CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Condit Lawyer Abbe Lowell Talks About Missing Intern Case, Congressmen Meehan and Ney on Campaign Finance Reform, and Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research
Aired July 8, 2001 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Modesto, California, 5 p.m. in London and 6 p.m. in Rome. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this two- hour LATE EDITION.
We begin today with the story that has dominated headlines here in Washington and around the United States, the case of missing D.C. intern Chandra Levy. Police sources tell CNN that Democratic Congressman Gary Condit of California has admitted to having an affair with Levy.
We'll ask his attorney, Abbe Lowell, about that in just a moment, but first let's go to CNN national correspondent Bob Franken with the latest developments on this case.
BLITZER: Joining us now is a man who is at center of this case, Abbe Lowell. He is Congressman Gary Condit's attorney.
Mr. Lowell, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.
And let's get right to the key issue, of course, in this case, Chandra Levy's whereabouts. As far as you know, do the police have any hard evidence whatsoever about what happened to Chandra Levy?
ABBE LOWELL, CONDIT'S ATTORNEY: I am only following what Chief Gainer said yesterday. I know they have these three or four theories. I know they're pursuing each one vigorously. And just the same reason that Congressman Condit isn't sharing with the media what he has been discussion with police, I mean, the police aren't sharing with me and Congressman Condit leads that they have. So we don't know any more than you do.
BLITZER: Does your client, Congressman Gary Condit, have any suspicions in his mind what happened to Chandra Levy?
LOWELL: The congressman has answered the questions the police have asked him on more than one occasion. He has given them every shred of information to help them try to find her. And what he has said to them and what they have said back is just not something that we are sharing with the public or the media for a couple of reasons. One of which, this is an ongoing case, Wolf. This woman has not been found, and we could inadvertently make things harder to find her by giving public disclosure of bits and pieces of information that only the police have the right to know.
BLITZER: Well, without providing of those bits and pieces, anything that could hinder this investigation, this missing persons investigation, as it's still officially called, does he have any suspicion in his own mind what may or may not have happened to Chandra Levy?
LOWELL: Congressman Condit's conjecture about what happened is certainly a less-educated one than the police, who are on top of all the bits and pieces. He doesn't have a particular idea one way or the other.
But I can tell you, though, and I want to make this clear, that on his own initiative he took steps to see the police a third time. This was not something that was requested of us. This was something that he asked to do, so that he could make sure that he had given them every shred of information that could be helpful.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to get to that in a second. Let's get to latest point that Bob Franken was reporting, other news organizations reporting it as well, that in that meeting, the third meeting that the congressman had with local D.C. police, he acknowledged what he had not previously acknowledged, that he did, in fact, have an affair with Chandra Levy.
LOWELL: You know, it strikes me as amazing but exactly the point that I want to make, that today, this Sunday, people are talking about off the record police sources telling you and others what he said in his interview, when Executive Chief Gainer was in front of the microphones for 20 minutes and said he is not a suspect. He has never been a suspect. He's been cooperative. He's answered our questions. He is being helpful. This has been productive. That's the news.
What he told the police about what his relationships were with her or anybody else is not the news. You're making it the news. It's not helping find Chandra Levy.
BLITZER: Well, if there was some connection, perhaps, to the fact -- if it is a fact, and we are reporting it as a fact -- that he did acknowledge to having an affair with her, couldn't that have played a role in her disappearance theoretically?
LOWELL: I think what he told the police is going to help the police figure out whether they have any more leads that they can follow. And that's why from the beginning, while he has not been forthcoming to you, not wanting to be on camera and answer the questions about his private life, he has been totally forthcoming with the police. And what he has told them will hopefully help.
But as to what he said and what they said back, that's not something that we think makes sense to share with the media. You know, the one thing that is different about this case, as I said, is that it's ongoing. She's still missing. And I think being a little bit more cautious as to feeding this media frenzy is something that the congressman has tried to do. People don't quite get it. That's why we are here trying to explain.
BLITZER: But the congressman's chief of staff, as you know, Michael Lynch, for weeks, two months, repeatedly insisted there was no romantic relationship, no affair, no sexual relationship, completely denied any of this. Can you do that as the attorney representing Congressman Condit today, repeat what his chief of staff told us told news media for weeks?
LOWELL: I can do one better than that. I can tell you that Congressman Condit, in the course of three times with the police, and Mrs. Condit, in a multi-hour interview, did what they could do to help find Chandra Levy; that he has never, ever told the police anything but what he knows to be the facts. I can tell you that if the 99 other people that Chief Gainer said are being interviewed all across this area were as cooperative and helpful as the Condits, we might be farther along in finding out what had happened to Chandra Levy.
BLITZER: But on the simple question of whether or not he had an affair with her, if he did have an affair with her, why not simply acknowledge it right now and get it over with?
LOWELL: Well, that's an interesting question. To whom? To you? To his family? To the police? I mean, the congressman has been totally cooperative with the police. They know all the facts. I hope it helps them find Chandra Levy.
Everything else about this is matter of privacy among the Condit family. You know, for 30 years, he's been a public servant. For 30 years he's held on to his privacy. He's a public figure who still believes that a public figure can have a private life.
Now, I know you want to know the unbelievable details of everything that went on in the police interview, and maybe in his relationships not just with Chandra Levy, but I've read stories about people looking about other relationships, other friendships. I guess that's interesting to you. It's not helpful to finding Chandra, and it's not going to be the congressman or his family's preference to invade their private lives.
BLITZER: Just to nail down this one point, then we'll move on. On the specific denials from the chief of staff from Congressman Condit's office, Michael Lynch, that there was a romantic relationship, an affair, or whatever, are those denials no longer operative?
LOWELL: Again, I'm talking on behalf of Congressman Condit. Congressman Condit has done two things. He has told the police everything, and he has not shared anything with members of the media. He is keeping his privacy. He is helping the police. That should be the story.
BLITZER: You know, in 1998 when Bill Clinton found himself in a similar problem -- although obviously, no one disappeared in that particular case. When he found himself in a relationship, allegations of a relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern, Congressman Condit, a Democrat from California, was among the first to offer Bill Clinton some advice. Listen to what he said then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GARY CONDIT (D), CALIFORNIA: The fact is, the information is going to get out eventually, and let's get on to making a decision of what we are going to do about what we think happened.
All we are saying is, get all information out there, let the American people make their decision. Let us make our decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He basically said to the president, get it out, get it out right away, let the American public make up their minds. Why isn't he accepting the advice for himself that he gave to Bill Clinton?
CONDIT: I know that little snippet, which you take out of the context of what it was about, seems to indicate that Gary Condit was telling the president to go to the public and tell them everything. That is not what he was saying. That was a different circumstance.
LOWELL: In the impeachment matter of President Clinton, the issue was whether the president had by his words two judicial proceedings deposition, grand jury, the American public committed a crime, committed impeachable offense, misled people.
The American public, according to Congressman Condit and others, had the right to know from the president whether his words had been misleading to them. This is apples and oranges.
Congressman Condit has told the police from the beginning everything, has never misled anybody. The issue isn't whether his words are impeachable or his words have committed a crime, the issue is whether or not he's been cooperative with the police.
Congressman Condit wasn't advocating that Bill Clinton go before the American people and tell about private life for its own sake. It was because the president chose to go out and say statements which, either in depositions or otherwise, were being challenged as being true. That's not the case here.
BLITZER: So the advice he was giving Bill Clinton to get it out, let the American people make up their mind, in effect, the advice that Lanny Davis, who was a White House lawyer at the time, was giving. If you have bad news, get it out early, get it out yourself, get it out right away.
LOWELL: It depends on whether or not what you're asking me is, did Congressman Condit have whatever news he had and he got it out early, he got it out truthfully, he got it out completely. He did this already, but he did it to the police. And I am amazed that the media still, as we are having this exchange, does not get the difference.
BLITZER: In the current issue of Newsweek that's just coming out today and tomorrow, the cover story, they make the point -- it's not the cover story but it's a long article on Chandra Levy -- that it wasn't necessarily the case that the congressman was forthcoming in the first and second meetings. They write this: "The police were also ready with more formidable tools of intimidation. The office also assigned a veteran homicide prosecutor, Heidi Paseka (ph), to oversee the investigation. All this activity sent a signal to Condit. If he didn't play ball, he might find himself called to testify before a grand jury under oath."
So the point that Newsweek is making is that in the first two meetings, he wasn't necessarily all that forthcoming about his relationship with Chandra Levy. It took a third meeting, as they say, under intimidation for him to come out and reveal everything else. That resulted in that statement from Chief Gainer yesterday.
LOWELL: That's what Newsweek is reporting, I guess, based on some sources that they have, and that is really the issue. How many times this last week alone have the media been wrong about what has occurred in this case?
BLITZER: Well, on this point, though...
LOWELL: There's nothing that you said is remotely -- nothing that you said is remotely the case.
BLITZER: Were they threatening...
LOWELL: There was never a threat of a grand jury to make him come and talk. There has never been a request for that. And, therefore, when Newsweek prints something, just like the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday said some grand jury was in effect, just like Fox News two weeks ago or a week ago said that in a interview he said that there was a tumultuous breakup of the relationship when he talked to the police, none of that's true. And I think that really is the point, that you guys are being misled by somebody, which makes it even more important that Congressman Condit talk to the police and let the police do their job. And he's not worrying so much about you guys.
