CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Hatch, Rockefeller Discuss War on Terror; Lantos, Hyde Talk About Orange Alert; Literary Editors Recommend Summer Reading List
Aired May 25, 2003 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 11 a.m. here in Chicago, 7 p.m. in Jerusalem, 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you for joining us for LATE EDITION.
We're standing by to get some insight into where things stand in the war on terror, as well as in the new Iraq. We're going to be talking with two key members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
But first, let's check in with some CNN reporters covering the hour's top stories around the world.
BLITZER: Joining us now to talk a little bit more about the war on terrorism, how it's playing out, are two key members of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee: in Washington, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah; and the committee's top Democrat, the vice chairman, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.
Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Now, let me begin with you, Senator Hatch, and read to you what Tom Ridge, the secretary for homeland security, said in announcing that the U.S. was elevating its terror alert level from the elevated to the high level, from yellow to orange.
Among other things, he said this -- he said, "There is not credible, specific information with respect to targets or method of attack."
The question, therefore, is, why raise the level if there's no credible or specific information justifying it?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, of course, the reason they raised it is because they do have a complete analysis of what's going on, and they have a complete analysis from many agencies that have come together to determine that, you know, that this had to be raised to an orange alert.
Plus, you had Zawahari and his television statement that they are going to go after the United States, Germany, England and other countries as well. So there are lots of reasons why they're very concerned about this, and I suspect they center around Zawahari's -- you know, the second in command of Osama bin Laden's group -- around his statements.
BLITZER: Well, Senator Hatch, if that's the case, have they concluded definitively that audio tape that we heard, supposedly from Ayman Al Zawahari, that that, in fact, is the number two al Qaeda operative -- that it's authentic?
HATCH: Well, I don't think anybody has come to a total conclusion that that's authentic, but they can't ignore it. I mean, certainly, he has the power and apparently is still alive and has the power to be able to -- probably the mastermind behind an awful lot of what happened, other than Shaikh Khalid -- Shaikh Mohammed, who, of course, was the everyday mastermind that ran the show for them.
BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, let me bring you into this conversation.
We saw the suicide bombings in Riyadh, in Morocco. First of all, as far as you know right now, as far as the U.S. government knows, were they related? Are they both part of this broad al Qaeda mission against the United States and the West?
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: First of all, I think that the Riyadh attacks were most certainly al Qaeda. The Morocco attacks were a little bit less clear. It was also some thinking there might be some unassociated local insurgent groups involved.
But Orrin Hatch makes an important point, which I want to embellish on. The fact that a number of Muslims were killed by the al Qaeda in the Riyadh attack puts more pressure on al Qaeda to do something to Americans, either at home or overseas, because killing Muslims is not what al Qaeda is about. They're about trying to get at Americans.
So with all the chatter, all of the intelligence that's been going on, and then this added factor of their having killed some Muslims, I think turns them more toward America, and thus the heightened alert is necessary.
BLITZER: Is the heightened alert based mostly on threat, Senator Rockefeller, against U.S. interests outside the United States, or was there some specific indication, some targets inside the United States could be attacked?
ROCKEFELLER: There are so many targets inside the United States that could and can be attacked, because our homeland security really hasn't come to the point where we're doing that much yet about it. We've started. But it's just been started, and it's going to be five years before we really get it, you know, fully guarding everything that needs to be done.
But it's always been -- the al Qaeda has always been, "We want to go after Americans, whether they're overseas or whether they're in the United States." They have cells here, and they have cells on six of the seven continents of the world. And they'll go after Americans wherever.
BLITZER: Are you satisfied, Senator Hatch, with the level of Saudi cooperation in the aftermath of the attack in Riyadh?
HATCH: We certainly didn't have much cooperation from them before. We know that they have been allowing Wahhabism to be preached all over the world, which is anti-American, and it was, kind of, a minor sect before the Saudis allowed this to happen.
We also know they allowed monies to go to al Qaeda -- hopefully, on their part, to buy off al Qaeda so that they never attack Saudi Arabia.
Now, all of a sudden, they find that they're not immune from these kind of attacks, and they've known all along that Osama bin Laden has been dedicated to the destruction of the Saudi regime, of the kingdom.
And frankly, if you look at what's going on, we've not only interdicted terrorists in Seattle, Portland, Michigan, Buffalo, New York, but we've also been doing all kinds of things to stop these cells that are in many parts of America.
I don't want to scare people, but there are cells throughout our country that our current law enforcement people are monitoring every day, and they've now been catching these people on a regular basis. I think it's a tribute to our law enforcement people that we've been catching so many of them, really dozens of them, and the big catch of all was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who, of course, was the mastermind of many of the bad things that have occurred.
BLITZER: Well, how many cells, approximately, if you could tell us, Senator Hatch, are there that the U.S. law enforcement, intelligence community are monitoring right now, inside the United States?
HATCH: Well, let me just say that that's a classified number, but there are -- let me just say, there are literally hundreds, from the left to the right, who are known terrorist organizations, or terrorists themselves, and -- or potential terrorists.
So, we really have to be right on top of all these things, and that's why law enforcement has to have the tools at its disposal to be able to protect our country, and through the PATRIOT Act we've given them those tools. And, by the way, the PATRIOT Act's been upheld by every court in the land. And yes, they're tough tools, but they're tools that take into consideration the constitutional restrictions that literally should apply to law enforcement.
BLITZER: All right.
HATCH: ... we've given law enforcement some tools that they certainly didn't have under the Hatch-Dole 1996 Anti-Terrorism Effective Death Penalty Act, where we tried to get those in, but the far left and the far right wouldn't allow us.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to get back to that homeland security issue in a moment, but, Senator Rockefeller, your thoughts on the Saudi role, the Saudi cooperation, the level of cooperation. Some see the Saudis as part of the solution, but many others see it as part of the problem. Where do you see it?
ROCKEFELLER: I think they're part of both, and I think they want now, having had their own 9/11, so to speak, in Riyadh, to be part of the solution, but we'll have to wait and see on that.
You've got to remember that Wahhabism has, in a sense, protected the Saudi royal family, the monarchy system there, as has the monarchy system protected Wahhabism. So they are each dependent on each other. So one of them is preaching stability, and the other is preaching instability, and that's a very uncomfortable thing. They want to change. They want to clean up their textbooks, to get all of the religious zealotry out, or the jihadist or anti-Americanism out. That's more easy to say that they're going to do than actually to accomplish.
So, Saudi Arabia I think has gotten the wake-up call they needed, and they've spent a lot of time in this country explaining all the things they're going to do to make their country more friendly. We will have to wait and see.
BLITZER: I don't know if you saw the article, Senator Rockefeller, that Tom Friedman wrote in the New York Times this morning suggesting that they may not be able to change their system, given the nature of what's developed over the years in Saudi Arabia, and it may be simply a mission impossible.
ROCKEFELLER: There's a point to that, because, for example, Saudi Arabia is very much threatened by the democracy which they see in Qatar, and some of the democracy that they see in Kuwait. They do not want to see that. The royal family does not want to see that. The House of Saud does not want to see that happen in Saudi Arabia.
On the other hand, they have 30 to 40 percent of all their people unemployed, and those people are becoming increasingly angry, turn to Wahhabism or to al Qaeda or to whatever, and so this is a very difficult conflict that the Saudis are going to have to work out. And, as I say, it will not be easy for them.
BLITZER: All right. Senators, stand by.
We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about, including Iran: What should the U.S. be doing as far as Iran is concerned? We'll continue our discussion with Senators Hatch and Rockefeller. They'll also be looking for your phone calls. Please call us now. LATE EDITION will continue in just a moment.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation now with two key member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller.
Senator Hatch, on Iran, suggestions today in the Washington Post the U.S., the Bush administration may be fed up with any changes that could be in the works as far as the Iranian government is concerned. Is it time for the U.S. to do to Iran what it did to Iraq?
HATCH: Well, no, I don't think it's time for that yet. But I have to say that Iran is certainly meddling in Afghanistan, trying to thwart our efforts there and to undermine our efforts there, and there's no question that they have a lot of contacts among some of the Shiite clergy, some of whom have come from Iran and are using their influence there, as well.
They've used their influence all over the Middle East, and we have to be very careful to monitor that, to be vigilant. And, you know, our country's laying down plenty of warnings to Iran, and we'll just have to see how that works.
BLITZER: Senator Hatch, do you have information to confirm that some of those who plotted against the U.S. and others in Saudi Arabia, the most recent bombings in Riyadh, actually were based in Iran?
HATCH: I'm not going to comment on that. All I can say is that there's no doubt in my mind that the Riyadh attack was conducted by al Qaeda. And frankly, I think there's lots of evidence that the Moroccan attack was, as well. At least the Moroccans think so.
Look, these people are basically behind almost every form of terrorism throughout the world. And they've been, frankly, supported by the Saudi leadership and Saudi business people, basically, to try to keep them off the backs of the Saudi kingdom. And, frankly, now they're reaping the whirlwind because of that, because they now have networks all over the world.
But we're interdicting, we're doing a very good job of finding these moneys and stopping them. But they still have plenty of money and they're doing plenty of bad things, and it couldn't have happened but for some of the infusions of money that the Saudis gave them.
BLITZER: All right, Senator Rockefeller, I want you to listen to what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said on Wednesday, tough talk, as far as Iran is concerned. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD H. RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Of course they are -- they have senior al Qaeda in Iran; that's a fact. Iran is one of the countries that is, in our view, assessed as developing a nuclear capability, and that's unfortunate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Same question to you: Is it time for a regime change in Iran, and should the U.S. be militarily moving toward that direction? ROCKEFELLER: See, I think it's interesting, Wolf, the way we have gotten into almost the habits of talking about regime change or doing covert action or causing an uprising internally to destabilize countries like Iraq and others.
You know, we've done Afghanistan. That's not over yet. We've done Iraq, that's not over yet. I think it would be very foolhardy for us to go in and try and -- as Senator Hatch has indicated, to try and go in and -- in spite of some of the bad things they've done with Hezbollah and Hamas, et cetera, through Syria and into Lebanon, to go in and try and destabilize them.
Because, number one, I don't think they're subject to being destabilized right now. Sure, they have a progressive -- they have a extremely conservative and majority government, but they're not a country which is just sitting there waiting for somebody to come in and destabilize them, and we ought to be focusing on Afghanistan and Iraq, paying attention to Iran very closely.
