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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

Did Bush Stretch the Truth in State of the Union?

Aired July 9, 2003 - 22:00   ET

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

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
Once again tonight the question of intelligence and Iraq leads the program. We saw some polling today suggesting that this issue is not at the top of the list for most people in the country but that same poll showed something else, a dramatic drop in those who think the war was worth it down to 56 percent from 73 percent back in April.

It isn't the failure to find weapons of mass destruction that seems to be driving the polls but something far more basic and close to home, the nearly daily deaths of American soldiers and the chaos of post-war Iraq and we'll add some context to those numbers tonight. It seems the wounded have been forgotten in the daily accounting.

So, we begin with the latest on the false information involving Iraq, uranium from one African nation, a lot of fingers being pointed in the intelligence world tonight. David Ensor's beat, David the headline.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, sources tell CNN tonight that early drafts of the president's State of the Union speech cited American intelligence about Niger's uranium. Intelligence officials urged its removal from the speech because they did not have high confidence in that information but it was left in anyway and attributed to the British.

BROWN: David, thank you. We'll get to you at the top tonight.

Lots of questions today for the defense secretary about how the war in Iraq is going, where it's headed, what its cost is, Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre covering that, Jamie a headline.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: (AUDIO GAP) knew as much or more about the subject than you did. That was kind of the situation facing Defense Secretary Rumsfeld today as he appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, many of the Senators just back from Iraq armed with fresh insights and some tough questions -- Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you. I think we've got all the problems fixed and we'll get to you shortly.

There were hearings held today by the commission, the independent commission looking into 9/11 and more criticism that the commission is not getting the cooperation from the administration it needs. Bob Franken has been covering the hearings, Bob a headline. BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The intense maneuvering, Aaron, behind the scenes has spilled over in the public as the September 11 investigators demand secret information that might help them assess play.

BROWN: Bob, thank you very much, back to you and the rest shortly.

Also coming up tonight on NEWSNIGHT, we'll look at what Army investigators -- I should have had my mike off for that -- learned about the ambush in Iraq early in the war that left nearly a dozen dead and half a dozen prisoners of war, including Private Jessica Lynch. We'll look at that report.

Kelli Arena tonight on the man in Chicago accused as working as an agent for Saddam Hussein's regime.

A NEWSNIGHT promise, no focus group was harmed in the making of our patented trademark exclusive nightly look at tomorrow morning's papers.

And, Jeff Greenfield from Sacramento on the Gray Davis recall effort.

And, the former top cop of New York who is now in charge of creating law and order in Iraq.

And then, there are three hot topics at the food show, the fancy food show, duck tea and exotic salt. Yes, there is such a thing as exotic salt. That's Segment 7 tonight, so we have lots to take care of. We'll see how it goes.

We begin with the question of credibility now dogging the White House even half a world away on President Bush's trip to Africa. Today, a State Department intelligence official who retired during the run-up to the war accused the Bush administration of practicing "faith-based intelligence when it comes to Iraq."

He called the bogus information that found its way into the president's State of the Union address a symptom of a larger tendency to hype the truth, a serious accusation. We'll explore it in detail in a moment.

But first, though, CNN's David Ensor reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR (voice-over): As the president traveled in Africa, he sidestepped questions about why he spoke in January of Saddam's Iraq trying to buy uranium in Africa when the White House has now admitted the evidence was faulty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you still believe they were trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa?

BUSH: Right now? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, were they? I mean (unintelligible).

BUSH: One thing is for certain. He's not trying to buy anything right now.

ENSOR: As he spoke, new information was emerging about how Mr. Bush came to speak the line that has come back to haunt him.

BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

ENSOR: Sources tell CNN that early drafts of the president's speech cited American intelligence about Niger. Intelligence officials urged its removal because they did not have high confidence in that information.

At that point, the president's speech writers apparently decided to include the assertion anyways, attributing it to a British white paper that had already made the charge in public. Asked about the speech writing process, CIA officials declined comment.

At a news conference a former State Department intelligence analyst was scathing about the administration's general handling of intelligence on Iraq's weapons.

GREG THIELMANN, FMR. STATE DEPARTMENT INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: This administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude. It's top down use of intelligence. We know the answers. Give us the intelligence to support those answers.

