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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Joseph Lieberman; Interview With Bill Frist

Aired November 23, 2003 - 12:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 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."
We'll get to our exclusive interview with the U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and Connecticut senator, Joe Lieberman, in just a few minutes. But first, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's top stories.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: We're going to go back now to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where there's major political upheaval unfolding. Right now, the country's president, Eduard Shevardnadze, has resigned.

CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty is in Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Georgia. She's joining us now live via videophone with the very latest.

Jill, tell us what you know right now.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Wolf, we can confirm -- we just spoke with the protocol chief for the president. His name is Petra Mamradze (ph). And he has confirmed to CNN that, indeed, President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia has resigned.

This came, apparently, at the end of some shuttle diplomacy that was brought together by the Russian foreign minister here, Igor Ivanov, going from the opposition back to Shevardnadze and back again.

And then a three-way meeting, just this past hour. Two members of the opposition sitting down with President Shevardnadze and with Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister, and making that deal, convincing him to step down, to leave the post that he has been in since 1992.

It's an amazing moment here. And when that news came out, people were absolutely electrified. We were deafened with the sound of all sorts of fireworks, et cetera, and people now saying that the president, in whom they had so many hopes at the beginning of the 1990s, has turned into a person who could not bring this country together, could not bring it out of the morass of economic despair, and he is now leaving -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jill, when you say he's leaving, is he leaving the country? Will he be guaranteed safe passage? How vulnerable is the 75-year-old Shevardnadze right now?

DOUGHTERY: Wolf, the latest that we heard from Georgian television was that he said, quote, "I am going home." Now, what he means by that, we really do not know. He could ago home to the village or the town that he came to.

But you'd have to say that having spoken with the opposition over the past few hours, they have said that they have no interest in having any bloodshed or any type of violence. So -- and they have also guaranteed that if he would step down, that he would have his security guaranteed.

So you'd have to say that at this point he's probably physically quite secure. Politically, what happens now is the next question, Wolf. You know that just yesterday we had the speaker, the former speaker of the Georgian parliament, who took over as interim leader of the country, her name is Burdzhanadze, and she will be leading the country in this period, and now they will be calling new election 45 days from now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Jill, as you were speaking, we were showing our viewers live pictures coming out of Georgian television. Huge dramatic developments, historic developments happening in Georgia.

What was the key right now to this -- apparently, it's going to be a peaceful transfer of power from Shevardnadze to a new group of people in Georgia. What was the key to the peaceful transfer? Was it the intervention of the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov?

DOUGHERTY: Well, it would appear that at least he was the broker who was able to bring the two sides together, because they were both saying, "We don't want bloodshed. We want to be able to work this out peaceably." But you'd have to say that as of yesterday, President Shevardnadze was really saying that he could not -- he could not let this go on. And there was grave concern, just even a few hours ago, grave concern that this could have turned violent. But it did not.

So I guess you'd have to say that that face-to-face meeting was the thing that brought the three sides together -- brought the two sides together. They were able to come up with some type of agreement to resolve this peacefully. And for Georgia, Wolf, that is extremely important.

After all, back in 1992, this street where we are, this parliament where we're standing right now was filled with guns, people fighting and a civil war going on. So they know what it can be like if it turns ugly. And luckily, this time it did not.

BLITZER: CNN's Jill Dougherty reporting live from Tbilisi, Georgia.

Jill, be safe over there. Thanks very much for joining us.

Turning now to the U.S. presidential race, although he fell just short of winning the vice presidency in 2000, Senator Joseph Lieberman was once the presumed front-runner for his party's presidential nomination in 2004.

BLITZER: But in the past few months, other candidates have leapfrogged over the Connecticut Democrat in various polls.

Joining us now in an exclusive Sunday interview is Senator Lieberman.

Senator Lieberman, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wolf, good to be with you.

BLITZER: Huge potential changes, the biggest changes in 40 years involving Medicare that could unfold in the coming days. Will you vote in favor of these reforms in the nation's Medicare system?

LIEBERMAN: I've thought a lot about this, Wolf, and I've decided that I am going to vote against the Medicare bill.

And it was a decision that I regret having to make, because I wanted so much to provide Medicare benefits -- prescription-drug benefits through Medicare. But the Republicans are forcing seniors to swallow a lot of harmful pills in this bill that just don't lead me to think that it's worth doing the other things that it does.

BLITZER: But it will provide prescription-drug benefits for millions of seniors, including the poorest of poor.

LIEBERMAN: Well, let me talk about that. It will provide some prescription-drug benefits for some seniors, millions of them, and that's why I looked at this bill.

In fact, I'm the only one of the Democratic presidential candidates who voted for a bill that passed the Senate a couple of months ago that wasn't perfect, but also would have provided similar benefits. Not as good, but as -- ours were better, but similar benefit to seniors, but without all the garbage that the Republicans put in, yielding, I'm afraid, to the right wing.

And what does this do bad? It actually lowers benefits for millions of poor seniors and other seniors who have drug benefits under retiree plans. That's not fair.

It literally raises the cost and lowers the coverage that they get. It takes billions of dollars away from seniors' drug benefits now and gives those billions of dollars to special-interest groups that the Republicans wanted to favor.

One other thing. I've spent the week talking to colleagues in the Senate about this and people outside on both sides. Groups that are concerned about cancer patients, AIDS patients, have reached a conclusion that some of the poison pills put into this bill would lower the care that people suffering from cancer, AIDS...

BLITZER: You know, the AARP and all sorts of other groups support this. They say it's not perfect, but it's about as good as you can get right now, and at least we'll start providing prescription drug benefits for seniors.

A lot of your critics will say, if you weren't running for president right now, and if you weren't looking to get that liberal Democratic base, that vote, you would be a leader among the moderate, DLC-type of Democrats working with the Republicans to forge this kind of legislation.

LIEBERMAN: Well, I'd say to them respectfully that they're wrong. I thought about this free of the political campaign, and I looked at who will benefit from it. Some will get prescription-drug benefits, not great, but others, millions of others, will come out of this with more expensive prescription-drug benefits covering fewer drugs.

And there is in this bill an attempt, which is going to cost billions of dollars, to privatize Medicare. And I don't get it. The private Medicare substitute plans have increased their costs twice in recent years what Medicare has.

So here's what I want to say, which is that this proposal in this bill will not go into effect until 2006. And I say to seniors that, you know, make me your president, and I will put forth and put through a much better prescription drug plan under Medicare that doesn't threaten Medicare and doesn't cut off sick, low-income patients.

BLITZER: Will you join Senator Kennedy in trying to filibuster against this Medicare bill?

LIEBERMAN: I will. I think the threats in this bill, the poison pills in the prescription-drug benefit plan, as the Republicans have put it together, are threatening enough to millions of seniors whose coverage will be cut, and are threatening enough to Medicare as we know it, one of the best things the federal government has done, that I have a moral responsibility to do anything I can so to stop it from being adopted.

And are threatening enough to Medicare as we know it, one of the best things the federal government has done, that I have a moral responsibility to do anything I can to stop it from being adopted.

So I will join the filibuster. And then I want to come back next year, and I particularly want to come back in 2005, hopefully as president, to push through a really good prescription-drug benefit plan which America's seniors need.

BLITZER: Will this filibuster succeed?

LIEBERMAN: I have no idea. But these are situations -- you know, I didn't make the knee-jerk reaction here like, may I say respectfully, every other one of the Democratic candidates for president. I wanted to read the bill. I wanted to talk to people on both sides.

I actually made requests to the members of the Senate who were in the conference committee to try too fix some of the problems that I've talked about. But they didn't do it, and I'm left with no choice but to oppose this bill.

BLITZER: One final question on this whole issue. Will you stay in Washington, personally give up campaigning over the next few days, to fight this Medicare legislation?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I will. I've made that decision. I'm going to be here. I've already canceled a schedule that I had in New Hampshire.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about Iraq. As you know, you're one of those Democrats, voted for the president's legislation back in October of last year giving him the authorization to go to war to remove Saddam Hussein from power, in effect.

