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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Dingell Discusses Enron Scandal; Inhofe, Massimino Debate Human Rights at Guantanamo; Gergen, Lockhart Give Expectations for Bush Speech

Aired January 26, 2002 - 10:00   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.
JONATHAN KARL, HOST: Good morning to the West Coast, and welcome to our viewers across North America. From Washington, I'm Jonathan Karl.

In the next hour ahead, we'll talk to newsmakers about the war, the prisoners and the president's big speech this Tuesday.

We're looking for your e-mail questions. That address is security@cnn.com.

You'll hear the president's weekly radio address first right here just a few minutes from now, and also the dean of the House, Congressman John Dingell, will be joining us.

But first, a look at the hour's top stories.

(NEWSBREAK)

KARL: As we wait for the president's radio address, which will come in just two minutes, we're joined now by Congressman John Dingell of Michigan, the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and, with over 45 years in Congress under his belt, the dean of the House of Representatives.

John Dingell, the latest from you yesterday was that you have joined the chorus of people saying the White House should be sued to turnover the information on Dick Cheney's energy task force.

Are you saying that this White House has something to hide?

REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: No. But if they don't have anything to hide, they ought to let it out. If they want to be suspected, they ought to keep on hiding things.

This is matter in which the Congress has full right to know. GAO has been requesting the information at our request for a long time. They spent a while making up their mind as to whether to sue. I think the events with regard to Enron have convinced them that they should.

KARL: And we learned on the Hill, CNN reported yesterday, that actually Cheney was up talking to Republican senators this week, and he said he has got no intention of turning that information over. DINGELL: Well, then we will have a lawsuit.

KARL How is that going to unfold? You've been around a long time. Have we seen something like that happen?

DINGELL: I ran an investigative committee for about 14 years in the House, and we had different troubles, but we were always able to work them out. And it was rare indeed that the stonewalling persisted as long or as hard as this.

It is interesting because there are a lot of questions. What was it that went on this meeting? It's supposed to, under law, be open; it was not. And the Republican complained about Mrs. Clinton when she had a similar commission, not opening it up. It is worse...

KARL: The health care commission.

DINGELL: The health care...

KARL: And she said that there's executive privilege. Executive privilege is all about the president's right to get confidential advice. What's wrong with that?

DINGELL: Well, executive privilege didn't apply to either one. And the information should have been made available, and, frankly, Mrs. Clinton handled the matter badly.

KARL: OK. We are about five seconds away from the president's radio address. We understand he's going to be previewing his State of the Union address. We'll take it right now.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning.

A few days from now, I will go before Congress to report on the State of the Union and lay out my priorities for the coming year and beyond. These priorities reflect a single, overarching commitment to enhance the security of America and its people.

Government's responsibilities begin with the defense of our nation. Our fight against terrorism began in Afghanistan, but it will not end there. America must not rest until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.

In this work, our military must have every resource, every weapon, needed to achieve full and final victory. My budget calls for the largest increase in defense spending in the last 20 years, investing in more precision weapons, missile defenses, unmanned vehicles and high-tech equipment for our soldiers on the ground.

I will also seek another pay increase for the men and women who wear our country's uniform. We will spend what it takes to win the war against terrorism.

A related priority is homeland security. We'll pursue a sustained strategy to protect our people from the threat of terrorism. The federal government has already acted to increase airport security, investigate terrorist activity and improve our response capability.

In the next budget, we will do even more. I'll be calling on Congress to nearly double funding for homeland defense to $38 billion. We will complete the hiring of tens of thousands of new federal airport security workers. We will strengthen the border patrol, hire another 300 FBI agents to help fight the war on terror. We'll provide more money so that state and local firefighters, police officer and EMTs have the equipment they need.

The American people are on watch against future attacks, and their government will be as well.

The third key of my budget is to fight the recession and build economic security for the American people. Government doesn't create jobs, but it can encourage an environment in which jobs are created.

I'm glad the Senate is finally moving forward, and I urge it to pass a strong stimulus bill like one that passed the House last year. Every budget reflects fundamental choices, and my administration has made choices to fit the times. We'll work to create jobs and renew the strength of our economy. We'll protect our people in every way necessary, and we will carry on the campaign against global terror until we achieve our goal -- the peace that comes from victory.

Thank you for listening.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KARL: Well, Congressman Dingell, there you hear some of the themes that the president has the most support for on Capitol. Did you hear anything in there you disagreed with?

DINGELL: Well, it sounded great. The devil is always, however, in the details.

Let's look. The government seems to move by stops and starts. For years, we've have been trying to get more people at the borders to address the problems of security, immigrations, customs, things like that. We didn't get them.

