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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Cruz Bustamante; Interview With Tom McClintock; Hutchison, Corzine Discuss Iraq

Aired August 31, 2003 - 12:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Paris and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.
In just a few minutes, we'll talk about California's recall election with the apparent front-runner, the state's lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante. But first, let's check in with CNN reporters covering the hour's top stories around the world.

And we begin in Iraq where at least a dozen people are in custody for questioning about Friday's car bombing in the city of Najaf that killed at least 100 people, wounded 500 others. CNN's Ben Wedeman is following all of these late-breaking developments. He's on the scene for us in Najaf right now -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, I just got back from a press conference with the governor, the Iraqi governor of Najaf, in which he made -- he shared some details of the investigation, some of them somewhat contradictory.

What he told us was that the number of suspects they have in custody at this point does not exceed the number of fingers on his hands, in his word. He said that all those in custody are Iraqis.

Now, that somewhat contradicts what I heard from a coalition officer who is a liaison with the Iraqi police here, who told me his understanding was that there are two individuals in custody, as far as they know, and those individuals are non-Iraqi Arabs. Somewhat confusing.

Now, the governor also said that it was not one car bomb that went off on Friday right after prayers, but rather two car bombs, containing a total of 700 kilograms of high explosives.

Now, he also said that, at this point, the Iraqi police are receiving training, 400 of them who will take up positions around the Imam Ali Mosque from now on, in fact, as a permanent security force at that site.

And here, of course, in Najaf, the city is bracing for the funeral on Tuesday for the late Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim. Many hundreds of thousands are expected to attend -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ben Wedeman, right in the middle of things over there. Thanks, Ben, very much. We'll be checking back with you, obviously. The situation in Iraq is, of course, one of the key issues President Bush is grappling with as he settles back here in Washington after a month-long working vacation in Texas.

Our senior White House correspondent, John King, of course is on the beat for us. He is joining us now live from the White House -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good afternoon to you.

The White House knows full well the president is about to face a rash of skeptical questions from the Congress. Mr. Bush back in Washington after nearly a month, his working vacation in Crawford. He did take some time to go to church this morning.

As the president weighs his options, administration officials say one urgent effort is to try to get more Iraqis -- you just heard Ben Wedeman discussing it -- more Iraqi police, more Iraqi military officials, an Iraqi face, if you will, in the security environment inside Iraq. But that will take time and it will take money to get that training up and running.

Some encouraging news, from the White House perspective. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, saying over the weekend that he would be open to the U.S. staying in command of a multinational force inside Iraq. But President Putin says the United Nations Security Council will have to act first.

As the administration continues that diplomacy, tough and skeptical questions from Democrats being raised. Among them, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, one of the Democrats running for president, he says he can see a quagmire down the road in Iraq. He says the administration has been arrogant in its diplomacy so far.

Look for tough questions on Capitol Hill, Wolf, as the administration comes up, if not this week then within the next 10 days or so, with a $3 billion emergency spending request to keep the reconstruction effort up and running.

The president back in Washington. Some tough questions about to come -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John King at the White House.

Thanks, John, very much.

And we'll have much more on the situation in Iraq. That's coming up on LATE EDITION. Two key U.S. senators will be joining us, as will the former defense secretary, William Cohen.

But now, let's turn to a huge political story here in the United States, the California recall election that's scheduled for October 7th. That's only five weeks away or so. As the state's governor, Gray Davis, fights desperately to hold on to his job, a growing number of his fellow Democrats who oppose the recall are also lining up behind the candidacy of Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante.

A Los Angeles Times poll shows Bustamante leading the top Republican candidate right now, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 35 to 22 percent. Even Governor Davis is now suggesting that a Bustamante candidacy could help him, that is, Gray Davis, stay in office.

Joining us now from Sacramento is the lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante.

Lieutenant Governor, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thanks very much for joining us.

A lot of people are suggesting...

LT. GOV. CRUZ BUSTAMANTE (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Wolf, thank you for inviting me.

BLITZER: Thank you for joining us, once again.

A lot of people are suggesting this is your single best opportunity, perhaps ever, to become the governor of California. Part of you must be hoping that Gray Davis goes down and is recalled.

BUSTAMANTE: Wolf, the reason that this is such an important election isn't about Gray Davis or Cruz Bustamante. The reason that this election is so important is that this recall process, it's been abused, and it's been basically a hijacking of democracy.

But more important than that, the kinds of values that I bring and the kinds of values that are brought forward in that position as the Democratic governor is a very important position to hold. If people want to make sure and defend a woman's right to choose, if you want to make sure that we're going to protect our coastal legacy, if you're going to make sure that good public education is going to continue in California, it's a very important decision that the voters have to make.

BLITZER: A lot of people are suggesting that you trying desperately, obviously, to win if the recall goes down. You say vote against the recall, but vote yes for Bustamante.

BUSTAMANTE: Well, of course, I'm in competition, Wolf, with three other major candidates. There is two pieces of this ballot. There is going to be the recall question, and the governor is going to make his case to the voters, and they going to decide on that particular question separately.

And then there's the other -- there's a second question that the voters are going to have to decide between three or four, the major candidates that are here before the voters. And they're going to be looking for each and every one of us to present clear, crisp ideas, but more importantly, plans on how to resolve the major problems of the state of California.

BLITZER: The money that you're raising, Lieutenant Governor, what percentage of the money that you are raising -- and you're raising millions of dollars -- will go to help you win Part B, the second part of the ballot to win the election if the recall goes through, and how much are you going to spend, the money at your fingertips, to try to help Governor Davis stay in office?

BUSTAMANTE: Well, you know, I admire Arnold's physique, but right now during the campaign I'd much rather have his checkbook. But the point is we're going to try to raise, in the next 30 days, we're going to try to raise around $10 million, $12 million.

Unfortunately one of those candidates that has to request funds from all the people in the state of California to be financially competitive. I'm not one of those millionaire candidates, like on the other side of the aisle, that can just write any size check they want.

So I'm asking people to help me, to join me, wherever you're at in the state of California, small checks, big checks, please. If you like the kind of values that I bring, if you like the kind of ideas that I bring, please make sure that you reach out and help me in my effort.

BLITZER: Well, is all that $10 million, $12 million, whatever you raise, going to help you get elected in case the recall goes through, or are you going to spend some of that, and if you are, what percentage are you going to you spend to try to help Gray Davis stay in office?

BUSTAMANTE: There's very, very specific rules in California. My campaign is no on the recall, yes on Bustamante, and depending on how exactly you do everything on your campaign, I can use some of those no-on-the-recall funds along with the yes-on-Bustamante campaign in order to be able to advance my candidacy.

I'm in competition not with Gray Davis, I'm in competition with Arnold, Tom and Peter. And I'm going to try to make sure I use every single dollar that I possibly can to compete with them, and frankly, the kind of ideas that I bring -- bringing out.

From the very first week that I started, I talked about how we can resolve the issue of the car tax, resolve it now. We don't have to wait for another budget process. We can resolve it. And if the Republicans frankly don't want to go along with it, we can resolve it without them.

Second, the next week, I presented a whole plan on how to deal with the budget deficit, a major piece that took care of the hole in our budget, an $8 billion hole, that restored education funding and resolved the tax-car issue. I think that those are the kinds of issues that people want to hear from all of us.

BLITZER: Lieutenant Governor, I want to move on...

BUSTAMANTE: Yes. BLITZER: ... but a quick question on the campaign fund-raising. Some are suggesting you're skirting around a loophole, Proposition 34, which went through a year or so -- two years ago, that was supposed to put restrictions on, but you've found a way to avoid those restrictions.

What do you say to those who are suggesting that you've found a loophole to help you raise almost unlimited sums of money?

BUSTAMANTE: Wolf, the attorney who wrote Proposition 34 is the person that I retained. We're following the rules. We're following the law. If the law is a certain way, we'll follow that. And we're going to make sure that we follow it to the letter and the spirit of the law.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to what Governor Davis said to me on this program last week, when he was coy about whether or not he would vote for you on the whole recall Election Day. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I have a lot of confidence in Cruz Bustamante, and I think that he's the most qualified person on question number two.

