Transcript: Lawmakers on 'FNS'

The following is a partial transcript of the FOX News Sunday edition that aired on Feb. 19, 2006:

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Well, what a week here in Washington, with the fallout from a quail hunting trip overshadowing the business of government. Joining us now to talk about the vice president and other issues are two key senators, Republican Lindsey Graham, who joins us from South Carolina, and Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana, who's here in studio with me.

Senators, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday". Let's start with the controversy this week over the vice president's hunting accident. Here is what Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi saw in Mr. Cheney's handling of the incident. Take a look.


U.S. REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., MINORITY LEADER: This is yet again another manifestation of the arrogance of power of the White House. They don't come clean with the American people, or they think they're above the law and above accountability to the American people.


WALLACE: Senator Bayh, above the law, arrogance of power — isn't that the kind of talk that makes Democrats look silly?

BAYH: Well, Chris, this was mostly a personal tragedy. This man got shot, was in the hospital, had a heart attack. I think more than anything, it goes to show how out of touch Washington is with the rest of the country.

We've got deep problems in this country — economic, national security, financial — and I think most folks understand this for what it was, a hunting accident. Now we ought to get on with the business of addressing the major problems that face the country.

WALLACE: So you think that the House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is out of touch?

BAYH: Well, I would have a respectful difference of opinion on the magnitude of this issue. And to get to your question, look, should the information have been disclosed quicker? Yes, no question about it. Should they be more forthcoming? Yes.

But I think we need to pivot, then, and address the major issues, not make a mountain out of a molehill. When we do that, I think we run the risk of damaging our own credibility with mainstream America.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, you're going to be happy to know we're not going to spend the entire interview talking about this, but I do have a question...


WALLACE: ... or two for you. It turns out that you have gone hunting with the vice president and learned — and lived to tell the tale.


WALLACE: If above the law is a stretch, didn't the vice president bungle this?

GRAHAM: It probably would have been better to have it come from the vice president's office, but I associate myself with Evan. And Nancy is the gift that keeps on giving for Republicans, but Evan Bayh's got it right, and I'm ready to talk about something else.

He's one of the best hunters I've ever had the pleasure of hunting with. He's a nice man. He's very safety conscious. When people get out of position in quail hunting, it can be dangerous. And I think he deeply regrets what happened. And Mr. Whittington is a very fine man. And let's move on.

WALLACE: One more question, and then I promise we will move on. What about the argument that there is a view out there that this is a White House that is too secret, that tells the American people what they want them to know when they want them to know it, and that this feeds into that perception?

GRAHAM: Well, I don't buy that one bit. Mr. Whittington's privacy is something that we all should be somewhat concerned about. No matter what the vice president said or when he said it, there'd be some criticism. Senator Bayh, I think, has put this in the proper perspective.

It was a personal event, tragic in nature, and mistakes were made, but let's talk about what's going on somewhere else in the world far more dangerous to the American people than the vice president's unfortunate mistake.

WALLACE: Well, we're going to do that right now.

Senator Bayh, you said recently that Democrats shouldn't be afraid of talking about national security, shouldn't be scared off by Republicans. But you acknowledge that since Vietnam — and let's put it up on the screen — Democrats have been viewed by the American people as congenitally weak, too soft to be entrusted with our national security, as concerned with protecting Americans from our own government as from suicidal terrorists.

When Democrats disagree with the president about the NSA wiretaps, about the Patriot Act, about the conduct of the war in Iraq, shouldn't voters continue to see them as too weak and too soft?

BAYH: No, Chris, I don't think so. And the perception is one that is inaccurate. But if it's a perception that most Americans perceive, it's one we've got to address. So, look, we can go down these issues that you've mentioned one at a time. We need to do what it takes to listen to Al Qaeda operatives, to know where they're calling from, to protect this country, period.

But there's no reason why we can't do that — and Senator Graham would agree with me on this — while also providing the American people some checks and balances to ensure that our civil liberties are being protected. It's a false choice.

If we only choose one as Democrats, not the other, then we run into trouble. The gist of my speech, as you know, was we've had an administration that's been tough for five years, but tough alone isn't enough. We need to be tough and smart. Too often we Democrats are viewed as being weak. We need to be both tough and smart.