Now, all of a sudden, we're going to get a lot of them, but the question is, are we going to get enough, and are we going to get them where we need them? Are we also going to get the people at the borders who -- or is the money going to be spent differently? These are questions that have to be answered.

With regard to increasing the expenditures for defense, there are areas where we should increase it. There are also areas where, probably, we really don't need it. And so, the Congress is going to have look at that and see just where the needs really are.

KARL: Is he going to get that kind of money, though? He's talking about the biggest increase in military spending since Reagan in 1981, '82. DINGELL: Well, it may be the biggest in 20 years; it may not. Remember, there were enormous increases in budget, with regard to defense, under the Reagan administration. So much so that it was kind of wasteful.

For example, one of the things that they did was to try and spend a huge amount of money on star wars -- a similar thing to what they're trying to do here, with regard to missile defense.

And Democrats, and I think the country generally, is not opposed to the spending money for defense where it's needed. But it's a little like -- it's a little bit like the fellow that tries to get a baby in four and a half months by having two girls pregnant. It does not work.

KARL: And you've been in the middle of Enron investigation. You are, of course, the lead Democratic on the committee, taking the lead on this in the House.

The president's been above the fray on this. His approval rating is still just about 80 percent. Is he going remain above the fray? Is this going to be something that affects those below him? I mean, what do you think?

DINGELL: I think we're going to have to see how that plays out.

The simple fact of the matter is Enron was a major supporter of this administration, gave massive sums of money to the Bush campaign and to the inauguration and others things.

And it may well be that this is perfectly innocent, but I do remind you that Mr. Cheney has been stonewalling the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the Congress and the government, with regard to what went on in the secret meetings that he and industry, including Enron, held with regard to energy policy.

Questions like drilling in Arctic Wildlife Refuge, deregulation of electrical utilities, opening up public lands, questions of that kind -- deregulating energy costs -- were all discussed, and probably some things like repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act which was created to stop Samuel Insull and good-hearted folks like in 1929 from doing just about the same things that Enron was trying to do.

KARL: Well, I want to ask you about some of that and also about all the money that Enron showered on Democrats, including yourself, but first we have some news from the White House. We want to go now.

President Bush is at the retreat in Camp David, Maryland, this weekend, putting the finishing touches on Tuesday's State of the Union address. But he has some company today, and CNN's White House correspondent Kelly Wallace is there at the White House with the details.

(NEWSBREAK) KARL: All right. The war on terrorism and Congress' domestic agenda -- we'll continue our conversation with Congressman John Dingell when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: Welcome back. We're talking with the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Michigan Congressman John Dingell.

Now, Congressman Dingell, you've been around this town for a long time. Nobody would ever say that you could be bought, especially with a contribution from a company like Enron. In fact, you talked about how you rebuffed their lobby and said you didn't want to have anything to do with them when they approached you.

But my question to you is, why did you repeatedly take money from them over the years? If you thought that way about the company, why did you accept their money?

DINGELL: Very simple -- the system is dependent upon campaign contributions and voluntary support by individuals of campaigns. When somebody gives me money, they, I assume, are supporting one thing: good government. And that's what they get, and that's what Enron got.

I would note, too, I opposed them on a number of things, not the least of which was the deregulation of electrical utility, repeal of the Public Utilities Holdings Companies Act and a number of other things that they wanted, which they didn't get from me.

KARL: Absolutely. The record is clear on that, but campaign contributions don't fall from the sky. Did you or anybody with your campaign solicit contributions from Enron over the years, ask them to give money?

DINGELL: I don't know whether it was solicited or whether they gave it. Raising money is always something which is bottomed, in part, on solicitation.

KARL: Now, we know that this is obviously a scandal of immense proportion. People lost their life savings. It has repercussions throughout the economy.

But what about your party, the Democratic Party? Do they risk seeing this thing spin out of control?

We talked to the Democratic National Committee yesterday. They're saying they're considering filing a complaint with Election Commission, saying that, basically, Enron was a slush fund for the Bush campaign.

DINGELL: Well, maybe they're right. I think what you're going to have to do is wait and see what all happened.

I will talk about what John Dingell did. John Dingell is probably the most independent fellow in the Congress, does exactly what he thinks is right.

And I would tell you this, if Enron thought that they were making an investment by giving me a campaign contribution, it was -- the only worse investment can I think of is perhaps Enron's stock.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: Well, they made a lot of bad investments around this town. Have you ever seen a company spend the way they did on lobbying? I mean, the campaign contributions are one thing, but they seem to hire every well-connected lobbyist here.

DINGELL: Well, that's part of the lobbying business, and companies do it. I won't defend it, but that's the way it's done. And so, one of the beginnings is the thing that I've been working on for a long time and that's campaign finance reform. That will do lot to bring to a halt some of the abuses that you're seeing in this.

