CBS’s Reid Leading the Witness, Helps Democrat With Talking Points

On Sunday’s "Face the Nation" on CBS, correspondent Chip Reid, filling in for host Bob Schieffer, discussed the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Jack Reed, who he helped with the anti-war talking points:

REID: The cost of the war. Democrats have really been harping on that recently, trying to tie it to the economy, Barack Obama even suggesting that it's costing the average family more than $1,000 a year, and that it's one of the reasons we're having such economic difficulties right now. Do you buy that argument?

REED: I think I do. We've spent over $500 billion in direct spending in Iraq. That's a $500 billion stimulus package...

REID: And that's 10 times more than the president predicted this war would cost.

REED: Ten times more. And in fact, the indirect cost is probably trillions of dollars, as Professor Stiglitz has pointed out. That's a $500 billion stimulus package for Iraq.

At the end of the segment, Reid asked both Senator’s about the possibility of vice presidential nominations for their respective parties. Reid was particularly complimentary to Senator Reed’s qualifications: "Jack Reed, you've been mentioned, to round out the Clinton or Obama ticket with some military prowess. Have you been approached at all? Any feelers? Would you be interested?"

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

10:30AM TEASER

CHIP REID: Today on Face The Nation, five years into the war in Iraq, are we any safer? Earlier this morning, Baghdad's heavily fortified green zone, which houses the US embassy and the Iraqi Parliament, came under two separate barrages of mortar or rocket fire. All this comes even as President Bush marked the fifth anniversary of the war last week by saying that the surge strategy has produced dramatic results. But what about political reconciliation? How long will US troops have to stay there? Has the war been worth the cost in lives and money? All questions for

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who just returned from the region; and Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, who has been there many times.

10:31AM SEGMENT:

CHIP REID: Welcome again to the broadcast. Bob Schieffer is off this morning. Joining us now from Clemson, South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham. With us here in the studio, Senator Jack Reed.

JACK REED: Chip.

REID: Thank you both for being with us. Senator Graham, let's start right off with you with a prediction that you made...

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah.

REID: ...on this program after you came back from Iraq, from one of your many trips to Iraq. You've both made 11 trips to Iraq. This was last fall.

GRAHAM: Yeah.

REID: Let's listen to that.

GRAHAM: I'll make a prediction on your show: In a matter of weeks we're going to have a major breakthrough in Baghdad on items of political reconciliation, the benchmarks, because the Iraqi people are putting pressure on their politicians.

REID: Now, you went on to say that we're, quote, "about to turn a corner in Iraq." Now, you just returned from Iraq again. Were you right?

GRAHAM: Yeah. Yeah.

REID: Has there been a major breakthrough? Have we turned the corner in Iraq?

GRAHAM: Oh, yeah, I think so. We're a long way to go. There's a big battle brewing in Mosul, and the south in Iraq is very unsettled. Their Shia militia's basically running the show, and Iran is stepping up its efforts to destabilize Iraq, because I think they see us winning. But the

big picture for me is I'm incredibly pleased with the performance of our troops and General Petraeus. On the political front, we've had the de-Baathification law passed. What does that mean? That means members of the Baath Party, who ruled the country under Saddam Hussein, are now allowed to get some of their jobs back. That means the Shias and the Kurds are saying to the Sunnis, 'come back in and help us run the country.' They passed a $48 billion budget where every group in Iraq gets to share the oil resources. There was an amnesty law telling the prisoners in Iraq that 'we're going to let some of you go; go back home, stop fighting, help build the new Iraq.' And most important of all, we're going to have provincial elections in October. The Sunnis boycotted the election in 2005, and everywhere I went in Anbar province the Sunnis are ready to vote and be part of democracy. So there's been major political breakthroughs. Economically, oil revenues are up by 50 percent, oil production has doubled, inflation has gone from 66 to 5. Sectarian violence is down by 90 percent, our casualties are way down. We got a

long way to go, but I believe the surge has worked on all fronts.

REID: OK. Senator Jack Reed, you've opposed this war from the beginning, and he's saying not only is the surge working militarily, but politically we have turned the corner in Iraq.

