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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Colin Powell; Biden, Hagel Debate Politics of War

Aired September 14, 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 and here in Atlanta, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.
The secretary of state, Colin Powell, is now in Iraq. It's the first time he's ever been there. The secretary wants to see firsthand what's going on right now. He's meeting with U.S. and coalition authorities, as well as with representatives of the new Iraqi Governing Council.

His visit comes just as the Bush administration is trying to achieve a consensus for a new U.N. resolution that calls for international support in post-war Iraq. But that consensus remains illusive. President Bush is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly on September 24th.

A short while ago, I spoke with Secretary Powell in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Good to have you today from Baghdad. I doubt a few months ago if you thought you'd be in Baghdad at this point, but we'll get to that in a little while.

Why do you need the United Nations now involved in this post-war reconstruction of Iraq? Why can't the U.S. and its coalition partners get the job done by themselves?

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, first of all, we believe that this should be an international effort. We're in the process of rebuilding a country after almost over 30 years, rather, of dictatorship. And the need is great. And we believe the international community should come together for this purpose. And in fact, some 30 nations are here providing forces to the Coalition Provisional Authority's activities.

We believe that with one more resolution, one with a broader mandate than 1483 and 1500, the first two post-war resolutions, with that broader political mandate, other countries in the world might find it easier to participate in either military activity or reconstruction activity.

And it also is a vote of confidence, frankly, for what the Iraqi people are now doing through their newly selected Governing Council, the new cabinet ministries that have just been formed.

People are hard at work over here, Wolf. It's very, very impressive, and I'm very encouraged by what I've seen.

BLITZER: Well, some of the critics, some of the hard-liners, if you will, are saying, well, why should France, for example, have a say in what's going to happen in Iraq, since they opposed liberating Iraq, going to war with Iraq against Saddam Hussein and overthrowing his three decades of power? Why should you now be making concessions to France or Germany or Russia, countries that didn't want you to do this?

POWELL: I'm not aware of any concessions we've made to France or Germany or Russia.

The debate we had earlier this year about going to war or not going to war is over. The international community is coming back together again. Resolution 1483 was unanimous. 1500 was unanimous. And so I think there's an opportunity to once again show solid support from the U.N.

And this is how resolutions are put together. One country puts down a draft, perhaps sponsored by another country. And then the other members of the Security Council consider it, offer opinions and suggest changes, and we work our way through it until we get a resolution that we hope most people will agree to.

Remember, there are 15 members of the Security Council, not just the United States, not just France. And all we need for a successful resolution is nine votes. And I'm confident that, with enough work and enough good will, we can find a way through this and get a positive vote.

BLITZER: I guess the other critics are suggesting there was a basic miscalculation in the post-war strategy that you had, that's resulting in your having now to go back to the U.N. Security Council, in effect, ask these other nations for help because you miscalculated what was going to happen.

POWELL: That's not the reason we went back to the U.N. We always knew the U.N. would play a role. Remember, the president, on many occasions, said that he wanted the U.N. to play a vital role. Why? Because the president believes in the U.N., and the U.N. is the institution that brings the whole world together.

And the U.N. has a number of agencies under it that can help the people of Iraq with their humanitarian needs, with their electoral needs, to help them write a constitution.

That's why we were so encouraged when Kofi Annan sent over Sergio de Mello, who gave his life in the cause of freedom and in the cause of reconstruction of this country and for the Iraqi people.

And so we always believed the U.N. had a vital role to play, and this resolution will further shape and define that vital role.

BLITZER: And in a nutshell...

POWELL: It's not a matter of we can't do it without the U.N. Without the U.N. resolution, we have -- without another U.N. resolution, we already have 30 countries here. But if more can be encouraged to come, more can be encouraged to give, then it seems appropriate. It seems appropriate to give a broader mandate in order to encourage the Iraqi people to move in the direction that they are now starting to move.

BLITZER: There's no doubt that everyone wants to wind up at the same place, namely that the Iraqis will be in charge of their country, there will be democracy there. But obviously there are serious differences, especially between the Bush administration and the French government, over how to get there.

What's the basic, big difference that you have to overcome with the government of France right now in order to get this new resolution?

POWELL: The disagreement we're having with France has to do with the timing of returning full authority and sovereignty to the Iraqi people. For reasons that are understandable, France believes that we ought to do this as quickly as possible, suggesting even perhaps within a month. The only problem with that is that there is not yet a functioning government that you can turn authority over to. And the last thing we want to do is to set up the Iraqis to fail.

They need time to bring their ministries up to speed, to man them, to start functioning. They need time to write a constitution. They need time after that constitution is written and ratified to hold elections.

We want to turn the government over from us to the Iraqi people, but with an Iraqi leadership that has been elected by the people, not just a group of individuals who have been appointed. And I think that's the flaw in the French plan. And we've had open discussions with our French colleagues about it.

Let me also remind you, it is not the U.S. versus France. There are, once again, 15 nations in the Security Council. And France has been most outspoken with respect to this issue, and I hope we'll find a way to bridge the difference between us and France.

Where we all agree, all 15 nations, that as soon as it is possible, we want authority to go back to the Iraqi people, totally. The United States and its coalition partners do not want to stay here one day longer. And, Wolf, I just met for an hour and a half with the new Governing Council. They've got ideas. They've got economic ideas. They've got political ideas.

I just met before that with the new foreign minister who succeeded in persuading the Arab League to seat him as representing Iraq. They've declared within the last two days that they will have an independent judiciary.

After this interview is over, I'm going to go meet with the Baghdad City Council, representatives of city councils all across this country. And so there is political life returning here on a democratic basis. The Iraqi people are being presented a future so totally different from the horrible past from which they've just come out.

And while people argue and debate, which is the right thing to do in a democratic system, about the difficulties that lie ahead, don't forget the achievements that we have obtained, and don't forget Saddam Hussein is gone. That awful regime is gone. That threat to the region is gone. And a new democratic Iraq will arise from this, even though it will take a lot of work, a lot of money and a lot of goodwill. It will happen.

BLITZER: You mentioned Saddam Hussein. Where is he, as far as you know?

POWELL: I have no idea, and I don't -- it would be good if we knew and could assure the Iraqi people that he is gone. But the one thing everybody knows is he is not in power, and his regime, that terrible regime, is gone.

BLITZER: As you know, the debate here in the United States is intensifying. Your critics are speaking out in ever more forceful words, criticizing the policy, especially the post-war policy. I want you to listen to what the Democratic senator from Iowa, Tom Harkin, said earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: This may not be Vietnam, but, boy, it sure smells like it. And every time I see these bills coming down for the money, it's costing like Vietnam, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, you served in Vietnam. This is a sensitive subject obviously for you and for a lot of Americans. Is this another Vietnam?

POWELL: No. And, you know, we ought to stop with these rather bizarre historical allusions back to something that happened 25, 30 years ago. Let's deal with the facts on the ground and where we are now.

We have removed a dictatorial regime. There will be no more mass graves. These people will no longer be oppressed. We're restoring the basic services that the society needs, electricity, water, sewage.

Everybody is eating. Everybody now has access to health care. The universities are open, the schools are being opened. Security is slowly being re-established.