KARL: And then the other big story we have in today's paper is Cliff Baxter, the former vice chairman of Enron, who committed suicide or apparently committed suicide.

We had learned from your committee that you were actually in touch with his lawyers as recently as yesterday morning. I mean, he had already committed suicide, but obviously nobody knew that yet.

What more can you tell us about the committee's contacts with Baxter or about his role in all of this?

DINGELL: Well, absolutely nothing. First of all, we don't know what happened. Second of all, our investigators were proceeding to try to arrange a time when he could be interviewed, in connection with the committee's investigation of these events.

We were, very truthfully, surprised as anybody else about the suicide, which I think is a terrible event.

KARL: But he would also seem to be somewhat of a whistle-blower, right? I mean, if you look at the Watkins letter, he's referred to as one of the few Enron executives that raised concerns about these accounting practices.

DINGELL: Well, it does appear that he did things in this matter which were good.

And remember, I'm not criticizing anybody. I'm describing events which occurred. And I think that that is the way we must proceed, until we've gathered the facts.

There were some pretty awful things which transpired here -- sales of stock by Enron officials when the employees were locked in, a lot of highly questionable financial practices, false filings with the SEC, false reports with the SEC, false annual reports.

And they were actively assisted by their accounts, which is very serious matter. In fact, it is to be noted that a lot of us in the Congress, myself especially, as far back as in the 1980s, were saying it's absolutely wrong to permit an accountant to be both an accountant and a consultant.

KARL: Well, that's the corporate side of the scandal, and then there's the political side. And you said, well, maybe there is something to this notion that the -- Enron was a slush fund for the Bush campaign.

Will your committee call Ralph Reed, Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, to testify about this?

DINGELL: Probably not, because our committee has certain specific responsibilities under the rules. Other committees very probably will, and I think that they should.

We have to respect the system and allow the committees which have jurisdiction to conduct their business in a proper fashion. I'd love to do it, but the simple fact of the matter is House rules be don't facilitate it.

KARL: So you think Karl Rove should be called before a congressional committee to answer these questions? What should he be asked?

DINGELL: Well, I think that we ought to do is to have a thorough-going inquiry into all facets of this matter -- the political, the campaign contributions, the accounting, the events that were associated with lobbying, the events that were associated with the false filings and questions of that kind, the games that were played with regard to the off-book endeavors, such as the partnerships.

All those matters have to be gone into. And that includes the 401(k)s, which I would note were a major abuse.

KARL: We only have a minute left. I want to switch gears to the whole question of aviation safety, which you've had a lot to say about. And, of course, you were subject to that ridiculous search at an airport.

(LAUGHTER)

Do you have any sense, now that the deadline has passed for screening checked baggage, that the skies are safer?

DINGELL: The skies are probably safer, but we are still learning.

First of all, a lot of same people who were doing the checks are still doing the checks. And they were unskilled, uneducated and really not adequate to the task, as witnessed when they make a fellow take his pants off.

KARL: I mean, come on, what was that all about?

DINGELL: You'll have to ask them. All I know is I was the guy that had to do it and didn't particularly like it. But I recognize that John Dingell is not entitled to anything anybody else is not entitled to, so I cooperated.

KARL: But the bottom line is that the same people doing perhaps a job slightly different -- you know, defined differently, but, I mean, what's really changed?

DINGELL: Well, we are going to change. New hiring is going to take place. New rules, new experience, new equipment, better ways of both catching terrorists, quite honestly, and treating the traveling public courteously. They're going to be evolved because they have to be.

KARL: All right. Well, Congressman John Dingell, I thank you very much for joining us. It's always a pleasure.

DINGELL: Thank you. It's a great pleasure for me.

KARL: Great.

Coming up, does negative reaction to U.S. prisoners in Cuba overwhelm the positive results in Afghanistan? We'll ask a senator just back from Guantanamo Bay and a leading human rights activist.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Will any single prisoner be treated humanely? You bet. When they are being moved from place to place, will they be restrained in a way so that they are less likely to be able to kill an American soldier? You bet. Is it inhumane to do that? No. Would it be stupid to do anything else? Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: And there's Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reacting to the storm of international protests over photos like these, showing prisoners at Camp X-Ray.

Joining us now from Jacksonville, Florida, Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, who visited Guantanamo Bay just yesterday. And here in Washington, Elisa Massimino, Washington director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.

Senator, you're just back. You've got the news. I'd like to start with you. What did you see?

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, first of all, let me correct a misstatement that was made by The Associated Press and then picked up on CNN, where they quoted me as to saying that they're going to interrogate these people and send them back to their countries. Nothing would be further from the truth.

