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Interviews with Andrew Card, Joe Lieberman, Mitch McConnell

Aired January 27, 2002 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington; 9 a.m. in Los Angeles; 7 p.m. in Ramallah on the West Bank; 9:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for Late Edition.

We'll get to our interview with the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, in just a few minutes, but first, this hour's news alert.


BLITZER: And joining us now to discuss all these issues and to preview President Bush's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday is the White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

Welcome back to Late Edition, Mr. Card.

ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Good to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: The split, supposedly, that you saw on the front page of the New York Times this morning, the Washington Times yesterday, between Secretary Powell on one hand, others on the other hand, over how to classify the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, how serious of a split is there?

CARD: Well, first of all, there is no split. Both Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld recognize that these are unlawful combatants, that they are terrorists, and they're very dangerous individuals, they should be detained. They're getting good human rights treatment. They're getting three square meals a day. They have the opportunity to exercise their religion. They are getting exercise time.

And they're also being interrogated. After all, we do have to worry about protecting America. And some of these individuals, we think, may have information that would help us to better protect this country, and I think it's important that we recognize that.

But they're treated very, very well, and I'm confident that the world come to recognize we're doing the responsible thing.

BLITZER: So give us the nuance then, if you don't want to call it a "split," what's the difference between the position advanced by the secretary of state, Colin Powell, the legal position he forwarded to the White House, the other positions of various officials, including Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and the thrust of the meeting that the president's going to have tomorrow on this specific issue?

CARD: Well, I don't think there's any disagreement about the value of these prisoners and the danger of these detainees.

These detainees are terrorists, and they are unlawful combatants. They were not representing a nation-state. They were combating against America's interests. They may have information that would help us protect America better. They are very dangerous to the people who are protecting them right now, U.S. soldiers. And we're going to do everything we can to protect Americans.

There will be some discussion about the provisions of the Geneva Convention, and these people are being treated in accord, consistent with the Geneva Convention, and I think there will be some discussion about that. But there's no disagreement about the nature of these people, how dangerous they are to the United States and how important it is that we have the information that they had that could help protect America.

BLITZER: But some Americans, as you know, civil rights advocates, human rights advocates, have said, if the U.S. treats these detainees not as POWs, but as unlawful combatants, whatever phrase you want to call it, that's going to set the stage for Americans some day who might be held captive, and they won't be treated as POWs.

CARD: Well, anyone who is wearing the American uniform, our military uniforms, has the protection of the Geneva Convention. We are a nation. We're a nation of laws. We respect the Geneva Convention. We comply with the Geneva Convention.

These individuals that are detained down in Gitmo, Guantanamo, are illegal combatants, and that is recognized within the Geneva Convention as well.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about another supposed split that exists within the Bush administration, this involving severing ties with the Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. Once again, Colin Powell supposedly on one side and; Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, Vice President Cheney on another side, much more firm in saying, "Yes, this is a good time to cut off the relationship."

CARD: There is no split in the administration. There is recognition that Chairman Arafat has got to do more to live up to what he told the world he would do many years ago -- that he was not going to participate in terrorist activites.

The ship that was delivering these weapons of terror to the Palestinian Liberation Organization probably were delivering those weapons with the knowledge and maybe the direction of Yasser Arafat.

CARD: And we call on him to change his ways and not participate in any terrorist activity. Clearly, this is a responsibility that he has. He has to recognize that responsibility and take real moves to reduce the level of terror in that part of the world.

BLITZER: He's quoted in the new issue of Time Magazine out today as saying, "I don't know what I did wrong. They are sharpening the knives and giving them to Sharon" -- Ariel Sharon, the prime minister of Israel -- "to slaughter me."

Key question is this: Is the United States going to continue a direct dialogue with Yasser Arafat?

CARD: He has to earn the right to have a dialogue. And we are very disappointed in what has been happening in the Middle East with regard to Israel and Palestine. Both sides have to learn to reduce the level of violence.

But clearly Chairman Arafat has a responsibility to live up to those things that he promised the world he would do a long time ago. And we're disappointed that he did not keep his word.

BLITZER: Is there any consideration being given right now to pulling out U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia? There's been reports that Saudis at a high level have asked the United States to start thinking about that.

CARD: Well we have been thinking about reducing the footprint, if you will, in Saudi Arabia. Ever since the Gulf War ended, we've been working to try to minimize the amount of time and the size of the footprint that U.S. forces have in Saudi Arabia. We've been working with the Saudi government.

The Saudis have been wonderful allies in this war against terrorists, and we've been working very closely with them. We're also helping to protect them.

We're helping to make sure that Saddam Hussein doesn't violate those commitments that were made when that Gulf War ended, and he has been violating them. As you know, the inspectors are not allowed into Iraq to review what he is doing and that's troubling.

We still have to enforce the no-fly zones there. So there is a valuable reason for us to be in that region, but we are looking to reduce the footprint within Saudi Arabia, consistent with America's interests and consistent with the interests of Saudi Arabia. BLITZER: And when you do think that will happen?

CARD: Oh, it will happen over time, and it would be wrong for me to speculate on what the Defense Department feels is in the best interests of the national security of this country and the security of the region.

BLITZER: But you can't confirm the Saudis have asked the United States to reduce the footprint?

CARD: They've been asking a long time, and we've been working with them for a long time, not just during this administration but during prior administrations to reduce the footprint, so-called footprint within Saudi Arabia. I think it's been a long-term interest of both countries.

BLITZER: You comfortable with the way U.S. military personnel who are women are treated when they go off base in Saudi Arabia?

CARD: Well, I am confident that our military makes sure that the people who are serving have the rights on the base and within the confines of the military action that they're participating in, or of the functions that they perform in military bases in other countries.

But we do respect the culture and the nature of culture in other countries. After all, we are in these other countries as their guests, and we respect the fact that we are there as their guests.

BLITZER: You saw the item in the current new issue of Newsweek. The president's brother, Neil Bush, an item in the Periscope section of Newsweek.

Among other things, it quoted Neil Bush as saying that he told Newsweek he has avoided contacting U.S. officials during his recent travels and said there was nothing improper about his seeking business from foreign governments. He's been in Saudi Arabia, seeking some investors in Taiwan, in Japan, but he says here he hasn't contacted anyone in the administration.

CARD: I didn't know anything about this trip until I read it in Newsweek today.

I've known Neil Bush for a long time. He's a man of great integrity, and the president has confidence in Neil Bush. He's just a good guy.

BLITZER: But given the history of presidential brothers embarrassing presidents, whether it was Roger Clinton with former president Bill Clinton or Billy Carter with former president Jimmy Carter, shouldn't there be some sort of dialogue with presidential brothers, or sisters for that matter, to make sure they don't embarrass a sitting president?

CARD: I don't think that Neil Bush is doing anything or has done anything to embarrass the president except maybe his bowling game at Camp David or something. But they -- clearly the president gets along very well with all of his siblings, especially Neil. And I tell you, I'm not aware of any problems or any reason for us to be concerned.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the investigation of Enron, what was until recently the seventh-largest company, corporation in the United States, the largest bankruptcy in American history.

In the new New York Times-CBS News poll out today, Enron had closer ties to which party? Forty-five percent of the American public think the Republican Party; 10 percent the Democratic Party; 10 percent equal.

Is there a perception problem that you might be facing, given the close ties that Enron had to the Republican Party? CARD: The problem is that there is a business scandal here that cheated an awful lot of employees and an awful lot of 401(k) members and an awful lot of retirees and people who invest in Enron stock who were not seeing the returns on those investments that they were lead to believe that they would see.

And that is something that we take very seriously. As you know, Wolf, there is a criminal investigation ongoing by the Justice Department. There is also an investigation that the president initiated for us to find out what we should be doing to protect people who have investments in companies like an Enron and have 401(k) plans or pension plans.

And that is why he asked Secretary O'Neill and Secretary Evans and Secretary Chao to take a look at policies to see what we can do to protect people who have made investments or are participating in 401(k) plans or looking forward to retirement, so that the problems around Enron are not repeated in other sectors of our society.

BLITZER: Did Karl Rove, the presidential counselor, during the 2000 presidential campaign, encourage Enron to hire Ralph Reed, a Republican political strategist, formerly of the Christian Coalition, to get a contract, to sort of bring him on George W. Bush's presidential campaign bandwagon?

CARD: I have no reason to believe that that is true.

I do know that, if I were asked about Ralph Reed, I would say he is a terrific fellow who provides a lot of value and would be an asset to anyone who is looking to have a relationship with him.

And I suspect that Karl Rove has the same view of Ralph Reed. And I think that if you asked him for a recommendation, Karl Rove would give you a good recommendation on Ralph Reed. In fact, I bet you would give a good recommendation on Ralph Reed, because he has been a regular guest on some of the shows here at CNN.

BLITZER: He has been a regular guest on this program at CNN, and a lot of other programs, as well.

Let's talk a little bit about the vice president and the energy task force. Of course, as you know, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, wants information about how he came up with all the task force recommendations, more than a hundred of them. The vice president and the Bush administration says that is inappropriate.

I would like you to listen to what Henry Waxman, who is investigating this, the Democratic Congressman from California, had to say about the refusal to hand over this information to Congress.


U.S. REPRESENTATIVE HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA): I think that's wrong, and it is dangerous, because no executive branch, no White House should be able to operate in secrecy, without accountability, and that is what this White House is trying to do.


BLITZER: Wasn't there similar complaints that Hillary Clinton had her health care task force in '93, they didn't want to release that information publicly, and your administration is now accused of doing the same thing?

CARD: There is a difference there. First of all, the task force that was conducting a review of health care policy during the Clinton administration included people from outside of government. The recommendations that were put forward by the Bush administration on energy were the results of advice and counsel from people inside of government.

And the president and the vice president deserve to have the unfettered advice and counsel from people on this staff. And they should go out and collect information.

The good news is that all of the recommendations that the president made with regard to energy policy are well outlined in a 177-page report. And there are 105 recommendations, so you know where the president has his views on energy.

It is important that Congress pass an energy bill. The good news is the House has passed one. We would like to see the Senate pass one. That would be in best interests of this country.

But we are confident that the president is doing the right thing, and the vice president doing the right thing, by saying we should have the advice and counsel that comes to us in many different forms as long as the decisions that are made and then announced are there for public scrutiny. And the decision that the president made on energy is publicly available for lots of scrutiny and lots of debate.

BLITZER: So what you are saying is, the White House is ready to go to court against the GAO.

CARD: No. The White House will protect the right of the president and the vice president.

BLITZER: You are going to hold firm.

CARD: I have no reason to believe that it would be in the best interests of any presidency to give up the prerogatives of the president to have the benefit of candid advice and counsel.

BLITZER: Will the president sign into law McCain-Feingold, the version in the House of Representatives, Shays-Meehan, if it's passed by the House and the Senate, as far as campaign finance reform is concerned? CARD: Well, that is big hypothetical. We would like to see what comes out of the House and the Senate. And I presume that they will end up getting to a conference committee and have to wrestle final details on the campaign finance reform bill.

The president would like to sign a campaign finance reform. He's outlined the principles that he thinks should be included in the campaign finance reform bill. He says let's stop soft money contributions from corporations and from unions. Let's have full disclosure of all contributions that are made, something that the president did voluntarily when he was running for president -- immediate and full disclosure of contributions.

And he's also said he would like to see paycheck protection, so that if you are working for a company or working in a union and contributions are made, you should have a chance to know about those contributions and decide whether or not they are appropriate or not appropriate.

BLITZER: Well, on that last point, the paycheck protection, which is a key sticking point as far as many members of Congress are concerned. If the final version passed by the House and the Senate -- and it might pass sooner rather than later now that members of House have won the right to at least bring it up for a vote.

If it doesn't include that paycheck protection, as you call it, will the president veto the legislation?

CARD: Let's see how the House and the Senate, in a conference committee, react to the president's desires for the principles that he's outlined, and let's see what they do.

I think it is too early to say whether the president would or would not sign a particular piece of legislation when we don't know what it looks like.

And the president will be participating in that debate, once it gets to a conference committee.

BLITZER: Does the Bush administration, the U.S. government, have any better idea today than it did two or three months ago where Osama bin Laden is?

CARD: We know he's on the run.

BLITZER: Do you know for a fact he's alive?

CARD: I do not know for a fact he's alive. I happen to believe he's probably alive.

But we're going to get him, and the president said that we would get him. And no matter how long it takes, we're going to be very patient about it. We'll be very persistent, but we are going to get this evil-doer.

But understand that that's not the overall objective. Our overall objective is to defeat terrorism, wherever it is around the world. And so, our objective is not to get Osama bin Laden. Our objective is to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States and to remove terror as a threat to the world...

BLITZER: Will the ...

CARD: ... and we're going to do everything we can to do it.

BLITZER: Will the president support a four-star general being in charge of homeland security, a commander in chief for North America?

CARD: We're going to look at that. I know that the Defense Department has been working on that suggestion for a long time, and I happen to think there is merit to it. We do have so-called CINCs managing different regions of the world.

And now that we have added concern for the defense of our homeland, I think it does make sense for us to look at a command structure that would allow for kind of the better coordination of defense responsibilities to the homeland.

But we'll look for the secretary of defense to make recommendations and have them reviewed by Governor Tom Ridge in the Homeland Security Office before the president makes a final decision.

BLITZER: I believe you've said in the past that most White House chiefs of staff have stayed for around 18 months. What are your plans?

CARD: I'll stay -- first of all, I'm going to give the president 100 percent of my effort, and I have to have 100 percent of his confidence. If I can't give him a 100 percent of my effort or he doesn't have 100 percent confidence in me, I will leave.

But I'm looking forward to working with the president, as long as he has confidence in me, and I will give him a 100 percent.

BLITZER: OK. Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff...

CARD: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: ... thanks for joining us once again.

