MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: a new prime minister and a new government in Iraq, more threats from Iran, and the continuing debate over privacy vs. national security. With us: the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.
Then, big differences within the Republican Party over what to do with 11 million illegal immigrants—undertake a mass deportation or begin a path to citizenship? Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina squares off with Republican Congressman Charlie Norwood of Georgia.
But first, yesterday, Nouri al-Maliki was sworn in as the new prime minister of Iraq. Here to talk about that and more is the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.
DR. CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Good morning, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: A new government in Iraq, a new prime minister, and yet no minister of defense, of interior or national security. Does that concern you?
DR. RICE: Well, first of all, I think this is a real step forward, a big day, really, for the Iraqi people. You have the first elected government that is there to govern, not just to prepare elections or to prepare constitutions, but to govern permanently. Our understanding with Prime Minister Maliki is that he wants to get it right about Defense and Interior. They’re going to take a little bit longer. They are doing interviews, they’ve vetted people. They want to make certain that they make the right choices there.
When I was in Iraq with Secretary Rumsfeld, Prime Minister Maliki was very focused on the need particularly to have an Interior Ministry in which people had confidence and that could build police in which people had confidence. And so I’m not surprised that it’s taking them a little bit longer to make sure that these are people in whom the prime minister has confidence.
MR. RUSSERT: It’s a pivotal position.
DR. RICE: It’s absolutely pivotal, and it needs to be truly a national unity position. It needs to be a position in which there’s someone who’s not just competent, but somebody of integrity. And I think it actually shows some maturity that they were able to go ahead with the formation of the government so that they can start working, but that they can take a little bit longer.
And I talked this morning to Ambassador Khalilzad in Baghdad. He told me that already the prime minister has had meetings today on infrastructure security. He is saying that he’s determined to use maximum force if necessary to stop the terrorists and to, and to make certain that they can disarm militias and other unauthorized armed groups. So he’s focused on the right things, and this government, I think, has a really good chance to work, and work effectively.
MR. RUSSERT: The New York Times reports that one of the leading candidates to be the minister of the interior is Ahmed Chalabi...
DR. RICE: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: ...one of the Iranian—Iraqi exiles who encouraged the U.S. to go in there in the first place. Would that be acceptable to you?
DR. RICE: Well, we are going to work with Prime Minister Maliki, and these are his choices, but I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions about names here. They’re are a lot, a lot of politics going on in Iraq right now. Democracy’s broken out, people talk, people engage in politics. But he’s looking at names that I think really will show that this is going to be a position of integrity and a position of competence.
MR. RUSSERT: Is Chalabi on the list?
DR. RICE: I’m not going to discuss his choices. I think as a prime minister...
MR. RUSSERT: Is he up to—is he up to the job?
DR. RICE: It’s for Prime Minister Maliki to decide who’s up to this job.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman John Murtha, Democrat who had voted for the war and now sees things a lot differently, had this to say, “Six months after first calling for a withdrawal of U.S. troops, Congressman Murtha said that the military situation in Iraq had only gotten worse. ... Murtha contended ... that by most every military and economic measure, the situation in Iraq had deteriorated. He said oil production, a key ingredient for Iraqi prosperity, had not reached prewar levels; much of the country gets only nine to 11 hours of electricity a day. In Baghdad the average is 2.9 hours.
“The president insists that our military needs to stay the course, but there’s no plan for progress. Every convoy’s attacked, improvised explosive devices exploding all around, being shot at every day. [American troops] are in constant and severe stress. The only people who can settle this are the Iraqis.”
DR. RICE: Well, I would certainly agree with the last line, that the people who will settle is Iraqis, and that’s why the creation of this new government of national unity that has such great focus and that is already beginning to work on behalf of the Iraqi people is so important. But I do think that the United States and other coalition—and indeed, the international community—can support them in that work. We are going to sit with the new Iraqi prime minister and his team and look at the security situation, both in terms of what remains to be done and who should do it.
When I was there, Prime Minister Maliki told me that he wanted to see an acceleration of even the training of Iraqi forces, and certainly Iraqi forces stepping up more to take their security responsibilities. They are stepping up. They’re taking large parts of territory that they now control. That notorious highway between the airport and the international zone is now controlled by Iraqis. And in fact, has been much more peaceful since they’ve taken control of it. So they are taking their responsibilities. They are taking losses on behalf of their own country.
And I want to say something also about the political leadership in Iraq. I have met with Iraqi leaders who have lost family members to hard-core insurgents who don’t want particularly Sunnis to be part of the political process. And at every turn, when they lose a brother or they lose a sister, they say, “The way that we honor that memory is to form a government of national unity and to make Iraq a stable democracy.” These people are sacrificing, they are committed, and we need to be there to, to help them succeed. But it is true, they are the ones that must succeed.
MR. RUSSERT: With this new prime minister, this new government, will there now be significant reductions of American troops by this fall?
DR. RICE: Well, we are going to sit with the prime minister and his team and make a determination on how the security situation is going to best be addressed. But clearly larger numbers of Iraqis are being trained, clearly they’re taking on more security responsibility. And it has always been the plan that as they take these responsibilities, we will have less to do. I think it’s already the case that we spend a great deal more of our time on training, but there are still some difficult places to deal with, and we want to make sure that we have the forces there that are needed. That’s why the president talks about conditioned-based withdrawals.
