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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Kellie Hamill, Colleen Higginbotham, Bob Schieff, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Joe Biden
Aired April 15, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Kellie Hamill, her husband, Tom Hamill is the United States citizen held hostage in Iraq for almost a week now and still no word on his condition since his kidnappers threatened to kill him by last Sunday. With her, Thomas Hamill's aunt, Colleen Higginbotham and then Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war himself in Vietnam. He knows all about surviving captivity. He'll weigh in on Iraq, give us an update about his wife, Cindy, who suffered a small stroke on Tuesday.
Later, Bob Schieffer, the veteran CBS newsman and anchor of "Face the Nation." And Senator Joe Biden, ranking member of the foreign relations committee who gave a major speech today titled "Getting it Right in Iraq." They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: We start in Macon, Mississippi, with Kellie Hamill, the wife of Thomas Hamill, the American civilian contractor being held hostage in Iraq, and with her is Colleen Higginbotham Colleen is Thomas Hamill's aunt. Is Thomas your brother or sister's son, Colleen?
COLLEEN HIGGINBOTHAM, AUNT OF U.S. HOSTAGE THOMAS HAMILL: He's my brother's son.
KING: When did you -- by the way, have you heard anything lately at all, Kellie?
KELLIE HAMILL, WIFE OF U.S. HOSTAGE THOMAS HAMILL: No, sir, we have not.
KING: Not heard a word since he was taken?
KING: Are you satisfied that your government is doing everything it can?
HAMILL: I'm not -- I'd prefer not to comment on that at this time.
KING: Have you heard from the government?
HAMILL: We've got a call from the State Department, and that's all we've heard from, other than a couple of our local representatives and our governor.
KING: How did you learn about it, Kellie?
HAMILL: KBR (ph), they contacted us, and advised us of the situation.
KING: And Colleen, how did you learn?
HIGGINBOTHAM: I learned also the same way.
KING: How are the children handling all of this, Thomas and Tori (ph), Kellie?
HAMILL: They're doing as well as can be expected at this, you know, with the situation as it is.
KING: You're an operator for 911, right?
HAMILL: Yes, Larry.
KING: So you get calls all the time about people in emergency situations?
HAMILL: Yes, Larry.
KING: Does that help you in handling something like this?
HAMILL: No, sir, it can't prepare you when it's your own family. You're used to separating your feelings from everything that's going on around you but when it's your family it's hard to separate all of your feelings from it.
KING: You've also had open heart surgery. How recent was that?
HAMILL: I had my surgery on February 25, Larry.
KING: Was Tom home then or had he gone already?
HAMILL: He had gone already, but we had contacted the company and the American Red Cross, and he had got an emergency flight out so he could be home with me when I had my surgery.
KING: Tell me about the circumstances of his taking this job, and I want your thoughts, too, Colleen. Why did Tom go to Iraq?
HAMILL: First off, he's a man that, you know, he takes care of his family. He loves us very much. He's a hard worker, and you know he just did what he felt was necessary at the time to take care of us and all of the other situations around us.
KING: Was that a very well paying job?
HAMILL: I don't know much about that. He did all that after. He left me a month before he went over.
KING: Were you surprised he went there? HAMILL: No, sir.
KING: That's the kind of guy he is?
HAMILL: Sir, he would do anything for anyone if he could. It doesn't matter -- you know, I would say he would give his shirt off his back to help someone, if it was what was needed.
KING: What kind of nephew is he, Colleen?
HIGGINBOTHAM: Excuse me, I didn't understand, Larry?
KING: What kind of nephew is he?
HIGGINBOTHAM: Oh, he was a wonderful nephew. We're a real close-knit family. We all support each other, and we knew his decision to go over there, and hated to see him go but understood why he had to go because he wanted to provide for his family. So we understood it.
KING: Kellie, was it difficult to see the pictures they've put on television all the time, is that hard for you?
HAMILL: Yes, Larry, it is.
KING: When was the last time you spoke to him?
HAMILL: I spoke to him the afternoon of the 7th of April.
KING: So a few days before he was taken?
HAMILL: Yes, Larry.
KING: And you've received no word from anyone since last Sunday, the threatened day that they would kill him if certain things weren't done, no word at all?
HAMILL: No word at all, Larry.