ENSOR: CNN has now learned, though, that the CIA also had information about a meeting between Iraqi and Niger officials a meeting Niger officials took to be an attempt to improve ties so as to make a uranium deal possible. Niger officials told former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was sent to Niger by the CIA to look into the matter, that no uranium deal was ever done.

JOSEPH WILSON, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR: I traveled out there, spent eight days out there and concluded that it was nigh on impossible that this sort of transaction could be done clandestinely.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: The information was contained in a CIA report sent to the White House and other agencies in March of last year, ten months before the president's State of the Union message. The report was not flagged to the attention of senior officials. Its main theme though, sources say, was that the Niger uranium story did not appear to hold water -- Aaron.

BROWN: A couple things, David. There is, as you know, a story that's been circulating on the web today that there was at some point a conversation between the president and a CIA consultant where the consultant directly told the president that this African uranium deal was bogus. Do you have any reporting that supports the idea that the president was directly told it was fake before he included it in the State of the Union speech?

ENSOR: I have no way to confirm that story and it is somewhat suspect I would say but we'll have to check it.

BROWN: All right and any other information that would suggest the president knew in advance this was bogus?

ENSOR: None at this point, no.

BROWN: Thank you, David, David Ensor in Washington.

David Sanger has been reporting on the case against Iraq and the political tussle over it for "The New York Times." Mr. Sanger joins us from Washington, good to see you David, thank you. Same question, do you have any -- have you in your reporting seen anything that suggests that at any point the president before the speech was told this information was phony?

DAVID SANGER, "NEW YORK TIMES": No, we've not found anything along those lines. If one read into the footnotes of some of the earlier intelligence reports, which there's no reason to expect the president or even many of his top aides do, there were just hints that there were doubts about it.

BROWN: So, what in a sense has happened here? One of the criticisms of the administration is that it put out there in a sense all the stuff it liked and it withheld all the stuff that didn't help make the case. Is that argument supportable?

SANGER: The argument has to do with cherry picking the information that one wants and this is how, you know, lawyers build cases in courtrooms. Obviously, you take the evidence that supports your case. You ignore the evidence that does not.

The question is in this particular case was the balance there, and when you talk to people at the White House they point back to some of their statements where, in fact, they expressed some doubts about what was known and what wasn't known.

But if you take the totality of it, Aaron, I think you have to say that in many of the cases, particularly in the chemical and biological arena, there were statements outright that said they have weapons and in the nuclear arena the statement was a little bit different.

It was they had a project that nearly produced a weapon prior to the first Gulf War and that they were building their, trying to reconstitute that capability in recent years and this debate is really over the question of whether or not, in fact, they were trying to reconstitute it or whether they were just lying in wait hoping that sanctions would be lifted and that would be their moment.

BROWN: David, how sensitive is the White House to all of this politically? Are they concerned that this has damaged the president's principal asset which is his credibility in the view of many people? SANGER: I think what hurts here for them, Aaron, is that this is a statement that the president made in the State of the Union address and this is, of course, the most vetted address that a president gives each year.

The sections are cut up and sent around to the relevant agencies so you know the EPA gets the environmental section and the other departments of the government get something that has to do with them and the CIA would have gotten, presumably this section and, of course, because Iraq was so high on the agenda, everybody in the National Security Council should have been able to focus on it as well.

So then, the question comes if this piece of evidence was questionable, why did they pick this one of all of the pieces of evidence out there?

BROWN: Let me re-ask the question. Are they concerned that the president has been politically hurt by this?

SANGER: I think they are.

BROWN: OK.

SANGER: The poll numbers that you saw earlier suggest that not much but clearly this is one that does hurt.

BROWN: And do they feel not just on the uranium question but broadly on Iraq and the post-war issues, the chaos that seems to still be going on there that they have a serious political problem, or do they feel like it will all blow over in time?

SANGER: There are two or three separate problems underway here. One of them is the question of why they went in and started the war and I think they believe that doesn't have an enormous amount of political resonance but it's building some steam and, of course, it's already done some damage to Tony Blair in Britain so that worries them.

Then, there is the continuing issue of whether the war itself or the post war period is beginning to look like a quagmire or whether or not they had the right plan going in. I think that resonates more with the American public and that clearly is their bigger issue.

