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Will John Ashcroft Clear Confirmation Hearings to Become Attorney General? Clinton Says Good-bye as Bush Prepares for Inauguration

Aired January 14, 2001 - 12:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Paris, and 8:00 p.m. in Moscow.

Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this two-hour LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our interview with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen shortly, but first, the hour's top stories.


BLITZER: This may be President Clinton's final week in office, but several defense challenges still linger for President-elect Bush. Joining us now to talk about the Clinton administration's military record and what possible problems the incoming commander in chief can expect is the U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION. You've been on this program many times. This is your last time as a government official, but we'll get to more of that later.

Let's get to some of the news of the day right now. A lead headline in today's "Washington Post" saying President Clinton has signed off on another $12 million plan to provide funds to the Iraqi opposition in order to try to topple Saddam Hussein. $12 million does not sound like a whole lot of money, given the nature of this problem as you see it from the U.S. perspective.

WILLIAM COHEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, you have to look at what the purpose of the program is. This is something that Congress has directed, signed off -- the president has -- and to create an Iraqi opposition. And, clearly, there has to be funds to go for communications, for training, for other purposes to create an effective voice as an alternative to Saddam Hussein.

It is not the intent to start arming and equipping and inserting these individuals into Iraq itself, at this point, until they are further trained and until such time as the new president -- as President-elect George Bush is able to develop a consensus within the Arab community, because he'll need support from the Gulf states, as well, in order to carry out such a mission. But it's clear, until Saddam Hussein is gone, I don't think Iraq is ever going to be able to be fully integrated into the family of nations.

BLITZER: You probably saw the interview that President-elect Bush gave to "The New York Times" today, in which he said the entire sanctions regime against Iraq, in his words, resembles Swiss cheese, meaning that so many things are getting through that shouldn't be getting through. And this latest effort, a lot of critics are going to say too little, too late.

COHEN: Well, the sanctions regime actually has worked. It's been very difficult to hold onto a sanctions regime for so long, and the incredible thing is we've been able to maintain it.

Saddam Hussein has been very effective in this propaganda machine that he's been distributing all of this information through various outlets that constantly say it's the United States, the United Nations, and the West that's causing the suffering of the Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein is causing the suffering of the Iraqi people.

But, I would point out, to our credit, we took the lead on the Oil-for-Food Program. We are doing everything in our power to reduce the suffering of the Iraqi people.

But, in the meantime, we have been successful in sustaining support for the sanctions regime, which, in effect, has curtailed Saddam's ability to rebuild his military.

He is in no position to attack his neighbors at this point, and so the sanctions regime, whatever its faults, whatever its deficiencies, it still has been the thing that's kept him in his box.

BLITZER: One legacy from the Gulf War, and this Tuesday night will be the 10th anniversary of the Gulf War: This past week, the Pentagon changed the status of Lieutenant Commander Michael Speicher from killed in action, the first pilot -- U.S. pilot shot down during the Gulf War, to missing in action. President Clinton was asked about that on Friday. Listen to what Mr. Clinton had to say.


PRESIDENT WILLIAM J. CLINTON: I do not want to raise false hopes here. We do not have hard evidence that he is alive. We have some evidence that what had been assumed to be the evidence that he was lost in action is not so. And we're going to do our best to find out if he is alive, and if he is, to get him out.


BLITZER: In order to find out that information, you need the help, the cooperation of the Iraqi government. Is there any prospect that Saddam Hussein's government is going to cooperate with you in this endeavor?

COHEN: Well, so far they have not been terribly cooperative. The information that was furnished initially proved to be inaccurate. They have not been fully forthcoming with their information, and this has been pieced together by looking at what has been provided to find it's been insufficient or inaccurate.

And we have really launched and waged a very strong campaign to get this information, and as President Clinton indicated, we're going to continue to do that. And hopefully -- I know Governor Bush, President-elect Bush, is going to continue to do everything in his power as well, to make sure that we account for every single one of our now missing in action.

BLITZER: Speaking about accounting and accountability, the U.S. Cole: Three months ago that ship was attacked, was bombed in Yemen. A lot of criticism now at the way that who is being held responsible for what was obviously a mistake, obviously a tragedy.

There was an editorial in Wednesday's Washington Post. Let me read to you an excerpt from that editorial. "If Mr. Cohen will not act, then the new administration should ensure that responsibility is appropriately assigned. It will also need a coherent strategy for countering Mr. Bin Laden. Clearly, it will not inherit one."

COHEN: Well, as a matter of fact, I think that was perhaps written without a full understanding of the report that was filed and prepared by General Crouch and Admiral Gehman, to look at ways in which we can, in fact, enhance the security of our people who are forward deployed.

We have to do better. We did not do as well -- in this particular case, there were so-called seams the terrorists were able to exploit. We've done very well at building up our security as far as force protection on our fixed sites. It's clear from the Gehman- Crouch report that we did not do a sufficient job as far as in-transit ships.

In addition to that, there is an investigation still under way, which we hope will be completed in the next several days, which will try to account for what took place during that time, so that anyone who was responsible can be held accountable, and so this is ongoing.

BLITZER: Have you concluded that Osama bin Laden, or people associated with Osama bin Laden, were in fact responsible for this attack on the Cole?

COHEN: We haven't concluded anything at this point. He is high on the list of suspects, because of the extensiveness of his terror network, because of his past activities associated with the bombings in East Africa of our embassies, and because -- we follow the intelligence on a regular basis -- that he is determined to try to kill as many Americans as possible. So, he's high on the list of suspects. We have not reached any definitive conclusion yet.

BLITZER: So you're leaving over that issue, in effect, also for the incoming Bush administration?

COHEN: We have to be thorough, and we can't make judgments which can't be supported by the facts, other than that then it would be criticized as saying, well, you jumped the gun on this, you pointed your fingers, and you didn't have the evidence, so we have to be thorough.

BLITZER: You received President-elect Bush and Dick Cheney, General Powell over at the Pentagon this past week: the entire national security team, and Donald Rumsfeld, who is going to be your successor, a man you've known for many years.

He and the whole Bush team are making a major issue of a national missile defense shield that they say the Clinton administration was really derelict in not moving forward more rapidly on that front.

Listen to what Rumsfeld said earlier this week.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE-DESIGNATE: This isn't the old star wars idea of a shield that will keep everything off of everyone in the world. It is something that in the beginning stages is designed to deal with a hands-fulls of these things, and persuade people that they are not going to be able to blackmail and intimidate the United States and its friends and allies.


COHEN: I agree with that statement.

BLITZER: Well, you've seen all the information.

COHEN: Right.

BLITZER: You agree it with, but not all of the people agree that this is doable, that that kind of national missile defense system, a shield in effect, is workable. And it's obviously going to cost billions and billions of dollars.

COHEN: Well, there are two issues involved. As to whether the technology has matured to the point that we could actually deploy such a system, I believe the technology will evolve fairly quickly over a period of a few years that will demonstrate that we do have the capability.

Secondly, we have to also approach it on the diplomatic side. We should never give Russia, China, or any other country a veto over our national security.

But we also have to take into account the issues raised by others, including our allies in Europe, because in order to have an effective national missile defense system, a limited one, as Don Rumsfeld was talking about, in the initial stages, we will have to have the support of some of our allies, because the radars will have to be forward-deployed on their territory.

So it's going to take scientific progress, as well as diplomatic. BLITZER: The Bush team during the campaign made a lot of accusations against military readiness, preparedness during the Clinton administration. Some of that is continuing, to a certain degree. The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication here in Washington, has an editorial this week just out today. I want to you hear, and we'll put it up on the screen, what they write.

They say, "The coming challenges to American security, American principles, and American interests may not be as immediately visible as they were in 1980, but in many ways, President Clinton has dug a hole for his successor as deep as the one Jimmy Carter left for Ronald Reagan."

COHEN: Well, first, I would point out that we are leaving the new administration a $227 billion increase over and above where I started just four years ago. So we are preparing and providing for the kind of investment into the modernization needs of the country and readiness needs of the country.

We have strengthened NATO by enlarging it and building a much stronger relationship with our NATO allies.

We have rekindled our relationship throughout the southeast Asia region, and we have strengthened it with countries such as in Singapore and Thailand.

Also with all of the other countries in the region: We have restarted our military ties with the Chinese, and that's important. Now, the new administration may decide it no longer wants to continue that.

But if you look around the globe in South America, you look to Africa, we have built a very strong series of bilateral, indeed multilateral, relationships with many of these countries.

If you look at the budget, the budget is on the upswing. If you point to -- we've increased the procurement budget from 43 upward to 60. We've increased the pay raise, the largest in a generation, the largest spending increase in a generation.

So we've done a lot of things that this administration is going to inherit that is going to be very productive.

BLITZER: I take it you disagree with "The Weekly Standard."

We are going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. When we return, we'll talk with Secretary Cohen about his 31 years in public life, as well as his plans for the future.

