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MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS
Sundays: (202) 885-4200
Sunday, Feb. 13, 2005
GUESTS: Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY); Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa); Israeli Cabinet member and former Soviet dissident Natan Sharanksy; and Patrick Buchanan, author and former presidential candidate.
MODERATOR/PANELIST: Tim Russert - NBC News
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: big differences over the budget, tax cuts and Social Security. With us: for the Republicans, the chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa; for the Democrats, the senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Charles Rangel of New York. Grassley and Rangel square off only on MEET THE PRESS.
Then, President Bush met with this man and told him this book reflects how the president thinks about foreign policy. With us, the author of "The Case for Democracy," Israeli Cabinet member Natan Sharansky. And a man with very different views about pre-emptive war and the Middle East, writer and commentator Pat Buchanan. Sharansky and Buchanan face off on the U.S. role in the world.
But first, two weeks ago, the Iraqis went to the polls. We now have the official results announced this morning. About 8 1/2 million Iraqis voted; that's a 58 percent turnout. The slate endorsed by Ayatollah Sistani, the Shiite slate, received about 48 percent of the vote. The Kurdish vote from the north was about 26 percent and the slate headed by the interim prime minister, Allawi, received about 14 percent. What does all this mean? Let's go live to Baghdad. NBC's Richard Engel is on the ground.
Richard, what happened, and what happens now?
MR. RICHARD ENGEL (NBC News): Good morning, Tim.
Just a short while ago here at the International Convention Center in Baghdad, the official results were announced pretty much as you described them; 48 percent to the Shiite bloc, the Kurds 26 percent and Allawi 14 percent. Now, they have to meet. The 275-member National Assembly will gather. They will elect a president and two deputy presidents. Then they have two weeks, this--what's called a council of presidents, to select a prime minister and a new government. Then that new government and prime minister are passed back to the general assembly of the National Assembly, which has to approve the new government and then it takes office. Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: The interim prime minister, Allawi, very close to the United States, but he only received 14 percent of the vote. What are the chances that he will continue as prime minister?
MR. ENGEL: This morning I was speaking to some leading members of the Shiite bloc and they say it's very unlikely they will ask the current prime minister, Allawi, to continue in that job. They say they want one of their own. There were also some hard feelings that emerged during this campaign itself. Other candidates felt that Allawi excluded them from the campaign, used his position to monopolize, for example, local television here in Iraq and they say that it is very unlikely he will continue as prime minister in the new government that will be formed. Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Richard, what is the current level of violence and the insurgency right now?
MR. ENGEL: There is a expected peak in the violence that could coincide with the Shiite festivals that began earlier this week. They are going to culminate next Sunday in Karbala with the Ashura festival. There is a lot of security already in place to protect that. Iraq will secure its borders, put up extra checkpoints to be protecting the potentially hundreds of thousands of pilgrims that will be from now and over the next week heading down to Karbala. Insurgents that we've been speaking to through our network of stringers say that they will start to focus their attention on attacking members of the new government once that new government has also been selected. Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Richard, we here in America have been told that the exit strategy is to train enough Iraqis as soldiers and policemen so that the Americans can eventually leave. How goes the training? How goes the recruitment? And how long will it take for the Iraqis to have 150,000 to 200,000 trained military and police forces?
MR. ENGEL: It's a very difficult question to answer. In certain areas, for example, the recruitment numbers in Baghdad are very high. But there is a problem in some of the other cities when you actually put these Iraqi security forces to work. Every day there are hundreds of people who sign up to become Iraqi policemen and Iraqi national guards, but, for example, today in the city of Samarra, where Iraq's current interior minister lives and is from, there is almost not a single policeman on the street. So despite what recruitment numbers might be, American officials always insist that there are many Iraqis willing to--looking for jobs and willing to sign up to be policemen and national guardsmen, it is how effective they are when they go on the streets in places like the Anbar province, and up until now there are no indications that they are effective by any stretch of the imagination in rough cities like Fallujah and Ramadi and Samarra.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, final question, Richard. In those Sunni areas, the so-called triangle, a very, very low turnout. Will the Sunnis be included in this new government?
MR. ENGEL: It is hard to tell. The members of the Shiite bloc say they will definitely reach out to members of the Sunni communities to write the constitution. As it is now, there is no established framework for how the constitution will be written. It's likely that they will form some sort of committee that could involve groups that weren't necessarily well-represented in the latest election and Sunnis will definitely be included in that body. How they will be included in the next government is unclear. The National Assembly does not have to choose members from elected officials to become future ministers. They can choose people who were not elected. And there are some indications that members of the Shiite bloc will be looking to Sunni officials or Sunni intellectuals, businessmen, engineers who might not have run to be candidates in this election but still have a popular standing in the community at large. And there might be some move to try and include them and give them official seats in the government. All of that will be worked out in the next two to three weeks.
MR. RUSSERT: Richard Engel, thank you for that live report. Breaking news from Iraq: the election results.
