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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Lynne Cheney; Interview With Ralph Nader
Aired July 11, 2004 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5 p.m. in London and 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
In just a few minutes, I'll speak with two key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Lynne Cheney.
But first, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: Agreement in Washington can be hard to find, especially in this election year here in the United States. But this week, the 17 members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republicans and Democrats, agreed unanimously that the U.S. intelligence assessments leading up to the war in Iraq were virtually a complete failure.
Joining us now, two members of the committee: Senator Olympia Snowe, she's a Republican of Maine, she's joining us from Auburn, Maine; and here in Washington, Senator Dianne Feinstein, she's a Democrat of California.
Welcome, Senators, back to "LATE EDITION."
I'll begin with you, Senator Snowe. Knowing what you know right now, if you had known exactly what you know right now including all of the casualties, all the expenses, all the faulty intelligence, would you have voted to go to war?
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: Well, obviously, Wolf, you have to look at the context in which we considered the resolution in October 2002, which was just a year removed from the most devastating attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor.
So obviously, knowing what we know today with respect to the weapons of mass destruction, it might have been a closer call to be sure; whether the timing, the specifics of the plan might have been different, the resolution might have been different, the president's authorization might have been different, his actions as well.
I think the question is, though, we have to consider what we knew at the time as well, and that is that Saddam Hussein did have weapons of mass...
BLITZER: I think we just lost...
SNOWE: ... had dual capacity for use. He was able...
BLITZER: Senator, Senator Snowe, let me just interrupt because I think we just had a little technical glitch out there.
But let me just press you once again. Would you have voted for that resolution authorizing the president to go to war if you knew that the intelligence on WMD, weapons of mass destruction, were faulty, that the intelligence linking Saddam Hussein potentially to al Qaeda, maybe even to 9/11. simply didn't exist? How would you have voted?
SNOWE: Well, let me just say, Wolf, you mentioned a number of issues that need to be addressed. I think it would have been a closer call, but I think it still could have justified action. But it could have been a different plan. It could have a been different timing.
It wouldn't have been a question of whether. I think it would have been a question of when, because of Saddam's defiance of U.N. resolutions over this last decade, because he did have terrorists coming through his country.
I mean, that is a link or connection that was established in our report, although there was no operational relationship.
And even Dr. Kay said, you know, at what point, given the interest in weapons of mass destruction that a likely buyer and seller would need in the future.
BLITZER: So, Senator Snowe, just finally, before I turn to Senator Feinstein, you have no regrets on your vote?
SNOWE: Well, it's not whether I have any regrets. We had to consider the moment at the time. Obviously, we would liked to have known everything that we know today about the weapons of mass destruction, but the fact is it doesn't take away that potentially, at some point in time, the inevitably of having to deal with Saddam Hussein in light of the 9/11 threat. It's a different paradigm, a different threat and that is the prism through which we now have to meet all the threats and challenges to our national security.
BLITZER: All right. Let me bring Senator Feinstein in.
Let's take a look at these numbers, the casualty count since the war started more than year ago in Iraq. So far 887 U.S. troops have been killed. If you add other coalition forces, more than 1,000 troops have been killed in Iraq, and that's not including Iraqis, obviously. U.S. injured well over 5,000.
You voted for the war, Senator Feinstein. Do you regret that vote?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, I do. I must say I do, and I'll tell you why.
The administration originally brought the cause for war based on regime change. There were no comments that Saddam had a deteriorating military, as we now know is the case. We knew his history. So many of us on the Intelligence Committee asked for the best product of the entire intelligence community. That is put forward in a very special document called a national intelligence estimate.
We got that document about 10 days before the vote. I spent a lot of time on both the classified and the unclassified versions.
At the same time, you had Vice President Cheney on the air, the president on the air, the secretary of defense on the air all buttressing and pushing this weapons of mass destruction argument.
The intelligence was very conclusive: Saddam possessed biological and chemical weapons.
BLITZER: There was no doubt about that?
FEINSTEIN: There was no doubt about that.
BLITZER: Well, if -- but the intelligence community was sharing that assessment, that bottom-line assessment with the president and the vice president, Dick Cheney, as well, why should they have come to a different conclusion if that's the bottom-line assessment of that national intelligence estimate?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think that's a point, and...
BLITZER: You can't blame the president and the vice president.
FEINSTEIN: ... and I think one of the things -- I am not saying that at this stage.
One of the things that we need to look at is how this intelligence was used. You know, the intelligence was certainly not a slam dunk. The intelligence was deeply flawed. Wherever there was a difference in intelligence departments, the CIA's view prevailed.
BLITZER: This is a sensitive issue. Did the president and the vice president and the secretary of defense, the secretary of state -- were they simply misinformed by the intelligence community or did they deliberately mislead the American public?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think this: On the issue of the terrorist connection to al Qaeda -- or the Iraqi connection to al Qaeda and hence to 9/11, I think even to this day the administration pursues the fact that there was a connection, there is no formal connection. Our staff...
BLITZER: There was a connection but it wasn't collaborative or substantive.
FEINSTEIN: It wasn't collaborative. It wasn't substantive. It wasn't ongoing. There were relationships with other terrorist groups, but nothing definitive with al Qaeda.
BLITZER: Let me read to you, Senator Snowe -- I'll bring you back in -- from the final report which your committee unanimously accepted.
"The intelligence community suffered from a collective presumption that Iraq had an active and growing WMD program. This group-think dynamic led intelligence community to interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusively indicative of a WMD program."
The question is this, Senator Snowe -- it's a sensitive question -- did those American troops who were killed in Iraq die in vain?
SNOWE: No, they did not die in vain, Wolf. And I think we all should be expressing our profound gratitude and appreciation each and every day for the heroism of our men and women who are on the front lines in Iraq.
When I talk to families and their loved ones who returned from Iraq and even those who have lost loved ones in Iraq, they say they did it for duty to country, to serve this country and to free the Iraqi people and the changed dynamic that has occurred within Iraq today that has the prospects, albeit difficult, to get a secure, stable Iraq. That's not only good for Iraq and for the Middle East but it's good for America but most importantly it's good for the world community.
BLITZER: All right, Senator, let...
SNOWE: I don't think we need to lose sight of that.
BLITZER: Let me bring Senator Feinstein back in. I'll read again another quote from the report.
"No information has emerged this far to suggest that Saddam did try to employ al Qaeda in conducting terrorist attacks."
A lot of Americans after 9/11, before the war, during the war, believed there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.
I'll ask you the same question: Did those Americans who died in Iraq die in vain?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't think they died in vain.
I think the war perhaps could have been delayed. I think it may well have been prevented. I think this is where John Kerry has a very strong point, that, if we had spent more time, if there was more time to vet the NIE, if more time had been spent in developing a coalition, in working through the United Nations, in adding pressure, perhaps military action could have been delayed.
What we did is authorize the president to use force. The timing of that force was his, not ours, and that's not to escape any responsibility. I will tell you this: I have a very hard time with my vote, knowing what I do today, and contrasting it with what I thought then, based on intelligence.
And what this points out, Wolf, is the enormous need for reform and change in our intelligence community.
BLITZER: All right.
FEINSTEIN: And both Senator Snowe and I are working together for that end, with a bill that would provide some real management and direction to the agency, because one of the findings of our report -- and it's Conclusion Number 7 -- is that the way the arrangement is with the DCI as the nominal head of the agency, without the necessary clout, put the CIA in an unusual position,...
BLITZER: All right.
FEINSTEIN: ... where every time there was a difference of opinion, the CIA opinion was taken, not the other.
BLITZER: The DCI is the director of central intelligence.
Senator Snowe, in addition to there being faulty, bad intelligence on WMD, bad intelligence on links, perhaps, between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, the New York Times has a front-page report today citing another section of the report, saying that Iraq's military under Saddam Hussein really posed minimal threat, among other things saying, "The body of assessments showed that Iraqi military capabilities had steadily degraded following defeat in the first Gulf War in 1991. Analysts also believe those capabilities would continue to erode as long as economic sanctions remained in place."
Do you accept the notion that this other fundamental explanation for going to war, that Iraq represented a serious military threat, was faulty?
SNOWE: Well, I think -- well, we have to put it all into context here, and I think that we're dismissing that context of 9/11, and looking through the prism of that tragic event and the consequential results of it, and the impact on, I think, policy-makers, both in Congress as well as the president of the United States.
The fact is, we had very faulty intelligence. That is systemic. It is a widespread failure that needs to be addressed, and I hope that we will be able to tackle that reform, because that needs to happen sooner rather than later, because we have a web of failure.
