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CNN Late Edition

Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad Dead at 69; Campaign Finance Questions Re-Emerge

Aired June 11, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It is noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London, and 7:00 p.m. in Damascus. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this 90-minute LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our guests shortly but, first, let's check in with CNN reporters, covering the hour's top story. We begin in Syria where preparations have begun for Tuesday's funeral of President Hafez Al- Assad.

CNN's Brent Sadler is in the capital, Damascus. He joins us now live.

Brent, is it a foregone conclusion, that Assad's son, Bashar, will be the next president of Syria?

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, Wolf, a state of mourning has engulfed the Syrian capital here. But even as people shout for the late president, they are, on their tongues all the time, talking about his heir apparent, Bashar Al-Assad, who is just 34 years old. Many people now carrying aloft both pictures of the late president, Hafez Al-Assad, and his son, Bashar.

And the political hierarchy has been taking a series of rapid steps to make sure it is a smooth transition. First of all, there were fundamental changes to the Syrian Constitution, make sure a that the young Bashar Assad, who wasn't 40 -- that was the cut-off age for legitimacy for the Syrian presidency, making sure that age was lowered point one. Point two, also, changes in military here, Bashar Al-Assad now has been appointed commander-in-chief of the Syrian armed forces, as well as holding the same rank as his late father, that of general in the Syrian military.

What you are seeing behind me here is a continuation of many hours of people passing by the hospital, the building just behind me, where the body of the late Syrian leader, was originally taken. Not far from here, the former presidential home.

Preparations now well under way, in the Syrian capital for a state funeral planned Tuesday, and people here, all the time, talking about, shouting about, raising their voices, in support of Bashar Al- Assad, the expected heir, the expected man who will rise is believed here to very top of this Syrian political pyramid -- Wolf. BLITZER: Very briefly, Brent, is there an expectation that the government in Syria is opening up its doors for virtually anyone who wants to come for that funeral, including journalists from around the world?

SADLER: Certainly, Wolf, it has seen many, many journalists pour into the capital. We are using a live satellite truck here in the streets of Damascus for very first time, this happened the first day, in my 20 years of experience here. We have had the freedom to be able to report like this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, Brent Sadler, live from Damascus. Thanks.

Now for U.S. reaction to this major change in the Middle East, we are joined by the White House Chief of Staff, John Podesta.

Mr. Podesta welcome back to LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on our program.

Why isn't President Clinton going to Damascus to attend the funeral of Hafez Al-Assad?

JOHN PODESTA, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, you know, yesterday, Wolf, President Clinton expressed his condolences to Mr. Assad's family and to the Syrian people. He had great respect for President Assad. Despite their differences, they had a good relationship, but after discussing this with his advisers, we concluded, and I think the president agreed, that the right person to represent the United States was Secretary Albright, our leading diplomat, and a person who's been deeply involved in the Middle East peace process.

BLITZER: If Syria is such a pivotal, critical country in that part of world, strategically important, wouldn't this have been a good opportunity to open up a door, establish a connection with Bashar, the son of Hafez Al-Assad, who is presumably going to be next leader of Syria?

PODESTA: Well, I think that it looks like the Syrians are moving in that direction, and, I'm sure the president will look forward to engaging, with Bashar Assad, if -- if -- if and when he becomes the president. But, I think at this point we -- based on, the advice of his advisers we concluded that the right choice was that Secretary Albright would go there, and, I think that is respectful. She is our leading diplomat, and we look forward to continuing on the strategic path that President Assad made for the Syrian people, which is to try to find a comprehensive peace solution in Middle East.

BLITZER: Was there consideration that the vice president, Al Gore, attend this funeral?

PODESTA: Again, I think after discussions with, amongst, all of his key foreign policy advisers, the president thought the right choice was to send Secretary Albright.

BLITZER: The conventional thinking now, is that, at least as far as the Israeli-Syrian peace process is concerned, this is going to set things back, because it is going to take a long time, for the dust to settle, in Syria.

Is that your sense?

PODESTA: Well, the dust, I think, does need to settle, and the succession needs to take place. But, again, I think we will continue to probe and look for, possibilities to move peace process forward as we have in the past.

PODESTA: And I think time will tell whether we can make progress in the short term, and hopefully we can make progress over the long term. As I said, President Assad made the strategic choice -- expressed a strategic choice for comprehensive peace.

Now is the time, I think, to make sure that we take the steps, to reduce tensions in the area, and to keep on that path to find a comprehensive peace solution in between Syria and Israel, and on the other tracks as well.

BLITZER: Obviously, President Clinton, during his remaining seven months in office would like to wrap up a peace agreement in the Middle East including the Israeli-Palestinian track as well as the Israeli-Syrian track. Is that still realistic -- seven months -- given this tumultuous change which occurred this weekend?

PODESTA: It is a change, not just in Syria but, I think, that will have a regional effect -- but the president, as he has for the past 7 1/2 years, has constantly worked at this issue -- will work at it constantly in weeks ahead. As you know, President Arafat is going to be here this week, moving forward on that track as well, and if there is an opportunity to push forward with a comprehensive peace solution, then the United States is going to do what it can -- President Clinton will do what he can, to move forward in that direction.

BLITZER: Yesterday, the president in his carefully worded statement said he always respected President Assad. Given the fact that President Assad was listed by your administration, by the State Department, as leader of a country that supports international terrorism, and he was leader of a totalitarian regime -- what did he respect about President Assad?

PODESTA: I think that, as the president also said, we obviously had our differences. And there were policies of the Syrian government which we obviously strongly disagreed with. But he was a man who was straightforward with the president, who I think was always honest in his dealings, who came out and was clear about what he thought. And when he made an agreement, he kept his agreements.

So, in that sense, I think, he was a man that the president respected.

BLITZER: What is your message? -- what is President Clinton's message to the people of Syria right now, and indeed to the people of the Middle East, but, specifically, to the people in Syria -- the new leadership in Syria, they're obviously available, were available to be seen in Syria right now?

PODESTA: I think his -- his message was the one he expressed yesterday, which is one of sympathy for the Syrian people in their time of mourning -- but to stay on the path that will lead to a comprehensive peace. That's in the interests of the Syrian people, of the children of Syria, and the people and children of the entire region.

And hopefully we can -- after a period of transition, we can get back to the hard work of narrowing the differences between the parties and moving forward with a comprehensive peace solution.

BLITZER: Since Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be in Damascus for the funeral Tuesday, what is happening to the scheduled meeting he was going to have with President Clinton this week?