They are going to go through an interrogation. Then some will be returned to their home countries for prosecution. Most of them would be subjected, I believe, to a military tribunal, and then justice will take place.

Now, what I saw down there was a group of people that some have mischaracterized as prisoners of war. I am not sure that -- probably Elisa would agree with that mischaracterization.

These people are terrorists. These are people that came over here for incarceration until we could find out what we are going to do with them. They were put into facilities that are very decent facilities, at least what they are entitled to and maybe a little bit more. And I hope I have chance to elaborate on that a little bit.

But I think they're all in very good shape, they're being treated properly. And there's nothing wrong with this -- the way they're treating them.

KARL: OK. So just to clarify what you learned from officials down there, U.S. officials, is that, after the interrogation, some of these may be sent back to their host countries to be prosecuted.

What you learned in terms how many more prisoners may be headed to Guantanamo Bay? Is there room for any more?

INHOFE: Right now we have 158. We have the capacity for 220 there at the present time. We're currently building more billets to take care of up to 1,000, maybe even 2,000.

But, as we're speaking right now, none are on their way. There is no one anticipated to arrive in addition to those who are already here. We are ready for them if they do.

KARL: OK, now, Elisa, I know your issue is primarily the status of these prisoners, but I want to ask you about the conditions as well, because there has been such an outcry by human rights groups and international groups.

Doesn't Rumsfeld and the senator, don't they have a point that these people, in many ways, are being treated better than some people in the United States? I mean, the statement was made that they're actually getting better health care than some U.S. veterans.

ELISA MASSIMINO, LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: That may be true, and that's a sad commentary. We can have another show to talk about the state of health care for veterans and prisoners inside the United States.

But, you know, I think that the issue about the conditions, which has really been such a firestorm, and a lot of allies have raised this who have their own citizens at Guantanamo is, what's the plan for the future?

You know, a lot of the questions that have been raised about the conditions were really fueled by some of the things that Secretary Rumsfeld himself said. You know, he has said we're going to comply with the Geneva Conventions to the extent they're appropriate or as much as we possibly can. And that raises questions about, well, in what ways are you not going to comply with the Geneva Conventions, and why not?

KARL: Well, it seems one of his big points is that he doesn't want to afford these prisoners the status of actually being part of a country, I mean, a part of a terrorist organization.

I'd like you both to listen to a statement that was made by a British member of the Parliament about this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN CLWYD, BRITISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: We supported you in the war, we still support you. You're our friends, and we're saying this to you as friends. We don't want you to throw away the moral high ground. And we think that, in your treatment of the prisoners, that is being done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Senator Inhofe, we have no closer ally than Great Britain. Obviously Prime Minister Blair has been supportive, but there has been an outcry by others in the British Parliament and from other of our allies.

I mean, at the very least, don't we have a public relations problem on our hands?

INHOFE: Well, no, I don't think so, anymore than is always out there. Let's keep in mind, there are a lot of members of the Parliament over there. are some members of Congress here in the United States who would not like the way these people have been treated.

Let me respond to something Elisa said. In terms of status, these people are not prisoners of war. These people are not -- should not be afforded the comforts or the protections of the Geneva Convention. In fact, they are not -- they don't represent a country. They don't represent a military unit. There is no chain of command. They don't have uniforms.

They are illegal combatants, and they should be treated at such. That is the status of these people.

KARL: Elisa?

MASSIMINO: Well, with all due respect, Senator, I think that you know, some of them very well may be prisoners of war. And there are rules that govern these questions.

And the U.S. has more of an interest probably than any other country, with its large military spread all across the world, in making sure that the Geneva conventions are upheld.

And there are rules to decide whether a person, a captive, is a prisoner of war, and there are specific criteria. Those need to be applied. And the way they are applied is by an independent commission of three military officers. These are U.S. rules, not just international rules, for how to deal with the captives, and that hasn't been done yet.

KARL: So forget the term, for a second, Senator. I mean, can we not, you know, not call them prisoners of war but provide them the protections that a prisoner of war would have under those Geneva conventions?

INHOFE: I'm sorry, Jonathan, are you asking me?

KARL: Yes.

INHOFE: Well, yes. Certainly, they have protections and I -- as far as the Geneva Convention is concerned, I think it's very specific, when they say what a prisoner of war is. And I don't think anyone's in a position to say that these detainees meet that criteria.

And somehow we're going to have to get out of this homeless mentality. We're not dealing with the homeless here; we're dealing with terrorists. I know Elisa won't agree with that. But either these are terrorists or people who have been comforting and working with and supporting the terrorists, and they support the murder of over 2,000 Americans in New York and in Washington.

Now we've got to start treating it that way and recognizing that we are dealing with illegal combatants. And we need to get this behind us, and get the American people to realize that we're in war with a bunch of terrorists and we've got to go on with it.

