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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Dore Gold, Sa'eb Erekat Discuss Violence in the Middle East; Moinuddin Haider, Bob Graham and Richard Shelby Discuss the Recent Church Bombing in Pakistan

Aired March 17, 2002 - 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; 5:00 p.m. in Dublin, Ireland; and 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for Late Edition.

In just a few minutes, we'll get some insight into the U.S. war against terrorism, where it stands, from two top members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. But first this news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: And I want to go right back to Islamabad right now where we're joined live by Pakistan's Minister of Interior Moinuddin Haider.

Mr. Minister, thanks so much for joining us. We reported earlier about the grenade attack at that Protestant church in Islamabad, killing five people including two Americans. Give us the latest. Have you found the suspect involved in that attack?

MOINUDDIN HAIDER, PAKISTANI MINISTER OF INTERIOR: Well, we haven't found a suspect as yet. Nobody has claimed responsibility for this attack, but there is one unidentified body, and we are seeing the possibility of that man being involved in this attack.

BLITZER: Minister, who was responsible for this attack?

HAIDER: (OFF-MIKE)

BLITZER: I was saying, what do you suspect?

HAIDER: Well, obviously this is a -- well, I guess it is people who want to give a message to the West and those people who are against this war against terrorism. And they're perturbed about very strong policies being pursued by General Pervez Musharraf on this issue.

So, obviously these people who may have (inaudible) done in this attack but who, sir, has done this attack is a crime against humanity, crime against Islam, crime against Pakistan.

There are many churches around Islamabad (inaudible) but this one was chosen possibly because many Western countries, diplomats and other people come and have their service here. And they were people from 12 different countries today worshiping here.

BLITZER: Minister, the suspicion has always been that in Karachi, elsewhere in Pakistan, there were serious security problems, but it was always widely assumed that in Islamabad, the capitol, President Musharraf and his security forces had the situation pretty well under control.

What does this say about the ability to control the terrorists in Islamabad itself, the ability of President Musharraf to keep the situation under control?

HAIDER: I think we're very comfortable, and every diplomat that I've spoken to had been very comfortable even in their trying days when the Afghan bombing was at it's height and no such security lapse that will happen in the recent months, and we again feel very confident.

This is one of that ugly incidents that has happened in which possibly the man whose body is not identified, and we are trying to establish that, may have committed a suicide attack.

BLITZER: This comes, as you know, as all of our viewers know, shortly after the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter. That was in Karachi, not in Islamabad.

Is there a bigger security problem here in Pakistan than perhaps you're willing to acknowledge?

HAIDER: Well, the fact is that we have taken some very strong measures. We have sent some very strong message. So all these people who have been busy and indulging in terrorism will not just vanish or sit down in peace. We have a tough and long journey ahead of us, but our resolve is very strong. And we have continuously taking measure which are improving our security situation. There are, of course, there's a backlash, but we are very confident that we'll be able to control it very soon.

BLITZER: Minister Moinuddin Haider, thank you so much for joining us, Pakistan's minister of interior. We appreciate it very much.

And joining us now to talk about that...

HAIDER: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you -- and that incident, as well as the overall U.S. war against terrorism, are two U.S. senators, the chairman and the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee: Bob Graham, he's of Florida; and the vice chairman Richard Shelby, he's of Alabama.

Thanks, Senators, for joining us very much.

Senator Graham, what are you hearing from your sources about what happened in Islamabad today at that Protestant church?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: I have heard exactly what you just reported, Wolf. A lot of the details are still missing.

There is a concern that this may represent another form of escalation of the response to our war on terrorism, where targets that are known to attract large numbers of Americans, such as Christian churches, become the objects of terrorist activities throughout Central Asia and the Middle East.

BLITZER: I know that you have been briefed on this incident, Senator Shelby. What are you hearing?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: Well, basically, as Senator Graham says, this is a church, it's what we would call a soft target. A lot of the extremists that would hit us would know that a lot of the people would go to the Christian church in Islamabad. This would be called a Protestant church.

It's unfortunate, but I believe it tells us that the interior minister and others, they don't have control of events in Pakistan at the moment. It's still a dangerous place.

BLITZER: The government of Pakistan, President Musharraf, doesn't have control.

SHELBY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that?

GRAHAM: Yes. This is a country of 140 million people. I had an opportunity to visit it in August, and it is one of the poorer countries in the world. And its security mechanisms are commensurate with its limited resources and capabilities. And there also had been in the past suspicion that its intelligence service had been penetrated by the Taliban from Afghanistan.

So, I'm very commendatory of President Musharraf and his strong support for the war on terrorism in taking some very significant political and personal risk to do so. But we have to be realistic as to what are the capabilities of the Pakistani government.

BLITZER: Do you suspect, Senator Shelby, that there could be forces within President Musharraf's government, whether in the military or the intelligence services, that could be in part responsible for these kinds of attacks, the attack against Danny Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter and now this attack against this Protestant church in Islamabad?

SHELBY: Well, I don't want to make such an accusation, but we know that the president has had to purge a lot of these top people from the beginning -- some of his top soldiers, his leaders, his intelligence service, the security services. There's a lot of dissent and was a lot of dissent on his option that he chose to align himself with us and the West against the Taliban. There's dissent there, and we're seeing part of it. BLITZER: And let's just wrap up on the whole issue of the Danny Pearl kidnapping and murder. The U.S. has now formally asked for the extradition of one of the chief suspects, Omar Saeed Sheikh, who's being tried in Karachi, and he has been indicted here in the United States in New Jersey.

Do you believe that the Pakistani government will hand him over to the United States?

GRAHAM: They might first carry out some steps within their own justice system, but I believe that eventually, and hopefully not in the too far distant future, he will be extradited to the United States.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that?

SHELBY: I'm not sure. I would hope so. I agree with Senator Graham that I hope it would happen.

But the main thing we want to see done is justice. If justice, real justice was done there, that would be fine, as far as I'm concerned. But I'm afraid that justice won't be done there and we'll have to seek him out and bring him here.

BLITZER: And I assume both of you believe there are other suspects involved in that kidnapping and murder still at large.

SHELBY: Absolutely. I don't think he was a lone person.

GRAHAM: I agree with that. The suspicion is that this group was operating as part of the several terrorist groups that exist, are trained or being prepared for activities inside Pakistan primarily focused on India, but more recently focused on the United States.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about Operation Anaconda, which appears to be in the mopping up stage right now.

Is that what you are hearing, Senator Shelby?

SHELBY: That's what we're hearing, that there's been success there, but they haven't gotten everybody that they wanted. A lot of them will reassemble. That's what they're afraid of. But they're going after them, wherever they are.

And there are going to be more episodes, probably not as much of a fire fight as the other one, but you can't underestimate these people. They're fighting for their lives. They're fighting, knowing that there's no future for them.

BLITZER: We're talking about the U.S. military operation with local Afghan troops in eastern Afghanistan, the high mountains, Operation Anaconda.

One of the big question marks has been where are the bodies of the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters? U.S. estimating hundreds of them have been killed, but they have only found literally a handful or two. GRAHAM: Well, the U.S. Army has indicated they have confirmed deaths of a little over 500 and unconfirmed deaths of another 200- plus.

I would say that the current engagement in Afghanistan is a little bit like an upside-down pyramid. When we started this war, we were fighting against clearly defined enemies across an established line. They had uniforms, we knew who they were.

As the campaign is beginning to narrow down, we are fighting against pockets of terrorists. They are able to hide either in a cave or in an urban environment. And they are much more dangerous to our troops because they are largely anonymous until they strike.

So, we are likely to be into a period in which we will have a number of situations like we have just gone through in Shah-e-Kot. They probably be will smaller in scale but could be even bloodier in terms of casualties.

BLITZER: But in terms of where are the Afghan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, the bodies? You say maybe as many as 700 have been killed over these past couple or three weeks, but they have only found 10 or 20 of those bodies. Do you have a sense of where the bodies are?

SHELBY: I have a high level of confidence in the confirmed estimate of the U.S. military as to how many were killed in Shah-e-Kot and their estimate of additional to be killed.

SHELBY: What I'm afraid of, although we're killing a lot of those hardcore people, a lot of them are still getting away, Wolf, to fight another day. And I think that we know that, and that's why we have to stay in pursuit.

BLITZER: And so, what you're suggesting is Operation Anaconda -- there are going to be a lot of other Operation Anacondas, not only in that part of Afghanistan, but in other parts of Afghanistan.

SHELBY: Has to be.

GRAHAM: And many of them are likely to be in urban areas, not in the kind of terrain that we've been fighting in for the last month.

BLITZER: Well, when you say urban areas, in some of the major cities?

GRAHAM: Cities, yes.

BLITZER: Including Kabul?

GRAHAM: Including Kabul, including other places where they can lose themselves anonymously in a crowd of civilians. And then, when U.S. personnel are nearby, take action, try to kill them, as they did kill a couple of our people about a month ago in such an urban setting. SHELBY: Wolf, our troops, our special forces, our intelligence people, they're doing a tremendous job in Afghanistan. But this is not over yet. They have to continue to pursue these people. They know that. Every time you tighten up on them, you destroy some of them, some get away, you got to go the next battle. And we're going to do that.

BLITZER: But what I hear you saying is that if urban warfare in Kabul or Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, some of the major cities -- this is a new element that the American public probably has not anticipated until now?

GRAHAM: Yes, but it's a different kind of urban warfare, it's not going to be like when we took Berlin at the end of World War II. It's going to be urban warfare in small settings, where there might be 50 people in a marketplace, and in that 50 are three or four Taliban, Al Qaeda people who are looking for Americans and, in that kind of hustle and bustle of a marketplace, would assault.

BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break. But are you worried about this new urban warfare that Senator Graham is talking about?

SHELBY: We'll always be concerned about it because we know the history of Afghanistan -- the British, the Russians and so forth. But our people -- is what I was trying to say, a second ago -- they're on top of this. They're very much aware of this. They know this war is not over with over there, although we're doing very well.

BLITZER: OK. Senators, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about, but we're going to take a quick break.

We have much more with Senators Graham and Shelby. They'll also be taking your phone calls. We'll talk about Osama bin Laden, where is he, and whether the U.S. should move against Saddam Hussein.

Late Edition will return right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're continuing our conversation with Florida Democratic Senator Bob Graham and Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby. They're the two top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator Graham, Osama bin Laden, I know that President Bush this past week said he has been marginalized, don't pay that much attention. But of course, you know that the American public wants Osama bin Laden. He's the leader of Al Qaeda, which is responsible for September 11.

GRAHAM: Yes. And he is not only the symbol of the terrorism against which we're now waging war, he also represents some particular and unique personal characteristics.

The fact that he is a relatively charismatic person -- he has been able to draw people to Al Qaeda. The fact that he's a wealthy person -- he has been able to initiate operations without having to pass the hat to get funds. And he has become a rallying point for much of the Arab world.

So, bin Laden is not just another terrorist leader. He is something special, and, therefore, deserves to continue to be the target of what probably is one of the great manhunts in the history of the world.

BLITZER: Does the U.S. Intelligence Committee, the U.S. military have any idea where he is?

GRAHAM: There continues to be evidence that he is alive. And second, the best evidence is that he's still in Afghanistan. But frankly, nobody will give you a house address as to where they think he might be. If we knew that, obviously we would go get him.

BLITZER: How much of a source of concern to you is that, that the U.S. knows so little where Osama bin Laden might be?

SHELBY: Well, it's questions that we ask all of the time, Senator Graham and I have, of the proper people.

But I don't believe Osama bin Laden is basically been marginalized politically. He may have been marginalized militarily. Because he is still, as Senator Graham says, a political force, someone that's looked up to by a lot of the people in the Islamic world.

And I don't know if he's alive or dead. I suspect that he's alive, but I believe if he's alive, he will show himself. He always does. And we will find him. I have said that before. We're going to leave no stone unturned. We're going to find this man.

But he has been marginalized as far as the military is concerned, but not politically.

BLITZER: All right, now, Saddam Hussein in Iraq. A lot of focus on the Vice President Dick Cheney's trip throughout the region seeking support for a U.S. strike, perhaps, against Saddam Hussein. But so far, whether in Jordan or in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, he appears to be striking out, the vice president.

GRAHAM: Well, in my opinion, nobody's going to defend Saddam Hussein as being other than an evil person. The question is under what circumstances and when we should act. The circumstances should be those in which we can maintain the coalition that has been such an important part of our success thus far in Afghanistan and will be even more important as we move into other areas.

