CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Lott Discusses Contentious Patients Bill of Rights; Durbin, Hagel Debate Bush's Overseas Performance; Have Fathers' Roles Changed for Worse?
Aired June 17, 2001 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Brussels and 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this two-hour LATE EDITION.
We'll get to our interview with U.S. Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott shortly, but first the hour's top story.
BLITZER: President Bush returned to the United States just as Congress this week will begin a debate on the so-called patients' bill of rights. It's an issue on which the White House and Democrats and some key Republicans remain far apart.
Joining us now to talk about that and much more is the top Republican in the U.S. Senate, Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.
Senator Lott, always good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: Good to be back, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to get to all of that stuff on patients' bill of rights, but briefly on the president's trip to Europe, his first summit with Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.
BLITZER: Listen to what the president said about President Putin, the effusive praise he gave this former head of the KGB. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is an honest, straightforward man who loves his country. He loves his family. We share a lot of values. I view him as a remarkable leader. I believe his leadership will serve Russia well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He also says he trusts him. Do you trust President Putin of Russia?
LOTT: Well I don't know that I know him well enough to say that I trust him, but he is the head of a very important country in the world, Russia, still a very important country.
I thought that they seemed to get along well, and that he handled himself well. In fact, Putin, who rarely shows any facial expressions, was very animated in his conversations with the president and in his reaction.
Perhaps the president was effusive, but maybe he felt comfortable with that. And that is a good sign if, in fact, that is the relationship that they develop.
I thought his trip through Europe was a tour de force. I thought he handled himself well. I was particularly pleased with his speech in Poland. I thought his meetings with the president of Spain, Aznar, and also Lord Robertson with NATO were all very strong meetings. And I think he should get good remarks for what he did.
BLITZER: But the whole notion of the U.S.-Russian relationship 10 years after the end of the Soviet Union, the collapse of the Soviet Union. Do you feel comfortable, at this point, sharing highly sensitive missile technology, antimissile technology, with Russia if that's a price to go forward with the missile defense shield?
LOTT: Well, I think we should consider that and discuss it with them. The one interesting point I found when I was in Europe in April was that the Europeans were surprised when the Russians said, "Well, on missile defense, let's talk about it." They were prepared to say, "No, we are against it."
But this is a defensive system and, when they look at it in that sense, as a missile defense, not national missile defense, but they look at the regional aspects of it, the sea-based aspects of it, as well as the space-based aspects of it, and that we can have a free and open discussion with our European allies and with Russia, then they look at it differently.
BLITZER: Under what circumstances would you agree to see Russia become a member of NATO? As you know, there is a lot of contentious debate right now over the expansion of NATO, and one possibility is bring Russia in. Is that realistic?
LOTT: Well, I don't think it is right now. But NATO and European Union will be expanded, probably in the next couple of years. That was one of the things that was discussed, the president very much for that. I have supported enlarging NATO. I think you have to have some, you know, criteria that has to be met.
And I do think that Russia should be consulted and should be involved as you go along. And I guess it is conceivable that in future Russia could have some sort of relationship or formal role with NATO. I wouldn't reject that out of hand. I don't think we are there, yet. BLITZER: Another contentious issue, the return of the EP-3 surveillance plane from China. They are going to begin the dismantling of it. Bring it home on a Russian transport plane to the United States after a lot of people that would be inappropriate. How disappointed are you that this is the deal the U.S., the Bush administration has worked out with China?
LOTT: Well, I think not too long ago, we had a, I think, a Russian plane that we sent back in crates, one that we had been able to get access to. And in my own hometown, when we brought back the USS Cole it was on a ship that was manned by Russians.
So the world is changing, and we shouldn't view Russia as this cold war enemy. They are in a different sort of situation; so are we. And I would I would like for us to have been able to repair fly that plane out of there. I don't know if it was physically possible to do that.
BLITZER: But you must be angry at the Chinese for forcing the U.S. to what some are saying is really a humiliating exercise.
LOTT: I don't view that as humiliating, but I am angry at the Chinese or concerned about the way they handled this matter. It was not good. It didn't help with relations. It didn't help with the trade relations.
I mean, they still have major problems in China with human rights violations, religious persecution, proliferation of weapons, selling technology around the world, and this certainly exacerbated that problem.
LOTT: But I think in the last six weeks or two months you've noticed that they've kind of backed off a little bit, although they're still a very threatening in their attitude and their language with regard to Taiwan.
I met last week with the prime minister of Singapore and talked to him about China and what are they up to and how should we deal with them. Southeast Asia is still a very critical part of the future of peace and security in the world.
BLITZER: You find yourself in a very politically awkward position right now, criticizing the Bush administration, President Bush for the decision on Vieques, where the U.S. Navy for years and years and years has had live fire ammunition training exercises.
You were not consulted at all in this decision, were you?
LOTT: The important thing is not so much who was consulted or not consulted, but what is right thing to do for our military men and women. It's about military lives.
That is a very important training area, that island off the coast of Puerto Rico -- or in Puerto Rico, Vieques. We were not told in advance. I don't think Senator Warner was or Senator Inhofe, senators that have been very much involved. But we do need to look to what we're going to be able to do in the future. I thought that this was not handled the smoothest way possible, and I've said so.
You know, you're not going to agree 100 percent with any president of either party. But it's not so much about who was advised or what decision was made, as much as what are we going to do without this place to train. That's still a critical question that hasn't been answered to my satisfaction yet.
BLITZER: Listen to the president's explanation when he said that he was going to go ahead and, within the next two years, end the training exercises there. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: My attitude is that the Navy ought to find somewhere else to conduct its exercises for a lot of reasons. One, there's been some harm done to people in the past. Secondly, these are our friends and neighbors, and they don't want us there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So is that a precedent there? If they don't want the United States in Puerto Rico, that means if the Japanese don't want the U.S. in Okinawa, or if you don't want the U.S. training to go on in Mississippi, then that's going to be determining role.
LOTT: Well, certainly that would be a dangerous precedent if that's the one that we're going to have. I thought it was a mistake back in the Clinton administration when they said, OK, we'll have a referendum by the people there on that island as to whether or not they want this to go forward. I mean, are we going to start doing that at Ft. Seal, Oklahoma, or in Eglin Air Force Base in Florida? I don't think that is, you know, what should be the determining factor.
This is important for national security; it's important about the lives. If you don't have this coordinated, amphibious training, then our men and women may not be ready to go forward in a very dangerous situation.
So just because people may be opposed to it in an area should not be the determining factor. I guess I wouldn't agree with what he said there.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk a little bit about the new Senate. You're in the minority, not barely in the minority. Potentially you'll be in the majority one of these days.
LOTT: Yes, I hope so.
BLITZER: Right now you're in the minority. The new majority leader, Tom Daschle, was on Fox News Sunday earlier today. I want you to listen to what he said about his attitude as the Majority Leader.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I have said over and over that we're going to be fair. We are determined not to engage in any payback. We're not going to do what we think in many cases was done to our nominees in the last eight years. That isn't what we're all about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you believe him?
LOTT: Well, I'm concerned about what I've heard from a number of the Democrats right out the gate. Several of them started right off by saying, well, in effect, Bush's nominees for the Supreme Court and for the federal judiciary will not be confirmed. Within two days, we started hearing talks about how we'll be having investigative hearings, and now even, you know, perhaps investigating personalities, the secretary of treasury or somebody at the White House.
I hope for the best. Senator Daschle and I have worked together across party lines under difficult circumstances before, and we're going to try to find a way to do it again.
Let me just emphasize this past week, even though there was a hand off of the majority leadership, we continued, as I had been working for a month, to get the education bill through. We continued to work on it, and we did pass it by a vote of 91 to 8 on Thursday, this past week which probably surprised a lot of people that it passed by that margin. So we can do that things together.
BLITZER: That's because the president decided on education to work with Senator Ted Kennedy, one of the most liberal Democrats.
BLITZER: Obviously, if you're going to work with the liberal Democrats, you're going to get a lot of stuff passed. He had to give up on his vouchers, for example, the school vouchers, in order to get that vote on education.
LOTT: Well, as even Senator Kennedy himself said, this wasn't a Republican bill or a Democrat bill, it was an education bill.
Whether we like it or not, Senator Kennedy is now chairman of the health, education, labor, pensions committee. You cannot just stiff him or roll over him.