REED: Well, the problem with Iraq is every time you turn a corner, there's another corner. And I don't think politically that they've made the progress they have to make. The reconciliation law that Senator Graham talked about was passed, but according to my last trip and talking to

Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus, it's up to implementation. That law could be used either to really bring Sunnis back into government or actually, ironically and perversely, to purge them from the government. The central government's not functioning effectively. And one of the reasons, I think, is they feel they have as much time as they need because our forces are there and proponents who say they want to keep them there for 100 years just reinforce the notion in Baghdad that they don't have to make these tough political decisions. And if they do make them legislatively, they really don't have to implement them.

REID: So you believe we do need...

REED: So we have a long way to go.

REID: You believe we do need to start pulling out troops, but you don't necessarily believe with the kind of time line that Clinton and Obama are talking about here, where one brigade every month once they get in.

REED: I think we have to have a thorough, thoughtful and deliberate path out of the country. The timing will depend upon the facts on the ground. But it has to be deliberate, it has to be the policy and it has to be something that doesn't start and stop. It has to go forward. And I

think there's two major reasons. First, it will, I think, put more pressure on the Iraqi government to do what they must do, not simply to pass laws but to actually make them work. And, you know, for many years now there's been predictions that next week or two weeks from now the

Iraqis are going to really get their political act in order. But they haven't done it yet. And second, we're putting huge strain on our military forces, the Army and the Marine Corps. We've got to send a signal that they can't keep going a treadmill in and out of Iraq. And the other

point, I would say, is the economy is showing the effects of this effort over there, this billion dollar effort.

REID: Senator Graham, if there is a President Clinton or a President Barack Obama next year and he or she actually does what they've said they're going to do, which is pull one to two brigades out every month and get them all out within 16 months or so, what do you predict would

happen in Iraq?

GRAHAM: Complete disaster. Senator Reed is a good buddy, but he's been wrong the whole time, in my opinion. The way you changed Iraq after four years of mismanagement -- and I've been on your show many times, this show, talking about the Rumsfeld strategy failing. We've

finally got it right. By adding additional combat power, we've given the Iraqis a chance to turn their country around. And the biggest news of all from the surge is that Iraqi Muslims have turned on al-Qaeda. The biggest loser of the surge is al-Qaeda in Iraq. They've got their brains pounded out. They're greatly diminished, but not defeated. But if you started announcing the withdrawal, an arbitrary withdrawal from Iraq, you would freeze political progress, you would let Al-Qaeda get back off the mat, you would embolden Iran even more. Iran is very afraid of this working out well. They don't want a representative democracy on their border because they're a theocracy dictatorship. You would unleash all the forces we have suppressed and, in my opinion, we would be going back to this region with a bigger war, and that will be a defining difference in this election. I want to win in Iraq. I believe we can win in Iraq. The model we've created is leading to success and will eventually lead to victory. If we undercut it, we're going to go backward, not forward.

REID: But how long would you give for it? I know everybody quotes Senator McCain as saying

100 years. Obviously...

GRAHAM: Right.

REID: ...he wasn't talking about combat for 100 years.

GRAHAM: Right. Right.

REID: But how long would you foresee combat where American troops are fighting and dying in large numbers? Five years? Ten years? More?

GRAHAM: What -- the casualty rate in March of last year was 81 American deaths. This year, it's going to be dramatically less in March, but every death really hurts. It really hurts. I know the sacrifices of the great. The dividends of winning for our country are enormous. A stable, functioning government that turns on Al-Qaeda, denies them a safe haven, aligned with us and would be a buffer to Iran is worth everything to us because it makes us safer. Mosul is a great battle, Chip, between the remnants of Al-Qaeda and coalition and Iraqi forces. In Mosul, this time around, the Iraqis are in the lead. So I think by the end of this year, we will be somewhere around 100,000 troops, and most of the fighting will be done by the Iraqis with us in over watch. They've added 100,000 troops since the surge began to the Iraqi army. They're performing much better, so I'm very optimistic our casualties will go down and stay down, and the Iraqis will be out in the lead if we continue the model we have.

