January 27, 2003 - Meet the Press: Transcript of Tim Russert's interview with Senator Chris Dodd

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Transcript of Tim Russert's interview with Senator Chris Dodd

Read and comment on this transcript from Meet the Press with RPCV Senator Chris Dodd who said that there was a lot of concern from senators following a briefing on Iraq from the White House Thursday. He says they were not given the information he would need to support immediate action against Iraq. Read the story at:

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Senators McConnell, Dodd, welcome both. Senator Dodd, do you believe President Bush has made the case for war against Iraq?*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Senators McConnell, Dodd, welcome both. Senator Dodd, do you believe President Bush has made the case for war against Iraq?

SEN. CHRIS DODD, (D-CT): Not yet, but Iím one who supported the resolution back in September, and so I believe that, ultimately, if we canít resolve this matter diplomatically through the means weíre trying here, that war may be necessary, including a unilateral action. So I donít rule that out. But my hope would beóand I think this is a mood and expression thatís being made by others, not just meócertainly Dick Lugar, Chuck Hagel and others have expressed the notion that we ought to give this a little time here. The reportíll be out tomorrow. Let us see what itís got to sayóI agree with Andrew Cardó but then show some patience here.
I donít think thereís any doubt about our ability to win this war unilaterally if we have to. But the case has been made that winning the peace may be a far more difficult enterprise. And, therefore, itís going to be critically important, and the American public are certainly expressing this in these opinion polls weíre seeingónot that that ought to necessarily determine foreign policy, but certainly it makes a lot more sense, as George Bushís father demonstrated, to have a broad-based coalition going in so that you can have that kind of support necessary if things get tough, and then after youíve won militarily, to try and remake, if you will, Iraq. As the president suggested, youíll have a lot more ability of doing that if you have that kind of international support. So it may not be ultimately essential that we have it to win the war militarily, but I think itís going to be absolutely essential if youíre going to try to win the peace afterward.

MR. RUSSERT: Are you talking weeks, months, years?

SEN. DODD: Certainly not years, and it may be some months, maybe less than that. But certainly, we need to give this a chance to work and you need to have that kind of evidence. I donít expect necessarily the smoking gun that people are talking about. But I was at that meeting; I think Mitch was, as well, and he may disagree with me on this, but there was a lot of concern coming out of that meeting. We canít talk about the details of it.

MR. RUSSERT: This is Thursday, a briefing of 40 United States senators...

SEN. DODD: Thatís correct.

MR. RUSSERT: ...by Rumsfeld and Powell.

SEN. DODD: And it was not satisfactory in terms of getting laid out what is the information. And, certainly, they are sharing that kind of information with 40 United States senators, most of whom in there want to be supportive and agree that Saddam Hussein poses a threat and that disarming him is very much in our interest. So it seems to me youíve got a willing audience here that wants to help you, and coming out of that meeting we did not get the kind of help that you should have if youíre trying to make the case.

MR. RUSSERT: What do you want to see?

SEN. DODD: Well, I think better evidence than weíre seeing, certainly, and thatís why I wouldnít rush into this. I wouldnít rule out military action. Give these inspectors more time, if necessary, to do their job. Build the international support that you need to have. That seems to me to make the most sense for the United States.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator McConnell, let me show you what your Republican colleague, Senator Hagel of Nebraska, has said, calling on the president to lay it all out. ďI think the people in this country are very unsure and unsettled about this, and they will require, as well as people around the world, some very clear evidence that this course of action, jumping the tracks of the U.N. and unilaterally, with a couple of allies, attacking Saddam is the thing that must be done.Ē Are you satisfied the president has laid out enough evidence to commence attack on Iraq?

SEN. MITCH McCONNELL, (R-KY): Well, look, the dilemma we found ourselves in in North Korea illustrates why we need to finish the job of disarming Saddam Hussein. Obviously, Chuck Hagel is correct. It would be better to be able to do this with a large group of allies. But itís important to get this job done, as we just heard this morning from Secretary Powell, there is evidence of connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. We have no doubt that he has weapons of mass destruction. Itís clear that we havenít found them yet. Itís pretty hard to discover weapons of mass destruction if there is not, Tim, a lot of cooperation on the part of those being inspected. And it appears as if there is a limited cooperation in that regard. We need to complete the job of disarming Saddam Hussein. In my judgment, we need to bring about regime change, which was the same policy of the Clinton administration.