We also need to have clear evidence that Saddam Hussein is close to having a weapon of mass destruction, particularly a nuclear weapon and the means of delivery.

Until that time, I think that we should stay on the course of the war against terrorism. And there is a path being laid out of where we go after Afghanistan. And as we are learning today, that's not over by any means, and what should be the criteria by which we identify the international terrorist groups after Al Qaeda.

That's where we're on the moral high ground. That's where we have the world united behind the elimination of international terrorism. We should not give that up by a preemptory and premature attack against Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: On that very point, the American public, though, seems to be ready to support the president, if he gives the order, for a strike against Saddam Hussein. The latest CNN-Time magazine poll asks, do you favor U.S. action to remove Saddam Hussein from power? Look at these numbers -- 70 percent say yes, they favor; 23 percent oppose.

You favor it, too, don't you?

SHELBY: I do. And I think the American people are absolutely right. They see through a lot of the niceties that we talk about. A lot of the people all over America have thought for a long time that we did not finish the job in 1991. I have said that publicly.

I realize that Vice President Cheney is still in the Middle East in the Persian Gulf area. I never thought that he would get a green light, not publicly from these countries over there, but I think at the end of the day, although our allies there are very important to us, that we're going to have do what's in the best interests of this nation, our people, our security. And if that decision is made by President Bush, I believe if we're decisive, the allies will come along with us. But we have to have success.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of the moderate Arab states say, let the U.N. inspectors go back in, look for weapons of mass destruction -- whether chemical, biological, missiles, nuclear capabilities -- and only if they come up with some evidence, should the U.S. take military action.

But Richard Perle, a former Pentagon official says, sending in those inspectors would be a waste of time, they'd be getting the run- around, because Saddam Hussein knows where to hide this kind of stuff.

Listen to what Richard Perle said earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD PERLE, DEFENSE POLICY BOARD CHAIRMAN: Some of them are mosques, some of them are schools, some of them are farmhouses. The fact is that, as long as Saddam is there, able to hide these programs, and he's been doing it for years, we're not going to find them unless we control the territory. And the only way to do that is to remove Saddam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: First, this underscores the importance of the United States having the best possible intelligence inside Iraq, so that we can have a sense of how close Saddam Hussein is getting to having an operational weapon of mass destruction, particularly nuclear. Second, yes, the international inspectors should go in, but it should not be on a negotiated basis with Saddam Hussein, it should be on an unconditional basis. This is what we are going to do. We are going to have challenge inspections, that is where can go to a facility, without having to give prior notice, and saying we're going to knock on the door, and the door is going to be opened; we're going to see what's on the other side. The kinds of the things that the previous U.N. inspectors did not have, and that's what made their inspections suspect, as to whether we really knew what was going on.

BLITZER: Based on the briefings that you've received, how close is Saddam Hussein to having a crude nuclear capability?

GRAHAM: I can't answer that, specifically, but it is not imminent.

BLITZER: Senator? SHELBY: Well, I'm not going to answer the question because I shouldn't. But I can tell you this: That's something he wants. He's been working at it. Nuclear is his ultimate goal. He'll get there if we leave him alone in some way. I think he has to go. The moment, the hour should be our choosing, not his.

BLITZER: OK, stand by, Senators. We're going to continue this conversation. We have a lot more to talk about, including a missing U.S. pilot.

Your phone calls for two senators, when Late Edition continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're talking with the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Bob Graham of Florida, and the vice chairman of that committee, Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Senator Graham, a lot of interest this past week on Navy Commander Mike Speicher, he was a Navy pilot. His plane went down over Iraq during the first days of the Gulf War, 11 years ago. The Pentagon said he was killed in action, but last year they changed that status to missing in action. A lot of his relatives, friends, think he's alive, might be alive. And the president and the secretary of defense this past week suggested that that might be a possibility.

Is it possible that Commander Speicher is alive in Iraq right now?

GRAHAM: It is possible, and there continues to be periodic reports of some sighting of Commander Speicher. The most recent that I'm familiar with was from a third country which had people in Iraq, and they allegedly saw and know where Commander Speicher is. We've made a diplomatic request through the State Department to the Iraqi government. Thus far have not gotten a satisfactory response.

BLITZER: So you think it is possible he could be alive?

GRAHAM: It's very difficult because you don't want to lacerate what the tremendous emotions that the Speicher family has already gone through for 11 years. I understand that Commander Speicher's widow or wife has now remarried. You can imagine how she feels about this new information.

But the fact is, there continue to be reports from what would have some degree of credibility that he's still alive.

BLITZER: You've been privy to some of these reports as well, Senator Shelby. What's your take on all of this?

SHELBY: Well, I really don't know. But I agree with Senator Graham, you can't put this, the Speicher case, away.

There's a lot of unanswered questions there. Could he be alive? He could be alive, because we know from the history of the area that people are held prisoners for years. I know myself of some -- where I've been told of some Israeli prisoners of war being held for, you know, chips for later, perhaps negotiation. This could be.

But we need to find out. If he's alive, we need to rescue him. We need to find him, we need to bring him home. If he's not alive, we need to put that to rest. We need to know beyond any reasonable doubt. We need to know, and we don't know specifically today.

BLITZER: And the bottom line, though, as far as Commander Speicher is concerned, if he were alive, there would be other cases, wouldn't the Iraqis have indicated this, as far as some sort of deal over these past 11 years?

SHELBY: Maybe, but maybe not because you don't know what a man with such a diabolical mind as Saddam Hussein is thinking about.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

GRAHAM: I do. And it also illustrates one of the many cultural differences between ourselves and the people of this region. They think in very long terms, and they might be holding this man 11 years later on the expectation that there will be a point in time when they can use his imprisonment as a means of achieving some political objective.

BLITZER: You saw the defense review on nuclear weapons usage that came out a week ago. It was leaked to the papers over the weekend. The defense secretary very upset; seven countries potentially targeted.

Do you think it's a good idea to raise the possibility of a nuclear warfare use, first use, by the United States under certain circumstances, with Iraq for example?

SHELBY: Well, I wouldn't take it off the table, and that's what we're doing. We didn't say we were going to use it, but we didn't say we're not going to use it. So, it's in -- I guess the thought is in play.

I believe it has to be in play. What if we were hit by Iraq, some of their people with a dirty bomb here -- and I hope it will never happen -- here in Washington and New York or somewhere else? What are we going to do? Are we going to say we're going to bomb them conventionally? I hope not. What if they do something as far as a bioterrorist attack, I mean it's devastating? We hope it won't happen. Are we going to sit back and do nothing to these people?

I think we should leave all cards on the table to protect the security of our people.

BLITZER: Senator Graham?

GRAHAM: Some of the most distressing testimony that I have heard on the Intelligence Committee has been what we don't know about what our adversaries think our reaction to their assaults will be. There's evidence, for instance, that bin Laden had no idea that we would retaliate as aggressively as we did to his actions on September 11, and that other heads of rogue states are uncertain as to what the United States would do if, for instance, they sent a biological weapon into an allied state.

I think we do not need to leave any doubt in their mind that if they attack the United States or one of our treaty allies, that they will face annihilation. That was the standard by which we maintained peace during the nuclear era of the Cold War.

That was where it was mutually assured destruction. We knew that the United States would be destroyed; so would the Soviet Union. Now it's unilateral destruction.

And we need to leave no doubt in the minds of the leadership of an Iraq or an Iran or a North Korea, that if they attack us, it will mean their extinction.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about -- we only have a few minutes left -- about the Israeli-Palestinian fighting that's going on. As you know, the U.S. special envoy Anthony Zinni is trying to achieve a cease-fire with the Israeli prime minister, the Palestinian leader.

One option on the table seems to be introducing U.S. forces, whether from the CIA or the military, to serve as monitors in sensitive areas in Israel and the West Bank. What do you think of introducing U.S. forces there?

SHELBY: I think we have to be very careful. This is a hotbed, one of the hottest political struggles I have ever seen. We want it to be brought to the negotiating table. We want to see peace in Israel. We want to see peace in Palestine. But to put our troops in there, we better be careful.

BLITZER: What do you think about that?

GRAHAM: Well, we had troops in Sinai for 20-plus years, and there've been U.N. troops throughout the region for longer than that. So, if the price of getting peace in the Middle East and all of the benefits that would flow from that is the United States to have a commitment for troops, not alone, but as part of a United Nations effort, I think that's a price that we should pay.

BLITZER: And very briefly, Senator Shelby, you're a straight- talker. Do you think the Governor Ridge, the homeland security director, he came out with his color-coded system of alert status. Does that help the American public and law enforcement have a better appreciation of the security threats facing the United States?

SHELBY: Well, I'll leave it up to the people, but it might confuse them, too.

I know that Governor Ridge is working hard. He's got a lot of ability. He's got a long way to go. We want to help him get to the end result, that is security.

GRAHAM: I think that's a constructive statement that Senator Shelby just made. I would go one step further, and that is that, as we tell the American people what the relative threat is, we also need to tell the American people what they should be doing about that threat, so that people who are already nervous and anxious aren't just sent up to another escalation of fear. They need to have some good information: What does this mean for me, my family, my community? What steps should I be responsible for?

SHELBY: In other words, don't scare the people. Show them the way for security.

BLITZER: OK. Senator Shelby, Senator Graham, always good to have you on Late Edition. Thanks so much.

GRAHAM: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

And just ahead, more violence in the Middle East. One Palestinian suicide bomber strikes in Jerusalem. Today a Palestinian gunman strikes just north of Tel Aviv. We'll talk about the latest push to end the Middle East crisis with the Israeli security adviser, Dore Gold. And later, we'll speak with the chief Palestinian negotiator, Sa'eb Erekat.

Late Edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: I think it has been quite clear that the two parties, left to themselves, cannot resolve this issue, given what we've all witnessed over the 17 months or so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan talking about the necessity of a third party to help resolve the Israeli- Palestinian crisis.

Welcome back to Late Edition.

President Bush's special envoy to the Middle East, the retired Marine Corps general Anthony Zinni, is back in the region trying to facilitate a new round of peace talks.

Joining us now from Jerusalem is Dore Gold. He's a special adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations.

Ambassador Gold, welcome to Late Edition. Thanks for joining us.

First of all, update us on the possibility of a resumption of three-way U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to try to end the fighting. What's the status of that proposal?

DORE GOLD, SPECIAL ADVISER TO ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Last night the prime minister indicated his willingness to engage the Palestinians to negotiate a cease-fire agreement.

Israel went the extra mile to make General Zinni's trip as useful as possible. We've set aside the requirement of seven days of quiet. We hope to achieve that quiet by correct implementation of the Tenet cease-fire proposals put forward by the former -- the current CIA director.

And second of all, Israel also went the extra mile by pulling back all its forces from Area A with small exceptions, particularly in the area of Bethlehem and Beit Jalla, where the Palestinians have refused to accept responsibility to prevent shooting on southern Jerusalem and Gilo.

So we're ready to go forward for a cease-fire. The ball really is in the Palestinians' court.

BLITZER: Well, the Palestinians, as you well know, Mr. Ambassador, insist the ball is still in the Israeli court. Until the Israeli forces leave that area of Bethlehem and Beit Jalla, they're not going to sit down in these three-way negotiations and try to achieve a cease-fire.

What are the requirements specifically for withdrawing from those two areas, in Bethlehem and Beit Jalla?

GOLD: Well, unfortunately, over the last year and a half, Yasser Arafat's Tanzim snipers have regularly taken up positions in Beit Jalla, which is separated by about an 800-meter ravine from southern Jerusalem, from the area of Gilo. And regularly, those Tanzim snipers are shooting into civilian apartments in Gilo, harassing Israeli civilians.

So what we're saying is this, we're willing to pull out from those areas. We want to give this Zinni mission a chance. But we will not pull out unless we have assurances from the Palestinians that they will prevent the return of those Tanzim snipers and the regular shooting into Israeli apartments. BLITZER: Would the Israeli government, the government of Prime Minister Sharon, accept U.S. monitors to come into those areas, for example, and to help bring an end to the fighting?

GOLD: Well, our experience generally with monitors, international monitors, other types of monitors, is they can be useful when you have a resolved conflict. For example, in Sinai, we've had U.S. forces as well as other international forces helping to monitor the security arrangements of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty from 1979. They have been useful.