LATE EDITION will be right back.



WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't know that I was the first president in history to ask an elected official of the opposite party to hold that job.

Shoot, I might not have done it if I'd known that.



BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with the defense secretary, William Cohen.

BLITZER: What was it like being the only Republican in the Clinton Cabinet over these past four years?

COHEN: It was a truly great experience. President Clinton asked me to focus on one issue only, national security. That's all I did. We never had discussions about politics. I never engaged in any discussions at the political level, so I did the job that he asked me to do, and it was a wonderful experience. Being around the men and women who are serving us in uniform has been truly inspiring.

BLITZER: But it must have been incredibly awkward, difficult during the 13 months of the Monica Lewinsky investigation, the impeachment process. How did you manage to get through that period doing what you were charged with doing?

COHEN: Well, I kept my eye on the ball. I -- again, President Clinton said, "There are a number of things going on right now, including the impeachment proceedings, but I want you to focus on this job." That's all I did.

So, I had the same level of focus that I've always tried to maintain when it comes to national security, and the other issues did not in any way interfere, in any impede, our deliberations on national security.

BLITZER: You know, the accusations, the wag-the-dog stories, the bombing of Iraq during that period: As somebody who was intimately involved in all of those decisions, the U.S. military strikes during those 13 months, can you categorically say they had absolutely nothing to do with that impeachment process?

COHEN: Absolutely zero to do with the impeachment process.

I would resign my position as secretary of defense in a nanosecond if I thought that President Clinton or anyone else was trying to manipulate the process to put our men and women at risk over a political issue that was then prevailing at the time, as far as the domestic impeachment proceedings. I would have resigned immediately, and told the world about it. There was zero consideration given to any political factors involved.

BLITZER: You're not only leaving the Clinton administration, but you're leaving the public life, if you will, government service...


BLITZER: ... after 31 years in various forms of government service.

Most people first heard of William Cohen in 1974, during Watergate, when you broke ranks with some of your fellow Republicans here. We're showing a picture of a young Bill Cohen.

You haven't really aged that much over these years.

Was that the most dramatic moment in your political life?

COHEN: That was perhaps the single most important vote I ever had to cast, in perhaps the most intense period I had to undergo as a member of Congress, yes.

But there have been other challenges since that time, and the war in Kosovo, when you're making decisions, for example, where people's lives are on the line every single day, they are even more challenging in that sense, in a personal sense, when you know that the decision you make is going to possibly affect someone's life, and so that was a different type of challenge.

Politically, that was the most demanding, yes.

BLITZER: And it resulted in Richard Nixon's eventual decision, of course, to resign.


BLITZER: So, as you look ahead now, to this new team, you met with President Elect Bush this week, the other national security advisers, the next defense secretary: What advice did you give? Share with us what you told them. What advice did you give them?

COHEN: Well, I don't have to give them any advice. It's a great team that he has assembled. I know all of them. They are enormously talented and capable. They are well-versed in national security issues.

What I simply did was to spend a couple of hours with Don Rumsfeld, whom I have the highest regard for. I will meet with him once more before I leave.

I had two hours with President-elect Bush and his team, basically to give an overview of our strategic posture, then focus on some of the hotspots in the world, but I'm not one to give advice at this point. They can take their own advice.

Other than to say, I think it's important that President-elect Bush move quickly to establish some early successes, politically, on the Hill, to show that the momentum is with the new president, and that will have a, I think, a dynamic that will work to his advantage, to show that he's in charge and moving with the country.

But I think, as far as giving advice, he's got a great team, that they'll give him plenty of advice.

BLITZER: We only have a little bit of time left, but did you tell him what you think is the most dangerous spot in the world today, from the U.S. national security perspective?

COHEN: Well, we are looking at our strategic systems. Obviously we have to focus on our nuclear systems. The national missile defense issue is going to be very controversial but very important. Our relationship with NATO and the EU, the so-called ESDP, and terrorism, in all of its forms, biological, chemical, and cyberterrorism, where the terrorists are now trying to take down, or possibly prepare to take down, various infrastructure, communications, transportation, financial systems, which could cause havoc in our country.

So, these, he is aware of all of them. We simply tried to focus on where the most intense interest is right now. But he will have a great team to advise him.

BLITZER: You got a new job lined up?

COHEN: Well, I'll be self-employed.

BLITZER: Self-employed: That's pretty good, after all these years in government service.

Mister Secretary, congratulations, good luck to you, in the next chapter of your life. Maybe you'll be writing a few more novels or books, but we'll look forward to those as well.

COHEN: OK; thanks.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for joining us.

And just ahead, President-elect Bush is standing behind several controversial Cabinet nominees. But will they survive Senate hearings?

We'll talk about the Bush camp's confirmation headaches with two senators, Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy and Arizona Republican John Kyl. LATE EDITION: We'll be right back.



PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: This is a good man. He's got a good heart, and when people hear his record and see what he's done in public life, they'll find him to be an accomplished, good American, and I'm confident he'll win the votes.


BLITZER: President-elect George W. Bush defending his choice for attorney general, former Missouri Senator John Ashcroft.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now are two guests who will hear testimony from Ashcroft and his opponents this coming week. In Washington, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont: He's the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee which will decide whether to refer the Ashcroft nomination to the full Senate. And in Phoenix, Arizona, Republican Senator Jon Kyl; he also serves on the Judiciary Committee.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

And I want to begin with you, Mr. Chairman, at least for a few more days, Senator Leahy: What's the, in your opinion, the best, most compelling argument that opponents of John Ashcroft have in saying he should not be confirmed?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I suspect the strong argument being that he is a man who has taken such doctrinaire positions, that he would not have the kind of all-encompassing view that an attorney general has to have that is not dealing in a partisan area, but has to represent all Americans, Republicans, Democrats, everybody else.

One that would be a bad argument against him, as far as I'm concerned, is anybody suggesting that he's either anti-religious or racist or something like that. I think all of us who know him know that charge would not stick.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, Senator Kyl? I know you've been sort of the point man for the confirmation of John Ashcroft. The argument that he, as Senator Leahy says, is so doctrinaire in his views against affirmative action, abortion rights, gun control, certain aspects of civil rights, that he's simply not fit to be the attorney general?

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Well, let me make three quick points if I could. First of all, I think Senator Leahy will agree that John Ashcroft certainly meets the test in terms of qualifications. His stint as attorney general of Missouri, the governor of Missouri, U.S. Senate and service on the Judiciary Committee: a very well-qualified candidate. And secondly, that he is a man of immense integrity. So, of those things, there is no question.

Now, the second point, then, has to do with what the test for such a candidate should be, and I'd like to quote our Chairman Leahy when he was talking about a Democrat nominee before the U.S. Senate, Walter Dillinger (ph), who was up for the office of the legal counsel in the Department of Justice. And here's what Senator Leahy said the test should be.

He said, "I think most senators will agree that the standard we apply in the case of executive branch appointments is not as stringent as for -- as that for judicial nominees. The president should get to pick his own team. Unless the nominee is incompetent or some other major ethical or investigative problems arise in the course of our carrying out our duties, then the president gets the benefit of the doubt. There is no" -- may I just conclude Senator Leahy's words?


KYL: "There is no doubt about this nomination's qualifications or integrity. This is not a lifetime appointment to the judicial branch of government. President Clinton should be given latitude in naming executive branch appointees, people to whom he will turn for advice." So just substitute President Bush for President Clinton, I think you have the test here, and if applied to John Ashcroft, clearly he should be confirmed.

BLITZER: Well, let's let Senator Leahy respond to that.

LEAHY: Well, I think that a president should be given wide latitude. I have no problem with that. I fully expect President Bush to nominate Republicans, and conservative Republicans. He feels that he owes nothing to Democrats, and he'll do whatever he wants with Republicans, and that's fine. He will be the president and he can do that. He can ignore the other party if he wants.

LEAHY: The concern, though, I have is that the attorney general has to make such, so many decisions that effect everyone of us, that if you put somebody who is seen as a rigid ideologue, then you don't have credibility in this position.

And that has to be a concern. The attorney -- if John Ashcroft had been nominated for secretary of commerce, for example, he would fly through. In fact, if the president nominated somebody like Orrin Hatch, who is a very conservative Republican chairman-to-be of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he would have been confirmed.

BLITZER: Well, let me bring back Senator Kyl. And specifically, Senator Kyl, points that you just raised on the president should have the prerogative of naming somebody, assuming that person is generally qualified and fit: When John Ashcroft opposed the nomination of Bill Lann Lee to be the assistant attorney general for civil rights, he made the point that Bill Lann Lee was well qualified, that he was a good person, that he had a good record on civil rights, but he then went on to explain why he opposed and sought to reject that nomination. Listen to what Ashcroft said in his own words.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: An advocate who is willing to pursue an objective and to carry it with the kind of intensity that belongs to advocacy, but not with the kind of balance that belongs to administration.


