Monitor Breakfast

Selected quotations from a Monitor breakfast with Joseph Lieberman

Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and the Democratic nominee for vice president in the 2000 election, was Thursday's guest at the Monitor breakfast in Washington. Here are excerpts:

On whether he "salivates" for the presidency:

"I am certainly meditating, and I am activating – which is to say I am moving around talking to people and speaking out on the issues and challenges of the day. But my saliva glands are, for the moment, under control."

On whether he communicates with former running-mate Al Gore:

"We communicate occasionally often by e-mail....He has told me that he is undecided, literally 50-50. And, of course, I said to him, 'The sooner you decide, the happier I will be.' And he said he understands that and I believe him. And he said this publicly, that he will make a decision by the end of this year.

"I love my work in the Senate. Every day is interesting and has an opportunity to get something done. So if Al decides to run I am going to be OK. I have been a very blessed person in my life."

On prospects for compromise over worker rights provisions in the homeland security bill:

"At this point, it is hard to see a compromise. For me, the compromise is the one I suggested to Gov. [Tom] Ridge when we first talked about it several months ago, in which I pleaded with him, before the president put his bill in, please don't make this into a battle over civil service and conditions of work of federal employees. It is a snare; it is a trap, and it will make it harder for us to do what we all agree we want to do and should do urgently – which is to create this new department of homeland security.

"There are two things going on here: One is a disagreement on the merits of the administration proposals. But you are right, the other is a context of mistrust about what this administration's intentions are regarding the rights of federal employees....Why is there a question of trust here? This is not, generally speaking, a pro-worker, pro-labor administration. Secondly, the very fact that the administration came in with this proposal to give the president unprecedented, unaccountable authority to waive the civil service rules ...has created anxiety."

On whether the president should seek United Nation's approval before attacking Iraq:

"Clearly, the ideal circumstance would be if there was a United Nations Security Council resolution that was a preface to any military action in Iraq. I know there are different proposals out to see if the Security Council would adopt a resolution calling for aggressive, no-limits inspections, even a large international force to be ready to go in and act militarily to first carry out the inspections and to act militarily if there was a problem the Iraqis gave in carrying it out. That is the ideal.

"I certainly believe it would be a mistake for us to do this alone. We need to have allies particularly in the region from the Arab world and beyond the region, including from Europe. But we can put together such a coalition without a Security Council resolution if that is impossible to obtain.

On whether his current position on going it alone has changed since he gave a speech at Georgetown University in February 2002:

"We would be better off if we had some allies with us. It is as simple as that...It is clear already that if the president decides we should act soon that we will not act alone. The question is how many allies will be with us. There is a sense of confidence, certainly within the administration that ...some of our allies in the region and some of our allies in Europe will be with us."

On how the Bush administration has handled Iraq:

"With all respect, the Bush administration has not handled this well. They rattled sabers without explaining why and they raised the public statements of intention against Iraq before they built the support for carrying out those intentions either among members of Congress, the American people, or of course our allies. [The] way in which they raised anxieties, alarmed those who oppose a move against Iraq, and allowed debate to get away from them unfortunate."

On how the Iraq situation is affected by rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy:

"The fact is that the president's effort ... to get our allies around the world to join us in this quest to protect the world from Saddam Hussein has been made much more difficult by other elements of the Bush administration's foreign policy which are seen by people around the world – including our closest allies in Europe and Asia – as much too one-sided [and] unilateral.

"Basically you can't break away from a series of international agreements and treaties that enjoy broad support throughout the world and then turn around and say to the world 'Let's go to war in Iraq' and expect everyone to fall in line. There has to be more mutuality."

On whether President Bush consulted with potential political allies (like Lieberman) before deciding he favored regime change in Iraq:

"There were none that I know of – I know there were none with me and there were none that I know of with anyone else. Looking back, it is pretty clear – and I hope the people in the administration agree with this – that right from the outset, it would have been important to bring in people from Congress to begin this discussion, and of course to reach out to our allies. We now have a situation where a number of our allies have made quite strong statements of opposition or of doubt about our intentions in Iraq. And it makes it harder to change their minds.

"I think that was a consequential failure of diplomacy."

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