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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Barack Obama; Interview With Chris Van Hollen, Roy Blunt
Aired May 11, 2008 - 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.
OBAMA: We've got six more contests left. And then, you know, we have a lot of work to do to bring the party together.
BLITZER: Barack Obama closes in on the Democratic nomination. The Illinois senator talks about his candidacy and more in an interview.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Senators Obama and Clinton have very different ideas from my own.
BLITZER: The presumptive Republican nominee John McCain presses ahead against his Democratic opponents. We'll assess the race with McCain supporter Senator Joe Lieberman.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: I want you to know that I will work my heart out for you.
BLITZER: Is Hillary Clinton's campaign at the end of the line? Insight and analysis from three of the best political team on television.
An economy in crisis. What is Congress doing to address the number one issue for voters? Republican Congressman Roy Blunt and Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen weigh in.
The former U.S. commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez discusses the war in Iraq and his new book, "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story." Plus, perspective from Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I took the initiative in creating the Internet.
BLITZER: Ten years of LATE EDITION. We'll look back at my 1999 interview with former vice president Al Gore. The first hour of LATE EDITION 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 a.m. in Los Angeles and 6 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for LATE EDITION.
Barack Obama is edging closer and closer to the Democratic presidential nomination after an impressive win in North Carolina and a narrow loss in Indiana. He's also gaining the backing of even more super delegates. I spoke with him in his first interview since Tuesday's primaries.
BLITZER: Senator, welcome.
OBAMA: Good to see you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Here is the cover, "And the Winner Is..." That's a picture of you. What do you think?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think -- I don't want to be jinxed. We've still got some work to do.
BLITZER: It's almost like you got the cover of "Sports Illustrated." Is that what you're -- you're nervous about that?
OBAMA: Exactly. Exactly right.
We've got six more contests left. And then we've got a lot of work to do to bring the party together. But, obviously, we felt very good about our win in North Carolina on Tuesday. I think we ran a terrific campaign in Indiana. And it was a virtual tie. And, if you look at where the race is at this point, I think we have seen voters across the country say they are ready for change. They are feeling real anxiety about the economy.
And they have come to recognize that unless we change how Washington is done, it's going to be very hard to deliver on a smarter energy policy. It's going to be hard to -- to provide health care for people who need it or make college more affordable. And I think our campaign has benefited from it. And, so, I'm looking forward to bringing this party together and going after John McCain in the fall, and -- and, hopefully, getting this country on the right track.
BLITZER: It's been intense in the primaries. But you realize it's going to be much more intense in the next chapter, in the next phase, given the differences between you and John McCain. Are you ready for this next phase?
OBAMA: I'm actually looking forward to it, if we're successful. I don't want to get ahead of myself here. Senator Clinton is a very formidable candidate. She is very heavily favored to win West Virginia. She will win that by a big margin.
She's favored in Kentucky. We'll probably split the remaining contests. And, so, she's -- she's going to be actively campaigning. If I'm fortunate enough to be the nominee, then I am looking forward to the general election precisely because there is such a big, stark contrast...
BLITZER: There are major differences between you and John McCain...
BLITZER: ... on a whole host of domestic issues...
BLITZER: ... and foreign policy issues. And I want to go through those right now.
BLITZER: Already, some of his surrogates, some of his supporters, are suggesting you're not ready to be commander in chief, president of the United States.
Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, said this. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: He has not accomplished anything during his life, in terms of legislation, or leading an enterprise, or making a business work or a city work or a state work. He really has very little experience. And the presidency of the United States is not an internship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Wow. That's a strong statement.
OBAMA: Yes. Well, the contest didn't work out so well for Mitt Romney. I think he was making those same arguments against John McCain, suggesting that John McCain, as a senator, hadn't done what Mitt Romney had done. And, yet, here we are, and there Mitt Romney is.
Look, when it comes to national security, I think that what people are looking for is good judgment. They're looking for somebody who is going to be able to assess the very real risks that are out there and deploy our forces, not just military, but diplomatic, political, economic, cultural, in a way that makes the American people safe.
And whether it's my judgment on Iraq and recognizing that that was going to be a strategic blunder, to my insistence that we need to talk not just to countries we like, but countries we don't, to my assessment in terms of how we had over-invested in the Musharraf government in Pakistan, and that was going to be setting us up for failure later on, I think I have consistently displayed the kind of judgment that the American people are looking for in the next president. BLITZER: I want -- I want to get to all of those national security, foreign policy issues in a moment. But let's talk about some domestic issues.
You know they're going to paint you, the McCain camp, Republicans, as a classic tax-and-spend liberal Democrat, that you're going to raise the taxes for the American people and just spend money like there is no tomorrow when it comes to federal government programs.
Are you ready to handle that kind of assault?
OBAMA: Absolutely. But because think about what I am going to be running against: the failed policies of the Bush administration, which John McCain wants to continue. I don't think there is anybody in this country who thinks that, right now, we have got a government that's managed our domestic policies well.
And, so, we can talk about the slogans of tax and spend or fiscal conservatism, but the fact of the matter is, this -- we have had an administration that's been profligate, that has raised our national debt to a record level. We have seen a lack of shared prosperity. So, you've got CEOs making more in a day than ordinary workers are making in a year, and it's the CEO that's getting the tax break, instead of the workers.
BLITZER: He's going to say you're going to raise their taxes. What are you going to say?
OBAMA: I will raise CEO taxes. There is no doubt about it. If you are...
BLITZER: What about the average American...
OBAMA: If you are a CEO in this country, you will probably pay more taxes. They won't be prohibitively high. They're -- you're going to be paying roughly what you paid in the '90s, when CEOs were doing just fine.
BLITZER: So, you want to just eliminate the Bush tax cuts?
OBAMA: I want to eliminate the Bush tax cuts.
And what I have said is, I will institute a middle-class tax cut. So, if you're making $75,000, if you're making $50,000 a year, you will see an extra $1,000 a year offsetting on your payroll tax.
BLITZER: Define middle class.
OBAMA: Well, look, I think that the definitions are always a little bit rough, but let's -- let's just take it this way. If you're making $100,000 a year or less, then you're pretty solidly middle class, and you deserve relief right now, as opposed to paying higher taxes. On the other hand, if you're making more than $100,000, and certainly if you're making more than $200,000 to $250,000, then you're doing pretty well.
And it's the people who are making over $200,000, $250,000, who have benefited the most and have actually seen -- have actually seen more and more of economic growth in this country go in your direction.
And all -- all we're looking for here is a sense of balance, because it's my belief that this country has always grown when it grows from the bottom up, when the average worker who is putting in his time and trying to live out the American dream, when a nurse or a teacher, she's able to support her family, then they spend money, businesses do well, and we generate tax revenues that can pay for the common investments that we need.
And that's what's been lacking, a sense of shared sacrifice, as well as shared benefits from the economy.
BLITZER: Because they're arguing already that you want to increase capital gains taxes, for example, on investments, and stocks, and things like that.
BLITZER: A lot of middle-class people have those kinds of accounts. If they're...
OBAMA: If they have, -- Wolf, if they have a 401(k), then they are going to see those taxes deferred, and they're going to pay ordinary income when they finally cash out. So, that's a phony argument. And this is something that you have seen the Republicans consistently do, is they try to make this broad- based argument about, he's going to raise your taxes as a cover for them eliminating taxes for people like myself and you, who can afford to pay a little bit more in order to assure that we have got roads and bridges that are rebuilt, in order to assure that Social Security is solvent, in order to make sure that kids who are struggling for their American dream can actually go to college, in order to make sure that people aren't going bankrupt just because somebody in their family gets sick.
OBAMA: You know, as I travel around the country, what I'm absolutely convinced of is that people recognize that if only 1 percent of the population is doing well, when we've got wages and incomes for the average worker actually going down during a period of economic expansion, much less economic recession, that something's being mismanaged. And they want a difference -- a different approach. And that's what we're going to be offering them.
And John McCain is essentially offering four more years of the same policies that got us into this rut that we're in now.
BLITZER: You used to teach constitutional law. You know a lot about the Supreme Court, and the next president of the United States will have an opportunity to nominate justices for the Supreme Court. He gave a speech, McCain, this week saying he wants justices like Samuel Alito and John Roberts, and he defined the kind of criteria he wants. So what would be your criteria? OBAMA: Well, I think that my first criteria is to make sure that these are people who are capable and competent, and that they are interpreting the law. And 95 percent of the time, you know, the law is so clear that it's just a matter of applying the law. I'm not somebody who believes in a bunch of judicial law-making.
