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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Colin Powell; Levin, Thompson Debate Direction of War on Terror; Ritter Discusses U.N. Resolution on Iraq

Aired November 10, 2002 - 12:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Paris, and 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION, "SHOWDOWN: IRAQ."
We begin with an Iraqi television report that President Saddam Hussein has called an emergency session of the national assembly to consider the just-approved U.N. Security Council resolution.

No Iraqi decision yet on whether to cooperate with U.N. weapon inspections, but ministers to the Arab League meeting in Cairo say Iraq is likely to agree to the terms of Friday's unanimously approved U.N. resolution.

Just a short while ago, I spoke with the U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Secretary Powell, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Thanks for coming in. Congratulations on the big win at the U.N. Security Council.

But the key question is this: Will Saddam Hussein comply?

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't know. He hasn't complied in the past, and that's why we put it in this resolution that this is a last chance, because if he doesn't comply this time, that lack of compliance goes right to the Security Council, who are to convene immediately to consider what should be done. And serious consequences are held out within this current resolution.

I can assure you if he doesn't comply this time, we are going to ask the U.N. to give authorization for all necessary means. If the U.N. isn't willing to do that, the United States, with like-minded nations, will go and disarm him forcefully. And the president has made this clear.

BLITZER: So you will go to war against Iraq, Saddam Hussein's regime, if he doesn't comply?

POWELL: The president has made it clear that he believes it is the obligation of the international community, in the face of new non- compliance, to take whatever actions the president feels necessary to remove those weapons of mass destruction. And if the U.N. does not act, then the president is prepared to act. He's made it clear for months.

BLITZER: You wouldn't be surprised if Saddam Hussein were skeptical, because these threats have been made before. Even the president, the other day in his news conference, acknowledged it. Listen to what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This would be the 17th time that we expect Saddam to disarm. This time we mean it. See, that's the difference I guess. This time it's for real.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Seventeen times these threats have been made. Why should he believe you this time?

POWELL: Because the 17th resolution is a lot different from all the previous ones. This time, a mechanism has been put into this resolution so that if he does not cooperate with the inspectors, they can't get their job done, they are told to report to report back to the Security Council, not play rope-a-dope in the desert with them. They are to report back tot he Security Council and tell the Council, "We are not getting the job done. They are not cooperating with us. We found these violations, and it is a problem for us." And the resolution says the Security Council will convene immediately at that moment to consider what should be done about this.

So there can be no mistake about it this time, and I don't think he's making any mistakes about it. He is facing a 15-to-0 vote in the Security Council. He didn't have that the last couple of times around.

And the Arab League is meeting today with Iraq in Cairo, and I hope that they will see the wisdom of encouraging the Iraqis not to misjudge the intent and determination of the international community and especially of the United States.

BLITZER: Let's be precise on what the resolution says, and I'll put it up on the screen. "Failure by Iraq at any time to comply with and cooperate fully in the implementation of this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment."

But there's ambiguity between the U.S. stance, the French, the Russians, the Chinese, what happens next.

POWELL: No, there's no ambiguity. It says clearly that if there is this violation, that very fact of a violation is a material breach, not a judgment to be made by somebody else, either by Dr. Blix or the head of UNMOVIC or by the Security Council. It is a material breach.

And at that point, it is referred to the Security Council under Paragraph 12 for the Security Council to make a judgment as to what should be done. While the Security Council is doing that, the United States will also be reviewing the nature of this breach and making a judgment as to whether it should prepare or begin to prepare to take military action either as part of the U.N. effort, if the U.N. decides to do that, or separately with like-minded nations if that turns out to be the direction in which we're heading.

BLITZER: When I interviewed the Russian ambassador to the U.N., Sergey Lavrov, on Friday, he said, if they come back -- the U.N. weapons inspectors, Dr. Blix, Dr. El Baradei -- and they say there have been some problems, they will look closely to see how serious the non-compliance is before they decide what to do.

Will the U.S. say there are serious problems and there are some not-so-serious problems?

POWELL: We'll have to wait and see. We believe we ought to approach this with a zero-tolerance attitude because we have been down this road with Saddam Hussein before. And so, we'll have to wait and see what Dr. Blix or what Dr. El Baradei would say.

And then the assessment is made within the Security Council. We're part of the Security Council. We'll be part of that assessment. And you can be sure we'll be pressing the Security Council at that point to show very little tolerance or understanding for any of the kinds of excuses that Saddam Hussein might put forward.

BLITZER: But just to be precise, the U.S. position is a second resolution, a formal resolution authorizing the use of force is not necessary?

POWELL: We understand that a second resolution would bring the whole Council to all necessary means. But if the Council is unable to agree on a second resolution, the United States believes, because of past material breaches, current material breaches and new material breaches, there is more than enough authority for it to act with like- minded nations, if not with the entire Council supporting an all- necessary-means new resolution.

BLITZER: I want to put up on the screen the timetable that this resolution spells out.

Iraq must agree to comply by November 15th. You anticipate that will happen?

POWELL: We'll see.

BLITZER: What, you have some doubt that that might not happen?

POWELL: I don't have any doubts, and I don't have any forecasts, and I don't know whether they will or they won't. We'll see what they do next Friday. I don't want to start handicapping the Iraqi regime.

BLITZER: By December 8 they must declare all their programs of weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological, nuclear. Fullest inspections have to begin no later than December 23rd, although Dr. Blix seems to think they could begin even earlier than that.

But by February 21st of next year, the inspectors have to report back to the Security Council, at the latest.

Now, you're a general. That timetable seems to coincide with weather factors, as far as a military invasion is concerned. February, March, April, it starts getting very hot in that part of the world. Is there a link there between the weather and this timetable?

POWELL: No, we did not create this timetable. It's a timetable that was provided by Dr. Blix.

But, you know, battles have been fought in the heat of the day before, and it gets cool at night when the American Army is particularly effective. So I wouldn't believe that there are some red lines out there that give us a time line beyond which Iraq will not be suffering any consequences.

But the more important point here is not when the inspectors report back but what level of cooperation are they receiving from Iraq. We're not going to wait until February to see whether Iraq is cooperating or not.

If Iraq is not cooperating Dr. Blix and Mr. El Baradei will discover that rather quickly. And the United States and the United Nations will be able to make a judgment as to cooperation very quickly, not sometime in February.

BLITZER: And the Iraqis should be under no illusions, the U.S. military, the Pentagon, a place you once worked at, they're moving forward with war plans?

POWELL: It would be imprudent of the Pentagon not to be developing contingency plans. They're always developing contingency plans. And I'm sure they will put a plan together that will accomplish any military objective that the president has assigned to them.

BLITZER: Now, you know that, for months now, there have been all sorts of reports in the news media, splits within the Bush administration about the usefulness of going back to the U.N., the usefulness of resuming inspections.

I want you to listen to what the vice president, Dick Cheney, your boss, your former boss and your current boss, said on August 26th regarding a return of inspectors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A person would be right to question any suggestion that we should just get inspectors back into Iraq, and then our worries will be over. Saddam has perfected the game of cheat and retreat and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception. A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with the U.N. resolutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does that reflect what you believe?

POWELL: He's absolutely right, I agree with him. The return of the inspectors in and of themselves won't lead to disarmament in the face of an uncooperative attitude on the part of the Iraqis.

What makes it different this time is that if they display that uncooperative attitude, if they are cheating and deceiving and doing all those things to prevent the inspectors from doing their job, then they're going to face the most serious consequences. And the president has made clear what those consequences are.

What Vice President Cheney was saying is, you just can't think inspectors are there, the problem's over, everything's dealt with. Not at all. We have to see cooperation from the Iraqi regime. There has to be an inspection regime that can get the job done.

And they can only get the job done if there is an openness and a cooperative attitude on the part of the Iraqi regime that we have not seen before. And if we don't see it this time, then we go right back to the U.N. for consideration of the application of serious consequences.

BLITZER: So you're saying flatly this is Saddam Hussein's last chance, no if's, and's or but's?

POWELL: Read the resolution. It says that.

BLITZER: I want to give you a chance to respond to those who have suggested that you may be the odd man in the administration, that you have some critics within the administration.

The New York Times wrote in an editorial at the end of the July, "The sharks circling around Mr. Powell include Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and the White House political director Karl Rove. Mr. Rove is especially eager to bend policy to placate the Republican right."

Go ahead and respond to that.

POWELL: I don't have to respond to that. This goes on all the time. I've seen it in every administration I've ever been a part of.

We have our discussions, we debate issues, all for the purpose of serving the president. And the only one in the pools that I worry about is the president, and I know that I am doing what he wanted done.

BLITZER: Were there any concessions, quid pro quos offered to Russia, France, China, Syria, in exchange for their affirmative vote?

POWELL: No. What we did was go in with a very hard position initially, a tough negotiating position. It's a negotiating position that, if we'd asked for everyone to vote for, we wouldn't have gotten any votes for it other than our own.

And then we listened to other nations. There are 15 nations in the Security Council. They're all sovereign, they all have principles, they all have their own red lines, and we listened to them. And we tried to accommodate them in every way that we could in order to get consensus. But we did it in a way that did not violate any of our principles or any of our red lines, and we succeeded.

We got a resolution that got exactly what the president said he wanted on the 12th of September when he spoke before the U.N.: an indictment of Saddam Hussein, a tough inspection regime and consequences if he violated this inspection regime. We got that in this resolution. But we did it in a way that brought our friends back onboard, brought the Syrians onboard. We gave nothing away with respect to principles or under-the-table deals. It was good, tough negotiating among nations that have respect for one another.

And the other thing it did, it pulled the United Nations back together. The Security Council has been in disarray, the U.N. has been in disarray over this issue for years. And now the Security Council and the U.N. is back together with a single, strong, powerful message to Iraq: You cannot violate the will of the international community by keeping these kinds of weapons in your inventory. They must be removed. You must be disarmed.

BLITZER: So you can flatly say that, as far as the Russians, for example, are concerned, no promises as far as the U.S. stance on the issue of Chechnya, for example.

POWELL: No, we made no such deals. We talk about all of these other issues, Chechnya or anything else, on their own merits. And there were no deals cut for this resolution.

BLITZER: And no deals with the French as far as future oil sales involving Iraq are concerned?