KING: What can you tell us about the kind of guy your husband is?
HAMILL: Tommy is a very family-oriented man. He's a kind and loving father and husband. He takes care of his responsibilities. He would do anything for anyone if he could, and he's just the most wonderful person I've ever met.
KING: Colleen, what's been the reaction of the people in Macon?
HIGGINBOTHAM: Marvelous support here. This is a real tight knit community, and we've really been drawn together as a whole, and the country as a whole has been drawn together because of this. We've gotten more phone calls from people all over the United States and Canada, just giving their support and prayers that Tommy will return safely home.
KING: Did you get more nervous, Kellie, when you heard that an Italian hostage had been killed?
HAMILL: Yes, sir, Larry. It makes you worry, but I have faith in the Lord that he's coming home safe to us.
KING: Kellie what, would you -- I mean, we're seen all over the world. What would you say to people? What would you say to anyone who might be watching us that might be in contact with him?
HAMILL: Well, I would like to let my husband know first of all that we love him and miss him very much. We hope he's doing fine. We would also like to say to the people that have him captive, we hope that they would release him unharmed and safe and let him come home to us just as soon as possible.
KING: Certainly if anyone is an innocent bystander, it's Thomas Hamill. What would you say, Colleen?
HIGGINBOTHAM: Much the same thing. We love him and want him home, just as soon as we could possibly get him.
KING: We wish you nothing but the best. Kellie Hamill and Colleen Higginbotham, the wife of Thomas Hamill and the aunt of Thomas Hamill in Macon, Mississippi. Still no word from last Sunday. We thank them both for being with us. We'll talk to the gentleman that knows a little bit about captivity, Senator John McCain of Arizona. He's next. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's happened?
THOMAS HAMILL, U.S HOSTAGE IN IRAQ: They attacked our convoy. That's all I'm going to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A truly distinguished American joins us now, Senator John McCain. I will tell you that off the air, Senator McCain spoke to Mrs. Hamill and gave her a lot of encouragement. He knows what there is about captivity. Republican of Arizona, member of the armed services committee, the decorated Vietnam veteran, former P.O.W., "New York Times" best selling author. His new book, "Why Courage Matters: The Way To a Braver Life." There you see its cover. He coauthored it with Mark Salter.
Before we talk about that, what are some of the things Thomas Hamill should be aware about, about captivity?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: You know, Larry, it's obviously that he's a victim of a new tactic by these terrorists in Iraq. There's been a wave of them. He, of course, has been in every living room in America, and this is an attempt to erode our national will. I don't know what these terrorists will decide. I believe that if they are convinced that they will pay the price for whatever harm they may do him or contemplate doing him, then the chances of him being returned are better.
So the message to these brutal, unspeakable scum is, if you harm him, we will track you down, we will find you, and you will pay. And they have to be absolutely sure of that.
So our thoughts and our prayers go out to Kelly and their entire family and their children, and our hearts and prayers will be with them in these hours ahead. I hope it's hours, or days ahead that lie ahead of us.
KING: Now, let's discussion your own situation. What happened with Cindy?
MCCAIN: Cindy's had a high blood pressure situation for a long time, and it spiked and there was some bleeding, and fortunately, she was smart enough to get to a hospital right away. She was taken very good care of.
She was out of intensive care yesterday, and she's coming home tomorrow. I'd like to thank everyone for their thoughts and their prayers on her behalf. She's going to be fine.
KING: When did it happen, John?
MCCAIN: A day before -- Monday, Monday afternoon, late afternoon and she'll be coming home tomorrow. It's a relatively short episode.
KING: Where were you?
MCCAIN: I was in New York getting ready to do some appearances on behalf of my book and my book, my book. And I received a call, and so I got a plane and flew back home, got home very late that night. And she's received excellent care here at the Baro Neurological Institute.
KING: Now, strokes usually have some aftereffect, even the mildest ones have some little paralysis or something. Does she have any aftereffect?
MCCAIN: Some slurring of the speech, but that has improved already.
KING: And now, do they have her on a special medication? What's the post-stroke procedure?
MCCAIN: Just stay on medication that controls the blood pressure. As you know, some people have high blood pressure, and others don't. It's a little hard to predict. But as long as, I think she's on the medication, she's going to be just fine.
