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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer
Interview With Condoleezza Rice; Interview With George Clooney
Aired April 30, 2006 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's 11 a.m. in Washington, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:30 p.m. in Tehran and 7 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "late Edition." We'll get to my interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in just a moment. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now with CNN's Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center. Fred?
BLITZER: For Iraq's new government and prime minister designate, a double-dose show of support from the United States this past week with visits from both the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Just a short while ago, I spoke with Secretary Rice about her trip, the next steps for Iraq and lots more.
BLITZER: Madam Secretary, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Pleasure to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Welcome back from your overseas trip. The secretary of state, the former secretary of state, your predecessor, Colin Powell, has made some news, suggesting that he thought the U.S. should have gone into Iraq with a much larger force. Listen to what the secretary -- the former secretary said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: And the president's military advisers felt that the size of the force was adequate. They may still feel that, years later. Some of us don't. I don't. And I have said that. But at the time the president was listening to those who were supposed to be providing him military advice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, you were the national security adviser during those days. Did Colin Powell, the retired former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, make the case that there should be a more robust U.S. military invasion? RICE: I just want to underscore what Secretary Powell said, which is that the president has military advisers who looked at the war plans, who decided that they had a certain number of troops that were needed to execute the war plan. The president listened to his advisers. He listened to those who execute -- who were to execute the war plan, and he made the decision on that basis.
I do remember that the president had a meeting with the joint chiefs of staff in which he asked, are we adequately resourced to execute this plan? And they said yes. That's the way it works. The president listens to the military advisers who gave him those numbers.
BLITZER: But can you confirm that Colin Powell dissented from that opinion?
RICE: I don't remember specifically what Secretary Powell may be referring to, but I'm quite certain that there were lots of discussions about how best to fulfill the mission when we went into Iraq. And I have no doubt that all of this was taken into consideration. But that when it came down to it, the president listens to his military advisers who were to execute the plan.
BLITZER: General Tommy Franks, who was then the overall commander...
RICE: That's right.
BLITZER: And the other commanders, General John Abizaid, General Casey, they all said that the troop level was fine?
RICE: Yes. I think General Casey was not -- was not yet in that chain, but General Franks was, of course, the commander on the ground. And there was also a session with the joint chiefs of staff. The president listened to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who is his principal military adviser, and, of course, the secretary of defense.
And I do remember that the question was asked: Do we have what we need to execute this plan? Do we have everything that we need? The president asked that time and time again, and he was told yes.
BLITZER: Clearly, that plan was fine for getting rid of Saddam Hussein. But with hindsight, it clearly was not fine for the post- invasion, for the occupation, if you will, that there weren't enough troops to get that job done. Would you acknowledge that that was a mistake?
RICE: Well, the stability operations after Saddam Hussein were also considered as a part of this plan. And those troop numbers were also set by military commanders. I've said many times, Wolf, we will go back at some point in time, and I'm sure others will, too. Examine what we might have done differently, what might have been better. That's the way big operations are.
But there would have also been potentially a lot of problems with a very, very big footprint of coalition forces at the time of the liberation of Iraq. And so our goal now, our -- every day now, is to get up and to make certain that we're doing what we need to do to move this process forward, to help the Iraqis secure themselves. What is very clear now is that the goal is to train Iraqi security forces so that they can take up these responsibilities.
BLITZER: You caused a stir at the end of March when you said these words in England. Listen to what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them, I'm sure. This could have gone that way, or that could have gone that way. But when you look back in history, what will be judged is, did you make the right strategic decisions?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was on March 31. A few days later, on April 4, Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, said this: "I don't know what she was talking about, to be perfectly honest. If you had a static situation and you made a mistake in how you addressed the static situation, that would be one thing. What you have here is not a static situation. You have a dynamic situation with an enemy that thinks, uses their brain, constantly adjusts. And therefore, commanders have to constantly make tactical adjustments."
I know you later clarified that to say you were speaking not necessarily literally but symbolically. But there were plenty of military personnel, officers, who thought you were belittling them by talking about tactical mistakes while acknowledging -- while not acknowledging a major strategic mistake in the size of the force.
RICE: Well, first of all, nothing could be further from the truth. I have enormous...
BLITZER: You've heard their criticism?
RICE: I've heard that. And perhaps it's the use of the word "tactical." But people should remember that tactical doesn't necessarily mean military. You can make tactical political mistakes, as well. Not just tactical military mistakes.
And so the point that I was making -- and by the way, I also say that I've done this a thousand times. And I also don't mean that I've done it a thousand times. This was a figure of speech. To acknowledge that, of course, there are things that could have gone better.
BLITZER: Like what? Like what? What were some of the tactical mistakes?
RICE: I -- if you listened to that whole -- not just the clip that you played but the rest of that, the point was that when we go back and look, we will be able to determine what we could have done better and what might have been done well. Because what we know -- I'm enough of an historian to know that things at the time seemed like they were brilliant decisions later on turn out to have been mistakes. And things that at the time looked like they were mistakes turn out to have been the right decision. And so the whole point of that comment was that when I'm back at Stanford and when we have time to have the -- the perch of history to look at what happened, we'll know how this might have gone better.
But what we do know is that, in overthrowing Saddam Hussein, we've given the Iraqi people an opportunity for a different kind of life, for a different kind of Iraq. That gives the entire Middle East an opportunity for a different kind of Middle East, and that was the right decision.
BLITZER: I want to fast-forward to what's happening right now in Iraq, but do you ever wake up over these past three years and say to yourself, I wish we would have done it differently, I wish we would have maybe prevented going in, used the sanctions, used the weapons inspectors? Now that you know there were no weapons of mass destruction.
RICE: Well, I simply don't believe that Saddam Hussein was ever going to come clean with the international community. I don't think we were ever going to resolve the dozens -- the 16 resolutions that the Security Council had put before him.
You know, Wolf, at the time, you had a certain set of facts, which was that Saddam Hussein had been asked repeatedly about his weapons of mass destruction programs. I remember Hans Blix saying that mustard gas is not marmalade; you're supposed to have known what you did with it. And Saddam Hussein wouldn't tell anyone what he had done with these weapons of mass destruction.
We were still in a state of suspended war with him, in which we were trying to fly no-fly zones -- our pilots were -- in order to keep him from threatening his neighbors and threatening his own people. He was shooting at our aircraft.
Now, people in hindsight now...
BLITZER: Let me...
RICE: People in hindsight, now, create a world that simply wasn't there...
BLITZER: But in hindsight, you now know a lot that you didn't know then...
RICE: But Wolf, you don't -- you don't make decisions in hindsight. You make them at the time.
BLITZER: Do you regret the decisions you made?
RICE: Absolutely not. I think that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was the right thing, for a whole variety of reasons, not just the fact that he'd used weapons of mass destruction before, not just the fact that he was manipulating the sanctions -- by the way, making the sanctions very hard on his own people -- but essentially, manipulating the oil-for-food program to the point that it was having no effect on the regime.
Not to mention that he continued to be a threat in the region; not to mention that he supported terrorists in the region.
It was absolutely the right decision to finally deal with this threat in the midst of the world's most volatile region. And now we have an opportunity to see this volatile region change. And that is something that not only do I not regret; I'm very glad we did it.
BLITZER: Here's what the Iraqi national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said on Friday. "We have a road map, a condition- based agreement where by the end of this year, the number of coalition forces probably will be less than 100,000.
By the end of next year, the overwhelming majority of coalition forces would have left the country, and probably by middle of 2008, there will be no foreign soldiers in the country." Right now, about 130,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq. Is this about right, what he says?
RICE: Well, we will see. We are going to work with the new Iraqi government to assess the capabilities of their forces. There is no doubt that their forces are taking on more and more responsibility.
