Steve Forbes, CEO of Forbes Magazine andJeff Birnbaum, FOX News Contributor

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, June 9, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iraq had a weapons program. Intelligence throughout the decade showed they had a weapons program. I am absolutely convinced with time we’ll find out that they did have a weapons program.


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, weapons of mass destruction. Does Wall Street really care if they turn up or not?

Jeff Birnbaum says you bet it does. He says that if weapons are found, you’ll see a big boost in the market. He’s a FOX News contributor and the Washington bureau chief of Fortune magazine.

Steve Forbes, though, CEO of Forbes magazine, says no way, bottom line Wall Street doesn’t care.

Steve, why do you say that?

STEVE FORBES, FORBES MAGAZINE CEO: I think Wall Street realizes that the situation in Iraq now is rebuilding that area, getting a real peace process going in the Middle East.

Saddam had tons of the bad stuff. The U.N. discovered a lot of it in the mid and late 1990s. He never accounted for it when he could. He committed aggression, committed genocide. He was a bad actor.

If you want peace or to combat terrorism, you had to get rid of him, and so I think they feel that, eventually, it will turn up, and, in the meantime, we’ve got an economy to rebuild and a peace process to push in the Middle East.

CAVUTO: Jeff Birnbaum, why do you say it is a big deal to the Street?

JEFF BIRNBAUM, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Well, I think, if, all of a sudden, the U.S. inspectors or the U.N. inspectors find some weapons of mass destruction, it will be a big day on Wall Street because that has been the missing piece. And I will also say that it is part of a piece with the reconstruction that is going on in Iraq.

There’s been a lot of doubts about whether we have won the peace. We certainly won the war, but winning the peace has been much more difficult. Lump all those problems together and have Democrats hammering at President Bush, especially those Democrats running for president, and I think you have a palpable weight on the market because those weapons of mass destruction have not been found.

CAVUTO: All right. Steve, the point has been taken by others that even if it leads to more congressional investigations, something that might be tougher to do with a Republican Congress, but its possible, that even the insinuation that maybe he lied to us or exaggerated the threat or that the administration was party to that -- you don’t think that that at least hurts his image and, conversely, then the Street?

FORBES: I think it shows the desperation of the Democrats to find some way to hit him on the foreign policy issue, whatever way they can, but the fact of the matter is Saddam was doing bad stuff.

The U.N., despite the cat-and-mouse games in the mid 1990s, discovered a lot of that stuff. Saddam never accounted for it, including last fall when he had an opportunity to come clean on it. I think the world is -- certainly, Wall Street -- has put this behind it, with the feeling that he was a bad actor, bad man, he’s out, now we’ve got to build for the future.

And, as for the reconstruction of Iraq, everyone knows, given the hideous history of that nation almost since it was created after World War I, it’s going to take a good, long effort to bring back real civil society and the beginnings of democracy.

CAVUTO: And Jeff Birnbaum, I mean, given the market’s performance, the last couple of trading days notwithstanding, it would seem to indicate Steve’s right. What makes you think you are?

BIRNBAUM: Well, I agree that the market has been doing well since the end of the Iraq war. It has been down the last couple days.

I think that, without question, there will be increasing pressure on the administration to find those weapons of mass destruction because there will be so much talk about not finding them, especially from the Democrats.

More importantly, if this were to get bigger, if the Iraq reconstruction were to falter even more than it has already, there might be uncertainty about whether Bush would be reelected, and uncertainty is what Wall Street hates more than anything.

CAVUTO: That’s an interesting point, but do you really think that’s a legitimate threat right now.

BIRNBAUM: Yes. I mean this is just the beginnings. The weapons of mass destruction, the lack of them is a problem. You add that to the mess in Iraq, bigger than was expected. The Democrats, all of a sudden, have an issue on Iraq that they didn’t have before after the great military victory there.

If the economy doesn’t come back as quickly, Bush could be in some trouble. It adds to the uncertainty. The weapons of mass destruction or the lack of finding them becomes a bigger problem than I think that Mr. Forbes is talking about at the moment.

CAVUTO: Steve Forbes, I know you have argued -- and I’ll put it in my language here -- the heck with the foreign friends who don’t think much of us or don’t trust us, but the fact of the matter is if we had to go before the U.N. again or the international community urging one action over another, it might rightly think we don’t have our facts right. Couldn’t that boomerang on us?

FORBES: Well, if you don’t want to believe facts, if you don’t want to take real action against the terrorism and their bases and their sanctuaries, then nothing is going to convince you.

In the mid and late 1990s under Ambassador Butler, the U.N. tried to do a real weapons inspection in Iraq. Despite the cat-and-mouse games, they uncovered a lot of the stuff. Despite Saddam killing a scientist, they uncovered a lot of the stuff.

And so Saddam was engaging in bad behavior, threw the U.N. inspectors out, and made no real rendering of what happened to those weapons of mass destruction. And his record is very, very clear.


FORBES: The American people understand it. I think the world people will understand it. We’re the ones who are leading the war against terrorism, and you’ve got to get the bad guys out.

CAVUTO: OK. All right. So, Jeff, if you don’t mind, I’ll let the big cheese have the final word on this. But thanks, guys. Steve and Jeff Birnbaum, appreciate it.

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