Colin Powell promises evidence on Osama bin Laden links to 9/11
Text: NBC's 'Meet the Press' With Tim Russert
Sunday, Sept. 23, 2001
Following is the transcript of NBC's "Meet the Press," hosted by Tim Russert, with guests Secretary of State Colin Powell, Sens. Thomas Daschle and Trent Lott, and Reps. J. Dennis Hastert and Richard Gephardt.
RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: The president prepares the nation for war.
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PRESIDENT BUSH: We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.
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RUSSERT: Ten years ago, the then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out another battle plan.
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POWELL: First we're going to cut it off, and then we're going to kill it.
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RUSSERT: And now, as secretary of state, we helps shape a new war against terrorism. With us, General Colin Powell.
Then, in these historic times, an extraordinary show of unity. With us, all four leaders of the United States Congress: House Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott. Hastert, Gephardt, Daschle and Lott, together at one table.
But first, the secretary of state is with us.
General Colin Powell, welcome.
POWELL: Good morning, Tim.
RUSSERT: Twelve days ago, America was attacked like never before. Where are we in terms of response?
POWELL: In terms of response, we have begun a broad campaign against the perpetrators of this attack and also against terrorism in general. The campaign has already begun. It's begun with rallying the international communities on our side of this issue, letting nations around the world know that this is the time to choose, you're either for freedom or you're for terrorism.
And we have also continued the campaign by getting nations such as United Arab Emirates to cut off relations with the Taliban. We are getting cooperation with respect to shutting down the financial systems that exist to provide support to these kinds of organizations. We are getting solid action in the United Nations and NATO at the Organization of American States, the organization of Islamic Conferences. Many things are happening.
So this campaign has begun. We got solid support from Pakistan, as you well know. And, of course, we are putting in place our forces in the event the president decides it's time to use military force as part of the campaign. But we're not waiting. The campaign has begun.
RUSSERT: And we have lifted economic sanctions against Pakistan as a reward for their assistance.
POWELL: We have waived some sanctions that have been in place against both Pakistan and India. It was something we had been considering for some months now. But we consulted with Congress this past week in light of these changed events and in light of very forthcoming position that the Pakistani government has taken, and the president waived some of the sanctions that are in place yesterday.
RUSSERT: But it's an important signal that the United States will reward its friends.
POWELL: It's an important signal that we will stand by our friends who stand by us.
RUSSERT: Are you absolutely convinced that Osama bin Laden was responsible for this attack?
POWELL: I am absolutely convinced that the al Qaeda network, which he heads, was responsible for this attack.
You know, it's sort of al Qaeda–the Arab name is for "the base." It's something like a holding company of terrorist organizations that are located in dozens of countries around the world, sometimes tightly controlled, sometimes loosely controlled. And that the head of that organization is Osama bin Laden.
So what we have to do in the first phase of this campaign is to go after al Qaeda and to go after Osama bin Laden. But it is not just a problem in Afghanistan. It is a problem throughout the world. That's why we are attacking it with a worldwide coalition.
RUSSERT: Will you release publicly a white paper which links him and his organization to this attack to put people at ease?
POWELL: We are hard at work bringing all the information together, intelligence information, law enforcement information. And I think in the near future we will be able to put out a paper, a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking him to this attack. But also, remember, he has been linked to earlier attacks against U.S. interests, and he's already indicted for earlier attacks against United States.
RUSSERT: Do you believe there is any United States law or executive order which would prohibit our killing Osama bin Laden if we find him?
POWELL: It's an interesting question. There are a number of authorities that are in place, executive orders and the like, that we are examining to make sure that we have all the freedom of action we need to bring him to justice or to bring justice to him as the president has said.
RUSSERT: Let me show you an article in USA Today, dateline Islamabad, and I'll put it on the screen: "To some Pakistanis, bin Laden is like a god. T-shirts and turbans bearing the image of Osama bin Laden and the words `world hero' are big sellers at the open market. So are fake credit cards, $50 bills with his picture and phrase, `In Osama we trust.'"
POWELL: And we shouldn't see this in the same context, as if there is a large enemy out there that we plan to attack in conventional ways.
We will–if the president decides that this is what we should do and have to do, I can assure you that our military will have plans that will go against their weaknesses, and not get trapped in ways that previous armies have gotten trapped in Afghanistan.
RUSSERT: Previous wars from the air, very limited, if any, American casualties: Do you think the American people would be accepting of large amounts of casualties in order to win this war?
