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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Cheney Interview; Aruban Judge Arrested; Rumsfeld Grilled in Senate; Insurgents Continue Campaign in Iraq

Aired June 23, 2005 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the war of words heating up, but the vice president not backing down. Stand by for hard news on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER (voice-over): The war over the war.

SEN. TED KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: In baseball, it's three strikes, you're out. What is it for the secretary of defense?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And any who say that we've lost this war or that we're losing this war are wrong.

BLITZER: A showdown on Capitol Hill. The vice president's view. Just last month, he said the insurgency was in its last throes. But just today.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: There are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago.

BLITZER: I'll look at the war in Iraq and the war on terror in an exclusive interview with Vice President Dick Cheney.

This property is condemned. Can your town seize your home and turn it over to a private developer? A controversial ruling from the Supreme Court.

ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS for Thursday, June 23, 2005.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

In just a few moments, my exclusive interview with Vice President Dick Cheney. First, though, the war in Iraq.

The Pentagon brass was met with some brass knuckles today on Capitol Hill as critics of the war took the gloves off. Amid talk of quagmires and withdrawal deadlines, there was another call for the resignation of the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

Let's go live to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. Jamie. JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: One thing that's clear from today's testimony, Wolf, is that along with insurgents, U.S. commanders are also battling a growing perception that the U.S. is losing in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: Any who say that we've lost this war or that we're losing this war are wrong. We are not.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Flanked by his commanders, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress the worst thing the U.S. could do now is set a deadline to get out of Iraq.

RUMSFELD: It would throw a lifeline to terrorists who in recent months have suffered significant losses and casualties, been denied havens and suffered weakened popular support.

MCINTYRE: But Rumsfeld's top commanders seemed to break ranks with Vice President Dick Cheney's assessment that the insurgency is in its last throes, testifying there are now more foreign fighters in Iraq than there were six months ago.

ABIZAID: In terms of the overall strength of the insurgency, I'd say it's about the same as it was.

SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) MICHIGAN: So you wouldn't agree with the statement that it's in its last throes?

ABIZAID: I don't know that I would make any comment about that other than to say there's a lot of work to be done against the insurgency.

MCINTYRE: And Abizaid expressed deep concern about slipping support for the war at home.

ABIZAID: I've never seen the lack of confidence greater. When my soldiers say to me and ask me the question whether or not they've got support from the American people or not, that worries me. And they're starting to do that.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld drew the ire of some senators. West Virginia's Robert Byrd accused him of sneering.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: The people out there want us to ask questions. So get off your high horse when you come up here.

MCINTYRE: But the most contentious exchange was with long-time adversary Senator Ted Kennedy.

KENNEDY: We are in serious trouble in Iraq and this war has been consistently and grossly mismanaged. And we are now in a seemingly intractable quagmire. Our troops are dying. And there really is no end in sight.

RUMSFELD: There isn't a person at this table who agrees with you that we're in a quagmire and that there's no end in sight.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: When Kennedy pressed Rumsfeld, saying shouldn't you resign, Rumsfeld responded, I offered my resignation to the president twice and he didn't accept it. And he said it's the president's call. Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre, thanks very much.

As lawmakers battle over the war here in Washington, the war itself grinds on. It was another very bloody day in Baghdad and elsewhere. CNN's Jennifer Eccleston is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The violence shows no sign of abating. Four early morning car bomb blasts in the busy Karada commercial district in central Baghdad left 17 people dead and 68 wounded. The attacks targeted two Shiite mosques and an Iraqi police patrol where three officers were killed.

Another blast took place outside of a public bath house. And a fifth car bomb was detected, but it was diffused by Iraqi police.

Now, the explosions come hours after at least 18 people died on Wednesday in five blasts, all car bombs in mainly Shiite districts of the capital city. Over 46 people were wounded.

Now, the Iraqi police say the attacks were the work of foreign insurgents targeting the majority Shiites, pitting them against the minority Sunnis and increasing the chance of sectarian violence here in Iraq.

Now, also today, the al Qaeda group in Iraq said in an Internet posting that a senior Saudi militant Abdullah Mohammed al Rashud was killed in fighting with U.S. forces in al Qaim near the vast Syrian border. Of course, al Qaeda in Iraq is led by Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

Now, al Rashud is one of three Saudi fugitives at large from a list the of 26 senior al Qaeda militants accused of carrying out attacks in the Saudi kingdom. We know from the U.S. Marines that 50 insurgents were believed killed in Operation Spear in the city of Karabala near to al Qaim. They said that Saudis could have been part of that number. They found a number of non-Iraqi passports, including passports from the Saudi kingdom.

