<I>FTN</i> Transcript - Feb. 11

face the nation logo, 2009
Bob Schieffer, CBS
News Chief Washington Correspondent:
Today on Face the Nation, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Senator Joe Lieberman. The secretary of state will travel to the Middle East soon. How involved is he going to become in the peace process? Why does he believe a big missile defense is viable? And how did a U.S. submarine capsize a Japanese fishing boat? These are the questions for Secretary of State Powell.

Then we'll turn to Senator Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, and get his take on a big tax cut, military spending and the Rich pardon.

Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on the record.

But first, Secretary of State Colin Powell. We're delighted to have the Secretary of State with us this morning. Welcome, Mr. Secretary. Let me ask you first about this sub accident, the U.S. sub undergoing some kind of training exercise suddenly surfaces, hits a Japanese boat, students are missing. It just seems to be a real mess. Do you have any information how this happened and what—is there anything late on this?

Secretary of State Colin Powell: Well, it's a terrible tragedy, and we have expressed our apology and our condolences at every level. I expressed the president's apology and condolences to the Japanese Foreign Minister yesterday. Secretary Rumsfeld spoke to his colleague, the minister of defense. I don't have the details on what happened, and I think we'll have to wait for the Department of Defense and the Navy to conduct that investigation, but it is a tragedy and we're very, very sorry it happened.

But I'm also pleased that our relationship with Japan is so strong that we should not see this damage our relationship.

We are also doing everything we can to help the families, give them all the information that we can. And Ambassador Foley has gone to Osaka to see the families off as they go to Honolulu to get firsthand information and to be reunited with their loved ones and to get information on the nine people who are still missing.

Schieffer: There were reports on the wires this morning out of Japan that the submarine crew did not offer any assistance or help in the beginning to the people that were onboard this boat.

Powell: I saw those reports, and I don't have any additional information on it. I'm sure that once the sub got to the surface, it had to stabilize itself before opening its hatches and the crew members coming out. But I think, let's wait before we pass judgment on what the crew might have done.

Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: You are going to the Middle East at the end of this month. Some people in your administration have said that the Clinton administration was very, quote, "activist'' in its approach to negotiations for peace in the Middle East. What is going to be your approach as you go to this region?

Powell: Well, we will be active as well, and we will try to see the Middle Eas peace process, as it's called, put in a broader regional context. So I'm going to speak to the leaders in the region. I will be in Egypt. I will be in Jordan. I will be in Israel. I'll visit the Palestinians, West Bank and Gaza, one or both. I will also be going to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for the tenth anniversary of the Gulf War. And I am also going to be stopping in Damascus, Syria, to meet with President Bashar Assad. And I'll try to come back with an assessment of the situation so that I can present a report to President Bush as to what we should be doing.

The key thing here is that we have to let the two sides decide what positions they are going to be holding in the new negotiations which will begin in due course after Prime Minister-elect Sharon forms his government.

So this is a time for patience. This is a time to encourage everybody to keep the violence down and give Mr. Sharon time to form a government that will reflect the will of the Israeli people, and then we can enter into negotiations again with the Palestinians. And you will find that President Bush will be involved, I will be engaged, and we'll do whatever is appropriate to keep that moving forward.

Schieffer: I heard you just say that you're going to Syria. This is something new, I believe. When was this added to the trip, and what is the purpose of that stop?

Powell: It was added within the last 24 hours. Syria is an important nation in the region, an important player in this whole process, and so I thought it was very, very appropriate for me, as part of this quick trip through the Middle East, my first trip, to also stop in Syria for just a few hours.

Schieffer: Let me ask you about something that happened last night. Apparently, former President Clinton made a speech and he seemed to congratulate Sharon for inviting Mr. Barak to be the defense minister. I'd like to ask you what you think about that, number one. And number two, do you find it somewhat improper that the former president—would you consider this an intrusion by the former president to be commenting this soon on developments in the Middle East?

Powell: Well, President Clinton is of course a private citizen and free to comment on anything he wishes to. So I wouldn't consider it improper. Past former presidents have sort of had a state of grace for a while where they have not commented on ongoing issues. But there's nothing improper in him doing so.

Schieffer: Well, was it helpful?

Powell: It didn't affect us in any way. I don't know whether it's helpful or unhelpful. I don't think it cut either way, and he's certainly free to do so.

Schieffer: Well, I guess what I'm asking you is, would you prefer he be quiet for a while?

Powell: I have no preference. He's free to do whatever he wishes to do as a private citizen.

Schieffer: Well, what about this idea of some sort a unity government? Do you think that has prmise?

Powell: I think that has promise, but I think it's up to the Israeli people and the prime minister-elect and the two parties and the other parties in the Israeli political system to decide what the nature of that government should be. I don't think it should be the role of the American president or the American secretary of state to tell them what kind of government best reflects the will of the Israeli people.