PODESTA: Right now, I think we are on track to have the meeting, although we may have to change the times a little bit, to accommodate the logistics of Secretary Albright's return and President Arafat's coming here.

BLITZER: So presumably later in the week?


BLITZER: OK, Mr. Podesta, stand by -- if you would, stand by.

I'd like to bring in the former United States secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. He, of course, knew President Assad quite well, having negotiated the first Israeli-Syrian disengagement of forces agreement on the Golan Heights, following the 1973 war.

Dr. Kissinger, good to have you with us on LATE EDITION.

And let me ask you the question that I asked Mr. Podesta. Is it a good decision that President Clinton is not going to be attending the funeral of President Assad?

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I can understand the decision. I don't think any breakthrough can be achieved by one spectacular visit. And given the fact that Syria had been supporting terrorism, that it had been very a difficult negotiating partner, although progress was being made. I think it is appropriate that it be the Secretary of State, and not the president to represent us.

BLITZER: What should the Clinton administration be doing, if anything, right now to try to encourage the new leadership that is emerging in Syria to pursue the peace process, let's say, with more vigor?

KISSINGER: Well, the first thing to understand, I believe, is that in my view, Assad was heading for a peace agreement, probably this year. He was doing it in his usual crab-wise fashion by moving step by step to bring the various contending factions within Damascus together. But he had gone too far to pull back. So I think it is important for the United States to keep the door open, but it is also important not to show such anxiety that the Syrians get the idea that they can squeeze even more out of the negotiations than they have already achieved.

I believe that significant progress has already been made, and that the remaining differences are relatively narrow, and that in fact the personality of the new president makes it somewhat easier than the personality of his father who usually wanted to wait until the last moment.

KISSINGER: I used -- I said to President Assad once, when I negotiated with him, I've seen negotiators who went to edge of (OFF- MIKE). I've seen negotiators who put one foot over the edge of (OFF- MIKE) to show how tough they were. He was the only one who jumped over the precipice hoping that they'd be a tree to break his fall. So, I don't think his son would be quite that daring. And so I'm fairly optimistic.

BLITZER: And do you believe knowing Syrian politics as you do that Bashar can effectively emerge as a strong leader of Syria along the lines of his father, someone who can make those kinds of strategic decisions, required for peace?

KISSINGER: That is the key question. And I cannot say, that I'm sure of that. I would say, that somebody who started his career as an ophthalmologist did not necessarily show an overwhelming desire for political power. And he will -- he will get the transition, he will get the levers of power, but whether he can play them with the same skill as his father, and whether he can play them, and at the same time, introduce an element of moderation into the system which is needed, that, I think, is the unknowable question now.

BLITZER: Are you encouraged, though, that there's a new younger leadership emerging in the Arab world King Abdullah of Jordan in his 30's, obviously now Bashar in his 30's emerging in Syria. Are these new younger perhaps more educated, more Western oriented leaders, especially in the Syrian case, is that going to have the kind of dramatic impact that you and so many others had worked for over these many years?

KISSINGER: I think it can have a significant impact. The problem they will have, as their fathers did, is whether -- how much they can reform the system, without blowing it up. But, their instinct is certainly more progressive than that of their fathers and, therefore, I believe that an opportunity now exists which has not previously been at hand and so, I have all along believed that the peace process would go forward this year. And I believe that these new leaders add a new impetus to the situation.

BLITZER: How will this affect if at all the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian authority president, a man in his 70's has to be looking around, and saying to himself, look what's going on.

Is this going to promote or, perhaps, set back the final effort to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian deal?

KISSINGER: Of course, one of the things to understand, no matter how many expressions of regret Arafat will utter tomorrow in Damascus, he and Assad did not get along very well, and Assad would really have preferred to see Arafat replaced and to have a more pro-Syrian leader of the PLO and of the Palestinians. They were not -- they were often at cross purposes and sometimes even fought each other. But Arafat must know that time is running out for him and for the Palestinian the succession is much more complicated than it would be in Syria.

And also the hovering presence of Assad who always was capable of trying to undermine an agreement by accusing Arafat that he had made too many concessions. I don't believe that his son would have -- that Assad's son will have the same authority. So I think that the death of Assad will speed up the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

BLITZER: Over the years, Dr. Kissinger, you wrote extensively about your meetings with President Assad. You spoke about them. I remember covering the negotiations in 1974, the phrase "shuttle diplomacy" was coined as a result of all those efforts that you had with President Assad.

Now that he has passed away, is there any new insight that you'd want to share with us, something that you might have been reluctant to share while he was alive, that affected your thinking not only about him but about Syria in particular?

KISSINGER: Well, Assad had a huge transformation to (OFF-MIKE). The first time I visited Syria, he said to me he did not want to be the man who would be cursed by future generations for having made peace for Israel. The first time I visited -- the first year I visited Syria, they always described Israel as occupied territory.

Now with however grudgingly, however reluctantly, they have now accepted the existence of Israel and Assad has declared himself as prepared to make a peace treaty with Israel. That's a big step forward.

At the beginning, when I death with Assad, I was always very conscious of the fact that he was aware of the precariousness of his domestic position. And I had to -- we went through three stages usually. First, I met with him alone, usually with my interpreter. Then we brought -- then he brought in the generals and gave them a so- called sanitized version of our discussions.

And then he brought in the civilians. And that showed me that various power centers that he felt he had to placate and bring along. And it accounted for the fact that negotiations with him were extremely protracted.

He could not, like Sadat, make the grand gesture. He constantly had to maneuver to make it look as if what occurred was a grudging acceptance of a balance of forces. And, he had to demonstrate that to his consensus.

He had a great sense of humor. Was very ruthless, very cold- blooded. I said to him once you have to understand we will not permit Russian arms to defeat American arms in the Middle East. He said, OK, give me American arms. I'll defeat them with American arms. So...

BLITZER: On that note, Dr. Kissinger, we are all out of time. But I want to thank you, especially for your appreciation for your thoughts, of what's going -- happening right now in Middle East and what's likely to happen in the days and weeks and months ahead.

Always good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thank you so much.

KISSINGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: And we have to take a quick break.

Coming up next, we'll turn to politics in the United States. President Clinton may be in the waning months of his presidency but he isn't going away quietly. We'll ask White House Chief of Staff John Podesta what Mr. Clinton hopes to accomplish before he leaves office.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're joined once again by the White House chief of staff, John Podesta.