KING: How is she doing emotionally?
MCCAIN: Fine, just fine. Pretty tough.
KING: How about the kids?
MCCAIN: They're fine. As you know, nothing bothers children, especially teenagers, so they're doing fine. Obviously, they were very concerned, but they're doing fine now.
KING: John, we're going to talk about Iraq and of course the 9/11 commission and Bob Schieffer will be joining us. I wanted to ask you about the book. Can you teach courage?
MCCAIN: I think you can. I think you can teach it from the very beginnings of life, to teach to love liberty and freedom and the beauty and strength and wonder of serving a cause greater than your self-interest.
And in our book, we try to not only relate our views on courage and how you inquire it and how you maintain it, and there are different kinds of courage, both moral and physical, although they are together sometimes. But we also cite examples of people, such as a guy named Roy Benevides who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for incredible heroics in Vietnam to John Lewis, a great civil rights hero, man of incredible courage, to Aung San Su-Chi, who is the leader Independence and Freedom For the People of Burma, they call it Myin Mar (ph) now, who has been in and out of house arrest for more than 10, 15 years now, to other examples of courage that we try to point out.
KING: Is it also true, having interviewed people who committed brave acts in war, they didn't know they were brave, they didn't know they were courageous until the situation developed.
MCCAIN: And even afterwards they are the last to call themselves heroes, that's the amazing thing. And a case like Roy Benevides, his comrades were surrounded. It was in Cambodia. He hopped on a helicopter. He was wounded, shot, they even put him in a body bag, because they thought he was dead.
Ronald Reagan, when he gave him the Congressional medal, said they could never make a movie out of this, because nobody would believe it. And then you have somebody like John Lewis at the bridge at Salma, Alabama who knows what's going to happen, and gets his skull crushed by a thug's baton, a stormtrooper.
But both Roy Benevides and John Lewis and Aung San Su-Chi and John Wesley Powell and others, had a cause that they served, and they were willing to sacrifice for. And they had fear. God knows, they had fear, but they overcame it, because they loved the cause which they sought to serve.
KING: What do you mean by saying American culture has been defining courage down.
MCCAIN: You know, our old friend Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined the phrase, defining decency down, as you remember. Defining courage down, we call someone courageous when we get out of an unhappy relationship or change their hairstyle or they do something that may not be exactly mainstream or something that is mainstream.
So we call too many things courageous. And we, I think, debase and define down the real meaning of courage, because acts of courage are going on as we speak in Iraq. Acts of courage went on on 9/11, when those policemen and firemen rushed into those buildings. And they are the examples that we want to emulate, not someone who -- not J. Lo or Ben after they broke up.
KING: Speaking of courage, your friend, John Kerry, very courageous in the Vietnam situation, a true hero. Is it difficult for you? We know you support the president.
KING: You're a Republican.
KING: But you're close friends with John Kerry. Is this a tough balancing act?
MCCAIN: No, because I know that John understands that, even though we are friends, we have different political philosophies. We have different views, and we're of different parties. And yes, I admire the courage he displayed in Vietnam, and that earned him a great deal of respect, I think.
I also admire and respect the president for his leadership of the country after September 11. I'll never forget his appearance at ground zero. And so I think they're both courageous people, and being president of the United States requires a lot of guts, too.
KING: Is it going to be a rough, dirty campaign?
MCCAIN: I've never seen a campaign more partisan as early as this. I decry it. I wished to god we would elevate this. But I think it's clear, Larry, that both parties have gone to their bases, rather than movement to the center, which is the normal way political campaigns are conducted. And I regret it. What I'm afraid is going to happen, we'll have low voter turnout and young people just simply not being involved.
KING: The rumors of making history by asking you to run with him, Senator Kerry, by saying to the public, we disagree on things but America comes first, would you consider it?
MCCAIN: No. It would not be an appropriate move in a broad variety of ways. I'd love the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. I had my disagreements with some of the things that my party have done, but overall, I'm strong Republican.
And also, Larry -- well, on another program the other day, I mentioned that when my kids were younger, my wife used to wear a t- shirt that said what part of no don't you understand, and I've been trying to -- maybe I better wear that t-shirt around again. It's just not going to happen.
KING: Would the country be okay if Kerry is president?
