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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Tommy Franks; Interview With Alan Keyes

Aired August 15, 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, 7 p.m. in Athens, Greece, 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
We'll get to live reports on the fallout from the devastating hurricane in Florida. That's coming up shortly.

Also later, my special interview with the former commander of the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the retired U.S. Army General Tommy Franks. All that coming up.

We're also standing by to hear directly from President Bush. He's on tour of the hurricane aftermath in Florida. Momentarily he's going to be speaking.

Thirteen confirmed deaths now, thousands of Florida residents homeless after the storm ripped through the state. CNN's Ed Lavandera, he's in Punta Gorda, which took a direct hit -- a direct hit from Hurricane Charley.

Give us the latest now.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's been an amazing weekend here for the residents of Punta Gorda. You know, thousands of people around here are homeless, not just in this town but also the surrounding areas. This happens to be the town hardest hit.

A short while ago President Bush's motorcade came wrapping around through here down the street. And we understood that was where the area where he was touring around in this area.

When he arrived here in Punta Gorda, he was greeted at the airport by his brother, Governor Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida. They have been meeting with emergency management officials, getting briefings on the situation here.

Little while ago state officials also talking about exactly what is going on. At this point the focus is on the basics. Even two days after Hurricane Charley, what people here are worried about is just maintaining shelter, food and water for the thousands of people that are displaced. In fact, they brought in about 7 million pounds of ice, 2 million gallons of water just to help the people through here.

And, you know, the cleanup process is going to take not just day, weeks, but probably months. Many of the people and emergency crews have been going neighborhood to neighborhood, making sure that there aren't any victims perhaps still trapped in mobile homes. As a retirement community, you find a lot of mobile home parks around this area. And so, crews have had to go through neighborhood by neighborhood, marking the homes, making sure no one has been left behind.

You know, here in Punta Gorda, three of the hospitals in this area were severely damaged in the hurricane, as well, so this is an area that has just been put to the test. But the emergency management director here in Punta Gorda says he feels very confident and happy with the way things have been going on. There has been a huge influx of emergency crews from not just this area but around the state that have been helping.

And if you look across the street in Punta Gorda, this is one of the main drives, you see a gathering of people by a table. There's a stand there with water, and people have been coming through here throughout the morning, picking up water.

You know, it's little details like this that get people through this hardship, and as they say, they continue to focus on the basics. And it might seem trivial, but given the destruction that has happened here in the last couple of days, that is exactly what they have to focus on.

You can't really function if you don't have a place to get some rest and some food and water to drink. So when they say they are dealing with the basics, they are definitely doing that.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Ed, the president of the United States was just in Punta Gorda, where you are. Momentarily we're going to be hearing his comments to reporters. Did he have much of a tour through the area, based on what you could tell?

LAVANDERA: Well, from what we understand, his plan was to take an aerial tour of the Fort Myers area. I'm not quite sure if that tour extended over the Punta Gorda area as well.

But we do understand from people who have been up in the air, it seems to be like a 10-mile-wide swath that Hurricane Charley cut through this area.

And then as I mentioned, the president's motorcade came down this main avenue here in Punta Gorda, went went down here into -- if you follow this out, there are mobile home parks and other neighborhoods that the president was touring.

We'll gather more details from that visit and exactly what the president did while here shortly, so that's what we're waiting on.

But it seems like he's at least been able to get a good idea of what emergency officials and crews have been having to deal with in the southwest Florida area -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right. Ed, stand by, because the president spoke to reporters, and we got videotape that's coming in now.

The president addressed this issue. He made this hastily arranged visit to Florida, a quickly arranged visit to Florida, to show his presence there.

On Friday, he declared several parts of the state of Florida a major disaster area; that becomes eligible now for extensive federal support. Could be as much as $5 billion to $10 billion, maybe even more, of reconstruction aid that will be required to help rebuild this huge part of Florida.

The president spoke to reporters, as I said, just a little while ago. Here's the videotape of what the president had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, the job of the federal government and the state government is to surge resources as quickly as possible to disaster areas, and that's exactly what's happening now.

We choppered over and saw the devastation of this area. A lot of people's lives are turned upside down.

Got ice and water moving in. Trailers for people to live in are moving in. The state is providing security, so that people can have peace of mind that their neighborhoods will be safe.

There's a lot of compassion moving into the area. The Red Cross is here.

And what I'm telling is that there's a lot of help moving into this part of the world. It's going to take a while to rebuild it. But the government's job is to help people help rebuild their lives, and that's what's happening.

The coordination between the federal government, the state government and the local government is, you know, really important. I think it's excellent now. The governor could speak to that, if he'd like.

But it's really important that, when we say we're going to do something, that it actually happens. And that's what we're following through on now.

I'll answer some questions, if you've got some.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about some of the people whom you spoke with and what they told you?

BUSH: Well, I've got -- you know, these good folks here, this is this man's house here. His parents were uprooted from where they were living. They came here to spend the night. And that's what you're beginning to see. You're beginning to see neighbors helping neighbors. A lot of people who have been dislocated are staying with a friend or a neighbor.

You know, out of these catastrophes, you know, the spirit of America really shines, and that spirit is neighbor helping neighbor. So that's the lesson here.

You know, a fellow down the street came out OK. He had taken precautions necessary.

And nearly everybody here that I've talked to had evacuated, as the state asked them to do, and therefore the loss of life was minimized. Still too many people lost their lives, but nevertheless it was not as significant as it could have been.

And we're here now. Obviously a residential neighborhood where people's lives have been destroyed. They're beginning to, you know, worry about insurance claims, and the state's organized to handle them, the insurance claims.

The key is just to make sure that they expedite the services which are available as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: There was some consternation after Andrew that the federal aid didn't arrive soon enough. Can you promise that there will be a more expeditious response this time?

BUSH: Yes, that's happening now. This is -- you know, but...

QUESTION: Sir?

BUSH: Hold on for a second.

It's -- we're moving a lot of aid very quickly, and you can ask the governor whether or not he's satisfied with how fast the aid is moving.

All I can tell you is, is that FEMA was on the ground yesterday morning, and there's a lot of supplies surging this way.

Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: Have you gotten an updated tally on the cost of the damage?

BUSH: No, not yet. They have estimated billions. We'll see.

QUESTION: Mr. President, some people are going to say that there's a political component to your rapid visit to Florida.

BUSH: Yes, and if I didn't come, they'd have said he should have been here more rapidly.

QUESTION: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Well, what about what happened in '92 with Hurricane Andrew? That was obviously...

BUSH: This is now. This is now. And the government is set up to respond very quickly, and we are.

QUESTION: Is there a lesson learned back then, then?

BUSH: The lesson is, respond quickly. And we are responding quickly. And we're surging equipment.

And the coordination between the federal government and the state government is excellent. And the Homeland Security Department is doing its job. FEMA Director Brown is doing an excellent job.

You can talk to the governor. He can give you a sense for -- from the state perspective. But from the federal perspective, I was notified that they're going to move as quickly as possible, and they are. A lot of stuff's coming.

Thank you, everybody.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: President Bush speaking only a few moments ago to reporters in Florida. He took an aerial tour of the devastation of the area that followed Friday's Hurricane Charley.

The president, himself a former governor of Texas, knows how important it is for state government, for federal government to respond.

The reference to 1992 was the criticism that his father, the then-president of the United States, George Bush, took because he responded supposedly slowly, slowly in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, especially in the Homestead, Florida, area.

The president there accompanied by his brother Jeb Bush, the governor of the state of Florida. Florida, a critical battleground state in this election.

Joining us now to talk a little more about the recovery efforts in Florida, the Florida lieutenant governor, Toni Jennings.

Lieutenant Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

What about the criticism that -- the president is going to certainly get some criticism, I'm sure, from Democrats that, by coming in, he was diverting badly needed resources that should have gone to the reconstruction instead of seeing the president tour this area? What do you make of that criticism that's going to be heard?

TONI JENNINGS, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: Well, I just heard him say there on your videotape, you know, he'd be criticized if he didn't come, he's criticized if he does come. It was important for the president to see what had happened in our state. He was in a campaign stop yesterday and asked for prayers.