Jennifer Eccelston, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: He's a lightning rod for criticism and he's not afraid to dish it out, nor is he shy about voicing his views. Just a short while ago here in Washington, I sat down with Vice President Dick Cheney, who offered his thoughts from Iraq to Osama bin Laden to Guantanamo Bay and of course, politics. Here's part one of my exclusive interview. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Mr. Vice President, I know you're a busy man. Thanks very much for joining us.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's good to see you again, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're in a historic room. We'll get to this room later -- I want to talk a little bit about it -- but let's talk about some controversial comments you recently made suggesting the insurgents in Iraq were in, your words, their "last throes." Do you want to revise or amend those comments?

CHENEY: No, but I'd be happy to explain what I meant by that.

If you go back over a year, a year ago, we intercepted a message from Zarqawi, the top terrorist in Iraq, sent to Osama bin Laden. And it basically said that if the Iraqis were successful in establishing a democracy in Iraq, standing up a viable government, that he'd have to pack his bags and go elsewhere. And he was obviously very concerned about that possibility.

And what's happened since then, of course, is that we've had considerable success. We've transferred sovereign authority about a year ago, held elections in January, first free elections in Iraq in a very long time.

We've set up an interim government. There's a constitutional process in place now, a draft constitution. Later this year, there'll be a referendum on the constitution, and then national elections, finally, at the end of the year in the fall. So the political process is going forward, making significant progress.

At the same time, we're making progress in terms of training up Iraqi security forces. I think the months immediately ahead will be difficult months. I think there will be a lot of violence, a lot of bloodshed, because I think the terrorists will do everything they can to try to disrupt that process and that flow that's well underway.

But I think it is well underway. I think it is going to be accomplished, that we will, in fact, succeed in getting a democracy established in Iraq. And I think, when we do, that will be the end of the insurgency.

BLITZER: The commander of the U.S. Military Central Command, General John Abizaid, he's been testifying on Capitol Hill.

CHENEY: Right.

BLITZER: He says the insurgency now is at a strength undiminished as it was six months ago. And he says there are actually more foreign fighters in Iraq now than there were six months ago. That doesn't sound like the last throes.

CHENEY: No, I would disagree. If you look at what the dictionary says about throes, it can still be a, you know, a violent period, the throes of a revolution. The point would be that the conflict will be intense, but it's intense because the terrorists understand if we're successful at accomplishing our objective, standing up a democracy in Iraq, that that's a huge defeat for them. They'll do everything they can to stop it.

I mean, if you look back at World War II, the toughest battles, the most difficult battles, both in Europe and in the Pacific, occurred just a few months before the end -- the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944 and Okinawa in the spring of 1945. And I see this as a similar situation, where they're going to go all out. They'll do everything they can to disrupt that process. But I think we're strong enough to defeat them. And I think the process itself of establishing a democracy and a viable security force for the Iraqis will, in fact, signal the end, if you will, for the terrorists inside Iraq.

BLITZER: Do you want to offer an assessment of how much longer this insurgency will continue?

CHENEY: No. No, I can't say that, but I do believe, because this has happened in the past -- we've seen these political milestones are very important. When we transferred sovereign authority to the Iraqis a year ago, very important. When we held those elections last January, very important.

The president's been insistent, and I think properly so, in pushing forward on getting these things done. A lot of people said, you can't possibly hold elections in January. Others said, if you hold elections, there'll be a civil war. None of that came to pass.

In fact, we held the elections. The president insisted on it. The Iraqis did a great job. And I think that the success of the venture ultimately turns upon establishing a viable government in Iraq. And I think we're well on our way to doing that, much farther down the road than we were six months or a year ago.

BLITZER: But is this going to be a timeframe within a year, two years, five years? How much longer will this insurgency require the troop level of the United States in Iraq right now?

CHENEY: I think the way to think about it is defining it in terms of achieving certain conditions on the ground. We don't want to stay a day longer than necessary. But we want to stay long enough to get the job done. And the key here, from the standpoint of the security situation, is getting the Iraqis into a position where they can take care of their own security.