Right now they have 51 votes, we have 49. Yes, it's very close. As far as being a new place, it's the same place, the same hundred senators. And it will vary from issue to issue, as to what the coalitions, how they form, and what we're able to do together.
But that was -- I thought it, still, it did have a lot of reform in it. It does have additional money in important areas for education, although money alone is not the only answer. If that were true, we'd already see improving test scores, because, in the last 10 years, we have increased spending by 100 percent, and yet test scores have stayed flat. President Bush made this his number-one priority, the bill number in Senate was S. 1. We have already had signed into law S. 2 on tax relief, and now we have passed S. 1, the first bill we filed on education. We're making good progress, so we need continue to do that.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the next big issue, the patients' bill of rights, being able to sue your HMO, your health maintenance organization, a very contentious issue. On this issue John McCain, the Republican, has forged alliance with Ted Kennedy and John Edwards, another Democrat from North Carolina.
Is he going to be able to do on patients' bill of rights to you what he managed to do on campaign finance reform?
LOTT: You defined the problem of this bill in your opening statement: the right to sue your HMO. That is not what this should be about.
What this should be about is, how does a patient that feels that an improper decision has been made get a different decision to get the health care he or she needs? That's what really matters.
And we think the way to do that is to have an immediate appeals process within the managed care organization, and, if they're not satisfied with that result, then an immediate outside by physicians who are knowledgeable in the area. And at that point, if you still feel you have been wronged or they don't comply with the decision, of course you should be able to go to court.
But what we think should be done is to make sure patients' rights to get a different decision can be considered.
And on the other hand, the Democrats seem to think that the answer is a lawsuit. Sue everybody, sue the employer, sue the doctors, sue the managed care, sue right out the gate. This is a question of what, when and where to sue. And if you just immediately go to court, you may eventually get a decision but your heirs may be the beneficiaries.
When you talk about health care, you need a quick decision by health care providers.
BLITZER: But if the provider makes a major mistake, and you're going to suffer for the rest of your life, or it could be a fatal mistake, why not give that patient the right to go to court and sue?
LOTT: Under those conditions where you have been damaged and couldn't get a quick decision, or the decision was not adequate and you had damages, you will be able to sue under the final product.
But we want to make sure that this is about patients' rights, not about lawyers' rights to sue. We don't want to do something that will cause employers to begin to drop the coverage of their employees, or conversely -- and/or the rates to be able to go up. If you look at the three or so bills that are out there, Don Nickles has done a lot of good work on this, Dr. Bill Frist and John Breaux and Jim Jeffords, by the way -- a Republican, a Democrat and an independent -- have one of the alternative bills, as well as the McCain-Edwards-Kennedy bill, there is a common thread of similarity, agreement that we need to have access to emergency care for people in managed care, that you need access to pediatricians and women to the OB/GYNs. A lot of the fundamental rights are pretty much in agreement.
BLITZER: Is there enough of an agreement there to get a compromise that the president will sign into law?
LOTT: If the Democrats are willing to compromise. You know, there was one quote, he said that he didn't really mean it the way it turned out.
BLITZER: Who is that?
LOTT: Senator Daschle said that they'd already compromised and weren't going to compromise any more. And yet, after some meetings last week, I understand that Senator McCain and Senator Kennedy and Edwards may have already started to modify their bill.
There are a number of problems with it. You know, when do you sue? What are the limits of liability? Where do you sue? And making sure that patients really do have access to a quick decision. And that you must, you know, try take advantage of that, before you resort to a lawsuit.
BLITZER: We only have a few seconds left, Senator Lott, but is there a Democrat out there you're trying to woo right now, to bring over and become the majority leader once again?
LOTT: Well, you always have communications with people that you work with on bills and that you have occasion to be together with socially. I have done that in the past, and I certainly would be amenable to it in the future, but I'm not going to name any one particular Democrat, because he immediately will be descended upon by the other side.
I don't think that that's likely to happen right away, but you never know.
BLITZER: And you saw that Senator Lincoln Chafee, a moderate Republican from Rhode Island, said this week to one of his newspapers in Rhode Island that, if you did do that and the Republicans came back in the majority, he might consider becoming an independent so that you wouldn't be in the majority...
LOTT: Well, I have...
BLITZER: ... because you're supposedly still not treating him with all that much respect.
LOTT: Well, I don't think that that's accurate, and I don't think he feels that. I mean, the president has met with him, and we have a number of senators that talk with him, and he has input on bills that we're considering, everything that's going on.
But I have said that, when you have a body that's this closely divided, you know, 50-49 and 1 independent, it may switch back once or twice before the next election. But you don't focus on that. What you try to do is find a way to make it work, no matter what the numbers are, to do what the American people want us to do.
One of the things I think we should be focusing on, that seems to be pushed aside right now for the patients' bill of rights issue, for instance, is energy. What you saw in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C., with the electricity being off for three or four days this past week, could be a pilot program for what could be happening all across America this summer.
Energy problems are now, they're urgent, we don't have a national energy plan, we don't have a plan to produce more energy, to conserve more. We need to do that, we need to do it quickly. Surely the Senate will take that issue up within the next month.
BLITZER: And we'll be taking up that issue with a couple of senators who are going to be following.
Senator Lott, always good have you on our program.
LOTT: Thanks a lot, Wolf.
BLITZER: Happy Fathers Day to you.
LOTT: Same to you and to your father. I understand he's in the studio.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
And just ahead, how is President Bush's visit with European leaders being viewed on Capitol Hill? We'll hear from two leading members of the Senate, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin and Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: It is time to move beyond suspicion and toward straight talk, beyond mutually assured destruction and toward mutually earned respect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush at a joint news conference in Slovenia yesterday with the Russian President Vladimir Putin after the two met in a closed-door meeting.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining us now, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. He serves on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. And the Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. He serves on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senators, always good to have you on LATE EDITION.
Senator Durbin, let me begin with you. How did the president do during this past week in Europe?
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I think he did well. And I think that, much like hecklers at a political rally in America usually help the person behind the podium, critics overseas usually cause a circling of the wagons in America. And even the president's sharpest critics stepped back and said, wait a minute, we can call him names, but not overseas.
BLITZER: So, if the French or the Swedes or some other European allies are complaining about the Kyoto Protocol, the global warming, or the national missile defense system, that sort of rallies the forces right here including Democratic critics like yourself?
DURBIN: Well, there will be a rallying of forces behind the president when he is under attack overseas, but let's not diminish the real differences that many of us have with the president and the White House on these issues. We will play them out in the orderly process here, whether we're talking about missile defense or the Kyoto Treaty. I think they are both very important issues not only to Europe but to a lot of Americans.
BLITZER: Did you have any problems with some of the effusive praise that we heard earlier for Vladimir Putin coming from President Bush?
DURBIN: No, not really. I wasn't there. The president was in that room with President Putin, had to make that assessment. If that's his call, that's his call. He obviously knows he will have to live with that description.
But I think more basic than just descriptions was the fact that a foundation was laid, a relationship was begun, and that is critically important for those two leaders of Russia and United States to connect.
BLITZER: But, as you know, Senator Hagel, and you're a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, you're regarded as one of the top experts in the Senate on foreign policy. This is at a time when Russia, according to the U.S. intelligence community, is shipping sensitive missile technology to Iran.
If former President Clinton, for example, would have spoken about President Putin the way that President Bush did, you know many Republicans would have been outraged.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Well, I suppose that there will be some response from the Republican Party individual members regarding the president's description of President Putin.
But, overall, and I think always when we are dealing with nations like Russia and China that will have such immense impact on the future of the world, it's smart to take a longer view here. The short-term view and working our way down into the differences, seems to me is not the wise course of action to take.
I think President Bush took wise course of action, started to lay that foundation. And I think in his description of President Putin, that he obviously felt, that was the right course of action to take.
Now, the differences are many, and they are serious, and we will have to deal with them. And you just suggested one, Wolf. But let's get off to as strong and positive beginning as we can, and I think the president did that.
BLITZER: Senator Durbin, how much of a problem did you have, or do you have, maybe you don't have a problem, with the president's decision to end the live fire ammunition training on Vieques, in Puerto Rico over the next two years?
DURBIN: Well, I support ending the bombing. And I think we should have done it a long time ago. I have written to the administration. When you think you have an island with over 9,000 people living there, and we're using it as a bombing range, at least one end of the island, innocent people have been harmed and some have been killed in this process. And we really should bring this to an end.
