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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Thomas Kean, Lee Hamilton; Interview With Chris Heinz

Aired July 25, 2004 - 12:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington and here in Boston, 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 this special "Late Edition." We're live from the floor of the Fleet Center here in Boston.
As Democrats prepare to open their convention here tomorrow, we'll get a number of perspectives, including a special conversation with Chris Heinz, the stepson of the party's presidential candidate, John Kerry. And in just a few moments, my interview with the chairman and the vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission about their panel's final report, issued this past week.

First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of some headlines now in the news.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: The Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, is making his cross-country trek here to Boston. Anticipation clearly growing among Democrats. They've gathered for their national convention.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, has been keeping an eye on Kerry's journey and his preparations for this convention.

Candy, what are you hearing?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, this is sort of a slow roll into the convention. It started out in Colorado, where John Kerry was born in a military hospital, and then Sioux City, Iowa, yesterday, Ohio, on to Florida, up to Virginia, into Pennsylvania, eventually into Boston here.

They're calling this America's Freedom Trail. This basically is through a lot of battleground states.

Not a lot of news being committed out there. A lot of good- looking pictures. This is the beginning of the John Kerry week. So think of this as the drumroll, and basically getting a lot of the same things out of the stump speeches. He's doing some interviews along the way.

So this is just all in preparation of -- you know, very hard to build suspense into these conventions nowadays, so there's a lot of theater to it, and this is kind of the pre-show to it, Wolf.

John Kerry is expected here Wednesday afternoon sometime. His big night, of course, is Thursday night. Been working on his speech. He'd asked for a couple of drafts. He's writing longhand.

So they are both making their way here and making preparations to be here at this point.

Wolf?

BLITZER: And we're already here, waiting for all of them.

CNN's Candy Crowley reporting for us.

Candy, thank you very much.

For his part, President Bush is spending the next few days largely out of the spotlight, but Republicans are going to be out in full force making the case for another four years. They'll be here in Boston, as well.

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is covering the president at his ranch near Crawford, Texas.

Suzanne, what's on the president's agenda immediately?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Bush, as you know, of course, is at his Crawford ranch, as tradition calls, really ceding the spotlight to his opponent, John Kerry. And as you note, you're going to see Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as many Republican surrogates, taking to the campaign trail.

But President Bush, essentially, is quietly working on those recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. Tomorrow his national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, will join him at the ranch to go over those recommendations.

Already a task force is in place. Sources tell us that they will be meeting as early as this week. Still, a lot of things to be decided, however: just who is going to be on the task force, how big it's going to be, what kind of timetable they're dealing with.

But sources tell us that the main priority, the first priority here is to figure out what President Bush can do immediately when it comes to making changes by executive order, and then, of course, to look at some of those other important items, namely naming a national director of intelligence, if that is something the White House will sign off on, and of course creating that counterterrorism task force.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux near Crawford, Texas, covering the president at his ranch.

Thanks very much, Suzanne. And we'll have much more on the presidential political situation and the Democratic National Convention. That's coming up. First, though, let's turn to the 9/11 investigation.

Although the September 11th Commission stopped short of assigning formal blame in its final report, the panel is issuing a number of recommendations and challenges to both the White House and the Congress for preventing future terrorist attacks here in the United States.

Just a short while ago, I spoke with the commission's chairman, Thomas Kean, and the vice chairman, Lee Hamilton, about the panel's findings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Congressman Hamilton, Governor Kean, thanks so much to both of you for joining us. Thanks to both of you and your fellow commissioners for this outstanding report, as well.

But as you both know, there has been criticism, including from some of the surviving family members. I want you to listen to what one woman said in the aftermath of your report. Governor Kean, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEVERLY ECKERT, LOST HUSBAND ON 9/11: It's not that I wanted heads to roll, but I've worked in a large corporation, and I think, you know, sometimes you have to identify the people within the organization who are not functioning the way they should be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was Beverly Eckert, who lost her husband on 9/11.

Why didn't the report, Governor Kean, identify individuals who could have done a better job, name names, in other words?

THOMAS KEAN, CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: Well, it didn't make much sense to us, given the nature of the report. I mean, to find the -- three years later, to say, "This was the immigration official who maybe should have identified one of the hijackers with a visa that wasn't properly turned out," or "This is a low-level functionary in the FBI who did this," or "He was somebody in the airport security, who's long gone to another job who" -- it just -- that wasn't really the purpose of what we were trying to do.

What we were trying to do was identify systematic failures, things that could be corrected. Because these people, all of them, were working within a system that was broken, that simply didn't work. Whether it was them or somebody else, we identified these failures, and the best thing we can do, I think, for the safety of the American people is to fix them.

BLITZER: But I think what she was referring to, not necessarily relatively low-level officials who might have been able to do a better job, but the superiors, the top levels of the government, who saw opportunities there and missed those opportunities -- secretaries, the Cabinet secretaries, that type of level. Was that not appropriate, as well, Governor Kean?

KEAN: Well, I think we did identify -- we have a whole section saying "Opportunities Missed," and these identify things that we could have done and we didn't do.

Now, we don't know whether they would have stopped 9/11 on that. That's doubtful. But if all of them had been done a different way, perhaps we could have postponed it, perhaps we could have disrupted it. Who knows?

But we identify very strongly opportunities missed, and many of those at the highest levels, and we quote various people who identify exactly what we're talking about.

BLITZER: You talk, Congressman Hamilton, about a failure of imagination, to imagine what these terrorists could do. But in 1998, December of 1998 specifically, there was a Presidential Daily Brief given to then-President Clinton. Among other things, it said -- it was entitled, "Bin Laden preparing to hijack aircraft and other attacks."

"Bin Laden and his allies have completed planning for an operation in the U.S., but that the operation was on hold. Two members of the operational team, it went on to say, had evaded security checks during a recent trial run at an unidentified New York airport. Some members of the bin Laden network have received hijack training."

What kind of imagination did it require to know that al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were wanting to hijack U.S. commercial airliners?

LEE HAMILTON, VICE CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: You can look back and find instances where there was some prescient warnings of what was going to happen, but you've got to remember that this is one piece of information in an avalanche of information that comes to the policymakers.

Overall, it was our view that the government, and not just the government, the American people, the media, did not focus on the threat or the grave threat that al Qaeda represented.

I can look back now and see more than one. I can see several instances where there were warnings. But they just didn't rise to the surface so that they really grabbed the attention of the policymaker and said, "OK, this is the number-one national security threat, this is the priority, everything else has to be subordinated to it."

So while one or two or three or four people may have had the imagination to see these things happening, the government as a whole did not, and the American people did not.

BLITZER: But I think it's fair to say -- and I've gone through the report, Congressman Hamilton, it wasn't just one or two or three, there were plenty of people, analysts and others inside the government, not just Richard Clarke, the counterterrorism adviser in both the Clinton and Bush administration, there were people warning of these kinds of potential attacks. But for some reason, they never filtered all the way to the policymakers, who might have been able to make a difference.

Is that fair?

HAMILTON: Well, I don't think it's entirely fair. Almost all of those warnings were possible attacks overseas. Very few of them -- one of them you cited a moment ago -- was a warning about a possible domestic attack.

But almost all of our national security apparatus was focused for possible terrorist attacks abroad, where several of them had occurred, not on the soil of the United States.

And then you go beyond that and you ask yourself, "How many people really saw the potential of an airplane being flown into big buildings?" And you really get down to very, very few that had any idea of that.

And those that had it were not able to push that concept forward enough to really grab hold the attention of the policymaker.

BLITZER: But you yourself cite in the report -- let me let Governor Kean respond to this -- cite reports throughout the '90s. There were suggestions out there that terrorists wanted to hijack a plane and crash it, whether into the Shalom Towers, the tallest building in Israel, or go into the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There were these suggestions out there that were clearly on the table.

KEAN: Oh, there's no question about it. There were warnings. There were events. I mean, nobody put it together. If you start with the World Trade Center bombing one, 1993, and then you find out that Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda is involved in Black Hawk down, you find they're involved in plots to blow up the Holland and Lincoln Tunnel, and you find out that they want to blow up the Los Angeles Airport -- and they caught a guy that was trying to do that -- plus the embassy bombings of the USS Cole, attacks in Beirut.

