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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer
Interview With Senator Joe Biden; Interview With Richard Armitage
Aired November 11, 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 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 9:00 p.m. in Islamabad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for "Late Edition."
You're looking live at Arlington National Cemetery here in Washington, D.C., where ceremonies honoring America's military veterans are now being held. These ceremonies are being held not only at Arlington, but across this nation.
The vice president, Dick Cheney, is about to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Let's listen in briefly.
President Bush usually lays the wreath at this annual ceremony, but the president today is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. That's also where CNN's White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is.
Suzanne, I guess the obvious question, why isn't the president in Washington at this ceremony?
MALVEAUX: You know, the president is at the Crawford ranch and he has spent the last couple of days hosting a very important ally -- that, of course, German chancellor Angela Merkel -- so the duties fall on the vice president this year.
The president, however, will be going to American Legion 121 in Waco, Texas later today. That is where he's going to be talking with veterans and their families. He's going to be making some brief remarks, obviously focusing on those who have sacrificed in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. Let's take a listen.
BLITZER: The annual ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the wreath laying ceremony. The vice president filling in for the president on this Veterans Day here in the United States.
Suzanne, as we watch this ceremony unfold, the president clearly is deeply concerned about what's going on in Pakistan right now. We got some new word from the president, General Pervez Musharraf, today that he's going to go ahead and hold the elections as scheduled by January, but no word when that state of national emergency is about to be removed. What's the latest statements coming from the White House? And I know you're in Crawford, Texas where the president is spending this weekend.
MALVEAUX: Sure, Wolf. I actually talked to the press secretary, Dana Perino, about that, what the reaction is to Musharraf's latest announcement here. They believe that this is really a very good sign, that this is good news.
Obviously, they are urging and encouraging the state of emergency to be lifted as soon as possible, but at the same time, they feel that they need to pull back a little bit and give Musharraf the kind of breathing space that he needs to make these kinds of decisions, make these proclamations.
I've asked time and time again why is it -- the president just saying yesterday he takes Musharraf at his word -- why is that the case when we have seen -- he issued this declaration counter to what the United States wanted initially. We have seen him break these promises in the past.
And they say that Musharraf, they believe, has the kind of track record that they can count on, that he's been an ally since September 11. They don't think that's going to change. So the president very clearly in very strong words, Wolf, backing Musharraf saying, "This is the guy who can fight Al Qaida. This is the person we need."
At the same time, they are reaching out to the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. The hope from this administration still is that there is a chance, there's an opportunity here for these two leaders to come up with some sort of power sharing arrangement that this administration can back.
BLITZER: Suzanne, stand by. We're going to be getting get back to you here on "Late Edition." Thank you very much.
I want to bring in Democratic Senator Joe Biden right now. He's the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's also a Democratic presidential candidate. He's out on the campaign trail in Iowa joining us today on this Veterans Day.
Let's talk a little bit about General Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, Senator Biden. I know you have strong views on what's going on. I want you to listen to what he said earlier today in a news conference in Pakistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAKISTANI PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I would request the election commission to hold the elections as soon as possible, as fast as possible, which means if you calculate 45 to 60 days from 20th November, we should have the elections before the 9th of January.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right. He says the elections are going to take place before the 9th of January. But there is no word when the state of national emergency is going to be lifted. And a lot of critics are already saying how can you go ahead and campaign, how can you have elections, how can the opposition operate if this state of emergency continues? BIDEN: Well, it can't. He called -- Musharraf called me about six days ago. I had a long conversation with him. And he indicated to me that the elections would go off within this 60- day timeframe, that he would take off his uniform, and that as soon as possible before -- before -- the election date, the state of emergency would be lifted.
Absent in lifting the state of emergency, this will be a sham. And if he does not do that, then I think there is not much hope for there to be the kind of accommodation and power sharing that everybody hopes will occur as a consequence of this election.
BLITZER: The president yesterday -- President Bush, saying he's encouraged to a certain degree about the latest statements coming from General Musharraf, including his own phone conversation with the Pakistani leader. Listen to what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: He knows my position. And he knows the position of the U.S. government. I do want to remind you that he has declared that he'll take off his uniform and he has declared there will be elections, which are positive steps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. He's made those declarations, Senator Biden, in the past as well. What happens if he doesn't honor these commitments this time around? How far should the United States go?
BIDEN: Well, I think a lot will happen. First of all, what will happen in Pakistan is there is a significant majority, as you know, Wolf, that is democratic. They have a democratic history. It's a middle class that's moderate.
And I think what will happen is you will force them underground. And I think it will be the beginning of the seeds of a real serious problem for Pakistan's stability in the next year to two years down the road.
Secondly, you know, one of the reasons why the president says he has confidence in Musharraf is he's fighting terrorism. Quite frankly, Musharraf is using more of his resources to deal with his opponents than he is to go in the northwest province.
Now, Pakistan -- and that's in part -- when I spoke to Musharraf, I asked about whether or not he thought there were enough U.S. forces and NATO forces in Afghanistan. And he said no.
The problem here, Wolf -- you and I have talked about this before -- is we've essentially walked away from Afghanistan in the minds of the Pakistanis. So Musharraf goes and cuts his deal.
So there's got to be three things going on here: one, you've got to demonstrate to Musharraf and Pakistan we're in Afghanistan to stay, we're a partner in dealing with Al Qaida and the rest; two, that we're going to have a Pakistani policy, not just a Musharraf policy; and, three, you got to give some encouragement to the vast middle class there that we're going to have a long-term relationship with them.
BLITZER: Well, the United States has some leverage on President Musharraf, including the billions in dollars in military assistance that have been provided, continue to be provided, since 9/11. One of your Democratic colleagues, Senator Patrick Leahy, says the U.S. has to start thinking about suspending that military assistance. Listen to this.
BLITZER: Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK J. LEAHY, D-VT.: I still think we should move to cut off the aid unless they restore democracy. When you remove the courts, by definition, you do not have a democracy. Unless you have a free judiciary, you don't have a democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Would that be smart to suspend military assistance?
BIDEN: Well, I think we have to look at that. Senator Kerry and I have introduced legislation saying that we should look at eliminating the assistance for the P-3 -- that's an aircraft, a surveillance aircraft -- as well as the fighter jets that are going to be sold there that have nothing do with us fighting terrorism.
And we should take a real hard look. We should condition our aid on the fight against terrorism, on evidence they're actually fighting terrorism and not fighting their own people.
And so my plan is, as chairman of the committee, I'm going to look very closely at whether or not, a, he continues to keep his promise and we actually have elections, actually have a fair election, and actually end up with Benazir Bhutto and he negotiating what the changes in the constitution have to be, as well as whether they're actually engaged in fighting terrorists. Otherwise, it's not a very good bargain for us.
BLITZER: This is the nightmare scenario many U.S. Officials worry about, Pakistan, an Islamic country with a strong Taliban/Al Qaida presence in certain parts of the country. Certainly some sympathy for those elements elsewhere in the country, although as you point out there is a moderate secular majority, if you will...
BIDEN: Right now there is.
BLITZER: ... throughout Pakistan. How worried are you, Senator, about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, the security of those nuclear bombs?
BIDEN: I'm very concerned about it. Not immediately, but over the next year to two years. Look, Wolf, Pakistan is bigger than Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Korea combined.
There's 156 million people. They have 24 to 55 nuclear weapons. They have not only the bomb, the thermonuclear device, they have the missile that can couple with the bomb, and it can fly all the way to the Mediterranean.
I mean, here we're fixating on Iran, and here you have a country that is -- that in fact, if you don't get some accommodation for the vast middle of that country, I worry that over time you end up with a situation like you had with the shah of Iran 30 years ago. The moderates got so frustrated, they joined with the extremists.
What happened? The shah got overthrown and moderates got crushed by extremists. This is not an easy thing. This requires a policy, an overall policy, including an Afghan policy, which affects what's going on in Pakistan.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what's happening in the political campaign season right now. You're running for president of the United States. Rudy Giuliani took a swipe at you. He's the Republican presidential front-runner. I want you to listen to this exchange he had, Senator, with a radio talk show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RADIO HOST: You would say that Senator Biden doesn't have foreign policy experience?
RUDOLPH GIULIANI, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Has he ever been in the State Department? Has he ever been an executive? It's one thing to speak about what you want or even to pass laws about it. It's another thing to actually do it. Foreign-policy experience to me means being an ambassador, being in the State Department, being a law enforcement official, dealing with foreign countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now later, he backed off a little bit from that, but he basically stuck to the line that you really don't have the kind of experience that's worthy of being the commander in chief. You want to respond?
