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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Donald Rumsfeld; Lugar, Dodd Talk About Post-War Iraq; Kissinger, Cohen Discuss Middle East Road Map

Aired May 4, 2003 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Madrid, and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.
We begin with the United States defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. He's just back in Washington after a week in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. Among his stops, Baghdad.

Earlier today I spoke with Secretary Rumsfeld about this new military phase in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Welcome back to the United States from a trip out there.

A lot of people are wondering, any progress in determining the fate of Saddam Hussein?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No, not really, although each day that goes by, we have access to more and more people. And my guess is that, at some point, someone will give us a piece of information, a scrap of information that will help us sort that out.

BLITZER: What do you think, alive or dead?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know. If you don't have evidence he's dead, you probably got to assume he's alive.

BLITZER: And you assume he's alive because you would have presumably heard some sort of chatter or some intercepted communication, one of the prisoners tell you he's dead?

RUMSFELD: Possibly, but basically, our task is to go find the senior regime people. We're finding a lot of them, and have a good, good percentage of the total already.

BLITZER: That search for his DNA at that Mansour crater, that second so-called decapitation hit, is that over with? You've searched and you haven't found any DNA?

RUMSFELD: I don't know. I was gone a week, and I haven't paid attention lately. But I know there are lots of places that they're looking and a lot of people they are talking to, and if he's alive, we'll find him.

BLITZER: The prisoners that you have, the leadership that are in U.S. custody right now, coalition hands, what do they say to you?

RUMSFELD: Well, some provide information, pieces of information that might be useful as to behavior patterns and habits and relationships and locations, that type of thing.

BLITZER: What about Saddam Hussein specifically? Do they think he's alive or dead?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know. I shouldn't say what they think, because I have not been following the interrogation debriefings from all these people.

But he was a person who had, at any one time, maybe three or four doubles that pretended they were him. He was a person who was very concerned about saving his own life and his security, and went to great lengths to not have anyone know where he was going or when he was going. He was sleeping in a different place almost every night, in private residences and the like around Baghdad and some other places.

So anyone who pays that much attention to security is going to be difficult to find.

BLITZER: And his two sons, Uday and Qusay?

RUMSFELD: Same thing.

BLITZER: You have no idea if they are alive or dead?

RUMSFELD: I have roughly the same amount of information on them as we do on Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: Which is not conclusive either way, alive or dead, where they are. But do you believe if they are alive, they're still in Iraq? Because there have been these reports they may have slipped out and gone to another country.

RUMSFELD: It's always possible. You know, one person can move around. And furthermore, they had stolen so much money from the Iraqi people that they had the wherewithal to do lots of things. And they went to great pains, they had multiple residences and multiple bodyguards and multiple ways of doing things, and money stashed outside. So who knows? We'll find out.

BLITZER: What about weapons of mass destruction? Are you frustrated that you haven't found any hard evidence yet?

RUMSFELD: I'm not frustrated at all. Anyone who goes into Iraq and sees those people who were liberated and sees what a vicious dictatorship can do to people, and compares it with their neighbors in Kuwait or Qatar or the UAE, it's so refreshing and wonderful to see their faces and what's happened, their circumstances so much improved. Furthermore, we always knew that Saddam Hussein could function in an inspections environment. They spent a great deal of time dispersing materials and documentation to multiple locations, private residences and the like.

So it's going to take time. We're not going to stumble over anything. What we're going to do is we're going to find people who come up and say, "Look, we know where something is," or, "Here is some documentation that was put in this house we just found," and...

BLITZER: Have you found any people like that yet who might provide you those leads?

RUMSFELD: They are talking to an awful lot of people. Many of the people that we've brought into custody were the result of some Iraqi coming up to us and saying, "Say, folks, if you go down the street there, about a block and a half, and take a look in that building, you're going to see one of your deck-of-cards folks."

BLITZER: But the president says Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister, he's still lying.

RUMSFELD: I'm told that that's what the president said, and I've only seen one of the debriefings on him, and I haven't seen any in the last week because I was out of the country. But the one I saw, it was pretty clear that he was dissembling.

BLITZER: And the others, the other scientific advisers and other military officers, senior officials who were in our hands, you sense they're still dissembling as well?

RUMSFELD: I don't know. They're being interrogated by groups of people from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI. And as those reports come out, we'll know more.

BLITZER: Why not let some of those former U.N. weapons inspectors, who worked for Dr. Hans Blix and Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, come back and join you and continue their search?

I interviewed Dr. ElBaradei last week. He said they would very much like to come back in and have access to people and places they didn't necessarily have access to before the war.

RUMSFELD: Well, it's a possibility, I suppose. The Department of State and the White House do the negotiations with the United Nations, not the Department of Defense.

But the task is a big one. There are many teams of people that are out looking at the sites that we're aware of. But as I say, I don't think we're going to just stumble over something. I think people are going to come up, finally, and say, "Here's what happened, here's what they've done." And already, there are things that have been related to us that have been helpful.

BLITZER: But what you're saying is that you're open to U.N. inspectors perhaps joining U.S. inspectors in the search for weapons of mass destruction?

RUMSFELD: Well, as I say, that's not something the Department of Defense deals with. That's something the Department of State and the White House are dealing with.

BLITZER: But they would have to ask you for -- you're in charge of the military; military is in charge of Iraq.

RUMSFELD: We've got multi-agency teams doing what they do. They are out looking at the sites that we have knowledge of.

And of course, the reality is that if we have knowledge of a site and -- a suspect site is probably the way we should phrase it -- it's very likely that things are not there. And the only way I know we're going to get it is through people. And if anyone has any ideas, we're always happy to hear them.

BLITZER: The president announced that the U.S. is moving to this next phase now. The major combat is over; now the stabilization, the reconstruction, is under way.

Is Lieutenant General Jay Garner, who is the man you want to be in charge, going to be effectively replaced by Paul Bremer, the former State Department adviser on counterterrorism?

RUMSFELD: You see, your question says that you think you know what I want.

BLITZER: I don't know what you want. That's why I am asking the question.

RUMSFELD: You said it that way, as though you do know.

The truth is that Jay Garner is doing a terrific job. And he has -- he got a team of people pulled together from all the departments and agencies, indeed from some other countries, and they began work well before the war. And as the war progressed, they moved into the region, and then they very recently have moved into Baghdad.

It is a big job they have, and the president has not made any announcements with respect to others who might be helpful. I know I was just with Jay and have a great deal of confidence in him. And you mentioned Paul -- his name is really...

BLITZER: Paul Bremer.

RUMSFELD: ... Jerry Bremer, but that's what he's called. But he's a first-rate individual...

BLITZER: And he strongly supported you. He was on this program many times.

RUMSFELD: Was he?

BLITZER: And he strongly supported the administration's desire to get rid of Saddam Hussein... RUMSFELD: Well, I've known him for years, and he's a very talented person. And if the president makes some judgments like that, we'll just have to see what they make.

BLITZER: I'll read to you what "Newsweek" writes on its online Web column, and get your reaction. You won't like what they write, but I'll read it to you anyhow. "Bremer's imminent...

RUMSFELD: How do you know what I'll like?

BLITZER: I know what you like.

RUMSFELD: You keep saying you're able to climb in my head...

BLITZER: All right, maybe you'll like what "Newsweek" says. Let's read it.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: "Bremer's imminent appointment counts as a win for Secretary of State Colin Powell in the behind-the-scenes battle over who will control the future of Iraq. Powell's State Department has been fighting with the Defense Department, under Donald Rumsfeld, over how Iraq will be governed and how long the U.S. presence will last."

RUMSFELD: That is an inaccurate and mischievous report.

BLITZER: OK. I knew you wouldn't like it. But tell...

RUMSFELD: I didn't say I didn't like it. Why do you keep saying this?

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD: Are you a psychiatrist or something?

BLITZER: You don't like mischievous reports, right?

RUMSFELD: I just -- you asked me what I thought of it, and I said it's mischievous.

BLITZER: Tell us what's wrong with it.

RUMSFELD: I'd rather wait, and if the president decides he wants to make an announcement, let the president make the announcement. That's the way we do these things in government.

Colin Powell and I have been discussing these things over a sustained period of time. We are very much in agreement on how things are going. If there are people elsewhere in the departments that have different views and they lead to articles like that, that's their business, not mine.

BLITZER: Will Iraq effectively be divided into certain sectors, the U.S. military controlling one sector, the British military a second sector, the Polish military a third sector? RUMSFELD: I think the way to think of it is that the coalition, which is led by General Franks, will be dealing with the entire country. How he allocates forces and disperses and deploys forces is something that remains to be seen.

Already he has assigned the U.K. forces, the British forces to the southeastern portion of the country and the Basra region. But they're all under the same coalition leadership. It isn't like -- that just happens to be where they're deployed.

The way you phrased it is -- sounds a little...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Will there be a similar opportunity for the Polish troops, along the same lines as the British troops have in the South?

RUMSFELD: Very likely.

BLITZER: Where would the Polish troops be?

RUMSFELD: Those final decisions haven't been made.

BLITZER: But you're dramatically going to try to scale back the U.S. military presence in Iraq over the next months and years, I assume.

RUMSFELD: No.

BLITZER: Right now they're, what, 150,000, 200,000 troops?

RUMSFELD: I don't want to make assumptions about that, the kind that you just made in your question. It's open question. We're going to have a difficult job, and we have to see that that country has proper security. And we're going to have as many people in there as we need for as long as we need them. We will also have as few people as possible, but as many as are necessary, and we'll stay as short a time as is possible, but as long as is necessary.

And anyone who thinks they can look out into the future and know precisely what that's going to be just doesn't understand the variables that are involved.

So what we've agreed among ourselves is that we'll do exactly what I just said.

BLITZER: Will there be a role for United Nations peacekeeping forces in Iraq?

RUMSFELD: I can't say about peacekeeping forces, what the United Nations might or might not decide. I know that the president and Prime Minister Blair, who's just done a terrific job and been a wonderful ally and friend, they've talked about the United Nations having a role, a vital role, an important role, some characterization like that. And I was in Checkers with Prime Minister Blair a day before yesterday, and we talked about it, and I think it's really -- we're closely cooperating with our allies to fashion some sort of an approach, then we'll just have to see what the secretary-general and the Security Council decide to do by way of reacting to resolutions, and that's yet to play out.

BLITZER: What about some of the countries who opposed you, were not partners in the coalition of the willing -- France, Germany and Russia, in particular? What, if any, role might they play?

RUMSFELD: I have no idea. We had 65 nations that were involved in this coalition, and across the world. There were some countries that weren't. Those were several of them. What they'll decide as we go forward is really up to them.

BLITZER: Are you open, if they want to play a role, to letting them join you in Iraq?

RUMSFELD: That's really a question for the president, not me, and time will tell. I think that it is going to be a task that is not going to be easy. It's going to take some time, and we certainly would want people engaged who were cooperative and wanted to do it in a constructive way. We would not want people involved who wanted to behave in an unconstructive way.

BLITZER: Do you want to offer some sort of assessment, how long U.S. troops might remain in Iraq and how much it will cost?

RUMSFELD: You know, before the war began, people -- everyone kept saying, well, how long is it going to last? What's it going to cost? How many casualties will there be? And I would say the truth: We don't know. It's not knowable. And people said, "Oh, you know. You must know. We don't know."

Nor do we know now how long this stabilization period will take. We hope it's short. We hope that the Iraqi people will step forward and engage this process of creating an interim authority and then a constitution and a final government that can best serve the Iraqi people. The rest of the world can't figure out what makes the most sense in Iraq.

How long that will take, I don't know, but we do know that the humanitarian assistance has been so good that there really is not a humanitarian crisis generally in the country. There may be pockets of distribution problems on medicines and that type of thing, but there are a lot of people helping and it's coming along very well.

