CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With John McCain; McDermott, Thompson Discuss Their Trip to Iraq; Should Congress Give President Authority to Wage War?
Aired September 29, 2002 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London, and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.
We'll get to my interview with one of the leading voices on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Republican Senator John McCain, in just a few minutes, but first, a news alert.
BLITZER: And although members of the same political party, President Bush and Arizona Republican Senator John McCain have often differed on many sensitive issues. But Senator McCain is strongly supporting the president's call for a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq. He's also supporting authorization of a possible preemptive strike, if necessary, against Iraq.
Just a short while ago, I spoke with the senator about the case involving Iraq, the war against terrorism, and much more.
BLITZER: Senator McCain, thanks as usual for joining us. Congratulations on the new book, "Worth The Fighting For." We're going to get to that shortly, but let's get to the news of the day.
What do you make of this report of some uranium that may or may not have been enriched uranium that was being smuggled through Turkey perhaps to Iraq. What does that mean to you?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, it means, one, it shouldn't be too surprising since we know that Saddam Hussein has been attempting to acquire these materials in a broad variety of ways for many years. But I think it should also, again, authenticate that Saddam Hussein is not just a survivalist. He is intent on constructing weapons of mass destruction. Every defector, every intelligence agent, every -- you know, all sources tell us that he wants these weapons, particularly a nuclear weapon.
And it's obvious that if all he was interested in was surviving, he wouldn't be seeking the acquisition of these weapons. And I think gives authentication, although a small amount of authentication, to the administration's policies. BLITZER: The Iraqis say they're not going to accept any changes in the terms of reference for U.N. weapons inspectors who supposedly will be going back to Iraq. In other words, they want to make sure the arrangement they worked out in 1998 with Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary general, remains, that they get advanced notification, for example, when those inspectors want to visit sensitive presidential palaces.
The Bush administration and the British government say, no way. What do you say?
MCCAIN: I think it was clear that for many years Saddam Hussein played hide-and-go-seek with the inspectors and moved stuff around and refused them access to places that they should have had access to. And if the inspectors are to return, that we need a robust, intrusive, military-supported regime.
But, Wolf, he's not going to do that. He's not going to allow them back in, because he has these weapons and materials and laboratories and he isn't about to give them up.
So, in a way, it's a bit of a charade what we're going through when they argue for a restoration of a regimen that they didn't comply with before. Do you see my point?
BLITZER: I see your point. The point, though, is let it play out, let the U.N. inspection issue play itself out even though some critics say it's not only a waste of time but it's potentially dangerous, in that it gives the Iraqis more time to potentially develop weapons of mass destruction.
MCCAIN: I don't think there's any doubt about that. Forty years ago, the Congress of the United States, with the support of then President Clinton and Vice President Gore, passed a resolution overwhelmingly calling for a regime change in Iraq. Why? Because they'd thrown out the inspectors, and we had evidence back then in 1998 that Saddam Hussein continued to try to develop these weapons and succeeded to some degree.
And so, one wonders about the lack of skepticism on the part of some people about the Iraqis' sincerity in saying that they would return to a previous regimen of inspections which they (inaudible), delayed, and stymied and eventually stopped themselves. We weren't the ones that kicked the inspectors out of Iraq. It was Saddam Hussein.
And there was some very good people like Mr. Richard Butler and other weapons inspectors who would come on this program at a moment's notice and say there's no doubt that the inspections did not inhibit significantly the efforts he was making.
BLITZER: Well, the inspectors in 1998, at the end of 1998, were asked to leave by the U.N. after it became clear that they weren't able to get their job done and the U.S. and the British were about to launch strikes during the Clinton administration at that time.
I want you to look...
MCCAIN: Could I just make one additional comment?
BLITZER: Go ahead.
MCCAIN: And that's why the president of the United States challenged the United Nations to say, "Look, you're the ones that passed these resolutions. You're the ones that said that Saddam Hussein had to comply with these inspections. And he's the one that didn't.
And so, he's in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. And in all due respect, the United Nations, if that happens, becomes the League of Nations."
BLITZER: The deputy prime minister of Iraq, yesterday, Tariq Aziz, had some strong words about what would happen to U.S. military forces in the event of another war. "Any aggression on Iraq," he said, "will not be a picnic. Instead, it will be a fierce fight, where America will suffer losses that have not been sustained for decades. Iraq is determined to resist and defeat any U.S. attack."
How serious do you take that threat?
MCCAIN: Was that a recent statement or a replay of the statement he made in 1991? Same guy, same song, only -- deja vu all over again. It's the movie "Groundhog Day," not only in what he says, but in their actions.
Mr. Aziz made those same statements in 1991, before we won an overwhelming victory.
I don't claim that any military operation anywhere is going to be easy. In fact, I think, whenever you commit American blood and treasure, it's a great risk and is a last resort and last option.
But I don't know of any Iraqi soldier who is willing to die for Saddam Hussein. We're not going to get into house-to-house fighting in Baghdad. We may have to take out buildings, but we're not going to have a bloodletting of trading American bodies for Iraqi bodies.
One of the highpoints, I thought, of the Persian Gulf War was when hundreds of Iraqis surrendered to a UAV.
He is much weaker militarily, and I believe that the United States military capabilities are such that we can win a victory in a relatively short time. And I, again, I don't think it's, quote, "easy," but I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time.
BLITZER: For those of our viewers who don't know what a UAV is, it's an unmanned aerial vehicle...
MCCAIN: A drone.
BLITZER: ... or a drone, for those who aren't necessarily familiar with military jargon.
The military strategist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Anthony Cordesman, testified before Joe Biden's Foreign Relations Committee at the end of July, and he made the point that this is not going to be an easy military matter by any means. Listen to what Cordesman said.
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ANTHONY CORDESMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Only fools would bet the lives of other men's sons and daughters on their own arrogance and call this force a cakewalk or a speedbump or something that you can dismiss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He was responding, I think, specifically to Ken Adelman, in the past, a former Pentagon official during the Reagan administration, who said it would be a cakewalk.
And since then, you've suggested a few times you don't think it would necessarily be a major military challenge.
MCCAIN: Dr. Cordesman is one of my dearest friends and a former adviser of mine. He and I disagreed in 1991, when he predicted that there would be thousands of casualties as a result of our intervention then. I disagree with him now.
No, I think a "cakewalk" is a very bad choice of words, and I'm sure that Mr. Adelman didn't mean it that way. No military engagement is a, quote, "cakewalk." All kinds of things happen -- Persian Gulf syndrome.
I mean, so I don't mean to understate the challenges we face, but the Iraqi military is weak, much weaker than it was in 1991. The Iraqi people do not support a person who has supervised a steady decline of their standard of living and kept them in a grip of terror.
And I believe our cause is just. To protect the United States of America and our allies from the eventual use of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein I think is a worthy cause.
BLITZER: Your Democratic colleague from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, this week said, what's the rush? I want you to listen specifically to this excerpt from a speech he delivered here in Washington the other day.
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SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: There is clearly a threat from Iraq, and there is clearly a danger. But the administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral preemptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: That sounds like a pretty thoughtful statement from Senator Kennedy, but you disagree with him.
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, one of my disagreements is that this isn't an immediate preemptive strike. The president of the United States is going to the Congress of the United States. Hopefully, I believe next week, we'll take up the resolution. There will be spirited debate, of which Senator Kennedy and others will be a part.
And by the way, the debate we had in 1991, giving the former President Bush the authority, was one of the highpoints of my time in the United States Senate, in the view of many an excellent episode in the history of the United States Senate.
We need this debate. We need to have all of these views ventilated. The American people need to be informed. That's why the president's going -- also the president is going to the United Nations. He's talking to the American people literally every day on this issue.
So, this isn't something that I think is coming out of the blue. And I believe you will see, at the end of this coming week or early in the next week, an overwhelming majority support vote, in both houses of Congress, to support the president if we have to go in and orchestrate a regime change militarily, a significantly majority vote.
But all voices should be heard, including the former vice president's, including Senator Kennedy and others.
BLITZER: As you know, politics seems to have jumped into this issue right now, only a few weeks before the November elections. The president caused a stir, especially among Senator Daschle, earlier this week, remarks the president made in Trenton, New Jersey, that seemed to attack Senate Democrats. Listen to this little excerpt from what Mr. Bush said.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My message to the Senate is, you need to worry less about special interests in Washington and more about the security of the American people.
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BLITZER: Senator Daschle responded very angrily. Among other things, he said this. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: You tell those who fought in Vietnam and in World War II they're not interested in the security of the American people. That is outrageous. Outrageous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Rarely have we seen Senator Daschle that angry, that animated.
Does he have a point?
MCCAIN: I think the president's comments were directed to, and vented his frustration about the failure of the Senate to move forward on the Homeland Security Bill, which has been hung up in the Senate for four weeks.
I think that Senator Daschle's frustration probably had to do with the failure of us moving forward on other issues and, of course, his frustration about not having the focus on perhaps issues that Democrats would like to have the focus on.
We need to not do this to the American people. We need to openly and honestly debate this issue. We need to keep politics out of it. The American people expect better of us.
And I believe that, after that little dust-up, you'll see the issue treated much more respectfully and much less politically by both sides. And I think that the American people will be pleased.
BLITZER: We have to take a quick break. When we return, I'll talk to Senator McCain about a possible link between Iraq and al Qaeda. We'll also talk about his new book, "Worth the Fighting For," and his political future.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
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BUSH: John's a true patriot, a true patriot. He's standing strong as we try to keep the peace here in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush in Arizona on Friday, praising Senator John McCain, who's occasionally been a thorn in his side.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We return now to my interview with Senator McCain.
BLITZER: As we speak right now, three Democratic members of the House of Representatives are in Baghdad meeting with Iraqi officials, getting tours of hospitals and other facilities there, David Bonier being among them, the Democratic congressman from Michigan.
Is it appropriate, in your opinion, Senator McCain, for United States lawmakers to be visiting Baghdad at this moment?
MCCAIN: Oh, I don't much like it, but it's happened many times in the past. I don't deny them their right to do that. I hope that the three that are there now would talk to Congressman Rahall, who was there a week before and was completely stymied in all his efforts. As long as they're careful what they say and what they do, then I think it's fine.
But all of us should keep in mind that foreign affairs, national security issues, et cetera, are generally handled by the executive branch, with the advice and consent of the Congress.
BLITZER: The president this week, his national security adviser, the defense secretary all came out and suggested that there's new evidence or longstanding evidence of a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. Among other things, President Bush said this. Listen.
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BUSH: The regime has longstanding and continuing ties to terrorist organizations, and there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq.
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BLITZER: Have you seen evidence backing up that connection, that linkage between al Qaeda and Iraq?
MCCAIN: Except for the information that's been in the media, including the continued allegations about a meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqis in Prague or Iraqi intelligence people. But I don't have a lot of that information. In fact, I have very little because it hasn't been made public.
But should it surprise anyone if Saddam Hussein had ties or communications with any terrorist organization, given his well-known program of developing weapons and ways to harm the United States of America? So it should astonish no one if that is the case.
But I haven't seen a lot of that information, and I hope the administration would make some of that information source material available.
BLITZER: In a speech last Monday in San Francisco, the former vice president, Al Gore, suggested that going to war against Iraq right now could undermine what he suggested was a much more important objective, continuing to fight al Qaeda and terrorism around the world. Among other things, he said this.