Yes, it's a little unstable in the central part of the country. We are taking casualties. We regret each and every one. But we knew it would be difficult, and we are encouraging more and more people to contribute to our work here. And from what I have seen here over the last several hours, just in the last several hours, listening to Ambassador Bremer and his people, General Abizaid, General Shinseki, and their staff, but more importantly, speaking to Iraqis, the Governing Council, new ministers have been appointed and other Iraqis I have spoken to and look forward to speaking to this afternoon, there's a sense of hope here even in this time of difficulty.

And those who are so critical of the administration might want to hold their fire a bit. They may also resemble those who were so critical of the way the war was being fought the first few days of the war.

BLITZER: Secretary Powell, you mentioned General Shinseki. I just want to make sure that I'm not mishearing you, or maybe you misspoke. I don't think you meant General Shinseki, did you?

POWELL: I did, I think, yes. I'm sorry. No, I meant General Rick Sanchez.

BLITZER: Right. I just wanted to make sure that, General Shinseki is a former Army chief of staff.

(CROSSTALK)

POWELL: ... among Army generals.

BLITZER: Right. You're one of those retired Army generals, so you're quite familiar.

POWELL: Forgive me. It's your hot light, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. I just wanted to clarify that. I didn't want to get people at the Pentagon nervous when you're talking about ...

POWELL: Right.

BLITZER: ... General Shinseki, the former Army chief of staff, who obviously predicted, suggested that there would be a lot more, a need for many more U.S. troops than many of the civilian leaders at the Pentagon thought at the time.

Speaking of those civilian leaders, the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, one week into the war, at the end of March of this year, told the U.S. Congress this, and I want you to listen precisely to what Secretary Wolfowitz said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He was obviously wrong on that specific point, that the Iraqis could finance their own reconstruction and do it soon.

POWELL: The oil revenues of the Iraqi people will be used to operate the government, but the infrastructure was so broken once we got in here and had a chance to see it, as a result of 30 years of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, that the need is far greater than we thought. And now we have to respond to that need.

And it will be a combination of contribution of the American people, other nations around the world participating in financing the reconstruction, and, yes, the revenues that will be generated by the Iraqi people through the sale of their oil.

My deep apologies to my good buddy, Rick Sanchez, who I spent the morning with.

BLITZER: Right, we get that. But Wolfowitz was clearly wrong when he thought that the Iraqis could finance this reconstruction on their own, largely, and do that relatively soon. That was way overly optimistic.

POWELL: Well, in light of what we have found out, it wasn't an accurate statement at the time. And I think Paul would agree to that.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about some other world hot- spots. In Afghanistan, not far from where you are right now, let me read to you from an editorial in today's Los Angeles Times.

It says this, "Secretary of State Colin L. Powell a year ago told nations willing to donate to rebuild Afghanistan that without sustained assistance, the Afghans will surely fail to build a better future. Several months ago, a distinguished panel concluded that the Afghan situation was getting worse. Washington's lackadaisical approach threatens to transform Afghanistan again, at best into a battleground for warlords backed by outside nations, and at worst, into a base for terrorists."

How bad has the situation deteriorated in recent months in Afghanistan, if you believe it has?

POWELL: The Karzai government is functioning. International contributions are continuing. We are going to accelerate our contribution and increase our contribution to Afghan reconstruction.

We're slowly rebuilding the infrastructure. Paved roads are going in. There is a serious security problem in the southern and southeastern part of that country from Taliban remnants, and perhaps some al Qaeda, but I think mostly Taliban.

We're very pleased that NATO is now playing a role in Afghanistan and will help with the security and is looking perhaps for ways to expand their activities there.

So Afghanistan is a case of considerable success when you think of where that country was just a couple of years ago, under the rule of the Taliban. President Karzai has shown great leadership, great courage. He has made some changes recently which extends his control into outer provinces of the country.

And so we've got our work cut out for us there, too. But critics would be wrong to say that we took our eye off the ball or it is a basket case.

It's the easiest charge to make without looking at all aspects of the problem and all aspects of the progress that we have achieved over the last couple of years.

BLITZER: On the Israeli-Palestinian front, you don't want the Israelis to expel Yasser Arafat. They're threatening to do so, as you well know. What would happen if they took that step?

POWELL: Well, I hope they don't take that step. And we have cautioned them against it. We do not think it would be helpful to the road map. We think it would create a great deal of difficulty in the region, and you're just putting him on another stage somewhere else.

So I don't know what would be achieved by exiling him. And it is for that reason that we recommended against it. What we really need to see is for the new prime minister, as he considers assuming the office, to make sure he gets the political authority he needs from the PLC and from Mr. Arafat, and that all of the security forces of the Palestinian Authority are put under that individual's control. Only then can he go after the terrorist organizations that are killing innocent people and destroying the dreams of the Palestinian people.

BLITZER: The Israelis...

POWELL: And I hope that's what we will see happen.

BLITZER: The Israelis -- I was going to say the Israelis insist Yasser Arafat is a terrorist. There's no difference, they say, between him and Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Do you see a difference?

POWELL: We are fully aware of what the Israeli opinion has been for a long time. But right now, in order to keep the road map process moving forward, we believe that they should not take action to harm Mr. Arafat or exile Mr. Arafat.

And my information from the Israeli government is, notwithstanding the decision they made to remove this obstacle, as they say, in principle, they have no plans to do so at the moment.

BLITZER: I want you to clarify, Mr. Secretary, if you don't mind, some comments you made a few weeks ago that some interpreted as undermining the former Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. This is what you said when you were with Kofi Annan at the U.N. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: I call on Chairman Arafat to work with Prime Minister Abbas and to make available to Prime Minister Abbas those security elements that are under his control, so that they can allow progress to be made on the road map.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The criticism was that, by reaching out to Arafat, whom you had put on the sidelines, if you will, together with the Israelis in the year earlier, you were, in effect, elevating him and undermining his prime minister. What do you say to those critics?

POWELL: Well, I disagree. I was charging Mr. Arafat to get off the stick and do what was right. And, unfortunately, he didn't do it.

He was being told this by every individual who has an interest in this problem, the Europeans who do keep in touch with him. But I never picked up a phone and in no other way communicated with Mr. Arafat. It was a statement of what had to be done in order to make sure that Mr. Abbas could do the job that he needed to do.

BLITZER: And there's no change you envisage towards Arafat, U.S. policy in the next weeks, months, or any time in the foreseeable future? You'll continue to ignore him, if that's your policy?

POWELL: No change in policy.

BLITZER: Finally, I know you have to run, and we have a limited amount of time. But this week we did see that dramatic videotape of Osama bin Laden, his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri. We don't know when it was made; we don't know how authentic it really is. But what is your assessment of the threat from Osama bin Laden right now and the remnants of al Qaeda, especially in the aftermath of that worldwide caution the State Department released on the second anniversary of 9/11?

POWELL: We released a caution because we had seen enough to suggest that it was our responsibility to alert travelers to the potential threat. He's still there. I don't know when the tape was made. Many of his lieutenants are no longer there.

A large part of the infrastructure that he used to conduct terror has been eliminated. That is not to say, of course, the threat has been eliminated. They will try to recoup, they will try to re-grow.

