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CNN NEWSROOM

Democrats Taking Charge in Senate

Aired November 10, 2006 - 09:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Good morning, everyone.

I'm Tony Harris.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Carol Lin in today for Heidi Collins.

For the next three hours, watch events unfold live on this Friday, the 10th of November.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Democrats taking charge in the Senate. Their leader calls on the White House this morning.

HARRIS: A soldier's story this Veterans Day -- life on the front lines in Iraq -- a moving report you don't want to Michigan Senator.

LIN: And round two in the Pacific Northwest. After days of having floods, a new storm rolls in.

We're keeping watch, right here in THE NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Rolling out the welcome mat for the Senate's top Democrats -- President Bush playing host to Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin at the White House this morning. The dialogue with the Democrats the latest attempt to mend fences after the mid-term elections.

Kathleen Koch live at the White House with a preview for us -- Katherine Harris, good morning.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony.

And, yes, another day of extending the olive branch to incoming Democratic leadership for President Bush. We're expecting it'll be very much like what Press Secretary Tony Snow described as the businesslike session yesterday that the president had, with the incoming House Democratic leadership.

According to Tony Snow, that meeting focused on passing federal spending bills, all these items that they'll have to take up in the lame duck session. Also, OKing the incoming defense secretary, Robert Gates. A dicier issue, certainly, which would be approving the president's domestic surveillance program. President Bush saying he's ready to move forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The elections are now behind us and the congresswoman's party won. But the challenges still remain and therefore we're going to work together to address those challenges in a constructive way. We won't agree on every issue, but we do agree that we love America equally, that we're concerned about the future of this country and that we will do our very best to address big problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: And we're expecting similar remarks shortly after 11:30 today, when the president meets with Senators Reed and Durban.

Now, they certainly won't be holding hands and singing "Kumbaya." Senator Reid is pushing for a bipartisan summit on Iraq. Unsure where the president stands on that right now. And Reed took a swipe at Republicans at a press conference yesterday celebrating the Democratic takeover of the Senate, saying: "They've set a very bad example in not working with us. We're not following that example."

Back to you -- Tony.

HARRIS: Well, Kathleen, all the talk of bipartisanship was fine until the name, it seems, of John Bolton came up, and then it hit a bit of a roadblock, didn't it?

KOCH: Quite so. Obviously, John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who President Bush put in that post with a recess appointment back in August of 2005 because he was so much -- so roundly opposed by Democrats; also by some Republicans.

President Bush has, right out of the gate, put that nomination out there again. Senators who are going to be heading the chief committees dealing with this, among them Senator Joe Biden -- he'll be leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- they've already signaled that that nomination is dead on arrival. They never got documents on Bolton that they had asked for in 2005. Bolton saying -- excuse me -- Biden saying: "Bolton is going nowhere."

HARRIS: Kathleen Koch at the White House for us.

Kathleen, thank you.

KOCH: You bet.

HARRIS: Republicans looking for a new leader this morning. According to several GOP sources, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman is leaving his post. Sources say his decision is not the result Republican losses at the polls this week. They say Mehlman had already made his decision before the mid-term election.

The White House is looking for a replacement to lead the party into the 2008 presidential cycle. A decision expected in January.

LIN: Well, the U.S. death toll surges again in Iraq. October was one of the deadliest months since the start of the war and November is also shaping up to be grim. The U.S. military today announced three more deaths, pushing the November total to 24.

We are going to go to Baghdad in just a moment.

But first, comments on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING for the nation's highest ranking military officer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think the serious issue on the table is what are the strategic objectives of the United States in the war on terrorism and what is going right in the pursuit of those objectives and what is not going right and should be changed?

And it is my responsibility, along with the other joint chiefs of staff and in coordination with General Abizaid and General Casey, to review that continuously and to give our best military advice. And that's exactly what we're going to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: All right.

But let's see how that's affecting things on the ground.