You know, when I was in Iraq not this last time, but the time before that, I had to take the road, because of the bad weather. The road between the airport and the international zone had always been notorious. It's been a lot better since Iraqi forces took over the securing of that road.
They have taken over a number of important pieces of real estate that were cleared of terrorists, and now they are holding them and securing them. So there's no doubt that their forces are getting better; there's no doubt that we are doing fewer of the kind of large- scale operations, though from time to time we do, and there is no doubt that as they get better, we are going to be able to do less.
But we really do want it to be based on conditions on the ground; so do the Iraqis. If there is anything that they recognize, it's that they are not quite ready for these tasks, but they want to take that responsibility, and we should want them to take it.
BLITZER: You had a chance to meet with the new prime minister- designate, Nouri al-Maliki.
Here's what the Los Angeles Times wrote about him on Thursday. "Al-Maliki's own political coalition is supported by two Shiite militias, the Iranian-trained Badr Brigade, and radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's al-Mehdi army. Even the country's U.S.-friendly Kurdish president appears unwilling to lay down arms. On Sunday, Jalal Talabani, speaking to reporters in Erbil, defended the 70,000-strong Kurdish Peshmerga militia as a regulated force."
Do you see anything right now that in the short term, anybody in Iraq is going to do anything to dismantle these private militias?
RICE: Well, I heard the prime minister-designate say that the -- they have to dismantle militias, they have to make certain that there's only the possibility of the use of force on behalf of the government. There has to be one gun...
BLITZER: You heard him say that to you?
RICE: Well, I heard him say it publicly. As a matter of fact, he said it the day before I arrived, and he also talked about it privately.
BLITZER: Do you believe him?
RICE: Well, the Ayatollah Sistani has said that the disbanding of militias is an important element.
Wolf, we always say this can't be done. I remember in Afghanistan, nobody was going to be able to dismantle militias either in Afghanistan; there are always going to be warlords who would hang on to their militias.
And indeed, what you're saying in Afghanistan is a successful demobilization and reintegration of forces there. I believe you're going to see the same thing in Iraq.
I'm not suggesting that it is going to be easy, but people understand that you need security forces that belong to the state, and there are two parts to that. One will be dismantling militias, but the other piece of it will be having a strong set of security institutions in which people have confidence, that they can actually secure the country.
BLITZER: He apparently, the new designated prime minister, has the backing of Muqtada al-Sadr, this young Shiite cleric, a radical, who hates the United States.
He has an interview in the new issue out today of Newsweek magazine, in which he says this: "The occupation was the creator of all problems. There is only an incomplete sovereignty in Iraq, which means that the occupation is the decision-maker. Any attack is their responsibility. The U.S. ambassador and Rumsfeld have ignited the sectarian crisis here.
Muqtada al-Sadr was once wanted by the U.S. as one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq, but now he's in a coalition, in effect, with this new designated government. How do you feel about that?
RICE: You're going to have lots of voices, and the last time I was here on your program or some other program, people were telling me, well, Muqtada al-Sadr is the one who's backing Jaafari. But the truth is that perhaps people understand that this is really a political process that's taking hold, and that the way to deal with politics in Iraq is through support for a national unity government.
Now, it's going to be up to Iraqis to deal with their past, to deal with the issues of reconciliation, to deal with the issues of people who have committed crimes against the Iraqi government or against the Iraqi people, but you have...
BLITZER: Let me interrupt you for a second now. Muqtada al- Sadr. He's claimed responsibility for killing Americans and other coalition forces. Do you want this new Iraqi government to arrest him?
RICE: I want the Iraqi government, the new national unity government, to get its feet on the ground and to begin to deal with the multiple problems that it has, and to begin to deal with those on behalf of the Iraqi people.
And we are going to take this one step at a time. Let's just remember that just a few weeks ago, the -- everybody said, well, they'll never get a government of national unity; they'll never be able to find a prime minister-designate that actually Kurds and Sunni and Shia and others will all support -- well, they've done that.
If we've done anything consistently, it is to consistently underestimate the capability of the Iraqis to make this political process move forward. And I would suggest that for once, let's help them to get this government in place and to start to address their problems. They will have many opportunities to address their issues of reconciliation, and they'll have many opportunities to address the security situation.
BLITZER: I want to move on to Iran, but when all is said and done, should Muqtada al-Sadr be arrested?
RICE: You know that our view is that everyone ultimately has to be brought to justice for any crimes that have been committed. But this is now going to take place in the context of an Iraqi effort at reconciliation.
What we are going to focus on right now is to make the -- help make the Iraqi government capable of dealing with the many problems that it has.
And I am just going to repeat again, Wolf, every time there has been a milestone in Iraq, people have been surprised that the Iraqis have been able to meet it.
They continue to meet them; they continue to meet these milestones under the most difficult circumstances. They now have a permanent government that is going to be able to deal with both the present and with the past. We are going to support them in those efforts.
BLITZER: Coming up: part two of my interview with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. I'll ask her about the unfolding crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Does the Bush administration still believe genocide is taking place?
Plus; the nuclear showdown with Iran. Is that country undermining the war on terror? We'll get insight from a former CIA director and a former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service.
And later: from actor to activist. George Clooney joins me for a special interview on his recent visit to Africa. "Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Our web question of the week asks this: Would you consider buying a gasoline-electric hybrid car? Vote now. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results at the end of the program. Straight ahead, is it time for the U.S. and other countries to intervene in the tragedy in Sudan? We'll ask the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. I spoke with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a short while ago. Here's part two of our interview.
BLITZER: Iran, it's a hot issue, a very important issue. The new Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, says this weekend in an interview with the German newspaper Bild, he says, "Ahmadinejad," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, "talks today like Hitler before he seized power. We are dealing with a psychopath of the worst kind. God forbid that this man ever gets his hands on nuclear weapons." Do you agree with the prime minister of Israel?
RICE: Well, and everyone agrees that Iran can't have nuclear weapons, and of course their president makes it ever more evident that they can't have nuclear weapons, with the things that he says and the things that he does. But the Iranian regime is going to certainly deepen its own isolation, not just by the things that the president says, but by the defiance of this regime to the will of the international community. The international community is completely of one mind, that no one wants, needs or really can tolerate a nuclear- armed Iran in the midst of the world's most volatile region. That is the consistent view.
BLITZER: Is Ahmadinejad a psychopath?
RICE: I have no idea. You know, I haven't ever seen the man or talked to him. I just know that nobody speaks in polite company in that way, and that he represents the Iranian regime very badly, and that in fact every time he says something along those lines, he reminds people why this regime that is isolated from its own -- that has isolated itself from the international community and that is indeed run by an unelected few, in terms of the Iranian people themselves, why it would be very bad for the Iran -- for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
BLITZER: Now, you've authorized your ambassador in Baghdad to have direct talks with Iranian officials on Iraq. Have those talks started yet?
RICE: No. We felt strongly that we wanted to allow the government formation process to go forward. I'm quite sure that when it makes sense to open -- or to use that channel, we will. We've done it in Afghanistan. Zal Khalilzad, the now ambassador to Iraq, in fact did have those discussions in Afghanistan, when he was ambassador to Afghanistan. Ron Neumann, his successor in Afghanistan, has had discussions with the Iranians. When it's appropriate and when need be, I'm sure we'll do it.
BLITZER: What about direct U.S.-Iranian talks on its nuclear program?
RICE: The Iranians know what they need to do on the nuclear issue. The United States has made no secret of the fact that we back completely what the Europeans are doing, the offers that they've made to the Iranians about civil nuclear power. We've made it very clear that we back the Russian proposal for a joint venture with the Iranians. So they know what we think.
BLITZER: So the answer is?