And what we have to do is to make sure we continue to work with the international community to chase them down wherever they may try to hide. And we're getting better at it with the exchange of intelligence, with centralized databases on terrorists, and with respect to law enforcement activities. And we will continue to hunt them down. My greater concern in Afghanistan is the Taliban, as opposed to al Qaeda.

BLITZER: You know, given your history, Mr. Secretary, we'll wrap it up with this thought: 30 years of Saddam Hussein ruling Iraq. You are now in Baghdad. Did you only a few months ago envisage that you, Colin Powell, who led Operation Desert Storm 13 -- 12, 13 years ago in 1990, '91, that you would show up in Baghdad, that there would be no Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party regime at this time? I guess the question is, how do you feel being in Iraq right now?

POWELL: I'm very moved. To get to the first part of your question, once we knew that military action was required and the president made that decision, I knew that I would be sitting in Baghdad in the not too distant future. I had no doubt about the military operation.

And I'm pleased to be here now with the regime gone and to play my role as secretary of state, working with all of my other colleagues in government, to help the Iraqi people put together a government that they can be proud of, a government that will never again be called a dictatorship but rather a government that can be a model for this region and the rest of the world.

BLITZER: Secretary of State Colin Powell joining us from Baghdad. Good luck to you. Be safe over there. We'll see you back in Washington.

POWELL: Thanks, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Up next: the Democrats bring out their heavy hitter in the California recall race. Can the Comeback Kid stop the Terminator? We'll get the latest from our Candy Crowley. She's covering this election. She's in Los Angeles.

Then, Senators Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel on the politics of war and more. President Bush is asking Congress for another $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. Will the Congress give it to him?

And you can sound off on this topic as well. Our Web question of the week is this: Is the U.S. winning the war on terror? Cast your vote by going to our Web site, cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results later in this program.

Stay with us. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know the difference in Democrats and Republicans? She said, "In every presidential election, Democrats want to fall in love. Republicans just fall in line."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The former president, Bill Clinton, hitting the campaign trail for Democrats across the United States this past week.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

The former president is expected in the coming hour to appear at a church in Los Angeles with the embattled California governor, Gray Davis.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in L.A. She's joining us now with a little bit of a preview.

What do we anticipate happening over the next hour or so, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the next hour or so, we do expect former President Clinton and Governor Gray Davis to arrive here at the First AME Church, which is basically a fixture in the social, religious and political community here in South Central L.A.

The dynamic is this, Gray Davis, in order to beat back this recall, is going to have to rely on hardcore Democrats to come out and vote for him. There is no one more popular amongst hardcore Democrats than former President Clinton. So he has come to the aid of Gray Davis.

This is the first of three appearances he'll make over the next 24 hours. And there will be a speech, we are told, by President Clinton and some remarks, as well, from Governor Davis. But clearly the man of the hour is former President Clinton, who, as you mentioned, was in Iowa yesterday, seems to be on some sort of cross- country rescue mission here for Democrats, helping the nine Democrats who are running for president, as well as helping Gray Davis to try and stay in office.

This is not the only help that Gray Davis will be getting over the next week or so. We also expect to see some of those emocrats who were with President Clinton in Iowa come here to California. While they're in Iowa, why not come a little bit further? We're going to see -- Bob Graham expected to campaign with Gray Davis, along with John Kerry. And later in the week, we will also hear from former Vice President Al Gore.

So this is an attempt certainly by Gray Davis to nationalize his campaign, to frame it as just another attempt by Republicans to grab for power. So a lot of star power out here for Gray Davis as we move into the final weeks of this recall campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: In addition, Candy, to doing what they can to help Gray Davis stay in office, to defeat the recall, is the former president, Bill Clinton, also doing what he can to help Cruz Bustamante, the leading Democrat who presumably would have the best shot of getting elected if Gray Davis is recalled? In other words, is Bill Clinton out helping Cruz Bustamante, as well?

CROWLEY: No appearances by the two of them. They seem to have sort of -- as you know, Cruz Bustamante and Gray Davis are not the best of friends. They seem to have healed that breach for political purposes at this point, and Cruz Bustamante did show up on the same stage with the governor yesterday at a Democratic convention to say, "Look, you wanted to see us together. Here we are together."

As you know, Governor Davis didn't really want Cruz Bustamante to go on the ticket, but most Democrats have come over to Cruz Bustamante's way of thinking, saying, "Look, there's got to be a Democratic choice in case Gray Davis gets recalled."

Since Bustamante got in, I must say that Gray Davis's numbers have gotten a lot better. Now, about half of Californians favor the recall, and half don't. So it has turned into a squeaker, but the Cruz Bustamante-Gray Davis rift for now has at least pictorially been healed.

BLITZER: CNN's Candy Crowley covering this story for us out of Los Angeles.

Thanks, Candy, very much.

And stay tuned for live coverage in the coming hour. The former president, Bill Clinton, in Los Angeles. We'll be able to at least hear what he has to say as far as this California contest is concerned. We'll also have two special guests discussing this in the coming hour, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bill Simon, and the former California governor, Jerry Brown.

We'll get to all of that, including a quick check of the hour's top stories. That's coming up. But first the cost of war. Senators Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel, they'll weigh in on the battles in Iraq, Afghanistan, the war against terrorism and much more. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting today from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

And joining me now to discuss Iraq, Afghanistan, the crisis in the Middle East and more, two special guests: from our New York bureau, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. He's the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And in Washington, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. He's also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Always good to have both of you on the program.

Let me begin with you, Senator Biden. We just heard, as you may have heard earlier on this program from Secretary Powell, say it's important to get another U.N. Security Council resolution to get some more help. How important is it, if even if it means making concessions to France, to Germany, to Russia, to other members of the Security Council that this administration might not want to make?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I think it is absolutely critical. And the reason it is, Wolf, is that if we don't get additional help, it means it's only U.S. soldiers getting killed, only U.S. taxpayers paying the bill and only U.S. forces, predominantly, in Iraq.

And by the way, in terms of what we have to give up, I mean, everyone but Secretary Powell in this administration talks about Iraq as if it's some sort of prize. What are we giving up? What do we give up if we let the rest of the world be in on the contracting to rebuild Iraq, as long they're helping pay for it? What do we give up if they take partial responsibility for what the successor government's going to look like, adding legitimacy?

I don't think we give up anything. I wish we'd get off this neoconservative, you know, sort of, jag that we have to give up something to France or give up to Germany. We don't have to give up anything.

BLITZER: Well, Senator Hagel, the -- I guess some of the concern might be that U.S. corporations might not get all those contracts that they presumably would like to get in rebuilding Iraq's energy industry -- for example, the oil industry, that French companies or German companies, Russian companies might get a piece of the action as well.

Is that a concession worth making?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Well, I don't -- I'm not sure, Wolf, I would categorize it as a concession. This is an interest of all nations. The shared interests, shared outcome, shared results will affect all of the world. That means shared burdens, shared responsibilities.

And, of course, opportunities to bid for contracts, to be part of a market economy, part of a evolving democratic society, sure, that is all part of it. And the United States should not object to that. In fact, we should welcome that.

BIDEN: Wolf...

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Senator Biden.