But to think that we are at a point now, where we have no place to turn for testing, really says that not just this administration -- it's only been in a few months -- but certainly the previous administration should have been planning ahead. We know how this referendum is going to turn out.
BLITZER: Well, you know, some people suggest that President Bush could stand up to the U.S. Navy and the Pentagon and take a decision like this, whereas former President Clinton could have never have done it, given the strained relations he had personally and politically over the years with the U.S. military.
DURBIN: I think there's some validity to that point, and I think that President Clinton was a little too reluctant to move forward and do the right thing that he should have done long ago. Calling for a referendum as a step in the process that we know is inevitable. We're not going to continue to use an island off Puerto Rico as a bombing range when people are being harmed. It's just something the United States is never going to bargain for.
BLITZER: In explaining the decision, the new Navy secretary, Gordon England, made this explanation. I want you to listen, Senator Hagel, to what the Navy secretary said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON ENGLAND, NAVY SECRETARY: Vieques is a crown jewel, unquestionably. That does not, however, mean that we cannot find a suitable alternative for Vieques. That does not mean that we will find, quote, "another Vieques." I feel most of our efforts in the past have been to find a direct substitute to Vieques. My approach is to find a suitable alternative.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is he talking about computer animation or simulations? What is a suitable alternative to what the Navy has insisted is the only viable spot on earth to conduct these kinds of exercises?
HAGEL: Well, first, I think we have to understand that President Bush inherited this problem. This was not of his making, and I think Senator Durbin accurately described that we all have to take some responsibility for deferring this decision. I think the president's decision was correct here for all the reasons he explained and the secretary did.
But to your question, what's the alternative? Well, live fire exercises must continue, and we will find a new place. I don't know if the same priority that now is going to be assigned to this project to find an alternative was assigned a year ago or two years ago. But in any event, simulation is not the same thing as preparing your troops with live fire, and we must find an alternative and I believe we will. And I think the president made the right call here.
BLITZER: You know, a lot of people in the Navy, admirals and others, and a lot of critics, your fellow Republicans in the Senate -- you heard Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott just say he disagreed with the decision -- they're suggesting, many of them, that this was a political decision that the president made in order to woo Hispanic voters down the road.
HAGEL: Well, I don't think that's quite right, but I would just add -- and my friend sitting next to me here understands this business pretty well, so do you, Wolf. I don't know of a decision made in this town by a president of United States that is not in some way connected to politics. It is a world that we live in. But to say that this president put future Hispanic support ahead of the national security interests of this country, I don't believe is accurate.
DURBIN: Wolf, don't overlook the fact that putting this off for two years doesn't buy much. There's going to be a torrent of criticism coming from not only Puerto Rico but their friends here in the United States that, if this is dangerous, stop it now; don't endanger civilians for another hour, another day.
So, saying two years from now we're going to quit, I don't think is really going to calm the fires that have been raging against this bombing.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about the reversal in the Senate, the Democrats becoming the majority, the Republicans the minority.
What are the prospects, Senator Durbin, of the Democrats losing a Democrat, conservative Democrat, and the Republicans and Trent Lott once again going into the majority?
DURBIN: Anything can happen we learned that over the last several weeks with Senator Jeffords decision.
BLITZER: How worried are you about that?
DURBIN: Well, of course we're concerned, and I think Tom Daschle has reached out within our caucus to any members that might feel estranged or not feeling that they're part of the team, and really invited them in. He's made an overt effort to do this and quietly as well, and I think he's been successful. I think our caucus is strong and unified at this point.
But anything can happen tomorrow. What we have to do is prepare to lead today, and we've got to organize the Senate as quickly as possible. This wrangling over this organization resolution has to come to an end soon. We can't get to the important business.
For example, Chairman Leahy in the Senate Judiciary Committee has said that, once we have an organizational resolution, within two weeks we'll start bringing in judicial nominees from the White House for hearing. Well, the longer we wait on the organizational resolution, the longer it will take for committees to roll up their sleeves and get down to work.
BLITZER: Well, the Republicans say they simply want to guarantee that these judicial nominees are going to have the hearing before the full Senate.
DURBIN: I'm afraid that their proposals say they simply want the Judiciary Committee to go away. They saw what the Senate Judiciary Committee under the Republicans did to the Clinton nominees. They don't want it to happen to Bush nominees, and I don't think it will. We're not going to slow dance this to the point of stopping nominees. If we disagree with them, we'll make it clear.
But Tom Daschle's a fair person, and I think the Democratic approach to this as long, as the president sends up moderate nominees, is going to be a fair approach.
BLITZER: What about that, Senator Hagel?
HAGEL: Well, the good news is, for me, my hot water has not been shut off, I still have my parking privileges so I'm grateful.
BLITZER: And you're not a freshman, so you're still a member of a committee.
HAGEL: As far as I know. And I show up and they give me a seat.
I think Senator Durbin has this about right. We need to get this done and move forward. I'm not going to say anything that's going to undercut my colleagues who are negotiating on my side of this with Senator Daschle.
But one of the things that I have reminded some of my colleagues is that the American people are watching. And if they get a sense that Tom Daschle and the new management over there is obstructing the process, obstructing the president for any reason other than just the normal course of review and advice and consent, I think there will be political consequence. I think Tom Daschle and my friend here are both wise enough to understand that.
So I'm not too concerned about this. We're going to get nominees through, and that's the responsible thing to do.
HAGEL: And until I see differently, I think we'll be able to work together on this.
BLITZER: Do you think there will be a deal in the next few days?
HAGEL: I hope so. Again, I'm not part of the management on my side of this, and I have been told that we're fairly close to getting something agreed to. But we need to move this along and get this country in a place where we can address the issues that the American people expect us to address.
BLITZER: All right, Senators, stand by. We're going to take a quick break.
We have a lot more to talk about, including your phone calls for Senators Hagel and Durbin. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We are continuing our conversation with Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
Senator Durbin, as you know, Congressman Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California, wants to look into Karl Rove, the senior political adviser to the president who was involved in a meeting involving Intel and a possible merger that could affect the price of Intel's stock. He had at the time $100,000 worth of Intel stock.
Henry Waxman, in letter this week to representative Dan Burton, the chairman of the Oversight Committee in the House said this: "This is exactly the type of situation that you would have investigated had it occurred in the Clinton administration."
Is this fair game now for the Democrats to start investigating Republican officials in the White House?
DURBIN: There is no doubt that Dan Burton would have initiated an investigation and issued hundreds of subpoenas and had several press conferences and made some pretty wild charges. That was really the modus operandi of that committee under the Clinton administration. Let's not repeat it.
I think Henry Waxman raises a valid point that perhaps Mr. Rove should have been more sensitive to at least the appearance of impropriety. And now he has divested himself of that stock, as he should have.
But I hope that we really focus on issues like the patients' bill of rights like education, like education, like health care, things that mean something to families across America. This game of political gotcha really ought to come to an end.
The administration should be held accountable for honesty and integrity, as every administration should, but I hope we don't get into the same cycle of personal politics that we had in the last several years.
BLITZER: On the patients' bill of rights, Senator Hagel, that's going to be coming up in Senate this week. A huge debate, as you heard Senator Lott talking about earlier.
Now the Chamber of Commerce has come out with new ad they're going to be running. They've already started running it. I want you to listen to the thrust of their argument against the McCain-Kennedy- Edwards piece of legislation. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Working Americans rely on their health insurance for quality medical care and peace of mind. The Kennedy-McCain bill will flat line that coverage for more than a million of them.
NARRATOR: We can make health plans accountable to patients without killing the coverage of working Americans. Say no to Kennedy- McCain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Your a good friend, John McCain, the Republican from Arizona, once again lining himself up with liberal Democrats.
HAGEL: I know I get combat pay for being next to him. My office is right next to his.
HAGEL: I would say this. I think both sides in this debate, which is very, very important to the American people, ought to tone the rhetoric down; let us, who are elected and accountable to deal with these things, try to work our way through the process in the House and the Senate, try to come to some common sense, achievable objective here and get a real patients' bill of rights that the president can sign.
I don't think it elevates the issue and the debate and information and knowledge about this issue when we get extreme TV and radio ads on both sides of the debate. That would be my counsel to all who have an interest in this. Not that people don't have an interest, that's not my point. But my point is let's come at this in some responsible way. That is why we have elected officials. We want everybody's input, but let's do it in a way where we have some confidence of the information that we are getting.