BLITZER: If that was an adequate reason for rejecting Bill Lann Lee, why shouldn't Democrats and others who may be critical of John Ashcroft for his advocacy role in many of these issues reject John Ashcroft?

KYL: Because Bill Lann Lee and John Ashcroft took two very different positions. Bill Lann Lee made it clear that he would, as a Department of Justice official, continue to push for the kinds of quotas and preferences that the U.S. Supreme Court had said were not appropriate. Now they were dressed up in words like affirmative action, but it was pretty clear that he would continue to do that, and in fact he has done that, and that's why Bill Lann Lee was never confirmed by the U.S. Senate. By contrast, John Ashcroft has said, and he will have another opportunity during the hearings to confirm this, that he will enforce the law as it is.

And I think that it's ironic that people raise questions about whether he will in force the law, but they haven't been able to point to anything in his service as attorney general or governor when he didn't apply the law.

And I can cite examples to you of situations where he didn't necessarily agree with the law, but he enforced it, because that's what he took an oath to do. And I think he will do that as attorney general.

BLITZER: All right. Well, that's a fair point. Senator Leahy...

LEAHY: I cannot accept the characterization of Bill Lann Lee's testimony, either before the committee or in the written answers to questions a number of senators asked him. He made it very, very clear that he would stay within the letter of the law, the letter and the spirit of the Supreme Court cases, and that he would uphold the law as it is written. And indeed he's done just that.

BLITZER: Well, on this point, our new CNN-Time Magazine poll asks this question, whether John Ashcroft would enforce laws, whether this was a serious issue to be considered. Sixty-five percent thought it was a serious issue; 23 percent, not a serious issue.

The argument -- are you concerned, Senator Leahy, that given John Ashcroft's opposition to abortion rights for women, including in the cases of rape and incest, that he will be able to enforce the laws which protect those very rights?

LEAHY: If he follows the statements he has made in the past, he would be taking a far different position. In fact, Senator Hatch this morning in the news said he's not sure what position he would take -- what position John Ashcroft would take on upholding Roe versus Wade or the abortion laws.

The important thing to remember on this: While the Supreme Court may to be the last word, the attorney general is the first word. And the attorney general makes the first decisions on what's going to be enforced and not enforced. The attorney general makes a decision on what the solicitor general will say when he goes before the Supreme Court to argue either to uphold or to reverse Roe versus Wade.

So is it a legitimate question? Of course it's a legitimate question. In fact that's one of the reasons why -- in another poll, you mentioned one magazine, another poll coming out tomorrow say the majority of people say he should not, or more people say he should not be attorney general than say he should. I will tell even those people, wait until the hearings are over, then make up your mind.

BLITZER: What will he say, do you think, Senator Kyl, on that specific question? Will he be able to uphold Roe versus Wade, uphold the ban against anti-abortion demonstrators getting close to health clinics? Will he be able to do all that as the attorney general?

KYL: I think he'll say give me a chance and I'll show you that I can. I can't prove it until you give me the chance, except by reference to what I've said and done in the past. He's made it very clear in the past that he believes that violence in front of abortion clinics is absolutely wrong, and that the law he supports and should be enforced.

And let me give a couple examples. When he was attorney general of the state of Missouri, he was just as pro-life then as he is now, but he rendered opinions as attorney general that went against the pro-life position, that, for example, said that no death certificates were required for fetuses of less than 20 weeks. After 20 weeks, the law in Missouri said that you had to have it. Well, he didn't, I suppose, like rendering that opinion, but he said that's the law and that's what I have to say.

Likewise with hospital records on abortions: Pro-life people wanted those records; he said, no, under the law of Missouri, I don't think that they should have to give them up.

He enforced the Missouri Brady Bill, even though I don't think he was crazy about that law.

The point is, he has a record of integrity, of enforcing the laws, whether he likes them or not. And it seems to me that, if opponents are going to raise the question about whether he would do that, they need some kind of evidence to suggest that he wouldn't, and all the evidence suggests that he would.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Kyl, Senator Leahy, stand by. We have to take a quick break.

When we return, your phone calls for both senators. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about the confirmation fight facing President-elect George W. Bush's potential Cabinet nominees with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. We have a caller from Englewood, New Jersey, please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Yes, my question is this. Doesn't Mr. Ashcroft have to be given some credit for at least allowing the nomination of Judge White to come to a Senate vote? How many judges have left-wing senators like Teddy Kennedy never allowed these nominations to come to a Senate vote?

BLITZER: Let me ask Senator Leahy about that. We're talking about Ronnie White, Supreme Court justice in Missouri, who was nominated for a federal appeals court position by President Clinton; his nomination was rejected by the U.S. Senate, largely along party lines. But the caller suggests that at least Senator Ashcroft allowed it to come up for a vote. LEAHY: Well, for one thing, President-elect Bush has said all of these people should have come up for a vote within 60 days. The fact of the matter is, the Republicans refused to allow a very large number of judicial nominations to even come for a vote, either to vote them up or vote them down.

Justice White was allowed to come up for a vote, and in a party- line vote, all Republicans voting against him, all Democrats voting for him, he was rejected.

I have voted many times, as has Senator Kennedy I would mention to the person from Englewood, as has Senator Kennedy, to say let's let somebody go out for a vote even if we were going to vote against them.

This happened with Clarence Thomas. Clarence Thomas was confirmed. If the Democrats had taken the same position that Senator Ashcroft had and several others, Clarence Thomas' nomination would have stayed bottled up in committee. We voted to allow it to go out to the floor for a vote.

BLITZER: Let me follow up with Senator Kyl. Earlier today Orrin Hatch, the next chairman in a few days of the Judiciary Committee, was asked, Ronnie White is going to testify before the panel this week and make the case that what Senator Ashcroft and other Republicans including yourself did to him was unfair, but Senator Hatch said there was no plans, and he does not think it necessary, to bring victims of crimes who were affected by some of Justice White's decisions before the judiciary committee. Do you agree with Senator Hatch that it's not necessary to bring any of those victims before the panel?

KYL: I don't know that it's necessary, but I do think it would be somewhat helpful, because the primary case against Judge White -- and I think, by the way, that reasonable people could differ about this. The question is whether he stays on the bench in Missouri, or is elevated to a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. And we just felt that his record as a judge in Missouri generally was not as supportive of law enforcement, and the law enforcement community felt the same way, as it should be.

Now, I think that it would be powerful if some of the victims of the crimes that came before Judge White could testify, because people could then see very clearly what would happen if the people that Judge White would let go or would let be retried, would -- what would happen potentially were they let back out on the street: the Jimmy (ph) Johnson case being the most notorious, the person who brutally killed four people.

BLITZER: So on that point, you disagree Senator Hatch, correct?

KYL: Well, I'm not sure. I mean, that's a call for the Bush transition people to make, but I do think that victims' stories can be powerful in putting into perspective in these death sentence cases where you have a person like Judge White, for example, who says, I don't think that the death penalty should be given in this case, and yet you see the victim standing before you. LEAHY: No, no, that's not what he's saying. Jon, be fair. That's not what he said. He did not suggest that anybody be released. He simply said they should be given a fair trial, something that all of us...

KYL: He said he should be retried.

LEAHY: He voted -- 95 percent of the time, Justice White voted with judges who were appointed by then Governor Ashcroft -- people that he holds up as being models -- Justice White voted with them 95 percent of the time. He did not vote to release anybody. He simply said they should be retried because there were errors in the case.

There's a big, big difference in saying everybody's entitled to the same fair trial. He has voted to uphold the death penalty over and over again. He did not vote to release somebody.

BLITZER: Senator Kyl, this past week we heard on Larry King Live an excerpt from the speech that Senator Ashcroft gave in May of 1999 before Bob Jones University.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to this excerpt and see if it raises any red flags for you, as far as John Ashcroft's suitability to be the next attorney general. Listen to this.


ASHCROFT: Unique among the nations, America recognized the source of our character as being godly and eternal, not being civic and temporal. And because we have understood that our source is eternal, America has been different. We have no king but Jesus.


BLITZER: Well, what do you say to those Americans who don't necessarily believe that America should have, in his words, "no king but Jesus"?

KYL: Well, two things: First of all, you go back to our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, which says that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. And, from that principle, we have established in this country, unlike any other in the world, the notion that all of us are to be treated equally in our civic governmental affairs, because it's not the government that gives us rights. Our rights do, in fact, come from the fact that we are created in the image of our creator. I would hope that we all believe that in the United States of America.


BLITZER: All right. I want to just -- we only have a few seconds. I want to let Senator Leahy respond to the whole uproar, controversy over Bob Jones University and what Senator Ashcroft said. Is that a concern to you?

LEAHY: Well, Bob Jones University is a concern to me. I mean, after all, they said my religion -- Catholic religion is a "satanic cult."

