Transcript: Congressman Richard Gephardt on 'FOX News Sunday'

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The following is a transcribed excerpt from FOX News Sunday, Sept. 14, 2003.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: Democrats running for president have spent much of their campaign time attacking President Bush. But in recent days, they also began trading fire on each other.

Joining us now from St. Louis, Democratic presidential hopeful Congressman Richard Gephardt. Also here with questions, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News.

Congressman Gephardt, you were an original supporter of an Iraqi war resolution. You have now described the administration's foreign policy, and its policy generally, as, quote, "a miserable failure."

In the last two years, however, the United States has won a war in Afghanistan — the first foreign power ever to do so. It has toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 3 1/2 weeks and, according to some accounts, has created peaceful conditions in more than 90 percent of Iraq. It's put Al Qaeda on the run. And even nations such as Saudi Arabia, now, are showing new respect in the war on terror.

How is that a miserable failure?

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT, D-MO: Well, Tony, I voted for the resolution, and I still believe the resolution was the right thing to do. I believe what we've done is the right thing to do.

But what I'm concerned about, and what is a miserable failure, is the president's inability or unwillingness to get the help that we need in Iraq and to work with other nations on a lot of other problems, like the Middle East, like North Korea (search), so that we really do make the American people safer and we get the kind of results in these situations that we want.

We're losing $1 billion a week of taxpayer money. The president asked for a huge appropriation last week. And we're having people injured or killed most every day. We need help.

I told the president a year and a half ago, when he started talking about Iraq, that he needed to get us help from the U.N. and NATO, not in going in, but in the aftermath. And that's what he continues to fail to do.

I appreciate Secretary Powell's work. I hope he gets this done. It should have been done a long time ago.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Well, Congressman — it's Brit in Washington — what, exactly — just looking at the U.N. as the place which I assume you believe is where you go to get international help, before the war, we all know what happened. There was one U.N. resolution. It was pretty strong. And then a second one was blocked by France.

You just heard Secretary of State Powell tell us what France would like. They would like us to turn this whole situation over to the Iraqis in a month.

Now, how do you deal with a country like that? What concessions would you like to make to France to get to a U.N. resolution that could lead to the involvement of other countries?

GEPHARDT: Let's go back to the beginning. Way in the spring of last year, I said to the president, if you want to do this, you need to go to the U.N., you need to start the inspections, because it's going to be hard to get our allies, who have been in the inspection process with us for eight years, to go back and do a military action unless they feel the inspections are just not going to work. So you've got to start this up, demonstrate to them and their public that this is not going to work. Then you have a good chance of getting them with us.

HUME: Well, didn't they do that? Didn't the administration do that?

GEPHARDT: Wait, let me finish. He didn't do it for about six, seven months after it was first discussed in the White House.

Now, that was a time loss that I don't think we should've had. But put that aside.

He then went to the U.N. He started the inspections. But he already had American boots on the ground. So we, in effect, jammed these folks and said, "Hey, hurry up, we're going to do this if you don't come with us."

And then they lost their public, and we didn't get it done.

Look, I'm not carrying a brief for anybody other than the United States. The United States did the right thing. I agreed with what the president did. But I wish he had gotten — and I said to him in some of the meetings, "You're not going to need their help going in. You're going to need their help going out. You're going to need their help in the aftermath."

But put all that aside. After Saddam Hussein fell — and our military did a great job, and we're proud of them — he should've, as quickly as he could've, gotten to the U.N., gotten to NATO and gotten us the help that we needed then. But we've waited three or four months. We still haven't gotten this done.

HUME: Well, Congressman...

GEPHARDT: It's just — it's incomprehensible.

HUME: Even if one were to concede all of your points as to all of that, you're still confronted today with a — with France, and perhaps others, but France, obviously.

Now, you heard me mention, as Secretary Powell did a few minutes ago, that what France wants to do is to have the Iraqis take complete charge over there in 30 days. How would you, today, deal with France on that issue?

GEPHARDT: I would negotiate tough with France. Look, the French are the French. They're our friends, but they've always been independent and somewhat difficult to deal with. We understand that. But they're our friends. So we've got to get their help.

HUME: And if we don't?

GEPHARDT: Well, we're going to get their help. We're going to negotiate this. I would negotiate tough with them.

Look, their idea of turning this over to the Iraqis immediately just is not a good idea, and we're not going to do that. But you've got to continue to work with them, talk with them, show them respect, even when sometimes it's frustrating to do it.

But get them, with the rest of the U.N. members, especially Germany and Russia, India, Egypt, other countries around the world, to really come on board here and help us.

