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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview with Tom Daschle, Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader, Byron Dorgan, Peter Fitzgerald

Aired February 10, 2002 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington; 10 a.m. in Salt Lake City; 5 p.m. in London; and 9:30 p.m. in Kabul. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for Late Edition.

We'll get to our interview with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in a few minutes, but, first, this hour's latest developments.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: When it comes to the war against terrorism, Democrats and Republicans are united here in Washington. But it's a very different cry when it comes to a whole host of domestic issues, beginning with the wartime economy.

Within the past hour, I spoke with the Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, who has emerged as target number one for many Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Senator Daschle, thanks so much for joining us. I want to get right to the questions.

Later this week, the House, Senate intelligence committees are expected to announce joint hearings looking back at what many regard as an intelligence failure, leading up to September 11.

Is this a good time, in the middle of a war, to look back and see what went wrong?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it is a good time, Wolf. I think that, before things get too far out, before we lose some of the information available, before memories get fuzzy, I think it's important that we begin building the historical record. We did it after Pearl Harbor. I think we can do it now too.

BLITZER: Some at the White House are concerned, though, that it will divert resources from the CIA, the law enforcement community. In their effort to go back and find out what went wrong, they may miss out some activities that could be going wrong down the road.

Are you concerned about that? DASCHLE: Well, I think that is a legitimate concern. But I also think that the people have a right to know and our country needs to develop the historical record.

And so you have to have both of those goals, both those objectives in balance. I think we can do that without adversely affecting our war effort.

BLITZER: The director of the CIA, George Tenet, denies there was an intelligence failure. Listen to what he told the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier in the week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE TENET, DIRECTOR OF THE CIA: The men and women of the FBI and the CIA performed heroically. Whatever shortcomings we may have, we owe it to the country to look at ourselves honestly and systematically. But when people use the word "failure," failure means no focus, no attention, no discipline. And those were not present in what either we or the FBI did here and around the world, and we'll continue to work at it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Shelby, the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told me earlier in the week after that testimony that it certainly was a failure, and the only one who believes it wasn't an intelligence failure may be Director Tenet himself.

What do you think?

DASCHLE: Well, Wolf, I think it is premature to come to any conclusions. All of us have our suspicions, and obviously something went wrong. But whether to call it a failure or whether to make some other judgment, is something that the hearings ought to bring out. I think it would be premature to come to any prior conclusion.

So, that's in part what this is all about: to better understand what happened, to understand whether or not it could have been avoided, to understand how we can avoid the next crisis from occurring similar to this. So I think that there is a lot to be acquired in hearings like this. And I think we just need be very careful with our rhetoric as we begin.

BLITZER: As you know, the former foreign minister of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is now in U.S. custody. But so many other top leaders of the Taliban and certainly of Al Qaeda remain on the loose, including Osama bin Laden.

How frustrated are you that, so many months after September 11, they are still free?

DASCHLE: Well, it is frustrating. But the president admonished all of us over the last several months to remember it's going to take a long time in some cases, that we really don't have the confidence that we know exactly where he is or how he can be apprehended. But we've got to keep trying. We have to be patient. We have to use all resources available to us, and I'm confident we are doing that.

But, it is frustrating. It's disappointing. But nonetheless, I think it is all the more the reason why we have to keep doing it. And ultimately I'm confident we can be successful.

BLITZER: You are the Senate majority leader. You're briefed on all the nation's most important secrets. Does the U.S. government have any idea, A, whether Osama bin Laden is alive or dead, and, B, where he is?

DASCHLE: I would say the answer to both questions at this point, Wolf, is no. We really don't know his whereabouts. We have information, of course, that is circumstantial. But we don't have any real confidence that we know whereabouts today, nor do we know his status.

But that doesn't mean we don't keep trying, that that information, could be made available to us, the next day, the next week, the next month. But unless we keep trying, we won't be successful.

BLITZER: That Hellfire missile attack against that convoy in Eastern Afghanistan, have you been briefed on any results, definitive results who may have been killed in that attack?

DASCHLE: I have not been briefed yet. I have been out of the city for the last couple of days. But I look forward to getting a briefing early next week.

BLITZER: Are you satisfied, with the decision the Bush administration made differentiating between the Taliban detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, as opposed to the Al Qaeda detainees?

DASCHLE: I am satisfied. I think we have to draw that distinction. I don't think there is any question that there is a difference between those who are prisoners of war and those who are actual criminals, or at least potential criminals. And I think we need to treat the differently. That's really what our laws require.

And I think the president is right in following the guidance given him by those who have analyzed their circumstances and our laws.

BLITZER: Was the president right in branding as an axis of evil Iran, Iraq and North Korea, because, as you know, there has been some widespread criticism, especially from European capitals, on that notion?

DASCHLE: Well, Wolf, I think that he was right in citing the dangerous threat that they pose to the United States. There is no doubt about that.

I do think we have to recognize that each of these countries is different. They may require a different approach. And I think, to whatever extent possible, we have to take that into account.

I think it is important for us to act unilaterally if it involves our national security.

DASCHLE: But I would hope that we could do it in the context of working with our allies; developing a strategy in all three cases, separate perhaps, but nonetheless a strategy involving a world approach, not a unilateral one.

BLITZER: Should the American public expect a unilateral U.S. approach towards Iraq, specifically military action, sooner rather than later?

DASCHLE: Oh, I don't think we ought to put a time frame on it. We still have a lot of work to do, as you noted in your earlier questions, in Afghanistan. We haven't resolved those issues. We still haven't found bin Laden. We haven't found many of the high ranking Taliban officials, including Mr. Omar.

So, I think we've got to take this one step at a time. I don't think there ought to be any premature schedule, any arbitrary decisions made with regard to timing.

BLITZER: As you know, the president of Pakistan, President Musharraf, will be in Washington later this week meeting with President Bush Wednesday at the White House.

He gave an interview to The Washington Post in which he suggested that the Indian government, the Indian intelligence community, may be behind -- may have a linkage to the kidnapping of the Wall Street Journal reporter, Danny Pearl.

Is there anything you heard to confirm that?

DASCHLE: I must say, Wolf, I have not heard anything in the reports that I have been provided.

And again, I think we've got to be very careful about rhetoric involving both Pakistan and India. I hope he can make some evidence available because I do think that that's a very hyperbolic charge. But nonetheless,

I think it is important for us to continue to work with both Pakistan and India, not only to resolve the kidnapping, but to defuse the tension between the two countries.

BLITZER: President Bush met this past week with the visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. It was fourth time they met since the president took office. The president has yet to meet with the Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. The vice president is heading to the Middle East later this week. Should Dick Cheney meet with Arafat on this trip?

DASCHLE: Well, he obviously will have to make that judgment for himself, but I would advise him not to, were he to consult with many of us in Congress. I don't think that Mr. Arafat deserves that kind of a meeting at this point.

The Palestinian organizations, the leadership in particular, Mr. Arafat, has to demonstrate that they're capable of the kind of confidence and the kind of cooperation that they have to achieve in order to reach the level of engagement with the United States that I think is required.

So it's premature, in my view, to do it at this time.

BLITZER: Are you concerned, though, that if the U.S. doesn't have this kind of high-level dialogue with the Palestinian leader, half of the problem might not be able to be resolved? In other words, if the U.S. is only talking to the Israeli leadership, where's the incentive for the Palestinians to take greater steps to deal with terrorism, for example?

DASCHLE: Well, I think the incentives in dealing with the United States are just involved directly with, of course, the advantages that we can bring to both sides by a more reciprocal relationship.

If the United States and the Palestinians, the United States and the Israelis are prepared to sit down, I that there is some real opportunities there for further movement in the peace talks.

But I think both sides have to prove themselves credible, and at this point, I don't think Mr. Arafat has shown himself to be a credible partner. Time will tell, but we have yet to see any real commitment to peace, any real commitment to lessening the violence in the Middle East.

And until that happens, I think that we've got to work through intermediaries. We've got to do all that we can to ensure that there can be dialogue, but not direct with the highest officials of the United States government.

BLITZER: All right, Senator Daschle, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about when we return. We'll make the shift to domestic issues, a lot of controversy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: More of my conversation with the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle when Late Edition returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're continuing our conversation with the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Senator Daschle, as you know, when it comes to the war in Afghanistan, the war against terrorism, there's bipartisan unity here in Washington. But on so many domestic issues, especially when it comes to the economy, there's serious disagreement. Let's run through some of them. The Senate minority leader, Trent Lott, was on TV earlier here in the United States. He took another shot at you today for refusing to support the president's economic stimulus bill. Listen to what Senator Lott had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR TRENT LOTT (R-MS): This was a little bit of a shot into the belly of a limping economy. It's showing signs of improving, and that weakened the ability to get a stimulus package. But I thought we still needed it, and I thought it was unfortunate that Senator Daschle started off the new year in a partisan mode, once again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The argument many Republicans are making is, you want the economy to be weak, to use it as an election issue, when the upcoming congressional elections take place in November, that you're playing politics with the American economy.

DASCHLE: Well, Wolf, I'm really amused at those kinds of accusations.

We now know what really happened. What happened is that, right after the first of the year, the Republicans decided to run attack ads. And then when I announced this new compromise -- which included providing unemployment compensation, tax cuts for business, the opportunity to help states, and some rebates for those who didn't get taxes -- I proposed that compromise, which were principles and components involved in both the Republican and Democratic bills, the Republicans held off on using those ads.

Now we've had the votes. We had the vote on my compromise proposal, the common-ground proposal that I mentioned. We got 56 votes. The Republican proposal only got 48 votes. It didn't even get the majority.

So there is one proposal that has a majority vote in the Congress. It's the one that I laid out, the common-ground, compromise proposal.

So it's amazing to me that the Republicans would be attacking me when they were the ones who had the ads in the first place. They were the ones who refused to go along with this compromise proposal. And they are now the ones, claiming politics, when, I think it's pretty clear who really made the effort to try to reach the common ground to move this process forward.

BLITZER: One of the key issues, of course, that they opposed you on, that they wanted these tax cuts to be implemented more speedily. And even some Democrats -- Zell Miller, for example, of Georgia, a conservative Democrat -- wants these tax cuts that were passed last year made permanent.

Listen to what Senator Miller had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR ZELL MILLER (D-GA): Eliminate the uncertainty of this tax cut, and you will stimulate our economy. How can anyone make any long-range plans for a business or for a family, with a here- today, maybe gone-tomorrow tax cut, a tax cut that has a perishable date on it, like a quart of milk?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He makes a very reasonable point there, doesn't he?

DACHLE: Well, he makes a point. I would say, though, that those tax cuts are not going to be permanent, even if he has his way, until the year 2011. That's almost 10 years from now.

DASCHLE: I think what we've got to be concerned about is right now. What every economist said is that we've got to do things that are immediate, that are stimulative, that are temporary, if we are going to generate the economy.

That may have something to do with the recession of 2011. It has nothing to do with the recession or the slower economy that we're facing right now.

I'd say one other thing, too, Wolf. That is going to cost the American taxpayer about $600 billion over the course of the next 10 years, $4 trillion in the second 10 years just as baby boomers are going to retire, and $1.5 trillion of Social Security trust funds.

When the American people wake up and hear what the Republicans are proposing, with regard to this new tax cut, when they hear that they're going to be using $1.5 trillion of Social Security money over the next decade, I have a feeling they're going to be as outraged as I am. We can't do that. We can't afford it. It's bad economic policy.

BLITZER: Another issue that's coming before the Senate, the nomination of Charles Pickering to be a judge on the U.S. federal court of appeals.

Senator Lott also suggested this morning that Democrats are playing politics with this nominee. In fact, I want you to listen to what Senator Lott had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOTT: This is really about the Supreme Court. This is a shot at the president saying, you know, if you come up with a basically a conservative Republican who is pro-life, we're going take him down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is that what you're trying to do, send a message as far as a Supreme Court, potential Supreme Court nominee is concerned?

DASCHLE: Wolf, there is no message in there at all. All we're trying to do is to make our best judgment about the qualifications of very important judges to be serving on circuit courts across this country.

We're holding the same criteria against Mr. Pickering as we do against just any other judge. It's important for us to make a judgment about their qualifications, about their past, about the kind of judge they'll be once they reach that high level of trust and confidence in the American judicial system.

There are some very serious questions about Mr. Pickering. Women's groups, civil rights organizations, a number of people have called attention to the facts that have been coming out in the last several days, and we're trying to make that judgment. We'll do it as we always have -- with care and with an understanding that we have a very important responsibility, in the checks and balances in government today.

BLITZER: Have you made up your mind? Will you oppose confirmation of this nominee?

DASCHLE: Well, obviously I'm not on the Judiciary Committee. This is a matter that first comes before the Judiciary Committee, and they will have to make their judgment. If it reaches the Senate floor, in all likelihood, I will oppose Mr. Pickering.

BLITZER: On the whole issue of Enron investigation, Ken Lay, the former CEO of Enron, scheduled to testify once again this week. Do you believe he will in fact show up and answer questions, as opposed to simply take his Fifth Amendment privilege and not answer any questions?

DASCHLE: Well, I noted that Senator Dorgan said the other day that it is possible now that Mr. Lay may come forward and be more forthcoming. I hope that's the case. This is his opportunity to set the record straight, to defend himself, to present his best information to the Congress in a way that would give us a far better understanding of what happened and how it happened.

I would hope, while he's at it, that he apologizes to the thousands of Enron employees who lost their livelihood and their life savings. That hasn't been done yet either.

But I think it is important that he come forth, and I hope that he won't plead the Fifth.

BLITZER: But, as you know, a lot of lawyers say that, if he doesn't take the Fifth, plead the Fifth, they would be accused of legal malpractice, given the fact that he would be opened up to all sorts of potential criminal charges. If you were his lawyer, presumably you'd want him to be quiet as well.

