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Does the U.S. Need to Return to the Draft?; Dick Cheney: War in Iraq a Good Idea

Aired May 30, 2005 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Donna Brazile. On the right, Bay Buchanan.


ANNOUNCER: In the CROSSFIRE, the president remembers the courage and sacrifice of America's fighting men and women on Memorial Day while others continue to fight in Iraq.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Across the globe our military is standing directly between our people and the worst dangers in the world. And Americans are grateful to have such brave defenders.

ANNOUNCER: And a major effort is launched to target insurgents in Baghdad, even as new suicide attacks claim more victims. The vice president still says the cost of the war are worth it.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm absolutely convinced we did the right thing in Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: But one lawmaker says America might have to go back to the draft to meet the demands on U.S. forces. Memorial Day and the American military. Today on CROSSFIRE.


ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile.

BAY BUCHANAN, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. It's Memorial Day in America, a time to honor the fallen. President Bush says we can do that by continuing the fight against terror and advancing the cause of liberty.

DONNA BRAZILE, CO-HOST: We all recognize and appreciate the sacrifice made by brave Americans, but as the fighting in Iraq continues, will we have to start drafting more of them to make the sacrifice?

Before we get to that, here's the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE political alert.

Senator Bill Frist was the honorary starter at Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. The presidential hopeful apparently wants to raise his stock among the stock car fans, knowing he needs conservative voters to have any chance in 2008, Frist needed to -- a break after last week here in Washington, D.C.

John McCain stole his thunder by brokering a deal to help the Senate avoid the nuclear option. Then the Senate went on to break without voting on the controversial U.N. ambassador nominee, John Bolton.

So the senator wanted to make a good first impression with race car fans. But the Tennessee Republican got one of the driver's name's wrong, a driver from Tennessee, mind you, Bay. And he picked Kurt Busch to win the race based on, of course, his last name. He got that wrong, too. Busch got into two accidents and didn't even make it to the finish line.

With such luck I bet Senator Frist doesn't even make it to the starting gate of the 2008 presidential race.

You know -- you know, Danica Patrick, that rookie, she really stole the show. If he wants to win something, he needs to stand next to her.

BUCHANAN: You're the campaign manager's nightmare, having your potential candidate falling all over himself in such a nice weekend event. But you know, a lot of people say Frist was hurt by last week. In the short term he sure was. But I think in the long term he may have been helped, because he's going to come back fighting and fighting for that filibuster. And we'll see what happens.

BRAZILE: Oh, I hope he loses again.

BUCHANAN: Yes. I don't think he will, though.

The Minutemen, those patriotic men and women who last month virtually stopped the illegals from entering the most porous stretch the of the Arizona border, are expanding their focus. The group will begin patrolling the California and Canadian border soon, and some people aren't too happy about it.

Demonstrations gathering in Las Vegas yesterday, the demonstrators were screaming and shouting at the meeting where the Minutemen members were gathered. It's reported that they waved Mexican flags and screamed, "Racists, go home," to the Minutemen. That's right: the demonstrators waved Mexican flags and yelled for the Americans to go home.

But the Americans are at home. And more importantly, all they are asking is for their government to enforce the laws of this land. Nothing evil, ugly or hateful about that. But if our government does not find the courage to do their job soon, expect many uglier and angrier crowds demonstrating in the streets -- Donna.

BRAZILE: Well, Bay, look, there's no question that our borders are not as secure as they should be. But I -- I agree that we need to have comprehensive immigration reform. I know you support the Minutemen and Minutewomen.

BUCHANAN: I am one.

BRAZILE: Of course. You're a lot of things. But we need -- we need real border patrol by people who can do the job.

BUCHANAN: Sure. And that means we should expand that border patrol. And we should really enforce the laws of this land in the country, as well. Immigration is the hottest issue out there, Donna.

BRAZILE: Well, OK, now. Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has introduced legislation to overturn all of D.C.'s locally enacted gun safety laws, against the will of district residents. I'm a district resident.

You can read about this outrageous attack on D.C.'s right to self-government in the "Washington Post."

Last year Indiana Congressman Mark Souter attempted to pass similar legislation. The D.C. Democracy Fund sent thousands of election day phone calls into his district, letting his constituents know that even his hometown paper and Indiana natives thought interfering with D.C. local gun laws was a dumb idea. Eventually, it died in the Senate.