But I would say this on behalf of Senator Ashcroft: I've never heard him make an anti-Catholic remark or anti- any other religion. I do feel, however, that it shows an insensitivity in going to a place that brands Mormons and Catholics as belonging to a cult and all the other things they've done.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. Senator Leahy, Senator Kyl, thank so you much to both of you for joining us.

And, of course, CNN will be covering those confirmation hearings all week this week. We'll be watching beginning on Tuesday.

When we return, with the curtain coming down on the Clinton White House, we'll talk with three people who have been there in the inner circle for all eight years: Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, National Security Advisor Samuel Berger, and White House Chief of Staff, John Podesta. They'll share an insider's view of the Clinton years when LATE EDITION returns.



PRESIDENT WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON: Thank you for voting for me and Al Gore in 1992 and in 1996.


Thank you. And don't forget, even though I won't be president, I'll always be with you till the last dog dies.


BLITZER: President Clinton in New Hampshire this past week on his farewell tour, invoking a promise he first made in the Granite State back in 1992. Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Few would argue that President Clinton's time in office was one of extreme highs and lows. Joining me now with their unique insight into the Clinton years are three people who have been part of the president's inner circle from the start of his administration: Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala; National Security Advisor Samuel Berger; and White House Chief of Staff, John Podesta.

Thanks to all three of you for joining us. Let me begin with the White House chief of staff: President-elect Bush gave an interview to Tom Brokaw of NBC yesterday. It was aired, part of it was aired, on "Meet the Press" earlier today. And he spoke a little bit about President Clinton, and I want you to listen to what he had to say.


PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: He played the end game very well with the members of Congress, and I think it's a good lesson for not only this incoming president, but future presidents as well. And he has certainly been an active president on the way out of town, too. And I can understand that and appreciate that.


BLITZER: He also went on to say it's clear after January 20, he is going to be the president, not Bill Clinton. Is Bill Clinton having a hard time leaving the White House?


BLITZER: He seems to be so active in these last few days.

PODESTA: I think that the president promised that if elected, he would work to the last day, and that's exactly what he's doing. He's doing some very important things, as we conclude this presidency.

For example, he worked with Secretary Shalala to put in place medical privacy rules which are really very substantial. We've done these matters that helped us protect our environment, protect our roadless forests, working hard on foreign policy.

So I think he obviously enjoys his job. He is going to work up until, I suspect, some time in the morning of next Saturday, January 20.

BLITZER: Until 11:59, he'll still be -- well, let me ask Mr. Berger, is he going to be working on the Middle East up until -- is it over with as far as he's concerned, trying to get a deal, a final Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement before next Saturday?

SAMUEL R. BERGER, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, that's up to the parties, Wolf. They continue to talk, which is encouraging. There was a meeting last night led by former prime minister Peres, on the Israeli side, with Chairman Arafat. They're talking about how to establish greater security on the ground. They're talking about how to move the negotiating process forward. And I think that's positive.

And we'll work for the rest of this week to try to narrow gaps...

BLITZER: Am I hearing you say there's still an outside chance he could wrap something up between now and next Saturday?

BERGER: I think it's very, very doubtful there would be any kind of a final status agreement in the time remaining. But I do think we should use all of the momentum that exists now to try to bring the parties as close together as possible.

Because sooner or later, they're going to have to come back to these same issues, and the greater degree of convergence that exists, the easier it will be for the next administration to move forward.

BLITZER: Secretary Shalala, you've known Bill Clinton for a long time. You're not really surprised that he's trying to squeeze as much in to these last few days as he is right now, are you?

DONNA SHALALA, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I'm not, but you know, maybe you guys just noticed. We've been working with him for eight years. He works at this pace. This is Bill Clinton. And...

BLITZER: Is it appropriate? Some think he's trying to upstage the incoming president.

SHALALA: No, he's running the government right down to the end. And all of the things you see coming out were on schedule to come out, and I'm glad that we can get many of them out before the end of the administration. The next administration will have plenty to do. But Bill Clinton works this hard, and no one knows it better than the three of us.

BLITZER: Were you disappointed, John Podesta, in some of the comments that the incoming president, President-elect George W. Bush, made about the economy. Some suggestion by pundits, perhaps others, that what he's playing down, speaking about how bad the economy is, he's trying to leave the impression he's inheriting a Clinton recession.

PODESTA: Well, I think it's largely setting the table to try to have a big tax cut, which I think the American people will have a hard time swallowing, and the Congress will have a hard time swallowing.

But I think the facts are we're leaving him with the longest economic expansion in history, a very solid balance sheet. As compared to what the president inherited in 1992 when he came into office, where the deficit was exploding, we've got a situation where we've got -- we've turned that deficit around. We've now got a good surplus. We've got enormous opportunities to deal with challenges that are facing this country.

So I think it was an odd ploy, I think, to try to talk the economy down during the middle of Christmas buying season, but I think it was largely done to try to set the table for the tax cut. I think -- in the end, I think it was kind of a mistake.

BLITZER: First time I interviewed you, Mr. Berger, was eight years ago in Little Rock. You probably don't remember, but I remember.

It was during the transition. At that time, you were one of the principal national security advisers, you and Tony Lake, at that time.

When you look at Bill Clinton, a man you've known for many years, but just focus the last eight years, how has he changed over the last eight years?

BERGER: Well, I think nothing prepares someone to be president, except being president. I think that he came into office at a time when the Cold War had ended, the way in which the United States had defined itself for 50 years, what it opposed, was no longer pertinent, and he really was faced with a task of defining a new role for America, in a world that was increasingly globalized.

And I think that he's done that over the last eight years, in many respects.

I think as a person, I think he's learned, over these eight years, to trust his instincts more. I think his instincts have always been very good, but in the beginning, I think you're not sure whether or not, perhaps, you're not -- shouldn't listen to another voice. I think, as we got to the second term, I think he knew where he wanted to lead the country.

BLITZER: Did you see a different Bill Clinton over these past eight years, the Bill Clinton of today, as opposed to eight years ago?

SHALALA: Absolutely. He went from being a governor to being a president, from being someone that thought that perhaps the states could do almost everything to someone that wanted to make sure that, when we did devolve power to the states, that opportunities didn't differ from one state to another; that, when federal taxpayers spent money, that health care was available of the same quality, for example, from one part of the country to another; that justice didn't depend on geography, or on gender or sexual orientation or your family background.

He really moved to this broadening role, defined the role of the federal government, and I saw that change over time.

BLITZER: All right.

We're just only beginning. We have a lot more to talk about. Bill Clinton, eight years of the White House.

Stand by. We have to take a quick break. For our international viewers, "WORLD NEWS" is next. For our domestic audience, stay tuned for the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll get a check of the hour's top stories, and talk more about the Clinton years with Donna Shalala, Samuel Berger, and John Podesta.

Then, the spokesman for the Bush inaugural committee will tell us what activities you can expect to see, and he'll be taking your phone calls as well.

All that, and much more, in the next hour of LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: This is the second hour of LATE EDITION.


CLINTON: When I walk out of the White House at high noon on January 20, I want you to know something. I will leave more optimistic than I entered.


BLITZER: President Clinton's good-bye. We'll talk with three White House insiders: Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala; White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, and National Security Advisor, Samuel Berger.

And celebrating America's spirit: The inaugural committee's Ed Gillespie will have your guide to the parties and the parades. Plus our LATE EDITION round table: Steve Roberts, Susan Page and David Brooks.

And Bruce Morton has the last word on security and the president, from the inaugural parade to Pennsylvania Avenue.

BLITZER: Now back to our conversation with Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, National Security Adviser Samuel Berger and White House Chief of Staff John Podesta.

And I'll start off with you, John, The Washington Post had an editorial today, a long editorial, but there was an excerpt I want to read and we'll put it up on the screen.

"Mr. Clinton was, and still is, an extraordinarily gifted politician. He did not use those gifts to achieve major change in American life. The records suggest to us that in the end he lacked the commitment to do so, that political considerations too often mattered more to him than substantive needs, and that his politics were self absorbed."

PODESTA: It's a -- I think I'd have to remind our friends in the punditocracy where we started in this journey. In 1992, they were writing that America was in decline, that we couldn't get the government working for American people again, that the deficit was never going to come under control.

And look at the enormous progress we've made over the past eight years. I don't think you're hearing any more stories about Japan's the pre-eminent economy in the world today, or anything that isn't good news about what we've done to reduce the crime rate, to protect the environment, to provide real opportunity for everybody from the top to the bottom.

So the voices are -- no one's voice has been left out in this administration, and we stand on the accomplishments.

BERGER: Wolf, let me say one other thing to add to what John has said. The notion that the president has been largely driven by political considerations is totally defied in the foreign policy area. Time after time, he's undertaken initiatives which have gone against the grain of public opinion. Whether it was helping Mexico recover from what could have been a disaster economically, whether it was building a new relationship with China against opposition from the left and right and going to Congress and getting approval for a China trade agreement, whether it was our intervention in Bosnia, which was opposed by many people in the Congress or in Kosovo: He's done, what I believe he felt was right thing to do, regardless of the politics.