We here in Florida are ready. FEMA, our federal partner, has been very much involved in all this. And I think it was important for the president to see. He was concerned not to disrupt the rescue and recovery area, and I think he did that.

So he's been here. He's seen, and he's going to be leaving the state. But we're here right now. And, of course, the governor is down, was down there. I was in central Florida, where we also had a good bit of impact, and toured the areas.

We're now here and on the ground making sure that human needs -- and that's what all this is all about -- that the human needs are taken care of. There are a lot of people displaced from their homes throughout the state. It came in at Punta Gorda and the Charlotte County area and had a huge impact there with a lot of destruction.

As it went through the state, it continued to have impact, where people will be without power for a number of days, so they won't have refrigeration, they won't have the ability to have food and ice and water and things of that nature.

And we're trying to make sure that we take care of what we call the mass care. It's the human component of this that we're so concerned about it. And it's ready.

BLITZER: Lieutenant Governor, just an update, how many deaths are now attributed in Florida to this Hurricane Charley?

JENNINGS: We have now confirmed there have been 16 fatalities, some of which, of course, were in Charlotte County. There were four in Charlotte. There was one in Desoto, one in Lee, two in Orange, five in Polk, one in Sarasota, and two in Volusia.

The majority of those were as a result of the storm but auxiliary: traffic fatalities, someone stepped in a puddle of water that also had a live wire, something of that nature.

We may find more as we go along, because, of course, this was a devastating storm. But the good news is that most of the people evacuated when they were told to do so and they now -- our concern is to find sanitary and secure and safe shelter for them.

BLITZER: One final question, how many homeless people are there right now, based on your latest estimate?

JENNINGS: We actually do not know. We have 22 shelters that are open in the area across Florida. We have about 2,600 that we know are currently in shelters. As time goes on, we might find that some people, as they have come back to their homes after they have evacuated, they realize that they are not livable, so they are going to have to seek shelter other places. But we are still in the process of evaluating that. Again, the primary concern, identify the problems and make sure we have food, make sure we have water, make sure that people have sanitary, secure places in which to spend the night.

BLITZER: Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings of Florida, good luck to you. Good luck to all the residents of Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley.

JENNINGS: Thanks very much.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

We'll have much more coverage on the aftermath of Hurricane Charley coming up here on CNN.

But there's also important developments unfolding in Iraq right now: the start of a conference designed to establish a national political body. But today's gathering already marred by yet more deadly mortar attacks. Meanwhile, there have been renewed clashes between Shiite insurgents and Iraqi and U.S. forces in Najaf.

CNN's John Vause has all these details. He's joining us now live from Baghdad -- John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf. The conference was barely an hour old when the mortars started coming down. We counted at least five explosions.

Now, the Iraqi health ministry says at least three of those landed about a half mile away from the convention center inside the secure green zone. Three of those mortars hitting what appeared to be a bus station.

Now, according to the Iraqi health ministry, two people were killed in that mortar attack; another 17 people were wounded. That was the first attack.

Another few mortars were fired a couple of hours afterwards, but there are no reports of casualties on that second attack.

Inside the convention center, more than a thousand delegates have gathered, but it was far from smooth sailing.

There was an angry protest from a group of Shiite leaders demanding that the interim Iraqi government bring an end to the fighting in Najaf. They wanted the Najaf police chief to resign. They wanted the entire police force there to resign.

In fact, what we have seen at this conference all day long, speaker after speaker after speaker demanding that the interim government in some way bring an end, work out a truce there in Najaf, try and end the fighting there. That does not appear to be the case.

Earlier today, that unofficial cease-fire, which had been in place while truce talks was under way, was broken. We heard from the governor of Najaf who told us there were serious clashes between Iraqi police, Iraqi National Guards as well as the Mahdi Militia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Vause in Baghdad.

Thanks very much. We'll be checking back with you often.

Coming up, though, we'll get some special insight from a top American soldier. I'll speak with the former commander of the U.S. military's Central Command, retired U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, about the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan as well.

And later, two U.S. senators, important ones, weigh in on the future of U.S. military forces in Iraq, in Europe, around the world.

Plus, our conversation with New York Times columnist and author Maureen Dowd about her view on the world of President Bush.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: These are pictures that we're just getting in now, pictures taken when President Bush toured the devastation of Hurricane Charley in Florida. You're looking at these pictures as we're looking at them, as well.

We just heard the lieutenant governor of Florida, Toni Jennings, say 16 confirmed deaths now as a result of this hurricane. Thousands of people still homeless. Billions of dollars in damages.

We'll continue to monitor what exactly happened, get some more of these pictures for you, but let's move on to a continuing story, namely what's happening in Iraq.

The retired U.S. Army general Tommy Franks led the military campaign that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. I had a chance to speak with the former commander of the U.S. military's Central Command about the war in Iraq and more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: General Franks, thanks very much for joining us. Congratulations on the number-one bestseller here in the United States, "American Soldier." We'll talk about the book shortly. Let's talk about what's happening in Iraq right now.

How huge is this battle that's unfolding in Najaf right now?

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, CENTRAL COMMAND: I think it's a big deal, Wolf. You know, we think about whether it's al-Najaf or whether it's out in Fallujah, the fact of the matter is that anyplace we see a gathering of these insurgents, we've got to go after them.

BLITZER: It looks like they're trying to work out some sort of negotiation that in the end might let this radical Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, go free. Would that be a good idea? FRANKS: I don't know. I don't know what they're trying to negotiate, but I will tell you this, I have great confidence in the guys on the ground over there.

And I think the right approach right now is to isolate him and then just take it one step at a time. Because at the end of the day, we want this to be right. We want it to last.

BLITZER: General, do you sometimes get the feeling that the Marines and the soldiers, the U.S. troops who are there are fighting with one arm tied behind their back?

FRANKS: I don't get that sense, Wolf. I remember when in fact we did that, and I think you do too; you remember Cambodia. Then you remember a long period of time when we didn't go into Afghanistan, when we knew bin Laden and al Qaeda was headquartered in there.

What I think we're seeing right now is a pretty thoughtful approach to a very holy site for the Shia and also to a situation that we want to end right.

BLITZER: But if you're taking fire from mortars or rocket fire from inside that compound where the Imam Ali Mosque is or the cemetery there, what are you supposed to do if you're a soldier or Marine on the ground?

FRANKS: Yes, you return fire, no question about it...

BLITZER: Even if it's going to endanger a holy shrine?

FRANKS: Absolutely. We never put Americans in harm's way without the ability to defend themselves.

BLITZER: One of the complicating factors right now, as opposed to when you were in charge, is the fact that there is an interim Iraqi government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who is also very much playing a role in the military decision-making process. How complicated is this?

FRANKS: Oh, I think it's complicated for the reasons that you cited. It's also a very good thing, because, at the end of the day, it will be the Iraqis who controlled their destiny. A new Iraq will be built by Allawi and those who follow him, and so I like it a lot that we have him participating in the process, Wolf.

BLITZER: And what do you think of him?

FRANKS: Don't know him. Never met him. But I like what I see so far.

BLITZER: Do you get the sense -- and you obviously know the region quite well; you were the commander of the Central Command, which oversees the whole Middle East, South Asia -- that Iran is playing a negative role in instigating some of these Shiite clerics and others inside Iraq?

FRANKS: Well, I think a guy who has been retired for a while wants to be careful and not get too cute by half.

But as I think about Iran, I think about a schizophrenic country. You know, on the one hand, you have a possibility for great moderation. On the other hand, you see this fundamentalism that sort of borders on extremism. And I think it's very, very difficult to work with the Iranians for that reason.

BLITZER: How worried are you about Iran, speaking of Iran, right now, especially its nuclear ambitions, if it's trying to build a nuclear bomb, for example, which the U.S. government suspects it is?

FRANKS: I think it bears watching. I think it's -- I don't think we want to rush to judgment, Wolf, but I do think we want to do what I think our government is doing right now, and that's pay very, very close attention to what's going on Iran.

BLITZER: As you know, the president called Iran one of the "Axis of Evil" countries, together with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and North Korea.

Isn't that worrisome to you right now, what's happening on the ground in Iran?

FRANKS: Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. And that does not mean that I think all of this portends a military operation in Iran. I simply don't know.

But I believe that Iran should be a focus for our government. And I think it is right now.