But we face a tougher battle this year, because as a result of the 2004 elections, we have more gun supporters, of course. In the Senate, the Hutchison bill has already gone to 60 Senate co-sponsors to date.

D.C. residents reserve to have their laws taken seriously. We do not need anyone from out of town telling us what gun laws should be on the books. I happen to support the Second Amendment, but in terms of D.C. we should make that decision, not a senator from Texas.

BUCHANAN: I happen to agree with you. I happen to agree with you...

BRAZILE: You agree?

BUCHANAN: ... that D.C. should choose their own rule. But would you not agree if D.C. were to change the rule and let you good law abiding citizens carry some guns around in this town?

BRAZILE: Some of us will probably go packing like you Virginians.

BUCHANAN: You -- that's time, Donna.

BRAZILE: I didn't pack anything since I left Louisiana, Bay.

BUCHANAN: Look in that trunk again.

With all the seriousness on Capitol Hill over the filibuster issue, you might be surprised at how many people outside of Washington actually know anything about a filibuster. According to a new poll, only 68 percent of Americans, when given multiple choices, could even identify a filibuster as a legislative procedure. Some thought it was breed of a horse. Others a household appliance and others a sandwich, probably with chicken in it.

But when pollsters asked people to describe a filibuster in their own words without giving them any choices, 61 percent could not do it. Respondents guessed that the phrase referred to anything from someone who pokes you in the stomach after you eat to someone who knocks you out.

Obviously, all that effort by Democrats to scare Americans into believing that the end of the republic was near if the filibuster had been killed failed miserably -- Donna.

BRAZILE: Well, Bay, first of all...

BUCHANAN: Knock me out, Donna.

BRAZILE: Filibuster is Republicans wanting everything. They want everything. That's what a filibuster is. They want absolute power. That's what a filibuster is.

BUCHANAN: Well, Donna, you guys better spend a little more money, because the people don't seem to understand what a filibuster is there. No end of the republic, no fear, no scare. And I'm telling you it's a matter of time before the judicial filibuster is history.

BRAZILE: I hope not.

Next on CROSSFIRE, Memorial Day during wartime. The nation remembers those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

As the Iraq war drags on Vice President Cheney says he's absolutely convinced the U.S. did the right thing by going in. And this war has stretched the all-volunteer military thin. Does the U.S. have enough troops -- troop strength to meet the demands of the 21st Century? Or is it time to bring back the draft?


BRAZILE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE on this Memorial Day. Will the demands of the continuing war on terror, coupled with declining enlistment rates mean a return to the draft? And why does Dick Cheney still think going to war in Iraq was a good idea?

In the CROSSFIRE, Democratic strategist Julian Epstein and radio talk show host Michael Graham. Thank you, gentlemen, for coming in today.


BRAZILE: Good, good.

Michael, I'd like to ask you a question.


BRAZILE: Recruitment down, some blame the war in Iraq, is the all-volunteer Army a thing of the past?

GRAHAM: Absolutely not. I mean, it might cost a little bit more money. But you know, there are two things that work against the draft. And one is it's hard work, obviously, going to Iraq as opposed to, you know, serving at home and getting a college scholarship.

Another part is the economy keeps growing. America's kind of unique compared to the other industrialized countries. We've got low unemployment, a lot of people making a lot of good money. Those are two temptations that take people away. But if you put a little more money in the system, you will get the recruits you need.

And also I want to point out one other thing quickly: we're maintaining the higher standards we put in. Years ago we raised the standards for the volunteer Army. We could lower the standards tomorrow and bring in new people...

BRAZILE: Some people thought that after 9/11 that, you know, recruitment would shoot up. But all of a sudden after the invasion of Iraq it's gone down.

GRAHAM: It did temporarily shoot up. The thing about the reasons people join the military. One is family, tradition. One is a sense of pride in what the military does. Some people for pure economic reasons, based on their background this is the best move they've got to make. And it's a confluence of things.

This notion that we're on the border of a crisis, this is all political. This is Democrats in Congress wanting people to talk draft, because talking about draft means hating Bush.

