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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Showdown: Iraq

Aired October 6, 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, 6:00 p.m. in Paris, and 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joins us for this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
In just a few minutes we'll have a live exclusive interview with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, on this one-year anniversary of the start of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan.

We'll also get insight into the debate over Iraq from two top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But first, a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: One year ago tomorrow, the United States officially began the war on terror, launching airstrikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Joining us now from Kabul for an exclusive interview is the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

President Karzai, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.

An enormous amount of changes in your country over this past year, but one thing has not changed, Osama bin Laden still unaccounted for. What's your latest information on his whereabouts?

PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: Well, the latest that I can think of is that the more time passes and we don't hear of him in any forum, I would come to believe that he probably is dead. But still, you never know. He might be alive. Five months ago, six months ago, I was thinking that he was alive. The more we don't hear of him, and the more time passes there is the likelihood that he probably is either dead or seriously wounded somewhere.

BLITZER: What about Mullah Mohammed Omar, the former leader of the Taliban, who, of course, has disappeared, as well?

KARZAI: Well, Mullah Omar is alive and we know of that. And we have come close to arresting him several times, but he's been able to escape.

It is difficult to get a man like that because nobody knows him by face. Nobody can recognize him. If you came across him today, somewhere in Afghanistan or in the rest of the world, you wouldn't recognize him. So that's part of the problem with him.

BLITZER: Do you believe he is still inside Afghanistan someplace or escaped to Pakistan or another country?

KARZAI: I believe he is most of the time inside Afghanistan. He could go, from time to time, toward our borders, but he stays around the Afghan area, sometimes close to the borders.

BLITZER: How much of a threat does al Qaeda and the Taliban represent to your government right now?

KARZAI: They were a government just about eight, nine months ago. They are now a group on the run. They are individuals and groups on the run. They are no longer a government. They are no longer a political movement. They are no longer a reality in Afghanistan.

We don't see them as a danger in any way, of course. As a terrorist organization, as terrorist individuals, they may try to strike and they may try to assassinate or shoot people or lob bombs. That kind of activity they can do, but not a political or military threat anymore. That's gone.

BLITZER: President Karzai, there was an assassination attempt against you on September 5th. Who was responsible for that assassination plot? As you know, there are various reports ranging from al Qaeda to, indeed, individuals even within your own government.

KARZAI: No, this man was clearly -- we identified him, clearly someone very, very close to the Taliban, someone who had fought alongside the Taliban, someone who had received training in various terrorist activities.

The fault on our side was that he came and presented himself as a trained soldier and our guys hired him without asking him a question, so that was the problem on our side.

BLITZER: Are you scared, President Karzai, for your life right now?

KARZAI: No, I am not. I have been through such incidents many times in the past. When we were resisting against the former Soviet Union, I was attacked, and we had that accidental bomb that fell on us, and now the assassination attempt on me.

I trust God's keeping, and when he decides I'll not be here anymore, that will be the moment. Before that, I have no fears.

BLITZER: President Karzai, explain to our viewers in the United States, indeed around the world, why it's necessary for you to be protected now by U.S. military personnel and other U.S. law enforcement types, as opposed to Afghan bodyguards.

KARZAI: Well, the United States and the allied forces are here as a whole to keep Afghanistan away from dangers. In the beginning, it was the danger of the Taliban and al Qaeda and other terrorists, now they're here to help Afghanistan stabilize further.

And the U.S. army and the British army and the French army and the Turkish army and, indeed, many other countries, over nearly 25 to 30 countries, are helping the training of the Afghan army, and the Germans are helping the training of the Afghan police and the Afghan security forces.

The American presence here, in the training of the Afghan army and in providing protection for me, is part of that security arrangement. In about a month from now, the U.S. will begin to train Afghan security forces in a very professional way, and those security forces will then completely take over.

Right now, the security arrangement for me is done in a combined Afghan-American guard.

BLITZER: President Karzai, the last time we spoke when you were here in Washington, I interviewed you. You were very upbeat at that time, but I think since then you've been disappointed in the level of international support, financial support, indeed support coming from the United States to help rebuild your country.

Is that your biggest disappointment over the past year?

KARZAI: Well, I'm -- while we Afghans are very grateful to the international community for what they have done so far, especially in the field of education and the training of the Afghan army and police, but there are other areas in which the international community has not delivered the promises that they made, especially in the reconstruction of the basic infrastructure of Afghanistan.

And also the total money that we expected to come to the Afghan government and to strengthen the Afghan administration has not arrived in Afghanistan. Money has been spent through other means of helping Afghanistan. Not much has come to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

But I got very much satisfied when I was in New York sometime back with the offer of reconstruction of Afghan highways by the United States, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

I think, from now onwards, the international community is paying more attention to the basic needs of the infrastructure repair of Afghanistan. With that I am satisfied.

But that's not the end of the story. We will need a lot more help to really build up our lives, so the Afghan people and the country stand back on their own feet.

BLITZER: How much longer do you believe, President Karzai, U.S. troops will have to remain in Afghanistan?

KARZAI: Well, we have been talking about this in the past few days, while discussing the formation of the national army of Afghanistan. We had a major meeting yesterday in Kabul, attended by all the corps commanders of Afghanistan, all the provincial governors, those who are concerned with the making of the army, and the U.S. representative, the European representatives, the U.N. and the ISAF representatives, to discuss how best and how quickly we can train the Afghan army, so that the security issues can be taken entirely by the Afghans.

I believe the presence of the international forces here, the U.S., the allies, and the ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, should be here for as long as the Afghan people need them, so that we can stand on our own feet.

I cannot say the time frame, probably a year, probably less, or more than that. But the essential thing here is to help Afghanistan stand back on its own feet, to defend itself and defend against terrorism and radicalism, and then the rest of the world can go, and we will be able to manage on our own.

BLITZER: Are you at all concerned, President Karzai, as some officials here in Washington are, some members of the U.S. House and Senate, that a new U.S. war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq could detract, take away from the war on terror and leave you in Afghanistan a bit empty, as a result of the U.S. focusing in on Iraq?

KARZAI: Well, I am not concerned that the U.S. will shift its attention from Afghanistan and entirely focus it on Iraq, but I would like to remind our friends in the United States and in the international community that we have to really finish the job in Afghanistan completely. We have to make sure that we have handled terrorism and radicalism in Afghanistan and around Afghanistan in a manner that satisfies all of us that they are no longer there as groups or as organizations.

Once we have done that, and once Afghanistan is enabled to produce its own income and to stand on its own feet, as far as security and arrangements for that are concerned, then probably the world can afford to go elsewhere.

At this point, I think it will be very, very unwise to think that Afghanistan can be left alone.

BLITZER: So, in other words, I'm hearing you say, President Karzai, your advice to the United States government, go slow as far as Iraq is concerned because it could undermine the overall war against terrorism, especially dealing with the situation in your country.

KARZAI: My advice to the United States and to the international community is that they must focus systemic, concerted effort on helping Afghanistan stand back on its own feet and on finishing the war against terrorism to the absolute conviction that it's now done and we are safe and satisfied.

BLITZER: President Karzai, thanks for joining us on this first anniversary of the start of the U.S. and coalition war against terrorism in Afghanistan. Good luck to you. Good luck to all of your people in Afghanistan. We appreciate your joining us here on CNN.

And just ahead, a preview on a heated Senate debate on Iraq. Will Congress give President Bush what he wants? We'll talk to two key senators on the Intelligence Committee, the chairman, Bob Graham, and the vice chairman, Richard Shelby.

This special hour of LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The text of our bipartisan resolution is clear and it is strong. The statement of support from the Congress will show to friend and enemy alike the resolve of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush praising the agreement reached with leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives on the use of military force against Iraq. There's still no deal with the U.S. Senate.

Joining us now are two top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Bob Graham, he's the committee's chairman, and Richard Shelby, he's the vice chairman.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Senator Graham, we'll get to Iraq in just a moment, but you just heard President Karzai of Afghanistan sort of express optimism that he's in relatively good shape. But based on what you know, is he?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: In terms of his personal security?

BLITZER: Not necessarily -- yes, in terms of his personal security but in terms of the whole regime in Afghanistan.

GRAHAM: I think in terms of his personal security he is getting the most professional, both civilian and military assistance from the United States and European countries as they train Afghanis to be capable of picking up that responsibility.

I was pleased that he had a generally good report card of the progress that had been made. Pointed out that we got some steps to take, particularly in the infrastructure area, rebuilding the shattered transportation system and other elements of the Afghan society upon which both political and economic futures are going to be predicated.

BLITZER: How much trouble is he in, though, politically speaking? He's got a lot of enemies inside Afghanistan even within his own so-called government, doesn't he?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, it's a precarious situation there, because you've got about five powerful warlords there, and you're trying to form and build on a central government. It's difficult. It's not impossible. As Senator Graham alluded to, he's making progress with a lot of our help, but he's got a long way to go. But the fact that he survived this long, this far himself and the remnants of, what you'd say, the building of his government, I think that's progress in itself.

But, Wolf, I do believe that the international community has got to live up to their commitments to Afghanistan to help rebuild and give the people there a chance.

BLITZER: Do you agree, Senator Graham, with his assessment that the longer we don't hear from Osama bin Laden the more likely it is that he's dead?

GRAHAM: Yes, although our intelligence people still feel that the probabilities are that he's still alive. That's occasional intercepts that make reference to bin Laden in the present tense. But, frankly, nobody knows.

I hope that we will come to closure on this. We don't want to have a situation where we live into the next decades with this uncertainty as to whether he's alive or not.

BLITZER: But what I hear you saying is that the current intelligence, the best information now, without being conclusive, is that he's probably alive.

GRAHAM: Yes.

BLITZER: And is that what you're hearing, as well?

SHELBY: I agree with that. He's probably alive, but we don't know that. And we're hesitant -- and the people in the intelligence community are hesitant to declare somebody dead that they don't have forensic evidence to show.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the situation involving Iraq. I thought I heard President Karzai express a little bit of concern that if the U.S. moves too quickly on Iraq right now, it could deviate, divert attention from the war on terror in Afghanistan and elsewhere. That's been one of the concerns that you've been expressing.

GRAHAM: Yes, but my principal reason for that concern is somewhat different then President Karzai's. My concern is, what represents the greatest threat to the people of the United States within the United States? And in my judgment, the answer to that is terrorism and particularly the large number of operatives from international terrorist organizations, of which al Qaeda is not the largest, in the United States who were recruited and trained and are awaiting instructions to attack.

And are we ready to deal with that situation? My answer is no. And therefore, I've been proposing that we ought to strengthen the resolution that's before the Congress to give the president additional authority to attack international terrorists beyond al Qaeda.

BLITZER: But you don't see Iraqi fingerprints involved in that terror threat?

GRAHAM: They are minor in comparison to the numbers from the major international terrorist organizations.

BLITZER: You don't agree with that assessment, do you?

SHELBY: I don't agree totally, but I don't disagree either on every aspect. Senator Graham, I believe, what he's saying, as I understand it, he's saying let's focus on the immediate threat to the U.S., that is, the terrorism here, al Qaeda and other groups that would do us harm. I don't disagree with that.

But on the other hand, we cannot preclude looking outward as, I believe, at Iraq. I believe that they do pose a serious threat to us, today and a lot more tomorrow. Do we sit around like the French did and we wait for something and pay the dear price? We can't afford to do it.

GRAHAM: First, I'm not saying that we should not be concerned and should not give the president authority to deal with Iraq. I'm saying that should not be the only authority that we give him.

If I could use the 1930s example, it would be as if the United States declared war on Austria and Italy but didn't declare war on Germany. Iraq is Italy and al Qaeda is maybe Austria.

The real threats, in my judgment, are those large numbers of international organizations. Two-thirds of the international terrorist groups, as determined by the United States State Department, live in the neighborhood of the Middle East and Central Asia. Five out of the seven nations which...

BLITZER: But who are the state sponsors -- are you hinting that Iran is a greater...

GRAHAM: I am saying that the combination of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah is a greater threat to the United States here at home, the ability to attack and kill Americans in America, than Iraq or al Qaeda.

BLITZER: So in order for to you support the resolution that would give the president the authority to use military force if necessary, what do you want included?

GRAHAM: I want to extend the current authority that the president has, which is to wage war against al Qaeda, because that's the organization that was connected with the events of September the 11th. I want to extend that so that he can also extend war against those international terrorist groups that have the capacity to kill Americans inside the United States.

And the best way to do that is an effective law enforcement effort here, such as the roundup of terrorists in Buffalo and Portland, Oregon, but also attacking the headquarters, take the head off the snake where it lives in the Middle East. BLITZER: Senator Shelby, you know, the House version took out some of that language giving the president authority to go beyond just Iraq. It seems like Senator Graham wants that kind of language put back in. I don't think the White House would have a problem with that. You wouldn't have a problem, would you?

SHELBY: I wouldn't have a problem with that. I think if we did what Senator Graham's talking about, plus give the president the authority that he wants to deal with Iraq, that'd be fine with me. I haven't talked to the White House about it. But that would not lessen or take away anything from the president. It would strengthen his hand.