The real problem that country faces -- and God bless the wonderful young men and women who -- and their families and their loved ones who let them do this, go over there and spend many months and did such a wonderful job. They have contributed to the liberation of those people. Now those people have to engage and take over that process. And we've got terrific folks over there trying to help them do that, and only time will tell.

BLITZER: Should the Iraqi National Congress leader, Ahmad Chalabi, be one of these leaders?

Last week on this -- someone here on CNN, a foreign minister of Jordan, Marwan Muasher, told me that he's a crook, he's wanted for embezzling money from a bank in Jordan, and he should really have no role in a future Iraq.

RUMSFELD: Well, the wonderful thing about this process of democracy is that when someone sticks their head up, somebody doesn't like it. And therefore, there will be that process, just like in our country. There will be a debate. There will be a discussion. And ultimately, people would decide who they want. It won't be us who will be deciding who is going to be doing anything. It is going to be the Iraqi people, over time.

And my guess is the interim authority will serve as a mechanism so that the Iraqi people can look at it and say, "Well, we like this or we don't like that, and we want to be involved or we don't want to be involved."

Well, the people who don't want to be involved are going to be making a big mistake, because the people that are involved are going to be the ones that are going to have an effect on what that country's going to look like in the future.

BLITZER: But you have confidence in Chalabi.

RUMSFELD: I don't know the man well. I've met him on one or two occasions. He has been selected by the Leadership Council as a spokesman for that group. And he is there, he's contributing. And how it will shake out, what his role will be, what other people's role will be remains to be seen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We have to take a quick break. Up next, Syria. Is Syria beginning to get the message from Washington?

And what about North Korea and its nuclear weapons program? Is it time for the United States to launch a preemptive strike?

I'll ask the Secretary of Defense. We'll bring you the rest of the interview when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We return now to my interview earlier today with the United States defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: I know during the war, before the war, you were very concerned about the position of the Syrian government, cooperating with Iraqis, having an open border, if you will.

Has the situation improved, especially in the aftermath now of the secretary of state's meeting with Bashar al-Asad?

RUMSFELD: Well, I guess time will tell. I talked to Secretary Powell this morning on the phone a bit, and it's not, I think you need to let the dust settle on that.

He's, in my judgment, had a visit that was worth doing, and the president asked him to do it, and it was the right thing to do. We'll see what progress comes.

You know, words are one thing, actions are another.

BLITZER: But right now you're open-minded as far as Syria on whether they will crack down on terrorism, take some of the other steps that you want them to take?

RUMSFELD: I know what they've been doing, and it's been unhelpful. I know that Secretary Powell was just there and advised them that it was unhelpful, and gave them some pointers and some suggestions for the future.

In my view, they were making some unwise decisions previously. What they'll do after this visit remains to be seen.

BLITZER: The secretary of state has written you a letter expressing, apparently, some concern about the length that the prisoners are going to be spending, those detained at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, about 600 or so of them.

Is there any movement in trying to determine the fate of these individuals?

RUMSFELD: I don't think that's quite accurate as to what he wrote me about.

BLITZER: All right, tell me what...

RUMSFELD: I think what he wrote me about was the fact that the inter-agency process, where we have all these FBI and Department of Justice and CIA and DIA, and what have you, involved in interrogating these detainees, it takes time to find out what intelligence they have.

It also takes time to figure out what law enforcement process might be appropriate, and what Colin and I have been concerned about, both of us, is that it's taking so long.

There are a number of countries, and the Department of State has the responsibility of dealing with those countries, that have foreign nationals in Gitmo, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, being detained, and those countries, understandably, would like to know when they could have those people.

So the inter-agency process takes a great deal of time. Colin and I are trying to speed up that process, and that's what that's all about. BLITZER: Let me just, a couple of nuggets to sort of wrap up before I let you go. Victory parades for the troops. I remember covering General Schwarzkopf, the parades in Washington and New York after the first Gulf War.

Do you want the troops to be honored in that way when they come back, to have parades in New York, Washington, elsewhere?

RUMSFELD: There's no question but that the troops, the young men and women, did such a superb job that there has to be a way to honor them, and there will be.

And General Franks and his team have done just a superb job for our country and for the world, and indeed for the Iraqi people, who have been liberated.

What's the best way to do that? In the case of 1991, the task was to go in and get them out of Kuwait, and they did it, and they were properly greeted coming back to the United States.

In this instance, it was a very different task. It was to remove that regime, and it's part of a global war on terrorism that is not over. We still have to face the problem of a number of global terrorist networks and terrorist states that exist, that work with those global networks.

And on the one hand we will, in fact, find a way to honor the courage and dedication and talent of these young men and women, and we'll do it well.

Whether it will be modeled off the 1991 thing, I don't know. I kind of doubt it, because it's such a different circumstance. Certainly, our war plan was not modeled off of 1991.

BLITZER: One final question on North Korea. If the North Koreans pursue their nuclear weapons ambitions...

RUMSFELD: Yes.

BLITZER: ... a preemptive strike, is that something that is out there?

RUMSFELD: I'm not one who speculates about things like that. I know that back in the 1990s, in the Clinton administration, Secretary Perry called in the former secretaries of defense, and we had a discussion, and they clearly had teed up a military option that they were considering, and they then at a certain moment were able to do some things that persuaded them that that was not appropriate.

But those are very serious issues, and I leave them for the president.

BLITZER: Don't want to speak about -- speculate about that right now?

RUMSFELD: I certainly don't. BLITZER: Any speculation about you, the defense secretary, how much longer you want to stay at the Pentagon?

RUMSFELD: Why, you have any suggestions?

BLITZER: No, I'm just asking.

RUMSFELD: No, we've got a lot of important work to do, and we've got a good team of folks and we're making good progress. I really feel that the Afghan campaign and the Iraq campaign have been successful. I think that we have a lot of hard work yet to do in Iraq, and I think we also have a lot of hard work to see that we keep getting this department turned and arranged for the 21st century threats that this country and the world faced.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Still to come, the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani. I'll have an exclusive interview.

But up next, President Bush is savoring a clear military victory in Iraq, but what shape will a post-war Iraq take and what are the financial and political costs for the United States? We'll talk with two top members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: the chairman, Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. The United States and our allies have prevailed.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on Thursday, formally declaring the successful accomplishment of the military mission in Iraq.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now are two key members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In his home state of Indiana, the committee's chairman, Republican Senator Richard Lugar. And here in Washington, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Mr. Chairman, let me begin with you. Are you among those who are beginning to conclude that, when all the dust settles, the U.S. may not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: No, I concur with Secretary Powell, Secretary Rumsfeld, the president, that weapons of mass destruction are there, and likewise, that we will be led to them by people knowledgeable in the country as to where they are.

What form we may find them and what traces of destruction and all the rest of it will be very interesting and, likewise, the intellectual capital that is there to produce more. Because not much else is -- you don't need much to get it going again. And that, I think, we have to be working with these people who are in the business to make sure they don't re-enter the business, much as we did with Russian scientists under the Nunn-Lugar program.

BLITZER: What about you, Senator Dodd, do you believe, in the end, they will find weapons of mass destruction?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I have no evidence to the contrary. And certainly, they have used them in the past. There's no doubt about that at all, both in Iran and against the Kurdish population.

So, whether or not they find them in the exact form that many would assume they would be the case -- possibly some got out of the country. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that. But I'm going to work on the assumption, based on the intelligence that has been gathered, that the weapons of mass destruction existed.

BLITZER: What if they don't?

DODD: Well, you know, they've used it in the past, and I think the point that Senator Lugar just made -- certainly having the intellectual capacity to do this was proven already by the fact they've used them in the past.

So, I wouldn't dwell on that point specifically, because Saddam Hussein clearly was a producer and a user of biological and chemical weapons. He clearly was on the track to acquire a nuclear capacity, and the world is a safer place today because he's not ruling Iraq.

BLITZER: Will the U.S. lose creditability, Mr. Chairman, if, if the U.S. finds no hard evidence, no so-called smoking gun?

LUGAR: No, we have full credibility in Iraq. We've prosecuted with the alliance a successful liberation of the Iraqi people, and we have clearly caused Saddam to destroy weapons of mass destruction, or at least to suppress evidence of them. That is a victory of sorts.

This is a facet that's important. It's important in the war against terrorism that we rout out whatever is there and, likewise, the people involved, because they might help supply al Qaeda or other terrorists along the trail. BLITZER: Senator Dodd, how important is it for the U.S. to conclusively learn what happened to Saddam Hussein?

DODD: Well, it's important. But I don't think it's as important as finding Osama bin Laden, for the simple reason that I don't think Saddam Hussein today poses any threat, wherever he is. If he is alive, obviously, he doesn't pose the kind of threat that an Osama bin Laden does with his cellular network around the world to reactivate al Qaeda and international terrorism.

So, it would certainly be good to know where he is. It would be, certainly, to know, to apprehend him, to bring him before a court of justice. But I don't think it's absolutely critical for the ultimate success of this mission that we apprehend him or find out what happened to him.

BLITZER: And you agree with that assessment, Mr. Chairman?

LUGAR: Yes, I think that Senator Dodd is right on.

BLITZER: What about the length of the U.S. military presence in Iraq, Senator Lugar? How long do you anticipate large numbers of U.S. troops will remain there?

LUGAR: Well, I was heartened by what Secretary Rumsfeld told you in the last interview, that we will have troops there as long as necessary, but no longer than necessary. I think that's a pretty good way to state it.

My own view is that the security of the country clearly is our responsibility presently. We are trying to pass that on to others. Likewise, the other government's procedures, the fledgling beginnings on democracy, and all the rest. But that's going to require an undergirding.

Now, in due course, as everybody points out, we may get help from other countries. We may bring in NATO allies or the United Nations or other people in the Arab world. That would be helpful.

But for the moment, this is our responsibility. And we ought not to be having large debates about how rapidly we move out. And I was upset, in a way, to hear reports that by the fall, three divisions out of five would be gone. I think Secretary Rumsfeld disabused us of that today.

BLITZER: And what about you, Senator Dodd, not only the length of time, but the cost to U.S. taxpayers? Have you been given any ballpark estimate what this is going to cost the United States?

DODD: No. Well, what we've heard the numbers of reconstruction running around $100 billion. We put $2.5 billion in, in the last supplemental appropriations bill. So it's going to be costly. These RFPs, these seeking bids on various contracts are rather costly, and so it's going to be expensive. And clearly the responsibility is going to fall principally on the United States. Now, I would hope that sooner rather than later we could see a civilian government emerge in Iraq, a democratically elected one, that there'd be more cooperation from the international community, on both the peacekeeping side as well as the political restructuring that's necessary in Iraq. And to the extent we can move that along more quickly, I think we're all going to be better off.

Being the sole, or almost the sole power there, both in terms of reconstruction and politically, exposes us to great vulnerabilities.

BLITZER: Senator Lugar, we have to take a quick break, but before we do, I wanted to just ask you, the U.N. role -- you say there could be a U.N. role. Do you specifically want the United Nations to have some sort of peacekeeping role there?

And secondarily, what about countries like France, Germany, and Russia, which opposed the Bush administration's war plans, do you want them shut out?

LUGAR: No, I don't want anybody shut out. And I do hope the United Nations will play a vital role in Iraq, whether it be in peacekeeping or various other ways, and I hope that that will occur soon. I think we really need an internationalization of the process, for the very reasons that Senator Dodd pointed out.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take that quick break. Stand by, Senators. We have a lot more ground to cover.

Senators Lugar and Dodd will be staying with us. They'll also be taking your phone calls. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana, and one of the committee's leading Democrats, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

Senator Lugar, you've read in the paper all the speculation that they may be bringing in the former State Department counterterrorism adviser, Paul Bremer, to take charge of the civilian administration in Iraq at the expense, perhaps, of retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Jay Garner, who may not necessarily be living up to some of the standards some people wanted.

