CBS "Early Show" Transcript
HARRY SMITH: Congress still needs some convincing on action against Iraq. So we turn now to Senator Joseph Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Richard Shelby, vice chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee.
Gentlemen, good morning.
SEN. BIDEN: Good morning.
SEN. SHELBY: Good morning.
MR. SMITH: Senator Biden, let me start with you. How likely is it, do you think, that the United Nations is going to turn around and say, "You know, you're right, President Bush; we're going to make sure that Saddam Hussein no longer gets away with murder"?
SEN. BIDEN: I think it's a better-than-even chance. I have great faith in Colin Powell's diplomatic skills. I think the president made a compelling case that the U.N.'s own standards were violated. And I think we should take this slowly in terms of let's give the president a chance to make his case. Let's give the secretary of State an opportunity to make his case before the United Nations.
Let's see precisely what the resolution is that the administration wants. And we should do this -- this is very, very serious business. We should just slow this all down a little bit. Let's do one step at a time. Let's move through the U.N. Let's move through the Security Council. I have confidence in the ability of the administration to get it done.
MR. SMITH: All right, Senator Shelby, Joe Biden says let's slow down. I'm wondering if there isn't a clock that didn't start yesterday, as soon as the president addressed the United Nations, a clock that says, "If you guys don't start working on this right now, we're going to go at it alone."
SEN. SHELBY: Well, there was a definite message by President Bush to the U.N. And I think the message, as I understood it, was, "Are you going to do something? Are you going to be a meaningful body, which you should, or are you going to let people defy you continually? And if you do, we're going to act on our own." I believe that's the message, and I believe that's what'll happen.
But I believe there's a great chance that the U.N. will step up to the plate. This is a grave situation. We would like to work with the U.N. I think that's what President Bush wants to do. As the debate unfolds in the U.N. and in the Congress, I believe the American people will see this is a grave, serious situation.
MR. SMITH: Senator Shelby, the president made his case to the U.N. yesterday. Do you think he's made it yet to the American people?
SEN. SHELBY: Well, he's off to a good start. I thought what he said yesterday and the way he said it was very explicit. The debate will go to the Congress. That'll be part of the debate of the American people. And I'm sure the president will be making appearances.
Senator Biden is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Warner and Senator Levin over on the Armed Services Committee. They will be involved, as will every member of the Congress. This is a serious situation, and I believe we will treat it as such.
MR. SMITH: Senator Biden, Madeleine Albright, in the New York Times this morning, says the timing is all wrong on this. The more important war that we have to fight is against terrorism and with al Qaeda. Is Saddam Hussein suddenly the target because we can't find Osama bin Laden?
SEN. BIDEN: Well, I'm not going to comment on what she had to say. I just think we can walk and chew gum at the same time, and that is that it is clear that the fight against Osama bin Laden is the greatest priority. That's the most immediate threat. Saddam is a threat. He is not as immediate a threat, in days and weeks and months, as Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda is. So there's no question about that. We can do both of these things.
I think we should listen to what Colin Powell said. He laid out precisely, two seconds ago, the president's position. He said the president did not declare war yet. The president is doing this the right way.
And in our last discussion with the president of the United States -- mine, at least -- the president indicated he knows he has not made the case to the American people, but he's prepared to make the case to the American people. He's prepared to make the case to Congress. This should be something done in a very deliberate manner. The president has embarked on that course. I think it's the right way to go. We should not try to rush history here.
MR. SMITH: Senator Shelby, Trent Lott and John McCain came out and said it's time for Congress to get on board. Would you rather see this happen sooner or later, or do you want to wait around with Joe Biden?
SEN. BIDEN: (Inaudible.) (Laughs.)
SEN. SHELBY: Well, I don't know what Joe Biden is up to. We're friends and we talk a lot. But I believe we ought to get the debate going. The debate is going to start in the U.N.; already has. It's going to start in America and around the world. It ought to get going right here in Congress, and I believe it will.
SEN. BIDEN: The debate is getting going. I'm not saying wait around. I'm saying let's do it one at a time.
MR. SMITH: All right.
SEN. BIDEN: How could we possibly vote on a resolution when we don't even know what the resolution the president wants in the United Nations is?
MR. SMITH: And real quickly --
SEN. BIDEN: How could we act before that?
MR. SMITH: And real quickly, after what the president said and the case that he laid in the lap of the United Nations yesterday, how likely do you think it is that Saddam Hussein might actually open his doors, let inspectors in and destroy those weapons of mass destruction?
SEN. SHELBY: Well, I would be surprised, Harry. I personally met with him in Baghdad with Senator Specter about 12 years ago. It would be a change. But I wouldn't trust this man. I wouldn't trust him at all. And if he says, "We're going to let weapons inspectors in," that's not a cure-all.
MR. SMITH: All right, Senator Shelby, Senator Biden, good to see you this morning.
SEN. SHELBY: Thank you.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.
MR. SMITH: Thanks, gentlemen; do appreciate it.