POWELL: You know, I have always shied away from this concept that you can fight a war without casualties. It has never been anything that I have put forward. You always want to make sure you can minimize casualties and do everything you can to protect the force, but war is war, and there will be casualties.
I think the American people understand that this is a difficult situation, and we may have to put lives at risk. And it's something that the military understands, and we can't conduct wars in such a way that we're terrified of putting anyone at risk. War does put people at risk, and it's a risk we have to take in light of the current circumstances.
We will always try to conduct all of our military operations in a way that reduces casualties as much as possible, but there is no such thing as a zero-casualty conflict, where you're using all the elements of your military power, and you're going into a place, say, like Afghanistan.
RUSSERT: Sixty-five percent of the people in the Arab world are under the age of 18. How concerned are you that countries like Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia could become destabilized, that revolution could be fomented if, in fact, there is a large-scale war?
POWELL: Well, let's not assume there will be a large-scale war. I don't know that we should even consider a large-scale war of the conventional type.
But it's more interesting to note that Egypt and Saudi Arabia and most of the countries in that part of the world have come to our support. They have recognized that terrorism is a threat, not only against the United States, against them. They have suffered from terrorism, as well. And they recognize that this is not consistent with Islamic teachings. It is absolutely inconsistent with Islamic teachings.
And so I think they understand the domestic pressures they are under, and they understand what they have committed themselves to. And when you even have countries such as Syria and to some extent even Iran indicating that they sense the problem associated with this kind of attack, it gives us something to explore, something to work with. And what we should be looking at, really, is the solid support we have received from Arab nations.
RUSSERT: Let me show you what the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, had to say and give you a chance to talk about it a little bit.
"If you launch an attack against Afghanistan or another country on your list of rogue states, you will kill many innocent people, just as the terrorists killed many of your people," President Mubarak said in an interview. "Don't play the game of your enemy. They want your reprisals to bring forth from the blood and ruins of your bombing a new generation of militants who will cry for revenge against the United States."
POWELL: We're very sensitive to that. One has to be careful that in your reaction you don't give the enemy exactly what the enemy would like to have, a new cause celebre. And so we will be very sensitive to that, and I know that my colleagues in the Pentagon are sensitive to that as they consider the various options that are available to them.
RUSSERT: The Washington Post reported yesterday that Saudi Arabia is denying the United States the use of Prince Sultan Air Base as a place for offensive operations. Is that true?
POWELL: Well, the article said that I had called them to protest this or ask for a change in policy. There were no such phone calls. The article is incorrect.
And I have been in daily touch with Saudi officials, and they have been very responsive to all of the requests we have placed on them.
RUSSERT: So they'll allow us to use that air base?
POWELL: They have been very responsive to all the requests we have placed on them. There is no show-stopper with respect to what we have asked of the Saudis. But I don't want to go into what we have not yet asked of them.
But as of right now, for everything we put to them, they have been responsive in a way that we can see that responsiveness, if it is not always headline news or something that you would see across a television screen. They have been responsive.
RUSSERT: Many of the hijackers had ties to Saudi Arabia. Tom Friedman, who has lived and studied and written about this world for a long time, had this to say in the New York Times:
"Some Arab regimes, most of which are corrupt dictatorships afraid of their own people, made a devil's pact with the fundamentalists. They allowed the Islamists' domestic supporters to continue raising money, ostensibly for Muslim welfare groups, and to funnel it to Osama bin Laden, on the condition that the Islamic extremists not attack these regimes. The Saudis in particular struck that bargain."
POWELL: Well, I have found that in recent days the Saudis have been very forthcoming with respect to that kind of issue, and they have promised us full cooperation in going after financial support for these kinds of groups.
As you know, a long time ago, they ostracized Osama bin Laden, and took away his Saudi citizenship. We are working closely with them.
But I also need to point out, that a lot of the financial support comes from outside the Arab world. I mean, it is quite easy in European nations and in the United States to raise money for these kinds of dissident, terrorist-oriented causes. And so it is not just an Arab problem, it is an international problem. We have to go after their financial support wherever we find it, in Arab nations or in Western nations.
We are also focusing on some of the so-called humanitarian, charitable, non-governmental organizations that raise money. If we can trace any of that money to terrorist activities subsequently, we really have to go after these kinds of organizations, as well.
