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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Nabil Sha'ath; Interview With David Horovitz
Aired November 7, 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, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7 p.m. in Jerusalem, 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
Shortly, we'll get insight into what's being described as an imminent, major, U.S.-led military ground assault by U.S. and Iraqi forces in the insurgent stronghold of Falluja.
We'll also talk about the results of the U.S. presidential election and implications over the next four years.
First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.
BLITZER: More details now on our top story, the imminent ground offensive against insurgents in Falluja.
CNN's Karl Penhaul is embedded with the U.S. Marines. He's on the ground near Falluja. He's joining us now live by telephone with more details.
Karl, what can you tell us?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. It's nighttime now here in the desert camp, where we are near Falluja. In the last few minutes, some volleys of 155 millimeter artillery has been fired out into the direction of Falluja and we saw flashes on the horizon.
Those volleys of artillery are follow a day of intense preparations by Marines here at the camp. They have been packing assault packs, dusting off their weapons and counting out the bullets they're carrying with them in their packs.
Also, today, also top brass from 1st Marine Expeditionary Force showed up at the camp to give the men a pep talk, among them, the sergeant major first (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and also the commanding general. This is what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First they tell us to go, and they give us the word. If they tell us to go, you're going to make history. This is another Hue City in the making, and you Devil Docs, you soldiers, you sailors, and if we got airmen, you all are going to do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This town is being held hostage by mugs, thugs, murderers and intimidators. And all they need is for us to give them the opportunity to break the back of that intimidation, to go in there and stomp it out where it needs to be stomped.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
PENHAUL: As you can see, they're putting this in historical perspective too. They're saying that this is likely to be the biggest U.S. Marine fight since Hue City. That was in Vietnam in 1968.
Of course the similarity there is that both of these fights are urban combat. And what U.S. commanders on the ground have said is that they expect that the fight for Falluja could get bloody, could get dirty very quickly. They believe that a lot of Falluja has been rigged with booby traps and car bombs by the estimated 3,000 insurgents still holed up there, Wolf.
BLITZER: Karl, the fact that Muslims are now in the holy month of Ramadan, during which they fast during the day, does that have any military impact on what the U.S. and Iraqi forces may be planning to do?
PENHAUL: Nobody really here, Wolf, seems to be talking about Ramadan and the possible effects of Ramadan on the fighting force that they're going to face inside of Falluja.
The biggest elements that they're taking into account, when considering and planning this upcoming fight, is the risk of booby traps and other nonconventional weapons. They think that the insurgents not only have car bombs, car bombs and homemade bombs dug into sidewalks and into the walls of buildings, they also believe that entire buildings may be rigged to explode, so that when Marines go house to house searching buildings, buildings could collapse on top of them.
Ramadan, really, and whether these fighters will be well fed at certain times or whether they'll be tired at certain times really not factored into the equation, as far as the briefings that we have been given.
BLITZER: Did you have assessment, based on what you've heard, on the insurgents? Are they Sunni Muslim Saddam loyalists? Are they Shia? Are there foreign terrorists who are part of this insurgency? In other words, what is the nature of the insurgency that the U.S. and Iraqi forces are facing right now?
PENHAUL: U.S. military analysts have been looking at this for many weeks now, as you can imagine, and what they suspect is that there are a number of different types of forces holed up there in Falluja. And only in the last few weeks have there been efforts to unify some kind of command, so that all the insurgents there can put together some kind of defense plan for the city. But, yes, certainly parts of the city are believed to be controlled by Saddam Hussein loyalists. Others are believed to be controlled by Islamic radicals. Other parts of the city also believed to be controlled by the so-called "foreign fighter element."
Now, U.S. military analysts have been backing away now from suggesting that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is still in the city. They suggest that he may have filtered away. What they do say, though, is that one of the main rebel leaders inside the city is an Iraqi known as Omar Hadid (ph), and he's being described as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's man in Falluja, a very dangerous man, they say.
As I say, in totals, the U.S. military estimate around 3,000 insurgent fighters could be in there, although they do say that estimates range as high as 5,000 fighters, Wolf.
BLITZER; The last time we spoke, Karl, on Friday -- you're imbedded with U.S. Marines -- you gave us a very vivid description of the mood of those Marines right now. They're poised, they're ready to move in, they're simply waiting. What's going on today?
PENHAUL: After the pep talk this morning -- we noticed the Marines were pensive, they were beginning to pack, and then, when the Marine Expeditionary Force top brass showed up, that really pumped these young Marines with enthusiasm.
I think you can only liken that kind of pep talk to a talk pre- football game or hockey game or baseball game. It was that type of talk directed at young guys, all pumped up and ready to go for this.
Talking now to the Marines, they say that they're as ready as they ever will be to go and do this. And they've been spending the last minutes, as I say, packing up.
They also received a batch of mail from friends and family back at home, and so they've also been spending the last minutes sharing out some of the treats they received in those parcels amongst their buddies, again, more bonding going on.
Another thing, though, a sobering thought, the Marines were also issued with a so-called "kill number" today by Navy medics who will accompany them. That kill number is a number that each Marine will write on both hands in indelible ink, that, in the event he is hit, killed or taken casualty, then that number will identify him, a quick identification number, Wolf.
BLITZER: CNN's Karl Penhaul is our correspondent imbedded with the U.S. Marines outside Falluja.
Karl, be careful over there. Thank you very much for that report.
I suspect a lot of family members here in the United States very nervous, understandably so, right now.
Top officials over at the Pentagon certainly closely watching the situation in Falluja. Let's check in with our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
Jamie, what's going on over there?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think it'd be useful, at this point, to point out what the military objective of this offensive in Falluja will be and what it won't be.
It won't, for instance -- it is not the objective of this mission to totally break the back of the insurgency in Iraq. In fact, military officials here caution that would be an unrealistic expectation.
Nor is it the mission to capture or kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who's believed to have been using Falluja as a base of operations. As Karl Penhaul noted, it's not even clear he's there.
In fact, Pentagon officials say that many of the insurgents have filtered out over the last couple of days and weeks, as it's been more and more apparent that this offensive was something that was likely to happen.
What is the objective here is to return Falluja to local control, specifically control of officials who will be working with the interim Iraqi government, and allow the citizens of Falluja to take part in the elections in January.
No one here is under illusions that after Falluja, all the problems in Iraq will be involved. In fact, it is pretty much considered that many of these insurgent will melt away and try to fight another day in another place.
And if you needed any evidence of that, all you had to do was look at what happened in Samarra yesterday, a town that has been returned to local control, but in a series of coordinated attacks, insurgents there on Saturday killed as many as 30 people. They're just showing they can still operate even when U.S. and Iraqi forces have re-established control.
So the Pentagon here is looking at Falluja as a crucial battle, but they don't necessarily say it will be the tipping point in the war against the insurgency in Iraq.
BLITZER: This battle plan that has been set in motion, Jamie, was it done in Washington at the Pentagon? Was it done on the scene over there? How much coordination is going on between the top military brass in Washington and civilian leadership, for that matter?
And what's going on over there, specifically, the impact of the new Iraqi interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi?
MCINTYRE: Well, that's been the big change since April, when the Marines went in there, essentially under an U.S. strategy and then had to stop because of objections from the Governing Council, at the time, about the number of civilian casualties. This time, this plan has been developed by U.S. commanders in Iraq, specifically General Casey, who is the overall commander there on the ground in Iraq, in close coordination with the Iraqi forces.
And there will be several thousand Iraqi troops that will be part of this force.
So it's very closely coordinated between commanders on the ground in Iraq and the Allawi government. In fact, by all accounts, it will be Allawi's decision and his word that starts this offensive in motion if it happens.