BRAZILE: But it's not -- but it's not just Democrats. It's Chuck Hagel and McCain. And I'll get back to that in a minute.

GRAHAM: Democrats, like John McCain. Oh, I'm sorry.

BUCHANAN: It is clear from everybody who honestly looks at this, we are not anywhere close to a draft. There is no threat. Rumsfeld himself, the secretary of defense, has said that the last thing we would want. It's not an efficient means to go to have a draft. Nowadays with technology and all that's needed for good soldier, sometimes it takes 14 months to train a soldier. So it would make no sense to have a two-year -- a draft for two years.

So why is it -- why do you continue this scare tactic? I understand during the campaign why you would bring up the scare factor. Why do you continue, as Democrats, to raise this issue of draft?

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think most Democrats don't. And I think most Democrats think a draft is a bad idea. I think it's a bad idea, because in a volunteer Army you're likely to get people to serve four times as long: eight years. And you're likely to get reenlistment up to about twice as high, 50 percent as opposed to 10 percent in the draft.

But, with all due respect to Mike's somewhat Pollyanna view as to why there is a decline now in recruitment, there is a very, very serious problem. And I think it's multifold.

One is there is a strong sense amongst -- and this was documented in the "Stars and Stripes" survey of the military servicemen. There's a strong sense that our men and women in Iraq are not getting the kind of support that they need, either in terms of the number of troops that need to be there to support them, the quality of the equipment, or the quality of life issues like healthcare, pay, all those kind of issues. That's one.

Secondly, there is a sense amongst many of the military men and women that the public is deeply divided and that the White House has not been entirely candid about the Iraqi war. That has had a significant impact on the morale. If I can, just for a second, there's...

BUCHANAN: You have overlooked the main reason.

EPSTEIN: No. There's another reason.

BUCHANAN: It's called mothers.

EPSTEIN: Well, there's -- well, mothers, I never want to discount that reason. That's always an important one.

BUCHANAN: Mothers and fathers -- now they are targeting parents in order to recruit, because the parents are telling their kids and discouraging them from joining the Army. They aren't having trouble...

EPSTEIN: Another problem -- there's another problem we should talk about, because these are serious problems.

The other problem is the stop loss problem, where people believe they're signing up for a certain period of time and then the military is extending and then re-extending their period of duty. That ought to be changed. That ought to be reformed.

Finally, there is these quality of life issues. I mean, the Republicans in the White House talked about how much they support the military. But they want to cut their pay. They want to cut schools on military bases. They want to cut healthcare benefits.

GRAHAM: That is not true.

EPSTEIN: It is true, and if you read the budget that's coming out...

GRAHAM: It's a record budget: $71 billion (ph).

EPSTEIN: If you read -- I'll just give you line by line.

GRAHAM: It's a record. It's a record. Is it a record, yes or no?

EPSTEIN: No, it's not a record.

GRAHAM: We've never spent this much before...

EPSTEIN: Let me tell you what they have tried to cut. They have tried to cut the imminent danger combat pay. They have tried to cut the disability payments. They have tried to cut separation allowances. They've tried to cut schools on military bases.

And if you want to call that a record, call it a record. It's not a good record.

GRAHAM: It's $71 billion.

BUCHANAN: We should not pursue a draft, correct?

EPSTEIN: It's a bad idea. But there are serious systemic problems. Much of -- much of the responsibility can be on...


BRAZILE: I'm holding my part. I believe that all Americans should share -- share in the sacrifice of the defending our country, not just a select few.

EPSTEIN: I think the one-year service -- I think one-year mandatory service for everybody, whether it's military or social...

BRAZILE: I don't have three sons like Bay.

GRAHAM: I just want to point out that when I was in high school that the military came to recruit at our school. And uniformly, everyone in my class said, "Whatever do you don't pick Graham."

I stunk. I was lousy. I'd be a terrible soldier.

BRAZILE: You would.

GRAHAM: There were other people that were motivated, that were more talented, and I'm glad to support them with my taxes and my support. And they do a much better guy of killing the bad guys. That makes sense. You guys have the social engineering theory of the military where the military is like a club.

EPSTEIN: Mike -- Mike, don't get too excited. You cannot deny -- you cannot deny the fact...


