FTN - 10/28/01 - Part 1

face the nation logo, 2009 CBS

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today, on a special expanded edition of Face the Nation, how safe is the mail? And has the war in Afghanistan bogged down?

Anthrax keeps cropping up at post offices, and officials still don't know where it's coming from. Is our mail safe? We'll ask Deputy Postmaster General John Nolan.

Then we'll talk about how the war is going with Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt will be here to talk about the airline security bill coming up this week.

We'll talk about anthrax and bioterrorism with Mohammad Akhter, who heads the Public Health Association, and bioterrorism expert Elisa Harris.

We'll round out this special edition with a roundtable with Robert McFarlane, former White House national security advisor, and Tom Friedman, columnist of the New York Times.

Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on money and politics. But first, the anthrax scare on Face the Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face the Nation, with Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

And now, from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: Good morning again. And we begin with the Deputy Postmaster General John Nolan.

Mr. Nolan, thank you so much for coming.

Let's get right to it. You got a briefing this morning. Has anthrax showed up anywhere else?

JOHN NOLAN, Deputy Postmaster General, U.S. Postal Service: No. There's no further evidence of any anthrax, new anthrax in the system anywhere.

SCHIEFFER: How would you at this point characterize the safety of the U.S. mails? Last week, of course, your boss, the postmaster, said that he couldn't guarantee their safety. What's the evaluation today?

NOLAN: I heard an interesting statistic. Since this started, we have delivered the equivalent of six pieces of mail to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. Three pieces of mail have shown up with anthrax.

This is a process that is controlled. We are working very hard to ensure the safety of our employees and the American public, and yet keep the mail moving, because mail's important to people.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Mr. Nolan, does the postal service now believe that there are more potential letters with anthrax in the pipeline?

NOLAN: There are a lot of suppositions, and we're not in the investigative side of the business. What we're doing is making sure that we're doing all the right things to make sure that we can deliver mail safely. There is some supposition that way among investigators, but I don't have any way of knowing that.

BORGER: So, can you tell your postal workers that they are safe? Some union leaders are telling them, don't go to work because you're not safe.

NOLAN: Well, I think some things in our lives have changed, as Vice President Cheney has said

We are being more vigilant in certain areas, looking for any indications of problems.

We've changed some of our operating procedures in the post office to keep dust from blowing.

But we're not putting any of our employees in harm's way. We are ensuring, before we would have an employee go into a building, that that building is safe.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you have had numerous post office facilities here in Washington, the Brentwood facility, the mail facility at the Supreme Court, out at Bolling Air Force Base, where they got the mail that goes to the White House, Walter Reed, the CIA, the Dirksen Building, the Hart Building up on Capitol Hill, and the Ford Building.

Those, in one way or another, have been closed down, and yet you haven't closed down the facilities in New York. Why is that?

NOLAN: Well, a number of those facilities you just talked about are not postal facilities, and so we don't have control over exactly what they do and how they do that.

There is no one guideline that works for every situation. To do that would be irresponsible on our part. We're looking at each individual situation on its own merits.

And the fact is, in the places we've shut down, it's because we either didn't know what the problem was and therefore we didn't want to take any chances, or we knew that the problem was pervasive, in the case of Brentwood.

In New York, we know exactly where the problems are. We've done extensive testing. It is extremely isolated. And we've cordoned off a wider area than the medical authorities have suggested that we cordon off; given our employees preventative medicine, masks, gloves, just to be sure.

And so, we're confident. I would say, I was in the building myself a week ago.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this, and, as you well know, here is one of the criticisms that's being leveled at the post office.

When this anthrax letter showed up on Capitol Hill, that area was cordoned off, congressional aides were immediately told to take medication. But yet, no action was taken at the post office. It was not until two postal employees died that postal employees were told to get tested and that they began to run tests on that building.

Do you think you let those people down?

NOLAN: No, I really don't. You've got entirely different situations.

On Capitol Hill--and again, we relied very heavily on the recommendations of medical people, because we're not doctors. But you had a clear and present danger in the Congress, because letters were opened and the dust came out. So it was very clear that there was a problem there.

The mail that came to Senator Daschle was very different than the mail that we had seen prior to this in Florida and New York, where there had never been and still to this day are not any postal illnesses.

So it was a very different situation, extremely different. Once we saw that there was a potential problem i the health of our employees, we shut the facilities down immediately.

SCHIEFFER: Well, who told you that it was OK for those the people to go back to work after the letter was found in Senator Daschle's office? Was that the Center for Disease Control? Who were you depending on at that point for that advice?

