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President Obama in Japan

Aired November 13, 2009 - 21:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama spoke to Asia tonight. We'll talk about his remarks and what they mean for the future of that part of the world and ours.

And the confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on America and four alleged conspirators will be tried only blocks from ground zero. The decision is causing huge, huge debate. We're going to get into that.

And is Sarah Palin going rogue?

What she told Oprah about the campaign, the clothes and all the controversy.

Could she be prepping for a run in 2012?

All that coming up.

But President Obama just made a major foreign policy speech in Japan, kicking off his visit to Asia.

Let's talk about what he said, what it means for all of us.

Joining us now, Jamie Rubin. He is the former assistant secretary of State, chief State Department spokesman during the Clinton administration, now an adjunct professor at Columbia University School of International & Public Affairs.

Also joining us, Ben Stein, the columnist, the "Fortune" magazine writer. He was a speechwriter for Presidents Nixon and Ford.

And David Gergen, CNN's senior political analyst. He served in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton administrations.

Guys, thanks very much.

I'm going to play this little clip, because in that speech, the president had a major warning to North Korea.

Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For decades, North Korea has chosen a path of confrontation and provocation, including the pursuit of nuclear weapons. It should be clear where this -- this path leads. We have tightened sanctions on Pyongyang. We have passed the most sweeping U.N. Security Council resolution to date to restrict their weapons of mass destruction activities. We will not be cowed by threats and we will continue to send a clear message, through our actions, and not just our words. North Korea's refusal to meet its international obligations will lead only to less security, not more.


BLITZER: And Ben Stein, he also laid out another path for North Korea to cooperate, give up its nuclear ambitions and the world will be much better for North Korea.

What did you think of the president's remarks?

BEN STEIN, COLUMNIST "FORTUNE," SPEECHWRITER, PRESIDENTS NIXON AND FORD: I don't think the North Koreans are the slightest bit scared. We've been talking about this for years. We've been threatening them for years -- well, next time I'm really going to do it. They'd better watch out, next time I'm really going to do it.

They're not scared of us at all. They weren't scared of Bush. They're not -- Bush -- any Bush. They weren't scared of Mr. Clinton. They're not scared of anything.

What the -- what the end game for them is, I'm not quite sure. But I'm not quite sure that their leader is in his right mind. But they're not threatened. This is just the same thing they've been hearing over and over and over again.

BLITZER: Jamie Rubin, is all this outreach to North Korea, and Tehran, for that matter, really going to achieve results?

JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN, PRESIDENT CLINTON, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Oh, I don't think there actually has been any outreach yet to North Korea. They're talking about sending back now their special envoy to North Korea.

The real North Korea substance is going to take place in the president's meetings with the Chinese. The Chinese government is the only government that has genuine leverage over North Korea. They keep the lights on. They keep North side Korea's economy barely functioning. And the hard question for specialists in this area to -- to address over the years has been whether China is prepared to risk the instability that would come from threatening to turn those lights off, from threatening to withhold their economic support for North Korea -- the potential instability that would cause.

And how will China weigh that possibility against North Korea's increasing nuclear status in the nuclear club?

So far, China hasn't been prepared to put much pressure on North Korea. And if President Obama isn't successful in securing new Chinese cooperation in this area, then I think we can all expect the status quo to stay for some time.

BLITZER: He's going to have a chance, David Gergen, to change China's policies. He's off to Beijing within the next few days. He's going to have serious talks there. There's a lot at stake, not only as far as North Korea and its nuclear weapons are concerned, but as far as the U.S. economy is concerned, given America's stake in China right now.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON: Wolf, and this is a broad, sweeping speech, much of which could have been given by any American president on his first major trip to Asia. But -- and, by the way, he looked awfully tired. I'm sure his energy will come back.

But there were a couple of things about it that were very distinctive and I think did involve China directly.

One major theme of this speech is we are living in a time when Asia believes that power is shifting to Asia -- economic power, political power. And many are looking to China as the leader of this new Asia. And there's been a sense in Asia that America was either withdrawing or sort of sitting on the sidelines.

I think President Obama today was trying to send a signal, we intend to be a Pacific nation. I am a Pacific president. We're going to stay engaged. We haven't been as engaged as we should have been with some of the organizations there, but don't count us out of the intra-Pacific kind of arrangements that are starting to take shape.

Don't assume that China is going to be the only leader in this area. We're going to be here.

