FTN - 09/29/02

face the nation logo, 2009 CBS

BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: Good morning. We begin in Austin, Texas, this morning where Governor Howard Dean of Vermont is. In San Francisco we find Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and in Chester, Connecticut, Senator Chris Dodd. First to Governor Dean.

Governor, you are unabashedly seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, out already raising money for that.

You have said at this point that the president has not yet made the case for war, and that nothing so far has justified a unilateral strike into Iraq.

But Iraq now says, over the weekend, that it will not accept tougher rules for inspection. Doesn't that make the case now for the administration?

GOV. HOWARD DEAN, D-VT: Not quite yet. There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies. The question is, is he an immediate threat? The president has not yet made the case for that.

I think it may very well be, particularly with the news that we've had over the weekend; that we are going to end up in Iraq. But I think it's got to be gone about in a very different way. It really is important to involve our allies, to bring other people into the coalition, to get a decent resolution out of the U.N. Security Council.

And if Saddam persists in thumbing his nose at the inspectors, we are clearly going to have to do something about it. But I'm not convinced yet and the president has not yet made the case, nor has he ever said, this is an immediate threat.

In fact, the only intelligence that has been put out there is the British intelligence report, which says he is a threat but not an immediate one.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Governor, what exactly does the president then have to prove to you?

DEAN: I don't think he really has to prove anything. I think that most Americans, including myself, will take the president's word for it. But the president has never said that Saddam has the capability of striking the United States with atomic or biological weapons any time in the immediate future.

My question is not that we may not have to go into Iraq. We may very well have to go into Iraq. What is the rush? Why can't we take the time to get our allies on board? Why do we have to do everything in a unilateral way?

It's not good for the future of the foreign policy of this country to be the bully on the block and tell people we're going to do what we want to do.

We clearly have to defend the United States, and if we must do so unilaterally we will. But I think the time now is for getting the cooperation of the Security Council and our allies.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Governor, what, in your mind, would justify a strike on Iraq?

DEAN: Well, first of all, a strike may be justified. What he's got to say, what the president has got to say is that Saddam has atomic or biological weapons and has the means to deliver them to ourselves and our allies. That case -- he has never said that, to my knowledge, nor have any of his surrogates.

SCHIEFFER: Well, does he have to have the means to deliver them to us? Or what if he had the means to give them to another terrorist group who could bring them into this country in a suitcase?

DEAN: Well, that's correct, that would certainly be grounds for us to intervene, and if we had so unilaterally, we could do that.

But, Bob, my problem is not whether we're going to end up in Iraq or not.

Saddam Hussein appears to be doing everything he can to make sure we do go into Iraq. My problem is, it is important to bring in our allies.

Foreign policy in this country is dependent on us working with other countries. And I think the president got off on the wrong foot when he was simply talking about "Let's go in there, we don't care what anybody else thinks, we're going to do it."

I think things have improved in the last couple of weeks, as he's turned to the United Nations. We should have done that in the first place. And we need to continue, as his father did, to build an international coalition to go after Saddam and make sure he does not have those weapons of mass destruction.

BORGER: Do you have any evidence that the president of the United States is not trying to do that?

DEAN: Well, I don't think he was trying in the least bit up to a few weeks ago...

BORGER: Right, but now do you...

DEAN: Sure, I think the Democrats have pushed him into that position and the Congress, and I think that's a good thing. And I think he is trying to do that. We still get these bellicose statements.

Look, it's very simple. Here's what we ought to have done. We should have gone to the U.N. Security Council. We should have asked for a resolution to allow the inspectors back in with no pre-conditions. And then we should have given them a deadline saying "If you don't do this, say, within 60 days, we will reserve our right as Americans to defend ourselves and we will go into Iraq."

But there's been this kind of bellicose talk going on for three or four months now about unilateral intervention and all that. I think the American people are confused about this, and I think it could have been very easily stated from the outset: "Here's the problem. Here's the threat. Here's the conditions under which we will go in."

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this, because listening to your first answer this morning, it sounds to me like you may be taking Saddam Hussein a little more seriously today than perhaps you were last week. Is that fair to say?

DEAN: I'm taking Saddam Hussein a little more seriously today than I was two days ago when he began to -- when he, at that time, was not saying what he said yesterday. Today he's very clearly looking like he's going to resist a return of the inspectors. That is not acceptable. He has got to allow the inspectors in, and if he doesn't, then we will be in the position of having to intervene.

SCHIEFFER: All right, thank you very much, Governor.

Let's go now to Congressman Kucinich.

Gloria?

BORGER: Congressman, you have talked about delaying a vote on a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force. You want to delay it until after the election. Why do you want to do that?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH, D-OH: Well, keep in mind in the first Gulf War, that's the same thing that the first President Bush did. He didn't want a vote in the middle of an election.