Be safe, Richard.
Now, let's get a reaction from Charles Rangel, Democratic congressman from New York; Charles Grassley, Republican from Iowa.
What's your sense of what happened in Iraq?
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, (R-IA): Well, obviously, it's a continuing step to turn over to the Iraqi people their own destiny. It started on June the 30 last year and continuing this year through the election. And I think that there's a movement towards freedom that people are naturally born free, they want to be free, and you don't impose democracy. Democracy is natural. You can only impose dictatorship.
MR. RUSSERT: Good news?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL, (D-NY): Well, of course it's good news, but I guess by Republican standards that you could call it a good election. But I don't believe that the American people think that it was worth the lives of 1,200 Americans and 25,000 men and women in the armed services wounded, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead. We talk about when do we leave. Well, in July of 1950, I went into combat in Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division, and guess what? The division is still there in Korea.
SEN. GRASSLEY: And surely one more step in a victory in a war on terrorism so we don't lose 3,000 New Yorkers again.
REP. RANGEL: I tell you this, if the president means what he says in his inaugural address, then we're going to have to go into Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, North Korea and China. You know, for Americans to get so hypocritical over democracies with countries that we trade with every day, it really amazes me. And I'm telling you, we went into Iraq not for elections. We went there to knock off Saddam Hussein, but the American people thought it was connected with 9/11, there was weapons of mass destruction, there were connections with al-Qaeda. It was all a fraud. Now, if this is the benefit that we get for going to war, we cannot afford to free people all over the world. We don't have that many lives to give up. Of course, if it was a draft, we wouldn't even be talking about freeing people all over the world. We're fighting this war with other people's kids.
SEN. GRASSLEY: The president did not declare war on January the 20 in his speech. What he declared is the natural goal of human beings all over the world and that's simply to be free. It's just natural.
REP. RANGEL: By American troops?
SEN. GRASSLEY: It's in man's basic nature going back to John Locke that people want to be free and they're born free.
REP. RANGEL: And they don't want their children to die for other people's freedom.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's turn homeward--to be continued in our next segment on Iraq and pre-emptive war in the Middle East. Let's turn to Social Security. The president has gone around the country campaigning on the issue of Social Security saying we have a problem, and he is suggesting part of the solution of that problem is private accounts, personal accounts. Senator Grassley, you said that "`Anybody who thinks borrowing money for the transition to personal accounts is going to solve the problem of the long-term solvency of Social Security doesn't understand the size of the problem,' said Senator Charles Grassley. ... Mr. Grassley said Congress would also have to put benefit reductions and tax increases on the table, in part to hold down the need for borrowing and in part of assure that any changes restore Social Security's long-term financial stability."
I've heard the president talk about private personal accounts. I have not heard him talk about benefit reductions or tax increases. Does he understand the true problem of Social Security?
SEN. GRASSLEY: The person who defines the issue will determine the outcome. That's an old adage. The president is a Professor Bush doing exactly what needs to be done. He's out there having a seminar with the American people on the problems of Social Security that everybody knows exists but the public has not concentrated on it. He's going to force the people of this country to concentrate on it. And I will find the solution, and all of those issues are on the table. The president knows that there's problems beyond, and he knows that personal accounts will not solve the problem. They're just a small part of the problem.
There are 100 moving parts. It's up to Chuck Grassley and Charlie Rangel in a bipartisan way to bring those parts together so that we guarantee our seniors a safe and secure retirement that they're entitled to, peace of mind that people who are retired today will not have their benefits cut. But for the present generation, the issue is that the New Deal program of the last 70 years was good for our grandparents and today, but do Grandma and Grandpa Grassley and everybody else want our children and grandchildren to have the same good deal we have? And if we don't, our grandchildren--if we don't make changes, our children and grandchildren are going have a raw deal.
MR. RUSSERT: So you're confident that if you put together legislation that includes private and personal accounts but also includes some benefit reductions and tax increases, for the next generation, the president would sign that bill?
SEN. GRASSLEY: The answer is yes. And not only that, but, listen, the alternative of doing nothing is also a benefit cut, I hope you'll remember. Because, for our children and grandchildren, even if they got 100 percent of benefits, they get a negative return. And even--and if we do nothing, they're going to get a 30 percent benefit cut. So doing nothing is not an alternative.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Rangel, you said that you "vowed to make Republicans back down from their current effort to distance `privatization' from Social Security reform plans many of them embrace. `We're going to wrap it around their neck until they come to the floor and say they didn't mean what they said. ...Every time they say "Social Security," we'll say "privatization."'"
Is that your plan?
REP. RANGEL: I don't remember saying that, but it sure sounds like me. First of all, this whole idea of correcting a very complex piece of legislation like Social Security screams out for a bipartisan solution. I could not agree with Chairman Grassley more. But there is no Democrat in the House of Representatives, or on my committee, that this president has reached out for. I'm telling you now, Social Security reform by the president is dead, and he killed it.
