Text: Lieberman and McCain on NBC's 'Meet the Press'
Following is the transcript of NBC's "Meet the Press," hosted by Tim Russert.
Guests: U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.
RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: American soldiers go on the ground in Afghanistan. Two are dead, three are injured in a helicopter crash in Pakistan. What challenges do our troops and our nation now face? Are the American people ready for a long, sustained, dangerous ground operation? Should we include Iraq as a military target?
With us--he ran for vice president last year--Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. He tried to be president last year--Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona.
Then, how prepared are we for a major attack of anthrax, smallpox or other bioterrorism? With us, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.
And in our Meet the Press Minute, 40 years ago, America on edge, some very familiar concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): May I ask what kind of an attack are you going to plan for? Will it be fire and blast and radiation or poison gases and biological?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSERT: But first, we are joined live by Keith Miller of NBC News, who is in Pakistan.
RUSSERT: We're now joined by Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon for NBC News.
RUSSERT: We are now joined by Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrat from Connecticut; Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona.
Gentlemen, welcome both.
RUSSERT: Senator McCain, let me show you today's Washington Post front page and read it for you and our viewers.
``CIA Told to Do Whatever Necessary to Kill Bin Laden: `The gloves are off,' one senior official said. The president has given the agency the green light to do whatever is necessary. Lethal operations that were unthinkable pre-September 11 are now under way.''
MCCAIN: I understand that, and I think most Americans would. I rely on the good sense and judgment of these agencies that no innocent lives will be unnecessarily sacrificed. But the unprecedented aspects of what we are facing, clearly, I think, warrant using whatever means necessary.
Could I add one point to what Jim Miklaszewski just stated about this situation we're facing? Yes, they resisted and overcame a Soviet invasion and they have others in the past. But this Taliban does not have the support of the people of Afghanistan. This is a Pol Pot regime. This is an extreme group that emerged in power with the active assistance of Pakistan because of the incredible chaos, economic, social corruption, et cetera, that prevailed.
When the Russians invaded, the Afghans were totally united against the Russians. There is a sizable portion of the Afghan people who dislike the Taliban worse than anyone because they've been subjected to their incredible barbarism, including their treatment of women.
So, yes, you're going to have trouble putting together a coalition government. Yes, there is ethnic differences and all that. But there is not the monolithic resistance to the United States and what we're trying to do that there was particularly during the Soviet occupation.
RUSSERT: Senator Lieberman, this order by the president to the CIA to get Osama bin Laden in effect repeals the Executive Order 12333 which bans political assassinations. Are you comfortable with that?
LIEBERMAN: Absolutely comfortable, Tim. I think the initial executive order was a response to the abuse of a power that a government should have and its military should have to target execution at individuals, who, if we don't stop them, will kill many more of us.
And it put us, because of the abuse of that power, put us in a situation where it was okay to bomb from the air indiscriminately against a country risking death to innocent civilians in that country, because we didn't like what the leader or few at the top did, and not to target them. And I think that's where the evil begins.
So in this case, absolutely. Our forces ought to have the power and the authority of the president of the United States to strike at bin Laden and the small group around him directly. It's not only the right thing to do, frankly in a tough situation it is the moral thing to do because it will save many more lives, both in Afghanistan and in the United States.
RUSSERT: Senator McCain, let me pick up on your point about a post-Taliban regime in Afghanistan. There is a lot of discussion, concern on the ground whether that's feasible. And some are suggesting our military campaign is being limited until we get a post-Taliban regime in place. How do you see it?
MCCAIN: I think that might be partially the case from the reports that we have that there has not been the kind of air attacks in the areas where the Northern Alliance are fighting the Taliban forces.
I'd be a little reluctant to not to pursue this conflict as vigorously as possible.
MCCAIN: We were worried about the departure of Saddam Hussein that there might be chaos might ensue. I think most of us, in retrospect, would have liked to have seen Saddam Hussein gone. So I think we ought to overthrow them as quickly as possible.
I don't believe there's any such thing as a moderate Taliban, although I would be interested to hear from one.
But I think the other point is, that we do have to have a coalition kind of government, probably autonomy, and probably have the United Nations play a very vigorous role with the United States involved, but with the United Nations in the lead at the time of it.