I think it's very important that we have a great national debate, that people contact the members of Congress. My calls from Cleveland are running nine-to-one against this war.

I think the more that we hear from the people, Congress will receive a better direction about the decision that should be made as to whether or not to go to war.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Congressman, it's odd but most of the Democrats who are going to seek the Democratic nomination for president, or at least say they are at this point, with the exception of Al Gore and, as you just heard, Howard Dean, most of them seem to be sort of falling into line behind the president.

Do you think they represent the rank-and-file Democrats, for example, in the House? Do you think they represent the feeling of Democrats around the country?

KUCINICH: Well, I would say that my calls are running nine-to-one against it. And I think that there are many people on both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans across this country, who are raising questions about this.

Now, those who are seeking the presidency have a responsibility to demonstrate to the country a willingness to be patient, a willingness to negotiate, a willingness to use diplomacy, a willingness to look at the evidence.

And at this point, frankly, the evidence does not suggest that Iraq was connected to 9/11, that there's any connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida, that there's any connection between Iraq and the anthrax attacks on this country.

We don't hear from the CIA that Iraq has any usable weapons of mass destruction that they could deliver to the United States. These are all things that anyone who's running for president should be talking about.

And, unfortunately, whether we're talking about people from our party or the other party, we're not necessarily hearing that, with the exception of Governor Dean and, of course, recently Al Gore.

BORGER: But your own congressional leaders have been very supportive of the president on the question of the use of force. They want to vote on a resolution very quickly, perhaps in a week or two. How do you explain that?

KUCINICH: We shouldn't be rushing toward war. We should be patient.

We should look for negotiations still, at this point. We all want inspections. We need to make sure that Hussein does not have weapons of mass destruction. But the way to do that is to get the U.N. and the international community involved. We should not be proceeding unilaterally.

And the proposal that's going to be before the Congress would, in effect, be an authorization for preemption, for unilateral action. And the United States works best when we work with the world community. We're the light of the nations. We're not going to pursue darkness through saying that we can take any action we want against any nation. We can work with a community of nations.

There is no imminent threat. If I thought there was imminent threat to this country, I wouldn't hesitate to vote for action. But I have to tell you, there is no imminent threat.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, let me ask you this, Congressman. Every indication is that both houses of Congress are going to pass a resolution giving the president the authority to take military action, certainly if there is a United Nations resolution to that effect.

If that passes, and if the president decides to take action against Iraq, will you then support that action?

KUCINICH: Are you saying that if the United Nations approves of it?

SCHIEFFER: Yes.

KUCINICH: Well, I think that we need to do everything we can as a country to avoid anything that's preemptive. And if we're working with the world community, if the world community decides that Hussein presents an imminent threat, then I think that in working with the world community we have to look at the options, and if the options are not anything but attack, then we have to consider that.

But I think that we have to go a long ways before we conclude that the only option we have is a military strike.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Let me stop there and let's go now -- thank you very much, Congressman.

Let's go now to Senator Chris Dodd, who has not ruled out the use of force but he does have some reservations.

You've heard what the two people before you have said. First, Senator Dodd, your reaction to this news of last night that Saddam Hussein says no, he's not going to agree to tougher rules on inspections? Does this change things at all?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, D-CT: Well, I think it probably does to some degree. I think this is going to certainly raise the ante. It's indicating here that there's a certain arrogance, to put it mildly. He's shown that over the years, but this latest reaction is not going to help him, in my view, at all and probably going to bring us closer to support of a resolution in the Senate and in the House.

So I think this is a step back. If he were truly interested in avoiding the conflict, this is going to be on his shoulders, on his watch, his responsibility, rather than on the United Nations or the United States.

BORGER: Do you also think this will help the president make his case in the Security Council?

DODD: I think it could. I think the important thing here is that we need to have a resolution that is broadly supported. I think it's going to -- one that passes the Senate 55-45 or 60-40 I think could be harmful.

I think you need a resolution that enjoys broad-based support. I think there's a possibility of doing that.

I think a resolution that is rooted in the notion of the United Nations being the primary responder to this is going to bring the broadest support to the table without ruling out the possibility that the United States would have to act alone.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Dodd, do you think the president has politicized this issue, as some in your party have charged?

DODD: Well, I think there's been too much politics around the issue, and certainly the statements last week don't help, when he suggested somehow the Democrats were not as interested in national security.

And I think Tom Daschle spoke for many Democrats, many Americans for that matter, who said that kind of rhetoric around an issue like this is really not warranted. You might expect it from someone of a lesser position than the president of the United States. But when the president of the United States makes statements like that, it's tremendously harmful.