Let's go to Baghdad and CNN's Arwa Damon -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol.

Well, that increasing death count that we are seeing here is a result of the insurgency reacting to the U.S. troops, for the most part. That is one of the aspects of it. What we are seeing on the ground is roadside bombs only becoming deadlier, only more able to penetrate through armor.

We are seeing insurgent fire, sniper fire, becoming more accurate and more deadly.

The most recent three deaths that were announced by the U.S. military, two in Baghdad as a result of roadside bombs, one in Al Anbar Province, bringing the November total, only 10 days into November, to 24 U.S. deaths.

And a lot of the troops that are on the ground here right now are on their second, if not third, deployments to Iraq. And they are able to have, if you like, a bigger perspective on what is happening here. They've been here before. They've lived through the violence. They've fought the battle. They've gone home and they've come back again for a second time and they are able to see that things are not quite improving.

There are many people here, both on the U.S. side and amongst Iraqi civilians, that are saying that something has to change to bring the violence down and to bring these deaths down -- Carol.

LIN: Arwa, later on in the program, we're going to be showing a story that you did on a young man, Sergeant Mock (ph), who was, I believe, on his second tour of duty, a fascinating story about life for a soldier there.

But, also, you mentioned the Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi Health Ministry released some numbers, saying something like 150,000 civilians have been killed in the war.

That cfcs -- first of all, that is a huge number. But that cfcs with other civilian totals.

Why is it so difficult to get a handle on the number of Iraqis killed?

DAMON: Well, Carol, for a number of reasons. And we should also start by saying that Ministry of Health actually rarely releases figures these days of estimates of civilian casualties. Two years ago, they used to release civilian casualties on a regular basis. They have essentially stopped doing that.

It is also very difficult to get estimates from the Baghdad morgue. The Iraqi government is really quite reluctant to release these numbers. But also, realistically speaking, every single time that there is an attack here, an act of violence, we receive different figures on casualties and on wounded from the Iraqi police and from hospital officials.

Also, the government institutions that are in place that are meant to be tracking these casualties oftentimes are grossly ineffective, so we are unable to really get a firm handle on exactly what is happening here. Everything is, at best, an estimate.

LIN: Yes, at best an estimate. But, you know, Arwa, some people might say that it plays into the police equation that those numbers -- there are those who don't want those numbers reported because it really, truly does show how badly things might be going on the ground.

DAMON: And, Carol, the numbers really speak for themselves. And when you look at the numbers over the last three, three-and-a-half years, since the end of major combat here, you see that the numbers are increasing. And pretty much month by month the numbers are only increasing.

And this is what the numbers are saying for themselves and this is what Iraqi civilians will tell you over and over again, is that the violence is not decreasing, it's only increasing. And that, pretty much, does just speak for itself.

LIN: All right, Arwa Damon reporting live in Baghdad.

The health minister estimating something like 100 bodies a day coming into morgues.

HARRIS: Cleaning up and picking up the muddy pieces in the Northwest. Massive floods put parts of Oregon and Washington under water. Another storm is coming, but it's not expected to be nearly as bad.

Jane McCarthy with CNN affiliate KING reports.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JANE MCCARTHY, KING CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mile after mile, roads are starting to be cleared of mud and debris and pumps are working over time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we've got about a foot out. I'll probably have to go get one of the big two inch pumps.

MCCARTHY: All across western Washington, the damage is starting to be tallied.

RON CALDWELL: I watched everything just go right down the river, you know?

MCCARTHY: Ron Caldwell (ph) checks in at a Red Cross disaster center. Like so many, he's forced to stay over.

CALDWELL: I lost everything, everything on my property. I'm still under water three feet right now.

MCCARTHY: Along the Skykomish River, the sooner these trees fall, the better chance of saving these homes. They must be moved, as raging waters along the Skykomish are eroding their property.

Two homes next door have already washed away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's tragic. We feel really terrible. Yes, we really do. We'll just, just keep them in our prayers. That's all we can do.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HARRIS: All you can do.

