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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview with Condoleezza Rice, Henry Kissinger, George Mitchell, Christopher Dodd, Arlen Specter

Aired April 7, 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, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 11:00 a.m. in Crawford, Texas, and 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for Late Edition.

We'll get to our interview with President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, in just a few minutes, but first, this news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: And earlier today, I spoke to President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, about the Middle East crisis. She joined me from Crawford, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Dr. Rice, welcome back to Late Edition. Thanks for joining us.

And let's get right to the issue at hand, an Israeli withdrawal from some of those Palestinian territories recently reoccupied. President wants that withdrawal to begin without delay. The Israeli prime minister says they will expedite the missions, but it doesn't look like that withdrawal has begun.

What do you say about that lack of response, at least apparently for the time being?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president's had a conversation with Prime Minister Sharon yesterday, Secretary Powell talked with him this morning, and we expect General Zinni to see him later in the day.

And the president couldn't be more clear, and that is that he believes that our good friend Israel, definitely with a right to self- defense, has entered a period in which the foundations for peace are being eroded. And so the president reiterated again the importance of a withdrawal, of importance of withdrawal without delay, and he expect results.

BLITZER: What happens if the Israelis don't withdraw immediately, as you're asking them to do? RICE: Well, we do expect results.

This is a very good conversation with Prime Minister Sharon yesterday -- it was candid, it was friendly. The president has great sympathy for what Israel is going through, because it has been subjected to terrorism, and he understands that personally.

Nevertheless, he believes that it is time now, we're at a tipping point, and it is time for the Israelis to try and reverse the circumstances, so that we can get into a better set of circumstances and move forward to peace.

Let me be very clear that, while he does expect Israel to begin withdrawal without delay, he understands that it can't be helter skelter and chaotic. But he does expect this withdrawal to begin.

He also expects other parties to live up to their responsibilities. The speech on Thursday talked not only about what Israel had to do, but talked also about the importance of stopping the incitement of terrorism, the role that the Arab states must play in bringing about short-term and long-term peace in the Middle East. And so, the president expects results from that side, as well.

BLITZER: So when you say "without delay," precisely what does that mean, that the Israelis tanks, the Israeli military should begin withdrawing today, or are you ready to give them a few days to begin an orderly military retreat?

RICE: No. "Without delay" means without delay. It means now. As a matter of fact, I think the president used the word "now" with Prime Minister Sharon.

Obviously, the withdrawal needs to be orderly. We understand that. Anybody understands that. But the president expects to see results and to see that happening as soon as possible. "Without delay" means without delay.

BLITZER: And as you know, the secretary of state will be in Israel later this week. Thursday and Friday, he should be getting there.

Will he meet with the Israeli prime minister, irrespective of what happens on the ground?

RICE: The secretary has broad discretion to do whatever he needs to do when he gets to the region, because he's on a mission for peace, he's on a mission to bring Resolution 1402 of the U.N. into being. That resolution sets forward some steps that can be taken so that we can get back on a road to peace.

And I just want to note, Wolf, that it was actually fairly hopeful, just a little over a week ago, when it seemed that General Zinni was taking a lot of progress toward a cease-fire, when the crown prince's initiative was gaining some steam with the Arab world. It seemed that we had a little bit of an opening and a break for peace. So the secretary would like to get the world back to that point. It's a difficult mission, but he has broad latitude to see whomever he would like to see so that he can get that mission done.

And we expect cooperation from the parties in the region. If the president said anything on Thursday, it was that the absence of peace in the Middle East is an absence of the taking of responsibility by all the parties in the Middle East. This is not just about what Israel needs to do, but also what the Arab states need to do and what the Palestinian leadership needs to do.

BLITZER: As you know, the United States has an enormous amount of leverage on the Israelis, extensive economic and military assistance. Are you prepared to use any of that aid as leverage to try to convince the prime minister to begin that withdrawal?

RICE: I don't think that it's really useful to get into hypotheticals about what we may or may not do. The fact is, Israel is our friend. And Israel is an important strategic partner in the region. Israel is a democracy with which we share values. And we know that Israel is going through a very, very difficult time and a serious threat to its security.

And so, what we are trying to do is to work with the Israelis to create conditions in which they can find true peace. Now, military power is and has been for the Israelis, part of their survival. We understand that, and the president said they have the right to self- defense.

But to take on terrorism, you need to do more. Our own war on terrorism has been very broad. We have shut off terrorist financing. And so, on Thursday, the president talked about the importance of the Arab states shutting off terrorist financing.

We have asked everybody to live up to their responsibilities, under U.N. Resolution 1373, which called on everybody, despite terrorism, to do so. Because the environment of the Israelis is only going to get better when Israel is working with its neighbors for a long-term solution to the problem and can battle terrorism worldwide.

BLITZER: Does the president want Secretary of State Powell to meet with Yasser Arafat when he's in the region in the coming weeks?

RICE: The president wants Secretary Powell to do whatever it takes to achieve his mission. And the most important point for all parties in the region to understand as Secretary Powell comes out there, is that this is not just Secretary Powell's mission, this is the president of the United States asking all of the parties in the region to coalesce around this mission.

And it's not just Secretary Powell. We have gotten very good cooperation from the European Union. In fact, Prime Minister Blair was here with the president over the weekend. They talked a great deal about what they could do together in the Middle East. Secretary Powell has been in contact with his Russian counterparts. The entire world expects the parties in the region to be responsible and to work for peace, and that includes supporting each and every aspect of Secretary Powell's mission next week.

BLITZER: The Palestinians says that no Palestinian will meet with Secretary Powell unless he agrees to meet with Yasser Arafat. Will he meet with Yasser Arafat?

RICE: Secretary Powell is not coming to the region to meet the conditions of the parties. He is coming to the region to get the parties to take their responsibilities to bring peace.

Now, the secretary will meet with whomever it takes. He has a very broad mandate and he has a lot of flexibility. But we expect the cooperation of the parties. I should just mention that General Zinni met with Chairman Arafat just yesterday. And so, we have been getting cooperation from the Israelis on this score, and we expect that cooperation to continue.

BLITZER: Is there any alternative to Yasser Arafat as the leader of the Palestinian people? There's been some talk that there could potentially be other Palestinian leaders with whom the secretary might want to meet. Is there an alternative to Arafat?

RICE: It's not up to the United States to try and choose leadership for the Palestinian people.

But the president did say very firmly the other day that the Palestinian people deserve better leadership than they're getting currently. They need leadership that's not going to just roil their grievances. They need leadership that is not going to tell an 18- year-old girl that blowing herself up is the road to martyrdom, and especially when it's blowing up a 17-year-old girl on the other side.

This leadership needs to address the needs of its people, which are economic development, which have to do with education. It's a leadership that needs to pay attention to human rights. There is a lot of work for the Palestinian leadership to do in order to really deal with the aspirations of its people.

We can't choose that leadership, but we can be straightforward, as the president was, and truthful about what the Palestinian people need.

No one is more concerned about the plight of all people than President George Bush. He mentioned the need for compassion at checkpoints. It should not be the case that ambulances have trouble getting to Palestinian women who are having children. It should not be the case that the Palestinian people endure humiliations.

We've asked the Israelis to be compassionate and to be concerned about these people who are going to be their neighbors. But their leadership also needs to be concerned about them in a way that is actually going to help them, rather than just continue to stoke their grievances.

BLITZER: Is Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority harboring terrorists?

RICE: Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority are clearly not doing what they need to do to get rid of the terrorists in their midst and to break up these terrorist networks. We have said for quite a long time that there is a lot of disappointment with Chairman Arafat, who has had many opportunities to advance the cause of his people. But you can't continue to play loosely with terrorists. You have to crack down on them.

There have been times when, through security cooperation, the Palestinian Authority has actually been helpful in improving the security situation. And so, perhaps it is possible that it can do it. It just needs to do more.

The president expects effort on the part of the Palestinian Authority. He expects effort on the part of the Arab states, Israel's neighbors. And he expects effort on the part of Israel to get this done. This cannot be done by any one party.

BLITZER: A poll that came out earlier in the week, a CNN-USA Today Gallup poll asked whether the U.S. policy, the Bush administration policy on terrorism should apply to Yasser Arafat. Seventy-seven percent said yes; 16 percent said no.

Is Yasser Arafat, according to your definition of making no distinction -- the president's definition, no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor terrorists, is Yasser Arafat a terrorist?

RICE: We've said to Chairman Arafat that he, as a leader of the Palestinian people, has a responsibility to deal with terrorism.

Now, we're treating him no differently than we have treated many, many other leaders in the world. For instance, if you take President Saleh of Yemen. We know that there's a terrorist problem in Yemen, and so we are helping the Yemenis to deal with the terrorist problem there.

The United States stands ready to help the Palestinian Authority and has, through its security cooperation, trilateral security talks, the sharing of law enforcement and intelligence, to try and deal with the terrorist problem.

We expect the Palestinian leadership to do so, and we expect the Arab neighbors of Israel to bring maximum pressure on the Palestinian leadership to do so. Because without that help, it is not going to be possible to bring into being either a Palestinian state nor to fully secure Israel.

So, that's the goal, and we're working very hard toward it. Secretary Powell will go out this evening and start to work at it again.

BLITZER: As you know, some prominent conservatives, most of them Republicans, wrote a letter to the president complaining about U.S. pressure on Israel. Among other things, they wrote this: "Mr. President, it can no longer be the policy of the United States to urge, much less pressure, Israel to continue negotiating with Mr. Arafat any more than we would be willing to be pressured to negotiate with Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar."

Is there a difference there that you see?

RICE: I don't believe that we've ever had a peace process with Mullah Omar or Osama bin Laden.

RICE: Obviously there is a different mechanism in the Middle East. It has a long history. It has a history of Israel's Arab neighbors coming to terms with Israel's right to exist, first with Sadat and then with the king of Jordan, Hussein.

It has a history of an Oslo process coming out the Madrid conference, which was sponsored by Republican president, and the Oslo conference which established a negotiating process between the parties. We have a security work plan between the parties, the Tenet plan. We have a blueprint in the Mitchell plan. I don't think we have any of that with Osama bin Laden and with Mullah Omar.

So yes, the circumstances are different, but the bottom line is the same, and that is that terrorism cannot be legitimized in any form for any cause. And it is the responsibility of the parties in the region to recognize that and to speak out very strongly.

That's why the president has spent so much time talking about what Israel's neighbors need to do to make certain that no one is inciting terrorism.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We have to take a short break. When we come back, I'll ask Dr. Rice when the United States will launch military strikes against Iraq. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. More of our conversation now with the U.S. national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: As you know, the Palestinians say that, as long as the Israeli occupation continues, that's the root cause of their response, which in effect is the suicide bombers, the terrorism that we've all seen over these past many weeks and months.

I want you to listen to what the president said in his speech on Thursday about the issue of Israeli settlements and the occupation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Consistent with the Mitchell plan, Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop. And the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognized boundaries consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does the U.S. want Israel to begin dismantling those Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza?

RICE: The Mitchell plan actually talks about settlements, and it talks about stopping the settlement activity so that indeed it can -- the stopping of the settlement activity can spur an effort to bring about those secure and defensible borders. And that is what the president was asking the Israelis to do.

The elements of a peace are well known, and they are well known on both sides. And what the president did on Thursday was to remind the parties in the region of their individual responsibilities, each of them, of their responsibilities to bring about peace.

The Israelis need their Arab neighbors. They need good relations with the Palestinian people who are going to be their neighbors.

But the Palestinian people also need good relations with the Israelis, because there is not going to be a secure, a viable Palestinian state until people are prepared to recognize Israel's right to exist and to normalize relations with it. And so this is a call to all parties in the region to take their responsibilities more seriously than they have to now.

BLITZER: As you know, first White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, then the president himself, this past week, seemed to suggest that former President Clinton's Camp David efforts may have contributed to this deterioration, the return of the intifada and now, indeed, the war that is being waged in the West Bank.

Could you clarify precisely where the president thinks the former president may have erred in his entire Middle East initiative?

RICE: I think the president said it best at Crawford yesterday. He appreciates and, indeed, at the time, supported fully what the Clinton administration was trying to do in bringing about peace.

This was not a matter of error, this was a matter of a very, very hard problem, in which the Clinton administration gave it everything that it had to try and bring about peace.

The reason that you didn't get a deal between Prime Minister Barak, who was also willing to do many things that I think most people had thought unthinkable for an Israeli prime minister -- the reason you didn't get that deal was that Yasser Arafat walked away from it. And it was yet another case of the failure of his leadership.

