FTN - 5/11/03

florida senator bob graham 2003 democratic presidential candidate

BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face The Nation, Senator Bob Graham of Florida. He's running for president. Last week, Bob Graham made it official. He says he's from the electable wing of the Democratic Party. What does that mean? Today, he's in the spotlight as we continue our series of interviews with the presidential contenders.

We're joined by Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times. Karen Tumulty of Time magazine will be here later for analysis.

And with the Congress mired in a debate over taxes, I'll have a final word on Russell Long, the late senator who may have had more influence over the tax code than any legislator before or since.

But first, presidential candidate Bob Graham on Face The Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face The Nation with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: And good morning again.

Senator Graham is in Des Moines, Iowa, this morning. Senator Graham, welcome to the broadcast.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM, D-FL; Democratic Presidential Candidate: Good morning.

SCHIEFFER: You said during the debate last week in South Carolina that you come from the electable wing of the Democratic Party, which was a pretty good line, but how do you back that up? Why are you more electable than, say, John Kerry or John Edwards or Dick Gephardt?

GRAHAM: Well, Bob, first, let's look at some history. Four of the last five elected presidents had been governors of their state. Three of the last three democratically elected residents were from Texas, Georgia and Arkansas. I think that says something about the characteristics and the region of the country that's important for a Democrat to be elected president.

I also am a centrist moderate, which I think is what not only Democrats but also Independents and Republicans are looking for. So I consider myself to come from the wing of the Democratic Party that has provided the last three Democratic presidents.

SCHIEFFER: How do you get from there -- from here to there?

GRAHAM: Well, you come to Des Moines and you come to New Hampshire and the other places like Columbia, South Carolina, that will have early primaries. It's very much of a person-to-person politics in these states. You've got to present yourself; answer some very thoughtful questions, establish a likability factor and then work as hard as you can to get your voters out in that first caucus and those early primaries.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times is with us here today to join in the questioning. Doyle.

DOYLE McMANUS, Los Angeles Times: Senator, most of the polls show that Democrats don't even know who you are, much less what you stand for. One way to break out of that big pack is to have a big idea. Dick Gephardt's big idea was health insurance. What's yours?

GRAHAM: Well, I don't have a big idea, Doyle. I have several what I think to be big ideas. In the area of health care, for instance, I think the lesson that we learned in 1993 and '94 was that health care is so complicated and that there are so many stakeholders in the status quo that it's very hard to accomplish in one jump. So I am proposing a series of step-by-step moves which, over the next four years, should get us to the point that two-thirds of the currently uninsured Americans will be covered. And then in my second term, we'll deal with the other one-third.

McMANUS: So it's a set of little ideas? One of the things that you've also done, Senator, is criticized the Bush administration on terrorism. You said you were worried that the war in Iraq would take resources away from the fight against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Did that actually happen? You've been on the Intelligence Committee. Tell us if the war in Iraq did damage the anti-terrorist campaign.

GRAHAM: It did. Beginning 14 months ago, the military stopped calling it the war on terrorism and they call it a manhunt, as we shifted military and intelligence resources out of Afghanistan and Pakistan to get ready for the war in Iraq. For that reason, al Qaeda, which was on the ropes about a year ago, has been able to regenerate itself and carry out that very complex set of terrorist acts that ranged from Yemen to Bali last fall and have every appearance of being capable of launching other terrorist attacks. And we haven't laid a glove on the A-team of international terrorism, which is Hezbollah.

SCHIEFFER: So, Senator, are you saying it was a mistake to go to Iraq? It was a mistake to topple Saddam Hussein, that the world is -- that there's not much change in what's happened now that Saddam Hussein is gone?

GRAHAM: Oh, Saddam Hussein was or is an evil man. But he lives in a neighborhood with a lot of evil people. Seems to me that the judgment required of a leadership of the United States was which of those evils had the greatest capability of hurting and killing Americans? And in my judgment, there's no question that that means the international terrorist groups which have already done it, September the 11th, and before, and which have the capability, including the large number of their operatives who are located inside the United States to launch future terrorist attacks. In my judgment, we should have pursued the war on terrorism to victory before we moved to Iraq.

