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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer
Interview With Seymour Hersh; Interview With Hoshyar Zebari
Aired September 30, 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 Washington, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6 p.m. in Baghdad. Whenever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
As the rhetoric between the United States and Iran ratchets up over Iran's nuclear ambitions and its involvement in Iraq, so do the questions about whether a U.S.-led military confrontation between the two countries is inevitable. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has an article in new issue of The New Yorker magazine. It's entitled "Shifting Targets: The Administration's Plans for Iran."
Seymour Hersh is here in our studio. Sy, thanks very much for coming in.
SEYMOUR HERSH, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE: Sure.
BLITZER: I want get to the article in a second. But I want to show the viewers the cover of The New Yorker magazine, and we'll put it up on the screen. You can see it right there.
I guess it's fair to say it's Ahmadinejad with, what, a Senator Larry Craig kind of pose in a men's room, tapping toes. What was the theory behind this cover going after Ahmadinejad like this right now?
HERSH: You're asking me about a New Yorker cover? You might as well ask me about a Rembrandt. The only thing I can say is, I don't think Ahmadinejad's going to be coming back to New York very soon. It was a rough trip.
BLITZER: It was a rough trip. And I guess in part that cover is motivated by his statement, there are no gay people, there are no homosexuals in Iran, a statement that was obviously ridiculed around the world.
HERSH: Yes. That's a fair guess.
BLITZER: All right. let's talk a little about your article entitled "Shifting Targets: The Administration's Plan for Iran." I want to play for you a clip of what the president, President Bush, said back on August 28th in Reno, Nevada. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased in the past few months, despite pledges by Iran to help stabilize the security situation in Iraq.
I will take actions necessary to protect our troops. I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You cite that among many other statements as, what, escalating the rhetoric coming out of Washington right now. What's going on?
HERSH: Well, they've changed their rhetoric, really. The name of the game used to be, they're a nuclear threat. Iran is going to have a bomb soon. We have to do it.
Sort of the same game we had before the war in Iraq. And what's happened is in the last few months, they've come to the realization that they're not selling it. It isn't working. The American people aren't worried about Iran as a nuclear threat, certainly as they were about Iraq. There's some skepticism. So they switched, really.
BLITZER: Is it just a public relations tactic or, as the administration maintains, there is evidence, they say, of extensive Iranian involvement in fueling this sectarian violence in Iraq.
HERSH: Absolutely, as far as their concerned, the Iranians are deeply involved in the killing of Americans and coalition British Forces. And it's also fair to say it's not -- we don't know whether Iran is really trying to get a bomb or not.
But the fact is, there's no evidence. And the White House has come to terms finally with the idea that it's the American community's pretty much total consensus that they're five years at least away. They're not getting any...
BLITZER: From getting a nuclear bomb.
HERSH: Absolutely. They're going nowhere with their research, despite the braggadocio. So the White House has shifted.
Instead of trying to sell it, not only to the American people but to its allies, the notion of a massive bombing against the infrastructure, what they call counterproliferation against the infrastructure of the Iraqi bomb, hitting the various facilities we know that exist, instead they're now decided they're going to hit the Iranians, payback for hitting us.
They're going to hit the Revolutionary Guard headquarters and facilities. They're going to tone down the bombing. They're going to shift it. It's going to be more surgical. It's going to be much more limited.
BLITZER: Airstrikes. Let me read to you from your article: "During a secure video conference that took place early this summer, the president told Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, that he was thinking of hitting Iranian targets across the border and that the British were on board. Bush ended by instructing Crocker to tell Iran to stop interfering in Iraq or it would face American retribution."
And you see that as a change in the U.S. strategy?
HERSH: Well, the strategy is, it's a targeting change. We're threatening Iran. We've been doing it constantly. But instead of saying to the American people, instead of saying internally it's going to be about nuclear weapons, it's now going to be about getting the guys that are killing our boys.
We're going to hit the border facilities, the facilities inside Iraq we think are training terrorists. We're going to hit the facilities we think are supplying some of the explosive devices into Iraq. This is the administration's position.
BLITZER: And this would be air power, what you're saying, cruise missiles or surgical airstrikes, is that what you're saying?
HERSH: Of course. A lot of cruise missiles, a lot of surgical airstrikes. You also have to go on the ground because you've got to suppress their anti-air defenses. You've got to make sure you, as somebody said to me, a path in, a path out.
And one of the problems with all of this, of course, is that inside the intelligence community, the notion that Iran is doing as much as the president says is not accepted. I mean, there's a great debate about how deeply involved Iran really is.
BLITZER: In what's going on in Iraq?
BLITZER: Let me read again from the article. This is what you write: "I was repeatedly cautioned in interviews that the president has yet to issue the 'execute order' that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued. But there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning."
I want you to explain what you mean. What does that mean, an increase in the tempo?
HERSH: Well, publicly, they've castigated the Revolutionary Guards. The language is increasing, just as you heard the president say to the -- last August in the clip you showed.
On the inside, the CIA has really been ramping up very hard. There's something called the Iranian Operations Group. We had the same kind of a group for the Iraqi war. Before the war in Iraq, we had an operations group. It's suddenly exploding in manpower. And they've been going around, just dragging a dozen people here, a dozen there. They built it up into a large, large operational group.
I'm told also, I didn't write this in the article, I'm told that the National Security Council inside the White House is focused much more on attacking Iran and what's going on in Iran than it has been before. There's been a significant increase on the inside. BLITZER: On the so-called military option. Here's what the White House press secretary Dana Perino told us: "The president believes this issue can be solved diplomatically. And the administration is working with the international community through the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, to bring diplomatic measures to bear on Iran to put an end to its enrichment and reprocessing activities."
HERSH: At the same time, as I write in this article, they've been pitching this new idea of hitting the Revolutionary Guards, more limited, more surgical, more carefully drawn up, planned attack. And where, for example, the Brits, who were very hostile to the idea of a thousand points of lights, bombing, all the heavy air force coming and bombing the nuclear facilities, it takes a lot of bombs. Many of them are underground.
The Brits are interested in this idea. There's been expressions of interest from Australia, other countries. The Israelis, of course, have gone bananas. They're very upset about the idea of not going.
If you're going into Iran, the Israeli position is very firm. They want us to go. And they want us to hit hard. You do not, as somebody, an Israeli, told me, if you run into a lion, you either shoot it or ignore it. You don't pluck out its eyebrows.
Going in and taking out the Revolutionary Guards and not taking out the nuclear facilities for the Israelis is a non-starter. But that's the plan. The plan is to be more surgical, more careful and they're getting some of their allies on board.
BLITZER: And here's what also you write. You say, "Now the emphasis is on surgical strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which the administration claims have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism."
And there's obviously different kinds of military moves you deal with fighting terrorism as opposed to proliferation, nuclear weapons, for example.
HERSH: Absolutely. And you can also sell counterterror. It's more logical. You can say to people, the American people, we're only hitting those people that we think are trying to hit our boys and the coalition forces. And so that seems to be more sensible.
Because the White House thinks they can actually pitch this, this would actually work. In other words, you can do a bombing and not have the world scream at us and also get the British on board.
BLITZER: Let me also read this line: "A Pentagon consultant on counterterrorism told me that if the bombing campaign took place, it would be accompanied by a series of what he called 'short, sharp incursions' by American Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training sites. He said, quote, 'Cheney is devoted to this, no question.'" So it wouldn't just be airstrikes. You're saying there would be limited ground strikes as well, involving U.S. Special Operations Forces?
HERSH: We've got Special Operation Forces on the border right now, championing to go in there. They're in Waziristan too. They want to go into go look for bin Laden. We've got a lot of very competent, aggressive Special Forces guys that want to go in. And it's going to be touch and go. I think -- I don't know what's going to happen.
If we do go in, you're going to have to go in on the ground, not only to get the camps with the Special Forces, the Iranians have a lot of antiaircraft missiles along the coast that are dug in. And you probably get to them from air, so you might have to send Marines in to go blow them up one by one. You don't want these guys shooting down your airplanes.
BLITZER: Now, you've been writing about this possibility of a U.S. military strike on Iran for some time.
HERSH: A year-and-a-half.
BLITZER: It hasn't happened yet but you're convinced before the president leaves office it might happen?
HERSH: Oh, well, there's no -- that's easy. I don't know. What I do know -- what I do know -- is he wants to do something. He will not leave Iran in a position to be a nuclear power, in a position to be the threat.