REID: Senator Reed?

REED: Well, the predictions of military success have been made before. I think this is -- this strategy is not the Rumsfeld strategy, it was George Bush and Dick Cheney and John McCain and others going into Iraq under pretenses that later proved to be significantly wrong. And then

the strategy overall has deflected our attention from Pakistan, Afghanistan, where Al-Qaeda, Bin Laden is actually located. We've seen the rise of Iran in the region. They, I think, are in a situation now where they are exploiting the situation we have. And with respect to a government

in Baghdad that is, you know, more friendly to us than to the Iranians, you know, when we go in -- Senator Graham and myself -- we have to basically slip in the country. Ahmadinejad came in a sport jacket and a motor cavalcade. This is a situation ultimately that has to be won by the Iraqis, not by the United States, not by our troops, but by political decisions the Iraqi government has to make. The longer they feel we will take the lead, the longer they feel that we are going to be there indefinitely, and when you talk about 100 years, even if it's symbolic, that sends the message, 'You don't have to do anything that's tough, the tough things we'll do.'

REID: Senator Reed...

REED: And that's the wrong message.

REID: The cost of the war. Democrats have really been harping on that recently, trying to tie it to the economy, Barack Obama even suggesting that it's costing the average family more than $1,000 a year, and that it's one of the reasons we're having such economic difficulties right now.

Do you buy that argument?

REED: I think I do. We've spent over $500 billion in direct spending in Iraq. That's a $500 billion stimulus package...

REID: And that's 10 times more than the president predicted this war would cost.

REED: Ten times more. And in fact, the indirect cost is probably trillions of dollars, as Professor Stiglitz has pointed out. That's a $500 billion stimulus package for Iraq. We're barely scraping together a stimulus package now of $160 billion to this country. The people, the connections are there, the price of gasoline. There are many factors, but certainly one factor is this instability within the region.

REID: Senator Graham, is the--is the war dragging our economy down?

GRAHAM: The war is a sacrifice this country is making to make us safer. It has been mismanaged. But let me tell you the cost of losing. If Al-Qaeda could claim victory in Iraq, then the price to be paid by this country's enormous. What would we all give to go back in time after

the Soviets left Afghanistan and suppress the Taliban? Well, we've got a chance in Iraq to change the fortunes of the Mideast and to make us more safe. The good news for me out of all of this surge activity is that the Muslims in Iraq have listened to Al-Qaeda, have actually experienced

their agenda and their lifestyle for a brief period because of a lack of security, and they've told Al-Qaeda to go to hell. So we got a chance, my friend, to be able to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq and to create a buffer to Iran. I've been to Iraq many times, and I can assure you the Iraqi people do not want to be dominated by Iran. And the Iranian activity in killing Americans is going up by the day because they are threatened by success in Iraq, and we need to let the Iranians know that you're not going to be the cancer of the Mideast without consequences. You're not going to destroy Israel by supporting Hamas, you're not going to destroy Lebanon by supporting Hezbollah, and you're not going to destroy our will to win in Iraq, and you do all this at your own peril.

REID: Senator Graham, quickly, I've got to ask you this. We don't have much time left, but you are with McCain, Senator McCain everywhere: in Iraq, on the Senate floor, on the campaign trail.

GRAHAM: Yes. Right, right. Right.

REID: Every time I see him, you're there. Lot of people say, 'Wow, you know, what a good vice presidential choice he would be.' Have you had any conversations with him about who his running mate would be, and has your name ever come up in those conversations?

GRAHAM: He will be getting a committee together to form a search for a good vice president, and I'll be the first to say that I love John McCain and I add nothing to this ticket. I want him to be president, and I want to stay in the Senate, like my predecessors, and live a long life, I hope.

REID: Jack Reed, you've been mentioned, to round out the Clinton or Obama ticket with some military prowess. Have you been approached at all? Any feelers? Would you be interested?

REED: I've not been approached. I'm not interested. I hope to serve with -- in the United States Senate for the people of Rhode Island.

REID: OK. Great. We'll be back in just one minute. Thank you both for joining us.

REED: Thank you.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

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