FTN - 12/23/01

face the nation logo, 2009

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation, another terrorism scare diverts a plane and the hunt for Osama bin Laden goes on.

A passenger on a flight from Paris to Miami tried to ignite an explosive on the plane but was subdued yesterday.

Should the United States be on alert for more terrorism? Why is Osama bin Laden so hard to find, and what if he's dead? We'll talk about all of that with the minority leader of the Senate, Trent Lott.

Then we'll talk about all this and the next stage of the war with Senator Joe Biden, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Richard Shelby, the ranking member of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Gloria Borger's here, and I'll have a final word on the Man of the Year.

But first, the hunt for Osama bin Laden on Face the Nation.

Good morning again.

Well, just when we thought we'd heard everything, now a man who seemed to have explosives in his shoes was arrested on a flight headed from Paris to the United States yesterday when passengers noticed him trying to set his feet on fire.

One of our guests, Senator Richard Shelby, is the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He has just gotten a briefing on all this.

Senator Shelby, we want to talk to you first about this. We understand that French police have identified this man as Tariq Raha. He is said to be a Sri Lankan but that's about all they tell us about him. We know he was traveling on a fake passport.

What have you found out?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, R-Alabama: Well, I can't tell you everything I found out because there's an ongoing criminal investigation.

But I was briefed by the FBI earlier this morning, and I believe that the message here as this unfolds that the terrorists are going to hit us again. I've said that.

Is this part--is this part of a widespread deal or is this guy acting alone, we don't know yet.

But I have to believe from what I've been told that there were explosives in his shoes.

I have to commend the crew and especially the stewardess for acting as fast and as decisively as they did.

Bob, what I believe is now, although we've made a lot of headway since September 11 as far as air safety, we've got a long way to go.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I noticed that it was reported from the scene yesterday that the shoes were taken to a field, and I quote here, "and rendered harmless." From what you're saying though, it sounds as if this is being taken seriously.

SHELBY: This is taken very, very seriously. The investigation, including tests, are ongoing. And it'd be my judgment from what I've observed, that this man was trying to blow himself up, blow the plane up. And we're very fortunate it didn't happen.

SCHIEFFER: So, you see this as a terrorist incident. Do you think it's time to step up the alert status?

SHELBY: Well, that would be up to the president and perhaps Governor Ridge and others to cll that.

But I think all of us have to be on alert. We've known there would probably be reprisals by terrorists or terrorist groups because of what's happened in Afghanistan, our success there. And I think this is just one incident.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Senator Shelby, we are going to talk to you and Senator Biden a little later in the broadcast.

Let's go now to the Republican leader in the Senate, Senator Lott, who's in his home state of Mississippi today.

Well I must say, Senator, a rather sobering report there from Senator Shelby.

SEN. TRENT LOTT, Minority Leader: Yes, it is, and it does point up once again that we have to be on guard and there probably are going to be other incidents. Thank goodness this was intercepted and the crew did a good job and the passengers did a good job. But we still have threats that we've got to deal with.

SCHIEFFER: Let's talk a little bit about the Senate session, that the Senate went home after, I would say, after a session that I've never seen anything quite like. Because--and my guess is that that would be your assessment.

Here we had the Senate that started out the year with Republicans in control. Senator Jeffords then left and became an independent. The Democrats came into control.

It was a Senate that, in fact, got a lot of things done. You passed an education bill, an airport security bill, tax cuts. You passed emergency funding after 9-11.

And then left town on kind of a sour note, it seemed to me, because you couldn't get together on a stimulus bill to stimulate the economy.

How would you sum up the year?

LOTT: Well, you summed it up quite well. It has been an incredible year of highs and lows.

We experienced in the Senate, I think, what all America experienced. We had a new administration. We had major legislation being passed in the Senate. The tax relief package and of course education reform got through the Senate. We did have a change in the majority.

And then in September the Congress changed, just like the world changed. And I saw a period of bipartisanship like I'd not seen before. We came together like all of America did. We did what needed to be done on anti-terrorism legislation, and yet we continued to work with other issues.

At the end, we did complete the education conference report. We didn't get the stimulus package done, and that was unfortunate because I do think we need some stimulus for the economy and we needed help for unemployed families and to get people back to work. That was the goal.

And another low point was the nominations. We left about, oh, around 50 nominees on the Senate calendar unconfirmed and over 100 nominees pending before the Senate. So, the administration didn't get its judicial nominations or other administration positions filled the way they should have.