They say that over time, and you heard Secretary Rumsfeld say this again today, that this kind of thing settles out but we've never been in an experience like this before. The last occupation we attempted was in Germany and Japan and it was under very different circumstances.

BROWN: David thanks. I hope you'll come back again, good reporting on this and other things as well, David Sanger of "The New York Times" with us tonight.

We're not sure how long it took someone to describe the Jessica Lynch story as saving Private Lynch but it seemed instantaneous and it did seem Hollywood perfect at first, but what actually happened to Private Lynch, her capture, her injuries, how she was treated by the Iraqis, how she was rescued and under what circumstances, all of that remains much a mystery.

Part of her story came into sharper focus today but it's not her story alone. It's the story of one of the deadliest days of the war, the first Sunday, the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company. The Army has investigated and CNN's Barbara Starr has filed the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Army called it a torrent of fire from Iraqis that confronted the young soldiers of the 507th Maintenance Company on March 23 near al- Nasiriya.

The convoy became lost when it fell behind. The Army's draft report on the incident says the unit found itself "in a desperate situation due to a navigational error caused by the combined effects of the operational pace, acute fatigue, isolation and harsh environmental conditions."

In other words, they were lost, tired after 60 hours with no sleep. The report details confrontation with dozens of Iraqi fighters attacking with small arms, piling debris and vehicles in the road to trap the Americans.

Several vehicles were hit by fire. Private First Class Jessica Lynch injured when her vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Her best friend, Lori Piestawa seriously wounded died at a hospital. Iraqi doctors tried in vain to reduce her brain swelling.

The soldiers tried to fight back. Private First Class Patrick Miller, surrounded by the enemy, may have killed as many as nine Iraqis before being captured. At one point, he even fed bullets, one by one, into his malfunctioning weapon.

Miller later told Iraqi interrogators that pieces of paper inside his helmet were prices for water pumps. They were radio frequency codes. Miller now awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

Specialist Joseph Hudson also wounded was pulled from his vehicle by Iraqis and captured, and Sergeant James Reilly (ph) made the lifesaving decision to surrender himself and Specialist Edgar Hernandez and Shoshana Johnson after all of their M-16 rifles jammed.

The Army concluded the soldiers "fought the best they could until there was no longer a means to resist." The unite defeated ambushes, overcame hastily prepared enemy obstacles, defended one another, provided lifesaving aid, and inflicted casualties on the enemy.

(on camera): The Army is still investigating how 11 members of the convoy died, whether they were executed, whether war crimes were committed. Army officials say there is no conclusive evidence but that the matter remains open.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: As members of the 507th were grappling with their fate in the Iraqi desert, the FBI says a man was doing Saddam Hussein's bidding on the streets of Chicago but it was only after the war that troops came across a safe house in Baghdad and inside they found a dossier with the name on it. The name belonged to the man in Chicago. He was arrested today.

Here's CNN's Kelli Arena.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He lived here just outside Chicago, a resident of the United States for about ten years. He is a writer and publisher of this Arabic language newspaper. He's not even Iraqi. He's Palestinian.

Still, the U.S. government says Khaled Abdel-Latif Dumeisi secretly served as an agent for Saddam Hussein's government by providing information on Iraqi opposition leaders here in the United States.

PATRICK FITZGERALD, U.S. ATTORNEY: We cannot tolerate people doing that here and so I'm trying to send a message here that this case is serious because people can't spy against people that live here who come here for our freedoms.

ARENA: Information on Dumeisi came in part from a dossier found in April at an intelligence safe house in Baghdad, according to the government. The FBI's investigation into his activities dates back to 1999 and involved interviewing at least four informants.

The affidavit reads like a bad spy novel. Dumeisi allegedly used a pen with a hidden camera and microphone to gather information. The government also says he spoke in code. For example, when faced with threats from Iraqi opposition, the FBI says Dumeisi reported them by saying his car was inoperable.

He's not being charged with espionage, though. Instead, he's facing the charge of not registering as an agent of a foreign government.

FITZGERALD: You have people working on behalf of foreign governments they need to identify themselves unless they fall into certain categories at the embassy and consulate.

ARENA: Dumeisi's defense attorney did not have much to say as he just received a copy of the complaint.