And by the way, there could be some better news on Iran that will be coming out.
BLITZER: Let me -- Senator Hatch, go ahead. I want you to weigh in. But go ahead.
HATCH: Yes, there's also a very unique phenomenon going on in Iran, and that is that about 60 percent of the people have become adults after the shah had left, and they're starting to resent the theocratic regime that's currently operating in Iran.
And there could be some very great internal upheavals and changes brought about by these people are getting tired of that type of a strict religious-oriented regime that basically flies in the face of what they believe.
BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, when you say there could be some news coming out as far as -- good news as far as Iran is concerned, what are you hinting at?
ROCKEFELLER: Nothing. Nothing more than what I said.
And I want to simply reply to Senator Hatch that I think that that progressivism in Iraq and, yes, the reformist instinct does apply. But I think it applies basically to intellectuals and to some of the students and the younger people but has not yet crept into either, obviously, the clerical circles or the government circles in a broad enough level to contemplate going in and trying to undermine them or overthrow them.
ROCKEFELLER: I really think that's wishful.
BLITZER: Let me press you on this point, Senator Rockefeller, and I want you to listen to what the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations said earlier today on ABC, because he insists that the Iranians are cooperating in the war on terror. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Iran has been very active in capturing, arresting, preventing the entry of al Qaeda into Iran. And once they enter Iran, in capturing and arresting them and extraditing them to friendly government.
We have probably captured more al Qaeda people in the past 14 months than any other country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is Ambassador Zarif right?
ROCKEFELLER: I think he's putting Iran ahead of Pakistan, which, I think, is a fairly substantial mistake. I mean, the Pakistanis have done a marvelous job in terms of getting at the top al Qaeda leadership.
Iran has not been totally inactive in that. But, on the other hand, they, as you indicated later, they have their nuclear ambitions, they have their -- as Senator Hatch indicated, they have their inclinations to go in and try and stir up the Shiites in Iraq, just as we're trying to get stability there.
So, it's a country at play in a dangerous way, but probably not at play in a way that we would want or that some might want, and that is to try and destabilize them and turn them into a different country or go at them like Iraq.
Look, we can only do so many things at once. We had most of all of our military divisions involved in Iraq. We've got, you know, the Philippines, Indonesia, we've got Africa, South America, we've got Kashmir -- we've got all of these places, all over the world -- North Korea, all of them hot spots. We can't solve all problems at once.
BLITZER: All right, Senator Rockefeller, Senator Hatch, please stand by. We're going to take another very short break.
When we return, more questions, more answers, and more phone calls, as well. We're going to check on the hour's top stories.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're continuing our conversation with the Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, both key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator Hatch, I want to read to you what Hans Blix, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, said only within the past day or so. Actually on Friday, he told the newspaper this: "I am obviously very interested in the question of whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction" -- namely, in Iraq -- "and I'm beginning to suspect there possibly were none."
Perhaps he's beginning to suspect that, because the U.S., six weeks after the war still has not found any evidence of weapons of mass destruction, other than two mobile labs that potentially could have been used to manufacture some biological weapons.
HATCH: And there's not much doubt in my mind that the mobile labs were used for the manufacture of chemical and perhaps biological weapons.
To make a long story short, international organizations, international intelligence organizations and others, came to the conclusion that there were weapons of mass destruction, thousands of liters of various types of botulinum and anthrax matters, that there were attempts to develop an atom bomb. In fact, at one time, long before the current situation in Iraq, there was no doubt that they came quite close to actually having an atomic device.
So, you know, we rely a lot on a lot of that information that came forth too, and I do believe that we will, before it's all said and done, locate some of these weapons of mass destruction. I don't think there's any question we will.
BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, are you among those who are beginning to be concerned that maybe the intelligence before the war suggesting there were these thousands of items of chemical and biological weapons in stock in Iraq, that the intelligence may have been faulty?
ROCKEFELLER: Yes, I am one of those people, Wolf, but not conclusively yet, because one cannot conclude. As Senator Hatch said, there's -- you know, a lot of these things might have been buried in the desert, not incinerated, because that would have been detectable from the skies. We don't know for sure.
But I do know this, that the -- it was reported in the New York Times and then much more broadly through the International Atomic Energy Agency that -- and even to the point where President Bush used it in his first State of the Union message, that Iraq was -- had a relationship with Niger, in terms of reporting uranium.
Now look, everybody has since agreed that that was a fraud, that the signature that allowed it to happen, which it didn't, was a fraud, that the minister who was meant to have signed that had already been out of office for 10 years. And my question is twofold: either the intelligence community missed that, and a lot of other things about weapons of mass destruction, and didn't say anything about it, because they were somehow being pressured not to, or whatever; or else they simply missed it.
In either case, it's a very bad outcome from intelligence, and I can tell you that Senator Pat Roberts, who's chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and I, as vice chairman, are going to hold meetings every single week on this subject of weapons of mass destruction and what the intelligence role was in that, in either revealing it, missing it or whatever.
HATCH: Well, keep in mind, we know that he used chemical weapons against his own people. I mean, there's no question he had them. There's no question that he knew how to make them, and there's no question this man was a brute dictator who was willing to kill his own people, and now we find the mass graves where he has killed his own people...
BLITZER: All right.
HATCH: ... unjustly.
And so, you know, there's not any doubt that he had weapons of mass destruction. The question is, where are they? And I think we can find them, but I do think...
ROCKEFELLER: If I can come in on that too, we've got to remember that the whole resolution and the going to war, as it was presented to the American people, was based upon the fact that weapons of mass destruction were there, and we had to get them. And so whether they were there recently enough, or not, in fact is extremely important. It's a matter of grave national concern.
BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, Senators, we're all out of time. We have to leave it right there. Senator Hatch, Senator Rockefeller, always good for both of you to join us here on LATE EDITION. Thanks very much.
HATCH: Nice to be with you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, tight security at U.S. landmarks as the country marks Memorial Day weekend under a heightened terror alert. We'll talk with three experts about efforts to protect a nation under code orange. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're more aware now. I think we look at things with a more critical eye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are growing a little bit complacent here. I feel it myself. You just hear it go up, you hear it go down, and you carry on as usual.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A sampling of public opinion about the U.S. government's decision to raise the country's terror threat level to high.
The move follows suicide bombings last week in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and what U.S. intelligence officials say has been increased chatter, or intercepted communications, among suspected terrorist operatives about possible new attacks.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
For some perspective now on the security challenges facing the United States and its allies, we turn to three experts: in Washington, Skip Brandon, he's a former FBI deputy assistant director of counterintelligence; also, in Washington, CNN terrorism analyst Kelly McCann; and in Los Angeles, Brian Jenkins, a terrorism analyst for the RAND Corporation.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.
Mr. Brandon, let me begin with you and play for you a brief sound bite from Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security, who made it clear that the entire intelligence-gathering process, as far as terrorism is concerned, is by no means a perfect science. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM RIDGE, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It is as much art as it is science.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: If it is as much art as science, first of all, is he right when it comes to counter-terrorism intelligence?
SKIP BRANDON, FORMER FBI DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Well, I think he is. They're trying to get more scientific about it. But, in fact, it is very much an art, but using art experts to do the analysis, if you will.
BLITZER: How can they make it better in the short term, given the heightened level of concern that you really need top-notch intelligence in order to prevent these kind of terrorist strikes?
BRANDON: Well, they've improved the movement of information across agencies to the point that I understand it's working quite well now. They're also -- they have dramatically enhanced sources of information from around the world, sources that we didn't have prior to 9/11.
So they have improved things considerably. But when you get down to it, lacking the golden or silver bullet, it is an art.
BLITZER: What about that, Brian Jenkins? As far as you can tell, since 9/11, have the various intelligence agencies throughout the U.S. government -- law enforcement and intelligence, for that matter -- engaged in a better level of cooperation so the left hand of the U.S. government actually knows what the right hand knows?
BRIAN JENKINS, TERRORISM EXPERT, RAND: No question, Wolf, it is getting better. As Skip indicated, we're getting a lot more international cooperation now. And I think some of these barriers that existed before between the various intelligence-gathering agencies have been reduced.
Now, you have to keep in mind, most intelligence services still regard sharing information as an unnatural act. It just doesn't come to them easy. But these are being worked on.
I think where we have to make improvement in the future is to better networking of all of our local police departments we have across this country, not only as recipients of information, but with additional training, additional resources, some technology, they can also be a significant part of the intelligence-collection effort.
BLITZER: And Brian, what about keeping this higher state, this orange level of alert through July 4th, even if the intelligence may not justify it right now, instead of jerking the American public back and forth from yellow to orange, from elevated to high? Would it just be better to keep it at the same level, as opposed to moving it up and down?
JENKINS: I don't believe we should move the threat level or keep the threat level just as a matter of convenience. I think that the threat level should always be dictated by the available intelligence.
Now, that isn't perfect. What these coded color alerts are are simply an assembly of all of the available intelligence and the communication of a judgment -- and that's the key word, a judgment -- to the police departments, the state governments, to those with security responsibilities.
I think we're going to, in this post-9/11 era, we're going to have to become accustomed to going up and down in these alert levels. To just stay at a high level is extremely costly.
BLITZER: All right, Kelly McCann, one of the problems, though, in moving it up and down and back and forward, if you will, is that the American public -- at least some of the elements of the American public -- begin to develop some sort of terror alert fatigue. They don't take it all that seriously.
How do you deal with that problem?
KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, first, Wolf, people should remember that, really, the alert system has to do, especially in the case with orange, with federal agencies, interacting with state and local agencies, coordinating their efforts, et cetera, preparing contingencies, and raising kind of the coverage on public events.
As for what the individual citizen can do, he can be observant that there are more police working overtime, that EMS services are around, that public events are covered better.
However, that individual should be doing the same things all the time, which is looking for the visual, unlikely circumstances that he can see or she can see in their day-to-day lives that might add up to an attack.
And then, of course, expatriates abroad who live and exist in those confines should not be time-and-place predictable. They should be changing their routes. And they should be very careful of places that they frequent for people that might consider them as a lucrative target.
But those are the types of things that the individual can do, but let the government worry about the threat condition as it is: orange, red, yellow, whatever.