KARL: Well, Senator, in the Washington Times today, reported by the Washington Times that Colin Powell, secretary of state, himself, has been arguing internally that they should get POW status.

Have you heard -- do you have any sense of a disagreement within the administration on this very issue?

INHOFE: Well, I think there may be a disagreement within the administration. I fall down on the side against the statement that Secretary Powell made.

MASSIMINO: Senator, you said one of the things we want to do is get this behind us, and I think that's something that we really have to think about and think a couple of steps ahead. There's a lot of talk, you know, there always has, about the U.S. being the world's policemen.

But you know, we have to think whether we're building, you know, the world's prison camp here, and is that what we want our military job to be? Where does it end?

INHOFE: Well, let me respond...

KARL: Well, that's a good question for -- can you make it quick? We have to take a break.

INHOFE: Well, let me respond after the break then.

KARL: OK. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back on that very point when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: An important source of information about the news of the day, the war and the terrorism investigation can be found online at CNN.com, or AOL keyword CNN.

A striking image of the week was 20-year-old John Walker Lindh back in the United States, accused of conspiracy to kill Americans. On Thursday, the father defended the son.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK LINDH, FATHER OF JOHN WALKER LINDH: John loves America. We love America. John did not do anything against America. John did not take up arms against America. He never meant to harm any American, and he never did harm any American. John is innocent of these charges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: We're back with Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, and Elisa Massimino of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.

I'm sure, Senator, you'd like to respond to Mr. Walker's comments. But first, we left off, Elisa said that we risk not only looking like -- the United States not only looking like the world's policemen, but the world's prison camp. What do you say?

INHOFE: Yes, in a way, I do, to a degree, agree with Elisa because we should not have to bear the whole burden. One of my concerns over our detention program is the cost of it down there.

I served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Readiness for five years, and during the Clinton administration, he decimated our military. We've got to build it back up, and you'll be hearing about this during the State of the Union message.

In the meantime, we're the ones who are paying for all this stuff. Many of our allies should share that burden.

I would like to see no more detainees come to this country, and go to other countries. Unfortunately, they have not been willing to take them and there's not room in Afghanistan, so I think we're going to end up with more.

Let me say, before we run out of time, though, that these prisoners down there, or detainees, are being treated so much better than most people realize, in terms of clothing -- they get there, they're issued a uniform. Most of them have never worn anything that's new before. In housing, each one have, actually, more square feet to live in than our own security troops do. And as far as medical treatment is concerned, these people have been carrying diseases their whole lives. And the first thing that happens when they get there -- and I was in there and I saw this happening -- they are trying to diagnose the problems, trying to help these people.

As far as food is concerned, most of them, maybe all of them, you can say, have never eaten as well as they're eating down there. I ate the food yesterday that they ate.

And so, let me tell you, this is not a homeless shelter. These are terrorists. We need to deal with them in a way that is going to get us to the point that we win this war on terrorism and quit worrying so much about the rights of people who are murdering Americans.

KARL: All right. We have a phone call now from Virginia.

Caller, your question, please.

CALLER: Yes, good morning.

KARL: Good morning.

CALLER: I'm a retired naval officer, and I fully agree with everyone's right to being treated humanely. However, why should those folks in Gitmo, who have vowed to kill Americans and were at least partially responsible for the attack on September 11, why should their human rights outweigh my human right to the pursuit of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

MASSIMINO: Well, that's a very good question. I'm a Navy brat myself, and my father's a retired naval officer, and he and I talk a lot about this issue, as you might imagine.

I don't think there's any question about the fact that one person's rights don't outweigh the other. But it's very important for us to remember that, particularly for the safety of our own military personnel, as I said, the U.S. has the greatest stake in seeing that the Geneva conventions are complied with, down to the letter. That...

KARL: In case any of our guys get taken POWs.

MASSIMINO: Exactly.

KARL: But let me ask you, though, the ACLU has said that these detainees should actually be brought to U.S. courts to be tried. That would be a circus. I mean, do you think this is really a viable option?

MASSIMINO: I don't think that is a viable option for most of them, and I don't most of them are going to be tried for any crime.

I mean, we have to get over this presumption that anyone who fought in a war against the United States in Afghanistan is a criminal that should be put through a criminal justice system, whether it's a military tribunal, commission or court.

I think most POWs, if they have not committed crimes of war, at the end of the hostilities, get reintegrated back into their countries. The big question is, when does the hostility end?

KARL: Go ahead, Senator.

INHOFE: Jonathan, we can't keep saying POWs. These are not POWs. They're not entitled to the privileges and the protections of the Geneva Convention and certainly not our Constitution.

