MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Only 37 days until the midterm elections. The Democrats must gain six seats to take control of the U.S. Senate. This morning, our Senate Debate series continues with another one of the most closely watched races of the year, Ohio, where incumbent Republican Senator Mike DeWine faces off against Democratic challenger Congressman Sherrod Brown. A new poll out this morning shows the race nearly a dead heat. Republican Mike DeWine vs. Democrat Sherrod Brown, only on MEET THE PRESS.
What a week in Washington. Bob Woodward’s new book, “State of Denial,” about the Bush administration in Iraq; Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida resigns after sending salacious e-mails to a Capitol Hill page; Democrats and Republicans demanding an investigation as to who knew what when. All that and our U.S. Senate Debate from Ohio.
But first, on Wednesday evening, President Bush hosted a dinner with the two leaders crucial in helping to capture Osama bin Laden: the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The two men have been increasingly critical of each other. Earlier that day I sat down with Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, and asked him about his differences with the president of Afghanistan.
President Musharraf, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Thank you very much.
MR. RUSSERT: Last Sunday on this very program: President Karzai of Afghanistan. And I asked him the following question:
(Videotape, September 24, 2006):
MR. RUSSERT: Where is Osama bin Laden?
PRES. HAMID KARZAI: He is not in Afghanistan. I can tell you that for sure.
MR. RUSSERT: Is he in Pakistan?
PRES. KARZAI: Probably he is there.
MR. RUSSERT: Is he?
PRES. MUSHARRAF: I wouldn’t be saying—I wouldn’t follow his example of not knowing anything and yet talking. I don’t know where he is. And who is informing him I would like to know. I would like to ask him how to substantiate whatever he says. I don’t know it. How can I say that he’s on this side or that side? He could possibly—I can only guess—he could possibly in the—be in the border area.
MR. RUSSERT: In your book on page 221 you say, “I have said, half-jokingly, that I hope he is not caught in Pakistan.” In all seriousness, are you fearful that if you captured Osama bin Laden, your government could topple?
PRES. MUSHARRAF: No, no. Never. That will never happen, and I am not fearful. But yes, indeed, it could cause some certain—it probably will cause waves within the extremists. Extremists will get more active. But these are my apprehensions. I’m not fearful. And not at all the government—my government doesn’t get toppled. People support me. People know what I’m doing, and it’s not that fragile.
MR. RUSSERT: There was a big rumor last week of a coup. Why did so many people in Pakistan listen to that rumor for so long?
PRES. MUSHARRAF: Well, they don’t listen. It’s a—a rumor always has publicity value when it starts spreading. But the very fact that I’m sitting here for since the last 18 days and not bothered at all should tell you how confident I am about the situation in Pakistan.
MR. RUSSERT: There’s been a lot of discussion about an agreement, a treaty that you signed with some of the tribal leaders in north Waziristan. Some have said you’ve now given sanctuary to dissidents, to militants, the Taliban in that area. Why did you, in fact, withdraw the military from there after suffering substantial losses of some of your young men? Are you now going to give sanctuary to the terrorists?
PRES. MUSHARRAF: No. There are two misperceptions. When you say we—“Why have we withdrawn the military?” Well, the unfortunate part is, this is being spread by people with vested interests. Not one soldier has been moved out. They’re—not one battalion, one soldier has been relocated. And what is anyone talking of? The military is there. And we think what we are doing will lead to success.
We are only involved in military operations. A military operation is—are not a—not an—a solution in themselves. They will only buy you time and create an environment, which our army did on our side. And having that environment, now these tribals themselves have pushed the governor, that “We want to reach a peace agreement.” And we put a bottom line for them laid down by me to the governor, which is not negotiable: No al-Qaeda activity, no Taliban activity, on our side or across the border. And they signed this, and they agreed to this.
Now what is the problem? This is a strategy which has a ray of hope, a ray of success. And we should emulate this on the front side instead of criticizing it and not coming up with a counterstrategy.
MR. RUSSERT: The concern is in many circles that the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI and the Taliban are in cahoots. “Seth Jones, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, said ... ‘The evidence suggests the [Pakistani intelligence] is involved [in assisting Taliban insurgents] in several ways.’ ... Pakistani intelligence agents have provided intelligence to the Taliban about coalition plans and tactical operations, he said, tipping off Taliban forces and allowing them to flee. Western military forces have intercepted the tips and know they are from people connected to Pakistani intelligence, Mr. Jones said. ... ‘The U.S. government also believes they have given monetary assistance and maybe weapons.’”
Financing, tipping off, weapons? The ISI helping and assisting the Taliban, the very people who housed Osama bin Laden?
PRES. MUSHARRAF: I would—I think—I totally disagree with this. They don’t know the realities on ground, they are not conscious of the reality that I’m seeing, the extreme danger of this becoming a people’s movement.
MR. RUSSERT: So nobody in the ISI is helping the Taliban?
PRES. MUSHARRAF: Now, nobody in the ISI helps. Now, there—I have some reports that some dissidents, some people, retired people who were in the forefront, in ISI, during a period of ‘79 to ‘89 may be assisting with the leaks somewhere here and there. We are keeping a very tight watch, and we’ll get all of them if at all that happens.
MR. RUSSERT: Finally, Iraq. You write in your book that you never favored the invasion of Iraq, because you feared “it would exacerbate extremism, as it has most certainly done. The world is not a safer place because of the war in Iraq; the world has become far more dangerous.” Have you said that to President Bush?
PRES. MUSHARRAF: Well, we discussed—we haven’t discussed it in such detail, and I look more—instead of talking of what it has become, we are talking of what is the present, and what is the solution to the problem. That is more important to me, and I don’t get—whatever’s happened has happened in Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: Should the U.S. get out of Iraq?
PRES. MUSHARRAF: No, they can’t. They should not. Because again, it’s going to destabilize this region, and I agree with President Bush and whatever he’s doing. We cannot leave. Whatever has happened now has happened. Now we have to make sure that we stabilize and then come out. Otherwise, it has—its reverberation will be felt in the Gulf.
