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Janet Reno May Run for Florida Governorship; Whitman, Abraham Discuss Energy Crisis; Is the Death Penalty a Just Form of Punishment?

Aired May 20, 2001 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Rome and 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem. 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. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman shortly, but first, former Attorney General Janet Reno.

Despite an initial reluctance to return to public life, Ms. Reno surprised many by disclosing on Friday that she's thinking about running for governor of Florida next year. In her only Sunday television interview appearance, the former attorney general joins me now live from our bureau in Chicago.

Ms. Reno, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

JANET RENO, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, the key question is this: Are you going to run for governor of Florida?

RENO: Well, that's the question that I'm addressing. I want to do what's best for Florida, and I'm reviewing that question.

BLITZER: When will you make up your mind?

RENO: I'd like to make it up as soon as possible.

BLITZER: Is there a specific time frame that some political professionals have told you you have to work within?

RENO: No, but I think it's important for everybody concerned that I make up my mind as soon as possible.

BLITZER: Who have you been talking with about this decision in Florida and perhaps elsewhere around the country?

RENO: I have talked with friends, with various public officials. I have issues that I want to address, and I'll see in my further discussions just what I think should be done. BLITZER: What are some of those issues that you are weighing right now?

RENO: I think Florida must make a renewed effort to invest in its children to prepare our future to be competitive in the world workplace, to prepare them for a positive and constructive life, and I don't think we've done that.

I think it's important that we protect our natural resources. I have circumnavigated Florida in a boat. It is a beautiful state, and we must do everything we can to maintain its beaches, its streams, its reefs and its lakes and rivers for what they are, one of the joys of a natural Florida.

I think it's important that we do everything we can to become one of the cybercenters for the hemisphere. We have the language capacity. We can do so much, as we are strategically located in the hemisphere. And I want to seen what can be done about that.

In short, I love Florida very much. I was born and raised there. I have lived there most of my life, and I want to make sure that I do everything I can, either as governor or otherwise, to serve the interests of the people of Florida.

BLITZER: You know -- you spent eight years in the Clinton administration -- that for many Republicans, and others, you became a lightning rod for criticism, going back to the early months of your tenure during the Waco operation.

How will you deal with those questions that almost certainly would come up during a gubernatorial campaign?

RENO: Well, Waco, for example, I was very gratified when I returned home to receive a two-page handwritten note from John Danforth saying, "I've heard you talk about the decision you made in Waco. I had had the chance as your special counsel to review that decision. I did not pass judgment on it in my report, but I want you to know that I think you did the exactly the right thing. You could not have walked away from that compound leaving four dead agents and 16 wounded. You could not have stayed there forever, and further delay would have made no difference, because David Koresh was seeking his own Armageddon."

BLITZER: Another issue that is almost certainly likely to come up would be, your reluctance, your refusal to name independent counsels or special prosecutors to deal with some of the scandals that came up during the Clinton administration, including the fund-raising, the political fund-raising issue. Are you anticipating that would be a challenge you would have to face?

RENO: I think I'm always prepared to face any decision that I have made and either acknowledged that I made a mistake or stand up for the decision that I made. And in that instance, I feel very comfortable that the evidence and the law mandated that I make that decision. I think people understand what I tried to do, and I obviously have critics. You can't serve for eight years in Washington and not have critics. But I welcome constructive criticism, and I will look forward to discussion of the issues.

BLITZER: As you well know, the Cuban-American community in South Florida is very influential. You know that a lot better than I do. You were a former prosecutor in Miami-Dade, the county, for a long time. You alienated many of them, perhaps most of them, by your decision to forcibly reunite Elian Gonzales with his father.

How were you going to try deal with Cuban-Americans in explaining that decision?

RENO: I'm going to do what I've done, which is to say the Cuban- American community in Miami has contributed so much to the state of Florida, and I for one think that they have been very special for our community. At the same time, I think it is important that we honor the law and that it is important that we deal with the issues.

For that reason, I think most Floridians felt that I did the right thing, but I didn't do it based on political popularity. I did it based on what was right, based on the evidence and the law. And in this instance, returning that little boy to his father was the right thing to do based on all the information we had about the important contribution that father had made to the raising of that little boy, and no one can disagree. There's one thing we can all agree on: That's a very special little boy.

BLITZER: Will you reach out to the Cuban-American community if you run for governor, or will you simply write off that community as a lost political cause?

RENO: Well, I don't want ever to write off the Cuban-American community, because I am too devoted to it and think that it has made such an important contribution. I don't expect that I will get people to agree with me, but I think that they will come to understand the reason I did what I did.

BLITZER: Another issue that almost certainly will come up is the fact that you have Parkinson's disease. Do you have the physical strength to go forward with a tough campaign and then, if elected, serve as governor of Florida, given the fact that you do have Parkinson's?

RENO: Wolf, if you could survive eight years in Washington with the press corps in Washington, with Congress in Washington, and go at it as I did, and then come home and kayak down the Chatooga (ph), the Nantahala (ph) and the Ochoi (ph) in three days and come out of it without having dumped your boat, you're doing pretty good. I think I can do it, otherwise I wouldn't be here.

But what I will continue to do is what I've always done, is make full, if I decide to run, I would make full disclosure and have people ask my doctor questions and make all those full disclosures. BLITZER: The fact also remains that Governor Jeb Bush, the incumbent Republican, he hasn't formally announced, but most people expect that he will seek reelection. He's been a pretty formidable politician there. What will you say to the people of Florida why, if he does run and you're the Democratic candidate, they should vote for you as opposed to Governor Bush? What don't you like about Governor Bush?

RENO: I think that it is important that we make an investment in children, and we've got to do that. I think we've got to do far more to protect our natural resources. I want to discuss, if I run for governor, the issues and nothing else. And I will look forward to that opportunity.

BLITZER: Are you saying you won't criticize Governor Bush if there is a head-to-head campaign between you and him?

RENO: I have tried my best, with all the work that I did in Washington, to talk about the issues and to talk about where people disagree on the issues. I think personal attack is not conducive to good government. It fuzzes the issue. I think we should be talking about the issues, and I'm gratified that Governor Bush has indicated the same.

But, we'll decide that when I run, if I run, and otherwise, if I don't run, I want to continue to talk about the issues. The American people, I think, are tired of political invective. They want just straight, candid discussion of the issues, and they want them explained in ways that make sense.

BLITZER: As you know, there was an extraordinary development in Florida this past week when Governor Bush publicly addressed the issue of infidelity in his marriage. I want you to listen to what he said earlier this week when those stories seemed to be generating some interest in Florida. Listen to this.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: It is a lie. It has been spread by gossipers. It is wrong to do. I have been faithful to my wife. I love my wife. I imagine it is political in nature, I do not know. But it is ugly, and it should stop.


BLITZER: Is there any, I guess, correlation of the timing of your announcement that you are thinking about running for governor to that issue of the alleged infidelity that came up in Florida politics this past week?

RENO: No. I agree with Governor Bush.

BLITZER: That this issue has no place in the discussion of any political debate right now. Is that what you are saying?

RENO: I think it is important that we discuss the issues. And would it be great, whoever runs for governor, if Florida could show itself to be the state that takes the high road, the state that gets an election done in the right way, that develops controls on campaign financing that ensure public confidence in the system. I want to do everything I can, whatever I do, to promote those goals.

BLITZER: We only have a minute left, Ms. Reno. But I want to just ask you quickly, your take on the FBI's mistakes, the blunders, that have resulted in the delay of the execution of Timothy McVeigh, the convicted Oklahoma City bomber. What's your take on this?

As you know, some of the defense attorneys are suggesting this was no innocent mistake in not handing over those documents, that there is something foul under way right now.

RENO: I think from what I see, which is the vantage point from outside, and I haven't been briefed, that the fact that the FBI turned them over is an example, again, of its willingness to admit that it made a mistake.

BLITZER: Former Attorney General Janet Reno, we are all out of time. I want to thank you very much for taking some time out from your schedule to join us from our bureau in Chicago.

RENO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. Thank you.

And up next, President Bush touted his new energy plan this week. But is the United States really a country in crisis? We'll speak to U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and EPA Administrator Christie Whitman about the price of gasoline and electricity in the United Sates. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.


BLITZER: They're cleaning up outside the White House following the graduation ceremonies this morning at George Washington University here in the nation's capitol. Looks like they got a big job ahead of them.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. With President Bush's new energy plan finally on the table, he now faces the hurdle of getting it approved by Congress.

Earlier today, I spoke with U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Environmental Protection Agency Chief Christie Whitman about the president's proposal and a strong opposition to it from many environmentalists and congressional Democrats.


BLITZER: Secretary Abraham, Governor Whitman, thanks to both of you for joining us.

And I want to begin with you, Mr. Secretary. The major criticism leveled against the president's energy plan is that it focuses too much on trying to increase the supply, not enough on conservation. And a lot of criticism of Vice President Dick Cheney for having said "Conservation may be a personal virtue, but it's not a solution to the energy crisis."

