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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer
Interview With Condoleezza Rice; Interview With Hoshyar Zebari
Aired April 29, 2007 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
The next steps in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our patience isn't limitless, but neither is the patience of the Iraq people limitless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We'll talk with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
A war funding bill heads for a presidential veto.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The American people did not vote for failure, and that precisely what the Democratic leadership's bill would guarantee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But what happens when the political dust settles? Two key members of Congress, Democrat Jane Harman and Republican Adam Putnam weigh in.
Plus, the view from Iraq -- our interview with the country's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: For the first time, the president will have to face up, will have to be accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: From the politics of the war to the presidential campaign trail, insight from the best political team on television: CNN's Ed Henry, Dana Bash and Joe Johns.
And European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso speaks out about Iraq, a nuclear Iran and the state of U.S.-European relations.
"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, 4:00 p.m. in London and 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
My in-depth interview with the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice coming up in just a couple of moments. But let's begin in Iraq where it's been another deadly weekend, violence this time in the Shiite city of Karbala comes just days before a regional conference in Egypt to try to address the issue of Iraqi security.
CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad. She's following all these developments.
Arwa, update our viewers on the latest.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's start with the utterly tragic violence that is just ongoing throughout all of Iraq with that devastating attack that happened in the holy Shia of Karbala that you just mentioned.
There, a suicide bomber drove up to an Iraqi checkpoint that was meant to secure the area around the Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas, two very holy shrines to Shia Islam, and detonated his explosives at the very last checkpoint there.
We do have, in fact, updated casualty counts. At least 75 people have been killed in that attack, another 175 wounded. The attack came just as worshipers would have been moving towards the shrines to conduct their evening prayers. This was a very commercial area. There were shops there that sell things like rugs and gold, an utterly devastating and tragic attack.
U.S. forces also suffered heavy losses this weekend with nine U.S. servicemen killed, seven soldiers and two Marines.
And, as you just mentioned, that conference coming up later on this week to be held in Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh with all of Iraq's neighbors coming together, including Iran, to discuss security and various ways that they can perhaps try to eventually stabilize this country -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Arwa Damon on the scene for us. Thank you, Arwa.
The stage now set for President Bush to issue only the second veto of his presidency. He's rejecting an Iraq war spending bill that includes troop withdrawal timetables. The administration also finds itself once again defending its original decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein.
Just a short while ago, within the past hour, I spoke with the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
BLITZER: And joining us now is the secretary of state.
Madam Secretary, thanks for coming in.
RICE: Nice to be with you.
BLITZER: Let's start off with this new book, "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA," by George Tenet. Some very serious charges he's making in this book: "There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat," he writes.
"Nor was there ever a significant discussion regarding enhanced containment or the costs and benefits of such an approach, versus full-out planning for overt and covert regime change."
Is he right, the former secretary -- the former CIA director, when he says there was never a serious debate in the Bush administration about the imminence of an Iraqi threat?
RICE: There was certainly a discussion in the administration with the president, with George, who saw the president, by the way, almost every day in the Oval Office, about what the intelligence was saying about whether the Iraqi threat was getting worse, whether it was you would act earlier or later, given the Iraq threat.
But let's remember that when the president first came to office, one of his first press conferences, he said the problem is that the sanctions have become Swiss cheese. And he then set us on a course to try to strengthen those sanctions.
We went to an extended period of time of trying to get smart sanctions. We went to countries including, for instance, to Syria to cut off the illegal oil flows since we knew the oil-for-food program was being used in ways that were not appropriate. Don Rumsfeld tried to make more robust the no-fly zones that we were flying against the Iraqi air force.
Then the president in September of 2002 went to the United Nations Security Council, got another resolution that then put new demands on Iraq to comply. So this was a long period of time.
BLITZER: But as you know, there were a lot of experts at the time, including the outgoing Clinton administration officials, the former Defense Secretary William Cohen among others, in briefing the incoming administration who argued that Saddam was contained, he was in a box, the no-fly zones were working and he really didn't represent much of a threat externally. He certainly represented a threat to his own people.
RICE: But we certainly know now that the sanctions weren't working, that in fact, Saddam Hussein was making a mockery of the oil- for-food program. We certainly know that now from the multiple investigations of the oil-for-food program.
But this was a period of more than a year-and-a-half of trying to find other ways to deal with the threat from Saddam Hussein.
BLITZER: But did it represent an imminent threat, the fact that he was violating the oil-for-food?
RICE: The question with imminence is, are you in a situation whether you're better to act now, or are you going to be in a worse situation later? That's the question that you have to ask in policy.
And the intelligence assessment, which were talking about the reconstitution of his chemical and biological weapons programs and his attempts to reconstitute his nuclear programs, in the context of someone against whom we had used military force in 1998, who was guilty of using weapons of mass destruction, who was shooting at our aircraft in no-fly zones, who had continued to talk about Kuwait as a province of Iraq, the president made a judgment that it was time to go after this threat.
BLITZER: Here's what George Tenet writes in his new book, "At the Center of the Storm." "Those involved in assembling support for the U.S. military had the sense, from early in the Bush administration, that war was inevitable. Richard Haass, the former director of policy planning at the State Department has said that Condi Rice told him in July in 2002 that, quote, "Decisions were made and unless Iraq gave into all our demands, war was a foregone conclusion."
RICE: Well, I don't remember that specific conversation, but clearly, when the president went to the United Nations Security Council in September and said that "If Saddam Hussein does not act, then we will have to act," it meant that if he did not comply with the just demands of the international community that we would have to take action.
BLITZER: Because you remember Paul O'Neill, the first Treasury secretary.
BLITZER: What he wrote, in his first book, "The Price of Loyalty," with Ron Suskind, and what Ron Suskind later wrote in his own book, "The One Percent Solution," that the Bush administration came in with a mindset to deal with what they called "unfinished business" with Saddam Hussein.
RICE: This was -- that is simply not true. The president came in looking at a variety of threats. We then had the September 11 events. The September 11 events lead to a kind of reassessment of what the threats were.
But in the entire period after the president became president, he was trying to put together an international coalition that could deal with Iraq first by smart sanctions, smarter no-fly zones, then by challenging Saddam Hussein before the Security Council to meet the just demands of the Security Council, and ultimately by having to use military force. But this was an evolution of policy over a long period of time. Of course, the president came in concerned about Iraq. President Clinton had used military force against Iraq in 1998. We'd gone to war against Iraq in 1991, but the idea that the president had made up his mind when he came to office that he was going to go to war against Iraq is just flat wrong.
BLITZER: Here's Tenet on "60 Minutes," and he's furious that that, quote, "slam dunk" comment he made he says was distorted by you, the vice president and others. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE TENET, FMR. CIA DIRECTOR: The hardest part of all this has just been listening to this for almost three years, listening to the vice president go on "Meet the Press" on the fifth year of 9/11, and say, "Well, George Tenet said 'slam dunk,'" as if he needed me to say "slam dunk" to go to war with Iraq, as if he needed me to say that. And you listen to that, and they never let it go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Do you want to respond? Because it's a serious charge. He's saying he's been scapegoated, in effect. He acknowledges he made that comment about "slam dunk," the case could be a slam dunk about the weapons of mass destruction. But he says by that time, you, the administration, had already made up your mind to go to war.
RICE: Well, by that time, we were certainly in the process of having brought Saddam Hussein before the international community and demanding that he carried through with his commitments, or that there would be action.
But let me go back to George on this one. I certainly don't blame George for the slam dunk comment having the sense that that was the reason we went to war. I think the it's a complete misreading of how, certainly, I read the slam dunk comment.
BLITZER: Does he deserve an apology?
RICE: You know, I was asked about this, and I was asked, did he say slam dunk? I said, yes. I said, but we all thought that the intelligence case was strong. To the degree that there was an intelligence problem here, it was not just an intelligence problem with George Tenet. It was not just an intelligence problem with U.S. intelligence.
It was an intelligence problem worldwide. We all thought -- including U.N. inspectors -- that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. So there's no blame here of anyone. We've gone through a massive intelligence reform because there were weaknesses in the intelligence system. But I'm sorry that George feels that people were using the "slam dunk" comment in that way.
I certainly understood that he, like all of us, thought that the intelligence was strong about Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. BLITZER: I want to get on to some other issues. But one last question on Tenet's book, because it directly involves you. Some of the initial reviews, Saturday's L.A. Times: "Rice is portrayed as an often feckless figure in the Bush administration, unwilling or unable to exert control over crucial foreign policy debates."
