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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer

Interview With Senators Lieberman, Spector; Interview With Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

Aired April 08, 2007 - 11:00   ET


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

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Democratic leaders in Congress are bent on making a political statement.



SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: The president is misleading the American people.


BLITZER: Battle lines are drawn over the war in Iraq. Two influential U.S. senators weigh in on that and more: Joe Lieberman and Arlen Specter.


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT M. GATES: If we were to withdraw from Baghdad, there would be a dramatic increase in sectarian violence.


BLITZER: More U.S. forces headed to Iraq. We'll assess the war plan with Time magazine's Mark Thompson and CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.


(UNKNOWN): We were blindfolded. Our hands were bound. We were forced up against the wall.


BLITZER: British troops reveal dramatic details. Insight on that standoff with Iran from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Republican Tommy Thompson on why he wants to be president. And from the politics of the war in Iraq to presidential campaign cash. We'll get analysis from the best political team on television: CNN's Bill Schneider, Ed Henry, and Lisa Goddard.

And on this Easter Sunday, a special conversation with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

"Late Edition's" lineup begins right now.

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

BLITZER: It's 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:30 p.m. in Tehran and 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition." We'll speak with Senators Lieberman and Specter in just a few moments.

First, let's get the latest on the situation in Iraq. There's been another huge truck bombing today. CNN's Michael Ware is joining us in Baghdad.

Michael, what are the latest details that are just coming in on this truck bombing and the other violence continuing throughout the country?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as with ever so much here in Iraq, this particular bombing today is shrouded by a fog of inconclusive reporting. What we do know for a fact is that earlier today in Mahmudiya, a town just 21 miles south of the capital, there was a devastating explosion in which 15 civilians have been killed, according to Iraqi government officials, and many, many more wounded.

There's conflicting reports from police and the Ministry of Interior here about what caused the explosion, either a truck bomb laden with all types of munitions, or a Katyusha rocket. There's conflicting reports, as I said, but nonetheless, the violence just continues with this massive detonation and an ongoing affair of much smaller attacks claiming lives across the capital and elsewhere across the country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael, there was a very ominous statement released today in the name of Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American radical Shiite cleric. I know you've had a chance to review this. He has an enormous following among Iraqi Shiites, as you know. And it's very worrisome given the potential he has to disrupt this new U.S. strategy.

WARE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this is a very powerful political statement or that's what it's intended to be. This is a statement of intent, and it can't just be seen in isolation. What we have is this rebel, anti-American cleric who commands his powerful militia that's been fracturing and splintering and questions have been arising about his ongoing level of control.

Sitting back in Iran, a country where the U.S. has tried to say his flight or his movement to this country is a sign of his weakness, he's saying, "No, folks, even from here I can muster my faithful in Najaf, in the Holy City." And he's doing it in a very astute way.

He's not calling for them to come out and support him or his movement. In fact, he's banning that. He's calling to them for a nationalist display of Iraqi flags. And in his message, which we've been hearing much rumor about amongst his foot soldiers for some days, he says, "Stop attacking each other. My militia, stop attacking the police and vice versa. Focus on your common enemy, the occupier," which, of course, are the U.S. forces.

And don't forget, we've seen Iran recently return the British troops. We've seen it have the return of its diplomat who went mysteriously missing. We saw the prime minister of Iraq, who supports America, denied overflight to Iran a couple of days ago, according to wire reports. And now we see Muqtada, backed by Iran, with this show of political might. There is there a great game at play here, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Michael, stand by. I want to have you back later on "Late Edition" to talk about the latest op-ed column that Senator John McCain has written criticizing the news media, criticizing the coverage coming from Iraq not showing, in his words, "enough of the good work, the good progress that's being done." But that will come up later. Stand by, Michael, in Baghdad.

The political fighting over Iraq war funding is growing more intense here in Washington with President Bush this week repeating his vow to veto a bill approved by the House and Senate that includes timelines for a U.S. troop withdrawal. Democrats in charge of Congress are promising not to back down either.

Joining us now to discuss this and a lot more, two key U.S. senators: from Philadelphia, Republican Senator Arlen Spector; here in Washington, Senator Joe Lieberman who was re-elected last November as an independent from his home state in Connecticut, although he's still a registered Democrat.

Senator Lieberman, thanks for coming in.

Senator Specter, thanks to you as well.

Let me just get your quick reaction to what we just heard from Michael Ware, Senator Lieberman, that potentially Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric who may be an exile in Iran right now, he could certainly cause his Shiites to totally disrupt President Bush's new strategy in Iraq.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Of course he could. This is a war. I mean, and I think we have to look at this latest statement because it suggests a reaction to the first stages of the implementation of our new plan, the surge. General Petraeus, our new general there, whole new approach. There are statistics that say it's working. It's working in the sense that sectarian killings in Baghdad are way down, and more of the people who fled the city are coming back. Muqtada al-Sadr's army, which was involved in horrific sectarian attacks on Sunni Iraqis, has laid low, has been down. He's been away.

Today, he is not calling for a resurgence of sectarian conflict. He's striking a nationalist chord. We're going to have to watch him closely. He's not our friend. What is my hope, he's acknowledging that the surge is working and he's moving himself into a position where he can come back into politics, not as the leader of a violent, sectarian terrorist army.

BLITZER: And it could be wishful thinking.

LIEBERMAN: It could be.

BLITZER: It could be a hope, but let me bring Senator Spector in because months ago on "Late Edition," Senator Specter, you candidly acknowledged that this was now a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq. If, in fact, this is a civil war, what business does the United States have in remaining in Iraq?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Because we went there under circumstances -- had we known Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction, we wouldn't have gone in, but now we're there and we don't want to leave and find it totally destabilized.

What I'm looking for, Wolf, is some action on diplomacy. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared before the Appropriations Committee back in February and announced an initiative, an initiative to have a conference in Baghdad which would include Iran and Syria, as well as the warring factions. And some six, seven weeks have passed and nothing happened.

BLITZER: They did have a conference in Baghdad only a couple of weeks or so ago, but I don't think anything really emerged substantive from that conference. The U.S. participated together with Iraq's regional neighbors, including Syria and Iran.

SPECTER: Well, it wasn't much of a conference, Wolf. They didn't do much. They were at it, I think, for just a day or two. And we have seen here recently that negotiations appear with North Korea appear to have been fruitful. We had the standoff between Iran and Great Britain and that was worked out.

And Condoleezza Rice talked about an initiative. Those were her words. And I'm looking for her to follow through. Now Egypt is scheduling a conference in May, but time is passing. There's a lot of pressure in Washington to see results fast.

BLITZER: Later on "Late Edition," Senator Lieberman, Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state who served under Bill Clinton, is going to be on this program.

Here is what she said the other day to NPR, National Public Radio: "Iraq is the greatest disaster in American foreign policy, a war that was a war of choice, not a necessity, that was very badly carried out, and there are no good options." Those are strong words from a woman that you know quite well and admire. LIEBERMAN: Yes, I do. So I respectfully agree in part and disagree in part. Obviously, mistakes were made after Saddam was overthrown. We've been through that at great length. The fact is, we're there.

And unless one decides that there's no hope of victory and, therefore, we should just pick up and get out, it would be a disaster not to try to win this. And why? Because if we lose it, this will become a base for al Qaida, the same al Qaida that attacked us, that began the war on terrorism. Secondly, Iran will surge in, and Iran and its terrorist clans will gain a victory in the most significant conflict in the Middle East, which is the conflict between moderates and extremists.

BLITZER: But if there's no incentive to the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to get the job done themselves, the Democrats are saying is, you know, you need a time frame. A year from now, get your act together. That should be plenty of time to have these hundreds of thousands, nominally, members of an Iraqi military police force ready to do the job.

LIEBERMAN: Well, putting a timeline on is always a mistake in war because it says that a bunch of political people in Washington know better than the generals in the field what's going to be happening four months, six months, a year from now. That's why I repeat: Unless you are prepared to say we have lost in Iraq, we have no chance, and we're prepared to accept the consequences of withdrawal, which I think would be terrible for American security.

Terrible for the people of Iraq, who will be the victims of ethnic slaughter beyond what we can imagine. And terrible for the entire Middle East. And I want to make this point again, Wolf. This is particularly wrong to call for a withdrawal now as the new plan under the new general with new troops is beginning to show encouraging signs.

