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Reaction to President Bush's Speech

Aired May 1, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: With us in our studios in Washington, D.C. following this historic occasion is Bob Schieffer, the anchor of CBS News "Face the Nation," CBS News chief Washington correspondent, author of a terrific "New York Times" best seller called "This Just In."
Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia. How proud he must have felt tonight. Former secretary of the Navy, veteran of both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. Warner, in fact, experienced a number of carrier landings himself while undersecretary and secretary of the Navy.

And Senator Diane Feinstein, Democrat of California, a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Bob Schieffer, what's your critical analysis of the speech, how it was delivered, how it was received?

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Well I must say, Larry, as I watched the president what I thought about was Ronald Reagan, who was known as the great communicator. And Ronald Reagan understood it's not just the words you say, that you use to communicate. You use, where you say it, how you say it, the background around you. And we saw some very powerful pictures tonight.

My sense of it is, we'll remember these pictures a lot longer than we'll remember the words that the president said tonight. But having said that I thought was a very powerful message that he delivered.

KING: Senator Warner, what's your reaction?

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), CHMN., ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: Larry, it was a moment in history. A moment richly deserved by a courageous president who made the toughest decision any president has to make, send men and women into harm's way. To sit there and be concerned night and day, seven days a week about the welfare of those he sent and their families here at home.

But he struck a note of humility today. Not taking the credit himself, but giving it to the men and women of the armed forces and many others who brought about the success to date and which enabled him to say that most of the major combat now has come to an end. And we're on the course to turn that nation over, eventually, to a free people of Iraq. KING: Senator Feinstein, Yogi says, "It ain't over until it's over." Is it not over or not over until they find weapons of mass destruction?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), RKG. MEM., TERRORISM SUB CMTE.: Well, let me answer it this way -- first of all, Senator Warner and I were on your show, Larry, when the war began. And I was thinking that as the president spoke, and realizing, you know, the happiness that I felt as opposed to the anxiety when we were before.

The speech was a ten strike. I'm one that believes the hard work is yet to come. And I thought there was some good news in the show. Aaron Brown mentioned it. And it is this quote, "Our coalition will stay until the job is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq."

That's a very big order. Securing the company -- country, rebuilding it, getting its economy going, providing the humanitarian assistance, and providing a stable, free and transparent government that is for and by Iraqis. This is a big order.

Now, there's been a lot of discussion on the Hill, and some have said, well, we should leave right away. I interpret this as a major statement that the coalition, in fact, will remain until the country is safe and stable and until a government is the elected and able to survive. And that's good news, I think.

KING: Bob Schieffer, if that's true and the time plan keeps going on, but a lot of Iraqi people have said the same already, get out now. What's the balancing equation?

SCHIEFFER: Well I think we have no choice at this point, Larry. Anybody watching these pictures coming in from Iraq just today I think the United States could not leave at this point without turning the current into total chaos, because, clearly, there's a power of action there, for any number of reasons. We have to say, just to keep mass hysteria from breaking out there, and untold deaths. So I think we're going to be there for a while.

And I would certainly agree with Senator Feinstein. This is the hard part now. It's going to be pretty difficult. That's not saying we can't do it, that we can't leave this place a better place than we found it. But I don't think we have any choice but to stay right now.

KING: Senator Warner, why didn't he declare victory tonight?

WARNER: Oh, I think very clearly, my colleagues here referred to the hard part. Let us not forget that the combined death toll of Americans and forces, coalition, over 200. Over 500-plus wounded. So I think that was a hard part, too, I say of my colleagues here.

So we have to look forward to the uncertainty of the continuing need to stay there, and that is not without risks. Both the president and Secretary Rumsfeld stated that. So we're going to be there. We're going to accept the risks, and we're going to see it through until the job is done. KING: And how long, Senator Feinstein, do you think that might be? We are an impatient people. Are we not?

FEINSTEIN: We're a very impatient people. And the real task is whether we can stay the course. I believe we can. I believe we should. And I thought a lot about it, and I see us in there for the next three to five years. I would be surprised if it were less.

KING: Bob, how do you react to that?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I would certainly hope we're not going to be there for the next three or five years, but we will may well be. Because we don't nope at this point what kind of government can survive there. Nor do even the people in this administration, are they even in agreement as to what kind of government ought to be there.

I did an interview Sunday before last with Richard Perle, who was one of the advisers to the Pentagon, very influential. He said if a theocratic government, Islamic republic evolves there, we'll have to live with that. Three days later, Donald Rumsfeld say we won't tolerate an Islamic republic there.