BLITZER: But, Skip Brandon, I'm sure you've already read in the paper, you've heard from various local law enforcement, whether city, county or state, that, increasingly, they are paying less and less attention to this threat level, except in some high-visibility areas, like New York, Washington, maybe L.A., Seattle. But in -- elsewhere around the country, they're not necessarily beefing up their security when the threat level goes up.
BRANDON: Some of that may not be unrealistic. We may go to a high threat level nationally, but there will be specific areas where the threat potential is much greater, whereas, for example, in Las Cruces, New Mexico, they may be able to judge correctly that the threat level isn't that high.
This is all part of a learning process for everybody, and there's a lot of shakedown that's going on now. This may not be unhealthy.
BLITZER: Does it make any sense, Mr. Brandon, for there to be regional changes in threat levels; in other words, in some of the high-risk areas, you go up, but the rest of the country, sort, of just stays the same?
BRANDON: That possibility exists, but that day is going to come when we have intelligence that allows us to do that, and I don't think we're there yet.
I think the other thing, which was just mentioned, also, is that we have a lot of vulnerable U.S. interests outside the United States, and certainly when the threat level goes up, it also serves to alert them, and that's very important.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. A lot more to talk about, including the so-called soft targets that may be out there in the United States or, indeed, around the world.
We'll continue our conversation with our panel of security experts. They will also be taking your phone calls, so call us right now.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We will hunt the terrorists in every dark corner of the Earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush, speaking Wednesday at graduation ceremonies for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're talking about security efforts with the United States under a heightened terror alert this Memorial Day weekend with three special guests: Skip Brandon, the former FBI deputy assistant director of counterintelligence; CNN terrorism analyst Kelly McCann; and Brian Jenkins, the terrorism analyst with the RAND Corporation.
Brian, I'll begin with you. Where is the major threat against the United States from terrorism coming from right now?
JENKINS: Well, the terrorist threat to the United States is extraordinarily diverse. There are terrorist organizations throughout the world, in the Middle East, in Southeast Asia, in Latin America, that have clearly identified the United States as a target.
When we try to rank those, I would say that certainly al Qaeda, its successor organization, still poses the most significant threat to the United States and to U.S. citizens and facilities abroad.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Texas.
Texas, go ahead, please.
CALLER: Good morning. We take the terrorist threat seriously here. My question is: Is the administration spending its money properly in the war against terrorism?
BLITZER: Skip Brandon, why don't you handle that?
BRANDON: That's a very challenging question, and, quite frankly, I think the administration would like to know the answer to that. I think they're making every effort to do so, but unfortunately, as we all agreed, I think, earlier, we are in a learning curve right now. We're in a different world, and there are going to be a lot of adjustments and fine tuning. We just have to watch what they're doing, and try to make sure they are spending it properly.
BLITZER: Kelly McCann, there are some high-visibility events going on, especially this weekend, the Indianapolis 500, for example. Two former presidents, former President Bush, former President Clinton attending. Hundreds of thousands of people gathering there as well. Security concerns, should they be on the minds of not only the people in charge of security there -- obviously it is -- but for people just going to watch the race?
MCCANN: You know, that's a personal decision, Wolf. You and I have spoken about that before, where the individual has to decide what level of risk they're comfortable with. I mean, certainly, when you go to these events, Rolling Thunder here in Washington, D.C., Indianapolis 500, they're going to see a much heightened state of security, and they should feel better about that.
But, you know, I'm not sure -- and I don't think any of the guests here would agree -- that there could ever be a terror-free circumstance, where you could prevent absolutely anything from happening, or we'd all be living in a vacuum.
So, I mean, I think people, it's a personal question. There should be concern, but they should also feel that they're benefiting from a very, kind of, accelerated learning curve, as Skip mentioned, that the U.S. government is taking care of this.
BLITZER: We did see, Brian Jenkins, anti-aircraft missiles deployed once again in the greater Washington, D.C., area this past week, and that obviously is something on the minds of officials in Washington, D.C.
But what about the so-called soft targets, the restaurants, the malls, the movie theaters that have been targeted around the world? Is that something that Americans should be worried about here in the United States?
JENKINS: Well, I don't know that it's something that Americans should be worried about, in the sense that that should be a source of continuing anxiety.
In terms of so-called soft targets, that is, places where people gather that by their characteristics cannot easily be protected, those are limitless in our society, and anything can happen.
But I think people have to keep in mind that even the increased probability of a terrorist attack does not automatically translate into significantly increased danger to the individual citizen. It's a concern for the authorities to thwart these attacks before they occur, because I say we can't protect every conceivable target in the United States, but it's not a source of continuing worry to the individual American.
BLITZER: Brian Jenkins, as usual, thanks very much.
Skip Brandon, thanks to you as well.
And Kelly McCann, our CNN security analyst, terrorism analyst, thanks to you.
We'll have all three of you back. This subject, unfortunately, is not about to go away any time soon.
Coming up in our next hour of LATE EDITION, I'll have an exclusive interview with the World War II veteran, the former Senate majority leader and the Republican presidential nominee, Bob Dole. He'll share his reflections on Memorial Day and much more. Then the Republican chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Congressman Henry Hyde, and the panel's top Democrat, Congressman Tom Lantos, discuss terror threats, also the latest developments between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Much more on that. That's coming up.
We'll also get insight from a pair of U.S. military experts. All that, and more of your phone calls. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: Each generation of Americans has been called upon to produce patriots, patriots willing to dedicate their lives to the defense of liberty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As U.S. troops return home from Iraq, a nation remembers its fallen heroes: an exclusive interview with World War II veteran and former presidential candidate, Bob Dole.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Prime Minister Sharon accepted the road map, and that's progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Israelis take a step down the path toward peace, but will it be a rocky road? We'll get perspective on the Middle East, building a new Iraq and more from the two top members of the U.S. House International Relations Committee, Republican Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois and Ranking Member Tom Lantos of California.
Then, the U.S. won the war in Iraq, but what's next for the troops? We'll get answers from retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General David Benton (ph), and retired U.S. Brigadier General David Grange.
Welcome back. We'll get to Bob Dole in just a moment.
BLITZER: For the United States, the war with Iraq has brought a new importance to this year's Memorial Day commemorations around the country. The holiday was set aside to remember those who died in American military service.
Joining us now from Washington to talk more about that is the World War II veteran, the former Republican Senate majority leader and the presidential candidate, Bob Dole.
Senator Dole, welcome back to LATE EDITION. I want to get to all of those events in a moment. But are you disappointed, are you surprised, for that matter, that so far the U.S. has not found that those weapons of mass destruction believed to have been in Iraq?
BOB DOLE, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Somewhere between disappointment and frustration. But I still think they're going to be there, they're going to be found. I think we have to be very, very patient. Saddam Hussein and his henchmen had a decade to conceal or hide or transfer these weapons. So I don't think we're at a point yet where we say we're not going to find any.
BLITZER: Is it possible -- based on what you have read in the papers, based on what you know -- that perhaps Saddam Hussein was telling the truth when he said he didn't have any more weapons of mass destruction in advance of the war?
DOLE: Well, anything's possible, but I doubt it. I mean, I still believe that we must have had -- we had to have intelligence for General Powell -- Secretary Powell to go to the United Nations and make that statement, in effect, divulge some of the evidence.
But it's not an Easter egg hunt. It's going some time. It's going to take -- it could take months and months and months.
But I think we have to continue to pursue it. Our credibility, to some extent, is on the line. And I think we'll do what needs to be done.
BLITZER: We're hearing some increased criticism of the Bush administration from some of the Democratic presidential hopefuls. And I want to share a couple of the critiques, specifically, right now.
For example, Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat, wants to be president of the United States, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had to be privy to some of the most sensitive information.
Listen to what he's saying, some specific criticism of how Bush is dealing with this situation right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: We have let al Qaeda off the hook. We had them on the ropes, close to dismantlement, and then, as we moved resources out of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight a war in Iraq, we let them regenerate.
We are vulnerable to future attacks because this administration has not done its job and has not increased our ability to have homeland security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Should those criticisms be written off simply as politics, or is there some substance to what they're saying? DOLE: Well, I think there's probably some little substance, but I didn't hear these voices in the Clinton years, when we had some pretty good opportunities to capture Saddam -- capture Osama bin Laden. Clinton was, as I understand, on the golf course and wouldn't take the phone call.
So, let's -- I think we have to keep everything in perspective. The Democrats are trying to find an issue that will -- a cutting issue. Obviously, they want to win the next election. That's the way it works in America.
So, I don't -- I'm not much concerned about the early criticisms. I did the same when I ran against Clinton. I'm not certain any of it stuck -- apparently, not enough of it stuck -- but this is American politics in the early stages.
BLITZER: What about the whole issue of the criticism the president faced from landing aboard the aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln -- a great photo opportunity, but a waste of taxpayer money? What do you make of that?
DOLE: I think that's probably -- you know, I may not have done it that way, but if somebody decided, and the president agreed that, OK, let's do it, it'll sort of morale builder. Morale was high when the -- be involved.
I understand Clinton visited five naval vessels during his eight years as president. It -- I don't know. It's pretty hard to -- where do you draw the line? I mean, what is photo op and what is something else?
So, I'm not going to criticize the president for that. I think he did a masterful job, as did others in the administration in the conduct of the Iraqi war. And let's give him credit a little bit of instead of looking for ways to fault the president.
BLITZER: I want you to look at -- I'm going to put up on this screen -- the nine Democratic announced presidential hopefuls.
Look at this field. Nobody knows presidential politics better than you do. What's your take right now? Who's going to get the Democratic nomination?
DOLE: Well, there are a lot of nice people there. You have a baseball team, actually, so you can look around. And I think there are probably four or five likely candidates.
I don't know. I mean, I've worked with some of these. I worked with Senator Kerry and Bob Graham a little -- worked a lot with Joe Lieberman. I know Joe better than any of the others. But I don't know; it's too early to tell. I mean, I don't see any clear, odds-on favorite.
You look at the nine, you see a lot of strengths, you see some weaknesses. But again, it's very early, and the American people aren't tuned in. Aside from me and you, Wolf, I'm not certain many people even care at this point.
BLITZER: Well, I care, and I know you care, and I'm sure a lot of our viewers care.