BLITZER: But when it came to welfare reform, an issue that was very close to your heart: You remember at the time, widespread reports, you didn't like what he did; Robert Reich didn't like what he did; he was the labor secretary; that the accusation he was caving to what he thought politically was politically popular.

SHALALA: The president made a decision to sign a bill, and some of us thought that we should wait until we got a better bill. But he went ahead and signed it and made the corrections that we objected to. And, in fact, American children today are healthier and wealthier because of Bill Clinton, by any measure. This budget alone..

BLITZER: So, with hindsight, he was right and you were wrong, at the time?

SHALALA: I'm not going to say that I still didn't prefer that he waited until we made the corrections on those bills, but the important thing is that we did, and welfare reform certainly has brought down welfare roles. But it's been the investments in child care and the earned-income tax credit in health insurance for kids that has literally lifted families out of poverty in this country.

It has been a remarkable period of time in American history, in large part because of what we've been able to do with the economy, but also our focus on health care. A lot more children have health care -- over 3 million today -- because of what Bill Clinton was able to do with the Congress.

And we have scientific institutions in this country now, they're the strongest they've ever been -- the CDC, the FDA, the NIH -- and those will pay off in years ahead.

BLITZER: You were very blunt, John Podesta, in the week-long series we saw on "Nightline" this week with Ted Koppel, in discussing the low moments.

PODESTA: Happily, I didn't watch it. But go ahead, remind me.

BLITZER: The low moments of the administration, the 13 months of the Monica Lewinsky impeachment investigation: At one point, you brought the bad news to the president he was about to be impeached.

PODESTA: Well, I mean, that was something that I sensed. I knew that partisanship in Congress had taken over, that Tom DeLay was going to break people's arms to the point that he was going to get the votes to impeach him, and I guess I was one of the first people to sense that and had to tell the president that.

But you asked a question earlier about how the president had changed. I was thinking about, when you were asking that question, how the president's remained the same during these eight years in office. And I think that one of the things that the American people really respect about this guy is he never gives up, he comes to work with that sense of optimism that you saw in that clip, he knows that he's doing a job for the American people. And I think he'll probably go down in history as a guy who could really take a punch.

BLITZER: All right.

Sandy Berger, did you ever think, even in the darkest, darkest moments of that process -- the impeachment investigation -- that he would give up? Tell us the truth.

BERGER: No, I don't think any of us who know Bill Clinton for years thought he would give up. It was obviously a difficult period, but he was able also to carry on the business of government. I mean, during that period, we had to make a decision about whether to use force against Iraq, and there were some who questioned whether or not we should do that.

BLITZER: Who questioned that?

BERGER: Many of your colleagues, for one.

BLITZER: But nobody inside the...

BERGER: No, no, but in the Congress: Is it appropriate? And the president, I remember saying, we're going to be criticized if we don't act because we're afraid of the criticism; that's not justifiable. If we act for the wrong reasons, that's justifiable. We just have to do what we think is the right thing to do, and it'll work out.

BLITZER: Secretary Albright was on this program last week. We ran a clip of her -- the famous Cabinet meeting -- walking out when you said I believe him. I want to play that again, because that was a moment that you'd just as soon probably forget, but...

SHALALA: And not see again.

BLITZER: But I'm not going to let you. But look at this moment in history.


MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I believe that the allegations are completely untrue.

WILLIAM DALEY, U.S. SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: I'll second that, definitely.

SAM DONALDSON, ABC CORRESPONDENT: But, surely, all of you understand that until this is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait, wait. There's three more people.

DONALDSON: I'm sorry.

SHALALA: I'll second that, too.


SHALALA: Third it.


BLITZER: You third it, even though Sam Donaldson wasn't about ready to let you third that motion. Did you really believe when you walked out of that Cabinet meeting he was telling the truth?

SHALALA: Of course I did. But I want to reiterate the point that Sandy and John maid. All the way through what was a terrible period in the government, but for the American people as well, the president was working at his job. We were writing regulations, we were beefing up legislation. He was working at his job right through that period.

PODESTA: We probably, at the end of that -- President-elect Bush talked about the president at the end game of Congress -- at the very end of that period, as we were going through the hearings, et cetera, we got probably, up until this last December, one of the best education budgets we ever got out of the Congress. We launched that program to put 100,000 teachers in the classroom to lower class size.

So his eye stayed on the ball of trying to do the work of the American people.

BLITZER: How does he do that? The compartmentalization, the famous Bill Clinton compartmentalization: you've seen it, moments of anguish, deep despair, sadness, probably depression when the word of the Monica Lewinsky story broke, and then dealing with national security issues of the utmost gravity.

PODESTA: I've never understood the word compartmentalization, quite honestly. This is a man who is very bright, and can be very disciplined about the job, and has a very clear sense of the purpose of his presidency. And those were moments obviously personally that were traumatic for him, for his family. But he nonetheless felt he had an obligation to do the work of the president, do the work of the United States. And I think he fulfilled that obligation.

SHALALA: I had the most detailed, sophisticated conversations with him during that period about health care reform, about welfare, about the implementation of welfare, about what we were doing with the National Institutes of Health. I mean, he kept focused on his job in each of our areas.

PODESTA: I'd like to say one other thing: The reason -- one of the reasons I think that 70 percent of the American people think this man has done a good job, notwithstanding The Washington Post editorials, is because A, he...

BERGER: Because he's done a good job.

SHALALA: Because he has done a good job.

PODESTA: ... He has done a good job. And most people lead lives that are complicated, and lives that where there's a mother or father, or brother, or sister, and uncle, an aunt, a child with problems, and they're able -- they realize that while there is a different between right and wrong, they're more prepared to make an overall judgment about someone than people who I think are paid just to be critics.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take another quick break. We still have a lot more to talk about. Just ahead, we'll ask our three guests their plans for a life after the Clinton White House.

Is there life after the Clinton White House? LATE EDITION will be right back.



CLINTON: I was kind of, you know, I'm partial to this new crowd of senators, and it got me in the Senate spouses' club, that's true, where I intend to be a very vigorous member. I may run for president of the Senate spouses' club.


BLITZER: President Clinton talking recently about his new role as a spouse of a U.S. senator.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're talking with three members of the Clinton inner circle that will be facing new lives of their own as of next Saturday afternoon.

And I know that you have a new life of your own: You're going to be down in the sun and fun capital of the world, Miami Beach.

SHALALA: Absolutely. I'm going to be at the University of Miami, as the new president, and I'm really excited to go back to the academic world.

BLITZER: You're a former president of the University of Wisconsin.

SHALALA: Exactly. And -- but Miami is a very special place. Hot, though...

BLITZER: Before you leave, though, you're going to be doing something exciting this week in introducing a colleague of yours.

SHALALA: Tommy Thompson, the governor of Wisconsin, who I worked for when I was chancellor of the University of Wisconsin. He's a good friend of mine, and I'm going to introduce him to his committee.

BLITZER: So you're going to support that nomination?

SHALALA: He supported mine. He came down and introduced me, when I was -- came up for confirmation, and I'm happy to introduce him.

BLITZER: Very briefly, do you have a problem with the Ashcroft nomination?

SHALALA: I think I probably do, but it's way out of my area, and I'm not an elected member of the Senate, so I'll leave that to our friends in the Senate.

BLITZER: John Podesta, is there life after the Clinton White House for you?

PODESTA: God, I hope so.


BLITZER: Well, what are you going to do?

PODESTA: Well, I've got the beach part figured out, but not the job part, which is that...

SHALALA: He's invited any time to Miami.

PODESTA: ... I've made a commitment to work on my suntan, and I may go back and teach, and I've told the president...

BLITZER: You used to teach at Georgetown Law School.

PODESTA: Yes; and I'm thinking about what I want to do next. I told the president I'd try to help him get going. He's obviously making his plans.

Just today, he had an op-ed piece in The New York Times on how to continue to build one America and challenged the new administration and Congress to move forward.

BLITZER: He's not going to fade away. In fact, Orrin Hatch was on "Meet The Press" earlier today, and last week he suggested on one of the Sunday shows that the president-elect should pardon him, if necessary, to get this issue away.

Listen to what Orrin Hatch had to say today.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-), UTAH: He's served us for eight years, many believe, including myself, in a very good way, in some respects. I can't agree with everything he did, but there were a lot of things that we were able to work with him on and get things done.

And frankly, I'd like to see him just fade away into whatever he's going to fade away into, and hopefully make a lot of money for himself and have a good life...


BLITZER: I think it's fair to say President...

SHALALA: Not a chance.

BLITZER: ... the president's going to make a lot of money, there's no doubt about that.

I mean -- but, as far as "fading away," that's unlikely. PODESTA: Well, I think that, as he said, he wants to be a good citizen of this country, of the world, and try to work on the things that have motivated him in public life: the issue of racial reconciliation, of trying to deal with ethnic tensions around the world.

