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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interviews With Representatives McHenry, Rangel; Interview With Hoshyar Zebari

Aired October 8, 2006 - 11:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 11:00 a.m. in Washington and here in New York, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 4:00 p.m. in London and 6:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching, from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
We'll talk about the fall-out from the sex scandal on Capitol Hill with two members of the U.S. Congress in just a moment.

First, though, let's go to CNN's Fredricka Whitfield for a quick check of what's in the news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: It's been nine days since Republican Congressman Mark Foley suddenly resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives because of his sexually oriented messages to former congressional pages, but the scandal is showing no signs of going away.

Unanswered questions remain about who in the Republican leadership knew what and when. And all of this comes with only a little more than four weeks away from the midterm congressional elections here in the United States.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is joining us in Washington with the latest. Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one race highlighting the predicament some Republicans are in, that of Congressman Tom Reynolds. The head of the GOP re-election efforts, Reynolds was poised to win re-election before news of Foley's inappropriate communications with pages broke.

But now analysts are recategorizing his race as a toss-up. Reynolds became the first Republican to appear in an ad responding to the criticism that has come in the wake of the Foley scandal.

One Republican leader says this scandal is negatively affecting some candidates in his party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM PUTNAM (R-FL): I can think of about three seats that are under a little more heat, now, as a result of the fall-out from the Foley scandal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Democrat Rahm Emanuel is accusing House Republicans of turning a blind eye to Foley's indiscretions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D-IL): As far back as 2002-2003, there were warning signs and there were multiple conversations. And what happened since that time? Mark Foley runs for Congress in 2004, even while they know of those problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Midterm elections are, of course, only four weeks away. And will there be political repercussions?

That is the big question. Democrats say it could be the push they need. And they're hoping it will impact conservative voter turnout. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brianna Keilar, reporting for us from Washington.

Let's get some more now on what is going on. Two key members of Congress joining us here in New York, the veteran Democrat Charles Rangel, and in his home state of North Carolina, Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry.

Congressmen, thanks to both of you for joining us.

Let me start with you, Congressman McHenry. The Republicans clearly on the hot seat right now.

Here is what the Washington Times, a conservative newspaper in the nation's capital, wrote on Tuesday: "House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing and resign his speakership at once. Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations, or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away."

Is it time for this speaker to step down?

REP. PATRICK MCHENRY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Absolutely not. This is a typical Washington, D.C. parlor game where, when a scandal brews, they want somebody's head.

The speaker stepping down would only help the Democrats in their election effort. And the speaker stepping down will only help Nancy Pelosi step up as the next House speaker.

So the questions remain, in this story, and that's why the speaker called for an immediate investigation and immediate finding of facts so we can get all the facts out on the table here. And that's what we need to do to ensure that this scandal and something like it never happens again.

BLITZER: Congressman McHenry, the new Newsweek poll out this weekend asks, "Did Hastert cover up Foley's inappropriate conduct?"

Fifty-two percent of the American public say yes; 24 percent say no; 24 percent don't know. It looks like a majority believe that the speaker was covering up for Mark Foley.

MCHENRY: And the question was not asked, in that poll: What issues do you care about most, the Mark Foley scandal or the Democrats raising your taxes and de-funding our troops?

I think voters are going to have a serious choice on election day. And they're not going to decide based on a scandal from an obscure congressman from Florida.

The question remains, though: What person, group or political entity had these nasty instant messages and possessed the e-mails in order to solicit this story?

And in a partisan environment like we're in right now in Washington, four weeks out from a national election, that question must be asked.

BLITZER: So what you're suggesting -- and correct me if I'm wrong, because you've been doing this for the last few days -- that Democrats are behind the timing of the release of this information?

Is that your accusation?

MCHENRY: Well, look, all the fact points lead to one question: Did Rahm Emanuel or Nancy Pelosi have any involvement on the strategic or tactical level?

This morning on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," the question was asked of Rahm Emanuel.

His reaction was he did not see the instant messages or e-mails. He repeatedly said, he did not see. I've asked him to testify under oath to assure the American people that he was not involved in this issue in any way, shape or form.

BLITZER: Do you have any evidence at all that Democrats or others might have been behind the timing of this scandal?

MCHENRY: Look, let's be honest...

BLITZER: Do you have any evidence to back that charge up?

MCHENRY: No, no, actually, if the Democrats had any issue with saying this, putting all the facts out on the table, they would say, certainly, I'll testify under oath that I had no involvement in it. They've said no.

BLITZER: Well, you don't have any evidence, though, right?

MCHENRY: Well, look at the fact points.

BLITZER: Yes or no, do you have any evidence, Congressman?

MCHENRY: Do you have any evidence that they weren't involved?

BLITZER: I'm just asking if you're just throwing out an accusation or if you have any hard evidence.

MCHENRY: No. It's a question, Wolf. The question remains, were they involved? And if they were not involved, they need to say clearly. And it's a question. It's not an accusation.

BLITZER: Well, they are denying that they had anything to do with this.

But let me bring in Charlie Rangel because he's a key Democrat. And I'll ask him, did you or any of your fellow Democrats, based on what you know, disclose to ABC news this information about Congressman Foley?

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I've never heard that before except from Patrick. I think it's ridiculous.

But if I was in a bind, as the Republicans are now, I guess I would be reaching for straws. But it's sad.

Dennis Hastert is a decent man and I'm very fond of him, but he's in a catch-22. Patrick is right. If he resigns, he's admitting that he had information and it was covered up. If he stays in, the story continues. He's in a very uncomfortable position.

BLITZER: Here's what the speaker said to the Chicago Tribune. And it's similar to what Congressman McHenry is saying. And he later acknowledged he has no evidence, either.

"When the base finds out who's feeding this monster, they're not going to be happy. The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by (liberal activist) George Soros."

That's what the speaker said. Then, later, when he was pressed for evidence, he said he had none.

RANGEL: Well, the day of reckoning is here. People are going to be sworn in, and there is a conflict among Republicans as to what the story is.

The majority leader, Republican majority leader, says he told the speaker about this. Tom Reynolds, who, unfortunately, has the flu and cannot defend himself on television -- he said that he told the speaker.

The chief of staff of Foley who later became the chief of staff of Reynolds said he told the chief of staff of the speaker.

So, clearly, when the hand goes up and the oath is there, quite frankly, I think this is the best thing that ever happened to the Republicans because then the war, the corruption, and the deficit are no longer the issues. It's just Foley and the lack of protection to those wonderful kids that serve as pages.

BLITZER: Congressman McHenry, when Brian Ross of ABC News, who broke this story, says his original source was a Republican source, do you not believe him?

MCHENRY: Well, here's the question. With the initial e-mail, which the speaker's office was given, which CREW, a liberal advocacy group funded by George Soros, was given and numerous media outlets were given and the FBI, they all made the same conclusion, that there was no action that could be taken on it.

Now, Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel have said that they had no knowledge of that.

So you're telling me that dozens of people in groups, some aligning with the Democrats, had no knowledge of these e-mails?

BLITZER: No. The only point I'm saying is Brian Ross, who broke the story on ABC News, says he got it from a Republican source.

MCHENRY: Well, certainly. That would be a wonderful ploy by...

BLITZER: So you don't believe him. Is that what you're saying?

MCHENRY: I'm not saying I don't believe him. I'm saying that if the Democrats were to do this, they're smart enough to let somebody else do the handing over.

BLITZER: But clearly, Congressman, it was Mark Foley's fault, this whole thing.

MCHENRY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: He was a Republican congressman from Florida, and clearly other Republican leaders knew about it. Should those Republican leaders on the page committee, for example, have brought in the one Democrat who was a member of that committee so it doesn't look like a Republican cover-up?

MCHENRY: Clearly, yes. And what Mark Foley did was sick, horrible, and very objectionable to all of us as Americans, preying on young children. I think that is the central issue in this matter, and I'm not an apologist for Mark Foley, nor should anyone be for his sick actions.

BLITZER: Let me let -- we're going to take a quick break. But I want you to respond to that before we go to a commercial break, Congressman.