And the other point that's made in the article, one of the other points is, the White House understands that the world perceives Iran as the winner of the American sort of colossal failure we've had in Iraq. I mean, the screw-up in Iraq has put Iran in enormous power because the Shiites in the south of Iraq are very close to their needs.
BLITZER: And one new element in all of this -- you mentioned the British on board, the Australians -- but France, the new government of President Sarkozy, the new foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who was here last week on "Late Edition," they're sounding a lot different than their predecessors, President Chirac and Dominique de Villepin.
HERSH: Absolutely. They're very tough. The French really believe the Iranians are very close to a bomb, and they see that as an issue. But it's also interesting because my friends who -- there are people -- the French also are communicating they are not in favor of a strike.
So the more -- they're the loudest on the outside. They're making a lot of noise about we must do something politically. They're putting a lot of pressure on the Iranians. I think the French would very much like to see the Iranians get serious.
But they're not serious in talks at this point, from our point of view, because until they agree to give up developing enriched uranium, as far as we're concerned, we're not going to deal with them.
BLITZER: "Target Iran: Why the Administration is Redefining its Case Against Tehran." Seymour Hersh is the reporter writing in the new issue of the New Yorker Magazine. Sy, thanks for coming in.
HERSH: Glad to be here.
BLITZER: And coming up, the exiled former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. She'll tell us why death threats, she says, will not keep her from returning home.
Also, coming up right now, the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari. He's standing by live in New York. Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. At this week's gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, insisted a national reconciliation in his country is taking place but unrelenting violence still threatens to break any fragile alliances that may be taking shape.
Joining us now from New York is Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.
Foreign Minister, welcome back to "Late Edition." Welcome back to the United States.
HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQ'S FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you, Wolf. It's always a pleasure speaking to you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Minister. Let's talk a little bit about what we just heard from Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker Magazine, that he senses the U.S. ratcheting up the pressure, now going to this issue of Iranian involvement in Iraq, Iranians, in effect, killing American, British soldiers, Iraqi soldiers and that could set the stage for a military confrontation between the U.S. and Iran. I wonder if you would want to comment on that.
ZEBARI: Well, Seymour Hersh articles have always been very informative but provocative, in fact, and not always has been right in predicting or assessing. I can confirm that from where we are, there is a rising tension between the Security Council and Iran over the nuclear fire.
And our advice has been to the Iranians, as recently as a few days ago, that really you need to these statements very seriously and deal credibly and transparently with the international community and to learn from the mistakes of Saddam Hussein in the past, you see, in dealing with the weapons of mass destruction.
But I personally believe there is a great deal of tension. We, as Iraqis, are worried about this rising tension. And we are doing our best to decrease that because that will impact our security situation more positively. BLITZER: But is there evidence, Minister, that the Iranians are sending over sophisticated weapons, improvised explosive devices, other weapons and training that, in effect, results in the prolonging of this war and the killing of American soldiers?
ZEBARI: Well, on the one hand, Iran has a very clear policy in supporting the government politically and supporting the political process and majority rule government. This government friendly to them.
On the other hand, really we see evidence that there has been intervention by Iran and by others as well, maybe not directly against the government, but to bloody Americans or make lives more difficult there.
And this is what we have been telling them. I mean, this is the wrong policy. If you think that by doing this you can keep the prospects of a confrontation away, this can only provoke the Americans more and more.
So really we have been very honest in speaking with them and trying to encourage them to deal constructively with the government, with the security, to stop this intervention.
And we are planning a major meeting in Istanbul in early November for Iraq's neighbor, plus the P5 and the G8, and we will -- going to confront all of our neighbors with evidence, with facts that this is what Iraq requires from you to stop meddling, to support the government in good faith.
BLITZER: And Iran will participate in that conference?
ZEBARI: I believe so. I had assurances from the foreign minister recently that they would be there.
BLITZER: General Petraeus, David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, is quoted in The Los Angeles Times today as saying this -- I'm going to read it to you, Minister: "The president of Iran" -- that would be Ahmadinejad -- "pledged to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a recent meeting that he would stop the flow of weapons, the training, the funding and the directing of these militia extremists that have been such a huge problem really for Iraq."
Did Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki get such a commitment from the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
ZEBARI: Well, the Iranians always have been supportive, I mean, in their words and statements. And I attended many of these meetings. In fact, they went as far as if you feel that Iran should talk to the United States, its archenemy, that it could benefit the Iraqi people, we'll do it for your sake.
I mean, they have made these statements in my presence. But, in fact, the Iranian leaders have been saying that they are not interfering, they are supporting, but the evidence on the ground -- this is what is worrying and bothering. I mean, the support for certain militias or certain interventions, and that's why we tried to establish a subcommittee between the United States, Iran and Iraq to deal with this issue of the flow of weapons, of EFPs technologies, of infiltrators. This is what we are trying to work, but the process, because it's the beginning, really we don't have the high expectations...
BLITZER: I just want to make -- minister, I just want to be clear. What you're saying is the Iranians may say the right things but their deeds don't necessarily follow their words.
ZEBARI: Well, this is, in fact, this is the problem. From us, many of this evidence has been investigated by the multinational force by the Americans. In many cases, the Iraqi authorities have not been in the loop.
But I suspect really -- I mean, from the evidence we have that there has been intervention. Not only by Iran, by other countries as well. And this is a fact. And that's why we are going to Istanbul with clear minds, with a clear set of needs to confront our neighbors and to put them on the international spotlight to live up to their commitment and to match their words with their actions.
BLITZER: There was a resolution that Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Jon Kyl got through the U.S. Senate this week. It was passed 76-22. Among other things it said this: "It is the sense of the Senate that the United States should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization."
Would you support that kind of language?
ZEBARI: Well, this has been a rising pressure on that. Here's one thing, Wolf, you need to remember, that the Revolutionary Guards constitutionally is part of the Iranian political system and regime. So it's not a force that is acting outside the constitution. But it is very effective. It's running many of the operations of even foreign policies in certain areas. And they are the most effective executive body in Iran. As for the Senate resolution, really here, I think there has been calls to characterize the guards, and this, in my view, will only lead to rising tension again.
BLITZER: I want to move on and talk about what's happening in Iraq right now. But I want to wrap up on Iran. Recently, we've seen on many occasions, we see pictures of the prime minister, Nouri al- Maliki and the Iranian president not only shaking hands, but affectionately -- they seem to be very close allies.
And this perplexes a lot of Americans because, as you know, the U.S. Is deeply concerned about Iran. It's seen as a major international sponsor of terrorism, reportedly working on a nuclear weapon. And they're confused, given all the U.S. support and blood and treasure for Iraq, why Iraq is now so close to Iran?
ZEBARI: Well, Wolf, Iran -- our destiny is to live with Iran. It's our largest neighbor. There has been longstanding relationship, religiously, culturally, socially between the Iraqis and the Iranians for many years. And Iraq and Iran need each other.
We're going to live there, you know, for the rest of our lives as two countries. This is difficult to explain to the American public. On the one hand, to be friends to the United States and on the other hand to be friends to Iran. And these things actually are understandable in the culture of the Middle East.
Maybe in the American culture it's difficult to explain it to you. But that is the reality. And I remember General Casey, before leaving his mission in Iraq, I said, General, what did you learn in Iraq? He mentioned this point, that now I understand how you Iraqis could be friends to us and at the same time friends to the Iranian.
And that is the reality of that part of the world.
BLITZER: Let's talk about what's happening in Iraq right now. Another Senate resolution passed this week, the so-called Joe Biden resolution, 75-23.
Among other things, it caulk called for what's being described as a soft partition of Iraq into a Kurdish area in the north, a Shiite area in the south, a Sunni area in the west. I won't read the exact language of the resolution. But what do you think of that idea? Because a lot of experts suggest, you know what, that effectively has already happened.
ZEBARI: Well, let me explain. This has created a great deal of confusion and a great deal of criticism from Iraqis, from Arab countries, from Iran. In fact, my understanding -- my reading of the Senate resolution is not calling for dividing the country as such into three mini states as such.
I think the resolution is in line with what the constitution, the Iraqi constitution, has called for to establish a federal democratic Iraq in the future. But the problem with the Senate resolution, I mean, it's up to the Iraqis to choose and decide how many regions or federal regions they would have instead of confining only to three or to divide the country along ethnic and sectarian lines.
I mean, the problem with this, I think that you have some mixed areas and cities, how can you draw the line? So I support federalism completely. I mean, that's what I have voted and 10 million Iraqi have voted to establish a federal regime.
But at the same time, really nobody -- no Iraqi is for dividing their country. Or to splitting it into three weak states, unable to survive. But I think there has been a great deal of misunderstanding of the good intentions of the Senate leaders of many honorable Americans who want to find a way out of this problem.
I mean, the idea is if the Iraqis are unable to co-exist or live together, well, let's try to keep each of them in their parts and have a federal government to be in control of certain foreign policy, defense, finance, and the rest they should deal with their own affairs. But I believe this is one of the solutions of the problem. It's created a backlash, but it needs to be explained more. BLITZER: Hoshyar Zebari is the foreign minister of Iraq. Foreign Minister, as always, good to have you on "Late Edition." thanks for coming in.
ZEBARI: Good speaking to you, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you. And coming up, I'll speak with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ask why Democrats in Congress are still failing to change the Iraq war policy even though they're now in the majority and have been for nine months.
Also coming up, a look at where the presidential candidates will be in the next few days on the campaign trail. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
BLITZER: Let's take a look and see where some of the U.S. presidential candidates will be spending time over the next few days. Hillary Clinton is in Oakland, California, to host what her campaign calls a big block party this afternoon. Mitt Romney heads to Missouri tomorrow for some fund-raising in the Show-Me State.
Joe Biden will be in South Carolina tomorrow addressing a gathering of the state's York County Democrats. John McCain is in New Hampshire today, making the rounds at town hall meetings and house parties. Bill Richardson travels to Nevada Tuesday for a meet and greet. Fred Thompson is in Iowa tomorrow for the start of a three-day bus tour. On the campaign trail with some of the presidential candidates.
Up next, I'll press the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, on why Democrats can't change U.S. policy on Iraq. "Late Edition" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up in our next hour, escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Will they end in a military clash? Two key members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, they're standing by to weigh in live.
But right now, when Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as the first-ever female speaker of the House of Representatives back in January, she hoped to not only be making history but also helping to end the war in Iraq. Change in war policy has not occurred, and Congress's job approval ratings right now are extremely low. I spoke with the speaker this week in her office on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the war in Iraq. When you became speaker, you said, "Bringing the war to an end is my highest priority as speaker."
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER: It is.
BLITZER: You've been speaker now for nine months.
BLITZER: The war, if anything, is not only continuing, but it's expanding. There's more troops now in Iraq than there were when you became the speaker. What are you going to do about that?
PELOSI: Well, we did, when we took office, we took the majority here. We changed the debate on the war. We put a bill on the president's desk that said that we wanted the redeployment of troops out of Iraq to begin in a timely fashion and to end within a year. The president vetoed that bill.
He got quite a response to that veto, and the Republicans in the Senate then decided he was never going to get a bill on his desk again. So we have a barrier and it's important for the American people to know that while I can bring a bill to the floor in the House, it cannot be brought up in the Senate unless there's a 60 vote, now 60 votes.
BLITZER: But you could in the House of Representatives use your power of the purse, the money, to stop funding the war if you really wanted to.
PELOSI: I wish the speaker had all the power you just describe. I certainly could do that. That doesn't bar the minority from bringing up a funding resolution. They have their parliamentary prerogative as well.
So what we have done is to send bills that limit the mission, to limit the time there, to redeploy the troops. And last week, I believe, was a turning point in the congressional debate on Iraq. I think we changed it going in by putting a bill on the president's desk.
Since May until now, we haven't been able to put something on the president's desk.
BLITZER: Because of the Senate. That's what you're saying.
PELOSI: Because of the Senate. The 60 votes.
But last week we were really optimistic that the Senate would at least support the readiness of our troops. The Webb resolution, Webb amendment to the defense bill was a resolution that said the guidelines of the Defense Department, the same amount of time in war, you have the same amount of time at home to regroup, to retrain, to recover, to be with your family.
BLITZER: It didn't have enough votes.
PELOSI: When they rejected that -- it had enough votes to pass and in a bipartisan...
BLITZER: But not to beat a filibuster.
PELOSI: But it did not have enough votes to be heard, to be heard so that a majority, a bipartisan majority of the Senate could have sent this to the president's desk. We have been trying to reach out, as the American people want us to do, in a bipartisan way, to build a bipartisan consensus to redeploy the troops out of Iraq safely and soon.
BLITZER: You know your base is really frustrated. Really angry...
PELOSI: I'm frustrated myself.
BLITZER: ... that this war continues. And they say you should be doing more, and that's reflected in what former Senator John Edwards, the Democratic presidential candidate, repeatedly says.
He says this. He says, "Congress must stand up to President Bush and pass a funding bill with a timetable for withdrawal. If the president vetoes that bill, Congress must send it back again and again, as many times as it takes for the president to finally get the message that he can't defy the American people."
Why didn't you do that?
PELOSI: I completely concur. But I just said to you we did that, we sent it to the president, he vetoed it. Any further attempts to do that have been met by the 60-vote barrier in the United States Senate.
Now, I'll be the last person to give you a civics lesson about what that means. But what it does mean is that the Republicans in the Senate have now taken ownership of the war in Iraq. It was President Bush's war. And now it is the Republicans' in Congress war.
And that marks a big turning point for us because we had hoped to have bipartisanship in redeploying the troops out of Iraq, to do so in a timely fashion. Now we have a loss of life that continues, a loss of readiness to our military, which harms our ability to protect America wherever our interests are threatened. We have lost money...
BLITZER: So, are you telling your angry base out there in the Democratic Party that wants to see this war over with, wants to see the U.S. troops home, that you, as speaker, there's nothing you can do, you have to just throw your hands up and say...
PELOSI: No. I didn't say that at all.
BLITZER: ... given the legislative problems in the Senate and the president's stubborn refusal to back down, that there's nothing that you can do?
PELOSI: How could you have ever gotten that impression?
BLITZER: All right, well, tell us... PELOSI: What I have said, for those who pay attention, is that we will hold this administration accountable time and time again for the conduct of this war in Iraq. I have to discuss how we went in on a false premise. That's well-known to the American people. What we do have to do is to show them every step of the way how the president is taking us farther down a path in which it is going to be harder to redeploy out of Iraq, and so whether it is...
BLITZER: But holding the president accountable, I just want you to explain, what does that mean? Besides just complaining and holding hearings? Specifically, is there anything else you can do?
PELOSI: Well, holding hearings and the oversight that we have on the corruption in contracting in Iraq, the hearings that we're holding and the harm to the readiness of our troops that the president is causing with his obstinance in this war in Iraq.
The retired generals tell us about if we want to talk about stability in the region -- and that's what we're talking abut here. How do we bring -- how do we have a vision of stability in the region?
Democrats are saying our vision for stability in the region begins with the redeployment of troops out of Iraq, and the generals say you cannot have stability in the region until you deploy the troops out of Iraq.
And the generals say you cannot have stability in the region until you redeploy the troops out of Iraq.
So what we're saying is now, with what happened in the past two weeks with General Petraeus' presentation and what happened on the Webb resolution in the Senate, that the Republicans are committed to a 10-year war in Iraq with the highest level of troop presence there, with permanent bases.
The Democrats are proposing a redeployment out of Iraq, a greatly diminished mission there, out of the civil war, protect our diplomats and protect our troops who are there, fight the Al Qaida.
And if we have to train the troops -- if we have to continue to train the Iraqi security forces, we can do -- it doesn't have to be in country and it doesn't have to be all-American. That can be done out of country.
So we're talking about a greatly diminished force there and a redeployment that's safe and responsible within the next year. The president is talking about 10 years and then after that, a Korea-like presence in perpetuity. That's the choice.
BLITZER: And I just want to be precise. Impeachment -- that whole notion which some of the base clearly would like -- that's off the table.
PELOSI: I've always said that impeachment is off the table. This is President Bush's war. It's Vice President Cheney's war and now it's become the war of the Republicans in Congress. We didn't come into Congress to divide the country. We tried to bring the country, in a bipartisan way, around an approach that would end the war in Iraq and recognize the cost in lives to our troops, which is the biggest price to pay; the cost in our reputation in the world to get anything done, to alleviate poverty, eradicate disease or to end global warming or to maintain alliances for peace in the world. Our reputation, loss in lives, loss in reputation.
