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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer
Interview With Zalmay Khalilzad; Interview With Charlie Rangel, Chris Shays
Aired July 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: It's 11 a.m. here in New York, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7 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 the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, in just a moment. But first, we're following a story in Iraq. A story about possibly the only thing that Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds can agree on. That would be the sound of gunfire. Listen to this right now.
Gunfire in Baghdad only moments ago, but it's good gunfire. The fire that you're hearing, fired in celebration. Sadly though, this type of celebration killed three people last week. The Iraqi national soccer team only moments ago has won 1:0 in beating Saudi Arabia to win the Asian games in Indonesia.
CNN's Arwa Damon is with a group of soccer fans at a military base in Baghdad. Arwa, this is an enormous achievement for the Iraqi soccer team, and a lot of us are hoping it will have some positive spillover inside Iraq.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, first of all, you can just see the joy, the celebration, the jubilation behind me. Some gunfire being heard over the capital. Everyone here really inexplicably overjoyed about their nation's win. For many of them, not just the team members, but for Iraqis, too, this was more than just a soccer match.
We have been hearing over and over again since Iraq won that semifinal game last week that really Iraqi soccer team managed to accomplish something no political process has been able to accomplish to date, and that is true national unity. We've been hearing chants of, "Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Christian, we are all one."
Now we're at this stage, the Iraqis here are translators and contractors who have been risking their lives to work alongside U.S. forces. And speaking with them, they've been joking about how now Iraq is going to be united. Of course, everyone is hoping that there will be some kind of spillover from the emotions felt today amongst Iraqis, that predominantly being the emotion of unity. And I have to tell you the U.S. soldiers here are joking about how now that Iraq had won the soccer game, they would finally be able to go home.
BLITZER: Arwa Damon on the scene for us, a jubilant scene involving a lot of Iraqi soccer fans. Good luck to the Iraqis on this one. Let's hope it stays peaceful, though. When they won a semifinal championship, only moments after that celebration, a car bombing occurred, killing at least 50 Iraqis, injuring 200 others. Let's hope that doesn't happen now.
Meanwhile, a top U.S. military commander in Iraq says there are improvements, and there are encouraging signs on the security front. But what about the important political goals, and what about the influence of Iraq's neighbors, that they're having on the situation inside Iraq?
Here to discuss that and a lot more, our special guest, the former United States ambassador to Iraq and now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad. Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to "Late Edition."
ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, it's great to be with you, Wolf. And I want to congratulate Iraqis, the soccer team for a great victory that they had today.
BLITZER: This is a team that includes not only Iraqi Shiites and Kurds, but also Sunnis. So at least they're working together in this one area of sports.
KHALILZAD: They were truly united, unlike the government and the political process, where the unity that exists is very much hedged. This unity was truly a united effort by the team that produced results. And I hope that the Iraqi politicians will learn from the soccer team.
BLITZER: That would be excellent if they got some positive political spillover from that. Let's move on, though, because there's plenty of negative developments, as you know. And I want to start off with a story that was just moved on the Associated Press wire. And I'll read to you a couple of sentences for it.
The story with a Baghdad deadline. A key aide says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's relations with General David Petraeus are so poor the Iraqi leader may ask Washington to withdraw the overall U.S. commander from his Baghdad post. Sami al-Askari, a key aide to al-Maliki, said the policy of incorporating one-time Sunni insurgents into the security forces shows Petraeus has a real bias, and it bothers the Shiites, whose communities the Sunnis have targeted. 'It is possible that we may demand his removal,' al-Askari said."
What can you tell us about that?
KHALILZAD: Well, I don't know the details of that. I know that General Petraeus is a strong leader, and he speaks his mind. And I'm sure when there are discussions with the prime minister on some important issues that there is strong exchange of views.
BLITZER: But have you heard that the relationship has deteriorated to the point that the Iraqi government may ask for the withdrawal, for the recall of General Petraeus from Iraq?
KHALILZAD: Well, I don't believe the prime minister will ask for the withdrawal or removal of General Petraeus. The prime minister knows that General Petraeus has the full confidence of the president, and that he is a great leader. He's doing his level best to help the Iraqis defeat extremists, both Shia and Sunni.
BLITZER: But you know that what the Shiite majority, the Shiite- led government in Baghdad, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, hates about General Petraeus's strategy is working with the Sunni groups, whether in the al-Anbar Province or the Diyala province, giving them weapons, working with them to fight Al Qaida in Iraqi.
Because the Shiites believe it's only a matter of time before the Sunnis will turn against not only the Shiites, but turn against the United States as well. And they don't like this U.S. strategy.
KHALILZAD: I think it's very important, and this was an issue that I had to deal with when I was in Baghdad, as well. It's to win over the Sunnis into the political process, to embrace this new political system and to stand up and fight Al Qaida, which is seeking to get the Shias and Sunnis to fight a sectarian civil war.
And therefore, I believe that it's very important for the government and for General Petraeus to work with the government together to integrate more and more Sunnis, including some who were in the insurgency, to work together against Al Qaida.
BLITZER: It's a risky strategy because you don't know where in the end they're going to line up. But let me just ask you this hypothetical question. If Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, did ask President Bush to recall General Petraeus, what would happen?
KHALILZAD: Well, I think that he's unlikely to do that, number one. But if he did, I think that the president would, in my judgment, encourage Prime Minister Maliki to continue to work with General Petraeus because we believe that he is a great leader and that he has the full confidence of our leadership. And we are looking to him for his assessment in October -- September, sorry, time frame to present his report. So, I believe that we'll stand behind General Petraeus.
BLITZER: Here's from the interim report that was released in mid-July. The Iraqi government, the political establishment in Iraq, unsatisfactory progress on such key issues as passing de- Baathification laws, an oil sharing agreement, disarming any of the militias, really, in Iraq, establishing provincial elections.
To the point that last week, I interviewed the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate. And I asked what he thought of this Iraqi government. I want you to listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: I and others feel the Iraqi government's been largely an embarrassment. It's ridiculous to suggest they would be out of session in August while our troops are over there in 120-degree weather hunting down Al Qaida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, Senator McConnell, as you know, is a supporter of the president's strategy. He wants it to succeed. What he finds incomprehensible, and a lot of Americans find incomprehensible, they haven't done any of these political reforms that they're supposed to do. And now for a month, the Iraqi parliament's going to go on vacation.
How do you explain that?
KHALILZAD: Well, politically, things have not gone very well. And in fact, things have gotten a little worse in terms of relations inside the government between the Sunni tawafa (ph) front that is in the government and the prime minister.
I think they are heading towards an increased political problem and it's time for the political leaders of Iraq -- and I hear they might get together this week and I hope they do -- to overcome these problems. It's imperative for the sources of violence to come down.
And that can happen not only by military means that General Petraeus working with Iraqis is trying to do by going after extremists, but also for political issues that divide the Iraqis to be dealt with. And I believe sufficient progress has not been made. In fact, things have gone slightly...
BLITZER: But they know how upset people in Washington are. I assume the Iraqi government understands the outrage that's felt, that they're going to go on vacation while 160,000 American troops are fighting and dying.
KHALILZAD: Oh, there is no question about that, that they understand that. When I was there, I expressed our frustration that the patience of the American people is running out. Ryan Crocker, I am sure, is doing the same thing. And they hear this, of course, from American political leaders. They watch CNN and they pay attention to what's going on in Washington.
BLITZER: All right. Well, let's hope they can make some progress. You wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times on July 20th. You wrote this, among other things: "Several of Iraq's neighbors, not only Syria and Iran, but also some friends of the United States, are pursuing destabilizing policies." When I read that, I thought you were referring to Saudi Arabia.
KHALILZAD: Yes, well, there is no question that...
BLITZER: Were you?
KHALILZAD: ... Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries are not doing all they can to help us in Iraq. I mean, they are great allies of ours in that region. And the future of Iraq is the most important issue now affecting the region. And therefore, we would expect and want them to help us on this strategic issue more than they are doing. And at times, some of them are not only not helping, are doing things that is undermining the effort to make progress.
BLITZER: Supporting some of these Sunni militias, for example?
KHALILZAD: Or not engaging the government, or not engaging the Shias, or having diplomatic representation. The level of positive effort that they are making compared to the stakes involved for the region is minimal.