DASCHLE: Well, I'm not going to make any judgment. I'm not his lawyer.

All I'm saying is, from the point of view of Congress, not Mr. Lay, not the Enron Corporation, but the Congress, and the American people, I think he has an explanation to provide. I think he has an apology to give. And I think, the sooner he does it, in the most public way he can, for the record, the better off everybody will be.

BLITZER: There was a very nasty exchange this week between Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia and the secretary of the treasury, Paul O'Neill. Listen to this brief little excerpt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR ROBERT BYRD (D-WV): You probably should have had a good study course in American history before you came here. And you've been in this town one year. I've been in this town 50 years. With all respect to you, you're not Alexander Hamilton.

PAUL O'NEILL, U.S. SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: I've dedicated my life to doing what I can to getting rid of rules that so limit human potential, and I'm not going to stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Should Senator Byrd be publicly berating the secretary of the treasury in that kind of open fashion?

DASCHLE: Well, Wolf, Senator Byrd feels very strongly about protecting the institution, protecting the extraordinary responsibilities that we have as United States senators.

I think he was powerful in his presentation, and I don't fault him at all. I think that he, like every other senator, has a right to express himself, and he did it, I think, with extreme appreciation of his role as a senator from the Budget Committee just this week.

BLITZER: A lot of people are speculating already, Senator Daschle, that you're running for president in 2004. Never too early to start thinking about it. Are you aggressively thinking about it?

DASCHLE: Not at all. I've got a job to do, Wolf, as I've said before. We've got to make sure that we stay in the majority in the year 2002, and things look good right now, but we're not going to give up. We're not going to let up, I should say. And we've got to make sure that that goal is achieved.

There'll be plenty of time to think about future politics and future elections after that.

BLITZER: When do you make up your mind?

DASCHLE: Well, I think it'll probably be some time after the November election, and early, probably early in the year 2003. But there are a lot of decisions to make. Obviously, I'm up for reelection in South Dakota. So, that's a major question for me as well.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Daschle, thanks for joining us. Good of you to take some time on this Sunday to be on Late Edition.

DASCHLE: My pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

And just ahead, two men who vied but failed to win the Oval Office. Former presidential candidates Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan disagree on almost everything. They'll face off, on President Bush's handling of the war against terrorism, the Enron collapse and much more.

Late Edition continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These challenging days, the world has come to know the caliber of America's 43rd president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Vice President Dick Cheney praising President Bush's handling of the nation in crisis. Welcome back to Late Edition.

We're joined now by two guests who also ran for president during the 2000 campaign. In Hartford, Connecticut, the former Green Party presidential candidate, Ralph Nader. He's also the author of a new book entitled, "Crashing the Party: How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President." And here in Washington, the former Reform Party presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan. His new book entitled, "Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization."

Gentlemen, welcome back to Late Edition.

Let me begin with you, Pat Buchanan, and ask you about the testimony of George Tenet, the CIA director. He testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this week. I want you to listen to this exchange he had with Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

PAT BUCHANAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Is bin Laden still alive?

TENET: Don't know, sir.

EDWARDS: When is the last time we had information indicating he was still alive?

TENET: I'd be happy to talk about all of this in closed session.

EDWARDS: I understand that. Is there any information you can give us about that publicly?

TENET: No, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What does that say to you, when the director of the CIA can't even tell members of the Senate Intelligence Committee in an open session whether or not they know where bin Laden is, if he is a live or dead? What does that say about the state of U.S. intelligence?

BUCHANAN: Well, it says they don't know whether he's alive or dead.

I don't fault the CIA on that point, Wolf. They could have killed him in one of these caves. The other day, as you know, they hit those little handful of fellows, one of whom was about 6'5". And they don't know if that was him. They don't know if he got out. Look, it's a huge country the size of Texas. So, I don't fault the CIA.

BLITZER: Afghanistan.

BUCHANAN: Excuse me, yes, it is the size of Texas. Yes, I don't fault him on that.

And, you know, overall, I think the president has done an outstanding job in this war. He took down the Taliban. We're smashing Al Qaeda. He's running them down in other countries. So, in that aspect of the war, I think that administration, including the CIA, has done an excellent job.

Excellent question, though, is, why didn't we know about September 11? You know, when the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor there were something like seven or eight studies during World War II: Why didn't we know? Did marshal know? Did FDR know? Didn't we break their code? I think that is the real question.

BLITZER: All right, let me bring Ralph Nader.

Are you frustrated that Osama bin Laden is still at large?

RALPH NADER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think there has been too much uncritical praise of the choice of military strategies that President Bush adopted in comparison with other military strategies that were debated inside and outside the Pentagon by military types.

Where are we now in Afghanistan? It's a lot easier to get into Afghanistan than to get out. We toppled the Taliban. They are regrouping, according to The Washington Post today. Ninety-nine percent of the country is under the control of these highwaymen, these bandits, these warlords that are carving up and warring against one another. And we still have not found the backers of the attackers.

So, in effect, the policy has been to burn down a haystack, an innocent haystack, in order to find some needles, and we haven't found the needles yet.

BLITZER: Well, Ralph Nader, what would you have done in the aftermath of September 11?

NADER: Invoked the international law doctrine of hot pursuit, a multilateral core of commandos using bribes and spies, and focusing.

Certainly, after four months, the Bush approach hasn't achieved it's acknowledged objective.

And I would not have allowed the commercial militarists and the autocratic ideologues in this country and the corporate welfare greed hounds to destroy the proper allocation of our public taxpayer budgets and restrict our civil liberties.

BUCHANAN: Well, let me say with regard to the war, I think the president had no choice put to take the Taliban down. They would not deliver Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. And they were providing protection, safe haven for them. And these people have murdered 3,000 Americans. So, I think the president did exactly the right thing.

I'll tell where you I am alarmed, Wolf. You read in The Washington Post that the United States is building up bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, moving all into that area west of China, south of Russia, where there are four nuclear powers.

I think the Roman Empire, having gotten itself in, is going to stay around. You know what happened in Lebanon when we did that after we escorted Arafat out?

BLITZER: So, you are opposed to those base capabilities the U.S. wants to have in Central Asia?

BUCHANAN: I'm opposed to a permanent American military presence in what is the former Soviet Union. We should go in, take down the people that did this thing, find them, get rid of them and come home.

BLITZER: Ralph Nader, as far as the decision by the Bush administration earlier in the week to differentiate among the detainees being held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, between the Taliban detainees and the Al Qaeda detainees, I want you to listen to the explanation offered by the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: President Bush today has decided that the Geneva Convention will apply to Taliban detainees, but not to the Al Qaeda international terrorists. Afghanistan is a party to the Geneva Convention. Although the United States has not recognized the Taliban as a legitimate Afghani government. The president determined that Taliban members are covered under the treaty because Afghanistan is a party to the convention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does that satisfy you, Ralph Nader?

NADER: Well, that's a unilateral decision as to how the Geneva Conventions are going to be interpreted. They are supposed to be international decisions, judicial decision as to which fighters and which soldiers come under the Geneva Convention. And, the president has made that decision unilaterally.

Well, he can make in a decision unilaterally, but he shouldn't try to invoke international law in so doing, because international law is against that decision that he just made.

There should be more attention to the thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan who have died, whether from starvation or refugee camps or collateral damage. I think that needs far more attention in Washington than it's...

BUCHANAN: Let me -- you know, I certainly agree with the Afghan civilians ought to get a lot more attention than they are.

But, Ralph, look, the Taliban are soldiers of a government that was recognized, if not internationally, by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. And as soldiers of a valid government, even one we don't recognize, just like as with the North Korean troops, the United States should treat them under the Geneva Convention.

But Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization. It's sole purpose is the murder of innocent Americans and westerners to terrorize us. These are not fighting soldiers interested in changing a government or acquiring land or defending a country. These are cold-blooded killers trained to be that. I mean, we are dealing with folks, some of them like Hannibal Lector down there, and these are not soldiers.

NADER: Yes, but, Pat, they were captured and under control of the U.S. military. What's the big deal of gaining moral superiority in the world by applying the Geneva Convention? It is basically saying you shouldn't torture -- which basically says you shouldn't torture them.

BUCHANAN: Here's the big deal, Ralph -- well, no, no, it says more than that, Ralph. Look, not only you shouldn't torture, but all you can ask for is name, rank and serial number. These people are part of a Murder Inc.

And we've got to ask for more if we are going to run down these Taliban who reportedly are in -- I mean, excuse me, Al Qaeda, who are in 60 countries, and who are hell bent murdering Americans, you know, not in fighting a valid war.

BLITZER: Ralph Nader, the point that the administration makes is, if they treat Al Qaeda as terrorist suspects, they can question them and try to get answers about future terrorist operations that may have been in the works. If they're treated according to the Geneva Conventions, basically, and POW status, they only have to give their name, rank and serial number.

NADER: The interrogation is going on whether they are Al Qaeda or Taliban. And the reality on the ground, the interrogation goes on. The main thrust of the Geneva Convention is to prevent torture.

BUCHANAN: Well, look, I agree they ought not to be tortured. But I think, wouldn't you also agree, Ralph, we cannot apprehend these people and simply allow them to give their name, rank and serial number. I mean, what country are they fighting for?

NADER: Pat, they are going to be interrogated anyway, because how are they going to decide whether they are Al Qaeda or Taliban? Who is going to admit that? They're going to be interrogated. They have been interrogated in Guantanamo Bay. They will continue to be.

My main concern, I think the human rights groups' main concern, is the prohibition on torture.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to pick up that point, and we're going to move on to some other points, including both of your new books. But we have to take a quick break.

We'll have much more with Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader. And they'll also be taking your phone calls.

Late Edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're continuing our discussion with former presidential candidates Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan.

Ralph Nader, the president made a lot of -- I guess he generated a lot of excitement with his "axis of evil" comment, branding Iran, Iraq and North Korea as terrorists sponsors. Listen to what the president had to say in his State of the Union address.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, aiming (ph) to threaten the peace of the world by seeking weapons of mass destruction. These regimes pose a grave and growing danger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you have any problem with the thrust of the president's message?

NADER: It's a West-Texas-sheriff approach. Unless he can persuade us that these regimes want to commit suicide right after they unleash any weapons of destruction, I would call that simply warmongering.

Is he going now establish a Bush doctrine of overthrowing all dictatorships in the world? There's a lot that could stand in line for that, not just those three.

Is he going to allow our economy to go down by a massive increase in military expenditures, on top of the $320 billion Pentagon budget, which Don Rumsfeld himself has said represents taxes that are not expended wisely?

Look at this, look at this. This is before another $100 billion. This is the U.S. and allies, like England and France, defense budget. This is Russia, China, and the rogue states. And this before another $100 billion goes up on that graph.

How much is enough, Wolf?

BLITZER: Is the president engaging in warmongering? BUCHANAN: The president made a mistake with the phrase, and the president ought not to be threatening a war. He doesn't have the authority to go to war against Iraq, Wolf, or Iran or North Korea.

The only countries he's got an authority to attack are those who provided safe haven for terrorists or conspired in September 11; none of the three did.

BLITZER: Don't you believe in the policy of a preemptive strike in case there's evidence that they're planning on doing something?

BUCHANAN: Well look, if you found out tomorrow morning that Saddam Hussein was going to drop a nuclear weapon on our troops in Saudi Arabia, he ought to strike them. But they're not. There's no evidence of that, Wolf.

He ought to go to the Congress of the United States if he wants to wage war. He ought to inform the American people why it is we have to wage war. We don't have the troops in place, Wolf, to defeat any of these countries in war.

South Korea is up the wall, because you threaten or you attack North Korea and they got thousands of artillery pieces on the DMZ, so it was a mistake.

BLITZER: So on this, I basically see you and Ralph Nader pretty much in line, as far as condemning the president for this "axis of evil" comment.

BUCHANAN: I think the comment was a mistake. I do think those are evil regimes, but I also think China's is an evil regime. It's got weapons of mass destruction pointed at us.

BLITZER: In his new book, Ralph Nader, "The Death of the West," Pat Buchanan's new book, he writes this, and I want to get your reaction to what he says.

"Uncontrolled immigration threatens to deconstruct a nation we grew up in and convert America into a conglomeration of peoples with almost nothing in common -- not history, heroes, language, culture, faith or ancestors. Balkanization beckons."

What do you say about those strong words from Pat Buchanan?

NADER: Well, I hope that wasn't policy when Pat's ancestors came over from Ireland. I guess Pat doesn't agree with the melting-pot approach.

But I think most Americans would agree that there shouldn't be uncontrolled immigration, and that if we continue supporting dictatorships and oligarchs abroad, as our foreign policy has done over the years, it's going to drive desperate people to come over the border, especially from Mexico and Central America, who would stay home and not leave their native country.

And the second is, I think our country is bleeding a lot of brain-drain from around the world -- scientists, physicists, engineers, entreprenuers -- who, in their own countries, would rebuild their countries, especially if we had a pro-democracy foreign policy. What are we doing? What are we doing draining that talent?

BUCHANAN: Well, let me say first I'm going to send Ralph an autographed copy of my book because he hadn't read it.

I do believe 100 percent in the melting pot. That is the problem, Wolf. The melting pot is cracked, it is broken. We're preaching multi-culturalism. We're preaching racial entitlements, ethnic entitlements. Folks coming into the Southwest, millions of Mexicans. They're told, "Keep your Spanish language. Keep your Spanish radio, TV. Don't assimilate. Don't Americanize." That's what's going to take this country apart.

BUCHANAN: If we halt immigration cold -- illegal immigration -- put a moratorium on legal immigration, get the melting pot working, we can save America and become one nation, one people again.

That's what I'm afraid of -- we're becoming more and more disparate and separate.

BLITZER: But don't you have to...