When you put monitors in an ongoing conflict, they become part of the problem, not the solution. What happens is, generally, they tend to shield irregular operations like those of Tanzim, Palestinian terrorist organizations, that are in the Palestinian areas in large numbers, and they tend to identify and prevent the movement of noticeable Israeli forces. So that will create an imbalance in the situation on the ground and probably lead to greater instability.

BLITZER: So the answer is, at least for now, you don't want to see U.S. monitors, whether from the military or from the CIA, come in and play this kind of role that has been proposed by various sources?

GOLD: Our general view is that monitors are not helpful. Observer forces really will only exacerbate a very difficult situation. When we've resolved our differences, they may have utility; it has to be looked at then. But under present circumstances, it can get very murky for the monitors and for both parties.

BLITZER: So as of right now, you don't anticipate an Israeli pullout from Bethlehem and Beit Jalla any time soon? GOLD: Again, it all depends on the situation that develops. What we're saying -- in fact, we're saying this about the Oslo agreements. It's all about the Palestinians taking responsibility.

You know, we've pulled out of virtually every Palestinian population center in the West Bank in the course of the Oslo agreements. We turned over control from our previous military government to Palestinian administration so that 97, 98 percent of the Palestinian population was under Palestinian rule.

That means the Palestinians have to take responsibility. It's great to go on television and complain with a whole litany of grievances, but if they're not going to take responsibility and prevent these Tanzim gunmen that are on Arafat's payroll from shooting at Israeli civilians, then we're going to have to protect our people. It's that simple.

BLITZER: As you know, the president of the United States, George W. Bush, was, relatively speaking, pretty critical of the Israelis earlier in the week. I want you to listen to what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, it's not helpful what the Israelis have recently done, in order to create conditions for peace. I understand someone trying to defend themselves and to fight terror, but the recent actions aren't helpful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And then there were widespread reports that the Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned Prime Minister Sharon and demanded an Israeli withdrawal from Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank.

How tough did the U.S. get with your government?

GOLD: Well, you know, we understand the United States has a global strategy against terrorism. And frankly, what Israel is facing is exactly that. You don't have to be an international lawyer to figure out what it means when a 22-year-old young Palestinian walks into a crowded cafe with dynamite strapped to him and blows himself up and kills a dozen Israelis.

That's called terrorism.

We think that Washington also understands that our war against terrorism is also their struggle against terrorism.

We understand the visuals sometimes of this struggle are not easy. We understand that the United States has broad, regional interests in the middle east, which we take into account by virtue of how we are trying to work with General Zinni today.

But at the same time, the government of Israel must protect the people of Israel from this wave of terrorist attacks in the heart of our cities. It's what any government would do.

BLITZER: And we only have a few seconds left, Ambassador Gold, but as far as the broader war on terrorism, if the U.S. were to strike at Iraq, and the Iraqis once again, as they did 11 years ago, launched Scud missiles against Israel, would Israel stay on the sidelines this time as it did then, or would Israel retaliate?

GOLD: Israel certainly has a right of self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. charter. And I'm sure the government of Israel will look at that situation very carefully, if it comes to that point that we're faced with an Iraqi missile attack.

It is very important in this part of the world for Israel to remain strong, for countries in this region to understand that Israel will deter threats to its existence, threats to its survival. Only a strong Israel can make peace. That's been the record of the past. That is also going to be the way of the future as well.

BLITZER: Ambassador Dore Gold, thanks so much for joining us from Jerusalem.

And this reminder, we'll talk with Sa'eb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator later in this program. And we'll also get some analysis on the Andrea Yates sentencing and other big legal stories of the week here in the United States. We'll also talk with two prominent political strategists about the increasingly acrimonious atmosphere on Capitol Hill, what it might mean for an election year in the United States. Bruce Morton's essay is coming up, your e-mail. It's all ahead in the next hour of Late Edition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition.

We'll get to the Andrea Yates case in a moment, but first, here's CNN's Catherine Callaway in Atlanta with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER; Andrea Yates is facing at least the next 40 years in prison. A Houston jury decided against sentencing Yates to death for drowning her five children. Sentencing deliberations took only 35 minutes.

Joining us now to help sort out the Yates case, as well as other major legal stories of the week, our two guests: in Miami, the criminal defense attorney Roy Black, and here in Washington, the former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Roy, first of all to you. Was justice served in the Andrea Yates case?

BLACK: No, I think the case was an embarrassment to the American judicial system. I mean, we're using rules that were created 160 years ago in 1843, when surgeons were still barbers, when we chained people up in mental institutions, long before the advent of science of psychiatry. I mean, I think the law has to take a serious look at itself, and change these rules.

And remember, we regressed back to this after the Hinckley verdict in 1981, 1982, because we were embarrassed by that verdict. I hope that this verdict causes people to rethink what we have done.

BLITZER: You know, on that specific point, Cynthia, Russell Yates, the husband of Andrea Yates, spoke out after she received life in prison, not the death sentence. This is what he said. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSELL YATES: All of us in our family, we all stand behind Andrea. None of us wanted her to be found guilty. All of us, in fact most of us, were offended that she was even prosecuted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You don't agree with him on that.

ALKSNE: No, I don't agree with him. I think the criminal justice system clearly had to play a role. There were five dead babies.

I was disappointed there wasn't some way to come to a plea agreement which would have avoided this trial and would provide her some mental health treatment. She is not getting treatment, essentially, in a Texas jail; that is not the way they are set up. And if she had been in psychiatric facility, she would have gotten some.

BLITZER: What would you have done in this particular case? How best, Roy, would justice have been served if you had been in charge?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, I think Cynthia is right. There should have been some way to resolve this outside of the courtroom. I mean, clearly everybody agreed this woman was seriously mentally ill. She had a long history of mental illness. But unfortunately you had the prosecution who wanted to validate their position. I don't know what the defense was thinking. I'm sure they probably didn't want this trial.

There were no cool minds that could sit down and work out some resolution to put this person in a mental institution for as long as necessary, for how many decades, would satisfy society, and I think this outcome really is somewhat absurd.

BLITZER: But, Roy, as you well know, it took this jury -- 12 individuals, eight women, four men -- 3 1/2 hours, 3 hours and 40 minutes to unanimously decide that she was guilty of murder; that she could tell the difference between right and wrong even though she was mentally ill.

What does that say to you about the jury system?

BLACK: Well, I'll tell you. Let's turn that around. Remember, on Tuesday, they find beyond a reasonable doubt that this woman is entirely competent; knew what she was doing was wrong; planned out the premeditated murder of five children. Yet, three days later they sentence her to life.

How in the world can you match those two things? There are people who got the death penalty for doing things far less than that.

So it is pretty obvious, the jury came to some type of a compromise saying this woman's mentally ill, but the law forces us to find her guilty, so the escape valve here is to sentence her to life imprisonment.

BLACK: But logically, if you take those two things together, they don't make any sense.

BLITZER: Does it make any sense?

ALKSNE: No, it doesn't.

And here's one of the problems. The jury doesn't know that, had they sentenced her not guilty, by reason of insanity, that she would have gone to a mental institution, that she wouldn't be walking around, getting ready to get pregnant, having another child. As her husband had said, we were going to have as many children as God would allow. They weren't allowed to know that under Texas law. And that is something easy that can be done in Texas to help avoid this type result.

BLITZER: Roy Black, listen to another soundbite from Russell Yates, the husband of Andrea Yates, in which he was reacting to what happened to his wife and why she did what she did. And I want to ask a specific question after you hear what he said. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSELL YATES: We didn't see her as danger. The real question to me is, you know, how could she have been so ill and the medical community, you know, not diagnosis her, not treat her, and I'll say not protect our family from her?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does he sound like he is setting the stage for some sort of lawsuit against the medical community or others for what his wife did?

BLACK: You know, Wolf, it's funny, because that's the exact impression I got when I listened to that live. It sounded like it's a predicate for a lawsuit.

I hope he does do that because, you know, Russell Yates has certainly been open to criticism for his role in this. And it's one thing to criticize the medical establishment, and certainly a lot of criticism is due them, but who better than a husband or a wife to know the mental condition of their spouse?

I would think that here is a man who graduated summa cum laude from Auburn University, ought to be able to tell that his wife is in a condition that she should not be taking care of these children.

BLITZER: And there's a poll, Cynthia that we released, CNN-Time magazine, that came out on Friday, asking this question: Is Andrea Yates' husband responsible for her actions? At least among the American public, look at these numbers: 61 percent say yes, he is responsible; 33 percent say no.

ALKSNE: I understand those numbers.

On the other hand, just taking up his side, just so we are looking at all of the angles of issue, he went to this Dr. Saeed on several occasions and said she's not getting better, she needs this Haldol, this is what's happened before. And the doctor said no. And there's no evidence that she ever told anybody she thought of injuring the children, until she actually murdered them all.

So on some level, he relied on the doctor, and he does have some form of an argument that the doctor let him down.

BLITZER: A lot of people, Roy, have e-mailed me, saying -- and there's a huge amount of anger at Russell Yates, that he acted irresponsibly in allowing this, in effect, to go on. Should he be held responsible in some sort of legal way?

BLACK: Well, I don't think legally he has any responsibility, because he would have to have real knowledge that she was about to kill the children and took no action.

But morally, I think you have to look at Russell and say, what were you doing while this was going on? I mean, you watched your wife fall apart over, I don't know what period of time. You must have thought at some time that a problem might occur.

But certainly, there's not something there for criminal liability, I don't suggest that at all. But I think would it be somewhat hypocritical of him suing the doctors, claiming they couldn't see it, when he saw this woman far more than they did and should understand her better than them.

BLITZER: Let's switch years gears, Cynthia, and talk a little bit about the Danielle van Dam case. As you know, she is the little girl in San Diego, your hometown, who was kidnapped, murdered. The police, the prosecutors have charged 50-year-old neighbor David Westerfield with murdering her.

But in their preliminary hearings that have just come up, I want you to listen to this exchange, between the mother of Danielle van Dam and the lawyer representing David Westerfield, and see if this is appropriate kind of questioning. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN DAM: We smoked marijuana.

WESTERFIELD'S LAWYER: How much many cigarettes were there?

VAN DAM: What kind of?

WESTERFIELD'S LAWYER: Marijuana cigarettes?

VAN DAM: There was only one.

WESTERFIELD'S LAWYER: Who all smoked it -- or at least smoked on it?

VAN DAM: Denise, Barbara, Damon and myself.

WESTERFIELD'S LAWYER: Did you inhale?

VAN DAM: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is this appropriate for the defense attorney representing David Westerfield, the accused individual in this murder case, to go after the credibility of the mother in this particular case?

ALKSNE: No. As you know, at the preliminary hearing, the question is whether or not there is probable cause to believe that David Westerfield murdered and kidnapped that little girl. And anything that has to do with that is fair game.

In this case, the defense attorney, it was not only that soundbite that you had, but "How you were dancing? And who was touching who? And where did she touch you? And how suggestive was it?" And it went on and on and on, and the judge gave a lot of leeway, and it was improper.

And the point is to dirty up the parents and make them look bad, because, after all, the day is going to come when he is going to have to pick a jury in this community and he doesn't want the parents to look good. I think it's inappropriate.

The prosecutors tried to block it; it didn't work. And at some point, they just stopped objecting and the judge let it go. The judge stopped some things, when he actually asked for definitions of "swinging lifestyle" and that type of things. But he's obviously trying to hurt the impression of these people in the jury pool in San Diego.

BLITZER: Well, Roy Black, if you were representing David Westerfield, the accused murderer in this particular case, wouldn't you want you to do everything possible to help your client, including raising questions about the so-called lifestyle of the parents of Danielle van Dam?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, the key to that sentence is what is helpful. I don't think it's helpful just to trash the parents, because I think there will be a backlash on that, if it has no relationship to your defense.

However, if your defense is that the parents were negligent and the child left the house in some way and somebody else other than your client killed the child, then, of course, that may be highly relevant.

But merely trashing the parents, bringing the victim's parents' reputation into question, I think is a very chancy kind of strategy. And there will be a big backlash if there's no direct relationship between that and your defense.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about.

We'll continue our legal conversation with the attorneys Roy Black and Cynthia Alksne and also be taking your phone calls, when Late Edition returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're trying to sort through the hot legal stories of the week with criminal defense attorney Roy Black, he's in Miami, and former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne, she's here in Washington.

Roy Black, on the John Walker Lindh, so-called Taliban American, case, his defensive attorney this week came out with a motion that they released in court, suggesting that the prosecution did not tell the whole story when they said that he was a willing accomplice and that he tried to help the Taliban.