BLITZER: I spoke this week with the former U.S. Middle East special envoy Dennis Ross, who said that the Israelis are deadly serious in wanting to make sure Iran does not develop a nuclear bomb.

He wouldn't rule out the possibility that Israel might do to Iran's nuclear reactor what it did to the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 at Osirak, namely, take it out? Are you worried about that?

FRANKS: I don't know that I'm specifically worried about that. I think there are an awful lot of possibilities for things that can happen in Iran. And I'm not in a position to speculate about what may happen tomorrow.

But I do believe that you are correct when you say this bears watching. I think Iran is a problem. It's an issue. And it's going to require watching.

BLITZER: We spoke the last time on "LATE EDITION" when I went down to Doha, Qatar, to Central Command, right as major combat operations were ending in Iraq, just a little bit the president went aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier, the Abraham Lincoln, under that banner that declared "Mission accomplished."

Now you've come forward and said that was your idea for the president to do that. I want you to explain to our viewers in the United States and around the world what exactly your thinking was. FRANKS: Absolutely. As we saw the statue of Saddam come down and we looked at what was going on in Baghdad and across Iraq at that point in time, I had a couple of interests.

One was giving the troops closure, recognizing that they had been at war for a period of time. They had done everything our nation had asked them to do. And I thought major combat operations -- which obviously is defined as no more Iraqi air force, no more Iraqi army and no more Iraqi navy -- had been completed. And so that was a piece of it.

The second piece of it was -- had a long list of nations that I thought would contribute once major combat operations were finished. And so, for sure, I asked Secretary Don Rumsfeld to talk to the president and see if we could get the president to make the statement that major combat operations had been completed.

BLITZER: How shocked are you, surprised are you -- I assume you are -- that at that time, what, about 100 U.S. troops had died in the fighting in Iraq and now the number is approaching 1,000?

FRANKS: I'm not shocked at all. I believe that when one enters an operation such as removing a government, that of Saddam Hussein in this case, you don't know what the aftermath is going to be.

On the one end of the continuum, you might have the Iraqis form a new government, someone step forward, get it done very quickly. On the other end of that same continuum, you find chaos. And we have seen wars in the past century that have ended on both ends of that continuum.

So no shock at all. I think that I expected that would it take three to five years to see full stability in that country. And I think it will take three to five years to get that done, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, you're still upbeat that democracy...

FRANKS: I am.

BLITZER: ... and stability can take shape in Iraq?

FRANKS: There is absolutely no question about it. We're invested in that country. The Iraqis themselves are invested in that country. And that's what I see as the future.

BLITZER: As you know, going into the war, the then-Army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, was suggesting you needed a lot more troops, more than you had, more than 200,000, he said. He was criticized, he was rebuked by others in the Pentagon at the time. Was General Shinseki right?

FRANKS: Well, I don't know, Wolf, have you seen 250,000 soldiers in there yet?

BLITZER: No. FRANKS: My point is that I think Eric Shinseki made a valid point when he said, "Let's not foreclose what we may see in Iraq," and one does not know what that will turn out to be.

On the other hand, I think, when we talk about major combat operations, the force was sized just right to do that job.

BLITZER: Was it sized to the post-major-combat-operations mission?

FRANKS: Yes.

BLITZER: Was it sized right for what's going on after major combat was over?

FRANKS: Oh, I think if one had a notion that the force for after-combat operations would be built in its entirety before the beginning of combat operations, one would come to one conclusion. On the other hand, I think I've heard you refer to what we call the running start.

So the issue at the beginning of that fight was to size the force that was necessary to remove the regime, Wolf. And in the aftermath of major combat operations, again, we sized the force based on what's needed for that work.

BLITZER: The Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, has said, in fact, in an interview with me here on CNN, he said that he believes within the first term of his administration, if he's elected, a significant number of those American troops will be able to come home.

What kind of exit strategy do you see unfolding in Iraq for those, what, 140,000 or so American troops who are still there?

FRANKS: Wolf, I wouldn't disagree with the way you just described Senator Kerry's comments. I think within the next three, four years, as I've said, three to five years, within the next three or four years, I think we will see a downward trend. I mean, it's a prediction on my part. I think we'll see a downward trend in the number of Americans involved over there. And I think we'll see more and more Iraqis become more and better in charge of the security arrangements. So that's what I think we'll see, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, what should the American public expect to see, as far as casualties are concerned, down the road?

FRANKS: I can't speculate, because we don't know what Najaf and situations like that we may see in the future.

And so, I think one of the greatest characteristics of the American fighting man and the American military is adaptability and flexibility. And I have confidence that that adaptability and flexibility will be seen in the future as the force is sized against the threat in Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Still ahead, more of my interview with General Tommy Franks. We'll speak about his new book and the lessons learned from a life in service. Also, I'll ask him about his own political ambitions.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." And we return now to our interview with the former commander of the U.S. military's Central Command, the retired U.S. Army general Tommy Franks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's talk about your book a little bit, "American Soldier." I want to read an excerpt, one of the quotes from the book.

"While we may not have found actual WMD stockpiles" -- weapons of mass destruction -- "what the coalition discovered was the equivalent of a disassembled pistol lying on a table beside neatly arranged trays of bullets."

When we spoke the last time, in Doha, Qatar, right after major combat was over, you suggested to me that you fully expected to find significant stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, even though none had been found at that time.

FRANKS: That's right.

BLITZER: That would be in April of 2003. How shocked are you that no significant stockpiles have been found now more than a year later?

FRANKS: I don't know where we leave surprised and enter shocked, Wolf. But what I will say is that I think no one in this country probably was more surprised than I when WMD was not used against our troops as they moved toward Baghdad.

And certainly in the aftermath, since I believed that the regime of Saddam had WMD, I fully expected that we would find those stockpiles. And so I told many people, up to this point, I've been wrong, and I've been.

BLITZER: But do you believe that U.S. intelligence, whether the civilian part of it or the military part of it, was just so wrong on this issue of WMD going into the war?

Because I remember, I was in Kuwait on the eve of the war, and I remember those hundreds of thousands -- or more than 100,000 U.S. troops in full protective gear, getting ready for battle.

FRANKS: I think if you go all the way back to 1992, and you consider the sanctions that were imposed by the United Nations and enforced by the coalition under our leadership, you find, as we would say, as we've studied the 9/11 Commission report, lots and lots of dots on that piece of paper. And the way those dots were connected gave every indication that Saddam had that WMD. And so, I expected to find it.

BLITZER: Was it a mistake -- and I believe you write in your book that it was -- a mistake to disband the Iraqi military during the war?

FRANKS: I avoid the semantics, maybe, on the use of the word "disband." I think what happened is the Iraqis walked away, but nevertheless, you wind up with a problem of about a quarter of a million angry young men who had paychecks and so forth before the war, and all of a sudden, they're back on the street.

And you know, my comment was that the very best thing for the coalition, the very best thing for us, is to get them hired by the Iraqis and put in charge of some of the security in that country.

Now, today, as you know, we see about 200,000 Iraqis working for the Iraqi government. What I would like to have seen is an acceleration of that, and that's what I talk about in the book.

BLITZER: One of the other things you write in your book, and I'll read it: "The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance -- that was the program designed to deal with the post-war reconstruction of Iraq -- you write, "was understaffed, badly underfunded, and their mission was not clear to everyone on the team."

Remember, General Jay Garner, retired, who was initially in charge before Ambassador Paul Bremer went over there.

Why was there such poor planning for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq?

FRANKS: I don't think there was poor planning. I think there was actually excellent planning. I think if you take a look at the book, what you see is the use of the term "catastrophic success" or "catastrophic victory."

I think what we saw, Wolf, was that the combat forces moved up to Baghdad, isolated and removed the regime very, very quickly. And at the time that the comment was made by one of my subordinates concerning Jay Garner and ORHA, it was absolutely true.

Jay Garner had his people in Kuwait. They were ready to move up into Iraq, and he simply gave me a situation report that said, "Hey, this thing has fallen so quickly that it's going to be critical to get these people up there very soon."

BLITZER: General, a lot of speculation that you're going to be speaking at the Republican Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York. Are you planning to do so?

FRANKS: Wolf, I'm thinking about it. I just don't know right now.

