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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Dan Rather, John McCain, Bob Woodward

Aired June 29, 2004 - 21:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, Iraq, the day after the handover, three U.S. Marines are killed by a roadside bomb and insurgents attack Iraqi police in Baghdad and three other cities.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon tells Congress more than 5,000 reserve troops will be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. And Iraq's new government expected to get custody of Saddam Hussein tomorrow.

With us on the scene in Baghdad, Dan Rather, the veteran CBS news anchor and the last journalist to interview Saddam. Also, Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His book, "Plan of Attack," showed you how, why, and when President Bush and his team went to war in Iraq. Senator John McCain, the former presidential candidate, decorated war hero who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. And back in Baghdad, CNN's own Anderson Cooper.

They're all next on "LARRY KING LIVE."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Good evening. All of our guests will be with us for the full hour and, later, we'll be taking your phone calls. Let's get a Baghdad update first.

We'll go to Anderson Cooper first. What's the development today as the big story -- the three Marines being killed?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. Three U.S. Marines killed, two wounded -- one of those improvised explosive devices, an IED we've heard so much about that have caused so much death and destruction here in Baghdad and around Iraq in the last several weeks, in the last several months.

Those Marines were in the Baghdad area. They were on a patrol. Their vehicle, the humvee -- the lead vehicle was hit. You're probably seeing some of the video now, blood spattered inside the vehicle. Just a horrible scene there.

Also, of course, the big news, Saddam Hussein going to be handed over, legal custody handed over to the Iraqi government today, Wednesday. Actual physical custody, temporarily handed over for a court appearance on Thursday; a perp walk -- basically sort of the mother of all perp walks -- going to be on Thursday, then handed back to physical custody to the United States, to coalition forces here, really for security reasons. Simply, the Iraqi security forces are not up to the job at this point of holding onto Saddam Hussein, Larry.

KING: Dan Rather, are we going to see all that tomorrow? Are we going to see Saddam Hussein?

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: I doubt we see him tomorrow, Larry. All things are possible. I think the most important thing to know is, you know, there is a new government here in Iraq. While they are in some ways organized, things like this are heavy with negotiation between the Americans and Iraqis.

I'm not sure we're going to see Saddam tomorrow; I'm fairly certain we'll see him on Thursday. I think that's the plan, to have the picture on Thursday while the legal custody is handed over tomorrow. But you know, things could change by the hour.

KING: Dan, one more thing of you and then we'll go a round-robin with everyone. How changed is it now? You've been there a lot. How different is it today and yesterday?

RATHER: Well, it's different in that Iraq now has its sovereignty. That is something different. It has a new government. Dr. Allawi, whom I spoke with over the weekend, you know, is -- this guy is very experienced. Whether he can keep himself alive, whether he can pull this together on the Iraqi side, we'll be in the process of finding out.

On the ground, not that much has changed. And I'm sorry to say that what has changed seems to be for the worse. We're still taking a lot of casualties on the ground. Everybody talks about those killed, as well we should. But there are very large numbers of American Marines and troops being wounded here. And obviously, the insurgency has demonstrated within the last week to 10 days that they're capable of pulling off widespread coordinated attacks, at least on a sporadic basis.

So, on the ground, the situation does not seem to have improved that much in guerrilla warfare terms. Now, there are other aspects -- in the Kurdish north, things seem to have improved some. Schools continue to operate. Bridges get rebuilt, some of the infrastructure is getting rebuilt. But the oil pipelines continue to be heavily sabotaged. And I wouldn't underestimate that effect on the new government's ability to pull the economy in a forward way.

KING: Senator McCain, given the benefit of hindsight, would you go into Iraq again? Would you do what we did...

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Yes.

KING: You would.

MCCAIN: Yes, I remain convinced that Saddam Hussein, if he were in power today, would be attempting to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction. I'd remind you that the UNSCOM weapons inspection regime had broken down. Our airplanes were being shot at every day.

Would I have done everything that's been done afterwards? Most compelling difference I have is that I would have kept more troops there. I would have increased the troops there. I would have made sure that we had enough troops to secure many of the cities like Fallujah, which I am worried about as we speak. And there's other things.

