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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer
Interview With Harry Reid; Interview with Richard Thornburgh and Lanny Davis
Aired October 30, 2005 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK FITZGERALD, JUSTICE DEPT. SPECIAL COUNSEL: The grand jury's indictments, the charge is Mr. Libby committed five crimes.
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WOLF BLITZER, HOST: An indictment handed up in the CIA leak investigation. A White House insider forced to resign. How will the controversy surrounding the vice president's now former chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby affect President Bush and his ability to govern?
We'll ask two top U.S. senators, Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter. Plus, legal analysis from former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburg and former Clinton Special Counsel Lanny Davis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is going to choose a Supreme Court nominee who with faithfully interpret the law instead of legislating from the bench.
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BLITZER: But will the president's next choice please his conservative base? We'll ask former presidential candidate and president of American Values, Gary Bauer.
Then, was this just one bad week for the Bush administration or will these setbacks continue to haunt the president. We'll get perspective from former Nixon White House chief of staff Alexander Haig.
Insight on all these important matters plus the war in Iraq and the latest on human rights initiatives from former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Republican Senator Sam Brownback.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "LATE EDITION" with Wolf Blitzer. BLITZER: It is 11:00 A.M. in Washington, 8:00 A.M. in Los Angeles, 7:00 P.M. in Baghdad, 9:30 in New Delhi. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION." We'll get to the Senate Democratic leader in a minute.
First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred. In India's capital of New Delhi, the search is on for those responsible for a trio of deadly explosions yesterday. CNN's Satinder Bindra is following the story.
SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest figures that we have, 59 people have been killed and another 210 people have been injured in Saturday's blast.
Police are describing this as a terrorist incident and have launched a major investigation. They're trying to gauge the exact nature of the explosives that were used in all three of the blasts on Saturday.
Police have questioned several people, but so far they have not made any arrests. They've also not pointed the finger of blame at any major group or organization.
This morning, a little known outfit claimed responsibility for these attacks. This outfit has links to the band Lashkar-i-Taiyaba. This is a terrorist organization, but police say they're still trying to verify these claims.
Security has been ramped up across the entire country. In the meantime, those markets which were affected by the blasts have been opened. All through this morning, several store owners were busy cleaning up and, in fact, one store owner telling me they had to show strength. They couldn't be sad because they had to move on and rebuild their lives.
Hospitals in New Delhi are still crammed with the wounded. Earlier today, the Indian prime minister paid the wounded a visit. Just two days before the festival of Diwali, many people today were cremating their dead. It seems the holiday spirit here in New Delhi, a city of 14 million people, has just vanished.
Satinder Bindra, CNN, New Delhi.
BLITZER: And from around the world, let's head to things happening right here in Washington, D.C., and in the United States.
From the American public's growing anxiety over U.S. involvement in Iraq, to the failure of Harriet Miers' Supreme Court nomination and the CIA leak indictment, this past week, by nearly all accounts, has been one of the worst for the Bush administration.
Joining us now to talk about these developments is the U.S. Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: My pleasure.
BLITZER: Listen to what Joe Wilson, the retired former U.S. ambassador whose wife is at the heart of this whole CIA leak investigation, Valerie Plame, writes in yesterday's Los Angeles Times:
"We anticipate no mea culpa from the president for what his senior aides have done to us. But he owes the nation both an explanation and an apology."
Does the president of the United States owe the American people an apology?
REID: Wolf, I was tremendously disappointed this Friday when a very terse statement was issued by the vice president praising Libby. And a few minutes later the president, on his way to Camp David, does a head-on with the cameras calling him Scooter.
Not a word of apology, not a word of explanation to the American people. She is someone that is charged with obstructing justice, someone who is charged with perjury. The president said anyone involved would be gone. And we now know that Official A is Karl Rove. He's still around. He should be let go.
The president's going to have to get a touch of reality and explain to the American people not only what has gone on but what is going on.
BLITZER: Why should Karl Rove be let go if he hasn't been charged with any crime?
REID: The president's own words. If the president is a man of his word -- and he said that anyone involved in this would be gone; and confirmed a few days later by his press secretary -- then he should be gone.
And let's be realistic. This White House should do everything it can to clean up its image. We have, for the first time in almost 150 years, an indictment of someone working in the White House. We have the House majority leader, Republican majority leader that's under indictment, the Senate majority leader is under investigation both civilly and criminally, we have the person that's head of the Office of Management and Budget contracting who is led away in handcuffs, out of the White House.
I think we deserve an explanation.
BLITZER: What do you want specifically? What do you want, the president to go on television and deliver a detailed account of what's happened, even as criminal proceedings move against Scooter Libby?
REID: I think not only should the president appear before the American public and explain what is going on and take a few questions from the press, but certainly the vice president should do that.
And I repeat: This is using the president's own words. We know that the president and people around him didn't like people disagreeing with their basis for this war in Iraq which, by the way, is intractable now, costing us $2 billion a week. We've lost over 2,000 soldiers. We lost three or four yesterday. We know that we have energy prices that are skyrocketing. We know that he has not dealt with the victims of Katrina.
And on and on. That's what the president should be explaining to the American people, not only these problems in the White House with Rove and Libby, but what is he doing to get us back on the right track?
BLITZER: If the indictment against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's now former chief of staff is true, why you suspect that he lied to the grand jury, to FBI agents? What do you believe his motivation might have been?
REID: Wolf, going to war is the most important, the most serious thing a president can do. This whole thing is about this war in Iraq. This war...
BLITZER: The prosecutor and the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, said it wasn't; it was about the simple matter of lying, obstructing justice.
REID: No. Wolf, listen. That's not so. The special prosecutor wasn't asked to investigate the war; he was asked to investigate a CIA leak. That's what he did. And he did a good job doing that.
As I was saying, everyone knows that Vice President Cheney and President Bush do not like anyone criticizing anything they did -- or do. Joe Wilson criticized the basis for the war. He said there were no weapons of mass destruction.
And, as we have learned since, there was no terrorists in Iraq. There was Al Qaida in Iraq.
And that's what this is all about. This whole, whole thing is about the war in Iraq. That's all it is about.
BLITZER: But the special counsel specifically did not charge Libby or anyone else with violating the law as far as releasing the identity of classified information.
REID: Hey, Wolf, everyone knows that that statute involved is very difficult to prove. And we also know that when you appear before a grand jury, you shouldn't lie.
The special prosecutor had a very narrow function. And as he said, those people in the White House threw dirt in the umpire's eye -- the umpire being the people trying to determine what is going on, namely the American people.
BLITZER: But he said specifically Scooter Libby. But so far Karl Rove hasn't been charged with anything. And he remains on the job at the White House -- deputy chief of staff.
REID: Karl Rove in the indictment on page 22 is Official A.
And I say for the third time, if the president is a person of his word, anyone involved in this -- and certainly everyone knows Karl Rove is involved in this -- the indictment says so.
If he's a man of his word, Rove should be history. And I think also let's look at this as the American people, I think, should look at it and are looking at it. The president has a couple of choices. He can do what was done by President Nixon, just hunker down in the White House and pretend nothing is happening; or he can do what Ronald Reagan did.
Ronald Reagan, when he had some problems with aide to the Contras and all such things -- it caused a lot of controversy, he stepped forward and said I've gotta clean house and he cleaned house.
He brought in someone who is above reproach, Howard Baker. And the last of the president's term was as good as he could have done.
And the reason it was is because he didn't hunker down in the White House. This president shouldn't either.
He should get to the problems of the American people. People going to a gas station, having to pay $3 a gallon for gas...
BLITZER: Let me play to you what the president -- an excerpt from what the president said after the Lewis "Scooter" Libby indictment was announced. Listen to this.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While we're all saddened by today's news, we remain wholly focused on the many issues and opportunities facing this country. I got a job to do and so do the people that work in the White House. We got a job to protect the American people, and that's what we'll continue working hard to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You say he wants -- you want him to reshuffle, clean house, get some new blood in there. Specifically who do you have in mind? Who would you like to see the president remove, and who would you like to see him bring in?
