CBS’s Hannah Storm: Victory Over Al Qaeda in Iraq Just ‘Semantics’

On Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," host Hannah Storm interviewed Democratic Senator Joe Biden and when the subject turned to recent success in Iraq, Storm summed things up in this question to the presidential candidate:

And let's talk about this report in "The Washington Post," that says some of the generals are considering declaring victory in Iraq over Al Qaeda. Now, does it matter if they do or don't? Is this just a matter of semantics?

Storm’s astute observation of what is being fought for in Iraq is as wise as John Edwards assertion that the "War on Terror" is just a "bumper-sticker slogan." Or, it could be compared to actress Cate Blanchett’s analysis of military leaders that she shared in an interview with Harry Smith in the 8am hour about her new movie "Elizabeth: The Golden Age": "And when you think about that moment when she arrived in front of the troops, I mean, where was Bush after 9/11? And here you had a female monarch, arriving at the battle scene."

After Biden responded by saying, "I hope the administration stops this malarkey about that the war in Iraq is about Al Qaeda," instead of challenging such a statement, Storm concurred, "And Al Qaeda wasn't there before the war in Iraq. They've been a presence since then."

Later in the segment Storm asked the Senator if any compromise on child healthcare was possible, which Biden used as a platform to launch harsh attacks against Republican opponents: "If they spent as much energy in passing -- in supporting this legislation, as going after that 12-year-old kid, we would be in a much different spot...And the president's position on child health care has been, I think, abysmal." Storm allowed such attacks to go unchallenged and instead fretted over Biden’s chances in the Iowa caucus:

STORM: Alright. Real quickly, you're going back to Iowa tonight.

BIDEN: I am.

STORM: Right? You have to finish in the top three there to stay in the race? Can you do it?

BIDEN: I think that -- Yes, I can.

STORM: You have enough money?

BIDEN: I have enough money. I don't have enough money to compete like the rest of -- look, I've raised about $10 million. That used to be enough money to run in these primaries in the past.

STORM: Yeah, those days are long gone, right.

After an equally soft-ball interview between Harry Smith and Barack Obama just yesterday, apparently the days of the media asking tough questions of Democrats is "long gone" too.

Here is the full transcript of the 7:10am interview:

HANNAH STORM: Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Joe Biden has spent 35 years in the U.S. Senate. As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he is at the center of the debate in Congress over the Iraq War. We'll talk to him about that and children's health insurance bill, and lots of stuff. Good morning, Senator.

JOE BIDEN: Good morning Hannah. How are you?

STORM: I'm doing great.

BIDEN: By the way, there's 41 guys older than me still in the Senate.

[Laughter]

STORM: Oh yeah, okay --

BIDEN: I want you to know that, okay?

STORM: We want to clarify that.

[Laughter]

BIDEN: Want to clarify that.

STORM: Yes, yes, it's been 3 ½ decades but you got in the Senate very early, in your late 20s, right.

BIDEN: I know, I know.

STORM: Right, right.

BIDEN: Sounds awful, 35 years, oh my God.

STORM: Alright, thank you so much for clearing that up. Let's talk about something, because Americans and voters are still so concerned about national security, and a drum that you have been beating so hard since 9/11, because you commute, what, 250 miles a day when the Senate's in session, right, on the train.

BIDEN: That's right.

STORM: Is railway security. What have you been able to accomplish in the last six years in that regard?

BIDEN: Not a whole lot. There is such a prejudice against doing something about rail, it amazes me. This morning in this city, six tunnels underneath New York City, more people in aluminum tubes, as train cars, than in 27 full 747s. You don't have adequate lighting, there's no ventilation, there's no escape, you know, nothing.

STORM: But why can't you do more, Senator?

BIDEN: Well I really don't know. I think everything seems to go to the airline industry. I along with a guy named Fritz Hollings introduced legislation, I think 15 days after 9/11. We've been pushing it, and pushing it, and there's this notion that's almost like nothing really going to happen.

STORM: Yeah, but you're there, you know, people see you. You're a prominent U.S. Senator, and they feel like you should be able to get something done.