BLITZER: Senator Dole, the whole issue of John Kerry, his military background, Vietnam War -- is that going to help him significantly get the Democratic nomination because he has those military credentials?
DOLE: It may on, you know, on the edges. Maybe some veterans say, well, "This guy's a veteran, or this guy served in Vietnam. I served, and my son served."
I never found it to be a big, big plus in any event. And if you go out there and try to push the fact that you're a veteran and somebody else is not, that's not very good politics. I mean, people see through that.
But I think it's a plus, overall, and I think the fact -- I'll even go one further -- the fact that he didn't disclose he had prostate cancer. I've been through that. You don't have any side effects. I think John Kerry handled that about right. And I'm very pleased that he went public, because he's going to save a lot of lives. People who listen to John Kerry are going to go to their doctor. And early detection is the name of the game in any form of cancer. So I think Kerry is doing okay.
BLITZER: That's good advice to all of our male viewers.
DOLE: That's right. See a doctor.
BLITZER: You served in World War II, and I want to put a picture of you serving in World War II. One of your major concerns right now is to get that World War II memorial built on the Mall in Washington.
Give us an update where that stands right now, on this Memorial Day weekend.
DOLE: Well, a year from now, May 29, 2004, is going to be a big dedication. We hope to have 200,000 or 300,000 World War II vets in town. We have gone from 16.5 million to less than 5 million.
We've raised $191 million, and the only federal money is $5 million start-up money, and they're going to pay for the dedication. So, we said to ourselves, "If we can't raise the money, we won't build it."
It is going to be a very dignified memorial. It's going to -- I hope it, sort of, serves to tell young people that sometimes you're called upon to make a sacrifice for your country if you want to preserve liberty and freedom. And it's about peace and strength, not about war and conflict.
It's going to be a beautiful memorial. And it's going to -- we're not looking for a memorial, the World War II veterans, but we think it's important for future generations.
BLITZER: Can you believe, Senator Dole, it's almost 60 years since the end of World War II?
DOLE: No. I can't believe it. I can't believe that I'm going to celebrate my 80th birthday on July 22nd. But I am. I hope I am.
But no, it's -- time passes very quickly. But I think, you know, Memorial Day's a good time -- just to stop. You may be out on a boat somewhere, fishing somewhere, hiking somewhere. But just stop for 30 seconds and thank God that there were young men and women 60 years ago who were willing to do what they did to keep America free. That's what it's really all about.
BLITZER: Well, thank God for people like you, Senator Dole, 60 years ago, when you were in the military.
I had dinner this week, I was sitting next to a wife of a U.S. senator who told me that neither you nor former President Clinton are very active in the spouses club in Congress. You don't attend many of those luncheons that the spouses have right now.
DOLE: No, I did attend the luncheon. There's only other man there, that was Gale Norton's husband, the secretary of interior. I, kind of, looked for President Clinton because we were going to, if we can ever get together long enough we'll have an election on who can be president of the spouses club, and based on party statistics I have a slight edge.
BLITZER: Could you foresee down the road, Senator Dole, another Clinton-Dole match-up for the White House?
DOLE: You mean me and Bill?
BLITZER: No. I mean your spouses.
DOLE: No. But I think they'd be good on "60 Minutes." You know, I think they ought to be a surprise on "60 Minutes," and instead of Bill and Bob, it ought to be Hillary and Elizabeth's one of these Sunday nights.
But in any event, you know, they're both doing a good job. I think Hillary Clinton did a good job in the first two and a half years, and I've said that, said it publicly.
People have said, "What?" I said, "Yes. She's done a good job." I wouldn't vote the way she votes, but I think she's conducted herself well, and I believe Elizabeth is doing a great job for North Carolina.
BLITZER: Senator Dole, on this Memorial Day weekend, an appropriate time to share some thoughts with you. Thanks very much for your sharing some thoughts with our viewers in the United States and around the world.
DOLE: It's a great country.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Thanks very much, Senator Dole.
Up next, violence in Iraq and more suicide bombings elsewhere. New questions about terrorism. And what about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? Are the United States and its allies gaining or losing ground around the world?
We'll talk with the top members of the United States House International Relations Committee: the chairman, Henry Hyde of Illinois, and the ranking member, Tom Lantos of California.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We have seen the ruthless intentions of our enemies, and they're seeing our intentions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush talking about the fight against terrorism at commencement ceremonies this past week at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining us now are the two top members of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee: here in Chicago, the committee's chairman, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois, and in Washington, the panel's top Democrat, Congressman Tom Lantos of California.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Let me begin with you, Mr. Chairman. Talk about this road map toward peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Israeli cabinet of Prime Minister Sharon effectively accepted it today. Does that mean it's a done deal?
REP. HENRY HYDE (R), ILLINOIS: No, not at all. There's still some serious problems, although it certainly is a step forward.
I understand that the Israelis have added a condition to the road map denying the right of return, which may or may not be a major stumbling block. Conceptually, it is. But I think the Israelis are right. The right of return would mean the end of Israel, in terms of being swamped by Palestinian immigrants.
BLITZER: Well, the right of return, for our viewers who aren't familiar, Congressman Lantos, would be that those Palestinians -- Palestinian refugees from the 1948-'49 war, there are 3 or 4 million of them living in various countries in the Middle East and elsewhere -- would have a right to go back to their homes inside pre-'67 Israel. Should the Israeli government allow at least some of them to come back? REP. TOM LANTOS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think the whole concept is an absurdity. The bulk of these people never lived in Israel. They are second- generation or third-generation individuals, and there was never any serious thought that the right of return can be part of a permanent peace settlement.
BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, do you believe that this new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, can make peace with Israel, is committed to this notion of a two-state solution, Israel living alongside Palestine?
HYDE: Well, we prayerfully hope for that. But the very day he was named, there were suicide bombings, and unless the suicide bombings can be halted at his command, then he will be just another name without any real authority, and the tragedy goes on.
BLITZER: Congressman Lantos, I believe you've met with Mahmoud Abbas. Give us your firsthand impression of this man.
LANTOS: Well, he's a very intelligent man. I made it very clear to him that we in the Congress are fully supportive of his efforts, if he's serious.
And being serious means he has to take away all the illegal weaponry of the various terrorist organizations, he has to incarcerate their leaders, he has to make himself the only authority in the territory of both the West Bank and Gaza. This cannot be done by compromising with terrorist organizations.
Whether he will have the determination to do this, time can only tell. But he's an intelligent and capable person, and this is a chance that we should support.
I fully agree with my friend Henry Hyde that as long as suicide terrorism continues there is no chance for a peace settlement. I salute the president for attempting this major historic move. But the Palestinians will have to recognize that you cannot negotiate in the daytime and engage in terrorism at night.
BLITZER: You know, Mr. Chairman, that Mahmoud Abbas met this past week in Gaza with the leadership of Hamas, and there were conflicting reports what was said there, what was done.
But do you believe he has the ability to crack down on those elements within Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the so-called Martyrs Brigade of the Fatah movement in order to stop the terrorism against the Israelis?
HYDE: I want to maintain the same degree of optimism that Tom Lantos expressed, because it's terribly frustrating to go on as we have been for the past years, but this is just a hope. I believe that he would not take this post if he didn't think he had the authority.
But as we know, it depends on events -- what happens. If he can control the suicide bombers, we have a real chance at peace. If he can't, it's just one more shattered expectation. BLITZER: Where, Mr. Chairman, does Yasser Arafat fit into the picture right now?
HYDE: That's the question he must be asking. We've lost confidence in him. He has not been able to produce over the years. He talks one way and does another. Or events supersede his wishes.
I think he's irrelevant now. And we will see if he -- what his reaction is to his irrelevance.
BLITZER: Tom Lantos, you were there. You didn't meet with Yasser Arafat. You met with Mahmoud Abbas, but you also met with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.
There are enormous challenges he must face, as well, including reversing some of the settlement activity over the past couple of years. Do you believe his government will, indeed, dismantle some of those so-called illegal settlements that were created over the past two years?
LANTOS: There is no doubt in my mind that they will. I think Prime Minister Sharon deserves enormous credit given public opinion in Israel that he accepted the president's road map.
I think he's dead serious in pursuing it to a successful conclusion, on the assumption that the Palestinians terminate terrorism. If they do so, we can look forward to two countries living side-by-side in peace and security.
BLITZER: Well, they also want...
LANTOS: That certainly is our hope.
BLITZER: Congressman Lantos, the Palestinians want some of the onerous restrictions imposed on them by the Israeli military removed so they could travel freely, so they can move around not only on the West Bank and Gaza, but go to jobs inside Israel itself.
Do you want the Israeli government to take those steps right now?
LANTOS: Obviously, not right now because every time this happened without guarantees that there is no terrorism, terrorism was only stepped up.
But this is clearly the long-term goal of those of us who wish to see real peace in the region. These restrictions on travel must be lifted. And hopefully as things settle down, there will have to be job opportunities for Palestinians within Israel.
BLITZER: All right. Congressman, we're going to take a quick break. We have much more to talk about, especially Iraq. When's next in the post-war era inside Iraq?
We'll continue our discussion with Chairman Hyde, Congressman Lantos. They'll also be taking your phone calls, so call us right now. LATE EDITION will continue right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking with two key members of the House International Relations Committee: the chairman, Republican Henry Hyde of Illinois, and the committee's top Democrat, Congressman Tom Lantos of California.
Chairman Hyde, let me read to you what your counterpart in the Senate, Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in The Washington Post on Thursday referring to Iraq.
He said, clearly this. He said, "Clearly the administration's planning for the post-conflict phase in Iraq was inadequate. I am concerned that the Bush administration and Congress have not yet faced up to the true size of the task that lies ahead or prepared the American people for it."
From a Republican, speaking about a Republican administration, pretty strong words.
HYDE: Yes, they are strong words. I wouldn't put it quite as harshly. But I think it is true that the immediate situation on the ground after the military challenges were surmounted was inadequate; that the police problem, the problem of law and order, should have been anticipated and evidently was not.
So that's where Senator Lugar is correct.
BLITZER: Let me play for you, Congressman Lantos, an excerpt from what Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia said. You, unlike Senator Byrd, were a strong supporter of the war against Iraq. But listen to what Senator Byrd said this past week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: The Bush team's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq as justification for a preemptive invasion has become more than embarrassing. It has raised serious questions about prevarification and reckless use -- the reckless use of power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you agree with Senator Byrd now after the war?
