MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: North Korea says it has tested a nuclear device. Three years ago the president made this firm pledge:
(Videotape, May 23, 2003):
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: We will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.
MR. RUSSERT: What now? With us: the administration’s point man on negotiating an international response, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.
Then, only 23 days until the midterm elections. The Democrats must gain six seats to take control of the U.S. Senate. This morning, our Senate Debate series continues with another one of the most closely watched races of the year: Minnesota, where Republican Representative Mark Kennedy faces off against Democratic Hennepin County attorney Amy Klobuchar for this open seat. A new poll out this morning shows Klobuchar with a significant lead.
U.S. SENATE RACE
[bar graph shown]
MR. RUSSERT: Republican Mark Kennedy vs. Democrat Amy Klobuchar.
But first, North Korea. The United Nations Security Council voted 15-to-nothing to impose sanctions on North Korea for developing a nuclear weapons program. With us now to talk about that, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.
Mr. Ambassador, good morning.
MR. JOHN BOLTON: Good morning.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you a press report describing what happened yesterday afternoon, and give you a chance to respond. “The United States was compelled to water down key measures designed to ensure that the sanctions could be enforced. And China - which shares an 880-mile border with North Korea - said after the vote that it would ignore a critical provision, which calls on governments to inspect goods entering or leaving North Korea...
“The resolution stops far short of imposing the kind of sweeping trade embargo initially proposed by Japan. It no longer contains a U.S.-proposed provision to give North Korea 30 days to suspend its nuclear program or face ‘further action.’
“The text also provides no additional authority to allow inspections of North Korean vessels suspected of transporting illicit weapons. The United States claims that it already possesses that power, but China maintains that such actions violate international law.”
If the Chinese are unwilling to protect the 880-mile border, or to board North Korean vessels for inspections, what good are these sanctions?
MR. BOLTON: I think, first off, you have to remember that China voted in favor of this resolution, which is under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, and therefore binding on them. So I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that they’re not going to abide by the terms of the resolution. And the, the guts of the resolution are sweeping sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and their ballistic missile program. The council was unanimous in saying that North Korea has to completely, verifiably and irreversibly abandon all of those programs. This in response to the nuclear tests and, frankly, in response to the missile test earlier this summer.
We think that the inspection provision that the resolution contains is essentially identical to the inspection provision that we proposed on Monday, so we’re quite satisfied with this outcome.
MR. RUSSERT: Will the U.S. board North Korean vessels, if necessary, to inspect them?
MR. BOLTON: The intention that we have and that many other governments have, particularly those that are part of President Bush’s proliferation security initiative, will be to continue to carry out the inspections that we deem necessary in, in aid of this resolution. And, again, the inspection provision is quite broad. It talks about compliance with all of the provisions of the sanctions paragraph of the resolution.
MR. RUSSERT: After the vote was taken, the North Korean ambassador to the U.N. addressed the assembly. Let’s watch.
MR. PAK GIL YON: The Democrat People’s Republic of Korea is ready for both dialogue and confrontation. If the United States increase pressure upon the Democrat People’s Republic of Korea persistently, the DPRK will continue to take physical countermeasures, considering it as a declaration of war.
MR. RUSSERT: In effect, considering the sanctions as a declaration of war. After the ambassador spoke, he left the assembly, and—prompting you to say this. Let’s watch.
MR. BOLTON: I’m not going to waste any of our time responding to what the representative of the DPRK has said, but I want to call your attention to that empty chair. It is the contemporary equivalent of Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the desk of the General Assembly.
MR. RUSSERT: That’s back in 1960, and here’s Nikita Khrushchev pounding his fist on the desk in a very similar time period. Is it helpful to compare the North Koreans to Mr. Khrushchev?
MR. BOLTON: I think the North Koreans twice now in the space of three months rejecting unanimous Security Council resolutions and walking out on the meeting of the council while it’s still in session, a meeting they requested to participate in, I think shows a very unfortunate pattern of behavior on their part. Now, hopefully there’s somebody in Pyongyang who’s going to appreciate somewhat better the force of a unanimous Security Council resolution under Chapter 7. North Korea has the opportunity here to change course; the ball’s really in their court at this point.
MR. RUSSERT: Three and a half years ago, President Bush made this firm commitment to the people of the United States and the world. Let’s watch.
(Videotape, May 23, 2003):
PRES. BUSH: We will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.
MR. RUSSERT: Will the president hold to that pledge?
MR. BOLTON: I think President Bush has made it very clear that he wants to have a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the problem posed by North Korea’s continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. That’s part of the reason why we’ve pushed for these very strong sanctions in the Security Council, to deprive North Korea of the ability to continue its nuclear weapons and other programs of weapons of mass destruction. At this point, the choice is really in North Korea’s hands; if they would come back to the six-party talks, if they’d comply with the declaration that they themselves joined in in September of 2005 to eliminate their nuclear weapons programs, they could have a much brighter future for the, for the impoverished people of North Korea. The choice is theirs at this point.
MR. RUSSERT: Then let’s discuss nuclear accountability. Will this administration say to the North Koreans, “If we find that you are the originators of any nuclear materials that hit the U.S. or our allies, there will be full retaliation against North Korea”?