In 1978, a young fellow ran for Congress in Texas. His name was George Bush. And he said then that unless you privatize Social Security it will be busted in 10 years. He thought it then, and he thinks it now. This whole concept is to scare young people into believing that their benefits are not going to be there. When I met with the president and several Republicans and Democrats on his committee and the Ways and Means Committee, the president promised us that he will present to the Congress a plan to show how he was going to do it. This privatization plan just leads to a privatization and cuts the benefits and deprives the government of the promises that we've made to those people who pay into the system.
MR. RUSSERT: But, Congressman, December 1, 1999, this is Charlie Rangel. "I am one Democrat that truly believes that Democrats will not benefit by doing nothing on Social Security." If you oppose the president's plan, what is your plan? What would you do?
REP. RANGEL: What a question. What president's plan? The president has not presented us a plan. He talks about cutting benefits. He talks about taking away the guaranteed benefit and substitute it with the gamble on Wall Street. If the president would give us a plan, there's no question in my mind I could sit down with Charlie Grassley, some Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee, and say, "Mr. President, this is right and this is wrong."
But why should the Democrats, when there is no crisis, and I think the president is backing off of that, when the president is talking about cutting up the taxes by over a trillion dollars, not putting the budget figures for the war in there? We got tens of thousands of middle-income people that will get caught with a tax with the alternative minimum tax crushing them, and then all of a sudden, on his watch, he says that he wants to privatize Social Security, and we can't find Republicans embracing it. He doesn't buy the Republican ideas. We can't find Bill Thomas embracing them. We find House Republicans rejecting it. And you're asking me for the Democratic plan?
SEN. GRASSLEY: You quoted him, Congressman Rangel, January the 21, 1999. On that very same news conference, Charlie Rangel said that when the roof is leaking, you fix it on a sunny day. Right now we have a very sunny day for Social Security. It's the time to fix Social Security. We're three years away from the first baby boomers going into retirement. We're 13 years away from it having negative cash flow. Now is the time to do it. We've always waited until the last minute.
On December the 15th, 1977, in the last debate before the vote in 1977, Jim Wright said we will be fixing this Social Security system for the next 50 years. Six years later, we were up against it again. What Democrats like to do is wait until the last minute, until there's really a crisis out there, not the crisis that Clinton talked about in 1997, a crisis. And then you not only increase taxes, you also reduce benefits. By working on this right now, we've got the calm and peace to do it the right way and do it forever to make sure our children and grandchildren have the same good deal that I've got.
MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, shouldn't there be truth in packaging, the suggestion being made around the country that if we have private or personal accounts, then that's going to really be a big step towards dealing with the long-term financial problems of Social Security?
SEN. GRASSLEY: OK.
MR. RUSSERT: Here's what a memo that was written by Peter Wehner, who's Bush's director of strategic initiatives. And he says that, "The suspicion that personal savings accounts may have little to do with making Social Security solvent over the long run was reinforced by his e-mail. If we duck our duty on benefit calculations, it can have serious short-term economic consequences. Here's why. If we borrow $1 - $2 trillion dollars to cover transition costs for personal savings accounts and make no changes to wage indexing," future payoffs to recipients, "we'll have borrowed trillions and will still confront more than $10 trillion in unfunded liabilities."
So when the president talks about private accounts, the second piece of that is what has to be done to pay for those? Now, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has done an analysis of what the commission that reported to President Bush recommended in terms of wage indexing. And this is what they found, that under current law, in 2042, recipients would get a 36 percent replacement, money--their three highest years' income, a 36 percent replacement; 2075 it would be 36 percent. Under a proposal of so-called wage indexing, it would drop to 27 percent, and in 2075 to 20 percent, which would be a benefit cut of 26 percent and 46 percent. OK. Now, that's reality. That's part of what an honest presentation to the American people would include. Why haven't we heard that?
SEN. GRASSLEY: The president has a rare opportunity to get this issue out there. And in the next months, this is all going to be made transparent. There's no way that you cover this up. I don't want to cover it up. Everything has to be on the table. But here's what you got to look at. You have got to look at the fact that we do have a problem, and now's the time to do something about it. And there's 100 moving parts. What do you put together to get a solution? We can do that. But with the president not defining the issue with the American people first, nothing's going to get done. So he's doing that.
Now, moving beyond just benefit cuts: Look at the people that are suggesting tax increases. We have had 22 increases in the payroll tax since 1937. That has not solved the problem. Every year, we increase the taxes on wealthy people to pay more in the Social Security trust fund. That hasn't solved the problem. Congress has overpromised, and our children are not going to get what they pay into it. They're getting a negative return even if they get 100 percent of benefits. But if we do nothing, and they get 70 percent of benefits, then you can see why they're getting a very raw deal. We've got to be realistic about the future. People are living longer. There's less people paying into the system. But we can solve this problem and we've got time to solve it right now.