NOLAN: There were a number of medical authorities. Centers for Disease Control, other medical authorities. I don't know exactly, to be perfectly honest, which ones it was at that time. But again, there was no indication that there was any problem in those facilities.

BORGER: So would you not have done anything differently, looking back?

NOLAN: Well, looking--knowing now what we know now, we obviously would have done something different. We're taking that knowledge, frankly, and doing things differently every day today then we would have done back then.

But knowing what we knew then, knowing what the experts knew about anthrax, we thought we made the best judgments we could have.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Nolan, thank you. Thank you very much.

Well, we're going to shift the subject now and talk a little bit about how the war is going in Afghanistan. We are joined by Senator John McCain, who is in Phoenix, Arizona, this morning.

Senator McCain, you wrote this week in the Wall Street Journal that half measures were not going to win this war. Since that article appeared, it does appear that the bombing has been stepped up in Afghanistan.

But what exactly did you mean by that, when you said half measures are not going to win?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-AZ: Well, I meant that we have to recognize this is a very tenacious enemy, that the threat is widespread outside the borders of Afghanistan as well.

But the immediate problem needs to be addressed with all the might of United States military power. And issues such as Ramadan or civilian casualties, however regrettable and however tragic, and other issues, have to be secondary to the primary goal of eliminating the enemy and doing it with whatever methods are necessary to achieve it.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you about that, because one of the points that you made in the article is that the Taliban appears to be taking refuge in mosques and in civilian areas. Are you advocating that mosques be bombed?

MCCAIN: No, I'm not. But I'm advocating that the Taliban be warned that nowhere are they safe. And obviously, I would not want a church or a mosque bombed. At the same time, I would not allow them sanctuary anywhere. So they had better realize that the responsibilities would lie with them.

SCHIEFFER: Can this war be won, Senator McCain, from the air? Or will it require basically an invasion of ground forces?

MCCAIN: No conflict that I know of has ever been won by air power alone. In Kosovo, Mr. Milosevic was faced with the probability of ground operations, which I beleve was a major factor in him finally giving up.

But we can use our air power, I think, more intensively and more effectively than we have been. I think a lot more B-52s, a lot more B-2s and B-1s. We can't have our planes flying at such a high altitude that not only is there no risk to them but a degradation of accuracy is the result.

But then we're going to have to put troops on the ground. We're going to have to put them in force. And although they will not be permanent, they are going to have to be very, very significant.

And all of these zealots that are now joining the Taliban and coming across the Pakistani border that we're hearing reports of, if they think they're going to meet certain death, I think that zeal will be dramatically diminished.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what do you mean when you say put troops in there in force? Are you talking about putting a large army in there?

MCCAIN: No. I think what we're going to have to put in numbers of forces that are capable of maintaining a base for a period of time, relatively short, so they can branch out and move into certain areas where we believe that the Taliban and Al Qaeda's network are located. That's going to be very difficult. It's going to require a lot of air support and may even require bases in different places than they are today.

SCHIEFFER: But, well, let me--in other words, you're saying we have to be prepared to move in there in enough force to take and hold territory?

MCCAIN: But not for a significant period of time. Enough time so that we can launch the operations which would take a matter of days rather than weeks, in my view.

But they have to be done with significant force, not just 50 or 100 people. Because a military operation of this kind of challenge would require significant numbers of people. But again, not a permanent repetition of the Soviet invasion and occupation.

And remember, the Soviets went into occupy a country and to install a government. We're going in to remove a threat to the United States national security. So the comparisons between the United States and Russia, how they carried out their operations is somewhat limited. Remember, we have no claim to Afghanistan.

BORGER: Senator McCain, do you think then that we have underestimated the Taliban?

MCCAIN: I think initially, according to media reports, there was--with the concern that was voiced about a post-Taliban government and chaos that might ensue, that they were perhaps to some degree underestimated and as much air power had not been brought to bear as perhaps could have been, particularly on the front lines where the Northern Alliance and the Taliban face each other.

BORGER: So, do you think this war is going badly so far?

MCCAIN: No, I think the president has been very accurate and very eloquent in saying this is going to be a long struggle, a long haul. And there are some, I think, wh had heightened expectations. But I don't think the president or his team have ever portrayed it in an inaccurate fashion.

But it's going to be very tough, and we'll face more setbacks before this thing is over.

BORGER: Senator McCain, the Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said this week that perhaps we would not be successful in getting Osama bin Laden, then he seemed to say, yes, we would be successful in getting Osama bin Laden.