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AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think that we should allow anything to diminish our focus on the necessity for avenging the 3,000 Americans who were murdered.
The fact that we don't know where they are should not cause us to focus, instead, on some other enemy.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Does Mr. Gore have a point?
MCCAIN: I believe that Mr. Gore obscures a fundamental point, and that is that we face a variety of threats, Saddam Hussein being one of them and his desire to acquire weapons of mass destruction. There's al Qaeda cells all over, in some 60 countries according to published reports.
We know that this war on terrorism is going to be a many-year- long struggle, if not decades-long struggle. And at the same time, we have additional threats and a very serious one.
I don't believe that the United States of America will be diverted from the kinds of activities that we have to carry on in order to rout out the al Qaeda cells and get the individuals that are still at large. I don't see a contradiction there.
And may I just add, I respect the vice president's views. I think the American people ought to hear those views. But I also think the vice president ought to talk a little bit about that in 1991 when he supported the resolution on the Persian Gulf, he said that we should only drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
Then, in 1992, he said vociferously that former President Bush made a terrible mistake, a terrible error by not going into Baghdad and taking out Saddam Hussein. And then in 1998, he fully supported the resolution calling for a regime change in Baghdad.
So, everybody has the right to change their mind and their views and their positions, but they ought to explain them.
BLITZER: You know, the new book that you just have come out with, an excellent book, called "Worth the Fighting For," a memoir. Among other things, I want to read a couple of excerpts from the book and get you to talk about it.
One of the things you write about is the Clinton administration's policies toward Iraq. You say this: "The Clinton administration's spasmodic, irresolute and reactive approaches to international security problems were a product of what I believe to be its defining characteristic: self-doubt, a mystifying uncertainty of how to behave in a world in which America was the only superpower."
Very strong, powerful words condemning the foreign policy of the Clinton administration.
MCCAIN: Well, I think some of that has been authenticated to some degree. The president said that he was, quote, "obsessed" with Osama bin Laden and recognized what a threat they were, called for a regime change in 1998, but, with all of that strong rhetoric, launched a few cruise missiles -- one against a pharmaceutical factory and one an alleged training camp.
And that administration and other administrations watched Afghanistan deteriorate to a point where the most radical element in its society took over and then provided training camps, financial networks, everything else for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, which then allowed them to carry out these strikes.
Now, there's a whole lot of people responsible for, including the Congress, for the events that led up to September the 11th. That's why we so badly need an independent commission.
But I believe that a strong argument can be made that the Clinton administration had an extreme reluctance to exercise the military, economic and diplomatic power of the world's greatest superpower to bring about at least some changes and some breaking of the activities of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
BLITZER: One of the most powerful parts of the book, Senator, you write about several of your heroes, your personal heroes. But who is your number-one hero?
MCCAIN: Theodore Roosevelt is my number-one hero. He's a reformer, he had his crowded hour, he took on the robber barons, he took on the hierarchy of his own party, and he had a clear moral compass. But perhaps, in addition to all those things, he had a great sense of the potential for greatness of the United States of America. He understood what a great and noble cause we represented and how the United States of America could develop into the greatest force for good in history, and he really gave it a jumpstart.
BLITZER: Are we going to see you campaigning on the presidential campaign tour in 2004 for yourself?
MCCAIN: No, no, I don't envision that. I don't envision any scenario.
BLITZER: Any scenario?
MCCAIN: I do not envision it, really. I'm very happy with the experiences that I had. And how a guy who stood fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy can run from president shows that anything is possible in America.
BLITZER: It's a wonderful country we have here.
Finally, before I let you go, your health, how are you doing?
MCCAIN: It's just fine, thanks, thanks. Everybody stay out of the sun, use sunscreen, and if you've got a discoloration go see your dermatologist.
BLITZER: I'm going to go see my dermatologist, as well. Thanks for that excellent advice.
Thanks for joining us. The book, for our viewers in the United States and around the world, if you want to have a good read, "Worth the Fighting For," by Senator John McCain.
Appreciate it very much.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: And for all the tough talk about regime change and going it alone, the realities of targeting Saddam Hussein are daunting and indeed very complex.
Coming up tonight, I'll be hosting a CNN special edition of CNN Presents. Correspondents and reporters from CNN and the New York Times will bring us a unique perspective to the showdown with Iraq. It's an in-depth report that includes the strategies of a possible new war in Iraq and driving all the way into Baghdad and perhaps even the possibility of fighting door-to-door. That's tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN Presents.
And just ahead here on LATE EDITION, we'll speak with two U.S. congressmen live from Baghdad. We'll find out what they've learned during their trip to Iraq.
Then, Iraq of course is vowing a very different fight than what allied forces faced during the Gulf War 11 years ago. We'll explore the possible military options this time around with the former NATO supreme commander, retired Army General George Joulwan, retired U.S. Air Force General Buster Glosson, and former Pentagon intelligence analyst Pat Lang.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: He must disarm, and if he does not, it's his choice to make. It's his and the United Nation's choice to make. Our last choice is to commit our troops to harm's way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush challenging Saddam Hussein and making it clear the United States would exercise its military options if necessary.
We'll join our military panel in just a moment, but first Iraqi officials said a U.S. airstrike hit a radar system at Basra Airport early Sunday, the second attack there in three days.
Congressman Mike Thompson of California and Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington state, both Democrats, are visiting Iraq on a humanitarian mission. They're joining us now live from Baghdad.
Congressmen, welcome to LATE EDITION.
I understand both of you were down in that area in the southern part of Iraq in the no-fly zone around Basra. What did you see? Let me begin with you, Congressman McDermott.
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Well, we saw a clinic where they were treating children who have cancer and they have no drugs because of the sanctions. We saw the studies done by a physician about the malformations at birth of children. We saw a diarrhea clinic because of the problems with water in the area.
And as we left, they took us past a window in the airport where they showed a fragment of a shell that had gone through from the attack that was made down there.
BLITZER: Congressman Thompson, the Iraqis have themselves to blame, the regime, for these humanitarian problems they're enduring because they haven't come clean on the inspections. If they did come clean, the sanctions would be lifted and then they could export oil and take in a ton of money and have no serious problems.
Are you conveying that message to the Iraqi leadership?
REP. MIKE THOMPSON (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Wolf, as I told you yesterday, my number-one issue, my number-one reason for being here is to deliver the message that they need to have unconditional open borders, open everything to the inspectors and get them in here so they can do their job without being denied any access.
They should be able to come any place, anywhere because, as I said, I want to avert war. I don't think this country can stand it again, and I certainly don't want to send our soldiers, our American soldiers into harm's way. And if we can avoid it, we need to avoid it. War should be the last option, and that's my number-one reason for being here.
BLITZER: Congressman McDermott, earlier today, you and your colleague, David Bonier of Michigan, were on ABC's This Week. And following you, Senator Don Nickles, a Republican from Oklahoma, one of the leaders of the Republican Party in the Senate, spoke out. He was asked about what he heard from you and Congressman Bonier. I want you to listen to what Senator Nickles said.
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SEN. DON NICKLES (R), OKLAHOMA: I'm really troubled by what I just heard. Congressman McDermott said, well, I think the president would mislead the American people and basically he's taking Saddam Hussein's lines. They both sound somewhat like spokespersons for the Iraqi government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I want you to respond to that, Senator McDermott, if you don't mind.
MCDERMOTT: Well, first of all, the president of the United States has tried everything that he can think of to tie Iraq to al Qaeda and has failed. There is no evidence. They said that was what it was. The CIA said they had no contact, that contact they said they had in the Czech Republic simply never happened.
So the question is, why they keep coming back to this issue and keep trying to hook the Iraqis into that?
My question really is, why do they want the regime change? I would much rather have disarmament here. And what they're doing is really setting up to throw out Saddam Hussein. It has nothing to do with disarmament.
If they were serious, they'd let the inspectors come in from the United Nations, do their job, and then we'll decide what needs to be done. But the administration keeps pushing some way that they can start something before the inspections ever get done. That's not right. It's wrong to create war as the only way to deal with this.
BLITZER: Very briefly, Congressman Thompson, are you returning back to the United States at all hopeful that war can be avoided?
THOMPSON: Well, Wolf, I think the only way it can be avoided is if Saddam Hussein allows the arms inspectors to come in with unrestricted access. It's not only important to avert war to save American lives, to save Iranian lives, but it's also important to provide some stability for this region of the world.
You are right, the conditions here are terrible. This man has suffocated his own people. There's no information able to come in or go out.
I believe it's a tragedy when someone, in this case a dictator, has control of a country with such great wealth. There's so much money possibility here that, if allowed to be freed, could provide drugs, could provide water sanitation, could provide the type of lifestyle that the Iranian people so enjoyed just 10, 12 short years ago.
So, I think that there's a dual responsibility. Saddam Hussein certainly shares in that. The first thing that has to happen is that we need to get these weapons inspectors in here, and there needs to be no conditions. They need to be able...
BLITZER: We just unfortunately lost our satellite picture from Baghdad.
I want to thank Congressman Thompson, Congressman McDermott for joining us. We'll be talking to them when they get back to the United States.
And what obstacles would face U.S. forces if they go to war against Saddam Hussein once again? We'll talk to General George Joulwan, General Buster Glosson and former Pentagon intelligence analyst Pat Lang when we come back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining us now with some insight into what shape a new war with Iraq might take are three military and intelligence experts: here in Washington the former supreme commander of NATO, the retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan; in Charlotte, North Carolina, retired U.S. Air Force General Buster Glosson. He was an architect of the Gulf air war 11 years ago. Also here in Washington, Pat Lang. He's a former analyst with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency over at the Pentagon.
Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION.
And, General Joulwan, I'll begin with you with these latest U.S. and British strikes against Iraqi positions in the northern and southern no-fly zones. Some analysts are suggesting that the U.S. and the British air power, they're trying to soften up the battlefield to a certain degree in advance of a possible war, taking advantage of violations and going back at the Iraqis a little bit more forceful than over the past several months.
What's your reading of this?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: I agree.
And this is within the rules of engagement of Northern Watch and Southern Watch. I had command of Northern Watch for four years. Clearly within the rules of engagement. And we should be degrading their air defense and other capabilities when they violate and fire at us or turn on their radars. We call it hostile intent, as well as hostile act.
So I think, as I said a few weeks ago, that I believe the air war has already started.
BLITZER: What about that, General Glosson, has the air war effectively already started?
GEN. BUSTER GLOSSON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: No, I wouldn't go that far, Wolf. Certainly, as General Jouwlan said, when they're threatened they have a right to respond. And those airplanes that they're sending down, the excursions as they call them, are just that. And Saddam's just testing the system and see how fast we'll react and so forth.
And the reaction has been correct, and we should react every time and destroy anything that threatens us, whether it's air or ground.
BLITZER: General Glosson, a lot of people just assume that the U.S. and its partners will have air superiority immediately, as far as the Iraqi air force is concerned. Do they have any air capabilities left whatsoever from the Gulf War?
GLOSSON: Certainly they have some airplanes and some capability left, but your comments are correct, we would have air superiority very quickly. That is one thing you could be assured of.
BLITZER: Pat Lang, Tony Blair issued a lengthly dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction earlier this week. Among other things, he said this. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: ... that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own Shi'a population, and that he's actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The 45-minute notion sounded new to many analysts, Pat. Was that new to you?
