Iowa Public Television

 

Senator Tom Harkin

posted on July 6, 2006

Borg: LEGITIMATE DISSENT OR OBSTRUCTIVE POLITICS? WITH A NATION AT WAR, OUT-OF-POWER CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS WALK A FINE LINE IN DEFINING ISSUES WITHOUT BEING PERCEIVED AS COMPROMISING NATIONAL SECURITY. PERSPECTIVE FROM IOWA DEMOCRATIC SENATOR TOM HARKIN ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' 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. ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, JUNE 30 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS IS AT THE CENTER OF MAJOR ISSUES CONFRONTING THE NATION AND, IN SOME CASES, THE WORLD. AND CONGRESS IS SHARPLY DIVIDED, USUALLY BUT NOT ALWAYS, ALONG PARTY LINES. WITH NOVEMBER ELECTIONS AND POSSIBLE CONTROL OF CONGRESS JUST MONTHS AWAY, VOTES ON HOT-BUTTON ISSUES ARE CLOSELY WATCHED. FIRST AND FOREMOST, THERE'S CHARTING A COURSE FOR U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ. AND LATE THIS WEEK A SUPREME COURT DECISION THAT COULD PROMPT CONGRESSIONAL ACTION TO DEAL WITH MILITARY TRIBUNALS FOR PRISONERS BEING HELD AS TERROR SUSPECTS. ADD TO THAT THE VEXING IMMIGRATION ISSUE, IRAN'S NUCLEAR AMBITIONS, HOW TO MANAGE THE NATION'S THIRST FOR ENERGY, AND IT SEEMS THAT OTHER MAJOR ISSUES, SUCH AS TAX POLICY AND MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY, FALL TO SECOND-TIER PRIORITIES. WE'RE SEEKING PERSPECTIVE TODAY FROM IOWA'S DEMOCRATIC SENATOR TOM HARKIN. HE'S IN HIS 32ND YEAR REPRESENTING IOWA IN CONGRESS. THAT'S FIVE TWO-YEAR TERMS IN THE HOUSE, AND HE'S NOW IN HIS FOURTH SIX-YEAR TERM IN THE SENATE. SENATOR HARKIN, GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK AT THE 'IOWA PRESS' TABLE.

Harkin: ALWAYS NICE TO BE HERE, DEAN.

Borg: THANK YOU. ALSO WITH US: 'DES MOINES REGISTER' POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND 'ASSOCIATED PRESS' SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: SENATOR, ONE OF THE ISSUES THAT DEAN MENTIONED IN HIS INTRODUCTION WAS IRAQ. DEMOCRATS SEEM TO BE DIVIDED OVER IRAQ. GIVE US YOUR PRESCRIPTION. REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE PRESIDENT WAS WRONG OR RIGHT TO GO THERE, WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO GET THE COUNTRY OUT?

Harkin: WELL, FIRST, MIKE, I MIGHT TAKE A LITTLE EXCEPTION TO THE FACT THAT DEMOCRATS ARE DIVIDED. I THINK DEMOCRATS ARE QUITE UNITED ON IRAQ. WE'RE UNITED ON THE FACT THAT IT IS -- IT HAD -- WE WERE MISLED INTO THE WAR. IT HAS BEEN MISGUIDED AND MISLED FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN FOCUSING ON AFGHANISTAN AND OSAMA BIN LADEN RATHER THAN PULLING OUR STUFF OUT AND PUTTING IT IN IRAQ. SO WE'RE UNITED ON THAT. WE ARE UNITED ON THE FACT THAT WE HAVE TO SUPPORT OUR TROOPS AND THAT WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR TROOPS HAVE THE BEST BODY ARMOR AND SUPPORT POSSIBLE. WE ARE ALSO UNITED ON THE FACT THAT WE NEED AN EXIT PLAN AND WE NEED TO GET OUT OF THERE. NOW, THERE MAY BE SOME DIVISIONS AMONG DEMOCRATS AS TO EXACTLY WHAT THE TIMING IS, BUT THERE IS NO DIVISION ON THE FACT THAT WE NEED TO ANNOUNCE A PLAN LIKE GENERAL CASEY HAS PUT FORWARD. WE'VE GOT TO START GETTING OUR TROOPS OUT AND TO LET THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT KNOW THAT WE'RE GOING. I'M ON A RESOLUTION IN THE SENATE, LIKE ONE THAT'S IN THE HOUSE, THAT SAYS: NUMBER ONE, WE WILL NOT KEEP PERMANENT BASES IN IRAQ; NUMBER TWO, WE WILL NOT CONTROL IRAQI OIL; AND THIRD, WE'RE GOING TO GET OUT OF THERE. EVEN THE SECURITY -- NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, IRAQI, AL-RUBAIE IS HIS NAME, SAID LAST WEEK -- IN FACT IT WAS AN OP-ED PIECE IN THE WASHINGTON POST, IN WHICH HE SAID THAT THE LONGER WE STAY, THE MORE WE ARE LOOKED UPON AS OCCUPIERS, NOT LIBERATORS.

Glover: AND GIVEN THIS PAST WEEK'S SUPREME COURT DECISION, IS IT TIME TO CLOSE GUANTANAMO BAY? WHAT DO WE -- HOW DO WE GET OUT OF CUBA?