BIDEN: I sure do. I mean, I'll let Rudy's answer stand for itself. He thinks being an ambassador qualifies you to be president, and that's the only way you get foreign-policy experience.
Look, I know most of these world leaders, you know, only because I've been around a long time. I've negotiated with them. I've been involved with them. I understand the circumstances that are out there. I've spent my whole adult life dealing with this. And God love him, he's been mayor of New York City, which is a wonderful honor, and he's probably done a lot of good things. But the idea he understands how Iran impacts on Pakistan and how Pakistan impacts on India, I've seen no evidence of the fact he is able to connect the dots, God love him. But I'm anxious to debate him on these issues.
BLITZER: On the Democratic front, you've sort of been critical of Barack Obama, suggesting he has a lack of experience. He responded to that criticism earlier today. I want you to listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: They don't expect the president to be the next chief operating officer. What they want is somebody who understands the struggles they're going through, is going to be thinking every day about how to make their lives better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is he ready to be president of the United States?
BIDEN: Now, Wolf, you're playing this game again. I never criticized Barack Obama. He didn't say I criticized him.
BLITZER: No, he didn't.
BIDEN: My point is...
BLITZER: I'm not saying he did.
BIDEN: Well, that's what you did say.
BLITZER: But you've suggested in the past that he may not have had the experience.
BIDEN: No, I haven't suggested that at all. What I've suggested is -- let me say it straight. What I suggested is, the American people are looking for someone with the depth and breadth of experience who they can trust to guide them through what they know is going to be a very difficult decade internationally.
And I'm the single-most qualified in either party to do that right now. That's what I'm saying. I'm talking about my experience. And it does matter.
All my colleagues kid and say, Joe would make a great secretary of state. Well, my response is, are you ready to vote for anyone for president who is not smarter than their secretary of state? Who doesn't know more than their secretary of state? That's my generic point.
This is about what's going on in the world as well as at home. And we're in a very, very dangerous place, needing someone with a steady hand who knows an awful lot about the world.
BLITZER: All right, so I just want to be precise, Senator. You're not suggesting -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- you're not suggesting that Senator Obama doesn't have the experience needed. Are you?
BIDEN: What I'm suggesting is, I'm the one with the experience. That's what I'm suggesting.
BLITZER: All right. Well, and he's suggesting, Obama, as you just heard on "Meet the Press," saying he's got some experience as well. All right, Senator, we're going to see you Thursday night in Las Vegas at the Democratic presidential debate.
BIDEN: Now ask me some questions this time, Wolf, OK?
BLITZER: I'll try to ask...
BIDEN: Give me a shot, OK? (LAUGHTER)
BLITZER: I definitely will, Senator. Thanks very much.
BLITZER: Good luck to you on the campaign trail.
BIDEN: Thank you very, very much. I appreciate it.
BLITZER: Thank you. And just ahead, former President Bush -- excuse me. President Bush's former defense -- Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage -- I got it right that time -- has some surprising disagreements with the administration on some key foreign- policy issues. That interview is coming up.
We're also going to talk about troop morale on this Veterans Day here in the United States with two top advisers to U.S. military commanders in Iraq. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: Please join me in prayer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Coming up in our next hour, we're going to get two very different views on U.S. policy on Iraq, Iran, Pakistan.
BLITZER: The former U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke and John Bolton, are standing by to join us live. That's coming up.
But first, in the days immediately after 9/11, Richard Armitage played a key role in the war on terror as former Secretary of State Colin Powell's right-hand man. Although no longer a deputy secretary of state, Armitage still has some very strong and, perhaps, surprising views when it comes to the situation in Pakistan, Iran and the war on terror.
I spoke with Armitage this week.
BLITZER: Secretary Armitage, thanks very much for coming in. Let's talk a little bit about Pakistan, a subject you know quite well. What should the U.S. do right now?
ARMITAGE: I think the U.S. has to continue to urge President Musharraf to not only hold the elections he said he would hold on the 15th of February, but hold him to his promise to get out of uniform.
And indeed, if he is going to have free and fair and transparent elections, he's going to have to lift this emergency decree. But I think this should be done more quietly by the United States and not so publicly.
BLITZER: He's made these promises before. What happens if he doesn't fulfill these promises now?
ARMITAGE: Well, I think in the short run, the most disappointed people will be the people of Pakistan. And I think he can quiet the situation down right now. But the question is, after having lost what appears to be the middle class, the lawyers, et cetera, is whether he can ever regain altitude.
And for us, I think we've still got a war on terror and we're going to have to calibrate our actions quite carefully.
BLITZER: But some are suggesting the U.S. needs to make it clear that military assistance, other forms of assistance to Pakistan are going to end if he doesn't take these kinds of steps.
ARMITAGE: Look, let's approach this carefully and not hyperventilate. I saw a Newsweek story that said this was the most dangerous place in the world. I don't agree with it.
BLITZER: You don't agree.
ARMITAGE: I do not agree with it. If anything, extremism has actually dropped in Pakistan. A recent IRI poll shows that now 74 percent of the people in Pakistan are opposed to this. And that number is up 10 points in just several months.
So I think we ought to take a deep breath and make sure we don't cut our nose off to spite our face. We can have more if there is a need for sanctions. We can have more calibrated and careful sanctions.
BLITZER: Because the fear is -- the nightmare scenario is that you have a Muslim country which has an element that supports the Taliban, supports Al Qaida. There is a moderate, secular element over there, but a lot of those people are now being arrested by President Musharraf.
If the extremists take charge, not only would it be a horrendous situation, but you have a nuclear arsenal that's at stake right now in Pakistan as well.
ARMITAGE: You know as well as I do that that nuclear arsenal is one, dispersed, and second, carefully guarded by the army. Now we have had historically, discussions with the Pakistani army about their -- the safeguarding of those nuclear weapons.
So I think in the short or even medium term, should things turn badly, we are not going to worry about nuclear weapons in the first instance.
BLITZER: You are confident that that arsenal is secure.
ARMITAGE: I am indeed.
BLITZER: But you believe Musharraf is, in fact, a good ally in the war on terror.
ARMITAGE: I believe he is an ally who has been burned quite a bit. He lost 800 soldiers the last time he went into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Is he as good an ally as we would want? No. Could it be worse? Much worse.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about your role right after 9/11 in Pakistan, because you were the number two man at the State Department, Colin Powell's top deputy.
Here is what President Musharraf writes in his book "In the Line of Fire": "In what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage told the Pakistani intelligence director general not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age."
You went to Pakistan right after 9/11 and in effect he says you delivered an ultimatum to the Pakistani government, you are either with us or against us.
ARMITAGE: Well, I -- certainly, those are two different things. I have been in government for a total of 28 years. I longed -- always have longed to be able to say that to somebody. I have not yet been able to say that we are going to bomb you back to the Stone Age, because I have never been authorized. That particular conversation never happened.
BLITZER: How far did you go in the conversation with the intelligence director?
ARMITAGE: I went -- oh, I made it very clear you're either with us or against us, that history began today.
BLITZER: Where there any threats though? ARMITAGE: No. There was -- the implied threat I think was that this is an opportunity for you to get on-side with the United States again. We have been divorced for 10 or 11 years. And if you don't, then we will never be able to get together. But there were no sort of overt threats. I didn't need it. He knows me.
BLITZER: But as a result of that and other developments, the Pakistani government after 9/11 did turn around and start cooperating with the U.S.
ARMITAGE: Very much, sir.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Iran, another hot spot right now. The president, Ahmadinejad said this past week: "We have now reached 3,000 machines. The world must know that this nation will not give up one iota of its nuclear rights. If they think they can get concessions from this nation, they are badly mistaken."
Do you believe that when he is referring to these 3,000 machines, he is referring to the centrifuges that enrich uranium, no turning back the clock? Do you really believe there is a turning back of the clock, that Iran, under this regime, will in fact stop trying to build a bomb?
ARMITAGE: I'm not sure. I think that they do have a right to nuclear power, certainly, but they have got to play by the...
BLITZER: For peaceful purposes.
ARMITAGE: Absolutely. But they have to play by the rules the rest of us play by. And their past history has been such that they are suspect. There are some things developing in Iran. We have seen recently our commanders in Iraq noting that they returned nine Iranians back to Iran that had been captured in Iraq.