The second message he was saying to China is -- and to the world -- that you can no longer count on American consumers to help pull the -- the train of economic progress. That's something Ben Stein would understand very well, as well as Jamie, that -- that we've been -- depending on our consumers and their exports. And what he's saying is we've got to become a better exporting nation, reduce our -- the level of consumption and China has to increase its consumption a lot. He's really starting to put pressure on the Asian nations...

BLITZER: Well...

GERGEN: look to be an engine of growth for the world.

BLITZER: Ben Stein, I want you to pick up that thought and...


BLITZER: ...and recognize, as every economist does, that China has a lot of U.S. T Bills right now. The U.S. is in debt to a great degree to China.

STEIN: This speech, as Dave so correctly pointed out, could have been given by any president since 1990 and maybe even before that. We all know that we would like the Chinese to buy more of our stuff.

Why should they, except for commodities?

They can make the same things very much more cheaply. Except for commodities, what do they need from us?

We've all been lecturing them about air pollution and they -- why should they pay any attention to us?

We've given them a pass on it over and over again.

We've all been saying, oh, they're holding too much of our debt. But we would not like it if they stopped holding so much of our debt.

This is just an endlessly repeating drama. This is -- this is like "Groundhog Day," just going around and around and around. And it's not going to stop for very long.

You know, my father used to say that a thing can't go on forever. It will stop. And this cannot go on forever. But it can go on for a very long time. The Chinese seem to be willing to absorb an enormous amount of U.S. debt. I don't think it's going to change.

And as to China helping out with North Korea, they never help with anyone in terms of non-proliferation. That's just not way they behave.

BLITZER: And Ben Stein's father was Herb Stein, who was a great economist and a great man.

We're going to pick up some of that when we come back.

Stand by, guys.

Don't go away.

The plan to try the accused 9/11 terrorist in New York City isn't sitting very well with a lot of folks. We're going to talk about that and more.



I'm Wolf Blitzer sitting in for Larry.

If President Obama was hoping that flying halfway around the world would give him a break from the domestic political turmoil, he was wrong. The announcement today from his attorney general, Eric Holder, about the accused 9/11 mastermind and four others coming to New York to stand trial stirred up a huge firestorm.

Look at this.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice. They will be brought to New York -- to New York -- to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood. I am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial, just as they have for over 200 years.


BLITZER: All right.

Jamie Rubin, you understand what's going on right now. They could have been brought to the United States, perhaps to a military tribunal or a military commission. Instead they're going to the federal court system in New York City and a lot of people are pretty angry about that.

RUBIN: Well, this is a function of an election we had last year, in which President Obama made clear that his approach to the war on terrorism was not the Bush administration's approach. It was not to see these things all done through military commissions. It was not to keep people in Guantanamo indefinitely.

So he's pursuing exactly what he said he was going to do. And now the decision has been made. And I think people ought to wait a little bit before going off the reservation. I've heard some commentators speculating dramatically.

The Justice Department looked into this and they concluded that there were some big benefits to being in New York. The mayor of New York is actually quite pleased about it. The people who actually suffered are New Yorkers. I'm a New Yorker, Eric Holder is a New Yorker.

This may turn out to be an opportunity for some people to get some of the justice they've been looking for for a long time and may show that the civilian court system can succeed in certain cases where the evidence is clear, is overwhelming and where you don't need to use all this secret evidence or evidence that's been obtained through the torture program of the Bush administration.

BLITZER: The waterboarding, that's what he's referring to.

Ben Stein, a good decision by Eric Holder and the president?

STEIN: A terrible decision.

Look, did we -- did we arrest and put on trial the Japanese pilots that bombed Pearl Harbor?

Do we arrest and put on trial Nazi saboteurs who came ashore on Long Island?

This is just giving these terrorists another place to spout their venom and their hatred, just giving them another chance to make America look silly and foolish. There's no reason whatsoever that an enemy combatant seized in combat should be given a civilian trial.

I mean there were something like 12 million men under arms in Nazi Germany.

Should all of them have been given civilian trials? It's just a mystery. And as to the fact that, yes, Mr. Obama won the election promising to do this, that doesn't make it right. I mean, the fact that he won an election on that, along with a thousand or a million other factors, doesn't make it right.

These people are military criminals. They should be tried in the military system. And as far as I'm concerned, look, the guy has already said, "I'm guilty, I hope you execute me as soon as possible." Let's give him his wish.

RUBIN: Well, in fact...

BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on, Jamie.

I just want David Gergen before the break.

We're going to continue on this. It's not going away.

But David Gergen, who's right on this?

GERGEN: Well, I must say -- confess that found it mystifying. And I think it -- I haven't had a chance to read everything Eric Holder had to say. I do think that Jamie is right about one point and that is that the Obama administration is trying to treat the 9/11 not as a beginning of a war by terrorists, but more as a law enforcement question, as taking it into American courts.

But I'll tell you this, if the -- if we wind up with long, engaged very litigious trials that then wind up with all sorts of appeals and then we have -- and we go around and around on this -- and lawyers can wrap us into knots -- and don't get swift justice, the administration is going to pay a heavy price for that. That's the risk they're taking.

It may be the right thing to do legally, although I'd like to understand it better. But it's very clear to me that if there's not swift justice -- we've already got a lot of these families protesting this. They do not like this. They think they should be treated as terrorists, not as -- just as -- like other people...

RUBIN: I'm sorry. That's just not true.


BLITZER: Hold, hold, hold. Everybody hold your thoughts for a second, because we're going to continue on this specific point.

We'll be back in 60 seconds.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm absolutely convinced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be subject to the most exacting demands of justice. The American people insist on it and my administration will insist on it.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I do not understand why a war criminal should be able to have the same rights as a common criminal. I think the American people will be very unhappy about this decision. They should be. And they should reverse this decision. And they should be tried in military tribunals.


BLITZER: Jamie Rubin, why should Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and these four others be given all the rights in the U.S. judicial system that American citizens are given?

RUBIN: Well, because the attorney general has made a decision that there are a lot of benefits to having these individuals tried in the civilian courts and have the world see the result of what I think will be swift justice. This isn't that close a call. These people have all confessed to the crime. There isn't any need to use elaborate secret evidence.

And I think Eric Holder probably looked into all of these concerns that people had and concluded that the benefits of a civilian trial were significant.

And I don't think it's really very helpful to use hysterical analogies to the Nazi Germany days. This is not a fair analogy. Al Qaeda is a relatively small, but deadly group of terrorists. They are not the Nazi German Army. And to make those kinds of comparisons is how we got down the road toward invading Iraq because of 9/11. I think it's a silly analogy.

As far as the families are concerned...

BLITZER: Well, let me -- let me Ben Stein...

RUBIN: One point on the families, Wolf...

BLITZER: Hold on.

RUBIN: (INAUDIBLE) the families...

BLITZER: I'll let you make a -- make that point, but hold on. Let's let Ben Stein respond to that specific point, because you -- you were critical of what he had said.

STEIN: Well, with all due respect, Mr. Rubin, I don't think the families of the 3,000 people who were killed consider Al Qaeda trivial. I don't think that their friends (INAUDIBLE)...

RUBIN: I didn't say they were trivial.

STEIN: (INAUDIBLE). RUBIN: Please don't invent the words...

STEIN: Although they're -- they are...

RUBIN: And we were talking about the families (INAUDIBLE)...

STEIN: They are not. Well, wait a second. Wait a second. We -- well, the families have a important role here. The families, I think...

RUBIN: And they have different views.

STEIN: ...deserve to have some say in this.

RUBIN: There are a variety of views about that.

STEIN: So this -- the -- that -- well, you know, the -- the fact is that Attorney General Holder made this decision since indicates that's a political decision made by the Democrats. The Republicans made another decision.

But the question is, these guys are terrorists.

Why do they deserve the rights of a -- I'm sorry -- a bank robber?

Why do they deserve the rights of a person who robs a 7-Eleven?

They're terrorists who murdered civilians on a colossal scale in aid of an ideology which aims at blowing up all of America and all of the Western world.

Why do they deserve rights that we give to people who are American citizens who commit crimes in America?

These guys were foreign terrorists. They don't deserve these rights. And (INAUDIBLE)...

RUBIN: Mr. Stein, you're going to...


RUBIN: I hope you'll still take that view when they are mur -- they are suffering the result of this trial, which is going to be convicted guilty and get the death penalty. And then you can worry about all these rights that they have. I don't know why you're assuming that the American justice system can't handle this trial.

The American justice system has handled trials...

STEIN: I have seen a...

RUBIN: this before. And these people...


RUBIN: ...are going to be convicted.

STEIN: And what...

RUBIN: And they're going with the death penalty.

STEIN: What would be...

RUBIN: And why are you so worried about their rights?