BLITZER: Well, Senator Durbin, the thrust of that ad, which is the thrust of a lot of the Republican arguments against McCain- Kennedy-Edwards is that, if you pass this and you allow individuals to have this unlimited litigation potentially of the insurance companies of the HMOs, it is going to skyrocket the cost and a lot of people are going to lose their medical insurance coverage as a result of the good intentions that you may have.
DURBIN: That's the argument on the other side. But, of course, Chuck Hagel, Dick Durbin and Wolf Blitzer, as well as CNN, AOL, Time Life, all the rest of them, are subject to litigation if we are guilty of negligent or wrongful conduct. We are subject to be held accountable if we do the wrong thing. The only group in America that receives special treatment are those who are diplomats and health insurance companies.
And you say to yourself, why have we carved out this exception and said they can't be held accountable, when they literally make life-and-death decisions about health coverage?
We believe that there should be an appeals process that's really objective and fair, because that is really how you are going to respond to an immediate need for health care. But if it doesn't work, the health insurance company should be held accountable as any other company.
How much will it cost? Well, the estimates run 30, 40 cents a month. And for it, we are going to have, I think, a pressure on these companies not to turn people away from specialists, not to deny emergency care, to let women keep their OB/GYN through a pregnancy even if there is a change in the insurance company, to have clinical trials. I think that's a reasonable thing.
BLITZER: Well, why give the insurance companies, the HMOs that exemption?
HAGEL: Well, first of all, I think we've got to look at all the factors in here, who pays the premiums or co-premiums, how do we provide health insurance in this country?
I remember the debate in the early '70s that Senator Kennedy led on this issue. I was a young staff member in the House in the early '70s, when they came up with concept of HMOs, which Ted Kennedy was the leader on. It was a good concept. It has provided a very significant service to this country. Now, is that system broken? If that system's broken, then let's fix it.
But I think what at least many of us believe is that we have to be somewhat careful that we don't just send everything to the courts and that the answer is this issue of, well, we'll just sue, we'll just sue, and that's the answer. Now I know it's not that simple, and I appreciate that. What my friend Mr. Durbin is talking about are many of the same things that we have in a Republican bill that we passed a year ago. So that represents what I said earlier. I go back to the point that we ought to take time do this rationally, calmly, work it through, where is it broken.
But we run a risk here, Wolf, of putting small businesses out of business and doing some things here that would not be in the best long-term interests for health care in this country if we don't do it right.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Boston. Please go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Thank you, my name is Kevin, calling from Boston. My question for Senator Hagel.
Senator Hagel, what is your general impression of Secretary Rumsfeld's comments about removing our troops from Bosnia? And along that line, how do you feel about peacekeeping in general in the Balkans?
HAGEL: Well, if you have been following this -- and obviously you have -- Secretary Rumsfeld's comments have moved around a little bit over the last few months. He is now supporting the president's position on keeping our troops, consistent with the commitment that we've made to our NATO partners. And you heard what President Bush said about this: We went in together, we'll go out together. So I think that issue is over.
Secretary Rumsfeld's earlier comments, I think, were made more on the basis of a review, what he is now undergoing, and leading the defense department through, as a new and, I think, responsible way to look at our needs, to defend our national interests around the world.
My personal opinion on peacekeeping, it's a very, very important, integral part of our international leadership responsibilities in the world.
BLITZER: Senators, unfortunately we are all out of time.
But a quick question for you, Senator Durbin. Earlier today, Joe Biden, your Democratic colleague from Delaware, was on, I believe, Meet the Press, and he was asked point blank if he's thinking of running for president in 2004.
He said, yes, he's thinking about it. Are you thinking about running for president in 2004?
DURBIN: No, I'm not thinking about it. I'm thinking about reelection in 2002. But if you went into either one of our cloakrooms, you would find this coterie of potential presidential candidates lurking and looking at maps of Iowa and New Hampshire. So it's not an unusual thing in the Senate. BLITZER: A lot of potential Democratic candidates going to make Tom Daschle's life a little bit more difficult as the majority leader.
BLITZER: Senator Durbin, Senator Hagel, thanks for joining us. Happy Father's Day to both of you.
HAGEL: Thank you.
DURBIN: You too.
BLITZER: Thanks for being on LATE EDITION.
And up next, President Bush says Russian President Vladimir Putin is a man whom the United States can trust.
We'll get two perspectives on Mr. Bush's European debut and the implications for future U.S.-Russian relations from former U.S. House International Relations Committee Chairman Lee Hamilton and former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush commenting on his initial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining us now to discuss the president's trip to Europe are two guests well-versed in international affairs. Lee Hamilton is a former Democratic Congressman from Indiana who served as chairman of the House International Relations Committee. He's now the director of the Woodrow Wilson Institute here in Washington. And in Charlottesville, Virginia, Lawrence Eagleburger. He served as secretary of state under the first President Bush.
Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Good to have you on our program.
And I want to begin with you, Mr. Secretary. This meeting that the president had with President Putin -- were you at all concerned about the tone of that joint news conference they had yesterday, especially what we've been calling this effusive praise that President Bush had for President Putin?
LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I wasn't concerned about it. I thought the president must have gotten up and had some happy pills that morning. But, you know, he said some things that maybe went beyond what most of us think about Mr. Putin. But, after all, he is the president, he's trying to work a relationship with the man. No, I wasn't concerned. We'll see how things sort out over the coming months.
BLITZER: Can the two leaders establish a strong working relationship given President Putin's background, Lee Hamilton, as former head of the KGB and President Bush's background?
LEE HAMILTON, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, they come from very different backgrounds, that's for sure, but they have a lot in common. They're both leaders of great nations.
The tone clearly represents a shift from the tone that President Bush had when he came into office. I think that's to the good. He reached out. He wants to establish a relationship that can be productive in the future. No agreement signed here.
Leaders tend to be effusive when they come out of these kinds of meetings. The real key is follow-up, what happens now as they get down to the tough problems on missile defense and all the other items.
BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, one of the key issue that was not only at the heart of the meetings with President Putin, but also with the European allies, involves the whole issue of missile defense. President Bush determined to go forward even if it means unilaterally abrogating 1972 ABM, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Secretary Powell was on This Week earlier today on ABC. I want you to listen to what Secretary Colin Powell had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: But we're not looking away for a way to break the treaty. If this treaty allowed us to do what we needed to do and have to do to provide a limited missile defense, it could stay in effect forever, but it doesn't. It is designed to keep us from moving in this direction, and that was the original purpose of it. But that purpose no longer exists. It's a different...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is that argument selling either among the European allies or with the Russians?
EAGLEBURGER: Well, obviously with the way you've asked the question, no, it's not selling, certainly with the Russians and not with our allies.
I happen to think it makes great good sense. The ABM Treaty was written in a different time in a different set of circumstances. If the president wants to go ahead with missile defense -- and it's clear he does -- we're going to have to abrogate the treaty, and there will be some costs to pay I suppose in terms of our relationships in Europe and with the Russians. But I think it's something that he's going to have to do.
BLITZER: Congressman, unilateral abrogation of the treaty could cause some diplomatic rifts out there.
HAMILTON: And I think it's not necessary at this point. President Bush is correct when he says we need a new security framework. He's right to say that the Cold War is over, that the ABM Treaty in many ways is outdated.
But I think the better course here is not to abrogate the treaty. It may become necessary in the future, but we don't need to do it now. The better course is to seek modifications of it.
The treaty provides -- bans, in effect, all kinds of defense systems except a couple of very narrow instances. What we need to do, as Secretary Powell was suggesting a moment ago, is to find ways and means of developing defenses for limited missile attacks, countries with 12 to 24 missiles.
I think we can negotiate changes with Russia to their benefit and ours. And it would not be necessary to abrogate the treaty; you modify it.
Now, it may be at the end of the day that the Russians will say, no, we're not going to modify it. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, but we are not there yet.
BLITZER: All right.
Secretary Eagleburger, on another contentious issue, the whole issue of global warming, the Kyoto Protocol which the Bush administration, of course, rejects.