What is your take on this in-fighting, if in fact there is some in-fighting going on?

LUGAR: I'm not certain that there's in-fighting, but I would just say on behalf of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we would like to have some idea what is going on. And we're going to get it, I believe. We are making preparations for hearings week after next.

I think it's just important that the American people have some idea about the sorting out, who's in charge of what. This has had to proceed perhaps sort of on the run, but long ago in our committee we asked for people to give us some idea of how the organization might proceed. And the ideas were fairly sketchy. They are far too sketchy now.

So on behalf of the American people we're going to ask some questions, hopefully get some answers. And after we hear that, I'll be in a better way of way of evaluating who is who and who reports to who.

BLITZER: Very candid statement from Senator Lugar.

Senator Dodd, do you have any clue what's going on in this -- some are describing it a little bit of a turf battle?

DODD: Well, they don't call me that often, Wolf, on these matters.

But let me just underscore the point that the chairman has made here, and it's really -- we do need to straighten this out. I don't know Mr. Bremer. I don't know General Garner. But clearly it seems that the transition, handing the ball off from the military side -- we all know about the dangers of nation- building and asking the military to take on too many responsibilities in that area. And certainly when you see them talk about local governance and all the lines of communication and control, all retained within the Pentagon, there are those of us who don't feel that's a wise course to be following, whether it's Mr. Bremer or somebody else. But sort it out for us as soon as you can so we know the lines of authority will be, and then we can really plan.

Secondly, we shouldn't rush to try to place a government in power in Iraq. History will teach you back in -- after World War I, that mistake was made by the British to try and impose a leader very quickly. The leadership is going to have to emerge from the Iraqi people themselves. We can help that process but we can't dictate it for them. So sorting out the authority lines are going to be a critical first step in that regard.

BLITZER: Senator Lugar, I want you to listen to what the president said aboard the Abraham Lincoln, the aircraft carrier, the other night. He had some strong words for so-called terrorist states out there. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world and will be confronted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Was that a message to Syria, Iran, North Korea, or all of the above, none of the above? What is your assessment?

LUGAR: All of the above. I think that this is the war on terrorism. It's a comprehensive war. It's an attempt to rout out al Qaeda cells that are terrorist elements, and especially any potential intersection with weapons of mass destruction. The president says these will be confronted.

The question then, usually, is how. For the moment, in Syria, with diplomacy. Secretary Powell, likewise, going to Lebanon, where there may be some elements of difficulty, particularly with terrorists vis-a-vis the path to peace in Israel and Palestine.

BLITZER: All right. Let me pick up that point with Senator Dodd.

The secretary of state was yesterday in Damascus, met with President Bashar al-Asad. The Syrians seemed to be taking some steps that the U.S. is urging them to take, shutting down some of those terrorist organizations' offices in Damascus, for example.

Are you encouraged? Do you think that there's some hope that the new president of Syria is getting the message?

DODD: It appears so, and I commend Secretary Powell for making the trip.

And I would point out -- by the way, I thought the president gave a very good speech the other night. And he was speaking for all of us thanking these young men and women in uniform for the tremendous job they did in Iraq, and so I applaud him for that.

In that speech, the president also had another line where he said we will use all the tools available to us -- I'm not quoting him exactly -- but diplomacy, intelligence, cooperation, and at the last resort military force. And I think that thought sort of captures where most of us are here and you're watching diplomacy work here.

Secretary Powell is a real pro at this, and he ought to be given a chance to succeed, and I think he's apt to.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds left. Senator Lugar, I'll give you the last word. What do you make of this new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas? Is he the man who can stop the terrorism against the Israelis and try to forge a deal with the prime minister, Ariel Sharon?

LUGAR: Well, he is the best hope for the moment. Certainly our prayers are him as well as with the Israelis with whom he'll be negotiating. And those talks are going to occur soon, and the United States has to be constant in support of this process.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to have to unfortunately leave it right there. Two thoughtful Senators, Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Chris Dodd, a key member. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Just ahead, the next U.S. presidential election is, get this, only 18 months away, but the nine Democrats hoping to challenge President Bush are already off and running, and they're also running against each other.

We'll go live to South Carolina. CNN's Candy Crowley is standing by for the inside story an last night's Democratic presidential debate. Who won? Who lost? We'll find out.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

When it comes to U.S. presidential politics, it seems that it's never too early to start up the campaign. Last night the first debate involving the nine 2004 White House hopefuls was held in Columbia, South Carolina. It was the earliest presidential debate ever.

CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is there. She's on the scene for us. She's joining us now live.

Candy, give us a little bit of the flavor. What happened last night?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, they called this the collision in Columbia. A little more fender bender than collision. Not a lot of news made. Some good one-liners back and forth.

In general, they held their tempers, but they disagreed on a lot, Wolf. I mean, they disagreed on health care. Not a lot of people like Richard Gephardt's health care plan. They disagreed on trade. You had basically represented from the left to the right wing of the Democratic Party on that stage last night.

One of the things that we found out for sure is that the ongoing feud between Howard Dean of Vermont and John Kerry of Massachusetts is for real.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I don't need any lectures in courage from Howard Dean.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: ... if Senator Kerry had some concerns about my fitness to serve that he speak to me directly about that rather than through his spokesman.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

CROWLEY: On the matter of defense, all the Democrats said it was very important that the U.S. stay (ph) the strongest nation in the world. No one willing to criticize the Pentagon, except for the most liberal and the least-known candidate on the stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Somebody here has to say it's time to cut the waste, the fat, the bloat out of the military. I'm the only candidate who is ready to say that tonight, that there's been misspending in the Pentagon, that there's a lot of money wasted. They can't reconcile $1 trillion dollars in accounts. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Basically, Wolf, no real breakout performances, but no huge mistakes either. Everybody leaves here about the same as they came in, except for the South Carolina Democrats who got a lot of attention and a lot of money over this weekend, and they needed both in a real Republican state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That was Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the former mayor of Cleveland, who was speaking out, for those of our viewers who don't know, don't recognize his face.

So, clearly, Candy, was there any one candidate that seemed to dominate the debate last night, who emerged a little bit ahead of the others?

CROWLEY: No, you know, it's very hard when there's nine of you on the stage, and there's 90 minutes, and there's two commercial breaks and a lot of questions to have a breakout performance.

It was pretty polite. Not a lot of, you know, moving in there and somebody really dominating. Everybody noticed with great interest that when it came time for candidates to ask questions of each other, Bob Graham of Florida, who's going to officially announce on Tuesday, got the most questions. So whatever that means.

But nobody really sort of forced themselves into the debate in a really starring role.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley, our senior political correspondent on the scene for us in Columbia, South Carolina.

Get ready, Candy, you're going to be doing a lot of this over the next 18, repeat, 18 months before the next election.

(LAUGHTER)

Candy Crowley reporting from South Carolina. Thank you very much.

Coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION, an exclusive interview with the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani. Then, the former U.S. secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, and the former defense secretary, William Cohen, will weigh in on many issues, including the road map to peace in the Middle East.

And we'll assess the state of the United States economy and the debate about what needs to be done to get it back in shape. That, plus your phone calls.

The second hour of LATE EDITION is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Bush says there has been progress in fighting the war on terror since the 9/11 strike. But he also says the war is not over yet.

A short while ago, I spoke with the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, about the progress of U.S. homeland security efforts since 9/11, and we spoke about much more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, as usual, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Thank you.

BLITZER: Give us a little perspective now. You were there minutes after 9/11. The president referred to it in his address to the nation from aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.

Now, after the war in Afghanistan, to a certain degree, after Iraq, where is the U.S. right now in this war against terror?

GIULIANI: Well, I think, you know, obviously, much further along than we were the day before September 11th, both in the war against terror and being prepared for the kinds of things that can happen to us because of terrorism.

I think the war in Afghanistan and the whole war in Iraq has really helped a lot, in the sense that it's gotten, for the first time, really, kind of control over terrorism, standing up to it.

President Bush sort of reversed what had been the way in which a lot of Europe was reacting to terrorism for 20 or 30 years, which was to negotiate, try to work things out.

And what we did was change direction and basically, say, "You've got to deal with terrorism. We've got to devote the next two to five years to eliminating, or at least substantially reducing, the risk of terrorism. And Afghanistan and Iraq are two important steps along that road."

BLITZER: So you would definitely agree with President Bush that there is a connection there, that the fighting in Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda is connected to this effort to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime?

GIULIANI: Absolutely. I go back to the speech the president made in September of 2001, right after the attacks of September 11th. The president said we have to end global terrorism, and we're going to have to fight this battle in a number of different places. Some of these can be military, economic, political.

I think people tend to forget that there has been a very consistent purpose here. For example, when we were debating, and the debate was going on about what to do about Saddam Hussein, it almost was if there was an either/or proposition. Either you deal with Iraq or you deal with al Qaeda. And in fact, you have to deal with both, as well as the other areas in which terrorism threatens us.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, some think it's a stretch to associate Saddam Hussein and his regime with 9/11.

GIULIANI: Yes, it's certainly not a stretch to associate Saddam Hussein with terrorism, and at the core of what happened on September 11th is terrorism that wasn't being dealt with properly. So that requires no real connection. And I think people know that Saddam Hussein, over the years, is one of the largest proponents of terrorism, one of the biggest supporters of terrorism.

And you've got to look at four or five other areas like that and reduce their capacity to do that. We've been successful in Afghanistan. We are successful in Iraq. There is a lot still to be done, but the main purpose is accomplished, which is removing his regime. Now we've got to rebuild it. And there are still four or five other areas where that's going to be necessary.

BLITZER: All right, what are some of those other areas?

GIULIANI: Well, we've got to deal with North Korea, we have to deal with Syria. And now, this could all be done, hopefully, diplomatically and politically and with negotiations and with economic pressure.

Military action is the last resort, as the -- as was necessary in Iraq, after 10 years of trying inspections and negotiation. So, hopefully, in these other areas, we can accomplish it in other ways.

But if necessary, I think the president, the United States, has shown the capacity to stand up to terrorism unlike the way in which it was being handled in the past.

BLITZER: And that status (ph) obviously sent a powerful message out.

GIULIANI: It sent a really powerful message. Look at Syria. I mean, I don't think there is any question that Syria backed down. I think the original plan was for Syria to harbor people that were leaving Iraq. And seeing the tremendous exercise of force, the presence of the coalition forces, Syria has become much more reasonable.

Maybe not as reasonable yet as we would like, but you can see the impact of having stood up to terrorists.

BLITZER: And you think a similar process is going to unfold in Iran?

GIULIANI: I think a similar process is going to unfold elsewhere. The approach of standing up to terrorism is ultimately going to reap, I think, tremendous rewards for us.

BLITZER: You know that the U.S. has killed or captured many of the al Qaeda leadership responsible for 9/11, but Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the number two, they are still at large.

How frustrated are you -- you were the mayor of New York City at that time, 3,000 people were killed -- that these two individuals remain free, assuming they're still alive?

GIULIANI: Well, yes, obviously there's a degree of frustration. We want that resolved, both from the point of view of a sense of justice for yourself, your city, your friends, and I know the families of the people involved feel that way, and then also because we want to make certain that he doesn't have the capacity to plan or do anything else in the future.

But, I mean, tremendous strides have been made, in arresting the members of al Qaeda. I think one of the most important steps that the government took was seizing the assets, right at the very, very beginning. Because what you want to do is to reduce the capacity of the organization to be able to operate internationally. You take away their money, or reduce their money, and you really accomplish a lot of that.

BLITZER: As far as homeland security is concerned, Americans are safer today than they were a couple of years ago. You...

