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War of Words at the U.N.

Aired September 19, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, a war of words at the U.N., first President Bush blasting Iran's nuclear ambitions, and then just a short time ago, Iran's president defiant as ever slamming America's role in Iraq. Just how serious is Iran's threat? We'll explore some frightening possibilities with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper and more.

And then, thousands of Australians just attended a public memorial for Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, tragically killed by a stingray two weeks ago. We'll get reaction from wildlife TV superstar Jack Hanna and from Jacques Cousteau's grandson Philippe Cousteau, who was there for Steve Irwin's final fatal dive.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Lots of guests coming tonight but right with us off the top is Anderson Cooper, the anchor of CNN's AC 360, "New York Times" best-selling author of "Dispatches From the Edge."

And, Wolf Blitzer, the veteran anchor of CNN's "The Situation Room" and host of "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer;" his special guest tomorrow night will be President Bush.

Paula Zahn and Lou Dobbs were to be with us. Both had other engagements. Wolf, what's your read on the speech tonight by the Iranian president?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I thought he tried to present a relatively moderate tone, didn't make any of the bombastic statements we had heard in the past, the desire that Israel should be removed from the face of the earth. There were no references to the Holocaust that, you know, he says never really happened.

His references to Israel and Palestine I thought were relatively, you know, tame given the nature of what he said in the past. I think he was trying to score some points with the American public, with the international community.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Also, I think clearly trying to divide the international community as much as possible to the extent possible. I mean the U.S. is trying to present sort of a united front with France and the other countries on the Security Council. I think he's trying to -- perhaps he sees some sort of an opening.

France is already saying maybe negotiations, maybe don't set, sort of set strict standards to start negotiations and perhaps he sees that as a possible window to open.

BLITZER: That would be a huge win if he could do that, if he could divide the U.S. from the European allies. Certainly, Russia and China are going to be much more difficult to get onboard for tough sanctions. So, if he could do that from his perspective that would be a major win.

KING: Anderson, as a political figure, aside politics, isn't he an intriguing personality?

COOPER: Oh, there's no doubt about it. I mean Time magazine has a very good interview with him this week as well. And, he's very -- I mean he's clearly very intelligent. He clearly knows his strengths, his weaknesses and knows that he is an agent provocateur in the world stage and seems to kind of revel in that to an extent.

In interviews he's sort of combative. He often plays with a reporter who he's talking to and clearly knows that some of what he's saying, I mean his -- he has different audiences. Here he was speaking to an audience in the United States, perhaps the European community but he's also speaking to the Arab street and he knows he's a very popular figure in many parts of the Muslim world.

KING: Does he, to quote the vernacular, drive the White House up a wall?

BLITZER: Yes, to a certain degree, yes, because they recognize that from the perspective of the U.S., the allies, certainly from Israel's perspective, if he does get a nuclear bomb that raises the stakes. Then the situation in that part of the world becomes automatically a lot more dangerous.

And from his perspective Ahmadinejad, he knows that once he has that nuclear bomb to a certain degree he's protected, just like Kim Jong-Il in North Korea, because who wants to go to war and try to remove someone if they could unleash a nuclear bomb? Saddam Hussein was removed and is in prison standing trial right now perhaps because he didn't have a nuclear bomb.

KING: Let's see a little clip of his speech to the U.N. just a little while ago. Watch.


MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): All our nuclear activities are transparent, peaceful, and under the watchful eyes of the IAEA inspectors. Why then are there objections to our legally recognized rights? Which governments object to these rights? Governments that themselves benefit from nuclear energy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Can the American invasion, Anderson, bring Iraq and Iran closer together?

COOPER: There's certainly -- well, I mean it's a complicated issue. Iran certainly has agents and would like to have a lot more influence inside Iraq and they certainly see an opportunity.

I mean I think one of the messages in the speech tonight that he was sending to Iraq is that, you know, the U.S. may leave ultimately, will leave ultimately. Iran's never going to leave, you know.

We're neighbors. Our relationship is far more important in the long term than the relationship between the U.S. and Iraq and that relationship is going to continue no matter what happens with the U.S.

BLITZER: They actually have a good relationship right now.

KING: Yes.

BLITZER: The Shiite-led government of Iraq, led by the Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the government in Tehran, they had a meeting only last week. If you notice the audience at the U.N. General Assembly tonight when he was speaking, the U.S. delegation, I think there was one junior diplomat sitting in the back row there basically taking some notes.

COOPER: I'd like to know who like drew straws to get (INAUDIBLE).


KING: The (INAUDIBLE) was sparse.

BLITZER: The Iraqi delegation there was in full blast and all of the Iraqis were there. There was nobody there obviously from Israel. There were some representatives from the United Kingdom but I think that speaks a lot about the relationship between Iran and Iraq right now that to a certain degree these countries under their respective leaderships have gotten much closer.