CARD: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Good luck with the president's speech Tuesday tonight.

CARD: We're excited about it.

WOLF: Appreciate it very much.

When we come back, we'll speak to two members of the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell and Joe Lieberman. Stay with us.



DAVID DUNCAN, FORMER ENRON AUDITOR: Chairman, I would like to answer the committee's questions, but on the advice of my counsel, I respectfully decline to answer the question based on the protection afforded me under the Constitution of the United States.


BLITZER: David Duncan, the former Enron auditor, at a congressional hearing this past week here in Washington. Duncan was fired from the accounting firm Arthur Andersen after acknowledging that he was involved in the shredding of Enron financial documents.

Welcome back to Late Edition."

Joining us now are two members of the United States Senate. In New York, the Connecticut Democrat, Joe Lieberman; he's leading one of the congressional investigations into Enron's collapse. And in Louisville, Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell; he's the top Republican on the powerful Rules Committee.

Senators, always good to have both of you on Late Edition.

And, Senator Lieberman, let me begin with you, with what we just heard from Andy Card, the White House chief of staff.

I also want you to listen to what the vice president said earlier today on this whole issue of not wanting to share information with the GAO, the General Accounting Office of Congress, about all the decision-making process that led to his energy recommendation. Listen to what the vice president said.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Time after time after time, administrations have traded away the authority of the president to do his job. We're not going to do that in this administration. The president's bound and determined to defend those principles.


BLITZER: In effect, what he's saying, he's protecting not only his administration, but future presidents. And you may be one of those presidents one of these days.


Isn't he doing you a service, by not jeopardizing, undermining the right to private, confidential information for any president?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Very nice of you to say that, Wolf, but my answer is, no, thanks.

I'm very surprised that the Bush administration is remaining as stubborn as they are about this release of information. It's against the public interests, because the public has a right to know. These were public employees on public property developing policy regarding energy and environmental protection. And the Congress, as the representative of the public, has a right to know.

Secondly, I think the continued refusal to turn over basic information to the nonpartisan GAO is also not in the interest of this administration, because, in the aftermath of the Enron scandal and collapse, I think people are going to start to ask, what are they hiding?

I mean, to me, I fully expected Vice President Cheney and the administration to say, we're going to release this information and get it behind us.

So I think this decision is a big mistake by the Bush administration and will lead to a lawsuit by the GAO representing Congress to establish our right to know, which is the public's right to know.

BLITZER: As you know, Senator McConnell, there are plenty of Republicans out there who agree with Senator Lieberman. Where do you stand?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, it first should be observed that the Congress conveniently excluded itself from the very law that the GAO is contending requires the vice president to turn over records of private discussions.

I tend to be very sympathetic with the administration, frankly. I think they're going to win in court. They need to be able to have conversations without the fear of having them revealed to the public.

And the larger issue is whether there is any indication whatsoever that the administration in any way had anything to do with the Enron debacle. There appears to be none.

So there seems to me to be a fishing expedition, one that would be going on all the time, had we included ourselves in this particular law.

BLITZER: Well, what about what the main point that Senator Lieberman made, that, if the administration has nothing to hide as far as how it came up with its energy policy recommendations, its guidelines, why are they stonewalling and refusing to cooperate with the GAO?

MCCONNELL: Because I think what the GAO is asking is for confidential conversations, in effect, between the vice president and his own staff. That's what executive privilege was created to protect.

And, you know, until there is some evidence of wrongdoing here, it seems to me the administration's on pretty firm ground.

Unfortunately, as a result of Richard Nixon years ago, when anybody hears the term "executive privilege," they assume something bad was going on here. There's no evidence anything bad was going on here, there's not a scintilla of evidence that the administration was doing Enron's bidding.

It's going to be an enormous -- it is an enormous corporate scandal that ought to be investigated, and I'm glad Joe's going to do that. And I hope he'll keep the bull's eye on the target, which is this enormous corporate scandal.

BLITZER: And, Senator Lieberman, just to be precise, in your investigation that you conducted so far, you've seen no evidence of any wrong, criminal wrongdoing by the Bush administration as far as the collapse of Enron is concerned.

LIEBERMAN: Absolutely none, that's correct.

Now, in fairness, we're just at the beginning of the investigation, but we've seen absolutely none.

And that's why I think it's such a mistake for administration to hold these papers back because it raises more suspicions than there may be any justification to have.

You know, the original request was based -- had nothing to do with Enron, had to do with question of who were they talking to when they came up with, not national security policy but, energy and an environment policy.

Now, after the Enron collapse I think people are going to wonder, not whether there was criminal behavior, but whether Enron used its influence to convince the administration to take positions on energy policy, energy regulation, that may have been favorable to allowing Enron to do what it was doing.

But that's a totally different question than criminal behavior, no evidence whatsoever.

BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, as you know, there have been some questions raised about your ability to lead one of these investigations, given the fact that one of your former congressional chiefs of staff, Mike Llewyan (ph), was a lobbyist for Enron; and Citicorp, which is a major contributor to your campaigns, is the leading creditor to Enron, stands to lose a lot of money, obviously, if Enron can't repay a lot of those loans.

What do you say about those points?

LIEBERMAN: Well, the first thing I say is I guess I've gotten a refresher course in what happens in Washington in 2002, when you launch an investigation, which is that people try to smear you or maybe even intimidate you in some way.

But look, these relationships are all public. Nothing wrong happened. The contributions are all legal and within the limits provided. And the most important thing, I'm -- let me say this, it's not going to affect at all the independence and dedication and non- partisanship with which I carry out this investigation with my colleagues on a committee, including Fred Thompson, our ranking Republican.

And my answer to it all is, just watch me and watch the investigation. It's going to be thorough, and, most important of all, it's going to produce some recommendations that I think will make it an awful lot less likely that another Enron scandal will ever happen again.

BLITZER: Senator McConnell, are you ready to concede right now that, in part because of Enron and the huge contributions it made to the Democratic and Republican party in soft money, the so-called unlimited sums that go to those political parties, that it's very likely now that campaign finance reform, as envisaged in McCain- Feingold, that legislation, is going to be passed in the Senate -- it's been passed in the Senate already -- but also will be passed in the House of Representatives?

MCCONNELL: Well, first, Wolf, let me point out that soft money had about as much to do with the collapse of Enron as Martha Stewart had to do with the collapse of K-Mart, which, by the way, was also a significant soft-money contributor to both parties and also recently went belly up. Maybe Joe's committee will move on to investigate the K-Mart failure and the relationship of soft money contributions to that.

Let me say a word in defense of Joe. I have total confidence in his ability to objectively conduct this investigation. The fact that he received contributions from either Enron's PAC or Arthur Andersen's PAC, or that former staffers may have worked for Enron, doesn't any more compromise his position than soft-money contributions to the Republican Party might have compromised President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

This whole argument that influence is for sale is utter nonsense. What did Enron get? They got nothing, nothing whatsoever, except investigations, criminal prosecutions, subpoenas. They've gotten nothing but problems. Their contributions got them nothing. And I have total confidence that they will not impair Joe's judgment, nor any of the other members of Congress, in pursuing this investigation.

BLITZER: Senator McConnell, do you think it's appropriate for members of Congress and Senate and the House of Representatives who did receive campaign contributions from Enron, or Arthur Andersen for that matter, to return that money or make that money available to some organizations that are trying to help some of the employees who lost their life savings with that collapse? I'm referring specifically to both you and Senator Lieberman...


BLITZER: ... who did receive relatively modest campaign contributions from both. MCCONNELL: Let me say, I think that's up to each senator to decide whether, you know, out of sympathy for the employees, they want to take contributions, legal contributions that they received, in my case six years, ago and return them to employees, almost all of whom live in Texas.

In my case, I'm not going to refund the contributions. I didn't do anything wrong in receiving it. They didn't do anything wrong in contributing it. And I have total confidence in my ability to operate on this issue without being compromised.

But there are some senators who may feel that they would like to donate those funds to the fund for the employees. I think that's entirely appropriate if they want to.

BLITZER: What about you, Senator Lieberman?

LIEBERMAN: I think Mitch has it just about right. You know, I thought about returning the contributions, but I didn't do anything wrong.

And, as I said before, these are all legal, they're fully disclosed. That was the whole idea of the post-Watergate campaign finance reform law, which is no longer big contributions, cash in a suitcase across the street from the White House. Limited amounts, fully disclosed, the public will decide when you run for reelection or as you serve whether you're unduly influenced by those.

So again, I say just watch our investigation. It's going to be nonpartisan, and it's going to be very tough, and it's going to produce results that will stop another Enron from happening.

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

We'll continue our conversation with Senators McConnell and Lieberman. They'll also be taking your phone calls when Late Edition returns.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our discussion with Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Senator McConnell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, had a nuanced position, as far as speeding up, accelerating the implementation of the tax cuts which were approved last year. I want you to listen to what he had to say.


ALAN GREENSPAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE: I do not think it is a critically important issue to do. I think the economy will recover in any event. But nor do I think that a temporary stimulus program which, by definition will phase out, is not a long-term threat to the budget itself.


BLITZER: In Greenspan-speak, he's saying, it's not necessarily essential that you go ahead and do what the president would like to do, speed up the implementation of those tax cuts.

MCCONNELL: Actually, Wolf, that clip was referring, I think, to an effort to have an accelerated depreciation only last for one year. It may also have been Greenspan's opinion that we didn't need to speed up the tax cut, but I think he was talking about another part of the package that Senator Daschle now has on Senate floor.

As you know, we've to-ing and fro-ing on this issue in the Senate since back in December.

I take my lead from president. The president believes we do need a stimulus package. He thinks that the definition of a stimulus package means at least 50 to 60 percent of this package ought to be putting money in people's pockets.

And clearly, the best way to do that would be to advance the tax reductions that have already been implemented, that take effect later. That would be our preference.

In any event, there was a bill that passed the House of Representatives that's supported by at least three Democrats in the Senate, that's a truly bipartisan measure. I wish that was the one that we had on the floor of Senate right now during this debate.

BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, Senator Kennedy, our colleague from New England, wants to hold back on implementing some of those tax cuts, especially for the very wealthy. But the Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle says, don't hold back on implementing it. The House minority leader, Richard Gephardt, takes the same position.

I assume that that that's your position, as well: Don't make any changes in implementing the tax cut.

LIEBERMAN: It is because it's a non-starter. And not only will the president not support it, but there are Democrats in the Senate, at least, who will not support it.

Though I must say that I voted against the tax program last year, and I think it was the right decision. I voted against it because I had no confidence that we knew the money would be there to pay for it over the 10 years. And of course, just this week, various offices reported our estimates for the 10-year period are $4 trillion less than the estimates a year ago. And the federal government has gone back into deficit. That's a bad situation.

But that change is not going occur, so I think it's a waste of time to talk about it.

We ought to be talking about how to stimulate the economy now. And I do think that the signs continue to be mixed. Millions of people are out of work. The unemployment rate is heading up to 6 percent.

I think we need a stimulus now, which is short term, as Mr. Greenspan said. And I'd like to see us give incentives to accelerate a depreciation of business to buy equipment that'll create new jobs. I'd like to see a short-term capital gains cut to get money to businesses to create new jobs. And then I think, really important, we've got to extend unemployment compensation for those unfortunate people who have lost their jobs.

MCCONNELL: Wolf, can I make...

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Senator McConnell. MCCONNELL: Can I make just a very quick observation about Senator Kennedy's comments about tax cuts for the rich? The top 5 percent of taxpayers in America provide 55 percent of the revenue for the federal government. The top 50 percent of taxpayers takes you all the way down to people who make only $26,000 a year.

You can't have tax relief without impacting people who pay taxes, and that's people from $26,000 and up who provide the lion's share of the revenue for the federal government.

So when Senator Kennedy talks about the rich, I wish somebody in your profession would say, "Now just where do you draw the line, what is definition of `rich'?"

BLITZER: All right, Senator Lieberman, are you going to tell that to your fellow Democrat, Senator Kennedy?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I will. I mean, look, we can debate this all day. The fact is that -- and there was just a study in the paper again this week, that more than 40 percent of the tax cut does go to the top 5 percent in income, people making over, I believe, $150,000 a year.

But, you know, we're just going to have to deal with it. It's not going to change for a while, and I'm afraid it's one of the things that's keeping interest rates, as the deficit increases, up high, which retards economic growth and doesn't give businesses the confidence that they need to reinvest.

So I think we need a stimulus package just as a hedge against the economy not returning of its own, and that's a critical item. And I hope we'll hear from the president, I expect we will, in the State of the Union this Tuesday night.

MCCONNELL: I agree that we need a stimulus package, Joe, and I hope we can get it worked out and move ahead. Because you are right, it's not clear at all what's happening in the economy, whether we're coming out of it or not.

LIEBERMAN: Well, let's work together.

BLITZER: Senators, on that happy note, let's -- we have to leave it right there. Thanks to both of you for joining us. Senator Lieberman and Senator McConnell, always welcome on Late Edition. Appreciate it very much.

MCCONNELL: Thank you.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And when we return with control of the Congress very much at stake this election year, Washington is back to so-called partisan politics. Which party is winning over voters and why? We'll ask the new Republican Party chairman, Mark Racicot, and the Democratic Party chairman, Terry McAuliffe, when Late Edition continues.


BLITZER: A new CNN-Time magazine poll of registered voters shows that by a 47 percent to 43 percent margin, Americans prefer Democrats over Republicans when it comes to Congress. But when you factor in the margin of error that makes it roughly an even split.

Welcome back to Late Edition.

Joining us now in his first CNN interview since becoming the new Republican Party chairman, the former Montana Governor Marc Racicot; and in Farmington, Pennsylvania, at a Democratic Party retreat, the Democratic party chairman, Terry McAuliffe.

Gentleman, welcome to Late Edition.

