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Election Success in Iraq

posted on February 7, 2005

Borg: ELECTION SUCCESS IN IRAQ . SOME SEE A FLICKER OF DEMOCRACY AND SAY IT'S TIME TO SCHEDULE U.S. TROOP WITHDRAWAL. COMMENTS FROM IOWA 'S SECOND DISTRICT CONGRESSMAN JIM LEACH ON THIS EDITION OF " IOWA PRESS."

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ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 4 EDITION OF " IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

 

Borg: DURING THE PAST TWO WEEKS, PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH HAS LAID AN AGGRESSIVE AGENDA BEFORE CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. IN HIS INAUGURAL ADDRESS, THE PRESIDENT CHALLENGED AMERICA TO ADVANCE FREEDOM WORLDWIDE. AND IN STAKING OUT DOMESTIC ISSUES IN HIS STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS THIS PAST WEDNESDAY, MR. BUSH MADE THE CASE FOR MAJOR CHANGES IN THE CURRENT SOCIAL SECURITY PROGRAM. BOTH AGENDAS, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC, ARE CONTROVERSIAL, TO SAY THE LEAST. EVEN REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, MANY OF THEM UP FOR ELECTION TWO YEARS FROM NOW, ARE RESERVED IN THEIR REACTIONS. DURING HIS 29 YEARS IN CONGRESS, REPUBLICAN JIM LEACH OF IOWA CITY HAS DEVELOPED A REPUTATION AS AN INDEPENDENT THINKER. HIS VIEWS AREN'T ALWAYS ALIGNED WITH REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS. AND TODAY ON " IOWA PRESS," WE'RE SEEKING HIS INSIGHT. WELCOME BACK.

Leach: IT'S GOOD TO BE WITH YOU.

Borg: THANK YOU. ACROSS THE " IOWA PRESS" TABLE: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: CONGRESSMAN, WE'VE JUST HAD ELECTIONS IN IRAQ. THE ADMINISTRATION HAS POINTED TO THE ELECTIONS AS A SUCCESS. AND THERE ARE THOSE WHO ARE SAYING WITH A SUCCESSFUL ELECTION, IT'S TIME TO START THINKING ABOUT THE TIMETABLE FOR LEAVING THE COUNTRY -- FOR AMERICAN TROOPS TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY. FIRST, YOUR REACTION TO THE ELECTIONS. WERE THEY A SUCCESS? AND TWO, DOES THAT MEAN IT'S TIME FOR US TO START THINKING ABOUT LEAVING?

Leach: WELL, I THINK THEY WERE QUITE SUCCESSFUL. WE ALL UNDERSTAND THE SUNNIS DIDN'T PARTICIPATE IN LARGE NUMBERS, BUT THAT'S A FOOTNOTE COMPARED TO THE IMPORTANCE OF THE NUMBER THAT DID. AND THE IDEA THAT HIGHER PERCENTAGE PARTICIPATED IN THE IRAQI ELECTIONS THAN THE AMERICAN ELECTIONS, DESPITE THE FACT THAT IN IRAQ YOU DIDN'T KNOW IF YOU WERE GOING TO BE BOMBED IS RATHER EXTRAORDINARY IN THE COURAGE THAT WAS IMPLIED. THIS WAS A VERY SUCCESSFUL ELECTION. NOW HAVING SAID THAT, THE QUESTION THEN BECOMES: WHAT ARE THE POLICIES FOR THE IRAQI PEOPLE; AND WHAT ARE THE POLICIES FOR THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT? MY VIEW IS IT MAY BE THAT AN EXACT TIME FRAME IS DIFFICULT, BUT WE WENT INTO IRAQ WITH A RATIONALE, THEIR GOVERNMENT, OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. THAT PROVED VERY FRAIL. THE DEMOCRACY RATIONALE WAS A GREATER RATIONALE. WHETHER IT'S A COMPELLING ONE OR NOT, THAT'S UP TO THE INDIVIDUAL TO JUDGE. BUT NOW THAT WE'VE HELD DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS, MY ADVICE IS TO SYMBOLICALLY WITHDRAW A FEW TODAY. AND THEN AS THE ELECTIONS, BASED UPON THE NEW CONSTITUTION THAT'S GOING TO BE WRITTEN BY OCTOBER OR NOVEMBER AND THE ELECTION THAT WILL FOLLOW AFTER THAT, WE OUGHT TO BE PREPARED TO MAKE SIGNIFICANT WITHDRAWALS. AND TROOP DRAWDOWNS BASED ON DEMOCRACY MAKE A GREAT DEAL OF SENSE. NOW, IN TERMS OF EXACT TIME FRAME, MAYBE THAT'S TOUGH FOR THE ADMINISTRATION TO SAY EXACTLY WHEN, BUT PUTTING A PARAMETER PHILOSOPHICALLY ON TIME FRAMES FOR DRAWDOWNS I THINK MAKES EMINENT SENSE. FINALLY LET ME JUST STRESS, IF YOU HAVE THE OPTION OF LONG-TERM INVOLVEMENT OR MORE MODEST TERM INVOLVEMENT, THE CASE FOR MODEST TERM IS JUST TERRIFYINGLY MORE COMPELLING. THE LONGER WE'RE THERE, THE MORE WE BECOME A MAGNET FOR INSTABILITY RATHER THAN A FORCE OF STABILITY. I THINK WE OUGHT TO BE THINKING THIS THROUGH VERY SERIOUSLY.