LIN: Yes.

HARRIS: And help if you can. Let's check in now with Chad Myers for the picture of the Northwest today, going into the weekend, and maybe the rest of the country, as well -- good morning, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys.

You know what?

The rain now has saturated the ground and although a new storm system is headed that way, a couple of inches of rain with this, maybe as much as four. Not enough to make flooding.

We're going to have winds over 60 miles per hour. You're going to have some of those shallow tree roots that are now sitting in basically mud, those trees are going to be falling over, in many locations across the Pacific Northwest. So that's just an added insult to already what you're seeing out there.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Betting on bipartisanship -- it may not be such a long shot. We'll explain next in THE NEWSROOM.

LIN: Also, a unity government?

Not in Iraq, right here in the United States.

Can the Democrats and Republicans actually work together?

Two Washington veterans join us to talk about that.

HARRIS: And caught on tape -- the Feds are investigating two Los Angeles police officers.

Did they go too far with this arrest?

That story next in THE NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Republicans and Democrats working together in the new Congress?

It may not be such a crazy idea.

CNN's Bill Schneider tells us why.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: (voice-over): President Bush seems to want a government of national unity to succeed.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's in the national interests of the United States that a unity government, based upon a constitution that is advanced and modern, succeed.

SCHNEIDER: Except that he was not talking about the United States. He was talking about Iraq, where warring sects have to figure out how to work together -- same as here.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern and absolutely willing to work in a bipartisan way.

SCHNEIDER: Can it happen?

There is reason for hope. The Democratic majorities in the House and Senate include a lot of newly elected moderates, like Heath Shuler of North Carolina, a former Washington Redskins quarterback who was courted by the Republicans; and Brad Ellsworth, an Indiana County sheriff who signed a pledge not to raise taxes.

In the Senate, there is Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Jon Tester of Montana, and Jim Webb of Virginia, who used to be a Republican and was President Reagan's Navy secretary. And Joe Lieberman will still be around.

How accommodating will Republicans be?

Moderate Republicans have diminished in number. Representatives Jim Leach and Nancy Johnson of Connecticut were defeated. So were two moderate Republican senators, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Mike DeWine of Ohio.

Will Republicans move further to the right?

Not if they got the message of the election. Republicans lost because they abandoned the center. Independents voted Democratic by the biggest margin ever recorded.

The election also provides an alternative model of a Republican who moved to the center and thrived.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We fight over our causes, but in the end, we find common ground. This is the California way. The voters have endorsed it. I embrace it.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): If unity government is going to work in Iraq, the various parties will have to disarm their militias. Some steps toward ending the political arms race might be a good idea in this country, too.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HARRIS: Washington all shook up. What a week for politics. The powerful removed from power.

So what now?

Two Washington veterans join us from D.C. to talk about that.

Frank Sesno is a CNN special correspondent and former Washington bureau chief for the network.

Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for "USA Today."

Thank you both for your time this morning.

We appreciate it.

Frank, let me start with you. The 110th Congress in January.

How long does this spirit of bipartisanship last? FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Ten seconds, maybe 12.

HARRIS: Ten seconds?

SESNO: No, they both -- both parties do need to show, and they're trying very hard, that they're capable of holding hands and that they're going to govern and they recognize that the center matters, as Bill Schneider had in his report, and that the swing voters have spoken and the people want to get something done.

But if you look at their core issues, there is a lot of disagreement. There's disagreement over how tax policy should be pursued, how taxes are going to be applied to the oil companies, for example; what happens with stem cell research.

They'll find some things to do deals with, maybe in energy and immigration. They'll make a big deal out of that. But there are a lot of very deep disagreements and those aren't going away.

HARRIS: Yes.

Hey, Susan, I chuckle a bit when Frank says 10 seconds, but, you know, he may be right. We heard the name John Bolton again and then there was this huge reaction from Joe Biden. And then there was conversation yesterday about the Domestic Surveillance Act.