It is also the case that the Arab states were perhaps not as engaged in the process as they needed to be. They have responsibilities too. Israel's neighbors have responsibilities.

So no, the president puts no blame on the United States for trying to bring peace. What he does say is that, after the Palestinian leadership decided that it could not accept the rather generous terms that were put before it, an intifada was called, and it has been spiraling downhill ever since.

Now, we're trying to deal with that circumstance, and Secretary Powell is beginning that process, but we have to go back to first principles. The parties know what it will take to get peace. It's not easy, and these are hard decisions, but they're going to have to take them. And the president and the secretary expect them to cooperate in moving forward.

BLITZER: Dr. Rice, the Wall Street Journal, in an editorial on Friday, wrote this: "President Bush bowed to pressure from Europe, the Arab world and most of the U.S. media yesterday, by urging Israel to end its siege against Palestinian terrorists. This strikes us as a mistake, maybe even a large one, though it all might be redeemed if this helps Mr. Bush refocus the war on terror back on Iraq."

How close is the United States to launching military strikes against Iraq?

RICE: Well, first let me say that this is a president who speaks the truth. And when he believes that it is important to say something, he says it, and that's what he did on Thursday.

RICE: He also believed that it was important to speak the truth about the growing threat of weapons of mass destruction. Yesterday, at the press conference with Prime Minister Blair, they talked about this growing threat of weapons of mass destruction.

And everyone knows that Saddam Hussein is a -- the Saddam Hussein regime is one that not only threatens its own people and threatens its neighbors, but it has been trying aggressively, for almost 20 years, to get weapons of mass destruction. And everyone knows that that would be a true disaster for international security and peace. So the status quo isn't acceptable.

Now, the means that should be used to deal with Saddam Hussein and to bring him to account and, indeed, to bring a regime to power that the Iraqi people deserve rather than the one that they have, those means are varied and many. And the president has not decided to use military force. There may be other things that can be done.

But what the president did in his State of the Union, and what he has done consistently since, is to say that the status quo is not acceptable with Iraq.

It would be a terrible mistake for the world to allow this man to continue to flaunt his obligations to the international community, to continue to build weapons of mass destruction under the dark of night, and to one day wake up in a situation in which we're being blackmailed by this bloody dictator. That isn't acceptable.

BLITZER: Dr. Rice, unfortunately we are all out of time, but I want to leave you with this totally unrelated question.

Some speculation, as you know, here in Washington this past week, that if Vice President Dick Cheney is not on the ticket in 2004 with the president, you, Condoleezza Rice, might be the vice presidential candidate. I'm anxious to get your reaction.

RICE: I'm still looking for the time that the NFL job is open, Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

That's what I'm waiting for.

BLITZER: The NFL commissioner's job?

RICE: NFL commissioner or maybe I'll go back to Stanford. Let's see.

BLITZER: In other words, what you are saying is you'd rather be the NFL commissioner than the vice president of the United States?

RICE: I would rather be the NFL commissioner than almost anything, so -- and, Wolf, I have a feeling you share that.

BLITZER: I don't think I'm qualified to be the NFL commissioner, although...

(LAUGHTER)

... I did play football in high school.

(LAUGHTER)

Dr. Rice, thanks so much for joining us.

RICE: Thanks very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And just ahead, with both sides in the Israeli- Palestinian dispute refusing to give ground, will a heightened U.S. role in the Middle East make any difference? We'll ask two leading members of the United States Senate, Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Democrat Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

Late Edition will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I have no illusions. We have no illusions about the difficulty of the issues that lie ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush acknowledging the challenge his administration faces as it steps up diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. Welcome back to Late Edition.

We're joined now by two key members of the United States Senate. In Hartford, Connecticut, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Republican Senator Arlen Specter.

Senators, welcome back to Late Edition.

And, Senator Specter, let me begin with you. Earlier in the week before there was any announcement of Colin Powell going back to the region, you proposed, you made this proposal. Listen to precisely what you said then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: If Secretary of State Colin Powell came into the picture, that would elevate the discussions. And I think there ought to be a broader discussion than only securities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, you're just back from the region yourself. Precisely what do you believe Secretary Powell can achieve?

SPECTER: I believe that Secretary Powell will elevate the discussion. Anthony Zinni has done an excellent job, but I believe that people will listen to Colin Powell where they wouldn't listen to Anthony Zinni.

Also, when Secretary of State Powell is there, he will broaden the discussion beyond security to the overall political settlement about the Palestinian state, what would be done with settlements, what would be done with boundaries, and a lot more emphasis on getting a comprehensive peace arrangement worked out.

BLITZER: Senator Specter, should Secretary Powell meet directly with Yasser Arafat?

SPECTER: Well, I'm beginning to have some doubts about that, Wolf, because, in the course of the past few days, there has been evidence about Arafat being directly involved in paying off terrorists recently.

And up till that time, we had said, well, Arafat's not doing all that he should. But with this evidence at hand, I don't know that it's going to be possible to deal with Arafat, because there is absolutely no trust by Sharon, and now I have grave doubts, after having met with Arafat myself just a week ago Tuesday, as to whether anything useful could be accomplished with Arafat or whether there has to be somebody new come into the picture.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, I know you support the president's decision to dispatch Secretary Powell to the region. But if he doesn't meet with Yasser Arafat, that's half of the problem there. What can be accomplished, if anything? SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, it's an important call, and I'm going to defer to Secretary Powell on this one when he gets to the region. I presume they're weighing the decision whether or not to meet with Arafat or not.

And Senator Specter has certainly raised a very, very important point about whether or not Yasser Arafat has fallen into the camp of being purely a terrorist. And I don't necessarily subscribe to that yet, but it's going to be important for Secretary Powell to determine the importance. Just meeting with Chairman Arafat for the sake of meeting him I don't think would serve any purpose at all.

But that's a decision that is more, not right or wrong, but how smart is it? Is it going to contribute to bringing about a cease-fire agreement here? Is it going to advance the cause of providing some sort of a lasting agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis or not?

And those are decisions best left, I think, to Secretary Powell and a staff on the ground. I wouldn't want to see a decision made preemptively, saying I'm either absolutely going to see him or I'm absolutely not going to see him. It seems like it has to be a smart call.

Secondly, it's going to be important, in looking at the Palestinian side of this question, as to whether or not Yasser Arafat is being seen as sort of bowing to U.S. interests here, or to Israeli interests.

I think the most important meetings that Secretary Powell could have will not be with Prime Minister Sharon or with Chairman Arafat, but rather with moderate Arab leaders in Jordan, in Egypt and elsewhere in the region. That's going to be the critical piece to this puzzle, in my view, in determining the ultimate success of the Powell visit.

BLITZER: Senator Specter, why was it OK for you to meet with Chairman Arafat but it might not necessarily be a good idea for the secretary to meet with him?

SPECTER: Because when I met with Chairman Arafat, we did not have this latest evidence. I saw Arafat a week ago Tuesday in Ramallah, and I've met with him on other occasions. And up until that time, the issue had been he wasn't doing all that he should have done. He hadn't made a declaration for the suicide bombings to stop.

But this past week, just a few days ago, we got documentary evidence that Arafat personally authorized payments to the terrorists.

Wolf, I think perhaps the answer that Secretary of State Colin Powell has to answer is the one you very directly asked Dr. Rice, and that is, is Arafat harboring terrorists? Is Arafat himself a terrorist? Dr. Rice, who is doing an excellent job, wasn't prepared to give you a really direct, responsive answer to that question.

But I think that Colin Powell ought to look at those documents, ought to see if they are authentic, if they do bear Arafat's handwriting.

SPECTER: And I think, if that is established, I wouldn't meet with him, and I would ask the secretary of state not to meet with him.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, I want to move on and ask you about the president's call on the Israeli government, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to begin the withdrawal from these territories recently reoccupied immediately, "without delay" in his words. Listen to what the president said on Saturday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Israel should halt incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas and begin to withdraw, without delay, from those cities it has recently occupied.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you agree with the president's call?

DODD: Well, first of all, let me say, Wolf, the Israeli response to these suicide bombings and attacks, the massacre -- and I call it a "massacre" in Natanya, where now apparently some 26, 27 people, some of these latest injuries have turned into casualties, that was a massacre. And the Israeli response to that is something that every single American can understand, and people around the world. It's certainly how we would feel in this country, if there were suicide bombers and attacks, and we knew where they were coming from, happened in this country. So I am very sympathetic to the Israeli response to these attacks on the civilian populations of their country.

Now, having said that, I think the president, after nine days now, is on the right track here, to get a withdrawal, moving back from these -- to these incursions in the West Bank makes sense to me.

If you're going to -- if a Powell visit is going to achieve anything, it may not achieve a peace agreement here, but if it can achieve the cessation of hostility, of the state of war that exists in the Middle East, that would be a major accomplishment. And so, I support what he's suggesting.

And I would hope that Prime Minister Sharon and his supporters in Israel would take heed. It's going to be very important, if President Bush and Secretary Powell are going to be influential in this visit, if they're going to be influential with moderate Arab leaders, if they're going to be influential with Palestinians, then there needs to be a sense that his calling on the Israelis to take these steps is also going to be heeded.

If they don't, then we run the risk of the Powell visit losing the influence in other places in the region.

BLITZER: Yet, at the same time, Senator Specter, some critics of the president's call on Israel to begin that withdrawal immediately say that he, in effect, will be rewarding terrorists if the Israelis are forced to comply. What do you say about that? SPECTER: Well, I say that the president might well have asked Arafat last Thursday to make the finite statement we've all been looking for for a long time, that is, to say in Arabic forcefully and emphatically that the suicide bombers should stop the suicide bombing.

I think that it's asking Sharon a lot, really, when he is moving in self-defense, to eliminate suicide bombers, to withhold on that very important matter.

Look here. The foreign ministers of the Arabs met in Cairo yesterday. If they had said, "We're prepared on withdrawal to denounce the intifada" -- they're supporting the intifada. They're supporting the suicide bombers. They're talking about boycotts. And especially in light of the evidence which came up this week about Arafat being personally involved in authorizing the payments for terrorism, I think that it's asking a lot of Sharon to withdraw.

And I think Dr. Rice may have signified perhaps a little bit when she said earlier on your program that the president is not asking Israel to withdraw helter skelter, that there is some latitude, some wiggle room, perhaps.

BLITZER: All right, Senators, please stand by. We have to take a quick break.

We have a lot more to talk about with Senators Specter and Dodd. They'll also be taking your phone calls. Late Edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We are talking with Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Senators, we have a caller from Ohio. Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Hi, my question is this. I'm hearing on the news about how Israel must protect itself. I'm wondering if the Palestinians have a right to protect themselves against having their homes attacked and being killed?

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Dodd?

DODD: Well, yes, obviously, look, that's the right of self- protection. But here -- let's go back and remind ourselves again of how this all -- the most recent events occurred. It would end up with suicide bombings, going into seder dinners and to cafes, that any self-respecting nation has to defend itself and to go in and try to rout the causes of that and to respond to it.

It's not a policy, in my view, to occupy the West Bank. It's a reaction and an understandable reaction.

But again, as I made the point earlier. I think the president is on the right track here, that if Colin Powell's visit is going to mean anything, he's got to be in a position to be able to deal with both sides. If he cannot do that, if he cannot deal with moderate Arab leaders, with the Palestinians, as well as our friends in Israel, then this is a wasted visit entirely.

So self-protection is understandable, but let's not forget how this occurred, the most recent events occurred. And the United States, just imagine how -- well, look how we have reacted as a result of what happened on September 11. And if something similar again were to happen here and we knew where it came from, I don't -- I wouldn't want to suggest to you that we wouldn't respond in a similar way. I think we would.

BLITZER: Senator Specter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was former President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, has a piece in the New York Times today. Among other things, he writes this: "There is a nearly unanimous global consensus that United States policy has become one-sided and morally hypocritical, with clear displays of sympathy for Israeli victims of terrorist violence and relative indifference to the much more numerous Palestinian civilian casualties. At risk is America's ability to maintain international support for the war on terrorism, and especially for plans to deal with Saddam Hussein."

Is Dr. Brzezinski right?

SPECTER: He is dead wrong. The Israeli response here has been on attacks on civilians with suicide bombers, and that is what has caused the Israeli action.

And when President Bush says that there is going to be no daylight between the United States and Israel, he is doing so because of really the identify as to what happened to us on 9/11, with suicide bombers who were a little more sophisticated. They hijacked planes and they went into the Trade Center. And they had a plane heading for the Capital and a plane heading for the White House.