BLITZER: What are the issues, the pros and cons of you throwing your hat into the political arena, if you will?

FRANKS: There will be -- there is absolutely no room for any conclusion or any speculation on that. I have no desire to do that, and I won't do it.

BLITZER: What about whether or not you are a Democrat or a Republican? Are you ready, now that you're retired from the military, to tell us your political affiliation?

FRANKS: My political affiliation is independent at this point, and I've been very candid in saying that right now, I'm leaning in the direction of George W. Bush.

But one gratuitous comment I'll make, Wolf, is that it seems to me that there is a bit too much hyperbole in all of this. I think it's possible for somebody to decide to vote for John Kerry without, you know, without going after George W. Bush, and I think it's possible for Americans to support George W. Bush without going after Kerry. So that's my apolitical view.

BLITZER: What do you make of those Vietnam War veterans -- and you served during the Vietnam War -- who are going after John Kerry bitterly right now, saying he didn't deserve to get those ribbons or those medals, that he simply made up a lot of that stuff? What do you make of this whole campaign against him?

FRANKS: Well, I'm one of the country's biggest believers in the First Amendment. And I have great respect for the fellows who served in Vietnam, and if they think that there's something that they need to say, I respect that. At the same time, I believe it's possible to support one of these candidates without demeaning the other.

BLITZER: So you don't want to make any -- go beyond that, in terms of saying, for example, what Senator John McCain, who himself was a POW in Vietnam, who blasted these critics of John Kerry's Vietnam War experience by saying it's dishonest and dishonorable, the entire attack against him.

FRANKS: Oh, I think there's room for a lot of views out there, and my preference is to just avoid the hyperbole. I think we have a very smart population in this country, and I think America can decide who it wants to be its next president.

BLITZER: One of the missions that you had as the commander of the Central Command was going after the terrorists and the Taliban and al Qaeda, the Taliban, in Afghanistan, after 9/11.

A lot of criticism since then that Osama bin Laden was in the crosshairs at Tora Bora in Afghanistan, but for some reason he was allowed to escape or you didn't do enough to capture him.

I wonder if you want to set the record straight on what exactly happened at that critical moment.

FRANKS: Wolf, I don't know that I can set the record straight, but I think history will reflect that the Pakistanis had about 100,000 men along the Afghan-Pakistani border at that particular time. And I think at the end of the day, history will also reflect that it will be the Afghans who secure their own future.

I have yet to see anything that convinces me beyond a doubt that bin Laden was at a particular place on a particular day. I respect the views of people who believe that.

I just remain satisfied that that fight in Tora Bora went about like it should, and -- but I'm not satisfied that we have not yet brought to justice Osama bin Laden. I think it will come.

BLITZER: Are you among those who believe -- and the critics have suggested this, and you were in charge of both at the time -- that by going into battle against Saddam Hussein in Iraq you automatically undermined the other effort, to go after al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan? In other words, you couldn't do both at the same time.

FRANKS: Of course, I don't believe that, Wolf, because as the guy responsible for both, I believe we might have seen that if we had split the responsibility -- one general in charge of Afghanistan, one general in charge of what was going on in Iraq. I think the judgment was that we wouldn't do that.

I know for a fact that, on the day we started operations in Iraq, we had about 9,500 Americans operating in Afghanistan. And on the day we finished operations, at least on the 1st of May of 2003, we had more than 9,500 Americans operating in Afghanistan.

And so, I think the balance was there, and I don't believe that -- I don't believe any of us have taken our eye off the ball. I think everybody understands that al Qaeda and bin Laden need to remain in the crosshairs.

BLITZER: But the argument was that you depleted certain special operations forces, certain linguists, certain categories of people, you took them from Afghanistan, you sent them to Iraq, and that automatically undermined the overall war against terror in Afghanistan. Is that true?

FRANKS: Absolutely not true. I think the language skills that are necessary in one place do not align properly with the skills that are necessary in another place. Wouldn't say for a minute that troops were not moved back and forth to share between the two theaters, but I would say that operations in Afghanistan did not suffer as a result of the one in Iraq.

BLITZER: I found this one passage in your book, a lot of passages in your book fascinating, but one you cite a memo you wrote to the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz. You wrote this, you wrote, "I carry an American flag and a Bible in my pocket, and I wear a wedding band on my left hand. I understand the mission and the strategic context within which it will be accomplished. I will become tentative only when directed to do so."

Tell our viewers what exactly that meant. FRANKS: Paul Wolfowitz was a good friend, remains a good friend to this day. And what that meant was, pass around to the Washington community that my faith, my country and my family will be the things that guide me in what we're going to do in Iraq, nothing more, nothing less.

BLITZER: General Tommy Franks, thanks very much for joining us.

FRANKS: Great pleasure, Wolf. Look forward to seeing you soon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And up next, President Bush refers to her as "The Cobra." Of course her real name is Maureen Dowd. I'll speak live with The New York Times columnist about that and her new book about the world of the 41st and the 43rd presidents of the United States.

Stay with "LATE EDITION."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Joining us now, someone who isn't afraid to poke some fun at the president. She's the Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist for The New York Times, Maureen Dowd. She's also the author of a new book entitled "Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk."

Maureen, thanks very much for joining us.

MAUREEN DOWD, NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me read one part from the book. I got a few I want to read, get you to elaborate a little bit. And a lot are taken from columns that you wrote in the course of several years.

This one from December 2, 2001: "If the president uses the reserve playbook now and continues to coddle the conservatives his father neglected, he has to go topple the wacky Iraqi, completing poppy's unfinished business. But if he does that he turns his attention away from the recession, repeating his poppy's mistake. It's a surreal Oedipal loop-de-loop."

That was written 2001, long before the war in Iraq.

DOWD: Right. Well, from the beginning Karl Rove, who was the -- Lee Atwater was his mentor -- has tried to use Bush 41 as a reverse playbook and W has tried to present himself as the son of Reagan rather than his own dad.

And this week is really interesting because of the hurricane. I mean, the first President Bush had Hurricane Andrew about this time and a cratering economy. And now, as much as W has tried to run away from his dad's, you know, reign, all these same problems are coming back to haunt him. BLITZER: Talk a little bit about this relationship. You covered the first President Bush. You were the White House correspondent, as a lot of our viewers will remember, and you've obviously taken a close look at this president. Talk about these two men a little bit and the relationship that exists between them.

DOWD: Well, you know, when we covered the first President Bush, I spent most of my time with him as he aggressively wooed foreign leaders. His favorite thing was to be in the Global Men's Club, with Margaret Thatcher included, and take them out on his motorboat in Kennebunkport and, you know, take them to the Smithsonian to fly. I mean, it was just this constant socializing with world leaders; that was the part of the job he loved.

His father, Prescot Bush, this president's grandfather, had also been very interested in internationalism and the Atlantic Alliance.

And then this president got in. And the first president went to war with Iraq to establish the principle you cannot unilaterally invade another country. And then this president went to war with Iraq to establish the principle that you can unilaterally invade another country. So it's as different as it can be.

BLITZER: Well, let me read you this other quote from the book. You write this: "If Al Gore is stiff because his father always expected him to be president, perhaps W is loose because his father never expected him to be president." You wrote that in 1999, October 6th.

Do you think his father expected Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, to be president?

DOWD: Oh, of course. I mean, when I covered the Bush White House, W was just hanging out with Lee Atwater and Mary Matalin, but he was not considered someone who would have a great future in politics.

BLITZER: Why?

DOWD: Because he had been kind of a black sheep. He had a terrible temper. You know, he'd had that drinking problem. He hadn't yet developed the discipline and grit that would turn that all around with the Texas governor's race.

BLITZER: All right, Maureen, I'm going to ask you to stand by for a second. I want to take a quick commercial break.

We've got much more to talk about. "Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk." Maureen Dowd of The New York Times is sticking around.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking with Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, the columnist, the author of a new book, "Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk."

You write this, Maureen, about the relationship between the president and the vice president:

"When Bush the elder put Bush the younger in care of Dick Cheney, he assumed that Mr. Cheney, who had been his defense secretary in Desert Storm, would play the wise, selfless counselor. Instead, good daddy has had to watch in alarm as big daddy usurped his son's presidency, heightened its conservatism and rushed America into war."