GRAHAM: Yes, and what we're doing is we're giving the president a set of authorities, and it's going to be his judgment which ones to use and what sequence and what combination.

I think that we should give him the authority to deal with these international terrorist groups that have a substantial presence in the United States so he will then have the authority to continue the war against al Qaeda, primarily in Afghanistan, to look for these international terrorist groups that are based in the Middle East and Central Asia with large numbers of operatives embedded in the United States, and consider what to do about Iraq.

Those will be tough decisions for the president, but that's what the presidency is all about.

BLITZER: Do both of you agree with Senator Lott, who suggested this morning eventually it'll pass maybe this week 70 or 80 votes in favor of the president's position?

SHELBY: I believe it will go 70 or 80 votes, maybe higher, but we'll have to see how the votes count. But that is, it will pass, Wolf, by an overwhelming vote, Democrats and Republicans

BLITZER: Do you agree with that?

GRAHAM: It will pass.

And my concern is that we could be in a situation a week from today that the president has the authority to take on Iraq, he has the continuing authority to deal with al Qaeda in Afghanistan, has no authority to deal with what I consider to be the most significant threat to the people of the United States in the United States, which are those other international terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah, with very substantial numbers of operatives based in the United States.

SHELBY: But the president has a lot of authority under the Constitution of the United States to defend the security of the American people.

BLITZER: As commander in chief.

I want you to listen, Senator Shelby, to what the Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, said this weekend here on CNN on Novak, Hunt and Shields. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it's fair to say is that the information we're provided through the intelligence sources is helpful, but I don't think it's conclusive. That is, I think you can interpret it in different ways. I don't think there is any consensus with regard to the threat today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's referring to the threat from Iraq. Is there a clear and present imminent threat to the United States from Iraq, and he says that the intelligence sources are saying it's not conclusive.

SHELBY: Well, I think you can read anything into intelligence reports. Senator Graham and I are privy to a lot of that and we might see it a little differently at times, but I believe the threat is there if you're looking for it.

If you're looking for the smoking gun or if you're looking for the bomb that's being assembled in a shed near Baghdad, you're not going to find that. If we waited that long, it'd be too late.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that?

GRAHAM: Listen, there's no question that Saddam Hussein is an evil person who's been working on chemical and biological and nuclear capabilities for a long time, and he hates America and what we stand for.

The question is, he lives in a tough neighborhood. There are a lot of evil people around him. I think the president ought to have the authority to look at all of the threats from this basic same region of the world and prioritize, decide which ones we go after first.

What is the pattern of conducting war against these forces that hate us? Which will give us the greatest security from their attacks, particularly here inside the United States?

BLITZER: And just to be precise, we're going to take a break, but just to be precise, you believe right now that Iran represents a greater potential threat to the United States than Iraq?

GRAHAM: There's no question that Iran has a more developed nuclear capability than does Iraq, probably about the same chemical and biological.

On another news show today, Richard Perle said that he didn't worry too much about Iraq's ability to attack Israel because their missiles are so few in number. Iran, on the other hand, has a substantial number of missiles with much longer range than does Iraq.

Iran also is the country that financed and controls Hezbollah, which is what Senator Shelby and I have heard many times described as the A Team of international terrorists.

BLITZER: We'll take a break, but go ahead, wrap this portion up.

SHELBY: I believe Iran poses a threat down the road. I don't believe they pose a threat today. There's a lot of political changes going on there. I believe Richard Perle is right, I believe things are going to change in Iran.

BLITZER: Richard Perle is the former Pentagon official who has been a hawk on all of these issues.

Stand by. We're going to continue this conversation. We have a lot more to talk about.

We'll continue our discussion with Senator Graham and Senator Shelby. They'll also be taking your phone calls as this special hour of LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We will not be satisfied with Iraqi half-truths or Iraqi compromises or Iraqi efforts to get us back into the same swamp that they took the United Nations into back in 1998.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Secretary of State Colin Powell reiterating the Bush administration's call for tough U.N. action against Iraq.

Welcome back to this special hour of LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.

We're continuing our conversation with the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham of Florida, and the committee's vice chairman, Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Tomorrow night the president will be delivering what his aides say will be a major speech on Iraq. What do you specifically want to hear him say that will make the case even more effectively for you?

GRAHAM: Well, I'd like to hear him put Iraq in the context of all of the challenges and commitments, such as the commitments that we have made to Afghanistan, how are we going to sequence all of these?

Number two, I'd like him to have a heavy focus on what the consequences of different courses of action will be here in the United States. I am, frankly, worried that, with the large number of trained terrorists who are in the United States, that, if we don't handle this carefully, including doing our domestic law enforcement as well as our foreign policy, that we could face a significant increase in incidents of terrorism inside the United States.

BLITZER: Are you concerned about that, as well? SHELBY: I'm always concerned about terrorism. Senator Graham and I have worked together on intel dealing with that. We're privy to a lot of information some people aren't.

But as far as what I'd like to see the president do tomorrow night, is just state again what his concerns are dealing with the security issues and Iraq. I thought he did a great job when he addressed the U.N. He's going to speak to the American people tomorrow night and to the world, as you would say. And I think he's going to lay out the case, and I believe he'll do it well.

BLITZER: You know, the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, says there's an absolute proof of a connection between al Qaeda and Iraq and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. But how strong, how compelling is that evidence, because there's apparently been no direct link, a smoking gun linking the Iraqis to 9/11?

SHELBY: Well, I think there's evidence of a connection. We don't know how strong it is, or at least I don't at this point, but we know that there have been more than conversations there. We know that there's al Qaeda possibly in -- probably in Baghdad as we speak. We know that a lot of them have been in the north where the Kurds are, but we don't know how high-ranking they are.

But it's not just the al Qaeda that bothers me and the connection, it's the ability in the future of weapons of mass destruction.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that assessment?

GRAHAM: Afghanistan and Iraq are countries of about the same size, roughly 20 million to 25 million people. They are in the same general part of the world. The fact that there would be interchanges, including interchanges of people who could be identified as al Qaeda or Taliban, is not surprising.

But as to whether there has been harboring, support, or whether there was any involvement of Iraq in the events of September 11th, I would say the evidence is very thin.

BLITZER: You've been outspoken in recent days, suggesting that the CIA may not be sharing with your committee everything that it should be sharing, as far as the information that they've collected.

GRAHAM: Well, we have had some concerns with the flow of information from the CIA. And this is an area where Senator Shelby and I might have a little disagreement. But I've been concerned that we've been getting information very late, so that we have not been able to fully review it before we have hearings.

But more important, that there is a gap between the information that we received in a classified form and that which goes to the public in a declassified form. And that may create for the public a different impression of information and their ability to exercise judgment on it than we're making. We asked at our last hearing, which was on Friday, for the CIA to go back and review their standards of declassification in the hopes that we'll have more information that we can release to the public and that it will be more consistent with what they've been telling us in closed sessions.

BLITZER: You may have seen the story in today's front page of The Washington Post suggesting that -- not in The Washington Post, in Newsweek magazine, the new issue of Newsweek, suggesting that every time the administration comes up with some "hard evidence," in quotes, linking, for example, the Iraqis to al Qaeda, anonymous CIA sources tend to pooh-pooh it and to undermine the hard-liners in the Bush administration.

Have you gotten that impression as well?

SHELBY: Well, I don't think this kind of behavior's anything new in the intelligence community. You have the official version at times, and then you have the unofficial version or somebody's dissenting. That has gone on a long time.

I'll tell you what I have. I believe that I have enough information, that is, intelligence, to make an informed decision this coming week on whether or not to support the president of the United States. I'm going to support the president. And I believe, again, that it's going to be 70 or 80 senators that will do the same.

BLITZER: The notion that one bullet could take out Saddam Hussein, you heard Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, say that would save a lot of money and obviously a lot of bloodshed if somebody would just stand up and shoot Saddam Hussein, assassinate in effect Saddam Hussein.

Is that consistent with U.S. law?

GRAHAM: No, but it also may not be consistent with the way in which dictatorships work. While there isn't a regular line of succession in the way that we would have if a president were to die in office, there is a cadre of people who surround Saddam Hussein. And if he were killed, assumedly someone would move up into his position.

So if we're talking about regime change, my judgment, it's a more significant issue than just the life or death of one individual, no matter how evil and unpopular and disparaged that individual may be.

BLITZER: Is it wishful thinking to hope that there will be an uprising, a coup if you will, against Saddam Hussein or some colonel or whatever might just take out a gun and kill him? Or do you have to just assume that the U.S. is going to have to go full speed ahead with a full-scale war?

SHELBY: Well, it would be best if his own people took him out because he's done so much damage to his own nation and his own people. It's probably not going to happen, but it would be great if it did.

BLITZER: All right. We've got a caller from Jordan right now, who's an Iraqi.

Go ahead with your question for our senators, please.

CALLER: Good morning, gentlemen. And as an Iraqi, I would like to express to you the feeling that the Iraqis are now sharing, and that is, we are really welcoming any intervention that will deliver us from the tyranny that we're living under.

I have a few points to mention, please.

BLITZER: Just hold on one second, because we don't have a lot of time, but let me just stop you right there and ask Senator Graham, Iraqis living outside of Iraq seem to be pretty much unanimous against the regime of Saddam Hussein. But how much opposition effectively does he have inside the country?

GRAHAM: That's a question which there is a wide range of speculation. There's some who feel that when the first shot is fired that there will be a collapse of Hussein because he has no support. There are others who feel that he will fight to the last.

BLITZER: And the Republican Guard will be with him?

GRAHAM: And that he will be protected by his inner core of security, including four or five divisions of the Republican Guard.

BLITZER: So there's no real consensus on what will happen?

SHELBY: No consensus, but I believe that he'll fold fast. He's got the palace guard around him, but does not have in any way the Iraqi people backing him.

GRAHAM: We need to move quickly if we do this, because there is -- one thing which I think Senator Shelby and I agree, there is pretty much consensus, and that is, when his back is against the wall, when he feels there's no hope, that he is going to be toppled and killed, that's when he's the most dangerous, the most likely to utilize whatever weapons of mass destruction he has against the troops who are assaulting him and against countries like Israel.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Graham, Senator Shelby, always good to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

SHELBY: Thank you.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BLITZER: Sobering comments.

Just ahead, is the Bush administration winning the war of words against Saddam Hussein? We'll ask the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and the former Clinton national security advisor, Samuel Berger.

This special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The choice is obvious (ph), for the United Nations to show its resolve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush pressing his case for tough new U.N. action against Saddam Hussein. Welcome back to this special hour of LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.

Joining us now, Jean Kirkpatrick -- she served as the United States ambassador to the U.N. during the Reagan administration -- and former Clinton National Security Adviser Samuel Berger.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Let me begin with you, Mr. Berger, Samuel Berger.

SAMUEL BERGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Yes, Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: Has the president effectively made the case for possible military action against Iraq?

BERGER: Well, I think he's in the process of doing so. I think there is a threat.

I think tomorrow's speech is important. I hope that he lays out a clear rationale to the American people, a road map including what happens in Iraq after Saddam Hussein, and the risks.

Because I think if there's anything that's been deficient here has been so far not much discussion of the significant costs and risks associated with this. And I think the American people need to understand that if we proceed here, this is no easy matter.

BLITZER: It's not a cakewalk. But if you were a member of the United States Senate right now, would you support a resolution authorizing military force?

BERGER: I think the current resolution is overly broad for me. I would try to narrow it. But in the final analysis, I would vote for it.

BLITZER: Have you -- do you believe, Ambassador Kirkpatrick, that the president has made the case?

JEAN KIRKPATRICK, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Yes, I think he made the case especially clearly in his U.N. speech, of course, where he was very, very, very strong. It was a very strong case.

Now, it put it in U.N. terms, but it made very clearly the case for Saddam Hussein as a law-breaker who has violated the agreements and the commitments that he's made, and who can't be trusted, and who is -- who we know is engaged in, you know, production of a lot of weapons of mass destruction, and whom we, you know, we should not trust. We should seek to deal with him, but we should not trust him. I think he made that case.

BLITZER: With the exception of 9/11, there are many people who suggest that Saddam Hussein was a threat before, is a threat now, was a threat during the eight years of the Clinton administration. Why now?

BERGER: Well, I think, for my mind, the threat he poses is largely related to his nuclear program and the way in which that would fundamentally alter that region and his own calculations.

But I do think, Wolf, that while time is not our friend, we have enough time to try to put together a broad base of international support and a high degree of international legitimacy either for inspectors to go in, see whether he will cooperate -- I'm skeptical, but I think that's an important step -- and then if not, operating not simply as the United States and Britain, but as a broader coalition.

All of the risks associated with this undertaking are substantially greater if this is seen in the region and Iraq and the world as an American-British operation as opposed to the world confronting Saddam Hussein, not just us.

BLITZER: You agree with that assessment?

KIRKPATRICK: Well, more or less. I don't agree really that it's absolutely necessary to have broad, universal support. I think it's desirable, but it's not necessary, in my judgment. I think that the...

BLITZER: If the U.S. had to go it alone with just the British...

KIRKPATRICK: If the United States had to go it alone with the British...

BLITZER: ... you'd be on board for that?