But our support of Israel, a tiny nation, a democracy, shared values, surrounded by hundreds of millions of hostile nations, is exactly the right course. And Dr. Brzezinski is wrong, in my opinion.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, a lot of us are old enough to remember the 1973 Israeli-Arab war, the oil embargo that followed, that came in the midst of that war. We're now hearing similar threats from oil- producing nations. The Ayotollah in Iran, for example, said only on Friday, quoted in the New York Times, "The oil belongs to the people and can be used as a weapon against the West, and those who support the savage regime of Israel."

How worried should the American public be about another oil embargo against the United States?

DODD: Well, it's a concern. I listened to Secretary Powell this morning indicate that they have no evidence that there is any likelihood of an embargo by Arab states. You have to separate the Ayotollah from the our moderate Arab friends in the Middle East before you draw any conclusions, that would be one of the tactics used. But it's a possibility.

And, Wolf, let me go further here. Beyond an oil embargo, my concern would be that what we've seen on suicide bombers in Israel, is fear that it could happen here. This is a situation that, if not well handled in the coming days -- this is a very important visit that Secretary Powell is about to make. And while he has low expectations and has been stating such, it's going to be absolutely essential that we bring an end to the hostilities, the present hostilities there.

Whether or not you can achieve peace in this visit is unlikely. But to get back on a track again of drawing down this kind of massacres that are going on, the loss of civilian life, to re-engage these moderate Arab leaders. They're the ones who are going to play a critical role here. Before these spins totally out of control.

And instead of having suicide bombers occurring in cafes in Israel, as outrageous and despicable as that is, it could happen here. That's one of my fears.

SPECTER: (OFF-MIKE)

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Senator Specter. I wanted to ask you, do you agree with that?

SPECTER: Well, I would supplement what Senator Dodd has ably said by saying that I would take on Iran's Ayatollah head on. If he wants to use oil as a weapon, I'd rather see him do that than the terrorism and the complicity of Iran in bombing Khobar Towers back in 1996. Iran is under indictment in a United States district court for criminal conspiracy there.

It might be, Wolf, in the long run that had that oil embargo in 1973 continued, there would have been some very excruciating short- term pain. But the United States might have done what we should have done a long time ago, and ought to do now, and that is free ourselves from dependence on OPEC oil.

We have a lot of coal in America. We could produce it in a clean way. We could go to hydropower. We could go to a variety of alternatives. And in the long run, we would be a lot better off if we didn't have to knuckle to Iran and Iraq oil and also Saudi oil.

BLITZER: But what about, Senator Specter, the fear that Senator Dodd just expressed, that the kind of suicide bombings at cafes and restaurants, at supermarkets that we've been seeing in Israel these last few weeks could spread to here in the United States?

SPECTER: I think Chris Dodd is exactly right. If we don't stop the suicide bombings in Israel, they may become an international terrorist way of life. They may become a plague. And they could happen anywhere if they gain currency and if they are permitted to go unchecked.

And that's why, when Sharon moves in in self-defence to rout out these terrorists and to stop the suicide bombers, who can say he's wrong? And when the Arab ministers, foreign ministers met in Cairo yesterday, why didn't they say, if Israel withdraws, we will call on the suicide bombers to stop? Even a conditional statement. Why hasn't Arafat made that statement? Why are they talking about supporting the intifada? And that kind of talk just encourages suicide bombers everywhere.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, I'm going to let you have the last word. As you look ahead to the next few days, you say this is a critical visit...

DODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... by the secretary of state. What happens if he fails?

DODD: Well, I'm not going to even go into -- failure is not acceptable here, in my view. We've got to think strategically. This is obviously -- we can get into the game of back and forth here between the Palestinians and Israelis, and that has a certain currency. But we've got to step back and think strategically.

This is an issue, obviously, that's critically important to both the Palestinians and Israelis, but it is also critical to our own self-interests and our relationships in the region, our relationships in Europe and elsewhere around the globe. This is a spreading problem. And this issue needs to be addressed.

And I'm confident Colin Powell -- Arlen had it right a week ago. And my only regret is here that the administration didn't act sooner. I have great respect for General Zinni. But, frankly, you cannot leave the Middle East on the back burner. And for the last 14 or 15 months, we've done that. You've got to stay engaged in this part of the world if you're going to protect our interests and, obviously, those of our friends in Israel and to reduce the level of violence we're seeing today.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd and Senator Specter, thanks so much for joining us on this Sunday on Late Edition. Appreciate it very much.

SPECTER: Nice being with you with you, Wolf. Thank you.

DODD: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

And coming up, the next hour of Late Edition, we'll check the hour's top stories. Then we'll go live to the Middle East. We'll hear from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Also, the former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the international negotiator George Mitchell join us live to preview Secretary Powell's trip to the region.

Plus, Bruce Morton shares his thoughts about the seemingly endless violence in the region. All that, plus your phone calls and e-mail, when Late Edition continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We'll go live to the Middle East in just a moment, but first, here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: We're now going to hear directly from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Joining us now live from Jerusalem, the Israeli foreign policy adviser Daniel Ayalon, and in Cairo, Egypt, the Palestinian cabinet minister Nabil Sha'ath.

Gentlemen, welcome to Late Edition.

And let me begin with you, Mr. Ayalon, and remind you what the president -- President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said on this program, only within the past hour, about expecting Israel to begin a withdrawal immediately. Listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE: "Without delay" means without delay. It means now. As a matter of fact, I think the president used the word "now" with Prime Minister Sharon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She was referring to that conversation, that phone conversation that President Bush had with Prime Minister Sharon.

When will Israel begin the withdrawal from these territories?

DANIEL AYALON, ISRAELI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Well, we will pull out, no doubt. We will never ignore the president's request, which also is congruent with our objectives and with our goals.

But one thing is for sure, that before we pull out, we must make sure the terror is uprooted and that it cannot bounce back and cause all the carnage that it has, deteriorating further the situation.

We will pull out, and I believe that we can do it as soon as we finish the job, and that will be, hopefully, very soon.

Also, you have to bear in mind that a pullout cannot just be a chaotic one, a helter-skelter. It takes some time, but certainly, we will heed the president's request and advice. We will do it also of our own concern and our own interests, because we are not there for the duration, we are there for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to uproot the terror.

BLITZER: Well, as you heard Jerrold Kessel say in this program earlier, that the Israelis, the military operation is not winding down. In fact, it seems to be intensifying today.

When you say the Israelis will withdraw soon, very soon, what does that mean precisely? Within hours, within days, within weeks?

AYALON: Well, I'm not at liberty to divulge any operational details, but certainly this is our intention. I cannot tell you exactly specific locations or time, because of not to compromise the security of our forces.

But, again, this is our objective, this is our aim, to eventually pull out. But we must and ensure the terror will not bounce back. This is our major concern. And no country can live with a kind of terror, this Palestinian terror which was perpetrated at us and caused the carnage. More than 800 Israelis were killed, which, in American terms proportionally, would be more than 40,000 people. No one can suffer that.

We -- the direct responsibility is of the Palestinian Authority and Arafat himself, who is directly involved in financing and directing the terror, as it was found out with our findings in the territories.

BLITZER: All right, let me bring in Nabil Sha'ath in Cairo.

Mr. Sha'ath, the president also had some harsh words for the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. I want you to listen to what he said only yesterday, Saturday, at that joint news conference with the British prime minister Tony Blair, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Chairman Arafat has not kept his word said. He said he would fight off terror, and he hasn't. He needs to speak clearly, in Arabic, to the people of that region and condemn terrorist activities. At the very minimum, he ought to least say something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What about that, Mr. Sha'ath?

NABIL SHA'ATH, PALESTINIAN CABINET MINISTER: President Arafat have said that many,, many times. President Arafat was able to stop all actions by persuasion, not by discipline, because Israelis destroyed all our security forces and all its capability. Between the 16th of December and the first week of January, there was full calm from our side. The Israelis continued the incursions, continued the escalation, the assassinations of people. And that brought a situation which is very hard to control when you are facing Israeli onslaught. And during the last two weeks, with this Israeli new attack on our people, Arafat is besieged in two rooms, Arafat cannot really do much. It's the Israeli juggernaut that are killing, as the Israelis said this morning, 200 people in the last five days.

BLITZER: But the Israelis say they now have evidence that Chairman Arafat personally was signing off on expenses to pay for some of those suicide bombers that created so much damage over these past few weeks.

What do you say about that evidence that they say they've come up with?

SHA'ATH: Rubbish. I mean, you just need to look at what they call evidence.

SHA'ATH: There's nothing but public-relation ploys. These are statement of people asking for money and support, and they have absolutely no relationship to President Arafat or to the financing of suicidal bombings or anything.

The Israelis simply are twisting everything that has to do with truth and fact. When the want to go -- to do facts, and that ought to include them as well because they have -- they are responsible for a lot of terror in the Palestinian territory.

We need a real group of Americans, international observers, to come in and verify. They have resisted any verification by third parties.

BLITZER: All right. What about that, Mr. Ayalon? Rubbish, he says the evidence that you claim directly links Yasser Arafat to those suicide bombers.

AYALON: Well, he has the talk, but we have the evidence, and the evidence is not just from now.

And I would like to set the record straight about what Mr. Sha'ath said. It's not that we just woke up in the morning and we decided to go after poor Palestinians in their territories. It was after brutal attacks and after time after time that we have asked from Mr. Arafat and the Palestinians to simply do what they have committed to in the different Oslo agreements. Just to keep with their words, to make good and fight terror.

Not only they didn't fight terror, but they perpetrated a terror. Arafat is wielding a coalition of terror. He's keeping a strategy of terror.

And this came after he got the best offer he could ever dream of. Everybody's talking now about political horizon. He had it in his hand because we were ready for a Palestinian state in almost all the areas. We were ready to make peace and peaceful reconciliation, historic one, but they attacked us.

BLITZER: Mr. Sha'ath, let me bring back to what -- bring you back to what the president directly urged Chairman Arafat to do. He said, "Speak clearly in Arabic to the people in the region, telling them don't go forward with these kinds terrorist operations."

When will Chairman Arafat be able to do that?

SHA'ATH: President Arafat, and I repeat, has done that several times, in Arabic, in English and in every other language.

Fact of the matter is, you have an Israeli occupation of Palestine, not a Palestinian occupation of Israel.

The gentleman is talking about time limit? When did these suicide bombings start? Back in 1967 when they occupied the West Bank and Gaza? Back in 1994 when we signed the Oslo agreements?

Suicidal bombings is a phenomenon of very recent nature which were a direct result of this intensifying of Israeli occupation, deepening and widening of Israeli siege of Palestinian people, humiliation of Palestinians that President Bush talked about.

President Arafat has talked in Arabic and is willing to talk again once there is an opening for peace. That's what the Tenet plan is all about and the Mitchell plan is all about. Once the Israelis accept these plans -- we are ready even for the broader plan of the Saudi initiative that has become a unanimously accepted Arab plan for real peace. That's the kind of offer that we can accept and, I'm sure, the Israeli people will accept.

BLITZER: And speaking about what the president said, Mr. Ayalon, I want to play for you an excerpt from what the president said about the way Israel is conducting itself right now, what Israel must do for the Palestinians. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Israel should also show a respect, a respect for and concern about the dignity of the Palestinian people who are and will be their neighbors.

It is crucial to distinguish between the terrorists and ordinary Palestinians seeking to provide for their own families.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you say about the president's suggestion to Israel to show greater respect to the Palestinians who are living under Israeli occupation?

AYALON: Well, we sympathize with that very much. We would like to see Palestinians go about living their life in a normal way. The responsibility for their plight squarely lies within their leadership.

And here they talked about -- the speaker before me spoke about Israeli occupation. This is something also which is very wrong.

AYALON: Let remind you, historical facts, we are not occupier in this land. This is a God-given land to us, this is the land, the territories that you are speaking about, is the cradle of the Jewish nation. This is where we have had our nation building in 4,000 years, so we are not occupiers.

However, we are ready to give up for pragmatic reasons. We do understand that the Palestinians are there are and they have rights. But, again, I don't think there are any nations, any other nation in the world, which would give up voluntarily a part of their fatherlands, and certainly when we were not defeated in the war. We were ready to do that, and we are still ready to do that. But we would like to see Palestinian state, living side by side with us in secure and recognized borders, and keeping Israel as a Jewish state. Again, together with the -- and compared with the vision of the president.

But one thing we do not want to see is a Palestinian state which will be instead of Israel right. Right now they are bent on the destruction of the state of Israel, and this is the problem.

BLITZER: All right.

AYALON: Not the occupation, their terror, and not recognizing Israel's right to exist in secure and recognized borders with dignity and peaceful relations.