He may be -- he may be right about this.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, I guess I would disagree. You know, I think John Bolton's nomination is going nowhere. But Robert Gates' nomination as defense secretary likely to be approved within about a month.

HARRIS: Yes?

PAGE: That's really pretty speedy for Washington. And I do think on the dominant issue that's facing Washington now, which is the war in Iraq, both sides are pretty eager to embrace whatever it is that the Jim Baker Commission comes up with. It comes out in the next week or two.

And on that, I think that President Bush's willingness to make a big turn with the replacement of Donald Rumsfeld, I think, signals the approach of some common ground on that extremely divisive issue.

SESNO: He's got to be very carefully on that, though, Susan. Because -- I mean I agree. But where they go and whether they abandon principle really matters. And he remembers his father's experience, you know, "read my lips, no new taxes," he raises taxes and he was never forgiven by the conservative wing of the party.

George W. Bush can't sell out Iraq and he can't sell out the mission and he's going to have to be very carefully how he engineers this.

PAGE: What we're likely to see, I think, is a -- is some kind of plan that redeploys U.S. troops out of harm's way, perhaps still in the region; talks with Iran and Syria. You know, that would be a big change for this Bush administration.

So on Iraq, I'd look for action.

You know, on immigration, too, it was really the Republican House that kept an immigration deal from getting done a few moments ago. I think that President Bush already has signaled that he wants to move ahead with that.

Minimum wage -- I think there's likely to be a deal on that.

But Frank is right that there are big partisan differences between the parties and they aren't going anywhere.

HARRIS: Frank, what do you -- do you believe a redeployment, a major course correction in Iraq, is coming? And why, tell me why is it that so many people are putting so much hope into this Iraq survey group report.

It's another report, isn't it?

SESNO: No. Well, yes and no. I mean, yes, it's another report. But, no, it's not just another report.

First of all, because Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton, two very well respected men on both sides of the aisle are involved.

Secondly, because Bill Gates was part of it and he's now going to be the defense secretary. So there's a direct connection there. It gives them leverage.

And third, because the president of the United States needs it. It provides vital cover for the kinds of changes that he's already said, and, as Susan just pointed out, that he is willing to embrace.

So it's got to happen. But as I said before, it's got to happen carefully. They'll find a way to finesse that.

The question is they've got to bring real results to the ground and they don't control the ground. That's the big problem.

HARRIS: Susan, you have to help me here. You believe the president, for so long, has charted this course with this war, is now really willing to look at a proposal that might represent a diametrically opposed view to the position that he has staked out four years now?

PAGE: Yes, I do think so.

You know, when the White House said two weeks ago that he wasn't going to use the phrase "stay the course" anymore, that was just rhetoric. But when Donald Rumsfeld's resignation was handed in, I think that signaled a big change, and especially with the replacement with Robert Gates, who is a pragmatist. He is not an ideologue. He's not a neo-conservative. He is going to be looking for a way to make some kind of exit, exit with honor, bring the troops home to the -- with all the celebration and honor we owe them.

But I do think the administration is degrading its expectations of what would be a acceptable in Iraq away from insisting that some kind of model democracy needs to be in place there.

They are looking for enough stability so these U.S. forces can leave.

SESNO: What they've got to be careful of, Tony, if I may interrupt and come in here, too...

HARRIS: Yes, yes. Sure, sure.

SESNO: ... is it's going to be very tempting to try to declare victory and leave or redeploy or whatever you want to call it. Senator Chuck Schumer says 2007 has to be a year of transition.

But whether you agree that the war in Iraq was a central part of the war on terror or not, if there is a vacuum in Iraq, is there is deep instability in Iraq and Iraq becomes Afghanistan with oil, a failed state, the next place for the new al Qaeda, then the world and American and public opinion will be very unforgiving.

So there's another reality check that matters here in a big way. This is not just politics. This is real security.

