Transcript of Chris Wallace' complete interview with Joe Lieberman on Fox News Sunday:
WALLACE: Senator, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday".
LIEBERMAN: Good to be with you, Chris. Thank you.
WALLACE: Let's start with the State of the Union. During the speech, I couldn't help but notice that there were a number of times when you were the only one on the Democratic side of the aisle - and here's one example of that - to applaud the president's ideas while the rest of them sat on their hands.
Your hometown newspaper, the Hartford Courant, actually counted and saw that there were 13 separate occasions when you applauded the president's ideas and your fellow Connecticut senator, Chris Dodd, did not.
Question, do you ever question whether you should continue to maintain your support for the Democratic majority in the Senate?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I made a decision last year after the Democratic primary that I wasn't going to let it end there, and I went on to run as an Independent, and thanks to the people of Connecticut of all parties, I was elected.
So I consider myself today an Independent-Democrat, and I'm staying in the Democratic Party because I believe in the historic principles and commitments of the party to be both progressive here at home and muscular, strong and principled in the world.
I'm a Harry Truman, JFK, Scoop Jackson and Bill Clinton Democrat.
WALLACE: But as you saw, what a lonely figure you were, does that shake your feelings about that?
LIEBERMAN: Here's what it says to me. First off, I think that standing and sitting stuff at the State of the Union speech is a silliness and it demeans the process.
But the second point is this. There was a large message from the election last year, and it wasn't just about Iraq. It was about too much partisanship in Washington. The president said afterward he got it. Leaders of both parties said afterward they got it.
And yet we seem to be sliding back into the partisanship. The people understandably want us to work together to get something done for them. And you know, I stood a few times when very few or no one else on my side did because I happened to agree with what the president was saying. Why shouldn't I do that? That's my responsibility.
WALLACE: But let me give you an example of that. The president endorsed your idea, speaking of bipartisanship, for a bipartisan panel that would advise the president on the war on terror. He raised that in the state of the union.
WALLACE: As soon as he did, Senate Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi said nope, there's a bipartisan structure, it's called the committee system.
LIEBERMAN: Yes. Well, I was really disappointed with the reaction of Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to the president's offer or invitation to have essentially a bipartisan war council, and it's a war on terror council.
You know, I talked with the president about this, and he said to me at one point in December when I met with him before - John McCain and I were going over to Iraq. He said to me you know, it's obvious that we're not going to be able to have the broad bipartisan consensus I hoped we would have on Iraq, but we need to build that consensus on the larger war against the Islamist terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, because this is going to go on for a generation.
The president said do you have any ideas how to do it, and I said why don't we convene a group of senators and congressmen, chairmen and ranking members, with the administration regularly to talk about the war on terrorism.
The president said he wants to get this group together first to talk about an increase in the size of the Army and the Marines. So I hope he does it. I believe if he does, Democrats will come.
Here's the problem, Chris. When the president makes an offer like this, Democrats think back to what they believe, and with some justification, are the times when the White House has been partisan with Democrats. We've got to start thinking less about yesterday, more about today and tomorrow.
And again, remember two things. The public told us last year they want results here, not partisanship. Second, the Islamist terrorists who we are fighting don't distinguish between Americans based on party affiliation. They hate us all. They want to kill us all. And therefore we ought to pull together to defeat them.
WALLACE: Well, you say pull together. In the State of the Union, the president said - in effect, pleaded with Congress - give my plan, the new troop surge, a chance to work, as he put it.
The next day the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted a resolution of disapproval. If that passes, and it seems almost certain that either this week or next week it will pass, do you think it will have any practical effect on the war effort?
LIEBERMAN: Well, it certainly - and here's my gripe with that resolution. I mean, obviously, I disagree with it. First off, I think the plan that the president has offered with the advice of a lot of people is the best hope we have of stabilizing the situation in Iraq and succeeding so the Iraqis can take over their own country.
And we've got a new commander, General David Petraeus, confirmed unanimously on Friday by the U.S. Senate, which is about to now go ahead, it appears, and adopt a resolution that will condemn the mission that we have just confirmed General Petraeus unanimously to carry out which he said he needs in order to succeed in Iraq.
WALLACE: But my question - do you think passing this resolution will have a practical effect on the war effort?