Borger: This is, as you know, the 10th anniversary of the Gulf War. Do you believe Saddam Hussein is stronger or weaker than he was?

Powell: He's weaker, he's much weaker. That million-man army of 10 years ago is gone. He is sitting on a very much smaller army of perhaps 350,00 that does not have the capacity to invade its neighbors any longer. He is living in three concentric rings of jails that he has created for himself in order to protect himself behind the security cordon. He has a great deal of money available to him through our oil-for-food program which he refuses to use entirely for the benefit of his people and for his children. Instead he continues to pursue weapons of mass destruction to threaten the people and children of the region.

Borger: But the CIA director told Congress this week that Hussein has, quote, "grown more confident in his ability to hold on to his power."

Powell: I'm sure he can hold onto his power, but if power is essentially sitting in palaces in Baghdad while the rest of the world leaves you behind, and you are wasting the treasure of your people, I don't consider this confidence that's well deserved. I think it would be better if he were less confident in a democratic system where he was responsive to the will of the people.

What he can't do is invade his neighbors anymore, but he can threaten his neighbors with weapons of mass destruction, which is why we entered into this agreement at the end of the Gulf War to contain his ability to move in that direction.

And in my trip, I'm going to be telling everybody in the region. I'm also going to be discussing with our friends in the Security Council the absolute necessity of making sure that he is not allowed to simply walk away from this and pursue weapons of mass destruction.

Schieffer: Let me just ask you about that then because we're now seeing that Russia and France are showing signs they want to ease the sanctions on Iraq. There are commercial flights arriving there daily with uninspected cargo. There have been no arms inspections since 1998. What could or should be done about all that?

Powell: Well, but there are some positive signs here. We have been able to keep weapons from going into Iraq.

We have been able to keep the sanctions in place to the extent that items that might support weapons of mass destruction development have had some controls on them. We have also had the Oil for Food Program that puts some controls on the use of money that is made available to im so that that money is used for peaceful, safe purposes.

But at the same time, there is a lot of smuggling. There is leakage in the regime of controls around him. But I think we can rally again, pull that coalition back together. It hasn't broken up. It hasn't fallen apart. A few planes going in from time to time does not cause this to be a failure. In fact, it's been quite a success for ten years, but there is leakage, there is slippage.

And I think it's my responsibility for President Bush to try to rally again to make sure we keep the finger pointed where it deserves to be pointed, on the Iraqi regime and not the Iraqi people, and remind everybody in the region, he isn't threatening America, he is threatening the nations of the region, every nation around him. And we all have an obligation to make sure that he complies.

And it should not be us begging for him to let the inspectors in. At the end of the day, he is going to have to let the inspectors in if he wishes ultimately to recapture freedom of movement totally.

Schieffer: But how do you do that? I mean, you're saying that the inspectors need to be going back in there. How do you do that?

Powell: The inspectors? Well, we have to wait and make sure that he understands that he will continue to pay a rather significant price for his intransigence. And he will not escape from the regime that has been placed around him entirely until he satisfies the international community that he is no longer doing what he says he isn't doing.

And if he isn't doing it but he is lying—and we know he is lying—and so he is doing it, and until he is willing to let people come in who can verify that he isn't doing it, we can consider that he is still lying to us.

Borger: Do you have a time frame for this?

Powell: I am going to the region. I have already begun speaking to permanent members of the Security Council. I have been talking to the many foreign leaders who I have met with over the last three weeks, some 25 foreign leaders I've seen in the last three weeks.

Borger: But this is for the return of inspectors. Are you saying that we want to return inspectors by date 'X'?

Powell: No, I have no such date in mind, nor do I think we should have such a date in mind. The sanctions and the other controls that are on him stay in place until the inspectors do go in.

Schieffer: I understand that the administration has already funneled some money into opposition groups to Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Secretary, do you think that in the end that can be effective, that those groups can be effective?

Powell: I think they are part of an overall strategy. And keep in mind the opposition, the Iraqi opposition groups that we're supporting are separate from the UN efforts. This is something the United States is doing. And I think that they can be effective in some of the public diplomacy actions that they have undertaken anbroadcasting or getting information to the Iraqi people about the nature of the regime and what their leadership has costing them, I think in terms of providing humanitarian relief. And we are always looking to see what else the Iraqi opposition might do that makes sense and supports our policies.

Borger: Can I turn for a moment to something that's domestic policy-related? There were hearings this week about the Marc Rich pardon and President Clinton's pardon of him. And at those hearings, the deputy attorney general, the former deputy attorney general, Eric Holder, said that one reason he remained kind of neutral on this pardon was that it might have some national security implications given the letters of support for the pardon from, say, Mr. Barak in Israel. Do you see any national security implications at all in this pardon?