HARRIS: We're going to take a break.

And when we come back, I'm going to pick up on that point. And here's what I want to know from you, Susan, and from you, Frank -- having been given a taste of freedom -- free elections, a constitution in Iraq -- if the forces redeploy to the borders of, let's say, the cities, the major cities, and to the country itself, will Iraqis ultimately, having been given a taste of freedom, choose freedom over the scenario that Frank just painted for us?

We'll get an answer to that question from our guests in THE NEWSROOM.

But first, a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: OK, let's continue our great conversation this morning about this incredible week in Washington, D.C. with our two great guests, Susan Page, White House bureau chief for "USA Today," and CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno.

Before the break, I asked you this question that really cuts to Iraqi will, the will of the Iraqi people, having been given a taste of freedom, if forces pull back, there is a choice. There is always a choice to be made here.

Will the Iraqi people ultimately choose democracy or something else?

Frank, why don't you take that on first.

SESNO: I think it's really naive to simply say that the Iraqi people will or -- and I don't mean this to be disrespectful in any way -- are capable of sort of choosing democracy. I mean democracy is something that comes with, in many cases, hundreds of years of experience and development. And they're being fast-forwarded through a process that, as a people, they have very little experience with.

And if you talk to military commanders who've worked directly with the Iraqis and who speak very candidly and very realistically, they speak about how the principal sense of identity and loyalty are to their tribal identities and not to their national identities.

HARRIS: Yes.

SESNO: So there are certainly any number of Iraqis who would like to try and they're going to come under a lot more pressure from the United States, and probably other governments in the world, but it's going to be very, very difficult. And there is now a culture of hatred and revenge there that's going to have to be overcome, as well.

HARRIS: Susan, I hear so often in all of these briefings that we get that we have to teach the Iraqis to stand up, that it is going to come down to one sort of Iraqi identity and not a tribal identity.

Take that question on, this question of Iraqi will.

PAGE: Well, I think real answer is, Tony, that I don't know what's going to happen there. I know that the next period for Iraq is going to be very difficult and pretty bumpy.

There -- you know, there is a mod -- there is a little bit of a model, though, with the Kurdish areas, which are, in fact, politically stable and pretty prosperous in terms of its economy.

If you could get the -- one theory that Senator Joe Biden, who is going to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the new Congress -- if you could get the Sunnis and the Shias to divide into a kind of a confederation, but with more independence than the current Iraqi constitution provides, maybe that's a model that could work here.

But, of course, one thing we have to remember, democracy is not just going to a poll and voting one day.

HARRIS: Yes.

PAGE: It involves institutions like courts that you trust and a civil service that continues.

So, Iraq has a really long way to go. There is no question about that.

HARRIS: And one final question here, if I could. This is a kind of a big one, but you guys are powerful intellects that can handle it for me.

SESNO: You're good at that.

HARRIS: You know, I've always felt -- and I think we could all agree -- that it's sort of, it's difficult to operate out of fear. And the narrative of post-9/11 life has been be concerned about these folks over here, this group over here, this operation over here. It's been one, it feels to me, of fear.

The articulation of the war on terror from this administration has provided a really strong narrative.

So as we look forward to the 110th Congress, for Democrats, Republicans, the president, what, then, if we're talking about a shift here, becomes the new narrative?

Is it simply to say hope now replaces fear?

SESNO: Wow!

PAGE: You know, that is -- this is a really big question.

I think we're going to enter a period of real pragmatism and then I think we're going to launch into the 2008 presidential race.

SESNO: But I don't think -- but I think it's really important -- I agree. I mean I completely agree, but -- with a big but -- you know, just -- let's look, let's go across the pond here for a minute.

HARRIS: Yes.

SESNO: In Britain today, a story about the intelligence chiefs there saying that they're tracking, what was it? Two hundred cells and 1,600 individuals hatching 30 terrorist plots...