MR. RUSSERT: Charles Rangel, President Bill Clinton, a man that you supported very, very vigorously said this in 1998: "The looming fiscal crisis in Social Security ... if nothing is done, by 2029 there will be a deficit in the Social Security trust fund which will require ... either a huge tax increase in the payroll tax, or just about a 25 percent cut in Social Security benefits." That's Bill Clinton.
REP. RANGEL: And that's honesty. You...
MR. RUSSERT: OK, so let's talk on the table. The number of people on Social Security is going to double from 40 million to 80 million. Life expectancy is now going--78, 79, 80 years old.
REP. RANGEL: Exactly.
MR. RUSSERT: People on the program for 15 years. There used to be 16 workers per retiree. There's soon to be three workers-retiree, two workers-retiree. Knowing all that, hearing President Clinton, what should we do? Should we raise the cap on the payroll tax? Should we have a means testing for affluent Americans? Should we have an indexing of the cost of living or indexing of benefits, wages, price? What should we do?
REP. RANGEL: Well, first of all, let me go back to the statement that Senator Grassley accurately quoted that I said, and that is during sunny days is when you repair the roof. Those were the sunny days. If the senator thinks that we're living through sunny economic days now, I hate to see what he would call a rainstorm. We went from a $5 trillion expected surplus and now we're in $4 trillion deficit. If there was an emergency, of course we'd join in and resolve it.
The president has said that those over 55 will not receive any benefit decreases. What is he saying? That you can depend on the fact if you're under 55 you're going to get a benefit decrease. In answer to your question what we should be doing, since there will not be an emergency for 50 years, unless you say our bonds have no full faith and credit, which I don't think we're saying, you need bipartisan support. And I know the senator agrees with that. Now, I would challenge him as to what bipartisan support has the president put out there for us to work together? He's out there screaming that privatization's going to do it. The truth is privatization through private accounts is lose, lose, lose.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Grassley said, Congressman Rangel, that a package of some form of personal private accounts plus benefits cuts plus tax increases is something the president would sign. Is that something you can embrace?
REP. RANGEL: I haven't heard the president say anything except the program is going bust and that young people are not going to receive their benefits and that he's going to cut their benefits under 55 but not over 55. The senator told me--now if he wants to--I mean, the president told me--if he wants to contradict the president, I won't--"Hold your fire, don't do anything, wait until I present a bill to the Congress and then we'll sit down." Now, Bill Thomas in the House and the senator in the Senate are saying, "We don't want any bill. Let us handle it." Well, they can grab that third rail, I'm not thinking about doing it unless it's done with Democrats and Republicans working together with the president.
SEN. GRASSLEY: The president has said, on television, that he will sit down and talk to anybody, he invites anybody, a bipartisan group to the table, and he will consider any alternative.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator, would you consider something that's been described as Social Security plus? Rather than have private and personal accounts that are funded by the payroll tax, the payroll tax would continue in its entirety to be used for Social Security but Americans could have an additional amount of money set aside into a personal or private account. Would you support something like that, as a compromise?
SEN. GRASSLEY: Everything's on the table as far as I'm concerned. I've said it once. I'll say it twice and I'm going to say it until I put a bill before the United States Senate. And there are bipartisan groups, people working together, to consider all these things right now. Charlie may not want to admit it, but there's some Democrats coming to the table. But what you're proposing...
REP. RANGEL: Not in the House.
SEN. GRASSLEY: What you're proposing is that we put an additional tax on low-income people or else low-income people aren't going to have their personal accounts. The idea is to give low-income people that are already paying plenty of tax an opportunity to take two points of their Social Security and have a personal account and have it started. And I would even supplement it a little bit so that they really have equity in the system. Why? Because it's their money, they earned it. They ought to have some say about it. I think they trust Wall Street more than they trust Washington, D.C. And I think it's a case of, as Jim Wright said on December the 15th, 1977, we've got to make sure that there isn't generational warfare. We've got to have equity in the system, and this will give that equity so that they feel a part of it and they'll know that they're a part of it and they'll want to preserve this part of the social fabric of our American society.
MR. RUSSERT: Will there be Social Security reform this year?
SEN. GRASSLEY: Of course there will be, because the president is defining this issue. People that define the issue determine the outcome and the outcome is now as the sun's shining to make sure that we get this job done while we...
MR. RUSSERT: Will it be a bipartisan solution?
SEN. GRASSLEY: That's the only way can I get it to the United States Senate.
REP. RANGEL: It's not coming to the--the president's not going to come up with a bill. And I think what the senator is saying that the Wall Street is far more safe than government bonds. I was raised: Don't take the risk, put it in government bonds. Now, we're saying we should take it out of government bonds and put it here.
