FTN - 3/3/02

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BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face the Nation, the subject is more war in Afghanistan and more violence in Israel. Our guests are Senators McCain and Lieberman and Tom Friedman, the reporter who brought the story of the new Saudi peace initiative.

American bombers are blasting the mountains of eastern Afghanistan in a large new offensive against the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters there. There are American casualties. And there is new violence in Israel, the situation there even worse.

We'll talk about it with two key senators, John McCain and Joe Lieberman.

Then we'll put it in perspective with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on stupid news tricks.

But first, Senators McCain and Lieberman on Face the Nation.

And good morning. We join from Phoenix, Arizona, this morning, Senator John McCain; with us in Baltimore, Senator Joseph Lieberman.

We're going to talk first to John McCain, but before we do, Senator, David Martin at the Pentagon has just given us a little update on this battle that's going on in Afghanistan right now, and I just want to share some of the figures with you and our viewers.

David says there are 15 coalition troops -- that includes Afghans -- 1,500 of them, 700 U.S. troops. So there are over 2,000 troops involved on the U.S. and the Afghan side. Two hundred and fifty bombs have been dropped. He says there have been several dozen injuries on the allied side. Most, he says, are non-threatening. He says one American has been killed, three Afghans have been killed.

This sounds like the biggest battle of the war, Senator. Do you think this is a decisive battle of this war?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Arizona: I'm afraid not. I'm afraid that there will be other enclaves and areas where the Al Qaeda and Taliban will try to gather. This is one of the most difficult areas, of course. But it's going to require troops on the ground and, tragically, American casualties. And I think the president has very appropriately pointed out this is a long struggle.

I think we're, in some ways, a more difficult phase of the conflict in Afghanistan and the war on terror in Afghanistan than we've ever been in because of the failure to control the countryside, the warlords competing, the surrounding nations trying to regain or influence events in Afghanistan.

So I think it's very difficult. I think it's going to require our best diplomatic skills. It's going to require our allies' involvement and, unfortunately, further U.S. military boots on the ground.

SCHIEFFER: Well, that's the point I wanted to make when you said it's going to require troops. You're saying it's going to require more American troops.

MCCAIN: I think you're going to see operations like this, perhaps not as big, perhaps even bigger, although more likely not as big, where American troops, working with Afghans and others, will be required to go into these very, very difficult parts of Afghanistan to rout these people out. You can say a lot of things about the Taliban and Al Qaeda, but their tenacity is quite remarkable.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Senator, do you worry that the administration may be spreading itself too thin? There's talk about American troops in Yemen, the Philippines, former Soviet republic of Georgia?

MCCAIN: No, I don't. I think that we are in a conflict that is going to be of long duration. I think that, from the information we have about the possibility of nuclear weapons being acquired, indicates how serious this conflict we're in.

I do believe that it's going to happen -- but it needs to happen -- a lot more consultation with the Congress and the American people as to exactly what our strategy is and what our overall immediate objectives are. But I think the American people are fully aware of what's at stake here and will support it.

BORGER: So are you saying that there has not been enough consultation with the Congress to up to this point, Senator?

MCCAIN: I think there's been good consultation, but we're entering a new phase. We, for all intents and purposes, reduced bin Laden from being a substantial threat to being a minimal threat. He'll never be completely eliminated until he is eliminated.

But now we're embarking in other parts of the world in other kinds of operations. And that new phase of this war on terrorism, I think, needs to be explained, and I have confidence that it will be.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator, I want to make sure I understand what you're saying. You're saying that we're going to take more troops. Are you talking about thousands more troops? What kind of numbers are you talking about?

MCCAIN: I don't pretend to be that kind of a tactician, but I do believe you're going to see more operations maybe necessary, such as the one we are observing taking place now. And that means more young Americans in harm's way. But I wouldn't contemplate any kind of a massive operation.

But I do believe that it emphasizes the importance of remembering the lessons from 1989, when the Soviet Union left, and our continued support for peace-keeping efforts in Afghanistan as well as other economic areas.

SCHIEFFER: Let me switch quickly to something else. The Washington Post this morning reports that there are radioactive sensors now being placed around the borders of the United States and at strategic points around the capitol of Washington, D.C.

Is there a new and increased threat that somehow these people have obtained some kind of a nuclear device? Is that what we're guarding against? Has the threat level on that been increased? What do you know about that?