BLITZER: All right. Let me let Senator Specter weigh in on the showdown right now between the Democratic majority in the House and the Senate, and the White House over funding. The president says he's going to veto the bills passed in the House and Senate if it includes any sort of timeline, any sorts of restraints on what he says is his new strategy there. Is there a way out of this stand-off that will allow the funds to go to the troop, but at the same time let the Democrats and some Republicans make their point?

SPECTER: Well, I think there have not been sufficient efforts at discussions between the Congress and White House to try to work it out. We cannot leave the troops unfunded in the field. That just can't be done. And Congress is not in a position to micromanage the war.

But we do not have any good alternative. Right now, you can't see the end of the tunnel, let alone a light at the end of the tunnel. We can't stay there forever, but we do have some signs of improvement. When John McCain is making the statements he has in the op-ed in The Washington Post today about our situation being possibly fruitful in the future, and Secretary of Defense Gates, who's a far cry from Roosevelt, says he's not going to engage in happy talk, but we should have some results by summer, I'm not prepared to withdraw funding at this time. But my patience, like many others, is growing very thin.

BLITZER: All right, senators, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about, including Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker. She made a visit to Damascus this past week. Senator Specter made a visit to Damascus only a few weeks earlier. We'll get both of the senators' assessments on whether or not she did the right or wrong thing by going to Syria.

And later, a very different view of the war. The former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, standing by. She'll join us live. We'll ask her what she thinks about Iraq, why she is arguing this is the greatest foreign policy disaster for the United States.

And we'll also talk with two top military reporters about the war's impact on the strength of the U.S. forces. Is the U.S. Army broken?

For our North American viewers, coming up right after "Late Edition" at 1 p.m. Eastern, John Roberts hosts "This Week at War."

You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. Coming up later, a tough assessment of the Bush administration's Iraq war strategy from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who says the war was one of choice, not necessity. We'll talk to her shortly.

But right now, we're speaking with Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Let's talk about Iran for a moment. Senator Lieberman, I'm going to start with you, play for you a clip of what Senator Kit Bond, Republican of Missouri, said on "Late Edition" last week about what needs to be done in Iran.


SEN. CHRISTOPHER S. BOND, R-MO.: Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there is any other option other than regime change, but we believe that there are a substantial number of Iranian citizens who are very uncomfortable with the direction the current president and the supreme leader are taking them.


BLITZER: He was speaking before the release of the British sailors and marines this past week. You agree with him that that's really the only strategy...


BLITZER: ... the U.S. should undertake, regime change in one form or another in Iran?

LIEBERMAN: No, I do not agree. But I am a strong supporter of doing everything we can to change the regime. And by that, I mean to support the opposition Iranian forces, the reformist forces.

This is not a popular regime. And I think we ought to be doing everything we can, as we did in the former Soviet Union, to help people who want to take control of their own destiny from these extremists to do so.

But there are other courses we could follow, obviously. One is economic pressure. Second is diplomatic pressure. And we always have the ability to strike militarily if all else fails. I do want to say in this regard, Wolf, that the saga we've been through with the British hostages, I think, ended in a way that should make us all step back and think about the consequences for what the Iranian regime thinks of the rest of the world.

They carried out an illegal act. They grabbed 15 British sailors clearly not in their waters. And the British, naturally, went to the U.N. to ask for help. U.N. Security Council wouldn't even issue a resolution deploring the Iranian action.

The British went to the European Union, asked for economic pressure on Iran. E.U. would not act. What finally did it, believe it or not, was the U.S., unfortunately, having to agree to release a high-ranking Iranian, called a diplomat, we have been holding in Baghdad.

BLITZER: So you think that was part of the quid quo pro?

LIEBERMAN: I do. The timing was just more than coincidental. This man, we were convinced, had overseen some of the Iranian support to Iraqi elements that have killed Americans.

Now, if that's the only way to get Iraq to step back from an illegal act, think of the message it sends -- excuse me, Iran to step back from an illegal act, think of the message of weakness we sent to the Iranians. I worry about what next they will do. And of course, I most fear a country like this with nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: Let's talk, Senator Specter, about Nancy Pelosi's visit to Damascus. This past week the White House very, very angry that she was engaged in this trip. You made your own visit to Damascus back in December. You met with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. There is a picture of the two of you. Did she do the right thing, the speaker of the House?

SPECTER: Yes, she did. She has a very prominent constitutional role in determine what's going to happen in the Iraqi war. Syria is very much involved with respect to the funding. I think had she been just a little more precise in her statement about Israel being willing to negotiate with Syria on what the conditions were, I think that there would not have been so much criticism against her.

But I don't think it is helpful for top officials to exchange insults. I don't think it is helpful for people in the administration to characterize her as being engaged in, quote, "bad behavior," unquote. I don't think it's helpful for replies about a tantrum, although you can understand a reply with provocation.

But I believe that Assad can be negotiated with. I've made 14 trips there, Wolf, in the past two decades and have been able to be helpful in a number of situations, which I can document. And I think opening discussions with Syria are very, very important. And I would rather Condoleezza Rice did it, but if not, it's up to Speaker Pelosi and Arlen Specter and others.

BLITZER: What about Senator Lieberman? What do you think?

LIEBERMAN: I respectfully and strongly disagree with Arlen Specter and with Nancy Pelosi. I believe her visit to Syria was a mistake, that it was bad for the United States of America and good for the Syrians. And I say this because Syria -- we're in a war. We're in a war against the Islamist terrorists who attacked us on 9/11/01. Syria is a state sponsor of terrorism.

BLITZER: But they had nothing to do with 9/11.

LIEBERMAN: They have -- let me tell what you they have got to do with what we're into now. The Bashar Assad Syrian government has allowed terrorists and arms to flow across its country into Iraq that are being used to kill Americans today.

Syria has been implicated in the assassination of a very strong, popular Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Syria is supporting Hezbollah which is trying to unseat our ally, Siniora, in Lebanon. Syria is supporting the terrorist group Hamas against our allies in the Fatah Palestinian movement and, of course, Israel. The administration, in all fairness -- people in Washington should know, if they don't know, that the administration has been trying in many ways, in diplomatic discussions with Syria since 9/11, to get Assad to change his behavior and he has not. When Nancy Pelosi goes there, she sends a message of disunity. She legitimizes the Syrian government.

BLITZER: So I assume that you disagree with Senator Specter's decision.


BLITZER: I want why Senator Specter to respond. Why do you think Senator Lieberman, Senator Specter, is wrong?

SPECTER: Because I believe in the maxima of hold your friends close and your enemies closer. President Ronald Reagan declared the Soviet Union to be the "Evil Empire" and immediately thereafter he undertook negotiations with them.

Look, Assad is not a boy scout, but we have to deal with him. He's there. And in my conversation with him, I think there are ways to get him to stop arming Hezbollah and to stop arming Hamas. They came on the brink of a solution to the Golan Heights in 1995 and again in the year 2000. And that was done by active negotiation that President Clinton engaged in. So there are ways to move through it and to isolate them has not been successful.

LIEBERMAN: Let me just...

BLITZER: Very briefly because we are out of time.

LIEBERMAN: Real briefly. I am for negotiations and discussions with the Syrians. The administration has been carrying them out. The Syrians have not changed a wit from their support of terrorism. After Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria, the Syrian foreign minister said the Pelosi visit ended the international isolation of Syria that began after the Syrians were implicated in the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri. That's a terrible result.

SPECTER: I would like to see Senator Lieberman document what this administration has done with negotiations on Syria. It's simply not true.

LIEBERMAN: Well, I know, and I know Arlen is in a position to know, that there have been a lot of diplomatic discussions with the Syrians, asking them to take action against terrorism, particularly stop the flow of foreign fighters and weapons onto Iraq that resulted in deaths and...


BLITZER: I don't think there have been high-level meetings between the administration and the Syrian president or foreign minister...

LIEBERMAN: Yes, and here is why...

BLITZER: ... or even in the ambassador in Washington.

LIEBERMAN: And here is why...

SPECTER: Wolf, I am in a position to know, and there just haven't been meaningful negotiations.

LIEBERMAN: Here's what...

SPECTER: Syria wants the Golan back and Israel may well be prepared to give Syria the Golan back. That's the kinds of negotiations which are meaningful.

LIEBERMAN: Here's the reason why there haven't been high-level discussions. Because all the other quiet discussions at slightly lower levels have produced nothing from Bashar Assad.