And it certainly -- there's always some politics in every issue, obviously. And 30 or 40 days before an election, you can't avoid that. But my hope would be, we'd reduce the politics that could contaminate this debate terribly.

BORGER: Have you seen anything, Senator, that convinces you that there are some real links between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein? The administration's been talking about that a lot lately. Are you convinced that there are these links?

DODD: I'm not. I mean, Brent Scowcroft, who chairs the advisory committee on intelligence, has suggested that there's scant evidence of it.

Now, I've heard the president and others make that claim. But if it is, there are other nations around the globe that may be harboring some of these Al Qaida members. But to suggest somehow there's an intimate relationship between Al Qaida and Iraq, the evidence doesn't seem to be there.

And let me make the point here, as well -- I think it's worth making here -- that this issue of Iraq is important. There is a threat. We're going to have to respond to this. If Saddam Hussein is still there without inspections months or several years from now, then we're going to have to remove him, one way or the other. Hopefully we can do it with international cooperation.

But if we act unilaterally, it's been suggested by Governor Dean and Dennis Kucinich earlier, if we act alone here, there is a real danger that we could be putting aside the more important and immediate issue, and that is terrorism. That is a transnational problem. It requires world cooperation.

We run the real risk here, if we act too precipitously and act alone here, that we would lose the kind of cooperation we must have if we're going to really take on terrorism.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator Dodd, under what circumstances should we go it alone? What would have to happen that would make you say, "I think we need to go in and do this"?

DODD: Well, I think if -- the president, to his credit now, is, contrary to what he earlier did, he's gone to the United Nations, he's asked for support. They're shopping a resolution. It's not getting a warm reception yet, but he's shopping a resolution.

If the United Nations just turns its back on this -- and I think that would be a huge mistake for the United Nations -- if it walks away from this and says, "We're just not going to do anything about it," then I don't think we have any choice but to act here.

I would much prefer that not be the case, because the issue is not just whether or not we can win militarily, there's no question about that. The issue is whether or not we can win the peace alone, and that I'm deeply concerned about. If we have to stay in Baghdad on our own, if we have to try and keep order in that country after a military victory, that would be a huge burden for the United States.

So I'm prepared to support unilateral action, if in fact we've exhausted the efforts to get international cooperation. I don't think we've exhausted that yet. I hope the resolution that the president asks us to vote on in Congress will focus on that international cooperation. That's going to get a lot of votes in Congress.

If he doesn't do that, if it looks as though it's sort of the United States acting alone, broadening the authority, broadening the scope of our involvement, then I think he'll win a resolution, but it'll be a divided Congress and, I think, a divided public.

SCHIEFFER: And may I just ask you quickly, do you have any doubt that the Congress will not pass a resolution in support of the president? Every indication I have is that there will be approval given by both houses.

DODD: Yes, I don't doubt at all that he has the votes to win a resolution. The question is whether or not you want to win narrowly, or do you want as much of a mandate as you can have?

And I think he should want as broad a mandate as he can have. That will help him, it seems to me, in the U.N., in the Security Council and among U.N. members, to back a strong resolution coming out of the United Nations.

SCHIEFFER: OK, thank you very much, Senator Dodd.

When we come back, we'll get the Republican perspective from the Senate minority leader, Trent Lott.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: Back now with Senator Trent Lott, the Republican leader in the Senate.

Senator, you have your work cut out for you. What did you think of what you just heard?

MINORITY LEADER SEN. TRENT LOTT, R-MS: Well, I thought Senator Dodd said some things that were very important. I agree, we want the broadest possible vote in the House and the Senate. I think there will be a vote, and I think it will pass. And we're still working on language that can bring the largest number of Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, together.

But I do think we are going to have to act. It really boils down to this: If you know a country has biological and chemical weapons and is working on nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver those -- remember now, a lot of people get to thinking it's just about nuclear capability, can he deliver that. Chemical weapons can be delivered in an aerosol can. Some of these biological weapons can be delivered just in an envelope. This is very scary stuff. And the fact that he has proven that he will use those weapons is of great concern.

Just the other day -- I don't know what all the facts are. And the administration is responsibly trying to find out what really is going on.

But we had the report of this uranium that was seized in Turkey on the way to Iraq. Now, what kind of uranium was it and how could it be used?

Legitimate questions that we're still asking.

Remember this. The president -- everything the Democrats have said he needs to do the president is doing. He is going to the American people all over this country personally and in the media. He has come to the Congress and has said "Work with me." He has gone to the United Nations in a sterling speech that outlined the bill of particulars of why we must be prepared to act, and he has said that we will only act in extremis. In other words, when all else fails, we must be prepared to act against this very dangerous threat.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about one other thing that Senator Dodd said. He said, some of the remarks that the president made last week really were damaging.