BLITZER: Has he been subpoenaed for any of his personal records, telephone calls, documents, anything of that nature?
LOWELL: Chief Gainer said yesterday that everything that they have ever asked of us we have provided, and I think that that speaks louder than my own words on your show. There is nothing the police could ask us to do, nothing that they could ask us that we would not try to find the appropriate way to get them the relevant information, and that has included his interviews, his wife's interviews. If they needed something, they have been able to ask us and we would provide it.
Now, there has never been a subpoena issued that we know about for anything for Congressman Condit. What I think, again, the media doesn't understand is, Chandra Levy's not here. I suspect the police wanted her telephone records, her credit card records, her financial records. I suspect they might need the means to get that since she's not around to give them permission to get it.
BLITZER: But you can understand all the interest. Here a 24- year-old intern having an affair with a man, 53 years old, a powerful congressman in Washington. If that could come to her state of mind and have any impact in learning about her whereabouts -- she has disappeared over these past two months -- you could understand why the interest in his personal records, why that maybe relevant to this case.
LOWELL: Well, two things. You just said here's a 52-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman having an affair. You know, I'm not sitting here telling you anything about what Congressman Condit told the police. And if you have sources that are leaking bits and pieces of what you said, that's something that I have no control over.
As to whether or not whatever their interaction was is helpful, I think it could be, and I think he thinks it is, and that's why he's told the police. But you are not drawing the difference between Congressman Condit and his family being extraordinarily helpful to the police and not being extraordinarily helpful to the thousand media people that are dogging him and his kids and his wife and are asking for details of their private lives that they're not going to accommodate.
BLITZER: You probably saw the news conference that the Assistant D.C. Police Chief Terrance Gainer had. In addition to saying that Congressman Condit was not a suspect, is not a suspect and is not going to be a suspect, as far as he can tell, he did say something, I thought, very interesting.
He said, "We challenged Congressman Condit in this third meeting to clarify the relationship," which, in effect, suggests to me, at least, that it wasn't clarified, he didn't voluntarily clarify it in the first two meetings.
LOWELL: Well, I'm glad you raised that. I'd like to get something really clear, and I think the chief said this. I don't think, though, it was appreciated. I think the chief used the phrase "simultaneously."
On Friday, before the congressman knew anything about Chief Gainer making any statements to the press, he asked me to reach out to the MPD on his behalf to set up another interview. We had no idea that the chief was saying anything to the press. I didn't know until after the interview had been set up, in fact. So it wasn't that he was challenged to come forward. That was his act, his act alone, and his act voluntarily.
Having said that, the chief also yesterday said -- and he looked right at all people in the media -- and he said, look, you know how it is, sometimes you ask a question one day, and you get some information the next day, you've got to follow up. That's part of what's going on here. I am telling you that the police asked the congressman questions on the third time that they didn't know to ask him the first time that had nothing to do with him. So that's part of the process as well.
BLITZER: As far as you know, was there anything in the relationship -- and you don't have to tell us if there was an affair or there wasn't an affair, because clearly you don't want to spell that out. But was there anything in the relationship that changed just before her disappearance that could have played a role in her disappearance?
LOWELL: Congressman Condit has told the police everything he possibly can about the nature of their interactions. And they understand what that means, in terms of whatever the four scenarios they're operating on. They are the people trying to find her. If it has any significance, they understand.
For me to sit here and tell you what he said and what they said back, what Mrs. Condit said, what they said back, is not helpful to their effort to find her. So we're not going into that.
BLITZER: So you're not going say -- you said that the Fox News report, that he had broken off the relationship, that that was inaccurate. But did he change the -- he has acknowledged that they had a good relationship, they were good friends. But has there...
LOWELL: I didn't have to say that.
BLITZER: Has there been anything that has changed, was there anything that changed at the end of that period just before her disappearance that may have a factor?
LOWELL: I think the first thing to say is that I am repeating what the chief of police said. I mean, I think, after the Fox News report, the chief had to come out and correct that, saying nothing like that ever happened. After "The San Francisco Chronicle," the chief had to come out and say, that's not the case.
I think they are the ones who are correcting the record when the media gets it wrong. And this a case, by the way -- and I don't know, this is for one of your colleagues, Mr. Kurtz, on another show -- this is one where somebody should examine how badly you guys are getting it from time to time.
BLITZER: I'm sure there will be articles written about this in the "Columbia Journalism Review" and all sorts of other publications.
LOWELL: But having said that, look, again, let me emphasize, the congressman has told the police who have the job to finding Chandra Levy every speck of information that can be helpful. And I think the police chief said they are comfortable about that. They have said he's not a suspect. They have also said he's been cooperative and it's been productive. I mean, they couldn't say words that are better, and I think that should be the focus.
Now, I say to the world that anybody else who is in the same position -- you know, the chief has said, there is 99 other people that are out there that we've talked to -- if everybody was as cooperative as the Condits, we might be a little bit further along in finding Ms. Levy.
BLITZER: The aunt of Chandra Levy, Linda Zamsky, issued a long written statement, as you saw this week. Among other things, she disclosed that Chandra had confided with her the nature of the relationship.
Linda Zamsky went on to say this, and we'll put it up on the screen: "We believe that Representative Condit's lack of candor is hindering efforts to find Chandra. We call on him to do what he would want others to do, if one of his children were missing -- give a complete account of his relationship with Chandra."
LOWELL: And I guess you're asking for my response. My response is, the aunt should look at what Chief Gainer said yesterday. I mean, Chief Gainer's in the best position to know whether or not the congressman has been everything that the aunt has wanted him to be. Chief Gainer, representing the MPD, has said that's exactly what he's been, and I think the Levy family, you know, will see that that's the case.
I also understand that they're doing what they need to do to try to make sure that we don't forget Chandra and that we are out looking for her. That's totally appropriate.
But in terms of the exact quote, that the congressman should be as forthcoming, that he should tell everything, how much better could it be, if the congressman can be said by the police to have done what he has done, answered every single question without reservation?
BLITZER: The other legal issue that came out in recent days was the whole issue of Anne Marie Smith, the flight attendant who says that she had a year-long affair that was ongoing with the congressman.
I want you to listen to what she said about an affidavit she insists that a representative, a lawyer representing -- an earlier lawyer representing Congressman Condit asked her to sign. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNE MARIE SMITH, FLIGHT ATTENDANT: I personally could never have signed it, or would never have signed it. And he was urging me to sign it, and he said, you don't want anything -- this could be potentially embarrassing for both of us if this story gets out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: This raises all sorts of questions, at least in the minds of some people who heard her say it, of suborning perjury, obstructing justice, raising this whole issue to a whole other category.
LOWELL: I don't know what Anne Marie Smith has to do with what happened to Chandra Levy. I don't understand whether or not Congressman Condit ever met this woman or talked to this woman is remotely helpful to finding this missing person. I don't know what this woman thinks she's doing when she goes on the air and talks about whatever their relationship is. What I know it's not doing is getting us closer to figuring out what happened to Chandra Levy.
As to her statement that the congressman told her to do something about whatever their interactions were, I think the congressman had issued a statement saying that he has never told anybody to be anything but forthcoming to any authorities on anything that could help find Chandra Levy, and I think that speaks for itself.
BLITZER: We are almost out of time. But I just want to look ahead a little bit and get through a few points. Any more meetings scheduled between the D.C. Police or the FBI and the congressman and/or his wife?
LOWELL: There is no meeting scheduled. But I suspect in time, a day, a week, a month, if there's another piece of information that they think the Condits could tell them about or be helpful about, they wouldn't be shy about asking it and the Condits would be reticent about answering it.
BLITZER: What about the issue of a search of his apartment? Where does that stand, if there...
LOWELL: I don't know what that issue is. I mean, it has never come up except with media asking me or others about it. I suspect that the answer is, if the D.C. police thought it was helpful to them to find out anything from the Condits, including to look at Congressman Condit's apartment, we would make that arrangement. But that has not been asked. I think the chief was asked about that.
I know that that is something that has been asked, but I don't know where that is from. And I can only tell you again, the congressman and his wife and his family are being as cooperative as they can be. They have yesterday, they will today, and they will be tomorrow.
BLITZER: Has he received any subpoenas whatsoever for anything?
LOWELL: He has not.
BLITZER: And you don't anticipate that will be necessary?
LOWELL: I don't see why it would be because if there's anything that we could do to help, we'll try do it. We'll find the means to get the information into the hands of the police. We will find the means to do it in the way that helps them but also protects the Condits' privacy. I know it's a strange notion in 2001 America that a public figure could say, I'm still holding on to my private life, but that's the kind of man Gary Condit is.
BLITZER: Does he owe it at all to his constituents in California to do an interview, to hold a news conference, and say publicly what the story is from his perspective?
LOWELL: At some point, the congressman will want to chat, I suspect, with his constituents about a lot of things -- about what happened to him, what he did, what he didn't do, how he has been treated. But this is an ongoing investigation. It is July. This isn't necessarily the only time that that can happen.
He has been a member of Congress for a decade or more, a public servant for 30 years. He is planning to serve his constituents well. They are not going to judge him by whether or not he went on your show today to answer all of your questions. The election's a year and three months from now. Let's find Chandra Levy, and then figure out what we do from there.
