Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hugh Hewitt talks to Joe Lieberman

I got the phone with him right after the interview was over, and thankfully he answered my first question before we even spoke. I wanted the transcript, and as they say, "your wish is my command." Here it is. Hear are some money quote excerpts:

HH: What would the effect be of the imposition and the implementation of an arbitrary date for the draw down of American troops in Iraq, Senator Lieberman?

JL: Well, I think it would be a disaster. I mean, first thing, obviously, it would send a message to al Qaeda and the Iranian-backed terrorists that they know when we’re leaving, they should wait us out. Second, the Iraqi political leadership that we have been working so hard and pressuring to come to some kind of political reconciliation, they would exactly pull back from that, and they’d begin to, not just hedge their bets, but hunker down for what they would all assume would be a civil war. And I’ll tell you, just give you an anecdote, I was in Iraq about a month ago. I was in the city of Ramadi, which we’ve cleared of al Qaeda, quite remarkable, standing with a group of Iraqi and American soldiers. The local general of the Iraqi forces asked if he could talk to me privately. And Hugh, to tell you the truth, it has happened once or twice before, I thought he was going to ask me to do what I can to get them better equipment and weapons and all. Instead, he said he watches American television by satellite, and he said he’s very worried, and he said please go back, when you go back to Washington, tell your colleagues who want to set a deadline for withdrawal and get out of here, that they’re basically signing my death sentence. And not only mine, but my family. And you know, he’s right.

HH: He’s right. Well, some of your colleagues said on the floor yesterday that the surge had already failed. Are there any reports that have been given to Congress that seem to indicate that? Is there something we don’t know about? Because the surge, if you read Michael Yon’s dispatches…

JL: Right.

HH: If you read John Burns in the New York Times, it seems to be working.

JL: Right. Absolutely right. Look, there is a gap between the real war that’s being fought in Iraq and the political war over the war in Iraq that’s being fought here in Washington. And very often, the statements in the debate here have very little to do with the reality on the ground. Every indication, really remarkably, when you think about the fact that there just the full complement of troops about a month ago for the surge, it’s showing tremendous results. The reduction in sectarian in Baghdad, number one goal, al Qaeda chased out of Anbar Province, and then uniquely, they ran a lot of them to Diyala Province, as you know, instead of, as always before, when we couldn’t chase them. Now, we have enough people because of the additional surge forces. We went after them, and we’ve got them on the run there. So no, these are people…the surge has not failed. People say the war is lost. The war is not lost. These are people, to put it as bluntly as I can, they’re talking about a change in course of our policy in Iraq. What they’re really talking about is accepting an American defeat there, which is a victory for al Qaeda and Iran, and that’s about the last thing any of us should want.

Now, anyone who thinks that Joe Lieberman is living in a fantasy world, like Michael Ware did (an allusion to a comment from Hugh to Joe about Michael Ware) I suggest you rethink that. Joe Lieberman has admitted int his interview that there were mistakes made. He's not playing the cover-game for the president. But he's also not stupid either, and he gets it. He understands the drawbacks of a full draw-down. He knows what will happen. Nutters might not buy what he said, but we find little reason to disbelieve him. We know Joe Lieberman, and he's not the type of politician saying this or that to curry favor back hom so the voters don't oust him. If he was, he wouldn't have stuck by the courage of his convictions, switched parties, and kicked Ned Lamont's @$$ in 2006.

HH: Does it generally produce coverage that strikes you as balanced? Or is it just overwhelmingly defeatist?

JL: It’s very negative, and I mean, I think it’s really hurt the war, the political war at home. Look, the American military, working together with coalition forces including Iraqis, will never lose the war in Iraq. I just can’t stress that enough.

HH: Right.

JL: We will never lose the war in Iraq. If America suffers a defeat in Iraq, it will be because the American people didn’t stick with it, didn’t have the will. And some people here in leadership positions politically were so much against it that they built up that public opposition, that a lot of it is framed by the media. I won’t say a lot of them lie, but the constant focus is on the suicide bombers. And I know that’s news, but you know, the suicide bombers are our enemy. They’re carrying out more dramatic acts because we’re on the move, and we’ve got them on the run. And incidentally, Hugh, they’re not only trying to kill Iraqis and Americans with the suicide bombs over there, they’re trying to kill American support for the war in Iraq.

HH: Sure.

JL: They’re trying to affect American public opinion, and unfortunately, they’re succeeding.

Again, he's right and I made this point to Hugh, which he agreed with me, that the opinion polls keep showing a decline in support for the war. That's how it's always framed. It's bull-sh*t, folks. It's a complete and total misrepresentation of the majority of Americans. We know of people who aren't happy with how long this war is going on, they aren't happy with the mistakes made, they're not happy with the media's portrayal of certain things -- Haditha, Abu Ghraib, etc. -- and that's resonating throughout the media and the talking monkeys in Congress. We. Don't. Buy. It. We don't believe that this nation would be willing to bring her forces home, ceding the field to a bloodthirsty enemy that will destroy all the success that was achieved in a free Iraq. We can't stress this enough. And adding to that point, the only people we know that are saying that it's time to leave are those on the Left. The little, liberal, armchair generals believe they know better than the troops on the ground and the commanders int he field. They think they're so damned intellectual about leaving, but none of them can foresee the disaster that's coming over the horizon if we leave. The polls are crap. America wants to win this war, and all it takes is for the politicans to shut the Hell up, and take the gloves off of our military.

