Senators Jon Corzine and Mitch McConnell Discuss War in Iraq.

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: April 22, 2004
Location: Washington DC

SHOW: The News on CNBC (8:00 PM ET) - CNBC

HEADLINE: Senators Jon Corzine and Mitch McConnell discuss war in Iraq


And behind closed doors on Capitol Hill today, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice briefed lawmakers about the campaign in Iraq. Let's turn now to two senators who were in on that private session, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and New Jersey Democrat Jon Corzine.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Senator JON CORZINE (Democrat, Foreign Relations Committee): Good to be here.

MATHISEN: Thanks for joining us this evening.


Senator MITCH McCONNELL (Republican, Majority Whip): Glad to be with you.

MATHISEN: ...Senator McConnell, let me begin with you.

Sen. McCONNELL: Yeah.

MATHISEN: You've been in this hearing and many of the other hearings over the past weeks. What have you taken away from those hearings about the progress or lack of same on the ground in Iraq?

Sen. McCONNELL: Well, actually, it was a meeting, not a hearing. But in any event, what Condi Rice was-the point she was primarily making was that it was important to stick to the June 30th hand-over date, guarantee our own credibility that we're not there to-to run the country and that we will stick to the timetable which includes handing over to a new-to a new Iraqi authority, full political authority, on the thir-on the 30th. Then we'll have an ambassador there, which is the way you normally have the US represented in a foreign country. And then they will, over the next year and a half, move through a constitution which will be voted on by the Iraqi people and then elections under that constitution, all of that in about a thousand days. It took us 12 years in this country from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution. So I think it's a pretty speedy hand-over, and, of course, will still be important for us to-to work on the security aspects and to help get the Iraqi military up and running. General Petraeus that many of us have heard of, the former head of the 101st Airborne, is going back over there to supervise the-the Iraqi military's development and training.

MATHISEN: Senator Corzine, that sounds like a fairly orderly progression to a-an Iraqi rule. Did you hear the same things?

Sen. CORZINE: Well, first of all, there were two different meetings, one with Republicans and another one with Democrats. And so some of the information that Senator McConnell talked about actually wasn't talked about in the meeting with Democrats, although adhering to the general outlines that people are hearing in public discussions was what Dr. Rice spoke to the Democratic caucus about. I thought it was actually kind of strange that we separated out the two. I don't understand why that occurred.

The second thing I just observed as part of the Foreign Relations Committee, for three days, we've had both outside experts and-and representatives from the State Department and Defense Department testify in front of the Foreign Relations Committee. And while there are these broad outlines of what will occur over these next thousand days, there are many, many questions that need to be answered before at least this senator believes that June 30th is a-a date that we should follow. Because if we pass sovereignty and it fails to convince the-the Iraqi people that we have done anything other than transfer to a puppet regime that is still doing the-the will of the-the American military, I think we could end up having a-a real setback in the long run. Because we are promising that the sovereignty is going to be in place but no guarantee that we know how that's going to happen.

Let me give you an example. Fallujah, if the sovereign government did not want that action that our military is about to take, which I would support and our military wanted to take it, how do we resolve that? Those questions are unanswered today. And I think they need to be answered before we go headlong into a June 30th arbitrary date.

Sen. McCONNELL: Tyler, Tyler...

MATHISEN: It sounds like a reasonable question, Senator McConnell. Why don't you respond?

Sen. McCONNELL: Yeah, if I may. Condi Rice didn't say anything in our meeting that the president didn't say at his press conference last week. All of this is public knowledge about the transition periods, leading to the election. And the-the Democrats have been very critical, wanting the UN involved. And this entity that Jon is concerned about is basically being put together by Mr. Brahimi from the UN, who is a specialist in-in the early stages of development of representative government. He did that over in Afghanistan very, very successfully, where they have a new constitution and are going to have elections in the summer. So there were no-there were no secrets imparted today that we hadn't already heard about or read about. And-and the UN is playing a major role in the construction of this new entity which will then lead to the constitution and a vote on the constitution and then lead before the end of '05 to the election of Iraqi citizens. It's a very sensible transition plan.

MATHISEN: I'd like to spend our remaining time over-over an area that I know the Congress is-is involved with, and that is the purse strings. This conflict is already an $87 billion supplemental last year. And now it appears that another $4 billion at least is needed. Why, Senator McConnell-let me begin with you-was not the $87 billion sufficient to-to get the job done? And-and where is the extra money going to come from? And how much more is likely to be needed?

Sen. McCONNELL: Well, first, the war on terror is not inexpensive. There were two parts to the $87 billion supplemental that we passed last year. The $18 billion for reconstruction, Condi Rice indicated that's more than adequate to take us through the end of the year. The issue is whether or not they will request additional funds for our troops. And, of course, how much funding is needed for our troops dependent-depends entirely on what's going on, on the ground. And there's no question but that we are having security difficulties now, as you described earlier in this program. And I think that the-any additional funds that the military requests for our troops are going to be approved unanimously by both the House and the Senate. That request hasn't come in yet, but it may.

MATHISEN: Senator Corzine?

Sen. CORZINE: Well, I agree with Mitch and the-the concept that we're going to provide the resources to have our troops have the ability to carry out their mission as defined by our military leaders. I think the real issue is is that we have avoided talking to the American people about what the costs of this are going to be. As everyone knows, the president did not include in his budget proposals to Congress any additional spending beyond the 87 billion. We're going to talk about a supplemental. Now we're talking about a supplemental on a supplemental. And the fact is we have a debate without talking about how much it's going to cost, how long it's going to take. And I think it's reflective of poor planning and an inability for straight talk about what the costs of this war are and what the choices that's going to leave to the American people through our political process and what we're going to have to give up so that we can continue to finance this.

MATHISEN: Alas, we have to leave it there. I'm sure that debate will get spirited this summer and into the fall. Thank you, gentlemen, very much. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky...

Sen. McCONNELL: Thank you.

MATHISEN: ...Senator Corzine of New Jersey.

Sen. CORZINE: Thank you.

MATHISEN: Up next, one mother's desperate effort to bring her son home from Iraq. She's been diagnosed with terminal cancer and wants him at her side. Tonight, the Army has responded. Her story when we come back.

Also ahead, an emotional homecoming in Texas for the soldiers who nabbed the Ace of Spades.

Later, the Jackson indictment, what it really means. We'll talk with two experts who know.

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