KIRKPATRICK: Oh, of course, I would be. And I think Samuel Berger would be too.

BLITZER: But the effort to try to put together a coalition is worthwhile?

KIRKPATRICK: It's worthwhile within some limits. There are prices I don't think we ought to pay for that, but I think that it's useful. I would say it's useful. It's desirable, all things being equal.

And I think it's desirable to have the Security Council's approval particularly. When you talk about a broad coalition, you know, Jim Baker spent five months trying to put together the coalition for Desert Storm...

BLITZER: In 1990 and '91? KIRKPATRICK: ... in 1991, right. And, you know, so far as the war was concerned, I don't -- I think there's a big question about whether the help we got from the coalition was equivalent to the damage done to Kuwait, which was devastated during that same five months.

BLITZER: Well, the coalition did provide a lot of economic -- they paid the bill basically.

KIRKPATRICK: They did. They paid the bill, there's no doubt about that. And that's very desirable.

BLITZER: If you're taking a look right now at Saddam Hussein, and you're worried about, he might use -- you say he may closer now to a nuclear device than he was during the eight years of the Clinton administration. Can the inspectors, if in fact they go in there, find that kind of capability?

BERGER: The purpose of inspectors are not to find needles in haystacks. The objective here is disarmament. That will not happen without cooperation from Saddam Hussein. Inspectors can validate that cooperation. They can't be -- they can't succeed in an environment of deception.

But I think it's important that we get from the Security Council a resolution that, first of all, defines for ourselves, not Saddam Hussein defining, we define, that unfettered inspections mean any place, anywhere, any time, no notice, that then sends the inspectors back.

Because if we have not exhausted the nonmilitary option here, we're not going to have the kind of support that I think is important to mitigate what are significant risks here -- risks of inflaming the region, risks that this breaks along an Israeli-Arab fault line, risks that we'll be left alone, by and large, in a post-Saddam period in a very difficult situation -- all risks that we will undermine the cooperation we need in the war on terrorism. All those risks are diminished.

BLITZER: Those are fair questions to ask.

KIRKPATRICK: Yes, I think it's useful to discuss frankly and fully with the American people, you know, something about what the price is and the risks are, why we need to do it, what we need to expect from it. But I also think that the American people know a lot about the risks in any kind of conflict.

And I think also that, you know, that Saddam is now rather well known in the world even, not just here, but in the world. I think his neighbors -- we're talking about his neighbors and what the impact might be on the region. The fact is, the impact on the region might be stabilizing the region, because Saddam Hussein has been a very destabilizing factor. He has, of course, not only gone to war with Iran and invaded Kuwait, they planned an invasion of Saudi Arabia, you will recall. He's a destabilizing person. BLITZER: You know, Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, met with Secretary of State Powell on Friday, and afterwards he came out and he agreed that there should be a new U.N. Security Council resolution giving him the kind of mandate he needs to go into Iraq.

Listen to what Mr. Blix had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS BLIX, U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: It would be somewhat awkward for us to go in and then find that a new resolution was coming there which would call for us, ask us to do something more or different, which would require other practical arrangements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But the French say they want two resolutions, one making basically the case against Iraq, but leaving the consequences for a second resolution. The Bush administration says one resolution. Is this a big deal?

BERGER: It is a big deal, because it seems to me, first we need to get a clear statement in today's context with the threat of military force in the air, in this context, the international community affirming that it is the world that expects disarmament, not just the United States and the U.K., one. And, two, that we're going to -- the United Nations is going to define the terms and conditions of these inspections, not Saddam Hussein. I think, if we can get the world united behind that now, that would be a very important step.

If he then is intransigent, if he then doesn't cooperate, we can seek a second resolution. But if we can't get a second resolution, we don't legally need one. I still believe we will be on higher ground if the international community has said, "This is our imperative, not just an American imperative."

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds before we have to take a break, but why can't the French go along? Why aren't the French going along?

KIRKPATRICK: Because the French don't go along. The French are people who think otherwise. They typically, in diplomatic circles, in the U.N., for example, like to -- you know, they like to devise their own resolutions.

BLITZER: But in the end, they probably will?

KIRKPATRICK: In the end, they'll be on our side. We'll be on the same side.

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

Coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION, we'll continue our conversation with Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Samuel Berger. Plus, Johnny Spann talks about his son's death and his reaction to John Walker Lindh's sentence. All that, plus your phone calls.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We'll pick up our discussion about the Bush administration's case against Iraq with Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Samuel Berger in just a few minutes, but first here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: We're continuing our conversation with the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and the former national security advisor to President Clinton, Samuel Berger.

The Iraqi ambassador, Mr. Berger, earlier today said, you know, you want to go see the palaces, you want to go see all sorts of places in Iraq, the inspectors, go ahead. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMED ALDOURI, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I don't think that will be a huge problem between us and inspectors. I don't think that we will have problem on that question, on that issue. Certainly, we can accommodate ourself with the U.N. to have free access to residential (ph) sites.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Free access to presidential sites. Well, that sounds like pretty encouraging news?

BERGER: Well, I think it's important for the United Nations Security Council to define what unfettered means, not the Iraqis. In 1998, secretary general of the Security Council signed a memorandum with the Iraqis that limited, in some ways, access to these very large so-called presidential sites.

I think that in order for those inspections to have credibility -- either credibility when he's not cooperating, or credibility in terms of validating cooperation -- they have to be absolutely free and clear of restrictions. And therefore, I think it's the Security Council in this resolution should say, "This is what unfettered means." You know, I'm not going to rely upon what the Iraqi ambassador says it means.

BLITZER: Can the U.S., the Bush administration get that kind of resolution through the U.N. Security Council?

KIRKPATRICK: You know, no one ever knows with real certainty what the Security Council will approve. However, it looks to me as if the Security Council will in fact approve the kind of resolution that we're talking about.

BLITZER: The French, the Russians, the Chinese will go along?

KIRKPATRICK: There will be no veto, and a total of nine positive votes.

BLITZER: And you agree with that?

BERGER: Yes, I think in the very end we may have to compromise by dropping our demand for now for prior authorization of force.

I think that exists in any case based on past resolutions. And I think that it would be worthwhile for the international community to be standing behind the inspectors and then standing there with that position if Saddam Hussein does not cooperate.

BLITZER: I was always under the impression that after the cease- fire resolutions that were passed by the Security Council in 1991, that authority was built in right there. If they don't comply with destroying the weapons of mass destruction, they will be open to possible military action.

KIRKPATRICK: That authority was built in at that time, and it remains valid. And, you know, I mean, it's like laws. They don't go out of -- they don't expire after every year. They continue. And that's the reason a good many people are saying this.

BLITZER: But during your term, the eight years that you were in the White House, you had the authority but you didn't do it. After '98, after the inspectors left, you could have used military force.

BERGER: We used military force four times in eight years.

BLITZER: But that was a brief, a brief encounter.

BERGER: Well, including after 1998, four days of incessant bombing against all known weapons-of-mass-destruction sites. We did not, in 1998, plan an invasion of Iraq. That's what we're now talking about.

I do believe that the authority exists from prior resolutions, but there's a legal position and sort of a moral position or moral authority position. Legally, we can act without any further authorization of the Security Council. But we want politically to be acting from the broadest possible base that we can, and that means engaging the international community, isolating Saddam Hussein, not isolating ourselves.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that, a set of moral versus a...

KIRKPATRICK: No, I don't think there's a moral issue involved here, frankly. But I think there's a political, there's political ....

BERGER: Moral authority.

BLITZER: It's a political authority.

All right, let's take a caller. We have a caller from Ohio.

Go ahead with your question, please.

CALLER: Do you think Bush will stop after Iraq, or will later he want to invade other countries?

BLITZER: All right, that's a good question. What about that? For example, we heard Senator Graham raise concerns about Iran and Syria.

KIRKPATRICK: Well, what Senator Graham was talking about was the fact that there are serious terrorist threats and serious terrorist operations in other countries besides Iraq. And that's a fact, of course. Iran is a place. Syria, what he was talking about was the Hezbollah, which we've known a lot about for a long time, and which has committed a lot of crimes against Americans through the years.

You know, I don't think President Bush is planning to invade Iraq today. I don't think there's any evidence of this. I think he talks about using force. I don't think it follows, by the way, that he's planning an invasion. I do believe, however, that he's prepared to use force to achieve a minimum that he regards as necessary for our security.

BLITZER: All right. I want to move on and talk about something Scott Ritter is quoted in the new issue of Newsweek magazine that's just out today and tomorrow as saying -- he, of course, is the former U.N. weapons inspector.

He's saying that, yes, indeed, the Iraqi allegation that there were spies as part of the U.N. weapons inspection teams, American and British spies, is absolutely true.

And he's saying this, quote: "Embedded in the team was a British MI-6 case officer whose job it was to recruit a senior Iraqi official. Also embedded in the team were CIA officers whose job was to do a structural intelligence analysis of Saddam Hussein's bunkers and to pinpoint the residences and offices of every senior Iraqi government official."

Now, you were the national security adviser to President Clinton during eight years, during most of the '90s. Is Scott Ritter telling the truth?

BERGER: The idea that there was cooperation between the U.N. inspectors and intelligence from the United States and other countries should not come as a breathless shock.

BLITZER: But this is not cooperation. These are agents planted in the inspection teams that were designed to recruit Iraqi agents, if you will, or to gather intelligence for the CIA.

BERGER: There was, as a Security Council resolution that set up UNSCOM called for, full cooperation from all member nations. Did we cooperate with those inspectors with all the information that we had? Absolutely.

And I think, you know, the notion that anybody would be surprised by the fact that there was intelligence cooperation between U.N. inspectors trying to find weapons of mass destruction and countries like the United States and Britain and others who have information with respect to that should come as no shock.

BLITZER: What do you say?

KIRKPATRICK: Well, it's necessary. I mean, where would they get information about the locations that they wanted to inspect?

BLITZER: Well, the Iraqis now say, you know, "We don't want you to come in if you're just going to be spying and giving information to the U.S. government for possible strikes against Iraq."

KIRKPATRICK: You know, I mean, that doesn't really make a lot of sense, though, Wolf, I think personally.

What makes sense is to face the fact that governments are providing the inspectors. And the governments are going to provide, you know, the information that they have about what they need to inspect. Nobody should be surprised at that.

BERGER: The obligation is on Saddam Hussein to cooperate, not for inspectors to find needles in the haystack.

BLITZER: All right. Samuel Berger, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, thanks to both of you for joining us.

KIRKPATRICK: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll have a conversation with Mike Spann, the -- with Johnny Spann. He's the father of Mike Spann, the first American killed in the war on terror in Afghanistan.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

The president of the United States is returning to the White House now, and Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House. We'll be monitoring his arrival on the South Lawn. If he stops and speaks with reporters, we'll bring that to you live.

We're also awaiting a news conference in Montgomery County, just outside Washington, D.C., a news conference involving the police chief, the police chief of Montgomery County, on those sniper shootings in Montgomery County, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and now in neighboring Virginia as well. New information, if there is new information, we of course will bring that to you as well.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Bush back at the White House, on the South Lawn of the White House after returning on Marine One, the helicopter -- the presidential helicopter. He's greeting some friends, some guests before he goes back inside.

He had spent some time at Kennebunkport with his parents before coming back to Washington. Getting ready for a major address to the nation, indeed the world, tomorrow night on the situation on Iraq. We'll, of course, have live coverage at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow night.

There's another story that we're following, a series of shootings in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and neighboring Virginia. We've got a news conference that's about to begin in Montgomery County. Let's go listen to that now.

DOUG DUNCAN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE: ... a few things about him. The first funeral that we've had in the county, first funeral of the victims of these shootings.

"He was tremendously charitable. His hands always gave. He loved unconditionally, be it his wife, his children, his extended family or just someone in need. He was a paradigm of Christian love. An extremely selfless man, he always sought to make others happy. His own happiness seemed to lie in the happiness of others. And he leaves behind him a wife, two children, a mother, a brother, two sisters, a sea of relatives, an ocean of friends, and a starry sky of well- wishers."

And this is from the funeral program. His family is suffering terribly through the tragic loss of their loved one.

And we're calling once again upon the people of Montgomery County, the people of the Washington region to please call us at 240- 777-2600 with any information about the white truck, with any information about anything that you think might be helpful.

We have gotten about 4,000 calls. Those calls have led to about 800 credible leads, and we are pursuing every one of those leads. And as we've seen in many cases around this country, it's a tip from the public -- whether it's a friend, a family member, someone who saw something -- but a tip from the public that gives the police the break they need to crack the case and to arrest the person responsible for this. So, we're calling on the public once again to continue doing what they've been doing, to call us up, give us any information you think might be helpful, because you can play a very valuable role in apprehending whoever did this.

And now, I'd like to turn it over to Chief Charles Moose for some comments. Chief?

CHARLES MOOSE, CHIEF OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: Thank you, sir.

There really is no specific police update, but we wanted to certainly make ourselves available for any questions that you may have.

QUESTION: Chief, I wanted to ask you, how was the woman in Spottsylvania, how do you believe she was shot? Would it be like a drive-by type of situation or perhaps from on top of the Michael's building?

