While Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was calling for troop withdrawal in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for that military spending to go to deficit reduction, CNN's Piers Morgan would not press him about U.S. military action in Libya – a decision authorized by Democratic President Obama.
Frank has been a champion of cutting the defense budget and continued his screed Tuesday night, calling for a $200 billion-a-year cut on military spending. He even criticized Obama's decision to leave troops in Iraq. However, he was not asked about Libya, and did not comment on it.
"The time has come for us to recognize the terrible crisis here with the economy and to withdraw from Iraq, withdraw from Afghanistan, tell our good friends in Europe that the Cold War was long since over," he declared.
"The notion that we would be in this kind of a situation, and at the same time the President is talking about staying in Iraq longer than George Bush wanted, frankly appalls me," Frank said in a statement critical of President Obama.
Morgan did provide a "devil's advocate" position, that American troops are needed overseas to act as sentinels in unstable countries where terror plots could foment. "I guess the counter-argument to what you're saying is there are lots of areas in the world that are very unstable where if America reduced any presence, you could see that kind of situation recurring," he said of al Qaeda operations that plotted 9/11.
However, Morgan still did not ask Frank to comment on Libya – a tough question, since the Democrat President himself authorized military action there while Frank opposes America being the "worldwide policeman."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on August 9 at 9:08 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
PIERS MORGAN: Representative Barney Frank is ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee. And he says it's time for President Obama to face up to liberals over budget cuts. And Barney Frank joins me now. Mr. Frank, thank you for joining me. What did you make of the Fed statement today?
Rep. BARNEY FRANK (D-Mass.): Well, I think it was appropriate. I think Mr. Bernanke and his colleagues have been doing the right thing, which is to the extent they can, offsetting some of the negative tendencies. In fact, it's interesting that Ben Bernanke, who's a George Bush appointee originally, warned Congress not to do too much cutting in the short term, the last time he testified. He said look, we have a longer term deficit problem. He said, look, we have a longer term, deficit problem and you've got to deal with that. But in the short term, these cuts that you're talking about, he said they were headwinds against the economy.
So, the thing now, I think, is he's doing everything he can. But we need to do now something on the fiscal front. And I think it is now overwhelming. Piers, I'm we're going to borrow from your country's history. In the late '40s, Clement Atlee was prime minister when he called Harry Truman and said, look, I am facing a terrible economic crisis post-war. I cannot continue the international efforts to maintain British remnants of empire. If you want to do it, fine.
The time has come for us to recognize the terrible crisis here with the economy and to withdraw from Iraq, withdraw from Afghanistan, tell our good friends in Europe that the Cold War was long since over. They are well able to defend themselves. It is time for us to substantially reduce our worldwide military commitment, put some of that into deficit reduction on the longer term, but spend some of it immediately to help state and local governments recover the employment they've lost, to get some construction done.
The notion that we would be in this kind of a situation, and at the same time the president is talking about staying in Iraq longer than George Bush wanted frankly appalls me. And I think the time has come – people say, you've got to get real, you've got to understand some constraints. Well, the biggest single area where we can do that is to cut, I believe, $200 billion a year on our military expenditures which go not for our own security, but for our role as a kind of worldwide policeman. You know, almost all of our allies, our wealthy allies, spend far less as a percentage of their product than we do on the military. The time has come for us to recognize that we can't afford to do that and I believe we'll suffer no loss. We will suffer no loss in security.
MORGAN: I mean it's an interesting point because the trouble being that the world's policemen, as America has been for the 50, 60 years, is that it can be a lonely place and you end up as America has found itself now, getting hardly any credit from anybody.
FRANK: Oh, absolutely.
MORGAN: If the expenditure you're laying out is so vast, there is a pretty good argument to say, you know what? As the Chinese do, for example, look after number one here and bring it all back to America.
FRANK: Well that's (Unintelligible) – South Korea needs some help up against that nuclear-armed lunatic. Israel is in a difficult situation, although they've never asked us for troops. But Western Europe – you know, when Harry Truman went into Western Europe in 1949, the countries there were poor, they had been devastated by World War II, they faced Stalin. It was a very good thing to go in. But we are still protecting Western Europe from I don't know what, and they are well able to do it themselves. We're building – I guess because of Cold War hangovers, a missile defense system in Poland and in the Czech Republic that nobody needs.
So, yeah – and as you said, you wind up worse off politically. I am not talking about America being anything less than the strongest nation in the world. But the world doesn't need a policeman as much as we do. And secondly, it's a very hard thing to do. So, let's begin with Iraq and Afghanistan. We have accomplished whatever purpose we could have had originally with Osama bin Laden. We never should have been in Iraq.
And, by the way, the Pentagon budget is about $700 billion a year. Medicare, which people want to try to blame, I think unfairly, for the crisis, costs $580 billion a year. So we can with no loss in our own security scale back. And you cannot say on one the hand, well America has got to recognize constraints, but then act as if it's still 1960 and we can spend whatever we want whenever we want all over the world.
MORGAN: The devil's advocate position, of course, is that if you look at Afghanistan, the reason that al Qaeda was able to ferment its operation there was precisely because nobody was there keeping an eye on it. I guess the counter-argument to what you're saying is there are lots of areas in the world that are very unstable where if America reduced any presence, you could see that kind of situation recurring.
MORGAN: And that in itself, that would provide – yeah but that would provide an attack to American national security in the homeland potentially.
FRANK: Except that if you don't – if we shut it down in Afghanistan, then they're in Yemen. If we shut it down in Yemen, then they're in Somalia or they're in Sudan. We can't plug every rat hole in the world. Now, we did do with significant amount against al Qaeda. And remember, in Afghanistan, major battle now is with the Taliban. George Bush became President. The Taliban was running Afghanistan. They were destroying Buddhist statues, they were mistreating people. They were outrageous. But America can't be the one that solves every wrong in the world. If we did, we'd go out and shoot Mugabe, who's a terrible abuser of people, and others.
In terms of national security, we dealt with al Qaeda, we have killed Osama bin Laden. We can protect ourselves back home. And if you look at the $120 billion we're spending in Afghanistan, plus the billions that I think we're wasting, and the Pakistanis who are playing a great double game, a very small percentage of that used back home would make us more secure than what's happening in Afghanistan.
MORGAN: Congressman Frank, thank you very much.
- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center