But mistakes are made in conflicts. And I am guardedly optimistic that the Iraqi people will gradually stand up for themselves and start as they control their governments, begin to fight for their independence and freedom from these insurgents.

KING: Bob Woodward, no one searched this more or better than you in that book "Plan of Attack, " a book praised on all sides. Have developments surprised you?

BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST," AUTHOR "PLAN OF ATTACK": Well, what is interesting right now, I think, in all of this discussion of what's going on the ground, what the expectations are, the political stakes of the war have only increased with time and the political stakes for President Bush. This is his war. Everyone I think now agrees it was his decision. He will be defined by it.

So, we have a president of the United States who is under intense criticism, lots of political pressure. As we know, presidents have immense power, not just as commander in chief, but to rally people. I kind of have the feeling this summer we're going to see some surprises.

Put yourself in the place of Karl Rove. He knows that the president has got to put something up on the board that is a political success in Iraq. They have to have something as the election comes down the road where they can say it was definitely worth it. The troops are coming home or something positive occurring.

KING: Are you saying, Bob, that all the things then are secondary to it? This election is a referendum on Iraq?

WOODWARD: It looks like it. We've talked before that, in many ways, Bush's opponent is the Iraq war, not Senator Kerry. And he -- he has to do something. I mean, my sense, I think the political imperative in all of this, in -- let's not forget we're in a political year -- is to say, hey, look, troops are coming home, even if only a token amount.

Now, you talk to people in the White House and the Pentagon, and they deny the troops are coming home. They say, if anything, "We will increase the number." But again, the politics of this, I think in a practical sense, maybe 10,000 troops could come home at some point before the election.

So, the president and Karl Rove would be able to say we are on the road to a better situation here, perhaps even some kind of success.

KING: Anderson, are any of the troops talking about politics?

COOPER: Yes, absolutely. It's interesting, I mean, you know, the troops are a reflection of the American populous, the American voting public. So, you get really all different opinions.

I'll just tell you a little anecdote. I was at Camp Victory, which is a large military base here outside of Baghdad. I went into the port-a-john. There was an informal poll scrawled on the wall there, Bush-Kerry. They were running about even in this one port-o- potty. That's obviously not a very scientific poll, but gives you a sense that there is a wide variety of opinion, certainly.

KING: Dan Rather, would you agree that this election is going to be -- and I'll get Senator McCain's opinion in a minute -- that it's going to be a -- really much Iraq is going to be the story of this election?

RATHER: Well, it certainly appears that way right now, Larry. But you and I have been around long enough to know that overnight is a long time in politics. A week is forever, and the election is still a long way away.

I certainly agree that it is going to be one of the main issues. I tend to think that people vote their pocketbooks even in a time of war. So, I wouldn't underestimate the economy as a factor in the campaign at all.

However, I have no argument with what Bob Woodward said about it being the decisive issue for President Bush. One thing about bringing troops home, which you know, everybody talks about, well, sometime in late summer or fall the president could bring troops home, and yes he could. But he would do so in the face of this: General Richard Sanchez, whom I've talked to this afternoon, said that he -- he's the main commander on the ground here -- he thinks it will be necessary to keep the current force -- and that's somewhere between 130 and 140, 145,000 troops here -- through next spring.

So, if the president and Karl Rove, or whomever decides to bring troops back home, they would face the question: Aren't you increasing the danger for the troops that you leave there? That's a very, very tough decision to make. I'm not saying it won't be made. I will say it will be extremely tough to make it.

Now, about Fallujah, Senator McCain mentioned earlier -- General Sanchez also told me when I asked him, "Well, what's the most dangerous place in the country?" And Sadr City right here in Baghdad is a very dangerous place. Ramadi, where the Marines have lost 30 killed over the last few months, is very dangerous. But General Sanchez says, without question, Fallujah is the most dangerous place. It's now the sort of Iraqi capital for terrorism. And it would not surprise me to see something very different happen in Fallujah pretty soon.

KING: We'll get Senator McCain's thoughts on the forces in the military and Iraq as an issue. We'll be taking your phone calls for this outstanding panel. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RATHER: General Sanchez told me today that Iraqis have sovereignty but in terms of military action, there will be cooperation, but if necessary, Americans will make any final call. If push comes to shove and the U.S. military wants to do something and the government of Iraq doesn't, how does that get settled?

LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, COALITION FORCES: The UNSCR 1546 allows for us to take all necessary means to be able to accomplish our mission here in the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Senator McCain, Iraq is an issue and forces coming home. Will Iraq be the main issue of this campaign?

MCCAIN: I think it probably is likely to be. A couple of months ago on your show I thought it was the economy so I don't know too much from now. And Fallujah is a sanctuary and operations are being orchestrated out of there. Foreign fighters are coming in there and this issue is going to have to be addressed.

Could I just go back one second why I'm guardedly optimistic? And that's because I think the noblest words ever written are that all men and women are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. I believer there are -- our forefathers didn't say American men, they meant all. I believe Iraqi mothers don't want their children to end up in prisons as we saw 8, 9-year-old boys in Baghdad. I believe that Iraqi families want better lives for themselves. I think they yearn for freedom and democracy. And I'm very optimistic, guardedly optimistic that the Iraqi people sooner rather than later will start responding to these terrorists and that's what they are, and the window now over the next two to three months is a critical time.

KING: Do you think the public optimism will match yours since the public now, it's over 50 percent, is against this war?

MCCAIN: I think it's going to be directly related to the casualties not the length of the occupation. We have been in South Korea for more than 50 years. We're in Bosnia and Kosovo and other places in the world. The casualty rate is going to dictate a lot of that public opinion. And that's why Fallujah is such a sticky issue.

KING: Bob Woodward, what went wrong? What didn't they see happen that they didn't expect to happen? Where were the crowds and the greeters?

WOODWARD: That's an important question. And if you look at the surveys in people on the ground, in the weeks after Saddam's statue fell, there was a feeling, generally, that Americans were welcome. Obviously that's turned around. My analysis and reporting on it indicates that you really couldn't plan for a successful occupation under these circumstances. You certainly could do better as Senator McCain has suggested, but you really couldn't fix it and the problem is, as Colin Powell told President Bush, when you break it, you own it. You own the hopes, aspirations and fears of 25 million people. And that is a giant task.

And you -- people talk about needing more troops. I keep asking people, well, how many would be enough or would have been enough and no one really has a number. I think that just a simple lesson here which is the mirror image upside down of what Senator McCain was saying, people don't like to be occupied. They don't like foreigners to come in and take over their country. And that's what we're seeing and obviously it has bred a kind of violence and terrorism that no one expected. None of the planners. Even the biggest pessimists I've talked to didn't see that there would be this level of warfare. Let's face it, the war continues.

KING: Anderson, do you see a lot of anger in Iraq? Angry people, mad at the occupation, mad at other things?

COOPER: You hear a lot of people complaining which I guess is a sign of progress here. They have not been able to complain in the past under Saddam Hussein. And they use that new right to complain all the time about just about everything. But you do also hear optimism. I want to echo some of what Senator McCain said.

I went to a hospital. I met with a young boy, 19 years old, a suicide bomber nearly killed him. He was standing in line to join the new Iraqi army, 36 people died in that blast. He survived. His body is bruised, his body is broken. I asked him, "when you get out of the hospital, when you can walk again, are you still going to try and join the Iraqi army?" He said, "yes, it is an honor."

I was in a taxicab riding around with the cab driver asking him about his business. And he said to me, "look, my taxi -- Iraq is kind of like my taxi. It is bruised, it's beat up, it's old, it is barely holding together, and yet it keeps moving forward. I can repair it, I can keep moving on."

Another thing a U.S. general said to me, never underestimate the Iraqis' ability to withstand pain, to take pain and continue moving forward. I think they have suffered a lot. They are still suffering a lot. The security is bad. There is a long road ahead. But I do think it is up to Iraqis at this point and what the people here keep saying is, especially U.S. generals, is Iraqis have to get off the fence. They have to be the eyes and the ears of this. They have to be the eyes and ears of their new government and they have to be the ones who decide the future of Iraq. It is up to them.

KING: Dan Rather, what is the morale of the troops? You've been around a lot of troops in a lot of wars.

RATHER: Well, the morale is, under the circumstances, incredibly high. No matter how you feel about the war, how you feel about where it is headed and I'm not sure I agree with all the optimism I'm hearing this evening, I want to believe it, I hope it will work out that way, but as far as the troops are concerned, this is a magnificent organization of basically American young.

They were terrific a year and a half ago with the drive to Baghdad. And I think what's happened in some quarters is, well, that was terrific, but since then, listen, this is a magnificent force. The 130,000 to 145,000 troops are here, and morale is very high. The Marines have lost three today. I mentioned before it has been a very tough neighborhood out near Ramadi. But they all remain focused on the mission. They do discuss among themselves the election campaign and the election year. They do have great differences between themselves about it. They do debate among themselves about whether the current tactics and strategy in the war are correct. This is in the nature of being Americans but they are focused on the mission and they're giving it their all. And however one feels about the war, you have to be very, very proud of them.

KING: We'll take a break. When we come back, we'll ask Senator McCain about where he thinks it is headed, how long the United States is going to be on the ground there and we'll be taking your phone calls as well. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democracy by definition must be chosen and defended by the people themselves. The future of freedom in the Islamic world will be determined by the citizens of Islamic nations not by outsiders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Senator McCain, NATO is going to help train but not send troops, like Afghanistan. How long is this go on?

MCCAIN: I think it's going to go on for a very long time. And as I mentioned, United States military presence there is not dictated so much by the time as by the number of casualties. Let me just go back one second if I could real quick. After the great victory that we won, certain things happened that shouldn't have. We allowed looting. We should have shot looters. We didn't have enough of the right kind of people there. And any retired military person will tell you this, we needed linguists, we needed special forces, we needed intelligence, we needed the kinds of people that can help at a post conflict phase. We didn't. The Ba'athists were able to reorganize, foreign fighters came in over unprotected borders and then we were faced with a full fledged insurgency.

We had a window of opportunity that we did not exploit. And again, I want to emphasize I have guarded optimism because I believe that all human beings and particularly the people of Iraq do not want to return to a despotic religious or religious extremist rule where they're deprived of their fundamental rights and I believe it's going to be very, very tough. But I have to exercise guarded optimism. And I have to do that for a variety of reasons including these magnificent young men and women that are serving over there.

KING: Bob Woodward, is there still a debate now over whether there was an Iraq/al Qaeda link?

WOODWARD: There is still is a debate. One of the things that occurred well before this latest "brouhaha" about it is that George Tenet, the CIA director, told President Bush that there was no -- in the intelligence business what they call authority and direction and control of al Qaeda by Iraq or Saddam. Yes, they played footsie with each other. They were meeting. There is some connections and ties. But this is exactly what the 9/11 Commission concluded, that there was no collaborative relationship. And that's the significant issue.

I think there is basic agreement on it, but within that there is lots of disagreement about the significance of meetings and ties. And the things that terrorists do to help each other, provide hiding places, passports and so forth. But that does not mean that Iraq has had any connection, not only to 9/11, but other terrorist actions that have been directed against the United States. Essentially the president has agreed with this, apparently his vice president -- Vice President Cheney does not entirely agree or think -- he thinks that those ties and loose connections have more significance.

KING: Anderson Cooper, is your optimism as high as Senator McCain's? You're there.

COOPER: Well, I wouldn't say I'm personally optimistic. I try not to really sort of take stances like that. I mean, I can tell you just in talking to people, I do think there is -- there is some guarded optimism among Iraqis I talk to. There is certainly -- also a sense of the realities ahead. And I think no one is claiming that this is going to be an easy road ahead. I mean, there are so many problems. The security services here are incredibly poorly trained. They are poorly equipped. I spent two days with Ambassador Bremer last week traveling around in the Kurdish areas and he said to me, look, one of the mistakes we made was -- the United States made was, was going to basically try to build up the numbers of security personnel as opposed to really trying to build up the quality.

There's now an American General here, General David Petraeus, a remarkable American general, really who is trying -- really has an an important job, perhaps even the most important job in terms of what the U.S. military is trying to do here, trying to revitalize those security forces. Trying to revitalized the police. He's sending, you know, RPGs to the police in -- down in Najaf. He's sending Kevlar vests to the police up in Mosul. And he's really trying to build a sense of morale and a sense of belonging to these police and a sense that the U.S. is here for the long haul. We will not cut and run on you. We're going to give you the training. We're going to give you the equipment you need. And we're going to be behind you as you try to move forward and as you try to protect the country.