BLITZER: Here's what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president, the leader of Iran, said on July 19th referring to Iran's nuclear program: "The enemies of the region should abandon plans to attack the interests of this region or they will be burned by the wrath of the region's people. We hope that the hot weather of this summer would coincide with similar victories for the region's people and with consequent defeat for the region's enemies."
Is there any chance -- and you are the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations -- that the U.N. Security Council, the international community is going to get together and force the Iranians, through political sanctions, economic sanctions, other nonviolent means, to stop its nuclear program?
KHALILZAD: Well, the Iranian nuclear program, the efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, is a defining issue. Iran is seeking to dominate that region and is threatening several countries in the area.
And that's why we are working with others to come up with an approach to increase the pressure on Iran. Iran is in violation of a Security Council resolution that calls on it to suspend its enrichment program. Right now, consultations are going on to see -- with regard to another resolution.
BLITZER: But do you think China and Russia, when all is said and done, will cooperate with what the U.S. and the Europeans are trying to do?
KHALILZAD: Well, we will have to see. But we are right now in the consultation process with them in capitals. It's very important that this issue be dealt with. This is...
BLITZER: How much of a window do you have? How much time do you have?
KHALILZAD: Well, as I said, we are consulting with them. I don't have any timeline on this. But we believe that another resolution to increase the pressure on Iran is important and necessary.
BLITZER: Let me ask you a question about Darfur because this is a subject that comes up at the United Nations all the time. One congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, member of -- Republican of the Foreign Relations Committee, she said this on Tuesday. She said, "The humanitarian crisis in Darfur has been made immeasurably worse by thuggish rebel groups seeking to gain some political advantage on the backs of vulnerable people and by the complete lack of resolve by key members of the Security Council to act in the name of humanity. How high of a priority is this for you at the United Nations?
KHALILZAD: It is a very high priority, one of the highest. And I went there to Sudan myself with the members of the Security Council to demonstrate how important this was for us. And we are working with others with the resolution to send in United Nations/African Union forces.
BLITZER: How long is that going to take to do that because people are dying, as you know?
KHALILZAD: Well, I believe that we are very close. I expect that we will get an agreement this week.
BLITZER: Which is a tougher environment, being ambassador in Baghdad or U.S. ambassador to the United Nations?
KHALILZAD: Well, I believe that Baghdad is a lot tougher, but the number of tribes here are larger. We have more than 190 tribes, but I'm delighted to represent the United States and the United Nations.
BLITZER: Well, I'm glad you're here. Thanks very much, Mr. Ambassador, for joining us.
KHALILZAD: Well, it's great to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Good luck with all those tribes at the U.N.
KHALILZAD: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Coming up next, will Congress back the war strategy past September or force President Bush to change course? We'll hear from two veteran lawmakers, Democratic Charlie Rangel and Republican Chris Shays. You are watching "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from New York. Coming up, we're going to be getting some perspective on the clout of American -- African-American voters, that is -- in the presidential campaign. That's coming up later.
But joining us now, two leading members of the U.S. Congress, Charlie Rangel, a Democrat of New York. He's chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. And in Washington, Republican Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut. He serves in the House Homeland Security Committee. Congressmen, thanks very much for coming in. And Congressman Rangel, I want to get your reaction. If the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad were to ask President Bush to recall, to withdrawal General David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander on the ground and bring him home because they don't like what he's doing, what would that result in?
REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: It would be the Republican's delight. They have no real reason why our troops should be there.
They will have an excuse, as the Senate leadership has said, to bring the troops home. It would be the height of irresponsibility. And in a war where the president said there's no military victory, clearly there will be no political victory.
I tell you, it shocks me how people can be so excited about Saudi Arabia going there playing soccer with the Iraqis as our young men and women are being killed. This whole fiasco is something that in American history we will regret for decades to come.
BLITZER: All right. Congressman Shays, what do you say if Petraeus is asked to leave Iraq by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, presumably because they don't like his trying to win over the support of Iraqi Sunnis in the al-Anbar Province, the Diyala Province, get them to cooperate in the war against this group Al Qaida in Iraq.
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Well, I think there should be a plebiscite in Iraq to decide whether Iraqis want us to be there. And the best indication that they don't want us to be there is if they ask Petraeus to leave. If they ask Petraeus to leave, I would be asking our president to even accelerate our drawdown.
Charlie's right. We're going to draw down our troops. He's wrong about our doing it too quickly. We have every reason not to want Iran to control Iraq. We have every reason not to want Al Qaida to have a total safe haven in Iraq. So, the drawdown, in my judgment, needs to be worked out on a bipartisan basis with Republicans and Democrats. We went in there on a bipartisan basis. Let's draw down on a bipartisan basis. And let me just say one last thing.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask Congressman -- hold on a second.
BLITZER: Hold that thought. Let me ask Congressman Rangel if that's feasible. Can there be bipartisan cooperation in terms of a drawdown of U.S. military forces?
RANGEL: Technically. But you know what it really means? Republicans who made one big mistake when they allowed the president to do this and to support this will find a political reason to join the Democrats. It has nothing to do with bipartisanship. The war is over. The question is, how many more Americans have to die? Because the closer you get to election, the more the Republicans will swell in saying let's get out.
BLITZER: What do you say, Congressman Shays?
SHAYS: Well, I mean, I just can't disagree more strongly with Charlie. Charlie didn't vote to get Saddam out of Kuwait in '91. That was the right decision. I made a good vote then. I didn't make a good vote when I voted to have our troops go to Iraq.
But once we disbanded all their army, all their police, all their border patrol, we have a moral obligation to replace their troops. Now, if they want to relieve us of that moral obligation, then they can do that.
But, you know, I just want to say one other thing. It is a good thing that Iraqis are celebrating this victory in soccer. They have some reason to be excited about something. And I don't think we should constantly belittle everything they do. We can't get along as Republicans and Democrats and we expect the Iraqis, Shias, Sunnis and Kurds to get along.
BLITZER: But is it too much, Congressman Shays, to expect that they don't take vacation in August, given the nature of all the political issues the Iraqi parliament still has to come up with?
SHAYS: Well, they were going to be gone for two months. I complained about it, and so did others. They're gone for one month. They're going to be gone in August just like we are.
And frankly, I think they need to get away from each other. I think they need to cool down and come back with a fresh approach. So, I don't lose sleep that they're not going to be talking to each other for the next month.
BLITZER: I want you to...
RANGEL: Well, I lose a lot of sleep. Our soldiers are over there with hundreds of pounds of equipment in temperatures that's over 100. People are playing soccer, people are going on vacation and I'm outraged.
SHAYS: Yeah. Iraqis are dying.
RANGEL: Christopher Shays will be leading courageously the number OF Republicans who will be saying, I made one hell of a big mistake. and I give him credit for it, but there is no political, military or certainly diplomatic reason for us to be there.
BLITZER: Well, listen to President Bush. Because he says Al Qaida is now in Iraq, the same Al Qaida that was responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on 9/11. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: It's hard to argue that Al Qaida in Iraq is separate from bin Laden's Al Qaida when the leader of Al Qaida in Iraq took an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
BLITZER: You represent New York City. RANGEL: Hey, sure. Bush created Al Qaida, and they are in Iraq and they brought it in Iraq. But I'll tell you one thing, the worst reason why we should be in Iraq is President Bush. Every reason he gave and every reason that Chris Shays supported no longer exists.
BLITZER: But wait a minute. When you say Bush created Al Qaida, you mean the Al Qaida in Iraq? Is that what you're saying?
RANGEL: No, created the war -- yes. Created the Al Qaida in Iraq, but there were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no Osama bin Laden that was in Iraq that we know of. It had nothing to do with 9/11. This whole idea that we got to fight over there to keep them from coming here, there's no relationship with reality and what the president is saying.
BLITZER: All right, well, Chris Shays is on the Homeland Security Committee. You're privy, you've seen all the classified information in addition to the declassified summaries of these National Intelligence Estimates. Is Congressman Rangel right?
SHAYS: Well, I mean, Charlie's wrong in a lot of ways. I mean, first off, Al Qaida is there totally and completely. This is ground zero for them.
RANGEL: I agree.
SHAYS: But what we also don't want is, we don't want this to be a playground for Iran. Sixty-five percent of the world's energy is in this area. We just can't walk away. We need to leave in a very methodical and sensible way.
RANGEL: You know, this is the most honest thing that's been said. If we are concerned about the oil, if that's the reason we went there, then forget all these weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaida 9/11.