You've been hammered by several of your Democratic rivals including Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor. Listen to what he told me only a few days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We wouldn't be in Iraq today if it hadn't been for people like Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards, Senator Lieberman and Richard Gephardt, because they all supported the president when they should have been asking the tough questions last October.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's suggesting you weren't asking the tough questions. You were basically blindly following the president's lead.

LIEBERMAN: Well, that's ridiculous. I mean, look, I decided with John McCain and Bob Kerry and some Republicans in 1998 that Saddam Hussein was a ticking time bomb and eventually he'd explode in the face and ruin the lives of a lot of Americans, end the lives of a lot of Americans.

He was a homicidal maniac, a dictator. He wanted to dominate the Arab world. He did have weapons of mass destruction during the '90s. The world is safer without Saddam Hussein in control in Baghdad.

BLITZER: Where are those weapons of mass destruction?

LIEBERMAN: Well, that's the search going on. But, look, I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE) saying this myself. Saddam Hussein told the United Nations during the '90s that he had so much chemical and biological weapons that he could have killed millions and millions of people.

BLITZER: But that was in the early '90s. Then he later said he removed them all; he destroyed them all.

LIEBERMAN: Here's the point. I have said that President Bush stressed that factor too much in leading us to go to war. This man was an enemy of the United States. He was enemy of stability in the Middle East, which is an important foreign-policy goal of ours. You know, the point now, Wolf, really is not where you were on whether to go to war. The point now is, how do we achieve our mission in Iraq and turn Iraq over to the Iraqis and get the American troops out of there?

And the Bush administration has had no plan to do it, and has, unfortunately, by its lack of preparedness and strength after the military victory, created or helped to create the chaos that's there now.

We ought to go back to the United Nations, get the United Nations to take over the civilian reconstruction of Iraq.

BLITZER: The administration tried that. They went back to the U.N. Security Council. They got this unanimously approved resolution. But you still have countries like France and Germany and Russia, other countries reluctant to go in.

LIEBERMAN: The reason why the got -- they got a resolution, but they got nothing in the way of financial aid or troop support from the United Nations. And the reason is that the administration was still acting as if the United States alone wanted to control Iraq and not yield any of the civilian control of Iraq.

That's a ridiculous position. We didn't go into Iraq to control Iraq. We went into Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein and to liberate the Iraqis.

BLITZER: This new policy of having a new transitional provisional government by next spring, that's something you support. And you basically think the administration is on track now.

LIEBERMAN: I think they are on track on that. In fact, I suggested before the war that we have a transitional Iraqi government go into power the day after Saddam was defeated.

A key there now is for us to draw the United Nations and the rest of the world in to invest in Iraq, so that the Iraqis will begin to be employed again. Estimates are that between 60 and 80 percent of the Iraqi people don't have jobs today. And as long as that's true, there's going to be instability. So we've got to help them back to work.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to this new ad the RNC, the Republican National Committee, is putting out an ad, obviously supporting President Bush. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our war against terror is a contest of will in which perseverance is power.

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you support the president's policy of preemptive strikes? Not to wait until after terrorists have struck, but to go aggressively and fight them in advance?

LIEBERMAN: Against terrorists? Oh, absolutely.

That's a very misleading ad, and it's an attempt by the Republican National Committee to get the public's mind off of the joblessness in America, the bad prescription Medicare drug bill that we just talked about, the energy bill which sells out to lobbyists. As John McCain said of it, the bill ought to be called "Leave No Lobbyist Behind."

There's different messages there. I don't know of anybody who was attacking the president for attacking the terrorists. I'm certainly not. When it comes to terrorists, we ought to do everything we can to capture and/or kill them.

We also ought to do a lot more than this president is doing to protect our homeland security. He gave so much money away in the tax cuts that we are underfunding local fire, police, emergency, medical and the national Homeland Security Department. So that Warren Rudman, former Republican senator of New Hampshire, issued a report a couple of months ago saying America remains, in his words, "dangerously unprepared for another September 11th-type attack."

BLITZER: Stuart Rothenberg, a man both of us know, a political analyst, wrote in "Roll Call" this past week on Thursday, "Grading the Candidates: the Mid-term." And we'll put it up on the screen.

Howard Dean got an A; Gephardt, A-; Edwards, B; Kerry, B; Clark, C+; Lieberman, C.

And then he wrote this. He said, "Senator Joe Lieberman comes across as a thoughtful and very decent man. But he doesn't convey a sense of leadership or confrontation, which Democrats want. He isn't a dynamic speaker, and he obviously isn't connecting."

LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, Stuart is entitled to his point of view. But needless to say, I totally disagree with him. And I think the voters disagree with him. I mean, we talked about the polls. I continue to poll in the top tier of candidates nationally. I just...

BLITZER: Although you've slipped dramatically since August.

LIEBERMAN: Well, this is...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I'll show you this. Let me show you these numbers.

In fact, last August, in a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, Lieberman was at 23 percent. You were way ahead of Gephardt and Dean. They were at 13 and 12 percent, respectively.

More recently, in November, a CNN-Time magazine poll, Dean's at 14; Clark's at 12; Lieberman's down to 11.

So you've gone from 20...

LIEBERMAN: Well, that's a...

BLITZER: ... this is in a national poll.

LIEBERMAN: This is a moving race. That, basically, is a statistical tie for first, because that's within the margin of error.

But let me just say that there have been six polls in the last week. So I want to cite my polls, Wolf.

BLITZER: Right.

LIEBERMAN: They're not my polls...

BLITZER: I know you took one in Connecticut.

LIEBERMAN: No, it's not just Connecticut. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Ohio, Delaware -- I was in first place in all of those.

But let me focus on this. This is an undecided race. You can see from those numbers that nobody -- none of the Democratic candidates is outside of the teens. And what that means is that the voters in the early primary states are going to begin to thin this field.

I'm focused on New Hampshire. Our internal polling shows an up- tick in New Hampshire.

I want to say, more to the point, we had a very exciting development a week ago. Almost 50 supporters of John McCain in 2000 in New Hampshire announced their support for me. They said the best way to continue the fight they started for John McCain against George Bush was to fight for Joe Lieberman against George Bush.

Why? Because they think and have concluded I'm an independent- minded Democrat. They are independents. I'm going to say what I believe is right for our country. I'm going to stick with it.

And, you know, as for Stuart's point of view, I've made a record, including in this campaign, of having the guts to say -- in audiences where I know they wouldn't like what I had to say -- what I believe is right for our country, and then to stick with it.

That, in this hour, is what the American people need as a leader, and particularly need someone whose record on security, international defense, homeland, is as strong as mine is.

BLITZER: One final question, Senator Lieberman. You've given up on Iowa. In New Hampshire, Howard Dean is way ahead. John Kerry is running a strong second. You have to finish at least third in New Hampshire in order to be competitive? LIEBERMAN: We've got something growing in New Hampshire. There's a little more than two months until that primary begins. I am very confident independents and Democrats are going to come together to give me a surprising showing in New Hampshire.

And then we're going to go south and west: Delaware, South Carolina, Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico. And I'm going to win some primaries that day. And then this field is going to be me and one or two others.

And we're going to fight it out for the future of the Democratic Party to elect somebody who can provide leadership that George Bush is not -- strong on security, pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-middle class, and a fighter for social progress and social justice. Not taking the government over to the right wing, where George Bush has taken it, but back to the mainstream where most Americans live and vote.

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

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, is a Republican plan the right prescription for Medicare reform? We'll have an exclusive interview with United States Senate majority leader, Bill Frist. That's coming up.

Then, stopping the tide of terror. What can the United States do? Two key U.S. lawmakers, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss and Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, will debate.

And later, trouble in Neverland. Michael Jackson accused of child molestation. We'll get legal insight into the singer's strategy for beating criminal charges.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's much more ahead on "LATE EDITION," including your thoughts on our Web question of the week: Has the war in Iraq caused more terror attacks against U.S. allies? Go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote. We'll have the results later in this program.