BLITZER: As far as you know right now, is he planning on seeking reelection?
LOWELL: He has been a great congressman. His constituents will tell you that. And I think they would like him to serve, and he wants to continue.
BLITZER: On that note, Abbe Lowell, I know it's been a busy few days for you. I want to thank you for joining us.
LOWELL: My pleasure.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
We have to take a quick break. When we return, legal analysis and your phone calls in these new revelations in the Chandra Levy case. We'll talk with former Bush Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and top defense attorney Roy Black. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRANCE GAINER, EXECUTIVE CHIEF OF POLICE, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Through those three interviews and the interview with his wife, we feel comfortable with the information that we have. Unfortunately, it does not lead to us finding where Ms. Chandra Ann Levy is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was the executive chief of police for the Washington, D.C., area, Chief Terrance Gainer.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We now get some legal analysis on the case of missing D.C. intern Chandra Levy. Joining us, Dick Thornburgh, he served as the attorney general in first Bush administration. And from Miami, the top criminal defense attorney Roy Black.
Gentlemen, good to have both of you back on Late Edition. Thanks for joining us.
And, Dick Thornburgh, let me begin with you. You just heard Abbe Lowell make the legal case, the political case, for why Congressman Condit has remained, effectively, silently, at least publicly, although he is, of course, cooperating with D.C. police.
First of all, legally, is this smart legal defense?
RICHARD THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think the important thing to realize at the outset is that this isn't a criminal investigation. It is a search for a missing person, a tragic circumstance where a young woman has disappeared and efforts are being made to locate her.
Which makes Congressman Condit's conduct all the more puzzling it seems to me. If in fact, as it now appears, there was an affair between the two of them, there must be some residual affection that he has for Ms. Levy. And it seems to me normally, we would think, that he would want to cooperate fully, immediately, rather than stringing this out over a two-month period of time and fencing himself in with lawyers and PR advisers. And I think he's been his own worst enemy in this respect.
BLITZER: Well, on that point, Roy Black, you've represented a lot of people, you're one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country. Is his legal strategy -- we'll get to the political strategy in a moment -- but is his legal strategy sound?
ROY BLACK, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I have to disagree with Dick on one thing. I think this is a criminal investigation. You have to treat it as a criminal investigation, and he should have had a criminal lawyer like Abbe handling it from the beginning.
His problem was not with that side, it was with the PR side. They were trying to make things look good, and that's how he got caught in all these lies at the beginning. If he had taken the strategy he's taken right now, he would have been better off at the beginning to do this throughout.
But now he's got these mixed messages, and the problem with representing politicians is they think they have to come out with all these responses to begin with, and they don't have to. If he handled it like Abbe handled it today, he would have been much better off.
BLITZER: Well, on that point, Dick Thornburgh, I want to get your response, but on this specific issue, the D.C. police keep calling it a missing persons investigation as opposed to a criminal investigation. But they also insist at the same time it's really a difference without a distinction because it's the same kind of investigation.
THORNBURGH: I think that may well be accurate, and I don't want to quibble with Roy over whether it's criminal or missing persons.
But I think there's something very significant about the fact that so much of this information that the congressman has furnished has been delayed. Anyone who's been involved in an investigation, whether it's criminal, civil or whatever, knows that it's important to get this information early on, within the first 24 to 48 hours. And now it's two months later that he finally acknowledges apparently that there was an affair between them. Why is that important? Because if there was that kind of relationship, he'd have insights into her lifestyle, into her way of thinking, into her behavior, what her habits were. And if those could have been established within the first week after her disappearance, it would have been a lot different than finding out two months later. The trail has grown cold in many respects.
BLITZER: Roy Black, on that point, though, if a congressman, a 53-year-old congressman is having an affair with a 24-year-old former federal inter, isn't the natural instinct of a politician like that to try to deny that, to try to hide they, even in the course of going into a formal interview with local police?
BLACK: Yes. There's no question that there's a basic human motive to cover that up. A 53-year-old congressman who's married, having an affair with a 24-year-old intern. Of course, Wolf, you learn very well today how difficult cross-examination is, trying to get an answer about that out of Abbe Lowell. So of course they're going to be in denial about that, and that's why you have to be so careful as to what you say. You know that a client like that is going to want to cover it up to begin with, so you don't make public statements. You cooperate with the police and try to help them find this young girl, but you don't make a bunch public statements and then have to eat them six months later.
BLITZER: And his chief of staff repeatedly said, Dick Thornburgh, that there was no affair, and, of course, that statement now is inoperable.
THORNBURGH: See, that's why these folks are their own worst enemy. I mean, they have not been forthcoming from the very beginning. It appears now that he finally has acknowledged to the satisfaction of the police precisely what the relationship was, but that's two months later. All that time has been lost in following up on what he could have provided by way of insight into her lifestyle, her contacts, things that would be very important in searching down her whereabouts.
BLITZER: In fairness to that chief of staff, he wouldn't go out and make a flat statement like that to the news media unless he heard it from his boss, say, "Go ahead and deny it."
THORNBURGH: He'd be an ex-chief of staff if he did that on his own.
BLITZER: Does that represent a legal problem at all, Roy Black, for the congressman that his chief of staff for two months was denying an affair and now apparently to the police he's acknowledged that, yes, there was this affair?
BLACK: Absolutely, he's his representative. Your bound by the statements made by your chief of staff or your lawyer or your PR person. And the problem is, for a guy like Condit, if he should ever become a suspect in this, you can just imagine how those statements are going to be damaging to him.
But one thing I wanted to respond that Dick said about, you know, the trail has gone cold. Listen, there's no greater trail than what's going on now. This has been discussed every day in the national news for two months. If this doesn't help find this young girl, Condit telling them about their affair is certainly not going help much.
THORNBURGH: I'm not sure. I think he has particular insights into what her mood, what her way of thinking was, what was on her mind that have been concealed apparently up to now, or at least the context within which those insights were gained has been concealed. So I think there's some present value to what he testifies about now. The trouble is that it's a long time removed from the event when she disappeared.
BLITZER: You're a former attorney general, a former prosecutor, a former governor of Pennsylvania. The way the D.C. police has handled this, there has been some criticism that they treated the congressman with, quote, "kid gloves." It took three meetings to get the answers, that they really didn't press him and press him on what they should have pressed him in that first or even second meeting. Is there some criticism that's justified here?
THORNBURGH: Oh, it's hard to know what the context is. In my own experience, I think getting there quickly with as complete an examination as possible, getting his consent to search the apartment not two months after the event but within days after the event, getting the telephone records immediately, all these things, they tend to give you a critical mass of evidence that's going to point you in the direction in which you're going. If you string that out over a long period of time, then you lose some of the cumulative effect of this evidence that you have.
BLITZER: Roy Black, the aunt of Chandra Levy, as you know, issued this long written statement. Among other things, she said this, and I'll put it up on the screen: "From my many conversations with her, it was clear without a doubt that they were involved in an intimate relationship. She described in detail some of their bedroom encounters."
The fact that this has taken on -- and you've been involved in a lot of high-profile cases, as we all know -- the fact that this has taken on this sexual aura, if you will, what does that do to the legal aspect of this case?
BLACK: You know, Wolf, the interesting part of this -- and I've really watched this with some fascination -- the Levy family has handled this very well. The reason they keep pushing this angle is that it keeps it in the news media and makes it much more likely to find their daughter.
If this was just a simple missing persons case, you can imagine where this would be in the files of the D.C. police. But by focusing on Representative Condit and then on whether or not he's had multiple affairs, this of course gets everybody's interest. It keeps this investigation going, it keeps it on television. And this is their best chance of finding their daughter. I have to give them a lot of credit for pushing that angle.
BLITZER: Is that a good strategy that the family has been in, because some people have criticized the aunt for releasing all these intimate, private details of her niece that are not necessarily all that flattering towards Chandra Levy?
THORNBURGH: Like memories of Linda Tripp, you wonder really what prompted her to do that.
But I do agree with Roy that this family strategy is a proper one. When they have a missing person, you want that face, you want that information across the country, in every last community that you can, in the hope that this young woman is still alive, somebody will identify her and bring her back to her family. And that's what we all hope for.
BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh, on this issue of allegedly obstructing justice, suborning perjury, this affidavit that was sent to Anne Marie Smith, the flight attendant who says she had an affair, a year-long affair with the congressman, the L.A. Times, in an editorial on Friday, wrote this: "If he did in fact suggest that anyone dodge investigators' diligent search for a missing person, he is unfit for office. Even if that accusation proves incorrect, he has fallen short as a public official and as a person."
On the specific allegation, the fact that they sent over this affidavit was apparent -- which was wrong, is there a problem that he potentially has here legally?
THORNBURGH: Well, there's certainly a political problem, as "The L.A. Times" points out. Legally, it's difficult to assess that in a vacuum because you don't really know where this is going to go.
But certainly he has exhibited abominable judgment, it seems to me, from the very beginning, in his attempt to kind of dodge the bullet here. I mean, Abbe Lowell is an excellent lawyer, and he stated the case very well for his client. But the notion that he made this acknowledgement of an affair on his own hook really doesn't wash with most Americans, because they know that the aunt came out with this statement last week identifying the fact of the affair, and obviously that exerted considerable pressure, on the police and on the congressman. So there's a straight line between those two events, clearly.