And Pentagon officials here say they are not micromanaging this from 7,000 miles away, but obviously they're very interested in making sure that this operation is a success, so they can build on that as they try to restore some stability in advance of those January elections.
BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thank you very much. We'll be checking back with you throughout the day.
And joining us now with some perspective on the challenges and potential pitfalls of this Falluja military offensive, two guests: the former NATO supreme allied commander, the retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan, and the retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General Terrence Murray.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Let's begin with a little history recent history. April, end of March, of this year, the Marines, as you well know, General Joulwan, were on the verge of moving in to Falluja. They were held back. The specific trigger was the murder of those four American contractors whose bodies were sort of run through the city and then hung over a bridge.
At that time, at that time, there was frustration that they didn't finish the job. Was it a mistake, looking back, not to have finished it then?
GEORGE JOULWAN, FORMER NATO ALLIED SUPREME COMMANDER: I think what needs to be clear is that the -- as was mentioned in the report, the political objectives need to be clear here.
And the Marines, I think, had a very clear strategy of what they needed to do. However, it did not jive with the political objectives, in my opinion.
I think we have got that cleaned up now. And there seems to be a melding here of the political and military objectives for this fight.
BLITZER: General Murray, your colleague, U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General James Conway, said this in September of this year about being held back and not letting the Marines finish Falluja then in April of this year. Listen to what General Conway said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIEUTENANT GENERAL JAMES CONWAY, U.S. MARINE CORPS: When you order elements of a Marine division to attack a city that you really need to understand what the consequences of that is going to be and not, perhaps, vacillate in the middle of something like that. Once you commit, you've got to stay committed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He sounds like as if he was frustrated that they held him back at the very end, largely because the government, the Iraqis, didn't want them to go into Falluja.
GEN. TERRY MURRAY (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Not surprising, Wolf. I think, for a commander at his level, they want clear, precise, military guidance: Do the job or stay back. And, in that previous case, it was confusing.
And the fact was that the Marines were ready to go, and then ultimately they were pulled back, which is not what Jim Conway wanted to take place.
BLITZER: Do you sense they have that kind -- like General Joulwan said, they have the precise goals right now before them, what they need to do?
MURRAY: It certainly is my hope that they do. When John Sattler, who we saw on the tube a few minutes ago, was preparing the Marines and other coalition forces, it appeared that John expected he was going to be given the go-ahead.
And I expect, based on the fact that they've cordoned off the entire city, they've hit strategic and tactical targets repeatedly inside the city, and the troops are in place. So I think we're going to see them go in somewhere in the next few days.
BLITZER: Can you remember a time, General Joulwan -- and you served in Vietnam and all these other military operations -- since then, where on the eve of a military assault, they let television cameras in to hear commanders give this kind of pep talk to fighters like that?
JOULWAN: This is the world we live in, Wolf. I have not seen it in the past. However, this is where we are in the 21st century. I don't think you can avoid that.
But what needs to be tempered here is the pep talk given by the commanders with the political clarity that needs to come from the top. And in this particular fight, it looks like President Allawi will be calling the shot when to go in. At least that's how I see it.
With that comes rules of engagement and other constraints that are extremely important. And the senior military commanders need to make sure that that clarity is there, that the troops have what they need to get the job done. My guess is we have lost strategic surprise in this fight. Hopefully, we can get tactical surprise, choosing the time and place of when we'll go in.
BLITZER: Because if we can see on CNN and CNN International this kind of pep talk, certainly the insurgents in Falluja have access to this kind of discussion, as well.
JOULWAN: But understand there's a tremendous psychological warfare going on at the same time by us in that city. And I think the openness to the press helps create this imminency here of, "You better make a decision, insurgents; that this decision will be made."
BLITZER: When our embedded reporter, General Murray, was talking about the kill numbers, that they're putting indelible ink on these Marines and Army soldiers who are about to go in, in case, God forbid they're killed, you grimaced a little bit. I saw you jerk back a little bit. Why?
MURRAY: Well, I think that this is something that I was not exposed to in Vietnam or the first Gulf War. General Joulwan, I expect, has not seen it either. It's just a manifestation that the world is changing.
But from a practical standpoint, it makes sense to do this before these Marines and coalition forces go into an environment that could be very, very tough, subject to the will to fight that we find in the insurgents inside of Falluja.
BLITZER: Have you ever seen this kind of -- they wear dog tags, clearly.
MURRAY: They wear dog tags.
BLITZER: But having ink put on their skin to know who they are, have you ever seen this?
JOULWAN: No, I have not seen it. And I sort of was taken back when I saw it. I think it's the wrong signal we give to the troops, in my opinion.
BLITZER: The wrong signal in that it demoralizes them?
JOULWAN: Well, I mean, I don't think -- I think you go into a fight thinking that you're going to come out of it alive.
I think there are practical things -- that's why we have dog tags -- that you need to take precautions, that any time you commit American forces, there may be casualties. So you have to take those precautions. But writing it on someone's hand, I don't know if I agree with that.
BLITZER: Do you agree with that?
MURRAY: I would have foregone it. But as I said, I understand the practical side of it. BLITZER: The practical side is if they're captured or if they're killed, at least people know who they are.
JOULWAN: Well, I just think what you need to get equally clear is what the rules of engagement are, in particular. I think you are going to find that, going in, there are constraints on these troops. And what those rules of engagement are are very important: what they could shoot at, what they can't shoot at.
And the interesting thing about the media is that the other side really doesn't have that constraint. And our troops are going to be watched very closely, and they should be: how they act, how they conduct themselves.
But when you're in a fight, I can tell you, you want the least number of constraints possible on you to get the job done.
BLITZER: All right, Generals, stand by. We're going to take a break. But we're going to continue this conversation.
When we return, more with the generals on the looming showdown in Falluja, a campaign that could be very bloody. House-to-house, block- to-block fighting anticipated.
Then, the Democrats fall short of the U.S. presidential election. What went wrong? We'll ask three of the party's major players.
And Yasser Arafat fighting for his life right now. Can the Middle East peace process resume without him? Or will it get a boost? We'll get the Palestinian and Israeli views.
"LATE EDITION" continues right after this.
BLITZER: "LATE EDITION's" Web question of the week: Should the Israeli government allow Yasser Arafat to be buried in Jerusalem? You can vote right now. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results coming up later in our program.
But up next, target: Falluja. Our two top U.S. military generals continue to assess the battle that's looming.
You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
We are talking about the looming ground offensive against insurgents in Falluja with two guests: the former NATO supreme allied commander, retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan, and retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General Terry Murray.
Urban warfare -- both of you served in Vietnam. You know what it's like; you fought there. There has been comparisons, this might be the most significant urban warfare since the battle of Hue in Vietnam.
How difficult is it, this kind of hand-to-hand, block-to-block, street-to-street fighting?
JOULWAN: Very, very difficult. It takes tremendous discipline on the part of the troops and their leaders. And the collateral damage issue is always going to come up.
BLITZER: There's about a quarter of a million people who live in Falluja.
BLITZER: But 70 percent supposedly have left.
JOULWAN: Hopefully most of them have gone.
Again, this gets back to the constraints on the troops in rules of engagement. Remember, the thunder run that was made in Baghdad where the 2nd Brigade 3rd Infantry Division just stormed down, guns ablazing.
Do they have those sort of rules of engagement for Falluja, or is it much more constrained and cautious? That's a key issue.
BLITZER: And the other key issue, General Murray, the Iraqi troops themselves who have been trained by General Petraeus, the U.S. military commander, and other U.S. commanders on the scene.