MR. RUSSERT: But you’re optimistic we’ll be able to have some withdrawals by this year?
DR. RICE: Well, I’m, I’m optimistic that the Iraqis are taking more security responsibility and are better trained. I, I think it would be premature before we’ve had a chance to talk with the new Iraqi government to start talking about precisely what’s going to happen in terms of our own forces.
MR. RUSSERT: But Madam Secretary, you know the numbers as well as I do: 2,448 dead Americans, 18,088 wounded or injured. And look at these numbers in terms of support for the war, the president’s handling of Iraq. When the war began in March of ‘03, it was 70 percent approval. It’s now down to 32. Less than one in three Americans support the president’s handling of the war in Iraq. What happened?
DR. RICE: I understand that Americans see on their screens violence. They continue to see Americans killed, and we mourn every death. These are very hard things to do. But I would ask that people remember why we are there. We are there because we are trying to—having overthrown a brutal dictator who was a destabilizing force in the Middle East, we’re trying to help the Iraqis create a stable foundation for democracy and a stable foundation for peace. In a region in which our interests, and indeed our very security, has been so wrapped up with the Middle East, that is something worth doing. And nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice. I understand that it’s hard, it’s also hard—harder to see the quiet progress on the political front, the coming together of Iraqis, Sunnis, Shia, Kurds, to build their political future. And so I, I understand that Americans want us to succeed and that the question is, “Can we succeed?” And I just want to say we can.
MR. RUSSERT: But it’s more than just seeing violence on the screen. Would you not agree—accept the notion that Americans, who only 32 percent approve of the president’s handling, have seen some misjudgments: no weapons of mass destruction, a misreading of the level, intensity of the insurrection, whether we’d be greeted as liberators, sectarian violence, cost of the war? There were a lot of misjudgments made that the American people also witnessed.
DR. RICE: Undoubtedly, Tim, there are many things that could have been done differently, and I’m certain could have been done better. But when you’re involved in an enterprise this big and this complicated, there are going to be misjudgments. The real question is, do you adjust when you see a different situation on the ground? And in numerous circumstances, we have had to make adjustments.
I think those adjustments have been in the right direction, but there are also some misjudgments that were not made. There were those who said that it would be best just to overthrow Saddam Hussein and then put in an Iraqi strongman who could govern. That would have been a disaster for the progress of the Middle East as a whole and for a democratic foundation for, for the Middle East. There were those who said, “The Iraqis will, will really never be able to, to do this. Let’s go in with a huge footprint and do—leave nothing to the Iraqis.” What we’ve done is to steadily build Iraqi political capability and competence and confidence over this period of three years.
We are a long way, it’s, it’s—people forget, we’re a long way from the governing council that had a rotating president every month to the now inauguration of Prime Minister Maliki, the inauguration of an Iraqi government that is capable and competent and committed and the inclusion of large numbers of Sunnis through authentic political leadership that we believe can give people a place in the political system and give less reason for a violent insurgency among the Sunnis.
MR. RUSSERT: You’ve been deeply involved in the president’s foreign policy. The Economist, a highly regarded magazine from Great Britain, supported the president when he ran in 19--in 2000, wrote this this week, “That Mr. Bush has made big mistakes in foreign policy is not in doubt. He oversold the pre- war intelligence on Iraq, bungled the aftermath, [and] betrayed America’s own principles in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.” The U.N. committee has now said we should shut down the prison in Guantanamo, shut it down because it is wrong, and, and politically, many Americans believe, gives America a black eye around the world.
DR. RICE: No one would like to shut down Guantanamo more than this administration. We don’t want to be the world’s jailers. But I would ask people to answer the following question: Then what do we do with the hundreds of dangerous people there who were caught on the battlefield, who are known to have connections, who regularly say that if they’re released, they’re going to go back to killing Americans? Do you really want those people on the streets?
We have released hundreds of people from Guantanamo, we’ve released them to custody of, of their own governments when we can assure that they won’t be mistreated and when we can assure that they will be properly monitored and, and, and looked after so that they can’t commit crimes again. Yes, Guantanamo is a necessity because of the nature of the war on terror, but lots of changes have been made at Guantanamo. I only wish that Rapporteur had gone to Guantanamo and actually looked at what was going on there. It’s a little difficult to understand by remote control.
MR. RUSSERT: So, it will not be closed?
DR. RICE: In time, Tim, of course it will be closed. It’s my hope that it—that that time is coming. But we do have to recognize...
MR. RUSSERT: What’s the timetable...
DR. RICE: Well, I—I’m not going to talk in timetables. What we can talk about is what results we want, and we want a result in which we are certain that dangerous people are not going to be let back out onto the streets. Because the day that we are facing them again on the battlefield—and by the way, that has happened in a couple of cases of people released from Guantanamo—the question’s going to be quite a different one from you or from others, which is, “Why didn’t you make provisions to keep dangerous criminals, dangerous terrorists that you knew were terrorists out of America’s neighborhoods or London’s neighborhoods or the neighborhoods of Amman, Jordan?”