BUCHANAN: That point of mine is equal of what Theodore Roosevelt said.

BLITZER: But don't you have to acknowledge, though, that waves and waves of immigrants to this country have made this country what it today?

BUCHANAN: Well, I mean, look, this country was founded basically by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who had a core group and then we all came into it. I don't speak Gaelic any more. You don't speak the Russian or whatever you spoke in Eastern Europe. Folks don't speak German; my ancestors spoke German. We all speak English. We studied study Shakespeare, Longfellow, Poe.

BLITZER: All right. Let's let Ralph Nader...

BUCHANAN: We studied British institutions.

BLITZER: ... respond to that.

Ralph, what do you say about that? NADER: Well, maybe we'll around to get to my book "Crashing the Party" and the whole Enron "I told you so" concentration of corporate power.

But Pat, you misinterpret "melting pot." You're talking about balkanization.

BUCHANAN: Yes.

NADER: "Melting pot" means that they melt into the dominant culture and they're absorbed into the dominant culture, which is an English- speaking culture.

BUCHANAN: Right.

NADER: So, don't say that, you know, you're worried about the melting pot.

BUCHANAN: I mean, Ralph, they are speaking Spanish. The folks in California and the elites voted to have bilingualism in all of the schools. How can these kids enter American society if they can't even speak the English language?

NADER: Well, that referendum went against bilingual.

BUCHANAN: And we won it.

NADER: Yes.

BLITZER: You know, in your book -- and I don't want to ignore your book, Ralph Nader, "Crashing the Party," a book about your attitudes toward the two-party system, your effort to start up a third party.

Among other things, you write this: "Unfortunately a working, deliberative democracy has few real champions in the Republican or Democratic Parties. These parties see their self-perpetuation in the narrowest of dimensions, largely by allowing business interests too great a say in local, state and national agendas."

But wasn't the election in 2000 a rejection of what you stood for?

NADER: Not at all, Wolf. The Republican-Democratic Party have basically put a "for sale" sign on our government on our elections, on our democracy. That alone should disqualify them.

And part of that "for sale" sign is the debate commission, which kept me and Pat off the presidential debates -- the only way running for president you can reach tens of millions of people, the only way. A debate commission is controlled by the two parties, funded by Anheuser Busch, Ford, AT&T, Philip Morris and other corporations.

I campaigned, as I'm sure Pat did, in every state in the union, some states more than once, before huge audiences like Madison Square Garden and the Boston Garden -- full. And I reached 1 1/2 percent of the number of people I could have reached had I been on that one of the three debates.

And the Fox News poll and other polls repeatedly had the majority of the American people wanting me and Pat on the presidential debates, if only because they didn't want the debates to be a cure for insomnia.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, gentlemen, we have to leave it right there, Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader. I know we could continue -- keep going, but we have a clock we've got to adhere to. Thanks to both of you.

NADER: Next time.

BLITZER: We'll have you back and we'll talk about both books. We'll talk about a bunch other subjects, as well. NADER: It is a virtual democracy, Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right. Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader, thanks for joining us.

Coming up in the next hour of Late Edition, we'll talk with two United States senators at the center of the Enron investigation. Then three legal experts offer some legal perspective on Enron, the case of the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, and those detainees in Cuba. And Bruce Morton weighs in on why reform in politics is often only in name.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY SKILLING (?), FORMER CEO OF ENRON: At the time I left the company, I fervently believed that Enron would continue to be successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Congress holds hearings on Enron's collapse. Is the energy giant guilty of wrongdoing, or was it strictly business as usual? We'll ask two senators at the center of the investigation: Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois.

And we'll get legal analysis on the Enron collapse, the case of the Taliban American and the status of the detainees in Cuba from three guests: former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova, defense attorney Roy Black and former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean.

And Bruce Morton on the difference between a reform and a quick fix. Welcome back. We'll hear from Senators Dorgan and Fitzgerald in just a few minutes, but first let's go to Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: And although Enron chairman Ken Lay was a last-minute no-show at the Senate's panel hearing on the Enron collapse earlier in the week, there's still speculation he may yet testify.

Joining us now are two lawmakers deeply involved in the Enron investigation, Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Republican Senator Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois.

Senators, welcome to Late Edition.

Senator Dorgan, let me begin with you. He was a no-show, Ken Lay, at your hearing earlier in the week, but there's now suggestions he may yet testify this coming week. Will he?

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: First of all, we issued a subpoena after he did not show last week, and he is required to respond to that subpoena. He's going to be required to appear before our panel at 9:30 Tuesday morning.

We can require him to appear with a subpoena; we can't require him to testify. That's between himself and his attorneys, and I assume they're making a calculation now about whether they want him to speak.

Let me tell you where you we are as of Friday. We told his attorneys -- it is of course customary for them to tell us whether they are going to assert the Fifth Amendment rights, so that we can properly plan the hearing. We have other witnesses as well...

BLITZER: Against self-incrimination.

DORGAN: That's right.

And we said, you know, we would like to know that.

DORGAN: It's customary we would be told that. And they said, "We are not at this point telling you that." And we said, "We'll then prepare the hearing on the basis he is going to testify." And they said, "We have no disagreement with that."

That doesn't mean he is going to testify. We know he is coming. He is required to be there. Between now and Tuesday morning, I assume that he and his attorneys will make judgment about whether he will testify.

BLITZER: And if he says to you in advance "I'm going to take the Fifth," will you still make him come and go through the public humiliation of having to say "I cite my Fifth Amendment right"?

DORGAN: This isn't about humiliation, this is about accountability. And Mr. Lay was the chairman and the CEO of that company. Mr. Skilling, who was the CEO did testify, as you know, at great length, I think four hours the other day. We hope that Mr. Lay will follow Mr. Skilling's example.

Mr. Lay, after all, has told everyone that he really wants to tell his side of the story. Tuesday morning at 9:30 is that opportunity for him.

BLITZER: You know, some criminal defense attorneys -- I interviewed the Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, earlier in the week. And he said any lawyer who let's Ken Lay testify and not cite his Fifth Amendment privilege should be accused of indulging in legal malpractice, given what's out there potentially against Ken Lay.

What do you say about that?

SEN. PETER FITZGERALD (R), ILLINOIS: Well, that's true. But on the other hand, if Mr. Lay wants to get his side of the story out, he is going to have an opportunity where the whole nation will be watching. And if the documents that are out there, if the testimony that's already occurred is giving misconceptions about what actually occurred, then this is Mr. Lay's opportunity to dispel those misconceptions.

BLITZER: You say that, but a friend of his, an unnamed friend, in the new issue of Newsweek magazine just out today -- let me read a passage from Newsweek. It says this: "He said," referring to what Ken Lay told their friend, "they are trying to trip me up. They want to put me in jail. He said," Ken Lay continuing, "`Every fiber of my body wants to talk and tell my side of this.' He must have said it 10 times," the friend added.

FITZGERALD: Well, he is in between a rock and hard place, because you had Mr. Skilling, who was also the CEO of the company for a time, he testified last week. So if Mr. Lay doesn't testify, you will have one CEO who did and another who wouldn't. So that would -- that gives him a lot to think about before Tuesday's hearing.

DORGAN: Wolf, could I mention, you know, our role is different than the Justice Department. The issue of jail, as was mentioned in your passage, that is part of the criminal justice system's responsibility. And the Justice Department has an ongoing criminal investigation.

We are trying to take a look at public policy here. People at the top of this corporation got very, very rich. People at the bottom lost their life savings. We are trying to figure out what happened; how'd it happen; who was accountable; who was responsible.

And Mr. Lay, I would hope, would want to tell his side of the story so that we understand how that piece fits in this larger puzzle.

BLITZER: Once he answers any of your questions, he has waived his Fifth Amendment privilege no matter what happens down the road.

DORGAN: Well, he can -- he has waived his privilege with respect to that which he's answered. But he can at any moment say I assert my Fifth Amendment rights and at any moment begin to refuse to answer questions. In most cases...

BLITZER: But would that be legal at that point?

DORGAN: Sure.

BLITZER: Because once you have gone ahead and answered questions even some questions, haven't you waived that Fifth Amendment privilege?

DORGAN: Well, you've waived the privilege for the questions you've answered. But at any point during a hearing -- in most cases, they will come to a committee if they've decided not to testify and they will simply say to the first question, "Under the advice of my attorneys, I refuse to answer on the grounds that I might incriminate myself."

Normally you don't have a hybrid where they answer some questions and then assert their Fifth Amendment on others.

BLITZER: Well, I don't think you can. Is that your understanding?

FITZGERALD: My understanding is the same.

And he has a tough decision to make, there's no question. However, Mr. Skilling decided last week that he would testify, and I hope Mr. Lay will decide to do the same.

BLITZER: And the fact that Jeffrey Skilling, who was the CEO of Enron until last summer, then he suddenly resigned citing personal reasons, which he's never explained.

But earlier today, we've heard other members of the House investigating the Enron collapse, including the chairman of one of the key committees, Billy Tauzin, suggest that Skilling might be in trouble now for perjury based on some of the comments that he made.

Won't that set a bad example if you're trying to convince Ken Lay now to testify?

FITZGERALD: Well, it depends whether Mr. Lay's answers are truthful.

I think the problem that Skilling encounters is that he portrayed himself as not knowing anything that was going on at Enron during the time that he was CEO. But prior to Enron's demise, Jeff Skilling was always portrayed as someone who was on top of things. He had good risk management and controls in place and knew everything that was going on.

FITZGERALD: So who is the real Jeff Skilling? The one who testified last week or the one who was portrayed to the public very favorably prior to Enron's demise? BLITZER: Well, here's a key excerpt from what Jeff Skilling had to say, a passage that some are now suggesting was simply not truthful. Listen to what he told the Commerce Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SKILLING: I can state here today that I did not have any knowledge that the transaction was designed to conceal losses, and I did not do anything to withhold information from the board of directors of Enron Corporation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you believe him?

DORGAN: Let me just say this. The board of directors of the company -- now, this is the board of directors of the Enron Corporation produced this Powers report, and we'll hear from Mr. Powers on Tuesday.

BLITZER: This was the internal report that was quite critical.

DORGAN: And one would expect that puts the best light on this, because, after all, that's a report manufactured and generated by the company.

What this report said is that, in one year, they produced $1 billion in profits, reported profits that didn't exist. Now, how can a CEO tell the world that he didn't know about what was happening with respect to profits?

BLITZER: So what you're saying...

DORGAN: You know...

BLITZER: So you're saying he was lying.

DORGAN: Well, I don't think he was telling the truth when he appeared. I mean, it's quite clear to me that his reputation, as Peter just indicated, is someone who prides himself with control and details. I mean, that was the reputation he had in the Enron company. And now he comes and says, "Well, I don't know, I don't recall, I didn't do anything." It is not believable.

BLITZER: It was what Congressman Ed Markey said, the Sergeant Shultz defense, "I see nothing," from the old Hogan's Heroes comedy series on television.

You think he was lying?

FITZGERALD: Well, I think that Mr. Skilling's testimony has been contradicted by a lot of documents and other evidence. I'll leave it up for the Justice Department to make a determination as to whether he wasn't telling the truth.

But I think, as Senator Dorgan pointed out, you had 70 percent of the companies earnings coming from what the Powers committee has said were bogus transactions. Wouldn't the CEO know where 70 percent of their earnings are coming from? That's what was difficult to swallow in Mr. Skilling's testimony.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Louisiana. Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Hi. This is for either of the senators. I just wonder if sometimes people aren't, like Mr. Lay, don't want to come before Congress and testify because of the manner of questioning by senators or the lectures that they sometimes get? And I cite what happened this past week with Senator Byrd and Mr. O'Neill.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator?

DORGAN: Well, we can only be responsible for what we do in our committee.

I think on Tuesday when Mr. Lay comes before our committee we will be respectful but tough. It should not be considered a walk in the park when you have this kind of scandal to come before a congressional committee. Those who come before our committee will face tough questions. But that's the way we have to operate here in order to understand what happened.

The caller understands, I know, that the people at the top here got very, very wealthy, $1.1 billion in stock sales by insiders in the last year and a half or so, and the people at the bottom lost their life savings and investors lost their shirts. Someone needs to be accountable for that.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We're going to continue this conversation. A lot more to talk about, including more phone calls for Senators Dorgan and Fitzgerald.

Late Edition will continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation about the Enron collapse with Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Republican Senator Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois.

Senator Dorgan, would you consider doing what one of the witnesses -- what a former Enron employee suggested earlier in the week, namely, granting immunity to Ken Lay in exchange for his testimony?

Listen to what one of the former Enron employees said on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER ENRON EMPLOYEE: I'd like to see that each one of them gets immunity, number one, and actually talk and speak from their hearts and exactly what has happened throughout the transactions that -- they are immune from it. However, this way the corporate America as a whole will be able to benefit from the end result of it. Rather than this blame game of individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: If Ken Lay says I'm going to just cite the Fifth Amendment, refuse to talk, would you consider doing what they did during the Iran-Contra with Ollie North, for example, grant him immunity, use immunity, what was called, in exchange for the testimony?

DORGAN: I personally would not support that and, frankly, don't think our subcommittee would support that.

We have an investigation going on at the Justice Department, a criminal investigation, and I don't want to do anything here in Congress, at least with respect to the hearings that I'm involved in, that would anyway jeopardize that investigation.

It would be nice to be able to have everyone tell everything they know and not waive their Fifth Amendment rights, but that would horribly jeopardize the criminal justice system.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator?

FITZGERALD: If we granted immunity, then nobody would be held accountable, and I would think that would be a miscarriage of justice. So we should leave it to the Justice Department to pursue their investigation and prosecute any crimes if they find them.

BLITZER: Is this becoming a political issue, the whole Enron investigation, given the fact that Enron made more contributions to Republicans than to Democrats?