And he said it. That's why we want the defensive military bases there. It's all a question of oil.
SHAYS: It's about energy, Charlie.
RANGEL: Vice President Cheney. What is energy but oil? Come on, Chris.
SHAYS: What is oil but energy? It's the light, the heat, what moves this economy. You can't be oblivious to it.
RANGEL: And that's the reason men and women are dying there while the rest of them are going on vacation, playing soccer. We give $20 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia, and the closer we get to election, the more people will say, let's get out.
BLITZER: Let me just get -- I want to take a break, but I want to get both of to you respond. There's word the Bush administration is putting together a new package of weapons sales to the region, about, as Congressman Rangel says, $20 billion in new sales to Saudi Arabia and some of the other friendly countries in the Persian Gulf.
And that would be aligned with a new military aid package for Israel, what, about $30 billion over the next ten years, about $3 billion a year. Thirteen billion to Egypt. That would be $1.3 billion a year over the next ten years. Congressman Shays, are you inclined to go along with this new military arrangement for friendly countries in the region?
SHAYS: Well, I don't think any of the countries have been friendly. That's part of the problem. We've had Saudi Arabia having mischief in Iraq, and so on. So I would want to know what the quid pro quo is here. I want to know what Saudi Arabia's going to do. Not to cozy up to the Sunnis. I want to know what the other neighboring countries are going to do to help us out.
BLITZER: What about you, Congressman Rangel?
RANGEL: Help us out? They better help themselves out. When we withdraw, they're more at risk than we are. This is a problem that they've been involved in thousands of years. They haven't been friends of Israel. They certainly haven't supported our troops over there. So it's not just Iran that we're talking about, not just Syria. It's Egypt, it's Jordan, it's Saudi Arabia. Israel would be crazy to be part of this doggone deal.
BLITZER: All right. So I take it you're skeptical of the deal, and Congressman Shays, you're skeptical as well, is that what I'm hearing?
RANGEL: It's all oil.
BLITZER: OK. All right. We're going to take a quick break. A lot more coming up. We'll ask the congressmen if the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, should be investigated for perjury.
And later, race and politics in some of the tightest primary contests across the country. The African-American vote may be a deciding factor. We're going to get two views on who has the best chance of attracting the African-American electorate in the Democratic contest. Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. We're speaking with two veteran members of the U.S. Congress, Charlie Rangel, Democrat of New York, and Chris Shays, Republican of Connecticut.
Let's move to some domestic issues that came up with week starting with the Alberto Gonzales -- the attorney general of the United States. I want to play for both of you what the Senate Judiciary chairman, Patrick Leahy, said amid some of the discrepancies between what Alberto Gonzales has testified to about the firing of those prosecutors, the domestic warrantless wiretaps and other issues. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK J. LEAHY, D-VT.: The Department of Justice must be restored to be worthy of its name. It should not be reduced to another political arm of the White House. It was never intended to be that. Trust and confidence of the American people in federal law enforcement must be restored.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Chris Shays, how big of an issue is this, the credibility of the attorney general right now with the Congress and the American public?
SHAYS: Well, he doesn't have much credibility. And he would do us all a favor if he stepped down and allowed the president to select someone else. You need to be truthful to Congress. You can't be inaccurate so often. Finally, there just builds up this incredible credibility gap.
BLITZER: What do you think Congressman Rangel?
RANGEL: It's not Gonzales. The corruption with the vice president, Scooter Libby and the president covering up and saying, "You're guilty but you shouldn't do time" -- Gonzales is a classic example of what the administration stands for.
This is really not the attorney general. It's the president of the United States condoning this type of behavior. It doesn't just hurt Republicans, it hurts the justice system of our great country and the president should be ashamed to allow this man to continue. BLITZER: Chris Shays, is Alberto Gonzales part of a bigger problem as seen by Charlie Rangel?
SHAYS: Well, you know what? Republicans went after the corruption of the Clinton administration, alleged -- Democrats go after the alleged corruption of this administration, and while that case goes on, Rome burns.
I mean, it would be nice if we started to talk about issues and get on with it. Scooter Libby evidently and clearly lied to the investigators. But they had already determined who had done the leak. Why that investigation continued is beyond me.
I voted against impeachment because I thought we and the former Congress was too active in trying to get the past administration. I think this Democratic administration -- Congress is doing the same thing.
RANGEL: I would vote against impeachment of Bush too because the corruption of the vice president, Cheney, would even be worse.
BLITZER: In other words, if Bush were impeached... RANGEL: God forbid.
BLITZER: ... and convicted, the vice president would become president.
RANGEL: And then God bless America.
SHAYS: No, not God bless America, Charlie. This impeachment talk is really silly. We have so many problems to get on with it.
RANGEL: I didn't say it. You brought up impeachment. I didn't say -- I said I would vote against impeachment of Bush.
RANGEL: But I tell you one thing, just because we'd get a more corrupt president in Cheney. You know it, I know it. Listen, Chris, you are almost there. Before the election, you'll be there.
BLITZER: All right. Let me move on and talk about this other issue that came up, a move to try to get Karl Rove to testify in a subpoena going forward over the firing of those nine federal prosecutors and what, if any role, he might have had as the top political adviser to the president, that move coming forward. And it resulted in this response from the White House press secretary, Tony Snow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY TONY SNOW: In our view, this is pathetic. What you have right now is partisanship on Capitol Hill that quite often boils down to insults, insinuations, inquisitions and investigations rather than pursuing the normal business of trying to pass major pieces of legislation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Do you want to response to Tony Snow, Charlie Rangel?
RANGEL: Tony is one of the most responsible reporters I've heard of. I'm so sorry to see him in this jam. But if he really wants to get to the truth, forget subpoenas, forget the Fifth Amendment. Just let Karl Rove come and testify and get it over with. As long as they are taking the Fifth, America wants to know. And we will find out in the House.
BLITZER: Chris Shays?
SHAYS: Well, I'm just going to say it again. The Democrats gained control of this Congress because they said they would be different than the Republicans and they're not being any different. They are spending all their time on investigations, who said what when and so on.
You know, there's got to be a point where we decide, because our troops are risking their lives in Iraq, maybe we should be paying attention to that. Because we have global warming, maybe we should be paying attention to that.
Because we have some serious economic crisis in terms of loans, maybe we should be paying attention to that. But maybe it's the press that wants to pay attention to this or the Democrats, but these problems aren't getting solved by this Democratic Congress.
RANGEL: I think we are. In energy and child care and protecting our veterans, we are just moving ahead, notwithstanding some of the parliamentary impediments that Republicans are putting there. And I can think of no insult that's worse than Christopher saying we're acting like Republicans. That's the last thing in the world we want to do.
BLITZER: I'll give Chris Shays the last word. Go ahead.
SHAYS: Well, I just want to say this: We have too many problems to be so partisan and Charlie has been partisan this whole discussion. Republicans bad, Democrats good. I think they are somewhere in between. I think we got real problems to address and I think the American people have a right to expect we'd work together, and we're not doing it so far.
RANGEL: If a kid gets killed, there's no halfway.
BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, Congressmen. Charlie Rangel, Chris Shays, an excellent discussion. Thanks to both of you for coming in.
SHAYS: Thank you.
RANGEL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And up next here on "Late Edition," help for wounded warriors. Former Republican Senator Bob Dole, former Clinton Health Secretary Donna Shalala tell us if President Bush should change the health care system for Iraq war veterans.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from New York.
After the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal revealed poor conditions for wounded U.S. troops, a presidential commission was created to help improve the care of the U.S. military.
This week they announced their recommendations, which include the prevention and aggressive treatment of post traumatic stress disorder, among several recommendations. I spoke with the commission's co- chairmen, former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole and former Clinton Health Secretary Donna Shalala in "The Situation Room."
FORMER. U.S. SENATOR ROBERT DOLE: The president told us in our visit way back in March, if it affected one soldier, or one person wasn't getting the appropriate care, we should try to take care of it. And that's what we've done. Now, we've done our job, and we expect the executive branch and Congress to do theirs.
BLITZER: What's it going to cost, Secretary Shalala, to implement all these recommendations?
FORMER HHS SECRETARY DONNA SHALALA: Well, it's not very expensive, actually. The Congress has been talking about spending billions of dollars on recommendations. These will cost about a half billion dollars. Most of them can be implemented by the executive itself, by DoD and the V.A. In fact, of the 35 action steps they need to take for the six recommendations, only six of those steps need to be taken by Congress.
This is doable, it's pragmatic, it simplifies the system, it will make a major difference in the lives of those that are injured. We can't do anything but expect the people in charge to implement them.
BLITZER: Just ahead, presidential candidates courted the African-American vote this week in the National Urban League conference in St. Louis. Who struck a chord with the crowd, and who missed the mark? We'll ask the president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial. He's a former Democratic mayor of New Orleans. And Ohio's former Republican secretary of state, Ken Blackwell.
"Late Edition" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. African Americans are the most reliable voting bloc for the Democratic Party and will play a key role in selecting the next Democratic presidential nominee. So, it's absolutely no surprise that the front-runners were courting votes at the National Urban League's annual conference, which concluded yesterday in St. Louis.
Joining us now from St. Louis is the National Urban League president, the former Democratic mayor of New Orleans, Marc Morial. And in Cincinnati, the former Ohio secretary of state, Republican Ken Blackwell. He's now a senior fellow with the Family Research Council.
Gentlemen, welcome back to "Late Edition." Thanks to both of you for joining us. Let me start with Marc Morial. Mr. Mayor, I want to play for you a little clip of what Democratic Senator Barack Obama, one of the leading Democratic presidential candidates, said at your conference in St. Louis. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: The day I'm inaugurated, the country looks at itself differently. And don't underestimate that power. Don't underestimate that transformation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Give us the context. What did you think when he said that? The simple fact that he as an African American would be elected president, it would have a huge transformation impact on the nature of race in this country.
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: I think that the point he sought to make is that he believes that he's the change agent in the race. And he, I believe, also tried to underscore the fact that Barack Obama for many, particularly young African Americans, his crusade and his effort is symbolic in a nation that's had several hundred years of really only a handful of African Americans even competing for the presidency. His candidacy represents something substantively and symbolically.
But I would add this. The African American vote in this election is in play. And by in play, I mean that what we sought to do in St. Louis is encourage these candidates to offer substance and ideas. And we in fact offered our own substance called the opportunity compact.
BLITZER: We're going to get to all of that, but let me let Ken Blackwell respond to what Senator Obama said.
KEN BLACKWELL, FORMER OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think Senator Obama understands that if this is about change in the Democratic primary, he's the guy. If it's about competency and experience, he's at a disadvantage and Senator Clinton has the clear advantage.
But make no doubt about it, he is a competitive candidate in the Democratic primary. And I think it's important because John Edwards has run into that buzz saw known as senators Clinton and Obama. He is carrying the traditional liberal agenda, but he's not getting any traction. So that says that the star power and the attractiveness of Senators Obama and Clinton is a major wall for him to get over.
BLITZER: Marc Morial, listen to this exchange that Anderson Cooper, who hosted the CNN/YouTube debate, had with Senator Obama on a sensitive subject -- sensitive question that was submitted to YouTube. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Senator Obama, how do you address those who say you are not authentically black enough?
COOPER: Hey, it's not my question. It's Jordan's question.
OBAMA: You know, when I'm catching a cab in Manhattan in the past, I think I've given my credentials.
(APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Marc Morial, what did you think of that exchange and his answer? A lot of our viewers of course know Senator Obama is the son of an African Immigrant, a Kenyan, to the United States and a white woman from Kansas.
MORIAL: I think it's a bogus issue. I think Senator Obama clearly has had a record of involvement and commitment, and those sorts of issues I think are diversionary. African-American candidates are always faced with what I call twisted and contorted logic to challenge their candidacies.
And I think you'll see it with respect to gender. You may see it on the Republican side with respect to Mitt Romney's religion. And I think that the most important thing about this is that I think people who challenge Senator Obama on that may be challenging the fact that he is a new face on the scene. A new face on the national scene, but had a considerable record in the state of Illinois.
But I'd like to see us get past what we call superficiality. And that's what we try to do at the National Urban League is promote a substantive conversation about the future of the nation.
BLACKWELL: I agree with Marc. I think he's absolutely right. If this is trivialized and it's about Mr. Obama being black enough against what standard, you know, we're not going to engage in the quality of discussion and debate in this country that we need to engage in.
The issue is whether or not he provides the leadership and the direction necessary to win the nomination on the Republican side, and then can he win a competition against a seasoned Republican candidate?
BLITZER: You said, Marc Morial, that the African-American vote -- and it's very reliable Democratic vote -- is at play right now. I'm going to show you some numbers, the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll in South Carolina. Clinton came in among blacks 47 percent; Obama, 31 percent; Edwards, 4 percent.
And then when we asked this question among Democrats, "Who has a better chance of beating a Republican in November among blacks," Clinton got 63 percent, Obama 29 percent.
It looks at least in South Carolina, if you believe these numbers, Marc Morial, that among African-Americans, Senator Clinton does better than Senator Obama.
MORIAL: Senator Clinton has a considerable record working on many issues that are of great concern to African-Americans. And I think what it shows is the maturity of the African-American electorate in South Carolina and across the nation that votes will be cast with intelligence. People cannot take the vote for granted. No one can take the vote of African-Americans for granted in this election cycle.
And I think what we have in the Democratic side, at this point, is competition because you have John Edwards, you have Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, seeking to address the issue of jobs and children, and the urban community and the black male crisis and civil rights enforcement. And that's a positive thing because what it will do is give the African-American community a real choice in the Democratic primary.
BLITZER: Ken Blackwell, a lot of Republicans had hopes that African-American voters might be attractive to the Republican Party. Clearly, you've been attracted to the Republican Party.
But at the National Urban League -- and correct me if I'm wrong, Marc Morial -- only former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee showed up at the National Urban League conference, even though all the Republican presidential candidates were invited. What's going on, Ken Blackwell?
BLACKWELL: Well, you know, I think it's important that we try to make sure that this continues to be a two-party system in an African- American community. But I'll tell you, all of the political pros that I talked to basically say that we're back to probably a 8 percent to 10 percent share of the African-American vote in November of 2008, given the popularity of Senators Clinton and Obama.
I tell you right now, the major concern of Republicans, at least quietly spoken, is whether or not they can stop the bleeding of the Latino vote, the Hispanic vote, which has been much more competitive for Republican candidates.
And I think Marc is right. We are in a much better position when we can create a competitive, two-party claim for the African-American vote, but I will tell you right now, I think that we hit a high water mark probably in 2000.
And the concern of those of us who are trying to create that two- party system within the African-American community is that we are at a very challenging time in our democratic process.
BLITZER: You did invite all the Republican candidates, didn't you, Marc Morial?
MORIAL: You know, Wolf, Giuliani, Romney and McCain should have been in St. Louis. We invited them beginning last November. There is no reason for people not to come to the Urban League Conference if you're concerned not just about, quote, "African-Americans," but you're concerned about the issues of the urban community.
While we are an African-American focused organization, our audience was quite diverse in that hall today.
BLACKWELL: Absolutely, Marc. You're right.
MORIAL: And Mike Huckabee came by. He not participate in the forum, but came by and apologized for a scheduling mix-up. But it is so important that we note that notwithstanding our efforts to get them there, they didn't come. But here's what's important, Wolf, and I want to say this. I could blast them ceremoniously, but I want to say here, we're going to continue to reach out to them because we want them, exactly like the Democratic candidates there, to endorse the Opportunity Compact.
We're trying to create broad support and consensus for the issues that plague our communities. We are trying to get beyond partisanship and beyond politics. And we offered an unprecedented open forum. Each candidate had 12 to 15 minutes to speak.
BLITZER: All right.
BLACKWELL: I would imagine that the Republican candidate will be there at Marc's next meeting. I'll tell you what; he is absolutely right. The Urban League, of which I am a member, is an organization that has an open and responsible agenda. And I will be encouraging the next Republican candidate, presidential candidate, to get to that next meeting.
BLITZER: On that note, we've got to leave the conversation. A good discussion, gentlemen.
MORIAL: Wolf, thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much to both of you for coming in, Marc Morial and Ken Blackwell.
Still to come in the next hour here on "Late Edition," an argument between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that began at the CNN/YouTube debate on Monday went back and forth all week. But did the bickering help either campaign? We're going to get answers from some of the best political team on television. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Up next, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faced some tough questions on Capitol Hill this week. A lot of congressmen, senators, not very happy with his answers. Congressman Roy Blunt, Jane Harman, they're standing by. They're next.
BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: We have had some success in the security arena over the past month.
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BLITZER: But is Congress prepared to stick with the plan past September? We'll talk with the House Republican whip, Roy Blunt, and Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman.
The Clinton-Obama slugfest. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I don't want "Bush-Cheney lite."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I've been called a lot of things in my life, but I've never been called George Bush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is either candidate winning? Insight on the week's politics from CNN's Bill Schneider, Ed Henry and The Hotline's Amy Walter, three of the best political team on television.
Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're reporting today from New York. U.S. military commanders are pointing to some very faint glimmers of progress in Iraq. For one thing, the death toll for U.S. troops appears to be dropping, at least so far this month. But will this really change anything? Will it be enough to persuade a reluctant U.S. Congress to continue to fund the war?
Joining us now to discuss this and other issues, the number two Republican in the House of Representatives, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Democrat Jane Harman of California. She's a member of the Homeland Security Committee. She's the chairwoman of the Intelligence Subcommittee of that panel. Thanks to both of you for coming in.
Let me start with you, Roy Blunt, and ask you if you're inclined to support what is widely expected to be a U.S. weapons sale, advance weapons to Saudi Arabia, to the tune of some $20 billion. The secretary of defense, Bob Gates, and the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, heading to Saudi Arabia tomorrow, presumably to discuss this and other issues.
REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO), MINORITY WHIP: Well, I am inclined to support it. But on these issues regarding Saudi Arabia, we have a bigger problem in the House all the time, because of the disappointments with the Saudis, who have traditionally been good friends of ours, who have been allies in the region, but continually seem to not understand the situation we're in right now.
And so, the votes that we've had have been harder and harder as related to Saudi Arabia. And the administration's going to have to really make the case here that this is needed, that there are reasons beyond what we can see, that the Saudis continue to be helpful to us. And that will be a challenge for them, I think, Wolf.
BLITZER: The administration, Congresswoman Harman, is apparently packaging this as a part of a broader effort to shore up the stabilized friendly countries in the Middle East, part of a new ten- year, $30 billion military aid package to Israel, another $13 billion aid package to Egypt over the next ten years. Are you inclined to go along with all of this? REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I have grave reservations about the Saudi piece unless and until we learn more. I assume it was announced now to try to soothe the way for a productive meeting by the secretaries of state and defense.
I would hope for a productive meeting. The Saudis can play an important strategic role in the region, and if we can find the way to negotiate a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, that would be wonderful. At which point, then, we can look at arrangements in the region, look at how to basically quarantine Iran, which is an existential threat not just to Israel, but to all of her Arab neighbors, and see how to go forward.
BLITZER: Do you believe, Congresswoman Harman, do you believe that the Saudis are helping or hurting the U.S. mission in Iraq right now?
HARMAN: I think the record is extremely mixed and Saudi Arabia continues to fund the terror movement in the Middle East. They continue to try to get -- wreak havoc inside with the civil war in Iraq. And I also think that the reason we have this huge Al Qaida menace had a lot to do with Saudi Arabia exporting that movement out of its country.
BLITZER: You agree, Congressman Blunt?
BLUNT: I agree to some extent. I think that there is -- particularly with the statement that this is a mixed bag and we're going to have to look carefully at what the Saudis are doing, some of which is less apparent and more real.
But there's no question that the Saudis have looked the wrong way -- the other way for a long time on this issue of terror and have encouraged or at least allowed support of it to be encouraged in their country through false charities and other things. They've been challenged on that. They've made significant progress, but I'm not sure that Congress is convinced that that progress has been all they could do.
HARMAN: I agree.
BLITZER: All right. Let me read to you, Congressman Blunt, from a story that the Associated Press has moved out of Baghdad today: "A key aide says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's relations with General David Petraeus are so poor the Iraqi leader may ask Washington to withdraw the overall U.S. commander from his Baghdad post. Sami al- Askari, a key aide to al-Maliki, said the policy of incorporating one- time Sunni insurgents into the security forces shows Petraeus has a real bias, and it bothers the Shiites, whose communities the Sunnis have targeted. 'It is possible that we may demand his removal,' al- Askari said."
Now, the U.S. military in Baghdad is denying it. This is a totally fabricated story, according to General Petraeus's spokesperson, the statement that was given to the Reuters news agency. But it's not just A.P. Other news organizations are hearing the same thing, that the government of Nouri al-Maliki has some serious issues with General Petraeus because of his support for working with those Sunni militias in the al-Anbar Province, the Diyala Province. And the Shiite-led government of Iraq hates that notion.
What do you make of this uproar, Congressman Blunt, specifically this threat -- and probably it's true -- that the Iraqi government is threatening to ask President Bush to recall General Petraeus?
BLUNT: I'd be surprised if anything comes of that threat. Based on what you just asked, if the choice is to decide whether I believe General Petraeus's spokesperson or somebody who works in the al-Maliki government, I think I'll take the Petraeus side of that.
But I'll be very surprised if that happens. Clearly in the last 100 days, one of the great improvements in Iraq has been the stepping forward of the tribal Sunni leaders to make where they live a safer place. That's what all Iraqis need to do, this infanticide, this interstructural war in Iraq can't continue to go on.
Al Qaida's a big presence there. But there's no question that part of the problem continues to be the distrust between the Sunni and the Shia. And it's been heartening, frankly, to see the Sunnis step up and say we're tired of this. We want to put a stop to this. And you've seen real results as a response to that.
BLITZER: What do you think, Jane Harman?
HARMAN: Well, I think the Maliki government is failing and it's tragic. None of the benchmarks has been achieved. The newspapers reported yesterday that our $6 billion investment in reconstruction is just rotting on the vine, that the leaders in Iraq don't take charge of these projects that we have given them.
And maybe this is the desperate throes of a failed regime, which would be sad. We should absolutely not replace General Petraeus. He's trying to do his best job. And his mission -- if he has a mission anymore -- is to find a reconciliation among three ethnic groups. It may be that in the end we end up with this so-called soft partition, which is a strategy that was advanced by Senator Biden and Les Gelb many years ago.
But, be that as it may, the only reason for us to stay there, I think, is after we move past our combat mission, which won't succeed, is to make certain that there's political stability in the country, which we -- where we created a failed government.
BLITZER: But, Jane Harman, listen to the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker. He's a career diplomat, an expert on the Middle East. This is what he said on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: This is a tough slog that we're involved in. There are no easy, quick, magic answers at this stage. But I think it's very important that, for our own interests, that we stay with this until Iraq gets to a point of sustainable stability, because I think that can be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, he's not ready to concede failure.
HARMAN: I'm not ready to concede failure. I'm saying our combat mission has failed. The surge has failed. I voted that way. Ryan Crocker is an experienced diplomat. I think he's the best in class. I'm very glad he's there and working hard at the problem. What I think we should do is end our combat mission in a responsible way and then focus on other ways, through diplomacy and economic incentives and disincentives, to help Iraq become a stable place.
The implosion of Iraq would be a very dangerous possibility in a very unstable Middle East region.
BLITZER: Congressman Blunt, do you have confidence in the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki?
BLUNT: Well, first let me say I don't think the surge has failed. I think the surge has, frankly, just gotten to its full strength and sustainability, and we need to wait and see what happens as a result of the surge. There's been too many people willing to decide what was going to happen in the battlefield before the battlefield occurred.
Certainly, one of the big disappointments in Iraq has been the inability of the Iraqis themselves to take responsibility for their own government, their own future.
I do think the Iraqi military is coming along quicker than the Iraqi political situation, and that's not unusual. Probably what happened in our country at the revolution, the military was strong quicker than we were ready to be fully sustainable politically. And that's what's happening there.
BLITZER: Well, there's a point though...
BLUNT: But these benchmarks we've set for the Iraqis are important to have progress on. And I hope to see that.
BLITZER: Because there are some analysts, Congressman, as you know, who believe that, yes, the U.S. -- and maybe together with the Iraqi military forces -- can actually win a military battle. But the political battle, they suspect, may be lost, given the hatred between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
HARMAN: Wolf, what's held up the...
BLITZER: Hold on, Congresswoman. Let me let Congressman Blunt respond to that first.
BLUNT: I think it's disappointing so far. It's too early to decide that, the idea that we're going to have a Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq or a democracy that has matured to the place we are may have been too great a stretch from the very start.