STEIN: When was there a trial like this?

RUBIN: Why are you so worried about their rights?


RUBIN: I don't understand that.

STEIN: You're the one who's -- that -- you're the one who's worried about their rights. Tell me a trial that's similar. Just tell me a trial where there have been terrorists who killed 3,000 totally innocent people...

RUBIN: Well, there was a World Trade Center...

STEIN: ...who admitted (INAUDIBLE)...

RUBIN: ...trial before. There was a World Trade Center trial before. There were trials -- look what just happened the other day, where the sniper, who was essentially engaging in a massive act of terrorism in Washington, he got the death penalty.

STEIN: That's -- that's an American.

RUBIN: So -- so I just...

STEIN: But that was an American citizen.

RUBIN: ...don't see why you're worried so much about this.

STEIN: That was an American citizen.

RUBIN: They're going to be convicted.


RUBIN: And they're going to get the death penalty.


STEIN: Then why bother having the circus and let -- putting them on stage all over the world...

RUBIN: Because there are some benefits. And, actually, some of the families...

STEIN: Spewing their hatred and their anti-American (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: All right...

RUBIN: ...some of the families really want to get their day in court. And the rest of the world wants to recover from the damage done to our reputation and the morality of the United States by the inhumane policies of the Bush administration, that caused such discrediting...

STEIN: That does not concern...

RUBIN: ...of the United States. And why it's so difficult...

BLITZER: All right...

RUBIN: ...for the United States...

STEIN: Those people would hate us anyways.

RUBIN: get credit around the world.

STEIN: Those people would hate us anyway.

BLITZER: Guys, hold on.

STEIN: Those people would hate us anyway.

BLITZER: Hold your thoughts. I want to bring David Gergen...

STEIN: We're not going (INAUDIBLE) credit with them

BLITZER: David Gergen is going to come into this conversation, because it clearly is creating some passion out there.

And here's another question -- does this trial, it will take place in New York City.

Will it pose another terrorist threat to New York?

We're going to get into that and more when LARRY KING LIVE continues.


BLITZER: David Gergen, do you understand why the attorney general, Eric Holder, decided that these five detainees would be tried in a civilian court in New York but other detainees will be -- go before a military commission and a military trial?

There's one standard for some, another standard for another. I don't have a good explanation for that.

GERGEN: I don't, either, Wolf. But in fairness to -- to the attorney general, I'd like to study it more closely.

And Jamie Rubin makes the point that the cases against these five seem very strong and therefore they should be able to get swift justice.

And I hope that Jamie Rubin is right. The Obama administration better be sure he's right.

But, I must say, Jamie, it does seem to be, for the person in the street watching this, that there's a real distinction between a foreign national who comes to these shores and commits a terrorist act, kills -- helps kill 3,000 people. That seems like a war criminal who deserves a military tribunal, to be treated like a war criminal, versus a U.S. citizen who commits a crime of one sort or another, who, of course, ought to be tried in U.S. courts.

It does seem to me that most people would look at that and say there's a difference and that John McCain and Ben Stein both have a point in making that distinction. I don't quite understand why they're one and the same and why you would think that people who, in Nazi Germany, who murdered -- slaughtered people are so different from people who came here and slaughtered people. It's not the number, it's the fact that they -- you know, they're foreign nationals who go and recklessly and -- and murderously kill people...

BLITZER: All right, James...

GERGEN: ...and brutally kill people the way they have.

RUBIN: Let me try to address that far more reasoned question than we got before.

There is a -- a problem. And problem is that the United States believes it is important that our standards of justice be restored after eight years of waterboarding and Guantanamo Bay and the events of Iraq and the prisons there. And that did great damage to the reputation of the United States as the -- the country that has used the rule of law as our benefit around the world.

And I think the administration -- I don't know this. I haven't consulted with them. I did hear the attorney general give some extensive answers to this. And he distinguished between those where the evidence may have came -- come more from secret intelligence or overhead reconnaissance or interrogations that would be used in the military commissions, where the cases that would go before the civilian courts was a much easier case to try.

BLITZER: All right...

RUBIN: And I suspect we may find that this is a lot easier than people are getting all worried about and we may get some big benefits out of that. And before everyone focuses on the down sides, of which there are some -- and I acknowledge that there are some -- we ought to focus on the benefits.

BLITZER: Well, what about...

