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Interview With Henry Hyde

Aired October 20, 2001 - 17:30   ET


ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: I'm Robert Novak. Mark Shields and I will question the chairman of the House International Relations committee.

MARK SHIELDS, CO-HOST: He's Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois.


SHIELDS (voice-over): While President Bush was at the Asian Conference in Shanghai, seeking to strengthen the anti-terrorist coalition, U.S. Rangers entered Afghanistan under the veil of strict military secrecy.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's going take time and the people on the grounds there are very tough. It is going to be a lot easier in my view to try to persuade a number of them to oppose the Taliban and to oppose al Qaeda and to help defeat them than it is to, in fact, defeat them.

SHIELDS: At the Shanghai Summit, President Bush asked for help.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Terrorists want to turn the openness of the global economy against itself. We must not let them. We need customs, financial, immigration and transportation systems that make it easier for us to do our business and much harder for terrorists to do theirs.

SHIELDS: Henry Hyde, a 14-term House member from the Chicago suburbs became chairman of the House International Relations Committee this year, after six years as House Judiciary Committee chairman.


SHIELDS: Chairman Henry Hyde, welcome, and thank you for being with us. We learned today that 100 Army Rangers in and out of Afghanistan. Is this really a realistic strategy, Mr. Chairman, for winning the war in Afghanistan?

REP. HENRY HYDE (R), ILLINOIS: Well, I certainly would leave it to those whose job it is to devise military strategy. They don't need Monday morning quarterbacks telling them how to conduct tactics on the ground. I assume from what knowledge we've been permitted to receive that it was a successful foray. It's ratcheting up the assault on Afghanistan until they turn over bin Laden. So yeah, I'm sure it was successful.

SHIELDS: Well, let me rephrase it, Mr. Chairman, and that is, aren't we going to need in order to topple the Taliban and to secure some sort of order in Afghanistan, aren't we going to need an awful lot more troops on the ground there?

HYDE: I don't know. That's -- it may be or it may not be. I'm not privy to the intelligence that the president is and the secretary of defense, but I would not at this point start second-guessing their tactics. I think they know what they're doing.

NOVAK: When you say, sir, that you're not privy to the intelligence, does that mean that you have been cut out of the loop by the president's tightening of who gets intelligence information?

HYDE: No. It means that there are operational tactics the details of which no one in Congress needs to know. They are technical. They are military. We need to know themes, we need to know strategy, we need to know policy, we need to help shape policy, but we don't need a lot of tactical intelligence that is necessary for this type of operation.

NOVAK: On the strategic question, Mr. Chairman, do you believe -- there is a debate going on in Washington quite fiercely over what happens after such time as the Taliban and the al Qaeda are defeated. Do you believe that the United States should attack Iraq, regardless -- regardless of whether there is any firm evidence indicating complicity by the Iraqis in the terrorist attacks of September 11?

HYDE: No, I don't think so. I think that would be a big mistake. I have no illusions about Saddam Hussein. But at the same time, I don't think we could put together the coalition against him and his country that we were able to put together in Desert Storm some years ago or in Afghanistan today.

I do think we should watch Mr. Hussein, Saddam Hussein, and try to erode his authority, drive a wedge between him and the Iraqi people. But as far as launching an all-out war, I think that would be a mistake.

SHIELDS: Henry Hyde, there is no logical successor to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and after the Taliban is deposed, which the administration seems quite confident will not be too far in the future, aren't we really going to have to require some nation-building in Afghanistan of the very nature that candidate George W. Bush ran against?

HYDE: I think you're right, Mark. I think that was a mistake we made back when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. We made a major effort in helping the mujahideen drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, but once that had been accomplished we picked up our marbles and went home, not concerning ourselves with the aftermath, the consequences.

The result is a worse situation or as bad a situation as when the Soviet Union was there -- namely, the Taliban -- who are very oppressive and anti-democratic and certainly anti-American. I think we have to be concerned with the aftermath of any battles that we are in, because we need friends in this world, not enemies. And so, we should not make the same mistake we made earlier in Afghanistan.