Harkin: WELL, I'VE SAID FOR A LONG TIME WE NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAD GUANTANAMO BAY THE WAY IT WAS, AND WE SHOULD CLOSE IT DOWN. AFTER ALL, YOU'RE TALKING TO THE PERSON THAT DISCOVERED THE TIGER CAGES ON CON SON ISLAND IN 1969, AND I THOUGHT WE LEARNED OUR LESSON FROM THAT. OBVIOUSLY WE DIDN'T. GUANTANAMO, IT'S BEEN -- IT'S BEEN A MISTAKE FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, AND WE SHOULD CLOSE IT DOWN. AND THE PEOPLE THAT ARE THERE EITHER OUGHT TO BE HERE IN THE UNITED STATES OR HELD IN OTHER COUNTRIES. I'M NOT SAYING THAT THEY SHOULDN'T BE TRIED UNDER SOME COURT. THEY SHOULD BE TRIED. IF WE'RE GOING TO BE HOLDING THEM IN CIVILIAN PRISONS, THEY OUGHT TO BE TRIED UNDER THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Yepsen: SENATOR, GIVEN WHAT THE SUPREME COURT SAID LAST WEEK IN SLAPPING DOWN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION, SHOULD CONGRESS NOW AUTHORIZE THE USE OF MILITARY TRIBUNALS? THE COURT --

Harkin: NO.

Yepsen: WHY NOT?

Harkin: BECAUSE I THINK THIS IS A SITUATION WHERE THESE WERE -- AND MOST CASES -- AND I'M NOT SAYING EVERY CASE. IF YOU HAVE A CASE WHERE SOMEONE WAS AN ACTUAL COMBATANT AND A PRISONER OF WAR, THAT'S FOR A MILITARY TRIBUNAL. BUT IF YOU HAVE SOMEONE WHO WAS ROUNDED UP BECAUSE THEY WERE MARRIED TO OR THEY WERE THE COUSIN OF THE BROTHER-IN-LAW OF SOMEBODY ELSE AND WHO WAS FINGERED BY SOMEONE ELSE AS BEING A POSSIBLE SUSPECT, THAT'S NOT A CASE FOR A MILITARY TRIBUNAL. THAT IS A CASE FOR SOME CIVILIAN COURT.

Yepsen: SENATOR, I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT TWO OTHER COMPONENTS OF THE AXIS OF EVIL: IRAN AND NORTH KOREA. TWO-PART QUESTION; WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT EACH OF THEM?

Harkin: AGAIN, THIS IS -- THIS IS SORT OF THE BITTER FRUIT OF BUSH'S MISMANAGEMENT OF OUR FOREIGN AFFAIRS FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. AND I DON'T WANT TO JUST SINGLE OUT BUSH. I MEAN CHENEY ALSO -- VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY. BECAUSE OF OUR SINGULAR FOCUS ON IRAQ, BECAUSE OF ALL OF THE MONEY THAT WE POURED IN, THE LOSS OF OUR OWN LIVES AND SO MANY INJURED, WE'VE JUST FOCUSED ON IRAQ AND WE'VE FORGOTTEN ABOUT IRAN. WE'VE FORGOT ABOUT NORTH KOREA. WE TOOK OUR EYE OFF THE BALL, AND WE ARE NOW, AS I SAID, REAPING THIS BITTER FRUIT OF THIS.

Yepsen: SO WHAT DO WE DO? I MEAN WILLIAM PERRY, WHO WAS PRESIDENT CLINTON'S DEFENSE SECRETARY, SAID WE OUGHT TO TAKE OUT THAT MISSILE SITTING ON THE GROUND. DO YOU FAVOR THAT?

Harkin: NO. I THINK MR. PERRY -- I THINK MOST PEOPLE HAVE SAID THAT WOULD BE THE WRONG COURSE OF ACTION TO TAKE RIGHT NOW. I GUESS PERHAPS -- DAVID, I -- PERHAPS THE SIMPLEST ANSWER AT TO WHAT WE SHOULD DO, TOO BAD WE DON'T HAVE ANOTHER PRESIDENT. IF WE COULD HAVE A REDISTRICTING LIKE TOM DELAY DID IN TEXAS, YOU KNOW, MAYBE WE'D HAVE A DIFFERENT PRESIDENT. BUT I DON'T MEAN TO BE GLIB ABOUT IT. WHAT DO WE DO? ONE, WE NEED TO REENGAGE NORTH KOREA IN THE SIX-PARTY TALKS AND TO ENGAGE THEM FRONTALLY AND QUIT TRYING TO TREAT NORTH KOREA AS AN IRRITANT. THEY ARE A GOVERNMENT. WE MAY NOT LIKE THEM. THEY'RE A BAD GOVERNMENT. THEY'VE GOT A -- WELL, I BETTER COUCH MY WORDS CAREFULLY. THEY'VE GOT A PERSON RUNNING THE COUNTRY THAT IS DIFFERENT. BUT WE HAVE TO RECOGNIZE THAT, AND WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT. IN IRAN, WE HAVE MISSED OPPORTUNITY AFTER OPPORTUNITY WITH IRAN. IN AFGHANISTAN, FOR EXAMPLE, AFTER 9/11, THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT BASICALLY MADE OVERTURES TO US TO HELP US IN GOING AFTER OSAMA BIN LADEN. WE'VE TURNED THOSE DOWN. THE IRANIANS WANT TO BUILD A NATURAL GAS PIPELINE THROUGH PAKISTAN AND INTO INDIA. WE ARE STOPPING THEM FROM DOING THAT. I MEAN EVERY TIME WE TURN AROUND, WE'RE DOING SOMETHING THAT PUSHES IRAN FURTHER AND FURTHER AND FURTHER INTO THE CORNER. THAT IS NOT A LEGITIMATE WAY TO PROCEED WITH EITHER ONE OF THOSE COUNTRIES.