BLITZER: Listen to what the Swedish Prime Minister said, and reflecting presumably a much broader European view than just that of Sweden. Listen to what he said after the meetings with the president this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOERAN PERSSON, PRIME MINISTER OF SWEDEN: We agreed to disagree about substance according to the Kyoto Protocol. The European Union will stick to Kyoto Protocol and go for a ratification process. U.S. has chosen another policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: This is not, of course, the first time the United States, this administration or another administration, disagreed with the Europeans on a contentious issue like global warming. How serious of a problem, though, is this?
EAGLEBURGER: Well, again, it depends on how you look at it.
I must tell you that the Kyoto Protocol, this whole issue is a phony issue. Does no one remember some years ago the U.S. Senate voted 96 to nothing that they would never ratify the thing? It is a dead letter, has been from the beginning as far as we're concerned, because politically it just simply can't be managed in this country.
What's happened here is we have a bunch of Europeans who, if they ever really ratify the treaty, will find out how expensive it is for them, instead of going back and trying to do something sensible on this whole question of global warming.
I would say to you, if everybody asked how did Bush do on this trip, I would say the reverse is also true -- how did Europeans do? And I think this is a classic case of their lecturing, their moralism.
To me, the Kyoto treaty is itself the most phony of issues, and when they keep waving that at us, they don't mean it at all. They will never do it, ratify it themselves. But they are going to lay it all on us, if they can.
BLITZER: Congressman Hamilton, briefly, do you agree with Secretary Eagleburger?
HAMILTON: I think Secretary Eagleburger is correct when he says that the protocol would not have been approved by the Senate. We still want some more of the burden put on the developing countries, not all of the burden put on the developed countries.
Having said that, I think the president is correct when he calls for more research, clearly more is needed. But I also think the evidence is beginning to pile up here that human activity does in fact impact the world's climate.
What that means is that the leaders of the world have to find some action program. This is not a calamity that is going to hit us tomorrow, but it may hit our children and grandchildren. And we had better begin to look at ways and means of reducing carbon emissions. That can be done in a lot of ways.
EAGLEBURGER: Wolf, let me just say the chairman is absolutely correct. The problem because of Kyoto business, is it prevents us from doing exactly what the chairman is talking about. We ought to go back and take a sensible look at this thing, not play games with this ridiculous treaty.
BLITZER: All right, Mr. Secretary, Congressman, stand by. We have to take a quick break.
For our international viewers, World News is next.
For our North American audience, stay with us for the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll check the hour's top stories and take your phone calls for Lee Hamilton and Lawrence Eagleburger.
Then, are fathers playing a different role in today's society? We'll ask two prominent clergymen.
Plus, our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's Last Word. It's all ahead in the next hour of LATE EDITION. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Welcome back to this second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll get to our discussion with Lawrence Eagleburger and Lee Hamilton in just a moment, but first, let's go to CNN's Donna Kelley in Atlanta for a check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: We're continuing our conversation about President Bush's trip to Europe and the impact on U.S.-European relations with former House International Relations Committee Chairman Lee Hamilton and former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.
Congressman Hamilton, this whole issue of the death penalty was an issue in Europe. The Europeans almost uniformly oppose the United States on this issue, the Timothy McVeigh execution, another federal execution scheduled this week.
Should the U.S. take seriously European concerns on this issue?
HAMILTON: I think the United States and the states of the United States have to set their own policy on the death penalty. That's not for Europe to dictate or, perhaps, even to criticize. That's really an internal matter, it seems to me.
Now, what it does reflect, however, is deeper cultural differences between Europe and the United States and, even more broadly than that, a relationship, the transatlantic relationship, which has been very smooth, for the most part, over a period of decades, has now run into some rough waters, some rough patches. And that's a new thing for us.
And President Bush, I think, was right to reach out to Europe while he was there, supporting the enlargement of NATO, the enlargement of the European Union, but this relationship is not as smooth as it once was. There are a lot of issues that have popped up, capital punishment is one of them but I don't think the most important one.
BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, on this specific issue of capital punishment, Amnesty International, as you know, annually hammers the United States on the issue of the death sentence. The European allies this week were complaining about it.
Is this an issue that could strain the relationship, or is it just a marginal issue on the sidelines?
EAGLEBURGER: Well, I think Chairman Hamilton is correct in his description of the problems that exist between us, and I think they're going to get worse for a while, rather than better.
I must say, I have a very good friend who is in the Parliament in the U.K., and he told me a week ago, surprisingly, that he thought probably one of the issues that most irritated Europeans, West Europeans, about the United States was the death penalty. What can I say? We have one view of this. They have another. I don't think it ever rises to the level of being a critical issue between us, but I think there's no question it colors the way in which many Western Europeans look at the United States.
EAGLEBURGER: Let me just add, though, that, again, to further what the chairman said, I think there are a whole host of issues more important than this one that face us and will face us for some time to come in our relationships with Europe, and those are going to be the tough issues to work on.
BLITZER: Well, Congressman Hamilton, among the complaints that the Europeans have against this administration, the Bush administration, is the whole issue of unilateralism, that the U.S. seems to be taking decisions on its own without consulting the European allies, whether on global warming or on missile defense. President Bush was clearly sensitive to it this week when he was at the NATO headquarters in Belgium. Listen to what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Well, I hope the notion of a unilateral approach died in some people's minds today here. Unilateralists don't came around the table to listen to others and to share opinion. Unilateralists don't ask opinions of world leaders. I count on the advice of our friends and allies. I'm willing to consult on issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, the Europeans say he's only doing that after the fact, after he's made the decisions but not before he made the decisions.
HAMILTON: Well, my impression is the president helped himself a lot at this point of defending himself against the charge of unilateralism.
You got to put this thing in this context. President Bush went to Europe at a time when Europe was skeptical about the president, weary about him and maybe, in some cases, frightened by his policies. The big charge, as you suggest, is that he's going to act alone, the lone cowboy.
I think the president really helped himself. He handled himself very well here in a variety of forums. He made it quite clear, as your clip said just a moment ago, that he's going to consult. And I think you'll see this charge of a president being a unilateralist will fade.
Now, the Europeans have a right to say, OK, this was a big show over there, let's see what happens in the future. That's fair enough. But I don't think the charge of just unilateralism will stick quite the way did.
BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, you, of course, are old enough to remember a lot of similar complaints came from the Europeans 20 years ago during Ronald Reagan's administration. Here was this lone cowboy going out there taking decisions they didn't like.
EAGLEBURGER: Well, we can go back beyond that to the Vietnam era, the Europeans constantly sang this song.
Let me say here, you know, again, I agree with what the chairman said. But you know, at some point we have to ask the question whether it is the Europeans that ought to be defending their actions, rather than us always defending ourselves against them.
How helpful have they been on a whole host of issues? Not terribly helpful. Have they done anything to try to really shift the balance in terms of defense costs, for example? No. They keep talking about a European military force, which some day they may have. It is largely, I think, being built in Europe now, but more to counterpose against the United States than it is anything else.
I think there's a strong tendency in Europe to distance themselves from the United States in part because of their dislike of our sole power now as the only superpower. Some of it jealousy, some of it legitimate, in terms of concerns over consultation and so forth.
But I must tell you, by and large, I think the Europeans have at least as much to answer for as we do and I think, frankly, probably a good deal more. They're there, they're not terribly helpful, but they spend half their time kibitzing us and the other half complaining.
BLITZER: All right, let's take a caller from Georgia. Please go ahead with your question.
QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Hamilton. Mr. Putin is a former spy, as you know. Can the American taxpayer trust Mr. Putin? And how much taxpayer money is actually going to Russia now? And if there's a lot going, why should we go with them unless they support us on the missile shield?
HAMILTON: It's a fair question. The amount of aid going to Russia has been very sharply reduced. A few years ago, it was at a level of $1.3 or $1.4 billion. I think the level of aid today is very modest indeed, none of it going to the Russian government. What is going, going to try build up some of the rule-of-law-type organizations and a free media.
Can you trust Putin? I think the answer is, we don't know the answer to that. Putin has me puzzled, to be very frank about it. In some areas he's moving quite well. I think the direction on the economy is basically correct. I think he wants to do the right thing moving in the direction of free markets that we would want.
HAMILTON: On the other hand, his attitude towards what we would call civil liberties, or free press, caused me a lot of concern.
President Bush here was correct in his approach here again, I think. He said, look, we want a good relationship with Russia, but Russia has to do some things before that can become a partnership.