Glover: BUT I DON'T HEAR THAT FROM THE ADMINISTRATION. I DON'T HEAR -- THEY SEEM JUST ALMOST RELUCTANT TO EVEN TALK ABOUT ANY KIND OF AN EXIT STRATEGY.

Leach: THERE'S A NEOCON MOVEMENT IN WASHINGTON THAT IS FOR THE CREATION OF SEMIPERMANENT BASING IN IRAQ FOR WHICH AMERICA WILL THEN BE ABLE TO PROJECT FORCE WITHIN THE COUNTRY AND WITHIN THE REGION TOWARDS SYRIA, TOWARDS IRAN, TOWARDS PALESTINE. I THINK THIS IS SUCH FRAIL LOGIC, I CAN'T TELL YOU. I THINK THIS HAS TO BE PUT ASIDE. IF WE THINK WE CAN USE IRAQ AS A STAGING GROUND FOR MILITARY ACTIVITY ON A LONG-TERM BASIS, I THINK WE'LL BE BRINGING UPON OURSELVES GREAT GRIEF WITHIN THE COUNTRY AND FAR GREATER GRIEF IN THE WORLD AND THAT THAT, AS MUCH AS ANYTHING, COULD HELP PRECIPITATE THIS JUDAEO CHRISTIAN VERSUS MUSLIM CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS THAT I THINK WE SHOULD BE ATTEMPTING TO AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, DO YOU THINK WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE MILITARY ACTION IN IRAN?

Leach: I CAN'T THINK OF ANYTHING THAT WOULD BE A GREATER MISTAKE TODAY. THERE'S THIS MODEL OF WHAT ISRAEL DID IN IRAQ TWENTY ODD YEARS AGO. I DON'T THINK IT FITS IRAN TODAY. IF WE ARE INVOLVED WITH MILITARY ACTION IN IRAN AS THE THIRD MUSLIM STATE IN WHICH WE HAVE INTERVENED DIRECTLY AT OUR CHOICE, THE OTHER SIDE IS GOING TO THINK THAT WE'RE THE ONES THAT HAVE PRECIPITATED THIS CLASH OF CIVILIZATION AND I THINK IT WILL BE VERY LARGE IN ITS REACTION. WE WILL BE CREATING FOREVER, AND BY FOREVER, FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OR TWO, AN ENEMY IN IRAN THAT YOU DON'T EXACTLY HAVE. I THINK NOW IS A TIME FOR EMPHASIS AND DIPLOMACY PROBABLY LED BY THE EUROPEANS AND, MOST OF ALL, A TIME TO IDENTIFY WITH THE IRANIAN PEOPLE, MANY OF WHOM HAVE BEEN -- ALMOST TWO MILLION WERE EDUCATED IN THE UNITED STATES. THERE'S A RESERVOIR OF GOODWILL IN IRAN THAT DOESN'T EXIST IN A LOT OF COUNTRIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

Yepsen: WHAT DO WE MAKE OF WHAT SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZA RICE SAID IN LONDON LAST WEEK, WHICH IS SHE DIDN'T THINK MILITARY ACTION WOULD BE NECESSARY AT THIS POINT IN TIME? DO WE READ TOO MUCH INTO THAT STATEMENT BY HER? IT SEEMED TO LEAVE THAT OPEN.

Leach: I THINK AMERICA IS IN A RESERVE-OF-JUDGMENT MODE THAT IS INTENDED TO PUT PRESSURE. I THINK THAT PRESSURE MAY BE UNREALISTIC. SOMETIMES YOU DON'T WANT TO GIVE UP YOUR OPTIONS, AND SO YOU WANT TO KEEP OPTIONS. BUT I CAN'T THINK OF A GRAVER MISTAKE IN THIS CIRCUMSTANCE.

Borg: IS OUR INTERVENTION THERE IN IRAQ GOING TO REMAIN, IN YOUR VIEW, UNILATERAL? WE HAVE A SMALL COALITION BUT I'M REALLY THINKING ABOUT THE UNITED NATIONS. IS THERE A FUTURE ROLE FOR THE U.N.?