SPENCER ABRAHAM, SECRETARY OF ENERGY: Well, first of all, it's been unfair criticism of the vice president. What he said is that, in and of itself, conservation can't solve the problem, and that's true.

But actually our projections over the next 20 years suggest that most of the gains we're going to make to meet the demand that we project, in terms of energy, are going to be made on the conservation side, but not enough to eliminate any need to increase supply.

And we definitely have to do that. We've had a flat level in terms of supply increases over the last 10 years. That can't continue, or the kinds of shortages we see in California and other places will be true across the country.

BLITZER: And, Governor Whitman, as far as the environment is concerned, the criticism is leveled at so much of this plan seems to be a bonanza for the big oil, the energy companies.

Look at, for example, these numbers that have been put up as far as contributions to the Democrats and the Republicans from various sectors of the energy industry: Oil and gas, the GOP got $25 million; the Democrats, $6 million. Utilities, $12, almost $13 million, compared to $6 million for the Democrats. And as far as the mining industry, $5.5 million for the Republicans; less than a million for the Democrats. And as a result, the environment is going to pay a price for some of these policies.

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, EPA DIRECTOR: Well, the environment is already paying a price unfortunately, because, as you look at the problems that we have in California, we're having to allow some of those utilities to put on- line their emergency generators which are fossil fuel combustion, and those are dirtier.

In the end, we will pick up and make the environment whole. We get back some money, we will get back some emissions, but right now it's not healthy.

And you have a drought in the far West, in the Northwest, and yet most of that is hydropower. As you're having to produce more power, you're drawing down the river. That's bad for salmon.

We are seeing real environmental impacts today from a lack of a national energy policy. And what this proposal presumes is its based on some very good solid environmental policy. In fact the Sierra Club and the National Resource Defense Council each have put out proposals on how to solve the problem, and if you match that against the president's, you will see we agree on almost every count.

BLITZER: Secretary Abraham, though, on this point though about the administration supposedly being in bed with big oil, the big energy companies, former President Jimmy Carter wrote in The Washington Post this, the other day. He said: "No energy crisis exists now that equates in any way with those we faced in 1973 and 1979. Exaggerated claims seem designed to promote some long- frustrated ambitions of the oil industry at the expense of environmental quality."

ABRAHAM: Well, Wolf, let me just say this. I have great personal respect for former President Carter, but he presided over what was certainly the worst era in terms of federal energy policy in our history, and I don't think his guidance on this subject comes close to the mark.

Moreover, let me also point this out. Our plan, unlike, say, the plan the Democrats have offered, has no tax breaks and tax incentives for the oil and gas industry. The Democratic (sic) plan does.

In my budget for the Department of Energy, we've reduced the corporate subsidies in terms of research and development assistance for the oil and gas industry, not increased them, and that kept them at the level of the previous administration.

So I think these charges are way off the mark. Our plan is a balanced plan between conservation and supply increases, between the environment and the need to increase supply, and between the sources of energy, not just oil and gas. Our plan is balanced between all the different forms of energy including renewable energy.

BLITZER: And you stand by your earlier statement that there is an energy crisis right now in the United States?

ABRAHAM: There absolutely is. As we look ahead over the next 20 years, unless we increase supply and bring down demand, we're going to have huge shortages. And instead of waiting until the shortages get so acute that prices goes through the ceiling and people across America confront blackouts and other shortage-inspired problems, let's start on it with the president's comprehensive plan now and we can avoid those difficulties.

BLITZER: Governor Whitman, some of the environmental groups, groups that you have to work with, are beginning massive ad campaigns to criticize the president's energy proposals.

I want to run a snippet from one of the ads that is just being released right now. Listen to this.


AUCTIONEER: Sold! Drilling rights in Arctic refuge to gentleman from big oil. Next up, clean air.

NARRATOR: Does is seem like our environment is on the auction block these days?


BLITZER: The specific criticism, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the drilling that the administration would like to go forward in Alaska, but doesn't seem to have the votes for in the U.S. Congress. Are the necessary votes there for you to start drilling in ANWR?

WHITMAN: Well, that's not a final decision that is up to me. Ours is to ensure that whatever happens is protective of the environment.

And I know this will be a tough fight, but I think as the Congress looks at the overall challenge that we face with the energy, they are going to understand we have to have more domestic production. We need to have it for our own security so that we don't keep importing as much as we are today. And we need to have it in order to avoid the kinds of problems, which have very real environmental consequences, that we are seeing in places like California and the Northwest.

BLITZER: As the head of Environmental Protection Agency, are you absolutely positively convinced that if drilling went forward up in Alaska it would not damage the environment and the natural wildlife up there?

WHITMAN: Well, obviously it would be our responsibility to ensure that that was the outcome, that there would be minimal, if any, damage. And modern technology does give us an ability and gives everyone the ability to do this kind of exploration and extraction in ways that were uncontemplated when you first started this. So that we can do it in a way that is much more environmentally sensitive, and that's going to be our role. Our role is going to be to ensure that that's what happens.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, even if you got permission, got the votes in Congress to go forward with the drilling, and that's a big if right now, as you well know, former senator from Michigan, it doesn't appear that that would have any short term impact on gasoline prices, energy supplies in the United States. It's a long-term solution.

ABRAHAM: Right. It's unfortunate this wasn't done sometime ago, and we would already be reaping the benefits of the oil that is up in Alaska.

BLITZER: But one of the criticisms of the president's plan is that there aren't many short-term solutions in there to some of the major problems California is facing, the prospect of $2.50 or even $3 a gallon gasoline here in the United States. Why aren't there any short-term solutions in the president's plan.

ABRAHAM: First of all, these provinces have grown up over the last eight years when we had no energy plan. And so by putting a plan together, as we have done, we're now going to begin addressing all of these problems.

But in terms of some of these short term problems, specifically California, we didn't wait until this plan was done to begin working with California. The first official act I had as secretary was to call the governor of California the day after I was sworn in to office and offer our help.

And we've offered it on variety of fronts from improving conservation measures at federal facilities, to providing emergency natural gas and electricity generation to the state, to helping to expedite permits so that he can bring more generation on-line. We have cooperated more with state of California than the governor's own legislature has.

BLITZER: But Governor Gray Davis is angry at the federal government, at the Bush administration, for not coming forward with an immediate solution that he says would help the people of California -- 1/6 of the U.S. economy -- price caps on supplies on the cost of energy.

I want you to listen to what Governor Davis said only this week. Listen to this.


GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I fault the president for not providing California with any immediate relief. California is the only state in America that has faced blackouts and astronomical electricity prices. And with all due respect, Mr. President, Californians want to know whether you're going to be on their side.


BLITZER: Well, you know, he is using tough words against your administration.

ABRAHAM: We are on California's side. And the first goal we have is to make sure the blackouts don't get worse, don't last longer, don't perpetuate into the future. Price caps will cause the blackouts to be worse.

We've been helping the governor on variety of fronts since our first days in office and we'll continue to do that. But at end of the day, you know, we've only been in office four months. We've been working hard on this. Governor Davis has been in office two and a half years. He said he inherited all these problems. If he inherited them, certainly we did as well.

And let me just finally say this: We want to help California in ways that are constructive, not ways that undermine the citizens of that state with worse blackouts. And we're just not going to let that happen.

BLITZER: Governor Whitman, you're a former governor of New Jersey, you are a politician. You know the line coming from the Democrats, and the House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt echoed that line, or put forward that line, this week, in rather blunt terms. Listen to what Mr. Gephardt said.


GEPHARDT: This is the president's energy report. It's slick. It's full of pretty color pictures. It really looks like the Exxon- Mobil annual report. And maybe that's really what it is.


BLITZER: Put on your politician's hat for a moment. Tell us how you are going to respond to that kind of criticism, which does resonate with some Americans.

WHITMAN: Well, we are going to respond the way you have seen the president respond. This is about leadership. This is about looking forward. That plan may look slick but it has over 100 recommendations for actions that we have to take now, and we're going to start taking them, and actions for the future.

The people are going to see some real results. This isn't a report that is going sit on the shelf. This is a report that is going require government to respond, and government's going to start to respond. It's going to require the Congress to engage in a real discussion if they want to solve problems for now and for the future. And people are going to see that. They're going to understand.

I expect the Democrats to do this. It is a wonderful issue. You can grandstand on it. You can extrapolate things and misrepresent. But if you compare the president's plan, to the plan they put forward, you will see, and the American people will see, that there is a vast difference. One is aimed at leadership, at moving forward, at solving a problem, now and for the long term. The other is to get headlines for today.

BLITZER: Let me bring back Secretary Abraham. Mr. Secretary, the Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, was on television earlier today. He said that he, personally, would like to see at least a temporary elimination of that 18-cent federal gasoline tax as a short- term solution to the increasingly higher price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States. What do you say about that?