GIULIANI: Oh, sure, of course they are. I mean, you know, this is one of those things where you can never really know, and you can never do enough. But you go back to the day before September 11th, go look at our airports, buildings and whatever, and the condition they were in, the lack of security -- understandably, in a way, because nothing like this had ever happened to us before. Now, you go to our airports, you go to many of our buildings, and you see a whole different approach.

Does a lot more have to be done? Absolutely.

BLITZER: What else has to be done?

GIULIANI: We have to concentrate a lot more effort on planning for the worst possibilities -- biological attack, chemical attack. The government has done a great deal. When I say "government," I mean not just the federal government, but many governors, mayors, very concerned about this.

Private businesses have to do that too. We're an infrastructure in America that's mostly private, so private institutions have to take some responsibility for this. Apartment buildings, office buildings, factory complexes that are owned privately, which makes up most of America, have to be thinking about security in a more sophisticated way and devoting a little more time to it.

BLITZER: In your city, New York City, are people safer, considerably safer today than they were a couple of years ago?

GIULIANI: People are absolutely safer. When you face -- I mean, just think it on a broad scale for a moment. Before September 11, we were hiding, in a way, from reality. A country that was surrounded by oceans and protected from attack. Even against missiles, we had a defense in the sense of time that nobody else had.

And now we were violated and attacked in a way that never happened to us before. And I think we woke up. I mean, the president said it, I mean, said it probably best when he said that they made a very big mistake in waking us up.

BLITZER: You heard what Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said about a ticker-tape parade in New York City for General Franks and the U.S. troops.

(LAUGHTER)

What do you think? Would that be appropriate right now, a victory parade?

GIULIANI: I consider myself sort of an expert on ticker-tape parades. I did them for the Yankees and for John Glenn and for the New York Rangers, and I love ticker-tape parades.

I think there's a balance there that you have to think about. The secretary reflected that, which is, you want to reward and honor the men and women who were so brave and accomplished really miracles for us, as well as General Franks.

And at the same time, you don't want to send a signal that this war is over, because Iraq, as the president and secretary outlined, is part of an overall approach. I mean, it's a sort of overall approach to reducing and ending world terrorism, and there's still a lot to be done.

So, you also don't want to create any kind of complacency, like, well, this is over now, because it isn't. This is another couple of years of having to deal with regimes that support terrorism, stop them from doing that, and dismantling the apparatus of world terrorism.

BLITZER: So what are you saying, no ticker-tape parade for General Franks and his troops?

GIULIANI: No, no, I think they have to work it out at the right time. I think the timing -- I think a little bit of patience in figuring out the right time to do it, and do it in the right way, so that you don't end up creating a sense of complacency. And I'm sure they'll figure out how to do it.

And then if they want to do it, I would love to help, because I consider myself sort of an expert on ticker-tape parades, having done, I think, seven of them.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: What role would you want play, helping Mayor Bloomberg in a new ticker-tape parade?

GIULIANI: Trying to figure where you can get the advertisers to pay for it.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: The cleanup.

GIULIANI: The city needs that. BLITZER: The cleanup. The cleanup.

He is going to be officiating at your wedding. Congratulations. Coming up...

GIULIANI: He is. May 24.

BLITZER: That's pretty soon.

GIULIANI: Isn't that great?

BLITZER: This is an exciting moment for you.

GIULIANI: It is an exciting moment. Judith and I are very, very, very happy to be doing it with Mike. He is a good friend of ours, and at Gracie Mansion, which has real significance to me and to the city and to Judith.

BLITZER: You got a honeymoon planned already, and are you going to share with us where you're going to be going?

GIULIANI: No, I'm not going to share it.

BLITZER: You don't want to...

GIULIANI: Going to try to keep it as private as possible.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... viewers all over the world that will be anxious...

GIULIANI: We're going to try to keep it as private as possible.

BLITZER: As well you should.

GIULIANI: And you did a great job.

BLITZER: Oh, thank you.

GIULIANI: I watched you many, many evenings into the early hours of the morning, and you were really terrific.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

GIULIANI: Thank you for informing us the way you did.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, how are you feeling? Our viewers, they are always interested in making sure you're feeling great.

GIULIANI: I'm feeling great. Very healthy.

BLITZER: Congratulations to you.

GIULIANI: Congratulations to you.

BLITZER: ... and to Judith as well... GIULIANI: Great job.

BLITZER: ... and good luck with the wedding and the rest of...

GIULIANI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Any political ambitions coming back?

GIULIANI: Everything in due time.

BLITZER: Are you hinting at something?

GIULIANI: We'll see.

BLITZER: All right.

GIULIANI: Thank you, Wolf, great job.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And just ahead, the military mission is over but can the United States win the battle to establish a democratic Iraq? And will a new Palestinian leadership and a new so-called road map put the Middle East back on the path toward peace?

We'll explore those issues and more with the former United States secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, and the former defense secretary, William Cohen.

LATE EDITION continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Our nation has a mission. We will answer threats to our security, and we will defend the peace.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush speaking aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln this week.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION to our viewers around the world.

Despite the success of the military mission in Iraq, the situation remains very dangerous, far from over. For some perspective on what could be next for the new Iraq, we're joined now by two distinguished guests.

In Connecticut, the former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He served in that post during both the Nixon and Ford administrations. And here in Washington, the former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen. He served during the Clinton administration. Before that, he was a member of the U.S. Senate. He is now the chief executive officer of The Cohen Group, based here in Washington.

Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

And, Dr. Kissinger, I'll begin with you and ask you this question. It seems like there's a pivotal moment right now in the aftermath of the major military combat in Iraq. What concerns you most right now about making sure this ends in the right way for the United States?

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, for it to end in the right way, there has to emerge a government and a political structure in Iraq which is compatible with the sacrifices that we have made. It's an extraordinary opportunity because Iraq does have a middle class and it does have resources from which it can regenerate itself.

On the other hand, it is divided into several ethnic groups, different religious interpretations of Islam. So it's a tremendous assignment, but it is also a great opportunity because if we succeed in this, as I believe we will, it can change the whole political climate of the Middle East.

BLITZER: What about that, Secretary Cohen? Is there a great concern that you have that could turn Secretary Kissinger's optimism into pessimism?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, I think Secretary Kissinger is right. We have to seize this particular moment and maintain a commitment to, number one, preserve the security and stability of the region, and then secondly, to really infuse the kind of commitment, capital resources in the infrastructure and building of the political system.

But it's not only Iraq. We have to keep our eye on Afghanistan, as well. Because of this war against terror, we have to make sure that, yes, you eliminate the Taliban and al Qaeda, but you make sure that the tumors don't grow back. You have to continue to keep a security perspective, as well as the political dynamic under way.

BLITZER: Secretary Kissinger, I want you to listen to what the president said on Friday in Santa Clara, California, the day after his big speech aboard the aircraft carrier. Some important words he uttered then. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We've got hundreds of sites to exploit, looking for the chemical and biological weapons that we know Saddam Hussein had prior to our entrance into Iraq. This guy has spent years and years and years of hiding weapons from weapons inspectors. It's going to take time, but the world will see the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: What happens, Secretary Kissinger, if, when all is said and done, there is no so-called smoking gun, there's no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

KISSINGER: I think, between Bill and myself, we have heard every intelligence briefing there is on this subject, and I have never heard anyone question the fact that there were weapons of mass destruction.

President Clinton in 1998, when he was on the verge of going to war, listed specific quantities of weapons of mass destruction that were reported by the U.N. inspectors that were there. Then there have been five years without any inspection, so there must have been weapons of mass destruction there.

Whether they were destroyed as the war started, where they're hidden, I cannot judge. But there's no question in my mind that Iraq represented a threat of weapons of mass destruction. And all the debates that I have heard, that fact has never been -- was never challenged before the war, not even by the people who opposed the U.N. resolutions that we were promoting.

BLITZER: Secretary Cohen, you heard Secretary Rumsfeld say on this program in the past hour that the information leading to the finding of these weapons of mass destruction won't come from the searches but will come from inside information from some of the captured Iraqi officials who will point the way.

How do you get these people to talk?

COHEN: Oh, I think that they will talk over a period of time, as they see that the Saddam regime is gone, that they will see the benefit of revealing this information so that Iraq can begin the reconstruction effort, that Iraq can become part of the international community. I think there is no question that, over time, this information will be forthcoming. Very difficult to produce.

But I think it's central to our credibility, as well. If we don't either find the weapons of mass destruction, or whether or not they were, in fact, destroyed before or after, then it will call into question our allegations about other countries possessing them.

So I think it is very important we do this, but I am satisfied that we will.

BLITZER: How important, Secretary Kissinger, is it for the U.S. to nail down, one way or another, whatever happened to Saddam Hussein?

KISSINGER: I think that is less important than finding the weapons of mass destruction, because, unlike Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein has no popular following. His rule was based on force and terror. And also, it's hard to imagine where he will be hiding for any length of time.

So I suspect he will be found. But even if he isn't, that is not crucial to the success of our operation. BLITZER: Is it time, Secretary Cohen, for the U.S. to allow U.N. troops, peacekeeping troops, to come into Iraq and help with this stabilization, reconstruction effort?

COHEN: I'm not sure it's imminent right now that this take place. But I think soon, as soon as possible, we ought to, quote, "internationalize" the peacekeeping force. I think that will help to persuade those in the region that we are not a, quote, "occupying force."

I think it will help ease the burden on our troops which, as we know from President Bush during his campaign and all the way through his presidency today, our forces are smaller and they're stretched further and further. So, to the extent that we can provide some relief, that will be good for them physically and also for us politically.

BLITZER: I want you to listen, Secretary Kissinger, to what an editorial writer in The Washington Post wrote on Thursday, remembering the question I just asked Secretary Cohen about a U.N. involvement. This from The Washington Post:

"Rather than swallowing a dose of the humility that Mr. Bush once proclaimed in foreign affairs, the administration is making a show of punishing countries that oppose the war. This mean-spirited payback will only compound the damage to America's standing in the world."

Does the writer for the editorial page of The Washington Post have a point?

KISSINGER: He has a point. I don't agree with it, the way it is put.

Some of the European nations, especially France and Germany, that opposed the resolution prior to the Iraq operation, are trying to use the U.N. as a curb and as a challenge to the United States. And therefore, every joint effort which we will put to the United Nations is in danger of being subjected to the same sort of controversy.

I would strongly favor using -- internationalizing it to the extent of inviting members of the coalition like Britain, Spain, Poland, to participate in the international operation...

BLITZER: Well, Secretary Kissinger...

KISSINGER: ... and Germany and France...

BLITZER: ... are you saying Germany and France should be kept out?

KISSINGER: No, they should be able to participate in reconstruction efforts. But they should -- we should come to an understanding with them, whether they are still using the United Nations as a sort of symbolic challenge to the United States, in which case it would be very difficult to engage in civil reconstruction side by side with them, or whether they will adopt the attitude that is implied by their being a member of the Atlantic alliance, namely that we will pursue common purposes, sometimes with slightly different emphasis.

And, so, I would think the decision of whether they participate depends more on France and Germany than on us. And I don't believe it is mean-spirited. It's a fundamental problem. But over the long term, allies can both be allies and go around the world agitating against the United States and creating new coalitions of their own, like with Russia.

BLITZER: All right. I know Secretary Cohen wants to weigh in on this, as well.

The relationship between the Bush administration and the United States government with France, Germany, maybe even Russia for that matter, pretty strained, even in the aftermath of the U.S. win in Iraq.

COHEN: It is strained, and I suspect it will be for some time to come. But I think we have to get over it, as well, as a major power. We can't nurture grievances indefinitely. I think there will be a period of time in which those relations remain strained. But in terms of both France and Germany participating in some way in Iraq as members of NATO, if NATO should be called upon to become part of that peacekeeping operation, and obviously, they would have an opportunity to participate in a NATO peacekeeping mission as part of NATO.

BLITZER: You'd rather see NATO do it than the U.N.?