The review in The New York Times: "Condoleezza Rice comes across here as an ineffectual national security adviser, unwilling to make hard calls or mediate among warring parties."
In the book, this is what he says about you: "There was never any doubt that we would defeat the Iraqi military. What we did not have is an integrated and open process in Washington that was organized to keep the peace, nor did we have the unity of purpose and resources on the ground. Quite simply," he says, "the NSC," the National Security Council, "did not do its job."
You were the director. You were the national security adviser to the president. He says you did not do your job.
RICE: Look, not everything went right. This is a very difficult circumstance. There were some things that went right and some things that went wrong. And you know what, we'll have a chance to look at that in history. And I will have a chance to reflect on that when I have a chance to write my book.
BLITZER: And we are going to be looking forward to your book as well.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more of my interview with the secretary of state. Will she meet with Iran's foreign minister when they both attend a regional conference on Iraqi security this week at Sharm el- Sheikh in Egypt? I'll ask her.
Then, who will blink in the showdown between the White House and Congress over Iraq war funding? We'll hear from a top Democrat and a top Republican in the House of Representatives.
And later, the Democratic presidential candidates have their first faceoff of the campaign. Did it change the shape of the race? We'll get insight from the best political team on television.
"Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. Coming up later, Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari. He responds to serious criticism his government isn't doing what it's supposed to do. That's coming up at the top of our next hour.
But right now, part two of my interview with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.
BLITZER: Let's get on to some other issues. The president says this week he will veto legislation passed by the House and Senate that would issue some timelines for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, pull funding for the troops in Iraq.
What happens after the president vetoes? Is there a compromise in the works that the White House and the Democrats and some Republicans in Congress can finesse?
RICE: Well, clearly the president is going to veto this because he does not want to set timelines and timetables for a withdrawal of our forces, which would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, the wrong message to the neighborhood and the wrong message to Iraq's enemies.
But the president has said that after that veto, he plans to have people down to the White House to find a way to move forward together. We do need to move forward together. And the benchmarks that are anticipated here, of course, benchmarks that the Iraqis themselves have adopted, they are benchmarks that they need to meet.
We are telling them all of the time that their national reconciliation is moving too slowly, needs to move more quickly. But the problem is that we shouldn't tie our own hands, shouldn't tie the hands of General Petraeus, tie the hands of Ambassador Crocker in how we use the tools that we have to get the right result in Iraq.
And that's what benchmarks tied to withdrawal or benchmarks tied to withholding economic assistance would do.
BLITZER: Because there's a lot of concern right now that the Iraqis themselves aren't taking all of these benchmarks, all of these requirements that seriously. Supposedly, they're about to go on vacation, the Iraqi parliament, for two months, July and August, in the midst of their failure so far to disarm, disband the militias, deal with the oil resources, the revenue from that, deal with some other critical issues that you want them to deal with.
RICE: Well, certainly they need to keep working. And we've made that very clear to them. I think that they will make some progress on the oil law. They have made a lot of progress on it. They need to close that and finish it.
They need to get the provincial elections set up. And we're continuing to tell them that our patience isn't limitless, but neither is the patience of the Iraqi people limitless on this issue -- these reconciliation issues.
But again, it doesn't help us to help them if our hands are tied in the way that we can use our own tools to try to bring about the right effects.
BLITZER: You're heading off to Sharm el-Sheikh for a conference, a regional conference to deal with Iraq this week in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. The Iranians today announced their foreign minister will be there as well, together with other regional leaders.
Will you meet with the Iranian foreign minister when you are at Sharm el-Sheikh?
RICE: I don't rule out that we'll encounter each other. But this isn't a U.S.-Iranian issue. This isn't an opportunity to talk about U.S.-Iran issues. This is really an opportunity for all of Iraq's neighbors to talk about how to stabilize Iraq.
And I look forward to this because everyone has said that they believe a stable Iraq is in their interests. Not everyone is acting as if a stable Iraq is in their interests, and I think we want to talk about how we can all take actions and Iraq's neighbors can take actions to help the Iraqis secure themselves.
BLITZER: If you meet with the Iranian foreign minister, what would you say to him?
RICE: Well, I think we all know that if in fact everybody believes a secure Iraq is important, then we need to stop the flow of foreign fighters. We need to stop the help to militias that then go out and kill innocent Iraqis. We need to stop the flow of advanced IED technology, explosive device technology that's killing American soldiers.
A stable Iraq is one in which its neighbors are doing the things that they need to do to help the Iraqis deal with the violent people who are trying to destabilize them, not to encourage and support those violent people.
BLITZER: Is the U.S. ready to release those five Iranians that the U.S. military is holding in Iraq right now?
RICE: There's a normal process for dealing with detainees, and we'll deal with these detainees in that normal process. And there's a review. And that review -- the outcome of that review will be respected.
BLITZER: When do you think we'll know?
RICE: Well, there will be a kind of normal timetable for this, but this -- that issue should not be related to Iraq's neighbors doing what they need to do.
BLITZER: So you can assure us that there was no guarantee to release those five Iranians...
RICE: No, there wasn't.
BLITZER: ... in exchange for the Iranians agreeing to come to Sharm el-Sheikh?
RICE: There was no guarantee. We've talked to the Iraqi government and informed them that the detainees will be dealt with in the normal course.
BLITZER: What about the Saudis? There is confirmation now, we spoke to Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister of Iraq, who says that Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, wanted to visit Saudi Arabia, but King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia said he didn't have time to see him?
BLITZER: It looks like the Saudis are deeply worried that the government in Iraq, the government of Nouri al-Maliki, is not doing enough to protect Iraqi Sunnis.
RICE: There is no doubt that the Saudi government has concerns about the process of reconciliation in Iraq. They have concerns about Sunni inclusion. They have concerns about the Iraqi government's willingness to use its security forces in an even-handed fashion.
I think that many of the things that the Iraqi government under Prime Minister Maliki is doing addresses exactly those concerns. I made that case when I met with the Saudi foreign minister and others in the Gulf Corporation Council and Egypt and Jordan. That is a point that can be made at this neighbors conference.
And it's a point that the prime minister himself can address to his neighbors, to show what also needs to be demonstrated to the Iraqi people, that this government is behaving in an even-handed fashion to make Iraq an Iraqi -- an Iraq for all Iraqis, regardless of what particular sect they may come from.
BLITZER: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Saudi -- he's a good friend and ally of the United States. He surprised a lot of us when he said this on March 28th: "In the beloved Iraq, a bloodshed is continuing under an illegal foreign occupation and detestable sectarianism." That's strong words against the United States from someone considered a close friend of the United States.
RICE: Well, we're sure that his majesty, with whom we have very good relations, knows that the United States and coalition forces are there under a U.N. Security Council resolution at the request of Iraqis who are not -- the Iraqi government -- which is not yet strong enough in its own security forces to protect itself and its people against the violent extremists around it. And I think that's well understood.
We have a good relationship with the Saudis. I think we have the same strategic goals for Iraq. Where we have differences of tactics, we work them out. But our forces are there, and we've been assured that his majesty understands that, because of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.
BLITZER: When he calls the U.S. occupation there illegal, illegal foreign occupation -- did you file a protest with the Saudis?
RICE: We talked to several Saudis, including the Saudi ambassador, the Saudi foreign minister and to others. It is very clear that the U.S. and coalition forces are there by U.N. mandate.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time. Quick question on Henry Waxman, who's the chairman of Government Oversight -- Government Reform and Oversight Committee in the House. He wants to subpoena you. In fact, he has subpoenaed you to come testify about your role as the national security adviser and those, the reports that the Iraqis under Saddam Hussein were trying to buy uranium in Niger, in Africa.
He wants you to come forward and appear before his committee. You don't want to do that.
BLITZER: You've spoken about it on several occasions.
RICE: That's right.
BLITZER: Why won't you comply with that kind of subpoena?
RICE: Well, I have spoken about it on several occasions. I've spoken about it publicly in the press. I've spoken about it in my -- in questions for the record that Senator Levin submitted when I was confirmed as secretary of state. I have sent to -- we've sent to Congressman Waxman, hundreds of papers of documentation, including numerous letters that answer exactly the concerns and questions that he had.
BLITZER: So what's the big deal about going back and testifying?