BIDEN: Can I make one point? If we were to fail to get additional troops and additional money, billions of dollars we need to rebuild Iraq, because American companies wanted to hog all the contracts, that would be unconscionable. Absolutely unconscionable to send my son, to send my -- to send these young National Guard guys, reserves and regular army there as being the only ones carrying the burden because we didn't want to share a contract? I pray to God that's not in the back of the minds of some advising the president, because that would be unconscionable.

BLITZER: All right, fair enough.

Let me ask Senator Hagel to react to the $87 billion that the Bush administration is seeking for Congress, in addition to the already $60 billion or $70 billion that U.S. taxpayers have spent in dealing with the Iraq problem.

A recent CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll released this week asked the American public whether Congress should approve the $87 billion. Forty six percent said yes, 51 percent said no.

That's a lot of money, Senator Hagel. A lot of people in Nebraska probably would like to see that money go for domestic purposes. What do you say to them when they ask you about that? HAGEL: Well, first of all, our domestic interests, the prosperity of this country, our economic future, is very clearly and directly tied to the stability and security of the world, including the Middle East. So it does connect.

But more to the point of your question, the amount itself, and then the follow-on question, how do we pay for it, I think most people are willing to listen to the administration's explanation, as the Congress will probe deeply over the next few weeks as to, why do we need this amount of money, where is it going to go, what is your plan, how do you intend to get more nations involved in helping finance financially the future of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as troop and force structure?

These are legitimate questions that the American people need to have answered. This amount of money is a large amount of money. When you consider the kind of long-term commitments and challenges that this country faces, and the resources to meet those obligations, and the possibility of us facing over a half trillion dollars in deficits next year, there is no wonder that the American people are a bit unsure and unsteady here.

So we'll work our way through in the Congress. There'll be tough questions asked. The administration's going to have to answer them.

BLITZER: Do you think the president should reconsider, Senator Biden, and perhaps delay implementing some of those tax cuts, especially for the wealthiest of Americans, in order to help pay for the $87 billion?

BIDEN: Absolutely, positively. I proposed that. I'm introducing a piece of legislation on Monday to say that the top 1 percent -- you have to be making over $330,000 a year to be in that, you have to -- on average, it's people making $980,000 a year, and they're going to get a total tax cut of $690 billion during the duration of this tax cut.

And I'm saying these folks are patriotic. The president vastly underestimates the willingness of the American people and the desire to help. And so he should call on them to say -- and I'm calling on them to say, look, won't you give up one year of your tax cut, one year, spread out over five, give up one year of your tax cut, get back $600 billion instead of 690? Otherwise you make my grandchildren pay for it.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, we heard, as recently as today from the vice president, Dick Cheney, and the president throughout the week, saying that, if you do that, it will set back the economic recovery...

BIDEN: That is absolute bunk. The idea that $87 billion out of over a trillion-dollar tax cut is going to set back the economy over 10 years, that is absolute malarkey. There's not a single serious economist in the United States who would say that. Not one.

BLITZER: All right. Let's Senator Hagel weigh in.

Go ahead, Senator.

HAGEL: Well, I'm not an economist, so I'm probably very quickly out of my depth, but here's the way I would respond to this.

First, I think the bigger issue here is not just where are we going to find the resources to pay for all these kinds of commitments that are necessary for our future and our security, but really who's bearing the heavy burden here?

The president talks about, Americans must make a sacrifice, and he is correct. But right now, what we've seen, the only people making the sacrifices are the men and women in uniform...

BIDEN: That's right.

HAGEL: ... the reservists, the National Guardsman, their families, and others associated.

If, in fact, this challenge is as deep and wide and big as the president says it is -- and I believe it is, by the way -- then we should ask all Americans to sacrifice.

So, I welcome Senator Biden's debate, because we need to have it, because we are framing up not just how we're going to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan and future international commitments, but really we're framing up a lot of the future entitlement questions and domestic infrastructure questions, and all other questions that we need to address that we have not legitimately, honestly addressed.

BLITZER: So -- we're going to take a quick break, Senator Hagel, but let me pin you down on this point. Are you open to the idea of delaying implementing some of the tax breaks for the wealthiest of Americans in order to help pay for the $87 billion?

HAGEL: In the interest of full disclosure, I voted for all the tax cuts, because I think it's the private sector that produces wealth and generates and sustains economic development.

However, to your question, I think we have to be open to every possibility. So I said -- as I said, I'm open to a debate on this issue, because it's important for the future of this country.

BLITZER: All right. Plain talk from Senator Hagel. Thanks very much, and we obviously know how Senator Biden feels on this issue as well.

Senators, we're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to discuss.

We also have phone calls for both Senators Biden and Hagel. Your questions, you can call us right now with that.

Then, later on LATE EDITION, we'll speak with the authors of an exciting new book about the march to Baghdad with the First Marine Division.

That, much more. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

Senator Biden, the vice prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, said today that one option the Israelis should consider in dealing with Yasser Arafat is to kill him, not only to exile him or to arrest him, but to kill him. What do you say about that?

BIDEN: I say it just elevates his standing to talk like that. Arafat is a terrorist, in my view. Arafat cannot bring about peace. We should isolate Arafat. But every time the Israelis do this, they up his popularity, and it seems to me counterproductive to do that.

And it seems to me that we should listen to Shimon Peres who talked about the new prime minister, the new leader who took Abu Mazen's place, as being someone that we could work with.

But when we have to do this, this is -- every day we have to be in the middle of this mix. The only time anything happens is when the administration's invested day to day to day. And I think we should continue to shun Arafat. We should not give him any standing. And I think it just gives him standing when you talk about exiling him or killing him.

BLITZER: All right. We have a caller from California on this specific subject.

Go ahead with your question, caller.

CALLER: Hi, this is Sandra (ph) from Livermore. I was wanting to find out, how can the U.S., Senator, how can the U.S. tell Israel not to remove Arafat from Palestine when the U.S. just removed Saddam from Iraq?

BIDEN: Well, we can't (ph)...

BLITZER: All right, what about that, Senator Hagel? Let me let Senator Hagel weigh in on that.

BIDEN: Sure.

BLITZER: Senator Hagel, go ahead.

HAGEL: Well, first of all, whether you like it or not, Arafat was elected by the Palestinian people. And that's first.

Second, that's exactly the point of Senator Biden's comment. I think it would be very, very dangerous and very counterproductive, with significant consequences all over the Middle East, around the world, if the Israelis, in fact, would carry out any intention to exile him or, in fact, kill him. BLITZER: All right. There was an interesting debate this past week. Two of your fellow Democrats, Senator Biden, Joe Lieberman and Howard Dean, Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, they both want to be president. A debate that they had over some comments that Howard Dean made saying the U.S. should have a, quote, "evenhanded policy" toward the Israelis and the Palestinians." That resulted in this exchange. Listen to this, Senator Biden.

Actually I'm going to read it to you. Howard Dean said, "It doesn't help, Joe, to demagogue this issue. We're all Democrats. We need to beat George Bush so we can have peace in the Middle East."

Joe Lieberman said, "I will simply say that Howard Dean's statements break a 50-year record in which presidents, Republican and Democrat, members of Congress of both parties, have supported our relationship with Israel based on shared values."

Do you see Dean deviating from longstanding U.S. policy?