BLITZER: Very briefly, Secretary Eagleburger, on the issue of Vieques, did President Bush do the right thing by announcing he is going to end those training exercises over the objections of the U.S. Navy during the course of the next two years?
EAGLEBURGER: To the degree I know anything about the issue -- and I don't know much, but that's never stopped me before -- I think he did the right thing. I simply don't know how serious the Navy's objections are in terms of public relations and in terms of trying to describe a more helpful regime, a more helpful administration. I think he did the right thing.
BLITZER: All right. On that note, Secretary Eagleburger, Congressman Hamilton, unfortunately we have to leave it right there. Always great to have both of you on our program. Thank you so much.
And when we return, as America celebrates Father's Day, has the role of fatherhood changed for the better or the worse? We'll ask two prominent men of faith who counsel on family issues, Monsignor Thomas Hartman and Rabbi Mark Ellman. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Nearly every man who has a child wants to be a good father, I truly believe that. It's a natural longing of the human heart to care for and cherish your child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first official Father's Day. Since that time, the role of fathers has changed significantly.
Joining us on this Father's Day to talk about that and more, are two men of faith known as the so-called God Squad: In New York, Monsignor Thomas Hartman and Rabbi Marc Gellman.
Thanks to both of you for joining us once again.
Monsignor Hartman, let's begin with you. On this Father's Day, is it your sense that over the years the role of dad has changed?
MONSIGNOR THOMAS HARTMAN: Well, there are more challenges today. Kids want a parent that's both strong and gentle. They want a parent that listens to them. They want a parent that is aware of the world that they live in -- the jeans that they need to buy, the education that they're going to need to compete in this world; somebody who is not only able to spend a lot of time at work, but a lot of time listening to them at home.
BLITZER: Rabbi Gellman?
RABBI MARC GELLMAN: I just think this is great that the guy who's called the father is not, and the guy who's called rabbi is a father.
It just, I don't know, there's an irony about today.
HARTMAN: I'm just the father of many.
GELLMAN: Well, that's right. I guess that's true.
HARTMAN: Thousands, Marc.
GELLMAN: I'm happy to be the father of two, and I'm delighted to do that.
I think that there's an immense challenge, and that challenge is really the one that's always existed and that is for men to accept the nurturing qualities that are necessary to fatherhood, while at the same time balancing the responsibilities they have as the bread winner.
There was a wonderful story, Wolf, that we actually heard of an IBM executive who was talking to younger executives on the day of his retirement. He said, "Gentlemen, I know you all want my job, and let me tell you how you can get my job. Last week my daughter was married, and as she walked down the aisle I realized I didn't know who her friends were, I didn't know what the last book she had read was. I really didn't know very much about her at all. And the reason is, I had spent all my time doing this job. If you're willing to pay that price, you can have this job."
I think a lot of fathers are saying, keep the job. I'd rather be a good father.
And, Monsignor Hartman, as you probably know since you take a look at these issues, the Census Bureau in the most recent census pointed out that there's been this huge explosion of single fathers over the years. Right now, 2 million single fathers as opposed to 393,000 single fathers 30 years ago. Obviously the creation of all these single fathers has forced a dramatic change in the way fathers deal with children.
HARTMAN: Well, I think it's false to believe that fathers don't care. And when half of the population who are married, separated, divorce at one time or other, we're going to face the idea that a judge is going to have to look at the situation, society's going to have to look at the situation and say, who is the most competent person to raise the children?
Clearly the needs of children are as Marc said before. They need somebody who's going to care for them, protect them, but also take time to listen to them.
It's interesting. You can hire somebody to teach your kid how to play the guitar, but you can't hire somebody to take the place of moral values, spirituality and time just to waste with your child, listening to them, loving them, caring them.
BLITZER: Rabbi Gellman, Senator Evan Bayh, the Democrat from Indiana, was out earlier this week, in fact he was on CNN, and he explained why he's not going to run for president in 2004. I want you to listen to the explanation he gave. It fits in precisely with what your story was of the IBM executive. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: If it's not right for the people you care most about -- these two little boys who are in their formative years, their most sensitive years -- it just wasn't the right thing to do. So, we'll never know. But the one thing I do know is that I would have not been doing right by my kids at the time that they really needed me, and that would be something I would have had a hard time living with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I guess men are becoming a little bit more sensitive, is it just my impression, to the need to spend some good quality time with their children?
GELLMAN: One of my favorite lines in literature is the first line of "Anna Karenina," Tolstoy's great novel, and it goes like this: "All happy families are exactly alike. All unhappy families are unhappy each in their own way."
And I think what Senator Bayh has said -- and I commend him for it -- is part of what is true about all happy families. All happy families have a mother and a father who are both providing nurture and strength, example, moral wisdom, and the sense -- the most important gift that a kid can be given, far more important than anything else, the notion that they are unconditionally loved. And I think every happy family does that. It's really quite simple, although executing it requires great sacrifice.
BLITZER: Rabbi and Monsignor, we're going to take a quick break.
We have a lot more to talk about, including your phone calls on this Father's Day for Monsignor Thomas Hartman and Rabbi Marc Gellman. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We are continuing our conversation with Monsignor Thomas Hartman and Rabbi Marc Gellman.
Monsignor Hartman, you probably saw the stories this week about the accused Russian spy Robert Hanssen having supposedly confessed to a priest some 20 years ago, long before the U.S. government originally suspected that he was allegedly engaged in espionage. The priest originally said he should come clean, but then the priest said maybe he should just donate the money that he received from the Russians, allegedly, to Mother Teresa. What is the responsibility of a priest who hears someone confess of a crime? What is the responsibility that a priest has, if any, to go to law enforcement authorities and tell them what's going on?
HARTMAN: Well, if a person goes into confession, under the seal of confession, it is absolutely confidential. The church teaches that there should be one place where each person can go where, whatever they say, no matter how good or bad it is, it is totally confidential. If a priest were to reveal that conversation, the priest would be excommunicated. That is how serious it is in terms of the church. You can never reveal anything you ever heard in confession.
Now that responsibility is on the priest's part, not on the penitent's part. Robert Hanssen could have left that confession and said, I told the priest and that would be OK.
If, on the other instance, as I understand it, he went with his wife to have a conversation with the priest, that's not under the seal of confession, so then he would be under a professional relationship similar to a doctor or a counselor. And in that instance, the priest would maintain confidentiality, although if the person was saying something very severe, the priest would counsel the person to change their way. And if the person was talking about killing somebody, then the priest would probably say, "I'm going to inform the law enforcement that this is going to be happening" or "I'm going to inform your wife" or whoever it is.
In this instance, the priest took it very seriously, thought about it, called back and said, insofar as, it appears as though he said, I'm going change my ways, he said, "Well, then take the money that you have received, which doesn't really belong to you, and give it to a worthy cause."
BLITZER: Rabbi Gellman, have you ever been put in a situation where one of your congregants, let's say, comes to you and confesses of a crime, or confesses that he or she is going to do something really bad, commit a crime, where you're put in awkward position and you don't know whether to go to law enforcement authorities or not?
GELLMAN: Well, I must say, Wolf, we don't have that many spies in my synagogue. They go to the synagogue down the street.
But the people who have come to me, come to me with normal, confidential issues; there's a lot of adultery. And my way of handling that is I usually take -- well, last time I took the guy to lunch, got a pitcher of beer, and I poured it over his head at lunch. It's unconventional way of counseling. I don't recommend to it others.
But, I mean, I think clergy have to take a strong stand on these issues. People, I think, are generally coming to clergymen when they do because they want encouragement to return to some level of moral purity. There are no moral virgins in our world, but they want advice and courage to do the right thing. BLITZER: Monsignor Hartman, this week there was a contentious issue, somewhat controversial, in the Senate involving the Boy Scouts, the education bill. In effect, Jesse Helms, the Republican senator from North Carolina, pushing forward in an amendment that passed that schools should give the Boy Scouts access to their facilities, even though the Boy Scouts discriminate against homosexuals. Where do you stand on a moral issue like this?
HARTMAN: Well, I think it's really important that people have a right to pray. And if they do in a private way, even though it's a public forum, it's a positive thing.
In terms of the issue of homosexuality, that is a very complex issue. In terms of the church where it stands is there is nothing wrong if somebody is a homosexual, the church would just say a person shouldn't actively practice it. So, the church and the spiritual leaders basically say you can't discriminate against someone just because they are homosexual.