PAT LANG, FORMER ANALYST, U.S. DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Yes, I thought that was a really short lead time that he was projecting for the way they could presumably use chemical warheads, maybe VX nerve gas or something like that.
That would indicate that the British believe, based on their sources of information, and probably American ones as well, that there is a significant capability in terms of aircraft with aerosol bombs or a few guided missiles that are in a position to launch on fairly short notice and have been targeted already. That was a bit of a surprise.
BLITZER: General Joulwan, so how does the U.S. military and potential coalition partners prepare for that, if only going to be 45 minutes to launch weapons of mass destruction against invading troops, let's say?
JOULWAN: Well, I think the first requirement is very good surveillance and intelligence. And we have that opportunity because of what we're flying every day over Iraq.
And then what we need to do is be able to do what I call pre- launch attack. You don't wait for it to launch. And so, you need to have options and plans ready to be able to launch quickly and be able to launch before he launches any missiles against any of his neighbors or against NATO.
BLITZER: Can this war, General Glosson, be won by air power alone?
GLOSSON: No, I would not say that, Wolf. It may work out where air power simultaneously with the special forces and the CIA operatives, certainly with help the of the Iraqi people, bring Saddam down and nothing further would be required. We all hope and pray that's the truth.
And if the air power and the special forces and all of those initial forces are used correctly and used with enough intensity, there's a probability, in my opinion, that the massive land attacks would not be necessary. But no one should think that that may not occur. We just hope that we're able to bring him down using the air power and the special forces, and using them very effectively.
But the most critical key, Wolf, is to make sure that the Iraqi people that oppose Saddam are involved, because if that occurs, then they are part of overturning and capturing their own freedom. And it's something that they desire very much, as you know from your time in Iraq, and go back to the time of about 20 years, when they were enjoying life and had a reasonable life to enjoy.
BLITZER: Pat Lang, you spent a career analyzing the Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein. How effective is this opposition? Can they be used, as the opposition in Afghanistan, for example, was used to overthrow the Taliban?
LANG: I have some real nagging worries about this. I hope all of this goes as was just sort of predicted or expected.
But, in fact, the Iraqi opposition is nothing like the Northern Alliance. And except for the Kurdish tribal groups that are organized around their own head man up in the northeast, where they've always been, the rest of them, so far as I know, don't hold a single square inch of ground anywhere in Iraq and have no real combat capability at all.
So the expectation that they're going to participate, other than on a political basis, in the freeing of their own country, I think is kind of an assumption which has not been tested. In fact, they seem to be more interested, in a lot of instances, in making good use of the phones that have been allocated to them by various governments, including our own.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break, but we have more to talk about with these three experts. We'll talk about the military challenges facing the United States in a possible war against Iraq. Our guests will also be taking your phone calls when LATE EDITION continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must, and we will, take whatever steps are necessary to defend our freedom and our security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The United States vice president, Dick Cheney, vowing vigilance on the disarming of Iraq.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with former NATO Commander and retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan; retired U.S. Air Force General Buster Glossen; and former Pentagon intelligence analyst Pat Lang.
General Joulwan, I want you to listen to what Odai Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein, said earlier this week in promising there is going to be a big battle if the U.S. starts another war. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ODAI HUSSEIN (through translator): If they want to deal with us in a proper way without their usual arrogance and their cowboy style, then we are ready to deal with them. If they want to increase the bid, we will increase more. If they raise their voices, we will increase our action. If they're intending to come here, let them come and see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's also saying that there will be house-to-house warfare, urban warfare in Baghdad, a city of some 5 million people. Is the U.S. military ready for that?
JOULWAN: I believe so. I hope, as was mentioned earlier, that air and perhaps SOP fire can solve the problem initially. If that's not the case, I can assure you our troops will be ready. They're training both the Marines and the Army in urban warfare. We've been doing that for some years. They are now stepping up that training in case that option becomes available.
I would only say that all options here have to be on the table. You have to have a balanced force going in. You need to prepare for that and do the training. And we're doing that now in the United States, Europe and elsewhere around the world with our forces. This will be a team effort, and all members of the team are going to be prepared to play.
BLITZER: Have there been, General Glossen, significant advances in U.S. air power over the past decade that would make an air campaign much more effective this time around?
GLOSSON: You're exactly right. To use one specific example, the B-2s alone could attack more targets in the first six hours than the 117s could attack in a week's time during the Gulf War.
And also, as you know, the joint surveillance airplanes that were just a test bid during the Gulf War will make it very, very difficult now with the number that we have to monitor those potential Scud launch areas or those Drone launch areas and take appropriate action against them.
BLITZER: Pat Lang, we just saw Odai Hussein, who is a powerful figure in Baghdad. Tell our viewers what this guy is all about.
LANG: Well, he's his father's son. You know, "fils a papa," as the French would say. He's a designated player in holding together the inner security mechanisms of the regime, and his father has delegated to him a lot of tasks for organizing the defense of the capitol at all costs.
And I think the outcome with regard to our campaign there would be unpredictable, because it isn't true, as is often said in the mythology of the Gulf War, that all the Iraqis did not fight. Some of them did fight, once you got through the reserve units that were down near the frontier of Kuwait. And they tried to counterattack but, in fact, couldn't pull it off under pressure by our air.
So, I'm a little concerned about the fact that there may, in fact, be some Iraqi units that decide that they're not going to yield to B-2 bombardment or something like that. If they do that, we'd better be ready with a balanced force.
BLITZER: General Joulwan, is the U.S. military ready with a balanced force for that sort of worst-case scenario?
JOULWAN: I believe so. We're training that way. We're training joint and combined even with our allies in this area. I believe we'll be ready. And I think it's very important that we get ready before the fact. We don't wait until we get committed. And that training is going on now.
We do have technology now that we didn't have 10 years ago, even for our ground forces. And I think when we combine air, land and sea together, we're much more potent. And all that will come together if we have to go into a place like Baghdad.
BLITZER: And when General Joulwan before spoke of SOP, he meant Special Operations, another acronym that people at the Pentagon talk about but many of our viewers are not necessarily familiar with.
We're going to continue our analysis of military options involving Iraq with our three experts in the next hour of LATE EDITION.
Also ahead, the increasingly politically charged debate here in Washington. We'll talk with two key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee when we come back.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll talk more about the military options in Iraq, and we'll be taking your phone calls in just a moment. But first, here is CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a news alert.
BLITZER: We're continuing our conversation with former NATO Supreme Commander and retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan, retired U.S. Air Force General Buster Glosson, and former Pentagon intelligence analyst Patrick Lang.
We have a caller from Georgia. Go ahead, Georgia, with your question.
CALLER: Thank you very much, Wolf. Excellent program.
I would like to ask the two generals how long -- if the decision is made to invade Iraq, how many ground troops will be needed, and in their opinion how long will it take -- how long will the war take for us to win?
BLITZER: General Joulwan, why don't you take that one?
JOULWAN: Well, I think it all depends on how successful we are, if there is a first phase of this, which I would call the air campaign. If the decision is, though, to occupy Baghdad, I think a sizable force will be needed. I don't think it's going to be the size we had in the Gulf War, about half a million, but I think a sizable force.
Let me just say this: Failure cannot be an option. So we have to make sure that we have enough combat power to do the job. I think we're going to need at least 80,000 to 100,000, if that option comes, to occupy and take Baghdad.
BLITZER: General Glosson, we were talking about some improvements in U.S. air power over the past decade that might make the job of the U.S. military easier this time around. What else has been achieved?
GLOSSON: Well, the one thing that's going to make it very difficult for the Republican Guards, as well as Saddam and his thugs, is the fact that the joint attack direct munition is all-weather, Wolf. He's not going to have a sanctuary because clouds come over. And so day and night, 24 hours a day, he's going to be under the intensity of that bombardment. And also the deep penetrating weapons that gave him sanctuaries before won't be there this time. And so that's the big difference.
BLITZER: Pat Lang, if Saddam Hussein sees he's going down, will he give an order to unleash weapons of mass destruction, chemical or biological agents, for example, against U.S. troops or any of his neighbors?
LANG: Well, he might well do that. Whether or not the commanders would carry out those orders is another matter.
You know, they very clearly were deterred during the Gulf War, and in fact they uploaded chemical weapons into bombs on some airfields in the south but didn't use them, because they understand very clearly if they do that, in fact, that they face catastrophic retaliation. And I think we all probably understand what that means.
I would only say about the earlier question here, I think General Joulwan's force is too small, because this is a big country and if you're going to hold your lines of communication open for supply in the south or wherever, you're going to have to secure those with troops.
Then there's the occupation which is going to require you to stay there for quite for a while while a transitional government is built.
So, you have to have a pretty sizable ground force, I think.
BLITZER: And you would also presumably, General Joulwan, need some allies there. There was some major anti-U.S. demonstrations in London over the weekend, and a lot of the major NATO allies have at best, let's say some lukewarm support for the United States.
How serious of a problem is this trying to put together a international coalition this time around? JOULWAN: Well, I think it's absolutely essential, and I believe the president and his Cabinet are making many of the right steps now. The Secretary Rumsfeld visit recently to Warsaw to meet with NATO defense ministers is a step in that direction.
I believe you're going to see this consultation continue. We need our allies. We should try all we can to get our allies and the international community with us in this build-up phase. And I think you're going to see that. In my talks to the NATO leadership, they want to play a role, but they want to be consulted, and I believe we're in the process of doing that. And the Prague Summit in November where all the heads of state will be there will extremely important.
BLITZER: General Glosson, as you well remember during your days during the Gulf War, the U.S. air power had considerable difficulty finding those mobile Iraqi Scud missiles. Now there's word the Iraqis have these mobile vans with biological agents, warfare capabilities inside. Finding that kind of a van could be rather difficult. Does the U.S. air force have that capability?
GLOSSON: Well, I'm not sure that that would be one of the things that we would go and try to attack right off the bat, Wolf. We'd have to assess the capabilities of that van and what potential threat it involved.
But, you know, the Scud missiles this time around won't be, in my opinion, the threat that they were the last time around because of the air power.
And also I'd like to add one other comment, and that is, I agree with General Joulwan that 70,000 to 80,000 troops kind of in a reserve status depending on how the special ops and the CIA operatives and the air campaign go.
But we must not, at all cost, say the things that we're not going to do and take things off of the table. This needs to be a very vicious, straight-forward, aggressive effort from day one and get the Iraqi people to help us bring down Saddam, and then the world will be a lot better place to live.
BLITZER: Pat Lang, let me wrap up with you. There was a report in USA Today earlier this week saying that the -- suggesting the possibility of emissaries going to Baghdad to tell Saddam Hussein to go into exile. The Qataris, for example, were supposedly making such a proposal.
Is there anything in Saddam Hussein's makeup that would suggest to you he'd be ready to accept such an offer?
LANG: I think that has about as much chance of success as the proverbial snowball in hell. This man is so completely centered on himself to the exclusion of all else, including the welfare of the Iraqi people, that the idea that he would give up power to go live in Algeria or someplace, the way Idi Amin went to live in Saudi Arabia, is absolutely ludicrous. I think there's not any chance of that at all. BLITZER: All right, Pat Lang, General Joulwan, General Glosson, always good to have all three of you on our program. We always learn something from this kind of a discussion. Thanks so much.