When members of Congress, and particularly the speaker of the House -- one of two highest ranking Democrats in office in Washington -- goes and says "The road to Damascus is the road to peace," Bashar Assad thinks he doesn't have to change anything. He's got us exactly where he wants us, and that's in a position of disunity and danger, in my opinion.

BLITZER: Senators, you obviously disagree on this sensitive subject but we'll leave it there. I want to thank both of you for joining us here on "Late Edition." We'll continue this conversation...


SPECTER: Nice being with you, Wolf, and nice being with Senator Lieberman, too.

BLITZER: Thank you.

LIEBERMAN: You too, Arlen.

BLITZER: Good to have both of you here.

Still ahead here on "Late Edition," former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright -- she has a very different perspective. We'll ask her why she believes there are no good options for the U.S. mission in Iraq right now.

Also coming up, this week's Time magazine says the U.S. Army right now at the breaking point. We'll talk with the journalist who wrote the cover story, Mark Thompson, get perspective from our own reporter at the Pentagon, Barbara Starr. "Late Edition" will be right back.


BLITZER: You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington. We're keeping our eye on several developing stories this hour. Fredricka Whitfield is joining us from the "Late Edition" update desk with some details.

What's happening now, Fred?


BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Fred, very much. We'll get back to you soon.

Up ahead on "Late Edition," we're watching CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr and Time magazine's national security correspondent Mark Thompson. They're here in our "Late Edition" studio. They are getting ready for an important discussion on the U.S. Army.

Is it already broken? Mark wrote the cover story in the new issue of Time magazine, "Why Our Army is at the Breaking Point." We'll get wide-ranging military analysis. That's coming up. Stay with us.



UNKNOWN: We thank you today for the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ...


BLITZER: Christians around the world celebrating Easter Sunday. These are U.S. troops in Iraq attending Easter services. Civilian American personnel attending these services as well.

Later, we're going to bring you my conversation with the former archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. You'll want to hear his thoughts about the war. Is the U.S. fighting a just war? I'll ask him.

First, there's word now from the Pentagon this week that more than 12,000 U.S. Army National Guard troops are being called up for a second tour of duty in Iraq. This isn't part of the so-called surge in troops, just the latest effort to try to keep enough U.S. forces in Iraq.

Joining us now to talk about the impact on the military, Time magazine's national security correspondent, Mark Thompson. He wrote this week's cover story, a powerful story, "Why Our Army Is At the Breaking Point." That's the title.

And our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, who is here with us in our studio as opposed to her usual post over at the Pentagon. Guys, thanks for coming in. Let's talk a little bit about your cover story, why our army is at the breaking point.

Among the points you refer, Mark, in your article, that the U.S. has been fighting the wrong kind of war, wasn't prepared for this war. The troops are tired. There are lower standards now to get into the U.S. Army. Cash and promotions are being handed out in an unusually fast way, and there is a shortage of gear and training.

This is pretty ominous right now, because I read the piece. It looks like the U.S. Army is on the verge of breaking.

MARK THOMPSON, TIME MAGAZINE: I mean, we're seeing an awful lot of leading indicators, Wolf. An awful lot of things are going wrong right now. This dispatch this week of units before they had their full year, which is truncated to begin with from two years, of dwell time at their home bases is driving a lot of soldiers beyond the bend, especially as they're going into their third tour.

For families, this is a real grind. And we're going to start finding out just how much it's going to cost us because we've never done this before with an all-volunteer force.

BLITZER: You tell the story of one soldier who was killed a week into his arrival in Iraq after he missed several major training exercises that he should have experienced before leaving the United States.

M. THOMPSON: Yeah, this is all part of the surge. When John Abizaid, the general in charge of Central Command, said, hey, we can't support 20,000 troops going into the surge in Iraq. Now that he's gone, we're putting in 30,000 troops. So you're definitely seeing tendons snapping as our military moves out on this effort. BLITZER: George Casey, the former U.S. commander in Iraq, now slated to become the Army chief of staff, is insisting that it's not there. U.S. Army is not on the verge of breaking. I want to you listen to what he told Congress.


GENERAL GEORGE CASEY, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: From what I see in Iraq, Senator, the Army is far from broken.


BLITZER: All right, Barbara, you're there. You cover these guys on a day-to-day basis. What are you hearing from the U.S. Army? Forget about the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps. The U.S. Army.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think there is absolutely no answer to this except yes. Of course, it is stretched thin. It's tired. Is it broken or just bent? It all depends on how you define broken, of course. It is not the broken Army after Vietnam.

That's what the generals are saying. It's not like after Vietnam. It's not like the lack of morale and the drinking and the drugs and the poor discipline. Nobody expects that.

But everything Mark pointed out in his article is absolutely true, and you have this drip, drip, drip of problems. And when does it actually go and overwhelm the Army?

BLITZER: In the article, and I was pretty stunned by this myself as a former Pentagon correspondent, that they reduced dramatically the level needed to join the U.S. Army. The high school graduate rate has gone down. Convicted felons now can be admitted into the U.S. Army? It sounds pretty discouraging.

STARR: Well, what the military will tell you is, that's on the margins. That those are very small numbers, and everybody's a special case. But all these things add up to the question of, what's really next? Now, General Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, this week acknowledged training problems, all these types of problems, but then turned around and said he wanted to warn America's enemies to make no mistake that the military would be ready if there's another crisis. Then the question, Wolf, becomes: Ready at what price?

BLITZER: Here's what he said. I'll play a little clip from General Peter Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.


GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We will have the capacity to ensure that those who are going into Iraq, those who are going into Afghanistan are properly trained for those missions. But when you only have one year between -- or less -- between deployments, instead of the two you would like to have, you then do not train to what we call full spectrum. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How difficult of a problem, Mark, is this, that they don't have the full training that they need, and they don't have the gear, the armor, the basic defense mechanisms that they need?

M. THOMPSON: Well, as General Casey interestingly just pointed out, you know, from what I see in Iraq, he said, our Army is not broken. And indeed, that's the case. At the tip of the spear, the Army is dinged up, it's rusted, it's a little corroded. But it's not broken.

But remember, Wolf, a spear has a shaft. And the shaft literally is rotting before our eyes in terms of cut-rate training. In terms of these bonuses that they're paying. In terms of silly little things, like the Marines tightening up their tattoo standards and saying you cannot have these kind of tattoos, at the same time the Army is relaxing its tattoo standards. It's those kinds of things that make you say, hey, something bad's going on here.

BLITZER: And the theory the Marines have, what, they can't have tattoos now below their shirtsleeves?

M. THOMPSON: The sleeve tattoos, right.

BLITZER: What does that have to do with the fighting capability?

M. THOMPSON: Well, I think it clashes when you see a Marine with his forearm showing, if it's covered with gaudy skin art, it might not give the right impression.

BLITZER: Here's what the secretary of defense, Barbara, said on March 22nd on this sensitive issue. Listen to this.


GATES: If we were to have another conflict, another major conflict, we would not be able to achieve our goals on the timelines that we've set for ourselves in terms of being successful in those, in that other conflict, but we would prevail. It would take a little longer, and we would not be as precise.


BLITZER: All right, you want to talk about that?

STARR: Absolutely. That is what we are talking about. That is the bottom-line risk to national security in this country at the moment. Sure, you can struggle through Iraq for another couple of years, Afghanistan. But what happens if you have to fight in Iran, if you have to fight in North Korea?

If there is a third conflict, what the Army will tell you is the forces back at home don't have the equipment, don't have the training ready, aren't ready to go. If there is a third conflict, General Pace, Secretary Gates, even Secretary Rumsfeld have warned it would be messy.

You have all your intelligence assets, your reconnaissance planes already tied up in Iraq, already tied up in Afghanistan. You have all your precision weapons over there. Those stocks are way down. General Pace has called it brute force. You would have to use brute force, and you couldn't win as fast as you wanted to.

BLITZER: The other point that jumps out from your article is that the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, is still spending tens of billions of dollars -- maybe hundreds of billions of dollars -- getting equipment, sophisticated equipment, ready for another Cold War, if you will, as opposed to the real threats that face the United States right now.

M. THOMPSON: It's very interesting, Wolf, to pay attention. You can use it as a metaphor for the Iraq war, the up-armored humvees. When our forces went into Iraq four years ago, we had 235 up-armored humvees dedicated to that mission. Now the requirement is 18,000.

