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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger; Interview With Charlie Rangel, David Dreier

Aired December 26, 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, 5 p.m. in London, 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
In a moment we'll look back at the year in Iraq and its impact on American foreign policy with the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: From Iraq to Afghanistan to the end of an era in the Middle East conflict, there were sweeping international changes in 2004. And the new year approaches with questions about the role of the United States in world affairs.

Joining us now, two distinguished diplomatic and national security veterans: in New York, the former U.S. secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. He served in the Nixon and Ford administrations. And here in Washington, the former U.S. national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski. He served in the Carter White House.

Gentlemen, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

And let's begin, Dr. Kissinger, with you. The war in Iraq -- almost two years now -- has it been worth it from U.S. national security points of view?

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I was in favor of the decision to go to war in Iraq. And I think, in retrospect, it still was the right decision to make.

We have not, however, up to this point, managed a strategy and a political framework to bring it to a conclusion. And I believe that this is a major task for the next year.

BLITZER: Who should have responsibility for the failure to prepare for this insurgency that developed after the downfall of Saddam Hussein?

KISSINGER: There was too much of an analogy to the occupation of Germany and Japan, and they want to believe that Iraq could be occupied in the same manner. That turned out to be wrong.

And I don't think we have sufficiently separated the strategic objective of doing away with Saddam's military capacity and capacity to intervene in terrorism from the political problem of reconstructing Iraq after the war. And the second problem is more an international problem than a purely American military problem.

BLITZER: So who bears direct responsibility, from the U.S. perspective, for the failure to anticipate the extent of this insurgency?

KISSINGER: Well, I fundamentally support the administration. So I think that there was inadequate judgment of the political complexity of reconstructing Iraq. And I don't think it is -- I think this is a question for the whole national security team, and not just the Secretary Rumsfeld.

BLITZER: So you blame Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Powell and the president, the vice president, all of them?

KISSINGER: I don't blame any particular individual. And I believe that they made, fundamentally, the right decision in entering the war.

But they underestimated the complexity of rebuilding a democratic society in Iraq, under military occupation.

BLITZER: All right, Dr. Brzezinski, I'll ask you the same question. Was it worth it?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I was a skeptic. I felt that the way the administration undertook to go to war would produce problems, would create isolation for the United States and would generate much more resistance, because it was viewed, essentially, as an American assault on Iraq. And I'm afraid that's the case.

Today, the problem, in my view, is the very wide gap between the administration's goals and its means. The goals are to create a democratic, stable, increasingly prosperous Iraqi society. But the means we use are very limited.

BLITZER: So was it worth it?

BRZEZINSKI: I personally think it was not worth it, in the sense that we have paid a high price in blood, and it's increasing. You cannot underestimate the suffering that this has already produced to tens of thousands of American families.

We have killed tens of thousands of Iraqis; no one knows precisely how many. We're spending billions of dollars. And we have isolated ourselves internationally. Now, that is simply not worth the price of removing Saddam, because we were containing him.

But we are where we are. And the problem today is, in my judgment, how to avoid failure. And we will confront a continuing problem and maybe a deepening crisis if there remains this massive disproportion between objectives which are unrealistic and means which are very limited.

If we are really serious about creating an Iraqi democracy, let's put in 500,000 troops and let's spend $100 billion, $200 billion. We're not going to do it. And therefore, we have to scale down our expectations.

BLITZER; So basically, you're saying the U.S. should start withdrawing?

BRZEZINSKI: I think we have to accept the reality, probably the reality of a Shiite, theocratic government, which is not going to be a genuine democracy. It's going to be theocratic. And we'll have to accept, probably, a limited role for ourselves in Iraq.

BLITZER: That sounds like a potential alliance with the Shiites in Iran, as well, which strategically, Dr. Kissinger, could represent a major setback for U.S. interests in that part of the world, if a Shiite theocracy were to emerge in Iraq right now.

KISSINGER: Well, I don't accept the proposition that we have to accept a Shiite theocracy for all of Iraq.

And if it reaches this point, then we really have no interest in keeping Iraq united, then we might just as well let each of these competing ethnic groups create their own self-government, rather than impose a theocracy on -- or cooperate with creating a theocracy for all of Iraq.

I think that the objective we have put for ourselves, to create a progressive, moderate Iraq, is a worthwhile objective. And where we are now, we should attempt to pursue it.

We should also make one more major attempt to involve other countries in the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq. Almost every country that has a significant Islamic minority knows that if there is an American setback in Iraq, it will be a catastrophe for them also.

BLITZER: But do you see any desire on the part of France, Germany? Some of the closest allies, even Canada, is refusing to send monitors to take a look and watch the elections. They don't want to jeopardize their own people in the dangerous environment that Iraq has become.

Do you see any possibility these other countries are going to have a change of heart, Dr. Kissinger?

KISSINGER: Well, I would not appeal to the Europeans as a first step. I would attempt to have conversations with countries like India or Russia, Turkey that have significant Muslim minorities and with some Arab countries that have experienced radical Islam, like, for example, Algeria and maybe Egypt to see whether there can be created some kind of group that assumes at least part of the responsibility for the political evolution. And if that doesn't work, then we have to reconsider the political framework.

BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski, let me go back to a question I asked Dr. Kissinger. Name names. Who, specifically, in your opinion -- and you Iraq has been a failure from the U.S. perspective, at least up to now -- who should bear the direct responsibility for this situation, in terms of the Bush administration?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, you know where the buck stops. First of all, the president. Secondly, the vice president. Thirdly, the vice president's chief of staff. Fourth, the head of the National Security Council. Fifth, the secretary of defense. Sixth, that conservative group around him in the Defense Department. Seventh, to some extent, Colin Powell, because he didn't draw the line sharply enough.

These are the people who have given us Iraq under the present conditions.

But I repeat, the issue now is: Where do we go from here?

BLITZER: Is this another Vietnam, potentially, from your perspective?

BRZEZINSKI: No, I don't think it's another Vietnam, but I think it can be a protracted mess.

And I think we have to scale down our objectives, because we're not prepared to commit the means necessary to achieve these objectives.

And I don't think going to the Russians or to the Indians to help us is a particularly good formula, because that will mean that we're creating, essentially, an anti-Islamic alliance. Both India and Russia have a lot of hostility toward Islamists, and they're prepared to join us in a war against Islam. But I don't think this will be in our interest.

BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger?

KISSINGER: I'm not talking about an anti-Islamic alliance. I'm talking about an anti-radical-Islamic alliance. That is a reality, that radical Islam has to be fought and has to be defeated.

Secondly...

BRZEZINSKI: Yes, but it has to be fought -- it has to be fought with people who do not mobilize more hostility toward us. And if we form an alliance with the Indians, who have an axe to grind against Pakistan, we'll destabilize Pakistan and maximize our problems in Afghanistan. And the Russians have been for a long time very, very anxious to engage us in a joint war against Islam.

BLITZER: We're going to take a break, but Dr. Kissinger, finish your thought. KISSINGER: Secondly, I don't agree with the argument of assigning blame. It was a reasonable decision to try to defeat the country that has the largest army in the region, that was working on weapons of mass destruction, that had violated the cease-fire agreement with the United States consistently, that was in contact with terrorist groups. And therefore, it was reasonable -- it was a reasonable decision of the administration.

It turned out to be...

BLITZER: But don't you think, Dr. Kissinger, that the Iraqis were being contained by the international sanctions, the no-fly zones, all the other pressure that had been exerted on Saddam Hussein? Did he represent, with hindsight, an imminent threat to the United States' interests?

KISSINGER: Well, I don't know how you define an imminent threat against the United States. They represented a major potential threat against not just the United States interests but against stability in the region.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, you know, let me come in here too, because I think I'm part of this program also.