Up next, an exclusive interview with the United States Senate's top Republican, the majority leader, Bill Frist, about the congressional battle over Medicare reform and more.

"LATE EDITION" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER: So in this bill, we start the process of making Medicare more sustainable. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: This is the beginning of the end of Medicare as we know it.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BLITZER: Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert and the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, sparring over Medicare.

The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approved a $400 billion Medicare-reform and prescription-drug plan early yesterday morning.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

That bill is now in the hands of the United States Senate, which is holding a rare Sunday session to debate the proposal.

Joining us now is the Senate's top Republican, the majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Wolf, good to be with you.

BLITZER: The Democrats, Senator Kennedy, you heard on this program, Senator Lieberman, they're threatening to filibuster, meaning you would need 60 votes to break a filibuster. Do you have those 60 votes?

FRIST: Wolf, we won't know till tomorrow.

But when you look at what's in this bill -- a strengthening and improving of Medicare; a prescription drug benefit for the first time, it does not exist in Medicare today; a voluntary program, nobody's forced to do anything; and the opportunity for seniors to choose a plan that better suits their needs; plus $400 billion on the table for seniors and individuals with disabilities -- it's going to be hard for them to filibuster.

I do think that we have more than 60 votes. I think we can break the filibuster, and I think, if everything goes well, by tomorrow night all of those benefits will be in the hands of seniors.

BLITZER: And the version that you will pass -- you're saying on this program, you will have more than 60 votes, so you'll be able to break that filibuster. The version you will pass will be identical to the version passed by the House of Representatives?

FRIST: That is absolutely correct.

Now, the leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate, Senator Daschle, this morning has said that they are going to try to filibuster, that Senator Ted Kennedy is going to try to filibuster, that they're going to use the parliamentary tricks, procedural moves to try to stop this. But, again, I don't see how any senator can go home and tell seniors that we're not going to give you a benefit that we promised you five and six years ago, that we are not going to give you the option to have choices of plans that people like me and members of Congress have.

At the end of the day, there is no way they're going to be able to uphold any sort of blocking maneuvers. They simply can't obstruct. We're talking about needs for seniors, things that seniors want. They cannot really throw that obstruction in front of 40 million seniors and, really, 77 million baby boomers.

BLITZER: So what you're saying is that, if you had more than 60, you could break the filibuster. There are no other procedural or parliamentary maneuvers that the Democrats might have up their sleeves in order to set you back?

FRIST: Well, they shouldn't. Again, we're talking about health security for seniors who are waiting for this, and we're an eyelash away. The president wants it. The American people want it. Seniors want it. It's passed the House of Representatives. It's only the United States Senate.

But I do think, based on what I heard Senator Daschle say, that even if we overcome the filibuster, they're going to try some party tricks or parliamentary maneuvers to try to stop it. They can't stop it. There's no way. The American people, the seniors deserve it, and we're going to deliver it. Republicans are going to lead on this, and we're going to deliver it to seniors.

BLITZER: Senator Kennedy, among others, Senator Lieberman on this program, strongly disagree with you. They warn this, if passed, if it becomes the law of the land, could end Medicare as the American public, the nation's seniors have known it for so many years, almost four decades. Listen to Senator Kennedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The conference committee report provides for the privatization, the privatization of the Medicare system.

Make no mistake about it, it's incredibly beneficial to the HMOs, incredibly profitable to the drug companies, and a raw deal for the seniors in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Obviously, you strongly disagree with him, but, in a nutshell, why?

FRIST: Well, Senator Kennedy is fixated on the evil pharmaceutical companies. We are fixated -- this bill is fixated on seniors and individuals with disabilities.

What this bill means is that $400 billion that is not present today is going to be put into the health-care security for seniors, so seniors no longer will have to choose between food and buying that prescription drug. Within several months, every senior can have a drug card just like this, within several months, which will give them an immediate 10- to 25-percent discount on their prescription drugs.

In Medicare today, seniors don't have access to prescription drugs through Medicare. Now, I can tell you, as a physician, as someone who spent 20 years taking care of seniors, that the most powerful tool in medicine today are prescription drugs. And you can't tell me that people like Senator Kennedy don't want our seniors to have access to prescription drugs.

And there's nobody who questions that this bill means that about two-thirds of all seniors today are going to have 90 percent of their prescription-drug costs taken care of by this bill.

You mean, Senator Kennedy wants to go back and tell the American people we're going to deny that to them?

BLITZER: Well, one of the issues that they are complaining about is that it doesn't allow the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada, where they are cheaper, into the United States because the pharmaceutical companies don't like that.

FRIST: They want to build this bogeyman of pharmaceutical companies. We're going to look at what seniors need for health care. What they don't have today in Medicare; they don't have preventive medicine. We're going to give it. What they don't have today is disease management. If you have Alzheimers, if you've had a stroke or heart disease, in Medicare today you don't get it. Tomorrow you will. You don't have prescription drugs, the most powerful bill, we are going to get it.

With regard to Canada, that's absolutely not true. In this bill, it says for Canada, bring the drugs in and we'll import the drugs. But only if our Food and Drug Administration, if our government says it's safe. And we said bring it on, but they have to be certified as safe.

And he obviously hasn't read the bill. What's interesting is that whether it was Nancy Pelosi on the House side or Ted Kennedy, before they read this conference bill even last Sunday, they were out saying we're going to stop this for partisan reasons.

We're not going to let them stop it because we care about seniors.

BLITZER: There are plenty of Republicans who aren't very happy with this Medicare legislation either, including Senator John McCain. Listen to what he said this morning in saying that he was going to join in supporting the filibuster. Listen to Senator McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I come from a different -- exact opposite point from Ted. He wants to make it bigger. I want to make it better. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But he does say he will join in that filibuster because he doesn't like it. He thinks it's too complicated and not good enough.

FRIST: Listen, we'll have to wait and see how the vote falls tomorrow. But why don't you ask John Breaux, Democrat; Mary Landrieu, Democrat; Blanche Lincoln, Democrat; Kent Conrad, Democrat; Max Baucus, Democrat; if you're going to pick individuals out?

What I predict will happen is that we have -- because we designed a bipartisan bill, we are going to have an overwhelming majority of senators come forth. Yes, there are going to be a few Republicans who don't vote for it. And yes, there are going to be a few Democrats who don't vote for it. But I can -- I can't promise you, but I can tell you, given both the momentum and what's in the bill that, because most people in the Senate do care about seniors, that we're going to deliver a bill tomorrow with an overwhelming majority.

BLITZER: The conservative Republicans who don't like it think you're creating a $400 billion entitlement forever, basically. And they're not happy about this.

FRIST: It is $400 billion. It is an expansion of Medicare, and we're doing it so our seniors and 77 million baby boomers are going to live a better quality of life. They deserve that. We've promised that to them, and we're going to deliver on it.

It is the number-one issue before the American people today. And if Democrats want to obstruct it, if they want to make a political issue out of it, or a partisan issue, so be it. Under my leadership, under the leadership of Republicans, we're going to address it head on. We're going to deliver a solution. And we're within an eyelash of doing that, and hopefully by tomorrow night we will.

BLITZER: One final question, before I let you go, on the energy bill, which you narrowly lost in terms of a filibuster, two votes shy on Friday. You couldn't get -- you couldn't break that Democratic filibuster. Is energy, that legislation effectively dead, at least for now?

FRIST: Well, I'm going to work it hard today and tomorrow. You're exactly right, we are two votes short. Democrats successfully used a filibuster once again to deny what the majority of people in the United States Senate want.

If we have a blackout as natural gas prices go up, people are going to know who to blame, because it was the Democrats, it was the Democrats who brought this bill down.

BLITZER: So is it down?

FRIST: Well, we'll see in the next 48 hours. We're going to be in, I think, today, Sunday, which is very unusual, doing the nation's business, tomorrow and probably Tuesday. And if I can't get it done by Tuesday, well, we won't see it until January of next year.

BLITZER: Just two senators shy. You must be very frustrated.