It shows that, as Senator Jack Reid told us, "Hey, after Vietnam," a war that he was in the military at that time, "the military said, 'We don't want to fight that kind of war again.'" And, basically, the Congress and the country let them get away with it. But nobody, especially after Gulf War one, is going to fight us in the battlefield in a tank-on-tank army. So maybe our investments need to be readjusted.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, guys. Mark Thompson of Time magazine, our sister publication, thanks very much. Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent, thanks for coming in. The Time magazine cover story, "Why Our Army is at the Breaking Point."

Coming up, President Bush's former health secretary, Tommy Thompson, throws his hat into the 2008 presidential ring. We'll talk about why he wants to come back to what he once called "Disneyland East."

Plus, insight on the politics of the war, the presidential campaign, money race from the best political team on television. CNN's Bill Schneider, Ed Henry, Lisa Goddard, they're all standing by live.

"Late Edition" will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back. This week, an already crowded race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination grew by one. President Bush's former secretary of Health and Human Services, the former governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson formally announced his candidacy. Governor Thompson is joining us now from his home state. He's in Madison.

Governor, thanks very much for joining us on "Late Edition."

TOMMY THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, thank you so very much, Wolf, and thank you so very much for putting me on your program.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the overriding issue facing the American public right now. I think it's fair to say that would be the war in Iraq. We've spoken on several occasions.

Correct me if I'm wrong, your suggestion is that the U.S. work for an effective partition of Iraq into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni sectors, and that they find a way to distribute the oil wealth fairly among all the various groups of Iraq, is that right?

T. THOMPSON: Well, that's partially correct, Wolf. First off, I have four positions, four propositions, that enable me, I think, to put out a very visionary Iraq policy.

First, we have to protect our troops who are in harm's way. I think we have to give them the resources necessary. You just had a program on regards to the needs and effectiveness of our armed forces. We need to make sure that they're protected and have the resources necessary.

Beyond that then, I believe that it is absolutely necessary for the al-Maliki government, which is a duly-elected government, to have the responsibility of voting, as a parliament, as to whether or not they want the United States in their country.

If they vote yes, which I think they will, that immediately gives the United States a legitimacy they don't have right now. And, secondly, if they vote that we should leave, we should leave.

Third, I really believe we have 18 territories in Iraq, just like we have 50 states in America. Why not have those 18 territories elect their own leaders? You will find that the Shiites will elect Shiites, Sunnis will elect Sunnis, and Kurds will elect Kurds.

There are 18 territories. Let's let them elect their leaders and you will get away from this internecine civil war because Shiites will gravitate to territories that are operating and controlled by Shiites.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a moment, because I know your fourth point involves the oil revenues. Let's talk about the notion of these independent or autonomous regions of Iraq. The Iraq Study Group rejected that notion.

I want to read to you what the Iraq Study Group concluded: "All 18 Iraqi provinces have mixed populations as do Baghdad and most other major cities in Iraq. A rapid devolution could result in mass population movements, collapse of security forces, strengthening of militias, ethnic cleansing, destabilization of neighboring states or attempts by neighboring states to dominate Iraqi regions."

Those are pretty ominous fears.

T. THOMPSON: Well, they are ominous fears by individuals in America that really, I don't think, have spent much time in Iraq. The truth of the matter is, is that the 18 territories are pretty much dominated by one religious sect. The Shiites dominate a lot of the southern territories, the Kurds dominate the northern territories, and the Sunnis dominate the central territories pretty much.

And if you elect those leaders, you will find a gravitation of the people to the territories that are absolutely governed by their religious theocracy and you'll get away from this civil war. And instead of breaking it down, you'll increase the opportunity for peace and tranquility in Iraq.

BLITZER: They did make at least one visit to Iraq, members of the Iraq Study Group. I guess they would come back and argue, Governor, did you go to Iraq?

T. THOMPSON: Yes, I have. I've been to Iraq. And I've studied Iraq just like a lot of people have. And the 18 territories were set up after the First World War by the British protectorate. And you know that the Shiites are going to be gravitating towards territories that are controlled by Shiite theocracy. The same with Sunnis.

And you do that, Wolf, you are going to get away from this internecine civil war. And that is what is necessary for people in that country who are afraid of the centralized government to be able to have a stake in their country and a stake in their territory that they live in.

BLITZER: All right. The other point you make, which is clearly significant, involves Iraq's major export, if not its only export. That would be oil, the huge amount of oil that is in Iraq right now -- not all of it, obviously -- being exploited. Your proposal, very briefly, is what?

T. THOMPSON: One-third of the oil proceeds go to the federal government, one-third go to the 18 territorial governments, and one- third go to every man, woman and child. We do that in Alaska and it works out very well. If you did that in Iraq, every man, woman and child would be making sure that the oil wells continued to flow, expand, and as you said, Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world next to Saudi Arabia.

And if you get a steady stream of income, you will be able to build small businesses, be able to enhance your opportunities and really give every Iraqi an opportunity to have stake in their country. And that's what's badly needed to build that country.

BLITZER: That, according to the Iraq Study Group, though, is easier said than done. Here's what they concluded on this notion. They said "There is no institution in Iraq at present that could properly implement such a distribution system. It would take substantial time to establish, would have to be based on a well- developed state census and income tax system which Iraq currently lacks." Do you want to respond to the Iraq Study Group on that?

T. THOMPSON: I certainly will, because everybody, you know, can sit back and find out that there's something wrong with everything anybody says. But the truth of the matter is, I'm the only candidate out there, Wolf, that has come up with an attractive, visionary plan. Many parts, and with many opportunities. And what is really lacking in Iraq is the fact that every man, woman and child doesn't believe they have a stake in their government or a stake in their country. By giving them an oil proceed check every single year, they're going to have the feeling they belong and they have really a stake in that country. And that's what's badly needed and will help to build a country.

And that's what's badly needed. And that's why my plan has more opportunities and more chance for success than anything out there. Because there really is nothing else out there except my plan.

BLITZER: One of your Republican presidential rivals, John McCain of Arizona, has a piece in The Washington Post today in which he writes this, among other things: "For the first time since 2003, we have the right strategy," referring to what's going on in Iraq. "In General Petraeus, we have a military professional who literally wrote the book on fighting this kind of war. And we will have the right mix and number of forces. There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but we must try."

Is Senator McCain right?

T. THOMPSON: Well, there's no question we've got to support the president, and we've got to support our troops in Iraq. I said it at the beginning. But nobody has looked beyond that. How do you build a country?

And that's where my plan differs from the president and all the other candidates. It looks beyond just trying to defend Baghdad or some of the major cities in Iraq. This is trying to build Iraq, make it really a functioning democratic country, as well as states, just like we have in America. And that's why I think my plan is far superior than anything else that's out there.

BLITZER: The other major Republican challenger or rival you have is Rudy Giuliani, who does very, very well in the polls. He's raised a lot of money. He spoke out this week on the issue of abortion. I want to you listen to what he says.


RUDY GIULIANI, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course I'm opposed to abortion. Don't like it. Hate it. Would advise that woman, have an adoption rather an abortion. I'll help you find the money for it.

But it's your choice. It's an individual right. You get to make that choice. And I don't think society should be putting new jail for it.


BLITZER: He also reiterated that he would support federal funding for abortion for poor women, women who need that kind of federal funding, as long as it's seen as, it's being constitutional. You agree or disagree with that? T. THOMPSON: Well, I disagree with Rudy Giuliani on abortion. I'm pro-life. I've advocated that. I signed a partial-birth abortion bill into law when I was governor. And I'm pro-life and I'm proud of it. And I think, you know, that's a different issue that different candidates are going to have different positions.

I'm not criticizing one person for their position. I hope they don't criticize me for my position. I just happen to be pro-life.

BLITZER: I want you to clarify one other issue that's come up in recent weeks, the whole issue of smoking and nicotine. I want to read a quote from The Des Moines Register. This is what you said: "Nicotine killed 443,000 thousand Americans last year. I don't think you'll make tobacco illegal, but I want to see nicotine regulated."

Now, you speak as a former secretary of health and human services. You understand the whole health issue in this country very, very well. What do you mean by wanting to make nicotine regulated?

T. THOMPSON: Well, we regulate baby aspirins. And I take one. I know the president of the United States takes one every day for cardiovascular circulatory assistance. And it's a very healthy drug, and that doesn't kill anybody.

Nicotine, which is not regulated, killed 443,000 Americans and costs $155 billion against the $2 trillion we spend on health care. I want nicotine regulated by FDA. FDA should regulate it. It regulates everything else as it relates to medicine and drugs. I think nicotine needs to be regulated.