I mean, you put all this together, and then the intelligence information we had as well that this was an organization that had the capability, the command and control and the finances.

And finally, that they said what they were going to do. I mean, they issued a fatwa. And Osama bin Laden said, "It's the duty of every Muslim to kill every American. It doesn't matter whether they're army or civilian."

Now, you put all that together, and I think if you had had that, if I had had that, if the president of the United States had that, they would have acted differently. What we're saying in the report, I guess, is nobody put it together. Nobody put it together for anybody. And in the presidential campaign in 2002, all this stuff had been out there. We went through all that rhetoric through a whole presidential campaign, terrorism was mentioned once, only once.

BLITZER: In the presidential campaign in 2000, you meant to say.

KEAN: In 2000, yes.

BLITZER: Congressman Hamilton, there is some criticism coming out from critics of the report, suggesting that in order to get a consensus among all 10 members, five Republicans and five Democrats, you skirted some of the more sensitive issues. For example, the war in Iraq, whether or not that helped or hurt the overall war against terror.

What do you say to those critics?

HAMILTON: Well, I think there are two answers. One is legal and the other is a very pragmatic one.

We operated pursuant to a statute. We had to follow that mandate. I really do not see how you can reasonably read that statute and the legislative history that preceded it and say that the commission should be looking at the war in Iraq.

We were to focus our attention on 9/11 and those events, and not the war on Iraq.

The second reason is...

BLITZER: But let me -- Congressman Hamilton, the argument is that in your recommendations, you came up with several excellent recommendations that are now being considered by the Congress, by the president. One of your recommendations, presumably, could have been, don't go to war against countries that had nothing to do with 9/11.

HAMILTON: Well, I think that's going well beyond what we were charged to do. I think it's really people who are upset with the war in Iraq -- and of course there are many who defend it and many who criticize it -- are trying to look at the commission report and expand the mandate from what it really should be.

The second reason is, if we had gone into the war on Iraq, it would have been hugely divisive, and we would not have been able to agree on the factual record, not been able to agree on recommendations.

You have to make very pragmatic decisions, and I think Tom and I made those decisions, and one of them was to keep focused like a laser beam, if you would, on 9/11 and the events that immediately flow from that.

Moving to the war in Iraq just opens up a whole, vast, new arena that I think is well beyond any reasonable interpretation of what we were supposed to do. BLITZER: Governor Kean, are you satisfied with the immediate reaction from the Bush administration, as well as from the Congress, to your recommendations?

KEAN: I am encouraged by it. I can't say I'm totally satisfied, but I'm encouraged. I mean, the kind of efforts that Senator Collins, Senator Lieberman, Senator McCain are now making, the sense of some in Congress, not all in Congress, that there is an emergency, that these terrorists plan to attack us again as soon as possible, and therefore Congress has got to act now and not next year sometime. And that's all encouraging.

But we yet have to find out whether that's coming from a minority in Congress or whether that's coming from the Congress as a whole. I think they've got to take this seriously.

The president has taken it seriously. He had a good conversation with Congressman Hamilton and I on the report. He's said since he's leaning forward on his recommendations. Senator Kerry was very, very good in our conversations with him.

So all these things are encouraging, but as I said, the proof is in the pudding. We'll have to wait and see.

BLITZER: And, Governor Kean, there is a suggestion now that you're about to embark on a continuing campaign to get these recommendations passed, even though that the mandate of the 9/11 Commission clearly is over with now. What do you mean by that?

KEAN: What we mean by that is this. We've spent a year and a half of our lives on this. All of us left what other occupations we were doing, worked very, very hard, tried to tell the story of 9/11 as best we could, the definitive story. And then most importantly to us, out of what we've learned, we made recommendations we think are going to make the American people a lot safer and the American people less subject to another attack.

Now, we believe in those. So all 10 of us, Republicans and Democrats, have said, we're not going to take high positions in coming presidential campaign, we're not going to get involved at all in the campaigns on the subject of terrorism, because it's more important than politics.

All 10 of us are going to get out on the road, now -- not government funding or anything else -- we're going out on our own, as private citizens, to talk, to argue, to lobby, to do whatever we have to do, and we're going to be joined by the families, to try and get legislation enacted, to try and do whatever we can.

Because we think our recommendations are so important, and we don't think time is on our side. We think this enemy is poised to attack, and unless we make some of these changes, America is still vulnerable.

BLITZER: Governor Kean, Congressman Hamilton, unfortunately, we're out of time, but once again, thanks so much for joining us. Public service, both of you have defined it quite well. Appreciate it very much.

HAMILTON: Thank you.

KEAN: Thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And coming up, a family portrait, as John Kerry prepares for the biggest moment of his political career. We'll get up close and personnel, a view from the Democratic presidential candidate, from his stepson, Chris Heinz.

And later, insight into the challenges facing John Kerry from a man who once walked the same road, the former Democratic presidential nominee, George McGovern.

Then, he's considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. We'll have a conversation, a live conversation, with the convention's keynote speaker, Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama.

"Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of protesters at the Boston Commons, where hundreds -- it doesn't look like hundreds right now -- but hundreds are expected to be gathering a variety of issues. The main issue here, at least for now, the war in Iraq. Many protesting other issues as well. These protesters will work their way eventually to the Fleet Center, we're told, in about an hour. We'll continue to watch what's going on from the protest movement here in Boston. Remember, this is the same group that sued to try to get protests closer to the Fleet Center, where this Democratic Convention is taking place.

Welcome back to our special "Late Edition." We're on the floor of the Democratic Convention here in Boston.

From the start, John Kerry's campaign has been a family affair. Earlier today I spoke with his stepson, Chris Heinz, about John Kerry, the politician and the family man.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Chris Heinz, thanks very much for joining us. I know you're getting ready to come here to Boston. You'll be introducing your mother Tuesday night.

Let's look at the latest Time magazine poll, the overall horse race. Likely voters' choice for president: Kerry, 46 percent; Bush, 43 percent; Ralph Nader is at 5 percent.

What kind of bounce, realistic bounce, do you anticipate that your stepfather will get coming out of this convention?

CHRIS HEINZ, JOHN KERRY'S STEPSON: Well, a lot of people have been drawing parallels to 1992 when President Clinton had this huge bounce, which was a function of him selecting a running-mate and Ross Perot getting out of the race during the convention.

I think, this year, most informed people would say we expect much less of a bounce for two main reasons. One is we've already announced our running-mate in Senator Edwards, and, you know, already had a kind of pre-convention lift from that and people are very excited.

And the other reason is, we all know that this is a really, really, really divided electorate, and that there are fewer undecideds this year than in previous cycles. And for that reason, I think that we won't get as big a bounce as, say, Clinton in '92.

But I feel confident about this convention and about us coming out with the momentum and feeling excited about our message.

BLITZER: Clinton was certainly helped in '92, and all of us remember that convention, in part because Ross Perot, who was then a presidential candidate, dropped out in the middle of the convention and endorsed Bill Clinton effectively.

What about Ralph Nader right now? He's getting 5 percent in this latest poll. How worried are you about Ralph Nader?

HEINZ: Well, I'm fundamentally an optimist vis-a-vis Ralph Nader's candidacy. At the end of the day, you know, we're not going to pick fights with Ralph Nader. I think that John and Mr. Nader have a long history together. And John has a great record on corporate responsibility and environmental issues, and I think he can speak to large groups of people who were in 2000 Nader voters.

So I believe we'll be making our own luck there. We're going to treat those supporters with respect, try to give them a place on our platform and in our party and hope for the best on November 2nd.

But I do believe you create your own luck, and for that reason I think we're going to listen and we're going to be respectful of their views, and we'll go from there.

BLITZER: According to our public opinion polls, it seems there's a significant number of Americans who don't want to necessarily re- elect the president but at the same time they're not yet ready to commit to John Kerry. What does he have to do at this convention here in Boston to convince them that he's ready to be the president?