The gentleman who called in -- I'm a veteran, I understand these things -- he is talking about these people. You know what the chant is down there? These guys are chanting, their goal is to kill an American before they die. And we're here trying to treat them like homeless...

KARL: They're still chanting that right now?

INHOFE: I'm sorry.

KARL: They're still chanting that right now? You heard those...

INHOFE: Yes, we've heard that.

KARL: ... prisoners saying...

INHOFE: Now, I don't speak the language, but that's the interpretation that you hear down there. That's the mentality we're dealing with.

KARL: Well, what's going to happen? I mean, what do they ultimately get charged with? I mean, and what's the penalty here?

INHOFE: I think that...

KARL: Are we talking death penalty for these people or imprisonment indefinitely? What's the road ahead?

INHOFE: Yes, well, certainly, I'm not an attorney, as Elisa is, and I can't get into a lot of legal details.

But I will say this. A military tribunal -- and I served in the military court many years ago -- that a tribunal is very loose in the way it's been constructed. It can adapt to the nature of the alleged offense and deal with it. And they have a broad array of punishments that are available to them. So we'll have to wait and see.

KARL: But if it's a question of imprisonment, are we talking about possible life terms there in Cuba?

INHOFE: Oh, it -- and it could be execution.

MASSIMINO: Well, I think, you know, Secretary Rumsfeld has said that his -- the preference would be that most of these people would be sent back to their home countries, either to be reintegrated, if they've not committed crimes, or to be prosecuted in their own courts. And I think that's what's most likely going to happen.

KARL: And what kind of...

INHOFE: I'm not sure that he said "most" of them, but he did say some could fall in that category. And certainly, going back to their countries for prosecution is an option.

MASSIMINO: I think that the key here is that, you know, it's in our interests, in the United States' interests, for the Pentagon to spell out, as soon as possible, what the road ahead is. Because it's opening up a lot of speculation, just as it did about the conditions, what is the future for these people. And we need to lay out, at least the United States' position, of what the legal basis is to detain them and where we see it heading.

KARL: Well, it's a difficult issue...

INHOFE: Well, I would agree with that, except the problem is we don't know yet. It's all happening -- and people are -- we don't even know, for sure, whether we're going to get another bunch of detainees over here to deal with. They're all different. These are not from one country. There's nothing in common. The only thing they have in common is they all hate us.

KARL: OK. We do have to go. There's a lot more to talk about here.

Senator Inhofe, just back from Cuba, thanks a lot for making one of your first stops right here on CNN.

INHOFE: Thank you, Jonathan.

KARL: Appreciate it.

Elisa, thank you very much. Good to have you on the show.

MASSIMINO: Thank you for having me.

KARL: And three days until President Bush travels up Pennsylvania Avenue to deliver his State of the Union address. Coming up, two White House veterans, David Gergen and Joe Lockhart, talk about the big stakes for a big speech.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: And now let's take a quick look at a different perspective on the news, some of the week's best political cartoons.

This one in the New Yorker shows U.S. warplanes bombing -- with pretzels. Pretzel power taking on a new significance after President Bush choked on one.

And from Pat Oliphant, a John Walker-like figure on the psychiatrist's couch. He says, "But I'm too young to, like, be accountable for, like, joining the Taliban, fighting for Al Qaeda, conspiring to kill Americans and, like, betraying my country, Doc." The doctor gives him a thumb's down. One of the figures in the foreground says, "But he's a Californian." The others say, "That could be an indictment."

And from Bill Garner in the Washington Times, a prisoner in Guantanamo calls out, "Please, please, don't torture me. Have mercy." The U.S. soldier nearby says, "He's afraid we're going to send him back to Afghanistan."

All right. Looking ahead, the president gives his State of the Union address on Tuesday, and he's been practicing a few themes already.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: There's an -- kind of a wacky economic theory going around Washington. It says, the more they take in your taxes, the better off you'll be.

(LAUGHTER)

And it doesn't make any economic sense. It doesn't make any dollars and cents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Joining us from Boston to preview the big speech is David Gergen, a former adviser to three presidents and the author of a new book, "Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton," and former Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart.

David Gergen, I want to start with you. This is a president, this George W. Bush is somebody who has made a career out of beating low expectations. The expectations now couldn't be any higher. What are the risks for him as he goes into this State of the Union address?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: The big risk for him as he enters this year is that he could lose control of the agenda, that the war against terrorism increasingly becomes a police action, a set of police enforcement actions, in other countries and doesn't have the drama that we've seen in Afghanistan, and, as a result, the attention moves on.

Already, as you know, Jonathan, that many of the networks and newspapers have reassigned reporters from the war on terrorism to the Enron scandal.