I think, secondly, is to look at the threat that Saddam continued to pose. The question is, at what point in time would we be willing to reconcile us to the fact that he was continuing to defy more than a decade-worth of resolutions? Even the United Nations had agreed to serious consequences through their resolution.
So I think we have to put it, because we can't look at one dynamic, Wolf, as I'm hearing here today. The weapons of mass destruction issue was regrettable, but we did not get the right intelligence for that particular component.
BLITZER: You say he was defying the U.N., but there were still weapons inspectors in Iraq, the sanctions were moving forward, there was the no-fly zone. He was being contained. It was only after the U.S. decided to go to war that those weapons inspectors left.
SNOWE: But I think the point is that you have to realize too, Wolf, that, as Dr. Kay indicated, he had programs that could be restarted, he had dual-use capabilities. We can't overlook that. He did have the development of a missile ballistic weapons system that was beyond the allowable limits of the United Nations agreement, as a result of the cease-fire agreement in 1991 in the Persian Gulf War. So there are clearly some strong indications of potential problems.
He had intent. He did have terrorists going through the country. I don't think we can dismiss it.
Clearly there are uncertainties, but also the president of the United States, he has to act sometimes on uncertainties, because otherwise people will die. And I don't think that we can overlook that consequence and what happened throughout the decade of the '90s, when we failed to act.
BLITZER: We only have a few seconds left, but I want to get both of you on the record.
There's going to be a effort, beginning tomorrow, Senator Feinstein, to get a constitutional amendment passed in the U.S. Senate that would ban same-sex marriage.
I assume you're going to vote against that.
FEINSTEIN: I'm going to vote against it.
I mean, I find it really intolerable that it's coming up now. Everyone knows that it doesn't have the votes to be placed before the American people. It's there only to create, I think, a major conflict.
BLITZER: Do you support same-sex marriage?
FEINSTEIN: I don't support same-sex marriage. I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. The people of my state voted on this on a ballot in the year 2000 and sustained that. Once you have a ballot measure like that, I'm clearly here to carry out the intentions of a majority of the state.
And I also believe, and Supreme Court decisions buttress this belief, family law has always been the prerogative of the states, not of the federal government.
BLITZER: Let me let Senator Snowe weigh in.
How will you vote, Senator Snowe?
SNOWE: Well, I don't support a constitutional amendment at this time. We have the Defense of Marriage Act in place. It hasn't been challenged. No suits have been filed in court. And I oppose same-sex marriage and I believe that marriage should be defined as a marriage between man and woman. But I don't think that a constitutional amendment is necessary.
Senator Snowe, thanks very much for joining us.
Senator Feinstein, thanks to you, as well.
FEINSTEIN: You're very welcome.
SNOWE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up next, a special interview with Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president. Her inside view on campaign 2004, the contest clearly heating up, the stakes enormous.
Then, new warnings this week of a possible terrorist attack in the United States before Election Day. But how serious is this threat? I'll speak with two members of the House Homeland Security Committee.
And later, my interview with Ralph Nader and why he rejects all the latest calls on him to drop out of the presidential contest.
Stay with "LATE EDITION."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm also proud to be running with Dick Cheney. He's the finest vice president our country has ever had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush on the campaign trail in Nevada praising his vice president.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Joining us now the vice president's wife, Lynne Cheney. She's no stranger, of course, to our viewers here on CNN. She's no stranger to politics and to policy, having once served of course as CNN's co-host of "Crossfire."
Remember those days?
LYNNE CHENEY, DICK CHENEY'S WIFE: Exactly.
BLITZER: Mrs. Cheney, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.
CHENEY: Good to be here. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Let's get to the latest Time magazine poll that shows -- that asks this question, "Who would make a better president?" Edwards 47 percent, named by the Democratic candidate to be his running mate; Cheney, 38 percent. Your husband has been in office for almost four years now but Edwards by this poll number, with a sampling error of only 3 percent, suggests that more Americans believe that Edwards would be a better president.
CHENEY: Well, of course, Senator Edwards hasn't been in politics very long, and he certainly hasn't been on the national scene very long and Dick has. And one of the things that happens when you're part of national politics, when you're making decisions is that there are an awful lot of people who become instant critics. So I don't worry about that poll at all.
BLITZER: But the American public knows Dick Cheney, they don't know John Edwards that well yet, at least according to this poll, they think Edwards would be a better president.
CHENEY: Well, of course, when someone doesn't know you they don't have a chance to examine what other people say is your baggage. And I would say the Democrats have been pretty good at quite a lot of mudslinging over these past years and, you know, you pay a price for it in terms of the polls.
But that's not what is important, and it's not what is going to determine the election. What's going to determine this election is which ticket is really in step with the American voters.
BLITZER: Do you believe John Edwards is qualified to be president of the United States?
CHENEY: Well, look, I think he's a nice man. I think he has a nice family. I do think that he is out of the mainstream with most voters.
It's an odd ticket, you know, John Kerry, according to that National Journal survey, the most liberal member of the United States Senate, John Edwards, the fourth most liberal member of the United States Senate. I can't remember the Democrats ever nominating a ticket so far to the left before. So I think that is a real question that will deserve good debate in the upcoming months.
BLITZER: Does that mean he's not qualified to become president?
CHENEY: Well, I just think he's out of the mainstream, and I think it is also unusual. I really thought the candidate was going to be Dick Gephardt, another very nice man but someone...
BLITZER: Would he have been qualified?
CHENEY: Well, Dick Gephardt is someone who has a long track record of experience in national politics, so we'll have a good debate over the issues in the months ahead.
BLITZER: All right, sounds like you have doubts of the qualifications...
CHENEY: We'll have a very, very good debate and a debate we're looking forward to.
BLITZER: A lot were surprised when the former Republican senator from New York state Al D'Amato had some political punditry, if you will, about the vice presidential slot on the Republican...
CHENEY: Wolf, this stuff isn't important. I mean, really, let's get...
BLITZER: Listen to what...
CHENEY: Let's get to things that are important. Let's get to the intelligence report. Let's get to the issue of values in this campaign. Stuff you're talking about is the brouhaha that goes on inside the Beltway.
BLITZER: We're going to those issues in a moment, but listen to what Al D'Amato said.
CHENEY: Al D'Amato. Now remind me who Al D'Amato is.
BLITZER: The former senator from New York state. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALFONSE D'AMATO, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I think we could do better. There's no doubt in my mind that Secretary Colin Powell, if offered the job and really offered it, would take it and would change politics in America for the better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's not just Al D'Amato. There are some other Republicans -- not many, but there are some others who think the president might want to change his running mate.
CHENEY: No, this is really -- this is a discussion that isn't going anywhere. The president has made his decision. Dick has accepted that it. That's the ticket.
And I think Al D'Amato also said nice things about the vice president. Maybe you should find those, too.
BLITZER: But he did say that maybe McCain or Powell might be a better running mate.
CHENEY: And they're great guys, but Dick is the candidate.
BLITZER: Listen to what the Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, in the current issue, the new issue of Time magazine says. He's referring to the vice presidential decision; the fact that Cheney is advising President Bush -- your husband. Listen to this. He says, "I don't think it has been properly utilized in this administration" -- the whole relationship between the president and the vice president. "I think it's been excessive, and I intend to be a president who is on top of what's happening in every regard. On final decisions I'm not going to be pushed into them the way I sense this president was." That's a tough statement regarding the vice president.
CHENEY: Well, you know it's a political time. John Kerry is going to say such things; so will John Edwards. It's not beanbag.
But the president has made the decisions in this administration, and that's the important thing to know.
I do have to smile a little bit at the idea -- I mean, this ticket is not going to win, but in some distant universe where they might win I can imagine where John Edwards' office will be. Will he be beyond the Old Executive Office Building? It sounds as though John Kerry doesn't have plans to utilize his vice president in the way I think you need to in this challenging world we're in.
I got to tell you, these are tough jobs. I got to tell you the American people face many challenges. This president and this vice president have been very good at meeting those challenges, both on the national security front and on the economic front.
BLITZER: Let's talk about national security. The Senate Intelligence Committee report, scathing this week I think by almost all accounts. Listen to what the Republican chairman, Pat Roberts, said in announcing the conclusions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Before the war the U.S. intelligence community told the president, as well as the Congress and the public, that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and if left unchecked would probably have a nuclear weapon during this decade. Well, today we know these assessments were wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: No one in this administration more than Dick Cheney has been outspoken in the rationale and the justification for going to war against Saddam Hussein.
Knowing what we know right now, based on the faulty intelligence, is it appropriate to reconsider that decision?