WALLACE: But, Senator Bayh, I just — I mean, you, obviously, as an individual senator can take any position you want, but the fact is that your Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said at a news conference we've got the tape, we killed the Patriot Act.

It was Nancy Pelosi who talked about getting out of Iraq. I mean, this isn't image or spin. These are positions taken by the leaders of your congressional party.

BAYH: Well, we're about to reauthorize the Patriot Act. There was an attempt to filibuster it this week. It was defeated. I think only three votes supported that. So the vast majority of Democrats, Chris, are in favor of protecting this country.

We know that it is a dangerous world. We know that sometimes you have to use force to protect this country. But we need to do it in a way that is both tough and smart. You have to do both to truly provide for our nation's security.

And the irony of all this is, Chris, this administration has done so much to actually undermine our nation's security, whether it's Iraq, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, energy dependence, on and on and on.

Our problem, Chris, is that we want to, you know, hide from this issue. We want to try to change the subject. We have got to take it head on and reassure the American people that we have what it takes in a dangerous world to protect this nation.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, the implication of all this is that the Republicans and the president have been tough but dumb. How do you plead?

GRAHAM: Well, I don't think it's dumb to take Saddam Hussein out of power and put him in jail and let his people try him. I think the president's policies have been consistent. They've been focused. He's got a theme of what he's doing and why he's doing it.

Our Democratic friends have no theme. They vote for it. Then they vote against it. That's Senator Kerry's view of the authorization to use force, money to support the troops. Representative Murtha thinks we need to pull out of the region and sit on the sidelines.

Our Democratic friends have no theme as to why we're doing what we're doing. The president does. Whether you agree with him or not, he has got a reason he went into Iraq. He has an overall strategy to bring democracy to the Mideast. It's tough. We've made mistakes.

But people understand where Bush is coming from, and our Democratic friends come from all four corners of the court and really nobody knows what they believe.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, let's talk about a couple of specific national security issues. First of all, there's a big debate going on in the Senate now, not only party against party but even within the parties, about the NSA warrantless wiretap program.

Should Congress rewrite the law, Senator Graham, so that a special intelligence court would be able to oversee that program?

GRAHAM: I think there's a bipartisan consensus growing for three things, Chris. Number one, to make FISA more flexible. It was written in 1978. A lot of technology has changed — to make it more flexible and more relevant.

Number two, to have broader congressional oversight than we have today, to have more people involved, more eyes looking at what the program is all about, and preserving judicial review, a warrant requirement in a limited class of cases.

I think there would be a bipartisan majority for those three things, and I hope the White House will work with us. I believe they will.

WALLACE: Let me ask you, just following up on that, Senator Graham, do you trust — you know, as you said, more eyes looking at this program. Do you trust your colleagues in Congress to look at this super secret program and not to leak it?

GRAHAM: Yes, I do. Obviously, The New York Times article hurt the program, but the idea of the two branches working together is a constitutional must. It's not a nicety.

I think when Congress and the executive branch and the judicial branch are all together on the same sheet of music, we're stronger as a country. So whatever downside there may be to having Congress involved, the upside is greater. Having congressional support for a program like this makes us stronger as a nation.

I do believe we can provide oversight in a meaningful way without compromising the program, and I am adamant that the courts have some role when it comes to warrants. If you're going to follow an American citizen around for an extended period of time believing they're collaborating with the enemy, at some point in time, you need to get some judicial review, because mistakes can be made.

WALLACE: Senator Bayh, how do you feel about congressional oversight? How do you feel about court oversight? And do you think the White House will go along with it?

BAYH: It's nice to have some bipartisan agreement on your show here this morning, Chris. Look, we need to do what it takes to protect this country, period. There have been some technological changes that have taken place over the last 30 years that means that we need to go about that a little bit different way, and this program is doing that.

But at the same time, I've seen no reason, as Lindsey pointed out, that we can't do what it takes to protect America while also safeguarding our civil liberties. If there are some practical problems, the administration needs to come to us and tell us what they are so we can work with them to address those.

