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Congressman David Dreier on his recent meeting with Benazir Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf, and the importance of foreign policy and executive experience in our election in ’08

Thursday, December 27, 2007

HH: Joined now by Congressman David Dreier, ranking member of the House Rules Committee, and not too long ago, a visitor in Pakistan, and a conversant with the now-dead Benazir Bhutto. David Dreier, a sad day for Pakistan and the West.

DD: It’s a very sad day for anyone who’s interested in prosecuting the war on terror. And I think when I spoke to you right after I was there, Hugh, one of the things I think is important to underscore is the fact that while there is a great deal of division within the country, and no one can really in any way overestimate the struggle and the difficulty and the political battles that have gone on there, from the meetings that I had on the day that General Musharraf resigned as army chief of staff, and met, we met with him that day, and we also met with Benazir Bhutto, the thing that was so important is to recognize that everyone involved in top leadership positions was committed to prosecuting this war against radical extremism. And so I think that that is something that we’ve got to point to. And I also want to say that it is a very sad day, and you know, of course, all these memories come back. I first met Mrs. Bhutto in the mid-1980’s when she came to Washington, met with members of Congress then, and I’ve met her in Pakistan before. And it’s no secret that there was a lot of controversy surrounding her two terms as prime minister. But I do think that you have hit the nail on the head when you’ve talked, Hugh, about the need for us to make sure that we have someone with executive experience. You know, it’s no accident that the last member of Congress, the last Senator to be elected president of the United States was a half a century ago, almost a half a century ago when in 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected. And you know, I feel more strongly today about Rudy Giuliani’s candidacy for president of the United States, and the importance of taking his extraordinary management skills, coupled with his inspiring leadership, in dealing with a crisis like this. And this really is a crisis. There’s no doubt about it.

HH: You know, I do, all the mainstream media’s out there saying this helps John McCain. And I’ve got great admiration, though not particular political love for Senator McCain. But I think it shows how unbelievably complicated the world is in this war, and you want someone who’s run unbelievably complicated things again, and I think we’ve got two of those in Giuliani and Romney, but no more than two.

DD: Well, I will tell you, I think that you’re right here, and you know, I have the greatest admiration for John McCain as well, and he does have a lot of experience. And you know, the fact that I have spent time in Pakistan, and spent an hour in Benazir Bhutto’s dining room, sitting with her at the table, with the only delegation, only Congressional delegation to meet with her since her return from exile in Dubai, does not qualify me to be president of the United States. And in fact, you know, every member of Congress is often flattered with a lot of people who will say oh, well, you should run for president of the United States. And I regularly say when that happens, it doesn’t happen to me as often as it does to a lot of my colleagues, I’m sure, but when it does happen, I underscore the fact that I don’t have the kind of executive experience that it takes to be president of the United States. And that’s why I say we have members of the House and Senate who are running for president of the United States, in both political parties. And the fact is having people with executive experience is, I think, very important. It doesn’t mean that there can’t be a United States Senator or a member of the House of Representatives to serve as president of the United States, but I do believe that at a time like this, I mean, again, I point specifically to Giuliani, because I mean, this kind of problem that is priority number one, as far as I’m concerned, and I know as far as you’re concerned, Hugh, and the five most important words in the Preamble of the Constitution are provide for the common defense. The most important issue that any president or any Congress face, or the federal government faces, is dealing with this issue, and this just cries out for Rudy Giuliani, as far as I’m concerned.

HH: Well, I’m going to be talking with him early tomorrow…

DD: Good.

HH: And with Mitt Romney tomorrow, and I do think it goes to the ability to find and draw into your circle the expertise and the information, and then to act on it, because obviously, Bill Richardson’s got a lot of experience, but he said a boneheaded thing today. Jimmy Carter had executive experience, he was a disaster. So it’s not enough, but it’s sort of a necessary but not sufficient condition of success in the presidency.

DD: You know, you’re absolutely right, and I think we need to make sure that the people realize, and again, this awakens the American people once again, that it is a very dangerous world out there. And this was not just an attack on Pakistan’s democracy, and I agree with you also that we need to make sure that this guy who’s so committed to prosecuting this war does continue to have the support that we need, so we don’t have another Shah of Iran situation that we had faced in the past. But you know, I’ll tell you, having spent an hour with this guy, too, with Musharraf, I mean, he has done all three things that we’ve requested. I mean, think about it. I was with him the day that he resigned as army chief earlier this month, he did lift the state of emergency a day early, on December 15th, and he was very committed. And he announced just a few days ago of his commitment to the January 8th elections. Obviously, what has happened now will quite possibly postpone those elections, but you know, he has been a very helpful ally in this effort.

HH: David Dreier, always a pleasure, Congressman.

End of interview.

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