But because this recall is about removing the governor from office, and I don't think the reasons stated are sufficient under law, I think the cost is extraordinary, and I really believe we open Pandora's box...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. I know there's been a lot of speculation, no love lost between you and the governor in California politics. But are you disappointed he's not going so far as many other Democrats in your state are going, and saying, let's have this insurance policy, vote for Cruz Bustamante in case he's recalled?

BUSTAMANTE: I think I present a really good and positive alternative on the second question, on the question that deals with the successor candidate. I'm not in competition with Gray. Gray is going to be talking to the voters about what he's done and how he's going to look forward in the future, and they're going to decide that question separately.

I'm in competition with Arnold, Tom and Peter. And basically, I need to make sure that I present my ideas and focus on making sure that we're going to deal with these issues in a way that people understand, not just concepts, not just beginnings, but complete ideas on how we solve major problems here in California. That's my job.

BLITZER: Speaking about Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the Republican candidates, this is what he said about you the other day at a radio interview. He said, "Bustamante is Gray Davis with a receding hairline and with a moustache. It's the same person, same philosophy." What do you say to Arnold Schwarzenegger about that?

BUSTAMANTE: Well, first of all, I say, all you receding men in California, unite. So I'm your candidate.

(LAUGHTER)

But secondly, more seriously, what we're looking at is, people are going to look at each and every one of us in terms of the way we're going to present ourselves. If they want to get into a negative campaigning, that's fine. They can do whatever they want to do.

A lot of reporters are asking about his past. You know, I'm not worried about what his private life has been. I'm worried about what his public life is. I'm worried about the kind of attacks that he's making on immigrants, him being an immigrant himself.

You know, when I was speaker, I took on Pete Wilson because he didn't want to give food stamps to legal kids who were here. Then I took on Gray Davis, as many know, about the issue of Proposition 187.

So, if I took on Pete Wilson and I took on Gray Davis, Arnold better understand that he's not going to get a pass. In fact, immigrants in this state, they pay $1,400 a year more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

As far as I'm concerned, Arnold's going back to the same wedge- issue politics that his mentor Pete Wilson suggested to the state of California. It was a time of division in California. He's wrong in doing this. And he's not going to get a pass from me. We're going to take him on.

BLITZER: We have to leave it right there. Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante of California, thanks very much for joining us.

BUSTAMANTE: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Up next, many Republicans are counting on Arnold Schwarzenegger to win California's state house, but will GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom McClintock stand in the actor-turned- politician's way? We'll talk with the state senator about the battle for California.

Then, terror in Iraq. Is the U.S.-led coalition losing the peace? We'll get an assessment from two key U.S. senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Jon Corzine.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Many California Republicans are saying Arnold Schwarzenegger represents their party's best chance to win the governorship, should Gray Davis be recalled. But not all of the GOP faithful are backing the actor's candidacy. Republican state senator and gubernatorial candidate Tom McClintock is counting on the support of Republican conservatives. He's joining us now from Sacramento.

Senator McClintock, welcome to LATE EDITION.

And as we welcome you, let's put up on the screen the latest Los Angeles Times poll that's been out or so for about a week. It shows, obviously, Bustamante well ahead with 35 percent, Schwarzenegger at 22. You're down at 12 percent. Two other Republicans, Peter Ueberroth and Bill Simon, Bill Simon who's since dropped out, down at seven and six.

Are you in this race even if the polls continue to show you're a distant third?

TOM MCCLINTOCK (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, actually, the polls are showing that I'm the only one with momentum. I've gone from an asterisk to double digits in the span of just a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, Arnold, despite unprecedented media coverage, continues to hover in the mid to low 20s, according to every major poll in this state. If Bill Simon's supporters rally to my campaign, we're in a statistical dead heat with Arnold.

BLITZER: And do you see any evidence that that is happening?

MCCLINTOCK: Yes, well, we've got a lot of anecdotal evidence. We'll wait until the next polls to come out. But Bill and I share very, very similar views on the broad range of issues facing California. I think it's natural that his voters would migrate to my campaign.

BLITZER: You know what, many of the Democrats are saying, divide and conquer, that if the Republican votes can be split between, let's say, you and Peter Ueberroth and Arnold Schwarzenegger, that's great news for Cruz Bustamante.

MCCLINTOCK: Well, the reason we have a campaign is so that the people can sort all of that out. I happen to believe he ought have to a campaign first, and then let the voters decide who wins it.

BLITZER: Because if you add up in that recent L.A. Times poll the votes for Republican candidates, or at least the leading Republican candidates, you wind up getting, what, 47 percent compared to 35 percent for Cruz Bustamante.

How much pressure is being put on you, if any at all, by Republican leaders in the state of California or the White House, the national Republican Party, for you to drop out like Bill Simon did?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, I read in the newspapers that the pressure is growing, and I have to think if the pressure is growing that means I must be gaining. I have not received any direct calls, but I do read all the press speculation.

I will say this, if the momentum continues, we could well pull even, or even begin to pull ahead of Arnold Schwarzenegger within the next two or three weeks, and I am prepared at the appropriate time to accept Arnold's endorsement.

BLITZER: What's wrong with Arnold Schwarzenegger, as far as you're concerned?

MCCLINTOCK: Oh, I'm very concerned about a number of things. Most importantly that he has surrounded himself with the same team that imposed the biggest tax increase by any state in American history right here in California in 1991, a tax increase every bit as big as the one that Cruz Bustamante has proposed. His chief fiscal adviser...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt for one second, point out that very good conservatives like David Dreier, who's going to be on this show later, Republican member of Congress from California, or Dana Rohrabacher, another conservative Republican, they're supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger. They say he's the single best hope for a Republican governor in California.

MCCLINTOCK: Well, they've been wrong before, and they're wrong this time, Wolf, and we'll prove them wrong in the next 37 days.

BLITZER: Let me read to you from an editorial that appeared in the Washington Times this past Thursday. It said this, among other things: "In this election, Mr. McClintock has hardly raised any money. Mr. Schwarzenegger's press shop probably has more staff than Mr. McClintock's entire campaign. If Mr. McClintock cannot organize a professional campaign, people will ask can he organize state government. Still, it is conceivable that Mr. McClintock could cost Mr. Schwarzenegger the election."

Those are pretty strong words from the Washington Times.

MCCLINTOCK: Well, Wolf, first of all, we're raising more money from our Internet site at helptom.com than Howard Dean is raising running for the White House. So I'm very confident that my strength among small contributors is a solid foundation.

Let me remind you that in the last election I was the top Republican vote-getter in California. I received more Democratic crossover votes, more independent votes, more total votes than any other Republican on the ticket, despite the fact I was running against a multimillionaire in that race who outspent me by more than a five- to-one margin.

BLITZER: What do you say about the positions that Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken on several of the hot-button social issues? For example, abortion rights for women, he supports abortion rights. Gun control, he's in favor of gun control, moreso than you are. Gay rights, for example, much more liberal on that issue than you are.

Are those issues that are going to turn off the mainstream conservatives, the backers that you have out there?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, anyone who makes a decision based on those issues is going to have a very clear choice.

BLITZER: Well, are you concerned, for example, that he's too moderate on those issues, he's not necessarily even that good a Republican?

MCCLINTOCK: No, my concern, Wolf, is he's got Warren Buffett as his chief financial adviser, probably the most outspoken advocate for higher taxes in the country. He has refused repeatedly -- every time he's been asked to take a no-tax pledge, he has pointedly refused to do so. I am very concerned about what Arnold Schwarzenegger would do once the election is over.

It's a two-thirds vote in California to raise taxes. When a Democrat proposes it, Republicans always unite and stop him. When a Republican, if there is a Republican governor with the mind to raise taxes in this state, he can always find enough Republicans in the legislature to combine with the Democrats and make those tax increases happen. That would be devastating to California.