There is already one report that one commander simply left, the Kurdish commander. He said he didn't want any part of this and went back north.
In the past, they have failed, at least together with the U.S. By and large, they weren't living up to expectations. Will they be there along the Marines and soldiers now?
MURRAY: I think the reality is that they'll be better than they were the last time out. The fact is they have a long, long way to go, and it's our hope that as that force grows, they're going to become more capable.
The bottom line, however, is that, either at the front of the Iraqi forces or at the backside, we are going to have Marines and Army soldiers who will be pressing this pack (ph) into Falluja. And all of those coalition forces that are Americans, they know how to fight in an urban area. A very, very tough environment, but it's something that we train very intensely for.
BLITZER: You want to weigh in on this?
JOULWAN: Well, the issue is, just quickly -- you must have success on the ground. And if that success can be achieved using the Iraqis to do most of the work, fine. If not, the Americans are going to have to assist. But in the end, you must have success in Falluja. BLITZER: The U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan, wrote a letter, and it was cited in The Los Angeles Times. Among other things, he said this: "The threat or actual use of force not only risks deepening the sense of alienation of certain communities, but would also reinforce perceptions among the Iraqi population of a continued military occupation."
In effect, he was weighing in, urging Prime Minister Allawi, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, not to go in, take a military offensive against the insurgents in Falluja.
JOULWAN: This is what I keep talking about, the political side of what we're doing. You now have thousands of young Marines and soldiers with the Iraqis ready to go in. But it is more political than it is military.
And the political clarity needs to be here. Without that, we are going to put a lot of soldiers at risk. Kofi Annan clearly is talking from the U.N. perspective. What influence that will have on President Allawi and our own political leaders may manifest itself in what instructions are given to the troops in Falluja.
MURRAY: Wolf, but what I would argue, also, is that the most fundamental requirement that a government must provide to its people, whether it's in Falluja or in and around the Sunni triangle, is security.
A woman has got to be able to get up in the morning and walk to the drugstore or walk to the grocery store and bring back what she needs without being intimidated by insurgents or terrorists. And that's a circumstance that we have right now in Falluja and elsewhere in the Sunni triangle.
BLITZER: There are about 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq right now. This week, the president, after he was re-elected, was asked if that number is about to go up, especially in advance of the scheduled elections at the end of January in Iraq. Listen to what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have yet to -- I have not sat down with our secretary of defense talking about troop levels. I read some reports during the course of the campaign where some were speculating in the press corps about the number of troops needed to protect elections. That hasn't been brought to my attention yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That speculation included maybe 20,000 more troops, bringing the number up closer to 160,000 in advance of the elections.
What do you think? Are there enough troops, U.S. troops, in Iraq now to get the job done? JOULWAN: Two parts of that. The first, what I did in the Balkans for elections, that you may delay by a month or so those leaving and you may accelerate by a month or so those due to come in, so you have an overlap where you have, 30 days on either side of an election, a larger force.
I've always said that the secure environment that you need, you need to understand the task, and what are those tasks? And that will determine what you need.
It looks like we're going to be now occupying more and more of these cities. That's going to increase what we need.
But the commanders need to really articulate what their requirements are, and we need -- our civilian leaders need to provide those troops.
BLITZER: General Murray?
MURRAY: I think what will determine troop strength on the ground, Wolf, is the ability of the Iraqi forces to begin to operate on their own. And we'll get an inclination as to where that's going to go as we watch the coalition forces in Falluja.
And I would hope that, as the Iraqi conventional military grows to 150,000, I think we believe, in January, that we can progressively put the Iraqi troops at the point, going into Falluja or going into Ramadi or other cities throughout Iraq.
BLITZER: Let's see what happens.
Two generals, thanks to both of you for joining us, General Murray, General Joulwan.
JOULWAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, a check of what's making news right now, including a new round of violence in Baghdad.
Then, with their hopes dashed for the White House this year, will the Democrats look to next -- who will they look to next? We'll ask three prominent members of the Democratic Party.
More "LATE EDITION" straight ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I will also do everything in my power to assure that my party, a proud Democratic Party, stands through to our best hopes and ideals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry giving an emotional concession speech in Boston this past week.
Democrats had high hopes for retaking the White House, but in the end the president won a clear victory in both the Electoral College as well as in the popular vote. Republicans also strengthened their hold on both the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the U.S. Senate.
Joining us now to talk about where Democrats should go from here, three prominent members of that party: In the Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell. He's a former chairman of the DNC. In New York, that city's former mayor, Ed Koch. He supported President Bush's re-election. And here in Washington, political strategist and former campaign manager for Al Gore four years ago, Donna Brazile.
Welcome back to all of you.
And, Governor Rendell, I'll begin with you with a simple question: What went wrong?
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I don't know if anything went wrong in the sense that we were facing a war-time president who had the ace of spades that no one -- there had been no terrorist attack in America since 9/11. Those were powerful things.
Now, did we deliver the message as well as we could? No. Did we take time in responding to the Swift Boat attacks? Too much time. We should have been smacking back right away. I mean, to think that John Kerry, with his war record, and President Bush, with what he did in Vietnam, to think that it became a liability is obviously a weakness in the way we campaigned.
But our core message, if we deliver it right, I think is a message that the majority of Americans agree upon. And we've got to start stressing that moral values are children going to bed hungry while we're give tax cuts to the richest people. We can frame our message in terms of morality.
BLITZER: All right. Governor Rendell, so who do you blame for those failures, the two specific failures you just mentioned, the fact that they didn't, the Democrats, hone their message as effectively as they should have and that the Democrats were slow in responding to the criticisms of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, as they were called?
RENDELL: Well, obviously, in the latter, that has to go to the campaign. But in terms of not honing our message and putting it the right way, that's a failing of the party.
For example, we're not pro-abortion, Wolf. We want to see the number of abortions come down with education, prevention and increased adoptions. But we believe that, in the last analysis, it's the women's right to choose.
That's a whole lot better way of framing our message than we've been doing in the past as a party. That is not just John Kerry's fault. I think that goes across the board. BLITZER: Ed Koch, you're a good Democrat. You served as mayor of New York as a Democrat. You were a member of the House of Representatives as a Democrat, but you supported President Bush's re- election this time.
What do you believe went wrong for the Democrats?
ED KOCH, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Well, first, it's a pleasure to be on with Donna and Ed Rendell. The governor and I go back a long time.
I disagree with the governor on his last comment, when he said, you know, we're not the party that supports abortion. I support the right of abortion, but I also oppose partial-birth abortion.
And the Democratic Party overwhelmingly conveyed no, and led the fight on the floor many, many times, the California senator did that.
And, instead of coming up with a proposal which would say, "Yes, the Supreme Court says that you have to have the health exception, but we're going to narrow it so that it only relates to reproduction of, you know, of children and not some other health exemption that you can drive a Mack truck through."
Similarly, if Kerry at Radio City had stood up and denounced Whoopi Goldberg's vile obscenities directed at the president and did instead what President Clinton did when he was in the presence of Sister Souljah and denounced her call in the lyrics that she was using for the killing of cops, it would have made clear that the Democratic Party is overwhelmingly made up of centrists, as opposed to the view that we are made up of radicals.
BLITZER: Let's let Donna Brazile weigh in.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't believe it's a question that our values are outside the mainstream, but perhaps the mainstream really do not hear our values.
The majority of Americans remain pro-choice. The majority of Americans still support civil unions.
The problem, I think, is that we competed on a limited political landscape. The political terrain that Karl Rove and the Republicans had was vast. It was huge.
Before one vote was cast, George Bush had 202 electoral votes because we gave up on the South, with the exception of Florida. We gave up on the Southwest.