BLITZER: Are there members or justices right now upon whom you would model, you would look at? Who do you like?
OBAMA: I think actually Justice Breyer, Justice Ginsburg are very sensible judges. I think that Justice Souter, who is a Republican appointee, is a sensible judge.
What you're looking for is somebody who's going to apply the law where it's clear.
Now there's going to be those 5 percent of cases or 1 percent of cases where the law isn't clear. And the judge then has to bring in his or her own perspectives, his ethics, his or her moral bearings. And in those circumstances, what I do want is a judge who is sympathetic enough to those who are on the outside, those who are vulnerable, those who are powerless, those who can't have access to political power and as a consequence can't protect themselves from being -- from being dealt with sometimes unfairly. That the courts become a refuge for justice. That's been its historic role. That was its role in Brown versus Board of Education.
I think a judge who is unsympathetic to the fact that in some cases, you know, we've got to make sure that civil rights are protected, that we have got to make sure that civil liberties are protected, because oftentimes there are pressures that are placed on politicians to want to set civil liberties aside, especially at a time when we have had terrorist attacks. Making sure that we maintain our separation of powers, so that we don't have a president who is taking over more and more power.
I think those are all criteria by which I'd judge whether or not this is a good appointee.
BLITZER: And coming up in the next hour of "Late Edition," part two of my interview with Senator Barack Obama. You're going to find out why he called comments made by John McCain, and I'm quoting now, "offensive" and "a smear" and why he thinks McCain may be, quote, "losing his bearings."
Up next, two U.S. congressmen talk about which party has the best chance to win the White House this November. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Coming up in our next hour, the second part of my interview with Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama. He talks about how he'd handle the war in Iraq, other international issues as well. But right now, we're talking politics and policy with two top U.S. congressmen. Joining us, the man in charge of rounding up Republican votes in the House of Representatives, the No. 2 Republican, the minority whip, Roy Blunt of Missouri, and the man in charge of increasing Congress's Democratic majority, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Congressmen, both of you, thanks very much for coming in.
Congressman Van Hollen, is it already a done deal, Obama versus McCain?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, it's only a done deal when one of our nominees either decides not to get out...
BLITZER: But effectively speaking?
VAN HOLLEN: Look, Obama is clearly the frontrunner here. But until it's finally over, it's not over. And we'll just have to see how this plays out. But clearly, he's the frontrunner.
We need as the Democratic Party to begin to focus on the differences between the Democratic position on issues and John McCain, who represents a third Bush term. And the sooner we can get there, the better. The key right now...
BLITZER: It sounds like you're... VAN HOLLEN: ... is to have a positive tone -- is to have a positive tone between the two Democratic candidates going into the next couple of weeks.
BLITZER: You haven't endorsed anybody, but is it time for Hillary Clinton to read the handwriting on the wall?
VAN HOLLEN: That's a decision for her to make. And, you know, we'll have to see how this goes forward. Again, obviously Obama has a lot of momentum right now. But until you have a majority of the delegates, it's not over.
BLITZER: What do you think? Are you already assuming it's going to be McCain versus Obama?
BLUNT: I am assuming it's McCain versus Obama. Now, you know, I'm glad to see Mrs. Clinton stay in this race and keep that discussion going. I think that discussion, frankly, has been helpful for us. And what McCain is going to bring to the fall is somebody who really is arguably the candidate who can bring change to Washington. He's the one person from inside this town who nobody believes...
BLITZER: You just heard Congressman Van Hollen say that he represents a third Bush term. You know how unpopular the job approval numbers are right now.
BLUNT: I don't think anybody believes that. I think everybody does believe from his record that here is somebody who has always been willing to complain about the way business was done in Washington. And, frankly, people want to see that...
BLITZER: When it comes to domestic economic issues, what is the major difference between President Bush's policies, what he wants to do, and what John McCain would do if he were president?
BLUNT: Well, I think what John McCain wants to do is continue these pro-growth tax policies that our friends on the other side have been talking...
BLITZER: But that's what President Bush wants to do too.
BLUNT: And there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with that.
BLITZER: So it would be in effect a third Bush term when it came to pro-growth tax policies?
BLUNT: It would be. I think it would be. And I think that's a good thing. You can't go out in the country anywhere and find people who believe that doubling the capital gains rate is a good thing, that raising the highest rate on every small business in America is a good thing, that eliminating those bottom brackets, that mean that people at the lower levels of tax pay less taxes than they would otherwise. In fact, I think one of the reasons that the economy has slowed down the way it has is the fact that there's great uncertainty about how those tax policies move forward.
BLITZER: Do you want to respond to that?
VAN HOLLEN: Sure. Look, I mean, the Bush economic policies have helped drive this economy into a ditch. The economy has lost $260,000 in the first four months of this year. And John McCain...
BLITZER: 260,000 jobs.
VAN HOLLEN: Jobs in the first four months. And John McCain does represent a continuation of the Bush economic policy, as Roy just acknowledged. And the fact of the matter is, people are hurting. The one thing this president doesn't understand and John McCain doesn't understand is the economic squeeze the families around the country are feeling.
And when it comes to Iraq, again, this is a continuation of the Bush policy.
So on the two biggest issues on the agenda today, the war in Iraq and the economy, he represents a continuation of George Bush.
BLITZER: Do you want to say anything? Before we move on, do you want to respond to that?
BLUNT: I think what Americans are tired of is business as usual in Washington. They see John McCain as somebody who wants to change that. He has shown that as a member of the Senate. He's shown that as a leader in the country. And he'll be a positive force for change.
BLITZER: Here's what Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker Republican wrote in Human Events, a conservative publication on Tuesday. "No Republican should kid themselves. It's time to face up to a stark choice. Without change, we could face a catastrophic election this fall. Without change, the Republican Party in the House could revert to the permanent minority status it had from 1930 to 1994". That is a pretty gloomy assessment from Newt Gingrich.
BLUNT: It would be, if that was the assessment. I think Newt is absolutely right in the idea that real change requires real change. We're going to be talking in the next few weeks about the things we want to do to bring change to the country.
BLITZER: But it sounds like on the two biggest issues, the economy and the war in Iraq, McCain wants to continue the Bush policy.
BLUNT: You know, I think McCain will make the argument that he argued against policies that the Defense Department pursued, the Rumsfeld policies that have not produced the kind of results maybe that the Petraeus policies have. Americans clearly are tired of what they saw happening in Iraq. But they don't want to lose. They don't want to leave there with a worse situation in the world than we would have if we leave there with a stable Iraq. I think John McCain is going to be able to advance his position there in a way that the American people say, you know, that's exactly the kind of result I want to see happen in Iraq.
BLITZER: He was critical of the way the Rumsfeld Pentagon conducted a large part of this war.
VAN HOLLEN: Look, this is one of the few times I agree with Newt Gingrich. The Republican Party has become the party of no, veto and the status quo. And now they're going to try to run as a party of change. We just saw on the House floor this week exactly why they're in so much trouble. We had a bill to try and finally deal with the housing crisis that Americans are experiencing. The Bush administration rushed to bail out Bear Stearns, a Wall Street firm. They worked around the clock over a weekend. Yet, they're opposing legislation that helps stabilize the housing market. When it comes to the war in Iraq, they spent $700 billion to date and they're unwilling to spend a little bit to help our GIs, men and women fighting the war on education issues. This is the problem they've got.
BLITZER: Stand by. We're going to pick up those points and let you respond, Congressman Blunt. Hold on for a second. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, we'll discuss what can Congress do to help the struggling U.S. economy right now? LATE EDITION continues right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're talking with the House Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri and the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
We were talking about the economy, what the House of Representatives right now could do to help a lot of ailing Americans out there. In our latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, we asked whether the tax rebate policy, the stimulus package that was quickly approved by the president and Congress, the checks that are going out right now to millions of Americans is enough. Thirteen percent says that policy does enough, 3 percent say it does too much, 82 percent though, 82 percent of the American people say it's not enough. They want more. What else are you willing to do?
BLUNT: Well the single big issue is gas prices right now. We need to do something about gas prices.