Mr. Podesta, the chairman of House Government Oversight Committee, Dan Burton was on TV earlier today on "Meet the Press." And he is suggesting that he still has not yet -- is not yet convinced that the final word has been uttered in investigation of President Clinton, Vice President Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno.

Listen to what he said, only this morning.


REP. DAN BURTON (R-IN), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: After this election, assuming we get a new attorney general, I think I will be sending criminal referrals. I think the president and the vice president knew that things they were doing, was not legal.


BLITZER: He says he is going to recommend after the election that President Clinton be indicted because of the illegal allegedly campaign fund-raising activities he was engaged in.

PODESTA: Well, I think that most people know what Chairman Burton's deal is these days. I mean he's been at this for a long time. These partisan investigations that go on and on and on. And it's reminding me a little bit of reruns of "Star Trek."

You know, there's a certain -- there's a certain group of devotees that like to put the long ears on and go to the convention. But I think it's becoming a smaller and smaller group of Americans who actually pay attention to people like Chairman Burton whose, you know, whose main purpose I think is really to try to politically damage the vice president in the upcoming election.

So we'll just have to deal with it. He is still the chairman of that committee. And he's still got subpoena power. And we're going to still have to deal with him for at least next few months. But I think the American people are kind of sick of it, frankly.

BLITZER: But only this week we learned that a year's worth of Vice President Gore's e-mails, between '98 and '99 during the impeachment process, all of a sudden are found missing. Doesn't that add fuel...

PODESTA: Well, it wasn't that they were all of a sudden found missing. There was a technical glitch. They weren't recorded in the -- in the -- system that manages our e-mails at the White House.

We are first White House actually to try to catalog and manage the electronic records of the system. As you remember, past administrations actually went out of their way to try to destroy them. We've tried to capture them and keep them.

But this is a very complicated technical job. And we have done the best we can. We've responded to subpoenas in a timely way where we could. And we are now spending more millions of dollars to try to recreate the records that exist on backup tapes. And, you know, as long as people want to request those records, we'll try to do best we can to provide what's available.

BLITZER: He is a chairman of a congressional subcommittee.

PODESTA: Yes, he is. You know, he's a chairman of congressional full committee.

BLITZER: That's correct. And he still has a lot of ...

PODESTA: And he still has a lot of clout. He has a lot of power. Now whether he's using it ...

BLITZER: But you can understand why people are ...

PODESTA: Whether he's using it -- whether he's using it -- using that power in a way that's consistent with what the founding fathers thought about when they gave committee's the power to do these kinds things, we'll leave that up to the American people. But frankly I think they're kind of sick of this partisanship.

BLITZER: But you can understand why people are suspicious given the way these things sort of come out. A year's worth of e-mails, a technical glitch.

PODESTA: On the other hand, Wolf, we've provided tens of thousands of e-mails to Chairman Burton, to the other investigating committees, and will continue to do it.

But you know whether it's going to amount to anything at end of the day, I guess the American people will be the final judge of that.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about some specific agenda issues President Clinton wants to accomplish during the course of these coming months. The estate tax. It looks like there is a bipartisan majority in the House and the Senate to eliminate this estate tax that a lot of people are saying is so unfair, because this is wealth that individuals had accumulated over a lifetime, of working hard. They want to leave it for children. And then, once again, even though all this money had been taxed, had been paid for, taxes have been paid, once again the government is going to come ...

PODESTA: Well, that's not exactly -- that's not exactly right because ...

BLITZER: Well, the government wants to tax it again.

PODESTA: Because there's quite a bit of that money that in the form of capital gains, et cetera, that's never been taxed. And I think that's the -- that's why the estate tax, to some extent, is fair.

We've said that we've -- we're open to moving forward on it, estate tax relief. In 1997, we had a substantial relief of the estate tax for small business, farmers and ranchers. We're willing to go further than that.

But right now, the tax cut that they put on the table, 10 years from now would cause a tax cut of $50 billion just at the time that the baby boomers are beginning to really hit the retirements systems of Social Security and Medicare. It would provide an $800,000 per person tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Again, only 2 percent of Americans pay this tax.

And so I -- we think that on balance, that the approach that the Republicans have taken the wrong approach. We ought to start with first things first. We ought to keep on the path of fiscal discipline. We ought to provide targeted tax relief to middle class Americans to pay for the cost of going to college, for paying for middle class people to take care of...

BLITZER: Let me just interrupt you for one second.

PODESTA: ... long-term care.

BLITZER: On the estate...

PODESTA: We think this is an unbalanced package that will jeopardize our overall path of fiscal responsibility. It'll jeopardize the economy. And it's unfair from a tax perspect.

BLITZER: So you are saying the president will definitely veto the current plan?

PODESTA: He'll veto the plan that passed the House. And I think, you know, it's part of an overall package, I think, really. And we saw that this week, of the Senate defeating by one vote a patients' bill of rights, the House putting on an education bill on to floor which wouldn't fund after-school and summer school.

BLITZER: Let's talk about that patients' bill...


BLITZER: ... of rights for a second because, as you know, many Republicans and some other outside observers are saying that the Democrats, the White House and the Democrats in Congress, wanted that patients' bill of rights to be killed right now so they would have an issue to hit the Republicans over the head with in the upcoming election.

PODESTA: That is simply false. I mean the...

BLITZER: That's why you put it up by knowing it wouldn't pass.

PODESTA: A bipartisan group with -- including 68 Republicans, voted for the bill, the Norwood-Dingell bill, which is a strong bill which the president said he would sign last October. It went into conference. It's been sitting in conference for a long time. Chairman Nickles, the chairman of that conference has been slow walking that conference. I think the Democrats finally got frustrated and decided to bring it back to floor.

We're now only one vote away from passing it in the Senate, passing a good bill. But I think that the Democrats are unified in support of a strong patients' bill of rights. The president would love to sign the bill. We look forward to getting that final vote. And maybe as the time gets closer to the election, the grip of special interests will get off this Congress. We'll be able to have some breakthroughs on patients' bill of rights and prescription drugs and the other important issues.

BLITZER: The president is going to be very active in the coming months before he leaves office, till January 20, 2001?

PODESTA: Absolutely.


PODESTA: He is going to be trying to work with Congress where he can, to, as I said, pass patients' bill of rights, pass the prescription drug benefit for Medicare, raise the minimum wage. All these things ought to happen. We ought to have common sense gun legislation. He's going to keep pushing for that.

