Video: The Democrats' Plan

updated 3/30/2006 12:43:53 PM ET 2006-03-30T17:43:53

The GOP may find itself with a real fight on its hands as the Democratic Party offers up a national security platform.  While not everything in the unveiling of that plan went smoothly, for now, the Democrats can say they finally have one.
Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., now making a bid of his own for the U.S. Senate joined Keith Olbermann on ‘Countdown’ to elaborate on the plan introduced on Wednesday.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, ‘COUNTDOWN’:  Now that you have a message on this subject, the question becomes, getting the message out.  What plans are there to communicate it, to get it heard above the president's daily schedule?  That was a conflict today, to say nothing of the echo chamber that the Republican Party often tries to produce on this.

REP. HAROLD FORD, JR. (D), TENNESSEE:  I think it will be incumbent upon us candidates for Senate, for Congress, all across the country, to lay out a positive and constructive set of criticisms of what this administration has tried to do, or criticisms of what they have done, and how they have not measured up to what they wanted to measure up to.

And then lay out what the American people can depend on Democrats to do.  I think the first thing is just to be honest.  The president, last week, indicated that Iraq was not engaged—or that a civil war was not under way, only to be disputed by the sitting prime minister and the former prime minister in Iraq.  He laid out that it would be the next president who would bring troops home.

I think it's important for the American people to know that this administration, and even this Congress, are working in concert to try to find a solution to the challenge of creating a unity government in Iraq, and even to the challenge of training a military there in Iraq so that our troops can begin to come home.

I think it's important for a Democrat to note, and I was glad to see us not settle on a timetable to bring troops home.  You can't do that, and I think General Clark urged us the right way on that.  The second thing I think we did that was important was to lay out that bin Laden is still alive, and bin Laden is still on the run.

You made the point in your opening, I think, somewhat serious and somewhat joking, to have a map that knows which way south and north is.  I think it's important for this administration, although a new president will take office in 2009, it's important that the administration be willing to work with Democrats and Republicans in the Congress, and perhaps most important to follow the admonition of Miss Albright, who indicated that we have to be honest, and they have to be honest with themselves.

The shakeup there in the White House with Mr. Bolten is perhaps encouraging in one way.  I liked Andy Card and thought he was an honest broker.  But I can only hope that Mr. Bolten, who has great respect here on the Hill, will look the president in the eye and tell him when he's wrong and applaud him when he's right.

That's what the American people expect and deserve, frankly.

OLBERMANN:  Is there an implication in there that the Bush administration's failure to find him is solely a result of their dropping the ball in terms of prioritizing finding him?

FORD:  No.  There's plenty of blame to go around, and the president deserves a lot of that blame.  I think the only point that we make is that he is still on the run, and there was a moment in this war in terrorism early on when the entire world was united with the United States, when the U.N. and the U.S. worked together, when our European allies and, for that matter, Asian and African allies, were all with us.

But we're past that point.  And I can only hope that this administration does not take its eye not only off of bin Laden but the prospect of terrorist havens growing in Afghanistan and even growing in parts of Africa.  I think that's the challenge that Democrats are concerned about.

And I've been to Iraq now four times.  I've been to Afghanistan three.  And I'm a believer that Afghanistan is not the done deal that many Americans, and even some in Congress, might believe.  We face a challenge of a rising insurgency even on the ground there.

My only hope is that the president will understand that Democrats can be trusted to work with him, can be trusted as viable partners.  And I think today's press conference is the beginning of an effort to show the American people that we too can be trusted to protect this nation, defend families, and make right choices for our future security.

OLBERMANN:  The vice president did another one of the interviews today in which he alluded to a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, speaking of trips to Iraq.  How exactly do you combat that, when the facts don't seem to have much to do with one of the main arguments about this?

FORD:  This speaks to just the honesty issue, and I think that the American people have caught up with this administration and are frankly prepared to call the president on this.

The president can't, on one day, say Saddam Hussein had very little if anything to do, as he did on a national broadcast the other night, with 9/11, then have his vice president make a ridiculous claim and assertion, unsupported by any facts, that Saddam Hussein had something to do with it.

I think the American people have accepted that there's disagreement between the vice president and the president on that issue.

What Democrats have to do is, we have to ensure the American people that we can be trusted to do the right thing for the country when it comes to not only bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, but the war on terrorism as a whole.  The president and the vice president have made their mark, and frankly, I think the voters will make that determination in the fall.

What we have to do as Democrats is show that we can be trusted to lead and defend the country, and today was the start of that.

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