RUSSERT: On Friday, several Americans–several dozen Americans, Project for the New American Century, released a letter to the president saying that we should target terrorism wherever it exists, even if it means conducting military operations against Iraq, Syria, Iran.
In your estimation, what would happen to your international coalition if we were to mount military campaigns against Iraq, Syria and Iran while still trying to find Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan?
POWELL: Yes, rather than deal with that hypothetical, let me deal with what we're actually going to do. What the president said is we're going to go after terrorism. Doesn't always mean you have to use military force to go after terrorism. There are many elements of national power. And you also have to keep your attention focused on a particular objective before you start adding different goals and objectives.
And the objective that the president has focused on in this first instance is Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, his presence in Afghanistan. And then we will consider all other options and all other sources of terrorist activity and go after it in an appropriate way.
That approach has met with great favor in the international community. And since this has to be an international response to an international threat, I think it is important that we're able to get the United Nations Security Council resolutions that will help us deal with the financial transactions that take place.
That's why I think it is important that we keep that coalition together so we get a statement such as we did Friday night from the European Council giving full support of the European Union to what we're doing. It's important that we keep that coalition together so that you can get statements such as we did Friday from the Organization of American States or the Organization of Islamic Conferences.
If we want to go it alone and say, “We know what's best in all of these cases and we know exactly how to deal with them and lose the support of the world,'' then I think we will have made a strategic mistake.
New opportunities have been presented by the way the president has laid out this campaign and the focus that he has given to it. And he has made the decision as to how we're going about this campaign and he has left nothing off the table with respect to phase two, phase three or phase four. And we'll get to those phases in due course, but let's not lose our focus on phase one.
RUSSERT: Are there some in the administration who are urging more immediate attacks on Syria and Iran?
POWELL: We had…
RUSSERT: Rooting out terrorists?
POWELL: As you would in any administration, we had lots of discussions. But the president, his vice president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the national security adviser, the attorney general, the secretary of treasury, all were together and discussed these items and the president made his decision. And that's the only thing that counts, not what others somewhere in the administration might think.
RUSSERT: Iran and Syria have long harbored terrorists. Is this a chance for them to have a new start, a fresh start with America by saying, "You know what? We're going to take care of our terrorist problem and we're going to help you deal with Osama bin Laden"?
POWELL: I think that might well be the case. They have been sponsors of terrorism and we have so designated them and those designations have not gone away.
But the Syrians were somewhat forthcoming in their response to 11 September. And I talked to the Syrian foreign minister and we're looking to see if we can explore areas of cooperation.
But they can't be for one kind of terrorism and against another kind of terrorism. They have to realize you've got to change your pattern if you want to be a part of this civilized world that is in a coalition against terrorism.
And the same message goes to Iran. Not quite the same context, but we have heard from the Iranians, through channels, and we are willing to explore this possibility. They have always been against the Taliban and against this kind of activity in Afghanistan, but they have also supported terrorist organizations. You've got to be ready to go against all terrorist organizations.
RUSSERT: But it's pretty hard with Iran because of their involvement in Khobar Towers, where they blew up a lot of our service men.
POWELL: Yes, it is. And what the president said in his speech is, "Continued conduct of that kind will identify you as someone who has a hostile interest toward the United States and interests as a civilized world."
RUSSERT: How about Saddam Hussein in Iraq? Is there any evidence that he was involved in the attack on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, and is he currently harboring terrorists and therefore is someone you would like to engage on this issue?
POWELL: Well, there are some reports of linkages, but not to the extent that I would say today there is a clear link. But we're looking for links and we're watching it very, very carefully.
We have no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He means us no good. He means the region no good. He's, of course, trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. For 10 years we have kept him contained and will continue to keep him contained. And, as you know, we always have the ability to strike if that seems to be the appropriate thing to do.
And so we are taking no options off the table, and we always consider him to be a potential source of terrorist activity and to harbor terrorism and terrorist activities. So we've got a good eye on the Iraqi regime.
RUSSERT: There are reports this morning on the news wires, the Taliban government saying Osama bin Laden is missing. How confident are you that we will find Osama bin Laden?
POWELL: I don't know. I really can't answer that question. He might be, quote, "missing," whatever that means. I'm not quite sure I'm ready to put any credence into a Taliban report. The Taliban may be trying to find a way to get themselves out of the terrible box they are in. I don't know.