I think if Democrats expand their electoral landscape, if Democratic candidates outside the Beltway can go out there and compete effectively, then I believe the national party can do the same.
BLITZER: Well, let me bring back Governor Rendell. I want to put up on the screen, Governor Rendell, the final map, the Electoral College, showing the blue states, which went to Kerry, the red states, which went to Bush.
And take a look: The entire South, including Florida, went for red, went for Bush. The blue states, New York and California being the two biggest.
Was there a flawed strategy, as Donna Brazile suggests, in sort of just giving up on the South, with the exception of Florida?
RENDELL: I think so. When we compete for such a small amount of states, we have no margin of error. 70,000 votes in Ohio, 70,000 votes changed, we win. But it's a small margin of error.
I think we have got to be more competitive in the Arizonas, in the Virginias, in the North Carolinas. I think we should compete. I think we should continue to compete in Louisiana and Arkansas and states like that.
The problem is we have such a small margin of error now, we have to pretty much go eight for 10 or nine for 10 on election night. We almost did. We almost went eight for 10 on election night. If we had won Ohio, we would have won the electoral vote regardless of the popular vote.
But it's too narrow a scope, and we've got to start contending. I know we can win in Arizona and Nevada and New Mexico in the future. I have no doubt about that. But I also think we can win in Missouri and Arkansas and places like that.
BLITZER: But, Governor Rendell, let's get back to Ohio for a second. Because, as you say, Bush won by, what, about 140,000 votes. So take 70,000 away, Kerry potentially -- even though he lost by 3.5 million votes nationally -- if he would have gotten those 20 electoral votes in Ohio, he'd be president-elect right now. So it's a tiny, tiny margin.
But given the economic problems, the unemployment, the loss of manufacturing jobs in Ohio, why couldn't he win Ohio?
RENDELL: Well, again, number one, give Karl Rove and the Republicans credit for increasing their base vote. If you looked at Ohio county by county, you saw everywhere where President Bush won in 2000, he won by a greater margin in 2004. Now, we did a great job in the cities, in Cleveland and Columbus, in increasing our core vote, but so did they. That's number one.
Number two, remember, it is not easy to beat a war-time president with the extra layer of protecting terrorism. When President Bush was able to say, "We're fighting terrorism over there, not here," that resonated with a lot of people. If 9/11 had never happened and we didn't invade Iraq, I think John Kerry would have won over 300 electoral votes.
BLITZER: All right, Mayor Koch, we're going to take a quick break. I'm going to pick up with you when we come back.
Much more of this conversation. What's ahead for the Democratic Party? Our panel will continue to stay with us. We'll see what they have to say. We'll also ask them who they expect to emerge as a White House potential candidate in 2008. Who are the leaders of the Democratic Party right now?
Stay with "LATE EDITION."
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're talking about the future of the Democratic Party after this year's defeat with three guests, all of them Democrats: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.
Mayor Koch, you supported the president because of what you said was his strong position in fighting the war on terror. Looking back on that one issue and your decision, despite the fact you disagree with him on so many other issues, how many Democrats were out there along your lines, based on what you could tell, campaigning around the country?
KOCH: Enough to elect the president, or re-elect him.
But let me say this. I think the most important thing for the Democrats to do now is to select the moderates in the party who are leaders, not the Ted Kennedys, but the -- well, Governor Rendell would be one such person, Gephardt -- there are a number of them -- and come together and talk about the controversial issues, for example, gay marriage.
I happen to support the gay marriage, but the reason is I want those people to have the same benefits that you have as a result of marriage. And if the Democrats understood that there are lots of people who accept the unfairness of it and want to change it but prefer to call it civil unions, why not work along those lines?
BLITZER: Would you support your fellow New Yorker, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, if she decided to run for president?
KOCH: I did when she ran for the Senate, and I've already said 1600 times that I want to send her to the White House.
BLITZER: Donna Brazile, you wrote on Friday in Slate magazine, online, you wrote, "It's time to tap into the Obama factor," referring to Senator-elect Barack Obama from Illinois, "scour state houses for young, energetic, inspiring and emerging leaders with the ability to connect the head and heart. Too many of the old Democratic guard have stayed in Washington, D.C. too long to fully recognize how most Americans live their lives." All right. Scour the landscape for us. Who do you see as emerging leaders that potentially could run for president?
BRAZILE: Well, I agreed with Mayor Koch that Ed Rendell's name should be -- yes, Governor, you know how much I respect you and respect your enormous political skills.
We have Governor Sebelius of Kansas, Governor Napolitano of Arizona, Governor Easley of North Carolina, Governor Warner of Virginia. We have terrific, strong governors. My home-state governor, Governor Blanco of Louisiana.
So I think we need to look around this country and try to tap into the real strong...
BLITZER: I hear all of those are governors. What about senators and members of the House?
BRAZILE: I think it's tough. I think given what we've learned over the last couple of years, the last 20 years, that the American people really like, you know, candidates with executive experience. So why not tap into the pool of Democratic talent that we have across the country?
BLITZER: Governor Rendell, Bill Clinton was a former governor of Arkansas. Jimmy Carter was a former governor of Georgia. Democrats who are former governors seem to have a pretty good chance, especially if they're from the South.
Who do you like, looking down the road?
RENDELL: Well, I agree with Donna on Governor Warner of Virginia, a brilliant governor and has done a great job.
I would add Tom Vilsack, the governor of Iowa, who, as you know, Wolf, almost made it on to the ticket. And who knows, would that have been a different result? Who knows?
And Governor Easley, who won a big victory in North Carolina while we were getting shellacked at the presidential and senatorial level.
But I would add one senator, who I think, in addition to Hillary Clinton, should be looked at because of his strong foreign relations background and his strong background on terrorism, and that's Joe Biden, somebody who I would have liked to have seen on the ticket as our vice presidential choice.
BLITZER: Have you got any trips, Governor Rendell, to New Hampshire or Iowa coming up any time soon?
RENDELL: No. I have trips to Tioga and Warren County and Potter County, Pennsylvania.
BLITZER: All right. Ed Koch, button this all up for us. And you speak with a certain perspective. I assume if the Bush administration, that -- you supported the president's re-election. If they came to you and asked you if you'd be interested in serving this administration, I assume, but correct me if I'm wrong, you'd probably say no. But would you say yes?
KOCH: Nobody says "no" to the president. And if the president asks you to do something, you do it.
Am I happy doing what I'm doing now? I'm 80 years old. I'm very involved.
RENDELL: You're the youngest 80 in America.
KOCH: Yes. But I am enjoying life, and it's nice to be relevant.
BLITZER: All right. You certainly are relevant. All of you are relevant.
Thanks to all of you: Governor Rendell, Mayor Koch, Donna Brazile. Appreciate it very much.
BRAZILE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Still ahead, the end of an era: a power shift among Palestinians as their long-time leader Yasser Arafat lays critically ill. We'll get the Palestinian view on the impact on the Middle East.
And don't forget our "LATE EDITION" Web question of the week: "Should the Israeli government allow Yasser Arafat to be buried in Jerusalem?" You could vote right now. Go to cnn.com/lateedition.
We'll take a quick break. More coming up.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
We'll get Palestinian and Israeli perspective on a critically ill Yasser Arafat, his legacy, and the future of the Middle East in just a few minutes.
First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.
BLITZER: More now on our top story. U.S. and Iraqi forces gearing up for an intense ground assault against insurgent forces in Falluja. That operation could get under way literally at any time.
CNN's Jane Arraf is near Falluja, embedded with the U.S. Army. She's joining us by phone with more.
What is the latest, Jane?
JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're not giving a time yet for this assault, but clearly they are getting ready.