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, we are taking a short break. We have a lot more to talk about.

We'll continue our discussion with the Palestinian cabinet minister Nabil Sha'ath and the Israel foreign policy adviser Daniel Ayalon, when Late Edition continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're talking about efforts to end the Middle East crisis with the Israeli foreign policy adviser Daniel Ayalon and the Palestinian cabinet minister Nabil Sha'ath.

Mr. Sha'ath, there still seems to be a little doubt right now whether Secretary Powell will in fact meet with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat when he is in the region later this week.

Do you have any doubt about that?

SHA'ATH: No, I don't think so, although he has been quoted as saying that. But I mean, it would be utterly ridiculous if he was to come to implement the -- what President Bush has said and really bring not only short-term peace, but long-term peace built on a Palestinian state and a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and then turns around and ignores a very simple demonstration of that self-determination. They elected democratically their president and their authority.

And if Mr. Powell doesn't meet with the Palestinians, the major aggrieved party under occupation, contrary to what Mr. Ayalon said -- it reminds me of Milosevic and Kosovo. But let's forget that for a minute.

Mr. Powell will not meet with anybody if he doesn't meet with Mr. Arafat. There is no Palestinians willing to talk to him. And I doubt that the Arab leaders will talk to him, will say anything useful to him if he is not going to see the major party.

I think he's going to meet Mr. Arafat. BLITZER: And, Mr. Ayalon, the Israelis effectively have Mr. Arafat under house arrest in Ramallah. Will you allow -- will your government allow the secretary of state to meet with Mr. Arafat?

AYALON: Well, I have no doubt that when the secretary of state arrives here and he has his plans, there is no interference from our part whatsoever. We respect very much the secretary. We welcome his coming to the area, and we will cooperate with him to the extent possible, as we have in the past.

The problem with Arafat, it is true that he is the recognized leader of the Palestinians. But on the other hand, he is a terrorist, and we have the evidence to prove it. Not only that, he is the major obstacle to any progress. He is the one. And we have here also the benefit of experience. We have all the evidence...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt you. Let me interrupt you for a second, Mr. Ayalon. Let me ask you this direct question. You want Arafat to curtail terrorism, but if he is effectively under house arrest in Ramallah and his security forces have been uprooted by the Israelis, how do you expect him to do much, to cooperate if there is so little he can effectively do?

AYALON: Well, he wasn't secluded and then was asked to combat terrorism. This was the other way around. He had time after time, chances for 18 months now, to stop terror.

Mr. Sha'ath before said, it's only persuasion. Arafat could persuade. He could have done it. He had many opportunities. He has failed them all time after time. And he's the one who is sending the suiciders into our midst. This is a recognized fact, and this is the problem.

BLITZER: And on that point, Nabil...

AYALON: Not only that, he is also very inciteful...

BLITZER: Let me bring back Nabil Sha'ath...

AYALON: ... inciting things (inaudible) Arafat...

BLITZER: Let me bring back Nabil Sha'ath.

Mr. Sha'ath, President Bush seemed to make a very similar point on the issue of suicide bombers, when he spoke out on Thursday in his speech. Listen to what President Bush said specifically on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We call on the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority, and our friends in the Arab world to join us in delivering a clear message to terrorists: Blowing yourself up does not help the Palestinian cause.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Will President Arafat call for an end to suicide bombers?

SHA'ATH: President Arafat will abide fully with a real cease- fire in every way and will do everything within his capability, both persuasion and with very little discipline after the total destruction of his security forces. He had done that, and he will do it again.

This is the essence of the Tenet plan. It requires President Arafat to do certain things. It requires the Israelis to do others, like pull out of the territories and end the siege of the Palestinian people. This is the plan we want to conclude. And as soon as the Israelis are ready, President Arafat will do everything that he has to do. He will commit himself fully to that plan.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting, Mr. Sha'ath, that it's not too late right now for Secretary of State Powell to bring an end to the violence, to create a cease-fire and perhaps resume peace negotiations with Israel?

SHA'ATH: I do think there is a hope, there is a chance. If there wasn't, things would be very, very bleak indeed, not only for Palestinians and Israelis, but for everybody in this Middle East.

SHA'ATH: We still have not only the hope but the determination to bring a cease-fire, to succeed, and to proceed towards a real peace.

I mean, why we were being devastated, I went to Beirut on President Arafat's orders to try to persuade all the Arab leaders to accept the Saudi plan, and they did unanimously. When we were being devastated, we were still talking to General Zinni about a cease-fire.

We want peace for our people. We want peace also for the Israelis. We don't want to stay fighting and be killed by the Israelis. I think we need this to see an end of it.

BLITZER: And very briefly, Mr. Ayalon, we only have a few second left. Do you agree with Mr. Sha'ath there's still hope for a cease- fire and peace negotiations?

AYALON: Certainly. And Israel will do its utmost for the successful implementation of the Tenet and of Zinni's mission.

In fact, Mr. Sha'ath said that they were talking to Zinni about cease-fire and Tenet. We have accepted, and we have accepted fully, the paper that General Zinni prepared, but to no avail.

However, we very much hope that peace will prevail. But for that, terror must stop, and also the incitement.

And here I must tell you that Arafat himself is calling for a million shaheeds (ph) to explode in Jerusalem and in Israel. This is not very helping for peace.

And something else, which is more even worrisome, is the education to peace. Right now, Palestinian children very hateful material, inciting material in their textbooks. So what does that tell about intentions of the Palestinians for the future?

We are very much for peace. We would like that they would change their ways and we can move forward and implement Tenet, Mitchell and beyond.

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, unfortunately, we are all out of time. I want to thank both of you, Daniel Ayalon, Nabil Sha'ath, for joining us on Late Edition. And good luck to both of you in trying to revive these peace negotiations.

Just ahead, with the violence in the Middle East continuing and the crisis sparking protests, both here in the United States and around the world, is the Bush administration's policy shift the answer to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute?

We'll talk with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and international peace negotiator and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, when Late Edition continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: America's committed to ending this conflict and beginning an era of peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush outlining the U.S. mission in the Middle East. Welcome back to Late Edition.

With us now to offer insight into where the Bush administration needs to go are two men with long-time experience in international crises. Here in Washington, the former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. And in New York, the former Senate majority leader and Middle East adviser to the Clinton administration, George Mitchell.

Gentlemen, good to have both of you back on Late Edition. Thank you very much.

We've heard a lot about the Mitchell plan and, Senator Mitchell, we'll be talking to a little bit about that as well.

But let me begin with you, Secretary Kissinger, and ask you. You have enormous experience. You created shuttle diplomacy in the aftermath of the '73 war. Is this policy shift that the Bush administration enunciated this week too little, too late?

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Certainly it isn't too little, and I don't think it's too late.

BLITZER: It isn't too little, you said.

KISSINGER: No. No, it is not too little. It is a very major step, and everything now depends on how the negotiations are going to be conducted. BLITZER: Well, you think there can be a cease-fire between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the short term?

KISSINGER: I think there will be cease-fire, and I think there will be the beginning of negotiations.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Mitchell? You know a lot about this region. You know a lot about the players involved.

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Yes, I do think that will occur. Obviously, there are many difficulties involved. It's extremely complex and highly emotional. But I think that both societies have come to recognize that there's not going to be a military solution, and the only way to resolve this is through negotiation, and the only way is through negotiation led by the United States.

BLITZER: But as you know, Senator Mitchell, a lot of Israelis have lost all confidence in Yasser Arafat. They don't trust him at all. They don't think he can be a true peace partner. On the other side, Palestinians have lost a whole lot of confidence, if they ever had any, in Ariel Sharon. They don't think he's serious about wanting peace.

How do you break that -- how do you solve that problem?

MITCHELL: Well, of course, they're both chosen by their people. Every Israeli I've met wishes someone other than Arafat were the leader of the Palestinians, and every Palestinian I've met wishes someone other than Sharon were the leader of the Israelis.

But as President Bush said just two days ago, it's not up to him or any American or any outsider to tell either society who they must choose as their leaders. And I think, as the leaders of those societies, they recognize this.

Wolf, on my last visit there, which was a few months ago, before the worst of the violence heated up, I was struck by the fact that both Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat said to me separately, after meetings one day after the other, almost exactly the same words: "Senator, this must end, because life has become unbearable for our people." And it's gotten much more unbearable since then, so I think they both recognize the need for bringing this to an end.

BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, on that personal level of mistrust between Sharon and Arafat, can they work together effectively?

KISSINGER: No. Frankly, I think if it depended on the personal relationship between Sharon and Arafat, there would be no negotiations.

And even if it depended on the attitude of the population that want peace but they also want their maximum objective, so that is not -- what the reason why, in my view, there will be negotiations, it's the tremendous influence that President Bush has and the fact that neither of these parties wants to disagree with the approach that President Bush had proposed.

BLITZER: So when you look at the mission that Secretary Powell is about to undertake this week -- going first to meet with various Arab leaders, European leaders, the Russian leader, then go to the region itself -- what do you think he realistically can achieve?

KISSINGER: Well, he has to navigate between two positions. One is the tremendous moral and political influence that the commitment of President Bush represents. On the other hand, he has to avoid the danger that the parties push all their difficult problems over to him so that they have an alibi for failure to achieve something.

But in between there, I think he can find a position not for a final settlement, but for a series of steps that start with the Mitchell plan and that can then lead to a more inclusive settlement.

BLITZER: Is that -- we're talking about the Mitchell, Senator Mitchell. You're the author, of course, of the Mitchell plan.

Is it realistic to assume that Secretary Powell, assuming that he can end the violence in the short term, can get that Mitchell plan, what you came up with, off the ground? And will it require another Camp-David-type summit?

MITCHELL: I think the secretary can do that. I'm not suggesting he do it in one day or one visit. But most of the steps that are set forth in our plan have been widely discussed; the parties understand them.

MITCHELL: I think he can and will make progress, in the general direction, as Secretary Kissinger said, not of getting a final agreement now, but of getting into a process which will bring down the violence and will begin the discussion, in effect the reciprocal steps that our report calls for, leading into meaningful negotiation on the final status issues.

BLITZER: And I assume, Senator Mitchell, you believe that will require the secretary of state to meet directly with the Palestinian leader?

MITCHELL: That will be up to him. And I expect he'll make the judgment based upon what occurs between now and the time he gets to the region. But if I had to guess, I would guess that he will end up talking with him.

BLITZER: What about that, Dr. Kissinger?

KISSINGER: I agree with that point.

BLITZER: But you think he should meet with Arafat?

KISSINGER: No, I think the secretary of state has to make the decision. And I heard Condi Rice was told he has authority to do it. And he will know whether to do it or not.

I think it is important, however, that before he gets to Israel -- because we all talk now about cease-fire and Palestine -- it has to be brought home to the various Arab leaders that terrorism and suicide bombing is an obstacle to stability and peace, and not a way to peace.

And he has to pick up -- and he will pick up, I'm sure -- on what the president stated so eloquently yesterday, about the responsibility of Arab leaders to bring an end to terrorism and to an attack on civilians. That has to be part of the cease-fire.

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, we're going to take a quick break.

We have a lot more to talk about with the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. Late Edition will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're continuing our conversation with the former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, the author of the Mitchell plan.

And let me begin with you, Senator Mitchell. The president yesterday -- actually, in an interview he gave to ITN in Britain -- seemed to suggest that the intensive effort that former President Clinton undertook to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may have backfired, although yesterday he subsequently clarified what he had to say.

But I want you to listen to what he said in that original television interview earlier in the week: "We've had summits in the past, as you may remember. It wasn't all that long ago where a summit was called and nothing happened. And as a result, we had a significant intifada in the area."

And, as I said, yesterday he suggested he wasn't blaming President Clinton for any of that, but there seems to be a notion that what former president Clinton tried to do late in his administration was a major miscalculation. The Arab nations, the Israeli public, the Palestinian public were simply not ready for that kind of bold venture with the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Was it a major blunder?

MITCHELL: Well, I think we should accept the president's clarification, and the clarification made earlier by his spokesman Ari Fleischer when a similar statement was made.

They say there was no intention at all to suggest that the violence was a result of President Clinton's efforts, and I think we should accept that as they say it. And I think that ought to be the end of it.

BLITZER: Well, what about that? Irrespective of what the president and Ari Fleischer said, objectively speaking, Dr. Kissinger, was it a mistake for former president Clinton to go into that Camp David II summit clearly unprepared, the parties unprepared for an agreement?