So I think at this point we don't even know what kind of government we think can survive there, or what kind of government, I don't think there's agreement within our government about what kind of government would be the right government.


KING: Go ahead, Senator Warner.

WARNER: Sure. I differ with my friends here. I don't think we can set any timetable. I would not accept just three to five years.

And the use of the term we, the statements made by both the secretary of defense and our president were really an invitation to other countries to come on in now and join us in the burdens, not only of reconstruction, but reforming a government that can govern this nation. And, also, to bring the wherewithal, the dollars to do it.

So I feel that by other nations joining, and, indeed, the U.N., not as the boss on the block but a participant, we can cut down that timetable substantially from any three to five years.

KING: Senator Feinstein, do they have to find chemical weaponry?

FEINSTEIN: Well that was the raison d'etre for most of this mission. And I think we have a long way to go to be sure that we've covered all the bases. And so that's going to take time. And as the president said, there are a lot of places to look.

I want to make this point about time, and the reason I said that is, there's an infrastructure to be rebuilt. There's an economy to be restarted. And if we are to have the kind of government that is not fanatical, it's got to be a government that understands what Western ways can provide. And that's economic upward mobility, education, good let care. It's a good economy. That takes time, and I suspect we're going to have highs and lows during this period.

What I'm saying that I believe is mandatory, just as it is in Afghanistan, that we stay and we see the job done. Just remember how long it took in Germany, in Japan, in other countries that have never known democracy.

KING: Thank you. Thank you Senators Warner and Feinstein. Bob Schieffer will remain with us. And when we come back, we'll meet Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Congresswoman Jane Harman of California on this shortened edition of LARRY KING LIVE, following the president's speech. We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: Bob Schieffer of CBS News "Face The Nation" and their chief Washington correspondent remains with us.

We're joined by Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut, Republican, chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Chris Shays, your reaction.

REP. CHRIS SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Well, this was so exciting. We were looking at 18 and 19-year-old kids. That's the average age on this ship. And on a scale of 1 to 10, our military performed at an 11. And this president had a right to rejoice. But it was just a compassionate, wonderful speech.

And just finally let me say, he referred to this as the battle in Iraq, because it's the war on terrorism and it continues and I think he was reminding us of that.

KING: Congresswoman Harman, your thoughts?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Touching in many ways looking at the faces of the kids and thinking about their new sons and daughters.

But also sobering in some ways. The president, at the end, was in a sober mood, at the end of the speech talking about those who died and talking about the long road ahead.

I was listening to the prior conversation about reconstruction, Larry. I don't know what the number of years is. But if you recall, in this last 10 years we've done six of these. This is number six. And the ones where we haven't stayed long, like Somalia and Haiti, have gone badly. In fact, Afghanistan is going badly. It's good that we're committing new resources as of today.

KING: Yes. HARMAN: But this will be a long haul.

KING: Bob, were you surprised that both Democrats, both powerful Democrats tonight, Congresswoman Harman and Senator Feinstein, are very pro all of this?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I think this was a remarkable moment. I mean, it really was. I mean, here you had the president of the United States -- and this didn't just happen. This speech was only one part of what happened today.

I mean, here you have the president flying onto the aircraft carrier. The first president to fly on to an aircraft carrier in a fixed wing jet like he did, climbing out in that flight suit, looking very dashing. This whole day was quite an event.

I mean, you know, sometimes we think about our politics being kind of sour, mean and nothing but just campaign commercials. We saw a little spontaneity today. We saw a little showmanship that we haven't seen in a long time in politics, and frankly, I think that's kind of good for the whole process.

KING: Congressman Shays, do they have -- does the coalition have to find weapons of mass destruction?

SHAYS: Oh, I think so. And we will. I mean, I don't think there's any doubt they exist. The question is, where are they?

But we're going to find them. We're going to find them, because they exist and it's the reason we went to Iraq, to end his ability to share these with other nations and terrorists.

KING: Do you feel the same, Congresswoman Harman? Are you positive they're going to find them?

HARMAN: Well, the intelligence case that they were there was very strong, I thought, and its the major reason why I supported the Congressional resolution.

We have to find them, Larry. They were not only the moral underpinning for the war, but until we find them, there's a security risk. It may be true -- it is true, as the president says, that Saddam Hussein isn't going to be able to use them. But others in Iraq may have hidden them to unearth them later and sell them, give them, transfer them to many of these terrorist groups that are still alive and well and growing in the world.

So this is a dangerous and imperative action that we have to take.

SCHIEFFER: You know, I have to....

KING: Bob?