The roadside bombings and the explosive projectiles apparently are down. So maybe there is a beginning over there. Certainly diplomatically, Mr. Blitzer, there is a change with Angela Merkel and President Sarkozy. We have got a much more sort of focused European group who is interested on moving sanctions forward to try to pressure Iran into doing the right thing.
BLITZER: So you think that diplomacy has a chance?
ARMITAGE: I think it has a chance. I myself think we also ought to sit down with the Iranians. I'm not particularly frightened at the notion of sitting across the table from these characters. After all...
BLITZER: Well, there are discussions between the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad and the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, but those are relatively low-level, contained. You would want it -- would you want to see, what, the secretary of state, the president, meet with Iranian leaders?
ARMITAGE: I think it would be absurd for the president to meet with Iranian leaders under present circumstances. But the secretary of state and her colleagues certainly should, in my view. There is nothing to be feared in diplomacy. We are not going to get our pockets picked at the table by the Iranians. So let's have a little courage.
BLITZER: Here is what you were quoted as saying in Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial" that came out back in 2004, referring to the war in Iraq: "We are not winning, we are not losing, not winning over a long period of time works for the insurgents."
Based on what you know is happening right now -- and you are no longer in the government, what is your -- does that statement that you made to Bob Woodward still hold?
ARMITAGE: I think it is quite clear now that we are doing much better on the battlefield. But since the governance is not there in Iraq, we are not yet winning. That statement still holds.
BLITZER: Is this winnable?
ARMITAGE: Yes. I think it's winnable. It's certainly, I think, containable. And I think we will have an opportunity to start to lower our troop strength, which would be a good thing all around. And I am among those who thing that lower casualties for the U.S. and for the Iraqis is a sign of a general betterment.
BLITZER: You were involved in a study that's just come out by the Center for Strategic and International Studies here in Washington on what's called "smart power," some recommendations for a new administration, Democratic or Republican, whichever one comes in.
And you write this, among your conclusions: "Since 9/11, the United States has been exporting fear and anger. At the core of the problem is that America has made the war on terror the central component of its global engagement."
Are you suggesting that the war on terror is not the central component of U.S. policy right now?
ARMITAGE: I'm -- oh, there is two different things. I'm suggesting that it perhaps shouldn't be. The fact that we make a war on terror, which I think is a bit of a misnomer -- perhaps it should be a war on extremism, certainly Islamic extremism right now -- is keeping us from focusing on other issues, both domestic and international.
Look, these terrorists want to hurt us. They are a real and growing threat. But absent the availability of WMD to them, they don't pose an existential threat to us. This is not like fascism during the Second World War, or communism.
The threat they pose to us is whether we, in response to their activities, will actually do harm to ourselves by changing our way of life, by suspending writs of habeas corpus, and by engaging in such activities as torture. BLITZER: It's now been well-known that you were the first administration official to tell Robert Novak, the syndicated columnist, about Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as a CIA operative. And that started -- in effect, he wrote a column after that, a whole chain of events, we all know what happened as a result.
I spoke with Valerie Plame Wilson the other day in "The Situation Room." And I want you to listen to what she said...
ARMITAGE: I couldn't hear her.
BLITZER: You will hear it. I want you to listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIE PLAME WILSON, AUTHOR, "FAIR GAME": Mr. Armitage did a very foolish thing. He has been around Washington for decades. He should know better. He's a senior government official. Whether he knew where exactly I worked in the CIA, he had no rights to go talking to a reporter about where I worked. That was strictly off-limits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Those are strong words from Valerie Plame Wilson.
ARMITAGE: They're not words on which I disagree. I think it was extraordinarily foolish of me. There was no ill-intent on my part and I had never seen ever, in 43 years of having a security clearance, a covert operative's name in a memo. The only reason I knew a "Mrs. Wilson," not "Mrs. Plame," worked at the agency was because I saw it in a memo. But I don't disagree with her words to a large measure.
BLITZER: Normally in memos they don't name covert operatives?
ARMITAGE: I have never seen one named.
BLITZER: And so you assumed she was, what, just an analyst over at the CIA?
ARMITAGE: Not only assumed it, that's what the message said, that she was publicly chairing a meeting.
BLITZER: So, when you told Robert Novak that Joe Wilson, the former U.S. ambassador's wife, worked at the CIA, and she was involved somehow in getting him this trip to Africa to look for the enriched uranium, if there were enriched uranium going to Iraq, you simply assumed that she was not a clandestine officer of the CIA.
ARMITAGE: Well, even Mr. Novak has said that he used the word "operative" and misused it. No one ever said "operative." And I not only assumed it, as I say, I've never seen a covered agent's name in a memo. However, that doesn't take away from what Mrs. Plame said, it was foolish, yeah. Sure it was.
BLITZER: So you agree with her on that. ARMITAGE: Yeah. Absolutely.
BLITZER: Richard Armitage, thanks very much for coming in.
Thank you. Good to see you.
BLITZER: And just ahead, it's been the deadliest year yet for the U.S. military in Iraq. But there are some signs of progress. Has the U.S. mission turned a critical corner? We'll talk about it. Two top advisers to the U.S. military commanders in Iraq. "Late Edition" will be right back.
BLITZER: As the United States takes this day to honor its war veterans, there are some encouraging developments in Iraq. U.S. troop deaths last month dropped to its lowest level in nearly two years. Deaths among Iraqi civilians are reportedly down as well.
Joining us now from Camp Victory in Iraq to talk about what's happening on the ground, command Sergeant Major Neil Ciotola, he's an adviser to the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, Lt. General Raymond Odierno, and command Sergeant Major Marvin Hill, he's an adviser to the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus.
First, Sergeants, both of you, thanks very much for joining us and thanks for the important work you're doing especially on this Veterans Day. Let me start with you, Sergeant Major Hill. What's it like right now for the troops in Iraq, about 160,000 or so U.S. troops.
And I know both of you go out all the time and speak to the rank and file, speak to the enlisted men and women. What are they saying to you about their morale?
HILL: Well, Wolf, first of all, thanks for having us. As I circulate the battlefield, generally I find that the morale of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, is generally high. However, it does differ from day to day, from location to location, and from mission to mission.
Units that are having success on the battlefield are generally units that are experiencing high morale. And units that are suffering losses or some setbacks from their mission, their morale dips a bit. But if I was to give it a rating from 1 to 10, I would say the morale is tipping between a high 8 and a 9.
BLITZER: Sergeant Major Ciotola, the problem -- one of the problems has been a 15-month tour of duty. And some of these men and women who serve in Iraq, they're now their second, their third and maybe even fourth tours of duty. How are they doing in terms of withstanding this kind of enormous pressure, being away from their families, their friends for such long extended periods of times, especially during very dangerous periods?
CIOTOLA: Sir, bottom line up front, it's hard. And it is incrementally and infinitely harder than it is if you're only doing 12 months or if you're fortunate to do nine months and so on. And it has a cumulative effect, too, as you went ahead and mentioned, sir.
Most of the troopers that are here on their second, third and in some cases on their fourth deployment, it has a tendency to wear on you to a greater extent at a faster rate. But I'll tell you this, sir, that those units that have been extended here for 15 months, I applaud what their commanders and senior non-commissioned officers have done, because they've implemented what we refer to as a fighter management program, which provides for the maximum extent possible every bit of rest and recovery we possibly can for our troopers before we push them back out in the streets.
BLITZER: Sergeant Major Hill, we heard last month some surprising records from the former overall U.S. military commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. He's now retired from the U.S. Army. I want you to listen to what he said. Because he was very, very blunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RETIRED LT. GENERAL RICARDO SANCHEZ: There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight. After more than four years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, when you hear those words, when the men and women in the military hear those kinds of words from the former commander, it must have some sort of debilitating impact on what they're doing, risking their lives on a day-to-day situation.
HILL: Well, it does have an effect on them. But what we do as senior non-commissioned officers and leaders, we ensure that our warriors are focused on the mission at hand. And that's the most important thing. Fight the enemy that's in front of them right now.
BLITZER: You want to add anything to that, Sergeant Major Ciotola?
CIOTOLA: Yes, sir. I always have to go ahead and be conscious and think about before I respond, because personally, words like that do have a tendency to incite me. And I realized I'm one amongst nearly 200,000 troopers that are over here. But the only thing I'll add, sir, and the message that both General Odierno, General Petraeus and Sergeant Major Hill have told us to go ahead and convey is, put things in perspective.