And even if we were to get Osama bin Laden tomorrow, he showed up turned over to us, that would be good, but it would not be the end. It's his lieutenants we have to get, it's the whole network that has to be ripped up. We can't take out the head and have the tail and other parts of it laying around waiting.
RUSSERT: How many people are we talking about?
POWELL: We're talking several thousand. Maybe many thousands. We're not entirely sure, but we do know that…
RUSSERT: Everywhere, Europe, America?
POWELL: Everywhere. They're in Europe, they're in America. You can find connections to them all around, and we have to get them all or else we will always have a degree of uncertainty and a degree of insecurity within not only American society, but within societies all over the world.
We have to keep remembering that the World Trade Center was that: the World Trade Center. Almost 80 countries–about 80 countries lost citizens. And so it was an attack against Americans, it was an attack against Muslims, it was an attack against Jews, it was an attack against Africa and Asia and Europe, all parts of the world. It was the World Trade Center and they knew what they were doing.
RUSSERT: You have lived a full life, mostly as a military man. You've seen death up close. How have the events of September 11 changed you?
POWELL: They have been deeply moving for me, as they have been for every American. To see your own home city, New York–I'm a New Yorker–to see it struck that way and then to see a building that I spent so many years in the Pentagon struck that way–and I went over to the Pentagon yesterday with Don Rumsfeld, Secretary Rumsfeld to look around. It's deeply moving to know that, one, we had this kind of vulnerability and there were people out there who we knew were out there, but never really had a sense of how determined they were to strike us in this way.
And it means that as we go forward, we will have to work harder to protect ourselves, work harder to find this kind of enemy, work harder to defend ourselves. And I'm so pleased that Governor Ridge will be playing an important role in homeland security.
But at the same time, I'm just as convinced, in the face of this horror, that we've got to go on. We will go on. We're a strong people. We have a backbone of steel. We're proud of who we are. We're patriotic. We're not afraid of people. We're not going to hide under desks. We're not going to go into bunkers.
We've got to get back to work. We've got to get back to our ball games. We've got to get back to our theaters. We've got to get this economy moving again. And that will be the best answer to what happened. While we're also chasing them, where we're also going after our campaign with all the vigor at our disposal and all the strength at our disposal, the real answer to them is get back to being Americans, the kind of Americans we know we are, and we'll show the world what this country is really made of.
RUSSERT: Before you go, why do they hate us so much and how do we offer those young Muslim boys and girls around the world a competing destiny that says, "America is not that, our capitalistic system is not bad, Christianity and Judaism is not bad," because the leaders of Osama bin Laden's group are fueling within them this rabid hate for our country and our way of life?
POWELL: For reasons that are very complex, they hate our value system. They hate our presence in parts of the world that they think we should not be in.
But let me make this point: Go to any American city and you will find many proud American Muslims, proud American Muslims who came to this country because they wanted to be a part of this society; who came to this country for the opportunities we presented; who came to this country proud of their Muslim heritage, but at the same time wanting to be an American, just as my parents came to this country and your grandparents came to this country.
And so while we are looking at the Muslims who, through a false application of their faith, are doing this, let's look at those Muslims who understand the power of the democratic system, who understand the power of the free enterprise system, and let's celebrate the Muslims who have come to this country to become Americans and to share in the values of this nation.
RUSSERT: Colin Powell, secretary of state, we thank you for joining us this morning.
Coming next, the four most important men in the United States Congress: Republicans Dennis Hastert and Trent Lott, Democrats Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle. They are together right here next on "Meet The Press."
RUSSERT: And we are back.
Speaker Hastert, Leader Gephardt, Leader Daschle, Leader Lott, welcome all.
Mr. Speaker, let me start with you. If anything happened to the president or vice president, you'd be the president of the United States. Go back to September 11. On that terrible, terrible morning, a code red declared on Capitol Hill–when did you learn about what happened, and what steps did you take in order to keep the United States secure?
HASTERT: We actually learned like every other American, learned watching TV. I was in the Capitol early, 9 o'clock, we'd opened the House for morning session. I had a meeting downstairs. During that meeting somebody came in and said a plane had gone into the World Trade Center. It was a beautiful, clear morning. Sounded suspicious. By the time I got back up to my office, the second plane had gone into the World Trade Center.
At that time, I said, "I think we need to consider maybe just adjourning the House." I think thought we'd wait until that morning hour, 10 o'clock. I asked the chaplain to walk down with me.