BLITZER: Roy Black, you're going to have the last word, but very, very briefly -- we only have a few seconds left -- if you were his lawyer right now, Gary Condit, what would you be advising him?
BLACK: You know, I'd do exactly what Abbe Lowell was, be sure not to answer any of those tough questions you asked, Wolf...
BLACK: ... and neither is the congressman. He's not going to come out and confess to any affairs. He's going to say, "I'm cooperating," and try to keep his private life out of it. BLITZER: All right. Roy Black and Dick Thornburgh, thanks to both of you for joining us on Late Edition.
And up next, is the projected U.S. budget surplus shrinking? We'll talk about that and the Bush administration's spending priorities with the White House budget director Mitch Daniels.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition.
President Bush is spending the weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine, at his family's compound. He'll return to Washington when Congress debates some key proposals leading up to its August recess.
Joining us now is CNN's Kelly Wallace. She's in Kennebunkport. She, of course, is our White House correspondent.
BLITZER: And although President Bush won a major legislative victory with the passage of his tax cuts, Democrats in Congress are still warning that it will cut into a projected government surplus. Earlier today, I spoke with the White House budget director Mitch Daniels about the impact of the tax cuts and the administration's spending priorities.
BLITZER: Mitch Daniels, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION. Welcome back.
I want to get right to these surplus numbers for the current fiscal year 2001 that ends at the end of September. As you know, early in January, the Congressional Budget Office estimated there would be a surplus of some $96 billion, if you eliminate Social Security and Medicare. Now, they are saying it is going to be only $16 billion, $80 billion less. $16 billion surplus, that sounds perilously close to deficit spending.
MITCHELL DANIELS, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: Well, only if you make one very large omission. We are going to run about $160 billion surplus in Social Security, alone, so...
BLITZER: But that's supposed to be lockboxed. That's supposed to be removed and sanitized, removed from the surplus numbers, right?
DANIELS: Well, some would say, but in fact what happens to any surplus, from Social Security or anywhere else, is that we use it to pay down debt. There is no box, there is no mattress. Paul O'Neill doesn't have a hole in the backyard where this money goes. And all the dollars are fungible.
So the good news is we are going to run a very large surplus, one of the largest in American history -- $160 or so from Social Security and an undetermined amount from all other funds.
BLITZER: On these CBO numbers, does OMB, the Office of Management and Budget, have different numbers? Are you suggesting the $16 billion non-Social Security, non-Medicare surplus is going to be larger than that?
DANIELS: Hard to tell. Our numbers and CBO's have been very close. All year long the numbers are moving as the economy changes. These are very, very small differences remember on a $2.2 trillion revenue base.
BLITZER: As you know, the new chairman of the Budget Committee, Kent Conrad, he has been complaining, he has been saying, in effect, what Tom Daschle says, "I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so," blaming the huge tax cuts that the president pushed through Congress for some of this problem. Listen to what Kent Conrad said earlier this past week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Who would have thought that just six months into this administration, they've already got us headed back into the deficit ditch. They've got us already back into a circumstance in which the trust funds are being raided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Those are tough words from the chairman of the Budget Committee.
DANIELS: Well, Senator Conrad's concerns are very sincere, but, you know, he really ought to breathe into the paper bag for a minute or two and get his bearings again.
We are going to run an enormous surplus this year, and he should be glad about that. The question is, how much larger should it be? Now, the surplus has shrunk somewhat because of a weak economy, and the president's answer was to use some of the surplus to jump start the economy through a tax cut, and he's put that into effect.
I would have to ask Senator Conrad, what's your strategy? More taxes? That's sort of medieval medicine, you know. If the patient is ill, let's bleed him a little more.
We should be grateful to have a very large surplus that we do, be paying down way over $100 billion dollars of debt. But let's keep some balance in the policy so the economy can grow again.
BLITZER: Well, you're saying you're going to ask Senator Conrad for some advice. He wants you to testify before his committee this week. He wants Larry Lindsey, the president's chief economic adviser, to testify.
I want to play another soundbite from him and get your response. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONRAD: I will be calling a hearing next week, asking Mr. Lindsey and asking the head of the Office of Management and Budget to appear to give their ideas on what they would recommend we do.
I believe they have an affirmative obligation to come up with spending cuts or new revenue to prevent us from raiding the Medicare and Social Security trust funds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So, first of all, you're going to testify when, Thursday?
DANIELS: I will have that pleasure on Thursday.
BLITZER: And Larry Lindsey?
DANIELS: Unfortunately for Larry, he will be denied that pleasure. Under the rules, I believe, he's not a confirmed officer, and therefore I'll be going alone.
BLITZER: So he'll be expressing regret and won't be testifying?
DANIELS: He'll be sending his regrets, yes.
BLITZER: The point, though, that Senator Conrad is making is, he wants -- if the surplus is going to go down, forget about Medicare and Social Security -- if it's going to go down, he wants to know where you're going to come with the money to avoid deficit spending. He says, either you come up with more spending cuts or what he calls new revenue. I assume that means new taxes. Are you going to come up with spending cuts for him?
DANIELS: Well, let's start with the obvious. We can agree with Senator Conrad, I hope, on spending reduction or spending restraint.
I have to go back once again to the fact we're running $160 billion-plus surplus this year. This has not happened before, Wolf. You know, all previous slowdowns, we were in true deficits, counting all the dollars the government takes in. So our starting point is so much higher than we've ever seen it.
BLITZER: But on that huge surplus -- and you keep referring to it -- the Social Security surplus, everyone assumes that once the baby boomers start dipping into Social Security, those Social Security surpluses are going to go away, and that's why you want to lockbox it to make sure that that money will be there for Social Security. So it's really not fair to keep talking about all these Social Security surpluses, since they'll be needed down the road.
DANIELS: What's unfair is to mislead the American people into thinking this money's in a box somewhere. It isn't. That box has nothing but promissory notes in it.
What we do -- and it's a good thing to do -- with these extra funds is reduce debt that's out there today. Meaning years from now when, you're quite correct, Social Security will cost more than it takes in, we'll have more capacity to borrow. That's what these so- called lockboxes do, but that's all they do.
Let me make one other point. This notion of raid on Medicare -- the senator uses that phrase all the time. This is really another unfortunate and misleading statement. Medicare raids the treasury, not the other way around. It's the way it was set up, but Medicare this year and every year costs $50 billion more than we take in in Medicare receipts.
BLITZER: What you can confirm -- and I assume you'll confirm it today -- is that hopes for additional tax cuts this year have gone away, you're going to delay additional tax cuts beyond the $1.35 trillion that's already been approved and signed into law.
DANIELS: I don't think you'll see major tax cuts again in the near future, although there's some important and relatively very, very small tax measures still pending. For instance, charitable deductions for non-itemizers -- not a big revenue item, but a very fundamental principle to try to put in place, if we are to have the engagement of faith-based and other organizations in addressing the nation's social problems.
BLITZER: So you're going to go forward with that tax cut this year?
DANIELS: Certainly hope to see that enacted.
BLITZER: Despite the reduced, smaller surplus numbers, the projection of the smaller surplus numbers?
DANIELS: The House Ways and Means Committee has already scaled back the size that they think is appropriate. It could always start a little later than was initially proposed. It was not a big item to start with, so I think there you have more a matter of principle and getting started, getting more people involved in supporting charitable work as opposed to a revenue item.
BLITZER: Very briefly, we only have a few seconds left, what's the administration's assessment for the economy over the next year?
DANIELS: We think it's going to revive. All the economists who have commented agree that the best thing the economy has going for it is the president's tax relief. It's really the only thing that we think is supporting the economy as it sputters along today. And we do see a revival starting late this year. And that, I'll be telling Senator Conrad, should be something we all celebrate as our best hope for a continued surplus.
BLITZER: Three percent, is that is good number?
DANIELS: It looks like a good guess by all observers right now.
BLITZER: All right. Mitch Daniels, previewing his testimony Thursday before Senator Kent Conrad's Budget Committee. Thanks for joining us.
DANIELS: My pleasure.
BLITZER: And just ahead, the politics of money. The U.S. House of Representatives takes on campaign finance reform this week. We'll talk with two congressmen who will lead the debate, Massachusetts Democrat Marty Meehan and Ohio Republican Bob Ney. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
The campaign finance reform fight goes to the House of Representatives this week. Joining us now, Democrat Marty Meehan -- he's the cosponsor of the campaign finance reform measure similar to the one approved in the Senate -- and Republican Bob Ney, the sponsor of an alternative measure which has the backing of the White House.
Congressmen, welcome to LATE EDITION.
I want to begin with you, Congressman Meehan. What are the prospects that your legislation, similar to the McCain-Feingold legislation that passed in the Senate, is going to be passed, because a lot of people think it's in real trouble?
REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, the House has a historic opportunity to really make a difference in the lives of everyday people, that is, to take unregulated, unlimited soft money out of the political system. The Senate had a historic vote where they were voted for this bill and passed it in the Senate. We've already passed it twice in the United States House of Representatives.