CHENEY: You know, I thought Senator Snowe did a fine job of explaining that -- you know, put the WMD aside. And this Senate report is very important; we need to go back and assess how we did and how we can do better in the future. But put that aside for a minute. You have a country, you have a regime, that have used weapons of mass destruction. Saddam had used chemical weapons.
BLITZER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) late meetings?
CHENEY: You had -- same man, same country, used chemical weapons. He had sanctioned the presence of terrorists in his country. He had, after the Gulf War -- and you remember this well -- he had been much closer to developing an atomic weapon than we had thought so previously. He had a poisons factory, biological weapons in northern Iraq. He had terrorists present in the country. Abu Nidal was there, Palestinian Islamic Jihad was there. Al Qaeda was there.
It was the place where there was a nexus, a possible connection between terrorists and the weapons that we never want terrorists to have in their hands to use.
BLITZER: When you say al Qaeda was there, are you referring to Abu Musab al Zarqawi?
CHENEY: I'm referring to Zarqawi, yes.
BLITZER: But anyone else?
CHENEY: Well, there were -- Zarqawi was operating the poisons camp in northern Iraq from Baghdad. There's also the fact that Saddam was paying Palestinian terrorists $25,000 to kill Israelis, so...
BLITZER: To commit suicide.
CHENEY: This was a very bad regime.
As Senator Snowe said, you might have had a different paradigm for discussing this war but this is a war that was so -- we don't need to rethink this. Getting rid of Saddam has done the world a great deal of good.
It's also led us, and I haven't heard this discussed yet -- it's also, I think, helped us to get rid of the nuclear threat in Libya where Moammar Gadhafi, having seen our strong action in Baghdad, having seen our strong action in Iraq, has now given up his programs for weapons of mass destruction. They're all shipped to the United States.
BLITZER: So you have no second thoughts?
CHENEY: None, zero.
BLITZER: And as far as you know, and I'm sure you know, the vice president has no regrets about going to war?
CHENEY: He'll be glad to come on and talk to you about that.
BLITZER: I'll hold you to that.
BLITZER: I'll ask him to come out and talk to us.
CHENEY: That would be great. BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Hold on one second. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. Coming up, I'll continue our conversation with Lynne Cheney about what and who is going to make a difference in this election year. Plus a quick check of what's making headlines at this hour.
Stay with "LATE EDITION." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more questions for Lynne Cheney, about politics, policy and history, all subjects very close to her heart.
"LATE EDITION" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
We're continuing our conversation with Lynne Cheney. She is the wife, of course, of the vice president, Dick Cheney.
Mrs. Cheney, the White house, the Republicans now pushing an amendment in the U.S. Senate, debate starting tomorrow, that would have a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. I want you to listen to what your husband said four years ago on this sensitive subject.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one he's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard.
I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions and that's appropriate. I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, I interviewed the vice president a few months ago, and he revised his position to say he supports the president when it comes to this issue. As the vice president he has no choice: He has to support the president.
But is this a good idea for a constitutional amendment to come forward that would ban same-sex marriage?
CHENEY: Well, I thought that the formulation he used in 2000 was very good. And first of all, to be clear that people should be free to enter into their relationships that they choose. And, secondly, to recognize what's historically been the situation, that when it comes to conferring legal status on relationships, that is a matter left to the states.
Of course, what's happened is we're in a situation now where the ability of the states to do that has been called into some question by the actions of the court in Massachusetts.
BLITZER: So you heard Olympia Snowe and Dianne Feinstein say it is a bad idea, even though they both said it's not a good idea to have same-sex marriage, to codify it into law, it's a bad idea to have a constitutional amendment, that's the nuance right there. That's the difference between the Kerry-Edwards position and the Bush-Cheney position.
CHENEY: I think that the constitutional amendment discussion will give us an opportunity to look for ways to discuss ways in which we can keep the authority of the states intact.
BLITZER: Well, and maybe I'm missing something.
CHENEY: No, I've answered the question twice, Wolf.
BLITZER: So your position is basically...
CHENEY: It's a good point for discussion.
BLITZER: Just leave it alone, and...
CHENEY: You bet. You bet.
BLITZER: ... and move on. This is obviously...
CHENEY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: ... a sensitive subject that all of us appreciate, you know, your position on this matter.
Let's talk a little bit about Ken Lay. Ken Lay indicted this week. We saw his picture in our going forward. There's some confusion or at least some question in there whether he played a significant role, if any role, in helping your husband come up with the energy task force recommendations. Based on what you know, did he?
CHENEY: I met Ken Lay once in passing. That's all I know. I can't help you, Wolf.
BLITZER: That's it?
CHENEY: Well, I just don't know anything.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on.
CHENEY: It's always interesting in Washington to pretend you know things when you don't, but I found that it's not usually a good idea.
BLITZER: If you don't know you just say it. I don't know.
CHENEY: Yes. "I don't know," is the answer.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about a subject close to your heart, the books, the history books that have won the new prize and I want to go through -- the first one, "An American Plague." That's the main reason why you wanted to come on the program.
CHENEY: That's why I'm here.
BLITZER: Right now to talk about this new book by Jim Murphy, "An American Plague," that won the prize for school kids, whether elementary or middle or high school.
CHENEY: This is middle school kids and up.
BLITZER: And tell us why you picked this book -- and we're showing the book jacket on our screen.
CHENEY: Well, I have a very distinguished committee that helps in picking this book. Hugh Sidey was on the book selection committee this year, and I have wonderful historians on the larger committee, David McCullough, Ken Burns, so it's not just my selection, but this book just naturally gravitated to the top.
It's a wonderful story about a crisis in Philadelphia in 1793, when yellow plague struck and about the heroes that stepped forward to meet the crisis. And among them were the members of the free African- American community.
We gave the award to Jim Murphy, the author of this book, at Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia, which was founded by one of the leaders of the free African community, who was also instrumental in bringing help to the sick and dying.
People were leaving the city and the free African-Americans were willing to go nurse people. They were taking care of orphans. It is a story of true heroism that little kids will love to have read to them, middle school and high school kids...
BLITZER: The 2004 James Madison Book Award.
CHENEY: ... really be brought into it.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the others, not the winners but there were some others that were excellent as well. Give me a quick sentence on each one on as we go through them, why these books are so good.
"Shutting Out the Sky," by Deborah Hopkinson.
CHENEY: This is a story of immigrants who came to this country from the late 1890s to the first decade of the 20th century about how grim their lives were and yet how also opportunity was open to them in this wonderful country.
BLITZER: "Duel of the Ironclads," by Patrick O'Brien.
CHENEY: Oh, wow, this is a book boys will love. It's about, you know, putting iron on ships for the first time. And these two ships fight, and nothing is resolved, neither wins. But the whole course of naval history is changed. Wooden ships after that would be of no good.
BLITZER: Some girls will like that book as well.
CHENEY: Well, I have to just confess, though, that little boys have been taking it off the shelf, but girls will like it. You're right.
BLITZER: "Ben Franklin's Almanac," by Candace Fleming.
CHENEY: This presents in almanac form the story of Ben Franklin's life. Wonderful use of period illustrations, great prose, really interesting book.
BLITZER: This is a weird title but you'll explain it: "Mack Made Movies," by Don Brown.
CHENEY: This is the story of Mack Sennett. This is a picture book for little kids, wonderfully illustrated about Mack Sennett, the Keystone Kops, he was there at the beginning of the motion picture industry.
Kids will like it because it talks about something they know, and tells them the history of it.
BLITZER: These are books that all of our young kids should read.
If you love American history, these are books that you strongly recommend.
CHENEY: I have been so happy to see the really good writing that's going on, and really gratified to be able to present awards.
BLITZER: Let me ask one final question, unrelated, a sensitive subject once again.
When John Kerry used the "f" word in an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, shortly thereafter Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, was on this show, and I want you to listen to what he said to me when -- and I confronted him, when I asked him to react to John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, using that word. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I've known John Kerry for a long time, and I'm very disappointed that he would use that kind of language. That's beneath John Kerry, and I'm disappointed that he did it. BLITZER: And do you think he should -- what do you think he should do?
CARD: Well, I'm hoping that he's apologizing, at least to himself, because that's not the John Kerry that I know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, I've known the vice president for many years, going back to when I was the Pentagon correspondent, and when I heard that he used that word in that exchange with Senator Leahy, I was pretty surprised.
You know him a lot better than I do: Were you that surprised?
CHENEY: Well, it's very unusual, Wolf, but he was sorely tried, if I may say so, by someone attacking his integrity and then pretending to be his best friend. I think that's what set it off.
But I am glad you brought up the fact that -- you know, the way Dick did it, it was a private comment. You wouldn't know it from the amount of publicity that it's garnered, but John Kerry used the same word in an on-the-record interview about the president of the United States.
So, I'm gratified that you would bring that up, because it hasn't been paid much attention to. It doesn't look at least that way from my perspective.
BLITZER: Did you take him to the woodshed a little bit?
CHENEY: No, I really didn't. I mean, he is such a good man, and more likely to say, "Put a sock in it," you know, if he's really tried.
So, you know, I can understand, when people are pushed to extremes, that in a private setting they might say something unusual.
BLITZER: How's he feeling?
CHENEY: He's great, thanks.
BLITZER: Everything is OK?
CHENEY: Everything's great.
BLITZER: Lynne Cheney, I hope you'll come back.
CHENEY: It's my pleasure. Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.
CHENEY: Good to be here.
BLITZER: No stranger to CNN, Lynne Cheney. And just ahead, new warnings of possible terrorist plans to disrupt this year's election here in the United States. We'll ask two members of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, Chris Cox and Jane Harman, how they view the risks. How worried should Americans be right now?
And don't forget our Web question of the week: Who's better qualified to be second in line to the president, Cheney or Edwards? You can vote right now. Go to cnn.com\lateedition.
"LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk, will be right back.
BLITZER: Tom Ridge, the secretary for homeland security, warned this week there are new threats from al Qaeda to disrupt the U.S. presidential campaign this year with terrorist attacks against the United States.
Joining us now are two guests. In Los Angeles, Congresswoman Jane Harman; she's a member of both the Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees. Here in Washington, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Chris Cox, also of California.
And I'll begin with you, Mr. Chairman. Newsweek magazine, the new issue out today reporting that the Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, has asked the Justice Department for some sort of legal opinion if there is a major terrorist attack. Let me read to you what Newsweek writes.
"Ridge's department last week asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place."
Do you know anything about this?
REP. CHRIS COX (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, this is a lot like what we were looking at in the Congress. What would happen if terrorists blew up the Congress and it disappeared?
These are doomsday scenarios. Nobody expects that they're going to happen. Nobody, at least, expects that the odds are they're going to happen. We don't have any intelligence to suggest that it is going to happen, but we're preparing for all of these contingencies now.
September 11th, 2001, among all the other things remembered for, was a primary election day. And they were able, in New York, to cancel those primary elections and move them to some other time. There isn't any body that has that authority to do that for federal elections, so what Secretary Ridge has asked the Justice Department to do is, "Give me a legal memo, tell me what will be necessary. Do we need to go to Congress and get legislation?"
BLITZER: Congressman Harman, is this prudent planning or is this excessive?
REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think it's excessive based on what we know.
Let me say that six days ago, the leadership of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and leadership of the House and Senate were briefed on these so-called new threats. They are more chatter about old threats, which were the subject of a press conference by Attorney General Ashcroft and Director Mueller six weeks ago.
I think the Ridge press conference was a bust. He sounded more like an interior decorator talking about what more we can do under the shade of yellow.
I think the color-coded system should be junked. And if we're going to have national news conferences, we should be giving specific guidance to people about what to look for and what to do. And that wasn't there.
BLITZER: All right. Let me play for our viewers a couple little excerpts from that news conference that Tom Ridge had. Here's an excerpt of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM RIDGE, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We are basically laying out before the general public the kind of information that we've received. And it's not us -- these are not conjectures or mythical statements we are making. These are pieces of information that we can trace comfortably to sources that we deem to be credible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Having said that, though, just a little bit later, he added this caveat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIDGE: We lack precise knowledge about time, place and method of attack. But along with the CIA, FBI and other agencies, we are actively working to gain that knowledge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Did he say anything different, Mr. Chairman, than what Ashcroft and Mueller said six weeks earlier about al Qaeda operations or plans?
COX: I don't think you want to read those tea leaves that exactly.
What the secretary is doing, I hope, is getting us into a pattern, a routine of regular public updates. This is going to be an election year all year long and so unless we're prepared to say, "We should never hear from the Department of Homeland Security again, either for comfort or for bad news," then we've got to get into a pattern. There's always going to be some reason that some people say, "Oh, its -- tomorrow is John Kerry's doing something." What went on that day I thought was essentially good news. We heard that there's a steady drumbeat of reporting that al Qaeda hasn't given up. That's pretty much things that we know. But we're not going to raise the color code and go about your life. We got through the 4th of July safely.
BLITZER: Should the color code, Mr. Chairman, be scrapped, as Congresswoman Harman says?
COX: Well, you know, what we're trying to do -- and both Jane and I have worked together on legislation coming to the floor very, very soon on homeland security matters generally that includes this -- is refine it. My concern is that when you step up the color code, you do it for a nation of more than a quarter billion people all at once and the threats tend to be a little more regionally specific. They tend to be a little bit less related to...
BLITZER: The counterargument to that, though, Mr. Chairman, is that if you do it regionally then you tell the terrorists, "You know what? You might want to go to Omaha or to Cleveland because they haven't raised the threat level there."
COX: Well, you're never going to tip off the terrorists. And so all of this is against the backdrop of making sure that we're fighting this war in a sensible way.
But remember, the purpose here is to communicate to people information that they can use, so that means a different thing for somebody whose only role in life is to watch TV as against somebody who runs a big office building, somebody who runs a public stadium and so on.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, how concerned should all of us be, those of us who were going to the Democratic convention in Boston at the end of this month or the Republican convention in New York at the end of August? And I'll be obviously going to both.
HARMAN: Well, we have very good first responders in both locations. And I want to salute them and they'll do everything they can to keep us safe.
But I just want to say about Chris' last comment that talking about a pattern or routine of threat warnings, I think, goes in the wrong direction. We don't want threat fatigue here. We want people to tune in when there is something important for them to learn.
And let me point out something else: When Mueller and Ashcroft had their press conference six weeks ago, they held up the pictures of seven people -- they called them BOLOs, "Be On the Look Outs." These are dangerous people who could do us harm and are possibly in the U.S.
We didn't even hear from Ridge last week about what happened to the BOLOs. And today in the Los Angeles Times there's a headline on the front page about how the administration doesn't want to reform our intelligence agencies. I mean, what we really know, bottom line, right now is, we have not penetrated these threats. We need much better intelligence capability. We have huge reports, last Friday and coming next week again, about the failures of our intelligence agencies, and I just would say that it's critical for this administration right now to come out of denial and fix these problems, and Congress wants to join it.
BLITZER: Let's let Chris Cox respond.
COX: Well, there's a lot of talk about mischaracterization of intelligence. I think that, with all respect to my good friend and colleague Jane, is a mischaracterization of the administration's position, and certainly of the position of most policy-makers in Washington.
I think that the lessons from the Senate Intelligence Committee report are going to be taken very seriously, and we will see reform of the intelligence community.
I don't think, as Jane has proposed, that having a DNI, a director of national intelligence, is necessarily the answer.
I do think that you're going to see the administration and people on both sides of the aisle in Congress supporting, is giving the DCI more budgetary authority over the portions of the intelligence community that presently he doesn't control.
BLITZER: One final question to both of you, on a totally different subject: Will you vote for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage?
COX: I don't know that that's going to come up in the House.
Right now, you know, we're talking about a different piece of legislation in the House, and that is jurisdiction-stripping on the Defense of Marriage Act, but...
BLITZER: In a fix, would you support it, a constitutional amendment?
COX: My concern is bringing the more text into the Constitution, in this case about family law, that would give people an opportunity to legislate from the federal bench on subjects that presently are state law.
BLITZER: I'll take that as a no.
What about you, Jane Harman?
HARMAN: I oppose it. I also opposed the Defense of Marriage Act. This is left up to the states.
BLITZER: All right. I'll leave it right there. I've been asking all of our guests on that sensitive subject.
Coming up, in the U.S. Senate tomorrow -- both of you are in the House of Representatives.
Jane Harman, thanks very much.
Chris Cox, thanks to you as well.
Presidential candidate Ralph Nader, the independent candidate, joins me to assess his debate with Howard Dean, and the latest calls for him to step aside on the road to the White House.
More "LATE EDITION" right after this.
BLITZER: Just ahead, my conversation with the independent presidential candidate here in the United States, Ralph Nader, about his goals, his friends and his enemies.
And Iraq's weapons of mass destruction: two weapons inspectors weigh in on a new Senate report.
"LATE EDITION" continues right at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: This is "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
NADER: We don't want to settle for the lesser of two evils in our country.
BLITZER (voice-over): An alternative to the two-party system in the United States. Does Ralph Nader offer us something different?