MR. BOLTON: Well, I think it’s very clear to the North Koreans that, as the president said a couple of times in the past few days, we’re going to meet all of our defense commitments to our allies—South Korea and Japan—in the region, we’ll increase defense cooperation with them, and we will undoubtedly defend ourselves if we need to. But the point here is that by working multilaterally through the Security Council, twice now in three months, we’ve made it clear that we’re trying to get North Korea to see reason and abandon these programs. Libya was also pursuing nuclear weapons until it came to the conclusion it was safer giving up nuclear weapons than continuing to pursue them. That’s North Korea’s choice to make now.
MR. RUSSERT: How concerned are you that North Korea would decide to flood South Korea or China with millions of refugees?
MR. BOLTON: Well, I think the, the possibility of refugee flows is very much on everyone’s mind. And what we would like to see is the possibility of what our policy has been since 1945 when the peninsula was supposedly temporarily partitioned after World War II, and that’s peaceful reunification under a democratic government. But the immediate concern is that North Korea not use the threat of refugee flows to intimidate its neighbors. That’s their typical bargaining style, and it’s a style we have to resist.
MR. RUSSERT: Has North Korea’s nuclear capability increased during the Bush presidency?
MR. BOLTON: I, I think we have no way of being certain of that one way or the other, but that’s why here, confronted with this attempted nuclear test by the North Koreans, we’ve sought and obtained these very sweeping sanctions. This is an example of multilateral diplomacy, it was a unanimous vote by the Security Council, and I think it’s going to put enormous pressure on the North Korean regime.
MR. RUSSERT: Former Secretary of State Jim Baker said, “I believe in talking to your enemies. ... It’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.” Why not sit down one-on-one with the North Koreans, look them in the eye and draw the line?
MR. BOLTON: Well, we have sat down one-on-one with the North Koreans in this administration on multiple occasions. The first was when we confronted them with their evidence—the evidence we had of their violation of the agreed framework. We’ve had discussions with them one-on-one in the context of the six-party talks. We could have more discussions with them one-on-one if the North Koreans would come back to the six-party talks. They were offered as recently as a couple of months ago in Kuala Lumpur the possibility of a foreign minister-level meeting with Secretary Rice in a six-party environment, they rejected that. The difficulty here of conversations between North Korea and the United States doesn’t lie with the United States, it lies with North Korea.
MR. RUSSERT: The North Koreans have said, and the Iranians have said, that “The lesson of Iraq is that the U.S. will invade you if you don’t have nuclear weapons. And therefore, we’re going to have a nuclear capability to help prevent a pre-emptive attack.” What’s your response?
MR. BOLTON: I think that both the North Koreans and the Iranians have been pursuing nuclear weapons for decades—the Iranians for close to 20 years, the North Koreans for at least 15 years and maybe more. This was a course of action that they had decided upon and were implementing long before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. And again, you know, the president has said on any number of occasions, both with respect to Iran and with respect to North Korea, that he wants a peaceful and diplomatic solution.
MR. RUSSERT: Bottom line, will North Korea have a nuclear bomb when George Bush leaves office?
MR. BOLTON: I think the president’s spending every effort he can make. He personally has engaged in extensive diplomacy this week. Secretary Rice will be going to the region. We’re working with our friends and allies, we’re working in the Security Council, we’re working in the International Atomic Energy Agency. There’s not much more multilateral or bilateral diplomacy we can imagine here. And we’re putting pressure on North Korea. The real question now is what Pyongyang is going to do.
MR. RUSSERT: And if they do nothing, but continue to develop their program, what do we do?
MR. BOLTON: We’re going to continue to ratchet up the pressure, make it clear that their international isolation is only going to increase, and we’re going to make it, to the extent we can, impossible for them to continue the program through making sure they don’t get the materials and technology and equipment they need to continue these programs.
MR. RUSSERT: May we have to use a military option eventually?
MR. BOLTON: The president never takes the military option off the table, but he has said more times than we can count, he wants a peaceful and diplomatic solution.
MR. RUSSERT: Ambassador John Bolton, we thank you very much for your views.
MR. BOLTON: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, our Senate Debate series continues. This morning, all eyes on Minnesota where Republican Mark Kennedy faces off against Democrat Amy Klobuchar. They debate right here on MEET THE PRESS. Twenty-three days to go until the midterm elections.
MR. RUSSERT: Our MEET THE PRESS Senate Debate series: Minnesota. The candidates square off after this station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we welcome Democrat Amy Klobuchar, Republican Mark Kennedy.
REP. MARK KENNEDY (R-MN): Good to be here, Tim.
MS. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Good to be here.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me pick up on North Korea, Mr. Kennedy. If the North Koreans simply ignore these sanctions, or the Chinese don’t enforce the sanctions, what do we do? Do we use military action to stop their nuclear program?
REP. KENNEDY: I think we need to continue to ratchet up the diplomatic efforts. You know, we’ve had two U.N. resolutions unanimous. And we also need to continue to push China. China has the novel—nozzles that they can push on food, on energy. They have far more influence over North Korea. If they’re going to be a world power, they have to act like a world power.
MR. RUSSERT: But President Bush said, “We will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.” Do we hold him to his commitment?
REP. KENNEDY: Yes, but he also said that we want to have a peaceful and diplomatic solution. So we have to push every channel we can to achieve it in a peaceful and diplomatic way, not taking anything off the table. And we’ve seen a step towards that just yesterday. We need to continue, and we need to continue to push China.
MR. RUSSERT: But if George Bush leaves office with nuclear devices in North Korea, will it have been a failed policy?