ABRAHAM: Well, you know, when I was in the Senate a year ago I actually offered an amendment to suspend the federal gas tax, and I could only get 39 votes for it. So I will be interested to see whether or not Senator Lott has added any to that number.

I have told the administration that I don't see any greater support for it today than it was a year ago. But if we see some evidence of that, then maybe we should look at the issue. But until then, I think it's up to the Congress to demonstrate a lot more support than they did one year ago when prices were higher.

BLITZER: But it's not part of the president's plan to eliminate that 18 percent gas tax.

ABRAHAM: Well, no, it isn't, because our plan is designed on a long-term basis. If you eliminated gas tax on long-term basis, what you would effectively do is undermine our ability to build any new highways or roads.

But whether or not it is temporarily suspended, I think that ball is in Congress' court. They've got to show a lot more support than they did a year ago. BLITZER: When president was the governor of Texas running for the office of the presidency, he criticized the Clinton administration for not doing enough with OPEC to reduce the -- in effect, try to reduce the cost of gasoline, increase oil production. Listen to what the president said at that time when he was a candidate.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I think the president ought to do is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say, "We expect you to open your spigots."


BLITZER: He hasn't done that, has he?

ABRAHAM: Well, we are in he engaged, obviously, in a lot of sensitive discussion with countries in the Middle East on a variety of issues, as you know, but we're not going to go and beg for oil.

What this proves is that is the countries in the OPEC cartel are going to do what's in their best interest. That's what they are doing. We ought to do what's in America's best interest, starting with increasing supplies here at home.

When we debate Alaska oil, the issue is do we want grow more dependent on foreign countries? I say the answer is no. Let's do more here, to protect our own interest and ensure our own energy security.

BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. Secretary Abraham, Governor Whitman, thanks to both of you for joining us

WHITMAN: Pleasure.

BLITZER: And when we return, how will President Bush and his opponents make their case to the public? We'll talk power, politics and more with Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl and Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now to talk about how the president's energy proposals will be playing on Capitol Hill are two members of the U.S. Senate. Here in Washington, Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona and in Des Moines, Iowa, Democrat Tom Harkin.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

I want to begin with you, Senator Kyl. On Senator Lott's suggestion earlier today that perhaps it would be a good temporary solution to suspend that 18-cent-per-gallon federal tax on gasoline, would it be a good idea? SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Sure, I'm for it. That's not going to solve the problem of course. And I think that Spencer Abraham is right, there probably isn't enough support in Senate to get it done. I think what the president is focusing on are things that he can realistically get done and hopefully sooner rather that later.

BLITZER: What about that Senator Harkin, would you support eliminating, or at least suspending, that 18-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline?

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: So you just want to give more profits to the oil companies. I mean, what's to ensure that they're going to pass that through to consumer? Not a thing. That's just going to put more money in the oil companies pockets. That's not a solution to our problem.

BLITZER: That's what -- in fact, what Senator Harkin said is what Vice President Cheney said earlier today, as well. That some economists suggest that if you eliminate, suspend that 18-cent-a- gallon tax, the oil companies would just pick it up and the price for consumers would not go down.

KYL: Well, that's speculation. I don't think it would happen. It's not the president's program.

We really ought to be focused, I think, on kinds of leadership that the president has engaged in here and talk about things that he's proposed. Because as the secretary of energy said, this probably is not an idea that's going to be in the Senate.

But you asked whether I'm for it. I'm for it. What it does is take money out of the pockets of the federal government. Taxes go to the government not the oil companies.

BLITZER: What one thing...

HARKIN: Yes, it takes out of the government and gives it to the oil companies. I don't think that's a good solution.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about some proposals that are in the president's plan, Senator Kyl. One is drilling in Alaska, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Is that a good idea as far as you're concerned?

KYL: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, the estimates are that we could produce 600,000 barrels of oil a year for 47 years. And guess what, that's exactly what we import from Iraq. The whole idea here is to reduce the dependency on those Middle East and other exports that we are now relying on by over 50 percent and to increase our production here at home.

It's only when you begin to show that you are willing to do something about the problem yourself that you are going to be effective, if you go overseas and start talking to those other folks about increasing their supplies. BLITZER: Senator Harkin, the White House insists the Department of Energy, under Spencer Abraham, your former Senate colleague, insists it can be done environmentally save, drilling in ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

HARKIN: Well, I think, Wolf, what we -- let's look at the whole picture here. What the Bush plan is doing is saying, what worked in 19th and 20th century is going to work for us again. They're revisiting what we did before. You know, drill for more oil, drill for more gas, burn coal, build nuclear power plants. That's what we did in the last century.

Now to be sure, we had to do that, and it did provide great economic growth. But look at the downside: It brought us pollution, it brought us oil spills, it brought us carbon monoxide, it brought us global warming, tons of nuclear waste that we don't know what to do with. So, now what the Bush plan is saying, let's do it all again.

But I submit to you that this time the environmental consequences will be devastating. Now is the time to get off of the hydrocarbon cycle, move ahead aggressively with renewables: wind, solar, geothermal, hydrogen fuel cells, biomass. These are the fuel sources of the future. And if you want to be independent of foreign oil, that's the way go.

Even with the north slope oil -- yes, that might replace what we get from Iraq, but the need for oil over that time will increase such that we will still be dependent. After the Bush plan is fully in effect -- God forbid if it ever went into effect -- we would still be dependent on foreign oil.

BLITZER: Senator Kyl, you know, a lot of environmentalists in Arizona, your home state, tend to agree that they would criticize the Bush plan as being too heavy on the supply side, raising the supply like the drilling, offshore or in Alaska, not enough on the conservation or finding alternative sources of energy.

Well, first of all the president's plan, out of 105 recommendations, 42 of them do relate to conservation. He has a whole list of things that he would like to do on the conservation side.

But I think almost every one who is realistic about this knows you can't conserve your way out of the problem. We're going to have to produce some energy. Our requirements are going up very, very fast. We haven't produced new sources of energy in this country. We haven't built a new refinery for 25 years.

KYL: As a matter of fact, we have shut down 37 refineries since 1992. And to think that with wind -- and by the way, geothermal is not a very environmentally friendly way to produce energy. If you've seen all the windmills on the hillsides in California, you kind of wonder about that, too. Nor do I want to see the entire state of Arizona paved over with bright and shiny mirrors to try produce solar power. At best you're going to produce maybe 5 or 6 percent of our energy needs with those so-called renewables. We are not going to get away from the need for nuclear and coal fire generation. BLITZER: What about that Senator Harkin?

HARKIN: Well, I think John and my good friend and neighbor in the Senate is wrong on this.

First of all, wind energy is the fastest-growing energy source in world today. It is environmentally sound; it is efficient and effective. We could supply at least 20 percent of the electric energy needs of America with wind.

Photovoltaics, for example, we know that a 100-mile square patch of land in Nevada could supply all of the electricity needs for America if you used photovoltaics. But you don't have to put it all there. You put a little bit there, a little bit in Arizona, some in New Mexico, some in Texas, some in Florida, and you hook it all up to a grid.

Then you use solar energy also during the daytime to make hydrogen. You store the hydrogen, and then at night time or when the sun is not shining, you put it through a fuel cell to make electricity.

So, you take the hydrogen from water, you make electricity, and what you get is water.

Now, these technologies are here today. They can be done today. And if we're looking at an energy plan for next 10 years, 15 years, this is the direction we ought to go. Not just to drill more oil and build more nuclear power plants. That's not the answer. That's 19th, 20th century solutions.

BLITZER: In the short term, Senator Kyl, what are you doing in Arizona to prevent the problems that we have seen in California -- the rolling blackouts, the skyrocketing cost for utilities, electricity in particular. What are you doing in Arizona, which of course could face similar problems?

KYL: Well, in first place, we've exercised leadership. We haven't said "Not in my backyard."

We have the newest and one of the largest nuclear generating facilities in the United States. It produces a huge amount of electricity at a very low cost and zero negative effect on the environment.

We've also got very clean coal burning plants.

So we are energy sufficient in my state of Arizona because we have been willing to invest and we've been willing to allow those facilities to be built there. As a matter of fact, some of that energy is being drained over into California at some cost to Arizona consumers.

BLITZER: All right, senators, stand by. We have to take a quick break.

When we return, your phone calls for Senators Kyl and Harkin. LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation with Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl and Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin.

Let's take a caller from New Jersey. Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Good afternoon, gentlemen. I just was wondering if you could please address the issue of why President Bush is getting a lot of the blame for this energy crisis, so-called energy crisis, when you had eight years of basically a non-policy with the Clinton and Gore administration, if you could just address that please? Thank you.

BLITZER: Senator Harkin, why don't you take that?

HARKIN: Well, I'm not blaming Bush. I'll blame Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Bush, because for the last 20 years we have done nothing about making ourselves more independent and by building up our own internal sources.