FRIST: Well, I am working very hard. And again, very disappointed in the Democratic leadership. They should be able to pull those votes forward. But if they don't, they've brought down something very important to the American people. And when those gas prices go up or if a blackout, which affected 50 million people not too long ago, occurs, it's going to be -- the Democrats are going to have to explain it.

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

FRIST: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

FRIST: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll go to Catherine Callaway in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's top stories, including the latest on the turmoil unfolding now in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: More now on the rising death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq. Six soldiers killed today.

Let's go to CNN's Jane Arraf. She's joining us now live on the phone in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

What's the latest, Jane?

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, an increasingly grisly and gruesome picture is emerging from today's report that two American soldiers have been killed. We were down at the scene, which is just a little, small street off of one of the major busy streets in the business center of Mosul, the city in the north.

It appears that, indeed, as the military said, they had been shot. But after that, it took a horrifying, even more horrifying, turn. According to two eyewitnesses there, they said, after the two soldiers, who were traveling in a convoy, were shot, the vehicle was disabled, and attackers came and cut their throats. After that, a mob started to loot the car and loot the bodies, as well.

Now, this is taking an increasingly gruesome turn. This had been a city where there were very few attacks. Now, in this region, there are between five and seven a day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Jane Arraf in Mosul for us with the latest on the developments in Iraq.

We'll be checking back with you, Jane. Thanks very much. Please be careful where you are.

Up next, new terror tactics in Iraq. Are insurgents gaining the upper hand? We'll ask two guests: U.S. congressional Intelligence Committee members Saxby Chambliss and Jane Harman.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Fighting in Iraq continues to intensify, as we just heard from our own Jane Arraf. There's trouble in the north in Mosul where, supposedly, it had been more secure. Despite a U.S. military crackdown, insurgents are finding many new ways to launch strikes against the U.S. and its coalition partners.

Joining us now, two key United States lawmakers. In Atlanta, Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss. He's a member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. Here in Washington, California Congresswoman Jane Harman. She's the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Senators, thanks so much for joining us. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

And, Senator Chambliss, let me begin directly with you on this latest warning from the Department of Homeland Security, warning this: "The U.S. intelligence community continues to receive and evaluate a high volume of reporting indicating threats against U.S. interests during the Muslim holiday, Ramadan, and the upcoming holiday season are directly here in the United States, and there's concern about al Qaeda's continued interest in aviation, including using cargo jets to carry out attacks on critical infrastructure, as well as targeting liquid natural gas, chemical and other hazardous-materials facilities."

How worried should the American public be right now about another al Qaeda attack in the United States?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Well, the public should remain concerned, Wolf, about the fact that al Qaeda does not like Americans. They want to kill and harm us, and they're going to do everything in their power to make sure that they try to carry out these attacks.

Obviously, we're picking up on more intelligence. That's why you're seeing this type of warning issued. And it's more specific this time than what it has been in the past, relative to the targets that may be attempted against by al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. So I think there's some good news in that.

But certainly, we've got to remain more vigilant than ever about the fact that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups don't like Americans. And, certainly, during Ramadan, as we wind it down, as we move into the holiday season where people may tend to be a little more lax and we congregate more together, it presents opportunities for the terrorist community.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, what about that?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, some good news and some bad news. The good news is that our threat-warning system is better. We've abandoned those silly colors, and we're now getting more specific information to first responders. That's the good news.

The bad news is we still don't have a vulnerability assessment and a strategy behind our homeland security effort. We have the squeaky wheel theory in those jurisdictions that fuss loudest get the money, and that's wrong. We don't have an integrated national strategy, and I worry about these warnings, because we are vulnerable here.

HARMAN: One other piece of good news: We haven't had a major attack since 9/11, on American soil. That -- we should credit the FBI and the federal government...

BLITZER: But there's warnings about U.S. interests around the world, that they should be on a much higher state of alert.

Is it likely, in the aftermath of what's happened in Saudi Arabia, what's happened now in Turkey, that U.S. targets outside of the United States become increasingly more attractive to al Qaeda?

HARMAN: I think they have been vulnerable since 1998, when we had the embassy bombings in Africa. And we are constantly evaluating that. In fact, we had abandoned our embassy in Riyadh before those major attacks just a week ago, because we got some signals that Riyadh was vulnerable.

So, yes, we're a big target there. My same comments apply there, too. We've got to have a strategy behind our homeland security and international threat protection efforts.

BLITZER: Senator Chambliss, what needs to be done that hasn't yet been done? A lot has been done since 9/11, but there are probably a lot of steps that still need to be done.

CHAMBLISS: Certainly, Wolf, the top priority is infiltrating terrorist organizations with human assets, people who work for us, rather than depending on what we refer to as liaison assets, people from other countries who work for other intelligence organizations, providing us with information. If we're able to infiltrate terrorist groups, then we're going to get much better information than what we're getting today.

The second part of it is an aspect that Jane and I have worked so hard together on for the last three years, and that is to ensure that the information we get is analyzed quickly and properly and is disseminated down to state and local folks, as well as to every FBI office and every CIA office around the world, with regard to the potential for attacks of terrorism, who it may come from and what the form of those attacks -- that they might take.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, stand by.

Congresswoman, stand by.

We're going to take a quick break. Much more to discuss with Senator Chambliss and Congresswoman Jane Harman.

And up later, two top generals assess Operation Iron Hammer. What is the U.S. doing right and wrong in the continued conflict in Iraq?

"LATE EDITION" will be right back.

(END COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We're continuing our conversation with Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.

Congresswoman Harman, these latest attacks, are they al Qaeda- directed or are they just sort of loosely coordinated by supporters of al Qaeda, specifically the attacks in Turkey that we saw over the past week?

HARMAN: Well, they seem to have the earmarks of al Qaeda. My guess is that they are al Qaeda. We're still investigating. They're near simultaneous attacks. That's their hallmark. So, I would say their tracks are there.

And, sure, they're recruiting from a local pool. What's tragic here, is they're getting Saudis to attack Saudis and Moroccans to attack Moroccans and Turks to attack the Turks and so on and so forth.

This is a reinvigorated movement around the world and probably as strong as, differently organized, but, I would say, as strong as it was pre-9/11.

BLITZER: It underscores, Senator Chambliss, the multinational nature of al Qaeda. Remember that synagogue bombing in Tunisia, that was supposedly done by Tunisian supporters of al Qaeda. And then in the Far East, whether in the Philippines or Malaysia or elsewhere, they have local sort of franchises out there.

How big of a problem is this?

CHAMBLISS: Well, it's certainly a major problem. The fact that you have Muslims attacking and killing Muslims, in addition to coming after Americans, as well as other folks around the world.

What we have to remember, Wolf, is that these people have absolutely no regard for human life. It doesn't make any difference whether they're Muslim, American or whatever. They've shown that, and that's why we need every country in the world joining forces with us, whether it's inside of Iraq or outside of Iraq to fight this war on terrorism.

The only way we're going to win it is have everybody around the world to join forces to rout out these people who are so evil.

BLITZER: Are you convinced Saudi Arabia now has come around and is fully cooperating with the U.S. in the war against terror?

HARMAN: Well, we've certainly got their attention. The royal family is a target. But what I worry about is their cooperating inside Saudi Arabia, but they're still exporting dollars to support terrorist attacks, for example, against Israel.

The information I've heard is that 50 percent of the money that's funding terrorists that are based in Lebanon trying to attack Israel is still coming from Saudi Arabia, notwithstanding new, strong, national laws that they've enacted on financing.

Also, their schools are not yet teaching different curricula, so I hear.

BLITZER: All right, stand by. We're going to take another quick break. Congresswoman Harman, Senator Chambliss, we've got a lot more to talk about.

We're going to continue this conversation with both of our guests. Also ahead, singer Michael Jackson, he's facing the music on child molestation charges. We'll debate the case against the superstar with a panel of attorneys.

Much more "LATE EDITION" continuing right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

And we'll continue our conversation, as well, with Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss and Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman in just a few moments. But first, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's headlines.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Let's return now to the breaking news coming out of the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The country's president, Eduard Shevardnadze, has resigned after literally tens of thousands of protesters demanded his ouster.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is joining us once again via videophone from the capital, Tiblisi, with the latest.