Among other things in their motion, they pointed to this. They said that he expressed disillusionment upon learning about the events of September 11 during his initial interviews with U.S. military and FBI and other law enforcement authorities. And they also said that, while Mr. Lindh did not agree with the attacks, it was too late for him to leave his unit on the front lines for fear of death.

In other words, they're saying the government was only providing a selective part of the whole story. What is this going to do to the government's case against him?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, I don't know if you remember, but months back we discussed this exact thing that, you know, we were making judgments on the government's discussions, and what if Lindh, you know, for some reason felt he was trapped there or he would be killed if he left, you know, that would put a whole different spin on the accusations against him.

And now, of course, the defense is showing that in the original reports they have a statement from him saying this, but then that is excised from the later additions of it, and I think that's very troubling.

And I think the defense certainly can make a lot of hay about this in front of the jury showing that the government was covering up his true motivation and that this man did not believe that he was helping terrorists and killing Americans.

Remember, he's charged with conspiracy to kill Americans. So this is highly significant evidence.

BLITZER: What about that -- you're a former federal prosecutor Cynthia, does the prosecution, the U.S. attorneys, when they issue these indictments, have a responsibility to tell the whole story if, in fact, he did tell the FBI, you know, I tried to get away, I wanted to get away after September 11, but I feared for my life?

ALKSNE: Sure, if the FBI interview notes, which are called 302s in the business -- if the FBI interview notes had changed over time and taken out things that he said that were important to his defense, that would be a huge blow.

But, you know, we haven't heard the government's side of this yet and we won't until the 29th of this month. And let's also remember, in keeping this in perspective, this is a guy who, when the Americans came and he was being interviewed by Americans, certainly didn't say to Mr. Spann, "I'm an American, I wanted to get away from the Taliban, I feel so terrible." And when the uprising came at Mazar-i-Sharif, he ran with his gun-slinging buddies and not with the Americans.

And then when he talked to CNN, there wasn't any talk in the CNN interview about, "Oh, you know, I wish I had been with the Americans, I feel so bad." Instead, he said that being a terrorist was "about what he had expected," I believe is the quote.

So, I think there might be a little bit of hyperbole. Mr. Brosnahan, who's his attorney is very good, but let's wait and see what the government's response is.

BLITZER: On that --

BLACK: Wolf, if you remember...

BLITZER: Go ahead, Roy.

BLACK: If you remember, a while back we discussed the fact that the FBI did not videotape this interrogation and there was only one FBI agent present. You take that in combination with the changing of these reports, and you can see why the defense is so concerned about what Lindh may have said to this agent. And I'll tell you, this is a very significant matter.

BLITZER: If you're looking at it, though, from the perspective of the prosecution, do they have a responsibility when they issue their initial indictment to tell that? If there are conflicting statements for example, from the suspect, is there a responsibility in announcing the indictment to say yes, there's some conflicting statements?

BLACK: Well, you remember, they had press conferences, there was all kinds of discussions about Lindh. And I think the government had a responsibility to be honest with us and tell us all the evidence. I mean they have made this guy sound like, you know, he was an integral member of the upper class of the Al Qaeda terrorist group. You would think that at least they should have told us that this man had some hesitations after 9/11 about being there and wanting to leave.

BLITZER: Cynthia?

ALKSNE: The government has a legal duty to tell the defense everything that helps the defense case. That's called Brady material. And if he ever said "I didn't want to kill Americans," they have a legal duty to say that. It's not a dispute in the law, it's not questionable. It's as clear as a beautiful day in the spring in Washington, they must do it.

BLITZER: All right. In the brief time we have left, Roy Black, on the Arthur Andersen indictment by the Justice Department this past week, Arthur Andersen lawyers are saying, this is overkill, they should have indicted individuals in Arthur Andersen, rather than indicting the whole company that this was simply not fair.

What do you say about that?

BLACK: Well, I think there's a number of things that are disturbing. Number one is the timing. Remember that this firm has to put out quarterly reports or year-end reports on March 31. Why the timing at this particular -- right in the middle of March?

Remember, there are 28,000 employees of Arthur Andersen. This indictment, I think, is going to be death nail of the firm. Certainly if they get convicted of this you can't have a convicted felon issuing financial statements for a Fortune 500 companies.

So, I find this very disturbing. I think that they should have, you know, looked at the people who actually did this rather than painting the whole company.

BLITZER: Cynthia?

ALKSNE: Well, the cases are very rare, there isn't any question.

The DOJ has specific guidelines on this and has factors that they have to weigh. One of those factors, in addition to the seriousness of events, and of course we have tons of documents here, is also the firm's history of wrongdoing. And that may have made a big difference here, because Arthur Andersen is not only involved in the bankruptcy of Enron, but also is being questioned the bankruptcy of Global Crossing, the fourth-largest bankruptcy in history. It had connections to this Keating case. There's waste management problems in which they've had to settle a lot of other cases.

ALKSNE: And so when you look at these factors -- the pervasiveness and the need for deterrence -- they weighed towards the indictment.

But I do think it is problematic, and they could have indicted individuals, and then had civil liabilities and civil penalties against the corporation.

BLITZER: Because the question of the fate of Arthur Andersen is very much on the line right now.

ALKSNE: Right.

BLITZER: Cynthia Alksne, thanks for joining us. Roy Black, always a pleasure to have you on the program from Miami as well. I appreciate it very much.

And just ahead, more violence in the Middle East today. Will the bloodshed mar the prospects for a U.S.-brokered cease-fire? We'll talk to the chief Palestinian negotiator, Sa'eb Erakat.

Late Edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition.

More violence once again in the Middle East. As promised, we're joined now by the chief Palestinian negotiator, Sa'eb Erekat. He joins us now live from Ramallah on the West Bank.

Mr. Erekat, thanks so much for joining us. I know you just came out of a meeting with the U.S. special envoy, Anthony Zinni, and President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority.

What is the headline? What did you decide there?

SA'EB EREKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Well, I think it is premature to jump to conclusions, Wolf.

I think General Zinni is exacting maximum efforts on marathon bilateral meetings with the Israeli side and with the Palestinian side in order to initiate the implementation, or the beginning of implementation, of the Tenet work plan.

He just finished the meeting with President Arafat. He'll meet the Israeli side. But I don't know if he will come back to us or not. I'm sure he will.

But I think the events of today demonstrate how much we need the help of General Zinni. I think, as Palestinians, our road map is very clear. We have the Tenet plan, linked to the Mitchell report, linked to the political horizon.

We need to establish a road map that would establish the light at the end of the tunnel. Not that we want to leave the tunnel tomorrow. We want the light at the end of tunnel in order to be able to walk in that long tunnel.

BLITZER: As you know, the Israelis say they have made several important concessions to try to achieve a cease-fire to begin this process going, eliminating the previously-called-for seven-day cease- fire, seven-day cessation of violence. The Israeli Prime Minister Sharon saying Chairman Arafat can leave Ramallah; he can leave where he has been holed up lately.

But the terrorism, they say, continues, and that the Palestinian Authority has not done enough to stop even more violence -- the suicide bombing attempt in Jerusalem today; another incident in Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv.

Does President Arafat have the control to quiet down the situation?

EREKAT: First of all, Wolf, I don't want to get in the debate and finger-pointing and blame assignment. I think it is time to exert every possible effort to stop the killings of Palestinians and Israelis.

And I believe, as Palestinians, as President Arafat told General Zinni tonight, the Palestinian side is willing to help in any way possible to ensure the success of the Zinni mission.

If you ask me about the control and the capabilities and the responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Sharon did a good job at destroying Palestinian security headquarters, command centers, vehicles, training centers.

And I really want to see that we have a real assessment on this Israeli policy of saying, on one hand, we are irrelevant, and then they continue bombing with F-16s, the tanks, the incursions, the assassinations and so on; and at the same time they hold us accountable.

We are committed and we want to carry out all our obligations in the meeting from the Tenet, the Mitchell and all other agreements signed, provided that this Israeli policy stops.

Sharon's strategy is based on three pillars: make a commitment and create confusion; break that commitment and create confusion; and thirdly, blame it all on Arafat. This must stop.

I would like to give you one figure. Since General Zinni came here on Thursday, we have 16 Palestinians that were killed; one 16, including Zena Biaodi (ph), a 43-year-old mother with her 7-, 9- and 10-year-old children in Gaza. Today, an 11-year-old child, Shi Muhammad (ph), was also killed.

But we are in this business with General Zinni now in order to save lives of Israelis and Palestinians. And I think we need to define very well our road map, a time line, and we want mechanisms to monitor the accurate and precise implementation by both sides.

BLITZER: There is talk of a three-way meeting -- Israelis, Palestinians and General Zinni. Is the Palestinian side prepared for such a three-way meeting?

EREKAT: This is being discussed. And we hope that General Zinni will succeed in outlining his road map as soon as possible. There are deliberations and preparations going on. I really cannot specify much of the terms of what took place in meetings and other meetings.

All I can say is that President Arafat made a commitment to General Zinni that we will do everything in our power to help him succeed in his endeavor, and that we will do. But please keep in mind that if the Israelis -- and I heard Mr. Gold saying so many things, I don't want to even respond to that. If the Israeli side will continue in the line of saying that we are irrelevant on one hand, and they continue their siege, their closures, their assassination, their bombardment, then incursion -- because you have to keep in mind, Wolf, we are the ones under occupation. And Gold has no right to compare himself to the Americans in Afghanistan.

Once again, I say that Americans in Afghanistan are trying to help to rebuild the country. The Israeli occupation, in only the last 48 hours, destroyed all the Palestinian infrastructure of water, electricity, roads with their tanks -- unnecessary means.

So what we need now is to concentrate our efforts to help General Zinni in order to succeed in defining this road map of implementing Tenet, Mitchell, and the political horizon that would lead to ending the Israeli occupation and, as President Bush said, building a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel.

BLITZER: All right. Mr. Erekat, as you know, the Israeli military has withdrawn from Ramallah, from other portions of the West Bank. But they remain in Bethlehem and Beit Jalla.

Is that a precondition, a withdraw from those two areas, for the start of these three-way meetings that we've been talking about?

EREKAT: I don't like to speak about conditions. Actually, the Israelis are still in reoccupation of almost 60 percent of the Gaza strip. All the lateral roads are under Israeli occupation. In Bethlehem, Beit Jalla, Beit Sahur (ph), and Hebron tonight they made an incursion. Also, they are reoccupying parts of Tulkarem and other places.

What we mean to say, that they have to pull out of Area a. That is a prerequisite in order to ensure success of the Tenet plan, because the Tenet plan was made while the Israelis were not in reoccupation of any area. There are friction points that you need to have Palestinians deploy, Israelis redeploy. You need to have the commanders of each area in the West Bank and Gaza meet and coordinate.

EREKAT: So, I don't think I want to put it in terms of conditions. All I can say is that this is a necessary step in order to facilitate the implementation of Tenet report. And I hope that people will read the Tenet report to understand that Israel going out of Area A is a prerequisite it ensure the success, and not the condition, as people of Israeli side try to put it.

BLITZER: And, Mr. Erekat, we only have a few seconds left. But the Israelis make a point that if they withdraw from Bethlehem, that their community in Gilo, outside of Jerusalem, would been endangered from snipers.

Can you assure them that if they pull their tanks and troops out of Bethlehem and Beit Jala that the sniping will end?

EREKAT: Look, we are willing to carry out all our responsibilities, but you have to keep in mind that this is in Tenet, the deployment or redeployment. And you have to keep in mind that, once they want to save their community, our community of 3.3 million Palestinians are suffocating, under the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). There are food shortages, medical shortages and petroleum shortages; people cannot get to the hospitals.

So we need immediately to concentrate our positive efforts with General Zinni in order to ensure the beginning of the implementation of the Tenet plan, linked to Mitchell, linked to the political horizon.

But meanwhile, every point the Israelis are mentioning, it's there in the Tenet plan. What we need is a sincere and constructive effort this time.

And we need monitors to monitor the implementation by both sides, because that is very important. Sharon cannot stand to be my judge and fore (ph) at same time. I stand no chance if he is going to be my fore (ph) and judge at the same time.

BLITZER: The chief Palestinian negotiator, Sa'eb Erekat, just coming out of a meeting with General Zinni and Yasser Arafat.

Thanks so much for spending some time with us from Ramallah. I appreciate it very much.

