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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Secretaries Gutierrez and Chertoff; Interview With Senators Levin and Martinez

Aired May 20, 2007 - 11:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, HOST: It's 11 a.m. in Washington, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles, 4 p.m. in London and 7 p.m. in Baghdad. I'm John King. Wolf is away this week. We'll talk about the new immigration reform bill with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in just a few moments.
But first to Iraq, where six U.S. soldiers have been killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. And as the search continues for three U.S. soldiers who went missing after an ambush nine days ago, there are new developments in a similar attack that left five U.S. troops dead in Karbala back in January.

Joining us from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is the spokesman for multinational forces in Iraq, Army Major General William Caldwell. General Caldwell, thank you for joining us on "Late Edition" today. Let's start with the search for the three missing soldiers. Anything you can tell us? Any progress at all? Any information at all on their possible whereabouts and how they're doing?

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. ARMY: Well, John, what I can tell you is the search does continue. You know, we can't promise the outcome we all, of course, are praying for. But what I can promise you and I promise the American families out there that are waiting anxiously that the American forces and our Iraqi counterparts are going to continue with this relentless search until we find the fate of our missing soldiers.

KING: And General, does it tell you anything? Is there anything to give you any indication that as more than a week has passed, does that make you more optimistic or less optimistic based on past experience?

CALDWELL: Well, I think as General Petraeus said, you know, just the other day, you know, we're going to continue this search. We're not going to give up on our soldiers. We have every reason to believe at this point still that they probably are alive.

There's nothing to indicate otherwise. And so we're going to continue what we're doing.

KING: Any new intelligence on those claiming to have taken these soldiers, sir?

CALDWELL: There obviously is some intelligence that we have on that, but, you know, it's not something at this point, John, we'd discuss publicly as we continue working that.

KING: And tell us what you can about this bringing to justice, as you might put it, the gentlemen you believe are responsible for a similar event back in January.

CALDWELL: Well, what happened is, John, as you well recall, back on January 20, down in Karbala in the governor's compound there, we had a terrorist group come in there, disguised as American soldiers, driving American vehicles, speaking English to gain entryway in there.

And they came into one of the buildings where we were working with our Iraqi counterparts, helping them with their pilgrimage. And they abducted, kidnapped literally four American soldiers. They killed one on the site, kidnapped four others, fled out of the compound with them and then murdered all four of them.

KING: And the gentlemen, sir, the gentleman -- there was a gentleman killed today. Is that correct?

CALDWELL: That's right. We've been pursuing this guy relentlessly. You know, anybody who kidnaps an American soldier and murders them, we're going to continue to hunt down. And that's exactly what we've been doing with this guy, Hazar al-Dalamy (ph).

We found him finally Friday morning. Went in on a precision operation to capture him. And in the pursuing engagement that occurred, he was killed.

KING: Major General William Caldwell joining us today. General, thank you for your time.

CALDWELL: Well, thank you, John.

KING: Take care, sir.

Tomorrow the Senate begins debate on an immigration reform bill. The measure has bipartisan backing and the support of President Bush. But getting it to the president's desk will still be quite a major challenge.

Joining us here is Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, two of the president's key negotiators on this bill, excuse me. Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us on "Late Edition."

Let me start with the basic problem, it seems, in the political debate -- and I'll start with you, Secretary Chertoff -- is that the other side that views this as amnesty thinks that some of the provisions are inefficient. Not enough. They don't trust you.

They simply don't trust your department on the security side. Duncan Hunter is a Republican candidate for president. He also happens to be a key member of the House from San Diego.

And he doesn't trust you because one of the provisions is, before you will have this new guest worker program, you're supposed to improve border security, including strengthening out the fence along the border. I want you to listen to Congressman Hunter from the presidential debate a bit earlier last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, R-CALIF.: I wrote the bill that the president signed in October that takes the San Diego fence 854 miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and it's mandatory. I called up the other day and they've done two miles of border fence. This administration has a case of the slows on border enforcement. This 2,000-mile porous border, incidentally, is our biggest homeland security problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is he right about the progress so far? And if he is right about the progress so far or anywhere close, why isn't he correct that you should have the fence out and put all of this aside until you do more on the security front?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: John, he's not right. Basically, we will have 150 miles of fence built by the end of September. What Congressman Hunter's not telling the public is, the way you build fence is you don't build one mile and then build another mile.

You survey the entire area. You bring your engineers in in order to level the ground, you make whatever legal arrangements you need to buy the land or acquire the land. And then the fence goes up virtually simultaneously.

I've been there. I've seen miles of fence that have gone up in the last year. We're committed to getting 150 miles done by the end of September, and it will be done.

KING: I want to talk more with you, Secretary. I'll be with you in just a minute, sir. But more about the benchmarks. Here's what you're supposed to do under this bill.

Before we get into the visas, before we get into a new guest worker program, you're supposed to hire 6,000 additional border patrol agents. Hire thousands of civilian workers to register an estimated 12 million immigrants, erect 3,700 miles of fencing or at least get that work done, develop a worker verification system.

Again, the critics say your department has not done the job so far of not securing the borders. People are flooding across the borders. What can you tell the American people that we can do this now, you can trust us?

CHERTOFF: Well, first of all, it's 370 miles of fence. We're at 150 miles by the end of this coming September. We will be at 370 miles by the end of calendar year 2008. We've already hired about 1,500, 2,000 border patrol since the time that we started this process. We're on target to get 18,000, a little over 18,000 actually, by the end of calendar year 2008. We already seen a tremendous change in the momentum at the border. Not only in terms of apprehensions going down, showing that there's a lesser flow, but we're hearing from local law enforcement and local ranchers that they are seeing fewer people come across because of the fact that we've ramped up enforcement.

We've got radar towers built. We've got ground-based radar. We've got unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles. And we have in place the system necessary to do verification. I saw it myself with the president and with Secretary Gutierrez a couple of days ago, where the picture of the applicant pops up on the screen, the necessary information pops up on the screen, and you can literally verify the employee within a matter of a minute.

So, we're going to have to scale that up. And I don't want to minimize the ambitiousness of the plan, but every element of this is something that has been planned. If Congress funds it, we will be able to hit these benchmarks before this president leaves office.

KING: He's talking about the technical aspects of the bill, Mr. Secretary. You know, in the political debate, amnesty has taken hold across this country. And the opponents, frankly, are winning the definitional debate right now in terms of politics.

The administration says this is not amnesty because those who came into this country illegally would have to pay a penalty, would have to pay back taxes, would have to come into the system some way. But if it's not amnesty, what is it?

If there's somebody sitting in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico who wants to come to the United States today to make a better life for his or her family, somebody that's in the United States, whether it's been for six months or six years or ten years illegally, that person broke the law to get here and can get a Z visa when this program is in place, how is that not at least jumping the line or an easy pass, if not amnesty?

CARLOS GUTIERREZ, SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Well, it's not amnesty. They're going to have to pay a penalty. They're going to have to wait in line. They're going to have to undergo a criminal background check. It is not amnesty.

And part of the problem here is that we can spend so much time talking about nuances of one word. And this is so much more complicated than one word. In the meantime, we're not getting the job done. We're not enforcing it. We're not having people come out of the shadows. So, it's a national security priority.

So, it is not amnesty. We've said it's not amnesty. We have the impression -- I have the impression that perhaps for some people, the only thing that would not be amnesty is mass deportation.

We don't think that is practical. We don't think that's logical. We don't think that's humane. And that would hurt our economy. So, it's not amnesty. We should move on. And this is so much bigger than the debate about the definition of one word.

KING: Well, if we're going to have a debate about the definition of one word, I want to ask you both on this one. Is part of the problem is that on both ends, there is language that is perhaps intellectually dishonest? You say it's not amnesty, but you also say people are not jumping the line.

But to someone who is in this country illegally now they have a better chance to get status, to get a visa, and ultimately, if this program is fully implemented, to become a legal permanent resident or perhaps even a citizen of the United States.

They have jumped the line and they have a better advantage than somebody sitting in Honduras or Guatemala or Mexico today trying to get here, correct?

GUTIERREZ: No, that's not correct.

KING: How is it not correct? They're here already. They have a job in America.

GUTIERREZ: But you're talking about citizenship. You're talking about a green card. There is no automatic path to green card. There is no automatic path to citizenship.

And that's one big difference, versus the 1986 amnesty that did create an automatic path. There will be a Z status, which is legalization. That means they can work. But they are not permanent residents.

If they want to be permanent residents, they have to apply; they have to leave the country to apply; they have to pay another fine, they have to qualify to be legal permanent residents.

There is nothing automatic. And that's a big difference, versus what we had in 1986. There is no automatic path to citizenship.

KING: I'm having a hard time with this because these people are here, though. Is it just easier to say, look, we've screwed this up for 20 years and this is the best way to do it?

Everyone's trying to argue their points. You're saying they're not cutting in line. But if I'm in this country now illegally, I do have a better chance, don't I?

CHERTOFF: Look, John, first of all, if you want to get a green card, you're going to have to wait until everybody who is currently on line gets their green card first. So you're not going to jump the line as far as that's concerned.

You're going to have to pay a penalty. You're going to be on probation. By the way, that is typically what happens...

KING: But you're strengthening border security during that period of time.

CHERTOFF: Correct.

KING: So if I'm in Guatemala, Mexico, anywhere else, trying to get here, you're having a new system in place, a stronger border, so I can't sneak in, stronger requirements for me to apply to get in.

And somebody who broke the law and is already here can get in the system.

CHERTOFF: Well, there's no doubt, John, we're dealing with the situation as we find it on the ground. We can't pretend that we haven't inherited the legacy of three decades of neglect of the problem. So we're going to have to manage this problem.

And what we've done is we've come up with a solution that doesn't allow these people to jump the line in terms of getting a green card. Everybody who has been on line waiting patiently gets ahead of them.

They have to pay a penalty, similar to what you pay if you commit a misdemeanor, which is what this is under the existing state of the law.

So I think we've squared the circle. We've had real penalties. We've put people at the back of the line. But obviously, we're not going to have a mass deportation.

You know, John, it comes down to this, we've proposes a bipartisan solution that really gets the problem fixed. If someone has a better solution that's realistic, they should come forward with it.

But if all people want to do is complain and say, well, this isn't good enough, that's the Goldilocks solution, where it's always too hot or too cold. I think the public has lost patience with that and they want us to fix the problem.

KING: Help me deal with the critic who says this is un-American on both ends, that, one, you would eventually give status people who broke the law. There's no question about that. They broke the law and came into this country.

If they come out of the shadows, if they pay the penalty, they could get status. Some would say you're still rewarding lawbreakers, that you're sanctioning lawbreaking.

And then others say it's un-American on the other end because you go to this merit-based system, so instead of "Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses," you're saying, send me your doctors, your nurses, computer programmers," with the merit-based system. They say that's un-American.

GUTIERREZ: Well, that is the challenge of reaching a bipartisan bill. It's the challenge of compromise. And that is the art of compromise, is that everyone gets something but no one gets everything they wanted, but in the end, we have a bill that's better for our country. This isn't the first time that we've debated the issue of immigration as a nation. You know, it happens every 50, 100 years. There was a time when people were saying, you know, Irish need not apply. And today we all celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

So, you know, we're trying to find a common ground. We're trying to find something that is bipartisan. The American people will not accept a one-sided bill.

But the important thing, John, is we have to solve the problem. And we're not going to solve the problem by simply criticizing what people are trying to do, people who are working at it, people who are showing leadership.

It's easy to criticize them, but those who are criticizing -- to Secretary Chertoff's point, what is their solution?

KING: You had the criticism on the Right, calling it amnesty; the border security's not enough. There's also been some criticism on the Left.

I want to read you a quote from Senator Byron Dorgan, who worries about the new guest worker program that would be created down the road, when you have this.

He says, "America's workers have had enough downward pressure on their wages because of unfair trade deals and corporate outsourcing of millions of jobs every year. The last thing they need now is to have an inflow of millions of more immigrants competing for their jobs at substandard wags."

So will wages for American workers go down if this deal goes through?

GUTIERREZ: One of the reasons that we've had this problem was that, in the 1986 bill, there wasn't a temporary workers permit. So we didn't create a path to fill jobs that Americans weren't filling. So that void was filled by illegal immigration.

When you have an illegal system, when you have an informal system, that drives wages down. We don't want to incur that same problem. So we're creating a temporary workers permit which will be legal, which will be above board and therefore will not be under the ground, will not be informal. And that should help wages.

We're trying to correct precisely the problem that we created in 1986 by not having a temporary worker's permit.

KING: I want you to talk about the art of compromise. You're both in these closed-door meetings. And it's clear there are some things in this bill the administration would prefer not be in there. There are clearly other things in the bill that others would prefer not be in there.

There's been a lot of reporting on what happened inside those rooms, including the fact that you were standing this far away when there was an exchange, apparently, with Senator McCain using non- family-friendly language to a member, John Cornyn of Texas, one of his colleagues in the Senate, when they were having a disagreement over something that Senator McCain called "chicken" -- I'll let the people at home fill in the blank.

Tell us what it's like inside the room in that particular exchange.

CHERTOFF: You know, I think the American public would be proud of our legislators on both sides of the aisle if they saw the way they worked together on this. It was not one of the typical deals where the special interest package things up and then they have members of Congress exchanging these packages.

KING: Tempers got pretty hot, at some point.

CHERTOFF: Well, this is because people got directly into the details, senators. They talked about their own experiences. They talked about their friends and what they had seen, talking to their constituents.

There was not only a lot of intelligence and experience but a lot of emotion that went into building this bill. It is exactly what we think about when we talk about representative democracy.

Sure, tempers get hot. My temper got hot sometimes, too. Because you're dealing with issues that are emotional. But you also had people who were prepared, ultimately, to put their emotions to one side and forge a workable solution, which, I think, is what the public's been craving over the last couple of decades.

KING: We're out of time for this segment. But in a word or three, the president has a lot of pressure on him right now. He's at very low standing in public opinion in the United States. The house speaker, a Democrat, says she won't bring this to the floor, in her chamber, unless the president can deliver 70 Republican votes.

Does George W. Bush have the political capital to deliver 70 Republican votes on this emotional issue right now?

GUTIERREZ: We believe that the logic of this is so powerful that, once you think through it, that yes, we will get this through. Because this is the right thing.

And if we don't do it, then we're either voting for the status quo, which is unsustainable and dysfunctional, or we're voting for mass deportation.

But again, it's easy to criticize. The hard thing is what we did over the past two, three months with leaders of the Senate, is get down into the details and work something out that we can all live with.

KING: You'll have to get down in the trenches to sell it, I suspect. But gentlemen, thank you for your time today. The secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez. Thank you both for stopping in on "Late Edition." And up next, if the immigration bill has bipartisan support, it also clearly has bipartisan opposition. We'll hear from two critics of the deal, Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray and Arizona Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano.

And later, Senators Carl Levin and Mel Martinez on the immigration bill, as well as efforts to reach an Iraq war funding compromise. You're watching "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Beautiful view of the Jefferson Memorial there. Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm John King reporting from Washington.

Critics of the immigration deal say it's nothing short of amnesty. Even those who aren't dead set against it are still expressing concern of the impact of certain provisions.

Joining us more to discuss this, from Charlottesville, Virginia, the Democratic governor of a border state, Arizona, Janet Napolitano. And here in Washington, the chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray of California. Let me start this way first. In a sentence, could each of you describe your biggest reservations about the bill, beginning with you, Governor.

GOV. JANET NAPOLITANO (D), ARIZONA: Good start, but the details are very difficult. How the temporary worker program is going to be implemented, whether the border security measures are actually going to be installed. These are questions that need to be answered as the bill undergoes further consideration.

KING: Congressman?

REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: The worst thing you can do if you try to control illegal immigration is reward 12 to 20 million illegal aliens with citizenship and permanent residency. That's why the border patrol agents oppose this bill.

KING: So, all right then, on that point, Congressman, let me follow up with you. And I want you to listen to a quote from a gentleman who just left here, the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff. This is Secretary Chertoff a bit earlier in the week talking about critics like yourself who call this amnesty and say it's not acceptable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHERTOFF: I understand there are some people who expect anything other than capital punishment is an amnesty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Strong words from Secretary Chertoff there. I know you don't want capital punishment for these people. But their point is, they're in the country through mistakes of previous 20, 30 years of immigration mistakes. You can't round them up and throw them out. BILBRAY: John, the big mistake was '86, where we announced amnesty. We told the world we're going to reward people for illegal immigration. And just as the secretary said, we're now lowering the number of people of crossing. By announcing this, you're going to have the next big wave.

We have the largest influx of illegal immigration since the last amnesty. What makes them think that if you do the same thing, you're not going to get the same results? We need to do employer enforcement. That's not what they've been doing enough of, and that's where we need to crack down on.

You've got to control the boarder and control our neighborhoods before you even talk about anything like this. This is absolutely absurd thinking you're going to control the border when you're encouraging a whole new wave to come in.

And you watch, in the next few years, they'll say, we were just overwhelmed by the new numbers. We don't understand. Because you just told the gentlemen in Guatemala, come on in illegally. You're crazy to wait your turn to immigrate legally.

KING: Governor, you live the border every day of your life. You heard Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff talk about the things they will do: Extend out the fence, hire more border security people, bring in the new technology.

Do everything they can to finally, he says, enforce the borders. Is the plan, just from the security standpoint, the things they are promising to do in the grand compromise realistic?

NAPOLITANO: I think it is if they do what they say they're going to do. And that is a key question, because the talk has been very good. Where the budget actually happens, sometimes it's not quite as sufficient.

But you have to break this down into three parts. You need the border security. That obviously has to happen. Very key to a state like Arizona, very key to our country.

But you can't just wave the word "amnesty" and think that you've solved the problem of the 12 million already here. You've got to have some realistic way of doing them.

And I think the Senate compromise is as close of being able to talk about this problem realistically as anything I have seen lately. The temporary worker program built into this compromise I think has a lot of difficulty associated with it because I don't think it matches the reality of the economics of the situation.

KING: What specifically do you mean by that? You mean the worker program would be for things that the economy doesn't need?

NAPOLITANO: No, I mean having somebody come in to our country for two years to work and then saying they have to leave for a year before they can come back and work another two years. And that's just not the pattern that we see.

