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CBS "Face The Nation" - Transcript

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MR. SCHIEFFER: And with us now, from Wilmington, Delaware, Senator Joe Biden; joining us from Clemson, South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham.

Senator Biden, I want to start with you. You are, of course, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. What do you think about what Tony Snow just said?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, he said a lot of things about what the Democrats want. They want the president to state what he's doing. State a plan, not just go over there in a single event. Which is, you know, an event should not be confused with a strategy. What's the strategy? What's he going to do about getting Sunni buy-in? What's he going to do about making sure that we purge the police and the army of the sectarian thugs? What's he going to do about keeping the neighbors out? We want to know what he's going to do.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, what about what he said about this remark that Karl Rove made. He said I'll be glad to tell you what the president said, but I'm not going to get into the politics, that's Karl Roves' department.

SEN. BIDEN: Well, look, I like Tony Snow. He's a straight guy and I think he's making delineation. But what Karl Rove said is a bunch of malarkey. We did get in. The Democrats did mostly sign up to give the president the authority, but no one contemplated how incompetent this administration would be in pursuing the authority he was given. And now, here we are. Even people like David Brooks, who I have great respect for, today in The Times talks about his kitchen cabinet of people who he calls pessimists who don't panic. Almost everybody's pessimistic about this president's approach.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Are you pessimistic about it, Senator Graham?

SEN. GRAHAM: I think I'm resolved to see it through. No, I'm not pessimistic -- no, not really. What else is left? There's no viable alternative from the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party, through Murtha and John Kerry, have a strategy of basically leaving the country by the end of the year or withdrawing from the region. And the reason it got six votes in the Senate -- I think almost every American, whether you support the war or not realizes you can't leave these people in a lurch.

What other strategy is there than to stand by moderate forces in Iraq to beat the terrorists, to try to support the new regime, to try to bring the country together, to help them disarm the militia? But at the end of the day, the Iraqis have to come together and bring the insurgency into the fold. The Iraqis have to convince the militia to disarm. We're going to leave Iraq in Iraqi hands and we just can't have it both ways. We can't make all the decisions for the Iraqis and say it's a democracy in Iraq. We're going to have some things done in Iraq that we won't like, but that's democracy.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator Graham, you say the Iraqis have to do this. This is what the president said they have to do. But do you think they're going to be able to do it? I guess that's the question here.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, you know, it took us a long time to get where we are as a nation, and they weren't shooting at us when we were writing our Constitutional Convention. We've underestimated -- the administration has, I have, all of us have -- how hard it would be to pull people together after a 1,400-year-old religious dispute. I see progress. You've got the ministers named now. Zarqawi is dead through a collaborative effort. There seems to be an outreach to the insurgency that's working.

Yeah, I do see progress. And the reason I'm optimistic, not pessimistic, is that every time you kill and Iraqi public official, someone else takes their place. Every time you kill a policeman, someone wants to join the police force. So yeah, I'm optimistic. I've very -- rather proud of the Iraqi people to withstand the onslaught they've had.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about some of the politics of this, Senator Biden, because there's going to be a lot more of that this week in Washington.

Some Democrats are saying that every Democrat has to say that this war was a mistake. Do you think it was a mistake if they're going to run for president?

SEN. BIDEN: No, I don't think every Democrat's going to say it was a mistake. It was right to give the president the authority we gave him. It was wrong to assume that he was going to know how to handle it.

Look, there's nobody out there, including the president now, that talks about having conducted this war properly. I was on your program almost a year ago today and then I was on your program in December, and I called for setting up benchmarks, that we should know how we're moving on electricity, how we're moving on the military, how we're moving on purging the police force.

Lindsey Graham and I, almost three years ago, went and came to Oman and looked at the police training. And we came back and said there was no police training. And the administration insisted no, this is all going just fine. This administration is always a year late and about, I don't know how many, deaths short. I mean, this -- look, the Iraqis cannot, on their own, purge the police force that we train. The Iraqis on their own cannot purge the army. We have 138,000 American men and women interposed on this sectarian violence.

You talk about 50,000 people trying to screw down Baghdad. There's 40,000 police in New York City -- 40,000. Every expert says you need 100 to one. There's a 100 to one ratio, that you need a 50 to one ratio. And these very police, Bob, are part of the death squads. So we've got to come up with a plan here.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me just go back to what I asked you first, and I think I sort of misstated it, but let me just be more specific.