But I do think they can have a sustainable government. The military stability will create an important part of that so both of these sides feel like -- that they are in a secure environment where they can work together, and I'm still hopeful we can see that happen.
That's why we've said we want to see energy sharing. We want to see what you can do about reconciliation. People who were just simply low-level civil servants in the Baath Party need to be able to have a position in the country in the future, and we need to see if that can't happen.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Jane Harman.
HARMAN: All of the things Roy just laid out are not happening. The one so-called success story is Al Anbar province, which was Al Qaida central. The good news there is that the Sunni tribal leaders are working with us against Al Qaida. But there are no Shia people living in Anbar.
I have been there recently. I had to wear full protective gear to walk down the main shopping street. I gather that some experienced commentators like Ken Pollack are recently back and about to report that it's a success. But if it's a success, it's only a success because there's no civil war there, not because we're really winning militarily.
BLITZER: All right. I want both of you to stand by because we have a lot more to talk about. Both of these members of Congress are standing by. We'll move on to some other issues, including those subpoenas between the White House and Congress, the future of the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a lot more -- homeland security as well.
And later, we'll talk about Bush-Cheney lite. That's the accusation -- the Democratic presidential race definitely heating up. We're going to get the inside story from three of the best political team on television. Much more "Late Edition" right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. The topic is Congress, my guests once again, Democratic Representative Jane Harman and the number two Republican in the House, Roy Blunt.
I'll start with you, Jane Harman. Put on your hat as a member of the Homeland Security Committee, the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Intelligence. The TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, put out a bulletin on July 20th.
And among other things, it said this -- I'm going to put it up on the screen. "Transportation security personnel and law enforcement officers nationwide have intercepted several items at airports resembling improvised explosive device components. "These items include wires, switches, pipes or tubes, cell phone components and dense, clay-like substances. Identifying dry runs and probes -- even though they are often seen in the end stages of pre- attack planning -- is key to preventing future terrorist attacks." They cited four such examples, but later in the week, we learned that all four of these examples were really innocent, that the that was cheese wrapped and in some of these other devices were all innocent, had nothing whatsoever to do with any terrorist dry runs or rehearsals or anything like that.
But this bulletin was sent out. It scared a lot of people earlier in the week. And I wonder, in your capacity as a key member of the Homeland Security Committee, if you're looking into what is going on.
HARMAN: Well, I'm looking into how to protect America and the new NIE on terrorism.
BLITZER: Well, let me just interrupt because there's a lot of accusations that, for whatever reasons -- political -- that there's a desire to simply scare the American people into thinking that Al Qaida is waiting around the corner, about to kill us all.
HARMAN: Well, let me address that. The goal should be preparing, not scaring, America. I think there are some improvements in how we're handling security domestically. But the new National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism paints a very scary picture.
That is fair. I've read it. And what it says is that Al Qaida has regrouped in the Pakistani tribal areas, they're training operatives who could come here, I worry, under things like the visa waiver program and help make domestic terror cells operational.
Having said that, what should we be doing about that? Congress just passed the 9/11 bill which does a lot of the right things. And we don't have time to go into it.
But the other thing we should be doing, Wolf, is bringing this program, this terrorism surveillance program that you discussed in earlier segments and that will be discussed in Congress this week, fully under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It should not be used as a wedge issue to slam Democrats in Congress.
Democrats seriously understand that we have to listen to foreign communications abroad. We understand that some of those go through U.S. networks and we have to find a way for the FISA court to review that, approve that. But individual Americans need individual warrants before we review their communications.
BLITZER: Do you understand, Roy Blunt, why the TSA would cite four specific examples of potential elements of a dry run and try to alert everyone to this fear out there, even though they knew that these four examples, apparently, were all innocent and had absolutely nothing to do with terrorists?
BLUNT: No, I don't. And I don't think that's good policy to pursue. I do think there's -- as Jane just said, I think there's plenty to be worried about. She is a former ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. I get those intelligence briefings as one of the leaders in the Congress. That intelligence estimate, I believe to be accurate. It verifies the kinds of things I've been hearing for the last several months now.
And there's plenty to be worried about. I think that any time you put out anything that turns out to be less than absolutely on target, you just create, in fact, a false sense of security that somehow Americans are -- we're trying to scare Americans and they shouldn't be worried, and Americans should be worried.
This FISA issue, this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance issue, is a big issue. It's one that the Congress needs to solve before we leave this week. We need to be listening to what our enemies are saying where we can interrupt and disrupt that.
In 1978, the technology was a lot different than it is now. I don't think it's that difficult to catch up with where we need to be. But we can't afford to continue to have foot-dragging on this issue and let this go through the entire month of August without being solved.
BLITZER: You want to respond, Jane Harman?
HARMAN: Yes. I was agreeing up to the foot-dragging piece. Numerous hearings have been held in this Congress by the Intelligence Committees -- I surely know in the last Congress when I was ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee,
I was appalled to read a Wall Street Journal editorial on Friday discussing this, which said the mistake the administration has made was that "as a gesture of compromise" -- their words -- "they're bringing the program under FISA. FISA was passed in 1978 on a bipartisan basis.
BLITZER: Hold on. I just want to tell your viewers, FISA is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was passed in the late 1970s to make sure there were no abuses...
BLITZER: ... of government eavesdropping.
HARMAN: To correct the abuses of the Nixon administration. And it is the exclusive way to eavesdrop on Americans in America. The core principle is individualized warrants. And as Roy just said, there is a way forward.
If we decide not to use this as a wedge issue to slam each other, I don't think that's going to impress Americans if we do that and if we're attacked in August. I do think Congress should be acting on this.
BLITZER: Congressman Blunt, I'm going to play a clip for you from Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD, D-WIS.: The attorney general, in my view has at least lied to Congress and may have committed perjury. I think, perhaps, a crime has been committed by the attorney general on this matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. What do you think, Congressman?
BLUNT: You know, I think -- I heard the earlier segment with Charlie Rangel and Chris Shays. And I agreed with Chris Shays' view that we're so often now leaping into hyper-speed on these issues. We immediately go to the worst possible motivation.
We're not going to find out the things we need to find out if people are constantly threatened with perjury and criminal implications of what they say at a hearing.
I know the topic he was talking about, and I frankly know enough about it to know that between what the FBI director said and the attorney general said, there is very likely an interpretation where both are saying exactly the right thing in a very narrow way. And, suddenly, we start talking about perjury.
This is not congressional oversight. We're into congressional inquisition now. And it's not how the process should work.
BLITZER: But hold on, Jane Harman, because I want to get Congressman Blunt to respond to you. Congressman Shays, a Republican from Connecticut, also said he's lost confidence in Alberto Gonzales.
BLUNT: Well, in recent days, there hasn't been a lot to build confidence in the attorney general. But the president has confidence in him. That's what really matters. I know him. He's a decent guy. He's someone who has taken on a heavy responsibility. And I wish him well.
But, ultimately, it's up to the president to decide who the attorney general should be. And the president shouldn't be beat into that decision by all these hyperbolic charges of whatever anybody can think of.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, do you agree with Senator Russ Feingold, that perjury may have been committed by the attorney general?
HARMAN: I hope that Alberto Gonzales is poring over his sworn testimony from last week and offering some corrections as he was requested to do by the Senate Judiciary Committee. I was a member of the so-called gang of eight. I was in that meeting. I didn't know it was an emergency meeting in 2005. And I know only one program was at issue. It was a classified meeting and a classified program. But I think some suggestion that there were separate programs or that maybe somehow, in retrospect, after legal changes were made Congress doesn't know what they are, because we haven't seen the underlying legal documents. But, nonetheless, I think that that's a very slippery slope and the chief law enforcement officer needs to tell the truth.
BLITZER: We're going to have to leave it there. Jane Harman, Roy Blunt, thanks to both of you for coming in to "Late Edition." Thank you very much.
HARMAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: And in just a moment, we're going to tell you what the presidential candidates are up to over the next few days in our "On the Trail" segment.
And tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, here for our North American viewers, you can see it for yourself, this week's CNN/YouTube debate where Democratic presidential candidates faced voters' questions sent in over the Internet. It was a brand-new format. In just a moment, by the way, we'll discuss who handled it well, who didn't necessarily handle it so well with the three of the best political team on television.
Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Let's take a look at where some of the U.S. presidential candidates will be spending time over the next few days on the campaign trail.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich will meet in Washington, D.C. Monday with the largest government employees' union.