SHIELDS: On the subject of anti-democratic, Congressman Hyde, the administration, some supporters of it have called this a struggle for freedom, a struggle for democracy, a war against terrorism. And yet, you look around and our new best friend is Pakistan, a nation with a military dictator that just was on our sanctions list a short while ago, and embargoes have been lifted, anti-democratic and military dictator toppled the democratic regime there. Egypt, without a democratic election in 20 years, Saudi Arabia -- I mean, can we really make the case this is a battle for democracy?

HYDE: I don't think it is a battle for democracy. I think it's a battle against terrorism. Democracy is a system of government, just like the market system is one in economics, and we can argue those in the various forms, the United Nations or other places, through diplomacy.

But we were assaulted in a horrendous attack September 11 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and we are fighting to root out terrorism as a threat to every civilized country on the globe. And we have to make friends with people who will join us in this fight, whose systems of government or economics are not ours.

NOVAK: In that connection, Mr. Chairman, so that this war against terrorism does not become a war of the West against Islam, do you agree with President Bush and with Secretary of State Powell that the U.S. policy should be changed to advocate in the future a Palestinian state?

HYDE: I think the creation of a Palestinian state ought to be on the table with every possibility. I think until the Middle East war is settled, there will not be peace in this world and we will have to spend a lot of time looking over our shoulder, because I believe that is one -- certainly not every -- but one of the major causes for the difficulties the world is in today.

And so the creation of a Palestinian state is an option, along with other concessions that the Palestinians would have to make. We should never abandon Israel as our close ally and friend, but we have to try to be useful in settling that dispute, and be as even-handed as we can. And a Palestinian state should not be ruled out.

NOVAK: Mr. Chairman, we have less than a minute before we take a break, but you have been talking about public diplomacy lately, about trying to get a world where Americans -- where everybody doesn't hate Americans. Do you believe, considering all the money the United States has spent, it's been spent pretty badly, considering the lowest esteem Americans are held in around the world?

HYDE: I think if you're resulted-oriented you have to agree that the money has not produced the results we sought. We are a country that developed Hollywood, Madison Avenue. We ought to be able to sell anything to anybody. We are the father of modern marketing. And so, why don't we sell our country? We've got to do a better job, and we're looking into that.

NOVAK: OK, we're going to have to take a break. And when we come back we'll ask the honorable Henry Hyde about: How is the war on terrorism going on the American home front?


SHIELDS: Chairman Henry Hyde, Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, the director of homefront security -- homeland security here in the United States is charged with the responsibility of coordinating 46 separate agencies, departments -- FBI, Department of Justice, HHS, and he's going to this with had a staff of 16 people smaller than that of a member of Congress. Is this -- realistically, isn't this kind of a silly assignment to give to somebody, or an enormous assignment?

HYDE: I think it is. I don't mean the assignment is silly, but the resources are woefully inadequate to the towering job he's been given. So Congress has to do something about it, and I predict we will.

SHIELDS: By doing about it, you mean giving him statutory authority and more resources?

HYDE: Provide more resources to him, find out what he thinks he needs and see how close we can become to providing it to him.

SHIELDS: In the wake of September 11, the flying public, as you pointed out -- called it the non-flying public -- has been quite nervous about returning to our air travel. And the Senate just passed by a 100-to-zero vote a federal takeover of airport security. And there seems to be a strong national majority in favor of it. What is the case that's being made in the House by your conservative colleagues against that move?

HYDE: Well, many of them see this as a -- simply a labor issue, where the labor unions want -- especially the federal workers union want to take over representing all of the baggage handlers. Nobody understands what changes are going to be made. The same people checking baggage now and checking passengers will be doing it, only they'll be carrying a union card for -- with a federal union.

I think there has to be some federal injection into this process, oversight, certainly. But I'm not convinced that every baggage handler has to be a federal employee.

NOVAK: Mr. Chairman you, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had intimate contact with the FBI for six years. I still hear complaints from other federal agencies, from local law enforcement agencies, that even after September 11 the federal -- the FBI is not sharing information, is not cooperating. Do you think that is a valid complaint against the FBI?

