GUESTS: John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Bill Richardson
BYLINE: Bill O'Reilly
BODY: BILL O'REILLY, HOST: THE O'REILLY FACTOR from D.C. Is on. Tonight some of the most powerful politicians in America visit THE FACTOR and weigh in on Iraq. We'll talk with John McCain, Joseph Lieberman and Gil Richardson.
Also, the Smart family does not want the authorities to charge Elizabeth's kidnappers with sex crimes but the prosecutors may do so anyway. We'll debate it.
And should teachers be giving their opinions on Iraq in the classroom?
Caution, you're about to enter a no-spin zone. THE FACTOR from D.C. begins in 90 seconds.
Now for the top story tonight, the best Iraq coverage you will see on television. First up, Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona.
All right, Senator, if you were president, what would you have done differently in the run-up to this war?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Nothing.
MCCAIN: The president has handled this, in my view, skillfully. And I would point out that those who are criticizing the failure to get the United Nations to act in accordance with our will were the ones who urged the president vote in the United Nations.
O'REILLY: All right. Now, in Clinton's case, as we just pointed out in the "Talking Points" memo, he knew that France and Russia were going to prevent him from taking action against Milosevic. He knew that, which is why he went around the United Nations and went around France and went right to NATO.
Shouldn't the administration have anticipated the duplicity of Russia and France again in this matter? And wouldn't it have been easier if we had avoided all of this demonstrations and all of that and just knocked on Saddam's door very early?
MCCAIN: I don't think so, Bill. Because I think the polls consistently showed that the majority of the American people would like for us to have gone to the U.N. and wanted us to go that route. Now polls are saying they're fed up, just as I am. But they wanted us to try that route.
Look, I don't think that Colin Powell is naive and I don't think I am either, but the French foreign minister looked Colin Powell in the eye and said -- when Colin Powell said, if you vote for 1441, then you will not veto the next one, right? And the French prime minister said yes!
O'REILLY: He lied right to Powell and stabbed him in the back.
MCCAIN: So you know, I mean, even from the French, if I may say that, you expect a certain level of responsibility for their word.
So I think that the American people would have felt a lot better if we had gotten a second resolution. They're ready to go now, the majority of them are.
But I don't think by having gone this route, and I think that the president and Colin Powell pursued this seriously, there's also that argument that they're going -- I'm sure they pursued it seriously. I know that.
And so I think they pursued it seriously. It didn't work. Now is the time to show the majority of the American people, who share our view that we went the last step.
O'REILLY: All right. Now you are confident it's going to be a quick military knockout, correct?
MCCAIN: I am reasonably confident of that. There is such a thing as the fog of war, there is such a thing of Saddam Hussein complicating the problem. But I am confident our technological capabilities are overwhelming and the men and women in the military are superb. We can count on them.
O'REILLY: OK. So you're confident when the war begins, which may be as early as this weekend...
O'REILLY: ... that will be a fast knockout. Are you confident that after we occupy Iraq, allied forces occupy Iraq, that they will start to throw out all of these anthrax vials, V.X. gas, are you confident that's going to come out?
MCCAIN: I am confident that that will come out. Bill, he had too much unaccounted for in 1998. There were tons of nerve gas and other chemicals and other weapons that he just never accounted for.
O'REILLY: All right. Now, when that happens, France, are they going to be embarrassed because they sold Saddam a lot of this stuff?
MCCAIN: I think the French will be more embarrassed when the information comes out about the dealings that they've had with Saddam Hussein, selling weapons, various monetary dealings that went on between France and Iraq. That will be more embarrassing.
O'REILLY: Now, the poll today, the "Washington Post" poll today, showed that most Americans don't want to alienate France, they want France to be a friend. I'm not down with that, all right? I'm saying don't buy French goods.
And if what you say is true, that they provided weapons of mass destruction or the ingredients there thereof to Saddam, I think we've got to deal with them.
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, it's a fact they provided the Iraqis with the material that they built a nuclear reactor.
O'REILLY: Yes, the Israelis knocked it down.
MCCAIN: That's a fact. So I think you're going to find out other information. I think the American people will act intelligently.
If they have the choice of buying a California wine, they may choose that and that's the right they have to choose.
O'REILLY: Ninety-five percent on BillOReilly.com poll said that just the other day.
MCCAIN: Here's the problem: what is the state of the United Nations Security Council, because Germany and France have rendered them irrelevant?
O'REILLY: Yes, tell us. Does anybody think they will have the cojones, you know that word in Arizona, right?
MCCAIN: Yes, the historic parallel is when the Italians invaded Abyssinia...
O'REILLY: Let me pose this, because we only have a minute left. Does anyone think that they have the cojones to confront the North Koreans?
O'REILLY: And do you?
O'REILLY: So what good is the U.N. Security Council if they're not going to confront North Korea or Saddam, what good are they?
MCCAIN: I think there are a lot of various ways they can be...
O'REILLY: Humanitarian, right?
MCCAIN: Yes, but I think there are scenarios. But, look, it's like the crooked poker game, it's the only game in town, the old joke, you know? And so I would like to see it respectable, I would like to see it effective, but I think there's a huge credibility problem and a risk of irrelevancy.
O'REILLY: I think it's done to the foreseeable future as far as the United States gaining approval to do anything.
Senator, always a pleasure to see you.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
O'REILLY: Thanks very much.
MCCAIN: Great to see you.
O'REILLY: Next on the rundown, declared presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman will weigh in.