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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

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CROWLEY: Senators, thank you both for joining us after what has been a particularly busy week for you I know. Let me start some place that I know you haven't been but which is in the headlines now and that's Libya. The U.S. and the U.N. have frozen Libyan assets. They have imposed an arms embargo. They have banned travel for Gadhafi and some of his top aids. They have referred what Gadhafi has done to his own people, which is turn his army on them, has been referred to a criminal court and yet there is no change in behavior.

Senator Lieberman first to you, is there anything that you believe could change the behavior of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi?

LIEBERMAN: Well, this is a real moment of choice for the international community. Believe me, what we are hearing is the Arab world is watching. Will the future be the peaceful democratic revolution that's occurred in Egypt leading to democracy or will the world stand by and allow a leader like Gadhafi to slaughter his people? I'm glad there are sanctions being applied and some pressure morally at least and some economic put on Gadhafi, but honestly I think the world has to do more.

I begin with the imposition of a no-fly zone so that Gadhafi can't be attacking his own people from the air or flying in more mercenaries. I think we ought to recognize the opposition provisional government as the legitimate government of Libya and we that ought to give that government certainly humanitarian assistance and military arms, not to go in on the ground ourselves but to give them the wherewithal to fight on behalf of the people of Libya against a really cruel dictator.

CROWLEY: And Senator McCain, Senator Lieberman brings me to my next question which is, is there a military option, Senator McCain, as far as you're concerned in Libya for the U.S. or for NATO or the U.N.? Is there a military option other than to try to enforce a no-fly zone?

MCCAIN: Well, I think there possibly could be. But look a no- fly zone, Libyan pilots aren't going to fly if there is a no-fly zone and we could get air assets there to ensure it. Recognize some provisional government that they are trying to set already up in the eastern part of Libya, help them with material assistance, make sure that every one of the mercenaries know that any acts they commit they will find themselves in front a war crimes tribunal. Get tough.

And I understand that America's security and safety of American citizens is our highest priority. It is not our only priority.

CROWLEY: You sound slightly critical, if I'm reading between the lines, of the Obama administration kind of holding back on its criticism of Libya, administration officials tell us because they were worried that Americans in Libya would be taken hostage or worse.

MCCAIN: Well, the British prime minister and the French president and others were not hesitant and they have citizens in that country.

America leads. America is -- here we've been to these countries and every place we go they are looking to America for leadership, for assistance, for moral support and ratification of the sacrifices they have made in defense of democracy. America should lead.

The president should reverse the terrible decision he made in 2009 to not support the demonstrators in Tehran. Stand up for democracy in Iran and tell those people that we are with them. And that should be true not only throughout the Arab countries but as far as china and other parts of the world as well.

CROWLEY: Senator Lieberman, the president has said it's time for Gadhafi to go, that he's turned weaponry on his own people and no one could lead like that and he should leave. It seems to me that you all are going a step further. So to you senator, first of all do you agree that the president has been too slow to criticize Moammar Gadhafi? And it seems to me that you were suggesting that we should send weapons to rebel forces.

LIEBERMAN: I understand why the administration hesitated at the beginning because of the concern about American personnel at the embassy but frankly, I wish we had spoken out much more clearly and early against the Gadhafi regime. And we have lines of communication certainly through the foreign ministry and we could have told them at the same time we were condemning Colonel Gadhafi's brutality that if he laid a finger on any American who was there he would pay for it and pay for it dearly.

The fact is now is the time for action, not just statements. The sanctions that were adopted but unilaterally by the United States and now by the U.S. really have some effect on the people in the top positions in the Libyan government and hopefully it will lead them to think twice. But the kinds of tangible support, no-fly zone, recognition of the revolutionary government, the citizens government and support for them with both humanitarian assistance and I would provide them with arms.

This takes me back to the '90s in the Balkans when we intervened to stop a genocide against Bosnians. And the first we did was to provide them the arms to defend themselves. That's what I think we ought to do in Libya.

I hope that the opposition forces may end all of this by going into Libya and taking it over and ending the Gadhafi regime. But if they don't, we should help them. MCCAIN: Candy, I think his days are numbered. The question is how many people are going to massacred between now and when he leaves? We ought to shorten that time frame as much as possible. I believe we can.

CROWLEY: Senator, let me move you now -- Senator McCain, to Egypt where you both are at this point. There have been a couple of days of crackdowns by the ruling Egyptian military on protesters. This should be of some concern to you, I guess.

MCCAIN: Yes. And government apologized for cracking down on some of the protesters.

CROWLEY: But the government is the military, is it not?

MCCAIN: Yes, and they have apologized and said that they would not do that. And we have made it clear that we oppose such actions as well. We have met with opposition leaders and youth leaders as well as members of the government and we realize that this is a difficult situation. But the protesters' hopes and dreams have to be realized.

CROWLEY: Senator Lieberman, do you trust the Egyptian military to transition Egypt from a dictatorship to a democracy in any kind of speedy time?

LIEBERMAN: I do. And I'll tell you, this is a remarkable situation, and frankly, we should feel very good about the assistance we have given the Egyptian military over the years since the Camp David peace with Israel, because the Egyptian military really allowed this revolution in Egypt to be peaceful and let the people carry out their desires for political freedom and economic opportunity.

It's a strange moment here where the military was seen as credible by the people to lead the interim government.

The military, from our meeting today with Field Marshal Tantawi, who is the head of the military council governing Egypt, now the military really can't wait until it can go back to being just military and not in the political leadership. Now, that doesn't mean that everything they do is going to be right. We really urge them to be inclusive, to meet with all the opposition figures, to be thoughtful about how they hold elections and when they hold elections, but this Egyptian military doesn't want to run this country.

CROWLEY: And as my final question to both of you, starting with you, Senator McCain, I know you have been to Israel. What's the level of concern in Israel about what's going on now and their relative security? Do they feel more or less secure with this revolution -- these revolutions that seem to be sweeping their neighborhood?

MCCAIN: I think in the short term, they are obviously less secure because of the unpredictability here, and the situation is unpredictable. But in the long run, I think they are confident they can do business better with democracies than they can with dictatorships.

CROWLEY: Senator Lieberman?

LIEBERMAN: John, Candy said it absolutely right. There is an actual unease because of the changes going on, but Prime Minister Netanyahu who we met with just to be -- we said, what do you think we should do? He said, be very supportive of these democratic revolutions in the Arab world, particularly in Egypt, which is the historic center of the Arab world, by far the largest country in the Arab world.

Incidentally, this is a very exciting place to be now. We went to Tahrir Square today. Got a warm, enthusiastic welcome. It is in our interest to support the successful transition to democracy in Egypt and throughout the Arab world, which the Egyptian people have won, because we always have better, more steadfast relationships with fellow democracies in the world. And so I look forward to a very bright future for the people of Egypt and also much better relations between Egypt and the United States.

CROWLEY: Senator Lieberman, Senator McCain, thank you for your time. Safe travels.

CROWLEY: Ahead we'll turn to domestic politics. Will Democrats and Republicans find common ground to avoid a government shutdown. The Senate's top Democrat on the budget is next.

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