MR. RUSSERT: Should the president allow inspectors a few more weeks, a few more months?

SEN. McCONNELL: I think thatís up to the president. We have a very competent national security teamóSecretary Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Secretary Powell. I think they know what theyíre doing. I donít think they know what theyíre doing; I know they know what theyíre doing. I think weíve got a very competent team here. Theyíre going to give us the best advice about when to proceed. But proceed we must. Because weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein is simply unacceptable.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, Senator McConnell just cited Secretary Powell again of a direct link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Have you seen any evidence of that?

SEN. DODD: I havenít. And again, it wasnít brought up the other day. Now, I know those statements have been made. And if there is evidence, then I think, again, this is another example, making the statement saying it exists and being more demonstrative in demonstrating what that evidence is. Now, I understand methods and sources have to be protected a bit. You canít just have a laying out of all your information. But I have yet to see that connection. Now, there have been some reports of members of al-Qaeda going to Iraq. But the connection, per se, between this organization and the promotion of terrorismóthatís not to say that Saddam Hussein does not support terrorist organizations. He does. But al-Qaeda, specifically, I havenít seen that yet. Now, if they have, then I think they ought to lay it out in pretty clear detail for the American public.

MR. RUSSERT: Have you seen it, Senator McConnell?

SEN. McCONNELL: I think Secretary Powell is a man of his word. And if thereís evidence of this connection, thatísófurther illustrates further the need to disarm Saddam Hussein, which is our policy, and I think the president will carry that out.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, let me show you, again, our Wall Street Journal/NBC poll about which party is better suited to deal, war on terrorism and Saddam Hussein/Iraq. Look at those numbers. Overwhelmingly people have more confidence in George Bush and Republicans than the Democrats. Why is that?

SEN. DODD: Well, certainly, I think the president of the United States is commander in chief. Automatically gets, I think, tremendous amount of support, as he should. Iím fully expecting that on Tuesday night the president will make a strong speech in the State of the Union, laying out a case here. And I expect there will be a jump in support for some military action. Maybe more quickly than others might like. But I think, generally, people, when they talk about security here, they see a broader spectrum than just military issues. They talk about economic security, as well. But I would attribute a lot of those numbers having to do with the fact that the president is Republican, he is commander in chief, and people rally to the commander in chief in times like this.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you, Senator McConnell, on the economy and tax policy. The difference between the parties has narrowed dramatically. People now having almost equal confidence in Democrats and Republicans. Is the presidentís plan to eliminate taxation on stock dividends dead?

SEN. McCONNELL: No, I donít think so. The president wants to get the economy growing. We had a recession. It was compounded by the 9/11 attack. We are growing but we are not growing as we should. And unemployment is entirely too high. The president believes we should act. And his $670 billion tax reduction package, of which the dividend exclusion is just one portion, is an overall effort to reinvigorate the stock market and to get the economy growing again. And, clearly, the president isasking the Congress to act, and act, I believe, we will.

MR. RUSSERT: The president pledged a year ago the deficits would be small and short term. They are now approaching $350 billion. Why are the Republicans accepting such deficit spending?

SEN. McCONNELL: Well, weíre not accepting it. Our idea is to get the economy growing again. The reason we had a surplus a few years in the late í90s was because the economy was robust. Thereís only one thing that will grow revenues for the federal government and for state governments, and thatís a robust economy. And thatís what the presidentís growth package is about. And this is not a time for a tepid growth package. We need a robust growth package. And thatís exactly what the president has recommended.

MR. RUSSERT: How about the $300 stipend to every man, woman and child the Democrats are proposing?

SEN. McCONNELL: Well, it strikes me as somewhat like a welfare check from the IRS. I mean, that may be fine for those who are receiving the $300, but does that really have any impact on the economy long term? I think not. What the president is doing is trying to deal with the situation both short term and long term by putting together a growth package that gets the economy moving in the direction that will eliminate the deficits for both the federal government and the state government.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Dodd.