FITZGERALD: I think it's made it a more interesting story that Enron was a very politically active corporation.

But based on the investigation we're doing here in Congress, there is no apparent connection between the political involvement of the company and what appears to me to have been a shell game or a pyramid scheme going on within the corporation. I doubt any politician, Republican or Democrat, had any information about that. I suspect that many of the board members perhaps didn't even know anything about it. Although, of course, they perhaps should have.

BLITZER: Senator Dorgan?

DORGAN: Well, with respect to this scandal, it is at this point a corporate and business scandal. And we need to understand the dimensions of it.

Will it become at some point a political scandal? I don't know. I mean, the chips are going to fall where the chips fall. And we have so much to investigate that you know we are just beginning this process. But, on the other side of it, of course, there is the GAO lawsuit that will be filed against the administration, demanding the release of information about who was involved in the task force with respect to energy policy. And, of course, Enron is a part of that.

But that is not what we're doing. We are doing something quite different. And that is the collapse of this company, the largest corporate bankruptcy in history, how did it happen, and who is responsible for it? I mean, this is really the worst financial scandal I have seen in my lifetime.

BLITZER: We'll get to the legal issues involving the Vice President Dick Cheney and the GAO, the General Accounting Office, in a second.

I want to take a quick caller from Oregon. Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Yes, hi, Wolf, hi, Senators. I would like to know what an average American can do to help take public corporate money, such as the NRA, tobacco money, Enron, out of politics -- so, like, politicians are fighting for Americans and not corporate interests?

BLITZER: Well, the campaign finance reform is coming up for vote in the House of Representatives, this week.

Senator Fitzgerald, what do you say? Should McCain-Feingold's equivalent in the House of Representatives, what's called Shays- Meehan, that legislation, should that pass?

FITZGERALD: I hope it will pass. I voted for it in the Senate. And I think that what has happened with Enron gives a big boost to supporters of McCain-Feingold. I don't think we'll ever take the influence of money out of politics entirely, but I think perhaps the McCain-Feingold bill is a good start.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of Republicans disagree with you.

FITZGERALD: Oh, I know, I'm well aware of that. But this is the conclusion that I have come based on my years experience in government service. I think it's the right thing to do.

BLITZER: Let's take another caller from North Carolina. Go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Yes. With all this talk about the politics and the things that are going on with the executives, why does not the government garnish the assets of the company and try to reimburse the people that lost everything?

BLITZER: That's a good question. You want to...

FITZGERALD: Yes. I mean, the company is in bankruptcy. It's problem is it had to too much debt that it couldn't repay, and it doesn't really have any excess cash to pay back the people that lost their money. On the other hand, it's possible that all of these insider corporate executives who pocketed tens or hundreds of millions of dollars worth of proceeds from the sale of their stock options, that their proceeds could be taken away and given to all the ordinary workers who lost money.

BLITZER: Well, how do you do that? How do you go after some of these -- the stock options, the millions, tens of millions, in some cases, hundreds of millions dollars, they made that they may now have some place in a bank account?

DORGAN: Well, it's hard to do it. There will be lawsuits on top of lawsuits here, I'm sure.

One of the little facts here that really angers me and, I think, everybody is that this corporation gave something like $50 million to $55 million in bonuses, just days before they announced to the world that they were recalculating earnings. And in fact, they had proposed that they had $1 billion of earnings that didn't exist. Just before that, they got all these bonuses out to top executives.

And when the caller asks these questions, he's absolutely right. This was a circumstance where the top did very, very well. They took care of themselves and buttered their own bread, and then everybody else just got killed, with respect to what happened to price of this stock.

FITZGERALD: The bankruptcy court could, perhaps, go back and take away those bonuses, if they were done, prior to the -- in anticipation of bankruptcy. Those conveyances could be set aside as fraudulent. That's a possibility. BLITZER: All right. Getting back to what Senator Dorgan mentioned earlier, the battle, the legal battle between the White House and the General Accounting Office on who provided some information to Vice President Dick Cheney's task force on energy.

Do you think the vice president should make those names available who attended the meetings to the GAO?

FITZGERALD: Well, I think the vice president has a strong legal case. I think he could perhaps win in court. But I think that may all be immaterial if he pays such a high political price for it.

I think the vice president, in order not to set a precedent here, should stipulate that this Enron case is of supreme national importance. And without setting a precedent, he is releasing the requested information, to the GAO now, and put it behind him. But say that, hence forward, they intend to be able to have confidential communications within the administration.

BLITZER: The vice president makes the points, though, that by doing so, future presidents and vice presidents, their authority would be undermined if he were to make this information available to the GAO.

DORGAN: Well, the vice president has mis-characterized the request, first of all. He's talking about people want details and notes of the specific recommendations.

The GAO is right. When the vice president, for example, puts together a task force and uses public funds to put it together, the American people have a right to know who has he chosen to be on this task force, when did they meet?

And that's the basis on which he developed an energy policy. The American people, it seems me, in the name of open government, certainly have a right to know this information.

The GAO believes -- and the GAO, as you know, has no politics in it -- the GAO believes that it's the right of Congress to receive this information and has decided, after it's been refused, to go to court and try seek it. I think that we should get it and soon.

BLITZER: Senator Dorgan, Senator Fitzgerald, thanks to both of you for helping us better understand what's going on.

DORGAN: Thank you very much.

FITZGERALD: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you. And just ahead, the legal and political implications of the Enron scandal. We'll get insight from three guests. They'll also offer perspective on the case of Taliban American John Walker Lindh. And do federal prosecutors have enough evidence to meet the burden of proof?

Late Edition will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES GREENWOOD (R-PA): Will you invoke your Fifth Amendment rights in response to all questions here today?

(UNKNOWN): Yes, I will.

(UNKNOWN): Yes, sir, I will.

(UNKNOWN): Yes, I will.

(UNKNOWN): Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BLITZER: Several former Enron employees declining to answer questions during congressional hearings this past week. Welcome back to Late Edition.

For some legal perspective on the Enron case, we turn now to three guests. Joining us from Los Angeles, the former Nixon White House counsel John Dean; in Miami, the criminal defense attorney Roy Black; and here in Washington, the former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova.

Gentlemen, good to have you all of you back on Late Edition.

And, Roy Black, let me begin with you. Would you let any -- would you let one of your clients, if he were a former Enron employee, testify before one of these congressional panels, or would you ask them to cite their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination?

ROY BLACK, ATTORNEY: Well, Wolf, I would do everything just short of shooting the client to make sure he doesn't get into that chamber.

And you take a look at Skilling, it's a classic example. That was extreme act of hubris. He wanted to get in there and explain himself, he wanted to look good. But all he does is give a roadmap for the prosecutors at the Department of Justice to look for something to charge him with. And not only that, but he put up with all the abuse by the congressmen who were trying to look good on camera.

So, there's absolutely no legal reason for someone to do this, and all you do is put yourself in extreme jeopardy.

BLITZER: What about that, Joe DiGenova?

JOE DIGENOVA, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Roy Black is absolutely right. There is absolutely no reason in the world for Mr. Lay to testify. It would be a very dangerous act, in terms of subjecting himself not only to the public humiliation of the type of questioning which Mr. Skilling underwent, but it is a perjury trap of the first order.

Mr. Skilling may have thought he bested the committee by virtue of his, what I would consider to be, really outrageously arrogant performance. But Mr. Skilling has created a very nice case for the Justice Department by his testimony.

BLITZER: But, John Dean, the argument is made, if you did nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide, why not just tell the truth and make your case publicly?

JOHN DEAN, FMR. NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: That's absolutely correct, Wolf. It is the witness's decision. As having been a witness, and having also been a counsel to a committee, I certainly appreciate both sides of this. But I must say that the safe route is obviously to take the Fifth Amendment.

Whether Mr. Lay will do that or not I don't know, and he can certainly do a lot for himself if he doesn't, by coming forward.

BLITZER: One point, Roy Black, that Alan Dershowitz made to me, the Harvard law professor, earlier in the week, that, since Ken Lay's wife gave an interview on NBC, on the Today show, that she effectively may have waived her own right against citing the Fifth Amendment. And if the Justice Department or if congressional investigators want to play hardball, as they did with Monica Lewinsky's mother, they could haul her before a grand jury.

Do you accept that argument?

BLACK: Not a chance. The mere fact that you gave an interview to the press doesn't waive your Fifth Amendment rights.

And when you testify, you only waive it for that particular proceeding, even if you did it in the grand jury or in court or before Congress.

So the mere fact that she appeared on various television shows doesn't waive her Fifth Amendment privilege.

On the other hand, the government could certainly use the tape of that to try to show that she's lying in some way, and perhaps might use that as leverage against her husband. But that's sort of a slim chance of that happening.

BLITZER: What do you -- you used to be a U.S. attorney, you used to play hardball with suspects in this kind of situation. Is that realistic, to haul her before a grand jury?

DIGENOVA: Absolutely. Now, she may invoke the marital privilege, forget the Fifth Amendment privilege, and she may have a spousal privilege not to testify. It is the spousal privilege she may have waived by appearing and giving that interview, that's what the danger is. She probably doesn't have a Fifth Amendment privilege.

But by the way, when the senators were saying to you earlier on the show, Wolf, that a witness can come and testify and then invoke the Fifth, once the witness testifies, the witness has waived the Fifth Amendment. If the witness tries to invoke the Fifth...

BLITZER: Later.

DIGENOVA: ... after taking -- in that committee, in that proceeding, after testifying, they can be held in contempt.

BLITZER: That's what I thought.

DIGENOVA: You are absolutely right. Your instincts were right on the money.

BLITZER: I just wanted to make sure. Right. I never even went to law school.

DIGENOVA: You knew that one.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: John Dean, you went to law school and you wrote a piece within the past few days. I want to read an excerpt from what you wrote, everyone knowing your history, of course, during Watergate and the Nixon presidency.

You wrote this, "In fact, not since Richard Nixon stiffed the Congress during Watergate, has a White House so openly and arrogantly defied Congress' investigative authority. Nor has any activity by the Bush administration more strongly suggested they are hiding the incriminating information about their relationship with the now moribund Enron or other heavy-hitting campaign contributors from the energy business."

What is the point you are trying to make here? DEAN: Well, the point I am making is, to go to court with GAO over the question of production of this information is really an extreme action. It is almost to me reminiscent, in a parallel sense, of the extreme that Nixon went to in firing Cox when he was special prosecutor. It's not quite that far. It's got a much more sophisticated version of cutting off the ability to get the information.

They are not declaring executive privilege. They are saying, "GAO, you don't even have the authority to do this." Well, that is so fundamentally troubling to me. I don't know if it isn't more troubling to take that issue to court and fight that issue, in 80 years it's never been done then even the potential implications of whether they have had some improper conduct with Enron or others.

BLITZER: All right. I want Joe DiGenova to respond to that.

Before you do, Joe, I want to read to you what a senior administration official told us -- the White House response, in effect, to the allegations being made by John Dean.

The official says, "Washington has a typical way of responding to scandals. Mr. Dean's comments are coming from a different planet. The suggestion that the conduct of this administration is similar to the law-breaking that took place under the Nixon administration is not only not factual, but it is insulting, and it appears to be a cry for attention by someone from a different era."

DIGENOVA: Wolf, I agree with that statement 100 percent. Let me just say this, I think some of John's language in his article is really, really disturbing and I think, offensive. There is absolutely no evidence that the president, the vice president or anyone in this administration has violated any law. That's number one.

Number two...

BLITZER: Before you get number two, let's let John Dean respond.

Do you have any evidence whatsoever, John Dean, that any criminal action was taken by anybody in the White House?

DEAN: No. I don't say that in the article. What I say, and what Joe knows I...

DIGENOVA: No, you imply it, John. You imply it strongly.

DEAN: No, what I am saying is, indeed, what Cheney is doing is a direct parallel to the sort of thing that was done during the Watergate cover up, Joe.

DIGENOVA: It is not. It is not.

DEAN: It's exactly. It is absolutely.

DIGENOVA: It is not. DEAN: I was there, Joe. It is...

(CROSSTALK)

DIGENOVA: You certainly were, John. You were part of a conspiracy. You ought to know.

DEAN: It was a stalling tactic.

DIGENOVA: You were part of a conspiracy. You ought to know.

DEAN: I'm saying -- that's why I say I do know. I say I'm seeing the parallel.

DIGENOVA: Yes, you do, John. It's also something that undercuts your credibility tremendously on this.

Let me respond to the legal question, Wolf.

The GAO has never in the history of the United States sought documents from a constitutional officer, the president or the vice president. There is not a single case of law that the GAO can point to, saying they have this authority.

The White House has not invoked executive privilege. It has said that the GAO does not have the authority, as it does with the Department of Defense or the Department of Agriculture, to seek documents. The president and the vice president are constitutional officers. They are not departments of government.

Not only that, what's really interesting about this, look at what is happening. This request came from Henry Waxman and John Dingell, who are the minority members in the House of Representatives. The Senate is controlled by the Democrats. Neither the Senate nor the House has issued a subpoena for these documents. This is really fascinating.

Why haven't the Democrats in the Senate done the one thing that would guarantee their legal success, which is issue a subpoena for these documents? They haven't done it.

BLITZER: Roy Black, I'm not ignoring you, but I want John Dean to respond to that.

Go ahead.

DEAN: Well, first of all, the point Joe is making -- and he is a very good defender of the administration and always has been.

DEAN: The point I'm making is, there is a parallel here in appearances. I don't have any evidence. And I'm surprised that Cheney, as shrewd and wise as he is, would take a stance, throw down the gauntlet, because it does create this appearance.

Now, as to the constitutional officer issue, you're right, this has not been litigated. But also if it is indeed, as they say, that a constitutional officer is immune somehow from oversight, you've created a black hole in the federal (inaudible), if you will, that nobody can ever look into that. And that would be a very...