Just looking at the tape and where the vehicle is and where the building is and knowing that she was shot in the back, it almost looks like an angle, going through one side and coming out the other. I was just wondering if this seems any different at all, the style of how this person was shot, even though the shootings could be related to the ones in your county.

MOOSE: Again, you're asking some specifics about the actual investigative information that we, at this point, have chosen not to talk about.

And then, certainly, it's compounded by the fact that you've asked questions about the Virginia case, and we, at this point, prefer that you to talk to the sheriff's office. It is their investigation. They make the first decision about how much of that investigation they want to discuss, what they want to release. So, in respect to their agency, I would have to refer you to them.

BLITZER: Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose saying that he has no further new information to provide right now.

There will be another briefing, a news conference, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. He earlier said today that will include what he calls a geographic profiler, someone who's been looking at these series of sniper killings in the greater Washington, D.C., area -- first the Montgomery County, Maryland, later in the District of Columbia, now in Virginia.

Six people have been killed, one seriously injured in the course of these shootings. Apparently the same individual, the same person has been doing it -- the weapons, the bullets, all apparently one rifle, one high-powered rifle, same bullets coming from that rifle, at least four or five of those shootings.

More information, of course, will be made available. But the suspect or suspects in this particular case remain at large somewhere, presumably, in this greater Washington, D.C., area. We'll continue to cover this story as well.

But let's move on now to another important story that developed this past week. Johnny Michael Spann was a U.S. Marine Corps Captain and a CIA officer who was killed during an uprising by the Taliban prisoners at Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan last November. He was the first U.S. combat death in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Joining us is Mike Spann's father, Johnny Spann.

Mr. Spann, our deepest condolences to you once again.

MIKE SPANN, JOHNNY SPANN'S FATHER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks for joining us. The reason we've invited you on is you came to Washington this week, to Northern Virginia actually, to speak at the sentencing procedure involving John Walker Lindh, the so- called Taliban American. He received a 20-year sentence. You didn't think that was long enough. Why?

SPANN: Well, Mr. Blitzer, the thing about the sentence that John Walker Lindh got, with all of the evidence that the American people saw along with me, we saw him on TV, we saw him in the Khalajengi (ph) fortress, everybody knows why he was there. He was an al Qaeda operative. He was an al Qaeda member. He was with them in Kunduz. He was transferred down to the Khalajengi (ph) fortress. And just that alone lets us know that he was an al Qaeda member.

He not only was an al Qaeda member that day, he was an al Qaeda member back when he was Dakar (ph), when he was fighting on the front lines. He was also an al Qaeda members when all those folks flew airplanes, when the al Qaeda, in fact, came to the United States of America and they hijacked our airplanes and they flew them into the tops of the World Trade Centers and those buildings crumpled. As we sat, as we sat watched people jump out of the top of those towers because they wanted to choose the way they wanted to die, because the al Qaeda had in fact attacked us.

BLITZER: He pleaded guilty. He's now cooperating with U.S. authorities. During his sentencing hearing on Friday, he said this: "I made a mistake by joining the Taliban. I want the court to know and I want the American people to know that had I realized then what I know now about the Taliban, I would never have joined them."

And as a result, that remorse in effect what he's expressing, the judge agreed to the plea bargain agreement between the prosecutors and his attorneys for a 20-year sentence. He'll be eligible for parole in about 16 years based on time already served and if there's good behavior.

SPANN: There again, Mr. Blitzer, I can sit here and I can tell you that the coat that I've got on is red, and I can tell you that every day. After I tell it to you so many times over and over and over, at some point, you're probably going to say, you know, that might look a little bit pink. You know, you can start convincing people.

From day one, John Walker Lindh's family and his father, his mother and his attorneys have been telling the American people that John Walker Lindh loved America and he didn't want anybody to die. He never fired his weapon. Things that's impossible for Americans to understand and believe.

If John Walker Lindh had loved America, if he didn't want any Americans to die, number one, he had several opportunities when he was in front of Mike Spann, when he was taken down to Khalajengi (ph) fortress, the day he sat on the mat in front of Mike Spann...

BLITZER: Your son?

SPANN: Yes, sir, my son -- the day that he was taken out of the bottom of the basement and was led out there on the cot and the reporters were around him, never at any of those times did he say, "Hey, I'm an American. I know things that will save Americans' live, let me start telling you."

You know, if a really true American, if American knows something that will save another American's life, you don't have to make a plea bargain with him.

BLITZER: Do you believe, though, that he had direct involvement in the death of your son?

SPANN: Let me tell you what my suspicions are and the reason I believe them.

Number one, he was carried to Khalajengi (ph) fortress and he stayed in the basement with 400-plus prisoners overnight. One-third of those prisoners was never searched. So you had a third of the prisoners still had all their weapons, still had their grenades, still had their AK-47s, every kind of weapons they had.

Can any reasonable, thinking person think that you could spend the night with 400-plus prisoners in the confines of a 2,000-square- foot building, top and bottom, and that you wouldn't know that some of those still had weapons? I don't think that -- I think that's impossible.

BLITZER: But you're suggesting that he was directly responsible for the death of your son?

SPANN: I think that if I know that there's going to be an uprising and I know that my fellow brethren, my comrades are going to be attacking somebody because they've still got the weapons and they have not quit fighting yet, yes, then that makes you a part of it.

The next thing is that there's -- the medical report show that, Mr. Blitzer, that Mike, the two bullets that killed Mike, wasn't any of them to his body. They were to his head. One of the bullets went in his right temple, and the medical examiner's report says that it went downward and backward and came out the other part of the back of his skull. The other bullet went in at approximately this location, went downward and backward and came out over here.

Now was there a 15-foot al Qaeda member shooting Mike? How did he get the weapon above him. I firmly believe that Mike Spann didn't die right on the courtyard. I think he was on his knees just like we saw the Taliban and the al Qaeda execute people before in the courtyards.

John Walker Lindh had told us that when the uprising started, that he ran inside the pink house. Mike was only a few steps, maybe 20, 25 steps from the pink house when he was attacked. And that's where I think Mike Spann was dragged to, and I think he was executed inside the pink house.

Now, I was told that proximity doesn't -- that's not a form of guilt, and I say to that that, if I drive up outside and I bring somebody in here and they shoot you, or if I'm in here and somebody walks in and I'm part of them and they shoot you, and I go out in a car with them and leave with them, and I never denounce that I'm a part of that -- John Walker Lindh had time and time and opportunities when he could say, "Look, I'm not a member of the al Qaeda, I denounce my ties with them."

BLITZER: He didn't do that, obviously.

SPANN: He didn't do that.

BLITZER: At his sentencing hearing, he spoke for about 14 minutes. One thing he did say -- and I'll put up on the screen -- he said, quote, "I had no role in the death of Johnny Mike Spann." And the judge later, when you were speaking, the judge, T.S. Ellis III (ph), specifically said proximity -- as you pointed out -- "Proximity is not guilt. Of all the things he fought for, one of them is that we don't convict people in the absence of proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

SPANN: Well, the first thing is, John Walker Lindh didn't make that statement until the judge stood him up like a little child in front of him and said, "Now, I'm very disappointed that you didn't say anything about the death of Johnny Michael Spann, I would like for you -- I'm going to give you another chance to say that," just like you'd do a little child.

He didn't -- in his statement, Mr. Blitzer, he did not say that. He did that afterwards, when he was coached by the judge, "Now, tell me that you didn't have anything to do with Mike Spann's death." He only did that at that time. That was about the fakest statement I've ever heard.

I'm very familiar with people crying and being sad. I'm very familiar with that over the last year. Then John Walker Lindh to me -- and I know a lot of people are not going to like what I'm going to say, and they're going to say I'm cold-hearted -- but that was the most put-on, fakest speech that I've ever heard anybody try to say, or try to make somebody believe. If I want to tell you I'm sorry, I'll look at you in the eyes, and I'll say, "Look, I'm sorry for what I did to you." We never heard him say he was sorry to the Afghan people that he went over there and helped the Taliban and al Qaeda rape and kill...

BLITZER: All right.

SPANN: ... all the time he was over there.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds left, but basically, from what I'm hearing, the thrust of everything you've said here today, what you said on Friday is you're disappointed that the U.S. government, the U.S. attorney accepted this plea agreement with John Walker Lindh.

SPANN: Yes, I am. I'm very disappointed.

I think that -- there was two -- the two things, the two charges that he admitted that he did was the two charges the defense knew that they were going to have to give up. They knew that those were lost. The prosecutors knew that that was two that they had in the bag, that they had won.

What else did the defense give up? The defense didn't give nothing else up. We gave everything else up. That was a very one- sided plea bargain.

BLITZER: Johnny Spann, our deepest condolences for you. I know you've gone through hell over this past year. Thanks for joining us.

SPANN: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

And when we return, terrorism on trial. We'll get the legal perspective on the John Walker Lindh sentencing and other terror issues of the day from criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt and former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today is a day of justice for citizens, the soldiers and law enforcement officers who defend our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The attorney general, John Ashcroft, commenting Friday on the indictment of six alleged al Qaeda terror suspects.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now to help sort out some the legal developments of the week are two guests: in Denver, Colorado, the criminal defense attorney, Jeralyn Merritt, and here in Washington, the former federal prosecutor, Cynthia Alksne.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Jeralyn, let me begin with you. You just heard Johnny Spann say he's deeply disappointed that the government accepted this plea bargain agreement with John Walker Lindh, the Taliban American, as he's been called. He thinks he should have gotten a much more severe sentence, more than 20 years.

What do you say to that?

JERALYN MERRITT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think he's wrong, with all due respect for him. I know he's a grieving father and his son did die a hero, there's no question. However, the judge, in sentencing Mr. Lindh yesterday, said that the government didn't have any evidence that Mr. Lindh was involved in Johnny Michael Spann's murder. And in fact, Mr. Lindh had been shot in the leg before that uprising. He was not in a position to have anything to do with it. He had been stuck in this dungeon where they had poured gasoline into it, where they were shooting random fire into it. And he was scared. He had watched people being tortured. He wasn't in any kind of a position to save Mr. Spann, even if he had known that he was going to be murdered, which I don't believe that he did.

BLITZER: Cynthia, could John Walker Lindh have done more to save this fellow American, Mike Spann, the CIA officer who was on the scene?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Sure. He could have made a decision and said instantly, "I'm an American," and spoke with him. And he chose not to do that.

Let me tell you what really rings true about what Mr. Spann says, and that is this sort of late, post-lawyer conversion to becoming some kind of a peacenik that John Walker Lindh has now that he has a lawyer.

You know, and initially he said he supported 9/11. He said maybe the U.S. was the reason, had done the East Africa bombings, that somehow we were at fault in the Gulf War. And suddenly, after he gets a lawyer, he has this conversion, he gives the speech.

And it's outrageous for anybody who has a commitment to the truth or who feels for the family that he gets away with this malarkey in the courtroom. And it isn't surprising that the Spanns are outraged by his speech. I join them in their outrage.

BLITZER: But should the government, therefore, not have worked out a plea bargain agreement with John Walker Lindh and gone for a full-scale trial?

ALKSNE: Here's the problem. The government, being headed by the attorney general in this case, came out early and said that he knew about 9/11 in advance, that he met with Osama bin Laden and swore jihad. They said in the indictment that he knew about suicide bombers coming to the U.S., not 9/11, but he knew about suicide bombers. And they made big, bold statements that turned out not to be true.

And so, the prosecutors who actually had the case had to salvage what they had. But meanwhile, this family was led down the road to believe that John Walker Lindh was more of a terrorist than he was. And there wasn't a choice, but I join them in their outrage.

BLITZER: What about the notion that there really wasn't a choice, Jeralyn, for a plea bargain agreement, that the government really under the circumstances had to go for it?

MERRITT: I think that's true. They could not prove that Mr. Lindh was a terrorist. He didn't plead to any crime of terrorism. He pled to supplying services to the Taliban because that was all he did.

And he, in his first statements being interviewed by the government, told, when he was still overseas before he had met with a lawyer, told the government that he wanted to leave Afghanistan after September 11th and that he couldn't. He was afraid he was going to be killed. And if you could see some of the photographs of what those people did to the soldiers there, it's awful. I mean, they mutilated them, they tortured them. You could understand why he would be afraid.

BLITZER: Cynthia, you're shaking your head.

ALKSNE: I think that's bull. I don't think he would have left. But I do think that the government did not have the evidence to prove the allegations that the attorney general had made.

And that's why, as a general policy, prosecutors should not overcharge and the attorney general should not come out and make allegations he can't back up.

BLITZER: James Brosnahan, the attorney for John Walker Lindh, emerged after the sentencing hearing and said this on Friday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES BROSNAHAN, ATTORNEY FOR LINDH: It's time for Mr. Ashcroft to deliver some people that will make the American people safer. They're not one bit safer today because John is in jail, not in any way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You disagree with Mr. Brosnahan, Cynthia?

ALKSNE: No, I don't think that John Walker Lindh was, you know, the organizer of 9/11. I think that the FBI is working hard to track down and find terrorists who are threatening our country. They have the arrest of the money guy in the 9/11 case. There are arrests going on around the world that they're working on. I think they're doing a lot of important things.