First of all, they didn't have weapons of mass destruction. Their so-called largest army in the Middle East was defeated by three American divisions in three weeks. It was actually a very weak country, militarily.

It was a hostile country, it was a brutal dictatorship, but it certainly was not an imminent threat to us. And it would have taken a very, very long time for it to become a serious military threat to us.

And in the meantime, we have really undermined our international position. We have paid a very high price internationally. We are paying a high price domestically. And I don't think that is exactly a record of great achievement.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. I want to take a quick break, but we have a lot more to cover in the course of this interview.

Much more with Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. We'll talk about other global flashpoints and potential dangers heading into 2005.

Then...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: ... promises in the war against terror. What's going to happen in Washington? Two members of Congress join us to assess the political year, as well.

And later, politics and prayer in 2004 -- a holiday conversation with the reverends Jesse Jackson and Jerry Falwell.

"LATE EDITION" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's take a look at the cnn.com's top 10 stories of the year.

Number one was the U.S. election.

Number two, the war in Iraq.

Terrorism came in at number three.

A tie for the number-four story: the 9/11 Commission and the hurricane season.

And rounding out our top 10 stories of the year: the death of Yasser Arafat, the morality split, the death of Ronald Reagan, the crisis in Sudan, and the Boston Red Sox's historic World Series win.

And we'd love to know your top 10 stories of the year. You can vote right now. Go to cnn.com/specials/2004/yir.

Up next, more with Dr. Henry Kissinger and Dr. Zbigniew Brzenzski on the year in world affairs.

You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have important work ahead. A new term in office is an important opportunity to reach out to our friends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush speaking in Canada this past month. Just one of the international challenges of 2004: trying to shore up relations with America's allies, relations that were strained over the war in Iraq.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We're continuing our conversation with the former U.S. secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, and the former U.S. national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Dr. Brzezinski, Palestinian elections scheduled for January 9th. Is there a moment right now that you think peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians can get started again? BRZEZINSKI: I hope so. I certainly hope so. And it will be very important to keep the momentum going beyond the Gaza evacuation, because there are forces within Likud -- and I don't know where Sharon stands himself -- that would like to stop it right there.

But if the momentum can be maintained, then perhaps we can begin to engage in serious discussions of what peace should be really like.

BLITZER: What about the Bush administration's role in this? What should it do?

BRZEZINSKI: I think it should increasingly clarify where the United States stands with regard to at least the basic principles of the long-term peace settlement, so that both the Israelis and the Palestinians know what peace actually might entail for them. As things stand right now, each side suspects the worst of the other.

BLITZER: You think this is a moment the U.S. should try to impose a settlement?

BRZEZINSKI: No, not impose. No. Clarify what, in our view, and by and large in the view of many Israelis and Palestinians and certainly the international community, what peace should be like.

Henry Kissinger recently had a very good column on the subject in which he itemized a series of elements of the peace settlement. One might add two or three more to it, but basically, that's a package that the international community can support.

BLITZER: Is it your assessment, Dr. Kissinger, that as part of any formal peace, full peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Israelis will have to withdraw, basically, to the pre-1967 line?

KISSINGER: No. My view is that -- that a withdraw to the pre- 1967 line is not feasible and compatible with the security of Israel.

On the other hand, certain developments over the last few years and the policy of the administration have created conditions in which I think both sides can come to an understanding.

I believe that the security fence that the Israelis have created, if it is in some -- to some relationship to the '67 line, provides a key element of security and provides the dividing line on which -- on one side of which the settlements can be maintained, but on the other, the Israeli settlements become subject for negotiation and therefore for ultimate removal.

And this can be compensated by Israel giving up some territory of its present position. And all of these points have already been included in previous negotiations, so they would not be new to either side.

I think, also, that the way to make progress is not for the United States to present a formal plan now but to begin a discussion with the European allies and with some other... BLITZER: All right.

KISSINGER: ... Arab states on the subject and see whether we can agree on such an outline, and then to present it to both sides.

BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski, given what's happened in Ukraine, dramatic developments over these past several weeks, and the influence of Russia and Vladimir Putin, the president, on what's happening in the former Soviet republics like Ukraine, is the U.S.-Russian relationship on track or deteriorating significantly?

BRZEZINSKI: I think it's basically on track, but I think we ought to be extremely careful not to misinterpret it, not to create illusions and not to create openings for Putin.

I think Putin is a dictator who's masquerading as a democrat. We shouldn't legitimate him and proclaim him to be a democrat, even while we deal with him.

And at the same time, it's essential, because of what is now happening in Ukraine, that we indicate a willingness to be responsive to Ukrainian aspirations.

BLITZER: Those are strong words. You call him a dictator, not a democrat.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, what else would you call him, given the way he conducts himself, both within Russia and vis-a-vis its neighbors? He recently endorsed -- not only endorsed, actively sponsored, an attempt to subvert the democratic process in Ukraine.

And I personally think that if the president is going to be meeting with Putin in February, as has been just announced this week, I think it would be quite important that if Mr. Yushchenko is elected president of Ukraine that the president arrange to meet with him also -- separately, of course.

BLITZER: All right. Let me let Dr. Kissinger weigh in.

Now, you agree that Vladimir Putin, Dr. Kissinger, is now a dictator of Russia?

KISSINGER: I would say he's an autocrat. He's not a dictator in the traditional sense, but this is a -- it is certainly not a democratic system right now.

But I also believe that relations with Russia need to be very carefully handled.

I agree that the independence of Ukraine is a key strategic and political element for the security of Europe. And, therefore, we should oppose intervention in domestic affairs of Ukraine and participate in giving Ukraine a maximum opportunity for a democratic evolution.

BLITZER: All right. KISSINGER: But we also have to keep in mind that relations with Russia are a key element of the international system.

BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, we have to leave it right there. Dr. Brzezinski, thanks to both of you very much for joining us.

And Happy New Year to both of you, as well.

KISSINGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead here in the United States, a very hard- fought political season in 2004. But who are the movers and shakers for this year and beyond? We'll get insight on that and more from two key members of Congress, Republican David Dreier and Democrat Charles Rangel.

More "LATE EDITION," straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: My job is to confront tough issues and to ask Congress to work together to confront tough issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was President Bush at his end-of-the-year news conversation this past week. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

2004 four was a watershed year in U.S. politics, a hard-fought presidential campaign with an extremely divided electorate. But in the end, President Bush won re-election. Republicans strengthened their majorities in the House and the Senate at the same time. And for the Democrats who had had such high hopes of recapturing the White House, it was a devastating defeat.

Joining us now to talk about the year in politics, two key members of the U.S. Congress who never hold back on "LATE EDITION": in Kansas City, Missouri, the Republican Congressman David Dreier of California. He serves on the House Homeland Security Committee. He is chairman of the Rules Committee. And in New York is Congressman Charles Rangel. He is the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Congressmen, thanks, once again for joining us for our annual look at the year in politics.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: It's always great to ring in the new year with Rangel and Blitzer.

BLITZER; All right. It sounds very nice.

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Happy New Year, Wolf.

DREIER: Happy New Year. BLITZER: Congressman Rangel, I'll begin with you. Such a devastating loss for the Democrats. In your assessment, how has America changed, over these years, that it resulted in part in this defeat of John Kerry, the re-election of the president?

RANGEL: I don't think America changed at all.

The president got us involved in a war that we should not have been involved in. There was no reason to get involved in it. And America associated that with 9/11. He's the commander in chief. And so, just as Giuliani became mayor of America, Bush became the savior of the United States.

So if it wasn't for the war, the numbers would have been worse than they were during the war.

BLITZER: So what you're saying is that the war in Iraq actually helped the president. Is that what you're saying, Congressman Rangel?