RANGEL: It's just not obscene conduct of Foley. It's the criminal conduct of somebody, and we'll find out who, in covering this whole darn thing up. It's clear that Republicans, certain Republicans, especially in the leadership, knew about this. The speaker can deny it, but I think the investigation will show it.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting -- and I want to be precise on this, Congressman Rangel, because you're a very precise lawmaker -- that if there was a cover-up, there was criminal violations as part of a cover-up? Is that what you're suggesting?

RANGEL: You will find that. You can say, I don't remember, you can say, I don't know. But when you take an oath, it's entirely different.

And I'm talking about the perjury that would follow rather than the absence of memory of what's going on. Somebody is lying in the Republican leadership. That is clear. And they're either going to confess or they're going to lie under perjury. And that's what's going to happen.

BLITZER: There's multiple investigations under way, the FBI, federal investigations, state investigations, the House Ethics Committee now beginning to take testimony. I assume that will be done under oath as well. Is that what you're saying?

RANGEL: Exactly. And the best way to handle it is do what Foley has done, and that is quit and lose the jurisdiction of the Ethics Committee. But you can't get away from the FBI on this one.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue this conversation. Congressman McHenry, Congressman Rangel, please stand by. We're going to continue to assess the Foley factor and its impact on Congress, the mid-term elections. Much more coming up on that.

Then later, former Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan. He's standing by to weigh in on now the scandal is playing among the conservative political base.

Plus, Iraq, it's also a potentially decisive factor in the upcoming U.S. elections. We'll talk about that with the country's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari. He's in Baghdad. Lots more coming up.

And for our North American viewers, right after "Late Edition" at 1 p.m. Eastern, John Roberts hosts "This Week at War." "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from New York. We're talking about the sex scandal looming over the Congress with Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York and Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry of North Carolina. Congressman McHenry, did you have any idea -- because you knew Mark Foley well in the U.S. House of Representatives -- that there was a problem there?

MCHENRY: No, I didn't know him well. He was another colleague, one of 434 of my colleagues in the House. And I wouldn't say that I knew him well. Nor did I think he had any issues. BLITZER: Did you know he was a homosexual?

MCHENRY: No, no. I don't think he was public nor did he have any statements to that regard.

BLITZER: And you didn't suspect that? Because a lot of your colleagues say they always knew he was gay.

MCHENRY: Well, that's for other colleagues to say. That's not something I'm interested in, to be honest with you.

BLITZER: All right. What about you, Congressman Rangel?

RANGEL: He served on a committee with me. It didn't appear that he had any alcoholism problems. He was a personable guy. Of course, it was rumored that he had sought to run for the Senate and that accusations of being gay, but he was a very decent human being. Clearly he's a sick, tormented person that should be treated, but I really think the issue is violation of the trust that the Congress has, Republican or Democrats, for those kids and for people who run away from it because they wanted him to stay in that seat because it was a safe Republican seat, that, Wolf, is the issue.

BLITZER: All right, well, let's get to that. Congressman McHenry, Congressman Tom Reynolds, who heads the House Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, has an ad running in his district in western New York outside of Buffalo this weekend. Listen to this little excerpt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. REP. TOM REYNOLDS, (R-NY) I reported what I had been told to the speaker of the House. I trusted that others had investigated. Looking back, more should have been done, and for that I am sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you make of his role in this? Because he clearly knew -- he acknowledges he knew about some odd, in his words, odd e-mail. He says he reported it to the speaker, and he assumed the speaker was going to do something about it. But even after he reported it to the speaker, according to reports, he encouraged Mark Foley to run for re-election, and he accepted tens of thousands of dollars from Mark Foley for the Congressional re-election campaign committee.

MCHENRY: Well, it's been reported that he asked Foley to run for reelection. Let me make sure that this is defined appropriately. Chairman Reynolds, Tom Reynolds, asked every Republican to run for re- election because we're dealing with the sixth year of an incumbent president of our own party. He wanted to minimize the retirements this year. To that end, he asked every Republican.

BLITZER: But should he have asked some congressman...

MCHENRY: He did not single out Mark Foley. BLITZER: Should he have asked the congressman who he himself acknowledges had an odd e-mail exchange with a 16-year-old male congressional page, should he have asked him to seek re-election? Because he was wavering, as you know.

MCHENRY: Well, no. He asked the whole conference, generally, as Republicans.

BLITZER: I know. But he specifically asked Foley, too.

MCHENRY: He did not specifically ask Foley. He asked the whole conference. So let me be correct about that. The second thing here is what Tom Reynolds said in his commercial. What he said is fact. With hindsight, we know that we should have taken additional action against Mark Foley.

However, the conclusion that the speaker's office came up with and the media came up with is the same conclusion that CREW, which is a liberal advocacy group, came up with, and they turned it over to the FBI. And the same conclusion the FBI came up was that there's no action you can take on that initial e-mail. However, hindsight, because of these instant messages that have come to light, tells us that Mark Foley was a very sick individual that we should have actually gotten out of office.

So, if Tom Reynolds had any indication that Mark Foley was this sick, he would have taken Mark Foley's head out on a pike.

I guarantee it. I know Tom Reynolds, and I know that's what he would have done.

BLITZER: Well, what about you, Congressman Rangel? You know Tom Reynolds as well.

RANGEL: Of course. Tom's a decent guy. He's tough as nails. And I don't know whether he's listening, whether Patrick's listening, but the apology said from Tom Reynolds that he told this to the speaker. The Republican majority leader says he told it to the speaker. His chief of staff said he told it to the chief of staff of the speaker. The Republican in charge of the committee to oversight said he knew about it, and the Republican member of Congress that brought in the page knew about it.

So, clearly, they all knew about it. Half a dozen said they called the speaker. So I don't see how Patrick can say he believes both sides. Either he believes the speaker or he believes the other side, but you can't go down the middle. Somebody's lying.

BLITZER: Do you acknowledge, Congressman McHenry, that the speaker could have done a much more thorough job in vetting this issue, in dealing with this issue, than he's done? And since he's responsible for the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, the buck stops with him?

MCHENRY: Well, he said yesterday, the buck stops with me. He said that two days ago in a press conference, actually. To that end, he's called for an investigation. What more can he do?

BLITZER: Well, I suppose he could resign if that's -- if he feels that he let down his fellow Republicans, let down the American people.

MCHENRY: But that's not criminal action. Letting someone down is not criminal action.

BLITZER: No, you don't have to necessarily have to resign...

MCHENRY: Making an incorrect decision at the time...

BLITZER: Congressman, you don't have to resign for criminal suspicion. You can resign if you made a political mistake or an error in judgment.

MCHENRY: Look, give me a break on this resignation stuff. Gerry Studs, who in 1983 actually had sex with an underage male page, did not resign from Congress. In fact, he was just voted a censure by the House of Representatives, with 79 Democrats voting against that censure motion. He was promoted to committee chairmanship later in 1992, given a standing ovation.

President Bill Clinton actually had sex with an intern in the White House. He didn't resign. So you're telling me the speaker of the House, because he was at some point possibly given a questionable e-mail and did not kill the man?

RANGEL: I agree with Patrick that if Republicans were going to resign just because they made mistakes, the president would have resigned on Iraq, resigned on the fact that the terrorists really are out of hand, half a dozen Republican members of Congress have been indicted, so they would resign because of corruption. Some have.

The deficit is swelling. Katrina is there. So, for God's sake, all the Republicans would resign if just making mistakes. Even the American public has no confidence in the president or the Republican Party.

MCHENRY: Well, I've got to compliment Charlie on a great retort. But let me tell you something. in this election, Republican voters are going to go out, as are all American voters going to go out, and be aware that the Democrats want to raise taxes and defund our troops. Moreover, the deficit is being reduced, as you well know, Charlie, and we've actually almost cut it in half in a brief number of years.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, unfortunately. A good discussion. A sensitive issue, a very important issue going into this election. Charlie Rangel, thanks for coming in. Patrick McHenry, thank you to you as well.

Coming up, former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. He's standing by live with his take on the Foley fallout. Also, he's got a hot new book out entitled, "State of Emergency." Very controversial. We'll get through that. And with only one month until the 2006 elections, stay with "Late Edition" and CNN, featuring the best political team on television for all your campaign news.