HEINZ: Well, he'll do it on Thursday night. He's going to underscore why he's the right person to carry out our theme, which is to be stronger at home and respected abroad.

John has 20 years of service in the Senate. He was in the Middlesex -- he was a prosecutor for a long time. And obviously he has the service in Vietnam. He has an amazing life story, He's sort of a throwback in that sense.

And what he needs to do is just let people understand who he is, why he's doing what he's doing, what drives him to serve, and what his vision is for the next four years. I have all the confidence in the world he'll do a great job of that on Thursday.

BLITZER: As you know, the Republicans in the Bush-Cheney campaign have been going after his alleged flip-flops on the issues. In our most recent CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, we asked if, on the specific issue, if the candidate changes positions on issues for political reasons, 52 percent said Bush does not, 30 percent said Kerry does. Excuse me, that 30 percent, only 30 percent said Kerry does not change his position on issues for political reasons.

That seems to reinforce this flip-flop charge against him.

HEINZ: Well, if someone spent $100 million in advertising and had all their surrogates saying I could fly, I'm sure some particular number of Americans would say that Chris Heinz could fly. I can't fly.

John Kerry has strong values. He is someone who sees the world in all its complexity and shades of gray. And I think it dovetails really well with this president, and it's sort of an ideological administration, which is a chief complaint that a lot of us who are fundamentally moderates, myself included, have with this president.

BLITZER: When you say you're a moderate, your father, of course the late Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania, was a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania. I know that, based on reading about you, at one point you were a Republican. When did you become a Democrat?

HEINZ: Well, I'm actually a registered independent. I've been -- I don't know that I've ever been registered as a Republican, but I grew up in a Republican household. My father died when I was 18, so there was really no pressure, you know, voting age 18, you know, it wasn't a big issue to me.

But, you know, moderates -- my heart is with moderate people first, people who look at problems and fight for solutions without an ideological bent, be it Republican or Democrat. And that's really a tone of this campaign.

I definitely support the Democratic Party in down tickets, and I've been working with the party, and I'm so excited about it. And I think they've taken over the place of moderation in American politics. So I'm honored and proud to be associated with it.

But at the end of the day, I just don't think that partisanship is serving this country particularly well.

BLITZER: If you decided at some point in your life to run for a political office as a moderate, do you think you'd feel more comfortable as a moderate in the Republican Party or a moderate in the Democratic Party?

HEINZ: I think that most moderates would feel more comfortable in the Democratic Party. I think that, you know, we look in the Senate now, we have four moderate Republicans, and they're all change agents in their party. They don't have -- they're not a part of the real leadership, and if they are it's because of the strength of personality, in the sense of a Senator McCain.

So I don't think anyone feels very much at home being a moderate on the Republican side, at least in elected government. Now, there are tons of moderate Republicans out there, who are rank-and-file voters, are leaders in their community or work at the state and local level.

We want to give them a home and tell them, look, we may be the Democratic ticket, but all these conservative values that you should hold true to yourself aren't being represented by this administration -- fiscal responsibility, protecting individual rights, all those sorts -- you know, the line between church and state.

I just don't find this administration to be particularly conservative to the letter of the law, nor do I find it to be moderate. It just seems to be something else.

BLITZER: You're going to be introducing your mother, as I said earlier. There was a cover of her in Newsweek magazine earlier in the year, which we'll put up on the screen. And it shows your mother, and it asked the question, "Is John Kerry's heiress wife a loose cannon or crazy like a fox?"

What are you going to tell the American people about your mom Tuesday night that they don't know?

HEINZ: Well, I want to give them, obviously, a little piece of biography. My mother is a first-generation American, and I think it makes an important point. You know, in this country, you can't actually get to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a president if you weren't born in this country, and there are a lot of people, I think, who are at least subliminally disenfranchised because of that.

And not only is my mother a first-generation American, and yes, she's lived an incredible life that is probably atypical of what most immigrants have in this country, but it is a version of the American dream. And, oh, by the way, she can talk in five different languages and hopefully connect with those people and bring them into the process and make them feel like they have a piece of America again.

BLITZER: Are you opening the door to running for a congressional seat, similarly to what your father did many years ago?

HEINZ: Oh, no, I have no plans after November 2nd. I am not trying to be coy. I would say that anything like that, there is very little interest on my part to step outside and say, I'm doing this for myself. You know, I support John. I have problems with this administration. And I'm 31 years old, and I'm still making assessments about what I want to do with my life.

BLITZER: So you're leaving the door open, though, is that fair to say?

HEINZ: Sure, I don't see any reason why not.

BLITZER: Chris Heinz, thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate it. Good luck at this convention.

HEINZ: Thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And you're looking at live pictures from the podium here at the convention.

The two women to the right of the screen, the two daughters of John Kerry, Alexandra and Vanessa Kerry. They're getting ready to practice a little bit, getting a flavor of what's happening here on the floor of the Democratic Convention, speaking with convention organizers, an important event for both of them. They'll be speaking, introducing their father Thursday night here in Boston.

We'll take a quick break. More of our coverage when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the Democratic National Convention. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from the Fleet Center here in Boston.

Joining us now to assess the race for the White House, two guests, two members of the House of Representatives: in San Francisco, Republican Congressman David Dreier of California; here in Boston, Democratic Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. of Tennessee.

Good to have both of you on the program.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Sounds like you're having a lot of fun back there.

BLITZER: The fun hasn't started yet, but there will be fun here, Congressman, in Boston, just as there always is at these conventions. I'm sure there will be fun in New York at the Republican Convention as well.

DREIER: I promise you that.

BLITZER: All right, let's take a look at the latest AP count of electoral states. The electoral vote, of course, critical. Right now, based on the Associated Press, it looks like the president has 217 electoral votes leaning in his direction, 193 for John Kerry. You need 270 to be elected president of the United States.

Harold Ford, Jr., this is about as close as it gets at this stage. What do you expect to emerge from this convention?

REP. HAROLD FORD, JR. (D), TENNESSEE: I think the country is waiting to hear John Kerry and John Edwards articulate a clear vision for the future, one that's optimistic and positive.

And I think the country will be pleased in the coming days, not only to hear from those two who will articulate that vision, but to listen to the wealth of talent in our party and the wealth of ideas in this party.

At the end of the day, ideas will win this election. And our ideas will be showcased this week here in Boston.

BLITZER: A lot have suggested they want to tone down some of the rhetoric, get Al Gore and some of the other speakers not to go as negative, if you will, against the president. Is that what you're hearing?

FORD: You know, Al Gore got more of the popular vote than George Bush in 2000. I have great faith and confidence he'll set the right tone, as will President Clinton, as will Senator Clinton, and as will John Edwards and John Kerry, who we are awaiting their arrival here, Wednesday and Thursday respectively, to give us the charge and to give us the address that will carry us into the fall.

BLITZER: David Dreier, the latest public opinion poll we've seen in your home state of California shows that it's really strongly in favor of John Kerry, at least right now, 49 percent for Kerry, 38 percent for Bush, 5 percent for Nader. Should he just concede California at this stage?

DREIER: Absolutely not. I mean, let me say that this state is obviously not one of the top few battleground states, but I clearly believe that with the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the vision that George W. Bush has to continue to reach out to a broad cross- section of individuals, that we have a good chance to carry this state. We've got a spectacular delegation that will be headed to New York in a few weeks.

But we want to focus on the Boston convention. And I want to say that I want you, Harold, to have a good convention, not a great convention, but I do want you to have a good convention back there. And I think that this notion of focusing on the positive is something I think would be good for frankly both sides, because we very much want to do that.

You know, I just heard Chris Heinz, in his interview with you, Wolf, talking about the issue of bipartisanship. And we all know that when George Bush became president, having come through this extraordinarily divided campaign in the year 2000, one of the things that he wanted to do was reach out and change the tone in Washington.

It hasn't been easy. I mean, it's been tough. And we acknowledge that broadly. But I know that we very much want to do that. And we have had a number of bipartisan victories, and we're going to continue to try and do it.

And this 9/11 Commission is, I think, and the work product there is evidence that we can work in a bipartisan way to address this.