SCHIEFFER: Do you -- just to try to pin you down a little bit here, do you -- are you saying that toppling Saddam Hussein really made no difference? I guess I'm asking do you think we're safer now or about the same or not as safe as we were before we went into Iraq?

GRAHAM: I think you could make the case that we are less secure...


GRAHAM: ...as a result of the Iraq war because we have taken the focus off the international terrorists. For instance, we've known for a long time that Syria and the Syrian-controlled areas of Lebanon, there was a substantial presence of the most violent terrorists in the world and yet until recently we've been unwilling to confront Syria with that fact, and demand that either they take care of that cesspool or that we, with a coalition like we've had in Afghanistan, would take care of it.

McMANUS: Now, Senator, do you think Syria is now doing enough or should we begin preparing for attacks on those terrorist camps in Syria and Lebanon?

GRAHAM: Syria has started to speak the right words. What we need to rely on, however, not words, but action. I -- and hopefully Syria will accept its responsibility to the world to root out those terrorists that have used their territory as a sanctuary but if they don't I think we should be looking to the same coalition that was in Afghanistan, which was a true representation of the world community to deal with the same even more difficult dangerous and experienced terrorists in Syria and Lebanon that -- as compared to al Qaeda, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

McMANUS: And so I take it you think President Bush would be a little tougher there and should be explicit in saying that the United States will take military action in Syria if those camps aren't cleaned up?

GRAHAM: Well, I hope that was the message that was delivered by Secretary of State Powell and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. If it was not, he needs to send them back to give them the message that we are not going to tolerate the same thing in Syria and Lebanon that we tolerated, frankly, in Afghanistan through the latter part of the 1990s. That was open, flagrant training of the next generation of terrorists in the most sophisticated skills of terrorism. That is what is going on now in Syria and Lebanon and it's intolerable.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, you were on the Intelligence Committee for a long time. I guess I would just ask you the simple question: Do you know something that the rest of us don't know? Because you continue to be sort of a voice of doom. You warn that there may be another attack coming. You've said all kinds of things along that line.

GRAHAM: Yes, I think I know some things that are currently classified for the American people, unnecessarily so. I think the American people should be informed about what kind of capability terrorists have inside the United States. They should be informed about the prospect that foreign governments have been aiding the terrorists in the United States. They should be informed of why we are not using that information to do a more effective job of dealing with terrorists where they live and when they've been placed in the United States.

SCHIEFFER: Which foreign government?

GRAHAM: That is classified. This administration is probably been one of the most secret administrations in American history, and one of the areas over which they've thrown a particularly heavy blanket has been information about terrorism, including terrorism in the United States. We talk a lot about this in the final report of our House, Senate, Republican, Democratic joint inquiry into what happened on September the 11th, but now almost five months later the administration has refused to release that report so that it will available to you and to the American public.

SCHIEFFER: Why do you think that is?

GRAHAM: Because -- not that there are major national security issues involved; in fact, a great deal of the information which they want to keep classified has already been released, such as in testimony by CIA and FBI officials in public hearings. I think what they are shooting at is to cover up the failures that occurred before September the 11th; even more so, the failure to utilize the information that we have gained to avoid a future September the 11th.

McMANUS: Senator, aren't you really talking about Saudi Arabia? Has the administration been tough enough on the Saudis?

GRAHAM: Well, that still continues to be classified, but I think there are a whole series of countries, beginning with Syria, that we have not given the appropriate forceful statement that we will not tolerate their continued sanctuary and support of terrorists.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, if I were writing a newspaper story and putting headlines on top of it right now, I would say: Senator Graham accuses the administration of a cover-up. Is that too strong a term?

GRAHAM: No, that is a very appropriate term.

SCHIEFFER: You think there's been a cover-up, that the administration is not telling us what we need to know to protect ourselves here at home?

GRAHAM: It -- to be specific, a report has been written which provides a very detailed background to the buildup to September the 11th, and then raises policy issues as to how well those lessons have been applied since September the 11th. By continuing to classify that information so that it's not available to the American people, the American people have been denied important information for their own protection, for the protection of the communities. Local agencies have been denied information which would help them be more effective. First responders and the American people do not have the information upon which they can hold the administration and responsible agencies accountable.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Let's...