The one thing I do agree with Senator Kyl on is we do have to increase supply. It's just that he wants to do it with oil and coal and gas and nuclear, and I say we can do it with renewable energy sources in this country.

The second thing I think we have to keep in mind is that there's a short-term problem here too that we've got to address, especially in California.

Keep in mind that electric power is a natural monopoly. I'm a consumer. I can't go down in my basement, Wolf, and say, "OK, today I'm going to buy my electricity from the ABC power company cause it's a little cheaper. Now tomorrow, I'm going to flip the switch and buy it from the XYZ power company, because it's a little cheaper." I have no -- I have no power to do that. I have no control over that.

Electric power is a natural monopoly, and as such it must be regulated for consumers. That's why I believe for the short term in California, we've got to put some price caps and re-regulate the electric power going into California.

BLITZER: All right, I want to move on and switch gears. Go ahead, very briefly.

HARKIN: Price caps, that's why California's in the pickle it's in. There was deregulation on the wholesale side, price caps on the retail side, so the regulators in California said to the utilities there, you can buy the power for whatever you want to pay for it, lets say a dollar per unit. But you can only recover 64 cents of that dollar. How long did it take them to go bankrupt with price caps?

BLITZER: All right, I want to move on and talk about taxes for a second, Senator Harkin, because we're limited in time. And your fellow senator, Senator Kyl, from Arizona, Senator McCain, was on ABC earlier today.

As you know, the president wanted the top income tax rate to go down from 39.6 percent to 33 percent. It's going to emerge apparently from the Senate at 36 percent, the top rate. But Senator McCain now is saying perhaps it should only go down to 38 percent or so, insisting that there's going to have to be more money budgeted for defense spending. Listen to what Senator McCain said earlier today.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm also concerned about the fact that we have no indication whatsoever yet as to how much of the president's future budgets are going to be devoted to defense. I think we need to know how much is going to be spent on defense, how much specifically on national missile defense system, and how that all fits into this tax cut.


BLITZER: Do you agree with your fellow Arizonan, Senator?

KYL: I totally agree with him that we've got to increase our spending on defense, including the missile defense. He's absolutely right about that. And I've also agree with him that Congress has a tendency to spend the extra money that we have on other things other than defense.

There's enough money in the budget for a tax cut, including taking the top rates down to 33 percent. But there's not enough money if Congress decides to spend it all on other things. So Senator McCain is right that we have got to ensure that we spend enough on defense, but I do think that we can bring the top marginal rate down as well.

BLITZER: Down to what?

KYL: Well, I think we could bring it down to 33 percent. But you're right, realistically it's probably going to end up in the 35 percent range.

BLITZER: What about that Senator Harkin?

HARKIN: Well, first of all, the contingency fund that they're talking about where Senator McCain said they're going to get money for defense is also the same contingency fund that they said they're going to use to fund education. Because education over the next 10 years in the Bush budget received zero increase. But they said, "Don't worry, we have it in this contingency fund." Well, now we have a number of Republicans saying, "Well, now we're going to use that contingency fund to build the national missile defense system and invest in defense." They also want to use that contingency fund for Social Security and Medicare. It does not add up.

And so, rather than cutting these top rates, I've said before, what we need to do is, number one, pay down the national debt. You don't hear any talk about that. I think the most important thing we could do for our kids and the future of America is pay down the national debt. Secondly, save Social Security and Medicare, set that aside what we need to secure it. Third, invest heavily in education. And then take a look at the tax cuts for America.

BLITZER: All right, what about that Senator Kyl?

KYL: Well, I think my friend Tom Harkin knows that the president's education plan increased education spending by more than the total of all of the Clinton budgets. In other words, Bush's plan for education includes not only reforms, but a huge amount of additional expenditure.

And what he said was, with the surplus that we have, we can pay down the national debt as far as we can do it. We can provide for education and defense, according to the president, and we can apply 1/4, just 25 percent, of that extra surplus as a rebate to the taxpayers for their overpayment.

You can do it all. It takes a little bit of discipline, of course. You can't just go hog wild and spend it all on ethanol subsidies or something of that sort, for example. But if you are intelligent about it you can get it done, and that's what the Bush plan is.

BLITZER: Senator Harkin, we only have a few seconds. I want a quick prediction from you and from Senator Kyl on the controversial nomination of Theodore Olson to be the solicitor general at the Justice Department. It's going to the floor for a full vote on the Senate floor. What do you predict will happen to that nomination?

HARKIN: Well, I don't know all the details on that, Wolf. I'm not on the appropriate committee for that, and I'll just have to examine the record. I haven't made up my mind, myself, because I just don't know all the facts.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Kyl?

KYL: Well, I am on the Judiciary Committee. He did a fine job before the committee. No one questions his qualifications. And I think as a result of showing the members of the Judiciary Committee some of the files that they wanted to see, allowing them to talk to some of the people they wanted to interview, they are going to conclude that will be just fine. And I predict that he will be confirmed and that some Democrats will vote for his confirmation

BLITZER: All right. Senator Kyl and Senator Harkin, thanks to both of you for joining us on LATE EDITION. Thank you very much.

Up next, Attorney General John Ashcroft's practice of holding prayer sessions at the Justice Department is drawing criticism from some quarters. Should religion have a place in government? We'll get the views of two of leading clergymen: Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson and law professor Father Robert Drinan.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.



JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Because we have understood that our source is eternal, America has been different. We have no king but Jesus.


BLITZER: John Ashcroft speaking at Bob Jones University in 1999. The speech provoked controversy at Mr. Ashcroft's confirmation hearings for attorney general.

This past week, it was his daily bible sessions at the Justice Department that caused another stir. While agency employees are not required to attend the meetings, some critics say the move blurs the separation between church and state.

With us now to offer their perspectives on the controversy are two leading clergymen. Joining us from Virginia Beach, Virginia, is Christian Coalition Founder Pat Robertson, a former Republican presidential candidate. And here in Washington, Georgetown law professor and former Democratic congressman, Father Robert Drinan.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

And, Pat Robertson, let me begin with you. The argument against allowing these sessions to go forward at the Justice Department, these prayer meetings in the morning that the attorney general has been hosting, was made by Barry Lynn earlier this week. Barry Lynn, as you know, very active in opposing any mix between church and state. Listen to what he said.


BARRY LYNN: If you're talking about the top law enforcement official of the United States, he really ought to have the common sense and the common decency to stop this practice. I think this practice really goes beyond what is going to make people comfortable to be employees.


BLITZER: Pat Robertson, do you understand why some employees say that they are uncomfortable by what the attorney general is doing?

PAT ROBERTSON, CHRISTIAN COALITION: You know, Wolf, it's absolute nonsense. I mean, they have 135,000 employees in the Justice Department. So 20 or 30 of them meet with John Ashcroft for private prayer. There are probably 20 or 30 prayer meetings going on in the Congress. My father, for example, when he was a United States Senator, used to meet with a breakfast group on Wednesday of senators, and they would pray together and read the bible in the dining room of the United States Senate. And The Washington Post didn't make a front page headline about that.

I'm just shocked that the liberals are making so much fuss about this, because it's John Ashcroft's absolute constitutional right to pray privately with a group of people.

BLITZER: Let me ask Father Drinan. The attorney general, John Ashcroft, is quoted in the new issue of Time magazine as saying, "I don't think the fact that I might want to invite the wisdom of the almighty into my decision-making is a threat to anyone."

FATHER ROBERT DRINAN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER: Well, the liberals, unlike what was just said, are not making a big deal of this. All we know is 1,700 words one morning in The Washington Post. It's a one-day story.

I think you can argue, however, that it is in violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the federal guidelines. This has been a problem. Everyone wants every individual to exhibit his religion in appropriate ways, and that you could argue that the attorney general has not done that. He has, in essence, excluded some people.

I prayed every day during my 10 years with the Congress. The bravery set by Catholic priests are right there. But I didn't importune or invite other people to do it.

No one is against prayer. But in this particular case, I think that the argument that Barry Lynn makes has to be taken seriously.

BLITZER: Pat Robertson, one of the arguments that was made in that Washington Post article that Father Drinan refered to is some senior officials saying that they think that if they don't go to those prayer sessions with the attorney general, it could perhaps indirectly affect their careers.

ROBERTSON: Again, Wolf, that's nonsense. Because out of, as I say, 130,000 or 135,000 employees, how in the world could the fact that 10 or 15 or 20 of them come to pray with the attorney general have any impact? One of the participants, I understand, is an Orthodox Jew. Others were Catholic, some were Protestant. And there was absolutely no compulsion whatsoever, no merits or demerits assigned to those who prayed. It was just a small group invoking God's blessing, like happens all the time on Capitol Hill.

BLITZER: Father Drinan, when you were a member of Congress, you prayed while you were a member of Congress. Did you ever pray with members of your staff?