My only criticism of the attorney general is, I think it is wrong for prosecutors to come out and make statements that they can't back up. And I would never have done it as a prosecutor, nor would any good prosecutor do it.

BLITZER: Jeralyn, let's move on to the case of the shoe bomber, Richard Reid.

MERRITT: Yes.

BLITZER: He's now pleading guilty to, indeed, the allegations that were made against him, the charges that were made, trying to explode a plane flying from Paris to Miami, a plane with passengers, obviously, on board. Richard Reid is now going to be eligible for 60 years as maximum sentence.

What do you make of this strange development in this particular case?

MERRITT: You know, I think he's a little bit of -- I don't want to say he's a nut, but he's a little strange.

But again, he's another one of these small fishes. I think he was acting alone. I think he's clearly a little unbalanced. He does hate America, there's no question about it.

BLITZER: Jeralyn, let me interrupt you for a second. When you say he was acting alone, do you think he built that shoe bomb by himself, that he had the thousands of dollars that he needed to buy flight tickets first to Israel, the Middle East, later to fly to Miami, to travel around Europe as he did? Do you think all that was an isolated individual doing that kind of stuff?

MERRITT: No, I think he had people helping him. I just wonder how high up those people were. And it doesn't seem that he had any connections to anyone that was particularly high up in al Qaeda.

You know, there are a lot of people -- and we'll get into the Oregon case, I'm sure -- but there are a lot of these isolated malcontents around that somehow end up causing a lot of trouble. But that doesn't mean that they're all tied together and under the umbrella of one huge force.

BLITZER: All right. Richard Reid did say, Cynthia, this in court on Friday, during the plea procedure. He said, "I understand that, and I don't care. I am a member of al Qaeda. I have pledged to Osama bin Laden, and I am an enemy of your country. And I don't care, simple and plain," when he was asked about his motives in all of this.

That doesn't sound like someone who's at all remorseful about what he did.

ALKSNE: He's not remorseful at all, and he almost killed 197 people and untold others, depending on where he blew that plane up. I mean, if he'd had the good sense to go in the bathroom, he might have done it.

I think he's a very dangerous person. I don't think he's just some nut. And I think, based on the forensic evidence, that there are other fingerprints and there's other evidence to support that somebody else helped him build that bomb. He's part of some network that needs to be dismantled.

BLITZER: It was just a matter of luck that those matches that he had were wet and they obviously didn't work.

We have to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. We'll continue our conversation with Jeralyn Merritt and Cynthia Alksne, plus your phone calls, when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about the legal developments in the war on terrorism with criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt and former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne.

Jeralyn, as you know, six individuals accused of being involved in an al Qaeda terror network arrested this past week. Four of them arrested, two of them apparently still at large. But they're being called the Oregon Six.

Among the charges that have been filed, we'll put it up on the screen: conspiracy to levy war against the United States; conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist group; and conspiracy to contribute services to al Qaeda and Afghanistan's Taliban regime.

As you well know, proving conspiracy is not necessarily all that difficult in these kinds of cases.

MERRITT: Proving conspiracy is not difficult in these cases, but again, we have to wait and see what the courts are going to decide that providing material support and resources means.

I think it was meant to apply to people, not to individuals offering their services as individual soldier, but to apply to, for example, pilots who offer to fly planes for the Taliban, people providing material services and resources.

And in this case in Oregon, you know, the Los Angeles Times this morning called them "bunglers" and implies that they again are other small people. It isn't even clear any of them ever made it into Afghanistan to fight. And there are supporters for them in Oregon saying that they are just a target of people, again, disliking their political beliefs.

BLITZER: Cynthia, if they had discussions about going to Afghanistan to train with the Taliban, to work with al Qaeda, even if they never got there, that is the government's case, conspiracy.

ALKSNE: Right, exactly. And they did evidently try to get there, but they couldn't figure out how to get in. I would agree, these are a bunch of yahoos that are not the top of al Qaeda. But they were trying, and the charges here appear to fit the facts that we have.

The interesting thing as we tie in the Lindh case is, so many questions were unresolved in the Lindh case because of the plea, which would have gone up to a very conservative legal appellate circuit. And now this will be decided by the Ninth Circuit, which is where California and Oregon are, a much more liberal circuit, this legal question that Jeralyn's talking about, what does providing material support really mean? And that may turn out to be sort of interesting legacy of the Lindh case and as these cases go together through the system.

BLITZER: Jeralyn, the attorney general, John Ashcroft, defended the administration approach toward dealing with these suspected alleged terrorists. He spoke out earlier in the week. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ASHCROFT: The Justice Department will never sacrifice the ultimate good to fight the immediate evil. But we will defend to the fullest, and we will utilize to the utmost our ability to prevent acts of terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you have a problem with that?

MERRITT: Yes, I do, because this whole theory of acting preventively -- the criminal justice system is really designed to deal with people after they have committed a crime. It is not used to dealing with people to prevent crime.

And what the danger is, is that when you charge someone with a crime before they have actually acted, we are charging them because of their beliefs and because of their thoughts. And it's a dangerous precedent.

BLITZER: Is the government going too far, Cynthia?

ALKSNE: I don't think the government's going too far, but I do think there's a natural tension that we need to work on as a country and a judicial system between how are we going to deal with the issues of liberty and also protect ourselves. And we're just going to have to work on that altogether as a country.

BLITZER: Cynthia Alksne and Jeralyn Merritt. Always good to have your legal analysis on LATE EDITION. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Just ahead, Arab attitudes on the war on terrorism, the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and personal issues of family and religion. We'll talk with the author of a new study on what Arabs think and a former U.S. ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

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BLITZER: Up next, the survey, a new survey, reveals some comprehensive insight into the Arab world and its thoughts on family, religion and the United States. We'll have that right after this.

First, some of your letters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. As the Bush administration prepares for the possibility of war against Iraq, top U.S. officials are trying to win over the hearts and minds of the Arab world.

But where do rank-and-file Arabs stand? A new study yields some intriguing findings about the attitudes of Arabs. Joining us now to talk about that, here in Washington, James Zogby, he's the author of the report, "What Arabs Think," as well as the president of the Arab-American Institute. And in New York, Richard Murphy, he's a former United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Syria. He's now with the Council on Foreign Relations.

BLITZER: Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Jim Zogby, tell us, you've done this survey. Eight countries, right? What's the bottom line? What do Arabs think and feel right now about, A, the U.S. war on terrorism and, B, the possibility of a war with Iraq?

JIM ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB-AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Well, the war with Iraq wasn't covered in this poll, but in an earlier poll, and frankly it is not going to be supported by rank-and-file Arabs.

Attitudes toward the United States are bad. They like our values, they like our freedom and democracy. Arabs share many values with us, and they like our products.

But they are angry about our policy, and they feel that our policy does not include them. And frankly, in both the regular questions we asked as well as the open-endeds, they tell us that they're disturbed about the fact that America isn't fair and fair to them.

BLITZER: And this survey was done by your brother, John Zogby?

ZOGBY: It was done by my brother John, working with partners in eight countries. And...

BLITZER: And the eight countries were, what were the eight countries?

ZOGBY: We started with Morocco. We did Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait. We did Jordan, Lebanon, and we also did the Arab community in Israel.

And we've polled them before. And frankly what we find...

BLITZER: And these are relatively all moderate Arab countries. It's not Syria or Iraq or Libya.

ZOGBY: And moderate in many of their attitudes, but angry at the United States and United States policy.

BLITZER: Was it consistent across all eight, or were there significant differences?

ZOGBY: Actually, it was consistent. Different, but consistent. In other words, the Lebanese are angry at the United States because of what Israel has done to them and the U.S. support for that when Israel was occupying and bombing the country. And now, obviously, there are new issues there as well. Other Arabs are more concerned about the Palestinian issue itself. But on the question of Iraq, specifically -- you asked that -- when we asked the question about U.S. policy toward Iraq, the numbers went through the floor. But when we asked the question if the United States were to unilaterally invade, the numbers were even worse. When we asked the question if the United States were to end the sanctions against Iraq and move toward reintegrating Iraq in the region, the numbers went way up. So...

BLITZER: Let me bring in Ambassador Murphy. You spent a great deal of time -- you have spent in the past and you still do spend a great deal of time in the Arab world.

Are those numbers that Jim Zogby is referring to consistent with what you're hearing and feeling in your conversation with Arabs?

RICHARD MURPHY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Yes. And, Wolf, in a way, it's a mirror image of the way we're feeling about the Arabs since 9/11. There's bitterness on both sides. On the Arab side, it was colored by how they see American policy toward the Palestinian issue, and of course, now, Iraq as the heat rises.

I wasn't surprised at the political. What struck me in the study particularly was how alike we are in our personal values and what we're trying to do for our families, health concerns, all of that.

BLITZER: Let me point out one thing, Ambassador Murphy. When the question was asked in this poll, the Zogby poll that Jim Zogby's writing about in this new report, "What can the U.S. do to improve its relations with the Arab world," the overwhelming response was along the lines, "Change its policy toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, be fair or less biased."

But do you see any possibility at all of any of that happening, as far as the current Bush administration is concerned?

MURPHY: Well, I contrast the administration right today with the way it's expressed itself with that of the first Bush administration, when there was this very clear pledge of former President Bush to get on with Arab-Israeli peacemaking once he had gotten Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. I haven't heard that clear a statement from this administration.

BLITZER: What do you believe, if the U.S. is going to go to war, Jim Zogby, against Iraq and wants the support of moderate Arab states -- Egypt, Jordan, Morocco to be sure, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states -- how do you think they have to package this?

ZOGBY: Well, they certainly haven't done a good job of it to date. But certainly, we are lacking credibility in the region right now, precisely because of the sense that there is a double standard, and that we have not been concerned about Arab life and Arab suffering and, in particular, on the Palestinian side.

With regard to Iraq I think the questions are more complex. It's not just that we don't have legitimacy and credibility because of our behavior toward Palestinians, it's also because we don't know -- people in the region don't know, and we don't know, we haven't projected as America what the end-game is, how we will deal with the aftermath of the defeat of Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask the Ambassador Murphy. If the Bush administration, if President Bush, for example, tomorrow night in his address to the nation, were to say the United States is going to go in and liberate Iraq from this dictator, Saddam Hussein, very much like the United States went into Afghanistan and liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban and al Qaeda, or liberated Kuwait 11 years ago, is that a message that will resonate in the Arab world?

MURPHY: It won't change their thinking entirely, Wolf. But liberation is a powerful term. But they are asking out in the region, and then what? And they've not heard from Washington enough yet about what we plan to do after the regime is gone, that regime that's been effectively in control for 30 years.

BLITZER: So, what do you want to hear from the president tomorrow night when he addresses the nation, Jim Zogby, that you think will be compelling enough to make the case?

ZOGBY: I think that, as far as the Arab world is concerned, what they need to hear is that he will push vigorously to solve the Palestinian issue, give Palestinians full rights, see that a peace is achieved to give them full rights. And then...

BLITZER: But what will that have to do with the Iraqi threat?

ZOGBY: In terms of creating a legitimacy for the United States and giving the United States the mantle of a liberator, which is the one that we want to have. We want to see our intentions as good. They're not viewed as good in the rest of the region.

Secondly, with regard to Iraq, I think he needs to make clear how we will deal with the regional fallout. What do we do with the Kurds? What do we do with the Shi'a in the south? What do we do with stability? How do we deal with peace in the broader Gulf region?

Iraq and Iran are still viewed as the linchpins of security issues in the Gulf. If Iraq is defeated and Iran runs loose -- and there's more footprints about Iranian terrorism in the region than there are Iraqi -- people in the region are afraid of Iran, and I think that needs to be understood.

BLITZER: If President Bush, Ambassador Murphy, gives the order to strike against Iraq, when all is said and done, in the end, will the Saudis, the Kuwaitis, other Gulf states -- the Jordanians, the Egyptians -- be with the United States?

MURPHY: I have to distinguish between the leadership and the people. I think there will be more problems, perhaps, with the people than with the leaders.

It would help a great deal if tomorrow night he makes plain he has not exhausted and he will work hard before he says he's not going to work with the United Nations. ZOGBY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: One of the poll results in your new report, Jim, you asked people, Arabs, in various countries, "Will there be peace? Is peace somewhat likely in five years?" And take a look at these numbers. In Saudi Arabia, 54 percent. UAE, United Arab Emirates, 70 percent think it's either likely or somewhat likely. In Israel, Arabs are saying 65 percent. In Lebanon, 51 percent.

What justifies -- what's the cause of those different numbers?

ZOGBY: Hope. People are hopeful that there will be change. They're pleased with their lives, despite the conventional wisdom. They're actually pleased with much of their lives. And they want the region to change, and they want peace. They want civil rights, that's the number-one issue. They want improved health care. They want the very things we want.

Ambassador Murphy started off...

BLITZER: And on that very point, I want to show our viewers, Ambassador Murphy, and you can comment on the important issues that Arabs see throughout these eight countries.

Palestine came in third. Civil/personal rights came in first. Health care came in second. Palestine came in third. So those are significant feelings that the Arabs are expressing.