And just ahead, partisan politics is moving full steam ahead here in Washington. We'll talk about the impact on some key issues facing the U.S. Congress, as well as campaign 2002, with Republican strategist Ed Gillespie and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.

Late Edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES PICKERING: I am extremely disturbed that judicial confirmation has degenerated into such a bitter and mean-spirited process. I sincerely hope that no other nominee has to go through what has happened to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Mississippi Judge Charles Pickering commenting on the Senate Judiciary Committee's rejection of his nomination for the federal circuit court.

Welcome back to Late Edition.

The Pickering vote was strictly along party lines with all Democrats on the committee voting against the nomination, the Republicans supporting the nomination. The Republican leader Trent Lott is promising to retaliate.

Joining us now to talk about the return of partisan politics in the U.S. Congress is Republican strategist Ed Gillespie and Democratic strategic Peter Fenn.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Peter, let me start with you. The American Bar Association said he was well-qualified. Why did the Democrats decide to introduce politics in rejecting Judge Pickering right now?

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIC: Well, listen, these are always political of course. But the key point here was that you had a judge who was extreme right- winger. Twenty-four of his opinions were overturned by the appeals court. They looked into his record, and they gave him a hearing, and they found him not to be ready for prime time when it comes to that, a critical, critical judgeship.

And at least he got a hearing. Three of the Clinton nominees to that same bench did not even get a hearing. They deep-sixed them, so at least he got a hearing.

BLITZER: On that point, Ed, as you know, the Democrats have been arguing they only did what the Republicans did when Clinton was in White House.

Let me read to you from the Los Angles Times on Friday. "After the GOP took control over the Senate in 1995, the Republicans blocked a series of Clinton's court nominees, especially racial and ethnic minorities and especially in the South. The 5th Circuit was a particular battleground. In 1997 Clinton nominated Jorge Rangel (ph), an attorney from Corpus Christi, Texas, to the 5th Circuit. He withdrew in frustration two years later. Clinton then chose Enrique Moreno, a Harvard-educated lawyer from El Paso. He also nominated H. Alston Johnson (ph), a Louisiana law professor, for the same court. But the Republicans refused to allow a hearing for any of those nominees."

ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The fact is, Wolf, the Republican Senate moved much more quickly and deliberatively on President Clinton's nominees than has this Senate on President Bush's nominees.

And, in fact, of the 11 nominees to the federal bench that President Bush submitted almost a year ago, last May, two of them were nominees that President Clinton had submitted and there hadn't been time to act. And in spirit of comity, President Bush put forward and resubmitted the Clinton nominees. Well, guess what? Out of those 11, only three have been confirmed. And guess what else? Two out of those three were the Clinton nominees.

This was ridiculous. This was a ritual slaying to appease the national organizational for women and other liberal interest groups done by 10 of the most liberal members of the United States Senate. This man never got a hearing on the floor of the Senate, which he clearly deserved.

The ABA, which is not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination, Peter, said this man was a well-qualified jurist. And this is simply an effort by these guys to have liberal activists on the judge, and nothing more.

FENN: I find it kind of ironic that the Republicans are now touting the ABA, which they wanted to get rid of.

GILLESPIE: I wasn't touting them. I said...

FENN: This administration wanted to get rid of their recommendation.

GILLESPIE: What we're saying even they, who we don't consider to be a conservative group by any stretch of the imagination, said he was well-qualified.

FENN: He seems well-qualified, but they didn't talk to him about his ideology.

The other question here, I think, and to set the record straight. Look, the average time it took to confirm a judge under Ronald Reagan was six weeks. The average time under George Bush the first was eight weeks. The average time under Bill Clinton was 20 weeks -- 20 weeks. I mean, they held these nominations...

GILLESPIE: This is a year. FENN: ... and in some cases deep-sixed it.

But the problem with this -- and I think this is where we get into partisan politics. Look, I think we have step back, take a deep breathe. We've got to confirm judges. You know, I don't think we can use, you know, the Clinton experience...

BLITZER: All right, Peter, a lot of Southern Democrats, Democrats, moderate Democrats are concerned by what happened. Zell Miller, Democratic Senator from Georgia, said this after Pickering went down. He said, "The political repercussions are too obvious to ignore. Politically, this action may well elect a Republican governor in Mississippi and will certainly make even more difficult for Democratic candidates to be successful in the South."

FENN: I mean, I don't think this was a political consideration. This was as question of, what kind of judges are you going to submit?

You know, Bill Clinton submitted moderate judges. And these folks, if they're going to put forth these judges that are extreme, they're going to get shut down.

BLITZER: We're going to move on, but go ahead and get a last word.

(CROSSTALK)

GILLESPIE: ... mainstream jurist, and the fact is that this is an effort to have only judicial activists who believe that they should raise taxes from the bench, you should confiscate private property, and you should care more about criminals' rights than victims' rights. That's where this Senate is trying to take the federal bench, and it's a shame.

BLITZER: Another issue coming to the floor this coming week, campaign finance reform. Whether or not it's going to get to the floor and all that, a little bit up in the air.

But we did see in a remarkable picture -- beds, cots being brought into the U.S. Senate this week. Let's show some of those cots and put them up on our screen.

What is going on, what is Tom Daschle threatening to do, the Senate majority leader?

PENN: Well, what he is saying, of course, Wolf, is that -- is if they're going to filibuster this then they're going to play it all night. He wants this voted on by next Friday.

And to be honest with you I think it's going to be voted on. It is going to pass. They're going to have the 60 votes that they need to pass this bill, and the president is going to sign it into law.

BLITZER: What do you think?

GILLESPIE: I suspect that's all right. But let's face something. Campaign finance reform is not going to create one job in this country. It is not going to ease the backlog in the federal bench and confirm any judge. It is not going to reduce our dependency on foreign oil by one barrel. It is not going to get one senior citizen help with prescription drugs.

It is going to help every incumbent member of Congress get reelected, because it is an incumbent protection measure, as The Washington Post learned and said, "One of the unanticipated consequences of this bill may be that it will be harder for challengers to run against the incumbent members of Congress." What a shock.

BLITZER: There was a shock this week when we heard that Tipper Gore, the wife of the former vice president, is thinking about running for the Senate for the seat being vacated by Fred Thompson.

Is that likely to happen?

PENN: I'm not shocked at all by it. I think she's giving it serious consideration, from what I understand. There's conversations going on today and tomorrow.

I think she'd be an excellent candidate, to be honest. I think she knows the issues. She's been out front on the whole mental health question. She's been out front with homeless folks. She's been out front on lyrics in songs. She's just a very capable individual, and I think she would make a terrific candidate in Tennessee.

And I think it might be one of those races that Ed doesn't like to see, because it's going to keep Deemocratic control of the Senate.

BLITZER: Tipper Gore, let's assume -- and this is obviously a long ways down the road -- Tipper Gore versus Lamar Alexander in Tennessee. Where do you put your money?

GILLESPIE: I'd put my money on Lamar Alexander, assuming he's the nominee on our side. The fact is, if Al Gore couldn't carry Tennessee in the presidential election, I'm not sure that Tipper Gore is going to be able to carry it in the senatorial election.

BLITZER: If Tipper were to lose the election, what would that say to Al Gore's prospects in 2004, if she couldn't carry his home state, her home state of Tennessee?

FENN: Elections are risky business. And folks run, they win, they lose. You know, I think this is her own race. She'll run it like her own race.

And to be honest with you, I think they'll have a tough Republican primary. I'm not sure there would be Democratic primary, if she decided to run. And I think she'll be a terrific candidate and a terrific senator.

BLITZER: What do you think about Dan Burton's committee this past week, coming out with his, in effect, indictment of former President Bill Clinton, saying, among other things -- let me read to you what his final report of his House Government Committee did include.

"President Clinton," he says, "encouraged his half-brother, Roger Clinton, to capitalize on their relationship. The beginning of the second term, President Clinton instructed Roger Clinton to use his connections to the administration to gain financial advantage."

President Clinton strongly denies this, of course.

GILLESPIE: Well, the Burton committee had an obligation, obviously, to investigate the pardons, and they fulfilled their obligation and issued their report. And it seems like forever ago since all of that was in the news, since all that's happened since then.

You know, I'm not sure what more you can add to it. The fact is that it reinforces, I think, why so many of us who helped get this president elected are glad that he has been good to his word to change the tone and to restore some dignity to White House.

BLITZER: Peter?

FENN: Well, I don't think this is changing the tone much. Look, he's the Energizer bunny, when it comes to investigating the Clintons. He's going to go on and on forever with this. You know, the notion that Bill Clinton would say to Roger Clinton, "Go out there and make money and sell pardons," is absurd. I mean, there is no evidence for it. It's an absolutely ridiculous charge. You know, I rode up in the elevator this show with Elvis, right? I mean, come on, this is ludicrous.

And you know, it just shows how ridiculous Dan Burton's investigations have been, all along. He starts by shooting a watermelon in his backyard to, you know, to demonstrate how in touch he is with scandal, and now he ends it with this ridiculous charge. He ought to get off it and get a life.

BLITZER: I mean, it's wasn't a winning political issue, obviously, when Clinton was in the White House. This is not a political issue that's going anywhere, is it, trying to revive Bill Clinton as a sort of the enemy of the American public?

GILLESPIE: No, I don't think there is much interest in that in, certainly, in the Republican Party.

BLITZER: That's history, and now it's time move on. Unfortunately, it's time to move on for us, as well.

Thanks both of you. Ed Gillespie, Peter Fenn, always good have you on the program.

GILLESPIE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

And just ahead, Bruce Morton on the strategy behind going nuclear. Will the United States be the first to drop the bomb again?

Late Edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's essay on the possibilities of a nuclear war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Nuclear Posture Review that just came out is raising a lot of a eyebrows, but in fact, it's not so new. The Pentagon has contingency plans for just about everything, and reports this past week make it clear that President Clinton had nuclear reviews and so did President Reagan.

Target countries other than Cold War enemies? Well, there reportedly were contingency plans, but that's all, on Iran dating back to 1979 when it held Americans hostages; contingency plans on Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991.

Iran, Iraq, and the other new countries on last week's list -- Libya, Syria, North Korea -- have all signed the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. It says that a nuclear power, like the United States, can't use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear country that has signed treaty.

Nevertheless, the first President Bush during the Gulf War warned Iraq that if it used weapons of mass destruction, including biological or chemical weapons, against United States, it risked facing, quote, "the strongest possible response," unquote. Most people took that to mean that U.S. might use nukes.

Similarly, Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry warned that if anyone attacked the U.S. with chemical weapons, the U.S., quote, "would not forswear the possibility of using nuclear weapons."

So, the United States might use nuclear weapons against an attacker who used chemical or biological weapons. President Bush repeated that at his press conference last Wednesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We've got all options on the table because we want to make it make very to nations that you will not threaten the United States or use weapons of mass destruction against us or our allies or friends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: President Bush goes further than Clinton in that he wants a new generation of nuclear weapons, though he insists he wants to cut the overall number of warheads, and a new generation of delivery vehicles -- new missiles and new bombers. None of this violates the Non-Proliferation Treaty, though using nuclear weapons, new or old, of course would. One other thing. It's always been assumed nukes were a deferent and would only be used, if ever, as a response to an attack. Mr. Bush hinted this past week, he might hit first in response to a threat, not an attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: But one thing I will not allow is a nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future by developing weapons of mass destruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: Is he threatening a conventional invasion? A nuclear attack? What do you think?

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce.

And now time to hear from you. A lot of you had thoughts about the Middle East crisis.

Ross Kaplan from Texas writes this: "How can there be a full, lasting peace when everyone knows Sharon and Arafat have personal vendetta's against each other?"

Lawrence from Missouri says, "I think there is a distinct possibility that we shall end up helping the Israelis kill the Palestinians until there are so few Palestinians left that they will have to accept whatever is offered them."

And John in North Carolina asks, "Could it be that a review of the American policy for the area would help the current situation?"

As always, we want your comments. You can e-mail us at lateedition@cnn.com.

It's time now to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.

For our North American viewers, stay tuned for the next hour of Late Edition. We'll get some insight into the military campaign in Afghanistan and the search for Osama bin Laden.

Then, it's our Late Edition Final Round. Our panelists will serve up their opinions on the day's big stories. They'll answer your questions as well. All that, plus a check of the hour's headlines when Late Edition continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition.