RICE: Wolf, we have many ways of communicating with the Iranians. We have channels that we have used. We have people who know our views who talk with the Iranians. I don't think that the absence of communication is the problem here. What we are doing, though, is we're following this diplomatic course, and we are assessing at every step what we can do to make the diplomatic course more effective.
BLITZER: There's a rally today here in Washington to save Darfur, a horrible situation unfolding in Sudan. Is it still the position of the Bush administration that the Sudanese government, through its militia, the Janjaweed, are engaged in genocide against black Africans?
RICE: We have not changed our view. And the president is very passionate about what is going on in Darfur. I've been there myself. The deputy secretary has been there four or five times. We are getting a little progress at the Abuja talks between the rebels and the government, and we hope that that progress continues.
But the United States has been in the lead on providing humanitarian assistance. The United States has been in the lead on pressing the case in the security council for the use of -- first getting the possibility to use sanctions, and then using sanctions against individuals members of the government.
The United States has been in the lead in working with NATO to provide an offer of logistical and planning support, first to the AU forces, which we are doing -- we are helping there -- but also, when there is a U.N. blue-hatted force, and there really must be a more robust security force, we stand ready to support that force. And so, the United States has been by far the most active and the most forward-leaning of the countries.
We need more help from the international community. We need more help from China and Russia, which I think need to look at what is going on there and ask what more they can do, and we, frankly, need to make sure that the African Union acts expeditiously to take advantage of the help that is being offered by the United Nations and by NATO.
BLITZER: We are out of time, but I'll end it on this note, a happier note. Time magazine, our sister publication in the new issue out today says that Condoleezza Rice is, quote, "master of the universe." You're on their list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Did you know that?
RICE: No, I didn't know that, but gee, that's very nice. I don't really feel like the master of the universe, though.
BLITZER: You are master of the universe according to Time magazine. Madam Secretary, thanks for coming in.
RICE: Thank you very much. Great to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, al Qaida's second in command emerges with a new message. How much of a threat is the terror group right now? We'll get special insight from a former CIA director, James Woolsey, and a former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service, Efraim Halevy. But up next, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including the latest on tomorrow's so-called "Great American Boycott." Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The biggest challenge we face is winning the war on terror and to protect the American people. And we'll continue to keep on the offense, to keep the terrorists off balance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush earlier this week on al Qaida, keeping it on the defensive in Iraq and elsewhere if possible. Joining us now with special insight into the war on terror and more, two intelligence experts. In New York, the former director of Israel's intelligence service, the Mossad, Efraim Halevy. He's the author of a new book, "Man in the Shadows: Inside the Middle East Crisis with the Man Who Led the Mossad." And here in Washington, the former CIA Director James Woolsey. Gentlemen, welcome back to "Late Edition." Let me start with James Woolsey. The ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Representative Jane Harman of California, said this this week. She was quoted by the Christian Science Monitor as saying, "We still don't have a handle on al Qaida. Our intelligence reorganization is in a slow startup. And the CIA is in free fall." Does the U.S. intelligence community, Jim Woolsey, have a good sense right now on what Al Qaida is up to?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: First thing I'd say is that Jane Harman has a better idea than I do because I've been out for several years. And I take her criticisms quite seriously. I think it has taken some time to get geared up. This new organizational structure can work, but it's largely a matter of getting the right people in place and the responsibilities assigned. And I think there probably is some rather poor morale out at the CIA.
It may not be irremediable. Porter Goss is an able individual and he may be able to make things work. But I think it's a troubled situation now is the way I'd say it.
BLITZER: Efraim Halevy, you've spent your life studying terrorism, studying threats toward Israel. I've heard intelligence experts say directly to me the more the U.S. intelligence community and other western and Israeli intelligence services learn about al Qaida, the more they realize they don't know. Is that a fair assessment?
EFRAIM HALEVY, FORMER DIRECTOR, MOSSAD: I don't think it's a fair assessment. I think the more time goes on the more -- we learn more and more. But this is a long haul. Let's not forget that this began in 1998, when two American embassies were attacked in Africa. We are now eight years from then, and I think it's still a long time to go before this threat will be set aside.
BLITZER: Are you satisfied, though, Mr. Halevy, that the U.S. And other intelligence services know what they should know as far as threats from al Qaida right now?
HALEVY: I'm not sure that they know all that they should know. I think they know as much as they can know at the moment, and I have no doubt whatsoever that they're making every efforts, and it's a very strenuous effort, to get as much knowledge and as much intelligence as possible.
BLITZER: In the past week, Jim Woolsey, we heard audio and videotapes from three al Qaida leaders: Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaida in Iraq. Listen to this little excerpt of what bin Laden said, and this warning. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSAMA BIN LADEN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Any war is the joint responsibility of the people and the government. While war continues, people renew their allegiance to their rulers and politicians and continue to send their sons to our countries to fight us. They continue their financial and moral support while our countries are burned, our homes are bombed and our people are killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The reference to a joint responsibility for civilians, the people and their government, that seemed, according to many analysts, to be a justification for going after civilian targets along the lines of 9/11 once again. Is it your assessment that al Qaida still has that capability to commit another 9/11 or even worse?
WOOLSEY: They certainly have the will and the ideology, and they may have some of the capability. I think we damaged them badly, particularly in Afghanistan. But they continue to work to maintain cadres in the west. And it's not just them. It's also the Iranians working through groups like Hezbollah. We have problems, and I think we will be fighting this war on terror -- I prefer the term "long war" -- against Islamist ideology for, I believe, decades.
BLITZER: What do you make of the fact that we heard in the past week from all three of these al Qaida leaders?
WOOLSEY: It's a troubling pulling together of events because when things like that have happened in the past sometimes we've seen terrorist attacks follow. So it could be that they are trying to get geared up to have something happen in the West. It's possible.
BLITZER: What do you think, Efraim Halevy?
HALEVY: I think that there are two possible interpretations for this appearance over the last week.
One is the interpretation that Jim has just now given, and it's certainly a plausible one. There's another possibility, and that is that the Al Qaida and the Islamic international terrorists are hard pressed and they feel that they find it necessary at this particular point in time to demonstrate to their supporters that they're still around.
Two possibilities -- and I cannot rule out one or the other.
BLITZER: The Israeli defense minister, the outgoing Israeli defense minister, Mr. Halevy, Shaul Mofaz, was quoted this week as saying this about Iran: "Of all the threats we face, Iran is the biggest. The world must not wait...Since Hitler we have not faced such a threat."
Do you agree with Mr. Mofaz?
HALEVY: We've been seized with this threat for a decade and a half now. We identified this threat in the early '90s, and we've been dealing with it for the last 15 to 16 years.
And I believe it is a very deadly threat. I think it's one of the most deadly threats we have ever faced. And I believe that, ultimately, we will be able to face it and overcome it.
BLITZER: Should Israel undertake, if necessary, unilateral action against Iran's nuclear program, along the lines of what Israel did to the Iraqi nuclear program back in 1981 at Osirak, when Israeli warplanes bombed it?
HALEVY: I think that every threat has its own particular circumstances. I think circumstances have changed. And I don't think there will necessarily be a repeat performance of what happened then.
There are other means and other ways of dealing with this threat should it become imminent. And I'm sure that we'll be able to take care of it should this be necessary.
BLITZER: Do you want to add, Jim Woolsey, to that?
WOOLSEY: I think that...
BLITZER: I guess the bottom line question is: Is there a military option that is viable against Iran's nuclear program?
WOOLSEY: I think viable but extraordinarily difficult. I agree with John McCain that it's the worst option except for letting Iran have a nuclear weapon because Ahmadinejad and the people around him are genocidal fanatics.
And they represent, in a sense, a, kind of, a revolution within the Iranian revolution that is even more fanatical than Khomeini and those who went before since 1979.
So we have a very serious problem. We may have to face a choice of that sort.