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

SESNO: ... and they're worried about weapons of mass destruction.

This doesn't go away.

The question is how much of the narrative, Tony is it.

But this doesn't go away. And the question becomes what happens if? And, you know, does this sort of war on terror and this era of vulnerability that we've been in really change materially?

I just -- I don't see that happening any time soon.

HARRIS: That's wonderful.

All right, we'll take it up on another day.

More big questions -- there are plenty of them out there -- with our guests, Susan Page and Frank Sesno. Both of you, thank you so much for your time this morning.

SESNO: Thanks, Tony.

PAGE: Thanks, Tony.

LIN: Big questions, I think you stumped them. Any way, big questions. I think you did.

HARRIS: Well.

LIN: All right, you want to see bipartisanship in action, it happened today at the White House, the dialogue with the Democrats. It's the Senate leaders' turn to sit down with President Bush. And the president is rolling out the welcome mat for Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin today. They're all meeting at the White House in about two hours. It's the latest fence-mending session following the midterm elections.

The president met yesterday with House Democratic leaders, including Speaker to be Nancy Pelosi. Both the president and Ms. Pelosi promised to try to cooperate. But the White House says cooperation doesn't mean the president will go back on his principles.

Of course, stay with CNN and the best political team on television. You did on election day. More viewers came to CNN than any other cable news channel. You also made CNN.com the number one news site on election day. And as the countdown to 2008 begins, stay with CNN, the best political team on TV.

All right, could it be his winning streak over? Back to the drawing board for the president's political architect. Karl Rove and the midterm elections, straightaway, in THE NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: A U.S. soldier in Iraq, a Veterans' Day remembrance, it's a story you're not likely to forget. And it is straight ahead.

LIN: And they fought the war to end all wars. Soon their voices will go silent, but one man is determined to record their final stories. A Veterans' Day tribute right here in THE NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

LIN: In the meantime, they call him "the Architect." Remember him, Karl Rove, but did he draw up the wrong plans for this election?

CNN's Brian Todd takes a closer look at Karl Rove and the Republican route to the polls.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two weeks before midterms, Karl Rove exudes the confidence of a man who's won three national elections for his party. When an NPR reporter presses him on polls showing Republican fortunes slipping --

KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: I add up to a Republican Senate and a Republican House. You may end up with a different math, but you are entitled to your math, I'm entitled to the math.

TODD: One day before midterms, on a noisy Florida tarmac, Rove reads a poll that's going his way.

ROVE: The GOP's lead on national security jumped from 11 to 18.

TODD: Now, in the wreckage of a Democratic route, deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino tells CNN there's no tension between Rove and President Bush. She says this comment, the day after, was a full hearted joke.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I obviously was working harder in the campaign than he was.

TODD: Perino says Rove, who declined our request for an interview, doesn't spend a lot of time, quote, on the couch, thinking about his personal role in these situations. But others, even on the conservative side, have had it with the image of Karl Rove as political genius.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, AUTHOR, "THE CONSERVATIVE SOUL": He didn't get a majority of the popular vote in 2000. He squeezed a 51 percent victory in 2004. He has been teetering on the brink ever since and the base strategy now shows him not to be a genius, but to be a real failure.

TODD: One GOP strategist says Rove's political team could have done more to warn voters about a Nancy Pelosi led House, but some analysts believe Rove played too much to the base.

JIM VANDEHEI, THE "WASHINGTON POST": The problem was it become such -- sort of a hard edge, let's help conservatives, let's fire up conservatives, that they almost tied their hands. It made it very difficult to get out of that strategy and then to try to reach to the center.

TODD: But a GOP activist who knows Rove says there were forces at work here that even the so-called Architect couldn't control.

GROVER NORQUIST, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Karl Rove is in charge of the get out the vote effort, in charge of the political campaign. The decision to occupy Iraq was not Karl Rove's and it's not exactly fair to blame him.