BLITZER: Like, what do you want to do?
BLUNT: Well, what I'd like to do is see us do something about both the strategic petroleum reserve, filling that --
BLITZER: Stop filling it?
BLUNT: I think we should stop filling it. The White House doesn't agree with that position. But that's one thing that would have impact at the pump.
BLITZER: Because it would empty supply and presumably reduce price.
BLUNT: And really are three things the federal government can do to have gas impact right now. One is the SPRO. Two is either some kind of a gas tax rebate or a gas tax holiday. We're proposing that that be funded with whatever money would have been spent on congressional earmark this is year, that that money goes into highway trust fund to replace that. And three, is the effort that the Treasury Department is now making to stabilize the dollar. A lot of the speculation in oil, the decline of the dollar, those things have an impact on gas prices.
That's the biggest single thing Americans care about. We've been asking the majority for three weeks now to bring some legislation to the floor that would do something about gas prices. Two years ago, April 2006, Nancy Pelosi said put -- if the Democrats are given the majority control in the Congress, we have a common sense plan to do something about gas prices.
BLITZER: You're the majority. You're in the leadership, go ahead.
BLUNT: And that's $1.35 ago. VAN HOLLEN: We do have a common sense plan. First of all, we agree with Roy with respect to the strategic petroleum reserve. That's exactly what we should do. The president has been blocking that. But we lay out a very clear tact early on with legislation that says we need to reduce our reliance on oil and gas going forward.
BLITZER: But that's a long-term solution. Right now we're talking about -- what can be done immediately to help those Americans who are in trouble?
VAN HOLLEN: Absolutely. One is the strategic petroleum reserve. Another thing we can do and we have done is finally give the FTC the ability to enforce price manipulation in the oil and gas market. They've been sitting on their hands. They've not been moving. We have also got legislation, our Republican colleagues will have an opportunity to vote on it dealing with OPEC, finally being able to deal with OPEC price manipulation as a cartel from a leader perspective. So there are a couple of things we can do right now.
BLITZER: What about eliminating the federal gas tax between Memorial Day and Labor Day? That's -- Hillary Clinton says it's a good idea. John McCain says it's a good idea. They disagree on how to fund that $10 or $12 billion, whatever it might cost. But Barack Obama says it's a stupid idea.
VAN HOLLEN: Right. We in the House don't think that that's a good idea. It is too short termy. It is a gimmick type of approach. The problem is it would mean that right now funds that would go into the transportation program to help build bridges, infrastructure, roads, would be reduced. This is a time we need to be increasing our investment and our national infrastructure. It is long overdue and it would also help boost the economy.
BLITZER: Let's let Congressman Blunt respond. Go ahead and respond.
BLUNT: Everything we have come up and the country comes up with is either too short term for the majority or too long term for the majority. We need a short-term fix right now. We need the long-term things we need to do to encourage a shift in where that petroleum comes from. Jay Leno said I think one night last week that House Democrats today said that drilling in the Anwar wouldn't produce any fuel for 10 years. Then he paused and said that's exactly what they said 10 years ago. We need some long-term things going on. We also need some short-term relief right now. A gas tax holiday replaced with money that otherwise would have gone into congressional earmarks, a bill that I co-sponsored last week with Paul Ryan and John Boehner and others would do that. Those two things are going to impact this summer.
VAN HOLLEN: It's the Democrats who on the first day of the new Congress finally adopted reforms to earmark policy making this transparent and accountable. We're more than willing to explore ways --
BLITZER: Viewers may not know, the earmarks are what's called these pork barrel spending, money specifically designed to help one particular group or area.
VAN HOLLEN: That's right. But with respect to the long term, there are millions of acres of federal land that are open to leasing right now where the oil companies are not drilling for gas. And in terms of the long-term, we have said that we should eliminate the subsidies, the taxpayer giveaways for the oil and gas --
BLITZER: That's a new tax, a windfall profits tax on the Exxon Mobil and other big oil companies, you support that?
VAN HOLLEN: No, what I've been talking about is getting rid of the subsidies for the oil and gas industry.
BLITZER: But that is in effect an increase in taxes.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, that's right. We don't think they should be getting tax breaks at a time when they're making record profits.
BLITZER: You think they should?
BLUNT: In 2005, we passed legislation that did actually encourage people to look at these public lands, drill in a nonintrusive way to find the gas and oil that we believe -- and the experts in the field believe we have more unfound reserves in this country of gas and oil than we have known reserves of gas and oil.
We passed legislation in the House that would have allowed deep ocean drilling, 100 miles off-coast, where the Chinese and others are drilling right now.
And every bill that's been reported out of the House Resources Committee since the new majority took over discouraged that kind of effort going forward.
Every single bill minimized the use of those very lands that Chris and I agree, apparently, have resources we ought to be looking at.
VAN HOLLEN: Many of them...
BLITZER: All right. Very quickly...
VAN HOLLEN: Many of them are already open to drilling. And you guys are opposed to getting rid of subsidies for the oil and gas industry and investing those funds instead in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
BLITZER: All right. Hold on.
BLUNT: Those two arguments don't even go together.
If they're open to drilling, getting rid of subsidies for the oil and gas companies to drill in this country has nothing to do with whether you encourage people to open the drilling...
VAN HOLLEN: What I'm saying -- there are already lands that are open to drilling. They're not taking advantage of them.
BLUNT: Every bill the Resources Committee has reported out on this topic has discouraged that policy that we put in place in 2000.
VAN HOLLEN: ... profits are a big incentive for... (CROSSTALK) BLITZER: We've got to leave it here, unfortunately, Congressmen. But thanks to both of you for joining us. Let's continue this conversation down the road.
VAN HOLLEN: You bet.
BLUNT: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, a strong supporter of John McCain questions the Barack Obama stance on Iran and a lot more. My interview with Senator Joe Lieberman is next. "Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain can count on at least one vote from the other side of the aisle. That would be Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. I spoke with the senator about his reasons for backing McCain over his fellow Democrats and his reservations about the Democratic front-runner, Senator Barack Obama.
BLITZER: And joining us now, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. He's an independent Democrat, as he likes to call himself. But he's supporting John McCain. Thanks very much for coming in.
LIEBERMAN: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: You're out there. You're pretty involved in trying to get him elected, aren't you?
LIEBERMAN: Yes. I mean, once I made the decision that John McCain, in my opinion, is best prepared to be the president we need for the next four years, I'm not going to hold back. I'm doing everything I can to help him.
We've come a long way since December, when I came on board. And this is going to be a tough campaign. But it's a really important one. So I want to help John every way I can.
BLITZER: You assume Obama is going to be the Democratic nominee?
LIEBERMAN: I think you have to assume that now. But it isn't over. And as long as Senator Clinton is in there and Senator Obama doesn't have the pledged delegates he needs to clinch the nomination, it's not over.
BLITZER: But you're gearing up for the assumption it's going to be McCain versus Obama?
LIEBERMAN: I personally assume that, yes.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk, a little bit, about Senator Obama. He was here in "The Situation Room" yesterday. And I asked him about -- to react to comments from Senator McCain, suggesting that he, Obama, is the preferred candidate of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
And Senator Obama reacted angrily. He said that was a smear; it was offensive. And he went on and said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings, as he per sues this nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now didn't take very long after that for Mark Salter, a senior adviser to the McCain campaign to say, "Let us be clear about the nature of Senator Obama's attack today: He used the words 'losing his bearings' intentionally, a not a particularly clever way of raising John McCain's age as an issue. This is typical of the Obama style of campaigning."
When you heard him use those words, "losing his bearings," did that impress you as ageism, or an attack on McCain's age?
LIEBERMAN: I'll tell you, when I first heard it, I thought it was an undeserved and somewhat intemperate comment.
BLITZER: On who's part?
LIEBERMAN: On the part of Senator Obama. These things will happen in a campaign. But you could say that you disagree with something Senator McCain said. But to say he lost his bearings suggests something more fundamental and personal.
BLITZER: Because Obama's position is that, when it comes to Hamas, he sees it as a terrorist organization. He says his position is the same as McCain's.
LIEBERMAN: That's true. And I think that's why his comments about what senator McCain said were undeserved. Because John McCain obviously knows & senator Obama clearly doesn't support any of the values and goals of Hamas.
But the fact that the spokesperson for Hamas would say they would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question, "Why?"