BIDEN: Well I've, you know, I've been able to get some things done on Iraq, I'm able to get things done, but I don't know what it is, Hannah. There is this sense that somehow rail cannot be protected. We're not trying to protect every rail car in the hundreds of thousands of miles just the major places where you know terrorists would use to go for an attack.

STORM: So are you saying you would have to be president to make a difference in this regard? I mean, you got to know why there's this resistance there, right?

BIDEN: Well let me put it this way, so far, I tell you what, when I get elected, I'm going to be the most pro-rail senator you ever saw.

STORM: Yeah, because --

BIDEN: But all kidding aside, we haven't -- we've hardly implemented any of the 9/11 recommendations.

STORM: But that shouldn't be so mystifying, I mean there's got to be a reason for that.

BIDEN: I think reason for that is that they don't want to spend the money, number one. There is a bias against rail. I just don't -- more people are going to ride an Amtrak today on the east coast than all the aircraft that will land on the east coast today.

STORM: So where's the -- why isn't the leadership on this effective? I mean you've tried to --

BIDEN: Well, I really don't know. The truth is I think in part because most states don't have Amtrak. Most states, they view it as -- everybody has an airport.

STORM: So it's like a geographical bias --

BIDEN: Everybody has an airport. Everybody has -- not everybody has a port. The two places we have not been able to make much progress in our ports, that is, where all those cargo containers come in, and in railroads, and I think it relates to the fact that you probably have 30 states with virtually no interest in rail.

STORM: Alright, you say you have been able to make a difference in Iraq. And let's talk about this report in The Washington Post, that says some of the generals are considering declaring victory in Iraq over Al Qaeda. Now, does it matter if they do or don't? Is this just a matter of semantics?

BIDEN: Well, look, here's what I think it's a matter of. The point I've made to the president my eighth trip coming back from Iraq is, Mr. President even if every Jihadi in the world is dead and Al Qaeda's gone, you still have a full blown war in Iraq. I hope the administration stops this malarkey about that the war in Iraq is about Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda's a bad element, we've made progress against Al Qaeda. The problem is the civil war, and what are you going to do, Mr. President, to end this civil war so our kids don't keep getting killed in the middle of this civil war.

STORM: And Al Qaeda wasn't there before the war in Iraq. They've been a presence since then. So where do we need to concentrate on Al Qaeda?

BIDEN: We need to concentrate on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in Pakistan and in northern Africa. That's where we have to concentrate on Al Qaeda. We have to concentrate on Al Qaeda by having much, much closer relations with our allies and even those who aren't our allies who have an interest in making sure we grab these terrorist networks. We need a network to combat the network.

STORM: Alright, let me ask you about this, moving along, to the president vetoing this children's health care insurance program bill and he's calling for a compromise. Can you work on a compromise with the president on this, and what would that entail? What are you going to call for?

BIDEN: Well, I'm calling for passage as it is, quite frankly. I mean, If they spent as much energy in passing -- in supporting this legislation, as going after that 12-year-old kid, we would be in a much different spot. Look, I'm one of those people who believe that if the president says 'I want a compromise,' obviously we should listen. But usually --

STORM: You're saying it's not possible though?

BIDEN: No, I think it is possible, but usually the president's compromises are you do it my way, we compromise and we do it my way, the president's way. And the president's position on child health care has been, I think, abysmal. And this is overwhelmingly supported by the American people, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. So, he should compromise by moving considerably in the position that the United States Senate and the House of Representatives have passed.

STORM: Alright. Real quickly, you're going back to Iowa tonight.

BIDEN: I am.

STORM: Right? You have to finish in the top three there to stay in the race? Can you do it?

BIDEN: I think that -- Yes, I can.

STORM: You have enough money?

BIDEN: I have enough money. I don't have enough money to compete like the rest of -- look, I've raised about $10 million. That used to be enough money to run in these primaries in the past.

STORM: Yeah, those days are long gone, right.

BIDEN: Those days are long gone. I think we'll do very well in Iowa.

STORM: Okay, Senator Joe Biden, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

BIDEN: Thanks for having me Hannah.

 

 

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC