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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Bill Richardson; Interview With Mike Huckabee

Aired June 10, 2007 - 11:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
Immigration stalemate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLOS GUTIERREZ, COMMERCE SECRETARY: It's a controversial topic, but leadership is about fixing tough issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is the grand compromise dead? We'll talk with U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

Plus, perspective on immigration, Iraq and more from Democratic Senator Evan Bayh and Republican Senator Jon Kyl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: I would shut down Guantanamo. I would shut down Abu Ghraib and secret prisons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I'm selected as president of this country, they'll have one who believes in those words that God did create.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Fresh from their presidential debates, a conversation with Republican candidate Mike Huckabee and Democratic candidate Bill Richardson.

Then, the woman who would be president. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein on his new book, "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton."

"Late Edition's" lineup begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer. BLITZER: It's 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 4:00 p.m. in London, and 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition." We'll talk about the collapse of the immigration reform bill with the commence, secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, in just a moment.

First though, President Bush is wrapping up a state visit to Albania. And earlier today, he had some blunt words once again for the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. She's traveling with the president in Tirana.

Suzanne, tell our viewers what happened today.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was really unlike anything I've seen in covering the president the last five years. The crowds, showing support, really just mobbed him. They were screaming, they were shouting, they were trying to touch his face.

The president at one point jumping on the vehicle, blowing kisses. There was an incredible amount of support here for President Bush and this administration. He met with the prime minister earlier today. And one of the key issues they talked about was Kosovo independence. Albania is in support of it, the U.S. is backing it, but Russia is against that idea.

So President Bush is trying to push forward a U.N. Security Council resolution to make all of this happen and make it happen quickly. But what was apparent today was that there is a very delicate diplomatic dance that is going on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, I don't think I called for a deadline. I thought I said time -- what exactly did I say? I said deadline? OK. Yes. Then I meant what I said.

(LAUGHTER)

The question is whether or not there is going to be endless dialogue on a subject that we have made up our mind about. We believe Kosovo ought to be independent. The G-8 discussions were all aimed at determining whether or not there is a way to make this acceptable to Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, the next step, obviously, is to see if they can get a vote in the U.N. Security Council. But as I said, mentioned before, Russia has veto power as one of those permanent members, so it could derail the whole process. We'll see how all of that plays out. But Albania, a very critical ally for the president with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and also a predominantly Muslim country in this area -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The first visit by a U.S. sitting president to Albania. Thanks very much, Suzanne Malveaux, covering this story for us. Back here in Washington, after early high hopes, the immigration reform deal is now in shambles. But supporters are vowing to try to revive and push the measure through. One of the president's point men on the issue is Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

Mr. Secretary, welcome back to "Late Edition."

GUTIERREZ: Good morning, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Is this immigration reform bill dead?

GUTIERREZ: This bill is alive and well, and we are more determined than ever to get it through. What happened is just a break, and people want more debate. They want a little bit more time. We probably need a couple of days more, I understand, from the senators.

But we are more determined than ever because this is the right thing for our country. We've got to get this through. The status quo is just unsustainable. It's dysfunctional. So, no, this is alive and well. And we are determined, more determined than ever.

BLITZER: Because you and the Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff were really on the Hill helping to put this deal together. You were the point men for the White House, for the Bush administration. The president was off in Europe at the G-8. What is he personally going to do to try to revive this immigration reform bill?

GUTIERREZ: Well, from the very beginning, the president has led on this issue and he has been committed to solving this problem ever since he was governor of Texas because this is a problem that's been going on for 10, 20 years since the 1986 bill. I think the question is, what is the Senate going to do?

BLITZER: Will he go up on the Hill? Will he use his influence and twist arms, especially Republican arms, to get this measure through? Because, as you know, there was a lot of opposition among your fellow Republicans.

GUTIERREZ: Well, I don't know precisely what the schedule of the president is. But as he has been doing all along, I am sure he will show great leadership on this issue. And this is an issue for leadership. It's very easy to talk about the little tweaks and the things that people don't like. The real challenge is to stand up and say, "This is the right thing for our country and we've got to get this done."

BLITZER: Here's what Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a fierce opponent of your bill, what you and Senator Kennedy and Senator McCain and Senator Kyl -- what all of you would like to see done. He's an opponent, and here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R-ALA.: This is not a good piece of legislation. It really needs to be redrafted. They came at it with some new principles that sounded good, but when everything got compromised out, it just didn't meet those ideals. I think we need to start over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. He says you need to start over from scratch, basically. What do you say to Senator Sessions?

GUTIERREZ: I have a great deal of respect for Senator Sessions, but I disagree. I think this is the right piece of legislation. You know what people are missing here? We've got to get this word out, is that this is first and foremost a national security bill.

People talk about, "Well, just go ahead and enforce the law." The reality is that our laws are insufficient. The law is weak. And this bill makes the law stronger. So first and foremost, it is a national security bill. And that's the word we've got to get out. That's why we need to pass this bill. If we believe in national security, this is the right bill.

BLITZER: Well, should employers who hire illegal immigrants be punished? Because right now, that's against the law, right?

GUTIERREZ: Well, absolutely they should be punished. And we need to have -- first of all, we need to have the systems in place to make it mandatory that they verify that they can hire certain employees. And if they hire an illegal worker, they should be punished. And that's what this bill is all about.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But that law is on the books right now.

GUTIERREZ: Well, there is a law on the book. It's not strong. And there's -- you know, the employer is not allowed to ask certain questions and the employer must accept a certain amount of documentation. It's a very broad group.

With this bill, it's one biometric card. There is a mandatory employee verification system. This is first and foremost good for national security. That's the word we've got to get out.

BLITZER: Here is what Rudy Giuliani, a Republican presidential candidate, arguably the front-runner right now, an early supporter of immigration reform, but lately he's been a fierce critic of what you have in mind. Listen to what he said at the Republican debate in New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem with this immigration plan is it has no real unifying purpose. It's a typical Washington mess. It's everybody compromises, four or five compromises and the compromises leave you with the following conclusion. The litmus test you should have for legislation is, is it going to make things better? And when you look at these compromises, it is quite possible it will make things worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Those are strong words from the former mayor of New York. "It is quite possible it will make things worse."

GUTIERREZ: The unifying purpose of this legislation is national security. It's enabling us to know who is in our country, who is working, who has the right to work and who shouldn't be in our country. And that is the legislation throughout. And that is what we've got to get out.

This is a national security bill, and we've got to fix it. We've got to fix the system. Our laws are insufficient. So when people say, "Just go ahead and enforce the laws," it's a nice bumper sticker, it's a nice one-liner, but this is more complex than that.

BLITZER: Well, explain how this bill, if it becomes the law of the land, will strengthen national security?

GUTIERREZ: Well, I'll give you two examples. One is, of course, we've got a lot of work going on at border and just a lot of infrastructure and a lot of money.

BLITZER: Building a new fence -- is that what you're talking about?

GUTIERREZ: Well, a fence, towers, aerial surveillance, people, more jail cells -- you name it, it's going against the border. But the big thing -- the big thing -- is that there's a biometric card that cannot be forged, cannot be tampered with. That's the card that workers must have, and that's the card that employers must ask for.

And there will be a mandatory employee verification system, a database that employers must access before they hire someone. That is night and day from where we are today where people use all kinds of documentations.

There is a voluntary, basic pilot verification system and there are stiff penalties for not obeying the law. So this is -- essentially it's a new law, a new, tougher law. The current law is insufficient.

BLITZER: Are you ready to live with one of the amendments that passed that would reduce the number of guest workers from 400,000 a year to 200,000 a year? Byron Dorgan, among others, was pushing for that. The AFL-CIO wanted to reduce the number. Is that acceptable to the administration?

GUTIERREZ: Well, we'll have to see what the senators decide and how they vote.

I will say one thing, that one of the problems of the 1986 bill is that we did not have a temporary workers program. And because we did not have that, that void was filled with illegal immigration.

BLITZER: You want a temporary worker program?

GUTIERREZ: Of course we do.

BLITZER: But is 200,000 enough? The business community thinks 400,000 would be more applicable.

GUTIERREZ: Well, 400,000 was in the original bill. We believe 400,000 is the right number. And not only that, but we need an escalator so if we need more, we are able to increase it. If we need less, we can reduce it. But we shouldn't be tampering with these numbers. And we've looked at these numbers, and there's a reason why there's 400,000 in the original bill.

BLITZER: One of the complaints that you heard from Democrats by and large was that, let's say you've got 400,000. They can come in for two years. Then they have to go back to their home countries for a year. Then they can come back here to the United States for two years. Then they have to go back.