BRAZILE: We need to get on to Dick Cheney. And you know, Dick Cheney is going to be on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern Time for those of us on the East Coast.

But he said essentially that -- and I want to you see this clip -- that he's confident that -- that they did the right thing in going into Iraq. This guy has no remorse. He's not admitting to any mistakes. He's once again arrogantly saying that we did the right thing: 1,600 lives, 12,000 wounded, thousands of Iraqis also lost. And he said we did the right thing.

Do you agree with Dick Cheney?

GRAHAM: Absolutely, 100 percent. And that's because -- I feel so sorry for the people in the administration who are trying to remind us of the big picture. It's easy today for people like Julian to have us count the costs. We can see the bill, the short-term very easily: 1,500 battlefield deaths.

But if I'd said to you on September 12, 2001, that there would be no successful terrorist attack on American soil and we would liberate Afghanistan and we would liberate Iraq and liberate 55 million people from tyranny and fewer than 2,000 people, American soldiers would die, no one would believe me. They would have said that's insane.

It's been a tremendous success if you take the big picture that, for 40 years now, there's been terrorists killing people of the west. I was a little kid watching the Munich attacks, a little kid. And now that's all changed. We're changing it for the long term.

EPSTEIN: The filibuster is over.

BUCHANAN: You would have to -- I understand why Dick Cheney would say this. But would you not agree -- Julian, let's not say whether we should have gone or not have gone. We went. We see what happened. We're very close. It looks as if there could possibly be some democracy.

EPSTEIN: Let's hope so. Let's hope so.

BUCHANAN: We both want to hope so.

EPSTEIN: Let's hope so, and...

BUCHANAN: Would not that make it a worthwhile effort?

EPSTEIN: I think so. But let me say this. I think the way...

BUCHANAN: You agree with me now on two points.

EPSTEIN: This is problematic.

I think -- I think that to listen -- to listen to Dick Cheney talk as I've seen or the clips that have been reported, I think people are going to think they're turning in for a rerun of "Eyes Wide Shut."

To say -- to say that, look, if there is reformation in Iraq and that is then a springboard for reformation in the Middle East, that will be a major advance for the cause of humanity and our security. But to simply -- but to simply say that, if that happens that means that this White House should have a blank check for future wars, future efforts...

BUCHANAN: No one should have a blank check.

EPSTEIN: Well, that's...

BUCHANAN: I agree.

EPSTEIN: That ignores -- that ignores some pretty significant things about what went wrong here.

BUCHANAN: We've got to take a break.

BRAZILE: Filibuster ends. Time out.

BUCHANAN: We're taking a break.

When we come back we'll ask if, indeed, there is a need to -- for the women -- the women to start going into those front lines, right alongside the men. And when Operation Lightning strikes in Baghdad, will this joint U.S.-Iraqi task force be able to break the back of the insurgency? We'll have the details coming up next.


JUDY WOODRUFF, GUEST HOST, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": I'm Judy Woodruff, reporting from Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, backed up by 10,000 U.S. troops, 40,000 Iraqi police and soldiers search Baghdad for insurgents in Operation Lightning.

Memorial Day 2005, President Bush talks about the war in Iraq.

And what led the FBI to a U.S. doctor suspected of helping al Qaeda?

All those stories and much more just minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BRAZILE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

House Republicans dropped an effort to tighten the ban on women in combat. Should females be on the front lines? Or should they only be allowed to serve in support functions?

Still in the CROSSFIRE, radio talk show host Michael Graham and Democratic strategist Julian Epstein.

BUCHANAN: Julian, if indeed the purpose of the military is to be the leanest, meanest fighting machine, and indeed, we all know that women are nowhere near as strong as men, 50 percent less upper strength, just for one item, is there any case that can be made to have women on our front lines?

EPSTEIN: Yes. You know, if I were going onto the front lines, Bay, to tell you the truth, I might want to have both and you Donna standing right next to me.

BUCHANAN: I'm not coming.

EPSTEIN: Probably as tough as you guys are (ph).

Look, I think -- I think that if we want to have the leanest meanest fighting machine, that we should base decisions on merit, not on gender, not on race, not on nationality.