The reason privatization doesn't work is as soon as they move from the wage index, as you were talking about earlier, your benefits are reduced by 40 to 50 percent. If you're successful in the market, then they reduce your benefits by the increase in the market. If you want to have a separate account, like we're supposed to have in the thrift account, you don't take anything away from the Social Security Trust Fund, you don't reduce the benefits of the people, you still have disability insurance and survivor benefits. Put me in. I hope the senator will join me.
SEN. GRASSLEY: But the reason they trust Wall Street is because it's their own money and they're determining the destiny of the own money and they don't trust political leaders in Washington who have screwed up the Social Security system so many times that you get the bill passed in 1977 that's supposed to solve the problem for the next 50 years, and we're--in 1984, we're back solving it again, and here we are right now talking about the need for an additional solution. We ought to fix it once and for all, Charlie, and we've got that opportunity now. We need to seize the opportunity. Thank God the president's leading the debate, and we'll get it done.
REP. RANGEL: Doesn't the government select the stocks that can be invested with the president's program? And you can't pull your money out as you can with the thrift plan.
SEN. GRASSLEY: It'll be exactly the same way...
REP. RANGEL: It would not be.
SEN. GRASSLEY: ...that it is for the thrift plan.
REP. RANGEL: We can take withdrawals out of our thrift. You can't do it then. You take your money out...
SEN. GRASSLEY: Well, you can't take your money out of Social Security now unless you retire.
REP. RANGEL: But you're talking about being in charge of your own destiny.
SEN. GRASSLEY: Oh, you are in charge of it. You get a chance...
REP. RANGEL: With the thrift account, you bet your life I am.
MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. We're going to continue covering this debate and I hope both of you will come back. Charlie Rangel, Charles Grassley...
SEN. GRASSLEY: I'll be back.
MR. RUSSERT: ...thank you so much.
Coming next, the author of "The Case for Democracy," Natan Sharansky, who has talked for the president of the United States, squares off with writer and commentator Pat Buchanan. They'll debate President Bush's policies on the Middle East, pre-emptive war and more coming up right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: President Bush's view of the world with Natan Sharansky and Pat Buchanan, after this brief station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
Mr. Sharansky, Mr. Buchanan, welcome both. This book has created quite a stir here in Washington, "The Case for Democracy." The president of the United States said this: "If you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy read Natan Sharansky's book `The Case for Democracy.' ...It's a great book." "I think it will...explain a lot of the decisions that...you've seen made and will continue to see made."
The president went on that the book was part of his "presidential DNA. ...It's It's what I think; it's"-- "part of all policy. ...It is part of my philosophy."
And, in fact, we saw that in the State of the Union address, the inaugural address. Let's watch.
(Videotape, January 20, 2005):
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery.
MR. RUSSERT: And if we go to page 278 in the book, we see "Just as the institution of slavery has been all but wiped off the face of the earth, so too can government tyranny become a thing of the past."
You met with the president. What did he tell you about the thoughts that are in this book?
MR. NATAN SHARANSKY: The president said that he always felt that freedom is not kind of American invention, but it's the gift of God to all the mankind. And he is right. In the book, which summarizes his views of this issue in such a good way.
MR. RUSSERT: Pat Buchanan, you have analyzed this book in the latest issue of The American Conservative. You write: "Only democracy can pave the way to true peace and security. This is the message of Sharansky's `Case for Democracy,' which the president has embraced and encouraged all to read. ut what is often true is not always true, and U.S. foreign policy, which is to protect U.S. vital interests and the peace and freedom of Americans, cannot be rooted in the idealism of an ex-Soviet dissident. ...Sharansky notwithstanding, democracy is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition of America's peace and security, nor even of Israel's."
MR. PAT BUCHANAN: All right. Well, let's take Israel's situation. Mr. Begin signed an agreement to give back the Sinai to Egypt with Anwar Sadat, who is the successor of a military dictator, Nasser. He was not a Democrat. The Israeli government signed an agreement with Hafez al-Assad, a dictator of the worst kind, for a truce on the Golan Heights, which has held. What I am saying is this, Tim. You do not need a democratic government in order to achieve a success.
In Mr. Bush's first term, he cut a deal with Qaddafi, state sponsor of terror whereby Qaddafi would give up his weapons of mass destruction, his support for terror in return for the United States letting him out of the penalty box of sanctions. Qaddafi remains a state sponsor of terror. He was. But we cut a deal with him, and it was a successful deal on the part of the president of the United States. He is to be commended for it. That is realism in foreign policy. It is not idealism, but it is realism.
MR. RUSSERT: The Russian defense minister this morning said that he was tired of being lectured about the United States, about democracy. In fact, he suggested a summit between Russian President Putin and American President Bush. And he went on to say, "Democracy is not a potato that you can transplant from one kitchen garden to another."
MR. SHARANSKY: It's true that you cannot impose democracy. You can't impose freedom. If people don't want, they will not be free. But you can impose dictatorship. And unfortunately, very often, free world, including United States of America, are imposing dictatorship on other people simply by supporting these dictators.