POWELL: No. Wolf, I was, you know, I was a chief negotiator on this, along with my colleagues in New York, Ambassador Negroponte and Cunningham, both of whom did -- and their teams did an outstanding job. The whole team within Washington -- Secretary Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney, Dr. Rice especially -- our whole team here in Washington worked together, and no deals like that were cut.

BLITZER: The president was very precise in his language used in the Rose Garden on Friday. You were standing right next to him. At one point, he referred to Iraq as an outlaw regime, outlaw regime.

There's nothing in this U.N. Security Council resolution that speaks about regime change, as you know. What exactly is the Bush administration policy, as far as the need to get rid of Saddam Hussein's regime? POWELL: We think that the people of Iraq would be better off, the region would be better off and the world would be better off if Saddam Hussein was no longer in power.

That has never been the position of the United Nations through all of these previous resolutions. So working within the United Nations, we did not expect to come up with a policy of regime change. Regime change is a United States policy that was put in place back in the Clinton administration in 1998 because Iraq was violating all of these resolutions with respect to disarmament and other resolutions, and it was thought the only way you could get disarmament was through regime change. And we inherited that policy. We thought it was a good policy, and it remains our policy to this day.

We will see whether in the area of disarmament with this resolution we find a regime that is changing itself, that has decided to cooperate with the international community.

But beyond that, do we still think the world would be better off and the Iraqi people would be better off, would live a better life if they had a different leadership? Yes, we still do and will continue to feel so.

BLITZER: So what incentive does Saddam Hussein personally have to cooperate if the United States says, "You know what, we're going to get rid of you if you cooperate or if you don't cooperate"?

POWELL: Right now, he knows that if he does not cooperate with respect to this U.N. resolution, which deals fundamentally with disarmament, although it does in its perambulatory paragraphs talk about his other violations of resolutions, he knows if he violates this resolution, military force is coming in to take him and his regime out.

BLITZER: Has Saddam Hussein committed war crimes?

POWELL: I think he has, yes. I mean, when you gas your own people, when you use these kinds of weapons of mass destruction, I think a case can be made. And we're always assembling information that might be suitable and useful for such a case.

BLITZER: So if you do capture him alive, you think he would go before a war crimes tribunal?

POWELL: I don't know the answer to that right now. We're assembling information, but I think he certainly has demonstrated criminal activities. He has invaded neighbors that were doing nothing to him, his invasion of Kuwait. He's done a lot of things that I think he should be held accountable to and for.

BLITZER: And the president spoke a little bit about this, as far as his generals are concerned the other day, issuing a warning to them specifically not to use weapons of mass destruction if Saddam Hussein were to order them to do so. Listen to what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: The generals in Iraq must understand clearly there will be consequences for their behavior should they choose, if force is necessary, to behave in a way that endangers the lives of their own citizens as well as citizens in neighborhood. There will be a consequence. They will be held to account.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: As you know...

POWELL: He didn't say weapons of mass destruction.

BLITZER: Well, what exactly -- because, as you know, this program is seen around the world, including in Iraq, so go ahead and explain precisely what the president said.

POWELL: What he was saying directly to the generals in Saddam Hussein's army is that should it come to conflict -- and we hope it can be solved peacefully, he also says that all the time -- but if it comes to conflict you can be sure that, one, you will lose and, two, you will be held to account for your actions.

BLITZER: All right, go ahead, what does that mean?

POWELL: It means you'll be held to account for your actions, and you can either have the option of deciding that you are serving somebody who is not going to be in power in a few days and perhaps lay down your arms quickly -- and we saw some of this during the course of the Gulf War 12 years ago -- and that to resist what I'm convinced will be inevitable would be foolish on their parts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We have to take a short break. When we return, more of my conversation with the secretary of state, Colin Powell. I'll ask him about the war on terror and whether the United States should continue to target terrorists for assassination.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: We have a new ball game now, and Iraq has to comply.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Clear-cut remarks from the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION, "SHOWDOWN: IRAQ." We return now to my interview with the U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: What is the difference between Iraq and its suspected nuclear program and North Korea and its suspected nuclear program? Because the U.S. clearly has a different strategy dealing with Iraq on the one hand, North Korea on the other.

POWELL: Both programs are dangerous. Both programs should be stopped. We have a variety of tools to deal with issues like this, problems like this.

We're applying one set of tools to Iraq, a nation that has been given multiple opportunities to stop this and has demonstrated they will use this kind of technology against their neighbors and against their own people.

In North Korea, this situation has just emerged over the last several months, when our intelligence pointed us in this direction, and we're working with our friends and allies to continue on a strategy that says let's put maximum pressure on the North Korean regime right now from all of its neighbors, as well as the United States.

And we have been very successful in bringing the Japanese, the Chinese I would say, the Russians also, and the South Koreans together on this strategy, so the North Koreans now know that as long as they are participating in this kind of activity, enriching uranium, they're not going to be able to solve their economic problems or problems of poverty.

BLITZER: But you're not threatening military force against North Korea?

POWELL: We're not threatening military force because we don't need to threaten military force right now. The president has made this clear when he was in Korea earlier this year, he made it clear that the United States does not intend to invade North Korea. That has not changed.

We wish North Korea would withdraw some of its forces, most of its forces frankly, from the DMZ. There is no danger to North Korea from the south. The United States is not going to invade. South Korea's not going to invade.

South Korea is a prosperous place, North Korea is a destitute place, and this is the time for North Korea to start to make better choices with respect to its future.

BLITZER: If you could explain this, I'd be happy. What exactly does the U.S. want Israel to do, in the event that Scuds once again were launched against Israeli targets?

POWELL: Israel has to be concerned about its own self-defense. And no American president would say to an Israeli prime minister that you don't have the option of deciding how to defend yourself.

But in the instance of such an attack, we would hope that the Israeli prime minister would consider all the consequences of such an action. And there are different kinds of attacks that might come -- that might be directed toward Israel in such a set of circumstances. And I'm sure there would be consultations between us and the prime minister of Israel at that time.

BLITZER: The fact that there is a new Israeli government now -- Labor Party out, Shimon Perez out, Bejamin Eliezer, the defense minister, out, Benjamin Netanyahu back in as the foreign minister -- what does that mean as far as U.S. strategy toward Iraq, toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned?

POWELL: I don't think it changes things fundamentally. There will be elections coming up in the very near future. We'll probably see a Likud primary election before this month is out, I would speculate, and then a general election.

And so I don't think it fundamentally changes things. We'll continue to move forward with our Iraq strategy.

And we're doing everything we can to obtain some progress on the Middle East peace work that we are doing. We're working on a road map that both sides hopefully will agree to in due course as to how we can move forward.

But in the presence of continuing terrorism and violence and the lack of full transformation on the part of the Palestinian Authority, it's been difficult to get some traction. And I'm afraid that the current election situation in Israel will probably slow things down as well.

BLITZER: You heard Netanyahu say this week that the road map is not on the agenda at the moment.

POWELL: Well, that's not view that I have received from the prime minister.

BLITZER: So you're saying you get a different view from the foreign minister, different view from the prime minister?

POWELL: Well, you know, one has to wait till the head of the government speaks, and the head of the state of Israel is working with us on the road map.

BLITZER: The U.S. took an action this past week in firing Predator missiles at these al Qaeda operatives in Yemen, including a U.S. citizen. What's the difference between that targeted killing and the targeted killings the Israelis engage in, which the State Department has criticized?

POWELL: We believe that there are significant differences. This was a case of clearly somebody engaged in a direct conflict with the United States. We believe that there are other ways to deal with the problems of the Middle East, other ways that are not enhanced -- the likelihood of these other ways working not enhanced by those kinds of targeted assaninations. So we believe there are differences and distinctions between the two situations.

BLITZER: Is the U.S. going to continue this policy as part of the war on terror, to go after these targets outside of Afghanistan?

POWELL: I would not comment on what targets we might or might not go after anywhere in the world.

BLITZER: But what you're saying is the Israelis should stop doing what they did, but the U.S. theoretically can continue to do...

POWELL: Our policy with respect to the Middle East and targeted assainations has not changed, and we will do what we have to do to defend ourselves with respect to terrorist activities.

BLITZER: On the war on terror, General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was quoted in The Washington Post as saying at a closed-door meeting at the Brookings Institution the other night, he said, "I think in a sense we've lost a little momentum there, to be frank. They've made lots of adaptations to our tactics. And we've got to continue to think and try to out-think them and to be faster at it," suggesting that the U.S. may not necessarily be doing all that well in the war against al Qaeda.

POWELL: No, I don't think that's what General Myers intended to say at all. I don't think that's what he did say.

What he said was that the nature of the environment on that field of battle, if you can still call it that, is changed. You don't have large Taliban or al Qaeda formations to go after. And so U.S. forces and coalition forces in Afghanistan are now shifting their activities, starting to do more civic action, more reconstruction kinds of effort to help the people, help create a broader security environment.

But I can assure you, if al Qaeda surfaces or if they get a hit or they locate an al Qaeda cell or individual, they'll go after them with all of the power at their disposal.

But it is also a measure of success, in that these people have been driven into caves, they've been driven over the border into remote provinces of Pakistan. So it reflects some success, so that you don't have the same kind of target environment that we had several months ago.

BLITZER: And finally before I let you go, Ron Noble, the American who heads Interpol, says he believes Osama bin Laden is alive.

POWELL: I have no idea whether he is alive or dead, and I don't like to speculate on whether he is or he isn't because I don't know.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on the wedding of your daughter...

POWELL: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: ... your youngest daughter. You were making phone calls as you were ready to walk down the aisle.

POWELL: It was a close-run thing, but I was there proudly to walk my daughter down the aisle without the cell phone going off in my pocket.

BLITZER: Your family, your wife and daughters must have enormous patience.

POWELL: And my son.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thanks.

POWELL: Thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll get the view from Capitol Hill. Plus, the midterm election shifts power to the Republicans. What will the GOP's control of the White House and both Houses of Congress mean for a possible war against Iraq, the war on terrorism and the U.S. domestic agenda?