It sounds, at least from the employers, from the business, and you are a businessman, you come from that area, this is sort of inefficient. You train somebody for two years, they've got to go back and wait a year before they come back and continue doing the job they're doing. Is this acceptable to you?

GUTIERREZ: Well, one of the things we wanted to do is ensure that temporary was equal to temporary, not that temporary would lead to permanent, and that we'd have the same problem that we had today. So, you know, these are low-skilled jobs. We've looked at -- the average turnover is about 1.8 years, so it's not as if, though, the two years is unreasonable.

But this is a detail. This is a tactic. I think the big picture is, we have a bill here that will strengthen national security, that will improve our economy, that will make us a stronger society.

And if somebody has a problem with some of the tactics and the clerical issues and details, let's debate them. But we should not walk away and keep the status quo. Walking away from this bill suggests that we are comfortable with the status quo. And I think that's a big mistake.

BLITZER: Do you think that if Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, would have allowed the debate to go on for another few days, they could have gotten a bill through the Senate?

GUTIERREZ: Oh, I believe so. I believe...

BLITZER: Because he was arguing the Republican opponents were simply looking for an excuse. They were coming up with all sorts of amendments simply to try to kill this as any way they could.

GUTIERREZ: I believe so. I believe the votes were there. And I think some senators felt they needed more time, and some amendments that did not get their due hearing. But, oh, I have no doubt. This is going to go through because it's the right bill.

And you know, Wolf, I think this is a time -- it's an interesting time because we are going to see meters emerge. Leaders who say we understand that this is controversial, but this is good for our country. And it may not be in my personal interest because I'm taking a risk, but it's good for our nation.

And we're seeing those leaders emerge throughout the Senate. The president has been there all along. And I think it's a very exciting time to watch how people handle this.

BLITZER: Senator Kyl's going to be on the show. He's a Republican. He was one of the leaders I think you're talking about. But among the Republican presidential candidates, John McCain was taking that position, but almost all of the others were totally opposed to this immigration reform bill, including Mitt Romney.

And I'm going to play for you a clip of what he said at the Republican debate. Again, even though earlier in his political career and the recent past, he was much more open to what you have in mind. Listen to Governor Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every illegal alien, almost every one, under this bill gets to stay here. That's not fair to the millions and millions of people around the world that would love to come here, join with family members, bring skill and education that we need. It's simply not fair to say those people get put ahead in the line of all the people who have been waiting legally to come to this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's referring to the 12 million or so illegal immigrants right now who would almost quickly, almost automatically become eligible for these new so-called Z visas that would legalize their status here in the United States. He says that's unfair.

GUTIERREZ: Well, it would legalize their status. And they would not have eligibility for welfare, for food stamps, for Medicaid. It would simply allow them to work. And if they ever, ever wanted to apply for a green card, they'd have to get in the back of the line. They have to pay a fine. They have to undergo a criminal background check.

This is practical, and it's realistic. Now, of course, we can find something that is imperfect or that we could do better or that perhaps may not be as fair as we would like it to be, but the important thing is the big picture. Our country needs this. And we've got to get this done because, I'll tell you, Wolf, the status quo concerns me.

You know, more time with the status quo, and we're going to have a lot of troubles in our country that we don't deserve. We need to move forward this legislation. And you mentioned Senator Kyl. He has been courageous, a great leader, Senator McCain, Senator Kennedy.

Senators throughout the body have shown a great deal of courage. And I think this is a time of courage and leadership. It's fascinating and exciting to see them emerge.

BLITZER: Carlos Gutierrez is the secretary of commerce. Thanks for coming in, Mr. Secretary.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: And just ahead, what will it take to break the Senate's immigration impasse? One of the bill's architects, we've just been talking about him, Republican Senator Jon Kyl, he's stand buy to join us. And Democratic Senator Evan Bayh. They'll give us their take on what's going on.

Plus, our special conversation with two presidential candidates running hard to try to break away from the pack. Democrat Bill Richardson and Republican Mike Huckabee. And for our North American viewers, coming up right after "Late Edition" at 1 p.m. Eastern, Tom Foreman and the best political team on television sort out the week's "Raw Politics."

You can hear what the Democratic presidential front runners, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, have to say about faith, values and politics in an encore presentation hosted by our own Soledad O'Brien that airs tonight, 8 p.m. Eastern. And that's followed at 9 p.m. by the best of this week's Democratic and Republican presidential debates. Only here on CNN.

You're watching "Late Edition." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. With the immigration bill all but dead, at least for now, what will it take to revive the measure in the Senate?

We're joined now by Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. He's the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and one of the measure's key backers. Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana is also joining us. He's a member of the Senate Armed Services and Select Intelligence committees.

Senators, welcome both of you back to "Late Edition." Senator Kyl, we just heard the commerce secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, predict flatly that this bill will come back, it will pass. The president wants it to pass now more than ever. Is it doable?

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: It is doable. All we have to do on the Republican side is sit down with those who have amendments, get those amendments in a reasonable package, not too many, but enough so all of the members can say they had their chance. Get a time agreement on that so the majority leader knows how it fits in with his schedule.

And take that package to Harry Reid, the majority leader, and say, look, on a matter of such national significance, of historic importance, surely we can find two or three days in the Senate schedule to finish this bill. And I'm confident he'll agree that it is that important, and we can conclude it on those circumstances.

BLITZER: Senator Bayh, are you confident that Harry Reid will give this effort another shot, give it a few more days to see if they can pass comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Wolf, I think Harry will give it every chance. We've debated it for two weeks. There are a lot of other issues that have not been brought up. So he's shown that he's open-minded to getting the kind of meaningful compromise that Jon Kyl has worked so hard to bring about.

That won't be easy. Every time you try and enforce the borders more, you offend people on the left. Whenever you try and regularize the status of people, you offend folk whose want to enforce the border. So, yes, there's a possibility. But I don't think we should be naive about it. It's going to take hard work.

BLITZER: Is there a majority in the Senate -- let me rephrase it. Are there 60 United States senators, which you would need to brick a filibuster, that is in the middle of this? Not on the extreme left or the extreme right that is willing to maybe hold their noses a little bit and not get the perfect, but get a good enough bill that will pass?

KYL: I think so. And I want to make it clear that while I voted to allow my Republican colleagues more time to bring their amendments forth, they've had a good chance to do that. And they've now had several more days. And I'm ready to vote to limit the further debate if they don't come forward and give us the amendments that they want so that we can get it done.

Both sides have to cooperate in this. And I think if we do, there is that 60 votes in the middle that would be necessary to pass this. And I will work very hard to try to achieve it.

BLITZER: Are there 60 votes, do you believe, Senator Bayh, in the Senate that would limit debate after a few more days and let this comprehensive package come up for a final vote?

BAYH: I think there probably are, Wolf. It depends, frankly, on, you know, Jon's good efforts in his caucus. Because there were some who were objecting to even bringing up their own amendments. And that creates some internal problems. You've got...

BLITZER: But there were Democrats, too, who were...

BAYH: Well, there were Democrats, too. As I said... BLITZER: ... who didn't like a lot of the...

BAYH: ... as I said, both the right and left have problems with this. Those who are objecting to no more amendments or not having adequate amendments brought up tended to be more on the right. So, yes, I think there's a chance for 60 votes.

But it's going to take some hard work. And frankly, the secretary said Jon Kyl was a profile in courage. I think that's right. Mitch McConnell, some of the others are going to be put in a position of having to, you know, be firm with some of their own colleagues.

That's never an easy thing. But in this case, a necessary thing.

BLITZER: Are you taking a lot of grief back home in Arizona because of your stance?

KYL: In a word, yes.

BLITZER: Give us an example. Tell us what's going on.

KYL: Well, look, the bottom line is, our constituents are really frustrated with their government's inability to enforce the law. They have a right to be frustrated. Now, some of them expressed that in ways that kind of go over the top.

But the reality is, we work for them. And they have a right to hold us accountable. What we tried to do in this bill as much as possible, as the secretary said, is to make sure that now we will have a bill that is enforceable, that has the mechanisms for enforcement in it so we won't repeat the same mistakes of 1986, where we passed something but it couldn't be enforced.

BLITZER: Here's what Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, speaking of the 1986 amnesty bill that was passed during the Reagan administration, which legalized three or four million or whatever number at that time who were here in the country illegally, here's what he said this past week on Wednesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: There's no deterrence at all here. In fact, this is really a magnet, as we found from 1986, for future illegal entry into the United States. If people can get in any way they can and lay low long enough to wait then for Congress to pass another provision which says you pay a fine and you can become an American, I think that provides a magnet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Senator Bayh, do you want to respond to Senator Cornyn?

