Transcript: Sens. Allen, Reed on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript of the Feb. 12, 2006 edition of "FOX News Sunday":

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Republicans are working to make national security the key campaign issue this year, but will the strategy work with voters? We turn for answers to Senators George Allen, Republican of Virginia, and Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode island.

Senators, welcome to "FOX News Sunday" and thanks so much for braving the wintry weather to get in here today. I know it wasn't easy for either of you.

ALLEN: The Farmer's Almanac was correct. This full moon is a snow moon.

WALLACE: Thank you for that, Senator. I want to begin, Senator Allen, with something that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said this week. Take a look.


CLINTON: You know, contrary to Franklin Roosevelt — "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" — this crowd is "All we've got is fear and we're going to keep playing the fear cord."


WALLACE: Senator Allen, when President Bush trumpets a foiled terrorist plot from four years ago, when Vice President Cheney talks about the current debate over the NSA wiretaps as a campaign issue, are Republicans playing the fear card?

ALLEN: Well, I believe that Republicans — and I would hope all Americans recognize that we're in the midst of a war on terror and that we ought to be united.

And we're going to need to do a lot of things to win this war on terror — one, persevere, but also support our military, make sure that we get the right intelligence, make sure in the midst of this war, insofar as the NSA wiretaps, that the president and our intelligence individuals, if they seize a computer, that they get certain phone numbers off of it.

Why not intercept those terrorists or surveil those terrorists' communications? It seems very logical to me that they ought to be able to do so. It's fine to look into all this, but to not play partisan games with it. And also, support our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq as they try to stand up a free and just society.

WALLACE: Senator Reed, let's talk about what Vice President Cheney said this week. Here it is.


CHENEY: At the very least, this debate has clarified where all of us stand on the issue. And with an important election coming up, people need to know just how we view the most critical questions of national security.


WALLACE: Senator Reed, when Democrats disagree with the president on NSA wiretaps, on the Patriot Act, on the conduct of the war in Iraq, aren't those legitimate, even vital, issues in the next election?

REED: They're absolutely legitimate and vital issues. And it's been Democrats who have taken significant steps to try to reform the policy. It was Democrats that led the approach in the Senate last December to make this year a year of transition in Iraq, thinking about redeployment of American forces.

We've been fighting hard for body armor for our troops, for...

WALLACE: So why this talk from Senator Clinton about that they're playing the fear card?

REED: Well, I think it derives from what they've said. Karl Rove stood up just a few weeks ago and announced that the strategy for this election and a partisan political campaign was to use national security as a bludgeon to attack Democrats, not as a way to rally the country together for a unified purpose.

I agree with Senator Allen, we're at war. We have to succeed. But we also have to be cautious and careful in our strategy and policy and we have to listen, and the administration particularly, to valid criticism.

WALLACE: Senator Allen, let's talk about the NSA wiretap program. A number of senators, including a number of conservative Republicans, are concerned about the assertion of executive authority. Do you favor putting any checks on the president?

ALLEN: Of course I do. The Constitution doesn't get thrown out just because you're at war. You don't suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Some of the aspects of the Patriot Act and the improvements in it, of course, have independent judicial review.

However, this is not just legislators. This has been adjudicated in the courts, in the Hamdi case, where when Congress authorized the use of military force, this very sort of interception of terrorist or surveilling terrorists or intercepting their communications was part of the use of military force.

It is ludicrous to think that you would need to have a warrant before you try to get intelligence or intercept or determine, detect, what the terrorists may be doing.

WALLACE: So you think the president already has this authority. There's no need for any additional legislation.

ALLEN: I think the way I look at it — if you want to look at it as a lawyer, the authorization of the use of military force — this makes sense. You don't get a warrant before you attack a building that has terrorists in it. This is not a civil litigation issue.

This is an issue of war, and I think the president does have that when Congress authorized the use of military force, and the Supreme Court in the Hamdi case a few years ago so stated.

WALLACE: Let me let Senator Reed in here.

Do you agree with that?