KING: Will we hit a point -- in a couple of minutes we're going to go to your phone calls.

One quick question for Dan Rather, take a break and then your calls.

Are we going hit a point Dan where you think where the American public gets weary of it?

RATHER: Well, I think Senator McCain is right, it depends on the casualties. And Larry, let's point out that the administration and one can like it or not like it, they just about convinced the wire services and others only to carry the killed in actual combat rather than the total number of casualties killed in the country. And you know, I don't want to make a big thing of it, but frankly I think that's unworthy of a great country such as ourselves. We had more than 800 young men and women killed here.

Each and every one of them came here, did their service. And whether they're officially classified as having died in combat or not, you know, the number is 800. That's the number. And that's the number of families who have something missing at the table, missing around the house. But if the casualties rise, then I think public opinion will go down. If the casualties are lowered, I think public opinion will go the other way.

One of the things we that would help that, Larry, and I know you want to take a break, is it's inexplicable to me and it's inexplicable to a lot of the soldiers, including some of the commanders here, that Syrian border is porous. And these terrorists and outside fighters are pouring across that, coming across the western desert. Why more pressure hasn't been put on the Syrians is one of the great mysteries. And Iran is still allowing Taliban fighters and the Mujahedeen jihadists to come over from Afghanistan through Iran. Now, where are the Washington part of this operation is on those two subjects remains a great mystery to me.

KING: We'll take a break and come back. We'll include your phone calls. We'll reintroduce the panel after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLAWI: We would like to show the world also that the Iraqi government, the new Iraq government means business and want to do business and want to stabilize Iraq and put it on the road toward democracy and peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Let's reintroduce the panel. In Baghdad, Dan Rather, the anchor of "The CBS Evening News" and the newest entrant in the Television Academy Hall of Fame. In Washington, Bob Woodward, assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post" and author of the latest beset seller, "Plan of Attack," which still remains high on the best-seller list. In Phoenix, one of the most respected names in American politics, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, former candidate for his party's nomination. And in Baghdad, Anderson Cooper, CNN anchor, host of "ANDERSON COOPER 360." Been in Baghdad the last several days.

Let's go to calls. San Luis Obispo, California, hello?

CALLER: Hello. Good evening, gentlemen.

KING: Hi. CALLER: My question is for Mr. Rather.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: Mr. Rather, being you're such a well known personality, aren't you and the other anchors making yourself prime targets for the terrorists? And I hope you have great security.

RATHER: Well, I appreciate the question. Look, it's nothing compared to what our troops do. Certainly you come to a war zone, there is danger. Your best security is just to try to use your head, try to use your experience. But frankly I'm uncomfortable talking about it, because whatever the danger there is to those of us who are journalists is nothing to compare to our men and women in uniform. You know, I'm honored to be here and cover our people in uniform. And that's, you know, as for security, I do the best I can.

KING: Before we take the next call, would you assess, Bob Woodward, the job done by Paul Bremer?

WOODWARD: Well, that's going to be the subject apparently of his own book and lots of discussion. There are people even in the White House who feel that 13 months he was there that lots -- that more problems should have been solved. That he, as one official put it to me, when -- and when Paul Bremer, Jerry Bremer, as they call him, went over there, 13 months ago, he should have immediately been looking for some Iraqi to succeed him, to take over. And he apparently, according to firsthand accounts, never established the relationship with the Iraqis and became somewhat isolated. He dealt with them a lot, but he gave lots of orders. And there was the hope in the White House that very quickly, and the shorthand term they use is that they would find a George Washington or a Thomas Jefferson of Iraq, somebody who would lead the country and kind of pick up the torch. Obviously that has occurred now, but it took a lot longer than they anticipated.

KING: Senator McCain, how do you assess his work? And then we'll get another call.

MCCAIN: I think he did a fine job with the hand that he was dealt. And I think the responsibility for many of these mistakes rests with the Pentagon. He didn't have enough troops there and enough support and enough of a commitment that I think was necessary. But I think he did a fine job. And by the way, I hope Anderson will keep us updated on the results of the port-a-potty poll.

KING: To Scottsdale, Arizona. Hello.

CALLER: Good evening, gentlemen. Very funny, Senator McCain, as always. Our family is -- are big fans and long time supporters.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

CALLER: My question is for the senator. Senator, you've been a very vocal critic of the administration's botched efforts in Iraq. You've listed a litany of items tonight. You've talked about not having enough troops there, not enough body armor for the troops, the scandals, lack of properly armored humvees and so on. In conjunction with that, the campaign the Bush team ran against you in South Carolina was the dirtiest the country has ever seen. They implied you were a collaborator with the VC while a POW, the insinuations they made about your lovely adopted daughter and your gorgeous...

KING: What's the question, sir?

CALLER: Well, the question is, in conjunction with those personal attacks, and...

KING: What's the question?

CALLER: The question is, in light of the slanderous...

KING: What's the question?

CALLER: ... lies about Senator McCain...

KING: I guess the question is why are you supporting George Bush? Which you could have asked in the first sentence.

MCCAIN: First of all, could I just say that I believe we did the right thing in Iraq. Mistakes happen in conflicts. Every war we have ever been in, things have not gone according to plan. That's one reason why we try to avoid them. I think there are some spectacular and wonderful things that have been done by our men and women in the military. We -- I think we have outstanding leadership over there, General Petraeus and others. And of course, I have tried to give my opinion and the views that I get from others that -- as far as how this conflict is -- should have been conducted.

But I believe we can win. My optimism is extremely guarded. I think there is a huge amount at stake here. And I hope we succeed. And I...

KING: But I guess -- but the nature of the call is, do you have a tough time supporting President Bush personally?

MCCAIN: No -- no, the president and I have a cordial relationship. It is not appropriate for me to look back in anger. No one wants some politician that does that. I'm grateful for having had the opportunity to run for president of the United States. I'm working with the president, I'm supporting his reelection.

KING: And you are one of the keynote speakers opening night, right?

MCCAIN: Yes.

KING: Plano, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Yes, my question is for Bob Woodward.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: Where is Saddam Hussein being held and why haven't there been any pictures or coverage of him in prison? We would like to know how he's enduring it and how he is being treated by his guards. Not friendly, we hope.

WOODWARD: Well, obviously the United States military and government and the now Iraqi government don't want to advertise precisely where he is. Who knows, people might try to capture him, kill him, free him, all kinds of things could happen. It is not unusual that we have not seen pictures of him. Apparently -- and I think Dan Rather would know more about this -- there is apparently going to be some court appearance equivalent to an arraignment or something like that, where we will see him, though quite briefly, and there have been lots of reports about what he's saying.

He's been interrogated. I've heard from people that he will say lots of things, but then sometimes contradict himself, and the basic bottom line on Saddam Hussein as somebody providing information that might be useful is that you can't rely on any of it, because it is -- he will contradict himself, and apparently there are moments when he feels he is still president of Iraq or talks and acts like that.

KING: We'll ask Anderson, too. But, Dan, what do you hear about him?

RATHER: Well, first of all, someone who talked to him said that Saddam -- quoted Saddam Hussein as saying, listen, the Americans want a democratic election, let me run, I'll get myself reelected. Now, whether or not he said that or not, I can believe it reflects his thinking, because he's never been short on, shall we say, self- confidence.

People who have taken part in some of the conversations with him in prison say that he's talkative, frequently confrontational, that he doesn't take anything back, doesn't blame himself, he's got a whole rationale for why he did what he did. And he talks about his incentive for trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, according to one person who claims to have seen him.

If I may, Larry, and I know this is out of line, let's ask Senator McCain, if offered, would he accept the George Bush's vice presidential running mate?

MCCAIN: Dan, you're too far away. No. I do not want to be vice president of the United States. I would like to add one other thing, if I could, about Saddam Hussein. He has been designated a prisoner of war, that means that he's not to be exploited through pictures and photographs. But I also believe that having him on trial for the crimes he's committed will affirm that we did the right thing in Iraq. And I think that when the people of the world are reminded of the absolute brutality of this man and his regime, that it will at least give some people pause.

KING: And then you have, by the way, McCain will not, if Vice President Cheney would not run, McCain will not accept the vice presidential nomination of either party, or all parties. He won't accept the Green Party nomination, he won't run with Nader. He ain't running. MCCAIN: Maybe the vegetarians.