COOPER: And, of course, President Bush was not there. He was said to be at a fundraiser.

KING: Fundraiser?

COOPER: Well not a fundraiser but a meeting dinner.

KING: What's your assessment of the Bush speech?

BLITZER: I thought the president was very tough today in terms of laying out strong words, not only for Iran but also for Iraq. They have to get their act together. He was very tough with the Syrians. There's no doubt that as far as Lebanon is concerned, he put the blame on Hezbollah, did not blame Israel.

One thing I didn't hear him say anything about North Korea and its nuclear program. That was sort of thunderously silent for some reason but I think in part because the president was trying to reach out to the Arab, the Muslim world. That was the thrust of his relatively brief remarks.

KING: What did you make of it?

COOPER: Yes, I mean I do think -- I focused a lot on his trying to reach out, sort of build bridges to the Muslim world, you know, again saying this is not a war against Islam.

I don't know that that's a message which is reading particularly well right now, you know. I think other actions that this administration has taken or that have happened, whether or not they are actions the administration took, perhaps, you know, loom larger than any one speech the president is giving today.

BLITZER: No reference, Larry, to Islamic fascists, which is a phrase...

KING: He didn't use the word.

BLITZER: No, he didn't call them Islamic fascists. He has in the past...

KING: Yes.

BLITZER: ...spoken about Islamic fascists.

COOPER: In fact, he even referred to the hijackers on 9/11 as extremists, which I think is not the usual term he uses.

BLITZER: Right and I think that among others, Karen Hughes, one of his top advisors over at the State Department, she told me the other day she doesn't use that because that does spark a lot of anger in the Muslim world that he's sort of equating Islam and fascism.

KING: We're going to get a break.

By the way, coming up we're going to have a segment with Senator Joseph Biden. And then Anderson and Wolf will return.

And, as we go to break, here is a moment with President Bush this morning at the U.N.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. Despite what the regime tells you we have no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program.

We're working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis. And, as we do, we look to the day when you can live in freedom and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.


KING: With us now in Washington is Senator Joe Biden, the ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He will address the Council on Foreign Relations tomorrow. His topic is Iraq, a way forward, how? What's the way forward, Joe?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: The way forward, Larry, is to make sure that the Sunnis get a piece of the oil action that is that they get guaranteed in the constitution some percentage of the oil revenues and to allow each of the groups to have a little bit of breathing room, allow them to form as their constitution permits federated areas so the Sunni, Shia, and Kurds have their federated areas where they have local control.

Their constitution allows for them to have local police. That way you separate the militia. You move them back into their own areas. And, in addition to that, you have to have the international community get together all the neighbors, including Iran and Turkey and all the areas, the neighbors, to agree on a hands off policy with regard to Iraq.

KING: What, Senator, was your reaction to both speeches today, the speech of the Iranian president and the American president?

BIDEN: Well, the first reaction I had with the Iranian president, as usual he didn't tell the truth. The truth is the IAEA, the very group, I saw a clip on your show here that he said that everybody says this is for peaceful purposes. The International Atomic Energy Commission, which is not dominated by us, said no these guys aren't playing by the rules.

And, the president and the administration have been able to join the Europeans, the Chinese, the Russians, the entire world basically in saying, "Look, Iran, you are -- you're not playing by the rules. You're in violation of the rules. That's why we're before the Security Council considering how to sanction you."

So, that's the first piece about him. He wasn't as bellicose as usual, as both your key reporters have pointed out but the fact is he didn't tell the truth as usual. Secondly...

KING: How about the president?

BIDEN: Well, the president I thought did a pretty good job. The two things that impressed me most about the president, one had nothing to do with Iran, it had to do with his call for action on Darfur.

I've been on your show before over the last couple of years, Larry, calling for similar action. He's now appointed a special envoy to pursue stopping the genocide in the region and I thought he was very strong and very correct on that.

I also thought it was very good and skillful the way he talked over the leadership of the Arab countries and talked directly to the people in Iran, directly to the people in Syria. And, I thought that was a very useful thing to do because the truth of the matter is in Iran ironically our biggest ally may very well be the Iranian people who don't have much respect for their government in Tehran and who have a generally good impression of the American people and we should make our case to them as often as we can.

KING: Do you have a question, Anderson, for Joe?

COOPER: Well, actually no but I was actually just listening. I thought...

KING: You were engrossed -- Wolf. That's one of the greatest television moments.

COOPER: I enjoy listening to him actually.

BLITZER: I wonder if, and I keep asking everyone this question and everyone keeps agreeing. Senator, maybe you have a different answer. But, are there any circumstances you could envisage the Iranian regime, this Iranian president, of abandoning a nuclear weapons program? Is there anything the international community could do, short of a military strike, to stop it?