REID: Well, I think I'm the wrong guy to ask. I suggested Harriet Miers, and you saw what happened with that. The right wing took over and drove her out as Senator Danforth says, Republican Senator from Missouri, former President Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, said that the right wing took over that nomination, the radical...
BLITZER: We're going to get to that in a minute.
REID: ... the radical right wing. And as a result of that, she wasn't even allowed to go forward on a hearing.
And so I'm not going to suggest who he should bring in, but there are lots of good people out there that he could bring in. But certainly he should do that.
BLITZER: But you want him to get rid of Karl Rove. You want Karl Rove fired. Is that what you're saying?
REID: For the fourth time, if the president is a man of his word then he should follow what he said. He should be a uniter, not a divider.
BLITZER: And what about Dick Cheney, the vice president of the United States?
REID: I think he owes an explanation, certainly. For first time in almost 150 years, somebody working right in the White House is indicted for lying to a grand jury? I think that certainly he deserves -- we deserve an explanation, we the American people.
And especially when you consider this administration -- anything dealing with the military, or dealing with intelligence, that's Cheney's portfolio.
BLITZER: I want to move on to Harriet Miers.
But just wrapping up, Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel, did he do a good job in your opinion?
REID: Oh, I think that this man is the best. He had a reputation. I thought he was a Republican. But it doesn't matter if he's a Republican, Democrat or independent. This man has it all. I'm a trial lawyer. I really, really appreciated the way he presented this case to the American public.
BLITZER: All right.
Let's move on and talk about your recommendation to the president that Harriet Miers would be a good Supreme Court justice.
Here is -- you said -- you acknowledged that. Is there someone specifically in mind right now that you would like to see the president move forward with?
REID: I -- part of my constitutional role as a senator, any senator, is to give advice to the president. He asked me for advice, and I gave him names that I thought would be good.
This is a crucial time in the history of this country. I've outlined the many, many problems that we've had, Wolf, and I think that what we need do is have him bring forward somebody that will help bring us together, not separate us.
What I'm afraid of is he's going try, as Senator Danforth indicated in his statement just a few days ago after Miers went down, that he's going to try to placate the right wing, and that's a mistake. He tried to do that before, and all he did is kick him in the teeth.
BLITZER: The New York Times, among other publications, says one of the front-runners that the president can name, maybe even as early as tomorrow, is Samuel Alito of New Jersey. He's a third circuit court federal judge right now. You've looked into his background. If the president were to nominate him, would that be acceptable to you?
REID: Well, I'm not going to rule out anyone. I've -- that is not one of the names that I've suggested to the president. In fact, I've done the opposite. I think it would create a lot of problems.
But keep in mind, Roberts, Justice Roberts, who's now our chief justice, we had a very dignified hearing. I think that Senator Leahy and Senator Specter did outstanding job.
And that's what we want to do: we want to cooperate; we want to make this, I repeat, a dignified hearing.
And I think the president can help. If he wants to divert attention from all of his many problems, he can send us somebody that is going to create a lot of problems.
But I think this time he would be ill advised to do that. But the right wing, the radical right wing is pushing a lot of his buttons, and he may just go along with them.
BLITZER: What about some of the other potential names that have been out there that could potentially spark a Democratic filibuster and what the -- what is often called the nuclear option whereby the Republican majority, 55 Republicans, they would then pass a rule that would eliminate the filibuster, and they would only need 51 votes to confirm a nominee.
REID: Yes, Wolf, we're going to do everything we can to make this a hearing that the American people are proud of. But a lot of that is up to the president.
We're going to do everything we can to make sure that these most important jobs -- that American people so depend on people in the Supreme Court to do the little things to make sure that their lives are free of a lot of interference, for lack of a better description.
We need somebody that's really good.
BLITZER: Do you think that the president is -- are you getting the word the president could nominate someone as early as tomorrow?
REID: Oh, I think he'll nominate someone. He certainly hasn't consulted with us as he did on the first two, and I think he should do that. I think it served him well in the first two nominations.
BLITZER: We'll leave it there.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us. Harry Reid is the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate. Appreciate it.
One quick question before I let you go, are you feeling okay? Because I remember we had a little scare a few weeks ago.
REID: Feeling great, feeling great. BLITZER: Back to 100 percent?
REID: One hundred percent. Yes, I'm very fortunate.
BLITZER: That's good to hear. Thanks very much, senator.
Later on "LATE EDITION," the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter. We'll get his view on the CIA leak investigation, the Harriet Miers withdrawal and who President Bush's next Supreme Court nominee should be.
Plus, we'll also have a closer look at the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby and where the investigation goes from here. We'll get some expert legal insight. That's coming up next.
And President Bush's divided political base. The former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer talks about the conservative campaign that led to Harriet Miers' withdrawal.
"LATE EDITION" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Our web question of the week asks this: Should president Bush nominate another woman to the Supreme Court? Cast your vote, go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results later in our program.
Straight ahead, former White House special counsel Lanny Davis. And former attorney general Dick Thornburgh. They're standing by with legal analysis on the Lewis "Scooter" Libby indictment and more.
You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
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FITZGERALD: If we were to walk away from this and not charge obstruction of justice as perjury, we might as well just hand in our jobs.
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BLITZER: The special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, breaking his silence Friday after a nearly two year criminal investigation into the CIA leak. An investigation that continues and potentially, at least potentially, could bring additional indictments.
Joining us now with some legal perspectives on the case are two guests, the former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh -- that would be the first President Bush -- and the former Clinton special counsel Lanny Davis.
Gentlemen, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, after the indictment was announced, after he resigned his position as the vice president's chief of staff, he issued a statement. Among other things, he said:
"I have conducted my responsibilities honorably and truthfully, including with respect to this investigation. I am confident that at the end of this process, I will be completely and totally exonerated."
Dick Thornburgh, how strong a case does the prosecutor have against Lewis "Scooter" Libby?
RICHARD THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: If the evidence alleged in the indictment holds up, it's a strong case and a pretty serious charge.
There are a couple of curious features about this indictment, however. The predicate for the whole investigation was the column by Robert Novak citing two administration officials -- with regard to Valerie Plame's status within the CIA.
That is not the subject of any charges as a result of this indictment. And...
BLITZER: At least not yet.
THORNBURGH: Well, not yet but it was pretty clear that there were only loose ends left to clear up. It is entirely possible that Mr. Libby was indicted for covering up something that wasn't a crime.
Moreover, it's not clear that, if he'd given truthful answers to the questions that formed the basis for his indictment, that it would have advanced the investigation.
BLITZER: So your bottom line is that, based on the evidence that was outlined in the indictment, the five counts -- the perjury, obstruction of justice, making false statements -- that that seems like a pretty slamdunk kind of case against Scooter Libby.
THORNBURGH: It does indeed. It's a strong case and they are serious charges -- and I don't mean to denigrate them. I just note how curious it is that we seem to have strayed from what the original predicate for the investigation was.
BLITZER: Not unusual here in Washington for that to happen.
But let gets your assessment, Lanny Davis. How strong of a case does Patrick Fitzgerald have?
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I agree on its face. The allegations appear to suggest that there was a lack of truthfulness and maybe even perjury. But I just am resistant to saying anything about this matter because Scooter Libby is presumed an innocent man. A prosecutor presents a one-sided version of events. That indictment is entirely without due process. And what most impressed me about Mr. Fitzgerald is he said that in his press conference. He warned people about the presumption of innocence. He used the word alleged.
Compare that to how many prosecutors, including Judge Starr, who never managed to use the word alleged when he spoke to the media.
So I think we should withhold judgment and allow Scooter Libby to be presumed innocent and let Mr. Fitzgerald speak in the courtroom and not have politicians run to the microphone.