SEN. DODD: Well, you know, talking about average Americans who are getting a $300 rebate as a welfare checkófor people making over $1 million, itís a $27,000 tax break. Whatís that? This program the president has played out, the centerpiece of which is the elimination of the double taxation on dividendsóthatís more than $300 billion of the $670 billion tax package. This is economically ineffective. Itís fiscally irresponsible, and itís terribly unfair to average American families.
We need to get the economy stimulated here. No one suggests that this package is going to do anything in the year 2003. Very marginal at best. Giving consumers some resources such as Tom Daschle and others have argued for, the $300 rebate, will provide that kind of consumer stimulation that most economists think is necessary. To contribute more to this deficit is a huge mistake, in my view. Weíre crowding out our ability to fund other things that are necessary. Itís building up. Itís robbing from the Social Security Trust Fund which is going to make it far more difficult for us to deal with those issues in the long term. Itís going to raise interest rates and thatís a taxation on average families as car payments and mortgage payments and student loans go up. And itís unfair.I mean, talking about less than $1 a day is what the average taxpayer in that middle range would be getting under the presidentís proposal vs. the numbers for the upper 1 percent of income earners. Itís just unfair. But maybe more importantly is the fact that itís economically ineffective, itís dangerous. Weíve got a problem here thatís growing. Unemployment isó2.3 million jobs have been lost in the last year. We need to stimulate the economy, get back on track again, and this program the presidentís arguing for just doesnít do that at all. In fact, it goes in the wrong direction.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you what the head of the General Accounting Office said about Social Security. You brought it up. ďSocial Security benefit cuts, tax increases, a higher retirement age or a combination of those steps will be needed to fund the system in the long term...said Comptroller General David M. Walker, head of the General Accounting OfficeĒóbenefit cuts, tax increases, higher retirement age or a combination. ď...Social Security, a pay-as-you-go system, is expected to start paying more in benefits than it collects in taxes by 2017. That is because baby boomers will start retiring and the work force keeping the system afloat through payroll taxes will dwindle.Ē It used to be 35 workers per retiree, soon to be two workers per retiree. Will we, in fact, have to cut benefits, raise taxes or raise the retirement age?

SEN. DODD: Well, we may have to in time, but the first thing we ought to be doing is not embracing a tax package here that the presidentís put on the table thatís going to cost us more than $1 trillion, maybe $1 1/2 trillion over the next 10 years all of which is going out of that Social Security Trust Fund making those dates of 216 or 217, including the Medicare Trust Fund, even maybe move back further. So the question of how weíre going to deal with this in the long term is a very important one, but it becomes even more compelling when you have an economic program here that is going to rob us of our ability to grow economically and provide the resources necessary for this nation to deal with its Social Security demands and Medicare demands.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator McConnell.

SEN. McCONNELL: Letís talk about deficits a minute. Just in the last two weeks, the Republican Senate passed 11 appropriation bills in two weeks that the Democrats couldnít get passed in 12 months. And Chris and his colleagues offered amendments that would have engaged in $300 billion of deficit spending. Fortunately, we were able to defeat that. Spending too much contributes to deficits as well. And most of the Democrats have never met a spending item they were not in favor of. So letís look at the tax-cut part. They want to spend which contributes to the deficit; we want to grow the economy. So letís look at this tax cut, Tim, that Chris is talking about being so unfair. We looked in The Buffalo News Friday in the want ads for jobs. Thereís a job in there for a local delivery truck driver and for his wife whoís a clerk. It adds up to about $40,000 a year. Now, 97 percent of the income tax revenue for the federal government is paid for, is provided by people making in the mid-$40,000 a year and up. These good folks right now, if they were both employed in those jobs, would be paying $1,100 in income taxes. Under President Bushís plans, they would be paying no income taxes. This income tax cut by advancing the across-the-board marginal relief, by advancing the child-care tax credit, by advancing getting rid of the marriage penalty produces real dollars for real people who are paying the freight and providing the funds for the federal government. That is not a windfall for the rich.

MR. RUSSERT: What about Social Security? Will we have to cut benefits, raise taxes or raise the retirement age?