We'll talk about the military and intelligence challenges still ahead in the U.S. war against terrorism. But first, here's CNN's Catharine Callaway in Atlanta with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: And with Operation Anaconda winding down, the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan is moving into a new phase. Joining us now with some insight into what could be the next mission for U.S. troops, as the search for Osama bin Laden continues, our three guests: in New York, the former NATO supreme allied commander, retired General George Joulwan; here in Washington, retired Air Force Major General and CNN military analyst Don Shepperd and former CIA Director James Woolsey.

Gentlemen, good to have all of you on the program.

General Joulwan, let me begin with you with a mystery that a lot of people still don't understand. You're a military man; maybe you can explain it to us.

If the U.S. believes 500 or 700 Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters were killed over these past few weeks in the eastern Afghanistan mountainous area as part of Operation Anaconda, where are the bodies? The U.S. and its coalition partners have only found perhaps 10 or 20 bodies.

GEN. GEORGE JOUWAN (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: I hope, Wolf, we don't get into the bodycount. I know that's, from the past, something that has been of interest to a lot of people. However, I think it's very important here, the terrain we're fighting in, the enemy we're fighting. The more important story here is we've taken the fight to the enemy with U.S. forces.

What that bodycount is, I think, is going to be of interest to some people. But to me, the more important issue here is that U.S. forces are engaged on the ground with the enemy.

BLITZER: General Shepherd, do you have any sense -- I don't want to get into a bodycount either. But the simple mystery: Where are all those bodies?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You don't know. We do not know how many we were fighting. You know don't know how many we've killed. It's always an estimate. Some of them could have been blown to smithereens, some of them buried, some of them dragged off and buried other places and some have escaped, Wolf.

But as General Joulwan said, we got into this bodycount business in Vietnam. It's meaningless. The main thing is the Al Qaeda been destroyed as an organized fighting force in Afghanistan, is on the run there and other places. That's what's really importance.

BLITZER: Am I making too much out of this mystery?

WOOLSEY: Well, you're not going to get exact numbers, but in this kind of terrain, probably a lot of these bodies are buried in caves and in rubble. I think any kind of precision is going to be almost impossible. But there is a reason why we may not find many bodies, it's because of the terrain.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, the latest CNN-Time magazine poll asked the American public whether or not they continue to favor U.S. ground troops being used in Afghanistan. And I'll show you the numbers because they're pretty strong: 80 percent now say they favor U.S. ground troops. That's gone up from 71 percent in October; 64 percent last September, right after September 11.

Are you surprised by how deep this strength for U.S. ground force use in Afghanistan remains in the United States?

JOULWAN: Absolutely not. I think the American people understand the sort of fight we're in, and they understand that we've got to sort of close with (ph) and destroy this enemy. And you're not going to do that from 20,000 feet alone. You've got to have troops on the ground.

I think Americans understand that we need to get our act together here at home with homeland security, and we have to disrupt, delay and try to capture or kill those that are trying to do damage against our country. That's going to take U.S. ground troops. That's why I think you see the numbers as high as they are.

BLITZER: Director Woolsey, you may have heard earlier in this program, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, say next mission, the Operation Anacondas to come won't necessarily be in the rural areas, but in urban areas, including perhaps even in Kabul. That kind of ground force operation could be extremely dangerous to U.S. troops.

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It could be, and it could also entail a lot of, as they say, collateral damage, a lot of civilian deaths. But we simply have to rout these people out.

And I think the U.S. military and the CIA helping them have shown a lot of fortitude and courage and adaptability, most importantly. This is a confusing war, and each time they started off some way and it hasn't worked, they've changed quickly. And that's what you look for in successful military.

BLITZER: Are you concerned, General Shepperd, about this warfare going to urban areas as opposed to the rural areas?

SHEPPERD: Well, I'm concerned only in that it's dangerous to the civilians there and dangerous to our troops as well. But we're going to do it wherever they are.

And it's very clear that what's emerging from captured documents and interrogation of prisoners is other areas of support. This Paktia province has been a major area of support. We've got to get control of that and then other areas around Kabul and the other cities. And we'll go after them wherever they are, but it is going to be dangerous.

BLITZER: Paktia province is where Operation Anaconda was unfolding, high up in the mountains in eastern Afghanistan. Another poll, General Joulwan, I'll put it up on the screen. Our CNN-Time magazine poll asked, would you support U.S. troops being sent to any country fighting terrorism? And look at this number: 64 percent favor sending U.S. troops to help other countries, part of this war against terrorism.

You're not surprised by this number either, are you?

JOULWAN: Wolf, we've discussed many times on this program that we've got a war going on in Afghanistan, we've got a global war going on against terrorism, and here at home, we have homeland security. All of those are interrelated.

And when you look globally at how Al Qaeda is organized, we have got to take the fight to them. And I think what you're seeing here is a recognition by the American people that that they will support these sort of actions. The mission is clear.

And remember, the president said all options are on the table. That is a lot of clarity from a president of the United States. And I think that means that this worldwide deployment we see is going to happen, and it's happening now. And I think the American people support it.

BLITZER: The training though, Director Woolsey, of friendly countries whether in the Philippines or in the former Soviet republic of Georgia or Yemen or elsewhere, what kind of commitment does that mean the United States is engaging itself in to go into those countries where there is potential terrorist threats, train their troops to fight these forces? Some of those countries not necessarily being the most democratic in the world.

WOOLSEY: Well, it's a substantial commitment, not as much as actually putting fighting forces in.

But, you know, we had a history, Wolf, during the Cold War and during World War II. We had to ally ourselves with some fairly ugly people in order to win. We were allied with history's greatest murderer, Josef Stalin, for three years and eight months in World War II in order to defeat Hitler, and then after that, we eventually got the Soviets too. So, we've had to tack and get some, you know -- Franco and some dictators in South America. We've worked with some fairly unsavory types over the years.

But as it's all worked out, most of these regimes now have over time become democratized, and we may see something like that here.

BLITZER: You comfortable with that, General Shepperd?

SHEPPERD: I am. We are going to be dealing in some ugly places with some ugly people all over the world. But the right thing to do is initially go in and train them to use our equipment and train them to use techniques that are effective. Let them do whatever they can, let them ask us for our help, as is the case in Yemen and Georgia and the Philippines right now. BLITZER: Are you frustrated -- and I've asked this question before, General Joulwan. Are you frustrated by the fact that Osama bin Laden, Mullah Mohammed Omar, other top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have clearly, so far at least, managed to escape.

JOULWAN: Well, I'm not frustrated. I think they need to be brought to justice. I think we need to keep the heat on them wherever they go, but we ought not to be distracted from this wider strategy that we're pursuing.

In time, Osama bin Laden and all of those responsible, I think, will be brought to justice. But it should not detract, and I think the American people understand that, from this wider effort that has to go on globally. We are in a tough fight, and we have got to understand that, that this is a global fight and not just about Osama bin Laden himself. We have to do it globally and not just concentrate on one individual.

BLITZER: Director Woolsey, there's a new article coming out in the New Yorker magazine by Jeffrey Goldberg, a well-known writer, who makes the case that there is a great connection between Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi military intelligence services to Al Qaeda than previously thought.

Is this credible in your mind?

WOOLSEY: I think it is. And I think Jeff Goldberg's piece is a blockbuster. It comes out tomorrow in the New Yorker.

It details in Northern Iraq cooperation between Al Qaeda and Saddam's Mukhabarat, his intelligence service, in attacks on the Kurds.

WOOLSEY: It details working together between Al Qaeda and Saddam for 10 years. It details smuggling of weapons by Iraqi intelligence into Afghanistan for Al Qaeda. It details Al Qaeda refugees being brought into Iraq. It's quite something.

BLITZER: But it also quotes Kurdish sources were involved in trying -- who have some prisoners, who apparently were involved in this, as saying the CIA, the U.S. government have shown absolutely no interest in coming in investigating these allegations

WOOLSEY: Well, the CIA has over recent years not been real enthusiastic about the Iraqi resistance, and I think that's a shame. If they got beat on this story by the New Yorker and Jeff Goldberg, three cheers for the fourth estate.

BLITZER: But you used to be the director of the CIA. Is that credible, that Jeffrey Goldberg and the New Yorker could get information on an alleged link, direct link between Iraq and Al Qaeda that the CIA would not have?

WOOLSEY: There's a historic propensity at the CIA -- and this is detailed pretty well in Bob Bayer's recent book -- for focusing very heavily on sources that you target and assess and recruit and control. And that means sometimes they don't pay enough attention to defectors, to volunteers, and to democratic groups which are not very controllable and have a mind of their own. And this may be a case like that. It could have happened.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, you are the former NATO supreme allied commander. You just heard the former director of the CIA make what seems to be a very serious charge. Bob Bayer, a former CIA case officer, makes that same charge in his book.

Is that credible to you, knowing all the experience you've had with the U.S. intelligence community?

JOULWAN: We have very good intelligence. We've had our ups and downs with the CIA and other intelligence agencies. But let us not lose the focus on Iraq.

If Iraq is indeed harboring terrorists, has this relationship with Osama bin Laden, is producing weapons of mass destruction, we have got to start focusing on that. But it should not be disjointed from what we're doing in Afghanistan and elsewhere or from what happens in Middle East. That, to me, is the wider strategic picture that we ought to be focusing on, and I hope we're going to do that. This article will shed some light on one facet of it. But the larger strategic picture, to me, is more important. And we have get on with resolving what is occurring in the Middle East as well as concentrating on Iraq.

BLITZER: And, General Shepperd, we'll take a quick break, but I want you to button up this whole issue of Iraq. You heard the president of the United States issue some strong statements this past week, making it clear that, whether or not there's a direct terrorist connection with Al Qaeda, his real source of concern is the potential of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, especially nuclear capability. And that, by itself, is what the United States has to deal with. He said there's no margin for error.

SHEPPERD: And we can't lose sight of the big picture. If you're serious about terrorism, you've to go to Iraq, prevent them from getting weapons of mass destruction, and make sure that we don't sit here for 10 or 20 years and then take a sucker punch from somebody when we could have prevented it in the meantime. That's what we're after, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue this conversation. We have a lot more to talk about, including your phone calls. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Are we better off today than we were? Yes. We're better off because Afghanistan is not a sanctuary for terrorists.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, sizing up the progress of the war on terrorism.

Welcome back to Late Edition. We're continuing our conversation with the former NATO supreme allied commander, Retired General George Joulwan, retired Air Force Major General Don Shepperd, and former CIA Director James Woolsey.

We have a caller from New York. Go ahead with your question, please.

CALLER: Yes. My question is the following: Is Saudi Arabia really our friend, in view of the fact they are responsible for exporting a certain fundamentalist view that is so linked with terrorism, that they really haven't done anything to modify it, that this view can continue to be generated as a rationalization of problems in the Arab world?

BLITZER: All right. Let's ask Director Woolsey.

What about that?

WOOLSEY: Well, the Saudis were a friend and ally during the Cold War, because they feared the Soviet and the Soviet client states like Iraq much more than they were worried about us.

But in this post-Cold War era, they've been doing some things, especially for the last decade, that are very troubling. One, the listener referred to exporting Wahhabi-ism all over the world, including United States and Britain, as well as to Pakistan and the madrasas there, the religious schools that have schooled a lot of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

And they kind of try to have it both ways. They try to keep the Wahhabi from criticizing them, by turning the Wahhabi toward the rest of the world. And that really needs to get changed. We were attacked by -- 15 of the 19 people who came after us were Saudi. And something fundamental needs to change about the way the Saudi government runs this.

BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Texas. Go ahead, please.

CALLER: Yes. This is for Mr. Woolsey. When we're shopping around with our allies to try to gain support for a possible attack on Iraq, how much information is it safe for us to give up? I mean, do we have to, like, hold back some of our intelligence?

BLITZER: Good question.

WOOLSEY: Sometimes, yes. And the real answer is, it depends on the ally. There are some allies with whom we share a very great deal and there are others with whom we share less. And it varies with time and circumstance.

It also varies with level. Sometime you share things, for example, in Somalia, with a battlefield commander from a country because of an emergency that you may not share at the top levels of the government where you'd be worried about a leak.

But I imagine Vice President Cheney is being pretty candid with the leaders, especially in the country that he's visiting.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, there is a heart-wrenching case of a Navy pilot, Michael Speicher, his plane went down, during the first days of the Gulf War. I remember that incident very, very clearly. I covered that war. He was originally listed for years and years as killed in action. Last year, they changed the status to missing in action. His wife had remarried in the interval years. Now there is, apparently, a real sense of a possibility that's he may still be alive, being prisoner by the Iraqi government.