BAYH: Well, there are some legitimate concerns, Wolf, about what happened in the '80s, where we granted regular status to people who are here. There was the promise of enforcement. You pointed out in the previous interview that, really, the provisions against illegal employment have never been enforced. And there are some concerns that that might happen again.

So, some of us, myself included, have reached the judgment that first we need to put into place the security measures. Then you begin the process of bringing people out of the shadows. That way we can ensure both things are going to happen, not just one without the other.

BLITZER: You've heard the arguments, though, that a lot of people believe what was done in the '80s, in 1986, turned out in the end to be pretty good for the United States. Not perfect in that you had a whole new generation of Americans and their children now are productive citizens who work and pay their taxes.

And they're growing up to be real true-blue Americans. You've heard that argument that there wasn't anything bad done by that amnesty in '86.

KYL: I totally disagree. Respect for the rule of law is a fundamental principle of any successful society, and certainly a key to the American experience. And when people see the law being flouted every day and the government not enforcing the law, it corrodes society. It causes people to have a lack of confidence in their government.

Yes, there have been some benefits from workers, but we can achieve those benefits through a legal, temporary worker program. We don't have to rely on illegal immigrants. So, this is a situation that has to be fixed.

And if you are from a state like mine of Arizona, and you see the crime and the violence and the security issues and all the rest of it every day, you realize you can't sit by and do nothing.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

BAYH: Well, I agree with that, Wolf. It's a complex issue. It is going to take presidential leadership. Any time you've got an issue that is this difficult, the president has to step up. Frankly, Iraq is making that harder for him. He's invested so much capital in that.

And the final thing I'd say, Wolf, what we really need is an agenda for middle-class economic prosperity. Because our country has been a welcoming country. That's particularly so when economic times are reasonably good.

When there's economic anxiety like today, people get more concerned. So we've got to deal with health care and college costs and those kinds of things. Then people will feel more secure in dealing with an issue like immigration.

BLITZER: Does the president have the clout now, given his low job approval numbers, given what's going on in Iraq right now, does the president have the clout to bring onboard more Republicans -- forget about the Democrats -- Republicans to join you, Senator Kyl?

KYL: I think with the right message, he can help, especially at the margins. I would also like to add that I agree with Senator Bayh. One of the reasons why we create this temporary program here is that our workers, especially in the lower skills, are under a lot of pressure. Their wages have been depressed.

And we don't want to bring a whole lot of people in here permanently, causing them to lose employment or have their wages depressed. We want to be able to calibrate the temporary workers who are here to fit the economic circumstances so that our workers are not suffering.

BLITZER: You both speak about the need for border security. Duncan Hunter, who's running for president on the Republican side, a former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, he says what was promised already is not being done. Listen to what he said at the Republican debate in New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, R-CALIF.: 854 miles of double-border fence was mandated to be constructed. Homeland security has $1 billion cash on hand. It's been six months and they've done 11 miles. So this administration has a case of the slows. And I think they slowed the fence down so that they could come out with the amnesty at the same time, put the two together, and the Bush-McCain-Kennedy bill would then be accepted by conservatives and liberals alike. It's a bad bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, you want to respond? On the issue of the fence, I assume you support that?

KYL: I do. Duncan's a great friend. And it's true that neither this administration nor the past administration did enough to construct fence, hire border control and the like. We're trying to fix that in this bill. That's the whole point here.

We can't continue with what we've got. So with a friend like Duncan Hunter, I would ask, then help us to get something like this passed so that we can do what you want done. The status quo is not acceptable.

BLITZER: How worried are you, Senator Kyl, that this debate over immigration is tearing apart the Republican Party?

KYL: It hurts greatly. There is no political winner in this for us. Maybe we can get to it a neutral. That's not very good politics. But sometimes there are big problems that have to be addressed, and there's no political gain in it and maybe even political loss. You've got to do it, nonetheless. That's the way I view this problem.

BLITZER: And we're going to take a break, but quick prediction from both of you. Will immigration reform pass the U.S. Senate any time soon?

KYL; I believe it will before the 4th of July.

BLITZER: Before the 4th of July?

KYL: Yeah.

BAYH: Jon's a little more optimistic than I am. If the president steps in and leads, Wolf, better than 50-50. Without that kind of leadership, less than 50-50.

BLITZER: Well, he says he's going to step in. He gave his Saturday radio address on the subject.

BAYH: It'll take more than that.

BLITZER: He's coming back. He's going to meet Tuesday with the Republican leadership in the Congress. So, we'll see what happens.

Senators, stand by, because we have a lot more to talk about. We're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, we'll turn the corner. We'll get senators Kyl and Bayh to discuss the war in Iraq. Are things moving in the right or wrong direction?

And later, a safe lift-off, but some damage to the shuttle Atlantis is raising some potentially serious safety concerns. We're going to get a live update on the mission. All that coming up. This is a live picture that you're seeing right now, the space shuttle Atlantis.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

We're talking with the chairman of the Senator Republican Conference, Jon Kyl of Arizona; and Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, a member of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

Senators, let's talk about Iraq.

And, Senator Bayh, I'll start with you. Front page story in The Washington Post this morning suggesting that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is going to be going on for a long time to come.

We heard the White House suggest in recent days there could be a Korea-like situation developing. And you know that U.S. troops have been in Korea -- South Korea for 50 years since the end of the Korean war. Is that something that's acceptable to you?

BAYH: Well, one other interesting thing about that story, Wolf, is that our military commanders were envisioning a reduction in our troop presence by two-thirds by the end of next year. That would be a substantial change in course.

So if you're dealing with a small, residual force to fight terrorists and to help make sure that Saudi Arabia, for example, is not destabilized and Iran is restrained, for a period of time, yes. Fifty years like Korea?

That's hard to envision, particularly because of the two principle differences here. Number one, the Koreans wanted us in their country. Many of the Iraqis, as you know, don't want us in their country.

And, secondly, Korea was a war between nation-states with standing armies and a clear frontline. This is, in many respects, a civil war, a much different kind of conflict.

BLITZER: Senator Kyl, what about you? What do you think about this Korea analogy for Iraq?

KYL: I think it's idle speculation that doesn't get you anywhere. The circumstances are so subject to change in the Middle East. Who could have predicted 10, 15 years ago we would be in the situation we are right now? I just don't think it's worthwhile even speculating. But we've got to tend to business right now.

BLITZER: The president's new coordinator or adviser on Iraq, Lieutenant General Doug Lute, at his own confirmation hearings this week, did not sound overly optimistic about what's happening in Iraq right now. I am going to play a clip for you, Senator Kyl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER NOMINEE: Where are we today? Not where any of us would like, especially in Iraq. Progress has been too little and too slow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'm sure you're frustrated like a lot of people are. Mitch McConnell was on this program not that long ago, and was very frustrated with specifically the behavior of the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But what do you think? Are things moving in the right direction or the wrong direction right now?

KYL: Well, I think we're all frustrated with the pace of progress, as was just indicated. Remember that the last of our troops just got in the theater. I was there a few months ago, and there were some early signs of progress.

BLITZER: The final brigade, the beefed-up presence.

KYL: Exactly. And so, I mean, when you stop and think about the long-term nature of a conflict like this, it would be very unfair to judge it just based upon a couple of months of -- about three or four months of experience in which we just got the last brigade in there. This is going to take time. It's hard. And if we are too quick in our judgments, we could make fundamental mistakes.

BLITZER: Are you ready to give this new strategy that General David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander, is trying to implement right now, a chance?

BAYH: Well, it is going to have a chance, Wolf, at least until this fall. But let me say a couple of things. First, I thought General Lute -- who by the way is from Indiana, so you know he's a good person -- was refreshingly candid, just as Secretary Gates has been more candid.

And I think that's a nice break from the pattern that we had under Secretary Rumsfeld where there was a lot of happy talk divorced from reality. So that's a good change.

But the key thing to understand here, Wolf, is it does not really depend on our troops; it depends upon the Iraqi political leadership. Can they make the very difficult decisions to begin the process of reconciliation?

BLITZER: Can they? Do you have confidence in the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki? BAYH: I have real doubts, Wolf. They just don't impress me as having the sense of urgency that the circumstances require. And the difference of opinion that we have -- we all know that they need to move. The administration has the strategy of trying to buck them up, build their confidence, to continue to stand by them.