Jill, what is going on?

DOUGHERTY: Wolf, there is absolute euphoria among these tens of thousands of people here who are gathered right in front of the parliament building. They have been here for so long, and now they have the news which they have been celebrating royally, that Eduard Shevardnadze, their president since 1992, is stepping down. He has stepped down. There is a new interim leader, a new interim president, and there will be new elections. It's something that many people never believed would happen. And it all started, you know, with the elections November 2nd that were stolen. That was the spark that lit the fire of frustration that had been building literally for years and years. People here living so poorly, and so angry about it. And they blamed Eduard Shevardnadze.

In the West, Wolf, we think of Shevardnadze as the man who helped to peacefully end the Soviet Union. But here, he became a despised man. And people literally -- I was talking to them -- describing him as a dictator whom they simply could not stand having in power anymore.

So he has stepped down. And it happened in a dramatic fashion. A meeting, face to face, between the opposition, two members of the opposition, and President Shevardnadze, brokered by the Russian foreign minister who came here, had shuttle diplomacy back and forth, got them to sit down in one room, and then Shevardnadze decided that he would step down.

No bloodshed. The velvet revolution that the opposition was talking about has actually happened. There has been no bloodshed. And it would appear that the military are firmly on the side of the opposition -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jill, so many of our viewers in the United States, North America and around the world will remember Eduard Shevardnadze, of course, when he was the foreign minister in the Soviet Union working with Gorbachev for perestroika, reform, as you correctly point out.

What happened once he took over as president of Georgia? Was it a case of power simply corrupting him?

DOUGHERTY: You know, I think, Wolf, if you talk to people down here, they'd have to say it was a combination of factors.

He was incapable of uniting the country and pulling it together. After all, there are two breakaway regions in this country. It's separate. They don't think of themselves as part of Georgia.

And then also, enormous corruption. Corruption is really the biggest issue here. And Shevardnadze was accused of it, and his family and his clan, of major, major corruption.

You talk to anybody. I talked to a Georgian businessman who has been dealing in business here for years. He said it was unbelievable, that any type of business is smothered by corruption. So you'd have to say that.

And then finally, the inability to really make that transition and turn the economy into something successful after the end of the Soviet Union.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, reporting from Tbilisi for us.

Jill, thank you very much. The 75-year-old Shevardnadze now history in Georgia. The country moving on to a new leadership. We'll continue to cover this breaking story. For us, Jill Dougherty standing by in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, with more throughout the day here on CNN.

But let's move on to Iraq right now, where it's been another deadly day for U.S. troops in Iraq. CNN's Walter Rodgers is standing by in Baghdad with the latest.

More casualties, Walter. What's going on?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq seems to be averaging at least one a day. Three U.S. soldiers were killed today in two separate incidents. One soldier from the 4th Infantry Division was on the patrol in his vehicle. Again, one of those deadly roadside bombs, remotely detonated by some Iraqis hiding off in buildings. Again, a soldier killed there.

But far and away the most egregious incident was in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. There, two U.S. soldiers were, according to the Army, traveling from one outpost to another in an automobile. There was an automobile accident, according to the Army. Then firing ensued, but the Army stops there.

Still, my colleague, Jane Arraf, was in Mosul, talked to eyewitnesses, and they say after the shooting, the Iraqis attacked the cars with the U.S. soldiers in it and then slit the soldiers' throats, according to the eyewitnesses, and then they looted the dead soldiers' bodies after slitting their throats.

Despite all of this, the army is not confirming any of that at this point, but, again, that came from witnesses in Mosul itself. And the U.S. general says the insurgents will be defeated regardless.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY: This is an enemy that cannot defeat us militarily. In engagement after engagement, we see the enemy breaking off, running away. And, militarily, their attacks are becoming more and more insignificant to us against coalition forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RODGERS: There has definitely been an escalation of violent attacks on U.S. soldiers within the course of the last week, and one general speculated that may be a consequence of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan coming to an end. Iraqis tend to feel more Muslim or feel their Muslim roots more keenly at this point, and they look at those Americans -- those Americans are still seen as, if not infidels, foreign occupiers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Walter Rodgers with the latest from Baghdad.

Walter, thank you very much for that report. Let's get back to our conversation with our two guests, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.

Senator Chambliss, I'm going to put some poll numbers up on the screen from the latest CNN-Time magazine poll, which asked the American public whether the war in Iraq was worth the cost. Way back in March, as the war starting, 59 percent say yes; now 44 percent.

And after what's going on on a near daily basis, the casualty, the count continuing, what do you say to your constituents who are wondering, what's going on in Iraq? Is there any light in the end of the tunnel?

CHAMBLISS: Wolf, unfortunately, the price of freedom is terrifically high. It always has been in our country. And as the world leader for freedom and democracy, we know that it's going to be a very, very difficult process.

We're in a phase in the Iraqi war which is truly -- the war on terrorism is taking place now, and not just in the Sunni triangle, but we've seen isolated incidents outside of there.

The people that I talk to say, you know, we have got to stay the course. We're there. We've got to win this war. It's absolutely imperative that we do so.

And, unfortunately, we're seeing American lives lost every day. And that's bad. That's why I would hope that we're going to have other folks from around the world join us. But, you know, we're paying that price for freedom and democracy once again.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, it doesn't look like there's a whole lot of other folks out there lining up to come to help the United States in Iraq.

HARMAN: Well, you know, Wolf, I was watching your coverage of the changing of the guard in Georgia, thinking, wouldn't it have been better if that's how we could have worked regime change in Iraq?

And now that we know that the prewar intelligence, I believe, overstated the situation on the ground, I just wish we had let our diplomatic tools work longer and, hopefully, it'll change that...

BLITZER: But you supported the president going into the war?

HARMAN: Sure, I did. But the resolution I voted for required the maximum use of diplomatic tools, and military action only if it failed, and the president certified that it failed.

And I just say, looking backward, I would wish that we had let the diplomacy run longer. But now...

BLITZER: The difference between Georgia and Iraq, leading off on a tangent, is that the military in Georgia clearly did not support Eduard Shevardnadze. There was no indication the Republican Guard or any of the military in Iraq...

HARMAN: No, there was no indication...

BLITZER: ... were about to stand up to Saddam Hussein.

HARMAN: However, if we had been able to line up the whole world against Saddam Hussein -- and I strongly supported and do support regime change, in this case -- maybe it would have been different.

But on the subject now, we should prepare ourselves for more grisly photos of Americans being dragged through the streets, as we saw in Somalia.

We have to stay the course. I totally agree with Saxby that we have to stay the course. But we need to use more tools than just military might. We have to work harder on diplomacy, getting the world behind us, giving up some authority so that we build international coalitions, letting some of those contracts go to foreign countries.

BLITZER: All right.

HARMAN: And, it just seems to me, too, that we have to win the hearts and minds of the next generation, or we'll never, we'll never end this insurgency.

BLITZER: The president recently, Senator Chambliss, said that foreign terrorists were clearly causing so much of the problem in Iraq for the U.S. and its coalition partners. Listen to what he said at the end of October:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The foreign terrorists are trying to create conditions of fear and retreat, because they fear a free and peaceful state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But this past week, Major General Charles Swannack, Jr., the U.S. military commander on the ground of the 82nd Airborne Division, said something slightly different, maybe not even slightly so different. He said this, and I'll read it. He said, "I want to underscore we're finding mostly that the attacks on coalition forces are from former regime loyalists and Iraqis, not foreign terrorists."

So, you're both a member of the Intelligence Committee and the Armed Services Committee, Senator Chambliss. Put on your hat. Tell us what it is. Is it foreign terrorists or is it Saddam loyalists who are causing these problems?

CHAMBLISS: Well, I think what both of them said's exactly right. We know that there are foreign insurgents within Iraq that are causing problems. They may be the masterminds behind the suicide bombers that are being sent here and there to carry out these terrible acts of terrorism. So I think both of them are probably right. We know, for example, that there are rewards being offered to individuals who will fire rocket-propelled grenades at American vehicles to take out Americans. If they take out a vehicle, they get paid $500. If they take out a soldier, take his life, they get $1,500. Those are the types of things that are being done.