Also coming up next, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including today's clashes between U.S. troops and insurgents in Iraq. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from New York. With the U.S. congressional elections only a month away, Republicans fear the Foley scandal on Capitol Hill could turn off a significant portion of the party's political base.

Joining us now from Washington, the former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. He's the author of a controversial new book entitled, "State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America." It's number six in today's New York Times Book Review Section. Pat Buchanan, welcome back to "Late Edition."

PATRICK BUCHANAN, AUTHOR: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Listen to what the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from New Jersey, Tom Kean, Jr., said about Dennis Hastert and the way he's handled this Mark Foley scandal: "Hastert should resign as speaker. He is the head of the institution, and this happened on his watch. I urge House leaders to go further by appointing an outside panel to review the matter immediately. This disturbing situation is another reason why the public holds the Congress in such low esteem."

Do you agree with Tom Kean, Jr.?

BUCHANAN: I agree with him in part, Wolf. I don't think Denny Hastert should resign unless it's demonstrated that he has not spoken the truth. He said he was aware of these early e-mails which were overly friendly. And I would not have thrown Foley out of the Congress of the United States or exposed him as a gay man for simply sending an e-mail down to New Orleans or somewhere, a thousand miles away, asking for a picture.

But clearly they should have investigated Foley. They failed to do it. But the speaker says as soon as he learned about this lurid and lewd stuff, that Foley was gone. And if he's telling the truth, I don't think he should be forced to resign in disgrace in the middle of a sex scandal. That's too much of a punishment when I don't think the crime justifies it.

BLITZER: Kirk Fordham, who was a top aide for some ten years to Mark Foley, later went to work for Tom Reynolds, the congressman from western New York, he says he alerted the office of the speaker at least two or three years ago about Foley's inappropriate advances towards young male congressional pages. He says the office and the assumption is the chief of staff to Tom Foley -- excuse me, to Dennis Hastert. What do you think of this accusation from Kirk Fordham, who has since resigned?

BUCHANAN: It's a serious accusation. And he said he contacted Scott Palmer, I believe, who's the chief of staff to Hastert, and I believe who shares an apartment with him when the speaker's in town. Now, what you have is a clear public conflict in testimony, and the FBI, Wolf, is going to hear that under oath or in a venue in which if you lie to the FBI, you go to prison. I know people who have.

So you've got a clear conflict here. And it's hard to believe that if Scott Palmer knew it that he would not inform the speaker. So I think this is going to have to be discovered by the FBI. But I will say this: In the absence of hard evidence that the speaker is not telling the truth, I don't think he should resign.

I think politically that would be a mistake, and in terms of justice it would be wrong. And I don't believe you should demand if you're a Republican that you throw a man over the side if you're not sure he's done something that's really wrong and justifies it. So I would say no to the resignation by the speaker and no to demands that he resign.

BLITZER: Here's what the press secretary for Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, the minority leader in the House, said the other day: "Republicans still don't get it. Every mom in America is asking how Republicans could choose partisan politics over protecting kids, and the Republicans are still asking who could have blown their cover- up. If we had seen Mark Foley's inappropriate e-mails or instant messages to House pages, we would have immediately acted to protect the kids."

Does she make a fair point?

BUCHANAN: I think they're -- look, she says they would have acted. Perhaps they would. I'm not going to deny that. But there's a large element of hypocrisy here. Wolf, look, Washington, D.C., is the most Democratic precinct in America. They reduced the age for sexual consent or the age of consent for sexual relations to 16 years old.

Therefore, if Foley had taken this page and gone off to a motel, he would be home free legally in the District of Columbia. That's because liberals are dominant in the District of Columbia. Now, Ms. Pelosi, it is my understanding, has marched in gay pride parades in which they've had floats of the North American Man-Boy Love Association, which wants to eliminate all age-of-consent laws.

And it's an outrageous group. It's in my judgment a criminal group almost in what it recommends. But I've not seen the Democrats come down and condemn them, and I believe Senator Clinton has marched in a parade in which there was a similar float. BLITZER: But a lot of Republicans, Pat, in the House of Representatives knew that Mark Foley was a gay man, even though he was not formally out of the closet. They fully suspected it. They believed it. Is that a problem for Republicans for the conservative base to simply, given some of the attitudes toward homosexuality among some of your fellow conservatives? Is that a problem?

BUCHANAN: It is a problem in this sense. And it's not simply homosexuality. I know Republicans were much tougher on Congressman Crane when he was involved with a 17-year-old female page. But let me agree with this. Wolf, look, if you know that Mr. Foley is a homosexual and he is giving too much attention to the pages, red flags should have been raised everywhere.

They should have gone in after that e-mail and said, wait a minute. Get the pages in here and let's find out if there's been any other problems with Mr. Foley with pages still here. They didn't do that, so they can be condemned, and they ought to be condemned for inadequate oversight when there should have been legitimate suspicion here. So I'll go along with that.

I will say they did the right thing in getting rid of this character, who's obviously a sick individual and a squalid character, as soon as they discovered it. But should they be criticized for handling it? Yes, they should.

BLITZER: What impact, if any, do you believe this Foley scandal will have on the elections in November?

BUCHANAN: Well, these scandals are great beasts, Wolf, and they have to be fed daily. And they're going to have to be fed more than what Scott Palmer said to Kirk Fordham because the American people don't know what that's about. If it's not fed, I think it goes away pretty rapidly. One of the reasons is the horrific situation in Iraq, which deserves more attention right now, which is very bad, and other issues like that.

But if more names come out of people involved or people who knew, it will continue, it will deepen, and it will worsen. So I don't know what the reporters are getting. I'm sure they've got any number of them now digging into this. But if it's not fed, I think it will go away by the end of this week. And as you know, the cameras can turn and move to another subject very, very rapidly.

BLITZER: Let's talk, turning about to another subject, about your new book, entitled, "State of Emergency." You rail against the illegal immigration coming into the United States. But listen to what President Bush said about immigration and his policy the other day in Washington. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must understand that you can't kick 12 million people out of your country. That we must figure out a way to say to those that if you're lawful and if you've contributed to the United States of America, there is a way for you to eventually earn citizenship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He tried to get comprehensive immigration reform through the Congress. He failed. In the end, they passed legislation, although funding may not be there, to build a 700-mile fence along the border between the United States and Mexico. You want to go much, much further.

BUCHANAN: Well, Wolf, I recommended in 1991 70 miles of fence along the main crossing points. And I was compared to David Duke. Now Hillary Rodham Clinton and 80 Republicans and Democrats have voted for a 700-mile fence. We have won the argument with the American people. The president used the word lawful. The 12 million are here illegally. They're illegals.

No one recommends that the 12 million immediately be removed, but the president should be tough in cracking down on businesses that hire illegals. He should be tough in denying social welfare to illegal aliens. And he should be very tough on gang members who are illegals. I have a whole program in this book, at the end of which none is controversial to most Americans. Wolf, 80 percent of Pennsylvanians say no to Bush's amnesty and yes to a wall on the border.

BLITZER: Well, a lot of people do say that there's a lot of controversial suggestions in your book, bordering on racism. I'll read one passage from "State of Emergency": "The crisis of the GOP is demographic. The white vote that carried the party to five victories in six elections is not growing as rapidly as the minority vote, the Democratic base. Indeed, it is shrinking as a share of the electorate. Third world immigration is drowning the Republican base."

BUCHANAN: That's not racist.

BLITZER: Those words have generated a lot of commotion, as you understand.

BUCHANAN: (LAUGHTER) Not as much I think as you say. Look, Wolf, let me give you an example. Clinton immediately legalized, naturalized, and registered something like a million voters just prior to the '96 election. The Hispanic voters who voted the first time in that election voted 91-6 for Clinton/Gore over Dole/Kemp.

What I'm saying is, if the Republican Party thinks that by throwing open the borders and massive Third World immigration they're going to win those votes, they are smoking something. That is not racist. That is talking about the reality. African Americans vote 90 percent for Democrats. Hispanic Americans basically two to one for Democrats. And this is all we're saying. It's political reality, and everybody knows it.

BLITZER: You're not running for president again, are you?