You believe that Dick Cheney is really more powerful than President Bush?

DOWD: Well, Dick Cheney is kind of the villain of "Bushworld." He's the Darth Vader, and Bush is the Luke Skywalker. It follows the classic hero myth.

And I think that the problem was that because W had been a black sheep and he had sort of been overawed by his father, he stayed away from foreign policy. And then by the time he began to catch up on it during his campaign, he had a steep learning curve.

And I quote an interview I had with him in the book where he says -- I said, "Aren't you scared to become president when you don't know anything about foreign policy?" And he said, no, because, you know, his dad had surrounded him with Condi and Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz and Cheney and he said, "If I don't, I have really good gut instincts. And if I don't know something, I'll ask my advisors."

And I remember coming back to the office and telling Tom Friedman this, and Tom Friedman said, but what about the moment when two of his advisors strongly disagree? And that's what happened with Cheney and Colin Powell.

BLITZER: Who do you think's going to be elected president in November?

DOWD: Ah, well, I think that's very hard to say because of the volatility of the situation. You know, the threat of terrorist attacks and if we have a terrorist attack, and I just think it's -- I keep asking all of the Times' political experts who usually have a firm opinion, and they are all over the map on this.

BLITZER: I loved the dedication of your book, and I'll read it to our viewers: "For my mom who thinks all the Bushes are swell."

DOWD: Right. She says I'm the black sheep of our family.

BLITZER: So you and W have something in common?

DOWD: Exactly.

BLITZER: Maureen Dowd's got a new book, "Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk."

Thanks very much for joining us. DOWD: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We'll check in with our reporters covering the aftereffects of Hurricane Charley in Florida, as well as developments in Iraq, in just a moment. First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of what's in the news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: The storm is over in Florida, but Hurricane Charley certainly cut a path of death and destruction over the past few days.

Let's check in with CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's over at what they're calling ground zero right now in Punta Gorda.

Ed, give us the latest. The president, we know, was just there.

LAVANDERA: Absolutely, Wolf. Well, you know, the death toll so far because of Hurricane Charley stands at 13, and there are some officials that are saying that that number could rise as crews continue to continue working in this area.

Just a little while ago President Bush arrived here in the Punta Gorda area and toured the area with his brother, Governor Jeb Bush. The president taking an aerial tour over the Fort Myers area, as well as coming down here onto the ground in Punta Gorda and getting a tour of the damage that has been left behind and also getting a briefing from the emergency management teams that have been working here on the ground since not just Friday but even before Friday, before the storm, preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Charley.

Sixten counties in Florida declared federal disaster areas. The president vowing that that money is coming soon and that help from the federal government is well on the way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The job of the federal government and state government is to surge resources as quickly as possible to disaster areas. And that's exactly what's happening now.

We choppered over and saw the devastation of the -- of this area. A lot of people's lives are turned upside down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: Now, the president was asked if there's any political motivation about coming here to the state of Florida so quickly after Hurricane Charley. He said, you know, if I had shown up later I would have been criticized for that. So that was the president's response to the political nature surrounding his visit here to the state of Florida.

People who have seen the devastation here on the ground from the area say it looks like a 10-mile-wide swath that Hurricane Charley cut through this portion of the state of Florida and making its way up through the northeast through Orlando and into the Daytona area before it went out into the Atlantic.

But here on the ground a lot of work remains. The crews say they're just focused on providing the basics at this point. You know, here in this intersection they're just kind of making sure that cars can continue to move slowly, that emergency vehicles can get to and where they need to go as quickly as possible.

Throughout the day we've seen a large number of cars, of emergency vehicles going through this town with their sirens on, just the nature of how quickly they want to get things done here.

But right now it's just all about the basics, providing food, water and shelter to the thousands of people that are homeless -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

And we spoke a little while ago with the lieutenant governor of Florida, Toni Jennings, who says the death toll is now up to 16. Sixteen confirmed dead in Florida. That number unfortunately could go up.

Let's turn to Iraq right now where the opening day of a Baghdad conference focused on building democracy met with protests and deadly violence.

This as clashes resumed today in the standoff in Najaf between insurgents loyal to the Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, and U.S. and Iraqi forces.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in Najaf right now. He's joining us live via videophone with the latest.

Matthew, what's happening right now?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, thank you.

Clashes are still continuing between the U.S. military here in Najaf and forces loyal to the radical Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.

In the latest fighting, we understand at least two U.S. soldiers have been killed in what's been described to us as a sniper attack in and around the area of the ancient cemetery which adjoins the Imam Ali shrine in the center of Najaf.

Throughout the course of the day, we've had reported to us by the U.S. Army officials that we've spoken to what they describe as light contact with Mahdi army fighters in that area. They've carried out a number of strikes against sniper positions and against one individual who was firing a rocket-propelled grenade at them, but certainly nothing on the scale of the large offensive that we've been witnessing in this area over the past week or so.

But still this is a dangerous period and an insecure period for Najaf. The Iraqi interim interior ministry says they've intercepted intelligence which tells them that a group of 25 foreigners are inside the Imam Ali shrine. They've rigged it with explosives, and they're threatening to blow it up if it's attacked.

And so, as a result of that, they've warned off the Iraqi security forces and asked the Americans from going anywhere near it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance, thanks very much for that report. Clearly a very, very tense situation in Najaf continuing.

There's a major redeployment of United States military forces serving around the world now in the works. President Bush expected to outline the plan in a speech to military veterans tomorrow.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is over at the White House. She's joining us now live with a preview.

Give our viewers around the world, Elaine, a sense of the magnitude, the historic nature of this U.S. military redeployment.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this would be the first time, Wolf, that they have looked at doing this since really the end of the Cold War, Wolf. So you can imagine, quite a significant undertaking.

But the president will make that speech tomorrow, as you mentioned, when he is back out on the road. He will be speaking to a group of veterans, specifically the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.

But senior administration officials and Pentagon officials are not talking specific numbers at this point. However, what they do say is that most of these troop reductions will come from Europe and with the rest of the U.S. forces being pulled from countries in Asia.

Now, one senior administration official says the move would bring some 100,000 family members and military support staff back to the U.S. This reduction and repositioning does not come as a surprise, though. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for instance, in a speech this month, talked specifically about this issue, what the military calls the U.S.'s global defense posture.

Pentagon officials really have been looking at where U.S. military forces are positioned worldwide, examining where it makes sense to keep troops now that the Cold War, as I mentioned, has long since ended, and other threats are emerging.

One administration official says that this move will strengthen the country's ability to respond to threats abroad. And recently an official said that these planned changes would focus on things like improving speed, flexibility and capability while also building new alliances and strengthening the ones that are already in place. Again, Wolf, President Bush set to outline this reduction/redeployment plan when he speaks to veterans tomorrow in Cincinnati, Ohio -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A major speech by the president tomorrow on a critical issue involving the U.S. military.

Elaine Quijano over at the White House, thanks very much for that.

Still ahead, overhauling U.S. intelligence, what specific changes are ahead? We'll speak to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican John Warner. We'll also hear from the committee's top Democrat, Carl Levin.

And later, he made a splash as the Democratic Convention's keynote speak. Is Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama unbeatable? We'll speak live with his Republican opponent, Alan Keyes.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Up next, we'll speak with two U.S. senators about plans to shake up the CIA and President Bush's choice to head the spy agency.

And there's still time, by the way, for you to weigh in on our Web question of the week: Is the United States winning the war on terror? You can vote right now. Go to cnn.com/lateedition.

Stay with "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: He's the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation's history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush announcing his nomination of the Florida Republican congressman Porter Goss to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

This week the Senate Armed Services Committee will be holding important hearings on potentially significant changes in the U.S. intelligence community.

Joining us now, the Republican chairman of that panel, Senator John Warner of Virginia. He's also a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Senator Warner, thanks very much for joining us.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Glad to be here.

BLITZER: This hearing you're having tomorrow and Tuesday, two separate hearings...

WARNER: Back to back.

BLITZER: ... hearings on whether to create an intelligence czar to oversee all 15 agencies, military and civilian, that currently oversee the U.S. intelligence community, is this a good idea to have this intelligence czar at a Cabinet level who would be in charge of all budget authority for all of U.S. intelligence?