I'm cautiously optimistic. We're going to work hard during the course of this week. But I believe at the end of the day, the House of Representatives are ready to stand tall and meet this challenge of ending the soft money system.
BLITZER: So you're predicting it will pass.
MEEHAN: I'm cautiously optimistic that it will, Wolf.
BLITZER: Cautiously optimistic doesn't sound very optimistic to me, Congressman Ney. Why do you oppose McCain-Feingold and what Congressman Marty Meehan and Chris Shays, his Republican co-sponsor, is proposing?
REP. ROBERT NEY (R), OHIO: Well, I have a lot of respect for my colleagues, and I realize they both put a lot of time in on this measure, but actually this is a reconstituted version. In fact, the letter that came to the committee that I chair said it's still a work in progress.
And I understand why they started to change some of this because I've got a bill now, with the cosponsor Albert Wynn of Maryland, a Democrat, member of the Congressional Black Caucus. We're gaining steam every day because the ACLU does not like the Shays-Meehan bill or the McCain-Feingold. Labor doesn't like it. You've got groups from the right and the left. Minorities are concerned about the inability to register people to vote.
So we did a lot of outreach, I believe, the people that support reform such as myself, but we didn't want to gag the American people. And I think we made some changes. It's a reasonable bill, it's not a sham bill. And I think that's why you're seeing this steam.
BLITZER: What's wrong with his bill if the Congressional Black Caucus, or at least several members like Albert Wynn of Maryland and others, say that what you proposed would undermine their ability to get out the vote, get out the black vote in major urban areas of the country, what's wrong with compromising and working with Congressman Ney?
MEEHAN: Well, number one, I believe that the Republican leadership is submitting this bill with Congressman Ney in order to have this go to a conference committee which basically would kill campaign finance reform.
BLITZER: Why would it kill it, why would it kill it?
MEEHAN: Because there's not enough time to get out of conference committee any kind of bill. But let me tell you why I don't support the bill.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask you. You made an allegation. Let's ask Congressman Ney. Is that your strategy, to get it into a conference and let it die there?
NEY: Absolutely not. In fact, because we have reformed it as respecting the Constitution allowing for free speech and bringing in all these groups from the right and the left, we have a chance to actually produce a bill that will be a good bill with reform, with some limits, with a ban on soft money to the national parties for advocacy ads, disclosure. But it will hold constitutional muster.
And the second thing, as far as a Republican leadership bill, there is no way the Republican leadership could force Albert Wynn of Maryland, a Democrat, on this bill.
BLITZER: You think...
MEEHAN: Let me tell you what's wrong with this bill.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
MEEHAN: It allows a corporation to contribute in an election cycle up to $450,000. Many of these corporations have an interest in legislation before Congress. If they contribute to the Democratic Party as well, that's $900,000 per election cycle. An individual can contribute, or a couple, up to $1.3 million in hard and soft money in an election cycle. And all these people can contribute unlimited amounts of money to the state parties, which in turn will be funneled in for federal election for negative TV ads.
BLITZER: Congressman Ney, this debate is just getting going. Unfortunately, we have to take a quick commercial break. A lot more to talk about. Get ready for part two. We have to take this break.
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 be right back.
BLITZER: This is the second hour of Late Edition, the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DICK ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: The House will be in order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Several key issues are on the table as Congress returns from its holiday recess. We'll talk with two key players, Democrat Marty Meehan of Massachusetts and Republican Bob Ney of Ohio, about the impending battle on the Hill over campaign finance reform, the patients' bill of rights and more.
Then, the ethics and politics of stem cell research. We'll debate a topic that questions the very definition of life with American Values President Gary Bauer and Congresswoman Connie Morella.
Plus, our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Susan Page and David Brooks. And Bruce Morton has the last word on what to get the man who has everything.
Welcome back. We'll get to your phone calls for Congressman Marty Meehan and Bob Ney in just a moment. But first let's go to CNN's Donna Kelley in Atlanta for a check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: Now back to our conversation with Democratic Congressman Marty Meehan of Massachusetts and Republican Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio.
Congressman Ney, your legislation, your proposed bill that the White House apparently prefers, would like to endorse, does cap so- called soft money, the unrestricted sums that go to political parties, at $75,000, but has unlimited fund raising for state parties. Isn't that a huge loophole that basically nullifies the entire nature of so- called campaign finance reform?
NEY: No, actually, I don't think it does, Wolf, because what we do is we have the cap at the national level. We ban the advocacy ads by the national parties. People don't, you know, care for the national parties to do those, so we're doing that.
But as far as the states, I don't think the federal government can sit there and dictate, you know, every aspect and measure of how they run their state elections. And I think they are using, in cases, union or corporate contributions for registering people to vote, and state parties can do that. But in Shays-Meehan, there's a $30 million soft money loophole -- $10,000 per county across this country. So, it's not a soft money ban. Neither bill is a true, true soft money ban.
BLITZER: Let's ask Congressman Meehan. Why should the federal government, why should you and Congress dictate to states, state political parties what they can or they cannot do in terms of their fund-raising capability?
MEEHAN: Because, Wolf, what's happened over the last decade is that members of Congress have been getting on the phone and raising millions and millions and millions of soft money, and then using the state party as a conduit to funnel that money in, and then have the state parties do negative ads on their opponents in federal campaigns. That's a loophole that is so large that it means that Congressman Ney's campaign finance reform bill really isn't a bill at all for campaign finance reform. It's too huge of a loophole.
Now, Congressman Ney talks about this "get out the vote" and how important it is. We have a limited capped amount of soft money that can go to a state party, if it's legal in that state -- $10,000 limit, not per county, but on any individual or any corporation. The only thing that that money could go to is "get out the vote" and voter registration -- no ads, nothing else.
BLITZER: What's wrong with that?
NEY: Well, it's a $30 million loophole. I'm not saying basically that's a wrong measure, but the Shays-Meehan-McCain-Feingold claim that this is a soft money ban.
Soft money is still occurring. In fact, soft money occurs up to the 60 days before when these bills gag American advocacy groups from speaking out and being able to criticize members of Congress. Now, I know you shouldn't criticize members of Congress. We should gag people. I mean, I'm being facetious here. The bill does gag Americans.
MEEHAN: You should criticize members of Congress, but...
NEY: Well, of course we should.
MEEHAN: ... the $30 million figure is absolutely not so, because we have protections we put in, from what the United States Senate did. For example, we ban a member of Congress or a federal official from picking up the phone and calling and raising a million dollars from a corporation or a treasury union money, or a wealthy individual, we ban that. That's what makes our bill so important to pass, in terms of campaign finance reform. BLITZER: But in terms of the First Amendment, freedom of speech, what Congressman Ney and many of his colleagues say is that what you're trying to do is eliminate money as a freedom of speech, money is freedom of speech. If you want to raise a lot of money, go ahead and raise it.
MEEHAN: That is right, you can. But, you know, when I hear Tom DeLay cloak himself around the Constitution, it's because he's afraid to admit that both parties have been addicted to soft money. They can't get off it.
The fact is, we had a wonderful Supreme Court decision two weeks ago, Colorado v. Republicans, where the court said, you can limit contributions, you can't limit how much was spent, but you can limit contributions, if those contributions would tend to undermine the integrity of contribution limits. So this bill is clearly constitutional. It's a red herring, it's a phony argument to say that it isn't constitutional.
NEY: Shays-Meehan stops people from talking out, and, as I said earlier, people don't want members of Congress criticized in the last 60 days. I think we ought to be criticized either way.
This bill says, in the last 60 days, if you don't like -- if Shays-Meehan -- if they don't like the type of money that's used, that's it, you can't use it on radio or TV. It also interferes with voter registration, and I just don't think that's free speech. (CROSSTALK)
BLITZER: And, on that point, let me...
MEEHAN: Let me just say this. It should be disclosed. If you spend money and it's really a campaign ad, then the public has a right to know where that money comes from.
NEY: We disclose.
MEEHAN: You disclose who spent the money.
NEY: Nye-Wynn discloses. That's right.
MEEHAN: You don't disclose who contributed the money.
NEY: Well, there was an NAACP court case...
BLITZER: Well, on that point...
NEY: ..., as you're quite aware of, individual contributors cannot be disclosed.
BLITZER: One of the reasons...
MEEHAN: They can under our bill. That's why it's campaign finance reform.
NEY: There was a court case with the NAACP. BLITZER: One of the reasons that some of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, like Albert Wynn of Maryland, are expressing concerns about Shays-Meehan, as opposed to what Congressman Ney is supporting, why Congressman Wynn has joined him in cosponsoring his legislation, is this whole nature of helping blacks get out the vote.
I want you to listen what Congressman Wynn had to say about your legislation and why he's decided to move in the other direction. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALBERT WYNN (D), MARYLAND: Now we're being given a proposition: Take it or leave it, or you're not a reformer. And I think on that issue the caucus has to say, no, we will have a deliberative process and look at options to give us a real reform bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, you now, he's obviously concerned about his constituents and the ability to raise the money to get out the black vote. MEEHAN: But we just talked about getting out the vote and registering people to vote. We have the Levin amendment that's in our bill that was in the Senate.
