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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Delegation of U.S. Senators Talking About What They Have Found in Trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan

Aired January 8, 2002 - 08:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: At 18 minutes after the hour, a delegation of U.S. senators is talking about what they have found in a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The last hour we caught up with Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel. Joining us right now are Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator John McCain. Welcome, good to have both of you with us today.

Senator Lieberman, I'm going to start with you to just give you a chance to clarify something that came out of the Afghan foreign ministry yesterday. They quoted you as saying that the U.S. owed Afghanistan an apology for its inactivity after the Soviet withdrawal. I know one of your aides came out after the fact and said that was not true, that is not what you said. Can you clarify for us this morning what exactly you told the foreign ministry spokesperson?

SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D) CONNECTICUT: Yes, I'm glad to. And what I said - we had a very good meeting with Chairman Karzai and most of his cabinet. What I said is basically what we've all been saying here on this trip, which is that we learned on September 11 the terrible cost of being disengaged from Afghanistan. And I think we all have regrets that the United States and the rest of the world just walked away from this part of the world after the fall of the Soviet Union after the Russians left Afghanistan. And we let a weakness occur that the Taliban entered and bin Laden and al Qaeda entered.

And these people who we were meeting with last night, Karzai and his cabinet, are people who were fighting them here alone for a long time. So I expressed my regret that we had not been with them earlier. And, of course, the United States suffered a terrible pain as a result of that disengagement.

ZAHN: Senator McCain, due to U.S. actions is it fair to say that those policies, in fact, created Osama bin Laden?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R) ARIZONA: Well, I think a lot of things created Osama bin Laden: poverty; extremism; support from nations that are wealthy, such as Saudi Arabia, that fund these places where hate is taught. I think there's a multiplicity of causes. But what I think Joe was trying to say, and a lot of us are trying to say, is the United States has to be involved, whether it be in Afghanistan or Algeria or Sudan or other countries who are possibly - or even, in some cases, probably - people are plotting to inflict death and destruction on the United States of America. The president of the United States stated over and over again, "We will hold nations responsible who harbor terrorist organizations." And I think what we have to do as a nation now, continue to play an international role to prevent a recurrence of these kinds of actions which cause us tragedy.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, if I could swiftly move you to another issue, of course, which is getting a lot of ink here in the United States about domestic policy, do you think the president, Senator Lieberman, should reconsider the implementation of his tax cuts?

LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, I've been hearing way over here the things the president's been saying. I think the president is the only one talking about tax increases. I know he's not for them, but he keeps talking about how other people want to increase taxes. I don't think anybody should want to increase taxes during a recession. But, the fact is, we've got two big problems in America today and we've got to now focus on them together in a bipartisan way.

One is the fact that we are in a recession and more than a million people lost their jobs toward the end - by the end of last year. Second, the federal government is going deeply into deficit for the first time in four years. And I think to solve that problem and to meet our national needs like security and defense, we've got to put everything on the table. Nobody, again, wants to raise taxes now. But the president's got to be willing to take a look at whether we should delay some of those tax cuts that we adopted last year, or whether we should change them to benefit businesses to create jobs. Our middle class workers are being hurt in the recession.

So that's the tone that ought to be set. Not a "I'm not going to allow this to happen attitude." That won't produce results for the American people.

ZAHN: Senator McCain, as you know, the president has made it quite clear where he stands on the issue. Do you see any scenario where he would postpone the further implementation of his tax cuts?

MCCAIN: I don't think so. In the interest of full disclosure, I voted against the tax cut because I didn't think there was enough money for working families, and I wanted to spend a summer that then (ph) surplus to save social security and Medicare. Social security and Medicare are going to go broke. I think that what we need to do, really, is sit down, figure out what the budget is going to be, what we need to do in order to reduce this deficit spending as much as possible.

And the first thing that should be done is eliminate the obscene (UNINTELLIGIBLE) spending that goes on to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. We just saw the most outrageous pork barrel spending in the last appropriations process I've ever seen since I've been in Congress, including a $26 billion bailout for Boeing Aircraft Company without a hearing.

ZAHN: All right, gentlemen. We're going to have to leave it there. And we know you're about to hold a joint news conference on your delegation's trip to the region. We will be providing our viewers with details on that. Thank you very much for talking about that, as well as some of the domestic political issues that are burning here stateside. Thank you for your time.

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