RANGEL; No question about it. Even today, the people doubt whether we should have been involved in the war. But once you're in, all Americans want to get out. And they obviously thought that Bush could get us out a lot better than John Kerry could.

BLITZER: Has this election changed America, Congressman Dreier?

DREIER: Well, let me say just at the outset say, Wolf, say that here we are the day after Christmas, in the midst of the holiday season -- and I know Charlie joins me in extending our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who are overseas in conflict and, of course, certainly to those who have lost loved ones in this conflict.

RANGEL: Rumsfeld would join us in that wish, too.

DREIER: Absolutely. Absolutely. I know Wolf does, as well.

You know, what really changed us was September 11th of 2001. That was when the United States of America was thrust into this global war on terrorism. And the war in Iraq continues to be part and parcel of that.

This week, we saw the very great, tragic attack on that cafeteria, where 22 lives were lost in Mosul.

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt you for a second, Congressman Dreier, with all due respect. When you say the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror, where is the evidence that Saddam Hussein or any of the Iraqis, for that matter, had any connection with 9/11?

DREIER: Well, Wolf, you know very well, no one has ever claimed that Saddam Hussein was involved in command and control of what took place on September 11th.

But we do know that Iraq is a center, today, especially with the developments that have taken place just in the last week and the tragedy over the last year of terrorist attacks that have taken place there and of the spreading of those attacks to other parts of the world.

And so we know that there are havens for terrorist activities. Iraq continues to be part of it.

If there was -- has there been change? Well, of course, there has been a great change that has taken place because of what has taken place in Iraq.

Again, we've tragically lost lives. But I think the important thing to note, Wolf, is the five points that the president pointed to last May in his speech, beginning with the handover, two days early, on June 28th of this year, to the rebuilding, the infrastructure rebuilding, to the training of Iraqis and to the building of an international coalition, to the January 30th elections that we're going to see in about a little over four weeks, I mean, these are important and positive developments.

BLITZER: Congressman Rangel, is the world safer, from the U.S. standpoint, as a result of the war in Iraq?

RANGEL: We will never know. I doubt it, because with all of the putting together of the words and mumbling of David, he's never connected 9/11, the tragedy that's in the hearts of all Americans and all freedom- loving people, with this unilateral attack on a country that we couldn't even connect it with.

So the truth of the matter is, we hope that America is better organized in intelligence. But what happened in Iraq is that we got all of the terrorists from neighboring countries to come together so that Rumsfeld says he doesn't know whether we're creating more terrorists than we're killing.

So I don't see how we should feel more safe.

DREIER: Well, I will tell you that -- I mean, there's no mumbling here, and clearly, at this time of year, I mean, we're not not focused on that. We need to look ahead and where it is we're going.

And I believe that we've liberated 25 million Iraqis. We've sent very positive signals to other parts of the world, as we deal with the challenge on the Korean Peninsula. Obviously, the Palestinian question.

I think a lot of this is very closely tied in...

BLITZER: Let me...

DREIER: ... and again, no one has ever said, Wolf, that September 11th was caused by Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: All right. I want to move on, just with hindsight. There were people who said it, but let's move on and talk about the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

Congressman Dreier, are you among those Republicans who are now saying they have lost confidence in Rumsfeld?

DREIER: Absolutely not. I mean, we saw the president in his year-end news conference make it very clear that Don Rumsfeld is a strong, bold leader.

Has he made mistakes? Have there been mistakes in this war? The answer is yes. We all acknowledge that there have been mistakes. And I think that the biggest mistake was in underestimating the challenge that we would face in Iraq.

But Don Rumsfeld is someone whom I have known for a quarter century, and I found him to be a very, very strong leader. He's an expert on defense.

BLITZER: All right.

DREIER: Remember, this is his second tour. And I believe that he's a great man and doing a fine job.

BLITZER: I suspect Charlie Rangel disagrees.

But go ahead, Congressman.

RANGEL: Yes, I put in an article of impeachment for Rumsfeld.

You know, he embarrassed the country and the military by disregarding the abuses that were made on prisoners.

He certainly was an architect of this war. And he should have known, before he encouraged the president to enter it, what kind of equipment our boys and men and women would need to get there.

The whole idea to tell the military you fight -- you can't pick the type of war you're in, he picked the war. He picked the time. He got us involved. And then he's the first one to say that we don't have the resources necessary to fight it.

DREIER: Charlie, you're great veteran of the Korean War. And you know full well that as you embark on war, there's uncertainty.

The Wall Street Journal this week had an interesting piece in which they talked about the fact that mistakes were made, and you can point to General Mead and Lee at Gettysburg, to the Gulf War, to the Battle of the Bulge. There are difficulties that are faced in war.

And I believe under the circumstances that we faced in this totally uncharted battle...

BLITZER: All right.

DREIER: ... in an international global war on terror, something we've never faced before in the history of our country...

RANGEL: Well, somebody...

DREIER: ... I thought Rumsfeld has done very well, Charlie. RANGEL: ... somebody said it was a slam-dunk. And it's kind of hard for me to believe that the world's greatest army is having this problem with a third-...

DREIER: That statement was another mistake, Charlie. That was obviously a wrong statement.

RANGEL: Well, the whole darn thing is that they had no idea of the power of the terrorists. We don't know who they are, where they're coming from...

DREIER: But we do know who they are, and we know where they're coming from. There's no doubt about that.

RANGEL: There's no way -- let me one thing, David. I asked the highest people in the military. You can't describe what a terrorist looks like. You take those masks off their face, and they could be people that are getting ready to vote.

The only time a military person knows that the person is the enemy is when they're being blown up or when they're being shot at. They don't have uniforms. They don't have flags.

If the terrorists said that they wanted to give up tomorrow, we wouldn't have the slightest clue as to where to go.

DREIER: Charlie, you have just very correctly described how difficult the war on terrorism is.

RANGEL: That's why we should have never gone in it alone.

DREIER: We haven't gone in it alone. I mean, what an insult to Tony Blair and John Howard...

BLITZER: All right.

DREIER: ... and President Kwasniewski of Poland. And you could go through the list...

RANGEL: You put them all together and you couldn't get an infantry company out of the whole gang of them.

DREIER: Yes, but don't say unilateral. In the new year, take the word "unilateral" out of your vocabulary when it comes to our effort in Iraq, because it's a broad international coalition, Charlie.

RANGEL: Sure. What about our Arab friends there, the Saudi Arabians and all of those that visit the Crawford ranch? What are they doing to help us get out of the mess that we're in?

DREIER: We've now seen two -- we've seen Jordan and Yemen both join in the international coalition helping us in Iraq. And I think that's a very important thing.

RANGEL: Yeah, they may have joined...

DREIER: We're going to hope and pray that we'll see it resolved in the new year.

RANGEL: There's not one of their soldiers over there, and you know it.

BLITZER: Congressmen, I want to take a quick break, because we have a lot to talk about, including domestic issues.

The president's agenda, will it get off the ground in the coming year? Congressmen Dreier and Rangel continue our conversation about the year in politics.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We're talking about the year in politics with our guests, New York Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel and California Republican Congressman David Dreier.

The president has a clear domestic agenda. You heard the vice president say that the president has a mandate now. Among the major items on his agenda: making tax cuts permanent, those that were passed the first four years; simplifying the tax code; privatizing Social Security; slicing the deficit through spending cuts -- he says he can cut half the deficit over the next four years; and limiting lawsuits.

You're the ranking Democrat, Charlie Rangel, on the Ways and Means Committee, which is going to have to consider virtually all of this.

Will you support the president in this ambitious agenda?

RANGEL: First of all, Cheney ought to be on Ways and Means and tell us what a mandate is. A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio and John Kerry would be president.