BUCHANAN: No, I'm not, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ever? (LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: No, I don't think so. I think the American people have spoken to that. But I will say this. A candidate who runs on "secure our borders," "stop exporting our jobs," "bring the troops home" will really run well in the Republican primaries and could get the nomination.

BLITZER: Patrick Buchanan is the author of "State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America."

Thanks, Pat, for coming in.

BUCHANAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead, Iraq: is it falling apart? My conversation with the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, about his government's plan to try to counter the relentless sectarian violence plaguing the country.

And with only a month until the 2006 congressional elections, stay with CNN for the best political team on television for all your campaign coverage.

You can also find the latest political news, including highlights from all the Sunday talk shows on our CNN political ticker. Just go to CNN.com/ticker.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Just a short while ago I spoke with the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Foreign Minister, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition." You say that things are moving in the right direction, but Senator John Warner, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, just came back from a visit to Iraq, and he has expressed a relatively gloomy assessment.

He said that you, basically -- the Iraqi government -- have two to three months to get the situation under control. Otherwise the U.S. is going to have to rethink its strategy.

Listen to what he said. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The various departments and agencies of that government are simply not living up, or are not able to meet the -- just the fundamental responsibilities of a government operating through agencies.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: And as you know, Foreign Minister, he has been an outspoken supporter of the Bush administration's stance going back to day one, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. For him to be saying this, that would underscore a serious, serious problem right now.

HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQ'S FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, Senator Warner is an honorable man and has been a great supporter of the people of Iraq and of the administration. And we respect his views. We may differ; in fact, the situation is not as gloomy or as bad as things are.

I believe -- yes, the government, we all admit, has a serious challenge. And it needs to rise up to that challenge, to improve security, to deliver on what it has pledged the people.

This has been slow, but we have been moving steadily forward, actually. We are not stalled or stopped. But people expect more from the government. The Iraqi people expect more also. But the situation is not desperate or gloomy, you see.

And we have suffered in the past three years, Wolf, from this course correction, every time you make a move forward, and then you are questioned about the move, that it is within a common consensus or within international consensus.

So definitely, there would be revisions. There would be reviews of government policies and plans to see. And I'm sure the administration will make them. But the situation is not as desperate as people think.

BLITZER: We were alarmed, though, this week. There was a report that Iraqi police -- that units of an Iraqi police force has to be disbanded. Let me read to you from a story that was in The Washington Post Saturday.

"This week, Iraq's Interior Ministry had to remove a brigade of hundreds of Iraqi police from duty in Baghdad after it participated in sectarian violence, including one battalion that raided a meat processing factory and kidnapped more than 20 Sunni workers, seven of whom were later found executed."

That does not sound encouraging, when the Iraqi police themselves are part of the problem.

ZEBARI: Well, from our point of view, Wolf, this is very encouraging. It shows the seriousness of the government to address these issues.

I mean, we all have been saying, for quite some time, that the Iraqi military buildup, the training has been good, has been positive, rewarding. But the police have been infected by bad elements, by corrupt elements. And they have been committing some of these killings -- sectarian killings, or running death squads and so on.

So to pull this unit and disband it shows that the Maliki government is serious, is determined, in fact, to overcome all the sectarian divisions, irrespective of what the background of this unit they have disbanded, which is a positive thing.

BLITZER: Listen to what the chief U.S. military spokesman, William Caldwell -- General Caldwell, said this past Wednesday, which doesn't seem to suggest things are moving in the right direction.

Listen to the U.S. general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: In September, we did see a rise in sensational attacks. Last week we also saw the highest number of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices this year that were both found and cleared, and those that were detonated. The number of IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, is also at an all-time high.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: This comes at a time when the U.S. and Iraqi military have launched major offensives in the Baghdad area, elsewhere. Yet the escalation of violence is at an all-time high, three-and-a-half years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. How do you explain that?

ZEBARI: Well, definitely, the escalation of violence has concentrated recently in Baghdad. And that's why the Baghdad security plan was launched. I mean, initially it wasn't that successful. But in the second phase, it produced some results.

It brought down the numbers of car bombs, at least, we saw in the streets of Baghdad. It apprehended many terrorists. It captured many caches of weapons. Now the military -- the Iraqi military and the coalition are in the planning for the third phase of Baghdad security plan, which we hope will produce some better results.

The violence actually, we have to look at it, that this increase in violence has resulted from the sectarian tension recently, after February, bombings of the holy shrines in Samarra. And there have been retaliations by different communities.

This is the major challenge now in front of the government. And the government is committed to bring level of violence down.

BLITZER: There was a poll that was released, that the University of Maryland did, of Iraqis which showed that only 9 percent of Iraqis supported President Bush's policy of toughening it out. And 71 percent favor a withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces within a year.

That led Nicholas Kristof, the columnist in The New York Times, to write this today: "With our Iraq policy floundering, it's time to take advice from the experts, the Iraqis themselves. And Iraqis are crystal clear about what the U.S. should do: Announce a timetable for withdrawal of our troops within one year. They're right. Our failure to declare a timetable, and above all, our coveting long-term military bases in Iraq feed the insurgency and end up killing more young Americans."

Is he right?

Should the U.S. announce a one-year timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and also announce giving up any hopes of long-term bases -- military bases in your country?

ZEBARI: Wolf, I would really quote another Iraqi politician and leader who is the speaker of the parliament. We attended a joint meeting with Secretary Rice. And he is a Sunni Arab. He asked for re-occupying Baghdad again by the American forces. And this shows a change of attitude.

So these polls actually, conducted -- or surveys by academic centers and so on, with all due respect, but really, they are selective. I think nobody, nowadays, in Iraq is calling for a withdrawal or a timetable for the American forces at the moment.

Although we in the government are going to engage with the Security Council soon about the review of the mandate of the multinational forces and the American forces working in Iraq. And that will be a time, really, where we have to prepare our homework to go to the Security Council and ask for certain changes.

But I personally believe there is no intention, whatsoever, by all the Iraqi communities, whether Shia, Sunni, Kurds, to demand an immediate pull-out or premature withdrawal of American forces.

BLITZER: You are talking about the United Nations Security Council going back to the U.N. Security Council. How much longer, do you believe, Foreign Minister, U.S. and coalition forces need to stay there?

Because you now have 300,000 Iraqi military forces; you have a robust police force. Why can't the Iraqis do it themselves?

ZEBARI: Well, we definitely can defend ourselves, I mean, provided, or given the means to do so. But remember the whole Iraqi state collapsed. The army was dissolved. The security agency was dissolved. I mean, this had been in operation for the past 80 years or so.

Now, to start again from scratch, really, it needs time. It needs training. It needs equipment. And this has been a process. And we haven't done bad, Wolf, on that. And the coalition has been helpful, indeed.

Now we have about 10 army divisions. They have performed well on many occasions. There we have certain difficulties with the police. We are trying to weed them out and cleanse them, actually, from the bad elements.

But we are capable of handling the security by ourselves. But we are not ready yet. I mean, the situation is fragile. There has been good progress. Before, two years ago, there are certain areas of Iraq that were totally under control of the terrorists and the insurgents.

Now you wouldn't see any part of the country that is controlled by Al Qaida, by the Ba'athists, by the Saddamists. So the situation is different now than a year ago.

I really am unable to put a timeline, you see, when that could happen, Wolf, because this is up to the military planners to decide that.

BLITZER: Foreign Minister, we're out of time, but thanks so much for joining us. And good luck over there.

ZEBARI: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And there's much more ahead on "Late Edition," including the fall-out from the Foley scandal. Can Congress police itself?

We'll talk about that and more with two U.S. senators, Joe Biden and John Cornyn.

Our political panel will help sort out how the scandal might play out in the voting booth next month. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is Late Edition, the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASTERT: Could we have done it better? Could the page board have handled it better? In retrospect, probably, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The fact that those who are responsible for the well-being of these young people in our page school were aware of some danger to them and did nothing about it is a big scandal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: One month before critical, midterm elections in the United States, congressional Republicans find themselves in a tailspin. Could a sex scandal shift the balance of power on Capitol Hill?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Success in Iraq will help make this country more secure. Failure in Iraq will mean that we will have left behind a treacherous world for children and our grandchildren.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And President Bush vows to stick to his strategy in Iraq. But with spiraling sectarian violence and more deadly attacks against U.S. troops, is it time for the U.S. to change course? Two key senators, Democrat Joe Biden and Republican John Cornyn, weigh in.