KING: Vegetarians maybe. The man leans strong. Anderson, what do you hear about Saddam Hussein? Give us the procedure. He'll go where Thursday?

COOPER: Right. We learned this morning from a press conference from Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, tomorrow, Wednesday, it's already Wednesday morning here, legal custody of Saddam Hussein will be handed over to the new Iraqi government. Physical custody is going to remain up until the trial so they say at this point with the United States, with coalition forces. They are simply too concerned about security, about, about keeping Saddam secure before he faces justice to hand him over to the Iraqis.

Again, security is such a major problem here. But what we have learned today and this morning is that according to Prime Minister Allawi, there will be a court hearing before an Iraqi special tribunal on Thursday at which point Saddam Hussein will be brought out in front of a camera, brought to the court, handed over to some Iraqi police or Iraqi security services. He will have a court appearance, he will be told his rights of which are he can have a lawyer represent him if he can't afford it, he can have a lawyer represent him free of charge. Or he can even represent himself. This according to Prime Minister Allawi.

Now there are some disagreement, other sources are telling us that may not be the case. Regardless on Thursday, the United States and the world should see Saddam Hussein for the first time since he was captured when we saw those images of him being examined by a doctor -- Larry.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RATHER: These first Calvary soldiers spend daylight hours helping rebuild the slum's infrastructure and the nights fighting those trying to stop them. Some 500 mortar rounds have been fired at this base alone but morale is high and so is re-enlistment.

Do you ever find yourself in this nightmarish place saying, "why me, Oh, Lord. Why couldn't I have had just slightly better sense?"

CAPT. TRENT UPTON, 1ST CALVARY DIVISION: No, I'm glad I'm here. I want to be in the tough places. This is exactly where I want to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Want to ask about the Supreme Court decision. But first, Atlanta, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Hi. This is a question for Senator McCain. I wanted to know -- obviously the Iraqi government is planning on holding an election in January, 2005. Is there a constitution in place to govern those elections yet? And if so, do you think it will be able to come, will any constitution be able to overcome the firm and intense ethnic divisions that exist in that country.

MCCAIN: They have the outlines of a constitution, even had a lot of people working on it. I think they will have one. Then I think the key to this is to make sure that the rights of minorities are protected. We all know that the Shias who would win an election because they are the majority of the population and we also have this difficult situation with the Kurds who want to maintain some level of autonomy which is pretty much understandable. But I really think that this period of time between now and then is the only chance for the bad guys to destroy their chances for democracy. And that is why this is going to be such a difficult period of time.

KING: What do you make, Bob Woodward, of the news yesterday from the Supreme Court affirming the legal rights of enemy combatants.

WOODWARD: There were three decisions in all of this essentially saying that a president and the military do not have absolute power here. I think that was obvious and one of the mistakes that has been made in this probably by the Bush administration is to not give these detainees lawyers. President Bush talks frequently about freedom and the benefits of freedom and it would have been quite easy for him to call in the president of the American Bar Association and say we want you to find lawyers who have the security clearances and the experience. And give one or two lawyers to each of these detainees.

I think it would have compromised nothing and it was pretty obvious that the Supreme Court in one form or another is going to say the government just can't lock up somebody no matter who they are indefinitely. And the Bush administration was asserting that right and I think there was a lot of bad legal advice flying around.

KING: Phoenix, Arizona, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Good afternoon. My question is for Anderson Cooper. Most of the news that we hear in reference to the chaos and the mood, the people, is usually -- kind of always coming out of the Sunni Triangle area, which is I guess a smaller part of the country. What have you heard about the mood of the people and the rest of Iraq such as -- in cities such as Basra and the Kurd areas up north? We almost never hear anything about these areas.

KING: Good point. Anderson?

COOPER: It is a great question. Dan Rather actually alluded to it earlier. Brent Sadler of CNN was just down in Basra where he said the mood was very different and also the freedom to report very different. The security situation much more improved. I was up north with Ambassador Bremer for two days last week in Tikrit, the central homeland of Saddam Hussein and Mosul, also in Erbil, Kirkuk, all the Kurdish areas.