MCCAIN: Oh, sure. Look, because that's the will of the American people. The American people decide and choose through an electoral process, and the first thing we should do is respect their views and their decision, we should respect their decision and I think this could end up to be a very close race.
KING: We'll take a break and come back and talk about some things current. And then Bob Scheiffer will join us. Our guest, Senator John McCain. And the book is, "Why Courage Matters: The Way To a Braver Life." We'll be right back.
KING: With Senator John McCain. Today, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld extended Iraqi deployment for 20,000 troops. Do you agree?
MCCAIN: I agree, but I also think that you've got to have some long-range plans that include significant troop increases for a long period of time. Larry, I was there last August. I came back, after talking to many, many people, and I was convinced that we didn't have enough boots on the ground, and that we would pay a very heavy price for it if we didn't do it.
I think we must succeed in Iraq. We cannot fail. We must do whatever is necessary but it was clear to me that we needed a lot more troops with different specialties such as special forces, marines, et cetera, and if I could just mention one thing. The secretary of defense, who I admire enormously kept saying, well, the commanders on the ground haven't asked for it.
It's not up to the commanders on the ground. I respect and admire General Abizaid and General Sanchez as much as any living Americans I've ever known but the decisions have to be made at the highest level. Truman overruled Douglas MacArthur. Abraham Lincoln overruled his generals. Franklin Delano Roosevelt overruled his military people because as Napoleon said, "war is too important to be left to the generals." I think it was Bismarck (ph) that said, "war is diplomacy by other means." Now we've got to have more people. We have to have long-range plans, we have to use overwhelming force near where necessary. I'm sorry for the long answer.
KING: Are you saying, Senator, there was no afterplan?
MCCAIN: I'm saying that the plan was not adequate. I'm saying that it's not an accident that this was the bloodiest month of the war since combat ended, and we need to adjust. Things go bad in wars. Mistakes happen. In the Korean war, General MacArthur was sure the Chinese would never come down across the Yalo (ph). We have to adjust. The signs were there that we needed to have more boots on the ground. We need them now and we cannot afford to fail and we must do what's necessary and the American people have got to be told that, and I agree with the president of the United States that, we will -- in his speech that we will do what's necessary and the consequences of failure are terrible and the benefits of succeeding are enormous.
KING: If there are no weapons and apparently no weapons of mass destruction, does this change your mind about going there?
MCCAIN: Oh, no. He had the weapons. He used the weapons on his own people and other people. I am convinced that if he were in power, he would be trying to obtain those weapons and eventually would use them, and second of all, the world is a better place, Iraq is a better place. America -- you remember the pictures of those eight and nine- year-old boys coming out of prison. I saw the mass graves. Look, we did the right thing, but we have to now find out what went wrong with the intelligence and fix it, because the president of the United States has got to get the best intelligence possible, and when Colin Powell said that he didn't get it for his presentation before the United Nations security council, we better fix it.
KING: So who do we blame?
MCCAIN: I think we blame bin Laden and I think we blame al Qaeda, and we blame a lot of people, but I think the responsibility is still not yet to be apportioned for a failure in our intelligence apparatus. I believe that our greatest threat is a weapon of mass destruction falling in the hands of a terrorist which requires the president to be able to use preemptive action if necessary. He can't do that without the best intelligence, and I don't think he had -- it's obvious that he did not have the best intelligence, and he's asked me to serve on a commission, I hope we'll get to the bottom of it. I believe we will.
KING: Bob Schieffer is going to join us in the next segment and we'll get into the 9/11 commission. From what you've heard so far, things surprise you?
MCCAIN: No, but I'm very grieved and very worried and the American people need to know that we're in a tough fight here, and this is a very, very critical time. We cannot let these terrorists, these bad people, these extremists control towns and cities in Iraq. We cannot stand for that. And it's going to be tough, but we will see it through and we must win and these young men and women are absolutely magnificent and my heart goes out to the family members, as well as those men and women who have just been extended beyond the time that they were supposed to be there. God bless you. They'll perform well, but it's tough.
KING: Senator, would you take a cabinet post in a Bush or Kerry administration?
MCCAIN: I don't think...
KING: I mean, Kerry is your friend. He's liable to call you. Bush admires your work. Would you take it?
MCCAIN: Given my record of independence, I'm not sure I would ask me, but no.