BIDEN: I think maybe because Governor Dean hasn't dealt as much with foreign policy, he may have slipped into using a word that we've all rejected: "evenhanded." Evenhanded implies we don't have a dog in the fight.

We do have a dog in the fight, a democratic country called Israel. We can be fair and be a supporter of Israel. But make no mistake about it, we support Israel. Make no mistake about it. Every president in the past has.

And I think Howard Dean may have made the same kind of slip that George Bush made when he first became president and talked about a two-China policy with regard to Taiwan, changing the position of six previous presidents.

I don't think either one of them understand the consequence of the words they use, because as governors they don't deal with that nuance every day. And I think that Governor Dean will get it right.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Hagel, this past week the second anniversary of 9/11, a lot of people remembered exactly what happened then. We also saw supposedly new videotape of Osama bin Laden, his chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. They emerged.

Is the U.S. safer today as a result of the war in Iraq than it was before, as far as terrorism is concerned?

HAGEL: Before September 11, 2001?

BLITZER: No, before and after Iraq. Because a lot of critics of the war in Iraq said that the U.S. used a lot of resources to get rid of Saddam Hussein, resources that could have been used to fight terrorism.

HAGEL: Wolf, I don't buy the simplicity of that argument at all. I think the efforts that have been made by the federal government, state and local governments, the Congress, the president, our intelligence agencies, have all been very significant to help put this country in a stronger, more secure, safer position than ever before. In my opinion, there is no question that we are far better off today security-wise than we were two years ago.

Now, as to before our invasion of Iraq, listen, the fact is that this terrorist threat that plagues mankind is not going to be dealt with in a year, in two years, three years. It's going to take a long time. And yes, miscalculations are going to be made, and mistakes are going to be made.

But I don't agree with those who would say, well, because we have taken that action -- I had other disagreements with how we went into Iraq, but it wasn't for that reason alone.

No, I think Americans should have some confidence that we are safer. But, with that said, we are the most open, transparent, vulnerable society in the history of man, 280 million Americans all over the world, all over the country.

BLITZER: All right, well, let me let Senator Biden have the last word on this sensitive point.

I guess I was referring to your colleague, Bob Graham, the senator from Florida, thinking the war was a mistake because it hurt the overall war against terrorism. Let me let you button up that issue for us.

BIDEN: I think we're safer than we were before, but not as safe as we could be. I have an argument like Bob Graham does with the president's priorities, for example, failing to spend $4 billion to equip all our airliners so that they're not susceptible to shoulder- held missiles that can bring them down, which are on the open market out there, failure to spend more money on homeland defense, cutting local police, et cetera.

I think the president's priorities are wrong, in the sense that they could have made us much safer than we are. But we are safer than we were.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, Senator Hagel, always good to have both of you on the program. Thanks very much for joining us.

HAGEL: Thank you.

BIDEN: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll have a quick check of the top headlines of this hour, that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're standing by this hour to go live to California. The former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, is out campaigning today on behalf of the embattled California governor, Gray Davis. They'll be appearing jointly inside this church, the AME church in Los Angeles, predominantly African-American church. We'll have live coverage.

They're just gearing up to welcome the former president and the current California governor. Let's listen in briefly, just for a few seconds.

More than a thousand members of that church getting ready to hear Bill Clinton and Gray Davis. We'll go there live once that happens.

First, though, the war in Iraq and the war against terrorism. This week, the day before the second anniversary, of those new 9/11 new tapes that are believed to be Osama bin Laden and his top deputy surfaced, the State Department also issued warnings of new threats against U.S. interests at home and abroad.

Joining us now to talk about how the war on terror, the war in Iraq, are going, three guests: In Washington, the former U.S. arms control director under former president Ronald Reagan, Ken Adelman. In Boston, the terrorism expert and Harvard lecturer, Jessica Stern. And in Washington, the former acting U.S. ambassador in Iraq, Joe Wilson.

Welcome to all of you.

Let me begin with you, Ambassador Wilson. Knowing what we all know right now, the current situation in Iraq as it exists, what does the U.S. do now to deal with this post-war environment? What are the immediate necessary steps the Bush administration, you believe, must do?

JOSEPH WILSON, FORMER ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Well, I think almost immediately, you have to make the cities safe, so the people feel comfortable walking around any time day or night. That hasn't been done yet.

Secondly, you have to be able to have as large a drop of humanitarian relief supplies, and that includes generators to provide electricity, as you can possibly put in there as quickly as possible, so the people feel that they can get everything they need quickly and in a safe environment.

It's only then that people will feel like they can open up to outside and new influences rather than close themselves back into traditional clan and tribal and family defense mechanisms.

BLITZER: Ken Adelman, you accurately predicted before the war that the military victory, in your word, would be a cakewalk. It seemed to be relatively easy, obviously, as that. But the post-war situation is anything but a cakewalk, as we all know right now. This is a very dangerous situation.

What do you believe the Bush administration must do right now?

KEN ADELMAN, FORMER U.S. ARMS CONTROL DIRECTOR: Well, I think Joe said it very nicely, so I have no objection on that.

I just would urge everybody to put it into some kind of context. I mean, the war has been over just, what is it, five months or something like that, and it takes a long time to rebuild a country.

The big problem has been not the war of Iraq, but the big problem has been 20 years of Saddam Hussein. And they ran down the infrastructure. They ran down the energy situation. They ran down everything about that country, so that we have to have time.

Listen, the Marshall Plan that was so critical after World War II did not get started until three years after World War II. Why is that? Because it took a lot of time to realize that things weren't all roses after the war.

BLITZER: Jessica Stern, I'll give you the same opportunity to weigh in, as well. What do you believe the priority in Iraq is right now?

JESSICA STERN, TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, I think Ambassador Wilson was exactly right. The priority has to be to make Iraqis feel secure and to turn power over as quickly as possible to the Iraqis, although, clearly, this can't be done instantly.

BLITZER: The problem in Iraq is, Jessica Stern, as Bush administration officials keep saying, the situation was much worse, the deterioration of the infrastructure, than anyone envisaged going into the war. Are they right, that no one accurately assessed how bad Saddam Hussein had left that country?

STERN: Well, if they are right, it doesn't say that much about our intelligence capabilities, which is, I think, a bit distressing.

I think the administration really was not prepared. It didn't prepare before going in. It failed to persuade even our allies that this was a just war, and it wasn't prepared to rebuild the country.

BLITZER: Ken Adelman, I think you have to agree that there was an underestimation of how bad the situation could turn out to be in the post-war environment.

ADELMAN: I think there was an underestimation, Wolf, of how bad Saddam Hussein was. In terms of all of us, we're saying how horrendous he was, in terms of human rights and in terms of abuse, it was even worse than that. We had no idea that he had these mass graves with 300,000; that he was the greatest murderer of Muslims in the history of the world; that those kids, 10, 11, 12 years old, were in prison, and they'd still be in prison if we hadn't liberated Iraq on that. And we had no idea that the infrastructure was -- he had let the infrastructure get as bad as it was.

BLITZER: But, specifically on the point, for example, Paul Wolfowitz had testified a week into the war before Congress that Iraqi oil exports could quickly finance the reconstruction of the country, that's certainly not proving to be the case.

ADELMAN: That is not proving to be the case.