I visited with the president on the question of Social Security, and he said keep your powder dry and not to criticize this program until he puts it together, presents it to the Congress.

You cannot find a Democratic or Republican solution to the problem of Social Security. Nor can you find -- simplify the tax code, unless there's some unity.

I don't know one Democrat that the president has reached out to. But so far, we have to wait and see how he intends to do it.

One thing is clear: If he says no new taxes, then it means he's prepared to borrow over $2 trillion in order to fix the Social Security system and $2 trillion in order to fix the alternative minimum tax, which we have to do. That's an additional $4 trillion. And so, there's no way in the world that he's going to reduce the deficit.

BLITZER: All right. Let me let Congressman Dreier respond.

Go ahead.

DREIER: Well, Wolf, let me say that it is a very ambitious agenda. And when you think back to what it is that President Bush talked about when he was a candidate in 2000, he talked about being a uniter, not a divider.

Charlie has, I think, just taken what, to me, is a very positive step toward our goal of working together in a bipartisan way. We're beginning a new Congress. The president is beginning his new term. And in light of that, we want to come together.

Social Security, Charlie correctly says, is not a partisan issue. I remember the last conversation I had with Daniel Patrick Moynihan on the first anniversary of September 11th, when we sat together at Federal Hall in New York City, where Congress convened there. And Charlie was there. I had the chance to be there with him.

And Senator Moynihan, the prominent Democrat who really provided leadership on that Social Security commission, said to me, when we talked about the challenge of trying to get this package through, he said, "It's an idea whose time will come." And he was counting on us to do it. It does need to be done in a bipartisan way.

Similarly, we want to work in a bipartisan way on these issues of energy, transportation, a farm bill, on tax reform, on trade issues. So yes, we want to work together.

BLITZER: But let me bring back Congressman Rangel.

On the fundamental point of the president's proposal to reform Social Security, having partial privatization, private individual retirement accounts as part of Social Security, are you at least open to studying that option, Congressman Rangel?

RANGEL: Only if the benefits are guaranteed. And if they were guaranteed, then the beneficiary wouldn't have the option. They could get more money if they could not lose.

But the stock market is like Las Vegas. You win some and you lose some. And so, to reduce the benefits of the Social Security person based on the stock market, I would not support.

DREIER: Well, let's look at the proposal out there. I think it's very important to look at, really, all of the major proposals. First of all, there is a $10.2 trillion hole that needs to be filled -- that, if nothing is done, needs to be filled. Beginning in 2018, we're going to see more going out to Social Security than is coming in through the FICA payroll tax.

I believe that the president has been very strong and very bold. He unveiled this plan first in Rancho Cucamonga, California, in 2000 in that campaign. And it is something that -- setting a few dollars aside for younger workers is important.

Now, Wolf, neither you nor Charlie have correctly pointed to the fact that we are not going to, in any way, touch the retirement dollars of people who are today on Social Security or those who are approaching retirement.

RANGEL: He didn't say he wasn't going to...

DREIER: Yes, he did.

RANGEL: I haven't finished.

He was asked a question at the meeting as to whether or not increasing taxes including broadening the base to take it from $88,000 to beyond that. And he didn't say whether he would or not, which in my opinion is raising taxes.

DREIER: Well, he's open...

RANGEL: But the whole idea of having to go to the private sector and avoid having a guaranteed benefit, we're opposed to.

DREIER: There would be four options. There will be four options that workers would have.

RANGEL: How do you know this? We don't have it.

DREIER: Well, I'm just talking about the proposals. There would be options for investment.

BLITZER: All right.

DREIER: If you look at the plans that have succeeded in Chile and other parts of the world, there would be options that would not allow people to invest in penny stocks that potentially could see their investment go right down the drain.

DREIER: There would be options that would give a higher rate of return than today is received on Social Security.

And, Charlie, I will tell you, African-Americans would be the greatest beneficiaries of this, as they would be able, with a shortened life span, they would be able to pass this on to future generations.

So I think that the whole notion of private....

RANGEL: So, because we die earlier, we should vest in (ph). The truth of the matter is...

DREIER: It's something that can be passed on to future generations, Charlie.

RANGEL: Give me a break. Give me a break.

The truth in the matter is that we do get more money from the survivors, since the women live longer. And so, basing this on how fast you intend to die -- another thing, I promised the president that I will wait until he comes forward with a plan.

DREIER: Thank you for that.

RANGEL: And unlike you, I'm not going to review the Chilean plan or the Central American plan.

DREIER: Well, I'm looking at all these plans, Charlie.

RANGEL: I'm going to wait for the president's plan.

You don't look at all the plans. You look at the president's plan.

BLITZER: I hear Charlie Rangel, Congressman Dreier, say he's ready to see what the president's plan is after there is a commission that reviews it. He's got an open mind.

But let's move on.

DREIER: And I appreciate that very much. And it's a very positive sign, as we begin this new year.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some presidential candidates. Let's have some fun in the brief time we have.

Republican presidential candidates, 2008. There are already lists that are out there. Among those: Jeb Bush, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Bill Frist, George Pataki.

Congressman Dreier, who do you like in 2008?

DREIER: Like Jesus Christ, I love them all. You know, I think they're all great, Wolf. They're all terrific people. And I think they've all brought a great deal to the Republican Party.

And I will tell you, one of the things that's interesting -- and I don't know that it will go into effect in 2008 -- but in the new year, I'm going to be working with a number of my colleagues to put together a package that would conceivably amend the U.S. Constitution.

It would do two things. Number one, repeal the 22nd amendment to the Constitution, which limits the terms in the presidency. And number two, would allow a naturalized citizen, one who is not born here, to run for president of the United States.

BLITZER: All right. Would that be Arnold Schwarzenegger? DREIER: No, I was thinking of Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Elaine Chao or maybe Jennifer Granholm, the governor of Michigan.

BLITZER: Who was born in Canada.

DREIER: Born in Canada.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at some Democratic possibilities for 2008, Congressman Rangel.

Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, John Kerry, Bill Richardson, Evan Bayh, Howard Dean.

Do you have a favorite among any of those?

RANGEL: No, I really don't. It's much too early. But I think Dave Dreier would agree that we ought to take Giuliani's name off of the Republican list for now.

DREIER: Absolutely not.

(LAUGHTER)

Rudy Giuliani is a terrific guy.

And I will tell you that there are lots of issues that are going to be very important. Immigration is another big issue. And I think that our candidates on our side are going to be talking about that. And it's going to be...

RANGEL: That's all you got to be, talking about it. The guest- work program is not going to fly.

DREIER: Well, we're going to try to bring about a number of important things: a counterfeit-proof Social Security card and some other things.

BLITZER: All right, Congressmen, enough, enough, enough.

(LAUGHTER)

DREIER: OK, Wolf.

BLITZER: But you know what? I can guarantee one thing: Both of you are going to be back here, God willing, a year from now, when we take a look at the year in politics, 2005...

DREIER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... and hopefully many times in between.

DREIER: Many times in between.

Happy New Year.

RANGEL: Happy New Year.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We'll take a look back at the successes and setbacks for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in just a moment. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: After the capture of Saddam Hussein in December of last year, there were high hopes that the insurgency in Iraq would lose much of its steam. But insurgents kept up their deadly attacks throughout 2004, the latest coming just this past Tuesday at the U.S. military base near Mosul.

For perspective on why securing Iraq has been such an uphill climb for American forces this year, we turn to three military experts:

Here in Washington, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan.

In Tampa, retired U.S. Marine Lieutenant General Michael DeLong. He's the former deputy commander of the U.S. military Central Command.

And in Oak Brook, Illinois, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange. He's a CNN military analyst and the chief operating officer of Chicago's McCormick Tribune Foundation.