BLITZER: The Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, has told me he thinks by 2006, the U.S. can start to significantly reduce its troop levels. Do you agree with him?

CHENEY: Well, I hope he's correct. But again, we've been very careful not to put a timeline on it and say, we'll be through by X date, or we can begin to bring the troops by a certain date. We can begin to do that once the Iraqis are in a position to be able to provide for their own security. Now, there'll probably be a continued U.S. presence there for some considerable period of time, because there are some things we do they can't do -- for example, air support, some of our intelligence, communications and logistics capabilities.

But I think the bulk of the effort will increasingly be taken on by Iraqi forces. We've got about 160,000 now that are trained and equipped. They're increasingly more and more capable. We've got more and more of them fielded. They'll take on a bigger and bigger role, in terms of the ongoing struggle against the insurgents.

And simultaneously with that, we'll have the political process going forward, as it is demonstrated that we're already able to do that. And once we get to the point where you have a freely elected Iraqi government under a constitution written by Iraqis, representative of everybody living in Iraq -- Shi'a, Sunni, Kurd -- then I think we'll have created the conditions and circumstances that will make it possible for us to begin to draw down our forces.

But I think about it in terms of those conditions being achieved rather than a specific timeline.

BLITZER: Senator Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, just came back from Iraq. He says that the U.S. is currently training 107 battalions of Iraqi troops, and only three of those battalions are fully capable right now to take charge.

CHENEY: Well, a year ago, there weren't any Iraqi battalions at all. It takes time to get a battalion up to speed, where you take in the recruits, you train them, you equip them. It takes time to create a fully confident U.S. battalion, if you started from scratch.

We've got a lot of them in the pipeline. There are several different stages. There are three or four now that are up to the top level, in terms of competence and capability, able to operate on their own. There are a lot more coming along behind them. So I feel very good about where we are with respect to training.

BLITZER: So you won't speculate how long it will take to get all those battalions up to speed?

CHENEY: No, but what I'd recommend you do is talk to Dave Petraeus, the former commander of the 101st, the man who's in charge of the training program over there. He's doing a superb job. And in fact, there are more and more Iraqis taking on the fight, equipped to take on the fight, with the leadership developed and the capabilities developed so that they can take over important responsibilities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: More of my exclusive interview with the vice president, Dick Cheney, that's coming up, including his thoughts on a recent CIA assessment that Iraq has become the major training ground for terrorists, even more effective a training ground than Afghanistan was under the Taliban. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Is Iraq just the beginning for the insurgents? And criticism from inside the GOP. More now of my exclusive interview with the vice president, Dick Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How many insurgents are there?

CHENEY: I don't think you can put a figure on it. I mean, you've got the different kinds of people involved in the process. I think most of the suicide bombers are jihadists, people from outside Iraq. There aren't that many Iraqis who want to commit suicide.

There was a public discussion recently. Somebody sat down and did analysis of al Qaeda Web sites, where they were posting the names of people who had become martyrs by blowing themselves up, killing Iraqis, and the vast majority of them were, in fact, from outside. They were from Saudi Arabia, from Syria, from North Africa. So I think you've got that category of people. I think they're responsible for the deadliest attacks, if you will, especially the ones against Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces.

Then you've got others who I think are tied into the former regime, Saddam loyalists. I think...

BLITZER: Are there thousands of them, hundreds of them, tens of thousands?

CHENEY: I would guess there are some who are dedicated to their point of view and their participation in the conflict. I think they go out oftentimes and buy people to participate in these raids, that they'll pay somebody, for example, to go take a shot at an American soldier, or to plant an IED in a road someplace.

And then there are the basic criminal elements. Remember, shortly before we took Baghdad, Saddam Hussein released all the convicted criminals in all the prisons all over Iraq. And so they're in the streets, too.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying -- the United States doesn't really know how many insurgents there are?

CHENEY: We can make estimates, but nobody can put a hard number on it.

BLITZER: You want to offer an estimate?

CHENEY: No.

BLITZER: Okay, let's talk about the CIA report, which I'm sure you read, suggesting that Iraq today has become, in effect, a more effective terrorist training ground for sending jihadists around the world than Afghanistan under the Taliban ever was. CHENEY: I think -- I haven't seen that specific report you're talking about, or at least I don't know whether it's public or you're talking about a classified report ...

BLITZER: There's been a lot of newspaper articles, and we've independently confirmed it. It's a classified report.

