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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With George Tenet; Interview With James Gimore

Aired May 6, 2007 - 11:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's 11 a.m. here in Washington, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5 p.m. in Paris, and 7 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
We'll speak with the ambassadors of Iraq, Syria and Egypt in just a few moments. We're also following some severe weather right here in the United States, in the heartland. Tornadoes, as many as 75 reported, ripping through the Midwest this weekend.

Twisters in western Kansas killed nine people, injured dozens more. The town of Greensburg, Kansas, was simply demolished. A tornado also touched down in Oklahoma causing severe damage. We'll keep you updated on recovery efforts and what's shaping up to be an historic tornado season right here in the United States.

But first, let's go to Iraq, where, unfortunately, it's been another deadly Sunday. CNN's Arwa Damon is joining us in Baghdad with details. Arwa, how bad is it there?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the death toll is really only rising here in Baghdad as a result of a parked car bomb that exploded in a marketplace in Bayah (ph) in southwestern Baghdad. At least 33 Iraqis have been killed in that attack, dozens more wounded.

From the scene, the now tragically familiar sight of chaos and devastation. Witnesses to the attack telling stories of fear and horror and just trying desperately to survive. The capital was not the only location in Iraq to be hit today. In Samarra, north of Baghdad, a suicide car bomber exploded outside of an Iraqi police station on the very day that a curfew in that area had been lifted.

Now, the curfew had been put into place due to threats comes coming from the Islamic state of Iraq specifically against the Iraqi police, telling them to leave the force or face the consequences. Now, the U.S. military's continuing its intense efforts to try to crack down on the terrorist cells operating here.

Major General William Caldwell announcing that overnight, the U.S. military had discovered a massive cell that was involved in the making of EFPs, the explosively formed penetrators, those deadly roadside bombs that can pierce through any kind of U.S. armor. Major General Caldwell saying this was further evidence of Iranian influence in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: Intelligence reports indicate that the secret cell had ties to a kidnapping network that conducts attacks within Iraq as well as interactions with rogue elements throughout Iraq and into Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAMON: Now, the munitions cache found at that location was so large, the U.S. military had to call in the experts, the EOD teams to try to destroy it on location. But what we are seeing is that despite these ongoing efforts to target the insurgency, as we saw in today's violence, the insurgency still maintains its ability to attack the Iraqi population and the U.S. military here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon on the scene for us in Baghdad. Arwa, thanks.

Iraq was the focus of an international conference at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai this week. But on the sidelines, some intriguing diplomatic openings, with the U.S. and Syria holding high-level talks for the first time in some two years.

Here to talk about the potential impact on Iraq in the Middle East, three ambassadors from the region. Samir Sumaidaie is Iraq's ambassador to the United States. Imad Moustapha is Syria's ambassador to the United States. And Nabil Fahmy is Egypt's ambassador to the United States.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in. Ambassador Sumaidaie, the latest terrorist incidents that area going on in your country, in Iraq, the State Department came out with its report this week saying in 2005, there were some 3,500 terrorist incidents in Iraq. The new number in 2006, 6,630. Those numbers are going in the wrong direction, Mr. Ambassador.

SAMIR SUMAIDAIE, IRAQ'S AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: They are, yes. And they are directed at more spectacular results. They believe that they are losing control in Baghdad, so to compensate for that, they are going for ever more deadly attacks against civilians in crowded marketplaces. These kinds of attacks have high casualties, unfortunately.

BLITZER: And the numbers you presume this year, 2007, will continue to go up?

SUMAIDAIE: It will continue at a high level for a while, until we manage to control Baghdad more effectively. And I think then the situation will start to turn around.

BLITZER: Was anything accomplished at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference this past week, practically speaking, in lowering the number of terrorist incidents in Iraq?

SUMAIDAIE: I don't think we should expect an immediate lowering because of the Sharm el-Sheikh. But what was accomplished in Sharm el-Sheikh was a very significant thing, because it actually got all the countries in the region around the same agenda: Accepting that stabilizing Iraq is vital for the region, accepting that they should be supporting the elected, legitimate government of Iraq in securing the country, accepting that these threats are not only in Iraq, but threats to each individual country in the region.

BLITZER: Imad Moustapha, you're the ambassador from Syria. Your foreign minister, Walid Mualem, met with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, in Sharm el-Sheikh. Do you think anything positive will have emerged from the meeting?

IMAD MOUSTAPHA, SYRIA'S AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: The symbolism of the meeting is significant. Time and again, we have told the United States it has to change its attitude toward Syria. Instead of talking past Syria, they must talk to Syria.

We are a neighboring country. We are a regional player. The stability and security of Iraq is of paramount national interest to us. And we have offered time and again to help stabilize the situation in Iraq. We don't claim that we have a magical wand.

But we claim that we have a common interest, all of us, in trying to find a solution to the ongoing violence in Iraq.

BLITZER: On April 20th, this is what the president of the United States, George Bush, said to Syria. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Syria is a transit way for suicide bombers heading into Iraq. In some they've been particularly unhelpful in achieving peace we want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Those are strong words from the president condemning what he says is your policy of allowing these foreign fighters to cross the Syrian border into Iraq, where they kill not only Iraqis, but American troops.

MOUSTAPHA: Well, these accusations are preposterous. It's in our own national interest to end the violence in Iraq, stabilize Iraq so that the U.S. administration will not have a pretext to have its forces in Iraq anymore. We don't think they are playing a constructive role in the Middle East.

Having said this, the Iraqis are our brothers and sisters. We care a lot for them. Every single Iraqi that is killed in Iraq cause chagrin in Syria. Now, at least, those were the accusations that we were used to in the past two years.

The United States has opened a new phase with us. Now we are looking forward to a new relation in which all of us, all of us, particularly we, the Iraqis and the Americans can find a way to help stabilize the situation in Iraq. BLITZER: How did your foreign minister and Secretary Rice conclude their meeting? What did they decide to do as a next step in continuing, I assume, a dialogue at a high level between the U.S. and syria?

MOUSTAPHA: Well, I am not in a position right now to publicly discuss what the next step would be. But I can assure you that that was a very pivotal meeting, and it might be a tipping point in U.S.- Syrian bilateral relations.

BLITZER: What about a meeting between Secretary Rice or another senior U.S. official and your president, Bashar al-Assad?

MOUSTAPHA: All options are open. We want to engage with the United States. Time and again in your program, Wolf, I have said in the past, if you remember, Syria is not an enemy to the United States.

And we have a common interest. We need to end the violence in Iraq. Instead of accusations, baseless and almost on the silly side, let us work together. The Iraqis deserve a better future.

BLITZER: Nabil Fahmy, your country, Egypt, hosted this summit at Sharm el-Sheikh. But I know your country, Egypt, like many other Sunni-led Arab countries, are very worried that the Shiite-led majority in Baghdad, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is not doing enough to protect Iraqi Sunnis. Is that a fair assessment?

NABIL FAHMY, EGYPT'S AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: Well, I think one has to look at the conference a bit -- in a wider context. Excuse me. The context was about trying to start a new beginning. At the end of the day, Iraq will be resolved when the Iraqi reconciliation for Iraq is achieved.

But to enable that, the Iraqi government is doing some things and has to do some more things, but you have to help them. You have to help them by ensuring that the violence on the ground is diminished, if not ends. And you have to help them by ensuring that all the neighboring states also help in this process.

BLITZER: But do you think the Sunnis, the minority Sunni Iraqis, are being protected by their own government, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to the level they should be protected?

FAHMY: The government of Nouri al-Maliki has made commitments in the declaration coming out of Sharm el-Sheikh to continue a process of inclusiveness to all the Sunnis and it's a commitment that we take seriously and we believe that they will fulfill.

BLITZER: Here is what King Abdullah, Ambassador Sumaidaie, said on March 28th -- King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: "In the beloved Iraq the bloodshed is continuing under an illegal foreign occupation" -- referring to the U.S. -- "and detestable sectarianism."

And then his foreign minister, Prince Saud, is quoted in The New York Times on Friday as adding this: "We don't see anything happening in Iraq in implementation. Our American friends say there is improvement, improvement in violence, improvement on the level of understanding, improvement of disarming militias, but we don't see it."

Those are strong words from Saudi Arabia.

SUMAIDAIE: Well, it's unfortunate. But I think it's important to clarify here that this, the status of American forces in Iraq, is not one of occupation. It cannot be.

BLITZER: Well, why did the Saudi King condemn the U.S. like that given the close relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia?