GRAHAM: I call that...


GRAHAM: ...a cover-up.

SCHIEFFER: Let's switch this -- you call that a cover-up. Let's switch this to the economy just for a minute. The secretary of the Treasury was saying on the Sunday interview programs this morning -- one quote was --and this is close to a quote -- 'If you're going to run a deficit, now is probably the time to do it.' And he's saying because the president's plan to cut taxes, while it would add to the deficit, is going to create some jobs. Do you agree with that?

GRAHAM: No, I disagree with both the premise that the president's economic stimulus plan will create new jobs, and that this is the time to be adding to the national debt. The president's plan basically focuses on putting significant amounts of money in the bank accounts of the wealthiest Americans, and then that it will trickle down to the rest of Americans. I think that is a fundamental error, that our problem today is that American consumers, for a variety of reasons, have been reluctant to buy the goods and services that we can produce. And therefore, any economic stimulus plan has to put money in the pockets of those Americans most likely to spend it, also into critical areas like state governments, which are in a very desperate condition, much of which was caused by federal government actions.

I also believe that, with the fact that we are within 10 years of the beginning of retirement of the large number of baby boomers born after World War II, and with the escalating demands that's going to place on Social Security and Medicare, this is absolutely the wrong time that we ought to be adding to the deficit.

We should return to the Bob Rubin-Bill Clinton policies of the 1990s, where we were eliminating the annual deficits and beginning to pay down the national debt.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator Graham, that gives us a start on who Bob Graham is and why he thinks he ought to be president. We hope to see you further down the campaign trail as we continue our interviews with the various men seeking the Democratic nomination.

We'll be back in a moment with a roundtable discussion. We'll add Karen Tumulty of Time magazine when we come back.


SCHIEFFER: And joining us now, Karen Tumulty the national political correspondent for Time magazine.

Karen, thanks for coming. And you just saw the interview with Senator Graham. I must say, Democrats have been criticized for being soft on defense, but we saw something a little different today. Here's Bob Graham sort of coming at the president from the right rather than the left saying, basically what happened is, in his view, is the president went after the wrong person. We should be looking for Osama bin Laden. He decided instead to go after Saddam Hussein and if -- yes, I know he said this, he said in his view that makes us less safe, not safer.

KAREN TUMULTY, Time Magazine: Exactly.

SCHIEFFER: Does that work?

TUMULTY: What we saw was a very good demonstration of why Bob Graham makes the rest of the Democrats in the field so very nervous. He's got the sweet spot on national security.

He can go left; he can go right. In a field full of Democrats, he is the only senator who voted against this war, but he voted against it, he says, because we're not laying a glove on the real bad guys.

SCHIEFFER: So does this help him? Who does he hurt if you were looking at it just from a political observer's point of view?

TUMULTY: Oh, who doesn't he hurt? We, in fact, in the magazine this week, to quote an unnamed operative of another campaign saying he's the Swiss Army knife of the Democratic field because no matter how you open him, he hurts somebody. He cuts into Joe Lieberman's ability to raise money in Florida. John Edwards is no longer the only Southerner in the race. Howard Dean's not the only governor. And he also has, as I said, this vote on the Iraq war that the other contenders don't.

SCHIEFFER: Doyle, he talked about a cover-up. He says the administration is covering up information that the American people need to know about. Does that have traction?

McMANUS: It doesn't have traction yet, Bob, because I don't think most voters know what he's talking about, which is that report on September 11th that the committee he worked on and put out. I think he can make it have traction. I think what -- in fact, he told us after that interview what he is going to be doing -- is working away on that. I think if he can make alliance, in effect, with the states and counties that are saying that the federal government isn't giving them enough money to wage the war on terrorism, and couple that with his point, which is a new one, that there is actual information in that report that would be tactically useful to county governments and state governments in making their counterterrorism plans, he may get somewhere.