TODD (on camera): Another long time Republican strategist told me, quote, no one is going to tell you with a straight face that Karl could have saved this election. The next election, he says, will also depend on Iraq and he says Rove and the Republicans can not get themselves into another situation where they are all defending the war and the Democrats are all opposing it.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: The horrors of war. Those who have seen combat will tell you words can never capture the flashes of hopelessness, the bottomless grief, the moments of sheer terror. One U.S. soldier in Iraq shared his thoughts with us. He gave much -- well, he gave much more than that.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SPECIALIST MOCK HARPER, U.S. ARMY: I'm Specialist Will Mock from Harper, Kansas, with 22 infantry here in Fallujah, mission accomplished.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was during the fight for Fallujah in November 2004 when we really got to know the soldier everyone simply called Mock.

HARPER: Just like every other man, distressed, a little scared. But, you know, this is what we do. And I thought about telling my family about it, but no way. I didn't want them to worry. How would I describe Fallujah to someone else that had been there?

At first I would say you might want to rethink about going. And say make your peace with God, because you might not come back. It's a living hell. It was a living hell. Some moments lasted a lifetime.

DAMON: No pretenses with Mock, not about the mission, not about his love for being a soldier, despite all the emotional turmoil of his experiences.

HARPER: I think not only me has changed, I think everybody that was there, enemy, friendly, everybody walked away changed. The ways that we changed, we have a different outlook on life. Don't take nearly as much for granted. You don't tell your girlfriend or you mother or father, hey, I love you, you really mean it.

That's right, here's my family.

DAMON: He was afraid then of going back home to Kansas, worried he had changed too much. His motto, tattooed on both arms, Strength and Honor. A tough soldier, apologizing to us for being rough around the edges. He wasn't. In many ways, still the gentleman his family brought him up to be.

HARPER: There's no reason in me saying, hey Ma, I got shot at a lot today or, hey Ma, we had -- I had to fight the enemy and, you know, some people didn't make it out, friendly and foe. It's just something better left untalked about.

DAMON: His first one-year tour of duty finally ended in February 2005. HARPER: A big relief, overwhelming joy. I got a deep feeling of our part is completed here. Nobody wants to die out here. Even though the soldiers would for our country, any of them would. That's not a question. I had heard my grandfather once say, somebody's got to do it. I guess I'm that somebody.

Every time we lose soldiers and we have our ceremonies here for the fallen comrades, and they play the taps for those men, that's probably the moments that will stay in my mind more than ever. From now until the that day I die, every Memorial Day and Veterans' Day, when I go to the local cemetery in Harper, Kansas, and they play the taps, I'm sure I'll -- It will hit me pretty hard then.

DAMON: This veterans' day, they will be playing taps for him. Mock redeployed to Iraq in August of 2006. The last time we saw him was on a rooftop in eastern Baghdad. Twenty days later, on October 22nd, Mock was killed by a roadside bomb, one of 11 killed in Iraq that weekend. At his memorial, his commanders and his men echoed his motto, Strength and Honor Sergeant Mock.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Arwa Damon joins us now from Baghdad. I certainly hope that's a name that folks never forget. Arwa, distressed, a little scared, but this is what we do. You make your peace with god. You know, you can love being a soldier and not particularly like or love the mission. With Mock, did he love the mission -- did he like, love the mission? Certainly he loved being a soldier.

DAMON: He believed in the mission, Tony. He definitely believed that at least what he was doing and what he was able to see himself do -- remember, a lot of these guys, especially someone like Sergeant Mock, they see their own little area of operations and in it he was able to see the small signs of progress and he was able to see events that he was specifically able to influence.

But, remember, this was his second time back here, and at the end of his last deployment, he may not have thought that he was going to be coming back. And so he came back with a certain amount of perspective on the mission as a whole.

HARRIS: Yes, you certainly don't love it. You certainly don't like it, but I guess you just have to believe. Did he change in the time that you knew him, that you watched him? Did he change? And I guess this is a question that cuts to stress, the stress that all of these soldiers are under.