And it suggests the difference between these two candidates. And I think Hamas and Hezbollah, which is now control of Beirut, apparently, are proxies, are wards of Iran, which is the very same country that constantly shouts "Death to America, death to Israel."
So I think one of John's strengths, John McCain's strength as president, frankly, is that our allies and friends around the world will trust him. And our enemies like Hamas and Iran will fear him. And I think they need to fear him. And I'm afraid some of the things Senator Obama said -- very quickly, you know, I've put in a... BLITZER: All right. Well, let me play a clip of what Senator Obama said yesterday at a 60th anniversary independence celebration of Israel, that the Israeli embassy hosted. Turn around and listen and watch. He is right over there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I pledge to you that I will do whatever I can, in whatever capacity, to not only ensure Israel's security but also to ensure that people of Israel are able to thrive and prosper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Do you have any doubt about Senator Obama's commitment to maintain a very supportive role for the United States, as far as Israel is concerned?
LIEBERMAN: I have no doubt about that. But here's what I want to say. Senator Obama has said he would sit down, without condition, with Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran.
That not only gives prestige to a terrible America and Israel- hater but it also threatens our allies in the region.
Look, I'll give you another example. This is an indirect step that could undermine our position in the Middle East. Earlier this year, Senator Kyl and I introduced the resolution in the Senate which called on the administration to impose economic sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that is training and equipping Iraqis that are going back into Iraq and killing American soldiers, hundreds of them.
Senator McCain and Senator Clinton voted for that resolution. About three quarters of the Senate did. Senator Obama did not.
LIEBERMAN: He said it was saber-rattling. It was the exact opposite of that, it was economic sanctions and nothing to do with the military.
BLITZER: I think what he said, he said he would give a green light to the Bush administration to consider military action.
LIEBERMAN: But no way -- it was the exact opposite of that. So here's what I'm saying. I don't question Senator Obama's commitment to the security of the state of Israel. I'm saying when it comes to dealing with enemies, both in the Middle East and around the world, Senator McCain has more experience, more balance, knows when to be tough, knows when to be soft.
BLITZER: All right.
LIEBERMAN: I worry that Senator Obama has not had that experience. And, therefore, ultimately will compromise our security in that way and also our alliances.
BLITZER: And coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Vice President Al Gore making his famous or infamous Internet claim right here on LATE EDITION a little more than nine years ago. We're going to look back at a decade of the last word on Sunday talk in just a moment.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is my 10th year of hosting LATE EDITION. So we thought we'd take the opportunity every Sunday this year to revisit some of my interviews with politicians, world leaders and other news makers.
In March of 1999, I spoke with then Vice President Al Gore as he was preparing for what would become an unsuccessful run to succeed Bill Clinton. In that interview, he made a claim that dogged him on the campaign trail.
BLITZER: Some people have suggested that you will try to emerge from Bill Clinton's shadow during the course of coming year. Others say you don't want to emerge from his shadow. The question to you is do you want to emerge from the president's shadow?
GORE: Well, I don't feel like I'm in a shadow. I think the job of vice president is very different and very distinct from the job of president. And for the last six years plus, I've concentrated on doing the best job I can as vice president to help him be the best -- the best president he can be. And I've really enjoyed that. It's been a great privilege and honor. But as a presidential candidate, when I become one, I will be in a very different relationship to the American people and at that time I'll be speaking about my vision for what I want to see in this country in the 21st century. I'm looking forward to that. I'm very excited about that.
BLITZER: The Al Gore vision will not be necessarily completely the same as the Bill Clinton vision?
GORE: Well, no because the challenges we face in the future are different from the ones we face in the past. I have been very much involved in shaping our current economic policies and I feel as if I know a great deal about how to keep our prosperity going. We have a governing coalition willing to support the ideas that work for the American people. I have also participated in shaping our environmental, education and crime fighting policies and other initiatives. But the challenges are going to be brand new. You know, the 21st century is not only the beginning of a new millennium, it's the beginning of an entirely new era in human history. We have to take new approaches.
BLITZER: I want to get to some of those and the domestic and international issues in a minute. Let's juts wrap up a little bit of the politics right now. Why should Democrats, looking at the Democratic nomination, the process support you instead of Bill Bradley, a friend of yours, a former colleague in the Senate? What do you have to bring to this that he doesn't necessarily bring to this presidency?
GORE: I will be -- I'll be offering my vision when my campaign begins. It will be comprehensive and sweeping. I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be.
But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I have traveled to every part of this country during the last six years during my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system during a quarter century of public service, including most of it long before I came into my current job. I have worked to try to improve the quality of life in our country and in our world. And what I've seen during that experience is an emerging future that is very exciting about which I'm very optimistic and towards which I want to lead.
BLITZER: And if you'd like to see my full interview with then vice president Al Gore, you can go to CNN.com/LATEEDITION. Up next, as oil hits record highs, why can't the Iraqis pay reconstruction costs with their oil revenues? We'll speak about that and more with Iraq's ambassador to the United States right after the break. LATE EDITION continues right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition."
The rising price of oil and the troubled U.S. economy is raising concerns about the financial costs of the war in Iraq. Joining us now is Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie. Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to "Late Edition."
SUMAIDAIE: Thank you.
BLITZER: As you know, Iraq is a major oil-exporting country right now, and you're expected to take in, what, $60 billion or even $80 billion over the next year in oil export revenues. You're accumulating huge oil surpluses right now, funds that are in U.S. banks, other banks.
Listen to Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, because he is very angry right now that the U.S. taxpayer continues to spend so much money in Iraq when Iraqis could be doing it themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-MICH.: It is unconscionable, it is inexcusable, it makes no common sense for a country that has that kind of wealth and that kind of surplus in our banks and their banks to be sending us the tab or for us to pay the tab for the infrastructure and some of the training costs that we're now paying for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The U.S. is spending, what, about $10 or $12 billion a month in Iraq right now. What is going on?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, I certainly understand the frustration expressed by the distinguished senator here. But let us separate myth from fact. Iraq does have a surplus, but the surplus does not mean that there is no need for this money.
Iraq is a completely destroyed country. The infrastructure has to be rebuilt right from the beginning. Majority of Iraqis don't have even access to drinking water. Health centers...
BLITZER: So why is that money, the $20 billion or $30 billion in banks, is just sitting there instead of being used for that? SUMAIDAIE: There are two reasons. There are two reasons. One, is that we are announcing many major projects to rebuild. And there are no qualified international companies coming forward to do them, because of the security situation. So we have -- we have our own frustrations.
Plus, we have our own capacity problems within our administration. The government is not yet well organized enough to spend the money under the right kind of controls. So...
BLITZER: So why not just give the money to the U.S. and let the U.S. spend the money?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, we are doing that. On, for example, on the armament of the military, on the weapons and supplies for the military, we've shifted all that to the U.S. and said, please do it for us.
We are also taking up practically all the costs -- when I say practically, well over 90 percent and very soon 100 percent -- of the cost of our security forces.
The reconstruction, we're taking that over as fast as we can. So there is no reluctance on our part to pay for our own reconstruction.
BLITZER: Listen to Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential frontrunner, because he's among those also very frustrated right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Their budget was designed on the basis of $57 a barrel oil. It's now at $116. They have taken twice as much income oil revenue in as they have projected, and that money is not being spent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And now it's even more, at $120 a barrel.
SUMAIDAIE: Well, I've explained some of the reasons why the money is not being spent fast enough.
Let me just take you back. 2006, we are only able to spend 20 percent of our budget. 2007, that went up to 64 percent. This year, we hope to hit 80 percent. We are trying to improve our capacity to spend.
But let us be very, very clear. The amount of money that Iraqis and the country need to rebuild itself and to stabilize itself are multiple times the amount of money we have available.
BLITZER: Because Iraq could be a very wealthy country. It could be exporting $80 billion a year in oil, potentially, given the high price.
SUMAIDAIE: Potentially. Let me just tell you this. The best way to get the oil price, international oil price down, is to help Iraq be stabilized and produce more oil. We are able to produce three times the amount of oil we are producing today. But for that, we need to stabilize the country and we need to rebuild our oil infrastructure.
Only last Monday Iraq signed a contract with Boeing, for more than $5 billion, so the money is flowing back. We're trying to spend it where we can, and a lot of that money is coming back to the U.S. economy.