LIEBERMAN: In the most literal sense, this resolution will not have a practical effect because it's non-binding, and the president has said he will go forward with what he believes as commander in chief will help us succeed in Iraq.
But I fear, as was discussed by General Petraeus this week, by Senator Lugar, by the retired chief of the Army, General Jack Keane in testimony before the Armed Services Committee - I fear that while this resolution is nonbinding and, therefore, will not affect the implementation of the plan, it will do two things that can be harmful, which is that it will discourage our troops, who we're asking to carry out this new plan, and it will encourage the enemy, because as General Petraeus said to our committee, war is a test of wills, and you don't want your enemy to be given any hope.
WALLACE: You have signed on to a resolution being written by Senator McCain which would set benchmarks for the Iraqis to keep their promises on both the political and military front. If they fail, if you pass this resolution and if the Iraqis fail to meet their targets, what would you do about it?
LIEBERMAN: Well, we'll face that reality when it comes. I mean, this is why I've said, and I believe the president is right to have said to our colleagues, the legislative trains seem to be heading down the track on these resolutions, and I believe they're going to have a collision that's going to hurt our country.
Why don't we step back? The resolution doesn't do anything but express an opinion. Let's give this plan a chance. Let's give it a chance to work. And if, God forbid, it doesn't work to succeed in Iraq, then there will be plenty of time for the resolutions, for the troop caps, for the cuts in funding for support of our troops.
I want to say a word about what John McCain and I and others are doing. We're saying the Biden resolution, the Biden-Hagel, the Warner-Nelson resolution - these are resolutions that don't have any effect, but we worry that there's a risk that they will encourage the enemy and discourage our troops.
John McCain and I are trying to put together a common ground resolution that can bring people in both parties together to say what we all apparently believe - maximizing the chances of success in Iraq are critical to everybody, because America has a lot on the line there. All my colleagues agree with that.
Secondly, we need to give General Petraeus and our troops everything they need to succeed. And third, the Iraqis have to step up. And we're going to list in this resolution what we expect them to do. And you know, if it doesn't happen, we'll face that reality then. But it's going to be an awful one.
WALLACE: Let's look ahead to 2008. Are there any Democrats who appear to be running at this point that you could support for president?
LIEBERMAN: Are there any Democrats who don't appear to be running at this point? Look, I've had a very political couple of years in Connecticut, and I'm stepping back for a while to concentrate on being the best senator I can be for my state and my country.
I'm also an Independent-Democrat now, and I'm going to do what most Independents and a lot of Democrats and Republicans in America do, which is to take a look at all the candidates and then in the end, regardless of party, decide who I think will be best for the future of our country.
So I'm open to supporting a Democrat, Republican or even an Independent, if there's a strong one. Stay tuned.
WALLACE: But looking at the three frontrunners - Clinton, Obama, Edwards - all of them in varying degrees expressing their opposition to the war and wanting to end our involvement there - could you support any presidential candidate who you didn't feel was committed to victory in Iraq?
LIEBERMAN: Well, you make a decision based on a whole range of issues. But obviously, the positions that some candidates have taken in Iraq troubles me. Obviously, I will be looking at what positions they take in the larger war against Islamist terrorism.
Here's where I am and maybe why it's - I am genuinely an Independent. I agree more often than not with Democrats on domestic policy. I agree more often than not with Republicans on foreign and defense policy. I'm an Independent.
WALLACE: And we've got less than a minute left.
WALLACE: Joe Lieberman grew up in John Bailey's Connecticut, Democratic vice presidential nominee. You're saying you might vote Republican in 2008.
LIEBERMAN: I am, because we have so much on the line both in terms of the Islamist terrorists, who are an enemy as brutal as the fascists and communists we faced in the last century, and we have great challenges here at home to make our economy continue to produce good jobs, to deal with our crises in health care, education, immigration, energy.
I want to choose the person that I believe is best for the future of our country. What I'm saying is what I said last year and what I think the voters said in November. Party is important, but more important is the national interest. And that's the basis that I will decide who to support for president.
WALLACE: Senator Lieberman, thank you. Thanks for coming in.
LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Chris.
WALLACE: Please come back. Always a pleasure.
LIEBERMAN: I will.
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