COHEN: I would rather see NATO assume it, certainly in the initial stages, yes.

BLITZER: And you too, Secretary Kissinger...

KISSINGER: And I agree with that.

BLITZER: All right. Both of our guests voting for NATO over the United Nations.

We're going to pick up that, talk about the road map towards peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, some other hot issues, including North Korea. Much more going on.

We'll continue our discussion with the former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, the former defense secretary, William Cohen. They'll also be taking your phone calls.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation now with the former United States secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, and the former U.S. defense secretary, William Cohen.

Dr. Kissinger, one of your former associates, Paul Bremer, is now mooted, supposedly in line to take charge of the civil administration in Iraq, perhaps at the expense of Lieutenant General Jay Garner. What do you make of this?

KISSINGER: Well, first of all, I think it's a brilliant appointment, if it is made, which I understand from all the newspapers it will be.

I would not say this is at the expense of General Garner. This is in order to give a political coherence to what was originally designed primarily as a reconstruction effort while the military taking over the country.

I think Bremer has a marvelous combination of political understanding, foreign policy understanding and of the necessities and of the way the military approach it, and I'm sure that he and Garner will get along very well.

BLITZER: He's a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer, Paul Bremer.

Secretary Cohen, you obviously know him. You know the internal turf battles that seem to be taking place in Washington. What's your take?

COHEN: Well, he would be a very outstanding choice if, in fact, he is going to be appointed. As you know, there's been some question in the minds of both Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary Powell in terms of whether the appointment's ever going to take place.

But it does reflect, I think, some inter-conflict or continuing battle within the administration in terms of who is going to be in charge. And so that has to be resolved by the president fairly quickly.

But it is something, I think, that's been out there. If, in fact, the military component is over, or nearly over, then the question will be raised why have the military in charge of the reconstruction effort or the political effort? And so I think that's really what is involved here, putting a political person who has experience in the field of executive action as well as the military component in charge. So we'll have to wait and see.

BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, Secretary Powell met yesterday with Bashar al-Asad, the president of Syria. Syria, a country you know quite well. Seemingly some important steps taken in the aftermath of that meeting, and Syrians apparently moving to accept some of the conditions the U.S. put forward.

Listen to what the secretary of state said earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: If they operate in a positive way, with respect to what the coalition is doing in Iraq and with respect to the creation of a new democratic government in Iraq, then that tells us one thing about Syria's decision to move forward, that they're looking for a better relationship with the United States. If they do not, then there will be consequences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Then there will be consequences, strong words from the secretary. What's your take? Is the government of President al-Asad moving toward the United States now?

KISSINGER: Well, the government of al-Asad now has governments friendly to the United States on all its borders, in Turkey, in the south in Israel and in Iraq. And from what has been announced today they have obviously drawn some conclusions by closing down, or announcing at least that they've closed down the terrorist headquarters in Damascus.

They will still have to do some things about the Iranian-backed Hezbollah that are in the Syrian-controlled part of Lebanon, but I believe that they will understand the realities of the world in which they live, and that they do not want to face the consequences that Secretary Powell talked about.

BLITZER: Those consequences could be serious.

Do you think, Secretary Cohen, that the Syrians get it now?

COHEN: Oh, I think they understand that the world has changed as far as possessing weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorism.

But I think before Bashar Asad is going to be able to deliver on his pledges to Secretary Powell, there will have to be some connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well. In other words, there has to be an overall approach. Are we going to see some kind of reconciliation? Will we see a freeze on the settlements, will we see an end to terrorism? I think as long as that battle continues on, it's going to be very difficult for the Syrian president to exercise the kind of power he's going to need to get rid of the terrorists inside of Syria.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about that.

Secretary Kissinger, nobody knows more about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict than you do. You were instrumental in launching shuttle diplomacy decades ago.

This Middle East road map, as it's called, this peace plan put forward this past week, let me put some of the highlights up on the screen: a provisional Palestinian state by early 2004; an independent Palestine by 2005; an immediate cease-fire; a Palestinian crackdown on militias; dismantling of Jewish settlements established since February 2001; direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Do you believe Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian prime minister, and Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, can implement this so- called road map?

KISSINGER: Well, the deadlines are short, but they cover the essential items. These are things that have to happen. There has to be an end to terrorism. There has to be an end to settlement activity. The settlements after 2001 that are talked about are illegal by Israeli law as well, and they were put up there by free- lance settlers.

So, if all of these things could be taken, the terrorism steps, I would add one other thing that would be relatively easy to do for the Palestinians, which is to stop incitement, to stop the propaganda on television and radio and in their newspapers, that declares Israel an illegal state.

But these are certainly the headings that have to be covered. The issue now will be the timing, the sequence, and the speed with which it can be done, but the headings are the right headings.

BLITZER: All right. Secretary Cohen, you have the last word. Is this a moment, a critical moment right now that can achieve that breakthrough?

COHEN: I think we have a window of opportunity that ought to be seized. And the question will become whether or not President Bush is going to be able to persuade Ariel Sharon, who is under pressure from his own right wing, so to speak. There are 18 out of his 40 seats in the Likud who've already announced their opposition to a freeze on settlements. Is he going to be able to persuade Ariel Sharon that there should be, and whether or not Abbas himself is going to be in a position to stop the terrorism. The two go together, but we need to have pressure on both.

BLITZER: And there may be a historic moment, given the aftermath of what happened in Iraq.

Thanks to both of you for joining us. Secretary Cohen, Secretary Kissinger, always good for both of you to join us on LATE EDITION.

Just ahead, the United States' economy of course remains rather shaky right now. President Bush says more tax cuts are the cure. But will that lead to recovery, or, as his critics say, more recession? We'll debate the economic outlook with the former Clinton economic adviser Gene Sperling and the conservative economist Stephen Moore.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We need robust tax relief, so our fellow citizens can find a job.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush challenging Congress to approve a $550 billion tax-cut package during an appearance in California on Friday. Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

While that package is expected to be approved by the House of Representatives this coming week, it's having a far tougher time in the U.S. Senate.

We now get two very different perspectives on the best course for reviving the U.S. economy and, perhaps, having a spillover effect on economies around the world.

In Dallas, Texas, the former Clinton chief economic adviser, Gene Sperling. Here in Washington, Stephen Moore. He is the president of the Club for Growth, which promotes limited government and supports President Bush's tax cut plans.

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION.

Gene, let me begin with you and ask you this. The president says to create jobs, give people back their money, taxpayer money that -- cut the taxes, that's going to do the trick. Will it?

GENE SPERLING, FORMER CLINTON CHIEF ECONOMIC AIDE: No, not this plan. I mean, I think it's unfortunate that after we've seen 2.5 million lost jobs in the economy in the first two-and-a-half years of the Bush administration, they're coming back with more ideology and less of what I would call a pragmatic growth plan.

And let me be very explicit, Wolf, on what I think it fails in this plan. One, instead of giving businesses tax incentives to make them invest now when we need to jumpstart our economy, their incentives tend to be for businesses to invest well into the future or to get gains on things they've already done. We need to encourage businesses to start expanding jobs now.

Two, instead of focusing the money on putting money in people's pockets who are likely to spend it, average consumers, what you're seeing is a focus on tax cuts such as dividends and capital gains that go to very few people. And even the fans of these tax cuts don't really think they're designed to help stimulate job growth right now.

Third...

BLITZER: All right. Hold on, hold on, hold on. Hold on to that third point, because I want to give Steve a chance to weigh in, as well, Steve. And as you do, I want you to put up these numbers. The unemployment numbers went up from, what, 5.8 percent in March to 6 percent in April, a loss of 48,000 jobs. Eight-and-a-half million Americans out of work right now.

What's wrong with Gene Sperling's way of thinking?

STEPHEN MOORE, PRESIDENT, CLUB FOR GROWTH: Well, the fact that we have a lot of Americans out of work is a reason we need a tax cut.

But let me just step back a minute and say that both when Gene Sperling and you talk about this being kind of a recessionary environment, it really isn't a recession we're in right now. It's a, sort of, slow-growth economy. I sort of view this as the economy sort of wading through molasses. It is growing slowly, but it's not negative growth.

And, in fact, when you look, Wolf, at the situation around the world, almost the rest of the world is in recession, and we're growing slowly. So relative to Europe, we're doing quite well.

BLITZER: But what you heard Gene say, the first round of tax cuts clearly hasn't turned the economy around.

MOORE: Right, and there's a good reason for that. And that's because the tax cuts haven't taken effect yet. Seventy percent of the first Bush tax cut doesn't take place until 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. So, how in the world can a tax cut in the future help the economy now?

And, in fact, it was the Democrats, a lot of Gene Sperling's friends, who insisted that we backload the tax cut in that way.

BLITZER: All right. What about that, Gene?

SPERLING: Steve just made my point. What the economy needs right now is a plan that will stimulate job growth right now, that will encourage people to get out of this uncertainty, to invest, and, at the same time, increase confidence and savings in our future by keeping fiscal discipline.

What Steve just said is exactly right. The administration has done the opposite. They're doing nothing to incent growth right now when we need it.

On the other hand, they've rejected the advice of Chairman Greenspan, of former chairman of the Fed Paul Volcker, of former Republican Secretary of Commerce Pete Peterson and others who are saying, in the long term, don't keep driving up the deficits, don't keep driving up our debt. It's bad for savings, it's bad for capital formation and productivity growth in the future.

MOORE: Gene, you're putting words in my mouth. What I'm saying is, the first tax cut was not very well designed, because it is backloaded. This tax cut, I think, can provide a powerful stimulus.

And here's why, Wolf. I think that when you look at this tax cut, and you look at the economy right now, the economy is not going to improve until the stock market...

BLITZER: Well, let me ask you this. Of the $550 billion the president now wants over the next 10 years, how much of that will have an immediate impact to create jobs?

MOORE: The single aspect of the president's plan that will help the economy immediately, as soon as it is enacted, is the dividend cut and the capital gains cut. And the reason...

BLITZER: But that dividend cut is in deep trouble on the Hill. MOORE: It is in some trouble. That's why it has to be rescued. Because the jewel of the president's plan is the dividend and capital gains cut, because it will immediately help the stock market...

BLITZER: All right, let's...

MOORE: ... it will immediately help investors, and it will immediately help our confidence.

BLITZER: But it looks like that's the most vulnerable part of that tax cut right now...

MOORE: That's because of Democrats' opposition.

BLITZER: Why not let those dividends go untaxed, dividends to stockholders? They've already been taxed once, Gene.

SPERLING: Two reasons. Number one, nobody really believes, even the advocates of this, don't believe this is designed to help stimulate job growth right now.

MOORE: I do, Gene. I just -- it will. It will help the stock market.

SPERLING: Steve is a lonely person in agreeing with that.

MOORE: No.

SPERLING: Even most of the advocates, the IMF, the Congressional Budget Office, most people who look at this plan do not see it having an immediate impact on growth. So what does it do?

MOORE: Gene, you don't think a 10 percent boost in the stock market is going to help the economy?

SPERLING: What does this do? What it does is it does little right now when we need it, but it expands the deficit and the debt in the future. And that hurts our confidence and our long-term economy. It hurts savings. It hurts our ability to deal with Social Security and Medicare in the future without passing that burden on.

This isn't just what Gene Sperling is saying. This is what many of the wisest minds in the last 20 years, Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, are all pleading with this administration.

BLITZER: Gene, hold that thought. Hold that thought. Steve, hold your thought, because we're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about.

We'll continue our conversation with our two guests. They'll also be taking your phone calls. LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're debating the best way to boost the U.S. economy and help other economies around the world in the process. Among our guests, the former Clinton economic adviser Gene Sperling, and Stephen Moore. He's the president of the Club for Growth, a conservative economist himself.