BLITZER: But what I hear you saying -- and we have to wrap it up -- is you're going to spend more money, Iraqi money, and U.S. taxpayers will spend less in Iraq. Is that what you're saying?
SUMAIDAIE: That's what...
BLITZER: And will the U.S. have to maintain this current level?
SUMAIDAIE: Absolutely not. We are taking over as fast as we can. We are taking over on the construction side. We are taking over on the security side. And as time goes on, the money spent by the Americans on reconstruction or on our arms services will come down to zero and we'll take on the full load.
BLITZER: I think that's what a lot of Americans would like to hear.
SUMAIDAIE: Absolutely. BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, thanks for coming in.
SUMAIDAIE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, Barack Obama accuses his rival John McCain of quote, "losing his bearings." That and a lot more. Part two of my interview with the Democratic presidential frontrunner. There is much more on "Late Edition" right at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.
OBAMA: If I had had my way, we would not have gone into Iraq in the first place.
BLITZER: In his first interview since Tuesday's pivotal primaries, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama discusses his vision for the United States and the world.
The way ahead in Iraq. The former U.S. commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez weighs in on the war and his new book "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story."
CLINTON: People say to me all the time, are you going to keep going? Well yes of course I'm going to keep going.
MCCAIN: I will be the president of all the people, whether they vote for me or not.
BLITZER: We'll break down the race for the White House with three of the best political team on television. LATE EDITION's second hour begins right now.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is LATE EDITION with Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: And welcome back to LATE EDITION. Coming off Tuesday's primary, Senator Barack Obama was clearly turning his attention to the general election and his presumptive opponent John McCain when we sat down for our interview. You're going to see how our discussion of foreign policy quickly turned political and even personal.
BLITZER: Let's go through a couple foreign policy issues. McCain says, if you had your way, the U.S. would surrender in Iraq; he wants victory.
OBAMA: If I had my way, we would not have gone into Iraq in the first place.
BLITZER: But what about now? OBAMA: I think it was a huge strategic blunder. And I think the American people are smart enough to understand that a phased withdrawal, where we're as careful getting out as we were careless getting in, that puts pressure on the Iraqis to stand up and take seriously their obligations to arrive at a political accommodation at the same time as we are doubling down on diplomacy in the surrounding region, and not just Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Jordan, but also in Syria and Iraq, then we are also investing in humanitarian aid for the people who have been displaced in Iraq, that that's not surrendering.
That's a sensible policy that will allow us then to deal with our biggest strategic problem, which is al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan reconstituting themselves. And that's something that we have been distracted from and something that I intend to focus on when I'm president of the United States.
BLITZER: This is going to be a huge difference, the war in Iraq, the fallout, between you and McCain.
BLITZER: He also is going after you now, today, the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence. He says you're not necessarily endorsing policies that would be good for Israel.
He says this, for example: "I think it's very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas' worst nightmare. Senator Obama is favored by Hamas. I think people can make judgments accordingly."
OBAMA: Yes, this -- this is offensive.
And I think it's disappointing, because John McCain always says, well, I'm not going to run that kind of politics. And then to engage in that kind of smear, I think, is unfortunate, particularly since my policy towards Hamas has been no different than his.
I have said that they are a terrorist organization, that we should not negotiate with them unless they recognize Israel, renounce violence and unless they're willing to abide by previous accords between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And, so, for him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination.
We don't need name-calling in this debate. What we're going to need is to have a serious conversation about, how do we keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranian regime, how do we broker a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians that allows both sides to benefit, Israel assuring its security and its status as a Jewish state, the Palestinians able to have a contiguous, functioning state, where their people can prosper?
And, if we end up continuing to be locked up in these ideological arguments, playing politics of the sort that we have seen John McCain doing recently, then I think, frankly, we're going to miss an opportunity to really move this country in a better direction and to reset our foreign policy in a way that I think the world is anxious for.
The world wants to see the United States lead. They have been disappointed and disillusioned over the last seven, eight years. But I think there is still a sense everywhere I go that, you know, if the United States regains its -- its sense of who it is and our values and our ideals, that we will continue to set the tone for creating a more peaceful and more prosperous world.
BLITZER: I want to move on, but, on this 60th anniversary of Israel, what -- what does Israel mean to you?
OBAMA: Israel is not only our strongest ally in the region and one of our strongest allies in the world, but there is a special connection between America and Israel, one that, when I traveled to Israel, was evident.
Not only do we share so much in terms of common culture. Not only is it the site of so much of our -- of my religious faith and the site of so much of our understanding of the world around us, but what I love about Israel is, is that it is a robust democracy, and that they are committed to principles like rule of law and civil rights and civil liberties. And so it is critical that we send a message around the world we will stand with Israel, we want them around not just for 60 years, but for 600 years. And when I am president of the United States they will have an unwavering ally in me.
BLITZER: We asked our viewers to send us in some questions, and we got thousands of responses, as you can only imagine. I've got a couple. I just want you to watch one of those and get your reaction. A lot of people asked this basic question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears that you do not have enough support among blue collar workers as Senator Clinton did. Would you consider just on that basis alone considering her on a joint ticket as vice president?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Well, you know, as I said before, "Time" magazine notwithstanding, we haven't wrapped this thing up yet. At the point where I'm the nominee, I'll start going through the process of figuring out what -- you know, what my running mate -- who my running mate might be.
Senator Clinton has shown herself to be an extraordinary candidate. She is tireless, she is smart, she is capable. And so obviously she'd on anybody's short list to be a potential vice presidential candidate.
But it would be presumptuous of me at this point, when she is still actively running, when she is highly favored to win the next -- two of the next three contests, for me to somehow suggest that she should be my running mate. At this point I think we have to just resolve this process and then we can figure it out.
BLITZER: There will be plenty of time down the road for that.
OBAMA: There will be, yes.
BLITZER: All right. Here is a question. Listen to this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I strongly believe that us human beings are defined by what we've done in our lifetimes. What is the one thing that a President Barack Obama, what will he be remembered for achieving during his presidency or during his lifetime?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Well, we've got a lot of jobs before us, but the most important thing I think I could achieve, you know, if I am looking back eight years from now and I am fortunate enough to be the president, is that we were able to navigate our way through this situation in Iraq and the threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan in a way that makes us more secure, stronger, but also enhances our influence around the world, which I think has been diminishing.
I think the way we have run this war in Iraq has lessened our ability to move our allies. It has led us to ignore the critical needs for us to focus on a sound energy policy in this country. It has left us unable to lead on critical global issues like global warming. And it has led us to neglect what ultimately is the most important thing to keeping America safe, and that is having an economy that is the envy of the world and that gives us the resources and the power to project ourselves around the world.
If China ends up becoming the economic powerhouse of this century, then their military will ultimately match up with that economic power. So part of resetting our foreign policy has to include understanding that there are Americans out there who are struggling.
They want to succeed, they want to get a college education. They want to be scientists.
OBAMA: They want to be, you know, on the cutting edge of clean energy. They want to be on the cutting edge of Biotech. But we're going to have to make some investments and ensure that the dynamism and the innovation of the American people is released.
It's very hard for us to do that when we're spending close to $200 billion a year in other countries, rebuilding those countries instead of focusing on making ourselves strong.
BLITZER: We're out of time, but a quick question, on this Mother's Day weekend. Your mother raised you. She was on food stamps at one point, a single mother.
If she were alive today and she saw where you have reached, the point that you have reached right now, what would she say to you? (LAUGHTER)
OBAMA: She'd say, "Don't let it get to your head. Just keep on working hard." But I think she'd be pretty proud. Everything that I am, I owe to her. She was the kindest, most generous person I ever met. And her values and her integrity still guide she.
She's somebody who, when I'm confronted with difficult choices, I have to ask myself, you know, what would she -- what would she expect of me? And I think that's usually a good guidepost.
Now, I've got to say that the mother that counts most in my life at the moment is Michelle, who, through a very difficult process, continues to raise two of the best daughters that anybody would ever want. And she's out on the campaign trail at the same time, and keeping me straight, so, happy Mother's Day to her, as well.
BLITZER: And a happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there.
BLITZER: OK, Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
OBAMA: Thank you, Wolf. I enjoyed it.