Leach: ONE OF THE REASONS THAT YOU WANT A U.N. PRESENCE IS THAT IT COALESCES INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT. IT ALSO MAKES THE LEGITIMATIZATION OF WHAT FOLLOWS AFTER INTERVENTION BETTER. NOW, WE DO HAVE A U.N. MANDATE AT THE MOMENT UNTIL DECEMBER 31 OF THIS YEAR, AT WHICH POINT THE MANDATE IS OVER UNLESS THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT REQUESTS US TO STAY LONGER. I THINK WE OUGHT TO BE VERY SENSITIVE ABOUT THAT. AND WE ARE ISOLATED IN THE WORLD. THERE'S NEVER BEEN A TIME PERIOD IN MY LIFETIME, AND I THINK MAYBE THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY, WHERE THE UNITED STATES HAS BEEN IN MORE DISFAVOR IN MORE PARTS OF THE WORLD BASED ON OUR POLICIES. THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE'RE A HUNDRED PERCENT WRONG. IT SIMPLY MEANS THAT WE'VE BROUGHT A GREAT DEAL OF DISFAVOR ON OURSELVES.

Borg: WE'LL FOLLOW UP WITH A RELATED QUESTIONS. THERE ARE CALLS TO ENLARGE THE ACTIVE DUTY FORCE. DURING THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION, THERE WAS A DRAWDOWN TO ACTIVE DUTY AND MIX IT WITH NATIONAL GUARD AND SO ON IN WHAT THEY CALL THE TOTAL FORCE CONCEPT, AND NOW THAT'S GETTING A LOT OF CRITICISM AS PEOPLE ARE ON EXTENDED ACTIVE DUTY IN IRAQ. IS IT TIME TO ENLARGE THE ACTIVE DUTY FORCE.

Leach: YOU COULD ENLARGE IT SLIGHTLY. HOPEFULLY WE'RE GOING TO SEE CIRCUMSTANCES DEVELOP THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO. BUT YOU CAN'T FORESEE THAT. I WOULD RATHER ENLARGE THE ACTIVE DUTY FORCE SLIGHTLY THAN I WOULD SEE ANOTHER FURTHER CALL ON THE RESERVES IN THE GUARD. WE'VE REALLY STRETCHED THE RESERVES AND GUARD AS FAR AS WE CAN, BUT THAT'S BECAUSE WE STRETCHED OUR FOREIGN POLICY AS FAR AS WE CAN UNDER THIS CIRCUMSTANCE. I WOULD RATHER CONTRACT THIS FOREIGN POLICY A BIT SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO EITHER. BUT IF THE OPTION IS MORE RESERVES AND GUARD VERSUS ACTIVE MILITARY, I THINK THE OPTION SHOULD BE FOR A LITTLE LARGER ACTIVE MILITARY. THE DILEMMA WE'RE IN IN THE WORLD THOUGH IS, IN SHORT ORDER IT'S PROBABLY NOT GOING TO HAPPEN BUT YOU COULD HAVE A CRISIS OVER TAIWAN . YOU COULD HAVE A CRISIS OVER NORTH KOREA . YOU COULD HAVE A CRISIS IN OTHER PARTS OF THE MIDDLE EAST. SO THIS IS A TIME THAT WE HAVE TO BE VERY CONCERNED ON HOW WE STRETCH OUR FOREIGN POLICY MUSCLE IN A POLICY SENSE, AND THEN THE POLICY SENSE, HOW THAT AFFECTS DECISIONS IN THE MILITARY.

Glover: CONGRESSMAN, DAVE ASKED YOU ABOUT IRAN . THERE'S A LOT OF TALK ABOUT INTERVENTION THERE. YOU'VE MENTIONED A COUPLE OF OTHER HOT SPOTS IN THE WORLD. WHAT'S YOUR SENSE OF WHAT THE NEXT PLACE AMERICA IS GOING TO HAVE TO INTERVENE WILL BE? WILL IT BE KOREA ? WILL IT BE TAIWAN ? WILL IT BE IRAN ? WHERE WILL IT BE?

Leach: WELL, I HOPE TO DAYLIGHTS IT WON'T BE ANY OF THOSE PLACES, BUT I WOULD SAY YOU'VE STRUCK THE THREE-PLUS, IF YOU ADD SYRIA , MOST LIKELY POSSIBILITIES. BUT THE WHOLE CHALLENGE IS TO DETER THAT FROM HAPPENING. WE ARE GOING TO BE FACING ABOUT 18 MONTHS WHERE WE COULD SEE SOME SEMINALLY GOOD NEWS IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS. WE COULD SEE AN AGREEMENT WITH NORTH KOREA . WE COULD SEE AN ARRANGEMENT WITH IRAN THAT'S OF A PACIFIC DIRECTION. WE COULD SEE GOOD NEWS IN IRAQ CONTINUE TO CASCADE AFTER THESE ELECTIONS. WE COULD SEE AN ISRAELI/PALASTINEAN SETTLEMENT. IF THOSE OCCURRED, THIS WOULD BE ONE OF THE MOST SPECTACULAR 18 MONTHS, TWO-YEAR PERIODS IN MODERN-DAY HISTORY. THERE'S ALSO A POSSIBILITY EACH OF THOSE FOUR AREAS GET MORE DIFFICULT.