DIGENOVA: John, you've missed my point. You've missed my point.

All I'm saying is that the GAO has sent a letter to the vice president. They didn't issue a subpoena because they don't have subpoena power. If Congress wants this information, all they have to do is issue a subpoena, hold the vice president in contempt, and then litigate the question in court.

I think there is more politics than law involved in this request, John, and I think you know it.

DEAN: Well, Joe, as you know, a demand letter from the GAO is almost the equivalent of a subpoena for all practical purposes.

DIGENOVA: It's the same thing, John, in law.

DEAN: It is not the same -- it's not the same in the law, but for practical purposes it has many parallels. Now...

DIGENOVA: For political purposes.

DEAN: As far as -- as far as this being a partisan situation, I don't see that. There are protocols at the GAO that say that if a ranking minority member, he's treated just like the chairman of a committee.

DIGENOVA: I couldn't agree more.

DEAN: So otherwise it would be -- it would be partisan. But this way, they treat it...

(CROSSTALK)

DIGENOVA: I couldn't agree more. I just don't understand why the Senate Democrats haven't issued a subpoena. They control the Senate.

DEAN: Maybe they will.

BLITZER: Roy Black, you're down in Miami, far outside the Washington Beltway. Button this up for us, this whole legal dispute between the GAO and Vice President Cheney.

BLACK: Well first of all, you can see why Joe was such an effective prosecutor. Poor John couldn't get a word in edgewise between that cross-examination.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACK: But I think that the analogy to Watergate is far overblown. I mean, Watergate was a conspiracy at the top of the American government to attack our electoral process. This is a huge business failure, there's no question about that. But I don't see how you drag government into this except by these donations, and I don't see any kind of corruption here in government helping Enron.

Having said that, I think that the vice president ought to say, "Look, I don't care about the legal niceties here. We didn't really do anything wrong here. Let's turn over this information, let's let it all come out, and let the American people see what's going on."

BLITZER: All right, we're going to leave it right there because we have a lot more to talk about. Gentlemen, we're going to take a quick break.

When we return, we'll ask John Dean, Roy Black and Joe DiGenova about the U.S. government's case against Taliban American John Walker Lindh. How strong is the government's case?

We'll also be taking your phone calls.

Late Edition continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN WALKER LINDH'S ATTORNEY: I've asked the attorney general to not take it out on John Lindh, because in my view -- and I'm not going to take any questions -- in my view, they have brought up the cannon to shoot the mouse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. The attorney for John Walker Lindh arguing that the U.S. government has much bigger fish to fry than his client.

We're continuing our discussion with former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, the defense attorney Roy Black, and the former U.S. attorney here in the District of Columbia, Joe DiGenova.

Roy Black, somebody now suggesting the FBI did not tape that alleged confession from John Walker Lynn in the appropriate manner.

The new issue of Newsweek magazine just out today writes this: "The heart of the defense's strategy, getting the confession thrown out. Lindh's lawyers have attacked its credibility head on, noting that the government did not record it, transcribe it or get him to sign it. They have also suggested that the FBI may have violated its own procedures by having only one agent, not two, as called for in the rule book, to interrogate Lindh."

If all of that is true, as the defense is now suggesting, would his alleged confession be thrown out?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, the most startling document, I think, that was released last week was the proffer that George Harris, one of Walker Lindh's lawyers, submitted to the court as part of bail request. In that, they make the allegations that he was threatened with death and torture, that he was stripped nude, that he was starved, that he was cold, that he wasn't given the packages by the Red Cross, he wasn't given messages that his family had hired a lawyer.

And then you add on to that, of course, that the FBI did not tape-record the confession. And, by the way, the FBI typically does not tape-record things regardless of what the rules may say. But they do usually have two agents present. I will tell you, the submission by the defense, and the violation of their own rules certainly gives us a new perspective on whether or not the statements are going to be admissible in court.

BLITZER: What about that, Joe?

DIGENOVA: Well, I think, first of all, I wouldn't put any credence in anything in this submissions of the defense attorneys at this point. I'd like to see some sworn testimony under oath in the suppression hearing. And it will be interesting to see who's going to give that testimony. It won't be a lawyer, I assure you.

The problem that exists is this. It is highly unlikely, given the fact that Mr. Walker signed a Miranda waiver, that his statements are going to be suppressed, particularly in light of the e-mails that he sent to his family, which are quite damaging, and the interview he gave to CNN for which I'm deeply grateful as an American citizen to CNN for having taped.

I think what will happen is the judge will rule it admissible, and then the jury will be give the question of voluntariness of those statements to include in its deliberations.

BLITZER: John Dean, I'm going to read two excerpts of those e- mails that were released earlier in the week; e-mail that John Walker Lindh sent from Pakistan or Afghanistan to his mother.

One was dated February 15, 2000, two years ago almost exactly: "I really don't what your big attachment to America is all about. What has America ever done for anybody?" And then, a year later, he writes to his mother, "I don't really want to see America again."

Now, those are pretty shocking statements, John Dean, but is there anything in either of those statements that is criminally wrong?

DEAN: Well, they certainly aren't going to help his case very much.

Wolf, one of the things this Walker case really points up the parallel, is the military tribunal versus a civil or civilian criminal trial proceeding. The Walker case is going to have all of the attachments that follow a normal, criminal justice proceeding whereas these could well be disposed of and handled, fairly, too, in a military tribunal.

I think this really case argues for the appropriateness of military tribunals in these situations.

BLITZER: Let's take a caller from Michigan who has a question. Go ahead, Michigan.

CALLER: Yes, I'm wondering whether or not -- actually, let me go back. When John Walker Lindh was first arrested or detained overseas, there was a lot of speculation regarding charges of treason. And now that he's not back on our soil and he's been formally charged, can these three learned gentlemen please explain to me why he's not being charged with treason based on, certainly, the information that we have currently, and the evidence that even you showed just now, Wolf, from his own personal statements?

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Roy Black that question.

A, can he be charged with treason at some point? And, B, did those e-mail comments, very anti-American comments, did that suggest that he was guilty of something?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, you know, he certainly could be charged with treason with a superseding indictment. But I don't think that the government is going to do that. I think it is a high-risk operation to charge him with treason because he might well be acquitted of that, yet be found guilty of lesser offenses such as what he's charged with. And that would look like a defeat for the Department Justice. So, I don't think they are interested in that.

And, Wolf, while these e-mails are damaging, to me the most damaging thing that I think was released was when you read the indictment, there is a specific clause there that says that Walker swore allegiance to Al Qaeda. Now, that to me is the most damaging piece of evidence that I have heard of in the case. And if the government can prove that, then he is in very, very serious trouble.

BLITZER: Did you mean to say Al Qaeda or the Taliban?

BLACK: No, Al Qaeda. It says right in the indictment that he swore allegiance to Al Qaeda. Now, the Taliban is a different matter, but swearing allegiance to Al Qaeda, which had been for years put on the terrorist list by the president of the United States, I think that certainly could be shown to prove treason if they wanted to do that.

BLACK: But it's certainly significant evidence in this case for all the other counts.

BLITZER: James Brosnahan, Joe DiGenova, the attorney representing John Walker Lindh, made a comment this past week about the behavior of the attorney general John Ashcroft. I want you to listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES BROSNAHAN, ATTORNEY FOR JOHN WALKER LINDH: I would most respectfully ask the attorney general of the United States, while this case is going on, while we are attempting to get a fair trial for a U.S. citizen, while the evidence unfolds, to refrain from further comment on the case. And I would ask it nicely and respectfully.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIGENVOA: Well, Mr. Brosnahan is remarkable in his performance. Mr. Brosnahan is with the law firm of Morrison and Forrester (ph) in San Francisco.

Lest people forget who he is, he is the associate independent council who in 1992, five days before the national election between George Bush the father and Bill Clinton, indicted Caspar Weinberger and named George Bush the father as potentially a co-conspirator in obstruction of justice.

For him to ask the attorney general not to discuss public facts is the height of arrogance. It is simply unbelievable to me.

I don't think the American people know who this man is. His performance as an associate independent counsel is viewed by legal scholars as one of the most outrageous and egregious acts by any prosecutor in the 20th century. And to hear him complain about Attorney General Ashcroft is really outrageous.

BLITZER: John Dean, you're familiar with James Brosnahan's past?

DEAN: I am indeed. I know he certainly testified at some length at the Rehnquist confirmation hearing in 1986, and really, if you will, put the lie to the chief justice. Bringing up the fact that, when he had been in Arizona as a young assistant U.S. attorney, he'd been called to a site to investigate whether or not there was intimidation of voters, and that he'd found Mr. Rehnquist there and indeed Rehnquist denied that in his hearing. So it's true, Mr. Brosnahan has been around. He is not somebody who is favored by Republicans, such as Joe DiGenova.

DIGENVOA: Actually, I object to him not because I'm Republican. I object to those comments because of his conduct as an associate independent counsel which was a disgrace.

Wolf, here's his Morrison and Forrester biography -- and you know something? Mr. Brosnahan is so proud of his service as an associate independent counsel for Judge Walsh that he doesn't even even list it in his biography. My, my, my, what about that.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Roy Black.

I want to bring you in. What's wrong with a defense attorney taking a very aggressive stand to try to protect the rights of his or her client?

BLACK: Well, certainly there's nothing wrong with that.

And regardless of what happened in the past, the question is, what is the propriety of the attorney general of the United States calling press conferences to discuss the evidence against Mr. Walker Lindh? And I think Mr. Brosnahan has an excellent point there, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States should not be making statements that could possibly affect jurors that have to be selected in the Eastern District of Virginia to try this case.

And I would think it would behoove both sides not to discuss this case publicly. Unfortunately for our judicial system, there will be a thousand commentators like ourselves taking their place in discussing it anyway.

But putting that aside, I think the attorney general, with the power of that office, with the prestige of that office should not be making comments about the guilt or innocence of Mr. Walker.

(UNKNOWN): By the way, Wolf, I agree with Roy Black a hundred percent on this. I think that the judge in this case should issue a gag order right away when it's assigned to a formal judge and that neither side should be permitted to make any public statements about this case. I couldn't agree more with Roy.

BLITZER: OK, we're going to have to leave it there, unfortunately. Joe DiGenvoa, John Dean, Roy Black, thanks for that lively discussion. We'll have you back for more. Appreciate it very much.

DEAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we have to take a quick break. When we come back, Bruce Morton's Last Word.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now Bruce Morton on why what's touted as reform is sometimes just a mirage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO) (?): We finally get the opportunity to take up campaign finance reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here we go again. Campaign finance. "Campaign finance reform," its backers say. Grannie D. (ph) may march around the Capitol, as she did when the Senate took it up. This time the House will debate it, the vote will be close.

So a few cautionary notes for anxious voters. Lots of things get labeled "reforms." Some are, some aren't. Some work, some don't.

Welfare reform, for instance, did reduce the number of people on welfare, though some questions -- what do you do about the mother of three who's genuinely unemployable? -- remain. But it's worth remembering that most of the campaign laws now seen as hopelessly incapable of regulating spending started out labeled "reforms" when they passed after Watergate.

A friend of mine in the political business explained once, "My job is to take whatever rules there are and bend them to my candidate's advantage." Washington is full of people who are skilled at that. And it's a good bet they'll find loopholes in any new laws that pass, just as they have in the old ones.

Another thing. The proposed bill's critics worry that it will damage the First Amendment, a piece of the Constitution most of us newsies treasure.

What it says, in case you haven't read it lately, is, "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press." That's "no law."

What the proposed campaign finance law does is restrict the ability of corporations, unions, issue groups -- the National Rifle Association, say -- to run issue ads which mention a candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election.

It doesn't ban such ads, but it does say the issue groups would have to raise separate money through a political action committee -- "hard money" it's called -- to pay for those ads.

Critics says that is a restriction, violates the phrase "no law" in the First Amendment. The Supreme Court would probably have to decide.

So what the House will debate this coming week is a bill which may well violate the First Amendment and which, if it passes, will probably, after a few years, be as full of loopholes as the laws we have now.

Almost everybody who likes politics, who likes our democratic system would agree that the worst problem we have in our politics is the fact -- just look at Enron -- that campaigns are hip deep in interest-group money.

Diagnosing what's wrong is easy. Fixing, really fixing it, is very hard.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce.

And you sent more e-mail to us this week about Enron.

Joseph from Simi Valley, California, asks this: "Am I the only one who sees the hypocrisy? During the Clinton administration, the Democrats wanted to do away with the special counsel. Now these same Democrats are calling for a special counsel." But Jason from Colorado Springs writes: "The Republicans think they can fool us into thinking they are not criminals because they think that law-abiding citizens are too stupid to see the truth."

And finally, C.J. Spence (ph) simply says this: "Looks to me like this is a big-time Washington scandal."

As always, I invite you to e-mail your comments to us at lateedition@cnn.com.

And it's time now to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for joining us.

For our North American audience, stay tuned for one more hour of Late Edition. We'll talk with two leading members of Congress about the prospects for campaign finance reform, plus Late Edition's Final Round. You can weigh in, along with the panel, on today's big stories. All that just ahead.

Late Edition will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): I still believe what we have before us is a simple story, a simple story of old fashioned theft.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Corporate culture under the congressional microscope. We'll debate the Enron collapse, campaign finance reform and more with two outspoken congressmen, Democrat Charles Rangel and Republican David Dreier.

Then, fast-paced political talk, Sunday style.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GOLDBERG: You really believe that Dick Cheney is being venal and corrupt in refusing this? Hypocrisy abounds on this particular issue.

BRAZILE: I think it's important that Al Gore is back on the scene.

BEINART: They weren't concerned about presidential power then. The principle thing is nonsense.