So, in my view, I think that could be much simpler, much more realistic. And then you've got to have the employer sanctions and enforce those just as the Congressman suggested. We did get into problems after '86 because once somebody got over the border it was basically a "get out of jail free" card.

You've got to have a realistic passage to earn citizenship, and it's got to be tough. Citizenship should be a very tough privilege to earn for somebody to earn outside of this country. And then you've got to make sure those border security measures are installed and sustained over time.

KING: Now, Congressman, you say anyone who broke the law to get into this country should not be able to get a path into citizenship. Am I right about that?

BILBRAY: I don't think they should be able to get a special program. And this creates a special program and a special status for only those who are illegally here. And when I asked the White House, I said, can those who would qualify for the "Y" visa who haven't broken our laws, do they get to pay in and qualify for the "Z"? And they said no.

John, that's amnesty. You're creating a special status and a special program. And what does that tell the person back in Guatemala and El Salvador? Again, we're going to send the message we're going to reward illegal immigration. And how can any common-sense person, let alone a parent, say that's how you're going to get positive behavior by announcing to the world you're going to reward negative behavior?

KING: If we can't get this done without everybody giving up something, what are you willing to give up? What is something that you have been firm on forever that you're willing to give up to get a compromise?

BILBRAY: I think that if once we control, we fulfill the promise of '98, and that's employer enforcement, once we stop paying people to be here illegally, and we crack down on our buddies who are hiring illegal aliens, once we do that, then we can talk about a true temporary program where people come in here, work and go home.

And I'm willing to talk about that. But you've got to fulfill the enforcement part, because if you don't have that kind of enforcement, somebody will come here under a so-called guest worker program and then just go off to another job and disappear.

We're talking about something that's been taking years. And they're proposing that they promise in 18 months they're going to have this under control. Let's do the employer enforcement part.

You've got HR 98, by Sylvestre Reyes and David Dreier, something that's supported by Maxine Waters and Tom Tancredo. That's not just bipartisan. That's bipolar. Why don't we go back and do that. We can agree on that. And once we do that, we can prove to the American people that we're actually serious and that this isn't a shell game just for cheap labor and cheap votes.

KING: Governor, I'm using you as our reality check here because you do live the border in the state of Arizona. I want you to listen to something that Lindsey Graham said.

One of the questions we always have is, does the debate here in Washington have anything to do with how things work out in the real world? Listen to Senator Lindsey Graham describing one of the key provisions of this legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: We're not going to deport them all. What we're doing is punishing them in a way that's practical and allowing people to live their lives without fear, not jump ahead of the line. You cannot become a green card holder under this bill until everybody in line ahead of you gets through the system, so they're not jumping in line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Governor, I'm going to hit this point all day long I think until I get run out of here. But is there some intellectual dishonesty in the debate when you say someone is not jumping the line, whereas if I am in this country illegally on this Sunday in May, I can get a new "Z" visa -- call it what you will under this program -- and get legal status and get legal status and ultimately a path to either permanent legal status or perhaps citizenship as opposed to somebody that would be sitting in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, pick your place in the world, wanting to get into the United States, who is going to face a tougher border and a tougher system if they want to come in legally. Are you not jumping the line?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I think as someone who deals with the border every day, that's kind of a Washington, D.C. question because you put a little label on something and then you frame the debate. It's much more substantive than that.

And that's where I disagree with the Congressman. What he's saying is, do the law enforcement first. And then when that's all done, you can take up the more difficult issue. My experience with the Congress is, it's very easy for them to talk about law enforcement. I'm all in favor of it. I'm a former prosecutor myself.

But they won't take up the more difficult issues unless you hook border security in simultaneously. This has to be done comprehensively all at the same time, or they'll never get to the more difficult labor issues that need to be part and parcel of the debate.

KING: I want to ask you a political question, Governor. You're the Democratic governor of Arizona, a key player in these negotiations with your Republican senator, who wants to be the Republican nominee for president of his party. And I'm going to let the Congressman beat him up in just a minute for striking this compromise.

I want you to talk about Senator McCain's role in all of this. And will he pay a price? It's an easy question for a Democrat, I guess.

NAPOLITANO: Well, he may in his own party, but Senator Kyl, who's also a Republican senator and a very conservative one from Arizona, was also part of these negotiations. And while I differ with both Senator McCain and Senator Kyl on some of the details of this bill, I don't differ with them on the basic premise.

If this group hadn't moved something to the floor so that the debate could become open, public and comprehensive, this issue was going to be ignored again until after the presidential. And that is simply not an acceptable solution for this country.

KING: Congressman Bilbray, the Democrats run this town right now when it comes to Congress, but this bill will not pass unless the Republicans come to the table. You know the speaker, the Democratic speaker has said, President Bush, show me 70 Republican votes. I'll bring it to the floor. Can it pass? Will it pass?

BILBRAY: I think it passes if big business is able to basically put the pressure on and say, we give you Republicans a lot of money. We want you to deliver us a cheap vote. And the governor talks about the tough things to do.

You know, the governor's got to understand, the tough thing to do in this town is to crack down on the big businesses that are hiring these people that are undercutting the fair market labor out there. And that's the tough one, the enforcement.

And if it was so easy, I would have to say to the governor, why wasn't it done in '86?

It was avoided because that was the tough part. It's always easy to reward people for negative behavior in Washington, D.C. The elite likes that. But it's tough to take on your buddies who are profiteering from illegal immigration.

And that's where the Republicans are going to be really drawn. Mr. McCain was not involved in the day-to-day negotiations. He supports this. And I think that's a fatal mistake. But I think a lot of people are trying to work this out.

But as somebody who grew up on the border and was the county chairman in San Diego County, I saw what the '86 law did. And it caused not only illegal immigration. It caused more than 300 deaths every year. And that's something we should be outraged.

Remember the Banzai charges. Remember the people running up the freeways. That was caused by the '86 compromise. And we shouldn't make the same mistake again unless we expect the same results.

KING: We need to end it there, unfortunately. But I suspect, in the weeks and months ahead, we will have more on this.

Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona, thank you so much for your time. Good luck with your commencement address later today.

NAPOLITANO: Thank you.

KING: Congressman Brian Bilbray, here in the studio, thank you both so much.

BILBRAY: Thank you, John.

KING: And coming up, the White House and Congress at loggerheads again over funding the war in Iraq. Which side will blink first?

We'll talk with Senators Carl Levin and Mel Martinez.

Plus, we'll go inside the politics of the war funding fight with CNN's Dana Bash and Joe Johns, part of the best political team on television. Stay with us. You're watching "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to "Late Edition." A fragile truce is under way between Palestinian factions in Gaza. But what role are Israel and the United States playing in the fighting?

For analysis on this and all things Middle East, we turn to two distinguished experts on the region: in New York, Shibley Telhami. He is the author of the book, "The Stakes: America in the Middle East, the Consequences of Power and the Choice for Power."

And in San Diego, Vali Nasr; his latest book, "The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future."

Gentleman, thank you both for joining us on "Late Edition." I want to begin with civil war, civil strife. Call it what you will. In the Palestinian Territories, obviously, the Hamas forces fighting Fatah forces this week.

And this headline in The Washington Post: "Israel this week allowed the Palestinian party Fatah to bring into the Gaza Strip as many as 500 fresh troops trained under a U.S. coordinated program to counter Hamas.

Vali Nasr, starting with you, is this an appropriate role for both Israel and the United States, to essentially be picking sides in the fight between Hamas and President Abbas?

VALI NASR, MIDDLE EAST EXPERT: Well, the question of Israeli and United States position on Hamas's politics is well known and hasn't changed. The only challenge is that, if the U.S. intervention and Israeli intervention ends up escalating the conflict at a time where there is also -- the conflict in Iraq is inconclusive and potentially can escalate, as well, and there are tensions in U.S.-Iran relations, it can create a wider axis of conflict in this region.

KING: Dr. Telhami, should the United States be training or encouraging sides in this fight or should it let it play out?

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, MIDDLE EAST EXPERT: Well, first of all, I mean, every government takes some sides, that's OK. The question is whether you get involved directly like this, which intrudes into the politics in a way that might be detrimental, even for Fatah itself.

But the bigger problem is the assumption that the way to solve this is to bring down Hamas and bring Fatah up. That's not going to happen. There's no amount of effort that you're going to put into it that is going to make this happen.

And I think, if you look at what's happening in Gaza right now, it's a problem that is predictable. You've weakened central authority, devastated, really, over many years. You've got people under economic despair with no end in sight, economic sanctions, pressure from the outside, and a lot of weapons. What are you going to have? No authority from the top. People are not following orders. Cease-fires are not holding.

And to add to all of this, you have a lack of moral authority. Most of the people who were charismatic or who had some sway with their constituency beyond the gun are gone. You know, Sheikh Yassin, the originator of Hamas, had clout with his people. Rantisi was charismatic. They're gone. Arafat is dead.

You have leaders of factions right now. Abu Mazen's a good man, but he doesn't have the same clout. And so what you have in essence is a problem that is -- a function of a structure that needs to be changed. We cannot continue this erosion of authority and isolation of Hamas. We've got to change course.

KING: Well, Vali Nasr, if Dr. Telhami says we have to change course, what are the United States's options at this moment? Is there anything the Bush administration could step in tomorrow and do to at least calm things down if not improve them?