And he's going to use his executive authority where he can. This week, for example, he created four new monuments. He provided that Medicare would pay for the cost of clinical trials for older citizens to participate in cancer clinical trials. So, you know, we're look -- he's going to stay involved and keep pressing in the interests of the American people.

BLITZER: OK, John Podesta, the White House chief of staff, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.

PODESTA: Thanks.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And just ahead, Campaign 2000: Is this election year turning into one big spending spree? We'll talk campaign finance reform with two men responsible for raising cash for Senate candidates, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell and New Jersey Democrat Robert Torricelli.

LATE EDITION will be right back.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Under the present system of 527, Chinese money, drug money, Mafia money, anybody's money can come into American political campaigns and there is no reason to disclose it.


BLITZER: Republican senator John McCain Thursday pushing for a campaign finance reform measure that would require political organizations to disclose their donors. The Senate went on to approve the measure, but the House voting largely along Democratic Republican lines rejected it on Friday. Still, another vote is expected before July 4.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now are two lawmakers who oversee the fundraising efforts for Senate candidates. In Louisville Kentucky, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell; he's chairman of the National Republican Senate committee. And joining us from New York, is New Jersey Democrat Senator Robert Torricelli; he chairs the Democratic Senate, campaign committee.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

And I'll start with you Senator McConnell, this was a measure that you opposed the disclosure of these so-called 527's, these stealth organizations that no one knows where the money is coming from. I want to play an example of one of these ads that was only released in the past few days, and get your sense of why Americans should not know where the money is coming from.

Listen to this.


ANNOUNCER: Welcome to hypocrisy, contestants are you ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Political hypocrites for 200.

ANNOUNCER: He says he's for campaign finance reform, but held an illegal fund raiser at a Buddhist temple.




BLITZER: All right, the shape the debate organization, should we -- since this is obviously a political ad, don't you think the American people have a right to know who's paying for it?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATE COMMITTEE: Yes, since John McCain began to work with the Democrats on this highly partisan issue, for once the other night, he almost had it right. The problem Wolf is that 527's are a very small part of the overall issue advocacy effort. What we're going to do is broaden it. It needs to include labor unions, it needs to include business associations, just passing a narrow disclosure provision targeted at a section of the Internal Revenue code out of which very few people operate, really doesn't get the job done.

It's kind of a piecemeal approach, so John's on the right track for once on this issue, but he doesn't do it the right way. We are going to broaden it, and send it down to president, including labor unions and business associations as well.

BLITZER: Well, what's wrong with that Senator Torricelli? Why not includes labor unions who spent a lot of money on political advertising, why not know where donors are coming from?

SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D-NJ), NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC SENATE COMMITTEE: Well, there's a fundamental difference. People know who's contributing to a labor union, we know who the unions are and we know their membership and their contributions are public. And a corporation does this through a pact or a soft money contribution to the Democratic Republican parties, we may not think it is always the best way to fund campaigns, but at least it is public and people know.

This is American campaign finance at its worst. We don't know where the money is coming from, the names are not disclosed, the organization is often a front for some other purpose. It is a violation of everything that we have learned, that is necessary to try to preserve some integrity in this system. And the problem today is that Democratic party, and the DSCC that I head we have urged candidates not to engage in this practice, disassociate from these organizations, even to renounce them. But if the Congress is not going to act, we're left in a very difficult position.

BLITZER: Senator McConnell, the accusation that's being made against you and many other Republicans, is that by desiring to broaden this legislation, you're effectively going to kill any prospect of achieving anything. In fact, that was the thrust of an editorial in "The Washington Post," this past -- in fact today.

Let me read to you an excerpt:

"The mostly Republican congressional opponents of campaign finance reform have said in the past that they're at least for this, the disclosure of these political action committees. No need for regulation if you have disclosure. Is their supposed position, but it turns out they don't like disclosure either. They like the dark."

MCCONNELL: What they're saying is that a little bit of disclosure is better than a lot of disclosure. That's the same argument I just heard Bob making.

Why in the world, there's no rational basis for leaving out labor unions and business associations. Why target one tiny little narrow provision in the internal revenue code that very few groups use, we need more disclosure not less! Why is including labor unions a bad idea? Why is including business associations a bad idea, that's nonsense.

BLITZER: I'll give Senator Torricelli yet another chance to respond to that.

TORRICELLI: Well, of course in the Democratic caucus many of us who joined with Senator McCain, we would like comprehensive campaign finance reform that indeed eliminates all soft money. It appears to me that that is not going to happen. And, now there's an attempt to make the (OFF-MIKE) enemy of the good, that is by broadening this to a position that we know is politically untenable will eliminate any chances to deal with most outstanding abuse, these 527 organizations under the tax code.

In fact, they're not a marginal problem, two years ago they were $250 million, this could become a half billion dollar loophole. And let me also point out this is not only a congressional problem, for us to deal with, this is also a law enforcement problem. Many of these organizations are coordinated with candidates, they are using the same consultants the same messages.

TORRICELLI: This is something the Justice Department and the campaign finance task force should be in to, while the Congress seeks to make them, to eliminate them, the Justice Department should at least ensure that while they remain, they are operating within laws as now written.

BLITZER: All right, very briefly, go ahead.

MCCONNELL: What Bob is saying here, is Democrats don't want unions to disclose. I mean, that's an absurd position. They are saying I guess they don't want the business associations to disclose. That is an absurd position. It's indefensible on any rational basis. We need to have broad disclosure, so that everyone is treated the same.

BLITZER: OK, Senator McConnell, Senator Torricelli, we have to take a quick break.

More with our two senators in just a moment.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY SENATE CANDIDATE: People who come from the outside have virtually no opportunity to challenge incumbents and entrenched historical participants in the process, and unless they have access at a great deal of financial support.


BLITZER: Democrat Jon Corzine speaking after winning his party's nomination for a New Jersey Senate seat. Corzine spent $31.5 million of his money, setting a record amount for a Senate primary race.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We are continuing our conversation with Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli.

Senator Torricelli, I will begin right with your fellow New Jerseyite Jon Corzine. He spent $31.5 million dollars, and that's been averaged out to about $127 per vote that he captured. A lot of people have problems with that. They think the system has run amok.

TORRICELLI: There are problems with the system, but it neither begins nor ends with Jon Corzine's campaign. In my state of New Jersey today, it is enormously difficult to communicate with our citizens. Newspapers are read less and less every year, to the extent that they are read at all. They carry very little hard news coverage of issues.