HH: Right. In a statement earlier this month, Senator Lieberman, you said that, and I’m quoting here, “The fact is that the Iranian government, by its actions, has declared war on us.” Given that, if President Bush announced he felt compelled to take military action against Iran, would you support him?

JL: Yeah, of course I would. My instinct would always be to support the commander-in-chief. Right now, what I’ve been focused on is the evidence that the American military has put before us more and more detail, most recently about a week ago Monday, General Kevin Bergner, and our spokesperson in Baghdad, documents, evidence that the Iranians are taking groups of Iraqi terrorists to three training bases on the outskirts of Tehran, and they’re training them in the use of sophisticated weapons that are then being brought back by them into Iraq. And they have resulted in the deaths of literally hundreds of American soldiers. So you know, we’ve raised this with them…and I always want to give them a chance, so we raised it with him at the one meeting that occurred between the American ambassador, Baghdad and the Iranian in May, and I gave them the evidence, asked them to stop. They haven’t. I’m very pleased that yesterday, I sponsored an amendment resolution in the Senate, it passed 97-0, documenting the case, kind of an indictment against Iran, and basically telling them to stop it. And it’s not an authorization of use of force, but it’s not a prohibition of it, either. And if the President decided to take action there, of course I would support him.

HH: If our intelligence, and the intelligence of other countries, told us that Iran was reaching that critical mass, or going critical, capability of nuclear weaponry, would you advise the President to strike those facilities in which that capability was being assembled, Senator Lieberman?

JL: Well, you know, I should leave him some room, but I think he’s made clear, and a lot of us have, that you know, this is dilemma, and the kind of inconsistency here, Hugh, that we’ve got most every member of the Congress, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, has said we cannot allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. This is a state where since the revolution of ’79, they gather in the tens of thousands and shout death to America, death to America. Ahmadinejad says he wants to wipe out Israel. You could go on and on. And nuclear weapons in their hands would be a disaster, a whole nightmarish development in the world. But a lot of my colleagues, after they say we can’t let it happen, they think we can talk the Iranians into changing their plans. The Europeans talked to them about this for more than two years, and they did nothing. So we’re squeezing them economically with some sanctions. We ought to toughen the sanctions, and yes we have to be ready to do everything we can to knock out as much of their nuclear program as possible, if all else fails.

HH: Some critics say we can’t trust our intelligence, because of the WMD, which raise a couple of questions. Do you think Saddam had WMD in 2002?

JL: Well, look, he surely, even the Duelfer report, which was the most authoritative report, said he had some, and he had a network of chemical and biological experts working on it, and a kind of fallback network on nukes, which is what he really wanted. Here’s the point. In 2002, Saddam himself said he had weapons of mass destruction, and we gave him every chance, pursuant to the UN resolutions, which the U.S. asked for, to come clean and show us that he had destroyed the inventory of WMD that he filed with the UN as a condition of the end of the Gulf War in ’91, and he wouldn’t do it. So you know, I know people look back and say this was some classic colossal act of deceit by out government. I think everybody in the world, and the best intelligence services, frankly, including most people around Saddam Hussein who’ve been interviewed since, thought that he had WMD.

This is the sort of senator the Democrats need. I could care less where his social liberal views fall. What matters is the simple fact that he stands for protecting this nation, at all costs, from attack or destruction by the evil forces that think they can stand up to us, and back us down; their goal right now in Iraq is to send the US back home in defeat. The Democrats in his party seem content with that. They're listening to the wrong people -- a minority of people in this country that are throwbacks to the Vietnam War, still using the same old playbook.

HH: What happened to your party? What took them from being, you know, a party with two wings to being a party with one wing and Joe Lieberman?

JL: Yeah, this is a danger. And you know, there’s a group within the party, a small group, that’s very activist, very aggressive, very left, and driving the agenda. Obviously, what’s also happened, for the reasons that we talked about before, Hugh, is that the war has generally become unpopular, so now there’s actually a broader political incentive to be against the war. But you know, as I said the other day on the floor, the folks didn’t send us here, they didn’t elect us just so we would work to get reelected. They elected us to be leaders, to protect the country, to defend our values, our freedom. And you know, I think this is a challenge, the likes of which we have not faced for a long, long time. And we’re only going to defeat the challenge if we pull together. Partisanship here has gone crazy, but the worst part of it is that it’s now a significant part of our debate about foreign and defense policy. And who benefits from that? Our enemies. I mean, sometimes around here, people treat each other like members of the other party are the enemy. The Islamist extremists are the enemy.

Senator Lieberman completely understands what happened to his party as much as we know what happened to the GOP. Whereas the Democrats turned the reins over to the nutroots, the moonbats, the special-interest cry-babies, and the children in their own party, the GOP got hooked on the few years of power they had, and grew alienated to their base. The base reacted. They didn't get the memo, and two weeks ago, we reminded them again. Some people got the memo (K-Lo highlighted them today), but we still have a couple that need to be slapped upside their head.

Look at it this way: Joe Lieberman's got a tougher road to travel. He's got a whole party that's gone stark, raving nuts. We got a half dozen that need a reminder. So remind them already. As for Joe, I'll take him at his word, and he's spot on. If there were more like him in the Democrat Party, we might actually be able to reach across the aisle from time to time in true bipartisanship. until then, the battle lines are still drawn. We win, they lose.

Publius II


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