SCHIEFFER: Yes, I think that's a very good point the Congresswoman makes because, as she says, all of the intelligence suggested there were such weapons. So if we don't find them, they must be someplace else. And that really does raise a security question. So I think it's absolutely imperative, as the Congresswoman says, that these weapons be found, and I must say, I think what also would help the cause if we get some idea where Osama bin Laden is and also where Saddam Hussein is and whether he's dead or alive.

KING: Congressman Shays your former leader Newt Gingrich slammed the State Department. Called it a broken instrument of diplomacy. Do you share those views?

SHAYS: Well, that's Newt at his worst, frankly. That's the last thing we need right now.

We have an awesome State Department and an incredible secretary of state. And his task is going to be the more difficult now. We are introducing democracy into this land and infant nations think of democracy in terms of majority rule. What they have to learn is minority rights. And if they don't learn minority rights, they're not going to have a meaningful democracy. And that's going to rest on the shoulders of the State Department.

KING: Congresswoman Harman, are you hopeful about Powell's trip to Syria?

HARMAN: I am hopeful. I think the timing is great and he is the right messenger to send there. I'm hopeful that Syria will hear us and will stop supporting terrorist groups who are a great risk to neighboring Israel.

By the way, I think that rolling out the roadmap is a very good thing. Building democracy is hard, as we are seeing in the fragile beginnings of Palestine. I hope one of Powell's messages to Palestine's Arab neighbors is help remove Arafat. Get him totally off the political stage so that this nascent government there has a chance to thrive. There are good people in it, and the security chief, Mohammed Dalan, is capable of dealing with Hamas and the other terrorist groups if he's given the chance to do that. And then we may see our way clear to a peaceful situation in the Middle East for the first time certainly in my lifetime.

KING: Thank you, Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut, Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.

Bob Schieffer remains with us. And when we come back, we'll get international viewpoints from Matt McAllester of "Newsday," Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent and Nic Robertson, our senior international correspondent.

That's all next. Don't go away.


KING: We're back.

Bob Schieffer remains with us of CBS News "Face The Nation."

Joining us in Baghdad in Matt McAllester, reporter for "Newsday" who was imprisoned and interrogated in Iraq for a week in late March.

In London is Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent.

And in Baghdad, Nic Robertson, CNN's senior international correspondent.

What's the latest, Nic, from Baghdad?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, I think perhaps that when the people of Baghdad wake up, they may get 0-- they make their own assessment of what President Bush had to say overnight for them.

But perhaps for the people here, it's returning to normal. There's more shop it's open. People are being a little more relaxed on the streets. What happened in Fallujah about 30 or 40 miles west of Baghdad, perhaps of interest to a lot of people as well, the fact there's still a contentious situation between U.S. troops and some of the residents of the city there. U.S. troops coming under attack from some of the residents there in their base. But for the most part, the people here in Baghdad are beginning to relax more on the streets here, and there is beginning to be some -- some -- small sense of normality returning this way. There's a little more electricity and such like (ph).

KING: Christiane Amanpour, as the president continues to mingle with the sailors returning home, what has been the reaction -- well, I guess a little late there in London. What's your reaction to his speech?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's just talk about what the reaction overseas has been in the days leading up to this speech.

There's still a great deal of skepticism on two issues from countries all around the world. Those are the weapons of mass destruction, which despite what President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, say have not yet been found. Also, the alleged link to al Qaeda, the other justification of the war. There's still a great deal of skepticism by many of the countries abroad.

But I think on two major issues, people will be looking at two things that the president said. One, the fact that he says they will stay in Iraq until the job is done. And he drew comparisons to Afghanistan. Well, as your previous guest, Congressman Harman said, the job in Afghanistan is not over, and, in fact, it's not going well. So that is a sobering lesson and a sobering example, as you look towards reconstruction and the imposition of security in Iraq.

And then a second thing which he said, the president, which will cause alarm, I believe, is that any -- any government, any outlaw, any rogue state supporting terrorism or having anything to do with potential weapons of mass destruction -- quote -- "we will confront them." And I think that is the overriding concern, certainly in the Arab world, is there going to be a domino rollover effect? Will there be other countries that are invaded, attacked by the United States? And precisely what does that line in that speech mean? "We will confront them." What does that mean? Iran? Syria? Who, what and how?

KING: Matt McAllester, what do you think will be the reaction in Baghdad as it learns the contents of this speech?

MATT MCALLESTER, HELD CAPTIVE 8 DAYS IN IRAQ: I think it will be mixed. I think I think there is a sense among some people in Baghdad of growing hostility with the United States at the moment.