And the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger has surrounded himself with the people that he has, and the fact that he has refused to take a no-tax pledge, leaves me very concerned about the future of California if he's elected governor.

BLITZER: Are you concerned about the fact that he is married to a Kennedy, namely Maria Shriver?

MCCLINTOCK: No, I think wives are off-limits. That has nothing to do with the issues confronting California.

BLITZER: What about the comments that he made in the 1970s, when he was still a bodybuilder, in Oui magazine that's caused a big uproar out in California, indeed around the United States, this week, some rather graphic comments he made involving sex, among other issues?

I want to play a sound bite for what he said reacting to that Oui magazine article in California earlier in the week. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know what they're talking about. But on top of that, I'm here to push my economic agenda. I'm here to listen to the people. I'm here to have a rally in Fresno. That's what I'm doing. I'm not paying any attention to all of those things. I have no memory of any of the articles I did 20 or 30 years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He also says, among other things, he said he never lived his life in those days as if he were a politician. He said, I never lived my life to be governor of California.

Do you accept those explanations?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, I admit I didn't have as colorful a youth as Arnold Schwarzenegger. I think he was 29 when that interview was done. When I was 29, I was the Republican whip in the California state assembly, serving my second term in the state legislature.

But I do believe that that interview is irrelevant to the policy discussions going on in California over the future direction of our state. That's what matters in this election.

BLITZER: One final question, Senator, before I let you go. Bill Simon, the Republican who dropped out, do you have any indication he might endorse you? Because so far he hasn't endorsed any of the Republican candidates.

MCCLINTOCK: I don't know. He's keeping his options open. I certainly would welcome the support of Bill Simon and certainly the support of all of his voters. And, again, I believe that if they do rally to my campaign, we will be in a statistical dead heat with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

BLITZER: Senator McClintock, thanks for joining us.

MCCLINTOCK: Thanks very much.

BLITZER: Just ahead, targeting terror: What can the United States do to halt the mounting attacks in Iraq? We'll get two assessments from U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and Jon Corzine.

And you can weigh in on our Web question of the week: Who should lead a multinational force in Iraq, the United States or the United Nations? You can cast your vote by going to our website, cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results later in this program.

LATE EDITION will continue right after a quick check of the headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

There have been a number of arrests in connection with Friday's car bombing in the Iraqi city of Najaf. That attack killed at least 100 people, including a leading Muslim cleric.

Joining us now from Baghdad is National Public Radio's Ivan Watson. He was an eyewitness to the bombing.

Ivan, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to LATE EDITION.

What were you doing in Najaf at the time?

IVAN WATSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I was doing a political story on schisms among the Shia clerics who are based in that city. I had been meeting with the family of Hakim, who one of the leading ayatollahs from that family, a different one, had actually been injured by a bomb just six days prior to that massive explosion on Friday.

And I was actually interviewing a person in the square next to the Imam Ali Mosque when that explosion happened. I was asking him, did he think there would be more violence in Najaf, perhaps against some of the clerics in that city?

BLITZER: So you were pretty close to the actual bombing. What did you see? What did you hear? Describe the scene to us.

WATSON: Well, you had thousands of people there. It was peak prayer time. People prostrated on their prayer rugs. There are so many people inside the mosque that hundreds were outside.

And the sermon had just ended that Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir Hakim was giving. And suddenly there was this flash of fire that erupted into the air a good 30 feet, higher than the wall of the mosque, which is quite imposing, and smoke and then that thunder clap, which knocked many people between myself and the explosion itself to the ground.

And then there was just panic. It was people fleeing the scene, people weeping. There were people with blood on their clothes. It was really horrific and truly one of the more terrifying things I've ever experienced.

BLITZER: So you actually were fearful for your own safety, for perhaps even your own life?

WATSON: Absolutely. I was checking myself for any possible shrapnel wounds. Just after the explosion, I was checking my translator who was quite stunned and was knocked down by the explosion. And then I had a colleague who was actually praying inside the mosque. I had to look for him.

Thankfully those walls were so large that they protected the more than a thousand people, I estimate, who were praying inside. That would have been truly a bloodbath if they had been hit.

As it was, the explosion was centered in a very busy marketplace full of book sellers and street merchants. And that's where the brunt of the damage was, and that area was absolutely decimated. Second- floor buildings that were crumbled to the ground, a number of vehicles destroyed. That's where all of that damage and the loss of life took place.

BLITZER: There is no doubt that the Shia, who are, of course, the majority in Iraq, about 60 percent, most of them hated Saddam Hussein. But what is their attitude, as far as you could tell, Ivan, toward the U.S. and the coalition forces right now?

WATSON: Well, there's a lot of frustration with the U.S. Many blame the U.S. for the climate of insecurity and instability. They say that these kind of terrorist attacks couldn't happen if it wasn't for the U.S. But at the same time, they're enjoying more freedom now than they've ever really had before. They couldn't congregate like they are doing now under Saddam Hussein.

I've heard just today people not blaming the U.S. directly for the attack, but their anger pointed more toward Wahhabi Sunni Muslims, the Wahhabi sect, toward Saudi Arabia, toward Israel. And then further down the list today from mourners, the thousands that gathered here in Baghdad, was the United States.

BLITZER: Ivan Watson doing an excellent job of reporting for National Public Radio. We're grateful, of course, that you came through this incident untouched -- thanks very much -- at least physically, that is.

Ivan Watson of NPR, thanks very much for joining us from Baghdad.

Let's turn now to two key members of the United States Senate. In her home state of Texas is Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. She's just back from Iraq, as well. And in New York is New Jersey Democratic Senator Jon Corzine. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senators, good to have both of you on LATE EDITION.

Senator Hutchison, you were there at the time of the bombing, the terrorist bombing, of the U.N. headquarters. How close were you at the time when that horrible incident occurred?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Well, we were about five miles away. We were in the coalition headquarters, which is the former Saddam Hussein big palace. So we were not there on the scene. But it did send ripples throughout the building, because of course everyone knew these were humanitarian workers, and it was just incomprehensible that they would be targeted.

BLITZER: And there was a quick decision at that time to get you and your colleagues out of the country, to speed up your departure. Is that right?

HUTCHISON: Actually, we stayed and met with the Iraqi Governing Council, because we wanted to hear what they thought. And they, you know, they're trying very hard to get out there. And there was a piece by one of them in The Washington Post this morning saying that we've got to have more Iraqi faces on what's going on there, which is exactly what we're trying to do.

BLITZER: Senator Corzine, let's put some poll numbers up. Our recent CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, two questions, how things are going in Iraq. Look how deeply divided the American public is. Well, 50 percent. Badly, 49 percent.

Does President Bush have a clear plan for handling Iraq? Look at this one: 44 percent say yes, 54 percent say no.

Where do you stand on those two questions? SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, first of all, I think all of us are concerned about the humanitarian loss of life. This is heartbreaking, what we see taking place, the violence that's unfolding.

I don't think we had a plan in place that allowed for the kind of challenges that we've seen, guerrilla-like challenges, both from remnants from the Saddam regime, the infiltration from outside terrorists. I don't think we planned for that appropriately.

I think there's a real debate that we needed more troops on the ground. I completely concur with Senator Hutchison that we need to have more Iraqi faces, more Muslim faces involved in providing for the security.

But I don't think we properly allocated resources, whether it's people or financial resources, or prepared the American people for it. And I think those poll numbers are reflecting that exactly.

BLITZER: And, Senator Hutchison, did the U.S. government, the Bush administration miscalculate the post-war environment, what might happen? They obviously had a good military plan going into the conflict, won decisively rather easily, with hindsight, but a lot of people wondering, did they have a plan in place to get the job done after the war?

HUTCHISON: I don't think it was anticipated that we would have the terrorists coming in from Syria and Saudi Arabia and Iran in the numbers that they have been, and the remnants of the Saddam Hussein leadership that continue to fester and hurt their own people, which they've been doing for 30 years and are continuing to do.

Now I think we need to acknowledge that this is happening, and go forward, and put the resources in, and ask for help from other countries.

