This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, March 4, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.
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SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that, in 2004, one united Democratic Party, we can and we will win this election.
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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: It's been just one month since Senator Kerry's colleague, Senator Joe Lieberman, withdrew his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, and today marked Senator Lieberman's first day back on the Senate floor.
The Connecticut senator joined us for his first national interview since dropping out. I asked him about his return to the Senate today.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, D-CONN., FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I went out to the floor of the Senate. It's the first substantial speech I've made since I came back, and I wanted to speak to the urgency of the moment in Iraq.
There's real threats to security. We're facing a combination of terrorists and old Saddam loyalists. They want to disrupt the country. The battle is really joined there between terrorism and security, between freedom and tyranny.
And what I wanted to say from the campaign trail is we cannot let the normal partisan politics of a campaign year stop us all from focusing on how we can get together and successfully complete the mission in Iraq. There's a lot riding on it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does that mean that you agree with President Bush on Iraq? And if so, does that mean you disagree with Senator John Kerry?
LIEBERMAN: I definitely did support the war against Saddam, and I have no doubt that we are safer as a result of having won that war and certainly having captured Saddam Hussein.
I agree with some of the criticism Senator Kerry has made about what the Bush administration did before and immediately afterward. But what I said today on the Senate floor is that's past. It's not unimportant and it will be talked about in the campaign.
But we've got to separate that from what's happening now in Iraq because we have more than 100,000 American troops there. We have the battle against terrorism on its major battleground, and we've got to keep that out of the politics of this year, both sides.
We've got to focus together on finding common ground to secure our common future.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let's go back to prior to March of last year when the war started in Iraq. Do you believe that Iraq was a bigger threat to us than, for instance, North Korea?
LIEBERMAN: I do. Saddam Hussein -- I mean, look -- for me, this goes back to 1998 when Saddam Hussein threw out the U.N. inspectors. John McCain and I put it in a bill which became a law which made it the law of our land to change the regime in Baghdad, to get rid of Saddam Hussein. So I -- he was...
VAN SUSTEREN: But he was a danger because we thought he had weapons of mass destruction? Is that what the danger was?
LIEBERMAN: Well, no, it was more than that. That was part of it.
But the real danger was that this was a homicidal maniac. He had killed hundreds of thousands of his people. He had a plan. He wanted to be the emperor of the Arab world. That would have been terrible for the Arab world, terrible for us. He invaded two countries.
He did have weapons of mass destruction because he used them. We know that. He told the U.N. in the '90s that he had enormous quantities of chemical and biological, could have killed millions of people. This -- and he's the only leader in the world who actually has used chemical weapons against people.
So he was unusual, and...
VAN SUSTEREN: Would you then -- I mean you say that he used chemicals against his people. I mean in the late 1980s, he used it against the Kurds...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... I think killed about 5,000 people...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... terrible tragedy. Would you have -- you know, looking back to that time, to the late 1980s, do you think we should have gone in at that point and done it?
LIEBERMAN: Well, we did go in, of course, to roll him back from Kuwait in 1991. I strongly supported that.
I actually went to the floor of the Senate again in April of '91 and said that I felt that the former President Bush had made a mistake in not going to Baghdad and taking out Saddam Hussein then, and I felt that we'd regret that day and some day have to do it, and we did.
And thank God we did it now. We're safer as a result of it. But now we've got to secure that country. And we've got to defeat the terrorists who have now poured in there to fight us and the Iraqis. There's a lot on the line there.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Are you going to hit the campaign trial for Senator Kerry? Are you endorsing Senator Kerry?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, of course. I mean John Kerry and I had a great talk after I withdrew and I said that I was going to stay out and let the voters decide, but I assumed he was going to be nominated, and, as soon as that became clear, I would give him my enthusiastic support.
I will support him. I'll do everything I can to help him because I do believe, on balance, we need a change of leadership in this country, particularly to deal with our problems here at home, make health care affordable, produce an economy that grows jobs instead of losing them, and invest in education.
It gets us back toward fiscal discipline again. The deficit is out of sight.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. In comparing Campaign 2000 to what we predict 2004 will be like, will they be different campaigns? Will be watching a different campaign season?
LIEBERMAN: Yes. I mean there -- first off, every campaign is supposed to be and is about the future; 2000 occurred at a moment in history we still felt prosperous and secure. And it's part of why I think there was interest in the election, but it didn't seem like a make-or-break election to a lot of people.
We've now had jolts to our national life, September 11, the recession, loss of jobs. People are anxious, and that's what this campaign is going to be all about. Which of these two candidates, President Bush or Senator Kerry, can better improve the security and the prosperity of the American people?
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. In the 10 seconds we have left, do you expect the turnout in November to be bigger than it was in 2000?
LIEBERMAN: I do. I think this is a real-turning point election. People are agitated and feel very strongly on both sides. Very important that we not divide the country with this election. That's part of what I said in my speech today.
There's a danger that both parties will appeal so much to the inner core of the party that they'll -- instead of uniting the country and making us stronger, they'll divide us. That's up to the two candidates and all of us who are part of the process.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Nice to see you, Senator. Welcome back to Washington.
LIEBERMAN: Great to be back. Thank you.
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