Borg: THIS PAST WEEK, BY ONE VOTE, THE SENATE DECIDED NOT TO SEND TO THE STATES A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROTECTING THE FLAG AGAINST DESECRATION. HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN TO IOWANS YOUR VOTE ON THAT?

Harkin: WELL, DEAN, I -- IT'S INTERESTING. THE FIRST TIME THIS CAME UP WAS IN JUNE OF 1990. IT ALWAYS COMES UP RIGHT BEFORE THE FOURTH OF JULY, DON'T YOU KNOW. AND FIRST OF ALL, THAT MAKES YOU SUSPECT AS TO WHAT THE REAL MOTIVES ARE. SO I VOTED -- I VOTED AGAINST THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IN 1990. IOWANS REELECTED ME THEN AND HAVE REELECTED ME TWICE. AND EVERY TIME THAT THIS ISSUE HAS COME UP, I HAVE VOTED AGAINST AMENDING THE BILL OF RIGHTS. WE HAVE NEVER AMENDED THE BILL OF RIGHTS IN OUR HISTORY.

Borg: IT'S NOT IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO -- AN ISSUE TO AMEND THE BILL OF RIGHTS?

Harkin: NOT TO AMEND THE BILL OF RIGHTS. IT'S AN IMPORTANT ENOUGH ISSUE TO HIGHLIGHT AND TO HAVE SANCTIONS, PERHAPS IT COULD BE LEGAL OR OTHERWISE, AGAINST PEOPLE WHO DESECRATE THE FLAG, BUT NOT IN TERMS OF AMENDING THE BILL THE RIGHTS OF THE CONSTITUTION. YOU KNOW, WE ALL LOVE THE FLAG. IT IS SOMETHING VERY DEAR AND PRECIOUS TO US, ESPECIALLY THOSE OF US WHO SERVED IN THE MILITARY. BUT WE HAVE TO REMEMBER, THE FLAG IS A SYMBOL. IT IS A SYMBOL OF AMERICA. IT'S A SYMBOL OF OUR CONSTITUTION, OUR BILL OF RIGHTS, OUR FOUNDING DOCUMENTS. THOSE WHO BURN THE FLAG DESERVE OUR UTMOST CONTEMPT. BUT NONETHELESS, THOSE WHO DO THAT TO THE FLAG IN A NONVIOLENT WAY -- I'M SAYING, NOW, IF YOU BURN IT AND YOU'RE VIOLENT AND STUFF, THEN YOU'RE SUBJECT TO THE LAWS OF THE LOCAL STATE OR WHATEVER IN TERMS OF CRIMINAL LAWS. BUT THOSE WHO DO THAT ARE EXPRESSING DISAPPROVAL OF SOMETHING. I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT MAY BE. IT MAY BE -- I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS. THE COURT -- THE SUPREME COURT HAS SAID IN THE PAST THAT IS CONSONANT WITH FREE SPEECH. AND I DO NOT BELIEVE AND NEVER HAVE BELIEVED THAT WE NEED TO AMEND THE BILL OF RIGHTS TO COVER THAT. IT WOULD BE DIFFERENT IF EVERYONE WAS DOING IT, BUT I THINK THE COUNT IS SOMETHING LIKE SEVEN FLAG DESECRATIONS IN THE LAST SEVEN YEARS. IT'S HARDLY SOMETHING THAT IS RAMPANT IN THE UNITED STATES.

Glover: SENATOR, WE'VE TALKED ABOUT A COUPLE OF ISSUES. THERE'S A WAR IN IRAQ. THERE'S A PROBLEM WITH NORTH KOREA. THERE'S A PROBLEM WITH IRAN. THERE'S ALL KINDS OF SOCIAL ISSUES DOMESTICALLY. WE'VE GOT A SOARING BUDGET DEFICIT, AND CONGRESS IS DEBATING GAY RIGHTS AND FLAG BURNING. EXPLAIN THAT.

Harkin: I CAN ONLY EXPLAIN IT BECAUSE THOSE WHO ARE IN CHARGE, THE REPUBLICANS, WANT TO DO IT. THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO BRING UP THESE ISSUES, AND THEY WANT TO BRING IT UP. I MEAN I HAVE SAID TIME AND TIME AGAIN ON THE SENATE FLOOR, WHY AREN'T WE DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THESE OTHER ISSUES OF HEALTH CARE? MINIMUM WAGE -- WE'VE BEEN TRYING FOR A LONG TIME JUST TO GET A GOOD VOTE ON THE MINIMUM WAGE.

Yepsen: ISN'T THAT A WEDGE ISSUE ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE?

Harkin: I DON'T BELIEVE SO. A WEDGE ISSUE, MINIMUM WAGE?

Yepsen: A DIVISIVE ISSUE --

Harkin: WHY IS THAT -- I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THIS --

Yepsen: -- THAT'S DESIGNED TO MAKE REPUBLICANS TAKE A -- I MEAN THEY SAY DEMOCRATS ARE PLAYING THE SAME GAME YOU ACCUSE THE REPUBLICANS OF.

Harkin: BUT WE CAN'T BRING ANYTHING UP. WE DON'T HAVE THE POWER. THEY BRING THINGS UP AND THEY'RE THE ONES WHO BRING UP THE GAY MARRIAGE AND FLAG BURNING AND ALL THAT OTHER KIND OF STUFF.