Sir, his perspective, and I'm just a soldier, I'm just a sergeant, is dated. It's dated by a number of years, sir. And I'll tell you that, profoundly speaking, there have been significant changes in the operating environment that we execute in today. BLITZER: The other day -- let me bring this up -- a chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, he spoke about the impact that all of this was having, not only in Iraq, but Afghanistan, other responsibilities on the U.S. Army and the U.S. military forces. Listen to what the chairman of the joint chiefs said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, CHAIRMAN U.S. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The ground forces broken? Absolutely not. Are they breakable? They are. And I will do everything I can to prevent them from breaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was followed -- actually it was a few days earlier, there had been an article in The Washington Post, 12 former U.S. Army captains wrote a piece in The Washington Post, but among other things, they said this. They all had served in Iraq: "Five years on, the Iraq war is as undermanned and underresourced as it was from the start. And five years on, Iraq is in shambles. As Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we've seen corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin, and we know when it's time to get out."
Sergeant Major Hill, is the U.S. military in Iraq right now stretched too thin? Because you're out with the troops on a day-to-day basis. You see what they have to endure.
HILL: Well, Wolf, that is a great question. Yes, we are stretched, and we are strained. But as said earlier, we're not broken. Words and messages from some of the captains that wrote articles or interviews, that's their perspective, and I won't knock that. It's true according to what they're living every day.
But from a strategic perspective, I think we're doing very well.
HILL: I think we're noticing great successes, and over time, as we get this thing together, the strain that's on our soldiers will decimate somewhat.
BLITZER: Sergeant Major Ciotola, do you have -- when I say you, I mean all the 165,000 U.S. troops in Iraq -- do you have the body armor, the weaponry, the resources that you really need right now? Or let me rephrase it. What do you need that you don't have right now?
CIOTOLA: People to be patient, sir. There are men and women -- and I'm not trying to sound condescending or patronizing here, but the bottom line is, what we're engaged in is going to take time.
Sir, I don't want to lose any more troopers. And I'd prefer to go ahead and come home, just like every trooper that's in this room right now. But we got some of the most dedicated and upstanding young men and women I have ever seen in the 31 1/2 years I've been there. As far as what we need, again we need time.
Sir, it isn't just the United States military's fight. You know, there are 26 other coalition nations. Now, how significant is their contribution? Is it on the same order of magnitude as ours? No. But all things being relative, we are one of the largest and most powerful nations on earth.
But, sir, there's 25 million Iraqis here. Sir, I think people are discounting all too quickly that there are some exceptional Iraqi security force formations that are standing up in the Iraqi army. They're on their 14th division. Are all of them as capable or do they all possess the same capacity? No, not by any means.
But have you great ones and you have those in the infancy of their ability to go ahead and execute sustained combat operations. You have the Iraqi police. And sir, if that wasn't testimony enough, there are thousands of people that are coming forward as a part of the reconciliation that are joining concerned local citizens.
And every step forward we take, sir, where we used to in the past leave a sucking sound behind us, sir, now there are hundreds, if not thousands of Iraqis falling in behind us doing great and wonderful things for us, sir, and for themselves.
BLITZER: We have to wrap it up, but I want to give both of you a chance to give a shout out to some of your family or friends you may want to say hi to on this program that's being seen around the world. Sergeant Major Ciotola, let me let you do that first. CIOTOLA: Well, of course I want to say hello to my wife and my son, the love of my life. I want to say hello to everybody back at Fort Hood, but I want to tell everybody that's watching this, you have some of the finest men and women that I have ever seen in all of my entire life that are conducting operations over here.
And if it doesn't make you want to beat yourself on the chest what they possess the capacity for, I think you need to go ahead and take a hard look at what you assess yourself to be or you might profess to be. But God bless all of you back home. All the veterans, all the old soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who trained us to get us ready for this fight. They're the real heroes, too.
BLITZER: Sergeant Major Hill.
HILL: Well, first, Wolf, I would like to say hello and I love you to my wife, Sharon, back in Atlanta, Georgia. And I would like to give a shout out to all my family back in Memphis, Tennessee, who I miss dearly. I am just as proud of them as they are of me. They have supported not only me but all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are here in harm's way.
I'd like to thank the American people for all the support they've given our soldiers and their families, because as our soldiers make sacrifices, our families are making even greater sacrifices. And I'd like it thank all the veterans who have served under the flag of the United States of America, who don a uniform of any type, military uniform, thanks for the sacrifices that they've made.
I'm honored to serve here. And as command Sergeant Major Ciotola said, we are honored and privileged to lead some of the greatest Americans that have ever put on a uniform.
BLITZER: Let me thank both of you. Let me thank all the men and women serving, especially on this Veterans Day here in the United States. Sergeant Major Marvin Hill and Sergeant Major Neal Ciotola, thanks to both of you. Good luck to you and to all the men and women serving over there.
Coming up next, why did Congressman Ron Paul vote against giving a medal to civil rights leader Rosa Parks? The Republican presidential candidate will explain that and lot more right here on "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has been a phenomenon, a true phenomenon, in this race for the White House. During one 24- hour period last week, he raised more than $4 million on the Internet. If there's one thing you can say about Ron Paul, it's that he often defies conventional wisdom, even when it comes to awarding the nation's highest civilian award to a civil rights icon.
I spoke with the maverick Republican presidential candidate earlier this week in "The Situation Room."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Congressman, I can understand your principled stance on the foreign policy-related issues, but what would be unconstitutional about giving the gold medal to Rosa Parks, a civil-rights activist and leader that all of us are quite familiar with?
REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS: Well, you know, that wasn't easy for me because I think she's a real hero because I believe in civil disobedience. And I believe peaceful changes come about that way. But I was dealing with the money. Why should I tax you to give her a medal?
I went to my members -- fellow members of Congress, and I said, I'll be glad to give her a medal. Let's each put in $100, and I'll put in $100, and we could pay for it. But to do good by taking money from the people, that's not a precise authorization in the Constitution. So the principle is that you don't have this right to do it, but to say something good and, you know, to honor people like that would be fine, but we ought to do it with our own money, not with your money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidate, speaking with me earlier in the week in "The Situation Room."
Coming up, we're going to be hearing from two former U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations with very different perspectives. We'll talk about Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, a lot more right after this.
BLITZER: The CNN Election Express is on the way to Las Vegas, Nevada right now for Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate. Bill Schneider is aboard the Election Express. He's joining us now.
Bill, you're somewhere in Utah, I take it. Give us a little sense of first of all, how important this debate Thursday night is going to be, the first one out West for the Democratic presidential campaign.
SCHNEIDER: That's right, Wolf. I'm in Grand County, Utah, right now. A lot of mountains, the Mormon church and the most Republican state in the union. But we're on our way to the promised land -- that would be Las Vegas where there are Democrats meeting on Thursday night. You'll be moderating that debate.
All the focus will be on Hillary Rodham Clinton. The senator from New York, she'll be defending herself. She was under attack from other Democrats, and it appears in all the polls to have halted her upward momentum. So this debate will be a real test for Senator Clinton.
And here's a guess -- I think the economy is going to loom large as a factor in this debate because it's now getting bigger and bigger as an issue in this campaign.
BLITZER: And it seems, at least a little bit, the war in Iraq is going down as an issue. But I suspect it's still going to be hovering over both the Republican and presidential candidates for at least the foreseeable future as long as U.S. men and women are dying in Iraq.
SCHNEIDER: Well, our polling shows that opposition to the war in Iraq has reached an all-time high. Americans are still exasperated by that war, but the economy has now grown as an issue to compete with Iraq for voters' attention. So I think it will also be getting a lot of attention at the upcoming debate in Las Vegas.
BLITZER: We'll see you in Las Vegas. I'll be heading out there. I'm not going to be on the bus with you. I'll be flying out to Las Vegas from Washington, D.C. Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst, thanks very much.
Remember, the debate, Thursday night in Las Vegas, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. For two hours, we'll be out there asking the Democratic presidential candidates some serious, important questions. Coming up, the former U.N. Ambassadors Richard Holbrooke and John Bolton, they have very different takes on the crisis in Pakistan, what's happening around the world, the war in Iraq. My interviews with the two former U.S. ambassadors. That and a lot more on "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Former U.N. Ambassadors Richard Holbrooke and John Bolton -- they're coming up next on "Late Edition."
BLITZER: This is "Late Edition, the last word in Sunday talk.