Do we need to get Osama bin Laden to consider this a success?

MCCAIN: We have to.

BORGER: Why?

MCCAIN: Well, because he's symbolic of the terrorist attacks that were perpetrated on the United States of America. As long as he is alive or not in prison, then he will pose a threat to the United States, if only symbolically.

BORGER: Would you rule out the use of any nuclear force in this?

MCCAIN: I would because I don't think it's necessary. If a nation attacked the United States of America with weapons of mass destruction, obviously then all bets are off. But I see no need for nuclear, tactical nuclear weapons to be used. And I think we'd be crossing a threshold which would have significant after effects.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, let me switch to events closer to home here, and that is the airline security bill that's going to finally come up for a vote in the House this week. It passed the Senate 100 to nothing.

And the sticking point, the reason that Republican leaders admit they wouldn't bring it up for a vote was because, in this bill that passed the Senate 100 to nothing, it calls for federalizing the people who screen baggage. Now the White House says they don't favor that form of the legislation.

I would just like to ask you something. My sources tell me that when the Senate people first went to the White House to discuss how to structure this bill, that the White House favored federalizing these forces. Is that in fact true?

MCCAIN: I don't know for a fact, but I was told indeed that was the case, and then members of the House changed their position on it.

This is a law enforcement function. A law enforcement function just like border patrol, just like INS, just like the FBI. And the contemplation of contracting out a law enforcement function is, to me, hard to understand, and I think it's an argument for campaign finance reform.

SCHIEFFER: Well, the president's chief of staff, Andrew Card, said, as a matter of fact, today, that while the president favored having federal supervision of these people, he said he probably would not veto a bill that called for federalizing them.

Does that say to you that, in fact, there are the votes now in the House to pass this and federalize these people, as you and others in the Senate have advocated?

MCCAIN: I don't know, but I know that Americans still--many Americans still don't have confidence in their security onboard an airliner. We need t pass this legislation. It's long overdue. And I hope we can act in a bipartisan fashion and get this thing done because there are breaches of airport security that are occurring as we speak, unfortunately.

BORGER: Very quickly, Senator, how do you respond to Dick Armey when he says that all the Democrats want is 30,000 new union members?

MCCAIN: Some of the brave firemen and police enforcement people who have died in the World Trade Center were members of a union. I can't believe that anyone would place whether someone is a member of a union or not above that of national security.

SCHIEFFER: Senator McCain, thank you very much.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: We'll be back in a moment with Senator Christopher Dodd.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with Senator Chris Dodd, a key member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Well, I must say, Senator Dodd, Senator McCain's coming on pretty strong. He suggests, number one, that things are not going well and that we're not only going to have to do more, we're going to have to do a lot more in Afghanistan. He suggests we may have to put ground troops in there in force, in large numbers.

And you heard what I said: Do you mean we're going to have to go in there and hold territory? And he said, well, yes, not permanently, but for a time. What's your response to that?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, D-CT: Well, I think John may be right, and I--there's any disagreement at all, I think things may be going better than some would feel. It's certainly--we don't have Osama bin Laden. We lost this leader of the opposition the other day, which was a blow. We're not seeing the kind of defections I think we would have liked to have seen.

But from the very outset, I think it was clear that this was going to be a protracted involvement, was going to take time. Remember, this is a government in Afghanistan that successfully took on the Soviet Union and has handled other nations in the past.

So, I don't disagree with John's point that this is going to require an extensive military operation, including the possibility of ground forces.

The one other element I think is important is to note that this is a transnational threat. Apparently these people are in 60 countries, maybe more, and so it requires a transnational response.

I wish this were just a nation-state that had taken us on and we could handle it ourselves. But I think we're going to need more cooperation in this particular conflict than one might want. And that's going to require that we be sensitive to at least the ability to keep those kinds of coalitions together.

So I don't disagree about the use of that force, but you got to keep both policies, military force and the diplomacy, one not superseding the other. You've got to have them both on track. And I think Colin Powell and Don Rumsfeld are doing a masterful job at just tat.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me make sure I understand what you're saying, because here we have a ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee and you, being a ranking--one of the ranking Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee, saying, we may have to put ground troops in there. And you're not talking about a couple hundred commandos, you're talking about thousands of ground forces. Is that what you're saying?

DODD: Yes, I am. I think that's a possibility here. You can't exclude that. If I sat here today and said to you that that's not a possibility, that will never happen, that's a tremendous advantage I've just given to these terrorist organizations.