RICE: I would be perfectly happy, by the way, to continue to respond in any appropriate way, because I certainly understand the oversight role of Congress. I respect that role.
There is a constitutional issue that the White House and we are concerned about, which is that this was in my role as a White House staff aide to the president. There is a separation of powers. And the compellance of White House aides to the president, close advisers to the president to testify before Congress is a constitutional issue.
But, Wolf, let me be very clear. It's not as if these questions haven't been answered. They were answered not just when I was confirmed, but they were also answered in a bipartisan commission report by Lawrence Silberman and Chuck Robb.
The Senate Select Intelligence Committee went into an exhaustive review of this issue of the Niger matter and the 16 words. We've spoken publicly about it. And I am prepared to continue to answer further questions about it, as I've done in the several letters that I've sent to Congressman Waxman in response to his inquiries.
BLITZER: We'll leave it there. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, thanks for coming in.
RICE: Thank you.
BLITZER: And just ahead, President Bush says he will veto the Iraq war funding bill this week. So how will Congress respond? Two leading members of the House, Democrat Jane Harman, Republican Adam Putnam, are standing by to give us their take.
And later, is there a fresh chance of striking a nuclear deal with Iran? We'll get insight from the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.
You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
BLITZER: Welcome back. You're watching "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington. Coming up, my interview with two influential members of Congress.
But first, here's a highlight from "The Situation Room" this week. The veteran actor Sam Waterston is working with a group called Unity '08 to try to reduced political partisanship here in the United States. On Tuesday, I spoke to him about that and about whether his "Law and Order" co-star, Fred Thompson, will run for president.
SAM WATERSTON, ACTOR: Yes, I think that's going to happen.
BLITZER: You do? What kind of relationship do you have with Fred Thompson?
WATERSTON: Friendly. Friendly. He's a good man, a very nice man. He's been very, very straightforward with me all the time.
BLITZER: As a co-star on "Law and Order."
WATERSTON: As a co-star. And when I've come to him with questions about what was going on in the world, he's given me straightforward answers.
BLITZER: And what about a third party coming up? You know, there's talk that Michael Bloomberg, for example, the mayor of New York, might come in as a third-party candidate.
WATERSTON: Well, Unity '08 proposes to be that third party for this one election only, to show that a unified executive, a nonpartisan executive can change the way politics is done.
BLITZER: So you really want to do what Ross Perot tried to do back in '92, have a third party that brings everyone -- tries to bring everyone together.
WATERSTON: A third party of the center that demonstrates that's where politics get done, and that the possibility for consensus building is very real, and that we do not need to be swinging between the extremes of two parties all the time and getting nothing done. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: Some of the best of "The Situation Room." Join us there every weekday 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern, another hour at 7 p.m. Eastern for our North American viewers.
Coming up next, the Iraq war funding showdown. What will it take to resolve the stalemate between President Bush and Congress? We'll hear from Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, Republican Congressman Adam Putnam.
"Late Edition" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
President Bush says he'll veto the Iraq war funding bill, perhaps as early as Tuesday. That will send Congress back to the drawing board. But what, if anything, will change in the days that follow?
Joining us now to discuss this and much more, two guests from Los Angeles, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California. She's a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee. And in Tampa, Florida, Congressman Adam Putnam -- he's third ranging Republican in the House of Representatives.
Thanks very much to both of you for coming in.
I want to get to that war funding bill shortly. But let's talk about this bombshell book first that George Tenet has written, "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA." He gives an interview to "60 Minutes" which he laments, he complains bitterly about the "slam dunk" phrase that was cited by administration officials as convincing them in part that there was justification to go to war against Saddam Hussein. Listen to what he says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE TENET, FMR. CIA DIRECTOR: I believe that he had weapons of mass destruction. And now what's happened here is you've gone out and made me look stupid. It's the most despicable thing I heard in my life. Men of honor don't do this.
SCOTT PELLEY, "60 MINUTES": Men of honor don't do this?
TENET: You don't do this. You don't throw people overboard. You don't do this -- give them a -- you don't call somebody in. You work your heart out, you show up every day, you are going to throw somebody overboard just because it's a deflection? Is that honorable? It's not honorable to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jane Harman, he says his words were taken out of context there. Was he made a scapegoat by this administration?
REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think he was left out there to flail in the wind until he resigned, but Wolf, I haven't read the book. It's not available until tomorrow, but there is a chilling piece of it, as has been quoted in the press. And that is that he feels in his gut that Al Qaida is here and it's waiting to attack us.
I agree with that, and that's why it makes me sad that we spend so much time looking backwards on who knew what and then talking about this, who is going to blink first in Congress. We have urgent business to stop Al Qaida around the world in North Africa and Europe and in England and here, and we've got to get Iraq behind us in order to defeat Al Qaida.
BLITZER: Congressman Putnam, what do you say with that?
REP. ADAM PUTNAM (R), FLORIDA: Well, I agree with Jane. While it's entertaining to talk about Tenet's new $4 million book deal, what is of primary concern to me is getting the funding to the tens of thousands of troops right now who are in harm's way, who are running out of reinforcements and ammunition and bullets and body armor and everything else.
It is the situation at hand that, to me, is far more important than the book deal that everyone in the press has hold of, but it isn't even available for sale around America until tomorrow.
BLITZER: Do you want to respond to that charge that he's made, Congresswoman Harman?
HARMAN: Well, George Tenet will have to explain why he waited this long to speak out and why he took the Medal of Freedom. And those are legitimate questions, but I think we should be talking on this show, Wolf, frankly, about the threat that Al Qaida poses, the fact that terror attacks in the world are up 29 percent according to the State Department, that 53 percent more Americans have died in Iraq this year than at the comparable time last year.
I'm for fully funding the troops also, but I'm for fixing the broken military and making sure that we are deployed adequately in Afghanistan and that we are doing more to win the public relations battle against Al Qaida, which is a big part of stopping their recruiting pool, which is what is so devastating.
BLITZER: Congressman Putnam, the argument has been made forcefully by a lot of critics of the president that the Al Qaida threat today, in part, has increased because of the misgotten war in Iraq, that resources were diverted from going after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in order to move those resources to Iraq where there was less of an imminent threat, shall we say.
PUTNAM: Well, Jane Harman and I share a passion for going after Al Qaida, and the realization that there is a substantial Al Qaida presence in Iraq right now that we are at war with. A number of the most spectacular attacks have been Al Qaida in Iraq. BLITZER: But let me interrupt, Congressman. But that Al Qaida threat didn't exist under Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. That Al Qaida presence materialized after the past four years.
PUTNAM: But it is indisputable that it is there today. We should take Tenet's warning to heart that it is not limited to being in Baghdad, or in Sadr City or only in the Middle East. It is around the world. It's a global threat and it's very potentially here in the United States. So anything that we can do to eradicate the Al Qaida threat in Baghdad, in Iraq and throughout the world helps keep Americans safer.
BLITZER: I don't know if you want to respond to that, Congresswoman Harman. If you do, go ahead. If not, we'll move on.
HARMAN: Well, I do. The number of foreign fighters in Iraq is small. And yes, that neighbors conference this weekend that Secretary Rice will attend is very important. And I hope that the Saudis step up and take the leadership role. They can do this in helping contain violence. All the neighbors should be doing more than they are, and I'm pleased the U.S. is participating.
But the surge that's going on in Baghdad is not going to lead to the result that Adam and I want. The right result is to do a responsible exit out of Iraq while we fully fund our troops, which is what many in Congress want to do, and then deploy resources, more resources in Afghanistan, have all of our intelligence in North Africa, Europe, England -- where the new head of MI-5 says the Al Qaida threat has increased if England.
Remember, with the E.U. visa program it's easier to get to America. And my operating assumption is that lawful Americans in America may already be part of the muscle for future Al Qaida attacks in America. And we need the resources focused on better strategies in America.
BLITZER: Congressman Putnam -- go ahead, quickly.
PUTNAM: The plan that the president is about to veto is not a responsible strategy for Iraq. Communicating to the enemy exactly what day and time America intends to withdraw is irresponsible and unprecedented in warfare. Tying the hands of our commanders and trying to dictate tactics and targets from the committee rooms in Washington, D.C. by people who are elected on two-year cycles is not the appropriate way to wage a war.
BLITZER: And the president makes that same point, Jane Harman. Listen to what he said this week, specifically on what would happen if the Democrats had their way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq is not a plan to bring peace to the region or to make our people safer at home. Instead, it would embolden our enemies and confirm their belief that America's weak. Instead, it could unleash chaos in Iraq that could spread across the entire region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you believe him, Congresswoman Harman?
HARMAN: I don't buy it, respectfully. We are perceived as occupiers in Iraq. We can either leave on our terms or their terms. I think the resolution that has been passed on a bipartisan basis in both house of Congress -- a slim basis but nonetheless bipartisan -- really says we will fully fund the troops and we will define a responsible exit according to benchmarks set by this administration.
And I frankly think the administration should take it and move on because the al Qaida threat is so large outside of Iraq, and we will do better defeating it if we are no longer bogged down in Iraq in a military strategy that cannot succeed.
BLITZER: Congressman Putnam, the American people are siding with Jane Harman and the Democrats. I want you to take a look at these two polls that came out this week, NBC/Wall Street Journal polls.
How is President Bush handling the situation in Iraq? Twenty- seven percent of the American public approve of the job he's doing, 66 percent disapprove. And look at this. When it comes to the debate on Iraq, who do you agree with more? Fifty-six percent say they agree with Democrats in Congress, 37 percent say they agree with President Bush.
The American public, Congressman Putnam, is not with you.
PUTNAM: The American public is not satisfied with the progress in Iraq, and neither are the Republicans in Congress satisfied entirely with what's going on in Iraq. But what we are opposed to is telling our enemy exactly what day and time we're leaving and undercutting those men and women who are in harm's way by declaring their mission to be obsolete.
We don't believe that you can wage a war with poll-tested numbers. Everybody knows war is ugly. But the fact of the matter is that defeating al Qaida in Iraq and bringing stability to that country is important to the security of this country.
And we must do everything in our power to support those troops who are in harm's way and not pork up the bill to buy support for the deadlines and other pieces that have to tape together the different factions of the majority Democrats in the house and Senate.
BLITZER: All right. Congressman, Congresswoman, both of you please stand by. We have a lot more to talk about, including a bombshell dropped by Congressman John Murtha just a little while ago here in Washington on the sensitive issue of impeachment and President Bush. That's coming up.
"Late Edition" will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're talking with two leading members of Congress, Jane Harman, Democrat of California, and Adam Putnam, Republican of Florida.
We're the last word in Sunday talk here on "Late Edition." That means we can follow up on any news that's made on the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. Listen to this exchange that Democratic Congressman John Murtha had with Bob Schieffer on CBS's "Face the Nation" just a little while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN P. MURTHA, D-PA.: What I'm saying, there are four ways to influence the president.
BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": And that's one of them?
MURTHA: And one of them's impeachment.
SCHIEFFER: That's an option that is on table?
MURTHA: And the fourth one -- I'm just saying, that's one way to influence a president. The other way is through the purse. And the purse is controlled by the Congress, who's elected by the public. In the last election, the public said, we want the Democrats in control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jane Harman, I was surprised to hear Congressman Murtha speak -- utter that word "impeachment." He wasn't necessarily endorsing it. He's saying it's an option.
But this does come only a few days after one of your Democratic colleagues, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, did formally file articles of impeachment against the vice president, Dick Cheney. What's your reaction?
HARMAN: Just listening to the Murtha clip, I think he was listing it as one of the tools Congress has. He was in no way endorsing it. I think we are talking about using the power of the purse, which is a proper tool Congress can use. We also have the oversight tool. I think very few people in Congress are talking about impeachment, and what I would hope we could do, as I said in the last segment, Wolf, is responsibly exit from Iraq and then focus on the large al Qaida threat all over the world, which is growing, and which, as far as I'm concerned, we should assume is in the United States as we speak.
We need responsible strategies here. We need to redeploy our funds for more homeland security here and better intelligence products here. And I think being bogged down in Iraq is exactly what Iran wants and exactly what al Qaida wants. And we should be smarter than that and go with essentially the strategy dictated by the Iraq Study Group, that bipartisan group up 10 that came up with some recommendations last November, that I think were our lifeline out of a very tricky and sadly failed situation. BLITZER: Congressman Putnam, you are the third-ranking leader among Republicans in the House of Representatives. How worried are you a that if this situation in Iraq does not change, the Republicans are going to suffer further setbacks in 2008 in the House of Representatives, and your minority status will grow even larger?
PUTNAM: Well, the important thing is for us to improve the situation in Iraq. No one is satisfied with the state of affairs there at this moment. And we want to give our troops and our commanders all of the tools and all of the resources that they need to be successful.
And I am shocked that John Murtha would put himself as an ally of Kucinich on this impeachment idea. It's time we stop playing to the far left base that the Democratic majority is speaking to with this impeachment term and follow what Jane Harman and I, I think, said in the first segment which is a rational, middle-of-the-road approach to this problem.
I believe that we should set aside these surrender dates, take the pork out of the bill, insert the accountability, insert the benchmarks. Republicans have no problem being able to objectively measure the progress on the ground with this surge in the fall of this year. Let the commanders be able to come back to the Congress with reports on which milestones they've hit. But we don't put surrender dates in there and we don't have non-defense-related things in there for shrimp and menhaden oil (ph) and all that.
BLITZER: All right. Well let me just press you...
PUTMAN: We can solve this problem.
BLITZER: Congressman Putnam, let me press you on this point. Because you're talking about money in this $120 or so billion supplemental emergency package that's not related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's what you're referring to when you talk about pork. Is that right?
PUTNAM: I'm talking about the non-defense, non-veterans-related money.
BLITZER: Congressman, why was it OK for Republican Congresses to pass emergency funding bills for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that included billions of dollars for non-related war issues, and the president signed those legislative initiatives into law, but it's bad for the Democrats to do that?
PUTNAM: I think you're looking at an unprecedented scale. I think one of the messages voters sent last November is that they didn't appreciate that approach to governing. And I take that lesson to heart.
BLITZER: But you did it when you were in the majority, billions of dollars.
PUTNAM: You know, one of the things that we did, in fact, was separate out. We had an amendment on the floor to separate out Katrina funding from the war funding for that very reason, that we feel like it's not appropriate to load up the knapsacks of our soldiers on totally unrelated items.
BLITZER: But in was included. That and bird flu and all sorts of other issues were included in those special emergency supplementals.
HARMAN: Yes, Wolf, if I could say...
PUTNAM: What I'm saying here -- go ahead, Jane.
HARMAN: ... something here, emergency supplementals should be for true emergencies. Most of this war funding should have been on budget. We should have had a reasonable ability to budget the cost of this war after the military action ended.
The reason we didn't is that we didn't have a plan B. We assumed we would be greeted as liberators, they would throw us flowers and the Iraqis would pay for the cost of their reconstruction from oil revenues. None of that came to pass and we have spent billions...
PUTNAM: If I could respectfully disagree.
HARMAN: ... of dollars that we could have saved had we been organized for the post-war period.
PUTNAM: Wolf, the strategy here to pass this funding bill has been transparent and public in the press. The reason why all of these nondefense items are in this troop funding bill was because the more -- the Democrats who are more supportive of the Department of Defense refused to go along with surrender dates.
And the only way they could pass it was to include things for shrimp, avocados, the drought relief, LIHEAP, a laundry list of items that have nothing to do with the war. And they have made no bones about the fact that that was the strategy to pass...
BLITZER: And, Congressman, I will just point out that in the 2006 emergency supplemental, there were billions of dollars for border security, to build a fence along the border, billions of dollars to fight bird flu and billions of dollars for other nonmilitary related issues. So the Democrats can make the argument what think are doing now is what you did when you were in the majority.
PUTNAM: I would argue that anything that we were doing to secure our borders is part of the larger war on terror, and they have made no bones about the fact that they had...
BLITZER: What about the Katrina funding, Congressman?
HARMAN: Right. PUTNAM: The President requested the Katrina funding as part of the troops. I have no trouble voting on that separately. I have no trouble taking out all the nondefense, non-V.A. related items, get a clean bill to the president so our troops get the reinforcements as quick as possible, and let's have a separate vote on the agricultural spending items, the menhaden oil, the Katrina funding, everything else. But let's stop the ancillary fights and get to the central issue which is helping our troops.
BLITZER: We are out of time, but I'll let Congressman Harman have the last word.
HARMAN: And I would just say this, that the bill we are voting on in my view is full funding of the troops and a responsible exit from Iraq that will free us up to fight Al Qaida where it is getting stronger in North Africa, in Europe, in Britain and sadly, here in America. That's where the real war on Al Qaida should be.