BLITZER: And what about that, Rabbi Gellman? How do you feel about that whole issue of Boy Scouts and homosexuality?
GELLMAN: I think the Boy Scouts have an absolute right to establish this as one of their standards.
GELLMAN: And I think that it is completely consistent with their mission. I support them in doing it. I think it was the right thing.
And I think the attack on the Boy Scouts has been invidious, I think it's been duplicitous. There's lots of organizations that have this view, and I believe that the Boy Scouts should be supported in their right and in their decision to create a certain moral vision for the people who belong to the Boy Scouts of America.
BLITZER: OK. Rabbi Gellman, Monsignor Hartman, always great to have the God Squad on LATE EDITION. Thanks so much for joining us.
And just ahead: Did President Bush win over European leaders with his visit? We'll go 'round the table on that and more with Steve Roberts, Susan Page and Chris Caldwell. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our roundtable. Joining me, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report"; and in for David Brooks, Chris Caldwell, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard."
All right, Steve, let's talk about the Bush trip to Europe. How did he do?
STEVE ROBERTS, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": I think he did pretty well, obviously got along very well with Vladimir Putin -- better, ironically, than he seemed to get along with our European allies, actually. I think he made a good speech, in terms of Russia, saying that they are partners, not enemies. I think that was an important note to strike.
But there are a lot of substantive disagreements. Particularly, he has not convinced people on the anti-missile shield. This is a shield he doesn't -- we don't know whether it works or not. He doesn't know how to pay for it. Everybody else in the world is against it. It'll probably make us less safe, rather than more safe. Apart from that, it's a great idea.
So, he's got some problems.
CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, the rapport he has with Putin is encouraging.
BLITZER: Do you think that's a real rapport, or it's just for domestic -- both sides have a domestic political incentive to make it look like they're in great shape.
CALDWELL: Exactly, both men have an incentive, all right? But I think that he's got a real rapport -- he's got a working relationship with him.
Where the concrete stuff is going to come from, though, I don't know. Putin has not said he's going to be more cooperative on ABM. He's just said he doesn't want Bush to be so unilateral about it, which looks to me like he means he's going to hide behind the Europeans on this one.
BLITZER: On the issue -- it seemed to me, watching that news conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia...
SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": You do that really well, by the way.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
PAGE: Have you been practicing that?
BLITZER: I've actually been to Slovenia, but that was with another president. You probably were on that trip, as well.
PAGE: I was. It was nice.
BLITZER: In any case, it seemed to me that President Bush was a lot more generous toward President Putin than vice versa.
PAGE: Yes, and do you think that's going to help him domestically? I can imagine a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill not thinking that is a guy with whom we should be such great pals, so that was interesting. I do think the best thing you can say about George Bush on this trip is that he continues to benefit from low expectations. I was in Europe last week, and from the press he got before he got there, you'd think he was going to do pratfalls at state dinners, which is clearly not the case. He's a smart guy, he won election as president. You don't achieve that unless you're pretty smart. And so, he exceeded expectations, just as he's done here in this country.
BLITZER: That's helped him throughout.
ROBERTS: Yes, it has helped him throughout. The world is littered -- this country and the world is littered with people who have underestimated George Bush.
But I've noticed that the late night comedians have really started ratcheting up the criticism of him, and this notion of him being kind of dumb and unready is taking hold. And there is one great Leno line this week about, well, George Bush said that he was against the Kyoto Accord, he preferred the Kyoto Camry, which...
BLITZER: You know, he did provide some of those late night comics with some new material during the course of the visit to Europe. We put together a couple examples. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease, and it suffers from poverty as well. And my way of thinking is the only way for Africa to grow and to develop and to provide hope and opportunity for citizens is for there to be trade between the United States and Africa, between the EU and Africa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: And so my vision of Europe is a larger vision, more countries, more free trade, and one in which welcomes Russia and the Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Chris, he says Africa is a nation. Obviously, Africa is not nation; it's a bunch of nations. And he says his vision for Europe -- more countries, he wants more countries in Europe?
CALDWELL: That's right. Well, it's the first we knew that George Bush was an African nationalist, right, right?
CALDWELL: But, no. Everyone expected that. He had another press conference in front of a chocolate company in Belgium that was just a feast of these kinds of things. But I think that he's pretty immune to getting hammered on this from the Europeans.
BLITZER: Getting hammered from the Europeans occasionally helps a president in the United States.
PAGE: That's right. I mean, the Swedish prime minister got up and said some critical things, as did other European leaders in interviews. And I think most Americans say, well, you know, who cares what the Swedish prime minister thinks about our president? In fact, maybe, as Dick Durbin said in the interview that you just did, maybe it actually helps him, because Americans tend not to be so concerned about international opinion.
ROBERTS: Although, as we just saw, one of the parts -- and this is true for any president from any party, you have to get used to this incredible scrutiny -- literally, every syllable you say. He mangled the name of the prime minister of Spain. It became an international incident because he transposed two syllables.
So, I think that this is part of the learning curve here. You know, you could see in that clip, this was not a confident guy, this is not a guy with a sense of real "I'm here, I'm in charge." There was a certain timidity, and you could see it in that clip.
PAGE: You know, I remember back when President Clinton first became president, how timid he sometimes seemed on the world stage, and how much he wanted to rely on the United Nations, in part because he felt uncertain of himself. At the end of eight years, he is now seen as this great colossus in Europe...
BLITZER: Yes, that's true.
PAGE: ... because obviously, on your first trip, I think it's natural that you're not going to seem as confident. He's got another trip to Europe next month. Maybe that'll serve as a better test.
CALDWELL: But one thing you hear a lot of people say, which is just not true, is that Europe is not important any more. I think that Europe is actually more important now than it was at the beginning of Clinton's administration.
CALDWELL: Why? Because their economy is better integrated and they're flexing their muscles, as we saw this week with their blockage of the GE-Honeywell merger.
ROBERTS: And, you know, separately, these economies are nowhere near as big as America. In fact, this week we saw that California, if it was a separate country, would be a bigger economy than France.
ROBERTS: Yes, it would be.
CALDWELL: France is No. 4.
ROBERTS: France was No. 5, and this week California outpaced France.
ROBERTS: But together, all of Europe is the equal to the United States. That is one of the rationales why France, Germany and others wanted a united...
BLITZER: The governor of California, Gray Davis, keeps saying it would be the sixth largest economy in the world.
ROBERTS: This week it's fifth.
BLITZER: Well, I don't know where France is...
... but we're going to have to go and get a life line and find out who exactly is right on this issue. We'll find out.
We're going to take a quick break. We will be back with more of our roundtable when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.
Chris, on the whole issue of the U.S. Navy's air, sea training, live fire ammunition, Vieques. If President Clinton would have made this decision to end it, to end that training, what would have happened?
CALDWELL: Well, probably about the same thing, but President Clinton didn't feel he had to make this decision. President Bush is trying to get some capital in the Latino community and he kind of flubbed it up.
It turns out, the military really cares about Vieques. It turns out that Puerto Ricans are not satisfied with a three-year time table. And he has wound up with a funny rationale, saying, they're our friends so we ought to leave. That is going to hurt him when he talks putting a nuclear reactor in Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
BLITZER: So you're saying he got the worst of all world's by this decision?
CALDWELL: Absolutely, absolutely.
PAGE: You know, I really disagree, Chris. I think if Clinton had done this, it would have been a uproar in the conservative community, which has kept mostly silent but not entirely, and an uproar at the Pentagon, which had the ability to make a case against Clinton that they are not doing against President Bush because of Clinton's well-known problems with the military.
I think this would been a hugely more controversial if Clinton had gone ahead and done it.
CALDWELL: Certainly, talking to National Review, which ran three or four articles this week with Pentagon sourcing on the Navy report that said there had been a study of 18 places, and only Vieques suited this live fire exercises they have. So he's getting hurt on it.
BLITZER: And there is a history here. Bill Clinton had a tough time standing up to the military and the Pentagon, whereas President Bush, he can get away it. He can tell the Navy, "I'm ordering you to stop the training exercises."
ROBERTS: I think there's some truth to that. Bill Clinton, for the first couple of years as president, couldn't even salute correctly, you know.
