March 2: Imus talks to Sen. Joe Lieberman

IMUS: "Let me first of all apologize to Senator Joe Lieberman from the great state of Connecticut for being late. Good morning, Senator Lieberman."

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (ID) CT:  "Good morning, Don.  Don't worry about it.  I've been saying the prayers one says before being called before a firing squad. How are you?"


IMUS: "I had Senator John McCain on -- I can't remember when it was.  It was yesterday..."


IMUS:  "... or the day before.  And I asked him -- and he's the one who took me and Charles and Bernard over to Walter Reed.  He told me he didn't know what was going on there."


IMUS:  "And do you think he is telling me the truth?"

LIEBERMAN:  "I do.  Of course, I do. Here's what I think -- and, of course, I've been over there a lot myself.  And we all go to what I'll call the main building, where the injured soldiers, profoundly injured soldiers, are receiving unbelievable treatment. And, incidentally, I do want to say, before you get to the terrible problems that are there, that the battlefield medicine today
is better than it has ever been.  And a lot of the soldiers who are being kept alive today who never would have been kept alive in earlier conflicts.  So let's say that.   But what's clear from The Washington Post investigation -- and look, we all should accept blame for this because we didn't ask the other questions.  And the other questions were, what's going on in the buildings that they go to that we don't get to visit, where they get transferred when they become outpatients?  And there's an interesting story here, which is that the average stay inpatient is about 100 days.  The average outpatient at Walter Reed stays about 200 days -- a lot of it, obviously, in places like Building 18, which are substandard. And part of the problem -- they stay there -- is the incredible amount of time it takes to make a determination -- too long, really, too much bureaucracy -- as to whether the soldiers is disabled and therefore will be discharged with a disability or has the ability to go back to his unit in one way or another."

LIEBERMAN:  "And the truth is we all ought to be angry about what we've discovered and we all ought to not just paint that Building 18, but get in under what happened -- cut out the bureaucracy in that disability discharge system, and then go on to the Veterans administration.  Because I will tell you, if there's one area that I've heard complaints about before, it's from the vets who wait for treatment. The system is overwhelmed.  When they leave Walter Reed and they go home around America, the treatment they get is just not up to what we owe them. And I'd just say, finally that whether you're for the war or against the war, we all ought to agree that we have no greater responsible.  And I call it a patriotic responsibility to give the soldiers who are there for us and who've been wounded the best
treatment we can from the beginning to the end."


IMUS:  "It would occur to me, Senator Lieberman..."

LIEBERMAN:  "Yes, sir."

IMUS:  "... that, particularly if you're somebody who thought the war was such a wonderful idea, as you did, and continues to support this idiotic exercise that you -- and probably you sit on some of these oversight committees..."


IMUS:  "... that you would have a special responsibility to know what the hell has happened to these kid."



IMUS:  "It's not enough to say you didn't know or you didn't ask the right questions.  I mean, that's why we elected you."

LIEBERMAN:  "We all have responsibility.  And I will tell you very personally, because I have supported the war and continue to believe that we've got to do everything we can to have it end successfully, I have a special responsibility.  And so, you know, we all ought to be
doing mea culpas. the battlefield medicine -- I've been to battlefield hospitals when I've been over in Iraq -- amazing.  Walter Reed, main building, unbelievable.  And unbelievable heroism by the soldiers who've lost limbs and are just devoted to coming back to as close to normalcy as
they can. But the other stuff, just crazy and unacceptable.  And I think you're going to see a change now."

IMUS:  "How do we get this fixed?"

LIEBERMAN:  "Well, I think the first thing is to hold people accountable.  And, you know, General Weightman going is a good first step.  The Armed Services Committee..."

IMUS:  "Well, it's an absurd first step.  He didn't have anything to do with this.  He's been in charge -- that's a big scapegoat deal and you know that."


LIEBERMAN:  "Your questions about General Kiley are very good questions, and I'm going to ask him.  Because this, after all, is the guy that was in charge for a couple years."

IMUS:  "Well, he's a lying skunk.  He ought to be forced to resign today, Senator."

LIEBERMAN:  "Of course, I don't have that exact authority."


"But I will tell you that -- I'm on the Armed Services Committee. The Armed Services Committee oversees the medical hospitals.  And a group of us on the committee are going out there this afternoon.  And I am going to ask some of the tough questions that you and a lot of

IMUS:  "See if they'll let you, Senator Joe Lieberman, walk around without being escorted by four or five of these generals who've known about this for years."


IMUS:  "I mean, did you read Dana Priest and Anne Hull story in The Washington Post yesterday, that General Kiley's been up there testifying before your committee and lying to you, Senator..."


IMUS:  "... lying to you and these other people.  He's lying to you."

LIEBERMAN:  "A lot of that was housekeeping.  I agree. Look, this is the guy that was on top of the institution.  It is not -- it's a good sized hospital, but it's not a city.  And this was
a building that was an important part of that.  So, look, he should have known.  And I believe as this goes on, he's going to be held accountable. But I want to figure out what we can do next on this. Part of this, Don, was that the whole response never lived up to the increasing demand on the Army medical system or the military medical system after Iraq."