Glover: IT'S SOMETIMES SAID THAT THE JUDGMENT ABOUT THE QUALITY OF A FOREIGN POLICY IS CONFLICTS THAT ARE AVOIDED, NOT CONFLICTS THAT ARE HAD. IN THAT SENSE HAS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION FAILED?

Leach: I THINK IT'S TRULY PREMATURE TO MAKE ASSESSMENTS IN THE LONG-TERM. AS WE GO ALONG, WE HAVE TO MAKE JUDGMENT CALLS, BUT ANYONE THAT ASSESSES A PRESIDENCY BEFORE IT FULLY UNFOLDS ERRS GRIEVOUSLY. MY PERSONAL VIEW IS, BY THE WAY, THAT I THINK YOU COULD HAVE A MUCH MORE POWELL-LIKE FOREIGN POLICY, IRONICALLY, WITHOUT COLIN POWELL AS SECRETARY OF STATE. AND YOU COULD SEE THE SECOND BUSH ADMINISTRATION LOOK MORE LIKE THE ADMINISTRATION OF THIS PRESIDENT'S FATHER OR THE SECOND TERM OF THE REAGAN PRESIDENCY. IF YOU RECALL, THE FIRST TERM OF THE REAGAN PRESIDENCY WAS VERY MUSCULAR. THE SECOND TERM WAS SURPRISINGLY PRO ARMS CONTROL. AND YOU COULD SEE, I THINK, KIND OF SHIFTS. I PERSONALLY FORESEE A REAL POSSIBILITY OF A SHIFT THE SECOND TERM, BUT IT WILL BE BASED UPON SOME GOOD LUCK ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE WORLD. YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO MAKE POLICY BASED ON CIRCUMSTANCE, AND THEN YOU HOPE TO MASSAGE THAT CIRCUMSTANCE TO MAKE THE OPTIONS LESS BAD. BUT I THINK THERE'S A CHANCE THAT THE WORLD IS GOING TO SEE THAT PERHAPS ALL THIS MIGHT THAT'S BEING EXERCISED ISN'T FOR ANYONE'S GOOD.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, YOU VOTED AGAINST THE IRAQ WAR. DO YOU STILL THINK THAT WAS THE CORRECT VOTE?

Leach: I'M HESITANT TO SAY I'M VERY COMFORTABLE WITH THAT VOTE. AND THE REASON I SAY I'M HESITANT, THERE'S NO VOTE I HAVE EVER CAST THAT I WANTED TO BE PROVEN MORE WRONG ON, BECAUSE YOU WANT YOUR POLICY TO SUCCEED BUT YOU HAVE TO MAKE A JUDGMENT ON WHAT YOU THINK IT'S GOING TO BE AT A TIME. I THINK WE'VE PRECIPITATED SOME FORCES IN THE WORLD THAT WE NEEDN'T HAVE PRECIPITATED. ON THE OTHER HAND, CERTAINLY WE'RE BETTER OFF WITHOUT SADDAM HUSSEIN.

Yepsen: RIGHT.

Leach: CERTAINLY THE DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT THAT SEEMS TO HAVE CAUGHT HOLD THIS LAST WEEK IS IMPORTANT. AND SO IT'S POSSIBLE IN THE LONG RUN THAT THINGS WILL LOOK BETTER. BUT THESE AREN'T THE ONLY FACTORS THAT GO INTO WHETHER FOREIGN POLICY IS A SUCCESS OR FAILURE.

Yepsen: HASN'T THE IRAQ WAR, THOUGH, SET IN MOTION THE EVENTS YOU'VE JUST DESCRIBED IN MANY PARTS OF THE WORLD? NORTH KOREA IS MORE COMPLIANT, SYRIA BEHAVING, LIBYA BEHAVING. DEMOCRACY IN UKRAINE ; MAYBE THAT'S NOT A DIRECT EXAMPLE OF THAT. CERTAINLY THE ISRAELIS AND THE PALESTINIANS TALKING. DIDN'T MOST OF THAT -- WASN'T MOST OF THAT FACILITATED IN PART BY THE WILLINGNESS OF THE UNITED STATES TO GO TO IRAQ AND TAKE SADDAM HUSSEIN OUT?

Leach: WELL, A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD SAY IT WAS SLOWED DOWN BY THAT. YOU CAN SAY IS THERE CAUSE AND EFFECT. IT'S PRETTY HARD TO ASSERT THAT THERE IS A CAUSE AND EFFECT BETWEEN UKRAINE AND IRAQ . THAT WOULD BE REALLY STRETCHING IT. THERE ARE THOSE THAT SAY THERE IS A CAUSE AND EFFECT BETWEEN LIBYA AND IRAQ . I PERSONALLY DOUBT IT. LIBYA HAS REALLY BEEN ON ITS BACK WHEN IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE SOCIALLY, AND THERE IS A LOT OF PRESSURE ON THE LIBYAN GOVERNMENT TO CHANGE FROM ITS OWN POPULOUS. ON THE OTHER HAND, IT'S HARD TO ASSERT THAT THERE'S NO TIE. YOU'RE IN A -- WHAT YOU CAN ONLY DESCRIBE AS A CONJECTURAL CIRCUMSTANCE.