WARNER: That's a loaded entry announcement.

We're going to have hearings to explore all aspects of it.

I personally support the president's decision that we should have a national intelligence director.

The president very wisely did not, at the time of the announcement, put in all the bits and pieces about budget, hiring and firing, and the like. He wanted Congress to make some assessment of those views, and the committees in the House and the Senate are doing just that.

BLITZER: The 9/11 Commission said this national intelligence director should be in charge of all intelligence budgets.

WARNER: Fine. They made a very important contribution, the 9/11 Commission. But I do not anticipate Congress just falling over and accepting it verbatim.

BLITZER: One of the witnesses who will testify before your panel on Tuesday is the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

WARNER: That's right.

BLITZER: Listen to what he said about the idea of creating this super intelligence director. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I've heard arguments in the wake of 9/11 that we need to consolidate all the intelligence agencies and put them under a single intelligence czar. In my view, that would be doing the country a great disservice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, he clearly disagrees with the president on this matter.

WARNER: Well, at the time he said that, I don't think all of this was in place, in terms of exactly what the White House was going to do.

BLITZER: But like any defense secretary...

WARNER: I understand that, but bear in mind...

BLITZER: ... he hates the idea -- let me explain this to our viewers, because they're not familiar that about 80 percent of the intelligence community's budget -- the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office -- that comes from the Pentagon. It doesn't come from the CIA.

WARNER: And it goes before my committee, the Armed Services Committee.

The point is that -- I've talked with Rumsfeld about this, talked with him about coming up on Tuesday. I assure you that he wants to be supportive of the president. So we're not going to start out with any knockdown, put-the-feet-against-the-door attitude, I hope.

BLITZER: Of course now he supports the president after the president made this announcement.

WARNER: Well, that's all right. That's the way this government works. We have a chief executive officer.

And on Tuesday I want Rumsfeld to give this committee the pros and cons as he sees it based on years of experience.

Jim Schlesinger will come up on Monday giving...

BLITZER: Former defense secretary.

WARNER: Former defense secretary...

BLITZER: And CIA director.

WARNER: ... give the pros and cons.

Congress will weigh this and make its contribution. The administration will be sending up a draft bill, having taken into consideration Congress's views to some extent.

And in the course of September, I'm confident that the Congress can do a constructive, not-rushed job and come out with a bill.

BLITZER: You're a former Navy secretary. You've been in the Senate for a long time. No one knows Washington, the budget process, the power as well as you do.

Is it realistic to assume if this intelligence czar, this national intelligence director, doesn't control the budget that he will really have the power that the 9/11 Commission wants him to have?

WARNER: Your operative word is "control."

My recommendation will be -- and this is simply one senator's contribution -- that you can't jerk out of the Department of Defense all of the budget machinery for the DIA, the NSA and all these various component parts. But the new NID should have complete consultation as those budgets are put together. The budget should go up to the new NID, and jointly that budget be presented by the secretary of defense and the national intelligence director.

A jointness, that's my recommendation.

BLITZER: All right.

WARNER: Same way with appointments. Appointments should be first surveyed by the secretary of defense, then in consultation, and jointly presented to the president on the top nominees for the posts in the various divisions.

BLITZER: There's a fascinating article in the new issue of The Economist, the magazine, a British publication. An article written by Efraim Halevy, who served for many years in the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, became the director, worked with the U.S. intelligence community very closely.

Among other things, Efraim Halevy writes this. You'll be interested.

"In my humble opinion, no greater mistake could be make, so far as the intelligence community is concerned, if you go ahead and name an intelligence czar. If the new czar is to assume command responsibility for the intelligence community, then he will be de facto director of the CIA and the other intelligence agencies in the country.

"He, and he alone, will be responsible for the content and standard of the evaluation. The professional director of the CIA will be responsible to the czar, and the president of the United States will be functioning through a proxy on matters of war and peace."

BLITZER: He goes on to say, "The Israelis tried it after their blunder in miscalculating, not connecting the dots, leading up to the 1973 October War, and if you try it," the United States government, he says, "it will be a huge mistake.

WARNER: Throughout the history of this country developing intelligence, competing viewpoints on the same set of facts are very valuable. Eventually, the president being where the buck stops.

I do not see the appointment of the czar eliminating competitive thoughts, viewpoints, analysis on the same set of facts. But it is that NID, national intelligence director, who must brief the president every day, depending on how they work it out -- presidents are different. But he will be the principal contact.

He needs to know all of the facts and have absolute entry into all aspects of intelligence unfettered to get the information to provide it to the president and to begin to discuss the priorities of spending. Where should the big bucks be put? And that changes from time to time. BLITZER: The president nominated Porter Goss to be the director of the CIA this week. If Congress approves this national intelligence director position, it becomes a statute, a new job, should Porter Goss, if he's confirmed as CIA director, get this position?

WARNER: First place, it's not the Congress, it's the Senate that has the advise and consent.

BLITZER: To confirm on Porter.

WARNER: That is correct.

BLITZER: But I'm talking about the creation of the new national intelligence director.

WARNER: That's an option open to the president. But it'd seem to me, let's put him in place at this point in time until such period that the legislation moves through the Congress, which I anticipate it will. And that could be, well, early October.

BLITZER: I know that you support Porter Goss's nomination...

WARNER: Yes, I know him very well.

BLITZER: Let me read to you what The Los Angeles Times wrote in an editorial on Wednesday: "Goss's passivity suits Bush perfectly. He won't challenge the president. He won't fire any senior staff. Most likely, he won't do much of anything." Strong words from The Los Angeles Times.

WARNER: Well, I'd just flatly disagree. Some eight years ago, when I was ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, or vice chairman we call it, I worked with him.

I put in legislation in response to our beloved Pat Moynihan calling for the abolishment of the CIA, which formed a commission. Both of us served on that commission. It performed valuable work by two former secretaries of defense, who were the chair of the commission.

I've known him and worked with him through these years, and that is flat wrong.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia -- you know Senator Byrd very much.

WARNER: And I admire him.

BLITZER: And listen to what he told our Lou Dobbs this week about Porter Goss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: People need to have trust in the intelligence community, and I think that at this particular time they should not have to choose a politician. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, that's the criticism that many Democrats are saying, a politician -- you need a professional.

Take a look on the screen. I'm going to put up all the directors of the Central Intelligence Agency going back to 1947. And if you look closely at all the names -- and I have, and I've studied this business for a long time -- I see one politician up there, George Herbert Walker Bush, who served from 1976 to 1977 as the CIA director. But if you go on, I think almost all of the others were professionals. Maybe William Casey could get into that political nature.

But you understand why a lot of people, including professionals, are concerned about bringing a politician in to run the CIA.

WARNER: OK. Then you define the term "politician." The easy definition: You're elected. But believe me, there are a lot of people who never stand for election who are darn good politicians. And I can go through that list -- and I've known quite a few in my years, 26 years in the Senate -- believe me, they were smart political figures. So put that aside.

This man, Goss, served in the Army intelligence, served in the CIA intelligence, served in the Congress, became chairman, interfaced in this whole community. I don't know of a better choice the president could pick at this point in time. He doesn't need any on- the-job training. He can take over that job tomorrow morning.

BLITZER: I'll just play this soundbyte. Michael Moore, or at least his team, interviewed Porter Goss earlier in connection with his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11." Listen to what Goss said in that interview. Michael Moore just posted it on his Web site.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PORTER GOSS (R), FLORIDA: I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified. I don't have the language skills. You know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably. And I certainly don't have the technical skills.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, that was -- he was asked if he could be a case officer today which he got -- he was a case officer, which is a clandestine operative, recruiting spies, if you will. But I guess a lot of people wouldn't necessarily be qualified for jobs today that they had been qualified in the '50s.

WARNER: What's your question?

BLITZER: Well, I just wanted to know if you wanted to respond to that.

WARNER: I don't know that it needs to be responded to. I think Michael Moore has made an interesting contribution to the political scene. I personally find it interesting, but it won't guide my decision one way or the other.

BLITZER: And you predict he will be confirmed?

WARNER: I just simply say, out of respect to him and the Senate, they will act appropriately and confirm that nomination.