BLITZER: And still to come, we're going to get reaction to the Obama interview from a leading McCain supporter, the former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
But up next, the former U.S. commander in Iraq is now speaking out, and he's putting the blame for the poor post-invasion planning in Iraq squarely on the Bush administration. We'll speak live with Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, right after the break.
"Late Edition" continues, right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez is the former commander of U.S. troops in Iraq. He's retired now and free to speak his mind, and he's doing just that.
He's described the Bush administration's war plan as -- and I'm quoting now -- "catastrophically flawed," and he's backing all of that up now in a new book entitled "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story."
General Sanchez is joining us now, live from San Antonio.
General, thanks very much for coming in.
SANCHEZ: Wolf, thank you very much for the opportunity.
BLITZER: You caused a lot of publicity, a lot of headlines, back in October, when you said this, referring to the administration's strategy then unfolding in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: The latest revised strategy is a desperate attempt by the administration that has not accepted the political and economic realities of this war. And they have definitely not been able to communicate effectively that reality to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, General. What do you think about the -- what's your assessment, right now, as to how this war is moving along?
SANCHEZ: Well, Wolf, I think what we have seen -- and it was desperately need at the time, and I stated so in October, that we needed to support our soldiers as they conducted the surge, in order to be able to bring some stability back to the country.
Because they would, in fact, be able to provide us another opportunity for America and the coalition to surge its political, its economic and its diplomatic power to bring some long-term stability. And, again, we are struggling with our ability to be able to do so.
BLITZER: So is it moving in the right direction right now, U.S. strategy, or the wrong direction?
SANCHEZ: No, absolutely, I think the tremendous successes that Dave and our great young Americans have achieved is, in fact, allowing us to move in the right direction.
But we still are not at the point where we have achieved that regional diplomacy to allow all of the countries in the region to assist us to help Iraq stabilize itself.
And, probably more importantly, we have not been able to move reconciliation and some of the other critical and economic challenges inside of Iraq forward at a fast enough pace.
BLITZER: Because I will play for you what Senator McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, said this week. And I want to see if you agree with him. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: There's no doubt that it was mishandled for nearly four years. For nearly four years, we were frustrated by the mishandling of the strategy in Iraq, and it was terrible. And now we have the right strategy. The surge is working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And you agree with him, A, that it was badly mishandled for four years but now the surge is working?
SANCHEZ: Oh, absolutely. I think all one has to do is look at the facts, as I have laid them out in my book, and it will be very obvious that, from a political and an economic standpoint, we were never able to synchronize and deploy the power that was necessary for us to take advantage of the great work of our young warriors.
And also, diplomatically, for an extended period of time, we never took the initiatives that were required for us to ensure that we brought stability to Iraq.
BLITZER: Here's what you write in "Wiser in Battle," on page 208. You write, "In effect, I was told, do the best you can with the resources available. So that's what we did. To protect the borders, for example, we ran periodic patrols because we didn't have the man power to properly secure the borders all the time. And it remained that way for my entire tenure in Iraq."
Basically, your complaint that you didn't have enough forces to really get the job done.
Back in October of last year, when you were making some of these criticisms, though, Senator Lindsey Graham was on "Late Edition." He's a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I asked him to respond to your criticism, and here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I was there the day the U.N. facility was bombed, killing the U.N. diplomat. And I ask him every time, do we have enough people here?
Senator McCain was an early critic of the strategy of not having enough troops on the ground. And every time we talked to General Sanchez, we got push-back: "We have enough troops." "The Guard and Reserves are not being strained." (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He was referring to the time when that U.N. post in Baghdad was bombed. And that was in 2003, shortly after so-called major combat operations were over. The president declared that you were then the commander of multi-national forces in Iraq.
And Senator Graham says he asked you repeatedly, "Do you have enough troops?" and you said you did.
SANCHEZ: Well, Wolf, I think what we have to do is, once again, take a look at what is actually transpiring in the aftermath of major combat operations.
SANCHEZ: The nation as a whole does not have sufficient capacity at that point in time to be able to sustain the level of deployment forces that we had. In terms of what is actually on the ground by that point, we had stabilized the force and it was in the order of about 145,000 to 150,000, plus another 10,000 to 15,000 of coalitions forces that were in place.
So at that point in time for the admissions that were associated with the insurgency as it was beginning to evolve, we had enough forces and we've got to understand that in the course of a war, there are -- it's a very dynamic situation.
BLITZER: Let me be precise, General Sanchez, you don't dispute what Senator Graham is saying that when he asked you and Senator McCain asked you early on in 2003, do you have enough troops, you said you did.
SANCHEZ: Absolutely and I think the record clearly shows that at different points in time when we are, in fact, faced with very challenging situations, a couple of examples are November of 2003 and then again in April of 2004 during Fallujah and with Muqtada al-Sadr, when we require the forces and ask for them and we are able to achieve some increased numbers by overlapping forces. But our ability to sustain in the long term is very tenuous and, in fact, very difficult for the nation to achieve.
BLITZER: In the book, you acknowledge that when this insurgency got going after the so-called major combat operation stays ended in 2003, you acknowledge that you and the U.S. basically didn't have a good appreciation, a good understanding of what was actually happening.
I'll read from your book on page 257. "With the igniting of the insurgency, our battlefield clearly expanded all the way across the country. The enemy force was so unstructured that we were unable to specifically identify objectives against which we could maneuver our forces. There was also an increased intensity in the fighting and casualty rates spiked as our soldiers fought and died every day."
You really didn't understand at that time, correct me if I'm wrong, General Sanchez, the enormity of what was unfolding.
SANCHEZ: Actually, what we don't understand is we don't understand the command and control structures. We don't understand the size of the insurgency. As we look back from the very early days of my command tenure and the June time frame of 2003, we very clearly established that the command and the nation, in fact, in Iraq does not have the intelligence capabilities, the capacities, the expertise and the access to be able to determine what is happening to us in this country.
We don't even understand the culture. And to further complicate the problem during the summer of 2003, we take away all the command and control headquarters, the mini Pentagons that are above me, the two headquarters that are gone by the end of May. So this further complicates America's challenge.
BLITZER: General, looking back, knowing what we know right now and obviously we're all a lot smarter we are now as opposed to then. Was this war a mistake?
SANCHEZ: Well I think when we look at exactly what the decision elements were that were being considered, the intelligence that we believed in, I don't know that our nation's leadership, both military and political, could have made any other decision.
And, in fact, Saddam was a significant threat in the region and we expected that we had some sort of WMD capability that was likely to get in the hands of extremists. So, when you look back, given what we knew then, I don't believe you can call it a mistake. BLITZER: General Sanchez, thanks very much for joining us. Once again, the book is entitled "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story." General, thanks very much.
SANCHEZ: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: He doesn't have a record of accomplishment in the private sector or in the governmental sector.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: John McCain's key supporter Mitt Romney responding to my interview with Senator Barack Obama. He calls the Democratic presidential candidate front-runner quote "untested and unproven." LATE EDITION continues right after this.
BLITZER: Earlier this week, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney blasted the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, saying that he had "not accomplished anything." As you heard in the last hour, Senator Obama dismissed his criticism and afterward I went back to the former governor of Massachusetts for his response.
BLITZER: Governor, thanks for coming in. ROMNEY: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: He -- I asked him to respond to your criticism of him that he really hasn't accomplished much legislatively or in the world of business. The presidency, you said, of the United States is not an internship.
Here's how he responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The contest didn't work out so well for Mitt Romney. I think he was making those same arguments against John McCain, suggesting that John McCain, as a senator, hadn't done what Mitt Romney had done. And yet here we are and there Mitt Romney is.
Look, when it comes to national security, I think that what people are looking for is good judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And he says he had good judgment in not supporting the war from the beginning.
All right, you want to respond?
ROMNEY: Well, his response, of course, was not to -- to discuss the merits of the issue. The truth of the matter is, just as I said, that he doesn't have a record of accomplishment in the private sector or in the governmental sector. He hasn't led any kind of entity. He hasn't pushed a major piece of legislation.
He seems like a charming guy who is very well spoken. But in terms of actually having led, actually having accomplished something, actually having been the kind of leader that America needs at a critical time, with our economy fragile, with us facing real challenges around the world, he's untested and unproven.
BLITZER: But what about...
ROMNEY: And, frankly, Senator McCain is someone who's very tested and very proven.