DRINAN: Never. No, I think that would be deemed inappropriate. Furthermore...

BLITZER: Why would it be deemed inappropriate?

DRINAN: First, because of what Jesus says in the Gospel, that when you want to pray you should go alone into your room so that you don't stir up others. But, no, I think it's just inappropriate is the best word. I'm not saying it's unconstitutional, but I don't think that this is done by the highest law authority in the country.

BLITZER: Pat Robertson, you heard what Father Drinan said. What do you say about that?

ROBERTSON: Well, you know, the father is a very respected man. He has got more honors than I'll ever dream of, so I admire his distinguished career.

But the truth is, the Roman Catholic Church every Sunday morning has mass where the communicants come together and they pray. And I'm involved in a Baptist congregation and other congregations where every Sunday morning we pray corporately. And to say that the words of Jesus mean that you've got to go pray privately would negate all of the public affirmation of faith in every church in America, and he knows that's not true.

BLITZER: Father Drinan?

DRINAN: This is the least of the problem that I have with Mr. Ashcroft. And I think we've got to focus on the death penalty, on the number in jail has tripled in last 15 years and on civil rights throughout country. Mr. Ashcroft was rejected by a significant number of senators and by the black community, and those are the things on which we should focus attention.

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

For our international viewers, World News is next.

For our North American audience, stay with us for the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll continue our conversation with Pat Robertson and Father Robert Drinan. Then, Pat Buchanan and Mario Cuomo weigh in on the death penalty and the current political climate in Washington. Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's last word.

It's all ahead in the next hour of LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: This is the second hour of LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.


ASHCROFT: Dear Father, bless the senators today.


BLITZER: Prayer and politics. Attorney General John Ashcroft's expressions of faith are causing a stir at the Justice Department. We'll continue our conversation with Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson and law professor Father Robert Drinan about where they draw the line between faith and the federal government.


BUSH: We need to be able to have a discussion of public policy that's important for the country without name-calling and finger- pointing.


BLITZER: President Bush continues to call for a new tone in Washington. We'll hear from former Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and former New York Governor Mario Cuomo on partisan politics, the death penalty and gun control.

Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Susan Page and David Brooks. And Bruce Morton has the last word on a perennial presidential scene stealer, the first lady.

Welcome back. We'll continue our conversation with Pat Robertson and Father Robert Drinan in just a moment, but first let's go to Donna Kelley in Atlanta for a check of the hour's top stories.


BLITZER: Thank you very much, Donna. And now back to our conversation with Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson and Georgetown University law professor and former Democratic Congressman Father Robert Drinan.

Pat Robertson, there is an article in the new issue of U.S. News and World Report that's just out today that says the Christian Coalition, the organization you founded, is in deep trouble. And it quotes Marshall Whitman, a former legislative director for the Christian Coalition, as saying this: "It is on life support at the moment. One of the goals early on was to make the Christian Coalition as institutionalized as the AFL-CIO. That has failed."

Is that article accurate?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, I was shocked when I read that article in that magazine that I think of as highly as I do, of U.S. News and World Report, would come out with anything that is inaccurate. It is loaded with inaccuracies.

It says, for example, the income, I think, in 1999 of the coalition was $3 million. Not true, it was $8.5 million. It grew to almost $11 million -- between $10 and $11 million dollars this past year. The coalition came out of 2000 with a $2 million surplus, one of the best years it has had in a long time. And for Marshall Whitman to say on it's on life support, I don't know what he uses as his business model, but the coalition isn't one of them. He is totally in error on that.

BLITZER: One point that the article does make, Father Drinan, is that the Christian Coalition over the years has had trouble attracting Catholics to the Christian Coalition. As a Catholic, do you understand why some Catholics might be reluctant to line up with the Christian Coalition?

DRINAN: Yes, I think not merely Catholics, but all people of faith. They would say, by what right do they establish themselves, self-appointed, the moral majority. And then when that faded away, they said this is the Christian Coalition. I'm a Christian, but I'm not welcome in the Christian Coalition.

They did try to get some Catholic alliance going, and that apparently has failed.

This is one more instance where some small minority of the church self-destructs. Why? Because they say, "Our moral viewpoints are really the America's values, and they are not." So if this fades away, I think that will be good for people of faith and people of nonfaith.

BLITZER: Pat Robertson, have you had trouble attracting Catholics to the Christian Coalition?

ROBERTSON: Not really. It was started under a previous executive director, and it was just costing a lot of money. We had Keith Fournier who had enlisted quite a few Catholics, and they liked the concept.

As a matter of fact, in one school board election in New York, we had the support of my dear friend Cardinal John O'Connor -- who, I might add, Father Drinan, he wrote me a letter. He said, "I pray for you every day." He was a wonderful man, and we joined forces together in relation to certain school board elections.

So it is not Catholics that were resisting this. It was just a very expensive proposition to set up the infrastructure for the Catholic alliance. But it wasn't reluctance on the part of the Catholics, because we share many, many of the same views dealing with the moral decline in the United States of America.

But there's never been an attempt by the Christian Coalition to impose its desire on anybody. This is a coalition of Christians. You know, how does the American Federation of Labor say it's the American Federation of Labor? Well, there's some laboring people that are and some that are not, but they use the title.

DRINAN: You pretend, sir, with all due respect, you pretend that you represent the Christians. And the National Council of Churches has never joined -- that's all the mainstream Protestants. And there are many, many Protestant factions in this country who have a distaste for the Christian Coalition just as millions of Catholics do.

BLITZER: Pat Robertson, I know you want to respond to that, but I want to give you a chance to respond -- the last time I interviewed you on my week night program, you caused a huge stir by words that you uttered as far as the issue of force abortions in China. I want to play an except from that interview and give you a chance to explain to our audience around the world what precisely you meant. Listen to this.


ROBERTSON: Well, you know, I don't agree with it, but at the same time, they've got one 1.2 billion people and they don't know what to do. If every family over there was allowed to have three or four children, the population would be completely unsustainable.


BLITZER: A lot of your critics, including among the religious right, say they were outraged by what they heard.

ROBERTSON: Wolf, they were. And I must say, the one thing I should never do is get on your program when I'm a little fatigued, and I was fatigued at that particular moment. I'm not fatigued now. I'm unalterably opposed to forced abortions, and I don't agree with it in China or any other country.

But, and I say this, if we can't stop partial birth abortion in the United States -- and the Congress right now is refusing to put forth a simple law to stop what amounts to infanticide. If we can't do that in America, why are we so concerned about other countries? I think we ought to deal with the fact that we've got 35 or so million abortions in America. We need to get our own house in order.

BLITZER: Pat Robertson had the first word. Father Drinan, you'll have the last word.

DRINAN: I think that the problem of overpopulation around the whole world has to be solved by rational means, by helping these people to help themselves, by allowing them to know that their children will live to the average age. In some countries, half the children die by the age of 10.

We all deplore what is happening in China. At the same time, we should say as citizens of the world, we have to face the fact that, yes, as he says, there's 42 million abortions every year in the whole world, and there's something wrong with that. But that to impose this on other people is just wrong.

And one last point, Pat Robertson should have said to the audience, partial-birth abortion, as practiced in Nebraska in that law, was nullified, declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

BLITZER: All right, Pat Robertson, I'll give you a chance to respond since he made a direct reference to you. You'll have the last word.

ROBERTSON: Thanks, Wolf.

Listen, I was shocked at that decision and so was Jay Sekulow, who heads up my American Center for Law and Justice. We could not believe that the Supreme Court struck down that initiative in Nebraska. We couldn't believe it, and I think they've gone over the line on that one. And I would hope that, maybe with another appointment to the court, that 5-4 majority would be swung in favor of life, not in favor of death.

BLITZER: All right, let's leave it right there. Pat Robertson, Father Robert Drinan, thanks to both of you for joining us.

And just ahead, the number of Americans who support the death penalty has dropped in recent years. Is it time to end capital punishment in the United States? We'll hear from two men with very different views: former Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and former New York Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo. LATE EDITION will be right back.



ROBERT NIGH, MCVEIGH DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Let us stop the cycle of violence, and let us say that we will no longer kill in the name of justice.


BLITZER: Robert Nigh, the attorney for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, speaking after learning his client's execution would be delayed because of mistakes by the FBI. McVeigh is now scheduled to be put on death on June 11.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. With us now to talk about the broader issue of the death penalty and other issues, two guests. They've had their share of political battles. Joining us here in Washington, the former Reform Party presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan. And in New York, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo.

Gentlemen, good to have you back. Both of you were on my program earlier this week. You had a good, lively discussion. So we decided to give you a little bit more time and flesh it out a little bit and get your sense on what's going on.

First, Governor Cuomo, the issue that was at the center of that debate we had earlier in the week, the issue of the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh, you don't believe he should be executed. But a lot of people out there say that if there is ever a case that someone deserved the death penalty, it was Timothy McVeigh.