Yepsen: TOO EARLY TO TELL.

Glover: CONGRESSMAN, YOU'VE JUST RETURNED FROM A TOUR OF SOUTH ASIA AND THE REGION OF THE WORLD AFFECTED BY THE TSUNAMI. I THINK IT'S FAIRLY CLEAR THAT THE OUTPOURING OF AID HAS BEEN OVERWHELMING. THERE ARE AGENCIES THAT ARE SAYING DON'T GIVE US ANYMORE, WE HAVE ALL WE CAN USE. SO IN THE SHORT TERM IT SEEMS AS THOUGH HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL. IN THE LONG TERM, WHAT'S THE SOLUTION? WHAT DO WE DO? HOW DO WE REBUILD? AND WHAT'S THE ROLE OF THE VARIOUS COUNTRIES IN THAT?

Leach: WELL, FIRST LET ME JUST SAY THAT, HAVING LOOKED AT THIS FIRST HAND -- AND WE HAD A QUARTER MILLION PEOPLE DIE, MANY MORE THAN SEVERAL YEARS OF THE IRAQI CONFLICT, FOR INSTANCE. SO THIS IS A SEMINAL EVENT. BUT THERE ARE PRECEDENTS FOR NATURAL DISASTERS. WHAT'S UNPRECEDENTED IS THE INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE. AND IT HAS TAKEN THE PEOPLE IN THE REGION TOTALLY OFFGUARD: THE FACT THAT AMERICANS CARE; THE FACT THAT OTHERS IN THE WORLD CARE AND HAVE LOOKED AT THIS AS A SYMBOL OF HUMAN PLIGHT AND HUMAN VULNERABILITY. I WILL TELL YOU THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES LOOKED SENSATIONAL IN RESPONSE TO THIS TRAGEDY. THE ADMIRAL IN CHARGE TOLD ME HIS SINGLE INSTRUCTION, THIS IS ADMIRAL CROWDER, TO HIS TROOPS WAS TO "DO GOOD." I THINK THAT'S ONE OF THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY COMMANDS EVER GIVEN A GROUP OF SAILORS AND MARINES. SO HAS THE RESPONSE OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. WE SOMETIMES FORGET WE'RE A SOCIETY WHICH GOVERNMENT IS A PART. AND AMERICAN SOCIETY HAS RESPONDED THROUGH FAITH-BASED INSTITUTIONS, THROUGH NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS IN PHENOMENAL WAYS. WE HAVE AVOIDED, IT LOOKS LIKE WITH EACH PASSING DAY, THE GREAT FEAR, WHICH IS THAT TWO OR THREE TIMES AS MANY PEOPLE WOULD BE KILLED BY DISEASE BECAUSE OF THE ASSISTANCE, PARTICULARLY CLEAN WATER IN INDONESIA, VIRTUALLY EXCLUSIVELY BROUGHT FROM THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN BY HELICOPTER, BY MARINES. I WOULD ONLY STRESS TWO THINGS, PEOPLE IN THE REGION ARE SAYING IF YOU CAN DEAL WITH A NATURE-MADE DISASTER IN THIS KIND OF WAY, MAYBE YOU CAN DEAL WITH MAN-MADE DISASTERS IN THIS KIND OF WAY, MEANING WAR AND PEACE. IN TWO OF THE COUNTRIES IN THE REGION, ONE INDONESIA , ONE SRI LANKA , THERE ARE HUGE CIVIL WARS ONGOING. AND PEOPLE ARE SAYING MAYBE WE CAN BRING THESE TOGETHER, BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER. AND THEN THEY'RE SAYING IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, MAYBE PEOPLE OUGHT TO BE LOOKING AT THIS AS A MODEL FOR HOW YOU DEAL IN THE WORLD. FINALLY IN VERY -- BECAUSE YOU'RE SAYING LONG TERM, WE DO NEED A LOT MORE ASSISTANCE ON THE ISSUE OF EARLY WARNING.

Borg: CONGRESSMAN, I WANT TO SHIFT TO THE DOMESTIC AGENDA NOW, THAT I TALKED ABOUT AS I INTRODUCED YOU. JUST BRIEFLY, YOU KNOW THE SOCIAL SECURITY PROPOSAL, PRIVATE ACCOUNTS -- OR PERSONAL ACCOUNTS, I GUESS MORE CORRECTLY, AS THE PRESIDENT WOULD LIKE TO HAVE THEM CALLED NOW, ARE YOU IN FAVOR?

