Following is a transcripted excerpt from Fox News Sunday, April 21, 2002.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Here with questions are the Fox All-Stars: Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio; and Juan Williams, also national correspondent for National Public Radio. Fox News contributors all.
Senator, good morning. It's nice to have you.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-Conn.): Morning, Brit. Good to be here.
HUME: I want to take you back to something you said last weekend about the president and his policy on the Mideast. Let's listen to a little of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMAN: The Bush administration has publicly and persistently pressured Israel not to do exactly what we have rightly done to fight the terrorists who struck us on September 11. The president risks losing the high ground, the moral high ground, and compromising our own war on terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: Well, that was then and this is now. Israel has gone on about its business and seems to be continuing to do so. Secretary Powell is home, the president has made a few statements. What's your view of this now?
LIEBERMAN: About the same. I do think that the Bush administration's foreign policy recently has lacked the moral clarity and strategic focus it should have and therefore and has suffered a loss of credibility and also effectiveness. But they certainly have the time to put it back together, and I, for one, hope I can be supportive of that as it happens.
FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Senator, let me ask you specifically about the Israeli anti-terrorism effort on the West Bank. Now, the Bush administration has been calling, has called a number of times for them to pull back without delay. But don't you think, in effect, that President Bush and Secretary Powell have allowed the Israelis to continue their effort there until, right now, near completion?
LIEBERMAN: Well, in some senses, we've have the worst of both sides of it. I think that the president asked the Israelis publicly -- and Israel is our most steadfast ally in that region -- asked the Israelis publicly to do something that we should have known privately that they could not do. And that is, to stop trying to destroy the terrorist infrastructure coming out of the Palestinian territories, doing exactly what we have been doing in Afghanistan and Yemen and the Philippines.
And, George (sic), the reason I say they got the worst of both worlds is that we asked them to do something they could not do. We asked them to do it publicly, therefore it had the appearance of our closest ally rejecting the president's demand. For a while, it got into a kind of macho contest between Bush and Sharon. And so, when that happens, we lose some credibility.
But I do think, in the end, the Israelis expedited what they felt they had to do to defend themselves and treated Secretary Powell, certainly, with the respect that I know that they have for him.
BARNES: Yes, but don't you think privately, since the Bush administration didn't exert any other pressure on Israel that I know of except these rhetorical statements, privately they allowed the Israelis to go ahead. Don't you think that's right?
LIEBERMAN: I don't know. Clearly the Israelis did go ahead, and what they did was consistent with the Bush doctrine: Either you're for us or against us. Either you're going to join us in fighting and destroying terrorist or you're going to try to protect them and support them.
And I think there's such a coalescence between the point of view of the president personally and what the Israelis were doing there, that I think it was a very difficult time for him and the execution of his own foreign policy.
LIASSON: But, Senator Lieberman, are you saying that the president didn't mean what he said when he said "Israel should withdraw immediately," or he changed his mind?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I think he meant what he said. But I think what emerged was inconsistency, and that's what I meant when I said that administration had muddied its moral clarity.
The president has been very strong and very principled since September 11. The Bush doctrine is very clear: You're either with us or you're against us.
LIEBERMAN: And why? Because we're going to do everything we can with our allies to make sure that nothing like September 11 ever happens to Americans again. Israel is our ally in that.
And so, for him to pressure them to do what we would not do was inconsistent and, I think, did blur our position and lead others to think that maybe they could push us and the president to vary from that position, as apparently some in the Arab world did in this last couple of weeks.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, are you seeing consequences of that? Do you think that the U.S. has paid a price for that kind of muddying?
LIEBERMAN: I think that -- I do. I think that the treatment that Secretary Powell got in some of the Arab world -- in fact, the reaction to Vice President Cheney's earlier trip to the Arab world, in which one of the reasons he went was clearly to explain why the United States feels that Iraq is a threat to our security, to their security, to the security and peace of the region and the world, and their response to it was go to Beirut in an Arab League meeting and adopt a resolution against the United States taking any action against Iraq. That's wrong.
President has a very important opportunity this week. President Bush is meeting with King Mohammed of Morocco and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. And I think this is the moment for him to say to Abdullah, "We appreciate your peace plan. It leads to mutual recognition. Palestinians and Israelis living side by side in peace, let's work on that."
But the moderate leaders in the Arab world, so-called, must now read the Bush doctrine and embrace it: You're either with us or you're against us, for your own good and the world's good.