And while we were trying to get some information from the White House, I looked out the window of the Capitol, it looks right down the Mall, and I see this plume of smoke coming up over the Pentagon and I said, "We need to get down to the House and adjourn it at this time."
I got to the House floor about five minutes to 10 and at that time we had our security that, kind of, whisked us away. The next thing I knew I was in a car hurtling through the countryside.
RUSSERT: You went to a facility. We will not disclose, obviously, for security reasons. You were there and then joined by the other leaders. Tell me about that day, the day you spent with three colleagues who are, at least two of them, often on the other side in terms of politics and legislation.
HASTERT: Well, yes, first of all it's frustrating. Any time you take somebody out of an element that you're used to, you're a little bit frustrated. You're mad. You're angry that this happened to the country. You didn't know what the effect of it was. I think–at least I was taken away and almost incommunicado when the Trade Towers collapsed so I didn't see that horrendous event.
And all of a sudden we're in a room with my colleagues here and we, kind of, looked around and said, "You know, we've never been together this long ever any time. And you know, we need to stand together," I think that was the consensus that we had around.
Quite frankly, we had some very good discussions. We were in briefings–actually talked to the vice president a couple of times during that period of time. And toward later that afternoon, we had some of our members that wanted to go back and open up Congress again and all these things and, you know, we still weren't sure of the safety of, not just for our members of Congress, but for staff and protection and all the people who work there. So we basically said, "We're going to go back to the Congress steps, stand shoulder to shoulder and reassure the American people that Congress will be back to work; we're going to do the things that we need to do." And, you know, this Congress has performed since that point.
RUSSERT: Senator Daschle, moments before all this happened, the country was fixated on the Social Security lockbox, the Bush economy, the Bush tax cut. All that sounds, kind of, almost irrelevant now, doesn't it?
DASCHLE: It does, Tim. We're dealing with emergency circumstances the likes of which nobody could have imagined just two weeks ago and that–that has shifted and changed in seismic ways the way Congress acts, our agenda, the decisions we must make, the way we work together, all the things that must be done. So without a doubt, this is a totally different environment and I think, as the speaker just noted, Congress is doing its best to respond under these circumstances.
RUSSERT: Congressman Gephardt, Speaker Hastert said the four of you in a room, hadn't spent much time together. How profoundly has your relationship changed with the speaker because of thee events?
GEPHARDT: Well, it's been an important time and I think all of us have reacted like everybody's reacted. This is the most horrible thing that's happened to our country in my lifetime. And we've all had an emotional reaction to it. This is horror, evil, we've seen the face of evil. And it's hurt the country so badly.
And so we–you know, I said to the president the other day, "We are trying to be half as good as the American people have been in this crisis." We're trying to talk to one another, communicate with each other, work with each other, respect one another, trust one another. And try to do the right things for the American people in a time of national emergency.
RUSSERT: Senator Lott?
LOTT: Well, I think it's been important that the leaders in Congress follow the lead that we've seen from the president and even more important for the American people.
The American people have been united. We've all felt the pain and horror that New York City is experienced. We've all been so proud of those that have given their lives and worked so hard from firemen to policemen to volunteers, those on the airplanes. And so we have been pulled together and it was to be expected that we would also approach things that way.
But I must say, I've been in Congress, this is I guess 28 years or so, and I've never seen the leadership work together the way we have. And there have been those that didn't agree with the decisions sometimes that the leadership had made, but we have stood together. We have done the right thing in terms of the economic package that we passed to pay for the cleanup and the disaster and the transportation and the military activities, also the use of force, and even this past Friday the airline package.
We've done it together. I think we've learned from it. And I think our relationship will be different and better in the future because of it.
RUSSERT: Wednesday I had the opportunity to visit ground zero in New York. I'm scarred in my mind and heart forever.
And then I sat down with Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York, who has played such a central role in all this. I want to share a little story he told me, and I'll play it on the screen for you and our viewers.
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RUDOLPH GIULIANI: When President Bush came here, we drove–Governor Pataki and I drove with him down to the site, which was a beautiful experience and wonderful for the people there. Then we drove up the West Side of Manhattan and the governor were both teasing him with, "Maybe you got four votes here, but we're not sure if you got four votes, but look how these people"–and then we also pointed out to them maybe the governor got six and I got six there too and then Republicans did not do too well on the West Side of Manhattan. "But look how these people are supporting you because this Republican/Democrat thing is gone now. This is all about being an American."