KISSINGER: Of course, in fairness to President Clinton, one has to say that Prime Minister Barak urged him to go into that summit. I'd make a difference between the intention, which was noble, and the ability to carry it out in one week, which I think was too optimistic.

And the attempt to settle every problem simultaneously has a tendency to radicalize the debate, because it gives a sort of a veto the most extreme groups. So, as a strategy, I prefer the Mitchell approach, and also it's similar to what I used to practice, which is to go one step at a time.

BLITZER: Step-by-step diplomacy...

KISSINGER: But that doesn't -- it's no criticism of the motive and of the desire, of the attempt to do it.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Mitchell? Is it wise to go back to the Kissinger philosophy of step-by-step implement -- I'm talking about the Kissinger philosophy of step-by-step implementing various stages, and assuming you can't get the full deal any time soon?

MITCHELL: Well, of course, that's what President Clinton did. It wasn't as though the summit occurred in a vacuum without any prior events. There had been several steps taken prior to that, several conferences held, some in which President Clinton participated directly and some in which he did not. So I think he should be commended for the effort.

You know, Wolf, a lot of the same criticism was directed at President Clinton for getting involved in Northern Ireland. He was the first and only American president to make resolution of that conflict a high priority for the United States, the only American president to go to Northern Ireland while in office.

And before we got a peace agreement, when there were a lot of setbacks and a lot of violence, there was a lot of criticism leveled at him by some in this country, some in other countries. But the reality is, of course, we would not have gotten the Good Friday agreement, nor the benefits that have flowed from it, even though implementation has been difficult, without his efforts.

So, sometimes it does take a new effort, a new initiative to reach what I think was a very good result in that case. Unfortunate (ph) in the Middle East.

But I also think one thing that hasn't been mentioned that ought to be is that there's a widespread discussion, and I think not universal but widespread acceptance of the fact that, if and when a final agreement is reached in the Middle East, it's going to look very much like what President Clinton himself proposed just before leaving office.

BLITZER: And, Senator Mitchell, as our viewers here in the United States and around the world will recall, it was your personal involvement in that Northern Ireland agreement that achieved the results that, of course, were achieved.

Let's take a caller from California. Go ahead with your question, please.

CALLER: Yes.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

CALLER: Thank you, Wolf. My question's for the secretary, the former secretary of state.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

CALLER: How long do you think it's going to take for everything to come together?

BLITZER: All right, that's a fair question.

Dr. Kissinger?

KISSINGER: I think probably an agreement on negotiations will come fairly soon.

BLITZER: What does that mean, "an agreement own negotiations"?

KISSINGER: The first thing that probably will happen is a cease- fire.

BLITZER: That Secretary Powell will arrange?

KISSINGER: That Secretary Powell will arrange or come close to arranging.

Then there will be the opening of negotiations, which probably involve some haggling.

Then, I believe that one has to move in stages from then on, because to go from where we are with all the killing that has gone on, to a final settlement which requires huge adjustments in positions is not possible.

BLITZER: Even though the outlines were, as Senator Mitchell says, what President Clinton came up to in the final hours at Camp David, seem to be where some agreement might eventually emerge?

KISSINGER: Even that would require for the Arab side a giving up of the '67 borders. It would it be big step toward them, but not a final settlement. It would require from the Israeli side a giving up of settlements. And I think those are steps that will not be taken in the first phase.

BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, you agree with Dr. Kissinger?

MITCHELL: I do. I think it's unrealistic in setting, I think, an unattainable objective, to suggest that a final settlement can be attained immediately. For one thing, Wolf, my experience in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East makes clear that it's very difficult for political leaders to engage in negotiation and compromise at a time of high violence and high emotion that results from it.

So you necessarily have to have a period of time, which our committee called a "cooling-off period," during which other measures will be taken -- some of them rather, modest some significant -- to try to re-establish at least a minimum level of confidence and a minimum level of reduction of emotions, so that when you get to those final status issues, which are extremely tough, obviously -- they haven't been settled over many years and despite many efforts -- that you create a basis, a framework, within which the leaders can make those kind of compromises to reach a final agreement.

So I think Dr. Kissinger is right. It is going to take some time to do that. And I don't think we should suggest, in any way, that that's the secretary's immediate objective and then somehow if he doesn't get that, that he's, quote, "failed." I don't think that's the case. I think he'll make significant progress in that direction and get the process going.

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, stand by. We're going to take another quick break.

We'll have more of your phone calls for Henry Kissinger and George Mitchell. Late Edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our discussion about U.S. policy in the war against terrorism in the Middle East with the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.

Secretary Kissinger, I want you to listen to what the president said on Thursday in his statement about Yasser Arafat's own responsibility for creating this horrible situation that the parties are in right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The situation in which he finds himself today is largely of his own making. He's missed his opportunities and thereby betrayed the hopes of the people he is supposed to lead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, as you know, the said after September 11, if you harbor terrorists, you're no different than a terrorist. There seems to be some evidence -- the Israelis say they have a ton of evidence -- that Yasser Arafat is not only harboring terrorists, but supporting terrorists.

Has president Bush cornered himself in a box, to a certain degree, on this issue? KISSINGER: No, I interpreted the statement to mean that he's giving Arafat one last chance, in response to what European allies and Arab friends have said to us. He is giving him, in my view, one last chance. And if the president has proved anything, that it is not a wise course to cross President Bush and make him doubt you. So I believe that if Arafat fails this test, the Bush doctrine is likely to be applied.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Mitchell? Is this Arafat's last chance?

MITCHELL: Well, I think it's the last chance for a lot of people in the region, that if Secretary Powell and the president aren't able to bring about a reduction in violence and negotiation, I think there is a very difficult and bleak period ahead for very many people.

Wolf, it's a very difficult question. President Bush made that statement and then the very next day he said it's not up to him or any American or anyone else to tell the Palestinian people who they must choose as their leader, just as it is not our view to tell the Israelis who they must choose as their leader.

My hope is that, rather than speculating on failure, we will be strongly supportive and encouraging of the secretary in his visit so that the result will be a positive one, and we won't have to deal with what I think will be the very highly negative consequences of a failed effort now.

BLITZER: Two polls came out, Secretary Kissinger, in Israel this past week. One asked the Israeli public whether they support the Israel government's decision to wage a wide-scale war. Look at the answer. Seventy-two percent supported that decision.

Another poll showed that Ariel Sharon's job-approval rating has increased from 45 percent only a month ago -- not very high -- to 68 percent right now, which seems to suggest the Israeli public very much supports what Sharon is up to.

KISSINGER: Yes. And the polls probably show that the Palestinian public is still standing behind Arafat.

But Sharon will have to convince his public of -- if the negotiations go the right way -- (inaudible) was what finally brought home to the Palestinian side that terrorism doesn't work and that some compromise solution was necessary on their part, and, therefore, also adjustments have to be made in the Israeli position.

BLITZER: All right, let's take a caller from Connecticut. Go ahead with your question, please.

CALLER: Yes, gentlemen, I'm curious why, in light of the evidence, many pieces of evidence, that the mainstream Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat have as their objective the destruction of Israel, why, number one, do you think that Colin Powell will be able to achieve any kind of steps toward peace? And why do you think the entire world has spoken out so vociferously against Israel? BLITZER: All right, let's ask Senator Mitchell those two questions.

Go ahead.

MITCHELL: Well, there is substantial evidence to the contrary, as well. The Oslo Accords, entered into by the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat, specifically provide for a two-state solution and respecting the existence and the sovereignty of Israel behind defensible borders. And there have been numerous statements to that effect.

MITCHELL: And recently, of course, the Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's proposal was to have all of the Arab states accept normal relations with Israel which, of course, suggests that Israel could continue to exist.

There plainly are some among the Palestinians and in other Arab states who do not accept Israel's right to exist. I think they're pursuing a fantasy. Israel's going to be there.

At the same time, there are some in Israel who pursue a policy what they call of transference, in which they favor the physical removal of the 3.5 million Palestinians from the region to someplace else so that it would be entirely Israel. I think that's a fantasy as well.

I think that history, destiny and geography have lead the two people to be side by side. And they're either going to be side by side in peace or in conflict, and my hope is that they'll chose peace.

BLITZER: And very briefly, Dr. Kissinger, you have the last word.

KISSINGER: All of this shows that the next stage of the negotiations has to create a situation in which it could be demonstrated whether or not these two societies can co-exist side by side. That is more important than drawing exact dividing lines. And after some substantial period of this, then one can go to the final stages.

A lot of the pressure on us is because people are shifting to us the responsibilities they ought to take intellectually themselves. They want us to solve the problem without any input of their own.

BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, as usual, thank you very much for joining us.

Senator Mitchell, always a pleasure to have you on Late Edition, as well. Thank you very much for joining us.

MITCHELL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And when we return, your letters to Late Edition, plus Bruce Morton's essay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON: If U.S. policy seems to contain some contradictions, so does what's happening in the Middle East.

Will Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon make peace?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And is eternal crisis the fate of the Middle East? We'll find out when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now Bruce Morton on why the Middle East seems to be a permanent tinder box.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON: Yasser Arafat, people keep saying, should make the terrorists stop. It's not clear that he could. But in any case, the real question is why should the terrorists stop? They're winning.

They are winning arithmetically. A year or so ago, something like 10 Palestinian died for every one Israeli. The numbers are much more even now.

And the terrorists are winning in another way. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon has invaded the West Bank, but military force, while it can kill lots of Palestinians, can't stop terror, unless Sharon's troops shoot every young Palestinian they see.

Peacekeeping won't work either. It works only works when both sides want it, and that's not the case in Israel. The chances of a peace agreement aren't bright either.

The leader of Hamas told the New York Times the other day that Jewish occupation of any piece of Palestine is unacceptable. Jews might be allowed to live in an Islamic Palestine, if they obey the Islamic law, the sharia, he said, but that would be it.

So if Colin Powell or someone else could broker an agreement, terrorists would keep on with their bombs and undermine it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I call on the people Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority, and our friends in the Arab world to join us in delivering a clear message to terrorists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

President Bush is, in a sense, stuck. He is at war with terrorism, which he says is evil. Few would argue, but as E.J. Dionne pointed out in a Washington Post column, terror is a tactic, not an ideology. So the Palestinian militants are using a tactic the president calls "evil" in pursuit of a goal, the Palestinian state, which he has said he supports.

So the president wants Sharon to pull back his troops, but says it was Arafat's failure to stop terror that made them invade in the first place.

If U.S. policy seems to contains some condictions, so does what's happening in Middle East. Will Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon make peace? Don't bet on it. Will the Palestinian's terror groups put down bombs? Not likely, and certainly not because Mr. Bush tells them they should.

The United States has some hold over Israel -- American foreign aid is important to it -- but no leverage with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other radical groups.

Peace, abstractly, would be good for the region of course, and it's natural to think that problems have solutions. But this problem is generations old, and no formula for fixing it comes easily to mind.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce.

And now time for your letters to Late Edition.

Douglas from Tennessee writes this: "If suicide bombers can stop peace, they have the power to determine the destiny of the world."

And Lawrence in Missouri simply says: "The ball is in the Palestinians' court."

As always, we welcome 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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This past week, a second American Taliban surfaced among the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Twenty-two-year-old Yasser Hamdi was taken into custody after a prison uprising in Afghanistan.

He was born to Saudi parents in Louisiana, but moved back to their homeland at the age of one. Hamdi's apparent status as a U.S. citizen raises new legal questions from military and justice officials. Joining us now from Miami to help sort out the case and other legal issues is the criminal defense attorney Roy Black and, here in Washington, the former U.S. attorney Joe DiGenova.

Gentlemen, good to have both of you back on Late Edition.

And, Joe, let me begin with you. What is this -- what do you make of this Yasser Hamdi? He was brought in from Guantanamo. He's now here in the United States. Do you believe, in fact, A, just because he was born in the United States he is a U.S. citizen?

JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, he is, under American law, he is a U.S. citizen, presumptively.

BLITZER: So he can't be stripped of that citizenship?

DIGENOVA: Oh, yes, there are methodologies by which he can be stripped of citizenship, and he can renounce it formally. But the courts have made it very difficult for people to do that, understandably. And to take away someone's citizenship, made it very, very difficult.

But right now he is presumptively an American citizen. And under the rules that the president has established, he will be tried, if at all, if he's committed any crimes -- and we don't know that yet -- in an American court.

His situation, by the way, is why I believe that the original decision to use American courts instead of military commissions, even for U.S. citizens, was a mistake.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Roy Black, that it was a mistake to use the regular civil courts instead of the special military tribunals, military commissions, as the Pentagon suggested, for others, including U.S. citizens like John Walker Lindh, was a mistake?