Steve, let me begin with you. And I want you to respond to what Gene just said, but in the context of what the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, told Congress this week. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN GREENSPAN, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE BOARD: I've concluded all along, and continue to conclude, that it is very important for us to maintain the degree of fiscal restraint over the years ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That seemed to suggest to a lot of people he's not enthusiastic about a huge second round of tax cuts.

MOORE: Well, trying to interpret what Al Greenspan is telling us is a little bit like interpreting the Bible, but let me say a couple of things about this.

One is, Alan Greenspan has always been on record, always, for favoring a reduction in capital-gains tax and favoring a reduction in dividends. Now, he'd like to see that paid for by either spending cuts or other tax increases.

And, if we could do this plan, and cut spending to pay for it, I'd be all in favor of that, because the federal budget is completely out of control.

But I want to go back to that point about this not providing an immediate stimulus, the point that Gene Sperling made earlier.

Look, one of the big features of this plan, Wolf, is to basically accelerate the tax cut that we voted on in 2001. If we feel the economy needs a tax cut to help it, let's get it pushed forward, because the economy needs it in 2003, not in 2006 and '07 and '08.

And I'd ask Gene Sperling, what's wrong with that?

BLITZER: All right, Gene, what is?

SPERLING: As I said from the beginning, I'd be for a tax cut and am for a tax cut that gives businesses an incentive to invest now and puts money into average people's pockets who will spend it. You could do that for $150 billion of this tax cut.

But, Wolf, when you add up all the administration's tax proposals, it comes to $4.5 trillion over the next 10 years...

MOORE: Where do you get that number?

SPERLING: $4.5 trillion over the next -- well, I'll tell you where I'll get some numbers, Steve, right now -- over the next 10 years. There was supposed to be a $6.8 trillion surplus. Goldman Sachs now estimates a $4.2 trillion deficit. That's an $11 trillion swing in our fiscal fortunes. Citigroup now estimates $500 billion this year.

BLITZER: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

SPERLING: This is a very serious situation for our long-term future.

BLITZER: Let Steve respond.

MOORE: Gene, the reason that the deficit is exploding is two reasons. First of all, the economy is doing poorly. We need the tax cut to get the economy going. And the second reason is, the budget is out of control.

I think the one thing you and I would agree on is, we've got to do something about the expending explosion, because Congress is spending like a bunch of drunken sailors.

BLITZER: Gene, we're almost out of time, but I want to put some numbers up, show you some poll numbers that have just come out at the Newsweek poll, and look at this. When it comes to the economy, the job approval rating for the president is roughly evenly divided: 45 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove. As opposed to the situation in Iraq: 69 percent approve of the job he's done, 26 percent disapprove.

How vulnerable is he on the economy, as far as 2004 and Democratic presidential ambitions are concerned?

SPERLING: Well, there's no question he's vulnerable, just for the reasons we're talking about. The people aren't seeing things that are actually helping to increase growth now. They're seeing a huge deficit going up. It is because primarily of these large tax cuts, not spending, unless you include homeland security.

And this is what people are reading in the New York Times. They're reading: GOP tax cuts outdo Bush plan in favoring the wealthy. $105,000 for millionaires...

BLITZER: All right. Steve.

SPERLING: ... when we have 4 million unemployed...

BLITZER: Steve, 10 seconds, you got the last word.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: But you're right, Wolf. I mean, President Bush is vulnerable on the economy. He's very positive in his conduct of foreign policy. That's why it's crucial for Republicans and the president and unemployed workers to get this economy moving again.

BLITZER: All right. Let's see if he can do that.

Stephen Moore, thanks for joining us.

MOORE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Gene Sperling, always good to have you on LATE EDITION as well.

SPERLING: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks to both of you.

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

Coming up for our North American audience, our legal panel talks about the new defense of Scott Peterson. He's accused in the death of his wife Laci, their unborn child.

We'll also have more of my interview with the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll get insight into the latest developments in the Laci Peterson murder case shortly. But first, some highlights from my interview earlier today with the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A lot of people are wondering, any progress in determining the fate of Saddam Hussein?

RUMSFELD: No, not really, although each day that goes by, we have access to more and more people. And my guess is that at some point, someone's going to give us a piece of information, a scrap of information that will help sort that out.

BLITZER: What do you think, alive or dead?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know. If you don't have evidence he's dead, you've probably got to assume he's alive.

BLITZER: Why not let some of those former U.N. weapons inspectors, who worked for Dr. Hans Blix and Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, come back and join you and continue their search?

I interviewed Dr. ElBaradei last week. He said they would very much like to come back in and to have access to people and places they didn't necessarily have access to before the war.

RUMSFELD: Well, it's a possibility, I suppose. The Department of State and the White House do the negotiations with the United Nations, not the Department of Defense. The task is a big one. There are many teams of people that are out looking at the sites that we're aware of. And as I say, I don't think we're going to just stumble over something. I think people are going to come up, finally, and say, "Here's what happened, here's what they've done," and already there are things that have been related to us that have been helpful.

BLITZER: But what you're saying is that you're open to U.N. inspectors perhaps joining U.S. inspectors in the search for weapons of mass destruction.

RUMSFELD: Well, as I say, that's not something the Department of Defense deals with. That's something the Department of State and the White House are dealing with.

BLITZER: But they would have to ask you for -- you're in charge of the military; the military is in charge of Iraq.

RUMSFELD: We've got multi-agency teams doing what they do. They're out looking at the sites that we have knowledge of. And of course, the reality is that if we have knowledge of a site -- and a suspect site is probably the way we should phrase it -- it's very likely that things are not there. And the only way I know we're going to get it is through people. And if anyone has any ideas, we're always happy to hear them.

BLITZER: You're dramatically going to try to scale back the U.S. military presence in Iraq over the next months and years, I assume?

RUMSFELD: No.

BLITZER: Right now, there are, what, 150,000, 200,000 troops?

RUMSFELD: I don't want to make assumptions about that, the kind that you just made in your question. It's an open question. We're going to have a difficult job, and we have to see that that country has proper security, and we're going to have as many people in there as we need for as long as we need them.

We will also have as few people as possible, but as many as are necessary, and we'll stay as short a time as is possible, but as long as is necessary.

And anyone who thinks they can look out into the future and know precisely what that's going to be just doesn't understand the variables that are involved. So what we agreed among ourselves and is that we'll do exactly what I just said.

BLITZER: Will there be a role for United Nations peacekeeping forces in Iraq?

RUMSFELD: I can't say about peacekeeping forces what the United Nations might or might not decide. I know that the president and Prime Minister Blair, who's just done a terrific job and been a wonderful ally and friend, they've talked about the United Nations having a role, a vital role, an important role, some characterization like that.

And I was in Checkers with Prime Minister Blair the day before yesterday, and we've talked about it. And I think it's really -- we're closely cooperating with our allies to fashion some sort of an approach. Then we'll just have to see what the secretary general and the Security Council decide to do by way of reacting to resolutions, and that's yet to play out.

BLITZER: What about some of the countries who opposed you, were not partners in the coalition of the willing -- France, Germany and Russia in particular? What, if any, role might they play?

RUMSFELD: I have no idea. We had 65 nations that were involved in this coalition, across the world.

RUMSFELD: There were some countries that weren't. Those were several of them. What they'll decide as we go forward is really up to them.

BLITZER: Are you open, if they want to play a role, to letting them join you in Iraq?

RUMSFELD: That's really a question for the president, not me. And time will tell.

I think that it is going to be a task that is not going to be easy. It is going to take some time, and we certainly would want people engaged who were cooperative and wanted to do it in a constructive way. We would not want people involved who wanted to behave in an unconstructive way.

BLITZER: I know, during the war, before the war, you were very concerned about the position of the Syrian government -- cooperating with Iraqis, having an open border, if you will.

Has the situation improved, especially in the aftermath, now -- the secretary of state is meeting with Bashar al-Asad?

RUMSFELD: Well, I guess time will tell. I talked to Secretary Powell this morning on the phone a bit, and it's not -- I think you need to let some -- the dust settle on that. He's -- he, in my judgment, had a visit that was worth doing, and the president asked him to do it, and it was the right thing to do.

We'll see what progress comes. You know, words are one thing; actions are another.

BLITZER: But right now, you're open-minded as far as Syria -- whether they will crack down on terrorism, take some of the other steps that you want them to take?

RUMSFELD: I know what they've been doing, and it's been unhelpful. I know that Secretary Powell was just there and advised them that it was unhelpful, and gave them some pointers and some suggestions for the future. In my view, they were making some unwise decisions previously. What they will do after this visit remains to be seen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The secretary of defense speaking with me earlier today, making it clear that he is still waiting for Syria, among others, to respond to U.S. demands that they end help for terrorists. We'll continue to monitor that situation.

But let's make a turn now to the case of Scott Peterson. He is charged in the death of his pregnant wife, Laci, and their 8-month-old unborn son. Peterson has secured the services now of a high-profile defense attorney -- namely, Mark Geragos.

Joining us to talk about the case are two lawyers with high profiles of their own. In Los Angeles, the criminal defense attorney Robert Shapiro, best known, of course, as the lead attorney in the O.J. Simpson case. And in San Antonio, Texas, Court TV's Catherine Crier.

Good to have both of you on LATE EDITION. Thanks so much for joining us.

Bob Shapiro, let me start with you and ask you this. Scott Peterson has gone from having a public defender to having Mark Geragos lead his defense. How significant of a change will that be?

BOB SHAPIRO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think from the public media point of view, Mr. Peterson will be much better served. Mark has a lot of experience with the media and in the media.

In the courtroom, I'm not sure it's going to make that great a difference. The public defenders are very knowledgeable with the prosecutors, with the judges in a particular area.

And one of the key things, Wolf, in this case is going to be the ability of the defense to properly investigate this case. And that becomes an economic question. The resources of the public and the public defender may be much greater in that area.

BLITZER: So are you suggesting, Bob, that Scott Peterson might have been better off with the public defender than Mark Geragos?

SHAPIRO: I'm not saying to compare lawyers, you may be better off or worse off. What I'm saying is, many people have an incorrect perception of the public defender's office. Many of them, especially those who would handle a case like this, are highly experienced. They know the courtroom. They know the court atmosphere. They know the people in the area, and they know the prosecutors.

But in addition, they have a staff of investigators. And unless the Peterson family has the economic wherewithal to really finance an extensive and intensive investigation, there may be some benefits with having a public defender in this case.

BLITZER: Catherine, that sounds like a significant analysis. What is your take? CATHERINE CRIER, COURT TV: Well, I think Bob is absolutely right, because you've got a public defender who's worked in this area. He probably knows most of the cops, he knows the investigators. Might even have an inroad in a way that Mike Geragos might not, where he can call up somebody he knows with the department and say, "Give me the real skinny on this or that."

And also, they basically do nothing but try cases. And as high- profile as a particular criminal attorney may be, it's doing a lot of in-court practice to try one or two trials a year. Very different for the public defender.

Mark Geragos is -- while he may be very good with the media, he's going to have a tough time, I think, getting around his early pronouncements. You know, Mark is on Court TV quite a bit. He's on CNN. And came out, early on in this trial, and said there's plenty of evidence. He said, "Normally I'm a defense attorney, but there is plenty of evidence to indict this guy."

Of course, now that he is representing Scott, he is scrambling back. And a couple of days ago we heard him out at a press conference saying, "Well, I decided he was innocent after talking to his parents and looking at the discovery."

And you go, "Right, Mark." Well, this is good. He needs to do this to certainly bolster his client. But he's going to have a tough time.

BLITZER: Well, you mean, Catherine, some of the comments he made earlier on could be brought back and thrown in his face? Where would they throw, in the media or thrown back in a courtroom?