BLITZER: What do you make of the president's announcement tomorrow to redeploy 70,000, maybe 100,000 U.S. troops, remove a lot of them, most of them from Germany, maybe keep one base in Germany? Some are already suggesting this is punishing Germany for its opposition to the administration's war in Iraq.

WARNER: Nonsense. This is a decision that's been under review by the secretary of defense for about three or four years. I've talked to him about it on a number of occasions. He has briefed the appropriate committees on Capitol Hill on the basic framework, and tomorrow it comes out.

Wolf, the vestiges, the remnants of the Cold War are still present in a lot of our military installations in Europe, and it's time to lighten up our military equipment in Europe, get the heavy stuff back here so it can be redeployed to where it might be needed.

It's a wise decision. And some of the dispersal into the new NATO countries, former Warsaw Pact countries, showing our support for their courage, having stood up through those many years of adversity and now joining as powerful voices in NATO.

This is a good decision. In Korea, you've seen the South Korean military strengthen itself each year to where it now can be less dependent on the U.S. forces.

But we haven't lessened our commitment in either the South Korean peninsula or in Europe, and our allies know that because we've been in consultation with them.

BLITZER: Senator Warner, good luck with these hearings tomorrow.

WARNER: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: We appreciate it very much.

Coming up, we'll go to the other side of the political aisle. Our guest, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin. We'll talk with him about all these issues.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our conversation with the chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, Senator John Warner.

Senator Warner, two issues I want to wrap up with you before I let you go.

First of all, the whole controversy over the Swift Boat Veterans criticizing the Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, for supposedly not deserving those medals, those ribbons that he got when he was a swift boat commander.

You were secretary of the Navy during the Vietnam War. Did he deserve those ribbons and medals?

WARNER: First, I'm enormously loyal to those veterans, all of them, during that period, and the privilege to have worked alongside them, the privilege to have gone down into the delta and seen the swift boats and the extraordinary heroism and dangers that that particular cadre of the U.S. Navy undertook.

As to the controversy, you'll never sort it out between now and election and maybe never. So I think both sides should be listened to. They fought hard. They're entitled to their views.

But as to the medals, the Purple Hearts were decided down in the local commands; the Bronze Star basically at that level. But the Silver Star does come up to the Navy secretary, and it came up through the time that I was there. I do not remember it. My dear friend, the secretary at that time, John Chafee (ph), we could not speak to that.

But I can speak to the process, that we did extraordinary, careful checking on that type of medal, a very high one, when it goes through the secretary. So I'd stand by the process that awarded him that medal, and I think we best acknowledge that his heroism did gain that recognition.

BLITZER: So he deserved it?

WARNER: I feel that he deserved it. And it's well for us to go on into other issues of the campaign and just decide that that chapter will be left unresolved.

BLITZER: What about the criticism being leveled against him by the vice president, especially that he was absent during so many meetings when he was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee during crucial moments?

WARNER: Here again, having been through five elections for the Senate myself, I know a little bit about politics. And the nearer you get to Election Day, it's harder to separate fact from fiction.

So I would go to what is solid, uncontrovertible fact, and that is the records that each committee keeps with regard to the attendance at every hearing of all the members, whether they're there or not.

Now, those records are available. John Kerry, if he questions the authenticity of this ad that's out there now, should simply get those records and put them into the public domain. Same with the Finance Committee on which he served. There's some questions about his level of attendance there. Put them out. And he can put them out and knock these stories down if they're incorrect. BLITZER: Senator Warner, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's get a different perspective now from the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan. He's also a key member of the Intelligence Committee.

First of all, on these two points I want your response, Senator Levin.

The whole controversy involving the war record during Vietnam of Senator Kerry, go ahead and tell us what you think about what you just heard Senator Warner say.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Oh, I think it's disgusting for people to challenge somebody else's medals. The public is not going to accept this.

And I was frankly disheartened when the president did not disassociate himself from that kind of an attack. Instead, the president said that he thought that Kerry earned the medals but he would not criticize the people putting on those ads.

I think the ads are degrading to the military and the men and women who serve in the military and the medals that they earn.

BLITZER: What about the absenteeism, the notion that he was absent from so many of those Senate Intelligence Committee reports and other Intelligence Committee hearings.

LEVIN: Well, I don't think anybody who serves with John Kerry would disagree with the conclusion that John Kerry is an extremely hardworking, extremely involved senator. How many committees you're able to attend, how many meetings you go to or miss is not really good evidence of how good a senator you are, because many people are on many committees with many responsibilities.

But I don't think any senator serving with John, Democrat or Republican, would deny that he is a hardworking, deeply involved, deeply committed senator who has been very effective in the Senate.

BLITZER: Senator Kerry supports all 41 recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, including the creation of a national intelligence director, the so-called intelligence czar, who would have budget authority, Cabinet-level status. Do you believe that all those recommendations should be implemented?

LEVIN: I think some of the key ones need to be implemented. Some of the ones relative to budget authority and hiring and firing authority need to be sorted out, sorted through by some very serious hearings in the Senate, because there are some complications and implications relative to those recommendations.

But in terms of the key recommendations, so-called, I think it is important we have a national intelligence director who can coordinate all the intelligence activities. I think it's really important that we have analyses that are free from politics. And one of the advantages of these recommendations, at least, is that it splits the two hats. The people who are responsible for producing intelligence are not going to be the same people who are using the intelligence. We're going to separate the CIA director from the DCI, or the director of central intelligence, in their new format.

So I think there are some really positive aspects to this. But whatever we do with those boxes, Wolf, isn't nearly as important as that we end the politicallization of intelligence. And that's what neither commission really addressed, nor did they attempt to address them.

And that is that we had in George Tenet, our previous CIA director, somebody who would support and help to shape intelligence so that it would help the adminstration in power, and that is not what we need. We can't have an intelligence director who says that this is a slam-dunk analysis when, in fact, the analysis should be based on very unclear (ph) and where the evidence behind the analysis is very unclear.

So that is a major problem that we've had with this administration, that the intelligence that they got was shaped, and then they hyped it further. But that's what we must end.

And no matter what we do with reorganization, we should be taking steps to separate the analysis of intelligence from the policy-maker. That's why I don't think it would be a good idea to put the new director of intelligence in the White House itself. That even puts it closer to the political people.

BLITZER: Well, what about Porter Goss, the Republican congressman from Florida, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, becoming the new director?

Let me read to you what The Washington Post wrote in an editorial this week after the president nominated him.

"He has, in other words, a rare combination of substantial insider experience and the vantage point of someone who has also served in an oversight capacity that has given him insight into reforms that ought to take place in the intelligence world."

Is Porter Goss the best person right now to become the next director of the CIA?

LEVIN: Oh, I don't think he's the best person, because there's a very big political aspect to that appointment and to what he would do in terms of advising the president.

But he's clearly qualified to be the director of intelligence. I don't think that's the issue. He's had the experience.

The question is whether or not he is going to give objective, independent, unvarnished assessments, not just to the president -- people forget this -- but also to the Congress, to the country and to the world.

The fact that intelligence was so far off and was so politicized during the Bush years and prior to going into Iraq has really undermined people's confidence in the intelligence community. We've got to restore that.

Now, whether Porter Goss can give satisfactory answers that he can give objective intelligence which is unvarnished and independent intelligence, if he can tell the president, "Mr. President, this is not clear. It is not clear," for instance, "that there's any relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda." It was not only not clear, it was dubious. In the eyes of the Central Intelligence Agency, it was dubious.

And yet you had a director in George Tenet who gave some support, either quietly or by acquiescence, when the administration was exaggerating intelligence. That is bad for all of us. It's bad for the administration. And it's bad for the country.

BLITZER: Will you vote to confirm Porter Goss?

LEVIN: It depends on how he answers questions about his independence and objectivity. If he can satisfy me that, despite being a highly partisan person and a very close political supporter of the president, that he is able to tell the president that something is not there even though the president would like it to be there, then yes, I'll be able to support Porter Goss.

BLITZER: Do you support the president's decision, which he will announce tomorrow, to redeploy perhaps 70,000, maybe 100,000 U.S. troops out of Germany, out of South Korea, elsewhere, bring them home, or bring them to other countries around the world? Is this a good time to undertake that kind of major redeployment?