My interview with the outspoken independent candidate about why he wants to be the next president of the United States.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The next vice president of the United States of America will be Senator John Edwards from North Carolina.
BLITZER: A Yankee chooses a Southerner. Will Senator Kerry's pick help Democrats win the White House, or will Bush-Cheney win a second term?
We'll get the pulse of the heartland from two governors, Democrat Tom Vilsack of Iowa and Republican Bill Owens of Colorado.
BUSH: We thought there was going to be stockpiles of weapons. I thought so. The Congress thought so. The U.N. thought so.
BLITZER: President Bush defends his decision to go to war in Iraq, but a new U.S. Intelligence report says his evidence was wrong.
Former weapons inspectors David Kay and Robert Gallucci give us their perspective. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "LATE EDITION" with Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We'll talk with Ralph Nader about his quest for the presidency in just a minute.
First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: The consumer crusader, Ralph Nader, he keeps on running. His "more choices, more voices presidential race has angered some of his long-time friends, especially in the Democratic Party. Some conservative Republican political foes may actually be trying to help his efforts to get on the ballot right now.
Joining us, Ralph Nader, who's got a new book out as well, "The Good Fight: Declare Your Independence, Close the Democracy Gap." Let's talk about that for just one second. What's the point of the book?
RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Basically, it's a very readable analysis of what happens to everyday life as workers, consumers, taxpayers and communities because of the concentration of greed and power in too few hands, mostly big corporations and their influence over Washington.
BLITZER: Is this almost like a platform for your presidential campaign?
NADER: Well, it certainly is a forward look. It's designed to get people's dander up with some humor and some real hard facts and to get them to roar back, as our predecessors did in the last 200 years at critical points to recover their country and their government, as if people mattered.
BLITZER: Two polls out this weekend, a Time magazine poll, a Newsweek poll. I'll show our viewers what the likely voters' choice for president is in the Time magazine poll. Look at this, 47 percent for Kerry, 45 percent for Bush, 4 percent for you, Ralph Nader, plus or minus sampling error 3.5 points. In the Newsweek poll, very similar, 47 percent for Kerry/Edwards, 44 percent for Bush/Cheney. Nader comes in with 3 percent, plus or minus margin of error 4 points.
What's the point of your running if you're doing that low in these polls?
NADER: Same as third parties in American history: push the agenda.
We want these two parties to break their bonds from big corporate influence and really push for a living wage, a family wage for 47 million workers. I mean, what country has one out of three of its full-time workers can't begin to I live on what they earn?
The same as universal health care. I mean, Taiwan has universal health care. Israel has universal health care. Western Europe has universal health care. We don't. We have 45 million people without it. We just put our health care plan in great detail on our web site, votenader.org.
And in brief answer to your question, just see the differences between our platform environmentally, getting out of that war quagmire in Iraq, a fair tax system, electoral reform. All of these and more are on our web site, and we're trying to enrich the dialogue on our web site, votenader.org.
BLITZER: Let me just get this straight. You're here to push your agenda.
BLITZER: But you're not realistically expecting to be elected president of the United States.
NADER: The two-party system is rigged. It's rigged from the ballot access barriers, from the dirty tricks the Democrats are using to keep us off the ballot all the way to the exclusion from the debates.
By the way, the -- Sean Hannity, who has 13 million listeners, said he will sponsor a three-hour debate, no holds barred, between the presidential candidates later this fall, and I hope other media will break the grip of that two-party controlled commission on presidential debate.
BLITZER: There's going to be three presidential debates, one vice presidential debate. Do you expect to be part of those debates?
NADER: If not on the two-party controlled debate, which excludes everyone including Ross Perot in 1996, there's a new debate commission, Citizens Debate Commission, with conservative and liberal prominent people on the board, who have already scheduled five debates.
Now it's up to CNN, Fox, NBC, CBS to cooperate.
BLITZER: Well, it's up to the Democratic and the Republican candidates to agree...
NADER: Yes, exactly.
BLITZER: ... to be in a debate with you.
NADER: Exactly. They're more likely to, if they know the networks are going to carry it. They won't like empty seats.
BLITZER: You wanted John Edwards to be John Kerry's running mate.
BLITZER: You pushed actively for that. John Kerry -- I don't know if he listened to you, but he clearly picked John Edwards to be his vice presidential running mate.
Does that make a difference?
NADER: Only in the area of civil justice. I mean, I fervently believe, as our forefathers, that Americans should have the right to sue, their full day in court, trial by jury, and the corporations are trying to squelch that right, and John Edwards knows how to challenge it, if he's willing to.
We've put up our position on civil justice on our Web site, votenader.org, and I'm going to write him a personal letter saying, "OK, John Edwards, this is your area of holding up a major pillar of American democracy."
BLITZER: But you clearly prefer Kerry-Edwards over Bush-Cheney?
NADER: Well, certainly Bush-Cheney -- first of all, I think Bush is a one-term president. I think he's sliding. I think the most critical state for Bush's election prospects is Iraq. That's the most critical state.
BLITZER: So you have no doubt that Kerry will be elected?
NADER: I have no doubt that Bush will be defeated.
Now, obviously I would like to turn this into a three-way race, the way Jesse Ventura, who came from nowhere, as an underdog candidate, did for the governorship of Minnesota, but he got on 10 debates in Minnesota with his Democratic and Republican competitors.
But there's a lot of purposes of this campaign: bringing young people in, teaching them how to get signatures, bringing more voters in...
BLITZER: Let's be realistic, though.
BLITZER: The chances of John Kerry letting you participate in a debate, assuming your poll numbers are 3 or 4 percent, are what, slim to none?
NADER: It depends. If he knows how I go after George W. Bush -- the Democrats have been losing for the last 10 years, Wolf, to the worst of the Republican Party at the local, state and national level.
So they don't have anything to brag about. And I'm going around the country, and we're having this whole campaign, taking the Bush administration apart in ways they are afraid to, as Democrats, because they're indentured.
Why would they think that's a bad thing? Because they're a decadent party.
Now, I don't think John Kerry's courage stopped in Vietnam, and I think, if he wants a vibrant debate, we can both go against George W. Bush.
BLITZER: You did have a vibrant debate this week with Howard Dean...
BLITZER: ... the former Vermont governor, the former Democratic presidential candidate, who said on this program only a few weeks ago that you're the single biggest obstacle to John Kerry getting elected and George Bush getting reelected -- you're the single biggest obstacle to the Democrats.
Listen also to what he said in the debate with you here in Washington this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: You have the right to run. You can get in bed with whoever you want to. But don't call the Democratic Party full of corporate interests. They have their problems, we all have ours. None of us are pure.
And this campaign of yours is far from pure, if you are willing to accept the help of a right-wing anti-gay group to get you on the ballot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NADER: That was a vicious smear. He repeated it three times. He ought to be ashamed of himself. Here's...
BLITZER: Well, let me -- let's get to the specifics,...
BLITZER: ... because some Republicans, conservatives have given you money, have given you campaign money. We've got a list of a few GOP contributors who have now donated the maximum $2,000 to your campaign, since April, since these records -- and we'll just show a few of these numbers. You can see them right there on the screen.
Is this accurate?
NADER: Let me put it this way. We're open for any American citizen to contribute to our campaign on votenader.org, or otherwise. We're not going to discriminate against Republicans. They're humans too. They're Americans. A lot of them believe in civil liberties. A number of the large contributors there, we've worked with, like Robert Monks (ph) on corporate governance -- he's a Republican -- like Gino Palucci (ph), we worked on with the contamination of the Mesabi iron range years ago.
But who's talking? For decades, especially for years, the big Democrat fat cats have hedged their bet and contributed to Republican candidates, big Republican fat cats have contributed to Democratic candidates.
Let me tell the Democrats, "You give back all your Republican contributions, and then see if you can talk without being duplicitous."
BLITZER: Your vice presidential running mate, Peter Camejo of California, apparently disagrees with you, if we can believe what he told the San Francisco Chronicle this week. He said, "If your purpose is because you think this is going to have an electoral effect, we don't want that money. I take no money from people who disagree with us. We're not interested in that."
Is there a difference of opinion between you and your vice presidential running mate?
NADER: What he meant was, if the Republican National Committee said, "Hey, we're interested in raising money for you," we would reject that, and that's what he really meant, because when he was running for governor of California Republican sources offered him $10 million, and he turned it down flat. That's what he was meaning. He was looking at his experience on that.
BLITZER: But you know that there have been numerous reports out there, well-documented, that there are some conservative Republicans who hate everything you stand for, hate everything Peter Camejo stands for, who only want to see you get on the ballot because they think you'll hurt the Democratic presidential ticket.