BLITZER: The International Atomic Energy Agency came out with its report on Friday. It said this among other things: "After more than three years of agency efforts to seek clarity about all aspects of Iran's nuclear program, the existing gaps in knowledge continue to be a matter of concern."
Jim Woolsey, how good is U.S. intelligence now, based on what you know, which is from public sources, presumably, although I'm sure you get access to classified information given your background as a former CIA director.
Based on what you know, does the U.S. have a good handle on what Iran is up to?
WOOLSEY: Somewhat good. It is, unfortunately, very easy to dig deep underground these days with commercially available tunneling equipment.
Iran is a very secretive society. Some of what we know we've only known for the last couple of years, as the result of dissident groups telling us.
So the idea that we would have a very detailed handle on anywhere and everywhere they have nuclear material that they're working on to enrich uranium and the like -- I think that's wrong.
But that we do have some handle on what they're doing is certainly correct.
BLITZER: Does Israel have a good sense, Efraim Halevy, of what Iran is up to right now?
HALEVY: I think Israel has a plausible sense of what Iran is up to. I'm not sure that we know everything that has to be known. But I think, as I said before, we must assume that, if we've been seized with this problem for a decade and a half, people were not sitting on their hands.
BLITZER: What's your assessment? How much longer until Iran actually has a nuclear bomb?
HALEVY: Honestly, I don't know. And it depends on what it means to have a bomb: to have one device or to have an arsenal of devices which becomes a strategic threat.
These are two different terms. And I think people are confusing these terms. But I would say there's still a little time. There's still a window of opportunity. There's still a little time left in order to resolve this problem in a proper way.
And my sense is that the Iranians, in the last 48 hours, are beginning to feel the pressure. And maybe some of the reactions that we have been receiving over the last 48 hours are indicative of the fact that pressure does have an effect.
BLITZER: We're going to take a break. But Jim Woolsey, do you agree?
WOOLSEY: I hope Efraim's right. I'm afraid both China and Russia, for different reasons, China because of oil, Russia because of sales of weapons and nuclear reactors, are going to be very hard to bring along to put real pressure on the Iranians to do what they need to do, which is give up their enrichment program.
BLITZER: All right, gentlemen. We're going to take a quick break. We're going to continue this conversation on tracking terror, our conversation with the former CIA director Jim Woolsey and the former Mossad director Efraim Halevy.
That's coming up right after this short break.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're assessing where things stand in the war on terror and more with the former CIA director, James Woolsey and the former director of Israel's intelligence service, the Mossad, Efraim Halevy.
Mr. Halevy, as you know, on April 17, there was a terror attack in Tel Aviv. It was followed by a statement from the Palestinian authority, the government of the new prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, who said this, among other things, in justifying that attack.
He said: "The reason behind this cycle is the continuation of the occupation and by the continued Israeli assaults against our Palestinian people. We say that ending this cycle and achieving stability, security and calm in this region is dependent on ending the occupation and the achievement of our people of their full rights."
Is there a possibility that this democratically elected Palestinian government will change and accept Israel so that the peace process, presumably, could get back on track? Is that at all possible?
HALEVY: Let me begin by saying I think this was a very serious statement because, whereas, up to that time, Hamas was not the government of the Palestinian Authority and made statements of a wild nature and this did not necessarily obligate the government of the Palestinian authority.
Now Hamas is there and this is a government statement. And for the government of the Palestinian Authority to make such a statement was a very, very serious matter.
Having said that, I'd like to make the following comments. I believe that Hamas are still in the throes of trying to get a coherent policy on board.
They were surprised to have won the election. And they are now having to contemplate possible isolation if they continue with their present policies.
And I believe that, since their agenda is not just an external agenda but also an internal agenda, the agenda of improving the quality of life among the Palestinians, the agenda of having a clean government, that is what brought them into power.
They must realize that if they continue along this path with their external policies, they will never be able to implement any of their domestic agenda. This is their problem, and I think they've not reached the final stage of settling which way they're going to go.
BLITZER: Jim Woolsey, what do you sense? Is there a possibility that this Hamas government, this Palestinian Authority, will in fact change its attitude toward Israel and resume the peace process?
WOOLSEY: I think a very slim one. It's not zero. But you know, a leopard may change its spots. But Hamas is a leopard. And it's a totalitarian Islamist organization that wants to destroy Israel. When they talk about ending the occupation, they mean of Tel Aviv, et cetera. So they still, as has been the case for a long time, want to destroy the Israeli state, and -- just as Ahmadinejad does. I hope it changes. It's not absolutely impossible.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time, but one question. I know that U.S.-Israeli intelligence cooperation over many, many years has been very, very strong. But there was one major problem that developed about 20 years ago. An American naval intelligence analyst, Jonathan Pollard, was arrested spying for Israel. It caused a serious strain in U.S.-Israeli intelligence coordination. He's been in jail for about 20 years. Is that enough, or should he be let go? WOOLSEY: I think that the fact that Israel is a close friend and ally of the United States and the fact that he's been in prison for 20 years perhaps makes it time to reassess this. The problem is that what he stole was extremely important and extremely sensitive. And I think -- I was opposed to reconsidering when I was in office some ten- plus years ago. After 20 years, that's a long sentence in most of the world. Israel's a friend. I think we ought to look at it.
BLITZER: Did he cause extreme damage to the U.S. intelligence service?
WOOLSEY: He certainly stole extremely important material. What happened to it after that is something that's very hard to talk about.
BLITZER: What do you think, Efraim Halevy, on the whole Pollard case?
HALEVY: Well, I don't want to delve into the past, but I would like to associate myself with the sentiment that Jim has just now expressed. I think a long time has passed now. I believe that if you compare the sentence to the sentence of others who were found guilty of crimes of this nature in the United States, this was an exceptionally harsh sentence and it was even harsher than the plea bargain that had been worked out at the time when he was brought to trial.
So I think that this period of time is such that one should look into it again. And I would hope that those who have to look into it will look into it and will find it in their hearts and in their minds to reach a better resolution.
BLITZER: Efraim Halevy is the author of "Man in the Shadows." It's a new book on his experiences as the director of the Mossad. Jim Woolsey is the former director of the CIA. Thanks to both of you for joining us.
And still to come, senators Trent Lott and Barbara Boxer, as well as George Clooney. Also coming up, in case you missed it, "Late Edition's" Sunday morning talk show roundup. And don't forget our web question of the week: Would you consider buying a gasoline-electric hybrid car? You can cast your vote. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll take a quick break. But first this.
BLITZER: There's much more ahead on "Late Edition," including the gas problems here in the United States. What should the U.S. government do to help consumers? We'll talk with senators Trent Lott and Barbara Boxer. Plus, George Clooney's cause. My special conversation with the actor about why he wants the world to intervene in the tragedy in Sudan.
And a reminder that tomorrow CNN will have reporters in several American cities covering what's being called "the Great American Boycott." Organizers say it'll show how vital immigrants are to the United States. Our extensive coverage begins tomorrow morning 6 a.m. eastern. "Late Edition" continues right at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll talk to Senators Trent Lott and Barbara Boxer in just a moment. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now with CNN's Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Fred?
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred.
Joining us here in Washington to talk about energy, immigration, Iraq, and lots more are Two guests: Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi; he's a member of the Select Intelligence Committee; and Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California. She's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senators, good to have both of you back here on "Late Edition."
Let's talk about the high gas prices here in the United States right now. Today the energy secretary, Samuel Bodman acknowledged and said flatly there is a crisis involving this issue. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMUEL BODMAN, SECRETARY OF ENERGY: We're here today. I would say that there is apparently some evidence that we have a crisis. There's a lot of concern about this.
And so the president is looking at every tool at his disposal to put to work on it. And so I'm not embarrassed by that. And I think it's the right thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Barbara Boxer, a lot of people in California, in your home state, suffering right now from $3, $3.50 a gallon gasoline, record highs here in the United States.