KING: You would ask you. MCCAIN: No, no, I feel far -- I can be far more effective in the United States Senate and affect national security policy from that position. I wouldn't want to do that
KING: But you've always served your country when asked.
MCCAIN: Yes, and I think I can serve my country well where I am, I hope, I hope.
KING: OK, we'll take a break and when we come back, Bob Schieffer of CBS News will join us, the anchor and moderator and then later, Senator Joe Biden after Senator McCain leaves us and we'll be right back. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that there is a better way to conduct the war on terror and the foreign policy of the United States of America. Within weeks of being inaugurated, I intend to return to the United Nations, and I intend to formally lay out for the world America's agenda on a global basis, which will show how we intend to restore to our foreign policy the values and the hopes and aspirations of people all around this planet about how the leader of the free world ought to behave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A couple of program notes. Dick Clark, the other Dick Clark will be on this program tomorrow night. Heather McCartney will host the show Saturday night with Paul Newman as her guest, Linda Evans Sunday.
Monday night, Bob Woodward, his first live prime time appearance on behalf of his new book, which has been embargoed which is supposed to be stunning.
And then Tuesday night, Senator Hillary Rodman Clinton.
Joining Senator John McCain who's with us -- still with us from Phoenix. The author of "Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life" Co-authored with Mark Salter.
In Washington our old friend, Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of CBS News "Face the Nation." CBS News chief Washington correspondent. His "New York Times Best" seller, "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV" is now out in paperback.
Before we get to the 9/11 thing, Bob, why do we keep -- and it's a collective we, keep asking McCain about running with Kerry?
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Well, because I think a lot of the Kerry people are encouraging people to ask that question for one thing, Larry. I think they took this seriously. I heard John McCain tonight, say again that he is not interested. I have heard him say that before. I take him at his word. But I do know this, about a month ago, there were a lot of people inside the Kerry campaign who were encouraging friendly reporters to talk up this story, to spread it, to see what people thought about it. So, I took it seriously at that time. Now I've heard what Senator McCain said and take him at his word he's not going to do it.
MCCAIN: Thank you, bob.
KING: Good to know, huh, senator?
First, Bob, on the 9/11 thing, what would you ask Senator McCain and then we'll get your thoughts as well.
SCHIEFFER: You mean on the commission that's going on now, Larry?
KING: Yes. Or anything you want. You want to ask Iraq, go ahead. We're wide open.
SCHIEFFER: I think -- and I'd be interested to hear what the Senator McCain says. I think the commission has done a fairly good job. And I think it's been done for the most part in a non-partisan way. Senator McCain do you think that the commission now has to issue a unanimous report for it to have any validity?
MCCAIN: I think it would be enormously helpful and everything that I've heard is that they're going to, Bob. Yes, I agree with you. I think they've done a pretty good job. There's been a little too much finger pointing. When Senator Joe Lieberman and I proposed this legislation, which was opposed by practically everybody to start with, I'm not sure that he and I even believed that it would get attention that it has.
KING: Are you surprised at that. What has surprised you, Bob, about it?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I think it's brought out some detail that we didn't know about. I think it clearly shows some things in the intelligence gathering, especially perhaps in the FBI and how they're going to go about their business, things that have to be changed. There have been some things that have already been changed. But I think for the committee, for the commission to have real value, it's got to lay out what needs to be fixed. I think if they get off into this scapegoating, I'm not sure that helps very much. I'm not sure looking back on these things that anyone of sound mind could have put these dots together. Perhaps they could have, but it seems to me that's a long time in the past now. What this commission has got to concentrate on, I think, is finding things that can be fixed to ensure that this doesn't happen again.
MCCAIN: You know, I agree with Bob, and I think there's been too much finger pointing, if I had a criticism, and not enough proposals from smart people as to how we can fix the problem and I hope that's going to happen. I agree with him. Our purpose in proposing this was not to point fingers, but it was to see how we can fix what went wrong. KING: But Senator McCain, are you a little surprised that the lack of communication between investigative parties?
MCCAIN: I'd like to tell you yes, I'm surprised, but no, I'm not. That's the nature of bureaucracies in Washington. And unfortunately, even though I say there shouldn't be finger pointing, so far no one, not a single soul has lost their job nor been held responsible. But that has to happen in order for us to instruct the others.