Generals, thanks very much for joining us for our year-end "LATE EDITION."

And I'll begin with General Joulwan. Is there a military solution in Iraq?

GEORGE JOULWAN, FORMER SUPREME ALLIED NATO COMMANDER: Yes, but it's got to proceed differently than what we're doing now.

BLITZER: What do you mean specifically?

JOULWAN: Well, first of all, I think, in terms of the military solution, if you want to call it that, I think it has to have some sort of clarity in terms of what are the objectives.

If it's to have a secure environment for elections to take place, then I think the military objectives are not just defeating the enemy but creating this environment for all the other agencies that make elections and democracy work to take place.

That has not taken place. BLITZER: I just want press you on this point, because a lot of people say there is no military solution, it has to be a political solution. You have to find the Iraqis who are going to get the job done when all is said and done.

JOULWAN: But they both go hand in hand, Wolf. That's the point I am trying to make.

You have to have to, in terms of the military initially to create this environment for the diplomatic and political to work. We haven't done that yet.

It was called initially not just to win the war but to win the peace. And in order to do that, the military side has to have clear objectives early on, in terms of creating this secure environment.

And it's not just taking Baghdad. It's really trying to secure the country for all those agencies that make democracy work, for them to operate and to do their job.

BLITZER: General DeLong, you've spent a lot of time in this very difficult and complicated region. What does the military need to do right now to get the job done?

LT. GEN. MICHAEL DELONG (RET), FORMER DEPUTY COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Well, like General Joulwan said, I agree it's a combination of both the coalition working with the Iraqis.

I was there 10 days ago. It was my seventh time there in the last six months, because we're building a base north of Mosul. And the people I talked to over there, their issue is, how do you get the elections done in January? And this is just part of the story.

And the issue is, all the demographics have changed. The Sunnis are now the under-trodden. They're about 22 percent of the populace. Shias are about 60-some percent. You've got the Kurds. That is -- it's in turmoil. Part of the insurgency is a result of this change in who's on top, who's on the bottom.

BLITZER: Was there, General DeLong, a major miscalculation about the nature of this insurgency?

DELONG: Well, there probably was, but it came informed. We had expatriates, a number of them, hundreds of them, that told us this is how it was going to work, that it was going to work nicely. Once Saddam fell, everybody would hug each other. We didn't believe that. But we didn't think it was going to be this bad.

If you let me finish, the issue becomes how do you get the elections accomplished.

The Loya Jirga electoral caucus-type elections, in the 18 provinces, if you elect your persons there, send them to Baghdad, you do away with the issues of security, you do away with the issues of the possible irregularities, and you know that your person is there. You also do away with the issue of the percentages. You don't have to talk about it.

But like General Joulwan said, if you don't have the security -- and we haven't trained enough Iraqi policemen, we haven't trained enough Iraqi soldiers that are good enough to protect themselves from the regions (ph). So it's a combination of these guys working together and, I think, a change in the way the elections are going to be done in January.

BLITZER: The whole nature of this insurgency, General Grange, there are a lot of military experts who have told me, both in and out of government right now, that the United States simply tried to win this peace, if you will, on the cheap -- didn't have enough troops on the ground.

Experts saying you needed a lot more to get this job done, not to defeat Saddam Hussein, but to deal with the post-Saddam Hussein world. And it simply didn't happen, even right now. 150,000 troops are not enough.

What's your assessment?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, my feel, Wolf, is that any kind of counterinsurgency operation requires a lot of presence, a lot of boots on the ground. You just don't have them shoulder to shoulder, they have to have critical tasks, but it requires a big effort, and it's not on the cheap.

Three key things: Seal the borders; be able to broaden the counterinsurgency campaign, which means don't just focus now in Fallujah and then in a linear manner pick another spot, but simultaneously go after hardcore areas; and then the last thing, provide security for the infrastructure that's key to the transition, whether it be elections, whether it be oil pipelines, whether it be coalition headquarters, et cetera.

Those three things have to happen, and they have to happen in a very broad sense, in order to be successful.

BLITZER: Well, given the nature of that three-pronged mission, as you describe it, 150,000 troops, I don't believe, are necessarily enough. If you had 150,000 or 200,000 Iraqi troops who were ready for that kind of mission it might be enough, but by all accounts the Iraqis are not yet up to speed.

GRANGE: Well, of course, we don't know what the troop-to-task numbers are because we're not there. However, someone has to do it. Someone has to provide the security and the rule of law. And if it's not Iraqis, then who picks it up? And right now there's not much other choice than the United States of America.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, it doesn't look like the British or the Australians or the Italians or any of the other international allies are ready to come up with bigger numbers of troops. If anything, they want to reduce their military presence in Iraq.

Who is going to get this job done? JOULWAN: Well, I would hope that -- the president is giving some interesting signals here. I think he's going to go to Europe in February. I would hope that trip would be an attempt to really try to get some understanding of how to get the allies involved in what we're doing.

BLITZER: Because NATO doesn't want to get involved, as a whole. It's got to be a consensus, as you well know as the former NATO commander.

JOULWAN: Well, you've got to give them a little bit of a seat at the table there, give them some voice of what's going to happen in the country.

We've done that in the past. We have done that for 50 or 60 years with the alliance. So I think there is a way to do it with NATO and with our allies. But I think you have to broaden the base, not just militarily, but politically and economically as well.

We have to have a united front here as we go forward. This is as serious a threat to our European allies as it is to us, and we need to make that point. The president needs to make that point.

BLITZER: Is there an exit strategy, as far as you can tell, a clarity of mission, as General Joulwan likes to say, General DeLong?

DELONG: Well, why didn't you ask General Joulwan and not me?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Well, I'm asking you. I know what his views are on this. I'm interested in knowing if you believe there is an exit strategy. As General Powell and others have always said since Vietnam, don't get involved in a military operation unless you have a clear clarity of mission and an exit strategy.

DELONG: I think there is, but I think the exit strategy has changed, probably, I can't tell you the number of times, five, six, seven, eight, nine times because the events have changed over there and we made some mistakes going in. We've made some mistakes while we're there. They're correcting them as they go along.

But yes, I do think there's an exit strategy, but what would it be? First of all, we're an occupying force. They don't like us over there. They don't like 150,000, 250,000. They don't like being occupied.

So we've got to do what we need to do and then get out. But first of all, we've got to secure -- as General Grange said, you've got to secure the borders, you've got to train the military, you've got to train the national guard, you've got to train the police. And they've got to be good enough to take over.

Then you've got to get the water, the electricity, the oil back on so they can do something. And then you've got to get the 60 to 70 percent of the people who are not working back working again. BLITZER: Do you think, General DeLong, 150,000 U.S. troops can do all that?

DELONG: The issue is not the number; the issue is what they're doing. It's a mix of police and national guard.

Right now the police and national guard don't appear to be -- and the army -- don't appear to be good enough to do the missions that have to be done, so someone has to do it.

BLITZER: All right. Let's let General Joulwan weigh in.

I know you don't think now there is the kind of clarity of mission or exit strategy that there should be.

JOULWAN: Let me be clear again. When we talk, "an exit strategy," instead of talking about an end date, I think you have to talk about an end state.

I did this in the Balkans because in Bosnia initially I was given one year; that's your mission. And so I said, here's the end state. We didn't reach it in a year.

And what we need to say, if you don't, what are the risks involved, if you don't reach this end state or exit strategy? And we need to say that. What are the risks involved?

And the risks are very great in Iraq if we don't reach an end state, which is a democracy, free elections, et cetera.

BLITZER: General Grange, do you think the troops on the ground, the boots on the ground as a lot of military personnel like to call it, they know why they're there right now? They have a full clarity of mission, if you will?