And certainly, that money is coming from outside of Iraq. Some of it may be inside, but most of it probably outside.

But the individuals who are actually carrying out the attacks I think, for the most part, are coming from withinside Iraq.

BLITZER: And, very briefly, Senator Chambliss, the New York Times reporting this weekend 100,000 U.S. troops may be necessary to remain in Iraq through 2006. Some planning going on in the U.S. Army, the Marine Corps for that. Is that acceptable to you?

CHAMBLISS: Just depends on in what direction the new governing authority moves. I think, of course, we've got this new three-step provision, where we're going to hand over security by July 1 of next year, if the Iraqi people will seize control in a way in which they're capable of, and certainly we can downsize that force.

But it's going to be very imperative, because of the financial commitment we've made, as well as the commitment of loss of life, that we stay the course in Iraq, and we're going to do that.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, I'm going to give you the last word. Go ahead.

HARMAN: I just fear that we're building the second West Bank in the Sunni Triangle. Seventy percent of the people are unemployed, and they're angry, and they're available to be recruited.

We need to use more tools. We need economic development there. We need to build an international coalition there. Military might is not going to win this, especially with an American face on it.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, thanks very much for joining us.

Senator Chambliss, thanks to you, as well.

CHAMBLISS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Up next, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Dan Christman and retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange will assess Operation Iron Hammer for us. U.S. troops, the safety on the line -- what's going on in Iraq?

And later, facing the music in court, the king of pop accused of child molestation. We'll get some legal insight into Michael Jackson's strategy for beating these criminal charges.

And don't forget our Web question of the week: Has the war in Iraq caused more terror attacks against U.S. allies? You can go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In Iraq, insurgents striking again. Two U.S. soldiers killed in an attack in the northern city of Mosul.

Our Baghdad bureau chief, Jane Arraf, is on the scene. She's joining us now with the very latest via videophone.

Jane, tell us what's happening.

Jane Arraf, can you hear me?

All right. Unfortunately, we're having some technical problems getting Jane in Mosul. We're going to fix those problems and get her up as soon as we can. Jane Arraf is on the scene in Mosul, where there has been some deadly activity throughout the day today.

And despite these frequent suicide bombings, changing methods of attack, U.S. commanders on the ground in Iraq say progress indeed is being made in the counterinsurgency campaign. They insist the country is about 90 percent safe.

Joining us now to assess the overall situation, two guests, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Dan Christman. He was the head of strategy planning in 1991, Persian Gulf War. And in Madison, Wisconsin, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange. He's our CNN military analyst.

Generals, thanks so much for joining us.

Let me begin with you, General Christman. The whole mission seems to be evolving right now, Operation Iron Hammer, over the past couple of weeks, designed to deal with these insurgent attacks. But it doesn't look, right now, that a whole lot of progress necessarily is being made.

LT. GEN. DAN CHRISTMAN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, I think General Abizaid's press conference this week was quite revealing. He said everything is going on here: counterterror, counterinsurgency, counterguerrilla. The key, I think, is to keep the momentum up.

General Dempsey (ph), his key commander in Baghdad, the 1st Armored Division, also gave a press conference, and said he is working on actionable intelligence to keep the guerrilla units off balance. He cited a 70-percent reduction in incidents in Baghdad, as a result of Iron Hammer.

Sadly, that was just before the rocket attack on the hotels, but I think the key on this, Wolf, is to keep momentum on, and work the operations based upon the actionable intelligence that our units can get. That's the key going forward.

BLITZER: General Grange, based on what you've heard from our Jane Arraf, our Walter Rodgers, on the scene in Iraq, this latest attack in Mosul, which is outside, as you well know, the so-called Sunni Triangle, it looks like the attacks are escalating not only in and around Baghdad.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think this was just an opportunity for some murderers, gunmen, hired or just terrorists themselves, to gun down a lone vehicle. Then atrocities, of course, happen with a spontaneous mob, probably some leaders.

So this is one incident. There's a few others. But I don't know if they're increasing.

I think General Christman's right on, that now's the time to keep the pressure on the enemy, and at the same time, though, add rewards. We heard earlier on the program that they're offered $1,500 if a G.I. is killed. Well, you have to offer more than that -- because you have a lot of people that are unemployed and will do things for money -- to turn in who's doing it, to pay for those that are turned over.

BLITZER: All right, Generals, stand by. Our Jane Arraf, she's on the scene in Mosul. I want to see if I can get her back up.

I believe we've reconnected with you, Jane. Give our viewers who are just tuning in in the United States and around the world the latest on what's happening in Mosul, including the atrocities that General Grange was just referring to.

ARRAF: Wolf, it really is a gruesome picture that has emerged from our visit to the scene. Now, this was an ordinary street just off of a main thoroughfare in Mosul.

The official military version was that two soldiers from the 101st Airborne were shot, and indeed that does seem to be the case, but it didn't end there.

According to two separate witnesses on the ground, just after these men were shot -- one in the neck and one in the lower body -- the attackers came with knives and slit their throats.

It seemed to be a very professional operation. According to one witness, one of the attackers disabled the vehicle, taking the wheel off the axle. At that point, a crowd rushed in and began to loot the car and the bodies. They described a child running away with a hand grenade, another one running away with a watch.

After the incident, the place was swarming with soldiers trying to interrogate people, most of whom would not talk.

And that wasn't the only incident, Wolf. We also have a report that one of the senior people in the Iraqi police guarding the oil fields here was killed last night in what is believed to be a political killing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jane, is this a new development, the atrocities, the desecration of the U.S. troops after they've been shot that we're seeing today, or has this sort of been going on under the radar screen over these past several months?

ARRAF: As far as we know, Wolf, this is absolutely new. And it is horrifying people, including the soldiers.

Now, it is one thing to get into the frame of mind where they've begun to expect being attacked. And, Wolf, this is the first time in a long time we've been down here. This has been a success story. I was here just after the Iraqi troops withdrew, when there was chaos. Now, it was restored to a semblance of normality. Things were looking up.

And in the last month or so, there has been an increase of attacks. But again, the kind of attacks that soldiers have come to expect in what is, essentially, still a war.

They did not expect this, though. It has been absolutely horrifying to them and to many people here that this could happen -- not just a desecration of the bodies, which of course goes against every religion practiced here, but the looting by children of dead bodies and the message that sends, that there really is, in some places, and among many people, no respect for whatever the military is trying to do here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jane, stand by, because I want you to participate in this conversation. I want to bring back our two generals.

General Christman, back to you. I sense, when you're listening to this, your blood beginning to boil, as a retired U.S. military officer.

CHRISTMAN: Well, it does. I'm also a veteran of the 101st. And that's a wonderful division. Their commander, Dave Petraeus, has been doing an extraordinary job in this northern region of Iraq, which is what makes this so both unpredictable and so horrifying.

The civil military actions that the 101st has engaged in, the investment that's taking place there, the chambers of commerce that are beginning to materialize -- all of this puts this in enormously stark relief to see this happen, despite the efforts there in the north.

Having said that, I think Petraeus and the 101st are on the right track. This is, after all, the region where Uday and Qusay were captured. Sunnis -- even though it's predominantly Kurd -- Sunnis are still there. The rejectionists are still there.

It just means that the 101st is going to have to be very, very diligent here in the months ahead to maintain the momentum they already have established.

BLITZER: General Grange, you're a veteran of combat operations. If this is a new development -- the desecration of U.S. soldiers, the bodies after they've been shot -- it sends a powerful message. It's going to be heard by 130,000 U.S. troops who are out there. What impact does that have on the military situation? GRANGE: Well, it will have some impact. Emotions are going to run high. I haven't -- been a veteran, as well, of the 101st Airborne Division, they're going to -- it's going to bother them more than anybody, because it's their unit.