REED: No, I don't. When Arlen Specter and Heather Wilson and other prominent Republicans have serious concerns about the president's self-proclaimed power to do things beyond the Constitution, that should trouble all of us. And I know it troubles me.

There was no authorization to go around the FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It lays out procedures. It does not constrain the president. The president can tap phones and then 72 hours later go into a court and get approved by the court.

WALLACE: Senator Reed, do you want to change the law or do you want to change the program?

REED: Well, I think, frankly, it's incumbent upon the president, if he feels constrained, to come to Congress and say we have to fix this, I need the clear-cut authority to do this, it's important to the country. He chose not to do that.

And this is the same sort of approach he's taken in other areas — the interpretation of the convention against torture, the Geneva Convention, where he abrogated to himself, just based upon the opinion of his lawyers, that he could do these things unchecked.

This is a country that depends upon checks and balances. It has to depend upon it.

WALLACE: Senator Allen?

ALLEN: Checks and balances are appropriate, and Senator Reed has mentioned several different aspects of it, but the reality is I think if it was actually put to vote in the Senate, I think they'd say yes, the president ought to be doing this.

I think it is part of waging a war against terrorists, terrorists who have hit us in our own homeland. And so I think that if somebody wants to clarify it, they can clarify it, but I don't think the president and nor the National Security Agency should back down one bit in trying to detect...

REED: It should have been put to a vote in the Senate. That's my point. If the president feels he needs no authority to do this — the authority comes from the Congress acting in a bipartisan, bicameral way, and then that authority is vindicated by the courts.

WALLACE: Let me ask you both, gentlemen, about another aspect of this. The president has expressed outrage over the leak of the NSA program, but in court documents this week, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who indicted former vice presidential Chief of Staff Scooter Libby for perjury, alleged the following. Take a look.

"Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors."

Now, we're talking here, gentlemen, about the National Intelligence Estimate which to the best of our knowledge at that time was classified.

Senator Reed, let me start with you. We'll get to Senator Allen in a moment. What do you think of the White House selectively leaking information to make political arguments?

REED: I think it's inappropriate. I think it's wrong. And I think that this calls into question in terms of Fitzpatrick's investigation...

WALLACE: Fitzgerald.

REED: Fitzgerald, excuse me — Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation of the conduct of the vice president and others, perhaps. And I think he has to look closely at their behavior. And again, it just seems to me to be...

WALLACE: You're saying he should be investigating the vice president?

REED: Well, whoever the superiors are that are supposedly allegedly leaked or authorized a leak by the individual in question, Mr. Libby. I think the investigation has to go forward.

WALLACE: Senator Allen?

ALLEN: The prosecutor here, Mr. Fitzgerald, seems to me to be a very articulate, professional prosecutor. And I think the facts will lead wherever they lead, and I think he will prosecute as appropriate.

WALLACE: Well, there doesn't seem to be any legal issue here. The issue seems to be more of kind of a political issue as to how you feel about the possibility that the vice president, because he would seem to be the obvious superior who was authorizing Scooter Libby, was telling him to release information which as far as we know was at that point still classified.

ALLEN: I don't think anybody should be releasing classified information, period, whether in the Congress, executive branch or some underling in some bureaucracy.

WALLACE: Senator Reed, let me switch subjects on you. There were two stories in the paper this week that said that Democrats have failed to take advantage of Republican weaknesses, have failed to come up with a positive agenda for where you would like to take the country.

Question: Other than the criticism of President Bush, other than all this talk about the so-called culture of corruption, what positive reasons have you given voters to vote for the Democrats?

REED: First, we have to concentrate on open and honest government. We've proposed legislation I've cosponsored that would ban gifts from the lobbyists, that would curtail the travel abuses that we've seen in the Abramoff scandal, would make government more open and transparent. But that's just setting the procedure in a way that will serve the American public.

And then we have to deal with real issues. National security — we have to ensure that we have an Army that's capable of carrying out the missions the president has assigned them. We have to get off this addiction to oil but do it not rhetorically...

WALLACE: But wouldn't you agree that to a large degree, up to this point, you're defined by what you're against?