BLITZER: All right. Congressman Dreier, stand by.

I want to take a look at the latest numbers we're getting from Tennessee, your home state, Harold Ford, 48 percent for Bush, 48 percent for Kerry. It looks like Tennessee is emerging as a real battleground state. It doesn't get much closer than that.

FORD: We've thought all along that voters are concerned about Iraq, about a foreign policy that's more coherent, and about an economy that's creating good jobs for middle-class Americans. We are as concerned as anyone, and I think those numbers reflect that.

John Edwards and John Kerry will spend time in Tennessee. Some have pointed to Al Gore losing the state in 2000, and he did. But two years later we elected a Democrat as governor, the only Southern state to do that in 2002. And we picked up a congressional seat, Democrats did, shifting the majority to the Democrats in our state.

We are excited. We're ready. We know it will be a hard fought campaign. But again, it's ideas. And John Kerry and John Edwards will give us ideas on tax policy, foreign policy. And I think America will be willing and ready to rally for us.

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: And I think there will be a clear picture, I mean, there will be a difference between the two. And I think that that's been made very obvious just by the policies.

And, Harold, you're right in talking about the need to focus on policies. And I think the tremendous improvements that we've seen in Iraq, coupled with the fact that 1.26 million new jobs have been created, we've generated $40 billion in new revenues...

BLITZER: All right, David Dreier, hold on one second.

DREIER: Sure.

BLITZER: When you say tremendous improvements in Iraq, more than 900 American troops have died in Iraq since the start of the war. Where are the tremendous improvements?

DREIER: You know, I will tell you, Wolf, I listened just before I came out here to California on Friday when Harold and I finished our work in the Congress, and National Public Radio actually had a story of a number of troops who had returned home and they were shocked at the reporting.

I mean, obviously, you know very well, Wolf, that we've seen the reconstruction of schools and hospitals. We've seen tremendous moves made toward lowering the tension there.

Obviously, we have terrorist thugs, and these kidnappings have been absolutely horrible, and it's been a very difficult time, and we've got difficult times ahead.

But I think the five-point plan that the president put forward, beginning with the handover, which went quite well, coupled with security, training those 260,000 Iraqi troops, looking at the infrastructure rebuilding which is going on, building the international coalition, Jordan and Yemen on board now, and then the elections to take place in January. I think that it is going well, based on all of the reports that I've gotten.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Congressman, we're going to take a quick break.

DREIER: Sure.

BLITZER: We have much more to talk about.

When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Congressmen Dreier and Ford about Bush versus Kerry and more.

And later, perspective from a liberal icon. A special conversation with the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, George McGovern.

Our special "Late Edition" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Looking at a live picture of George McGovern. Thirty- two years ago, he was the Democratic presidential nominee. He is getting ready to join us live on "Late Edition." We'll speak with George McGovern. That's coming up.

Welcome back to our special "Late Edition." We're on the floor of the Fleet Center here in Boston. We're continuing our conversation with California Republican Congressman David Dreier, Tennessee Democratic Congressman Harold Ford.

Harold Ford, the president spoke before the Urban League in Boston this week. Among other things, he said this. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Does the Democrat Party take African-American voters for granted?

(APPLAUSE)

It's a fair question. I know plenty of politicians assume they have your vote. But do they earn it, and do they deserve it?

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Congressman Ford, a lot of African-Americans believe the Democratic Party does take their vote for granted.

FORD: I don't think so. I think what you will find in this election is both parties competing for the African-American vote, which is a positive thing. And both parties will have to lay their record and vision out. I think when voters take a look at George Bush's record -- and I listened to my colleague David Dreier describe the situation in Iraq, and there's a real disconnect between the rhetoric in Washington and the reality, I think, occurring and what people are experiencing in the heartland of the country. When it comes to education and jobs, there's a real disconnect between what we talk about in Washington and what people are experiencing.

And George Bush will have to explain why he cut funding for the No Child Left Behind Act; why we've not moved more quickly to reform the intelligence apparatus in this country. He'll have to explain why we've run these enormous and record deficits over the years and what that will mean to a future generation of not only young African- American children but American children.

And John Kerry will address these issues and offer real answers. And I think that, at the end of the day, that will make the difference in this race.

BLITZER: David Dreier, why did the president do so poorly among African-American voters four years ago? Less than one in 10, about 8 percent voted for George Bush.

DREIER: Well, because of the fact that, as you said at the outset, I think that there are many people who have just traditionally assumed that the Democratic Party offers the best hope.

You know, the interesting number that Harold didn't offer there is that we have seen the highest percentage of minority homeownership in the history of our country. We've seen a dramatic reduction in minority unemployment. These are numbers which cannot be denied, and I will tell you...

FORD: That's actually not true.

DREIER: Well, no, it is true. I mean, these are...

FORD: Not the unemployment. The homeownership started under Clinton, and the unemployment numbers have actually gone up.

DREIER: The homeownership today is at its highest level ever.

And I will tell you, when we talk about a disconnect we have seen very strong economic growth. Alan Greenspan, in his report to Congress this past week, has talked about the fact that this economy is going to continue to be sustained. And we're going to see tremendous improvements in the African-American and the Latino communities, which I believe will be very positive for us.

We're all inspired by positive things. It's good that we're going to focus on the positive. Lance Armstrong's victory is one of the most inspiring things for all of us too.

BLITZER: All right. David, let's let Harold Ford respond.

FORD: I'd also say that if you look at the job creation -- I'm a big believer that a job is better than no job, of course. But when you look at the job creation, and Alan Greenspan confirmed this as well before my committee last week, the greatest growth has been in the lowest quintile and the highest quintile. We are not creating those jobs in the middle. And I think we need answers to those questions.

BLITZER: All right.

FORD: Last, George Bush on Dr. King's holiday, the last two holidays, one of the reasons he's experienced such problems with black voters is, on Dr. King's actual birthday two years ago, he offered his opposition to the University of Michigan admissions policy, which survived muster before the court. And last year, this year on Dr. King's birthday, he made a recess appointment of Judge Pickering to the court which...

BLITZER: Let me -- hold on one second...

(CROSSTALK)

FORD: ... agitating some in the ommunity.

BLITZER: There was a new poll among African-Americans in the United States. BET, the Black Entertainment Television, with CBS, they asked if John Kerry is elected -- this is of black voters -- do you think opportunities for black people will get better? Get better, 47 percent; stay the same, 45 percent; 3 percent, get worse.

There's a lot of people in the African-American community who aren't convinced that things are going to get better.

FORD: I think they're like most Americans. If you polled most Americans today, I think that you would find the numbers mirroring those that you saw there in the African-American community.

What's clear is that both candidates are going to have to offer their visions and their plans for the future. John Kerry will have to do it. He has an advantage because the Democratic Party has worked better and more, I think, for African-Americans in this country over the last 50 years. But John Kerry is still going to have to carry that message and lay out what he will do differently.

DREIER: Harold, I totally agree with you that both campaigns need to focus on reaching out. And I believe that we're doing it. And I think that economic growth, peace and stability, the things that we're vigorously pursuing, working in a bipartisan way -- we did it this week on trade issues. And we've passed the Moroccan agreement, a very important thing.

I think we've got a tremendous chance under the leadership of George Bush to continue to build. And I look forward to working with you in the next Congress on that under the leadership of President Bush.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens.

David Dreier, thanks very much.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Harold Ford, thanks to both of you, as well.

And to our viewers, don't forget our Web question of the week: Have you already made up your mind about who you want to win the U.S. presidential election? You can still vote. Go to cnn.com/lateedition.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And welcome back to our special "Late Edition." We're live from Boston. We've got much more on the race for the White House and this week's Democratic National Convention here in Boston.

In just a few minutes, we'll speak to two leading U.S. senators about how Congress is responding to the 9/11 Commission's final report. We'll get to all of that. First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of headlines now in the news.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Now here in Boston, security very, very heavy. That's the order of the week, as Democrats gather for the start of their national convention. It starts tomorrow.

Our national correspondent, Bob Franken, following this part of the story. He's joining us now live outside the Fleet Center with details.