BLITZER: Here's what Patrick Fitzgerald, among other things, said on Friday during his one-hour news conference -- a little more than one hour. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FITZGERALD: At the end of the day, what appears is that Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail-end of a chain of phone calls passing on from one reporter what he heard from another was not true. It was false.
He was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter.
And that he lied about it afterwards -- under oath and repeatedly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Patrick Fitzgerald outlined at least seven conversations he had with CIA officials, State Department officials, the vice president of the United States himself, long before he ever spoke with any of the reporters about Valerie Plame.
His argument, apparently, is going to be -- his defense is going to stem around, "Well, you know, I was a busy guy. I was dealing with a lot of important issues and that was my recollection. And I didn't intentionally lie to the grand jury or to the FBI. But I simply forgot."
THORNBURGH: Part of the prosecutor's case here is going to depend upon testimony by reporters -- which is going to be an entirely new experience for them because they'll be subject to cross examination as to their testimony before the grand jury, and the fact that the Supreme Court has only recently reaffirmed the fact that reporters from no exemption from the citizen's responsibility to testify about their knowledge of the crime.
BLITZER: But is that credible, his defense -- if, in fact, that is his defense that his recollection differed? Does that sound, knowing Scooter Libby to be a very detail-oriented, meticulous lawyer in his own right, that he simply forgot about all those conversations he had before speaking with Tim Russert or Judy Miller or Matt Cooper?
THORNBURGH: If believed, it could exonerate him. But that defense has been tried and found wanting in many, many cases.
BLITZER: Lanny, what do you think? What kind of defense -- if that's his strategy, is that a solid strategy?
DAVIS: I think it's a tough strategy. And certainly, with reporters testifying, with no motive really to lie, it's going come down to an honest misstatement versus an intentional misleading of the grand jury.
But I can just add a political comment here? The White House has a political problem. The legal issue has to be resolved in the courts. The political problem is Vice President Cheney; what did he know and when did he know it? That is the driving energy right now in journalism and in politics in both Washington and maybe outside of Washington.
If he knew that Mr. Libby was repeating this information to reporters, about the fact that there was a CIA agent at the CIA that was responsible for Ambassador Wilson's trip, that was a classified piece of information -- Valerie Plame's name over there...
BLITZER: But let me interrupt you...
DAVIS: ... and did he know that? And if he did, he's got a responsibility to answer those questions.
BLITZER: But the prosecutor is not charged Lewis Libby with violating any secrecy of classified information. It's a narrowly focused indictment that he lied in the course of this official investigation. None of the other underlying laws have been broken -- at least according to Patrick Fitzgerald.
DAVIS: I started out by saying I wanted to make a political comment. This president has to govern in the next two years.
DAVIS: Or more than two years. And really, as an American that wants a president to succeed in addressing our problems, the only way he gets this story behind him is to tell to Dick Cheney: "We said that we were going to take responsibility at the end of the day. What did you know and when did you know it?" Hold the press conference the way Geraldine Ferraro did and answer every question. That's what he's got to do.
BLITZER: What do you think, Dick Thornburgh?
THORNBURGH: Well, that may be good politics, but that's a judgment that the president has to make. The fact of the matter is that this 22-month investigation has not turned up any substantive violation of the criminal laws.
The derivative offenses that were charged are very serious, but the original basis for this investigation was that laws had been violated by the revealing of Valerie Plame's name.
BLITZER: And in the indictment, paragraph 21, it says this -- I'll read it, I'll put it up on the screen:
"On or about July 10th or July 11th, 2003, Libby spoke to a senior official in the White House," described as Official A, "who advised Libby of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson's wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson's trip.
"Libby was advised by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson's wife."
How much trouble do you believe, if any, Karl Rove is in right now because he's been widely identified as so-called Official A?
DAVIS: I have a different take on the role that Karl Rove played here. We know that Libby, according to Judy Miller, held up documents to his chest and read them that were clearly confidential if not classified, and that he got really over the line of what he's supposed to do to protect classified information.
Even if he wasn't charged legally, there is a political problem with what he did.
Karl Rove was doing what most of us at the White House do, which is, you hear about a story, you talk to a reporter and you try to beat it back because you think the story is false.
His role in this -- in my opinion -- in this situation was different and a lot more, I think, understandable to me as somebody who's been there. And I don't see the illegality of what Mr. Rove did yet. But that's up to Mr. Fitzgerald to decide.
BLITZER: Should Karl Rove still be sweating or he is in the clear?
THORNBURGH: It seems to me that he kind of -- according to the reports we get -- kind of cleaned up his act by his last minute appearance to explain what seemed to be prior inconsistent statements,
But one never knows.
The distinction here and Larry -- Lanny -- has stated it by pretty well. It's between criminal conduct -- and we now have these charges brought against Mr. Libby -- and political hardball, which is the charge against other members of the White House team.
And those are not criminal conduct. And they're judged in the court of public opinion.
BLITZER: All right, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. More to discuss with our guests, Dick Thornburgh and Lanny Davis. We'll continue our conversation on this.
We'll also get into the withdrawal of Harriet Miers, assess what's happening on that front. And the president of the United States -- who should he name to the U.S. Supreme Court?
All that plus a quick check of what's in the news right now. Stay with "LATE EDITION."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The process moves into a new phase. In our system, each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush speaking on Friday after the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
We're discussing some legal developments this past week with former Clinton White House special counsel Lanny Davis and former Bush attorney general Dick Thornburgh, that would be the first President Bush.
If in fact Scooter Libby lied as charged, why would a smart guy like that with all that Washington experience do that?
THORNBURGH: Defies belief. It's really very difficult to figure out, particularly since there apparently was in the eyes of the special counsel no criminal violation existed. He wasn't covering up anything that was...
BLITZER: But he didn't that at the time when he allegedly lied.
THORNBURGH: I think it's a bit of a condition reflex in this town, and it's a good object lesson to tell the truth and recognize that had you don't tell the truth you run the risk of scrutiny and possible criminal charges.
BLITZER: The major lesson learned, Lanny, from this whole experience, at least up to date, is?
DAVIS: Tell it all, tell it early, tell it yourself. Get this story out.
Vice President Cheney may be the reason that Scooter Libby was trying to hedge exactly what happened. If Vice President Cheney encouraged Scooter Libby to identify Valerie Plame, even if he didn't know she was a covert agent and you can't prove a crime, that was a massive political mistake.
They knew Scott McClellan was not telling the complete truth when he said no one was involved.
I think the vice president needs to lance this boil for the benefit of the president, and tell everything and let this story move on. THORNBURGH: I hasten to add there's no evidence that the vice president directed Mr. Libby to testify.
DAVIS: There is no evidence and that's one of the reasons that he ought to hold this press conference. Answer the questions and let's move on.
BLITZER: Let's move on to Harriet Miers right now. Arguably -- not the Democrats did her in but Republicans, conservatives.
Here's what some well-known conservatives had said about Harriet Miers' nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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DAVID FRUM, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: This is not a good enough choice. She has not taking an active role in legal philosophy.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT BORK, FORMER SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: It's a slap in the face to the conservatives who have been building a legal movement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, HUMAN EVENTS: Senators should request that the White House withdraw her nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's an interesting situation, the whole Harriet Miers nomination and then the withdrawal. What is the major lesson you learned from this?
THORNBURGH: Well, there are two unfortunate outcomes of this. One is that she was given no hearing, no up-or-down vote, and that tends to empower the bloggers and pundits far beyond the president and the Senate, which should be the ones that decide on the suitability.
The second is that the Senate was faced with an unusual situation: for the last 33 years every nominee to the Supreme Court has had judicial experience. And this outcome suggests that if you don't have judicial experience, you better not apply for this position.
And I think that's -- that would have denied us a lot of very good justices in the past.
BLITZER: Lanny, what do you think?