SUMAIDAIE: Well, perhaps, Wolf, you direct that question to His Majesty. As far as we are concerned, we believe that we have a United Nations Security Council resolution for the presence of multinational forces in Iraq, at their request and at the discretion of the elected government of Iraq. This is legitimate. This is not an occupation. When Iraqi parliament decides that they are no longer wanted in Iraq, then they must leave. So this cannot be or should not be defined as an occupation. But I would like to make a few points here. One is that we are suffering from a lot of outside intervention. In the last month, there were about 42 suicide bombers in Iraq.

BLITZER: Well, let me press you on this point because we have the ambassador from Syria here.

SUMAIDAIE: Now, let me first finish my point.

BLITZER: And I know you're a diplomat, but are you complaining about Syria's role in facilitating these outside foreign fighters coming in?

SUMAIDAIE: I'm not pointing the fingers against any particular country. But I am telling you that most of the suicide bombers are non-Iraqis and I know they don't parachute into the country. They must come from somewhere. We know also that the Syrians have been making efforts to stop the inflow of terrorists and funds and the takings we have had from our Iranian neighbors.

At the end of the day, we have to have a concerted effort and political will by all. This has been expressed in Sharm el-Sheikh conference. And we will watch the situation on the ground, and we accept and take people at their word.

BLITZER: The State Department, in the report that came out this week said -- in April actually -- said this: "Syria, both directly and in coordination with Hezbollah, has attempted to undermine the elected government of Lebanon and roll back progress toward democratization in the Middle East."

Did the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, condemn or complain about Syria's role in Lebanon during the meeting with the foreign minister at Sharm el-Sheikh?

MOUSTAPHA: In the meeting there were no condemnations, no complaints. They did not try to give us advice or counsel. We did not try to give them advice or counsel. Both of us understand that mistakes are very high in Iraq and we need to do everything possible to try to stabilize the situation in Iraq.

We do understand that many Iraqis believe that the U.S. troops should continue to stay in Iraq as long as the violence continues in Iraq. This is why we should do everything possible -- everything possible -- to stop the violence in Iraq so that the U.S. will have no more pretext to stay in Iraq.

The majority of the U.S. citizens want their troops outside of Iraq. A Gallup Poll said that 70 percent of the Iraqis want the U.S. troops out of Iraq. And the overwhelming, crushing majority of all Arab and Islamic nations want the U.S. troops out of Iraq. Why don't we all work towards this objective?

BLITZER: All right. Ambassador Fahmy, let me get your assessment, because I know you are an expert on this subject of Al Qaida. And the latest videotape that Ayman al-Zawahiri released -- he's an Egyptian, as you know.

Among other things in this tape that was released this week -- and there was more than an hour he released this videotape -- he ridicules President Bush. He says this: "And lest Bush worry, I congratulate him on the success of his security plan and I invite him on the occasion for a glass of juice, but in the cafeteria of the Iraqi parliament."

Is Al Qaida getting stronger right now, getting weaker right now? What's been the result of the war in Iraq on Al Qaida?

FAHMY: Well, I think there is an increased anxiety generally between the West and the Islamic world which is increased by the war in Iraq, by the lack of progress on the Arab-Israeli conflict, by the general tenure tenor of the debate about this issue.

It's difficult to say whether Al Qaida has gotten stronger or weaker. Al Qaida succeeds just by being able to fulfill and implement any attack against civilians, any attack that leads to major casualties. So it's not -- you can't assess it in the same way you'd assess an armed forces of the sort.

We will not be able to deal with Al Qaida completely unless we solve the political problems that exist in the region. At the same time, Al Qaida is an organization that is pursuing criminal names, and we need to perceive that also by way of security measures at the same time.

BLITZER: Nabil Fahmy is the ambassador of Egypt. Thanks very much for coming up. Ambassador Sumaidaie of Iraq, thanks to you as well. And Ambassador Moustapha, always good to have you here on "Late Edition."

And coming up at the top of the next hour, Republican Senator Richard Lugar and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. We'll get their take on Secretary Rice's meetings with her Syrian counterpart and whether it's time to step up direct talks with Iran, as well.

But coming up next...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Be wrong for many reasons that go to the heart of our tradecraft.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: My interview with the former CIA director, George Tenet. He explains his controversial "slam dunk" assessment about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction never that simply materialized.

Also, fresh from his face-off with nine other contenders, Republican Presidential candidate Jim Gilmore tells us why he is no fan of his party's frontrunners. You're watching "Late Edition." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting today from Washington. The former CIA director George Tenet's new book, "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA," is causing a political firestorm of its own.

Much of the criticism stems from his strong defense of his actions in the run-up to the war in Iraq. I spoke with the ex-spy chief earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We've got a lot of questions to go through. We'll start right now with one shocking claim you make in the book. And there are many, but this one really sticks out: "There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat in advance of the war, the U.S. war against Saddam Hussein's regime."

What do you mean there was no debate about the imminence? Was there an imminent threat from Saddam Hussein?

TENET: Well, it was never about imminence, Wolf. It was about the prospect of surprise. And people have said, well, there were meetings that I didn't know about, and that's entirely possible.

I'm making a more fundamental strategic point. If you look at how we ultimately fought and implemented the war, I think better questioning at the front end on how war fighting translated into peacekeeping, stabilization and ultimately rebuilding the country, that kind of integrated questioning, I think, could have been done a lot better than it was.

BLITZER: But did he represent an imminent threat to the United States? TENET: Well, as I said at Georgetown in 2004, not imminent, but surprise. And the question that policymakers grappled with: Would he surprise us in a way that limited our ability to respond?

BLITZER: Because I want you to listen to what Colin Powell, the then-secretary of state, said at the United Nations with you sitting right behind him, in advance of the war. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11th world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, now when he says a few more months, that sounds imminent to me.

TENET: Well, I think everybody understood, Wolf, we said he had chemical and biological weapons and the means to deliver them. I think that the preponderance of our view was, this was a question of surprise, and would we be surprised?

And the real issue for us always was, there was a lot of we didn't know and we always believed, on the basis of our history with him, that what we didn't know posited greater capability.

Of course, we found out that we were wrong, but that was, you know, history, deception, denial -- many reasons why we were wrong. But we believe what we wrote.

BLITZER: Because on this specific point, when I heard the words "a few more months," and I'm sure most people who were listening to Colin Powell at that time, it sound like -- it sounded like it was -- the clock was ticking and the United States had to get rid of Saddam Hussein right away.

TENET: Well, Wolf, the policymakers believed there was risk in waiting, and they took those actions.

BLITZER: Here's another point that certainly came out, the WMD, that the U.S. intelligence community, the best in the world, was so wrong on these issues. And that was the major reason that at least was justified for the war in Iraq, the National Intelligence Estimate that you approved basically concluded -- and I'll just read the headline of it -- "Iraq's Continuing Programs of Weapons of Mass Destruction."

You concluded there were chemical stockpiles, biological stockpiles. This was a damning indictment that justified going to war.

TENET: Well, Wolf, we followed Iraq's weapons programs for 10 years. I'd followed them in the Clinton administration and in the Bush administration. Our analysts wrote what we believed. We made our best judgments. We made our best assessments.

We turned out to be wrong for many reasons that go to the heart of our tradecraft. It's no solace that every other country in the world believed it, as well.

But at the end of the day, once we got on the ground, you know, you -- the truth seems so implausible, why someone would risk the destruction of his country, why someone would risk so much, and yet when we looked at his deception and denial and his procurement, we came to those conclusions.

We came to those conclusions based on what we really believed. So, people -- nothing disingenuous about the process.

BLITZER: It wasn't just the weapons of mass destruction that was so powerful in making the case for going to war against Saddam Hussein. It was the nuclear potential -- the mushroom cloud, as Condoleezza Rice spoke about it, as the president spoke about it -- you don't want that mushroom cloud to be the smoking gun.

TENET: Well, Wolf, the National Intelligence Estimate said five to seven years away with moderate confidence. Now, policymakers may have, at the time, remembered what happened in 1991, when we said they were years away, and when we got on the ground they said, we found out that they were months away.

But in any event, what the National Intelligence Estimate said was five to seven years.

BLITZER: But it also said in its key judgments -- and I'll read it to you -- it said: "Since inspections ended in 1998, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program and invested more heavily in biological weapons. In view of most agencies, Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program."

TENET: Right.

BLITZER: Now, that sounds like they're building a bomb.

TENET: Well, reconstitution is something we should have been much more careful about talking about. But the Estimate also says five to seven years away.

It's interesting, we had a big debate on the nuclear tubes, you'll recall. Even the Department of Energy, who didn't buy into the nuclear tubes, signed up to the judgment that said he is reconstituting his nuclear weapons program.

BLITZER: And Colin Powell went further, though, when he told the world at the United Nations this. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: Saddam Hussein is determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You authorized that. You were sitting right behind him.