If we're serious about this, and I believe we are, and the American public are and certainly ought to be after September 11, and if we recognize the global threat, the transnational threat that these organizations pose, then you've got to be prepared to respond to it. And I think excluding the wide variety of military options would be a huge mistake . So I agree with John at that point.

BORGER: Why have we not seen the kind of defections from the Taliban, say, to the Northern Alliance, that we thought we were going to see?

DODD: Well, I don't know. I mean, again, I don't have the detailed information. But I suspect this was a more cohesive organization. They have been through a lot in the past. They'd come out of the battle against the Soviet Union a decade or so ago.

One of the problems is--and we don't have a enough people on the ground. I mean, we're guessing a lot here. This is one of the great gaps, in my view. We don't have the number of people in our governmental agencies familiar with the culture, the language.

We don't have the human intelligence on the ground to tell us what is really going on. I think we are relying on some anecdotal evidence that may be more hope than anything else here. And I hope this is one of the things that changes.

Our ability to relate and to connect with the hundreds of millions of people in the Muslim world is one of the major problems we've got to overcome in the coming years if we are going to succeed in this effort.

SCHIEFFER: Back here at home, the administration--there certainly was a lot of resolve, and certainly the president has support from both sides of the aisle on how the war is being conducted.

But I'm wondering what you think about how the administration has handled this explanation for the anthrax? We've had a lot of soothing syrup. We've had a lot of officials saying everything is going to be fine. But somehow or another, the information seems to get worse.

Does there need to be a reevaluation of how they're handling that, Senator?

DODD: I believe so. Let me just say once again, I think the way the administration is handling the attack on September 11 and responding to it is just superb. And I really mean that. And I have great cnfidence that I think the American people do.

On the domestic attack, and they may be related, but on the domestic attack of anthrax, I can't say the same thing, unfortunately. And part of it is, is we're in unchartered waters. This is the largest single attack of bio-terrorism in the history of the United States. And so, we are really in areas we're unfamiliar with, and that's part of the explanation.

But there is a breakdown in communication. We don't know from day to day. We get one piece of information, and the next there is a contradiction or modification. And that in itself creates its own source of panic.

And I think the fact that we are not getting that information or there is contradictions to that information is really a failing the administration has got to get its hands around.

BORGER: Well, do you think the administration has erred on the side of under-informing the American public?

DODD: I do. I do. And not just the American public. I think there is a question of fearing that if we know more, there is apt to be more panic. And I understand that calculation, but I think it is a miscalculation.

I think the greater danger is telling us not to worry about something and then finding out a day or two later that there is more to worry about. That creates a greater panic, in my view, than being honest in the first instance about what the threat really is.

Remember, anthrax is 100 percent treatable here now. We are not talking about some other toxin or some other material that would be far more dangerous.

So saying to people, for instance, with the Daschle letter, that the material in that letter is dangerous, this isn't just garden variety anthrax, that would have caused, I think, a different response maybe by others in how we should have handled that one.

When you came out with the first information and said that don't worry about this at all, it's nothing more than you would find on the shelf of some small laboratory, that was a mistake. That shouldn't have happened.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Dodd, thank you very much.

DODD: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: When we come back, we'll round out this half hour with our weekly commentary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And now to this week's commentary.

Presidents get a lot of advice, happily they don't always take it.

Case in point, the Republicans were planning a big political fund-raiser this week in Washington. It had been planned long before the attack on the Twin Towers, and the president was to have been the star attraction. Those who chipped in $100,000 or more were even promised a photo with Mr. Bush.

Well, here's the part you may find hard to believe: The president's political team was telling him last week that he should not change his plans. War or no war, they told him, he should go.

It apparently caused quite a behind the scenes set-to in the White House. Accordng to the New York Times--and we are not joking here--the political advisers said, quote, "There is a powerful argument that if you really want the country back to normal, politics and fund-raising are part of America."

Well, so is stupidity in some quarters, but do we really want to encourage it?

And wouldn't it have looked swell, the president out running around in a tuxedo getting his picture taken with the money boys while our pilots are risking their lives in Afghanistan and postal workers are dying from anthrax?

To his credit, the president rejected the advice and decided to stay home and run the government. Good for him.

And wouldn't it be great if that became the rule, that presidents ran the country and left the money grubbing to others? After all, if they run the country right, they won't need to raise any money.

Back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: You're watching Face the Nation, part of our continuing coverage of the response to the nationwide anthrax scare and the terrorist attacks, on CBS News.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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