RUSSERT: There has been some concern in Congress about whether or not adequate information is being given to leaders of Congress about this campaign and your oversight role. Senator McCain, you characteristically had some interesting things to say. Let me show you on the screen.
``John McCain, a frequent Bush administration critic, is more blunt in his complaints about a lack of information from the administration. `I've never gone to one of those briefings where I couldn't turn on a TV or pick up a newspaper and get much better information. You get a lot more than you do from these jerks.'''
MCCAIN: I was--I think it's important to use humor, and I think it's important to use it now. We didn't get very much information during the Persian Gulf War. A lot of it's understandable, and it's more understandable given the necessity for no information being leaked given the nature of the conflict.
And finally, we have an obligation as members of Congress not to leak information. Information has been leaked. So we're still working out some kind of an arrangement where people can be informed, but there has to be a sense of responsibility on our side also.
So I think that we ought to do away with some of the secret briefings that are not secret. But at the same time, we've got to work out a better relationship, and we will, I think.
RUSSERT: And retract the word ``jerks.''
MCCAIN: I think it's important that we use humor as often as possible in these very tense times. These people who are doing the briefings are all friends of mine for many years.
RUSSERT: Space Imaging Inc. takes pictures of places all around the world and then provides them to internet users and to networks and to newspapers. The Defense Department, Senator Lieberman, has now purchased the rights to every photo over Afghanistan from the satellites over the sky, saying that they need it for national security reasons, which does not allow any independent confirmation of anything that may, in fact, be going on down on the ground.
Are you comfortable with that?
LIEBERMAN: I am for now. We're in a war. These people killed 6,000 American civilians, innocents. We've got to do some things that we wouldn't normally do in peace time.
I think it's appropriate, just as I think in this whole brouhaha over the administration sharing information with us, there's no reason we need to have battle plans before they take effect. You know, you got one commander in chief, you've got one chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 535 members of Congress can't run it. We give them the power. They'll be accountable. And then, over time, they'll share with us what happened and we can evaluate it.
Actually, right now, Armed Services Committee, on which John and I are privileged to serve, has continued to receive top secret briefings as recently as Thursday, and I'm totally satisfied with those. So we're in war, and in war, the rules have to be just a little bit different for our security.
RUSSERT: Senator McCain, there's been a lot of discussion about our allies in this coalition, particularly Saudi Arabia. This article in the New York Times caught my attention. Let me read it for you and our viewers.
``Anti-Western and extremist views pervade Saudi schools. The textbook from one of the five religion classes required of all 10th graders in Saudi public high schools tackles the complicated issue of who good Muslims should befriend. After examining a number of scriptures which warn of the dangers of having Christian and Jewish friends, the lesson concludes, `It is compulsory for the Muslims to be loyal to each other and to consider the infidels their enemy.'
``That extremist anti-Western world view has gradually pervaded the Saudi education system with its heavy doses of mandatory religious instruction. These anti-Western views aid Osama bin Laden or other extremists in finding recruits, some Saudis believe, because they can mold the imperfectly form (ph) religious creed of young, easily influence men, convincing them that their faith condones violence against non-Muslims.''
The Saudis have resisted providing military bases for offensive operations, resisted a few years ago for taking Osama bin Laden into custody. Are you comfortable with behavior of Saudi Arabia?
MCCAIN: I am not. and I think that there's a certain amount of logic to their problem. They are in power. Their basis for being in power is they're protectors of Islam.
But they've been playing as well as Egypt and a couple of other countries kind of a double game here. They've satisfied their extremists within their own societies by not only allowing them to have the megaphone and do the things that we had just read excerpts from, but they've also financed some of these organizations. And they're kind of trying to have it both ways. I don't think they can, and it's very sad.
I think it's very important for us to have them emphasize that three conflicts, the United States has come to the aid of the Muslims. In the Persian Gulf War, in Kosovo and Bosnia, we sided with the Muslims. The Saudi people should know that and the people in the Middle East.
Yes, United States national interest was there, but they're not--they're playing a double game, I'm afraid, that's going to cause them very great problems in the long run unless they change and take the megaphone back from the extremist elements in the Middle East and in their own country.
RUSSERT: Is there a mood in Congress to cut back aid to Egypt and other countries that will not be (inaudible) for us?
MCCAIN: I don't think we're at that point, but I certainly think there's great dissatisfaction about the attitudes that prevail in these countries that are supposedly our allies. And $2 billion of American aid does go to Egypt every year.