And up next, a rift in the U.S. Senate over a potential war with Iraq. Will it prevent Congress from giving the president the authority he wants and needs? We'll talk with two key United States senators, Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California. They'll also be taking your phone calls, when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're joined now by two key members of the U.S. Senate, here to discuss what's going on as far as Iraq is concerned: In our San Francisco bureau, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. She's a member of the Foreign Relations and Select Intelligence Committees. And in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Republican Senator James Inhofe, also a member of the Intelligence Committee. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee as well.
Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
And, Senator Feinstein, let me begin briefly with you, this story about the smuggled uranium in Turkey that may or may not have been on way to Iraq. Originally the Turkish authorities were saying it was a 35 pounds, now they're saying it was only about 140 grams, or only five ounces, which is, obviously, a lot less.
What do you make of this?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, what I make of it is that there is a lack of security around these highly fissile materials, and that this is an enormous problem, not only for the United States but for the world.
And here we have five ounces, probably bought on the black market, looks like it was heading toward northern Iraq, but who really knows. I think the story has to play itself out.
But I think the major point is that this is a major loophole in world security, and that is the loose provisions that control fissile materials in many parts of the world.
BLITZER: President Bush, Senator Inhofe, has suggested that if the Iraqis were to get fissile material, enriched uranium, within a matter of months they could have a crude nuclear device. Do you agree with that assessment?
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Oh, I have always agreed with that, Wolf. We talked about this -- I think Barbara Boxer was on with me last time I was on your show.
I think that the threat is out there, that, you know, we had our weapons inspectors in 1998 that said and testified before the committee that I chaired at that time, that within six months Saddam Hussein could have all three types of weapons of mass destruction, plus a missile means of delivering it.
Now this, the fact that it was just a few ounces of weapons-grade uranium that they found going down, all that does is build the case that things are going on right now. There's got to be a reason that they want to have that, who knows? Maybe we found five ounces or 10 pounds, but there might be a 100 pounds right behind it.
BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, a colleague of yours, a Democratic colleague from California, much less, apparently, concerned about Iraq's nuclear capabilities. I want you to listen to what she said earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I have seen nothing that says that Saddam Hussein has nuclear capability to either develop a weapon or to launch it, and certainly not to launch it to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you agree with her basic assessment that there's really no major alarm bells out there right now?
FEINSTEIN: As you know, she's the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee. She has access to all of the updated intelligence.
I spent a morning at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. There is no evidence to indicate that Saddam is nuclear- capable today. If he has to develop fissile materials himself, like enriched uranium, they estimate it takes five to seven years to do that through the gas centrifuge process.
If he's able to obtain enough enriched uranium, the estimate is that he could have a device within a year. However, there is no evidence that he's nuclear-capable today.
Now, clearly, there is a danger signal out there, and that certainly adds to the case, and I think Senator Inhofe was just saying that.
BLITZER: And, Senator Inhofe, I don't know if you want to elaborate, but if you do, I'll let you go ahead.
INHOFE: Well, I would like to just make one comment. Quite often they talk about how long it will take, five to seven years. Insofar as an indigenous system, this could be right. But you've got to keep in mind, there are weapons of mass destruction out there, there are missiles, ICBMs. China has them, Russia has them, North Korea has them. And we also know there is evidence that Iraq is trading systems as well as technology with China. So I don't want to sit around and assume they're going to have do it indigenously. They could be actually out there purchasing it.
And again, it gets back to, you know, 1998, the ones who probably should have been in a position to know more about their capabilities and potential capabilities, the weapons inspectors, said would it be that they could have that capability within six months.
Now, I would rather err on the side of caution in this case. And I'm sure that we have a president who is going to watch very carefully. When he sees that a city in America is under imminent danger, he's going to act, with or without a resolution, with or without the United Nations.
BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, have you seen any evidence that China is covertly assisting the Iraqis in developing any of these kinds of weapons, including a nuclear capability?
FEINSTEIN: No, I've seen no evidence of that. But there is no question but that this man knows no scruples.
I think -- what I wanted to say is that I think this is a very important week. I think there will be a resolution of some kind at the United Nations, presented by the United States, presented by Great Britain.
I think if the Security Council does not adopt it, that the legislation before the Senate will most likely authorize use of force. And so, I think the major thrust right now should be around developing a multilateral approach, and not to let Saddam Hussein call the shots.
The United Nations must compel compliance and must get the weapons inspectors back in Iraq, unfettered, with no regulations, able to go to palaces or wherever else. I think this is...
BLITZER: Without any advance...
FEINSTEIN: ... the sane way to do it. Without any advance...
FEINSTEIN: Absolutely, absolutely.
BLITZER: In other words, change the rules of the game that Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary general, accepted in 1998 just before those inspectors were forced to leave, because he had agreed that the Iraqis would get advance notice when they wanted to go inspect the palaces.
FEINSTEIN: The rules are changed, whether anyone likes it or not. The fact of the matter is, the United States will use force to carry out the disarmament of Saddam Hussein, and additionally, to effect regime change.
There are many of us that do not want to see a preemptive unilateral attack. We want to see it done multilaterally through the United Nations. But if the Security Council won't do what it has to do, then it leaves no alternative but for the United States to take that action.
And so, I think this week is going to really define that situation much more clearly.
INHOFE: Wolf, I would like to have confidence in Saddam Hussein. I'd like to think that for the first time he's telling us the truth. I'd like to believe that he'd let us come in with unfettered access and to go any place we want to, but he's already said he won't.
And I'm concerned about this. Time is not our friend. I like the way that Rumsfeld talks about it. He says, you know, if something were to happen, it wouldn't be a surprise because we know it now.
I see this whole thing, the willingness -- the apparent willingness of Saddam Hussein to allow weapons inspectors to come in, to be just nothing but a stalling technique. And this is what concerns me, because time is -- -- we don't know what's going to happen in the next few weeks or the next few months.
BLITZER: So, Senator Inhofe, you don't even think they should let this inspection mission play itself out and see how much cooperation they get from the Iraqis?
INHOFE: I would say this, Wolf, that it wouldn't hurt to do that, and I think it could serve the useful purpose of at least explaining to our allies, or potential allies, that he is not sincere and he is not allowing us to do this. Give him a shot at doing this, but let's don't go ahead and say that, in the event something is happening where imminent danger is facing an American city, we don't have the luxury anymore of waiting for something to happen to our homeland.
This is where I think Dianne and I disagree with each other, that, you know, a preemptive strike, if we feel that there is a threat to an American city, has to be done. You can't wait for the smoking gun, because that means the gun's already gone off and then it's too late.
And we wouldn't be talking about, you know, a thousand people or a hundred people, we could be talking about an entire city, hundreds of thousands of people, as Secretary Rumsfeld says.
BLITZER: All right.
FEINSTEIN: Let me just correct Senator Inhofe, because what he said isn't my position.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Senator Feinstein, then we'll take a quick break.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Senator Feinstein. Go ahead, and make your correction, and then we'll take a break after that.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
If the United States is in imminent threat, I think we do take action. There is no evidence that I have seen that indicates that there is an imminent threat, any more than there was a year ago or six months ago. So I think there is the time to go through the procedure with the United Nations to develop a multilateral approach.
The world is going to be much safer, without Iraq as a possessor of biological or chemical weapons, or developing nuclear weapons, everybody agrees with that.
INHOFE: But, Dianne, you have...
FEINSTEIN: Go ahead, Tim.
INHOFE: Well, you have to ask the question, what if you're wrong?
FEINSTEIN: What if I'm wrong?
INHOFE: What if you're wrong and there isn't that length of time?
FEINSTEIN: I believe that Saddam Hussein has had chemical and biological weapons for better than 12 years. He hasn't used them for the last 12 years. That, to me, is an indication.
The weapons inspectors, when they were in there, did complete the destruction of several caches of chemical weapons. There's no question about that.
INHOFE: But they came out...
FEINSTEIN: The problem I have, if you listen to the generals, they would do all of this by bombing, and that concerns me deeply, because I don't think you're going to effect regime change with bombs. You're going to effect it if we go in there and take out Saddam Hussein.
BLITZER: All right.
FEINSTEIN: So it's a more complicated puzzle
INHOFE: Let me respond after the break.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Inhofe, get ready, because you will be responding right out of the break.
We have much more to talk about when we return. In addition to all of that, phone calls for Senators Inhofe and Feinstein. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Tonight, a CNN Presents special, "Showdown Iraq," 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Pacific. We'll go in-depth together with our CNN reporters as well as reporters from The New York Times, a special documentary that I'll be hosting tonight, 8:00 p.m., "Showdown Iraq."
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation now with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. I want you to listen, Senator Feinstein, to what the series of administration officials, including the president, said this week on links that may exist between Iraq and al Qaeda. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BUSH: There are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We have what we consider to be credible evidence that al Qaeda leaders have sought contacts in Iraq.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We know, too, that several of the detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to al Qaeda.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, do you buy all of that?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm not entirely sure. We do know that there are al Qaeda in northern Iraq. But then we know there are al Qaeda in Yemen, Syria, parts of the Middle East, maybe 40 other countries now, certainly Pakistan big time. So I don't use that as dispositive, I -- but...
BLITZER: Let me bring in Senator Inhofe and ask him.
INHOFE: First of all, let me correct something that was said a little while ago about the no evidence being that China has a relationship and is traded systems with Iraq. This was an unclassified intelligence report that was brought out on August 14th in The Washington Times that this has been going on for a period of time.
Just as you said, two days ago, Secretary Rumsfeld talked about the relationship of al Qaeda to Iraq and their presence there; also we have, just two days ago, we got satellite photographs of 60 trucks going in and out of a known biological installation in Iraq.
All of these things are happening and are happening right now. And that's why I say, you can't sit around and assume that we're going to be all right, or wait until we are -- until we are provoked by a strike on America for us to do a preemptive strike.
BLITZER: Well, Senator Inhofe, are you suggesting now that, unlike what Senator Feinstein said, there is greater evidence of an imminent threat to the United States more today than it was, let's say, six months ago or a year ago?
INHOFE: It's certainly more every day because we see a heightened activity, such as the what we just found out two days ago in the photographs of the trucks and all these things that are going on.
But we've known, as I say, I hate to keep saying it, but going back to 1998, of what their capabilities are, what they have reached. And whether or not they have a missile that could reach the United States of America now, we don't know that. Senator Feinstein doesn't know it, and I don't know it.
But he's getting dangerously close, according to all of the people that came back and said he would have that capability way back in 1998, within six months. I'm not willing to wait until something happens to this country.
If you'll remember what Rumsfeld has said several times, that the consequences of making the wrong decision now are not like they were back during conventional warfare, where it might cost a 100 lives or 200 lives. This could cost 100,000 or 200,000 lives.
BLITZER: Let me let Senator Feinstein respond to that. Go ahead, Senator.
FEINSTEIN: Yes, I'd like to.
The only think I'm trying to say is, George Bush I did it the right way. He built a coalition. Everyone, I think, saw the need to stop the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. We responded as a unified nation.
The only thing I'm saying is, take the small amount of time it requires to build that multilateral coalition now through the United Nations. Send in the arms inspectors. I'm one that does not believe that Saddam Hussein will comply with that.
Then I think there is a clear imperative to move ahead. Then I think we have basing rights, for example, with the Saudis. Then I think we have an Arab world that understands what we do, instead of becomes solidified against us.
Then I think we've minimized the impact on the Middle East and the launching of an attack on Israel from southern Lebanon, which I happen to believe is in the preparation now.