Is this Bush administration on top of the problem?
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, all you have to do is look at Mr. Bodman's body language and what he said: We think we have a crisis; I'm not embarrassed. What is that?
He should be out there saying, these are the things we have to do right now.
BLITZER: Well, the president did deliver a very detailed speech on this past week.
BOXER: Well, you asked us to react to Mr. Bodman, if I might do that. He's our leader on energy policy. I didn't see in him, you know, this kind of leader that's saying, these are six things we have to do; we're going to look at these oil companies; if they've been gouging, which the president said, if were gouging, he'll take action.
And four days later, he said no evidence. We have an FTC investigation going on. We want to give -- many of us in the Senate -- the agencies the ability to go after these folks who we think are manipulating supply.
BLITZER: Do you have evidence they are gouging?
BOXER: We believe they are manipulating supply. I could tell you a story in my home state where Shell oil tried to shut down a refinery that was their refinery. They said there were no buyers.
We said, well, it sounds to me like you're trying to manipulate the supply. And they said, oh no. It turned out there were buyers. The attorney general of our state got involved.
I think it's trouble. You had 20 oil companies at one time; you have five. Why don't we look at, maybe, we need to inject some competition into the mix here.
BLITZER: Here's what the president, Senator Lott, said on Friday on this issue. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no evidence that there is any ripoff taking place. But it's the role of the Federal Trade Commission to assure me that my inclination and instincts is right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As you know, a lot of Americans think there is a ripoff taking place. And their worst fears are that the oil companies are conspiring to make a lot of profits, which they are making.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: Let me first talk a little bit about what's going on here. This is something that has been coming for 30 years or more. We have known that our dependence on foreign oil was growing.
We were here in the '70s -- remember that? Remember the gas lines? And we haven't really addressed this sufficiently. That's point number one.
BLITZER: U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources has increased over these 30 years.
LOTT: Right. It has increased. And we've known that. And we have not been prepared to do enough about it.
So, number one, this is a problem that has been coming for a long time.
Number two, there is blame to go around all over the place. The Congress has not done enough. That administration has not done enough -- the administrations, by the way.
And the American people -- we want cheap gasoline prices. We want cheap energy prices. We want to drive the biggest tractor, biggest truck possible and, by the way, we don't want nuclear plants; we don't want hydro plants; we don't want refineries. We haven't built a new refinery in America in 20 years.
That's part of the problem. There is enough supply, even though a lot of it is foreign. We don't have the capability to transmit it and refine it.
So I just want to put it in perspective. I do think that we've got to look and make sure there is no gouging going on. We've got to look at the legality of what's going on.
I think there is manipulation. Perhaps it is the traders that are artificially driving up the prices out of anticipation of what might happen in Iran. I think we need to be careful about that.
But when you look at the profits of the gas companies -- the oil companies; let me point that out -- and you look at a lot of things they have been doing and then you look at gasoline prices, it is hard to choke that down. And I have a hard time with that.
My suggestion to the oil companies right now is, hey, there is not a direct correlation between the price of a barrel of oil and the gas at the pump. You don't automatically raise your prices.
BLITZER: Let me ask you what I asked Senator Specter, Republican Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, on this program last week: if he thought it was time for a windfall profit tax on major oil companies. And he thought it was time to consider that. Do you?
LOTT: This may come as a shock to you, but I'm going keep my options open. If the oil companies don't stop escalating the gasoline prices, it is going to force the people to demand that the Congress do something more and the Congress is going to have to do more.
Now, having said that, the president has been taking actions in several areas. He has requested authority from us for them to look at the CAFE standards or the gas mileage from the Congress. We would have to do that. And we do have some proposals on both sides of the aisle.
BLITZER: Well, do you think it's time for a windfall profit on the big oil companies?
BOXER: I am on the Dorgan bill to do just that. When you see the former head of Exxon getting a $400 million retirement package -- I mean, think about it. There ought to be a windfall profits tax on him.
I mean, this thing is out of control. And the people are furious about it. They're not dumb. The American people are smart. We are all willing to sacrifice -- Katrina, yes. And of all people, my friend Trent knows that I care very much about helping him rebuild Mississippi. Yes, there were these dislocations; yes, we have foreign relations issues that are making the price of oil go up, but if that was the case, we wouldn't see profits jump.
In other words, we would see the costs of this escalation go to the price of oil, gas at the pump but then the profits would be stable.
But when they have these kind of profits, I think Trent is absolutely right and it's music to my ears. Maybe we can get together here. And if jawboning doesn't do the trick, just tell them, we've got to disgorge some of these profits.
BLITZER: One Republican proposal in the Senate this week was to give the American taxpayer a $100 rebate to help a little bit.
That's a couple tankfuls, if you will, if you're paying $50 a tank that a lot of Americans are right now but also linking that to opening up exploration in Alaska, the Alaskan Natural Wildlife Refuge.
Why are you smiling?
BOXER: Well, I'm smiling because the Alaska Wildlife Refuge, for those of us who think it's a bad idea -- not enough oil there; you destroy a magnificent area.
It keeps coming back like a bad dream. Now it's coming back -- we'll pay off Americans with 100 bucks. I don't think the American people want to go there.
There are many places off the Gulf Coast, many places that we could drill. There's much we can do with energy efficiency cars, hybrid cars, all the rest of it. We don't have to do that.
And the last point I'd make is my friend Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, senator, has a bill for a $500 rebate to everyone, and it would come from going back and taking away the tax breaks, $5 billion strong, that we just gave to big oil, big energy companies in the last energy bill. I like that one better.
BLITZER: Do you like that?
LOTT: I think we should look at doing that. And in the Republican leadership proposal that came out last week, that was included. I don't think much about the $100 rebate. I do think we should open ANWR. You know, people saying, oh, we've got to be less dependent on foreign oil.
How are we going to do that? Are we just going to conserve ourselves into, you know, an energy policy? No, we're going to have to produce more domestic oil, natural gas. We're going to have to build pipelines, liquefied natural gas plants.
We need the whole package, including nuclear plants. And I do think we should have drilled in ANWR. If we'd have done it 10 years ago, when President Clinton vetoed the bill, that oil product would be coming in, and gas products would be coming in through our pipelines in the United States now.
I want the whole package. I want to conserve. I want alternative fuels. Hybrid automobiles, sure, let's do that.
BLITZER: There's a lot of things. You are among those who think that the U.S. should cooperate now with Cuba to drill for oil off the Cuban coast in international waters not far from Florida itself. There's apparently a lot of oil under the water there.
LOTT: I'm for seeing where we can find oil anywhere it may exist until we can transition to alternatives in the future. If we can find a way to get it in the Gulf or get it close to Cuba, I think we ought to look at that. Look, we bring it in from Venezuela, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Russia's becoming. Why wouldn't we try to get it closer to home?
BLITZER: Is that a good idea to work with Cuba on this?
BOXER: I'd work with any country where we have decent relations. Now, with Cuba, I've always been for opening up trade relations. I don't understand how we can deal with China and not with Cuba. I'm for looking at that. But let me say this. Right now, this minute, the president could issue an executive order to say that all of the cars in the federal fleet when we buy cars, 58,000 cars a year, have to be fuel-efficient.
We don't need to give authority to do that. They're doing it all over the country in various states and cities. And this will create a market for the fuel-efficient cars, some of which today get over 50 miles to the gallon.
BLITZER: This is a problem that clearly there's no short-term solution, but both of you seem to agree on a lot more than apparently you disagree, with the exception of Alaska. Is that a fair assessment?
LOTT: I'm just for drilling for oil and natural gas where it is domestically so that we're not dependent on foreign oil as we move into other alternatives in the future.