TENET: There's no doubt about the fact that he was determined to get there. Even David Kay, in his first report, said we should remove all doubt about the fact that he intends to acquire a nuclear capability.

As to his intent, the Secretary was right.

BLITZER: The intent, but it was still a long way off and there was no imminent prospect...

TENET: His determine...

BLITZER: ... that he was going to have a nuclear bomb.

TENET: Well, you know what we were all worried about -- you know, we talked about, there is much about his programs that we don't know and when we wrote that estimate, our concern was what we don't know is going to cause us to be surprised.

BLITZER: In addition to the WMD, which you were wrong on that, right? The nuclear -- I guess you could misinterpret the words, but to the average person out there, it sounded like Saddam Hussein was getting very close to getting a nuclear capability.

TENET: Sure.

BLITZER: The other argument was the connection between Saddam Hussein, his regime and al Qaida that caused, especially in the post- 9/11 era, a huge amount of concern. And there was a sense you've got to get rid of Saddam because of his connection with al Qaida.

TENET: The intelligence community and our -- and the CIA specifically outlined three areas of concern. We had concerns about contacts. We had concerns about training. We had concerns about the safe haven that had been provided to the Ansar Al-Islam in northeastern Iraq, where, of course, the Iraqi government didn't control.

We were also very explicit about the fact that we didn't believe this was anything more than two organizations seeking to take advantage of each other. We saw no complicity, authority, direction and control on the part of Iraq for al Qaida attacks.

So you had concerns. The concern we have is, later on in this process...

BLITZER: That's a much more nuanced...

TENET: Well, but...

BLITZER: ... explanation.

TENET: But it is...

BLITZER: But in your letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee...

TENET: Yes, right.

BLITZER: ... and you once worked for the Senate Intelligence Committee -- it seemed pretty blunt. It seemed pretty obvious. TENET: We talked about the contacts, training and safe haven. In my testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee and the Armed Services Committee, I also gave the judgment that I just gave you.

Unfortunately, in that one letter, it fell out...

BLITZER: Let me read to you...

TENET: ... not intentionally.

BLITZER: Let me read to you what you told, because I remember reading this and I -- concluded at the time, like a lot of the senators who voted for the authorization -- there is a connection there and it's in this post-9/11 era, Saddam Hussein is working with Osama bin Laden.

Let me read to you what you wrote.

TENET: All right.

BLITZER: These are your words: "We have solid reporting of senior-level contacts between Iraq and al Qaida going back a decade. Credible information indicates that Iraq and al Qaida have discussed safe haven and reciprocal non-aggression. Since Operation Enduring Freedom" -- the war in Iraq -- "we have solid evidence of the presence" -- excuse me, in Afghanistan -- "we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaida members, including some who have been in Baghdad. We have credible reporting that Al Qaida leaders sought contacts in Iraq who would help -- who could help them acquire WMD capabilities."

And listen to this. These are your words: "The reporting also stated that Iraq has played -- has provided training to al Qaida members in the areas of poisons and gasses and making conventional bombs."

TENET: Yes, and we...

BLITZER: Now, to the average person...

TENET: Right.

BLITZER: ... reading that...

TENET: And it was a source of concern to me.

BLITZER: ... it looks like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden... TENET: Right.

BLITZER: ... are in bed.

TENET: Well, you have to get to the subordinate clause, and you have to also make clear the ultimate judgment. We didn't in that letter, but we did in all of our testimonies, in all of the papers that we presented. The Senate Intelligence Committee evaluated our work here, said that we were reasonable in the judgments we made.

The issue, for me, Wolf, is all of those things were causes of concern, and yet some tried to posit operational control and command legitimacy that we never saw, and that became an issue.

BLITZER: Do you regret writing this letter?

TENET: We would regret not having that clause that was -- that I talked about that was in all of our testimonies and every paper that we wrote. We were sloppy in that letter.

But everybody understood, on the question of authority, direction, control and capacity, we were never there.

BLITZER: Because that seems like a nuance. You know, there's a lot of anger...

TENET: Well, it's not -- it's not a nuance. It's an important issue.

BLITZER: But these words are pretty blunt...

TENET: Well, and...

BLITZER: ... poison gases...

TENET: It's what -- it's what we...

BLITZER: ... conventional bombs.

TENET: And it's what we believed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Up next, part two of my interview with George Tenet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TENET: They also have said I have blood on my hands.

BLITZER: Yes, they do.

TENET: And let me say something. That's the most repugnant thing I have ever heard.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The former CIA director responds to some blistering comments about him from retired CIA officers.

And coming up, for our North American viewers, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Tom Foreman hosts "This Week At War."

And for our CNN International viewers, special coverage of the French elections. The polls there are closing in about two-and-a-half hours. You'll want to stay with CNNI for complete coverage. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. You're watching "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're keeping our eye on tornadoes that continue to smash through the heartland of the United States.

Melissa Long is at the "Late Edition" update desk with the latest details.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Melissa, thanks very much.

Coming up here on "Late Edition," President Bush awarded George Tenet the Medal of Freedom, but given the intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq, should he return that medal? I'll ask the former CIA director in part two of my interview. That's coming up. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

I spoke with the former CIA director, George Tenet, this week. Here's part two of that interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Here's an excerpt from this very damning critique from retired CIA officers. They wrote a letter to you after your book came out. Among other things, they say this: "By your silence, you help build the case for a war. You betrayed the CIA officers who collected the intelligence that made it clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat."

Then they go on to say, "Instead of resigning in protest when it could have made a difference in the public debate, you remained silent."

What do you want to say to these angry CIA officers who think you should have resigned?

TENET: Well, first of all, Wolf, there are other officers who have a sharply different view and maybe you'll talk to them.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We have another letter from them who support you. TENET: Let me say this. They also have said I have blood on my hands.

BLITZER: Yes, they do.

TENET: And let me say something. That's the most repugnant thing I've ever heard. We woke up and I woke up every day to protect men and women in uniform. They sat on this show and said that we had reporting from a source that said he didn't have WMD.

They mischaracterized that reporting. That reporting said he doesn't have a nuclear weapon, but he's developing one covertly and aggressively. He's stockpiling chemical weapons. The weapon of last resort is mobile missiles with chemicals and he's dabbling in biological weapons.

So, the implication is, is that we fed phony information to the president. We didn't. The implication is, is that when the post-war situation emerged, that we didn't speak truth to power and tell the president exactly what was happening on with an insurgency, why de- Baathification, disbanding the army and other issues, were not being pursued in a way we believed, and how an insurgency was going to develop.

The notion -- the notion that we didn't speak truth to power, didn't tell people what we believed in the confines of government...

BLITZER: He...

TENET: Look, I was the director of Central Intelligence. My job is to do the best I can to give people the best data possible. Policymakers make their decisions. I know that we acquitted our responsibilities consistent with our values.

BLITZER: You met with the president almost every single morning. You briefed him on overnight developments, told him what the threats were. You had an opportunity to speak directly to the president and if you didn't think it was worthwhile going to war against Saddam Hussein, you clearly could have made that case.

TENET: Wolf, the job of the director of Central Intelligence is to provide data, not to make policy. The minute...

BLITZER: You didn't have to make policy...

TENET: No, no, no...

BLITZER: ... but you could tell the president...

TENET: No. The minute...

BLITZER: ... you know...

TENET: The minute...

BLITZER: ... there's no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein. He's contained...

TENET: It was never a...

BLITZER: ... in his box.

TENET: It was never a question...

BLITZER: The no-fly zones are working. There is no need to go to war. You could have said that to the president.

TENET: Wolf, our job is to tell them what we believe and what the intelligence shows. Once you cross the line, your objectivity them becomes questioned. Your analysis then becomes questioned. It's a line that I adhere to. Now...

BLITZER: Should you have said -- spoken to the president more bluntly, though? If you felt as strongly as you did that there were no imminent threat, should you have said, "Mr. President...

TENET: It was never...

BLITZER: ... I've got to tell you...

TENET: ... ever been...

BLITZER: ... I see all of this intelligence."

TENET: Wolf...

BLITZER: "Some of it is good, some of it is questionable."

TENET: Wolf, there was never a question of imminence. It was always the question of surprise. Policy-makers made a determination on the fact that they didn't want to be surprised. Everybody understood the nature of this threat. That's the determination they made.

Illogical? Not illogical. Their job to make that choice. My job to provide the data.

BLITZER: Here's what Senator John Kerry says today: "No White House should ever have bullied the director of the CIA to make a case for a war that he knows isn't true and no White House should reward it with the Medal of Freedom. George Tenet never should have received the medal in the first place."

That's Senator John Kerry.