MR. RUSSERT: We thank you very much for joining us.
PRES. MUSHARRAF: Thank you very much.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, Iraq, the Bob Woodward book, the resignation of Republican Congressman Mark Foley. And today, all eyes on Ohio. Our MEET THE PRESS Senate Debate series continues with Senate candidates Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Sherrod Brown. They are next, right here on MEET THE PRESS. A debate is coming up.
MR. RUSSERT: It’s often said “As goes Ohio, goes the nation.” The Ohio U.S. Senate debate. Republican Mike DeWine. Democrat Sherrod Brown. After this station break.
MR. RUSSERT: Welcome, Republican incumbent Senator Mike DeWine, Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown, welcome both.
SEN. MIKE DeWINE (R-OH): Yep.
REP. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): Thank you, Tim.
SEN. DeWINE: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me start with...
REP. BROWN: Nice to see you, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Thank you. Let show you and start with Iraq. On Thursday, this was the president of the United States. Let’s listen.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on American homeland in our history, the Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing. The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut-and-run.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator DeWine, “party of cut-and-run”? Is that appropriate and fair?
SEN. DeWINE: Tim, I don’t use that term at all. But there’s fundamental differences between how I think we need to proceed in Iraq and how...
MR. RUSSERT: Why don’t you use that term?
SEN. DeWINE: It’s just not a term that I use, “cut and run.”
MR. RUSSERT: Is it inappropriate?
SEN. DeWINE: I know what it means. I know what it means to people, but I, here’s—let me tell you what I believe and what I feel in my heart and what I think the evidence clearly shows. We cannot leave Iraq with the job undone, and we cannot set an artificial timetable. It would bring disaster, just to set a date that we will be out. It will embolden the insurgents, it will tell them when we will be gone. They just sit back and wait. That would be a mistake.
If you don’t believe me, look at what the three military leaders who came in and testified in front of the Democrat Senate committee the other day said. General Batiste for example, General Eaton. They said they were very critical of the president, very critical of Rumsfeld, very critical of the conduct of the war. But when Hillary Clinton asked the question, the key question, really, Senator Clinton asked, “Shall we set a date, a date specific, to be out of Iraq?” they all said “No.” And the reasons they gave were, one, it would bring about chaos in Iraq; two, it would, it would, it would spread; three, the person—the country that would benefit the most would be Iran. And then it was also said, and I think absolutely correctly, that we would have in Iraq a situation like we had in the 1990s in Afghanistan, only it would be worse. It would become the focal point for the terrorists, a place where they could go, get sanctuary. It would be even worse, Tim, than Afghanistan because one of—the colonel who testified said, “Beirut’s on a major, major airline route. They won’t have any trouble getting there, it’s very easy.” So that’s what is, really, Tim, is at stake. These are not easy choices.
MR. RUSSERT: It’s at stake, Senator.
SEN. DeWINE: They’re tough questions.
MR. RUSSERT: But it begs the question, what do you do? Is status quo acceptable?
SEN. DeWINE: No. What, what we do is—I think General McCaffrey has pointed out one of the things that we have to do a much better job of is to make sure that the Iraqi military has the real equipment they need. It is very expensive for us to be there. We are losing precious lives of Americans, many from Ohio. We need to give them the equipment, pay the price, give them the equipment. We also need to continue to train them. And once they are to a point where they can take this over, we’re out of there. We want to be gone. No one wants to be out of there any more, any more than...
MR. RUSSERT: Months or years?
SEN. DeWINE: Tim, there again, you cannot set the, the date. You can’t say, “We’re going to be out by a certain date,” because it emboldens. What—all I’m saying is we need, and I’m following what everybody who has looked at this seriously says, whether they were for us getting in or not, we cannot leave by setting an artificial date. What we have to do is let the facts on the ground control.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Brown, headlines everywhere here. Here’s David Ignatius in The Washington Post. “The Big Question Democrats Are Ducking.” The hard question, “What do we do in Iraq?” We know you’re opposed to the war, but what specifically do you do now?
REP. BROWN: First it’s a question of accountability and a question of competence. Every—we all know, everyone knows now, the book that just mentioned by Bob Woodward, “State of Denial,” the book, “Fiasco,” the new National Intelligence estimates all say that, that the administration, that particularly Cheney and Rumsfeld, either muzzled or ignored—muzzled the military, muzzled the intelligence or, or ignored their advice. People who sit on the Intelligence Committees, like Mike DeWine, simply haven’t done their jobs. They’ve not demanded accountability. They, they, they didn’t listen to the questions of—on weapons of mass destruction. They didn’t demand that the president come up with a plan to win, a plan to provide body armor for our troops, and way more people died than needed to because of that. They didn’t demand any—how—a plan to reconstruct Iraq and rebuild Iraq, and then they didn’t demand an exit—any kind of exit strategy.
MR. RUSSERT: Assuming all that’s true, what do we do now?
REP. BROWN: What we do is we, we pressure, we force, we push the Iraqis to build the security forces, the military and the police security forces that they need to build. Mike DeWine and the administration is just saying “status quo, just stay the course.” They’re not advocating any real change. They’ve been saying for three years that things were doing well. They’ve clearly, even with the differences in the administration as that book points out that you mention, they, they, they clearly haven’t really made any real changes in what we’re doing in Iraq. I think once we, we push them in a serious way, we push them and pressure them to compromise—the Iraqis, the Sunnis and the Shiites—and we say to the military, we instruct the military that we want to exit Iraq within a year and a half to two years, and we tell them that we order the military, we instruct the military to, to come up with a plan within that year and a half to two years specifically at what, at what speed, and that the troops exit Iraq in the most orderly and safe way for Americans.
MR. RUSSERT: You—if you had your way, you had suggested the troops be out this year, by the fall of ‘06. What would’ve happened to Iraq if the troops left right now?
REP. BROWN: No, I, I suggested—I didn’t suggest that.
MR. RUSSERT: A year ago.