Congratulations to you, Governor Racicot, for your new position. I guess I should say congratulations, although I'm sure it's going to be a tough assignment for you.

Let's begin with another number in the new CNN-Time magazine poll, Governor Racicot. Should Bush administration officials -- are they covering up information about Enron? And look at these numbers: 43 percent say yes; 39 percent say no; 18 percent are unsure.

But that seems like a pretty high number, 43 percent, that there may be a cover-up under way. That sounds serious.

MARC RACICOT, REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: Well, I think that all of us in America want to get to the bottom of this particular incident. We want to understand the facts precisely. That's certainly what the president has said. That is what Congress is doing. They have 11 different committees, if I'm not mistaken, making that inquiry.

And I think once all the facts and circumstances are known to the American public, then they can make a very considerate judgment. And that, I believe, is the most paramount (inaudible) just right at the moment.

BLITZER: What about the whole Enron situation, Terry McAuliffe? The fact that Democrats took a lot of money from Enron, and various Enron associates like Arthur Andersen, just as Republicans did.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: Well, Wolf, the issue, as you know, the Republicans took 70 times more money than Democrats did. Ken Lay was George Bush's biggest fund-raiser when he ran for president. The issue is not what they took, but what did Enron get. It seems now it is clear that what they got is an energy policy, 17 different specific proposals that helped Enron. They got a tax policy. As you know, Ken Lay called Mitch Daniels to lobby for a $254 (ph) million tax break. Now Karl Rove, it looks like, is getting a consultant services contracts for Republican operatives to help him on the campaign. And finally, you've got Ken Lay picking people to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, basically picking the people who are going to regulate them.

So the issue is, what did they get?

BLITZER: I was going to say let's let Governor Racicot respond to those four specific points.

MCAULIFFE: And I just want to say, the shareholders got nothing.

RACICOT: Well, the bottom line is that, with all due respect to the chairman of the Democrat Party, he has his facts wrong, which I'm learning is a fairly frequent kind of inclination on his part.

There has been absolutely no...

MCAULIFFE: Truth hurts.

RACICOT: ... evidence of any kind whatsoever to suggest any of the things that Mr. McAuliffe just suggested.

So, bottom line is, the president wants to understand all of the facts just as much as anyone else does. The administration does, and clearly Congress does. And I think that is what we ought to be focusing on.

So the good people -- you know, the politicization of this particular issue is a very, very serious thing to undertake and, I think, does an injustice to people, because people were hurt here by all of the circumstances that prevailed. And we need to get to the bottom of them and make certain that it doesn't happen again.

BLITZER: What specifically are you suggesting, Terry McAuliffe, that there was criminal wrongdoing on the part of Bush administration officials?

MCAULIFFE: Well, we don't know yet. It is not 11 committees; it's actually 12 committees -- the Justice Department, the Department of Labor. Right now we are doing a full investigation.

But listen, the New York Times had a front-page business section by Rick Berke the other day that talked about Karl Rove helping to get Mr. Reed a consulting contract.

MCAULIFFE: It is clear that Henry Waxman has done a report about the 17 different proposals that the Bush administration put in for their energy bill. It's clear, it was out in the papers the other day, what went on as it related to the energy task force. That's why we want the minutes out.

So we don't know. The problem is, we just to disclosure on a lot of these issues. The problem is, insiders took a billion dollars off the table. All these shareholders lost their 401s, saw them get wiped out. All these people lost their jobs.

So the people out there who are hurt the most are the small people, and once again the wealthy special interests got to take their money off the table, and that's what we need investigate.

But it's too early...

BLITZER: Let me let...

MCAULIFFE: There are a lot of committees.

BLITZER: Let's let Mr. Racicot, Governor Racicot respond to that.

RACICOT: Well, throwing mud in every different direction, as Mr. McAuliffe has just tried to do, just simply doesn't answer the cogent questions that need to be answered.

There is absolutely no information or evidence to suggest any of the things that Mr. McAuliffe just suggested.

BLITZER: Well, let's take one specific example. Karl Rove, the White House counselor, who was then a top political adviser to then- candidate George W. Bush, supposedly helping Ralph Reed, a Republican political consultant, get a job, get a consulting contract with Enron.

RACICOT: Wolf, he was asked for a recommendation, he was asked for a reference. How many times in the lives of virtually every American are you asked for a reference or a recommendation about a person's capacity, whether or not he can be competent in the job that's being contemplated for him or her? That's all that occurred in this particular incident.

And to try and paint this with the brush that Mr. McAuliffe has tried to paint it with is just simply -- it's not only unfair, the American people understand that -- but it's totally inaccurate and totally unjustified.

BLITZER: All right. Very briefly, what's your response to that, Terry McAuliffe?

MCAULIFFE: My response, let's have McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. If anything told us special interest money, the Bush White House, we need McCain-Feingold. And secondly, we need pension reform, we need it now.

BLITZER: All right. Stay tuned. We want to get to a lot more of this. We're just beginning this conversation. We still have another hour to go, the next hour, in fact, of Late Edition.

We'll check the hour's top stories right at the top of the hour. We'll be taking your phone calls for the chairmen of the Republican and the Democratic parties. And then we'll have some legal insight into the case of the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, the war detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and Enron, more on Enron.

We'll speak with two former presidential advisers. They'll offer their perspective, as well, on the U.S.-Palestinian relationship.

It's all ahead in the next hour of Late Edition.

And this additional programming note, we're happy to report that Inside Politics with Judy Woodruff will return tomorrow on CNN. That's at 4 p.m. Eastern, a full hour of important political news. Stay with us.


BLITZER: This is Late Edition, the last word in Sunday talk.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time for people to set aside who's going to benefit on the nightly news.


BLITZER: Partisan politics is back. Party chairmen Marc Racicot and Terry McAuliffe face off on the Bush presidency, the budget and the balance of power in 2002.


FRANK LINDH, FATHER OF JOHN WALKER LINDH: He never meant to harm any American, and he never did harm any American.


BLITZER: Was he a terrorist or a terrified young man? We'll ask our legal experts, Lanny Davis and Roy Black, about the Taliban American, the detainees and more.



BUSH: I am disappointed in Yasser Arafat.


BLITZER: Is time running out for the Palestinian leader? We'll get analysis from former national security advisors General Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

And Bruce Morton shares his verdict on boxing -- pure power or profit?


BLITZER: Welcome back.

We'll continue our conversation with the chairmen of the Democratic and Republican parties in just a few moments, but first, here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a quick check of this hour's news alert.


BLITZER: Now back to our discussion with the Republican Party chairman, Mark Racicot, and the Democratic Party chairman, Terry McAuliffe.

Governor Racicot, the comment that Karl Rove, the White House counselor, made on January 18 suggesting that the president, Republicans should use the war against terrorism, potentially, as an issue in the upcoming elections caused a lot of stir. I want you to listen precisely what Karl Rove said.


KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: You could also go to country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job.


BLITZER: Poll numbers may be backing that up, but is that politically wise to make such a blunt statement at a time when the president is trying to make this issue, the fight against terrorism, not a political issue?

RACICOT: Well, Karl was not trying to make it a political issue. There's a clear recognition that there's been bipartisan support for the president's efforts, in that people on both sides of the aisle recognize the extraordinary clarity of his leadership and the competence of his leadership throughout the course of this entire difficulty that's confronted the country and the planet.

What Karl was trying to say is this. First of all, he was speaking about the positive attributes of all of those who are engaged on the Republican side of the aisle.

RACICOT: He said this is an instance where we have demonstrated that we can work with both sides of the aisle, and where we can do things in a competent fashion that meet the expectations of the people of this country.

And what he was also trying to point out is that this incident, although it is incredibly tragic and all of us would have sought to avoid it, demonstrates to the American people universally, if they did not have the chance to recognize before the competence and capacity of this president to lead, that's what he was talking about.

Naturally, they're going to take into consideration, the American people, when they make a judgment about which group of people, or which individual, they're going to invest their confidence in.

BLITZER: Terry McAuliffe, do you accept that explanation?

MCAULIFFE: Listen, there's no room in politics for what Karl Rove said. Listen, however it's said, if people interpret it the way they did, it's not allowed in politics today. I begin every speech praising the president for fighting the war on terrorism around the world.

Listen, I grew up listening to my father as a captain in the army leading the troops off the amphibious assault vehicles in Okinawa and Saipan. Our military is there fighting for all of us. And I want to thank the men and women around the world that are right now fighting to protect our freedoms.

So Karl Rove should be careful what he says, they could be misinterpreted. But whatever it is, there's no room for it. We are unified. The Democrats have stood with this president 100 percent. That's why we're the great country we are today.

BLITZER: Terry McAuliffe, that new CNN-Time magazine poll that was released on Friday, shows, if the elections were right now, President Bush would be reelected rather easily. Look at these numbers: Very likely if you're support Bush in his reelection, 40 percent; somewhat likely, 23 percent.

You add those two numbers, 63 percent are either very likely or somewhat likely that they would support Bush. That would be a landslide, as opposed to the election in 2000.

MCAULIFFE: Well, first of all, Wolf, the election's not till 2004. As you know, I'm very bullish, I'm very excited about the Democrats' prospect.

But you've got to remember, in 2001, last year, when the president had a 90 percent approval rating, we won 39 of 42 mayors' races all across this country, we won both governorships, we won the suburban vote, we won the rural vote. Tom Swazi (ph) elected county executive in Nassau County. The last time we controlled that government was World War I.

We talked about kitchen-table issues, we talked about issues that matter to American families.

So, you know, we beat expectations in 2001, and we're going to do great in 2002. I'll let 2004 take care of itself. I'm worried about 2002. We've got great candidates running, we've got a great message, but we won big in 2001 because we focused on American families.

BLITZER: Governor Racicot, another number in the CNN-Time magazine poll may be a source of concern to you and other Republicans. The people were asked: Does President Bush care more about big business? 51 percent said big business -- or people like you, only 39 percent.

It seems like there's this perception out there that he cares more about big business than average people.

RACICOT: Actually, I think you did a poll before that, some period of time ago, a year ago, where that number was actually higher.

I think it's also a reflection, both that particular statistic and the mention that Chairman McAuliffe made before about the comments of Karl Rove, about Washington creating or contributing to the creation of stereotypical assumptions that just don't exist across the country.

I mean, the fact of the matter is, when he talks about Karl Rove's comments, he's trying to manufacture something there where there was nothing there to begin with.

When you talk about the numbers about whether or not the president cares about this group or another group over another, the fact is that sometimes there are efforts to try and create those presumptions rather than to face the reality.

So the numbers actually moved down, and I think what the American people are learning about this president is that he cares deeply about every American, regardless of race, creed, color, occupation or any other circumstance or classification. And I think that that's what they're learning over the course of time.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Virginia.

Go ahead with your question, please.

CALLER: Yes, for Mr. McAuliffe. Will this investigation into Enron by the Democratic Party have any adverse consequences for the party? MCAULIFFE: As I spoke about earlier, I think the Enron investigation, it's going to bring out that we need pension reform in this country, that we need McCain-Feingold finance campaign reform, which the Democrats support.

We are actively out there supporting. I ask my counterpart, Chairman Racicot, to join with me, let's bring about this legislation.

But I think what's going to occur at the end of the Enron investigation is, we've got to clean up the system. Special interests have too much access to power. We'll have pension reform in this country, and McCain-Feingold will be passed. And what that does, it gets special interests money out of politics, and you take it back to the grass roots. And when we take it back to the grass roots, everybody benefits -- Democrats, Republicans, independents and everybody.

BLITZER: Let's take another caller from California.

Go ahead, please, with your question.

CALLER: Good morning, Wolf. I'd like to know if either of them believe, will the Florida election have any effect on -- the past Florida election have effect on the upcoming election?

BLITZER: The elections in 2002.

What do you think about that, Governor Racicot? You played an intimate role down there in Florida after the contested ballots.

RACICOT: Well, in terms of election reform, it already has had significant impact.

Obviously, in state of Florida there have been extraordinarily significant measures that have been put in place to make certain that that can't repeat itself again, in terms of having appropriate technology and procedures available to prevent it.

In terms of addressing that on a national scale, it's a difficult question, because you don't control each individual state in every respect, so as a consequence some of that discretion has to be left to the individual states.

But there is, as you know, presently pending legislation before Congress to make resources available to the individual states so that they can move in that direction as well.

BLITZER: Terry McAuliffe, which Republican senators, incumbents who are up for reelection in November of this year are on your hit list, most specifically?

MCAULIFFE: Oh, I'm just -- yes, in the Senate, I'm very excited. I think we have great opportunities in New Hampshire, for Jeannie Shaheen (ph) to be the senator there. Mark Prior (ph) down in Arkansas has a great race going on there; he's several points up. And I think Tom Strickland (ph) is going to be our next senator from Colorado. I think those are our three great prospects out.

I'm very bullish on North Carolina as well. Alec Sanders (ph) in South Carolina I think is going to win in there. So...

BLITZER: Wait a minute. On North Carolina, you think that Elizabeth Dole has a chance of being defeated in North Carolina?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I do. We have three or four great candidates running in the primary today.

You know, I don't think that she particularly is the greatest campaigner, and I think, once we get down to the kitchen-table issues as we get to the general election, that we'll have a great opportunity in North Carolina and South Carolina.

And, as you know, Wolf, we now control eight of the 13 Southern governors. Now, with Mark Warner's win, you can get in your car and go from the Mississippi Delta all the way to the Statue of Liberty, and you only hit Democratic governors.

The reason is, our Democratic candidates are running on issues that matter to working families: job creation, economic stimulus, protecting Social Security. And they want a prescription drug benefit, which is the Democratic platform.

BLITZER: What about that, Governor Racicot? Which Democrats, incumbent Democratic senators do you believe are most vulnerable to Republicans?