MR. RUSSERT: And Jim Hoagland says in today’s Washington Post that the president’s slipping poll ratings don’t stop at the water’s edge; they have consequences all around the world; Russian President Putin behaving differently, Iranian—the Iranians—when we said, “You will not build a nuclear bomb, and there may be sanctions against you if you do that,” this was the response from the Iranian president: “No U.N. Security Council resolution could make Iran give up its nuclear program. ... ‘The Iranian nation won’t give a damn about such useless resolutions.’”
DR. RICE: Well, it’s high talk, but I’ll say this, every time we get close to a vote in the U.N., there’s an Iranian diplomat in every capital trying to stop it. And so I assume that they do have concerns about the kind of isolation that the international community can bring on Iran. Now, we’re trying to show Iran that there are two courses, they can go down the course of pursuing a nuclear program in which the international community has no confidence they’re—that they’re not covering activities toward a nuclear bomb, or they can accept a course in which they have civil nuclear energy, acceptable program in the international community, and the benefits of integration into the international community.
But the Iranians know that the—that sanctions, that international action can, in fact, be quite damaging to them, and that’s why they work with all their might to avoid being referred—worked with all their might to avoid being referred to the Security Council. They failed in that. And now they’re trying to forestall sanctions. So I assume that the Iranian president is, is simply posturing on this, because I think the Iranians do know how devastating this could be.
MR. RUSSERT: Would the United States offer security guarantees, promise not to bring about a regime change in Iran if the current government agreed not to build a nuclear bomb?
DR. RICE: Well, first of all, I just want to set the record straight. I haven’t been asked by my colleagues if the United States will grant security guarantees to the Iranians. So the notion that there’s some split between the United States and Europe in this is simply wrong.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, will you?
DR. RICE: Secondly, it’s a little strange to talk about security guarantees when the question is Iranian behavior here. And yes, the nuclear issue’s important, but let’s remember this is a state that, that threatens to destroy Israel, that is a central banker of terrorism, that is engaged every day in supporting Hezbollah and rejectionist groups in the Palestinian territories, that has stirred up violence in the south of Iraq, including, we believe, in terms of technology that may be contributing to violence against our soldiers. It, it’s certainly strange to talk about security guarantees in that circumstance. And I would say one other thing. I’ve never quite understood it. If this is a civil nuclear program, and supposed to give energy, what’s, what is with security guarantees? I thought this was supposed to be a civil nuclear program.
MR. RUSSERT: But in, in reality if you’re asking someone to stop developing a nuclear bomb, and they in turn say—through other diplomats at the U.N.—guarantee you will not topple their government if they do that, you won’t do that?
DR. RICE: I thought the Iranian position was that they weren’t developing a nuclear bomb? I thought the Iranian position was that they wanted civil nuclear power? So, so...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, you say they are.
DR. RICE: So, well, let’s, let’s pursue the question of do they want civil nuclear power? But Tim, the United States is not, first, being asked about security guarantees, and secondly it makes no sense in a context in which Iran is a central banker of terrorism and a force for instability in a region of, of great interest to us.
MR. RUSSERT: The New York Times reports, however, that we’re going to have a negotiation with North Korea about a peace treaty, even though we said we wouldn’t negotiate as long as they had nuclear bombs.
DR. RICE: No, what the, the—I think The New York Times is referring to is there is an agreement between the six parties that not only will we insist on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula—that is that the North Koreans have to make a strategic choice, and—actually, a verifiable choice to dismantle their nuclear programs. And of course at some point in time it’s going to be very important to talk about the context on the Korean peninsula. That is, the state of war that exists between the parties to the Korean conflict in—out of 1953, and the North Korean state. But that’s a very different set of circumstances. Clearly, North Korea hasn’t made that strategic choice and they’re not at that table.
The Iranian situation, let’s just remember what we’re talking about: We’re talking about the international community’s demand that Iran change its course on the kind of nuclear program that it is pursuing, and that it can then have certain benefits in the international system. This is not about Iran and the United States. This is an issue between the international community and Iran. And to the degree that the Iranians try to make this a, a tussle between—a disagreement between the United States and, and Iran, they are really not going to find very fertile ground, because we are united with our allies in what needs to be done.
MR. RUSSERT: Would it be easier to deal with Iran and this issue if, in fact, we did not have the complication of Iraq? And the reason I’m asking that is, you went before the world and said, “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Our very best intelligence says that and that’s the rationale to go in.” And now the world and many in this country are saying, “What evidence do you have about Iran? And is—are you being distracted by Iraq? And are your options being limited in dealing with Iran because of the difficulties we have in Iraq?”
DR. RICE: Well, let’s remember, first of all, that the United States didn’t go and say Iraq is a, is a problem on the WMD side. There were resolutions within the U.N. Security Council that suggest everybody knew and believed there was a WMD problem with Iraq. But that aside, we are also in very good company in being concerned about what Iran is doing in terms of its nuclear program. This isn’t the United States alone that has concerns about the potential that the Iranians are using civil nuclear programs to cover military nuclear programs. That’s why the Russian structured their Bushehr civilian nuclear reactor with what’s called a fuel take-back provision, so that there wouldn’t be proliferation risk. It’s why the International Atomic Energy Agency is asking the questions of Iran that it is about its program. So I think we have pretty good unity on the concerns about the Iranian nuclear program.