And then I think, as an American people, we come together because then we say, "Look, the world is speaking out to Saddam Hussein. Your time has come. You're going to be disarmed. You're going to be removed. And we, the world community, is going to get it done."
If the world community can't respond, then the United States has an imperative to take the action.
BLITZER: Senator Inhofe, let me bring this world back to a little bit of politics. This week, the Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, very angrily denouncing what he interpreted as President Bush's raising questions about the commitment of Democrats in the Senate to the national security interests of the United States. I want you to listen to this angry statement from Senator Daschle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DASCHLE: That is outrageous. Outrageous. The president ought to apologize to Senator Inouye and every veteran who has fought in every war who is a Democrat in the United States Senate. He ought to apologize to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Inhofe, should the president...
INHOFE: I'll tell you who needs to apologize to the American...
BLITZER: ... apologize?
INHOFE: Let me tell you who needs to apologize to the American people. It's Tom Daschle and all the rest of them who tried to politicize this.
He took a statement that the president made about our homeland security bill that we've been arguing for the last three weeks and it's not getting anyplace, and he attributed that sentence to Iraq or to Saddam Hussein, and that was totally unfair.
I believe that Tom Daschle knew that at the time. He's concerned about what's happening right now, because the American people realize that we have a strong president who has his number-one commitment to defend America. And I think it's Tom Daschle who is politicizing it, and I think that's just totally unfair.
BLITZER: And Senator Feinstein...
INHOFE: And many other Democrats also, most of the Democrats who are running for president were trying to do that, and it backfired. 84 percent of the American people know that that wasn't true, what he was saying on the Senate floor. I'm really embarrassed and ashamed of Tom Daschle.
BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, Senator Lott, the Republican leader in the Senate, made a very similar point following Senator Daschle's statement on the floor of the Senate. Listen to Senator Lott.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOTT: Who is the enemy here, the president of the United States or Saddam Hussein? That's who was attacked this morning here on the floor of the United States Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What about that, Senator Feinstein?
FEINSTEIN: Well, let me respond to it. I'm one that thinks that Tom Daschle was right on. This is a pre-election season. Everyone knows that the innuendo that Democrats are soft on national security is something that Republicans are essentially running on. It is something that the Republican committees are sending out mailings on. It is something that the vice president has said in a campaign speech.
And what Tom Daschle was saying is, "Democrats are not soft on national security. We have our heroes. We've got people on our side of the aisle that have lost limbs fighting in wars. We care very deeply about this nation."
FEINSTEIN: And to impugn -- let me finish, Jim -- and to impugn the Democratic Party as being soft on national security is something that none of us will abide. And we will speak out and we will speak back because we care very deeply about this nation.
INHOFE: Well, Wolf, it's very obvious to everyone, at least 84 percent of the people in America, that Tom Daschle was attributing that comment to the very thing now that Dianne's talking about. And that is what is unfair.
But insofar as the Democrats and Republicans are concerned, I think if you look at the rating systems of those of us -- the Center for Security Policy ranks every Senator, Democrat and Republican, every House member, Democrat and Republican, as to their support for a strong national defense. The average Republican is 82 percent. The average Democrat is 17 percent.
And that tells you that, in terms of votes for a national missile defense system, for modernizing, for troops strength, the Republicans are stronger on national defense.
That isn't the issue with Tom Daschle. The issue was he deliberately took a statement that the president made about the homeland security bill and attributed that for his own purposes to a statement about Iraq. That was unfair, and it wasn't honest.
BLITZER: I'll let you have the last word, Senator Feinstein, but we have to leave it at that. Go ahead.
FEINSTEIN: Well, my last word is this. We care very deeply about the national security of this nation. Democrats will respond anytime there is an eminent threat to this country, and we will respond forcefully.
What we are concerned about is, first, build that multilateral coalition, because there is no eminent threat that something is going to happen next week or next month.
INHOFE: But you don't know that.
FEINSTEIN: And let me just finish, Jim.
And this would be the first time in our history that the United States would attack another sovereign nation to overthrow its government. That's a major purpose of what's happening.
And that's why many of us feel that we should go through the United Nations. We should see that Iraq is disarmed, and in the event that does not succeed quickly, then take the unilateral action.
BLITZER: Senators, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. I know that both of you have a lot more to say, and I assume both of you will be saying it on the Senate floor in the days and weeks to come.
I appreciate both of you joining us very much.
INHOFE: Thank you, Wolf.
FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And just ahead, are a new round of weapons inspections a realistic solution to the showdown with Iraq? A former CIA analyst and a former U.N. weapons inspector will join me to assess the issue when LATE EDITION returns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAIR: His weapons-of-mass-destruction program is active, detailed and growing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The British prime minister, Tony Blair, laying out the case against Saddam Hussein to his country's Parliament earlier this week.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We now get two perspectives on the threat of Iraq's weapons arsenal. Kenneth Pollack is a former CIA analyst and the author of an important new book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq." And Richard Spertzel is a former United Nations weapons inspector and expert on biological warfare and other issues.
Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION.
Let me begin with you, Ken Pollack. The whole threat, you say there's a gathering storm. How gathering is it? How serious is this threat from Iraq right now, in terms of an imminent threat to the United States?
KENNETH POLLACK, FORMER CIA ANALYST: I actually don't think that the threat is terribly imminent. I think that it is somewhat longer- term. Ultimately, the real threat from Saddam is his nuclear-weapons capability.
And that's not to say that the biological, the chemical agents he has already can't kill large numbers of people. It's that, as best we understand it, Saddam does recognize that as long as the United States has nuclear weapons and he doesn't, that we hold the trump card.
And as best we understand it, his belief is that once he has a nuclear weapon, only then will he be restrained and be able to pursue his wider regional ambitions. And most people, most of the intelligence communities believe that Saddam is still probably four, five, six years away from having a nuclear weapon.
Now, you don't want to bet wrong on that, you don't want to make a mistake and wind up one day with Saddam Hussein having a nuclear weapon. So I think that we're going to need to address this threat sooner rather than later, but maybe not necessarily in the months ahead.
BLITZER: But, Mr. Pollack, Ken Pollack, if he could get on the black market fissile or enriched uranium, then that capability could be achieved within a matter of months.
POLLACK: Absolutely, and that is the big wild card out there.
But I think we also need to balance that with some of the points that Senator Feinstein was making in the previous segment, which is that going into Iraq is going to be a big operation, and we do want to make sure that we have all of our political ducks in a row.
We want to make sure that the Middle East is a little bit calmer, so that when go into Iraq we don't wind up provoking unrest in some of the other countries in the region.
We do want to make sure that we have other allies on board to assist both with the operation itself and, more importantly, with what people are calling "the day after," the reconstruction of Iraq.
BLITZER: Mr. Spertzel, let me play for you and our viewers around the world, an excerpt from what Tony Blair told the British Parliament earlier in the week. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAIR: As the dossier sets out, we estimate on the basis of the U.N.'s work that there were up to 360 tons of bulk chemical-warfare agents, including one and a half tons of VX nerve agent, up to 3,000 tons precursor chemicals, growth media sufficient to produce 26,000 liters of anthrax spores, and over 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mr. Spertzel, the question to you: Can resumed U.N. weapons inspections -- and you're a former weapons inspector -- get the job and clean up that situation?
RICHARD SPERTZEL, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: It's going to be extremely difficult, Wolf. The problem you have in doing the inspections is, you need -- you depend heavily on the full cooperation of the country. You also depend, in Iraq's case, on convincing Iraq that the Security Council is serious and that you have full support.
As I see this situation at the present time, the inspectors do not and will not have the cooperation of Iraq, and I also am not hearing the kind of words and language that I'd like to hear from a couple of members of the permanent members of the Security Council. Iraq will see the position of Russia and France and China as not supporting enforcement, and that will mean that the inspectors will not have a chance.
BLITZER: Do the inspections have a chance of success, Ken Pollack?
POLLACK: I don't think so either. I think that Dr. Spertzel's remarks are exactly on key.
I mean, the big problem that we have, Wolf, is ultimately inspections are going to take years to make work. We'll need to go in there and do a baseline, and that will take 12 to 18 months. And then the inspections start, and they will take years.
And the problem we have is that, while we probably can convince the U.N. to start up inspections basically on any terms that we might want if we give them the alternative of either it's an invasion or this inspection regime we want, I don't think there's anything that indicates that we will be able to sustain that kind of support over the amount of time it will require to actually complete an inspections process.
Chances are, six months, a year, maybe a year and a half down the road, Saddam Hussein will once again feel the threat of invasion recede, he will start to cheat again, and the rest of the world, just as they did in 1997, '98, will turn away.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, gentlemen, because we have a lot more to talk about.
Inspections -- can they work, will they work? We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. AMIR HAMOUD SADI, IRAQI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: His conclusions that Iraq is engaged in the production of weapons of mass destruction are simply not true. His allegations are long; his evidence is short.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Iraqi presidential adviser, Lieutenant General Amir Hamoud Sadi, responding to Tony Blair's allegations of Iraq's weapons- of-mass-destruction capabilities.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our debate, our assessment indeed, of the threat of Iraq's weapons arsenal with the former CIA analyst Ken Pollack and the former U.N. weapons inspector Richard Spertzel.
Dr. Spertzel, what is your worst-case fear right now?
SPERTZEL: My worst-case fear clearly is Iraq's supplying, perhaps even directing, the use of weapons of mass destruction, in particularly the biology which I'm more aware of, in the continental U.S. And among the ones I worry the most about is either of weapons- quality anthrax or, unfortunately, smallpox.
BLITZER: Is there any evidence that the Iraqis have ever engaged in any such terrorist plot here in the United States?
SPERTZEL: I think there's a moot question that is pending at the present time, and that is, who was behind the anthrax that was in the letters to Senator Daschle and Senator Leahy?
The material that was contained in there was of the quality that could only be made in a sophisticated program, and it was a capability that was well within Iraq's reach. They had the necessary materials, know-how, equipment and personnel.
BLITZER: So you're skeptical about this so-called person of interest, Steven Hatfill, identified by the attorney general as a person of interest in this investigation of the anthrax letter attacks?
SPERTZEL: Absolutely. Of the one or two methods that could be used to make the quality of product that was seen in those letters is well beyond the capability of a single or even a small group acting in isolation.
BLITZER: What do you say, Ken Pollack, about that?
POLLACK: I'm not an expert on biology. I leave that kind of stuff to Richard Spertzel. He's the guy I call on that stuff.
I'll tell you my nightmare scenario, though, for some is a slightly different one, which is that, at some point in time, he will acquire nuclear weapons, and then he will use them to cover invasions of his allies -- Jordan, Syria, Kuwait, possibly Saudi Arabia -- make himself the dominate power in the region as he has sought to for decades, and use his own nuclear capability to deter us from intervening.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break.
We have a lot more to talk about, including your phone calls for our two guests. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Let's take some phone calls.
Wisconsin, go ahead with your question, please.
CALLER: Yes, I was just wondering how come we can't just continue the current policy of containment?
BLITZER: All right. What about that, Ken Pollack?
POLLACK: Well, the problem that we have with containment is that, while it did serve us well for a number of years, it's really falling apart.
Containment was about keeping Saddam's money out of his hands and preventing weapons and other goods from getting into Iraq outside of the U.N.'s control. And what we've seen in recent years is that those things have really evaporated.
Right now, Iraq is estimated to be smuggling about $3 billion worth of oil a year, that's $3 billion in Saddam's hands, which he can and does use for anything.