DAVIS: Well, this is gotcha politics turned on itself. We know about the left and the right doing gotcha why politics. What about the fact that we had advertisements for full and fair hearing over and over again, and the hypocrites of the right suddenly say no full and fair hearing when it comes to Harriet Miers. I feel badly for her. And I think the president should be thinking with friends like these.
BLITZER: But on the bottom line, was she qualified to be a justice in the Supreme Court given her lack of judicial experience, her lack of being involved in constitutional issues?
DAVIS: Well, we'll never know that. We certainly had great Supreme Court justices like Bill Douglas who had never been on a court.
We'll never know because she wasn't given the full and fair hearing.
I clearly had some doubts, as did many other people, about her answers to questions, her lack of experience. But she wasn't given the fair hearing she should have been given.
THORNBURGH: Lanny is absolutely right. The place to resolve those doubts is in full, free, fair, open hearings, not in sound bites. And that's what happened here.
BLITZER: The Democratic senator, Ted Kennedy, a member of the Judiciary Committee, spoke about out after the withdrawal. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It's disingenuous for the president to suggest that senators insistence on White House records were somehow responsible for the withdrawal of the Miers' nomination.
If the president were willing to stand up to the extremists in his party, a realistic compromise could easily have been found on this issue.
BLITZER: The issue...
KENNEDY: The fact that the White House and the Senate Republicans were not willing to stand up for principle and fairness against the extremists in their midst should be a disturbing to all Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was the excuse. That was the explanation given by Harriet Miers and the president for the withdrawal of the nomination, that they didn't want to go into a whole fight over confidentiality inside the White House. Was that the real reason?
DAVIS: It is a difficult problem because the attorney/client privilege and the executive branch privilege applies here. If that's the reason, it was kind of a self-inflicted wound because any president can appoint someone who doesn't labor under those disadvantages. But we'll never know.
BLITZER: Some suggested it was simply a face-saving exit strategy, if you will, as opposed to the real reason.
Is it important that the president nominate another woman for the Supreme Court? We asked this in our poll, our CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.
Fifty-nine percent said yes; 39 percent said no.
How important is it that a president nominate another woman?
DAVIS: I wouldn't say man versus woman.
I would say a true conservative, intellectually honest conservative, like Judge Roberts, that doesn't divide the country.
And I would say to President Bush, if he happens to be watching this program, you have a chance to pull this country back together again. You can nominate a conservative, the same way that liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Byers were supported by Republicans.
Democrats will support a conservative. But don't nominate a polarizing figure. Nominate someone that pulls this country back together.
BLITZER: All right, final word, very quickly.
THORNBURGH: No litmus test -- the best person available who comports with the president's judicial philosophy. That's always been a guide for success.
BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh, Lanny Davis, to both of you once again, thanks very much.
Coming up, the president of American values, Gary Bauer, talks about his opposition to Harriet Miers and whether President Bush is losing his conservative base. Our "LATE EDITION" will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I picked the best person I could find. People are going to be amazed at her strength of character and her intellect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: In the end though, many conservatives didn't buy into President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Among them, former Republican presidential candidate and the current head of the organization American Values, Gary Bauer. He's joining us here.
Gary Bauer, welcome to "LATE EDITION."
GARY BAUER, AMERICAN VALUES: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Before we get to that, a quick follow-up on the whole Lewis "Scooter" Libby indictment, the CIA leak.
Writing in The Los Angeles Times, the former U.S. ambassador, Joe Wilson, whose wife, Valerie Plame, Wilson is at the center of all of this.
He writes this: "The attacks on Valerie and me were upsetting, disruptive and vicious. They amounted to character assassination. Senior administration officials used the power of the White House to make our lives hell for the last 27 months, but more important they did it as part of a clear effort to cover up the lies and disinformation used to justify the invasion of Iraq. That is the ultimate crime."
Is he right?
BAUER: No he's not right. And as the special prosecutor himself said, this indictment is not about the war in Iraq.
Look, it's obviously a controversy. I hope people including senators are willing to remember that you're innocent until you're proven guilty. The White House certainly goes by that rule, too.
We have to wait and see how this all sorts out. But the idea that this...
BLITZER: But even if there were no criminal -- if there was nothing criminal about the release of the Valerie Plame, was it appropriate for senior officials in the Bush -- Bush White House, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, to be talking about Joe Wilson's wife instead of simply arguing with him over the merits of the case.
BAUER: Well, Joe Wilson's wife -- they have their own political agenda, which I think is fairly obvious as we have watched this unfold in recent months...
BLITZER: Well, we don't know what her agenda was, if any. We know what Joe Wilson's political views were. He wrote about them in the New York Times.
BAUER: But one of the things we may find out, however, as this unfolds and the trial is held and so forth, is what some of the agendas were of everybody involved...
BLITZER: But do you feel comfortable, do you feel comfortable with the very narrow issue of -- for example, some people that have problems with you, and they say, well, let's go to his -- let's see what his wife is up to, and we'll try to drag her into this?
BAUER: But, Wolf, in this case, his wife allegedly played a role in sending him on a mission that ended up in a very real way being used to undermine the president's desires in foreign policy areas... BLITZER: So you don't have a problem dragging her into this?
BAUER: Well, I would have trouble attacking somebody's spouse if that spouse had nothing to do with the controversy. I'm arguing that in fact she did have something to do with the controversy. Look, this is a tough city...
BLITZER: I'm going to move on to Harriet Miers...
BLITZER: ... and the Supreme Court. So even if no criminal law was broken, the fact that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby spoke about Valerie Plame with reporters, that's O.K. as far as you're concerned?
BAUER: We would have to see what those conversations -- what the content of them were.
If the conversations were just about, look, we think there's a -- we think there's another story here that's not getting out, we believe that she's working to undermine the administration; she's over at the CIA, etc., etc.
I don't think we know a lot now. And I would urge everybody to wait and see. That's what the legal process is for.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the U.S. Supreme Court. Arguably the most important issue a president of the United States can do after going to war.
BLITZER: Let's talk about what Senator Harry Reid said Thursday; he was just on this program after Harriet Miers wrote to the president asking that her name be withdrawn, and he accepted that withdrawal.
Listen to what the Democratic leader in the Senate said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: I believe without any question when the history books are written about all of this, that it will show that the radical right wing of the Republican party drove this woman's nomination right out of town.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You were in that so-called radical right wing of the Republican Party. You take credit or responsibility for that?
BAUER: No I don't. But I love the name calling in this town.
What in the world does Senator Reid mean about that? If he's referring to people like myself who want judges on the court -- and, incidentally, the president wants judges like this, too -- judges who aren't going to look at Constitution and see some hidden right to same sex-marriage, or look at the Constitution and think that it means we've got to take "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Is that what he means by radical right? Those are the kind of judges we want -- judges that will not try to force radical social change.
BLITZER: But you didn't even know what her views were on most of those issues when you came out and strongly opposed her nomination.
BAUER: Well, Wolf, you just hit on the problem. This is an incredibly important thing that a president does. And we knew the names that were circulating around and a lot of us looked at those names. And what we found was 25 years, 30 years of being a lawyer and she had never written or spoken about any of the great constitutional controversies of our time.
For many of us, that was enough. She was in many ways -- and I think she's a fine lady from everything I know -- but she was the epitome of the stealth strategy, the idea of nominating somebody that doesn't have a record.
The problem with that strategy has been that the joke has always been on conservatives. All these stealth candidates to the court end up getting on and being closet liberals after they rule on a few cases. And, certainly, we didn't want another one of those.
BLITZER: Early in October -- October 3rd -- you were quoted in the New York Times as saying, "The ramifications will be felt and not just against him," referring to President Bush, "but against the Republican Party."
That sounded like an enormous threat coming from you and the conservatives that you represent.