MR. RUSSERT: And Iraq has not limited your options?
DR. RICE: I, I do not think Iraq has limited our options. Iraq and Iran are very different places, quite apart from what is going on now. The circumstances that led us to do what we did in Iraq are very, very different than the circumstances we face in Iran.
MR. RUSSERT: But Iran is clearly a much more serious threat than Iraq.
DR. RICE: Well, I, I certainly wouldn’t say that. We went to war with Iraq, let’s remember, and, and...
MR. RUSSERT: But they didn’t have weapons of mass destruction.
DR. RICE: No. That’s—Tim , let’s, let’s remember that in 1991 we found that their weapons of mass destruction programs were far further developed than anyone knew. There was then a long period under U.N. Security Council resolution of where they would not answer questions about extremely dangerous programs.
MR. RUSSERT: But in terms of threat to the United States, what we found in March of 2003 is that Iraq was not nearly the threat Iran is now.
DR. RICE: But, Tim, of course, you know what you know at the time.
MR. RUSSERT: Sure.
DR. RICE: And when we made the decision to go into Iraq, there--, everybody believed there were weapons of mass destruction. But Saddam Hussein was also a tremendously destabilizing force, against whom we had gone to war. Iran is a dangerous state today because of its nuclear ambitions, but also because of its activities in the region. And we’re dealing with that through a concerted international effort in which we have as tight coordination and agreement with our European allies as I’ve frankly ever seen on any issue.
MR. RUSSERT: Will George W. Bush leave office as president of the United States with a nuclear arms development program in place in Iran?
DR. RICE: Well, it is certainly our view, and the view of our allies, that the world cannot accept the Iranians’ current position. We can’t allow Iran to move steadily toward a, toward nuclear weapons because it would be tremendously destabilizing in this already volatile region. We have a lot of tools at our disposal. We have three tracks: the U.N. Security Council track, which we will pursue; we have the negotiating track, which we will pursue—and by the way, the United States will support that track and support it fully; and, we have the—whatever states, like-minded states may wish to do outside of the Security Council, with financial measures and the like.
MR. RUSSERT: And a military option as well?
DR. RICE: The president’s not going to take any option off the table, but we believe that this is something that can be resolved diplomatically. We have many steps yet to take, and Iran cannot, can, can really not stand the kind of international isolation that could be brought upon it if we don’t—if they don’t find a way to change course.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you concerned about the, not only the eavesdropping that had been reported earlier of calls being made from the U.S. to foreign country, but now the collection of data done on domestic phone calls?
DR. RICE: Tim, the president has spoken to the program of, of surveillance that was—allowed us to understand what was going on outside the country in connection to what was going on inside the country. That link had to be made. Mike Hayden has spoken to this extensively in his, in his testimony, in his confirmation hearings, and the president has assured the American people that he has acted within the law, but that he’s done everything within the law to help protect and preserve the country.
MR. RUSSERT: During the campaign he said every time—any time he’d get a wiretap, he’d get a court order. That has not been the case.
DR. RICE: The president has, has made very clear that what he is doing is under his authorities as commander in chief, but also under legal authorities. I’m not going to get into the, the debate that the lawyers may have about this, but I can tell you that this president is committed to two goals simultaneously. First, that he’s going to protect the privacy of the American people because that’s who we are. But he’s also going to protect us as a country and in order to do that, I think Americans understand that you can’t have a situation in which al-Qaeda and people associated to—with al-Qaeda are having conversations inside the country that connect to countries—to conversations outside the country and we can’t monitor them.
MR. RUSSERT: But this is collection of data within the U.S.
DR. RICE: Tim, I, I’m not going to get into the details of our intelligence programs. But let me just note, the issue is, can we both protect our privacy and protect our country? The president believes that we can. He has undertaken steps to do that. And I might say that Mike Hayden—who I’ve known, by the way, since we were—he was a lieutenant colonel on the Joint Staff and I was a fellow there—is someone who is a man of integrity, someone who will do a very fine job of running the Central Intelligence Agency, and someone who’s equally committed, as the president is, to both privacy and protection.
MR. RUSSERT: And to be continued. We thank you very much for sharing your views.
DR. RICE: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, two Republicans with very different views on immigration: South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham vs. Georgia Congressman Charlie Norwood. They square off on illegal immigration: mass deportation or a path to citizenship? Right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: The immigration debate within the Republican Party. Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Charlie Norwood, after this station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
Congressman Norwood, Senator Graham, welcome both.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Good morning.
REP. CHARLIE NORWOOD (R-GA): Good morning, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Graham, Senator Norwood put out a press release. “He’s going to appear on MEET THE PRESS and debate Senator Graham who supports a Senate plan to grant amnesty to all illegal immigrants.” Why did you do that?
SEN. GRAHAM: Why did I put it out?
REP. NORWOOD: I put it out.
MR. RUSSERT: Why—do you support amnesty for all illegal immigrants?