REP. BROWN: I suggested a year ago that the president come up with a plan to begin the exit—the, the withdrawal of troops and then it, then it would be within a year or so. Now, obviously, you can’t bring them out right now. I’ve never said, “Bring them out today.” I say we need to order the military, instruct the military over the next year and a half or two years to come up with the exit strategy to do it in the safest, most orderly way. Otherwise, otherwise, Tim, the, this, the policy is just “stay the course.” And that’s clearly not working. Two—in, in—you know, we—again, we’ve not—we’ve an Intelligence Committee that hasn’t asked the tough questions. It’s not demanded any real accountability. And we’ve had this war prosecuted so incompetently and ineptly as a result.
MR. RUSSERT: Back in October in ‘03, about six months into the war, you voted against $87 billion to fund the war. Would you consider, if the president does not change the course and you’re elected to the U.S. Senate, measures to cut off funding for the war?
REP. BROWN: No, I would not vote against the troops in the field.
MR. RUSSERT: Why did you do that in ‘03?
REP. BROWN: I voted against the $87 billion because there was a better way to do it. Much of that $87 billion went to Halliburton and went to Bechtel and went to Parsons, and it was not—there was no accountability. It was a blank check. I wanted $87 billion, the money, to go to the troops for body armor. I spoke out on body armor in committee over, over and over, questioned people like administrator Paul Bremer. And today Mike DeWine is running ads on television saying that I voted against the $87 billion. He should be ashamed of himself for that because he knows I was speaking out...
SEN. DeWINE: Sherrod...
REP. BROWN: ...on the 87 billion...
SEN. DeWINE: Sherrod...
REP. BROWN: ...way earlier than he was.
SEN. DeWINE: Oh!
REP. BROWN: And that I was pushing our—he sent people to war without the proper body armor. I said to Colin Powell, I said to administrator Bremer, I wrote letters to President Bush in early 2003 before we were at war, saying it’s time you made sure you answered these questions about body armor, about how many troops, about exit strategy, about how much it’s going to cost. And if he had done that in the, in the Intelligence Committee, if he had asked those same questions, we would have a safer America today.
SEN. DeWINE: Sherrod...
MR. RUSSERT: A chance to respond.
SEN. DeWINE: ...you are absolutely unbelievable. I cannot believe you...
REP. BROWN: This is the same guy...
SEN. DeWINE: Can I finish?
REP. BROWN: ...that ran...
SEN. DeWINE: Can I finish? Can I finish? You had your turn.
REP. BROWN: OK, fair enough.
SEN. DeWINE: You are absolutely unbelievable. How can you say this when you, Sherrod, voted five different times against funding for body armor when it really counted, when it was real money? You voted five times against body armor. And this is a long pattern, Tim, that this congressman has, with all due respect. Fifteen different times he has voted against funding for the military when it really counted in the, in the final vote. But it’s a long history, a long pattern. With all due respect...
REP. BROWN: Mike, you know better than to say things like that.
SEN. DeWINE: ...let me finish—let me just finish.
REP. BROWN: But you do know better than to say things like that.
SEN. DeWINE: Now let me finish. Now you let me finish now. Now you let me finish and then we’ll, we’ll go. It’s a long history, Sherrod, that you have. You do not understand that this is a global war on terror. If you, if you—Tim, if he’d understand...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, this—stop—but senator, this is important, because the National Intelligence Estimate came out talking about a cause celebre. And this is what it said. “The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.” Has in fact the Iraq war made us less safe, created more terrorists than we’ve killed?
SEN. DeWINE: Tim, I think the National Intelligence Estimate said it very well. I think it is correct. It said a number of things. One, it said, as you pointed out, there was—it’s become a cause celebre, I think that’s the right word. The jihadists, the people who want to kill us, always have a cause. Osama bin Laden’s cause before he, he went in and did September 11th was that we had troops in the, in the, in the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia. They have other reasons. They say Israel. They say that we have troops other places. So it is all—it is always something. But the, but the key finding, seems to me in that NIE, is they said, “If the jihadists are successful in Iraq, they will be emboldened and there will be more of them. If they’re unsuccessful, there will be fewer of them.” That to me is future-looking, Tim, and I think that is very instructive and it goes along with what the three military leaders who testified in front of the Democrats had the same plot, same plot in mind.
MR. RUSSERT: I want to, I want to look to the, I want to look to the future, but I just want to button this up because I think it’s an important question for the voters of Ohio and the debate across the country. If the CIA came to you back in October of 2003 and said—October of 2002 and said, “Saddam Hussein does not have weapons of mass destruction,” would you have still voted to go into Iraq?
SEN. DeWINE: No. I think...
MR. RUSSERT: So, so you regret your vote?
SEN. DeWINE: No. I think that, Tim, that the evidence—I’ve said this many times—the evidence that we would have never even had a vote. It would never have been presented by the president, we never would have had a vote. But saying that does not mean that our troops have not done a magnificent job, nor does it mean that the world is not better off for having Saddam Hussein—this man who had developed chemical weapons and biological weapons in the past—the world is better off, Tim, for him being gone.
One of the things that the Iraqi survey group that went in afterwards said, when they said they didn’t have the weapons of mass destruction, but they said two other things that are very, very interesting. They said, one, he continued to have the capability, the scientists, and—to, to develop them in the future. And second, he had the will and inclination to do it.
MR. RUSSERT: So you stand by...
SEN. DeWINE: Two very...
MR. RUSSERT: ...you stand by your vote?
SEN. DeWINE: On what we knew at the time. But I will say again, Tim, that if we knew that at the time, my—the tipping point for me, as I think it would have been for most Americans, was, based on Saddam’s history, what we knew about this man, this man who had, who had—that gassed the Kurds, 20,000 of them; this man who, who had, who had hidden from the U.N. for years and years and years what he had; defied 16 U.N. resolutions. Our intelligence—and it wasn’t just the intelligence that Mike DeWine had, it was intelligence that Tony Blair had, Great Britain’s Tony, the same intelligence that Bill Clinton had. We all had the same intelligence. The intelligence committee said, “This man has weapons of mass destruction.” Knowing that, there was no choice at that point but to make that decision. But the intelligence was bad.