LANTOS: No, I certainly don't agree with Senator Byrd now after the war, and I didn't agree with him before the war. As a matter of fact, had we taken the advice of individuals who took that position or the French government or the German government or the Russian government, Saddam Hussein would still be in charge in Baghdad. His horrendous persecution of vast numbers of people would be continuing now, two years from now or five years from now.
So the people who were critical of our decision to take out this monstrous dictator need to show some recognition of the fact that they were dead wrong. Now, it is true that because our military move was so enormously successful and so enormously speedy, we got to Baghdad before anybody expected that we would be getting to Baghdad.
And then we had a choice. We were either going to take advantage of the momentum, recognizing that there will be some turbulence after we take Baghdad, or we would have had a chance for the Iraqis to prepare for street fighting with enormous casualties on both sides.
I think our military made the right decision. I think there have been some problems in recent weeks. I think we are in the process of solving them.
I also believe that my recommendation to have NATO take over peacekeeping functions in the whole of Iraq is a sound recommendation, which I believe our whole Congress will approve.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a quick caller from Ohio. Go ahead with your question.
CALLER: All right. I was wondering how much it's going to cost to rebuild Iraq, and does that mean we'll have any more cuts at home, say in the higher education or other programs in the country?
BLITZER: Chairman Hyde? Let's let Chairman Hyde answer that.
HYDE: First of all, if I may just briefly respond to what Mr. Lantos said, he's right on the mark. And to call what happened on September 11th at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon hype is an embarrassment for Senator Byrd, it would seem to me.
Now, the cost of rehabilitating Iraq. We must remember that Iraq is not like Afghanistan, a poor country. Iraq has a great resource, namely oil. They may have most of the reserves in the world. It's a tie between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
But there are assets out of which the cost of rebuilding Iraq ultimately can be paid, and so I don't think it's going to take, in the long run, following some initial expenditures, an awful lot of tax dollars.
BLITZER: Then do you have sense how long U.S. troops, Mr. Chairman, are going to have to remain in Iraq?
HYDE: No, I don't think anybody knows because the difficulties of occupation are pretty hard to predict.
But once arrangements are made for NATO, as Tom Lantos suggests, to take over, there's no reason we can't extricate ourselves.
BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. Chairman Hyde, thanks very much, as usual. Congressman Lantos, thanks to you, as well. Appreciate both of you joining us here on LATE EDITION.
Just ahead: a swift U.S. military victory in Iraq. But winning the peace, as we just heard, could be incredibly difficult. We'll get some insight into the challenges posed by post-war Iraq from retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General David Benton and Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange.
LATE EDITION, including more phone calls, will return right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: One day, the war on terror will end. Not soon, but it will end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld addressing this year's graduates at the United States Naval Academy on Friday.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
It's been a little bit more than a month since major combat ended in Iraq, but the United States is still struggling, together with its coalition partners, to establish some sort of stability in that country.
It's a painstaking task for the U.S. military as many Iraqis vent their frustration and anger over the U.S. and British presence.
Joining us now to offer some insight into what it will take to win the peace are two special guests, both with long experience on the front lines: in Atlanta, the retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Dan Benton; and in Madison, Wisconsin, the retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange.
Generals, thanks very much for joining us on LATE EDITION.
General Benton, I'll begin with you. How complicated, how difficult of a challenge is this for the U.S. military to win the peace in Iraq?
LT. GEN. DAN BENTON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, it's a great challenge.
And you hit the right word in your lead-in, Wolf, when you mentioned stability, because it is critical to get stability in that country from a law-and-order perspective, because without stability, commerce is not going to start, the necessary governmental infrastructures that are so critical to getting back to just normal day-to-day life are not going to start, either.
So getting forces in there that are optimized to create stability, to really bring about law and order is very important. And that's why the Army is now bringing in a different unit, even though it's an armored division out of Germany, it is coming in essentially in a dismounted light infantry, if you will, peacekeeping role to be able to create that stability, to get into the neighborhoods, to walk the streets, to talk with the clerics, to talk with the people, the shop owners and to create that stability so stores can start opening and people can get back to their business.
BLITZER: General Grange, is that smart military strategy to have a new batch of troops move in, peacekeepers, if you will, those who are going to create the stability as opposed to those who fought and won the actual combat?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, the units that fought the combat operations actually are doing some of the security stability operations right now. They're going to transition to other units, like a cavalry regiment, the 1st Armored Division out of Germany, because they're due to rotate back to the United States, and they deserve that break.
But all these units have training, combat and stability or peacekeeping-type operations.
BLITZER: Do they have enough, though? Because going into the combat, you need one specific skill. You need a different skill after the fighting ends.
GRANGE: Well, there are some different skill, Wolf, but really, a shrewd commander will -- what they will do is crosswalk the task, the requirements that are the same in both peacekeeping and combat.
For instance, the ability to use your weapons, communication, first aid, patrolling; those are all the same whether in combat or peacekeeping operations.
Then when you transition to stability or peacekeeping operations, there's a few specifics that are a little bit different than combat that you have to get additional training on.
BLITZER: We've seen some confusion, General Benton, among the civilian leadership. Retired General Jay Garner, now effectively gone, replaced by Paul Bremer, a civilian, a former State Department counter-terrorism expert.
Was the administration confused, if you will, not prepared adequately for what would unfold on the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq in the aftermath of the war?
BENTON: Wolf, I don't know if I'd use the word "confused."
I think the problem was you had an armored heavy force doing the fighting, following the war plan, getting up to the city of Baghdad, winning the war and then immediately having to transition to a peacekeeping role. And so that is an extraordinarily difficult challenge to stop using your 120 millimeter tank gun and start to using these more subtle peacekeeping techniques. That's a very difficult transition for forces.
We've said all along that military forces don't make good cops, and this is what we're seeing right now. So I think "confusion" wouldn't be the word. I think just not having the right forces come in there and do things.
I think, I might mention, as these forces come in to start picking up these additional peacekeeping roles, I would hope the Pentagon is going to start thinking about using non-lethal means. We've had some terrible tragedies of people being shot, killed, wounded, and there's a lot of technology that's been going on into non-lethal means: different types of soft bullets, different types of gases, noxious gases that dispel crowds, slippery things that are sprayed onto people to disperse crowds.
There's a lot of things that can be used to stop having some of these terrible incidents we've had with killing civilians.
BLITZER: Well, those are fair points, General Grange. Let me let you weigh in. I know you have extensive experience in this area.
GRANGE: Well, I know a lot of the commanders on the ground right now, I served with them in different operations, either preparing for combat or in peacekeeping operations.
The problem is they knew when they went in that there would be a transition to stability operations and they would have to change from combat to stability. They knew that.
Because there's no other force that can do it. There's no non- government organizations or volunteer organizations that could come in and fill the role of, for instance, keeping the peace, rule of law. There's no international police task force yet.
So somebody had to do it, and, obviously, they thought about, "Well, we're there, we're going to have to do it until some other force comes in." So they had to prepare somewhat for that task.
BLITZER: All right. Generals, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about, including word this week that General Tommy Franks, the commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is about to retire, to step down. There will be new leadership on that front, as well.
We'll continue our conversation with our two generals. They'll also be taking your phone calls, so call us right now.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
In the meantime you're looking at live pictures -- actually, these are taped pictures of the 16th Annual Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom. It's an annual event taking place Memorial Day weekend in Washington: a motorcycle rally to remember POWs, MIAs, still perhaps out there. We're watching what's going on on the streets of Washington. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Dan Benton and retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange.
General Benton, what do you make of Tommy Franks's decision to retire, to step down, within the coming few weeks, at least the coming few months, in the aftermath of this war?
BENTON: Well, Wolf, I've known Tommy over 30 years, since we were young officers -- young field artillery officers in school. We've been next-door neighbors in one of our assignments. Not only is he just an extraordinary professional military officer, he is just a truly great, wonderful human being and a great American. And I wish him all the best.
Tommy probably thinks, you know, the military is a young man's sport, and we've always got to keep the older officers moving up, transferring the knowledge and experience they've had to younger officers. And I think Tommy probably recognizes that he's at that stage, and there are just some tremendous other officers that are waiting in the wings, that have tremendous experience that are ready to move up and take the reins.
And so I wish him all the best, and I think all of America should wish him all the best also.
BLITZER: Will it cause, General Grange, some military complications, the change of leadership of the Central Command at this sensitive moment?
GRANGE: Well, I don't think so. I think that if the procedures were put into place that the transition should actually be really almost invisible, because you have a leader that delegated a lot of the responsibilities, authority to his junior leaders, and so he should be able to transition out of that job relatively easy.
You know, by the way, he's just finished two wars, so it's not that he needs to hang around a long time if he doesn't want to.
So, I don't think it'll be a big problem.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller. I think we have a caller. Go ahead with your question, please.
CALLER: Yes. That's for the generals. As an advocate of the Iraqi war, I'm still questioning why we didn't have a security force plan in effect, knowing we would eventually take over Baghdad. And I'm just -- what I'm hearing, their excuses of why not, it's so obvious that the need was there.
BLITZER: All right. What about that, General Benton?
BENTON: Well, clearly that's all part of the debate that I think that's been going on for the last month, if you will, about whether or not we had adequate forces on the ground. You had the force that was there to actually fight the war, and there are many people who have been saying that we should have had a security force postured, ready to go in and take over that peacekeeping mission.
I've always taken the position I did not want to armchair quarterback our forces, our senior commanders who were trying to fight a war while they were fighting that war. It's a great thing that people can study and debate in the wars colleges after this war is completely ended.
But it seems like we should have had a security force that was really postured to really transition from the actual war fight into the peacekeeping role.
BLITZER: General Grange, Senator Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, went one step further, in an article he wrote in The Washington Post this week. I'll put a clip, an excerpt up on the screen.
He wrote this: "Do we have enough troops in Iraq? It may be that to restore law and order right now we need to put more soldiers and Marines back into the country, rather than drawing them down."
What do you make of that?
GRANGE: Well, I believe, Wolf, that there's enough troops there to actually do the mission. I don't think there were initially.