SEN. GRAHAM: No. Amnesty to me is what Jimmy Carter did with draft dodgers. “Come on back and all is forgiven.” This is a pathway to citizenship that takes 11 years. I agree with the president. There’s got to be some middle ground between mass deportation, which won’t work, or putting 11 million people in jail, which won’t work, and immediate citizenship.
This bill doesn’t grant anybody immediate citizenship. If you fail to learn English, you’ve got to pay a fine, you’ve got to constantly be employed for 45 days for a six-year period, then you get a green card and you have to do the same thing all over again for five more. So at the end of 11 years, you are eligible if you make—go through all these gates to get at the back of the line to become an American citizen. There is no determined outcome. The outcome is dependent upon what the individual does. If you do the things we ask of you for 11 years, in my opinion, you’re a value-added product to the American economy and the American culture and we’d love to have you.
MR. RUSSERT: Why would you define that as amnesty?
REP. NORWOOD: Well, the definition of amnesty is elusive. It’s sort of like the word is. We can’t seem to agree on what amnesty actually means. What I think the Senate bill basically says is that if you are a foreigner and you’ve come in our country illegally, they say you can stay and at some point in time you can become a citizen. Now, that’s sort of what they came here to be here for to start with. They came here illegally to stay and we’re actually saying in the Senate bill that you can do that. And I also want to point out, I don’t know anybody that has a bill that requires mass deportation. Nobody is saying that. We’re not suggesting that that’s the solution. We are suggesting, though, that if you allow people to come into the country illegally and reward them for being here illegally, which is what you’re doing when you say you can stay, you can be on our social programs until finally you can become a citizen. That’s...
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman, what happens to the 11 million illegal immigrants now in our country?
REP. NORWOOD: What happens to them when?
MR. RUSSERT: Well, if the Sensenbrenner bill that you support is adopted.
REP. NORWOOD: Yes, yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Do they become felons?
REP. NORWOOD: Well, first of all, the Sensenbrenner bill should become adopted because that basically does what the American people want, which is secure the border. Now I was standing about 10 feet from Chairman Sensenbrenner when he offered to remove that part about felons and the Democrats refused to let him remove it.
MR. RUSSERT: What happens if that legislation passes to the 11 million illegal immigrants?
REP. NORWOOD: Well, I’ve got a plan for what ought to happen to the 11 million illegal or 11 to 20...
MR. RUSSERT: If the Sensenbrenner bill passes, what happens?
REP. NORWOOD: Nothing really happens at that point except we secure the border. At some point we have to deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants that are here. We have to deal with a guest worker program. But nobody’s really very willing to do that, Tim, until you secure the border.
MR. RUSSERT: But should the 11 million illegal immigrants be sent home?
REP. NORWOOD: Sent home, no, no. We need to have them go home on their own through attrition. Now, this is a Charlie Norwood program, it’s not in either bill, but there is a way to handle this without any mass deportation, without running people off immediately, but eventually letting them go back home, get in line, come back into America through a work program, and then become a citizen if they like.
MR. RUSSERT: They have three million children who are American citizens. So when the mother and the father go home, what happens to the children who were born here...
REP. NORWOOD: Well, obviously, the children go home, too, unless they’re of age. I mean, I’m sorry these people broke our law, but we are a country of laws, and they did break our law. They knew it when they came, and the consequences of that is at some—under my plan—under some point, two years, three years, they will voluntarily go home.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Graham, you have said this: “This is a defining moment for the Republican Party. ... If our answer to the fastest-growing demographic in this country is that ‘We want to make felons of your grandparents, and we want to put people in jail who are helping your neighbors and people related to you,’ then we’re going to suffer mightily.”
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, at the end of the day, as you try to walk me and Charlie through what to do with 11 million people, there’s respect for the law and there’s justice. If the law doesn’t create a just result, what good is it? I think it’s not fair for a nonviolent offense to result into upheaval that would be required, a mass deportation, or making people felons.
If you’re going to make 11 people—million people felons, you ought to put them in jail. There are young Marines in Iraq right now of Hispanic origin whose parents, maybe grandparents, are illegal. I think it would be hard for this country—unfairly hard—to say to those young Marines, “Thank you for your sacrifice. While you’re gone, we’ve made your parents and grandparents felons, and we’re going to break your family up.”
We as a nation have sat on the sidelines and watched this happen. Most Americans know for a long time, many years, that Hispanics have been coming across our border, working all throughout our economy, and it’s like “Casablanca.” Now we’re saying, “I can’t believe there’s gambling going on here.”
Respect for the law and a welcoming society, as President Bush says, are not inconsistent. Pay a fine, get punished for breaking our law, let’s don’t break families up, and in an impractical way, a way that would send the wrong signal as who America is in 2006.
MR. RUSSERT: But when you talk about the fastest-growing demographic group, you seem to be fearful of a political backlash to the Republican Party.
SEN. GRAHAM: Everything politicians do has to have a political component. What’s the practical solution to 11 million people here that have come here to work and are working? We’ve got 4.7 percent unemployment. They’re not displacing Americans because it’s the lowest unemployment in history. We’ve got 4.1 percent GDP growth, wages are growing.
