Mitch Daniels, White House Budget Director

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, March 17, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: It's all over but the counting. War imminent. Getting a clear figure on the cost, far from it. We know we're up to the military challenge. But are we up to the financial one as well? With some thoughts, White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels. Director, good to have you.


CAVUTO: How much will this war cost?

DANIELS: Won't be cheap. Probably not as much as some have theorized, but we will be ready to discuss that with the leadership and then the entire Congress and country very quickly, if the president is finally forced to make a decision to go to war.

CAVUTO: All right. Tonight he is going to address the nation. Is he more or less going to stake out that claim, that this is it?

DANIELS: I think I'll let the president give his own speech, but he has indicated -- I know Ari Fleischer did earlier this afternoon that the diplomatic window has closed, and really the time for decision is here.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you about the costs, though. I mean, last time, 80 percent of the costs of the Persian Gulf War was born by our allies. This time, it is the inverse relationship. And I'm wondering whether we can afford it.

DANIELS: Well, first of all, we don't know yet. In fact, I have every hope that there will be substantial international participation, as the situation and if and when the situation moves forward.

Also, it needs to be remembered that this is a country with very substantial assets of its own, so in terms of the cost of reconstruction, those assets belong to the Iraqi people, and they certainly ought to be in the mix as the aftermath unfolds.

CAVUTO: Do you know, Director, whether have there been plans for a post-Iraq government, whether the rebuilding and the new contracts for the oil-related industries are going to be targeted for those in support of the United States and against those who do not?

DANIELS: I would only say that the president has clearly articulated a vision for a peaceful and eventually prosperous Iraq.

CAVUTO: But would that include giving the French contracts?

DANIELS: I think that is a decision for ultimately the people of Iraq to make. You know, the business of reconstruction...


CAVUTO: Well, in the interim, we are the guys running the show, right?

DANIELS: Well, let's still cling to the hope yet of a resolution that doesn't require all the reconstruction that a war might necessitate.

CAVUTO: Are you worried about these moderate Republicans in both the House and the Senate who are not keen on the president's tax cut plan?

DANIELS: No, they have a sincere point of view, and we've been visiting with them at some length. We are not that far apart. Now, the president, I think, has won the argument about whether to act on the economy or not, and people are only discussing the extent of the action, the extent of stimulative measures, and which ones to take.

CAVUTO: So you still think it will go through as the president wants?

DANIELS: I still hope so, and you know, I think the next few days will tell us a lot.

CAVUTO: For whether you can do the whole thing, or beyond?

DANIELS: Whether we can do the entire package as we really hope to do.

CAVUTO: All right, Mr. Daniels, always good seeing you.

DANIELS: Yes, sir.

CAVUTO: Thank you very much. Mitch Daniels, the White House budget director.

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