BIDEN: Yes, I do think it's possible, Wolf, and here's how I think it's possible. I think as long as the president keeps and stays within the consensus with the international community time is actually on our side.

I don't believe there is any imminent threat to the United States or to the region in terms of the Iraqis getting fissile material and being able to make a nuclear bomb, imminent meaning within the next six months, year, two years.

They're probably somewhere down the road to a half a decade and a lot can happen in the meantime. You have within Iraq now, as both of you have observed in previous occasions, there is a strain between Ahmadinejad, who represents sort of the revolutionaries of the -- I kind of think of them as a red guard of the '70s in Iran and the clerics.

It's not at all certain that he has a long tenure on life. I don't mean his physical life on control. Secondly, there is a lot that can happen in the next year and a half to two years if the international community stays together.

The biggest thing I'm concerned about is for us to decide that we are going to -- the only thing worse than the U.N. not stepping up to the ball and sanctioning Iran is for us to force a vote on that now and not get sanctions and then give basically a green light to Iran.

KING: I see.

BIDEN: So, I think time may be on our side for at least the next couple years and (INAUDIBLE) change.

KING: We have limited time but Anderson has thought it over and has a question.

COOPER: I'm curious to know about Afghanistan, what you think. I mean Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, has now signed a ceasefire deal with Taliban militants in North Waziristan (ph). Every intelligence official I've talked to, every military official I went on patrol with over there is concerned about what that really means. Can we win in Afghanistan if we can't go into Pakistan and if the Pakistan government isn't pursuing these people?

BIDEN: The answer is it's very difficult to see how we do that and we're paying a terrible price for the mistakes we made over the last four years. Anderson, it seems to me that the place we should be pushing for more force is the place where we should be trying to rally NATO is more forces in Afghanistan.

Look, you and I and others have talked about this over the last two years. It's pretty clear to me that Musharraf decided that we weren't likely to be able to prevail in the way that he hoped we would in Pakistan, so he -- I mean in Afghanistan.

So he started to cut his own deal as a lot of us already predicted he would. And so I think we're in real trouble there. I think that is a greater fault line for our long term security than any other place right now.

KING: Thanks, Senator, as always, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.

BIDEN: Thank you.

KING: And when we come back we'll be joined by Richard Stengel, the editor of Time magazine.

And still ahead, war between the United States and Iran what would it be like? Iran's the front cover of Time this week.

We'll be right back.


BUSH: From Beirut to Baghdad, people are making the choice for freedom and the nations gathered in this chamber must make a choice as well. Will we support the moderates and reformers who are working for change across the Middle East or will we yield the future to the terrorists and extremists? America has made its choice. We will stand with the moderates and reformers.



KING: Remaining with us Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer, two of the best.

And we're now joined by Richard Stengel, editor of Time magazine. He's been on that job two and a half months. Time's current cover shows the Iranian president and has the headline "What war with Iran would look like and how to avoid it." Do you regard it as that serious, Richard, war?

RICHARD STENGEL, EDITOR, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, you know, the military planners are planning and military planners always plan but in this case they're thinking, you know what, something could happen. We want to be prepared.

So, what we did is we looked at the whole scenario and we basically said you know what, it could work but it would be so dangerous and the repercussions would be so drastic that we basically said, look this isn't a great idea.

KING: What would cause us to do it?

STENGEL: I don't know what would cause us to do it. I mean it's so risky given the fact that Iran is right between Afghanistan and Iraq. They could foment so much trouble there. The Straits of Hormuz they could basically close off and oil would go up to $120 a barrel. It just doesn't seem like a wise thing to do.

KING: Can we afford it, Anderson?

COOPER: Well, there's a question of monetarily but also just in terms of troops. I mean our troops are spread very thin. I think the answer to the question is what would cause it though is ultimately the decision has to be made would the U.S. allow, would the international community allow an Iran with nuclear weapons? I mean that's ultimately the bottom line.

STENGEL: But it's a cost benefit. What would you rather have an Iran with nuclear weapons or the repercussions from actually invading Iran?

KING: Right.

STENGEL: And that's an incalculable thing.

COOPER: And it's certainly not -- if there was a strike, as you can read in Time, it would not be, I mean Israel struck Iraq's program years ago. It was basically one hit. Iran learned from that. They have their programs spread out over multiple sites, so the list of targets is extraordinarily long.

BLITZER: But having said all that and I've spoken with military planners who, as you have as well, and it comes out the U.S. has the capability if not completely to destroy Iran's nuclear program...

KING: They could bomb it out.

BLITZER: ...they could send cruise missiles and bombers and sea- launched and all sorts of air power, if you will, to destroy 20 sites and really knock them out. Would it completely destroy Iran's nuclear capability? Maybe not but it would set it back for a long time.