My point is that as a party decides what to do with hard problems, the party needs to show its ability to recognize more than one concept. Respect for the law is an essential ingredient of the American culture. But justice also is part of the law. So I agree with the president totally. Let’s secure our borders. I agree with Charlie Norwood, my good friend. Let’s lock the borders down the best we can, but let’s don’t pass on to the next generation of politicians what to do with 11 million people. Why do we want to send every problem down the road? Let’s do it all together, comprehensively, and we’ll be rewarded at the ballot box not just by Hispanic voters. Three-fourths of the American people are ready for a comprehensive solution. Will the Republican Party deliver for three-fourths of Americans?
MR. RUSSERT: But isn’t this a debate over the future of the Republican Party in many ways? You believe that states like New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado—swing states—could go Democratic if Hispanic voters are angry at the Republicans.
SEN. GRAHAM: I believe—yes. I believe it’s deeper than that. I believe that we got a fast-growing demographic I want to send the right signal to. One, “You’re welcome to be part of this party, you’re welcome to be in America under conditions that make sense, and you have to earn your way to become a citizen over 11 years.” It’s not about the next election. What Republicans need to get away from is fear of the next election, and do things that are good for the country down the road. Down the road, it would be great to solve both problems, border security and deal with the 11 million. Have a tamper- proof ID card.
Immigration’s about employment. People come here because they can get $50 dollars a day, and in Mexico they get $5 dollars a day. I want a system where employers can have an honest opportunity to employ people, but if they do it dishonestly, they pay a price.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Norwood, one of your colleagues, Congressman Rohrabacher from California said, “[The President’s proposal] is a nonstarter for the American people, and the Republican Party will pay a price at the polls.”
REP. NORWOOD: Oh, yeah, we’re going to pay a price in 2006 and 2008 if we don’t do what the American people want us to do. And number one, very clearly—I know for sure in my district, I’m positive in Georgia and I’m positive in South Carolina—they want this border secured. Now, the president took the first right step the other day with the National Guard. Unfortunately, that’s not near enough, we’re going to have to add about 30,000 to it to actually shut the border down. Wait...
MR. RUSSERT: So, the president, the president said 6,000 Guard not involved in arresting people, you’re saying 30,000 American troops?
REP. NORWOOD: Well, I’m--30,000 plus the six...
MR. RUSSERT: More Guard?
REP. NORWOOD: I’m talking about National Guard. Look, Tim, in 1916...
MR. RUSSERT: Would they be involved in apprehension?
REP. NORWOOD: They—of course they’re going to be—eventually, they’re going to have to be. We put the National Guard in 1916 down there, the Georgia National Guard went to the border, along with 100,000 other National Guard troops that were federalized. Why did we go? Because 18 Americans were killed in New Mexico. They went down to deal with Pancho Villa. They were down there for three years. That’s where we got a Border Patrol. It is that bad now, so think the American people. And we will pay in 2006 and 2008 if we don’t do this.
MR. RUSSERT: President Bush, according to his Congressman Sensenbrenner, doesn’t get it. Do you agree with that?
REP. NORWOOD: Well, I, I would have said that maybe a month ago. I’m beginning to think he does get it. He made a very courageous step in being the first president I’m aware of that actually came out and stated what the problem is. Nobody’s even been willing to say what the problem is. Then, by sending the National Guard down there, he is signaling, “We don’t have enough Border Patrol, we cannot have enough Border Patrol for at least 2008,” and that is not satisfactory to the voters in South Carolina and Georgia, they want the problem solved now.
MR. RUSSERT: But if President Bush signed legislation being supported by Senator Graham, Senator McCain, Senator Kennedy, which would have a path to citizenship, would...
REP. NORWOOD: He won’t have to sign it, because it’ll never come out of a conference. That is terrible legislation on so many different fronts.
MR. RUSSERT: It won’t pass?
REP. NORWOOD: It will not come out of a conference. The House Republicans will not let that happen. And it has more to do than just the 11 to 20 million illegal aliens that are here. It has as much to do with the legal changes in immigration that that bill has in it, that the Heritage Foundation just pointed out, at least over the next 20 years...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, let me show you what you said, because it affects Senator Graham because you, you mention his state. “We are by default agreeing to allow an additional four million illegal aliens into our country, the equivalent of the entire population of South Carolina. ... Think about that, we’re being asked to add a 51st state, populated entirely by low-income illegal aliens.”
REP. NORWOOD: That was stated based on the fact we don’t do anything for the next four years but piddle around with this issue and get another million a year into the country.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Graham?
SEN. GRAHAM: My numbers have never been higher at home, and people disagree with me somewhat on immigration. The reason I’m doing fairly well at home is because people believe I’m trying to solve problems. Three-fourths of this country is willing to accept strong border security and a pathway to citizenship. A majority of Republicans in this country are willing to allow these 11 million people to earn their way to citizenship over time if you have a process that brings out the best in America: paying a fine for your crime, learn English, always keep a job, criminal background checks. We’re getting tough in the Senate bill on border security: 370 miles of new fences, you’ve got to learn, learn English. We’re making it tougher, but from a comprehensive view, I don’t want to oversell, I don’t want to come on this show or go back to South Carolina and tell you I’ve solved the problem by putting 30,000 people on—and the National...