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RUSSERT: Mr. Speaker, this Republican/Democratic thing is gone now. Do you agree with that now?
HASTERT: Well, I think–I think so. You know, people are elected because there's different philosophies out there in this country and they're tended to elect by parties and represent philosophies, and that's what partisanship is all about, carrying those debates to the floor of Congress instead of carrying them out with sticks and stones.
So, partisanship is there to represent those philosophies, but in a time like these, American people expect us to come together, they expect us to get things done.
And, you know, that's what we've been about. And I think once you walk down that trail, and find out that you can do these things in this way, you can do extraordinary things.
I'm always reminded by the old Japanese warlords who, you know, had these processions and drums and cymbals and, you know, firecrackers and everything else to give them this persona, but, you know, inside when they met each other they were really just people. We're doing away with all these drums and philosophy, and sitting down as people elected to be leaders to do the things the American people want us to do.
LOTT: Let me give some credit to the two gentlemen here with the speaker and me today. Tom and Dick have stepped up in the right way. The response to the president's address, the joint session, was not a party response. We did it together and these two gentlemen went on the talk shows the next morning together. Dick Gephardt coordinated his radio response to the president's radio response on Saturday so that they were in sync and we have–the speaker stood some ground that was not easy for him because of concerns that Tom had. There have been efforts and concessions and leadership all around the table and I'm very proud of them.
RUSSERT: In fact, Senator Lott, I noted the president hugged Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt last week and not you.
LOTT: Yes, we wondered about that, you know.
LOTT: But Dick had a good response. You know, he didn't think he had to hug us. We expected it of us but these gentlemen…
RUSSERT: Or he likes redheads.
LOTT: Well, yes, there's something to that perhaps.
RUSSERT: Let me turn to a couple things that have been on the agenda being talked about, and, Congress Gephardt, you gave a passionate speech before Congress the other night saying, "We all failed our primary responsibilities to protect our people." Do you think there will be a serious effort now to have the federal government take responsibility for all airport security?
GEPHARDT: I hope we do. That's my opinion. There will be other opinions.
We have to work out who pays for what part of it. We can't disregard all those facts. But I think we must convince the American people very quickly that it's safe to go to airports and to get on airplanes and fly as we did before September the 11th, and I think the federal government has the central responsibility to do that.
RUSSERT: Speaker Hastert, do you think the American people, do you think Congress could accept a surtax where every airline ticket you buy, you pay five bucks or 10 bucks extra devoted to hiring people who screen luggage and passengers who are competent and professional?
HASTERT: Well, we pay a surtax on our airline tickets now depending on where you go and how you fly into and where we fly out of. But I'm not sure how we're going to fund this. It might be the government's responsibility to do that. We haven't made that decision yet.
But I think the American people deserve no less than the most competent people to be there at those gates to go through and check individuals and luggage and to make sure that the American public is safe. And that's what we really want to get down to, that Americans are restored in the faith that they can fly.
I mean, when these attacks came on the American people, it took away some of our freedoms and some of our liberties and that's what really those terrorists were attacking. And we need to restore those. And one of them is to be able to fly. That's how America does business. That's how we visit family. That's how we have recreation. We need to have that confidence that we can do that again.
RUSSERT: Senator Daschle, do you think the federal government should take over all the security and even be willing to have a surtax on tickets to pay for it?
DASCHLE: Well, Tim, I think we need to work out the ways, both we provide the security as well as we pay for it. You asked earlier about differences. I suppose as we work through this, there will be different ideas. The point is, at the end of the day, we're going to be unified in a response to those–to those concerns the American people have.
Dick Gephardt is absolutely right. We can provide the airlines with all the money they need, but people aren't going to climb on board again until they know they're secure and our job is to see that that security is provided and we're going to do that.
RUSSERT: Would a federal control be best, do you think?
DASCHLE: Well, I think that would be my inclination, as well, to think that federal control is the best way to do this, at least for a period of time. Maybe there will be another way that would be equally as effective down the road. But right now, I can't think of a better alternative.
RUSSERT: Senator Lott?
LOTT: Well, I pointed out some of the bills that we've already passed just in the last two weeks. I think this is one area that we need to address very quickly and probably will get to in the next 10 days or so and that is the security. The president has got authority and money to do some things, but we're going to look–there already is a package been introduced–bipartisan package in the Senate. I'm sure the House is working on it. But security and defense issues and even what we do in the economy we'll have to turn to in the next couple of weeks.