A country in chaos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER BENAZIR BHUTTO: This is a battle to save Pakistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What's next for the troubled U.S. ally? Insight on Pakistan, tensions with Iran and the war on terror, from former U.N. Ambassadors Richard Holbrooke and John Bolton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: In this race, I've been very clear about where I stand and what I want to do with the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: From the campaign trail to Congress, we'll look at the week's big political stories with three of the best political team on television. The second hour of "Late Edition" begins right now.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: Welcome back to the second hour of "Late Edition." We'll get to my conversation with the former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke in just a moment.
But first, let's get the latest on the crisis unfolding in Pakistan right now. We're going to go live to CNN's Karl Penhaul. He's joining us from Islamabad.
What is the latest, Karl?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in an effort to try and defuse some of the international criticism, General Pervez Musharraf came out this afternoon and gave a press conference and said that he hoped that the electoral commission would call elections within the next 60 days. He said it could be as soon as 45 days. He said his preference would be for general elections on or around January the 9th.
But crucially, what he didn't say was when he would be able to lift emergency rule. He said he understood the need to lift emergency rule, but he said that there was still a very troubled situation here in Pakistan, and that he wasn't able to do that yet.
Of course, that of crucial importance because it makes it very difficult, with these emergency powers in place, for political parties to carry out political rallies, to carry out campaigns. And of course some of the key opposition figures are under house arrest or at the very least their houses are surrounded by barbed wire and police, Wolf.
BLITZER: Karl Penhaul on the scene for us. Thank you, Karl, for that.
As the state of the emergency in Pakistan moves into this, the second week, what's the effect of this crisis on some of the other states in the region? How much potential damage does it pose for U.S. policy right now?
For some insight on this and more, we're joined by Richard Holbrooke, the United States ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration. He's joining us from our New York bureau.
Just want to advise our viewers as well you're a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Mr. Ambassador, welcome back.
HOLBROOKE: Good to be with you again, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Pakistan right now. Here's what General Pervez Musharraf said on Thursday, sort of repeating it albeit moving up the timeline for elections he says -- that will be held in January now, though no word, as Karl just pointed out, when the state of emergency will be lifted. Listen to what General Musharraf said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUSHARRAF: There should be a civilian president, that I should remove my uniform. This is very important and number two, that elections must be held on schedule. I am on record on saying these things, so this is not an issue with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Do you believe him, Mr. Ambassador?
HOLBROOKE: I don't know whether to believe him or not, Wolf, but let's be clear. What Pakistan is going through is of immense importance to the United States because it involves final control of Pakistan's nuclear armaments.
We cannot succeed in Afghanistan unless the border situation in Pakistan, where bin Laden and the Taliban are hiding, is dealt with, and because Pakistan is so volatile. So I think we ought to be very careful before we start saying it's time to pull the plug on Musharraf.
Let's see if he holds to his word. I think the administration was slow in its diplomacy, but they're seeking the right objectives. Let's see what happens next.
BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto, the opposition leader, the former prime minister, wrote in The New York Times on Wednesday -- she wrote this. She said, "The moment has come for the Western democracies to show us in their actions and not just in their rhetoric which side they are on."
How far should the U.S. go in leaning on President Musharraf right now, specifically in terms of military aid, which has been in the billions, $10 billion or so since 9/11?
HOLBROOKE: Well, I think we should lean very hard on Musharraf, but that's different from pulling the props out. The Washington Post today called for us to advocate removing Musharraf, as I understood their editorial. And I would not -- I would respectfully -- I write a column for The Washington Post once a month -- but in this case, I would not come out in the same position as they did.
I think we have to be extremely careful here. As for Benazir Bhutto, who I met with in New York when she was here a month ago, I think she's trying to do the right thing here in bringing her party into an alliance with Musharraf. She has millions of supporters.
Musharraf is being attacked by the radical Islamists. Remember that the Red Mosque was the scene of bloody fighting recently. And at the same time, he's being attacked by liberals, lawyers, human rights and Democratic people. His base is very narrow. He can't govern if he only has the military on his side, and he has got to broaden it out.
At the same time, we must remember that we cannot succeed in Afghanistan without dealing with that border issue, and so if we start talking about cutting off all aid to Pakistan, we run the risk of cutting ourselves off.
BLITZER: What I hear you saying, Mr. Ambassador, is that he may not be perfect, he may be doing things the United States and the rest of the Western world doesn't like, but it could be a whole lot worse if he goes down.
HOLBROOKE: I am suggesting that that is the case -- right, Wolf. And you and I watched similar situations unfold slow motion, and most notably Iran in 1978 to '79 when the Shah faced a similar situation. We ended up with the nightmare we have today in
Iran. This is an extraordinarily volatile situation. We don't want to see Pakistan, with its bombs, fall into the hands of people like Ahmadinejad and the mullahs.
At the same time, we can see clearly that the course Musharraf is on is going to end up with him either ruling as a military dictator or creating an upheaval. So the quotes you just ran at the top of your show are mildly encouraging.
BLITZER: Here's what John Bolton, another former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who is going to be guest on this program later this hour, writes in his book that has just come out, "Surrender Is Not An Option." Let me read to you the quote from the book: "A coup by Islamofascists would be their quickest, most direct way to put nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. Even a failed coup risks the seepage of some of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal into terrorist networks." Is that a realistic scenario?
HOLBROOKE: Well, that's an extreme nightmare scenario, and I'll let John comment on it for himself.
BLITZER: But are you worried about that, the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan getting into the hands of terrorists?
HOLBROOKE: I just said it in our previous colloquy, Wolf. Of course, everyone should be concerned about this arsenal.
Now, I heard Richard Armitage, who I have a lot of respect for, tell you in your previous segment that the nuclear weapons were secure and he was utterly confident about them. I respect Armitage, but, you know, Wolf, I don't know about this. How can we be so sure? Our intelligence has been miserable on this issue throughout the region.
And most extraordinarily of all, the Bush administration never got access to A.Q. Khan, who is arguably the most dangerous man in the world, the nuclear scientist who has been -- who until he was put under a very mild form of house arrest -- he's a national hero -- until then, A.Q. Khan was shipping nuclear technology to North Korea, Syria, everywhere in the world, Iran.
And now we don't know what he did, because for reasons I cannot understand, the U.S. government never was allowed to see him and the Bush administration never pushed. So...
BLITZER: They were never allowed to see him because the Pakistani government, General Musharraf, never let the U.S. interview A.Q. Khan, even though the U.S. supposedly could ask some written questions that would be offered in reply. But face-to-face meetings were never allowed.
HOLBROOKE: Of course, Wolf, you're exciting what actually happened. But don't you find it mildly -- more than mildly -- astonishing that we gave them $10 billion and more of aid, and they -- and we supported Musharraf since 9/11 vigorously, including President Bush's statement at Crawford yesterday, and yet they wouldn't let any Americans talk to the most dangerous nuclear proliferator in history and that he, himself, remains a national hero who is allegedly under house arrest but is living very well? I find it among the most astonishing failures of this administration.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about another crisis, Iran, right now. In the past few days, the president has been speaking about potentially another World War III. He did it again this week in an interview with German television. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: This is a country that has defied the IAEA -- in other words, didn't tell -- didn't disclose all their program -- have said they want to destroy Israel.
BUSH: If you want to see World War III, a way to do that is to attack Israel with a nuclear weapon. And so I said, now's the time to move.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think of the way the Bush administration is handling this situation, specifically the notion, as Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, reiterated today, the U.S. is not going to have high-level talks directly with the Iranians until they spend their nuclear enrichment program. And the Iranians show no interest in doing that.
HOLBROOKE: Over the seven years they've been in office, this has been one of the great failures of the bush administration. They spurned Iranian offers to talk to the United States on bilateral issues after 9/11, even though the Iranians helped the United States create the Karzai government in Afghanistan, gave us overflight permission and worked with us in the 2002 period.
Instead, they got the "axis of evil" speech and the policy of declared regime change. Meanwhile, the Iranians have gone on to getting more and more dangerous in the area. Hamas, Hezbollah, their nuclear program, now $100 oil and the most virulent anti-Semite in history is their president.
And the United States set up a situation where, by refusing to talk to them and continuing to advocate regime change, they've only encouraged the worst elements in Iran. Now, the fact is that the United States -- and Condoleezza Rice said it again this morning -- has made as a precondition for the talks one of its objectives.