JAMES FENNERTY, DUMEISI DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, he doesn't believe that he's done anything wrong, what he says, but like I said I haven't read the allegations.

ARENA: If convicted, the 60-year-old Dumeisi could face as many as 15 years in prison. He remains in custody. Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, what it takes to keep the peace after the war. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on U.S. forces in Iraq and when they will be coming home.

And later the vote that could force California Governor Gray Davis out of the governor's mansion, or perhaps not, CNN's Jeff Greenfield on the long road ahead.

We have a long road ahead tonight. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Much of the news tonight revolves around the selling of the war in Iraq and the reality and here's another dose of reality. Today at the request of CNN, the Pentagon released a collection of numbers, 791 Americans wounded in combat since the war began, 211 Americans killed since the war began.

More troubling perhaps, 73 troops killed since major combat ended, 29 of those due to hostile action. That number and the chaos it stands for has become a central issue in Baghdad and in Washington and today before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld came in for a grilling.

Here's CNN's Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Rumsfeld faced frustration about the rising number of attacks on American troops in Iraq and the inability of the U.S. to stop them.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: I'm now concerned that we have the world's best trained soldiers serving as policemen in what seems to be a shooting gallery.

MCINTYRE: Frustration about the failure to find Saddam Hussein.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: Unless we capture or kill Saddam that our progress is going to be far slower.

RUMSFELD: I agree with that and I will say, however, that in answer to your question of what's the priority, the priority is very high.

MCINTYRE: There was frustration Rumsfeld wouldn't be nailed down on whether France and Germany were among the more than 70 countries asked to contribute troops to Iraq.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: Is Germany and France on the list?

RUMSFELD: I'll have to ask. I would suspect they are.

MCINTYRE: Frustration about what the war is costing.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Do you recall a figure? Can you give us an estimate?

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld's staff did come up with numbers, nearly $4 billion a month for Iraq and $900 million a month for Afghanistan, but Senator John McCain warned Rumsfeld his unwillingness to even guess at how many troops it will take and how long they will stay is making Americans uneasy.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: This whole issue of how long are they going to be there, the uncertainty, the seeing the pictures of the wounded or dead American soldiers are leading to this unease.

MCINTYRE: And there was the frustration Senators just back from Iraq heard from troops who still don't know when they're coming home.

COLLINS: And over and over I heard I'm proud of our mission. I helped free the Iraqi people but when do I get to go home?

MCINTYRE: In response, Rumsfeld himself sounded frustrated and made a plea for patience.

RUMSFELD: We all believe that it's important that it be done, that it's important we get other countries to participate in it. We intend to see it through and it's going to take some patience and when it's done it's going to have been darn well worth having done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: There are roughly 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and today Rumsfeld and the former U.S. Central Commander Tommy Franks said that would be the number that would be there for the "foreseeable future."

But, Rumsfeld did say that the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, some of the first troops into Baghdad, will be coming home. One brigade is already out of Iraq. One comes home next month and the following, the final brigade, in September, and Rumsfeld said that this week he'll be reviewing plans for rotation so that U.S. commanders can tell other troops in Iraq when they'll be coming home as well -- Aaron.

BROWN: Jamie, thank you, our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

Not long ago there was a city many said was ungovernable. People were dying there at a rate of six a day, many of them in a hail of automatic weapons fire. It's a city we know pretty well, and our next guest tonight was part of making it safe.

Bernard Kerik is the former police commissioner here in New York. He's now the top cop in Baghdad. It's good to see you again, commissioner. Thanks for joining us.

BERNARD KERIK, FMR. NYPD COMMISSIONER: Thank you.

BROWN: I saw a description the other day of what you have to go through to go out in Baghdad carrying a pistol, wearing a bulletproof vest, getting in an armored car. What has to happen in Baghdad for it to be safe?

KERIK: Well, I think a couple things have to happen. I think first and foremost we have to start collecting intelligence. We've been doing that much better over the last several weeks.

The Iraqi people are coming forward now and giving us intelligence on the resistance, on the Fedayeen, on the people out there that were loyal to Saddam, the people possessing weapons.

I think that's one of the most important issues right now and we have to make sure that we stand, back up the police. I oversee the ministry of interior. I have the police, customs, borders, immigration, fire, civil defense. We're standing up the police as quickly as possible. We have to bring back those that have left.