This is a time for extreme discipline. This is a time where you have to harness the emotions, where you want to get even, where it's just a natural feeling, where you want to go out and do something immediately, you want to react. And you can't. You have to wait until you find out who did it or the organization they're part of, and then go after them.

The other question that comes to mind -- and I've been in this situation, and it's bothered me for years, and that is, where was the other vehicle? Was there another vehicle that should have been providing overwatch? Was this a civil affairs patrol, where you work in smaller numbers? I don't know. I don't know the situation on the ground. But it always makes you think, well, should there have been a wing man, another vehicle to watch this vehicle as it moves through the city?

BLITZER: All right. Well, let me go back to Jane Arraf. She's on the scene in Mosul.

I don't know if you know the answer to that question, Jane, but if you do -- you're joining us via videophone.

Was this one vehicle that was attacked, two soldiers killed, was it driving alone or was it part of a bigger convoy?

ARRAF: No, it was apparently part of a convoy, Wolf, but it was a convoy driving in civilian vehicles. And these are not armored vehicles. Not that it would have made that much difference. A lot of the military vehicles they drive in are not armored.

But, in this case, according to witnesses, there actually were four soldiers in that vehicle. The first two were shot, and it's not entirely clear that they died from those gunshot wounds. It's not clear, either, what would have happened to the two other soldiers in that vehicle or the other soldiers in the convoy. The military has said...

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we've just lost our connection with that videophone. Jane Arraf, reporting from Mosul. It's obviously a tense situation up there.

General Christman, when Jane Arraf got to Mosul, right after March and April when Saddam Hussein's regime was overthrown, the people there were very receptive, very warm in the northern part of Iraq, but it looks like there's a clear deterioration.

What's going on, based on what you could tell?

CHRISTMAN: Well, I am in contact, actually, with folks in the Kirkuk-Mosul area, my current job with the Chamber of Commerce. We've been working with businessmen there. The irony of all this, Wolf, is that that's the one region, besides deep in the south in Basra, where the whole, collective, holistic strategy seems to be working -- military, economic and political.

So I think what we're seeing perhaps here, Wolf, is, A, the after-effects here of Ramadan, the final week or so of the Ramadan holiday period, tragically. Second, the cellular structure that continues to be alive throughout the country, and it's operating with deadly affect here in Mosul.

What I think will happen is that the 101st will take the intelligence from this, as Dave Grange said, and collect the resources and, as is happening now in Baghdad, take forcible military action against those cells that they have intelligence against. That's what we'll see next.

BLITZER: One final question for you, General Grange, before we wrap this up. We saw an attack, a surface-to-air missile that was fired at a commercial airliner, a DHL plane flying into Baghdad International. It was hit. It landed safely.

It looks like they're going to suspend, at least for the time being, commercial flights, whatever commercial flights may have been coming in to Baghdad International airport.

The whole culmination of what's going on, is the overall situation getting worse?

GRANGE: I don't think so. But a surface-to-air missile, SA-7 or whatever type was used in this situation, is a weapon of choice in this type of insurgency, just like the old rocket-propelled grenade launcher, the RPG. Explosive devices were on the sides of the road. These are just weapons of choice.

And you'll never totally secure the airspace from the use of the SAM 100 percent. It'll never happen. They may suspend flights for a while until they do some search missions and things like that, and then they'll have to resume the flights because they need the air. But you'll never do it 100 percent security on surface-to-air missiles.

BLITZER: General Grange, thanks so much for joining us.

General Christman, thanks to you, as well.

CHRISTMAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Our special thanks to Jane Arraf, who's risking her life, together with our producers, our crew, up in the northern part of Iraq, in Mosul. Special thanks to them.

We'll try to reconnect. We'll then go back to Mosul and get some more information, what's happening up in the northern part of Iraq. It is not pretty picture, as we all know by now.

But coming up, we'll go to CNN's Catherine Callaway in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's top stories, including the latest on the political upheaval in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Then, we'll switch gears. Dramatically, Michael Jackson's Neverland estate: Was it the scene, though, of a crime? We'll discuss explosive allegations against the singer with a panel of attorneys.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after the headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Let's turn now to the very explosive legal story in the news this week, the pop star, Michael Jackson, arrested on multiple child molestation charges. The singer surrendered to authorities in Santa Barbara, California, this past week. He is free right now on $3 million bail. He is vehemently denying the allegations.

Joining us now to help sort through all of the issues involved in this case are three guests: in San Francisco, the former prosecutor, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom; in Oakland, California, the former prosecutor and current criminal defense attorney, John Burris; and in Connecticut, criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman.

Thanks to all three of you for joining us.

Let me begin with you, Kimberly, a former prosecutor, how hard of a legal challenge does the prosecution have right now in this case?

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE NEWSOM, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, it's very difficult. These are some of the most difficult cases to prosecute successfully.

This particular statute has a specific intent issue, which means the prosecution is going to have to demonstrate that these acts, if they were done, were done with the intent to arouse or satisfy the desires or sexual interests of either party involved.

And that can be very challenging, because you have to get into the mindset of the person committing the act and the mindset of the person having the act done to them.

So it's very challenging, especially when you are dealing with Michael Jackson. No one wants to believe that these charges are true.

BLITZER: Listen to what his lawyer -- John Burris, listen to what Mark Geragos said earlier this week once these charges were formally announced. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL JACKSON: He considers this to be a big lie. He understands the people who are outraged, because if these charges were true, I assure you, Michael would be the first to be outraged.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: A lot will hinge on the testimony, I assume, of this 13-year-old boy who is making the accusations. How credible does he have to be, assuming that the prosecution's case will largely rest on this one individual?

JOHN BURRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Extraordinarily high. I mean, the case turns in large measure upon his credibility. Of course, there are other factors that need to corroborate it. But to the extent that he is making the allegation, I think it becomes extraordinarily important.

How did these charges come about? When did he make these allegations? Was he prompted? Was his mother getting any money? What was going on with him that caused this to occur when it happened? Were there contemporaneous statements made? All these factors will bear upon whether he should be believed when he said what happened in this particular case. So his credibility is fundamentally important.

The difficult part for him, of course, is how do you get collaboration for it? Because it's not a question of physical abuse of some kind in the sense that there's going to be scars and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of this kind. We're talking about an offensive touching, or lewd touching, if you will.

And Kimberly is right, I mean, it goes to the mental state of Michael or the mental state of this individual. And that that can be very tough, particularly if he didn't tell anybody right after it happened or shortly thereafter and it was prompted by some other consideration, given the fact that emotionally he is a cancer victim in the middle of a mother-father divorce, all of which raises questions about his credibility.

BLITZER: What about that, Mickey Sherman, the whole credibility of the 13-year-old boy? We understand he's almost 14 years old right now. This becomes the heart of the prosecution's case against Michael Jackson.

MICKEY SHERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, but you know, I think, John points out that he's got problems. His parents are going through some rather tough domestic problems, and he is a cancer victim. I, frankly, think that will help his credibility. It shows that he is by far one the most vulnerable victims one can find. I think that will hurt Michael Jackson.

And a lot of people say, well, why would a kid make this up unless he's obviously being manipulated, unless it's like a, you know, McMartin School situation where you have therapists and other people with agendas prompting him to say something that's not true. But I think it's all going to hinge on this young man's interview.

BLITZER: Let me go back to Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom. There was a lot of criticism of the prosecutors this past week, the prosecution, the D.A. out in Santa Barbara, California for supposedly being somewhat flippant, getting into laughing at the news conference where they made the announcements. Let me play one excerpt from that news conference, if we have that, for -- I don't know if we do have that sound bite. Do we? All right, let's listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM SNEDDON, SANTA BARBARA D.A.: Thank you for coming to Santa Barbara. I hope that you all stay long and spend lots of money, because we need your sales tax to support our offices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, I assume you understand why there has been criticism of this D.A.?

NEWSOM: Sure, and a lot of people feel that this D.A. has a personal vendetta against Michael Jackson. And we've seen on the other side, Michael has composed a song that has lyrics that contains his name in it. There's a lot of acrimony between these two sides. Michael feels that he's been persecuted, that this D.A. has focused on him over the course of the past 10 years, when the first incident occurred in 1993, that first case we saw where Michael was accused, but the D.A. wasn't able to bring that case to court.