RACICOT: Well, we think that we have a very, very significant opportunity in a number of different states. But obviously our candidates we believe in Minnesota, in Missouri, Louisiana, South Dakota, that those are races that we need to keep a special focus and an eye on. But all of those races are going to be critically important to us, so we'll be working hard on all of them.

And of course, when the chairman mentions kitchen-table issues, being interested in an economic stimulus package, it would be my great hope that he might be able to carry that message even further beyond the confines of this conversation and discussion today to those who work with him in the Democrat Party.

BLITZER: Sounds like there's going to be some exciting congressional, some exciting races out there.

Terry McAuliffe, did you want to add one last word? We only have a few seconds left.

MCAULIFFE: Wolf, thank Chairman Racicot, I've already talked to our great leader, Tom Daschle. He has an economic stimulus package which he'll take to the vote on Tuesday.

We have agreement on extending the unemployment benefits from 26 to 39 weeks; we've added 13 weeks. New depreciation schedule we've agreed on. And getting $300 into the hands of people who didn't get it before. We can pass it this week. I ask the Republicans to join Tom Daschle. Let's get it done. We'll get money in the hands of the people who need it most to get them back on their feet.

BLITZER: All right. A last-minute plug from Terry McAuliffe for Senator Daschle.

Thanks, Terry McAuliffe, Governor Racicot, appreciate both of you. We hope you'll be frequent guests during the course of this congressional election year.

And just ahead...


JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The terrorists didn't compel John Walker to join with them. John Walker chose terrorists.


BLITZER: The Taliban American, John Walker Lindh, returns to the United States to face criminal charges. We'll sort out the legal challenges of this case with Lanny Davis and Roy Black when Late Edition returns.



LINDH: John loves America. We love America. John did not do anything against America.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The father of Taliban American, John Walker Lindh, defending his son who appeared in a federal court this past week.

Welcome back to Late Edition.

Joining us now from Miami to help us wade through all these legal issues, the famed criminal defense attorney Roy Black, and here in Washington, the former White House special counsel Lanny Davis.

Gentlemen, welcome back to Late Edition.

And, Roy Black, let me begin with you, a comment that John Walker Lindh's attorney, James Brosnahan, made this week outside that federal courthouse in Northern Virginia. Listen to this.


JAMES BROSNAHAN, JOHN WALKER LINDH'S ATTORNEY: He began requesting a lawyer almost immediately, which would have been December 2 or 3. For 54 days, he was held in communicado.


BLITZER: As you know, the Bush administration, the Justice Department, the attorney general, maintain that he waived his right to an attorney -- did so in writing.

Is that waiver going to hold, as the course of this legal proceeding continues?

ROY BLACK, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Wolf, that's a complicated question. It'll take me a minute to explain this.

On December 2 or 3, Walker is being held by the United States Army. He could request a lawyer then but he's not entitled to one. If he's being interrogated for intelligence purposes or military purposes, he has no right to a lawyer. That right only comes into existence when he's being interrogated for law enforcement purposes.

When the FBI shows up on December 9 and 10, he does have the right to a lawyer.

Now the question is: Does his earlier invocation of his right to a lawyer still stand true on the 9th? If it does, then the waiver that he signed is a nullity, because if you request a lawyer, the agents can't talk you out of it and have you sign a piece of paper.

This is something that a federal judge is going to have to sort out in a very long and tedious hearing in court.

BLITZER: I want Lanny Davis to listen to what the attorney general, John Ashcroft, said on this specific issue. Lanny Davis, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ASHCROFT: John Walker chose to join terrorists who wanted to kill Americans, and he chose to waive his right to an attorney, both orally and in writing, before his statement to the FBI. Mr. Walker will be held responsible in the courtroom for his choices.

BLITZER: The key question before a judge, presumably, will be, did he have appropriate state of mind to go ahead and waive that right to an attorney?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: And this is a clear factual issue there, but there's an excellent judge in Northern Virginia, one of the best district court judges in the country, who's going to hear the facts and decide whether or not he acted voluntarily and with a mind that had the appropriate intent.

I also think that it's going to be real tough, as a test for our system, to presume this man innocent until proven guilty, but that is our system.

Having said that, the one thing that we know that, I'm sorry to say -- although I appreciate the father's love -- that we know is a fact, is he fought with the Taliban. He knew the Taliban were fighting against Americans. Those are two indisputable facts that are going to be difficult for him in a criminal trial to then -- his lawyer will have to try to explain why that doesn't lead to some knowledge as part of a conspiracy to injure the United States.

BLITZER: Roy Black, you've studied the case. Are those indisputable, those two facts that Lanny Davis just mentioned?

BLACK: Well, it's interesting because what Lanny said, I think, sets forth the problem. Almost all Americans believe there are certain indisputable facts about the case. But how then could you presume somebody innocent, as the system says, when everybody has already made judgments about the facts?

And quite frankly, I don't see how this young man is really going to get an impartial jury, particularly in the Eastern district of Virginia, where the courthouse is five miles from the Pentagon. I find that hard to believe.

BLITZER: And there's been a lot of public comments, Lanny Davis. Former President George Bush, the father of the current president, had this comment only this past week. Listen to this.


GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm on the side of Secretary Rumsfeld and the president, and I am not on the side of this poor, misguided, Marin County hot-tubber. I am not on his side.



BLITZER: Now, with all those kinds of comments -- you laugh, but...

DAVIS: I love President Bush.

BLITZER: ... can there be a fair trial, a jury that could come in and take a close, impartial look at the facts?

DAVIS: My friend Roy Black is a defense lawyer and has more skepticism about jurors being able to put aside publicity and be fair, but I still believe in the system. I believe you can have jurors, even with those kinds of comments, who put aside the comments, look at the evidence in front of them.

DAVIS: I do believe that we all saw Mr. Walker side by side with the Taliban. That is a fact. And I do believe that it is fair to say that Mr. Walker knew what the Taliban -- and who they were fighting against.

Whether he is criminally guilty of these charges is up to the lawyers and the jurors to argue about it.

BLITZER: Roy Black, some legal analysts have suggested to me, this is a case that cries out for a plea bargain, a plea agreement to avoid a trial, that both sides would have a lot of interest in avoiding a full-scale trial, let there be reduced charges and end it once and for all with a plea agreement. What do you think about that?

BLACK: Well, I think it's certainly in Walker's best interests to enter into some type of a plea agreement here.

On the other hand, remember, it takes two to enter into this contract, and that is what it is, a contract. I'm not so sure that the United States Attorney's Office or Attorney General Ashcroft are rushing in to make a plea agreement. I think that they want to use this trial to show, you know, their outrage over his conduct.

I think it certainly furthers, I hate to say this, but the political ambitions of people in the administration to go ahead with a trial here.

So, I don't think the government is going to be particularly motivated to give this man a plea agreement.

BLITZER: And to back that up, Lanny Davis, there is a lot of speculation out there that the government wants to increase the charges against John Walker Lindh in order to present the case presumably that he might be eligible for the death penalty as opposed to life in prison.

DAVIS: Again, I speak with great caution. Someone's about to be criminally prosecuted.

But it does seem to me that there is an overwhelming case here that Mr. Walker knowingly participated with enemies of America in a war that could have cost American soldiers their lives, and that that is a very tough case to be defended against. And I hope that both Mr. Ashcroft and everybody else refrains from public comments now. Let this system operate. We have a great judge over there. I think we will have a jury that will put aside the extra court statements and look at the evidence. And that is what every American should want.

BLITZER: All right. We are going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about when we return. We'll get Lanny Davis and Roy Black to talk about the case of the war detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba. They will also be taking your phone calls.

Late Edition will continue right after this.



DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: To be in a 8x8 cell in beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not inhumane treatment.


BLITZER: U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld commenting on concerns about the treatment of war detainees at the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

We're continuing our conversation with the criminal defense attorney Roy Black and former White House special counsel Lanny Davis.

What's your take, Lanny Davis, on this issue of, should they be classified as POWs, prisoners of war, those detainees, or should they be unlawful combatants, as the administration says?

DAVIS: I think they're unlawful combatants. They didn't wear uniforms. They believe in killing innocent civilians; at least presumptively anybody who is treated as an Al Qaeda suspect is suspected of that.

I think they should be treated under the basic safeguards of the international humane rights treaties of war just because we are human beings that care about that.

But I'm very -- have very little sympathy for the folks that are now claiming that there should be human rights considerations when I didn't hear those very same people about the way the Taliban treated women, about the way they treated their own people. So I'm not that sympathetic.

BLITZER: Are you sympathetic at all to this notion they should be treated as POWs formally, legally, in that sense of the word, given the importance of the international conventions, the Geneva Conventions, Rob Black?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, the only thing I have sympathy for is following the law. Over 150 years we entered into a series of treaties that Geneva and The Hague which bind us to certain conditions, particularly the 1948 Geneva Convention.

And what it says is that there is a presumption that when people are taken into custody like this, they should be treated as POWs. However, if you have a hearing or proceeding to determine they're not entitled to that, you can treat them as, you know, detainees or something.

We have not gone through that procedure, so I think that has to be done.

Secondly, remember we may set a precedent here. How we treat other people may be how they treat our people. And if you remember in the Gulf War, there was a young lady who was a helicopter pilot who was captured by the Iraqis. Imagine if we saw her with her hands behind her, with these black goggles in a chain-link fence, kneeling on the ground, we would be outraged over that. So we have to remember, you know, we're going to be treated the same way.

DAVIS: But wait a second, Roy. The analogy is really inept. We had uniforms. We were part of the rules of war that are part of the treaties that govern POWs. These individuals who operated without uniforms, who deliberately killed civilians, which are contrary to the rules of war, can't be compared to anybody in our military uniform how's captured.

I'm not saying that I disagree with you that there needs to be clear hearings and findings of fact, that they should not be subject to the rules of war, but they're presumptively not POWs, given the way they operated.

BLACK: Yes, but, Lanny, you may remember in World War II a lot of the Japanese claimed they were not bound by these conventions. They put Americans on the Bataan Death March and some of the worst treatment you've ever seen.

So I think in order to preserve ourselves in future combat, we have to be very careful how we treat these people, not because we're sympathetic, but because, you know, the law, do onto others as you want to have them do onto you.

BLITZER: And the whole issue, Lanny Davis, of uniforms is a sensitive issue because, as you know, there are plenty of CIA operatives running around Afghanistan right now. Mike Spann was not wearing a uniform, he was killed at Mazar-i-Sharif.

If it's only a matter of a uniform, wouldn't you want those other U.S. officials, whether representing the CIA or special forces, not in uniform to have those protections?

DAVIS: Well first of all, I made the distinction, everybody should be treated like a human being and should not be victimized by inhumane treatment under whether it's the rules of war or just human basic decency. So we should treat these individuals and give them shelter, give the food and treat them humanely.

But if it's a CIA agent who's not wearing a uniform, he is at risk and he's not subject to these protections. But at least it can be said he didn't have a deliberate policy of killing and murdering civilians, which is what Al Qaeda detainees were part of. So those two things, the absence of a uniform and the murderous quality of their objective, leaves me with very little sympathy for them.

And it's not a precedent, Roy, for any American military officer who is taken by Saddam Hussein or anybody else.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to leave it right there.

BLACK: But, Lanny, why do we who -- why are we so proud of our American legal system, we're so proud of our democracy and justice in this country, why are we so afraid to follow our own laws? That's what I don't understand.

BLITZER: Well, I'll tell you what the answer I've heard to that, Roy Black, from the top people in the Bush administration. If they were formally classified as POWs, those individuals, those detainees would only have to give their name, rank and serial number. And there's a widespread suspicion that those detainees have information about future terrorist attacks against the United States. They want to interrogate them, and, as a result, they're reluctant, they're refusing to call them POWs.

On that note, let's just leave it right there. We have a lot more to talk about. We're going to take another quick break.

Enron, we're going to talk about that with Lanny Davis and Roy Black, and the possible legal fallout from the collapse of that corporation. Stay with us. More phone calls, as well.



ATTORNEY FOR ARTHUR ANDERSEN: We know that we did what we thought was right, and we're trying to do what we think is right now, and that's all we can do.


BLITZER: The attorney for Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm at the center of the Enron investigation.

Welcome back to Late Edition.

We're talking about the possible legal fallout from the Enron collapse with criminal defense attorney Roy Black and the former White House special counsel Lanny Davis.

Since last week, Lanny Davis, do you think the White House heard your message -- get the worst information out quickly and do it yourself?

DAVIS: I think they're trying to do that, but they still have this hangup over the Dick Cheney guest list on the energy task force. I believe they're right in defending the constitutional principle. We defended it in the Clinton White House. It would be inconsistent if I said that Congress has a right to know of everybody a White House meets with and what they talk about. There's a separation-of-powers principle.

But post-Enron, the constitutional principle must give way to the political principle that, when there is this kind of controversy, you must release the names. Otherwise, you look like you're hiding something. And that is my advice to them.

BLITZER: You accept that advice, Roy Black?

BLACK: Well, you know, the problem here is that, in a couple of years, Ken Starr eviscerated the attorney-client privilege and executive privilege, as it applies to president and his men. And I think now this administration is going to suffer because of what happened in the last administration.

I don't think that they can decline to give any information after these various court rulings.

BLITZER: But isn't this a case that normally, under old rules of the game here in Washington, Roy Black, that simply cries out for an independent counsel coming in and taking a look at all of these contacts?


BLACK: Well, I'm amazed that you even that say, Wolf. Nobody is going to agree to an independent counsel ever again in the history of this republic.

DAVIS: And even we Democrats shudder at the thought we go down that road.

And I must say that I believe the GAO suing the White House is going to be face to face, despite the damage done by the Ken Starr initiatives, with the principle of separation of powers. And there really is a role for an executive privilege assertion here.