BLITZER: The anger, the frustration, you feel it every day. The poll numbers -- since the Democrats became the majority in the Senate and the House, congressional approval has gone down since the Republicans were the majority. And now the job approval for Congress is even lower than the job approval for the president of the United States. How do you explain that?
PELOSI: Well, what I like to focus on is the fact that we're 20 points ahead of the Republicans in almost every category that you can name in terms of trust of the American people and dealing with education and health care, the economy, our national security, even fighting terrorism we're ahead of them in the polls.
So from the standpoint of Democrats versus Republicans, the American people know the difference.
BLITZER: Because in the Gallup poll, the last one, about 24 percent -- only 24 percent -- of the American public thinks Congress is doing a good job.
PELOSI: Well, to tell you the truth, I don't approve of the way Congress is ending the war in Iraq myself. And that's because of the 60 vote barrier in the United States Senate.
But don't mistake, expert that you are, your audience should not mistake the rating for Congress as the rating for the Democrats. We're as high as we've ever been. We're at 53 percent to 30 something for the Republicans in terms of favorability of a political party in the Congress.
So turning this big ship around, we've drained the swamp with the biggest ethical reform in the history of our country and it claimed so by the reform groups.
We introduced fiscal soundness, pay as you go, no new deficit spending. And in doing so, we are able to do what we said on the first day to pass 9/11 Commission recommendations, reduce the cost of higher education with the biggest proposal...
BLITZER: But there's still plenty of what they call pork barrel spending, the earmarks, the pet projects, the hundreds of millions -- if not billions of dollars -- that go for certain projects that may not necessarily be all that useful, but a lawmaker wants them, a lobby wants them, and this is a reason why there's a lot of Americans who are losing faith with the Congress.
PELOSI: Well, but they will see in this legislation, and as I travel the country, as I travel all the time, I see articles there that are recognizing -- even articles outside the country that are recognizing that under the Democrats these earmarks have been cut in half and made transparent.
BLITZER: The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, speaking with me earlier.
Coming up next, her life has been threatened but Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, is returning home anyway.
Much more "Late Edition" right after this.
BLITZER: Coming up in our next hour, the crisis involving global warming. The former vice president of the United States, Al Gore, speaking out. That interview coming up.
But right now, Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is preparing to return home after a long exile. She'll be going back to a country with serious political tensions and is expected to challenge the president, Pervez Musharraf.
I spoke with her earlier this week.
BLITZER: And joining us now, the former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto.
Prime Minister, thanks very much for coming in.
BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PRIME MINISTER, PAKISTAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: You're going back to Pakistan, even though you know you're wanted there on corruption charges, among other things. When, first of all, will you go back to Pakistan?
BHUTTO: I'm leaving on the 17th of October and arriving on the 18th of October. It's 21 days to my departure and I can't wait to get back home.
BLITZER: What makes you think you'll be received any differently than another former prime minister who went back and was quickly kicked out, Nawaz Sharif?
BHUTTO: I'm in a different boat than Mr. Nawaz Sharif. He was sentenced for treason and tax evasion. I haven't been sentenced for any crime. And, secondly, Mr. Nawaz Sharif got the Saudis to stand guarantee for his release and said he wouldn't return for 10 years. I was offered the same deal but I refused. And my husband stayed behind bars without a conviction for eight years. So we're in two different boats. There are no guarantees...
BLITZER: Do you have assurances from President Musharraf that you will be allowed to stay in Pakistan?
BHUTTO: Well, General Musharraf has not given this assurance but I know I can't be handed over to any Kurd countries. So the choice is either to let me be free or the choice is to try and lock me up.
BLITZER: And so when you get back to Pakistan, what's your game plan? You want to run for office?
BHUTTO: Yes, I want to go back and bring change. People want democracy. There's a critical path in Pakistan's future, one fork between dictatorship and democracy, and another between moderation -- the issues of moderation and extremism. People want change, they want democracy. I think that we can undermine extremism through democratic means.
BLITZER: You're a relatively young woman. How scared are you, though, because as you know, Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, they've attacked you in the past, and they clearly would like to go after you now?
BHUTTO: Yes, of course, they would like to go against me. There's a lot of threats because, under military dictatorship, an anarchic situation has develop which the terrorists and Osama have exploited.
They don't want democracy. They don't want me back.
BLITZER: They don't want a woman to be the prime minister of Pakistan, either.
BHUTTO: And they don't believe in women governing nations. So they will try to plot against me, but these are risks that must be taken. I'm prepared to take them.
BLITZER: Your family has a history, unfortunately, a tragic history, of assassinations.
BHUTTO: I know the past has been tragic. But I'm an optimist by nature. I put my faith in the people of Pakistan. I put my faith in God. I feel that what I'm doing is for a good cause, for a right cause, to save Pakistan from extremists and militants, and to build regional security. I know the dangers are there, but I'm prepared to take those risks.
BLITZER: Your father was killed in a political assassination.
BHUTTO: My father was killed. It was a very terrible moment in my life. But I also learned from him that one has to stand up for the principles they believe in. And I'm standing up for the principle of democracy, I'm standing up for moderation and I'm standing up for hope for all the people in Pakistan who today are poor and miserable and really quite desperate.
BLITZER: Can you forge an alliance, an alliance of convenience, with President Musharraf, that will allow the two of you to work together for the benefit of Pakistan? BHUTTO: I have been trying to reach an understanding with General Musharraf to bring about a transition to democracy. And I was quite hopeful a few weeks ago, but now I'm getting a little worried because time is running out. And unless General Musharraf can take concrete steps to show that we're moving forward, moving away from dictatorship, towards democracy, it might be very difficult for us to reach an understanding.
BLITZER: What can you say about all the reports, widespread reports, that the two of you met secretly?
BHUTTO: Well, there were these widespread reports we met secretly. And whenever we've had an opportunity to meet, we've had a good rapport, a good exchange of ideas, but there are people around him who don't want this understanding, who don't want him to make the political concessions that are necessary to facilitate the path towards democracy.
I had asked him to take some steps for fair elections. Those remain unimplemented. There were certain other commitments. So now I worry, I worry that time is running out, and there's pressure on my party to join the other political parties and resign from parliament unless an accommodation is reached with General Musharraf.
BLITZER: So, I just want to be precise. Are you now confirming you did have these meetings in recent weeks and months with President Musharraf?
BHUTTO: Well, we were supposed to keep it secret but it's kind of an open secret now.
BLITZER: So you can confirm that for us?
BHUTTO: You're not letting me off the hook, but sort of.
BLITZER: I will take that as a confirmation. Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst, he ran the bin Laden unit at the CIA. We spoke with him earlier today. He said you've been targeted in the past, including by Ramzi Yousef, who was the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and you will be targeted again.
I just want to get back to this point. You've got to be very worried. What kind of security will you have when you go back there?
BHUTTO: Well, I have raised the issue of my security with General Musharraf, and I've asked him to provide me the security I'm entitled to as a former prime minister. I hope that he will provide me the security, because I have been a target of terrorists in the past. And I know I could be a target in the future.
BLITZER: Who are you more afraid of, the Al Qaida, Taliban elements who hate you or elements in the Pakistani military?
BHUTTO: I'm not afraid of either the Al Qaida or the Taliban elements or the Pakistani military, but I think at the end of the day, the people who try and plot will use Al Qaida, will use Taliban, because Taliban and Al Qaida are the groups that will suffer the most major reverses if my party and I are return to power. We fought them in the past because we want a stable Pakistan, a prosperous Pakistan, and we can't get any stability with militancy and extremists.
BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, speaking with me earlier.
Still ahead, his compromise over Iraq even possible in today's bitterly divided Congress? We'll talk about that and more with two key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. They're standing by live. Stay with "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Two key members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee right after this.
BLITZER: This is the second hour of "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
A defiant Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In our opinion, the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is the country headed for a military clash with the United States? Insight from two key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee: Republican Kit Bond, and Democrat Ron Wyden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: The United States has the greatest capacity to provide leadership and to help organize a global response to this crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Former Vice President Al Gore on what the U.S. should be doing about climate change.
The president and Congress clash on children's health insurance while the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates face off in yet another debate. We'll assess the fall out from three of the best political team on television. The second hour of "Late Edition" starts right now.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer. BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll speak live to two key U.S. senators about the situation in Iraq and Iran. That's coming up in a moment. First though, the crackdown on pro-democracy forces in Myanmar, the country also known as Burma. There are new diplomatic overtures right now being made.