So there was some frustration, I think, on his part. He's made it clear in his press conferences that he wasn't going to give up this investigation. He even went so far as to say, "Is there anyone else out there that's a victim or has information? Please come forward."

Something else that I thought was unusual was that he didn't file the charges at the time that this arrest warrant was issued, et cetera. When we were there the other day, he said we're not going to have a criminal complaint with the specific charges filed until after Thanksgiving. That, to me, seems highly unusual. If they've got the case and the facts together, there is nothing to prevent them from filing it. It's a simple procedure for them to do.

And again, the levity in the press conference is always inappropriate for a prosecutor. You're supposed to be above those kind of personal statements and trying to manipulate the media for your case. That is not our job.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to stand by and continue this conversation. I want all of our three guests to just bear with us. We're going to take a quick commercial break. We'll continue our legal discussion right after that.

There's still time, by the way, also for our viewers to weigh in on our Web question of the week: Has the war in Iraq caused more terror attacks against U.S. allies? You can still cast your vote, cnn.com/lateedition.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking about this week's big legal story here in the United States, Michael Jackson. Among our guests, the former prosecutor Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, former prosecutor and current criminal defense attorney John Burris, and criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman.

John Burris, he was released on $3 million bail, which wasn't a problem obviously for Michael Jackson, but he was also allowed to leave California, head back to Las Vegas, where a lot of his fans were expressing their support for him.

How unusual is it for the prosecution, for the authorities to let him leave the state, given the gravity of these charges?

BURRIS: Well, I don't think that was particularly unusual, given the personality that he is. After all, you know, Kobe Bryant is also charged in Colorado, and he was allowed to leave the state. It depends on who the person is. I mean, this is a person who really can't hide any particular place, and so, he gave up the $3 million. I don't really think that that is unusual. That's not special treatment.

I think do think that I want to follow one particular point, and that was the prosecution's efforts, he thinks, to get the prior event that took place 10 years ago and this call, if you will, for other people to come forward. To me, it raises real questions about his need to have some corroboration, if you will, for the present event through some kind of common plan or scheme or some modus operandi. Without that, this kid is standing alone. With the event it makes it an extraordinarily challenging case for him assuming Michael has explanations for a lot of the contact, if any.

BLITZER: Mickey Sherman, that mug shot that we're showing our viewers around the world -- probably one of the strangest, weirdest looking mug shots we have ever seen, but we don't have to discuss that right now.

What I do want to discuss is the whole issue of what happened 10 years ago. There was a young boy who made similar accusations. That was resolved out of court. Supposedly millions of dollars were paid to this young boy and his family by Michael Jackson.

How much of a factor will that be, should that be, if any factor, in these current accusations?

SHERMAN: One hopes that the jury, if they sit on the case, is going to give Michael Jackson the presumption of innocence and have the slate clean, other than what they're going to hear in court. But in the real world, that doesn't happen. I mean, that's going to be out there. It's going to be talked about. I see in the New York papers today that the family of that person back then is giving current interviews. It's going to be a problem.

Not as much of a problem, however, if any other new victims come forward, as per the prosecutor's call. As John Burris points out, the D.A. out there basically is recruiting newer, other victims. And I think that's going to be a serious problem, because those people who defend or prosecute these cases will tell you, Wolf, that someone who commits this crime -- and I don't know that he did, but if he did -- it's not the first time or the last time that he's done it. These types of cases breed other cases, breed other victims.

And if they're there, they're going to come forward. And that's going to be a bigger problem than the one from 10 years ago.

BLITZER: I'll let Kimberly weigh in on this.

How unusual is it in California for a D.A., for a prosecutor, basically to be asking the public for additional help, for more witnesses to come forward, other alleged victims to come forward, the way the D.A. in this particular case did?

NEWSOM: Oh, it's highly unusual, and that's why I was so surprised by the tone and tenor of this particular press conference, for him to be sitting there trying, searching for other evidence, other people to come forward. That's also encouraging people who, perhaps, are not credible and are not trustworthy to come forward to try and get attention. So I think that's a dangerous game.

I will say that, under California law, that prior incident in 1993, even though it was not charged and he was not convicted of it, could come into evidence. The prosecution will try to get that information in, including any other people who come forward over the course of the past 10 years that say that they had an incident with Michael Jackson. That is proper to be admitted in court. It is up to the discretion of the judge.

BLITZER: John Burris, Jermaine Jackson, the brother of Michael Jackson, spoke out bitterly, angrily after the charges were filed earlier this week, and he made an explosive charge. Listen to this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERMAINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S BROTHER: I am sick and tired of everybody saying these things about my family. And we will fight, and we will stand up. And everybody that knows this family around the world will support us, because at the end of the day, this is nothing but a modern-day lynching.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Given the racial history of our country, the United States, John Burris, the accusation of modern-day lynching has powerful, powerful meaning. Is this going to become -- is race going to be a factor in this case?

BURRIS: I would think not, frankly. I can understand the family's concerns and the emotions attached with it. But when you really get down to this case, Michael Jackson is an icon, an international icon. There are many more people that love him than not, people of all ethnic backgrounds. I just don't see race as being a factor in this particular case. Ultimately, what really becomes important here is the judgment on the part of the prosecution. Did they actually exercise faulty judgment in bringing forth a case of this kind, and whether they have a personal vendetta.

But I don't think that's going to be a racial question, and I would think that, given this type of case, that it would be important for the lawyers to really stay focused on what the prosecution had and be concerned, I think, as Mickey and Kimberly said, as to whether or not there are other cases out there.

I don't think that the case 10 years ago is as likely to get in as any cases that may have happened since then or happened -- that are more contemporaneously around this case.

So, of course, race is a question that others may have in the back of their mind, but I don't think that in terms of this particular case, that race is at all an issue, as it might be in some other type cases.

BLITZER: All right. John Burris, thanks very much for joining us.

Mickey Sherman, thanks to you.

Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom.

Unfortunately, we have to wrap this discussion up, but this subject clearly not going away.

And just ahead, the results are in on our Web question of the week: Has the war in Iraq caused more terror attacks against U.S. allies? We'll tell you how our viewers around the world are voting.

Plus, Bruce Morton's last word. Same-sex marriage: the law and love.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Web question of the week: Has the war in Iraq caused more terror attacks against U.S. allies? Look at this. 93 percent of you say yes, 7 percent say no. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.

Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on labeling love.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Webster's dictionary in my office defines marriage as "the social institution under which a man and woman live as husband and wife by legal or religious commitments."

Now comes the Massachusetts court ruling that maybe gays could be married, though the court left the state legislature time to decide about that. This has set off, of course, a huge outcry. Pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages, and so on.

But wait, there's already a law, the national Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Maybe that's enough. And maybe this is an issue the government could leave alone.

There's a good argument for civil contracts, so that a gay couple would be treated the same as a straight couple, when it comes to inheritance taxes, rules at work that give you some time off if your spouse is seriously ill, and so on.

But marriage is often a religious, not a civil ceremony, which maybe is why the men who wrote the Constitution didn't feel a need to include it. The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, says you're only really married if you've been married by a Roman Catholic priest, never mind what the justice of the peace said. Islam in some places allows a man to have as many as four wives and to divorce whenever he wishes.

Maybe marriage, most of all, is a state of the heart. An official marriage between a man and a woman can be loving and caring, or just awful. So can a union, whatever it's called, between two men or two women.

Most of us, in these relatively open times, probably know gay couples, loving and caring, or perfectly awful, just like the heterosexuals. Certainly the gays think of themselves as married, whatever word they're allowed to use.

The "m" word may not matter much, as long as the civil contract part, the legal standing is the same for everyone. So maybe the government should sit back and not do much about all this. Marriage is an affair of the heart, not the dictionary. And how we label it won't have much to do with how well or how badly it works.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And that's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, November 23rd. 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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