SHOW: PAULA ZAHN NOW 20:00
October 6, 2004 Wednesday
HEADLINE: Fact-Checking the Vice Presidential Candidates; President Bush on Offense
GUESTS: Lindsey Graham, Jon Corzine, Al Sharpton, Joe Watkins
BYLINE: Judy Woodruff, Joe Klein, Kathleen Hays, Jamie McIntyre, Ed Henry, Paula Zahn
ZAHN: And joining me now from Washington, Senator Jon Corzine, a Democrat of New Jersey, and Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Welcome, gentlemen. Good to see both of you.
ZAHN: Senator Graham, I'm going to start with you this evening.
First of all, you have the chief arms inspector testifying today that not only did Saddam Hussein have no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction when this war started, that his stockpile of chemical and biological weapons were gone after '91, and that his nuclear capability was degraded after 1991. Why shouldn't that hurt the president's credibility when he stated to the American public one of the reasons we were going to the war in Iraq was this argument over weapons of mass destruction?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, we asked the weapons inspector who had been involved for many years, did you believe that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction? He said yes because he'd had an insatiable appetite. He's used these weapons during the '80s.
ZAHN: But that's not what this report shows, sir.
GRAHAM: Well, but the question is, what did the world believe at the time of the resolutions, the 13, 14, 15 resolutions? The world believed, not just our intelligence services, but every intelligence service believed that his weapons programs were intact. I asked him, did he transfer any weapons material to a third country? That is still uncertain.
On paper, what we knew he had before the 1991 war and what was accounted for was a huge gap. And the dilemma for the world is, do you take his word for the fact that he disposed of it, because he could never prove it?
ZAHN: Senator Corzine, do you buy that argument? Because a lot of people are saying, even Tony Blair admitting that this intelligence was flawed. You have got a lot of stories that even Saddam was confused about his capability and that people underneath him were trying to convince him he had weapons programs he didn't even have.
SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: We prematurely made the decision that we were going to attack without having-allowing for the inspectors to do their job.
ZAHN: Did you believe at the time that we went into war that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, Senator Corzine?
CORZINE: I didn't believe that there was a presentation made to any of us in the United States Senate that this case was strong enough to send our men and women into war. That's one of the reasons that personally I voted against the use of force resolution.
And we rushed prematurely and diverted our attention away from what I think was the No. 1 problem for the United States, the No. 1 issue; 3,000 American lives were lost on September 11 and we should have been pursuing those who brought that injustice and that tragedy to the American people.
ZAHN: Senator Graham, what about Senator Corzine's criticism that this administration took its eye off the ball and that it diluted its ability to get Osama bin Laden because of this war on terror? Even President Musharraf told me in a one-on-one interview last week he believes that this war in Iraq has made the world a more dangerous place.
GRAHAM: Well, I don't think it's diluted our ability to get Osama bin Laden.
ZAHN: It hasn't helped it, though, has it?
GRAHAM: Well, I think what did help, it helped us get Libya to disarm. I don't think Libya would have ever given its weapons program up if we had not been forceful with Saddam Hussein.
The reason Saddam Hussein got invaded at the end of the day is his stubborn refusal to comply with U.N. inspections. The analyst who testified today said that he was certain that the U.N. inspection regime would not have worked over time, would have fallen apart, and this man would have acquired weapons the day the world turned the other way.
So I don't think it's diluted our ability to fight terrorism. I think Iraq is part of the war on terror. That's the big issue in this race.
ZAHN: And, Senator Corzine, as the president tries to defend his war record, your candidate, John Kerry, of course, was hit with some withering accusations from the president today about his flip-flopping on the issue of Iraq and how can you be critical of a war and say you can lead it at the same time?
CORZINE: He has laid out a four-point plan with regard to internationalization, to training the troops, to reconstruction, making sure that the political process works properly.
It is about 110 percent more than what the president did before the war. And, matter of fact, all we're going to do is get more of the same from the president, and I don't think that's a plan. And I don't think what we see coming out of-happening on the ground in Iraq, including, by the way, what Prime Minister Allawi is talking about with regard to the security conditions, tell us that we have a plan under the president.
ZAHN: Senator Corzine, Senator Graham, thank you for both of your perspectives. Appreciate it.
GRAHAM: Thank you.