BLITZER: Joe Wilson, how bad was the U.S. miscalculation, if you believe there was a miscalculation, going into this post-war environment?

WILSON: Well, let me say first of all, Wolf, we did a cable from Baghdad 12 years ago, when there was the debate as to whether sanctions would solve the problem of getting him out of Kuwait alone. The argument we made then was that it would take 12 to 15 years for the economy to run down. And so, I think it's safe to say that there were a lot of people who looked at this over time, including us 12 years ago, who predicted precisely what we would find when we went in there today.

Now, I think fundamentally we just misestimated, or underestimated, what the Iraqi response was going to be. We thought that there would still be an infrastructure and a bureaucracy that we could work with once we got in there, those who were so anxious for us to go in. And we thought that there would be cheering from the rooftops when we went in there, which proved not to be the case.

The problem we have now is, you rarely get a second chance to make a good first impression, and we're going to have to make do with what we've got. And the way to make do with it is to try and change, to quote Jimmy Buffett, latitudes and attitudes, and get the Iraqis to begin thinking of this as a reconstruction, rather than as occupation. And that's going to require a lot of international participation.

BLITZER: Jessica Stern, I want you to listen to what the president said this week about the $87 billion he's asking Congress to approve to deal with, among other things, the situation in Iraq. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The money we spend today to achieve this incredibly important objective will be money that others don't have to spend in future years. We would rather win our war against terror in Iraq than to fight them here on the streets of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you accept that argument, that, if you beat the terrorists in Iraq, you're not going to have to worry about them showing up here in the United States?

STERN: Absolutely not. We know that the war in Iraq has drastically reduced support for the United States throughout the world, and especially in the Islamic world. Today only 13 percent of Pakistanis support America, 15 percent in Indonesia and Turkey.

And we know that in a number of countries people have more confidence in bin Laden than President Bush, including Pakistan, Palestine, Indonesia, Morocco.

This is very, very troubling, and suggests that we will see terrorism outside of Iraq, as well as inside Iraq, and we probably will see terrorism inside America because of this turning away, this vast revulsion at U.S. policy. BLITZER: And there are other terrorism experts, Ken Adelman, who agree with Jessica Stern in saying that what the U.S. is doing now in Iraq is in effect helping to create a whole new generation of Arabs and Muslims who hate the United States and will do whatever they can, including suicide bombings and terrorism, to hurt the United States.

ADELMAN: Two points, Wolf.

One is, we've heard the same thing before we went into Iraq to liberate Iraq before, that the Arab street was going to rise up, that in Cairo, in Saudi Arabia, in Jordan, in Palestine and all these places, that the Arabs would be on the street...

(CROSSTALK)

STERN: Excuse me, I didn't say the Arab street would rise up.

ADELMAN: I'm just saying -- I didn't say you did, Jessica. I said that we heard that in gobs. I was on this show maybe 10 times and heard the same argument.

Secondly, I'm surprised at Dr. Stern, that she would use a research survey, an opinion survey in an unfree society, where people really cannot say what they really believe. And I don't know how good these public opinion polls are in dictatorships.

And thirdly, I would say, you know what, the United States is not out there looking for just popularity around the world. What we have to do is to protect America...

BLITZER: All right.

ADELMAN: ... and I think what we have to do is protect civilization. And that may not be according to the Gallup polls.

BLITZER: Jessica Stern, go ahead and respond.

STERN: I think we really need to realize that terrorists rely on support from the broader population. And what's happening in Iraq today is that al Qaeda apparently is succeeding in persuading Iraqis to house them and support them, and that is deeply troubling.

It doesn't take a lot of terrorists, and it doesn't take a lot of supporters to do a lot of damage. It's not a question of uprising on the Arab street. It's a question of a relatively small number of people who are prepared to attack America and all that America values.

BLITZER: Let me let Joe...

ADELMAN: That doesn't depend on popular support. I mean, we were attacked two years ago on September 11th, not by a popular uprising but by 19 people. I mean, why -- what...

STERN: Nineteen people who had some assistance.

ADELMAN: ... was the popular support? BLITZER: Let me let Joe Wilson...

ADELMAN: But what was the popular support before September 11th?

BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on one second. I want to let Joe Wilson to weigh in on this as well, and then ask him a follow-up question on something the vice president said earlier today.

But go ahead. Why don't you weigh in on this debate, Joe?

WILSON: Well, sure. September 11th was a horrible attack on American property and on American people. There were no Iraqis involved in that attack, and there's no information, credible information whatsoever that would suggest that Saddam Hussein was involved in it or, at that time, that he had any common interest with al Qaeda.

My fear is that what we've done with our invasion of Iraq is we've essentially created a self-fulfilling prophecy, that we have taken a country and a population that was not in any way allied to or interested in being allied with al Qaeda, and we have made them our common enemies.

Moreover, I fear we have exploded the population of potential sympathizers, because the rest of the world saw our invasion through the lens of the bombing of Baghdad on the receiving end, as opposed to on the sending end.

BLITZER: That's a serious problem. We don't have a lot of time left, but Ambassador Wilson, let me let you weigh in on what the vice president, Dick Cheney, said earlier today on Meet the Press. He was asked about the whole issue of what the president had said in his State of the Union about Saddam Hussein before the war, trying to get enriched uranium from Africa.

You had gone over on behalf of the CIA to investigate, came back suggesting there was no evidence of that. But he seemed to pooh-pooh your report, and he played down your information. Listen in part to what Dick Cheney said earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know Joe Wilson. I've never met Joe Wilson. I don't know who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I want to give you a chance to respond to what the vice president said.

WILSON: Well, first of all, I've never met the secretary or the vice president, although he was secretary of defense when I was in Baghdad, and at National Security Council meetings chaired by the first George Bush, reports that I was submitting on a regular basis were discussed by the principals, of which Secretary Cheney at the time was one.

Secondly, I would just make the point that the White House and the vice president's office have both acknowledged that the 16 words in the State of the Union did not rise to inclusion in the State of the Union address. And they've acknowledged that it was, in fact -- as the vice president did again this morning -- that it was the vice president himself who asked the question of the CIA briefer.

I don't have much more to add to that than perhaps to say that there was my report, there was a report of our ambassador on the ground and there was a report of a four-star Marine Corps general, all of which said there is nothing to this.

The only report that stayed on the vice president's desk was one that would not have -- did not get published in an Italian tabloid because it did not rise to their standard of credibility.

BLITZER: On that note, we'll leave it right there.

Joe Wilson, as usual, thanks very much.

WILSON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ken Adelman, Jessica Stern, we'll continue this discussion on many more occasions.

Up next, the road to recall. Is former President Bill Clinton the key to the California race? He's campaigning today, right now in fact, for the embattled California governor, Gray Davis. They're about to speak at this church in Los Angeles. You're looking at live pictures, and we'll have live coverage.

We'll also get analysis from the former Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bill Simon, and the former California governor, Jerry Brown. They'll weigh in.

And don't forget to vote on our Web question of the week. You can go to our Web site right now and vote.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures of the First AME Church in Los Angeles. There he is, the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, walking in with the current governor of California, Gray Davis.

They will both be speaking before this audience, about a thousand members of the church expected inside right now. The former president coming to try to get Gray Davis to remain in power to defeat the California recall.