TENET: Well, you know, I respect Senator Kerry. I disagree with him. The president made that determination. The president gave me that medal for our work on terrorism in Afghanistan and post-9/11, for the work the men and women of CIA did. I thought about the medal. I understood the context. I thought that rewarding our people for the work they had done was the right thing to do.

BLITZER: Should you give back that medal? TENET: I would never give back that medal.

BLITZER: Should you donate at least some of the proceeds, the royalties from the book, to the families of killed and injured U.S. troops?

TENET: Wolf, my family and I have looked after people all our lives. I will continue to find ways to look after people. I'm the chairman of the CIA Memorial Foundation. We work to provide assistance to the families of officers who have been killed and I will continue to do what I think is good for people for the rest of my life.

BLITZER: Do you have any regrets? Do you want to apologize to the American public?

TENET: Wolf, we regret the fact that we were wrong on WMD. I do not regret the fact that our intelligence worked hand-in-hand with the American military on the ground to save lives. I do not regret the fact that in the post war period, we spoke truth to power, called it as we saw it, were very, very direct about the inadequacies of the post-war planning. And I think we performed the way we were supposed to.

BLITZER: Do you want to apologize?

TENET: No, sir. We all regret that we were wrong. There's -- no CIA director and our people never would people in harm's way for a bad reason. We did our best; we were wrong.

BLITZER: One final question: If you had to do it all over again, the build up to the war, what would you have done differently?

TENET: Well, Wolf, you know, in hindsight I went back and wrote a book and I went back and looked at -- I talked to scores of people. I tried to understand what was happening. I was working 18 hours a day against Al Qaida. My sole reason for waking up every day was making sure Americans would never be hurt again by this organization. That's the way I thought about it.

You go back and look at it, would've, could've, should've, I wish we would have written a more nuanced estimate. I wish we had taken more time. I wish I had provided us more time to do it. I say in the book I thought I understood this problem. We should have kicked off that estimate sooner. Would analysts have come to different conclusions? Very hard to say that at this point in time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: George Tenet speaking with me earlier in the week.

Coming up, Republican presidential candidate and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore. He's taking direct aim at his party's presidential frontrunners. My conversation with Governor Gilmore, that's just ahead.

"Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition."

Ten Republicans hoping to succeed President Bush squared off for the first time Thursday night. Among them, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore. He says that unlike the GOP frontrunners, he is the real conservative in this race. Jim Gilmore is here joining us.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

JIM GILMORE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: The Newsweek poll that just has come out this weekend asked this question: How is President Bush handling his job as president? Look at this, only 28 percent of the American people, according to this poll, approve of the job he's doing. Sixty-four percent disapprove of the job he is doing. Those approval numbers, only 28 percent, approaching Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter at the worst of times. What would you have answered if you had been asked in that poll that question? Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing? s.

GILMORE: Well, I think I would have answered pieces of this and pieces of that. I think some of it I would have approved of. I think the president did the right thing when he cut taxes for people in this country. He created a good economy. We are still enjoying the benefits of that economy today. I think there are some other places that I would like to do some things a bit differently.

BLITZER: Like what?

GILMORE: Well, for one thing, I think that we need to be focusing a great deal upon energy independence, in the international relations of this country. I think the American people understand that we are subject to the will of people who don't necessarily have our best interests at heart.

The only way to deal with that is to go get onto a real program where you bring the American people along toward a real serious program of energy independence. We haven't done that yet. We really talk about it much more commercially. We have created a great deal of controversy about it between the environment. We need to get the American people behind energy independence.

BLITZER: Do you approve or disapprove of the way he's waged this war in Iraq?

GILMORE: Well, I think that he's trying to bring some sense of civil order over there.

BLITZER: Has he done a good job over these four years in Iraq?

GILMORE: Well, let me answer it this way. We have to look where we are and where we are going forward. I am a candidate for the presidency which means I need to explain to the American people where I am trying to go, and it's this: I think that Democrats are wrong when they say that we need to pull out now on some type of timetable. I think that is a recipe for a very dangerous situation.

BLITZER: It's not just Democrats. Listen to Chuck Hagel. He said in the Chicago Sun-Times earlier in the week, "This thing is really coming undone and Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's government is weaker by the day. The police are corrupt top to bottom. The oil problem is a huge problem. They still can't get anything through the parliament, no hydrocarbon law, no de-Baathification laws, no provincial elections."

GILMORE: Yes, and frankly, Chuck Schumer can...

BLITZER: Chuck Hagel.

GILMORE: Chuck Hagel can complain, but the fact is that we're going to have to find the correct way forward now. And the Democratic proposal and any Republicans that side with them on this immediate pullout are not doing the right thing in the American interest.

BLITZER: But do you agree with Senator McCain who says that the way this war was conducted over these four years has been awful? He supports the president's current strategy, but he complains bitterly about the way he waged the war.

GILMORE: Listen, I have not been entirely comfortable with the way this thing has developed either, Wolf. But the fact is that we've got to move forward now, not looking back. And the fact is that the Democrats were wrong about this. And I have said numerous times that I think the president was wrong to stand pat as long as he did.

The former secretary of defense and the president said "We're sending a message to the American people, we are going to stand pat, we're going to keep doing things the same way." The American people rejected that in the last election.

I think now he is trying to work harder to bring some civil stability. We have to have a rule of law, we have to have a society there that believes that they can rely upon law. And that means that you have to bring more stability to that area.

And, Wolf, look, I don't want to make this too narrow. You have to look at the Middle East in a much larger context than just Iraq. And I think the next president is going to have to look at the Middle East in a much larger context and much larger ability to look at Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan.

BLITZER: A whole bunch of issues.

GILMORE: The entire bunch of issues.

BLITZER: In this Newsweek poll that's out this weekend, the American people seem to be siding with the Democrats, not with you and the president. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the choice of candidates running? Seventy-seven percent said they are satisfied. Well, there's another poll -- this is the wrong poll.

But most of the Americans in this poll, more than half, said they prefer the Democrats' strategy, the Democrats' strategy in getting a troop withdrawal timeline into the legislation as opposed to the Republican strategy.

GILMORE: Considering that we are in a situation where our soldiers are on the street every day in a very dangerous situation, it is very seductive to try to just get away from this and put it behind us and move forward in that way. But it would be dangerous. And I think that responsible statesmanship says it's dangerous, and candidates for president such as myself have to be prepared to say that.

BLITZER: That was a Gallup poll that I was referring to, which showed the majority believe the Democrats are right, the president is wrong on the troop withdrawal issue.

GILMORE: But there are other ways to go besides just the Democrats or just the president, and I think the candidates are putting those ideas forward.

BLITZER: Let's get into politics a little bit. This poll, this is the question that we asked: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the choice of candidates running? This was the question Newsweek asked.

Seventy-seven percent of the Democrats said they were satisfied with their candidates. But when the same question was asked among Republican voters, only 52 percent said they were satisfied with the choice right now. Why are Republicans unsatisfied so far with these 10 candidates, including yourself, who have come forward?

GILMORE: Well, the public hasn't been afforded yet an opportunity to look at any candidates except three. And that's the reality. The press and the high publicity and high profile...

BLITZER: You are referring to John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney?

GILMORE: Certainly. And so, if you just look at that, I can understand why the poll would say that type of thing. But the fact is, there are other candidates in the race. And I think I have a right and obligation to put forward my ideas.

And I think that the message that I'm giving people, which is a mainstream Reagan conservative about controlling spending, getting taxes down, empowering people through both tax reduction and education and a strong foreign policy that deals with these issues in a very substantial way, I think is the right message for the people of the United States and for the Republican Party.

BLITZER: You caused a stir with a clever line in mid-April when you said, "Don't be fooled by people who come to you now and say they are conservative. I an assure you Rudy McRomney is not a conservative, and he knows he is not a conservative." You're suggesting all three of these front-runners are really not true conservatives.

GILMORE: Well, I think that's correct, Wolf. And first of all, Rudy Giuliani doesn't even, I think, claim to be a conservative, really. John McCain's reputation has been made more as a maverick, not as a conservative. Mitt Romney's record is what it is. It's all on videotape. And I think people have to look at it.

But you know what? My obligation is not to run them down. One of them may very well end up being the nominee of this Republican Party. But I think that anyone has the right to distinguish one's self from their records and where they've been.

And the point I've made over and over again is, where you have been is where you are going to go. Don't just listen to what people are saying now just to get elected. Where you've been is where you're going to go.

BLITZER: And you've been consistent on these issues, that's what you're suggesting?

GILMORE: I am decisively saying that, that my record in Virginia and in my public life has been consistently conservative. It doesn't waffle or waiver or change. It stands up to pressure, and it's doing the right thing for regular, ordinary people around the kitchen table that are concerned about this high taxation and the high cost of living and the challenges of meeting their obligations around the kitchen table.