Unfortunately, gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it right there. We'll continue this conversation at another point. But, Jim Zogby, thanks for joining us. Ambassador Murphy, always good to you have on the program, as well. A fascinating report. We'll continue to pursue it.

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

Coming up for our North American audience, the next hour of LATE EDITION. The former labor secretary during the Clinton administration, Robert Reich, and the former presidential candidate, the Republican presidential candidate, Steve Forbes, will debate the state of the economy and what a new war with Iraq could mean for you, the American consumers.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll debate the cost of a war with Iraq and the state of the U.S. economy in just a moment. But first, here is CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Amid all the war talk, many Democrats are accusing the Bush administration of ignoring the struggling economy. Meanwhile, the White House is expressing optimism about the nation's economic health.

Joining us now to discuss all of these issues and more, two special guests. In Boston, the former Clinton labor secretary, Robert Reich. And in New York, the CEO of Forbes, Inc., and the former Republican presidential candidate, Steve Forbes.

Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

I'll begin with you, Steve Forbes. What will the impact of a U.S. war against Iraq be on the pocketbooks, on the wallets of the American public?

STEVE FORBES, CEO, FORBES, INC.: Well, we're already feeling it in the financial markets. That's one reason why the markets have taken a hit. They hate uncertainty, and until the war in Iraq is over, I think the market is going to be depressed. In terms of the economy itself, we're feeling it in higher oil prices, which I think is depressing us and the Europeans and the Japanese.

And so, I think, when the war is over, I think you'll see some revival. But there are other issues, of particularly in money policy and banking and taxes, that have to be addressed if we're to get up to full speed.

BLITZER: Robert Reich, what's your assessment?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Well, similarly, there are financial problems. The financial markets are being roiled. Uncertainty is a big problem for financial markets. But also oil prices are heading upward. We saw in September 43,000 jobs lost from the American economy. We know now that last year was also a very bad year.

So this is not all Iraq. This is not all turmoil in the Middle East. There are some more basic problems going on here. And the Republicans are not talking about them.

BLITZER: I heard, Bob Reich, a comment the other day -- I interviewed C. Fred Bergsten (ph), a well-known international economist here in Washington. He thought if the war was relatively quick and relatively smooth, it could serve as a stimulant to the U.S. economy and turn things around rather dramatically. Do you agree with that assessment?

REICH: Well, Wolf, those are two big ifs. I think no one looking at the Iraqi situation thinks it's going to be particularly quick or particularly smooth.

Also, there are a lot of people saying that, should this war be very successful, in terms of what the White House deems a success, we might see a war in Syria, in Iran, in several other places that the Bush administration has also deemed somehow evil.

BLITZER: Steve Forbes, is that your assessment? FORBES: Not at all. I think there's a very real possibility the war in Iraq could be fairly quick. And when it's over and in a few weeks, one way or the other, it will be over -- when it starts, it'll be over, I think, within a few weeks -- I think you will see the financial markets go up 30 to 50 percent. We have to remember, that's off a pretty rotten base.

And then I hope next year, the Bush administration will turn its attention to the economy, particularly in the area of money policy, banking and taxes.

Right now, there's a real credit crunch going out there for small- and medium-sized businesses. The banks are cracking down because of regulators.

We need a real tax cut, not the small one we got a year ago. And the Federal Reserve has got a really have an easy money policy.

BLITZER: I want to ask you another comment, Steve Forbes, that Fred Bergsten (ph) made to me on Friday when he said that if the war is relatively smooth, don't worry so much about the oil prices. They've gone up to about $30 a barrel right now. They could go up to $40, in advance of a war. But once there's a war, if things go well, those prices will come down relatively quickly, especially if the U.S. does during the next war what it did during the last Persian Gulf War, release some of the oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve.

FORBES: I think they will give very serious consideration to releasing that oil. And when the conflict in Iraq is over, I think you would see oil come down to around $20 a barrel.

As for Iran, if the campaign in Iraq is successful, I think what you could see is what you had in the late 1970s in Iran, where you have a revolution against the ayatollah/mullah regime and you get a benign regime there, which I think would drop oil prices perhaps even more.

BLITZER: Is that an overly rosy scenario, Bob Reich?

REICH: Well, I think that's an unbelievable rosy scenario. I mean, what we don't know at all, not only the duration of the war but we also don't know how difficult it's going to be to maintain peace among the warring factions that lie just below the surface of Iraq.

And any kind of major difficulty in maintaining order in Iraq or in the Middle East, if disorder is unleashed in the Middle East, is going to have a devastating effect potentially on oil prices, as well as on many other of our national goals.

BLITZER: Steve Forbes, the last time around, 11 years ago, the Persian Gulf War cost, they estimate, about $60 billion, but the U.S. wound up spending only about $5 billion or $6 billion. The other coalition partners picked up most of the tab. That's unlikely to happen this time.

Should U.S. consumers, should U.S. taxpayers be concerned that most of the costs this time around will probably will come from their wallets?

FORBES: Well, I think when you have a $10 trillion economy, the cost of this war is going to be relatively small, especially since it's not -- the actual fighting's not going to go on for more than a few weeks.

There will be costs in terms of occupation in Iraq, like Afghanistan, like Bosnia, like Kosovo. We are going to be there -- or even South Korea -- we are going to be there for the long haul in terms of repairing and trying to get a more liberal regime in that part of the world.

As for the rest of the Middle East, I don't think you're going to see an upheaval in Saudi Arabia, at least not initially. I think there they just want this thing over with as quickly as possible. I think changes in Saudi Arabia will come as we start to put pressure on them finally to cut off funding to any organization that helps terrorism in any way, shape or form.

BLITZER: Bob Reich, the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, this past week estimated that just to get a war started, if it's a heavy ground involvement on the part of the U.S., could wind up costing, at least to begin, about $13 billion. But as Steve Forbes points out, in the scheme of things, that's a relatively small number, given the overall U.S. economy.

REICH: Wolf, I think that that is a very small number relative to the U.S. economy, but it also understates dramatically the potential cost.

Remember, we're talking not only about immediate kind of warfare, we're also talking about peacekeeping efforts. We're talking about maintaining order in the area. It could be $100 billion, $200 billion over the next year. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw very, very large expenditures not only next year but in years to come.

BLITZER: Larry Lindsey, the White House chief economist, Steve Forbes, did throw out that number, $200 billion, potentially could go up that high. That sounds like a lot of money.

FORBES: Well, it is until you remember -- again, it is a lot of money, but you have to put in proportion to the American economy. In the next couple of years we will be producing, even with this recessed economy we have now, some $20 trillion of goods and services. We're spending now on defense barely what we spent proportionately before Pearl Harbor.

So, while we have a lot of capacity to spend to fight terrorism, I think this is part and parcel of it. Wars are not cheap. Fighting against terrorism's not cheap. But it's imminently affordable for a nation with this size and power.

BLITZER: Bob Reich, do you agree with the conventional wisdom out there that if the issues in the election campaign -- there's a month to go or so before the elections for the Senate and the House -- if the issue is Iraq, it's good for the Republicans, if the issue's the economy, it's good for Democrats?

REICH: Well, jobs and the economy certainly are good for the Democrats. Most of the polls are showing that the Democrats take the public opinion with them with regard to jobs and the economy, and also health care costs which are rising by double digits right now as employers shift most of those costs onto employees in the form of higher co-payments, deductibles and premiums.

But all of this -- jobs, economy, health care costs -- all of these issues are being shoved off of the front pages by the drumbeat of war with Iraq. And I don't think that's a coincidence that this occurs and starts to occur in the months before an election.

BLITZER: What do you say, Steve Forbes?

FORBES: I think that's an outrageous charge. It was a Democrat such as Mr. Daschle, Mr. Kennedy and others who made the Iraq war an issue, brought it up, wanted it debated. Now they got their wish that it is being debated, and now they're complaining "Well, this is close to an election."

Are we supposed to supposed to put our security aside and wait for after the election? I think that would be the real travesty. If Saddam Hussein is a threat, which he is, deal with him as quickly as possible.

REICH: Steve, obviously, he is a threat. And obviously, no one is defending him or his efforts to hide his efforts at destruction, his means of destruction.

The problem is the timing here. It's very suspicious. There is a lot of cause for concern that we are going into war at a time when we have an election coming up. It's a very tightly-contested election with regard to the Senate and the House, and I think that suspicions are very high in terms of timing of this.

BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break, but let me pin you down...

FORBES: That's outrageous. Outrageous.

BLITZER: ... on this point, Bob Reich. The president will be addressing the nation tomorrow night on the situation involving Iraq in advance of the House and Senate votes that are expected later in the week.

Do you see -- are you accusing him of doing this for political purposes?

REICH: Well, Wolf, you know, the timing is very suspicious. I am not saying this -- I am certainly not defending Saddam Hussein, and I'm not saying that it's not in the nation's interest to do something about Saddam Hussein.

But why now? Why, after all of these years, we are taking him on? Why the Bush administration chooses right now to go after Saddam Hussein? Why we have put al Qaeda -- certainly, nobody's talking about al Qaeda very much. Why the administration has failed to do much about the economy? We had in August -- that was the last time the Bush administration said anything about the economy.

BLITZER: All right. I'll give you the last word on this...

REICH: So I think all of these questions deserve to be answered.

BLITZER: Steve Forbes, go ahead and answer it. Then we'll take a break.

FORBES: Well, the fact is, we are fighting a war against terror. We first went into Afghanistan. We've been preparing a campaign against it. If Bob's been reading the papers -- I know he's running for governor for a while -- but if he'd been reading the papers, he'd know we've been preparing a campaign against Saddam for many months, getting our military ready, starting the diplomatic offensive.

The U.N. met in September. The president addressed the U.N. in September and started to lay the groundwork for a campaign. To say he did this fighting of Saddam, who is the center of terrorism, who has been developing weapons of mass destruction, saying that he's doing it for political purposes is outrageous. And I ask him for one piece of evidence, solid evidence, to support that.

BLITZER: All right. I'll leave our viewers hanging on that note. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about with Steve Forbes and Robert Reich. They'll also be taking your phone calls.

One additional note from our previous segment with James Zogby on his new report, "What Arabs think." If you're interested of getting a copy of this report polling numbers from the Arab world, you can go to zogby.com. That's where you can get information on this.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking about the economy, what a possible new war with Iraq could mean for your wallet with the former Clinton labor secretary, Robert Reich, and the former Republican presidential candidate, Steve Forbes.

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

CALLER: Good afternoon, gentlemen.

Can we really afford to go to war in Iraq when we're not even fulfilling the obligation that we have to Afghanistan?

BLITZER: What about that, Steve Forbes?

FORBES: Absolutely. The al Qaeda has been routed, and the Taliban has been routed in Afghanistan. Obviously there's a long reconstruction period. But also we have to fight terrorism and the centers of evil elsewhere, primarily Iraq. And so, sometimes you have to do it on more than one front.

The longer Saddam is there developing weapons of mass destruction -- and you read people, talk to people like Richard Butler, who headed up the U.N. inspection system in Iraq before they were thrown out in 1998, this guy's developing bad stuff. And the longer we wait, the more dangerous he becomes.

BLITZER: What about that, Bob Reich?

REICH: Well, we are fighting al Qaeda, we are also fighting and preparing to fight in Iraq. And we are maintaining peacekeeping in Afghanistan. All of these are going to require additional resources.

I agree with Steve that, as a portion of our national product, it's fairly small, and we certainly have the capacity right now because the economy is, if not in recession, this the most anemic recovery in living memory.

But the administration doesn't want to talk about the economy. The administration has not had anything to say about the economy. The administration simply wants to talk about Iraq.

BLITZER: All right, on that same point, Steve Forbes, the former vice president, Al Gore, spoke out on the economy this past week. I want you to listen to what Al Gore said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we turn a blind eye to our weak economy, it will eventually undermine everything else that we're trying to accomplish, whether it's winning the war against terrorism or giving all families the economic opportunities that they deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does he make a valid point?

FORBES: Not at all.

In terms of fighting the war on terror, we have the resources to do it even with an anemic economy. I think the administration is well aware the economy's not performing the way it should. And I'd be a little surprised if they didn't have a good, vigorous economic package, especially on the tax issues, to put forth to the new Congress next year.

So I don't think they're ignoring it. Right now the president, his primary aim is to secure our safety and security, and that means fighting terrorism.

But I think here at home there's a lot that can be done on the economy, especially boosting that anemic tax cut we got a year ago, and the Federal Reserve supplying enough liquidity to the economy, and start paying attention what bank regulators are doing and stifling small businesses.

BLITZER: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

Bob Reich, let me interrupt for a second, Bob. When you say that the president isn't dealing with economy, isn't talking about the economy, he did speak out about the economy on Friday, and he made a specific economic proposal. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: They also need to make sure the tax cuts are permanent. Let me tell you my thoughts about tax relief.

(APPLAUSE)

When your economy is kind of ooching along, it's important to let people have more of their own money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: There's a hard proposal from the president, make those tax cuts permanent.

REICH: Well, that may help, if you believe in supply-side economics, years and years from now, but it certainly is not going to have any effect on the present economy.

And if it's a tax cut such as the former tax cut that helps primarily wealthy individuals and corporations, it's not really going to put money in consumers' pockets.