IMUS:  "Well, that's not a good excuse."

LIEBERMAN:  "Well, no, it's not an excuse.  It's an explanation that we never put enough money in. Look, at Walter Reed, there used to be 100, 150 patients.  They are now up to over 600 and have gone as high as over 800.  And they have, beyond the paint and the mold and the rodents, which you can fix -- they don't have enough medical and, particularly, mental health personnel there. And I would say that on a supplemental appropriations bill, which
is the bill that will come up by the end of this month to fund a lot, including military needs, we ought to put together a rapid emergency program, not just to fix up the buildings, but to fix up the whole darn system.  And that means hiring more people, and particularly means giving more money to the Veterans Administration."

IMUS:  "You know what they ought to do?  I was talking to Donald Trump earlier this morning.  He had a great idea.  Because, you know, Arnold Fisher, who is a contractor just like Donald Trump."


IMUS:  "Arnold Fisher built all these Fisher houses.  He's the guy -- and Santulli raised all that money..."

LIEBERMAN:  "Right."

IMUS:  "... got (inaudible) 600,000 people to build that rehab center down there at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio,Texas. Get Trump or get Fisher -- have the government give them the money and they will tear down Building 18 and have it back up in six months -- in six months.  It'll take the government six years to do it.  And by the time the government ever gets it done, it'll -- first of all, it'll look hideous and everything will be outmoded in it."

LIEBERMAN:  "Well, I think it's a great idea.  But I want to go one step beyond that.  I think somebody from outside ought to be brought in to take over, somebody who's got expertise either as a business executive or somebody who's run a big hospital in the private sector and proven they can do the job; and take over and bring the military medical system and the V.A. up to where we have a responsibility to put it for our soldiers."

IMUS:  "I'll tell you a guy who'd be great:  A guy who took a triage unit a few years ago and built it into the fourth largest hospital in this country, the Hackensack University Medical Center, which is one of the premier medical facilities in American, John Ferguson. I bet I could talk him into doing it -- get him to do it.  I could also get Arnold Fisher to do it.  I could get either one of them to do it."

LIEBERMAN:  "You know what?  You should do it, and I'll do it. And then we ought to talk to Bob Gates and get him to do it.  Because this is tied up in too much bureaucracy and not enough decision- making. And, again, we're letting -- the part of this story that hasn't been told -- I just want to come back to it because it is as outrageous.  You know what, naturally, we get upset about the rodents and the black mold.  But the real irresponsibility here of our
government and our country is when these vets go home, and they're just not getting the kind of care that they need after they do that."

LIEBERMAN:  "There's another whole problem here that I've been into for a couple of years, which is the mental health services given to veterans. I mean, Barbara Boxer from California -- who's fully against the war, and I'm for it -- we got together and worked on what are the
mental health services we're offering to these men and women who go through this tremendous stress. Incidentally, what kind of tests do they get before they go over -- before they're deployed into battle?"

IMUS:  "None."

LIEBERMAN:  "They get a check-off. And it was outrageous, even though the law said they needed a full mental health test, which is reasonable enough -- not for their own safety, and, frankly, for the safety of the men and women alongside which they are fighting. So we passed a law last year to make that happen.  We're coming back to improve it this in year.  Because a lot of folks -- a lot of the illnesses that you'll find of the people who have been in service
are now mental health as well as the kind of physical suffering that they've endured. And we're simply not fulfilling our responsibility, which I would call a moral responsibility, to the vets.  And I hope everybody stays angry until be we put enough money on the table. And if it takes, frankly, a new tax or...

IMUS:  "Whatever tax."

LIEBERMAN:  "... support our troops tax, we got to do it."

IMUS:  "See, I'm not the one, by the way, to call John Ferguson or..."


IMUS:  "... or Arnold Fisher.  You call them."

LIEBERMAN:  "I will..."


IMUS:  "They're in the book.  I mean, Ferguson is one of the most
prominent health care people in the country."

LIEBERMAN:  "Yes..."


IMUS:  "And he'd be more than happy to do it. And I know Arnold Fisher's a mean son of a bitch, but he'll get it done."


"I mean, he explained to the Joint Chiefs of Staffs to butt out
that he was going to go down to the Brooke Army Medical Center and
build that magnificent rehab center.  And he built it in 14 months."

LIEBERMAN:  "Yes, he did a phenomenal job. How about Bo Dietl?  Do you think there's a role for him here?"

IMUS:  "No."




LIEBERMAN:  "No, I agree."

IMUS:  "You're pretty good when it comes -- you're better than (inaudible) the little lying bastards, Senator.  At least you will occasionally do something you say you're going to do.  So why don't you do this?"

LIEBERMAN:  "I give you my word.  I'm going to do everything I can on this. And this cannot be a conventional governmental bureaucratic response."

IMUS: "No."

LIEBERMAN:  "More people have to be held accountable, and then we
just got to fix it.  And this ought to be one where nobody cares about
whether you're a Republican or Democrat.  You're an American and you
got to get it done."

IMUS:  "Thanks, Senator, very much."

LIEBERMAN:  "Thank you, Don."

IMUS:  "Senator Joe Lieberman here on the "Imus in the Morning"