RAY SUAREZ: We start this week off with Amb. Carol Moseley Braun. She's 55, a graduate of the University of Illinois in Chicago, and the University of Chicago Law School. She served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago from 1973 to 1977. Moseley Braun was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1978. She was elected Cook County recorder of deeds in 1988, the first black woman ever to hold this position. Four years later, she made history again when she was the first black woman elected to the United States Senate. She lost her reelection bid in 1998. In 1999, then Pres. Clinton named her ambassador to New Zealand. She joins us now from Chicago. Ambassador Moseley Braun, welcome.
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: Thank you, delighted to be with you.
RAY SUAREZ: One of the places where is the large and growing Democratic field has differentiated itself sometimes from the president, often with each other, is over Iraq, questions of war and peace and how best to handle Saddam Hussein. What's your position?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, I want to be a voice of hope for people who believe that we are clever enough to defeat terror without sacrificing our liberty, that we are creative enough to provide for peace and prosperity and progress in our time -- that we can come together as Americans to face the challenges of our time. And I believe that this administration is on the absolute wrong track, particularly as regard to using the war on terror as a subterfuge, as a cloak, if you will, for what is really an extreme political agenda.
RAY SUAREZ: Just today, Iraqi forces showed weapons inspectors where bombs had been buried, perhaps with chemical agents in them. They've crushed some more of those missiles, broken up equipment used to make weapons. Doesn't that point to what the pressure of an imminent war can bring?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, you know something, there's no question but that Saddam Hussein is a bad guy and that we need to work with our allies to make certain that the inspections work and that he is disarmed. But the fact is that the war against terror is broader than just Saddam Hussein. I was delighted today at the news that one of bin Laden's operatives had been captured. This is the first time we've heard bin Laden even spoken about in a while because they've morphed bin Laden into Saddam Hussein and made the focus there.
What concerns me, Ray, is that they won't level with the American people about the cost of this war, how much, whether it's 65 to 200 billion dollars, and then there's a big question mark. We don't know if we'll be in there three days, three weeks, three months or three years. We don't, we have a sense of -- no information about the exit strategy or the planning.
So they've used all the focus - -they've focused everybody in on Saddam Hussein and defeating this bad guy, while we have at the same time Patriot Act I, Patriot Act II, something called the passenger profiling, not to mention total information awareness and our liberties, our privacy rights being taken from us, as well as mean spirited in some regards, cuts in budget programs, in education, in environmental protection -- the cuts throughout this budget in areas that I think American people would be very, very concerned about if the focus wasn't so redirected. And when you look at what's happening with state and local governments, facing huge deficits that they won't get any help or support for, as well as our now record national deficit of $300 billion from a surplus.
When you add all that together, what you have are people who are using our pain to disguise a whole lot of activity that's not being focused in on. And I hope to use this presidential campaign as an opportunity to talk about whether or not we think it's a good thing to cut teacher training and technology and education and health care for poor people, and health care for seniors -- all these, what's really going on in terms of this administration's direction is bad for America, and that's why I'm running for president.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, if faced with a terrorist threat, headquartered in one particular country but spread elsewhere, faced with a very unstable, very important region of the world in the MidEast and Persian Gulf, what would Pres. Moseley Braun have done or would do?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, in the first instance it really is still a dangerous world, I'm not arguing that we have to take pro-active steps to meet the threat of terror -- absolutely positively. We want to provide for the domestic security of the American people, and that has got to be a primary concern. But the fact of the matter is that the terrorism that we suffered as Americans didn't spring out of Iraq, I mean it really didn't. They were not Iraqis - in fact, if anything, we're finding most of the intelligence information and most of the leads we've gotten have been from other parts of the region, such as Pakistan, such as the Saudis who were involved with bin Laden and the like. And so to say we're just going to cure this problem by wiping this bad guy off the face of the planet, is not enough.
We have to be smart about how we fight terrorism. It's not just enough to fight it -- we've got to fight it smart -- and fighting in ways that provide for our domestic security, over the long haul. When you're looking at the way this money is just kind of going up in smoke, literally, we have to ask, I think, if the administration were to level with us and say, you know, this really is about oil, then we could have a better sense of whether or not the money that we're paying, the burdens that we're carrying ourselves alone in this case, whether it's worth all of that or whether or not there are smarter and more clever ways to do this.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, what does the United States in your view do now? There are large numbers of personnel stationed with their equipment overseas, ready to go at a moment's notice. Do you climb down, do you keep the pressure on in the area?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: Oh, I think the pressure has to stay on in the area. I think that frankly we should applaud the efforts to get Saddam Hussein to step down. He's been bad for his country, he's been bad for the region; he's bad news all the way around. So getting him out of power would be a good thing if it comes about as a result of diplomacy. But that's not what we're doing. In fact, if anything, the diplomats, the diplomatic relationships we've had around the world have been shut down. We are more at odds now with people who traditionally have been our friends. This administration has frittered away the goodwill that we inherited after Sept. 11 when the whole world was on our side. Now we look up and see huge marches against the approach that we've taken. Somebody ought to think, maybe we ought to listen a little bit to our allies and what they have to say, maybe they have some ideas, maybe they have some intelligence, maybe by learning to work well with others we could do a better job in defeating terrorists, which ought to be our objective.
RAY SUAREZ: So for instance, how would you use the United Nations in that case?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, obviously the United Nations has a crucial central role to play in all of this. As a clearing house if nothing else of information and relationships where people, where we can come together with our allies to address these issues.-the United Nations' sponsorship of the inspectors, the inspections that are going on in Iraq right now.
Iraq is not the only place where inspections need to happen. We are also threatened by other unstable states with nuclear and or weapons of mass destruction capacity. So we will need the United Nations to help us deal with the threat from North Korea, for example, we will need the United Nations to help work out a resolution with regard to the whole standoff between India and Pakistan. There are a number of places around the world, not to mention coming to some kind of stability that provide force peace in the Middle East, I think those things are still possible.
I think it is possible to have peace, I think it is possible to use the strength of the goodwill that we enjoyed around the world. But the direction that this administration is taking is one of alienating and deprecating the, our allies around the world, not giving them support. And again, Ray, I keep coming back to the point, taking it out of the ties of the American people, not just in terms of misplaced budget priorities, but also in terms of taking away liberties that we, that make us Americans. We're entitled to be able to drive our car without having somebody monitor it. We're entitled not to have our e-mail tracked. And to see this administration taking those kinds of steps under the guise of fighting terrorism ought to be frightening, I think, to most Americans, and I think it is.
RAY SUAREZ: Amb. Carol Moseley Braun, thanks for being with us.
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: Thank you.