REED: Well, I think we're defined by what we stand for and what we stand against. That's quite correct. And being a party in the minority, we don't set the agenda, so our first response has to be to the proposals the president makes. But we don't stop there.

We have to have positive proposals, and we do, in terms of trying to improve the economy of this country. Wages have been stagnating now for years. We're seeing a growing deficit. It wasn't too long ago when Democrats were controlling the Congress, with a Democratic president, that we reversed this fiscal crisis in the country. We had surpluses and we were investing in the future of the country.

WALLACE: Senator Allen, whatever the reason, I'd like you to take a look at some numbers from the latest FOX News Opinion Dynamics poll that's coming up here.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed say that it would be better for the country if Democrats win control of Congress in November. Thirty-four percent choose the Republicans. How do you explain that big edge for the other guys?

ALLEN: It's hard to explain. It's very hard to explain. I think that they'll look at individual races and individual candidates. I think that people are going to see the Republicans do stand strong for national security, making sure that our troops, as Senator Reed said, have the equipment and the armaments for their safety when protecting our freedom.

We do need energy independence, and we do need more development of oil and natural gas in this country. Republicans, for the most part, want development on the North Slope of Alaska. Democrats, for the most part, are opposed to it.

We want to improve education for young people. This is a bipartisan effort. I'm working with Senator Lieberman, Senator Ensign and others to upgrade our engineering and science education in this country.

A big difference is taxes. Republicans want to keep taxes low. Democrats want to increase taxes. The tax cuts that we passed have actually spurred economic growth. Four and a half million new jobs have been created in the private sector. Raising taxes will make this country less competitive with less opportunity for people to get good- paying jobs.

And the other issue is values. And I think Republicans stand with most people thinking we need fiscal sanity. Personally, I think the president ought to be accorded the power I had as governor of the line-item veto to knock out non-essential spending.

And as far as Congress is concerned, I find it absolutely absurd the full-time legislature can't get their appropriations bills done on time, and I think we ought to have a penalty and hold up salaries and paychecks after October 1st if the appropriations bills are not passed.

And finally, judges is a big values issue, and the Democrats generally have tried to obstruct judges who understand their role is to apply the law, not invent it.

WALLACE: Senator Reed, we've got less than a minute left, and I want to talk to you about one final issue. When I was asking you about the Democrats and what they're for, the first thing you mentioned was clean government.

I want to show you something that the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, had to say here on "FOX News Sunday" a few weeks ago. Take a look.


REID: So don't lump me in with Jack Abramoff. This is a Republican scandal. Don't try to give any of it to me.


WALLACE: But it came out this week that Senator Reid's office had repeated contacts with Abramoff's lobbying firm, that he wrote at least four letters that were helpful to Indian tribes that were Abramoff clients, and that shortly after each of those letters he received a campaign donation.

I understand that the Republicans have plenty of involvement with Jack Abramoff, but aren't there some Democratic fingerprints here, too?

REED: Well, Harry is a great man integrity. And I don't doubt that integrity at all. And it turns out that these supposed contacts were peripheral to Abramoff. This is a Republican scandal. Abramoff was a Republican. He only contributed to Republicans.

WALLACE: There's evidence that he authorized or suggested — he wrote a list in which he said send money to Harry Reid's PAC, political action committee.

REED: Well, that might be the case, but I have been serving with Harry Reid now for years. His concern about Indian education precedes, I think, Abramoff. His zealous protection of the gaming industry in Nevada, I think, shapes his votes much more than any other influence, and that influence is based upon taking care of his state's major industry.

So I think this is a situation where the Republicans are really reaching far and wide to try to bring Democrats into the scandal. But this is a scandal that's a result of the domination of the Congress by the Republicans and the White House by the Republicans, the whole K Street project — all of it deliberate. The Republicans are trying to tear the walls down between lobbyists and Congress. We've got to build those walls back up.

WALLACE: Senator Reed, Senator Allen, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you both so much for coming in with some tough weather. To be continued.

REED: Thanks, Chris.

WALLACE: Thank you both.

ALLEN: Thank you.