So I think the test here in this State of the Union is for the president to reassert his leadership as commander in chief and as the national president, as the national leader. And that is a -- it's going to be a tough order, but he's proved that he's capable of doing it.

KARL: Joe?

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Oh, I think you're right. I think President Bush has benefited over his career from extraordinarily low expectations, and they've been masterful about it. Expectations are high.

You know, I think this speech -- we'll look back at this as the high point of the year for Bush. I think it's a forum that the president can command like no other can in the nation.

And I think, you know, in Washington we sort of -- we have our dessert first and eat our vegetables later. The vegetable part will be next week when the budget comes out. And my guess is, the terrain there is much more dangerous for the president.

And we're going to see -- you know, this here is the State of the Union. I think it will be a good speech. I think it will be well- received. But then things get really hard.

KARL: Well, there's been a lot of talk about approval ratings. This president has had the high's approval ratings for the longest period of time for any president since modern polling. Take a look at the latest numbers from CNN-Time: 77 percent approval rating. It's finally gone below 80.

But, David Gergen, does this president have anywhere to go but down?

GERGEN: That's the problem. And I think Joe Lockhart and I are echoing each other in different ways.

He needs to maintain momentum on the war on terrorism, in order to keep focus there, in order to keep the country's attention, in order to invigorate the homeland security effort.

And I think that the real -- I think the most important thing he has to do with this speech is to bring us back to September 11 and what's happened since then and where we're going to go from here, what he plans to do from here.

Once he's done that, then I think he can move on to the economy and the other domestic issues. But the way he keeps his national stature and his commanding position so that he can actually, not only conduct the war on terrorism, but have the decisive influence on the domestic agenda, is to take us back here, tell us what we're doing next in the war on terrorism and keep that effort focused.

Because, as he told Tom Brokaw the other night on that interview, he's spending most of his time there. He's spending 50 percent of his time and 80 percent of his mental energy on it.

KARL: One of the issues to come up this year, Joe, is going to be the blame game in term terms of the war on terrorism. How is it that this Al Qaeda network blossomed over the last decade? And how is it we didn't know this was coming? What could have been done that should have been done?

You were there in the Clinton White House. What's your take?

LOCKHART: Oh, listen, I think that's a pure loser for both sides to try to play the blame game. I think the facts stand on their own, as far as what the Clinton administration did and what the Bush administration did. We're in a new reality now. I don't think anyone had the power of evil imagination to look at the World Trade Center.

But I think, you know, David's right, but there's a tricky part about reasserting this idea of the, you know, moral stature and leadership from the State of the Union on, and that's, you know, as soon as there's a scent of politics and trying to take advantage of this situation from the Republicans, I think they're on very shaky ground.

We had a little bit of that with Karl Rove last week at the RNC. I think they got their hands -- their fingers burned a little bit on that.

But as soon as, you know, if you look at the numbers, if you get to 70 and 80 percent, you know there's lots of Democrats who are saying, we're behind this president, we approve. If they start trying to take political advantage of that on other issues and at the polls, I think you'll see those numbers come down.

KARL: Well, David Gergen, I want to get into that issue, the whole Karl Rove issue, as well.

But first, on this blame game, or let's use a word that you like you to use, "accountability." You've talked about the importance of accountability. You served three presidents. Of those three presidents, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, who deserves what blame for what happened on September 11? Or if you don't want to say for September 11, for the fact that this Al Qaeda network was able to blossom under their watch?

GERGEN: Well, I also served President Nixon, and I thought you were going to ask how does one deal with blame? Listen...

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: We'll get to Nixon later.

GERGEN: Yes. I do agree with Joe Lockhart, that it's going to be extremely divisive for either side now to gang up on -- say, the Republicans and conservatives to gang up on Bill Clinton and define all the faults and the negligence that may have existed in the Clinton years.

Of course the Clinton administration bears some of the responsibility. But the Clinton administration also left office eight months before this happened. It did happen eight months into the Bush administration's watch.

And what you're going to find, if the Clinton people come under a lot of heat here in the next few months, they're going to lash out and point out all the things they think went wrong in the Bush administration, and that is a -- that's a loser's game for the United States. It divides us as a people at the time we still need to remain united and focused on what needs to be done to break up these cells of terrorism.

So, are there things that I think that Bill Clinton could have done? Of course. Do I think his CIA bears some responsibility? Of course it does.

But let's remember that, when the Bush administration came in, they decided to keep George Tenet as head of the CIA. So they decided when they came in that they thought Tenet had done a good job at the CIA.

I think that it's -- I think it's really divisive and not helpful to get into a partisan blame game.

KARL: Well, the first hearings on that issue will probably be in February or March -- the intelligence committees on both sides.