Bob?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And at this hour, Wolf, the security measures are being tested a little bit by a group of several hundred demonstrators. This is an anti-war group. There have been some expectations that would be some larger groups of demonstrators. But in any case, this group is on the streets now, being allowed to march on the streets because a judge said the city had to allow them.

Now, what they are doing is avoiding an area not far from here which they're calling a holding pen, an internment camp. It's an area where when they rally, they have to gather in that area. The demonstrators are avoiding that.

But the property really belongs, really belongs to the security forces. There are thousands of security people here, everything from military policy, to federal officials, other federal officials, state police, local police, all coordinating a massive unprecedented bit of security. They're stopping people, sometimes every few feet, to check their belongings, make they go through magnetometers.

There is a large black fence now that is around this whole area, almost all of this taking attention for the reason that this even is being held and that of course is the Democratic National Convention, inside where you are, Wolf, inside the Fleet Center, where everything is, hopefully for the Democrats, going to be boisterous, a rousing send-off to the Kerry-Edwards ticket. But outside, Boston is an armed camp.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Bob Franken reporting for us.

Bob, thanks very much.

We'll have much more on what's happening at the convention coming up at this hour.

Let's get to the key recommendations, though, in that 9/11 Commission's final report. Significant reforms requested of the Congress and the executive branch of the U.S. government when it comes to intelligence and security matters.

Joining us now, two lawmakers who will have significant input into what those changes will be. In Kansas City, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts. Here in Boston, at the convention, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also a member of the Intelligence Committee, Carl Levin.

Senators, welcome back to "Late Edition."

And, Senator Roberts, I'll begin with you with this convention- related question. How concerned should those of us in Boston right now be about a terror attack during this week of this convention?

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Every possible, every possible security precaution has been taken, both in Boston and New York. I don't think you're ever going to get a situation where you have a date and a time and place, in terms of any threat or any terrorist attack.

But I'm quite confident that all of the authorities, local, state and federal, have been working together for a considerable amount of time. I think Carl is safe, and I think I'll be safe in New York.

BLITZER: Are these threats that they keep talking about, Senator Levin, how credible are they? Because clearly, I've been to a lot of conventions, I've never seen security like this. This, albeit, is the first convention since 9/11.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Some threats are credible, and other ones are not. They try to weed them out, sort them out and tell us which are the most credible, which are the most immediate and imminent. And those are the ones we have to be protected against the most.

BLITZER: But you've been briefed on these threats. How concerned are you? LEVIN: I think that every step has been taken to protect this convention and the convention in New York. So I'm confident of it. And I think we have to go about our lives as though we are protected and not just assume that there's going to be a terrorist attack around the corner every day.

BLITZER: Senator Roberts, let me read to you from the 9/11 Commission report. Among other things, they said this: "The current position of director of central intelligence should be replaced by a national intelligence director with two main areas of responsibility: one, to oversee national intelligence centers on specific subjects of interest across the U.S. government; and, two, to manage the national intelligence program and oversee the agencies that contribute to it."

Are you in favor of these two recommendations?

ROBERTS: I don't know yet. We are going to have hearings on that. We've already started hearings. I talked to Senator Rockefeller, and I'm very happy Carl is on the show because we can inform him, you know, via this interview.

I've had a lot of calls from the Intelligence Committee members who are worried like Americans. We're on break. We should be studying these proposals to make sure that we get it right.

Let me point out to you that the Intelligence Committee, in a 17- 0 bipartisan vote, looked at the pre-war intelligence and we drew the conclusions of all the shortcomings.

Second, we said they begged for reform. Now the commission, with five Republicans and five Democrats, in a bipartisan way has said, "Here's a reform proposal."

My prediction to you is that both the Government Reform Committee, this coming week, and the Intelligence Committee, hopefully in two weeks, Senator Rockefeller and myself and the members of the committee will get together. We want to take a hard look at these reforms. We want to pass them. But we want to get it right.

I've also been in touch with the White House this weekend. They're going to have a very proactive meeting right at the first of the week. So I think there's a very definite possibility that we can pass a major on all three suggestions they have made either late September or at the very first part of October.

BLITZER: Are you that confident, Senator Levin?

LEVIN: I think that we can do a great deal of reforming. But to me, the greatest issue is whether or not we can separate any kind of political pressure from the intelligence assessments.

And that's what I'm going to be pressing the commissioners on when they come before us, because whatever organizational structure we come up with, whether it's a new centralized national intelligence director, a counterterrorism center or not, we have got to make sure that the assessments which are provided are free from politics. BLITZER: But what you're suggesting is that there was political pressure on the analysts going into the war, clearly?

LEVIN: I think in this war, I think in the Vietnam War, that they -- I won't say directly on the analysts. What I will say is that the leaders of the country, I believe, wanted to hear certain things, and they heard those things from central intelligence director.

Now, whether that's true or not, it's critically important -- and I think it's true, obviously -- but it's critically important that a new structure have analyses which are objective and independent and have integrity, and are not in any way shaped by what the policymakers want to hear.

BLITZER: Is that a good point, Senator Roberts, that Senator Levin makes?

ROBERTS: Well, that's the point he was making all along in regards to the investigation we conducted over a year. We interviewed over 240 analysts, and we found there was no pressure. There was pressure. It was called 9/11. And it was called repetitive questions.

And I hope to heck when you have something like 9/11 and the threat that we're faced today that we do have pressure from policymakers wanting to get, as Carl has indicated, the very (ph) and correct assessment.

But, you know, I know it's a tough election year. I know politics is not bean bag, and I know we're into that. But if you look at the past and the Intelligence Committee investigation two years ago, then our intelligence investigation in regards to the pre-war intelligence, the 5-5 split in regards to the committee again on the 9/11 Commission, I am very hopeful and I think we can get this done in terms of the reform proposals. But we've got to get it right. It has to work.

BLITZER: Senator Roberts, listen to what Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism adviser in both the Clinton and Bush administration, wrote in today's New York Times. He wrote this.

He said, "Both of these ideas are good, these proposed recommendations, the reforms. But they are purely incremental. Had these changes been made six years ago, they would not have significantly altered the way we dealt with al Qaeda. They certainly would not have prevented 9/11."

Senator Roberts, you agree with Clarke?

ROBERTS: Well, Dick Clarke has some very strong personal views, both in the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. He is right that you can't just pass a bill and prevent a terrorist attack. It's the implementation of that whole intelligence community systems and the infrastructure and policy. But you have to have that in place to get the right kind of assessments, and then you have to fight the war. You have to take it to the terrorists. So to some degree, I think he's right. Simply passing a bill is not going to answer this. But we have to put forth these reforms.

BLITZER: Senator Levin, you want to respond?

LEVIN: He is right on that.

And I want to just implement one thing and comment on one thing that Pat Roberts said. Our CIA director, our former director, George Tenet, told the president of the United States that the intelligence, the pre-war intelligence showed the connection, for instance, between Iraq and al Qaeda, that there were weapons of mass destruction there. And he said it's a slam-dunk case.

Now, that's what the CIA director tells the president of the United States. That was not true. It was not a slam-dunk case in the underlying case, in the underlying intelligence.

And I would think that whatever party you're from, we would want the analysis to be unvarnished, objective and to have integrity, whether one agrees with what I say or not about the past intelligence before the Iraq war.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Roberts, Lee Hamilton, former member of the House of Representatives, the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, had some strong words in criticizing the way Congress oversees all this intelligence. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAMILTON: The intelligence committees do not have enough power to perform effectively their oversight work. Oversight for homeland security is splintered among too many committees. We need much stronger committees performing oversight of intelligence."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. That's seems like a slap at your committee. What do you say to Congressman Hamilton?

ROBERTS: Well, it's not a slap. It's just merely what we told Lee and what we told the governor when they came before us about a month ago and asked our advice. The way that intelligence is handled in regards to the Congress is fractured right now. We have too many committees.

We suggested that we end the term limits of members so have more experienced members on the committee. We also made several other suggestions. And really, what it gets down to is whether or not the Intelligence Committee is going to be a strong, independent overseer in conduct that kind of strong oversight.