ROY BLACK, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Wolf, we are justifiably proud in this country of our criminal justice system. We are a nation of laws and procedures. And yet, now, because we're struck with a little problem, we want to ignore this magnificent apparatus and deny it to hundreds and hundreds of people.

I mean, let's face it. If we have this system we're so proud of, why are we afraid to use it?

BLITZER: What about that?

DIGENOVA: I don't think we are afraid to use it. Our system also includes military commissions. The United States Supreme Court has ruled since the Civil War that military commissions can try American civilians in time of war or military conflicts.

All I'm saying is that I would not have used the civil courts because of all the problems associated with security. The judge who tried the original World Trade Center bombing is still under 24-hour, armed guard, and so are some of the witnesses in that case. We do not have to do that in order to provide justice in this country.

But we have chosen civil courts. We're going to use them. We're going to show the world that we're very good at it. It's just not a decision that I would have made.

BLITZER: Yes, he makes a good point there, Roy. You know, if there's going to be threats to the judge, to witnesses, to a jury if there is a jury, why not go ahead and just use those military commissions, given the nature of these alleged crimes?

BLACK: Oh, there's no doubt you can always come up with an excuse to try to take away people's rights. I mean, we tried the heads of Mafia, John Gotti. We've tried terrorists. We've tried, you know, the crazies out West who were trying to dismantle the government -- Waco. We have trials of these people all the time.

Federal judges are under protection all the time; so are state judges. That is no reason to deny people justice.

And these military commissions are not courts. All they are is an administrative proceeding to decide who the Pentagon wants to execute. So let's not confuse this with any kind of justice.

BLITZER: It sounds like that Roy Black is saying these military commissions have the deck stacked against anyone, that they've had their minds made up long before there's any witnesses even.

DIGENOVA: Well, no, actually, that's not true. Military commissions have been used in our history, and indeed people have been acquitted in them, including some of the people who were tried in World War II. Those military commissions, for example, in World War II, did try American citizens who were, in fact, Nazi spies and saboteurs.

But the point is, we are going to use the commissions for non- Americans in certain circumstances. The rules have just been put out for them. They are excellent rules. They permit lawyers, cross examination, presentation of evidence, access even to intelligence information for the defense lawyers.

So, I think, in terms of the kind of tribunals that we've seen in countries elsewhere in the world, these are absolutely superb.

By the way, you saw what happened to one of our American servicemen who fell out of a helicopter in Afghanistan, the kind of justice he got from the Taliban. He was executed on sight.

I think the Americans are quite well, notwithstanding criticism from some of our allies in Europe.

BLACK: Well, Joe, the one thing you're overlooking is that all these rights sound great in theory. The Soviet constitution gave Soviet citizens all those rights. In fact, that constitution was written by Joe Stalin. The problem was, there was no one to enforce those rights.

In this country, we have judges independent of the government who enforce those rights against the government. You can't expect lackeys from the Pentagon to enforce people's rights against the Pentagon and the secretary of defense. It'll never happen.

BLACK: So you can put all those rights you want on pieces of paper, and they're not worth a damn.

DIGENOVA: Well, actually, I disagree with that, Roy. I think our history of military justice is actually a superb one. And, in fact, our courts martial and the history of military commissions has been one of immensely successful, with the provision of rights. And, in fact, as you well know, even the president's order provides for the possibility of habeas corpus and access to federal courts.

So I really -- while I think your metaphor is cute, with Joe Stalin, the American people can be very proud of their military system and, indeed, of the commissions which the president has proposed and the Defense Department has fleshed out with some quite, quite good rules.

BLACK: Joe, these military commissions are not the court-martial system that the Army uses.

DIGENOVA: Yes, I understand that.

BLACK: If they used the Uniform Code of Military Justice, I would agree with you. This is a new function designed by the secretary of defense that has no relationship to court proceedings or court martials.

BLITZER: All right, let's get back to the case of Yasser Hamdi, the second Taliban American.

Joe DiGenova, explain to our viewers why the U.S. government deemed it necessary to bring him out of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, to the Northern District of Virginia, here just outside of Washington, D.C., because of the legal ramifications on other detainees.

DIGENOVA: Well, it's very simple. If he -- once you believe that someone is a U.S. citizen, you've got to get him out of Guantanamo, because if you leave him there, there is a real possibility that any federal judge in the United States who would get a lawsuit filed on his behalf would have jurisdiction over him in Guantanamo because he's an American citizen.

And if the court had jurisdiction over him, the court might then be able to fashion some remedies involving the way Guantanamo prison is being run. So the United States, quite understandably, once they found out he might be an American citizen, immediately removed him to the United States. Now, the reason everyone -- I heard some of the news reports saying that, for some unexplained reason, the plane landed at Dulles first and then went to Richmond. The reason it landed in Dulles is very simple. When someone is regarded...

BLITZER: Dulles is outside of Washington, D.C.

DIGENOVA: Right.

And it's also in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Moussaoui's being tried and Abdul Hamid, otherwise known as John Walker Lindh, is being tried.

When you are returned to the United States, you can be tried in the jurisdiction in which you first land in an airplane. So the military made sure that he was landed in the Eastern District of Virginia, so that, if ultimately there is proof that he committed a crime, he can be indicted in the same courts.

BLITZER: And on that point, as you know, Roy Black, that Eastern District of Virginia, so-called Northern Virginia, right outside of Washington, D.C., has a reputation for being rather speedy in dealing with these kinds of issues. Tell our viewers what you know about this district.

BLACK: Well, Wolf, more than being speedy, the reason they love the Eastern District of Virginia is that the Pentagon happens to be right down the block from the courthouse. So of course, it's the wonderful place for the government to select to try John Walker Lindh, to try Hamdi, to try anyone like that, because you have a high percentage of people there who work for the government, who are attached to the Pentagon. So you're going to get very friendly jurors. And hopefully they'll find a judge who has a backbone with the firm consistency of a banana to go along with whatever the government wants.

BLITZER: And...

DIGENOVA: Well, let me just say this. The reason these cases have been brought to the Eastern District of Virginia is exactly for what Roy said, that the Pentagon is there. However, for a different reason than the one Roy suggested. And that is that, on September the 11th, a plane was flown into the Pentagon and killed hundreds of people inside the Pentagon, and almost 200 people on that plane, one of whom was a friend of mine, Barbara Olson, for whom all of us still grieve.

And that's where venue is for these cases. There was a crime against humanity, in my opinion, committed on September the 11th in New York, in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon in the Eastern District of Virginia. I couldn't think of a better place for these cases to be tried than the scene of the crime. BLITZER: Well, all these high-profile cases in Northern Virginia, Roy Black, the Moussaoui case, the John Walker Lindh case, now the Yasser Hamdi case, is that too much to expect from one court? BLACK: Well, I think it may become a little overwhelming. And I've read quite a few of the pleadings in the Lindh case, and the judge had a hearing on it just the other day. So, I mean, the judges are going to have to take it very seriously, and there's a lot of paper work.

Whereas, if you picked the Southern District of New York, for example, which suffered as a venue far more than the Pentagon did, that would be an excellent place to have these trials, because there are more judges, more support personnel, a bigger U.S. attorney's office, and much more people to draw from.

BLACK: So let's face it, the Eastern District of Virginia as picked for more than being the venue of the crime. It was picked it's very friendly to the government.

BLITZER: Well, Joe DiGenova, you're a former U.S. attorney here in the District of Columbia. Can the Eastern District in Northern Virginia handle all of these high-profile cases?

DIGENOVA: Oh, my goodness, of course they can. They've handled high-profile cases for years. The Ames case was over there.

BLITZER: Aldrich...

DIGENOVA: All of the major spy cases have been held there. This is a fabulous jurisdiction. They have a tremendous group of federal judges, men and women who know how to try cases. But the Southern District of New York has a great group of judges, as well.

But the point is, this court is a brand new courthouse. It has special security precautions. It has a wonderful security perimeter. Not only that, these judges know how to deal with these cases.

One of the fascinating things about the hearing that Roy was talking about that occurred the other day of Abdul Hamid, John Walker Lindh, one of that things that happened in that case was they had this huge hearing on some of the issues in the case. And the defense attorney, Mr. Brosnahan, was arguing that there was no way to tell that -- said that, of course, Mr. Adbul Hamid was not making war against the United States. He wasn't trying to kill Americans. And Judge Ellis cut right to the quick and said, "Well, what was he doing there?" And he, of course, withdrew the question immediately.

There judges are quite good. I think they can handle these cases. What they know how to do is get rid of a lot of unnecessary paper that is usually filed by both sides in these cases.

BLITZER: Well, we are going to pick up that point, how strong of a case does the U.S. government have against John Walker Lindh, the so-called Taliban American, but we have to take a quick break.

We'll have much more with the attorneys Roy Black and Joe DiGenova. They'll also be taking your phone calls, when Late Edition returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're talking about some of the big legal stories of the week, with the criminal defense attorney Roy Black -- he's in Miami -- and the former U.S. attorney Joe Digenova. He's here in Washington.

Roy Black, there's a fascinating article by Steve Brill in Newsweek magazine -- the new issue of that's just coming out today and tomorrow -- that suggests that the government's case against John Walker Lindh, the so-called Taliban-American, is really not that strong of a case. I think you've had a chance to read the article.

James Brosnahan, the defense attorney for John Walker Lindh, is a capable defense attorney. Does he have some openings there to score points?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, you know, we've been following this story since the beginning, and bits and pieces keep coming out. I mean, Steve Brill has summed up brilliantly, as he usually does. But we've seen this as it's been going on, and I've been following the pleadings in the case.

Let's face it, this entire case rests upon this alleged confession given by Lindh. Without that, they're never going to make a case against him. And that confession is open to serious attack. When you look at these photographs we now see of him, strapped naked to the stretcher, he's kept days on end in some type of Dempsey Dumpster in the middle of the desert somewhere, denied access to his lawyer, and they say his confession was voluntary. That's a pretty hard sell.

BLITZER: All right. Joe?

DIGENOVA: Well, I think the government's case is actually quite good. I think Steve Brill's analysis is as bankrupt as Steve Brill's Content magazine was.

BLITZER: Which went under.

DIGENOVA: I think this -- which went under, yes.

Steve Brill's article is really just hyperbole. It's the classic defense lawyer's look at a case. And you know, it's fine, he can do it. The truth is, the government has a very good case. Judge Ellis is going to have a hearing on the admissibility of Abdul Hamid, John Walker Lindh's many statements. He made several different statements to military and law-enforcement authorities. He also made statements to CNN and other news organizations, which will not be suppressed, no matter what happens, and they will be admissible.

I think the total evidence in the case makes the case gain John Walker actually very, very good. It is, of course, like any other case, subject to excellent cross-examination, but I don't think the judge is going to suppress any of his statements. They will all be admitted. The jury will hear them. And I think it will require a Herculean effort, on the part of the defense, to create a reasonable doubt on all of the counts in this case.

BLITZER: But what about the point that Roy Black just made, this picture of him, basically naked, strapped down...

DIGENOVA: Yes.

BLITZER: ... held for days, and then the government says he volunteered...

DIGENOVA: Well...

BLITZER: ... these confessions?

DIGENOVA: ... first of all, he wasn't held for days in this. This was a picture that was taken of him, as were all the other prisoners, taken into custody, were treated this way.

The reason they're naked is that they are trained by Al Qaeda how to hide weapons in their bulky clothing. So when you initially deal with the terrorists, one of the first things you do is you make them naked, so they don't have any place to hide weapons.

Of course he was blindfolded. Of course he was put on a stretcher. First of all, he was injured. He had to be on a stretcher. He was then treated. He received medical treatment, the same medical treatment that American soldiers did. He got the same food, the same rations that the American soldiers got.

I think, again, his treatment will be viewed in context in a war zone, in a military war zone, out in the field. These statements will not be surpressed.

BLITZER: Roy Black...

BLACK: Wolf, can I...

BLITZER: I want you to react. I don't think that Joe Digenova -- but correct me if I'm wrong, I don't believe he convinced you.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACK: No, no, no. Look, let's put it in perspective. Imagine the following. Let's say I take somebody, strip them nake, bind them to a stretcher, keep them in a middle storage tank in the middle of the desert, pump him full of drugs, deny him his right to a lawyer, not telling him that there's a lawyer ready to come in to advise him, and then I have him sign a contract or I sign a will. Do you think any judge in the world would say that that was voluntarily signed? Absolutely not.

DIGENOVA: Sure, in a war zone.