MR. RUSSERT: You, you believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction?
REP. BROWN: I voted against the war because the president hadn’t proved, the president hadn’t proved it.
SEN. DeWINE: What’s the answer to that? What’s the answer?MR. RUSSERT: But you did believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction?
REP. BROWN: I wasn’t sure. And I think the president did not prove, nor did Colin Powell, prove to the American public or to the Congress. Apparently he proved it to, to Mike DeWine and the Intelligence Committee, who believed it.
SEN. DeWINE: Well, he proved it to Bill Clinton, he proved it to Bill Clinton. And you know that, Sherrod.
REP. BROWN: But he, he—it’s pretty clear—you always, you always say he proved it to Bill Clinton, to Bill Clinton. I’ve heard it before. But the funda—look at the real fundamental...
SEN. DeWINE: Well, look at the 198--90--but Tim, look at the 1998 speech that Bill Clinton gave where he laid out the case against Saddam. I’m not saying Bill Clinton would’ve gone into war or not. That’s not the question. The question is...
REP. BROWN: Well, the...
SEN. DeWINE: ...what was the intelligence estimate that made Bill Clinton believe it? And he clearly did.
MR. RUSSERT: The policy, the policy of the Clinton administration was regime change in Iraq. You agreed with that?
REP. BROWN: And the policy of regime...
SEN. DeWINE: And you voted for regime change.
REP. BROWN: And the policy of regime change, but we were, we were changing the regime by what we were doing with the inspections, and the president should have let the inspections work. We, we would’ve overthrown Saddam Hussein, ultimately...
SEN. DeWINE: How?
REP. BROWN: ...by, by sanctions, by what we were doing. But, but the, the real fundamental thing is...
MR. RUSSERT: Without military action?
REP. BROWN: Well, I don’t know. We might have. But we didn’t need to go into Iraq at that time, and that’s been proven.
The, the, the fundamental difference on, on this whole war on terror that Mike DeWine sits on the Intelligence Committee for 12 years. It’s clear that, that he has failed on that committee. But the fundamental difference on the war on terror is, is look at how the United States has lost its focus. Look what’s happened in Afghanistan. The Taliban is stronger than it’s been at any time in five years. We know that more poppies are grown to--95 percent of the poppies in the, in the world are grown in Afghanistan. We’re not supporting a moderate democratic government as well as we should in Afghanistan.
And then it’s not just in Afghanistan that, that, that we’ve lost our focus that’s caused, caused al-Qaeda to be stronger. Go look at what we’ve done in the United States. We’ve failed to protect our nuclear facilities, our water systems, our chemical plants. We tell our grandmothers to take their shoes off at the airport, yet we inspect fewer than 10 percent of cargo containers that come into our ports, that come across I-70 in the heart of Ohio, that come across the turnpike in I-90. And we’ve—the, the intelligence operation in this country coupled with the loss of focus because of the war in Iraq has made the United States less safe.
And that’s—so the question always, whom do you trust? Whom—Mike DeWine’s been on the Intelligence Committee for 12 years. Whom do you trust to wage the war on terror? Somebody that’s going to keep his focus on al-Qaeda, on protecting the United States of America, or somebody that’s just saying, “Status quo in Iraq, status quo, status quo.”
SEN. DeWINE: All right, let me answer that.
MR. RUSSERT: All right, let me, let me...
SEN. DeWINE: Let me answer the “who do you trust question,” if I could.
Could I just answer that question?
MR. RUSSERT: All right, Senator, then I want to move to the future.
SEN. DeWINE: I’ll be brief. I’ll try to be brief.
MR. RUSSERT: Please.
SEN. DeWINE: Do you trust a man who, during the 1990s, when we were hit in the World Trade Center, Khobar Towers, USS Cole, all during the 1990s—it was clear what the terrorists were trying to do—this man voted 10 separate times to cut, to cut our intelligence spending. The majority of those times to put in...
REP. BROWN: Mike, Mike, you know better than that.
SEN. DeWINE: No, the truth.
REP. BROWN: You know, you know better than that, Mike.
SEN. DeWINE: You...
REP. BROWN: You’ve been to the Senate for 12 years,
SEN. DeWINE: You—can I finish? Can I finish?
REP. BROWN: ...you’ve been an Ohio state senator, you know better than making charges like that...
SEN. DeWINE: Can I finish? Tim, let me just, let me just...
REP. BROWN: ...that are just unsubstantiated.
SEN. DeWINE: You’re unbelievable again. Ten different times, the roll call was there. You...
REP. BROWN: I joined, I joined Porter Gauss and Jim Sensenbrenner, the author of the Patriot Act...
SEN. DeWINE: Tim, Tim, let me ask him a question. Let me ask him a question. Tim...
REP. BROWN: ...because we knew that the...
SEN. DeWINE: Ten different times you voted.
REP. BROWN: ...that the intelligence operations in our government where he sat on the committee...
MR. RUSSERT: All right. All right, all right.
REP. BROWN: ...our intelligence operations were aimed...
MR. RUSSERT: All right.
SEN. DeWINE: Look, Tim, one point, just one point.
REP. BROWN: ...towards the Cold War and not towards the war on terror.
MR. RUSSERT: All right, hold on. Hold on. All right, Mike...
REP. BROWN: We wanted to see a shift in our intelligence focus...
SEN. DeWINE: Give me 60 seconds.
REP. BROWN: ...and Mike sat on that committee and failed to do it.
MR. RUSSERT: OK. All right. All right.
REP. BROWN: So we had to try to do it on the House floor. I ultimately voted...
MR. RUSSERT: Time out. Time out, time out, time out, time out, time out.
REP. BROWN: I ultimately voted every time for those intelligence budgets, and he knows that.
MR. RUSSERT: All right. Ask him one question and then I want to move on.