Many of us, myself included, have determined that is just enabling this kind of nonbehavior on their part, and that, instead, we need to have clear benchmarks, accountability for meeting them, and most importantly, Wolf, consequences for them if they do not.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

KYL: Well, the problem with consequences if they don't is that if the consequences are that we pull out, we hurt ourselves as well as the Iraqi people.

BLITZER: What if they say, you know what? Pull out. The United States should leave. If a majority of their parliament or their government flatly says what some of the public opinion polls in Iraq have suggested, that they want the U.S. military forces out, what should the U.S. do then?

KYL: I don't think they'll do that, but were the Iraqi government to legitimately ask us to leave, we have no choice but to leave. And that would not be good for our national security interests, let alone the vacuum that would be created in Iraq.

BLITZER: I want to play for both of you what the Defense Secretary Robert Gates said this week on Friday in announcing that he was not going to ask the Senate to confirm General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a second two-year term which had been widely expected. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT M. GATES: I concluded that because General Pace has served as chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the last six years, the focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past rather than the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He effectively was fired, General Pace, by the defense secretary. But they're trying to suggest that the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, and others, told the administration, "You know what? He was going to have a rough go through the confirmation process. Maybe you don't want to do this right now." Who is to blame and what do you think about this?

BAYH: Two things, Wolf. First, General Pace was the last holdover from the Rumsfeld regime. And so I think this is Secretary Gates' way of bringing on a new crew that will be more candid and more realistic about what needs to be done in Iraq. And that is a good thing. General Pace is a good man, but he did not offer a strong, independent voice, particularly when Rumsfeld and some of the others were going off in not a good direction. That is number one.

BLITZER: Would he have been confirmed, do you think, if the administration would have fought for him? Would he have gotten a second two-year term?

BAYH: Well, he might have, Wolf. We'll never know, and that leads to my second point. Just changing faces on a policy that is not working will not lead our country in a better direction. We need to focus on the policy and this issue of what will it take to get the Iraqi leaders to move, because without that, nothing else is going to work.

BLITZER: What do you think, Senator Kyl?

KYL: I don't know all of the facts, but my understanding is that his name actually had been sent up. That would suggest that he hadn't been fired by Secretary Gates, that they wanted to have him confirmed for another term.

BLITZER: But then they pulled him out.

KYL: They then pulled it, ostensibly, because Senator Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, must have signalled to them that he was going to be in for a tough time and they chose not to fight.

I, frankly, am disappointed by that. General Peter Pace, a Marine general, is one of the finest military officers I have ever known. And it is not his job to contradict the secretary of defense. So I really wish the administration had been able to defend a good man, a Marine Corps general who has served this country well. And as I said, I'm disappointed. BLITZER: Was it appropriate, and very quickly I'm asking both of you because our time is quickly going out -- for him to write a letter to a U.S. federal judge, in effect, suggesting leniency for the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby?

KYL: I'm not aware that he did. I'm sorry I don't know.

BLITZER: He wrote a letter like that. It was filed with the court.

BAYH: Well, it's certainly unusual for someone serving in the hierarchy of the military to do such a thing.

BLITZER: Because a lot of people suggest that itself could have been an issue in conformation hearings.

Very quickly, tomorrow the Senate is supposed to take up the whole issue of a vote of confidence in the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales. Should -- will you vote to express your confidence in the attorney general?

BAYH: No, I won't, Wolf. I voted against his confirmation to begin with. I thought it was the right decision then. I think his conduct since then has shown, unfortunately, a lack of competence at a time when we need really competence at the Department of Justice, so I will not vote to express confidence in him.

BLITZER: Senator Kyl?

KYL: Ours is not a parliamentary government. You can go all the way back to the founding fathers, the Federalist Papers. It's clear that we weren't supposed to have votes of no confidence of the secretary's cabinet. The vote is whether to have a vote. And I will vote against taking a vote on no confidence because I don't think it's appropriate for any official in any cabinet of any president.

BLITZER: But do you think he's doing a good job?

KYL: I'm not going to comment on the kind of job. The vote is whether we should take a vote to express a lack of confidence by the Senate. That's wrong.

BLITZER: But it doesn't sound like I'm hearing a ringing endorsement of the attorney general from you, Senator Kyl.

KYL: No, my point is that this is totally political. And the other side knows it. And I just resent the playing of politics with something. This isn't our form of government to have votes of no confidence. And I object to that process. I don't care who it is.

BLITZER: It's a nonbinding vote. It's a symbolic vote.

KYL: Sure, but it's political. And that's what it's all about.

BLITZER: We'll leave it right there. So much in Washington is political. (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We are shocked. Shocked. That's right. All of us shocked. Senator Kyl, Senator Bayh, thanks for coming in.

KYL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up next, weaning Americans off of foreign oil. California's outspoken attorney general talks about how it might ease prices at the pump and help the environment -- Jerry Brown. And a reminder that if you missed today's program, you can get our highlights on our new and improved "Late Edition" podcast. Just go to CNN.com/podcast. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

As gas prices rise in the United States, there is a renewed call for independence from foreign oil. Leading that charge, the California Attorney General Jerry Brown, himself a former presidential candidate. He was Ronald Reagan's successor as governor of California, and he testified this week on Capitol Hill about greenhouse gas emissions. I spoke with him in "The Situation Room."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERRY BROWN, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: The problem is that we're importing 65 percent of our petroleum. We are using nine million barrels every day to run our cars. And our cars have not improved their fuel mileage in 20 years.

There is no real commitment to alternative fuels. Our land use isn't aligned with intelligent energy independence. I would rather get off as far as we can this oil addiction. Bush talks about it, but he's done absolutely nothing.

BLITZER: We've been hearing that since Jimmy Carter's administration.

BROWN: Since Nixon.

BLITZER: Right. I haven't seen a lot of action though. You were given them hell on Capitol Hill today. What were you telling them?

BROWN: I was telling them that, number one, we are oil dependent right there in the Middle East. All those problems in the Middle East you saw about just a few minutes ago, we are never going to get out of this mess as long as we gulp all this oil down every day.

So we need alternatives, we need better cars. Bush won't stand up to the automobile companies. They're already dictating to several members of Congress a completely inefficient automobile fleet, and it's not helping the car companies. They are losing jobs. So I know that gas prices are painful. They're going to keep going up at the rate we're going. So we need fuel-efficient cars. We need biofuel substitutes, and we need a different kind of transportation system. Won't happen tomorrow, but Bush is really doing his best to stall and stonewall. And that's why I was here today saying, "Hey, let's get moving."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Coming up, we're going to give you a unique look at the Republican and the Democratic candidates on the two toughest issues of this week's presidential debates: the war in Iraq and immigration reform.

And later, what makes Senator Hillary Clinton tick? The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Carl Bernstein, discusses his new book about the senator and Democratic presidential candidate.

Much more "Late Edition" right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In Manchester, New Hampshire, last Sunday night, the Democratic presidential candidates faced off, and there was no issue more important than the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.: This policy in Iraq has failed. It is a civil war in that country. Everyone who has looked at this issue has drawn the conclusion that there is no military solution to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., D-DEL.: As long as there is a single troop in Iraq, that I know if I take action by funding them, I increase the prospect they'll live or not be injured. I cannot and will not vote no to fund them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER U.S. SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of us do want to end this war, but I have made very clear from the outset that the way to end the war is for the Congress to use its constitutional authority to fund.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: I think it's important not to play politics on something that is as critical and as difficult as this. It is not easy to vote for cutting off funding because the fact is, there are troops on the ground.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARDSON: There is a fundamental difference between my position and the position of my good friends here. I believe that it's a civil war. I believe that there is sectarian conflict already.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS J. KUCINICH, D-OHIO: We could have a productive evening here right now if all of my colleagues on this stage or in the Congress would commit to telling the Democratic leadership not even to offer a funding bill, because that's really the way to end the war, Wolf. Just say, no money. The war's over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: This is George Bush's war. He is responsible for this war. He started the war. He mismanaged the war. He escalated the war. And he refuses to end the war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE GRAVEL, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Four of these people here will say that it's George Bush's war. It was facilitated by Democrats. They brought the resolution up. One of them authored, co-authored it, standing here. And so it's, sure, it's George Bush's war, but it's the Democrats's war also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Up next, the Republican presidential candidates go toe- to-toe on immigration reform. That's coming up next. CNN, by the way, the only place to get all your political news. For our North American viewers at 1 p.m. Eastern, right after "Late Edition," a special look at this week's "Raw Politics." Here's Tom Foreman with a preview.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been an amazing week in politics. And we're going to wrap it up in a special weekend edition of "Raw Politics."

