Transcript: Senators Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on 'FNS'
WASHINGTON – The following is a partial transcript of the Dec. 10, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now to discuss where we go next in Iraq, two senators who are both thinking about a run for the White House in 2008. Democrat Chris Dodd here in Washington, and from his home state of Kansas, Republican Sam Brownback.
Well, as we've said, the president is expected to announce a new strategy about Iraq before Christmas. Senator Dodd, what does he need to say?
SENATOR CHRIS DODD (D-Conn.): Well, I think he'd be wise to listen very carefully to what the Baker-Hamilton report suggested. This is a bipartisan group of individuals, Americans with strong records over many, many years of serving our country. They spent eight or nine months listening to a lot of different people about how to approach all of this. And I think they've made some very sound recommendations.
You don't have to buy into all 79 of them, but the major thrust here, that we move from a combat mission, a military mission of achieving success, to more of a political-diplomatic one, makes a lot of sense to me. It's what other people have suggested over the years, but now you have this bipartisan group of Americans who have come forward after this much time and recommended a move in that direction.
Chris, I will tell you, my own sense of this is these recommendations aren't going to be around forever, in the sense that we have an unlimited amount of time to take them. Events make overtake us. There's a sense of urgency in this report that hasn't been talked about that I think ought to be listened to very carefully. That if we don't move more quickly in changing this direction here, we may not have the choices of deciding a new direction in Iraq.
So I'm hopeful the people in the administration, particularly the president, it's in his — the ball is in his court now. He's really got to be the one to move. The 535 members of Congress are not going to change policy in Iraq. The president has to lead us.
WALLACE: Senator Brownback, you say that the — we will not face the American public in 2008 with U.S. forces still in a lead combat role. What does the president need to do?
SENATOR SAM BROWNBACK (R-Kan.): Well, I think he really should look at these recommendations very seriously as well. And it seems to me that what Baker-Hamilton provides us is a chance to kind of reset the table and get a bipartisan buy-in — and not just a bipartisan buy-in, a global buy-in to what we can do to move forward in Iraq and get our troops out of harm's way and out of the sectarian violence.
I think this is an important moment, like Chris Dodd, Senator Dodd identifies as well, and time is not unlimited here. Time is of the essence. And I think we've got a real chance to reset the dynamic, to get a bipartisan buy-in, to get a regional buy-in.
And one of the things I like about the report is it talks about a very aggressive regional political diplomatic effort, which I think is key for us now to really get engaged with.
WALLACE: Senator Brownback, I want to get to some of the specifics in a moment, but one of your fellow Republicans this week, Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, broke sharply with the president's policy, calling it "absurd, even criminal." Is there, Senator Brownback, growing impatience among your GOP colleagues?
BROWNBACK: Well, I think there's growing impatience across the country with what's taking place in Iraq, as it seems to break down more on sectarian lines. And it's not been just what Gordon Smith is saying. It's everybody. And the country has been pretty patient on Iraq.
But now, it's time to move things forward. It's time to get things — the security environment handed over to the Iraqis. It's time to get the regional political atmosphere such that we can engage people in the region. Instead of them poking at us all the time inside of Iraq, us going to them and really trying to engage.
I think it is really time for us to engage a new strategy. I hope the president is going to lay that out. And I think he's got somewhat of a blueprint here in this Baker-Hamilton report.
WALLACE: Let me ask you both about some of the key recommendations. Senator Dodd, first of all, putting a date out there, whether it's a goal, whether it's a timetable, whatever you call it, putting a date out there. They put out early 2008. By which you're going to get a significant portion of U.S. combat troops home, and basically say both to the American people and to the Iraqis that this commitment is not open-ended. Good idea?
DODD: Absolutely. And long overdue here. This is costing us $8 billion a month. The costs will probably run to $2 trillion by the time you're through with all of this, the so-called tail in Iraq policy here.
Without saying that, then I think there's less likelihood the Iraqi political, religious leaders are going to take charge of their own politics in the coming weeks and months.
We've tried every other means of getting them to do so here. They need to understand that we're going on now to the fourth year of all of this, at loss of significant number of lives and injuries, at great cost to our treasury. They have to assume the responsibility here, taking this responsibility on.
I know of no other way you're going to get them to probably move them in that direction than by doing what the Baker-Hamilton report suggested.
WALLACE: And let me ask you about that, Senator Brownback. The idea of putting out a date there. Maybe with caveats, dependent on conditions on the ground, but a specific statement that says this commitment is not open-ended.
BROWNBACK: I think that's a good thing as well, to force action in the region. I also think you're going to need to force a couple of other things, and one is we need to force the Iraqis to start dealing with their sectarian divisions that have taken place within that society. I don't think they've effectively done that. And you may have to see that place move more to where you have a Sunni-dominated area, a Shia-dominated area — you certainly have a Kurdish dominated area — to get to some form of political equilibrium. Because we're not willing to sit on top of the place militarily. I don't think the Iraqis are going to be capable of doing that. And they've got to start getting it toward some sort of political equilibrium.
