PBS DEBATE NIGHT:
In this portion of the debate the Congressional leaders discuss America's position in world affairs.
A RealAudio version of this Newsmaker interview is available.
Topics addressed on PBS Debate Night:
- Should the Republicans should maintain control of Congress?
- Which party would handle the economy better?
- Would Democrats or Republicans improve America's quality of life?
- Would a Republican or a Democratic majority in Congress ensure America's place in the World?
- Which party would run the government better?
- What is the difference between a vote for the President and a vote for Congress?
Browse the Online NewsHour's Congressional coverage.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Let’s go now to topic three, international affairs, a reminder that the order for everything we’re doing here tonight, except in the dialogues, themselves, was determined by a coin toss. This resolution is: Resolve the Republican Party in Congress can best protect and preserve America’s military, political, and economic position in the world.
REP. GINGRICH: Well, let me just say, Jim, I think first of all, this is where it gets really dangerous. The difference in international relations between rhetoric and reality is very great. I think our first priority in the short run, frankly, should be to stop drugs coming into the United States, to help our allies defeat the drug cartels in Latin America, and I think frankly that Bob Dole’s right to say we ought to use the National Guard, if necessary, to help build the fences, to do the things necessary to stop the flow of drugs, because the biggest foreign danger to America right now is drugs. Drug use has doubled in the last four years, doubled among teenagers. And I think it is a real threat to America’s future if we become a drug-addicted society. Second, I think this conference that will take place this week in Washington is an example of why rhetoric and reality are so important to be examined in foreign policy. The fact is that talk about peace isn’t good enough. If you look at the talks starting in Oslo for peace in the Middle East, more than twice as many Israelis have died since the Oslo talks in 30 months than died in the preceding 30 months. Now when we deal with the world, we have to focus on being strong enough, we have to focus on the reality of what’s happening, we have to, I think, focus on Syria and Iran and terrorism, and we have to be prepared to say that we’re going to defend our young men and women, give them the best equipment, the best opportunities, the necessary resources. Finally, I think we need a national missile defense, a thin screen defense to stop countries like Iran, North Korea from being able to threaten the United States, and I think if we don’t build that, some time early in the next century, we’re going to face a real threat to America.
JIM LEHRER: Democratic rebuttal.
SEN. DASCHLE: Jim, I think the post Cold War period has provided us with tremendous new opportunities economically, politically, but obviously, it’s also presented us with some tremendous challenges--nuclear proliferation, chemical warfare, the regional conflicts we’ve seen all over the world today. I must say I think the administration deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the leadership that it’s shown in places around the world--Northern Ireland, Russia, Bosnia. Now, with the dramatic announcement just this morning that the President is going to invite every one of the Middle Eastern leaders to come to Washington to begin working out their differences, to try to find a way with which to resolve the impasse that we see right now, I’m not sure I know what Newt was talking about when he, when he said that, that we are seeing more deaths of Israelis. What’s the alternative? Is it more confrontation? Obviously, this President has had a tremendous amount to deal with the kind of peace progress we’ve made there, but in Haiti, and in North Korea, and Asia, we need to do a lot more. I’m disappointed, frankly, that it isn’t more bipartisan. We, uh, we had an opportunity to pass a terrorism bill this year, and unfortunately because Republicans disagreed with providing tracers in gunpowder to make bombs, we didn’t get that done. I’m really disappointed we didn’t pass the chemical weapons treaty 62 countries supported. We didn’t get that passed, and I believe that if we’re ever going to, to stop chemical warfare, we’ve got to pass that treaty. We need more leadership, but we need more statesmanship and a lot less partisanship.
JIM LEHRER: Dialogue, question?
SEN. LOTT: One of the most important reasons I think the American people will reelect a Republican majority is this area. They have more confidence in us when it comes to national security of our country and defense posture. As a matter of fact, President Clinton vetoed the defense bill in 1995. Just two nights ago, when we were negotiating one of his bipartisan compromises, the White House was saying, well, can’t you give us just a little bit more out of the defense of our country, out of the defense budget? Um, you know, I really worry about proposals to put U.S. troops under a UN command. I really worry about international social engineering. What we have seen happen without a clear policy in Somalia and Haiti, what is going to be the situation in Bosnia; already, it appears evident to me that the President is probably not going to pull our troops out of Bosnia on--like he indicated that he would. I hope he will, but I’m very nervous about it. And as far as anti-terrorism, we certainly agree on that. In fact, we have tremendous funding in the bill that we are working on approving right now for increased funding for anti-terrorism. That is a bipartisan area, but just one other thing, we passed a strong anti-terrorism bill just last year, aside from the funding, we passed authorization.
JIM LEHRER: Democrats?