NASR: Well, first of all, it's what the U.S. should not do in order to inflame it. I think once the United States becomes directly involved in a conflict like this, it's going to make itself the center of the problem. And it's going to escalate the fighting.

If some of the issues that Dr. Telhami rose is actually possible to address in order to identify a political process and leaders that can engage Israel on the other side and also bring some kind of a political stability in sight. That's not going to happen at a time of direct American intervention, which is likely to make the Palestinian fight more about the United States ultimately than the issues on the ground.

KING: Dr. Telhami, let me ask one final question on this issue. Then we'll move on. We've talked about what the United States could do. One of the realities is we're also dealing with a much more weak Israeli government than we might have had if we were dealing with this situation six months or a year ago. Does that complicate the situation?

TELHAMI: Enormously, because right now actually, you know, you can't have a strategy of peace without knowing what's happening in Israel. And I think that's part of the problem. Israelis have to make their own decisions. Everybody is very sensitive at least until the Winograd Commission comes out with its final report next month. But the United States has to have a policy of its own. And one of the decisions we have to make, the timing is an issue, have to make a decision, are we going to find a way to moderate Hamas and figure out a way to move this forward with a national unity government, or are we going to try to bring them down?

I think the latter just simply cannot work. And if we're going to end up with the same kind of result that we're seeing in Gaza now, I think we have to change course.

KING: I want to change the subject here to Iraq. And Vali Nasr, one of the debates here in Washington is, what benchmarks? What sort of conditions could you put on the Iraqi government in the new funding proposal to fund the war in Iraq?

As you have watched this play out in recent days, the United States Congress will talk about benchmarks tying economic aid to improvements in the security, in the political situation, and the economic situation inside Iraq. Is there anything that you have seen happening on the ground right now that leads you to believe that there could be tough but reasonable benchmarks put in place? Or is this Iraqi government simply incapable?

NASR: I don't think the Iraqi government can deliver on the benchmarks. It's a weak government by design. It's divided within. It has to maintain a two-thirds majority in the parliament. It does not have any Sunni partner with which to actually negotiate.

Even the United States cannot guarantee to the Iraqi government that if they met all the benchmarks, the insurgents will actually come to the table and negotiate. I think the benchmarks are mostly for domestic consumption in the United States. It's a way of passing responsibility for success in Iraq to the Iraqi government.

But there is no peace process. There is no framework for negotiations that would allow the government to make concessions or engage the other side and then meet certain benchmarks. So I'm not optimistic that it's likely to work.

KING: Dr. Telhami, I want your thoughts on that point. But let me use this first and try put it into context and steer the conversation. This is Prince Saud, the Saudi Arabia foreign minister in The New York Times a week or so back: "We don't see anything happening in Iraq in implementation. Our American friends say there is improvement, improvement in violence, improvement in the level of understanding, improvement in disarming militias. But we don't see it."

Who's right? The Saudi foreign minister when he says there's no improvement or the Bush White House when it says there is some improvement.

TELHAMI: Well, I don't know about what he specifically said, but there's no question in my mind that the so-called benchmarks are not out there to be met. I mean, when you give a commander -- you ask a commander, I want to have benchmarks, report to me in two weeks that there is an improvement -- they are going to come up with something. They're forced to come up with something.

In fact, there's very little information available what is happening in much of Iraq. Clearly, if you look at it at the macro level, every single month, the situation has gotten worse by some important measures. And how long can you go when you -- until you say you can't -- I think we lost -- the United States has lost the ability to control the outcome in Iraq. We must acknowledge this. If we don't, I think we're going to be in trouble. And this Iraqi government simply is not going to be able to deliver.

In fact, if American forces were to pull out tomorrow, the Iraqi parliament the next morning will collapse. And that tells you something about the importance of these institutions that are now a corollary to the American presence.

KING: All right, gentlemen, I want to ask you both to stand by. We have to take a quick break. But when we come back, much more of our conversation about the Middle East, including our panel's take on the current state of Pakistan. Are we looking at a failed state? Stay with us. You're watching "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're talking about the turmoil in the Middle East and what it means for U.S. policy in the region with two experts in the region, distinguished gentlemen both, author Shibley Telhami and Vali Nasr.

I want to move on now to the subject, the issue of U.S. relations with Iran and Iran's role in the region and whether you are optimistic at all, gentlemen if anything could come of these conversations, diplomatic conversations between the United States and Iran.

Before I get to that question, I want you to listen to a bite from Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in the Middle East just a little more than a week ago. Went out to an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf and delivered quite a stern message to the government of Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: With two carrier strike groups in the Gulf, we're sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike. We'll keep the sea lanes open, and we'll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Vali Nasr, your take on the vice president's role as the diplomatic messenger in the region?

NASR: Well, the United States has followed the two-track policy with Iran. On the one hand, looking to have discussions, but on the other hand escalating rhetorical tension. Sending aircraft carriers, putting greater sanctions and financial squeeze on Iran, hoping that these things will soften Iran and bring it to the table and that Iran would suspend its nuclear enrichment.

So far it hasn't worked. And the tenor and the relations between the two countries has continued to descend. And I don't think that the -- right now, given the vice president's speech, the much tougher stance the U.S. has vis-a-vis Iran, that we are likely to see an opening in the relations between the two.

KING: Do you agree with the take?

It's a pessimistic take, Dr. Telhami. Is there anything the United States could get, even a modest step of diplomatic talks with Iran, that would start a process?

TELHAMI: Well, first of all, we need to talk to Iran. I think it's a mistake not to talk to states, even your enemies. You have to know what's on the table. You have to communicate with them directly.

And I think, ultimately, the conversation should include issues far more than Iraq. And obviously, there's some issues to include here.

In the short term, I don't see this bearing any fruit if the aim is specifically to resolve the problem in Iraq. I think that problem is beyond the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Iran.

Iran is an important player. There are other factors involved. Many other countries are involved. If they seems to be isolated, they could play a detrimental role in this.

What I'm worried about, that you're going to have these conversations; we're not going to see any benefit, in the end, in Iraq. Because Iraq is really beyond the American control at this point, or, for that matter, the Iranian control.

And then all these threats that are out there, that are coming -- that are military in their presence -- are going to lead to some escalation. Even an incident -- if you can imagine this incident that happened with the British sailors happening with the American sailors, the kind of crisis we might have. And this is the thing that I worry about most.

KING: I want to lift our eyes, if you will, up over the horizon. We spend so much time focused on Iraq, Iran, of late, on the Israeli- Palestinian crisis.

And there are more and more indications that there is trouble brewing in Pakistan.

I want to read you a quote from The Washington Post this past Wednesday, from Lieutenant General Talat Masood, who is retired from the Pakistan military. He says, quote, "President Musharraf is losing control. This is a failing state, if not a failed state. If things continue to degenerate, people will not be spectators. They will take action to save the state. The present state of affairs cannot last. The party is over."

Vali Nasr, is the Pakistani government in danger of collapsing?

And if so, what are the stakes?

NASR: Well, it's not in danger of collapsing. But the current set-up with general Musharraf at the head is under threat.

I think, in the United States, we put too much on General Musharraf's ability to control Pakistan and to be able to control the situation in that country.

It's very clear that the Pakistani people are tired of a military dictatorship. And the social groups, the more secular, middle-class groups that supported General Musharraf are now tired of his undemocratic actions; in particular, his attempt to destabilize and weaken the Pakistan judiciary.

And as they are beginning to flex their muscles, as they're coming out in demonstrations and the like, the military's ability to hold the tight control on this country is coming apart.

And if General Musharraf does not prepare Pakistan for a smooth transition to civilian government, then we might have much wider-scale trouble in Pakistan, that could be destabilizing.

KING: Shibley Telhami, we have less than a minute left. I want to ask you your thoughts, in closing, on Tony Blair passing from the stage.

With President Bush, these past few years, he has been a key voice on the world stage, talking about how the world must rally against Muslim extremism, Islam extremism, call it what you will.

What impact will it have as Tony Blair fades from the scene?

TELHAMI: I think a further isolation of the Bush administration. This has been President Bush's most loyal friend throughout the crisis. He stayed with him even when he thought things were not working. He stays with him even after he leaves office.

This is going to leave a real problem for the president. Because I think it's going to leave him alone, in some ways, on matters related particularly to the Middle East, not just to the Iraq issue but also to the Arab-Israeli issue.

KING; Dr. Shibley Telhami in New York and Vali Nasr in San Diego. Gentlemen, thank you both for your time today and your expertise on "Late Edition."

NASR: Thank you.

TELHAMI: A pleasure.

KING: And coming up, Iraq's government on the hot seat to meet benchmarks. But what really has to happen before U.S. troops can begin to leave?

We'll talk with senators Carl Levin and Mel Martinez.

And a reminder that, coming up for our North American viewers, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Tom Foreman hosts "This Week at War." Don't miss it. "Late Edition" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The war funding fight, round two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: I really did expect that the president would accept some accountability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN A. BOEHNER, R-OHIO: The generals on the ground ought to be making decisions about how best to wage the war in Iraq, and not Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What will it take to reach a deal?

We'll ask the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, and Senator and Republican National Committee Chairman Mel Martinez.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: I think it's a bad foreign policy. It's not Republican. It's not conservative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul on why he's not toeing the party line.