BLITZER: Among those 10 Republicans, I think only Rudy Giuliani says he supports abortion rights for women. Although your position on abortion, correct me if I'm wrong, suggests that there is a moment, at least early on in a woman's pregnancy, when abortion would be OK. Is that right?

GILMORE: Well, OK is not exactly the way I would put it. But what I would say is this: My position has always been the same ever since I've been in public life. It's really never deviated or never changed, ever.

And that is that there has to be some time for the baby to form in the womb, which I think happens at about eight weeks. And after that, I think that abortion should be limited except to save the life of the mother.

BLITZER: Between the beginning and eight weeks, abortion would be OK if necessary?

GILMORE: Not OK, but the question is, should the law prohibit it at that point? And I've never taken that position.

On the other hand, my record has governor of Virginia with the pro-life movement has been very strong. We passed a 24-hour waiting period, we passed parental notification, informed consent. I signed the partial-birth abortion ban in Virginia. And I think I have furthered our pro-life movement very substantially, even though not everybody would agree with every nuance and every thought about my principled position I've always taken.

BLITZER: Governor, thanks for coming in.

GILMORE: Great. Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll have you back. Governor Jim Gilmore. We'll take a quick break. Much more "Late Edition" right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Two influential U.S. senators and the best political team on television when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The fight over Iraq war funding turns into a showdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: This is a prescription for chaos and confusion and we must not impose it on our troops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: If the president thinks by vetoing this bill he'll stop us from working to change the direction of the war in Iraq, he is mistaken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Are U.S. troops in real danger of running out of money? And if not, what are the outlines of a deal? We'll ask two key U.S. senators, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): We're doing fairly well.

(UNKNOWN): It was Governor Romney.

(UNKNOWN): I think the person who did the a best tonight is Senator McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The sounds of the backstage spin room after the Republican candidates for president held their first debate. We'll cut through the spin with three members of the best political team on television: CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider, CNN correspondent Joe Johns, and CNN Capitol Hill correspondent Andrea Koppel.

The second hour of "Late Edition" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll get into our conversation with Senators Lugar and Schumer in just a moment. But first, the polls will be closing in just about two hours in France where conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and socialist Segolene Royal are battling for the presidency.

CNN international anchor Hala Gorani is joining us now live from Paris.

Hala, this has been a very, very lively campaign. These candidates have certainly staked out some very different positions and they clearly have no love for each other. Set the scene for our viewers in the United States and around the world.

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a classic left- right battle, and as you said, no love lost between the candidates. The socialist Segolene Royal even warned France that riots could break out in Paris' troubled suburbs if Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative candidate, wins.

We will know in two hours what the official results are, but Nicolas Sarkozy is widely expected to come out on top. He is about to reform the economy, to help France regain some of its lost glory, to help France earn and gain the respect of some of its neighbors as well as its international partners. Nicolas Sarkozy a lot closer to this Anglo-Saxon model of managing the economy.

France, of course, is important on the international stage and is of importance to whoever is in the White House in the United States because, of course, it has a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. It's a nuclear power. It's militarily involved with NATO in Afghanistan, and it's also positioned currently in southern Lebanon with the stabilization force there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is it fair to say, Hala, that relations between the Bush White House and Sarkozy would be a lot better than they would be if Royal were elected?

GORANI: Well, Nicolas Sarkozy's camp, of course, says no. It is not fair to say because Nicolas Sarkozy -- and perhaps talking as much to domestic voters and his domestic audience as he is to his international audience -- says that he will govern all of France and help it remain independent.

But Nicolas Sarkozy traveled to America. He met with political officials. He met also with corporate leaders in that country. And his style of governing and his promises with regards to the economy are closer to the way things are done in America than the way Segolene Royal has promised to change France if she is elected in a few hours -- Wolf. BLITZER: Hala Gorani will be anchoring our coverage for CNN International. Jim Bittermann is on the scene with her, Robin Oakley is there as well. Our CNN International coverage begins 1:45 Eastern. Stay with CNN for complete coverage of these historic elections.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday President Bush vetoed the bill that would have funded the war in Iraq and mandated a troop withdrawal deadline, and almost immediately Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill began to work toward a compromise. But what will it look like? Will it be passed in time for those actually fighting in Iraq?

Joining us now to discuss this and much more, two guests. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, he's a key member of the Judiciary Committee. He's joining us from New York City. And with us here in Washington, Republican Senator Richard Lugar. He's the ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senators, to both of you, thanks very much for coming in.

Senator Lugar, a quick question on this French election. What's at stake, from your vantage point, for the U.S.?

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: I believe, as you had stated on the program, that Sarkozy would be favorable to the United States. Clearly his views are more in line with ours. He's given an outreach idea. I don't want to overstate it but, nevertheless, it would be important to us.

BLITZER: And it looks like he's the frontrunner going into this election only a couple hours away.

I guess, Senator Schumer, you have the same assessment?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, I do. I do. I mean, it would be nice to have someone who is head of France who doesn't almost have a knee-jerk reaction against the United States.

BLITZER: And Sarkozy may be that candidate. We'll see.

SCHUMER: Let's hope.

BLITZER: We'll be standing by and we're watching for complete coverage.

Let's talk about Secretary Rice, Senator Lugar, her decision to go ahead and have this meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt this week with the Syrian foreign minister. Here is what she said. Now, I want to you listen to this little clip from Secretary Rice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: It's one thing to go to Damascus and to have those pictures that suggests a relationship that doesn't exist with Syria, a relationship that would have to be built differently, to have broad scale talks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She was trying to differentiate between her meeting with a high-ranking Syrian official, the Syrian foreign minister, and the decision by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, to go to Damascus and speak with President Bashar al- Assad.

Is that a significant difference? What do you say about the criticism that the Bush White House leveled at Nancy Pelosi and only a month later, the secretary of state is meeting with the Syrians as well?

LUGAR: Well, I'm pleased the Secretary of State did meet with the Syrians. I think it was timely. Obviously, the administration is critical of any such meetings by Secretary Rice or anybody else prior to this time.

I'm not so critical of the speaker of the House. My own feeling is probably talks with Syrians have been useful all along. I mean, I'm delighted at least the format has been provided in which the secretary sees the Syrians. It was too bad the Iranian foreign minister who came to dinner early and left, almost tried to evade our secretary of state.

BLITZER: So you'd like to see direct high-level talks between the U.S. as well?

LUGAR: Of course. I think this is tremendously important for any solution in Iraq. Those talks have to occur with everybody around the table.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Schumer, what do you think?

SCHUMER: Well, you know, they didn't criticize Congressman Wolf, a Republican, when he went a week before Nancy Pelosi. Then they criticized Nancy Pelosi, and now, of course, it's OK for Condoleezza Rice to do it. It's clearly political. A Democrat goes and talks to some of the leaders of Syria and they criticize it, but it's OK both before and after for a Republican.

Having said that, look, talking to people, even people you vehemently disagree with, is a good thing. And who knows? Maybe you can come to some agreement. We didn't talk to North Korea for four years. They became nuclear. We began talking to them, and maybe now there's a real possibility that they will step -- they will abandon this nuclear process.

So talking never hurts and the idea that, "Oh, we shouldn't talk to anybody unless we completely agree with them" is bad diplomacy, bad foreign policy.

BLITZER: So I assume you agree with Senator Lugar, Senator Schumer, that the U.S. -- the Bush administration should be engaged in high-level talks with Iran as well?

SCHUMER: Look, you don't have to give up your principle or values to sit down and talk with someone. And I would say it can't hurt provided you stick to your guns and keep your values, definitely.

BLITZER: Do you want to add on that point about the discussions with Iran because, as you know, there were some low-level -- the ambassador -- the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, had a low-level, very brief little encounter with some other lower level Iranian officials at Sharm el-Sheikh, but the high-level talk between the secretary of state and the foreign minister never materialized. You want to see that go on a fast track.

LUGAR: Yes, I do. I hope, in fact, that the Egyptian meeting will be replicated about every month. I think the need for all of the countries surrounding Iraq, including Iran, obviously, and Syria is very important, offers great opportunities for our diplomacy.

SCHUMER: And the 9/11 Commission, Wolf -- not the 9/11 Commission...

BLITZER: The Iraq Study Group.

SCHUMER: The Baker-Hamilton, the Iraq Study Group recommended this very strongly and it has some very conservative Republicans on that commission.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two Al Qaida leader, Senator Schumer. He issued a lengthy videotape this weekend, more than an hour on tape. And, among other things, he ridicules the U.S. in Iraq.

He says this: "This bill" -- referring to the Democrat-sponsored bill -- "reflects American failure and frustration. However, this bill will deprive of us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces which we have caught in an historic trap."

