Sen. Chris Dodd answers questions in our presidential mashup.

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Sept. 12 2007 11:52 PM

Dodd: Iraq Has Left Us More Vulnerable

Sen. Chris Dodd answers questions in our presidential mashup.

The following is an unedited transcript and may contain typos or omissions. Click here for more on the presidential mashup.

Rose: Sen. Dodd, Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have come, they've testified before the Congress. You were there. You had an opportunity to question them. What do you make of their assessment?

Dodd: Well, I think too much has been made of the assessment on the surge. Whether you agree with their assessment on the surge, that the violence is down, or you disagree with it, as many studies do, that's really not the issue. The issue is, of course, fundamentally, are we safer, are we more secure, less vulnerable, today as a country? Is Iraq closer to becoming a nation-state or not? And that's really the issue at hand here. And I think the conclusion I've reached, as well as many others have, is that despite all of these efforts over many, many months now, four and a half years, I think we're less secure, less safe, more vulnerable today as a result of this policy, and that Iraq seems to be further removed from achieving that reconciliation that this space was supposed to be created by the surge. So again, I think too much has been focusing on whether or not you agree or disagree with their conclusion about whether or not Iraq is—has less violence over the last six months and the more important question of whether or not we're more safe and secure and whether Iraq is closer to achieving that nation-state status. I think on both those questions, we're less secure and Iraq seems further away from achieving that reconciliation.

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Rose: Do you think anything will change between now and the election?

Dodd:  I don't. I really don't. I think we've come to the point, Charlie, where it's time to call this for what it is. This is a civil war in the country. There's never been a military solution that was going to be achieved by ourselves there. I'm for beginning withdrawal and completing the process by April of next year. It's the only thing I know of at this juncture that may achieve what nothing else has achieved, and that is to make the Iraqis the religious and political leaders, Shia and Sunni, recognize that it's now up to them to decide whether or not they're going to form, whether it's a loose federation or whatever configuration they want to come to here, it's now their responsibility. Ten billion dollars a month, $2 billion every week, not to mention the cost of lives, what it's cost the Iraqis themselves, the emergence  of al-Qaida in the country, developing a sort of incubator for terrorism. I truly think that nothing short of that is going to work. That's what I'm going to advocate, that's what I'm going to propose in the coming days in the United States Senate. I'll offer that language, in fact, that we terminate the funding.

Rose: But do you think you can get enough political support among Republicans to make it veto-proof?

Dodd: I doubt it at this point, but I'll start anyway. I think we should have started it earlier here to build that case. And even many Republicans, despite their desire to be supportive of the president of their own political party, I think many have serious doubts and reservations about whether or not this is going to go forward. The language is so eerily reminiscent of language I heard 40 years ago about showing more patience, wait a little longer, this may work down the road, that frankly, many of us who went through that are saying today that's enough.

Rose: If you're elected president in November and then take office in January, and suppose there are 130,000 troops still there, how fast would you get them out, and how many would you end up with in three months?

Dodd: Well, as fast as I could safely and reasonably here. I've been told by military planners you can probably move out two and a half brigades a month safely and securely. We've got major facilities in Kuwait and Qatar, we've got a major issue in Afghanistan that we don't hardly talk about. But we know that this is deteriorating. The Taliban is emerging more strongly than ever. Al-Qaida seems to be fine. Here's Osama Bin Laden issuing proclamations from either Pakistan or Afghanistan. And so, we need a major effort there; it's still the epicenter of terrorism. So I'd begin that process as soon as I possibly could. And let me add quickly here, I'm not leaving the region at all. Quite the contrary. I think being robust in our diplomatic efforts here, involving regional powers, engaging Iran in a broader conversation than just Iraq are all critical elements in our success in achieving stability in Iraq and dealing with the emerging problems in the region. So we shouldn't just focus on the military side of this equation.

Rose: This is from the Washington Post. Turning to health care today. "The cost of employer-provided health insurance rose 6.1 percent, the smallest jump since 1999 but still well above the increase in wages and consumer prices." This is from the Kaiser Family Foundation. They show that 75 percent of respondents said they were very worried or somewhat worried about the increasing cost of health care, and the figure was even more impressive when you considered that the thing that they were secondly worried most about was paying their rent or mortgage, and that was down to 44 percent. So health care is on the minds of the American people. Do they deserve universal health-care coverage?

Dodd: Yes, they do, absolutely. And let me just add to your numbers here. In the last six years, those who have health insurance have watched their premiums go up 87 percent in cost in the last six years. It is now consuming well over 16 percent of our gross domestic product in the country. Let me even get more specific. The price of a GM automobile has a $1,500 health-care cost for every automobile. Compare that with a Toyota. The health-care cost per automobile is $150. So beyond the problems that Americans are facing who either don't have health care or are having to watch their costs go up, it is having a huge impact on our economy as well. Therefore, a universal plan that drives down costs, spreads out the risk, which is what I'm advocating here, a plan that I think I can achieve within four years of my inauguration.

Rose: And how would you pay for it?

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