Our state is dominated by New York and Philadelphia television which covers almost no substantive issues. Candidates are forced to raise or spend an enormous amount of money to reach average voters. This is a time when we should look at the political parties, but frankly, Wolf, those in the media need to look at yourselves.

In the last four years, the amount of hard news coverage on issues has fallen by 75 percent. And your advertising rates have gone up by 40 percent. There is a reason why candidates are spending so much money: It is the only means of communicating. We have a problem in the political parties, but a problem in media.

BLITZER: I think there is plenty hard news coverage on CNN, but that's a subject for another day. Let me bring in Senator McConnell.

You don't have any problem with an individual spending as much of his or her money as he or she wants to get into politics, and get the kind of opportunity in the Senate that you already have, do you?

MCCONNELL: No, I don't. He has a constitutional right to do what he did. What's noteworthy about New Jersey, and the story in New Jersey, is that he spent $30 million to beat Jim Florio. I mean, that's like the Lakers having to go into double overtime to beat the New Jersey Nets. I mean, everybody knew that Florio was a flawed product. He was almost universally hated in New Jersey.

So it's not yet clear, Wolf, whether you can buy a seat in the Senate. Michael Huffington tried to do that in California in 1994 and did not succeed. It is clear that with $30 million you can beat a fatally flawed candidate in the New Jersey Democratic primary. I think that's about all you can conclude from that race this week.

BLITZER: Senator Torricelli, it looks likes he really hit you in a very, very sensitive area with that (OFF-MIKE) about the New Jersey Nets.

TORRICELLI: Well, he did. Attacking Jim Florio is one thing, but attacking the New Jersey Nets in the same comment is really beyond the pale!

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds, Senators. On the New York Senate contest, Senator Torricelli, you urged Hillary Rodham Clinton to get into that race. Yet, now, this latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Ms. Clinton at 44 percent and Rick Lazio, the virtually unknown Republican congressman from Long Island, also at 44 percent -- a dead heat. Bad advice to Mrs. Clinton?

TORRICELLI: No, I see the New York race in a very similar terms as the New Jersey race in the end. Both may now appear close, but in our state, the fight for universal health care, a patients' bill of rights, reasonable gun safety laws, raising the number of teachers, reducing class size -- these are almost consensus issues.

When Rick Lazio or Bob Franks in New Jersey are known to have been against the hiring of teachers, or school construction -- mixed records on gun safety, poor environmental records -- these races in the end will not be close. Now it is about personalities. In October, it will be about issues. And Mrs. Clinton and Jon Corzine, I think, will be in very good shape.

BLITZER: Senator McConnell, I know that you are very actively involved in supporting Rick Lazio. Unfortunately, we are all out of time. You spoke about it a few weeks ago when you were on LATE EDITION, but I invite you right now to come back in the coming weeks. And we will have a chance to assess some of the other Senate contests as well. I want to thank both Senators for joining us today on LATE EDITION.

MCCONNELL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And coming up, Gore versus Bush. We will talk with two potential candidates on the vice presidential short list: Energy Secretary and Gore supporter Bill Richardson, Oklahoma Governor and Bush supporter Frank Keating.

LATE EDITION -- right after this.



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will take the first step by requesting the Democratic National Committee, not to run any issue ads paid for by soft money. Unless and until the Republican Party uses such money for advertising.


BLITZER: Vice President Al Gore back in March, pledging not to be the first candidate to run so-called soft money ads. This week he was accused by Republicans of breaking that pledge.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

With us now to talk about the race for the White House are two guests, both of whom have been mentioned as possible vice presidential candidates. Joining us from Oklahoma City is Republican Governor Frank Keating a supporter of Governor Bush and here in Washington Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, a supporter of Vice President Gore.

Gentlemen, good to have both of you back on LATE EDITION.

I'll begin with Mr. Richardson. The DNC this week began running an ad that Republicans say violated that Gore pledge.

Listen to this ad.


ANNOUNCER: Al Gore is taking them on, fighting for Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors like Bob Arnette (ph).

GORE: People can't afford these ridiculously high prices for prescription medicines.


BLITZER: Did Vice President Gore break that commitment to the American people when he said no soft money ads until the Republican Party, makes those kinds of ads?

BILL RICHARDSON, U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: Well, first of all, Wolf, what the vice president did was, two months ago he issued a challenge to the Republicans to do the same, no soft money. He was prepared to do that. The Republicans not only didn't comply with that pledge, they brought in third party ads the Wiley brothers, Pete Wilson in California, so, I think what you're not going to do is unilaterally disarm.

So the vice president has his agenda, the Democratic National Committee using every permissible tool to convey the message of the standard-bearer. In a totally legal fashion proceeded with the ad. That is permissible. There are huge soft money ads numbers-wise by the Republicans, third-party ads, I think the vice president when the Republicans rejected his plea to stop the soft money ads, clean up the campaign system, had to go on the offensive.

BLITZER: No alternatives, in effect, that's what the vice president says. What do you say about that Governor Keating?

GOV. FRANK KEATING (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, I love Bill Richardson. He's a friend and he's a wonderful public official, but that really was a pretzel argument the reality is the vice president made a commitment and he broke that commitment, the Democrats began running their soft money ads first, and of course, the Republicans in response, are running their ads, but the vice president stepped across the line said he wasn't going to do it and he said -- so he very definitely violated his commitment.

BLITZER: But the argument also that the Democrats are making is that all these other organizations, sort of loosely affiliated with the Republicans have been running ads against the vice president, that propelled him to go forward.

What do you say to that argument?

KEATING: Well, it's funny. That one ad he made effort to was used in the Republican primary campaign against John McCain. I mean, that's almost ancient history, but the reality is we do need to clean up the campaign finance mess. Obviously the vice president's the best person to talk all about it and explain how and where it needs to be cleaned up. The fact is, George Bush very righteously said we ought to ban soft money from corporations, we ought to ban soft money from unions. We ought to dramatically raise the limit on individual contributions, and we ought to require full disclosure, I think those are all very valid, very sound, very sensible and very acceptable reforms.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, the other point that we're hearing this morning from some Republicans like South Carolina Congressman Lindsay Graham is that this is not an isolated incident with Vice President Gore. Listen to what Congressman Lindsey Graham said earlier today on "Face the Nation."


REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The problem the vice president has this week is that on March 15th he got on national television, he looked the American people in the eye, he made a bold political statement, a few months later when polls go down he's backing off. It's been manipulation and deception has continued for 7 1/2 years.