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, I think there are three goals in a post Cold War world that we’ve got to look toward. One is to get freedom in every place in this world that it can possibly be achieved. The second is to have prosperity in other nations, and that usually comes with freedom eventually, and finally security, first, obviously, for America but for the whole world. I think this administration has done a very good job of dealing with a very complicated world and lots of tough situations. Haiti has, I think, been a success story. I think what they’ve done in Bosnia has worked. It may not work forever, but it sure has made things better. People aren’t dying in Bosnia tonight. And third, and Newt, you and I have worked on this, we’ve had a good bipartisan policy with regard to Russia, probably the most important relationship, because they have nuclear weapons, and we do. And I want to say again what Tom has written about and said, and I think you both believe, and that is that, that partisanship really should stop at the water’s edge. We can disagree about the policies, but if we can possibly find a way to agree, especially in a complicated world where you have such strong goals, it will really do our country proud. And I hope we can work together on that.
SEN. LOTT: And I think you will admit that when you’ve been in control of the Congress and when we’ve been in control of the Congress with Presidents of the other party we’ve tried hard to do that, and for the most part, when it’s involved trade and foreign policy, we have done it. Tom and I have worked together on that.
SEN. DASCHLE: I agree with you. The only problem--and I have to give you credit for trying to work through this--but we had a lot of Republican opposition to the chemical weapons treaty this year. And, as a result of that opposition, we weren’t able to get it done. That was something that I feel is, is really one of our serious--most serious challenges. We are facing chemical proliferation, and unless we get that treaty enacted and signed, you’ve got 62 countries--every chemical company in the world has endorsed it. They want us to pass it because we’ve got stop chemical war--warfare from continuing and spreading. This is going to give us that opportunity. So Republican opposition is what killed it, and hopefully, in a bipartisan way, we can bring it up next year and get it done.
SEN. LOTT: As a matter of fact, Jim, it was pulled down at the request of the secretary of state and the President of the United States. I talked to the secretary of state myself, but let me just--
SEN. DASCHLE: And you know the reason.
SEN. LOTT: --you know, we raised the issue not once, but twice. Let me tell you why. It’s the very situation we’re talking about. You’ve got a treaty there that’s fine between those that are willing to control themselves but there’s no verification, no way of knowing what’s going to happen in Iraq, Iran, North Korea,--
SEN. DASCHLE: Well--
SEN. LOTT: --and even Russia, which says, give us $3.2 billion, and we’ll get rid of our chemical stockpile. There’s lots of problems with that treaty.
SEN. DASCHLE: But, Jim--
SEN. LOTT: And we had to look at it very carefully.
SEN. DASCHLE: --let me just say, this was a treaty begun by President Reagan, worked on for four years with President Bush. We were going to unilaterally abide by the treaty in any case. And if you don’t have the treaty, you’re still going to have verification problems. Verification is a problem in virtually every treaty, but obviously this makes a statement. Is the United States willing to join 62 other nations in stopping the spread of chemical weapons? I would hope we could say unequivocally yes, we’ve got to do that.
REP. GINGRICH: But this is a perfect example of what I mean by rhetoric versus reality. The Japanese chemical attack on the subway was by a terrorist group that would not have been covered by the treaty. And Japan, by the way, makes chemical weapons unconstitutional and illegal, and yet, here have people dying in a subway from a chemical weapon. There are German companies who’ve sold equipment to Libya and to Iran in total violation, saying that they are for--baby factory, a baby food factory, or they’re for agricultural things, or they’re going to be a pesticide factory. The fact is we need more intelligence capability at the CIA. We need a firmer policy against terrorism, against chemical warfare as it exists today. But let me go back because I seem to be slightly confusing about the Middle East. Here’s my point. Talking about peace is fine, but if while you’re talking about peace, Iran and Syria are financing Hezbollah and Hamas and Israelis are killed in a shopping mall and they’re killed at a bus stop, and they’re killed standing outside their home, then Israel can hardly be told, well, at least we’re talking. Now, I--I just hope this week when they come here that we’re going to look at Syria and Iran and Hezbollah and Hamas and ask the question: Don’t the Israelis have some right to expect that their people will be safe? And that’s why when foreign policy words aren’t enough, you have to have deeds.
SEN. DASCHLE: Absolutely. They deserve to be safe, and we’ve got to give them all the protection that, that certainly they, they can expect. But I must say, what is the alternative, Newt? If we don’t--you talk about the need for, for something beyond rhetoric. I think we’ve seen something beyond rhetoric with the peaceful coexistence now Israel has with Jordan, with the peaceful coexistence that they have with Egypt, with the peaceful, uh, potential that they had in other areas, and in the Gaza Strip in particular. I mean, for a while, there was peace. That came as a direct result of diplomacy in the negotiations that have been ongoing now for the last couple of years. That ought to continue. We ought to use the kind of American leadership that this President has represented to make peaceful coexistence a real reality. That isn’t rhetoric. That is reality, and that’s what this administration has been trying to do.