MARIO CUOMO, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: Hard cases make bad law. Yes, for those of us who are opposed to the death penalty, it's a particularly difficult to argue when you have somebody like McVeigh, I think. But the principles are the same. I have been opposed to the death penalty for all of my adult life. I've been studying it for a long, long time. For 12 years as governor, I vetoed it.

I'm convinced, as most people are, that it does not deter. I'm convinced that it's government at its very worse trying to promote justice by promoting brutality. I'm convinced that it is profoundly unfair.

Government is imperfect. Nobody knows that better than the Republican conservatives. And the judicial system is government and it's imperfect. And it makes a lot of mistakes, and we see that more and more every day, which means it takes human life.

It just does no good. It's degrading. It's debasing. The industrial world has given up virtually without exception, and we should too.

BLITZER: What about that, Pat Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I disagree with your statistics, Wolf. When it comes to McVeigh, it's 72 to 19 believe he ought to be executed. I do believe he ought to be executed. I think it is a manifestation of a society acting justly against someone who's perpetrated an act of terror. McVeigh said those children were collateral damage. He has no remorse.

I think a healthy, strong society will move with dispatch to eliminate those individuals who perpetrate these kinds of outrages. It's consistent with everything I've believed in. I've seen a couple of executions in my lifetime. They are very unpleasant. But I think it's a necessary defense of society, and in this case, certainly, I support it.

BLITZER: The statistics we were referring to at the beginning didn't deal specifically with McVeigh. They dealt with the broader issue of, do you support capital punishment. That number has been going down.

In part, the Republican governor of Illinois, Governor Ryan, has pointed out that there is simply too many problems there. There have been too many mistakes. Fortunately, there has been no evidence that someone has been executed then after the fact there's been a discovery that there was a mistake. But you have to acknowledge, there's been a lot of problems there.

BUCHANAN: There are -- look, I realize that, and it's a good thing we've got DNA. But the truth is that the death penalty, in the sense -- can a mistake be made? Of course it can be made, Wolf. And it may have been made in the past, I don't know the case.

But, look, mistakes are in surgeries, people die. When we get police officers guns, we give them the authority to kill. And these officers sometimes make mistakes. We saw the case of Senator Kerry. Obviously in combat, the confusion of combat, the fog of battle, people can be killed.

Now, I do argue this: Any time any judge has the slightest doubt in his mind as to whether or not an individual is guilty, even if the jury comes in with the recommendation for death, I would say don't execute him. But in the case of McVeigh, there is no doubt.

BLITZER: Governor?

CUOMO: Well, to suggest that, because we have to defend ourselves in war and because we need police, we should kill people even though we know we're going to make mistakes -- we have made mistakes. There are some reports that we've killed 50 people innocently over the last 50 years. Only a week ago there was a story about two young men, 14 years in prison, who weren't on the way to the electric chair but were convicted of murder by an eye witness, and they were innocent. And this goes on and on.

So the suggestion, which is implicit in what Pat is saying, that it's important to have the death penalty to show you're just -- it's not justice. It's revenge. It's retribution dressed up as justice.

And I was governor for 12 years. I vetoed it every year. Texas executed more and more people. Their homicide rate was higher than mine and grew faster than mine. It simply does not deter. We all know that. The industrial world knows that.

Are we smarter than everybody in Europe? Are we smarter than all those industrial nations that are older than we are? We, who are among the most violent people in world history, certainly industrial nations, more people incarcerated, more guns per capita. We are for violence. That is what this is: official violence.

BUCHANAN: Look, the European countries are basically post- Christian countries in my judgment. They moved basically into a new era.

Now, this angst and agony that we see on the governor's part over the death penalty for poor McVeigh and these other two individuals, since McVeigh murdered those 168 people, 100,000 American citizens, Wolf, had been victims of cold-blooded murder in the United States of America -- 100,000. More than all in Korea and Vietnam.

In my judgment, a society which says you can go ahead and blow up a building with 168 people in it and children and we will not execute you, that society is sending a statement of timidity, weakness and moral confusion, which invites the kind of violence we have in our society today.

CUOMO: If Pat is right, all the death penalties we've had especially in places like Texas, and now McVeigh, would have stopped murders or at least slowed them down. It hasn't.

If anything, there is as much evidence that it promotes brutality. What do you think you are saying to people out there who are a little bit shaky in their psychological balance when you officially kill?

And to suggest that it's because I like McVeigh, now that is really a kind of cheap shot, but I have gotten accustomed to that. We're not saying we like the murderer. As a matter of fact, Pat, if you really didn't like McVeigh, you wouldn't kill him. You would lock him up for life without parole. I've had three cases, personally, two commutations and one as governor in which the person pleaded for execution, resisted my attempts to get a commutation...

BUCHANAN: Oh, this is silly.

CUOMO: No, no, it's not silly. BUCHANAN: What's silly, governor, is when you...

CUOMO: This is real.

BUCHANAN: What's silly, governor, is when you say the death penalty does not deter. Why is the godfather the safest man in prison?

CUOMO: I will answer you.

BUCHANAN: Hold it, let me talk a bit. Aldrich Ames gave away 10 of our people who were executed in the Soviet Union. Why did he talk and give up all the people he was associated with? Because he was threatened with death. Why do robbers, when a cop comes in and they put a gun to him, why do they drop their weapon? They're afraid of death, and they know there is no appeal from that cop.

CUOMO: Pat, Pat, you've reached the new low. You're telling America that the existence of the godfather with weapons is proof that weapons deter. Nobody gets killed faster and cleaner than heads of mobs. Just call the FBI, just ask them how many people have been slaughtered who were champions of weapons and murder. This notion that, why does the godfather...


CUOMO: Just a minute. Why does the godfather carry a gun? Because he is brutal, because he is foolish, and that's what you're asking the government to be.

BUCHANAN: To say that the death penalty does not deter, which is the most serious penalty, is to say that no penalty really deters, and we ought to do away with punishment. Quite obviously, why did Saddam Hussein pull all of his people out of Kuwait? He knew they would be coming for him.

CUOMO: Let me answer you, Pat.

BUCHANAN: The death penalty.

CUOMO: I've said it before. People would rather have the death penalty than a really tough punishment which is life inprisonment without parole in 6-by-8 cell, in which, in New York State, for example in the maxi-maxi, you're out one hour a day. They plead for execution in those states.

BUCHANAN: The reason they do that, governor, they do that because you have been unable to convince the vast majority of Americans who believe it deters, it is a proper punishment, it is proper retribution, it protects and defends society. And in some cases like the Nuremberg trials, it is the only way to realize true justice. You think Himler should have gotten a life term and Goering a life term? Or did their crimes justify a penalty somewhat more severe?

CUOMO: I will answer you. Those cases are in another category that are described by most people who have studied the death penalty as unique. And that is, a nation committing a crime of genocide, all the power of the nation dedicated to killing a race like the Jews, the Holocaust, 6 million Jews.

BUCHANAN: Then you do favor it there?

CUOMO: Excuse me, excuse me. Well, there, the way they justify the death penalty -- and I don't justify it anywhere. But there, the way, for example, the way the Catholic Church might justify it -- and this isn't a religious issue, but this is an example of the thinking -- is, look, when you're dealing with a national effort at genocide, it's no good to just imprison one individual. You have to go at them in the same way that they came at you, in totality.

BUCHANAN: You know, Mario, Governor, if maybe...

CUOMO: That's their argument.

BUCHANAN: If maybe -- OK, fair enough.

CUOMO: I don't approve of it, but that's their argument.

BUCHANAN: All right. If maybe that's the case, then rather than wait for an act of genocide, take the individual who kills only 168 people and execute him as a deterrent against those who might execute millions.

CUOMO: Well, now we're making some progress, Pat. Now, listen, Pat...

BLITZER: All right.

BUCHANAN: We're making good progress.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt the both of you because we have to take a quick commercial break.

One correction to you, Pat Buchanan, I covered the Aldrich Ames case. At that time, the federal statute did not prohibit the death penalty for espionage, which he was accused of and convicted of. Since then, the law has changed. And Robert Hanssen, the accused Russian spy...

BUCHANAN: He was not subject to a death penalty?

BLITZER: Aldrich Ames was not subject to a death penalty. He pleaded guilty and accepted life in prison.

BUCHANAN: Watch him cut a deal on Robert Hanssen...

CUOMO: Hey, that makes it as bad an example as "The Godfather."

BUCHANAN: ... for life. Watch him cut a deal for life for Hanssen. And why would Hanssen give up all his contacts? He wants to live. The death penalty deters. BLITZER: Well, that's another issue. Robert Hanssen is eligible for the death penalty, but Aldrich Ames was not. But there were other issues involved there.

We're going to take a quick commercial break.


BLITZER: I love correcting Pat Buchanan when I can.