What do you make of this ability by this Al Qaida leader, the number two Al Qaida leader, to go forward and continue to release these propaganda videotapes?

SCHUMER: Well, look, Al Qaida is our enemy. They're sworn against us and I think they're best ignored when they make kind of ridiculous propaganda statements like this. What we have to do is continue to focus on trying to eliminate Al Qaida. That's mainly in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, but all around the world.

But the more attention paid to statements like this, that's what they want, and I think they're best ignored.

BLITZER: What do you think? Because there are some analysts, Senator Lugar, and you're privy to this kind of information, who are suggesting that al-Qaida effectively has reconstituted itself, and is in better shape now than it was a year ago, certainly two years ago.

LUGAR: I think that's very doubtful they're in better shape, but certainly they are broadcasting frequently. An al-Qaida leader condemned Hashemi, the vice president of Iraq, a Sunni, for continuing to serve in the government, suggesting that that's totally out of line, and they ought to gang up on him. Sunnis ought to come in. In other words, there's going to be intervention of this sort. I would agree with Senator Schumer. We obviously observe it, but we give it what it's due.

BLITZER: Because the argument is now that al Qaida effectively has reconstituted a base for itself in some of the sort of tribal areas in western Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, that they have control of that territory from which they can operate.

LUGAR: And that could be, and there could be such operations there. But they're under fire. Hopefully we'll get more cooperation with the Pakistanis to rout them out. At least we have them pinned down out there.

BLITZER: Senator Schumer, the foreign minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari, was here on "Late Edition" last Sunday, and we was very critical of your effort, the effort of Democrats and a few Republicans to get this troop timeline, this withdrawal deadline imposed as part of the troop funding bill. I want to you listen to what the Iraqi foreign minister said a week ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOSHYAR ZEBARI, FOREIGN MINISTER OF IRAQ: I believe it was extremely unhelpful linking the funding of the troops to a specific timetable. This was most unhelpful, in my view, because it adversely affects our plans and the military plans here, and it emboldens our enemies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, what do you have to say, Senator Schumer, to the Iraqi government and the foreign minister?

SCHUMER: Well, I say the answer to the foreign minister and the Iraqi government is, step up to the plate yourselves. And they're not doing that, and that's why so many of us, and it's a large amount of people in this country, not just Democrats but large -- the vast majority of independents and even a good number of Republicans feel we have to set deadlines.

Because when we don't, the Iraqis evade their responsibilities, and this government in particular evades its responsibilities. So, I don't put much credence in what he said. The bottom line is, if we felt the government was strong, if we felt that the government was taking the role and dealing with the civil war between Sunnis and Shiites in a much more effective and more committed way, there might not be a need to do this.

But we don't. We have very little faith in the Iraqi government. And one of the great weaknesses, in my judgment, of the president's plan and of his so-called surge is, it's a surge militarily without a political solution, and part of the political solution is a much stronger Iraqi government.

BLITZER: You're not satisfied, Senator Lugar, with the performance of the Iraqi government on meeting these so-called benchmarks, disbanding the militias, the Shiite militias, for example, finding some sort of fair way to deal with oil, wealth, distributing the oil wealth, the de-Baathification laws. You're not happy with their performance to date, are you?

LUGAR: Well, no one is happy, including the Iraqi government itself. This is going to be a very difficult job for Prime Minister Maliki or anyone else to bring people, some of whom want to fight civil conflict, into a government that makes tough decisions. Now the point presently is, the United States is trying to provide more opportunities for that to occur.

But we have to apply every bit of pressure, and that's the reason why calling together the surrounding nations was so important. Not just the United States, it's the Saudis and the Syrians and the Iranians and the rest who have to be interested in this or they will face an ongoing problem inside Iraq that will influence all of them very adversely. So, it's not just the United States at this point. It is the entirety of the area.

BLITZER: Senators, stand by, because we have a lot more to talk about, including efforts to try to find some sort of compromise on that troop funding bill. How close are the Democrats and the White House on this issue?

Also coming up, this week it was the Republicans' turn to face off in a presidential debate. How did they do? We'll dig into everything political with CNN's Bill Schneider, Andrea Koppel, Joe Johns. They're standing by live. Much more of our coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're joined by two senior U.S. senators. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, he's chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Republican Senator Richard Lugar from Indiana. He's the ranking minority member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

We're continuing our conversation. Senator Schumer, how close do you think you are right now to working out some sort of compromise with President Bush that would allow funding for U.S. troops in Iraq to go forward?

SCHUMER: Well, I don't think we're that close yet. There are some encouraging signs. The president in his radio address yesterday in previous statements has said that he does want to sit down and talk and negotiate. Six months ago, he said that he would not be for any kinds of benchmarks, and now they're willing to discuss benchmarks.

Obviously, we would want benchmarks with teeth. Wolf, we have two goals. We have them in the original resolution we vetoed, and we're not abandoning either one. One is to fully support the troops. We don't want to leave them in the field hanging out there.

But the other is to dramatically change the direction, the mission in Iraq. We think it's fundamentally flawed. We think it's devolved into fighting a civil war, basically policing a civil war as Sunnis and Shiites shoot at one another. And we think we need a dramatic change in direction with many fewer troops in Iraq.

BLITZER: Senator Lugar, are you ready to accept these benchmarks that so many others are calling for right now?

LUGAR: Well, it depends if, in fact, the benchmark means withdrawal. In other words, if it's not met.

BLITZER: Benchmarks on the oil distribution, for example, disbanding the militias, the de-Baathification, and some of those areas where the Iraqis have not fulfilled earlier commitments.

LUGAR: They're all critical for the future of Iraq. Iraqis certainly (ph) understand that.

BLITZER: Will you accept binding benchmarks or sort of goals that would be non-binding?

LUGAR: I think they'll have to be goals because, in fact, I don't believe the Iraqis, any group of them, are going to be able to arrive at all the benchmarks that are essential for them in a short space of time.

Now, if, in fact, there is desire on the part of both parties to recognize that we are likely to have some troops in Iraq for some period of time -- not all of the ones we have there now, but a good number -- then that's a different story.

But I think for the moment right now in both parties, there's great difficulty for the leadership trying to get some persons who, in fact, might be more malleable to bring about compromise.

BLITZER: Do you accept these benchmarks as binding or non- binding, simply goals, Senator Schumer, or would they have to have some legal teeth to them?

SCHUMER: Oh, I think we have to have some teeth. We've had goals and goals and goals and they haven't been met. We're in Iraq now as long as we've been in World War II. We've seen no progress with the Iraqi government and I know as Dick Lugar says, it's hard for them to do.

But if they're not -- if they can't even get a formula for distributing the oil, if they can't even begin to take over Iraqization, how much longer are we supposed to stay there with these goals? We want to limit the focus as soon as we can to simply counterterrorism and protecting the troops that are there, dealing with al Qaida and other organizations that might hurt us but not spending most of our time, effort and casualties on policing a civil war.

No one bargained for that. The president never mentioned it when he asked us to go to war in Iraq, and that's what this has devolved into. And We're going to need strong language. This is a long-term fight. It's not just on this resolution.

We have the Department of Defense spending bill which occurs next month. And we are going to continue this fight until we get the president to change.

One final point. Congressman Boehner mentioned today that Republicans by the fall may get tired of this as well, and we've heard that from others, Congressman LaHood. We believe that the taste for continuing with the present course among Republicans in the Senate and the house is going to fade very quickly and we will get the change in mission.

BLITZER: All right. Let's play that clip from the House minority leader, Congressman Boehner, and I want Senator Lugar to respond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: By the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this is working. And if it isn't, what's Plan B?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think? Do you agree with him?

LUGAR: It could very well be. But even if we get to Plan B, my point is we're going to have troops in Iraq for quite a while, and we've told all of the surrounding countries it's not just the United States, but each of them.

The forces, the al Qaida people in Iraq are going to go after them as well as us. It is not a question of simply abandoning it because the Iraqis were not very adept politicians. Now, hopefully, we can help them a whole lot. I think that we will.

But by September, I think the Congressman is correct. General Petraeus will be back. He'll make a report. Some things will go well. Some things will not go so well, but we'll still have an obligation.

BLITZER: Senator Schumer, your former Democratic colleague, John Edwards of North Carolina, who is now running for president, says he doesn't want his fellow Democrats in the Senate to blink on the issue of a withdrawal timeline, a deadline for getting U.S. combat forces out of Iraq.

Listen to what he told me earlier in the week in "The Situation Room."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What they should do is send the president another bill that funds the troops and has a timetable for withdrawal. And if he vetoes that, they should send him another bill that has funding for the troops and a timetable for withdrawal.