BLITZER: Governor Tommy Thompson, the former secretary of health and human services, the former governor of Wisconsin, thanks very much for coming in.

T. THOMPSON: It's always a pleasure. Good luck to you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you, and happy Easter to you. Coming up, we'll get insight from the best political team on television. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: And still ahead on "Late Edition," the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She's been a very vocal critic of the president's strategy in Iraq. We'll speak with her. That's coming up next.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. In Rome this morning, the pope celebrated the traditional Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square, saying among other things that nothing is positive -- nothing positive, that is, is happening in Iraq. Later in this second hour of "Late Edition," we'll speak about that with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., about his quest for answers in Iraq. I'll ask him if this war is a just war.

In our first hour, we heard from Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, both of whom support the president in his latest strategy in Iraq. But let's get the other side of the equation.

Joining us now, the former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who in the newly written afterword to her book, "The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs," writes about her fear that when history is written, and this is a direct quote, "the war in Iraq will look like an even more tragic debacle than Vietnam. Madam Secretary, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: Worse than Vietnam?

ALBRIGHT: I think so. Not in the number of Americans who died or Vietnamese or Iraqis, but in terms of its unintended consequences: of chaos in the region, of Iran feeling that it has greater and greater power in the region, and then, I think, in the fact that the United States's moral authority has suffered so much as a result of Abu Ghraib and other events in Iraq.

BLITZER: Listen to what Senator Lieberman told me in the first hour here on "Late Edition." Listen to this, because he totally disagrees with you.


LIEBERMAN: The fact is, we're there, and unless one decides that there's no hope of victory, and, therefore, we should just pick up and get out, it would be a disaster not to try to win this. And why? Because if we lose it, this will become a base for al Qaida, the same al Qaida that attacked us, that began the war on terrorism.


BLITZER: You want to respond to that?

ALBRIGHT: Well, we'll become a base for al Qaida. You know, what's interesting is the inspector general of the U.S. Army has said, in fact, that there was no connection between al Qaida and Saddam Hussein. And every day now we know that there's more and more al Qaida, and some of them, frankly, I think are in response to our presence.

So I disagree with Senator Lieberman. I think that we have to figure out a way to make this war end in a way that does not leave a completely chaotic situation. But the sad part, Wolf, is we have no good options at the moment. If we stay, it's a disaster. If we leave, it's a disaster.

BLITZER: So, which is the worse disaster?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that at the moment, our staying is a worse disaster. What needs to happen is, we need to get help from others in training up the Iraqi security forces so they can take care of the country themselves, and there has to be work on a political solution. I don't see a lot going on in that sphere with any help from this administration.

BLITZER: Here's what General David Petraeus said this week, and he was raising some hope that maybe things could move in the right direction. Listen to this.

I'll read it to you actually: "It will be months, not days or weeks, before we see real indicators of progress. There have been some encouraging indicators in Baghdad, in terms of a reduction in sectarian murders. There have been some families returning; there have certainly been revivals in marketplaces."

So while he says it's going to take many months to determine whether or not this will work, he sees some initial signs of progress.

ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I wish General Petraeus all the best, and certainly our troops, who are doing a magnificent job. I'm not on the ground. The truth is that we keep getting totally different kinds of reports, and that there are certain places where it's better. And I take General Petraeus's word on that. And certain places where it's worse.

Every day there are reports about Americans dying, Iraqis dying. So I hope that there is a resolution to this that leaves Iraq with some stability and we can bring our forces home because there's not a coherent policy at this point.

BLITZER: I take it you agree with Harry Reid and with Nancy Pelosi that setting some sort of timeline, linking that to the funding of the war is a good idea.

ALBRIGHT: I think it's a good idea to set some goals for the redeployment of our troops. I think ultimately some number will have to stay there, but I do think that the American people in the elections last November signaled very clearly that it is tame to have a different course in Iraqi policy, and the administration isn't going that direction.

BLITZER: Here's what the vice president, Dick Cheney, said earlier this week.


VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: The reality is that if our coalition withdrew before Iraqis could defend themselves, radical factions would battle for dominance of the country. The violence could spread throughout the country and be very difficult to contain. Having tasted victory in Iraq, jihadists would look for new missions. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. That's a pretty dire scenario that he paints.

ALBRIGHT: I honestly don't know what would make anybody believe a word that Vice President Cheney says, because some of the things that he has said in the past bear no relationship to reality. I am more willing to believe General Petraeus, who is on the ground, but I really have trouble listening to what Vice President Cheney said, at the risk now of being called unpatriotic.

BLITZER: What about the president of the United States, because he made this statement this past week as well. Listen to the president.


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: After we had a brutal war with the Japanese and Nazi Germany, our troops stayed behind and helped these societies recover and grow and prosper. And now we're reaping the benefits of helping our former enemies realize the blessings of liberty.


BLITZER: Is the analogy between Germany and Japan after World War II and what's happening in Iraq right now appropriate?

ALBRIGHT: No. I mean, it's undeniable that we reap the benefits, but this is a very different kind of war. We knew who the enemy was during World War II. There was a broad alliance of people that were fighting. There were countries that were willing to reconstruct themselves.

We have a very different situation and a very different kind of war in Iraq, and this is part of a sense that there's a lack of reality in the administration, Wolf, about what's going on. I think the American people signaled very clearly that they are getting a better sense of what is happening and that there's not a very good outcome to the war in Iraq.

BLITZER: Is the president's credibility better than the vice president's credibility from your perspective?

ALBRIGHT: Close call. But I do think that the president -- I want to believe the president. I have for so long wanted to believe the president, and I want to have a sense that he is leading the country in the right direction.

But Congress has, I think, an increasingly important role to play because it reflects much more closely where the American people are. We have to support our troops who are fabulous and need all our support, but they can't be there within an incoherent policy.

BLITZER: Did the secretary -- excuse me, did the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, do the right or wrong thing by rejecting the White House's recommendation and going to Damascus to meet with the Syrian President Bashar al Assad?

ALBRIGHT: She is the third-ranking official in the United States, and, again, Congress signaled clearly that they wanted a different role. The Congress had been asleep for six years.

I think she did the right thing. She has every right to do it. She is representing a lot of people, and I think there have been lots of people that have gone to Damascus. We have diplomatic relations with Damascus. And the Iraq Study Group made very clear that we should be talking to people that we don't like. It is much more important, frankly, than talking to just people who agree with us. And so I think she had every right to go.

BLITZER: Here is what The Wall Street Journal wrote this Friday: "What was Ms. Pelosi hoping to accomplish other than embarrassing President Bush? With her trip, Ms. Pelosi has now reassured the Syrian strongman that Mr. Bush lacks the domestic support to impose any further pressure on his country. She has also made it less likely that Mr. Assad will cooperate with the Hariri probe in Lebanon, or assist the Iraqi government in defeating Baathist and al Qaida terrorists."

ALBRIGHT: From my understanding is, Speaker Pelosi delivered a pretty tough message to Assad, talked about the importance of the tribunal, and also about being helpful in Iraq. And believe me, that President Assad and others in Syria read the American newspapers and listen to you, Wolf, and they know very well that the president does not have the support of the American people on this particular issue.

BLITZER: I want to you listen to what Donald Trump told me here on CNN a few weeks ago related to the current secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.


DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: Condoleezza Rice, who's a lovely woman, but she never makes a deal. She doesn't make deals. She waves. She gets off the plane. She waves. She sits down with some dictator, 45-degree angle. They do the camera shot. She waves again. She gets back on the plane. She waves. No deal ever happens. So, I mean...

BLITZER: You've got to close the deal at some point?

TRUMP: You've got to make deals. The world is dying to make deals. And we don't have the right people doing it.


BLITZER: All right. not very flattering words about Condoleezza Rice. So, what's your assessment of her on the job?

ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, the job is a lot harder than Donald Trump knows anything about, but I do think that she has a very hard job to do. She is much more involved in diplomacy than she had been previously. I'm glad to see that.

She's now agreed to go to a meeting in Cairo, which is a follow- on to the meeting in Baghdad of the regional powers about Iraq.

But she's got a hard job, and I do know something about that. And I do think that she needs support.

BLITZER: Here is some gossip that was reported Tuesday in the New York Post by Cindy Adams. "The West Coast camp of $36 million lady Hillary Clinton is saying her secretary of state pick would Madeleine Albright. If not Madeleine, then William Jefferson Clinton." Do you want to be secretary of state again?