HYDE: It has always been a complaint, and it isn't just the FBI. It's many agencies refuse or are unwilling to cooperate and provide data sharing with other agencies. That is one of the major psychological obstacles towards fighting effectively, terrorism. So we're going to have to do something to require better cooperation between the federal agencies.

There are too many agencies, but that's another problem. But data sharing has got to be improved, and it's up to Congress to do something about it.

NOVAK: Mr. Chairman, you also were a member, at one time, of the Senate -- of the House Intelligence Committee. The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Shelby, has been very strong in saying he thinks there was an intelligence failure by the CIA, leading to the events of September 11, and he also feels that Richard (sic) Tenet, the CIA director was -- George Tenet, the CIA director, was culpable and should be removed. What do you think about both those points?

HYDE: Well, I don't have the information Dick Shelby has. I'm not on the Intelligence Committee. I don't deal with these people. I wouldn't second-guess his opinion, but I don't share it. I don't have the information to base such an opinion on.

I do think the CIA -- I do think there was a failure, because evidently there was information about people in this country who should have been watched and were not. And that information wasn't shared. That's something we have to look at, but I wouldn't be ready to be firing people like Mr. Shelby is.

NOVAK: OK, we're going to have to take another break. And when we come back, we'll have "The Big Question" for Henry Hyde of Illinois.


NOVAK: "The Big Question" for Congressman Henry Hyde. Mr. Chairman, there was information out Saturday morning that a new -- new evidence of anthrax infestation in the Ford House office budding. In view of that, sir, do you think the leadership of the House was justified in closing down the House, even though the Senate kept in session?

HYDE: Yes, I do. I think Denny Hastert and Dick Armey and Dick Gephardt, for that matter, did the right thing. They have a responsibility of protecting 435 congressmen, plus thousands of people who are on the staff. There was information that this substance was in the ventilating system. I think they did the right thing.

It wasn't much of a vacation, because we were running out of time on Wednesday, and we took Thursday off. We are always home on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, so it was one day -- and I think their judgment was sound.

SHIELDS: Henry Hyde, in Shanghai yesterday, Friday, President Bush said that Chinese stand side by side with the American people against -- in the battle against terrorism. Yet on Saturday, we have reports that Chinese personnel went to Afghanistan to the camps of Osama bin Laden to -- there to study and remove unexploded U.S. missiles that had been fired into those camps. And -- are we kidding ourselves or being kidded in thinking that China is really on our side and playing it straight?

HYDE: Well, I don't know. I think trust but verify, Ronald Reagan's mantra is certainly sound, and we can accept assurances from China, but I would always look under the covers to see what's really there. But I think if China wants to cooperate and will cooperate, that's excellent. That's good, but I wouldn't bet the ranch on it.

SHIELDS: OK. Henry Hyde, thank you very much for being with us. Robert Novak and I will be back in a moment with a comment.


SHIELDS: Bob, Chairman Henry Hyde gave no comfort to the super hawks inside this Bush administration who are urging an immediate invasion and take-over of Iraq. In fact, he said, absent compelling evidence and a strong case, he was against that.

NOVAK: That was very interesting. I was also interested that as a strong friend of Israel and he thinks the United States should always be a friend of Israel, he does believe that we, the United States, has to move toward a Palestinian state, and that is something the Israeli government and again the super hawks don't like.

SHIELDS: The other thing is that Henry Hyde did not join those who say this is a war for freedom and democracy, he said we are in bed with some pretty unsavory characters because it's a war against terrorism, and we ought to hold our nose and join arms.

NOVAK: Mark, you and I know that Chairman Hyde is a straight shooter. He tells you what he thinks. He says that this set-up for Tom Ridge on Homeland Security just isn't going to work, it's a joke as it's constituted right now, and he also says the FBI is not cooperating now anymore than it used to, which was very little, and he also said there was a CIA intelligence failure. So that's the straight stuff you usually don't get from Washington.

I'm Robert Novak.

SHIELDS: I'm Mark Shields. CNN's coverage of "America Strikes Back" continues.

NOVAK: Thanks for joining us.




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