MCCAIN: Not a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Look, our great fear ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union was that there was very large amounts of material and technology and scientists around that might be purchased in the old Soviet Union.

The Nunn-Lugar effort, which is a great program to help neutralize some of these materials and other programs we've been in on, have been partially successful. But we've always been concerned about it.

I don't know if the administration has new information or not, but it seems perfectly logical that that would be one of the avenues that a dedicated group of terrorists would pursue. But whether they have that capability or not, I just don't know.

BORGER: Senator, very quickly, this week there was a little squabble.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle came out and criticized the president on this war, saying that if we don't find Osama bin Laden we will have failed.

Trent Lott said that that was a problem, said how dare he criticize the president.

What do you think about what Daschle said?

MCCAIN: I think that bin Laden symbolically has very great importance in the war on terrorism, because he, for obvious reasons, has been labeled wanted dead or alive. So, symbolically, he has great importance.

But the realities on the ground are that his ability to inflict any kind of damage on the United States of America has been dramatically diminished thanks to our, really, wonderful military successes in the region.

But Senator Daschle is right. Symbolically, he means a great deal. But in reality, I don't think it's, in the overall scheme of things, that it is that important.

The question is, how far will the United States need to go to combat this threat that we face throughout the world, and what will be our overall strategy? And I think that's evolving.

SCHIEFFER: One quick question, campaign finance. You're going to meet with Mitch McConnell, the guy who's been on the other side all these years.
What's going to happen? Do you still have the votes to pass it in the Senate, and when?

MCCAIN: We still have the votes.

Senator McConnell would like to see some substantive changes made to the bill. We will not agree to that. There are some other changes he would like to see, which I'm not sure are necessary but may be acceptable.

I hope we can get this done within the next two to three weeks. Senator Daschle has said that we will bring this up, depending on the progress of the energy bill. But I think all of us would like to get this done before we go into another recess.

It's time; the time is up now. I mean, we've been through the House. We've been through the Senate. We've been through the rantings and ravings, and now it is time to move forward. And the opponents can now move to the courts.

SCHIEFFER: Senator McCain, thank you so much. Always a pleasure.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: We go now to Senator Joe Lieberman, also a key senator.

Senator Lieberman, let's talk a little bit about this war in Afghanistan.

Republicans seem to take umbrage this week, seem to suggest that Democrats weren't really behind the president. Are they right about that?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, D-Connecticut: No, they're wrong, Bob. And one of the great sources of our strength in this war against terrorism has been that we have been united, Americans across the country and members of Congress across party lines.

A few members of the Senate asked a few questions, which were done very respectfully, this week. I think, with all respect, the Republican reaction was a lot of hyperventilation.

And the one way to begin to diminish the unity that has been part of our strength is to question anybody who dares raise a question. I think Senator Daschle's questions were quite to the point.

Frankly, on some of the other questions being raised, I personally agree with President Bush. I think the $48 billion he has asked for additional funding for defense is necessary. I think the movements of American forces into Yemen and the Philippines and Georgia and the caucuses are an important part of tracking down Al Qaeda. And I don't worry about an exit strategy in Afghanistan; I want to see a victory strategy. We can't leave there until we've won and secured the country.

BORGER: Well, do you believe that Congress has been adequately consulted and briefed in all facets of this war on terror?

LIEBERMAN: Gloria, I think that is part of the problem here, and it's part of what expressed itself in the exchange that occurred during the week.

I think the administration could, at this point, do a better job of involving members of Congress in some of the discussions about where the war is going. And I'm sure if they do, the overwhelming majority of members of both parties will be supportive of the direction that President Bush has taken us in after the initial victory in Afghanistan.

SCHIEFFER: You just heard Senator McCain say it may take more American troops in Afghanistan. Will the Congress, will the Democrats support that, larger troop deployments to Afghanistan?

LIEBERMAN: Depends what the numbers are and what they're asked for. I think the inclination, Bob, will be certainly favorable.

My own feeling is that the critical, additional use of American military forces should be in the peace-keeping force in Afghanistan. Right now we've said we would not be part of it. The international community has limited the peace-keeping force to the capital of Kabul. There's great unrest outside of Kabul in other areas of the country.

When John McCain and I were in Munich a few weeks ago for a NATO conference, it was pretty clear that a number of our most significant allies are not going to be part of peace-keeping in Afghanistan unless we are. And therefore, I think we must be.