Glover: SO THIS WEDGE ISSUE IS BEING BROUGHT UP FOR USE IN NOVEMBER?

Harkin: OH, NO DOUBT ABOUT IT.

Yepsen: LET ME ASK YOU --

Harkin: I HAVE NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT'S WHY THEY'RE BEING BROUGHT UP. THESE ARE WEDGE ISSUES TO BE USED IN THE ELECTION.

Yepsen: SENATOR, LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT A HOT ISSUE BUT NEVERTHELESS IN AN IMPORTANT ONE. THAT'S IMMIGRATION. HOW IS THAT GOING TO ALL SORT ITSELF OUT? THE SENATE HAS PASSED A BILL. THE HOUSE DOESN'T SEEM TO LIKE IT. PUT YOUR PROGNOSTICATING HAT ON AND TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN WITH THAT ISSUE.

Harkin: WELL, THIS MAY SHOCK SOME OF YOU BUT THIS IS ONE PLACE WHERE I AGREE WITH PRESIDENT BUSH. HE SUPPORTED THE INITIAL SENATE BILL THAT CAME OUT OF OUR COMMITTEE ON A BIG VOTE, BIPARTISAN VOTE. IT DID THREE THINGS: IT MADE OUR BORDERS MORE SECURE; IT PUT MORE SANCTIONS ON EMPLOYERS; AND IT PROVIDED AN EARNED WAY TO BECOME CITIZENS OVER, I THINK, A THIRTEEN-YEAR PERIOD OF TIME, WHERE YOU EARN YOUR CITIZENSHIP BY PAYING FINES AND THAT KIND OF THING. I FELT THAT WAS THE RIGHT WAY TO GO. BUT THEN OTHERS I THINK WANTED TO MAKE THIS AN ISSUE IN THE ELECTION. THEY WANT TO MAKE THIS A WEDGE ISSUE. THEY WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT IN THE ELECTION. THEY WANT TO INFLAME PASSIONS ON THIS ISSUE. I DON'T THINK ANYTHING WILL HAPPEN THIS YEAR ON IT BECAUSE I THINK THERE ARE THOSE WHO WANT TO USE IT AS A CAMPAIGN ISSUE. SO I THINK WE'VE KICKED THE BALL DOWN THE FIELD, AND I THINK WE'LL PROBABLY DEAL WITH IMMIGRATION NEXT YEAR OR THE YEAR AFTER.

Glover: YOU'VE MENTIONED THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS, AND IT WOULDN'T BE AN OFFICIAL 'IOWA PRESS' SHOW IF WE DIDN'T SPEND A LITTLE TIME TALKING ABOUT POLITICS, SO LET'S GO RIGHT TO THAT ELECTION. THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM STARTING THIS YEAR OFF WAS THIS WAS GOING TO BE A PRETTY GOOD YEAR FOR DEMOCRATS. IT'S THE MID TERM OF THE SECOND TERM OF A PRESIDENT, A PRESIDENT WHO STARTED A WAR THAT POLLS SHOW AREN'T VERY POPULAR AND WHOSE APPROVAL RATINGS ARE DOWN. TELL ME WHAT KIND OF A YEAR THIS IS GOING TO BE.

Harkin: WELL, I THINK THERE'S A WAVE COMING. I THINK IT'S A WAVE THAT'S GOING TO BENEFIT DEMOCRATS, AND IT'S BUILT UPON WHAT I CALL THE MIDDLE CLASS MISERY INDEX. THE MIDDLE CLASS MISERY INDEX. THINK ABOUT IT. SINCE GEORGE BUSH BECAME PRESIDENT AND REPUBLICANS CONTROL THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE IN WASHINGTON, SINCE THAT TIME HEALTH CARE PREMIUMS HAVE GONE UP 71 PERCENT. TRANSPORTATION FUEL COSTS FOR THE AVERAGE FAMILY HAS GONE UP -- I'LL CHECK MY NOTES -- 68 PERCENT. HOME HEATING COSTS HAVE GONE UP 62 PERCENT. COLLEGE TUITION HAS GONE UP 57 PERCENT. YET DURING THAT SAME PERIOD OF TIME, PRODUCTIVITY HAS GONE UP 16 PERCENT. YET MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME HAS GONE DOWN EVERY SINGLE YEAR THAT BUSH HAS BEEN IN OFFICE, FROM 46,000 NOW DOWN TO 44,000. NOW, THE AVERAGE AMERICAN -- THE AVERAGE IOWAN OUT THERE CAN'T TELL YOU THOSE FIGURES, BUT THEY FEEL IT. AND WHAT THEY'RE FEELING IS THEY'RE WORKING HARDER, THEY'RE PRODUCING MORE -- THE FIGURES SHOW THAT -- EVERYTHING THEY PAY FOR HAS GONE UP, AND THEY'RE FALLING BEHIND. THAT'S WHAT'S HAPPENING IN AMERICA TODAY.

Glover: ARE DEMOCRATS DOING ENOUGH TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS OPPORTUNITY THEY'VE GOTTEN? I HAVEN'T HEARD A LOT OF DEMOCRATS GIVE THE SPEECH YOU JUST GAVE.