We'll ask two leading senators, Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I hope we don't have war. I hope this can be done peacefully.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: President Bush commenting this week on the showdown with Iraq.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're joined now by two key members of the United States Senate. In Tarrytown, New York, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, just re-elected in his home state of Michigan, the Democrat Carl Levin. And here in Washington, a member of the Select Intelligence Committee, the Republican Fred Thompson of Tennessee. He did not seek re-election and is leaving the Senate at year's end.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

I guess I should say congratulations, to a certain degree, to both of you. But I'll say congratulations to you, Senator Levin...

(LAUGHTER)

... on your re-election.

Let me start and ask both of you, beginning with you, Senator Levin, do you believe the Iraqis will comply with this new U.N. Security Council resolution?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Well, like Secretary Powell, I am not in a position to predict at all.

But I do believe very deeply that the best chance that we have to get them to comply was if the United Nations adopted a resolution representing the decision of the world. The only way I believe that we'll get Saddam to comply is if he faces force. I've always believed that. But I think it'd be more likely that he'll comply if when he looks down the barrel of a gun he sees the world at the other end, not just the United States.

So we've improved the chances of his complying by going to the U.N. and focusing on getting an U.N. resolution, even though that required compromise on the part of the administration.

BLITZER: Well, that raises the question, Senator Levin, why did you vote against the resolution in the Senate authorizing the president to use military force if necessary?

LEVIN: Our focus and my alternative was on multilateral action. I wanted to go to the U.N., I wanted to see if we could get a U.N. resolution requiring him to open up to inspections and authorizing force by the world if he did not. And then, if the U.N. refused to act, and if he did not comply, then to come back to Congress to decide whether or not we would go it alone.

But what the decision of the president was here, and it is a very critical one, there's a significant shift here. The president has decided that the value of having the world with us if we have to use military force is so important that he was willing to make compromises.

I believe that the value of the world together going after Saddam is so important and the downsides, the risks of going alone are so serious, that it was important if the U.N. did not decide to go after him as a world community, that then the president come back to the Congress to seek authority to go unilaterally.

So our objective has been achieved, and I think they moved exactly in the direction that our alternative resolution called for.

BLITZER: Senator Thompson, you, of course, supported the president on that authorizing resolution. You're a member the Intelligence Committee. What is the best intelligence assessment? Will Saddam Hussein comply with these weapons inspections?

SEN. FRED THOMPSON (R), TENNESSEE: I don't think anybody really knows. I agree with the Carl that the best chance for not having to go to war was a strong resolution, which was passed. And it just goes to show how the other countries line up on the side of the United States when the leader of the United States makes clear what our intentions are. And President Bush did that, and the people lined up.

But my own opinion is that Saddam cannot afford to comply. He is being required now to state that he will comply. He's been required to submit a list of his weapons and facilities and things of that nature. Then he's being required to allow unfettered inspections. I don't think he can afford to do that.

BLITZER: Because?

THOMPSON: Well, because, first of all, it will be rapidly established that he was lying all this time, for starters. Then, if he really complies, he'll point out where they are and they'll be destroyed. So I don't really think he can afford to do that.

I'm afraid what's going to happen is that he will go back somewhere along these steps and apply his rope-a-dope strategy that he did before when we were in there in the early '90s. The thing different now, though, is that we have a strong resolution and we have a firm commitment, statement out of this administration, that we have a no-tolerance policy.

BLITZER: So you're basically saying that he doesn't win either way. If he complies, he gets down because he shows he's weak to his own people. On the other hand, if he doesn't comply, he's going to face the U.S. military wrath?

THOMPSON: That's right. And I think for his sake, the former, as tough as it is, would be preferable to the latter. But I'm not sure that's what he thinks.

BLITZER: Senator Levin, I hate to use the expression, he seems to be between a rock and a hard place.

LEVIN: Well, I think he has to realize that the only way in which he can survive is if he complies, and that's critically important.

I believe he's a survivalist more than anything else, and I believe our intelligence community believes that he is a survivalist and not a suicide guy. And if he is, in fact, a survivalist, then he will comply because he will have no choice but to comply. And I think that's the strength of what the U.N. did here.

BLITZER: You've been hearing and reading about these U.S. military contingency plans, war plans. Our military affairs correspondent, our Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, been reporting about this for days. Today there were long stories in the New York Times and The Washington Post, detailed plans.

You're the chairman, Senator Levin, of the Armed Services Committee, at least for a little bit longer. Do these plans make sense to you?

LEVIN: Well, I'm not going to comment on plans. I have not been briefed on the actual plans. I cannot assume that these are the actual plans. It may be disinformation, as far as we know.

But we need to plan because whether or not we go use force as part of an U.N.-authorized body or whether we go it alone, you obviously need to have detailed planning. I don't think it's particularly helpful for actual plans to be out there publicly. On the other hand, there's some value in that because it shows Saddam seriousness of purpose, and if he doesn't get that idea from all the other rhetoric and actions that we've taken, this should clearly finish the job.

Saddam must know by that now he has one alternative to survive, and that is if he disarms. But that is a change in the administration position, if it's true, because the administration has said that regime change was required. And now, at least by implication, Colin Powell's position is one, I'm glad it has one, and that is, that if he complies, if he completely disarms, that then he can survive, but that is the only way in which he can survive.

BLITZER: Well, if you listen carefully to what he said, Senator Levin, in the interview I just conducted with him, he said the world would be much better off, his neighbors would be much better off, his people would be much better off if he didn't survive, if there were regime change. And that still seems to be the long-term U.S. objective.

LEVIN: I think everybody would, hopefully, every decent person in the world would feel that the world and the people of Iraq would be better off if he didn't survive.

But I think it's clear from the U.N. position now that regime change is not part of that resolution. It may be part of a U.S. desire. It's surely mine, and I would hope everybody would have that desire. But to use force, military force to bring about a regime change is not now on the agenda if, and it is a huge if, the Iraqi regime complies and capitulates to the U.N. resolution.

BLITZER: You've always been a hawk, Senator Thompson, on the situation involving Iraq. Do you think the U.S. position on regime change, getting rid of Saddam Hussein if he complies, if he doesn't comply, has to remain the bottom line?

THOMPSON: I think ultimately. I don't think that anyone realistically expects him to change his stripes over night. And if we are forced to use military force, the idea of our going in and disarming him again but still leaving him in place the way he was once again is not something I don't think anybody really takes seriously.

I think that the question really is one of timing. While the number-one objective might not be stated to be regime change now, I do think that the thinking is that if he complies or if he's forced to comply or if military action is taken, all those things will ultimately lead to regime change.

BLITZER: All right, Senator Thompson, Senator Levin, stand by. We have much more to discuss.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll continue our conversation with our two senators. We'll also be taking your phone calls. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking with two influential members of the United States Senate, Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

We have a caller from Tennessee. Tennessee, go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Hey, Wolf, Brian Perry (ph), Tennessee, how are you?

The reason I'm calling, if we attack Iraq, and Iraq retaliates against Israel, is the United States going to be able to stop Israel from attacking Iraq this time?

BLITZER: Well, what about that, Senator Levin?

LEVIN: No, I think it's very clear that we could not stop Israel from defending itself or responding. We would hope that Israel would act, as Secretary Powell said, in a way which would help accomplish our goal, but Israel's going to defend itself, and it has a right to defend itself and a right to respond.

And it seems to me clear that this time, unlike last time, we could not expect them to do nothing if they're hit by Scud missiles.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Thompson?

THOMPSON: Oh, I agree with that. I think Israel's ultimate defense is a successful operation by the United States. So, I think, if they feel that that's going the way it should, and their interests have been taken into consideration, that they would work with us, in terms of deciding what their best response would be.

BLITZER: All right. We have another caller from New York. Go ahead, New York.

CALLER: I was wondering what the deterrent would be for Saddam not to use his capabilities, whether biological or chemical, if we decided to go to war with him?

BLITZER: OK, Senator Thompson, you want to handle that?

THOMPSON: Well, we can't guarantee that he won't react. We don't know exactly what he has, but we know that he has some dangerous weapons. But we have to take into consideration the fact that, whatever they are and whatever the threat is, it's only going to grow. Not only will he increase his biological and chemical capabilities, but my own opinion is, and the opinion of many who have looked at it is that, in the not too distant future, he'll have nuclear capability.

So, there is a risk. I don't think there's any question about that. The American people should understand it. But the risk will only grow if we do nothing.

BLITZER: I think you're a member also of the Intelligence Committee, in addition to the Armed Services Committee, Senator Levin. How close is the assessment right now, how close are the Iraqis to some sort of crude nuclear device?

LEVIN: Well, the best assessment is that, unless they can import the material for it, that they're three to five to seven years away. They're some significant distance away from being able to create it on their own, even if they can create it.

But the deterrent that the caller referred to here, it seems to me, is that if Saddam uses a weapon of mass destruction, he will be destroying himself, not just his target. There is no way that he can survive his use of a weapon of mass destruction.

And that's one of the reasons why there is at least a reasonable chance that he would not initiate an attack. If he initiated an attack, there is no doubt that he would be wiping out himself, because the response would be to use a weapon of mass destruction.

But that is the calculus which we have to make as to whether or not we would attack him, particularly on our own, unilaterally, when we know, with some certainty -- and the CIA has confirmed this now in testimony which has been declassified -- that, if we attack him, that his likely response would be to use a weapon of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological, but that, if we do not attack him, then it is unlikely that he would initiate an attack with a weapon of mass destruction.

That's where this unilateral-multilateral becomes such a critical assessment. That's why it is so important that we have the world community with us and not act alone, if at all possible.

BLITZER: Do you agree with...

THOMPSON: Well, the only -- the attack to us or the mainland or our troops abroad are not the only considerations, in terms of what Saddam can do. He could attack our allies or move against another country that would involve us, for one thing, or he could cooperate with terrorists, and...

LEVIN: And the CIA there has -- I'm sorry. I was going to say that the intelligence community has testified in front of us that it is a high-risk operation for him to shift or transfer a weapon of mass destruction to a terrorist state or to a terrorist group. They think that is an unlikely action because of the high risk to him if he was caught doing it.

THOMPSON: Well, I don't want to get in too deeply, in terms of what the CIA has told the intelligence community, but part of what they released publicly pointed out in great detail -- Director Tenet pointed out in great detail the extent to which Saddam had moved toward cooperation with al Qaeda.