Leach: I'M OPEN MINDED BUT A LOT IS IN THE DETAIL. AND BASICALLY THERE'S SOME CLEAR TRUTHS. ONE TRUTH IS WE HAVE A PROBLEM ACTUARILLY. THE OTHER TRUTH IS IT'S SURPRISINGLY MANAGEABLE. THIS IS NOT AN UNMANAGEABLE SITUATION ON THE RETIREMENT SIDE. IT'S MORE DIFFICULT, FRANKLY, ON THE HEALTH CARE SIDE, MEDICARE. BUT ON THE RETIREMENT SIDE IT'S VERY MANAGEABLE, AND YOU CAN DO IT WITHIN THE CONSTRAINTS OF THE CURRENT PROGRAM, BY INCREASING TAXES OR BY INCREASING AGE IN WHICH ONE CAN QUALIFY. YOU CAN ALSO DO IT BY SOMETHING TO DO WITH INDIVIDUAL OR PERSONAL ACCOUNTS. NOW, ONE PROBLEM THAT I THINK IS A LITTLE GREATER THAN THE REST OF THE WORLD DOES, THIS KIND OF PROPOSAL IN THE MID '90S, THAT IS THE 1990S, TO ME WOULD HAVE BEEN A NO-BRAINER --

Borg: TO DO IT?

Leach: -- TO DO IT. TODAY WITH THESE HUGE DEFICITS, THE TIMING IS REALLY NOT PERFECT.

Glover: CONGRESSMAN --

Leach: AND WE WILL BE EXPANDING DEFICITS DRAMATICALLY AT A TIME OF RECORD DEFICITS --

Borg: AS WE SWITCH OVER.

Leach: -- AS WE SWITCH OVER. AND SO THE TRANSITION RISK TO MACROECONOMICS IS NOT SLIGHT. THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS MIGHT BE POSITIVE. BUT HOW YOU DO THE DETAILS MATTERS A LOT. AND I THOUGHT THE PRESIDENT WAS QUITE WISE WHEN HE MADE A COMMITMENT THAT ANYONE 55 AND OLDER WOULDN'T BE AFFECTED. AND FROM THAT, POSSIBLY YOU CAN DO SOME THINGS IN THE LONG TERM THAT, IF THEY'RE DONE JUST RIGHT, I'M OPEN TO. IF THEY'RE NOT, I WILL HAVE A LOT OF RESERVATIONS.

Glover: CONGRESSMAN, IT SEEMS AS THOUGH THE APPROACH TO THIS SOCIAL SECURITY PROBLEM IS BASED ON AN INDIVIDUAL PERCEPTION OF IS THERE A CRISIS IN SOCIAL SECURITY OR IS THERE A PROBLEM IN SOCIAL SECURITY THAT NEEDS TO BE SOLVED. WHAT'S YOUR VIEW?

Leach: MY VIEW IS THE SECOND. I DON'T VIEW A CRISIS. I DO VIEW A PROBLEM. ALTHOUGH ONE MIGHT APPLY THE WORD "CRISIS" TO MEDICARE MORE THAN TO THE ISSUE OF RETIREMENT INCOME. AND SOMEWHAT SURPRISINGLY, SOMETIMES OVER TIME THINGS GET A LOT WORSE. THIS IS A PROGRAM THAT ACTUARILLY HAS LOOKED STRONGER TODAY VERSUS THREE OR FOUR YEARS AGO.

Glover: IF YOU TALK TO GOVERNORS, YOU'LL HEAR TERMS LIKE MEDICARE AND MEDICAID AS THE THINGS THAT THEY'RE REALLY WORRIED ABOUT.

Leach: YES, THEY SHOULD BE.

Glover: WHY AREN'T WE HEARING THAT FROM THE ADMINISTRATION? ALL WE'RE HEARING FROM THE ADMINISTRATION IS SOCIAL SECURITY.

Leach: PARTLY BECAUSE MEDICARE AND MEDICAID ARE SO DIFFICULT TO DEAL WITH. AND SURPRISINGLY THIS IS A MUCH MORE MANAGEABLE PROBLEM AND CONCEPTUALLY CAN BE DONE MORE READILY. AND SO WHAT'S REALLY HAPPENING IS THEY'RE DEALING WITH THE EASY PART OF SOCIAL SECURITY FIRST.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, WE'VE CRITIQUED SOME OF THESE IDEAS THAT ARE ON THE TABLE IN THIS SOCIAL SECURITY DEBATE. WHAT THOUGHTS DO YOU HAVE ABOUT WHAT OUGHT TO BE DONE TO TWEAK, ADJUST, CHANGE, TO MANAGE THE SOCIAL SECURITY PROBLEM?