GRANGE: I believe that most of the commanders of our troops over there explain to their soldiers and Marines what they have to do, what they're trying to accomplish, their purpose. I believe that that is, in fact, being done.

You know, it's like General Joulwan said. It's the end state. In other words, setting conditions to transform this country and this part of the world to something different than we have experienced in the last 50 years, to make it better for themselves, to make it better for us, basically, for national security.

BLITZER: Generals, I want to take a quick break, but we have much more to discuss on securing Iraq. What will it take for U.S. and Iraqi forces to snuff out the insurgency?

And later, the politics of faith right here in the United States. A debate with two American preachers, well-known, the reverends Jesse Jackson and Jerry Falwell.

Our special year-end "LATE EDITION" will continue right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's take a look at the cnn.com's top 10 stories of the year.

Number one, the U.S. election.

Number two, the war in Iraq.

Terrorism came in at number three.

A tie for the number-four story: the 9/11 Commission and the hurricane season.

And rounding out our top 10 stories of the year: the death of Yasser Arafat, the morality split, the death of Ronald Reagan, the crisis in Sudan, and the Boston Red Sox's historic World Series win.

We want to know your top 10 stories of the year. You can vote right now. Go to cnn.com/specials/2004/yir, which stands for "year in review."

Up next, more with our roundtable of generals on the fight for Iraq and the blueprint battle against the insurgents, as it's unfolding.

You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: In Iraq and elsewhere, we've asked a great deal of the men and women of our armed forces. Especially during this holiday season, those on duty far from home will be in our thoughts and our prayers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush as a press conference here in Washington this past week, lauding the sacrifices of the United States military.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We're talking about the fight for Iraq and the war on terror in 2004 with the former NATO supreme allied commander, General George Joulwan; retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael DeLong; and retired U.S. Army Brigadier General and CNN military analyst General David Grange.

Thanks to all of you once again.

A quick question, I'll start with General Grange this time. Do you believe the overall war on terror, the hunt for al Qaeda, the hunt for Osama bin Laden, has been undermined by the war in Iraq?

GRANGE: I don't, Wolf, and the reason being these are not separate, contained, stovepipe missions. There is too much overlap not only geographically but also in intent of our adversaries, support of our adversaries, transportation, communication, money streams, et cetera, between places like Iraq and terrorist organizations.

So, any place that you attack against those type of enemies affects the others.

BLITZER: But, General Grange, there is a finite number of resources, of Arabic speakers, of talented special operations commandos, if you will. If you move them into Iraq, doesn't that undermine the operation, let's say, in Afghanistan, where the U.S. believes Osama bin Laden and his allies are still hiding out along the border somewhere with Pakistan?

GRANGE: Well, I believe there should be more effort in Afghanistan to complete that mission, which is not finished yet. But I also believe that those type of people in Iraq are affecting operations as well in Afghanistan because of the movement of information and coordination of effort.

BLITZER: General DeLong, you were once responsible commanding U.S. forces throughout that region. What is your assessment?

DELONG: Well, first of all, terrorism is a tactic. You've got radical Islamists around the world, that's how we got to 9/11. They looked at Iraq as an opportunity because the borders are more open than they should be. And they're in there.

And you've got -- as I talked to the Iraqis the other day, there's 16 groups inside Iraq right now that are working against the government. Two of them are groups you can't talk to; the other 16 could be affected by the election.

So I think if the elections go right, if we do this right, I think the rest of Iraq will kick out the radical Islamists inside Iraq right now.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, the current defense secretary has been trying to restructure the whole military -- leaner, meaner, if you will.

Is the U.S. military, though, right now, given all the missions it has around the world, stretched too thin?

JOULWAN: I believe it is. I think that this transformation that we talked about initially was looking out to the year 2030, very high technology, particularly in our airborne platforms.

We neglected to really take and modernize the current force. And it is that current force that is doing much of the fighting right now in Iraq. So, we're going back now, rearmoring and really modernizing the current force that we neglected to do, at least in the last two years.

BLITZER: Do you believe there should be consideration, General Joulwan, to reinstating the draft? JOULWAN: No, I don't think -- I think right now we can attract -- we have to attract a very high level of individual. The draft, I don't think, will give us that high level of intelligence needed to man these complex systems that we have today in not just the Air Force but in the infantry and in the Army as well.

BLITZER: What do you think, General Grange, on the draft?

GRANGE: I don't believe we need a draft right now, even though I had great draftees as soldiers that I served with.

I believe though, in some sort of national service that gives great flexibility and choice to people between the age of 18 and 28.

BLITZER: General DeLong, I'll let you weigh in on the draft as well.

DELONG: Like the three gentlemen, the three young men who are currently on the air with you right now have all been exposed to pre- draft and draft. And the soldiers before, the Marines before, were good, but the ones today are really good and intelligent. And also the number of things they have to do now, if they were draftees, the troubles that we would have right now could be insurmountable, so I wouldn't even consider doing a draft.

But I sure would get a lot of soldiers and Marines back in the Army and Marine Corps, because that's what's needed right now.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, a lot of critics have suggested there is a backdoor draft right now. The National Guard, the Reserve forces, the so-called stop-loss, if you were supposed to be leaving, they can say, "You know what, you're not leaving, in fact, you're going to Iraq right now," that this is a form of a draft.

Are they right?

JOULWAN: I guess, to a degree, they may be right.

But more importantly, what is happening is that we put a lot of our structure, our combat service support, logistics, military police into the Guard and Reserve, the Army did. And what is happening -- those forces that are most needed in the sort of operations we're going through now.

So what is happening is we have to rely on the Guard and reserve, because they provide much of that combat support and combat service support. We need to bring that forward, and we're doing some of that now, into the active force.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, thanks very much for joining us. We have to leave it right there. General Grange, as usual, thanks to you, as well as General Delong. To all of you, a very, very happy and hopefully safe new year.

Up next, a quick check of what's making news right now. Then, religion and politics, the line between church and state, is it becoming too blurred? The reverends Jerry Falwell and Jesse Jackson debate faith and values and politics, when "LATE EDITION" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We recognize our dependence on God and pray with one voice for his blessings on our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast this year.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Religion and moral values were two very prominent themes in America's national conversation this year and the presidential election in 2004. The debate over the role of religion and politics and what defines morality is likely to continue in 2005 and beyond.

We're joined now by two movers and shakers in both the religious and political worlds. In Lynchburg, Virginia, the Reverend Jerry Falwell. He is the founder and the chancellor of Liberty University and the founder of the Moral Majority Coalition. And in Atlanta, the Reverend Jesse Jackson. He's the founder of the Rainbow Push Coalition, the former Democratic presidential candidate.

Gentlemen, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Thanks to both of you for joining us on this special edition.

Reverend Falwell, let me read to you what you're quoted as saying in a C-SPAN interview on November 14th. You said, "The people who hate George Bush hate him because he's a follower of Jesus Christ, unashamedly says so, and applies his faith in his day-to-day operations."

Do you really believe the people who oppose him really hate him because of his religion?

REV. JERRY FALWELL: I think that people disagree with him because of politics, and that's fair. I think that the people who really hate him, who really hate him, are those who hate the faith he espouses, the Christ that he knows and loves. And that is nothing knew. They've been doing that for 2,000 years.

BLITZER: You don't think they hate him because of the war in Iraq or some of the major policy or political decisions that he made irrespective of his own personal religious beliefs?

FALWELL: Well, when you consider the fact that because of George Bush, 3 million Afghan women voted for the first time in the history of the nation this year and that, a month from now or a little more, millions of Iraqi women and men, of course, will vote, as well, when you consider the fact that 50 million people have been liberated from the bondage of a monster, Saddam Hussein, and others like him, it's very difficult to understand why there would be hatred for him, except it be because of his genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

BLITZER: All right.