Harkin: WELL, THEY BETTER START GIVING IT. THEY BETTER START GIVING THAT SPEECH, AND THEY BETTER START TALKING ABOUT THREE THINGS THAT ARE GOING TO BE VITALLY IMPORTANT IN THIS ELECTION YEAR. IN AN OFF-YEAR ELECTION YEAR, WE KNOW PEOPLE TEND NOT TO VOTE, VOTING TURNOUT GOES DOWN. BUT WHO ALWAYS VOTES IN OFF-YEAR ELECTIONS? ELDERLY AND THE NEAR ELDERLY. SO WHAT HAVE WE GOT? HERE WE'VE GOT A PRESIDENT THAT TRIED TO PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY. WE HAVE THE REPUBLICAN CHAIR OF THAT SUBCOMMITTEE, WHO WILL BE THE CHAIR OF THAT COMMITTEE IN THE HOUSE NEXT TIME IF THE REPUBLICANS RETAIN CONTROL, SAID JUST A COUPLE WEEKS AGO THAT WILL BE ONE OF THEIR FIRST ISSUES NEXT YEAR, PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY. THE BUDGET CHAIR ON THE SENATE SIDE JUST PUSHED THROUGH -- WE DON'T HAVE IT ON THE FLOOR YET BUT PUSHED OUT OF COMMITTEE -- A BUDGET PROCESS THAT WILL ALLOW THEM TO TAKE AND PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY AND CUT DOWN ON SOCIAL SECURITY WITH 51 VOTES. WE WILL NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO FILIBUSTER. EVERYTHING POINTS TO THE FACT THAT IF PRESIDENT BUSH IS STILL THERE, WHICH HE WILL BE, OF COURSE, AND THE REPUBLICANS CONTROL THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE, THEY'RE GOING TO PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY. SECONDLY, PENSIONS. PEOPLE'S PENSIONS ARE BEING TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM. READ THE 'WALL STREET JOURNAL' OF LAST WEEK. JUST READ THAT FRONT PAGE TO THE 'WALL STREET JOURNAL.' AVERAGE AMERICANS ARE HAVING THEIR PENSIONS YANKED AWAY FROM THEM. THE THIRD THING, DAVID, IS PART D -- MEDICARE PART D, WHICH I THINK STANDS FOR DEBACLE. MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO FALL INTO THAT DOUGHNUT HOLE. MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE PAYING MORE FOR THEIR DRUGS. AND I'M TELLING YOU, THOSE THREE ISSUES -- THOSE THREE ISSUES, I BELIEVE IF WE TAKE IT TO THE ELDERLY IN AMERICA, THEY ARE GOING TO MOVE OUR WAY.

Yepsen: SENATOR, I HAVE A POLITICAL QUESTION ABOUT YOU. YOU'RE UP IN 2008. YOUR TERM IS UP. WILL YOU SEEK REELECTION?

Harkin: WELL, I HAVEN'T MADE THAT DECISION YET. I DON'T KNOW. I'LL THINK ABOUT THAT AFTER THIS ELECTION, AND THEN I'LL BE IN MY CYCLE OF --

Yepsen: WHY WOULDN'T YOU RUN?

Harkin: HUH?

Borg: WHY WOULDN'T YOU? SAME QUESTION DAVE ASKED.

Harkin: WHY WOULDN'T I? WELL, BECAUSE I JUST DON'T KNOW RIGHT NOW. I HAVE A LOT OF THINGS TO THINK ABOUT, AND I'M GOING TO WAIT TILL THIS ELECTION IS OVER AND SEE HOW EVERYTHING GOES AND EVERYTHING. BUT I WILL SAY THIS, I'M DOING EVERYTHING NECESSARY TO PREPARE MYSELF FOR THAT. GOD HAS BEEN GOOD TO ME IN MY HEALTH. I'M HEALTHY AND I THANK GOD FOR THAT. AND SO FAR I LOVE MY JOB. I'VE ALWAYS LIKED MY JOB AND I STILL LIKE IT. I MIGHT LIKE IT BETTER IF I WAS IN THE MAJORITY, BUT I STILL LIKE IT.

Yepsen: SO NO DEMOCRAT SHOULD BE THINKING ABOUT RUNNING FOR THE U.S. SENATE IN 2008.

Harkin: OH, I DIDN'T SAY THAT.

Yepsen: WELL, I'M ASKING --

Harkin: I SAID I'LL MAKE MY DECISION AFTER THE ELECTION.

Yepsen: ALL RIGHT. LET'S TALK ABOUT THE 2006 ELECTION, THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR. SENATOR, IN 1998 YOU WORKED VERY HARD TO ELECT AN UNKNOWN STATE SENATOR TO THE GOVERNORSHIP. AND MOST OF US WHO WATCHED THAT PROCESS CONCLUDED THAT TOM VILSACK WOULD NOT BE GOVERNOR TODAY IF IT WEREN'T FOR THE WORK YOU DID EARLY ON TO RAISE MONEY AND TO HELP HIM GET ELECTED. I DON'T SEE YOU DOING A SIMILAR THING IN 2006; IS THAT CORRECT? ARE WE SEEING A KINDER, GENTLER HARKIN HERE THAT YOU'RE NOT WEIGHING INTO JIM NUSSLE THE SAME WAY YOU DID JIM LIGHTFOOT?

Harkin: NO. I'M GOING TO DO EVERYTHING I CAN TO HELP CHET CULVER. OF COURSE, THERE WAS A PRIMARY HERE, A BIG PRIMARY. AND I DID NOT WANT TO GET INVOLVED IN THAT PRIMARY AT ALL. THEY WERE ALL FRIENDS OF MINE. AND NOW THAT THE PRIMARY IS OVER, I AM GOING TO DO WHATEVER I CAN TO HELP CHET CULVER. I THINK CHET HAS GOT A GREAT RECORD, A TWENTY-YEAR TEACHER, COACH, SECRETARY OF STATE. HE'S PREPARED. I'VE LOOKED OVER HIS PLANS FOR WHAT HE'D DO AS GOVERNOR. HE'S GOT A GREAT PLAN FOR EDUCATION AND HEALTH CARE. AND ESPECIALLY WHAT I REALLY LIKE ABOUT CHET CULVER ARE HIS PLANS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY AND WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO IN IOWA FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY.