WALLACE: Some of the reaction, though, out of the White House that's been reported over the weekend, Senator Brownback, is that — a fear that if you put too much pressure on Maliki, that the government could fall.
BROWNBACK: Well, it may happen that way. I don't know that that's necessarily the case, but we've got to put more pressure than we have thus far. And if we don't, it's going to be too easy for him to put the hard decisions off and say, well, we don't have the strength to do that, when we don't have unlimited amounts of time. And we've invested nearly 3,000 American lives, precious lives to each and every one of us in this country. I — I think the American public has been pretty patient. And I think we've been quite patient. It's time to move forward.
WALLACE: But let me — I don't want to put words in your mouth, Senator Brownback, and I'm sure I won't, but I get the sense that you're getting a little close to jumping ship on the president's policy.
BROWNBACK: I'm not — I'm not jumping ship. I just think it's time that we really put pressure on the situation. And we've been very patient with this, and we've invested a lot.
I do think as well it's time for us to put diplomatic pressure to the point where you just park the vice president and the secretary of state in the region. It's shuttle diplomacy, going back and forth between the countries that will receive us, really pushing on them to stop funding things into Iraq and start working with us, because they don't need a civil war in that region either, and to really have them start coming to the table instead of just sitting back and even hurting the situation inside of Iraq.
WALLACE: Let me ask you about that, Senator Dodd, this idea, which is certainly put forward in the Iraq Study Group, a new diplomatic offensive, and particularly this idea of engaging Iran and Syria. Do you really think that's going to accomplish anything?
DODD: Well, it could. What's remarkable to me is we're debating that at all. When I think back, the past history, the 20th century, had American presidents and administrations embraced this administration's view on diplomacy, I'd hate to think what the world might have looked like. The idea that we're not going to talk to anybody in the region, understanding — as Sam has just said here — this needs to be regionalized. Iraq is not going to be solved merely by what happens inside Iraq, but what happens in that neighborhood.
Now, I don't believe in talking to people for just the sake of talking to them, but we've got a very large agenda in that region, and I think you ought to engage and explore whether or not you can get cooperation on some critical issues. Don't make it conditioned on a bunch of things that aren't going to happen anyway. Seems to be that's the way to do this.
Diplomacy is not a sign of weakness. Negotiation or discussion are not a favor that you provide for your enemies here, and you don't negotiate with people who are your friends. So you've got to engage in this process if you have any chance of success here.
WALLACE: I want to switch subjects with both of you. You both are seriously considering running for president in 2008. Senator Brownback, you say that you are the true conservative in this potential Republican field. It turns out that one of your potential rivals for that mantle up there on the screen right now, Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, has apparently changed his positions on abortion, and now it turns out on gay rights, since the 1990s.
How concerned should social Democrats be — social conservatives, rather, be about that?
BROWNBACK: I'll let Chris take care of the social Democrats. I think between the two of us on the show, I probably get the conservative mantle between the two of us.
DODD: I'll give you that, Sam.
BROWNBACK: These things come out — thank you, Chris. These things come out during lengthy campaigns, and Mitt Romney is a wonderful American with great accomplishments. I'm just looking forward to get out there in the competition of ideas.
And I think that's important in a primary. I think it's important for the country to discuss those.
I consider myself conservative on economic and fiscal and moral and social and compassionate conservative issues. I think those are the right way forward for us as a country, and I'll carry that message on forward.
WALLACE: Should people be concerned, though, if someone in the course of the last decade has changed their position on abortion and gay rights?
BROWNBACK: I think they should examine track records. Examine mine, examine other people's, to make decisions about where they think that person is on the topics.
But that's why we have campaigns and debates, is to talk about those issues. And I look forward to putting them out there and having mine tested as others are tested as well.
WALLACE: Senator Dodd, I want to ask you about the Democratic flavor of the month, Senator Barack Obama. Do you have any problem with someone two years out of the Illinois State Senate in charge of national security in the post-9/11 world? And, specifically, during the two years you've served with him, how has he impressed you on the issue of national security?
DODD: Very well. I tell you, he's a very, very competent political figure. And the brevity of his service is certainly a matter for people to talk about, but the quality of that service I think has been first-rate.
I call his questioning of Condoleezza Rice during her confirmation hearings. He was the last person to ask questions, as the most junior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and asked some of the best questions of her. So he's a very competent, qualified individual.
And I agree with Sam here on this point here. There's an opportunity for the Americans to listen to a variety of ideas and discussions and debates on which direction we ought to be going at home and abroad. These are very critical times.
I happen to think this is a defining election we're about to enter for the 21st century. And if we don't come up with some better ideas at home and abroad, I think this could be a very difficult century for America. So it's an important debate.
WALLACE: Senator Dodd, Senator Brownback, we thank you both so much for talking with us. Please come back, both of you.
DODD: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Appreciate it.
BROWNBACK: Thank you, Chris.