LEVIN: Well, this is not a reduction in the size of the Army. The administration has finally gone along with what we in Congress have been proposing, which was an increase of about 25,000 in the Army.

And this is a redeployment effort. I will probably support it, but I would like to see the details of it.

In terms of the general direction that it's taking, as John Warner, our chairman said, this has been in the works for a long time, and there are some things that we should do to redeploy troops so that they are in the best position possible for what the new threats are.

So the answer is probably I will be, but I'd like to see the details before I give any kind of a final answer to that.

BLITZER: Is there an element of punishing Germany right now for failure to support the U.S. in going into the war in Iraq, moving out almost all U.S. troops from Germany right now?

LEVIN: Well, if that's what they're doing -- and I have not seen the details, nor have I been briefed on it -- then we would have to weigh that on the merits. But I would hope that no ally is going to be punished for not deciding to go with us into Iraq.

These other countries are sovereign nations. They make decisions based on their own needs but also their perception of how much international support there was for the United States, particularly from the Muslim countries. So I hope that's not part of it.

But I can tell you this, that in terms of the general direction of these redeployments, this has been in the works for many years, probably before the Iraq attack. So again, I hope that the president's not doing this for political reasons.

I want to be supportive of it, because I think there are some shifts that we need to make in deployment of our troops.

BLITZER: One final question, Senator. Najaf, the battle for Najaf under way right now. How critical is this, the showdown between the U.S. and Iraqi allies on the one hand, Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Militia on the other?

LEVIN: Well, it's very critical in many ways, not the least of which is that, since Mr. Allawi has said that he wants Iraqi troops to carry out this mission and not American troops, I think that's a mighty good idea.

The more this is Americanized and Westernized and continues to be Americanized and Westernized, the worse the falloff is going to be, long term, in terms of trying to get back with the international community in dealing with international terrorism.

So, hopefully, if there is going to be a, quote, "final assault" here, it will be done, as Mr. Allawi says it should be done, by Iraqi troops, and not by American troops.

But the commander on the ground is going to have to make a lot of these calls, and I wouldn't want to, in advance particularly, but even afterwards, be prone to second-guess this. I'm not close enough to the immediate facts on the ground there.

So I'm a little reluctant to tell you anything other than what I have, which is I hope it can be an Iraqi effort rather than a Western, American effort.

BLITZER: Senator Levin, good luck with the hearings tomorrow and Tuesday. Thanks very much for joining us.

LEVIN: Great being with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead, a political showdown in the U.S. heartland. I'll speak live with Illinois Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes about his race against Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

"LATE EDITION" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALAN KEYES (R), ILLINOIS SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: It just seems wrong that somebody with his record should kind of waltz into the United States Senate unopposed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Republican activist Alan Keyes announcing just last week his decision to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. He's challenging the Democratic Senate candidate, Barack Obama.

Joining us now from Chicago is Alan Keyes.

Mr. Keyes, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.

We had invited Barack Obama to join us as well. Unfortunately, he couldn't do it during this time slot.

But he was on ABC with George Stephanopoulos earlier today. Among other things, he said this of your challenge to him. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, ILLINOIS DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: I think that their sense was that none of the local electeds could win the race and that Mr. Keyes might not be able to win the race but at least could...

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Bloody you up?

OBAMA: Bloody me up a little bit before I got to Washington.

Now, having said that, I think that, you know, he's not somebody we take lightly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Is that your mission, knowing, or at least assuming, as a lot of people do, that you can't win is it your mission to simply bloody up this rising star in the Democratic Party?

KEYES: I don't think he's a rising star. I think he's actually a fading phony. I think that there's no correspondence between what he said at the Democratic National Convention and his actual record.

And the fact that he is somebody who totally rejects the founding principles of this country, who does not believe that we are all created equal, who takes stands on issues like abortion that are shocking to the conscience even of Democrats -- he's willing to allow living children who are fully born to be set aside to die like garbage, I mean, that kind of deep extremism, which didn't come through in his DNC speech, is what characterizes him.

And I'm not in this race to prove some stupid, silly political point. I'm in it because there is a deep challenge of principle involved in not letting somebody who has rejected the statesmanship of Lincoln represent the state of Lincoln.

BLITZER: All right.

KEYES: And when that challenge was placed before me by Illinois Republicans, I concluded at the end of the day that my principles did not permit me to say no.

BLITZER: He says you're totally out of sync with mainstream America. Listen to what else he said in that interview on ABC earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: ... God doesn't speak to me alone, and that the only way that I can live effectively with people who have different beliefs and different faiths is if we have a civil society that is in fact civil.

And, you know, that really is a central difference between myself and Mr. Keyes. On a lot of these issues, whether it's abortion or gay rights, you know, Mr. Keyes, I think, feels the certainty of a prophet, you know, somebody who's got a direct line into what God thinks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You want to respond to that?

KEYES: Well, I think that shows his ignorance even of the basis of this republic. I have never based my public and political views on any claim to speak for God. But I do claim that we have the right to read the founding principles of this country, which state very clearly, all men are created equal and endowed by their creator -- not by me, not by you, not by the president, not by the Constitution, but by their creator -- with their unalienable rights.

That means that it's not a woman's choice that establishes the right to life of a child, it is the creator. And that's not Alan Keyes saying it.

I know perhaps Mr. Obama's not as familiar with that tradition as someone like myself, who has spent his whole life thinking about how the conscience shaped by that tradition helped to get rid of slavery, helped to reform this nation of segregation and advance civil rights. This is very important to somebody who is a descendant of slaves.

BLITZER: All right.

KEYES: It doesn't seem to be as important to him, and that may be why he doesn't understand it.

BLITZER: Why should people in Illinois elect you? You've never lived in Illinois, as far as I can tell. And you've been critical of other so-called carpet-baggers who've gone into states in which they didn't live in order to try to get elected. Hillary Rodham Clinton being an example. You said in March of 2000, "I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn't imitate it."

A lot of people think you're doing exactly that right now.

KEYES: Well, that's because a lot of people aren't thinking through what federalism really means. But the state motto in Illinois makes it clear. It has two components, state sovereignty and national union.

To sacrifice respect for state sovereignty and true representational integrity for the sake of personal ambition and a personal agenda, as Hillary Rodham Clinton did, is wrong. I deeply condemn it.

But to be called by the Illinois state party to come and defend the principles of our national union against someone who, on a whole range of issues, rejects those principles is in fact not only to act in the interest of federalism, it is to act in the deep interests of the people of Illinois, who share with me a commitment to those principles.

We are of one community when it comes to our commitment to those things which are the foundation of the American way of life. I know it because I've been in and out of Illinois...

BLITZER: All right.

KEYES: ... many times over the years to work with people who share that deep commitment.

BLITZER: Have you and your family taken up residency in Illinois?

KEYES: We have, indeed. I have an apartment now over at Garfield Street in Cal City, and we have camped out a little bit. Obviously, we're just in the starting stages. And as I have said many times, I think that may be a temporary address for a few months. That often happens when you first move into a state. My wife and I will consult about what we're going to do. But we'll see.

The neighbors are great. We just attended mass there for the first time there this morning. And it's a wonderful, spectacularly beautiful church that I think you only find in some of the older suburbs in America now. And we deeply and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

BLITZER: If you lose, will you come back to Maryland or stay in Illinois?

KEYES: Well, I think we're going to be forming ties here. And the ties that are forged in the heat of an important battle of community deeply confirm the community of heart and principle that's involved. And I'm sure our hearts will follow those principles, which are working with the people in this state in order to achieve the outcome.

But to tell you the truth, I don't have to worry about it. The only thing my home in Maryland now gives me is a headstart, because after I get elected to the Senate, unlike some folks, I won't have to look around for real estate when I get there.

BLITZER: Alan Keyes, thanks very much for joining us.

Up next, we'll tell you the results of our Web poll question of the week. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our "LATE EDITION" Web question of the week asked, "Is the United States winning the war on terror?" Here is how you voted: 8 percent of you said yes, 92 percent of you said no. But remember, this is not a scientific poll.

That's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, August 15th. Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'm here Monday through Friday, twice a day at noon and 5 p.m. eastern.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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