Welcome back. We'll be talking to senators Biden and Cornyn in just a moment about the congressional sex scandal, the war in Iraq, North Korea, lots more.

First, though, let's get a check of what's in the news right now. CNN's Fredricka Whitfield standing by for that. Fred?

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Thanks, Fred. It appears that the Foley factor is looming large just 30 days before the congressional elections, with concern among the Republican ranks that the scandal is threatening their majority status on Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is in Washington. She's following all the latest developments. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a Republican congressional aide who says he tried to warn the House speaker's top aide about Mark Foley's inappropriate behavior towards pages, expects to testify before the House Ethics Committee this coming week. Kirk Fordham's attorney tells CNN he was in touch with the Ethics Committee on Friday and expects Fordham to tell the panel under oath what he has been saying publicly, that the speaker's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, knew about Foley's worrisome conduct long before the speaker's office admits.

In facts, sources familiar with Fordham's account of events he was so concerned about Foley's behavior, he arranged a meeting with then-Congressman Foley and Scott Palmer sometime in or before 2003 in order to show Foley they were serious about making him stop his inappropriate conduct with pages. Now, Palmer's only response so far has been, quote, "what Fordham -- what Kirk Fordham says did not happen." And the speaker's spokesman simply says, "The Standards Committee is investigating this matter, and we are confident in its ability to determine the facts."

Now, The Washington Post says they have a corroborating source backing Fordham's claim that that meeting took place. And this will be the challenge for the Ethics Committee over the next few weeks. Is there documentary evidence, e-mails, notes, calendar entries or other notations or witnesses that can prove the speaker's chief of staff did meet with Foley as far back as 2003 to raise concerns.

Now, politically, for Republicans, this constant challenge to the speaker's office and its version of events is making it harder to achieve their immediate goal, and that is to put this issue to rest. This is already having an effect, an impact on several key races, especially on Tom Reynolds of New York, who was forced into a stunning move, Wolf. He put up an ad in his home district of Buffalo, saying he is sorry for his role in the Foley drama, but insists he did the right thing and reported what he knew to the speaker of the House. Wolf? BLITZER: The House Ethics Committee, when they hold their investigation, their hearings, they question witnesses under oath. Is all that done behind the scenes with no cameras, with no reporters present?

BASH: Very much. As a matter of fact, it's unclear at this point whether we're even going to know exactly when Kirk Fordham, what date, what time he goes before the House Ethics Committee. They were unusually public in announcing the process that they're putting forward. But from now until probably the end, it's going to be very tight-lipped. That is generally the way the House Ethics Committee, ethics committees in general on Capitol Hill, deal with these proceedings.

BLITZER: And there's no -- even though they say it will be a matter of weeks, it's unlikely that any formal results will be released before the election, which is only a little bit more than four weeks away.

BASH: Exactly. And that is -- it's probably unlikely when the chairman and ranking member of the Ethics Committee announced this investigation last week. They did say weeks, not months. But they were also very careful, as you point out, not to promise that there will be a resolution to this before Election Day, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, stand by. We're going to have you back for our political panel discussion. That's coming up later this hour. Thank you.

And joining us now to weigh the impact of the Foley congressional page scandal and this week's surge of violence in Iraq and a lot more, two key U.S. senators. Senator Joe Biden is a Democrat of Delaware. He's joining us from Wilmington. He's the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. And Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. He's joining us from Austin. He's a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senators, to both of you, thanks very much for coming in. And a quick overview from both of you. Senator Biden, you first. What is your bottom line assessment of this whole Foley scandal right now?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, I think it's all about accountability, Wolf. And I think that, you know, we probably -- John and I and you live and work in the only accountable-free zone in the country, Washington, D.C. And I think it's cumulative. I think it goes beyond Foley. It's who's responsible.?

No one ever gets held responsible for anything. The mistakes in Iraq, the mistakes in 9/11, the mistakes -- no one's ever held accountable. And I think the public is really fed up with it.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Cornyn?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, what Mark Foley did was deplorable. There's no question about it. And I'm glad that Speaker Hastert has said the buck stops with him. And he's called for a full investigation. We need to know the facts. What worries me that it's not lost on any of us that these revelations are coming, even though some of them apparently have been known for a long time, just within about a month of the election.

I hope we don't find out that some people sat on information just so they could leak it here a month before the election, to try to have an impact on the outcome.

BLITZER: The reporter who broke this story, Brian Ross of ABC News, says his original source was a Republican source, not a Democratic source, Senator Cornyn.

CORNYN: Well, there were I know at least two Florida newspapers that had some earlier e-mails, not some of the more reprehensible instant message e-mails that we've seen recently. And believe that they were relatively innocuous and did not even write the story. Obviously, I don't know the complete story. None of us do. That's why a full investigation is important and that people do be held accountable for what they've done and what they've failed to do.

BLITZER: The suggestion, Senator Biden, that Democrats or the liberal news media might be behind the timing of this story is coming not only from Senator Cornyn and other Republicans, but the speaker himself made that suggestion. Among other things, he said this. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASTERT: We have a good story to tell. Our friends on the other side of the aisle really don't have a story to tell. And maybe they're resolving to another way to -- another political tactic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, it's a serious accusation that this is dirty politics at play. Senator Biden?

BIDEN: Let's assume it's true. What a dumb thing to say. What a silly thing to say. Here you've got these pages at risk. And the answer is, Democrats did it? Or the news media did it? I mean, think how that falls on the ears of average people all around the country. I just think, look, they are so tired, I think we're so tired of this sort of political-speak.

Look, this guy did a very bad thing. Other people may or may not have known about what he was trying to do. That's all this is about. Beginning, middle and end. Let's assume that, let's assume somebody sat on it. That person should be held accountable. You know why? Whether it was a news media person or anybody. Because it put at risk young women and men. In this case, young men. And so I just think this is what people I think really dislike about national politics.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Cornyn, you want to respond to that?

BIDEN: You know, the devil made me do it. CORNYN: Well, I actually don't disagree with what Joe just said, that we need to find out what the facts are and hold people accountable. If there have been people that sat on information and exposed some pages to additional risk because they wanted to save it and leak it here a month before the election, I think the American people need to know to know that, as well. We don't know. But that's why the investigation is so important. And those responsible are held accountable.

BLITZER: Here's what the former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, said the other day. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I just find it interesting that nobody's out there saying, did Rahm Emanuel do this? Did George Soros do this? Who's had this information? This is three-year-old information. Why didn't it surface before this? Why does it surface only at a moment to do maximum damage to Republicans and in a way that is absolutely designed politically? And isn't that fairly despicable?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Cornyn, the former top aide to Congressman Foley and to Tom Reynolds of western New York, Kirk Fordham, he says he told Scott Palmer, the chief of staff to the speaker, all about Foley's inappropriate contact with the congressional pages, young, male boys, three years ago. And he says, unfortunately, nothing was done.

CORNYN: Well, obviously, Mr. Fordham's got a story to tell. There are others who, I understand, disagree with him and tell a different account.

I'm sure we're not going to resolve, this morning, what the he said/ she said was in that case. And that's why the investigation is so important, by the department of justice, which, thankfully, the speaker of the House has called for them to conduct an investigation.

I understand they are doing so, perhaps even as we speak.

BLITZER: Do you think, Senator Biden, this issue, this Foley issue, the sex scandal on Capitol Hill, will or will not have an impact on the elections a little bit more than four weeks from now?

BIDEN: I think it will have an impact because of the way we're talking about it right now.

Look, let's assume that somebody killed Cock Robin and no one tells anything about it until just before an election. Somebody still did something really bad.

Let's not take our eye off the ball about what people knew and what they didn't know and whether or not they're responsible. And, look, I think my Republican friends in the House were in trouble, unrelated to this. The war in Iraq is a debacle. The president has not made a single right decision, in my humble opinion, with record to his policy in Iraq. He refuses to change.