The campaign for president blasted off with two tense debates, and politicians took positions on war, immigration, even God. The best political team on television looks at what's real and what's just raw politics. That's today at 1 p.m. Eastern. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: One thing was clear when the Republican candidates faced off Tuesday night in New Hampshire: the division in the party over immigration reform. It was very sharp and quite emotional.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM GILMORE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The issue of immigration, it violates the principle of the rule of law, and if we pass this bill and support it as Republicans, we will lose again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, R-KAN.: You work on a comprehensive solution interior. That's something that a lot of people are going to be upset with, but that can work and move us forward, and it's better than not doing anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOMMY THOMPSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unless you secure the border, it is not right to give 12 million individuals who have illegal rights into this country, status before that border is protected. There should be no amnesty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: For us to do nothing is silent and de facto amnesty. What we have done is what you expect us to do, my friends. And that's come together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem with this immigration plan is it has no real unifying purpose. It's a typical Washington mess. It is quite possible it will make things worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE: What we need to do is have a border that is sealed, and the same kind of process that we have to go through if we go onto a stadium, we go in one at a time and we have a ticket.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every illegal alien, almost every one, under this bill gets to stay here. That's not fair to the millions and millions of people around the world that would love to come here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TANCREDO: Yes, I'm willing to do what is ever necessary to stop this piece of legislation. And that includes go after any Republican that votes for it. Because the Republicans can stop this. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS: If you subsidize something, you get more of it. So we subsidize illegal immigration. We reward it by easy citizenship, either birthright or amnesty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNTER: Eight hundred and fifty-four miles of double fence, not that scraggly little fence you show on CNN all the time, Wolf, that people get across so easily. If they get across my fence, we sign them up for the Olympics immediately. We've got a big fence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And don't forget, CNN will have two hours of debate highlights tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern. Up next on "Late Edition," a conversation with a man hoping to be the next Bill to occupy the White House, Bill Richardson.

Then, he wants to be the next president from Hope, Arkansas. We'll talk with Mike Huckabee. Plus, the story behind the world's most politically powerful couples. Journalist Carl Bernstein discusses his new book on Hillary Clinton. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Two outspoken presidential candidates fighting to join the front- runners.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE: The Republican Party as a whole deserves to get beat. We've lost credibility the way we bungled Katrina.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Mike Huckabee, former Republican governor of Arkansas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARDSON: I'm a governor. I have balanced five budgets. I have to as a governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And Bill Richardson, the Democratic governor of New Mexico. We'll ask both men if their experience running a state qualifies them to run a nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERNSTEIN: The Clintons, but especially Hillary, Hillary has never wanted anyone else to tell her story except herself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And Senator Hillary Clinton's story as told by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Carl Bernstein.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is closing in on the International Space Station. We'll get a live update on the mission and what NASA is doing about a potentially dangerous tear in the shuttle's heat shield. The second hour of "Late Edition" starts right now.

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

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." Arguably, Bill Richardson has the best resume of any of the presidential candidates: United Nations ambassador, energy secretary, member of Congress, governor. But even according to his own commercials, it hasn't been enough to get him out of the single digits in the primary polls. He was in Santa Fe when I spoke with him just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, the governor of New Mexico, the Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson.

Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

I want to start off with the situation in Iraq. You've recommended that the U.S. get out of Iraq effectively by the end of this year. The U.S. commander on the scene, General Petraeus, is now saying that some progress is being made. I want you to listen to what he said earlier in the week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR. MULTI NATL. FORCE-IRAQ: What has taken place in Anbar is almost breathtaking. In the last several months, tribes that previously at the very least turned a blind eye to what Al Qaida was doing in that province are now opposing Al Qaida very vigorously, and the level of violence in Anbar has plummeted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Governor, why not give this new strategy that General Petraeus is trying to implement a chance?

RICHARDSON: Well, I'm pleased with that progress and I respect him very much, but the reality, Wolf, is that our troops have become the targets. This is an outright civil war, a sectarian conflict.

The contrast between my position and the other candidates is that I would leave no troops in Iraq whatsoever. I would take them out in the next six months. No residual forces, because precisely they have become targets.

When a majority of the Iraqi people, 61 percent, want to shoot -- say it's OK to shoot at an American soldier, and close to 70 percent want us out, that position is indefensible.

My view is that the best way towards reconciliation in Iraq is for a withdrawal to take place, using the leverage of a withdrawal to promote a reconciliation conference of the three groups, an all-Muslim peacekeeping force, bring Iran and Syria in.

And I don't believe anybody wants an outright civil war there, particularly Saudi Arabia, particularly Iran, surrounding Sunni countries.

And then lastly, a donor conference to rebuild Iraq.

But the difference, Wolf, between me and the other candidates is that they would leave troops there indefinitely, and I would not, and that's a big difference.

BLITZER: Well, there is even talk now, as you know, of having some sort of Korea-like presence in Iraq for decades to come. That's something, I take it, from your perspective, is totally unacceptable.

RICHARDSON: Well, it is totally unacceptable. I've been in Korea many, many times, in North Korea and South Korea. The South Koreans want us there. There is no outright shooting taking place.

In fact, there is a little bit of a relaxation of tensions, although we want to press the North Koreans to start dismantling their nuclear weapons. But I was just there, and they turned over six remains of our American soldiers from the Korean War.

It's totally a different situation. And my concern, Wolf, is that the surge that we proposed, the policy of continuing this conflict with more troops, is going to leave us more vulnerable to Al Qaida.

Our obsession with Iraq has caused us to lose focus in the fight against international terrorism and Al Qaida, nuclear proliferation, a loose nuclear weapon, and other challenges that we face, like global climate change, other issues that affect our national security in the region.

BLITZER: Governor, the Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, from your neighboring state of Arizona, says that the stakes right now are simply enormous, and if the U.S. were to do what you're recommending, it could lead to disaster. Listen to Senator McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I am convinced that if we fail and we have to withdraw, they will follow us home. It will be a base for Al Qaida.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Iraq would then become, he says, the new Afghanistan, from which Al Qaida would start launching attacks against the United States. What do you say to Senator McCain?

RICHARDSON: Well, that he's wrong, although I respect him deeply.

What we now have in Iraq is a sectarian conflict. And only after we start withdrawing our troops can the real diplomatic efforts begin to bring a reconciliation conference of the three groups in Iraq, get some kind of Dayton-type accord, a division of three entities, sharing of oil revenue, a strong federal government, and then an all-Muslim peacekeeping force to keep security there with the Iraqi forces bringing Syria, bringing Iran in.

Nobody wants an outright civil war on their borders. And what we need is diplomatic leadership coupled with a withdrawal. So I disagree with the senator. This situation right now, we've got close to 3,500 American troops that have perished, almost twice as much this year as any other year.

And my concern is that our troops now have become a target. And leaving any residual forces, any residual forces -- and there's huge loopholes in the supplemental appropriations, in the Feingold bill, that allow our troops to stay there even to protect Iraqi forces. So I would withdraw them.

BLITZER: The Republicans basically are suggesting the Democrats can't be trusted with the nation's homeland security, national security, the war on terrorism. Rudy Giuliani and the others, most of them on the Republican side were saying, they wouldn't even rule out the possibility of having to use tactical nuclear weapons to destroy Iran's nuclear program.

I want you to listen to what Giuliani said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: The problem the Democrats make is, they're in denial. That's why you hear things like you heard in the debate the other night that, you know, Iran really isn't dangerous, it's 10 years away from nuclear weapons. Iran is not 10 years away from nuclear weapons. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How far would you go? Would you use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent Iran from having a nuclear bomb?

RICHARDSON: You know, I was just horrified at that Republican debate. They're stuck in the status quo on immigration, they want to expand torture, they want to keep these flawed policies in the Middle East and Iraq going.

This is how I would deal with Iran. I would talk to them, but I would build an international coalition that would promote and push economic sanctions on them. Sanctions would work on Iran. They are susceptible to disinvestment policy. They are susceptible to cuts, economic sanctions in commodities. They only have one refinery there.

I believe that what we need is the Russias, the Security Council, an international coalition that we don't have because we've blown all of our credibility on a failed policy on Iraq.

What I would promote would be a tough negotiation with Iran. But the reality, Wolf, is that if we bring Iran and Syria, we could possibly lessen the instability in Iraq, and make some progress on the Middle East situation, on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Israel today is our strongest ally in the Middle East, but it is less safe with the policies of the president. I'd bring a Middle East peace envoy to try to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together.