So, nobody knows what might or might not happen, with regard to those two. Just that fact alone is a cause of great concern.

So, my only point is that the idea of whether or not Saddam might launch a unilateral attack against the United Nations is not the only danger -- the United States is not the only danger that he poses to the United States.

BLITZER: All right, Senators, we're going to stand by and take another quick break. Much more to talk about, including more phone calls.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Now that the voters have spoken, I urge the members of both political parties to come together to get things done for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush sharing his thoughts about Tuesday's elections which gave Republicans control of the U.S. Senate and added to the GOP majority in the House of Representatives.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're continuing our conversation with Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

Senator Levin, the president, at that post-election news conference, made it clear what the top issue on his agenda is. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: This resolution does not constrain any member state from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq or to enforce relevant United Nations resolutions and protect world...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was obviously not the president of the United States. That was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, talking about the U.N. Security Council resolution.

The president said at his news conference, Senator Levin, that the single most important item on his agenda right now is getting that Department of Homeland Security approved so that the U.S. can work to fight terrorism.

During this upcoming lame-duck session opening up in the coming days, will the Democrats come on board and support the president?

LEVIN: Well, the Democrats supported a Homeland Security Agency before the president did, as a matter of fact. Senator Thompson, I think, would vouch for this, that it was Senator Lieberman that offered a homeland security bill which did pass our committee on the totally partisan vote. All the Democrats were for it; the Republicans were opposed to it. What the administration wants is some change in civil service laws which Democrats believe are unnecessary in terms of homeland security. We want to secure the nation, and we want to do it by reorganizing where that's necessary. We have too many pieces scattered among too many agencies, entities that are involved in homeland security.

I think we're all together on that. We want to bring it together under one umbrella. We think as Democrats, that we can do it without watering down or changing the civil service laws. The president has all the authority he needs to hire and fire people in order to protect homeland security without amending those laws.

There's a difference on that, and I just believe that Senator Thompson and Senator Lieberman will continue to work to resolve that and hopefully get this done during the lame-duck session.

BLITZER: Is there a middle ground that's acceptable to the president who wants the flexibility to hire and fire as he deems appropriate and most of the Democrats, like Senator Lieberman and Senator Levin, who say you have to have those civil service protections in there for the 180,000 or so new employees of the Department of Homeland Security?

THOMPSON: Well, I think that if these elections showed us anything, it is that the American people take national security very, very seriously and that the president ought to be given the benefit of the doubt in trying to pull together a large number of organizations into a massive new agency.

We can't just have business as usual. We're inefficient. It takes too long to hire people and too long to fire bad employees. Appeals go on forever and ever and ever, and the Democrats wanted to preserve that same system.

The Democrats actually wanted also to diminish the president's national security authority, an important area, that presidents have had since the time of President Kennedy. We really couldn't figure out what the wisdom of that, either substantively or politically, was, and I don't think the American people saw the wisdom in taking that position either.

So surely now we can come back. I don't think that the president's ever been in a position that he would never move off of that. In fact, he's made several moves already. But there's some people...

BLITZER: So you see some common ground?

THOMPSON: There's always -- it's so complex and there's so many moving parts to it. There's always room to talk about those things. In fact, we have some people working this weekend and looking at some of those things where we could, perhaps, come together on.

And I would not be at all surprised -- the president is really pushing strong for us, in this lame-duck session, to get this done, and I think we need to get it done. And I think we can.

BLITZER: How long will it take?

THOMPSON: I don't know. I think if we could come together -- and we came very close at one time, and Democrats, Republicans were sitting together, a few of us in a room, and really getting what I felt like was close and real progress. And they told us later, the Democratic leadership had pulled them back, the Democrats back from the negotiating table. I think they thought it would be to their benefit to do that at the time.

But that's all over now. It's ancient history. And surely we can come together in these waning days to do something that we should have done months ago.

BLITZER: So you're saying there's a good chance there will be a deal in the coming days?

THOMPSON: I hope so. I think that we're going to make a real try at it, and I don't know if the Democrats will filibuster the bill or not. I hope not.

BLITZER: Are you going to filibuster?

LEVIN: No, the filibuster -- what happened here is that we were willing to have two votes and apparently Senator Gramm of Texas, the Republican, was not willing to go along with that.

BLITZER: So what does that mean?

LEVIN: We were not the ones -- we were not the ones filibustering, in other words. We were willing to have these two options put to a vote. That there was a Republican senator who was not willing to have that come to a conclusion.

So I don't know that it's fair to talk about the Democrats as being unwilling to bring this to a vote. We were, but I happen to agree that there's no reason why we shouldn't continue to try and hopefully bring this to a resolution in a lame-duck session.

Hopefully we'll do something on the economy, though, as well, because I'll tell you, the administration does not have an economic program. We need to do some things here including extend unemployment benefits. We've never been in a recession before where we did not extend unemployment benefits.

We ought to fully fund our roads and our sewer and our water programs and our transit programs. The president proposed to cut those programs. In a recession, we should be increasing those, getting this economy going again.

BLITZER: We're going to leave it right there. Senator Levin, an ambitious agenda that you have in front of you in the coming days.

Senator Thompson, thanks as well. Good luck to you, Senator Thompson. We'll be watching you on the big screen and the little screen.

THOMPSON: Well, thank you.

BLITZER: But you'll always have an invitation to come on this show.

THOMPSON: I'll take you up on that.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

THOMPSON: Thanks a lot.

BLITZER: And coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION, we'll talk with two of the big winners from Tuesday's elections about where both the Republicans and Democrats go from here. Plus, two perspectives on the possibility of a military invasion of Iraq.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We'll talk with two winners from Tuesday's elections here in the United States in just a moment, but first, here's CNN's Carol Lin in Atlanta with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Republicans are hailing their big gains in Tuesday's midterm elections, while Democrats are left to figure out how to get their party back on track.

Joining us now are two guests who won their respective races. In Jacksonville, Florida, the Republican congressman and the senator- elect from Georgia, Saxby Chambliss.

SENATOR-ELECT SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Hey, Wolf.

BLITZER: And in New Mexico, the former congressman, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., now the Democratic governor-elect of New Mexico, Bill Richardson.

GOVERNOR-ELECT BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Hi, Wolf.

BLITZER: Gentlemen, good to have both of you back on LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us. Congratulations, obviously, to both of you.

And before we talk politics a little bit, I want to talk Iraq just for a few moments, get your respective perspectives out there.

You know the situation, Mr. Richardson, quite well, about what Saddam Hussein might or might not do now in the face of this unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution. What do you believe he will do? RICHARDSON: Well, first, Wolf, I note that he's calling the parliament together. That's a good sign. But what Saddam Hussein does is delay, obfuscate.

I think what is going to be key here is the role of the inspectors. I saw the draft resolution. There is the material breach language, serious consequences.

But Hans Blix and El Baradei, two distinguished individuals who have been terrific, now have a lot of power in their hands. What constitutes a violation when they go into Iraq? Will they get total access to palaces? But then, also publicly, what they say about whether they in fact are getting access and whether there are significant violations.

So, a lot of the power shifts to what the inspectors will say, but Saddam, I can tell you, he'll start dodging and ducking and delaying and asking for more time. And, again, I would expect the inspectors to be the real, real arbiters of what happens next.

BLITZER: Congressman Chambliss, do you have confidence in Hans Blix and his team, his weapons inspectors, that they will be able to accurately report back to the Security Council on Iraqi compliance or non-compliance?

CHAMBLISS: Well, I think there are a couple of things that are very significant about what happened on Friday, Wolf. I agree with my good friend Bill that we're approaching this, first of all, in a bipartisan way, and we're going to continue to do so.

I think Bill would agree with me that the most significant factor in that 15-to-0 vote was Syria. President Bashar has now shown a willingness to at least engage in some kind of dialogue on a number of issues. And that's a positive sign as far as the war on terrorism and, in particular, the war on Iraq.

I think the weapons inspectors, number one, understand that they've got -- they're going to have to have unfettered opportunities to go in and inspect. That includes the opportunity to have dialogue with folks who have been working at these installations.

Now, we are going to find out right quick just how serious Hussein is, if he accepts this, and I think he probably will.

BLITZER: Well, let me...

CHAMBLISS: Because the acceptance doesn't really mean anything. It's what happens once Mr. Blix and his folks get there.

BLITZER: Well, let me press you on this issue of Syria, Congressman Chambliss. Syria is, of course, on a list of State Department countries that support terrorism.

You are on the Homeland Security Subcommittee. You've been looking into all of these issues of intelligence. Are the Syrians cooperating with the U.S. in the war on terror? CHAMBLISS: Well, as you know, I was over there back in January. I had a personal visit with President Bashar for a couple of hours. And during the course of that conversation, we talked about the three al Qaeda operatives who are located in Syria, that Syria had cooperated with the United States in taking those folks into custody and prosecuting those folks. That was a major, major step, because there basically has been very little dialogue between the United States and Syria heretofore. But that was the step in the right direction.

Here we are with the expansion of the war on terrorism into Iraq. Once again, at least they're showing a positive sign. I think that -- I take that as a good step in the right direction from a Syrian perspective.

BLITZER: It's historic almost, to a certain degree, Ambassador Richardson. You served at the United Nations, you know the Syria position. You've been watching them for many years.

And as we speak, we're seeing a live picture of the president and the first lady returning to the White House from their weekend at Camp David. The president's going to go over, shake some hands of some people who have gathered on the South Lawn. If he stops and speak to reporters, we'll, of course, bring you his comments live.

But, Ambassador Richardson, were you surprised by the Syrian decision to support this resolution?

RICHARDSON: Yes, I was. And you got to give credit to the administration. They must have worked something there to get that vote. I was also surprised with Mexico voting with us after the bad meeting that President Fox had with President Bush at Los Cabos. But I have to say that it was impressive to see unanimity, a 15-to-nothing vote.

The French, I think, you know, in the end, even though we are always mad at the French, they deliver for us. They're our friends. And so, I think credit Ambassador Levitte and the French government there, is also due.

BLITZER: And even as we're speaking, Ambassador Richardson, we do have a statement now from the Arab League, which has been meeting at the foreign minister's level in Cairo, a statement supporting the U.N. Security Council resolution that was unanimously passed on Friday, additional pressure on Baghdad, of course, to go ahead and support this resolution.