And what's more, what we have seen is a massive increase in the amount of smuggling going into Iraq now that Saddam has all of this money at his disposal. The Syrians are basically allowing the Iraqis to import anything they want to, including military and WMD-related items, across their border. What this means is, the containment is effectively broken down.
BLITZER: Dr. Spertzel, this whole notion of coercive inspections, going in there not only with regular inspectors, but backed up by military power, if you will, is that something that you think the Iraqis might under some circumstances be willing to accept?
SPERTZEL: I don't see them accepting it at all. They would rebel at anything along those lines, basically on general principles.
I think there's also a risk for the inspectors under those circumstances. They may become innocent victims between a crossfire. The weapons teams used to have, almost on a routine basis, if it was a challenging site, would have guns drawn on them by the Iraqis.
BLITZER: Why do you think, Dr. Spertzel, if you and other U.S. officials are as alarmed as you are, why aren't Arab countries, neighbors of Iraq, or the British -- excuse me, the French or the Germans or the Russians, for that matter, equally alarmed?
SPERTZEL: Well, I think, in the case of Iraq's neighbors, they may have different reasons. I'm not in the political arena, but a number of the Gulf states, particularly, are concerned whether we are serious about it or not. And Iraq told us that the neighbors would perceive the having weapons of mass destruction as a power weapon and make the neighboring states see things their way.
Now, where there's strong Islamic feelings, such as Saudi Arabia, there may be political reasons.
As for the Germans, I don't understand that at all. I have not even a guess on that. They're well aware of what the risk is, and I know their senior biologists are saying so.
BLITZER: All right. Let me ask Ken Pollack about Israel.
Where do the Israelis fit into this entire issue? Are they at all threatened, as far as you can tell, by the Iraqi regime?
POLLACK: I think there's no question. And what I keep hearing from Israeli officials is that, while they feel a much more immediate threat from Iran -- after all, it's Iran that is the major backer of Hezbollah, of Hamas, of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the other groups that are currently taking Israel, Israel does feel a longer-term threat from Saddam Hussein.
Like the U.S., they are also afraid that at some point in time Saddam Hussein is going to have a nuclear weapon, and when that happens, he will be emboldened to once again embark on this agenda of dominating the region, and striking out at Israel.
BLITZER: In 1981 the Israelis took unilateral action and destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. Is that possible, do you think the Israelis might do something along those lines again?
POLLACK: I don't think they have the option to anymore. This is the problem, is that what Iraqis learned from the Osirak strike in 1981 is that you can't just put all of your eggs in one basket.
And after Osirak, what they did was to disperse all of their programs. They built many different facilities, all of which were deeply hidden. And as a result, today, we don't know where any of these facilities are.
BLITZER: All right, Ken Pollack, we have to leave it right there.
Richard Spertzel, thanks to you as well for joining us. We'll continue this discussion on another occasion.
It's time now to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.
Coming up for our North American audience, the next hour of LATE EDITION. We'll assess the impact of all this war talk on the U.S. political landscape, with the former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta and Republican strategist Ed Gillespie.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We'll talk about the impact of a possible new war with Iraq and the midterm congressional elections in just a moment, but first, here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a news alert.
BLITZER: With just five weeks to go before the midterm elections, the talk of war appears to be overshadowing other issues, such as the economy and Social Security.
Joining us now to talk about Iraq and how it's affecting the U.S. political landscape are two guests: the former Clinton White House chief of staff, John Podesta, and the Republican political strategist, Ed Gillespie. Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.
Ed, I'm going to begin with you, but I want you to listen first to that statement on the Senate floor earlier this week from Senator Daschle. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DASCHLE: The president is quoted in The Washington Post this morning as saying that the Democratic-controlled Senate is not interested in the security of the American people.
Not interested in the security of the American people? You tell Senator Inouye he's not interested in the security of the American people. You tell those who fought in Vietnam and in World War II they're not interested in the security of the American people.
That is outrageous. Outrageous. The president ought to apologize...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Who is engaging in politics here? The president, in speaking of Iraq, going around the country raising money for Republican candidates by attacking Democrats, if you will? Or Senator Daschle, in that outburst that he had on the Senate floor?
ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Wolf, let's be clear about what the president said. What the president said was relative to the Senate passing a Department of Homeland Security bill, and what he was saying was we can't get hung up on behalf of special interests.
Look, the Democrats in the Senate are very beholden to the AFL- CIO and other big unions who want to put a new requirement in for the creation of this department that would strip from the president powers that have been held by a president since Jimmy Carter, to move people around or to fire people, frankly, for lack of performance in an area that is critical to our domestic security here. And they're saying that he should not have that authority.
There are many in the Senate many Democrats, including Zell Miller of Georgia, who think he should have that authority.
Look, they should bring it to floor and have a debate on it, and they shouldn't allow the special interests to dictate the agenda of the Senate floor. This is something that matters.
But it is not about Iraq, he was not attacking Democrats. What he was saying was the Senate needs to act on this. They ought to act on a lot of other things, too, by the way, instead of Senator Daschle using the floor of the Senate for political performances like we saw.
BLITZER: John Podesta, do you buy that assessment?
JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Absolutely not, Wolf. I think there is no context -- the Republicans have all week long been trying to say there was a different context -- there is no context for suggesting that Democrats in the Senate are not interested in the security of the American people.
The president got carried way. And he's been going to fund- raiser after fund-raiser -- he's done five more this week -- talking about Iraq and talking about the war against terrorism. He got carried away, he went over the line. He needed to be called on it.
And with regard to what Ed said about bill on the floor, actually there's a bipartisan majority in favor of the Democratic position, and now the Republicans seem to be filibustering the bill.
So I think that, you know, the facts are that the Democrats, Senator Lieberman, put this issue on the table of creation of the Department of Homeland Security. We ought to get on with it, we ought to wrap it up, get it into conference. The president, I'm sure, could, if he works cooperatively with Democrats, work out a compromise on this bill.
BLITZER: Can they do that, Ed Gillespie, work out a deal at this late stage in creating this Department of Homeland Security?
GILLESPIE: Look, I think if it strips the president of the power, and future presidents of the power, to act on the interest -- you know, Wolf, at the INS when they issued the visas to some of the people who were engaged in the terrorist attack on September 11, the people who issued those visas after the attack had taken place to the terrorists who conducted the attack, they can't even be removed from their jobs under these labor laws, these labor guidelines that the AFL-CIO are promoting.
We can't have those kind of restraints put on the president in the Department of Homeland Security, and they shouldn't be on the president.
PODESTA: You know, when the president stood at Ground Zero with firefighters and police officers, all of whom are members of unions, he didn't complain about the fact that they weren't doing their job. And I think this is a...
GILLESPIE: Of course not, of course not.
PODESTA: ... you know, this is a part of an ideology that is anti-union and anti-worker in this country.
But, you know, I've in the past supported the president's ability to move senior people around, but we don't need to strip secretaries and other people in these departments of civil service rights and union rights.
It's just a ridiculous fight to be having at this stage. We ought to come together and find a bipartisan compromise on it.
BLITZER: But, John, it's not just Ed Gillespie, it's a lot of Republicans, including the Republican leader in the Senate, Trent Lott. He was on Novak, Hunt and Shields this weekend. I want you to listen to what he said on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOTT: This president is not politicizing this issue. He's trying to get the authority he needs to do the right thing to protect the security of the American people, to deal with the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: In other areas of national security, those traditional civil service labor laws are withheld. Why not allow that to happen this time, John?
PODESTA: Look, Wolf, I think that going into this the Democrats worked with the president on a resolution right after 9/11. They were raising these same issues when they tried to work on airport security. They were so afraid that maybe airport security workers might be unionized.
Eventually they came together, they worked it out, they came up with a compromise. And I think if the president spent an hour with Joe Lieberman, rather than running around the country going to fund- raisers every day and just attacking Democrats for their so-called lack of concern for the security of the American people, they could work this out. There's a compromise to be had here, and they ought to just sit down and try to work it out.
BLITZER: Ed Gillespie, go ahead.
GILLESPIE: Well, I think then Senator Daschle ought to schedule it on the floor of Senate.
PODESTA: It's on the floor of the Senate.
GILLESPIE: Well, then let's have the debate then, John.
PODESTA: They've had a debate, and they...
GILLESPIE: You and I ought not to debate this on television. They ought to stand up, cast a vote, take a position, and do same thing on the war resolution, stand up, cast a vote, take a position, let the American people know where they are.
PODESTA: The problem is there are 51 senators in favor of the Democratic position, including Senator Chafee, a Republican, and now the Republicans seem to be filibustering the bill. So I think your beef is really with Senator Lott and the Republicans in the Senate.
GILLESPIE: It's not, John. They don't control the schedule. Senator Daschle does. He should bring it to floor, he should have the debate.
PODESTA: He's got it on floor, he's asked for a cloture vote, he wants to close it up and send it to conference.
BLITZER: All right, Ed Gillespie, I want to bring this discussion back to Iraq.
The president appeared to get somewhat personal this past week at a fund-raiser, a Republican fund-raiser in Houston. He spoke of Saddam Hussein. I want you to listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: There's no doubt his hatred is mainly directed at us. There's no doubt he can't stand us. After all, this is the guy that tried to kill my dad at one time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is it getting personal for George W. Bush, Ed?
GILLESPIE: Well, it's not personal in this case. I mean, actually, in terms of the unique situation where we have one sitting president whose father was a president before him, the fact is that intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein was behind trying to assassinate a former president of the United States.
In this unique instance, that former president of United States is the dad of the sitting president of the United States. That doesn't make it personal. It's still a matter of national interest and national security that we recognize that and the litany of particulars against Saddam Hussein and what he is doing in his regime in the need for regime change in Iraq.
BLITZER: John Podesta, I believe you were in the White House working for Bill Clinton in 1993 during that first year when Bill Clinton authorized military strikes against Iraq because he did have what he said was evidence that Saddam Hussein was trying to assassinate then the former President George Bush during a visit to Kuwait.
What's wrong with what the president had to say?
PODESTA: Well, I'm not sure that anything's wrong with what the president had to say, but I think we need to operate on strategy and planning. We're fighting two wars. We're pursuing action in Iraq, but we also are fighting a war against al Qaeda, and I think we need to do that with vigilance.
We can do both those things at the same time, but that takes strategy, it takes planning, it takes development of an international coalition, not acting on impulse or on ideology.
And I think that we've seen over the course of the last month the administration has gone from saying "We don't need a new U.N. resolution, we don't need support from Congress because we had that as a result of the resolutions that have been passed previously" -- they changed their mind. I think they're now engaged in an effort to try to find common ground with Democrats. We ought to get on with that and see where we get to.
BLITZER: All right, this political debate is only starting. We're going to take a quick break, though, now. When we come back, your phone calls for John Podesta and Ed Gillespie. LATE EDITION will return right after this.
BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture -- you were looking at a live picture of the flag being flown at half-staff over Capitol Hill. Just this past weekend, the veteran United States Congresswoman Patsy Mink, Democrat from Hawaii, passed away. She died after a month of viral pneumonia caused by chickenpox. The flag in her memory, in her honor, now being flown at half-staff over the U.S. Congress.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're talking about the impact of war on the midterm campaign with the former Clinton White House chief of staff, John Podesta, and the Republican political strategist, Ed Gillespie.