BLITZER: I want to move the subject to immigration. Are you happy that the compromise, bipartisan legislation, which President Bush, Senator Kennedy, Senator McCain all endorsed, has effectively collapsed, at least for now?

RICHARDSON: No, I'm not happy, because I wanted them to push comprehensive legislation and fix the main problems. And the main problems were a fence between Mexico and the United States, which I think is not sustainable.

Secondly, they had an amendment that broke up families; third, a lack of labor protections when it came to the guest worker program.

The Republicans -- I believe it's on their lap, because they've been promoting this policy of fear, that this is an amnesty bill. This is not an amnesty bill.

In fact, in the provisions in the legislation, what you see is, it's going to take almost 12 years for citizenship, nine years for a green card, almost $9,000 in fines, no criminal record. They've got to learn English. There's some strong standards there.

So I can't believe in the last Republican debate Governor Romney getting up there and saying that we're going to deport 12 million human beings. Who's going to pay for that? How are we going to find them? What's going to happen to small businesses that depend on this labor in construction and hotels? So it's up to the president now. He's been saying the right words, but he doesn't invest any political capital. He has to bring his Republicans in the Senate and the House together and say, "Let's have a compromise."

It makes sense to have comprehensive legislation, but they have to fix that main provision, the flaw in the bill that breaks up families. That's not been the standards in our immigration laws in the past.

BLITZER: And if they revise that, would you support this compromise?

RICHARDSON: Yes, I would. If they take care of the not dividing up families, if they get rid of some of those provisions relating to the wall, some of the funding -- look at this wall, dividing two countries up.

Like Ronald Reagan said when he went to Berlin, he said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall." That's not America. Let's have more Border Patrol. Let's double the number of Border Patrol, more technology.

But right now, this is one of the most pressing domestic issues because it divides this country. It has 12 million people living under the shadows. You've got local law enforcement wanting to go in and do the job of what the federal government should do. So it's important that the president and Senator Reid and the congressional leadership come up once again, give it another shot. But I principally blame the Republicans in the Senate for trying to kill the bill and call it amnesty, which it isn't.

BLITZER: Governor Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, thanks very much for joining us.

RICHARDSON: Thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And in just a moment, we'll go to a presidential candidate on the Republican side who has been getting some strong reviews for his performance in the first two presidential debates. We'll speak with the former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee. He's standing by live.

And for our North American viewers, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, you can see Governors Richardson and Huckabee and all of the other candidates as CNN brings you highlights of both of this week's presidential debates. Republicans and Democrats head to head on the crucial issues. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

And coming up on "Late Edition," if you thought you knew all about Senator Clinton, think again. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein on what he says is the first real biography of Hillary Clinton.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Like Bill Clinton, he's a man from Hope -- Hope, Arkansas, that is, the former governor of Arkansas, and he wants to be president. But there aren't too many other things that Republican Mike Huckabee necessarily shares with the former president of the United States. Governor Huckabee is joining us now from Little Rock.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

HUCKABEE: Well, my pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: A quick question, first of all. You saw your fellow Republicans Sunday night; the Democrats debated Tuesday night. There were clear differences between what most of the Democrats were saying and most of the Republicans were saying. What's the biggest difference or two that you see between the Democratic and Republican fields?

HUCKABEE: The Republicans want to win the war in Iraq; the Democrats just want to get out. That's the big difference on Iraq. The second difference I see is that the Democrats really want the government to be in charge of things like health care. They want them to be more responsible for choices about our doctors. And I think Republicans still want every individual consumer to be making those very critical decisions about "Who is my doctor and what treatment I'm going to get and where am I going to get it."

BLITZER: So you don't accept the notion that a Ralph Nader or some others would suggest that there really is no significance difference between Democrats and Republicans?

HUCKABEE: Well, somebody would have had to have slept through both debates to think that there are no differences. There are clear differences. Now, the good news is the people of America will have a contrast. And I think the other piece of good news is that both sides, I think, are legitimately trying to talk about some issues.

I just watched my friend and former colleague, Bill Richardson, who I have a great deal of respect for, disagree on many issues. But Bill Richardson brings to the table not only a great background, but I think some keen insights.

And good politics is not about agreeing with everybody all the time. It's about having real, honest debate, putting the differences on the table and seeing if there's any common ground at all.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Iraq, arguably the most important issue facing the country right now. So much of what the new U.S. military strategy depends on the behavior of the Iraqi government, of the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. A few weeks ago, I spoke with the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell. He was not very confident in this government. I'm going to play for you a little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: Well, the Iraqi government is a huge disappointment and Republicans overwhelmingly feel disappointed about the Iraqi government. So far, they've not been able to do anything they've promised on the political side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Are you as from frustrated with the Iraqi government as Senator McConnell is?

HUCKABEE: Well, we're all frustrated with the Iraqi government. I think that given the extraordinary sacrifices that Americans have made to help them be strong and to be free, their internal squabbles are a great disappointment.

But at the same time, it does not lessen the fact that if we just up and pull out and chaos breaks loose and refugees run to the borders by the millions and destabilize the region, the ultimate effect of that will come back to haunt the United States.

So, have we made huge mistakes there? Oh my heavens, yes, Wolf. We certainly have, and I can list a bunch of them here. But we can't look backwards in the rearview. That's a tiny piece of glass. We've got to look forward in the windshield. That's a much bigger piece of glass. And we'd better be asking ourselves, "What happens if we ultimately fail here?" And those are the implications we've got to put on the table first.

BLITZER: On the issue of refugees, the United Nations says there already have been two million refugees who have fled Iraq, mostly to Jordan and to Syria, other countries in the region. And another two million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes internally within Iraq. This is a huge refugee crisis already.

HUCKABEE: It is a huge problem. But imagine if millions and millions more go to these countries, whose infrastructure simply can't absorb them. Then you have a destabilized region.

One of the things that the United States must do is to more strongly insist to the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Turks, the Kuwaitis that their involvement militarily, their involvement financially, their involvement even theologically with the more radical wings of the Islamic faith are critical for us to solve this issue.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what the former secretary of state General Colin Powell said earlier today on "Meet the Press" when asked about the status of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, whether suspected terrorists should be housed there. Listen to what General Powell said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: If it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo. Not tomorrow, but this afternoon. Every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds. And so essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, you agree with Secretary Powell?

HUCKABEE: I know it's become a symbol of what's wrong. I visited Guantanamo just about a year ago. My sense was, because I visited every single prison in the Arkansas prison system, and I can tell you most of our prisoners would love to be in a facility more like Guantanamo and less like the state prisons that people are in in the United States.

It's more symbolic than it is a substantive issue, because people perceive of mistreatment when, in fact, there are extraordinary means being taken to make sure these detainees are being given, really, every consideration.

BLITZER: But the argument isn't so much the physical condition as to the legal system that they face. These suspected terrorists, these detainees are being held, by and large, without charges, without any evidence. They're just being kept there indefinitely. And that's causing a smear on the U.S. reputation.

HUCKABEE: I understand that. But I'll tell you, if we let somebody out and it turns out that they come and fly an airliner into one of our skyscrapers, we're going to be asking, how come we didn't stop them? We had them detained.

There's not a perfect solution. The perfect solution is to get people to quit being terrorists. And that's not something we can easily control. If we're going to make a mistake right now, let's make it on the side of protecting the American people. That's the number one role and responsibility that an American president has right now.

BLITZER: In the first hour of "Late Edition," we heard the commerce secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, say the administration, the president, is determined to revive this immigration reform bill, more determined than ever. And they're determined to come up with a game plan in the next few days that will see it pass.

John McCain has been on board with the White House on this issue. Here's what he said the other day at the Republican debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: For us to do nothing is silent and de facto amnesty. What we have done is what you expect us to do, my friends. And that's come together with the president of the United States, the leader of our party, Democrat and Republican, conservative Republicans like Jon Kyl, Johnny Isakson, Saxby Chambliss and Trent Lott, and sit down and figure out an approach to this problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Are you on board with the president of the United States?

HUCKABEE: Not at this time. But let me explain why. First of all, I think there are three basic reasons that the bill is in real trouble, particularly with Republicans.

And the first reason is is there's a general lack of credibility that the American people have with government based on their inattention to Katrina and the way it was bundled, based on the lack of attention when it came to corruption, and they saw it. And the third is their complete -- just almost obliviousness with overwhelming spending.

And all of those things have contributed to a lack of trust that people have with this bill. The second factor, it was written in secret. It was suddenly thrust out to the American people. And we were told, here it is. You're going to love this.