We have a caller from New York. Let's take that caller. Go ahead, New York.

CALLER: Yes, Governor Richardson, the Democrats suffered a defeat last Tuesday. Some are asking should they energize their base with more articulately liberal message, so should they move to the center. But my question is, how about doing both? Go to more liberal -- that is to say, articulate the more liberal message on foreign policy such as Iraq, but move sharply to the center on fiscal issues such as debt reduction and entitlement reform.

RICHARDSON: Well, you make some good points. The Republicans won, first, they had good candidate like Saxby Chambliss. Credit should go to the president. They had a message and it was national security. We had too many messages, and the few that we had, we didn't articulate well.

I believe the Democrats have to articulate an economic growth message -- overhauling tax systems, entrepreneurship, home ownership -- that appeal to putting more money in people's pockets. I think we also have to -- on the good news side, Americans still care about a lot of our core issues -- education, prescription drugs, Social Security.

So what we need to do is get our message out better, but also one of the messages that I see, Wolf, and to your caller and everybody, is that the real action and the United States is at the state level. Governors, with all due respect to you guys in Washington, you do very important things, but it's at the state level, where we Democrats did pick up some seats, you can really make a difference in people's lives.

BLITZER: Ambassador Richardson, who's the leader of the Democratic Party right now?

RICHARDSON: Well, right now, we don't have one, but I think Nancy Pelosi will emerge us. Tom Daschle. I think that the three newly-elected governors, Democrats in the big states, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, I think they need to reach out and lead also.

And one of the messages that I sense within the Democratic Party is, let's take advantage of our strength at the state level and let's groom some governors, like those three from big states, to take more national leadership positions and not just have most of the messages coming out of Congress and Washington.

BLITZER: Congressman Chambliss, the governor -- the Democratic governor of your state, Georgia, was surprisingly defeated in this most recent election. Is Georgia simply becoming a Republican state?

CHAMBLISS: Well, certainly, we have become a two-party state. I think we've got a pretty even split. I mean, both Governor-elect Perdue and myself won by about six or seven points, with the libertarian candidate thrown in there.

But we had a message. I mean, Bill is exactly right. We had a message. The Democrats particularly in my race, didn't have a message.

It was all recycling old issues that people had heard before, plus very negative campaigning.

And people are tired of that. People want to hear what you're going to do about critical issues, and that's what we talked about. We talked a lot about homeland security, as well as national security. BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break, Congressman Chambliss, Ambassador Richardson. When we come back, though, Congressman Chambliss, I'm going to play that ad that you ran against your Democratic opponent, Max Cleland, because some people were saying you went too negative in that race, as well.

Much more to come, our two guests, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the president on the South Lawn of the White House, just back from Camp David, meeting with friends, meeting with tourists who have gathered on the South Lawn. He's been shaking hands, signing autographs. He's going to be walking into the White House. We'll be watching him. If he stops and speaks to reporters, of course we'll bring you his comments live.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about the message from Tuesday's midterm elections with two guests, the Republican congressman, the senator-elect from Georgia, Saxby Chambliss, and the Democratic governor-elect of New Mexico, the former U.S. energy secretary among many other things, Bill Richardson. He once served in the House of Representatives with Saxby Chambliss.

Congressman Chambliss, I want to give you a chance to respond, because you know you're getting a lot of criticism for the campaign that you waged against Senator Max Cleland. Some saying you went too far in this particular ad, raising questions about Senator Cleland. I want to play a snippet from the ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: As America faces terrorists and extremist dictators, Max Cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage to lead. He says he supports President Bush at every opportunity, but that's not the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Any regrets about that ad? Obviously, a hard-hitting ad, raising questions about Senator Cleland's courage, if you will. This is a Vietnam veteran who suffered, as we all know, as he did during the Vietnam War.

CHAMBLISS: No, none whatsoever. I mean, we were very straight- forward. And the ad actually quoted him. He was saying in Georgia that he supported the president on the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, but the focal point of our campaign was the fact that he was saying things in Georgia, then going to Washington and doing something 180 degrees different.

There was never any linkage in that ad between bin Laden, Hussein and Cleland. There was linkage between bin Laden, Hussein and a lack of a homeland security bill. There was linkage between Cleland and the lack of the homeland security bill. We simply focused on his votes, and there were 11 votes cited in that ad that he never responded to. He tried to deflect away from answering on his voting record to other issues, and it simply didn't work. People kept wanting to know, well, why are you saying this, and why are you going to Washington and voting differently?

BLITZER: He did support the president on the $1.3 trillion or $1.4 trillion tax cut.

CHAMBLISS: He did, but he also voted 22 times on the floor of the Senate to totally gut that tax package. At the end of the day, he got a pass to vote for the package, because he knew the people of Georgia wanted it. But he gutted $600 billion out of there. And if his votes had passed -- or the amendments which he voted for had passed, that bill would have been totally gutted.

BLITZER: Ambassador Richardson, as you know, the president was very active in this campaign, visited Georgia, for example, several times, a lot of times to help Saxby Chambliss. He was all over the country.

There was some grudging admiration, earlier today Senator Tom Daschle, the majority leader, soon-to-be minority leader in the Senate, speaking out on "Meet the Press." I want you to listen to what Senator Daschle said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, he's tough. I think he's good. People can identify with him. And I think he speaks a language that people understand. He is -- I think he is as strong and as good an articulator of his party's message as they've had in a long time. So we respect him. I think it's a big mistake to underestimate him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A lot of people have underestimated George W. Bush, to their own disadvantage. He seems, at least at this point, in a very, very strong position to get re-elected in 2004.

RICHARDSON: Well, Wolf, I salute the president, too. He did very well. He was frenetic. He was relentless. He had a message. He worked hard.

He came to New Mexico. He tried to help my opponent. It didn't work, because in New Mexico, we had a bipartisan message. We had an economic theme. But there's no question that one of the dangers now that Republicans face is they control the House, the Senate, the White House. There going to be enormous pressure on them to deliver.

So, again, we Democrats have to be careful. We have to have our message set. But we shouldn't bury our head in the sand. This is not the end of world. As I said, we picked up some state houses, momentum in legislatures. The difference between our numbers in the House and Senate are not that vast. But let's acknowledge, the Republicans did well and had a good day. We salute them, but we've got to move on.

BLITZER: Ambassador Richardson, as you well know, Nancy Pelosi, who's expected to be the next Democratic leader in the House, well- known liberal from San Francisco. Some moderate Democrats, so-called New Democrats of which you are one, are a little bit concerned that that kind of liberal face may not necessarily be the best face for the Democratic Party.

Are you at all concerned that she'll be the leader of the Democrats in the House?

RICHARDSON: I'm not concerned. I know her. I served with her in the Congress. Above all, she's pragmatic, she's hard-working, she's effective.

What she needs to do within the House is build some coalitions with some of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats. She should get the Hispanic caucus. Representative Menendez is running for a seat in the leadership. She should expand the leadership base so it's not just the progressive element.

But above all, she is very, very, very strong in terms of being pragmatic.

But my message, Wolf, is that there are a lot of governors out there at the state level that, especially I mentioned those three from the big states that were newly elected, where I think governors need to step up and take more leadership within the Democratic Party.

BLITZER: Well, let me get back to homeland security for a moment.

Congressman Chambliss, when I interviewed Secretary Powell in the first hour of this program, I asked him bluntly about the fate of Osama bin Laden. I want you to listen precisely to his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: I have no idea whether he is alive or dead, and I don't know -- I don't like to speculate on whether he is or he isn't, because I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What does that say about the U.S. war on terrorism, the U.S. intelligence community, that now, more than a year later, the U.S. has no idea whether the leader of al Qaeda is alive or dead?

CHAMBLISS: Well, Wolf, as I have expressed many times, it's very, very difficult within the intelligence community to get much information on the bin Laden organization just because everything is so very, very closely held.

It is speculation to say whether he is alive or dead. Personally, I happen to feel he's still alive. I don't think they could keep that a secret that long.

But the good news about it is that we're going to hunt these folks down one at a time. We saw what happened in Yemen last week where we took out five al Qaeda leaders, including one unindicted co- conspirator in the Lackawanna, New York, cell.

So we're gradually getting these folks, and it's a matter of time before we get bin Laden. And he may already be gone, but it's just a personal feeling of mine that he probably is not. But we'll get him. The noose is tightening.

BLITZER: You don't have any problem with these so-called targeted killings of suspected terrorists outside of Afghanistan?

CHAMBLISS: None whatsoever. After what they did on September the 11th, when they brutally murdered 3,000 Americans, I have no regrets in going after them whatsoever.

BLITZER: Ambassador Richardson, I'll give you the last word. Do you have a problem with that policy?

RICHARDSON: No, I don't. But I think the message there, Wolf, is we still have an unfinished war on terrorism. I think the administration is doing well on it. But let's focus on the main objective of U.S. foreign policy -- stamping out international terrorism, finding bin Laden, protecting Americans at home, and ensuring that we're properly equipped intelligence-wise to deal with the biggest concerns that America faces, and that is terrorism, the Islamic world, the Persian Gulf, and the situation in the Middle East.

BLITZER: Bill Richardson, Saxby Chambliss, to both of you, once again, congratulations on your big wins on Tuesday. We'll look forward to having you on this program many, many more times to come.

CHAMBLISS: Thanks very much.

Congratulations again, Bill.

RICHARDSON: Same to you, Saxby.

BLITZER: And just ahead, an inside look at the complicated relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. We'll have an exclusive report from our Christiane Amanpour.

Then, a final warning to Baghdad? Is a military invasion the only realistic solution to disarming Iraq? We'll get analysis from the former U.N. weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, and the former CIA analyst, Kenneth Pollock.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

While the Bush administration considers Saudi Arabia a key Arab ally, critics have accused it of being untrustworthy when it comes to U.S. security interests.

But what's happening inside Saudi Arabia right now? CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, has a special report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If Saudi schools are being criticized for teaching hatred and anti-Americanism, this school in Riyadh is trying to buck that trend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guacamole is a dip. It's made from...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Avocado, correct?