BAUER: Well, let me put that quote in context. I was asked what would happen if Harriet Miers got on the Supreme Court and then ended up being a vote for abortion on demand, a vote against "under God" in the Pledge, a vote for same-sex marriage.
And my response to that was, after all these years of my party campaigning on the idea that we're going to change the courts, and get them back in line with the values of the American people, if we end up blowing yet another nominee, the way we did with Justice Souter and arguably with some others, I thought the ramifications for my party would be severe.
BLITZER: All right. Let's look ahead. Maybe as early as tomorrow, the president will make an announcement on his next pick.
First of all, is it important that it be a woman?
BAUER: I think only the White House can make that judgment, because that's basically...
BLITZER: From your perspective.
BAUER: For me, the criteria has to be to find that individual that has the right philosophy and the right experience to get through a confirmation process.
There are women that fit those characterizations, there are Hispanics, African Americans -- only the White House can answer the question.
BLITZER: Who do you like?
BAUER: I'm a little bit like Senator Reid on this. This may be the only thing we agree on. I'm concerned if I name somebody their chances will go down. But certainly Judge Alito fits those characterizations. Janice Rogers Brown.
The president has been reported to be interested in putting an Hispanic on the court. There's never been one. Judge Garza -- incredibly good record. And an originalist on the Constitution. He actually thinks we ought to look at the document and determine what the founders meant when they wrote it instead of just making up things which is what we believe many federal judges have been doing for about 30 years now.
BLITZER: Gary Bauer, thanks very much for joining us.
BAUER: Great to be with you.
BLITZER: We'll see what the president does tomorrow or this week or in the days to come. Appreciate it.
Coming up, who will President Bush choose as his next Supreme Court nominee? We'll get one perspective from someone incredibly important in this entire process, the Republican chairman of this Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter. This committee will have to confirm anyone nominated.
And don't forget our web question: Should President Bush nominate another woman to the Supreme Court? You can log on to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote.
We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
What's his story? Benjamin Bernanke is President Bush's go-to guy for all things economic. Nominated this week to succeed Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Bernanke currently heads the president's Council of Economic Advisers, where he advises the president on everything from Wall Street to global policy. He's also served on the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors and taught economics at Princeton University.
BLITZER: There's much more ahead on "LATE EDITION," including former Nixon chief of staff Alexander Haig on the lessons the Bush White House can learn from the scandals of the past week.
But up next, a check of what's making news right now, including two U.S. soldiers facing criminal charges in Afghanistan. "LATE EDITION" continues right at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: This is "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITEE: Whether she would have been confirmed remains an open question. But at least she would have had the major voice in determining her own fate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Supreme setback: does the failed nomination of Harriet Miers signal a battle over President Bush's next choice for the high court? We'll talk with the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Today I accepted the resignation of Scooter Libby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide indicted in the CIA leak case. Will an ongoing investigation cripple the White House? We'll get perspective from former Nixon White House chief of staff, Alexander Haig.
And what impact with this series of setbacks have on President Bush's international and domestic agendas? Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Republican Senator Sam Brownback weigh in.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We'll talk with the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in just a moment.
First though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.
BLITZER: Confirmation hearings for Harriet Miers were to begin a week from tomorrow, but her withdrawal puts the Senate Judiciary Committee back at square one, waiting for President Bush to send up another Supreme Court nominee.
Joining us now from Philadelphia is the committee's Republican chairman, Arlen Specter.
Senator Specter, thanks very much, good to have you back.
SPECTER: Nice to be with you, Wolf. Thank you. BLITZER: I want to get to all of that in a moment, the Supreme Court. And you're going to be in charge of this confirmation hearing.
But let's talk a little bit about the CIA leak investigation, the indictment this past week of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's now former chief of staff.
Listen to what the special counsel, the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, said in announcing the indictment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FITZGERALD: But I'll tell you this, very rarely do you bring a charge in a case that's going to be tried and would you ever end a grand jury investigation. I can tell you the substantial bulk of the work in this investigation is concluded. This grand jury's term has expired by statute. It could not be extended. But it's an ordinary course to keep a grand jury open to consider other matters, and that's what we'll be doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It makes it sound like Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff at the White House, the president's top political adviser, may be free and clear.
SPECTER: Well, certainly Mr. Rove is at this moment, and what we may be losing track of, Wolf, is the presumption of innocence. The media has been filled with reports, anticipation about this matter for a long time, a lot of speculation. But nobody has said anything adverse to Mr. Rove in an official way.
BLITZER: In terms of the legality, but what about politically? We heard Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate, on this program, just one hour ago, say that he wants Karl Rove out for even talking about Valerie Plame Wilson with reporters.
SPECTER: Well, Senator Reid is entitled to his opinion, but he's not the president of the United States, and he doesn't administer justice in this country.
And Mr. Rove, like every other citizen, is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and until somebody says that he's done something wrong, he ought to be permitted to go about his business like anybody else.
When you're indicted, even though that's only a charge, that's sufficient to call for the person to step down. But on this date, to the record, I think talk against Karl Rove is political only.
BLITZER: Scooter Libby is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. He's only been indicted so far, as you correctly point out. But based on what you know, based on what the prosecutor -- the special counsel has said and what he's written in the indictment, how strong of a case does he have? SPECTER: Well, that remains to be seen when the witnesses testify. I've reviewed the 22 pages, and they are charges. They are allegations.
And now we have to see what the evidence will show, how these witnesses will stack up, and what Mr. Libby's defense will be.
And let's give him due process. Let's wait for the hearing.
BLITZER: The allegation, the charges include what the prosecutor says is evidence that Libby had at least seven conversations with government officials at the State Department, CIA and the White House about the identity of Joe Wilson, the former ambassador's wife, before he had any conversations with reporters, and that he lied about that in the course of the grand jury investigation and his comments to the FBI.
The response from his lawyer -- from Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate of Philadelphia, is, and I'll put it up on the screen, he says, "As lawyers we recognize that a person's recollection of events will not always match those of other people, particularly when they are asked to testify months after the events occurred. This is especially true in the hectic rush of issues and events at a busy time for our government."
Does that defense sound credible?
SPECTER: It depends upon what the witnesses testify to. It is one thing to write an indictment; it is another thing to put on witnesses at trial to make the case.
And one of the great problems we have in our society, Wolf, is that there is so much attention focused on Washington, D.C. and on the White House and high-profile personalities, that we tend to forget that this is only one stage of the process. And there's going to be a trial.
I spent a lot of time as a district attorney of Philadelphia prosecuting cases, and trials are very uncertain.
So let's wait and see what the evidence looks like before we decide what the outcome ought to be.
BLITZER: Listen to what the Democratic party chairman, Howard Dean, said about all of this the day before the indictment was announced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: This is a much deeper issue than just the indictment of the vice president's chief of staff. This is about what happens when you send people to foreign countries to fight without telling America the truth. This whole thing came about because the president wasn't truthful about why we went to Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Do you agree with Dean?
SPECTER: Well, you couldn't be more outlandishly political than Governor Dean was there.
And special prosecutor Fitzgerald answered Mr. Dean better than I could. He said that this indictment has nothing to do with the issue of weapons of mass destruction.
Look here, Wolf, the issue of weapons of mass destruction has been pretty well discounted. There weren't any there.
The issue as to whether there was some effort to manufacture the evidence is still a matter which is being looked into by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Those are important questions. But they have nothing to do with this indictment.
And Mr. Dean, Governor Dean, was doing his best to pump it up in advance, but certainly special prosecutor Fitzgerald let all the air out of Dean's balloon.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the U.S. Supreme Court, a subject close to your heart as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Why do you think -- why do you believe Harriet Miers' nomination fumbled as it did?
SPECTER: Because there was such an avalanche of adverse comment about her.
Instead of following the constitution, which says the Senate decides the issue, and you have hearings before the Judiciary Committee, Ms. Miers was tried in press conferences, in news releases, on radio and TV talk shows, and she never got a hearing.