We'll watch what's going on. We're going to continue our coverage and go there live in just a few minutes.

We also have two special guests from California who will assess precisely what's going on. Bill Clinton and Gray Davis at church in Los Angeles. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures of the First AME Church in Los Angeles. The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, standing there, together with the California governor, Gray Davis.

Bill Clinton has come to California to help the incumbent California governor, Gray Davis -- he is embattled -- stay in office to deal with the whole issue of the California recall.

That election to determine if Gray Davis will remain in office is less than four weeks away. The latest Los Angeles Times poll shows Democrat Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante leading the pack with 30 percent, followed by the Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger at 25 percent. The Republican State Senator Tom McClintock at 18 percent.

The GOP candidate and former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth dropped out of the race on Tuesday, leaving some Republicans concerned that Schwarzenegger and McClintock will split the Republican vote, leaving the governorship, one way or another, in Democratic hands.

Joining us now to discuss all of this, two special guests: In Los Angeles, the former California governor and the current mayor of Oakland, California, the Democrat, Jerry Brown. Also in Los Angeles, the former gubernatorial candidate, the Republican, Bill Simon.

Thanks, gentlemen, very much for joining us. We'll stand by, we'll await the comments, the speech, from the former president, Bill Clinton.

But let me ask you, Mr. Mayor, first of all, how important is it that Bill Clinton is now in California, in Los Angeles, at this predominantly African-American church, campaigning for Gray Davis to defeat the California recall?

MAYOR JERRY BROWN (D), OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA: Well, Wolf, it's incredibly important, and it indicates how this recall election is now being nationalized. The events in Washington, the diversion of all that money to Iraq, in the context of a very uncertain job economy -- layoffs in Los Angeles and Oakland and San Francisco and throughout California -- is making this not a Gray Davis recall, but a defense of the safety net, a protection of jobs, a Republican versus Democrat on the basic bread-and-butter issues that always define the difference between the two parties.

And to the extent the job picture looks worrisome, I would say the prospects for Gray Davis would go up.

BLITZER: All right, let me let Bill Simon weigh in.

You dropped out of this race. First of all, I want to show our viewers the live pictures from that church, as well, as we talk about what's going on, as we await the comments from Bill Clinton and Gray Davis.

But have you endorsed any of the Republican candidates yet?

BILL SIMON (R), FORMER CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I have not, Wolf. I'm waiting to hear each of them speak on the important issues. You know, Mayor Brown talks about jobs. That is clearly one of the key issues right now in California. We've also got issues with respect to the size of our government here, our educational system, our quality of life. I want to hear our candidates talk on all those issues before I endorse.

BLITZER: But do you feel more comfortable with Arnold Schwarzenegger right now or with Tom McClintock? Those are the two main Republican candidates, of course.

SIMON: Well, I think they're both good candidates, Wolf, and I think it just remains to be seen which one will be better for California based upon the vision that they outline. I don't think they filled that in quite yet to my satisfaction.

BLITZER: How important is it for Gray Davis that Bill Clinton is there now energizing the Democratic base in the state to come out and vote against the recall?

SIMON: You know, quite frankly, I don't think it's important at all. I think the people of California see through these kind of transparent situations.

The bottom line is this: The people of California are fed up with the leadership of Gray Davis, or rather, I should say, the lack of leadership.

BLITZER: Let me let Mayor Brown weigh in, as well.

And as you do, I want you to look at these numbers from our latest Los Angeles Times recall poll that recently came out. Fifty percent say they would vote to recall Gray Davis, 47 percent say they won't.

But that's down from numbers that were higher in the fifties only a few weeks ago. Do you see a trend?

BROWN: Wolf, here's what's happened. Two weeks ago, it was the wonderful, beautiful Schwarzenegger coming on like a rock star, and you had the stiff, kind of gray Gray Davis.

Now what's at stake is really the defense of being able to go to college, the memory of Clinton and the prosperity and the jobs that people associate with Bill Clinton, versus this really -- there's no substance. It's a Republican, you know, let's protect the most privileged members of society, versus this very large base.

Now, I'm just saying, this is what it's feeling like. I mean, this is obviously a, you know -- and that's not the literal truth, but that is the political feeling that this context is now representing.

It's not Schwarzenegger versus Davis. It's the whole Democratic safety net and the emblem of prosperity and jobs that Clinton represents, versus now Bush, who has never been all that popular, losing popularity in the face, in California at least, of a very uncertain economy.

And that's why I believe Gray Davis is back in the ball game from almost certain defeat a week ago.

BLITZER: Well, let me let Bill Simon weigh in, as we see the former president, Bill Clinton, at the AME Church in Los Angeles preparing to speak about Gray Davis and this recall.

To a certain degree, as you just heard from Mayor Brown, Bill Simon, he thinks that this is becoming a national referendum, that it's not simply a vote for the recall or against the recall, but it's a vote for or against the policies of the Republican leadership, including President Bush, who has not directly weighed in on this contest in California.

SIMON: Wolf, I just don't think that's correct. I think the bottom line is I spent 2 1/2 years traveling up and down our great state talking to hundreds of thousands of our citizens. They want to know whether or not their taxes are going to be raised. They want to know whether or not their schools are going to educate their kids. They want to know if there's going to be another power shortage. Are the lights going to stay on? Is there going to be enough water?

This is a very specific bread-and-butter campaign. People are fed up with slogans. They want solutions.

And to this extent, I'd agree with Mayor Brown, this needs to be about ideas. This is time to put the rhetoric aside, time to put, you know, visits from politicians from out of state aside. This is time for the people of California to rise up and say, "We've had enough."

BLITZER: All right. Bill Simon, Jerry Brown, I'm going to ask both of you to stand by as we await the comments from the former president, Bill Clinton.

We'll be going back to the First AME Church in Los Angeles live for those comments once the former president speaks. We're going to also do a quick check of the headlines at this hour.

Much more on the California recall. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures of Governor Gray Davis, the governor of California. He's addressing a predominantly African- American audience at a church in Los Angeles, the First AME Church, a very prominent church.

He is speaking right now. He'll be followed by his big backer, the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, who has come to Los Angeles to not only endorse the California governor but to help beat back the recall.

We're going to go to that church live, once the former president of the United States speaks. We'll get some analysis.

Also standing by to help us, the former governor of California, Jerry Brown, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bill Simon. They're sticking around, as well. We're going to be covering this latest development in the California recall contest.

But first, let's move on to another important story we're watching. Two guests are standing by to join us. They had unprecedented access to the war in Iraq, and they've written a firsthand account of their unique experience. The book is entitled, "The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division."

Let's meet the two authors. They have impressive credentials. Bing West served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs during the Reagan administration. He served as a Marine infantry officer during the Vietnam War. He is the author of several books.

And the retired U.S. submarine major general Ray Smith. He is an expert on infantry and urban warfare. He commanded the Marines in Grenada as well as in Beirut in the early 1980s. He's one of the most decorated Marines since World War II.

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION. Congratulations on the new book.

And I'll begin with you, Bing West. We're going to talk about the book momentarily. But as you look at this post-war environment, as you were going with the Marines toward Baghdad to take Baghdad, did you expect the U.S. military to face the kind of post-war resistance that they're facing right now?