AMANPOUR: A pilot program at the prestigious King Faisal School, started before September 11, has taken on special urgency now. Beginning at grade school, to teach language, math, computer science and technology in English.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It teaches you about the English language, and that's very important.

AHMAD SAWTARI, ENLISH DEPT. HEAD: Many of these kids' parents, they're schooled in America. So they want to pass on that heritage, that tradition.

AMANPOUR: But since 15 of the September 11th hijackers were Saudis, the United States is handing out fewer visas. And Saudis are afraid to send their children to a country they feel hates them. In addition, many Saudis who usually go to the U.S. for vacation or medical treatment are now going to Europe.

(on camera): Here in Saudi Arabia, sympathy for America is giving way to indignation and defensiveness and a feeling of betrayal as deep as in America itself.

(voice-over): You can come to a mall in the capital and get a genuinely friendly welcome. And although Saudis now admit their countrymen were involved in September 11, those who've lived in and love America are still angry that all Saudis are being tarnished as terrorists, as the enemy.

PRINCE SULTAN BIN SALMAN, TOURISM DIRECTOR: People here are not just shocked, but appalled that this is also being tagged as the brand of religion that is coming out of Saudi Arabia.

NOURA AL-YOUSEF, ECONOMIST: I'm still in a state of denial. I couldn't believe that those 15 people are from my country. I have been raised, I studied in this country, and we don't do this stuff.

AMANPOUR: And outside this mosque in the capital, young men are eager to tell us that not all Saudis are guilty.

But they also tell us that they feel current American policy in the Middle East is both threatening and humiliating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All Arab you see here, or Muslim from Kashmir, from Bangladesh, from Sudan, from Pakistan, from anywhere, they hate America, because America help Israel against Arab and Palestine.

AMANPOUR: Indeed, a recent poll finds the majority of Saudis have a negative view of America. But beneath the bitterness, hope too that bad feelings can be overcome and that they can travel and study again in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not talking about the government relations, I'm talking about the people's relations. America is a country of freedom. I'm talking about the people themselves. You know, the people are nice.

AMANPOUR: And back at the King Faisal School, Bats (ph) Talal, one of Osama bin Laden's nephews, among the ninth-graders learning English.

TALAL BIN LADEN, STUDENT: It's exciting, and it's the common language in the world so we I have to learn it. So it helps us in other jobs.

AMANPOUR: Talal doesn't know yet what he wants to be when he grows up, but like his classmates, his heart is filled not with hate, just an eagerness to learn.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And from Saudi Arabia back to Iraq, what's happening inside Iraq right now, and will those U.N. weapons inspectors be able to get their job done? We'll get two assessments immediately, when we come back.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS BLIX, U.N. CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: We are very pleased that the resolution was adopted by unanimity. That strengthens our mandate very much.

Secondly, as to the timetable, yes, we are planning to go to Baghdad on Monday the 18th of this month.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Dr. Hans Blix, the U.N. chief weapons inspector, announcing plans for his team to return to Iraq later this month.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now from Albany, New York, the former U.N. weapons inspector, Scott Ritter.

Scott, thanks for coming on the program. What's your assessment? What's going to happen?

SCOTT RITTER, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, I have no doubt that weapons inspectors will return on the 18th with Hans Blix at the lead, and they will initiate their technical work to get prepared to do more in-depth inspections.

My concern, though, isn't so much about the inspectors but the time lines that have been imposed upon Iraq as a part of this resolution. I think they're extraordinarily short time lines.

And I am also very concerned about paragraph four of this resolution, which speaks of omissions of -- in the Iraqi declaration, if they in fact turn in a declaration on time, that any omissions in this text would constitute a material breach. Omissions determined by whom? By the United States? By Great Britain?

BLITZER: Well, let's go through both of those points that you raised. Let's talk about the time line, first. They have about a month, 40 days or so, 45 days to go ahead, look at the time line. They must declare all their weapons by December 8th.

In other words, they have to tell Hans Blix, as well as the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Mohammed El Baradei, what kind of weapons of mass destruction capabilities they have. Do you think that's too short a time frame?

RITTER: Well, I mean, first of all, what weapons of mass destruction capabilities? What if Iraq submits a negative finding? You know, the United States and Great Britain are both on record as saying Iraq has this capability. So if Iraq submits a negative finding, do the United States and Great Britain at that point in time find Iraq to be in a material breach because their declaration omits the kind of information that the United States and Great Britain says exists in Iraq?

BLITZER: Well, let me just interrupt for a second, but basically you're saying if the Iraqis come back by mid-December and say, "We have no capabilities in biological, chemical or the nuclear arena," then presumably the inspectors still go on and do their work. They might be able to come up with some evidence to the contrary, right?

RITTER: I would certainly hope so. If Iraq tells a lie, I would think it's incumbent upon Hans Blix and the inspectors to have the technological capability to, you know, detect this lie in the similar manner that UNSCOM did.

But, you know, it's not so much the weapons of mass destruction as it is the dual-use capabilities. You know, what constitutes dual- use? You know, is Iraq, you know, going to be able in this period of time to put together a complete declaration that it takes into account everything, every last piece of machinery that, while it may not be used for prohibitive purposes today, could be converted down the road.

So, you know, I'm just concerned that this is an artificially short time line. Iraq is a very large nation with a very advanced technological base -- industrial base.

You know, I just finished testifying to the Danish parliament together with the former executive chairman, Rolf Ekeus. And we both were in agreement that, you know, as former inspectors who have done this job, this is an artificially tight deadline and may be too tight.

BLITZER: Well, do you think that the inspectors, the team of Hans Blix, the number of inspectors they have there, their capabilities, by the end of February, February 21st, they're going to be able to do a thorough inspection?

RITTER: Again, I think it's an extremely short time line. I think that they'll be able to do good inspections during that time. Whether or not those inspections constitute a thorough inspection of Iraq in which they can make a, you know, a definitive finding, no, absolutely not. Minimum six months, minimum six months, and realistically you're talking about two years. Iraq is a big country. There's a lot out there.

As I said, artificially short time lines, and I'm very concerned about it.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence, though, in the integrity of Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei?

RITTER: I have confidence in the integrity of the inspectors that work for them. You know, I'm a little concerned that Hans Blix and Dr. El Baradei showed themselves extremely susceptible to American pressure in the past weeks.

You know, when Hans Blix listens to Colin Powell, when the United States says that they will thwart the return of inspectors, I am beginning to wonder who he works for, the United States or the United Nations. And when they get summoned by President Bush to the White House, again, I'm a little concerned who their ultimate task master is, the United States or the Security Council.

BLITZER: Well, they report, as you well know, to the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan. Let's talk a little bit about the sensitive sites in Iraq, presidential palaces. This new resolution, in effect, negates the earlier agreement with Kofi Annan that he had with the Iraqi government, that the Iraqis would have to get advanced notice when the inspectors wanted to visit some of those sensitive sites.

When all is said and done, will the Iraqis, will President Saddam Hussein agree to the unrestricted inspections of those presidential palaces?

RITTER: I don't have any doubt that the Iraqis will agree to unrestricted inspections. My concern comes, what happens if the inspectors come to a palace area where Saddam Hussein is? In accordance of this resolution, all activity is frozen on that site. Does that mean Saddam Hussein has to stay put? He can't leave?

And what's that mean from an Iraqi security perspective? I believe the President of United States still has in effect, a covert finding which authorizes the CIA and American special operations forces to undertake, you know, direct-action means to capture and or eliminate Saddam Hussein.

You know, from a security perspective, Saddam Hussein isn't going to sit tight while inspectors close in on his palace, especially as long as the United States has regime removal as their preeminent policy when it comes to Iraq.

BLITZER: Well, are you suggesting, and correct me if I'm wrong, that some of those inspectors might be covert agents of the U.S. government?

RITTER: No, I'm not suggesting that at all. I'm suggesting that the United States has a policy of regime removal that has historical precedence in terms of using United Nations weapons inspections as a means of gathering intelligence about Saddam Hussein's security and then acting on that intelligence in a manner which sought to eliminate Saddam Hussein. And nothing has transpired in the four years that have passed since 1998 that suggests the United States has changed its policy. In fact, I believe that President Bush has enhanced the policy of regime removal and put in motion, you know, certain elements, capabilities, that will seek the elimination of Saddam Hussein.

And I don't believe the CIA would sit back and close its eyes on the unique access granted by inspectors to the most sensitive facilities inside Iraq.

BLITZER: Bottom line -- you served as a U.S. Marine during the Gulf War, you've been an inspector in Iraq for many years -- will there be another war?

RITTER: Absolutely. I don't think the Bush administration has any intention of allowing the weapons inspectors to, you know, shut out their already-established time lines for military action. The window opens in mid-December, closes in early March.

And I think the United States is focused on, you know, major military action during that timeframe and will seek to use the weapons-inspection process as a means of triggering this military action.

BLITZER: Scott Ritter, thanks for joining us.

RITTER: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll get a different point of view. We'll talk with author and former CIA analyst, Kenneth Pollack, about Iraq's weapons threat.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The choice does not rest in Washington. It does not rest in New York. It rests in Baghdad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, commenting on the U.N.'s new resolution demanding that Iraq disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now, the former CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack. He's author of an important new book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq."

Ken Pollack, thanks for joining us. Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

You just heard the assessment of Scott Ritter. He spent years as an inspector there. And he is convinced there is going to be a war when all is said and done. Are you?

KENNETH POLLACK, FORM. CIA ANALYST: Well, I think there may well be a war. I think the Bush administration is leaning very heavily in that direction. I wouldn't say that I'm quite as certain as Scott is. I think that we're hearing all kinds of different things out of the White House as to exactly what the president wants to do. And I think at this point in time it's going to depend on how the Iraqis respond, and then how the United States responds to whatever the Iraqis do.

BLITZER: Well, you were one of only two or three analysts in the U.S. intelligence community in August of 1990 to predict the Iraqis would, in fact, invade Kuwait. Pat Lang of DIA, a friend of ours, he was one of the other ones. There was maybe one other one. Nobody was paying much attention to any of you guys at that time.

What do you think the Iraqi leader is going to do now in the face of this unanimous Security Council resolution?

POLLACK: Well, the first thing I always point out, Wolf, is that Saddam is one of most unpredictable leaders in the world, and so you can't be certain about anything.