MR. RUSSERT: But Congressman Norwood said your proposal is never going to see the light of day, it will not get out of the House.
SEN. GRAHAM: Just, just let me finish here. The point I’m trying to make is, if the Republican Party can’t sit down with each other and work through a hard problem like this, and the president is our leader and he’s given us the road map to success, if we walk away from the table, the American voter is going to walk away from us. We’re in charge of the House, we’re in charge of the Senate, we’re in charge of the White House, we got nobody else to blame. Three--35 percent of illegal immigrants are visa overstays, it’s got nothing to do with the border. You have to do more than one thing at a time: Secure the border, reform your legal system, and honestly deal with 11 million people in a way that gets results good for the economy, good for the American legal system. That’s what I’m pursuing, that’s what the president’s proposing. I am hopeful that we can make Charlie feel good about the border security aspects, and I’m hopeful that we can talk to each other about a reasonable solution to 11 million people living among us who want to work, and we need the workers.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you something, Congressman Norwood, from the Wall Street Journal, conservative editorial page, “According to ... the Pew Hispanic Center illegal immigrants represent less than 5 percent of the U.S. workforce, yet they make up 24 percent of those working in farming occupations, 17 percent in cleaning services, 14 percent of construction laborers, 12 percent of those in the food preparation industries. Many of these occupations are among those expected to grow the fastest in coming decades.” That’s what they do now. And those job sectors are only going to grow as we become more and more a service country.
REP. NORWOOD: Right. That’s why we need a good work—guest worker program. I’m not saying we don’t. I’m not saying that you can’t, you have to deal with these 11 million people who’ve broken our law. Now if we going to sell citizenship for $2,000 dollars and say, “OK, come in, everything’s fine,” for $2,000 dollars...
MR. RUSSERT: But what do you do with the farming industry, the food industry, the restaurant industry, the construction industry, if you suddenly say to those people, “I’m sorry, go home”?
REP. NORWOOD: I didn’t say that. Who’s saying that? I didn’t say that here. He says mass deportation, the president says mass deportation. None of the rest of us are saying mass deportation.
MR. RUSSERT: So they stay?
REP. NORWOOD: There’s a way to do this. They stay by checking in with the federal government. They go to an Ellis Island Center. Call it what you want. Put 200 of them up. If you’re here just to work, come in and let’s have a, a fingerprint, an eye scan, check your public health and give you a work card that has a chip in it that says, “OK, pal, you can stay for another two years, three years,” whatever Lindsey wants. “And then you have to go home. The date of your return home is in this card.” You go home in three years, you get back in line, and you come back into America again.
MR. RUSSERT: Would that disrupt the American economy?
REP. NORWOOD: Those, no.
MR. RUSSERT: Not at all?
REP. NORWOOD: No. The 11 million people’ll still be here. The ones who don’t come check in are the ones that’re terrorists, gang dealers, drug dealers, the people we—criminals—the people we want out of this country. And they’re the ones who would be felons for not checking in with the federal government.
MR. RUSSERT: But...
REP. NORWOOD: Now, you asked why would they do that. I’ll tell you why they would do that. Because if they don’t, they going to get fired.
MR. RUSSERT: I...
REP. NORWOOD: Because their employer’s going to pay a price for harboring people that don’t have a work card.
MR. RUSSERT: How many illegal immigrants do you think live in your district?
REP. NORWOOD: I don’t know. I truly don’t know. I know that there is a lot in our state. I have a lot of poultry, I have a lot of landscape, so I do have a lot of illegal immigrants that are working there. I am not saying run them all out of the country at one time. That’s silly. First of all, you can pass all the laws you want to for that and you can’t get it done. What you have to do, incentivize the worker, incentivize the employer to get this done.
MR. RUSSERT: What’s wrong with that plan?
SEN. GRAHAM: I am glad I came on this show. If we had another 30 minutes, we might solve this. So we’re finding some common ground here.
REP. NORWOOD: Lindsey and I could solve this.
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, well, the bottom line is, politically, is how do you bring the Senate, the House and the president together to do something the American people would appreciate? I think the American people’d appreciate strong border security; they think it’s overdue, and we need to deliver. I think the American public would appreciate legal reform where employers would actually go to jail themselves if they hired illegal people. And a system that would work when it comes to how you employ people.
What to do with the 11 million. Charlie understands they’re part of our economy. That’s a absolute fact. Charlie understands you can’t mass deport people because it’s impractical and it would hurt the economy.
REP. NORWOOD: Right.
SEN. GRAHAM: He also understands that if you make 11 million people felons they’re never going to raise their hand and get that card. People are not going to come out of the shadows if the consequence of coming out of the shadows is that you break the family up or that you become a felon. So some middle ground between mass deportation and making everybody a felon, give people a chance to be part of the American dream. Under our conditions, not theirs.
