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MSNBC Reports - Interview

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Location: Washington, DC

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS ®, GEORGIA: Hello, Joe. Always good to be with you, my friend.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, sir. A great day for the president, a great day for the vice president and Secretary Rumsfeld, but most importantly, Saxby, a great day for the people of Iraq, wasn't it?

CHAMBLISS: Well, with that question, you know, the president has talked all the way through this that there will come a day when the Iraqi people will be free, and they'll be out from under the rule of that cruel dictator, Saddam Hussein. And, you know, like when the Berlin Wall fell, we saw that statue fall today and what a great symbol that was.

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, it's a great symbol. Now, not everybody, though, were as steadfast in their support of the president as you. Obviously, Senator John Kerry was very critical, and he had this to say about the president in mid-March: "It's the way that they"—and let me put it up on the screen. "It's the way that they conducted the diplomacy that's compounded this problem, split the U.N., split NATO, left the world wondering with questions, engaged in a more preemptive effort than necessary. We could have moved from a position of strength, and in my judgment and I think it represents a failure of diplomacy on a massive order."

Saxby Chambliss, tonight do you see any failed diplomacy or any problems with the way that the president of the United States and his cabinet have handled this very, very dangerous situation?

CHAMBLISS: I think the president of the United States from the very first day he was sworn in, Joe, has just done a fantastic job, both domestically and internationally. He just proved himself time and time again.

And we said early on in this particular conflict that he was doing it for the right reasons, and it turns out that's exactly why he did it. And, you know, unfortunately with politics being what they are in America and with as many people on the Democratic side in the Senate especially that we have running for president in 2004, they're trying to separate themselves from President Bush. And, you know, when he's on the right side, you can't do that.

I'm pleased that some of those folks on the Democratic side have been supportive of the president in this action, and I think those that haven't are going to suffer the consequences politically.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, Saxby, you know, I guess like you said, it's politics and it's to be expected, I suppose, even though it's very disappointing. But some folks simply can't accept the good news that we're seeing today out of Baghdad, and I want to play what Louisiana Democrat John Breaux said about today's situation. Again, this is something he said today—take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: I do feel that after that conflict over there is over, we're going to be much more vulnerable over here, because people who were unsuccessful in Iraq will look to the United States as an opportunity to get revenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH: I'm looking at this guy talk on the screen, and then I'm looking at the people of Baghdad. Was he watching a different TV show in Washington, D.C. than the rest of the country and the world were watching today?

CHAMBLISS: Well, what we've got to hope is that we do the kind of job that we've been doing for the last several months from a homeland security standpoint. We're doing a better job post-September 11 from an intelligence-gathering, information-sharing, as well as a law enforcement standpoint. And you know, we're going to be on the lookout for folks taking out revenge against us, and I'm not sure exactly what John was talking about. But you know, we do know that we have vulnerabilities, but gee whiz, today is a day to sell celebrate the liberation of the Iraqi people.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, sure it is, Saxby, and also, I mean, look at the people in the streets of Baghdad. They are celebrating. We're not the imperialists. We're not going after their oil. That's not why they're jumping up and down. Don't you think that message is going to spread across the Middle East...

CHAMBLISS: Oh, I don't...

SCARBOROUGH: ... and these people...

CHAMBLISS: I don't think there's any question. You know what? The greatest ambassador or the biggest ambassador for the United States was today, Joe, it was those GI's, those men and women in full battle gear hugging children in Iraq around the neck and having those kids thank them for freeing them and letting them have a safe and secure future, which they would not have had under Saddam Hussein.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, Saxby Chambliss, I also want to stop for a second and thank you because of what you did and because of the support you and other senators gave this president all the way through. We've got people in Iraq who are free, we've got children who've been released from prisons, and I just can't thank you enough, and I can't also thank the other Republicans and Democrats that stood by this president and helped liberate a nation. Thanks a lot, Saxby.

CHAMBLISS: Well, I'm very proud of our president. He's providing strong leadership, and we look forward to continuing to support him and the people of Iraq.

SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thank you, Saxby Chambliss.

CHAMBLISS: OK, buddy.

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