BLITZER: That's a strong accusation, manipulation and deception has continued for 7 1/2 years but it resonates with a lot of voters out there, who say we can't trust Al Gore.

RICHARDSON: Well, the reality is first of all, it was Republicans in Congress that have bandied against John McCain's effort to have more financial disclosure in campaign financing. Now the vice president had no choice. He issued this pledge, no soft money. The vice president said let's have a foundation. Deal with campaign finance, not packs not other entities, let's clean its up. What did the Republicans do?

They not only continued intensive soft money fundraising, record- breaking, but then you have the proliferation of these third party entities, that are all over the place, that are operating in various states, the vice president's not going to unilaterally disarm. He had no choice. The Republicans didn't come forth with their pledge, and by the way, I think Governor Keating is a great public official, too, so I'm returning his compliment.

BLITZER: This is turning out to be too nice of a discussion, but, Governor Keating, as you take a look at Vice President Gore, where do you think -- very briefly, where do you think he is most vulnerable to an attack by supporters of Governor Bush like yourself.

KEATING: Well, I think the vice president as the acolyte of Bill Clinton takes the credit and the blame for the good and the bad associated with Bill Clinton, but the vice president's principal problem in my opinion, is that he's basically a weather vane, he has all the stability of a wind socket, he goes back and forth on every issue, he was, pro-life, now he is pro-abortion, he was pro-most favored nation, for the Chinese, and then earlier he was against. He is pro-tobacco now he's against tobacco, he's all over the issues and I think that is a very real vulnerability.

BLITZER: And very briefly, same question to you, though, about Governor Bush, where is he most vulnerable?

RICHARDSON: I think the vice president wants a positive campaign, he wants to talk about the issues.

RICHARDSON: He's got a new one: ensuring that proceeds from Medicare from the payroll tax, because of the strong economy, are locked up to pay off the national debt and not for the $800 billion dollar tax cut that Governor Bush wants that we can't afford.

BLITZER: All right, so we are going to leave it right there, but we have a lot more to talk about, campaign politics. For now, we have to take a quick break.

For our international viewers, "World News" is next.

For our North American audience, there is still another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION.

We'll check the hour's top stories and take your phone calls about the presidential race for Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating.

Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable, and Bruce Morton's "Last Word." It's all ahead when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We'll get to your phone calls for Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating in just a moment.

But first, let's go to Jeanne Meserve for a check of the hour's top stories -- Jeanne.


Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will head the U.S. delegation to the funeral of Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad Tuesday in Damascus.

As Syrians mourned in the streets, Assad's son, Bashar, was nominated for president by the ruling party and appointed head of the military. The parliament is expected to approve. Then elections could be held in which he is the older candidate. The elder Assad died yesterday at 69.

The historic first ever summit between North and South Korea has been put of for a day and rescheduled for Tuesday. North Korea cited unspecified technical reasons. The summit will be held in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. A heavily militarized border still divides the Korean Peninsula, now split into the communist North and the pro- western South.

Officials plan to fly over a popular Alabama beach in search of sharks. That follows the state's first shark attack in 25 years. Officials closed the 30 mile stretch along Alabama's Gulf Coast Friday after a shark seriously injured two men. They were part of a group training for a triathalon.

And that's a look at our top stories. More news at the bottom of the hour. But now back to LATE EDITION and Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jeanne.

Now back to our conversation with two potential vice presidential candidates, Oklahoma Republican governor, Frank Keating and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.

Governor Keating, the latest poll numbers show it's going to be a very, very close race, at least as of right now. The CNN/"USA Today" Gallup Poll has 48 percent for Governor Bush, 44 percent for Vice President Gore, but plus or minus five points in the sampling error. Very close.

People are looking at Governor Bush and they're saying he's trying to move to the center, to moderate his positions, stress the fact that he's a compassionate Republican. Do you believe he could get away with asking a pro-abortion rights Republican, like Governor Ridge of Pennsylvania for example, to be his running mate? Do you think that he could get away with that without overly splitting the Republican Party?

KEATING: I think George Bush is an extraordinarily good man who will be an extraordinarily great president. And that is his decision and his decisions alone. But let me say something about the race. Obviously this is going to be a close race. Presidential races are close races. People haven't really focused in on the candidates. I think when they do focus in, they'll see Al Gore with all the warmth of an ice cube. A very liberal individual. George Bush a moderate conservative. Bush will talk about Social Security, about national defense, about Medicare and Social Security. About the things that matter, education, to the American public.

And I think they'll say we need a break. We need a new agenda. We need new personalities in the White House that will restore that office to the position of integrity and trust it once had. So I think Bush will be -- will be the president.

But the reality is, it will be a very close race because now people haven't focused yet. When they do focus, I think they'll see a decided contrast between these two candidates.

BLITZER: All right.

Let's take a caller from Charleston, South Carolina. Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Hi. I was actually just wondering if the vice president was planning on doing some like national media venues, or whatever, going to be on talk shows or what not to -- it seems like I haven't seen him very much doing that.

BLITZER: Well, you obviously have not been watching LATE EDITION because he was on only about four or six weeks ago.

But is he going to make himself generally more available, Mr. Richardson, to the national news media?

RICHARDSON: Well, the answer is yes. And what he's doing is he's taking his campaign to the people. He's had a number of town meetings. He visits schools once a week. He's talking right now about people problems, mental health, cancer, fatherhood.

In the next two weeks, he's going to talk about prosperity. He is one of the economic stewards that have created 26 million jobs in the country. Huge balanced budget, huge surpluses.

In Oklahoma, 250,000 new jobs -- 246,000 new jobs.

BLITZER: You heard that, Governor Keating that Vice President Gore is personally ...

KEATING: Hey, Bill. I'll take some credit for that.

RICHARDSON: Well, you too.

But our economy -- the vice president's economy, the strong economic expansion and talking about new issues. It's a new, exciting issue what he wants to do with Medicare. Take some of the revenue from Medicare from the strong economy, lock it up, find ways to make sure that it goes to pay the national debt and not for other purposes that someone will put it on.

BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Shelbyville, Tennessee.

Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Governor Keating, would you accept the nomination for vice president if Governor Bush asked you to?

KEATING: I would, but I don't anticipate that happening. George Bush has a lot of sounding brass individuals who are superb candidates for the vice presidency. I think that he'll choose one of them.

And I will be -- anyone out there holding a coat, a great coat holder. I'm all for George Bush. Whatever I can do to help him become our president, I'll do it. But I don't really expect being chosen.