And there is--the other thing that's disturbing in the long term is that there doesn't seem to be any movement towards the institution of democracy and principles of freedom and democracy, free and open society. In fact, the opposite.
LIEBERMAN: Tim, the mood in Congress, I think, is to follow up and implement the policy that President Bush stated in his address to us on September 20, which is, this is a war against terrorism, terrorists who strike at civilians. Nations of the world including our allies, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have to decide, are you with us or against us?
So it is infuriating to read those stories about what the Saudi public schools are teaching their students, to hate based on religion. And it reminds us of why this war is so important. It is all about values. Set the zealotry and hatred against any other religion, Christian, Jewish or Muslim, that doesn't follow these fanatical views.
And in the American view, which is faith-based--look at the Declaration of Independence, ``Our rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness based on what our creator, God, gave us, creating each of us in the image of God.'' So we're free, we're tolerant, we accept all religions here. That's what we're fighting for.
And we can't tolerate a nation like the Saudis, whose government, in many ways, continues to stand because we support them, to promulgate that hatred.
From a Saudi's point of view, as John has suggested, they followed a strategy where I think they can ride the back of this tiger. This tiger, if they continue to ride its back, is going to eat them up.
RUSSERT: The Saudis will say, however, that they have to do this double game because they have to vent steam off of their regime towards the Americans in order to survive. And if America doesn't like it this way, then the regime will be toppled by even more extreme Islamic fundamentalists, and America will not like that.
LIEBERMAN: You know, I think the president gave them the right advice. You've got to make the choice.
And if you're teaching each one of your children in public schools that kind of hatred, it's not going to support the moderate regime in power, it's going to support the very people like bin Laden that want to throw over that regime.
You know from reading bin Laden's statements and interviews over the last decade, what's his number-one goal? To overthrow the family--the royal family that now runs Saudi Arabia and put in his own form of fanatical Islam, perhaps himself as the ruler of that country.
I think they've got to make a choice. And they've got to use their power. This is all, on our part and their part, about not being weak. You got power, use it to defeat those who want to defeat you before they do.
MCCAIN: History is replete with examples that this kind of thing that it doesn't work.
RUSSERT: Headline in U.S. News and World Report quoting Ariel Sharon, the prime minister of Israel, ``I'm through with Arafat,'' deeply concerned obviously about the assassination of one of his cabinet members.
In the same vein, many people in this country, Senator McCain, Senator Lieberman, saying that we ought to be pressuring Israel more to resolve their differences and have a true peace in the Middle East because that would take away one of the items that Osama bin Laden uses in his rants about the United States, and also help a more secure Israel in years ahead.
MCCAIN: I've been wrong on several occasions in my life, but I was pretty well convinced that once the attacks were committed on the United States that the United States would have more understanding and appreciation for the terrorist attacks that are taking place in Israel.
This latest one is the assassination of a cabinet member in the Hyatt Hotel in Jerusalem. I mean, not only the act itself but how it was done is really quite remarkable.
Of course we want the peace process to move forward. Of course we want Arafat to sit down and negotiate seriously. But anybody that believes that the Palestinian problem is the cause of the terrorist attacks on the United States didn't watch Mr. bin Laden himself in his statements. As Joe said, his first priority is removing the Saudi royal family. His third priority is the Palestinian situation.
MCCAIN: So if Israel were taken off the face of the earth tomorrow, we would still be facing the same terrorist problems we have today. And I think that we've got to understand there's only one country in the whole Middle East that is a democratically elected, freely functioning democracy, and that happens to be the state of Israel.
RUSSERT: Senator Lieberman, should we include Iraq as a military target in this war against terrorism?
LIEBERMAN: Well, of course, I feel that so long as Saddam Hussein is in power in Iraq, the United States is in danger. And I think if you look at the words of the president's statement to Congress, again, the war against terrorism, it says, we're not going to be safe until we rid the world of people who have the capacity and the intention to strike at civilians to achieve political ends.
There is some evidence to suggest that Saddam Hussein may have had contact with bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network, perhaps even involved in the September 11 attack. That raises my suspicions.
But the more important point is, we know that Saddam would like to do us the worst kind of ill. We know that he has worked on chemical and biological weapons and, in fact, has used them against his own people and against the Iranians. In my opinion, therefore, Saddam is a terrorist.