BLITZER: Senator Hutchison, I want to read to you what Jessica Stern -- she's a lecturer at Harvard, a former government official, an expert on terrorism -- wrote in the New York Times recently. She's going to be a guest on this program later today, as well.

"America has created, not through malevolence, but through negligence, precisely the situation the Bush administration has described as a breeding ground for terrorists: a state unable to control its borders or provide for its citizens' rudimentary needs."

Is Jessica Stern right?

HUTCHISON: I don't think that it was negligence at all. I think it would be very difficult to have anticipated what has happened.

But now we are where we are. And I think we need to beef up the border patrols, and I think we are putting more Iraqi faces out there on the borders, and in some areas it's all Iraqi security, and that's good. We need to increase that, and we need, I think, to have help from other Muslim, Islamic countries and Arab countries to show that this is a united effort against terrorism.

The terrorism has resurrected and regrouped, in Afghanistan and Iraq. And we need to meet that head-on, if we are going to fight the war on terrorism on their turf and not allow them back into the United States.

BLITZER: It's not going to be cheap, Senator Corzine, according to the chief U.S. administrator, Ambassador Paul Bremer, in Iraq right now.

Senator John McCain, your colleague, a Republican from Arizona, wrote in The Washington Post this. I want to put it up on the screen. "Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, an able administrator, lacks resources and the political commitment to achieve his goal of Iraq's transformation. His operation is nearly broke, and he admits Iraq will need tens of billions of dollars for reconstruction next year alone. Yet there is insufficient sense of urgency in Washington, and needs on the ground in Iraq are going unmet."

Do you agree with Senator McCain?

CORZINE: Well, the only part I disagree with, there is a sense of urgency, certainly among my colleagues in the Congress, who have been concerned about our preparation for post-conflict Iraq since the beginning of the invasion in April.

I don't know who thinks there hasn't been a concern about the conflict that has existed between the Defense Department and the State Department. General Shinseki's argument that we needed hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground, and then the putdown that the Defense Department made with regard to his suggestions about what we were going to need in post-conflict Iraq, I think has been something that's been on people's minds over and over again.

I said in a Foreign Relations Committee hearing right before we broke in August, where there was strident questioning of Paul Wolfowitz about our planning and what we needed to be done, both by Republicans and Democrats, I think there has just been a blind eye turned to the imminent risk that we are going to lose this peace, and meanwhile lose our credibility in the world in the necessary efforts of bringing a multilateral approach to this war on terrorism. I think there's a lot of concern.

BLITZER: Senator Hutchison, let's put some specific numbers, what Ambassador Bremer says he needs right now to help deal with the crisis in Iraq. He says he needs $16 billion to deal with water problems in Iraq, $13 billion for electrical power, $4 billion alone to deal with U.S. troops on the ground there.

Explain to the American public, Senator Hutchison, why all this money, U.S. taxpayer dollars, should be going to rebuild Iraq at a time of huge budget deficits here in the United States, when that money could obviously be used for health care, Social Security, other vital needs inside the United States. Because a lot of Americans, according to the e-mail I'm getting, are totally confused right now.

HUTCHISON: Well, Wolf, I think that is absolutely correct, that Americans are confused, but I would say two things.

First, we must put the money in that's necessary to do this job right. We cannot walk away from this. We must make sure that the terrorists are stopped in Iraq and that we stabilize that country for the future of our country. It is a United States security interest there. But second, to your point of whether it should be all American dollars, no, it should not be all American dollars. American taxpayers have borne the brunt of this war on terrorism, and every country in the world should be helping us.

So we are going to ask for money from other countries, and we are going to have, I hope, the Iraqi economy paying for many of these infrastructure improvements.

BLITZER: To get that kind of support, Senator Hutchison, the administration probably will need a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would put the reconstruction, the peacekeeping if you will, the security apparatus in Iraq, under some sort of U.N. umbrella, even if it's under U.S. military command.

Do you want the administration to use the Bosnia, the Kosovo example to get the job done in Iraq?

HUTCHISON: I would use the Korea example, where it was a U.N. mission, but the United States was in control. Even Somalia, where we made some huge mistakes, the United States was in control, but it was a U.N. mission. And it went awry, we learned a lot from that, but we were in charge. That can be negotiated.

I do believe we can make other countries comfortable helping us through the U.N., but not put our troops under a foreign commander in this very important mission.

BLITZER: Let me let Senator Corzine weigh in.

And as you get to weigh in, let me put some numbers on the screen. This was an important milestone this past week, if we look at the casualties, those U.S. killed in action, whether in hostile or non-hostile actions, before May 1st, when the president declared an end of major combat operations in Iraq, 138 killed. Since May 1st, 144 have been killed. 282 U.S. troops are dead since the start of the war in mid-March or actually around March 20th.

Senator Corzine, you want the U.N. to take charge?

CORZINE: I don't want them to take charge. I want the United Nations to be involved. I think we needed a multilateral approach from the start of this conflict, in this attack in Iraq. We should have made sure that we used the multilateral approach that's been so successful in defending America for the last 50 years. We walked away from it. Now we're going back to the future.

I think we actually have to get that involvement. I do agree that we want the command structure to be led by the United States, but the fact is, we need something other than 95 percent of the folks on the ground being American troops, 95 percent of the money, and most importantly 95 percent of the casualties being American.

I think we have to invest in a multilateral approach, and that should be done through the U.N., and I think it should happen very quickly.

BLITZER: Senator Hutchison, we only have a little time left. But I want you to listen to what the U.S. military commander, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, said this past week about this whole debate, whether more U.S. troops are needed in Iraq. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEUTENANT GENERAL RICARDO SANCHEZ: It is not a function of additional soldiers. Putting more soldiers on the ground is not going to solve the problem when I don't have the intelligence to act on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, that was a pretty blunt comment. He doesn't have the intelligence he obviously needs. At a time when so many of the former leaders of the Iraqi regime are in U.S. custody, when the U.S. has access to any part of Iraq it wants, it's still is lacking the intelligence to get the job done.

What does that say to you, Senator Hutchison?

HUTCHISON: Well, I think it's clear that we don't have the tips from the Iraqi people that are allowing us to get these thugs who are doing these bombings. And that's what he is saying.

I think we need -- I do think we need more people in there for border patrol, civil engineers to start the infrastructure improvements, working with Iraqis. We need to put Iraqi people back to work.

But most of all, we do need the intelligence to find the arms caches and also the money that is being used to pay the bounty on the heads of American soldiers. We have people being paid $2,000 a head to kill an American soldier. We need to wipe those people out, and we need better intelligence to do it.

BLITZER: Senator Hutchison, thanks very much for joining us.

Senator Corzine, thanks to you, as well.

CORZINE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up next, between rebuilding Iraq and fighting escalating attacks, are U.S. forces being stretched too thin? We'll get insight from the former U.S. defense secretary, William Cohen.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Up next, we'll get a quick check of the hour's top stories.

And later, we'll have the results of our LATE EDITION Web question of the week: Who should lead a multi-national force in Iraq, the United States or the United Nations? You can cast your vote by going to our Web address at cnn.com/lateedition.

And LATE EDITION will continue right after a quick check of the hour's headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the second hour of LATE EDITION.

In Iraq, thousands of Shiite Muslims are mourning the victims of Friday's car bombing in Najaf. Tensions in that city are still very, very high. CNN's Rym Brahimi is joining us now live from Baghdad with more.

Where is the investigation heading, at least as far as we can tell right now, Rym?

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As far as we can tell, Wolf, the investigation is being led by the Iraqi police. Now, it's not clear whether or not they've asked for any outside help. So far, as far as we knew, that wasn't the case.

But they say that they have detained in the course of the past couple of days since that bomb hit the holy shrine in Najaf, they've detained 12 men. One of them is a Saudi, another one a Kuwaiti. They say one of them is also an Iranian, and there are two Pakistanis.