And as to lecturing, you know you don't need to lecture. You simply need to link your policy with these countries with the policy of human rights. Pat Buchanan was standing near President Reagan when President Reagan made his evil empire speech. It was the biggest encouragement for us, for dissidents of Soviet prison, but it was also the defeat of the Soviet Union. Not only we are free, America is much more secure. So the security of the United States of America, people in the United States of America, depends on the level of freedom of people in the other countries because democracies are peaceful, because the leaders of democratic countries depend on the will of their people. And dictatorships are always belligerent because in order dictators will control their own people, they need external enemy.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, let me talk about the realism that Mr. Buchanan brought up, read something that he wrote, and then give both of you a chance to respond. This is Pat Buchanan.
"The president now plans to hector and badger foreign leaders on the progress each is making toward attaining U.S. standards of democracy. ... This is a formula for `Bring-it-on!' collisions with every autocratic regime on earth, including virtually every African and Arab ruler, all the `outposts of tyranny' named by Secretary [of State] Rice, most of the nations of Central Asia, China and Russia. This is a prescription for endless war."
Do you agree?
MR. SHARANSKY: No. First of all, I believe that all the people, when given opportunity to choose between living in fear or living in freedom, choose to live in freedom. And when I was a dissident, I heard from some of our American friends that Russians don't want to live in freedom. We can give examples how advisers of Truman were saying in '45 the Japanese people don't want to live in freedom and so on and so on. The moment of the test when the people can choose between living--to continue to live in fear or to live in freedom, if they have an opportunity, they always choose to live in freedom.
MR. RUSSERT: Prescription for endless war?
MR. BUCHANAN: Certainly it is. Look, the United States of America--I dissent strongly from my friend. The United States of America has always been free and always been secure. There have been despotisms from time in memorial. There are 22 Arab states, not one of which is democratic, and the United States has not been threatened by any of them since the Barbary pirates.
In my judgment, what happened on 9/11 was a result of interventionism. Interventionism is the cause of terror. It is not a cure for terror. The idea that the president of the United States, as he said in his inaugural, is going to help democratic institutions in every region in every nation on earth is a formula for permanent war, Tim. And look, the president of the United States has no constitutional authority to do this. Where in the Constitution do we get the right to intervene in the internal affairs of countries that do not threaten us and do not attack us? If they don't, their internal politics are their own business. As Quincy Adams says, "America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the champion of freedom everywhere, but the vindicator only of her own."
MR. RUSSERT: The president said that on September 11th, "Freedom came under attack."
MR. BUCHANAN: The president of the United States was profoundly mistaken. He has misdiagnosed the malady. He has misdiagnosed the reason for the attack, Tim. The United States was not attacked because we are free. Bin Laden was not attacking the Bill of Rights. We were attacked because the United--over here because the United States' military and political presence is massive over there. Bin Laden in his fatwah, his statement of declaration of war on the United States, said the infidels were standing on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia. They want us out of the Middle East. They don't care whether we have a separation of church and state.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you agree with that? Were we attacked for our ideals, our freedom...
MR. SHARANSKY: Of...
MR. RUSSERT: ...or were we attacked because of our Mideast policies?
MR. SHARANSKY: America was attacked because it is the leader of the free world and the world of terror where the values are very different. So it is a danger. But just now we heard that no Arab country has ever threatened the United States of America. What do you say--Saudi Arabia, I remember how in '91 after the Gulf War when America saved Saudi Arabia, I was raising the question with American leaders, why don't you link, like you did with the Soviet Union, with some minimal demand about freedom of immigration and the rights of women, and I always was told what Saudi Arabia is the stability of the West. What really happened--it's a typical example. Tribal dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, in order to survive, they need external enemy and that's why they need to support Wahhabism, inside the country and outside the country. As a result, stability of Saudi Arabia means destabilization and terror all over the world.
MR. BUCHANAN: We brought down the shah and we got the ayatollah. You bring down that Saudi monarchy, you destabilize that regime and Howard Dean, an Arab Howard Dean, is not going to rise out of the wreckage. That country is a nation whose people now admire and respect bin Laden, not George Bush. We cannot make the enemy the best of the good. Tim, look, we have had occasions, the last great crusade for democracy was Woodrow Wilson going across the sea with an army to make the world safer. We brought down all the monarchs and we got instead Lenin and Stalin and Mussolini and Hitler.
MR. SHARANSKY: The last crusade was Ronald Reagan, and he brought Soviet Union down without one shot. Why? Because you don't need to fight with dictatorships. You simply have to stop supporting them. Dictatorships are very dangerous but they are very weak from inside. The moment the Free World stops supporting them, they fall apart. When you have...
MR. BUCHANAN: You got out...
MR. SHARANSKY: When you have to fight dictatorship...
MR. BUCHANAN: Natan...
MR. SHARANSKY: When you are appeasing dictatorship for a long time...