Right now the big problem is that consumer confidence is declining. Consumers are spending, but they're spending mostly on sales, on zero-financing cars. They are not going to sustain this economy much longer. Companies know that, that's why companies are not investing.

And until we get consumers more secure, until we put more money in their pockets, until we actually make -- well, for example, I proposed on this program before exempting the first $15,000 of payroll taxes, of earnings from payroll taxes. Something like that that would immediately put money in people's pockets would be good for the public, would be good for the economy, it would be equitable. I don't see why we don't do that.

But the administration is not proposing anything specific.

BLITZER: Steve Forbes?

FORBES: Well, I think we do need a good Kennedyesque-Reaganesque across-the-board tax cut. We got a very small one in 2001 that's phased in over five years, 10 years, 100 years. Make that effective immediately, enhance it the way Reagan and Kennedy would have done, on both the business and the consumer side. You need investment, we're not getting investment because of obstacles in the way, regulatory and tax and monetary obstacles. Remove those obstacles. Let people keep more of what they earn. Remove the barriers to growth, and we will grow.

BLITZER: All right.

One thing -- another thing that the former vice president, Al Gore, said earlier in the week in railing against the Bush economic policies was this. Listen to this, Steve Forbes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The president's budget and economic plan are based on what you might call, for a lack a better phrase, Enron accounting. They are projecting revenues that will never appear, and they are hiding expenditures that will appear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's a pretty serious charge from Al Gore.

FORBES: Well, Washington sadly has been practicing Enron-like accounting for years, including during the Clinton-Gore administration. They ignore Social Security liabilities, Medicare liabilities, $23 billion bail-out for Amtrak doesn't show up in the budget, $1 billion spent on the IMF, don't show up on the budget. So Washington has a long ways to go to clean up its own bookkeeping act.

But in terms of getting the economy going, it's very clear. You allow people to keep more of what they earn, reduce tax rates, reduce regulatory obstacles, and the American people will always respond.

BLITZER: All right, Bob Reich, I'm going to let you have the last word, but I want you to respond to what Don Evans, the commerce secretary, said earlier in the week. He said this: "President Bush inherited a recession. Thanks to his forward-looking vision, the recession was milder than it otherwise no doubt would have been."

In other words, he's blaming the Clinton administration for the recession that did develop.

REICH: Well, that's very easy to do. We can -- there's a lot of blame to go around.

But I'll tell you, Wolf, the fact of the matter is this recession is not going away. The September unemployment figures show a loss of 43,000 jobs. Consumer confidence is down. Something has got to be done. We're four weeks before an election. This is the time the Republicans and Democrats ought to be talking not just about Iraq but also about the economy.

And I'll tell you, most of the polls show that consumers are as concerned, if not more concerned, about their pocketbooks, about jobs and wages, as they are about Iraq.

BLITZER: Bob Reich and Steve Forbes, two very smart guys joining us on LATE EDITION. They disagree, but they're still both very smart.

Thanks, and we'll have you back.

FORBES: Thanks very much.

REICH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Amid concerns about Iraq and the struggling U.S. economy, Bruce Morton says there are still some important things to be pleased about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, yes, the stock market is depressing, all right. And the president wants to start a war whose cost in lives and dollars we cannot know. Sure, you'll read estimates. So many billion, but nobody knows, because nobody knows how hard the Iraqis will fight and how long the war will last.

So you have every right to feel glum. But remember, too, some things are better than they used to be.

The stock market, we learned this past week, finished its worst quarter since the crash since of 1987. Yes, but the Dow Jones industrial average finished this awful quarter at 7,591.93. It finished the 1987 crash at 1,950.76. So yes, it crashed, but look at all of growth that's happened in the 15 years between 1987 and now. Some good news there.

Poverty among children living with family members is down, down to 16 percent, lower than it's been in years. The number of poor children in good health went up between 1984 and 2000, from 62 to 70 percent.

Not headline news, but good. Part of the parade of stories that didn't make the front pages this week.

And in Oxford, Mississippi, they celebrated -- I guess that's the word -- the 40th anniversary of James Meredith's arrival as the first black student at the University of Mississippi. It wasn't easy. U.S. marshals escorted Meredith, but they were outgunned by the segregationists urged on by the state's governor, Ross Barnett (ph).

President Kennedy noted that Americans could disagree with the law but not disobey it, and sent in the Airborne. They were not outnumbered; Meredith went to school.

Bill Bradley says of the issue, "Slavery was our original sin. Race remains our unresolved dilemma." And no one suggests the United States has outgrown racism. But the kind of legal segregation Meredith faced did end -- progress again, if in small steps.

Walter Lipmann, a columnist who wrote in the middle years of the last century, called himself a meliorist. The word is still in the dictionary, I looked, but it isn't used anymore. What it means is someone who believes things can and even do get better, slowly of course, in fits and starts of course, but better.

The United States hasn't solved all of its problems by a long shot, and a new war may bring us new ones. But if you look over all at the last 100 years, you'd have to say that life has gotten better for most people here, slowly of course, one small step at a time.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce.

Up next, LATE EDITION's "Final Round." Our panel is ready to debate the big stories of the week. Our "Final Round," right after a news alert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Time now for our "Final Round." Joining me, Julianne Malveaux, the syndicated columnist, Peter Beinart of the "New Republic," Jonah Goldberg of the "National Review Online," and Robert George of the "New York Post."

A vote on a resolution authorizing President Bush to launch a military strike against Iraq could come this week in both the House and the Senate.

Earlier today one of Senate's leading members, the Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy, said he isn't prepared to back that kind of resolution yet, and he argued that lawmakers aren't focusing on the real issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We have been discussing the resolutions. We haven't debated the war. And that is a real failing, I think, in terms of this whole process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Julianne, I'm just going to guess, but do you think Senator Kennedy's right?

JULIANNE MALVEAUX, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Absolutely. We haven't had a conversation about what this all entails, about the cost of deployment, about the cost of rebuilding.

In addition, why now with Saddam Hussein? I mean, he's been crazy his whole life. You know, he's had weapons of mass destruction for at least four years. Why this particular timing? I don't think he's rolling over on Saddam when he's saying, let's have a real debate. And I think he's being more responsible than anyone else in the debate by raising these questions.

BLITZER: What's the answer, Jonah?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Well, I mean, partly Kennedy is right, in part because people like Kennedy haven't joined this debate until very, very late in the process. People have been calling for a debate for a very long time, and Democrats have been sucking their thumbs trying to avoid it and trying to change the topic for a very long time.

When you say -- when you ask a question like why now about Saddam, you might have asked that of Tom Daschle in 1998 when he authorized the use of force against Saddam.

After September 11th, we said, things like this must never happen again. Well, the best way to ensure things like this must never happen again is to take Saddam seriously. And the question shouldn't be, why now, it should be why not now?

BLITZER: I get the sense, though, that a lot of rank-and-file Democrats do indeed agree with Senator Kennedy, but they're really afraid to, at least the political types, are afraid to say it because they think it's not going to get them votes in November.

PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: I think you're right, but you know, who's fault is that? For goodness sakes, this is an incredibly important debate. If these guys are really against the war, then they should come out and say it and say what they believe.

I mean, it is a fundamental failing on the Democratic Party's part that George Bush has put out a very ambitious kind of theory about how to explain the post-9/11 world, this whole idea of preemption, attacking other countries. The Democratic Party has responded with quibbles, with carping around the edges, with repeated asking of questions. What do they believe?

That's what Kennedy is getting at. He's right, and it's a real problem.

BLITZER: What about that?

ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: I actually agree with everything that Peter just said. In fact, the whole issue, the question, the philosophical issue of preemption really is at the heart of this.

I mean, Iraq is in a sense is a symptom in terms of analyzing of what the new Bush doctrine is going to be in the world, and that really is a debate that needs to be enjoined on both sides, because there are even some conservatives that are concerned about it.

MALVEAUX: But you know what, here's the problem. The initiative that you're talking about, I agree with you, I think you state it more strongly than I did. But the issue is that we know the difference between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. But I think that Mr. Bush is using the sentiment against bin Laden to go after Hussein and the...

BLITZER: What's the difference? What's the difference between Osama bin Laden and...

MALVEAUX: They are not the Bobsey twins. We have not seen the link between them, in my opinion, now Jonah probably disagrees. But the point is this, you can't use our fear from September 11th to go do preemptive strikes now. You've got to connect the dots.

BLITZER: There were some signs this week of cracks among the Democratic leadership when it comes to Iraq. While the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, has yet to endorse a resolution, the House's top Democrat, Dick Gephardt, irked some in his party by supporting a resolution authorizing military action.

Earlier on CNN's "NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS," Daschle downplayed Gephardt's decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DASCHLE: I wouldn't interpret what Dick did as undercutting me. I think he has every right to make decisions with regard to how we ought to proceed as anyone else. And he's made those difficult choices like I have to make and others in the Senate and House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Robert, did Dick Gephardt undercut the Democrats?

GEORGE: Yes, and the Democrats should be thankful. I mean, Gephardt by moving, basically stopped the debate over the debate over the debate and made it actually a debate on the resolutions.

Because we all know that the Democrats are divided on it, but they look absolutely and totally paralyzed, and Gephardt forced them basically to get off the dime.

BLITZER: How do you explain Gephardt's decision?

MALVEAUX: I think he was pressured. I don't agree with Robert that he moved...

BLITZER: Pressured by whom?

MALVEAUX: I think Mr. Bush is enjoying 70 percent approval ratings. People are feeding that back into members of Congress. What Peter said in the previous segment makes a lot of sense. I mean, I think the Democrats are waffling. This is a popular president.

Paranoia is very high. Wolf, we here in Washington, just went through a series of snipers, and no one knows who those snipers were from in Montgomery County, but a lot of speculation about terrorism. I think that Gephardt is moving with the tide. I'm disappointed in him. It was a very disappointing decision, but I think that he gives Tom Daschle the right to have backbone.

BLITZER: I think, I sense, and correct me if I'm wrong, Jonah, a lot of Democrats are worried about making the mistake they made in 1991 when they voted against the resolution going for the Gulf War then, and it was a quick war, relatively painless. The U.S. won, Kuwait was liberated, and they felt they were on the wrong side of that vote that time. They don't want to be on the wrong side this time.

GOLDBERG: Yes, and that's why, you know, there's a big piece in The Washington Post today about it, about how about 75 percent of Democrats in Congress are going to support the war, or are going to support the resolution supporting the war, however you want to phrase it.

And, you know, I understand how Gephardt might have undercut Daschle, because Daschle is trying to maneuver into this position where he only wanted us to go to war to enforce the honor of the U.N. but not to protect our own national security. But Gephardt actually didn't undercut the Democratic Party at all, because, first of all, this is a very popular move; second of all, most of his caucus is going to do it, it's going to help get congressional candidates elected; and third of all, there is no firm Democratic position on this because the party's all over the place.

BLITZER: Peter, were you surprised that Gephardt was the one, the Democrat, that joined the White House on this issues as opposed to Daschle?

BEINART: Well, this is -- Gephardt is a really interesting figure here, actually, I mean, because he's positioned himself now, if Lieberman doesn't run, he probably is the Democrat who's most hawkish in the 2004 field.

And I think it's particularly interesting when you think about his ties to labor. I mean...

BLITZER: More hawkish than John Edwards?

BEINART: Well, Edwards has been not quite out as up front. I mean, Gephardt, because of his leadership position, is now getting more attention for his hawkish stance, although Edwards is pro-war as well.

And I think it's very interesting that Gephardt thinks that in the Iowa caucuses, where he needs to do well, and with labor, where he needs to do well, he thinks this is going to play well. That's a very intriguing bet on his part.

BLITZER: All right, let's....

GEORGE: Gephardt's more serious than Edwards, frankly.

BLITZER: Why do you say that?

GEORGE: I think he's perceived as being more serious, both within the party and outside of the party, whereas Edwards is still kind of a -- sort a senator Johnny come lately.

BLITZER: All right.

MALVEAUX: Well, it's his longevity, Robert, that plays for Gephardt.

BLITZER: He's been around Washington a lot longer than Edwards.

MALVEAUX: But Peter made a really good -- it's a bet. It is a calculated risk.

BLITZER: To see who is right?

MALVEAUX: ... and it could go either way, because I think that many, many people in the Democratic Party simply have not articulated a position. It's part of our party's failure. A position has not been articulated. But once it is, if it's not what Gephardt wanted...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But I think it's fair to say all of us agree, the Gulf War overshadowing, hovering over the current political debate in Washington very, very strongly.

All right. We're going to take a quick break. A lot more to talk about, including a monkey wrench in the New Jersey Senate race. We'll debate that and much more when our Final Round continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our "Final Round."

Some remarks by the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, this past week raised eyebrows. He seemed to imply that the assassination of Saddam Hussein would be acceptable to the Bush administration when a reporter asked him about the cost of a possible war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has not made any decisions about military action and what military option he might pursue. And so, I think it's impossible to speculate.

I can only say that the cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than that. The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that. The cost of war is more than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Fleischer later told reporters that he was not trying to make some sort of statement of policy.