Congressman Tom Tancredo is holding a series of town hall meetings across Iowa today and tomorrow.
Former cabinet Secretary Tommy Thompson is also in Iowa today and tomorrow, having campaign breakfasts, lunches and dinners. He's eating a lot of food.
Senator Barack Obama will hold a fund-raiser in Elko, Nevada on Monday, making him the second Democratic presidential candidate to campaign in this Republican stronghold over the past 50 years.
And, finally, on Monday, one of the leading noncandidates at least yet -- so far, former Senator Fred Thompson scheduled to hold what The Hill Newspaper in Washington called "his first big dollar Washington fund-raiser." On the campaign trail with some of the presidential candidates.
Coming down in Washington, our track team of political pros are primed and ready to run through this week's political ups and downs. Lots of developments. Stick around. "Late Edition" will be right back.
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OBAMA: The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous.
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CLINTON: I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. Because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes.
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BLITZER: The two top Democratic presidential front-runners clearly disagreeing on a sensitive diplomatic issue. Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York.
Joining us now to talk about how this disagreement grew into the first all-out campaign squabble of the Democratic race for the White House -- you can bet it won't be the last, by the way -- are three of the best political team on television. Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. And Amy Walter. She's editor in chief of The Hotline and a CNN political contributor. Thanks to all of you for coming in.
Bill Schneider, it got ugly, and it got ugly quickly, and it stayed like that for virtually the entire week after the CNN/YouTube debate. What happened?
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: What happened was, each of the two candidates involved in this dispute saw political advantage going on here. So they wanted to keep it alive. And they're still keeping it alive. Now their surrogates are arguing with each other.
I think each saw a weakness in his or her opponent and moved like a prizefighter, you know, to punch at the opponent's weakness. In Obama's case, he wanted to portray Hillary Clinton as cautious, calculating, too tied to the status quo, too ready to compromise. And in Clinton's case, she wanted to portray her opponent as inexperienced, which is to her and to many observers his most important weakness.
BLITZER: And Ed Henry, listen to Senator Obama, the choice of his words Thursday in New Hampshire. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I'm happy to look them in the eye and say what needs to be said. I'm happy to tell them what I think. I'm not going to avoid them. I'm not going to hide behind a bunch of rhetoric. I don't want to a continuation of Bush-Cheney. I don't want "Bush-Cheney lite."
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BLITZER: All right, Ed. Bush-Cheney lite, a reference to what he suggested was Hillary Clinton's policy in refusing to meet with some of these dictators during that first year of a Clinton administration.
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that's really where we saw the gloves come off. He's clearly trying to say that this sort of cautious approach aimed at a general election strategy, not at the primary, by Hillary Clinton, is going to backfire in the end because you're going to have a muddle, and you're not really going to have sharp differences from the way the Republican administration has operated.
I thought Hillary Clinton's retort to CNN's John King later that day, I believe it was, instructive because she said something like, whatever happened to the politics of hope. She was going for the jugular there, which is that basically Barack Obama in a way has had a free pass. He's given these flowery speeches. But he hasn't gone down in the mud, and he' starting to do that. And can he survive?
He's never been tested quite like this. Whereas Hillary Clinton, it goes without saying, she's been through these partisan wars before.
BLITZER: Here's the clip of Senator Clinton speaking with our John King after that "Clinton-Cheney lite" statement from Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: This is getting kind of silly. You know, I've been called a lot of things in my life, but I've never been called George Bush or Dick Cheney, certainly. You know, you have to ask, what's ever happened to the politics of hope?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Amy, whatever happened to -- I guess, whatever happened to the politics of hope? Because at least among the two Democratic front-runners, it's getting nasty.
AMY WALTER, THE HOTLINE: Well, you know, Ed brought up the very good point, which is, if you're the Clinton campaign now, what you recognize is, you've been to the World Series before, and you're playing against a team that's never even made it past the first round of the playoffs. And that's what they're hoping is that this is when you get into this high-stake game, that it's the Obama campaign that's going to make an error. That it's Obama himself, who's never been tested at this level, who is going to say or do something that could put his campaign in jeopardy. And where Hillary Clinton is going is hoping to put Barack Obama into the box he did create for himself. He's been saying from the very beginning, I'm a different kind of candidate, I'm running a different kind of campaign. But the reality is, when you're not in first place, you can't run a front-runner style campaign. And (inaudible) do that.
HENRY: It would be interesting, too, to see whether some of the second-tier candidates will try to take advantage of it. John Edwards immediately in the last couple of days has said, look, these two at the top are slugging out the same old negative campaigns. I want to talk about health care and these other things.
That's his sound bite of the day. But can someone like Edwards, Richardson benefit from this slugfest and say, wait a second, there's a third way here.
BLITZER: And I'll play the clip from what John Edwards said on Friday, he clearly trying to take advantage of this fight between Obama and Clinton. Listen to Edwards.
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JOHN EDWARDS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you're looking for what's wrong in Washington, why the system is broken, why the system doesn't work, one perfect example is what's been happening over the course of the last few days. We've had two good people, Democratic candidates for president, who have spent their time attacking each other instead of attacking the problems that this country is facing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, what do you think, Bill Schneider, about that approach from John Edwards?
SCHNEIDER: Well, you missed the punchline, because right after that, the audience started laughing, and Edwards turned to them and said, I got your attention with that, didn't I? Well, you know, what happened is interesting. There was a poll in the Iowa caucuses, the only poll done since the debate, in which both Obama and Clinton lost some support.
What candidate took advantage of it? Who gained points? Mostly, it was undecided. Which means that voters don't really like all this bickering and slugfest. They want someone that they can feel confident in, and one of the lower-placed candidates could take advantage of it. But no one has yet.
BLITZER: Well, in the latest ABC News/Washington Post national poll among registered Democrats and those leaning Democrat, Hillary Clinton gets 39 percent, Senator Obama 28 percent, Al Gore, who's not even running, 14 percent, Edwards at 9 and everybody else way, way down.
But, Amy, you know, you look at all these national polls, but then you've got to look a little closer at the polls in Iowa, in Nevada, in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, the early states where these contests are going to be going on. And you get -- sometimes you get some pretty different results. Edwards doing significantly better, for example, in Iowa.
WALTER: Right. Well, that's, obviously, John Edwards succeeded in the last campaign in 2004 because he was able to take advantage of the fact that he was out of the line of fire while candidates like Gephardt and Dean were beating each other up. He stayed out of the way, and actually was able to start this campaign with a tremendous amount of good will.
But, you know, good will gets you only so far in campaigns. What you need to do is show a contrast. And I think what we're seeing in these national polls and even at some of the state-level polls is that Barack Obama has essentially been stalled out.
Now, you know, if you look at Hillary Clinton's numbers, too, she has not grown either. But she's the one in first, he's in second. He has to do something to shake this up. And the question is, is this the start of it? Is this where he wants to put his marker down and begin, or is this just one little scuffle and is hoping if he survives it, then it shows his supporters that he's willing to go and do what he needs to do to get above her.
BLITZER: All right. I want to have our political panel stand by. We want to talk about the Republican presidential field in just a moment. Lots going on over there as well.
Also, the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was the talk of the town this morning on the other Sunday morning talk shows. Find out who says he should stay and who says it's time for him to go. That's coming up in our "In Case You Missed It" segment.
Much more "Late Edition" right after this.
BLITZER: More with out political panel in a moment, but 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 all the shows, the talk was of embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
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NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: Both the president and the country are better served if the attorney general is seen as a figure of probity and a figure of integrity and a figure of competence. And, sadly, the current attorney general is not seen as any of those things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN G. HATCH, R-UTAH: Alberto Gonzales is not going to retire. He's not going to resign. I have a lot of respect for the man. He's willing to hang in there. I think he has done a lot of good things down there even though, yes, he has been used as a punching bag by the Democrats and, I might add, some Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK J. LEAHY, D-VT.: The irony is, though, the Department of Justice, which is supposed to be very impartial, is supposed to be impartial law enforcement, is being shredded by his activities. And if you lose confidence in law enforcement, it hurts everybody all the way down to the cop on the beat.
Frankly, at this point, the president ought to take a long look at this and ask, does he want to go down in history with this attorney general as part of his historical record?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. We'll continue with our political panel right after this.
The talk involving the Republican presidential field -- what about Giuliani and Romney and McCain? What's going on? Much more "Late Edition" right after this.