And when people really started to delve into the depth of the issues involved, they weren't as happy with the provision of getting status first and then working toward it as opposed to working toward it and then getting status. But Wolf, let me tell you the third reason that people in the Republican Party are uncomfortable with it, I can put it am this simple phrase. What part of Kennedy do you not understand?

When Ted Kennedy is involved, it immediately creates a natural, just anxiety for Republicans. Now having said that, you know, I respect and appreciate that Senator McCain has put a stake in the ground on this. And unlike so many people who just take the easy way out, you've got to give him credit for working on this problem along with other senators from both parties and attempting to put something on the table.

So rather than just throw it all away, let's be very specific in the parts of it we don't like, and let's fix it. That's the way legislation gets done.

BLITZER: Well, let me be just clear, Governor. Just because Senator Kennedy is on board with Senator Kyl and Senator McCain and the president, just because he has come to their side, does that in and of itself make it unacceptable?

HUCKABEE: No. What I'm saying is that when he is front and center, you're always going to have the first glance from Republicans sort of saying, whoa, we better really take a real close look. Because if he likes it, there may be something hidden in there that we're not going to like.

I'm just saying that's one of the issues. It does not mean that it can't happen. But he's not exactly the one that brings warm, fuzzy feelings to Republicans in America.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Governor, but a lot of pundits after the second debate, after our debate on Tuesday, started saying, you know, Mike Huckabee could be good vice presidential running mate. What do you think?

HUCKABEE: Well, I think if they just keep moving up the ladder, you know, we're here in the middle of June. If they think I'm vice president by June, I think by January they'll think I ought to be president, and that's where I'm headed.

BLITZER: I'm sure you're going towards Iowa. You're going to be in that straw poll, right?

HUCKABEE: Well, right now our plans are. Although I've got to tell you, you know, the whole straw poll is looking different. If the front runners aren't going to play, we all have to start assessing its impact, its importance and what it looks like if we were to win it.

BLITZER: Sounds like you're rethinking the whole thing. All right, Governor. We'll leave it right there. Thanks very much.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next here on "Late Edition," the famed reporter Carl Bernstein on how seriously Bill and Hillary Clinton talked about getting divorced, among other subjects.

Plus, how much danger is the damage to the "Atlantis" posing to the space shuttle? We're going to get a live report on what's going on right now. Much more "Late Edition" right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Senator Hillary Clinton wrote her own book years ago. But was her version of her life story complete? At least one author says it's far from the real story. Earlier this week, I sat down with the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Carl Bernstein to talk about his new book on Hillary Clinton, a book entitled, "A Woman in Charge."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what makes Hillary Clinton tick. And I want to read a passage from the book, page 554: "As Hillary has continued to speak from the protective shell of her own making, and packaged herself for the widest possible consumption, she has misrepresented not just facts, but often her essential self."

Give me an example or two.

BERNSTEIN: Her own book. Her own book, "Living History," which is supposed to be an autobiographical account of her life, beginning in her childhood, is at variance with the rendition of events by those who were closest to her and around her at the time.

Her best friend from childhood, Betsy Ebeling, told me in great length, as you read in the book, about how abusive her father was of her mother, how he humiliated her. Hillary, in "Living History," describes an almost idyllic "Father Knows Best" suburban childhood. It was anything but. Her father was a sour, unfulfilled man, a martinet, beat the kids. She, in fact, in her own book talks about he didn't like to spare the rod. And we don't know the extent to which he beat the children. She says in her book that she thought it was sometimes used excessively, and she tried to intervene on behalf of her brothers. She doesn't say at all...

BLITZER: So, how did that impact her as an adult?

BERNSTEIN: I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. But obviously, she grew up in a house in which her mother was humiliated constantly or continually by her husband. People who came to the house, including Hillary's first boyfriend, Jeff Shields, who I talked to, wondered why Hillary's mother did not leave the marriage. Her mother, Dorothy Rodham, counselled Hillary, counseled her brother, Tony: People in this family do not get divorced. So, one of the...

BLITZER: That's an example, you're saying, of where she wasn't...

BERNSTEIN: Again, her book, and I say this in a footnote, actually, or an endnote to the book, her book is full of omissions, obfuscations. It's not mendacious.

It's a self-portrait as she would like to see herself, but it has very little to do with the full reality of her life. And what's so sad about it is, she's better than her own book. She's more interesting than her own book. It's a great story.

BLITZER: Let's talk about her marriage. This is what you write on page 117: "Their friends observed a remarkable chemistry. She's the only one that gets up in the morning with a dark cloud over her head, and he gets up with the bright sun, said a photojournalist who followed the Clintons in Arkansas and in Washington. As the day goes on, he's the one who falls into a funk and she's the one who will refocus him. It's one of those things that if you had never met neither of them, -- if you had never met them, neither of them would have reached the heights that they did.

BERNSTEIN: No question.

BLITZER: They made each other better?

BERNSTEIN: They made each other whole. She has been the constant of his process since they were in college, in law school together. And he has been the constant of her process, particularly now.

He was in the foreground when he was president and she was the manager. She was the disciplinarian. Now that role has reversed. But they are linked and complementary in their roles. They each have their areas of expertise.

As you know, when you read the book, it talks about how his area of expertise going into the presidency was economics. Hers was social policy. That's one reason she got the job of health care. But they work together as a team. Sometimes well and sometimes really badly.

BLITZER: And you write this: "He wanted in 1989 to end his marriage. Hillary refused. She would fight to keep her marriage and her family together. She had put too much of her own heart and mind and soul into her partnership with Bill to abandon it. She had invested too much."

I don't want you to go through the whole story right now, but how serious was the possibility that the two of them were about to get divorced?

BERNSTEIN: This basic information came from Betsy Wright, Bill Clinton's chief of staff in the gubernatorial years, who witnessed this acting out in this affair he had with a woman named Marilyn Jo Jenkins, witnessed his exits, comings, goings. And finally, Bill told Betsy Wright that he had wanted to leave the marriage, that Hillary, in Betsy Wright's words to me, would not give him a pass.

I talked also to Diane Blair, Hillary's closest friend of her life probably, who said that Hillary had come to her around this time, 1989, 1990, and said, what am I going to do if I'm on my own with Chelsea? I don't know how much money we have. And gradually, the story was pieced together by Betsy Wright.

BLITZER: But they survived that crisis in their marriage?

BERNSTEIN: Again, Bill then decided, according to Betsy Wright, that he wanted to stay in the marriage with Hillary for many reasons, not the least of which was Chelsea, and that he would try to make the marriage work and that they had had discussions about what those conditions would be to continue in the marriage.

BLITZER: Did she cooperate with you at all in the writing of this book?

BERNSTEIN: Not in the writing of the book. Not at all.

BLITZER: Did she give you any interviews?

BERNSTEIN: No. She did not. And she was good at the beginning about telling their friends, if you want to talk to him, it's all right with me. If you want to.

And she had told me, as had Bill Clinton, that she would talk to me for the book. And then in the end, after, oh, five, six times in which people working with her said she would talk to me, she said no.

And this gets back to something basic. The Clintons, but especially Hillary, Hillary has never wanted anyone else to tell her story except herself. She is very much a camouflaged woman. She is hidden behind that camouflage.

Her own biography, as she sees it and has written it, is far from what really is a full account. And I think as we got closer to a full account here, she decided she -- the last thing she wanted was to have anything to do with it. BLITZER: Because her people don't like this book, as you know. They've been saying all sorts of nasty things, that specifically it's a good yawn.

BERNSTEIN: What's so interesting, they said that before there was a book. They said that before they had a book and before they read it. You know, I think that it's a disingenuous response.

I would have hoped they would have read the book, that they would have embraced it in this way and Hillary and Bill Clinton would have, and said, look, there are things in this book we don't agree with, but we know, look, Carl Bernstein, he's got a certain record in terms of the best attainable version of the truth, which is really what good reporting, good biography is about.

We got some qualms about things in this book, but as a general account, it's certainly closer than anything that has ever been done. And, you know, I think they would have been better served to have done that.

BLITZER: The book is entitled "A Woman in Charge," the author Carl Bernstein. Carl, thanks very much for coming in.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The former secretary of state Colin Powell was very outspoken about the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East earlier today. We're going to bring you the best of the Sunday talk shows. Our "in case you missed it" segment, that's coming up.

And later, the launch of the space shuttle "Atlantis" was truly a beautiful sight. But did the takeoff damage the heat shield? Our Miles O'Brien standing by live. We'll get a full report. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll be speaking shortly with Miles O'Brien on the latest potential -- potential -- danger to the Space Shuttle Atlantis. That's coming up in a moment.