Yepsen: OKAY. BUT I DON'T SEE -- I DON'T SEE YOU GOING AFTER JIM NUSSLE THE SAME WAY YOU WENT AFTER JIM LIGHTFOOT. YOU GAVE TOM VILSACK A LOT OF AIR COVER IN ATTACKING JIM LIGHTFOOT IN THAT '98 CAMPAIGN.

Harkin: WELL, I DON'T KNOW. I DON'T REMEMBER ALL OF -- REMEMBER IT ALL THAT WELL -- THAT WAY, DAVID. I THINK I CAMPAIGNED HARD FOR TOM VILSACK. BY THE WAY, I'M DOING EVERYTHING I CAN TO PROMOTE HIM FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES TOO, BY THE WAY. I THINK THAT'S ANOTHER SLEEPER THING COMING ALONG. BUT, LOOK, I'M GOING TO POINT OUT FIRST OF ALL WHY I THINK CHET CULVER OUGHT TO BE GOVERNOR, BUT I WILL POINT OUT THE FACT THAT JIM NUSSLE -- AND I'M GOING TO MAKE IT CLEAR, I HAVE NO PERSONAL ANIMOSITY TOWARDS JIM NUSSLE. HE'S A GOOD GUY. I LIKE HIM. HE'S A FRIENDLY GUY. BUT HIS PHILOSOPHY -- HERE'S A PERSON WHO DECIDED THAT HE WAS GOING TO THE RUBBER STAMP FOR GEORGE BUSH. HE WAS GOING TO TAKE HIS POSITION AS CHAIRMAN OF A VERY POWERFUL BUDGET COMMITTEE. AFTER ALL, THAT'S WHERE IT ALL STARTS. JIM NUSSLE DECIDED HE WAS GOING TO BE A RUBBER STAMP FOR GEORGE BUSH RATHER THAN REFLECTING IOWA VALUES, RATHER THAN REFLECTING OUR VALUES. HIS -- HE TOOK THAT BUDGET AND DROVE US INTO DEBT. THAT'S NOT AN IOWA VALUE. HE TOOK THAT BUDGET AND PUT ROOM IN THERE FOR MORE AND MORE TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY. THAT'S NOT IOWA VALUES. HE USED THAT BUDGET TO MAKE CUTS IN EDUCATION AND HEALTH CARE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION PROGRAMS FOR AGRICULTURE. THOSE AREN'T IOWA VALUES. SO WHY WAS JIM NUSSLE DOING THAT? HE WAS DOING IT BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE ADMINISTRATION WANTED. WE DON'T NEED THAT LACK OF LEADERSHIP AS GOVERNOR OF IOWA.

Glover: SO MUCH FOR YOU NOT ATTACKING JIM NUSSLE. [ LAUGHTER ]

Harkin: YOU PUSHED ME UP TO IT. [ LAUGHTER ]

Glover: THERE ARE A COUPLE OF ISSUES RATTLING AROUND IOWA POLITICS THAT SOME PEOPLE SAY ARE GOING TO CAUSE A PROBLEM FOR DEMOCRATS. ONE IS A SCANDAL AT A CENTRAL IOWA JOB TRAINING AGENCY THAT'S INCLUDED A LOT OF PROMINENT LOCAL DEMOCRATS. THE OTHER IS THIS BATTLE THAT THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE A SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION FOR -- OVER EMINENT DOMAIN. ARE THOSE PROBLEMS FOR DEMOCRATS AND, IF SO, HOW DO YOU HANDLE THEM?

Harkin: WELL, I THINK FIRST, ON THE CIETC, THE CENTRAL IOWA TRAINING CONSORTIUM SCANDAL, I SAID AT THE OUTSET THAT IT WAS A VIOLATION OF PUBLIC TRUST. THOSE PEOPLE OUGHT TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE. I AM NOT COGNIZANT OF WHAT LAWS WERE BROKEN. IF THERE WERE, THEY SHOULD BE PUNISHED TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAWS. BUT I WANT TO POINT OUT THAT CIETC ITSELF, WHAT IT DOES IS IMPORTANT. I HAD A YOUNG MAN JUST WHEEL HIS WHEELCHAIR UP TO ME JUST ABOUT A WEEK AGO AS I WAS WALKING DOWN THE STREET. HE SAID, 'SENATOR HARKIN, SENATOR HARKIN,' AND I STOPPED. HE SAID, 'PLEASE DON'T LET THEM CLOSE DOWN CIETC.' HE SAID, 'THEY'RE RETRAINING ME FOR A NEW JOB, AND I NEED THAT.' SO I MEAN THE WORK THEY DO IS VALUABLE. NOW, WE NEED NEW LEADERSHIP. WE NEED NEW PEOPLE TO RUN IT AND WE NEED NEW ACCOUNTABILITY. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I DID ON THE NATIONAL LEVEL ON THIS WAS TO PUT A CAP ON SALARIES. SO I GOT AN AMENDMENT OFFERED AND ACCEPTED THAT CAPS SALARIES SO THEY CAN'T DO ANY OF THIS STUFF ANYMORE. SO AT LEAST I TOOK THAT STEP ON THE NATIONAL LEVEL.