JUAN WILLIAMS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Senator, this week the United States endorsed the idea of a U.N. investigation into the events in Jenin. And according to a State Department official, the Palestinian people suffered terribly there and were brutalized by Israeli troops. There's some question as to whether or not there was, in fact, a slaughter.
Do you think that the administration was wrong in endorsing this U.N. investigation?
LIEBERMAN: No, I think they were right. Look, it's one thing to support the right of the Israelis to defend themselves and to seek out and destroy terrorists. That doesn't mean you -- you don't look at anything that happened there.
From all that I've read, there is no evidence of a slaughter or a massacre, but destruction occurred. It deserves investigation.
Look, charges like this were made against us for actions that we were involved in militarily in Bosnia, for instance, even in Afghanistan, and they ought to be investigated. But, you know, war is hell, as people have said for a long time, and that's just the reality.
WILLIAMS: Was it necessary, you think, to destroy the infrastructure, as some would argue, to humiliate the Palestinians? And do you think that this, in fact, impedes the possibility of any peace strategy, any peace plan now taking place?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I think the real impediment to peace in the region is the fact that the terrorists operating from the Palestinian territories have hijacked the legitimate cause of Palestinian nationalism, Palestinian statehood...
WILLIAMS: Well, let me...
LIEBERMAN: ... and that the goal is not sovereignty, but the destruction of the state of Israel, just as the goal of the terrorists who hit us on September 11 was simply to destroy America.
WILLIAMS: Let me switch gears for a second and go to domestic politics in your speech last week in Florida.
WILLIAMS: Let's talk a little bit about what's going on inside the Democratic Party. Clearly, you have neo-conservatives and the Jewish community solidly aligned in support of Israel on this matter. And of course, then you have Democrats who, I would say, well, you know, all over the place, in terms of support for Israel.
Does this mean that the old Democratic coalition is going to break apart and you're likely see Jewish voters go with the Republican Party in the midterms and in 2004?
LIEBERMAN: Juan, I have a very different view of political reality, as I see it, particularly on Capitol Hill. I think you've got very strong pro-Israel majorities in both parties because of the connection on values, on democracy, on human rights, and as fighting this same war against terrorism.
Israel has become a frontline state in the war against terrorism. At the pro-Israel rally last Monday, there were a lot of non-Jews there. And since this is a question of values on security and peace, it ought not to divide on religious or ethnic grounds, and thank God it hasn't.
BARNES: Senator, I have a couple of questions about your running mate in 2000, former Vice President Al Gore. You were there, you heard his speech in Florida where he only talked about domestic policy and never mentioned the Middle East, for instance.
What did you think of his speech?
LIEBERMAN: He gave a great speech. It was a rip-roaring speech. It was good to have Al Gore's voice back in the national political debates. And it was a kind of catharsis for those Florida Democrats who went through a most unusual pressurized experience last -- in 2000.
BARNES: Are you still committed to not run for the Democratic nomination in 2004 if Al Gore does run?
LIEBERMAN: I am.
BARNES: So you won't run if he does?
LIEBERMAN: That's correct.
LIASSON: Yes. Senator Lieberman, I wanted to ask you one quick question about energy policy. You had a big victory this week, defeating the president's plans to drill in ANWR, yet Democrats have not been able to pass a policy that decreases our dependence on foreign oil because you can't get members of your own party to agree to raising the fuel-efficiency standards for cars.
LIEBERMAN: Well, we've got a good bill, Mara, on the floor from Senator Jeff Bingaman and the Energy Committee. It does support alternative sources of energy. It has tax incentives for environmentally sensitive development. It does have some tax incentives, most important, for new technologies, clean, efficient, American, to power our society.
It doesn't do as much as a lot of us wanted it to, you're absolutely right. And to me, the most significant deficiency in the bill is its failure to conserve, and the most important way to conserve is to make our vehicles more efficient.
LIASSON: Why can't you get more Democrats to support you on that? That's the problem there.
LIEBERMAN: There's no question that it was a very odd alliance, an interesting alliance. And part of it was the fear of a lot of Democrats that fuel efficiency would hurt jobs, but that's just not right. The companies that are building hybrid cars that get 50 to 60 miles a gallon can't make them fast enough for the consumers. There are waiting lists for those cars.
LIEBERMAN: And the new technologies that are clean and efficient and American will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in our country.
So it was, with all respect, it was a short-sighted decision, and we'll come back to it some time, maybe soon. I'm working with a compromise on that (inaudible) better fuel efficiency, and I hope we can pass it.
HUME: Senator Lieberman, it's a pleasure to have you. Thank you for coming.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you.