Let's go to CNN"s John Vause. He's following this critically important story from Bangkok, Thailand. John, what's the latest?
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the U.N. Special Envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, met with the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, for about an hour today. Now, we don't know exactly what was said, but the here fact that this meeting happened is being seen as a small but significant and positive development on the diplomatic front.
Earlier, Gambari met with the acting prime minister in the Myanmar capital, and Gambari says he is still hoping to meet with the ruling military general, Than Shwe, before he leaves the country.
Now, regardless of if he gets to meet with Than Shwe, we know that Gambari has now delivered the world's message to this military regime and that is they must show restraint and it is now time to start talking to those pro-democracy groups.
That message may now carry a little bit more weight after a statement from the Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, calling on the Myanmar government to resolve this conflict peacefully. Now, China has more influence than any other country over this military regime.
As for the situation inside the country today, sources tell CNN there is an incredibly high security presence on the streets of Yangon, and also, there are no civilians out. There are only soldiers and police on the streets.
Another source has told CNN that a number of key monasteries appear to be deserted, and that's prompting fears that many of those Buddhist monks who were leading this protests in its early days may now have all been rounded up and are under arrest, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. John, thanks very much. John Vause reporting from neighboring Thailand.
Let's discuss what's happening in Myanmar and elsewhere, Iran and Iraq. I'm joined by two key members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, he's joining us from Portland. And with me in Washington, the committee vice chairman, the Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri.
Senator Bond, let me start with you. A lot of us who have watched what's happening in Myanmar, this country also known as Burma, it reminds a lot of us of what happened at Tiananmen Square, when peaceful demonstrators went up against a regime back in 1989. Is there a similarity to what we're seeing now in Myanmar as opposed to what we saw then? SEN. KIT BOND (R), MISSOURI: I think this one is worse, Wolf. This regime that took over when Aung San Suu Kyi was elected, she was deposed by the military...
BLITZER: She was the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
BOND: She's a Nobel Peace Prizer. She represents the aspiration of the Burmese or the residents of Myanmar, and she was thrown out and then Shwe, the general, is repressive, murderous. They killed -- the first couple of days, they killed 10 protesters.
The monks are highly respected and the monks have been leading these protests, which puts additional pressure on them. But as we saw in that brief report, the countries in the region, primarily China, but the ASEAN neighbors such as Thailand and Malaysia, Singapore, need to put pressure on them.
BLITZER: They could be doing a lot more.
Ron Wyden, let me let you in weigh in on -- well, I assume, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, you're watching this because there are enormous ramifications for U.S. policy in that part of world.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: There's no question about that, Wolf. And these are just flagrant human rights violations. And I share Kit Bond's view on this. And I think this is one where the administration is really trying to do the right thing. They are zeroing in on the human rights abuses.
And I think the big challenge, of course, is China is the patron in this area. We've got to get the Chinese more involved. And, once again, you can follow the oil money. This is another issue where it looks like some of the Chinese oil interests have been propping up the junta.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about a potential crisis between the United States and Iran. In the last hour, Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker Magazine was on. He's got a new article in that magazine suggesting that a military confrontation might be in the near-term between the U.S. and Iran.
Among other things, Senator Bond, he said this. I'll play a little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERSH: Instead of saying internally it's going to be about nuclear weapons, it's now going to be about getting the guys that are killing our boys. We're going to hit the border facilities. We're going to hit the facilities we think are supplying some of the explosive devices into Iraq. This is administration's position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think? Is the U.S. close to a military confrontation with Iran?
BOND: I don't believe so, and if I knew what our war contingency plans were, I certainly wouldn't share them. I really am concerned when media outlets and commentators talk about what the United States is going to do, because if we lay out what is -- what we're going to do, if that is accurate, then that puts our troops at risk. That significantly increases the risk, just as the exposure of some our intelligence methods in the last couple of years has done.
BLITZER: There was a resolution that came up this week, Senator Wyden -- Senator Joe Lieberman, Senator Jon Kyl co-sponsored it, among others -- declaring a sense of the Senate that the Iran Revolutionary Guard was really a terrorist organization. You voted against that, why?
WYDEN: Because I don't think everybody in the military there is aligned with Ahmadinejad. And Kit Bond and I have talked about this. I think we ought to be supporting the reformers in Iran. And very often the military people, because they're so familiar with combat, are some of the people who are most interested in better relations with the United States.
But the fact of the matter is, Ahmadinejad is up to no good. We understand that, we know explosives are coming in from Iran into Iraq, but I think we are already entangled in two wars. And it seems to me, the administration wants to get us into a third, they ought to come to the Congress and ask for direct authorization.
And I can tell you, based on my conversations with colleagues, I don't think there's a majority of support in the United States Senate for authorizing a war with Iran.
BLITZER: You want to respond to that, Senator Bond?
BOND: I agree with most of what he said, except I was a strong supporter of the Lieberman-Kyl...
BLITZER: You voted for it.
BOND: Yes, I think that's...
BLITZER: Even though some are suggesting, the critics, saying, you know, you can't give this president the authorization to even think about going to war, given the way the war with Iraq unfolded.
BOND: Well, 77 of us voted for the Iraq war resolution. They were successful.
BLITZER: Seventy-six voted for this resolution, 76-22.
BOND: Yes, OK, but this doesn't authorize war. But this does authorize sanctions on the Quds Force, and the Quds Force is the militia. That's the elite militia, the special forces that are making weapons.
BLITZER: Do you believe they are taking steps to kill Americans in Iraq?
BOND: I get that from all kinds of sources, including some of our men and women on the ground. Yes. And they're bringing in the EFPs, the explosively formed projectiles, they are shipping large amounts of weapons, and we've captured Quds Force officials in Iraq.
BLITZER: Let me ask Senator Wyden.
BOND: But I agree with Ron that there's a very large, well-read, well-informed moderate base in Iran and we need to work with them. Certainly, we're not going to be declaring war on Iran.
BLITZER: Do you believe, Senator Wyden, that Iranians, in effect, are killing Americans in Iraq?
WYDEN: There is no question in my mind. Kit and I have sat in some open hearings as well, that explosives are coming from Iran into Iraq. I was with a courageous young man yesterday at a football game, lost his leg as a result of one of these explosive devices. We never talked politics.
If the Iranians are up to no good, what we need to do is target those military people in Iran with very tough financial sanctions and then, of course, in November, we're going to have a big vote at the U.N. And we've got to get the Russians and the Chinese and the Germans to go with us and tougher sanctions against Iran.
BLITZER: Here's what the Iranian president, Senator Bond, told the United Nations this week. Listen to this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And I officially announce that in our opinion, the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed and has turned into an ordinary agency matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency. What do you think? How far away do you believe the Iranians are from actually having a nuclear bomb?
BOND: First, I'd say if it wasn't so serious, Ahmadinejad would be a great performer on a late-night dark comedy hour, because what he said was so wrong. Number one, we don't know for sure what their plans are. We know they have a very active nuclear program.
We're watching that. We're concerned about that. And as Ron said, once again, we need China to join with us to help put the pressure...
BLITZER: You need Russia too.
BOND: China and Russia. And China, we need their help in North Korea. This is one of the challenges. BLITZER: But Seymour Hersh in his article said the consensus in the intelligence community was, they might be five years away from a bomb. Is that what you're hearing?
BOND: Many different people have different views. I'm not going to say what I -- we've heard in the intelligence community. They're viewing it with a great deal of concern, and we don't know precisely what their plans are.
BLITZER: What about that, Senator Wyden, how concerned are you?
WYDEN: Very. The fact of the matter is, they clearly are trying to enrich uranium. They're working on thousands of centrifuges.
The point is, we have got to find a way to marginalize Ahmadinejad. He's having all kinds of problems there, losing elections, people are rioting over oil prices, we're seeing tremendous concern about the economy there. We've got to find a way to build alliances with the reformers, the people who share our values, who want better relations, and to marginal Ahmadinejad, who of course said preposterous things this week when he was in the United States.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to change gears and speak about Iraq and what's going on there. We'll take a quick break. Much more of our conversation coming up.