And again, you know, it's hard to criticize a plan if you don't know the plan, but, for instance, the 4th Infantry Division obviously was in the original plan, and then the force adapted when they couldn't get into the country on the time that initially, I think, was in that plan.
And so -- but I think there's enough troops there to actually do it. The big problem was, I think, what force was going to go in other than the military to maintain rule of war and get the Iraqi police force reestablished, the judicial system, those type of things. Right now, that void is the big one. Actually, not the military part.
BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, we're going to have to leave it right there.
General Grange, General Benton, thanks for your military expertise on this Memorial Day weekend. Good conversation. We'll continue it on another occasion.
And we say goodbye now to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.
Coming up for our North American audience, book editors from around the country will offer their picks for the best summer reading. Also, Bruce Morton on the airing of journalism's dirty laundry. Plus, our Final Round, and our panel will square off this week on the major stories of the week. All that, and much more, including the news headlines, as soon as we come back.
BLITZER: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so excited. So excited, I can't wait to see him. It's been a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A nation welcomes troops home from the war in Iraq this Memorial Day weekend.
It's the unofficial start of summer. We'll talk to top book editors to see what you should be reading on your vacation.
Plus, can you trust what you read in print?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blame. Blame falls all over the place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Reporters' writing called into question. Bruce Morton airs journalism's dirty laundry.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from Chicago.
BLITZER: Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer season, when scores of people head to the beaches.
Of course, millions of people head to the beaches for some sun, relaxation and reading. So what about books? What books should be at the top of your summer reading list?
Our next guests are ready to offer some important suggestions. In Springfield, Massachusetts, Elizabeth Taylor, she's the literary editor for the "Chicago Tribun"e; in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Benjamin Schwarz, he's literary editor of the "Atlantic Monthly"; and in Los Angeles, Steve Wasserman, he's book editor of the Los Angeles Times.
Good to have all of you on LATE EDITION. Thanks so much for joining us.
Steve, let me begin with you and put up on the screen three books that you're highly recommending for some summer reading. And I'll just read the names: "Emma Goldman" by Candace Falk, "The Man of Feeling" by Javier Marias, and "Boogaloo" by Arthur Kempton.
Tell us a little bit about these books -- why you think our viewers would enjoy reading them.
STEVE WASSERMAN, BOOK EDITOR, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, first of all, of course, reading is a very personal sort of thing, and any of the palaces of culture operated by any of the more robust independent stores, or by Barnes and Noble or Borders, have on offer hundreds of thousands of titles.
This list is a personal selection by myself. Let's begin with the one that I've anticipated the most, by Arthur Kempton, called "Boogaloo: The Quintessence of American Culture."
Probably not since Greil Marcus' "Mystery Train: Images of American in Rock 'n' Roll," published a generation ago, has a book been so anticipated; an examination of the contribution and influence that African-American music of R&B gospel to rap has made.
And I first encountered some of Arthur Kempton's ruminations on the subject in the pages of the New York Review of Books. And I was so swept away by them, when I learned that they were going to be put into a volume that he was going to work up into a book, it was at the top of my list.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to get back to that book shortly.
But, Elizabeth, I want to get to your list. You have three books that you're recommending right now. Let me put them up on the screen for our viewers as well.
Among your recommendations: "Sweetwater," (ph) by Roxanna Robinson (ph). I guess the next one is called "Calahari (ph) Typing School for Men," by Alexander McCullough Smith (ph). And "Positively Fifth Street" by James McManus.
Talk a little bit why you selected these books.
ELIZABETH TAYLOR, LITERARY EDITOR, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, I just -- I love reading summer books during the summer. And "Sweetwater" (ph) is the quintessential summer book. It takes place in the Adirondacks on a summer vacation. A woman has recently been widowed, and she heads off to see her in-laws. And she's an environmentalist and she encounters forest fires.
And that, with the background of -- the pyrotechnics of the family -- makes this an extraordinary novel. Robinson is so great at, kind of, integrating the personal and the political. And she's just a wonderful writer. And I just hope that she finally wins the audience that she deserves with this book.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to talk a little bit more about those books shortly. But let me bring Ben in. Ben, you have selected three books as well. Three books that you think would be good summer reading.
Let me put the names up on our screen. Among the books are these: "Reading Lolita in Tehran," by Azar Nafisi. I hope I'm pronouncing his name correctly. "The Lewis and Clark Journals," edited by Gary Moulton (ph). And "The Darts of Cupid" by Edith Templeton. Talk a little bit about this selection. BENJAMIN SCHWARZ, LITERARY EDITOR, "ATLANTIC MONTHLY": Well, "Reading Lolita in Tehran" is really just an extraordinary book. The author was a professor of literature in -- at Tehran University and was expelled for political reasons. And formed a book group with extraordinarily diverse range of women readers: some poor, some rich, some secular, some very sexy, some really pious. And they read some great works of Western literature, including Nabokov's "Lolita."
And it's really about the, sort of, personal reactions to these folks. And also the pressures and unusual difficulties of encountering difficult, complex works of literature in a highly political repressive society.
"The Lewis and Clark Journals" is just a terrific read. It's -- if you're going on a trip this summer through the West, you should really take it with you.
And Edith Templeton's collection of stories, I think, was just the best work of fiction published last year. It's just come out in paperback. And it's a terrific, very, kind of, clear-eyed -- sometimes disturbing -- view of erotic love.
BLITZER: Elizabeth, I want to get back to one of the books on your list, "Positively Fifth Street." It's a book that's coming out by James McManus involving gambling, Vegas, poker. Talk a little bit about this book.
TAYLOR: First of all, I apologize for any kind of home town boosterism. Now he -- McManus is from Chicago, and he's a terrific fiction writer.
And this book is a great tale. Writers are, kind of, notoriously, you know, bad with their money. So he took his advance from Harper's magazine to do what he was supposed to do -- a piece on the world poker tournament. And in Las Vegas. And he spent his whole advance, and he entered the tournament himself.
And the result is a hilarious book. And it's the ultimate in, I think, a sort of immersion journalism. You know, he does the whole scene. And in the midst of the tournament, there's a murder trial. And McManus does everything, you know, including lap dancing, in this book. And he speaks to the kind of tension between the, sort of, good Jim, the guy in the suburbs, which he is, who he is -- you know, with lovely wife, two adorable girls -- and then the bad Jim, who is really drawn to this, kind of, seedy world of, you know, poker, crime and just -- it's a great read.
BLITZER: Steve, have you had a chance to take a look at this book?
WASSERMAN: I haven't personally read it, no, so my objectivity is untainted by any actual familiarity with the book at hand. Though, of course, the Los Angeles Times Book Review reviewed it and reviewed it quite favorably.
BLITZER: All right. Ben, what about you?
SCHWARZ: I've taken a look at it. I haven't read it. A friend of mine who's writing a book about Las Vegas recommends it extraordinarily highly.
BLITZER: All right.
Let's move on to another book -- a book, "Lewis and Clark." I know that, Ben, you picked this book. Talk a little bit about it. What's so special about this book?
SCHWARZ: Well, Lewis and Clark's journals make up seven volumes. And it's one of the monuments of, sort of, scholarly university press publishing, the fully annotated version of this.
This is a one-volume abridgement. And what's terrific about this book is that the editor has somewhat rearranged it. It's much less of, kind of, a series of scientific treatises, and much more of a narrative of the journey of the Corps of Discovery.
And it's, again, in Lewis and Clark's own words. Lewis, especially, was a terrific writer. It's a great adventure story.
And, as I said, there's so many books on Lewis and Clark, I think people should just go back and read what they themselves wrote. They'll get a terrific window on the West.
BLITZER: There's been some suggestion that people nowadays driving in an SUV through the Dakotas can read this book and get inspired as they see the United States, that part of the world.
SCHWARZ: Oh, I think that's just a terrific idea.
And for those of you who are -- you know, who have a bit more money and a bit more reading time, I'd actually recommend the seven- volume edition in paperback. They can take that along with them, too. Because that goes into extraordinary detail about very specific places in the West, and the volumes as a whole cover everything from astronomy to zoology. It's a terrific tribute to American curiosity and to the scientific mind.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break. We have more to talk about. We're also standing by for your phone calls for our panel of book editors.
This is fascinating material, you're going to learn what books to read this summer. You already have some there, two other books that you'll be familiar with that are coming out, a new Harry Potter book, and Hillary Rodham Clinton's got a big book coming out.
We'll talk about those books, as well, and more. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We'll get to talk about Hillary Rodham Clinton's book shortly.
We're getting some summer reading picks from our panel of book editors. Continuing our conversation with Elizabeth Taylor of the Chicago Tribune, Benjamin Schwarz of the Atlantic Monthly, and Steve Wasserman of the Los Angeles Times.
Steve, one of the books that you picked for a good read this summer, "The Man of Feeling" -- we'll put the book jacket up and the cover up on the screen -- talk a little bit about this book.
WASSERMAN: Javier Marias is one of Spain's greatest living writers, and he's a man that I have yet to read, but I have heard from those who have read him that he is absolutely marvelous.
And it seems to me that one of the great scandals of American publishing is the degree to which so few books from the foreign literatures around the world are translated into English, far fewer today, for example, than was the case, say, 35 years ago, and yet it's at a moment where America is more entangled with the peoples of the world and their cultures all over the world.
This book is a love story, the story of an opera singer who finds himself in a compartment on a train in Europe, and encounters a woman and her two companions. It begins with an epigraph from the English essayist William Hazlitt which reads, "I think myself into love, and I dream myself out of it." I am looking forward to it greatly. It's published by New Directions Press, the independent press founded decades ago by the late James Loughlin (ph), and which has a well- deserved reputation for bringing to Americans and others the very best literature being written.
BLITZER: Elizabeth, it's been three years since the last Harry Potter came out. On June 21st, a new one. I don't know what the initial printing is going to be, how many books are going to be published. I'm guessing in the millions. June 21st, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," by J.K. Rowling. Is this book -- obviously it's going to sell a lot of copies, but have some of the original fans of Harry Potter, sort of, outgrown these books?
TAYLOR: I don't think so. I first heard about the book just as my son and I were embarking on a reading group -- a mother-son reading group. He was 12 then, and that was -- he's 12 now, and that was the first book we ever read in the group. Well, the boys are all clamoring to read the third one -- I mean, the fourth one, at the next group.