GEORGE: Of course it's not nonsense.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

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

Welcome back. This week the House of Representatives takes up campaign finance reform, and the vote is expected to be very close.

With us now to talk about that and more are two veteran members of the U.S. Congress. Here in Washington, Republican Congressman David Dreier. He chairs the House Rules Committee. And in New York, Congressman Charlie Rangel. He is the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Congressmen, always great to have both of you on the program.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Always great to be with you, Wolf.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Good to be back, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me begin with David Dreier. You think that the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill, which is the House equivalent of McCain-Feingold, is finally going to pass this week in the House?

DREIER: Well, it's obviously, as you said, Wolf, going to be a very close vote.

I'm a strong proponent of campaign finance reform. I consistently introduced legislation to empower the voters with as much information as possible. In fact, my legislation has been called the Voter Empowerment Act.

I think we need to have full disclosure. I think that if we're going to ban soft money, we should eliminate soft money for both unions and for corporations. And I also believe that it's very important for us to do everything that we possibly can to make sure that union members can spend their dollars as they so choose.

BLITZER: But you still will vote against Shays-Meehan?

DREIER: Oh, yes. I'll be voting against because it's not reform. It's not reform. It's further regulation. As Bruce Morton said in his commentary, it's further -- it's really encroaching on First Amendment rights of people to participate.

BLITZER: Charlie Rangel, you're going to support Shays-Meehan. Tell David Dreier and our viewers why.

RANGEL: Well, first of all, it's really shameful to see people saying that they are for campaign finance reform but they're going to vote against it. We have fought for years as Democrats...

(CROSSTALK)

RANGEL: ... to get this bill out on the floor. What we had to do was to get Democrats to put up over 200 votes and to pull, like pulling teeth, a handful of Republicans in order to get 218 votes -- signatures to put the bill on the floor. Now the speaker has said that the life of the Republican Party is dependent upon the defeat of this bill. In other words, they are so honest in saying that soft money, corporate money, is the lifeline of the Republican Party.

Now, it passed the House twice before. But this time -- and the Senate has already passed it. And Tom DeLay has said that he is going to grind these new members into the ground who leave the Republican Party and vote for it.

And so I really think that this is going to be a test. The Enron scandal is what is really moving this bill. And I think that you've got to see the results of this in November.

DREIER: Charlie, don't make this a Republican or a Democrat issue. You know full well that there are fellow members of your black caucus within the Democratic Party who are supporting an alternative and not supportive of Shays-Meehan bill.

RANGEL: We have 200 Democrats...

DREIER: Congressman Albert Wynn, for example.

RANGEL: Two hundred Democrats have signed this. While it is true that we have a few blacks...

DREIER: I understand. I understand. And you know, Charlie...

RANGEL: This has nothing to do with it. Our leadership supports it. Your leadership is fighting it.

DREIER: That's true. But the fact is, there is...

RANGEL: So it's a Democrat-Republican thing.

DREIER: Charlie, Charlie, are there any Democrats who are opposed to the bill?

RANGEL: A handful of them because we have a diversified party.

DREIER: OK. So, but the fact is...

RANGEL: But the overwhelming majority of the opposition to campaign reform are not only Republicans, but the Republican leadership.

DREIER: Charlie, you said that I can't say that I am for campaign finance reform. I am for empowering voters with as much information as possible. I am a strong proponent of ensuring that voters can find out as much information as possible about who is supporting who.

RANGEL: Sure, send them a newsletter. That's what you...

DREIER: What do mean, send them a newsletter?

RANGEL: That's all you talked about, informing them. Send them a newsletter.

DREIER: You know, the standard Democratic...

RANGEL: The truth of the matter is that...

DREIER: Charlie, the standard Democratic solution...

RANGEL: ... that there's so much money in politics, in Democratic politics and Republican politics, millions of dollars has gone into this administration. You can't find a Cabinet official that one way or the other is not connected with Enron. It's time for Democrats...

DREIER: Well, Charlie, you can't find one -- Charlie, you can't find one shred of evidence...

RANGEL: ... and Republicans alike...

DREIER: Charlie, you can't find one shred of evidence that Enron got anything in return for these campaign contributions and you know that.

RANGEL: And why can't we?

RANGEL: Because the vice president...

DREIER: And you know why, because it hasn't taken place, because it hasn't taken place. And so, if you look at issue...

RANGEL: Oh, David.

DREIER: ... of campaign finance reform...

RANGEL: David.

DREIER: Charlie. Charlie, my friend...

RANGEL: The vice president...

DREIER: ... you need to look at fact that we...

BLITZER: All right, one at a time.

RANGEL: The vice president, who met with the Enron officials and met with them for several days and weeks, refuses to turn over to the bipartisan, nonpartisan General Office of Accounting just what went on at these meetings.

DREIER: Charlie...

RANGEL: He is stonewalling the Congress.

DREIER: We know who has met, because that information came out from the energy task force. That information has already come forward. RANGEL: Why won't the vice president release it to General Office of Accounting? They're not Democrats or Republicans; they are an arm of the Congress.

DREIER: The information has already come out as to who was there because, if you look at task force report that was put together on energy, that, in fact, information is already out there.

RANGEL: Well, why would not the General Office...

DREIER: Charlie, I happen to believe that...

RANGEL: Why would not the General Office of Accounting go find this in information and having so sue and embarrass the whole country by having to sue the vice president of the United States?

DREIER: I hope they don't. I hope that it can be resolved before we get to that point.

RANGEL: They're going to sue. The only way it can be resolved is...

BLITZER: Well, Congressman Dreier, the GAO says that they just want the names of the individuals, the companies they're representing, who appeared before Vice President Cheney's task force. They don't want details of what happened in the meeting. They just want to know when they met and who they met with. That information has not been released to the public.

DREIER: Well, and I will tell you, I think that there will probably be more information that will come forward on this. But I think that to tie this with the issue of undermining First Amendment rights for campaign finance reform is wrong.

And you're right and Charlie's right in saying that many people are blurring this, the Enron issue with campaign finance reform.

But I believe that it's very clear that when you look at the package that we're going to be voting on this week, the Shays-Meehan bill, it does jeopardize the political party system, which this country is very strong, because of two-party system. And it undermines that, and it empowers outside groups at the expense of the political parties. And I think that is a real mistake. And I believe we can have meaningful campaign finance reform.

You know, when I graduated from Claremont, my senior thesis was written on the 1974 campaign finance reform law. And the fact is, we have seen tremendous changes take place. We're living with reforms today.

And I believe that James Madison, who said in Federalist Number 10, that faction is to governing like air is to fire, very clearly understands that people can come together and organize and exercise their rights.

BLITZER: Congressman Rangel... RANGEL: Well, David, if it's a constitutional question, why is it that the leadership of the Republican Party in the House said that the whole life and existence of the majority in the Republican Party majority is based on defeating this? And why, if it's a constitutional question, is the White House so solid on this?

DREIER: Charlie, let me ask this question: Do you support the idea of implementing this bill, if it were to become law this year? Or do you believe it should be postponed until next year, which is what Dick Gephardt has now said, in light of the fact that your party has much more soft money than the Republican Party?

RANGEL: I want it done immediately.

BLITZER: Congressman...

RANGEL: I asked you a question. You said it's a constitutional question.

DREIER: Oh, it is.

RANGEL: The president is silent.

DREIER: I think the two-party system is very important, Charlie. I think the two-party system is very important.

RANGEL: And Speaker Hastert said that the Republican majority is based on soft money, and if you enact this, you will lose the Republican majority.

DREIER: Charlie, don't you believe...

RANGEL: Is that a constitutional issue?

DREIER: You know what? The fact of the matter is we need to have a two-party system. And this undermines the opportunity for the two-party system to thrive in...

RANGEL: Holy mackerel.

DREIER: ... this nation. And you know what? That, itself, is a constitutional question, the freedom ...

RANGEL: Wow.

DREIER: ... of expression that needs to be out there.

BLITZER: Congressman Rangel, let me raise an issue that Congressman Dreier raised a few minutes ago, the issue of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Most of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus are with you, in supporting Shays-Meehan, the campaign finance reform legislation. But a few are not, including Congressman Albert Wynn, who's joined this alternative piece of legislation which Congressman Dreier supports. Do you think that they -- they're arguing that, as far as the black community is concerned, their interests are best served by not eliminating all so-called unrestrictive soft money?

RANGEL: Now, let me make it clear. The few members in the Congressional Black Caucus that are opposing reform are not really receiving the corporate soft money that we're debating about, that controlled so much legislation movement.

What they are saying is that, because it's so important to new voters and minority voters to register and to get out the vote, that they believe that this soft money is the money that will be available to get into the churches, to get into the not-for-profits and to get into the civic organizations. We have tried, with the reform, to put a relaxation the soft money to allow this money to go to the states, not for candidates, but in order to education, register and to get out the vote.

RANGEL: So those people in the Congressional Black Caucus are not talking about raising money for their own campaigns...

DREIER: Charlie...

RANGEL: ... but raising it for voter registration. And the Republicans, they don't want to enlarge registration because, by and large, (OFF-MIKE) registration are Democrats.

DREIER: Charlie, Charlie, you are totally off base here.

If you look at the fact that the measure that you're supporting is an amazing burden imposed on the people -- and that's what we should be focused on, is the right of the people to express themselves.

And I think that one example of the regulatory trend here is that, I know that my endorsement of a political candidate would not necessarily be of benefit to that candidate. But I know, Charlie, when you endorse any political candidate, it automatically sends them right over the roof.

You know what, Charlie? Under this bill...

RANGEL: Oh, boy.

DREIER: Under this bill, under this measure that you're supporting, a candidate who's running for the state legislature in New York would be violating federal law if they put their picture or even mention you in a newspaper advertisement or in a mailing that they put out.

It would be a violation of federal law, because it would be the state candidate supporting your candidacy too. And that kind of regulation is silly. It's ridiculous, and it really hurts the political process.

And so, that's why we're for more freedom, we're for more opportunity. We're for free will, and you're for more government control and regulation, which is what your party's been for for years.

RANGEL: Well, why doesn't the president speak out on this constitutional question? Why hasn't Speaker Hastert...

DREIER: Charlie, the president has spoken out.

RANGEL: He hasn't said a word.

DREIER: Yes, he has.

RANGEL: And Hastert, Hastert says...

DREIER: What do you mean he hasn't said a word? The president has spoken out last week.

RANGEL: Hastert said there's three reasons why he opposes the bill: It cuts off soft money, it cuts off soft money, it cuts off soft money.

DREIER: He has not set a ban on soft money.

RANGEL: He has not said anything about the Constitution.

DREIER: Charlie, you know that this is not a ban on soft money. The vice president, as well as the White House chief of staff, in the last couple of weeks, have made it very clear that the president supports campaign finance reform.

RANGEL: The vice president?

DREIER: Yes. And the president has told me...

RANGEL: When last have you seen or heard from the vice president? What are you talking about?

DREIER: Charlie...

RANGEL: What vice president?

DREIER: Charlie, Charlie. Charlie, come on. The president...

RANGEL: Come on.

DREIER: The president has told me directly...

RANGEL: Oh boy.

DREIER: ... that he supports campaign finance reform that allows union members to decide how their dollars are spent...

RANGEL: Well, that's a...

DREIER: ... rather than having the people in Washington make that determination.

RANGEL: I'm sorry. DREIER: He supports a complete ban on soft money, Charlie, for both...

RANGEL: I apologize.

DREIER: ... corporations and for unions. And he supports full disclosure.

RANGEL: I apologize.

DREIER: So we have seen people step forward, Charlie.

RANGEL: The president whispered into your ear this, than that's a secret between you and the president. I was only talking about the general public.

DREIER: Well, I guess I let it out the bag, Charlie.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Gentlemen, we're going to take a quick break.

More to talk about, including phone calls for Congressman David Dreier and Congressman Charlie Rangel. Late Edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're continuing our conversation with Republican Congressman David Dreier of California and Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York.

Gentlemen, we have a caller from Florida. Go ahead with your question, please.

CALLER: Yes, a lot of people don't trust the elections anymore. A lot of felons who can't vote. We had the savings and loan debacle which involved a Bush, now the Enron collapse.

It seems like our current system of mixing politics and money with political action committees just opens the door for corruption and foreign influence and really makes white-collar criminals out of our legislators and serves the short-term interest and not the long- term good of our country.

We have been hearing about campaign finance reform forever. Why won't anybody act on this?

DREIER: I think you make a very good point and that's the reason that I have introduced this legislation. And I hope very much we'll be able to do it, to get as much information out there as possible.

You know, I talked about the Federalist Papers earlier, and the fact of matter is, we are going to, no matter what, in this marketplace of ideas, we are going to see people exercising their First Amendment right by contributing to and supporting candidates of their choice.

But I believe that the voters should know who is supporting whom. And I think that if we can do that with instantaneous disclosure, that would dramatically enhance the ability of people to see whether or not a politician is in fact responding to his or her supporters.

BLITZER: All right, let's take another caller from South Carolina.

RANGEL: Well, I just want to say one of the reasons why is because there is not enough voter outrage about it. Republicans and Democrats benefit, Republicans more. But they ought to make us pay at the polls for not supporting campaign reform.

DREIER: Charlie, you get tons of money and you know it. You got money coming from all over, Charlie.

BLITZER: All right. Let's stand by. South Carolina, go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Hi. I'm in favor of full disclosure. And my senator, who's a Democrat from South Carolina, said it's none of my damn business who gives money to his campaign. And I think there should be a web site posted...

DRIER: Absolutely.

QUESTION: ... that tells me who gave what.

And I also feel, as a former union member, that union contributions, like the ones that flowed from Global Crossing into the Clinton-Gore election and to people like Charlie Rangel should be disclosed.