I think this goes beyond that. But I think they're -- already there was some sort of slide. The idea that Republicans in the House were riding high and they were likely to clearly keep control but for this, I think that's also kind of silly.

BLITZER: Senator Cornyn?

CORNYN: Well, it's interesting to hear Joe Biden say the president hasn't made a single right decision in Iraq.

BIDEN: Right.

CORNYN: Seventy-seven senators voted to authorize the use of force there. And just when things get tough, then people start getting a little wobbly in the knees and want to cut and run.

That certainly is the wrong answer to a very grave danger, which is the central war on terror. The central front in the war on terror, according to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida in Iraq.

So we have to adjust to the challenges. We have to meet those challenges, train Iraqi security forces so we can bring our troops home as soon as possible.

But just to say that every decision George Bush has made is wrong is not a policy. It's not an alternative.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, hold your thought. Because I'm going to let you respond to that. And we're going to move on, talk a little bit more about Iraq, the surge of violence forcing a rethinking of U.S. strategy. Also, North Korea: Will it test a nuclear bomb?

And later, we'll ask our political panel whether or not the speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, will survive the Foley scandal.

And coming up in our next hour, for our North American viewers, John Roberts hosts "This Week at War," what to expect from Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting today from New York. We're continuing our conversation with Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware and Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas.

Senator Biden, we're talking about Iraq, a serious split, a serious disagreement between you, many other Democrats and the president right now. Here's what the president said in Stockton, California this week. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The stakes are high. The Democrats are the party of cut and run. Ours is a party that has got a clear vision and says we will give our commanders and troops the support necessary to achieve that victory in Iraq. We will stay in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Senator Biden, you want to respond to the charge that you're the party of cut and run?

BIDEN: We are not the party of cut and run. I'm not a person calling for cut and run. The president of the United States has not given the military commanders all they've needed.

Does anybody believe we went in with enough troops?

Does anybody believe that, now we've trained up 500,000 Iraqis, that his policy of once they stand up, they can stand down makes any sense?

Does anybody think that, in fact, the president was right about the threat that we faced about weapons of mass destruction?

Does anybody believe the president was accurate when he said we'd be greeted as liberators?

Does anybody think the president was right when he said, just a couple months ago, we were going to go in and quell Baghdad by bringing in more American forces?

The fact of the matter is, everyone from John Warner on -- Republican leader of the Armed Services Committee -- knows there's a need for radical change in policy and a political settlement here.

There needs to be a political solution. And the president's talk about cutting and running is, I just think, absolutely ridiculous. The idea is, what is the president going to do to deal with this civil war?

What is he going to do to stem the violence?

What is he going to do to give us a chance to be able to leave responsibly?

And he says "stay the course?" That's the answer?

BLITZER: Senator Cornyn, the American public would appear to agree with Senator Biden, based on a few recent polls.

The new Newsweek poll that's out this weekend asks, "Is the U.S. making progress or losing ground in Iraq?"

Twenty-nine percent said they're making progress; 64 percent said they're losing ground. And our recent CNN poll asked, "How is President Bush handling Iraq?"

Thirty-two percent approve of the job he's doing; 66 percent disapprove.

You've got a major, major problem with the American public only four weeks away from the election, Senator Cornyn.

CORNYN: Well, it's no question, Wolf, that what we are engaged in in Iraq is tough. But it's also important.

As General John Abizaid has said -- the head of Central Command -- he said, sure, we can bring our troops home today. But the enemy will follow us here.

This is not George Bush's Vietnam because, after the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong didn't threaten to bomb our major cities and innocent civilians in the United States.

This is a matter of us enabling the Iraqis to secure themselves, deal with their political problems...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Senator Cornyn, for a moment and play for you what Senator John Warner, the chairman of your committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, said upon returning from a visit to Iraq last week.

And as you know, he's been a strong, ardent supporter of the president from day one. But he came back very, very worried. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARNER: In two or three months, if this thing hasn't come to fruition, and if this level of violence is not under control, and this government able to function, I think it's the responsibility of our government internally to determine, is there a change of course that we should take?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, that range a lot of alarm bells, especially over at the White House, Senator Cornyn.

CORNYN: Well, I have enormous expect for John Warner, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. But I'm not clear what change that he is advocating or if he is advocating a change. Obviously, we want the Iraqis to deal with their political problems, to quell the sectarian violence and to establish peace so we can bring our troops home as soon as possible.

But it won't happen by dictating to the Iraqis how they should run their affairs. It won't happen if we set arbitrary timetables for bringing our troops home that will only embolden those who right now seem to have the upper hand. So, I think we have to be careful about this. This is enormously serious because it's not just about Iraq. It's about a radical ideology, Islamic Extremism. And one that threatens us, not just in Iraq, but Afghanistan, Iran and other parts of the Middle East.

BLITZER: Let me shift gears briefly to North Korea, Senator Biden, because there's a lot of concern the North Koreans will actually go forward with a nuclear test. It could have come this weekend. It hasn't happened yet. But what if anything should the U.S. be doing now to try to prevent North Korea from engaging in such a nuclear test?

BIDEN: Wolf, I'll respond to that. Iraq is not about a radical ideology. Our ambassador, General Abizaid, our General Casey said, this is about a civil war. If every single jihadist in the world were eliminated tomorrow, we still have a major war on our hands in Iraq and no plan to win it. No way -- we have a plan how not to lose it. But no plan to win it.

That's what General Casey's saying. That's what General -- our ambassador's saying. That's what General Abizaid is saying. They are saying that this is not -- this is about a civil war.

It also has the added downside of having jihadists there, as well. But if every jihadist in the world was killed, we still have a major civil war that our folks are caught in the middle of. And no one is calling for an arbitrary date to come home.

North Korea, there are two tests here in North Korea. One is our diplomacy and the support of our allies in the region. They've got to get tougher. And we've got to be willing to talk. I heard former Secretary Baker on a rival show earlier this morning. He was asked about talking. He said, I've always found that you don't need to talk to your friends. You've got to talk to your enemies. You've got to make sure you know what's at stake. You've got to make sure you know what's possible here.

I don't see -- and Dick Lugar and myself, and John McCain and others have been talking for four years. We should deal directly with, not negotiate, just lay down, have a straight out, flat out talk with North Korea to find out -- let them know exactly what our bottom line is and find out whether there's any possibility of them ceasing and desisting from their going forward. But the failure to talk at all seems to me to make absolutely no sense.

BLITZER: We are out of time, so we have to leave it there, unfortunately. Senator Biden, Senator Cornyn, a good serious discussion. Thanks to both of you for coming in.

And coming up next on "Late Edition," the countdown to election day with our political panel: John Harris, Mark Halperin, the authors of "The Way to Win," and our own Dana Bash.

Plus, we'll get a quick check of what's in the news right now, including the latest on the nuclear threat from North Korea. And remember, we are always ready when you are, the CNN Political Ticker. Go to cnn.com/ticker for all the latest political news. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I was disgusted by the revelations and disappointed that he would violate the trust of the citizens who placed him in office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush, this week, on the congressional page sex scandal that's dominating the political debate, as we march to the elections, a little bit more than four weeks from now.

Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting today from New York. Joining us now, the two authors of an important new book, looking further down the political road, entitled "The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008."

The authors, Mark Halperin, political director of ABC News. He's joining us here in New York. And, in Washington, his co-author, John Harris, the political editor of The Washington Post. Also joining us, in Washington, our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

Welcome back to "Late Edition," John Harris, Mark Halperin, good friends, as is Dana Bash.

I'll start with you, Mark. This Foley fiasco: how much of an impact do you assess it will have on elections in November?

MARK HALPERIN, ABC NEWS: Well, I think the clearest indication, Wolf, that, right now, it looks likely to be on a trajectory with a big impact.

Number one, even Republicans who are normally optimistic, who we talked to, who always try to put the best face on things, say this has hurt them; five or six House races, at least, now, either more favoring the Democrats or in play. And it's also discombobulating the Republicans.

We talked, in our book, about Karl Rove and Bill Clinton, about politics. And one thing they agree on: psychology matters. For Republican leaders in Washington, now, this is inside their heads. It's caused tension between them. It's got to affect how things are going, for now.