Then, the new heat on President Bush's attorney general for the war funding fight. Analysis with the best political team on television.

Welcome back and thanks for joining us. I'm John King. Wolf is off today.

We'll talk Iraq, immigration, and more with Senators Carl Levin and Mel Martinez in just a moment. But first, we want to go to Iraq, where the U.S. military believes three soldiers abducted nine days ago in Iraq could still be alive. CNN's Arwa Damon is embedded with the military search party at Yusufiya. Arwa, tell us what you're learning.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, that search is still ongoing in all of its intensity, and still no sign of those three kidnapped soldiers.

Now, today we went out on one of the many missions that have been ongoing here around the clock.

We were with Charlie Company of the 4th Battalion, 31st infantry regiment. Now, they air-assaulted into a field close to the Dunabi Run (ph) Canal. That is a canal that leads from the Euphrates River to the village of Dunabi, a former Sunni insurgent stronghold.

The reason why they were at that location: because they received a tip from local farmers who said they had seen two heads floating down this canal.

Now, the U.S. military drained the canal, began that drainage some three days ago, and today Charlie Company went through searching not only the canal itself -- its level had dipped to about midway -- but also the reed line, looking for any sort of clues that they could possibly find.

What they did find was not exactly what they were looking for. They found sandbags in the canal. They found Dragunov snipers, spent rounds, up on the ridge line.

And then there was one moment where they found what they thought was the sole of an American boot. They sent a soldier into the river to drag out. And it was just a shoe.

These are very emotional times for the soldiers out here. In fact, the commander saying right afterwards that he didn't know if he was happy or relieved or sad that they hadn't found anything at all.

KING: Arwa, explain a little bit more on that point, the emotions of this involved, the morale of the men searching for these troops.

Are they getting more pessimistic as the days go on and they're not finding anything?

DAMON: Well, you know, most of the soldiers that I've been speaking to are saying that they are still clinging to hope. And they're absolutely determined that, no matter what, they will find their missing men.

Of course, everyone is clinging to the hope that they will find them alive. But I was speaking with one soldier who was actually wandering around late at night, at about two o'clock in the morning because he said he knew the three kidnapped soldiers very well and he wasn't able to sleep.

This is a really unspeakably difficult time for all of these men of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. KING: Arwa Damon, for us in Yusufiya, Iraq. Arwa, thank you very much. Remarkable and courageous reporting from Arwa Damon. Arwa, thank you.

Back here in Washington, in addition to taking on the immigration bill, the Congress is also trying to pass a new Iraq funding measure before adjourning for the Memorial Day recess. But efforts to reach a deal with the White House appear to have stalled.

Joining us to talk about all of this, two members of the United States Senate. In Detroit, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin of Michigan; and in Orlando, Senator Mel Martinez, who also is the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Senators, both, thank you for joining us on "Late Edition."

Let's start with the immigration debate. And I want to start with you, Senator Martinez, because of your joint role. You're not only the senator from the state of Florida. You're also the president's choice to be the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

And many say this is a recipe for political disaster, the president supporting this bill. I want to you listen to two quotes about it, one from Rush Limbaugh on his radio show this past week.

"It's the comprehensive 'destroy the Republican Party act.' And Republicans are too idiotic to figure out that's what this is."

And then a gentleman we just had on this program, Congressman Brian Bilbray of California, says Senator Martinez is operating off an illusion, and that is that somehow the Republican Party can flourish off of rewarding illegal behavior.

Senator, talk about the politics of this. The president is taking a risk. Conservatives in your party, many of them are outraged about this.

Is this the "destroy the Republican Party act?"

SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R), FLORIDA: No, it could be the saving of the Republican party, frankly. And to do nothing would be the wrong thing for the American people.

This is a time when we have to pull together. And every now and then, in Washington, we ought to be able to park bipartisanly for the good of the country.

That's what happened last week. I hope we can move the bill through the Senate this week. The politics of it are that, in fact, when you explain to people what it is we're trying to do, once people have an opportunity to understand what's in this bill, that it begins with border security, that nothing else happens until the border is secure, because we know there is a credibility gap about border security, and that then there's going to be an employment verification so that no one can work in this country that is working illegally.

This is a system that is going to bring immigration to legal means and not to the illegality we've had in the past.

It also forces those that are here, before they can remain, that they are in a probationary status, that they pay fines, that they learn English. That's going to be one of the requirements.

This is a comprehensive, complete bill that tries to solve a difficult problem. And I think, frankly, voters reward those who take tough issues and solve them. To those who criticize, I would ask, what is your solution?

KING: Well, Senator Levin, you heard Senator Martinez talking about -- obviously commenting on the pressure from the Right. The Right says this is amnesty. The Right says the president and people like Senator Martinez are selling out the Republican party.

Tell me about your phone calls from the Left of the political spectrum. What don't they like about this?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Well, we get phone calls from all over -- we're not sure, right or left or center.

But I think it would be wise for people to withhold judgment until it's better understood.

Senator Martinez is one of the negotiators. Any time there's a bipartisan proposal, it seems to me that's a positive step.

But in terms of the specifics, I'm going to withhold judgment myself because it's, like, a 300-page document, just delivered yesterday. A lot may happen on the Senate floor. And I think it's best to really consider the entire bill and understand it before I can make any conclusion about it.

KING: Well, let me ask you, philosophically, though, Senator Levin, in this bill, one of the things you would do is fundamentally change immigration policy instead of, as it says on the Statue of Liberty, you know, 'bring me your tired, your hungry, your poor,' it would say, bring me your doctors and highly educated.

Is that something we want to do, fundamentally change the philosophical approach to immigration in the United States?

LEVIN: Well, I think that's one of the troubling aspects of it, but also the fact that it does not promote family reunification and instead gives, apparently, a preference to those specific skills.

So that is a troubling feature of it. And it may be changed on the Senate floor.

KING: Senator Martinez, one of the big questions in this town is, does the president of the United States, who has pushed for this since taking office, to his credit, if you will, from a consistency standpoint, anyway, has pushed for this consistently from day one -- does he have the political capital, at this point, to deliver the Republican votes necessary that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said, based on the experience in the last campaign when Republicans, your party, pummeled Democrats on this issue, she won't bring it up unless the president comes to the table with 70 votes.

Does George W. Bush have the strength to deliver Republican votes at this moment in his presidency?

MARTINEZ: Well, I think the president has been very consistent, as you indicate, and the fact is that he is very committed to this bill. You had, earlier, two Cabinet secretaries who have been doing yeoman's work, pushing the bill forward.

So his leadership has gotten us, in part, to where we are today. Now what we need to do is to sell it to House members -- obviously, the Senate first -- but also to House members, explaining what is good about this bill, how it does change the dynamics of immigration to where it's more of a merit system. It also includes a family reunification to it, which is also important.

I mean, I well understand, in my own skin, what it's like to immigrate to America and also to be separated from family and the joy of reunification.

So all of these considerations -- this is very difficult work, and that's why it's been so difficult to accomplish it.

I think the president's leadership has been crucial so far to get us to where we are. I think he'll continue to be pitching forward to try to get us over the finish line. It's very important to him. He understands how important it is to our country.

I think he's got a great phrase, where he's saying that, "without amnesty or animosity," and it's very important that, as this debate unfolds, we keep that in mind, that we keep the animosity out of it and try to do something that's good for the country.

KING: Let's turn the corner to the very difficult debate of coming up with a plan to fund the war in Iraq that, at least, addresses the Democratic Party's concerns that the president needs to change course in Iraq.

Senator Levin, you are a key player in this debate, as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And many see what they view simply as this political game going on in Washington, where Democrats keep passing things they know the president will not accept.

Is it a political stunt to keep passing timelines, to keep trying to pass resolutions that you know the president has already vetoed? Why not just send the president a bill and tell your base in the Democratic party, look, we can't get these things now. We will deal on it in the future.

LEVIN: Well, last November was not a stunt. Last November was a democratic election. The American people said, change course in Iraq, and that's what Democrats are determined to do. The president will not change course. He's been stuck on the course he's on. He says, basically, stay the course. It's been an open-ended commitment to the Iraqis.

And if he can't change the course, and apparently he won't, then Congress has got to try to do it. It's not a matter of keep him sending something. We've sent him one bill.

That bill provided a timeline just to begin to reduce American forces in Iraq in 120 days. The president said in his veto message that he will not be bound by a timeline, so now what we've proposed to the president is, OK, we will say what we believe in, which is that we should begin to reduce American troops in 120 days. But we will give you a waiver so that you are not bound by that.

And so the president apparently on Friday told the Democratic leaders he will not sign a bill even though he is not obligated to carry out the timeline, even though he has a waiver, even though he is not bound as he was in the bill that he vetoed. He still would veto this kind of a bill that gives him that waiver. I think that is a totally unsustainable position.

As a matter of fact, the chief of staff of the president said that there is no significant difference between the bill that he vetoed, which had a binding timeline to begin reduction and another bill which is being proposed which would have a provision in it that starts the reduction in 120 days but allows the president to waive that binding feature.

For the chief of staff of the president of the United States to say there is no difference between something which binds the president and something which the president can waive and is therefore nonbinding, I find to be totally incredible, incomprehensible. I don't think it's sustainable, and I hope that we will send the president a bill which he should sign because it will provide funding for the troops and gives him the authority to waive the feature that he doesn't like.