RUBIN: And that is that after eight years, we get the world to see our justice system operating properly and in accord with what the rest of the civilized countries of the world believe is the way to go. BLITZER: All right. So Ben Stein, the main argument that Jamie is making -- others have made it, as well -- it will help improve America's image around the world.

RUBIN: Not image.

STEIN: You know, I (INAUDIBLE)...

RUBIN: It's not about P.R.

STEIN: I don't really...

RUBIN: It's not about P.R.

STEIN: Well, I think he was asking me the question.


STEIN: I don't -- I don't really care.

BLITZER: ...that he was trying to make, that this will be good for the United States, to show that it can go forward with these kind of trials. It will help America's reputation or image or whatever around the world.

RUBIN: Well, no. I'm talking about our -- the attitude of our allies, civilized nations across the world who regarded the way we handled detainees...

BLITZER: And this will help...

RUBIN: be out of step with the rest of the world.


RUBIN: This is about the rule of law...

BLITZER: You're saying this will help.

RUBIN: ...not P.R.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Ben.

STEIN: Yes, I don't really care very much about kissing the butt of a whole bunch of demonstrators in the streets of countries in Europe or the Middle East. I care about the fact that these people are war criminal criminals. They're terrorists. They do not deserve the full panoply of U.S. protection of law. And most of all, most important of all, they did terrible, horrible crimes against the human race and now they're going to be given a forum to make America seem bad again and to criticize and mock America.

It's just extremely unseemly.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very much.

Don't go away, because we're going to continue.

We're also going to have another panel coming up on the terror trials in New York.

And later, we'll talk about the new Sarah Palin book, "Going Rogue".


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation on the major decision made today by the Justice Department, the Attorney General Eric Holder, supported by the president of the United States, to try these 9/11 detainees in New York at a civilian trial. Joining us now, Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst. He's the best selling author of "Holy War Inc." and "The Osama bin Laden I know." Also joining us from New York, Paul Cruickshank. He's a terrorism expert, and an investigative journalist. He's a fellow at NYU Center on Law and Security, collaborated with Peter on the book, "The Osama bin Laden I Know." And Ron Suskind, a good friend, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and best-selling author. Books included "The One Percent Doctrine, Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11."

Ron, you have spent a lot of time thinking about what's happening right now. Tell us about the decision that the president and the attorney general made today.

RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR, "THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE": The president is, I think, finally trying to bring rubber to hit this road. You know, this has been a long delay. There's been great passion and anger and shouting inside of the White House, what do we do here? And I think what you see here is essentially the unveiling of a plan. We're going to have a public trial for the low hanging fruit, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 hijackers, for which there is a great deal of evidence. This should not be a difficult prosecution, at its heart, jurisprudentially.

And then there are others who are other categories that we'll get to. In a way what this is, I think, is a kind of demonstration model as to what America stands for, in terms of rule of law. And the fact is, you know, Mike Mukasey, the former attorney general, said something interesting. He said this is exactly the sort of pre-9/11 mentality. I think that these folks are not at war with us. And I think the president will say exactly, they're criminals. They should be treated as such.

BLITZER: Paul Cruickshank, one of the arguments against this decision is that it will give these five detainees, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and these four others, a platform, if you will. They will express their Jihadist views. In the process, they will be able to recruit more followers. Do you buy that?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, TERRORISM EXPERT: I don't buy that, Wolf. Al Qaeda does have a platform now. It's called the Internet. Ayman al Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden release a lot of statements on the Internet. This is one platform that the United States can control to expose their murderous ideology.

In terms of recruiting efforts, the last few years have clearly showed that Guantanamo, Abu Graib, extraordinary rendition have helped al Qaeda's recruiting. The return to due process will make it that much harder for al Qaeda's propagandists to do their work, Wolf.

BLITZER: Peter, the other -- another argument that is made is that this will once again make New York a target, and that al Qaeda will come after targets in New York because this trial has got a lot of publicity during the weeks, maybe months that it goes forward in a federal courtroom. And it will be an inviting target for terrorists.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Look, New York has always been a target. New York was attacked in '93, the first World Trade Center attack. New York was attacked on 9/11. Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan/American, is allegedly planning attacks on New York, who were trained in an al Qaeda training camp rather recently.

So The fact that there's a trial in New York is neither here nor there. Yes -- and, of course, there have been terrorists tried in this court room repeatedly. There are security measure that you put in place for that. This is not something that's unusual.

BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani made the argument today, and really blasting this decision by the Obama administration, that this goes back to a pre-9/11 thinking on how to deal with terrorists, sort of a criminal -- dealing with them as criminals, as opposed to terrorists. What do you make of that?

SUSKIND: The view inside the administration, and the view that has grown over the years, even at the end of the Bush administration, is to treat them as war fighters. This is a war on terror. Ignobles, lifts, expands the primacy the prominence of these terrorists. And certainly it's something that we have seen in terms of not just the recruiting energy that they -- that flows from them, but also their larger than life status.

What this will probably do is reduce them to human size and, essentially, to place them in the class of criminals, rather than people standing on principle as those involved in a war.

BLITZER: Paul, remind our viewers who Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is. When we say he's the self-proclaimed mastermind of 9/11, talk a little bit about this man?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden, in the mid '90s, made a strategic decision that al Qaeda was going to start attacking the United States. And Khalid Sheikh Mohammed really was the man that worked out all the details, that assembled the team of hijackers, with another man, Ramzi Binalshibh, who is also going to be transferred to New York, who acted as a go-between between al Qaeda in Afghanistan the plotters in the United States, Wolf.

BLITZER: So if he was that guy, Peter -- you know, I got a lot of e-mails today from people all over the country, saying, you know what, he's really a bad guy. He's boasting about the fact that he killed these 3,000 Americans. Why waste all this time right now, with what's going to be a long or deal of this trial?

BERGEN: The American justice system is the American justice system. We put people on trial for crimes they commit. And we have done this with terrorists repeatedly. Hundreds of terrorists have been put on trial in the United States. If they have committed serious crimes, they tend to get life without parole.

BLITZER: I guess the question -- I should have fine tuned it. Why not send them before a military commission, a military tribunal, where things, presumably, could happen much more quickly, and would be held in secret, as opposed to an open court room in New York City.

BERGEN: First of all, the idea that it would be held much more quickly is simply -- is just not the case. There have been 800 detainees at Guantanamo and only three have been convicted. So there's a conviction rate of less than 0.5 percent coming out of these military tribunals, point one.

Point two, civilian trials have worked for terrorists. At the end of this, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will either get the death penalty or life without parole. Life without parole, in his case, would mean to Colorado, the Super Max there, which makes Guantanamo look like a Sunday picnic. So whatever sentence is given I think will be quite useful.

BLITZER: Do you buy this notion -- the administration wants to close Guantanamo -- that If you bring 200 of these detainees to a Super Max penitentiary in the United States, or someplace else, that it represents a danger to America's national security?

SUSKIND: No, certainly not.

BLITZER: So many lawmakers say, not in my backyard; we don't want these guys anywhere near my congressional district or my state.

SUSKIND: I think folks around Super Max have already gone through their nimby issues, frankly. And if you've been to Super Max, I mean, there is simply nothing that anyone can fear living near that facility.

It's interesting because so much of this is being politicized. But the fact is there is coherence and general consensus among specialists in terrorism that this is probably the best way to go.

BLITZER: Let me pick you brain for a second, Paul, on Major Hasan at Ft. Hood in Texas. He killed 13 fellow Americans, and wounded a lot of others. Was this an act of terrorism or just some guy who went berserk?

CRUICKSHANK: It's sort of too early to tell. But what we do know is that he had contact with an American cleric based in Yemen. They had an e-mail interaction. This is an extremist cleric who is very pro-al Qaeda, who for a generation of American radicals has really been a guide. So that has caused a lot of concern. But it's very, very early to tell exactly what this is, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much. Paul Cruickshank, Peter Bergen, Ron Suskind. We'll continue this conversation.

We got a lot more to talk about here on LARRY KING LIVE. Sarah Palin's new book, it looks like it might be a blockbuster. It certainly is. It's on all the best seller lists, even though it's not in the bookstores yet. What's going on? She reveals what she has going on, what happened in 2008, and looks ahead. We'll assess that when we come back.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Sarah Palin's new memoir, "Going Rogue," won't officially be released until Tuesday. But it's already grabbing headlines, generating plenty of debate. Let's discuss.

Ben Stein is still with us, the columnist from "Fortune Magazine." Also joining us, Hillary Rosen, the Democratic strategist, CNN contributor, editor at large at Also Amanda Carpenter writes the Hot Button column for the "Washington Times," author of "The Vast Right Wing Conspiracies, Dossier on Hillary Rodham Clinton." And Stephanie Miller, the radio talk show host. "The Stephanie Miller Show," that the name of her show, an appropriate name indeed.