But overall, I'd have to say, you know, it has been an incredible year but with a lot of good. And I think that thUnited States, while we have seen horror, we have pulled together and there's a certain amount of unity I haven't seen in a long time, and that's a good note.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Senator Lott, late last week, though, President Bush seemed to indicate that maybe we don't need a stimulus package right away after all. Do you agree with him on that?

LOTT: Well, I--of course we've all argued that we would be better off without a stimulus package if we came up with one that was not good. It was really going to spend a lot of money and not really provide stimulus to the economy.

Plus, also, there are some positive signs in the economy--three weeks in a row now with unemployment claims down. Other signs that maybe the economy is beginning to turn around.

We'll have a chance now, I guess for about a month, to take a look at what's happening and assess whether we need to do that or not.

I do think tax relief for working Americans is a positive thing. But we have tax relief coming into effect as a result of what we did last Spring. So we can assess where we are and make a decision in late January or February whether or not we need to pick that bill back up and move it forward.

BORGER: Well, am I hearing you say that maybe there was no need and maybe there will be no need to do it once you come back?

LOTT: No, I think there was clearly a need. I think there is a need right now.

But remember, the president asked for this in October, in October. So, there's been two months go by, and now there will be another month go by before we can actually provide the, you know, the need for those that are unemployed and to spur the economy.

I think that perhaps, while there's no question in my mind we should have passed that package last week right at the end of the session, the need for it is beginning to decline. And in a month, we may decide that because of the impact on the deficit, the budget, that we may not want to do that.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, Senator, you talked about the bipartisan spirit after September 11. But over the last week or so, we've seen Newt Gingrich's former pollster, Frank Luntz, put out instructions, as it were--not instructions, that would be the wrong thing--some recommendations to Republicans.

And he advised you all to start to personalize this fight. He said it's time to start, you know, talking about Daschle Democrats. In other words, he said go after and demonize Senator Daschle. And I noticed that Senator Santorum did refer last week to Senator Daschle, made a comparison, some sort of comparison with a rabid dog.

Do you, do you share that sort of feeling?

LOTT: Well...

SCHIEFFER: Is that a good strategy?

LOTT: You get advice from both parties from Luntz to Republicans and Carville to Democrats, and sometime they have a kernel of good advice and sometimes you don't want to do that.

There's no quetion that there was disappointment with Senator Daschle and the Democrats at the end of the session. We left the stimulus package undone. We didn't do a national energy policy. We had a bad farm bill on the floor of the Senate; it should have been a bipartisan bill that we could have gotten done. And we didn't deal with trade legislation. Now, there's four very critical issues that we did not deal with in the last month, which we should have and could have.

So, and I think there were, you know, some Daschle Democrats, and that reflects the more liberal elements in the Senate, that didn't want to do any of those things. But you had some Democrats, like Zell Miller of Georgia and John Breaux of Louisiana, that were actually trying to work with us to try to get some of those things done.

Unfortunately, at the end, I do think there was a great deal of obstructionism that was curious to me. I don't understand why we couldn't come together on a bipartisan bill on stimulus, on farm, on energy and on trade.

Those issues will all be on the plate when we come back in late January. I've already talked to Senator Daschle, and he assures me that we're going to move forward aggressively on those issues in the first month that we're back.


BORGER: Senator, if I could switch back to foreign policy for a moment. The president seems to be getting some advice from some within his administration that the next move in this war on terror ought to be against Iraq, that we ought to be amassing troops on the borders of Iraq, for example, send in some ground troops there, as reported in Newsweek today.

Do you share that? Do you believe that Iraq ought to be the next target in this war?

LOTT: You know, when we have our bicameral, bipartisan leadership meetings with the president each week, we talk about what's going on in Afghanistan, the overall war against terrorism, the Middle East. We do talk about Russia and Iraq.

There's no question that Saddam Hussein is still a major concern. We are worried that he is trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. We have to be conscious of that.

We, I think, should be more supportive of anti-Saddam Hussein or Iraq liberation forces. I do think there's more potential there than has been exploited by either administration in the last couple of years.

Whether or not we should go in there after we complete our work in Afghanistan, I'd want to think about that. And I think we need to be careful. Terrorism is not just in Afghanistan or Iraq, though. We've got problems all around the world.

I think President Bush will listen to advice from all sides. I think he is going to keep a wary eye on Iraq. But right now I think we should wait and see and not rush to judgment on where we go next in the battle against terrorism.

SCHIEFFER: Speaking of judgment and what should be done about certain things, what about this young man, John Walker? You think--aryou ready to say he ought to be tried for treason?

LOTT: You know, that was my immediate reaction, based on what we saw and learned about where he was. He was with a hardcore group, when they had that riot in the prison. He wound up in the basement of the building. They had to flood him out of there. He sort of floated to the top.