Today, for example, there was an explosion. And innocent, apparently innocent explosion at a gas station. But immediately a crowd gathered and started jostling the American soldiers, blaming the American soldiers for what had happened, even though they hadn't been present at the time. And it seems to me whenever there's an instant like that people's anger comes out and they're directed what they see, some of them, as their occupiers, even if their beneficent occupiers in many senses. So there is that growing feeling.

But on the other hand, they, as Nic said, many of them, probably the majority of them at least in Baghdad, feel liberated and like their lives significantly improved in spite of the relative chaos here. So I think they'll see the speech with a degree of passivity. It's not really to do with them any more, but what they will feel is that reconstruction has to start much faster than is happening now.

KING: Bob Schieffer, is Christiane right though? Will reaction overseas not be the same as it is in the United States?

SCHIEFFER: Yes, I think she's right, and I think the part of this speech -- I think she's also right in the sense that the part of this speech that will be most pored over, most dissected, will be the president's quote that, you know, any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorists groups will be confronted. I think that's the thing that will raise questions overseas.

But I also believe that the purpose of this speech was not so much --the audience for this speech was not the rest of the world. The audience for this speech, it seems to me was the -- were the people back home in the United States. This was the president identifying with what he calls a success, thanking these young men and women who did their duty, who followed presidential orders and carried out this very difficult task.

I think this was a speech, Larry, for the American people, not for people in other parts of the world.

KING: Any word, Nic Robertson, any rumors about Saddam Hussein?

ROBERTSON: Still nothing concrete. The rumors in Baghdad are that he might come back. We were talking to some Iraqi scientists earlier on today and they were saying, in their neighborhoods, they're seeing slogans appearing on their walls saying that the Ba'ath Party, Saddam Hussein's former political party here, are still watching them. They think about whether or not they should go and talk to the United States, tell them everything they know about the weapons of mass destruction programs, and they see these slogans appearing on the wall from the Ba'ath Party. We're watching you. Don't go and talk to them. Certainly has feeling that while Saddam Hussein, nobody knows where he is, some of his former party members are still around, they haven't gone away and even some want to try and find positions in any new government that may be formed.

KING: What did you make, Christiane, of Senator Feinstein and others saying that this might take three to five years, for the United States to be in Iraq?

AMANPOUR: Well, given -- just look around at what's happened in the world over the last 10 years. Bosnia, Kosovo. I mean, look -- American troops first came to Bosnia at the end of 1995, at the end of that war and they're still there. That's eight years. Bosnia is pocketbook handkerchief sides compared to Iraq. And the problems of reconstruction and rebuilding civil institutions, not to mention just physical reconstruction there are huge.

And I think it's fanciful to suggest that it could take any -- any short period of time to get the job done, and I think that many commentators have suggested that you have to strike a right balance to give the confidence that you're staying to do the job as well as giving the confidence that you're not there just as heavy-handed occupiers.

And I think, you know, certainly when it came to Afghanistan a great deal of what I would call sort of false canards were raised for not doing the job. For instance, not putting peacekeepers beyond Afghanistan outside of Kabul. The reasons that the administration gave was that we don't want to be seen as occupiers, misreading the Afghan people, who wanted the security of peacekeepers to be around Afghanistan to show them that once and for all, the power of the warlords was over and a new force was in town. And because that hasn't happened, the security of Afghanistan is still on the brink of catastrophe. You know that by the engagements the U.S. military has had over hand over and over and over again, even in the last few days.

KING: Yes.

AMANPOUR: And so when people look at the future of Iraq, they look at the recent examples, and they hope that the administration will keep its commitment to actually rebuilding and reconstructing all sorts of civil institutions and also the physical infrastructure.

KING: We thank you all very much. Bob Schieffer, thanks for pinch-hitting last week. You were terrific. And thanks for being with us tonight. Matt MacAllester and Christiane Amanpour and Nic Robertson and our earlier guests as well.

We'll take a break and I'll come back and tell you about what's ahead not only tomorrow night but over the weekend and next Monday night as well on LARRY KING LIVE.

So stay with us. We'll be right back.


KING: Tomorrow night, more on the Peterson case. Will Geragos say yes or no? We should know by tomorrow.

Saturday night, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore together again.

Sunday night a big program we're calling girl talk.

And on Monday night, Lisa Marie Presley. All ahead on LARRY KING LIVE.

Ahead now is Aaron Brown with "NEWSNIGHT." preceded by Charles Molineaux with the news headlines. Thanks for joining us, and good night.


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