Glover: THE OTHER ISSUE THAT'S COMING UP IS THERE WAS A BILL APPROVED BY THIS LEGISLATURE, RATHER OVERWHELMINGLY, THAT PUT NEW RESTRICTIONS ON THE ABILITY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO USE THEIR POWER OF EMINENT DOMAIN TO SEIZE PRIVATE PROPERTY. THE GOVERNOR VETOED THAT. THE LEGISLATURE IS GOING TO COME BACK INTO SESSION -- A SPECIAL SESSION TO TRY TO OVERRIDE THAT VETO. A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK DEMOCRATS ARE ON THE HOT SPOT ON THAT ISSUE.

Harkin: WELL, I SUPPOSE I COULD GET OUT OF THAT BY SAYING THAT'S A STATE AND LOCAL ISSUE AND NOT FEDERAL. [ LAUGHTER ] BUT I'M AN IOWAN. I HAVE A RIGHT TO EXPRESS MY VIEW ON IT, DON'T I?

Glover: MM-HMM.

Harkin: IF ANYTHING MARKS MY -- MY TENURE AS A PUBLIC SERVANT, I THINK IT'S THAT I'VE ALWAYS AT LEAST TRIED TO STICK UP FOR THE LITTLE GUY, TO TRY TO STICK UP FOR THE LITTLE INDIVIDUAL OUT THERE AGAINST THE POWER OF BIG CORPORATIONS OR BIG GOVERNMENT, WHATEVER IT MIGHT BE. I'M A LITTLE -- I GET A LITTLE NERVOUS WHEN I THINK ABOUT GOVERNMENT COMING IN AND TAKING SOMEONE'S PROPERTY AWAY, QUITE FRANKLY. NOW, THERE OUGHT TO BE A RIGHT OF EMINENT DOMAIN. THAT HAS BEEN WELL SETTLED IN OUR LAW FOREVER, THAT THE GOVERNMENT CAN COME IN AND CONDEMN PROPERTY FOR PUBLIC USES. WHEN YOU DO IT FOR PRIVATE USES, THAT'S QUITE ANOTHER STORY. THERE OUGHT TO BE A VERY HIGH HURDLE FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO GET OVER BEFORE THEY CAN TAKE YOUR PROPERTY AWAY FOR PRIVATE PURPOSES. I'M NOT SAYING THEY CAN NEVER DO IT, BUT I'M SAYING IT HAS TO BE A VERY HIGH HURDLE. THAT I THINK OUGHT TO BE THE POSITION OF THE DEMOCRATS.

Glover: SO WOULD A STATE SENATOR TOM HARKIN VOTE TO OVERRIDE THAT VETO?

Harkin: WELL, AGAIN, YOU'RE ASKING ME ABOUT SOMETHING I AM NOT REALLY INTIMATELY FAMILIAR WITH ALL THE DETAILS OF THAT LEGISLATION. I'M JUST TELLING YOU PHILOSOPHICALLY WHERE I'M COMING FROM. IF I THOUGHT THAT THIS LEGISLATION PUT IN A HIGH HURDLE, PUT IN A REALLY HIGH HURDLE FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO TAKE PROPERTY AWAY FROM YOU OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL FOR PRIVATE PURPOSES, THEN I WOULD VOTE TO OVERRIDE IT. IF IT DIDN'T, I WOULD WANT NEW LEGISLATION TO MAKE SURE THAT WE DID HAVE A VERY HIGH THRESHOLD OR HURDLE FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO GET OVER.

Yepsen: YOU'RE THE HIGHEST RANKING DEMOCRAT IN IOWA BY VIRTUE OF YOUR SENIORITY, AND ESPECIALLY NOW THAT GOVERNOR VILSACK IS LEAVING OFFICE. WHAT DO YOU ADVISE DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATORS TO DO POLITICALLY? SHOULD THEY VOTE TO OVERRIDE THEIR OWN GOVERNOR, OR SHOULD THEY VOTE TO SUSTAIN HIS VETO?

Harkin: I'LL JUST REPEAT, AND I -- AND I THINK --

Yepsen: WE'RE NOT GOING TO GET YOU TO SAY OVERRIDE TOM VILSACK'S VETO.

Harkin: I'VE TALKED TO MIKE GRONSTAL -- SENATOR GRONSTAL ABOUT THIS, AND I THINK HE HAD THE RIGHT APPROACH, WHICH IS THAT IF THERE ARE NOT THE VOTES, THEN THEY OUGHT TO THINK ABOUT MAYBE A MORATORIUM AND PUT THIS DOWN AND THEN TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT THEY DO LATER ON. AS I SAID, I CAN ONLY TELL YOU WHERE I WOULD COME FROM. I WOULD WANT TO KNOW WHAT THAT THRESHOLD IS. AND IT BETTER BE A VERY HIGH THRESHOLD BEFORE THE GOVERNMENT CAN TAKE YOUR PROPERTY AWAY FOR PRIVATE PURPOSES.

Borg: YOU SEE IT AS A LAND MINE, THEN, FOR DEMOCRATS?

Harkin: I DON'T REALLY. I DON'T REALLY AS LONG AS DEMOCRATS ADHERE TO OUR BASIC PHILOSOPHY, AND THAT IS STICKING UP FOR THE LITTLE GUY.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WE'VE ONLY GOT A FEW MINUTES LEFT. WE'VE ALWAYS GOT TOO MANY POLITICAL QUESTIONS. THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS TINKERING AROUND WITH THE CALENDAR OF NOMINATING CONTESTS. IOWA STILL IS GOING TO BE FIRST, BUT THERE'S ANOTHER STATE THAT'S GOING TO GET SANDWICHED IN BETWEEN IOWA AND NEW HAMPSHIRE. THIS HAS UPSET PEOPLE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. SHOULD IOWANS BE PREPARED TO MOVE THEIR CAUCUSES IN JANUARY OF 2008?