CHENEY: Well, I don't talk about classified reports. So set aside the report itself. Again, I think it's important to remember that an awful lot of the jihadists don't ever leave Iraq. They go in and literally strap themselves into a carload of explosives or put on a vest full of dynamite and blow themselves up.

BLITZER: But isn't Iraq a training ground for these kinds of international terrorist activities, that they go there as sort of a lab for them, then they go out?

CHENEY: I think we're killing an awful lot of them, and I think the fact of the matter is there may be a few that migrate from there back out. But most of the folks that are going in there -- and we've got some evidence of this because we've been able to capture some and been able to interrogate them and so forth -- have come in and are fairly quickly run through the pipeline, given an assignment, and literally then in the course of completing their mission, blow themselves up.

BLITZER: Let me read to you what Senator Chuck Hagel, a friend of yours, a Republican, from Nebraska, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told "U.S. News & World Report."

"Things aren't getting better, they are getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality." And he goes on to say, "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

CHENEY: Wolf, as long as I have been vice president and since 9/11, we've had people like Chuck Hagel and other politicians and we have people in the press corps and commentators who've said you can't do Afghanistan. Once we got into Afghanistan, we had been there a couple of weeks and Johnny Apple of the "New York Times" had a front page story about how we were in a - quote -- "quagmire." We were going to get trapped in the mountains. Winter was going to make it impossible for us to complete our mission in Afghanistan. They were all wrong.

We were told we couldn't hold elections in Afghanistan. You'll never be able to put it together. They've never had an election Afghanistan in the 5,000-year history of the country. It will never work. It did work. I was at the inauguration of President Hamid Karzai who got elected.

We were told we couldn't possibly succeed as quickly as we did against Saddam Hussein in terms of taking him down. We did. You'll never capture Saddam Hussein. We did. We were told you'll never be able to go in and transfer sovereign authority to the Iraqis. We did. You'll never hold an election. We did. The fact of the matter is the town's got a lot of people in it who are armchair quarterbacks or who like to comment on the passing scene. But to those who have predicted the demise of our efforts since 9/11 as we have fought the war on terror, we have liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, did not know what they were talking about.

And I would submit to you today that we will succeed in Iraq just like we did in Afghanistan. We will stand up a new government under an Iraqi-drafted constitution. We will defeat the insurgency. And in fact, it will be an enormous success story that'll have a huge impact not just in Iraq but throughout the region.

We have already seen the ripple effect, if you will, of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq. We see it in Syria having to get out of Lebanon. We see it in the Lebanese demanding free elections in the streets of Lebanon, we see it in the willingness of a lot of governments in that part of the world who are now willing to consider democracy and freedom.

BLITZER: So, the bottom line, Chuck Hagel...

CHENEY: The bottom line is ...

BLITZER: Chuck Hagel is ...

CHENEY: Wrong.

BLITZER: You disagree with him.

Look at these poll numbers, this latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup Poll numbers. And I know that you don't necessarily have to make policy on the basis of poll numbers but there ...

CHENEY: Not a very good idea.

BLITZER: ...they're pretty disturbing. In 2003, right after the war, 71 percent of the American public supported the war in Iraq. It had gone down to 48 percent in 2004. In March, it was 47 percent. Now it's only 39 percent favor the war in Iraq. Those are very disturbing numbers from the administration's perspective. The American public isn't convinced you are doing the right thing.

CHENEY: Well, Wolf, the business that George Bush is in, being president of the United States, and those of us that work for him is to do what we think is right for the country and to make tough decisions.

The last thing you want to do is to read the latest poll and then base policy on that. There is probably a new poll every day in the country and presidents are generally ineffective if they spend all their time reading the poll and trying to make policy accordingly. We are doing what we believe is right. We're convinced it's right. We're convinced that in fact we'll achieve our objectives. And frankly we don't pay a lot of attention to the polls.

BLITZER: Did you read the so-called Downing Street memo?

CHENEY: No, I did not.

BLITZER: Well it suggests British officials came here before the war, months before the war and said the administration had already decided to go to war against Saddam Hussein. The intelligence wasn't there, and the memo says it will be fixed around the policy, the intelligence. In other words, they were going to make it up. You were going to make it up as you go along to justify removing Saddam Hussein from power.

You dispute that. I assume you dispute that.

CHENEY: Of course. The memo was written sometime prior to when we actually got involved in Iraq.