RUSSERT: Speaker Hastert, do you think symbolically it's important that National Airport reopen?
HASTERT: Well, I think that's–for all of us who fly out of Washington two or three times a week, I think that's pretty important. We need to balance that with security and make sure planes coming in and out are secure–that we can protect. But certainly that's a symbol for this nation, that people can move–tourists and business people and politicians can move freely in and out of this city. And if National stays down, I think the terrorists have achieved one of their goals, and that's to scare the American people.
I don't know what the answer is, how short or how long, but we need to make sure those protections are in place. I would certainly hope it would open up again.
RUSSERT: Anyone disagree with that? Reagan should reopen.
Let me turn to the issue of civil liberties. Attorney General Ashcroft has said we need to have better capability to track down the terrorists: Wiretaps, computers, detaining some people.
Senator Daschle, from what you've heard from the attorney general, is all that acceptable or are Democrats a little bit resistant to some of those changes because of their concern about constitutional protections?
DASCHLE: Well, Tim, I think we have to find that balance between constitutional protection and ensuring that law enforcement officials have whatever tools they need to get the job done. I know that Senator Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Bob Graham, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and the ranking members are working very closely with the attorney general to find that balance. I'm confident over the course of the next week or so we will be successful in that regard.
RUSSERT: Congressman Gephardt, any concerns?
GEPHARDT: There are concerns in my party. There are concerns in the Republican Party and those are going to be expressed in the days ahead. What we're trying to do is to go through a more regular process on this to let everybody be heard, to have a hearing on Monday I think in one of our committees; to have other committees look at it as well.
Understand, we want to do what we need to do to help the administration, the military, be able to track these folks down and bring them to justice. And if there are things they need that haven't been covered in law–one of the concerns is that people have all these phones now. People are throwing away a phone a day. So it's hard to get to the eavesdropping that you need without getting an order every day from a court. Things like that, obviously, have to be dealt with. I think we can reach some kind of consensus on it soon.
RUSSERT: There's been an extraordinary outpouring amongst the American people for people in need. A wonderful doctor friend of mine, Michael Newman (ph), called and suggested that people take their rebate checks and just turn them over and make them payable to the Red Cross or the Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army. What do you think of that Senator?
DASCHLE: I think it's a great idea. I have a very dear friend in Mobridge, South Dakota, who just did that this week and I think we ought to set the example. We need to do that.
I think the American people want to find ways to be as helpful as they possibly can. This is an easy way, a very effective way to do it.
RUSSERT: Senator Lott?
LOTT: A lot of people are already doing that and others are going way beyond that, individually and corporations and unions. In fact, when we were in New York City–Tom and I went with a delegation of senators last week–the fire commissioner told me that their firemen relief fund even then was $90 million and he expected it to go up considerably. So the American people are proving with their contributions and their actions that they're going to really reach out and help those in need.
GEPHARDT: We got to encourage all of us to help one another fight this and work with one another. It's why the other day the speaker and I went on the floor and said, "We're going to try to bring forward–now that we've helped the airline, we need to think about the out-of-work employees in all these industries that have been affected by this and see if they can get their health insurance and training and some other things that they need to get back into their normal lives."
RUSSERT: America's had about a million layoffs since the beginning of the year; a couple hundred thousand over the last 10 days. Speaker Hastert, are there other industries, other than the airline industry, who are going to come to you for help and should the federal government be in a role of helping them?
HASTERT: I'm sure they're going to come to us and I think they're probably lined up already. But one of the things we have to look at, we need to get this economy rolling again. We need to get the airline industry up and running, people's confidence in it, because a lot of these tangent industries that–the tourist industry and the ship line industry and the others out there, hotels and restaurants–if people are moving, if people are traveling, then their businesses are going to be made whole.
So we needed to do the most important thing and that's get the airlines running, people's confidence back in the faith of flying so that all these other service industries can be part of this and whole again.
And what Leader Gephardt said on the whole issue of employment security, you know, we have–our amount of funds in employment security are larger than we've ever seen before. So we have the resources to be able to do that. We want to make sure that people get their health care, all Americans get their health care. And we're going to be working on those issues, as well.
LOTT: And Tim, America will be different, maybe never the same again, but we need to encourage and do everything we can as leaders but also the American people to return to normalcy. And I think I've already started seeing that and that's across the board.