What about that, Reverend Jackson? I'm sure you disagree.

REV. JESSE JACKSON: I think hatred is such strong language. I mean, the people I know grieved and we were hit 9/11, that the Taliban that hit us, a group that we had a relationship with, that we should hit them and that we should stop them.

And the whole world joined us. United Nations, NATO, Cuba, Libya, the whole world said, "Stop bin Laden."

But then we made this unilateral move to Saddam Hussein on the pretense that there were weapons of mass destruction and an imminent threat and al Qaeda connection. We didn't find any of that.

But we chose that route, a war of choice. And now, what, 1,300 Americans killed, 10,000 injured, 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqis killed. We've wiped out thousands of people, and yet we've found no moral justification for it. So people disagree with that policy strongly.

On the other hand, while we focus on Iraq and speak of liberating people, 4 million Congolese have been killed in the last six years -- 4 million. We never mention it.

We've done very little to deal with the 1.5 million people, refugees, in the Sudan.

And so I think we can disagree and agree, but we should not draw lines of hatred along religious lines.

BLITZER: I want to move on beyond that. Reverend Falwell, let me bring you back to this conversation. There is a recent CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll which asked about the state of moral values in the country right now.

Twenty-seven percent thought the state of moral values was getting better, but 64 percent thought it was getting worse.

Who do you blame for that perception that the state of moral values is getting worse -- and I'll try to put it in a little bit of a political context -- given the fact that the past four years there's been a Republican in the White House, a Republican majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives?

FALWELL: Well, I don't think that moral problems of the country are going to be solved by Republican or Democratic governments. I think that the deafening solids in America's pulpits would certainly be, one, a major cause for the spiritual descendence (ph) of this country. BLITZER: What do you mean about a deafening silence from the pulpits? From what I can tell, the pulpits have been pretty active over these years.

FALWELL: In the last two years, we have been able to motivate particularly Evangelical Christians, but people of faith in general. And 30 million Evangelicals helped re-elect George Bush. That's a positive. They helped strengthen his majority in the House and the Senate, pro-life, pro-family. That's a positive. The family issue, one man married to one woman, the federal marriage amendment, is gaining popularity.

But for a generation, we have been secularized in this country. And I can't blame just the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the runaway federal judges. They've certainly been a negative influence.

But I think that the religious spokesmen of this country have failed to cry out on the abortion issue, the killing of unborn babies, 40 million dead since Roe v. Wade. And now pushing toward same-sex marriage...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Reverend Falwell.

FALWELL: ... all of that.

BLITZER: Let me bring Reverend Jackson back in and underscore a point that you were making.

We did see, in this most recent election in the United States, Reverend Jackson, the power of what they call the Christian Right. That was really underscored, I think, in the strategy of Karl Rove and the White House, the Bush-Cheney campaign, to win re-election. That was underscored.

I assume you agree?

JACKSON: Well, sometimes that was more cultural affinity and cultural insecurity than morality.

Jesus said you define morality or character by how you treat the least of these. In the last four years, the rich have gotten much richer because of government subsidy and no-bid contracts.

In the meantime, the poor have gotten poorer and expanded. The poorer are more. In the last four years, there are 45 million Americans who have no health insurance. Just last summer, they raised the bar on access to public housing. In the last budget, they cut public housing.

Inasmuch as this is Christmastime, Jesus was born, essentially, what, to a homeless couple. To be sensitive to the homeless and the poor and the old and those whose backs are against the wall is their way of measuring morality.

BLITZER: What about that, Reverend Falwell? FALWELL: No question about our Lord loving the poor, and that's one reason our ministry here in Lynchburg and thousands of ministries like ours do, in fact, minister to the poor. We have a home for unwed mothers. We have a ministry to those with AIDS and so forth.

But likewise, faith and family are important. If we don't consider the sanctity of life, born and unborn, the front-burner item, then we've got our priorities mixed up. If we don't think family, that is a man married to a woman...

JACKSON: Wolf...

FALWELL: ... is a very high priority, we've got that mixed up. And the left and the Democrats...

JACKSON: Wolf...

FALWELL: ... have gotten both of those wrong.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Reverend Jackson.

JACKSON: We're not talking about Reverend Falwell's church program, we're talking about the government policy.

Our government policy has prioritized on tax breaks for the wealthy over minimum wage for poor people. That is the rich young ruler's view of life in the mansion down, rather than Jesus's view of life from the manger up.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) preach the gospel to do what? To preach good news to the poor...

BLITZER: Reverend Jackson...

JACKSON: ... and to set the captive free. And that's not the priority of our government.

BLITZER: Let me talk about that for a moment, because in this same CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, the question was asked, "Should government promote traditional values?" Fifty-five percent said yes, 41 percent said no.

I guess the question would have to define what we mean by traditional values, but in the common vernacular, do you think the government should promote traditional values?

JACKSON: You know, slavery was a traditional value and embraced by the church. The abolitionists were the moral minority. They said end slavery.

A legal segregation was a moral issue defined by the right wing of our country. But Dr. King's letter from Birmingham Jail was to right-wing evangelicals who said he was in Birmingham meddling.

So they've never fought (ph) to the great issues of our times, to fight the workers' right to organize, the fight for conference (ph) of health care, the fight for the poor. Those issues fall into the moral category. And it's the government policy that they should in fact embrace those positions.

BLITZER: Do you want to see, Reverend Falwell, the government promote traditional values aggressively?

FALWELL: Well, when I mention traditional values, I'm talking about life, faith and family. And of course, caring for the poor is part of that.

But, yes, I think that we should be promoting, from the highest levels, the sanctity of marriage. That is not just an American issue. It's 6,000 years old.

We should be pushing for the safety of unborn children.

BLITZER: All right.

FALWELL: And I hope one day Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

BLITZER: Well, let's get into...

FALWELL: I do believe that.

BLITZER: Let's get into that for a moment, because over the next four years...

JACKSON: Four million in the Congo have been killed (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And these are people too, 4 million Africans. A million and a half in the Sudan are dying, sleeping on the ground at night. We've hardly raised our hand to save those dying people.

So we fight for the fetus, but we starve the babies. Where's the consistency there?

FALWELL: I think we should do both. I think the Muslim government in Sudan...

JACKSON: And we're not doing both.

FALWELL: ... that has literally murdered nearly 2 million Christians in southern Sudan should have been dealt with by the U.N. The U.N. has no backbone, no courage, and therefore, the U.S. must do it.

JACKSON: But don't reduce that to religion. After all, most lynchings took place on Sunday after church. It was thought they'd be some kind of moral value. Segregation was embraced by the church.

And so we cannot be self-righteous about the issue of morality. Jesus put it best. I've been annointed to preach the gospel to do what? Preach good news to the poor and to heal the broken-hearted and set the captives free. Jerry, we ought to stay right there.

BLITZER: All right. Hold on, guys, for a minute, because I want to take a quick break. Reverend Jackson, Reverend Falwell, we have a lot more to talk about.

And I want to get into some of the specifics. Over the next four years, the United States Supreme Court could be making critical decisions that could affect everyone.

Much more of our conversation when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking about religion, moral values and politics this year and beyond with the Reverends Jerry Falwell and Jesse Jackson.

Reverend Jackson, the Supreme Court, the president over the next four years could nominate maybe two, maybe three new justices for the Supreme Court.

How concerned are you, for example, that there could be a dramatic change on this issue, which Reverend Falwell has been talking about, Roe v. Wade, a woman's right to have an abortion?