NADER: Well, we're trying to get conservative and Republican votes that are fed up with Bush. Why? Because they don't like his huge deficits, the betrayal of conservative principles.
They don't like the big government snooping Patriot Act. You should see their words on that. They don't like the sovereignty- shrinking impact of WTO and NAFTA. They don't like billions of their tax dollars going to the energy and drug and other industries in corporate subsidies and welfare.
It's unfair to stereotype millions of conservatives and Republicans who are turned off of the Bush administration. They think the corporate Republicans have hijacked their party.
BLITZER: One of the major differences between you, on the one hand, and the Democratic and Republican presidential tickets, on the other, is that you want to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible. You want an orderly withdrawal. You told us that a few months ago on this program.
What kind of timeline are you looking at, if you're elected president, to get out of Iraq? NADER: Well, along with the majority now of the American people, which the Nader-Camejo ticket represents, six-month responsible withdrawal. As our troops and corporations end their military and corporate occupation, international peacekeepers come in.
There's less reason for a lot of these peacekeepers. Why? Because millions of the Iraqi people will distance themselves from the insurgency if they know they're getting their country back without a military and corporate U.S. occupation and without a puppet government. I mean, it's so obvious. The intelligence analysts believe this. Former diplomats believe this. Go up and check the Council of Foreign Relations on it.
BLITZER: The new Senate intelligence report, which was blistering, that came out this week. And I'm sure you looked at it. Do you believe the American troops and the coalition forces -- more than a thousand now who have died in Iraq -- died in vain?
NADER: Yes, I do. I think that even if they wanted to get rid of Saddam, they could have overthrown them from the outside as our government has for 50 different regimes in the last 50 years. The mistake was invasion, although it wasn't really a mistake because it's all about oil. And if it's all about oil, you've got to invade.
The important thing here is to make the anti-war issue a major issue because John Kerry is pro-war, pro-Patriot Act. George W. Bush: pro war, pro Patriot Act.
Forty-two percent of the American people think we should get out now. A majority of the American people think it's a mistake. The entire tide of opinion is moving against this war, which is bleeding our troops, bleeding our budget, and which is a magnet for international terrorists picking off our troops in Iraq.
BLITZER: I think you also disagree with both of these presidential candidates. They say they oppose same-sex marriage, even though they disagree on whether or not there should be a constitutional amendment.
Should there be same-sex marriage allowed throughout the United States?
NADER: Perfectly equal rights for gays and lesbians. The only reason the word "marriage" is niggling here is because the states' laws are written that way. If you just revise the state laws and provide for equal civil unions, you wouldn't infuriate a lot of Americans who are hung up on this word "marriage" because it has a traditional meaning to it.
John Kerry's against it. George W. Bush is against it. The Nader-Peter Camejo ticket is for it.
And by the way, the first vice presidential candidate of Latino background is on our ticket: a very distinguished activist and successful investment adviser, Peter Miguel Camejo. Thirty-nine million Latinos should appreciate that. BLITZER: But I just want to nail down this point. You believe that gays, lesbians should be allowed to get married in the United States?
NADER: Yes. It's on our Web site in distinct clarity, votenader.org, for all kinds of issues, to enrich the presidential contest and elevate the debate for American citizens abroad who are listening to this program, as well as American citizens here, permanent residents. All good-intentioned people should want more voices, more choices with a record of 40 years on my part of fighting for the health, safety and economic rights of Americans.
BLITZER: The independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. He's got a new book, "The Good Fight." I guess that's appropriately entitled. "Declare Your Independence, Close the Democracy Gap." Here's a shot of it. Let's show our viewers.
NADER: On its way to bestseller status.
BLITZER: There it is. We'll see it's just out this week.
Ralph Nader, thanks for joining us.
NADER: Thank you so much.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the choice and the ticket. I'll speak live with two governors: Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who was himself in the running for the Democratic vice presidential slot; and Colorado Governor Bill Owens. We'll speak about politics, the John Edwards choice and a lot more.
And flawed intelligence, flawed results and deadly consequences. I'll ask former weapons inspectors David Kay and Robert Gallucci about coming up empty in Iraq.
Stay with "LATE EDITION."
BLITZER: Who's better qualified to be second in line to the president, Cheney or Edwards? You can vote right now. Go to cnn.com/lateedition.
And coming up, two U.S. governors check the political pulse as the countdown continues to the Democratic Party convention in Boston at the end of this month. I'll speak live with Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa -- he's a Democrat -- and Governor Bill Owens of Colorado -- he's a Republican. They'll also be taking your phone calls.
You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's going to happen. Between now and November the American people are going to reject this tired old hateful negative politics of the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A preemptive strike against negative politics from John Edwards, tapped this week by John Kerry this week to be his Democratic running mate.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." To help sort out all the events of the week, the Edwards choice, the run-up to the Democratic convention, new concerns about homeland security and more, we're joined by two influential U.S. governors.
Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is a Democrat. He was among those being considered by John Kerry as a possible vice presidential choice. He joins us from Des Moines.
And Colorado Governor Bill Owens. He's a Republican. He's in Denver.
Governors, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Let's talk, first of all -- and I'll start with you, Governor Owens -- about the Senate Intelligence Committee report. Iraq is clearly going to be a major issue in this presidential race here in the United States. Listen to what the chairman, a Republican of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, said this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: I think the whole premise would have changed. I think the whole debate would have changed. And I think the response would have changed in terms of any kind of military plans. I doubt if the votes would have been there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He actually spoke this morning on NBC's "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert. He basically says that the vote in October, before the war, might are been different, probably would have been different if the intelligence were accurate. What do you say about that?
GOV. BILL OWENS (R), COLORADO: Well, I wouldn't want to second- guess Senator Roberts. He's a member of the U.S. Senate, and he'd be much better at counting those votes than would I.
But the reality is that we dealt with the situation in Iraq with the intelligence that we had. President Bush had been in office for eight months prior to September 11th. He had hardly had a chance to start to reform a bureaucracy, which we now know, in terms of intelligence, badly needed reforming. It was something that had been decades in making this problem, and it certainly was something that President Bush is aware of now.
And whether or not we would have gone into Iraq with different intelligence, I'd have to leave that to Senator Roberts.
BLITZER: But, Governor Owens, as you well know, when he made the decision to send U.S. men and women to battle in the war in March of 2003, he'd been in office for more than two years.
OWENS: Wolf, I know that, but as even Senator Roberts has said, he doesn't believe that President Bush had any different information. He doesn't believe that President Bush tried in any way to shape or couch that intelligence.
The president of the United States deals with the intelligence that the CIA gives him, and the president, who's sworn to uphold the Constitution and defend this country, did what he had sworn to do. He did so with the information that he had at the time. And I think that's all we can do is look at what did he know then and where did that come from. It came from the Central Intelligence Agency.
BLITZER: Do you accept that, Governor Vilsack?
GOV. TOM VILSACK (D), IOWA: I'll tell you, Wolf, there's no greater decision that a president makes than a decision to send our brave men and women into battle into harm's way. That decision has to be made as the last choice. And there's no question that President Bush and Vice President Cheney did not exhaust all opportunities to ask questions, to demand more information.
I will tell you, rather than looking back, I think it's important to look forward. Which team, the Kerry-Edwards team or the Bush- Cheney team, are going to be able to complete the job in Iraq?
I will tell you, I think the Kerry-Edwards team is. I think they've got the idea of bringing the international community back into this process. This is a very big job we've undertaken. We need some help. They know how to get that help. And I think the Bush-Cheney ticket has essentially made it so difficult to bring the allies back into this process that I'm not sure they can get the job done.
BLITZER: But, Governor Vilsack, correct me if I'm wrong, the only thing I hear from Senator Kerry or Senator Edwards as far as moving forward in Iraq if they were elected is that they would try to get greater international support, trying to get NATO support. I don't hear a lot of other specifics as far as a plan to deal with the current situation in Iraq.
VILSACK: Well, I will say, Wolf, that it's very important to get the international community more engaged. There is a big security job to do. When Iraq's got just a little over 5,000 well-trained security personnel and the need is substantially greater than that, if we're going to stabilize the democracy in Iraq, if we're going to allow it to take root, people have to feel safe. And the international community can help America do that.
It shouldn't just be our men and women in harm's way. This is a shared burden. And the reason it's not is because we didn't seek assistance and help from our allies, we didn't listen to folks all over the world who expressed deep concerns about the decision we made in Iraq. That's why we need a new team.