KING: Bob Schieffer, is Iraq going to be a major campaign issue?
SCHIEFFER: Sure, I think there are two issues this time, it's going to be the economy, and it's going to be Iraq. And I think one of the things, and this is one of the things I'd like to hear Senator McCain talk a little bit about tonight, and that is this business of extending these troops that are now in Iraq, this so-called stop loss policy that the Pentagon put into effect. These people as Senator McCain said just a minute ago, they're courageous, they;re patriotic, they're going to do their duty. But Senator McCain, what kind of an impact is this going to have on the army and especially on the reserves and the national guard forces?
Because my sense of it is that we simply do not, at this point, have an army that is large enough to carry out the mission that has been assigned by the White House, and as a result, we're having to break promises to people who are in the service. We are telling them they have to stay longer, not only in Iraq, but sometimes longer on active duty than they made a commitment to do.
MCCAIN: That's right, Bob, and you put it very well in this respect. They will do whatever they're called upon to do, and they'll do it magnificently, but when you've got 40 percent of your forces, nearly 40 percent, guard and reservists who didn't join the guard and reserves for this kind of work, they're not going to stay in, and you're going to have a tremendous problem with retention of guard and reservists, and also, you're going to have a morale problem back home. They'll serve and they'll fight and they'll do magnificently, but keeping them in is going to be, I think, a very difficult proposition. And yes, we need to expand the size of the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps, and we need to recognize that immediately.
KING: Is it going to get worse, Senator McCain, in Iraq?
MCCAIN: I pray not, but I think we're going to have a great challenge on our hands here retaking these cities in the way that they are pacified. I think within days, we'll be able to take control again. But putting down the kind of insurgency, which is becoming more and more sophisticated every day, is going to be a real challenge. I think we missed an opportunity during the first six months or so of our occupation of Iraq.
SCHIEFFER: Senator McCain...
KING: Sorry go ahead, Bob.
SCHIEFFER: I was going to ask Senator McCain to follow up on that. Where are these insurgents coming from?
Who are they, and how is it that they're so well-armed?
MCCAIN: Of course, the whole place was awash in arms during and after the conflict phase. I think they're from everywhere. They're from outside. They're Iranians and Syrians and Saudis and Egyptians, but the core of them are the dissatisfied people who were disenfranchised. That's why the Sunni triangle is so dangerous because they were better off during Saddam Hussein, because they were the favored minority. But the real danger here is any kind of coalition, no matter how loose, between Shias and Sunnis, if that takes place, then we've got an enormous problem. But I believe that Sistani and his people should step forward. I think that we can do a lot of things on both political and military end, but we're going to have to do it very carefully and well and recognize that we're playing catch-up.
KING: Senator, before you leave us, someone asked know ask you, are you still continuing the fight about getting drugs in from Canada, prescription drugs?
MCCAIN: We're going to have a press conference next week, and we will fight this fight. I believe we'll win on the floor of the senator, and how in the world you can pass a prescription drug bill for seniors and prohibit Medicare from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices is beyond me. And how you can prohibit importation of lower priced drugs is a testimony -- a living testimony of the influence of special interests, ie, the pharmaceutical companies in Washington D.C. It's disgraceful.
KING: Thank you, senator. Senator McCain's book, "Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life, " co-authored with Mark Salter. Bob Schieffer will remain with us. Senator Joe Biden will join us. The senator delivered a major speech today to the Center for Strategic and International Studies called "Getting it Right in Iraq." Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: It's about those brave Americans who have died doing everything in their power to get it right. We owe them no less than acknowledging where we were wrong, and making a serious attempt to get it right. This is not merely the stuff of foreign policy wonks like us. This is life and death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Bob Schieffer remains with us in Washington. The anchor and moderator of CBS News' "Face the Nation." Joining us in Wilmington, Delaware, Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat, ranking member foreign relations committee, member of the judiciary sub-committee on terrorism, technology and homeland security. He delivered that major speech today at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and he pointed out many things one of which was you were saying that -- tell the American public straight what's not being told.
BIDEN: Well, Bob, I don't think at the outset...
KING: This is Larry, but Bob's with us.
BIDEN: I'm sorry. I beg your pardon. I don't have you on the screen. I'm sorry.