BLITZER: Dick Cheney, the former Defense secretary has been vetting people for that position. Has he contacted you yet, Governor Keating?

KEATING: Let me just say Dick Cheney and I are good friends. He chaired the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation for me to build that beautiful memorial that's here. Viewers saw -- that President Clinton opened on April 19th. And we've remained good friends.

BLITZER: All right. Let me then ask the same question to Secretary Richardson. If Vice President Gore asked you to be his running mate, would you accept?

RICHARDSON: I'm going to duck your question. I would do whatever it takes ...

BLITZER: Can't you be as bold as Governor Keating?

RICHARDSON: No. I want to give the vice president -- he should have a free, open choice. There are a lot of qualified people in our party. I will do whatever it takes to get him elected. I will campaign. I will be actively for him.

It's got to be his decision. I don't want to crowd him whatsoever.

BLITZER: OK. Bill Richardson, Governor Frank Keating, good to have both of you on.

KEATING: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens in the coming weeks and months. Thanks for joining us.

KEATING: Thanks.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, with so much spending going on in Campaign 2000, is there any chance of significant campaign finance reform this year?

We'll go round the table with Roberts, Page and Carlson.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable.

Joining me, Susan Page, White House bureau chief for "USA Today", Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report" and Tucker Carlson, political writer for the "Weekly Standard."

All right, these ads, the accusations that Vice President Gore broke his word. A pretty strong exchange between the party chairmen earlier today on "Meet the Press."

Listen to this Steve.


ED RENDELL, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: First of all, it's a challenge. It's not a pledge. The challenge was never accepted.

JIM NICHOLSON, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: He clearly broke his pledge. He broke his pledge because his campaign is faltering. Al Gore is a man who is -- cannot keep basic, core principles. His campaign is in trouble. He's getting advice to do this and I think it'll be a big mistake.


BLITZER: Polls show it's a statistically dead heat. But is Al Gore's campaign in trouble?

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's faltering a little bit. Look, Al Gore is no Bill Clinton. Al Gore doesn't have the dynamism, he doesn't have the warmth. You know, all this talk about who went first, all this talk of even -- that's not going to matter.

What's going to matter is how these candidates are defined, and what Al Gore is trying to do is get out there first and define himself as someone who cares about old people. His ad is about prescription drugs. But even that is not really going to be the issue. What's going to be the issue is how people, when they look at ads, and all other ways in which they communicate, how they feel about these guys. And so far, Al Gore is just not connected on a basic, personal basis with enough Americans. Might be able to still do it. But so far that is the biggest problem he has.

BLITZER: Tucker, has George W. Bush connected on a personal basis with a lot of Americans?

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: I hope not. I'm against connecting on a personal basis. But the ad thing, of course Gore broke the pledge. I'd say so what? I'm not sure why it is bad for a candidate or his party to bring information to voters, to run these ads. I mean the amount of posing and phoniness that surrounds it -- he did it first, soft money ads -- who cares? It's all ludicrous. It's good when politicians and parties give more information to public. I don't know why it is bad.

BLITZER: People obviously believe saturating the media with these kinds of ads have an impact on voters. Do they?

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: : Well, you know, I think the Gore staff, the Gore strategists, think that he's got a problem, and they describe it as that Al Gore is famous but not well-known. You know, everybody knows who Al Gore is, they've been watching him for eight years as vice president. But there's a sense that people don't know him as a person. And I think that is really the point of these ads is to try to introduce Al Gore as a person.

They say that these ads will become increasingly autobiographical over the next nine weeks, leading up to the Democratic Convention. And then at the convention will be the moment when Americans will change their mind about who Al Gore is. Now maybe that will work. That certainly has been a trade of vice presidents who run for election in the past. As president, there is a process, where they get to be known on their own, and not as number two to another president.

ROBERTS: Yeah, you know, one of the interesting things was the ads that Bush ran -- talk about following Bill Clinton's model. You know, both candidates say I'm not Bill Clinton. You know, I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the White House, and yet, both are following Bill Clinton's playbook.

And one of the ways George Bush is, is he's trying to steal one of the Democrats' best issues, the way Clinton stole welfare reform, stole crime, away from the Republicans. Here he is, his first ad, talking about social security, which has been a Democratic -- a prime Democratic issue for so long, and trying to say I'm the guy who you can depend on for Social Security. It's right out of Bill Clinton's playbook. Steal the other guy's best issue.

BLITZER: And there's another ad that's started running this week. Tucker, I want you to listen especially to this ad -- all of us -- and get your sense. Listen to this.


NARRATOR: The Bush plan guarantees, everyone at or near retirement, every dollar of their benefits.

The Bush plan gives younger workers a choice to invest a small part of their Social Security in sound investments they control, for higher returns.


BLITZER: That was the ad that, Steve, you just referred to, but there is an ad involving a nephew, a young man who presumably could have an impact on where a lot of young people may turn out in November. Listen to this ad.


GEORGE P. BUSH, SON OF JEB BUSH: I believe in opportunity, a level playing field for everyone and the achievement of the American dream. I have an uncle that is running for president, because he believes in the same thing. Opportunity for every American, for every Latino. His name? Same as mine: George Bush.


BLITZER: Handsome, young man. He's Jeb Bush's son, the governor of Florida, George P. Bush. He's marching in the Puerto Rican parade in New York today. That could have an impact, that kind of an ad, couldn't it?

CARLSON: Maybe. I mean, he's great on TV. I mean, I predict he gets a TV gig after this is all over. There's another part in the ad where he says, "I'm proud of my bloodline," which I was sort of surprised to learn you are allowed to say on television. But I guess the...

BLITZER: Remember, his mother is Hispanic, and that's why he's saying that.

CARLSON: Right. But are we allowed to say we're proud of our bloodline? I mean, that strikes me as kind of freaky. But in any case...

BLITZER: I'm proud of mine.

CARLSON: Are you? Good for you, Wolf. Bold statement. But no, I mean it is sort of, you know, the most obvious sort of ethnic pandering. Yeah, it'll probably work. I don't know, he seems --

PAGE: I think it's kind of interesting, and, you know, it's an advantage for George W. Bush, who is running, to have this attractive young nephew, seems very poised. I think we're probably going to see a lot of him. Makes you think about a dynasty, right? We had a Connecticut senator, a president, in the Bush family. Connecticut senator, his son a president, his two sons governors. Who knows what will happen?