BLITZER; There are refineries in the Gulf coast. What about in California? Would you like to see new refineries built off the coast of California?
BOXER: Well, we just fought to keep a refinery from closing. This whole refinery issue is really intriguing because...
BLITZER: How about new ones?
BOXER: If they met environmental standards, not a problem. But we don't want to have more cancer deaths, more asthma and the rest of it. So it's got to be done right. And there's no reason why it can't be done right. And I don't believe you can drill your way out of this. I think Trent is right when he says it's a combination of things that we have to do. They have to be done in an environmentally sensitive way or people do get sick, and I have to tell you in my own state, where we have so many cases of asthma and lung cancer and the rest, we have to be careful.
But we can do this right. We can do it carefully. And we don't have to wait forever to do it. As I said, tomorrow the president could say, fuel-efficient cars all over America, taxpayers spent -- they're going to be spent on those cars. You'll see a lot more cars coming to the market that will give us more choices.
LOTT: And the president did do a couple things last week. They won't have a huge impact, but they're the right thing to do. Temporarily waiving these boutique or these different blends of gasolines in 26 different states. He did stop, you know, putting oil into the strategic petroleum oil reserve. And I think you're going to see him looking at more things to do. And of course, you mentioned the passenger car cafe standards.
BLITZER: All right...
BOXER: And by the way, he could also release some oil from the reserve, and that would have a downward pressure on wages. Other presidents have done that. We've been asking him to do that for years. It's time.
LOTT: Let me add one thing, one bit of jawboning. We should do that, too. The message to the oil companies is, hold down your price of gasoline and it better start sliding back the other way. If they don't control it, and if they continue to have prices go up, profits go up and salaries go up, Congress will do something that might not have the beneficial long-term effect.
BLITZER: Senators, stand by, because we're going to continue this conversation. Lots more with the senators when we return. We'll also talk about immigration and Iraq's future. A new government in place. Can a timetable be set for a U.S. troop withdrawal? Senators Lott and Boxer standing by to weigh in.
Then, he's a man on a very serious mission right now. The actor George Clooney talks about his recent trip to Sudan, what he wants done to end the crisis in that war-torn nation. Stay with us.
BLITZER: There is still time for you to weigh in on our web question of the week: Would you consider buying a gasoline-electric hybrid car? Straight ahead, more with senators Trent Lott and Barbara Boxer. We'll get their perspective on immigration reform, the rallies tomorrow, the new Iraqi government, the future of that nation. All that coming up. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're continuing our conversation with Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi and Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Huge rallies expected, especially in California, and elsewhere around the country tomorrow calling for immigration reform, in effect suggesting that these 10 to 12 million illegal immigrants should be allowed a path toward citizenship, if not amnesty. Are you in favor of amnesty for these illegal immigrants, Senator Boxer?
BOXER: I don't think anyone in the Senate is. I mean, what we're talking about is getting folks out of the shadows and on a path to legality. And then getting them in line behind others that came before. But not punishing them and putting them in jail as the House bill would do. The House bill would even, you know, arrest anyone who helps an illegal. So, it's a very rough, tough bill.
And what we're trying to do in the Senate in a bipartisan way is to try to find a solution here where we say, yes, we're going to stop the illegal immigration at the border by strengthening the border patrol, something I've supported for a very long time.
Making sure that we stop that at the border, but then deal with the folks who are here. And beyond that, my own belief is we ought to go to the ag industry, the agriculture industry and pass an ag jobs bill, which is a Craig-Kennedy bill, another bipartisan bill, to set up a very fair guest worker program.
BLITZER: The president wants a guest-worker program that eventually, under the right circumstances, could lead to citizenship for these illegal immigrants. And it looks like there is movement, at least in the Senate, towards a compromise that would basically go along with what the president wants, although there are major differences with the House of Representatives. What do you think?
LOTT: I do think we need immigration reform. We've tried twice in recent years in the mid-'80s and mid-'90s. We didn't do it right either time. We need to get it right this time. We do clearly need border security. It's got to be broad. It's got to be technical. We're not going to build a 2,000-mile fence. But in certain areas, if that can be done, we need to use modern technology. We've got unmanned aerial vehicles that we can use, all kinds of things.
I personally think we should have a clearly defined temporary- worker program that provides a, you know, solution to the needs of the United States so it gives them some protections but also with some requirements as to when they go back to their country and how they move toward citizenship. The sticky part is, what do you do with 11 or 12 million that are already here? Amnesty, no. Just to give them, OK, you can be a citizen. You know, don't worry about it. It's difficult.
Now, there is a compromise in the Senate. I do think we need to act. It may not be the final product but I do -- this is a big important issue. This is what the United States should be doing. We should be having a debate and amendments and votes, and produce a product. I do think that these big demonstrations are counterproductive, and they hurt with a guy like me, who is trying to look at this in a way that is responsible. We don't have that many illegal aliens or immigrants in my state, so I'm trying to the right solution. To encourage people not to go to work or children not to go to school is counterproductive. I don't think it's -- and if they're there waving foreign flags, I take offense to that.
BLITZER: Let's move on to some other issues quickly. I want to get through them. FEMA, the future of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Republican Senator Susan Collins made this statement this week about FEMA. Listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: FEMA is discredited, demoralized and dysfunctional. It is beyond repair. Just tweaking the organizational chart will not solve the problem. FEMA has become a symbol of a bumbling bureaucracy in which the American people have completely lost faith.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Boxer, do you agree with her?
BOXER: I really appreciate the effort that Sue Collins and Joe Lieberman have put into this whole issue of looking at FEMA. I agree in terms of their reaction to Hurricane Katrina, everything she said was true. But I also have lived through so many disasters in my state. Trent and I were talking about this before we came on the air.
And we had several earthquakes and so on. And at times they operated magnificently.
BOXER: Yes. And let me tell you, that was when James Lee Witt was the head of FEMA, and he imbued that agency with such great morale, and they were just the most helpful people, and actually, James Lee Witt was kind of a rock star when he came into my state. People loved him because of his leadership. So here's the thing that I believe. I think we made the mistake when FEMA was put into the homeland security reorganization.
I personally voted against that. So did my colleague from California, Senator Feinstein. We believe FEMA deserves to be at the table as a separate independent agency. And (inaudible) working now with my colleagues, Senator Lott and Senator Clinton and others in a bipartisan way, to take FEMA out of Homeland Security and put it back as an independent agency with a seat at the table.
BLITZER: I want you to weigh in it, but I also want you to weigh in, Senator Lott, on some criticism you took this week on this $700 million proposal to move some railroad tracks in your home state of Mississippi, putting that in this emergency supplemental appropriations money going for Katrina relief, going for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror overall.
$700 million in an emergency supplemental that supposedly was designed to help the gambling industry in Mississippi. I want to you respond to the criticism you took.
LOTT: There are so many inaccuracies there, I hardly know where to begin. So, but I'm going to begin with the first part of your question, and that is FEMA. Because this is very personal, current and emotional...
BLITZER: You lost a house in Katrina.
LOTT: Well, yeah, but it's not about my house. It is about the preparation at FEMA and their reaction after the disaster. Let me be quick to add there are a lot of good people there that are just as frustrated as we are. But Susan Collins, I have a great deal of respect for. She and Joe Lieberman have done a good job at homeland security and government affairs. I think I owe her an opportunity to sit down, as I'm going to do Monday, and go over with her what she plans.
But I think we made a mistake in putting FEMA in homeland security. I think it became a backwater there. I think it was ignored, underfunded, undermanned and, you know, did not have a strong leadership. So I do agree. And I have introduced a bill and been joined by Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton is my lead co-sponsor, to move FEMA back out of homeland security, make it an independent agency reportable directly to the president of the United States.