I think it was very regrettable that that happened. And I was very disappointed that her name was withdrawn.
I think she should have had a chance to appear. She had a very strong -- has a very strong record as a civil lawyer. I reviewed her cases -- a strong intellect.
It is not easy to transfer that to constitutional law, but she deserved a chance.
BLITZER: So, why do you think the president, as some of the critics are now saying, cut and run -- you know, pull the rug out from under her?
SPECTER: Well, you'd have to ask the president why he did that.
I was not satisfied with the answer that there would have been an intrusion into the executive privilege.
The committee and I made it clear that we would respect executive privilege. But the cards were so heavily stacked against Ms. Miers that the decision was made to have her withdraw.
I think she might well have been confirmed had we gone through with the hearings.
BLITZER: A lot of people are bracing for an announcement, perhaps even as early as tomorrow, for a new nominee. Do you think that's going to happen?
SPECTER: Well, the expectation is that that it is very imminent.
The president apparently has decided not to take my suggestion that we ought to let Justice O'Connor serve out the term. She's willing to do so.
Right now, there's a lot of anxiety, Wolf, when you have Chief Justice Roberts -- we don't know how he's going to vote on critical issues, the second new nominee, the possibility of a third in the near future, perhaps even more, so that the constitution of the court could be changed on very major constitutional doctrines.
But the president seems determined to move ahead, and it's up to him.
BLITZER: Have you been informed yet of a name that he has in mind?
SPECTER: I have not.
BLITZER; Have you weighed in, giving him some suggestions?
SPECTER: I have been consulted. I have gone over a list of prospective nominees. I think the better practice for someone in my position is not to make a suggestion, although the advice function is separate under advice and consent.
I think there is more freedom, as the chairman of the committee, to maintain an independent position by not recommending a name.
BLITZER: How worried are you that if it's someone that a lot of Democrats believe could be an extreme right-wing jurist that they will go ahead and filibuster?
SPECTER: Well, I'm very worried about that. The topic, which dominates the discussion, as we all know, is a woman's right to choose. And you have both sides polls apart, and insistent on finding some answer to that question in advance of the hearing, which no one is entitled to.
The rockbed of judicial independence is that a prospective Supreme Court justice ought not to be called upon to say how he or she will vote in a specific case.
You have one of the active anti-Roe protagonists saying last week that they wanted a guarantee. Guarantees are for used cars and washing machines, not for Supreme Court justices.
And, on the other side, you have people who want assurances that the woman's right to choose will be protected.
So, there could be a real tough battle here and a real tough fight, depending on whom the president puts up.
BLITZER: If it's a federal judge, Samuel Alito, would you expect that real all-out war to develop?
SPECTER: Well, I don't want to be in the position of picking a nominee. It would be the kiss of death. So I'm going to pass on that.
BLITZER: Senator, thanks for joining us. Glad to see you on "LATE EDITION."
How you feeling?
SPECTER: I feel good. I feel good, Wolf. For a long time, I had a case of stolen identity. I looked in the mirror and didn't know who I was. I'm beginning to recognize myself a little more. When I get a little more hair, I'll feel a little better.
BLITZER: You look good, you sound good and we hope you're feeling great. Thank very much for joining us, Senator.
SPECTER: Nice being with you, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up: Is the Bush administration in danger of being consumed by controversy?
We'll talk with a man very familiar with White House damage control, a the former Nixon White House chief of staff, Alexander Haig. He's standing by.
Then: a bipartisan view. The former secretary of state Madeleine Allbright and Reopublican Senator Sam Brownback, who might want to run for president himself -- they will weigh in together on the White House's troubles, their potential impact on the Bush agenda and what they've combined their efforts to do right now around the world.
Plus: In case you missed it, highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Today, I accepted the resignation of Scooter Libby. Scooter's worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush commenting Friday on the indictment of the vice president's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, in the CIA leak investigation.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Joining us now with some perspective on just how an investigation like this impacts the work of a White House and the agenda of a White House, Alexander Haig.
He served as Richard Nixon's chief of staff and as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State.
Mr. Secretary, welcome back to "LATE EDITION".
ALEXANDER HAIG, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Glad to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know a lot about a White House in crisis. Is this a White House in crisis right now?
HAIG: Well, it doesn't compare to Watergate, of course, where we had the imperative of preventing a double converging a double, converging impeachment of a vice president and a president and the turnover of power to a party that had just lost a landslide election.
And that was the real stake of Watergate, which is seldom discussed. Today we have some manifestations of, I think, excess paranoia. That would be my advice to any White House -- is, why do you have to battle these nothings who failed in the State Department, which we did in this case, and try to at least set the record straight, which is what the effort was.
The second was a lesson that we should have learned long before now, and that is that the special or the independent prosecutor process is totally flawed.
We never should have had it, and we shouldn't have had it on this occasion.
On this occasion, it was an administrative decision made by the president's own Justice Department.
BLITZER: The attorney general, John Ashcroft, at the time recused himself because he was close to Karl Rove, among others in the White House.
HAIG: That's right. And his deputy gave total independence to a very young, very aggressive and very talented prosecutor.
BLITZER: But arguably, many are saying it worked in this particular case because you got a narrow focus of an indictment on allegations that this individual, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, lied, obstructed justice in the course of the investigation.
HAIG: Well, now, let me tell you, Wolf, the charge was whether or not there had been a violation, and by outing a secret covert operator of the CIA. That was never proven. BLITZER: But if someone in the course of an investigation lies to the FBI or lies to the grand jury, or tries to obstruct justice, isn't that a crime?
HAIG: Well, it's a crime if it is a crime, if the intent can be confirmed that it was intended to be a crime. And that's what's going to happen in this trial. And that's why I'm optimistic that Scooter Libby is going to be let off scot-free.
But be that as it may -- I know, I was hauled before one of the grand juries during Watergate, even though I hadn't been in the White House when Watergate occurred; I was vice chief in the Army. And I was called in and told, "You finger the president, you'll be out of here in five minutes. You don't, we're going to keep you until we get you for perjury."
And unfortunately, a lot of fine young people were gotten for perjury during Watergate and went to prison. Now, these are not...
BLITZER: But let me...
HAIG: ... what I would call justice.
BLITZER: But what you're saying is Patrick Fitzgerald is not doing a good job as the special counsel in this case?
HAIG: No, precisely the opposite. What I'm saying is he is a pit bull. He was one of the best in the department -- and confirmed that by getting this conviction in terms of the indictment.
Now, let me tell you, he didn't lay a finger on anyone about a conspiracy associated with the war, or about an effort to get the so- called State Department official's wife, who was really a bureaucrat and not a covert operator -- as was so clearly pointed out in The Washington Post in their editorial on Saturday morning.
BLITZER: In the indictment, they said her identity as a CIA official was classified.
HAIG: Well, she had a classified nom de plume, so to speak.
BLITZER: They sent up a whole front for her, a front company. She went around...
HAIG: Not during this period. During this period, she was a member of the administrative staff.
BLITZER: But you know intelligence, Mr. Secretary.
BLITZER: You know that if there are covert nonofficial cover -- what they're called, NOCs -- not official cover working at an embassy pretending to be an attache or something. But if somebody goes around the world working as a clandestine officer and recruits spies, works with other governments, that's a very, sensitive issue. HAIG: Well, I wish there had been an investigation of whether or not she fit that criteria when this alleged crime was committed. I think you'll find she did not.
And, therefore -- her outing also occurred by some loose talk from her own husband around this town. He was known to be very clearly pointing his finger at her.
And, you know, you've just got to be very careful when things are political. And this is a highly political situation.
BLITZER: Do you have evidence that Joe Wilson ever spoke about his wife having been a classified, clandestine officer of the CIA?
HAIG: I certainly have as much evidence that he called her his "CIA girl" as we have that there was any relationship of what took place in this particular case -- and the so-called nuclear issue and the war in Iraq.