The question that Time magazine poses and Richard does a good job with that is what would be the fallout from that kind of -- wouldn't be ground war, the U.S. wouldn't be sending ground troops into a huge country like Iran but what kind of fallout would happen from that kind of airstrike?

KING: What's your guess Richard? What is the fallout?

STENGEL: Well, the fallout, first of all there would be about 1,200 sites they think that they'd have to bomb. A lot of them are in civilian areas. The repercussions from that would be enormous.

The reaction in the Arab world would be incredibly hostile and there are lots of things that Iran can do. Iran can have Hezbollah send missiles again into Israel. They can continue to destabilize Iraq. The unintended consequences of anything we do in the Middle East are something that we have never been able to calculate.

BLITZERE: But, as John McCain has pointed out and I think President Bush believes this as well and I'm going to ask him about it when I interview him tomorrow, what would be more dangerous that kind of reaction that the Iranians could pose to the United States and friends in the region or Iran with actual nuclear warheads on medium and longer range missiles?

KING: Was it hard setting up the interview?

STENGEL: It was very hard setting it up. Our great Middle East correspondent Scott McCloud, traveled down to Havana, got the interview on Saturday afternoon.

KING: In Havana?

STENGEL: In Havana, where the non-aligned states were meeting. We got it back in just before closing on Saturday night. It was a terrific job.

KING: Do we have a civil war in Iraq?

COOPER: Well, I think it's largely semantics at this point. I mean you talk to reporters on the ground, I just asked that question of Michael Ware last night and that was the answer he gave. It's semantics.

I mean there are plenty of people who will say, "Look, by all definitions of a civil war this is a civil war." Clearly this administration does not want to use those terms. The military has come as close as anyone and said, you know, it could get to be a civil war.

But, you know, when you look at the violence that is happening in Iraq, I mean it is -- the large numbers of kidnappings, I mean they're kidnapping groups of 30 people at a time.

They're drilling holes and they're torturing people, literally drilling holes in their body with power drills, starting at the feet and working their way up to the head. I mean it defies, you know, it is designed to induce terror in people. It is out of control.

KING: Why, Richard, did this insurgency surprise us so much?

STENGEL: Well, again I go back to (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Did anyone say this was going to happen?

STENGEL: I don't know that we thought about the next steps. We thought about the first steps. We thought about going in. We, of course, said people would greet us as conquerors. That was a miscalculation.

We're not very good at the finishing up process. We're actually good at the hammering process. We're not good at actually stabilizing a place. We haven't done that really well before.

BLITZER: The answer is yes. There were people who expressed fear that unless the U.S. did it right there could be an insurgency. There could be these kinds of problems. I think in part the fact that they defeated Saddam Hussein within a month or so, as quickly as they did, people sort of got over confident.

COOPER: There were military officials, U.S. military officials on the ground as the invasion was proceeding saying "You know we need to stay more in some of these areas. We don't actually need to move quite so fast" and those people basically had, you know, their legs cut out from under them.

KING: Did Vice President Cheney have bad information? He said on this program "It's over by the end of the" -- I think this was 2003, over by the end of the year.


STENGEL: You know we all tend to believe what we want to believe and, you know, I would give people the benefit of the doubt to say they were optimistic, they believed in what they were doing but, again, it was a miscalculation.

KING: And what happens now do you think? Where does this go?

STENGEL: I think, you know, we have to kind of try to finish the job in the best way that we can. It's just not easy to say, I mean the people on one side or the other where they're so extreme saying "Man, we just have to keep hammering or we just have to withdraw." It's got to be someplace in between.

BLITZER: In the end, the United States no matter how powerful and wealthy and strong the United States is, the United States can't get the job done if the Iraqi people won't do it themselves. It's now up to this government, this democratically-elected government in Iraq to get their act together, get their military together. They have 300,000 men right now in the Iraqi military. They have a couple hundred thousand in their police force albeit a lot of them...

KING: Are they doing a bad job?

BLITZER: The police force is riddled with the Shiite militia groups, so that's a real problem in the police force. The military I'm told does a much better job but they have to get their act together and take charge. If they don't, it will fall apart.

KING: Do you see any light?

COOPER: No, not really. I mean I -- you know you can -- there are moments where you can be optimistic and I've been there a couple times now and you can point to this and say, "OK, well look, you know, there are positive stories" as the administration is always constantly harping on.

But ultimately, you know, with a daily death toll that just continues to grow with bloodshed and the kind of violence that sort of defies logic, I'm not -- it's hard to see what the end game is.

KING: When does Time choose its cover?

STENGEL: We choose our cover at the end of the week, Friday, Saturday. We come out on Monday. And, you know, we're changing our publication schedule. In January we're coming out on Friday and Saturday instead of on Monday.

BLITZER: And the theory why are you doing that?

STENGEL: Well, to get the magazine in the hands of people when they're ready to read it on the weekends rather than during the week when (INAUDIBLE).