But again, I say to whoever in the White House is defending constitutional principles, if you look like you're hiding something, at some point in time -- I don't know when -- the political pressures are going to build and you're going to have to release those names. So do it early, rather than do it late.

BLITZER: Well, the point that some have made, Roy Black, is that John Ashcroft, the attorney general, has recused himself because of the campaign contributions he received from Enron when he was running for the U.S. Senate.

But can the Ashcroft Justice Department effectively investigate this entire collapse?

BLACK: Oh, I think so, Wolf. The mere fact that the attorney general recused himself I don't think affects the lower levels of the Department of Justice. They have career professionals there who have tremendous amount of experience and skill, who can look into this and examine it.

And there may be some people who say there's a conflict of interest, but those of us who deal with the Department of Justice on a daily basis can tell you, you can put a lot of faith into those career prosecutors that they're not affected by John Ashcroft's connection with Enron.

BLITZER: Lanny Davis, just as many Republicans were hurt by the Ken Starr investigation, politically -- it looked like they were going after information that they really should leave alone on the sideline -- do you think Democrats potentially could have that same problem right now, if they push too hard on this Enron investigation?

DAVIS: Well, my analogy is a former U.S. Senator named Al D'Amato, who thought he'd win political points by doing Whitewater. Whitewater turned out to be a big zero. The Clintons never had any semblance of evidence of wrongdoing. He got into political trouble because he went too far.

And so, I warn my fellow Democrats, stay with the facts, stay with the issues that the American people care about, which is more public disclosure and accountability and transparency in the public marketplace. That's really where the effort should be.

And all this innuendo about the Bush White House and quid pro quos and campaign donations, I don't think that's where we ought to go.

BLITZER: All right. Roy Black, thank you very much. Lanny Davis, thank you very much. Always good to have both of you on the program. We always appreciate some good legal insight.

BLACK: Thank you, Wolf.

DAVIS: Thank you.

BLITZER: And the Enron controversy dominated most of your e-mail this past week.

Cliff, for example, of California asked us this: "Will justice be a victim of politics? I can't imagine a case that calls for an independent counsel or a special prosecutor more than this one does."

Hear that, Roy Black?

And Lawrence of Missouri writes this: "I sincerely hope that no one is suggesting that Enron and Andersen are atypical when it comes to engaging in creative accounting."

As always, I invite you to e-mail your comments to me at

And just ahead, as violence continues to escalate in the Middle East, is it time for the United States to re-think its policy toward Yasser Arafat? We'll get perspective from former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski when Late Edition continues.



COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: He knows what is expected of the Palestinian Authority and of him as the leader of that authority.


BLITZER: The Secretary of State Colin Powell commenting on the Palestinian and Chairman Yasser Arafat's anti-terrorism efforts in the Middle East.

Welcome back to Late Edition.

The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been widely criticized for what many believe at best is his ineffectiveness in controlling Palestinian terrorists. Is it time for the United States to stop negotiating with Arafat?

Joining us now, two very distinguished former U.S. national security advisors: General Brent Scowcroft was the national security advisor during the Ford and first Bush administrations; and Zbigniew Brzezinski was the national security advisor under former President Jimmy Carter.

Gentlemen, always good to have you on this program. Thanks very much for joining us.

Well, let's get right to it. Is it time, as some even in Bush administration are now recommending, for the president to end the relationship with Yasser Arafat?

GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: One has to look at questions like that in terms of strategy. What are we trying to do? Where are we trying to go? And I don't see that -- whatever Arafat's strengths or shortcomings are, I don't see that as a part of a strategy.

If it is because he is ineffective in controlling terrorism on the West Bank, is there someone better? And to me, until you figure out where you are going, getting rid of him seems to be counterproductive.

BLITZER: Is there a strategy that you see developing in the Bush administration, as far as the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I think we are trying to do more of the same. Basically small steps, occasional cease-fires, which usually break down, and pressures to resume discussions after cease-fire is reestablished. I think the basic problem is the United States is unwilling to articulate a clear vision of a peace settlement to which the positive, moderate elements on both sides can relate.

BLITZER: But didn't the secretary state of do that in Louisville a few weeks ago when he spoke about Palestine alongside Israel?

BRZEZINSKI: In very general terms. But there are a number of issues on which there is, in fact, some consensus between the parties. And there are a number of issues which have not yet been resolved, and which probably they cannot resolve themselves.

BLITZER: Your bottom line, Dr. Brzezinski -- excuse me for interrupting. Your bottom line is it's not time or it is time to sever the relationship with Arafat?

SCOWCROFT: I think severing the relationship with Arafat would help the extremists, both among the Palestinians and among the Israelis, and would make things much worse.

BLITZER: Is there an alternative to Yasser Arafat among the Palestinians?

SCOWCROFT: There isn't one that one can identify by name. You know if you get rid of Arafat, there are three alternatives: One is someone more compliant, in which case he'd probably be assassinated within a month; somebody from Hamas or Islamic Jihad, which will be much worse; or, even worse than that, nobody. So there is nobody over there to talk to.

BLITZER: But, you know, the point that some of the administration are making -- and we have heard our reporters say that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, even the Vice President Dick Cheney, as opposed to Colin Powell, the secretary of state -- they are making the point to the president, you have to be consistent.

If the United States says "You are either with the United States or against the United States in the war on terrorism," if Arafat is allowing terrorists to operate against Israel, he is against the United States.

SCOWCROFT: He is in a very difficult position.

BLITZER: Who is he?

SCOWCROFT: Arafat, Arafat. He has incomplete control over this unruly mess in the West Bank.

In the meantime, we are undercutting his authority. Sharon is doing everything he can to undercut his authority. We bombed his police stations, which are the people he needs to get -- and yet we say he has to control terror. We are not operating as a part of a concerted strategy.

BLITZER: Do you believe he could control the situation, Arafat, with his own security services if he wanted to? BRZEZINSKI: The situation can never be perfect. But if he was given the opportunity to move forward, because there was some movement forward on peace process, he would be in better position to do so.

Right now, in effect, when we are saying to him, is, be a policeman for Sharon, irrespective of what Sharon does, irrespective of what resources Arafat is allowed to exercise.

So, he's besieged, isolated in his compound, his forces are being pulverized. In the meantime, settlements are continuing, targeted assassinations are taking place, and there is violence by both sides.

I think an effort simply to browbeat him into becoming a policeman for Sharon is doomed to failure.

BLITZER: At time same, though, you heard the vice president say earlier today on some of the Sunday morning talk shows that he doesn't believe Arafat when Arafat says he knew nothing about that 50 tons of weaponry that the Israelis intercepted coming from Iran that was supposedly destined for Palestinian Authority.

SCOWCROFT: It would not be the first time that Arafat has not told the truth.

But look, the question is not Arafat's personality, his veracity, his integrity, it is trying to get a process started. And it seems to me, you've got to give -- put yourself in Arafat's position. He has to go back to his people he is trying control and say, "You have to stop this because." Because what? Because Sharon says so? Or because he's being offered something like, for example, Sharon pulling his forces back out of all the Oslo territories simultaneously. Give him something.

BLITZER: Well, the argument that has been made not only by the Israelis, but by the former Clinton administration, including the former president himself, Bill Clinton, he was given that opportunity at Camp David in summer of 2000 and he squandered it, when Ehud Barak, who was the prime minister of Israel, made some far-reaching concessions on the West Bank, including Jerusalem.

SCOWCROFT: Well, there are many different interpretations of that. I think to me, one of the problems of that was, this was final settlement. Those were in terms of final settlement. I don't think Arafat thinks he can sign a final settlement. Anything is possible as an interim settlement. But to sign off, for example on Jerusalem, A, B, C, D, I don't think he can do it.

BLITZER: Did he miss an opportunity at that Camp David II? You were at Camp David I in 1978. I remember covering that. But did Arafat miss a golden opportunity at Camp David II?

BRZEZINSKI: Camp David I involved sustained American efforts to press both sides toward a vision and a concept of peace. That has not been the case lately.

There is no doubt that Barak's offer was the best Israeli offer ever, but better than other Israeli offers not quite yet sufficient for settlement. I think Arafat made the mistake of simply saying no. He should have made counter-proposals, and the negotiating process should have been kept afloat.

But that is not a reason for getting rid of him. Sharon has been against that peace process for 10 years. If we were to apply the same standard, we should be demanding that Sharon steps aside. We can't do it. He is a democratically elected leader, and I think we don't have really a viable, profitable, positive alternative to Arafat.

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

Our conversation with the former national security advisors Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski will continue. We'll also be taking your phone calls.

Late Edition will be right back.


BLITZER: The leader of Afghanistan's interim government, Hamid Karzai, will be my guest tomorrow on Wolf Blitzer Reports. You can see that interview Monday, tomorrow, 5 p.m. Eastern, 2 Pacific.

And we're continuing our conversation right now with the former Ford and Bush national security advisor General Brent Scowcroft, and the former Carter national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Dr. Brzezinski, one specific piece of advice for you to the current Bush administration, what to do now to try to slow down the deterioration in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

BRZEZINSKI: Be bold. Move forward. Articulate a comprehensive and reasonably concrete concept of peace, building on Colin Powell's speech, on the president's comments to the U.N., on the U.N. resolutions, on the Barak proposals, and the Taba (ph) negotiations.

Be explicit, so both sides have some concept of what the alternative to war is, because, right now, both sides are assuming the worst about each other and about the future and even about the United States.

BLITZER: Should the president dispatch General Anthony Zinni, his special Middle East envoy, back to the region right now?

SCOWCROFT: Not with the same instructions he's had before.

I think -- I would be more limited than Zbig.

The two sides cannot solve this by themselves. It would require one or the other to back down and be humiliated. Only the United States can. So we do have to be bold.

But I would be bold in getting the fighting stopped. Propose a plan so each one stops the fighting because they have a rationale for doing it for their own followers, and then move on to something more dramatic.

BLITZER: You may not have seen Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, on this program earlier, but he said, as far as U.S.- Saudi relations are concerned, the administration is planning on taking steps to reduce what he called "the U.S. footprint in Saudi Arabia," responding to Saudi requests to remove that -- to reduce that U.S. military presence there. What do you think about that?

BRZEZINSKI: If we're not planning to go into a major military action against Iraq, which would require major air- and ground-based effort, that probably makes sense, because there's no doubt that the American presence in Saudi Arabia has provided ammunition for the fanatics.

BLITZER: Do you think that would be a useful purpose, to lower the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia?

SCROWCROFT: This issue has gotten very, very confused. There were first threats by members of Congress that we should pull our troops out of Saudi Arabia.

BLITZER: Because of the way U.S. military personnel are treated off base, especially women.

SCOWCROFT: That's right. The premise being that they're there as a concession to the Saudis. Those troops, they're almost all Air Force, they're not troops, in the sense of ground forces, they are there because of Iraq, not because of Saudi -- not to defend Saudi Arabia, but to patrol the no-fly zones in Iraq.

Can they be reduced? I suspect so. I suspect we don't have to fly as many flights as we have.

But that is the issue. And, so far as I know, the Saudis have never requested that we stop those patrols.

BLITZER: Just lower the presence.

You know, I'm going to be interviewing Hamid Karzai, the new Afghan interim leader. He's here in Washington right now, will be meeting with President Bush tomorrow.

What do you make of this new leader? Does he have the capability of disarming the various warlords in Afghanistan and bringing some semblance of peace and quiet to that war-torn country?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, the keyword is "capability," and I doubt very much that at this stage he has the capability. After all, the military capability required to do anything of this sort is not in his hands. It's largely in the hands of his colleagues from the Northern Alliance, who aren't particularly happy about his being selected as the chief.

In time, with increased international presence, with international economic assistance, assuming he performs well, I think his leverage will increase.

But it will still have to be a consensual process. It's probably going to be very difficult. Fragmentation and internal conflict probably will continue for quite some time to come.

BLITZER: Is he the historic figure that can make a real difference, as far as the future of Afghanistan is concerned?

SCOWCROFT: If he can stop the bitter fighting, which has lasted now for a couple of decades, yes. But he has to move very, very slowly.

Afghanistan has never been a centrally controlled state. So what he has to do to be a success is simply calm the competition among the various tribal and ethnic groups, to the point that they can get along with each other in a minimal fashion and stop fighting each other. If he can do that, yes, then he is a transforming figure.

BLITZER: What should the Bush administration be doing when it meets with Hamid Karzai tomorrow? What should the president tell him?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, in addition to the obvious things about humanitarian aid and support, I think we should indicate to him that, if it's necessary, the U.S. would participate in the peacekeeping force. Because the peacekeeping force by itself is too weak. It's not big enough...

BLITZER: The British are in charge of it.

BRZEZINSKI: Yes, it's only going to be about 4,000 to 5,000 men. The most recent estimates by informed people are that perhaps as much as 30,000 would be needed. Without U.S. presence, that force will be very vulnerable, if there should be any significant resumption of internal strife.

BLITZER: On that note, I'm going to thank you very much, Dr. Brzezinski, General Scowcroft. Always good have you on the program.

SCOWCROFT: Nice to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

For our international viewers, World News is next.

For our North American audience, the next hour of Late Edition. Three presidential historians offer their perspective on President Bush's first year in office, the expectations for his State of the Union address and the challenges he'll face as a wartime president.

Then, our Final Round, and our panel will weigh in on the big stories of the week.

It's all ahead when Late Edition continues.

But first, Bruce Morton shares some thoughts on pro boxing's latest black eye. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There they go again. Mike Tyson swings, Lennox Lewis swings, everybody goes down.

Later Tyson has a cut. Lewis' people say Tyson bit their guy on the leg. Well, why not? He's had practice. Fighting champion Evander Holyfield in 1997, Tyson bit off a chunk of Holyfield's right ear in the third round.


EVANDER HOLYFIELD: Yes, he bit my ear.