Because there's a danger here, to go back to Churchill's phrase, that we will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory unless we secure the peace that our military has won so magnificently. And that means peace-keeping and helping Karzai build a nation that he wants to build.

SCHIEFFER: If the United States decides to move on Saddam Hussein, should the president come to Congress from some sort of a declaration or resolution of support?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I think the president should consult with members of Congress, as his administration, it seems to me, has clearly turned a corner here and made a judgment that it is critically important to American security to change the regime in Baghdad. And, of course, I agree wholeheartedly with that.

But I think you've got to give the commander in chief the right to employ surprise in attacking or going against the leadership of Iraq. And therefore, consultation, but it may be that we will not have an actual congressional resolution until after activities or actions have begun in Iraq.

BORGER: Senator Lieberman, as you know, there's been more violence and more deaths in the Middle East this past weekend. And last week Crown Prince Abdullah proposed a peace plan in which he would essentially have normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for land gained from the Arabs in the 1967 war.

What do you think about that proposal?

LIEBERMAN: I take it to be a significant development. And I must say that you have to take it in context. I've been in the United States Senate for 13 years now. I can't remember a time in that 13 years when it's been harder to find a reason for optimism about the opportunity to achieve peace in the Middle East.

And then comes Crown Prince Abdullah making this proposal, which is a full-blown expression of the land-for-peace proposal that's been around in the Middle East for a long time. Full normalization of relations between the Arab world and Israel.

I know there are some who say the Saudis have made this proposal before. I know there are some who say that the Saudis are just trying to overcome the anger against them because of their involvement in -- Saudis' involvement in the September 11 tragedies.

But the fact is, Crown Prince Abdullah has made this proposal; others in the Arab world are taking it seriously. I think the United States should seize this moment of opportunity, send a high-level permanent, in that sense -- not just shuttling back and forth -- but a representative to stay in the Middle East and use the Abdullah plan as a way to begin to create negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the wider Arab world and, most important of all, to try to use it as a way to stop the terrible violence going on there now. I think this is a moment of opportunity, and we ought not to let it pass.

SCHIEFFER: And we have to stop there. Senator, thank you so much.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: That proposal, of course, was made not through diplomatic channels but to a reporter for the New York Times, Tom Friedman. He'll be with us to talk about it in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And with us now, Tom Friedman of the New York Times.

Tom, you were in Saudi Arabia. You were having an interview with the Prince Abdullah. The interview had gone on for some time, and then he brings up this idea that he has sort of a peace proposal, he has it locked in his desk. He tells you what it is off the record. Then you say, don't you want to put that on the record? He calls you back and says yes.

Why did he do that?

TOM FRIEDMAN, New York Times: Well, I think there are several things going on here, Bob. First of all, obviously, the Saudis want to improve their brand here in the United States and the world. September 11, 15 Saudis were involved in this hijacking. It's brought enormous scrutiny of their education system, their politics and their people in a very, very damaging way. And I think a lot of the criticism was legitimate, and I was among the leading critics, which is one of the reasons they invited me there. So, first of all, there was a PR element to this.

Secondly, though, I think there is something substantial to it. In the Middle East, if you wait for people to do the right thing for the right reasons, you wait forever, OK. In the Middle East, people do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Anwar Sadat went to Jerusalem, basically, because he feared the United States was going to cram an international conference down his throat and his economy was faltering. And I see the Saudi initiative, trial balloon, whatever it is, in the same context.

He didn't wake up one day, Abdullah, and say, "Now I get it. I mean, now I get this Israel thing." Basically, what he understood is, this administration is on a war path for Iraq. That's something that I think has unnerved the region and unnerved the Saudis to some extent.

I think he realized if Saudi Arabia and the Arab League didn't come up with some kind of peace initiative of their own -- there is an Israeli initiative, there's an American initiative, there has been no Arab initiative -- then there is going to be no way, basically, to slow down the American train or at least be able to shape it in some way.

We have Vice President Cheney going out there very shortly to press this Iraq agenda. So, I think that was also very much on the Saudi minds.

But, thirdly, Bob, there is a huge domestic situation inside Saudi Arabia now. With this proposal, in my view, Crown Prince Fahad became king. The reason he is crown prince is because the king is ailing and basically incapacitated. This has put their whole government into deadlock.