STENGEL: That's exactly right.

KING: It's just the people.

STENGEL: Exactly.

KING: Thanks, Richard, continued good luck.

STENGEL: Thank you very much.

KING: Anderson, I know you got to prepare AC 360. You stay.

Up next, chaos in Iraq, the specter of war with Iran, could those situations shake up the status quo in Congress? We'll see enlightenment from both sides of the political aisle when LARRY KING LIVE comes back.


KING: Welcome back.

Two presidents tomorrow on CNN. President George W. Bush will be with Wolf Blitzer on "THE SITUATION ROOM" tomorrow, and President Bill Clinton will be with us on LARRY KING LIVE tomorrow night.

Wolf remains with us. And joining us in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is Governor Bill Richardson, Democrat, of New Mexico, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, former ambassador to the U.N. And in Washington, one of my favorite people, Laura Ingraham, host of the nationally syndicated "Laura Ingraham Show" on Talk Radio Network and best selling author of "Shut Up and Sing: How the Elites from Hollywood, Politics and the U.N. are Subverting America", which will soon be out in paperback.

Governor Richardson, what's your reaction to the president's speech today?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (R), NEW MEXICO: Well, it was conciliatory. The tone was good, but it was the same hard line policy.

I wish he'd had a little more flexibility when it came to talking to Syria about resolving some of the Middle East problems with Hezbollah, with Hamas. I wish he'd appointed a Middle East peace envoy just as he commendably did in Middle East -- an envoy for Darfur and the Sudan.

I was there 10 days ago in the Sudan, got an American journalist out, but the president of the Sudan doesn't want to have a U.N. peacekeeping force, which I believe the international community needs.

So I do believe that the tone towards Iran was good, talking to the Iranian people. I was also pleased that the bellicosity was not as intense. But I wish he would have said to the U.N., to the 175 members, "I need your support," instead of perhaps lecturing them a little too much.

KING: Laura what was your read?

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think it was, in many ways, Larry, comparable to President Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech. Because he spoke directly to the Muslim people. He went over the heads of the leaders of some of these Muslim countries, and he said, "Look, you know, freedom cannot be imposed on you. You have to want it."

And I think he set a very positive tone. I mean, I don't know about the word "bellicosity." And I know that's something that Governor Richardson said.

But I think, you know, look, he was trying to speak to the people who are suffering under the yolk of oppression in Africa. In places all across the Middle East and in a movement that's growing in its militancy and its deadliness as we've seen on the heels of the pope's comments and then the reaction to that.

So in many ways, Larry, I think this was a speech that I wish I'd heard President Bush give a long time ago, speak directly to the people that we're actually trying to help, and maybe that will do something to stop this deadly insurgency.

KING: Wolf, a new "USA Today"/Gallup poll shows Bush's approval rating up to 44 percent, the largest rating in a year. There you see it on the screen. Why the rebound? BLITZER: I think in part because of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the war on terrorism. This has always been, since then, a very strong issue for the president, for the Republicans. I think that helped him.

I think the price of oil going down a little bit, that's helping to a certain degree, as well. And he's been out in force. He's really making himself much more available now. He's giving all these speeches. And he's giving all these interviews, giving me one tomorrow. He's given the other networks interviews in recent weeks.

And I think there's a sense at the White House that he's probably their most effective spokesman, so they should make him more available. Tony Snow, the new press secretary, may have had a hand in that.

KING: Governor, is he the issue in the congressional elections?

BLITZER: Yes, he is. Right here in New Mexico, we have one of those very hotly contested races, Patricia Madrid against Heather Wilson. And every other ad is about Iraq. And the president is centerpiece in both of the candidate's ads.

So what is also happened is I believe the Iraq issue is translating into other nonfederal races, like in Governor's races. I'm not saying that it's a fundamental position that you take on this issue, but voters ask about it. There's great unease about this war. We don't have an exit strategy. Our Guard troops from New Mexico, when are they coming back?

So I believe that the Iraq issue is now going to affect all races. And as I've said before, I believe it's going to cause Democrats to win a majority of governorships this year with 22 out of the 50. I think we're going to get to 26 and 27. I don't know about the House and Senate. I think the House looks good.

But this is a fundamental national issue that transcends just the federal races.

KING: Laura, to this point, is Iraq failing?

INGRAHAM: I think that -- I think it's a hard question. I mean, you talk to soldiers on the ground, Marines on the ground, they'll tell you stories that, for whatever reason, they say aren't being reported.

But obviously, the security situation in Baghdad is bad enough that they have to move troops from Al Anbar into Baghdad. So it's obviously a very bad situation in that area, and that's where most of the people live.