That, plus advocating regime change, create an impossible impasse in the dialogue with Iran. Meanwhile, the Iranians continue to ship high-end explosives into Iraq that kill Americans. The policy with Iran has to be reexamined from the roots up.
BLITZER: One final question before I let you go, Mr. Ambassador. The situation in Turkey. It seems to have taken a little bit of calming effect over the last several days, but I know you're deeply concerned. You've been on the phone with some people in Turkey. What is your sense?
HOLBROOKE: Well, I've followed the Turkey situation carefully, talked to government officials, private citizens, American officials. And I think that the odds are very substantial that within a week or so, you will see the Turks launch cross-border military activity. Air strikes, special forces, and so on.
The U.S. has neglected the Turkish interests for much too long. The Turks, meanwhile, were sustaining continual attacks on themselves from the PKK terrorist group across the border, and the U.S. did nothing about it. Now, I think after Prime Minister Erdogan's trip to see President Bush, the U.S. is finally going to give them some intelligence. The U.S. will put more pressure on the Kurdish leadership in northern Iraq to cooperate. And I think the U.S. has to understand that the Turks are facing a situation. What would the U.S. do if we were attacked across the Mexican border by terrorists?
You know what we'd do, of course. We'd go after them. So I'm expecting that the Turks are going to take limited military action in the not-too-distant future.
BLITZER: Within a week, you say. All right...
HOLBROOKE: I'm guessing. Yeah, I'm guessing.
BLITZER: Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Thanks for coming in.
HOLBROOKE: My pleasure.
BLITZER: In just a moment, we'll get a different perspective from another man who represented the United States at the United Nations, the former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton. And later analysis of a very busy week in politics from some of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television. "Late Edition" will be right back.
BLITZER: Not one to mince any words, my next guest says the Bush administration foreign policy is, quote, "something like in free fall right now." That's just one of the rather blunt opinions the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, has in his new book. It's entitled, "Surrender is not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad."
Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to "Late Edition."
BOLTON: Glad to be here.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Pakistan first and foremost. It's obviously an awful situation right now. There's a crisis there. It could get a lot, lot worse, as you well know. What should the Bush administration be doing right now?
BOLTON: I think we have to focus on our principle strategic equity, and that's safeguarding Pakistan's nuclear arsenal from falling into the wrong hands. I think that -- I'm not here to defend Musharraf or his actions, but I think that in this very volatile situation, the last thing we need is instability in the government. And I think that's what we ought to focus on. I think the administration, I'm afraid to say, has given mixed signals in the past few days. I think today it's come out very clearly about what needs to be done to keep Musharraf, keep his level of support up. But make no mistake, this is a very dangerous situation.
BLITZER: So what I hear you saying is the U.S. has to support Musharraf because he controls the military, and the military has to keep the nuclear arsenal secure? BOLTON: We really have to look at the alternatives, and I frankly don't see the alternatives. They Pakistanis don't call the military the seal skeleton of their country by accident.
The record of civilian governments has not been great since partition and independence, and especially now when radical Islamicists would love nothing better than to get their hands on some of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. This is not the time for democratic theory.
BLITZER: Richard Armitage, who we interviewed in the last hour, thinks that nuclear arsenal's very secure. They've got tight controls. He used to deal with arms control, disarmament at the State Department before he became the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Ambassador Holbrooke wasn't so convinced it's all that secure, in part because the U.S. has never been allowed to speak to A.Q. Khan, the nuclear scientist who helped develop Pakistan's nuclear bomb. Where do you stand on this?
BOLTON: I think it's two separate issues. First, in terms of the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, technically I think they are secure. But it's not a technical issue. It's a political issue. If the military comes unstuck, if it divides, then the technical fixes won't protect those weapons.
In terms of A.Q. Khan, I think initially, we were right to allow Musharraf to give us the information without insisting on access because it was important to get as much as we could early. I would have to say within the past few years, we should have gone back and asked for more access.
But I want to emphasize Musharraf's difficulty in Pakistan. Even the military is filled with Islamicist fundamentalists that he's tried to keep in lower positions, but they're pervasive. And he doesn't have the flexibility of a real military dictator.
BLITZER: So, even in exchange for $10 billion in military assistance since 9/11, the U.S. never got direct access to A.Q. Khan. And you say the U.S. should have?
BOLTON: I think in more recent years. This is a very complex situation, and that's why even though martial law and the suspension of the constitution don't have much to recommend themselves, I'd have to put securing those nuclear weapons at the top of our agenda. BLITZER: Here's what Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, told our own Zain Verjee in an interview yesterday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: Pakistan is imploding from within, and yet there is very little appreciation of the deepening crisis here.
BHUTTO: I receive reports in the frontier about how the Taliban are advancing, advancing into our cities and the administration simply can't fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, as you know, she's a secularist, she supports democracy, she's a good friend of the United States. Is she right?
BOLTON: Well, I think the question is, who is better going to lead the military in that fight, Benazir Bhutto or Musharraf?
BLITZER: What's the answer?
BOLTON: I think it's Musharraf right now. I don't think his record has been perfect, but I think in a time of crisis like this, you need to keep your eye on the ball and that's principally the nuclear weapons.
BLITZER: Let's talk about a country that supposedly is trying to get nuclear weapons. That would be Iran. The secretary of state spoke out about this the other day. Listen to Condoleezza Rice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The United States and our partners are fully committed to a diplomatic solution with Iran. If the Iranian government fulfills its international obligation to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, I will join my British, French, Russian, Chinese and German colleagues and I will meet with my Iranian counterpart anytime, anywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So she says the U.S. will start these high- level talks but the Iranians have to suspend their nuclear enrichment program. What do you think?
BOLTON: I don't think the Iranians have the slightest intention of suspending their uranium enrichment program. We've been at this diplomatically through the Europeans for over four, going on five years. You'd have to have a near religious belief in the strength of Security Council resolutions to think the Iranians are suddenly going to start paying attention to them.
BLITZER: Because a lot of experts, including the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, say there's no military solution to this, there's only a diplomatic solution. He was here on "Late Edition" two weeks ago and he told me this. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL: I'm very much concerned about confrontation -- building confrontation, Wolf, because that would lead absolutely to a disaster. I see no military solution. The only durable solution is through negotiation and an inspection.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Now, he says there can be a solution through negotiation and inspection. But what you're saying is the Iranians, under this current regime, have no intention of giving up their nuclear program under any circumstances.
BOLTON: Mohamed ElBaradei is an apologist for Iran. He has taken positions in flat violation of three Security Council resolutions, and he needs to learn that he works for the member governments of his agency, not the other way around.
BLITZER: But he got a second term. They voted. Despite the Bush administration's opposition, he was reelected to a second term.
BOLTON: He got a third term, actually, which is even worse.
BLITZER: Third, and so there -- he does have the confidence of some people.
BOLTON: I don't think we were effective in our campaign to oppose him. I don't think that he did nearly what we should have done, and I think we are paying the price now and will pay it into the future.
BLITZER: But, you know, in fairness to Mohamed ElBaradei, before the war in Iraq, when Condoleezza Rice and the president were speaking about mushroom clouds of Saddam Hussein and a revived nuclear weapons program that he may be undertaking, he was saying there was absolutely no such evidence. He was poo-pooing it, saying the Bush administration was overly alarming and there was no nuclear weapons program that Hussein had revived. He was right on that one.
BOLTON: Even a stopclock is right twice a day. Look, Saddam Hussein kept together over 1,000 nuclear scientists and technicians that he called his nuclear mujahadeen. There may not have been centrifuge cascades spinning, but Saddam had the intellectual capability to put that program right back together.
BLITZER: But that was an important issue, trying to justify the war, the mushroom clouds, the fear, the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud, and that's not just a little issue that he was right on. He was right on a major, major justification for going to war.
BOLTON: I'm not aware there was any disagreement with the Bush administration that Saddam did not have the physical capacity in his nuclear program, but he did have the intention and he had the record of having pursued them in the past.
BLITZER: He also said this about the early September Israeli airstrike on some sort of suspicious facility in Syria that reports have suggested was some sort of North Korean nuclear reactor facility that they were building to develop centrifuges in Syria. Listen to what ElBaradei said to me on this program two weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELBARADEI: To bomb first and then ask questions later, I think undermines the system it and doesn't lead to any solution to any suspicion, because we are the eyes and ears of the international community. It's only the agencies and the inspectors who can go and verify the information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He said if the Israelis were concerned, they should have gone to the IAEA and made their case and then the inspectors, presumably, could have gone in since Syria is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
BOLTON: In you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. The notion that Israel or the United States would put their national security in the IAEA's hands is just delusional. And let me make one important point.