BLITZER: Can I tell you something? If I were campaign managers for these two campaigns, I'd have George P. Bush out there as much as I possibly could with young voters. And I'd have Karenna Gore, the vice president's daughter, out there. She's a very attractive woman. She could do quite well for the vice president.

Unfortunately, we have to take a quick break.

A lot more to talk about, including the New Jersey and New York Senate campaigns.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.

Susan, last night the first lady had some fun with New York state political reporters, and in the line of her husband, had a little self-deprecating humor. Listen to this.




I guess I'm probably about two there. He really liked my hat.


This is just a private moment I threw in just the president, Chelsea me and my hat.


BLITZER: She loved those candid shots with her New York Yankees cap, that's the kind of stuff, though, that can have an impact in a race like New York state.

PAGE: It's a great thing for candidates to do for politicians to be able to make fun of themselves, I'm surprised more of them don't learn that lesson. She's got a problem, though, you know even in this latest poll which shows her even with Rick Lazio, she cannot seem to get out of above 45 percent, and everybody in New York presumably knows who's she is, knows she's running for the Senate and I think that's got to be some of concern that she's not hitting that 50 percent mark.

ROBERTS: Look, I agree that she's smart to be self-deprecating because she is not naturally a particularly warm person, I mean she comes across a pretty frosty character on the campaign trail, whereas Lazio's kind of this puppy dog lapping at everybody but, she has had a problem with the carpet bagger issue, I'm a real Yankee fan. Well, I spent the last two days in Yankee stadium with my Yankee hat, but I've been wearing one for 50 years. I think a lot of New Yorkers have resented the fact that she is coming in and tried to portray herself so she's probably smart to kid about it because it was a problem, she is not a New Yorker, she's a Chicago Cubs fan.

BLITZER: Across the river in New Jersey, Tucker, it looks like it's going to be a tough race between Jon Corzine and Bob Franks the former Republican congressman, where's that moving.

CARLSON: Well, I don't know, I mean of course a lot of people have gone after Corzine for spending lots of their money voters predictably couldn't care, but it's an interesting argument people are making against Corzine. Some how they're saying it's morally wrong that he spent $35 million or whatever to get his seat as if it would be somehow better if he took campaign contributions from the asbestos manufacturers or something, The stock -- the criticism of politicians is they're in the pocket of their donors, well he doesn't have any donors, so in that way, he's pure, I don't know why people are attacking him.

BLITZER: New Jersey elected Steve Forbes came from that same school of political thought.

PAGE: There are a lot of rich people in New Jersey apparently who want to run for office, but I think voters have the same reaction as you do Tucker, I mean with Rockefeller and with Forbes and other rich candidates, it seems to give them protection against being thought of as corrupt.

BLITZER: Let's ask New Jersey native Steve Roberts, you know that state.

ROBERTS: Yeah, I do, and look at the guy he's replacing -- he's trying to replace Frank Lautenberg did exactly that. Never run for public office, made money in fact as a business partner of Ross Perot, most people don't know that about Frank Lautenberg. And there are -- Herb Kohl senator from Wisconsin, basically bought a seat, so Teddy Kennedy in many ways, very rich guy is often dependent on family money, so I think that you're right, I don't think the voters care. In some ways it could work for him because they say well, at least he's not going to be beholding to the people.

CARLSON: But he is a wacko politically -- and I think that's -- I mean, he is actually a liberal ideologue. I respect that but it's hard even in New Jersey to think that voters are going to buy it.

BLITZER: Next time Tucker you have to tell us how you really feel about Jon Corzine.

CARLSON: I will.

BLITZER: Don't hold back, Tucker Carlson, Susan Page, Steve Roberts thanks for joining us and just ahead, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines plus Bruce Morton's last word.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started in June 1950 when North Korean troops swept across the 38th parallel, which divided communist North from capitalist South.


BLITZER: After 50 years, can the two Koreas finally be reunited?

finally be reunited?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's Last Word. With the leaders of North and South Korea scheduled to meet this week, Bruce Morton takes a look back 50 years after the Korean War.


MORTON (voice-over): This past week, New Orleans honored heroes. The D-Day Museum opened, a reminder of a great victory won by citizen soldiers, ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things.

Now we are moving toward another anniversary, this one of a strange war which never really ended, the Korean War, not a war really, since Congress never declared it. Police action was the term used at the time.

It started in June 1950 when North Korean troops swept across the 38th parallel which divided communist north from capitalist south. The South Korean and American troops fell back, then regrouped and swept forward as Douglas MacArthur commanded amphibious landings at En Chung (ph), north of the front.

Then, as the Allies moved north, the Chinese came in. They were fighting not just the U.S. and South Korea but the United Nations. It could intervene because the Soviet Union was boycotting U.N. sessions and didn't use its Security Council veto. The U.N. retreated before the Chinese, then battled back, and the war ended in 1953 with a truce along a demilitarized zone, not so very different from the original border.

It cost about 37,000 American lives, many more Korean and Chinese lives. And there was never a normal peace. The DMZ is manned today by U.S. and South Korean troops. The million man North Korean army is within striking distance of the South's capital of Seoul.

The Cold War ended. The Berlin Wall came down. The Soviet Union imploded. But Korea stayed divided. Did North's Kim Il-Sung ran a sealed, Stalinist locked-box of a country? But his son, Kim Jong-il succeeded to power six years ago and is moving toward change: a train trip to Beijing -- he doesn't like to fly -- aid from the United States, diplomatic relations with Italy and Australia, talks with Britain, Japan other countries.

(on camera): Well the two leaders, Kim Dae-jung from the South and Kim Jong-il will meet in the northern capital of Pyongyang, the first time ever that the leaders of north and south have met. Is the reason the widely reported famine in north? Is it Kim Dae-Jung's calls for peaceful co-existence? Is it that Kim Jong-il isn't quite the raging Stalinist his father was.

(voice-over): It's still a closed country and it's hard to know. But this is a chance, at least, to end the last remaining open sore left over from the Cold War. The rest of the world can only wish the two Kims well.

I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.

Now a look at what's on cover of this week's major news magazines.

"TIME" magazine details the future of technology: smart cars, uppity robots, and cybersex -- Are you ready? on the cover.

"U.S. News & World Report" has kids at risk. New evidence points to a link between environmental poisons and learning disabilities, on the cover.

And on the cover of "Newsweek," how Bill Gates, that is, blew it, and how he can still save Microsoft.

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, June 11. Be sure to catch us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'll also be back tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on "THE WORLD TODAY."

For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington.



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