This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, July 11, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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BRENDA BUTTNER, GUEST HOST: One false statement in the president's State of the Union address now causing one big firestorm in Washington. And it doesn't look like this blame game is going to let up anytime soon. We’ll hear from both sides on the intelligence issue.
First up, Republican Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri who serves as House Majority Whip. Sir, thanks for joining us.
REP. ROY BLUNT, R-MO., HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Hi, Brenda. Good to be with you.
BUTTNER: Should the president apologize?
BLUNT: The president has nothing to apologize for. This is an August political story in Washington.
It’s clear that the president’s comments were not the kinds of things that generated congressional support. It’s also clear that every other group that was monitoring what was going on in Iraq believed that Iraq had weapons, that they had biological weapons, chemical weapons.
As I recall, under the Clinton administration, we bombed Iraq in December of 1998 because we were sure they had these weapons. We’re still sure that they had them at the time.
And, remember, Brenda, it was October, before this speech was given, that the Congress gave the president the authority to do whatever he needed to do, based on information that didn’t include that one line in a 67- minute speech.
The fact is that our friends on the other side don’t have a foreign policy. They realize that the American people know that the president did the right thing by leading courageously to try to guarantee our freedom and help the people of Iraq gain theirs, and they don’t like that, and they’re trying to find some little thing to talk about.
That’s exactly what they found here, something that didn’t make a single difference in how any member of Congress voted in deciding to give the president the authority he needed because they’d already given him that authority long before this speech was made.
BUTTNER: But, sir, doesn’t this raise serious questions about the CIA, and shouldn’t someone be held accountable?
BLUNT: Well, my guess is that there will be accountability in this process, and that’s happening right now in the discussion of how this speech was cleared by the CIA, why it was cleared by the CIA.
Certainly, the idea that our intelligence-gathering would be transparent is a ridiculous idea. We have intelligence committees in the House and the Senate that have the highest level of clearance that monitor our intelligence capacity.
The idea that we would gather intelligence in a public way is why we got into a lot of the problems that we’re now trying to straighten out around the world. We’ve crippled the intelligence community.
We need to be sure the intelligence is accurate. We also need to ensure that lots of intelligence coming from lots of sources turns out not to be what it appears to be, and that’s why we have experts to analyze that.
Certainly, there’s concern about this one line in the 67-minute speech, but the bottom line is it is just that. It was not the reason that we took action against Iraq. It would have been another important thing to avoid, but there were plenty of things that we had to be concerned about.
BUTTNER: But we were looking for weapons of mass destruction, and this was one piece of very important evidence that the president was using. Do you think that anyone who knowingly passed along this information should resign?
BLUNT: I think anyone who passed this along as totally verified has some questions to answer, why they thought that, what the sources of information were.
You know, I’m not in the job of analyzing very technical intelligence every day and trying to figure out what’s spurious and what’s not. There are people who do that.
It’s clear now that this was not the kind of accurate information we needed. It’s also clear that all of the information that Congress had in October of the previous year, when 40 percent of the Democrats voted with most of the Republicans in the House to give the president the authority to take action because we knew they had biological and chemical -- not nuclear -- capacity.
The biological and chemical capacity was good enough. It was good enough for Dick Gephardt. It was good enough for Joe Lieberman. It was good enough for these presidential candidates now who are wishing that they had a foreign policy and are trying to figure out how to get one.
BUTTNER: It has put the president off message, though. How do you get him back on message?
BLUNT: Well, I think the president’s been very on- message in Africa. That’s what this week’s been about.
Always when the president is advancing a new and significant policy, our concern through AIDS, our concern through economic development to Africa, his attention is diverted, those who have much smaller agendas than the president get a chance to take advantage of that. They’re doing that this week.
But a vast majority of the American people know that the president does his best to do the right thing. He’s going to continue to do the right thing. We’re going to hear a lot of nonsense over the next year. It’s a presidential year, and it is what it is, but what this is is much ado about nothing by individuals who are trying to find some way they can differentiate themselves from the president’s incredibly popular willingness to stand up for America.
BUTTNER: OK. That will have to be the last word. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, thank you so much for joining us.
BLUNT: Thank you.
BUTTNER: Well, Democrats are furious over this issue and say President Bush misled the country. Now, for the other side, New York Democrat Jerry Nadler is here.
REP. JERRY NADLER, D-N.Y.: Good to be here.
BUTTNER: Give us your take.
NADLER: Well, first of all, it’s not just one statement. This is one of a series of statements, all of which have, apparently, proven to be untrue, that the president or senior members of his administration made to make the American people believe that Iraq was imminently going to become a nuclear power.
For example, one, the statement that they were looking to buy the uranium fuel in Niger. That’s the statement we were just talking about. We now know the CIA told high administration people four months in advance not to rely on that information, that it probably wasn’t true.
Four months in advance, it still got into the president’s speech, and either he was deliberately lying, or he was misled by senior administration people. Somebody’s head ought to roll. That can’t go on.
BUTTNER: Did you vote to authorize the president?
NADLER: No, I did not.
BUTTNER: You did not.
NADLER: I did not.
BUTTNER: Many of the presidential candidates, however, did.
NADLER: Did. Yes. Let me just say this. I voted for a separate resolution, which wasn’t very much reported by the press, to say that we should back up, strengthen, and -- much more numerous inspectors with troops to make sure that those inspectors could go in and look wherever they wanted without negotiating with anybody.
BUTTNER: But you never wanted to go to war with Iraq.
NADLER: No, my bottom line was nuclear weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein were intolerable. I didn’t know whether they were there. I wanted the inspections. I wanted beefed-up inspections. I wanted troops, if necessary, to make sure that the inspectors weren’t interfered with, but only for that purpose.
Let me just go on, because it wasn’t just this one statement.
The president said in September of last year -- before Congress passed the resolution -- the president, remember, cited the Iraqi purchase of high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuges to separate out fissionable uranium for atomic weapons. That proved not to be true.
The head of the U.N. Atomic Energy Administration said in March it now is apparent that those aluminum tubes were, A, not high strength and, B, not for centrifuges had nothing to do with the nuclear program. It’s generally admitted that that’s true.
Now the president also said -- remember he said -- he said we can’t wait for a mushroom cloud to be our first notice. He was scaring the American people into believing what, apparently, we didn’t have the information to say.
BUTTNER: Well, at this point, we don’t know whether or not there are weapons of mass destruction there. I mean you have to admit that. We don’t at this point know.
NADLER: Well, you can’t prove a negative, but there’s very little evidence -- certainly as to nuclear weapons -- that there are any.
BUTTNER: So you never wanted to go to war with Iraq because the bottom...
NADLER: I never wanted to go to -- no, that is not the bottom line. I never wanted to go to war with Iraq, except, if necessary, to make the inspectors go in and not be interfered with, to find out, and to destroy any weapons of mass destruction.
BUTTNER: The Republicans are accusing you of using this as a political opportunity.
NADLER: No, I think the majority of Democrats, in fact, have been very consistent. Most Democrats in the House certainly voted as I did, against giving the president untrammeled authority to go to war on his own say-so, but in favor of saying send in a beefed-up inspection force, line up the troops over there, and give the president authority to use those troops, if necessary, to let the inspectors do their job, to make sure that there are not weapons of mass destruction but not for regime change. It’s a separate goal.
BUTTNER: All right. Thank you, sir.
We appreciate your insights.
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