Now, what we saw today were rehearsals going on in preparation, soldiers checking their weapons, Marines going through their drills, and in final preparations for an attack timing as yet unknown.
Essentially, pep talks by the commanders. Now, the Army unit that we're with, the colonel in charge was telling his men that this is the route home for all U.S. forces, that no one gets to go home essentially until the insurgents are gone. And to get the insurgents out of this country, they have to be taken care of in Falluja.
We heard similar messages from Marine commanders, as well, speaking to their men, saying they are going to go in when they go in with decisive force and they are going to end this.
This is very much seen as a decisive battle. In fact, one of the Marine colonels was telling his men that this is classically a battle between good and evil. And that is the attitude that these mostly men and young women are gearing up for.
BLITZER: We heard earlier from our colleague, Karl Penhaul. He's embedded with the Marines outside Falluja. Jane, you're embedded with the U.S. Army outside Falluja. I take it this is a joint Marine-Army operation together with Iraqi troops?
ARRAF: It's actually the biggest operation that we've seen so far. The Marines have been saying it could be their most intense fighting since Vietnam, and it certainly is the biggest challenge that they've faced so far.
Falluja in their minds has become command-and-control center for the rest of the insurgency. In fact, they're not calling it an insurgency. The commanders are making clear when they talk to their men about what they're about to do, that these are not insurgents. They are criminals and terrorists, is how they term it.
They also acknowledge that this could be very, very messy. This is a city where up to 100,000 people are still in their homes, despite warnings to leave. And this is a fight -- it has been made completely clear that this is going to be a fight to the end, that the U.S. troops will not leave until they're confident that they have ended the insurgency that exists there.
BLITZER: Jane Arraf embedded with the U.S. Army outside Falluja.
Be careful. Thanks very much. Good luck to you. The Falluja offensive comes as part of an effort on the part of the interim Iraqi government to demonstrate that it's firmly in control of the country.
Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, joining us now live from Baghdad with more.
We heard earlier, Nic, that a state of emergency for 60 days has been imposed by Iyad Allawi, the prime minister.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That state of emergency, Wolf, covers the whole of Iraq, except the Kurdish area in the north.
What it does is give Iyad Allawi, the prime minister, increased powers, "extraordinary authorities," they're called. He will, for example, be able to make speedy military decisions. He will be able to call on the multinational forces, if he deems it necessary to have them deal with a problem. He will able to impose curfews and do a number of other things that the government has been doing up to this time.
What it does is it puts the powers more firmly in the control of the prime minister. He is able to delegate them down to other senior government officials, other military commanders, if he so chooses. But it makes him, at this time, a more powerful man in Iraq.
And this on a day, as well, when there was a concerted effort, apparently a coordinated attack on three different police stations about 120 miles northwest of Baghdad. At least 21 people were killed. An eyewitness said nine policemen were taken out of a police station, they were lined up against the wall, and all of them shot dead in one burst of shooting. The hospital officials in the area say a senior police official was also killed.
So this comes on a day, for the Iraqi government, a second day of very intense attacks, very focused attacks by the insurgents, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic, I don't anyone should be under any illusions, but update our viewers. Assuming this military offensive against the insurgency in Falluja works out according to what the U.S. and Iraqi government wants, there are still plenty of other places in Iraq where the insurgency remains rather robust as well.
ROBERTSON: Just look at what's been happening in the last two days, Wolf. South of Baghdad today, the coalition in a battle, along with Iraqi forces, fighting insurgents, six civilians killed, four wounded. That's 30 miles south of Baghdad.
Ramadi, to the west of Falluja, that town has been another hotbed for the insurgency.
Where the police were killed today, again, not far from Ramadi and Falluja, that town clearly a problem.
Yesterday, a high insurgency attack in the town of Samarra, 34 people killed. A month ago, the 1st Infantry Division, 3,000 U.S. troops backed by 2,000 Iraqi troops went in. At the time, the commander of the 1st Infantry Division said that it cleaned out the city of insurgents, this was a model for the future of Iraq.
So, just a handful of cities in the last few days kicking up problems. The coalition's certainly very aware of that, but the root, they believe, of the problem is Falluja, and that's the place they believe is the place to start, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Baghdad for us.
Thank you very much, Nic.
Now let's move on to the ailing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He remains hospitalized in Paris, and there are conflicting reports about his actual condition. There are also new developments regarding the Palestinian leadership.
CNN's Michael Holmes is joining us live from the West Bank city of Ramallah with more.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORREPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Yes, well, for the first time since Yasser Arafat left the Palestinian Authority headquarters compound behind me, the caretakers of the Palestinian Authority, the prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, and the former prime minister and top PLO official, Mahmoud Abbas, have decided that they are going to go to Paris.
They're going to leave as soon as is practical. We're told they'll be going by private plane to Paris to see Yasser Arafat themselves, to get a sense of what the situation there, to talk to his wife Suha, who has been involved, really running the amount of information that's being released about his condition until now.
What does it mean? Does it mean that they are there to simply do that, see the situation for themselves? Does it mean they're going there to make some sort of announcement? That's all really just speculation at the moment. What we do know is that they are likely to leave in the next few hours and head for Paris.
Now, earlier, we were told that the former head of security in Gaza, Mohammad Dahlan, was coming here from Paris. He's been there for the last few days, since Yasser Arafat went there. He was coming back here to talk to Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qureia. Well, he was enroute when the decision was made for them to go. It's unknown whether he will return. We do know that he was involved in discussions with Suha Arafat about getting the Palestinian leadership more involved in the decision-making regarding Yasser Arafat and where things go from here, were he to die, Wolf.
BLITZER: Michael Holmes, with the latest from Ramallah.
We'll be checking back with you. Thank you very much.
And just a short while ago, just before word of this delegation going to Paris to meet with Yasser Arafat, I spoke with the Palestinian foreign minister, Nabil Sha'ath. We spoke about the condition of Yasser Arafat and much more.
BLITZER: Nabil Sha'ath, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's get right to the issue at hand, Yasser Arafat and his health. What's the latest information you're getting from the hospital in Paris?
NABIL SHA'ATH, PALESTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, the latest information, about half an hour ago, is that his condition is stable. It's almost the same as it was three days ago. He is in a coma, but it's a reversible coma. All his vital functions are fine, OK. There is no brain damage, no liver damage, no damage at all to his vital organs. But we do not know what is the reason for this coma and when will he come out of it.
BLITZER: When you say it was a reversible coma, was the coma induced by doctors, or did he simply fall into the coma?
SHA'ATH: Well, we know that he was subjected to a lot of sedation in order to conduct investigations, like colonoscopy and gastroscopy and so on, and these required that he be sedated. But it appears that he is still in that state of loss of full consciousness. But because the monitors show that everything else is fine, the doctors feel that it is reversible.
BLITZER: What about his liver? There have been reports out there that he's got a serious -- some sort of liver problem. Is that true?
SHA'ATH: That is not true. And all kinds of information that has really been disinformation about it has really proven false.
The truth of the matter is what I just told you. There is no regression, there is no deterioration in any of his vital organs, but he remains in a coma.
BLITZER: Is it fair to say, based on what the doctors have told you, he's near death?
SHA'ATH: Well, I don't talk directly to the doctors, you understand, but I understand that the doctors are satisfied that all the tests they've conducted and all the examinations they have done revealed no specific damage nor specific reason for his state of affairs, but that his condition is stable, and therefore his coma is reversible.
BLITZER: What about all this preparation? As you well know, there has been a lot of discussion of where he will be buried once he does die -- and we don't know if he will anytime soon. What do you think is the best, under all circumstances, for a burial at this time?