Now, they say that there are possible links between the two Pakistanis and the al Qaeda group, but, again, there's nothing that's really clear or set in stone for the time being -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the reaction in Baghdad among Sunni Muslims to what happened to the Shia in the southern part, in Najaf, and elsewhere, this horrific bombing, this terrorist explosion at the mosque on Friday, how are the Sunni Muslims, who are still the minority, how are they reacting, by and large?

BRAHIMI: You know, Wolf, there is great awareness among all communities, including the Sunnis and the Christians, that this is a very, very serious incident. A lot of the Sunnis that I spoke to have said that they were concerned that it could slip into civil war.

And the reason for that, Wolf, is that, of course, the attack took place right at the holiest site for Shia Muslims. It's not only a matter of the death of the ayatollah, al-Hakim, which is bad enough for those that he represented, if you will, but it's also very symbolic. And many Shias could perceive that as an act of violence directed against them as a Shia community that has always been repressed by Sunnis, that has never been able to rule in this country. So clearly a lot of tension there.

Now, a lot of people do say, among the Shias, that they can differentiate between Sunnis as people and Wahhabis, for instance, who some blame for this act of terrorism. As you know, Wahhabism is this extreme form of Islam that's practiced in Saudi Arabia.

But at the same time, there is great concern among all communities as to -- basically the question that a lot of people were asking is, what does the future hold? What is going to happen next? Wolf.

BLITZER: And the Wahhabis being Sunni Muslims, as opposed to the Shia fundamentalists.

Thanks very much, Rym Brahimi, on the scene for us in Baghdad, as she always is.

President Bush, meanwhile, is promising the United States won't retreat from its mission in Iraq. Critics, however, say the administration isn't providing enough resources to succeed.

Joining us now to talk about where U.S. troops stand right now in Iraq, the war on terror, other issues, the former U.S. defense secretary, William Cohen. He's now chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group, based here in Washington.

Secretary Cohen, thanks very much for joining us.

Is the situation in Iraq now going from bad to worse?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It certainly has gotten worse in recent days.

Earlier, Wolf, you indicated that the American people are divided on this issue and confused. I think it is incumbent on the president to go before a joint session of Congress to lay out before the Congress, and therefore the people's representatives, exactly where we are going to go from here.

And we should go from here to the United Nations to seek a resolution that would give the mandate of the U.N. still preserving U.S. control, as far as command and control of the military operation.

But that would be a very good beginning, to send a signal to the American people that Congress is now supporting the president, that the Iraqi people understand that the international community is now involved and supporting the operation, and also send a signal to the terrorists that they're not going to drive the international community out. All of those things, I think, have to be done and soon.

BLITZER: But the speech the president gave this past week before the American Legion down in Texas in which he outlined his vision for Iraq in sort of general terms, that's not good enough?

COHEN: I don't think so. I think what you're seeing take place now is division amongst the political aspirants for office. We're starting to see it divide along party lines. And that's a big mistake, I think, in this country. What we have to do is to have Democrats and Republicans joining together to say, "We have to support this operation now." We have to have a very clear delineation by the president exactly what it is going to cost, as best we can determine, how long we intend to be there, and again, that we intend to involve the international community in a significant way.

I think that has to be laid out in a joint session, so that we can have the American people see that their representatives are joining behind in what has to be a united cause.

Without that, if we start to descend into criticism about whether it's quagmire, shades of Vietnam, deja vu all over again, I think that will undermine our commitment to the region. I think it'll undermine and sap the morale of our American soldiers who are over there putting their lives on the line. And I think it will send the wrong signal to our allies that we are a divided nation. We can't afford to have that.

BLITZER: The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, says he'll send Russian troops to Iraq if there is a new U.N. Security Council resolution even though the U.S. can be in overall military command. The French president, Jacques Chirac wants another U.N. resolution before sending French troops. The Indian government, the Pakistani government, so many other governments say the same thing.

Is the model that you had during the Clinton administration for Kosovo the model the president should use right now?

COHEN: I believe it is a very workable model. Right now the United States, in both Bosnia and Kosovo, have a very small percentage of the troops on the ground, as such. We went in with a larger force. We assumed the major responsibility. But then we operated under a U.N. mandate with NATO taking the command and control with the U.S. in the lead. I think that's a very good model for us to follow here.

What we have to be sure is that we don't see a division of that command and control authority at the military operational level. We don't want to see more troops coming in with a divided command operation. That would lead to greater discontent and division and chaos.

So I think it can be done. It should be done. But I think it would be a very important signal to all of the people that this is an international issue that has to be resolved. Not simply the United States, with our British and other friends, but something much larger.

I don't think anyone in the world can afford to have us fail, especially the American people. But every other country that depends upon American leadership certainly has a major stake involved here.

And so whether they feel whether we are getting something of a comeuppance for moving somewhat without the U.N. authority, that has to be put aside. They have a very major stake in our success because our success will certainly have an impact upon the future prosperity of the world economic community, certainly. BLITZER: In the last three weeks, we've seen three horrible terrorist attacks in Iraq; the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, 17 people killed, many others injured; the U.N. headquarters, 23 people killed in that, more than 100 injured; now in Najaf, more than 100 killed there.

Do you see the same fingerprints on all of these terrorist attacks, or are there different groups launching different strikes?

COHEN: I don't think we know, and it will be some time before we know.

What we do know is there are various groups that have their own agendas. It could be the remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baathist Party. It could be competition within the Shia population. It could be a Sunni operation. It could be those coming from Iran, Syria or elsewhere.

I think from our perspective, what we have to do is send a signal that terror is not going to triumph in Iraq. To do that, I think we need to have the broad mandate of the international community. Again, that will be a very strong signal that we're not retreating, as President Bush has said, that we are united.

And that's critical for the United States and the international community to be united. And that way, the terrorist groups will eventually be driven out of business.

BLITZER: You say the president should address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Would you like him to announce that he's ready to send more U.S. troops to the region?

COHEN: The question of more U.S. troops -- I think we need to have some relief for U.S. troops. That's why I feel that it would be in our interest to have as many of the international troops to provide the kind of police protection, the perimeter security, the infrastructure security. All of those elements I think can be provided by additional foreign forces, allied forces.

Right now our forces are stretched very, very thin. Can we do it? The answer is yes. We can do it, but it's going to take some long-term toll out of our forces, the Guard and Reserve in particular, because we're going to have to activate more of the Guard and Reserve if we're to do this. And I think that will have a very diminishing return upon the recruitment and retention of those in the Guard and Reserve in the long term.

So we can do it in the short term. I would prefer to see us get additional support from other countries in the short term to help us out.

BLITZER: The president took a swipe at you, not necessarily you personally, but the Clinton administration. You served as the defense secretary under then-President Bill Clinton. The other day when he spoke, listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Two and a half years ago, our military was not receiving the resources it needed and morale was beginning to suffer. We increased the defense budget to prepare for the threats of a new era. And today no one in the world can question the skill and the strength and the spirit of the United States military.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Two and a half years ago roughly, that's when you were the defense secretary. What do you say about the president's criticism that the military wasn't getting what it really needed under your watch?

COHEN: Well, as a matter of fact, I took great issue with the president at that time. He suggested we had a hollow military. It is the same size military today that we had then, only he has stretched the military further, by going beyond Bosnia and Kosovo, which he suggested he was going to withdraw from, but now have committed us to both Afghanistan and Iraq. But it's the same size force.

As a matter of fact, prior to 9/11, the first Bush budget proposal for the military was actually less than what President Clinton had proposed in his final year. So we saw a fairly significant increase in defense spending during the four years that I was secretary of defense and a very significant increase in morale.

So I would have taken -- I took issue with him then, I would take issue now, if he is casting back to say we had a diminished morale or a diminished military. That was no hollow military -- no hollow aircraft carrier that he landed on, the Abraham Lincoln, for sure.

So I think we've got to put these kinds of things aside and say, we need to help our military. I applaud the president for increasing defense spending following 9/11, to be sure. But it's going (ph) to (ph) increase. And we need to increase it even more in the future years because we have many more types of procurement that we have to pay for; we have a bow wave of spending coming that we have to deal with; we have many, many issues to confront with our military.