So I think he's got a lot more to offer his country and the world, and I know he's talked to all of us a little bit about what he ought to do next, but, as you started off this segment with, we've been working so hard up to the end that he hasn't got all those plans in place, but I think he'll do that soon.

BLITZER: Any plans for Samuel Berger? What's next in his life?

BERGER: Well, I want to take some time off. I'm going to speak. I'm going to write. I'm going to remain involved in the issues I have been over the past 20 years, in America's role in the world.

And after a period of time, I'll decide what the next stage of my career is. I'm actually looking forward to it.

BLITZER: But going back and being a regular lawyer, something you used to do before you went to the White House, is that something you'd like to do again?

BERGER: I'm not ruling anything in or anything out.


BERGER: That's a good old standard line.

BLITZER: Really?

PODESTA: It sounds really appealing, the way you put it, Wolf.


BLITZER: That's right. There's nothing wrong with being a lawyer. I know that.

When you...

SHALALA: You know, Wolf, everyone's talking about the quality of the new Bush Cabinet. The quality of the people that Bill Clinton brought in to office, and their stability, the fact that all of us have been around for so long, I think has also produced a quality in government that's important to note.

BLITZER: Eight years with Bill Clinton. You know, I covered the White House, as you probably remember, for seven years.

BLITZER: I like to say those are like dog years, because one year of Bill Clinton is equivalent to four or five of a normal president.

SHALALA: That's why we're all saying we're taking a little time off, before we start something else.

BERGER: You know, I think it's quite extraordinary, Wolf, that you look back over the last 40 years, there really are only two presidencies that have not ended in either defeat, despair, or disgrace: Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

And I think all of us leave this eight-year period with -- as the president said, with a greater degree of idealism and hope for America and belief in the American people than when we came here.


BERGER: And I think we walk away with our heads high.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we are all out of time. We have to leave it right there.

Congratulations to all of you for making it through eight years of a Bill Clinton administration. Thanks for joining us. Good luck to all of you.

I'm sure all of you will be back on this program in the not-too- distant future from the private sector, whatever that sector may be.

PODESTA: Then we can be pundits.


BLITZER: That's right. It's fun being a pundit; it's not so bad.

Thanks for joining us.

Just ahead, final preparations are now under way for next weekend's inauguration. We'll talk with the inaugural committee's Ed Gillespie about the planned celebrations. He'll also be taking your phone calls.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: A live picture of the U.S. Capitol: That's where the inauguration will take place six days from now, next Saturday, noon Eastern. The inaugural festivities will of course be getting under way earlier here in Washington. The week's activities will center around the theme, Celebrating America's Spirit.

Joining us now to talk about what's being planned is the communications director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, Ed Gillespie.

Mr. Gillespie, welcome to LATE EDITION. You lost 36 days in the process because of the Florida recount. How much of a setback was that? ED GILLESPIE, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: Well, it was a setback in terms of the staff has worked pretty much double time to pull together all of the events, but I think from the public's perspective, you won't see very much difference between this inaugural week ceremony and others in the past. I would say that we're going to get about 85 percent of it done in 50 percent of the time.

BLITZER: So in other words, people who come to Washington and actually want to see, participate in it, people who watch it on television, they're not going to notice much of a difference, if the 36-day recount had not occurred?

GILLESPIE: No, I think really the only thing that may be noticeable is that there will not be one gala ball that will be designated this year. But again, I think you'd have to know that there's traditionally a gala ball to realize that there's not one this year.

BLITZER: The theory behind not one gala ball, what was the theory behind that?

GILLESPIE: Well, I think we're going to have spectacular entertainment at all eight of the official balls, and even the ninth ball, the Texas black tie and boots ball the night before the inauguration, and so the idea, I think, was to spread out quality entertainment across all of the balls, instead of concentrating it all at one.

BLITZER: The reports that security this year is tighter than ever before, are those reports true?

GILLESPIE: Security is tight, Wolf. We want to make sure that all these families who are coming to our nation's capitol to celebrate the peaceful transfer of power -- that's a hallmark of our republic -- that they don't have to worry about their safety or worry or fear that they're going to be jostled or accosted on their way to watching the parade or going to the opening ceremony or viewing the swearing-in ceremony.

But, of course, the security for the new president and vice president is equally important.

BLITZER: Is always intense. But are you bracing for, like, major demonstrations against all of this?

GILLESPIE: It's hard to say. I mean, you know, there have been folks who have requested permits to demonstrate, and of course they've been granted those. We're strong believers in the rights of the first amendment. But, you know, until inauguration comes and goes, it's hard to project.

BLITZER: We have a caller from San Francisco who wants to pick your brain.

Let's hear what your question is. Please go ahead. CALLER: Yes, hi. This is Sarah from San Francisco. And I'm wondering, now that the ballots in Florida are finally being counted, how this will effect the legitimacy of Bush's presidency.

GILLESPIE: Well, I didn't hear the beginning part of the question, but, in terms of legitimacy of President-elect Bush's presidency, I've been encouraged to see responsible Democratic leaders in Congress and across the country acknowledge the legitimacy of this election. And they've been -- for example, the mayor of the District of Columbia here has been incredibly helpful to us in this inauguration preparation period. He is an active Democrat who campaigned vigorously for Vice President Gore.

But many Democrats like him recognize that when the campaign is over, and when we stop moving from trying to delineate the differences between candidates and people, we've moved to the governing phase. And that's what the inauguration is all about, where we start to find the common ground and bring people together. And that's what this inauguration celebration is all about.

BLITZER: That's Mayor Anthony Williams of the District of Columbia.

If people are -- most people, of course, are not going to be able to come to Washington to participate, to observe it. They will be watching it on television. And it's a whole week-long series of events.

What recommendations, other than the swearing-in, which everybody will want to see, what one or two or three things do you think these people should focus on?

GILLESPIE: Well, I would focus on the opening ceremony, which will take place beginning around 3:30 on Thursday.

BLITZER: At the Lincoln Memorial.

GILLESPIE: At the Lincoln Memorial. There's going to be spectacular entertainment there. Andrew Lloyd Weber, the famous Broadway producer has helped to put on this show.

BLITZER: Is that where Ricky Martin will be?

GILLESPIE: Ricky Martin will be there. And there's going to be a spectacular fireworks display and one pretty neat surprise about a half hour into the program that I think the public will get a kick out of.

BLITZER: Give us a clue about that surprise.

GILLESPIE: Well, it will be part of the fireworks display, but I think it will be worth tuning in. It'll be fun.

BLITZER: But if it starts at 3:30, it's going to have to be dark for the fireworks.

GILLESPIE: It starts at 3:30, but the program will run until about 7:00 at night.

BLITZER: When it's already dark.

GILLESPIE: It's dark.

BLITZER: Now, some hints about that surprise involve the Washington Monument.

GILLESPIE: It will take place, it will illuminate the Washington Monument, and we're going to have fireworks around many of the historic parts of the city, and the Washington Monument is one.

BLITZER: Take a look. We're showing a live picture of the Washington Monument right now.

Tell us about those tents, the other activities. You don't have to tell us what the surprise is, because we want millions of people to be surprised. We won't break that story unless you give us permission.

But what's happening right now? They're getting ready for that tent activity. What's underneath the tent?

GILLESPIE: Well, there are workers right now who are putting together a media center, for one thing, so that reporters from all around the world can come in and get their briefing guides and can learn about the participants in the parades. There are workers who are putting up stands, viewing stands and seats for -- we expect about 75,000 people to watch at the Lincoln Memorial, another 150,000 to view the swearing-in ceremony. And we have about eight big screen jumbotron televisions, so that people far back down the Mall can have a good view of the swearing-in ceremony and participate.

We want -- the theme for our inauguration is celebrating America's spirit together. We do want to bring people together and allow for a broad participation from the general public, and that's what you're seeing going on the mall right now.

BLITZER: We have another question, a caller from Atlanta, Georgia. Go ahead with your question, please.

CALLER: Yes, as an African, I know how it feel when somebody be in the office when a lot of people don't think he won. I wonder how the Bush people feel, all these people come in and demonstrate, how that effects his presidency.

BLITZER: The question, I think, is how will the Bush people feel about demonstrators who are demonstrating against his presidency?

GILLESPIE: Well, we respect the right to express people's views. I think the fact is, though, that most Americans do see the inauguration ceremony and the peaceful transfer of power as a time that people come together. As I say, campaigns are a time -- having worked in campaigns, one of the things you do in a campaign is to try to explain to voters and delineate differences and where people have their differences. The thing about governing, and I think what President-elect Bush has made clear, even in his campaign, is that this is a time to bring people together and to find common ground and to reach out.