But let me just address one point here, Larry. And I think the closer we get to the elections, I think we're going to see the voters' minds get more focused and maybe more narrowly focused on this question. Who is better suited to keep this country safe in the ongoing threat of terror -- with the ongoing threat of terror? Is it President Bush with all the miscalculations that people have said he's made? Or is it Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer? The list goes on. And I think that's what the Democrats ultimately have to face.

I mean, you know, you can bash Bush. You can say he's the worst guy or incompetent or evil or a combination of the two, but you've got to have a plan of some sort.

And I don't think the voters yet -- and I think this "USA Today" poll bears this out. I don't think the voters yet see a plan on the part of the Democrats that they can say, "Hey, this makes real sense. I feel safer now." I don't think they see it.

KING: Wolf, if perception is reality, isn't it perceived -- the majority of Americans perceive Iraq as down the tubes?

BLITZER: Yes, the majority -- all of the polls show that, while the president still does better than the Democrats when it comes to the war on terror, albeit by not as high a margin as it was two or three years ago, when it comes to Iraq the overwhelming majority of the American public thinks it's been a failure.

KING: We'll take a break and we'll be back with Wolf Blitzer, Governor Richardson and Laura Ingraham on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Bill Clinton tomorrow night. George Bush tomorrow afternoon with -- with Wolf, and we'll be right back.


KING: We're back.

Governor Richardson, you mentioned the House. Will the Democrats take the House?

RICHARDSON: I believe we will. It will be narrowly -- a narrow 15 seats are in play. I believe we'll win by three.

I do see a huge sentiment for change that's got to affect all races, perhaps even the Senate. But I can tell you almost for sure is a majority of governorships, which is going to be the critical offices if you're talking about 2008. The presidential race, you're talking about redistricting, and really, the main change in this country, whether it's health, education, renewable energy, it's happening at the state level.

The states are becoming the laboratories of real policy making. It's not happening in the Congress. It's not coming in the White House. So I believe that, yes, you're going to see a Democratic wave of about two to three percent, and I think it's going to sustain itself all the way to the election.

KING: Laura Ingraham, what's your lead on the extraordinary Joe Lieberman situation in Connecticut? INGRAHAM: I think what happens to Lieberman will tell us a lot about, I think, the future of the Democratic Party and how it's ultimately thought of as a capable or not capable, tough or not tough in fighting this very, very difficult new enemy of ours. And I'm going to disagree with the prediction of Governor Richardson.

I think we were -- Governor, I think we -- I tried to bet with you last time we were on together before the presidential election. I think I tried to bet dinner with you, but I don't know if it ultimately worked.

I'm going to go out on a total limb and say the Republicans are going to hold both the Senate and the House, and maybe you're right about the governorship. But I think the prognosticators and the conventional wisdom purveyors are often wrong in Washington and across the country, and I say they're going to be wrong on this one, as well.

When people go into the voting booth, they're going to vote for security first. They're going to want to work on this border issue, make sure the borders are shut down and maybe cut some wasteful government spending.

Are they going to choose a Democrat to do that or the Republican? I say probably more likely to choose the Republicans, even if they lose a couple of seats here or there.

KING: Will turnout, Wolf, be a key factor?

BLITZER: Yes, and the Republicans are terrific in energizing the base. And I know that Karl Rove and other White House political operatives in the RNC, they're going to work very, very hard in these final six weeks or so to make sure that that base is -- turns out.

The Democrats did a pretty good job in 2004 getting turnout. But whatever they did was small potatoes compared to the Republicans. They did a much better job.

KING: But in an off year election where things are unpopular, like in a war, doesn't that -- doesn't that favor the Democrats?

BLITZER: If the Democrats can't do well this time, they're in deep, deep trouble. Because this Iraq issue is hovering over the nation right now, and I know the Republicans are so nervous about it, because, you know, a lot -- so much of what they said was going to happen didn't happen, and American troops are still dying right now. And it doesn't look like there's any end in sight. That's going to be, probably, the overwhelming issue going into this.

Let me just say one thing about Governor Bill Richardson.

Governor, I think you deserve a lot of credit for going to the Sudan and rescuing that American journalist, and as member of the journalistic community, I wanted to thank you for that. I hope you never have to rescue me. But keep on doing that kind of stuff down the road.

Having said that nice thing about you, Governor, a quick question. Are you going to run for president?

RICHARDSON: I don't know about that. I'm just running for reelection. But I want to tell you that that security issue is going to work for Democrats, and we do have a plan on Iraq. Senator Biden mentioned one of them, the three federated states, which is sensible.

And I believe that what we have said is yes, we should have a timetable for withdrawal, but tied to a political solution. Tied to redeployment of our troops to where we really need them: Afghanistan, homeland security, port security, nuclear proliferation.

Look at what Iran has been saying and doing. The threat of loose nukes in an American airport. That's real security.