REP. KENNEDY: We need to take every step we can to prevent that from happening.
MR. RUSSERT: Ms. Klobuchar?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: You know, as a prosecutor, I know that when people cross a line, Tim, there’s got to be consequences. And in foreign affairs, it’s the same thing. I believe these sanctions are incredibly important; we can’t have North Korea begin to be some kind of weapons factory, and they can’t be selling and bartering nuclear materials. And the rest of the world is watching. We don’t want to create an arms race here. And especially Iran is watching, and that’s why I think these sanctions are incredibly important.
MR. RUSSERT: But if the North Koreans ignore them, what do we do?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Again, we have to keep ratcheting things up. We have to keep working with our partners.
But one of the things that went wrong here is that these multilateral discussions broke down, North Korea walked away from the table, and I believe we have to keep talking. We have to—it’s good that China’s part of this, but if it’s moving in the right direction and if we believe it’s in our national security interests, we should be talking to them directly. I mean, even during the Cold War we kept talking to Russia. And so the discussions are important, and we need to keep the diplomatic pressure on.
MR. RUSSERT: Should President Bush sit down one-on-one with Kim Jong Il?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Again, it’s too early to say that, but I believe that we need to keep those discussions going, as well as keeping the sanctions ratcheting up, if necessary, and keeping the military option on the table.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you what Bill Clinton, when he was president 13 years ago, said about North Korea right here on “Meet the Press.”
(Videotape, November 7, 1998):
PRES. BILL CLINTON: North Korea cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb.
We have to be very firm about it.
MR. RUSSERT: So we’ve had two presidents, one Democrat, one Republican. When President Clinton said that, the North Koreans probably had the potential to build two nuclear devices. It’s now up to 13. And if nothing is done when George Bush leaves office, it could reach 17. It seems as though the United States talks tough with North Korea, but allows the program to go forward.
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Again, keeping the military option on the table is key, but these sanctions are the first step, and unlike how we handled Iraq or where it was “Go it alone,” I believe we have to work with our allies in the area. That’s starting to happen more, but we have to keep that up.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Iraq, because it’s an issue that’s been very important in your campaign and one that I think is affecting elections all across the country. Mark Kennedy, you’ve been there three times. Let me go back to comments you made after your first trip in ‘03.
“On the whole, the trend [in Iraq] is very positive. ... Our troops ... face ... a collection of terrorists and thugs, of whom there are fewer each day.” That’s just dead wrong.
REP. KENNEDY: If you looked at the time in 2003, months afterwards, were we potentially a bit optimistic? Possibly. And we’ve seen more challenges than we expected, no question. But if you look at what’s happened, we have trained 300,000 Iraqi troops. We have a government that is a unity government.
This is the number one issue in this race, and there are stark differences between my opponent, Ms. Klobuchar, and myself. She says it’s a distraction. I think that it is one of the central fronts in the war on terror. Osama bin Laden and Zarqawi says as well. She has set out a specific timetable for bringing our troops home that would tell the terrorists when they can take over an oil-rich country as a sanctuary for terrorists. And I believe we ought to be bringing our troops home as soon as we can after we’re sure the terrorists can’t win. And she’s also come out against a bill funding body armor for our troops that a majority of Democrats join me in supporting. We have no higher priority than to support our troops in time of war, and we have to win this war on terror.
MR. RUSSERT: But 10 months ago you said “Progress was clear, we’re making great strides.” Why shouldn’t voters in Minnesota say, “This is rosy-colored glasses. It’s not reality. There were no weapons of mass destruction and the level of sectarian violence is at an all-time high and Congressman Kennedy is saying, ‘Everything’s fine. We’re making progress.’”
REP. KENNEDY: I never said everything’s fine, but we are making progress.
MR. RUSSERT: “Progress is clear. We’re making great strides. It’s very positive”?
REP. KENNEDY: Each and every year I go back to Iraq. I see a government that is further down the path of being independent and addressing serious issues. Each and every year I go back, their military is more closely—more fully developed and taking over more and more of the responsibilities for us. The path is to make sure that terrorists can’t win. And by so doing, allow us to bring our troops home. But we also need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves here at home. Again, key differences in the war on terror. Ms. Klobuchar has come for weakening the Patriot Act that has allowed us to have five years without a terrorist attack on our country. She’s come out against making sure that we were paying attention when al-Qaeda was talking to somebody in America to make sure that we knew what plots they were planning. And she came out against a bill to make sure that we can get the intelligence we need from those we hold in custody to prevent future attacks. We cannot let the same poor judgment that Ms. Klobuchar has shown, that has made Minneapolis more dangerous, to be in the U.S. Senate, making America less safe.
MR. RUSSERT: Knowing what you know today, if the CIA came to you and said, “Congressman Kennedy, Saddam Hussein does not have weapons of mass destruction,” would you still vote to go into Iraq?
REP. KENNEDY: We acted on the information that we knew at the time.
MR. RUSSERT: No, but knowing what you know today, would you still vote?
REP. KENNEDY: We acted—you know, you can’t really play TiVo and rewind in the real world, but let me just say this: First of all, I stand by my vote. And second of all, we just got done talking about Korea. We just got done talking about consequences for actions. Seventeen U.N. resolutions. If we had let one of the top sponsors of terrorists, that was paying thousands of dollars to those families that had suicide bombers, if we had let 17 U.N. resolutions go by, what chance would we have of North Korea or China paying any attention to the resolution just passed yesterday?
