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The Big Story with John Gibson - Interview

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SHOW: THE BIG STORY WITH JOHN GIBSON (17:13)

HEADLINE: Interview With Mitch McConnell

BODY:
GIBSON: Democrats want to know if the Bush administration fudged any of the intelligence that led up to the war in Iraq. But Republican leaders say that calls for an investigation are premature. Let's ask the Republican whip why not?

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, that is today's big question -- should Congress launch an investigation? Senator, should you?

MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY WHIP: Well, maybe at the appropriate time. But, John, it's important to remember the same people who are suggesting that we need to find these weapons in six weeks were willing to give the inspectors six years to look for them. So, they're being quite impatient. Number one, we've already found two mobile labs. There's no reason to put an aspirin factory on wheels. We know that they had two mobile biological labs.

Number two, we're only six weeks into the search for weapons of mass destruction. We believe that the chances are overwhelming that we'll find them. There is nothing yet to investigate. About all you could find out right now is that the first six weeks of looking for weapons of mass destruction have only turned up two mobile biological labs. Of course, that is enough to do a heck of a lot of damage to a whole lot of people.

GIBSON: You know, Senator, the opponents of Tony Blair in Britain are trying to gin this up to embarrass him. Do you think that's what the Democrats are doing here, just try to get a little egg on George Bush's face?

MCCONNELL: Sure. Because the American people overwhelmingly, a, supported the war and, b, applauded the results. And the Democratic candidates for president, in particular, would like to diminish the president's substantial accomplishment. I really don't think it's going to work. Politically, if you want to go after George Bush, you don't go after him on his strength, which is defense and foreign policy.

GIBSON: You know, apropos of that remark, let's take a look at a couple of polling results from the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, the most recent one. In the first, the U.S. pre-war intelligence, if weapons of mass destruction are never found in Iraq, intentionally misleading, 41 percent thought that. Just wrong, 26 percent thought that, a combination of it, 18 percent. So, at least there is thought there among the people, Senator, that there is even the possibility that it was intentionally misleading. How troublesome is that result?

MCCONNELL: Well, I don't think the administration intentionally misled anybody. It's important to remember that everybody thought they had weapons of mass destruction. There had been no inspectors in there after 1998, why? He didn't want them looking around for the obvious. We knew he had a stockpile of weapons at the end of the Persian Gulf War. We knew he had used chemical weapons on both his own people and the Iranians. And we've only been looking for six weeks. He knew he had to hide these weapons, John. He knew he had to hide them. If he didn't have them, why go through all of this? He could have saved his regime. I think you asked that question to your previous guest.

GIBSON: I did, indeed.

MCCONNELL: Why go through all of this? He could have said come on in, take a look. We don't have any. But he didn't do that.

GIBSON: Let me show you the other result. And that is, the American people were asked, if weapons are never found, was the war justified? And 69 percent say yes, evidently because they have looked at the, well, I guess you call it the human rights record of the Saddam Hussein regime.

MCCONNELL: Right.

GIBSON: But do you have an explanation? If Saddam Hussein didn't have these things, why would he invite this invasion and surely invite the end of his regime?

MCCONNELL: Well, he obviously did have them or he would not have been so intent on not allowing the inspectors to come back in. I think that is the only reasonable conclusion that you can reach. It is also possible, it's pretty easy to get rid of some of these weapons. It is possible that he got rid of a lot of them. But the mobile biological labs prove that he had the capability, and we know the will, to produce biological weapons. And he had previously used chemical weapons. So, I think even though this was not the sole justification for the military action that we took in Iraq, and the American people would, as you indicated, support it anyway, even if that had not been one of the justifications, I don't think there's any real doubt that he had them, that he still had them at the time of the beginning of war and that he had the capability, even if he destroyed them in the last week before we went in, of producing them.

GIBSON: Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican whip. Senator, as always, good to see you. Thank you very much.

MCCONNELL: Good to see you, John.

GIBSON: Coming up on THE BIG STORY, the Democrats in disarray. Lefties battling the moderates for the sole of the party. Can anyone come out on top?

Autopsy results, wiretaps, a blizzard of rulings in the Scott Peterson case. We're live in Modesto with the latest.

And can Funny Cide do what no horse has done in a quarter century? We'll have a preview of this weekend's Belmont stakes and Funny Cide's run for the Triple Crown.

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