John Podesta, I want you to look at these poll numbers from our latest CNN-USA Today Gallup poll: Which will be more important to your vote for Congress, Iraq or the economy? In August, the economy was much more important, 55 to 36 percent. But now, Iraq, 49 to 42 percent, over the economy, which suggests, at least to a lot of armchair political observers, this is good news for Republican candidates for the Senate and the House.
PODESTA: Well, I'm sorry, Wolf, I was looking at the board. I think that -- the Republicans, I think, have wanted to debate the election on terms of the war. Karl Rove said that in January; he said it again in June. But I think the American people are smart enough to know that more is at stake than just the war.
They've got to focus on that, but they also need to spend some time thinking about the state of the economy, the fact that the Dow is off, that unemployment's going up, that we've just had this week a massive increase in the number of people who are, you know, losing income in this country.
I think that we're going to get back to those domestic issues and economic issues, and the American people are fully capable of understanding both of them. They care about what's happening on the national security front, but they also care about what's happening in their own backyard.
BLITZER: In that same poll, Ed Gillespie, when the public was asked who was doing a better job on certain domestic issues, Democrats or Republicans, on health care, environment, prescription drug benefits, Social Security, look at these numbers: Overwhelmingly they seem to think Democrats are doing a better issue. If they can get the debate, the Democrats, on these issues, as opposed to Iraq or the war on terrorism, presumably they might be able to do better, the Democrats. Is that your assessment, as well?
GILLESPIE: It's not, Wolf. Actually, I tend to agree with John.
Well, first of all, I don't agree, he's mischaracterizing Karl's comments. But I do agree with him relative to the American people being able to look at two different issue sets at the same time. The foreign policy is important, but I don't think it's a primary reason that people go to the polls in a midterm election and vote for House or Senate candidates. I do think that they are looking very closely at economic issues.
Where I differ is that I think that Republicans are very strong on that issue set and, in fact, are campaigning vigorously on creating jobs, on an economic platform.
I'm pointing out again, the United States Senate, we saw Senator Daschle take precious time on the floor of the Senate. It's unfortunate that the Senate has yet to pass a terrorism insurance bill that could create half a million new construction jobs in this country, which is the one area of the labor statistics where we probably need the most help; that they continue to operate without even a federal budget in place in the United States Senate; that they fail to pass a prescription drug bill in the Senate after the House had passed one.
And so, I think that actually Republicans are very much looking forward and are talking about these issues in congressional races and Senate races across the country.
I just happen to think that we're in a better position on those issues and that we're strong not only on national security but economic issues as well, and that'll be what carries us in the fall.
BLITZER: And one other factor, John Podesta, that the Republicans may have going for them is President Bush's job approval ratings in that same -- actually a new Newsweek poll that's just out this weekend. The president still has dramatically high approval ratings. 65 percent of the American public think he's doing a pretty good job.
That presumably will help Republican candidates. Am I right or wrong about that?
PODESTA: Well, I think that same poll showed now a spread in the congressional generic ballot in favor of Democrats, over where it was a couple weeks ago. They now have a relatively strong lead there.
And I think that -- the other factor, I think, that the American public's thinking about is whether Democrats will be something of a check on the president, in terms of going too far, whether they want to support Republicans who will just give him a rubber stamp to do whatever he wants. And so far, when you look at that dimension in the polling, you see that people are a little nervous that, left unchecked, the president is going to pursue policies, I think mostly on the economy, but even in the area of national security, that just go too far.
And so, I think you might see that this turns out to be a more traditional year and a very good year for Democrats.
BLITZER: Ed, the president is breaking all sorts of records raising money for Republicans. And that led to this editorial comment in the Des Moines Register on Friday: "The mix of politics and patriotism has been so successful that Bush has raised more money for his party than any president in history. It's all been a bit unseemly."
I'm going to guess, but I think you disagree.
GILLESPIE: I do. Thank you, Wolf.
Look, the fact is, the president has been a very effective fund raiser on behalf of his party. That was the case long before the tragic events of September 11. He's very popular, and the party's popular across the country. But Republicans have a deep affection for the president, and they do respond to his call for help.
But, you know, the flip side of this is the notion that the president should abdicate his role as party leader in the midst of this campaign and this election season. And I don't think that's fair to request of him. And I think that he's doing a great job for the country and for the party.
BLITZER: Do you feel bad, John, that President Bush has beaten, has defeated all of Bill Clinton's records in raising money for political candidates?
PODESTA: I think Ed probably had a different view when Bill Clinton was raising money than he does when George W. Bush is raising money.
But, look, I have no problem with his going out and trying to support his party. I do have a problem when he gets going with the rhetoric and going too far. I don't think Bill Clinton ever tried to politicize national security issues when he was out to campaign trail.
And I think that that is why it was important for Tom Daschle to call the president on it. And hopefully, I think he'll stop doing that and we'll be able to pursue national security policy as Americans and not as Democrats or Republicans.
GILLESPIE: Wolf, the only politicization we've seen relative to national security in this entire debate has been Democrats accusing Republicans of politicizing the war when in fact they're not.
The timing of this discussion over Iraq is driven by national security concerns, by intelligence reports, by foreign affairs. And in fact it was the Democrats, over the summer, in August, who demanded that the president come to the Congress, present a resolution, make the case for the case against Iraq and for regime change.
The moment he started to do that in response to their demand for that, they started crying foul and saying he's trying to politicize it. And in fact, I saw one quote from...
PODESTA: That's just not --- I can't let that go. GILLESPIE: John, if I might finish, if I might finish. I saw a quote from one Democrat Senate aide saying, you know, "The problem we have is Paul Wellstone is in a tough race and we're afraid that he would vote against an Iraqi resolution. We have to move the timing of this to after the election to protect him or else at least put an alternative on the floor to protect him." That's politics, and it's pretty crass.
PODESTA: That's good spin, Ed, but it's just not the facts.
GILLESPIE: Read the New York Times, John. You read it more than I do.
PODESTA: Ed, the leaders -- I waited for you. You wait for me.
PODESTA: The leaders of our party never made that claim until the president went out and said that they were not interested in national security. And I think that that was unfortunate. He's gotten great support from Congressman Gephardt. I think Senator Daschle's asking the tough questions.
And I think the American people are frankly quite glad that Democrats said bring this debate to the Congress, bring it to the U.N., let's build an international coalition so that we'll have support around the world and which will, I think, give us a support in the other war against terrorism.
BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it right there unfortunately.
John Podesta, Ed Gillespie, the politics of this potential war with Iraq, a lot of those politics will become clear in the weeks ahead looking forward to the November election. Thanks to both of you.
Now time for Bruce Morton's essay on the president's, quote, "about-face."
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During the 1990s, Americans incomes mostly rose and the gap between rich and poor narrowed. But last year, the Census Bureau said the number of Americans officially living in poverty went up for the first time since 1993 and the typical household's income went down.
1.3 million more Americans became officially poor last year, the Bureau said, so that it's 11.7 percent of the population officially in poverty, compared with 11.3 percent in 2000. The government's poverty level for a family of four is roughly $18,000.
As for incomes, the Census Bureau said median household income dropped by 2.2 percent in 2001, down to 42,228 inflation-adjusted dollars. It's the first drop since 1991. It hit all but the richest households and every region except the Northeast. The West and Midwest were most affected.
The Census Bureau's data doesn't count capital-gains losses. Those would presumably hit high-income families hardest, since they would probably have the biggest investments.
All this might add up to an issue in this fall's political campaign, but don't count on it. President Bush mostly talks these days about the war he wants, and apparently will get, with Iraq.
BUSH: The United States and our friends will act, because we believe in peace. We want to keep the peace.
MORTON: He may not be a whiz at perking up the economy, but his assurance about world affairs is extraordinary. He knows, as the national security statement he issued last weekend shows, what's best for everybody, and yes, it looks pretty American.
People everywhere, the statement says, want to be able to speak freely, choose who will govern them. "These values of freedom are right and true for every person in every society."
A theocracy? A monarchy? A council of elders? No, the American way is best for everybody, it seems.
And America, as the same statement makes clear, has the right to strike the first blow and attack anyone it wants to attack. Quote, "We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively." You'd think that would trigger a big debate, but it hasn't.
Polls show people are uneasy. Majorities want the U.S. to have allies in a war with Iraq, or not have one. But Congress seems prepared to give the president about what he wants, nevermind that this doctrine is a radical departure from the rules the U.S. has lived by in the past.
Traditionally, conservatives were the ones who wanted to keep things more or less as they are. But as David Broder pointed out in The Washington Post a few days ago, the president isn't one of those conservatives. He marches to a new and more radical drummer. And the Congress seems inclined to follow, marching as to war.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Time now for our "Final Round." Joining me, Donna Brazile, the Democratic political strategist; Peter Beinart of the "New Republic;" Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online; and Robert George of the "New York Post."
The question of what to do about Saddam Hussein is expected to come to a head in Congress this week. The Senate is scheduled to debate the issue of a resolution that would authorize the United States to use military action to remove the Iraqi leader if necessary.
Earlier today Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona told me he expects the Congress to grant President Bush's request.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I believe you will see at the end of this coming week or early in the next week, an overwhelming majority support vote in both houses of Congress to support the president if we have to go in and orchestrate a regime change militarily -- a significantly majority vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Peter, you agree with Senator McCain?
PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: Yes, I think so. Obviously the Republicans will support the president on this. I think in the end the Democrats will, too. The media has been focusing on those few liberals who are opposed.
And in their heart of hearts, I think a lot of Democrats are opposed, but they don't have the intellectual self-confidence to actually come out and say so. And they're terrified politically, so they're going to do the right thing for the wrong reasons.
BLITZER: Do you think all Republicans in House and Senate, including Lincoln Chafee, for example, in the Senate and some of the dovish Republicans in the House who've expressed some concerns, will go along with the president?
JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Oh, I haven't done a headcount, and for all I know there may be a 2 percent or a 5 percent margin of error on the Republican side. I mean, Chuck Hagel -- I think it would certainly depend on the wording, if at all. Maybe he would vote against it no matter what.
But the overwhelming majority of Republicans and a sizable super- majority of Democrats are going to vote for it, which merely illuminates the fact that one of the main reasons the Democrats have been so angry about Bush's talk about war is because it actually resonates with the American people and it's the popular position.
BLITZER: Will Paul Wellstone, who's in a tough race for reelection in Minnesota, vote for this resolution?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He'll vote his conscience, and we don't know what the final wording is going to be in the resolution.
But, look, Jim Leach and Connie Morella and many moderate Republicans will have some of the same difficulty that liberal Democrats will have with this resolution.
If it's a strict resolution on disarming Saddam, I believe he will have an overwhelming majority. But if it's a resolution that's all over the map, and talk about regime change without knowing the consequences of the regime change -- how we pay for it, how we prosecute the war -- then many Democrats and some Republicans may step aside and say, "Let Bush go alone, we will not go with him."
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: It's actually been interesting seeing the Democrats debate, because I was over in Europe last week, and all the arguments I'm hearing from the Democrats I'm basically hearing from the European politicians.
But I think Donna is right, is that there is going to be, I think, a significant debate over the language of the resolution, especially how much our allies, for example, in Europe are going to be with us. Obviously we know Tony Blair is with us, but Tony Blair has a lot of problems at home right now. There was a 300,000, 400,000 protest against England assisting the United States.
So I think there is still -- Peter is right, though, it's going to be an overwhelming vote.