And, therefore, we should--it should be a centerpiece of our policy after we finish the business in Afghanistan and bin Laden to end that regime. It begins for me by supporting the Iraqi opposition, the people within Iraq that want to get rid of him. But then, ultimately there has to be an American and, I hope, allied military component to that. Because as long as Saddam is there, our lives are threatened.
RUSSERT: Would you have any problem expanding President Bush's orders to the CIA to go after Osama bin Laden to include Saddam Hussein?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I leave that to the president. But as a matter of principle and morality, of course not.
RUSSERT: Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: I think Joe's right.
And I would just like to add one additional point. I believe that we will succeed. We will endure in Afghanistan. We will take out bin Laden, and we will take out the Taliban. And then we've got a major challenge of a stable government, but...
RUSSERT: How long will that take?
MCCAIN: I think the longer we give the impression that we're there for, the shorter it'll be. Because, as you quoted from articles earlier, they think they can outlast us. I don't think they can this time.
RUSSERT: Do you believe the American people will continue to stay with that campaign?
MCCAIN: Absolutely, and I think the president is doing a great job in leading America and making us aware of the challenge we face.
But I think the real crunch is going to come after Afghanistan is settled and then we have to address the other countries, including Iraq. That's where the coalition may not be so strong. That's where people like the Saudis and the French and many others may have real reservations.
And so, we're going to have to be steadfast. And again, the president will continue and, I think, very eloquently stated, countries that harbor these terrorist organizations will be held responsible, so it'll be their choice, not ours. It'll be their choice.
RUSSERT: But after Afghanistan, you'd have no problem going after Saddam Hussein?
MCCAIN: If Saddam Hussein continues to develop weapons of mass destruction, the means to deliver them, there are ties to terrorist organizations, then we have to give him his choice. We have to give the Syrians a choice. We have to give other countries a choice. Because we've got to--if anyone thinks that, just by taking care of bin Laden, we've taken care of the problem, they obviously are not aware of the extent of the challenge we have.
RUSSERT: If Saddam refuses to allow inspectors into his country, is that enough for us to say, either give us inspectors or face military action?
MCCAIN: I can't know those kind of details, and there are other ways, diplomatic, economic, many other ways, we can put pressure on the Iraqis. So it would depend on the situation and the time. But I think we're going to be steadfast.
RUSSERT: We'll take a quick break and continue our conversation with Republican John McCain, Democrat Joe Lieberman. A lot more right after this.
RUSSERT: And we are back. Senators, let me show you two reports, one from U.S. News and one from AP, about anthrax, and put it on the screen.
```The empirical evidence suggests that weapons-grade material,' says Richard Sprtezel, former head of the United Nations biological inspection team in Iraq. `Tom Ridge, director of the new Office of Homeland Security, does not know what he's talking about,' Sprtezel told U.S. News.''
AP says, ``A participant in a conference call for lawmakers said Robert Gibbs, a Defense Department official, reported the anthrax was of, quote, `relative high quality.' And, quote, `There is an effort to downplay and not promote the abilities of the people doing this.'''
Senator McCain, is our government leveling with us as to the potency and the origination of the anthrax that is sweeping our country?
MCCAIN: I know that Tom Ridge is one of the most honest men that I have ever known, and I believe that he's telling the truth as he knows it. He would never deceive the American people.
You're going to have a guest on here pretty soon that's going to be much more knowledgeable than I am. But there is one point here, and I don't know exactly what grade it is, but it is 100 percent treatable. Everyone agrees on that. It is 100 percent treatable. And I'm afraid that a lot of Americans are not really aware of that.
Recently, in Rio, I believe, an envelope was received, which gives me the idea that perhaps this is an international organization and not one within the United States of America.
RUSSERT: Shouldn't we be told exactly how serious this threat is and where it's coming from?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, absolutely, Tim. There was some confusion this week, and it wasn't just you who are being given confusing or inconsistent information. It was members of Congress.
I think there's just a multiplicity of voices here. And the most important thing that can happen quickly is that we centralize who's speaking, and I think it ought to be Tom Ridge. There have been too many voices. Tom Ridge has been appointed to head the Office of Homeland Security. As you know, I think he ought to be given more powers than the president has given him yet, so he can tell people exactly what to do and not have to argue with bureaucrats. But...