We have to retrain them because they weren't really a policing force and agency. We have to teach them how to police in a democratic and free society and that torture and human rights violations are not acceptable in a civil police service and it's going to take a little time to get there.

BROWN: Let's deal with both those questions. How damaging was it to the recruitment effort to have this attack last weekend on the police recruits that took place?

KERIK: Honestly, Aaron, it wasn't damaging at all. As a matter of fact, I think the Iraqis are extremely strong people. They're very courageous. They're very dedicated. I think that attack did nothing but make them angry.

That attack wasn't just an attack on the Iraqi police service but it was an attack on the Iraqi people and I think they see that. It wasn't just about the coalition. It was about Iraq, about the country of Iraq, an attack on Iraq and I think it's done nothing with the police but made them angry and want to take out these people that are resisting.

BROWN: Has it made it more difficult to find recruits?

KERIK: No, I don't think so. I haven't seen that. I haven't heard it. I was at our academy here in Baghdad and they're still pushing forward.

BROWN: On the other matter, it's a more complicated matter getting intelligence and cooperation. You started offering rewards, I think $2,500 for information, $2,500 is a lot of money in Baghdad these days. How do you vet the information you get?

KERIK: Well, the information comes into either the ministry of interior or the military. It goes through a vetting process and then we basically go out and start looking for the people that the information was given on.

Over the last few weeks, as you may have heard, we arrested the former minister of interior. We arrested Sabh Hamerza (ph) who was the chief bodyguard for Saddam. We've taken a number of weapons off the streets and the military personnel here, the 150,000 troops that are in this country, they're doing that every single day.

They're taking people off the streets. They're taking weapons off the streets. The people in the United States don't see that. What they see is one attack here, one attack there. They don't see all the really beneficial work that the military has been doing.

BROWN: That's probably a fair point but I did see today a number that on average there are 13 attacks on Americans each and every day. That's a little bit more than an attack here and an attack there.

KERIK: Well, when you look at, you have to look at the country, Aaron. There's 5.6, between 5.6 and six million people in this country. Are there attacks? Yes. Is there resistance? Yes. There's going to be resistance.

These people have lost their power. They've lost their jobs. They can no longer oppress this country and they're fighting back. They're going to fight basically to their death because that's what's going to happen. The coalition is not leaving.

We have to be patient and I have to refer back to the attack on the Towers. You know, the attack on the World Trade Center was not the first attack to the United States. It happened in '93. It happened in the embassies. It happened on the Cole. The terrorists and the people that ran this country they're very patient. We have to be patient as well and we have to make a free Iraq.

BROWN: Commissioner, it's good to talk to you. Stay safe out there. Thank you very much.

KERIK: Thanks, Aaron.

BROWN: Commissioner Bernard Kerik, former top cop here in New York trying to put a police department together in Iraq.

Coming up on NEWSNIGHT, the investigation into the 9/11 attacks, why answers aren't so easy to come by.

A little bit later, the push to see the California Gray Davis on the unemployment lines.

Take a break, around the world, this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

* BROWN: The comedian Dennis Miller recently summed up the mood in California pretty well, we thought. It's no longer the San Andreas Fault. It's Gray Davis' fault.

These are trying days for Governor Davis, who seems like he is getting more than a beating, certainly more than anything Schwarzenegger doled out in "Terminator 3." The anti-Davis insurgents now say they have more than enough signatures to force a recall election. They would like to throw him out. Now, some have made what comes next sound as simple as ordering the chef's combo off a Chinese menu. We assure you, it's not.

Jeff Greenfield has been looking into all of this. He joins us tonight from California.

Is it in fact a whole lot more complicated than it might seem at first blush?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: It is astonishingly complicated and astonishingly complicated in part because it's never happened before in California. It hasn't happened anywhere in America in 80 years. And their system is -- as I'll show you in a minute, is completely bizarre.

What I think we can say is, it's almost certainly true that the recall will qualify. Back in February, nobody thought that would happen. That was before Congressman Darrell Issa dumped about $1 million into this effort. I think the people who are collecting the signatures are going to have more than enough to qualify.