That said, I think all of the signs that we're getting out of Baghdad indicate that the Iraqis are going to accept this resolution, they're going to allow the inspectors back in. And my guess is that they will get very good cooperation from the Iraqis but not compliance.

And what I mean by that is I think they're going to let the inspectors go pretty much anywhere they want to go, because the Iraqis, we found by the mid-1990s, had gotten so good at hiding their weapons of mass destruction that neither the inspectors nor we nor any of the other intelligence services had any idea where they were and had no idea where to look. And the same is true today. We just don't know where Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are being hidden. And my expectation is the Iraqis will feel very comfortable. They will let the inspectors in, let them go wherever they want to, but they will not actually surrender the weapons of mass destruction.

BLITZER: But there have been defectors, there's U.S. intelligence, there's British intelligence, a lot of other intelligence. You don't think that these inspectors, Hans Blix and his team, are going in there armed with good information, where some of these capabilities may exist?

POLLACK: Well, I think they're going in with the best information we have. But the problem is that it's exactly the stuff you're talking about. All of these inspectors, all of the defectors, all of the other people who've come out of Iraq in recent years, what they're all telling us is that the Iraqis have basically taken most of these programs on the road.

For example, their biological weapons warfare program is now housed in about a dozen or two dozen mobile vans. This is the problem with biological warfare. You can make the stuff in tiny little laboratories that you can put in an RV and drive around the country.

This is what the Iraqis have done. It is virtually impossible to find something like that, whether you are Hans Blix and the U.N. inspectors, whether you are the Central Intelligence Agency or the Mossad or MI-6 or whoever.

BLITZER: So in three, four, five months, whatever the timetable is, it's a lot less than that, you heard Scott Ritter say he's not happy with this contracted timetable, and the number of inspectors, most of whom have no experience in Iraq whatsoever. Can they really get the job done?

POLLACK: I think it unlikely.

I mean, first, I don't share Scott's sense of concern about Saddam Hussein's safety. I don't think that's the issue at all.

With regard to the time frame, if the French and the Russians agreed to it I think that's perfectly adequate. I think if Hans Blix had a problem he would have said so.

Let's face facts. The Iraqis have had 11 years to come clean. And this is the fundamental problem: What the inspectors cannot do is take away the weapons forcibly from an Iraq that doesn't want to give them up. And I don't think we've seen any indication that the Iraqis have had any change of heart.

BLITZER: What are the chances of some colonel or somebody launching a coup or just taking one bullet and getting the job done, killing Saddam Hussein?

POLLACK: It's certainly a possibility. Every year Saddam faces about a half dozen such coup and assassination attempts. But the problem is that what we've seen over the last 34 years that Saddam has been in power is that he is extraordinarily good at finding out about these attempts and snuffing them out before they ever really get close to him.

BLITZER: If it comes down to a war -- and a lot of people in the end think there will be a war -- how long of a war will this be?

POLLACK: If the United States uses all the conventional capabilities at its disposal -- and the most recent press pieces are indicating that the president is now thinking about a very large invasion force -- my expectation is that the war will be relatively quick and relatively painless, both in terms of American casualties and Iraqi civilian casualties.

It's impossible to say, but it probably will only be a matter of weeks. And in terms of deaths, again, if we use all the forces at our disposal, we should be able to really minimize both our own combat casualties and the damage that the Iraqi people suffer.

BLITZER: Your views have evolved over the past few years. You wrote an article with some other experts in 1999 in Foreign Affairs. Among other things, you wrote this: "For the United States to try moving from containment to rollback in Iraq would be a terrible mistake that could easily lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths."

What made you change your assessment?

POLLACK: Well, one of the biggest and most important things is that, back in 1999, rollback meant something very different. When people talked about rollback in 1999, they were talking about trying to arm the Iraqi opposition and send them into Iraq with nothing but some U.S. air support, in some cases massive U.S. air support.

That was a loser of a policy. It's one of the reasons why the Bush administration today is opting for this massive invasion force. Because they know the Iraqi opposition and U.S. air power alone, basically the combination we used in Afghanistan, is highly unlikely to work in Iraq and would lead to probably another Bay of Pigs. That's what we were warning about in 1999.

The real difference was the change from September 11th. The sense that after September 11th, the American people were now willing to make sacrifices to prevent threats from abroad from coming home to visit us here made it possible to think about a big invasion force, which even in 1999 I thought was a perfectly reasonable way to take on the threat.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds left. But does Saddam Hussein get it? Does he really understand the situation he's in? Or is he surrounded by sycophants who are basically misleading him about the threat to his very survival?

POLLACK: You know, it's always hard to tell what Saddam is thinking, but I think the best that we can guess right now, given what he's doing and saying, he seems to be pretty confident. He knows he's in a bit of a tight situation, but this is a guy who has wriggled out of one tight situation after another for 34 years, and he seems quite confident that he can do it again.

BLITZER: All right. Kenneth Pollack, the author of an important new book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case For Invading Iraq." I read it, learned a lot from it.

POLLACK: Thanks so much for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

Up next, Bruce Morton's essay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It will be hard for Congressman Richard Gephardt to run for president as the Democratic leader who couldn't win a House majority; hard for Tom Daschle to run as the Democratic leader who couldn't retain control of the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Republicans in power, as the Democrats try to pick up the pieces. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

With the dust still settling from the midterm elections here in the United States, Bruce Morton shares his thoughts about the future of both political parties.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): The stock market fell more after President Bush's inauguration then during any similar periods since the Hoover administration. The economy lost more than 2 million private-sector jobs.

So, of course, Bush campaigned tirelessly for Republican candidates, and in last week's election, his party took control of the Senate and gained seats in the House. No president since Franklin Roosevelt has gained since during his first midterm election.

Does that mean he'll be able to get whatever legislation he wants through Congress? Well, as they say in those car rental ads, not exactly.

Republicans will now chair Senate committees, will set the agenda, decide which bills come to the floor and so on. Those are real advantages, and Bush will undoubtedly get some of what he wants. More conservative judges confirmed, perhaps.

Still, the Democrats held a slim Senate majority these past two years, and they couldn't pass their version of a prescription drug bill, a new homeland security agency and so on. Individual senators can still put holds on bills or nominations, and because the opposition can always threaten filibusters, it often takes 60 votes to pass anything, permanent tax law changes, for instance. And neither side, of course, has 60.

Trent Lott, the once and future majority leader, said, "The Senate was designed by our forefathers to be very slow and difficult to move, and boy, they succeeded."

Politically, some things have changed. It will be hard for Congressman Richard Gephardt to run for president as the Democratic leader who couldn't win a House majority; hard for Tom Daschle to run as the Democratic leader who couldn't retain control of the Senate.

The consensus is the Democrats didn't have much a message this fall, and need one. They may help relative unknowns like Vermont Governor Howard Dean. It may help John Kerry of Massachusetts who was willing to criticize the president on foreign policy, and who said after the election, "We Democrats must offer a vision that looks beyond the next poll. We must begin by demanding a different, better, fairer economic policy. We must say it plainly: Stop the new Bush tax cut."

That's one message. Time may yield others. The Democrats are not in danger of extinction. Last week's elections often were very close. But they certainly failed to find a theme that reached the voters. They have two years now in which to regroup and try again.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.

It's time now to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.

Coming up for our North American audience, the next hour of LATE EDITION. The government decides where the sniper suspects will stand trial. Is the ultimate punishment preordained?

LATE EDITION will be right back.

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Some significant developments during the past week in the case of the sniper suspects. We'll get insight from our legal panel in just a few minutes, but first here's CNN's Carol Lin in Atlanta with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: The attorney general, John Ashcroft, announced during the past week that the sniper suspects John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo would stand trial in Virginia. The pair are accused of attacks in that state, as well as Washington, D.C., Maryland, Louisiana, and Alabama. They're also being investigated for a killing in Washington state, as well as another killing in Georgia.

Joining us now to talk about where all of this stands are three special guests: In New Orleans, the attorney general of Virginia, Jerry Kilgore.

JERRY KILGORE, VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Great to be with you.

BLITZER: Here in Washington, the former attorney general of the United States, Dick Thornburgh, and the former White House special counsel in the Clinton administration, Lanny Davis.

Thanks to all of you for joining us.

And let me begin with you, Attorney General Kilgore, in New Orleans. This whole decision to go forward and select Virginia for these two separate trials, was that simply the result of Virginia having a strong death penalty law?

KILGORE: I think that helped, but I think that the Justice Department also looked at the evidence and they looked at the experience of our prosecutors on the Virginia side.

BLITZER: Has -- we were reading the paper today, the young 17- year-old John Malvo during some seven hours of interrogation -- has he confessed to at least some of the killings?

KILGORE: You know, I'm not going to talk about the actual evidence that we're going to be presenting, but we have charged that he was the shooter in the incident there in Fairfax County, and I believe that the Fairfax County commonwealth attorney will be able to prove his case.

BLITZER: Are you comfortable that a 17-year-old did submit himself to some seven hours of questioning by law enforcement?

KILGORE: I'm convinced that the law enforcement officials knew what they were doing and did the right thing.

BLITZER: Because his defense attorney, his court-appointed defense attorney, Michael Arif, had this to say on Friday. I want you to listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL ARIF, MALVO DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don't think you're going to have a confession for something he didn't do. At this point, we're pleading not guilty. That's the intent. That's the plan. We're going to trial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Well, he also went on to say, "I'm not at all comfortable with a 17-year-old being in police custody, being interrogated for that long period of time without any representation. I have a lot of problems with that. We'll see what the judges have to say." Obviously raising the possibility that any confession, anything he may have said, could be thrown out, not necessarily admissible.

KILGORE: Well, I'm sure he'll file the motions, and I'm sure the judge will hear all the evidence and all the facts and circumstances surrounding the interrogation. But we're convinced that we'll move this case forward and get guilty verdicts.

BLITZER: Should there be a different standard for a 17-year-old, Attorney General Kilgore, as opposed to a 41-year-old, as far as the death sentence is concerned?

KILGORE: I've always said no. You know, it makes no difference to the victim whether the individual is a 17-year-old or 18 years and one day.