KING: I know we sound alike.
BIDEN: Larry, what I think is that we did not level with the American people the outset. Many of us within the administration, outside the administration, in the Senate, pointed out that this was going to take hundreds, several hundred thousand or at least well over 100,000 troops for at least several years. It was going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and we were going to be there for a while. Then what happened was we go there, things turn out to be as we predicted, the vast majority of us, in spite of what Mr. Rumsfeld or Mr. Cheney said.
Now you have families bewildered, going to bed at night with a pit in their stomach wondering whether or not we have a plan, whether or not we'll bring their loved ones home safely, how long they're going to stay and they're surprised by it. They basically were led to believe, although this was going to be a hard fight, it's kind of counterintuitive when the largest tax cut in America is given on the eve of going to war, when we say they only need X number of troops so they just weren't leveled with.
KING: Are you saying they read it wrong or they weren't leveling?
BIDEN: They weren't leveling. I don't think they were leveling, and I think one of the reasons why they weren't leveling, and the reason I say that, by the way, the president's own national security council, along with General Susechi (ph) inside the administration, said we'd need 300,000 to 500,000 troops after we won to win the peace. That wasn't just Joe Biden and the chairman of the foreign relations committee at the time saying that. It was in fact inside the administration, but it just wasn't accepted.
KING: Bob Schieffer, don't you see that as a pretty strong charge?
BOB SCHIEFFER, "FACE THE NATION": I think it is a strong charge but I think there is some validity to it, quite frankly. The administration, from the beginning, said it would take fewer troops to do this and some of the generals were saying and testifying up on Capitol Hill, and I think what happened, Larry, is this. We went into Iraq believing two things would happen, that some of the Iraqi troops would stand and fight. And that we would defeat them easily, and that others would simply surrender, but they didn't exactly surrender. Rather than surrender, they melted back into the civilian population and took their weapons with them, and because there were so many of these unguarded ammunition dumps that John McCain was talking about awhile ago, the country was sudden awash in weapons.
They were there. If you needed some rockets there was a place to get them. If you needed some rifles, there was a place to get them. It appears in retrospect that we simply did not have enough troops on the ground at that time to guard those ammunition dumps. So this may be -- we may be reaping some of what we sowed in those early day of the invasion it seems.
KING: Senator, does June 30 concern you?
BIDEN: Well, it concerns me in the sense, Larry, that we don't have a plan. The president made a very forceful assertion, and did it well as to what is at stake and why we're going to not yield, but he did not offer a plan. Look, John McCain talked about, and I, along with John McCain and Jack Reed of Rhode Island and others, supported legislation increasing the United States military by two divisions. That's going to take a long time. One of you guys asked, John, whether or not we had enough forces and he said no.
Folks, there's one two of things. Either we get other people to come in and help us or we put ourselves in a position of overextending in the extreme the national guards of this country in a way that no one ever anticipated, and what's the president doing? There is no willingness to go to the major powers in the world, to convene them, to get in the plane and go to NATO and say, look, this is what we need. We need you involved, and why would they do that? Because they have a great deal at stake here, a great deal at stake.
KING: Bob Schieffer, why do you think there's not a willingness to try that?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I'm not sure I know why but one of the things I'd like to ask to Senator Biden about -- it's kind of a follow-up to something we talked about on "Face the Nation." We were talking, the other Sunday, Larry, about bringing in foreign troops, getting NATO involved, and I think a lot of people would like to do that, but some people say well, does NATO want to be involved. Senator Biden said that he had actually talked to President Chirac of France who said at one point if the situation was right, if they could set the rules in a certain way, he would be willing to send French troops in. Now, we didn't hear too much about that before, and I'd like to just follow up on that. What were the conditions, Senator Biden, under which President Chirac of France said he'd be willing to send troops into Iraq?
BIDEN: Well, Bob, I actually have a copy of the letter here, the memo I sent to the president of the United States after I met with President Chirac, and I'll be happy to make a copy available to you. The bottom line is this -- he said, Chirac said he would immediately be prepared to vote to have NATO go in. I asked him whether or not he would contribute French troops. He said it would depend on the conditions and the political circumstances, meaning who was going to succeed Bremer, who was going to be calling the shots politically.