BLITZER: All right. Let's let Charlie Rangel handle that. What do you think about all that full disclosure, instantaneous, according to what Congressman Drier wants?

RANGEL: I agree with it 100 percent.

DREIER: Good.

RANGEL: But we shouldn't wait. We should not wait for Dreier legislation. There should be full disclosure of everybody.

The truth of the matter is, all of the national reform groups know that we have a bill coming up next week. And anybody that's voting against it and saying they are waiting for their legislation should be held accountable at the polls.

DRIER: Charlie, as you know, on my position on the Rules Committee, we're going to be offering some amendments.

RANGEL: You bet your life. You're going to try to kill with it amendments. DREIER: No, no, no, no, no. You know, I'll tell you, Charlie, that is so wrong to try and argue that we are killing reform by improving and going through the legislative process. People argue that by going to conference that somehow kills it, is really a red herring.

And I think it's an outrage that people who want to go through the constitutional process of establishing a law which you and I do every day here are saying that by doing that we kill campaign finance reform. That's just not...

RANGEL: They call it poison-pill amendments. And Tom DeLay...

DREIER: You can call it whatever you like. But it's what you and I get paid to do around here, is to offer amendments and to think about ideas to deal with challenges that we've got out there, Charlie. RANGEL: Tom DeLay and the speaker didn't say amend it, they said to kill it.

DREIER: Yes, they have.

RANGEL: They said to kill the bill.

DREIER: I'm sitting in these meetings. We are working to amend this legislation. And we are working to improve it so that, in fact, the voters can be empowered.

RANGEL: Well, you're the chairman of the Rules Committee. Why didn't you let the bill come out without having to have the Democrats to force the bill on the floor? Why didn't you let it come through the regular process?

DREIER: Charlie, let me take you back to last year. We did that. You killed the rule which actually allowed for a wide range of amendments to be offered and would have had a free flowing debate. It's the one rule that's gone down since I've been privileged to chair the rules committee over the last three years, and you helped kill it. So, you block campaign finance reform.

RANGEL: The Democrats have driven reform, and everyone knows it. The press knows it, everyone knows it. Republicans want to kill it.

BLITZER: Congressmen, hold on one second.

Congressman Dreier, the argument is, if you attach amendments to Shays-Meehan, the so-called poison-pill amendments, it'll have to go to a House-Senate conference committee. It'll be endlessly debated over there. In effect, what you're doing, even though you deny it, is you're going to kill...

DREIER: I don't believe that to be the case.

And I'll tell you, to say, well, if it goes through the legislative process, that kills it -- the fact is, we want to get it into conference, so that the president of the United States will be able to take those three criteria that I talked about and participate in this, so that others are able to make sure that we don't undermine the right of voters to participate politically, which is the greatest fear that I have.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller, from North Carolina. Go ahead, please.

CALLER: Yes, do you gentlemen consider the fact that Ken Lay was able to get through to the treasury secretary special access or preferential treatment, whereas someone like myself would probably be laughed off the phone if I tried that?

BLITZER: Charlie Rangel, what do you say about that?

RANGEL: I don't have any problem with access. What I have a problem with is when people that he's met with won't even disclose the names of the people at the meeting.

When the General Office of Accounting -- that's not the Democratic leadership or the Republican leadership, this is the Congress saying, hey, you've had access, what went on? Because Enron has access to the entire Cabinet. That's the problem, the public doesn't know what they've said.

DREIER: Charlie, you're mixing apples and oranges here once again, as you have a tendency to do.

We know that Ken Lay had telephone conversations with the treasury secretarial, Paul O'Neill. We know that he had conversations with the commerce secretary, Don Evans. And we also know that they said no to Ken Lay when he asked them for support.

RANGEL: We don't know what they...

DREIER: We do know that. Everyone has acknowledged that, Charlie. Now, if you know something that I don't about what took place in those phone conversations, you should come forward with it.

RANGEL: Well, why is it that the vice president is stonewalling the Justice Department and stonewalling everything? (CROSSTALK)

DREIER: What does the vice president have to do, Charlie, with conversations that took place between Ken Lay and Paul O'Neill and Ken Lay and Don Evans?

RANGEL: Because he represents -- the vice president represents the president and the entire administration. That's why.

And when you ask what difference does it make, that's what we're trying to find out, David. But we never will, if you stonewall.

DREIER: We're not stonewalling.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller from Indiana.

Go ahead with your question. Indiana?

CALLER: Yes.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

CALLER: Good morning. Happy sabbath day to you gentlemen.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

CALLER: My question is, why cannot the taxpayers of the United States pay for your election and reelection campaign?

DREIER: That is a frightening proposal to me.

BLITZER: It's done on the presidential level, though.

DREIER: Yes, but it's a frightening proposal to me, and I'll tell you why. I mean, I don't support it on the presidential level.

If the argument that you are somehow beholden to your large contributors is the case, then everybody in Congress would behold to its one and largest contributor, big government.

And I happen to believe that people should have a right to participate politically as they so choose, making campaign contributions, walking in precincts, doing these kinds of things. And the idea of having the government underwrite it -- it'd be, my dollars would be spent to support Charlie Rangel's reelection.

I'd want him to get the Republican nomination up there, which he's occasionally gotten in the past.

(LAUGHTER)

But I don't like the kinds of things that he's pushed forward here, although he does a great job as ranking minority member of the Ways and Means Committee.

BLITZER: Congressman Rangel, you're going to have the last word. DREIER: You want to support me, Charlie?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Congressman Rangel, do you want federal funding of all national elections -- congressional, Senate, presidential elections?

RANGEL: I really do. I think it would be equitable. I think it would be reform.

And the truth of the matter is, if you see where the soft corporate money is going, 90 percent of it goes to the Republican Party, and that's why they want to kill reform. And less than 10 percent goes to the Democrats all over the United States.

The government will make it an even playing field.

DREIER: Baloney. BLITZER: All right. We're going to leave it right there. Everybody who has watched these two segments on Late Edition know why we love having Congressman Dreier and Congressman Rangel on this program. Neither is shy. They both have strong opinions, and they're not reluctant to let us know what they are.

Thanks to both of you for spending time...

(CROSSTALK)

RANGEL: Thank you, Wolf.

DREIER: We'll see you this week, Charlie.

RANGEL: See you tomorrow.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

And up next, Late Edition's Final Round -- your questions, our panel's answers. Stay with us. The Final Round coming up, right after a news alert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Joining me now: Donna Brazile, former Gore presidential campaign manager; Peter Beinart of the New Republic; Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online; and Robert George of the New York Post.

And we begin with what could be -- could be -- a snafu by the FBI. The latest issue of Newsweek magazine is reporting that the agency apparently failed to properly document its interrogation of Taliban American suspect John Walker Lindh.

Newsweek says of Lindh's alleged confession, quote, "Lindh's lawyers have attacked its credibility head on, noting that the government did not record it, transcribe it or get him to sign it."

Robert, is it possible the FBI could have screwed up again?

ROBERT GEORGE, "NEW YORK POST": Well, it is the Olympics right now, so it is about time for the FBI to screw up yet again, just like in the Olympic bombing case. I certainly hope that's not the case. It looks pretty bad right now.

But frankly, this is the exact kind of a situation that Ashcroft was fearful of when he first talked about the military tribunals for Al Qaeda and so forth, that once you get into the U.S. legal system, questions of evidence and so forth, Walker Lindh could walk because of an apparent screw-up.

BLITZER: Is that possible, Jonah?

JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I see it totally differently. It sounds to me like it's a desperation ploy by the lawyers. Let's not forget that there is another confession conducted and broadcast by this very network in which John Walker admitted many of the same things. And of course they have to attack the confession because that is the most obvious evidence against this guy, and these guys are good lawyers.

But it's not at all clear yet that the FBI has screwed up, it's simply that these lawyers are alleging it. He signed an affidavit waiving all of his rights. And if you -- and saying, Oops, I didn't mean to confess" is not usually the kind of thing that innocent people do.

PETER BEINART, "NEW REPUBLIC": Yes, but, you know, half of what Newsweek says is true. It will be a huge public relations blow. And I think it really does underscore what I think is the huge blunder this administration has made in not calling for a full, public investigation of the way our intelligence agencies behaved before September 11. Because it seems to me, there have been no major reorganizations, no major resignations, and many of the same potential problems seem to be still going on.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to this clean-shaven young man, they should have been a lot more professional. And perhaps they should have brought in a video recorder and not just relied on transcripts or one agent to sit down with Mr. Walker Lindh. I do believe the FBI, if this is correct, they perhaps made a huge mistake.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on to perhaps other mistakes that have been made by various folks.

The Enron scandal is the source of our quote of the week. In testimony before the House panel investigating the company's collapse, former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling denied any inside knowledge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SKILLING: I can state here today that I did not have any knowledge that the transaction was designed to conceal losses, and I did not do anything to withhold information from the board of directors of Enron Corporation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jonah, a lot of members of Congress are already saying they simply don't believe him.

GOLDBERG: Yes, and I'm beginning to truly think that we should just cut to the chase and revert to medieval practices and gut some of these guys and sew a half-starved weasel into their small intestine and just let them rot.

BEINART: That's conservative justice there.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: Yes, that's, yes -- the Taliban weren't wrong on everything.

(LAUGHTER)

Look, these guys are in trouble. But I think every single day it becomes more and more clear that both Enron, prior to its bankruptcy, was an over-hyped company and, after its bankruptcy, Enron is an over- hyped scandal.

And these guys did wrong. They probably -- they certainly behaved unethically and probably illegally. But the idea that somehow this is living up to the hype of what everyone made it out to be, I just don't see it.

BLITZER: Peter?

BEINART: It's too early to say, I think.

There are two shoes that could still drop, if I can use that phrase. One I think is we still don't know -- we still don't know what happened with the Energy Task Force.

And I still think there are still questions about Curtis Hebert (ph) and the FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He was the guy who opposed Enron on deregulation of state energy. He was the guy who lost his job to someone who had the opposite position. I think there are still questions about that too.

BLITZER: Yet, it's hard to prove, though, that that was a result of Enron influence.

GEORGE: That's exactly right, because the guy that ended up running the FERC was somebody that Bush had appointed down in Texas before. Had a relationship...

BEINART: But Ken Lay was from Texas too. He was Ken Lay's guy in Texas too.

GEORGE: ... had a relationship. Yes, so, but I mean, there is no connection that just because, you know, Lay is a contributor to Bush that Bush is rolling over on all of these.

GOLDBERG: These are also all wishful...

BRAZILE: But Lay is not just a contributor, he was one of the largest contributors to George Bush.

BRAZILE: He was a pioneer. We all know that he had access into that administration. And, you know, the administration looked at 17 appointees that Lay provided to them, and they approved many of those appointees.

GOLDBERG: Ken Lay and Enron orchestrated a little over $100,000 in donations to the Bush campaign in 2000. The Bush campaign spent roughly $193 million in the year 2000.

(CROSSTALK) BEINART: ... to the Republican National Committee.

GOLDBERG: We'll get to the CFR arguments in a second.

(LAUGHTER)

But -- the idea, let's go back to you -- not to mix metaphors too much, but your two shoes that haven't dropped yet are not the equivalent of 18 minutes of blank sound on Nixon's tape.

BEINART: No, I don't think anyone is saying that.

GOLDBERG: Your points are...

BLITZER: John Dean is suggesting that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEINART: He should know.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: It's February, John Dean is suggesting that.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: I don't believe that we should wait for the Taliban to take care of some of those executives.

(LAUGHTER)

We should allow some of the workers who are sitting in the committee room to take care of some of those executives.

BEINART: I think Jeff Skilling even denied that he even knew what Enron was, right?

BLITZER: That would be cruel and unusual punishment.

Let's continue on with the Enron fallout. Senator Byron Dorgan told me earlier today that the former Enron chairman, Ken Lay, can expect some hard questions if -- and that's big if -- if he decides to testify.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DORGAN: On Tuesday when Mr. Lay comes before our committee, we will be respectful but tough. It should not be considered a walk in the park when you have this kind of scandal to come before our congressional committee. Those who come before our committee will face tough questions. But that's the way we have to operate here in order to understand what happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Donna, should Ken Lay actually testify or take the Fifth?

BRAZILE: Let me tell you I'm sure his lawyers are telling him to take the Fifth. I will advice him to take some ginko biloba so that he can get his...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: ...to get his, to get his memory back so he won't make a fool of himself the way his colleagues did last week.

BLITZER: What about that? I mean, every lawyer on earth wants and says it would be -- it would be legal malpractice for him to go ahead and testify.

GEORGE: That's probably the case. I mean, after the way Skilling embarrassed himself, and you've already got this contradicting testimony, Lay's in an awkward position.

Now, there is a possibility that he could say that he was actually so far up the food chain that he was focusing on, you know, the visionary elements and so forth, that he might not have known all this chicanery was going on. That might fly, but legally he's in a precarious...

BLITZER: Peter, is that going to fly?

BEINART: No, no. It didn't work, it didn't work for Skilling. This guy is really screwed either way. And I think the truth is they should be screwed. I mean, these guys are turning out to an extraordinarily unappealing group of people.

GOLDBERG: Let me say two things. Ken Lay, as a matter of morality should come clean and say everything he knows. But if as the quote suggests that the real issue here is to get to the bottom of what happened, Congress could, in the interest of public policy, immunize the guy, but it won't do that because they want to burn him at the stake. And I understand the political (inaudible) involved in doing that.

But, secondly, you know, the fact is, is that Enron is simply not turning out to the crisis we thought it was. We're going to watch Arthur Andersen, which had more employees, has more employees than Enron, probably go under because all of this. But no one is ringing their hands and crying about.

BEINART: That's nonsense, Jonah. Companies all over Wall Street are restating their earnings, revising them downward, because hundreds of millions are being lost because of Enron.