This is by far the longest book, and I think that the book's success operates at so many different levels that a wide range of people can read it.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from South Carolina. Go ahead, please, with your question.
CALLER: Thank you very much, Wolf. Outstanding show.
Wolf, I'd like to ask your wonderful panel what is their favorite political book of this year.
BLITZER: All right, let's ask Ben to pick that up. What do you think, Ben?
SCHWARZ: Well, it certainly wouldn't be Sidney Blumenthal's "The Clinton Wars," which is, sort of, the big political book so far this year, at least until Hillary Rodham Clinton's book comes out. I'd probably say Andrew Bacevich's book "American Empire." I think it's a really interesting, novel look at American foreign policy by a conservative who has a lot of harsh things to say about the way the Bush administration is conducting foreign policy.
BLITZER: Steve, speaking of Hillary Rodham Clinton's book, that's an important book, I guess. Everybody thinks it's going to be an important book. It's entitled "Living History." The publication date, June 9th. They're not releasing any of this until then. They're keeping this tightly held, as they do with some of these books -- big books. It's going to have a huge first printing.
But what are you bracing for in this book?
WASSERMAN: I'm bracing for one of the great spin mistresses of all time to spin and pirouette her way through the morass that was the Clinton administration, and very cleverly wielding, as if she was a remarkable princess of spin, her way through the extraordinary pitfalls and flopping that was the Clinton administration.
I can hardly believe that the candor that is required for a book of this kind to truly be a morsel that the reading public will actually wish to consume, much less digest, will really be on offer from a sitting politician in mid-career who is extraordinarily ambitious, and who has everything to lose by candor, and everything to gain by spin.
BLITZER: People are anticipating she may want to run for president one of these days.
Elizabeth, what about that? People buy this book, and there will be hundreds of thousands of copies -- about a million that will be printed initially. Will they get the real inside story of how this woman, a former first lady, dealt with her husband's infidelity, because that's what a lot of people are going to want to read?
TAYLOR: It's hard to know. I mean, I certainly have no inside scoop on the book.
It's interesting. "It Takes a Village," her earlier book, did very well, and it was really successful. I think -- who knows? I mean, I think she wants to be taken seriously, and we'll try to pick that out. She's a marvelous woman she's working with on book, Maryanne Vollers, who wrote the terrific National Book Award finalist "The Ghosts of Mississippi," but who knows? I mean, a lot of -- the question for me about these political books is are they books or are they products? And it seems to me that most of them are just products.
BLITZER: All right. Well, we'll see about this book.
Elizabeth, while I have you, you were on this program a year ago, and you told our viewers there was a good book that was coming out, a book entitled "The Lovely Bones," by Alice Sebold. It's been on the best-seller lists now for -- what? -- 47 weeks. What's -- remind our viewers who aren't familiar with this book why you picked it a year ago, and why it's generated so much enthusiasm around the country.
TAYLOR: Well, it's interesting that we were just talking about Hillary Clinton and Harry Potter. I mean, one thing that Harry Potter and "The Lovely Bones" have in common is that they found an audience very organically. They really, sort of, touched people, and introduced people who really hadn't been reading very much to books, and I think a lot of it was a, sort of -- post-"Lovely Bones" a sort of post-9/11 idea of death. People were thinking about that. It's a novel that a 12-year-old can read, and a 90-year-old can read.
You know, she now is a bit of a rock star, but that really wasn't a marketing campaign that, sort of -- that made that book, just like, you know, for Harry Potter it was word of mouth.
BLITZER: Word of mouth that you began maybe on this program, Elizabeth Taylor. And we're going to give you a little bit more credit than you probably deserve, but I think, if all of you are around next Memorial Day, God willing, let's get together, see how your selections this Memorial Day actually turned out in the course of the coming year, the course of this summer.
Thanks to all of you, Elizabeth Taylor, for joining us, Steve Wasserman, and Ben Schwarz as well. Happy Memorial Day to all of you.
And coming up, Bruce Morton's essay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Covering the war in Vietnam or Watergate, I knew I was doing important work, telling voters what they needed to know. It never occurred to me to lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A setback for journalism, breaking the public's trust, when we come back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from Chicago. Our LATE EDITION "Final Round" with Bob Franken this week, that's coming up. But first, Bruce Morton shares his thoughts about bad news, very bad news that's hit the world of journalism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the past few weeks, history has been made.
MORTON: When I was a kid listening on the radio to the CDS (ph) guys report the second world war, Murrow, Severeid, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the rest, I knew they were telling me serious stuff. I thought, age 12 or 13, that theirs was an interesting and important job. It never crossed my mind that they would lie to me, and of course, they didn't.
Years later as a young reporter, I met older and better ones, Peter Lasigore (ph), Jack Chancellor (ph). What they were doing, what I was learning to do was tell the voters what they needed to know to make their democracy work the way they wanted it to work. It never occurred to me that they would lie. And of course, they didn't.
Years later, covering the war in Vietnam or Watergate, I knew I was doing important work telling voters what they needed to know. It never occurred to me to lie, and I never did. Get something wrong from time to time, sure, but not on purpose.
Now comes ex-"New York Times" reporter Jayson Blair telling the "New York Observer" how funny his fake description of Private Jessica Lynch's West Virginia hometown, which he'd never seen, was. "I just couldn't stop laughing," Blair told "The Observer" reporter, and then started laughing again. The long interview includes a reference to "idiot editors," it includes no contrition at all.
Nor apparently does the novel by Stephen Glass, the liar who made up stories for "The New Republic." I'm going by reviews here, because I won't buy the book.
Maybe these guys are just crazy, or just bad people, but their successful lying raises other questions. Whatever happened to fact checkers? Newspapers, networks used to have them, checking everything from was the right figure for the defense budget $2 trillion, to little things, was the assistant secretary's middle initial Q. Checking this stuff was standard newsroom practice a generation or two ago.
Not now. Maybe it goes to the wider troubles the news business has. Sourcing isn't as good as it once was. The line between news and gossip has eroded. There's pressure to be fresh and fun, not just accurate.
(on camera): I don't know. There is probably, as the old saying goes, enough blame to go around. But Glass and Blair and the editors who let them get away with it have made me ashamed of my trade. I hate that.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce. It's time for your letters to LATE EDITION. Many of you had opinions on post-war Iraq and the war on terrorism. Let's get to some of them. Bob in California writes this, "the United States is doing a terrible job establishing order in Iraq. We need to get the United Nations in Iraq because they're experts in peacekeeping."
Richard in Ohio: "The Bush administration has done a great job of ridding the world of terrorist groups. There is no way to prevent every attempt of terrorism."
And Abe from Massachusetts writes, "I'm a Vietnam veteran and I support our commander in chief and everyone who serves in the military, but I don't believe the war on terror is a war the United States can win."
We always welcome your comments. The e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to receive my weekly e-mail previewing our LATE EDITION program, simply go to cnn.com/lateedition, and you can sign up right there.
That's all the time I have for LATE EDITION this Sunday. Thanks very much for watching. Have a great Memorial Day holiday. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Chicago.
Up next, our "Final Round." Bob Franken filling in for me back in Washington with our panel. They're ready to weigh in on the week's big stories. LATE EDITION's "Final Round," that's coming up right after the hour's latest developments. Actually, we've already had that. Right after this very short break.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And welcome to the "Final Round." Joining me, Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, Peter Beinart of "The New Republic," Jonah Goldberg of "The National Review" online and Robert George of the "New York Post."
And we will move to the Israeli cabinet today, which approved the U.S.-backed road map to peace. It was a 12 to seven vote, marking the first time that an Israeli government has formally accepted the principle of a Palestinian state. And President Bush had said earlier in the week that he would meet with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers if such a summit would advance progress toward peace.
So Peter, the question really is, is this the breakthrough that it sounds like, or haven't we been here before?
PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: I don't think it's quite the breakthrough. Bush does deserve some credit here for leaning on Sharon, but the cabinet also reaffirmed all of Sharon's objections to the peace plan, and the fundamental reality about this cabinet, you look at the people who are in it, is that if people -- a lot of the people are dedicated to the settlements, and on record as opposing the Palestinian state. The Palestinians have changed their government. And ultimately Israel is going to make a deal with the Palestinians, Sharon is going to have to change his government, too.
FRANKEN: Well, the point that a lot of people have made is that the Israelis, in agreeing to doing this, if there were certain security considerations, left themselves an out that they could at any time sabotage this. Is this something we have to remember here?
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: Well, the flip side of it is that the Palestinians can also sabotage this, as has happened a number of times before. The security of Israel will always be the fundamental point for Israeli politicians of whatever side. So, I mean, if you're going to still continue to see more suicide bombings and so forth, nothing fundamentally will change.
JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: The other thing to be afraid of is the fact that Yasser Arafat hasn't actually released his death vice-like grip on power. A lot of people are still answering to him. But then again, at the same time, you only have one peace process at a time, and this is it.
FRANKEN: But the other thing -- I've heard some of the comments today from Palestinian leaders who said that if this goes through, then they are guaranteeing in effect that the violence is going to stop. Doesn't that fly in the face of their saying that it was out of their hands to begin with, and they couldn't control it?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think they were saying a lot of things, especially under Arafat's leadership. But what they're saying now is they're willing to go the distance to make this plan a reality. And now let's see if the Bush administration will keep their eyes on the prize, and put some elbow grease in it to make this plan work, not just, you know, in rhetoric, but also in reality.
FRANKEN: Of course, this is part of such a larger global picture here. And there's so much in the news today. Iran is very much in the news today. And there's the question about things heating up with Iran and another member of the president's axis of evil. The U.S. is accusing Iran of harboring al Qaeda members, and "The Washington Post" is reporting that the Bush administration is looking for ways, covert at least, to destabilize the Iran government. Robert, let me talk to you. Isn't this something that the United States has been doing since 1980 at the very least?
GEORGE: Exactly. I mean, it's in the last few years we've been -- there's been kind of basic mixed signals coming from Iran, because you've got at the street level, something of a democracy unfolding. But the fact is, the ayatollahs are still strongly in control, and I think right now the United States is basically saying that Iran is still not a good player and can't be trusted, and is acting accordingly.