Later, has the Bush administration had a change of heart on global warming? I'll ask the former vice president, Al Gore. "Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Once again, my two guests are here. They're both key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Kit Bond of Missouri and Ron Wyden, Democrat, of Oregon.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Bond, who has been a strong supporter of the war, as you know, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, tells the new issue of Time magazine this: "If they can't pull it together in the next 90 days, I don't think they are ever going to do it. If they don't deliver in 90 days, I will openly say the chances for political reconciliation are remote."
He's reflecting his frustration with the Iraqi government that they haven't met the political goals that the president and you, the Congress, have asked them to achieve. Is he right that the next 90 days it's make or break for the U.S.-led war in Iraq?
BOND: No. I think we're very concerned about the lack of political progress. This is a democracy. Al-Maliki has a very difficult hand to play. We have to have security and relative peace and security in the nation.
That's in our national security interest because if it falls apart, there's not only chaos among Shia and Sunni, with the likelihood of a region-wide civil war, but Al Qaida will have a safe haven to increase its attacks. And that was the unanimous consensus in open session of the intelligence community.
BLITZER: Let me ask Senator Wyden, what about what Lindsey Graham is saying, the next 90 days are decisive, if the Iraqis can't get their political act together, it's for the U.S. effectively over?
WYDEN: Lindsey's finally acknowledging the inevitable. They are not making progress with respect to political reconciliation, and we better get some new policies that promote it.
For example, I believe it's time to establish a moratorium on American oil companies setting up side deals with these regional governments. We've seen the Hunt Oil Company, Dallas, Texas, Ray Hunt on the president's foreign intelligence advisory board, they go off and make a side deal. It encourages...
BLITZER: Let me interrupt you, Senator Wyden.
WYDEN: It undermines the prospect of national reconciliation.
BLITZER: But you voted for the Joe Biden amendment this week, which effectively calls for what's being described as a soft partition of Iraq into three sort of areas, a Shiite, a Sunni and a Kurdish area.
WYDEN: Certainly, it's something you can look at as a matter of last resort. That's what I and a number of senators said. We're willing to look at something nonbinding as a matter of last resort.
But we ought to be doing everything we can to strengthen the hand of a national government. And now we're seeing the side oil deals. The Bush administration said, in fact, on Friday that this deal was not helpful. I think we ought to establish a moratorium on American oil companies establishing these deals.
BLITZER: You say, Senator Bond, things are going in the right direction right now in Iraq. But last week on this program, Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, he said exactly the opposite. Listen to what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, R-NEB.: As a matter of fact, I think it's going backwards. I think we're in such a deep hole there. We are so burdening our military in asking them to do it all, when, in fact, we don't even see any movement toward political accommodation in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You know Senator Hagel. I assume he's a friend of yours.
BOND: He's a good friend. He's just flat wrong. What General Petraeus said, what we have seen when I was in Iraq with other members of the Intelligence Committee in May, what we hear from people coming back from the theater, including my son, it is making a difference that we are -- we have the troops in there, the surge, but most of all, the counterinsurgency strategy where we work with Iraqi security forces.
And to back that up, the most important thing we can do is help to build economic opportunity at the local levels. To have a sound political structure, nationally, I believe we've got to have strong local organizations and build from the ground up. That's how I think you get a federal government, not telling the federal government they need to have a tripartite country. I think that was wrong.
BLITZER: And I want to play for you, Senator Wyden, what the defense secretary, Robert Gates, said on Thursday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT M. GATES: I find some irony in the notion that some of those who have alleged that the views of senior military officers were not taken seriously enough at the beginning of the war, are now prepared to set aside the recommendations and views of senior military officers in the next phase of the war?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Senator Wyden, what do you say to Secretary Gates?
WYDEN: I have great respect for our military and the secretary, but the fact of the matter is, the whole point of the surge was to show a progress in terms of political reconciliation. You look at their -- those benchmarks, we're not getting it done. That's why Lindsey Graham is speaking out in terms of his concerns about political reconciliation.
We have got to find a way. With 3,800 deaths of our soldiers, we're spending $300 million a day in Iraq. We're talking about the children's health program, and Senator Bond has been with us on it, that's going to cost something like $19 million a day.
The Iraq war costs $300 million a day. We've got to show progress in terms of political reconciliation. Our military has done a terrific job. I commend them for it. But we're not getting it done politically and that's what it's going to take.
BLITZER: Why do you disagree with the president on this Children's Health Insurance Program? The vote in the Senate was 69- 30. That's veto-proof as far as the U.S. Senate is concerned. But you agree with Senator Wyden and a lot of Democrats and a lot of Republicans, that this program should be expanded for another 4 million children to be included.
BOND: I need to come back to Ron's point, but I support the SCHIP program, children's health program -- very important in Missouri.
Unfortunately, the administration did not recommend enough funding for it. I have some questions about the funding. I think putting all the funding on tobacco taxes to say we're only going to fund children's health if we get people to increase smoking when the taxes, if anything, will cut out smoking, causes some problems. But we need to have SCHIP.
Now, back to what Ron said, as I made the point, our national security requires us to continue to pacify, to work with the Iraqi troops, the Iraqi security forces. That is working.
Secondarily, in the United States Congress, we still haven't sent to the president an appropriations bill, an authorization bill, and we're telling the Iraqi parliament they must take on bigger questions than we are trying to deal with right now in the same timeframe we can't get it done. I think that's a little bit over the top.
BLITZER: We are completely out of time, but I want both of you to weigh in on one of your colleagues, Larry Craig of Wyoming (sic). Today was supposed to be the day he was going to step down and retire from the U.S. Senate. He's now put that on hold pending adjudication of this effort to get his guilty plea in Minnesota reversed. What do you think he should do, Senator Bond?
BOND: Well, Senator Craig and his family are in our prayers.
BLITZER: You're not going to give him any advice?
BLITZER: What about you, Senator Wyden?
BOND: I'm with Kit on that one. On a personal basis, I just wish Larry well.
BLITZER: All right. We'll leave it there. Senator Wyden, Senator Bond, good of both of you to come in to join us here.
Straight ahead, global warming at the top of the agenda at the United Nations, but is anything getting done? I'll talk about that with the former vice president, Al Gore.
Stay with "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's get to the best of "The Situation Room" right now. Global warming is certainly a hot topic and on Monday it was centerpiece at a summit at the United Nations. I spoke to the former vice president, Al Gore, in New York, and I asked him if he thought the U.N. would really get anything concrete accomplished.
GORE: Wolf, I do. This was the largest gathering of heads of state in history to focus on the climate crisis. And the immediate purpose was to give a mandate to the negotiators that will be meeting in early December in Bali, in Indonesia, to start the negotiating process for a new and tougher treaty to take the place of the Kyoto Treaty.
And I called upon them today to finish that up two years ahead of what's currently planned now, 2012 -- instead to get it completely in place by 2010.
We face a planetary emergency. Just three days ago, as you know, the scientists reported that the melting of the north polar ice cap was 10 times faster than expected. It's fallen off a cliff, in the words of one of these scientific experts. And it really is an emergency.
BLITZER: Well, what about India and China, two of the world's biggest polluters in the past? They've not cooperated. They've not participated in any of these protocols, basically. Do you have any commitment, any idea whether they're going to change their mind right now?
GORE: Well, the best way to get them to is for the United States to provide leadership. Both were represented at this meeting today, and the head of China took the position at the APEC meeting 10 days ago in Australia that he supports the Kyoto Treaty.
And both China and India have talked about the need for every nation, including their own, to be a part of this new treaty. So it will be a negotiating process but, yes, they have to be a part of it.
BLITZER: So what I hear you saying, Mr. Vice President -- correct me if I am wrong -- is that the U.S., the Bush administration, is the big stumbling block right now. Is that right?
GORE: Well, that's long been the case. The United States has the greatest capacity to provide leadership and to help organize a global response to this crisis. But, you know, we do have new leadership in the Congress. And a little more than a year from now, we will have a new president, perhaps, one that is committed to action on the climate crisis.
So whatever is done in the next remaining year or so of the current president's term needs to be seen in that larger context. But I don't rule out the possibility that President Bush and Vice President Cheney might make some small changes in their positions. I would hope so.
BLITZER: Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, was here at the United Nations this week speaking, in part, about global warming. Do you think there's a change of heart on the part of this administration?
GORE: No, I don't think there's a change of heart yet at all. There's a small tweaking of the language and it sometimes conveys the impression that there's a change, but there's been no change in policy as yet.