MR. RUSSERT: So you’d still go into Iraq?
REP. KENNEDY: I stand by my vote. We can’t rewind. We acted on the information we knew at the time and acted correctly.
MR. RUSSERT: Ms. Klobuchar, you said on your Web site, “2006 ... should be a year of transition in which we bring a significant number of our troops home.” This is October, now, of 2006. You told the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, “I am saying change the course. I believe that we need to bring a significant number of our troops home. ... One would hope that by 2007, we would have withdrawn the vast majority of our troops [from Iraq].” That’s next—a matter of months from now. Is that still your position?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Tim, you know, the congressman is talking about body armor, and of course I support body armor for our troops, I support winning this war on terror by being smart, I supported the Patriot Act. But I will say this: the best way that we can protect our troops is to get this policy right, and I believe that that means changing course in Iraq.
We need to transition to Iraqi governance, we need to send the clear message that they have to take control of their own government, and that means no permanent military bases. The congressman and I differ on this. This means not saying 2010 we’re going to have the same number of troops. And we need to be more accountable for the help that we’re giving Iraq.
You look at what’s been happening here, you know, $10 billion in cost overruns with Halliburton, putting a 24-yer-old in charge of the stock exchange with no financial experience, building a military academy for $75 million for the police and then finding out the plumbing isn’t right so they have to demolish part of it. I believe that we do need to start bringing our troops home. Clearly, at this time, this late date in mid-October, we can’t bring a significant number home. We have to be reasonable. I have never been one to say “Bring them all home tomorrow.” I have never subscribed to one of those mandatory dates, because I understand that, despite my opposition to the war from the beginning, that we have to be responsible about how we bring our troops home.
MR. RUSSERT: But you did say, “Bring home a significant number this year,” and you’re saying now that’s probably not doable. What about a “vast majority in 2007,” which is what you said also?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: These predictions were built on the promises and the predictions of progress from this administration, and we simply haven’t seen that. So you have to be reasonable in what you’re going to do here. But let me tell you this, you cannot solve a problem that you don’t admit exists, and that is what’s going on here with the congressman. This war has basically devolved into a civil war. Eight times the number of deaths were caused by sectarian violence other than by bombs. You have Shiite militia roaming the neighborhoods and taking young men, putting them in cars, shooting them in the head and dumping them out on the streets. This is a civil war, and, yes, we need to be more accountable and do a better job of training the police, but we also have to realize that this solution isn’t going to be more boots on the ground, it’s going to be a diplomatic and political solution. It’s—we have done this before with even more difficult situations. This war, as of Thanksgiving, will have lasted longer than World War II. So I believe that we need to bring people together and help this country to come up with a diplomatic and political solution in addition to giving them the tools that they need.
MR. RUSSERT: Speaking of predictions, Congressman Kennedy, this is what you said six months ago. “I fully expect that over the next year there will be a significant number of troops who will be returning home because of success in Iraq.” Flat wrong.
REP. KENNEDY: I said in November that...
MR. RUSSERT: But this is February, six months ago.
REP. KENNEDY: ...in February that we expected troops. We have less troops, not as much as I would like, we’ve run into tougher patches...
MR. RUSSERT: A significant number. Why can’t you say you were wrong?
REP. KENNEDY: I was wrong in the significant number, I was right in terms of the fact that there are less troops, but I’m also right in saying, whatever I said, I’m going to support what the commanders in the field say. And when we talk about accountability—let’s talk about accountability.
Ms. Klobuchar refuses to be accountable for coming out against the bill funding body armor for our troops. She refuses to be accountable for statements that she says, and, and you didn’t get the June of this year NPR, where she said she wanted more than half the troops out this year and all of them out by next year. That is a clear timetable. That is irresponsible. And she’s also—continues to try to mislead people, not just about her own record and where’s she’s taken positions, but about my record as well. I never voted for permanent bases. I voted for making sure that we could have an agreement as to keeping our troops in a sovereign country and making sure that we had the base protection that would keep our troops safe. We need to bring our troops home as soon as we can, after we’re sure the terrorists can’t win. But we don’t need to let politicians’ predictions or anything else drive this, it has to be the commanders in the field and what is going to achieve that end.
MR. RUSSERT: To that end, Ms. Klobuchar, there was a question asked of you back in March. “QUESTION: So your desire to withdraw troops does not depend on the commanders agreeing with it. They should be told to do it and just told to find the best way to do it. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Correct.”
And then this: “If the president is unwilling to provide a plan [for the drawdown of American troops], Congress should call upon the Joint Chiefs of Staff to do so.”
So you would overrule the military commanders and you think the Senate has the authority to direct order the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draw down troops?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Tim, no, I don’t believe that. What I was saying here is because the president refuses to bring us a plan and deal with this as it is, as a civil war, that we need to have the direction coming from Washington. Of course we should listen to the commanders on the ground. In fact, there’s generals that have returned from there that say we need to change course. Senator Warner just came back from there and said “Give this a few months, and we need to change course.” Jim Baker went over there and started talking about this.
What I’m hearing is a general consensus around what I’m talking about, that we cannot, as Congressman Kennedy and the president are talking about, just stay the course indefinitely with more troops dying, over $300 billion spent.
And the idea is to listen to the commanders on the ground, but to have the direction come from Washington that we need to change course. I was talking about bringing the Joint Chiefs in to discuss with Congress what the plan should be, because I just do not see it coming from this commander in chief.