I saw the secretary of homeland security the other day. He says I want to make sure that command and control stays under my jurisdiction. Why? When you have a disaster, you need a general in charge. He shouldn't be down there handing out bottles of water. He should be up here making decisions and moving organizations and supporters, talking directly to the president.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time, but what about the railroad?
LOTT: Well, first of all, it has nothing to do with casinos. In fact, truth be known, they probably prefer to keep it where it is. We were told, don't look at everything putting it back just like it was or leaving it like it was. People are killed. Over 100 people have been killed on that line. It is a major problem in evacuation. It's a major problem in our economic future.
It makes sense to move it north, off of right on the water. We're trying to get Highway 90 and the railroad track moved further north so we don't have repeated incidents where the federal government has to come in and pay for the repairs. It is the right thing to do.
And by the way, it is hurricane-related. It was the number one thing that our commission, which was a broad-based commission, said if you could do something to change the impact of disasters in the future in this area, move this track off of the water.
BLITZER: We had hoped to get through a lot of other subjects. Unfortunately, we're out of time. Senator Lott, Senator Boxer, always good to have both of you here on "Late Edition." Thanks to both of you for joining us.
Still ahead, he's adding his star power to a very serious cause. My conversation with the actor-activist George Clooney about the crisis in Sudan. But up next, we'll get a quick check of what's in the news right now, including tomorrow's planned immigration boycott here in the United States. Stay with "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. He's one of holiday's most popular stars, but now the Academy Award-winning actor George Clooney is using his celebrity status to focus the world's attention on the Darfur region of Sudan in Eastern Africa.
I spoke with Clooney earlier this week. We were joined by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Samantha Power.
BLITZER: Samantha Power, George Clooney, thanks very much for joining us.
GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: Thank you.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Why did you go?
CLOONEY: Well, it first started, I was reading Nick Kristof's articles in the "New York Times." And he had just come back.
BLITZER: He's the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist.
CLOONEY: I'm sitting next to another Pulitzer Prize winner. And I had read Samantha's articles and her book and felt like it was probably a good time to cash in whatever celebrity credit card you get from having a good year on bringing some attention.
BLITZER: So what do you want? What do you hope to achieve? What's the single most important thing you want to achieve from your journey out to Africa?
CLOONEY: The single most important thing I want to achieve is to try and help make sure that it gets on the air, that people see it, that people are talking about genocide, which they're not, in general, and not just in this country, in the whole world.
But if I show up places, sometimes cameras follow. And that's a good thing because then we can have these conversations and help, perhaps, the administration and the U.N. and all the people who actually want to do something about this but they don't have the political capital. BLITZER: You mentioned what Nicholas Kristof wrote. He wrote this, and it seems to sum up the world's attitude, especially Americans' attitude toward what's happening in Darfur: "Mr. Bush is paralyzed for the same reasons as his predecessors [when faced with genocide.] There is no great public outcry. There are no neat solutions. We already have our hands full and it all seems rather distant and hopeless."
I think that sort of conveys what's going on right now in this country, as far as the horror of what's happening in Sudan.
CLOONEY: But it's interesting how quickly things aren't hopeless when people, a group of people, American citizens, European citizens, suddenly stand up and say OK, wait a minute. Let's take a look at this. This is the first time that I know of that someone's talked about genocide while it's going on.
Well, there's an opportunity there for the people to stand up and say OK, now let's make this simpler by saying we're going to make it -- we're going to make this important enough that it'll make it -- could make it easier for the administration to do something.
BLITZER: Give us the numbers, Samantha -- you're an expert -- on what's happening in Sudan and Darfur. Give us the numbers of the horror.
What's involved right now?
SAMANTHA POWER, AUTHOR: Well, it's been called a slow-motion genocide, but that, I think, underplays what's actually happening. About 400,000 people have died so far. Two or three million people have been displaced -- two million we know about because they're holed up in camps.
Well, they're called camps. They're basically in these wide fields dependent on handouts when they come, when aide workers are actually able to brave the Janjaweed patrols that surround the camps. And those people remain incredibly vulnerable.
But the attacks are even continuing. Just three or four days ago, the Sudanese government again launched Antonov and helicopter gunship attacks at another village.
There have been 80,000 people displaced just in the last two months alone. So that number of three million, which is just almost plucked from the sky because we can't access the people who are in need -- we know one thing, and that is that it's increasing.
We all know that the Sudanese government has become more and more obstructive, that they're expelling aide groups, not allowing even senior U.N. and U.S. officials into the camps.
And, of course, we all know from the 20th century what happens when a government that is intent on committing genocide also knows that people aren't watching. It does it really with abandon and it counts on impunity. BLITZER: And complicating this, George, in recent days, Osama bin Laden has now weighed in and said that the Muslims in Sudan have to stand up to the United Nations, the West, the United States, if they come in to try to intervene.
What do you make of that?
CLOONEY: Well, again, none of this is very simple.
On the other hand, I think that that should point to exactly what it is we're talking about, which is Bashir met with the Iranians two days ago and talked about getting nuclear technology from the Iranians. He is being defended by Osama bin Laden.
BLITZER: This is the leader of Sudan?
CLOONEY: The leader of Sudan. So clearly, when they say to us we're not really bombing people and we're really a bunch of good guys over here, perhaps when you see who they're teaming up with, maybe that tells you something about what the Sudanese government is actually -- what the Khartoum government is actually doing.
BLITZER: Let me read to you another quote from Nicholas Kristof: "Part of the problem is that President Bush hasn't made it a top priority. But at least he is now showing signs of stirring. And, in fact, he's done more than most other world leaders and more than many Democrats. Our failure in Darfur is utterly bipartisan."
Do you agree with him on that?
CLOONEY: I think it is. I think that we are a country that is always slow to act. We always have been, on almost everything, but especially on situations like this.
Rwanda is a perfect example. The Balkans are a good example. But once we get our mind to it, we do it pretty well. We have failed, you know -- it's political savvy to say hey, we're all doing a little bit of something and it's good that we're moving in the right direction. We're not doing enough.
BLITZER: What do you want President Bush to do?
CLOONEY: Well, there's -- immediately we want to try and get security. That's the first thing, security for...
BLITZER: Send in U.S. troops?
BLITZER: Do you want to send in the Marines?
BLITZER: What do you want to see happen -- militarily get involved? CLOONEY: I think -- I think through NATO, if we can get a bridging force through NATO while we put together something in the U.N., I think that's our best bet.
I don't think that that -- I don't think anyone wants that to be or thinks that's going to be American troops. It means that we who -- America, who usually is very good at coordinating these things, can be the leader in coordinating these things.
BLITZER: Because the African forces have been pretty much useless, right?
POWER: Well, look, I mean, I wouldn't want their job. There are 7,000 of them spread out, you know, in an area the size of France.
BLITZER: They really haven't gotten the job done, though.
POWER: They haven't gotten the job -- but there's not, I mean, if you had 7,000 of the best trained, you know, U.S. Rangers in Darfur, they would not be able to do the protection job. It's simply not doable.
BLITZER: How many troops do you think are needed?
POWER: Well, what's needed for perfect protection is -- is to blanket the country. But what would mark -- constitute a colossal improvement would be to triple the size of the force, make it 21,000 in places where the A.U. is present.
Even though they don't have the mandate, they don't have the right guns, they don't have the mobility, they haven't been given these things from Western countries and they don't have them organically, they have made a difference. People feel safer. Women can -- in places where they can get African Union escorts, they can leave the camps and go and pick up firewood in order to heat the food that their families depend on in order to live.
In places where those A.U. troops are not present, they're doomed. The Janjaweed are patrolling around the camps. They can't actually get past the perimeter. So they basically have to make a Sophie's choice between feeding their families or getting raped.