There are -- there are 191, 191 positions in the military that women, regardless whether they are capable or not, are disbarred from. Similar with the don't ask, don't tell policy. You have 10,000 people who are very capable for -- many for specialized functions who are just -- just disbarred, disbarred from the military because of their sexual orientation.

You talk about the problem with military recruitment. But then you want to create these social second caste systems, with second class systems for either people that have a different sexual orientation, people that have a different gender. It's -- really, it's totally contradictory with what we were just talking about.

BRAZILE: Hold on, over two million American women have served in the military, a million more. I mean, we talk about physical strength. What about tactical, strategic? Don't you think women can make better decisions?

BUCHANAN: We're talking about combat.

BRAZILE: No, that's what combat is. It's strategic. Not just -- not just beat them up (ph)...

GRAHAM: Anyone who thinks women don't have the emotional strength to kill have never been married, OK? I know women can kill and they're often tempted to.

But only 10 percent of women can meet the minimum physical requirements for 75 percent of jobs in the Army. When it comes to physical strength, 3.4 percent of women test -- equaled the average score of men in the military. They don't have the physical ability.

I have one question for you. Somewhere over that hill is an al Qaeda guy who's been fighting in, you know, Kashmir or whatever. And over here is you, wounded in a ditch. There's going to be one person between that al Qaeda trained killer and you. Do you want a man or woman? Obviously, you want a man, period, because...

BRAZILE: I want a good fighter. I want a good fighter. I want a...

GRAHAM: No, you want a man. Anything else is just talk. Anything else is just blah blah blah.

EPSTEIN: Excuse me.


EPSTEIN: No, it's the other side -- the point here is -- the point here is it's the other side. It is -- it is...

BRAZILE: The weaker sex argument.

EPSTEIN: It is -- excuse me if I can just finish. It is the fascists and the extremists in the middle ages who believed in the dark ages, not us. If we believe -- the point here is that it should be a merit based system, not a gender based system.

BUCHANAN: I agree.

EPSTEIN: This is a question -- this is a question...

BUCHANAN: We should not reduce our standards for women.

EPSTEIN: No, no, no. The point is...

BRAZILE: Last word.

EPSTEIN: The point is -- the point is this is a question of politics over national security.

BUCHANAN: It is not.

GRAHAM: You've got it backwards.

EPSTEIN: It's the politics of the people on the social right that want to create a social caste system in the military.


BUCHANAN: Exactly.

GRAHAM: ... it's not worth the math.

BRAZILE: Michael, I'm going to pray for you.

Thank you so much, Michael. Thank you, Julian.

Up next as we celebrate CNN's 25th anniversary, we'll tell you about a former host of this show who has moved on to bigger things.


BUCHANAN: This week CNN marks its 25th anniversary of being the most trusted name in news. Here on CROSSFIRE, a lot of people have been in these chairs over the years, making their cases on the right and on the left.

Here's a look back at CROSSFIRE co-host Lynne Cheney a few years before her husband became the vice president of the United States. At issue, a targeted tax credit for childcare.

Let's take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we talk about reaching a balanced budget we do it through programs that are...

LYNNE CHENEY, FORMER CROSSFIRE CO-HOST: Ann -- Ann, you see targeting. You know what that implies. Targeting, I know, we know, the liberals know Washington knows how to spend your money for you folks better than you could spend it if we left it with you. Why don't you get...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Targeted tax credit be spending it...

CHENEY: I.E., this person who is going to take his or her child to a day care center needs it. This person who wants to stay home desperately with his or her child doesn't need it. By giving an equal tax break across the board, you enable a lot of parents to stay home who otherwise couldn't do it.


BUCHANAN: Donna, aren't we still having that debate?

BRAZILE: We're still having that. And Lynne Cheney is still, you know, taking the same position she's taken 25 years ago.

BUCHANAN: Yes. She's consistent. She's classy. We are...

BRAZILE: And she's a tough woman.

BUCHANAN: ... we are in good company in these seats.

BRAZILE: Absolutely. This programming note: you can watch the Cheneys tonight on CNN at 9 p.m. Eastern as Larry King kicks off a king-sized week, celebrating CNN's 25th anniversary.

From the left, I'm Donna Brazile. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

BUCHANAN: From the right, I'm Bay Buchanan. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.


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