But first, our "In Case You Missed It" segment. Let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.

On NBC, the former Secretary of State Colin Powell said it's time for the U.S. to get serious about talking with Iraq's neighbors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: I think it's shortsighted not to talk to Syria, and Iran and everybody else in the region. And not just for the purpose of making a demand on them and "I'll only talk to you if you meet the demand that I want to talk to you about." That's not the way to have a dialogue, in my judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On Fox, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, Dick Durbin, criticized the White House's reason for not renominating General Peter Pace to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD J. DURBIN, D-ILL.: Whether it's Peter Pace or Admiral Mullen who comes before us and wants to defend this president's policy, he's going to have some tough grilling on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle. So to suggest that tough sledding on Capitol Hill is the reason to pull the plug on General Pace's career, I don't think, is a good argument.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On CBS, the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, suggested the ball is in the Democrats' court for breaking the Senate's stalemate on immigration reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Really, the question is not what the president does but what Harry Reid does, because the Senate majority leader does have the ability simply to say, "OK, we'll go ahead and entertain these amendments."

It's my understanding that a day or twos worth of debate will wrap it up and they'll be in a position to pass an historic and very constructive immigration reform bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And on ABC, Senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain insisted he won't abandon his position on Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I'm going to support this strategy, even if I'm the last man standing. Now, if this strategy fails, if we give it enough time, if it fails, of course then other options have to be examined. But we just got the 5th Brigade over there. I mean, we've only been in this new strategy for three months basically. So I want to give it a chance to succeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

When we come back, we'll go to Miles O'Brien. He's watching what you're seeing now. These are live pictures of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. It's moving in to dock with the International Space Station. We'll get a live update on the mission, what NASA is also doing about a worrisome tear they've found in the heat shield.

Much more "Late Edition" after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Just a reminder, starting tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern for our North American viewers, catch a special two-hour presentation of both of this week's presidential debates. Watch the Republican and Democratic candidates face off on the crucial issues -- 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight only here on CNN.

And coming up at the top of the hour, right after "Late Edition," join Tom Foreman for a look at the week's raw politics.

We'll take a quick break. Miles O'Brien and the space shuttle when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: After a successful liftoff on Friday, the Space Shuttle Atlantis is now making its way toward the International Space Station, but NASA is keeping its eye on some damage the spacecraft sustained -- a tear in its heat shield.

For some insight on what this all means for the mission, we're joined on the phone by the NASA spokesman, James Hartsfield, and in New York, CNN's space correspondent, Miles O'Brien. Mr. Hartsfield, let me start with you. First of all, how worried are you about this tear?

JAMES HARTSFIELD, NASA: Well, there's no great deal of concern at this point. It's a little early to say that it is a problem. It's a little early to say that it isn't as well. Right now, it's a pretty methodical analysis that's going to be under way to determine if there's something we need to do to mitigate it.

BLITZER: Well, God forbid, if it's a serious issue, what do you do to mitigate it?

HARTSFIELD: Well, there were a few options that were just speculated, pointed out in the last day or two, that you could perhaps do something during a space walk. But again, it's pretty early to say that we would do anything at this point. At this time, you have to look at it and ascertain whether or not it's going to cause you any problem during reentry.

I want to bring our Miles O'Brien into this conversation as well. Miles, we all remember the Columbia, we all remember some of the other problems. And when I first heard about this, after that beautiful launch, it was a few hours into the flight when we got word of this tear. You know, the heart skips a beat a little bit. What do you make of this?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we all hold our breath, Wolf, until we get the imagery back these days and take a look exactly at the condition of the heat shield of the space shuttle Orbiter. Let me explain, though, why this may not be as big a worry as we first thought.

Here's the space shuttle model here. This is Atlantis. The location of this particular tear is right up here. This is called the orbital maneuvering system. It's a big rocket that does a lot of the major navigation changes while the orbiter is in space. And it has this little bump here. And the blanket tear is right about there. That is significant because that particular part of the shuttle, as it comes in during the heat of reentry, happens to be one of the coolest places relative to the heated experiences.

The bottom of the shuttle, where you see these black tiles, and on the edges, where you have the gray carbon there, can get upwards of 3,000 degrees. But on the top here, I'm told the temperature is right around 600 degrees.

So, one of the things they'll be looking at and are looking at as we speak is just how much heat that particular skin of that orbiter maneuvering system might encounter. I want to show you what these blankets are all about, Wolf. This is a little piece of blanket material. It's quilted material. It is made of silica and woven glass.

Now, on the first space shuttle mission back in 1981, they didn't have this material yet. And so they covered the whole thing with tiles. And about 16 of those tiles in that same area on top of that orbiter maneuvering system fell off on that first mission. They came home, they had a happy landing and glued the tiles back on. So, my point is, it may not be as big a deal as it seems initially.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope it's no deal at all. There are seven human beings on that space shuttle. Mr. Hartsfield, we're getting ready for the docking to happen with the international space station. Briefly walk us through what is about to happen in the coming hours.

HARTSFIELD: It's a pretty exciting couple of hours coming up as Atlantis approaches. Probably the most visually interesting thing is a backflip that the shuttle does as it's about 600 feet from the station. That's something we put in after our return to flight following Columbia that allows the crew to photograph the shuttle, all sides, its underside as well, and send those pictures to the ground for analysis.

Then as we get within about half a mile of the station, the commander takes over manual control and flies Atlantis to a docking.

BLITZER: And Miles, you could elaborate a little bit on this docking maneuver, which by no means is simple.

O'BRIEN: No. As a matter of fact, we have some animation -- I'm hopeful we can roll it right now -- some animation showing the docking with this rotational pitch-over maneuver. It happened about 2:20 p.m. Eastern time. OK, right up here on your screen, there's the international space station. There you see the shuttle coming toward it, fairly straightforward. Makes it look easy, doesn't it?

As they get closer, though, within the range of some decent telephoto lenses, they'll do this little pitch-over maneuver. And while that's going on, they're just going to be like tourists at Disney World on board the international space station, snapping picture after picture, close-up shots of the skin of the space shuttle orbiter to assure that there aren't any other imperfections. This particular shot -- matter of fact, take a look at the stuff coming off of NASA TV, similar stuff that we were showing you moments ago. In any case, while they're doing that, they'll be able to get a close-up look at any other possible places where the heat shield might be damaged.

This is all part of what has happened since Columbia, February of 2003. Of course we remember that. Heat shield, the left wing with a man-hole-sized cover hole after some foam hit it. As they came in, the heat of reentry was just too much for it. The vehicle disintegrated and we lost the crew.

So they're very careful about this. They've done a series of inspections, this rotational pitch-over move, this belly flop is part of that. There will be further inspections later in the mission, too, Wolf. Because they want to make sure that while they're in space they want to make sure they didn't get dinged by a micrometeor.

Now, take a look. I want to just show you real quickly. You look at this thing here. You need a little bit of scale on this. And this is only 4 inches across there. So it's a pretty small tear.

Now, 4 inches across on the leading edge of the wing, where we had that hole in Columbia, that would be a big problem. But in this location, it may not be. Now, they may decide they want to go tuck that thing in, just to be safe and certain. They may say, you know, it's fine.

This thing wasn't, it wasn't attached properly, perhaps. The slip stream as it flew to space kind of blew it back, and we don't need to worry about it. So, a lot of meetings will go on between now -- it's a 12-day mission. They've got plenty of time to figure out what to do about it or not do about it before they land, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching it -- you'll be watching every step of the way. Mr. Hartsfield, James Hartsfield from NASA, he'll be watching it as well. Thanks to both of you. Dramatic stuff unfolding right now. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's take a look at where some of the U.S. presidential candidates will be spending some time. Senator Chris Dodd will be holding a town hall meeting in Iowa. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be speaking at the Orange County, California, Flag Day salute.

Former Senator John Edwards will be in North Carolina celebrating his birthday in the way candidates often do, fund raising. Tomorrow, it's raising small donations in Florida. Now that he's decided to battle for the Iowa straw poll in August, Senator Sam Brownback will be barnstorming the state on Monday and Tuesday. On the campaign trail with some of the presidential candidates.

And that's it for us here on "Late Edition." A final programming note, though. We were planning to bring you an interview with Dimitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, but he canceled at the last minute, saying he was in a meeting with President Putin.

That's it for us. A special "Raw Politics" with Tom Foreman starts right now. Tom?

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