Now, the leadership of the Congress has decided to put in a working group to decide that restructuring of the Intelligence Committee. So I'm in complete agreement with Lee, and it's precisely what we told him in terms of advice and counsel. BLITZER: All right. Would you agree with that?

LEVIN: Yes. I think Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller are really strong leaders that can help us get to where we've got to go.

One of the suggestions that was made in the 9/11 report was that there be an oversight subcommittee in the Intelligence Committee. And I think that's a good idea. I think we need a lot more oversight and focus on it.

BLITZER: Senator Roberts, the 9/11 Commission concluded, and I'll be precise, that there was no collaborative operational relationship between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda but there were some significant connections between Iran and al Qaeda, including allowing apparently some safe passage for at least eight, maybe 10, of the hijackers.

Did the U.S. go after the wrong target after 9/11?

ROBERTS: I don't think it's a wrong target in regards to Iraq and Iran. But I just heard the governor and I just heard former Congressman Hamilton on another show indicate that there were contacts. But in terms of safe passage, there was no, what, operational command in regards to Iran and the al Qaeda attacks.

But, you know, let's not really, you know, fool anybody. Iran and Iraq and Pakistan and obviously Afghanistan, and I would toss in North Korea, all are targets. We don't want any of those countries become a safe haven or a place from which some kind of attack or a threat can be carried out.

BLITZER: I'll give you the last word, Senator Levin. What do you think? Did the U.S. go after the wrong target, Iraq as opposed to Iran?

LEVIN: I think the way we went about going after Iraq was wrong, much too unilateral. Didn't have international support of any great degree. That was the mistake.

Iran is a bigger problem than Iraq, I happen to believe. And we've got to work internationally to deal with it. And realize here that terrorism, as Clarke said this morning in the article referred to, is a tactic. The threat is Islamic jihadism. That is the threat.

BLITZER: We're going to have to leave it right there, unfortunately.

Senator Levin, thanks very much for joining us.

As usual, Senator Roberts, thanks you, as well.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And still ahead, this week will be John Kerry's best chance yet to make his case to the American public. What will he say? What does he need to say? We'll get insight from former Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern.

Then, U.S. Senate candidate and convention keynote speaker Barack Obama weighs in on the challenges and the chances for his party in 2004.

"Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(RETURNS IN PROGRESS)

BLITZER: ... his new book on liberal politics.

And there is still time for you to weigh on our Web question of the week. Take a look at this: Have you already made up your mind about who you want to win the U.S. presidential election? You can vote right now. Go to cnn.com/lateedition.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to a special "Late Edition." We're live from the Fleet Center here in Boston.

In 1972, George McGovern was then a senator from South Dakota. He became the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. Although he went on to lose in a landslide to the incumbent president, Richard Nixon, George McGovern has remained very active in public life, and he also remains an unapologetic liberal. He's also the author of an important new book entitled,"The Essential America: Our Founders and the Liberal Tradition."

George McGovern joins here in Boston live.

Thanks very much, Senator, for joining us. Congratulations on your book.

GEORGE MCGOVERN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Very provocative things you say in your book. Let's go through some of them before we talk about politics right now. Among other things, you say, "There are crucial problems in the world that could be reached by military solutions. Such a problem, I believe, is terrorism."

What are you saying? The U.S. should just simply accept the terrorism and not fight back?

MCGOVERN: No, not at all. What I'm saying is that I don't think we can beat terrorists by building more aircraft carriers and more battleships and more B-52s and more tanks. Those terrorists that took down the World Trade Center were armed only with little box cutters, these little things you buy in hardware stores that could give you a bad scratch. But it wasn't military power. BLITZER: But if you have indications that terrorists are planning a strike from wherever, if you're the president of the United States, isn't it your responsibility to order the military to take preemptive action to prevent Americans from being killed?

MCGOVERN: I think preemptive action is a violation of international law. I think it's a violation of our Constitution.

BLITZER: We should just take the hit?

MCGOVERN: No, you don't just take the hit. You try to do what you can to let them know you're on to their tactics. But I don't think you go to war with a country because they harbor a couple of terrorists.

We had a terrorist attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City.

BLITZER: But that was a domestic attack.

MCGOVERN: That was a domestic attack, but we didn't bomb Oklahoma in order to add it up.

BLITZER: But there's a difference. Let's say its September 8th or 9th before 9/11 and you get indications that that plot and Osama bin Laden was planning it from sort of remote sanctuary that he had in Afghanistan. Wouldn't you order a strike against him to prevent that?

MCGOVERN: We don't know where Osama bin Laden is today.

BLITZER: But if you knew it, if you had that information...

MCGOVERN: If we knew, yes, maybe you could do what's called a...

BLITZER: But isn't that called a preemptive strike?

MCGOVERN: That would be called a surgical strike. But I don't think that's the answer to terrorism.

I think that what we need to recognize is that the United States, which was once the most popular and admired country in the world, has lost a lot of that. There are people all through the Arab world that no longer admire our foreign policy, they no longer admire what we stand for. And that's the breeding ground for these young men...

BLITZER: But I think you make some excellent points there, but you admit though, that if you do have a justification for preemptive strike, that would have been it.

MCGOVERN: That would have been it. If you knew exactly where Osama bin Laden was, and we'd identified that he was connected with the threat on the World Trade Center, obviously we...

BLITZER: Because I just want to make sure our viewers around the world, who read your book, don't conclude that you're simply a pacifist. MCGOVERN: No, no, I'm not a pacifist. I was a bomber pilot in World War II.

BLITZER: I just want to clarify that point.

MCGOVERN: But I think we have to be very careful where we commit the American military forces. This was a big mistake to go into Iraq.

BLITZER: All right. Here's another provocative statement from the book, "The Essential America": "It is immoral to invade a comparatively defenseless country and kill its people because they have the misfortunate to be ruled by a ruthless dictator who our war strategists speculate might someday be a threat to us."

You're referring to Saddam Hussein.

MCGOVERN: I am, indeed. And that was an ill-advised war.

BLITZER: This was an immoral war, in your opinion?

MCGOVERN: It was. It was unwise. It was, I think, unconstitutional.

BLITZER: But is the world better off today without Saddam Hussein? Are the Iraqi people...

MCGOVERN: Well, I think that's the...

BLITZER: Are the Iraqi people better off today than they were?

MCGOVERN: That remains to be seen. We've killed probably 11,000 or 12,000 Iraqis and lost almost a thousand of our own men.

And Iraq, at the time we went in, was not a threat to the United States. They had no weapons of mass destruction. They had no connection to al Qaeda. We're chasing the wrong enemy in ranging across Iraq.

BLITZER: Which leads me to the next excerpt from your book. And you say this, "The men and women of our occupying army are being picked off daily by Iraqi guerrillas with no end in sight. Shades of Vietnam."

Now, Vietnam was the big issue of course, when you were running for president in 1972. Is this, in your opinion, another Vietnam?

MCGOVERN: I think it has degenerated into that. I think that our forces over there are being picked off two, three, four, five a day and that that will continue and get worse as long as our army is there.

BLITZER: So what do you want the U.S. government to do, given the facts as they currently exist, a new interim government in place in Baghdad, trying to establish an ability to deal with its own security? MCGOVERN: It reminds me of that old story of the guy who asked a villager in a little town, how do I get from here to Peoria? The guy says, if I were going to Peoria I sure as hell wouldn't start from here.

MCGOVERN: I wouldn't start with where we are today, but that's where we are.

BLITZER: But that's the hand you're dealt.

MCGOVERN: That's exactly right. That's where we have to go from here.

And I hope that in the course of this campaign, we'll have lengthy discussions on how we can liquidate our presence there and turn it back over to the Iraqis.

BLITZER: Here's another provocative statement you write in the book, and there's plenty of them: "There will be no progress against al Qaeda and terrorist Islamic cells, such as the one suspected of the Madrid train bombings, until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. That is the long, festering antagonism that feeds the terrorist impulse in the Arab world."

MCGOVERN: I don't think there's any doubt about that, Wolf, that we're perceived as being one-sided in the Middle East.

BLITZER: U.S. support for Israel?