BLITZER: In the fall of 2002 when the war was ...

CHENEY: Right. And remember what happened after the supposed memo was written. We went to the United Nations. We got a unanimous vote out of the Security Council for a resolution calling on Saddam Hussein to come clean and comply with the U.N. Security Council resolution. We did everything we could to resolve this without having to use military force. We gave him one last chance even, and asked him to step down before we launched military operations.

The memo is just wrong. In fact, the president of the United States took advantage of every possibility to try to resolve this without having to use military force. It wasn't possible in this case. I am convinced we did absolutely the right thing. I am convinced that history will bear that out

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: My exclusive conversation with Vice President Dick Cheney will continue. Just ahead, I'll ask him about Osama bin Laden and what he knows about the al Qaeda leader's current whereabouts. And we'll check some other news later this hour, including some new developments in the disappearance in that Alabama student, Natalee Holloway. The father of the 17-year-old suspect has now been arrested himself. We'll go live to Aruba.

Much more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We welcome our viewers from around the world.

The fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction and the ongoing search for Osama bin Laden, my exclusive interview with the Vice President Dick Cheney continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: As you saw that presidential commission that came out with its report on the WMD assessments before the war -- their words, the U.S. assessment, intelligence assessment, was dead wrong. How could the U.S. government, the intelligence community have been dead wrong in saying that Saddam Hussein had chemical, biological weapons of mass destruction when he didn't have any, apparently?

CHENEY: Well, remember what they were dealing with. They had a tough target. I have got a sympathy for the intelligence community. But they did. Their judgment was overwhelmingly that he did in fact have weapons of mass destruction. We knew certain things. We knew that he had produced them in the past. We knew he had used them in the past. We knew that he had started two wars. We knew he had slaughtered hundreds of thousands of his own people.

And we found after the fact, while he did not have stockpiles, he still had the capability. He still had the technicians who knew how to produce this stuff. He still had some labs that could, in fact, have been converted to this process very quickly.

We also know now something that we didn't know at the time which was that the sanctions had been a joke, that in fact Saddam Hussein had corrupted the oil-for-food program intended to provide food and medicine for the Iraqi people and used it to bribe senior officials at the United Nations and in other governments in order to undermine the sanctions and that he was simply waiting until such time as the sanctions had been lifted or had been totally been undermined to resume business as usual.

So I think eventually he would in fact have been back in the business and I think ...

BLITZER: I don't want to go too much into the history.

CHENEY: No, that's all right. But you asked the question.

BLITZER: I know.

CHENEY: I think the community did in fact miss the exact status of the stockpiles at the time, but I don't think there is any question about his intent or about what he had done in the past or the fact that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: The criticism, though, that has been leveled at you is that you in effect pressured the intelligence community to come up with ...

CHENEY: Wolf, if you go back.

BLITZER: You've heard that, for instance.

CHENEY: It's not true. And anybody who has looked at it, and several people have, have found it's not true. The WMD commission looked at that very carefully and found not a shred of evidence to support it. The Senate Intelligence Committee, which did a complete and thorough study before the WMD commission and questioned hundreds of intelligence analysts, found there was absolutely no truth. They couldn't find one single individual who would validate that comment you just made. There's nothing to support it. There never was, because it never happened.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Porter Goss, the CIA director. He says he has an "excellent idea" where Osama bin Laden is hiding out. Do you?

CHENEY: We've got a pretty good idea of the general area that he's in, but I -- you know, I don't have the street address.

BLITZER: Well, what is the general area? It's been widely reported to be..

CHENEY: I don't talk -- I don't -- I don't...

BLITZER: ...somewhere along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

CHENEY: I don't talk about intelligence matters.

BLITZER: But it's not Iran. Because some...

CHENEY: I'm...

BLITZER: ... like Curt Weldon, the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee...

CHENEY: Wolf, if I don't talk about -- I don't talk about classified information.

BLITZER: You don't want to get into that.

CHENEY: Correct.

BLITZER: Osama bin Laden. But any assessment of, is he going to be caught soon, not so soon? Any idea when?

CHENEY: What, do you expect me to say three weeks from next Tuesday? (LAUGHTER) I'm convinced eventually we'll get him. I know for a fact that we've made significant inroads in his organization. We have captured and killed many of his fellow travelers, if you will, most recently a man named Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who was the new number-three man in the organization. We've been, I think, enormously successful against al Qaeda. We've still got a lot to do, because it's a tough, resilient organization, and they're still out there trying to find ways to attack us.