PUTNAM: Jane, do you support the hard deadline?
HARMAN: And hopefully we'll round up Osama bin Laden as we do it.
BLITZER: Well, let's hope that happens. We'll see. A good discussion, Jane Harman, Adam Putnam. Both of you, thanks for coming in. We'll have you back soon.
And just ahead here on "Late Edition"...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ: Frankly, the most important demonstration of our will is on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The top U.S. military commander on the ground in Iraq, General David Petraeus says there are signs of success. But what about concerns that the Iraqi government isn't doing its part for the security strategy? My conversation with Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. That's coming up.
And coming up at the top of the hour for our North American viewers, the next hour, that is, "This Week at War" looks at whether Al Qaida is growing in Iraq in the battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Just ahead on "Late Edition," With the country in turmoil, can the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, deliver on his promises? Should Iraq's parliament be planning to take a two-month vacation? My conversation with the foreign minister coming up. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETRAEUS: This effort may get harder before it gets easier. Success in the end will depend on Iraqi action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But as violence continues unabated in Iraq, can the Maliki government deliver? We'll get the latest from Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister.
Iraq is the number one topic much the campaign trail. Our political panel, Joe Johns, Dana Bash and Ed Henry cover the Democrats' first debate and the week's other hot topics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: Purely ludicrous. And everybody knows it. The idea that you can somehow stop the Russian strategic nuclear deterrent with a few interceptors just doesn't make sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The U.S. secretary of state may not think it's a big deal, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is furious, and he's threatening to pull out of a European disarmament treaty. Is Europe looking at a return to the days of the Cold War? We'll talk about that and much more with the president of the European Union, Jose Manuel Barroso.
Welcome back. It's been another brutal weekend in Iraq. On Saturday a suicide car bomb struck crowds on their way to prayers near the Shiite holy city of Karballah. More than 50 people were killed, more than 100 wounded. Nine U.S. troops, meanwhile, died over this weekend, and battles raged in Baghdad last night.
To get some perspective on all of this, I spoke to the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, in Baghdad just a short while ago.
BLITZER: Foreign Minister, thanks very much for joining us. Lots to discuss today. Let's begin with a new book that's causing quite a stir here in the United States. I assume it will eventually it will around the world.
George Tenet, the former CIA director, has got a new book that's out. One of his conclusions, let me read a brief sentence that directly affects Iraq. This is what he writes. He says, quote: "My fear is that sectarian violence in Iraq has taken on a life of its own, and that U.S. forces are becoming more and more irrelevant to the management of that violence."
Is that fear justified that George Tenet has? HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, there is sectarian violence. There is sectarian tension that was targeted in fact by the al Qaida, by the terrorists in order to weaken the Iraqi regime, the new regime.
And after the Samarra bombing, in fact, they succeeded in widening the divide between the Shia and the Sunni. But it hasn't reached a level of an all-out sectarian war or violence between the Shia and the Sunnis.
In fact, on both sides, we see signs of the strain. And the leadership of both communities are also united not to allow this violence to escalate. The government is determined to try to contain it as much as we could.
But it is a major source of instability and of the violence, unfortunately. We've seen some good progress by the Baghdad security plan that has reduced the number of sectarian killings according to the figures and statistics that we see. But still, we need to do more work, in fact, to bridge that gap.
BLITZER: Foreign Minister, there's a lot of concern here in Washington that your government has not done the steps necessary, for example, to disarm or disband the various Shiite and Sunni militias that are causing a lot of problems.
Have you done that? Why aren't you doing that, I should rephrase the question.
ZEBARI: Well, definitely the government has committed to disarm all unlawful armed groups, militias, from whatever ethnic or religious background. And that has been the standard position of my government.
With the implementation of the Baghdad security plan, we are making good progress, in fact, in the sense that many of these militias have left or have gone underground.
But the key challenge is to keep them away, to keep them off the streets. And I think as we move toward seeing some tangible results from the security plan, the government is also determined to launch a major political initiative to enhance national reconciliation, to do a constitutional review according to the agreed procedures. The de- Baathification laws would be reviewed. The militias have to be disarmed, disbanded, and reintegrated in the society. So we have all of these objectives and goals. And we are working (inaudible). We are not sitting idle. In fact...
BLITZER: Well, on that point...
ZEBARI: ... political commission...
BLITZER: Foreign Minister, excuse me for interrupting, but on that point, there's concern here in Washington -- Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, raised it -- that your parliament is about to take a two-month vacation in the midst of all of these challenges.
And that's raising the frustration level, as you well know, on Capitol Hill. Is that true? Is the parliament going to go away and take a break even as you fail to fulfill several of these major requirements?
ZEBARI: Wolf, yesterday I was at a meeting, a very important meeting of Baghdad security plan. In fact, I was the person who raised that issue that although the parliament is the key body that tried to work with us on legislations, on this political plan, their recess is coming for two weeks, and really we should...
BLITZER: Hey, wait a minute, is it going to be -- is it a two- week recess or a two-month recess?
ZEBARI: No, not two -- I'm sorry, two-month. In fact, the recess is two months. And we discussed that issue. That really this should be cut down to two weeks or one week because business is not as usual in our country.
And we have to rise up, let's say, to these challenges, and the parliament or the council of representatives who has a key role here should be up to this new challenge.
And this recess has to be reviewed in consultation with the presidency of the council of representatives. So I'm hopeful. I'm optimistic, really, that we will be able to keep them here working and not to go in two months' recess.
ZEBARI: This is our goal and our objective.
BLITZER: Listen to the frustration, though, in the voice of the U.S. defense secretary, Robert Gates. I want you to listen to this little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT M. GATES: Our commitment to Iraq is long-term, but it is not a commitment to have our young men and women patrolling Iraq's streets open-endedly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You're familiar with the debate that is under way between the Democratic-led House and Senate and the president. He's going to veto legislation that would give some timeline for a U.S. combat withdrawal from Iraq.
What is your sense of how much longer, realistically, you need these U.S. combat troops to patrol Baghdad's streets?
ZEBARI: Well, we have no illusion that the U.S. commitment is not open-ended, Wolf. We have said it from the beginning.
This is our country. We are responsible. And we have to protect, defend ourselves, provided, given the means and the assistance in order to be self-reliant. That is our approach.
This debate we followed with keen interest. And I believe it was extremely unhelpful linking the funding of the troops to a specific timetable. This was most unhelpful, in my view, because it adversely affects our plans and the military plans here. And it emboldens our enemies that they think the United States is starting to withdraw or to back down.
I believe we have made it clear that as the Iraqi government, we are doing our best to -- and have with your support, with the support of the coalition, to ask it to accelerate the training, the build-up of our military and security forces.
There have been mistakes in the past. They were not committed by us, Wolf, in fact. And that's why we are still not ready yet, you see, to be able to stand at the defense...
BLITZER: Do you think, Foreign Minister, you need another six months? Another year? Another five years? What do you think you need in order to take charge of your security?
ZEBARI: Believe me, this depends on conditions on the ground. I mean, we've seen some positive progress in the Baghdad security plan. But a couple of weeks ago, we've seen these waves of car bombs because our enemies are also watching all of these debates, really.
I mean, their goal is to bring down the Baghdad security plan. They believe if they succeed in that, the U.S. troops will be forced to leave the country. And then there would be the chaos that everybody hoped to achieve in Iraq.
BLITZER: You were just in Iran for meetings with top Iranian officials. Listen to General David Petraeus, who is expressing concern about what Iran is doing inside your country, Iraq. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETRAEUS: Exceedingly unhelpful activities by Iran and Syria, especially those by Iran, about which we have learned a great deal in the past month, compound the enormous problems facing the new Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Did you get any commitment from the Iranian government to stop what General Petraeus says they're doing?
ZEBARI: Well, we have discussed those issues with General Petraeus and what we know very frankly and openly with the Iranian officials. My visit there was specifically to convince the Iranian government to participate in the upcoming Sharm el-Sheikh regional conference on Iraq.
And today we have some good news, in fact. The Iranians have agreed and accepted to participate and to send their foreign minister to represent them. I think this conference is a very, very important event.
And the presence of Iran with the United States, with Iraq, with other countries, will put everybody under the international spotlight and will force them to live up to their commitment towards stabilizing Iraq.
So this upcoming conference is very, very important. I think it is a turning point not only for Iraq's security, but for regional politics as well.