CRIER: Yes, just in the media. Because, as Bob said, he's very good with the media. And this is a place where certainly his client has been falling down on the job considerably. Whoever had been advising Scott was doing a bad job, or Scott just wasn't listening. So, you know, Mark wants to do some rehabilitation in the press.

It doesn't matter if you get a venue change out of Modesto, you're still going to be in Southern California. And so he's got to do a little work there. But he's on the record as having said, "Gee, this is an easily indictable case," and I think he's going to have a hard time standing fast with, "My client is innocent."

BLITZER: Catherine, what about the other point that Bob just made about the Office of the Public Defender may have better financial resources to investigate the evidence than Mark Geragos and his law firm might have? The parents of Scott Peterson, by all accounts, are not extremely wealthy people.

CRIER: Yes, well, it depends on what the arrangement is with Mark Geragos. I would be surprised to learn that they're paying his full fee. I think in some of these cases we wouldn't be surprised that an attorney discount his services because it is a very high- profile case. That may also apply to investigative staff. He certainly has the staff, or has those people he would work with. And whether or not he would sort of front the bill in a case like this or not is yet to be seen.

But certainly the public defender has on staff investigators and others. But it's just a question of, you know, quality and quantity. One may or may not be better than the other.

BLITZER: Bob, as you know, a lot of people have already convicted Scott Peterson. What does Mark Geragos and his team need to do immediately to raise some doubts about his guilt, at least as far as the public perception is concerned?

SHAPIRO: I think the main job now really is to look at the evidence. So far we've heard speculation. We've heard rumor. We've heard innuendo. The real evidence really is going to come out in a courtroom.

I think it's going to be very difficult to change public opinion at this point in time. The only way it will change is if the evidence proves to be extremely different from what we've heard so far outside of the courtroom.

BLITZER: And so far we've heard no evidence officially released, we've heard a lot of leaks, and we've read about some so-called evidence, but we're still waiting for hard evidence.

Let's take a quick caller from Canada. Go ahead, Canada.

CALLER: Good day, Wolf.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

CALLER: I would sort of like to two you that you did a good job in Qatar...

BLITZER: Thank you.

CALLER: ... but here in Canada a man is proven -- a man is innocent before he's proven guilty. I'm wondering if it's the same in the United States, because you have this man on all the time. If I was called up to be a juror right now, I would have to decline.

BLITZER: All right. That's a fair point. Has he already been convicted in the media, Catherine, and can he get a fair trial?

CRIER: Well, we could go all the way back to the Lindbergh case and remember headlines that were declaring guilt. This is nothing new, even though every time it happens we seem startled that a high- profile case will get a lot of attention.

The burden of proof is on the state. Someone is presumed innocent in a court of law by a jury. It is not unusual for the public to speculate at will about cases like this. But the caller from Canada is right. If you get called into court, where that presumption of innocence must apply, and you cannot set aside the things that you have heard, read, contemplated before walking into that courtroom, you're not qualified.

But if you can tell the judge, "I will set all of that aside and decide this case based solely upon the evidence presented in court and the facts that we determine them to be," then you are qualified to sit on the jury.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break. Catherine and Bob, stand by. I want to pick up that point.

We'll get to Bob Shapiro as soon as we get back, and I'll ask him if he can get a fair trial in Modesto, California, given all the passion that's felt for Laci Peterson in her hometown. We'll have that, more of your phone calls.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about the Scott Peterson murder case with the criminal defense attorney Robert Shapiro and Catherine Crier of Court TV.

Bob, I assume, if you were Scott Peterson's attorney, you'd try to move this out of Modesto, Stanislas County, in northern California, but maybe then again you wouldn't. What do you think that Mark Geragos is going to try to do?

SHAPIRO: Well, I think that a change of venue certainly is going to be very highly considered, maybe some polling done there. But I think ultimately there will be a motion to change the venue.

But I really don't think it's going to matter much. I think the last viewer really hit it exactly the way it is. And that is, in high-profile media cases, the presumption of innocence is a legal fiction. The reality is the assumption of guilt. And the burdens really change in a courtroom. Reasonable-doubt cases go out the window. And the burden on the defense in a case like this is going to be to have to prove actual innocence.

BLITZER: I want, Catherine, you to listen to an exchange Scott Peterson's father had on Larry King Live with Nancy Grace, your colleague from Court TV. He got very angry at her. Here's a brief little snippet of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE PETERSON, SCOTT PETERSON'S FATHER: Nancy Grace, Nancy, I've watched many programs. I don't like to watch them, but it kind of keeps me informed, and I can feel the public sentiment.

And I just have to say, for some reason you seem to have a personal stake in this, a personal vendetta against my son, and I do not understand it.

NANCY GRACE, COURT TV: I take the facts as I hear them, and I apply the law as I know it. And after trying well over 100 felony trials before juries, it's my belief that there's a very strong case against Scott.

But in response to his father's call, I know he may not believe it, but my heart goes out to him and the pain his family's having, but I am speaking on behalf of what I believe to be true, on behalf of Laci Peterson, neither against Scott, for Scott, for the state, against the state, but what I believe to be true regarding her murder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Catherine Crier, clearly Scott Peterson's parents believe him, they support him, they went out and got Mark Geragos to be his attorney.

What did you make of that exchange, the father calling in to Larry King Live to berate Nancy?

CRIER: Well, I understand his frustration, but unfortunately we are engaging in the act of speculation, and on the part of attorneys and others, whether they are anchors on Court TV, whether they're guests or guests on CNN, you, as Nancy said, look at the evidence, and right now we have very little evidence that is supporting his story, Scott Peterson's story.

It's not a question of him having to prove his innocence. I disagree a bit with Bob. Otherwise O.J. Simpson would not have been acquitted. But in fact, the state thus far is putting together a very strong circumstantial case, and I think most of us believe the state has even more, because they seem very satisfied that they can prove she was murdered in the house.

Of course the parents are going to be upset if they're having to hear all of this, but Nancy is known as a very victim-oriented prosecutor. She actually lost someone very near and dear to her, and has fought for victims' rights ever since. And she is quite the supporter, as she said, not necessarily of the state's case, but of the victims in this case.

BLITZER: In the coming week, Bob, there's going to be what's called a bail hearing to see if he qualifies to go out on bail. A lot of people are going to scratch their heads and say that's simply out of the question.

Is it out of the question that he could -- that the judge could say, yes, he's qualified to be released on bail?

SHAPIRO: Wolf, let me answer it this way. In California, you are entitled to bail even in capital cases unless the evidence is overwhelming or great.

In this case, I would be surprised if a bail motion is even made by the defense at this stage. There is not enough information that anyone has to be able to properly present a motion for bail. And so, I don't believe a bail motion will even be heard.

CRIER: Well, and beyond that, Wolf, you've got the problem that there was some evidence that he might have been preparing to flee -- the change in hair, the $10,000, close to the border in Mexico.

CRIER: So, in addition to the state's burden, whether or not they can put up enough to deny bail, there's also some pretty good evidence that the judge would consider that he might be a flight risk.

BLITZER: Is there any question about the -- Catherine, let me have you, and then I'll let Bob weigh in -- on the double homicide element, an 8-month-old unborn child, a fetus, if you will. Does that qualify for sure, no question, as a human being in California?

CRIER: Yes, I'm very sad that this has become part of the abortion debate, because I think that even pro-choice advocates have said, "Look, a child that is almost full-term like this would certainly be subject to the fetal homicide laws."

I have no problem -- once you've moved into viability, there is -- there should be no debate. Or if someone has knowledge, even if it's -- the fetus is at an earlier age, someone has knowledge of the pregnancy, and you can prove that knowledge, then I don't have a problem.

But certainly, eight months old, double homicide is appropriate.

BLITZER: And Bob, this is significant, because a double homicide -- that would allow the prosecution to seek the death penalty, special circumstances, as opposed to a single homicide in California law, is that right?

SHAPIRO: That's correct. And that's going to be another strategic decision, I think, that the prosecution will have to make.

We rarely have executions in California. And generally what happens is when people seek the death penalty, jurors tend to want more evidence if they're going to put somebody to death than otherwise.

So it's a decision prosecutors take into consideration when deciding whether or not they will seek the death penalty.

CRIER: But you also get to death-qualify a jury, which is very important. You're going to actually be more likely to get a tougher jury, because they have to affirm that they could, in an appropriate case, give the death penalty, which is a question you don't ask in other cases. So you're more likely to get a bit tougher-minded jury.

SHAPIRO: Well, I think it works both ways. But you're absolutely correct in that, Catherine.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to, unfortunately, have to leave it right there. Bob Shapiro, Catherine Crier, a good discussion. Thanks to both of you for joining us on LATE EDITION. I'm sure this subject is not going away. This important programming note for our viewers: CNN will have live coverage of a memorial service to remember Laci Peterson. That's scheduled to begin 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 3:00 p.m. Pacific today. It would have been her 28th birthday.

And now Bruce Morton wonders if it's time for the United States to mend fences with an old ally.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: My fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now that the president has said the major battle with Iraq is over, could the U.S. consider making peace with France? I mean, we haven't always agreed over the years, but we go back a long way.

The French supported America during its revolution. Their navy helped America win. The Marquis de Lafayette fought in the American army. They've named a nice park for him just across from the White House. Maybe they'll rename it now.

Pierre L'Enfant, an engineer, fought with the Americans too, and later planned Washington, D.C., the capital. He's buried in Arlington National Cemetery, which has a nice view of the city.

The French sold us a lot of land in the Louisiana Purchase for just pennies an acre. The U.S. certainly won on that deal. And the two countries were on the same side in two world wars.

Disagreements? Sure. President Dwight Eisenhower did not give the French air support at (inaudible) in 1954. The Vietnamese won that battle, and France lost its colony.

In 1956, Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser (ph) nationalized the Suez Canal. France, Britain and Israel sent troops to take it back. But opposition from the U.S., among others, forced them to withdraw.

In 1966, French President Charles DeGaulle took France out of NATO's military command structure, and the alliance had to move from Paris to Brussels.

Still, tempers cool in time.

France gives us things: fine wines and cheeses; the impressionists who taught us that shadows are full of color and life. Generations of American writers like Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway spent time there -- and liked it.

The French gave us, in movies, Catherine Deneuve. How could a country she lived in be all bad? And, to quote another movie, lots of Americans still choke up when the exiles sing the Marseillaise in "Casablanca."

Most of all, maybe, they gave us a lady who stands in New York Harbor and who honors a quality both countries value -- liberty.

I know they have weapons of mass destruction, but maybe these other things are more important. Maybe we can get over our anger, stop renaming pommes frites, and make peace. We have before.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for the "Final Round." Joining me, Donna Brazile, the Democratic political strategist, Peter Beinart of the "New Republic," Jonah Goldberg of the "National Review" Online, and Robert George of the "New York Post."

Many remember the huge victory parades that occurred immediately after the U.S. won the 1991 Persian Gulf War. And there's no shortage of praise for how the U.S. military has now toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.

Earlier today I asked the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, whether we can expect military parades similar to those of 1991?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: The troops, the young men and women did such a superb job, that there has to be a way to honor them. And there will be.

In the case of 1991, the task was to go in and get them out of Kuwait, and they did it. And they were properly greeted coming back to the United States. In this instance, it was a very different task.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jonah, is it time to celebrate with a ticker-tape parade in New York City?

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, the troops certainly deserve it. But it's actually a much tougher question than it seems, because historically ticker-tape parades are punctuation marks, they're bookends. They declare victory.

And as we saw this week with President Bush, where we've been extremely careful not to declare victory. We called Iraq a battle, not a war.

And so if you have a victory parade, it's going to look like gloating around the world. It's going to undermine Bush's case at home that the war on terror is going to continue, so it's a much tougher question.

BLITZER: What about that? BEINART: Yes, I agree. I mean, this is a very unusual war in the sense that our -- we're claiming that we're going to rebuild Iraq as a different kind of country. We claimed from the very beginning that victory was about, partly at least, about creating a liberal democracy in Iraq.