But it is in the administration's best interest to ensure there is some neutral party overseeing this to make sure that it's done right. Otherwise, you're going to have a number of Americans out there who incorrectly think that J. Edgar Hoover has been brought back to life and that there could be abuses taking place. And we don't want people to have to think that.

WALLACE: Let me ask you both about another program that just really sort of bubbled up to the surface this week. The Bush administration has just approved a company from the United Arab Emirates called Dubai Ports World buying and taking over some of the operations, as you can see there on the screen, of six of America's biggest ports.

Some of your colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, say that this is potentially a serious security breach.

Senator Bayh, should this sale be blocked?

BAYH: I think we've got to look into this company, Chris. I think we've got to ensure ourselves that the American people's national security interests are going to be protected. And frankly, I think the threshold ought to be a little higher for a foreign firm. There can't be a choice between profits and protecting the American people.

We have to do, even if it costs us a couple extra bucks, what it takes to protect this country. I'll give you one little example. About 80 percent of the magnets that make our smart bombs go are now made in China. It's not smart to rely on China to produce important weapons systems for this country, just like it's not smart to outsource our port security if there's any doubt.

So, look. We have to do what it takes to protect America. When in doubt, if it costs us a little more money, well, that's the price of freedom.

WALLACE: Would you like to see a congressional investigation of this?

BAYH: I think we need to look into it to reassure ourselves, yes.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, your view about the sale of this company to Dubai Ports World and whether or not Congress should take a role in either blocking or at least investigating it.

GRAHAM: We certainly should investigate it. I don't know if we should block it. But it's unbelievably tone deaf politically at this point in our history, four years after 9/11, to entertain the idea of turning port security over to a company based in the UAE, who avows to destroy Israel.

So I'm not so sure it's the wisest political move we could have made. Most Americans are scratching their head wondering why this company, from this region, now.

WALLACE: Well, given that, why even consider going ahead with the sale, sir?

GRAHAM: Well, because I don't want to make a judgment without all the facts. Just on its face, it sounds like the wrong direction to go. We did this a few months ago with a Chinese company trying to buy some energy resources in the country.

Americans right now want free trade, but when it comes to national security issues, we want to maintain the infrastructure ourselves. We believe we're under siege. We are. I don't think now is the time to outsource major port security to a foreign-based company.

WALLACE: Senator Bayh, one last area I want to get into with you. It's no secret that you are actively considering a run for president in 2008. Last year, a senator from Indiana, you visited 22 states. By the end of the year, you had about $10 million in hand.

But let's take a look at the polls, if we can. According to the Cook Political Report, in a Democratic horse race, Senator Clinton, as you can see there, is way ahead. Senator Kerry is next. And you're back — here you come — in eighth place at 3 percent. With all due respect, sir, why isn't this a waste of your time and money?

BAYH: Chris, I care about the future of our country more than I do the polls. And I'm deeply concerned about the direction in which we're going, and I'm deeply concerned that this city that we're in today, Washington, D.C., is broken and rather than being an instrument for addressing our challenges has become an obstacle.

So I'm thinking about what role I might play in doing something about all of that. And it involves something more important than reading public opinion polls. You know, you do what you think is right. The politics tends to take care of itself.

WALLACE: Senator, one last question in this regard. You talked about the fact that Democrats, fairly or not, are viewed as soft.

BAYH: You'll give me credit for managing expectations well, Chris?

WALLACE: Yes. Yes. I would agree that nobody is overestimated at this point.

You talk about the fact that Democrats are viewed as being soft on national security. Given people's perceptions of her, fair or not, wouldn't be it a hard sell for the frontrunner in those polls that we just saw, Hillary Clinton, to persuade people that she can be tough on national security?

BAYH: Oh, I don't think so. If you're referring to her agenda, Chris, I think that's irrelevant.

WALLACE: I wasn't referring to her agenda.

BAYH: Well, OK. No, look. This is a general perception for our party. It is an inaccurate one. It's one that we need to take on. It is a threshold issue for a future commander in chief. Can we be tough enough and smart enough to protect this country?

Anyone who's going to be the nominee of our party and the president of the United States needs to meet that threshold first.

WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. Senator Bayh, Senator Graham, we want to thank you both so much for joining us and coming in today.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

WALLACE: To be continued.

BAYH: Thank you.