And I think you're going to see a lot of inclusiveness and openness to this celebration and people from all walks of life and many Democrats reveling in the celebration of our American history and of our democratic process. These protesters have a right to express their views, but I think they are not the views of the vast majority of Americans who look forward to coming together next week.

BLITZER: Do we have to have a lot of food from Texas? Is that what you're saying?

GILLESPIE: We don't have to, but it's the law, Wolf, so prepare yourself for barbecue and barbecue sauce, but there will be a lot of different foods, as well. But there will be some Texas food there.

BLITZER: Well, I remember eight years ago we suffered through a lot of food from Arkansas, which somebody from Buffalo, New York, which is where I'm from, is not necessarily accustomed to. But it turned out to be delicious. I'm sure the food from Texas will be delicious, as well.

Ed Gillespie, thank you so much for joining us.

GILLESPIE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good luck this week. It's going to be a major event. We'll all be watching.

GILLESPIE: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And up next, the politics of personal destruction, is it rearing its head again here in Washington? We'll talk about the latest political casualty in the Bush camp and more when we go 'round the table with Roberts, Page, and Brooks.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me, Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for U.S. News and World Report; and David Brooks, senior editor for the Weekly Standard.

You know, Linda Chavez has an article she wrote in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today talking about her failed opportunity to become the Labor secretary. She withdrew her name this week, as, of course, everybody knows. Let me read this excerpt.

"I was fully prepared to defend every word I had written, every policy position I had taken. I never got that chance. Instead, my opponents went on a search-and-destroy mission, willing to use anything in my past, even acts of kindness, to derail my nomination."

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Oh please, I mean, Linda Chavez destroyed herself by lying to the Bush people. You know, we talked about...

BLITZER: Did she lie, or did she just simply not tell all of the information?

ROBERTS: OK, maybe not tell all of the information. We talked about this last week, and you asked, how does this happen that people can think they can get away with it. Here is a woman nominated for secretary of Labor, of all things, is on the record attacking Zoe Baird for a similar problem, and thinks somehow she can get away it. I think it is a self-inflicted wound. It has nothing to do with being blamed for generosity.

But I do think, in a more important way, if she had been allowed to talk about her attitudes on policy, there would have been a much more serious problem, because this is a working woman who said there's no such thing as a glass ceiling, no such thing as sexual harassment. She might be the only woman in America in the working world who's never run into any kind of gender discrimination. So I'm kind of sorry she didn't get to talk about the real issues because that was a much more serious question.

BLITZER: What did we learn, David, about George W. Bush by the way he handled -- remember, the story broke exactly one week ago, Sunday morning. We first heard about this illegal immigrant, and of course, within a few days, she was toast, if you will, as far as becoming a member of the Bush Cabinet. What did we learn about George W. Bush?

BROOKS: We learned that George W. Bush doesn't seize opportunities. Here's a guy who spent two years saying, I'm going to change the tone in Washington, I'm going to change the way we do things in Washington. Here was a classic Washington story. A woman makes a small mistake, and then the piranhas leap on her and destroy her career. We go through this like a pagan ritual every four years.

George W. Bush could have said, enough is enough. We're going to change the tone, I'm going to stick by this woman and in just, by making a small mistake, maybe not telling me everybody, that's not enough. I'm going to stay loyal to her, and we're going to fight this through. And I really think that would have had a transforming effect. It would have been a bold move to show that Bush is not like every other politician who's come through town.

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think that would have been such a mistake. I mean, why expend a lot of political capital on Linda Chavez? You want to spend your capital on John Ashcroft, a nominee that the conservative base in his party really cares about.

You know, Linda Chavez made two mistakes. One is that she was not fully forthcoming with the vetting team, and the other is that she called her former neighbor and seemed to be inquiring as to whether the neighbor was going to tell the FBI the full story. Well, that is not a defensible course for a nominee to take.

And what George Bush ends up, he ends up cutting his losses very quickly. He shows that he expects, you know, forthcomingness, if that's a word, on the part of his nominees. And he ends up with a nominee who's just as conservative, but much more acceptable to labor and much less likely to kind of spark the kind of strong reaction that Linda Chavez was going to spark.

BROOKS: If he wasn't going to defend a woman as aggressive as Linda Chavez is, he shouldn't have appointed her in the first place. You know, this was the chance -- this was not about Linda Chavez. This was about people who want to weaken the presidency and we go through this every four years. The Republicans are just as bad as the Democrats about this, tearing down Lonny Guanear (ph), and the idea is are we going to tear down people for one minor mistake? Does anybody believe that hiring this woman would have hurt her -- would hurt Linda Chavez being an effective secretary of labor? It would have helped her.

ROBERTS: I don't think that's fair, David, because, if the issue had been her positions and George Bush picked her, I think he could have profited, as you say, from defending her. But the biggest mistake she made was not being straight with him. And the message he -- one of the other messages we learned about George Bush was, you better be careful if you're going to work for George Bush. You better be straight with him, and you better mean what you say, and I think that he sent a message to a lot of his appointees.

BLITZER: You know, there was another message that some people are suggesting, Susan, was sent that George W. Bush could be rolled. When you put a little heat on him and that that message is, of course, emboldening those opponents of John Ashcroft who say, you know, they can get this nomination defeated.

PAGE: Well, I think John Ashcroft is a much better test of exactly what kind of backbone George Bush will have when people do challenge him, because the complaints about John Ashcroft are, at least so far, ideological. They're not complaints about his personal behavior. They're complaints about positions he took at odds with some of the laws he's going to be expected to enforce.

Now, if he gets rolled on Ashcroft, that'll be a different matter. But, in fact, I don't even think the Ashcroft nomination seems to be in any trouble. Republican leaders insist they've got all 50 Republicans on their side.

PAGE: Only one Democrat has announced that she's going to oppose Ashcroft. And even some of the moderates that you might expect -- moderates in the Republican Party that you might have expected to express some concerns are not doing so.

So, that's the test. I don't think that Linda Chavez is the test.

BLITZER: Some people in the conservative wing of the Republican Party, some conservative pundits -- you might have seen Paul Gigot's column in the Wall Street Journal on Friday -- are saying that not only did the way Bush handle Linda Chavez send a bad message but the way he's handled Frank Keating, the governor of Oklahoma, has dispirited many conservatives.

BROOKS: You know, Bush has made conservatives happy for a year. We've all been bowing down, great job, guy. But this week there was real anger among people who were deep in his camp. Frank Keating was a guy who was not chosen to be attorney general. The Bush people didn't only not choose him, and they could've said, well, he was a great guy, but John Ashcroft was a better guy. They leaked some things about a financial relationship he had with somebody back in Oklahoma, and Keating was furious. He did a lot of calling around, and a lot of people were furious on his behalf.

BLITZER: He had campaigned in many states for George W. Bush.

BROOKS: In 25 states. He had shown loyalty, and the general line you hear more and more in the conservative camps -- and it's not that people hate Bush, but there's a doubt. We're loyal to him. There's been no other president who demands such loyalty. Is he loyal down? And that's the question.

ROBERTS: Oh, come on. I mean, how can the conservatives be upset with George Bush? The Ashcroft nomination, if anything, was a real risk for George Bush, because Ashcroft is -- he does have the advantage of being a senator and having friends. He has a disadvantage of being way out on the right wing of this party. Some of the positions you've talked about on the show earlier, on gays and on affirmative action -- he's going to have a lot of explaining to do.

I think there's a real risk for George Bush, because he ran as a centrist, and he won as a centrist. And, here, the first big fight that a lot of people are going to learn about this administration is an appointee who is out of the mainstream on a lot of issues, including out of the mainstream with a lot of Republicans.

BLITZER: You know, Gale Norton, the nominee for the Interior Department is also coming under an enormous amount of fire. You don't think Ashcroft is in serious, serious trouble. Do you think she might be?

PAGE: Well, certainly there's going to be a big fight over her, and environmental groups are doing everything they can. I mean, the real concern about her is that she, in their view, has the policies of James Watt without some of the personality that made him less effective, that she seems not as scary as James Watt.

But, you know, the reality is that Republicans won the election. George Bush is going to be sworn in. He gets to nominate who he wants to nominate. And there was a tradition in this country that you didn't defeat nominees purely because of what they believed, that that was the point of the election.

Now, that's gotten muddied somewhat in the era since the Bork nomination, but that is a tradition. And the nominations that tend to get defeated are not on ideological grounds, but when they are personal questions like hiring illegal aliens.

ROBERTS: In fact, I don't think there's ever been a Cabinet officer in recent memory defeated on ideological grounds. Bork was different. Bork was a lifetime tenured judge. But if you look at Zoe Baird or Kimba Wood in the Clinton administration, or John Tower, these were for personal reasons and not for ideological ones, and therefore I agree with you. I can't imagine -- I think there might well be 30 or 40 Democratic votes against Ashcroft or Norton, but I don't think there's any chance, unless something else comes out about either one of them personally, they'd be...

BROOKS: Yes, but there's something also disturbing...

BLITZER: Very quickly.