And so I applaud him for increasing defense spending, but we are well on the way to doubling the budget, in terms of the long- term budget in the Clinton years, and I myself saw the procurement budget go from $43 billion to over $60 billion in the four years that I was there.

So, we can take issue with that, we could debate that, but that's kind of irrelevant right now. What we need to say is, we've got a military that is stretched thin, we need help. We need to go to the U.N. to get some additional help, keeping the command and control under the U.S. military.

But let's not get involved in casting blame upon the Clinton years or us looking for fault during the Bush years. BLITZER: Well, we're getting into a political season, as you well know, Secretary Cohen, so I think that there probably will be some casting blame on the various -- on the parts of various politicians. We'll leave that, though, for another occasion.

Secretary Cohen, always good to have you on LATE EDITION.

COHEN: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And just ahead, targeting terror in Iraq and beyond. Is the United States on the right track or the wrong track? We'll get perspective from two U.S. congressmen just back from Iraq, as well as a terrorism expert. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: In Afghanistan and Iraq, we gave ultimatums to terror regimes. Those regimes chose defiance, and those regimes are no more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush assessing the war on terrorism this past week. Despite decisive military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is concern, of course, that the United States may be losing the peace in both countries.

Joining us now with some unique insight are three special guests. In Connecticut, the Republican Congressman Christopher Shays. He is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. He's just back from Iraq, returning only yesterday.

In Boston, Democratic Congressman Marty Meehan. He's a member of the House Armed Services Committee. He also is just back from Iraq.

And also in Boston, the terrorism expert and Harvard lecturer Jessica Stern. She's the author of the important new book, "Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill."

Good to have all of you on LATE EDITION.

And, Congressman Shays, I'll begin with you. You're fresh back from Iraq. We get these snapshots through the media. You were only there for a brief period. But you returned optimistic or pessimistic that the situation is moving in the right direction?

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Oh, I am very optimistic about what we can do in Iraq, as long as the American people have the determination to, you know, to persevere. And that will be my only question mark.

BLITZER: Well, what's your concern, your major concern, that the American public is not informed about the interests, the vital U.S. interests the U.S. may have?

SHAYS: Oh, well, first off, failure is not an option in Iraq. We have to succeed.

And I think we need to communicate better with the American people. I think they need to realize that we have problems in certain of the provinces, but not all 18. We have some tremendous success stories in many places. Some of our soldiers in certain provinces don't have to wear the flak jackets. In other places, they do. So it just depends where they are. We are succeeding some places and not others.

BLITZER: Congressman Meehan, you were also in Iraq. You saw the poll numbers, the CNN-USA Today-Gallup numbers that we put up on the screen earlier on LATE EDITION. The American public is deeply divided right now as to whether the situation is going the right way or the wrong way. How do you see it?

REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, I think there are a lot of things going well. But I think that we are at a very dangerous, critical point in time, particularly with the two bombings this week. I think we have to get more Americans in the background and more Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi security people up front.

I think we also need to get a U.N. Security Council resolution so we're not seen as occupiers in the region.

I think we have to face up -- or at least the president should come forward and talk about exactly how much money this is going to cost. The House Budget Committee this week estimated that, over 10 years, this could cost $300 billion.

So I think we basically need to have a discussion in this country with the American people about why Iraq is important and who is going to share the burden of paying for it.

So there are a lot of things I agree with, what Chris outlined. But there's a lot of thing we need to do. We need to get better intelligence in the region. We have to rotate the troops. We need to get a more international force. But we need to get Iraqis out front more than anything else.

BLITZER: Jessica, I want you to listen to what the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said earlier this week about getting more Iraqis involved in dealing with their own security issues. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: If you think about it, if you had a choice between foreign presence for security and Iraqi presence for security with an Iraqi face on it, clearly the latter is preferable.

It is, in the last analysis, the responsibility of the Iraqi people to take control of their country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jessica, what happened -- in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, there was supposedly all this excitement. Iraqis were thrilled that Saddam Hussein and his henchmen were gone. But now they are apparently not that thrilled. Where was the critical mistake -- a critical mistake made?

JESSICA STERN, TERRORISM EXPERT: I think we obviously are very, very good at fighting wars, and we very rapidly won this war. But we really haven't won the peace. We really weren't prepared to reconstruct Iraq. We really weren't prepared to reconstruct Iraq, and that, I think, is a very, very important problem.

BLITZER: And this has given an opportunity for al Qaeda, for example, you've written, to make inroads in Iraq where they didn't have inroads under Saddam Hussein's regime.

STERN: I fear that Iraq will become a terrorist mecca. It's a very frightening moment right now. And the attacks have really been, really demonstrate a deep resentment and desire for the occupation to fail.

BLITZER: On that point, yes, I want Congressman Shays to weigh in, but I want you to weigh in also responding to what Ahmed Chalabi, one of the Iraqi leaders, former leader of the Iraqi National Congress, one of the opposition exile leaders who's now involved in this Governing Council in Iraq, who says this in a Washington Post piece he wrote today.

"There is no need for more American or foreign troops in Iraq today. Only one force can defeat the Saddam Hussein network, the Iraqi people. The United States has thus far failed to unleash and use the huge and latent anti-Hussein sentiment among the people."

Why is that, if that's true, Congressman Shays?

SHAYS: Well, first off, he's right on target, as is Marty. The bottom line is we aren't involving Iraqi-Americans, who not only speak Arabic, but they know the various tribes. We aren't involving enough of our diplomatic corps that speaks Arabic. We're just not paying enough attention to that side of the equation.

What I think is kind of exciting in one sense, even though it's of tremendous concern to us, are opponents and the Muslim groups that oppose what the United States are doing want us to fail in Iraq, because they know if we succeed it will have tremendous impact throughout the world.

BLITZER: Congressman Meehan says, Congressman Shays, that let the U.N. play a bigger role, let a new U.N. Security Council resolution give the international community a greater say in what's going on. That will help the U.S. in the long run. Do you agree it's time to hand over more of the work to the U.N.?

SHAYS: Oh, absolutely. I think we should have done it weeks and weeks ago. We need the U.N. not only to draw in other military forces and other civilian forces from other countries, but we need them to help coordinate all the NGOs, the nongovernment agencies, the Save the Children, the World Vision, to help coordinate their effort. The U.N. needs to be there. We don't want them to control our military effort, however.

BLITZER: And do you sense, Congressman Shays, the Bush administration is ready for that?

SHAYS: Oh, I think, if they're not now, they will be, because there's no alternative. We have to share this responsibility.

BLITZER: Congressman Meehan, we're going to take a quick break, but I want you to respond to what Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia wrote in The Washington Post this week. Among other things, he said, "Our military action in Iraq has forged a cauldron of contempt for America, a dangerous brew that may poison the efforts of peace throughout the Middle East and result in the rapid invigoration of worldwide terrorism."

Are you as gloomy as he is?

MEEHAN: Well, I think if we handle the peace, the reconstruction part of it correctly, and we have -- time is running out on that, by the way. I think we need to get our cause together quickly.

But, no, what I saw around the country were people that were happy that Saddam Hussein is now out of power. I mean, I visited with Chris a mass grave site where thousands of people were shot and killed and buried in a pit, and then the Iraqi people, after Saddam Hussein was gone, would go in and try to find relatives and loved ones.

The key here isn't so much the military aspect, it's the tough part, which has always been the tough part: How do you take a country like Iraq, and not necessarily set up a democracy, but a system of governance that could result in peace and a better quality and standard of life for the Iraqi people and, in the long run, more interaction with the West so that they trade more with the West?

That's where you reduce terrorism, if you get a viable country, economically viable, that interacts with the West, not only with the United States, but all of the West, that's what we're shooting for. That's really what we're attempting to do.

BLITZER: All right. Some critics say that may be mission impossible. We're going to pick that theme up with Jessica Stern after a quick break.

We'll continue our discussion with all our guests. Also, they'll be taking your phone calls. Call us right now.

And later, the California recall election. Who's poised to win what will be a historic political race here in the United States? We'll have a debate on that, Republican and a Democrat.