BING WEST, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS: Well, Wolf, I'm just back from Iraq. I went back with the Marines at the end of August, the beginning of September, and I also traveled with the 101st Airborne. And I think that the situation is much more stable than the headlines give it credit for.

In the United States, in the last three months, we've lost about 56 police officers in the line of duty. We've lost 67 troops in Iraq.

Now, each individual loss is a tragedy for the family, but we're not saying that there's an epidemic of crime in the United States. And, really, four months after a major war, I do not believe that the amount of casualties we're taking over there is extraordinary. But shipwrecks make news.

BLITZER: Well, let me put some of those numbers up on the screen and let General Smith weigh in, as well. Here you see the numbers of Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. war casualties including deaths in combat, non-combat, 139 before May 1st. That's when the president said major combat operations were over. One hundred fifty-five deaths since May 1st. Two hundred ninety-four U.S. troops killed in combat or non-combat since the war started in March.

Is your assessment as optimistic as Bing West's is, General Smith?

MAJ. GEN. RAY SMITH (RET.): Yes, I think it is. As Bing said, every casualty is a tragedy, but I think most of the young Marines and soldiers over there understand that we've got to be successful in Iraq to win the war on terror...

BLITZER: Well, General Smith...

SMITH: ... and their focus is on the war on terror.

BLITZER: Do you think that the U.S. has enough troops right now?

SMITH: The commanders on the ground seem to think they have. And one of the things I've certainly learned in my years of active duty is not to question the guy on the scene.

BLITZER: I'm going to ask both of you to stand by also, because the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, is about to speak at this First AME Church in California. We're going to get back and talk about the military in Iraq. Right now our two guests are standing by as well, Jerry Brown and Bill Simon.

But let's listen in. The president, the former president of the United States, getting a very, very enthusiastic response from this predominantly African-American church in Los Angeles. He's come to fight back on this recall.

(LIVE EVENT)

BLITZER: And so, there he is, the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, showing up in Los Angeles to try to help the embattled California governor, Gray Davis, stay in office, beat back the October 7th recall contest, giving an impassioned speech thanking all of his supporters who have showed up, trying to energize the base of the Democratic Party at this predominantly African-American church in Los Angeles.

Let's bring back our two guests: Jerry Brown, he's the mayor of Oakland, California, he's the former governor. You just heard the former president refer to him. And Bill Simon, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Let me let you, Mayor Brown, weigh in, as well. You see the excitement he is generating inside that church, Bill Clinton. Is it going to translate into excitement and allow Gray Davis to stay in office after October 7th?

BROWN: Well, of course, that's the big question, and my sense is there has been definite movement.

And what I -- I didn't realize it before until I'm actually looking at the former president. He has a deep reservoir of goodwill, particularly in the state of California. And with these layoffs and with the 40-percent increase in tuition at the state colleges and reduction in courses at the community colleges, there is a growing fear about the basic safety net. And that does play into the hands of the Democrats and that general mood that will favor Gray Davis.

Gray, I think, is being now lifted aloft as the steward of a tradition of Bill Clinton, of Kennedy, of my father, Pat Brown. And what this tradition stands for is working for the average guy and protecting jobs. And there is a certain amount of mythology to it, but it does have a power.

BLITZER: All right.

BROWN: And on the other hand, Schwarzenegger, he is becoming the Republican icon. And when it comes down to the final vote, it may well be are people voting Democrat or are they voting Republican? And in this state, there are a million more Democrats than there are Republicans.

BLITZER: And that Republican vote right now, at least, Bill Simon, split between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock, significantly split. Are you hoping that only one of those Republicans is on the ballot so that Republicans can unite instead of being divided?

SIMON: Well, Wolf, ultimately I think the field will narrow, no question about it.

And I think Mayor Brown is right, it's about layoffs, it's about tuition increases, it's about power bills going up. And the fact is that under Gray Davis, that's all what's happened. Power bills went up, tuition increased, layoffs increased.

You know, President Clinton being at First AME is all about photo opportunities. It's the old-style politics. People aren't falling for that anymore. What we really need right now are real solutions. Ideas, not slogans. And that's what Davis stands for. That's what he stood for, and that's what Clinton is doing right now. This is all window dressing, but the real show, the real show is getting jobs for our people.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens on October 7th. It was kind of both of you to stick around and stay for the coverage of the former president of the United States showing up in church in Los Angeles on behalf of Gray Davis.

Bill Simon, thanks to you very much.

SIMON: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jerry Brown, always good to have you on the program.

BROWN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll have more on our discussion on Iraq, the military situation right now. Two retired U.S. Marines, they were in on the move toward Baghdad, they have some unique assessments on the war in their new book.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: "The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the First Marine Division." That's the name of the book. Joining us now once again, the two author, Bing West and Ray Smith.

Both of you had unprecedented access on this march to Baghdad, former Marines.

Bing West, what was the biggest surprise that you saw during the war in advance of taking Baghdad?

WEST: Well, I think it was what happened on the outskirts of Baghdad. The order came down from high command that there were to be raids into Baghdad, but not taking it.

Major General Mattis (ph), who was in command of the Marines there, he began to raid. And after two days of raiding, and we were halfway through the city, I turned to a regimental commander and I said, "Aren't we supposed to withdraw after a raid?" And the regimental commander looked at me and said, "Gee, Bing, I guess I forgot."

And that was the biggest surprise to me, was the aggressive movements by Major General Mattis (ph) and this division.

BLITZER: Ray Smith, how surprised were you by the Iraqi resistance or, let us say, lack of it, during the course of these days leading up to Baghdad?

SMITH: I had a young tank commander, platoon commander, tank lieutenant, tell me on the second or third day, he said, "Sir, it's not even fair." And I think he captured it very well. They were outclassed. The Fedayeen and special security police fought, but the Iraqi regular military were just outclassed.

BLITZER: Bing West, the biggest concern, or at least a huge concern for U.S. military personnel -- the Marines, the soldiers, the others -- were these suicide bombers. And as a result of that concern, there were some innocent Iraqis who died.

WEST: It was a great, great tragedy. This notion of taking a suicide bomber and putting him among all the civilians and then rushing toward you is -- it puts such a burden on everyone, because you see that car coming at you, and you don't know whether it's a suicide bomber or not.

And I hope that our research and development or something can do something that helps us overcome that problem. But it's a problem generated by these Fedayeen, who will deliberately use civilians that way. BLITZER: Ray Smith, were you overly concerned about weapons of mass destruction going into the war, because clearly they never materialized?

SMITH: Every Marine, soldier, airman, civilian and journalist that crossed out of Kuwait into Baghdad fully expected to be under chemical attack. We all did.

BLITZER: And it never happened.

SMITH: And it didn't happen.

BLITZER: All right, unfortunately, gentlemen, unfortunately we have to leave it right there, but an excellent, powerful new book. Let me put it up on the screen once again, "The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the First Marine Division." Our abbreviated conversation because of our covering the former president's speech in Los Angeles, California, but we'll have both of you back to discuss this here on CNN.

Thanks to all of you for joining us.

That's all the time we have.

Here at the CNN Center, that's LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Atlanta.

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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