It's very important that they stand their ground on this. This is not a time for political calculation. It's a time to show some courage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: There are a lot of people who are suggesting already as a result of this first presidential veto, Senator Schumer, that you and the Democrats have already blinked and have given up on this troop deadline withdrawal, this troop withdrawal deadline. What do you say to Senator Edwards?

SCHUMER: Well, we say to Senator Edwards, we agree with the goal. We have to force a change in direction in Iraq. What Congressman Boehner said, I believe, shows that we're going to get that change in direction, that change in mission in Iraq quite soon.

It may not be exactly on this resolution, but it will happen very, very soon. That's a dramatic change when a very conservative Republican leader says that by September or October, the Republicans are not going to give the president the votes he needs to continue in his course of direction. That's going to indicate real, real change. And so, we are going to keep at it. We're going to keep at it on this bill. We're going to keep at it on the next two bills, the DOD, the Department of Defense, both appropriation and authorization, until we get the change.

Now, as Congress -- as Senator Edwards knows, he served here, the president can veto, and then you have to come back and come back again. We can't just wave a magic wand and make it happen, but we're going to keep at it until we get some real, real change in mission.

BLITZER: Senator Schumer, thanks for coming in. Senator Lugar, thanks to you as well. Coming up, who won, who lost this week when the GOP candidates had their first face-off? Our political panel, the best on television, standing by.

Also, don't forget, the candidates debate live from New Hampshire here on CNN. The Democrats battle on June 3rd. The Republicans on June 5th. No holds barred. We'll be watching that. And for the latest political news at any time, you can always go to CNN's continually updated political ticker at cnn.com/ticker.

"Late Edition" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're keeping our eye on a major story developing in the heartland of the United States, the dozens of tornadoes that have been battering right in the Midwest. Reynolds Wolf, our meteorologist, is standing by at the CNN Weather Center. Some new warnings coming in from the National Weather Service. What's going on?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, unfortunately, that's the case. We've got a tornado watch that's in effect for a good part of the central plains, including parts of Kansas into Oklahoma, Texas, even into Missouri, and a tornado warning that is in effect just to the southwest of Wichita at this time.

The communities of Norwich, also Garden Plain, people in those spots need to take cover immediately. Lowest floor in your house, preferably in a basement would be the best place, away from windows and, of course, away from those top floors. This is going to be something, Wolf, that we're going to be seeing, not just throughout the afternoon but into the evening as well, through much of the Great Plains because the atmosphere is just ripe for more storms.

We have a lot of moist air that's coming in from the Gulf of Mexico. We're watching this area of low pressure forming out to the west, and all these elements combined with the daytime heating of the jet stream could give us another round, the third round of strong storms and possible tornadoes as we make our way through the end of this weekend. That's the latest we have for you in the Central Plains. Back to you in Washington, D.C.

BLITZER: Thank you, Reynolds. We'll stay on top of this story together with you.

Coming up next, round one of the battle over funding the war in Iraq over. Round two has already begun, as we just heard. Will politics, though, get in the way of taking care of U.S. military forces? We'll discuss all that with part of the best political team on television.

That's coming up. "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk, continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUSH: I think it's very important we do this as quickly as we possibly can. I'm confident that we can reach agreement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush expressing confidence as he met with Democratic congressional leaders over at the White House on Wednesday. There were Republican leaders there as well, but it's getting clear that Congress and the White House eventually are going to have to agree on some sort of bill to fund the U.S. troops, the war in Iraq. That's not going to be easy by any means.

Joining us now to discuss that and more, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider, CNN Capitol Hill correspondent Andrea Koppel, and Andrea's predecessor on Capitol Hill, CNN's Joe Johns, all of the -- part of the best political team on television.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

And, Bill, I'm going to start with you. This Newsweek poll that came out this weekend asked this question: "Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?"

And the American public right now clearly not satisfied. Only 25 percent said that they were satisfied, 71 percent said dissatisfied, 4 percent said they don't know. That's a pretty low level of confidence in the direction of the United States right now.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: It may be. I haven't checked this, but it may be the lowest level of confidence since President Bush's father was president. And, remember, he got fired in 1992. Then it was the economy. Now it's something else. It's Iraq. The people are enraged about Iraq because they believe they elected a Congress to change direction and the president simply refuses to do that.

It's a very low level and it indicates a tremendous desire for change in this country, which is why Democrats are very, very optimistic about the next election and why they are determined to stand firm against the president.

BLITZER: And a lot of experts, Joe, as you well know, having covered politics for a long time, believe this right track, wrong track kind of poll -- is the country moving the right direction, wrong direction -- is clearly a much more accurate representation of where the country moves right now in predicting political trends.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly looks that way, and a lot of Democrats clearly see this as a signal to push legislation and words that say get out of Iraq. Of course, there is a danger, too. There was a Democracy Corps poll that came out around the middle of April that suggested Democrats were losing just about three points in the battle with the president of the United States over Iraq funding.

So that doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot, but what it does mean is there's at least potential for losing some Americans on this issue of a showdown with the president. Not necessarily something Democrats have to be hugely concerned about, but something they also just have to look at.

BLITZER: And the Iraq war clearly dominating the political scene, Andrea, here in Washington, around the country, on Capitol Hill. You cover Congress and that Gallup Poll that came out at the end of April, it asked the American people if they really support a Democratic version of a timeline for troop withdrawal or what the president is suggesting Fifty-seven percent said they support a timetable for removing troops, 39 percent say keep the troops there as long as necessary.

How nervous are Republicans in Congress right now? And you speak with them every single day about what is shaping up as a political environment in this country right now.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that there is a certain degree of concern and we've seen that reflected in the statements made by the Senate minority leader, Mr. McConnell, and we've also seen that over in the House of Roy Blunt talking, for the first really, about the necessity of including these benchmarks that the Iraqis and the U.S. have already agreed to, perhaps tying them to political reconstruction aid to the Iraqis.

They weren't saying that a few weeks ago. They recognize that every time they go to the floor and are forced to take a vote on Iraq and are forced to side with a very unpopular president, that could affect them in '08. They know Mr. Bush isn't up but many of them are.

BLITZER: Yes, Bill, you wanted to weigh in?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, because the Democrats have to make a choice here and the choice they're making is to stand firm to try to force the president's hand on Iraq and how are they going to do that? They have to peel off Republican votes.

So far the Republicans have also stood firm. We heard that in the debate the other night. But the calculation is, the way to get Republican votes isn't to make deals and compromise with them. It's to stand firm against the war and let public opinion put pressure on the Republicans so they begin to peel off.

BLITZER: But despite the public attitudes based on all of these polls -- and the Democrats have a slight majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives, but they certainly don't have the ability to override presidential vetoes where you need two-thirds majorities in the House and the Senate.

JOHNS: Sure, and that comes up with senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Robert Byrd's proposal to essentially put a sunset on the time when this Iraq resolution for force expires. They have suggested they want to do that.

A lot of people have said for Senator Clinton it's an attempt to get a do-over on a vote she's taken a lot of heat for. Of course, that was the vote to authorize the war. In truth, you know, it could very well be nothing more than a symbolic vote, but it does sort of hold the feet to the fire of the Republicans in Congress.

BLITZER: They want Senator Byrd and Senator Clinton, Andrea, as you know, they want that authorization which was approved in October of 2002 before the war. They want it to end in October of this year on the fifth anniversary. Where is that heading?

KOPPEL: Well, it's probably not going to pass. We'll see, but certainly I can't imagine that Senator McConnell is going to try to rally his caucus behind that.

But I think if you look at the political calculation that Senator Clinton, in particular, has taken -- I spoke to somebody the other day who is very close to the Clinton camp -- they described it as, for Mrs. Clinton, who voted to authorize the war, as Joe said, and who has been dealing with this albatross around her neck because the anti-war crowd has been pushing her and putting her under a lot of heat for the fact she will not renounce that, this has been for her more of an eight-point turn rather than a three-point turn. It was a strategic move, a way for her to change the subject and to put her name on a piece of legislation that is very popular among some of the anti-war groups.

BLITZER: Is that going to help her with the anti-war groups on the left in the Democratic Party?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, and I think what especially is noticeable is all the Democrats -- you've got seven running for president -- they're all maintaining a united front. They have different nuances about whether to support this version or that version or keep sending the bill back, but the Democrats are united and standing firm on the Iraq issue.

That sends a very powerful message not just to the White House and to the Republicans, but to the Democrats in Congress who are under pressure to make some kind of deal.

BLITZER: If you include Mike Gravel, the former senator from Alaska, you've got eight Democrats...

SCHNEIDER: Eight.