BLITZER: Peter, I want to move on, but will the Democrats offer an alternative resolution in order to give someone like Wellstone an opportunity to say, "Yes, I...
BEINART: My suspicion is that is exactly what they'll do, to give Wellstone some cover. I don't know what Harkin is going to do in Iowa, who's also pretty far to the left on these issues.
They will, but then most of them will still vote for the tougher one that Bush wants.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on. As we speak, three United States Democratic congressmen are in Baghdad. Today one of those congressmen, David Bonior of Michigan, argued that U.S. policy was harming Iraqi citizens rather than Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, his Democratic colleague Jim McDermott of Washington state suggested that the Bush administration isn't above exaggerating Iraq's military threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MCDERMOTT: It would not surprise me if they came with some information that is not provable. And they shifted. First they said it was al Qaeda. Then they said it was weapons of mass destruction. Now they're going back and saying it's al Qaeda again.
REP. DAVID BONIOR (D), MICHIGAN: I wish you would focus a little bit on what's happened to the people of Iraq, not Saddam Hussein but the children and the economy.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: Robert, are these congressmen, in effect, playing into Saddam Hussein's hands?
GEORGE: It is interesting to see David Bonior being so consistent. If he's in America, he's always talking about the children and the economy. And if he's in Iraq, he's also talking about the children and the economy.
If Saddam Hussein thinks that Bonior and McDermott are somehow representative of Congress, he's very sorely mistaken. I mean, they're not even representative of even some of the more liberal Democrats who have questions and concerns. I mean, they're completely, in a sense, isolated. And I don't even think they're falling into Saddam's hands, because I don't think they can be really taken seriously.
BLITZER: They have rolled out the red carpet for these three Democratic congressmen in Baghdad.
BRAZILE: Apparently they allow them to keep their cell phone.
And, look, the mission was to go over there and to try to persuade the Iraqis to allow the U.N. inspectors in, so they went over with a mission to disarm Saddam and to talk about the Iraqi threat, not to go over there to give comfort to a Viagra-taking despot...
... but rather to really push a case.
And I think it's -- I admire David Bonior for speaking up about the civilians. And we haven't spent a lot of attention on some of the problems that are faced by the people of Iraq.
BLITZER: You know, some of the criticisms of these Democratic congressmen, they say it's like when Jane Fonda went to Hanoi during the Vietnam War.
GOLDBERG: Look, I've got to tell you, I find this incredibly refreshing. You know, Peter and Donna are normally so reasonable that it's nice to see Democrats represent what I think Democrats historically have, which is villainy, sloth, moral equivalence, and all of the things that can get conservative blood boiling.
These guys -- McDermott has basically said that Saddam Hussein is more believable than George Bush, and he's trotting out -- and I agree that it may not have that much play here at home, because these guys are marginalized, but these guys are going to be used, no doubt about it, as propaganda tools throughout the Middle East by Iraq, by Saddam Hussein. And, you know, personally, I think it's an embarrassment.
BLITZER: But you know, Peter, a lot of Democrats admire these Democratic congressmen for going over there and expressing their opinions.
BEINART: Yeah, perhaps they do. I actually think that what Bonior said does begin an important debate, which is to say, his point about the sanctions is to some degree correct, which is to say the sanctions, because of the way Saddam has responded to them, are hurting the Iraqi people.
And, in fact, they're unsustainable for precisely that reason, which I think is one of the important arguments for war, which is to say, liberating Iraq will put the Iraqi people in a much, much better position, particularly once they start pumping oil than they are now. And in the long run, we couldn't continue the sanctions regime anyway.
BLITZER: Everybody on this panel agrees that if Iraqi children are suffering, it's Saddam Hussein's fault, not the United States' fault.
But also I want to say to Jonah's point that when Lawrence Eagleburger and Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker came out and disagreed with the administration position of going it alone without going before the United Nations, Saddam didn't, you know, air 30-second spots. So I don't think he will air Bonior's and McDermott and Thompson talking about the plight of children.
BLITZER: Thirty seconds. We're running out of time.
GOLDBERG: He didn't air 30-second spots in the United States. He has used Gerhard Schroeder and Germany's opposition to the United States for a huge PR gain. I don't put it past his machine from doing the same thing with these guys.
Look, I think there are all sorts of perfectly legitimate criticisms from the Democratic left, from liberals about all of these policies. I don't necessarily agree with them. Why we should somehow put the U.N.'s interests, which are basically a vehicle for France's and China's interests, above America's interest, I don't get. But those are interesting arguments.
These guys are playing into something else. These guys are trying to persuade a lot more people than just the American public.
BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break.
You wanted to make a quick point, though?
GEORGE: I was just saying that Bonior is retiring anyway, and McDermott is in an incredibly safe seat. So that there's not any political capital they're expending either.
BLITZER: All right. He made a quick point.
We're going to take a quick break, but there's much more to debate when the "Final Round" continues. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our "Final Round."
In recent weeks, Iraq has been the key debate here in Washington. Some believe that is to the dismay of Democrats who were hoping to focus on the economy and other issues leading up to the midterm elections.
Earlier on CNN's "NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS," the Senate Republican leader, Trent Lott, offered his view of the impact of the Iraq debate on the fall campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOTT: I think it has affected the thinking of candidates all over the country. The American people do look to Republicans when it comes to national defense and security, there's no question about that.
But also, I think we should make the point, the Democrats gripe about what is not being done about the economy, but they have no proposals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Donna, is all this, politically speaking, bad news for the Democrats?
BRAZILE: Well, I don't think so. I think Democrats are in good shape around the country. You almost have to look at state by state and district by district to know that Democrats are staying on message and talking about the economy and health care and Social Security.
And as long as they do that over the next 37 days, that's five weeks for those of you who are counting, then I think Democrats will be in a good position to retain control of the Senate and take back the House.
And look, Democrats are still in the majority on many of these upcoming gubernatorial races. So I think they're in great shape and they should stay on message.
GOLDBERG: Oh, I think it's indisputable that this helps, the current media environment helps Republicans, in the sense that we aren't hearing a lot of plaintiff cries about the children and Medicare and all of these various things that normally help Democrats.
And, you know, to that extent, you know, I wish Lott would stop reading his stage direction when he makes these sorts of comments. But I think Lott's still correct when he says that this environment helps.
And when it comes to national policy, he's also absolutely right. The Democrats aren't proposing anything. They whine about the tax cut, but they don't actually advocate repealing it. And they whine and ask questions, without trying to answer them, about the war in Iraq. And I think that kind of confusion does hurt them. BLITZER: And some very close races in the House and Senate. In the House, there maybe only 30 or 40 seats that are even up for grabs whatsoever. In the Senate, there's a bunch of very close races.
This could give the Republicans a decisive little advantage going into the election, the whole debate over terrorism and Iraq.
BEINART: Yes, I'm more pessimistic than Donna is about the Democrats. I think you now have the Democrats in trouble in New Jersey. Iowa is back in play because of a scandal in that race. I think there's a number -- a lot of states now where the Democrats look at least wobbly.
And the problem is, the Democratic Party doesn't have anything compelling to say about the war in Iraq. And they tried to get this debate over with quickly, but the debate is sticking around because it's an important debate, and that's hurting them.
GEORGE: I may be a little bit less pessimistic in terms of what Peter was saying, because...
BLITZER: So you think the Democrats are going to come out strong?
GEORGE: Well, I'm not going to think they're going to come on strong, but I think you eventually may have something of a push.
I think, as Donna said, it is going to play out more locally, state by state. I mean, the Torricelli thing in New Jersey is very significant, and I think he is going to lose there. At the same time, though, in Arkansas, you've got an incumbent Republican, Tim Hutchinson, who is in some serious trouble, and that could end up being a wash.
I do think, though, that the president, at least, has to make some kind of lip service in terms of recognizing that the economy is in some serious trouble. We lost another near 300 points on Friday. And I don't think he should be necessarily seduced to think that he can only talk about Iraq for the next four weeks.
BLITZER: Almost five weeks.
GEORGE: Almost five weeks. 37 days.
BLITZER: We have to take another quick break. The Lightning Round just ahead. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our "Lightning Round."
For the past two weeks, the movie "Barbershop" has been number one at the box office, but the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton are highly critical of the film, which has a predominantly African-American cast.
They're taking issue with comical remarks made about the civil rights leaders, including icons like Rosa Parks. Here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's three things that black people need to tell the truth about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, Rodney King should have got his (OFF- MIKE) beat for driving drunk and being grown and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
Two, O.J. did it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: O.J. did it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And three, Rosa Parks ain't do nothing but sit her black (OFF-MIKE) down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only is what you're saying not true, it is wrong and disrespectful for you to discuss Rosa Parks in that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Robert, should Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton lighten up a little bit?
GEORGE: Given the movie, they should highlight-en up, actually, perhaps.
It's as simple as this: First of all, it's a comedy. The character who's spouting off there, you know, is criticized by other people, other members in the comedy.
And the fact is, this actually shows, you know, evolution within black culture. You've had younger African-Americans who have been willing to criticize white culture like John Wayne and Elvis Presley, and things like that. Now they're also being able to critique their own. I think it's good.
BRAZILE: Well, I haven't seen the movie, so I shouldn't pass judgment.
BLITZER: Go ahead. Go ahead.
BRAZILE: But it's nice to see Reverend Sharpton and Reverend Jackson back on the same page...
... singing from the same hymn book after many months of disagreement.
But I must say this, Rosa Parks is my hero. And I hope people will understand that this is just a movie and not real life. GOLDBERG: Look, I mean, I agree with Robert and I agree with Donna. I think it helps to show that the black community is not nearly as homogeneous and there is some intellectual and political diversity in the black community, which is always a good message.
And, look, it also shows, I think, that Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King have become cemented as American icons, because you can't really be an icon and a hero in this culture unless you reach that point where you can make fun of them a little bit.
But I bet you everybody who laughs in that movie, blacks and whites included, if you asked them after the movie, do you still revere Rosa Parks, they'd all say yes.
BLITZER: What about that?
BEINART: Yes, I think it's absolutely right. You know, Jesse Jackson has said for a long time he wants a honest, open, you know, no-holds-barred discussion about race.
The truth is, a no-holds-barred discussion about race is not always going to be pleasant. It's sometimes going to be a little ugly. But it's much better than the often-dishonest kind of debate we today have about race. So I think this is good.
BLITZER: All right, we have to leave it right there. Thanks to all of you for joining us.
BRAZILE: Thank you.
BLITZER: But before we go, we'd like to say goodbye to a member of our LATE EDITION family. Our associate producer Brad Watson is leaving us.
Guess what? Guess where he's going? He's going to join the United States Marine Corps. Do we have a picture of Brad that we could show our viewers? There he is.
He's standing there. He's going to be a proud member of the Marines, the few, the proud.
Brad Watson, good luck to you. We'll miss you in the weeks, months and years ahead. But when you're done with the Marines, you come back here to LATE EDITION.
And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, September 29. Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
This note, tonight I'll be hosting a "CNN PRESENTS" premiere, "Showdown: Iraq," that's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Pacific, an important collaboration between CNN and the "New York Times." Please join us then. Please, of course, join me every Monday through Friday, twice a day now, from noon to 1:00 p.m. Eastern with the new program, "Showdown: Iraq," and later in the day, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Have a good day.
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Their Trip to Iraq; Should Congress Give President Authority to Wage War?>