We'll take some phone calls for Pat Buchanan and Mario Cuomo when LATE EDITION returns. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation with former Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and former New York Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo, President Bush made an appeal for a new tone in the politics of Washington this past week. I want you to listen to what the president said in announcing his energy policy. Listen to this.


BUSH: Just as we need a new tone in Washington, we also need a new tone in discussing energy and the environment, one that is less suspicious, less punitive, less rancorous. We've yelled at each other enough. Now it's time to listen to each other and act.


BLITZER: You think the president's suggestion is going to resonate with the politicians here in Washington?

CUOMO: I think it's a kind of joke, actually. Every time he makes a suggestion, he says, "Let's be nice, but please don't argue with me."

And frankly, I don't think the problem is rancor. From my personal point of view, the problem is the Democrats have been almost inexplicably silent on the biggest issue of all, bigger than conservation, and that is the tax cut.

When you consider in the campaign, Wolf, the Democratic Party, Gore and Lieberman leading them, said $500 billion was the top that you should give away, and the rest you should invest in this country, education, et cetera, et cetera, and debt reduction and don't take a risk on bringing back deficits.

Now, they are almost blithely agreeing to $1.2 or $3 trillion. Wolf, I've said this before. They're going to give Bush this huge tax victory. The economy's going to be the better in 2002 anyway. Bush is going to get credit for turning around the economy, although that will be a complete fraud, but he'll get credit for it politically. This is going to be a devastating defeat for the Democrats because they're not saying enough in Washington. It's not that they're arguing too hard.

BLITZER: Pat Buchanan during the campaign you were quite critical of George W. Bush. How's he doing so far as president?

BUCHANAN: Well, I think his geniality helps him. I think he has restored dignity and respect and integrity to the White House, and that helps him. And I agree with his tax cut. I think he's getting 75 percent of what he wants, and I agree with the governor, it is a tremendous victory for Bush and it's a defeat for the Democrats who seemed to have abandoned their philosophy.

But my criticism of the president, and I think he might even agree with it. I think, look, when you got $4 trillion we're going to take in, more than we project spending, why are you taking this money from the American people? I would not take a dime more from the American people than we need. I would give all $4 trillion back, and I would agree if we did something like that, I would agree with the governor, this economy will be booming in 2002.

BLITZER: Governor?

CUOMO: I'm not sure I heard him correctly, but my objection to the tax cut is that you're giving too big a tax cut, too big a tax cut.

You should be investing, for example, in energy efficiency. He cut the budget there apparently because he feels he doesn't have enough money. You should be doing more with Social Security and Medicare. More with prescription drugs, more with education.

A quickie on education, please! He's demanding standards, and that's the bulk of his education provision. Why don't you try that on the defense budget? Just increase the standards for the military and you don't have to worry about investing in missiles.

BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what I would do with education. I disagree with the governor on that. I would take that $44 billion that the Department of Education's going to waste, just like every dime it's ever spent; take it and do what Bill Clinton did on welfare and Newt Gingrich did on welfare. Give it back to the states, all of it.

Get rid of the Department of Education, and let the states decide competitively what each of them believes is the best way to raise test scores. And if the state fails, they can throw out the legislators and the governors. Return that to the states and the people just like we did welfare, which is working like a charm.

BLITZER: Governor Cuomo, when you were governor of New York, you would have liked getting that money in New York state, wouldn't you?

CUOMO: Pat is absolutely right about sending money to the states for education. The General Accounting Office says that the public schools need a $120 billion just to repair their facilities, not to shorten the school -- not to reduce the class size or lengthen the school year. Not for computers, not to improve the quality of education, just to fix up the buildings.

So anyway, you can get more money and, yes, of course, insist on accountability. Show standards for the spending of that. But the notion of testing all the kids and saying, "Good, now I've made education better, " that's an absurdity. Can it be useful? Yes. Is it an answer? Of course not. What's the point of increasing the standard if you haven't given the wherewithal to educate themselves?

BLITZER: Ten seconds, Pat Buchanan.

BUCHANAN: The problem really is not money. When I was growing up, Wolf, it was $250 a pupil in Washington, D.C., schools. Parents were proud of them, they were successful schools, black and white. Nowadays they're spending $9,000 or $10,000 per student, and they are moral, educational and social disaster areas. The problem is not money.

BLITZER: OK. Pat Buchanan, on that note, we're going to have to end this discussion.

Governor Cuomo, thanks as usual for joining us as well.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, can President Bush's energy plan survive Congress, or do the Democrats smell political blood? We'll go 'round the table on that and much more with Roberts, Page and Brooks. LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZTER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me, Susan Page, the 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 heard Janet Reno on this program earlier today, Steve, say she is seriously considering this run for the governor. I don't know about you, but I was pretty surprised Friday night when I heard that she first threw out this idea. You surprised?

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I was surprised. Partly because she spent eight years -- she was there from the entire Clinton administration. She talked about how tired she was. Everybody knows she suffered from Parkinson's Disease, which has sapped some of her strength, but she is a very tough lady.

And the Democrats, I think, are going to go -- it's a holy war against Jeb Bush in Florida. They think he stole the election. She has her limits as a candidate. Among other things, the Cuban- Americans in Florida are not going to be very happy about it. But she is visible; she can raise a lot of money. She'll get a lot of press attention. To wit, we're talking about her. Most Democratic candidates for Florida, nationally, people wouldn't have heard of, so she'll have some advantages.

BLITZER: She does come in, David, with a lot of name recognition.

DAVID BROOKS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes, but the Democrats in Florida were surprised. She had not prepped them for this. There were 10 people talking about running for that seat. They were hoping to make this referendum on Jeb Bush, not on her. And they don't want that distraction. One senses a bit of hostility down there.

The other thing is Jeb Bush's approval ratings are 57 percent, down a mere 3 percent below what they were before the whole Florida fiasco. So he is surprisingly strong.

BLITZER: He is a formidable incumbent, isn't he?

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, you'd think he would be, but he's going to like the Republican version of Hillary Clinton in New York, where whoever has the nomination against him will get enormous support nationally from the Democratic Party.

And there are some other candidates who have some strength -- Pete Peterson, for one, ambassador to Vietnam, former POW, former member of Congress, from the northern part of the state, not nearly as partisan a figure as Janet Reno.

I don't think this is going to be handed to Janet Reno, even though she is by far most prominent person now in discussion of a candidacy.

BLITZER: Although, Susan, there is one little nuance in the new primary laws that were passed by the Republican legislature in Tallahassee. Whoever gets the majority, the plurality, if you will, of the votes in the primary, there doesn't have to be runoff for the top two. So, presumably Janet Reno, who has got enormous name recognition, could win if there is a multiple slate of candidates.

PAGE: And in election history, while nationally she is known for being attorney general, of course, she ran five times in Miami-Dade County in some elections that were pretty hotly contested.

So, she has some electoral history, but I don't think that we should assume she is going to be the candidate against Jeb Bush. This is going to be a race. It's going to get a lot of attention for next year.

ROBERTS: And, Florida is a fascinating state politically. It has tended Republican. Jeb Bush obviously won as governor. But there were two Democratic senators in Florida today. Democrats won a Senate seat in Florida while Al Gore was losing that state.

And so, the Democrats have a lot of strength. There are a lot of northerners who've moved down there. A lot of them tend to vote Democratic. So, it could be a great race.

BROOKS: This is a great unreported story. The Democratic success in governorships in the South. You go from North Carolina down to Mississippi, and you've got Democratic governors almost all the way. And they are doing it by being centrist Democrats, which you don't see in Congress. And that's a true success.

ROBERTS: While mobilizing the black and Hispanic vote. That's the combination that is winning for them.

PAGE: And while George Bush got the electoral votes from Florida, I think most analysts believe that more Floridians went to polls thinking they were going to vote for Al Gore, because of that confusing butterfly ballot.

BROOKS: Which they have now changed. They've had election reform.

PAGE: So, Bush won the state, but it is hard to make that an argument that it's a state that Republicans can have any certainty about holding.

BLITZER: The other big story, of course, the president announces his big energy proposal this past week. And the Democrats are salivating right now, but do you think that there salivation may be a little bit premature?

ROBERTS: Well, look, I think that there is no doubt that George Bush has a point when he says that, in many ways, the energy policy of the country is tilted too much toward environment.

We went through a period in California other places, where we had all of these excuses to stop everything. You know, hydroelectric dammed up the rivers, the salmon couldn't grow. But the fact is, it's a pretty cheap and pretty environmentally friendly form of energy. So, he has a point. Do you have to redress the balance?

But he is very vulnerable. We all know he was an oil man, his vice president was an oil man. You take this combined with the environment issue, energy and environment together, the Democrats really think they can label this administration as once again standard Republican, in the pocket of big business.

I think that they will push it very hard. They're already spending money on ads. And I think they have some -- there's some vulnerability for Bush there.