JACKSON: Well, a woman's right to choose is a very sacred right for women. Most women choose to have their babies, but it ultimately is the woman's choice. And I'm convinced if there is prenatal care and daycare on the front side, it becomes much less of an issue.

To deny women and doctors the right to make that decision is to drive them into the back alleys, for poor people. For rich women, they maintain their rights and their options.

BLITZER: You want to go back to those back alleys, Reverend Falwell, where women have to sneak in to get an abortion and all the things that many of us who are old enough remember occurred in the '50s or '60s?

FALWELL: Well, I'm old enough, older than you, to remember that there were some, and there will always be the breaking of the law. But very, very few compared to the more than 1 million abortions each year this country since, 40-plus million dead.

And I do want to go back to the day when unborn children in this country have protection. They are the last disenfranchised minority.

And I don't believe that the appointment of judges to the U.S. Supreme Court alone will do that. There can be the overturning of Roe v. Wade. That will, then, send the issue back to the 50 states, where every state will make its own decision.

And of course, we who are pro-life will have many, many years of hard work to do. But I think the safety, the sanctity of unborn life is such an important priority that it's worth the work, the tears and the effort.

JACKSON: Well, you know, some girls get pregnant at 11. They're premature and they're frightened. Some, their bodies cannot handle pregnancy. Some are raped. Some, it's a case of incest. Some because of drugs.

There are complicated issues that are simpler (ph) than good guys are for it and bad guys are against it.

I think women and their doctors and their ministers must make that decision together. Ultimately, it is the woman's decision.

BLITZER: Reverend Falwell, you say you support life. Christopher Reeve, before he died, wanted an expansion of stem-cell research to promote life, better quality of life, medical breakthroughs.

Do you understand why so many people would like to see stem-cell research and federal funding for that kind of research expanded?

FALWELL: Yes and no. I can understand why many would have false hopes that this would be a solution, but there is no scientific evidence that embryonic stem-cell research provides any such hope. Not one adult human, not one person, not one human is being helped right now by such. No tests are going on...

BLITZER: But a lot of the nation's -- Reverend Falwell, excuse me for interrupting, but a lot of the nation's top scientists, doctors, researchers, say that if you give them a chance to work on this area over the next five, 10, 15 years, that could dramatically change and open all sorts of doors for cures to Parkinson's and spinal cord injuries and all sorts of other problems.

FALWELL: Wolf, that's all a red herring, because the fact is there has been any prohibition of such research. Only federal funding has been stopped. And the fact is that, right now, research is going on, work is going on in the private sector.

When you talk about federal funds, that is where I feel very strongly I'm not willing for my tax dollars, and I would hope most Americans...

BLITZER: All right.

FALWELL: ... are not willing to invest those dollars in...

JACKSON: I can only say that good religion and bad science are a recipe for disaster. We need stem-cell research to extend people's lives.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about another issue that could come to the forefront over the next few years, almost certainly will, the issue of same-sex marriage.

Reverend Jackson, where exactly do you stand? Should two men be allowed to get married or two women be allowed to get married in this country?

JACKSON: It's not an option I would pursue, but it is their option.

You know, in this campaign, both Bush and Kerry took the same position, both against same sex marriage. Both were for civil unions. It became a very big wedge issue in this campaign. I think it should not have been in the middle of our campaign.

BLITZER: What about that, Reverend Falwell?

FALWELL: Well, first of all, obviously I believe that, from the very beginning, one man for one woman for one lifetime is God's ideal.

And if, in fact, we legalize same-sex marriage, then why not polygamy? Why just two? Why not a dozen? What's wrong with beastiality?

FALWELL: The fact is, there are rules and regulations in civilized society. And the barnyard has no problem with this, they understand it. It is one man, one woman. And I very much oppose the same-sex marriage and civil unions, for that matter.

You cannot stop people from doing the wrong things. Heterosexual men and women commit adultery. I'm against it. I'm not for putting anybody in jail who does it. And not for putting homosexuals in jail or penalizing them for living together. But I am against rewarding them with financial benefits for doing something that is immoral.

JACKSON: You know, what concerns me about this issue is that in the 10 Commandments, this issue didn't make the top 10, you know. In Jesus's preachings, it did not make his parables even.

BLITZER: But, Reverend Jackson, let me interrupt you...

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON: No, it is a diversion from issues. Right now, we have the expansion of poverty and war, while we're rewarding and plenty.

I think it's an issue of great diversion.

BLITZER: All right, Reverend Jackson, I want to move on to another subject. But even though it didn't make the top 10, the 10 Commandments, you will agree that in the Old Testament there are admonitions against homosexuality.

JACKSON: Indeed, there are admonitions. But in...

FALWELL: And the New Testament.

JACKSON: But we live in our faith. We live under the law. And people have -- and American people have the right of self- determination. It's not my choice.

FALWELL: I'm a Baptist preacher. And so are you, Jesse. And we both allege to believe the Bible. If we take the Bible seriously, there's no room for same-sex marriage, and you know it.

JACKSON: I'll tell you what, if we take the Bible seriously, we would love all and break down the barriers that separate men from women and women from men, based upon race, gender and religion, if we really take the Bible seriously.

Love is the ultimate good in the Bible -- love.

BLITZER: Reverend Falwell, we're almost out of time, but I want to get into the issue of "The Passion of the Christ."

Do you understand why so many people were so upset about Mel Gibson's blockbuster success, why they thought this movie was not necessarily all that passionate, if you will, and all that good?

FALWELL: I do not understand for a moment why hypocritical Hollywooders would be objecting to "The Passion of the Christ" with the filth and garbage and violence and gratuitous sex they produce on a daily basis.

The "Passion of the Christ" gave to the world, for the first time -- we've all read about and heard about the death, burial, resurrection of Christ for all mankind. For the first time, we saw it. We watched, we observed, we heard, as our Lord. And I think he is as close to the text, Mel was, as can be done. We saw a graphic example of the awesome price Jesus Christ paid for the sins of the whole world.

And I applaud Mel Gibson. It's amazing that a Catholic renegade theologian like Mel would be the guy God uses to tell the world, one more time, in the best way ever, "Jesus loves you, died for you, and if you will trust him, he will save you."

JACKSON: But, you know, what's missing in that is that the passion is very real, but I thought what was missing was Jesus was born under a death warrant by the government, because he came to defend the poor and ultimately killed by a right-wing, by the religionous (ph) and the government.

He was killed because he was a freedom fighter. He was (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So there was a passion, but there was a political context. Why did he get killed defending the poor, delivering evil and setting the captives free?

FALWELL: Jesse, nobody killed Jesus. He was God (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He laid his life down of himself. Had he wished, he could have called 12 legions of angels. He loved Jesse Jackson, Jerry Falwell, Wolf Blitzer enough to go to the cross willingly to pay our sin debt in full forever.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, on that note, we have to leave it right there. Reverend Jackson, Reverend Falwell, Happy New Year to both of you. Thanks very much for joining us on our special end-of-the-year "LATE EDITION."

And just ahead, the decision-makers, the news-makers, they were all on "LATE EDITION" this year. But who made our Hall of Fame? Find out when our special "LATE EDITION" returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Every week this year we've brought you the world's newsmakers for the last word in Sunday talk. A number of them have been frequent visitors to "LATE EDITION."

So we thought on our final show of the year, that would be a good time to unveil our "LATE EDITION" Hall of Fame, the guests who made the most appearances in 2004.

In third place, with seven appearances, Connecticut Democratic Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.

Coming in in second place, with eight appearances, the former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

And tied for first place, with nine appearances each, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts of Kansas, and the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin of Michigan.

Congratulations to this year's "LATE EDITION" Hall of Fame members. We look forward to having you back in 2005.

And that's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, December 26th. Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. Have a very safe and happy New Year.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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