When he comes out and makes a proposal in the name of Saudi Arabia, even the Islamic world, that calls for normalization of relations with Israel -- that means diplomatic relations, trade and commerce -- if the Israelis pull out of all the territories, that sends a real shock to the system. And I think it's something that is going to shake people up there.

BORGER: Does the crown prince have any clout, so that he could actually affect something like this?

FRIEDMAN: Well, it's a good question. You know, let's look inside and let's look outside. Inside Saudi Arabia, obviously he is the senior leader.

But he's got brothers. And one of the things that struck me when I was there was it seemed to me that none of his brothers, and not even the Saudi embassy in Washington, I think, were consulted about this ahead of time, and I think it took all of them by surprise. So, it has been a jolt to the system.

The initial response in the Arab world was really, I mean, striking, in terms of how many people jumped on it. But now what is striking is that Qaddafi has come out and attacked the idea openly. Syria has said maybe.

And so I think you are going to get a real debate going inside there as well. But also, inside Saudi Arabia there is a conservative religious establishment there. It's illegal to have a church service or synagogue service there. So when you're talking about relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, you're talking about a shock to the whole Saudi system.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about reaction from Israel. Do you see any connection between the prince making this peace proposal and this sudden outburst of violence in Israel right now?

FRIEDMAN: I hope not, Bob. You know, what's going on in Israel now between Israelis and Palestinians has really become just a human meat grinder. And I think you should see that as though connected to both the Saudi and American response.

Step back for a second. I'll show you what is going on in the whole Arab world today. From one direction, we have this intifada, this incredible human meat grinder. That unfortunately was begun by Palestinians after the Clinton peace plan was laid out, but is now just really out of control. OK, so that's coming on one track.

From a second track, you have a huge pig in a python. That is you have a huge population explosion in Saudi Arabia going on. Forty percent of Saudi Arabia is under 14; half the Muslim world is under 20.

So they're coming up this track, just waking up to the world. And on this track, you have an explosion of multimedia TV, Al-Jazeera, all these newspapers and TVs in the Arab world. And what they're doing is taking those scenes from the intifada and connecting it to this rising generation. And that is enormously dangerous for Israel and enormously dangerous for the United States. It's produced this incredible foul wind, basically, out there in the face of Israel and the face of the United States.

BORGER: And look at this poll we saw this week about the complete disdain for America in the Arab world, blaming America for the attacks on the World Trade Towers.

FRIEDMAN: I tell you, after being in Saudi Arabia for eight days and bumping up against what is this real wall, I mean, just a real wall between us and them, I needed a drink.

(LAUGHTER)

FRIEDMAN: I actually called friends there and said I know alcohol is banned here, but there is...

SCHIEFFER: You're not going to get one there.

(LAUGHTER)

FRIEDMAN: I'm not going to get one there -- well, actually, they said I could.

But there is basically an unbridgeable cultural, political and religious gap between us right now. And I don't know how it is going to be bridged, but right now it's really going to make our diplomacy in that region enormously difficult.

SCHIEFFER: When I become president, I want you for secretary of state.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHIEFFER: Tom Friedman, thanks very much.

FRIEDMAN: Thanks, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: We'll be back with a final word in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: Finally today, maybe Ted Koppel's Nightline isn't the best news broadcast, but it's as good as any broadcast on television, even if it is on ABC, which is why I don't get why the ABC brass wants to dump it.

As I understand it, they say it doesn't attract enough younger viewers who buy things. So who is it that buys all these luxury cars and mutual funds? Teenagers? The last time I looked, I made more money than the interns around here.

But as I said, I don't get it. It's an old coot kind of thing.

To solve this crisis, ABC is trying to lure Brother Letterman to ABC and put him on in Koppel's late-night spot. Well, I hope they don't.

But if they do, here is my advice. Let's make it a straight, baseball-style swap. Letterman and his team for Koppel and his gang.

As I understand it, the ABC folks say this isn't about Koppel, it's about generating more revenue for the network. Well, that's one way to look at it.

By the same logic, you could tear down the Washington Monument and charge people to park there. There's no question that would generate more revenue for that piece of property. But where is the logic in destroying one of your most prestigious attractions?

So I have two messages. Stay home, Dave; you wouldn't be happy over there.

And Ted, if they do run you off, keep us in mind. We may be needing something for that 11:30 slot.

That's it for us. We'll see you right here next week on Face the Nation.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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