Nevertheless, the rest of the world is moving and the foundation is being laid here at this meeting today for the negotiations that will begin December. And I'm very optimistic that we will get a new and tougher global agreement.
But the time is running out. We really need to approach it with a great sense of urgency and alarm. We can still solve it, but we don't have that much time.
BLITZER: You're looking ahead to the next U.S. president. Who among the candidates, Democrat and Republican, do you think is most committed to where you stand in terms of the need to deal with global warming?
GORE: Well, let's give them more time. The process still has a long way to go. Several of the candidates on the Democratic side have spoken out forcefully on this issue. None has yet presented a truly comprehensive plan. But I'm optimistic that as the debate continues, they will.
On the Republican side, I haven't heard much about it. John McCain has, in the past, had a very responsible position, but competing for the votes in those primaries, I guess, has led him in another direction.
But I really am optimistic that both political parties will make this one of the core issues, and I'm very optimistic that the next administration will be very different from this one.
BLITZER: I know you're studying all the candidates and their positions on this and other issues. Four years ago, you endorsed Howard Dean. What about the prospect of Al Gore endorsing any of the candidates this time around?
GORE: I don't know if I'll make an endorsement or not. I just don't know.
BLITZER: Because the president, you heard him say this week, that he thinks Hillary Clinton is going to get the Democratic nomination, but then lose to the Republican next -- a year from now, November. What do you think about that prediction by President Bush?
GORE: Well, I think it's too early to make predictions, at least too early for me to make predictions about it.
BLITZER: But you're not ready to jump on the Hillary Clinton bandwagon yet?
GORE: I'm not ready to endorse a candidate or to decide whether I will. But I appreciate your interest in it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The former Vice President Al Gore speaking with me earlier.
Meanwhile this week, the Democratic candidates took some shots at the frontrunner in their debate, while in the week's Republican debate, the frontrunners didn't even show up. It was a big week in politics, and we're going to get into all of it with three of the best political team on television. They're standing by live. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. All this week, CNN is devoting special coverage to the challenges confronted by the Hispanic community and its growing influence in the realms of culture, business and politics -- all part of CNN's "Uncovering America" initiative.
Today, we're going to talk about the emerging Hispanic political power. A crucial swing vote in 2008, Hispanics are a diverse group, and not one that can be taken for granted. To help us analyze this and more, we're joined by three of the best political team on television. Juan Carlos Lopez is the Washington correspondent for our sister network, CNN en Espanol. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. And our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano.
There was a debate, Bill, at Morgan State, a predominantly black university in Baltimore this week. It was on PBS, and -- a Republican debate. But the four leading Republican candidates didn't show up, didn't attend this debate. And it caused some anger among those who organized it. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM JOYNER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Let me take a moment right here and now to say hello to those of you viewing from home -- Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator John McCain, Governor Mitt Romney and Senator Fred Thompson.
TAVIS SMILEY, MODERATOR, PRESIDENTIAL FORUM: Some of the campaigns who declined our invitation to join us tonight have suggested publicly that this audience would be hostile and unrepresentative. Since we're live on PBS right now, I can't tell you what I really think of these kinds of comments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Bill, so what's the strategy? What's their calculus, these four Republican presidential frontrunners for not going to this debate?
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, let me point out that the week before, all but McCain did not show up for another Republican debate sponsored by Univision, one of the largest Spanish language television networks in the United States.
It was very embarrassing. Their calculus -- the question you asked -- their calculus was, they wouldn't gain many votes from these constituencies, black and Hispanic, and that they might get in trouble, because, as the moderator said, they might face a hostile reaction, they could be pinned down on some issues they don't want to be pinned down on.
But it's a very big risk, because they're showing themselves insensitive to an important constituency, and also, not just to black and Hispanic voters, but to a lot of white voters who are going to feel uneasy voting for a party or a candidate who seems unreceptive, not open to American diversity.
BLITZER: And it was clear this debate in Baltimore was designed to address issues of especially great concern to the Hispanic and the African-American community. And two of the Republican presidential candidates who did show up, they were pretty angry as well. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Frankly, I'm embarrassed. I'm embarrassed for our party and I'm embarrassed for those who did not come. Because there's long been a divide in this country, and it doesn't get better when we don't show up.
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, R-KAN.: I apologize for the candidates that aren't here. I think this is a disgrace that they're not here. I think it's a disgrace for our country, I think it's bad for our party, and I don't think it's good for our future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You speak to a lot of Republicans, Elaine. And I know there was anger. Newt Gingrich thought it was a mistake. Jack Kemp, the former secretary, thought it was a mistake, the Republican vice presidential nominee. I assume that people at the White House, who have been reaching out, especially the president, to the Hispanic community in particular, they probably thought it was a mistake as well?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And Bill mentioned the Univision debate, where there were no shows. And you know, the idea of being -- the president has made inroads when it comes to reaching out to the Hispanic vote. We saw this. The immigration debate, though, as we know, exposed the very ugly divide that exists within the GOP. And we saw this in the 2006 elections, that these Hispanic voters that had come out for President Bush, now moving away from the Republican Party.
There's a lot of bitterness that is remaining because of this immigration debate. The president lost, of course, but certainly this was also a missed opportunity for one of the frontrunners to say, hey, look, I care about minority voters. The other frontrunners don't, I'm here. So in that sense, it was a missed political opportunity.
BLITZER: Hispanics, Juan Carlos, represent 15 percent of the American population, 9 percent of eligible voters across the country, 6 percent of actual voters. And in recent years, if you take a look at some numbers that we've compiled, they were moving increasingly toward the Republicans. Back in '96, the vote in the House of Representatives -- 26 percent of the Hispanic vote went for Republicans, went up to 35, then 37, 44 percent in 2004. But last year, down to 30 percent, I think in part because of the immigration issue that came up on the presidential front. Hispanics voted Republican in '96, 21 percent, 35 2000, 44 in 2004. But in our recent poll, CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll, it's going to go -- right now, it's going to go down to about 32 percent from 44 percent. What's going on do you see in the Hispanic community?
JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN EN ESPANOL: It's interesting that the immigration debate is weighing very much on how Hispanics plan to vote, and it's not the issue of immigration -- Hispanics tend to be conservative -- but the tone the debate on immigration has had. People feel that it's not a rejection of illegal immigration. They feel it's a rejection of Hispanics in America. And you see them undecided. They might go 70/30, as the Democrats hope they will, but a lot of Hispanics might punish the Republican Party in the next election because of this tone that people feel is aimed at them.
BLITZER: The Washington Times in an editorial on Tuesday -- it's a conservative newspaper here -- "If the Republican Party hopes to make any gains among minorities, it must stop undervaluing these voting blocks. The snubbings will result in a continued drubbing at the polls, just as we saw in 2006. We're giving this advice free of charge: Stop giving the party a bad name."
What do you see happening, though, let's say after the primaries, before the general election?
I assume the Republican nominee, whoever that is, is going to start reaching out more aggressively to the Hispanic community?
LOPEZ: That's what traditionally happened since President Ronald Reagan. He learned the importance of the Hispanic vote. President Bush Senior did, too. And George W. Bush, with the advice of Karl Rove, went after the Hispanic vote, and he obtained up to 44 percent of it.
So we heard that after the primaries, things will change. Will Hispanics change? That's the question.
BLITZER: What do you think, Bill?
SCHNEIDER: I think as long as this immigration debate is very hot, a lot of Hispanics as Juan Carlos said, see it as not just anti- illegal immigrant but anti-immigrant and even insensitive to Hispanics. One word of warning to Republicans: California.
California, the Republicans led by Pete Wilson sponsored a bill that would cut off public services to illegal immigrants in 1994. The bill passed and helped get Pete Wilson re-elected, but it cost the Republican Party of California dearly, and now California is a solidly Democratic state.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by because we're going to continue this conversation. We're also going to talk about the presidential contest in Iowa, in New Hampshire. We have some brand- new poll numbers we're going to share with you. That's coming up. Our political panel standing by. "Late Edition" will continue right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're back with our political panel and CNN en Espanol correspondent, Juan Carlos Lopez, our White House correspondent Elaine Quijano and our senior political analyst Bill Schneider, who's always crunching numbers for us. Take a look, Bill, at the Newsweek Iowa caucus presidential poll that just came out. It has Obama at 28 percent, Senator Clinton at 24 percent, John Edwards at 22, Bill Richardson down at 10 percent. Obama doing very well in Iowa.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. It's actually more or less or a tie between the top three Democrats, Obama, Clinton and Edwards. Iowa is its own universe. It's like a separate planet. The national figures show Hillary Clinton on top of the field, you know, her lead slowly growing. But in Iowa, it's a different race, with Obama, Edwards and Clinton all in a tie, and Romney is leading the Republicans there.