Give us your assessment, if that is a credible, realistic possibility?

JOULWAN: From what I have heard, Wolf, there is some credibility to it.

Let me just tell you, as a commander of troops, we make every effort to take care of our troops, to bring them back, even dead, to bring them back to our county. If this pilot is alive, we should do all we can, within our power as a nation, to do all we can to get his release. I think it's fundamental to our military and to our way of life.

BLITZER: General Shepperd, in the unclassified report on Commander Speicher a year ago, it said this: "Speicher probably survived the loss of his aircraft, and if he survived, he almost certainly was captured by the Iraqis." What's your take on this? I know we've looked into this.

SHEPPERD: My take is way overstated. I've talked to guys who were on the mission, guys who were in his squadron and off the boat. They lost four airplanes in the first three days of the war. There was no transmission from Speicher.

Later, they found the canopy and the seat from the aircraft. And later, also, reportedly a Bedouin brought in a bloody flight suit. This was, I believe, years after the case -- never found a body. They never launched a search and rescue because there was no indication of contact with the pilot, so they didn't want to put other people at risk there.

But if there is credible information, then the case should be opened to find out is there a possibility he is alive, is there a possibility of information, is there a possibility of a body.

This is tragic for the families right now. But I have not heard one credible report that says, yes, indeed, he is alive. There's a possibility of information surfacing. We have been through this in Vietnam. My best friend never came back from Vietnam. It's a long story, Wolf. BLITZER: Well, you heard the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the vice chairman, Senator Graham, Senator Shelby, say there is some credible intelligence out there, which they can't release because it's classified.

SHEPPERD: Right.

BLITZER: But there is some credible information from third parties who have said over the years that, yes, he might be alive. And as a result, they changed his status to MIA from killed in action, KIA, last year.

SHEPPERD: Yes. It's responsible to change that status to look further.

But I listened very carefully to the words of those gentlemen this morning. And what I heard was this is information from third parties, no firsthand information, and there's a possibility. So the possibility should be looked into.

But it stretches the imagination of me to find out how this would serve the Iraqis or anyone else to do this. It doesn't make any sense. It's not in constance with the way they've handled other prisoners.

BLITZER: On a different subject, Director Woolsey, a lot of talk of CIA monitors coming into play between the Israelis and the Palestinians. George Tenet, your successor over at the CIA, being very much involved in trying to bring about a cease-fire. He's failed so far.

Is it a good idea to send CIA monitors in to take a look, to make sure the Israelis and the Palestinians are living up to their commitments?

WOOLSEY: I think it's all right as long as the CIA monitors report to the United States and don't report on the Palestinian to the Israelis or report on the Israelis to the Palestinians.

They work for the president of the United States. And if he wants CIA officers as well as military officers to undertake dangerous missions like that and to find out what's going on and to be out there, even somewhat obviously, I think they need do it.

But we need to be clear that they're not involved in some type of reporting on one to the other or some type of overt mediation rule.

BLITZER: And very briefly, General Joulwan, as you know, there have been U.S. Army personnel in Sinai for more than two decades monitoring that situation. Would you feel more comfortable with military personnel, American military personnel, or CIA personnel serving as monitors between the Israeli and the Palestinians?

JOULWAN: Let me be very clear. I really think that what's happening in Jerusalem and in between the Palestinians and the Israelis is much more dangerous than what's happening in Afghanistan. And I think you don't just need monitors, Wolf, you need to impose a settlement. I think it's time for the United States to impose a settlement, give some breathing room to both sides so that there can be meaningful negotiations. I'm afraid it's spinning out of control.

So I would go beyond monitors here and, doing this from my role as EUCOM commander watching this area for many years, I think it's come to that. And the sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned.

BLITZER: EUCOM being the European Command.

General Joulwan, as usual, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it very much. Director Woolsey, General Shepperd, always good to have both of you on the program as well.

And when we come back, Late Edition's Final Round. We have some new information on Tipper Gore. Our panel will sound off on the day's major developments. As I say, they'll also be here to talk about some politics as well. You can join in, get ready for that.

Late Edition's Final Round right after a news alert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome to the Late Edition's Final Round. Joining me now, Donna Brazile, Democratic political strategist; Peter Beinart of the New Republic; Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online; and Robert George of the New York Post.

Tennessee Democrats are courting Tipper Gore to run for the U.S. Senate. Donna, if anyone knows if she's going to run for the U.S. Senate, you served as the Gore campaign manager, tell us what Tipper is up to.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER AL GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, first of all, Wolf, she arrived in Tennessee last night and she began meeting with many Tennesseans across the state. They are talking with her. They are encouraging her. They are talking about the political landscape.

And of course, Tipper is reaching out to Democratic members of the congressional delegation. I understand that she is talking with Bob Clements this morning, and hopefully she has talked to Harold Ford and others. And perhaps we'll know soon this week whether or not Tipper will run.

BLITZER: Well, she's got to make a decision very, very quickly. What do you believe right now, Donna Brazile, will Tipper Gore run for the Democratic nomination?

BRAZILE: Well, you know, it's a very personal decision. I mean, she has stood by and worked with Vice President Gore for over 30 years in his public career. And I think this is a very important decision.

She's always served. She would be a tremendous asset for the party and running against Lamar Alexander or Ed Bryant.

I think if Tipper decides to run -- I hope she decides to run. I have a personal bias. I like Tipper Gore. I think that people of Tennessee love Tipper Gore. And if Tipper decides to run, Tipper is going to kick a lot of butt in Tennessee, and she will win that state.

BLITZER: Well, does her husband, Al Gore, want her to run?

BRAZILE: Well, I don't know. I'll tell you this. He is supportive, as he has been over the last 30 years of their marriage. He clearly is going to give her advice if she needs advice, but right now this is Tipper's decision, a decision she's making with Tennesseans and her friends.

And I do believe that Tipper will make a decision before the April 4 deadline, so that she can run and run the kind of campaign that I know that Tipper would like to run, which is to focus on the issues impacting Tennessee families. That's what she cares about.

BLITZER: I'll have to squeeze you a little bit harder right now. You think she will run?

BRAZILE: I will encourage her to run. It's go, Tipper, go, if you ask me.

BLITZER: All right. What do you think about that? How worried should Republicans be -- Lamar Alexander, the Republican candidate, in particular?

ROBERT GEORGE, "NEW YORK POST": He will be a strong candidate.

My feeling is that Bob Clements, who has been indicating that he is definitely going to run, I think is about to become a Mr. Nita Lowey, who was the -- Nita Lowey was the New York congresswoman who was going to run before Hillary Clinton decided she wanted the New York Senate seat. I think that Tipper is going to jump into it.

But you have to realize, though, Tennessee is not New York. New York was a heavy Democratic state. Tennessee voted against Al Gore in the last presidential election, so it is not going to be a slam dunk. But I think it will be a great race.

BLITZER: What about that, Jonah, what do you think?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Well, I think that's generally right. Lamar Alexander was, by all accounts, the odds-on favorite prior to this. And at the very least in the short-term, not knowing how it's going to shake out, I think the Lamar people have to see this as generally bad news just because it changes the dynamics entirely.

And, you know, let's also admit that this is not New York, that Tipper Gore is not Hillary Clinton. She is much more palatable to moderate conservatives, moderate Republicans, and that sort of thing.

So, I think look, I mean, ever since Jean Carnahan, there's no way you can say that a spouse is unqualified any more. And so, I think she would have a good shot.

GOLDBERG: It changes the dynamics of everything.

I think necessarily, it's not necessarily very good for Al Gore. I think if she wins and all of sudden people say, "Well, we got the better Gore in Washington anyway, who needs any more?" And if she loses, you can see a lot of people in the Democratic Party saying, "Enough already."

BLITZER: What do you think, let's let Peter wrap it up.

PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: You know, I'm actually not as optimistic about her chances as Jonah is.

I think, first of all, Tennessee has been trending Republican. Second of all, I'm not convinced, although I don't have the inside information, that Bob Clement, who comes from a political dynasty of his own in the state, is going to drop out.

Second of all, remember, Hillary had a very tough race. She won it because she had a weak candidate, a weaker candidate from Lamar Alexander. She ran a very tenacious race.

BLITZER: Hillary was lucky because Rudy Giuliani dropped out.

BEINART: Yes, and she ran a very tenacious race, and we've always known she's had the fire in her belly. That's still a question about Tipper Gore.

GEORGE: Something that has to be kept in mind though is that Ed Bryant, who is the representative in Tennessee, I don't think he's necessarily -- he's going to just step aside because Lamar Alexander's in there. I think the Democrats will clear the field for Tipper Gore, but Lamar Alexander may have a serious primary struggle.

BLITZER: We're going to move on, but you think the Democrats will clear the field for Tipper Gore?

BRAZILE: It's far difficult to do that in a Democratic primary, but I do believe, if Tipper decides to run, she will get tremendous support from those same Democrats.

BLITZER: OK, let's move on and talk about our quote of the week. It comes, not surprisingly, from President Bush. He didn't pull any punches about his reaction after learning that the INS mailed out student visas for two of the September 11 hijackers -- get this -- six months after the terrorist attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I was stunned and not happy. Let me put it another way, I was plenty hot. And I made that clear to people in my administration.

We've got to reform the INS, and we've got to push hard to do so. This is an interesting wake-up call for those who run the INS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Robert, a wake-up call that could be the end of the INS.

GEORGE: Well, you know, the INS is -- they're going to borrow a slogan from Southwest Airlines. "You're now free to fly about the country" to any terrorists that happen to be applying.

But, I mean, the fact is there is going to be a major restructuring, especially in the area of student visas. Already four people have been, quote, "reassigned," since nobody ever gets fired in Washington, D.C. And it's about time, frankly, because there's been problems with the INS for years, going back at least two administrations.

BEINART: Yes, this is actually a very good thing because we should have been doing this already. It's actually unfortunate we needed this high profile an event to do it.

But the problem, I think, is also larger than the INS. I mean, there's a lot of reluctance, as I understand, on university campuses to really give information about foreign students, to really work with the INS. We need a larger cultural shift, I think.

BLITZER: And what's it's going to also do, as you know, Donna, it's going to raise questions about immigration into this country.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And opponents, Pat Buchanan, for example, they're going to see this as an opportunity to just close those borders.

BRAZILE: Well, it's not an -- we shouldn't just close our borders, but we should learn how to track our borders a lot better.

If Social Security agency can track us from birth to death, and IRS can track us from paycheck to payments, then the INS should be able to check the border and do a sufficient job.

This agency receives $35 billion a year, and they should -- someone should restructure it, take it apart, and then put it back together.

BLITZER: Is it toast, though?

GOLDBERG: I don't think it's toast, because you need an INS, so at the end of the day, there's going to be something that's called an INS, even if they did radically reform it.

BLITZER: But they could change the name.

GOLBERG: Sure, yes. But, you know, we'll then get something that we say used to be the INS, but there's...

BEINART: Formerly known as the INS.

GOLDBERG: Formerly known as the INS.

But, look, you know, if a bunch of bureaucrats have done this in Saudi Arabia, we would reassign them, we would behead them.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, it is so embarrassing and it is so bad.

And their defense is that, well, this was all approved, prior to September 11. You would think that INS had held an investigation some time in the last six months and said, "Hey, you know what, a couple of these guys, they're due to get their visas," and they'd say, "Well, don't mail those out now." But they still mailed them out.

There is no excuse for it. It's incredibly embarrassing. And INS is designed to fail by both the Republicans and the Democrats, and it needs to be radically reformed.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk something else now. While the Bush administration is promising to take on Saddam Hussein, America's Arab allies are not supporting that move, at least not publicly. This morning Russia's defense minister echoed that sentiment, saying removing the Iraqi leader is not the answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEI IVANOV, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: We calculate that there might be a problem in Iraq with weapons of mass destruction. That's why we support strongly the idea that a huge team of international monitors should go to Iraq, should go there. The problem is not with Saddam Hussein; the problem is with weapons of mass destruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is he right, Peter?.

BEINART: No. Are you kidding? First of all, the Russians were not supportive of a really robust effort with inspectors until they realized that it was the only alternative to invasion. So we've already shown some positive signs from the Bush administration's tough talk.

Second of all, you can't separate the question of weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein. He's the one who maniacally is trying to gain them, and he's the one who uses them again his own people.