LATE EDITION will continue after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with Congressman Christopher Shays and Marty Meehan and terrorism expert Jessica Stern.

Jessica, let me pick up with you on some of the points we were making. I'll put some numbers up on the screen, courtesy of The Washington Post, from earlier in the week.

There have been 200 raids against various terrorist targets in Iraq, Saddam Fedayeen supporters. In recent weeks, 1,100 detainees have been picked up, 8,200 tons of ammunition. Thousands of weapons have been seized. Forty two of the 55 most-wanted Iraqi leaders have been captured or killed. Thirty eight thousand Iraqis have been hired as police officers. Thirty one countries are now contributing 21,000 troops to the overall effort in Iraq.

What else needs to be done to get the job done?

STERN: I've been talking to terrorists over many years, and I have to say that, although that list looks pretty impressive, the real problem for us is that any time we look like an arrogant imperialist, that plays right into the terrorists' hands.

And also going it alone is a big problem for us, and creating a kind of failed state. Terrorists have told me how much they love to take advantage of that kind of situation.

So it isn't just the effort to change the regime in Iraq. It's to prevent Iraq from becoming a mecca for terrorists.

BLITZER: Let's take a caller from Sweden.

Go ahead with your question, please.

CALLER: Yes, madam, gentlemen, as an Iraqi living in Sweden, whose father was with Nouri Saeed (ph) before the 1958 revolution and warned him, one thing that was clear, without organization, you can never run Iraq.

The Americans are proving to be dangerously incompetent. Will the Bush administration ever become serious enough about their failure and really, really consider leaving our organization to somebody else? Forget Paul Bremer. There is no...

BLITZER: All right, I think we got enough of that point.

Congressman Shays, he does raise a legitimate concern, that the U.S. is trying to do too much by itself.

SHAYS: Well, you know, Marty and I agree, I think Jessica does as well, we need to include other nations in this effort. The task is quite difficult. You have the Baath Party. You have the Republican Guard. You have 100,000 criminals who were released by Saddam. You have all these different terrorist groups that are coming. But what you have in our favor is a very wealthy country -- and by the way, we need debt forgiveness -- but a wealthy country. It has a strong agricultural base. It has the capability, and you have extraordinarily well-educated Iraqis who are eager to have the opportunity to run their own country.

So there's a lot of pluses in here. And we have a lot of American Iraqis or Iraqi-Americans who want to come and be in Iraq and are being denied the opportunity by their own government to help their former country.

BLITZER: Congressman Meehan, as we approach the second anniversary of 9/11, some in the Bush administration are suggesting the American public is so much better off now in the war on terrorism because the terrorists are trying to fight the U.S. overseas, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere, but there have been no major terror strikes here in the U.S.

Better over there, they say, than in Boston or New York or Washington or L.A. What do you say to that argument? How much more secure is the U.S. today than it was two years ago?

MEEHAN: Well, I think we're somewhat more secure, in that we've learned an awful lot from September 11th. We've put enormous resources into trying to make the United States secure. Different procedures at airports, different procedures at police departments across the country are (ph) employing -- fire departments. So I think we are a little safer.

But I think it's important that the administration not get into political rhetoric as we head into an election year when it comes to Iraq. What we're trying to do in Iraq is very, very serious business and very, very difficult, and I get concerned sometimes with political rhetoric back and forth.

We ought to roll up our sleeves and figure out a way to do this the right way and not get wedded to thinking whatever we did initially in the rebuilding process was right. We've got to make adjustments.

I think getting rid of, for example, the Iraqi police -- or rather, the Iraqi army, probably was a mistake.

We need to vet these people, bring them back in. And whether they're patrolling the borders or they're in the station or protecting it out in Iraq or Baghdad at checkpoints, we need to get them out there.

So there needs to be flexibility here. This is very, very difficult work. We've got to do it right.

BLITZER: Jessica, we only have a little time left, but I want you to sum up for our viewers what you wrote your whole book about, basically, why these Muslim fundamentalist terrorists hate the United States so much.

STERN: I think there really is a perception that the United States is out to get the Islamic world. And unfortunately, I believe that going into Iraq and not being prepared for reconstruction fed into that view.

However, I agree strongly with both congressmen that we need to get Iraqis out in front, and we need the international community involved. That's the only way to go forward now.

BLITZER: Jessica Stern, thanks very much for joining us. Good work with the new book. Appreciate it very much.

Congressman Shays, Congressman Meehan, always good to have you on LATE EDITION, as well.

We'll have all of you back.

Up next, the California recall. In a crowded field, who will prevail? Schwarzenegger supporter and Republican Congressman David Dreier squares off against the state Democratic Party chairman, Art Torres.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Despite 135 candidates on the ballot for California's October 7th recall election, current polls indicate that Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante and the actor and Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger are the top choices of likely voters.

But there is still, of course, the real possibility the governor, Gray Davis, could survive the recall effort.

Joining us now are two guests with very different views. In Los Angeles, the Republican congressman, the co-chairman of the Arnold Schwarzenegger campaign, David Dreier. And in San Francisco, the California state Democratic Party chairman, Art Torres.

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Always great to be with you, Wolf, and Art as well.

ART TORRES, CALIFORNIA STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks to both of you.

Congressman Dreier, let me begin with you and show you, by now, that very famous L.A. Times poll, it's been out for more than a week right now, showing Schwarzenegger at 35 percent -- excuse me, Bustamante at 35 percent, Schwarzenegger at 22, three other Republicans 12, 7 and 6, and Bill Simon, the 6, having dropped out.

Do you want those two other Republicans to drop out so the Republican field basically will be united, Congressman?

DREIER: Well, Wolf, for starters, polls are going to be all over the place. I mean, a KABC poll that was conducted just a few days ago show that 63 percent of Californians voting in favor of the recall to 33 percent against. And the vote was 45 percent for Arnold Schwarzenegger and 29 percent for Cruz Bustamante.

I believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger has made the case enthusiastically. This guy is, at his core, a fiscal conservative. And that's really what has led to the recall, Wolf. And it seems to me that what we need to do is -- I hope that we'll see a solidarity, a unity that will come forward because of a very strong commitment...

BLITZER: So are you saying Tom McClintock should drop out, Peter Ueberroth should drop out?

DREIER: You know, Wolf, I am not calling on anyone to drop out. But I will say this, I know that the issues that have been raised by my friends Peter Ueberroth and Tom McClintock have focused on the core concerns that Californians have.

I mean, 1.6 million people signed the recall petition out here, Wolf. And 63 percent, according to that KABC poll that I just mentioned, are supportive of the recall because of a vacuum of leadership, because of the fiscal challenges that California face.

And I believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger, taking many of the ideas that a lot of people have put forward -- Bill Simon, who made a courageous move, and Tom McClintock and Peter Ueberroth, I think that he is best equipped because he has so many terrific things going for him. I mean, his potential to create jobs in California by attracting investment to this state, I think, is unmatched. And that's really what Californians want. They want us to get going again.

BLITZER: Let me bring Art Torres in.

Is the Democratic Party in California now united around Cruz Bustamante? You go ahead and vote against the recall, but then go ahead and vote for Cruz Bustamante.

TORRES: No, we are not yet. We are going to take a position -- and I really don't know what that position's going to be on the second part of the ballot, September 13th.

And I am wondering whether the Republican Party is going to take a position because they're meeting the same weekend. Are they going to endorse one of the three candidates that are still pretty popular in their own polling?

BLITZER: Well, what about that, Congressman?

DREIER: Well, I mean, there are not plans for endorsement. As I am saying, I hope very much -- and contrary to what my friend Art has been saying in the past, the White House is not in any way involved in this. In fact, I have encouraged the White House to stay out of it. And both Karl Rove... TORRES: I'm sure they're listening to you.

DREIER: ... and the president have indicated to me that they are staying out of it. And so, we're going to let the voters decide.

But I will say this, since there is such agreement on this issue of focusing on the economic challenges that California has, I believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger embodies those important views.