MR. BUCHANAN: You got out...
MR. SHARANSKY: ...they become very strong.
MR. BUCHANAN: You got out of prison because Ronald Reagan and we were in Geneva negotiating with Gorbachev and the president of the United States said, "We will deal with you. We will engage with you, but you need to give us something," and one of those somethings was the release of Natan Sharansky.
MR. SHARANSKY: But that something continued with other hundreds of other prisoners, with many refuseniks, and with many democratic reforms. Why? Because President Reagan stopped doing what previous administrations were doing...
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, we disagree...
MR. SHARANSKY: ...stopped the trade, stopped...
MR. BUCHANAN: Perhaps we agree because my argument is we do not go around the world militarily intervening in countries to change their internal policies the way we did, or claim to have done, in Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, let me ask you about the application of this doctrine. Do you believe that Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship?
MR. SHARANSKY: Yes, for sure.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe Egypt's a dictatorship?
MR. SHARANSKY: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Pakistan's a dictatorship?
MR. SHARANSKY: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: So Pakistan works with us on the war on terror.
MR. SHARANSKY: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Saudi Arabia provides oil. Egypt provides help...
MR. SHARANSKY: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: ...in terms of brokering Middle East peace.
MR. SHARANSKY: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Should we, in effect, try to bring down those governments?
MR. SHARANSKY: I repeat again, dictatorships--and that's explained in the book very well. That's why I think what maybe the president liked this book, it's not about idealism. It's about practical interests. Dictatorships are very weak from inside. They need all the time Free World to support them. When--you don't have to fight them. You have only to find possible linkage, but when you appease dictatorship for a long time, it becomes so strong, it becomes so dangerous that you have to fight.
MR. BUCHANAN: Mister--all right.
MR. SHARANSKY: You appeased--we appeased Hitler. We appeased Stalin. We appeased Saddam Hussein.
MR. BUCHANAN: Mr. Sharansky...
MR. SHARANSKY: We appeased Yasser Arafat.
MR. BUCHANAN: If you...
MR. SHARANSKY: And then we are paying price for this.
MR. BUCHANAN: If you believe in democracy...
MR. SHARANSKY: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: ...that much, would you allow the fate of the settlers in Gaza...
MR. SHARANSKY: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: ...to be decided by all the people of Gaza? Let them vote on whether the settlers should stay or go. You think they should stay. I want to make one more point. The Israelis, when they invaded Lebanon to chase out the PLO, there was no Shia uprising against them. They called into existence that invasion and occupation did, Hezbollah, which eventually drove the Israelis out of Lebanon. Interventionism is not the cure for terror. It is the cause of terror.
MR. SHARANSKY: I have to say that we have occupied Gaza and all the other territories which were under the control of Egypt and Jordan because we were threatened to be destroyed, to be thrown into the sea and until this day, every day there are forces which want to destroy us. And they were saying...
MR. BUCHANAN: Why do you not get out of there?
MR. SHARANSKY: I tell you: Because we don't want a terrorist state to emerge which will destroy us. That's why I'm saying all the time, I want the state which will emerge will be democratic. And that's why...
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, how do you...
MR. SHARANSKY: That's why the depth of my concessions...
MR. BUCHANAN: All right.
MR. SHARANSKY: That's what's written my party's platform.
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me ask...
MR. SHARANSKY: The depth of my concessions, as the depth democratic reforms...
MR. BUCHANAN: No one objects...
MR. SHARANSKY: ...of the other side.
MR. BUCHANAN: No one objects to the Israeli army...
MR. SHARANSKY: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: ...defending the frontier of Gaza. The question is: What are 8,000 Israeli settlers doing on that Palestinian land? They are the cause why Hamas won a 70 percent vote. You have got to stop occupying countries. That is the cause of terrorism.
MR. SHARANSKY: I have to say this.
MR. BUCHANAN: Imperial interventionism. You want to end terror...
MR. SHARANSKY: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: ...stop it the way the British stopped it in Palestine. They got out. The French got out of Algiers. It ended. The Russians got out of Afghanistan. It ended. They got out of Lebanon. That ended it.
MR. SHARANSKY: I say you one difference. One difference that we cannot get out from Tel Aviv and we can't get out from Jerusalem and from Haifa because we want to have one Jewish state. And they want us to get out of Tel Aviv, of Haifa and Jerusalem. That's why I'm saying again and again it is...
MR. BUCHANAN: How about Nablus, Bethlehem and Arab East Jerusalem?
MR. SHARANSKY: OK. The moment there is challenge, it is in the hands of democratic Palestinian state, we can survive and live together. That's why I believe our concessions should be connected only to one thing, to real democratic reforms on Palestinian side. And thank God the leaders of Free World finally understands it and says it.
MR. BUCHANAN: And then you will get out of all of the West Bank that's been occupied since 19...