BLITZER: I'm missing something. Do you have evidence he spoke about his wife's employment?
HAIG: It's been reported, I've read it, and you've read it.
BLITZER: No, no, no, we're talking about before Robert Novak. Before Robert Novak's column, did he ever talk about his wife being a CIA official?
HAIG: I'm not an expert on it. All I know is that this is a highly political issue. And that the so-called independent prosecutor, or special counsel, arrangement has already been disproven. And both parties let it atrophy. And by some reason, by a mistake in our Justice Department, it was carried on again in this case -- and that was a terrible mistake.
BLITZER: Do you think the president should bring in some new blood right now, reshuffle his staff in order to move on?
HAIG: Well, I think that's a judgment for the president to make. And he's going to pay for whatever the correctness of that judgment is.
It's very hard to dump people that you've come to rely on. On the other hand, it's always good to remember that four years is a dreadful experience for anybody. And I've had it twice. And believe me, it's tough going. And you do need a little resuscitation from that now and then.
BLITZER: Alexander Haig, the former secretary of state, thanks very much for joining us.
HAIG: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, a new global initiative to help refugees and promote human rights. We'll talk with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Republican Senator Sam Brownback about their new bipartisan venture. This might be described as the ultimate odd couple. We'll tell you what Albright and Brownback are up to.
Also, we'll have a quick check of what's in the news right now, including new information about Iraqi civilian casualties of insurgent attacks. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Should -- could the CIA leak investigation and other setbacks cripple President Bush's international and domestic agendas?
Joining us here in Washington with perspective is former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
And joining us from his home state of Kansas, Republican Senator Sam Brownback. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee, among other committees.
The two are leading a bipartisan effort, a new bipartisan effort, to promote human rights around the world. We're going to get to that momentarily.
Good to have both of you here on "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.
Madam Secretary, I'll start with you. On the CIA leak, you've watched it like all of us have. The indictment against Lewis "Scooter" Libby on Friday. You served in a White House that was in crisis during the Lewinsky impeachment matter, all the Whitewater investigation. Is this a White House now that's in crisis, and if it is, how does it affect its international policy?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, it's very hard to judge what's going on inside.
But I'm very troubled by the image that we are now portraying internationally. This is not a good time for the president to be weakened because there are so many international issues out there.
I am obviously not capable of discussing the indictments, nor do I think it's appropriate, but I think that it is important to note that we have a very large international agenda. And there are always dangers when a president is weakened.
And this is very different from what was going on during the Clinton administration.
BLITZER: Why is this very different?
ALBRIGHT: Because this is something that has the -- the Clinton problem was a problem for the president internally, but this has international ramifications.
BLITZER: Because at that time then President Bill Clinton was accused of perjury, obstructing justice in the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit, and that escalated and became the basis of him -- his being impeached in the House of Representatives, and then acquitted in the U.S. Senate.
ALBRIGHT: But it was a personal issue, and it never affected our foreign policy.
This issue, as it has been described, not by the special prosecutor, who I think made a very important point about saying that the Iraq war should not be discussed through this, but nevertheless, there are questions about that.
So I just think it's different. But I am mostly worried about it in terms of what it does to our international position.
BLITZER: Senator Brownback, in effect, the whole world is watching, and we're being seen right now around the world discussing these issues. How worried are you? Do you agree with the former secretary of state?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Well, this is a serious matter. But I think we go on with the agenda, and I think you allow the legal process to work its will and its way. The indictment has been reported out, there's a process that will follow, and we'll see what happens through that.
Meanwhile, I think we have to continue to maintain a very aggressive domestic and robust foreign policy agenda. Just had the constitutional vote in Iraq; that is significant. You've got elections coming up in Iraq; that's significant. You've got the potential for us starting to pull troops out in the first half of next year, very significant.
I think we've got to continue to move those forward as these legal issues move on forward on their own track.
BLITZER: There are some, Senator Brownback, who suggest especially in the aftermath of 2,000 American troops now having died in the course of the war in Iraq, that the trial -- the upcoming trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, if in fact if there is a trial -- no plea agreement down the road, or the charges dismissed for whatever reason, if there's a trial, the trial eventually will be about the justice, the nature of this war.
Are you among those who believe such a trial could lead to that kind of discussion?
BROWNBACK: I don't know that it will. And I think it's a little early to be able to tell that.
The basis of the discussion, of course, is part of the basis that was -- that the war was contended upon. And that is, the weapons of mass destruction. I think it's obvious we have not found weapons of mass destruction, and everybody's stated that. But we've continued to move forward on this, saying it is important for Iraq to be free. It is an important beachhead in the region for freedom. It's an important breaking up of the terrorist networks and their association with Saddam Hussein. And we did find terrorists working there on that soil.
So I think those are important things for us to continue to move forward, and not discount the incredible sacrifice that hundreds of thousands of soldiers, indeed, over 2,000, have given their lives in this very important war on terrorism and war for freedom.
BLITZER: Do you feel, Madam Secretary, that the American public was lied to by the Bush administration going into the war?
ALBRIGHT: I think that all the facts were not out. And that is very clear now because there was an agenda about going into this war. And I think that there needs to continue to be a debate.
I have said that this was a war of choice, not of necessity. But now we have to make things come out right. That's the necessity and not the choice.
BLITZER: But as you know, many Democrats say the president and his top aides, the vice president, lied, deliberately manipulated intelligence in order to justify going to war. Are you among those who make that charge?
ALBRIGHT: I am very concerned about what happened because I think it's unclear as to why and how we went into this war. But most unclear, and where I think there is a great indictment to be made, is how the war has been prosecuted.
And I actually think that the greater indictments going on, though the ones, the legal ones are serious, is of the national security strategy of the Bush administration. I'm very worried about that.
And this week we put out a plan on how to fight terrorism, a comprehensive integrative plan, which I think is something that has been missing.
BLITZER: Let's talk about that. Senator Brownback, what about Syria, its role in the insurgency in Iraq, its role -- now accused top officials in the Syrian government being involved in the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, and 22 other people in Beirut.
What should the United States government be doing as far as serious concern of President Bashar al-Assad right now?
BROWNBACK: I think we should be taking a very aggressive stance toward Syria, not allowing them to continue to support terrorist groups that operate on Syrian soil, and operating then -- or that base out of Syrian soil and operating in Iraq.
I think we should take a very aggressive and strong international position, condemning the Syrian government for their role in their work.
I think this is a weakened Syrian regime, and I think it's a very problematic Syrian regime for us and for people in the region. Wolf, I want to back up to an earlier point if I can, real quick. We are where we are right now on the war in terrorism. If we pull back and decide, O.K., this was not the right thing to do, and so we're going to drop it all, the problems for the United States multiply. We have to see this on through to a successful conclusion.
If we fail, and the terrorists believe they drove us out of Iraq, for whatever reason they want to cite, it will spawn more terrorism. We must be successful in that region.
BLITZER: Let me let the former secretary respond to that. There are some Democrats who say cut and run, not using those words necessarily, but just get out, better to get out right now than wait and another 2,000 American troops will die in the course of the next two years or less.
What do you say, with the hand that you have right now?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I'm not one of the people that believes in setting deadlines.
I believe that it is very important to look at the -- a strategic redeployment of our forces and to take a very careful look at what is going on.
But we wouldn't -- nobody is advocating stopping the fight against terrorism.
In fact, I think it's very important to have a strong tactical approach to killing the terrorists and getting rid of various cells and at the same time, having a much longer-term approach in terms of the problems that create a lot of terrorists, which, frankly, is one of the things that Senator Brownback and I want to look at generally about how to improve the situation in a number of countries in terms of the situation there, so that we can look at a broader humanitarian approach to many international problems.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to pick up that thought. But first, we'll take a quick break.