BLITZER: Governor Vilsack, I'll ask you a question I asked Ralph Nader. Did the young men and women from Iowa or from any place in the United States who have died in Iraq, more than 850 of them so far, did they die in vain?
VILSACK: I'll tell you, Wolf, the United States of America has a very, very significant responsibility in the world, and that is to lead the world to greater democracy and greater freedom. The fact that we sent brave men and women into harm's way and they did their job and they sacrificed and made the ultimate sacrifice for democracy is consistent with the American tradition.
The point is we'll not know whether or not these young men and women lost their lives in vain until we find out whether the situation in Iraq gets stabilized, democracy takes root the economy gets diversified, and the people in Iraq feel safe and secure. To do that we're going to need John Edwards and John Kerry.
BLITZER: Governor Owens, I'll ask you the same question. What do you think?
OWENS: No, I don't think they did die in vain. I think the world is a safer place because Saddam Hussein is not in power in Iraq. I think the world is a safer place because al Qaeda is not running the country of Afghanistan. I think the world is better off because these two countries are no longer able to be a haven for terrorist activities against the rest of the world.
So I would strongly suggest that these brave men and women didn't die in vain in Iraq, and we should already know that.
BLITZER: All right, Governors, stand by. We're going to take a quick break.
We'll have much more, including your phone calls, for these two governors from the heartland of America.
Also, we'll have a quick check of what's making news at this hour, including the latest on efforts to halt construction of Israel's West Bank barrier.
Much more "LATE EDITION" straight ahead.
BLITZER: Up next, our governors are back on the political beat for us: one Democrat, one Republican. They're here on "LATE EDITION."
And we'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. CHENEY: We need a commander in chief of clear vision and steady determination, and that's just what we have in President Bush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The vice president, Dick Cheney, praising his boss earlier this month in Pittsburgh.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our conversation with two men who know political loyalty and what's playing out so far in campaign 2000: Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa and Republican Governor Bill Owens of Colorado.
Governors, we have a caller from Arizona, has a question.
Go ahead, Arizona.
QUESTION: Yes, Governors, I was just wondering if you've seen "Fahrenheit 9/11" and what you thought of Michael Moore's views on the issues. Thanks.
BLITZER: Governor Vilsack?
VILSACK: I have seen "Fahrenheit 9/11," and what was interesting was to watch the reaction of those watching the movie. People were very, very concerned and very touched by that movie.
Obviously, Mr. Moore has a particular bent and an angle, but I think he raised some very serious questions about the decision-making process that lead to the Iraq War and the aftermath, which leads me back to the point that I tried to make earlier, Wolf.
This is all about making sure that we succeed in Iraq. And the question that Americans are going to have to decide in November is which team, the Kerry-Edwards team or the Bush-Cheney team, is in the best position to make sure we in fact succeed in our efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East.
BLITZER: Governor Owens, did you see the movie?
OWENS: You know, I haven't, but in Colorado we were victims of a tragedy at Columbine High School, and Michael Moore, noted propagandist, wrote a -- did a movie on Columbine as well. It had very little relevance to what actually happened here in Colorado at Columbine, as I'm certain that his movie has very little relevance to what's really happening in Iraq. The war in Iraq is far too serious an issue to make decisions based on popular movies.
And I think that just as Tom Vilsack has talked about how the Kerry-Edwards team is best for our country, I believe that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have dealt with some tough times, they've dealt with an economy that was already in recession when they took over. It's coming back strongly. And we're involved in a war that both John Kerry and John Edwards voted for as United States senators. So I think it's important to realize what's really happening in this political campaign.
BLITZER: Do you think it's a good idea, Governor Owens, for Republicans in the U.S. Senate tomorrow to start pushing for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage at a time when so many other issues are out there and at a time when it's almost virtually certain that they're not going to get the two-thirds majority necessary in the U.S. Senate to pass that kind of constitutional amendment?
OWENS: Well, I think it's important to have the debate. I think it's important to recognize that, while states like Colorado and I assume Iowa have in fact made the decision that marriage is something that's between a man and a woman, that we have a very real risk that these state laws are going to be overwhelmed by our federal courts.
And so I think it's perfectly appropriate for the United States Senate, which is the world's greatest debating body, to spend a couple of days discussing this very important issue and see if the votes are there. We don't actually know.
And it's important also to put people on record: Do you believe that marriage is something between a man and a woman?
BLITZER: So, Governor Owens, you support a constitutional amendment on this issue?
OWENS: I would like to see a system where state laws would in fact be allowed to continue to make that decision.
I'm very afraid that what a few supreme court justices in Massachusetts did, in terms of changing Massachusetts law, is going to be enforced in Colorado by a federal judge, and I don't want that to happen. And so I'd like to see the United States government change its laws and make sure that we have in place protection for the state laws that we already have.
BLITZER: You agree with that stance, Governor Vilsack?
VILSACK: Wolf, there's no question that we're debating this in the United States Senate for politics. There's no question about that.
The Bush-Cheney folks don't really want the country to focus on the status -- the situation of the economy. I disagree with my good friend Bill Owens. We have over 8 million Americans who are unemployed. Americans are working fewer hours, making less money, health care costs are rising, tuition costs are increasing, gas prices are still too high. We have at any point in time in the last two years 80 million uninsured Americans for health care. We have an administration with a horrible environmental record.
Obviously, they don't want to talk about the real issues that affect people in day-to-day life. So we're going to talk about value issues. We're going to talk about the divisive issues.
President Bush promised us when he came into office that he would be the great uniter, not the divider. This debate is all about dividing us, it's not about bringing us together. It's a states rights issue. It ought to remain with the states. BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about homeland security. Briefly, are you confused where the overall homeland security status stands right now given some of the conflicting, confusing statements that are coming out of the federal government in Washington, Governor Owens?
OWENS: You know, I haven't heard those confusing, conflicting statements coming out of Washington. I understand that we're in a period of significant challenge that...
BLITZER: Well, let me clarify...
OWENS: Wolf, the intelligence staff...
BLITZER: Let me clarify the confusion.
BLITZER: On the one hand, we're told that al Qaeda's planning a major terrorist operation between now and the November election. On the other hand we've said, "Go about your travel, go about your vacation, do everything you normally would be doing but get nervous in a sense." That seems to be some of the confusion.
OWENS: I don't find that confusing. I understand that al Qaeda is trying to launch an operation in the United States, but I also understand that there's very little the average citizen can do other than go about their normal lives. That's what I've told Coloradans. That's what my guess is Tom Vilsack has told his constituents in Iowa.
We have a dangerous situation. Good people are doing everything they can to deal with it. But I don't find that confusing. I find that stating the facts in a very real manner.
BLITZER: Governor Vilsack, there are some Democrats who are accusing the Republican administration, the Bush administration, of overly hyping the terror threat out there because it would be good politics for them. Are you among those Democrats who fear that?
VILSACK: Well, Wolf, I simply have a question. And that is, are these the same intelligence folks who are telling us about these threats that told us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that there was a nuclear program that Saddam Hussein was rapidly producing, that he had connections -- specific, direct connections with al Qaeda? If it's the same folks, then I think there are reasons to raise some serious concerns.
Really, if we're going to talk about homeland security, let's get real about homeland security. Let's talk about beefing up our efforts in terms of checking containers. Right now I don't think there's any question that we're not doing the job we need to do to make sure our borders are secure. Let's talk about getting resources to first responders, increasing the number of police and firefighters and EMTs.
If we're really going to talk about homeland security, let's talk about providing the resources and the direction. Tom Ridge has a terrific, terrific job. And he's doing the best he can. But he needs more resources. He needs more help. And I will tell you, instead of the United States Senate debating divisive issues, it would be better if they debated how to get more resources into our homeland security efforts.
BLITZER: Governor Vilsack, were you disappointed it was John Edwards, not you?
VILSACK: John Edwards was a great choice. I am a thousand percent behind this ticket.
I'll tell you, John Edwards is going to come into small communities, he's going to go into rural America, and he's going to speak to the concerns and anxieties and provide hope and optimism. He's going to combine with Senator Kerry to make a very strong team. We just passed a very significant, strong platform. We've got a strong party. We're looking forward to victory in November.
BLITZER: One final question to you, Governor Owens: I assume you disagree with former New York Senator Alfonse D'Amato, a Republican, and some other Republicans -- not many, but some -- who think the president should dump Dick Cheney and pick Colin Powell or John McCain or Rudy Giuliani or someone along those lines to be his running mate.
OWENS: You know, I do strongly disagree with that. And I'm looking forward to the Bush-Cheney campaign.