Powell: I must say I didn't follow these hearings with any particular interest because it's a little out of my portfolio. But from what I have read and what I have seen, I can detect no national security implications in this matter.

Schieffer: Let me ask you also about another domestic matter, and that is taxes. John Dilulio, who was going to head up the faith-based organizations for the Bush administration, and was quoted this week as saying that the elimination of the tax on inheritances would sound the death knell for charitable organizations. Now, you headed one of the biggest charitable organizations. What's your take on that, Mr. Secretary?

Powell: I didn't study that in any detail. I did head up a very, very important crusade that I'm proud of, America's Promise.

Schieffer: And you still wear the pin.

Powell: Still wear my little red wagon pin, giving hope to children.

Powell: And now I want to take this little red wagon message around the world. All children in the world need help from those who have been successful within their societies.

But I don't have anything really to add on Mr. DiIulio's statement. I have become more and more interested in estate taxes in the course of the last few years, and I am watching it with great interest. And I think anything we can do to reduce the tax burden on the American people is a good thing to do.

Borger: Can I just ask you very quickly, this administration supports a missile defense system. Everybody knows that that in the end the administration is going to propose some kind of missile defense. Do you think there's any situation that you can envision in which the administration would say, hold off, we're not going to do it?

Powell: No, we've got to keep moving forward. We believe it is important to take advantage of the technology that is available and to take note of the threats that are out there.

And we see missile defense as part of an overall strategic framework. So you don't have missile defense standing alone. It stands with our strategic offensive weapons. It stnds with our arms control discussions and negotiations, and it stands with our non-proliferation efforts.

One way to get rid of the threat is to have nations that would be friends of ours not to sell this kind of technology to nations that would not be friends of ours.

And so you have to see it in its totality, and it would be irresponsible for us to set missile defense aside and say, ``It's too hard, too many people don't like it. We're causing all kinds of political problems, therefore set it aside.'' That would be irresponsible.

If we can make it work, then we can demonstrate, I'm convinced, to everybody, our European friends, the Russians and the Chinese, friends around the world, that it is in their interest for us to go forward with this kind of protective technology which threatens no one. The only thing it does is shoots down missiles that are headed toward them and us.

Schieffer: All right, we're going to have to leave it right there. Mr. Secretary thank you so much for coming by.

Powell: Thank you, Bob. Thank you, Gloria.

Schieffer: I hope to see you many times over the coming years. Back in a minute with Senator Joe Lieberman.


Schieffer: With us now, Senator Joseph Lieberman. Welcome to you, Senator. Your first visit back as a senator and not as a vice presidential candidate.

Lieberman: Good to be here, Bob, with any title.

Schieffer: The House opened hearings last week into former President Clinton's pardon of financier Marc Rich. It got a lot of headlines. The Senate is going to have its own hearings now. My question to you is: Should President Clinton be called to testify at those hearings?

Lieberman: If I were a member of the Judiciary Committee, which I think is the one holding the hearings in the Senate, I would be real hesitant about calling a former president. That's a precedent that Congress has been pretty careful about.

Look, I think that, and I've said before, that the pardon of Marc Rich was a mistake, a serious mistake. But President Bush has now made clear that this administration is not going to try to find a way to undo that pardon. And I do think that my colleagues in Congress, as they continue these investigations, as interesting and headline-grabbing as they are, have to continue to ask themselves what's the purpose of this? And I think they have to be careful.

One purpose may be that we will learn enough, maybe we know enough already, to try legislatively to set some hard ground rules before a pardon is granted. The pardon power in the Constitution is very broad, no qualifications. But we could at least say that before a pardon is granted, the prosecutors who prosecuted the case against a particular individual have to be notified and heard. The Justice Department has to be notified and heard.

Schieffer: I take your point, and I want to ask you some more questions about that. But in fac, President Ford testified before the Congress. So it would not be unprecedented, especially since this is a former president.

Lieberman: You know, that's absolutely true. It is not unprecedented, but I do think it is the kind of thing that has to be done with some caution.

And I must say, as intriguing and, to me, disappointing as this case is, it begins at some point to distract us as a country from moving forward. And I think both parties should want to do that, to deal with: How do we spend the surplus? How do we improve our education? How do we improve our defense? Those are things that are part of our future. Let's not be trapped too much in the past here.

Schieffer: We are told that some federal prosecutors in New York may in fact open an investigation into the circumstances of this. Would you consider that proper?

Lieberman: Sure. I mean, I don't know what the grounds are, but you know, absolutely. If I were one....

Schieffer: Well, to see if there is a quid pro quo. That money that was poured into the Clinton campaigns, if donations to the Clinton Library may in some how been connected to this in some way.

Lieberman: Having once been a prosecutor, I would never second guess a prosecutor. They've got a right to investigate whatever they want, and to determine whether they have enough to carry it before a court of law.