GOLDBERG: And that is the beauty of the private sector. The private sector is already issuing...

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART: And it's also the private sector which is the reason that thousands of people are now destitute.

BRAZILE: And let's hope that we get some real pension reform out of this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which the president has in fact just suggested. Thank you for bringing that up, Donna. I appreciate that.

(LAUGHTER)

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

A lot more coming up including phone calls for our panel, your e- mail questions. Late Edition's Final Round will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

We have an e-mail from Rob: "I'm amazed at Vice President Cheney's refusal to be more forthcoming with how his energy policy was constructed. The country has a right to know who, whether they're from the energy industry or not, had a hand in writing the policy."

Jonah?

GOLDBERG: Well, it's not clear that they had hand in writing the policy. They advised the vice president...

BEINART: They stood over the typewriter.

GOLDBERG: That's right. They dictated the policy. It's a little different.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: (OFF-MIKE)

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE: It's what they mean by oversight.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: You know, I actually think there's a good constitutional issue for Cheney to fight this.

But let's point out, as Joe diGenova was making the point earlier today, and very well I thought, there's a huge amount of politics in this. The Congress, the Senate could subpoena this information right away. And if the White House refused to give it up, they would simply have to say, we don't recognize your right, and then it would go immediately to the courts.

But instead, it's all Henry Waxman doing this, and they want to have it out there as a political issue, and they're watching Dick Cheney... BLITZER: It's not just Henry Waxman. Billy Tauzin, a Republican, the chairman of the House committee, he said earlier today on Face the Nation that, if he had his way, Cheney would just give the information up.

GOLDBERG: Yes. As the political issue, it's a real liability, it's a no-winner for Cheney.

BRAZILE: Yes. Absolutely.

GEORGE: Politically, the White House probably should just give the information over. But the other option that the Democrats can say is, you know, we are not going vote at all on the president's energy plan, until Vice President Cheney gives...

GOLDBERG: I think the Democrats want it as an issue less than they want the actual...

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on to talk about some other issues -- for example, Iraq.

Will Iraq be the next batttleground in the war against terrorism? The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham of Florida, says there is a case to made for going after Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR BOB GRAHAM (D-FL): If we find that he is reaching the point of success, that's when we need to adopt the preemptive strategy, just as the Israelis did a number of years, and go in and take him out. And if that means we have to do it alone, we certainly have got the capability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is that true, Peter? Does the United States have the capability to do it alone?

BEINART: I think it's an irony here. We probably don't. We need at least the support of one country on Iraq's border, probably Turkey.

But I think, ironically, unless the U.S. shows that we're willing to go it alone, that we have the will and the resolve, we won't actually get that support. And so, we have to be willing to show that resolve, then I think others will follow.

GEORGE: You know, lost in the whole controversy of an whole "axis of evil" is the fact that there is a really strong bipartisan consensus in Congress for going after Iraq. You saw it, obviously, with Bob Graham, a Democrats. You see it with Joe Lieberman, a Democrat as well.

So I mean, I think if the president wanted go after Iraq, he would find support in the Congress to do that.

BLITZER: Is it smart policy, though?

BRAZILE: Well, let me just tell you, I agree with Robert on this one. There's a bipartisan consensus that's forming. But I still believe at the end of the day, this administration should go out and find one or two allies to help us out with this.

GOLDBERG: I think Peter actually had it pretty much exactly right. I'm not in the practice of quoting Guta (ph), let alone pronouncing it correctly -- pronouncing his name correctly. But you know, I think it...

BLITZER: Guta (ph).

GOLDBERG: Guta (ph). But, you know, I think it was...

BEINART: What's his position on this?

GEORGE: Well, he said, "Act boldly and great men will come to your aid." And I think Peter is right, when he says that, if we act as if we're willing to do it alone, a lot of people will get in line and help us out.

And I do think that in some ways, the "axis of evil" line actually distracted us from the salient point, which is that it really -- the issue right now is Iraq and nobody else.

BLITZER: I think you do quote Guta (ph) a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE: It's a Faustian (OFF-MIKE)

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Let's talk about campaign finance reform this week. The House is scheduled to vote, but the Speaker Dennis Hastert says he'll fight to defeat the measure.

But a New York Times editorial today supports reform, saying, quote, this. It says, "The Shays-Meehan bill is not a panacea, but it would end the vast unlimited donations by corporations, unions and rich people to national parties."

Donna, you know a little bit about raising money. You raised money for Al Gore for a long time. Is the House of Representatives going to pass Shays-Meehan, the equivalent of McCain-Feingold, this week?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. And the Bush administration...

BLITZER: Without a poison pill?

BRAZILE: Oh, well, that's the key issue, of whether or not the president will stand on the sideline and watch and help the bill, or whether or not he will go out there and help Tom DeLay kill the bill with some of these amendments that they are thinking about putting forward.

Look, the Bush admininstration wants it both ways.

BRAZILE: But I really believe that this president should stand up and say, look, it's time to pass real campaign finance reform.

GEORGE: You know, heaven forbid that members of Congress put forward amendments to make a bad bill a little bit stronger or not quite as onerous.

The fact is, it is an unconstitutional bill. It probably will get passed, ultimately to the chagrin of the Democrats, who have become slaves to soft money over the last few years. And ultimately, it's not going to really accomplish a whole lot.

BRAZILE: We're saying the sky's about to fall if the bill passes. That's what the speaker said, Armageddon is coming if the bill passes, and the Republican Party will have a slow death. And I tell you, as a Democrat...

GEORGE: We know for a fact that the Republicans lead the Democrats in hard money, in federal dollars, so the Republicans are going to be fine, but the Democrats are going to be cake.

BEINART: That's why it shows that Donna and I are not arguing from a partisan position. I think you're probably right. It will hurt the Democrats with a turnout in low-income areas, but it's still better for American politics.

BLITZER: All right, we have a caller from Washington state that I want Jonah to answer the question. Go ahead, Washington state.

CALLER: Yes, I'm wondering why we don't often hear about the influence that the unions have and the monies that they contribute to the Democratic Party?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think it's a perfectly legitimate point. Unions do have an inordinate control or influence over the Democratic Party. And it highlights the essential issue here, which is that -- look, my wife says I'm too mean on television, so I'll be as nice about this as possible.

(LAUGHTER)

The Shays-Meehan bill, and campaign finance generally, is, in my opinion, the dumbest, most cynical, bass-ackward kind of legislation that you could possibly have out there. It's so absurd.

If someone can explain to me why the Enron bankruptcy makes it more logical that we should ban issue ads from Greenpeace and NARAL and all of these groups...

BEINART: I'll tell you why, because 70 percent of money that Enron gave was soft money. The influence that they had...

GOLDBERG: Enron actually gave nobody any money. It's been illegal for company to give money to a federal candidate since 1907.

BEINART: People associated with Enron give -- 70 percent of the money that came from the Enron world was soft money. Their influence wouldn't have been as great if you couldn't give the money. It's that simple.

GOLDBERG: And they went bankrupt anyway.

BEINART: Yes, but after hurting a lot of people because there wasn't a sufficient government oversight.

GEORGE: I will agree with one thing that Peter said earlier. If the Democrats start losing elections, that will be better for the country.

(LAUGHTER)

I will agree with that statement.

BRAZILE: The Democrats will not lose elections as a result of Shays-Meehan. We will re-energize the base. We will get out there and get out the vote, go back to knocking on doors.

BLITZER: You know that some members of the Congressional Black Caucus, like Congressman Albert Wynn, think it's going to hurt the black American community.

BRAZILE: There are a handful of CBC members who are opposed to it, but the vast majority of CBC members support this bill. It's the Republican caucus that is not behind it.

BEINART: Politically, the Democrats have the support as a political matters. It helps the Green Party and Nader so much if the Democrats are seen to kill this that it's better for the Democrats to take their chances.

GOLDBERG: And frankly, I'm with Donna and Peter. I don't really care who it helps in the party, I think it's flatly unconstitutional, for me take ought a newspaper ad saying my own opinions about a candidate has to cleared by the federal government.

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART: ... 60 days.

GOLDBERG: When else would I want to take out an ad? Ninety days before an election? A year before an election?

BEINART: (inaudible) flag burning? Where is the consistency on free speech... GOLDBERG: I'm with Scalia. You're betting war with conservatives on the Supreme Court.

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART: The day that Tom DeLay takes a position, I'll take him seriously on this. GOLDBERG: Well, I don't speak for Tom DeLay.

GEORGE: And, you know, you've got the basic hypocrisy of the New York Times, knowing full well if you do take money out of politics that increases their power. I mean, it's absurd.

GOLDBERG: This makes Wolf Blitzer a god in federal elections. And I know that's good news for the republic, but generally it's bad to empower big media at the expense of all sorts of groups who are locked out of the political debate.

BEINART: Poor Enron.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Actually, this will bring more people back to the political table than less people.

GOLDBERG: No, it won't. Prediction: This will be considered a disaster one year from now.

GEORGE: That's another show, predictions.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We have to take another quick break. Our lightening round is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our lightning round.

Quick question: Is the United States economy still going to be in recession after the next few months?

BEINART: I'm afraid it may. And I think one of the reasons will be Enron. There's so much revising of earnings downward that I think it really may slow this recovery.

BLITZER: Donna?

BRAZILE: I also think not only Enron but the tax cuts.

BLITZER: That's going to cause the recession to continue?

BRAZILE: I think the tax cuts will hurt this economy long-term, and therefore I do believe it.

GEORGE: The tax cuts aren't going to do it. However, unemployment is still going to be growing, at least through mid- summer. And I actually do agree with Peter, that the fear of these -- that the reports we get from companies aren't accurate is going to keep instability in the economy.

BLITZER: So the recession, the U.S. is not rebounding yet from it? GOLDBERG: I think it is rebounding, and it'll probably get out and into positive growth, and then we may have a double dip.

And I disagree that Enron is responsible for all bad things in the universe.

BLITZER: All right. Let me...

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART: Double dipping is bad, though.

GEORGE: And Andersen, however, is.

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: Yes. BLITZER: Let's move on. The Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, suggested to The Washington Post that India may have had a hand in Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's disappearance.

How will President Bush handle this when they meet Wednesday at the White House? Jonah?

GOLDBERG: I'm waiting for Peter to say Enron had a hand in it.

(LAUGHTER)

I think it's a problem only because it highlights the level of tension and dysfunction between those two countries, but I don't think it's a major stumbling block.

BLITZER: I was going to say to Robert, how will he be received, President Musharraf?

GEORGE: Well, no, I think Musharraf is going to be received very well, because he has been incredibly supportive. I don't think we could had the quick victory there without his support.

But Jonah is absolutely right, India and Pakistan, that's going to be a major problem well into the next few years.

BRAZILE: I think he'll be well received, but we should grill him on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

BLITZER: Well, you think he's holding back, he knows something?

BRAZILE: Well, I think we should just continue to press the question. We shouldn't forget that there's a fugitive at loose.

BEINART: Yes, I think the India thing is really a cover for the fact that it's much more likely the Pakistani government is involved here. They've already got a Pakistani policeman. They have serious problems in their own military.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about Cuba and the detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

Will the Taliban detainees be treated differently according to the Geneva Conventions from those that apply to the Al Qaeda detainees? And should they be treated differently? Robert?

GEORGE: They probably should on a technical level, but it's a little bit difficult when you know the relationship that went on between bin Laden and Mullah Omar and so forth, it becomes almost a distinction without a difference. But I can understand for political reasons why the United States is going along with that.

BRAZILE: Colin Powell finally won something in the administration. So I applaud Mr. Powell on this one.

BLITZER: So should the Geneva Conventions apply both to Al Qaeda detainees as well as Taliban detainees? GOLDBERG: Well, we are already subscribing to all the things that the Geneva Convention would call for in how we treat these people. This is mostly a legal and philosophical argument. And I think that the idea of calling Al Qaeda POWs, which is what we're not doing, would be the equivalent of calling the Mafia a legitimate government; we shouldn't.

BEINART: You know, that POW thing is a red herring. The administration is not abiding by the Geneva Convention on the key question of due process. There's a process for how you decide what someone's status is. The Bush administration's thrown that overboard. I think America's a better country than that.

BLITZER: What do you think about that?

BRAZILE: Well, I agree. I agree with the boys on this one, finally.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right. Before we go, let's take a look at the prediction I made here last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I guess we're out of time. Super Bowl, I'm I saying the Pats by three.

GEORGE: I will say -- I will agree with you. Pats by three.

BLITZER: All right. That's it. Nobody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: You know, Robert, now let me ask you this question. How much money did you have on that prediction? You probably made a fortune, going along with my earlier prediction.

GOLDBERG: Isn't that illegal? GEORGE: I think I'm going to take the Fifth on that one.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: You know that the Patriots did win by three, precisely three points, as predicted here.

BRAZILE: I know, I know. And that was very brave of you to call that before the end of the show.

GEORGE: It's Late Edition, the last word in sports betting.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Anybody want to predict how many medals -- gold, bronze, silver -- the United States will have?

GOLDBERG: In the mid-30s.

I do want to say I was scandalized that you shut down the debate once you got Robert to agree with you on the Patriots.

BEINART: That's right. I had the 20-17 score right on the...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I believe you did.

BRAZILE: I believe we'll have googobs, meaning lots of medals, to bring home.

BLITZER: All right, good, let's see.

BEINART: And how many are you saying, Wolf?

BLITZER: I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: Are you going to repeat that clip next week?

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE: Two weeks from now, two weeks from now.

BLITZER: Thank you so much. That's all the time we have today.

That's your Late Edition for Sunday, February 10. Please join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern.

During the week, of course, I'll see you twice a day, at both 5 and 7 p.m. Eastern, two editions of Wolf Blitzer Reports.

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

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