Eyes and ears of the international community? Look, the IAEA functionally gets most of its sensitive information from foreign intelligence services including our own, and that's why it's more properly called the U.N.'s nuclear watchpuppy.
BLITZER: So you don't believe, obviously, this guy, anything he's basically saying?
BOLTON: I think he's actually undermining the credibility of the IAEA by his overly politicized role in the Iran crisis.
BLITZER: When you say "surrender is not a option" in your new book, what do you mean?
BOLTON: Well, actually I've said that title to a lot of my friends, former political appointees at the State Department, and they laugh at me and they say, "What do you mean? Surrender is an option. We do it all the time."
My point is that America's diplomats should be advocates for America. They should be instilled with a culture of advocacy, not with a culture of retreat.
BLITZER: "Surrender Is Not An Option" -- that's the name of the book -- "Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad." The author, the former U.S. ambassador of the United Nations, John Bolton. Mr. Ambassador, thanks for coming in. BOLTON: Glad to be here.
BLITZER: Coming up next, we're going to tell you where some of the presidential candidates are out on the campaign trail.
And this coming Thursday, don't forget, I'll be in Las Vegas, Nevada to moderate a debate -- a Democratic presidential debate in that key Western state. Nevada, Las Vegas, 8:00 p.m. Thursday night with the Democratic candidates. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We'll get to our political panel shortly, but first, let's take a closer look at where some of the U.S. presidential candidates will be spending some time over the next few days.
On the campaign trail, Fred Thompson is in Iowa today campaigning for votes. John Edwards is also in Iowa giving what his campaign a major address followed by some blues and barbecue.
Duncan Hunter is in Reno, Nevada participating in a Veterans Day parade.
Dennis Kucinich is in Asheville, North Carolina. He'll be campaigning there for votes tonight at an Ani DiFranco concert.
John McCain will be in Chicago Tuesday for a luncheon. He'll also travel to Dallas for some fund-raising.
And Bill Richardson heads to California Tuesday also for a fund- raiser. They like to do that.
On the campaign trail with some of the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.
BLITZER: Up next on "Late Edition," both of the front-runners in the race for the White House were working very hard to recover from setbacks this week. Our political panel is standing by live to show us what's going on. They're going to examine how they did.
Six of the candidates were speaking out on some of the Sunday talk shows here in the United States. We'll bring you some of the highlights in our "in case you missed it" segment.
And on this Veterans Day here in the United States, let's take a closer look now at what's happening over at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: ... right to it, and we have three of the best political teams on television today. Our White House correspondent Susan Malveaux, she's joining us over near the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Our Congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin is with us here in Washington, as is Joe Johns, who keeps politicians honest for "Anderson Cooper 360."
Thanks for doing that. You're doing an excellent job, Joe Johns.
JOHNS: You're too kind.
BLITZER: Keeping politicians honest. Very important. All right, Joe, let's talk about one politician, Rudy Giuliani. He wants to be president of the United States. In all of the national Republican polls, he comes out atop. He had a serious problem when his former top cop, his police commissioner, this week was formally indicted on corruption charges. Giuliani says he made a mistake. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUDOLPH GIULIANI, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think voters should look at it, and what they should say is, in that particular case, I pointed out that I made a mistake. I made a mistake in not clearing him effectively enough. I take the responsibility for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How big of a political problem does he have on his hands right now? JOHNS: None necessarily, yet. You have to watch this thing and see a lot of questions about what could come up down the road. There's that other issue of who is going to make political hay of this thing.
McCain, for example, talked a little bit about it, and immediately we started hearing about the Keating five. The question on the Democratic side is whether Hillary Clinton could make some hay out of it. She has problem there is, too. She has skeletons in her closet.
BLITZER: She's had associations that also have been embarrassing. Let's talk a little bit about what Senator McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, said in responding to this indictment.
He noted the problems that Bernard Kerik had not only involved when he was a police commissioner but when he went over to Iraq to train Iraqi police. He showed up for a while, but then he got bored or whatever reason, and left. Listen to what Senator McCain, Jessica, just said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Supposedly, his mission was to help train Iraqi police. He stayed a couple of months, got up and left. That should have been part of anybody's judgment before they recommend that individual to be head of the Department of Homeland Security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, McCain's referring to the fact that Rudy Giuliani recommended Bernard Kerik to President Bush to become the secretary of homeland security after what McCain says was that bad experience in Iraq. So, they're going after Giuliani.
YELLIN: They are. And McCain's making the point that this really goes to Giuliani's strengths. It's a real hit on his strengths. One, his ability to lead through 9/11 and, two, his judgment as that CEO of the government in New York.
He made this choice to make Bernard Kerik the man by his side throughout his mayoralty and then on 9/11, and then recommend him to help fight the war on terror. He's supposed to be the best guy to fight the war on terror. If he can't pick the right people, that's a real problem for him, and I expect to see this brought out by all the candidates throughout this campaign. BLITZER: Suzanne, I know you covered the confirmation hearing, the process of Bernard Kerik once the president formally nominated him. We remember that picture when they were standing there together during that nomination announcement.
And then once the vetting really got going, the whole thing collapsed. He had a nanny, all sorts of other problems. How big of a deal do you think the Bernard Kerik issue is going to be for Giuliani? MALVEAUX: Well, I remember when Kerik was at the White House several times. We got a chance to talk to him several times when he was at the stakeout cameras when he was going through the whole process, and when his name was abruptly taken off that list.
I think there are a couple of things you have to look for. First of all, whether or not this is going to become a huge distraction. Is he going to be called up before perhaps another grand jury to testify, to be called away from the campaign trail. The other thing, too, is he's already being pummeled with questions.
These are really just hypotheticals, but they are going to take voters' attention. Whether or not he would potentially pardon his good friend if he was president in that case, and another possible problem here is that he has loyalty. He's got loyalty to Kerik, he has loyalty to this Monsignor who was accused of child molestation who is no longer preaching. He's very loyal to his childhood friends.
That is something that President Bush had to face and was criticized for, just how far this loyalty factor goes in terms of whether or not that really clouds his judgment. That's what Jessica talked about is that big question that's going to come up about his judgment.
BLITZER: Good point, Joe. He did get some arguably good news. Pat Robertson, the Christian televangelist endorsing him, saying this this week. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT ROBERTSON: Rudy Giuliani is without question an acceptable candidate because of the reasons I stated. I think the overriding issue that we face in this nation is the Islamic terrorism. And I think if we don't realize that, America must be kept safe. And I think we want a leader who is strong against this threat of terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So Giuliani may support abortion rights, may support gay rights, but he's got Pat Robertson's support now as well. Is this good news or bad news, though, for Giuliani because some are arguing, you know, maybe this is be careful what you wish for?
JOHNS: Well, my guess today, it looks like pretty good news for Rudy Giuliani because frankly, he needed somebody on the conservative side to step out there and say, I'm for Rudy Giuliani. What it points to, though, is the fact that nobody on the Republican side really has a lock on those conservative voters right now.
And I think there's that other question of whether you can find on the Republican side somebody who can win, somebody who can bring everybody together and actually win in November. There's a lot of concern among Republicans, among conservatives that, you know, if we throw our support behind some of these guys, Huckabee, for instance, he might not have the juice to get through in November. So, you know, it's up in the air.
BLITZER: And it's clearly, Jessica, some of these social conservatives on the Republican side, they're saying, you know what, Giuliani's got the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton. And maybe he's not perfect on social issues like abortion or gay rights, but he can win. And that's better than Hillary Clinton.
YELLIN: Absolutely. And I agree with Joe that this is why it's such a boost. This endorsement helps Giuliani, not only because it shows that he can get some of the far right base, but also because it says Robertson thinks he's the winner. Robertson only wants to bet on the winner.
And it gives a huge boost to all those voters who were worried about Giuliani's chances. And it shows that he really is, has that sort of wind at his back and really can get ahead in the race.
BLITZER: Suzanne, you want to weigh in on this specific point, and then we'll take a quick break?
MALVEAUX: Well, sure. I thought a couple of things. First of all, it gives him a certain sense of street cred, if you will, among the conservatives that he has Robertson's backing here. And it also gives some of the other evangelicals some cover, if you will, if they want to jump on board.