There's no question in my mind that he knew what he was doing and he knew he was involved in an action that was against Americans at that point.

I'll be very interested in the recommendations of the Justice Department, and, of course, the president, I'm sure, will review that carefully. It looks like perhaps he won't be tried for treason, but he should be dealt with very severely. He should have, you know, fair legal proceedings, but I'm assuming he's going to be put in prison for a long time.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Lott, we want to wish you the happiest of holidays. I know you'll be back there--you are back there with all of your family together. I just want to say Merry Christmas and...

LOTT: Well..

SCHIEFFER: ... best of the season to you.

LOTT: Merry Christmas.

SCHIEFFER: Thank so much for being with us this morning.

LOTT: Merry Christmas to all of you and to America in this special time.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Thank you, sir.

In a minute, we'll be back with Senator Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Shelby, ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, in a minute.


SCHIEFFER: And with us now from Wilmington, Delaware, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden; down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, we have already heard from Senator Shelby, ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee.

Well, Senator Biden, you heard what--Senator Shelby got a briefing on this a little earlier this morning. You heard what he said. Fairly sobering incident there, where you had this man on this plane in Boston, apparently had some sort of explosives in his shoes. And luckily, the passengers and the flight crew were able to subdue him.

But this does not bode well, does it?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, D-Delaware: No, it doesn't bode well. As Senator Shelby indicated, I'm--we've not seen the end of attempts, isolated attempts and maybe even coordinated attempts at terrorism against the United States.

But one big thing has changed, Bob: The ability for Al Qaeda to coordinate and plan and focus on and carry out long-term devastating attacks in the United States has been badly crippled--not ended, but badly crippled. So, we're a lot better off than we were four months ago, although we're still going to have this possibility.

As I said on your show a couple--about a month ago, nothing's going to stop the guy who walks into a restaurant with C-2 strapped to his chest like a vest and blowing himself up. I mean, we're going to have trouble daling with that. Thank God we haven't had that, but the individual willing to give his life is a very difficult thing to stop.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator Shelby, I was just thinking as I was listening to you a while ago, how do you say to people now, it's safe to get on an airplane when in fact this person apparently got through the metal detectors?

Got through the metal detectors because as we're now coming to understand, plastique, this plastic explosive, if that's what this turns out to be, you can get through a metal detector undetected with that.

Well, I think we may have lost Senator Shelby's ability to hear us there.

SHELBY: I can hear you.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Biden, maybe you can answer that.

BIDEN: We have the--we are focusing on the ability to be able to detect plastiques. What we have now at those...

SHELBY: I've been hearing all along.

BIDEN: Oh, I'm sorry. I'll let Dick answer the question.

SCHIEFFER: Go ahead, Senator. How do we encourage people now or tell people it's safe to fly on an aircraft when we have now learned that you can get through a metal detector apparently with plastic explosives in your shoes?

SHELBY: Bob, that's a very good question. And it's one that we don't have the big answer for yet. We've come a long way since September 11 as far as safety, but everything is not perfect. That's why I've told people all along to be on alert. I continue to fly, but I'm on alert.

BORGER: Senator Biden, I just want to switch for a moment to Afghanistan. Over the weekend President Musharraf of Pakistan was interviewed in China, and he said that he thought Osama bin Laden was probably dead somewhere in a cave. What do you make of his remarks?

BIDEN: Well, the truth is we don't know whether he is or not. That's why there's Americans, at the direction of General Franks, trained for mountain training like this. They're going cave to cave.

And secondly, as you have recently read, we have developed a bomb that is particularly devastating in tunnels, that's a high-fuel bomb combined with air that does incredible damage. And there's discussion now of us going back into caves already destroyed and going at them again with this new weapon that penetrates, is delayed explosion and just absolutely is devastating. In a very small area, it has the capacity not unlike a nuclear bomb without any radiation.

So I think what we're going to find out is we're going to go in there, it's high risk. That's what Franks wants, General Franks wants us doing. We're going to find out, and then we're going to take the cave system out so no one can use it again.

But the honest to God truth is, Gloria, nobody knows.

BORGER: Well, Senator Shelby, do you think that's a good idea to, you know, continue to go back into these caves?

SHELBY: Well, I think that we've got to rout them out. We've got to know that Osama bin aden and his core group are not still hiding in those caves. It is dangerous, Gloria.

BORGER: What if we don't find him, Senator?

BIDEN: We'll find him.

SHELBY: If he's dead--which I doubt, but he could be--if he's been bombed or blown up, sooner or later we will know. But I believe that we will pick his trail up if he's alive. If he's in Pakistan or if he's hiding somewhere, we'll pick his trail up. And I believe we're going to get him one way or the other.