BLITZER: One of those ads, David, is already out in California running against the Republican Congressman Steve Horn, who seems to be, according to the Democrats, vulnerable. Look at this ad that they're playing out there in his district right now.


NARRATOR: California's energy crisis is deepening with summer blackouts predicted and rate hikes of up to 80 percent. Yet President Bush has offered no relief to hard-pressed ratepayers, his spokesman saying, "The president continues to believe that the issue is mostly a California matter." (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKS: So we've got this big energy crisis in California. And who's responsible? George W. Bush and those guys in Texas.


BROOKS: I can't imagine this is going to work.

Listen, a great week has been had this week by Bill Clinton. It seems to me if you took the way Bill Clinton modernized the Democratic Party, really had nuanced, very attractive approaches to all sorts of issues like energy. He's gone and now you see the Democratic Party has shifted back so they're sounding like Leon Trotsky in Birkenstocks when they talk about this issue.


It's going back to the old conservation, the old liberal fundamentalism. I think they're vastly overstretching. The way they talk about energy is just not the way middle America talks about energy.

BLITZER: And we're going to take a quick break in a second, Susan. But as you remember from the first few months of the Clinton presidency, Bill Clinton was out in California almost every other week. George W. Bush still has not visited California since he's been president, although he does have a visit scheduled in the next few weeks.

PAGE: He's going to go there in about 10 days. But you know, he's written off California for 2004. That's not a state where I think they intend to contest the way they did last year, but it's still a state that matters politically. It's a state where Republicans could lose a couple of congressional seats next year. With the House so closely balanced, that could really make a difference.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break.

We have more to talk about with our roundtable when LATE EDITION continues. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.

David, a lot of angst up on Capitol Hill over the nomination of Theordore Olson to be the solicitor general in the Justice Department. The debate focusing on the issue, was he involved in the Arkansas project? Did he mislead members of Congress when they asked him about it, the Arkansas project, being a project with the American Spectator magazine looking for dirt against Bill Clinton.

Orrin Hatch, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, spoke out about it this week. Listen to what he said: "We have seen too much personal destruction, and I plead with my colleagues not to allow another incredibly accomplished person be turned into a one- dimensional caricature."

BROOKS: Well, Ted Olson is certainly the most politically charged person who's been nominated for solicitor general in a long time. He was active in that. He was involved in the Florida mess. He's been active in Republican politics for a long time, so it's not surprising that he'd be the one who gets picked on.

Those of us who sort of are within the conservative movement know that actually he's not that conservative. When he was a staffer on Capitol Hill, he was known as one of the more moderate staffers, which may be a comment on the far right.

But this is happening in case after case -- John Walters, the drug czar nominee. You take normal, thoughtful, subtle people, and the politics of the confirmation process turns them into maniacs.

BLITZER: Susan, as everybody remembers, Ted Olson did argue the president's case before the Supreme Court in the Florida recount uproar. Is this payback time that the Democrats are simply trying to level out against Ted Olson and the Republicans?

PAGE: Well, I think there's some recent Democratic delight in giving this guy a hard time given his partisan role last year, but I do think it's legitimate to ask if the candidate was candid in response to questions.

And I assume that, you know, they're not arguing that he's not qualified to be solicitor general. I assume that if he addresses these questions on his candor satisfactorily, he'll be confirmed. I don't think this is an nomination that is down for the count unless there's some additional disclosures.

ROBERTS: It's not just payback time about Florida, because we saw that with Reno. We just talked about that with Reno and Jeb Bush. There's a lot of simmering resentment still in the Democratic Party about what happened last fall.

It's also payback time for the way the Republicans handled a lot of Democratic judgeship nominations. You know -- Orrin Hatch, of all people to be talking, "Oh my goodness, they're destroying this guy's reputation."

Let's start with Ronnie White, an African-American nominee, who's reputation was destroyed on the Florida Senate by John Ashcroft. There is a lot of bitterness on the Democratic side about those kinds of experiences.

And also, it's not just about Ted Olson. It's about other judgeship nominations, it's about the Supreme Court nomination. Democrats are flexing their muscles, trying to tell the White House, "Look, this shows we can make life rough for you."

BROOKS: This is not a judgeship nomination. The presumption has been the president gets to pick his people. This is the presidential staff. This is the administration staff. You know, they're going to be fights about judgeships but never has there been so much resistance to all sorts of presidential nominations for his own staff, which this is the most striking.

PAGE: But has he had a defeat yet for one of those nominations?

BROOKS: No, no, but it's been slowed down.

PAGE: So things could slow down, you have a little bit more of a debate. But so far, I think, it's hard to say that the Democrats have in fact kept him from getting the appointments that he ought to be able to get.

BLITZER: And this may be fair or unfair, Susan, but Ted Olson is married to Barbara Olson, who, many of our viewers know, was one of the most outspoken in her criticism of the Clinton administration and the then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Is that a factor in this as well?

PAGE: Well, you know, I think it's sort of an undertone. I'm not sure it's a motivation, but it's one of the things that maybe makes Democrats think it's not such a hard thing to give this guy a little bit of a rough time in the confirmation process.

ROBERTS: But David has a fair point. I think that the standards are different for judges then for the president's personal staff. And in fact, The Washington Post, I believe this week editorialized in favor of Ted Olson's confirmation on the grounds that by any standard this man is qualified for the job. Whatever you might think about his politics, legally he clearly is a man of superior credentials.

So there is an argument that this is the wrong case to be fighting on for the Democrats.

But as I say, I think it's not about Ted Olson really, it's much more about these other fights to come.

BLITZER: OK, Steve Roberts, David Brooks, Susan Page, thanks to all of you for joining us. We'll see you next week.

And up next, Bruce Morton's last word. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on getting to know the woman who was America's second first lady.


BRUCE MORTON: (OFF-MIKE) a remarkable woman. The book is "John Adams," and it's about our second president too, of course. But the character you fall in love with is his wife, Abigail.

You fall in love because in those low-tech, email-less, cell- phone-less times, people wrote each other actual letters. So you meet Abigail Adams in her own words.

The pro-independence Massachusetts woman wondering about the Virginians who owned slaves. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ABIGAIL ADAMS IMPERSONATOR: I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for liberty cannot be equally strong in the breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creature of theirs.


MORTON: Abigail Adams on Britain's George III.


ABIGAIL ADAMS IMPERSONATOR: A people may let a king fall yet remain a people. But if a king let his people slip from him, he is no longer a king. Why not proclaim to the world in decisive terms our own importance?


MORTON: Adams the feminist.


ABIGAIL ADAMS IMPERSONATOR: In the new code of laws that I suppose you will make, I wish you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not push such unlimited power in the hands of husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.

If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to stir up a rebellion and will not regard ourselves as bound up by any laws in which we have had no voice or representation.


MORTON: Adams lamenting the years she and John spent apart in those pre-airplane times.


ABIGAIL ADAMS IMPERSONATOR: Who shall give me back my time? Who shall compensate to me those years I cannot recall? How dearly I have paid for a titled husband.


MORTON: To one of her president husband's critics.


ABIGAIL ADAMS IMPERSONATOR: When he is wounded, I bleed.


MORTON: To her son, John Quincy Adams. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ABIGAIL ADAMS IMPERSONATOR: That you have never wanted a book but it has been supplied to you, that your whole time has been spent in the company of men of literature and science, how unpardonable would it have been in you to have been a blockhead.


MORTON: And to the husband she loved in old age and in youth.


ABIGAIL ADAMS IMPERSONATOR: Years subdue the ardor of passion, but in lieu thereof, friendship and affection, deep-rooted, subsists which defied the ravages of time.


MORTON: He loved her too, of course. Who wouldn't?

I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.

Now it's time for you to have the last word. Paul in California had this to say about taxes: "Many provisions of the tax cut are already discriminatory. A flat tax is the only equitable method of administering an income tax."

And regarding the delayed execution of Timothy McVeigh, Evelyn (ph) in Vancouver, British Columbia, writes: "While I agree with the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh, I don't think anything should be done until all of this new evidence has been thoroughly studied. Somehow I am not convinced these missing papers were a result of an oversight."

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


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

"TIME" magazine proclaims: "There is new ammunition in the war against cancer. These are the bullets -- revolutionary new pills combat cancer by targeting only diseased cells. Is this the breakthrough we've been waiting for?" on the cover.

"Newsweek" takes a look at the new single mom: "Why the traditional family is fading fast and what it means for kids," with a single parent and her son on the cover.

And on the cover of "U.S. News and World Report": "Traffic and how it is changing life in America."

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, May 20. If you missed any part of today's program, you can tune in tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, for a one-hour replay of LATE EDITION.

I will see you tomorrow night on Wolf Blitzer Reports. Among my guests, the former president, Gerald Ford. He'll be receiving the Kennedy Foundation's Profile in Courage Award for his pardon of President Richard Nixon.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Please enjoy the rest of your weekend.



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