WASHINGTON – TONY SNOW: A bomber strikes a U.S. consulate in Pakistan, the federal government issues more terror warnings, and Uncle Sam believes bin Laden is alive and well. What does Congress plan to do about all of this? We'll ask Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
It's Father's Day, so congratulations first on the birth on June 7th of Henry Thomas Daschle, your first grandchild.
DASCHLE: Thank you, Tony. We're very excited. This is a special moment in the Daschle family, and couldn't be happier.
SNOW: Well, our congratulations to you, and I'm glad all is well.
DASCHLE: Thank you.
SNOW: President Bush, just the week before that, on June 1st, delivered a commencement address at West Point. And he issued what may be called the Bush doctrine. It's one of preemption. Let's listen to a quote from that address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt its plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge.
In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Senator Daschle, should it be American policy to strike first?
DASCHLE: Well, I think the situation will determine that, Tony. I don't know that there is a universal option available to us in each and every case.
I think there may be occasions with preemption is necessary, and when those occasions arise, I hope that it will be the policy of the United States to consult with our colleagues and our allies around the world. I think it's important to do this universally, but also in a multilateral fashion, and I'm confident that this administration is inclined to do the same.
SNOW: If the administration were to have evidence that somebody was trying to hatch a plot to kill Americans, none of our allies seemed inclined to go along, would we have any choice but to act unilaterally?
DASCHLE: Well, obviously, our first choice would be to act in concert with our allies. I don't think that there's any question that it's far better for us to do it in a way that would involve other people as well -- other countries.
But if all else fails, if we have no other option, if it means deterring an attack using whatever method that these terrorists may employ, clearly we've got to act in our own best interest.
SNOW: Our Arab allies oppose a U.S. action against Iraq; so do most of our European friends. There's a story today in The Washington Post that the president has signed a finding allowing CIA operatives to do whatever is necessary, basically, to try to topple Saddam Hussein. Is that appropriate?
DASCHLE: Well, I think there is broad support for a regime change in Iraq. The question is, how do we do it and when do we do it? Do we keep our eye on the ball, in terms of Al Qaeda and the tremendous challenge and responsibility we have to apprehend and finally bring Al Qaeda to collapse? Can we work in the Middle East in a constructive way? I think the timing of all of this is very important. But we want to work with the administration and try to find the best way and the best time to do this.
SNOW: You receive daily intelligence briefings. Did you know about this CIA rule?
DASCHLE: There has been consultation with Congress over the last few weeks, and I'm satisfied with the degree of consultation there's been so far.
SNOW: All right. Dianne Feinstein, again, echoed your concerns, I think, that maybe our Arab allies would not go along. Now, there's some question about how stalwart they are. For instance, the Saudis. We learned today that three bombers who were apprehended in Morocco, Saudi nationals. A huge proportion of those who committed acts on September 11th, Saudi nationals.
Are you convinced the Saudis are doing everything they can to fight terror?
DASCHLE: Tony, I'm not convinced of it. I think that we could get a lot more help from the Saudis in so many ways. I am encouraged that they were willing to step forward with a peace proposal a few weeks ago, but I think they could do a lot more.
DASCHLE: They could be a lot more overt in their support and their willingness to work with us. They could help us a lot more in the subsurface efforts that are under way. We're not getting that kind of help, and I'm disappointed.
SNOW: Subsurface -- you're talking about everything from shutting down bank accounts to doing intelligence work?
DASCHLE: Correct, correct. There is a tremendous network out there. And if we're going to penetrate that network, if we're going to do all that we can to ensure our success at all levels, we need a lot more support from our allies, especially those in the Middle East, than in some cases we're getting.
SNOW: There is a private television network owned by Saudi princes. It's called Iqra (ph) TV. I want to show you a clip that played recently on that television network to set up a conversation about some of the propaganda wars. Let's take a look.
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SNOW: What's your reaction to that?
DASCHLE: I'm not shocked, but I'm extraordinarily amazed that something like that could go on. I mean, this is a country that purports openness, purports a willingness to work with the Jewish population in the Middle East, and it is extremely disturbing.
SNOW: What would you like to see the administration do? You've mentioned in general terms, the approach to the Saudis? Is there anything specifically you'd like to see the administration do or say to the Saudi government?
DASCHLE: Well, I think what the administration ought to say is basically what they are saying, and that is, look, you've got to work with us as aggressively as you can, you can't tolerate things like that on the news, you've got to be sure that you don't foment additional disruption and the hatred that exists right now toward the Jewish community, this has got to stop.
And I think we need to be aggressive, we need to be even confrontational with the leadership of the Saudi government in those occasions when they're not doing enough, and when they are sponsoring this propaganda of the ilk that we've just seen.
SNOW: Should the United States be more aggressive on the propaganda front? Joe Biden has suggested pumping as much as $250 million into a U.S. television effort in that region to get our side of the story out.
DASCHLE: Well, Tony, I do think we've got to be a lot more aggressive, not only with propaganda, but with the economic side of our international involvement. I'd like to see more effort made in Africa and the Middle East and South Asia in economic connections with these countries. I think that could go a long way in helping improve our image.
But propaganda -- the old -- the public-relations campaign needs to be a lot more formidable than it is right now.
SNOW: We mentioned the president's homeland security bill's going to be coming to Capitol Hill this week. You and others complained when it was first announced that it was hatched in too much secrecy. Why should the White House have consulted you first?
DASCHLE: Well, I don't know that it needed to consult us first. I think consultation along the way wouldn't have been bad.
You know, you're talking about what some have described as the biggest federal reorganization in 50 years. You don't take matters like that lightly. That is a big responsibility. There's a lot of work and a lot of effort and, I would think, from the administration's point of view, a lot of need to work with the Congress to ensure that this is done in the right way.