If you’ll do what’s required in the Senate bill for 11 years—not one year, for 11 years—you get rewarded in the sense that you’re at the back of the line and you get a shot at citizenship. But before you get that shot, you do have to pay a fine. Punishment for a nonviolence offense. You have to pass two English exams. You have to be continuously employed, and you go through a criminal background check. Under the Senate bill, if you’re a felon you’re ineligible for the program. If you commit, committed three misdemeanors you’re ineligible for the program. Those are the people we don’t want because of what they did. The people I want to be part of America are honest, hard-working, decent people who want to raise a family, work hard, and make something of themselves. We need them now as much as we’ve ever needed them, and I don’t want to drive them away because we’ve got a hard political problem. I want to assimilate people into our society that can add value, that can make this a stronger nation, and do it in a fair way.
MR. RUSSERT: You want to allow them to stay? Congressman Norwood says that they have to go home. At some time.
SEN. GRAHAM: We are now to the point of where this is a good, honest debate. What is rewarding people unfairly? I don’t mind some of them going back, because under the Senate bill, if you been here less than two years, you have to go back.
REP. NORWOOD: There won’t be anybody here less than two years that’ll have papers saying, “We all were here after 2000.”
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, well, I think—I understand, Charlie. We got a pretty good system in the Senate bill to document when you came and what status you’re in. If you don’t believe that works, why issue the tamper-proof ID card? I do believe, Charlie, that we could get a tamper-proof ID card as you described.
REP. NORWOOD: Yeah.
SEN. GRAHAM: That would honestly account for who’s in our country. They would get employed under our terms. This is doable if we’ll talk with each other. We’re the Republican Party in charge of every branch of the government. We’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves. If we get this right, we do well in ‘06 and ‘08 and decades to come. If we blow this and let it not happen because we won’t talk to each other, then we will pay mightily in the short term and the long term. I’m optimistic our president’s going to lead us to a solution here.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Norwood, Governor of Arkansas Huckabee said this, “Defending President Bush’s stand on immigration,” he said, “that some anti-immigration Republicans are guilty of demagoguery and racism.
“‘If I were to say that some of it is driven by sheer racism, that would be true,’ said the potential Republican presidential candidate in 2008.”
REP. NORWOOD: Huckabee may run for president, I don’t know. I don’t have any comments to remarks like that.
SEN. GRAHAM: Tim, can, can I make a comment about that remark?
MR. RUSSERT: Sure.
SEN. GRAHAM: On the out—on the fringes, there are people who want deportation. There’s the “boil in oil” crowd. That’s a very small group of Americans. They’re not particularly Republicans, they’re just angry people. Charlie Norwood is one of my best friends and we don’t see it completely the same, but Charlie is driven by the concept that the law matters and you don’t reward people who break the law. I’m driven by the concept of the law mattering with a just result. If you don’t have a just, honest result, then the law doesn’t matter.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, when there was a vote on the amendment to make English the official language...
SEN. GRAHAM: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: ...Senator Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate said, “This amendment is racist. I think it is directed basically to people who speak Spanish.”
REP. NORWOOD: Dr. No is at work again. Who cares what he says? That’s the silliest comment I think I have ever heard in my life.
MR. RUSSERT: Can you get a deal with Senator Graham? Can you, in fact, have tough borders, a guest worker program, but also a humane policy for the 11 million illegal immigrants that are here and three million children?
REP. NORWOOD: Well, Lindsey and I, Lindsey and I could do that. I want you to be as concerned about American children that are involved with this, too. Not just the three million children that are here that are Mexican citizens or from—their parents are Mexican citizens and they happen to be born here. I’m worried about the, the, the Georgia citizen, the New Mexican citizen. I mean, part of what these 11 million people do is they’re drawing down on our social programs in a large way—meaning education, Medicare, Medicaid. The Mexican Consulates are putting the word out. “If you’re here illegally, go try to get on Medicaid and Medicare.” We have to deal with that. That is not the right thing to happen.
MR. RUSSERT: Are they paying taxes as well? And Social Security taxes as well?
REP. NORWOOD: I don’t think—I don’t know what they’re paying. Nobody else knows, either. None of them are paying much income tax, so I’m told by employers, because they all plead that they have 12 or 13 dependents. I don’t know about the Social Security part.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman, can you get an arrangement with Senator McCain, Senator Kennedy, Senator Hagel, Senator Martinez, Senator Graham?
REP. NORWOOD: Oh, it’s possible. Lindsey and I could—I’m pretty sure Lindsey and I could come to an agreement. Where I come from is I want to do what the American people want us to do. They feel like that just a slap on the wrist for having broken is our law is simply not enough. What, what they’re talking about is like a bank robber who stole $100,000 dollars and we say to him, “If you’ll just turn yourself in, we’ll fine you $2,000 dollars and you don’t go to jail and you get to keep the $100,000 dollars.” What I want to do is not quickly have everybody leave, but orderly let them go home after working another—whatever Lindsey wants—two years, three years, and then come back in line. By then, we’ll have a good guest worker program. And I want to be humane to those people that are in line, too. Those six million people who are trying to get in here, let’s give them a chance to come and do some of the jobs you were talking about earlier.
MR. RUSSERT: We’ll find out. To be continued, Senator Graham, Senator—Congressman Norwood.
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: And we’ll have you back and see if we can resolve this even more.
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah. Next week.
MR. RUSSERT: We’ll be right back.
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