When we come back, I'll ask Secretary Albright and Senator Brownback about the problems of genocide and their new initiative to promote global human rights. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our discussion with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback.
Madame Secretary, quickly on the Syrian issue -- I asked Senator Brownback -- some say regime change is what the United States and allies should be promoting in Damascus, not necessarily a full-scale military invasion, but other means.
Is that something you would endorse? ALBRIGHT: Well, I think what has to happen now is to follow out the string at the United Nations. We actually have a very good understanding now with the French and have moved forward in a way through the Security Council.
There's been an international investigator put on it. And I think it's important to pursue that. And we have enough problems at the moment. I do think that we need to be firm in terms of Syrian support for incursions across the border into Iraq.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Iran a little bit, Senator Brownback.
The president of Iran said this the other day, on Wednesday. He said, "As the Imam said," referring to one of his ayatollahs, a predecessor, he said, "Israel must be wiped off the map."
Those are strong words. Some members of his foreign ministry seem to be hedging it a little bit.
When you hear the president of Iran say that, what goes through your mind?
BROWNBACK: What goes through my mind is exactly what he said. And if this is basis, when Khomeini came back into Iran to take over the Iranian country to set up the theocracy there, these were statements that he made.
And this has been the official policy of the government of Iran for some period of time. And now you may be having it developing a nuclear capacity. You have it being a very strong country in that region.
I think these are words for us to take very seriously. And I would hope that the president of Iran would walk away from those. But instead, he's been repeating those words. I think we have to take them very seriously.
BLITZER: What do you think, Madame Secretary?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it's very troubling. It matches also what he said when he spoke to the general assembly.
But what is interesting is that the international community reacted immediately. There was a condemnation out of the Security Council and it's totally outrageous.
And I think that it helps in terms of uniting us all in the talks that we're trying to have with Iran to get them to back off so that they do not have nuclear weapons.
BLITZER: Our viewers, many of them, Senator Brownback, are watching this discussion. They're seeing Senator Sam Brownback and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright two working together now, A good conservative Republican, a good Democrat, Madeleine Albright.
You've forged together with others a bipartisan alliance to come up with a new human rights initiative that you can agree on, including such steps as halting genocide, aiding refugees and the internally displaced, ending human trafficking and promoting religious liberty.
Senator Brownback, what are you up to with your Democratic friends?
BROWNBACK: I hope, a lot. Secretary Albright has been wonderful to work with on this. She's been very interested in the topic for a long period of time.
She approached me about us working together on this. And I think what we can start to show, and we are seeing more of this, but what we can start to show is, these are issues that unite us. These are issues that we all care about, that are in place in the world today. These things, unfortunately, are happening in the world today and they need to be addressed.
And we can come together, left and right, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, and say, we want to address these. And that's the attempt of this conference.
And I think it's going to be a very successful effort.
BLITZER: Tell our viewers, Madam Secretary, about this conference -- what you're up to, what your agenda is.
ALBRIGHT: Well, it's exactly as Senator Brownback said, an attempt to get us together on some very important issues.
And on Tuesday, November 1, we are, in fact, meeting with panels on these four issues with Democrats and Republicans. Senator Clinton is coming, Congressman Wolf, General Wesley Clark and other experts.
And Senator Brownback and I are going to be discussing these issues in an attempt, really, to educate people about them, to motivate them, to engage their personal interest in it -- and that they become advocates in dealing with this issue.
And, Wolf, I think what's so important is that this is a counterpoint to some of the ugly discussions that are going on in Washington. And we want to show that it is possible to solve problems if we work together.
BLITZER: Is it possible to, given the environment, the atmosphere of Washington, highly charged right now, as you well know, Senator Brownback -- is it possible to do that?
BROWNBACK: Absolutely. And I think, really, if you look around Washington, you see a lot of these efforts, of people saying, OK, we disagree on a number of topics.
But there are a lot of things we agree upon. So let's find those and let's bring them to the forefront and try to work on them together: human rights, the opposition to human trafficking, the support for refugees -- these are things that clearly unite us -- the opposition to genocide. And the key thing for us to do is to use this wonderful nation, the United States of America, that stood for truth and justice around the world, use it together to advance these causes.
BLITZER: We're out of time. But I want to show our viewers some video, Madame Secretary, of you in a very different light.
I want to put this up on the screen. Take a look at this. This is Madeleine Albright on a TV show called "The Gilmore Girls" from our sister network, the WB network.
What is going on here? Go ahead, Madeleine.
ALBRIGHT: Well, I was asked to be on this show. And I'm a pretty good mom. And so I was playing mom to Rory in this show. And we're doing a sequence because I'm hoping to be an inspiration to her.
BLITZER: Well, this may be a whole new career for you, a sitcom. Madeleine Albright on television on "The Gilmore Girls."
A final question to you, Senator Brownback.
Are you running for president?
BROWNBACK: That's yet to be seen. I've been making some of the early travels, but no final decision has been made yet.
BLITZER: All right. We'll be watching.
Senator Sam Brownback, Secretary Madeleine Albright, good to have you. Good luck in your agenda. I appreciate it very much.
BROWNBACK: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, the results of our Web question of the week: Should President Bush nominate another woman to the Supreme Court?
Plus, our "LATE EDITION" Sunday morning talk show roundup. If you missed the other Sunday morning shows, we'll give you some of the highlights.
But first, this.
BLITZER (voice-over): What's her story? Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks is making history once again. This week, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution to allow Parks to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.
She will be the first woman and second African American to be granted the honor. Parks died this past week in Detroit at the age of 92.
In 1955, Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, and became a catalyst for the modern civil rights movement.
BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows.
On "Fox News Sunday," Democratic Senator Chris Dodd suggested that the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was part of the White House's push for the war in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: There was an office, we now know, in the executive branch, set up very specifically to go after people who were in any way questioning the motivations and the information that we were using to justify the invasion of Iraq.
I'm one who supported that. I believed the information we were given.
We now know, of course, a lot of that information was terribly wrong. But to suggest there's no connection here, that this was just done out of the blue as idle White House gossip, I think, is to be terribly naive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On NBC's "Meet the Press," two former White House chiefs of staff shared advice on how President Bush can rebound from the toll of the CIA leak investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF: I think he's really got to approach the American people. And I would do it first thing Monday morning is to have Scott McClellan go forward and say, "We apologize to the American people for having misled the people about the fact that no one in the White House was involved in this leak situation."
KEN DUBERSTEIN, FORMER REAGAN CHIEF OF STAFF: I think what the president has to do is, in fact, bring in a new team -- not everybody, not replace everybody, but bring in some new blood. He needs to bring in people with credibility and great management skill, people who can go to the Oval Office and talk reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On CBS's "Face the Nation," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer weighed in on President Bush's next nominee for the Supreme Court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He is not going to pick someone in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor because we tell him he has to. There's no ideological swap test here. He's going to do what he said in his campaign. Roberts was in that kind of mold. Alito, Luttig, all these people are solid conservatives.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Obviously, there are conservatives who are mainstream and there are conservatives who are very extreme who would take people's rights away from the courts, whether it be civil rights or labor rights or environmental rights. That's what a nomination is all about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And on ABC's "This Week," Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn addressed speculation that the president might nominate him to the high court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: No one's called me to sound me out about it, and I know there's a lot of qualified nominees -- people much better qualified than me.
And I don't expect the president to call. I do expect him to...
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC: But you would accept if he did call?
CORNYN: I would certainly take the call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows, here on "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
And our "LATE EDITION" Web question asks: Should President Bush nominate another woman to the Supreme Court? Here's how you voted: 84 percent of you said yes; 16 percent said no. But remember, this is not a scientific poll.
That's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, October 30th. Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern -- our new time -- for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'm also in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern and again this week at a special time from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern all this week.
Tomorrow, my special interview with the former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson. That will air tomorrow night in the special edition of "The Situation Room" -- 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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