He was not in any way willing to send French troops under the political, not the military, the political command of a, essentially a procounsel, and he wanted to know what the circumstances would be, and I might add, by the way, what most people don't know and I know you guys know, French troops are fighting side by side, as I speak with you tonight, with American forces in Afghanistan in the most dangerous region of that country, seeking out Osama bin Laden. So it's not like these guys aren't willing to fight.
KING: Let me get a break and we'll be right back with our remaining moments. Wish we had a lot more time. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We, I said we, it's not American forces, it's coalition forces and innocent Iraqi citizens, by the way, have encountered serious violence in parts of Iraq. The different factions, former Saddam loyalists, some foreign fighters, Sadr is a radical cleric and his gangs have a common goal, they want to stop the march to democracy in Iraq. The idea of a free society really bothers them. Freedom is something they can't stand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's get in one call at least before we wind things up. Mobile, Alabama, hello.
CALLER: Hello. It's obvious that our troops will need more military backup for the long haul ahead of them. Is it time for President Bush to reinstate the draft and would that be a risk to his re-election?
KING: Senator Biden?
BIDEN: No, and yes. It's not time to reinstate the draft, and it would be, I think, difficult for his re-election. I think we can -- I think it's time to engage the international community so that we take an American face off of this, and get more help.
I actually have that quote from Chirac. Chirac said "in the new atmosphere if France can do something it will. The change in November 15 showed a more positive attitude. I have no objection to giving the military mission to NATO. If NATO must act, I will not object. If we are asked to do something, we will, but it can't just be anything. Schroeder and I have already told Powell ready to help train the army and police, et cetera."
KING: Pretty definitive, Bob Schieffer, don't you think?
SCHIEFFER: Well, yes. I think that's very, very interesting. The fact is, Larry, we simply have to find some way to share these casualties. This has to be a worldwide fight. If this is a worldwide war an terrorism, then we've got to bring the rest of the world into it. We cannot have this be America against the Muslim world. That's not going to work and that's not what we want.
KING: You're a communicator, Bob. Has the administration done a poor job in communicating its message? SCHIEFFER: Well, I must say, some of the time, I think they have. I think some of the time they have not made it clear that this is a worldwide fight. We had such a spirit in this country after 9/11, when people were pulling together, when people in every walk of life said, we're all in this together. We've got to fight this and we've got to win. But somehow, if the administration is at fault in anything, I think it is in letting some of that spirit slip away.
KING: What's that going to mean in November, Senator?
BIDEN: I don't know what it's going to mean in November, Larry, but I know one thing. If the majority of the Iraqi people, as I believe they do, share our vision of their future, that is a participatory democracy, they -- we have to create the conditions to let them step up and fight for it.
If they do not, there's not anything we're going to be able to do to win. So we have to change the conditions that allow moderate Iraqis, the vast majority who say they want a participatory democracy, to come forward. And to do that, we have to provide more security and more legitimacy to what we're doing in Iraq, and that requires international community, major powers to get involved.
KING: Going to get worse, Bob? do you think? We're running short on time.
SCHIEFFER: I don't see any lights at the end of the tunnel quite yet, Larry.
KING: Do you, Senator Biden?
BIDEN: I think it requires presidential leadership, Larry. This can be done. If the president doesn't act, in my view, things are going to deteriorate. If we turn this over to a new super ambassador and the largest embassy of the world on July the 1, being an American, I think it's a prescription for failure.
KING: Thank you both very much. Thanks to our earlier guests as well. Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of the CBS news "Face The Nation." How long has it been on now, Bob?
SCHIEFFER: It will be on 50 years on November 7 of this year. It started in 1954, Larry.
KING: It will never last.
BIDEN: Bob, you're not that old.
KING: I'll be back in a couple of minutes. To tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: Tomorrow night, the other Dick Clark. You know, the broadcaster, Dick Clark will join us.
Saturday night, Heather McCartney will host LARRY KING LIVE. Her guest is Paul Newman.
Monday night, Bob Woodward. His first live primetime appearance on behalf of his new and supposedly exclusive book.
And Tuesday night Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
And right now, we turn our attention to New York. And when we say attention, we mean attention must be paid. Why? Because it's Aaron Brown and "NEWSNIGHT" and that's why. So, pay attention.
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