KING: Senator Levin, I want to stay with you for a minute, because the Democrats can't pass a timeline. Whether you agree or disagree, the chief of staff has said the president won't accept a timeline with a waiver provision.

So the debate will get back under heavy deadline pressure this week, and most believe in the end you will end up with something like Senator Warner, a key Republican, proposed this past week, benchmarks on the Iraqi government that could have some sanctions, if you will, cutting off economic aid or other aid to Iraq. Specifically tell me what benchmarks will you push if that's where the debate is headed.

LEVIN: Well, we've been pushing benchmarks for a long time. But we've been pushing benchmarks with consequences. The Iraqis themselves have adopted benchmarks on sharing power, sharing resources, having provincial elections. They adopted those timelines. They have not carried out the commitments they made in those timelines. Providing timelines have real consequences, then it seems to me that's fine. That puts pressure on the Iraqi leaders.

But the Warner timelines, first of all, had no significant consequences. Therefore, if you put timelines in without significant consequences, all you're doing is -- it's a delaying action.

Instead of putting pressure on the Iraqi leaders, it takes the pressure off the Iraqi leaders. And what we've got to do is keep the pressure on the Iraqi leaders, and the only way to do it is to tell them we're going to begin to reduce our presence in 120 days.

KING: All right, gentlemen, I need you both to stand by. Senators Carl Levin and Mel Martinez, we're going to take a quick break. But ahead on "Late Edition," more on the politics of funding the war in Iraq and on the president's attorney general. "Late Edition" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm John King reporting from Washington. Wolf is away today.

We're talking with Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Senator Mel Martinez of Florida. Senator Martinez, I want to come back to you with what we were discussing with Senator Levin just before the break, which is the Iraq war funding debate and the politics of that debate.

As we told at the top, you are not only the senator from the state of Florida, you are the general chairman of the Republican National Committee. The president is getting a message from Republicans in Congress, who say they want to stand with him, but they need to see more accountability from the Iraqi government.

Tell us today, sir, what specific benchmarks do you think the president needs to accept so that you can tell the voters not only of your state but as you travel the country for your party that we are going to demand progress from the Iraqi government that I think everybody in both parties would concede has simply not performed up to what it needs to do just yet.

MARTINEZ: Well, first and foremost, we must move forward with the only thing that has had bipartisan support, which has been the Warner amendment. The warner language passed the Senate and it had Republicans and Democrats voting for it. It does require certain accomplishments by the Iraqi government.

What we have to understand is that at the end of the day, John, this is about how we succeed in Iraq. The president's new policy in Iraq is beginning to meet with some success. In Ramadi, al Anbar Province, some fairly startling results are taking place. In Baghdad itself, we see some success. General Petraeus has a plan in place, and I think we need to give that some time until we see the outcomes before we begin to have a deadline for troop withdrawals. I don't think it's any question that Republicans and Democrats, all Americans, want to see our troops come home. At the end of the day, we need to do so in a way that allows the United States to have the appearance of some success in Iraq, which is for the Iraqi government to get its act together. No question we have to put pressure on them.

But what I think is unsustainable is to take a break on Memorial Day and after 100 days not have passed a funding bill for our troops. We've got to fund our troops, and there is a way to do it. The Warner amendment is the language that the president will accept, that has had bipartisan support, and the way to get this done.

KING: But the Warner amendment is a far shift from where the Republican party would have been a year or so ago, sir. There is increasing frustration, is there not, in your party that the Iraqi government has not performed and that perhaps the Bush White House has not been tough enough in getting it to perform?

MARTINEZ: Well, I don't think it's any question that the Iraqi government hasn't performed. I think there's been plenty of pressure placed on them, and these things are difficult to do. They're a new democracy. Their government has only been in place less than a year still.

We have a 200-year democracy. We can't even get our funding troops -- funding for our troops done. So, democracy is a difficult thing, and they do have much to do and much to learn, but there's no question the administration is putting pressure on them to succeed.

Our ambassador in Baghdad, that is his job, Ambassador Crocker. And by all measures, he's a person who does a great job at this, and General Petraeus as well. It is difficult for them. They need to get their act together. There's no question about that.

And if we can give them a little breathing space with a little more protection from our troops on the ground, maybe that will be the ingredients they need in order to get it done.

KING: Let me move on to another political controversy here in Washington and across the country, and that is the credibility or lack thereof, some would say, of the president's attorney general, Alberto Gonzales. Senator Levin, two of your Democratic colleagues in the Senate this week said they wanted to have a vote of no confidence on the floor of the United States Senate.

That works in a parliamentary system, where you have a vote of no confidence, and you can get a minister to step down or resign. Is that the right way to approach this in the United States Senate, to have a vote of no confidence in the attorney general even though that has no effect under the law, if you will?

LEVIN: Well, it will have a big effect, I hope, on the president if the Senate votes a no confidence resolution in the attorney general. He's supposed to head the Department of Justice. He has perpetrated an injustice on the U.S. attorneys around this country.

It's time for him to go. He should have been gone a long time ago. If there is such a resolution of no confidence, I'm surely going to vote for it. I think a number of Republicans will.

And if the president decides to ignore that expression, he has a right to do that because it's not a parliamentary system. But we have a right to express our position on the attorney general just the way we do on Iraq. We have a right to express our position. I hope we continue to do that because Iraqi leaders have had four years. That's plenty of breathing space.

KING: Senator Martinez, I want to ask you about this point. Senator Levin mentioned the controversy over the firing of the U.S. attorneys. That is not the only credibility question that has come up about the memory, the recollections, and the performance of Alberto Gonzales.

He told the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 6th, 2006, talking about the terrorist surveillance program, the wireless wiretapping program, Attorney General Gonzales said this: "There has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed."

And yet his former deputy, James Comey, came before the very same committee just this past week and talked about how when Alberto Gonzales was still the White House counsel, they went to the hospital when then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was sick, trying to get him to approve this program. Listen to former Deputy Attorney General James Comey here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was very upset. I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So the attorney general tells the very same committee there was no controversy, no disagreement about the program. The man who was deputy attorney general at the time thinks they were trying to bully a very sick man. Does Alberto Gonzales have the credibility of the Congress, sir, to stay on in that job?

MARTINEZ; Well, the credibility he needs is that of the president. He works at the pleasure of the president. The Senate confirmed him, and now he works at the pleasure of the president.

I understand that there's some unhappiness. But I'll tell you what, there's been a lot of politics. We need to have a Congress that is more focused on getting things done, like funding for our troops, like passing an immigration bill, like so many of the things that are languishing, so much touted.

A minimum-wage bill still to be passed. And what we've been focusing on under the Democratic leadership in the Congress is investigations, some more investigations, rather than get the people's business done. The president is the one who needs to make a judgment about Alberto Gonzales.

He is the one who for whom Alberto Gonzales works and I, for one, frankly, I happen to know the man. I think he's an honorable man. Certainly he's made some mistakes, but at the end of the day, he works at the pleasure of the president. The president is the one that needs to decide if he has the confidence of the attorney general. As long as he has it, he ought to remain on the job.

KING: Gentlemen, we need to end it there for time constraints. But all of these debates will continue in the days and weeks ahead. We will touch base back with you. Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, gentlemen, thank you so much for your time today on "Late Edition."

And coming up, he's breaking ranks with his party over the war in Iraq. We'll talk with Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. President Bush and Congress at odds again over funding the war in Iraq. We'll talk about what it will take to break that stalemate with members of the best political team on television. Stay with "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to "Late Edition." There are some new developments in that shooting we're following in Moscow, Idaho. For the latest, let's go to Fredricka Whitfield at the "Late Edition" update desk. Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, John. A press conference took place just a little while ago and the assistant police chief explained how the bizarre events unfolded.

Late last night, an unidentified gunman opened fire at a sheriff's office and then took that same kind of technique of shooting just outside a courthouse. In the end, a civilian was shot and wounded, and two police officers were shot and wounded over a course of hours. But by this morning one of those police officers ended up dying.

Later on, police surrounded a church where it was believed this gunman was holed up. When they finally entered that church early this morning, they found two bodies, one believed to be the gunman with a rifle at his side. It's believed the other person who was found deceased inside that church may have been the lone resident of the church.

But still unclear exactly why this rampage took place in the first place. They don't know the identity yet of this alleged gunman, and police are simply trying to figure out why this had to happen and why in the end three people were killed, including the gunman, and two people injured there in Moscow, Idaho. John?

KING: Troubling story. We'll stay on it. Thanks very much, Fred. Up late on "Next Edition," he's taken on the maverick role in the Republican presidential field. We'll talk with Congressman Ron Paul about his candidacy. Stay with us. "Late Edition" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: The ten Republican presidential candidates squared off in South Carolina this week. And although he's languishing in the polls, Texas Congressman Ron Paul managed to grab a big share of the attention.

He joins us now live from Houston.

Congressman Paul, thanks for joining us. Let's show our viewers right away the moment in that debate which captured so much attention and became such a flashpoint. You were speaking, and the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, jumped in. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: They attack us because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for ten years.

GIULIANI: That is an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've ever heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Congressman Paul, the mayor asked you to withdraw that statement, and you did not. I want to walk through that. You firmly believe, sir, that because of U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, including the first Persian Gulf war, that we invited, is that -- would that be the word you would use, we invited the 9/11 attacks?