We also need, in some cases, different kinds of folks over there than what we have. The military's done a great job. They still have a big job to do. But we need people that know how to reconstruct a country, to get governance going, to get a democracy built in this place. This is a big task. This is a complicated task.

SNOW: Congressman, it's Tony again.


SNOW: Everybody acknowledges all these things, but I'm just curious. We've got a lot of very experienced diplomats who've been working on this issue. It sounds as if you're saying we're not using the right words in dealing with France.

Help us out here. Give us the secret to dealing with France, where politicians pad their careers with anti-American rhetoric. What exactly do we do to get their cooperation when it's in their political interest to continue bad-mouthing the United States?

GEPHARDT: Tony, our job is to lead the world. And we created the U.N. — I told the president in another meeting, this is our organization. Harry Truman (search)  and both Republican and Democratic presidents through the years have worked with these allies, with NATO. We're working with them in Bosnia. We're working with them in Afghanistan. And friends often have disagreements, over legitimate issues. But you don't stop being allies. You don't stop working together and trying to figure out the answers.

We've got to be leaning forward. We've got to be patient. And we have to work to bring them to the table, to an agreement that we can all sign off on. That's what we've got to do.

HUME: Congressman...

GEPHARDT: It should have been done some months ago.

HUME: Congressman Gephardt, it's Brit again.

You mentioned earlier, as one of the places you cited for the administration's failure to get international support, Korea. In fact, though, isn't it the case that the administration refused to deal unilaterally with North Korea and insisted on the involvement of other nations in the region, insisted on a multilateral effort that led to the talks in China, at which North Korea apparently has now succeeded in annoying all of its neighbors by its behavior?

In what sense has the administration failed to get the help of other nations on that issue?

GEPHARDT: I agree with what they've been doing to try to get other nations involved now in dealing with Korea.

My criticism is of what the administration did right after the president came into the presidency, because he said the arrangement or the contract that the Clinton administration had reached with North Korea was appeasement. He criticized severely what President Clinton had done with the North Koreans and made it sound like he would have never put up with that agreement. And then he put them in the axis of evil after 9/11, and then said the leader of North Korea was one of the worst leaders in the world.

And so we kind of, by rhetoric, pulled away from an agreement that I thought was making some sense...

SNOW: OK, Congressman...

GEPHARDT: ... and I thought got us in a pretty good place.

HUME: Well, didn't North Korea break that agreement?

GEPHARDT: North Korea did, after all these statements. What I'm saying is, the president was left an agreement from another administration that I think was a sound agreement. It sure was better than having a war with North Korea. And he disparaged the agreement, put them in a very unusual category without explaining, you know, why they were there.

And so we wind up with them pulling out of the agreement, announcing to us that they'd violated the agreement. And now we've got to scurry around and try to figure out how to get back to the agreement that he called appeasement at the outset.

SNOW: Congressman, a couple of...

GEPHARDT: I don't think this is a good performance.

SNOW: OK. A couple of very quick questions. Will you vote for or against the president's request for $87 billion for continuing operations in Iraq?

GEPHARDT: Well, I intend to examine carefully what the president is asking for, what it will go for, how the money's going to be spent.

We need to support our troops, and we're going to support the troops. Exactly what amount that will take is a question that we've got to examine carefully.

SNOW: OK. Do you believe — I'm sorry, go ahead.

GEPHARDT: Let me just say two other things. This brings you to the reconstruction cost also, because that's included in that figure. And I feel strongly that, again, we need to get international help, so this is not all borne by American taxpayers.

Finally, I want to get some money in this appropriation for homeland security. We are not doing enough for homeland security. We're not looking in the containers coming in the country for possible weapons of mass destruction. We're not getting enough money out to the local police and fire. So I hope we can put some money in here for homeland security as well.

SNOW: Congressman, Yasser Arafat, would the Middle East be better off if he were removed from power? Or should Israel cease and desist talking about his ouster?

GEPHARDT: Well, Yasser Arafat is a failure. He has failed his own people. He has failed any ability to make peace with the Israelis. He had an agreement in front of him at the last part of the Clinton administration that I still cannot understand why any rational leader of the Palestinians would turn down.

HUME: Is he therefore a miserable failure?


GEPHARDT: He has not done the job that should be done, and it's time for new leadership among the Palestinian people.

But I hope that the Israelis don't do things that will complicate the situation and make it even worse than it already is. But I understand their frustration. They're trying to protect themselves. This is defense of their own people and their lives, and I understand completely their deep frustration with what's going on.

SNOW: All right, Congressman Richard Gephardt, thanks so much for joining us today.

GEPHARDT: Thank you.