SHA'ATH: Nobody here is talking about a burial. The Israelis are the only party that is talking about burials. They think they can decide for us where he should be buried and where he shouldn't be buried. It's wishful thinking, probably, or a little bit more than that. It lacks the dignity that should be given to a man of President Arafat's stature and his health.
I think the least discussed this the better. And I think that, in due course, if that becomes necessary, I don't think it should take so much time to make a decision. At this time, we are very much concerned with his recovery rather than with his burial.
BLITZER: There has been some speculation out there that he perhaps could be buried in a temporary site and then moved to Jerusalem after there is an independent Palestinian state. Do you think that would be acceptable? Would that be appropriate?
SHA'ATH: Well, as I said, I'd rather really that we do not discuss that at this time, particularly after the discussions that were very inciteful that came out of the Israeli leaders.
We feel that this is not the time to discuss that issue, and when the time comes, I think we will discuss it first in discretion, and when we make a final decision we will go public. The alternatives are here, the options are there, but this is not the time for decision- making.
BLITZER: The prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, is he in charge of the Palestinian Authority now, while Yasser Arafat is in Paris in this hospital?
SHA'ATH: Ahmed Qureia is the prime minister. He was also the vice president of the National Security Council. So he is also taking charge of the National Security Council.
On the other hand, Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas, is now in charge of the executive committee of the PLO, and also, because of his position in the central committee of Fatah, he is also leading that organ.
Everybody is handling the kind of position to which he was deputy. And everything is going on as usual. People really feel it's their duty to continue and to create as much unity and calm that is possible. And I think we are succeeding in more ways than one.
BLITZER: There has been talk of a younger generation of Palestinians emerging at some point down the road to take charge, people like Mohammad Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub, as you well know. Do you see them as future leaders of the Palestinian community?
SHA'ATH: Well, I don't see anybody. I think this is what the democratic process ought to decide. There are many candidates, and any decision made by others is really, at this stage, nondemocratic. To continue things as usual is necessary.
But the decision about leaders, who will take over, should be left to the voters, to the Palestinian voters through a democratic election.
I hope that this will become possible as Israel goes back with us to a peace process that allows the withdrawal from towns and villages and, therefore, we need the shortest possible time to head to the polls and to make these choices democratically.
BLITZER: Do you see an opportunity to jumpstart, to revive the peace process now? President Bush, as you know, has just been re- elected. He's got a new administration -- four years. He doesn't have to worry about getting elected again. He can't serve another term.
What do you expect? What do you want to come out of Washington in the short term?
SHA'ATH: Well, look, we have to put together now a government according to our constitution. The speaker of the house when and if President Arafat dies or becomes totally incapacitated, the speaker of the house becomes president of the Authority for 60 days, during which he prepares for an election.
Now, President Arafat was such a unique historical leader who was also an elected leader, but he was like the George Washington of the Palestinian people. I don't think any future president will enjoy such stature.
And therefore, we might go through a process of constitutional change as the Palestinian state becomes close. And therefore, the positions of president, prime minister and so on and the tenure of each of those will really be significantly revised, because I think we have a unique leadership in President Arafat that is very difficult to repeat.
BLITZER: And a final question: What do you expect, what would you like to see emerging from the Bush administration, from President Bush right now?
SHA'ATH: Well, we would like President Bush really to have more time invested in this peace process. He had promised that when he declared in June of 2002 his commitment to an independent state of Palestine side by side with the state of Israel and when he chaperoned and blessed the road map in which the quartet really makes the decisions.
We also heard him talk to many leaders before his election. And now we've heard him make a statement after his election committing himself again to an independent Palestinian state and to a negotiated process.
And I hope that President Bush will do just that. I think that will be the best for Israelis and Palestinians. I hope it will also be the best for America and the rest of the world.
BLITZER: Nabil Sha'ath, joining us from Ramallah. I appreciate it very much. Thank you.
SHA'ATH: Thank you.
BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll get a different perspective. We'll go live to Israel, talk with the editor of the Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz.
Then, Bush versus Kerry. Last week, our panel of White House and political veterans gave their predictions. Now, we'll get their post- election analysis.
"LATE EDITION" continues right after this short break.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
The apparent end of the Arafat era poses a new set of challenges for Israel and the United States. Joining us now from Jerusalem, the editor of the Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz.
David, thank you very much for joining us.
What are Israelis saying about a possible burial site for Yasser Arafat?
DAVID HOROVITZ, EDITOR, "JERUSALEM POST": I think most Israelis are saying to themselves that if Yasser Arafat had chosen to make peace with Israel, it really wouldn't be Israel's say as to whether he would be buried in East Jerusalem or not, because of course he would have had a stake in Jerusalem.
But because he condition the establishment of his Palestinian state on the destruction of ours -- I think that would be the Israeli consensual view -- while Israel is now saying to him, "No, you'll have no place in Jerusalem. You didn't make the shift from terrorist to statesman. And you'll be buried somewhere else."
BLITZER: When you say somewhere else, what does that mean? What would the Israeli government allow?
HOROVITZ: I think the Israeli government would be perfectly OK with a burial in the Gaza Strip, for example. Relatives of Arafat's are buried in a cemetery outside Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip.
In fact, there have been indications from the government that they would be amenable to sort of easing entry requirements and so on for, how should we put it, certain Arab leaders or regional leaders who don't look too kindly on Israel.
So I think there's a certain amount of goodwill, but it's limited. It's humanitarian gestures to somebody who, like I say, 10 years ago, Israel was shaking hands with him, he was winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but the overwhelming view here now is that he conned Israelis, he never gave up terrorism, and nobody is too sorry about his demise.
BLITZER: There have been other options that have been floated out there, ranging from Ramallah, a small little village outside Jerusalem called Abu Dis. There's been suggestions of maybe Jordan or Egypt or even Tunisia. All these various options being described as temporary until there's a Palestinian state and his body could be moved to Jerusalem.
What are you hearing?
HOROVITZ: Yes, we're hearing most of those things. I think Egypt has been coming to the fore a little bit of late.
The notion of Abu Dis, which is indeed a sort of village half in and half out of municipal Jerusalem, has been rejected by Israel, as far as I understand. In other words, it would be close enough to Jerusalem to be objectionable to the Israeli authorities.
BLITZER: There's been a lot of talk now of these two prime ministers, one current, one former, of the Palestinian Authority, Ahmed Qureia and Mahmoud Abbas, who are now headed in the coming hours to Paris to talk with officials there, I assume, on Yasser Arafat.
These are two individuals that the Israeli government, several Israeli governments, said they're willing to deal with. So Israel has a sort of delicate tight rope right now. On the one hand, they want to deal with these two guys. On the other, they don't want to embrace them and give them, in effect, the kiss of death.
HOROVITZ: Yes, that's very true. The hostility to Israel among ordinary Palestinians is such that the last thing that Israel can do with leaders with whom it wants to be a partnership is be overtly complimentary to them. If you have Israeli credibility, you lose your Palestinian credibility.
But you're right. Not only has the current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon indicated readiness to work with these two gentlemen, but last year Mahmoud Abbas was briefly the Palestinian prime minister and effectively, I think we can say, tried to usurp Yasser Arafat. Ariel Sharon really did begin to build a partnership with him. And only really when Arafat prevented Abbas effectively usurping him did that partnership fall apart.
I think that the new incarnation, if you like, of Ariel Sharon, the Ariel Sharon who's getting ready to quit the Gaza Strip, the Ariel Sharon who is getting ready to evacuate settlements without an agreement unilaterally, would actually be rather pleased if, from the ashes of the Arafat era, rises Mahmoud Abbas as a relatively moderate prime minister with whom he can build even the beginning of a partnership.