BLITZER: Well, let me show Elaine these numbers. The likely Republican Iowa caucus vote, among Republicans, Romney is ahead with 24 percent, Fred Thompson at 16, Giuliani 13, Huckabee at 12, McCain down at only 9 percent. Not very encouraging for Senator McCain in Iowa.
QUIJANO: No, not encouraging at all, but keep in mind anything can happen. I mean, it's funny to be in this position now talking about where things stand when, you know, we're not even to November of '07 yet. So, a lot can happen, certainly. We'll wait to see.
BLITZER: But it's only a few months between now and January, when the Iowa caucuses take place. And they could even take place in December. So that's a limited amount of time between now and Iowa and New Hampshire.
Let's talk about New Hampshire, Juan Carlos. In our recent CNN/WMUR New Hampshire presidential primary poll among Democrats, Senator Clinton now has expanded her lead over Senator Obama 43 to 20 percent, Edwards down at 12, everybody else in single digits.
Are you getting a sense that among Democrats, she's moving away from the rest of the field? Certainly in New Hampshire that would seem to be the case.
LOPEZ: Well, that's what seems to be happening. We just have to wait and see, see how she plays it out from here until the primaries, and see what other people like Bill Richardson do. He said he thought he was going to do well there, but we're going to see if they have time to do it and they have the resources.
BLITZER: And he's the only Hispanic presidential candidate. Is he getting a lot of support from the Hispanic community?
LOPEZ: He was telling us he's trying to show people that he is Hispanic. Because a lot of people, with the name Bill Richardson, don't assume that he is. So he is making a bigger effort to get to Hispanic voters, and he's going to need them.
BLITZER: But I assume his Spanish is fluent?
LOPEZ: OH, very. Yes.
BLITZER: So, when you interview him in Spanish, you know, he's not speaking with a heavy accent or anything?
LOPEZ: No, no, no. Not at all.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about New Hampshire on the Republican side, Bill. Romney in July was at 34 percent. It's now down to 25 percent. Giuliani's gone from 20 to 24 percent, McCain has got a slight uptick from 12 to 18 percent. I think he was helped by that last performance at the Republican debate in New Hampshire.
SCHNEIDER: McCain, yeah. And it's getting tight there in New Hampshire as well. Romney has been the front-runner for the last few months, but now it looks like a free-for-all. The Republican race looks like a free-for-all. Nobody knows. No candidate has captured the hearts of conservatives.
Bill Clinton made an interesting observation. You know, Romney is fourth in the national polls. He's first in New Hampshire. Bill Clinton said, if by the end of this year, Romney is still running low in the national polls, if he's not second, he thinks the voters of New Hampshire, Clinton says, are going to start abandoning him.
BLITZER: In a new book with the author Bill Sammon, the president, Elaine, suggested that Hillary Clinton was going to get the Democratic nomination but then lose to the Republican. I guess he's got to say that in order to be a good Republican and the leader of the Republican Party. But what are officials at the White House saying to you?
QUIJANO: Well, when it comes to the Democratic field, you're absolutely right. They're sort of taking the lead of the president, saying, look, Hillary's going to be the candidate.
And there's some discussion as to whether or not that's just strategizing on their part. Is it that they want her to be the candidate because they feel she is such a divisive, polarizing figure that, of course, it would pave the way for Republican victory.
At the same time, when you talk to them privately, they say, look, she actually has made some good moves. She has come to a point where, of course, she's so message-disciplined but also very careful in how she responds so as not to be pinned down just for her answers for the primary but then later on down the road as well.
BLITZER: Well, let me pin you down, Juan Carlos. American Hispanic community, how divided are they, the Democrats, between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson? Where is their support going? What can you see?
LOPEZ: Well, the people that are involved in the party have seen the heavyweights are behind Hillary Clinton, and Bill Richardson is trying to get them as the only Hispanic. But I see the people that I interact with, the sources I deal with, they're all moving to the Clinton camp. So it seems, even her campaign manager is Hispanic, and that's probably going to have an important effect.
BLITZER: Bill, it was only a few days ago, that Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, was saying over the next 30 days, if he could get pledges of $30 million, he'll throw his hat into the presidential ring. But yesterday he announced that's not happening. He's no longer even thinking about running for president. And earlier today he said this. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: What hit me was, it would have been an underdog campaign. I mean, clearly, if you're going to come from behind, I think it would have been a real campaign. I think we would have had a chance to win.
But to give up and kill an organization we spent a year on and that had 2,000 sites around the country where people had now invested their time and effort, just to look at whether or not you could run, I thought would be irresponsible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, so explain to our viewers what happened. All of a sudden one day, he is asking for $30 million in pledges, and the next day he announces he's not running.
SCHNEIDER: Well, apparently, he discovered there's a law involved, McCain-Feingold, which would have prohibited him from continuing to run his political action committee, American Solutions, and at the same time raise money for in pledges for an exploratory committee for president.
Why he only discovered that at the last minute, I don't know. But he discovered that, and he says he wants to stay with his exploratory committee.
He has an interesting message, which he's going to continue to press on the Republican Party. In one word, change. He says the Republicans have to become the party of change, as they were in 1994 when he became speaker. The problem is, there's a Republican president. Does he mean change from the Bush agenda? Yes, he does.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thanks very much. Elaine Quijano, thanks to you as well. Juan Carlos Lopez, good to have you here on "Late Edition."
Up next, highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States, our "In Case You Missed It" segment coming up.
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. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 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, former President Bill Clinton discussed what his role would be, should Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, his wife, win the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PRESIDENT WILLIAM J. CLINTON: You know, the Scotts say I should be first laddy, but I don't know. I'm more interested in what I would be called upon to do. I think it would be a mistake for Hillary to give me a line policy making job. I think I should be available to help her with specific foreign problems that she said and maybe to help promote the domestic agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On ABC, the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich assessed what Republicans need to do to win the White House in 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: One of the challenges Republicans are going to have this year is that everything -- it's little bit like skiing -- everything -- you lean into the turns, you do things that biologically don't feel right but it's the only way you can stay up.
Similarly, right now, Republicans have to find a way to represent a future that is different than President Bush's administration without getting involved in the fight with President Bush.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: On CBS, governor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson talked about the possibility of U.S. military action against Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, D-N.M.: This would be enormously unwise because it would strengthen the hardliners in Iran, like Ahmadinejad. It would embolden those elements in Iran that want to provoke a war against the United States. It would further inflame the Muslim world. It would be a disastrous event.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And on Fox, Senators Chuck Schumer and Trent Lott weighed in on what would happen if the president carries out his veto against expanding children's health insurance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES E. SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: We do have enough votes already to override the president in the Senate, 51 Democrats, 18 Republicans.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Yes, but not enough... SCHUMER: My guess is we will not have enough to override in the House. Speaker Pelosi has said -- and I agree with this -- that she is going to try and send this issue back to the president over again.
SEN. TRENT LOTT, R-MISS.: That shows it's just totally politics now. The president's going to veto it. It's going to be sustained. We need to sit down and make some changes so that we can actually get broader support and the president can sign it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
Up next, we'll take a close look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.
And coming up at the top of the hour, "This Week At War" with host Tom Foreman. Here's a preview.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A bloody battle for freedom is being waged in Myanmar. Who will win and who is supporting the military rulers there?
Snipers are coming under fire for baiting their targets. Where's the line between tactics and cold-blooded murder?
And can our power grid go down at the click of a mouse? The very real danger of cyberterrorism, all coming up on "This Week At War."
BLITZER: Let's take a look and see what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines here in the United States. Newsweek magazine has "A Mormon's Journey: The Making of Mitt Romney."
U.S. News and World Report looks at "The Education of Hillary Clinton."
Time magazine's cover story is on what they call "The Long, Sad Tale of the V-22 Osprey Airplanes now Headed for Iraq."
And that is your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, September 30th. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for two hours of the last word in Sunday talk.
We're also in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, another hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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.
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