PAUL: Well, it's not so much like it's a subjective belief. It's just an evaluation of the facts. If you study the people who understand the Middle East, like Michael Scheuer and others, and look at the 9/11 Commission report, that's the evidence they provide that was one of the excuses.

One of the strongest statements for the position I hold comes from no other than Paul Wolfowitz, who said right after we invaded Iraq that this was a major, major event because we could take our troops out of Saudi Arabia, recognizing that was the motivation for recruiting for Al Qaida and their motivation for their hatred toward us. So there's a lot of evidence.

I don't think we should deal with the subjective. I think we should deal with the objective position of whether or not those who really understand the Middle East support what I had said.

KING: Well, let me ask you more broadly about your views on foreign policy then. Obviously, you believe the United States should have a limited role in the world, especially in terms of projecting military force. So, if Kim Jong Il rolled south into South Korea today, should the United States intervene?

PAUL: Well, it depends on what the Congress says. We certainly shouldn't do what we did in -- under the Truman administration, go in under our U.N. resolution. You go to the Congress and find out if it's a threat to our national security. I personally would think right now that it isn't a threat to our national security.

I want to make a point, though, that if we weren't over there, I think Korea would be unified like South Vietnam or Vietnam is unified. They have railroads now opened up between the two. They want to share information.

KING: Let me jump in. I don't want to solve the problems of the Korean peninsula today. I do want to get your views on foreign policy. Let me give you another example. If China took back Taiwan today, you say go to the Congress, or does the president not have the authority as commander in chief?

PAUL: Absolutely he does not have the authority. Where does he get it? You can't go to war without Congressional approval. And that's not a threat to our national security. That's something internal affairs. Why should we send hundreds of thousands of Americans to die in a civil war?

I mean, are we over in Russia right now over Chechnya? I mean, it wouldn't make any sense. Did we go to war over Hong Kong?

We should follow the Constitution and the advice of the founders. Don't go looking for dragons to slay. I mean, why should we go and provoke and look for trouble? We should talk to people, negotiate, be diplomatic and trade with people.

We do much better trading with Vietnam than we did with fighting with them, and we lost 60,000 men there. It makes so much common sense and is so appealing to the majority of Americans. Let me tell you, I really believe that.

KING: You have received some criticism. Some say you are the person who doesn't belong in a Republican debate. You were a past libertarian candidate for president, of course. You have views that are out of what many would think of the mainstream, at least in today's Republican Party.

I want to read you some of the criticism that came out after this last debate and ask you to respond to the politics of it. These are some comments made of your performance. Here's Roger Simon writing in The Politico: "In terms of the presidency, nobody cares what Ron Paul says, perhaps not even Ron Paul."

Gloria Borger writing in U.S. News and World Report: "Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who gives new meaning to the question asked by Ross Perot's former running mate, Admiral James Stockdale: 'Who am I? Why am I here?' " And in The Daily News of New York, an editorial: "Ron Paul, whose performance Tuesday proved him the Sanjaya of the political arena."

What do you make of the critics who say, why is this guy in a Republican debate? If he wants to run, run as the Libertarian. PAUL: Well, I would ask you why you pick out three when I could find you probably 1,000 that contradict exactly what you say. I would say that I'm more Republican than they are. The Republican tradition is always to win on the peace position.

Democrats have always won or, you know, got us into war. We got out of Korea with Eisenhower. We got out of Vietnam with, eventually, with Nixon. We ran on a peace program in the year 2000. No world policemen, no nation-building, humble foreign policy.

Peace is a positive message, not a negative message. You don't win by -- politically, you don't win. There's a strong tradition of non-intervention in the Republican Party. That is the American position. That is the constitutional position. That is the very strong advice from the founders.

So when they attack me and say, silence Ron Paul, they're saying silence the constitution, silence the advisers, the founders of the country, silence our platform, close down the big tent, make it narrow. And as long as you agree with a foreign policy that is failing, then it's OK to be a Republican. I don't buy into that, and neither do the American people.

KING: Let me jump into what comes next. You're about 1 percent in the polls, and many say, whether they agree or disagree with your views, there are many who say at some point you need to have fewer candidates on the stage for these debates to be meaningful.

The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party says he's going to try to get you -- and perhaps others, but you specifically -- pushed out of future debates. He said of you: "I think he would have felt more comfortable on the stage with the Democrats in what he said last night and I think he is a distraction in the Republican primary, does not represent the base of the party, does not represent the party."

That's Saul Anuzis, the chairman of the Republican Party in the state of Michigan, who says, among other things, he thinks you don't deserve a spot on the stage. Will you continue to be in the Republican debates and at some point, forget your name for a second, forget your candidacy, should they be winnowed down to fewer candidates?

PAUL: Well, why do you pick that statement that has been discredited and removed? The chairman of the Michigan party now has withdrawn that. He has given up on that.

Why don't you let the people decide? Why do you want to eliminate democracy? Why stomp out the grassroots candidate and only reward those with $100 million that get money from the special interests? That's not very democratic.

I support the Republican platform better than any other candidate, I am convinced of. Take out the platform. They're for less government. They're for personal liberty.

We ran on our program in 2000 for a humble foreign policy. How can anybody say I'm not Republican? I'm the most conservative member of the Congress. I vote for the least amount of spending and the least amount of taxes, and they say I'm not Republican enough?

I mean, why don't you challenge that side rather than challenging me and feed into the frenzy that say get rid of the reporter, get rid of the person delivering the information rather than dealing with the information. Non-intervention is a real political victory. We cannot win as Republicans next year if we just continue to dig our heels in, send more men and women over there to die on a policy that has failed.

That is the issue. Republicans are scared to death to face up to the truth. And my job is to make them face up to it and show them that the majority of Americans are with me, not with the current foreign policy that we're following.

KING: Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, Republican candidate for president. Low in the polls but certainly shaking and stirring things up in the Republican race. Congressman, thanks for joining us today on "Late Edition."

And up next, we'll hash out the immigration bill, the war funding fight and the race for the White House with Dana Bash and Joe Johns, part of the best political team on television. And a reminder that the candidates debate in their first real battleground live from New Hampshire, right here on CNN. The Democrats battle on CNN on June 3rd. The Republicans battle right here on CNN June 5th. No holds barred.

You're watching "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to "Late Edition." A familiar view, there, of the White House. The immigration bill, the Iraq war funding fight and, of course, the race for the White House -- a lot to sort through.

Let's get right to it with CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash and Joe Johns, who has spent more than -- he probably doesn't want to count how many days he's spent on Capitol Hill. Do you, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Both part of the best political team on television. Let's start with the immigration debate, which was a big story on Capitol Hill this past week.

I was surprised, when we had Congressman Brian Bilbray on the program earlier -- he said he thinks it actually could pass, Dana, if the Chamber of Commerce or the Republican business interests get involved in this.

Take us behind the scenes, in terms of -- you have such disparate groups, liberals, conservatives, trying to work out the deal. They have what they call a grand compromise, although it is under attack from all sides.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Immediately -- i mean, the minute they came out, not only did the negotiators expect the attacks; they actually got the attacks.

You saw, immediately, the word -- you were talking about it with the guests you had on earlier -- "amnesty." You heard that immediately. And they all expect that. They knew that.

But what is going to be very interesting is Senator Mitch McConnell, the ranking Republican, the leader Republican, said this morning that he thinks this is going to take two weeks of debate.

So what that means is, at the end of this week, senators are going to go home for Memorial Day recess.

And, Joe, you know what happens when people go home. They get absolutely pummeled by the extremes on both sides, on this issue. So that will really perhaps change the dynamic of how this debate is going to go. Because they're going to spend a week home and be talking to constituents about this incredibly emotional issue.

JOHNS: You were talking about how long I've been around.

(LAUGHTER)

This, sort of, feels like the 1996 welfare reform debate, where you have a situation where the Congress and the president -- it's a divided government, they want to get together and make some kind of a deal to show the folks back home that they're actually doing something; now, the issue is just, how do you do that?

A lot of people say the Republicans are just so divided on this thing, but I mean, if you look at the presidential race and Tom Tancredo, who's supposed to be the immigration candidate -- if it's the kind of thing that just destroys the party, why doesn't he have more traction?

So maybe there is a possibility out there.

KING: But this is difficult politics...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Excuse me for interrupting -- very difficult politics -- because the Democrats run the show now. But Nancy Pelosi is speaker not because of a whole bunch of liberals from California and New York but because of eight or 10 conservative Democrats who ran in the last election campaign in which they said they would never vote for amnesty.

So what are her politics right now?

BASH: Yes, I was thinking about this as the discussion came up about not only how this is going to get through the Senate but what's going to happen in the House? I went out to Indiana during the last election, the last election campaign. Congressman Brad Ellsworth, who was then running against the incumbent Republican -- he ran on the issue of amnesty, among other things, and he won. He's a Democrat who won.

So what you have is the House speaker knowing full well that, as you said, she's got a lot of new Democrats who ran almost like, quote, unquote, "Republicans" on the issue of immigration.

And she also knows that, in order to keep the House, she's got to worry about the emotional, volatile debate erupting once again in the next election. And that could hurt some Democrats.