DAMON: He changed, Tony, and he said it himself. And if you look at the images, when we first see him in that story as the fighting for Fallujah had just ended, that's where that first piece is coming from, you see his face looks younger. And as the story progresses, especially as we see him back here in 2006, you see his face has gotten older, it's gotten more mature.

There are very few of the people that are involved in the fight here that walk away from it without having changed in a certain profound way. Really, I think everyone who is here, U.S. soldier, Iraqi civilian, Iraqi troops, are all profoundly impacted by what they see and what they are living through. So for him, it definitely added this element of maturity, perhaps even maturity beyond his years. He was only 23-years-old when he died, Tony

HARRIS: My goodness. That was my next thought, to remind us of how old he was, 23. Arwa Damon for us in Baghdad. Arwa, thank you.

We'll take a moment and we're right back, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

LIN: Simply put. All right, thanks Chad.

In the meantime, we have seen it before, Tony, police officers using force to make an arrest, and nearby, a person with a video camera. Two Los Angeles police officers are under investigation by the FBI today. This video, shot three months ago, made public at the arrested man's preliminary hearing. It also turned up on the Youtube website. L.A. police have an investigation of their own under way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE: There's no denying that the video is disturbing, but as to whether the actions of the officer were appropriate, in light of what he was experiencing, the totality of circumstances, that's what the investigation will hopefully determine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: An attorney representing suspect William Cardenas plans to file suit over the incident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KWAKU DUREN, CARDENAS' ATTORNEY: He was brutally assaulted. And his human rights, not just civil rights, his human rights were being violated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: L.A. police say Cardenas is a gang member. He was arrested for failing to appear in court on a stolen property charge.

HARRIS: Still to come, celebrities, politicians, he interviewed them all. Remembering a pioneering television journalist. Ed Bradley's colleagues share their thoughts in THE NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: His colleagues called him Easy Ed. Today they're remembering veteran news man Ed Bradley. The long time "60 Minutes" correspondent died of Leukemia at age 65. "60 Minutes" creator Don Hewitt talked to our Larry King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON HEWITT, FMR> "60 MINUTES" EXEC. PROD.: During our worst moments of "60 Minutes," when they wouldn't let us put Mike's tobacco story on the air and we all started fighting with each other and calling each other names and showing up on talk shows like yours and saying terrible things, Ed called us all to his apartment, and he locked the front door when we got in. He said, nobody gets out of here until we all kiss and make up and we all vow to shut up and not go on and air our dirty laundry in public. And he brought the place back to sanity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Bradley earned numerous awards during his near 40-year broadcast career. He is survived by his wife, Patricia Blanchet.

LIN: Such a big loss.

HARRIS: It really is.

LIN: Such a big loss and such a surprise.

HARRIS: It is.

LIN: Well, dialogue with the Democrats. Senate leaders sit down with President Bush this morning. We preview the fence-mending session right here in THE NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Iraq after Rumsfeld. With the defense secretary on his way out, what's the new war plan? We'll check the options, in THE NEWSROOM.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN.COM CORRESPONDENT: With the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush has nominated Robert Gates to be the next secretary of defense. CNN.com has a closer look.

CRUZ: Robert Gates worked at the CIA for nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional, serving six presidents during his tenure. He served as the agency's director from 1991 to 1993 under the first President Bush and is the only career officer in CIA history to rise from an entry level position to director.

President Bush says Gates will bring a fresh perspective to the war in Iraq, but critics say Gates is the wrong man for the job. They cite his 1991 confirmation hearings for CIA director, when Gates was criticized for his handling of Cold War intelligence and for being caught flat footed by the impending fall of the Soviet Union.

You can read more on Gates' career and the challenges that his position will bring. Just point your browsers to CNN.com/Politics. For the Dot Com Desk, I'm Veronica De La Cruz.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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