The fact is, we haven't been able to get a patients' bill of rights because soft money has gummed up the works. The fact is, HMOs and trial lawyers have contributed millions in soft money on both sides. We don't have Medicare prescription drug coverage for seniors in this country because the pharmaceutical companies have contributed $15.7 million in soft money.
And, as far as the Black Caucus goes, the reality is, John Lewis, a great leader in the Black Caucus, is supporting our bill. John Conyers, a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, is supporting our bill.
BLITZER: All right. You know, those points were made by John McCain, who has made it his passion to get campaign finance reform. He was on Face the Nation earlier today.
Congressman Ney, I want you to listen to what John McCain specifically said on this point. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm happy to say that one of my personal heroes, Congressman John Lewis, is very supportive, Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., many others. I think the Congressional Black Caucus is split on this.
Let's be clear: If this loses, it will be because of the efforts of the House Republican leadership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is he right that, if it loses, it's because of the House Republican leadership and the whole debate over the Congressional Black Caucus and some other Democrats is really a sideshow?
NEY: Well, again, I've had a lot of Democrats -- and also having Albert Wynn on the bill, who is a Democrat -- and the other Democrats have talked to me and told me that they want to support this bill, because they've taken a look at the new Shays-Meehan, which is still evolving, and they don't feel comfortable with the gag of free speech and some of the other provisions.
But as far as House Republican leadership, this such a smoke screen. We've had members, as it's been well publicized, of the House that have had political threats put forth to them. We don't do that, we have a good bill.
BLITZER: Threats by who?
NEY: Well, there's no question that in these, Shays-Meehan are tied at the hip. Senator McCain has written letters, there's been articles in the newspapers about campaigning again for members of Congress.
BLITZER: You think Senator McCain...
MEEHAN: Look, if there are any threats here they're coming from Tom DeLay and the Republican leadership. What is Common Cause doing, writing letters to the editor of hometown newspapers and members of Congress?
BLITZER: No, what I think what he is referring to is a letter that Senator McCain wrote to several freshman Republicans. He went out and campaigned for them, helped get them elected, and now he's saying, please live up to your commitment to support campaign finance reform.
MEEHAN: There's nothing wrong with sending members a letter asking them to support campaign finance reform, specifically when they indicated they'd support reform in their campaigns. The fact is, Speaker Hastert probably wouldn't be the speaker today if it weren't for John McCain campaigning in 55 districts across America.
John McCain feels passionately about campaign finance reform, and he wants people to vote on the merits of this bill. There's only one campaign finance reform that's going to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the House this week, and that's the Shays-Meehan bill.
BLITZER: All right, let's take a quick caller from Pennsylvania. Please go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Thank you. I really applaud efforts for campaign finance reform, and I certainly do support the Democratic measure. But I have to ask all of you, unless do you something to reform what's happening at our local polls and prevent an election catastrophe like the one we've had, or continue ignoring the votes not being counted, what good does it do? What's the difference?
BLITZER: All right, let's ask Congressman Ney. First of all, does your legislation deal at all with the fiasco that we all witnessed in Florida?
NEY: No, it doesn't, but this is a great point because we can debate and there's integrity in the system whether Senator McCain or Congressman Shays or Meehan or myself or Mr. Wynn. I believe we, you know, are firm in our ideas.
However, you've got to have clean elections to get people here. And Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland and I are within really days of announcing a bipartisan election measure. House Administration Committee that I chair has had a good amount of hearings, and we're about ready to introduce a measure. The caller, I think, makes a good point.
BLITZER: What about that?
MEEHAN: The caller's 100 percent right. We should be sending -- the federal government should be sending monies to communities so that no one...
BLITZER: Shays-Meehan bill doesn't deal with this at all?
MEEHAN: No, but there are a number of proposals. Senator Schumer has one. Senator McCain has one, and hopefully we'll get one out of the House.
This is long overdue. We should have acted on this months ago. Every single community in America should have up-to-date voting machines so that, when people go in and vote, the intent of the voters is carried out. It was a disgrace and frankly the Congress should have acted by now.
BLITZER: All right. Marty Meehan, Bob Ney, thanks to both of you for joining us. We'll have you back.
MEEHAN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And just ahead, a debate on the politics and ethics on stem cell research. Should the Bush administration approve federal funding for it? We'll hear from two Republicans who have very different views on the issue: American Values President Gary Bauer and Congresswoman Connie Morella.
Late Edition will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back. President Bush is expected to decide soon whether to continue federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. It's an issue that has sharply divided his own administration and many key Republicans.
Joining us now to talk about that are two Republican guests: Gary Bauer, he's a former Republican presidential candidate. He's currently president of the group, American Values. He opposes federal funding for stem cell research. Maryland Republican Congressman Connie Morella sits on the House Science Committee. She supports government funding for stem cell research.
And good to have both of you here on LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us once again.
Connie Morella, this is stem cell research that many scientists say could help lead to a cure for juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's, other major illnesses. You say that it's a good idea to go forward with it. Briefly make the case why President Bush should say yes to stem cell research.
REP. CONNIE MORELLA (R), MARYLAND: Well, it's a major scientific breakthrough. It can make the difference in the lives of over 100 million people in some way. Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, spinal cord injuries, diabetes -- all of these people who have these illnesses could be helped by this research.
This research would come from the early embryonic stem cells of embryos that are going to be discarded. You have a hundred thousand that are now frozen in fertility clinics that would be discarded that could be used for this, really, breakthrough kind of research that would be done.
And it would be done also, Wolf, under NIH guidelines so that the public sector has some control.
BLITZER: She has the support on this issue of Senator Orrin Hatch, who is, of course, a Republican of Utah, very, very anti- abortion, as you well know. I want you to listen to what Senator Hatch said specifically on this, this past week. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: These cells are going to be thrown away. They are going to be discarded. They're going to be killed, if you will. Why can't we take the pluripotent cells from them and utilize them for the best benefits of mankind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Gary Bauer, why not?
GARY BAUER, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN VALUES: Wolf, first of all, there is a basic biological fact here that has to be on the table or you can't have this discussion. And that biological fact is, that when a human egg is fertilized, a human being has been created. That human being has all the dignity and worth and value of any human being. It may be small, it may not have a voice, it may not be able to hire lobbyists, but nonetheless, it is a human being.
And under our founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, at that moment of creation...
BAUER: Let me just finish this, Wolf. At the moment of creation, it is endowed with certain rights, and the first one is the right to life.
Now, we all want to cure diseases. There is nobody in this debate that doesn't want that. The fact of the matter is that stem cell research on adult stem cells and umbilical cord stem cells that don't require killing of the donor are showing just as much promise, even though they have been...
BLITZER: I want to get to that with Congressman Morella in a second. But on the specific point that Senator Hatch and others have made, these embryos, these embryonic stem cells are going to be thrown out. Why not do something to advance science? Are you saying right now, are you leading a fight to deal with these embryonic stem cells to save them, because they are discarded, as you well know?
BAUER: Well, thousands of people have come forward wanting to adopt these embryos. And, in fact, some already have, and bouncing baby boys and girls have been born as a result.
The point I'm making, Wolf, is that this issue deeply divides the country, where there is no division over adult stem cells and embryonic umbilical cord stem cells that can get us the same results.
BLITZER: All right. Let me bring back Connie Morella. The Catholic Church, as you well know, agrees with Gary Bauer on this. I want you to listen to what the spokesman for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said on this specific issue the other day. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD DOERFLINGER, NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: The early embryo is a human life. Each of us, you and I, were embryos once. And that started right at the beginning of fertilization. It doesn't matter where it takes place, that's still inherently a human being.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What he is suggesting and what Gary Bauer is suggesting is that you're, in effect, killing a human being by dealing with embryonic stem cell research.
MORELLA: The pluripotent embryonic stem cell cannot, under any conditions, develop into an organism. So we are talking about those stem cells that cannot.
We're also -- picking up also on what I said and Senator Hatch, these are going to be discarded. Permission will be given for them to be used for research or to be discarded. 100,000 of them are frozen.
They make such a difference in terms of life. This not an abortion or anti-abortion kind of issue. It is a pro-life issue. It is going to enhance the life of so many people, and it's going to reduce human suffering.
BLITZER: Isn't it worth, as proponents like Connie Morella say, the potential of saving millions of lives or easing the illnesses of millions of lives to take these stem cells and deal with them in scientific manner?
BAUER: Wolf, if it was true that the only hope for curing these diseases was through destroying these early embryos, it might be a tougher debate to make. That's not the case.
And in all due respect to the congresswoman, you cannot say scientifically that this is not human life. The cells that are being taken out of these human embryos kills the embryo. If the embryo was allowed to develop, it would develop into what it naturally develops into, which is a human being.
BLITZER: Well, the other point that Gary Bauer -- Gary Bauer makes the point, why not use some of the stem cells from umbilical cords from adults as opposed to the embryos? Why is it so important to use embryonic stem cells?
MORELLA: The scientists have said that they can't get as much from the adult stem cells. They can still use it, and we're not saying don't do that. We're just saying that you're going to get far more opportunities for expanding into different kinds of cells that would help with these various diseases by using the early embryonic stem cells.
Incidently, let me also add that 80 nobel laureates have also written to the president, as many of us have, urging that he continue with this research. And as a matter of fact, if we don't, it is already happening, as Gary knows, in the private sector and in other countries. We need to have NIH strict guidelines to make sure it's moral, that it is ethical and responsible.