MR. RUSSERT: If we withdrew from Iraq and a full-blown civil war erupted, what do we do?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: First of all, we aren’t going to completely withdraw from Iraq at this moment. And I believe that we need to redeploy some of these troops to surrounding areas so that they would be ready to come in. And I’m not suggesting...
MR. RUSSERT: Where? Where would we put them?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Well, in Afghanistan, where we’ve seen a complete, a deterioration of the situation there, in part because we have put singular focus on Iraq, and to surrounding areas, perhaps Kuwait, other places that we can keep these troops so that can come back in if necessary. Again, reaching out to regional powers to get their help. You cannot, you cannot talk about this unless you acknowledge that this is a civil war that’s going on here. Yes, there’s terrorists there. In fact, 16 agencies of this government who deal with national intelligence said that this war has fomented more terrorism.
So if we look at what we need to do about the war against terror, we need to get—to be smart about this, we need to focus on Afghanistan again and get that situation under control, we need to beef up our homeland security where the 9/11 Commission has given us D’s and F’s. You know, the president identified the “axis of evil” when he talked about North Korea and Iran. We have them both now talking about nuclear weapons.
MR. RUSSERT: Republicans have been talking about Iraq in a very different way. Jim Baker, the head of the Iraq study group, former secretary of state for former President Bush: “I happen to think ... that there are alternatives between ...” the course and cut and run and staying the course. Negotiate a settlement. Strong suggestion.
And this from John Warner, Republican, chairman of the Armed Services Committee: “I assure you, in two or three months, if this thing hasn’t come to fruition and if this level of violence is not under control, ... I think it’s a responsibility of our government ... to determine: is there a change of course we should take? And I wouldn’t take off the table any option at this time.”
So you talk about timetables. The chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Republican, has basically said to the Iraqis, “You have 90 days to stop the violence or we could very well change the course, and every option’s on the table.”
REP. KENNEDY: Senator Warner has also said and rejected a specific timetable for withdrawal. And I agree with Senator Warner. We ought to, not just in two or three months, but at every stage along the way, say, “Is there adjustments we need to be making?’ We have been making adjustments. I’ve seen the adjustments in the three years I’ve been there. And we need to continue to make adjustments.
But when you say that the solution, as Miss Klobuchar says, is diplomatic and political, you can’t negotiate with people that are ruthless and glory in killing innocent women and children. We need to make sure that terrorists can’t win so that we can bring our troops home as quickly as possible.
MR. RUSSERT: No matter how long it takes?
REP. KENNEDY: We need to make sure that the terrorists can’t win. We cannot let Iraq became a sanctuary for terrorists.
MR. RUSSERT: And you believe this war can be won militarily?
REP. KENNEDY: There’s no question that we need to also prod the political forces within Iraq, as we have been. And make sure they address some of the key issues that are, that are causing some of the foment, making sure that we get this federalism issue solved. We understand federalism in America; we have states and federal government. We also need to make sure they get this “Who owns the oil?” I think they ought to take a path where the Iraqi people own the oil, just like they do in Alaska. We also need to make sure that they see the progress on the ground.
But, these are steps that need to be pushed politically, but they can’t be done if we’re saying, “We’re going to pull our troops away and leave a young democracy without the kind of support necessary to make sure it has time to get a political solution.”
MR. RUSSERT: You invoked Miss Klobuchar’s name; I’ll give her a chance to respond.
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Tim, this is just more of the same. More of the same of this administration, more of the same with Congressman Kennedy. And, you know, I just heard Trent Lott a few weeks ago, the press asked him, “What do, what do you think about Iraq?” and he said to the reporters, “You are the only ones obsessing about Iraq. Real people in the real world aren’t obsessing about Iraq.” Well, I guess he didn’t talk to the mom up in Mahnomen, Minnesota, whose child is going on his second tour of Iraq and she can’t sleep anymore. Or Claremont Anderson in western Minnesota, who’s driven hundreds of miles to come to our events, and every time he cries when someone asks a question about Iraq because his child was killed over there.
These are real people in the real world who are looking for solutions. And the way to get this right for our troops is to give them equipment that they deserve, but also to get this policy right, and to admit that we need to change course—not do anything radical, not bring all the troops home right away—but to pursue a diplomatic and political solution. And I don’t think that it’s right for Congressman Kennedy to criticize me for that when members of his own party and experts in this area are saying the same thing.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, what question would you ask him?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: I would ask him how come he won’t even admit that he was wrong about voting for this war when we are in the situation we’re in, when we’ve spent over $300 billion, when many members of his own party have admitted that this war was not the right direction, that in fact it has fomented terrorism. That we now have 16 agencies of our own government, of President Bush’s administration saying that this has added more terrorism in this world.
MR. RUSSERT: Let you answer that question, and ask her one.
REP. KENNEDY: Let’s talk about what the 16 agencies said. They said that we are clearly activating terrorists in Iraq, having taken the challenge to them. But they also said we have to prevail. If we don’t prevail, it will greatly mushroom this threat, let it grow in size, and come to face our future generations, where we wouldn’t be able to ask—answer the question that our kids would say to us, “Why did you let this happen?” They said that if we, if we lose, that’s what will happen; if we win, we will greatly degrade what’s happening on the other side.