BLITZER: But what about his argument that you used to make the same criticisms of McCain when you were running against McCain?
ROMNEY: No, he's not quite right on that. I always recognized Senator McCain's long service in our United States Senate, as well as his tested and proven status as a leader and as a member of our military. There's no question about John -- where John McCain has earned his stripes and how many years he's taken to do that. He is somebody well-known for his legislative accomplishments, for bringing Republicans and Democrats together. He's a person of experience and capability -- which, by the way, is something the American people recognized, I think, when they selected him in the primary process. BLITZER: Here's what he said, Senator Obama, in my interview, when I asked him to react to Senator McCain's criticisms of him on the issue of Hamas and Israel, McCain suggesting that Senator Obama is really the Hamas candidate of choice.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is offensive. And I think it's disappointing, because John McCain always says well, I'm not going to run that kind of politics. And then to engage in that kind of, you know, smear, I think, is unfortunate, particularly since my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, you want to handle that one?
ROMNEY: Yes. Sure. Again he's trying to deflect from the substance. The United States leader of Hamas has said that he is endorsing Barack Obama. That's a very embarrassing thing. And the reason for that is pretty straightforward. And that is Barack Obama has said if he's elected president, in his first year, he will sit down with Ahmadinejad. ROMNEY: And Ahmadinejad and his government are the major financial supports, state-sponsored support that stands behind Hamas, as well as Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.
And think of Ahmadinejad. Today he said that Israel is a stinking corpse on its way to annihilation. And, yet, Barack Obama says he is going to sit down with him in his first year as being the president. It is one more clear example of a person that's out of his depth when it comes to being the leader of the free world.
BLITZER: He says that he welcomes a debate with John McCain on the issue of the economy, taxes, spending policy, because John McCain would simply be more George W. Bush. Here's how he put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Absolutely. Because think about what I'm going to be running against -- the failed policies of the Bush administration, which John McCain wants to continue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Does John McCain want to continue what Obama calls the failed policies of the Bush administration?
ROMNEY: Well, I think you're going to hear that time and again, Wolf, throughout the campaign season, and I just don't think it's going to stick. I think people around the country have recognized that John McCain's nickname as the maverick in Washington is something which they remember and they understand why. He has not stood behind President Bush in every single decision of President Bush. As a matter of fact, he came out very early on and said that Donald Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense in the history of our nation. He vehemently opposed the way the war was being conducted. He has been an independent thinker, and he's been right.
He also said we have got to put a surge in place to provide the support necessary to get Iraq on track, and that has worked. He is somebody who has demonstrated time and again he's an independent thinker, and he's been right time and again.
So, you know, Barack's going to try to paint him into George Bush, but that's just a paint that's not going to stick.
BLITZER: Governor Romney, thanks for coming in.
ROMNEY: Thank you. Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, will Democratic superdelegates try to force Hillary Clinton out of the race before the primary's end on June 3rd? We'll have analysis from three of the best political team on television. "Late Edition" continues after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
If it was clear it many pundits this week that Hillary Clinton's run for the White House was effectively over, it certainly wasn't clear to Hillary Clinton. So the Democratic nomination battle continues, and let's discuss that. Let's see what's going on right now with three of the best political team on television. Our congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin is out on the CNN Election Express in Charleston, West Virginia. Also with me here in Washington, our White House correspondent Ed Henry, and our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. Thanks, guys, very much.
Bill, Time magazine's cover. This new issue that's out, and the winner is -- we'll put it up on the screen. You can take a look at it. There he is. And the winner is -- they have got a little asterisk that says really we're pretty sure this time. Is it premature to say this Democratic presidential nomination is over?
SCHNEIDER: Well, she's not quit yet, so technically it's not over, and mathematically it would be possible that she got almost all the remaining delegates yet to be chosen...
BLITZER: And all the superdelegates, too.
SCHNEIDER: And the superdelegates. You could figure out a theoretical scenario, but that looks very unlikely. It's not a done deal, but it looks unlikely.
BLITZER: It looks very unlikely. That's what everybody says, Ed. You see it differently?
HENRY: No, not at all. But I think that basically, Hillary Clinton has until the first week of June, as you mentioned. A lot of people heard these comments this week from Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying, give her some more time, there is no reason why this can't play out until early June. A lot of people read that I think wrongly. They thought, well, Pelosi is going to let this play out a while. A lot of leaders are fine with this thing.
No, she was setting a bar. She was setting a mark, and I think you're going to see that more and more from Democratic leaders. We'll give you some more breathing space, Hillary Clinton. Give you a chance to exit on your own terms. But after the first week of June, then it's going to get ugly. BLITZER: Here's what a lot of people don't understand. Jessica, you're there in West Virginia for us. Hillary Clinton is expected to do very well, to win Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary where you are in West Virginia. They split last Tuesday. She narrowly won in Indiana; he decisively won in North Carolina.
What happened? Why all of a sudden, after a split on Tuesday and a likely win this Tuesday in West Virginia and also the following Tuesday in Kentucky, she's expected to do very well. Why are so many people counting her out? YELLIN: Well, a number of reasons. One is about expectations. Barack Obama did so much better than expected in the last primary that it really sort of renewed the momentum behind him after he lost so many primaries.
He won North Carolina by a significant margin. He did much better in Indiana than the expectations were at the time. And even after that Jeremiah Wright controversy, the bitter remarks, he picked up a lot of support, and it showed that he really could take a punch and move on.
Also, Senator Clinton has not picked up the superdelegate support that was necessary for her to show that she has real momentum going forward. She's in significant debt at this point, as has been acknowledged by the campaign. Senator Clinton just really is losing every sort of significant sign of momentum and energy she needs to keep pushing this forward. And Barack Obama is getting all of it.
SCHNEIDER: There's one open question in my mind. I heard Senator Clinton just last week say, "I can't imagine the Democratic Party nominating someone for president who is not committed to the principle of universal health care coverage." Now, that is one of the few serious issues that separate her and Barack Obama. And when she said it, as definitively as she said it, how can we support a candidate not committed to universal health care, it led me to think maybe she is going to go all the way to the convention and try to insist that the party pass a platform plank or an amendment that says the party is committed to universal health care, and make that the statement of her campaign.
That's what Ronald Reagan did against Ford. That's what Ted Kennedy did in 1980 against Jimmy Carter, to make a stand.
BLITZER: She would be under enormous pressure not to do that.
Here's what she said on the day after Tuesday's primaries, Ed. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I'm staying in this race until there's a nominee. And I, obviously, am going to work as hard as I can to become that nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: But even one of her top supporters, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, she said this. And I'm going to put it up on the screen. "I would like to talk to her. I think the race is reaching a point now where there are negative dividends in terms of strife within the party. I think we need to prevent that as much as we can."
The pressure on her to drop out, assuming that the math isn't in her favor is going to be enormous, even from within her own camp.
HENRY: That is absolutely true, and I think that is the same with Speaker Pelosi, as I mentioned, and a lot of other leaders, like Senator Feinstein, who basically are going to give her a couple more weeks, but then say no mas, basically, if she can't turn it around.
And I think the only real hope for Senator Clinton at this point is Michigan and Florida, which is still unresolved. And if somehow she can find a way to force a revote -- it seems highly unlikely at this stage -- but she does make a good point about the fact that if the Democratic Party is going to move forward towards the convention without resolving Michigan and Florida, that's going to be a huge problem.
BLITZER: Jessica, the Democratic Party's rule committee meets May 31st to discuss what to do about Michigan and Florida. These disputed primaries that have no standing right now as far as delegate selection is concerned whether pledge delegates or the super delegates from those two states. What's happening in West Virginia today where you are?
YELLIN: Well, there's a lot of excitement about this election coming up here. But I can tell you, Wolf, that I know a number of senior Democrats who are very close to both the Obama and the Clinton campaigns and have been talking to both throughout and have been having conversations among themselves about whether it's possible to encourage Senator Clinton to announce that she's dropping out after the West Virginia primary.
Their idea would be that she would come out on the night of the West Virginia election after a huge victory for her and stay on a very high note, I know it's time and I'm dropping out and throwing my support to Barack Obama. So there's a lot of focus on what will happen here Tuesday night.
I should say I have no reason to believe that they have actually approached the Clinton campaign or gotten any sort of agreement from Clinton. They're very nervous. All parties are about talking to Senator Clinton about even the possibility of dropping out because it's such a sensitive topic. But there's a lot of interest within the party about that as a possibility.
BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens. Guys, stand by, we have a lot more to talk about, including my interview with Barack Obama and this little exchange he and John McCain's team is having. But up next, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he talks about when he thinks the Democratic race for president should end. Our very popular "In Case You Missed It" segment, coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Get back to our political panel in a moment. But now in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. All of them, all of them, the focus was on the state of the race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.: The unity is really the critical question. And, so, how the campaign is waged is more important than whether or not it's being waged. I'm confident again that Hillary Clinton understands how important it is that Democrats win this election.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: We're not coming up to West Virginia on Tuesday. The last poll had Hillary up 43 points. She's up 40 points in Kentucky. What does it say for the candidate that you say has won the nomination that he can't win two states that Bill Clinton carried in 1992, in 1996. We lost them in 2000 and 2004. This is our point. Hillary Clinton in the general election can beat John McCain.
DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We're coming to the end of the process. I think people saw the results on Tuesday as very meaningful and I think there's an eagerness on the part of the party leadership and activists across the country to get on with the general election campaign. Senator McCain's been out there campaigning as the nominee for some time. And I think people are eager to engage.
HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMM. DIR.: Look, if Barack Obama wants Hillary Clinton out of this race, beat her. Beat her in West Virginia. Beat her in Puerto Rico. Beat her in Kentucky. We have key states coming up. There is no reason why Senator Obama shouldn't be able to compete against Senator Clinton in West Virginia. It is, as I said, a key swing state. Why can't Senator Obama beat Senator Clinton in West Virginia?
SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: I think we have to play this out. We have a campaign that's been very good for the American people. We have 3.5 million new registered voters around the country. We have a campaign that is still going on and we have a June 3rd final primary. President Clinton didn't get the nomination until June 2nd. So I think we should just relax a little bit.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As I've been watching her campaign in the last few weeks, I think she's become a stronger and stronger candidate. She's been making a pretty compelling case for her candidacy. The problem is, I think you can no longer make a compelling case for the math. The math is very, very hard for her.
BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.
Up next, Barack Obama told me John McCain is quote, "losing his bearings." Was it a criticism of his opponent's age? We'll talk about the uproar over that remark and more when we continue with our political panel. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with three of the best political team on television.
By the way, this is Marine One in Waco, Texas, right now, the president and Mrs. Bush coming from the Crawford ranch. They'll be getting off Marine One momentarily. They'll be walking over to Air Force One for the flight back to Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C.
We expect the president will be updating us on the wedding last night at the Crawford ranch, his daughter, Jenna, getting married.
We haven't heard much about the wedding from the father of the bride or the mother of the bride, but we might be hearing from them shortly. We'll keep those microphones open. As soon as we heard from the president you'll be hearing from the president, as well.
Let's continue our conversation now with Bill Schneider, Jessica Yellin, and Ed Henry.
Ed, you're our White House correspondent. A very exciting moment for the president and the whole first family.
HENRY: Absolutely. But he's been very reluctant, as has the first lady, in talking too much about the wedding. Some people have been advising them to talk about it a little bit more. It's very humanizing for a president to talk about his daughter, being father of the bride, a much different context than all of the political battles here in Washington.
But they've wanted to respect their daughter, Jenna's, privacy. She's a very private person, for the most part. She's been out on a book tour, recently, though, and been a little bit public. But she really wanted to keep the wedding itself very private, just limited mostly to family and close friends. So this will be an interesting moment, to see them come out and finally talk about.
BLITZER: Historically, it's not every day that you see a daughter of a president getting married.
SCHNEIDER: No, it's happened a few times. I remember Lyndon Johnson, I think, was it?
HENRY: That's right, his daughter. SCHNEIDER: His daughter got married, and long ago, Teddy Roosevelt's got married.
HENRY: Nixon's daughter, too, Tricia.
SCHNEIDER: Richard Nixon's daughter, of course. And those were White House weddings. But Jenna didn't want a White House wedding. The president -- they did not have the press there.
That surprised me a bit, because the picture of the president giving away his daughter would have been a very humanizing and touching moment. But I think he respected her desire for privacy.
BLITZER: Here's the president and Laura Bush. The proud parents -- and they're going to -- I think -- we're told they're going to walk over to the microphones right now and share some of their thoughts on what must be one of the most exciting days of their lives, last night. About 200 people gathered at the Crawford ranch for the wedding. It was relatively small, under the circumstances, 200 people. It could have been a lot bigger, obviously. They decided -- made a deliberate decision not to do it at the White House. Jenna Bush clearly wanted it at the family ranch in Texas.
So let's listen to the proud parents of the bride and groom as they come over to the microphones and share some thoughts on this day after what must have been one of the most exciting moments of their lives.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Laura and I want to wish everybody a happy Mother's Day. It's just a special day to give thanks to our moms. I appreciate the hard work that moms do.
And I understand that for some, however, Mother's Day is a sad day, for those who lost their lives in Oklahoma and Missouri and Georgia because of the tornadoes, and wondering whether or not tomorrow will be a bright and hopeful day. We send our prayers to those who lost their lives and the families of those who lost their lives. And the federal government will be moving hard to help. I'll be in touch with the governors to offer all the federal assistance we can.
This Mother's Day weekend was awfully special for Laura and me. Our little girl, Jenna, married a really good guy, Henry Hager. The wedding was spectacular. It's all we could have hoped for. The weather cooperated nicely. And just as the vows were exchanged, the sun set over our lake -- and just a special day and a wonderful day. And we're mighty blessed.
Anyway, thank you all.
QUESTION: Were you up late partying?
FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: Thanks a lot. QUESTION: Did you give the economy a boost? Did the wedding give the economy a boost?
BLITZER: All right, the obligatory shouted questions from the reporters there. The president and the first lady now walking on the tarmac. They'll be going up those stairs to Air Force One to make the flight back to Washington.
Ed Henry is our White House correspondent. What do you think?
HENRY: Well, I think that shouted question about whether or not the wedding gave the economy a boost, a little tongue-in-cheek, but the president, publicly, lately, has been a talking a lot about writing a very big check for this wedding. So I thought that was a humorous moment.
But, yes, you got to see him in a different way than we normally do. And that was obviously a positive moment for him to talk about the family, talk about his daughter, as well as his wife, here on Mother's Day.
But they have been very reluctant to talk about this. They're trying to give their daughter as much privacy as possible. But there's obviously been a lot of national interest in this wedding. So I think that short statement is, obviously, something, in context, to just, kind of, get out there and mark the occasion.
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin is joining us, too.
Jessica, you've spent some time out there at the Crawford ranch. You know what's going on. Give us a thought or two about this important day after for the president and the first lady.
YELLIN: Well, the president loves that ranch. And, you know, it's probably very meaningful to him that his daughter chose to have it there instead of the White House.
But, bottom line, right now, all I want to know is what that wedding dress looks like, and when are they going to release the photos?
BLITZER: We know it was an Oscar de la Renta. The first lady acknowledged that. We know that. We do expect to get...
YELLIN: But the picture, Wolf.
BLITZER: We do expect to get the picture pretty soon. And, once we do, of course, the whole world will see it.
I'm sure the bride looked beautiful in that dress. And it's going to be an exciting moment for all of America and the world to see the bride and groom. What is the delay? Why are they waiting so long to release the pictures?
HENRY: Well, in part, on the privacy grounds, I think that they're letting Jenna decide exactly which White House photo they officially release. That would, I assume, be part of it.
And you know, another thing we've been hearing recently is that, in private, the president has been talking a lot about how he wants to have grandkids. And he's very excited about this.
It's something you don't get to hear in, you know, the context of politics. But he's going to be leaving the stage in eight months or so. And he's been, you know, half-jokingly pushing his daughter, ever so slightly, about the possibility of grandkids.
So, as he winds down, we're going to have a lot of political battles, a lot of talk about his political legacy. But, obviously, on a personal basis, he's still father of the bride and somebody looking forward to being grandpa some day.
BLITZER: And congratulations to the family and all the friends of this beautiful, beautiful bride and groom.
All right, guys, thanks very much.
And that is your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, May 11. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. Remember, I'm also in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern. And at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, I'll be at the CNN Election Center, together with the best political team on television, for complete coverage of the West Virginia primary.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.