that McCain supports a 100 troop presence in Iraq is inaccurate?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I think that -let me say generally that Sen. Obama doesn't come to this debate with a lot of credibility. Basically on the question of Iraq, John McCain has had the guts to stand out on his own arguing for what he thought was right. And it turned out that he was right about the surge working to improve conditions in Iraq.

If we did what Sen. Obama wanted us to do last year, Al-Qaeda and Iran would be in control of Iraq today. The whole Middle East would be in turmoil and American security and credibility would be jeopardized.

On the specific question of the 100 years, I think that's an unfortunate example of the way Sen. Obama has used it, of playing political gotcha with a national security question.

If you look what Sen. McCain said in that exchange at the town hall meeting - I believe it was in New Hampshire -- he wasn't talking about a long war. He would like to see our troops, as many of them as possible, come home as soon as possible from Iraq. But the fact is, we're going to need, as we have after every conflict we have been in, World War II, Korea, et cetera. We're going to want to leave troops there to secure the peace that our soldiers have won.

It's clear that that's what he meant. Anybody who says that John McCain is for a 100-year war in Iraq is either not informed or is intentionally trying to mislead the public. And I think Sen. McCain appropriately responded to that today.

KELLY: And now, I've got to ask you about your trip recently to Iraq --


KELLY: With Sen. McCain, where it made some news because Sen. McCain confused the Sunni and Shia and made a comment that Barack Obama was all over. He came out -- this is video of him making the comment. Then you come up and whisper in his ear to correct him.

And Barack Obama comes out after this mistake and says, "We heard Sen. McCain confuse Sunni and Shiite, Iran and Al-Qaeda. Maybe that's why he voted to go to a war with a country that had no Al-Qaeda ties." And then the Democratic National Committee came out and said, "This raises questions over whether McCain can be trusted."

Your response, Senator?

LIEBERMAN: Well, just ridiculous. I mean John McCain knows that the Iranians are supporting Shia extremists, and that's different from Al- Qaeda. He misspoke. Every one of the other candidates for president at one time or another has misspoken. I have, too.

When I heard him do that, I leaned forward and I said, "I know what you meant to say, but here's what you said." But you know, what is really important about that exchange, if I may quote from the Bible, that wonderful challenge, "How is it that you can see the speck in your brother's eye but you don't see the log in your own?"

They made a big deal out of John McCain misspeaking. But what senator McCain was saying is Iran is training Iraqis who are killing American soldiers and that's what we should be angry about.

KELLY: Sen. Joe Lieberman, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

KELLY: Come back, would you?


KELLY: Take care.

LIEBERMAN: Happy April fool's day.

KELLY: And to you, too.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

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