The next key question is: When? It will either be in the fall, as a special election. That will be bad news for Davis, because it will turn out the more intense voters. Or it could happen in March on the same date as the Democratic presidential primary. That's obviously better news for Davis. But then, when you start asking, who's going to run, who's not going to run, and what happens, that's where you get a giant, "We really don't know." But the possibilities are fascinating.

BROWN: All right, wait. Stop there for a second. We're talking about two votes, right, the first vote to recall him? And then, assuming here for a second that the governor is in fact recalled, then there is this sort of free-for-all, and whoever gets the most votes, majority or not, wins, right?

GREENFIELD: You bet.

And voters have never faced this before. You go in, and the first question is, do you want Davis to stay or not? If a majority vote no, he's out. That's it. Then you go to part two. Who do you want? Anybody with 3,500 bucks and 65 signatures, or 10,000 signatures if you don't have the money, can get on the ballot -- no primary, no run-off, first past the post.

If 85 percent vote for somebody else and you get the most votes at 15, you are the next governor for the next three years.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: I am sorry, Jeff. Is that the same election, or is that a different election on a different day after a campaign?

GREENFIELD: Same day.

BROWN: Same day?

GREENFIELD: Same day, same ballot.

BROWN: All right. So then we start to look at who might run on either side. Will the Democrats, defensively, put up someone other than Gray Davis to protect themselves if he's recalled?

GREENFIELD: Mr. Brown, you have asked the $64 million question.

BROWN: Well, there you go.

GREENFIELD: That is going to be an agonizing question, because the Democrats all so far have said: We are not running. This is a right-wing coup. This is reversing the result of an election. It's a terrible process.

But if this recall qualifies, and the Democrats don't put anybody on the ballot, the odds are that a Republican is going to be the next governor, because I don't think Darrell Issa, who is going to run, is going to be the only Republican. Former Los Angeles Mayor Riordan, who is much more moderate, more acceptable to Democrats, might run. Arnold Schwarzenegger might run. And he has a record here of involvement in public policy. He is not just an actor.

And so the Democrats have to sit and play this like a Texas no- limit hold 'em game: Do we bluff? Do we push all in? And then who? Who goes in, the lieutenant governor, Senator Feinstein? Because the more credible the Democrat on the ballot, the worse it is for Davis, because people can feel, well, we can get rid of him and get a better guy. It's amazing.

BROWN: Yes. So what's going to happen, Jeff, in 30 seconds?

GREENFIELD: I love these questions.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENFIELD: God, you have a career in television journalism, don't you?

BROWN: Thank you.

GREENFIELD: OK, what I think the betting is, if you really talk to people super off the record on the Democratic side, one of possibilities is, if it looks like Davis is going down and he resigns before the recall is certified, the recall is off. And there might be a lot of pressure for him to do that.

If he doesn't do that, I think, at some point, a Democrat may say, we got to have somebody on the ballot. Beyond that, I think I should move out here for the next two months and cover this.

BROWN: Gee, can I join you? Thank you, Jeff Greenfield out in Sacramento tonight, a story that is just beginning.

A few other stories from around the country, beginning with the arrest of elementary school vice principal. Police say Vincent Brothers was arrested on probable cause of five counts of homicide, the shooting deaths of his wife, mother-in-law and three children, five bodies discovered yesterday morning, Bakersfield, California. He was arrested today in North Carolina.

The latest on the flooding in the Midwest: In Decatur, Indiana, hundreds of homes have been flooded or threatened by floodwaters. Streams were out of their banks in parts of Ohio, too, where some areas have gotten 15 inches of rain since Friday. Evacuations are under way north of Indianapolis. As one official said, they have just gotten the football team to start sandbagging.

And one more weather story tonight: Tropical Storm Claudette, which was moving today across the Caribbean towards the Yucatan Peninsula, storm alerts in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and parts of Mexico, Claudette's top winds about 65 miles an hour. Forecasters said it's likely to hit the Yucatan just under hurricane strength.

Still to come on NEWSNIGHT: the first sign of American presence in Liberia and a warm welcome that followed that, and more.

This is NEWSNIGHT from New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Much more ahead tonight, including duck, salt, and tea, and what they have in common.

This is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Love those things.