BLITZER: Gary Bauer, stand by, hold your fire. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about, including the politics of all of this. We'll take your phone calls as well for Gary Bauer and Congresswoman Connie Morella. Late Edition will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation on stem cell research with the president of the American Values Organization, Gary Bauer, and Republican Congresswoman Connie Morella of Maryland.
Gary Bauer, President Bush has to make a major decision on this point. He recently sent out a letter trying to explain his position. He said this: "I oppose federal funding for stem cell research that involves destroying living human embryos. I support innovative medical research on life-threatening and debilitating diseases, including promising research on stem cells from adult tissue."
If he lives up to that commitment, you'll be happy, right?
BAUER: Absolutely, and I think it would be consistent with the position that he took during the campaign.
Wolf, just this week in The Washington Post, they broke a story, that a scientist publishing in the Science journal discovered that adult stem cells were giving better results than the embryonic stem cells. The scientist altered the conclusion of his report, because he thought that it might undermine the effort to get access to these embryonic stem cells.
One more point, the fact that the embryos are going to be destroyed anyway, why do we recoil when we read that in China people on death row in China that were harvesting their organs in order to give them to ill people? We know, our humanity tells us that's wrong to do that without the permission of those individuals.
BLITZER: All right.
BAUER: This is human life, and all human life has dignity. I believe that the president's actually going to surprise people politically. He has stood on a couple of tough issues, and I believe, at the end of the day, he will stand for the sanctity of life.
BLITZER: What do you -- do you think there's room for a compromise here that would satisfy the Gary Bauers of this world and the Connie Morellas of this world?
MORELLA: Well, I'm thinking about the fact that three to one, the Americans, when polled, are in favor of stem cell research under particular strong guidelines, that 72 percent of the Catholics that have been polled are in favor of it. I think all of us have friends, family members, who have one of those debilitating diseases.
And so, I'm hoping the president will look at that evidence and will say, I am going to come up with a response which is pro-life, which is to use those stem cells in the early embryonic stages that cannot...
BLITZER: So you're not going to be satisfied if he decides to not use embryonic stem cells, only use adult stem cells?
MORELLA: I am not going to be satisfied, but that doesn't mean I don't want to continue with research using the adult stem cells...
BAUER: The president should...
MORELLA: ... there are only six cell lines now, and they will just not be able to do that much.
BAUER: The president ought to double the research money for adult stem cell research and umbilical cord research. There's a wide consensus in the country over that. We shouldn't be going down a path that divides us, turns some people into enemies on a very important issue. We all want to cure horrible diseases, but we want to do it in a way that meets our deeply held moral beliefs and respects the sanctity of life and does not treat pieces of human beings as if they were fodder for a laboratory.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a quick caller, I believe from California. Please go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Yes. Why can't the couple that created the fertilized egg donate officially or legally the egg for research? Then only donated eggs can be used, similar to donating our parts and living tissue such as kidneys, hearts and so on.
BLITZER: All right, let's ask Connie Morella.
MORELLA: That's exactly the case. Only those where the donors want them to be donated. For instance, the fertility clinics have so many that people cannot use, and that's why they're discarded if the people want them discarded. They can donate to somebody else. So they would have the option, under the NIH guidelines, of saying, yes, we do want it used for research.
BAUER: The difference between donating an embryo and donating a heart is that the heart is a heart and the embryo is the earliest stages of a human being. We would not allow parents to donate their 1-year-old for scientific research without somebody representing that 1-year-old.
This is the earliest stage of a human being. It can't be easily seen, it has no voice, and it doesn't have congressmen looking out for its interests. But any biological textbook will tell you that, when the egg is fertilized, a human being has started to grow. And it ought to be protected under the law.
BLITZER: So, on the issue of a compromise, as far as you can see, is there any compromise that would allow the government to fund embryonic stem cell research that would be acceptable to you? BAUER: I think any activity that takes the life of the developing human cannot be allowed. I would urge the president...
BLITZER: Even the ones that have already been harvested?
BAUER: Absolutely. I would urge the president again to double the research money for umbilical cord research and for adult stem cell research, bring in ethicists and moral leaders and, over the next few years, continue to talk about this other issue. But don't rip the country apart on something that morally we are deeply divided on, when there's an alternative that has just as much promise.
BLITZER: Connie Morella?
MORELLA: I think Mr. Bauer is against the in vitro fertilization in general and would certainly be against the fact that right now many of those frozen embryos are discarded. Is that correct? BAUER: I think that there are deep moral questions about producing eight, 10, 12 human beings and then deciding that only one of them will be allowed to continue to develop.
MORELLA: So the question is moot.
BLITZER: Obviously we are not going to resolve the issue on this program, but the president's going to make his decision fairly soon...
BAUER: Tough decision.
BLITZER: We'll see what he says.
MORELLA: Yes, indeed.
BLITZER: Connie Morella, Gary Bauer, thanks for joining us on a very important subject.
MORELLA: Thank you.
BAUER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And just ahead, will the Chandra Levy case end a California congressman's political career? We'll go 'round the table on that and much more with Roberts, Page and Brooks. Late Edition will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News and World Report"; and David Brooks, senior editor for "The Weekly Standard."
All right, the political future of Congressman Gary Condit. Steve, look ahead, tell us what you see.
STEVE ROBERTS, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Well, I don't see very much good. I think he's handled this very badly. He clearly for two months dissembled about the truth of his relationship with this young woman. It took three interviews with the police before he finally admitted that he was having an affair.
It took press pressure. We're getting a lot of heat, we'll talk about that. But in fact I think it was press focusing on the case which forced him to come clean.
And he broke the most basic rule in Washington, which is the cover-up is often worse than the crime. And the fact that he didn't come forward -- there's no evidence that he was involved in her disappearance. The police says he's not a suspect, but clearly he covered up the relationship, and I think he's going to pay a price for it. BLITZER: The police last night, David, did seem to exonerate him, give him a clean bill of health, saying he's cooperating, he's not a suspect. Is it too late, though?
DAVID BROOKS, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I think it is.
You know, this whole story is such a moral vacuum, every time I read about it I get more revolted. There was a story today about Chandra Levy's aunt. Chandra confesses that she's had this affair with the congressman. But instead of taking the moral position -- don't have an affair with a married man; don't have an affair with the congressman, it's stupid, it's immoral -- she says, "Well, if you rearrange his closet so the shirts all match, then maybe the affair will go better. Maybe he'll marry you." It's like you're entering a world like the Bible just didn't touch these people. I don't know why we let California in the union.
BROOKS: I mean, it's just the whole world, and it touches him too.
BLITZER: Well, we can't smear everybody in California.
BROOKS: Just on the coast.
BLITZER: Just because two former interns may have gotten into trouble here in Washington.
Sally Quinn, the well-known writer for "The Washington Post" has a long piece in the paper today. Among other things she says this: "The point is that, once the evasions start, trouble can't be far behind. Dance around the truth about sex or anything else and people wonder whether you have something else to hide."
A fundamental principle in damage control here in Washington, Susan, that the congressman seems to have forgotten.
SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, I think that's true, and it's hard to believe that the congressman has handled this quite as bad in a PR sense as he has.
But I think we ought to remember that having an affair is not really an indictable offense and a good thing for many people in Washington that that's the case. So, perhaps we need to keep this in some perspective.
And I actually think Abbe Lowell makes, while refusing to answer most of your questions in the interview, he makes a point that the focus really ought to be on what happened to Chandra Levy, not on what was the congressman's behavior.
ROBERTS: I don't fully agree with that. I said this on the show a couple weeks ago and I got heat for it, but I'm going to repeat it. I do think there is a responsibility that someone like Gary Condit -- yes, this woman did not work directly for him, but we talked about this during the Bill Clinton-Monica relationship. An older man in this kind of situation does have a responsibility.
I agree with David, there is a moral question. It's not just a PR question, it's not just a political question, it's a moral question. And what kind of guy exploits a younger woman like this, even if she was willing, which she obviously was. I do think there's a dimension of morality here, and I think that it's fair to say that he behaved badly.
PAGE: But I do think that the coverage of this, even on the kind of more sensational aspects, are fueled not by a desire to impose morality or even to raise moral questions but because it's sensationalistic and it's good for ratings and maybe it sells newspapers. And so, even though David, I'm sure, has only the highest motives in raising that, I'm not sure that's what's marked press coverage generally of this story.
BLITZER: What was the aunt thinking when she released all these, I think some of which were pretty salacious, details about her niece's affair with the congressman, a married congressman? You know, what was the point of that, as far as you can tell?
BROOKS: Well, it's entered sort of the Washington war of the leaks, and people who have been here, you know, two weeks suddenly understand how to leak a story, how to manipulate a story. There was Gary Condit's -- Gary Condit has hired a professional flack to handle his affairs, and she was quoted in the paper saying this morning about the police coverage -- about the police comments on him, that he's not a suspect. It's a homerun for Congressman Condit.
Now here's a woman -- she's missing. She may be dead, and the flack is saying, it's a homerun like she's spinning a TV debate. I mean, the whole thing has become surrounded in the media manipulation machine on both sides.
ROBERTS: Now, look, I'm not going to defend, you know, the hyped coverage, and, sure, we are often guilty of sex and scandal and we over-cover it.