BLITZER: A few other quick questions before we end this interview. Should Gitmo -- the Guantanamo Bay detention center -- be shut down, the detainees moved elsewhere?

CHENEY: No.

BLITZER: Because?

CHENEY: Because it's a vital facility. The people that are there are people we picked up on the battlefield primarily in Afghanistan. They're terrorists. They're bomb-makers. They're facilitators of terror. They're members of al Qaeda and the Taliban. We've screened everybody we had. We had some 800 people down there. We've screened them all, and we've let go those that we deemed not to be a continuing threat. But the 520-some that are there now are serious, deadly threats to the United States, for the most part. If you let them out, they'll go back to trying to kill Americans.

BLITZER: Nobody said let them out, but move them to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, or someplace like that.

CHENEY: Why would you do that?

BLITZER: Because of the reputation that Guantanamo...

CHENEY: The treatment they're getting -- they got a brand new facility down at Guantanamo. We spent a lot of money to build it. They're very well treated down there. They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possible want. There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people.

BLITZER: The Pew Charitable Trust has a poll that's coming out today that suggests that in much of the world, communist China has a more favorable image right now than the United States of America does. Should Americans care about that?

CHENEY: I think we need to be guided by our principles. I think we need to make firm decisions about what we need to do and carry through and do those. I think we have in fact been successful at that. And I frankly don't spend a lot of time, Wolf, reading polls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The vice president's ambitions, does he have a plan to run for the top spot in 2008? And what does he think about Hillary Clinton? I'll ask him. That's coming up next.

And later -- missing in Aruba. There's been a new arrest in the case of Natalee Holloway. Why investigators now say an Aruban judge is a suspect.

Also, would you give up your home to make room for a hotel or a shopping mall? As of today, you may not have a choice. We'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To some political battles now. The future of Social Security and an angry dispute over comments about 9/11. Here's the conclusion of my exclusive interview with Vice President Dick Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let me move to some domestic issues, then we'll wrap this up. Social Security. Is the president ready to forget about the private retirement accounts that he wants as part of Social Security reform? CHENEY: No. He believes deeply in the personal accounts, and we think they ought to be part of a final solution.

BLITZER: If it's not part of the final solution, if the House and Senate pass legislation that doesn't include these private accounts, will he sign it into law?

CHENEY: I wouldn't say that. I don't know. I mean, it would depend on what's in the bill. But the fact is that we've got more ideas being put on the table now. We're making progress. Republicans putting ideas on the table; contrary, the Democrats aren't. They basically have said they don't want to participate. Their leadership has made this a partisan issue, so there are no Democratic ideas put forward by Democratic members of Congress at this point. That's unfortunate. I think in the end, their voters didn't send them down here and pay them a big salary and let them retire on a nice congressional pension, and at the same time refuse to address the obvious flaws and problems that are in Social Security today.

We need to fix the system. And I think we will fix the system. We'll get it done. We'll work with the Congress. And I'm convinced we'll produce good legislation.

BLITZER: And the fact that the president gave Senator Robert Bennett of Utah the green light to submit legislation that doesn't include the private accounts?

CHENEY: No, what the president did was, he told Bob Bennett he liked Bob Bennett's bill. The Bennett bill specifically has the so- called Pozen proposal in it, a sliding scale by which you would adjust Social Security benefits. It doesn't include personal retirement accounts. But the president likes the Pozen concept because it's incorporated in his own plan.

BLITZER: Let me read to you from comments that Karl Rove made in New York this week and get your reaction -- at a fundraiser for the Conservative Party of New York State. "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks" -- let me start again -- "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding to our attackers."

A lot of Democrats are pretty irate about those comments. They want him to retract them.

CHENEY: Well, I haven't seen Karl's speech. But I think there was a distinction made. I made it several times in my own speech, that the traditional way of dealing with terrorist attacks prior to 9/11 was to treat them as law enforcement matters, to issue subpoenas, to go arrest the individual perpetrators, to put them on trial and lock them up, and never look behind the individual perpetrators, and never consider it a wartime situation.

After 9/11, we changed all that, and we altered our entire strategy because we began to look on it as a war -- that, in fact, the al Qaeda was bound and determined to kill as many Americans as possible, demonstrated that on 9/11, and that we had to not only go after al Qaeda, we also had to go after states that sponsored terror, those who might share weapons of mass destruction with them, et cetera.