But Chris made an important point. This is not about finding the best training ground. This is not about the Pentagon. This is about domestic politics. The Latino community is growing in key states. This is largely a gesture for domestic, political reasons. It was Karl Rove, his political adviser, who was critical in making this judgment. And it's part of a pattern.
You know, he was in Poland this week, speaking to the Poles and talking about the great Polish experiment. Poles also a critical, Catholic voting bloc in important states. And if you look at the lot of the things George Bush is doing, you see the hand of Karl Rove and domestic political advisers speaking to certain interest groups.
BLITZER: But, Susan, I'm sure you have spoken to the White House officials on this issue, and Defense Department supporters of the White House who made this decision. They make the point that the administration was simply looking at the reality of the situation. There had to be a referendum. There was no way that Puerto Ricans were going to approve this, the people on Vieques themselves. And as a result, you get ahead of the curve and you make the decision before you're embarrassed by the referendum.
PAGE: And maybe that turns out to be correct. So the furor blows over, and the Latino community is grateful for the fact that he took the step on his own. So that may turn out to be, in fact, the way it plays out. It is hard to imagine that we're going to continue to use this as a site for live ammunition firing with such significant opposition by the people who live there.
BLITZER: And I guess, while the Navy, Chris, is trying to make Karl Rove, the chief political adviser to the president, the bad guy in this situation, he didn't make the decision. The decision went all the way to the top.
CALDWELL: Well, he thought about it, because there is an important economic issue here, too. Unlike most military facilities, the one on Vieques only creates about 100 jobs. And rather than add to the economy, it destroys a possible tourist economy there. They only get about 100 tourists a month, so there were lobbyists who this, too.
BLITZER: Let's move on. Speaking about Karl Rove, the whole issue of Karl Rove's having about $100,000 in Intel stock at a time when he was involved in the meeting about a merger that could potentially effect the value of that stock.
I want you to listen, Steve, to what the president said on January 22, two days after he was inaugurated, about the whole issue of ethics in government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I expect every member of this administration to stay well within the boundaries that define legal and ethical conduct. This means avoiding even the appearance of problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Every president says that at the beginning. Bill Clinton said it at the beginning of his administration, and then there's a whole bunch of appearance problems.
ROBERTS: And six months in somebody like us always plays that back at a moment when there is a problem.
ROBERTS: Look, I don't think there's evidence that Karl Rove has done anything legally wrong, and maybe not even ethically wrong, but I think he made a misjudgment. He should not have met with Intel while he owned that stock. He should not have done it.
And it gives the Democrats two openings. One is the larger theme that we're going to here over and over again: Republicans, party of big business. See? They are in bed with the big guys, not the little guys. You're going to hear it on the energy issue, hear it on the environment issue.
And the other thing, of course, is, as we've said over the last the last couple of weeks, Democrats now control the Senate, and now they have a platform to hold hearings into situations like this. And this is exactly the kind of thing that Democrats can use the platform in the Senate to go into.
BLITZER: You know, Henry Waxman has already said that he'd like to have his Government Oversight Committee, on which he's the ranking Democrat, have Chairman Dan Burton look into it. Is this going to be payback time on the Democrats' side, as far as the investigations are going to be concerned?
PAGE: Well, one thing Democrats might want to think about is how much good investigations did Republicans against Bill Clinton, which is to say, not that much. I mean, there was definitely a cost paid by Republicans for going after Clinton.
And you saw that Senator Daschle this morning showed no interest in having these hearings against Karl Rove, saying that they're there to legislate not investigate. And I think that there maybe the political argument to not have so many investigations unless the case is a little clearer than this one.
BLITZER: I want to just do a new poll, a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup Poll that just came out, a totally different issue. Look at these numbers, we'll put them up on the screen.
Favorable ratings: President Bush, 62 percent; Senator McCain, 60 percent. But look at this: Senator Lott, 34 percent; Senator Daschle, 34 percent.
Chris Caldwell, what do those numbers say to you?
CALDWELL: Well, they say that people expect Congress and the Senate to get involved in picayune, nitpicky things, and they expect the presidential level people to offer a vision. They're much more interested in the latter.
BLITZER: Why is McCain so high?
CALDWELL: Because McCain is thought of as a presidential person, not least by himself.
ROBERTS: And it reflects the fact that he -- we've said this over the last few months. He is the only person in either party who has an independent political base outside the White House. He's the only person in the country could come close to the numbers apart from the president. That means he has leverage over the Congress and over the president no one else has.
BLITZER: Steve Roberts, Susan Page, Chris Caldwell, thanks for joining us. See you next week.
Up next, Bruce Morton's Last Word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maybe the most important part of these trips is that the leaders, particularly on this trip, Mr. Bush and Russia's Vladimir Putin, get a chance to size each other up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush on the world stage: Will he ever be fully embraced by America's allies?
BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on President Bush's European adventure.
MORTON (voice-over): President Bush is back from Europe, and maybe he's been able to straighten out some of the problems they seem to have with him.
First, demonstrators protested Timothy McVeigh's execution. Mr. Bush explained that, in a democracy, the people's will prevails -- well, it probably does sometimes -- and that the U.S. favors capital punishment, which polls show to be true. Leaders in democracies don't have to be poll-driven, of course, but in this case the leader and the polls agree; both favor the death penalty.
Then, critics got on the president over global warming and the Kyoto treaty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We didn't feel like the Kyoto treaty was well-balanced. It didn't include developing nations; the goals were not realistic. However, that doesn't mean we cannot continue to work together and will work together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: But, in fact, Kyoto was a dead treaty during the Clinton administration. It had, and has, about as much chance of passing the U.S. Senate as Afghanistan's Taliban have of electing the next mayor of New York.
Then, the Europeans disliked the president's emphasis on a defense against incoming missiles and his plan to junk or modify the ABM Treaty which bans those.
The president is, of course, right when he says that's a Cold War treaty, and the Cold War -- when the Communists and the West didn't blow up the planet because each side knew the other could strike back -- is over.
The fear now, as Mr. Bush sees it, is of small rogue states or even terrorist groups which might be able to launch a missile or two or three at the U.S. Those people don't care about deterrence. The Middle East is full of suicide bombers and people ready to die for their cause.
So a defense might be a good idea. What gets underemphasized in that debate is, well, yes, it might be, but we don't have a defense that works just now, and we're not a bit sure when we will. So the argument about deployment lacks urgency.
Maybe the most important part of these trips is that the leaders, particularly, on this trip, Mr. Bush and Russia's Vladimir Putin, get a chance to size each other up. Hard to imagine two more different backgrounds -- the Russian, a leader who spent his formative years in the secret police, and the American who spent his as a capitalist in the oil business and then the baseball business.
Nikita Khrushchev reportedly underestimated John Kennedy when they first met, and it took the Cuban missile crisis to change his view. It may be a while before we know what difference the Bush-Putin meeting will make. I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.
Now it's time for to you have the last word.
We received a lot of e-mail regarding our discussion last week of the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Here are four samples.
"There is no way one man could have done this alone. What the government does is find one person to blame everything on, and the American people are stupid enough to believe it."
"I believe McVeigh should die for what he did. To call the children that he killed `collateral damage' is appalling. May the victims finally rest in peace."
"Your current excessive coverage of the McVeigh story distresses and saddens me. You not only have glorified McVeigh, but you have glorified this entire tragic chapter in our nation's history. Shame on you and all of CNN."
Finally, this: "I just want to point out that Tim McVeigh wins either way. If Tim McVeigh is executed, he instantly becomes a martyr. If he gets a stay, he shows that the government is corrupt. The government gets egg on their face either way."
As always, I invite your comments. You can e-mail me at LATEEDITION@CNN.com, and don't forget to sign up for my weekly e-mail at cnn.com/email.
When we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Stay with us.
BLITZER: And now a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.
"TIME" magazine reveals how the universe will end: "Peering deep into space and time, scientists have just solved the biggest mystery in the cosmos," on the cover.
"Newsweek" takes a look at the next frontiers: "How technology will heal your heart," with an implantable replacement heart on the cover.
And on the cover of "U.S. News and World Report": "The diabetes epidemic: a killer disease and how diet and lifestyle can help beat it."
That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, June 17. Please join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
And if you missed any of today's program you can tune in tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, for a one-hour replay of LATE EDITION.
I'll see you tomorrow night on Wolf Blitzer Reports, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
And to all the fathers out there, including mine, have a happy Father's Day. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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