SEN. DeWINE: The majority of times of those 10 times where Sherrod Brown voted to cut our intelligence spending, he was the minority even of his own party. In addition to that, Tim, we passed the Patriot Act. We all came together, passed it, 98-to-1 in the Senate. That means Ted Kennedy voted for it, John Kerry voted for it. Sherrod Brown in the House, was one of 66 members of the House to vote against the Patriot Act, and he continues to vote against the Patriot Act, to deny our law enforcement the tools they need to go against terror.
MR. RUSSERT: All right. I’m going to give him 30 seconds to respond to that, then I want to move to the future.
REP. BROWN: Well, the, the—again, the—on the intelligence, the intelligence...
MR. RUSSERT: But you voted against the Patriot Act?
REP. BROWN: I did vote against the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act had a lot of good things in it, but it, it, it went too far. And it’s, it’s not—the Patriot Act is law now, but we’ve not done what we should do in Afghanistan. We’ve not done what we should do to protect the United States of America. And clearly his focus has been “stay the course” in Iraq, the status quo in Iraq, and that has caused all other parts of the war on terror—it’s undermined all other parts of the war on terror, coupled with the fact the intelligence experts are saying the war in Iraq is making us less safe, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Here’s two...
REP. BROWN: As you know.
MR. RUSSERT: Here’s two poll questions that I think caught the attention of a lot of Americans. Let me start with Senator DeWine.
“Most Iraqis Favor Immediate U.S. Pullout.” “Most Iraqis.” “A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.”
And then this poll. “Iraqis back attacks on U.S. troops. About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces ... [according to] the poll done for University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes.”
Senator DeWine, if they want us out, and they’re in favor of attacking us, why are we still there?
SEN. DeWINE: Tim, I was shocked by that as well. But you know, on reflection, this is their country. There’s a lot of things going wrong. You blame someone who is there. Still does not change that we’re not in Iraq primarily for the Iraqis. We’re in Iraq for us. We’re—have to do what we have to do, and it goes back to what the three generals—three military leaders said. It would be a total disaster for us to leave. It is in our self-interest, the interest to protect American families, that we are in Iraq. That’s why we’re there.
REP. BROWN: I, I guess I’m surprised that Mike DeWine is shocked by that. He sits on the Intelligence Committee, sat there 12 years. He’s shocked that the Iraqi people think it’s time to—that, that, that troops be pulled out of Iraq? We’re in the midst—we’re—what we’re doing in Iraq now, all intents and purposes is we’re refereeing a civil war. That’s why we need to push the Iraqi military forces and police forces to build their own security units to protect their country, to make themselves more secure. And that’s the, that’s the solution, not “stay the course,” not just status quo.
MR. RUSSERT: Let’s assume that in a year, year and a half, the Iraqis become more secure in terms of the military operations, police operations, we redeploy, and then civil war breaks out. What do we do?
REP. BROWN: Well, civil war is broken out there now. I mean, it’s, it’s—with the Shiites, the Sunni—you know what’s happened in, in Anbar; you know what’s happened in, in central Iraq...(unintelligible)...
MR. RUSSERT: So if it’s a failed state, what do we do?
REP. BROWN: Well, if it’s a failed state, we—maintaining the status quo is getting us nowhere except more American lives, $2 billion a week, and a loss of focus on Afghanistan, which is in much worse shape than it was two, three, four years ago, and a failure to protect our ports, and a failure to protect our nuclear facilities.
MR. RUSSERT: But could Iraq become the next Afghanistan?
REP. BROWN: We don’t know. But it’s clear that the status quo’s not working, and we need to begin to say to the Iraqis, “You’ve got to do it on your own.” If they think we’re going to stay as long as Mike DeWine does, and George—Condoleezza Rice said we might be there 10 more years, President Bush says it’s going to be up to the next president. Our embassy in Iraq sits on, on 100 acres while the average U.S. embassy around the world sits on 10 acres. So they don’t think we’re leaving. As long as they don’t think we’re leaving, any time as far as the eye can see, there simply is not the incentive for them to, to compromise—the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds—and there’s not the incentive for them to build their security forces in spite of the pleas of President Bush to build your security forces.
MR. RUSSERT: Bob Woodward’s new book, “State of Denial,” has this in it. “[Outgoing White House Chief of Staff Andy] Card was enough of a realist to see that there were two negative aspects to Bush’s public persona that had come to define his presidency: incompetence and arrogance. ... Maybe unfair, unjustified in Card’s opinion, but there it was. He was leaving. And the man most responsible for the postwar troubles, the one who should have gone, Rumsfeld,” the secretary of defense, “was staying. ‘It’s Iraq, Iraq, Iraq,’ Card told [his successor Josh] Bolten,” the new chief of staff.
Senator DeWine, looking back at the number of troops involved, the judgment made about sectarian violence, the judgment made about the costs of the war, the judgment made about weapons of mass destruction, should President Bush have replaced the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld?
SEN. DeWINE: I’ve already said, Tim, I don’t have confidence in Rumsfeld.
He’s made major mistakes in this war. There’s absolutely no doubt about it. The decision to put Rumsfeld in was made by the president, and that’s his decision to keep. I was not elected president of the United States, the president was. That’s why we have elections.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, in order to...
SEN. DeWINE: Ultimately, I, I don’t have confidence in him, no. I’ve already said that.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you urge the president to replace him?
SEN. DeWINE: I think by saying I don’t have confidence, it makes it pretty clear what I think.
MR. RUSSERT: That you’re urging the president?
SEN. DeWINE: I, I don’t, I don’t think that, you know, he’s done a, he’s done a good job. I think...
MR. RUSSERT: Who would you put in there?
SEN. DeWINE: I think history...
MR. RUSSERT: Who would you put in there?
SEN. DeWINE: I’m not going to be getting the point of speculating. We all know some, some people who, who have prestige and the talent to do the job. But that’s not, that’s the president’s decision, that’s not my decision. And I’m not going to tell the president what to do in this regard.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the events on Friday. Congressman Brown, you’re a member of the House of Representatives. Mark Foley, Republican senator from Florida, resigned because he had sent salacious e-mails to Capitol Hill pages, young high school boys who come to school here and work in the Congress. It now has been suggested that some in the Republican leadership knew about a year ago that the speaker of the House, the Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, and Tom Reynolds, the chairman of the Republican Committee, knew earlier this year. Should more have been done? And should there be an investigation as to exactly who knew what when?