BLITZER: There is a report, Foreign Minister, that Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, has rejected a request by your prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to go to Saudi Arabia because he is concerned that your government is not doing enough to protect Iraqi Sunnis. Is that true?
ZEBARI: It's not true in the way you put it, Wolf. In fact, the Saudis -- yes, we did request a visit by the prime minister to Saudi Arabia. By the way, he has been there before when he took office.
This time the Saudi king's schedule was not suitable for the timing. So they did not decline it but they said the king has an internal tour which he does every now and again. So we couldn't agree on the timing.
But he had been to Egypt, to Kuwait, to Oman, and soon again we will go together to Sharm el-Sheikh again.
BLITZER: The foreign minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari, always good to have you here on "Late Edition." Thanks for joining us.
ZEBARI: My pleasure. It is my pleasure speaking to you.
BLITZER: And when we come back, what's going on here with the presidential Democratic candidates? Usually at war with each other, all smiles this week at their first debate while the Republican frontrunners seem to have forgotten Ronald Reagan's so-called 11 commandment, "Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican." Our wide-ranging political discussion coming up.
Also, Russian's Vladimir Putin has suspended a major arms treaty with Europe. We'll ask the president of the European Union Commission if we're facing another Cold War.
"Late Edition" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. This week, the democrats faced off in their first presidential debate. Next week, it's the Republicans turn. With all that and the showdown brewing over military funding for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there's going to be lots to discuss with our political panel: White House correspondent Ed Henry, CNN correspondent Joe Johns, and Dana Bash. She covers Capitol Hill for us.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Let's talk, first of all, about this new book "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA" by George Tenet. In the "60 Minutes" interview that he's granted, he has some strong words about those famous words that he uttered, "slam dunk" -- "It's a slam dunk, Mr. President, that the Iraqis -- that you can make this case that the Iraqis have weapons of mass destruction." Didn't turn out that way.
Listen to this little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE TENET, FMR. CIA DIRECTOR: I mean, I became campaign talk. I was a talking point. You know, "Look what the idiot told us and we decided to go to war." Well, let's not be so disingenuous. Let's stand up. This is why we did it. This is how we did it and let's tell -- let's everybody tell the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. There's going to be a lot of political fallout, Ed, from this book, a lot of fodder for Democrats to go after the president, the vice president, and others in the administration. Give us your assessment.
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, sure. There will also be some tough questions for George Tenet as to why he was sitting there throughout the runup to the war and then once the war started and didn't speak out publicly, didn't tell the American people. Maybe some of all the deaths and maybe some of the problems of the war -- there had been with the war, maybe they could have been averted. Maybe changes could have been made. So he'll get tough questions too.
But, you're right, a lot of fallout for the White House on this. And I think without getting all the details, broadly speaking, one thing George Tenet basically says is he believes it's time for the president, the vice president, Secretary Rice, and others to finally level with the American people, in his eyes, tell them the truth about what really went wrong. And I think, frankly, a lot of the American people, they do have a lot of questions. They want them answered.
BLITZER: Dana, here is a quote from the book which is pretty tough. Listen to this. "There was precious little consideration that I'm aware of about the big picture of what would come next. While some policy-makers were eager to say that we would be greeted as liberators, what they failed to mention is that the intelligence community told them that such a greeting would last only for a limited period." So, yes, he's going to have some explaining to do, George Tenet, but he's really going after the administration on its decision making process leading up to the war in Iraq.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it plays right into the Democrats' narrative that we've been hearing constantly, of course, especially over the past week as they debated this bill that they sent to the president to start bringing troops home.
It plays right into their narrative that the administration for years now, the administration simply didn't debate the war enough, didn't look at what was critical to look at from the Democrats' point of view which is what happens after you invade. What happens next? Are you going to go into nation building? How is that going to work? So there's no question it plays into the Democrats' talking points.
However, just as Ed said, Wolf, Democrats are not entirely thrilled by this because they say, "Wait a minute. Where was George Tenet? Why didn't he talk about this years ago? Why did he wait to get $4 million for a book in order to come out to say it?"
BLITZER: He's going to be on "Larry King Live" tomorrow night, so he's going to have explaining to do. He'll be on my show, in "The Situation Room," later in the week. But let's talk a little bit about that.
What do you see, Joe Johns, as some of the fallout from this book? Because on "60 Minutes," tonight, I'm sure there will be a huge audience out there watching. He's got some -- I haven't had a chance to read all of this book, but the parts that I've gone through, he does acknowledge he made mistakes.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure. He acknowledges he made mistakes in the book. He's gotten an opportunity already to come up and testify before Congressman Henry Waxman's committee and answer some questions. What did you know? When did you know it? It's tough for him.
The Democrats obviously have a problem of sort of driving the train off the tracks here if they go too far with this because this was Bill Clinton's guy in the first place.
And when he was sitting there in the room, a lot of people inside the Intelligence Committee -- community, I should say, are asking -- "You helped the CIA in a lot of different ways, but when it came to this most important point, where were you? Did you trade your access to the president in exchange for not telling the whole truth or not really beating the drum?" A lot of people say when you get into a situation where you know things could go wrong, you either quit your job or go out in front of the public, the cameras, and just say what you think.
BLITZER: All right. Ed, let's talk about the showdown between the White House and the Democrats in Congress over funding for the war in Iraq. It's going to come to a head this week. The legislation will be vetoed by the president. Then they're going to have to decide how to resolve this matter. I want you to listen to this little clip from the Vice President Dick Cheney speaking on Tuesday. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Senator Reid himself has said the war in Iraq will bring his party more seats in the next election. It is cynical to declare that the war is lost because you believe it gives you political advantage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was a rare move, the vice president actually speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, but the White House is going on the offense, including using the vice president to make their points against Harry Reid, the majority leader, and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker.
HENRY: The bottom line is this White House is under siege. They don't want to admit it, but from all different levels, from the Tenet book to the fact that you have any number of congressional committees sending subpoenas to Secretary Rice, Karl Rove -- you name it -- on the U.S. attorney story, not just on Iraq, not just on foreign policy. They're very much under siege.
And I saw some of the initial print reports of what the president said on Friday. They seem to suggest, well, the president maybe was edging towards a compromise, he was lightening his language. No, take a look at what the vice president said as you just showed in that clip.
And what the president said on Friday in his press conference with the Japanese prime minister, he said "I'll meet with the congressional leaders this week." As Dana knows, they're going to be coming to the White House in the middle of the week on Wednesday after this is vetoed presumably.
But the president very clearly then said in the next breath, "If they're testing my will, they're going to find out I'm not going to sign a bill that has withdrawal language." So despite the White House trying to say "We're willing to compromise, we're sending that signal," this president has thrown down the gauntlet. He's not giving in on that language. He's just not.
BLITZER: Although, Dana, you were on the Hill when the vice president was making those comments. There's going to have to be some resolution that's going to keep the troops, you know, out of harm's way, if you will, with the funding that they need.
BASH: There absolutely is going to have to be. And what we saw all week long, it was sort of interesting to watch because you knew all week long exactly what the outcome was going to be. We know sitting here right here now what the outcome is going to be, which is that there's going to be a veto.
So you had this political brinkmanship leading up to it but you're exactly right, Wolf. Everybody knows there's going to have to be some kind of compromise. What Democrats and even some Republicans on the Hill are signaling right now is that probably what they're going to move towards are some benchmarks for the Iraqi government that they're going to have to meet them in order for troops to stay.
But even that is going to be incredibly difficult for Democrats, Wolf, because they've still got the left flank of their party saying, "No, we're not going to go for anything that doesn't have a date- certain for troops to come home." So the Democrats, just as the White House is certainly under siege, if you will, as Ed was saying, Democrats -- it's not going to be easy for them.
BLITZER: And, Joe, the stakes for both sides right now are clearly enormous.
JOHNS: Well, certainly they're enormous. I mean, here is the situation where the troops are waiting for the money. There's a lot of talk that at least by July you can run into real trouble if the money doesn't get to them, if not sooner, and here in Washington our leaders can't get a handle on which way to go on this thing.
So people are sitting out there watching and waiting, the people in Iowa whose sons and daughters are over in Iraq, saying, "When are you guys going to get your act together?" The problem is, you run into a pox on both your houses down the road if this thing isn't resolved and fairly quickly.
BLITZER: All right.