Sharon is pulling out of territory without a partner. He would much rather coordinate.
BLITZER: So, bottom line, I sense, from what you're saying, David, is that after Yasser Arafat, there may be a fresh opportunity to get the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track. Is that what you're saying?
HOROVITZ: Well, that's an incredibly optimistic way of putting it, and I wouldn't be anywhere near that optimistic.
I don't think we've had a little blip here. I think we had, really, Yasser Arafat in the last four years, since the Camp David effort at peacemaking, poisoning Palestinian minds, whipping up hostility against Israel, to the extent where it will require incredible courage and a fair amount of time for a new Palestinian leadership to start, if it wants to, to educate its people to compromise in coexistence.
If that begins to happen, with time, gradually, yes, you may have the beginnings of the hope of a new partnership. The irony of course being that Yasser Arafat will be mourned by his people who see him as the man who sought statehood for them, when, of course, the would have had their state, could have had their state so many times over, from the Israeli point of view, if only Arafat hadn't conditioned that state on the elimination of ours.
BLITZER: David Horovitz, the editor of the Jerusalem Post, joining us from Jerusalem.
David, thank you very much.
This note to our viewers: We had asked the Israeli government, the government of Prime Minister Sharon, for a spokesman to join us on "LATE EDITION." Given the sensitivities involved right now, they declined to make anyone of an official nature available.
Up next, a check of what's making news right now, including the latest on the conflict in the Ivory Coast.
Then, how will he govern in a second term? We'll ask our distinguished panel of political insiders about President Bush and his agenda over the next four years.
Stay with "LATE EDITION."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital. And now I intend to spend it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A winning President Bush signaling he plans to take advantage of his victory.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Helping us sort through the final days of the campaign, the election results, and how the president will spend that political capital, our returning panel of experts. They joined us last week; they're back.
In California, the former Clinton White House chief of staff, Leon Panetta; from across the Atlantic, he's in London right now, the former Reagan White House chief of staff, Ken Duberstein; here in Washington, John Podesta, also a former chief of staff for the Clinton White House; and in New York, the former governor of New Jersey as well as a former Bush Cabinet member, Christie Todd Whitman.
Thanks to all of you for coming back a second week.
We asked all of you at the end of last week to predict the final results in the U.S. Electoral College. I'll put up what you each predicted.
Christie Todd Whitman predicted Bush would win with 278 to Kerry's 260.
270 needed to be elected president.
Ken Duberstein predicted 286 for Bush to Kerry's 250.
Leon Panetta predicted Kerry would win with 275 to Bush's 263.
John Podesta predicted 290 for Kerry to 248 for Bush.
Guess who won? Ken Duberstein was precise. He was exact.
How did you know, Ken Duberstein, that it would come to those specific numbers, 286 to 252?
KEN DUBERSTEIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, Wolf, I could tell you that I looked at all sorts of polling data and the cross tabs and everything else, but the honest answer is it's better to be lucky than good.
BLITZER: Well, you were very lucky and you were very good.
John Podesta, you were very bad. What happened?
JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I'm eating crow here this afternoon. You know, I predicted he would win both Ohio and Florida. He came very close in Ohio. That was the difference between winning and losing. But actually, in Florida, he fell way off the mark.
BLITZER: What happened in Florida? Because we were all led to believe it would be a lot closer in Florida.
PODESTA: You know, the polling going into it looked good for Kerry. The polling on Election Day looked pretty good for Kerry. But obviously President Bush and his team had a game plan to really go in and expand their electorate, particularly in the center part of the state, and get a lot of new voters to the polls. So 1.5 million people more voted in Florida. But as I said, President Bush won by 400,000 votes so you've got to take your hats off to his team.
BLITZER: A lot more than the 537 that Al Gore lost by four years ago.
Leon Panetta, you were closer than John Podesta was, but you still predicted Kerry would win. What do you think went wrong for Kerry?
LEON PANETTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, Wolf, for six hours on Tuesday afternoon, both John and I were right for a while.
But obviously, it came down to Ohio. Ohio was the difference. And if Kerry had won Ohio, he would be president of the United States. In losing Ohio, that was the ball game.
And I think it came down to, obviously, the issues that everybody has identified: not only the president's position on terrorism, but obviously the president's position on values. The people in Ohio seem to share those positions a great deal and came out and voted.
And the Republicans did a very good job getting their base out to vote. That made the difference.
BLITZER: Governor Whitman, you accurately predicted that the president would be re-elected.
Let's talk a little bit about what the Republicans did right this time. What were some of the most important decisions they made that got the president re-elected?
CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: New registration. I mean, there was a massive effort all across the country to register Republicans, register new voters. And then of course a great focus on "get out the vote," as we talked about last week. It's going to come down to that, who got their voters to the polls. And they had really an extraordinary operation in place.
Speaking for New Jersey, where I was co-chair of the campaign, we had activities in every single county. We had volunteers in untold numbers who were making telephone calls, going door to door. And there was just a very, very strong effort.
The president carried the message. Then it was up to the organizations in the states and at the local level to get out that vote.
BLITZER: Ken Duberstein, the fact that he got 51 percent of the popular vote, a majority, the first time since 1988 that a president has been elected with a majority of votes, that's significant because it sets the stage for what Republicans are saying, the president now has a mandate to implement various reforms he's proposed during the campaign, even earlier.
Listen to what the vice president said this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the election of 2004, we did more than campaign on a record. President Bush ran forthrightly on a clear agenda for this nation's future. And the nation responded by giving him a mandate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How much of a mandate, Ken Duberstein, do you think the president has to take charge and to reform, for example, Social Security or the tax code?
DUBERSTEIN: Well, Wolf, I think he has a broad mandate. His victory was clear, it was decisive, it was unambiguous.
And it is not only the president's victory, but it's also the United States Senate, being increased by four Republican members. There's a huge difference between 55 and 51 senators. And also in the House of Representatives, picking up four or five seats.
So I think across the board the president scored a huge victory and a mandate, not only to reform Social Security, but also that they can look at tax fairness and tax simplification, but energy policy, legal reform. I think it is across the board.
And I think that the president acknowledged that he was going to reach out to the Democrats, as well, to see if he can start changing the tone in Washington. He is going to do that, but he also expects that the Democrats to reach back, because after all, not only is Pennsylvania Avenue a two-way street, but the president is the one who won. The Republicans won. So the Democrats have to meet him at least halfway.
BLITZER: This week, when the president had that first news conference after his re-election, he spoke about reforming Social Security, getting the intelligence community reforms in place, reforming the tax code, reducing the nation's deficit.
Does he have a mandate, John Podesta?
PODESTA: Well, I think he's going to act like he has a mandate. But, quite frankly, I think you can overstate what the people were saying on Election Day. I think they clearly thought that he had more conviction, if you will, in the war on terror. And I think these social issues played into the president's advantage.
But when it came to the economy, I don't think there's anything in any polling leading up to the election or the exit polling coming out of it that would suggest that people have a strong sense -- or are strongly behind the direction that he's leading them.
BLITZER: Because John Kerry and the Democrats hammered and hammered and hammered on the issue of tax cuts for the wealthy. But he was re-elected despite that kind of sharp criticism. PODESTA: Well, again, Wolf, I think he was re-elected, and if you look at the way that the president ran his campaign, it was almost all on this issue of terrorism and then, underneath the surface, on the issues of gay marriage and these other questions.
BLITZER: Governor Whitman, you served in the Bush Cabinet. How much of a mandate do you think he has, specifically on some of the social issues which divide not only the country but divide the Republican Party itself?