KING: Negotiating these compromises, everyone goes behind closed doors. You have both spent a lot of time standing on those marble floors, waiting and waiting and waiting, for the big brown door to get open.

It can get colorful and combative back there. You were doing some reporting on this the other day. Here is The Washington Post take on a meeting in which Senator McCain apparently used some non- family-friendly language.

"At a bipartisan gathering in an ornate meeting room just off the Senate floor, Senator McCain complained that Senator Cornyn was raising petty objections to a compromise plan. McCain used a curse word associated with chickens... Things got heated... Then Cornyn accused McCain of being too busy campaigning for president to take part in the negotiations, which have gone on for months behind closed doors... '[Expletive] you! I know more about this than anyone in the room," shouted McCain at Cornyn.

(LAUGHTER)

A certain expletive not included in that.

These things happen from time to time. But John McCain, particularly, many people question, Joe -- is this guy maybe a little too hot sometimes?

Does he have much of a temper?

JOHNS: Well, he does have a bit of a temper. And a lot of people say they'd like to see more of that on the campaign trail, in fact. Because it seems like John McCain is at his best when he's angry about something.

So this immigration debate -- the one thing a lot of people don't talk about is the fact that Ted Kennedy has been so involved in this bill for such a long time, and now you, sort of, see this, kind of, Kennedy-McCain alliance, which creates problems for McCain because he's trying to show that he has, you know, some conservative rights to be in this race.

And if you're working on a bill with Ted Kennedy who is, sort of, the liberal lion of the Senate, it creates friction for him. So there's a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes there.

KING: I know you were struck by the moment. They come out for the compromise. They line up behind that big dais in the briefing room up there in the Senate. You can pick where you stand. And there is John McCain right over the shoulder of Teddy Kennedy, coming soon to a Mitt Romney ad near you.

BASH: Exactly. And that's exactly right. And that's why it was so surprising. Because John McCain's been around. He gets that imagery is so critical in politics. And he stood right behind Ted Kennedy.

Already, even before they struck this compromise, you heard Mitt Romney on the campaign trail, pounding away at John McCain for working with Ted Kennedy last year on this immigration bill.

So John McCain understands how incredibly hurtful this could be to him politically that he's involved in this compromise.

That is very likely why we know what happened behind the scenes with this eruption between John McCain and John Cornyn. I should point out that most of that has been confirmed, that, as some people say, that he didn't actually say, I know more about this than anyone in the room, but the expletives certainly did happen, we're told.

But for John McCain, he understands that going out and campaigning in a Republican primary among Republican caucus voters, that this is going to potentially hurt him.

That is why you already saw him start to pivot last week, knowing this compromise is going to happen saying that politics is the art of compromise, and you need somebody who isn't just going to appeal to the extremes, so to speak, but somebody who is going to be able to come to Washington and strike deals. And that's the way he's going to be able to -- or try to spin this.

KING: Another compromise and a deal that Washington is supposed to strike in the week ahead is how to fund the war in Iraq and perhaps or perhaps not deal with the Democratic concerns.

Let's listen to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This is in an interview -- this is earlier today on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." Let's listen to the House speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: One thing is for sure. By the time we leave here to honor our war veterans and those who have given their lives for our country, on Memorial Day weekend, we will have legislation to fund the troops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We'll have legislation, Dana Bash, she says, within the next couple of days. If the Democrats have known all along they can't pass the timelines, then why not just send the president a bill with some benchmarks and have done it two or three weeks ago?

Why do they keep coming up with timelines, timelines, maybe timelines with waivers? Why?

BASH: You know, a Democratic senator pulled me aside late last week and said something very interesting -- I think it was really telling -- to answer that question.

He said, this is political foreplay. These are Democrats making clear to their key and core constituencies, namely the very vocal, very staunch anti-war base, that we are at least trying. We're working on it.

That's what another senior Democrat said. We're trying to do the best we can to hold our ground. But they know full well that, at the end of the day, despite the fact that they came out of this big meeting with the White House on Thursday, saying -- on Friday, I should say -- saying, you know, we tried; we tried to get a time line for withdrawal and the White House is saying, no; everything is no. They know that they're going to have to work on something that the president can sign. In fact, I can tell you that, over the weekend, Democrats are working on a bill that they are going to try to bring to the House floor on Tuesday that the president will sign.

KING: The president might get a bill he can sign, Joe, but he's going to get it after -- it's not just the Democrats. You have more and more Republicans saying we need accountability on the Iraqi government; we need the Iraqi government to do more. We might have benchmarks with some triggers on financial spending.

You had Mitch McConnell sitting right across this desk last week, saying, if the Iraqi government votes we should leave, well, we're happy to oblige and get out.

So There is a message for the president, even though he's likely to, quote, unquote, "win," in the sense of not get a bill with a timeline. Is there not?

JOHNS: Sure. And they're going to sit around. And they're going to watch and see what happens when General Petraeus reports to the Congress about the progress and so on.

And around September -- that's about the time when Republicans really start having a lot of power in this situation, when they're the people who are able to move the debate.

There's been some suggestion, even, that some of the Republicans from the Capitol Hill have gone down to the White House and told the president in person, look, there's going to be a certain point where we're going to start abandoning you. We'll hang on until we hear from Petraeus, but after that, all bets are off.

KING: OK, let's try to end on a light moment. We've been talking about these very weighty issues. If you go online right now, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to find a campaign theme song. I think we can listen a little bit to what she has up on her campaign Web site.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: Whatever song you choose, though, I make you this solemn and sacred promise.

(singing): For the land of the free...

I won't sing it in public, unless I win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Unless she wins. There's a promise we might hold her to.

(LAUGHTER)

All right. Here's a couple of the choices you get on the Web site. "City of Blinding Lights" by U2, "Suddenly I See," K.T. Tunstall, "I'm a Believer," Smash Mouth, the list goes on and on. Do you want to make a suggestion? Do you want to sing?

BASH: I definitely don't want to sing. I'll be with Senator Clinton on that one. "I'm a Believer" is not a bad one. I think she might want something a little more modern. Anything else on that list that we can choose from?

KING: "Right Here, Right Now." "I'll Take You There," the Staples Singers. You've been around a while. You got that one?

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNS: It seems like when I was out on the campaign trail with Kerry, I heard "Right Here, Right Now" an awful lot. So she probably doesn't want to do that. Definitely don't do "I Won't Back Down" because I heard that a lot. Anything that Kerry or somebody else has done, try to avoid that. Other than that, can't give you a suggestion.

KING: I went through "Coming to America" with Michael Dukakis many years ago. I think I was 9 years old covering that campaign.

Let me ask you a quick point, though. She's on the Web singing like that. Part of the questions about Senator Clinton is, does we have a personality? Does she have fun?

BASH: And that's exactly what that is trying to show. And there's no question about it. And you know, that's why you've seen some more articles lately trying to look at that question, and you've seen some of her supporters try to get out there and explain that, you know, what you see in public really isn't what you see in private. In private, she is somebody who is very quick, who is very witty, and that's exactly what you saw them try to do.

KING: Sorry to disappoint at home. Dana Bash and Joe Johns, part of the best political team on television, and two with the judgment not to sing on live television. Up next, in case you missed it, highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. Stay right there. "Late Edition" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's take a look now at what's on the cover of this week's major U.S. newsmagazines. Time has "The Last Temptation of Al Gore." Newsweek is "The Bill Factor." And U.S. News tells readers "How to Eat Safely." Up next, in case you missed it, "Late Edition's" Sunday morning talk-show roundup.

And coming up at the top of the hour for our North American viewers, "This Week at War" with host Tom Foreman looks at the situation on the ground for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. You won't want to miss it. Stay right there, though. "Late Edition" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: And now in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows. On "Meet the Press," former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and presidential candidate Chris Dodd sparred on the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: We are the most powerful nation in history, and we have more than enough assets to do this, and we ought to do what it takes to win, not tolerate legislating defeat.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.: Well, what you're suggesting -- first, it's terribly naive to assume that all of these things are going to happen with a government that even to this day can't even leave the green zone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: On ABC, Fox and CBS, talk turned to embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: This attorney general used to be the president's lawyer. I think he still thinks he is, but he isn't. He's the highest law enforcement officer in our country. He's a protector of the Constitution. And I think that he has not lived up to that responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES E. SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: The president can keep him. He has the constitutional power to do it, but we have the constitutional power to try to pressure the president to understand that Gonzales is no good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I don't believe there's any evidence of illegal behavior on the part of the attorney general. If the president wants to keep him in his job, I will work with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, R-PA.: You already have six Republicans calling for his resignation. I have a sense, Bob, before the vote is taken, that Attorney General Gonzales may step down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Highlights there from the other Sunday morning talk shows, right here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

As you know, if you watch this program regularly, it's difficult to pry Wolf away from "Late Edition." So, if he's not hosting the show, you know it's because of something very important.

Just a short while ago he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree from George Washington University here in Washington, and shared a bit of wisdom with the graduating class. Congratulating Wolf, Dr. Blitzer, and the graduating class of George Washington University.

And that's your "Late Edition" for Sunday, May 20th. Wolf will be back right here next Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. Until then, thanks for watching. Enjoy your Sunday. I'm John King in Washington.

For our international viewers, stand by for "World News." And for those of you here in North America, "This Week at War" with Tom Foreman starts right now -- Tom.

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