Harkin: YES. YES.

Yepsen: HOW IMPORTANT WILL THOSE CAUCUSES BE IF TOM VILSACK IS IN THE RACE?

Harkin: WELL, I THINK THEY'RE GOING TO BE VERY IMPORTANT. IN FACT, I THINK THE WAY THEY'RE DOING THINGS, THE IOWA CAUCUSES ARE GOING TO BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER BEFORE BECAUSE EVERYBODY IS FRONT-LOADING AND BRINGING IT UP CLOSER. SO I THINK IOWA CAUCUSES ARE GOING TO BE VERY IMPORTANT. AND, YES, I THINK WE OUGHT TO BE PREPARED TO MOVE IF IN FACT NEW HAMPSHIRE MOVES. WE HAVE THE RIGHT -- AND BY LAW I THINK WE'RE SUPPOSED TO DO THAT. IF TOM VILSACK RUNS, I THINK OTHERS WILL COME OUT HERE, NOT NECESSARILY IN ORDER TO BEAT HIM BUT TO SEE WHO COMES IN SECOND, BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY THAT WOULD BE THE STORY.

Yepsen: WELL, WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE FACT THAT OUR POLLS SHOW HIM IN FOURTH PLACE? I MEAN, WHEN YOU RAN FOR PRESIDENT IN 1992, YOU AT LEAST WON IOWA. YOU WON BIG. YOU SET A PRETTY HIGH THRESHOLD FOR TOM VILSACK. WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF HIS POOR SHOWING IN THE POLLS RIGHT NOW?

Harkin: WELL, I THINK IT'S BECAUSE HE HASN'T REALLY ANNOUNCED HE'S RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT YET. HE'S OUT THERE DOING IT. THERE ARE A LOT OF DEMOCRATS IN IOWA WHO DON'T REALLY KNOW THAT HE IS ACTIVELY SEEKING THE PRESIDENCY. AND HE'S OUT THERE DOING -- YOU KNOW, GOING AROUND THE COUNTRY NOW, GETTING HIS MESSAGE OUT, FINDING OUT IF THERE'S SUPPORT. THERE WILL BE A TIME, I ASSUME, WHEN HE WILL EITHER ANNOUNCE HE'S RUNNING OR NOT RUNNING. WHEN HE ANNOUNCES -- IF HE ANNOUNCES THAT HE'S RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT AND ACTIVELY SEEKING IT, I THINK YOU'LL SEE THAT FOURTH PLACE DISAPPEAR AND HE'LL MOVE UP TO THE TOP AND IOWANS WILL KNOW THAT HE'S ACTUALLY A CANDIDATE.

Glover: SENATOR, LET'S TURN THIS WHOLE QUESTION ON ITS EAR JUST A LITTLE BIT. I MEAN, TOM VILSACK STARTS OUT AS A HOMETOWN FAVORITE IN THE RACE FOR IOWA'S CAUCUSES. ISN'T, IN FACT, THERE AN IOWA TRAP FOR TOM VILSACK IN THAT IT'S GOING TO BE VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO MEET THE EXPECTATIONS THAT WE SET FOR HIM?

Harkin: WELL, I DON'T KNOW. I THINK THAT THERE'S PROBABLY TWO COURSES OF ACTION OPEN TO HIM. HE COULD REALLY STAY IN IOWA AND DO IOWA OR HE COULD SAY, 'BECAUSE I'M THE GOVERNOR AND THE FAVORITE SON, I WILL NOT DO IOWA. I'LL START SOMEPLACE ELSE. I'LL START IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. I'LL DO NEW HAMPSHIRE AND LET EVERYBODY ELSE DO IOWA AND I WON'T CONTEST IOWA.' THAT'S ONE COURSE OF ACTION. THE OTHER COURSE OF ACTION IS TO SAY, 'LOOK, I'M FROM IOWA. WHY SHOULDN'T I RUN IN IOWA? AND I SHOULD.' I THINK IF HE DOES, HE'LL WIN IOWA.

Yepsen: BUT YOU RAN IN IOWA, WON BIG, AND IT DIDN'T DO YOU ANY GOOD IN NEW HAMPSHIRE.

Harkin: YEAH, I KNOW. YEAH, I'M STILL TRYING TO FIGURE THAT OUT. [ LAUGHTER ] WELL, I THINK IT'S JUST BECAUSE PEOPLE JUST DISMISSED IT. THEY SAID, 'WELL, OF COURSE HE WON BIG IN IOWA,' AND IT DIDN'T DO ME MUCH GOOD.

Borg: WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE. I'M SORRY THAT WE CAN'T GO ANOTHER HOUR.

Harkin: OH, THANK YOU, DEAN, SO MUCH.

Borg: THANK FOR BEING WITH US.

Harkin: THANKS FOR HAVING ME BACK.

Borg: WE'LL BE BACK NEXT WEEK WITH ANOTHER EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS' AT OUR REGULAR AIRTIMES. THAT'S 7:30 FRIDAY AND 11:30 SUNDAY MORNING. I HOPE YOU'LL PLAN TO WATCH. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY. 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.

Tags: Iowa