Do you think it was a mistake, today, that you voted for giving the president the authority to go into Iraq?

SEN. BIDEN: If I had known the president was going to be this incompetent -- his administration -- I would not have given him the authority. Had I been president, I would have asked for the authority.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right.

Lindsey Graham, where do you think this debate is going in Congress? And I go back to what Senator Graham was talking about. Where does it go from here? And do you subscribe to what Karl Rove is saying about Democrats, that they be with you at the first shots, but they are not going to be with you for the last tough battle? Now, he's talking about two men who were wounded in combat when he says that. Is that really fair?

SEN. GRAHAM: I don't think we should challenge anybody's patriotism because we disagree with each other of what we should do in Iraq. But I am a little bit frustrated with my Democratic friends who want to make a laundry list of criticism and can't see success when it's right there in front of you.

Jack Murtha's a great American in the sense he sacrificed for his country. But if you're waiting for Jack Murtha to tell you good news about Iraq, it's never going to happen. He's a stakeholder in his own criticism. He wants to withdraw from Iraq tomorrow. John Kerry served his country nobly and well. I like John, but his idea of withdrawing by the end of the year got six votes. It's criticism without a purpose. There's no viable alternative from the Democratic Party, other than what President Bush is doing, in my opinion.

We do need to do a better job disarming the militia, training the police, purging the army, but it takes time. We are having progress in Iraq. Zarqawi's death is a change. It was an operational blow to al Qaeda. It was a shot in the arm to the new government in Iraq. It's helped us back here at home. We're now making some progress.

But if we're going to go on these shows every Sunday and talk about every mistake ever made in a war, we're going to lose this war. We didn't do that in World War II. It was our war; the war on terrorism is our war. Iraq is part of the war on terrorism. Whether it should be or not, it is. And I would like to come together as a nation and come up with a solidified public support here at home to see the Iraqis through this tough time. The terrorists want them to fail so bad, they're willing to kill anybody and everybody. I want them to succeed. I'm willing to stay there as long as it takes to give them a decent chance to overcome this problem.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask both of you the same question, and if you would go first, Senator Biden, on this.

Tom Friedman of The New York Times was on this broadcast last Sunday, and he said Guantanamo has become the anti-Statue of Liberty.

What should we do about Guantanamo, Senator Biden?

SEN. BIDEN: We should close Guantanamo, just like we should have bulldozed down Abu Ghraib prison.

And I want to point out the fact that John Kerry's proposal got seven votes, does that say it's a Democratic position? There's a specific plan the Democrats have. I've laid out one specifically, detailed. Carl Levin has, as well. What the president should be doing is calling us down to the White House and sitting down with us and saying okay guys, what do you think we should be doing, how do we get this done, instead of doing this political shtick.

Look, people are dying. Ask any expert out there whether they think there's a reasonable prospect on the course we're on now that we're going to be able to have a stable government and be able to leave there by the end of '07. Find me someone who tells you, not in the White House, when that's likely to happen absent a significant change. This administration has been saying not encouraging a constitutional amendment that is called for in the Iraqi constitution to give the Sunnis 20 percent of the oil revenues. They say it's too controversial. They don't have a plan. And if the Iraqis come up with a plan saying by the way, we're going to see to it that the Shari'a is invoked and the Islamic law is invoked strictly, are we going to say we're for that?

MR. SCHIEFFER: We've got to give Senator Graham a chance to answer the Guantanamo question.

SEN. BIDEN: I agree.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator Biden says bulldoze it, but he doesn't say what you do with the people that are there.

What do we do here, Senator Graham?

SEN. GRAHAM: I think we reform it and keep it open and we allow the international community to have more knowledge about what we're doing. We need to have our interrogation techniques in the Army field manual, as Senator McCain has suggested and the Congress has approved. We need to let people in the world know that what we do at Guantanamo Bay is going to be done within the rule of law. But we need to remind people that the folks at Guantanamo Bay -- there have been mistakes -- are folks dedicated to the war on terrorism. And the three suicides there by some of the toughest guys in the world who made a political statement by taking their own lives, and I am glad that when they committed suicide, they didn't take a bunch of Americans or innocent people with them. Keep those people locked up as long as it takes to win this war. Follow the rule of law.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right.

Well, I want to thank both of you for a very spirited discussion here this morning.

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

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