Look, people are concerned about Iraq breaking up. That's what Saudi Arabia is concerned about, because they have restless Shi'a. That's what Turkey is concerned about, because of the Kurds. The Bush administration needs to say, "We support a United Iraq after Saddam Hussein," and then make it happen.

GEORGE: You know, what Peter is saying is basically that weapons of mass destruction don't kill people; Saddam Hussein kills people. And that's the case. I mean, Saddam Hussein, of course, we know he's gased his own people. He's been a destabilizing influence in that region for more than two decades. And I think it's very, very clear, and it should be made clear also to the Iraqis of all people, that getting rid of him is, ultimately, even in their best interest.

BRAZILE: Well, publicly, none of these leaders will come out and say, by the way, George Bush, just go in there and take the guy out. They're going to hide behind public opinion polls and say don't do it, don't do it. I think we need to be tough, we need to be firm. And I'm getting to point where I think we should just be a little swifter.

BLITZER: All right.

GOLDBERG: Whoa. With that kind of wind at my sails, the right can really move here.

(LAUGHTER)

And to be honest, I actually hate to sound like a root-causes liberal, but I actually agree with Robert. I mean, the real point here -- not that he's a root-causes liberal.

(LAUGHTER)

But the point is, you know, if you want to make a state not murderous, I mean, they can have -- France has plenty of weapons of mass destruction, but we're not afraid of France, though we should probably still attack it.

(LAUGHTER)

The reality is that if you want to make Iraq a safer country, it's not so much making sure they don't have weapons, it's making sure they don't want to use them.

And you know, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden have a number of things in common other than just being snappy dressers. They symbolize something. If we can get rid of Saddam Hussein and put a stable democratic regime in there, it would show that entire region that change is possible.

BLITZER: Donna gave you some wind and you took it. The people of France are not necessarily going to be happy about that.

(LAUGHTER)

All right, let's take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about, your phone calls, as well, and e-mail for our Late Edition Final Round panel. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our Final Round.

The Bush administration does not think that Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge should have to answer to Congress because he is not a Cabinet member. But earlier today, the Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle said that Congress deserves to hear directly from Ridge on matters relating to homeland defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR TOM DASCHLE (D-SD): He is acting as an administrator. He is acting with all the rights and privileges of a Cabinet officer. He ought to come before the Congress and work in concert with us to do this job right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jonah, shouldn't Ridge be forced to testify before Congress since he does have policy decisions that he to make before him?

GOLDBERG: I'm afraid my teeth are going to break on this, but I totally agree with Tom Daschle on this. I think it is generally outrageous to say -- this guy, when he was introduced to the country, it was said that he was going to be the guy holding our hand and making us feel secure and safe. And he was supposed to be a public figure at a Cabinet level. They touted that out all over the place.

Now, all of a sudden, he's not so much a security czar as a security Rasputin. And they're claiming that he is this private adviser that somehow doesn't have a right to be accountable to the people. You can't have it both ways.

BLITZER: Can you defend the administration on this?

GEORGE: Oh, absolutely not. I think we're going to have lightning strike here because I think we all agree on this.

(LAUGHTER)

And the fact of the matter is, the consensus on Capitol Hill, even among Republicans, is that Ridge should probably testify, though they are actually lining up behind the White House on this.

And trying to compare him to Condi Rice is ridiculous. I mean, Condi Rice is coming out saying, "Oh, today it's red alert today. Tomorrow it's yellow alert." I mean, he is arguably as in the public eye as just about any Cabinet member not named Rumsfeld, Powell or Ashcroft.

BLITZER: Let me tell you what Tom Ridge's defense is. Tom Ridge says that he does meet with members of the Senate, does meet regularly with members of the House. He is willing to answer all of their questions in private meetings. But since it would serve as a bad precedent for a security adviser in homeland security, like the national security adviser, to formally testify, he's not going to do it.

BRAZILE: This is a new position. When the president created this position everyone, Democrats, Republicans, welcomed his appointment. He should come before the American people, testify before Congress. By the way, he will get a lot of TV cameras, he'll look good on TV. But more importantly, he'll answer some questions and perhaps share with the American people what agencies are cooperating in the war on terrorism and what agencies are not. So, I think he should come forward.

BEINART: Yes, I have to agree with my root-causes liberal friend here.

(LAUGHTER)

And if I were Ridge, I would not be happy about this. I mean, he's taken a lot of PR hits, including on this show last week. He does not need to be in the center of another controversy that's not of his making. It's totally unnecessary.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about another issue, the issue of presidential judicial nominees. Could that spark an all- out political war on Capitol Hill?

The Republican Senator Don Nickles said today that his party would make Democrats rethink their rejection of President Bush's choice for the federal bench.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR DON NICKLES (R-OK): We're going to try to get the Democrats' attention. And we'll do whatever is necessary to get their attention to make sure we're going to have good nominees have a chance to have a hearing.

The way that the Democrats are running the Senate right now, it bothers me a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Peter, so I take it partisanship is back on Capitol Hill?

BEINART: Thank goodness. A little partisanship is just what we need.

I actually think the Pickering thing was a very good model of how our political system should work. He got a hearing, which a lot of other -- a lot of Clinton appointees didn't get.

The Democrats were basically pretty honest, they didn't gin up a fake scandal. They said, in a region which has got a lot of minorities, he's too conservative on race; the Republicans said he's not.

The Democrats hung tough, because Bush does not have a political mandate to move the judiciary to the right.

I would like to see more Pickerings. BLITZER: You know, Donna, the whole point that the Republicans make is he did get a well-deserved, highly qualified recommendation from the American Bar Association, and that this was simply time to get even with all the Democratic nominees who were held up during the Republican leadership of the Senate.

BRAZILE: You know, I don't Senate Nickles that well, but I wouldn't pick a fight with Senator Daschle. The man is tough. He knows how to defend that institution and their right to take a good look at these nominees.

President Clinton sent four moderate nominees. George Bush did not win in a landslide. He did not receive a mandate from the American people to alter the court one way or another.

So I think they should take a chill pill, relax, get up tomorrow morning and try to work together.

BLITZER: All right, Jonah, are you going to be with Daschle on this one too?

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: No, I'm not with Daschle, but I am with Peter in the sense that bipartisanship and compromise is radically overrated. If I say two plus two is four and Peter says two plus two is six, we're no better off if we compromise on five. And I think that we do need some bigger arguments in the Senate.

The only thing that drives me nuts about how the Republicans are handling this is that when Democrats go for payback and they go for these sort of political jockeying moves, they say they're doing it for the children or the environment, and it plays better. Republicans, they admit it. You know, they're more honest on these things. They say we're going, we're going for payback and that plays terribly.

GEORGE: And the fact is, though, Pickering, in a sense, was lucky in that he did actually get a hearing. The fact is, though, eight of Bush's nominees he named on May 9, I mean, we're talking about 10 months ago, haven't even gotten a hearing yet. I mean, basically the Democrats are, in a sense, trying to basically refuse Bush of any of his judicial nominations.

BEINART: That's wrong. They should hold hearings and defeat many of them.

BLITZER: All right. On that point, let's take another quick break. We have a lot more coming up, including our lightening round is just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for our lightning round.

The Texas mother, Andrea Yates, was sentenced to life in prison last week for drowning her children. Does Russell Yates, her husband, bear some responsibility, Peter?

BEINART: I think the responsibility is really hers. He doesn't seem to have understood and acted perhaps quite as quickly about her mental illness problems as he might have. But, you know, the larger problem is, how many of us would have? Mental illness is not very well understood, and that's the larger problem I think.

GEORGE: He doesn't bear any criminal responsibility. That's completely hers. But I think he does bear a moral responsibility. If you're having five kids with this woman, you're going to have to have some kind of insight into her personality, and he should have known something.

BRAZILE: A lot of blame to go around, including some of the doctors who may have treated her before. So, I would believe in penance. And I believe that Mr. Yates should go around the country now with a National Organization for Women card and perhaps educate other men about postpartum depression.

GOLDBERG: Donna, as a good Catholic, believes in penance. I, as a good Jew, believe in smiting and wrath...

(LAUGHTER)

But in this case, I actually think, yes, he does bear some responsibility. And that said, there's no way the state or anybody can punish him anymore than he has already been punished and what he's going through. And she bears the criminal responsibility, so we just sort of leave it there.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about this. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court debates an extracurricular issue: Is it unconstitutional to require random drug testing for students who want to participate in after-school activities?

GEORGE: I think, unlike the '95 Supreme Court decision where they said school athletes could be randomly drug tested -- I think it was legitimate there just because of the actual health of the student -- but I think this is actually going too far. And I believe it's too intrusive on students' privacy.

BLITZER: So if somebody wants to be in the choir or the glee club or the band, they should have to undergo random drug testing?

BRAZILE: No, I think the Supreme Court needs to clear the air. There's been a lot of smoke involved in this, and they should clear the air and just keep it narrowly focused on the athletes.

BLITZER: What do you think?

GOLDBERG: I think, look, throughout your life there are jobs out there that you have to take a drug test for. High school is -- one of the things you're supposed to be doing is preparing people for real life. If these kids want to do drugs, then I think they shouldn't participate in these activities. GEORGE: It's the state doing it.

GOLDBERG: So let the state do it.

BEINART: I think, really, the only jobs for which there should be random drug testing without any individual suspicion are dangerous jobs like...

GOLDBERG: The panelists on this show.

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: ... which is the most dangerous of them all.

But going to participate in Future Farmers of America, which is what a lot of these kids are doing, is not like working at a nuclear power plant, last I heard.

BLITZER: Well, obviously, everyone's groping for some way to deal with the explosion of drugs among young people.

BEINART: That's right. This isn't the way to do it.

GEORGE: Except it's not an explosion. I think a lot of it is overheated in many ways.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on to the next issue, the U.S. Senate and its preparing for an all-nighter on campaign finance reform. They are bringing in the cots. Look at these beds. Let's put them up on the screen.

(LAUGHTER)

Donna, what's going on over there in the U.S. Senate?

BRAZILE: Well, Daschle is right to bring in cots, and he should bring in some chiropractics and help these guys relax a little bit, because campaign finance reform is needed and it will pass.

GOLDBERG: That's a true sign that the age of Clinton is over in Washington....

(LAUGHTER)

... that you can wheel beds into government buildings and no one makes silly jokes, like I just did.

(LAUGHTER)

But that said, look, it's probably going to pass. It's going to be a big show, silly thing. And it's going to be -- it's a silly piece of legislation. It's not needed; it's a step in the wrong direction. But that's an argument for another day.

BLITZER: Peter? BEINART: Yes. And I think we're already moved on to two fights: one on the Supreme Court, second over the FEC, the Federal Election Commission. Unless that is made into a serious body, McCain-Feingold can't work.

GEORGE: It's a dog-and-pony show that they've got over there with the bringing in the cots. You know, make sure they keep the interns as far away from them as possible.

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE: Unfortunately, this is going to be a done deal. It will pass, but it's going into the Supreme Court. And in a sense, it won't really become law, because it'll -- until the last lawsuit has been settled, and that's going to be years down the road.

BLITZER: Last topic, celebrity boxing. It scored with the viewers. Last week it was Tanya Harding versus Paula Jones.

Any political nominees you'd like to see in the ring, Jonah?

GOLDBERG: I actually wrote a column saying that the Florida re- election thing should have be settle with Al Gore and George Bush in a ring; it would have helped a lot. And remember during the debates, Al Gore actually walked up and squared up to Bush as if he wanted to fight, and I thought we could have saved everyone a lot of time if we just went that route.

BLITZER: Who do you want to see in the ring?

BRAZILE: I was about to do a big sigh when I heard that.

(LAUGHTER)

Bush beat Gore again. This time it will end in 36 seconds instead of...

BLITZER: All right. What about that, Peter?

BEINART: I would nominate D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams. I think, if he lets Tyson into the ring, maybe he should try it himself.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Against who?

BEINART: Well, not against someone too tough, but someone just to reinforce to him that boxing is not a nice thing.

GEORGE: Top of the card would be Bill Clinton versus Ken Starr. Lower card would be Monica Lewinsky versus Lucy Ann Goldberg.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right. I'll leave it there. I'm not making -- I don't make any predictions. Thanks to our Late Edition Final Round for joining us, as usual. See you next week.

That's your Late Edition for Sunday, March 17. Please join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

Monday through Friday, join me twice a day, two editions of Wolf Blitzer Reports, 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. Have a very happy St. Patrick's Day. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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