But we do have to take a quick break. We'll have more with Joe Lockhart and David Gergen, plus your e-mails and phone calls, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: OK. We have a little breaking news out of Afghanistan right now. CNN has learned that there was a breach of security at the Kandahar airport and that one man was arrested. We don't have any further details yet, but we will bring them as soon as they become available.

And meanwhile, in her column this week about the president and his team, titled, "Vain or Glorious," Maureen Dowd of the New York Times writes, quote, "I hesitate to interrupt the victory laps, the chesty posing, the passing out of medals, but something in me really wants to know is the war over, did we win it or not?"

We are continuing our discussion now with former presidential adviser David Gergen and former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart.

Joe, this is a reminder that this isn't over, I mean, this news out of Kandahar. We don't know the details but, I mean, have we been celebrating too soon?

LOCKHART: Well, you know, listen, I think the thing that President Bush did the best early on was to discuss how difficult this was going to be, how long this was going to be.

And if we're going to try to do what he laid out, which is break the back of terrorism around the world, even including those who harbor them, this isn't a three-month plan. This isn't even a three- year plan. This is a constant, ongoing effort.

And, you know, you do see a little bit of the victory lap. I reverenced earlier Mr. Rove's comments to the RNC, which I thought were really inappropriate and bad politics for the Republicans, because any time you inject politics into this, I think it's bad. I think, you know, the important thing to remember, and I think the American public will remember this, is this has all worked from a political sense because everyone's been together. The Democrats have come and said you know, we believe in this, we're going to be behind. And that's in some contrast to some of the military operations we had in the last administration.

You know, listen, whoever's fault it was, the Republican leadership wasn't behind the president. And, you know, we can parse that out to no great benefit.

But Democrats and Republicans get credit for helping keep this country together. And if one side decides that they're going to try to get some gain from this, that's going to fall apart, and they will pay a political price for that.

KARL: David, you mentioned the armies of reporters that have been reassigned from covering the war on terrorism to covering Enron. That is absolutely true, I can tell you firsthand.

But what's happening with this administration? It looks like the General Accounting Office is actually going to sue the White House to force the vice president to release that information about his energy task force. Where do you see this going?

GERGEN: I think it's very tricky for the administration now because there are two dynamics at play in Washington: One is the war on terrorism and the continuing momentum the president could enjoy on that, through his speech. And the other is the rising momentum of the Enron scandal, which is going to play into the hands of the Democrats, if they know how to play upon it wisely, because it does raise questions about whether we don't need more government oversight through regulation.

So I think these are two opposing dynamics that are going to clash, and I think the challenge for the president is to rise up and be president of both, to capture both, if you would.

And the Cheney challenge is one that is awkward, because Dick Cheney is standing on principle. It's an important principle. I've talked to him about this. He's believed this for a long time, about maintaining the capacity of government officials to talk to citizens privately, without having intrusive, you know, lists made and published each time.

At the same time, it can be created or it can be cast as what are you hiding? And ultimately, I think that list is going to have to come out.

Can I just add one thing, though, Jonathan, if I might?

KARL: Sure.

GERGEN: One of the issues that's going on in this war on terrorism is not just what we're doing overseas, but what we're doing here at home on homeland security. We've had a group of terrorism experts and people who have responsibility for terrorism from a variety states here at the Kennedy school over the last couple of days. They are quite worried that we're not going to put our guard up in the right way, that the energy is leaving this whole endeavor, that people are paying less and less attention to it. Mayors have lost their concern about it. They've gone on to other things. And I think that -- and the reporters are going off to other things. The public is losing its interest in it.

So that is something the president needs to keep us focused on. It is a long, hard struggle, as Joe Lockhart said.

KARL: All right. Well, that's another subject for another day. Unfortunately, we are out of time.

Joe Lockhart, thank you very much for joining us.

And up there in Boston, David Gergen, always a pleasure. Appreciate it.

GERGEN: Thank you.

KARL: Up next, my turn on the events of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: I'd like to close with what I believe is the week's most underreported story, a story in the Wall Street Journal about something called "earmarks." That's Washington-speak for pet projects tacked on to spending bills, often in the dead of night, by members of Congress, items like the $2 million funneled to Kentucky to deal with traffic at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

You might think that in a time of war, a time of recession, a time when billions need to be spent fighting terrorism, that these special projects would be put on hold. But no, they jumped by a stunning 20 percent this year, shattering the previous record.

And there was another story. The budget is officially now in deficit again. Now, every extra penny Congress spends comes out of the pockets of your children and your grandchildren.

Well, that's that. Thank you for watching.

A reminder that CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS" with Judy Woodruff returns Monday. Join Judy and CNN's team of political reporters every day at 4:00 for a full hour of political news.

Up next, a news update and CNN's "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS," featuring Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts.

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