And I believe the American people are seeing that the Republicans, when it comes to the border, I mean you should see my border here in New Mexico. It's porous. It's not working what the Republicans are doing. It's not working with what's happening with our security with -- in the Middle East. And again, I think you're going to see the security issue move towards us.

KING: Laura, one thing...

RICHARDSON: ... sensible strong policy.

KING: Laura, one thing quickly. In your neighboring state of Virginia, does James Webb have a chance?

INGRAHAM: Of course he has a chance. I think he's become a better candidate as time has gone on.

But, again, I do think this is going to come down in the end, Larry, to voters going into that voting booth and deciding at that last moment who is -- has kept us safe over the last few years? Who is more likely to keep us safe?

And, given the fact that we've seen government spending continue to rise over the years, who are you going to be able to pressure to ultimately cut spending where spending needs to be cut and spend more on things that need to be spent on. But I still think the Republicans have an advantage. The Democrats have a lot of cliches, but not a lot of plans.

KING: Thanks, Laura. Thanks, Governor.

Wolf, look forward to tomorrow with the president on "THE SITUATION ROOM".

BLITZER: Thank you very much. I look forward to listening to President Clinton on LARRY KING LIVE.

KING: And the president of Iraq.

BLITZER: Anderson, tonight has the president of Afghanistan. You've got -- Karzai, you've got Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq. Next week I'm going to be interviewing the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. CNN is an amazing, amazing network, Larry. I think you and I agree on that.

KING: We're a presidential festival.

Thank you all very much. Thanks very much for this past 45 minutes.

Right now let's check in with Anderson Cooper. He will host "AC 360". He was just here. Now he's there.

What's up tonight?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, we're going to look at the speeches, as you have, by Iran's president and President Bush at the U.N. today.

Also, as Wolf mentioned, my exclusive interview with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He has some very strong words about Pakistan's role in the war on terror. Supposedly our ally. The real question is are they doing enough? Hamid Karzai weighs in on that.

Also, we're following two developing stories: the rescue of an 11-day-old baby. A little girl taken after her mother was attacked in her home, stabbed. She has been found. We'll tell you about that.

And the space shuttle, tomorrow's landing pushed back while NASA tries to solve the mystery of some unidentified debris in space.

All that and more, Larry, at the top of the hour.

KING: Thanks, Wolf. We'll follow up with that, too. Some happy news. The kidnapped newborn is back with her mom. Hear from the happy relatives next.


KING: We're back.

A rare story of success: a missing child found. Jonathan Freed is in Union, Missouri. Georgia Kelly is the aunt of the 1-week-old kidnap victim, Abigale Lynn Woods.

In a nutshell, Jonathan, what happened?

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, I'm going to walk you through this from what happened on Friday in point form, and it's unbelievable. It is amazing to hear how this unfolded.

On Friday a woman identified by the sheriff here as Shannon Beck, who is from this area, had a miscarriage, according to police here. Later that day, the child is abducted.

We skip over Saturday to Sunday. This woman's sister-in-law was called by the woman, and this woman told her that she had had a baby.

On Monday, Larry, the sister-in-law visited with Shannon Beck and the baby. Today, on Tuesday, the woman who was arrested called her sister-in-law and said, "I have to go to the doctor. Can you help me with the baby?"

Now, the sister-in-law began to be suspicious when she saw what looked like makeup, Larry, on the forehead of the child. And when the woman who was arrested went into the hospital for her appointment, she took the baby's cap and she rubbed on the forehead and saw the makeup came off and observed -- the woman observed the birth mark that police have been calling everybody's attention to, hoping that somebody would take note of it.

So at this point when the woman comes out of the hospital, Larry, her sister-in-law confronts her. They end up going back to their home. She calls her husband, as well as this woman's husband. There's another confrontation at home, at which point the child is handed over to the sister-in-law, who contacts authorities.

And that is how the child was handed over, and the sister-in-law whose name is Dorothy Torrez, is being hailed as nothing less than a hero.

KING: And Georgia Kelly is on the phone, and she's the aunt of the 1-week-old victim, Abigale Woods. How are you related to the mother? Georgia? Georgia, are you there?

Well, I just spoke to Georgia Kelly, and she was there, but now she's not there. This is one of those unbelievable tales, isn't it, Jonathan?

FREED: It's unbelievable. It gets to the point, Larry, when you cover enough of these kinds of stories that when a critical mass of time goes by, you're holding out hope for the family. You're holding out hope for the child, of course, but you can't help. And even investigators couldn't help but start to feel that maybe this was not going to have a happy ending.

And just about an hour before it was revealed that the child was found, they were still kind of shuffling around and shrugging and saying, "Look, you know, we don't have anything yet."

And they're saying that the emphasis, the publicity that they've had out there for the last couple of days, in their view, has clearly paid off because the sister-in-law was aware enough to look for the birth mark.