SCHIEFFER: These states are really in a mess, aren't they, Karen? You wrote about that in the magazine this week. I was just in California where they're telling me that not only are they facing these huge deficits but for every five jobs that are lost in America, one of those jobs is in California. The governor out there -- his approval rating is down to 20 percent. We're seeing other governors with these low approval ratings. Is that because the states are just so starved for money?

TUMULTY: That's right. And while these arguments we're having here in Washington over tax cuts may look sort of abstract to most people in America, it is not abstract when your kid's teacher gets laid off.

SCHIEFFER: And--and that's what's happening...

TUMULTY: That is exa...

SCHIEFFER: ...in state after state.

TUMULTY: Oh, libraries are closing, teachers are getting laid off. Gray Davis is in the position of having to decide whether he should deny prosthetic limbs to poor people.

McMANUS: It's not only Democratic governors, though, who are...

SCHIEFFER: I'm not laughing. I'm just -- that I--you just took me aback for a minute.

McMANUS: This fiscal crisis isn't hitting only Democratic governors, though, like Gray Davis in California. It's hitting Republicans, too. Bob Ehrlich in Maryland is talking about raising taxes. People may next year be looking at a great big tax cut that President Bush got them on their federal returns and a big tax increase on their state returns.

SCHIEFFER: So where does this go now? Is the president going to get this tax cut because we're seeing all kinds of strange things going on here, fiscal conservatives saying, `Deficits no longer matter'? Will the president get something that will -- people can identify as a tax cut or is it just rearranging things, Karen?

TUMULTY: It sure looks like he's going to get something. We had the Senate pass a $350 billion one through the Finance Committee this week. The House has $550 billion. It's not as high as he wanted, but they also served notice today that they're going to come back next year and the next year and the next year for more tax cuts.

SCHIEFFER: But you're saying, Doyle, that as that's happening, the states are going to have no choice but to raise taxes.

Mr. McMANUS: The states are going to raise taxes, and it's not at all clear that these tax cuts are going to lift the economy to the degree that President Bush hopes they will by election time. The question he faces is: If we are here a year from now still talking about raising unemployment, will that tax cut have done him a lot of good or possibly a certain amount of harm?

SCHIEFFER: Karen, the other question -- Democrats are complaining now about the big landing on the carrier by the president. Was that a good thing for the president? Are the Democrats right to criticize or are they treading on very shaky ground here?

TUMULTY: Oh, I think this is the stupidest fight the Democrats have picked since they picked a fight with the president on homeland security. The fact is, first of all, every time they bring it up, it gives the cable channels another reason to run those pictures again. But the more important point is, beyond making them look sort of small and whiny, if they lose this election next year, it's not going to be because George Bush has better photo-ops and campaign commercials. It's going to be because they don't have the arguments they need to have on things like the economy where President Bush could possibly be weak.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thank you both for adding some perspective this morning. We'll be back with a final word in just a minute.


SCHIEFFER: Finally, today, Russell Long, who knew a lot about human nature, said most people's feelings about taxes could be summed up this way: Don't tax him, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree.

Long served 35 years as the senator from Louisiana and probably knew more about, and had more influence over, the tax code than any senator before or since. He died this weekend as Congress was mired in yet another impenetrable gridlock over cutting taxes, an argument that has fiscal conservatives saying deficits don't count, traditional big spender Democrats saying they do, and moderate Republicans saying the way to break the deadlock and give the president the tax cut he wants is to raise taxes in two dozen other areas.

Excuse me, but this sounds more like politics than economic policy and I wondered how Russell Long would have felt. He always had the ability to see beyond the battle of the moment. He knew the people at the bottom could always use a little help at tax time, but he also knew you couldn't put all the taxes on business. You can't have capitalism, he said, without capital.

Long had a way of seeing the big picture and finding a way to work out something that both sides could accept. Too many of today's fund-raiser politicians can't see beyond the positions of their campaign contributors, which is why real compromise is so rare now and the kind of morass where Congress finds itself is so common.

No politician did more for his state than Russell Long but occasionally he went against public opinion, as when he voted for the Panama Canal treaty. Because, he said, a politician's first obligation was not to please his constituents, but to give them his best judgment. That's a philosophy we don't hear much anymore.

That's it for us. We'll see you next week right here on Face The Nation.