MORTON: He was disqualified and fined $3 million, but only after, a little later, he bit Holyfield's left ear, too. One wasn't enough.


HOLYFIELD: People call me the real meal now, and...



MORTON: So what was all the biting and gouging this past week? A publicity stunt, a nutcase on display?

When one reporter yelled...


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Put him in a straitjacket.


MORTON: "Put him in a straitjacket," Tyson replied with a burst of profanity.


MIKE TYSON: ... scared of the real man. I'll [bleep] you til you love me [bleep].


MORTON: But was it such a bad idea?

Tyson broke a bone in his hand in a street fight with a fellow pro prize fighter; was convicted of rape and served prison time; had to be restrained by his bodyguards in a minor traffic accident as he went after the other driver; pled guilty to misdemeanor assault. And the beat goes on. And professional boxing in general often these days seems bizarre, phony, more like professional wrestling than a sport.

Heavyweight champions used to be a big deal, and some of them, most recently Mohammed Ali, were good men, good fighters, good showmen, good for the sport. Remember? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

(UNKNOWN): If he proves to me he's the real champion of the world, this will be his belt.

(UNKNOWN): They jabbing me, hooking me, uppercutting with lefts and rights. They just keep going on and ...


(UNKNOWN): Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

Rumble, young man, rumble.


MORTON: George Foreman, before the grill and the mufflers, Joe Frazier were serious professionals. Who do you remember with any pleasure or admiration since?

And how many of the fights do you think are fixed? All of you who said "None, never" can stand in that closet over there.

The sport, if that's what it is, has seen way more than its fair share of gangsters and con men and other crooks.

And then there's the older question, do we really want a sport in which the only object is to hurt the other guy, knock him down, make him bleed?

Cockfighting is illegal in most places. So are dog fights, though some are undoubtedly held each year. Bear-baiting went out of style some time ago.

Nothing wrong with the Golden Gloves or the Olympics, but pro boxing, the high-rollers scooping it up in Scam City, should it end?

Well, it won't any time soon, and the Nevada Boxing Commission rules on whether to go ahead with Lennox-Tyson this coming Tuesday. It could make millions, they say.

I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Next Sunday is Super Sunday on Late Edition. Before the big game, I'll talk with a former Super Bowl champion. I'll interview former NFL quarterback and most valuable player Joe Theisman.

So before you turn on the game, watch Late Edition at noon Eastern.


BLITZER: This is Late Edition, the last word in Sunday talk.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I enter into the Oval Office, and the first thing I look at is potential threats to the United States.


BLITZER: A presidency and a nation are changed by a single day. We'll ask three historians for a progress report on President Bush's first year in office as he prepares to deliver his State of the Union address.

Then some fast-paced Sunday talk from our Final Round.


MALVEAUX: The attorney general sets a horrible example when he just says he won't.

GEORGE: There are too many Democrats who are too deep in this.

BEINART: The Democrats' problem is they can't get their act together.

GOLDBERG: I'm shocked, simply shocked that the United States may be spying on China.


BLITZER: Late Edition's Final Round. You've got questions, they've got answers.

Welcome back. We'll get to our guests in just a moment, but first, here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a quick check of this hour's top stories.


BLITZER: The war on terrorism will be a key theme of President Bush's first State of the Union address Tuesday night.

For some insight into the president's first year in office and what he faces ahead are three long-time presidential observers. Joining us from New York, the presidential biographer, Richard Reeves. His latest book is entitled, "President Nixon, Alone in the White House." In New Orleans, the presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. He's the author of the book, "The Unfinished Presidency, Jimmy Carter's journey beyond the White House." And here in Washington, D.C., Time Magazine contributing writer Hugh Sidey. His latest book is, "Hugh Sidey's Profiles of the Presidents, from FDR to Clinton." Gentlemen, welcome to Late Edition.

Hugh Sidey, let me begin with you. What does President Bush have to do in his State of the Union address Tuesday night?

HUGH SIDEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: He has to keep the war spirit going, basically. If we're going to continue this war on terrorism he has to keep people engaged, the American people on edge realizing how tough it is and keep them there.

BLITZER: How does he do that?

SIDEY: Well, that's going to be up him. We'll have to find out about it.

You do that -- look, the State of the Union, Wolf, you probably know 85 percent of what's going to come out in terms of substance. But what we don't know is the drama of it. It's become theatrical for good or bad, I don't know which, but it is a great drama. And he's going have to do this with the intensity of his speech, with his lines, how sincere he seems, how much sense it makes for American people at this time. And the specifics, we'll have wait and see.

BLITZER: How big of a speech, Richard Reeves, is this for President Bush Tuesday night?

RICHARD REEVES, PRESIDENTIAL BIOGRAPHER: I think it's a big speech in the short term, how he balances war patriotism, as it were, with a domestic message about the economy, about recession, about health care.

I don't think in his overall presidency, it will be seen as a major event unless he does something terribly negative. The major event -- well, events are in the saddle, and the major event was of course September 11. And everything that happens to him within this period all is within that context. That's the event we'll be considering no matter what he says.

BLITZER: Douglas Brinkley, what does he have to do, the president, Tuesday night?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, he has to continue to remind us -- essentially, it's a report card and you get to give yourself your own grades. So he's going to remind us that our homeland is more secure, but it needs to be even more secure yet, meaning appropriations of money. He's going to try to talk about bipartisanship, that fact that some of our domestic agenda had been derailed due to the war on terrorism but it's back on track. And basically set a kind of tone.

I agree with Richard Reeves. I don't think this is going to be a largely significant speech for George W. Bush. Two of the main topic on people's minds, where is bin Laden and Enron, will not be mentioned. It's just simply going to be a report card and a time to kind of put the budget for the coming year into focus. BLITZER: Hugh Sidey, in our new CNN-Time Magazine poll, which is just out, we asked, should the president spend more time in his State of the Union speech on the economy, domestic issues? Look at these numbers: 74 percent said yes -- or the war on terrorism, only 16 percent, which suggests that the public out there wants to hear more about bread-and-butter issues than the war a terrorism.

SIDEY: Wel, I think there's probably an undertow of that. But I have every reason to believe that if he is effective and describes what we're up against in the world, that those figures may change.

And indeed, let's not discount bin Laden's ability to kind of rekindle the war a terrorism, or other of the terrorists also. So that I think perhaps a little skeptical of polls.

You know, I woke up this morning on Sunday and I read on the front page of the New York Times that most people said Republicans were more to blame for Enron, and then I opened up The Washington Post and it said Republicans are on top on the issues. So it's a confused time to be at this moment.

And I would think that the president sets the agenda. He decides, and my hunch is it's terrorism.

BLITZER: And as you know, it depends on how you phrase the question that sometimes determines what the poll numbers are going to be.

Richard Reeves, as you take a look at this speech, are there any specific speeches, historically speaking, the president and his speech writer and aides should be looking at, during a time of war, on how the president should be trying to craft his remarks?

REEVES: I wouldn't look so much at the State of the Union message. I would compare it with the historical event that I think it most closely resembles, and that's the Cuban missile crisis, where after that crisis was over and the world had survived, as it was, Robert Kennedy told his brother, you know, you could have been impeached over this. And Jack Kennedy said, well, if I didn't handle it, I should have been impeached.

I think that's the context that Bush is in. This event came out of nowhere, as far as he was concerned, and he has held on to the horse pretty well, as it's galloped.

But I think that it's not a full-scale war that will continue. It was a specific threat to America, and the president dealt with it and, generally, dealt with it wisely, and that's where I think he'll be judged.

BLITZER: Richard Reeves, as you know, a lot of people have made the comparison between September 11 and Pearl Harbor, not necessarily the Cuban missile crisis.

REEVES: Yes. I don't think that this is -- we're not in -- Pearl Harbor was the beginning of a world war. It engaged every person in the country. This was a gigantic criminal act. It's one the reasons we find it hard to define what these prisoners actually are.

And he is not -- Roosevelt could prosecute that war and obviously did it effectively. Bush is constantly hampered by the fact the context he operates in depends on whether there's another incident. If there is no other incident, this will fade to kind of poll numbers that you talked about on the economy. If there's another incident, then also I think those poll numbers, as big as they are, will just reverse.

BLITZER: Douglas Brinkley, do you accept that?

BRINKLEY: Yes, I do. But you know, I think we have to keep in mind, Wolf, the State of the Union, unlike an inaugural address, it's not sort of embedded in our national history per se. Washington Adams gave State of the Unions and then Jefferson thought it was a bad idea. So from Jefferson, all the way to Woodrow Wilson, the State of the Union addresses were written.

It's really Franklin Roosevelt, if I were a speech writer, that I would turn to. And I would look at a particular speech, FDR's "For Freedom" speech, where he was able to articulate what it is that we're fighting for.

And I think if President Bush, dealing with the war of terrorism, can finetune the ringing and memorable message he gave after September 11, if he now can say here's what the long-term war on terrorism is really all about with some memorable phrases that might make its way in the history books, he'd be doing quite well.

BLITZER: Hugh Sidey, we asked, in our CNN-Time Magazine poll, the American public to give the president an "A" on certain fields. And look at these numbers. We'll put them up on the screen.

On Afghanistan, half the public thinks he deserves an "A." Almost that number on world terrorism does relatively well with homeland security.

But as the numbers continue to go down on domestic issues, education, taxes, we'll put some more numbers, the economy, in general. If you take a look at the next set of numbers that we're going to put up on the screen -- Enron, 13 percent, health care only 10 percent of the American public thinks he deserves an "A."

When you're looking at these numbers, do you see some problems for him down the road?

SIDEY: Well, I think there have always been problems. Number one, he wasn't as bad as people said he was, when he came in. He's not as good as people say he is now. It's easy to run a war. It's harder to run the peace.

And I think this reflects probably the people that lost their jobs, the softening of the economy. There isn't any question Enron has probably weighed in on that. Sure, there are problems ahead. That's why I think he's got to finish this war, got to get out somehow, end it or paint the picture ahead. And then he's got to keep the dialogue going on in these domestic matters.

BLITZER: Is this is a kind of situation, Richard Reeves, where the president would be well advised to try to stay out the political fray, leave that to others and he stays above it all?

REEVES: Well, certainly, he should try to stay above it all.

He's in a wonderful position now. As Hugh pointed out, he came in with both his legitimacy and his qualifications questioned. He had extremely low expectations. Then we have this kind of Rip Van Winkle world after September 11, where he becomes the warrior statesman. He is above politics at that point.

And I think any president is well advised to stay above politics when there is a clear and present danger to the nation. And I would be very surprised, if you find him going into the details of health care or other things, to try to ratchet up a bit respect for Republican views.

He is above the political fray now. And if he let's himself get into it, it's a mistake.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break, but we have a lot more to talk about, including phone calls for Richard Reeves. Douglas Brinkley and Hugh Sidey. Late Edition will continue right after this.

Next Sunday on CNN's Late Edition an inside look at an American icon.


PEGGY NOONAN: When you look at him, if you say what was the secret to him, what was the magic? It wasn't magic, it was character.


I'll talk with Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan about her latest book, "When Character was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan." That's next Sunday on Late Edition, noon Eastern.



BUSH: Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.


BLITZER: President Bush addressing Congress and the nation a week after the September 11 attacks. We're continuing our conversation with the presidential biographer Richard Reeves, the presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, and the journalist Hugh Sidey.

Douglas Brinkley, the president's job approval ratings are still in the high 70s, low 80s. They were in the high 80s, low 90s right after September 11.

Is it realistic to assume he can sustain those incredibly high numbers?

BRINKLEY: It's realistic if we continue having the war of terrorism dominating the front pages, if this gets extended into a Somalia or Iraq and he's really fully defined as a commander in chief and war-time president.

But I'd be careful like Hugh Sidey said earlier about polls. You know, the highest that a president had for first quarter was Harry Truman after the death of Franklin Roosevelt. And, of course, Truman oversaw victory over Germany and Japan and dropped the atomic bombs. And, of course, a few years later, by 1952, Harry Truman was still a war-time president in the Korean War, yet he didn't seem to know what he was doing there, couldn't really get us out and decided not to run for reelection in '52. Lyndon Johnson, of course, in 1968 deciding not to run because of Vietnam.

If you're going to be a war-time president, you have to be giving the public a sense of victory, and he's done that so far in Afghanistan. But if we're having a war on terrorism, what is the next field of operation? I think that's what most people are wondering.

And Iraq is going to be looming very large indeed, because I saw the television news all over the weekend -- seemed to be a lot of people talking about the fact that Saddam Hussein has broken and is continuing to break, as you know, not having inspectors allowed in, now breaking the cease-fire agreement of the Gulf War. And whether this President Bush wants to take up his father's old business, I think, is something that will be very interesting to watch in the next few months.

BLITZER: And, Hugh Sidey, as you well remember, his father had low-90s job approval ratings right after the Gulf War in 1991, only to lose his bid reelection the following year.

How does this president, the son, manage to avoid that kind of situation, seeing those high numbers deteriorate?

SIDEY: Well, I think his father had a certain contempt for the public relations factor in the presidency. He was not very good at reelective politics; he was very good at running the government. That war remains, in my book, anyway, 45 years on the job, one of the remarkable events, the way it was conducted and the victory, and the withdrawal, I think, also.

BLITZER: Even though Saddam Hussein remains in power? SIDEY: I do. He's a nuisance, he's not a threat in that way -- if we watch him, that is. So I think the alternative was terrible, to end up with Baghdad on our hands or whatever so that -- he conducted that very well.

But I think the son now is far more viable in the arena. He seems to enjoy somewhat, at this point, the give and take with the media; at least, he's more capable of it. His speeches are more serious.

So I think that part of it, I think the father probably just kind of walked away from that end of things. I this the son sees that, and I think they're girding their loins here to try to avoid that.