And what I would say—what would—what would I ask my opponent: How can you change your position from saying we ought to ignore commanders months ago, that we ought to have a specific timetable, and call that consistent? How can you say you’re going to support our troops in the field during a time of war when you came out against a bill funding body armor for our troops that a majority of Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, supported? How can you say that you’re going to comply by the 9/11 Commission when you came out for weakening the Patriot Act, when you came out against making sure we were paying attention to what al-Qaeda was saying in this country about plotting future attacks, and you came out against a bill for making sure we could get information from those we hold in custody, and call this bill that John McCain, who still bears the marks of torture, call this bill that is critical for our security a torture bill? How can you be so disrespecting? It’s, it’s consistent with what her own employees said about her, that this is someone who only cares about her career advancement, and nothing else. How can you criticize not just McCain, but also our troops in the field? Last week, she criticized the way our troops were training Iraqi troops. We need to have somebody with a consistent view on bringing our troops home as soon as we’re sure the terrorists can’t win.
MR. RUSSERT: A lot of questions there.
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Tim, I would say this is why we’re in the mess we’re in in Iraq, because of this political gamemanship. Congressman Kennedy didn’t even answer my question, and instead proceeded to ask many questions. And I will tell you a few of these answers.
I am committed to this war against terror. I am someone who puts people in jail for a living. I am tough on security. And I will tell you this: I believe that the people on the front line have to have the tools to wire-tap, they have to have the tools to do the surveillance that we need. I supported the Patriot Act, I did support some of the changes that were later made to the Patriot Act with library books, library records and things like that. I also believe that we should have gotten that detainee bill right, something like what was originally passed out at the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Supreme Court gave this Congress a duty, and the Supreme Court said to this Congress, “Get this right.” Instead, they passed a very broad bill that I don’t believe will meet constitutional muster. I didn’t have to take this position, but I feel it’s the best position because they were putting their short-term political gain in front of the bigger quest of winning the war against terror so that they could go on Sunday morning talk shows like this one and claim that their opponents were weak on security and weak on terror. I think Democrats should welcome this debate on security. And we’re having it in our state, and the people are listening.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to a domestic issue where there’s a big difference. Mr. Kennedy, Ms. Klobuchar said that we should roll back the Bush tax cut on those making over $200,000 a year, because the federal debt is now $8 trillion, and we have to get our finances in order, and this is a way of raising revenue.
REP. KENNEDY: She’s said a lot of things on taxes. Her own proposal says that she wanted to have a trillion and a half increase in taxes...
MR. RUSSERT: But, but specifically, what about rolling back the tax cut on those who make more than 200,000?
REP. KENNEDY: We have had six million new jobs. The economy was flat on its back after 9/11. We passed tax relief to reward, and people—to let them keep more of their hard-earned money. Families, small business, those that take risk and create jobs. Six million new jobs have been created. We cannot be raising taxes, putting this economy back on its back, and also not growing jobs. We have to keep the approach of keeping spending under control. I’m the author of the line-item veto. I don’t understand why we want to build a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, a rain forest in Iowa.
MR. RUSSERT: But you voted for both those proposals.
REP. KENNEDY: I voted for every single Jeff Flake amendment to take out these crazy...(unintelligible)...
MR. RUSSERT: But in final passage, those proposals were legislation you voted for.
REP. KENNEDY: They were, because I support roads, because I support making sure that we’re moving forward with key programs. But you ought not to hold a whole bill hostage because there’s silly stuff in it. We ought to have a line-item veto for the president, whether Republican or Democrat, to cut that junk out of there, hold Congress accountable, keep spending under control.
MR. RUSSERT: But you have a Republican—you have a Republican president.
REP. KENNEDY: So you can keep taxes low and keep building jobs.
MR. RUSSERT: A Republican House, a Republican Senate, you have a $250 billion deficit, an $8 trillion debt.
REP. KENNEDY: There’s no question that I would like the president to take a little bit more leadership on spending. There’s no question that we have had obstruction in the U.S. Senate that has bogged down not only our ability to take further steps on fiscal responsibility, but many other things as well. We do need to push forward and make sure that we have strong fiscal measures to keep spending under control.
MR. RUSSERT: Ms. Klobuchar, 57,000 households in Minnesota make over $200,000 a year. A lot of small businesses, people who create the jobs. And you want to come along and pound them with a new tax increase by taking away their tax cut. Why?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Let me talk about why this is important to me and important to the people of our state. Right now we’re in a situation where our debt is approaching $9 trillion, where this administration and this Congress took a $200 billion surplus and turned it into $250 billion deficit. Why does this hurt the people in our state? It’s not just some chart on a wall. One out of 12 of the federal tax dollars that they’re paying goes to interest on this debt.
And this is my solution: I’m the only candidate in this race that has come out with a plan to balance the budget. First of all, let’s look at those $70 billion that’s being sheltered in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda for multi-millionaires. That report came out August 1. Get rid of those shelters. That takes in 70 billion. Next, look at capital gains. Not changing the rate, but having a third-party validator like brokerage houses post those because there’s underpayment. That brings in $17 billion. Roll back the tax cuts to the Clinton levels, to the top 1 percent, the Clinton levels when we had record jobs produced in this country. That brings another $56 billion in.
Then you go to the discretionary spending. I don’t agree with the congressman that this is silly stuff. Even if you reduce half of that discretionary spending, it’s $15 billion. Get rid of the no-bid contracts so we have competitive bidding, $10 billion. Go back to the pay-as-you-go rules that we had during the Clinton administration and then reduce these oil subsidies and these drug subsidies they give away.