The more there is consultation, the more likely it is we're going to be able to work together to try to do the best job of accomplishing what we all want.
SNOW: So what's going to happen to the bill?
DASCHLE: Oh, I believe it'll pass. I think that, in spite of what may have been rough beginnings, I think the fact is that we recognized a few weeks ago -- we've already passed it out of committee -- that it is necessary. This is something we should...
SNOW: So you're talking about Joe Lieberman's bill...
SNOW: ... and let's face it, the White House patterned its plan after Senator Lieberman's bill, knowing the political realities.
What about this notion that the FBI and CIA need greater reform and maybe even need parts of their operations folded into this new department?
DASCHLE: Well, Tony, those are questions that we want to ask and come to some conclusion about. The hearings are just beginning. We're trying to decide just what should we do with the FBI and the CIA, how can we make them work more closely together.
Senator Lieberman suggests that there be an office of coordination in the White House to force that kind of cooperative effort more effectively. But we're going to look at the options available to us and make some conclusions...
SNOW: What's the White House...
DASCHLE: ... and I don't think anyone has done it yet.
SNOW: What's the White House telling you?
DASCHLE: Well, the White House is generally opposed, I'm told, to that approach. I think that -- I hope we can find a way with which to deal with the issue. I think it makes a lot of sense.
SNOW: There have been some insinuations that a number of the initiatives have been rolled out with political timing in mind. For instance, the president giving the speech the same day Coleen Rowley testified on Capitol Hill. Do you think that's the case?
DASCHLE: I would hope not. I would hope not. I would hope that...
SNOW: You say you hope not. Do you have a suspicion that maybe it was?
DASCHLE: No. No, I don't. I just -- I'm telling you how I feel. I just hope not, because I think these are too important and the issues are too sensitive for us to be politicizing them on either side.
I do get concerned when I hear about Karl Rove's presentations to Republican leadership saying we've got to maximize the political value of the war effort, and that's troubling. But I would hope that actions taken by the White House would be done irrespective of politics.
SNOW: Well, conversely, you've got Democrats, such as Max Baucus, who are taking out ads showing them with the president. So clearly, they're trying to capitalize on George W. Bush's wartime popularity, too.
DASCHLE: Well, they're certainly illustrating their desire to work with a Republican president, and I don't have any problem with that. Working together is something we should do. But politicizing the war effort is not something I think we should do on either side.
SNOW: There has been a political fight over whether to have a bipartisan commission to look into what happened before September 11th. You said that there is going to be a vote on it this month. Still on schedule, or is it dead?
DASCHLE: Well, it's -- I don't know that I said I was going to do it this month. I did say that I think it is important we have a vote on it some time.
Obviously, I don't think the votes are clearly there right now. They may be. But we have so much other work we're going to be doing that we'll hold off, at least for a period of time.
But I do think that this is a very important concept. It's something that will happen sooner or later. There is no doubt in my mind a commission some day will be formed and will look into all the things that happened and give us a better assessment of why it happened and what we can do to prevent it in the future.
SNOW: The president is going to give a speech this week on Middle East policy. There is some speculation he is going to propose a provisional Palestinian state. Do you have any clue what that means?
DASCHLE: I don't. I don't. I'll look forward to hearing from the president directly to find out.
I do think that it is important for us to be pushing for a regime change, speaking of that, in Palestine as well -- in the Palestinian movement. And I think it is critical that we get help from our Arab allies. We've got to find somebody who can make decisions on a more constructive basis than what we've seen from Mr. Arafat.
SNOW: Do you think our Arab allies are as fed up with Yasser Arafat as President Bush seems to be?
DASCHLE: Privately, Tony, they tell you they are. They are very concerned about the direction and the lack of leadership and the concern that they've got for the direction that the PLO is moving today. They'd like to see more constructive leadership, and our admonition to them is, "Help us get it."
SNOW: So in your opinion, Yasser Arafat needs to go?
DASCHLE: Well, my opinion, yes, sooner or later it has to happen. There has to be a regime change there. It has to happen from within the Palestinian movement. I don't think we can force it ourselves. But I do think that it's necessary in order to reach some peaceful arrangement.
SNOW: Does that mean we should encourage the Israelis not to negotiate with Arafat and we should not do so ourselves?
DASCHLE: Well, I think until that happens we've got to deal with what we've got. I don't want to wait for that moment sometime out there when this happens. In the meantime, I think we've got to do all that we can to work with the leadership and express our disappointment and our very serious concerns for the lack of leadership shown by Arafat on so many occasions.
SNOW: Senator Joseph Lieberman has suggested suspending the tax cuts that were enacted a couple of years ago. Do you support that?
DASCHLE: I don't. I think that what we've got to do is not support any future tax cuts. That's why we had the debate on the estate tax. It's why, at some point this year, we'll probably have a debate on the additional tax cut made -- the proposal made by the president to make permanent the tax cuts that we passed last year. Those are the kinds of things, Tony, that I think we've got to do.
I believe that at some point we may have to get into this debate. But right now, I think we needed to stay focused on where we can do the most good. And that is, stop the hemorrhaging.
SNOW: So tax cuts not on your agenda this year?
DASCHLE: Well, the tax cuts...
SNOW: Tax increases not also?
DASCHLE: That's correct. There will be other tax cut votes most likely. But I don't see any increase in taxes this year, for sure.
SNOW: Have you and Trent Lott reached a deal on permitting the appointment of Democrats to various administrative panels? And therefore also, more expeditious hearings on Republican judicial nominees?
DASCHLE: We are getting closer. We had some very good discussions last week, and I think that before the end of this week we will probably reach some formal agreement. But we made real progress.
SNOW: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, again, Happy Father's Day, and thank you for joining us.
DASCHLE: Thank you, Tony.