BLITZER: How worried are Republicans, or should Republicans, John Harris, be right now?

JOHN HARRIS, WASHINGTON POST: Well, they should be totally worried. Because their plan was, using classic techniques that Bush and Rove had pioneered for this party, is to frame the elections as a choice on national security, put Democrats on the defensive.

That strategy simply cannot work in this environment, where all the media attention is consumed by this Foley scandal and where their own base, far from being rallied for that election in less than 30 days, is itself divided. So you just, almost, couldn't concoct a scenario that would be worse.

BLITZER: Is there evidence, Dana, that you've come up with or that anyone has brought to your attention that this is all part of a major dirty trick by the Democrats or liberals, the elite liberal news media, to try to embarrass Republicans on the eve of the election?

BASH: Any evidence? No, not at all. But that's certainly not stopping Republicans, from the speaker on down, from making those accusations.

And they're doing it, already, this morning. The speaker did it in a pretty stunning and stark way, earlier in the week, where he actually named names. He said it was George Soros; it was Bill Clinton's allies like Dick Morris and others, who knew about this but didn't report it, in order to make a bigger splash closer to the election.

But they certainly are not offering proof. And I can tell you. I've talked to several Republicans who are pretty close to the speaker in his office, who say, you know what, don't go there because this is already bad enough for Republicans; if you're going to start blaming Democrats, blaming the news media, without evidence, especially without evidence, it could make it even worse than it already is.

BLITZER: What do you say, Mark?

HALPERIN: Well, this is a tactic that's worked for Republicans in the past. If you remember, in 2004, President Bush was able to rally Republicans; Karl Rove was able to rally Republicans, going after CBS News.

They started to do it with Bob Woodward, after his book came out, by saying, don't let The Washington Post decide this election.

As Dana said, though, without evidence, some people in the party are saying it's just not the right card to play. And as we wrote about in our book, Bush and Rove have succeeded where previous Republicans have not, in rallying the base, talking about the liberal media.

It may not work in this case. But all this morning, we're seeing, on your show and elsewhere, Republicans trying that strategy still. As Dana says, others are really skeptical.

BLITZER: What about, John Harris, this notion that George Soros, the liberal billionaire, that some of his money is behind this, in terms of that watchdog group that actually got a hold of some of the e-mail earlier on?

HARRIS: Well, there's no question that group is helping promote the scandal, which would be fair game. It obviously raises serious questions.

But as Dana said, there's no evidence that they were behind, or tried to manipulate the timing of the revelations. But I was saying that, in this era that we're in, in politics -- Mark and I call it "the freak show," evidence is really beside the point.

The essence of "the freak show" is there's never agreement on even basic facts. And no matter what the facts are, you can always respond with an accusation on the other side. And that works in getting your own team fired up for battle.

BLITZER: It looks, Dana, as if the speaker, Dennis Hastert, at least for now, has managed to survive. But who knows for how long?

BASH: That's right. For now, certainly, it does look that way. You know, at the beginning of the week, it was very unclear if that was going to be the case.

It's really, actually, been remarkable to watch Republicans act, in many ways, like Democrats are accused of acting, in terms of having a circular firing squad.

His own top deputies, members of the Republican leadership, one after the other, sort of, stood back and said, oh, we wouldn't have handled it this way; we would have done it in a very different way.

But by the end of the week, very much with the help and coordination of the White House, the highest levels of the White House, the Republican National Committee and the speaker's office, they were able to get people better on-message when it comes to the speaker and his tenure saying, look, he should stay.

But look, there are -- drip, drip, drip; there's more information coming out every day that is still challenging the speaker and his office's version of events. That's keeping oxygen in this story.

BLITZER: He won't be the speaker if the Democrats become the majority of the House of Representatives.

Mark Halperin, let's go through the prospects of the Democrats doing that. Right now, there are 231 Republicans in the house, 201 Democrats, one independent, three vacancies.

The Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to control the House of Representatives. Based on everything you know right now -- and you put together the influential, the note, among other things. You study this on a day-to-day basis.

Will the Democrats be the majority in the House come November 7?

HALPERIN: On the current trajectory, I think they will be, and as I talk to Republicans around the country getting very much pushed back on that. Republicans hope to change things.

But as of now, they're 1/15th of the way there. There's little doubt amongst even Republicans in the House that they'll lose the seat that Mark Foley held, even though it's a Republican district.

There's a seat in Arizona that Republicans are likely to lose. Tom Reynolds, the man who's in charge of getting Republicans elected and re-elected to the House -- he's in a very tough race in Buffalo, New York.

And I think Democrats are probably close to a third to half the way there, right now, today, unless Republicans can turn it around.

Don't count them out. They've got more money. They can get over this issue. They may be able to reframe the debate. But as of today, I do think Democrats would take the House.

BLITZER: Our political unit here at CNN, John, has done some work. And we've taken a look at what we call the 22 hottest, juiciest, closest seats right now.

And guess what? All of those seats -- all of those seats, right now, are held by Republicans, not Democrats. So the Republicans right now -- I assume you agree with your co-author -- are in deep, deep trouble and could see their majority in the House of Representatives go down.

HARRIS: There is never daylight between Mark and I.

(LAUGHTER)

But if I could just add to his point, and, really yours, the problem is Republicans are on the defensive across the board. There's almost no place where they can play offense.

What you may be seeing is this great strategy that's worked for six years, that Karl Rove fashioned with George Bush -- you may see that being at the end of its rope in this election, places like Virginia, which I covered for many years, you've got Republicans candidates really fighting for their life -- in a House district down in Virginia beach; Senator George Allen in big trouble.

The landscape has completely changed.

BLITZER: The latest CNN poll, Dana, that we have, and you're familiar with this: "Likely Voters' Choice for Congress," Democrats get 53 percent; Republicans get 42 percent."

Explain to our viewers why this is significant, even though all elections really focus in on local issues as well.

BASH: It's significant because that is telling of the mood right now across the country, that people -- it's a Democratic line. But at this point, it really looks like it happens to be true. People want change. And it's a Republican Congress. And change means electing Democrats. But I'll tell you what's really interesting about what we've been talking about, in terms of how the Foley scandal will affect the races. I talked to Republican pollsters who say, look, you know, we've been in the field and we've been polling over the past couple of days. And we don't really see a nationwide change when it comes to how Foley is determining how Americans vote.

However, you have just a few races. If you have a few races where conservatives stay home because they are so angry about this, that really could make a big difference.

And remember, Wolf, all during the summer and in the fall, House Republicans were trying very hard to appeal to these conservatives, throw out some red meat: vote on gay marriage, vote on things like flag burning. It's all for naught at this point, many people think, because of the Foley scandal.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We're going to have a lot more to talk about. I want to break down the prospects of the Democrats taking control of the Senate as well, and also talk about this hot, new book that's out; the events that will define the run for the White House in two years. All that coming up.

And for our North American viewers, in the next hour, don't forget John Roberts with "This Week at War," a comprehensive look at why the battle for Baghdad took a deadly turn. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. You can call it the ultimate political prize. The White House on this early fall afternoon. Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting today from New York. We're continuing our conversation with John Harris and Mark Halperin. They're the authors of the new book, "The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008," and CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

The Senate, a lot of people assume, Mark, that the -- Democrats will take the majority in the House. In the Senate right now, we'll put it up on the screen, 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, 1 independent who caucuses with the Democrats. The Democrats need to gain six seats in order to become the majority. Can they do it?

HALPERIN: No indication that this Foley scandal is expanding the field of seats in play, as it is in the House of Representatives. We're still dealing with a pretty small list. Democrats have at least one endangered incumbent of their own in New Jersey. Senate races tend to be a little bit more independent of the national tide, more based on the two candidates in the race.

So I think right now, Democrats probably have a slightly better chance to take the Senate than before, but it's still going to be tough. I'd say Democrats -- I wouldn't favor them at this point to take the Senate, still.

BLITZER: Our experts here at CNN, John, have taken a look at the eight closest races in the Senate right now. Seven of them are held by incumbent Republicans. One, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the race that the Democrats could find themselves in serious trouble with. In order for the Democrats to be the majority, they have to pick up six of those eight. What do you think?

