OTR Interviews

Unrest in Egypt: An Opportunity for a New Start in the Middle East

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 7, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham all agree on one thing -- Egypt is not just another Middle Eastern country. It is the heart and soul of the Arab world. We caught up with the three at the 47th annual Munich Security Conference.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Senators nice to see all of you. On the way to talk to you I picked up two newspapers in the lobby of the hotel. I can't read German but I certainly recognize that picture. It is what going on in Egypt. How serious is this?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: It's of the utmost seriousness. In modern times we haven't seen anything like that. It certainly heralds a new day which is going to require new policies towards this part of the world, as a matter of fact, all parts of the world, because it won't be confined just to the Middle East.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Graham how much has Egypt consumed the conference here?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: A lot. And the truth is if you had predicted on Christmas day that by Valentine's Day that Mubarak the ruler of Egypt for 30 years had announced that he was going to leave that the president of Tunisia who had been ruling that country for 30 years, that the president of Yemen said he's not going to stand for election, all that would happen by February 14th, people would think you were crazy.

The fast-paced change has been fueled by Facebook, social networking. Egypt to me is an opportunity for really a new start in the Mideast between us and the Arab people, the Egyptian people, the army is key here.

So I've got one simple message if the Egyptian army is watching Fox News, make sure you do not lose the reputation you worked hard to earn among your people. You are the group within Egypt that can hold the country together to order out of chaos.

As Senator McCain said today, as Americans we need to relook and refocus how we do business in the Mideast. Sometime you have to do business with people who have values you don't agree with. We need to refocus and reshape our relationships with other regimes.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: Really briefly, we are living through days of history here. Nothing like this has happened in the Arab world before. I'm leaving out Iran because Iran is a Persian, not an Arab country.

My reaction is, it is thrilling, but it is also unsettling. It is thrilling in the sense that the people of Egypt are out demanding their human rights. It's unsettling because we don't know where it is going to end. And I think we have to do everything we can to make sure that it doesn't end with one small group, either in the government or in the protesters controlling the next Egyptian government. The government of Egypt has to be select by all the voters of Egypt in a free and fair election.

MCCAIN: Let me emphasize one thing. Egypt is not just another Middle Eastern country. Egypt is the heart and soul of the Arab world. One out of every four people who live in this region are Egyptians.

I don't have to review with you the history of this country and the cultural and historical importance. So whether it happened in Tunisia is certainly a shaking event, a startling event. But what is happening in Egypt is without precedent, and we have to adjust to it.

And yes, we will take some of the blame for not having pushed harder for human rights and democratization and freedom and all those things. But we now are presented with a situation where we're going to have to act quickly. The longer these demonstrations last, the more likely it is that a radical element will hijack what is really a spontaneous movement.

VAN SUSTEREN: You look at the pictures they are gripping. You watch video and you can stop looking. If you are sitting back home and trying to get food on the table, get your kids off to school and do their homework, whatever -- other than the higher moral issue like human rights, why should it matter to them?

GRAHAM: I think after 9/11, people get it. People understand back home what happens when we disengage. What happened in Afghanistan when the Russians left and the Taliban filled the vacuum. What would happen in Egypt if the Muslim Brotherhood took over? What would the world be like if Israel is not completely surrounded by enemies, not people who are willing to tolerate the state of Israel?

I'm in a very red conservative state. The people in South Carolina understand the world is connected. But it is incumbent upon us to let people back home know that Afghanistan has been nine and 10 years in the making. That we've lost over 1,000 troops and it cost us 100 billion dollars a year. The idea within 10 years of the Taliban being taken down, they could come back and to think that wouldn't affect our future.

So my plea is the people in South Carolina and the country is to understand that really we've been getting it right for one year in Afghanistan. General Petraeus has the inputs with General McChrystal now to bring about success. We finally have enough troops. So it does matter how it ends in Egypt.

VAN SUSTEREN: The whole idea of the Taliban raised another issue. Prime Minister David Cameron of the U.K. today gave a speak causing some stir. He says in part, multiculturalism has failed and condemns Britain's long standing policy of multiculturalism and says it is a failure.

He's calling for better integration of young Muslims to combat homegrown extremism. He said it is time for a change of policy towards Britain's ethnic and religious minority, saying hands-off tolerance of those who eject western values, that that has failed.

LIEBERMAN: I thought Prime Minister Cameron gave a great speech. I was straight talk. Senator Susan Collins and I were pleased because it was similar to our report on Fort Hood and it brought it home there. It was too much -- there's still too much of a concern in our government about calling our enemy in the war on terrorism what it is. It is not a single group. It is an ideology, a corruption of a religion.

And I thought Cameron was great in saying that. Political correctness has a cost. At Fort Hood it cost the lives of 13 Americans. I think he's right. What we've got to start getting back to, we've been better at in the U.S. than frankly people have been here in Europe, and that is building a community.

Yes you are an ethnic American, but the noun is American. You are an American and part of a broader community, broader family. And you never turn against it and become a homegrown terrorist.

GRAHAM: That's the double-edged sword too. There's certain human rights we are going to pursue, and we are not going to spend money in Afghanistan, Iraq or any other place to have a trial disposed of in a tribal situation where you be get out of the rape charge if the father is willing to give a daughter. We are not going to be part of that.

But we have to understand when w go into these countries there's a tribal tradition that we're not trying to Americanize the world. We are trying to create a stable Afghanistan for representative government take hold and they will have different values than we do. In the United States, you want to be an American, then become an American.

But when we help people throughout the world, we have to understand that there are differences in culture. And the goal is not to turn every country into a Jeffersonian democracy. The goal is to make sure it is stable, representative, rule of law-based with a cultural component so we create allies not enemies and we can be safer ourselves.

MCCAIN: But we cannot for the sake of political correctness allow a situation to evolve where it endangers the lives of our fellow citizens. And it is a careful balance. Many of us argue that we have erred on the side of being politically correct.

I think Joe as the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee has seen that on several occasions, that the evidence was there, but we were very reluctant to pursue it further because of fear of charges of being discriminatory in one way or another.

LIEBERMAN: We don't do any favor to Muslim Americans, thousands of whom serve honorably in our military, by refusing to call our enemy in the war against terrorism what it is. It is not Islam. It is violent Islamist extremism, a political ideology. And until we start saying that this is the old maxim of war, the first think you have to do is know your enemy, call what it is, and then you can defeat it and then we can work with Muslim-Americans to stop the spread of homegrown terrorism, radicalization of Americans against our country. That's what has been happening too much in the last couple of years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: There is much more of the interview with the three senators. You will see it later this week.