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Interview With Rahm Emanuel, Mark Foley

Aired June 24, 2003 - 20:45   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: On May 1, President George W. Bush made history.

ZAHN (voice-over): On May 1, President George W. Bush made history. In a beautifully orchestrated event, heavily laced with patriotic symbolism, the commander in chief landed on the deck of the homebound aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, with a declaration.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Major combat operation in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

ZAHN: At the same time, he warned that parts of the country were still dangerous. But could the president have foreseen that would still be the case almost two months later?

Well, today, six British troops were killed in an ambush in southern Iraq. The first British combat deaths since the president's declaration. Nineteen Americans have been killed by hostile fire since the speech. And the Pentagon says attacks are becoming more frequent, with 25 in the last day alone.

Today then, the question. Much as the former President Bush lived to regret his now infamous...


ZAHN: ... Will this President Bush regret the words he spoke on a day designed to be a moment of triumph?


ZAHN: And joining me now from Capitol Hill is Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois. During the 1990s, he was a senior adviser to President Clinton. You used to see him on TV a lot.

Along with him this evening is another man we see making television rounds lately, Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida. Glad to have both of you with us this evening.

Congressman Foley, I'm going to start with you this evening. I wanted you to react to a statement from former assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan, Lawrence Korb. He said, quote, "There is a tipping point, and I don't know how exactly when that is. One day the public is going to wake up and say 'what the hell is going on here?' They thought President Bush's speech on the USS Lincoln was a great campaign thing, but that may end up backfiring."

Let's revisit that number again. Fifty-six U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since the president's speech. Do you think it was premature for him to have made that speech?

REP. MARK FOLEY (R), FLORIDA: Not at all. In fact, it was very important to set the record straight that the fighting was over. The fighting against an armed enemy was over. We liberated that capital, and you can see the joy of those in that city celebrating the removal of Saddam Hussein. Every time you have a conflict, there is going to be clean-up activities. Every life lost is a tragedy. And the president regrets every life lost, whether it's American soldiers or our allies, the British. But you can't continue to call it a war when the armed forces you are fighting against have given up and surrendered.

So I think it was the appropriate call. The celebration on the aircraft carrier was indicative of a mission completed. But now much remains to be done.

ZAHN: Rahm Emanuel, your reaction to that?

REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: Well, first of all, I think, you know, look, every president gets the easy part of a job. Landing on an aircraft carrier, that's part of the easy, fun part. The hard part is not calling the mission accomplished. We've had 50 deaths since, quote/unquote, the war ended, and remember, this is the high point. From here on down, it's downhill.

And I do agree with what Ronald Reagan's former undersecretary of defense said, Lawrence Korb, which is you hit that -- what he called it the tipping point. I call it the "Nightline" factor. And I worked many groceries in my district, and people all along said, look, they were for the war, they are happy they won, but the fact is, this is the gratitude we get for freeing them? And I think that, to tell you the truth, we got the hard work of building allies in support, so, you know, where's the coalition of the willing here? Where's Micronesia when you need it? And I think there is a real consequence to saying mission accomplished and 56 U.S. bodies at Dover, Delaware. I think there's a real consequence.

ZAHN: But in all fairness, Representative Emanuel, to the president, he didn't say that this was going to be clean. He made it clear there were going to be difficulties that lie ahead.

EMANUEL: Paula, I supported the effort here. And I think the American people are proud of their troops. I don't begrudge the president for going when he did and doing what he did. But the fact is, this is supposed to be the highlight, the afterglow of our victory. And in that short period of time since that speech, we've lost 56 bodies. The tough stuff is still two years, three years, five years out. And I've always believed that in Vietnam, the war was the quagmire. For us here, because of the lack of a plan, the lack of a direction, our occupation is going to be the quagmire. We're going to lose...

ZAHN: Representative Foley, I want you to weigh in on a very specific point about how some people might be obviously very upset about this lack of gratitude on the Iraqis' part.

FOLEY: Well, there's no question, but we're dealing with an insurgence in that country as well. Not everybody is on the same side in Iraq. We've known that. The Baathist Party and others are trying, much as they're doing in Israel with Hamas, to unsettle any opportunity for peace. Some people simply don't want peace. And I think you're exactly right, Paula. The president warned us at the time when they declared the war over difficult days lie ahead.

I'm a little troubled, though, by the Democratic spin. First they didn't want the war, then now they want at least from most points that I'm hear that they wanted it to continue longer. So all I can say is the president's done a phenomenal job of trying to settle a very difficult and tenuous issue. Fifty-six lives are a tragedy. Every one of us feels for those lives, but this doesn't mean that we should walk away.

ZAHN: Representative Emanuel, your turn.

EMANUEL: I'll be real quick here, and I know we're on short time. But the quick point is, first of all, a number of Democrats did support the efforts here. We had a great plan on executing the war. We've lacked the plan for the occupation, and that's evident every day. And we've lost 56 bodies. And the Iraqi people, this, as I keep saying, this is supposed to be the high point. Imagine what it's going to be like two years out in the occupation where there's no real food or electricity.

And I think that's the consequence of we've done this in Kosovo, our occupation, Bosnia, East Timor, and rather than learn the lessons of internationalizing the effort, having blue helmets there, we made this a U.S. occupation, a British occupation, and it's our body bags. It's not how I think how we should be doing this.


ZAHN: Congressman, I can only give you 10 seconds to respond to what Rahm just said. Just a very specific point on the fact of, are you satisfied with this occupation plan in Iraq?

FOLEY: Yes, I am. And we couldn't turn it over to the U.N. or any other peacekeeping mission. The people that are firing are snipers. They're killing our people like they would in any other region. But we will stay focused and fixated on ridding the world of evil and terror.

ZAHN: All right, congressmen, we're going to have to leave it there this evening. Representative Emanuel, Representative Foley, again, thanks for joining us tonight.

FOLEY: Thanks, Paula.

EMANUEL: Thanks, Paula.


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