BLITZER: Richard Reeves, almost a year ago, at the end of February of last year, the president addressed the joint session of Congress, a joint meeting as it was technically called. Listen to what he said at that time.


BUSH: Our nation also needs a clear strategy to confront the threats of the 21st century, threats that are more widespread and less certain. They range from terrorists who threaten with bombs to tyrants in rogue nations intent upon developing weapons of mass destruction.


BLITZER: Seems like he almost had a little crystal ball over there, doesn't he?

REEVES: No, I don't think it was a crystal ball. I think it was quite the opposite. I think this has been going on for 10 years, but we haven't been paying attention. And we got in this kind of end-of- history, world's-only-superpower mode and figured no one could do anything to us and we were safe in electing governors rather than people with foreign policy experience -- and, in fact, electing governors from Southwestern states who had barely been abroad.

So that I think, while that message proved prescient, it could have been said 10 years ago by his father, because this has been building. And, yes, our intelligence capacity is down from what it was, and we didn't know as much as we should have. But, in fact, that, to me -- that paragraph wasn't early, it was late 10 years.

BLITZER: Well you know, that -- the point, Douglas Brinkley, that Richard Reeves makes is a good point, because in other Western democracies, in Britain for example, the September 11 terrorist attacks would have been seen as a huge intelligence failure. Someone should have paid the price in the U.S. government for missing some of the signs that were out there. Nobody's resigned, nobody's been fired, the government goes on.

Is there a difference here in the way the, for example, Britain would have reacted to this kind of situation, as opposed to the United States?

BRINKLEY: Well, it depends on what time -- certainly, Britain, at the wake of the Second World War, responded with a great deal of unity in thwarting Hitler.

But I think what's important in this country is the way that we rally around the commander in chief in time of crisis. The time of war you always get that 80 percent or 90 percent approval rating.

What I thought was remarkable about September 11 -- and President Bush deserves a lot of credit for this -- he was able he make two things the symbol of American unity: One was the flag, and that kind of, I think, just happened spontaneously across the country; but the second was the office of the presidency.

And after eight years of Clinton we were kind of looking down on the office of the presidency. It seemed to be more of like a European parliamentian role in a way, for at least the Clinton apologizers. And Bush came in and said, like Ronald Reagan, that the Oval Office is something that we're all supposed to be proud about, and I'm going to be on the job all the time.

So I think we turn to the president in a time of crisis a little more than the Europeans do or than Great Britain does, turn to their prime ministers or presidents.

BLITZER: OK, Douglas Brinkley, Richard Reeves and Hugh Sidey, we have to leave it right there.

We'll be watching Tuesday night. Of course CNN will have continuing coverage beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday night, the president's State of the Union address.

Thanks very much for joining us.

And just ahead, the Final Round. Our panel weighs in on the big stories of the week. We're also looking forward to your phone calls and e-mail. Late Edition's Final Round, right after a news alert. Stay with us.




BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN and Late Edition's Final Round.

Joining me: Julianne Malveaux, she's a syndicated columnist; Peter Beinart of the New Republic; Jonah Goldberg, the National Review Online; and Christopher Caldwell of the Weekly Standard.

Vice President Dick Cheney is refusing to release records of closed-door energy task force meetings despite threats from the General Accounting Office to sue. The vice president says executive privilege is at stake. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are weaker today as an institution because of the unwise compromises that have been made over the last 30, 35 years.

Now, the fact is, Enron didn't get any special deals. Enron has been treated appropriately by this administration.


BLITZER: Peter, should the vice president be forced to release that information to Congress?


And, you know, I think the hypocrisy here is incredible. I mean, who was responsible for that weakening of presidential power over the last eight years? It's in fact Cheney's own party. It's the Republicans. Who was screaming about Hillary's health care task force, saying we need to know what was going on behind closed doors?

Republicans are saying, well, we may be losing on the politics, but we're right on the law and the morality. Wrong. They are wrong on the ethics, wrong on the law, wrong on the politics. And I'm enjoying watching them squirm.

BLITZER: Are you squirming, Jonah?

JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE": There is one other group that should be put on the list of wrong people, which is Peter.


The reality is that, first of all, unless you know something about the Constitution I don't, Hillary Clinton is actually not and was never a sworn constitutional law professor.


BEINART: ... from making that argument over and over again.

GOLDBERG: But she's not a sworn constitutional officer.

I think you are absolutely right on the politics, that this a bad position for Cheney to be in that defending against a similar kind of suit, although it's not the same thing as was going on with health care task force, it puts him in odd position.

But at the same time, as a matter of principle, he's absolutely right. As a matter of politics, I think he's got to give up.

BEINART: But there are no objective lawyers who are taking the White House's position on this.

JULIANNE MALVEAUX, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Jonah, there is absolutely no principle in this bad boy. The fact is that you've got 21,000 people whose pensions have been affected, 4,000 people who have lost their jobs, 70 percent of the Congress who has taken money from these people, and you are asking the vice president simply to disclose. You are not saying to him...


MALVEAUX: But look, let's fast forward. Hillary is not in this. What's in this right now?

GOLDBERG: Peter's the one that brought up Hillary Clinton, not me.

MALVEAUX: But I'm fast forwarding. I want to be here and now. And here and now the problem is this, Wolf. This guy has been having secret meetings, and he will not disclose them. And the American people want to know, and they have a reasonable grounds to want to know.

CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": It comes down to executive privilege, which has fared very badly in the courts. But I have to agree with you. This is really about the politics of it, and it is going to come out eventually, and he might as well get rid of it now.

BLITZER: In other words, they should agree.

CALDWELL: Yes, he's got to disclose the whole thing.

BLITZER: We have caller who has question on this issue.

Go ahead, caller.

CALLER: Hello there. First, I have got to say that you guys look smarter and hipper than the McLaughlin Group...


... and I love the new format of Late Edition.

My question has to do with the fact that, for the last three days, cable television has spent a whole heck of a lot more time promoting Mr. Bush's upcoming Tuesday infomercial than they have on the Enron scandal, which is certainly the biggest business scandal of the last century and, probably, one of the biggest political scandals 25 years. What gives? Is the press playing press agent for Mr. Bush?

BLITZER: Are we doing that, Chris?

CALDWELL: How this differs from any other State of the Union -- they all get plugged a few days before. This one will at least be mercifully shorter than the ones we have had for the last decade.

BLITZER: But should we be giving more coverage to Enron, Peter?

BEINART: I actually disagree with the caller. I think we have been giving more coverage to Enron. And next week, when hearings resume, I think there will be more, and I think that's appropriate. And Bush may even be forced to discuss it, to mention it in his State of the Union.

MALVEAUX: I think the State of the Union address, this one is particularly important post 9-11. It is important to hear from the president. I don't expect to agree with him on anything, but I do want to hear from him.

And I think that after we hear from him, if he ignores Enron, then those of us who have issues with that will have something to say.

But let's listen to the president. This is an annual tradition in the United States, and I think it's a reasonable one.

GOLDBERG: Two quick points on that. One is I do wish we would go back to the principle we used to have, which was that the State of the Union gets delivered in writing. For 23 presidents we had that, until Woodrow Wilson. And that was a better way to do it.

But, secondly...

MALVEAUX: That assumes the president can write.

GOLDBERG: This question also raises the fact that if the Republican party wanted to promote the upcoming State of the Union, there are all sorts of campaign finance reformers who would say it was terrible. But when the networks, it's considered news.

You know, there are some messages that deserve to be thrown out there, and I don't think we should be regulating what entities do in terms of promoting them.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk a little bit more about Enron, which of course has generated our Quote of the Week.

It comes from Capitol Hill, where several committees are, of course, holding Enron hearings. They're investigating the collapse of this huge corporation.

Here, for example, the Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Jim Greenwood's explanation of what happened.


U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES GREENWOOD (R-PA): Mr. Duncan, Enron robbed the bank, Arthur Andersen provided the getaway car, and they say you were at the wheel.


BLITZER: Those are pretty tough words. What do you think about that, Chris?

CALDWELL: It's kind of like a metaphysical conceit with Karl Rove riding shotgun or something like that. (LAUGHTER)



CALDWELL: It's surprising to see Greenwood say that, because he, more than anyone else, did say that he thought that David Duncan, the auditor in question, the shredder...

BLITZER: From Arthur Andersen.

CALDWELL: ... was being used as a scapegoat.

But the Congress is not yet clear what they want to get out of this. On the one hand, the Democrats are trying to score political points, Republicans are trying to defend against.

Eventually, an agenda of new regulations and laws is going to come out of this, but we're still a couple of weeks away from that.

BEINART: And if I could just pick up on what Chris is saying, I think that's where the fight's going to come, not over the Bush administration. I think the Democrats realize, if they push for really tough regulation, the Republicans will balk.

You can already see it with the White House this morning. The Republicans don't want to go in there, and their guy at SEC doesn't want to go for really tough regulation. If the Democrats push it, they'll create a split. It will be good for them politically.

MALVEAUX: Well, I think there has to be tough regulation. I think there are two really important points here. One is the whole issue of what ERISA has done. ERISA, of course, is the pension regulatory group founded in 1974. Obviously something's missing there.

Secondly, the whole issue of how accounting firms are looked at, and we talked about that a little bit last week.

But I think that we have had a period where regulation has been seen as something that's bad. Now I think it's going to be seen as something that's good.

And Democrats will make a mistake if they don't ride this as hard they can. I think there are some Democrats who, because they're tainted, won't, but I think they must.

GOLDBERG: I don't necessarily disagree with any of that, and I think that the Congress, you know, has a legitimate role here. This was what looks like a criminal enterprise in a huge bankruptcy, and Congress has the right to oversee that.

So I think Congress, at least a lot of these people, you know, Democrats and Republicans, are trying to do the right thing. On the other hand, it's very clear at this point that the Democrats are trying to turn Enron into a transitive verb, in much the same way the Lewinsky scandal turned "mentor" into a transitive verb. And they're going around saying how the Republicans want to Enron America, and we're all going to be Enroned and so forth.

MALVEAUX: At least you're owning your past, Jonah, at least you're owning your past. I'm going to give you some congratulations for that.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on.

GOLDBERG: That means a lot to me.

BLITZER: Let's take the high road (inaudible).

The Bush administration is considering severing ties with Yasser Arafat, but the vice president, Dick Cheney, says U.S. patience with the Palestinian chairman is wearing thin.


CHENEY: As long as we see this inability, if you will, whether it's deliberate or whether it's through lack of authority, to control the suicide bombers and to end terrorism attacks, it's very hard to see how we move forward on the peace process.


BLITZER: Julianne, will the Bush administration sever ties with Yasser Arafat?

MALVEAUX: What's the alternative? I mean, Yasser Arafat's not perfect, he does not have 100 percent control over these renegade terrorists, but he does have some respect in the Middle East.

I think that if we sever ties with him, we're out there with nothing, and so...

CALDWELL: We're out there with nothing. We're not going to sever ties with him, but we're basically in the same position that Israel is in. We don't -- the question of whether Arafat is controlling the terrorists or whether he can do nothing to stop them, we don't know the answer to, but it doesn't really matter.

MALVEAUX: It's somewhere in the middle, Chris.


BEINART: I think the really interesting question is not America's relationship with Yasser Arafat, it's America's relationship with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has influence on this administration; Yasser Arafat doesn't.

I think the long-term relationship between the U.S. and Arafat will only be played out within a long-term discussion about whether we keep troops in Saudi Arabia. If we move troops out, that's it for America and Arafat.

BLITZER: Well, you heard Andrew Card on this program earlier today say the U.S. is about to what he called lower, reduce the footprint, the U.S. footprint in Saudi Arabia.

GOLDBERG: I think that's absolutely right.

I mean, on the Saudi Arabia thing, I think, you know, America's willing to tolerate alliances with horrible right-wing and horrible left-wing regimes, as long as we're not paying attention to it. But once we focus on it, we don't tolerate them of any kind.

And Saudi Arabia, every day we learn more and more of what a horrible place it is and what a horrible way they run a country, and we shouldn't be involved with these people.

And in terms of Arafat, you know, whatever you can say about Saudi Arabia, they're vastly better than Yasser Arafat. There is evidence that he can stop the suicide bombings, because he did it not too long ago. And the reality is, is that...

MALVEAUX: Temporarily, Jonah.

GOLDBERG: Yes, but...

MALVEAUX: Temporarily.

GOLDBERG: But that means he could do it at all.


GOLDBERG: And when he wants to do it, he can, and when he doesn't want to, he doesn't. And the idea that somehow this guy, who's been a terrorist for 35 years and has blood all over his hands, is somehow an alternative to nothing, well, I'd prefer nothing at this point.

BLITZER: All right. "Nothing" is the key word right now, but we're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, more of your phone calls and e-mail for our panel. Late Edition's Final Round is just beginning. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition's Final Round.

We have a caller from Texas with a question. Go ahead, please.

CALLER: Hello. My question is, how can we call the detainees prisoners of war, when we are not at war with no nation?

BLITZER: Jonah, handle that.

GOLDBERG: I think that puts the finger right on the issue. This whole POWs thing is -- it's a scandal how it's been played in the media. These guys are not POWs. They should not, under any circumstances, be treated as POWs.

The Geneva Convention works both ways. These guys did not follow Geneva Convention. They murdered innocent women and children and civilians, which is a direct violation of Geneva Convention. They don't wear uniforms. They're terrorists.

If we call these guys POWs under the Geneva Convention, we are basically saying the Geneva Convention recognizes terrorism as a legitimate way to commit war, and that would be an outrage.

BEINART: That's actually not what the debate inside the administration is about. You're right, it's been misplayed by the press.

The debate is about the process. It's about due process. It's about the process under which we decide whether they are POWs or not. Their actions -- the Geneva Convention specifies how you make that decision. The Bush administration threw that out the window, made it by fiat. That's why they're in trouble now needlessly.