RUSSERT: Senator Daschle, part of a plan to stimulate the economy is a cut in the capital gains tax, tied with an increase in the minimum wage. Do you think that's a good idea, both those?
DASCHLE: Well, we're going to look at all the options we have. I think the consensus is right now, let's look and see down the road what makes the most sense. Everything's on the table. And nothing's off the table. But I think that it's important for us to take some time to really analyze what is the best thing we can do and no one's come to any conclusions about that. It's no secret I'm not wild about a capital gains cut, but we're going to stay unified as we approach these things.
If I could just add something to what Senator Lott just said, Tim, I think what we've got to do if we really want to stimulate the economy is encourage people to do the things they were going to do in the first place. Go buy that car if they were thinking about it. Go out and have a good dinner. Buy their children's clothing for the school year and all of the home improvements that they were going–we've got to get back to normal. And the more we can encourage that, the more people can just do the things that they were going to do as Americans, the more they're going to help their country and restore this economy to the health it should be.
RUSSERT: And with that in mind, we have to take a quick break for a commercial to pay for this program. We'll be right back after this.
RUSSERT: And we are back.
Speaker Hastert, Congress still has a lot of work to do: all the appropriation bills, patient bill of rights, education bill. Will you get to those this session?
HASTERT: Well, we certainly want to. The appropriation bills we have to get through. And I think we have at least the beginning of an agreement that we can do this. I don't think the American people want to see us sit in Washington and squabble about how much money we spend on defense and other things, when we, basically, have put our men and women who serve this country in the national defense in jeopardy.
So we need to get that work done. We are going to move what we call a CR that will take us probably to the 15th or 16th of October…
RUSSERT: Continuing Resolution.
HASTERT: … and hopefully we'll get our work done by that time.
Now, that doesn't mean that the work of the Congress is done. I think we have a lot of other things to do. But at least we ought to get the appropriations off the table and done.
There's other things out there. There's the issue of health care. And I think we've passed a bill, the Senate's passed a bill. We should be able to come together and hopefully get some of that…
RUSSERT: On the patient bill of rights?
HASTERT: On patients' bill of rights, get done, yes.
RUSSERT: How long will Congress stay in session?
HASTERT: We're going to stay in session as long as we need to. We may not be in session every day, but, you know, we're in an extremely tough crisis situation in this country, and Congress is going to be there when we need to be there.
And the other issues out there, you know, we have an energy bill. I don't know if we've passed an energy bill–I'm not sure whether the Senate's going to–they passed one. We need to be able to come together. I've always said that, the more dependent that we get on the Middle East for our energy, the more involved we become in their policies and their government and their idiosyncrasies on this thing. And, you know, we need to step back a little bit and free ourselves up from that.
So I think those are all important issues that we can start to talk about.
RUSSERT: Congressman Gephardt, this is going to be very expensive, this war against terrorism. It may even mean deficit spending again. Can you accept that?
GEPHARDT: We're going to do what we have to do. We got to fight this thing. This is a dagger pointed at the heart of our country. We've hurt so many of our families. We have to respond, and we have to win this battle, and we're going to win it.
I want to add one thing to what the speaker said. You know, the last few days, we've been working in a bipartisan way, and that's been new for some of our members. They haven't seen that. And it's been hard. It's been difficult to get those agreements.
But one thing we've learned is that, when you really do things in a bipartisan way, sometimes you don't get everything you want. And that's, I think, a good experience. I've said to my members, "We're in a new world. We have to think anew and act anew," and that's what we're trying to do.
RUSSERT: Senator Daschle, how have the events of September 11 changed you?
DASCHLE: Well, I think we all still ache, Tim, inside. I don't think that ache will go away any time soon.
But along with the ache comes this incredible pride. When you see what happens across this country, when our people respond as they have with generosity, with compassion, with resolve, with determination, with patriotism, displayed in so many ways–handmade flags as you go down neighborhoods, I think that is really what has made me feel as proud as I've ever been to be an American.
RUSSERT: Senator Lott, I'll give you the last word.
LOTT: I think it changes your perspective about what's really important in your personal life and in your public life. And you feel differently toward your sometime adversaries. And I think we've all grieved together, we've all worked together, and I think we have all shared a pride and a pain that will make us different, pull us together, and I think make us better individually and as a country.
RUSSERT: Senator Trent Lott, Senator Tom Daschle, Representative Dick Gephardt, Speaker Dennis Hastert, thank you all very much for this historic morning on "Meet the Press."