Leach: WELL, YOU CAN TAKE TWO APPROACHES. YOU HAVE A DUEL SET OF OPTIONS, AND ONE IS TO KEEP THE CURRENT PROGRAM TYPE IN PLACE AND SIMPLY EXTEND THE AGE BY WHICH ONE CAN QUALIFY OR LOWER BENEFITS SLIGHTLY OR INCREASE TAXES SLIGHTLY, AND THOSE ARE THE THREE OPTIONS YOU HAVE IN THE CURRENT SYSTEM. THE OTHER SET OF OPTIONS IS TO CHANGE THE PARAMETER. CHANGING THE PARAMETER, IN TERMS OF GOING TO INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS, IS PROBABLY LONG-TERM MORE RATIONAL FOR THE SYSTEM BUT IN THE SHORT TERM COULD CAUSE QUITE A WRENCH IN TERMS OF DEFICITS AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL.

Yepsen: WHAT'S THE POLITICS OF THIS, CONGRESSMAN? A LOT OF DEMOCRATS ARE SAYING THIS IS GOING TO REALLY HURT REPUBLICANS. DO YOU SEE THAT? IN THE COMING -- IN NEXT YEAR'S CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS, WILL REPUBLICANS TAKE A HIT FOR FIDDLING AROUND WITH THE THIRD RAIL OF POLITICS?

Leach: I DON'T KNOW. I MEAN HISTORICALLY SOCIAL SECURITY IS THE ISSUE OF ALL THAT CAN BE DEMAGOGUED AND EXAGGERATED, AND SO THAT'S ALWAYS A LITTLE BIT ON THE DOWN SIDE FOR THE PARTY THAT SUGGESTS THE ISSUE. BUT IF YOU TAKE THE ALTERNATIVE OF PUTTING YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND, WHICH IS ON THE TABLE BY A LOT OF PEOPLE IN POLITICS, THAT COULD BE THE MOST IRRATIONAL POSITION OF ALL.

Glover: YOU'VE SUGGESTED -- YOU'VE MENTIONED DEFICITS BEFORE. THERE ARE THOSE IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY WHO SAY, OH, WE'VE GOT DEFICITS, BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT THEIR COMPARISONS TO THE OVERALL GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT, THEY'RE NOT THAT BIG, THEY'RE NOT THAT MUCH OF A PROBLEM. WHAT'S YOUR VIEW? ARE THE DEFICITS A PROBLEM?

Leach: THEY ARE A VERY SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM. AND IT IS TRUE THAT THERE WAS ONE YEAR IN THE REAGAN ERA THAT, AS A PERCENTAGE OF GNP, THE DEFICIT WAS A LITTLE BIT HARDER. BUT THESE ARE VERY DIFFICULT DEFICITS, PARTICULARLY AS THEY LOOK LIKE THEY'RE BECOMING ENDEMIC. THE CONGRESS HAS AN OBLIGATION TO TRY TO SHORTEN THESE DEFICIT NUMBERS. AND THAT'S WHY THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN DO THE SOCIAL SECURITY FIX THAT'S BEING SUGGESTED BY THE ADMINISTRATION IS ALSO TO SUGGEST THAT THERE IS ANOTHER WAY OF ACCOUNTING. AND IF YOU DO ANOTHER WAY OF ACCOUNTING, THEN YOU RAISE THE QUESTION OF WHETHER PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WILL THINK THIS IS DISGUISING THE TRUE NATURE OF THE FEDERAL BUDGET. AND WE ARE AT A RISK TODAY THAT PEOPLE WILL LOSE CONFIDENCE IN THE AMERICAN ECONOMY, IN THE AMERICAN GOVERNANCE, AND IN THE AMERICAN DOLLAR. AND THAT WOULD NOT BE IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE UNITED STATES.

Yepsen: WE'VE ONLY GOT A FEW MINUTES LEFT, BUT EXPLORE THAT. WHAT IS YOUR VIEW OF THE NATION'S ECONOMY? THE TRADE DEFICIT PROBLEMS; OIL PRICES ARE UP; WE'VE GOT THIS DEFICIT ISSUE. ARE YOU AN OPTIMIST OR ARE YOU A PESSIMIST?

Leach: WELL, IN TERMS OF THE UNDERLYING STRENGTH OF THE AMERICAN ECONOMY, THERE ARE A LOT OF REASONS TO BE UPBEAT. IN TERMS OF THE INNER RELATIONS OF GOVERNANCE WITH THE PRIVATE SECTOR, THERE ARE A LOT OF REASONS TO BE VERY, VERY SKEPTICAL. AND THIS COMBINATION OF THE FISCAL DEFICIT WITH THE TRADE DEFICIT IS OF REMARKABLE DIMENSIONS. AND AT SOME POINT IT CAUSES A REALIGNMENT OF FORCES IN THE WORLD. AND AT SOME POINT, THOSE FORCES MAY DIMINISH THE STATURE OF THE UNITED STATES ITSELF.