CALDWELL: But it's an easy decision, really. These people don't represent a nation-state. I think the question is cut and dried. It's really a...

BLITZER: Even the Taliban fighters that were...

CALDWELL: The Taliban are to be distinguished from Al Qaeda.

BLITZER: Because there are Taliban fighters at Guantanamo Bay, too.

CALDWELL: That's right. The Taliban are a harder case. The Al Qaeda people are not a hard case at all.

But the larger problem is a political one, primarily, with our European allies.

BLITZER: Do you feel comfortable with this notion that they're not POWs?

MALVEAUX: I don't. I think that the reason why members of Congress went down to look at what was happening at Guantanamo Bay is because people are concerned about how they're treated.

We have a set of principles on our books and we want to go the high road, not the low road. And I think going the high road says, treat them as POWs, give them the maximum consideration, and then try them according to the law. If they're convicted, that's fine, but...

GOLDBERG The high road says treat them humanely, which we're doing, even though were not obliged to by law.

And I got to tell you, the stuff that came out of Britain was so outrageous, these accusations of torture, all based on a single picture, you know, and all these Muslim spokespeople coming out and saying that it is offensive to treat -- not to respect these people's religious sensibilities, when these were exact same people who told us these people weren't Muslims in the first place; "These are just terrorists, these are just" -- and so forth.

MALVEAUX: Jonah, these people have a right to pray as their religion allows them to. They have...

GOLDBERG: Sure. And we're allowing them to.

MALVEAUX: And they have the right to be well treated. I mean, I think that...

GOLDBERG: And we are.

MALVEAUX: I think that we've handled this OK in terms of the treatment, not OK in terms of the press.

BEINART: There's a political story here, and the political story is Colin Powell being frozen out. I think what's very interesting about the story that came out this weekend is that it's clear that he's on the opposite side of Rumsfeld and Rice on this, and he's being made to look like he's out of the loop.

CALDWELL: I disagree. I think this is an extension of the Colin Powell as good-cop principle into a whole new realm.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about taxes. The White House, so far, isn't budging in the idea of holding off on future tax cuts.

Today, the House Democratic leader, Richard Gephardt, suggested the administration's unwillingness to compromise on the issue is hurting the overall economy.


U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO): If I were king, we'd have a different set of tax cuts in place. The president has said, "Over my dead body, will you change this tax bill." I just don't see any sense standing in our old positions of the past, yelling at one another, is going to solve this problem.


BLITZER: Peter, the Democrats, though, appear to be all over the place -- Kennedy and Gephardt and Daschle -- on this whole issue.

BEINART: That's right. And Gephardt is wrong, actually. Gephardt -- in fact, a New York Times poll today shows that 60 percent of Americans would support repealing a tax cut. It's Washington which is actually out of touch on this tax cut debate.

Gephardt is trying to move to the center by taking the tax cut off the table. He's wrong. The Democrats should put it right, front and center. It's a debate they can win. GOLDBERG: Let me first state right out of the box that if Gephardt were king, I would be fighting with the freedom-loving partisans in the Hill.


MALVEAUX: Jonah Goldberg, freedom fighter. You heard it here.


GOLDBERG: But that said, you know, the reason why Gephardt is trying sound so reasonable and moderate on this is because he's trying do something that is unreasonable and immoderate, which is repeal the law of the land, which a lot of Democrats passed, which -- and claimed that these tax cuts somehow have created this deficit, which the CBO just reported it didn't...

BEINART: But over the long term, they create 60 percent of it.

GOLDBERG: Yes. But surpluses are not your grandmother's pension. Surpluses are the overcharged money that we...

MALVEAUX: Jonah Goldberg...

GOLDBERG: ... that is going back to the people who deserve them.

MALVEAUX: Jonah Goldberg, tax cuts are not the law of the land, as in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

GOLDBERG: No, but they are the law of the land because they're the law of the land.

MALVEAUX: Well, they were something temporary that were passed in March. And just like they were passed, they can be unpassed.

And the fact is that they were passed with a different set of economic assumptions. Those assumptions are gone now. When we passed those tax cuts, we didn't have a war. We hadn't put $110 billion on table for war relief. It's an entirely reasonable proposition to say that we need to repeal...

BLITZER: Well, button this up.

CALDWELL: It is the war -- it's the war that's wrong-footed Gephardt on this. It's the increase in the military budget that has confounded the Democratic strategy, the Shrum-Carville strategy, of backing the president on the war and attacking him on these tax cuts. It's getting harder to distinguish.

BLITZER: All right. Campaign finance reform, another issue. That debate heating up once again, as a result of Enron.

Earlier today, the Democratic Party chairman, Terry McAuliffe, told me the Enron debacle makes the perfect argument for getting big money out of politics.


TERRY MCAULIFFE, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Let's have McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. If anything told us special interest money, the Bush White House, we need McCain-Feingold. And secondly, we need pension reform. We need it now.


BLITZER: Julianne, is this going make a difference, as far as the president signing into law McCain-Feingold?

MALVEAUX: I don't think it's going to move the president, but I think it will move the Senate and the Congress. When you have 70 percent of these people getting money from Enron, it really puts them all on the carpet.

I think also the pension reform issue is a hidden piece that we haven't dealt with here. Only 48 percent of all Americans receive pension benefits. ERISA regulates those, it regulates them in a moderate way, but basically a poor way.

But I don't think this is going to move the president. It'll move the Congress. And you've already seen, in the past two weeks, people who hadn't signed on to campaign finance reform signing on because they...

BLITZER: Including members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely. And I think these are people who, in the past, sort of looked at it askance and now said, we've got to get on there.

GOLDBERG: I think that's essentially right. And I know that we're going to pigs flying around the studio, because I agree with Julianne on all of that.


I don't think the president -- where I disagree with her is that I don't think the president should be moved on this.

First of all, the vast chunk of money that all these congressmen got, and almost all of the money that these accounting firms give, is hard money. So all of this talk about McCain-Feingold and Shays- Meehan would not effect the vast amount of...

BEINART: They gave a lot of money in -- a lot of soft money to the party.

GOLDBERG: Enron gave a lot of soft money.

BEINART: And the big five accounting firms gave a lot of soft money, as well.

GOLDBERG: The margins are overwhelmingly hard money to soft money, overwhelmingly. MALVEAUX: But it really doesn't matter if it's money, because the point is that there's too much money in politics, and we're beginning to connect...

GOLDBERG: It does matter in terms of the law that we're actually talking, though.


CALDWELL: We can square this circle. Something's got to be done, but it doesn't necessarily have to be Shays-Meehan or the Democratic capping method. An equally good argument can be made that the conservative idea, that you take the caps off and let Enron just buy a senator, works well.


Because the problem is, the reason you have the 248 senators who are -- congressmen who are investigating Enron, on their payroll, is that they've got to raise money from everywhere, so everyone is on everyone's payroll.


BEINART: Enron has already bought a senator. His name is Phil Gramm. And look what he did.


MALVEAUX: Well, let me ask you something. If you buy a senator, and you go bankrupt, what happens to the senator that you bought?


I mean, I just want to know.

GOLDBERG (?): He's a free agent.


BLITZER: We're going to take another quick break. Our lightning round is coming up next. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our lightning round, where we look ahead at the week's events.

The Afghan interim leader, Hamid Karzai, already in Washington. He'll meet with President Bush tomorrow.

Tuesday night he'll be sitting in the gallery, Peter, with the first lady. The president will point to him. Is that a good idea, to have him one of the heroes of all this?

BEINART: Absolutely. He is a hero. The real question, though, is whether we're supporting him enough, and the answer is no. We need to be involved in that peace-keeping effort.

BLITZER: What about that?

CALDWELL: I think he's got his work cut out for him. But it's very encouraging that in recent interviews he said he's going to allow the U.N. to enforce peace all over the country.

BLITZER: You want the U.S. to join Britain in that peace-keeping mission?

MALVEAUX: Absolutely. We need to impose a Marshall Plan there just like we have in other places. Unless you have peace and economic security there, we're going to have problems again.

BLITZER: I'm sure you disagree.

GOLDBERG: Oh, yes, I'm for war and economic insecurity.


MALVEAUX: I knew that.

GOLDBERG: No, I mean, I think's it's a good idea to have him up there. Everyone's going to be -- this is going to be the first time someone's going to be really fascinated in what a man is going to wear at a State of the Union address in a very long time, because he's been declared the chicest man in world politics.

BLITZER: I'm sure he'll look very handsome and very distinguished.

In the wake of September 11, should the Vice President Dick Cheney not attend the State of the Union for security reasons?

CALDWELL: He should certainly attend the state of the union. He's been been on run long enough.


MALVEAUX: If he doesn't attend anything else, he needs to attend the Enron hearings.

GOLDBERG: We got much bigger problems if it's too dangerous for Dick Cheney to show up, so I think he should.

BEINART: I agree with all these guys.

BLITZER: Who will be the Cabinet member who will be kept behind, God forbid, in case something...

BEINART: Probably someone whose name I can't remember.


CALDWELL: Rod Paige, because the education program is so important. BEINART: That's right. He's been left behind already.

MALVEAUX: Actually, I...

GOLDBERG: (OFF-MIKE) is the first priority is still making sure that the...



BLITZER: All right, let's move on. The House minority leader, Dick Gephardt, he sounded a lot like former President Bill Clinton at a Democratic Leadership Council speech last week.

But does he have a chance in 2004 to get the Democratic presidential bid?

MALVEAUX: Yes, he does, Daschle does, Sharpton does. They can all get 20 percent of the vote. The question is, who in the Democratic PAC is going to distinguish themselves? And I think the answer is just up to the next year.

BLITZER: Sharpton, is he running seriously?

MALVEAUX: Well, he's putting it out there, and I think that he can't get 20, he can get 10. But you've got a whole lot of Democrats who are sniffing around, and Al Gore better get shaved.

BLITZER: You think he is?

GOLDBERG: Gephardt's running. I mean, I think he's sincere when he says he wants to win back the House first and he does, you know, but he's running.

BLITZER: Is he running? All these Democrats, there's a sub-text of all these big speeches. Daschle and Gephardt, Lieberman and Kerry, they're all making major speeches. Are they addressing...

BEINART: I wouldn't be so sure that he's running. You want to say you're running so people pay attention to the speech. And I think one of the problems he's had is he's been totally overshadowed by Daschle. So if people don't think he's running, they don't pay attention to him. I think that may be what's going on.

MALVEAUX: Well, he's run before.

CALDWELL: Of course he's running, but he's putting this policy on like a Clinton clown mask. I mean, there's no Democrat who is more deeply mired in pre-Clinton economics than Gephardt.

BEINART: I disagree. Gephardt has never been that concerned about deficit reduction. That is actually a consistent principle for many, many years.

GOLDBERG: That's the one? BEINART: That's the one.


It may not be a great principle, but I don't actually buy this idea that he's moved to the center.

BLITZER: So you think he's more mired in pre-Clinton economic policy than Ted Kennedy?

CALDWELL: Yes, actually, I suppose I do.

BLITZER: Really?

GOLDBERG: Will he be pro-life again?


MALVEAUX: You know what? I think that Gephardt and Daschle, despite their centrist conversation, have really held up aspects of the left wing of the Democratic Party, and I think they deserve credit for that. I think that that's not a popular wing to be in now. And, you know, I mean, I know you disagree with me.

BEINART: We're going our best though.


BLITZER: Lest we forget, Al Gore, beard and all, is speaking at a major Tennessee Democratic Party fund-raiser next Saturday.

Can he mend his fences in his home state, Peter?

BEINART: Probably. I think the larger problem is that the war has delayed his political comeback so long that it now, I think, it really is getting a little bit late. It's also hard to be partisan in this environment, and so you do get a sense that things may be passing him by.

BLITZER: Does he have a political future?

GOLDBERG: It's getting dimmer and dimmer, I think. You know, Bush happens to be the guy in the White House, and so no one wants a replay of 2000. And so he's the guy without a role, and all these other guys aren't waiting for him.

BLITZER: We're all waiting for his comeback. Is it going to happen?

MALVEAUX: Not at all. You know, it doesn't matter what he does in Tennessee anymore. It matters what he does with the rest of America.

Bill Raspberry wrote a piece last week that was really kind of cold, if I could -- you know, he talked about Bush's stature rising and Gore's stature shrinking. I think he closed up with the line, "The incredibly shrinking Gore."

He hasn't done anything in the last eight months to distinguish himself.

CALDWELL: The Adlai Stevenson of the new millennium.


GOLDBER: That's a bumper sticker, right there.

BEINART: Those are fighting words.

BLITZER: Speaking about fighting words, the boxer, Mike Tyson, fighting again outside the ring. This week the Nevada Boxing Commission must decide if he should be allowed to fight Lennox Lewis after last week's brawl.

Should the fight go on, Jonah?

GOLDBERG: Look, the guy is a convicted rapist. I don't know why he got a license. I don't know why he isn't violating his parole or any these issues. You know...

BLITZER: Does the word "money" mean anything?


GOLDBERG: Exactly. But, you know, if that's the case, then, yes, he should fight because the boxing world is just about money.

MALVEAUX: Down boy. We spent the past half hour talking about brawling white boys. Now we're talking about a brawling brother. Give him a break.


BLITZER: On that word, Julianne is giving Mike Tyson a break.

I don't know if he would give you a break, but you're giving him a break.

MALVEAUX: No, but I wouldn't get in the elevator with him either.


BLITZER: That's all the time we have today. That's your Late Edition for Sunday, January 27. Please join us again next Sunday, every Sunday, at noon Eastern.

I will see you during the week, of course, twice a day, at 5 and 7 p.m. Eastern, two editions of Wolf Blitzer Reports. And tomorrow, don't forget my special interview with the Afghan interim leader, Hamid Karzai.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.




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