But, in fact, the truth is that it was partly press coverage which finally yesterday on the third interview the guy finally came clean apparently with the police. The police said he hadn't been totally forthcoming until the third interview. So is the press vindicated here or not?
I think to some extent it is, because if we hadn't covered it -- and that's part of what the strategy of the Levy family and her aunt, to foment press coverage so that it wouldn't go away, so that he finally would have it admit it.
ROBERTS: Now, as you say, it's not just a moral question. But did he have information that could lead to some sort of resolution of it? That was part of the question, too. And clearly he hadn't told everything he knew. PAGE: And I think also there's another kind of larger question, which is his obligation to the people who voted for him and put him in this office. And while I'm not sure Gary Condit has an obligation to go on CNN and answer questions, I think he does have an obligation to the people who sent him to Washington to talk to them about what's happening. He hasn't done that, at least not so far.
BLITZER: And to some, he comes across as a hypocrite. If you will recall the advice -- and we played the soundbite earlier in this program -- that he gave Bill Clinton in 1998: Get it out right away, and don't fool around with the truth.
BROOKS: Put yourself in the guy's shoes. Someone you care about is missing. Doesn't that make you say, "OK, this is beyond me. This is beyond my career. This is really important. I'm not even going to think about myself. I'm going to think about her." He didn't take that position. He took a politician's position, and that's the ultimate indictment of how he's handled the whole thing.
BLITZER: And none of as can forget that, at the core of this issue, of course, is a missing 24-year-old young woman who, by all accounts -- we don't know if the police have any leads whatsoever involving her whereabouts, which, of course, we want to focus in on, where is Chandra Levy?
We've got to take a break. We're going to continue our conversation. We have to take this break.
More of our roundtable when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.
We talked earlier about stem cell research, David. This is a tough issue for President Bush to come up with a compromise. He was flat out against embryonic stem cell research during the campaign.
BROOKS: I've spoken to a lot of people who told him not to fund stem cell research, and every one of them believes that he will do it.
BLITZER: He will do it?
BROOKS: That he will upset the right-to-life groups.
BLITZER: Upset Gary Bauer?
BLITZER: Why would he do it?
BROOKS: Because, their thinking is it is a loser either way. They offend one person on either side. He should go with his gut, and I think the gut is, given his personal connection with so many people with diseases, that he's going to do it. PAGE: I think that the White House is looking at this as a political problem, which may be the wrong thing to do, because it's a big moral issue. But originally, the politically issue they were addressing was how to reach out to Catholic voters, clearly one of the big things this White House has tried to do politically. And the president, of course, meeting with the Pope later this month, and there was some thought this decision should be made by then.
But I think the politics have changed somewhat. The big White House concern now is, does the president seem too conservative? Does he need to reach out in a more serious way to moderate, suburban voters, who are more likely to support the stem cell research. And if he change his position from his campaign position, I think it will be because the politics of the situation in Washington have now changed.
ROBERTS: Although it's interesting because here is a guy who campaigns saying, "I'm not going to be Bill Clinton. I'm not going to be dictated to by the polls. I'm not going to make these political decisions." And here is a case where his political adviser, Karl Rove, is clearly the chief person whispering in his ear. They are looking at polls. They are looking at the Catholic vote. But as Connie Morella pointed out, Catholics are for stem cell research, at least the preponderance of them.
I hope you're right, because I think this is an issue where the morality is on the side -- the pro-life position is funding stem cell research. And I think that the politics are changing for precisely the point that Orrin Hatch and others made, and that is, every family in America has someone who's life could be touched by this, including mine, and perhaps yours as well. And the true pro-life position here is to fund this research.
BLITZER: If he does support embryonic stem cell research and avoids the compromise that deals with this issue, will be accused of flip-flopping?
BROOKS: Yes, and he will have flip-flopped, so it would be a just accusation. Listen, I think that the pro-life community will be upset with him, but they are used to disappointments from Republican presidents. And there will be another one. They will be morose the way a lot of conservatives have been morose over the past week, and they will look to the next judicial appointment to get their revenge.
BLITZER: Susan, on the issue of campaign finance reform coming up in the House of Representatives this week, you heard a debate here between Marty Meehan and Bob Ney. Is McCain-Feingold, is John McCain going to finally get his way and see campaign finance reform, or is that going to be gone?
PAGE: Well, you know, predictions are a dangerous thing because you're so often wrong, but he sure is close.
And there's a big hypocrisy alert under way now in the House of Representatives. Remember, the House has twice passed a version of campaign finance reform. If they don't do it this time it'll only be because it matters this time, because the Senate is going along. BLITZER: But the Congressional Black Caucus always voted for it, but now they're split.
PAGE: That's right. And they could be certainly be the deciding block if they, in fact, peel way from this proposal.
ROBERTS: There is lot of hypocrisy on that issue. Democratic leadership in the House also privately not thrilled about this bill. They think it could cut off sources of funds for them.
But there's another hypocrisy alert on a related issue which one of your callers really highlighted, and that's the issue of political reform or electoral reform. And here, there is a lot of hypocrisy coming from the White House, and I would like to see them much more aggressive. I'm very glad that Bob Ney, who was on this program, said that he's going to sponsor a bipartisan bill to fund electoral reform. That can really make a bigger difference.
BLITZER: You got the last word. Is there going to be campaign finance reform this year?
BROOKS: All of the reporting suggests there has been slippage in support, but I have to think this hypocrisy issue is just going to push a lot of wavering people, even in the Black Caucus, into supporting the thing and that it actually will pass at the end of the day.
BLITZER: All right. David Brooks, Susan Page, Steven Roberts, always great to have you all on the program. Thanks for joining us.
Up next, Bruce Morton's last word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What do you give a president who has, well, not everything, but lots?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A birthday wish list for the president. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on President Bush's gift wish list.
MORTON (voice-over): What do you give a president who has, well, not everything, but lots? Maybe first the gift of reading character, so that when he says of a leader like Russian Vladimir Putin, "I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy," he's right.
It can happen. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, when she first met Mikhail Gorbachev, pronounced him someone the West could do business with. Quite right, of course. It didn't end well for Gorbachev, but it did for Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, no doubt about that.
Another gift may be a session with Bob Dole or the ghost of Lyndon Johnson on the art of compromise. Bush took office saying he wanted to change the partisan atmosphere in Washington. He was criticized at first for not compromising on, for instance, his tax bill. Lately, he's been compromising on all sorts of thing. The U.S. will stop bombing Vieques, but not right now. We'll open some more Gulf of Mexico waters for oil exploration, but not as much as we'd planned to. And he's apparently looking for a compromise on stem cell research and so on.
But his compromises don't make people happy. Vieques got both sides angry, for instance. Dole and Johnson had a knack for issuing soothing syrup, making deals which left everyone feeling contented. Maybe that syrup would have helped keep Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords in the GOP fold.
The best present, that's easy. The best present would be for one or two or three Democratic senators to experience an epiphany, to cast their eyes toward the heavens and announce, "Was blind, but now I see I am a Republican."
Even one would do it, as Zell Miller -- they have hopes for him, a Mary Landrieu, a Tom Daschle. Now, that would get the pundits percolating, but any Democrat would do. Then, of course, compromise would matter less, as the GOP would once again control both House and Senate.
True, Mr. Bush would still have to deal with those pesky moderates of both parties, but, hey, there's another gift -- transform them into conservatives, and, while you're at it, compassionate ones.
There is one problem, of course. You'd have to be God to give most of these gifts.
If you're looking for something simpler to send the president, how about a nice tie? He wears blue a lot.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
BLITZER: Thank you, Bruce.
Now it's time for you to have the last word. Regarding the government's shrinking surplus, Ted from California says he's waiting to hear politicians discuss eliminating the waste in government or members' pork as a way to balance the budget.
The appearance of Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe generated a lot of comment from you. Marion (ph) from New Jersey writes this: "McAuliffe is great for the Democratic Party, nothing boring about him."
But Nancy from Texas says: "McAuliffe mentioned special interest groups in reference to Republicans several times today. What about the huge list of the Democrat special interest groups, such as unions, lawyers, environmentalists, NAACP and abortion-rights groups? Guess he forgot about that list."
And finally, the vice president's health had many of you concerned. John from North Carolina writes: "Although I am not a Republican, I have great respect for Vice President Dick Cheney. As one who has had about five heart attacks, I know what he is going through. I offer him my fervent prayers."
All of us, do of course, as well.
As always, I invite your comments. You can e-mail me at late firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to sign up for my weekly e-mail at cnn.com/email.
When we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.
BLITZER: And now a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.
"Time" magazine examines "The war over the West: drilling, logging, mining. President Bush aims to speed them up, but will the land be destroyed," with a scenic view of the U.S. West on the cover.
And "Newsweek" proclaims, "Jesus rocks. Christian entertainment makes a joyful noise. Hot concerts, big books and new movies," with revelers at a Christian rock concert on the cover.
No cover from "U.S. News and World Report." They published a double issue last week.
That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, July 8. Please join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
And if you missed any of today's show, you can tune in tonight, 7 p.m. Eastern, for a one-hour replay of Late Edition.
I'll see you tomorrow night on Wolf Blitzer Reports at 8 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com