MCGOVERN: Exactly. Now, I supported Israel all the years I was in public life. I still think Israel is a worthy country, worthy of our support. But we've got to increase the pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians to stop this senseless killing. As long as that goes on, and we're perceived as being on only one side, the Israeli side, I think that's going to feed the terrorist impulses against us.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about a little bit about this current campaign. You're here at the Democratic Convention. What does John Kerry need to do this week -- and it's a critical week for him, because he's going to still be introduced to a big chunk of the American voting bloc out there -- what does he need to do this week?

MCGOVERN: I can't tell him how to win the election. I can tell him how to carry Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

BLITZER: Which is what you carried in '72.

MCGOVERN: Which is what I carried. I've been under the impression ever since...

BLITZER: I don't think he's worried about D.C. or Massachusetts.

(LAUGHTER)

MCGOVERN: I think that's probably right. Well, I think John Kerry will do exactly what he should do here today. I have great confidence in him. I think he's an experienced and thoughtful, careful man. And I expect him to perform very well here.

I think he'll lay out his own program. He'll discuss in a reasonable way what he thinks we're not doing today that we need to be doing. But I have great confidence in John Kerry and in his great vice president, John Edwards.

BLITZER: Which is his running-mate, not vice president yet.

George McGovern, thanks very much.

MCGOVERN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Pleasure to have you on the program. Good luck with the book.

MCGOVERN: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're going to take another break. Up next, we'll get a quick check of the hour's top stories, including another threat from al Qaeda.

Also ahead, heightened Arab interest in the U.S. presidential race. I'll speak live about that with a reporter from Al-Jazeera. He's here in Boston at the convention covering this event.

Our special "Late Edition" continues from Boston right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Up next, the Senate hopeful from the U.S. heartland with a major mission here in Boston. My conversation with the convention keynote speaker, Barack Obama. He's standing by.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're here at the Fleet Center in Boston, centerstage of Campaign 2004, at least for now. Welcome back to our special "Late Edition."

Many Americans will get their first glimpse of the Democratic up- and-comer Barack Obama when the Illinois candidate for the U.S. Senate delivers the keynote speech here at the convention. This kind of high-profile honor is rare for someone who is just a state legislator, at least for now.

Barack Obama joining us here in Boston.

Thanks very much for joining us.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), U.S. SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you so much for having me. BLITZER: No opposition, at least for now. Is that right?

OBAMA: At the moment, we do not have an opponent, but we are running harder now than we were in the primary.

BLITZER: Jack Ryan is gone; he's not coming back. Is that it?

OBAMA: You know, I really don't know what's happening on the Republican side. What we feel confident about it is, as long as we're clear about our message, making sure that we're talking about issues on the minds of voters -- health care, jobs, education, many of the topics that are going to be discussed here at the convention -- we should be OK.

BLITZER: You've been probably studying earlier keynote speeches over many years, preparing for your speech. That's Tuesday night. Is that right?

OBAMA: That's correct.

BLITZER: What are you going to tell the Democrats and people all over the country when you address this group?

OBAMA: Well, I think there are a couple of things. Number one, reaffirm the core values of Democrats, the belief that every kid in America has a decent shot at life, that they have stories as unique as mine, and succeed as long as we've got a community that's there to help them.

Number two, to talk about John Kerry and his commitment and devotion to service to this country, and the preparedness that he has to take over the helm as the president of the United States.

And the third thing is really to give voice to all of the stories I'm hearing from voters all across the state of Illinois, their strength and resilience. If I can be as eloquent as they are, I think it'll be a successful speech.

BLITZER: Have you studied Harold Ford, Jr. -- he was just on this show, Harold Ford, Jr. -- he gave the keynote speech four years ago.

OBAMA: Yes.

BLITZER: By all accounts, did a very good job.

OBAMA: Right.

BLITZER: Is there, though, something that you're going to tell people here that will knock them off their feet?

OBAMA: Well, Wolf, you know, I can't give you all of my best lines tonight, otherwise people aren't going to applaud on Tuesday.

BLITZER: They'll listen. They'll come and they'll listen.

How did you get word that they wanted you to do this? You must have been a little surprised.

OBAMA: You know, Mary Beth Cahill, the campaign manager for John Kerry, called me and said, "We'd be interested in having you speak." And I thought about it for about five seconds and then said, "OK."

BLITZER: You can't do much better than that.

Let's go through some of the issues.

OBAMA: Sure.

BLITZER: If you're going to be a United States senator...

OBAMA: Bring them on.

BLITZER: ... you're going to talk about some of the issues.

Was the war in Iraq a mistake?

OBAMA: I think that it is clear that the numbers were fudged, that we shaded the truth, because I think there was a predisposition to go in, and wasn't based on facts on the ground.

But I think what's most important now and what John Kerry is focusing on now is going forward, how do we being together the international community to invest in the reconstruction in Iraq and make sure that we're relieving some of the pressure not only for American taxpayers, but also from our service men and women.

BLITZER: Had you been in the Senate when they had a vote on whether to give the president the authority to go to war, how would you have voted?

OBAMA: You know, I didn't have the information that was available to senators. I know that, as somebody who was thinking about a U.S. Senate race, I think it was a mistake, and I think I would have voted no.

BLITZER: You would have voted no at the time?

OBAMA: That's correct.

BLITZER: Kerry, of course, and Edwards both voted yes.

OBAMA: But keep in mind, I think this is a tough question and a tough call. What I do think is that if you're going to make these tough calls, you have to do so in a transparent way, in an honest way, talk to the American people, trust their judgment.

BLITZER: Are you among those Democrats who are accusing the president of actually lying when it comes to the weapons of mass destruction issue?

OBAMA: No, I don't think he lied. I think what happened was is that they were ideologically driven and predisposed to go into Iraq, and I think that the evidence sorted itself out in a way that would reinforce their predispositions.

And I think that that's part and parcel of the recent 9/11 Commission report, the fact that we have to have a better intelligence mechanism that's going to allow us to make difficult decisions in a timely basis in a dangerous world.

BLITZER: I'm sure you had a chance to at least skim the 9/11 Commission report. It's almost 600 pages. But they seem to make the case there was better intelligence that Iran had some connections with al Qaeda as opposed to Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

What do you do about Iran right now, which of course was one of the countries mentioned by the president as the axis of evil?

OBAMA: Well, I think it's a difficult situation and a tricky situation, but I think this is exactly why we need a John Kerry in the White House. Because the only way that you deal with Iran is making sure that its partners in trade, European countries, other Arab states, are applying pressure and not just the United States.

And we can only do that if those countries in Europe or the Arab states feel like we listen to them, that we're engaging them as a partner in this process, to make sure that we're not continuing the proliferation of arms.

BLITZER: If you're elected to the U.S. Senate, you would become only the third African-American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction. That puts an enormous amount of responsibility on you directly. What kind of responsibility do you sense you would have?

OBAMA: Well, I think that my first job is to represent all of the people of Illinois -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian, rural, urban -- and making sure that I understand the process and am delivering for them.

But I welcome the opportunity to serve as a role model for African-American young people who aspire to public office. And I welcome the opportunity to help frame the debate in terms of how we move away from a racially polarized society toward one that's going to be good for all people.

BLITZER: You were the first president of the Harvard Law Review when you went to law school at Harvard. And say you have an unique story. It's an amazing story when you think about how you got to where you are right now. And you think about it, you're going to be addressing the entire American people Tuesday night when you deliver this keynote speech.

Talk a little bit about your roots.

OBAMA: Well, you know, my father was from Kenya. He was a foreign student who grew up in a tiny village in Kenya. My mother was a white American who grew up in a small town in Kansas. They met in the University of Hawaii.

I lived overseas for a while, came back. And neither of them are rich, and yet they somehow were able to provide me with the education that I needed to succeed.

And then I moved to the south side of Chicago, where I started as a community organizer, worked as a civil rights attorney, now a state senator and hopefully a United States senator.

BLITZER: And so, you're almost a first generation American. Your father came to this country.