HENRY: With all this fighting and then even with the Tenet book, it's all about looking backward in a way and all this bickering. And I think that's part of the frustration the American people have when you look at the CNN poll and others. What is the way to figure out the steps forward? How are you going to come together to fix this? And neither side can seem to really do that right now.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, guys. We have a lot more to talk about including Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, the first Democratic presidential debate.
All that coming up as well as this: This weekend in Turkey, the European foreign minister met with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator seeking a way to restart talks on halting Iran's nuclear program. We're going to get the very latest from the president of the European Union Commission. All that coming up right here on "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Much more of our conversation with our political panel in a moment, but first let's take a look at where some of the presidential candidates will be spending time over the next few days.
"On The Trail," Republicans campaigning but also busy studying up for Thursday's debate. The former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, by the way, who isn't quite a candidate yet and doesn't have to worry about the debate, will be making a speech in Houston on Tuesday.
Senator Chris Dodd is scheduled to speak to a labor group in Sacramento, California later today.
And Senator Sam Brownback will be in Wichita, Kansas, on Monday, working Southern California the next day.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich will be speaking to college Democrats in Asheville, North Carolina later today, while former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be here in Washington on Tuesday to speak to the Latino Coalition.
And New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will be in California today, campaigning in Nevada on Monday. On the campaign trail with all the various candidates.
Coming up, much more of our political discussion including in- depth on the first Democratic presidential debate earlier in the week.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." Joining us once again, three of the best political team on television: Ed Henry, Dana Bash and Joe Johns.
Joe, the Democrats had their first presidential debate down in South Carolina this week. Was there a clear winner, a clear loser?
JOHNS: I don't think so. At this stage in the game, you sort of look for people who really make big mistakes, and a lot of people, including myself, really didn't see anything.
You also look for moments in those debates. I remember there was one moment with Joe Biden where he was asked if he could shut up, and he pretty much said, yes. There was another moment...
BLITZER: And he was silent.
JOHNS: Right. And there was another moment when Senator Obama was asked what he would do if two cities were attacked. And he gave this very thoughtful, sort of professorial answer about three points.
And Hillary Clinton comes on down the line and says, well, you know, the first thing you've got to do is retaliate. So that was a moment. But I don't think anybody really did themselves any real harm, and I don't think anybody helped themselves that much.
BASH: I think Joe's exactly right. You know, when you're looking at this particular debate, fair or unfair, you're looking at the difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama because it was the first time they've been on the stage together like this before.
And that moment that Joe is talking about, the question about, you know, what would you do if the United States was attacked twice simultaneously, Hillary Clinton gave the post-9/11 answer, and she gave the answer that she thought she need to give to be tough. She said, we would go get them. We would just go get them.
And Barack Obama seemed to give sort of the post-Iraq, you know, appeal to the Democratic primary voter answer, which is, hold on. Don't rush into war. You've got to think. You've got to be careful that you're doing the right thing, which I thought was very telling in terms of their approach. And it might change, especially given the fallout from their answers.
BLITZER: Given the fact they are the front-runners, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, everyone was focusing in on them. But John Edwards and everyone else, they see a potential in these debates.
HENRY: That's right. And the person that I actually saw as a sleeper in this debate was Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico. He jumped in, and on that post-9/11 terrorism question, he gave a strong answer. But also on North Korea, Russia, he had four- point plans, specifics. Here's what I could do with President Putin, here's what I would do to try to isolate the North Korean dictator.
And as you know, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Has a lot of foreign policy experience. That's a key asset right now. And also, he sort of challenged the other candidates and said, what about Darfur? No one's talking about Africa. Do we not care about it?
And I thought that was an interesting -- it's obviously a major issue of genocide around the world right now, and you don't hear a lot of people in these debates talking about it. And Bill Richardson was trying to sort of prick their conscience there a little bit. I thought it was interesting.
BLITZER: And you could tell he's becoming a serious candidate. He's actually lost some weight, and he looks pretty good. Because a lot of us know Bill Richardson for many, many years. He's seriously running.
Dana, the Republican side. Let's talk about Rudy Giuliani for a moment. He's being hammered by Democrats right now for suggesting that Democrats, if they're elected to the White House, the country's going to be in danger, in effect. Listen to this little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If one of them gets elected, it sounds to me like we're going on defense, where we've got a timetable for withdrawal of Iraq. We're going to wave the white flag there.
We're going to try to cut back on the Patriot Act. We're going to cut back on electronic surveillance. We're going to cut back on interrogation. We're going to cut back, cut back, cut back, and we'll be back in our pre-September 11 mentality of being on defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Now, that's a strong statement he's making. It's a card that Republicans like to use. They're strong on national security, on homeland defense. Democrats are weak.
BASH: Absolutely, but especially for Rudy Giuliani, Wolf. That was another variation of what he says over and over. Really, the crux of his stump speech, which is remember me. I'm the guy who -- America's mayor, I'm the guy who kind of, you know, led America post- 9/11 in New York. And he has been really, really tough on Democrats, especially given the debate that's going on here in Washington when it comes to Iraq, when it comes to national security because it's part of his plus side, if you will. But there's another reason, and that is because other issues that Republican primary voters want to hear about, he's absolutely dead wrong on those issues if you're a Republican primary voter. Social issues like abortion, like gay rights and like gun control.
HENRY: Are we sure that was Rudy Giuliani? It almost sounded like Dick Cheney to me. I mean, I know it was Rudy's face. But that's the talking points that Dick Cheney uses, and he's not in the race. But it's that very argument that the Democrats are still in a pre-9/11 mindset.
It worked in 2004. Dick Cheney hammered John Kerry even more than the president did, because he was the bad guy. He really hit both Kerry and Edwards hard. It worked then. I'm not so sure now, given where we are, it's going to work this time.
BLITZER: Joe, you also know that Rudy Giuliani in all the polls taken of registered Republicans and independent-leading Republicans, he comes up atop, ahead of Mitt Romney, ahead of John McCain, ahead of all the other Republicans.
But perhaps more significantly for him, in that Quinnipiac University poll that came out this week, in three battleground states, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, in all three states in a hypothetical race, Giuliani versus Hillary Clinton or Giuliani versus Barrack Obama, he wins all three states. So Republicans who want to maintain the White House, they have to look at that.
JOHNS: Right. Well, and he's certainly a likable guy in a lot of ways. His challenge, a lot of people say, is that sort of one-note campaign that people talk about over and over again. He says again and again, look at 9/11, look at 9/11.
But there are a lot of people who have a bunch of other issues that they're throwing into the mix here, and Rudy Giuliani has to keep up with that as well.
HENRY: And he has a problem. He has to win the primary. I mean, if you go back to 2004, Joe Lieberman looked like, well, he could do good in some red states. He appeals to a lot of Republicans, middle of the road. Couldn't win the Democratic nomination.
Same deal maybe for Rudy. You know, can he get past those conservative voters on social issues like Dana was talking about?
BLITZER: Let's talk about John McCain for a moment, Dana. John McCain made his official announcement this week. I don't know how significant it is. It's a formal announcement that he's a presidential candidate, been running for months already. He went on John Stewart's Comedy Central "Daily Show." He said something.
And then John Murtha, the Democratic congressman, really reacted. Listen to this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I had something really picked out for you, too. It's a nice...
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Did you really?
MCCAIN: Yeah, it's a nice little IED to put on your desk.
STEWART: It's very lovely of you. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN P. MURTHA, D-PA.: Imagine a presidential candidate making a joke about IEDs when these kids are blown apart. It's outrageous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. McCain's campaign, he's trying to jump- start it again. How do you see it right now?
BASH: Well, what you just saw there was McCain trying to get back to his straight-talk roots, to his, you know, sit around, either on John Stewart's show or on a bus with hundreds of reporters and just talk. And sometimes things come out that aren't necessarily the way he maybe would want it to come out.
But that is -- was part of his appeal. That was what made John McCain John McCain in the year 2000. And what you saw this week with that particular interview and across the board him trying to sort of reclaim that. And it's not going to be easy because there's no question he is very different candidate for a whole bunch of reasons.
BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, guys. Good discussion. Joe Johns, as usual, thanks very much. Dana Bash, Ed Henry, three of the best political team on television.
And when "Late Edition" continues, we'll be speaking with Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission Union. I'll ask him about his upcoming summit meeting here in Washington tomorrow with President Bush, the sudden freeze in relations with Russia, progress on nuclear talks with Iran and more.
"Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Union Commission, will be at the White House tomorrow along with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, for the annual U.S.-European summit. The president of the European Union is joining us now from our New York bureau.
President Barroso, thanks very much for coming in.
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: It's a pleasure.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the efforts to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb. The E.U. deeply involved in this initiative. Is there anything, any progress you can report to our viewers?
BARROSO: We are, in fact, actively trying to engage Iran positively. We have been supporting all the efforts of the 19-nation Security Council and those efforts of the International Agency of Atomic Energy (sic).
There was a recent meeting between our chief negotiator, Mr. Solana, and the chief negotiator on the Iranian side, but, frankly, so far we have not yet seen real progress on their side, so we believe we should keep the pressure for solution, for an agreement because it will be, of course, negative for regional stability, the prospects of Iran having atomic weapons.
BLITZER: And if Iran refuses to stop enriching uranium, would the European Union support tightening the sanctions, increasing the sanctions to put more pressure on the Iranian government?
BARROSO: That's what we have been doing so far, supporting an increased pressure in Iran. At the same time, we are trying, through talks, to make them come to a more reasonable position but we are doing the same effort along with others. But, of course, we believe that Iran should do more to show a real willingness for a solution, a diplomatic solution, a political solution.
BLITZER: The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday -- and I'll read to you what he said -- "If the E.U. wants to have a role internationally, it needs to act independently. If it wants to translate the words of the United States, for that, we already have the United States." What's your reaction to those comments from Ahmadinejad?
BARROSO: My reaction is the following: We are, of course, independent of other powers like the United States. Even if you have a very close relationship, it's surely the United States. But they should understand that this is not just a concern of the United States. It's a real concern much the international community.
Let's look at the Security Council resolution. It was not just the United States. These were not just European powers. Let's look, also, at the positions of the International Agency for Atomic Energy (sic). So I think the game should not be to try to divide the United States from Europe or Europe from the United States, but really to understand the concerns much the global community.
Look what could happen globally if now Iran has nuclear weapons in terms of proliferation. It could be a very serious threat not just for regional stability, but for global stability.
So we try to engage positively with Iran that they should understand there is a real concern growing in international community and, of course, the European Union is also very sensitive to that concern.
BLITZER: The president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, said this week he'd like to have a meeting with President Bush. President Bush said this to Charlie Rose on PBS here in the United States earlier in the week. I want you to listen to this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: If I thought sitting down with the Iranians would -- in a bilateral context would end up causing them not to have a nuclear weapon, which is a priority of mine and should be a priority of the free world, then I would seriously consider that. I don't believe a discussion with Iran alone and at this moment in time, we yield the result we want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Barroso, do you agree with President Bush?
BARROSO: We have not yet -- when I say "we," I say the global community -- neither Europe or others, we have not yet had real results of those talks with Iran but so far no one suggested the real alternative.
We are, through diplomatic means, through dialogue, also through some pressure, namely through sanctions, trying to make the Iranians to come to a more reasonable position.
At the same time, I also took good note of what President Bush said that -- if I understood correctly -- if you are sure that a meeting between him and the Iranian president could give us the solution, we would be ready to do it. And I think that's a good announcement.
BLITZER: Let's talk about European relations with Russia, U.S. relations with Russia. The U.S., as you know, wants to build a defense missile system in Europe, place it in the Czech Republic and Poland. President Putin of Russia hates this idea.
He said on Friday "We see no argument at all for the deployment of missile defense systems in Europe. There is no basis for it. Iran does not have such missile systems and they are not foreseen. As for terrorists, this is just laughable. They use different methods."
Do you support this U.S.-built defense system, missile defense system, that should be placed in Europe even as the Russians, including President Putin, are so adamantly opposed against it?
BARROSO: Look, let me clarify one thing. This is not from a legal point of view. My competence, the competence of the European Commission or even the European Union as such, this matter has been dealt namely in the framework of NATO and also we believe that it should be dealt there and also in dialogue with the Russians, of course.
Having said this, we believe that we should not accept any third power to have a kind of a veto power on what is a sovereign state is doing. Any sovereign state of the European Union has the right to establish security arrangements with others.
So, of course, we understand that this issue has to be dealt in a constructive way with Russia, so we are in favor of the efforts taken now by the United States to explain and to discuss also the issue with our Russian partners, but we believe that the announcement to suspend Russia's participation in the CFE treaty, the conventional forces treaty, that was a symbol of the end of the Cold War, was, indeed, very disappointing.
And we said it. We believe it was disappointing news. There are disappointing news coming from Russia and we have to express that very clearly through...
BLITZER: How worried are you about a return to the bad, old days of the Cold War?
BARROSO: I think we are not yet there, and I hope we will never be there but, in fact, there are, I have said, some disappointing news. Next month, the 18th of May, in fact, together with Chancellor Merkel, the current president of the European Council, I will be traveling to Russia. I will discuss those issues with president Putin.
Out idea is to engage positively and constructively, Russia. We think this is very important. They are our neighbors in Europe. They are a European, important country -- very important country. We fully respect Russia. But, of course, we have to tell our Russian partners that we want to engage them also on human rights and rule of law. And we have some concerns that I believe we should make this relation a win-win situation, divide this kind of signals that are not helpful.
BLITZER: When you see the demonstrations on the streets of Turkey now -- and they're pretty huge, the demonstrations right now involving the nature of the state, the secular state -- what does it say to you about Turkey's ability some day to join the European Union?
BARROSO: We hope that one day Turkey can join the European Union, but for that, Turkey has to be a real European country, in economic and political terms and not a country that adds, let's say, standards not at the level that we have in the European Union. So, that is precisely part of our negotiation now with Turkey. There are some difficulties, let's make it clear, but, in fact, there has been tremendous progress last year in Turkey. And we believe that the prospects of Turkey becoming a member of the European Union, in fact, are helping all those that want the reforms going on Turkey, modern Turkey, a democratic turkey, full respect of the rule of law.
BLITZER: President Barroso, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to Washington tomorrow with Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany. We'll see you here in Washington. Appreciate you joining us on "Late Edition."
BARROSO: Thank you.
BLITZER: And up next, there were three presidential hopefuls on the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States: senators McCain, Biden, Sam Brownback. Don't miss what they had to say. In fact, we're going to give you some excerpts in our "In Case You Missed It" segment. That's coming up.
BLITZER: Up next, "In Case You Missed It," "Late Edition's" Sunday morning talk show roundup. And coming up at the top of the hour for our North American viewers, "This Week at War" looks at whether al Qaida is growing in Iraq in the battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan. We'll be right back.
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, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, argued that the best way to stabilize Iraq was to divide it up into three parts, the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., D-DEL.: What is this administration implicitly acknowledging by building a wall? Give me a break. They're building a wall and they're talking about a centralized government? There's never been a time in history that I can think of, Tim, where there's been a self-sustaining cycle of sectarian violence that has ended even remotely reasonably without a federated system. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On ABC, Senator and Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback said it's time for the U.S. to turn up the political pressure on the Iraqi government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, R-KAN.: We've got U.S. troops on Iraqi soil, and I don't think a deadline is the thing to do. A deadline, I think the day we pass it, al Qaida declares victory over us, and much of the world will agree. But we've got to get as aggressive on pushing the political solution, particularly between Sunnis and Shia, and we've got to push them very hard. And our timelines, I think, are very short.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On CBS, Democratic Congressman John Murtha took issue with assessments that progress is being made in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURTHA: I've been saying right along, you'd better start to plan for redeployment because you're going to redeploy. The progress that they talk about is not there. Any of the economic things that I've seen doesn't show any progress.
We've had 330 people killed since the surge began. More people killed in the last four months were killed any other time during the war. Fifty-three person increase in American deaths, and this White House keeps saying we're making progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On Fox, Senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain talked about why he's the right man for the Oval Office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: As I said, I'm not the youngest, but this situation that we're in now in this struggle against radical Islamic fundamentalism requires a steady hand at the tiller. I have the experience. I've been in war. I know both war and peace. I know the face of evil.
I'm ready to serve. And I hope that argument will convince people that right now, there's no room for on-the-job training or somebody who needs -- who doesn't have the experience and knowledge that I have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. And that is your "Late Edition" for this Sunday. Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
We're in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday, 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern, another hour at 7 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. For our international audience, "World News" is next. For our North American viewers, "This Week at War" with Tom Foreman starts right now -- Tom.
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