BLITZER: So when it comes to this issue, George, you and the president and the Bush administration are pretty much on the same page?
CLOONEY: I think so. I think that -- and I think that most of the world, especially most of the country, is on the same page, if they are reading the book. And unfortunately that book isn't getting read very often right now or loud enough. And so my job is to try and bring attention to that.
BLITZER: When it comes to Iraq, you and the president are not on the same page?
CLOONEY: No. But that's not what we're here to discuss. BLITZER: Well, you...
CLOONEY: You know, I mean I agree. But, you know, I also would suggest that Senator Brownback and Senator Obama, who are the two leading the way in the Senate, don't agree on very many things either. But they certainly agree on this.
And I think that there's -- there's no two sides to this issue, Wolf. I mean there really are no two sides to it. There is simply one side. There's no two sides to the idea of rape.
BLITZER: How do you explain -- how do you explain that 60 years after the Holocaust, after Rwanda and Burundi and what happened in the Balkans, that this kind of thing can go on in this day and age?
CLOONEY: Because we've -- and it happens a lot with us. We've spent a lot of our political capital in other places, and probably Iraq would be one of them. We certainly have not the greatest relationship with the U.N. So there's a lot of other elements that are playing.
China has not been very forthcoming with sanctions against -- against the Sudanese government and they're getting a free reign because they're getting oil by themselves without competing with America right now.
It's a tough, tough situation to solve. But if we get -- if we're able to just protect some of these people and then start a diplomatic -- start some diplomatic measures, we have a chance.
BLITZER: I remember when I went with President Clinton in, I think it was '96, to Rwanda and Burundi and he saw what was happening. He says the biggest regret he had was he was in the Oval Office, he was getting the reports of the slaughter of the Rwandans and he didn't do anything about it. And he just let it pass. And it's hard to believe that that kind of thing is happening again.
You wanted to weigh into that?
POWER: Well, I would -- I'd love to, just on that question, because President Bush actually, when he first got into office, just before 9/11, he read a memo that was actually a summary of how the Clinton administration had allowed the genocide in Rwanda, because he was confused himself. Wait, we let a million people die? That's a little weird.
And he wrote in the margins of this memo, "Not on my watch." You know, I don't want this happening on my watch. It was sort of the 21st century version of never again. And the reality is the Bush administration has done more than any other country on the Earth and the kind of domestic movement we have in this country that we've never seen before, basically with the American people learning and applying the lesson of Rwanda, where governments are only learning it in the abstract.
We only have that movement in this country. And the Bush administration has been well out in front of the rest of the international community. And yet history is not going to remember that the United States was in first place in terms of denouncing it and in terms of funding protection forces.
All they're actually going to remember is, yet again, a million people died under the watch of an American president.
BLITZER: It was '98 we went to Rwanda, as I recall.
Let me give you a couple of quotes that you made in recent weeks. And I just -- we're almost out of time. I want you to have a chance to respond.
The "Sunday Times of London" quoted you in December as saying: "The Democrats were scared on Iraq and the truth is they backed themselves into a corner. They didn't have the political resolve to tough it out and now they are paying the price."
What do you mean by that?
CLOONEY: Well, I think that, you know, there was a time when -- when the issue was you're either with us or with the enemy, as we were going into the war. I think that there were a great many Democrats that didn't truly believe that all of that, the ideas that we were tied to al Qaeda -- that -- not we were tied to al Qaeda, but that Hussein was tied to al Qaeda or that -- that they had anything to do with 9/11.
I think there were a lot of Democrats that didn't buy into that, but they didn't -- many of them didn't stand up. And I think that it cost them in the elections.
BLITZER: You said this about the junior senator from New York, Hillary Clinton. You characterized her as: "the most polarizing figure in American politics."
CLOONEY: Yes, but I didn't -- that wasn't -- believe it or not, that wasn't an insult. Someone was asking me, you know, can she win? And I said I think that she absolutely can win.
She is polarizing. People in one side of the country are, you know, adamant against her and people on the other side are, you know -- and you know this better than anyone; you've seen this for a while. There are very strong feelings on either side for Hillary Clinton.
You know, I'm a Democrat. I like her. But she is certainly polarizing.
BLITZER: Thanks for your good work. Thanks for making the trip. Hopefully, it will result in something tangible.
I'm tempted to say to both of you, good night and good luck, but I'm sure a lot of people say that to you.
Samantha Power, thanks very much.
George Clooney, thanks to you.
CLOONEY: Thanks, Wolf.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
And coming up, in case you missed it, "Late Edition'" Sunday morning talk show roundup: what the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States had to report today. Stay with us.
BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.
On NBC's "Meet the Press", ABC's "This Week" and CBS's "Face the Nation," the topic was gas prices: why they have reached record highs, what to do about them and the responsibility of the big oil companies.
SAMUEL BODMAN, ENERGY SECRETARY: You've got more demand and you're going to force the price up. You got limited supply and you're going to have have...
TIM RUSSERT, HOST, MEET THE PRESS: But that's a decision by the oil companies.
BODMAN: No, it is not. Oil is traded every minute of every day. And it's traded, basically, 24 by 7. And it's determined in marketplaces in New York and London and Tokyo, all over the world.
That's the -- the oil companies do not determine the price of oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): What's good for ExxonMobil is not necessarily good for America, and that's what this administration has done. Here's what we need, George. We need a bunch of things be done, which this administration doesn't want to do. Number one is conservation. We have the worst conservation program in the world. China, a country that doesn't even believe in the environment, has much better gas mileage standards than we do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL, (D-WA): God only gave the United States three percent of the world's oil reserves. We're kind of stuck on being impacted by those countries and those policies. But if the United States could get aggressive, and this is the time we should do this. America should be proud and excited about being energy leaders instead of being laggards in these new energy technologies.
U.S. SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): Senator Cantwell and I are not so diametrically opposed, except when it comes to the new domestic supply. This is where we've got to look realistically at it and say, what can we do? Because the demand side of it is very real. And it's not just coming from this nation. Look at what's happening in China. Look at what is happening in India. We've got to recognize that the competition for the resource that we demand is huge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On Fox News Sunday, President Bush's new chief of staff, Josh Bolten, discussed the recent shakeup in the White House staff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH BOLTEN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: What the change does provide is an opportunity for the White House to step back, refresh, re-energize at a time when we're five and a half years into an administration, normally a slow point, a low point in many administrations. A chance for us to get our mojo back, to go back more on the offensive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights from some of the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. Up next, the results of our web question of the week: Would you consider buying a gasoline-electric hybrid car? And also coming up at the top of the hour for our North American viewers, CNN reporters are "On the Story," including correspondent Aneesh Raman with a firsthand look at life inside Iran. All that, lots more on "On the Story." But first, this.
BLITZER: Kimberly Oliver, what's her story? Already a star in the eyes of her students and fellow teachers, the 29-year-old kindergarten teacher is in the national spotlight as the 2006 Teacher of the Year. Oliver, who teaches at Broad Acres Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, was presented the award by President Bush. In a classroom where 80 percent of the students speak a language other than English and 90 percent live in poverty, Oliver is being praised for boosting test scores, involving parents, and getting students engaged.
She'll spend next year traveling the country promoting the importance of education and instructing other teachers on her keys to success.
BLITZER: Our "Late Edition" web question asks: Would you consider buying a gasoline-electric hybrid car? Here's how you voted: 82 percent of you said yes, 18 percent said no. Remember, though, this is not a scientific poll. And that's your "Late Edition" for Sunday, April 30. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. eastern for the last word on Sunday talk. I'm also in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday 4 to 6 p.m. eastern, back again at 7 p.m. eastern.
And don't forget CNN's extensive coverage tomorrow of the so- called "Great American Boycott." CNN's coverage begins 6 a.m. eastern. Until then, thanks very much for joining us.
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