And we clearly have just begun that process. And, in fact, the early tea leaves are not particularly good, although I hope we'll turn that around. And so it seems to me to send that message would be a problem, because it would suggest that our work was done.

BLITZER: If the U.S. has to wait for Iraq to be a democracy, General Franks could be a pretty old guy...

(LAUGHTER)

... by the time he gets down to the ticker-tape parade in Manhattan.

BRAZILE: He won't be the only old person. I think all of us will be collecting Social Security, what's left of it.

But I do believe that we should have some celebration to welcome back the brave men and women, and also to remind this country that we made a huge sacrifice in going at Iraq by ourselves.

But we have to, as Peter said, restore order in Iraq, rebuild that country, and perhaps it should be toned down to ensure that we get -- we send the right message.

BLITZER: You live in New York, you'd like to see a parade.

GEORGE: Yes. I mean, and Michael Bloomberg has already offered a parade through the Canyon of Heroes. And it would be great.

But, you know, as Jonah said, we can't be counting our chickens before they're hatched, really. We have to finish the democracy- building. And, again, we don't want to look like we're gloating.

BLITZER: Overly gloating.

GEORGE: Overly gloating.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Extraordinary pictures this week of President Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, looking every bit the commander in chief, and later declaring on the primetime television that major combat in Iraq is indeed over.

Donna, is this the start of the president's reelection campaign?

BRAZILE: Well, you know as I know there are 547 days left.

(LAUGHTER)

So this is a long campaign season. But the president deserved that victory lap over the sea.

BRAZILE: But in order to be top gun in 2004, he has to topple the deficits, topple the rise in unemployment, topple the rising cost of health insurance, topple rising crimes. And that's a huge order for Mr. Top Gun.

BLITZER: So are you saying Democrats still might be able to emerge victorious in 2004?

BRAZILE: I'm still betting on someone in 2004.

BLITZER: Well, what about that? That was such a well- choreographed photo op. It doesn't get much better than that, does it?

GOLDBERG: Oh no, it's great. And you know, kudos to whoever thought it up. And it was much riskier than it seems. I mean, you know, landing a guy on a moving aircraft carrier is not exactly a risk-free photo op. A lot of things can go wrong, even just putting him in the flight suit.

And I don't know if Bush has to do all these things that Donna says he has to, but I do think it underscores the fact that, you know, this is Bush's reelection to lose, not one for the Democrats to win. It's all up to whether Bush can do it, because Democrats almost don't matter.

BLITZER: Robert, you have to acknowledge that on the military side, the national security side, his job-approval ratings are great, but on the economic issues, they're not so great.

GEORGE: That's exactly right, though I know I'm going to be the big contrarian here. I'll say, the speech that he gave was absolutely wonderful. However, maybe it's just me, but I don't like to see American presidents wearing military uniforms. It always seems like it's the bad guys that are the ones that are running around in military uniforms.

I think it was great that he gave the men of the USS Abraham Lincoln -- his presence was wonderful there. It was clear they loved seeing him there. I was just not a big fan of his...

BLITZER: Even when they just put on a leather jacket, a flight jacket or something?

GEORGE: I think a flight jacket is kind of cool, but, you know, he's the commander in chief. But in America, the commander in chief is a civilian, and that should be remembered.

BLITZER: I think Jonah, Peter, made an excellent point. There was a lot more risk involved in this photo op than a lot of people assume including the notion he could have gotten sick landing on that aircraft carrier from a jet going from 150 miles an hour to zero in two and a half seconds. I know when I did that, I got pretty sick.

BEINART: Well, I won't make any comparisons about your constitution and the president's constitution.

(LAUGHTER)

I actually think what was brilliant about that politically also was that, you know, they waited to do this a little while, and I don't know whether they realized this, but by doing it, they squashed this news about unemployment rising from 5.8 to 6.0 a little bit.

And, I mean, the natural story would have been for the press to turn to that and the president's ongoing problems with the Republican Party on the tax cut to a kind of new narrative about problems on the homefront.

In fact, by extending this for a few more days, they really squashed what I think would have been a bad day's story for them and made it a very good week.

GEORGE: What a coincidence.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. We have to take a quick break.

Up next, last night's Democratic presidential debate. Yes, there was a debate. Who won? Who lost? We'll get the panel's vote when our Final Round continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our "Final Round." Last night the nine -- repeat, nine -- Democratic presidential candidates met in South Carolina for their first televised debate, the earliest ever. Here's a brief sampling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

KERRY: I don't need any lectures in courage from Howard Dean.

DEAN: I would have preferred if Senator Kerry had some concerns about my fitness to serve that he speak to me directly that.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, MODERATOR: People think you're too nice to be president, and you're just not tough enough to take on President Bush.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I'd like to come over there and strangle you, George.

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: We've got to get everybody in this country covered with good health insurance.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BLITZER: Was there a winner or a loser in this debate, Peter?

BEINART: I've only seen excerpts, but I think maybe Lieberman. First of all, I mean...

BLITZER: As what -- winner or loser?

BEINART: As the winner. As the winner. It seems to me, first of all, Gephardt took a lot of heat. Kerry and Dean were at each other. Lieberman, in some ways, because he hasn't been doing well, isn't getting a lot of criticism from the other candidates. So he came across unscathed.

But he has the selectability argument. And I think there were a lot of Democrats before the war who were in la-la land about this national security issue. The war's successful military prosecution may jolt some of them back into recognizing they have to have a candidate who has serious national security credentials, and Lieberman's are the best.

BLITZER: Robert?

GEORGE: Yes, when you said, "nine, nine," I thought you were saying, "No," which, I think a lot of people were saying, "No, no more of these -- no more Democratic candidates."

(CROSSTALK)

I mean, I think Lieberman's -- Lieberman, I think, comes across looking as an adult there. You have Kerry and Dean kind of sniping at each other. Gephardt, in a sense, did step forward, because he does have the kind of the serious health-care package, whether you agree with him or not. But I think -- and he was also right on the war as well.

So I think Lieberman and Gephardt have actually kind of helped themselves.

BLITZER: And South Carolina is very important, because a lot of people are discounting Iowa already. They think Gephardt, he won in '88, he's a neighbor. And they're discounting New Hampshire because Dean and Kerry are neighbors of New Hampshire. South Carolina is next. That's going to be pretty important.

BRAZILE: Actually I thought the people of South Carolina came off well last night, as well as the fact that the South will play a very important role this political season in helping...

BLITZER: Is South Carolina automatically good for Edwards, for example, who is from North Carolina?

BRAZILE: I don't think there is a regional favorite, although he's clearly a South Carolinian by birth. But I think this is going to be a very important bellwether for the party in terms of striking the right balance, in terms of message, and being able to go out there and compete for African-American votes as well as for conservative Democrats.

BLITZER: And you remember, South Carolina was pretty important for George W. Bush the last time around. GOLDBERG: Yes, and South Carolina has actually been important for a while, now. Lamar Alexander almost did something really impressive in 1996 in South Carolina.

All of that said, I think the clear winner coming out of this debate is George Bush. None of these guys really separated themselves. I suppose, if I had to pick one winner, I would say it's Gephardt, because he actually has a plan to put forward.

But even the pro-war Democrats, none of them are Tony Blair liberals. I mean, when they had to go to their party and explain their position, they're always almost apologetic for it and defensive for it...

BEINART: I tend to disagree. I think Gephardt and Lieberman and Edwards took incredible abuse. They were incredibly courageous. They went right to the belly of the beast, and it was totally -- they're Tony Blair liberals completely.

GOLDBERG: I have yet to see a clip where these guys look like they're actually making a positive argument for what they're doing, rather than simply defending their position and hiding from the blows.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Last night Joe Lieberman did that. Lieberman did that last night. He not only defended his position, but I also thought that he defended the position of all of the Democrats who had no problem in this country going to war. So I think last night Lieberman did distinguish himself.

GOLDBERG: But the problem with this is that even Lieberman and Gephardt -- I mean, if you want to stipulate that they were braver on this issue than I saw them be -- it still puts them in a position of being Bush-light on the national security issue.

And the Democratic Party generally is in a position where they have to hope for the economy to stay bad or get worse, or something so terrible happen in terms of terrorism that it makes Bush look like...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold on, let's let Robert wrap it up, because we have to take a break. Go ahead.

GEORGE: Well, I mean, I think Jonah's right. I mean, they're automatically going to be Bush-light, because there's no way they're going to be able to get to the right of him on any of these issues.

BLITZER: But in South Carolina, there are some conservative Democrats who could play an important role in the election?

GEORGE: Definitely, which is why I think Lieberman and Gephardt, I think, are best positioned, especially coming out of the debate last night, to do...

BLITZER: Because they supported the president on the war?

GEORGE: Because they supported him on the war.

Exactly.

BLITZER: All right.

BRAZILE: John Kerry will not shrink from a debate on national security with George Bush.

BLITZER: All right. Let's see what happens.

We're going to take a quick break. The Lightning Round is just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for our "Lightning Round."

The former education secretary and drug czar, William Bennett, a leading voice on morality in America, is apparently an avid gambler. According to online articles by both "Newsweek" and the "Washington Monthly," Bennett has lost some $8 million gambling over the past 10 years.

Does this undermine his credibility on morality and virtue, Robert?

GEORGE: Not completely, but I think it's definitely a big black eye. Obviously, you know, gambling is legal in a lot of places in the country, but there's a significant political debate as to whether, morally, states should use gambling to, you know, fund education, things like that. And I think it's very disappointing.

BLITZER: He points out in one of the statements, in one of the articles, that over the years he's broken even, more or less. But still, it seems like, the critics are saying it's a hypocritical stance.

BRAZILE: Well, I agree with the critics. But look, this is a guy who has thrown the book the virtue at other people. Yet, you know, I'm not surprised that he's a holy roller...

(LAUGHTER)

... in the sense that, you know, he's out there, you know, playing blackjack, and been playing bingo since he was a child. I just think that it makes fun of him. I'm making fun of him. I think it's stupid.

BLITZER: What do you think?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think it's going to hurt him with some evangelical Christians who take gambling very seriously. But I should point out that actually there is nothing hypocritical in anything he's written or said publicly over the course of his career. I do think the country's a lot better off for Bill Bennett being around. He's a profoundly decent guy.

And he's done absolutely nothing illegal or immoral as his own church defines it. And there's no proof that he lost $8 million over the last 10 years. So he's bought $8 million worth of chips over the last 10 years, which is a lot different if in fact he did break even.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BEINART: Yes, I actually -- I mean, I don't like William Bennett, but I actually agree mostly with Jonah. I think that he's getting a bum rap here, basically.

He's not an anti-gambling crusader. And to say he's a moralizer is a kind of vague, lazy charge. He moralizes about specific things, and gambling isn't one of them. Maybe it should be one of them, but it's not.

And this is something he did in his private life, and I'm the kind of liberal who believe that basically what people do in their private lives, unless there's some blatant, serious hypocrisy, is really not anyone's business.

BLITZER: All right, do you want to wrap it up, Donna, anything else?

BRAZILE: No, I really don't.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: I'll tell you one thing, you give a liberal $8 million, we will not be gambling off somewhere in Las Vegas.

GOLDBERG: No, you'll get a beach house somewhere.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We're going to have to leave it right there. That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, May 4th.

Coming up, at the top of the hour, In the Money explores whether President Bush's tax cut plan will create jobs or make a weak economy even worse.

That's followed at 4:00 p.m. eastern by CNN Live Sunday with the latest news, and at 5:00 p.m. eastern, Next at CNN takes a look at thermal imaging technology that's being used in Asia's airports to track passengers who might have SARS.

Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'll be back, of course, Monday through Friday, twice a day, noon and 5:00 p.m. eastern.

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

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