I thought perhaps a stronger indicator of Giuliani's strength is that poll that came out showing that among all of those conservative Republicans, when it came to their second choice, about a third of them, they all rallied behind Giuliani. If they didn't get their first choice, they all thought, "Well, what's the best alternative?" And Giuliani overwhelmingly was the guy that they chose over Huckabee, over McCain, over Thompson.
BLITZER: Suzanne, stand by for a moment, Joe Johns, Jessica Yellin as well. We have a lot more to talk about with our political panel.
Up next, though, several of the presidential candidates were on some of the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. We're going to tell you what they had to say in our "In Case You Missed It" segment. That's coming up next.
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 ABC and Fox, the crisis in Pakistan was topic number one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: The positive element here that elections are going to be held and held very soon, and also that the president said he was going to take off his uniform, these have both been essential to getting Pakistan back on a democratic path. Obviously, we're also encouraging that the state of the emergency has got to be lifted and lifted as soon as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, D-N.M.: I'm very skeptical of this announcement of President Musharraf. You can't have democracy halfway. I am extremely concerned that we are associating ourselves with a dictatorship that is basically just revamping the entire constitutional system to keep its purposes of being in power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On NBC, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama responded to suggestions by his rival, Hillary Clinton's campaign, that he's abandoning the so-called politics of hope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: Look, we're running for the presidency of the United States of America, not student council president. That means that the American people have a right to know what exactly we intend to do as president.
And if I believe that one of my opponents is potentially going to take the party or the country in a direction that does not meet our challenges, does not take advantage of the opportunities that are available, I'm going to point it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And on CBS, Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul talked about why their long-shot campaigns seem to be gaining momentum.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE, R-ARK.: Something's working. I don't know all to explain it myself. I think it's a combination of a lot of people praying and a lot of people working. But it's really happening, and it's pretty exciting for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS: And it just goes to show, I think how, powerful the message is that we have. I don't think it's me, myself. I don't think it's the organization as much as the philosophy of limited government and freedom that people are just starved for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, more with our political panel, some of the best political team on television. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our roundtable discussion with CNN's Jessica Yellin and Joe Johns. They're here in Washington. And our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, she's down in Crawford, Texas.
Suzanne, listen to what Hillary Clinton, the democratic presidential front-runner, told our Candy Crowley on the CNN Election Express this past week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: I wasn't at my best the other night. We've had a bunch of debates, and I wouldn't rank that up in my very top list. But I've answered probably -- oh, I don't know -- more than 5,000 questions in the last 10 months. And I've been very clear about where I stand and what I want to do for the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, she's acknowledging she didn't do all that great in the last Democratic presidential debate, looking ahead to this coming week's next Democratic presidential debate here on CNN. What do you think?
MALVEAUX: Well, I think one of her strategies that seems to work well for her is that she does come forward.
MALVEAUX: And if there's some sort of gaffe or a perception that she didn't perform as well, she does put it out there. I think there was initially a bit of that fumble when you saw they were kind of grabbing for a reason why that happened. And it was put on the fact that perhaps she was being ganged up, that she was a woman.
Here, they decided to take kind of more of a straightforward approach, and that seems to be a good counter to what her opponents are saying about her, Edwards as well as Obama, that she is not straightforward, that she is not candid with the voters.
So, it will be interesting to see in Las Vegas of course whether or not she does tackle that question a little more straight on about whether or not there -- the illegal immigrants should have those driver's license. A big issue, immigration out in the west, Wolf.
BLITZER: That's going to be a huge issue probably all over the country as well. Jessica, she did get some support, as she always does, from Bill Clinton, the former president, who said, you know, you can't blame Hillary Clinton for the health-care debacle that occurred in the first two years of the Clinton administration. Listen to what Bill Clinton said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: She is taking the rap for some of the problems we had with health care last time that were far more my fault than hers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I guess on think particular issue he's coming to her defense big time.
YELLIN: I think this is one of the ways in which Bill Clinton can actually hurt Hillary Clinton. She is the front-runner, she has to be the strong person who can take responsibility for her actions and her choices. If he's trying to shield her, it weakens her in some ways.
She's had a very bad few weeks. Suzanne is absolutely right that she's smart to come out and say she made a mistake and that she wasn't at her best. There was the story of the tip with the waitress, where she said she did leave a tip, and why get in a tiff with a working woman. She's not had a great few weeks.
Bill Clinton shouldn't cover for her. He should let her explain herself on her own.
BLITZER: What do you think?
JOHNS: Yeah, that's sort of, you know, that's what a lot of people are saying out there. On the other hand, you look at this whole business of Obama closing the numbers, and so on. And you wonder whether that's just sort of natural tightening as you get closer and closer to the primary election. The other thing that's very interesting...
BLITZER: By the way -- I don't want to interrupt you for a second here. Last night at that major Democratic Party dinner in Iowa, I take it he was very, very well received.
JOHNS: It sounds like he was, very well received, and you look at some of the numbers that suggest, yeah, we've got a race here going on in Iowa. But...
BLITZER: That's really his only hope right now.
JOHNS: Yeah. Right.
BLITZER: It's a major hope for him. If he can beat her in Iowa, then he might get that momentum to move on.
JOHNS: And the other thing that's really interesting to look at politically is the way the Clintons always respond whenever there's what you might call an attack. And what they come back with again and again is a response that makes the critics howl. It gets everybody's attention, and sometimes you end up remembering the response more than the original attack. A very effective strategy, so...
BLITZER: Well, Bill Clinton's been using that ever since '92 when he got himself elected because he remembered and Michael Dukakis didn't respond forcefully to the attacks. And he said he was never going to not respond. And obviously, that's a Clinton point.
Suzanne, I want you to listen to what the current president of the United States, George Bush, said about his legacy this past week in an interview with German TV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I think I'll be remembered as a guy who, you know, was dealt pretty tough issues to deal with and I dealt with them head on. You know, I didn't try to shy away. I didn't sacrifice -- I was firm and that I made decisions based upon principles and not based upon the latest Gallup poll.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is he already looking ahead to -- you know, he's still got more than a year to go on the job. What do you think?
MALVEAUX: I know that he wants to get some things done, but obviously he is looking at his legacy as well. Usually when the legacy question comes up, it's a journalist who's asked him about it, whether or not he has any regrets.
And he's always saying that in the long term he feels that he will be validated, his policies will be validated. So he believes because George Washington is still being analyzed that in his lifetime, there really isn't going to be an accurate assessment of his presidency. It's going to be long after he's gone.
What was interesting is that we actually heard from his father, Bush 41, coming out very forcefully defending his son here. Obviously, the former president, he has nothing to lose. This is a guy who's 83 years old, jumped out of an airplane, did another skydiving trip this past week to memorialize, mark up the remodeling of his own presidential library.
And he is coming out very forcefully to defend his son because he feels that he does have some experience when it comes to dealing with Saddam Hussein, and he absolutely believes that the criticism against his son has just not been fair.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, get ready for Las Vegas. She's going to be there with me, with John Roberts, with Campbell Brown for the next Democratic presidential debate. That's Thursday night. Suzanne, thanks very much.
I also want to thank Joe Johns and Jessica Yellin. You guys will be here in Washington. You're not going to be in Vegas, but, you know, we'll think about you.
Up next, we're going to see what's on the cover of this week's major newsmagazines in the United States. And if you'd like a recap of today's program, you can get some highlights on our new and improved "Late Edition" podcast. Simply go to cnn.com/podcast.
Then, coming up at the top of the hour, "This Week at War" with host Tom Foreman." Here's a preview.
TOM FOREMAN, HOST, "THIS WEEK AT WAR": Thanks, Wolf. As the protest in Pakistan reached the crisis point, we'll ask the question, if President Musharraf falls, who will end up in control of their nuclear weapons?
And on this Veterans Day weekend, are we prepared to care for the troops fighting in today's wars? All coming up in just a few moments on "This Week at War."
BLITZER: Let's take a look and see what's on the cover of this week's major newsmagazines in the United States. Time magazine looks into what Hillary Clinton believes and why she thinks she'll win. U.S. News and World Report ranks America's best leaders for 2007. And Newsweek magazine looks back at 1968, the year that made us who we are.
That's your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, November 11. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
Remember, we're in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday for three straight hours, from 4 to 7 p.m. Eastern. See you tomorrow on that. And I'll see you also on Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern for the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas.
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. And on this Veterans Day, we salute the veterans, especially those at the Vietnam War Memorial.
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