BLITZER: We're back. We're talking about some of the hot political topics with members of the best political team on television: CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry; CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider; and the editor of The Hotline, Amy Walter, a CNN political contributor.
Let's talk about the Republican presidential field, leading with the front-runner, Rudy Giuliani. Here is a clip of what he said in California this week.
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FORMER MAYOR RUDOLPH W. GIULIANI, R-NEW YORK CITY: The Democrats have -- at least many of them have -- opposed the extension of the Patriot Act. They've opposed electronic surveillance. They've opposed interrogation techniques that are legal but aggressive.
Now they are opposing reasonable protection for people that might report terrorist acts and they will not talk about Islamic terrorism during their debates. So why is that? I believe they do not adequately see the threat of Islamic terrorism.
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BLITZER: Amy, this is the issue that he comes back to day after day after day. It's a major issue for Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination.
WALTER: Absolutely. I mean, the more that the Republicans are able to -- and especially somebody like Rudy Giuliani, who has made his mark on September 11, of course -- to take the debate off of Iraq, take the focus off of that and put it back on terrorism, or even just generally, I think, Republicans continue to have a slight advantage, certainly not as big as it was a few years back, but take it away from the president as much as possible.
That's where they hope to make the race in 2008 much more about candidate A versus candidate B, Democrat versus Republican, as opposed to the George Bush legacy versus change.
BLITZER: And the more he talks about the threat from terrorists, the less, presumably, he has to talk about some of the other sensitive social issues like abortion rights, gay rights or gun control that may not necessarily be all that appealing, at least his stance as far as the conservative base of the Republican Party.
Here is ABC News/Washington Post poll, Bill Schneider. Giuliani is, among registered Republicans and those leading Republicans, way ahead -- 34 percent; McCain down at 16 percent; Fred Thompson, not officially running, at 14; Romney, 8; Everybody else down with single digits. Giuliani has been atop these nationwide polls among registered Republicans for a long time.
SCHNEIDER: Yes, he has. And the reason is a lot of Republicans who may not agree with him on social issues like gun control and abortion rights do see him as the guy that has the right scenario for them to win in 2008.
What they see is someone who can re-run the 2004 election, that it would be an election about the war on terror. Giuliani always portrays Democrats as putting the country back on the defensive, just as you saw in that clip. If you elect the Democrats, we'll be on the defensive. They think he can do what Bush did in 2004.
Notice also that Romney in that poll was down in single digits. But you know what? In Iowa and New Hampshire, Romney is leading in those two states, where he's had a very strong campaign.
HENRY: But this is a tricky balancing act, Wolf, for Rudy Giuliani. I mean the Rove playbook that Bill's laying out from the 2004 campaign, very much in question as to whether that's going to work again.
And while Rudy Giuliani is trying to carefully say he's essentially on the same page with the president on domestic surveillance and detaining terrorists and whatnot, but that he's not actually going to do the same policies and do it the same way President Bush has, very delicate balancing act. Because, you know, when you look at the president's standing in the polls right now, for Rudy Giuliani to go down that road, he certainly runs the risk of looking as the candidate who's too close to President Bush.
BLITZER: Amy, listen to Newt Gingrich. He was on "Fox News Sunday" earlier today, basically suggesting that John McCain is toast. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I think the Republicans have three major choices in Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. I think any of the three will be...
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": And not John McCain?
GINGRICH: I think Senator McCain has taken a position so deeply at odds with his party's base that I don't see how he can get the nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Amy. What do you think about new Newt Gingrich's comment?
WALTER: Yeah. You know, look, I think he does make a good point, which is that we get sometimes so caught up in the tactics of these nomination fights that we forget that the substance of it, that this is the real question. And the bottom line for John McCain was always going to be the fact that among conservatives, no matter what he did, they were still going to be very wary of him.
I think his greatest asset was going to be that he was going to be the strongest candidate in the general election, to basically say to wary conservatives, I know you don't agree with me on some of these issues, but I'm the person who can beat Hillary Clinton in November. Well, now you have somebody else who can say that. That's obviously somebody like Rudy Giuliani who's making that claim. And more importantly, in the general election, because of Senator McCain's link to Washington, obviously, his support for the war, that makes him not as an attractive candidate.
SCHNEIDER: And, Wolf, if I can point out that, you know, I said the Republicans want to rerun 2004. What they don't want to do is rerun 2006. That's what the Democrats want. If they nominate John McCain, it will be 2006 all over again because his issue is the Iraq war, which he's an ardent defender of.
Giuliani, interestingly, doesn't talk a great deal about the Iraq war. He talks about the Islamic threat.
HENRY: Newt Gingrich, though, also has an axe to grind here, because he's hoping he can eventually, maybe in the fall, get into the top tier here. So it's in his interest to say John McCain is not even part of the equation anymore, because he wants to sow more indecision out there, which is already there.
Undecided, as Bill has pointed out over and over, is essentially winning this race on the Republican side. But it's in Newt Gingrich's interest to sow even more doubt about the front-runner.
BLITZER: Let's show you some of the more recent polls in some of the key states. In Iowa, four Republicans, Romney leads with 23 percent. Bill was talking about that earlier. Fred Thompson 14, Giuliani 13, McCain 10.
In New Hampshire, Romney leads 34 percent, 20 percent to Giuliani, Fred Thompson 13, McCain, 12. In South Carolina, on the other hand, Giuliani has 28 percent, McCain 20, Fred Thompson 17. And look at Romney. He's down with only 4 percent in South Carolina.
A lot of this, Bill, depends on the money that's being spent right now on commercials, on advertising. Romney's spending a lot, I take it, in New Hampshire, which is right next door to Massachusetts, where he served as governor, as well as in Iowa.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. Romney is spending a lot in those states with some focused advertising. And as you can see, he's moving up there. If he were to win Iowa and New Hampshire, then Romney would face a very critical test in South Carolina. And the test would be this: Are evangelical Christians comfortable voting for someone of the Mormon faith?
That's going to be a big test for him. It's the same kind of test John Kennedy faced way back in 1960, when he ran in the West Virginia primary against Hubert Humphrey, beat him there and showed that a Catholic candidate could get votes from non-Catholics.
BLITZER: All right. We're almost out of time. But Ed Henry's our White House correspondent. He's also got some news to report. Give us the headline of what you're picking up from your sources over at the White House.
HENRY: Well, it's interesting, Wolf. For months, we've heard the president talking about how he wants a broad reform of the domestic surveillance program. That's been in the news the last week because of Alberto Gonzales, of course.
But what we hear is that on Friday night Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, sent a letter to the Congressional leadership saying they no longer want to worry about this broad reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Instead, the White House is pushing for a handful of quick reforms. He's saying they will later get back to the broad reforms. But before Congress leaves, they want a handful of quick reforms. He says, Mike McConnell does, urgent action is needed.
That's hinting at this summer threat we've all heard about, a potential terror attack on U.S. soil. The bottom-line question will be, is this a real threat, and do they need these real changes in the short term or will Democrats raise changes about whether the terror card is being played so that the White House can push through some quick changes in the next few weeks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry doing some good reporting for us, as he always does. Guys, thanks very much. Amy Walter, Bill Schneider and Ed Henry, three of the best political team on television. And if you'd like a recap of today's program, you can get highlights on our new and improved "Late Edition" podcast. Simply go to cnn.com/podcast. And coming up at the top of the hour for our North American viewers, "This Week at War" with host Tom Foreman. Here's a preview.
TOM FOREMAN, HOST, "THIS WEEK AT WAR": Thanks, Wolf. On today's show, we're going to try to answer some tough questions. When are U.S. troops really going to leave Iraq? Do the countries surrounding Iraq -- Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia -- really want the U.S. effort there to fail?
And is Pakistan a strong ally or a nation with a pretty scary combination of nuclear weapons and ties to Al Qaida? Some reality checks coming up on "This Week at War."
BLITZER: Let's take a look at what's on the cover of this week's major newsmagazines in the United States. Time magazine explores "The Myth about Boys." Newsweek looks at the "Slaughter in the Jungle," which is about gorillas facing the threat of extinction. U.S. News and World Report covers how to make money "The Buffett Way." That, of course, is a reference to the multibillionaire Warren Buffet. Don't we all wish we knew his secrets?
That is your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, July 29. 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 also 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 New York.
For our international viewers, stand by for world news. For those of you in North America, "This Week at War" with Tom Foreman starts right now. Tom.
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