RUSSERT: Are you being told what kind of quality it is?
LIEBERMAN: I've gotten mixed reports, but I'll tell you what I've concluded. And this is consistent with every report I've been given. The stuff that is being sent out, most of it, including the stuff that went to Tom Daschle's office, is significantly refined anthrax. In other words, when we hear the stories that there is anthrax in labs all over this country, that's basically bacteria in a lab tube. Dr. Fauci can tell you more detail on that.
To take it from that, to make it into the stuff that's being sent in envelopes, that requires a real effort and, frankly, more than a couple of guys in somebody's kitchen stirring things up.
So it says to me that there's either a significant amount of money behind this, or this is state-sponsored, or this is stuff that was stolen from the former Soviet program.
And it's, you know, thank God, as John says, this is treatable. It takes a lot of it to be infected. And we've controlled it. But it should remind all of us that these opponents of ours are serious and they've got some stuff behind them.
RUSSERT: In fact, Senator McCain, Dick Cheney at the Al Smith Dinner in New York said there will be more attacks, and we should be aware that we will probably suffer more casualties here at home than our troops overseas.
With that in mind, without recrimination, do you believe we should look back at our intelligence-gathering services and find out how the attack on September 11 occurred, and who missed it, and why and how to prevent it in the future?
MCCAIN: I absolutely do. I absolutely believe that we have to go back and see what happened, not in order to hang somebody at the yard-arm or to disgrace anyone, but so that we will not make the mistakes again that we made before, and can reorganize our intelligence services, do what is necessary in order to prevent--everything in our power to prevent a reoccurrence.
RUSSERT: How do we do that?
MCCAIN: Well, you know, there's two individuals that issued a report, former Senators Rudman and Hart, that was so prescient that it's chilling the things that they predicted might happen. Why not appoint Rudman and Hart again, with a very all-star cast they had on that commission, to review what happened and make recommendations? They certainly have established their credibility.
LIEBERMAN: Tim, after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt appointed a commission headed by Supreme Court Justice Roberts to investigate. And I agree with John, this is not to point blame, it's to figure out what happened so it never happens again.
LIEBERMAN: I hope the president will do something just like that real soon. It ought not to be members of Congress right now. It ought to be citizens. A lot of their meetings ought to be in private. But then they ought to tell the president and us to the best of their ability what went wrong so we can make sure it never happens again. We need another Roberts Commission. We need another Warren Commission. We need to know the truth.
RUSSERT: Thanksgiving is coming and so is Christmas--very peak travel periods for American citizens. It's now been 40 days since September 11. The Senate voted 100 to zero to federalize the security at national airports so the people inspecting baggage and people would be well-trained, well-paid professionals.
This has been the response of some Republicans in the House.
The majority leader, Dick Armey: ``What the Democrats want is 30,000 new dues-paying contributors. That's what they want. It should be transparent.''
Tom DeLay: ``There are some people in the Senate who have used the new bipartisanship to advance their own opportunistic agenda, whether it's huge expansion of the unemployment benefits or to create a new bureaucracy of federal employees at airports.''
Senator McCain, will the House be successful in stopping a federalization of security at airports?
MCCAIN: Well, I hope not. And we would be more than willing to negotiate that issue. I believe that it's clear that law enforcement, which is now what it is at airports, is a federal responsibility. I would no longer want to contract out the Border Patrol or the INS or the FBI or the military. So I hope we can work it out. I believe that it's necessary.
But three weeks ago, Speaker Hastert and Gephardt met with 20 business and labor leaders and Alan Greenspan. And they said, you need to pass an airport security bill so people will have confidence in flying on airlines again to help our economy rebound.
So I hope we can work it out. I hope they'll act on the issue. And if they don't, I'm afraid that we will not be able to give Americans the kind of assurance they need.
RUSSERT: Will Republicans pay a political price for that if they're perceived as blocking it? Nita Lowey, the Democratic congresswoman from Westchester, said Tom DeLay's behavior is immoral.
MCCAIN: Well, I think they're taking a risk here, or they better do a better job of making their case, because the overwhelming majority of the American people believe that this security function should be handled by federal employees. I hope we can negotiate it out.
LIEBERMAN: I mean, the main point here is to take this responsibility away from the airlines. Because for the airlines, security was just another cost of doing business, and they didn't spend enough on it for our protection. So I really regret the comments from Tom DeLay and others.
