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NBC "The Today Show" - Transcript

Interview

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NBC "The Today Show" Transcript

KATIE COURIC: Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins two days of hearings on Iraq. Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware is chairman of the committee. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is the top Republican member.

Gentlemen, good morning.

SEN. BIDEN: Good morning, Katie.

SEN. HAGEL: Good morning.

MS. COURIC: Senator Biden, let me start with you. The White House is not objecting to these hearings. But how can your committee, or the public, for that matter, really evaluate the situation if no one from the Bush administration is testifying?

SEN. BIDEN: Easily. There's a number of experts. There's former military and non-military experts who are able to discuss what impact it will have in the region, based on what actions we take. How great is the threat? How long will we have to stay? Will we have to stay?

I'm not worried about the president moving precipitously. I don't think there's any decision made yet. I would be dumbfounded if he moved against Saddam for some time now. But I think the American public has a right to know what's at stake, what impact on our economy, a lot of other things.

You don't need any administration official to be able to give you input. We have a very significant panel of very, very bright people who are very well-informed and are going to discuss these issues.

MS. COURIC: Senator Hagel, the administration appears divided when it comes to a strategy -- one approach, sending ground forces; the second, launching pinpoint air strikes, incapacitating Iraq's regime from a distance. Wouldn't it be helpful to hear more from the administration itself so you could make a better assessment of the wisdom of such an attack or either strategy?

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MS. COURIC: Right. And hopefully we can get into those in a moment. But Senator Biden, in recent months, articles have been published in various newspapers speculating about possible approaches. I'm just curious. In your view, are these just simple leaks by government officials, or are they trial balloons that are launched intentionally to gauge public opinion, or is this some way or is it some method of trying to intimidate Saddam Hussein into perhaps accepting U.N. weapons inspectors into his country?

SEN. BIDEN: My instinct, Katie, is that it's the former. There's real division within the administration, as there is in the Congress and among the people, as to the extent of the threat and what actions should be taken. You have military people saying we should continue the campaign. Others say we should move in with a small force, large force, et cetera. But I think it's because they're trying to make up their mind. I do not think any decision has been made at this point.

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MS. COURIC: Right. Well, Senator Biden, do you think that the U.N. weapons inspectors approach should be more aggressively pursued?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, I --

MS. COURIC: Or do you agree with Secretary Rumsfeld, who said yesterday that weapons inspectors would be ineffective because so many of the materials have been moved around or underground?

SEN. BIDEN: I think it's important we push weapons inspectors, a robust regime, just to make the point that Saddam is resisting, if for nothing else. Last time, Katie, we did this with a whole bunch of allies. It cost about $60 billion, $76 billion in today's numbers. If we do this alone, the American people should understand we're taking on a $76 billion or $80 billion project. Are we willing to stay alone in Iraq for two, three, five years with 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 70,000 people in Iraq?

These are the questions we're exploring, and the American people should have an idea beforehand what the parameters are here. And no one has had a serious discussion about this on a national level. That's the function of the Foreign Relations Committee. It's a bipartisan effort, and we're beginning it this morning.

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MS. COURIC: All right. Well, we're out of time, Senator Chuck Hagel and Senator Joe Biden.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Katie.

MS. COURIC: Gentlemen, thank you so much. And good luck with your hearing today.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Katie.

END.


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