BLITZER: ... running for president. I want you to listen to the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and one of her Republican critics in the House this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: Now it's the fifth year of a failed policy. This administration should get a clue. It's not working.

REP. JERRY LEWIS, R-CALIF.: You've made your point. You've had your dog and pony show. You've posed for political holy pictures on TV. Now what is your plan to support the troops?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I guess a lot of the Democrats are saying their plan to support the troops is to get them out of Iraq and to protect them, but what do you hear?

JOHNS: Well, what I'm hearing basically is that Democrats realize that they're going to have to do something. There is a certain degree of ambivalence out there in the country about a showdown with the White House and going too far on this. But the question is just, how do you fix it because on the left you have the MoveOn groups who are saying "The minute you back down from a real timetable, you're going to lose us."

And on the other hand, you have those families out there in the country who are very concerned about their kids in Iraq. So it puts the Democrats in a difficult position to try to get some kind of resolution that everybody's going to be happy with and they can keep their base on their side.

BLITZER: Stand by, guys, because we have a lot more to talk about including the Republican debate, the first Republican debate that occurred this week. We are watching that. We're watching a lot of other political issues.

Also still coming up, the former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, was very critical of Senator Clinton on CBS earlier today. We're going to bring you that and the best of all of the Sunday talk shows, "In Case You Missed It." "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk, continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation with our reporters Bill Schneider, Andrea Koppel, Joe Johns, all part of the best political team on television.

Here is a little montage we put together from this first Republican debate this week. Stand by, Bill, because I want you to talk about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ronald Reagan was the president of strength.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Ronald Reagan used to say we spend money like a drunken sailor.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ronald Reagan taught us you lead from optimism.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, R-KAN.: I believe in the Ronald Reagan principle.

GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We forgot to be coming up with new ideas, big ideas like Ronald Reagan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Bill, we heard a lot about Ronald Reagan. It was at the Reagan Library out in California. We didn't hear a lot about the current Republican president of the United States, President Bush. Explain what's going on with these eight Republican candidates.

SCHNEIDER: You just saw the poll. You just reported it. Twenty- five percent say things are going in the right direction. They're satisfied. That means they know, like everyone else knows, the country wants change.

They're dissatisfied with President Bush so they're not going to sit there and pay tribute to President Bush. The only time his name came up and it was positively mentioned was at the very end when Rudy Giuliani paid tribute to Bush's leadership after 9/11. Besides that, Bush was a non-entity at that debate.

BLITZER: So are they going to be running away, Joe, from the current president as this campaign intensifies? JOHNS: Well, it's hard to see how they're going to run with him, but one of the most interesting things that's going on here is, if you read some of the conservative blogs, the magazines and such, people are talking about what they believe to be the real Ronald Reagan candidate which would be Fred Thompson, they say.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: Who's not in the race, right. So the more people invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, it sounds like more of an invitation for Fred Thompson to get in the race.

BLITZER: Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, a movie star, an actor on "Law and Order," as well as big screen films.

A lot of conservative Republicans, Andrea, really like him because he reminds them of Ronald Reagan, a very likable conservative, a nice personality, good on all the conservative issues, also a former actor.

KOPPEL: That's right. And I love "Law and Order," so I am sure a lot of us spend a lot of time watching it. Nevertheless, Fred Thompson is still trying to keep his cards close to his chest. We have got a little window into his position on various issues this week when he gave a speech out in California. Nevertheless, I think he has a number of Republican candidates, declared candidates, and those who have opened their various campaigns, nervous because they recognize, as Joe said, that he has a lot of support among the Ronald Reagan crowd.

BLITZER: Only slightly more than half of the Republicans are pleased with the current field and almost 80 percent of the Democrats are pleased with their current field.

SCHNEIDER: Look, they only have 10 candidates to choose from. They want more choice. When they look at Fred Thompson, I'm not sure they see his beliefs or his positions, they see someone who they believe can be a great communicator. That's what acting is all about.

You know, it's always been a puzzle to me. Hollywood is supposed to be filled with Democrats and liberals, but every Hollywood star who has become a politician is a Republican: Reagan, Schwarzenegger -- he was in the audience -- Fred Thompson, Sonny Bono. They're all Republicans. Why is that? I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: He doesn't know so let's look at this Quinnipiac University poll. Among Republican candidates, Giuliani still ahead with 27 percent, McCain 19 percent, Fred Thompson -- who is not running -- 14, Romney down at 8 with Newt Gingrich, who is not running.

But if you take a closer look at some of the states, the early states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina -- it doesn't necessarily show Giuliani ahead. It shows McCain doing very, very well.

JOHNS: Yes, and McCain didn't do very badly, I think, in the debate. If you saw him, he was fierce. He was a fighter. He was getting back to some of the things that people remember as the guy who ran last time. So McCain looked pretty strong.

But interesting -- you know, I always talk about moments when I see these things. There was no moment for Romney during this entire debate, but the interesting thing about Romney was he just sort of looked like he filled the role of presidential contender a little bit better than some of the other guys. So he probably did himself some good in this debate.

BLITZER: I loved the moment when he was asked whether or not they would welcome another Clinton coming back to the White House and he looked at the questioner and he basically said, "Are you kidding me?" That was a Mitt Romney moment I thought was very good.

Andrea, this Quinnipiac University poll on the Democrats right now, is Senator Clinton still ahead at 32 percent, Obama at 18 percent, Al Gore -- who is not running -- at 14 percent, John Edwards at 12 percent. But here, too, if you look at the early states whether Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Edwards does quite well in those early states. And it's a horse race.

KOPPEL: It is a horse race, and I think that -- I mean, we all seem to forget the fact that we are still about 10 months away from the first primary. And the idea is that we're writing the end of the story, and the fact of the matter is that there are three strong contenders right now and there could be a dark horse that we haven't -- that we haven't seen yet.

So the fact of the matter is all of these candidates have a lot of money in their coiffures and the day is young.

BLITZER: And we'll leave it on that note unless you want to make a quick point.

SCHNEIDER: Howard Dean was ahead at the end of 2003. Everyone assumed he was the inevitable nominee. Two weeks later after Iowa, he was virtually gone.

BLITZER: Good point to remember. Thanks very much for all of you coming in. Bill Schneider, Joe Johns, Andrea Koppel, all part of the best political team on television. And we're going to take a quick break.

Much more of our coverage coming up, including "In Case You Missed It," highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Still to come, "In Case You Missed It," "Late Edition's" Sunday morning talk show roundup. And remember, for our international viewers, coming up in about an hour, our specialized coverage of the French elections. Polls closing there 2 p.m. Eastern.

And for our North American viewers, coming up right at the top of the hour, "This Week at War" looks at some good news coming out of at least one province in Iraq. Our Tom Foreman hosts CNN reporters from around the world on "This Week at War." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from some of the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. On Fox, Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd and House Republican leader John Boehner differed on whether U.S. troops in Iraq are caught up in a civil war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.: The United States is being asked to, in a sense, referee a civil war. And at $2 billion a week, $8 billion a month, Americans believe that we have done all we can possibly do, and Iraqis have to decide whether or not they want to end this civil war and the sectarian violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN A. BOEHNER, R-OHIO: At the end of the day, Chris, Iraq is not about a civil war. Iraq is about al Qaida and 76 other terrorist groups operating there. And all of their effort is aimed at defeating the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On CBS, Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich weighed in on Senator Clinton's proposal to deauthorize the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHARLES B. RANGEL, D-N.Y.: We must follow the people's mandate and do everything that we can to send a message to President Bush that we want to stop the war and we want to bring the troops home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This idea of going through a political game, which will be totally misinterpreted overseas, undermine the morality of the American forces and accomplish nothing, I think is an effort by Senator Clinton to appease her left, who are very angry at her for not having gone back on her vote on the war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On ABC, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards had some advice for Congress regarding Iraq war funding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The truth of the matter is, the president has already exceeded the authority that he was originally given. America's now there policing a civil war. The president was never given authority to police a civil war, and the power that the Congress has to stop this war is the use of its funding authority. And that's what they should do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Also on ABC, Republican presidential candidate Congressman Tom Tancredo explained why immigration reform is the central theme of his campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TOM TANCREDO, R-COLO.: I happen to believe it's one of the most important domestic policy issues we can deal with. It touches so many parts of our life. If you want to talk about education, we certainly can, and the impact of illegal immigration on our schools. If we want to talk about health care, we certainly can, and the impact of illegal immigration on our medical system.

And national security issues. How can we talk about national security when you've got porous borders?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Highlights from some of 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, May 6. Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. We're on the air for two hours Sundays.

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

For our international viewers, stand by for "World News" and special coverage of the French elections, where the polls close in an hour. For those of you in North America, "This Week at War" with Tom Foreman starts now. Tom?

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