What about the charge that the president has politicized this whole issue?

LOTT: I thought that the remarks in the Senate were over the top, shrill and inappropriate. And as a matter of fact, it didn't even really relate to what the president said.

I took the time to go back and look at what everybody said and what Senator Daschle thought was said. As a matter of fact, the president's words had to do with homeland security. He is worried that the fact that the Senate is still tied up after four weeks in producing a new Homeland Security Department is our threat to our security. It didn't even relate to the debate on Iraq. They juxtaposed those.

Now, whether Senator Daschle just didn't get all the information, or maybe even that, you know, offended him.

But this president has been careful. He didn't rise to a debate and try to refute it. He went right on about his business. He had a bipartisan meeting at the White House from the House of Representatives.

And let me say this too. As senators, every now and then, we're human beings, we get a little fired up. But as the week went on, on Thursday and Friday, Senator Daschle and I were talking about the process and the wording, how do we get this job done. Some people probably think we're probably feuding now and not even talking. It's just not true. You've got to do your job, and we will.

BORGER: But, Senator, just recently the Republican National Committee seemed to be using this issue of homeland security and the president's quote about the Senate for raising money. And I'm going to quote from a fund-raising letter which says, "Tell your Senators to support President Bush's homeland security. Democrat senators put special interests over security."
Is that appropriate?

LOTT: Is that a letter I've sent out?

BORGER: The Republican National Committee.

LOTT: I would send that letter out.

BORGER: Why?

LOTT: Because I think this is a very serious matter. There is no question that the Senate Democrats are tying up the effort to get a new Homeland Security Department because public service unions don't the president to have the ability to change work rules in the interest of national security.

Gloria, this is a huge problem. The president's trying to bring these -- all these different agencies and parts of departments together, get them organized where we can protect our security here at home. This is dangerous.

BORGER: But does that mean, because they have a different approach towards this homeland security bill, does that mean that the Democrats care any less about national security than Republicans?

LOTT: Gloria, if we don't get this new Homeland Security Department created and sent to the president where he can sign it before we leave, that means it will be one, two, three, four, five months before we bring all these different entities together that are not doing the job, that are, in many instances, dysfunctional, like the INS and others that are not doing what they should do, because of work rules, because you have all of them at one place (inaudible) -- DEA, Customs, INS, you know, all this litany of agencies that are not doing the job.

I do think this is a very serious matter.

And why? It's because they're trying to keep in place current bureaucratic regulations. The American people don't want that. If you put bureaucratic security ahead of homeland security, I think that is very questionable, and it disturbs me.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you on a slightly different subject, are you now convinced that there is a direct link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida?

LOTT: There's no question that there has been some contact between high-level Iraqi government officials and Al Qaida individuals. There is very little doubt that there're some of the Al Qaida remnants in Iraq.

To what extent, or how much of threat is that? I can't say, I don't know. And I don't think we should base our action or inaction just on that.

But I do think that the threat from Iraq is a part of the overall war on terror.

SCHIEFFER: Do you believe that war is inevitable at this point?

LOTT: I believe it's more than likely because of the 11 years of ignoring the world community, thumbing its nose at the United Nations, not allowing the inspectors in.

I don't believe Saddam Hussein will do what he has to do. But this president will take every possible effort to make sure that he does comply. And if he does, then maybe action won't be necessary.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Lott, thank you very much for being with us.

LOTT: Thank you very much.

SCHIEFFER: Back with a final word in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: Finally today, I had mixed feelings about Congress investigating the FBI and CIA about what they knew or should have known before 9/11. Getting bogged down in a post-9/11 blame game didn't seem all that productive to me.

But as we've learned from the congressional hearings, this investigation produced information that wasn't always pleasant, but we got facts we needed to know.

The bureaucratic bungling was even worse than we had imagined. Clue after clue was missed. Signals were crossed. And it wasn't always the fault of agents in the field who had more work than they could handle and limited resources to do it.

Far worse was that too often when officials throughout the government recognized how serious this threat was, they lacked either the will or the skill to move the bureaucracy to fight it. Even as the threat was recognized as serious, not much happened. Budgets were not increased, personnel were not shifted, and the American people were kept in the dark.

And for all the current administration's effort to rearrange the rest of the federal bureaucracy, it is hard to come away from these hearings feeling much has changed within the CIA and the FBI, where the core problems were.

It's easy to criticize Congress for headline-hunting, but it has performed a constructive service this time. And what we now know is that these hearings are just the first step if we really want to fix this problem.

That's it for us. We'll see you next week right here on Face the Nation.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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