So it's my hope that we will be able to see a solidarity and move forward and do what it is that needs to be done, and that is to recall Gray Davis and make sure that his policies aren't perpetuated by Cruz Bustamante.

BLITZER: Art Torres, if the Republicans do rally around Arnold Schwarzenegger, that would be your nightmare.

TORRES: No, absolutely not, because, quite frankly, I don't think he knows what the economic policies of the state ought to be.

He clearly hasn't staked out a position. Dave says it's coming, it's coming. I'm glad he's agreed to a debate this coming Wednesday in Contra Costa.

But I think that the fact of the matter still remains that we still haven't heard any other policies. And, quite frankly, I think any debate that's going to occur, Tom McClintock and Ueberroth are going to take a couple of jabs at Arnold based on the issues and based on the fact that he's got Pete Wilson who gave the (ph) largest tax (ph) in American history.

DREIER: There's a very important point that I need to make. I've been asked by Arnold to be involved in the negotiations on the debate, and I'm working with the California Broadcasters Association.

TORRES: Good (ph) group (ph).

DREIER: And I think we've finalized a debate. It won't be this one that's coming up, because we've received about a dozen requests for debates, including Larry King here has asked...

TORRES: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I thought he was coming to...

DREIER: No, no, we're in the midst of negotiating an...

BLITZER: Well, let me ask the congressman...

DREIER: ... opportunity for all Californians to see this, and with over a dozen requests that have been made.

TORRES: I know, but not all of them will.

BLITZER: Why is Arnold Schwarzenegger, at least the appearance is that he's ducking these kinds of debates?

DREIER: No, no, he's not only...

TORRES: Because he doesn't know the issues.

DREIER: OK. Thank you for answering that, Art. I think he...

BLITZER: One at a time.

DREIER: ... to me. Let me just say...

BLITZER: Hold on. Congressman, clarify precisely. This week the debate that's scheduled, he will not participate in that.

DREIER: No, no, he will not -- again, there have been about a dozen debate requests that have been made. Obviously...

TORRES: Everybody...

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: ... can't all come together. The candidates -- let me just answer Wolf's question here. The people are coming together, and the California Broadcasters Association has, for the last six gubernatorial campaigns, been the main entity through which these campaigns' debates have been held. Their request...

TORRES: Oh, I'd beg to differ. The League of Women Voters...

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: Excuse me. There were requests that have been made that make this a national campaign. We want this to be a California- focused campaign. The other candidates I know are working with the California Broadcasters Association. And we believe allowing CNN and everyone to carry the coverage of this will give the people of California an opportunity to see it.

TORRES: Well, they're carrying the coverage of Contra Costa too, Dave.

BLITZER: Let's let Art Torres weigh in.

Go ahead, Art.

TORRES: Well, I thought CNN is going to be here in Contra Costa on Wednesday, and I think they're going to be present whenever there is a debate. So I think he's ducking the debates because he's not prepared.

And clearly, every time he's asked questions...

DREIER: That's ridiculous.

TORRES: ... he uses the old Reagan trick, "Oh, I can't hear you," or "Oh, I don't know," or "Oh, I don't remember."

DREIER: Art, that's preposterous. TORRES: At some point, it's going to catch up with him, Dave.

DREIER: I mean, he appeared -- Wolf, he appeared on talk radio this week and went through and answered...

TORRES: Big deal. Conservative talk radio, and he still couldn't come up with a position. And Tom McClintock said he couldn't.

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: He had his economic...

BLITZER: All right, one at a time.

We don't have a lot of time. I want to just read to you from a National Review article, Congressman, an article very critical of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Among other things, it said: "McClintock", the state senator, Tom McClintock, "is doing so well because he has become the clear favorite of California conservatives, who are disturbed by Schwarzenegger's refusal to rule out tax hikes to balance the Golden State's budget, to say nothing of Schwarzenegger's social liberalism on issues such as abortion."

You're a conservative Republican. How uncomfortable are you by some of the statements that Arnold Schwarzenegger is making?

DREIER: I am very comfortable with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I will tell you that on these issues, day before yesterday, Wolf, he was endorsed by the Howard Jarvis tax-cutting entity which 25 years ago, and he spoke at the 25th anniversary of Proposition 13, which is the Holy Grail out here, and he's made it very clear, again, Art, a specific, in which he said that he's not in favor of increasing property taxes.

TORRES: Well, the governor did that 20 years ago. He's not in favor of increasing property taxes.

DREIER: The governor has stood fast behind Prop 13. Big deal. So he's finally come on-board. Thank God.

TORRES: Thank you.

DREIER: This campaign is focused on taxes...

BLITZER: Well, on that, hold on.

DREIER: ... spending and the deficit crisis that we have out here, and the lack of jobs, and that's what Arnold Schwarzenegger's focused on. And conservatives and moderates can rally around that.

TORRES: This governor created 500,000 new jobs, Dave.

DREIER: Well, where are they? Why is it that so many people are hurting?

TORRES: Well, a lot of people are hurting because of the Bush tax policies, quite frankly.

DREIER: Ah, the Bush tax policy.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We have to leave it there. Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us. We'll continue this. Five weeks to go. I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunities to talk about this.

Thanks very much, Art Torres and David Dreier.

Up next, Bruce Morton has the last word on President Bush gearing up for the 2004 campaign.

And the results are in on our Web question of the week: Who should lead a multinational force in Iraq, the United States or the United Nations? We'll tell you how you, our voters, voted, when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our LATE EDITION Web question of the week: Who should lead a multinational force in Iraq, the United States or the United Nations? Here's how you voted. Take a look, 19 percent of you say the U.S., 81 percent of you say the U.N. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.

Now time for Bruce Morton's last word on President Bush, the polls and the race to 2004.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Labor Day, more than New Year's Day, seems like the start of a new cycle. Kids back in school, summer houses closing, and, with your president running for reelection, a good time to get serious about your campaign.

How do things look for George W. Bush? Pretty good. Latest CNN- USA Today-Gallup poll shows 59 percent of our sample approve of the job he's doing, not the heady conquering-hero numbers of a few months back, but solid.

Our sample approves of how he's handling the situation with Iraq and terrorism. 63 percent think the Iraq War was worth fighting.

They're evenly split on whether things have gone well or badly since the major fighting ended, and 54 to 44 they don't think the administration has a plan for Iraq. But they approve of Mr. Bush's leadership in these areas anyway.

About two out of five Americans are very or somewhat worried that someone in their family might be a victim of terror. That number went way up right after 9/11, but has leveled off since.

And more than half of us think it's very or somewhat likely there will be acts of terrorism in the U.S. within the next several weeks. Four out of five think Osama bin Laden has people in the U.S., and four out of five think the U.S. will send troops to fight wars in other countries in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Still, Mr. Bush gets good marks in these areas.

Where he gets bad marks -- this will not surprise you -- is on the economy. Fifty-two percent disapprove of how he is handling that.

A report out this week from the Economic Policy Institute, a slightly left-of-center think tank, may explain why. The report notes that since the recession officially ended in November 2001, unemployment has gone up. The U.S., the report says, lost 1.7 million jobs during the recession and another 1 million once recovery began, making this the worst recovery in terms of employment that we've had since the government started keeping records back in 1939.

And the report says, things won't get better quickly. One pessimistic forecast says unemployment at the end of 2004 -- we'll have had the election by then, of course -- will be 6.2 percent. Even the government's forecast, the most optimistic, calls for unemployment of 5.5 percent at the end of 2004.

So that's a worry for the president. Right now, 51 percent say they'd vote to re-elect Mr. Bush, while 39 percent pick a generic Democrat. That's good news for him. The body bags coming home haven't hurt him so far. The problem is those folks signing up for unemployment compensation. How many, and for how long?

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, August 31. Thanks very much for watching.

For our international viewers, "WORLD NEWS" is next.

For our North American audience, stay tuned for "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS."

And please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'm here Monday through Friday, twice a day, at noon and 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, have a safe and happy Labor Day. I'm Wolf Blitzer 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



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