REP. BROWN: Oh, of course, and of course. Yes and yes. I—my first thought when I heard about that Friday—and to most of us it just happened like that—was that I was thinking about the families around the United States who sent their 15- and 16-year-olds to Washington, assuming they were safe, assuming they were part of a program that, that, that was uplifting for them and safe for them, and I think about what those families must think about the safety of their children. And when, when you hear that the leaders of the House of Representatives, the, the people’s House, knew about this ahead of time and did nothing to protect the safety of those children, it’s just absolutely outrageous.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator DeWine, Congressman Chris Shays, Republican from Connecticut, says that if anyone in the House leadership knew about these e-mails they should step down from their leadership role. Do you agree?
SEN. DeWINE: Tim, I—it’s a horrible situation. You know, Fran and I have eight children. I think this could’ve been one of my kids who was out serving as an intern or serving as, as a page. It’s a horrible, horrible situation. I think there has to be a full investigation of who knew what and when they knew it.
MR. RUSSERT: But should anyone in the House leadership step down, like Congressman Shays recommends, if they knew about this?
SEN. DeWINE: I think you have to look and see what they knew and what they did about it. I would want to know what they did about it. And, you know, this is reprehensible. I mean, these kids are entrusted to us when they come out here, they’re either our pages or they’re interns, sometimes they’re college students. And, you know, they do magnificent work, they do wonderful jobs, it’s a great program, but this is horrible, horrible.
MR. RUSSERT: Have you spoken to Congressman Boehner of Ohio about this?
SEN. DeWINE: I have not, sir.
MR. RUSSERT: Let...
REP. BROWN: Tim, I think anyone should resign, any leader that knew about this should resign, absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: Should resign.
REP. BROWN: But, see, he’s forfeited any public trust. The leader of the House of Representatives that, that knew about a situation that jeopardized the safety of 15- to 16-year-olds in the government’s custody, in the, in the custody of the House of Representatives, if they did nothing to protect those children, they aren’t fit to be House...
MR. RUSSERT: So Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Boehner should resign?
REP. BROWN: If they, in fact, knew that—I don’t—I’ve only read the articles in the paper—if they knew about this ahead of time and did nothing, any legislative leader that knew ahead of time and did nothing should resign. Yes, sir.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator DeWine, this is an article in the Financial Times about the Buckeye state. “Perhaps the most telling sign of the difficult environment Republicans face is in Ohio. ...[DeWine’s] tough race against Sherrod Brown...took many by surprise. But it is evidence that the Republicans’ overall weak standing...has been pushed still lower by corruption scandals in the state.
“Bob Taft, the Republican governor, has pleaded no contest to ethics violations, and Bob Ney, a Republican congressman ensnared in a separate investigation into the dealings of Jack Abramoff, a powerful Washington lobbyist, this month pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.”
On Friday the House Government Reform Committee says that Abramoff billed clients for 400 contacts with the White House. There are 66 e-mails to indicate those contacts. Are you caught up in a perception of a culture of corruption regarding the Republican Party, particularly in Ohio?
SEN. DeWINE: Tim, the climate, as they say, in politics is not good. But Ohioans know me. I’ve served Ohioans starting as a country prosecutor in 1976 for, for 30 years. I think they know my integrity, I think they know my honesty, I think they knew who, who I am. So in the end, Ohioans are very discerning. They pick and choose among parties and they, they will make a decision on an individual basis, but I think they know me.
MR. RUSSERT: Is it fair that Senator DeWine is caught up in this whole perception of corruption because it’s the governor, Congressman Ney, Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley, but it’s not Mike DeWine.
REP. BROWN: Well, it’s, it’s a bit more than a perception. Thomas Noe has contributed to money to Mike DeWine, so has Jack Abramoff. Senator DeWine has...
MR. RUSSERT: Thomas Noe being someone involved with Governor Taft.
REP. BROWN: Who is, who is, is now convicted of a crime and probably will serve time, may already be in prison, I’m not sure. He was a big Bush backer, close to Taft, funded much of the Republican Party. I mean, Senator DeWine has benefited, as have so many other Republicans have benefitted from this political machine in Ohio. It’s right in the midst of the culture of corruption. But, but it’s more than that, it’s ultimately, you know, who you’re going to—who you’re going to trust to fight for the middle class when you see, not just what’s happening in Columbus, but in Washington. Mike DeWine received more than $400,000 from oil and gas interests, votes for an energy bill...
MR. RUSSERT: But, Congressman Brown...
REP. BROWN: ...that they wrote.
MR. RUSSERT: ...one-third of Abramoff’s money went to Democrats.
REP. BROWN: Maybe it did, it didn’t go to me. And I went—but, as I’m saying, Mike DeWine received a third of a million dollars from the drug industry, votes for a Medicare bill that meant huge profits to the drug companies, huge profits to the HMOs and, and seniors are seeing drug prices go up faster and faster, faster than anytime in the last five years. It’s a question of—you know, the fundamental difference in this campaign is I’ve devoted my whole career to fighting for the middle class. Middle-class tax cuts, working to help college kids go to, go to school. Voted against these job-killing trade agreements that, that even conservative David Brooks in The New York Times today wrote about as something that’s really important in Ohio. And that...
MR. RUSSERT: Would you repeal NAFTA?
REP. BROWN: I would renegotiate NAFTA, as I would renegotiate PNTR with
China, and I would write tax laws that benefit workers in communities rather
than—and small businesses. We’ve lost so many small businesses in Ohio,
machine shops, tool and dye makers in Akron and Dayton and Zanesville, as
these big companies outsource. And Mike DeWine has supported every time these
trade agreements, these tax bills that give incentives to the big corporations...