MR. RUSSERT: Discretionary spending, what programs do you cut?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, we have had a 50 percent increase in discretionary spending. The Cato Institute identified that.
MR. RUSSERT: What, what specifically?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: And you—well, let’s start with the one the congressman voted for, the bridges to nowhere, the rain forest in Iowa, the waterless urinals in Michigan.
MR. RUSSERT: But as you know, 60 percent of our federal revenues go...(network technical difficulties)...Medicare and pensions. Will you go after those?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: I believe that if we can shore up this deficit and balance the budget, that we can then start shoring up Social Security. This Congress has raided $925 billion from Social Security. And you go back to the Clinton administration.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you raise the retirement age?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: I don’t believe that is the solution.
MR. RUSSERT: Cost of living increase?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: I don’t believe that’s the solution. Just think back to the Clinton administration, 1995 balanced the budget. By the year 2000, the plan was to put $200 billion, sock it away for Social Security. We had 15 years on what we have now. Social Security was saved for 15 additional years, now it’s been moved back. If we can get that balanced budget in place and we can move on this, we’re going to be able to secure Social Security for the future. I believe Social Security is the fundamental way that we can protect people in this country.
MR. RUSSERT: With no changes in the system?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Look, we can have a bipartisan commission look at those changes. They should be options to be looked at, but it would be a hard sell on me because I believe our priority should be to balance the budget. When you talk to an iron ore mine worker up in northern Minnesota, where my grandpa worked and my dad grew up, it’s easy for us to talk about adding age to the retirement. For them, it’s a lot harder. So if there is a better way to do this by being fiscally responsible instead of giving, you know, billions of dollars in oil giveaways, I don’t lose sleep at night about whether the CEO of Exxon, who’s retiring and just made $400 million, whether or not he’s doing OK. I’m thinking of those workers in Minnesota.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Kennedy, one of the issues in this campaign has been your relationship with George Bush. Here’s the National Journal: “At his [Minnesota] GOP convention speech ... Kennedy never mentioned President Bush.” And yet the Congressional Quarterly says that during your tenure in Congress, you supported the president 92 percent of the time. Here’s a news clip which talks about “Kennedy has been considered a strong Bush ally since joining the House in 2000, according to Minnesota political analysts, who say they are surprised by his ads playing down a party affiliation and making no mention of the president. ...
“‘This is a party guy,’ said political scientist Lawrence R. Jacobs of the University of Minnesota. ‘He ran in a district that leaned pretty heavily Republican, and the way to win in that district is to run as a loyal Republican. Now he’s running in a statewide race where the president’s approval ratings are poor. ... It’s an attempt to reinvent himself.’”
Do you belive that George Bush is a great president?
REP. KENNEDY: I belive history is going to make that decision. This is a guy who’s human, like all of us. Has made mistakes, we’ve all made mistakes. You know, there are things...
MR. RUSSERT: Are you running as a George Bush Republican?
REP. KENNEDY: I’m running as Mark Kennedy. I’m running at a guy who believes strongly in values that I was raised with in Minnesota, the vote’s based on what’s best for Minnesota families.
MR. RUSSERT: But 92 percent of the time, you voted for President Bush.
REP. KENNEDY: There—you know, I don’t where they get those statistics, but I can tell you—you know, they, they only take one out of 10 votes. But I can tell you there are things I disagree with the president on, whether it be No Child Left Behind that I voted against my first year in Congress, or ANWR. There are things that I agree with him on, that you get prosperity for our kids not by raising taxes but by keeping it low, and that we keep our families safe by being on the offense in the war on terror.
But let me just address—we keep hearing Amy Klobuchar walking away from what she said before and trying to mislead people. She comes out against oil subsidies. At the state fair debate, she said that she was for the same energy bill that I voted for. She comes out and says in, in an ad that she’s going to save $90 billion, $90 billion, by having government-run prescription drug program on a program that only costs 60 billion. How do you save 90 billion on a program that costs 60 billion? And let me tell you, on Social Security, it’s going to be a lot more than a hard sell for me to be raising the retirement age. That is not the solution. I will oppose that. That is just one of many differences on Social Security where she wants to give Social Security to illegal immigrants, which would put billions of dollars at risk on a program that is already strained.
MR. RUSSERT: You can respond to that.
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. I really appreciate that. I will say that the people of Minnesota don’t really care if it’s 92 percent or 97 percent. What they care about is the effect that these policies have had on them and the effect that this kind of negative attacks and this kind of gamemanship have had on the people of Minnesota. Congressman Kennedy just started to talk about Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants. I suggest your readers go onto the Star Tribune Web site from yesterday and they can see that the newspaper in Minneapolis and St. Paul came out and said that his claims were completely false, and in fact the bill that he’s talking about, which was supported by a Republican senator, Senator Coleman, did not contain that provision.
This is the kind of political gamemanship we have been hearing from the beginning. And the reason...
MR. RUSSERT: So you oppose Social Security for illegal immigrants?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Yes, I do. And the reason, you know, that he has gone off on his attacks again is that he really didn’t want to answer your question. He spent the last few campaigns bragging about how close he was with President Bush, and now he’s spending this campaign bragging about how independent he is from President Bush.