I know that, because I've read the comments from those who were attempting to prosecute Mr. Rich before he became a fugitive from justice, they're angry, I don't blame them from being angry.

Borger: Not only is there the controversy over the pardon, there's also controversy over the gifts that the Clintons apparently took with them out of the White House. Do you think it would be a good idea for Bill Clinton to lower his profile a bit right now?

Lieberman: Well, this is a little bit like me commenting on the weather, you know. There are forces of nature—I mean with all respect. As Colin Powell said, President Clinton is a private citizen. He's got the right to do whatever he wants to do.

I think those of us who are in the Senate, in the House and in the administration really ought to focus on tomorrow, not on yesterday, and see if we can continue to make this country better every day.

Schieffer: Let me just ask you one more question about this.

Lieberman: All right.

Schieffer: Was your help ever solicited in this effort?

Lieberman: Regarding Marc Rich?

Schieffer: Yes.

Lieberman: No.

Schieffer: Nobody ever contacted you and said would you call the president or anything like that?

Lieberman: No.

Borger: Well, I'm going to ask one more.

Lieberman: And let me—I would not have, because I actually have a policy in my office that is a personal policy that my office should never get involved in criminal matters at any step, incluing the pardon because these are not meant to be political judgments. Why does somebody called a senator? Not for a judicial opinion or a criminal law opinion. Hoping that a senator would exercise some influence, and I think that's inappropriate in a criminal process.

Schieffer: Well, in this case they were even calling officials at the Democratic National Committee, but we'll go on to something else.

Borger: We'll go onto defense spending. Everybody sort of expected the Bush administration to come out and say that they're going to be spending an awful lot more on the Pentagon budget. They said they're going to come out and spend $1 billion for military pay, et cetera, but they've also said that they are not going to be spending more on the Pentagon. Is this a mistake?

Lieberman: Well, I think it's not only a mistake, you know, this could be—it's surprising, and it could well be the first significant flip-flop of the Bush administration. I mean, last year then-Governor Bush, then-Secretary Cheney were very harsh on our military, which happens to be, incidentally, the best and most powerful in the world. And they spoke as if there was an immediate crisis. Secretary Cheney, now Vice President Cheney, kept saying, "Help is on the way."

But, you know, when it comes down to it in the last couple of weeks, President Bush, to me quite surprisingly, said help is not on the way. The check may be in the mail, but there's not going to be an increase in defense spending. They're going to hold it flat to where the Clinton budget proposal was and even less than Secretary Bill Cohen said as he departed office.

So I think this is wrong. I'm happy they're doing a strategic review, this new administration. But that doesn't affect the kind of ongoing needs the military has, particularly quality of life for our men and women in uniform. Not just pay increases, those are important, health care for dependents, the kind of amenities, support for the education of the kids that attracts the best people and keeps them in the service.

Our military today needs money now for readiness. And what does that mean? Spare parts, training, maintenance of existing equipment before you decide as a result of the strategic review whether you should stop building certain new weapon systems and build others.

Schieffer: About 20 seconds left. Are you going to be for or against the tax cut that President Bush is proposed?

Lieberman: I'm going to be against it. This could be one of the great mistakes of this administration and any recent administration. It spends more money than we have any reason to believe is going to be there. It breaks the fiscal responsibility that we built up, that's the underpinning of our economic growth over the last several years. I'm afraid it will take us back into deficits and that will mean higher interest rates for every American. We've got to exercise some discipline here.

Schieffr: I'm very sorry we have to stop there. Thank you, Senator.

Lieberman: Thank you both.

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


Schieffer: Finally today, Columbia University has decided that Al Gore's lectures to journalism students will no longer be off the record.

Well, congratulations to all concerned. I have always respected Al Gore as a smart, decent person, not the kind that, once he left office, you had to count the silverware.

So when he began a series of college lectures on journalism under ground rules that his remarks had to be kept secret by the students, I wasn't worried he had something to hide. And never mind the obvious, that the whole point of journalism is that the news belongs to all the people.

What it underlined to me is just how out of touch a president or a vice president can become when they're walled off from the public for long periods of time by all the professional retainers who are paid to help them manipulate the news.

In the real world, off-the-record journalism is a punch line to a joke. And anyone who believes a roomful of college students or people of any age could keep anything a secret should seek medical help.

Which brings me to the unsolicited advice.

Mr. Former Vice President, you're in the real world now. You have a lot to share with young people, you didn't steal the silverware, and you're doing a good thing by not charging the students $100,000 a pop to hear you. So just tell them the truth. If they like it, they might be the base you can build on to run again. And if they don't, well, what have you lost?

That's our report. We'll see you next Sunday right here on Face The Nation.


©MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc., All Rights Reserved