And, you know, there was a study at Harvard, you probably saw it in The New York Times a few weeks ago, that suggested that many of the African-Americans who do excel at Harvard and other elite universities have roots in African immigrants, first or second generation, or in the Caribbean, as opposed to the descendants of American slaves.

Did you see that study?

OBAMA: You know, I saw the study, and I think that, you know, I'm not sure I completely agreed with the thesis, because what happens is when a lot of immigrant Africans or Caribbean peoples, what you're getting are cream of the crop of the other country -- people who have the resources or wherewithal to move.

And I think that the African-American community here has enormous talent that's untapped, because too many of them are trapped in a situation in which they have not had the opportunity to shine.

And that's part of my job. And I think that's something that John Kerry's committed to, is making sure that we're reaching back and bringing up those young people and allowing them to prosper in this country.

BLITZER: Barack Obama, are you nervous?

OBAMA: You know, I used to play basketball. If you're not a little nervous before the big game, you're not going to have a good game. I'm nicely wound.

BLITZER: Good luck to you.

OBAMA: All right. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: We'll be watching.

Barack Obama, a name all of our viewers will be hearing a lot more of in the weeks, months, years to come.

One quick question: Do you want to be president of the United States?

OBAMA: I want to be the best U.S. senator for the state of Illinois that I can be.

BLITZER: You know, there's people talking about this.

OBAMA: Well, you know, that's silly talk. Talk to my wife. She'll tell me I need to learn to just put my socks in the hamper. (LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right. Barack Obama, thanks very much.

Just ahead, this week's political celebration here in Boston covered by journalists all over the world including Al-Jazeera, the popular Arab language news channel that's often criticized by U.S. officials. Up next, we'll speak with the bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, Hafez Al Mirazi. He's standing by. You're seeing him live. He'll join us.

There's controversy about Al-Jazeera and this convention. We'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: They're still preparing for the convention here in Boston. Welcome back.

The war in Iraq has undoubtedly heightened worldwide interest in this year's U.S. presidential election. For the first time, the Arab network Al-Jazeera is covering the Democratic Convention from a SkyBox high atop the floor. It's also been involved in a bit of a controversy here in Boston.

Joining us now is Al-Jazeera's Washington bureau chief, Hafez Al Mirazi.

Hafez, welcome back to "Late Edition." Thanks very much for joining us.

HAFEZ AL MIRAZI, AL JAZEERA WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Thank you, Wolf. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: Tell our viewers what happened. You have a SkyBox up there behind me, way up there. The name Al-Jazeera was originally up there, but what happened?

MIRAZI: Well, then we found that it disappeared for some reason. We contacted DNC and the people who are organizing the convention. Some showed some surprise, as well. And then they said it has been removed, maybe for lack of enough space or something like that, although they approved originally the sign and everything on it. And every time we get different answers. And finally, they said, "Sorry, we cannot put it back." And it's only news organization sign that was taken. They said two commercial signs were taken, as well.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers the box that has no sign that says Al-Jazeera. At one point it was up there, right?

MIRAZI: It was there, yes, it was there.

BLITZER: And you had spent money, you bought the sign. You brought it. It was up there. And then they really haven't given you a reason. MIRAZI: No, and they -- many of them apologized and said we are sympathetic and this is wrong. But who did it and where is the sign...

BLITZER: This is a tape that we have of the Al-Jazeera sign that was originally there.

And I want to show that tape to our viewers once again. Show the whole thing up on the screen, please. It doesn't even have the Arabic. It just has the English and it has your logo. But it doesn't have Al-Jazeera in Arabic.

Was it a security-related matter? Was there some concern that for your own protection, the protection of the Al-Jazeera reporters and producers, that there could be a problem?

MIRAZI: I don't think so. And if this is the case, I think it would be a real waste of money if the army of security people around us and above us and maybe under us cannot protect a small staff of 16 people of Al-Jazeera to be here and cover it since they are already allowed to be here.

BLITZER: What about in New York at the Republican Convention?

MIRAZI: We are going to be there. We are doing the same -- the same coverage of the DNC will be at the RNC. The same signs, SkyBox, everything almost identical. Some other Arab networks choose to cover more of the RNC than the DNC, could be for editorial reasons or whatever. But we decided to have the same coverage for both.

BLITZER: And so, you're going to continue to broadcast from here, even though they've snubbed you and removed your sign?

MIRAZI: Unfortunately, yes. For professional reasons, yes.

BLITZER: Among your viewers, Arab viewers around the world -- and Al-Jazeera is very popular -- is there a perception that there's a difference in terms of attitude toward Arabs from President Bush and John Kerry?

MIRAZI: Well, I think the most polls done about Arab-Americans at least, by John Zogby International especially in the swift (ph) states and the major (ph) states, showing a lead of more than 60 percent for Kerry and about 25 percent or 24 for Bush.

BLITZER: That's among Arab-Americans.

MIRAZI: Among Arab-Americans.

BLITZER: But what about Arabs who are in the Arab world?

MIRAZI: The perception in the Arab world about -- when comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, there is not much difference between a Democrat and a Republican, and what they consider and perceive as a bias to Israel and that equation. But the difference this year is about Iraq, because there is a clear difference between Kerry, who is opposing the war, and Bush, who is for the war.

BLITZER: How much interest do you suspect there will be among Al-Jazeera viewers of this Democratic convention?

MIRAZI: We expect a big interest in it, because it's not only about -- I mean, the convention is going to nominate Kerry. We all know that. We use the convention as a way to explain the American political process for people.

BLITZER: Will there be live coverage a few hours a day?

MIRAZI: Yes, we're going to have at least on daily basis, 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Boston time, live on Al-Jazeera from the convention.

BLITZER: 7:30 -- that's an hour and a half Monday through Thursday.

MIRAZI: Yes. And on Tuesday, we'll actually have more than about three hours -- four hours. On Thursday, we're going to have four hours as well, live on Al-Jazeera from DNC.

BLITZER: From here. You realize that you're going to have more coverage on Al-Jazeera than the three broadcast networks in the United States will have from this convention?

MIRAZI: Well, if we compare our coverage to the three traditional networks, Al-Jazeera, for example, covers and carries live press conferences and speeches for President Bush that the networks refuse and decline to carry for him. In Atlanta, Georgia, December 2001, in Cincinnati, Ohio, about Iraq. All of these events Al-Jazeera carried live, where the three networks declined to carry for the president.

BLITZER: You may have more coverage than the three broadcast networks in the United States, but you won't have more coverage than CNN.

MIRAZI: Of course.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Hafez Al Mirazi, thanks very much for joining us.

MIRAZI: Thank you, Wolf. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: And up next, we'll tell you the results of our Web poll question of the week. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Our "Late Edition" Web question of the week asked you this question: Have you already made up your mind about who you want to win the U.S. presidential election? Look at this. A lot of you voted. 98 percent of you say yes, you made up your mind; 2 percent say you have not. But remember, this is not a scientific poll.

Let's take a look at some of your e-mail. We've been getting flooded with e-mail.

John (ph) in Wisconsin writes this: "The 9/11 Commission not only issued a thorough report with important recommendations, it has gotten the entire government to support the findings. This is a major achievement for an independent commission."

Elaine (ph) in New York: "The 9/11 Commission did not tackle the main problem, which is American foreign policy. There should be another commission to examine whether our actions abroad are causing more terror around the world."

We, of course, always welcome your comments. Our e-mail address, lateedition@cnn.com.

Let's take a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States.

Time magazine, what a surprise, focuses in on John Kerry. What makes John Kerry tick?

Newsweek goes in search of John Kerry, as well, in search of John Kerry.

U.S. News and World Report focuses in on broken intelligence, an exclusive report, U.S. News and World Report.

And that's your "Late Edition" for Sunday, July 25th. Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

And please join us again tonight, 10 p.m. Eastern. Judy Woodruff and I will be co-anchoring a special preview of the Democratic National Convention. That's 10 p.m. Eastern tonight, a one-hour special.

Of course, I'll be back here tomorrow, 5 p.m. Eastern for a special edition of "Wolf Blitzer Reports." We'll be here throughout the week: prime time coverage of all of this convention.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Boston.

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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