BLACK: Yes. The problem here is, though, you're going to get in front of a judge who's friendly to the government. Remember what you Joe said? The first thing the judge says to the defense is, well, what's your client doing in Afghanistan? You know, the presumption of innocence doesn't mean anything in this case. And unfortunately, the regular rules are going to be bent to be sure that this guy is convicted, and I think that's a shame.

DIGENOVA: Oh, I don't think that's true at all. That question that the judge asked was a perfectly normal question that any judge would ask in a preliminary hearing in a matter. And, of course, the defense decided not to answer the question.

But the bottom line is this. This was a war zone. This is not a fast-moving street scene in Chicago, Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles, Roy, and you know that. This is a war zone. And some of the facts and circumstances are, of course, going to be different than they might be in an ordinary civil case.

But when all is said and done, the conduct of the government, in this case, will be viewed as reasonable, and the confession and all the statements will be admitted.

BLACK: But, Joe, the question is not...

BLITZER: Go ahead.

BLACK: ... whether the government's actions are reasonable in the middle of a war. The question is, did this man voluntarily waive his rights and give that kind of a statement? I think under any test, no one is going to, really looking at this with an unbiased viewpoint, say that at any stretch of the imagination the voluntary.

BLACK: I'm not blaming the United States for capturing him in the middle of a war, and the man's all shot up, and you've got to pump him full of drugs and keep him out in the middle of the desert. You may have to do that. But it doesn't make his actions thereafter voluntary.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Canada. Go ahead, please.

CALLER: Oh, hi. I'm just wondering that -- why that non- American citizen will not get the same right, human right, that the American citizen is getting.

BLITZER: All right. Joe DiGenova, explain that.

DIGENOVA: Well, actually, if they're in our civil courts and they commit crimes in the United States, they would be subject to our civil courts.

But under U.S. law, and under international law, illegal combatants, which is what the Al Qaeda people are, are not entitled to the protection of those laws. They are entitled to be treated as unlawful combatants under the Geneva Conventions and international law, and that's how the Al Qaeda people and those in Guantanamo are being treated. They're being treated to the laws that they are required to be treated under international law.

BLACK: But the problem... BLITZER: Yes. Go ahead, Roy.

BLACK: Well, I was going to say that this is really an embarrassing situation. As Joe explained before, they had to take that one possible American citizen out of Guantanamo immediately. Why? Because they were afraid, if they found out there was an American citizen there, that somebody may be able to go to an American court and actually invoke some rules of law. And our government was so afraid of the rule of law that they had to get somebody out there immediately, so no lawyer or no court could get involved, and I think that's really an embarrassment.

DIGENOVA: No, actually that's not true, Roy. The rule of law is being applied right here.

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that...

BLACK: I though it was the rule of war they were applying, Joe.

DIGENOVA: No, no, no. It's both. It's both the rule of war and the rule of law. And in fact, the United States Supreme...

BLACK: Well, they don't work together.

DIGENOVA: No, no, no. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the rules of war for unlawful combatants apply in these situations, and that military commissions are proper, and that the U.S. courts are not necessary for the treatment of all of these individuals.

That is the law under the United States Constitution. Don't say it's not the rule of law.

BLACK: No, Joe...

DIGENOVA: That is the law.

BLACK: Joe, that's not true. The Constitution says that only Congress can create lesser tribunals. These tribunals were not created by Congress but were created by the executive branch, and that was not the case before the Supreme Court. They upheld Congress' right to create these tribunals. So these tribunals, when they ever occur, are unconstitutional.

DIGENOVA: There is no basis for saying that.

BLITZER: All right. Well, we're going to have to leave that debate for another time because we're all out of time.

Joe DiGenova and Roy Black, two of the best legal minds in the United States. Thanks so much for joining here on Late Edition.

BLACK: Thank you, Wolf.

DIGENOVA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

Coming up next, our Final Round. Our very opinionated panel will weigh in on the day's major stories. You can join in as well. Late Edition's Final Round, right after a news alert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome to Late Edition's Final Round. Joining me, Julianne Malveaux, the syndicated columnist; Peter Beinart of the New Republic; Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online; and Robert George of the New York Post.

We begin with President Bush, who provides our quote of the week. He called on both the Israelis and the Palestinians to make new efforts toward peace, and made it clear that he is growing tired of the Middle East violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Decades of bitter experience teach a clear lesson: Progress is impossible when nations emphasize their grievances and ignore their opportunities. The storms of violence cannot go on. Enough is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: "Enough is enough." Robert, what made the president get more directly involved?

ROBERT GEORGE, "NEW YORK POST": Well, simply put, he had lost control of the agenda on the world stage. Since September 11, George W. Bush has been pushing the policy, has been getting the entire world focusing on the war on terror. Over the last month, and especially since the Passover bombing, everybody has been focusing on the war between Sharon and Arafat. And Bush had to step in there, stop the violence there and, in a sense, reassert his vision for the way the world is going.

BLITZER: So, Julianne, he had no choice?

JULIANNE MALVEAUX, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, it's not just what Robert said. I'm not sure about the world-stage piece, but I think that the other piece of it is international pressure and domestic pressure. We keep seeing the pictures. We hear about the suicide bombs, see the occupation of the Palestinian areas. The numbers are climbing.

If you saw today's New York Times, I mean, Europe basically blames Sharon for what's going on. And I think there has been international pressure. The World Bank and the IMF have also talked about the infrastructure and what all this war means to infrastructure.

So I think he's just been getting quite a bit of pressure.

BLITZER: And, Peter, the Bush administration makes it clear they were tremendously concerned about the spill-over in Jordan, in Egypt, the moderate Arab states, what the impact of this impasse could cause.

PETER BEINART, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Yes, there was an interesting and little-covered thing which happened last week, which was an attack on the U.S. embassy in Bahrain, which is where the U.S. fleet is headquartered.

BLITZER: Where they want to move the Central Command base station.

BEINART: That's right. That augers very poorly for our efforts in Iraq. And I think that they were concerned about that.

And as Robert said, they were also very concerned about domestic politics. Bush thought that he would look statesman-like by remaining aloof. But when a crisis, you know, fuels out of control, an American president who does nothing doesn't look aloof, he looks weak.

BLITZER: But you know, Jonah, some of your fellow conservatives are concerned that this appears to look like the U.S. is rewarding terrorism by stepping in and squeezing the prime minister of Israel to withdraw.

JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, in point of fact, in some ways it is rewarding terrorism, because it is giving many of the people who are orchestrating these suicide bombings precisely what they wanted. It's internationalizing the conflict even more. It's brining the United States in and all of that sort to thing.

But, you know, I think that Bush basically did the right thing.

GOLDBERG: I think Robert's right, that this was basically the breaks weren't working and the car was out of control, and Bush decided that, before this got really out of hand, that he needed to sort of get back on track, to mix a metaphor.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on. Although he said -- he has said a failure of leadership on the part of Yasser Arafat is responsible for much of the current crisis, the president also issued a strong challenge to Israel to end its current military occupation of Palestinian areas.

But the Secretary of State Colin Powell emphasized earlier today the president is offering only some friendly advice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The president doesn't give orders to a sovereign prime minister of another country. But as one of Israel's best friends and most supportive friends, I think Prime Minister Sharon has taken very much to heart and he understands clearly the message the president gave to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Julianne, will Sharon listen to Bush? MALVEAUX: So far he hasn't. Mr. Bush said on Thursday without any hesitation he wanted the troops withdrawn. Today, I believe there was a report on the wire that they're invading Lebanon.

So it seems to me as if he's sort of thumbing his nose at the president. Or if not thumbing his nose, certainly saying, "This is my plan. I'm going to do it in my own time." And he's -- those have been the releases that we've heard earlier.

Of course, you know, we support Israel not only -- you know, clearly monetarily and politically, and the fact to ignore that support, I think is contemptuous. But I think that that's where we are. Sharon is on own path, and he will pay attention to Bush, but eventually.

GEORGE: I don't think responding to attacks from insurgents coming from Lebanon is actually invading -- is invading Lebanon.

But, I mean, the main thing is -- I can't state this point enough. The Passover seder was really Israel's 9/11. I mean... BLITZER: The killings and...

GEORGE: The suicide bombings. You know, 27 people killed and then another 13 or 14 a couple of days later.

MALVEAUX: But that action did not happen in a vacuum.

GEORGE: I know it didn't happen in a vacuum, but the fact is, it has concentrated the people of Israel, now fully supporting Sharon -- you showed a Jerusalem Post poll on the show earlier on. He's got 68 percent support right now, which is right almost up there with what Bush has here. In a sense, he is going to take this war until he can basically say there aren't going to be any more suicide bombings coming the Palestinians.

MALVEAUX: What's he going to do, kill every Palestinian he has to until then? I mean, that's pretty much where we are.

GEORGE: The bombings have stopped since Israel has been engaged.

BEINART: Yes, Robert, the problem is that everyone in Israel, almost, recognizes that eventually they have to withdraw. And the question is, what then?

I think the real problem is that, while Sharon's popularity is very high now, ultimately he can't sustain the popularity if Israel doesn't have some kind of path toward a negotiated process, unless you're actually willing to reoccupy the territories permanently, and no one is even saying that.

So ultimately, I think, the Bush administration did have no choice.

BEINART: Sharon has a lot of popularity now, but only because the Israelis are enraged. When things calm down a little bit, they'll realize they have a prime minister who has no long-term solution. BLITZER: And there's no guarantee, Jonah, as you well know, that another suicide bomber could happen at any moment, basically.

GOLDBERG: Well, that's the real -- that's one of the real problems, is that, even if they do get a cease-fire, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are committed to the destruction of the state of Israel. And so they have little interest in obeying a cease-fire. And to date, Arafat has little desire to enforce one.

You know, but...

MALVEAUX: Jonah, how could he enforce one? How could he actually enforce one?

GOLDBERG: He had plenty of opportunities to enforce them, and he's called for cease-fires before, and there have been cease-fires.

MALVEAUX: But the suicide bombers are like freelance people. They're not people...

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: There's a huge infrastructure required...

MALVEAUX: When you get a 16-year-old girl or a 17-year-old girl who goes and kills another...

GOLDBERG: And gets brainwashed and has to be given a bomb and be trained how to do it and placed in the specific location...

GEORGE: ... by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

BEINART: Yes, at least one-third of these actually come from Al- Aqsa.

But I think Julianne is right, to some degree. Arafat was able to enforce the cease-fire when there was a political solution he could offer his people. He could say, look, there is a nonviolent path to a state.

The problem here is that he can't do that very legitimately with Sharon, because Sharon has, throughout the 1990s, essentially opposed any kind of reasonable deal for a Palestinian state; he continues to.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about a new CNN-Time magazine Gallup poll. In the poll, 77 percent of Americans think the U.S. policy on terrorism should apply to Yasser Arafat.

But earlier today, on this program, the president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, stopped short of calling the Palestinian leader a terrorist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE: We have said to Chairman Arafat that he, as a leader of the Palestinian people, has a responsibility to deal with terrorism. Now, we're treating him no differently than we have treated many, many other leaders in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Peter, is the Bush administration applying a double standard when it comes to terrorism, when it comes to Yasser Arafat?

BEINART: No. I actually think the double standard is probably right.

I mean, Arafat is clearly an odious guy, but the Palestinian Authority is not like Al Qaeda, because the Palestinian Authority is waging a struggle for national liberation. It's like the movements in Kashmir or in Chechnya.

When you have a movement for national liberation which has broad support amongst the people, you simply cannot defeat that militarily, even if the leadership is very bad.

GOLDBERG: I don't necessarily...

GEORGE: The Russians seem to do a pretty good job.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: I don't necessarily disagree with everything that Peter said, except insofar as, simply because it's a war of national liberation, doesn't mean that it's not a terrorist group.

Yasser Arafat, to be sure, is a terrorist. I mean, he was a guy who, one way or the other, was responsible for dozens of terrorist acts, all the way going back to the Munich Olympics and before.

And the idea that somehow, simply because it's a war of national liberation, doesn't mean you can't call these people terrorists seems to me not right.

GOLDBERG: But you can say that, look, there is a double standard, and the reason there's a double standard is because the Arab likes Yasser Arafat and makes it very difficult to call the guy a terrorist. But obviously, he's a terrorist.

MALVEAUX: But even more than that, I mean, let's be clear. There is no Palestinian state. There should be one.

And these people are basically fighting for their lives. You may not see it that way. That's how they see it. They're fighting for their lives, they're fighting for survival, they're for space and they're fighting for their homeland. And that's what Jewish people in Israel would say they're doing, as well.