There were public hearings held today by the independent commission investigating the attacks on September 11, but a lot of it, frankly, we have all heard before, broad strokes about the roots of terrorism and not much about what's been learned about the attacks themselves in the search for answers. Some advocates say it is obviously -- it is obvious why the commission hasn't gotten enough of what it really needs to begin investigating.

In a careful and diplomatic way, that's what two men leading the commission told us on the program last night. Some Democrats today were a good less diplomatic.

Here's CNN's Bob Franken.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While the commission seeks answers to what failures contributed to the September 11 attacks, its leaders have gone public about its behind-the-scenes wrestling match for access to classified material. And chairman Thomas Kean ratcheted up the pressure just a bit by using the S word.

TOM KEAN, CHAIRMAN, 9-11 COMMISSION: We don't want to use it. We have ultimately, of course, got the power of subpoena. But we would much rather have this done voluntarily and work with the various agencies in that way.

FRANKEN: There are battles over documents by the thousands, over access to key intelligence agents, over questioning them without their bosses in the room. And now that the commission has stirred the pot, some Democrats are only too glad to join in.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I am urging the inspectors general at the Pentagon and the Justice Department to probe whether witnesses are being intimidated and if information is being provided on a timely basis.

FRANKEN: The administration continues to insist, it is cooperating.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have provided thousands and thousands of documents and we will continue to perform in that way.

FRANKEN: Now that the commission has created their political tempest, they sailed head with a public hearing that featured only the ever-present experts.

ROHAN GUNARATNA, GLOBAL TERRORISM EXPERT: There was more than an intelligence failure. There was an operational failure. There was a failure to act. You knew that your country will be attacked, but you did not do what was necessary to prevent your country being harmed and humiliated.

FRANKEN (on camera): By law, the commission has until next May to report on those failures, which is why it is struggling to get the essential information from the various agencies whose roles will be described in that report.

Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: A statement from the military's Central Command caught our eye this afternoon, the man in charge of handling the press saying a decision is near on sending embedded correspondents to Liberia, this as the question of troops to embed them with remains very much on the table, the answer in part depending on what the scouting mission discovers.

And here's what it found in its second day in the country, as reported by CNN's Brent Sadler.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A chaotic welcome in Monrovia for what Liberians call their big brother, the United States. CROWD: We want peace!

SADLER: The U.S. military fact-finders in civilian clothes mobbed by ecstatic Liberian refugees displaced by war. But the adulation is aimed over the heads of this small survey team. It's directed at President George W. Bush, or Bush, as they pronounce his name here.

CAPT. ROGER COLDIRON, U.S. TEAM LEADER: I think it's astounding. I think it's absolutely wonderful.

SADLER (on camera): So, this is the first showing of an American presence on the ground here in Liberia among the people. What they're shouting here is: "No more war. We want peace." And they want the Americans to help bring it about in any way they can.

(voice-over): And the survey team is listening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love that they come. And we appreciate them, because we know, when they come, there will be peace.

SADLER: Supposedly at low risk to American lives -- at least, that's what embattled President Charles Taylor boldly predicts.

CHARLES TAYLOR, LIBERIAN PRESIDENT: No one will fire a shot at the United States. The United States must seize this opportunity to act and act correctly.

SADLER: It won't be like Somalia, he says, a decade ago, where U.S. forces were mangled by a ruthless warlord. In Liberia, the product of American slavery, it's payback time. Liberians expect help from their big brother.

TAYLOR: We will feel insulted if we were to even be slightly compared with Somalia. Everything here is American, everything.

SADLER: And it shows: respect for a lone-star Liberian flag resembling the stars and stripes and respect for American presidents past in a war-torn and impoverished nation with American roots.

Brent Sadler, CNN, Monrovia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Still ahead on NEWSNIGHT, we're going back for seconds. It's all about the newest and hottest food concoctions -- I don't think I have ever said concoctions on the program -- at the Fancy Food Show, and then, of course, a glimpse into the future, morning headlines, tomorrow morning's headlines, as seen only on NEWSNIGHT.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We know that there must be some downers to being the editor in chief of "Gourmet" magazine. There has to be, right? But we'll be darned if we can think of any of them. We spent a day with the woman who holds that job, a job that inspires pure extroversion, free-rein envy. It's a lot for us, Ruth Reichl, whose chores include tasting the delights of the Fancy Food Show held last week in New York. It's the best of what may soon show up at your local fancy food store.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUTH REICHL, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "GOURMET": Everybody who makes all kinds of weird little jams, the new cookies, the latest hot food that you're going to find at your gourmet store are here, hoping to be the next big thing.