MR. SHARANSKY: You know, the moments to democracy always will find a compromise, and I think- -as a matter of fact, today you will saying something, it goes without say, that every piece of territory which is under Palestinian control should be free from Jews. Well, it is clear that every piece of territory which is under control of Israel should not be and I think should not be free from Arabs. Let's prove that you have different types of societies and let...
MR. BUCHANAN: Would you let the Palestinians who lived in Israel before 1948 in a peace agreement return to their homes in what is now Israel?
MR. SHARANSKY: No. Look, exactly as modern--millions and millions of Jews came from different countries...
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. SHARANSKY: ...and live there and they're not returning to those countries and...
MR. BUCHANAN: But...
MR. SHARANSKY: ...even to absorb all those millions and millions grandchildren of those people who live over there, there would be no Jewish state anymore. Not one Jewish state. There's so many Arab states and you don't want to tell me one Jewish state...
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no.
MR. SHARANSKY: ...in the world.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, what I'm saying is you're saying--and I agree--in a peaceful agreement in Palestine...
MR. SHARANSKY: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: ...that Jews ought to have a right to live...
MR. SHARANSKY: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: ...on the West Bank. But if that is true, why cannot Palestinians, whose families have lived in that--where you live now for a thousand years, why cannot they in peace come home?
MR. SHARANSKY: And so there are more than a million Arabs who are full citizens of...
MR. BUCHANAN: Who want to come to Israel?
MR. SHARANSKY: ...Israel, who live in Israel, who--I think that we are the only country where Arab members of the parliament can freely criticize their government and enjoy all the freedoms and it is very important for us that not a one Arab citizen of Israel will leave it. But again, the problem in the Middle East was not created because of the lack of democracy...
MR. BUCHANAN: All right.
MR. SHARANSKY: ...but it cannot be solved if it will be not--if we will be the only democratic society there.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you're a democracy, but look...
MR. SHARANSKY: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: ...and you say democracies are peaceful. Israel has fought five major wars since it was established. In three of them, 1956, 1967 and 1982, Israel launched pre-emptive strikes. It has been one of the most warlike countries in the Middle East. You have the king of Morocco, king of Jordan, king of Saudi Arabia and Ariel Sharon. Which of those four has been more warlike?
MR. SHARANSKY: Israel is the only member of the United Nations who's under constant threat of total annihilation--total annihilation. We have to fight for our rights to exist on this world...
MR. BUCHANAN: That's right.
MR. SHARANSKY: ...from the day we were born and I have to say unfortunately one of the modern problems of anti-Semitism is the denial of the right of Israel to exist.
MR. BUCHANAN: All right.
MR. SHARANSKY: They say all the Palestinians have to go back to Tel Aviv and all the Jews who came there, it's a colony. They have to leave it. That's what they hear now more and more in...
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, every American supports the right of Israel to exist and...
MR. SHARANSKY: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: ...almost every American supports American weapons to Israel to defend its national security and national existence...
MR. SHARANSKY: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: ...however, we do believe that Israel has got to give up the occupied territories in Gaza and the West Bank because this problem in the Middle East, which is caused there, is causing acts of terror, not only against you, but against us. It is making us hated in a part of the world where the United States was never before hated, was admired, if you will.
MR. SHARANSKY: Let me make final statement, please, final phrase on this.
MR. RUSSERT: Let him talk.
MR. SHARANSKY: I am willing, I wish, I want, I insist to give the Palestinians all the rights in the world except the right to destroy me. And the only way to do it is to encourage democratic reforms and a merging of a Democratic Palestinian state.
MR. BUCHANAN: Justice can't wait upon democracy.
MR. RUSSERT: To be continued.
MR. SHARANSKY: There will be no justice without democracy.
MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. Mr. Sharansky, this is your second appearance on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. SHARANSKY: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Ironically, 19 years ago...
MR. SHARANSKY: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: ...shortly after your release from a Soviet prison, this is what American viewers saw.
MR. SHARANSKY: Yeah.
(Videotape, February 16, 1986):
Unidentified Man: Our guest today on MEET THE PRESS, Sunday, February 16, 1986, live from Tel Aviv, Israel, Anatoly Sharansky, a leader of the Soviet human rights movement, just released from eight years of Communist captivity, and Avital Sharansky, the wife who wouldn't let the world forget.
MR. RUSSERT: And shortly after that you journeyed to the United States, met with President Reagan, and one Pat Buchanan in the White House. And you can...
MR. SHARANSKY: Yeah. Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: ...still have a robust disagreement this morning.
MR. BUCHANAN: It was a pleasure.
MR. SHARANSKY: It's been a pleasure.
MR. RUSSERT: That's what democracy's all about. Thank you very much. We'll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: Before we go, from 1969 to 1983, Sunday morning viewers watched George Herman question the leading figures in American politics as moderator of CBS' "Face the Nation." George Herman died this week at age 85. He and his family are in our thoughts and prayers.
That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.