It's the one glaring case in the last six weeks where we haven't put country above party or ideology to get the job done. Really, we've been practicing a wonderful nonpartisan politics of national purpose in...
RUSSERT: But should the president intercede and get this done?
LIEBERMAN: I believe he should, because this is a very important.
You know what? Maybe Tom DeLay doesn't realize the folks that work for the private security people that are doing this now are unionized. So it's not--that's not what it's about. It's about, who can get this job done; who can focus on national security?
And I think what John's committee came up with, which is to federalize these workers, is the best thing that can happen. It should happen quickly.
RUSSERT: Before we go, I want to show you some more McCain humor. This was on Thursday night on ``The David Letterman Show.'' Senator McCain was asked about the House of Representatives closing down after the anthrax scare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN: Your counterpart down in Washington, the House of Representatives, they're taking a nice, long break, a nice, long weekend break.
MCCAIN: Head for the hills.
LETTERMAN: Yes. I...
MCCAIN: Another chapter in ``Profiles in Courage.''
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSERT: Senator Lieberman, was that fair?
LIEBERMAN: First up, John has a great sense of humor. Part of why I love him.
A mistake was made. You know, I think in a way--I've always said, since I came to Washington, that Capitol Hill is like a small town. And here I think maybe there was some action, as people would in any small town in America, where there was a danger of anthrax in the building. They closed the building without remembering the message that was sent out from here as leaders, and certainly that wasn't the intention of the House. Unfortunate that it happened.
The Senate, we had an interesting moment, when we were briefed the day before this in the Senate, we were told that the three buildings were going to close, Senate office buildings, for fear of anthrax, and presumably the Senate was going to close. But, as in one voice, everybody rose up and said, don't close it, we've got to send a message that these SOBs are not going to get us to stop meeting and do our business in this town.
MCCAIN: Could I comment? Look, this is a late night talk show. Americans need humor now. Americans are tense. Americans are nervous. I'm trying to calm people down.
As I've said many times, I've known fear in my life. Humor is a very important factor. That was true in the Battle of Britain, it was true in World War II. We've got to relax here.
I don't know what information was given the Speaker. I know he's a brave man. Gephardt's a fine man. And I respect their decision.
But you've got to be--you've got to have some humor in America.
RUSSERT: One member of the House told me that they had actually found anthrax in the Capitol itself, and that's what they were fearful of. If, in fact, there's anthrax in the Capitol, would the Congress then meet in an alternative site just to show the government goes on?
LIEBERMAN: We've got to go on. And I tell you...
RUSSERT: Go someplace else if need be?
LIEBERMAN: Frankly, I'd feel we'd need proof of really an intense presence of anthrax. Because one thing we've learned, that it takes more than a spore to get you infected. If you're infected, God forbid, you take the antibiotics.
RUSSERT: But keep meeting anyway?
LIEBERMAN: Without question. This is the government of the United States of America. The only thing, as Roosevelt said, that we have to fear is fear itself. Because we are so much stronger in military might and wealth and, most important of all, in our values than these people who are striking at us that, if we're united and without fear, we're going to destroy them.
MCCAIN: Regrettably, they didn't shut down NBC.
LIEBERMAN: There's the best line...
RUSSERT: All right. My son asked me to ask you the following, Senator McCain. What is Osama bin Laden going to be for Halloween?
RUSSERT: We'll be right back.
Coming next, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
And in our Meet the Press Minute, 40 years ago, almost to this very day, Frank Ellis, the director of the Office of Emergency Planning, echoing some very familiar words four decades later, coming up on Meet the Press.
RUSSERT: Americans read every day about anthrax, anthrax, anthrax. Based on your significant history, medical experience, you heard both senators say that the anthrax sent to the Capitol, to NBC and other places, seem to be a very high quality.
RUSSERT: Can you confirm that?
FAUCI: Well, I can't because I haven't seen the actual data.
The one thing I can say, as a health person and a physician that, certainly, the material that got there was fine enough to be able to aerosolize, was fine enough to be able to move around in places where they were able to expose a number of people. That, in and of itself, is something that you need to deal with from a medical and health standpoint.
The exact grain of it, I think, we'll leave that to the people like Governor Ridge, who is now coordinating all of this, to be able to find that information out for us.