FRANKEN: But there's another perspective, too, and that's the Iranian perspective. And you have the ambassador of Iran on the ABC program "This Week" saying that perhaps the bad behavior really is an accusation that can be leveled against the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: The problem is, whether the United States is prepared to deal with the issues on a serious fashion. There are concerns on each side. Iran has a number of concerns about U.S. behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: And what about that? GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, you have to remember this is actually almost feint praise. Their official position of the Iranian government is that we're still the great Satan. So when they're saying we're not behaving serious about foreign policy issues, it's not something you have to take that seriously.
FRANKEN: Well, except for the fact that in many parts of the world, the United States is accused by people who would be considered credible in their countries, at least, to behaving badly. So that's going to resonate a little bit. That's not just an empty comment.
BEINART: I think Iran is probably the country in the world where America's most popular, it's one of the few countries in the world where America is very popular, because people see the United States as in opposition to their government. The problem is, that we can't ferment the democratic revolution ourselves, because most of the democratizers in Iran seem to be saying to us, keep your distance. I think the only thing we can really do to impact Iran is to create a secular, liberal government in Iraq, which we're not doing a very good job of. That will put the kind of pressure we want on the regime in Iran.
FRANKEN: And isn't the problem with Iran, besides the fact that it's larger and much more powerful, the fact that it's a democratic government?
BRAZILE: Well, they have all of the right ingredients, but here's your problem; they're also -- they're building a nuclear weapon, or nuclear energy, and they're being supplied by both the Soviets and the Chinese. And perhaps it's time to get them involved in this whole equation so that we have a direct path in talking with the Iranian government.
FRANKEN: And while the United States is deciding how to deal with Iran, it also has to decide whether it's going to change the way it deals with its allies. The German magazine is reporting that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said that the Bush administration is trying to shore up strained relations with Germany, but that it plans more or less to ignore Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Meanwhile, President Bush heads to France laster this week for the G-8 summit, where he's going to hold side talks with French President Jacques Chirac.
Jonah, is it the time for the White House to let bygones be bygones? Is this really because the French have better food?
GOLDBERG: It's actually time for the French and the Germans to start acting like allies again, particularly Gerhard Schroeder, who very cynically ran explicitly on an anti-American campaign when his own political prospects were doing poorly. The French as well have basically played this double game where anti-Americanism is so popular that they get to foment it, and they go around the world actually lobbying against our interests. I'd be delighted to have these countries as allies again, once they start acting like it.
FRANKEN: Look, it's nothing new that the French are anti- American.
BEINART: The Germans have been terrific on the war on terrorism. They're the ones who are keeping Karzai in power in Afghanistan, because they're doing the peacekeeping we're not willing to do. If we were smart, we would beg them to go into Iraq to do more peacekeeping. The idea that you're only a good ally if you're with us in Iraq, when the company's popular opinion is 80, 90 percent opposed. That's the most ridiculous definition of an ally I can imagine. That's a recipe for total American isolation and a united Europe in opposition to American interests.
GEORGE: The difference is, though, Peter, it's one thing to say, OK, the populace is against a particular war. It's something else, though, for a politician to cynically, though, use that...
BEINART: Blame the public opinion on politicians? My goodness.
GOLDBERG: You're rewriting what happened in the German election a little bit. Gerhard Schroeder was doing poorly. All of a sudden, he turned on a dime and went explicitly after America...
BEINART: But that's because he knew that's where the German people were. And we failed to make the case.
BRAZILE: Well, we need both the French and the Germans in our global war against terrorism. We need their support.
FRANKEN: Now we know -- now we know what causes the passions to rise here. We suspect that there are some vacation issues involved. But we have to take a quick break and more of our "Final Round" when we return.
FRANKEN: All right. Welcome back to the "Final Round." I think we've settled people down here a little bit -- just a little bit. So we move on to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who announced her resignation this week, along with White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. Donna, you've been to this revving up for an election. Is that what we are seeing now, not a house cleaning necessarily, but the exodus that always seems to precede an election campaign?
BRAZILE: Well, I think, first of all, this is a rite of passage in all the administrations to get out while the going is good, and for this administration, I would get rid of my domestic team before the election, because they haven't done a pretty -- they haven't done a good job in solving a lot of problems. So, go home, Ari, go home, Christine, because the best is yet to come.
GEORGE: Actually, Ari has done a fine job in terms of representing the ...
GEORGE: Oh, come on. In terms of representing the...
BRAZILE: Double speak?
GEORGE: Excuse me. With people like Michael McCurry in the previous administration? But no, but I mean, Christy Todd Whitman, though, she was -- I think was a bad pick from the beginning, because she's in a completely different ideological level in terms of reforming environmental laws than the rest of the Bush administration.
FRANKEN: Oh, there is a consensus that it was not a very good fit. And it never was.
BEINART: I think this administration is very shrewd, actually. I think one of the things they realized with someone like Whitman, is that it doesn't really matter for this administration who you have in a top job like that, because decisions are made out of the White House. So you might as well put on someone who has a fairly moderate face, because they are not going to make policy anyway.
FRANKEN: Let me just move along a little bit here, because I want to talk about as we're getting to the election, the issues that are coming up, and there are expectations that national security, of course, will be a key issue in the next campaign.
In a memo to fellow Democrats, political strategists Bob Shrum, James Carville and Stanley Greenberg said the party is going to have to change its image on national security issues. The memo said in part, "what Democrats can and must show is a firm commitment to keeping America safe from attack. This is not about faulting President Bush. This is about being part of a unified effort in the country to achieve greater security." Well, the question, I guess is, how uphill is it for the Democrats, for the Democrats to get unified on anything, particularly national security?
GOLDBERG: Well, if you look at the primaries in the base in the Democratic Party today, it's going to be very difficult for that kind of message to get out there, when right now the only applause lines you hear are from people like Dennis Kucinich and from Howard Dean and those guys who are saying pretty much the exact opposite message on a lot of this sort of stuff, except for paying for the first responders, which I know Peter thinks is the most important national security issue facing us today.
BEINART: Pretty important. Yes, I think the Democrats, I mean, I agree with Jonah. I think the problem is the Democratic base does not realize how big a problem they have. They think that they're going to be able to -- they think they're going to be able to win on the economy and health care. They don't realize they're going to need to have someone who fundamentally has a record of being hawkish, even going back before the Iraq war, but homeland security is not a bad place to start, because the Bush administration is under-funding it. FRANKEN: Well, and one of the things that I mentioned earlier that I want to bring up is the Will Rogers view of the Democrats, which is I'm not a member of an organized political party, I'm a Democrat. Isn't that the real problem?
BRAZILE: No, I think the Democrats understand the recipe for victory. It starts with a strong pinch of national security. Add in a lot of other great seasoning, and if we put that recipe together, we'll have a spectacular victory in 526 days.
FRANKEN: Some people say 526 years.
FRANKEN: Well, one Democrat who is not deferring to President Bush is Senator Robert Byrd. The senior senator from West Virginia has been a persistent critic of the administration's justifications for taking military action against Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Regarding the situation in Iraq, it appears to this senator that the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation in violation of long-standing international law under false premises.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: But Senator Byrd is not the only one raising questions about the administration's involvement in Iraq. There are now many voices, both Democratic and Republican, Robert, calling for an investigation of the quality of intelligence that the administration got regarding Iraq, in light of the fact that there have been no weapons of mass destruction, for instance. Is it a question of faulty intelligence, or an administration that was hyping its reasons for going into Iraq?
GEORGE: I think it's primarily some faulty intelligence. Though I think we can still admit, I mean, we've only been there for about five or six weeks, there may actually be a smoking gun or weapons that might actually show up. I mean, fine, you know, do an inquiry. I think it's always important to make sure that our intelligence is up to date. But I think, you know, I think Robert Byrd is somewhat of a crank in this in terms of finding, or fighting supposed evil and everything that the administration does.
BEINART: I think that the -- look, I think we probably will find weapons of mass destruction eventually. But that doesn't mean there aren't very serious issues about things we know the administration said that were not true. We know that Bush said on national TV they're buying uranium from Africa. We know those documents were forged. We know that they said they're using aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuge. Even the Department of Energy's own experts said that wasn't true. That's actually very serious in terms of lying, and I think it needs to be looked into. FRANKEN: So that's the question.
GOLDBERG: First of all, the weapons of mass destruction thing is a bit of a red herring in the sense that even those countries that were most adamant against the war, Germany, France, they all conceded that there were weapons of mass destruction there. Everyone's intelligence apparatus believed there were weapons of mass destruction there. So if everyone was mistaken, it was a worldwide consensus on this.
In terms of the examples that Peter is citing, the aluminum tubes thing, you know, you can get pretty deep into the weeds on that, but Colin Powell is still standing by that.
BEINART: Barely stands by it.
FRANKEN: OK, we have to talk about something really important here, really important. And that is pro golfer Annika Sorenstam playing in the men's tournament, of course, not making the cut. My view of this is, golf is one thing, but I'll be really interested when it's a woman playing in the men's soccer league or playing in the professional football league or anything like that. Would somebody like to respond to that?
BRAZILE: Look, I'm an old athlete, and I believe that we can play any game, anytime, any day with anybody. And if you want to put some money on that, let's bet. She did very well last week. I thought that her strokes were very -- she was on target. But she putted herself out. But I'm proud of her, and she really will inspire a new generation of golfers.
FRANKEN: And remembering that no golfers watching this program...
GEORGE: I mean, it was a nice story for a couple of days. And in fact, I mean, there were people like Sergio Garcia who also didn't make the cut. So she was in some good company.
She's the number one female golfer, and I think she'll be good staying in that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
FRANKEN: And on that momentous note, we have to end LATE EDITION for this Sunday, May 25. Coming up next, "IN THE MONEY" looks at the trend of the shrinking paycheck here in America, and Iran's alleged connection to al Qaeda.
And that's followed at 4:00 p.m. Eastern by "CNN LIVE SUNDAY" with reports of the day's news. And at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, "NEXT@CNN" explores whether an illness found in deer and elk could be behind the case of mad cow disease discovered in Canada.
Thank you very much for watching. And enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend, this Memorial Day weekend. And let's take a moment to remember that this one has particular meaning because of all the losses suffered during the Iraq war. I'm Bob Franken in Washington.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
Talk About Orange Alert; Literary Editors Recommend Summer Reading List>