It is like night and day especially in the Kurdish areas. I mean, they obviously have had a very different economic model over the last decade or so. The security there is much better. The organization is much better. Of course the Kurds have their own level of concern. They have several thousand, about 20 or so, maybe even 30,000 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fighters very well organized. They are concerned about what happens to them in the new Iraq.

Kurds make up some 20 percent of the population so they are a minority in the new Iraq. And they're very concerned that their rights be recognized. They have a small role in the new government. They wanted a bigger role. They have some very strong concerns. And it remains to be seen really what does happen to them in the new Iraq. If it isn't a Shia-dominated government after these elections, what happens to the Kurds? That's what they want to know. But you're right, the caller is very right, the mood in other parts of the country, not in the Sunni Triangle is very different.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments with this distinguished panel right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Some on both sides of the Atlantic have questioned whether the NATO alliance still has a great purpose. To find that purpose, they only need to open their eyes. The dangers are in plain sight. The only question is whether we will confront them or look away and pay a terrible cost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. I know Anderson Cooper has to leave us again and do another assignment on a satellite situation. Thanks as always, Anderson. We'll probably see you on Thursday night with the Hussein story.

COOPER: Great, Larry.

KING: Thanks very much. Let's take a call. Selma, California, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry. Quick question for Senator McCain.

Senator McCain, would you advise both presidential candidates to disavow their affiliation with this Skull and Bones society?

MCCAIN: When I went to school we didn't have those things. It is considering that both apparently with -- maybe we ought to force them to reveal all the secret rites and initiations that they go through.

KING: That would be interesting. North Potomac, Maryland, hello.

CALLER: Yes, my question is to Mr. McCain, Senator McCain. I'm honored, Mr. McCain, that I'm talking to you. Knowing you are so deeply involved in destabilizing (ph) Iraq because their very survival depends on not Iraq or Afghanistan having democracy. However, why doesn't the United States take a tougher stand about a regime which has been involved in terrorism for the past 25 years and knowingly, 90 percent of Iranians are against this government?

Why doesn't the United States help those poor people? Educate the poor people, we support a bunch of uneducated backwater extremists running actually the country, destroying the beautiful country like Iraq?

KING: Senator.

MCCAIN: I think we should. I think if there is practical reasons, including the military challenge, would be enormous. The other aspect of this is Iranians continued pursuit of joining the nuclear club and it is very clear that if they continue on the path that they're going, they will have nuclear weapons capability. They are in major challenge and they're also contributing significantly to the unrest in Iraq, as are the Syrians, tough situation. But if we can establish a democracy and I emphasize a great if, in Iraq, that -- the day of Mr. Bashar Assad is over and the religious extremists will see end of their rank.

KING: We're running short on time.

Dan Rather, how long will you stay in Iraq?

RATHER: Not sure, Larry. I want to see what happens with Saddam Hussein over the next couple of days. But I won't be here forever. But I do like to come here and want the ground as tough as it is because of the contribution of these wonderful men and women in uniform are making for our country here.

KING: Thanks for being with us, Dan. We always appreciate it.

And Bob Woodward, is this going to lead you to another book?

Thank you, Dan.

WOODWARD: It might. There might be a volume three, but I think in the coming weeks, President Bush had some cards to play. I expect that. I don't know what they are, but as we were saying earlier, the stakes are so, so high for him. And he's got -- he's got -- I think Dan Rather and Senator McCain are right that the casualties are the big issue and the number of people who were injured or killed, who were in the American military. But also the president has to show in some provable way that there is progress, that the war was somehow worth it, even though painful and expensive as it has been.

KING: Thank you, all, very, very much. Bob Woodward, Dan Rather, John McCain and Anderson Cooper. John McCain, will be one of the spirited speakers opening night of the Republican convention and Bob Woodward will be part of our convention coverage team. I'll be back and tell you about tomorrow right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Peterson case in full swing. We'll cover it tomorrow night.

Covering everything tonight, of course, we have to turn our attention to "NEWSNIGHT." As the pendulum swings across the country from Los Angeles to New York. As the pendulum swing from the bespectacled suspended one, to the striped tie one, to the youngish, and vibrant -- go ahead, Aaron Brown and "NEWSNIGHT" is next. Go, go do it.

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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