SEN. DeWINE: Yeah.
REP. BROWN: ...rather than to the small companies that stay in...
MR. RUSSERT: All right.
REP. BROWN: ...in, in Lima, in Toledo, and manufacture here.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me give Senator DeWine a chance to respond.
REP. BROWN: Sure.
MR. RUSSERT: First, as to contributions from pharmaceutical and oil companies, then onto tax cuts, and then onto the whole issue of trade.
SEN. DeWINE: Well, Sherrod would, would, would have people believe that who gives you money influences you. I get contributions from 20,000 to 30,000 Ohioans. The oil companies, let me tell you, Tim, were not happy and still are not happy about my vote in regard to drilling in, in the Arctic. Drug companies were not happy when Chris Dodd and I and Hillary Clinton and others passed legislation to make them make drugs safer for kids. So I take them on. I do what I think is right. I vote for Ohioans.
But let me talk, if I could, for a moment about this whole job issue, because Congressman Brown has made a big issue about that. It is one more example where the congressman talks a good game, but doesn’t do anything. I’ll give you an example on trade. Steel. I worked together with Senator Rockefeller and others to go to the White House when these steel companies—they were importing steel, dumping steel in the United States from China and other countries. We got the White House, we got the president to, to put the quotas on, to put the tariffs on. It made a big difference.
Another example. Senator Byrd and I worked together on what ultimately became the Byrd Amendment. I introduced it originally. And basically what it says is that when a foreign country dumps into the United States, instead of putting that money into the U.S. Treasury when we fine them, we give that money to the, to the U.S. companies. That’s brought back $315 million just for Ohio companies.
But the bigger issue is, Sherrod thinks you can build a wall around the state of Ohio. One-fourth of our agriculture products are exported. One-fourth of our jobs, Tim, from manufacturing come from exporting to other countries. Thirteen thousand Ohio businesses export every single day. That’s where our jobs come from. That’s where our future comes from. And once again he—you know, he doesn’t understand. He talks a good game about what he’s doing. When it comes time to protect Ohio industries, he’s not there. He doesn’t do anything. I’m the one who has done it time and time again.
MR. RUSSERT: Thirty seconds.
REP. BROWN: First of all, Mike knows those efforts were bipartisan to get the president to do that. I was involved, he was involved, all of us were. The problem is the president pulled the rug out from under it, because under, under those, those, those, those tariffs to protect the steel industry, they didn’t last very long. Neither of those laws that he says—that he talks about are still in effect.
But I want to see more trade. I just don’t want one-way free trade where our biggest export is jobs to Mexico and jobs to China. I want fair trade, I fought for and got into Ohio my first year in, in the first session in Congress, the United States Export Assistance Center located in Ohio to serve the region. That’s literally helped thousands, literally thousands of small business figure out how to export more. I want fair trade with more experts—more exports, not this free trade that causes the devastation of the Miami Valley, where Mike is from, that causes the kind of job loss in Jackson and Gallapolis and Chillicothe and Lima that we’re seeing. We simply have abandoned the middle class when we passed these trade agreements, passed tax laws that give incentives to large corporations to outsource instead of helping our small businesses, helping our communities and helping our workers.
MR. RUSSERT: Twenty seconds.
SEN. DeWINE: When it came time to help the middle class with tax cuts, a tax cut that has taken five million Americans off the tax rolls, Tim, that’s helped 4.3 million Ohioans, that has given the average Ohioan that makes $50,000 a year that has two kids, has saved $2,000 per year, Sherrod Brown voted no time and time again. He has not been with the middle class on taxes, either.
REP. BROWN: Mike, Mike, Mike, you know better than that, too.
SEN. DeWINE: Well, it’s true.
REP. BROWN: Can I talk for a moment about taxes?
SEN. DeWINE: Again, what’s the fact? You know, I keep citing...
REP. BROWN: Because since his whole ad campaign is, is fabricated on making up stuff about taxes.
SEN. DeWINE: I keep citing, I keep citing—no. You know the funny thing is? My ad cam is based on votes that you cast. You just want to run from your record, that’s your problem.
REP. BROWN: You know, you know, interestingly, Mike’s first ad in this campaign, he ran an ad of the World Trade Center on fire. The problem is, he doctored the ad. He took the most sacred symbol of a U.S. tragedy, and...
SEN. DeWINE: Have you ever denied the facts? Have you ever denied the facts in the ad, that you voted 10 different times against intelligence, and voted against the Patriot...
REP. BROWN: You—he, he said—he says on his ads, we all say—sit there very efficiently and say “I approve, I’m Sherrod Brown, I’m Mike DeWine, I approve this ad.”
SEN. DeWINE: Well, deny the facts, Sherrod.
REP. BROWN: He approved an ad that showed—that, that doctored the picture of the World Trade Center. He also called--15 years ago, he said John Glenn was soft on Communism.
SEN. DeWINE: Tim, Tim, I, I said there was a mistake made in the picture, but there was no mistake in the facts.
REP. BROWN: This is how he runs ads. They aren’t—“It was a mistake. It was a mistake.”
SEN. DeWINE: You’re still not denying the facts. Are the facts incorrect?
REP. BROWN: But no—just, just like Mike DeWine, it doesn’t hold the drug companies accountable, doesn’t hold the Defense Department accountable...
SEN. DeWINE: He won’t, he won’t answer the question, Tim. Ten votes against intelligence, 10 votes against...
REP. BROWN: He didn’t even fire—he didn’t fire the ad agency.
MR. RUSSERT: Was there anything other than the smokestack—smoke...
REP. BROWN: What was wrong with the ad?
MR. RUSSERT: Was there any factual other mistakes in terms of...(unintelligible).
REP. BROWN: Well, other, other than the smoke—the doctoring a photo?
MR. RUSSERT: Well, you made that point. You made that point.
REP. BROWN: That’s a, that’s a pretty important point. It just shows that Mike DeWine...
SEN. DeWINE: There he goes.
REP. BROWN: I could, I could document throughout how he’s, he’s on—let me talk about taxes, from what he says on his ads on taxes.