SEN. McCONNELL: The only way to make sure we donít have to make those kinds of choices is to have a robust economy, which gets back to how do you get the economy growing rapidly. The president has the right plan to get that done, and thatís what we hope to get through to Congress this year.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the issue of Title IX. You saw the proposals that are being made by some within the Department of Education task force. Do you believe the president risks political damage if he tinkers with Title IX?

SEN. DODD: Well, I think so. I mean, Ióthis is a program thatís worked tremendously well. I represent the state of Connecticut, and you start talking about Title IX in Connecticut, and the University of Connecticut womenís basketball team, youíre going to get into a lot of trouble. We had 18,000 people, I think, yesterday were watchingóor close to that number over the last number of weeksówatching the UConn womenís basketball team play in Connecticut. But putting that aside, this has been a tremendously effective program for women. And equalization, giving opportunities to young women to be able to develop their bodies, to participate in athletic programs, the statistics you pointed out earlier, 55 percent of students in colleges are womenóI think itís very important that we sustain and maintain this program. And whether or not youíre fooling around with affirmative action or Title IX, thereís a general sense here this administration seems to want to undercut a lot of efforts that have actually made this country more diverse and stronger over the years on a variety of fronts. And this is one of them.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator McConnell, the Republicans have traditionally had a problem with the so-called gender gap, attracting women voters. Do you think the president should tinker with Title IX?

SEN. McCONNELL: Look, Title IXís done a lot of good, but I donít think we ought to overreact to a study that is apparently under way over in the Education Department. Letís see what they come up with. I agree with Chris. I think Title IX has done a lot of good, and we donít want to go back in that area.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, you going to run for president?

SEN. DODD: Thinking about it, but no decision today, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: You are the senator from Connecticut, the senior senator from Connecticut. The junior senator, Joe Lieberman, has already announced heís running.

SEN. DODD: I tell him this all the time. He ought to be more respectful of that senior...

MR. RUSSERT: Why arenít you supporting your colleague?

SEN. DODD: Well, I very well may. But Joe and I talk almost daily. We probably have one of the best relationships of any two senators in the United States coming from the same state. And he knows Iím thinking about it and Iíll make a decision shortly.

MR. RUSSERT: By when?

SEN. DODD: Well, certainly in the next few weeks.

MR. RUSSERT: Are you leaning yes or no?

SEN. DODD: Well, thatíll come up.

MR. RUSSERT: If you donít run, will you support Senator Lieberman?

SEN. DODD: I very well may. And obviously, that would be a natural choice to make. And whether I run or not, Iím going to be deeply involved in these debates and discussions in the United States Senate or as a candidate. But Iíll make that decision in the next few weeks.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator McConnell?

SEN. McCONNELL: I think all Democratic senators should run for president this year.

MR. RUSSERT: Arenít they?

SEN. McCONNELL: Almost all of them are. The rest of them should get in.

MR. RUSSERT: What do you think of the Democratic field so far, Senator McConnell?

SEN. McCONNELL: Growing. Growing.

SEN. DODD: Growing.

SEN. McCONNELL: And I think you ought to jump right in, Chris. The waterís fine.

MR. RUSSERT: Why are you encouraging your colleague to get in?

SEN. McCONNELL: I think it creates an interesting dynamic, shall I say, in the Senate, Tim, to have a great number of Democrat senators running for president.

SEN. DODD: Well, itís an indication, Tim, of what the concern is in the country. There are real problems here on the foreign policy front and the domestic front weíve been talking about, and they seem to be getting worse. And I think people are nervous. Thereís a great sense of anxiety and unease about the direction weíre going in as a nation. So Iíll be interested to hear what the president has to say Tuesday night. But the reason that people are talking about this is because theyíre worried about the direction weíre going.

MR. RUSSERT: Before we go, Raiders or Bucs?

SEN. DODD: Well, Iím going with the Raiders this year.

SEN. McCONNELL: Raiders.

MR. RUSSERT: My God, the over the hill gang, there they are, pushing them out, huh? Maybe because George Allen, the senator of Virginiaís brother, Bruce Allen...

SEN. DODD: Thatís right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...runs the Raiders.

SEN. DODD: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: Weíll be right back with our MEET THE PRESS Minute from 12 years ago. The clock was ticking then about a possible invasion of Iraq.
More about RPCV Senator Chris Dodd

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