SCHIEFFER: Well, could these statements that perhaps he's already dead, would that be--should we say in any way that that may be because somebody doesn't want us routing around in Pakistan to look for him?

BIDEN: Well, that's a good point.

SHELBY: Well, Bob, you've got to always be weary of anything like this. I would believe that he's dead when I see his body or see the DNA test from what's left.

BORGER: But, Senator Biden, you want, you want to speak to that point, about perhaps President Musharraf not wanting us to go into Pakistan?

BIDEN: I think Musharraf's (inaudible) have been pretty well proven. This is a guy who's really gone out on the limb--necessarily, he had no choice. And the Pakistanis have really, really followed through here.

I am convinced that it's very, very, very much in their interest. Their worst nightmare is all of a sudden three months later, Osama bin Laden being spotted in western Pakistan. That is their worst nightmare politically, internationally, with regard to us, with regard to them.

So, therefore, I think the interest, Gloria, is for them to help us get him. I mean, I don't see any win for them in him popping up somewhere after, especially in Pakistan.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask both of you this. There's a report in Newsweek Magazine this morning that the Pentagon is studying a plan that would basically put 50,000 troops on one side of Iraq and 50,000 American troops on the side of Iraq, and then just have them move toward the center and once and for all do away with Saddam Hussein.

Senator Shelby, do you think that's a good idea?

SHELBY: Well, I'm going to leave that up to the policy-makers at the end of the day.

But I can say this, we have a lot of unfinished business in the world, and Iraq is where the biggest piece of it is. The fact that he's still there 10 years later after the Gulf War has got to be more than just irksome to most of the people in the world.

As long as he's in power, Bob, there's going to be the threat of terrorism, there's going to be the threat of nuclear weapons used against us by rogue states, and bioterrorism, make no mistake about that. He ought to go.

SCHIEFFER: So, you've got an open mind about that.

SHELBY: Absolutely.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator Biden, what do you think about it?

BIDEN: Bob, if we're going to do it, that's the way to do it. The way not o do it is counting on Mr. Shallabi, who's a fine guy with his group of people who are the opposition, that neither administration is funded, to somehow topple him and decapitate him--you know, the stuff you've hearing up to now.

I think there's three things we have to do with regard to him. One is, we've got to make clear to the world that he has these weapons. We got to make the case.

Number two, we got to lay out a plan for the world as to what would happen after he left. The worst nightmare of Turkey and a lot of other countries in the region is you have Iran disintegrate. If we were to make it clear, along with the rest of the West, that we would keep that nation together, that there could be put together a government that was representative, and then he didn't move, and then we moved by using a Gulf-kind of operation, Gulf-War operation instead of this idea, you know, paratrooping people in and decapitating him, that's the way to go about it.

But we have a lot of unfinished business in Afghanistan, Bob--a whole lot of unfinished business in Afghanistan in terms of getting forces, not our forces, getting multinational forces in there to not only secure Kabul but be able to have commerce and intercourse function in that country, and so on. So it's a way down the road.

SCHIEFFER: All right, I think we'll leave it right there. Thank you very, very much both of you. Very helpful this morning.

SHELBY: Thank you.

BIDEN: Thanks an awful lot. Merry Christmas.

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


SCHIEFFER: So, Time magazine has picked its Man of the Year. It is Rudy Giuliani, and an excellent choice that is.

In the week before Time's editors make their choice, there's always a lot of dinner-table speculation about who really deserves it. And in the age of cable, when what used to be broadcast only across the dinner table or the office water cooler has become a staple of television programming, the speculation turned to an argument, fierce at times, on television.

Since Time's editors make the choice based on who had the greatest impact on the world in the previous 12 months, some people argued fiercely that there could only be one choice, and that would be Osama bin Laden, to which my response was, you have got to be kidding.

Picking Osama would have been like picking the disease over the person who found its cure. Polio had a terrible impact too, but it is Dr. Salk, the man who found its cure, that we remember is important.

Osama has not found the cure or the answer for anything. He is the one who got it backwards; the one who mistook our strengths for weakness; the one who thought we had no values because we don't tell our people how to pray; the one who mistook free speech for lack of purpose.

No, the winner couldn't have been Osama. The winners are the ones who came together and said, when you attack one ous, you have attacked all of us and we will not rest until you are brought to justice.

It is the American people, every citizen of this country, who are the real men and women of this year. And having Rudy Giuliani accept on their behalf is just fine with me.

Well, that's it for us. We hope you have a happy holiday. We'll see you next week right here on Face the Nation.

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