Listen to what Sarah Palin told Oprah about that controversial interview she had with Katie Couric. Listen to this.


OPRAH WINFREY, "OPRAH": Let's talk about the interview with Katie Couric.


WINFREY: You talked about in the book, so I assume everything is fair game. You do say that it wasn't your best interview. Do you think that was a seminal defining moment for you?

PALIN: I did not and neither did the campaign. In fact that is why segment two and three and four and maybe five were scheduled. The campaign said, right on, good, you're showing your independence. This is what America needs to see. And it was a good interview. And, of course, I'm thinking, if you thought that was a good interview, I don't know what a bad interview is, because I knew it wasn't a good interview.


BLITZER: Hillary Rosen, this book is not even in bookstores yet, but it's a huge number one best seller. It's probably going to break all sorts of records. Are you surprised at how popular this former governor of Alaska still is? HILLARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, you can tell from that interview, those clips. She's extremely charismatic. The thing that bugs me -- and I can't wait to read the book to see whether this is true -- is that all of the things we have seen so far is sort of about how she was victimized by a big mean McCain campaign or terrible anchors asking bad questions.

What she's not taking responsibility for in the Katie Couric interview was that she was completely unprepared. She didn't know the difference between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

BLITZER: She said in that clip she didn't do a good job.

ROSEN: She didn't say that it was her fault. She didn't deal with it. She didn't acknowledge it at the time. Why didn't she do a good job? Because she wasn't prepared. She didn't know the issues. That's the piece that I still find wanting in Sarah Palin.

BLITZER: Amanda, I don't know if you have had a chance to look through the book. Some copies are floating around Washington already. But it's going to be a huge best seller. It's going to cause a lot of controversy out there. And there's a lot of bitter in-fighting already between her, as you know, and some former McCain staffers.

AMANDA CARPENTER, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Sure, and that's one of the reasons a lot of people will be reading the book. This is a score settler, on one level. This is her coming out and saying, this is the kind of person I am. And I think the interview on "Oprah" shows that she's very relatable and willing to admit her faults, which is one of the selling points, because people want to know what is the real Sarah Palin about?

I am looking forward to some substantive issues. I have heard in the previews that she talks about her oppositions to the bailouts and other economic issues, which the conservatives that will support her for whatever she does are very concerned about.

BLITZER: On these policy issues, Stephanie Miller, she makes no secrets on where she stands on some of the most sensitive issues of the day, including health care reforms or the economy or jobs or foreign policy?

STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes, she thinks that we ought to stick with the -- I think she called them market driven solutions, like we have now, that's given us such a delightful health care system with absolutely no flaws. But the thing that horrifies me more than the fact that the McCain camp picked this woman to be a heartbeat from the presidency is that they actually thought that she was good in the Couric interview. I sort of loved that. Like it's kind of like parents that go to a swim meet, and your kid almost drowns, and you're look, that was really good. You were really good. That was great. They actually thought it was really great?

BLITZER: They gave Katie Couric a couple of more interviews, even after that first one, which to me was pretty surprising, but I don't know how you felt about it. STEIN: The whole thing is just a mystery. The choice of Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate for one of the two major parties in the most important country in the world was utterly mystifying. It was just utterly mystifying.

She's a charming woman. I had the pleasure of meeting her sometime before the campaign. She's got a lot to say. She would be a great talk show host. She'd a great columnist. She's a great speaker.

But the idea that she has the weight to be a possible president is just horrifying.

BLITZER: There are people out there who believe she not only has the weight, the heft, and the gravitas, but someday she will be the president of the United States. And we'll talk about that when we come back.

Also, what do you think about all of this? Go to Tell us more on Sarah Palin. After this, we'll talk about that. And Levi Johnston, would he be welcome at her Thanksgiving table? We're back in 60 seconds.



BLITZER: John McCain is reacting to Sarah Palin's new book. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is she a viable candidate now?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Sure, sure. Well, I think there are a number of viable candidates out there. I think Sarah Palin is obviously one of them. We'll start through the process in about a year or so of selecting our nominee. But I think she's a very strong force in the Republican party.

I can't predict who's going to get the nomination. But I certainly think she would be competitive.


BLITZER: Amanda Carpenter, you agree with the former Republican presidential nominee?

CARPENTER: I think she's certainly a force within the Republican party. I do really think her stepping down as governor presents political problems for her if she does seek a higher office.