BROOKS: ... about the process, the way we pick one bad quote from a person, Gale Norton, and then blow it out as if that's her whole personality.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about.

When we return, President Clinton as been spending his time on a farewell tour around the country. We'll get the roundtable's take on how his final days in office are playing. LATE EDITION will be right back.



CLINTON: They thought the election was over, the Republicans did. By the time it was over, our candidate had won the popular vote, and the only way they could win the election was to stop the voting in Florida.


BLITZER: President Clinton speaking this past weekend during his farewell tour, that day in Chicago. Welcome back to our roundtable. He went on to say, a few days later, that he was sort of just having some fun wasn't serious. But Susan, look what he wrote in today's New York Times. Listen to this.

"In the presidential election of 2000, too many people felt the votes they cast were not counted, and some felt there were organized efforts to keep them from the polls. We must do more to ensure that more people vote, and that every vote is counted."

Is he sort of in a subtle, perhaps not so subtle, way saying the same thing, that votes were not counted?

PAGE: Yes, absolutely, and you know, he's saying something else. He's saying, I'm not going to follow the tradition of recent presidents who go quietly away and keep their mouths shut for awhile. You know, George Bush the elder did that when Bill Clinton was elected. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, George Bush did not like him, did not respect him, did not think he was following the right policies: kept his mouth shut and got in a plane and went back to Houston.

ROBERTS: We did not hear from him for months.

PAGE: That's right. And when he spoke, it was generally in support President Clinton. It was when he needed help on some foreign policy initiatives, or a volunteerism initiative.

That is clearly not what President Clinton is going do. He is a young man; he's very involved in the Democratic party; he's going to speak out. He's going to speak out for -- this is going to be a different kind of ex-president.

ROBERTS: I also think it's very important -- he is making an important point there. We talked about it over the past couple of weeks.

There is a profound inequality in the voting systems in America. And if the Supreme Court principle that every vote has to be counted equally, which they used to stop the recount in Florida, applied to the voting process, there are illegal voting systems all over this country.

And I think George Bush would be very well advised to make this a top priority. There are two law cases already. There will be more. There are hearings, the Civil Rights Commission. I think that Clinton, on the substantive issue, it's something that the American political system should be dealing with right away.

BROOKS: Well, there are two. There's the substantive issue, which I agree with you on. There's the Clinton issue. It takes self- discipline to be the ex-president, and self-discipline is not something Bill Clinton has been known for.

You know, we know that he goes into every room and he wants people to love him when he gets out. And he gave that speech to a Democratic audience, and so he pleased them.

But I think, you know, the thing he does point to and which all this points to is something Republicans really do have to be concerned about. When I go around the country and talk to liberal friends and liberal groups, there is still spittle coming out of people's mouths when they talk about this election. That is a permanent thing you hear more in the country than you do in Washington, which is the inverse of the normal pattern of outrage we've had.

So that is something that Bush and the Republicans and everybody has to be mindful of.

BLITZER: One thing, Susan, that Bill Clinton has to worry about, at least a little bit, the disbarment potential in Arkansas, where, his law license, potentially, could be taken away. And Robert Ray, the independent counsel, if he decides that there is enough evidence to file a criminal indictment against the president.

PAGE: And Robert Ray, on this program not long ago, said that was a decision he was going to make in short order, around in this time period. We don't know what he's going to decide.

And what a burden that would be if he was indicted and all the questions that would revolve around that, and what an embarrassment, too, if he is disbarred.

BLITZER: Robert Ray is getting a lot of advice over the air waves from a variety of people. You heard Orrin Hatch earlier saying you know, forget about it. Let the guy move on, make some money, fade away, as if Bill Clinton's ever going to fade away...

BROOKS: Yes, exactly.

BLITZER: ... But President-elect Bush said something similar; President Bush, the elder, said something similar.

BROOKS: Well, I think partly because they don't want the beginning of the Bush administration to be shadowed by a prosecution of Bill Clinton. That would distract public attention. It would muffle the message of the new administration. I think from their own political self-interest, in addition to a sense that if you really want to be a uniter, not a divider, you take George Bush at his word, having an ex-president being prosecuted at the beginning of your administration, it doesn't work for them politically and it doesn't work for their ideals for America.

BLITZER: You know, David, a bit earlier in the week I spoke to James Carville, who issued a not-so-subtle threat to Robert Ray and company, if in fact they go ahead and indict the president. Listen to what Carville had to say.


JAMES CARVILLE: If they are ready to go, I'm ready to go. We're ready to activate people, if he should try such a foolish thing. We are ready to go. I'm geared up and ready for this battle.


BROOKS: It looks like Civil War reenactors. You know, the war was 100 years ago, but they are still dressing up in the old outfits. They're going to be fighting. Maybe they'll have a reunion tour, Brown and all these guys who hated Clinton. And Jim Carville will be out there. And we will all be weeping with nostalgia.

BLITZER: David Brooks, Susan Page, Steve Roberts, our roundtable. Thanks for joining us. This is the last week we speak about President Clinton in office. Next week we will talk about something else. Thanks for joining us. Just ahead, Bruce Morton's Last Word.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jimmy Carter, in 1977, to symbolize the end of what some called the imperial presidency, walked the parade route, which must have driven the Secret Service crazy, but which was popular and peaceful.


BLITZER: Security in the inauguration of a president: Will the celebration be dampened this time around?


BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's last word. Security for George W. Bush's inauguration will be tighter than ever. Bruce wonders whether that will take some of the air out of the party.


MORTON: Presidential inaugurations, in a sense, celebrate freedom.

But, for the first time in our history, anyone who wants to watch the inaugural parade this time will have to pass through a police checkpoint first. All bags will be subject to search.

The various security forces plan 16 checkpoints -- six for those with tickets to various stands, 10 for everybody else.

Signs on anything but quite small sticks will be banned. So will stilt walkers. Sticks and stilts might be weapons.

It didn't, of course, use to be this way. Inaugural parades started when Thomas Jefferson walked over to the Capitol from his boarding house, and then over to the White House, accompanied by friends.

Andrew Jackson opened the White House to the public for a big inaugural party which got so rowdy the house was trashed, and Jackson accidentally pushed out of a window -- ground floor, fortunately.

Abraham Lincoln came to town in secret. It was on the eve of the Civil War, but his inauguration was public.

Richard Nixon had perhaps the most demonstrators, between 25,000 and 100,000, police said, and a few stones or tomatoes did bounce off limos in the parade, but the protestors were more anti-Vietnam War than anti-Nixon.

Jimmy Carter, in 1977, to symbolize the end of what some called the imperial presidency, walked the parade route, which must have driven the Secret Service crazy, but which was, in fact, popular and peaceful.


CLINTON: We wanted to begin the first day of this administration, the first full day, opening the White House to the people who sent us here.


MORTON: Bill Clinton opened the White House to the public the day after his inauguration -- 2,500 lottery winners, but some others who just showed up.

But it was also Clinton who ordered Pennsylvania Avenue closed to vehicles after the Oklahoma City bombing. Now there are more restrictions. Lafayette Park, across from the White House, is already closed to pedestrians and other fences are up in the area.

It's hard to argue with security people. "We have information we can't share," they say. "If you knew what we know," and so on. And, given their job, it's understandable they would want to keep presidents sealed off from the rest of us.

Still, the old inaugurals had a charm. Presidents out there where the voters could see them up close, maybe touch them. Lately, the trend's been all the other way.

Back in 1968, Eugene McCarthy said, if he won, he'd tear down the iron fence around the White House and hold poetry readings on the lawn. Of course, he never got elected.

I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.

Up next, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.

Time magazine asks, "Should this man be attorney general?" John Ashcroft, Bush's nominee to head the Justice Department, on the cover.

Newsweek declares, "Holy War: Bush's Washington. Is the fight over John Ashcroft a taste of things to come?"

And on the cover of U.S. News and World Report, "Promises to Keep Despite His Narrow Win: Bush Presses His Agenda."

Before we go, this sad and happy note: This is the last Sunday for LATE EDITION's executive producer, Sam Feist (ph). After working weekends since this program was launched October 6, 1993, with Frank Sesno as host, Sam has decided it's time to move on. Now, that's the sad news. He's done an outstanding job in creating and developing and expanding this program. I've been hosting LATE EDITION for the past three years, and I will miss him. The happy news is this. Sam has become executive producer of "Wolf Blitzer Reports," my weeknight program. I have no doubt he will do for that new program what he's done for LATE EDITION.

And there's other happy news. Look at this. LATE EDITION has a new executive producer, Linda Roth (ph). There she is. Linda's a Washington native, most recently worked for CNN in Los Angeles. We welcome her back to Washington; excited to have her aboard. Linda, thank you.

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, January 14th. Be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. I'll be back tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS," and on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, we'll talk race relations in the new administration with Jesse Jackson and Bush supporter, Ken Blackwell.

For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.



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