In other words, one is sort of a crime-solving approach, a law- enforcement approach, and the other is a national strategy, military, intelligence, wartime approach. And I think that the history clearly demonstrates that there were different approaches prior to 9/11 and after 9/11. Our predecessors, for example...

BLITZER: But I think the point that many Democrats and liberals are making is they supported going to war in Afghanistan, against the Taliban and al Qaeda, right after 9/11.

CHENEY: Well, not...

BLITZER: They didn't necessary call for...

CHENEY: Not everybody. There were some who opposed what we did in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: A final question about your political ambitions, if you have any.

CHENEY: I have no ambitions.

BLITZER: Don't want to run in 2008?

CHENEY: No.

BLITZER: Do you think Hillary Rodham Clinton could be a formidable Democratic presidential candidate?

CHENEY: I'm not worried about Hillary Rodham Clinton. I'm doing my job. I've got a job to do for the next three-and-a-half years. I love being vice president. I'm very proud to serve with this president. But at the end of that time, I'll mark close to 40 years in this business, Wolf, and I think it'll be time for me to move on to other pursuits.

BLITZER: You look good. You sound good. How do you feel?

CHENEY: Great.

BLITZER: Mr. Vice President, it was kind of you to spend some time with us.

CHENEY: It's good to see you, Wolf.

BLITZER: This is a pretty amazing room.

CHENEY: It is. It's the ceremonial office of the vice president. At one time, it was the office of the secretary of the Navy. Franklin Roosevelt and Teddy Roosevelt both had offices right next door when they were assistant secretaries in the Navy.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I saw their signatures in the desk.

CHENEY: And then "Black Jack" Pershing had it for many years, from right after World War I until the late-1940s. And then since Eisenhower, or the Eisenhower administration, basically, Dick Nixon became vice president. And it's always been the vice presidential office since then.

BLITZER: Well, it's beautiful room. Thanks for joining us.

CHENEY: All right. Good to see you, Wolf. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And this note, tomorrow on this program, I'll speak with Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy. Tomorrow on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

When we come back, new developments in the case of that missing teen Natalee Holloway, including an unexpected arrest just a short time ago. We'll go live to Aruba.

Plus, sentencing day for the man convicted of murdering three civil rights workers back in 1964.

And later, could the government seize your home for public use? The Supreme Court rules on the limits of what's called eminent domain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A potentially significant new development on the island of Aruba, a high profile arrest in the case of missing Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway. CNN's Karl Penhaul once again joining us from Palm Beach in Aruba with the latest. Karl.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Judge Paul Van Der Sloot -- he's an island judge but he's also the father of 17-year-old suspect Joran Van Der Sloot -- has been arrested this afternoon. His son Joran Van Der Sloot has already been arrested two weeks ago in connection with the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. And over the weekend, Judge Paul Van Der Sloot was interviewed by police as a witness to see what he may have seen or heard on or after the night that Natalee disappeared.

But today, in an unexpected twist, police have arrested the judge. A law enforcement source close to this investigation says that the suspicion is that the judge may have been helping his son cover up some of the evidence in this case.

This now takes to five the number of arrests in connection with Natalee Holloway's disappearance more than three weeks ago now. What the prosecution service have told us is that Judge Van Der Sloot will be interviewed for about the next five or six hours. And after that, prosecutors will decide whether they have enough to hold him for a further two days to continue the interrogation. But at this stage, the prosecution service says that determination has not been taken.

Now Judge Van Der Sloot is 53 years old. He came from Holland to Aruba about 15 years ago now. Before becoming a judge, he worked in the prosecution service, Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Karl Penhaul with the latest. We'll be watching that story. Thanks, Karl, very much.

Also in our "Justice Report", two days after he was convicted, former Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen has been sentenced to the maximum 60 years in prison. The judge noted that because Killen is 80, he can expect to spend the rest of his life in custody. Killen was found guilty Tuesday of manslaughter in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Coming up at the top of the hour, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT. Christine Romans standing in for Lou tonight. She's joining us live from New York with a preview. Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf. At 6:00 p.m. Eastern, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld strikes back at his critics in Congress and strongly defends the war in Iraq. Rumsfeld says Iraq is not a quagmire.