WHITMAN: Well, look, the president said where his focus is going to be.
As you know, first terms, first administrations are for starting to deliver on your campaign promises and getting ready for the re- election. The second term is all about solidifying those promises that you made and leaving a legacy.
And the president has talked about what his priorities are going to be. They are going to be on making permanent the tax cut, continuing a successful war against terrorism in this country and finishing up the job in Iraq. They're going to be about Social Security reform, education reform.
These are the kinds of things on which the president is going to focus. I don't think you'll see him spending a lot of time on some of the other social issues that were talked about.
The challenge there is going to come with the Congress, because there are some very, very conservative members who were elected who are going to want to see perhaps a different agenda than what the president would like to see. And I hope he is going to be able to keep that focus where he wants it, because he's talked about reaching out and he's talked about solving some very important problems this country faces.
BLITZER: Well, Governor Whitman, Leon Panetta, makes a good point, that the social conservatives in the Congress are going to want to see action. They worked hard to get this president re-elected. They worked hard to get that voter turnout.
They're going to want to see some action on some of these divisive issues, whether a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage or further restricting a woman's right to have an abortion in the United States.
So how far can or should the president go?
WHITMAN: Well, I mean, clearly, they are going to want to...
PANETTA: I think...
WHITMAN: ... they're going to want to see action there. But I don't think that necessarily you're going to get that from the president. That's not going to be where his focus is.
BLITZER: All right.
What do you think, Leon Panetta?
PANETTA: I think that's going to be the president's biggest challenge, if he's really serious about trying to reach out and create the kind of consensus he's going to need on these other issues.
The president of the United States has to understand that, with the unified government -- and he has that, with both the House and the Senate -- that can be dangerous, because it can raise the excesses of the party during that time. That's one of the dangers of having unified government. That's why it's better, probably, to have checks and balances.
But if, in fact, there is kind of this payback approach, whereby they come in and basically say, we are going to nail home a constitutional amendment on gay marriage, we're going to nail home a constitutional amendment to prohibit abortion, if he starts with those kinds of divisive issues, then there's no way that we're going to be able to see Republicans and Democrats get together.
If, on the other hand, he focuses on setting those issues aside, and focuses on Social Security reform, if he focuses on the deficit issue -- and let's be clear, this deficit issue is going to consume almost everything this president's talking about.
If he wants to deal with Social Security, if he wants to deal with tax reform, if he wants to deal with health care, he's going to have to confront the deficit issue. And the only way he's going to do that is if he builds a bipartisan consensus.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to pick up on that thought, but we'll take a quick and short break.
Our panel will stay with us. More on what to expect from the next Bush administration. Stay with "LATE EDITION."
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
We're assessing the U.S. presidential election results and what they mean for President Bush, the Democrats and the Republicans, with our guests: Leon Panetta, Ken Duberstein, John Podesta and Christie Todd Whitman.
Ken Duberstein, I'll come back to you, because you were perfect in predicting how the Electoral College outcome in this election. Predict to us some of the Cabinet changes we can expect over the next few weeks, maybe months.
The president met with his Cabinet this past week, but there's a lot of speculation that several high-ranking officials may want to leave or may be pushed. Among those, your good friend, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Tom Ridge, John Snow, the Treasury secretary, Tommy Thompson, Rod Paige, Norman Mineta. Give us your bottom-line assessment, what you think is likely and unlikely.
DUBERSTEIN: I think there is going to be a broad sweep. I don't mean everybody, but I mean many Cabinet officials and White House staff who have stayed for four years. That's an awful long time. There's a lot of burnout. They need some renewed energy.
And so I would think there will be a number of Cabinet changes. And I think that's what the president's been contemplating at Camp David this weekend. And I think you'll see it play out over the next few months.
But I don't think there is any rush to the door. I think this is going to be slow, it's going to be deliberate. And people who want to leave for family reasons or to get on with the rest of their lives.
BLITZER: John Podesta, there's always changes in a second term. When you served in the second term of the Clinton administration, you saw many changes unfold then.
How important would it be for the president to reach out to a Democrat or Democrats and try to bring them into his Cabinet?
PODESTA: Well, I think you could kind of overstate that, to some extent. I think we brought in Senator then Secretary Cohen to run the Defense Department...
BLITZER: William Cohen.
PODESTA: ... William Cohen. And, you know, I think that was very helpful, actually, in the second term of the administration. But, ultimately, the president sets the direction.
And he obviously I think needs to strengthen his economic team.
But I think where you see the first change is probably going to be at defense and on the people who kind of brought you what we're going through in Iraq.
BLITZER: When you say defense, you're suggesting Don Rumsfeld may be leaving? Is that what you're saying?
PODESTA: I would that that's -- whether it's between now and January 20th or sometime next year, I would think that's in the cards.
BLITZER: Because everything I hear, Governor Whitman, is that he doesn't want to leave. He wants to finish the job. If he were to leave now, sort of mid-term, without a success in Iraq, at least not yet, before the elections, he might be seen as being pushed as opposed to leaving on his own terms.
I don't know what you're hearing, but if you want to weigh in, Governor Whitman, this is a good time.
WHITMAN: Well, first of all, it's the president's decision. It's not the Cabinet office's decision. And I've known Don Rumsfeld for a very long time, but ultimately, at the end the day, if the president would ask him to think about moving on, he would. I mean, that's what you do as a Cabinet official.
I'm sure he would like to stay. He's got reforms of the military on which he's been very focused that he would like to carry out. But it's not going to be his decision, at the end.
And you will see people who have been there for a long time -- I mean, this has been a very stable administration, both in the Cabinet and in the White House staff. You've got a lot of people who are tired. They are burned out. And they're going to want to move on.
But it will, I agree with Ken, it'll be a slower process than what many people expect. It will be a deliberate process, so you keep some institutional knowledge in place at the same time you're bringing in some new blood.
BLITZER: All right.
Leon Panetta, let me read to you from an editorial in Friday's Los Angeles Times suggesting that Bill Clinton, the former president, should think about accepting a new job.
"Clinton could make a virtue of his penchant for incessant strategizing and late-night gab sessions. He could hire a cochair to do the grind of planning the fund-raising and keeping up party discipline. Let Clinton be the big thinker and inspirer-in-chief. Clinton has become the main link to a successful past in a Democratic Party whose future could hardly look bleaker."
The L.A. Times suggesting he would be a good chairman of the DNC.
What do you think of that?
PANETTA: You know, why do I think that's not going to happen?
I think that Bill Clinton...
DUBERSTEIN: Nice try.
PANETTA: I think that Bill Clinton will basically stand back and continue the work he's doing now. He's the -- you know, he is the statesman in the Democratic Party. He's done a wonderful job at reaching out and try to guide the party.
Now, I think probably more than ever, we need to have his guidance, not as head of the DNC, but I think as someone who can advise the Democrats on how you reach out to that broad swathe of red states that runs from the South to the Midwest.
I mean, that's the area that, very frankly, Democrats have to focus on. We'll never be competitive nationally unless we have an appeal to the concerns and values that people in that part of the country have.
BLITZER: All right.
PANETTA: And Bill Clinton was able to do that. Democrats need to do that.
BLITZER: Leon Panetta, thanks very much for joining us.
Let me thank our entire panel for joining us: Ken Duberstein, all the way over in London, John Podesta, and Governor Whitman, very, very smart people with, what, about 100 years of political experience among them.
Thanks, all of you.
We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Here's how you're weighing in on our Web question of the week. Take a look at this: 55 percent of you say yes, 45 percent of you say no, as far as the Israeli government allowing Arafat to be buried in Jerusalem. This is not a scientific poll.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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