But, Jonah, on the issue of an assassination, what's wrong with trying to assassinate Saddam Hussein and alleviating a lot of potential bloodshed down the road on the Iraqi side and the American side?

GOLDBERG: Now, look, as a strictly moral argument, it seems to me a no-brainer, that it makes absolute sense in terms of assassination. It would save potentially thousands of American lives, thousands of Iraqi troops, thousands of innocent Iraqis who are daily tortured and murdered by the regime, all to take out one guy who is the linchpin of this regime that would fold like a house of cards.

As a matter of policy, it gets more complicated. First of all, it's technically against the law right now for us to have anything to do with an assassination. And second of all, you are really basically just saying go ahead and open up a Pandora's Box.

MALVEAUX: Plus, what are you going to get in exchange? I mean, this is so glib, and Ari Fleischer ought to be ashamed of himself.

You assassinate Saddam Hussein. You're giving this man way too much credit. Do you think that he's a one-man band and that he's the only one holding up this despotism? You get rid of him, and who's going to step into his place?

GEORGE: Yes, I mean, I think one of the reasons why a war, in a sense, is better than assassination is because we are talking about regime change. And yes, I mean, Saddam has been there for so long that I think he has, in a sense, infected the whole hierarchy in Iraq. And I don't think just assassinating him is necessarily going to get you...

GOLDBERG: No, but it is all one tribe from his old town.

GEORGE: I mean, his son emerged earlier this week, and he's almost as crazy as his father.

BLITZER: What do you say?

BEINART: I think Robert's absolutely right. I think the deeper debate here is really within the administration about whether you basically just want to knock off Saddam, keep most of the people in power and have a nice general to replace him, or whether you really want to fundamentally do something about the structure of Iraqi politics.

And I think that's the really important debate here, and I think that's what needs to be addressed.

BLITZER: Let's get into some real domestic politics right now.

A cartoon ad on the Democratic Party's website has Republicans crying foul. The animation designed to dramatize President Bush's policies on Social Security shows him pushing a wheelchair-bound woman over a cliff like this. Take a look. Let's take a look at this picture. Where's the picture? Here it is. There she is, she's in the wheelchair. She's going down the cliff.

Peter, is this fair or unfair?

BEINART: This is stupid. It's dumb. It's not serious policy discussion.

But I have to say, what's just as offense to me is this is the way Republican candidates -- how dishonest they are -- being all across the country about the Republican Party's position on privatization, partial privatization.

Everybody knows in Washington the Republican Party for several years has wanted the partial privatization of Social Security. Republican candidates will not admit it. And they're actually trying to say the Democrats can't even use the term, even though they themselves were using the term a few years ago.

BLITZER: What about that, Robert?

GEORGE: On that point, Peter is actually quite right. I mean, conservatives have talked about the idea of privatization and privatization of Social...

BLITZER: But when they're talking about privatization, it's only a very small percentage of Social Security benefits.

GEORGE: And we talk about private accounts. But in terms of the specific language, Republicans at one time did talk specifically about the word "privatization."

This particular ad is juvenile. But then again, Democrats have always said -- have always used the scare tactic that Republicans want to blow up Social Security and want to harm seniors. This is just putting it into cartoon form.

BLITZER: What about that?

MALVEAUX: Two things...

BLITZER: First of all, on the ad?

MALVEAUX: On the ad, I don't think there's anything wrong with the ad any more than there's anything wrong with the over-the-top language the president is using about the war. Quite frankly, politics at this point is over the top.

And while it might be a little offensive to some, for others, it illustrates their plight. There are people who are concerned about their futures. They are concerned about what's happening with their Social Security.

You're correct that the privatization would be for a small group of young people, and so it's a misrepresentation to assume that an old lady in a wheelchair is going to be someone subject to privatization.

But here's the deal, Wolf. At the end of day, privatization was a part of this president's plank when he ran for office, and now he's running away from it. And that's dishonest.

BLITZER: What about that?

GOLDBERG: Well, I agree there's dishonesty across the board. I mean, Peter likes to focus on the Republican side, but, you know, it's Democrats who are claiming that this would affect current old people, which it would not. They are claiming that it would wipe away, if it were in effect, all of their savings, which it would not.

In the history of the American public is this particularly nasty or over-the-top? No, but that doesn't mean it's not nasty. It's deceptive on both sides.

Republicans should stand up and try to explain it, but the problem is Democrats have gotten too over-the-board over the years fearmongering on scaring the hell out of old people.

MALVEAUX: What's this stuff about the war? That's fearmongering.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about New Jersey. There was a big wrinkle in one of the nation's key Senate races, of course, in New Jersey. This past week, the Senator Robert Torricelli quit his race for reelection after dropping in the polls because of ethics issues. In bowing out, Torricelli expressed some bitterness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: When did we stop believing in and trusting in each other? I remember in America when a person made an error and they asked forgiveness, it was given.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Meanwhile Republicans are appealing a New Jersey state supreme court ruling that the former Senator Frank Lautenberg can indeed replace Torricelli on the ballot. The GOP says allowing that to happen would set a bad precedent. It could violate the rights of military and absentee voters who have already received their ballots.

Robert, you know the answer to this question: Who's right and who's wrong?

GEORGE: I think the Republicans are right on the facts. I mean, I think that the state supreme court in New Jersey was completely out of bounds in saying, "OK, Lautenberg, you can sit...

BLITZER: Seven-to-nothing, including Republican members.

GEORGE: A la the Florida state supreme court who also did something similar back in 2000. We saw where that went went.

However, I think on the politics of it, though, the Republicans end up looking very, very dumb when they say that the Democrats are trying to steal an election. That suggests that their candidate, Forrester, is completely and totally incompetent and couldn't take on Lautenberg. So I think it's kind of foolish.

MALVEAUX: Touche.

BEINART: Yes, I agree with Robert. The supreme court decision didn't make a sense to me. But it wasn't partisan or corrupt. I mean, it was seven-to-nothing of people in both parties.

The deeper issue here is the Republican Party's increasing...

GEORGE: It could be corrupt without being partisan.

BEINART: That's true. I don't think it was either, though.

The deeper issue here is the Republican Party's increasing inability to compete in the Northeast. They should have been able to nominate a much stronger candidate than Forrester. They should be able to be able to talk about issues in a compelling way for the people of New Jersey. They simply can't.

BLITZER: Who is going to win that race?

GOLDBERG: I would have to bet on Lautenberg, I think it's terribly unfair. I mean, I think the court decision was an outrage. I mean, as a matter of just logic, it was an outrage, and it was basically unconstitutional.

But these guys are right that, you know, that Forrester should take the high road and not go whining to the Supreme Court. And that's, in fact, what he is doing. He's getting off-message.

BLITZER: And the fact is, as you well know, Julianne, some absentee ballots for military personnel and for older people living outside of New Jersey had been mailed already.

MALVEAUX: The could be remailed. The vote can be held. Quite frankly, there are a whole wagon-load of whiners here. I put my head down when we heard Torricelli, because, I mean, gosh, this man has no shame.

But at the same time, I think the people of New Jersey are entitled to a competitive race, and that's what Lautenberg gives them. And if you didn't have this Republican candidate who's only platform plank is, "I'm not Torricelli," he might have a competitive chance.

BLITZER: The biggest punishment for Torricelli was that Frank Lautenberg would replace him on the ticket.

GOLDBERG: Yes.

MALVEAUX: Oh, yes.

BLITZER: No love lost between these two senators.

We have to take another quick break. The Lightning Round is just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for our "Lightning Round."

Tomorrow marks exactly one year since the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan got off the ground.

How would you grade this war on terrorism, Peter?

BEINART: B-plus. We've taken away al Qaeda's home base, which was the Taliban and Afghanistan, which is good. We've captured at least a couple of very important operatives.

But we haven't done a good job obviously of reconstructing Afghanistan, and therein lies a potential problem down the road.

BLITZER: B-plus for you, too?

GEORGE: Yes, I would also say a B-plus. The cleanup in Afghanistan definitely needs some work. However, just this past week, we had some really major breaks in domestic terrorism as well. So I think it's going relatively well.

MALVEAUX: My partisanship is showing. C-plus.

BLITZER: C-plus.

MALVEAUX: C-plus. I think that the cleanup in Afghanistan is negative. I think that the loss of domestic civil liberties is also a negative.

At the same time, what has happened domestically just last week is something you've got to give the administration credit for.

GOLDBERG: I'd say a B only because you have to drop a full grade without Osama bin Laden's head. But other than that, they've been doing it exactly right.

BLITZER: He sounds like a college professor.

(LAUGHTER)

The Reverend Jerry Falwell is taking heat for remarks he made about the Muslim prophet, Mohammed. In an interview airing tonight on CBS' 60 Minutes, Falwell says this: "I think Mohammed was a terrorist. Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses. I think Mohammed set an opposite example."

Did Reverend Falwell put his foot in his mouth?

GEORGE: Oh, once again, yes, he did.

I am not an expert on Islam. You know, I may have questions as to whether it's a religion of peace, as many people say.

But I think just calling Mohammed a terrorist is something that Falwell, especially since he made dumb comments right after 9/11, talking about religion, he should stay away from.

BLITZER: All right. What do you say?

MALVEAUX: His foot and a few other body parts, quite frankly.

I think that if you look at the meaning of jihad, as many people have explained it, it is not a terrorist meaning. And I think that it's totally inappropriate to disrespect someone else's religion.

BLITZER: What was he thinking, Jerry Falwell?

GOLDBERG: I don't think he put his foot in his mouth. I mean, in the sense that there are many people that are very happy that he said it. I think it was a silly thing to say. I think there are some serious differences between Christianity and Islam. You know, Mohammed was a conquering general. But at the same time, he has a constituency that, you know -- and those statements reflect a very sincere feeling out there.

BEINART: Well, that's exactly the problem. I mean, Jerry Falwell knows nothing about Islam. I mean, the evidence is this is way in before this comment (ph). He's a bigot and a moron. And I cannot believe that conservatives still take this guy seriously, that he's not banished to the periphery.

BLITZER: Let's move on. It seems that no detail is going unnoticed when it comes to the former vice president, Al Gore. Listen to his response to a reporter's question earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Why did you stop wearing your wedding ring?

GORE: Because I've gained so much weight, I couldn't get it off (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

GORE: I could -- I could get it off, I couldn't get it back on again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you buy that explanation?

MALVEAUX: Well, was that him or "Saturday Night Live?"

(CROSSTALK)

I mean -- you know, I just hope that America, Tipper is not feeling as tepid about him as many Democrats are, if he's not wearing his ring. I think he needs to get a little more serious and a little more sanguine. He's been making a few off-the cuff-comments that I don't think play well with America. BLITZER: Is he coming back? Is he trying to make a comeback? Because we've heard a lot of people say, if he's serious about running for president again, he's got to announce in December, which is, what, two months away.

GOLDBERG: Yes, well, first, let me say, as someone who's gained so much weight that smaller pundits are circling him in an elliptical orbit, that I have sympathy for the guy.

(LAUGHTER)

But secondly...

MALVEAUX: Your wedding ring didn't fit?

GOLDBERG: But I got it already after I gained the weight.

But also, yes, he's obviously running. I mean, his war-on-Iraq speech was an entirely political document. His speech on the economy was an entirely political document. The guy is running.

BLITZER: Is he?

BEINART: Yes, I think that's probably right. I think maybe the problem is, you know, he's been spending so much time in Tennessee, where they're not exactly known for health food.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, he may win that state in 2004, but he'll end up looking like Elvis in doing it. So it's a mixed result.

BLITZER: He's definitely going to run, you think?

BEINART: I think -- I don't have any inside information. It seems likely to me.

MALVEAUX: If he wins Tennessee, he loses California, is that what you're saying?

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: Perhaps.

BLITZER: What do you think?

GEORGE: I think he's running. However, when you see clips like that, I think he's in danger of becoming Quayle-ized if he starts making that kind -- because people will just look at him as a joke.

I actually didn't think that his speech on Iraq -- while I disagreed with a lot of it, I didn't think his speech on Iraq was that bad. However, when he starts talking about fat jokes and things like that, he doesn't look presidential.

BLITZER: If he does run, Joe Lieberman has said he won't run, because of course Joe Lieberman was his running mate the last time around. Do you believe Joe Lieberman won't run if Al Gore does?

MALVEAUX: Joe Lieberman probably won't run, but there are other Democrats who might.

BLITZER: Oh, a lot of Democrats would.

MALVEAUX: You know, so I think that, you know, when I talk about his Iraq speech and his other speeches, I mean, he's posturing without posturing, and he just hasn't been very transparent...

GEORGE: There's a fat chance that he'll run.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I think...

MALVEAUX: Oh, Robert, you had to -- ooh, a whole half hour, and then you zing that one in at the end. He and his puns, I can't take it.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right.

Julianne, we want to congratulate Julianne Malveaux. She's the co-author of a new book. It's called "Unfinished Business: A Democrat and a Republican Take On the 10 Most Important Issues Women Face," the Republican being Deborah Perry.

I know you're the Democrat.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Shows you how smart I am.

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, October 6. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

Please join me Monday through Friday, twice a day, at noon Eastern with Showdown: Iraq, and later in the day, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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