I think that Vice President Cheney, who's a neighbor in Wyoming, a gentleman who served as a United States congressman, as secretary of defense, as chief of staff to the president of the United States, has done an eminently good job as vice president and is very well-prepared to take over the presidency should he be so called upon to do.
This is a good team. These are two good men. Our economy is coming back strongly. We're seeing that every day. We're seeing it in Iowa, where Tom just finished an economic tour where he talked about how this was the best year in history in terms of economic development for Iowa.
VILSACK: Well, excuse me. The unemployment rate went up last month. Excuse me, the unemployment rate went up last month.
OWENS: Tom, it's 4.3 percent, which is 1 percent below the national average.
VILSACK: Seventy-two thousand unemployed Iowans, Bill. They're looking for help.
OWENS: Well, you just finished a week talking about how good the economy in Iowa was, Tom.
VILSACK: Based on what the state's doing...
OWENS: ... so nationally, nationally... VILSACK: ... not on what the federal government's doing, Bill. Based on what we're doing.
OWENS: OK. Well, nationally, what we are seeing is we're seeing GNP growing at the fastest rate in 20 years. We've certainly seen unemployment dropping across the country. One and a half million new jobs since last August. And in Colorado and Iowa, we're seeing the stronger economy.
So I'm very pleased with the job that Vice President Cheney's doing; proud to support him.
BLITZER: Governors, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there.
Two influential governors from the nation's heartland.
Governor Vilsack, Governor Owens, thanks very much for joining us.
VILSACK: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And just ahead, new charges this week of flawed -- seriously flawed intelligence that sent the United States into war. We're talking to two weapons inspection experts, David Kay, Robert Gallucci. They'll join me live. We'll talk about mistakes, lessons, limitations.
Stay with "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Leading up to September 11th, our government didn't connect the dots.
In Iraq, we were even more culpable, because the dots themselves never existed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller, talking about the committee's report that hammered prewar U.S. intelligence, especially the predictions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Joining us now, two guests: the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay -- after the war last year, he spent months in Iraq on behalf of the Bush administration and the CIA, searching for weapons of mass destruction; didn't find any -- and the former U.N. weapons inspector, former assistant secretary of state, Robert Gallucci -- he's now the dean of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service here in Washington, and the author of an important new book, "The First North Korean Nuclear Crisis: Going Critical," coauthored by Joel Wit, Dan Poneman.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.
Let me read, Robert Gallucci, an excerpt from the Senate Intelligence Committee report. Listen to this damning indictment.
"Most of the key judgments in the intelligence community's October 2002 national intelligence estimate either overstated or were not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting."
Give our viewers some perspective, because you know this. On a scale of one to 10, how big of an error is this?
ROBERT GALLUCCI, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I can only go to 10 with that?
It's a pretty -- there's no question about that, this was a very big error on the part of the intelligence community.
As I'm going to say that, and it's unavoidable, it's very hard to say on a judgment that precedes a war that was so wildly off with respect to weapons of mass destruction, that it wasn't very serious.
A little context here, before we damn the community, which I guess will be in for a lot of that these days, is that they're trying to do something very hard, right? They're trying to give information to policy-makers, to decision-makers about things nobody else knows about, things that have happened in the past, things that are happening now, or things that will happen in the future.
BLITZER: But they have...
GALLUCCI: That's hard.
BLITZER: ... thousands of analysts, they have thousands of officers and agents, $40 billion that the U.S. government spends on intelligence collection, and the president and the vice president got this?
GALLUCCI: Wolf, this is not an apologia. They blew this one, and in a very big way. It was a very big mistake.
Looking at why that happened is an important thing for this country to do, and now the Senate report, I think, brings us a ways down the road.
The point I'm making, though, is there's a context here. I spent over 20 years in government, and lived every day by that intelligence. And, by and large, day in and day out, it served me and the country well.
This was a very big mistake, and looking at why it happened is extremely important. BLITZER: A half a year ago, David Kay, you came back from Iraq, and you said this. I'll play it for our viewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID KAY, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Let me begin by saying we were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Long before the Senate Intelligence Committee came up with its damning indictment, you came up with almost exactly the same indictment.
KAY: Well, I had my nose rubbed in it. I'd spent seven months in Iraq hunting for the weapons, and looking at the intelligence, and discovering the discrepancy between what was believed before the war and what actually existed on the ground.
BLITZER: How is that possible, that the U.S. intelligence community could make such a huge error on weapons of mass destruction -- so far very little significant stockpiles, if any; on terrorist connections, let's say to al Qaeda, or to 9/11 even, some suggesting that there had been some Saddam Hussein connection to that; on the strength of the Iraqi military, which had been contained, for all practical purposes, and represented, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, virtually no threat to its neighbors?
KAY: Well, why it occurred is the interesting question that needs to be examined.
I agree with the committee report. It occurred because of incredibly bad analytical tradecraft, reasoning and analysis that wouldn't get out of Dean Gallucci's university, if it had done in a seminar. A complete breakdown in the operational collection capability. We had not a single human source that we actually ran in Iraq. Consequently we became very dependent on defectors.
And finally, a broken culture. For me, the most damning thing in the report is the statement of an agency manager to an analyst, who wanted to inform the secretary of state of questions about one of the sources, Curveball, and he said, "Don't bother; the big guys have already decided to go to war."
The agency, if it has any purpose, is to speak truth to power, even when power doesn't want to hear it.
BLITZER: Was that Ahmed Chalabi and his whole group that gave basically bad information to the U.S. government?
KAY: They certainly played a major role. There were others as well, but they certainly -- Chalabi and the INC were at the heart of it.
BLITZER: Jay Rockefeller, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said this in announcing the conclusions of the reports, and it gets to one of the most serious problems the United States government faces right now. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROCKEFELLER: Our credibility is diminished. Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The credibility issue now comes very much forward. The next time the U.S. government says, "North Korea represents a huge threat, Syria, Iran, or any other country," a lot of Americans are going to say, "I don't believe you."
GALLUCCI: I think that's right. I think the senator's right. I think you're correct.
But this is not only a result of the intelligence community making a mistake, and a big one, over Iraq.
It is also the administration. And the administration was hard over on Iraq. They wanted to find weapons of mass destruction. They wanted them to be there. They certainly had a commitment...
BLITZER: But, you know, the report concludes that there was no evidence whatsoever that they found that there was any political pressure on the analysts at the CIA or elsewhere to come up with a preconceived conclusion.
GALLUCCI: I understand that, Wolf. And they also have a large section on group-think. Explain to me how these would things could be absolutely true at the same time.
Where did this group-think come from? How did that come to be? Everybody in that community, in that intelligence community, which isn't really a community, understood what the administration wanted to find, how committed they were to going to war in Iraq. I think everybody in this country, in the world knew that. Weapons of mass destruction were going to be part of the rationale.
David's right. They're supposed to speak truth to power. The pressure on them to find this evidence and to come to analytical, which is really deductive, conclusions that it must be there I think was enormous.
BLITZER: You testified, David Kay, before the Congress that you had spoke to a lot of intelligence analysts during your tour of duty in the CIA when you were in Iraq and after you got back, and you couldn't find one person who said to you, "The vice president or the secretary of defense or the secretary of state or the president pushed me into coming up with a conclusion."
KAY: And I believe that's true. I found no analyst who said they were pushed into a conclusion or they were asked to change their conclusion. I think the group-think actually occurred, Wolf, and it occurred during the Clinton administration. The basic problem is that our Iraq policy, basic Iraq policy since after Bob and I were there in '92 rested on one principle that kept us with allies, that is Iraq had WMD. No one else was interested in joining in regime change.
And therefore, the group-think became, "The inspectors had found WMD, we must deduce that they're still continuing it even after we have no inspectors," and if we were to conclude the opposite the country's Iraq policy would fall apart. It was a cultural problem in the agency of not believing that they had to serve truth.
BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there.
David Kay, thanks very much for joining us.
Robert Gallucci, thanks to you as well. We'll have both of you back.
KAY: Thank you.
GALLUCCI: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, the results of our web poll question. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Our "LATE EDITION" web question asked this: Who's better qualified to be second in line to the president? Is it Cheney or Edwards? Look at how you voted: 16 percent of you said Cheney, 84 percent of you said Edwards. Remember, very important, this is not a scientific poll.
It's John Kerry's week on the covers of the major U.S. weekly news magazines. Time shows the Democratic presidential ticket with the headline "The Contenders." Newsweek also has the two men asking if they are the sunshine boys. And U.S. News & World Report has the headline "The Kerry Moment: How He Pulled Off One Of History's Biggest Political Turnarounds."
That's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, July 11th. Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. I'm also here twice a day during the week, at noon and 5 p.m. Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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