ALBRIGHT: I had the best job in the world. It doesn't happen twice. But I definitely am supporting Hillary Clinton because she is ready to be president on the day she's inaugurated.

BLITZER: So are you supporting or are you actively involved in the campaign, giving her foreign policy advice?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I go out and I speak on her behalf and, yes, I am very much a part of it and very proud to be because I think she's the best.

BLITZER: OK, Madeleine Albright, thanks for coming in.

ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

Coming up, when we come back, we'll talk about policy and politics. Has Senator Barack Obama's surge in fundraising erased Hillary Clinton's lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination?

And what about Newt Gingrich? If he enters the race will that upset the calculations on the Republican side? We're going to handicap all of the politics of this week and a lot more with our panel of CNN political reporters.

And then the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., on the war in Iraq and a lot more on this Easter Sunday, all come up this hour of "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.


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

It's been a rough week for politicians, a lot of changes in the race for the presidency and an increasingly bitter standoff between Congress and the White House over the war in Iraq, among other issues.

Joining us now to discuss all of this, our White House correspondent Ed Henry. He's joining us from Crawford, Texas, where President Bush is spending the Easter weekend. Lisa Goddard is the congressional correspondent for CNN radio. And Bill Schneider -- he's CNN's senior political analyst. Welcome to all of you.

And, Bill, let me start with you, and talk a little bit about the money race, because we got the first word on how much these candidates have raised. Hillary Clinton raised, what, $26 million. Barack Obama raised $25 million, but he actually raised more in the funds that could be used for the primaries, John Edwards with $14 million. This was a huge surprise how well Barack Obama did.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: How well Barack Obama did, and it shakes up the Democratic race a little bit. Hillary Clinton is still first in most polls, but clearly this is not a pickup team he's running. He's running a serious national contest. And the Republican contest is totally wide open because Mitt Romney raised the most money.

But probably the most important figure is that the Democrats together, all together, raised almost $80 million, the Republicans about $50 million. There's a lot of energy and enthusiasm among Democrats right now. One correspondent told me the Democrats want to have the election tomorrow.

BLITZER: And they probably would love to have the election tomorrow. Here is what the Republicans raised, Lisa. Mitt Romney came out ahead with more than $20 million, Rudy Giuliani with $14 million, and John McCain with a disappointing $12.5 million. He himself acknowledges he did not do very well.

LISA GODDARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Republicans, I think, realize they have a problem on the grassroots level. You talk to the folks who organized the Reagan campaign, who were behind Bush, all those guys, they're not really excited about any one of these candidates.

And that's why Fred Thompson still has a chance, even though it's not clear what he's going to do, if he's in the race or not. I've talked to a lot of Republicans that say, "We want someone else that excites us." And so far there's no one candidate. Just like Bill said, wide open.

BLITZER: Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee who is a star, a movie star and a TV star on "Law & Order," he has high visibility.

What do you make, Ed Henry, of the fact that the Democratic -- the top three Democratic candidates raised a lot more money than the top three Republican candidates?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think, as Bill Schneider said, there's more energy for now on the Democratic side. You can see it at the White House. Obviously, there is a lot of disappointment about the way things have turned out in the Republican Party in general, some frustration with the White House not just on Iraq, but the Gonzales story which had sort of quieted down and then all of a sudden on Friday night there was a second resignation of a top justice official to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

I had been speaking to advisers to Gonzales who were saying, "Oh, maybe we're out of the woods. Maybe things are getting better." All of a sudden that looks like another trouble spot.

So certainly there is more energy on the Democratic side for now. But, obviously, you can't overemphasize money at this point. If you think money is what it's all about, I've got three words for you -- President Phil Gramm.

You remember in 1996 in the early days, he was the Texas senator who raised boatloads of money and then got basically no votes and had to drop out of the race after Iowa, as I recall. And so money is an important early factor, but it's not the only thing, Wolf.

BLITZER: It doesn't hurt to have a lot of money, but you're saying it might not necessarily be the decisive factor when all is said and done.

Let's take a look at some of the polls, Bill Schneider, in New Hampshire specifically, the CNN/WMUR New Hampshire presidential primary poll that was taken not that long ago. Right now, Senator Clinton is at 27 percent. She's down from February, 35. Edwards is at 21. He's up from 16. Barack Obama is at 20. He's about the same as he was in February. Al Gore, who is not a candidate, is at 11 percent. But you take a look at the top three, it's a pretty close race in New Hampshire.

SCHNEIDER: Twenty-seven, 21, 20 -- they're all pretty close to each other. Right now in both parties in national polls, only about a third of Republicans prefer their frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani, and about a third of Democrats prefer their frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.

And who comes in third in both parties? Candidates who aren't even running, Al Gore in the Democratic race and Newt Gingrich and Fred Thompson in the Republican race. There's a lot of interest in seeing new candidates, particularly, as we just heard, among Republicans.

BLITZER: Because Fred Thompson is a very, very visible, likable kind of senator. I've heard several conservatives say to me they like Fred Thompson a lot because on the issues they are most concerned about, whether abortion rights or gay rights or things like that, he's with them on that, but at the same time he's a very likable Ronald Reagan kind of politician. I'm sure you've heard that, Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, I have heard that. Of course, an actor for president, whoever heard of such a thing? Well, it's been done.

BLITZER: It's been done before.

Here is the CNN/WMUR New Hampshire presidential primary poll among Republicans, Lisa. McCain is at 29, Giuliani is at 29, Romney at 17 percent, everybody else way, way down. What do you make of this contest? it's very, very tight in New Hampshire.

GODDARD: It is very tight. I think each of these candidates has a problem, different problems, and I think because of that, the Republican Party has a problem going into this election right now. They have got to build more excitement. They're not getting their donors, they're not getting their base into this race yet, and I think that's why we could see someone coming from the outside.

But I think a lot of candidates -- we've seen Tommy Thompson -- are hoping to not run a national campaign right now, but to run a small Iowa and New Hampshire campaign. It's going to be interesting to see what they do, those smaller candidates, that are more focused.

BLITZER: Hovering over all of this election, at least right now, the dominant issue, Ed Henry, is Iraq. I want to play for our viewers what the president said on Wednesday on this issue and then we'll talk about the politics, the political fallout.


BUSH: It's not a civil war; it is pure evil, and I believe we have an obligation to protect ourselves from that evil. So while we're making progress, it also is tough and so the way to deal with it is to stay on the offense.


BLITZER: This week we learned that Senator McCain is effectively doubling down. He's sticking by his stance that the U.S. has to win in Iraq. That requires more troops. He's really going on the offensive. He has got a major speech on Iraq coming out this week. He's going to be on "60 Minutes" later tonight. What do you make of the strategy that he has?

HENRY: Well, he needs a new one, obviously, and that's what you're starting to see. They're trying to put together a new one.

I mean, the interview that Senator McCain did with you in "The Situation Room" a couple of weeks back where he was talking about taking a stroll through the market in Baghdad and then he actually went there with helicopters and assault rifles and the Marines there protecting him.

Clearly, things are not peaceful on the ground and he sort of had to step back from what he told you on CNN. And so he certainly needs a new strategy. And let's face it. I mean, the elephant in the room is that John McCain is the Republican candidate right now most associated with President Bush, who is a drag on the party.

And so obviously McCain is hoping that this surge will work. He's hoping that, in the end, he'll be vindicated. But in the short term right now, it looks like he's in some real trouble and that he could end up becoming sort of the Bob Dole of this race like in '96 where Dole seemed inevitable at the beginning, but then he became almost like he was out of energy, out of gas. And McCain needs to jump-start his campaign right now. It's obvious, Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, how much trouble is McCain in?

SCHNEIDER: Oh, he is in trouble. I think he's not the McCain of 2000. The McCain of 2008 is a very different character. He has warmed up to the Republican Party establishment on the theory that the establishment candidate usually wins: George Bush in 1988, Bob Dole, as Ed just mentioned, George W. Bush. But this time, I think, Republicans are saying, "You know what we need? We need change." They know what happened in the midterm. They see Bush's approval ratings, and they say, "We're looking for a candidate who can bring change and McCain looks like the least likely to bring change." The candidate who's running on change is the one who raised the most money, Romney. He's saying "We have to have change in Washington," and he's a Republican.