You know what the people of Minnesota care about? They care about that their gas prices went up to 3 bucks a gallon this summer, and that is—when they got a long way to work, it’s hard to do; that their health care premiums went up 60 percent since he’s been in office.
MR. RUSSERT: But, but, but you also—let me just ask you—you, you said a couple things about President Bush to the Pulse of the Twin Cities publication I want to ask you about.
MS. KLOBUCHAR: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: “QUESTION: Would you vote to support the Russ Feingold resolution to censure President Bush? AMY KLOBUCHAR: No, not now. QUESTION:
Do you favor the impeachment of President Bush? AMY KLOBUCHAR: No, not now,” suggesting that you’re open to both censure and impeachment.
MS. KLOBUCHAR: I don’t think you should ever rule anything out, but I’m telling you, my focus is not impeachment, it’s not censure. My focus is to go to Congress and get something done. The questions were “Would you support these?” And I said, no, I did not.
MR. RUSSERT: “Not now.” Hillary Clinton is coming to Minneapolis this week to raise money for you. Do you think she’d make a good president?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: You know, I think there are a number of good Democratic presidential candidates. I’m not weighing in on that. I’ve got enough to do in Minnesota.
MR. RUSSERT: But you’d be proud to support Hillary Clinton if she was the nominee?
MS. KLOBUCHAR: I believe that any of these Democratic candidates would be better than our current president.
MR. RUSSERT: As you know, Mr. Kennedy, there’s a lot of concern amongst Republicans about the war in Iraq, about the Mark Foley page scandal, and there is an article—sorry, comments from the Minnesota Public Radio, an interview with Norm Coleman. And it says here, “Documents filed at [Minnesota television stations] KARE-11, KSTP-TV and WCCO-TV show that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has not bought or scheduled any ad time on behalf of [Mark] Kennedy.
“Republican Senator Norm Coleman,” a Republican senator from Minnesota, “acknowledges that Kennedy faces an uphill battle. Coleman said he’s encouraging the campaign officials to invest in Minnesota but says they may be more concerned about other contests.”
Are the national Republicans pulling out of your race?
REP. KENNEDY: They, they are not. We’re getting a lot of good cooperation from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. We just had six senators in last week. I won my first race one-on-one, and I’m happy to win any race that way.
But if I may respond to some of the charges that Miss Klobuchar made, saying in the Star Tribune—a liberal reporter in a liberal paper—got it wrong. If you look at it, she voted for a bill, she said she would support a bill, the Senate immigration bill, that would give 12 million people that didn’t have benefits benefits. The paper says, $5 billion cost to Social Security. That’s—if, if you included Medicare and Medicaid, that’d be 50 billion. If there’s 50 billion more costs, how do you have more costs if you’re not supporting something? I would have not supported the bill because of that.
MR. RUSSERT: This is the McCain bill?
REP. KENNEDY: The, the bill...
MR. RUSSERT: The same McCain that you’re praising on the torture...
REP. KENNEDY: The, the...
MR. RUSSERT: ...you’re criticizing him on immigration.
REP. KENNEDY: I’m not criticizing him on torture, and I am saying that I would have voted against that bill.
MR. RUSSERT: You’re praising him on the torture bill. The McCain...
REP. KENNEDY: I, I am criticizing...
MR. RUSSERT: ...bill, which is also supported by President Bush.
REP. KENNEDY: I, I also do not agree with Senator McCain on immigration in that case. But let’s go back to what—she supported a bill that had—giving Social Security to illegal immigrants. And when you talk about Bush, people aren’t going to be focused on Bush, they’re going to be focused on issues. And I can tell you, Tim, I’ve been all over the state of Minnesota. People are finding a lot of support for my policies of keeping spending under control so we can keep taxes low, and making sure that health care’s controlled by doctors and patients, not lawyers and big government. And making sure that we bring our troops home as soon as we can, after we’re sure the terrorists can’t win.
I don’t see the kind of support out there for Ms. Klobuchar’s, you know, proposals to have a trillion and a half increase in taxes. The long list of taxes she’s covered isn’t going to cover a trillion and a half. It just tells you, when a liberal says they’re going to soak the rich, the middle class gets drenched. They don’t see a lot of support out there for giving Social Security to illegal immigrants, for rationing prescription drugs, and for bringing the same policies that has made, and the same bad judgment that’s made Minneapolis having twice the murder rate of New York City under her tenure—talk about accountability—to the U.S. Senate.
MR. RUSSERT: I’ll consider that a closing statement. I started with you.
I’ll give you 30 seconds, and we’re out of time.
MS. KLOBUCHAR: OK. I believe that I will be a good senator for the state of Minnesota if they give me that honor. I’m the granddaughter of a miner, I’m the daughter of a newspaper man and a teacher. I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m a prosecutor, and I’m an advocate. And I have the determination to make change in Washington. And if the people of Minnesota give me that opportunity, I will get things done for them.
MR. RUSSERT: Amy Klobuchar, Mark Kennedy, big differences on big issues. We thank you for sharing them with our viewers.
Our Senate Debate series continues in two weeks. Another closely watched Senate race, Maryland. Democratic Representative Ben Cardin vs. Republican Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele. Right here in two weeks.
And we’ll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: That’s all for today. We’ll be back next week with an exclusive Sunday morning interview with Democratic Illinois Senator Barack Obama. That’s next week, right here on MEET THE PRESS. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.
Hang in there, Buffalo, help’s coming.