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Interview With Sen. Lieberman

Hannity & Colmes

HANNITY: And welcome to HANNITY & COLMES. Thank you for being with us. I'm Sean Hannity. We get right to our top story tonight. Now you are looking live at the United States Senate, where Democratic leadership is forcing an all-nighter in order to get an up or down vote on the war in Iraq. You would think the idea of retreat alone would be enough to make them loose sleep.

Joining us now from Capitol Hill where the fun continues, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. Senator, glad you could be with us. Thanks for being onboard.

Republicans are saying this is nothing but a publicity stunt by the leadership of the Democratic Party. Your thoughts?

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I) CT: It is political theater. The fact is that we are going to have a vote tomorrow, it is going to be a vote to see whether there are 60 senators who want to mandate a retreat of American forces from Iraq, which is in my opinion legislating defeat and handing a victory to Iran and al Qaeda, our two most dangerous enemies in the world today.

So to hold us in here overnight -- I do not mind staying overnight, I will be glad to stay and debate, I will go from here back out to the floor to be part of the debate, but the truth is, if we want to stay overnight, then we might as well do something that has a chance of helping somebody, including our soldiers, which we are not doing with this.

HANNITY: Congress' approval rating now that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have been in power is now at an all-time low in the history of poll taking at 16 percent. We have been through non-binding resolutions, we have been through the idea that Petraeus was appointed unanimously. Harry Reid at the time said trust the generals. The surge was approved. We're not supposed to get the full report until September.

Why did they decide do this now, considering they were supposed to give General Petraeus that time?

LIEBERMAN: There is no good reason to have this vote and this series of votes now. I know the war is unpopular. I know that there is pressure within different constituencies to do something. But Sean, what you said is basically right. We adopted a law in May that set a series of benchmarks. First the interim report last week.

But it was clear to everybody - I would say the Senate, the Congress made an institutional pledge to General Petraeus and incidentally to every man and woman in uniform -- they made a pledge to have every man and woman in Iraq that we would wait until September when he and Ambassador Crocker come back to report to us to make judgments about how the surge is going. The only reason to have the vote now would be, apart from politics, would be if you thought there was evidence that the surge counteroffensive was failing. In fact, as you know, all of the evidence is that it was succeeding. So this is wrong.

HANNITY: And it seems that is succeeding as the president said on the security front, which would lead the opportunity that on the political side of that that would necessarily follow. But in the context politically, senator, Harry Reid has said the war is lost, the surge has failed.

At the same time, the national intelligence estimate is warning us that al Qaeda is a persistent evolving terrorist threat against this country, that they are pursuing nuclear and chemical and biological weapons that would use them if they could.

And I've got to wonder, what does this do to your relationship with the party? That you had a relationship for 18 years?

LIEBERMAN: Longer than that. Ever since I became a registered voter. I am an independent and I caucus with the Democrats, but I'm really disappointed by the direction of the Democrats have gone. And I've got to tell you I am also disappointed that in a vote like this, on the so-called Levin-Reed Amendment to mandate a retreat of our troops, the vote is going to be divided almost totally along partisan lines.

HANNITY: If I agree with you that this will hand a victory to Iran and al Qaeda, as you said.


HANNITY: This is the defining issue as far as I'm concerned in our time, and the party that you were once aligned with, you are at complete odds with here. And I know you get asked this question a lot. Politically does this open the door for you to maybe align with the Republicans in the future?

LIEBERMAN: I am going to take it issue by issue. I'm not really thinking about anything except to express as I did to my colleagues in my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus today my profound disappointment with the direction that they are taking on these votes, which I think is bad for America , bad for our security, and frankly I think it is bad for the future of the Democratic Party. Because unless you can gain the confidence of the American people on security, no matter how upset they are with President Bush, etc., etc., they're going to hesitate to vote for a Democratic candidate for president.

ALAN COLMES, FOX NEWS HOST: It's Alan Colmes, welcome back to our show.

LIEBERMAN: Alan, good to be with you.

COLMES: Nice to see you.

Senator, as I pick up on what you and Sean were just talking about, the man that almost help you became vice president of the United States, Al Gore, is one of the leading opponents of the war. If he were to jump in the race, would you be able to support him?

LIEBERMAN: Well, number one I don't think he is going to jump into the race. Number two, as much as I am deeply grateful to Al Gore for giving me the opportunity that I never dreamed I would have to run for vice president of the United States.

I would apply the same standard I said I would before. I am going into this as an independent. I am going to wait until both parties and maybe a third party nominate their candidates for president and I'm going to support whichever one will be best for America regardless of what party label they carry.

COLMES: That sounds like no, you would not support the Al Gore of today. He's saying very different things that you're saying and you were almost as vice president.

LIEBERMAN: I am not saying that. Let's wait and see. But honestly I have got to tell you that with all respect, I do not think Al Gore is going to get into this race.

COLMES: You say the surge is working. The administration's own report card came out last week. Only some parts of 18 benchmarks, that is not exactly a passing grade. That would be an F.

HANNITY: Interim report.

LIEBERMAN: Yeah. It is an interim report. It was a mixed record. Let's wait for the more full report that will come in September. But the surge is working, Alan, and the facts are clear.

Sectarian violence, deaths from it are way down in Baghdad. More than half of the city is under control of American and Iraqi forces. You know the story of Anbar Province. We have al Qaeda on the run, we've chased them now to Diyala.

And now it gives a chance to the Iraqi government to try to prove that they can govern themselves. Obviously that is the point of most frustration and difficulty. But I always like to remind people that the choice here for the future is not between the current Iraqi government in a perfect government, it is between the Iraqi government and al Qaeda and Iran-backed terrorists. And to me that's an easy choice.

COLMES: Senator, you say the surge is working. The interim report would not indicate that it has meant even half of the benchmarks.

But let me ask you this. The national intelligence estimate out today shows that six years after 9/11 we have fewer allies, al Qaeda has protected or generated key elements of, I'm reading from the report, "homeland security attack ability," including a safe haven in Pakistan along with al Qaeda in Iraq.

They are energizing broader Sunni extremists, working to even possibly attack our homeland. Doesn't that show that the war as it is being fought on terror not doing well?

LIEBERMAN: No. I think it shows that we are facing a brutal, resilient, patient enemy, and they will regenerate themselves. That report also says that al Qaeda is in Iraq and they are working with international al Qaeda and they are the one franchise al Qaeda group that has stated its intention to attack the American homeland. So do not believe anybody who says we can get out of Iraq and still fight al Qaeda. We are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq.

HANNITY: Senator, it is good to see you. We appreciate it.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Sean.

HANNITY: We're going to be watching very closely tonight and tomorrow.

LIEBERMAN: Back to the floor.

HANNITY: Thank you for being with us.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, my friend.

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