BLITZER: Stand by, guys. We're going to continue this conversation. A lot more to talk about with our political panel, including Rudy Giuliani and the fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and John Edwards. A lot more coming up.

And stick around. You're not going to want to miss what Mike Huckabee had to say this morning about his Republican competitor, Mitt Romney. We'll cover all the other Sunday morning talk shows "In Case You Missed It."

Stay with us. "Late Edition" will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're reporting from Washington today. We're keeping our eye on several stories this hour. Fredricka Whitfield is joining us from the "Late Edition" update desk with some details.

What's happening now, Fred?


BLITZER: Thanks, Fred. Have a happy Easter yourself.

Coming up, more with our political panel. We'll talk about Nancy Pelosi, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton and a lot more. "Late Edition" will be right back.


BLITZER: We're back with three of the best of our political team on television: Ed Henry spending an Easter Sunday covering the president in Crawford, Texas. With us here in Washington, CNN Radio's Capitol Hill correspondent, Lisa Goddard, and CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

We'll get to them in a moment. But let's take a look now at where some of those fighting for the presidency 2008 are going to be spending the next few days on the campaign trail.

It's not strictly a political event but New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson is leading a high-profile bipartisan mission to North Korea over the next few days. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will deliver a speech at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in Texas on Tuesday.

Senator Barack Obama will be in New York Monday. He's a guest on "The Late Show With David Letterman." Should be fun. On Monday also, the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who says he's not quite ready to declare his candidacy, will deliver a candidate-like speech here in Washington, "Four Ways America Can Maintain Greatness," that's the title.

Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd heads to Iowa on Tuesday. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be in Georgia for some fund-raising on Wednesday. The map won't help us for this event, but every -- repeat, every -- candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination will be in cyberspace Tuesday evening for a virtual town meeting sponsored by

Lisa Goddard, the whole cyberspace involvement in this presidential campaign is really changing a lot of the way traditionally we thought of presidential races.

GODDARD: It's incredible. People who would not otherwise be solicited for fund-raising are going on their own to a web site for a candidate they like, and we saw Barack Obama really take advantage of that in his last quarter with all that fund-raising he did, $7 million, $8 million off the web. It really is changing things quickly.

BLITZER: And, Ed Henry, it's not just the fund-raising but so much else is changing, and a lot of experts say this is only the tip of the iceberg. What we're going to see over the next months, years, is going to change politics in a very dramatic way.

HENRY: Oh, absolutely. You see it in the rapid response alone, in the e-mails that are flying around whenever there's something big developing in politics. All the campaigns jumping on it, and that sound bite you played a few months ago with the president on the Iraq war funding.

That's a major issue in this campaign, obviously. The president is trying to stake out his ground. He's threatened to veto the legislation the Democrats are going to send to him with strings attached, where they want to essentially start pulling troops out of Iraq, start bringing them home.

And what you're seeing, really, is a smackdown on both sides, where the Democrats are trying to flex their muscles now that they are running Capitol Hill. They're trying to feel their way. They have this newfound power. And the question for them is whether they're going to overstep, though, that power, whether they're going to go too far with people like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this past week coming out and firing away at the president and saying that he's now on board for other legislation that would start cutting off funding for the war.

The White House obviously realizes they're in a precarious position right now in the polls on Iraq specifically. But they're certainly hoping the Democrats overreach because they think they'll have a political opportunity there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's pick up that thought, Bill Schneider. And before I want you to weigh in, I want to play what the vice president, Dick Cheney, said on this showdown between the White House and Congress over funding for the war.


CHENEY: The fact is that the United States military answers to one commander in chief in the White House, not 535 commanders in chief on Capitol Hill. We expect the House and the Senate to meet the needs of our military on time, in full, and with no strings attached.


BLITZER: The Democrats want to have some strings attached, and some Republicans who voted for the legislation in the House and the Senate. They want a timeline for the start of withdrawal of combat forces. The president says he's going to veto it. Get me that bill, he says, I'll veto it, then you guys can start working from scratch. Who is going to win this showdown?

SCHNEIDER: Well, right now, the American public sides with Congress and the Democrats. The fact is, as the vice president said, there was an election, and this administration has often behaved as if nothing happened last November, and they're continuing just the way they did before.

Very different from the way Bill Clinton responded to the election of 1994 when his party lost control of Congress, and he enraged a lot of Democrats by making accommodations with the opposition. President Bush isn't doing anything like that.

The American people voted for a new direction. They voted for change. The president isn't giving them that. Congress feels perfectly empowered, empowered by the will of the people to seize the ball and carry the message.

BLITZER: Lisa, you're on Capitol Hill every single day. You're speaking to Democrats and Republicans. How deep is that Republican alignment with the white House right now? They may vote with the president, but how worried are a lot of these Republicans, especially the House, all of whom are up for re-election in 2008?

GODDARD: The White House has two problems on Capitol Hill. One is the poll numbers that have these -- many of them, moderate Republicans who are up for re-election in 2008 -- very worried. But the other is, I think, years of what some Republicans would call neglect by the White House of Congress is really coming to hurt the White House right now.

They just don't feel like this president paid a lot of attention to Congress to begin with, took them for granted, and expected them to go along. Now that the White House is down, Congress is responding.

BLITZER: You want to weigh in, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, I wanted to comment. The members of Congress, the Republicans that I've spoken to, said, look, they're not giving Bush a chance here, they're giving General Petraeus a chance, and they're willing to do that for a few months. Come, say, the end of the summer, August, September, if things haven't markedly improved in Iraq, then I think you're going to see Republicans beginning to abandon this administration (inaudible).

BLITZER: The other showdown, Ed Henry, between the White House and the Congress involves the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He's getting ready to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We understand he's going through some mock presentations, rehearsals, if you will. I want to you to listen to what the former Speaker Newt Gingrich said earlier today. Listen to this.


NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I think this entire U.S. attorneys mess is the most self-destructive mismanagement I've seen in the years I've been here. This has been so mismanaged that I really think they need an entirely new team at Justice.


BLITZER: All right. That's not going to be encouraging to the attorney general or his supporters over at the White House.

HENRY: Absolutely not. I mean, obviously, though, Newt Gingrich has an ax to grind there. He's running potentially for president. He wants to make some news. He's coming out. The White House had been cheered by the fact, up until now, that no other major Republicans had come out and called for that resignation.

It's make-or-break on April 17th is the bottom line. That is what Alberto Gonzales is preparing for, that testimony. The White House is leaving him on his own to get that job done.

But if you take a step back from all of this on Gonzales, Iraq, we're talking about those issues. What happened to all the other domestic issues this president wanted to accomplish, work with the Democratic Congress? He is worried about his legacy. He's going to need to get some things done.

The Democrats have to be worried about going into '08 not getting a lot of legislation passed. Both sides talked a lot in January, but right now all focused on Iraq, focused on the Gonzales mess and other things like immigration reform. The president going to Arizona on Monday when he leaves here, Crawford. He wants to get a deal on that. Right now, things are pretty stalled.

Secondly, CNN has also learned that this week, the White House is going to announce a major initiative against China. They're going to launch a major trade case claiming unfair trade practices. What's behind that is they're trying to show that they're getting tough on China in order to try to bring Democrats along on other trade deals that are stalled on Capitol Hill.

But the bottom line is, it's an uphill battle for this president on trade. Jobs a big issue in 2008 being shipped overseas, obviously, but also immigration, very tough slog. Conservatives in the president's own party are against his plan. So when you take a look across the landscape, it's going to be very difficult for this president to get very much done this year with a Democratic Congress, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, Bill Schneider, Lisa Goddard, they are all part of the best political team on television. Thanks to all of you for coming in on this Easter Sunday.

Also coming up, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was outspoken on CBS earlier today. We're going to tell you what he had to say in "Late Edition's" Sunday morning talk show roundup.

And in Jerusalem this Easter morning, pilgrims gathered from around the world. In just a few moments on this Easter Sunday, I'll have a special conversation with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Now, "In Case You Missed It," let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition."

On ABC, debate over whether the new U.S. military strategy in Baghdad is working.


SEN. JON KYL, R-ARIZ.: I was over there about a month ago. We saw the reaction of the Iraqis. They are cooperating with us, so that's old news that they're not cooperating. That's one much the reasons this new surge strategy is working.

SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-MICH.: We don't know if the strategy is working unless the political commitments of the Iraqis are kept. That's the test. There is no military solution to this problem.