The western wildfire season begins. At least 30,000 acres scorched in Arizona, hundreds of homes are threatened. We'll have a live report.

And red star rising, outrage in Congress over China's attempt to buy a key U.S. oil company. Our national security could be at risk. A special report.

All that and more at the top of the hour. Now back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Christine. We'll be watching.

When we come back, could your local government seize the home you own? The U.S. Supreme Court weighs in on the limits of eminent domain. And the ruling may surprise you. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Under a power called eminent domain, the government can seize property for public uses like roads, schools or parks. But what about when the government seizes property and then turns it over to private developers? Is that legal? The U.S. Supreme Court answered that question today. Our Brian Todd is over at the U.S. Supreme Court. He's joining us now live. Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the court answered it by the narrowest of margins. But its ruling could affect millions of homeowners across the country, and will have an almost immediate impact on one small community in Connecticut.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): When Susette Kelo found her house by the water in New London, Connecticut, it had everything she wanted.

SUSETTE KELO, HOMEOWNER: It was like I had been here all my life. It was just -- it was just a warm and inviting feeling.

TODD: But now Kelo stands to lose her home after the Supreme Court's ruling that her city government has the right to seize it. Under the legal principle called eminent domain, a government can now condemn or take control of private property and hand it over to private developers.

The practice used to mean slums were torn down to build highways, schools or other public works. But by a 5-4 vote, the court sides with the New London city government that working class homes belonging to Kelo and many others must be sold to the city at so-called market value for upscale offices and hotels.

Justice John Paul Stevens writes for the majority - quote -- "the city has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community including, but by no means limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue."

Attorneys for New London argued the city desperately needs that revenue after losing much of its tax base in recent years. They say in that context, even offices and hotels should be considered a public benefit.

WESLEY HORTON, ATTORNEY FOR NEW LONDON: You can't have one rule for roads, and another rule for blight, and a third rule for economic development. It's all the same thing.

TODD: But Susette Kelo, other New London homeowners, and their attorneys say this ruling will open the floodgates.

SCOTT BULLOCK, INSTITUTE FOR JUSTICE: Home and small business owners -- especially the poor and working and middle class folks -- are going to be more vulnerable to abuse as a result of today's decision. You never know when your home or business is going to be targeted by your government and a large corporation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But experts on eminent domain tell us governments don't go knocking on people's doors very often. They say states have their own legal limits on what can be taken from a homeowner. And one expert says this will be a state-by-state fight. Wolf.

BLITZER: How did this little community, Brian, in Connecticut get this big case?

TODD: Well, it actually started back in 1998 when the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer moved in very near that little community, set up a big plant. The city tried to accommodate Pfizer and they needed some room for development. And that's how this whole thing started. And the community started a grassroots resistance to this. Gradually it got here to the Supreme Court.

BLITZER: Brian Todd at the Supreme Court for us. Thanks, Brian, very much.

Big Bird got a boost late today from the House of Representatives. In a victory for supporters of public radio and TV, the House of Representatives voted to restore full funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The House Appropriations Committee had recommended a $100 million funding cut, but by a 284-140 vote, the full House reversed that decision.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, Prince William graduates, leaving behind his protection from the paparazzi. We'll get to that. First, though, CNN's Jonathan Mann takes a closer look at "This Week In History".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On June 21, 1964, three civil rights activists were murdered in Mississippi by a group of Klansmen. On the same day 41 years later, a breakthrough in the case as one of the accused, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of manslaughter for all three killings.

In 1982, John Hinckley Jr. was found innocent by reason of insanity in the shooting of President Reagan.

And nearly 40,000 people were killed as an earthquake and a series of aftershocks rocked Northern Iran on June 21, 1990.

And that is "This Week In History".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He's second in line to the throne, but Britain's Prince William is now number one when it comes to royal academic achievement. He was among several hundred students graduating from Scotland's St. Andrews University earlier today. And he leaves with the highest grades ever among the royal family. Pretty good.

His grandmother, Queen Elizabeth was among those attending the ceremony, along with his father, Prince Charles, and his new stepmother, the Duchess of Cornwall.

This means, by the way, that the gloves are off for the paparazzi. A deal to leave Prince William alone during his studies expires at the end of graduation week. Too bad for him.

Tomorrow on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS, my interview with Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy. That airs tomorrow, 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starts right now. Christine Romans sitting in for Lou, standing by. Christine. END

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