KING: Jonathan, you did a great job. Thanks.

FREED: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Jonathan Freed in Union, Missouri. Happy story. Don't get many happy stories.

When we come back, saying goodbye to a hell of a guy. Don't go away.


KING: It's Wednesday morning in Australia, where 5,000 mourners paid tribute to the man the world knew as the crock hunter. Steve Irwin died on September 4 after his heart was apparently punctured by a large stingray's barb.

Thousands gathered at the Australia Zoo's Carpeseum (ph). Many had stood in line for 24 hours last week just to get tickets to the public memorial. Among the mourners, Irwin's widow, his daughter, Bindi, son, Bob, and the Australian prime minister, John Howard.

A private family funeral for Steve Irwin was held 10 days ago, his body laid to rest, reportedly, at the zoo he loved.

Joining me to talk a bit about Irwin and the career he loved is Jack Hannah. He's in Mason, Arizona, director emeritus from the Columbus Zoo.

And Philippe Cousteau in Washington. He was working with Steve at the time of his tragic death.

Philippe, is it still on your mind?

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, JACQUES COUSTEAU'S GRANDSON: Absolutely. It will always be on my mind, Larry.

KING: Jack, this is to you and those in the wildlife field, what kind of loss?

HANNAH: Well, it's a great loss, Larry. He was the finest communicator in the history of my lifetime when it came to wildlife and his passion for the animals.

If you look at this alligator here, Larry, I only have him on tonight to show you that this type of animal, like the animals a lot of us love, people -- not us, a lot of people throughout the world might not have cared that much about. He brought that world to us of animals like the gator, like the crocodile, like certain snakes.

He did things with animals that we knew very little about, and he did it better than anybody could. Again, whether we agree to disagree how Steve did it, the point is, he was the greatest wildlife communicator in the history of my lifetime.

KING: Philippe, is the status of the documentary, "Ocean's Deadliest", which is what he was working on when he was killed, is it done?

COUSTEAU: Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed, Larry. It is finished now, finally, and it was very difficult to do so, but I think we've created a good film that is a worthwhile tribute to all of Steve's work and his life.

KING: When will it be seen?

COUSTEAU: That's up to Discovery and the family, and I'm not sure when it's going to be seen, but hopefully it will be somewhere around January.

KING: Jack, what do you make out of this turnout in Australia today?

HANNAH: Well, that's how I'm basing my facts on. He affected tens of millions of people, especially young kids, Larry. I'm here at Mesa, Arizona at the Mesa Art Center, I know he speaks for a thousand people. A lot of children are here, some of them have been crying and want to know about Steve.

I said, "He's up there right now watching us, wanting us to carry on."

And he left a legacy, Larry. He left his zoo. He left lands for conservation.

Anybody can be on TV and meet celebrities and do that kind of stuff. What it matters, when you leave this earth, what have you done for it? And Steve did everything he could for it. That's the way he was from the way he woke up in the morning until he went to bed at night, Steve Irwin was just Steve Irwin. He wasn't doing it just for TV. He did it because he loved what he did and he believed in his conservation message.

KING: Why do you think he did so well, Philippe, with children?

COUSTEAU: Well, when you saw him on television, Larry, he was so excited about what he was doing. And you know, on TV or off TV, as Jack said, he was all about the environment. He was all about what he did. He loved it so much. I think that carried across, and it made people feel part of his work and part of the world that he was bringing to people's television.

He was such a talented guy. It was -- you just couldn't but be infected by his energy.

KING: And Jack, you're saying he improved all of our interest in wildlife, right?

HANNAH: Well, sure he did. You walked by the television set, you knew he was there, you know you had to stop and listen. Whether it was a leaf he was talking about or a stick or whatever it was.

Somebody asked me today who will take the place of Steve Irwin? Larry, no one's ever going to take the place of Steve Irwin. There's only one of him, and you know, we'll all remember him for that.

KING: Philippe, you agree?

COUSTEAU: Absolutely. I think there's no one that could ever replace Steve, though many of us will continue to carry on his spirit and his work, but he was one in a million.

KING: And as I told you before, I knew your grandfather. He'd have loved him, wouldn't he?

COUSTEAU: I think he would have loved him. And you know, Steve -- Steve, when I first met him, he said how much he'd admired my grandfather, and he talked at length about that. And I know my grandfather would have admired him.

KING: Thank you both very, very, very much, Jack Hannah and Philippe Cousteau. The final memorial service for Steve Irwin.

Coming up tomorrow, former President Bill Clinton. So much to talk about. You will not want to miss it. Wednesday night, also, the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani. Both -- two presidents tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE.

Right now, another president coming up with -- with Anderson Cooper on "AC 360" -- Anderson.

COOPER: That's right. We'll talk to Afghan President Karzai in a little bit. Larry, thanks very much.


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