There's only a political solution. Everybody says that. All of our military leaders say that. The Iraqis have not kept any of the benchmarks that they set themselves so far.


BLITZER: On Fox, the former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, offered a blunt assessment of the episode involving Iran and the British hostages.


GINGRICH: The West was humiliated. The British were humiliated. The Europeans were humiliated. The United Nations was humiliated. You have an outlaw regime which began its career with the American hostage crisis in 1979. It has yet to learn that breaking the law -- and clearly they broke international law in how they treated the British hostages and they treated them illegally.

We should be actively seeking to replace that government by bringing every kind of nonmilitary pressure to bear we can to destabilize the government and help the people of Iran replace it with a moderate government.


BLITZER: On CBS, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee criticized the huge amounts of cash being spent so early in this campaign.


HUCKABEE: This is a time when people are talking about $100 million before the end of the year. If that's the case, do you really want someone in charge of the Federal Treasury who burns $100 million before the first vote is cast? I think that is obscene.

Our miles per gallon, I would say, is pretty darned impressive because with very modest fundraising so far and the fact that we've only been at it a few weeks -- not several months or, in the case of some candidates, several years -- we're still competitive and are growing momentum rather than trying to run on the fumes of what momentum I've had.


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

Still to come, my special conversation with the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Theodore McCarrick on this Easter Sunday. "Late Edition" will be right back.


BLITZER: Cardinal McCarrick, that's coming up.

Also coming up at the top of the hour for our north American viewers, right after "Late Edition," "This Week at War" examines what Iran's real intentions were when they captured, then released, those British sailors and marines. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: The pope, in his annual Easter message this morning, lamented the Iraq war and the suffering in other parts of the world. I asked the archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, about that and a lot more when we spoke just a little while ago. He joined us from New York.


BLITZER: Your Eminence, thanks very much for joining us on Easter Sunday. Always appreciate having you on "Late Edition." CARDINAL THEODORE MCCARRICK, FORMER ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: It is always nice to be with you. And I'm delighted to be here today.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. Let's talk about Pope Benedict XVI. Listen to what he said on this Easter Sunday.


POPE BENEDICT XVI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees.


BLITZER: I can't assume that you would disagree with the pontiff. But what are your thoughts about this war in Iraq on this Easter Sunday?

MCCARRICK: Well, it is a pain that all of us seem to share, I think from the president on down to all of us. We all long for peace. We long for an end to this hostility. You know, many of us were not happy about the beginning of the war. The late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, even sent Cardinal Laghi over to talk to our government and say, "I don't think this is a good idea."

So a lot of us have had this problem right from the very beginning. But now that we are in it, it becomes more difficult. We want to take care of our service men and women over there. Obviously we want to protect them. We don't want them to be put more in harm's way than they have to be.

And we also worry about the Iraqi people. The war has shattered their economy. It has shattered their superstructure. It is a real mess. And I think the sooner we can find a way to put it all back together again so that we can leave in peace, that is the great prayer that all of us have this Easter morning.

BLITZER: Here is what the Reverend Jerry Falwell told CNN this week. I want you to listen to this.


REV. JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: What Mr. Bush is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is a just war against terror. God hates war but there are biblically-established just wars.


BLITZER: Is this a just war?

MCCARRICK: That is the question that people are going to be asking for years. Certainly, it is just to go to war against terrorism. It is certainly just to try to protect the world against the fanatic who will blow up a population, blow up a building. But whether the -- whether we had all of the information that we needed four years ago to go into Iraq, I think that is going to be the question as to the justice of the war. If we really knew what we thought we knew at that time, then perhaps there is reason that one might say it was a just war.

As it turns out, the motivation that allowed us to go in may not have been correct, as we now know. And therefore, the justice of the war is certainly in danger of being rethought and reconsidered.

BLITZER: Well, have you concluded yet that this is an unjust war? And if so, what would be your recommendation, simply get out?

MCCARRICK: Well, no. I really haven't gone to the -- to that final moment where I say, "This is an unjust war." It certainly is a war with many complications. It certainly is a war that has brought harm and difficulty to many people, even many innocent people, including many of our own troops who are over there.

But of course, the question is, how do you leave? You -- we have really, as the kids say, discombobulated the whole superstructure of a nation. How do you leave now? How do you go out without trying to put it back together?

How do you go out without trying to leave them with a government that will be able to keep things together, that will be able to be able to handle all of the needs of a commonweal in another country? Can you just walk away or do you have to try, in some way, to make sure that when you leave, it is not worse than when you came in?

BLITZER: I want to read to you a paragraph from a new article in The New Yorker magazine by Jane Kramer in the April 2 issue. You were -- and in the context of your recent visit to the Middle East, I know you went there not that long ago. "In countries under Islamic law," she writes, "conversion to Christianity or any other religion is an apostatic crime. In Saudi Arabia, churches are forbidden. In the marginally more open sheikdoms, Christian practice is strictly controlled. In Iraq, as many as half of the country's Christians have fled in the past three years because of the war, but also because of the religious hatred that the war has unleashed."

How endangered are Christians in the Middle East right now?

MCCARRICK: Oh, I think that is hard to give an answer that would touch every nation and every situation. There are certainly areas where they are in danger. There are certainly areas in Iraq where Christians have fled because they were in fear of their lives. That is certainly true.

But I think in other areas, they have been able to live in peace. In other areas they have been able to live in friendship with Muslims. This goes back even to the days of the Ottoman Empire.

Certainly, when there is a rise in fanaticism on any side, it creates tensions and it creates an absence of peace. That is happening in some parts of the world as the difficulties between East and West seem to be aggravated because of many situations, including the war.

But I think it is hard to give a definite answer. Certainly, there is a possibility, maybe a probability, of reading some parts of the Koran exactly as the writer that you just quoted did. But there is also a possibility of reading the Koran in other ways.

And what we have to do is get the Muslim voices who are strong and who are equipped intellectually, and because of their study of the Koran, who see in it not the need to go to constant war against other religions, but who see in it the possibility, as is certainly true in some of the citations from the early Suras that you can say, "No, this is not necessarily the -- this is not Islam as it has to be. It is Islam as it is interpreted by the fanatic, Islam as it can be interpreted by the people who really have studied the Koran and have seen in it a tolerant understanding of religion. For them we can live with them together. It is not necessary for them -- for us to be always at odds with them."

BLITZER: Your Eminence, I want to read to you from that leaked memo that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote to you back in July of 2004, and in the context of the American political campaigns that are already clearly underway.

"A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia."

Does that mean that a Catholic shouldn't vote, let's say, for Rudy Giuliani, who supports abortion rights for women, or a Hillary Clinton or a Barack Obama? What does that memo that then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI wrote, what does that suggest to American Catholics?

MCCARRICK: I think it suggests to American Catholics that if the reason that they vote for someone is precisely because that person is against Catholic doctrine, against what we truly believe to be morally right, if a person specifically votes for them because of that, they put themselves out of communion with the Church.

If, however, a person votes for them, unhappy, probably, about their stands on many of these issues, on their stands against life, on their stands against family, whatever the case might be, if a person in spite of those sees other reasons -- grave, important reasons -- that mean that they should in their own minds support that person, then that doesn't take the person away from the communion of the church.

The Holy Father is very clear. The cardinal at that time was very clear. If that is the specific reason that you vote for somebody, because that person is against life, that person is against family, that person is against morality, then you are yourself taking yourself out of communion with the church.

If, however, you vote for that person for other reasons -- they have to be grave reasons, but if you vote for the person for other grave reasons, then you do not by that very act take yourself from communion with the church.

BLITZER: So a good Catholic could vote for Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or any of the candidates who support abortion rights if they felt that there were other issues that were even more important than that one issue?

MCCARRICK: If they felt that they had -- these other reasons were grave enough to say no, we need this person because this person's stand on other things which in this particular context of American politics today is more important. So it is an individual question that they have to answer. A difficult question, but an important distinction.

BLITZER: Cardinal McCarrick, Your Eminence, on this Easter Sunday, thanks for spending a few moments with us.

MCCARRICK: Thank you, Wolf, it is always good to be with you.


BLITZER: And that's your "Late Edition" for your Easter Sunday, April 8. Please be sure to join us next Sunday, every Sunday, 11:00 a.m. Eastern for two hours of the last word in Sunday talk. We're in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday. Thanks very much.

Let's go to John Roberts and "This Week at War" -- John.