I'm Ruth Reichl. I'm the editor in chief of "Gourmet" magazine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tea latte from Togo. It's a brand new product.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tea is the second most popular drink in the world.

REICHL: That is something you're going to be seeing a lot of, is variations on tea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you guys know about the white teas? You know it's got more of the potent antioxidants than the green.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't like this one.

REICHL: It's something so sort of sad. Here we are at the Fancy Food Show. And we have seen sugar-free, fat-free, carbohydrate-free.

One of the things that's happening is, everybody wants food that is without. Here, we've got fat-free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a very lean meat.

REICHL: What is this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a duck stick.

REICHL: A duck stick?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

REICHL: Ducks have always been sort of scary to cook, because they give off a lot of fat. We don't really know how to cook them. One of the things that I've really noticed this year at the Fancy Food Show is that there are a lot of companies who are making duck easier to use for a home cook.

The condiment of choice has gotten down to salt. We went through vinegar. And now we're going into salt. And that's the next wardrobe that the cook wants to have. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sea salt comes from the Trapani salt flats area of Sicily. The people who actually produce our salts still use windmills.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are organic, kosher and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) peanut butters without hydrogenated fats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We make the only pet food in the world that's approved for humans to eat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is our new one, sparkle with edible glitter, new at this show.

REICHL: One of the things that really happened is that, as Americans have turned into yogurt eaters...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you like that?

REICHL: Yes.

American yogurt has become sweeter and sweeter and lost its yogurt-like character. It's created an opening for real yogurt.

There are so many foods that are still waiting there for us to come and discover them and so many spices and so many combinations of spices. We have barely scratched the surface of what is out there for us to find.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: The food show.

Morning papers after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: That's about the only thing that's worked right tonight. Well, we didn't read the program very well. Let's see how we ad-lib. Morning papers from around the world and around the country, or whatever it is I say. Okeydokey, here we go.

The "Chicago Sun-Times" leads it off tonight: "Feds: Saddam Had Spy In Suburbs." Oak Lawn man allegedly gathered info on Hussein's foes here, the big story in the "Sun-Times." Down at the bottom -- I like this, by the way. I like the headline. I'm not sure I am crazy about the story. We're getting old and fat. It's enough to make your blood pressure rise. I gather blood pressures are up. They've done some survey. Weather in Chicago, if you're there tomorrow, "Yeah, baby" is the weather.

"The Detroit News" today, sad new in the city of Detroit to report: "Detroit Shrinks to 925,000 people." The population loss since 2000 is the sharpest of any big U.S. city, erodes the state's clout. By the way, there is a car story, an auto story, on the front page of "The Detroit News." That probably will surprise you. Down at the bottom: "Ford Insider Gets CFO Job." You've been dying to know that. And it must be. The food section comes out tomorrow, and the food of week -- I always wonder how they figure out what food to focus on in any given week -- it's bacon. Bacon beats its bad rap in "The Detroit News" tomorrow.

"The Oregonian" out in Portland, Oregon. By the way, this is the Northwest edition of "The Oregonian," which sort of makes sense, because that's where Oregon is, out in the Northwest. Big story: "Nike Makes Bid For Converse," Converse who made -- probably still does -- Chuck Taylor basketball shoes.

But the big story: "Growth of Cities Defies Economy." Portland and the area around Portland continues to grow, but some of the outlying areas -- I have a good friend who lives in the outlying area, lives in Bend, Oregon. She is not going to be very happy to read the quote from some guy who say Bend has lost its ambiance. She tells me it's a great place to live. Anyway, that will be big news in Oregon.

How we are doing on time? Oh, man, we are in trouble tonight.

"The "Washington Times" down at the bottom. We never see the other paper from Washington. Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader: "Appetites Are Ingredients of Book." That's their Korea story. That's just one of many. But that's all we're going to do tonight.

Glad you were with us. Back tomorrow at 10:00 Eastern time. Until then, good night for all of us at NEWSNIGHT.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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