Glover: CONGRESSMAN, IF WE COULD SWITCH GEARS TO GO TO POLITICS FOR A SECOND. IT WOULDN'T BE AN OFFICIAL " IOWA PRESS" SHOW IF WE DIDN'T TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT POLITICS. WHAT'S YOUR FUTURE? THERE ARE THOSE WHO SUGGEST THAT YOU'VE BEEN IN CONGRESS FOR 29 YEARS, YOU'RE A MODERATE. THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY YOU'RE OUT OF STEP WITH YOUR CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP, UNLIKELY TO BE A MAJOR PLAYER IN CONGRESS. HOW LONG DO YOU PLAN TO REMAIN THERE?

Leach: WELL, I NEVER PROJECT BEYOND SERVICE THROUGH A TERM. IF YOU SAY AM I OUT OF STEP, I PROBABLY AM WITH THE CONGRESSIONAL KIND OF REPUBLICAN PARTY THAT WE HAVE. BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES, BY THE WAY, HAVE ANALOG CIRCUMSTANCES. THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY WITHIN THE CONGRESS IS SUBSTANTIALLY MORE LIBERAL THAN THE AVERAGE DEMOCRAT. THE REPUBLICAN PARTY WITHIN THE CONGRESS IS SUBSTANTIALLY MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN THE AVERAGE REPUBLICAN IN THE COUNTRY. AND THE GREAT UNDERREPRESENTED GROUP IN AMERICAN POLITICS IS CLEARLY THE CENTER RIGHT, CENTER LEFT, THE GREAT MIDDLE OF AMERICAN AFFAIRS. NOW, IN TERMS OF BEING EFFECTIVE IN CONGRESS, I WOULD BE VERY CAUTIOUS ABOUT SUGGESTING THAT ANYONE DOES NOT PLAY A ROLE. AND I WILL -- I AM VERY COMFORTABLE THAT I'VE PLAYED A GIVEN KIND OF ROLE THAT --

Glover: LET'S BE VERY CONCRETE ABOUT IT. ARE YOU GOING TO RUN AGAIN?

Leach: ONLY IN IOWA DO PEOPLE PRESS THIS KIND OF QUESTION SIXTEEN YEARS IN ADVANTAGE OF AN ELECTION. THIS IS A VERY INAPPROPRIATE TIME TO TALK ABOUT RUNNING FOR REELECTION TWO YEARS HENCE. IN FACT, AS A MATTER OF FACT, I HAVEN'T EVEN ANNOUNCED FOR ELECTION IN MY LAST DOZEN ELECTIONS.

Yepsen: ONLY IN IOWA --

Leach: I HAVE NO INTENT ONE WAY OR THE OTHER.

Yepsen: WE HAVE A MINUTE LEFT. ONLY IN IOWA DO WE TALK PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS THIS FAR OUT.

Leach: YES.

Yepsen: THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION FOR PRESIDENT IN 2008 DOES START HERE.

Leach: YES, IT DOES.

Yepsen: ANY FAVORITES?

Leach: LET ME JUST STRESS THAT BOTH PARTIES ARE GOING TO HAVE A VERY FUN CIRCUMSTANCE IN 2008 BECAUSE IT'S AN OPEN SITUATION. I EXPECT A DOZEN REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES. I EXPECT A DOZEN DEMOCRATIC -- I'M CONFIDENT THAT THERE WILL BE A MIX THAT IS GOING TO BE QUITE GOOD.

Glover: WHO DO YOU SEE RUNNING ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE?

Leach: WELL, I THINK THAT THERE COULD BE A LARGE NUMBER. IT COULD BE FROM THE SENATE. YOU HAVE JOHN MCCAIN. YOU MIGHT SEE TWO NEW YORKERS: GOVERNOR PATAKI; YOU MIGHT SEE MAYOR GIULIANI. YOU'VE GOT SENATOR BILL FRIST. THERE ARE -- YOU MIGHT SEE JOHN ASHCROFT, WHO IS NOW THE FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL AS OF YESTERDAY. YOU COULD SEE A LARGE NUMBER OF CANDIDATES REPRESENTING DIFFERENT SPECTRUMS OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

Borg: CONGRESSMAN --

Leach: YES.

Borg: THERE MAY BE SOME THINGS THAT ARE ONLY IN IOWA, BUT TIME IS UNIVERSAL AND WE'RE OUT OF IT.

Leach: THANK YOU, DEAN.

Borg: THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US.

Leach: THANK YOU.

Borg: ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS," WE'LL TALK WITH ANOTHER OF IOWA 'S DELEGATION IN CONGRESS. SENATOR TOM HARKIN WILL BE HERE WITH THE DEMOCRATIC PERSPECTIVE ON THE ISSUES FACING THE 109TH UNITED STATES CONGRESS. SENATOR HARKIN NEXT WEEK, THE USUAL " IOWA PRESS" TIME: 7:30 FRIDAY; SUNDAY AT NOON . I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

 

CAPTIONS BY: MIDWEST CAPTIONING: DES MOINES , IOWA. FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION… FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.


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