GEORGE: But I think, though, there is one thing that should be kept in mind here, and something that the administration has to take a look at. And that is, if you recall, 10 years ago during the Gulf War, Arafat sided with Saddam Hussein, while the rest of the Arab world sided with the United States. Saddam, this past week, came in and said he's going to give $25,000 to every family of a suicide bomber. It's almost...

MALVEAUX: That's reprehensible, I agree.

GEORGE: It's a little suspicious, actually, that the racheting up of the suicide bombings coincided, actually, with Cheney's trip over there.

GOLDBERG: And Saddam has a whole division of his army that's dedicated entirely to the liberation of, quote, unquote, "Palestine" and the destruction of Israel.

BLITZER: All right, let's leave it there.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll take on the war in Afghanistan, the government, and is there a new running mate in President Bush's future? Plus, your phone calls and e-mails for our panel.

The Final Round will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our Final Round.

It's six months to the very day that the war in Afghanistan began.

Jonah, how much has the United States really accomplished?

GOLDBERG: It's accomplished a huge amount, when you think about the fact that the Soviets were in Afghanistan for what, a decade, and accomplished far, far less than what we have accomplished in a matter of months. We've rolled up terrorist cells all over the place.

That doesn't mean that we can't do more. It would be nice to see Osama bin Laden in the stocks.

But I think, in many ways, the administration and the United States, in some ways, is suffering from the fact that we accomplished so much so quickly that now people are getting a little impatient.

BLITZER: What about that, Peter?

BEINART: Yes, I think we have. We've done a lot to make ourselves more secure.

I think where we have been less successful is in really creating stability in Afghanistan. You know, we should be supporting an international peacekeeping force there, which we haven't done. And I think we saw the consequences this week when Iran sponsored, essentially, an attempted coup against the government. If America is not willing to create stability in Afghanistan, Iran will move in.

GEORGE: And we also -- we also got Zubaydah. BLITZER: Abu Zubayhah.

GEORGE: I think that was actually favorite name, actually, of the terrorists. No, we've managed to capture him.

And I think we can actually say that obviously it would be nice if we had bin Laden's head on a silver platter, but...

GOLDBERG: It doesn't have to be silver.

(LAUGHTER) GEORGE: Yes. But obviously, there is still a lot more to go, but I think it's been absolutely remarkable.

BLITZER: I'm always amazed at these six-month intervals as if there is any real significance in six months. This is a long struggle, as the president has repeatedly said.

MALVEAUX: It is a long struggle, and we have accomplished some things. But the question is, how long we're going to need to be there. I think that is the big question, how long we need to stay.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to move on and talk a little bit about another story that's been circulating in Washington, at least for a few days, the speculation, speculation that the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, could replace the vice president, Dick Cheney, on the 2004 Republican ticket. Earlier today, she told me she had some other plans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE: I'm still looking for the time that the NFL job is open, Wolf. That's what I'm waiting for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is this at all serious, Jonah, that Condoleezza Rice could be the running mate in the 2004 Bush ticket?

GOLDBERG: I give it a probability of one out of 100. I think, you know, it doesn't hurt anybody in the Bush administration to publicly say that they're considering her or anything like that. But everyone that I've talked to says that, barring the tragic -- it will take the jaws of life to get Dick Cheney out of this White House.

BLITZER: Peter?

BEINART: Yes, I think that's right. You know, people always look better before they've entered elected politics. I mean, no one really know what he positions on domestic politics are. For instance, on abortion, that could be a real nightmare if they try to...

GEORGE: I think it's a great idea. As Jonah said, most likely Cheney will be on the ticket. However, I'm actually looking at 2008 with Jeb Bush, Condoleezza Rice.

(LAUGHTER) MALVEAUX: Way wishful thinking. I mean, Condi brings race and gender to the table, and the Republicans need that. But she's not a politician. She's gotten out a lot more in the last year with Anna Perez (ph) in the White House. But the fact is that she doesn't have a base. She's a brilliant foreign policy analyst, she should keep doing that.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on to talk about a new government report that suggests that oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will not necessarily be harmful to the environment. Environmentalists and some Senate Democrats are accusing the Bush administration of twisting the findings to fit its agenda.

Peter, will the administration get its way on the so-called ANWR drilling?

BEINART: No, they're going to lose. I think it's too bad. I actually think -- I support drilling in ANWR. I think the environmental effects have been way hyped.

But the administration partly brought this on themselves. If they had been really willing to bite the bullet on serious increases in gas-mileage rates, I think they could have been a grand compromise with the Democrats. Both parties, unfortunately, are making us less energy self-sufficient.

GEORGE: I'm delighted to hear Peter be in favor of drilling. I've actually been to ANWR, and I can tell you the environmental arguments about this have been so unbelievably overhyped.

BLITZER: Why?

GEORGE: Well, first of all, the notion that somehow drilling and caribou don't go together is essentially a myth. Where they've had drilling for three decades on the north slope, the number of caribou and the other herd, I can't remember the name of it, the Central Arctic herd, has increased fivefold. In many ways, you could say that these drilling is more like those reefs, these artificial reefs we built off the coast of Mexico.

I don't think the administration will probably get what it wants. Not so much because some grand compromise could have been reached, but because ANWR has become an almost religious icon in parts of the Democratic Party and for environmentalists, regardless of the facts. BLITZER: But wouldn't it go a long way, or at least a little way, to helping the United States regain energy independence, as opposed to being dependent on OPEC?

MALVEAUX: I mean, what price are we going to pay for independence when you look at the environment? It's not an icon of the Democratic Party. I mean, the fact is that there are passionate environmentalists who see this as some pristine and unspoiled area where there really shouldn't be drilling.

I mean, if we get...

GOLDBERG: It's neither pristine nor unspoiled.

MALVEAUX: ... 1 or 2 percent more oil, I'm not sure how much that really does reduce our reliance on OPEC.

What we need to be doing is looking at alternative energy sources and those kinds of things. That doesn't show up in Cheney energy plan.

BLITZER: Teamsters say it would create a lot of jobs though, building those pipelines.

GEORGE: Well, that's actually the interesting -- that's interesting thing here. This is another issue that shows the fault lines between Democrats and their labor base. The labor split in 2000 in, say, West Virginia, that helped cost Al Gore that state.

I think it remains to be seen, if the Teamsters decide to basically sit out the 2002 election, you could see a couple of Senate seats that swing on this issue.

BEINART: You know, it's totally bogus. There are very, very few Teamsters jobs up there in ANWR. The Teamsters are interested in one thing. It's getting the federal oversight board off their back about corruption, and this is a very, very dirty game I think they're playing with the administration. It's got nothing to do with jobs.

BLITZER: Our lightening round -- we'll be right back with our lightening round just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for our lightning round.

The Supreme Court will decide if California's three-strikes-and- you're-out law should apply to minor crimes.

Whatever happened to let the punishment fit the crime, Jonah?

GOLDBERG: Well, I'm actually on two sides of this one. I am sympathetic to the idea that judges should be able to have some flexibility about sentencing. But it's impossible to ignore the fact that crime plummeted with the rise of the three-strikes-and-you're-out movement.

BEINART: I actually don't think it was three strikes and you're out. I think it was, really, kind of better policing.

I think it's a stupid policy, but not everything that's stupid is unconstitutional. This should be repealed in the legislature, not in the courts.

MALVEAUX: I agree that it should be appealed in the legislature. It makes no sense. We're going back to days of the Elizabethan poor laws, where you steal a ham and you're in jail for 25 years to life. It doesn't make any sense. GEORGE: And of course, the other thing is, I mean, these three- strikes laws been around for about seven years now. I mean, somebody who's been a two-time loser, should know better than to, you know, to break yet another law.

MALVEAUX: So you think the crime is rationale? OK.

GEORGE: I didn't say crime was rational.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk about President Bush. He wants to give federal funds to states to promote marriage as a part of welfare reform.

Should the government be in the business of getting couples to the altar?

MALVEAUX: The government should be in the business of getting people jobs. I mean, what they want to talk about, this marriage as poverty prevention -- job training, education. If you give a woman -- the woman can get a degree, she doesn't have to be married, but she can support her family. Put peanut butter over the marriage license. That's the only way it's going to improve the material conditions of a family.

GEORGE: Actually, it's the capitalist system that's, you know, that provides people jobs. But I know you have difficulty with that.

No, but the fact is, it's not a bad thing to spend -- it's a small amount of money in that ...

MALVEAUX: $300 million?

GEORGE: No. That's not what they're talking about in the...

MALVEAUX: Yes, they are. They're talking about $300 million.

GEORGE: $300 million, in context of the budget, is nothing, to focus young women's minds on the idea that it's a good idea, actually, to be in a married, stable relationship. It's good for kids, and it's good for them economically.

BLITZER: I think everybody will agree on that, but should the government be promoting that?

BEINART: If the government has classes for people already married, to teach them how to have stable, communicating marriages, that's fine. But if the government is providing a financial incentive to get married, that's not going to produce the kind of stable, healthy marriages that are the only ones that actually produce better results for kids.

GOLDBERG: I think there are two interesting things about this. One is that this shows that there's a big strain of big-government conservativism in the Bush administration...

BEINART: Social engineering. GOLDBERG: And, well -- and secondly, I think it's interesting the hypocrisy of people who, on the left, who are screaming about this, who have no problem with a whole slough of social engineering things from deadbeat-dad legislation, to the Violence Against Women Act. If the government's going to be in the business, it might as well be in the business of being pro-marriage, rather than anti- marriage.

GEORGE: Teaching them safe sex? Teaching kids safe sex?

GOLDBERG: Yes.

MALVEAUX: But I want to you guys write down that your fellow conservative here said this $300 million was a little bit of money.

MALVEAUX: I'm going to keep that in mind the next time...

GEORGE: In a $1 trillion budget -- in a several-trillion-dollar budget, yes it is.

MALVEAUX: Well, any $3 million program I want, you're going to support it, right?

BLITZER: Let's talk about something else now. After catapulting several unknown authors to the top of the best-seller lists, talk show host Oprah Winfrey is scaling back and could pull -- will pull the plug on her book club.

Will the literary world suffer?

MALVEAUX: The literary world won't suffer, but authors who were waiting for their turn on that book club list will. I mean, she made some people. 70,000 books -- what was the -- sold for one small paperback, she picked it up 1.5 million.

But the fact is that, A, Oprah is winding down. B, we've got to give her tremendous credit for increasing the reading habit in our country.

BLITZER: She will do these recommendations occasionally, but not regularly, as has been the case recently.

GOLDBERG: Yes, I mean, I think it's generally a shame. I mean, it got a lot of people who weren't reading to read, and that's a good thing. The literary world will survive, the publishing world will survive. And hopefully someone else will fill in the breach.

BLITZER: I know that my sister, who's in the publishing business, she's very disappointed.

Do you think that this is really going to cause a serious problem?

BEINART: Well, not if -- I would echo what Jonah says -- not if someone else steps into the breach. I think Oprah set a good example, which is to say, television -- or, to state it in our culture, television needs to support reading. She did that. C-SPAN does that. Others need to as well.

BLITZER: What do you think? Should we do the Wolf Blitzer book list?

GEORGE: I think that's a good idea, Wolf's Book of the Month Club.

BLITZER: Yes.

GOLDBERG: One basketball book after another.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: We're not reading sports books, guys. No sports books.

BLITZER: They would be real short ones.

(LAUGHTER)

According to a new survey, 79 percent of adults think rudeness is a problem in America.

Have you been rude to anyone lately? I can't believe, Jonah, you...

GOLDBERG: Oh, shut up, you moron!

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE (?): I don't know what the hell you're talking about.

MALVEAUX: I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may tend to incriminate me.

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: You know, no matter how much I am provoked by the conservatives on this show, I remain unfailingly polite.

GOLDBERG: Oh, that's because you're a whiny liberal.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: You haven't been hit on the side of the head, have you?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I have a feeling I've been, you know, sort of created into a monster over the...

(LAUGHTER) In any case, I promise I won't be rude, you won't be rude, none of us are going to be rude anymore, right?

MALVEAUX: No.

GOLDBERG: Don't hold your breath.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: Unless the circumstances demand it.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, rudeness or not, we are all out of time. I want to thank all of you for joining us, and I'll see you back here next week, as usual.

GEORGE: Same bat time.

BLITZER: That's your Late Edition for Sunday, April 7. Tune in again next Sunday, every Sunday, at noon Eastern, for the last word in Sunday talk -- very unrude talk, as well.

(LAUGHTER)

Remember, join me Monday through Friday, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, for Wolf Blitzer Reports.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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