BLITZER: Because she comes across as a quitter, is that what you're suggesting?

CARPENTER: I just -- because you can't -- yes. You leave the post of an executive office. But that's not to say she doesn't have room to do other things, maybe a Senate run after her kids grow older. There's room for her in the party. I think she's an important voice in the party, especially as a representative of a modern woman.

BLITZER: A modern woman. You're a modern woman, Hillary Rosen. What do you think?

ROSEN: I think she is a modern woman, by definition of the times, but not a very in touch woman. That's I think troubling. When -- compare the words that come out of Sarah Palin's mouth with the Hero's segment we just saw. Sarah Palin acts like the world is made up of people who think and feel exactly like she does.

BLITZER: She was an incredibly popular governor in Alaska. Her approval numbers were off the charts.

ROSEN: Then she could have stayed there. But she's not connected to the problems of the country. She's not talking about unemployment. She's not talking about the poor. She's talking about, as Stephanie said before, throwing everything to the free market.

She doesn't know where she is on the economy. She doesn't even know when the tax cuts happened. I find that the substance doesn't match the rhetoric and the supposed compassion.

BLITZER: You know, there are some politicians who are great politicians, Ben Stein -- and you watch this unfold for a long time. But there's only a handful of politicians who are not only are great politicians, but they're also celebrities in their own right. Bill Clinton, for example, Barack Obama. But Sarah Palin, she's a real celebrity. You know she's a celebrity because not only serious newspapers, let's say the "Washington Post and the "New York Times," they want to put her on the front page. But "People Magazine" wants to put her on the cover as well.

STEIN: Right. They also put Emeril Lagasse on the cover. They put people who have soap operas on the cover. This is a lovely, pleasant, intelligent, controversial woman. She's going to make a great deal of money giving speeches. But this woman -- to think of her in a position of executive leadership over the free world, over the United States of America, it's just a non-starter.

If this is the best the Republican party can come up with, we are in very, very serious trouble. She's a lovely person, but a light weight.

ROSEN: Let's challenge also the notion that she's a good politician. She had a very erratic exit from the governor's mansion in Alaska. She ended up not being a help to the McCain ticket, but, rather, a detriment by all measure of exit polls.

BLITZER: There is some controversy on that.

ROSEN: And the last time --

(CROSS TALK) ROSEN: The latest example, of course, is just two weeks ago, when she decided to step into a race she knew nothing about, in a community she knew nothing about, in New York --

BLITZER: Hold on, Hillary.

ROSEN: -- and screwed up the Congressional race for the Republicans and ended up with a Democratic seat. Not a great politician.

BLITZER: Stand by. Stephanie, we're going to come back to you. We've got more Sarah Palin from her interview with Oprah, right off this.



WINFREY: One final question about Levi. Will he be invited to Thanksgiving dinner?

PALIN: You know, that's a great question. And it's lovely to think that he would ever even consider such a thing. Of course, you want -- he is a part of the family. You want to bring him in the fold and under your wing. He needs that, too, Oprah. I think he needs to know that he is loved. He has the most beautiful child. And this can all work out for good. It really can.

We don't have to keep going down this road of controversy and drama all the time. We're not really into the drama. We don't like that. We're more productive. We have other things to concentrate on and do.

WINFREY: Does that mean, yes, he is coming or no, he's not?


BLITZER: We're going to have to watch Oprah's show to find out the answer to that. Stephanie Miller, that was a nice answer she gave, wasn't it?

MILLER: Well, you know, someone is going to have a more awkward Thanksgiving than I am, with my Republican relatives. I'm happy about that. Will he be clothed? Will he be wearing clothes? It might be even more awkward than we think. Let's hope no one spills gravy on him.

BLITZER: Do you think she's going to run for president?

CARPENTER: If I had to put my money on it, I would say no. She definitely has a place in the party. I don't know what it is. I do think it's very unfair that everyone is judging her as if she's running for president now, when she's never said as much.

BLITZER: She was the vice presidential nominee. That's usually a sign you might want to run for president. CARPENTER: She hasn't said as much. She's talking on Facebook. She sounds out on the issues of the day. I think she may run for something. I'm not sure that's in the cards.

BLITZER: You can't say anything else because, guess what, we're all out of time. You know what? We'll have a lot of time to talk about Sarah Palin and a lot more. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer, sitting in for Larry. Larry will be back next week. Let's go to Anderson Cooper right now.