RUSSERT: People across the country, writing, e-mailing, concerned about, what if there's a major bioterrorist attack? People point to an exercise in June of Dark Winter, performed by representatives of our government, and let me put it on the screen for you.
In the June exercise dubbed Dark Winter, the pretend smallpox virus was introduced in a fictional Oklahoma shopping center. After 12 days, the virus was spread to 14,000 cases in 25 states. Within 20 days, 6,000 victims would die. Within five weeks, 100,000 would be dead, unabated. Within two months, 3 million Americans might have the disease statisticians projected.
How real is the concern about smallpox being spread by terrorists? And is the United States prepared to deal with that by having vaccinations available to all 300 million of us?
FAUCI: Right. That's a very good question, and the short answer to your question is, certainly, it's a potential threat and is something that we need to address. And we're addressing it very aggressively right now.
We don't, at this particular moment, have enough vaccine to vaccinate everyone if we need to. But there's a plan that has been initiated by Secretary Thompson, with the agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services, where we have an immediate, intermediate and long-range plan that is in effect now, where we will be able to, within a reasonable period of time, vaccinate people if we need to vaccinate them; and address an epidemic by vaccination around the areas where there's an index case, be it here or, if, in fact, we get intelligence or have documentation that there's smallpox in other nations, which, clearly, makes it a threat to come here.
So there's a plan that will address things in the immediate. We can give you details of it if you want to, but there are important issues that have now been addressed.
RUSSERT: But this is all so new to us. If there was a major anthrax attack or a major smallpox attack right now...
FAUCI: Right now.
RUSSERT: ... we could not deal with it?
FAUCI: Well, I wouldn't say we could not deal with it, because it depends on what you mean by major. If you have a case that, for example, gets imported in, in a stealthy manner--New York, Philadelphia, what have you--we have 15 million doses now in our supply.
We know, from common sense and preliminary experiments, that you likely could dilute those. We're doing the experiments now to verify completely whether you could dilute it. So you might be able to expand those 15 million doses to 75 million doses, merely by diluting it one to five.
FAUCI: Now all of a sudden you have 75 million doses. If you have index cases, you could do a reasonably good job of vaccinating around that.
So I would not say that at all we're completely unprepared for that. Three months from now we'll be much more prepared, and six months from now, we're going be quite prepared--six months to a year.
RUSSERT: How long before we would have vaccinations available for all 300 million?
FAUCI: We have a plan in effect right now, with active negotiations between the Secretary Thompson and a number of companies, that we will very likely have it between six and 12 months, we'll have that 300 million doses, that we will be able to make a decision whether or not we want to vaccinate people.
RUSSERT: People now know the drug Cipro you take it to deal with anthrax. There's been a run on it in Canada. Canada has removed the patent from the Bayer company and allowed other pharmaceutical companies to manufacture generic Cipro, if you will. Should we not do that here in the United States?
FAUCI: You know, I think we need to maybe back track for a second and take a look at all of this hullabaloo and Cipro.
Cipro was the recommended medication for anthrax. But there's a lot of other drugs that, given the strains that we've been exposed to here in this country, those strains are quite sensitive. And it isn't just Cipro, it's the class of antibiotics within Cipro falls into, the fluoroquinolones (ph). There's generic penicillin. There's doxycycline. There's the other types of tetracycline. So there are enough drugs to handle anthrax.
RUSSERT: Take 30 seconds and tell the country how they should deal with their anxiety about bioterrorism.
FAUCI: Yes, I really think, Tim, that it's very, very important. There should be concern and likely there should be some anxiety. But what you have to do is channel, at least in my mind as I see it as a public health official, channel that concern and anxiety into heightened alertness, preparedness, concern, alertness and suspicion.
Now, sometimes you could be a little bit too suspicious. But right now we want to be in a heightened state of alert. Make it a productive channeling of the anxiety. If you take it over the edge to panic, that's exactly what they want. Because what we've seen thus far is bioterrorism in this country which has been relatively minor on biological effect and major on the terrorism effect.
We've got to turn that around, not just be Pollyanna about it and say, well, there's no problem. Admit there's a problem, there's a risk. But make that be the stimulus to be more prepared on the part of the public and on the part of public health officials like myself.
RUSSERT: To be continued.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you very much.