HARRIS: You know, in 1994 was the last year you had one of those big wave years. And what happened on election night was the predictions of -- the actual performance of Republicans far exceeded any prediction. I mean, that's the big question that's been with us all year. Is this a wave election, in which basically you can throw out the conventional expectations?

You know, I think so far, this scandal is contributing to the possibility of a wave. But we don't have clear evidence that this is a coast-to-coast, national wave.

BLITZER: You talk to these guys every day, Dana, up on the Hill. How worried are the Republicans, the Republican leadership, Senator Frist and others that they're going to be in the minority after November 7?

BASH: Well, as of I would say a few weeks ago, they were pretty confident that they were going to keep the Senate. But now the big question is what Mark pointed out. It's whether or not this Foley scandal will -- and what John was talking about -- this Foley scandal will be a broad sweep or not.

Again, Republican pollster David Winston says he was in the field a couple of days ago, and he was actually polling specifically about the Senate, whether or not there was a change in how people intended to vote for the Senate. And he found that the answer is no. No change at all.

However, you know, just a couple of weeks, a few weeks, and people will still be talking about this. Remember, still be talking about Iraq. Still be talking about other things that really are bad for Republicans nationwide. Some of these seats, some of the Senate seats could prove big surprises.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about the book, "The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008."

John Harris, you had a piece in The Washington Post on Friday based on the book. I'll read a little bit from it: "Former President Bill Clinton, who regards Karl Rove with a mixture of admiration and disdain as the most effective modern practitioner of polarizing politics, said in an interview that he has become fixated on the problem of how Democrats can learn to fight more effectively against the kind of attack President Bush's top political aide leveled. Without mentioning Gore or Kerry by name, he complained that many Democrats have allowed themselves to become unnerved and even paralyzed in response."

We saw some of that fire on the part of the former president in that interview with Chris Wallace on Fox. What is he saying, basically, to the Democrats? You can't turn the other cheek?

HARRIS: He's saying, if you are sick of losing, you have to do what -- in his view -- I did. Watch me, Bill Clinton. When the conservative echo chamber tries to define you as it did to Al Gore and successfully to John Kerry, you have to get in their face and not let them define you. It's partly a political exercise, and as Mark said earlier, its partly a psychological exercise.

We were sitting there in this fascinating conversation in Bill Clinton's living room up in Chappaqua. You and I both have had lots of interviews with him. But this one, he was talking political strategy. And he says, look, all politics is a head game. And it's whether you can keep your poise in this really destructive freak show environment that defines politics these days.

Basically, that's also his advice that he's giving to Hillary Clinton. You have to be able to keep your own definition, keep control of your public image. Don't let happen to you what happened to Gore and to Kerry.

BLITZER: You write, Mark Halperin, in the book, "The Way to Win," you write this: "The goal now is not simply to win, but to persuade voters and donors and viewers and readers that an opponent lacks the character and credibility even to deserve a place in the contest. That is freak show politics. Were it not for the freak show, Kerry's title today would likely be president of the United States."

Your point and John's point is basically that Karl Rove is brilliant in this. And he's the leading strategist on the Republican side, versus Bill Clinton, the leading strategist on the Democratic side. But they have different strategies.

HALPERIN: They do have different strategies. But in dealing with this freak show environment, the environment in which presidential campaigns, midterm elections are now run, 2008 will be run in this freak show environment. Rove and Bush are brilliant at defining themselves on their own terms and defining the opponents on their own terms as well.

Bill Clinton knows that when he was doing well -- we traced his history as a national politician. When he was doing well, when he was getting elected and re-elected, he was defining himself as someone who feels the pain of Americans, who understands their problems. When he was doing poorly, he was defined as liberal and out of touch. Al Gore, John Kerry, as we talked about, their view by the Clinton political team is two guys who didn't understand this. Bush and Rove do understand it. And that's why they've succeed up until now.

BLITZER: Did that message from Bill Clinton, Dana, come through to other Democrats on the Hill? Either Democrats seeking re-election or those interested in becoming president of the United States?

BASH: Certainly, it does seem to be penetrating. You're talking about the idea that Bill Clinton made a couple of weeks ago, that Democrats have to be tough, and they have to, as you said, sort of, as Mark was just talking about, take the issue and be much more proactive and not be on the defense.

Yes. You hear Democrats trying to do that in a much more cohesive way. Especially when it comes, for example, to Iraq, which up until last week had been the big political point of discussion here. Democrats, a few months back, were publicly divided when troops should or shouldn't come home. As of the past couple of weeks, they've been much more united in the idea of trying to put this on the Republicans, put this on President Bush. It's his war, and this is a question of whether or not he has proper oversight. So you have that kind of shift, if you will, to the offense there. BLITZER: One final question to Mark Halperin. Hillary Clinton, is she going to be the Democratic nominee?

HALPERIN: We devote a lot of attention in the book to this question of why the Clintons and the Bushes have been the prevailing, the dominant families in American politics. They understand the way to win. They're the chief innovators in American politics. We argue that Hillary Clinton has done more to get back in control of her political fate. She's knows the way to win better than anybody else in either party running next time.

BLITZER: Mark Halperin and John Harris have written an excellent book, a political book. All the political junkies out there are going to want to read it. But a lot of other people are going to want to read it as well. "The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008." Thanks, guys, for coming in.

HALPERIN: Well, to make an obscure '70s reference, congratulations on your induction into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Miami has the oranges, but Buffalo has the Wolf.

BLITZER: That is correct. Thank you very much. Dana Bash, part of the best political team on television. Thanks to you as well.

And remember, you can always find the latest political news on our CNN Political Ticker. Just go to cnn.com/ticker. And still to come, our In Case You Missed It segment. We're going to tell you what was said about the Foley scandal on the other Sunday morning talk shows right here in the United States. "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk, will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Patricia Dunn, what's her story? The former Hewlett Packard chairman is facing a felony indictment for her role in a corporate spy scandal. While Dunn acknowledges authorizing an investigation of some HP board members and nine journalists in an attempt to stop news leaks about the company, she says she was unaware that illegal methods may have been used in the internal probe.

Dunn, who resigned as HP chairman after the scandal became public, was a journalist before entering the corporate world. She was ranked 17th among Forbes magazine's 100 most powerful women in 2005.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And up next, in case you missed it, "Late Edition's" Sunday morning talk show roundup. And coming up at the top of the hour for our North American viewers, "This Week at War" looks at a deadly week in Iraq. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. The talk focused on the Foley scandal, House Speaker Dennis Hastert's leadership and the potential impact on the midterm elections.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR JIM TALENT (R-MO): We need to find out who knew what. We need to have a zero tolerance policy for this. And then let the chips fall where they may. And I presume that's what the investigation is about. And I think the elections around the country are going to be about the people running in the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO), SENATE CANDIDATE: When a 50-year-old man is asking a teenage boy on the Internet for his picture, the response needs to be something other than I better go tell the chairman of the Republican campaign committee. Clearly, what has happened here is an arrogance of power. It is about holding on to power, instead of doing the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. REP. RAY LAHOOD, (R-IL): Hastert has the ability to take on these big ethical challenges that our party has faced. And I believe he stepped up this week with his statement, apologizing, taking responsibility, and saying that there would be an evaluation of the program. And I think he's done what he should have done, maybe a few days too late.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. REP. RAHM EMANUEL, (D-IL): Mark Foley runs for Congress in 2004, even while they know there was problems. 2005, gets appointed to head the Missing and Abused Children Caucus for Congress. When he wants to retire, they ask him to run for re-election in 2006, even knowing clearly that there's something amiss and wrong here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: You can't underestimate the impact this is going to have on the election. I think it's going to -- you're going to have marginal voters that are going to drop off because of the disgust with the Republican Party. Not only on this issue, but a lack of advancing many of those core social issues. I think you're going to have marginal candidates that will suffer at the polls because they do not clearly articulate these issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. And that is your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, October 8. Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. We're on for two hours, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern.

I'm also in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern and another hour at 7 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York.

For our North American viewers, "This Week at War" just ahead, right after a check of what's in the news right now.

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