SEN. DeWINE: He won’t answer the question, will he, Tim? He won’t answer the question. The facts are correct.
REP. BROWN: No, I, I will answer the—no, I will be—I would be glad to answer the questions.
MR. RUSSERT: I think people watching these debates and this one have a sense that Washington has broken down in terms of our ability to find common ground. And I went through and, and found voting records which are quite interesting. Congressman Brown, here’s your votes in support of President Bush. In 2005, you were with the president 7 percent of the time. In other words, 93 percent of the time you voted against the president. 2004 was 26, 11, 22 and 12 during the five years of the Bush presidency.
Senator DeWine, here’s your voting record in terms of President Bush. The ‘05, year before running for re-election was 76 percent. Prior to that it was 94, 97, 98, 95. It’s as if you—if you’re a Republican, you have to be for Bush. If you’re a Democrat, you have to be against Bush.
REP. BROWN: Well, can I, can I answer that...(unintelligible)?
MR. RUSSERT: Please.
REP. BROWN: My, my first—the eight years I served with—when President Clinton was president, on several major issues I took on the president and my party. I took them on in the North American Free Trade Agreement, because my interest was representing Ohio, not my party, and not the president of the United States. I took on the president on three—at least three other major issues: the balanced budget amendment, I supported it, President Clinton opposed it. On the line-item veto, I supported it, President Clinton opposed it. On the trade bill with China, PNTR with China, I opposed it. The president was pushing and lobbying hard. On major issues, I’ll stand up to the president and my own party. Mike DeWine really hasn’t. He’s not just voted with President Bush almost all the time, including every single Bush appointee, every single Bush appointee, not one has Mike voted against. And I will show more independence when I’m in the Senate, because my allegiance will be to Ohio and to, to the communities in Ohio, not to the president, not to...
MR. RUSSERT: Is this election a referendum on George Bush?
REP. BROWN: This election’s more a referendum on the special interest stranglehold in our government. The drug industry always gets its way, the HMOs always get their way, the oil industry always gets their way, the big companies that outsource jobs always get their way. That’s what this is—that’s really what this election’s about. Who’s fighting for the middle class? That’s what this election’s about.
MR. RUSSERT: What’s this election about? Is it, is it a referendum on George W. Bush’s policies?
SEN. DeWINE: I’ll get to that in a minute. Can I answer the first question, though, about the bipartisanship breaking down? If I could do that, Tim.
Dick Durbin, certainly not a, a Republican, number two Democrat in the Senate, said this about me in the Columbus Dispatch. He said “Mike DeWine, yes, he votes Republican Party a lot of times.” But he says, “When I go to him on specific important issues,” he said, “he, he is not a rubber stamp. He is someone who will look at things and thinks about things.” That’s what number two man in the Senate, Dick Durbin, said.
The fundamental difference, really, when you put aside all the votes, between Sherrod Brown and Mike DeWine in this campaign is that, Tim, for 12 years in the Senate, I’ve gotten things done. And the way I’ve gotten things done is by working with Democrats and Republicans. I worked with Jay Rockefeller, for example, on highway safety issues. I worked with Jay on steel. I also worked with Jay on, on, on other issues, as well—adoption, foster care. I worked with Chris Dodd to get better medicines for kids, on the fire act to get money, $100 million, directly back in Ohio. Worked with Senator Levin in regard to the Great Lakes. I could go on and on and on. I have a long, long record of working with Democrats and Republicans alike. It is the only way, Tim, you get things done. And despite the headlines about all the acrimony in Washington, work still gets done. I’ve been able to do it. I’ve fought for kids, I have fought for better pharmaceuticals for children, highway safety, these are things I care passionately about.
The difference between myself and Sherrod is, if you look at his record, he has a very, very slim record in the House of Representatives of getting anything done. He has been described, he has been described as a partisan in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He has been described as someone who is on the fringe by the National Journal. He’s on the fringe of his own party. Many, many times his votes have been in the minority even of his own party. He is to the left of his own party and not in the mainstream of Ohio.
What Ohioans want, when I travel around the state, they say “Mike, we’re sick of the acrimony, we’re sick of the partisanship, we’re sick of the fighting.” I’m the one candidate in this race who has demonstrated I can work with Democrats and Republicans to get things done and make things happen for Ohio.
MR. RUSSERT: I’ll consider that a closing statement and I’ll give you 25 seconds.
REP. BROWN: Yeah, I, I don’t—this whole thing about—that Mike DeWine just said—the Certified Public Accountants of Ohio, a, a Republican-leaning conservative business group that cares about economic development, that cares about tax cuts for the middle class, that cares about fairness, and is a, is a conservative Republican-leaning group, as I said, has endorsed me. I’m the only Democrat challenger in the country, I believe, that was endorsed by them. And we—I can make a list, a long list of bipartisan issues I worked on. I, I wrote with Bill Frist the first bioterrorism bill in the country—law in the country.
SEN. DeWINE: He denied that, by the way.
REP. BROWN: No, he denied five years later, another bill.
REP. BROWN: I’ve worked with Mike Bilrakis, Florida Republican, to change the way the children’s health bill, how we do children’s health research. I worked for—with John McCain on a bill to try to stop the gaming of the patent system by the drug companies. I will continue to work bipartisan in the, in the Senate, and—but my ultimate allegiance is to the middle class and working to help Ohioans.
MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. Sherrod Brown, Mike DeWine, thanks very much.
REP. BROWN: Thank you, Tim.
SEN. DeWINE: Thanks, Tim. Thank you very much.
MR. RUSSERT: And we’ll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: That’s all for today. We’ll be back next week. Another in our series of MEET THE PRESS Senate Debates: Missouri. Republican incumbent Senator Jim Talent faces off Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill. Also, an exclusive Sunday morning interview with Bob Woodward, author of the new book “State of Denial: Bush at War Part III.” The Missouri Senate Debate and Woodward here next Sunday. Because if it’s Sunday, it is MEET THE PRESS.