What has happened is, a violent crime has been committed, and that individual had the intent, the 17-year-old, we'll have to show, had the intent to commit this heinous crime and should, therefore, face our most serious punishment. And a jury of 12 individuals will decide that in Virginia.

BLITZER: What about his fingerprints? Were they found on that Bushmaster rifle that was in that Chevy Caprice?

KILGORE: Again, I've read that in various newspaper reports, but I'm not going to get into the actual evidence that will be submitted. I'm convinced the commonwealth attorney, Mr. Horan, is getting prepared and will be ready for the case.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Attorney General, because I want to get some other points of view now.

Lanny Davis, you're a lawyer. You've followed this case closely. Do you have a problem with the way Virginia authorities are dealing with the 17-year-old John Malvo?

LANNY DAVIS, FORM. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, first of all, I have a problem with the attorney general assigning this to the state of Virginia without coming back to the place where most of the murders were committed, where the entire investigation was based, in Montgomery County, Maryland, where I have to live, where we have experienced prosecutors and where the state of Maryland does have a death penalty.

With all due respect to General Kilgore, who I have a great deal of respect for, I believe that the judgment Attorney General Ashcroft made was too hasty and perhaps can be reconsidered.

Certainly, I think that there is an argument -- I'm against the death penalty from a moral standpoint, but another part of me would like to throw the switch, since somebody actually associated with my law firm, her husband was one of the victims. And I certainly feel that emotionally I would love to throw the switch, but my moral sense and my sense that the death penalty is discriminatorially applied gives me pause.

But I at least would say, on the 17-year-old question, maybe General Kilgore or my friend Dick Thornburgh would answer, suppose it was 16, suppose it was 14, suppose it was 10, is there any judgment we make about maturity levels that we don't impose capital punishment?

BLITZER: All right.

DAVIS: I don't know where the line should be drawn.

BLITZER: Let me ask the former attorney general of the United States, Dick Thornburgh.

Do you have a problem with what your successor, one of your successors, John Ashcroft, did in giving Virginia first crack at these two suspects?

DICK THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he made a very logical decision about where to undertake the first trial of these case. You've got to remember, there are 21 separate shootings here, involving 14 homicides. In theory, all of those could be tried eventually. But I think the first one is going to be very determinative of what the ultimate fate of the defendants is.

The attorney general clearly looked at the laws of each of the states. There's a consensus in the law enforcement community that the death penalty should be sought for both of these defendants, and Virginia offers the best chance of securing that penalty.

Moreover, I think, as Jerry Kilgore said, the experience of the prosecutors in these counties, particularly experience in trying capital cases, is unparalleled. And that is another reason why it's clear that the attorney general made a careful decision about where to place these cases.

BLITZER: As you know, Lanny Davis, Maryland does not have a strong record on the death penalty, three executions since the '70s, when the Supreme Court lifted the ban. And right now there's a moratorium on Maryland. If you're a strong advocate of the death penalty, as the attorney general of the United States is right now, let Virginia take the issue.

DAVIS: Well, first of all, I respect Attorney General Ashcroft's reasoning if he wants to electrocute people, but I would think that the attorney general, who's supposed to do justice, would consider that there were more people killed in Maryland by these people, allegedly at least. And the investigation, as everyone knows, Chief Moose had assembled with him in Montgomery County, Maryland. And it seems to me a hasty decision to assume you can't get the death penalty in Maryland rather than a more considered decision.

THORNBURGH: I think it's noteworthy that Chief Moose supported Attorney General Ashcroft's decision to try these cases in Virginia.

BLITZER: He was at the announcement when the attorney general made that announcement, as was the Montgomery County executive, Doug Duncan, who was there as well. The Montgomery County prosecutor, Doug Gansler, was pointedly not at that announcement, as you probably noticed, Lanny Davis, being a long-time observer of Montgomery County politics.

Attorney General Kilgore, what do you say to those like your counterpart in Montgomery County, Maryland, Doug Gansler, the prosecutor, who say that six of the killings were in Montgomery County, that's where the task force was based, that's where most of the work was done, why not let them get first crack at these guys?

KILGORE: You know, again, we had to look at the best laws, the best prosecutors and the best range of punishment. Virginia carries out the death penalty, offers the death penalty to be considered by the jurors, and at the end of the day it will be a jury decision.

I believe the law enforcement community is unified in this, and I believe that those of us in the prosecuting community are going to be united as we go forward, as we start working with each other to get the evidence in Virginia and then in other parts of the nation.

BLITZER: Attorney General Kilgore, you heard what Lanny Davis said. What is the cut-off point? I believe in Virginia the cut-off point for the death penalty is 16 years old. Is that right?

KILGORE: That's right.

BLITZER: So you don't have any problem with 16-year-olds or 17- year-olds, as opposed to 18 and older, being subjected to the death sentence?

KILGORE: I do not. Again, it's a jury decision. The jury can consider the age of the defendant in the sentencing phase, and the jury will consider the type of crime, whether it's a heinous crime and the planning and the intent of the defendant. Jurors around Virginia, I'm convinced, have the ability to make that determination.

BLITZER: If, in fact, these reports are true that the younger John Malvo, the 17-year-old, confessed during the seven hours of questioning and confessed to actually pulling the trigger, what if he were to plead guilty, cooperate, testify against John Muhammad, the 41-year-old? Do you think it would be politically feasible for any prosecutor, whether in Fairfax County or Prince William County in Virginia, to give John Malvo life without the possibility of parole and drop the death penalty?

KILGORE: You know, it could. It would depend on the circumstances at the time and whether they needed the juvenile to testify in the other case. And I think that's a decision that will be left to the prosecutor. And, you know, I respect the prosecutor and the prosecutor's decisions that will come as the prosecutor makes important decisions on how to put on the case, what witnesses to call and eventually what sentence to ask a jury to impose.

BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh, I hear the attorney general of Virginia leaving open that possibility, although a lot of people would not politically be happy with sparing the life of even the 17-year- old, given the terror, the trauma that affected this entire region.

THORNBURGH: Well, I think, as the attorney general pointed out, we have to look at what evidence is available when these cases come to trial. Oftentimes, you have to give up a lesser involved defendant for the maximum kind of prosecution when that testimony is needed to convict the primary culprit.

If the only evidence against John Muhammad potentially were the testimony of Mr. Malvo, I think prosecutors would give serious consideration, rather than prosecuting the case to the maximum against Mr. Malvo and letting Mr. Muhammad go free.

BLITZER: But, Lanny Davis, we're going take a break, but I want to get your thoughts. It looks like the prosecution in both of these separate cases have a mountain of evidence against both of these individuals. Why accept any lesser plea?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, I respect Attorney General Ashcroft and Attorney General Kilgore's opinion on this. I just offered a different one, but I certainly don't question anybody's motives here.

I think that Mr. Muhammad, there's overwhelming evidence against him, he deserves his day in court. And I have problems with the death penalty, but as I said, there's a part of me that would love to pull the switch on this terrible, cutthroat, malicious murderer, if they prove him to be a murderer, that he certainly deserves life imprisonment without parole.

BLITZER: You mean John Muhammad?

DAVIS: Muhammad, yes.

BLITZER: And Malvo.

All right. We're going to take a quick break. Gentlemen, stand by.

We have a lot more to talk about, including your phone calls for our legal panel. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We believe that the first prosecutions should occur where we have the best law, the best facts and the best range of available penalties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The attorney general of the United States, John Ashcroft, outlining why Virginia will be the first state to put sniper suspects John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo on trial.

We're continuing our discussion with the Virginia attorney general, Jerry Kilgore, the former U.S. attorney general, Dick Thornburgh, and the former White House special counsel, Lanny Davis.

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

CALLER: Yes, the question is for the whole panel. What kind of precaution, very much precaution taken while these two snipers are in custody and they go on trial?

BLITZER: All right, a good question for the attorney general of Virginia. What kind of security do you have around these two suspects?

KILGORE: You know, I think there will be a tremendous amount of security with assistance from the federal authorities as well as the state authorities.

BLITZER: Attorney General Kilgore, the wife, the ex-wife of John Muhammad, gave an interview to The Washington Post on Friday. I assume you saw it. Among other things she said that interview, she said this: "I'm sure he had me in his scope. This was an elaborate plan to make this look like I was a victim so I could come in as the grieving father and take the children. They all died because of me."

Mildred Muhammad saying since she lived outside of Washington in suburban Maryland, that if she were one of the random victims he would then be able to regain custody of his children. Do you believe that?

KILGORE: It was a very troubling interview that I read. You know, she's obviously been very fearful of Mr. Muhammad and certainly, you know, may even be a witness in one of the cases in Virginia.

BLITZER: When you say that, could you elaborate a little bit?

KILGORE: You know, the prosecutors could choose to want her to come down and testify about her relationship with Mr. Muhammad, her knowledge of the issues she was going through with Mr. Muhammad, as well as to prove opportunity that he was there in the area.

BLITZER: Lanny Davis, do you believe these two suspects can get a fair trial in Fairfax County and Prince William County outside of Washington, D.C.?

DAVIS: Yes, I do. I've always believed in the jury system. I think that most jurors respond to the instructions of only reviewing the evidence in the courtroom. I think people in this area are capable of that.

And I do believe that both of these gentlemen -- and they have been appointed court-appointed counsel who are very, very forceful, and I think they will get a fair trial.

THORNBURGH: Whatever the ultimate conclusion, there's going to be a blizzard of motions filed before this case comes to trial, as much as a year from now. There are going to be changes of venue sought. There are going to be insanity or mental-deficiency tests raised. There are going to be objections to any statements taken from the individual defendants. You'll see the full panoply of defense weapons that will be available to these two individuals. And that's as it should be, that's the way the system ought to work.

BLITZER: Attorney General Kilgore, do you believe there can be -- that a motion to move these trials to a different location, because of all the publicity in this area, the fear that was so all-pervasive, might work?

KILGORE: You know, I believe that jurors in Prince William and Fairfax could be fair. You know, I don't believe there's a need to change the venue and move it somewhere else in Virginia. I think we can find the jurors there that will be fair, listen to the evidence before them and make a determination of guilt and innocence and then sentence.

BLITZER: Attorney General Kilgore, as you well know, the prosecutors are also, in addition to the state laws on the death penalty, who pulled the actual trigger, the killer, if you will, they're also relying on a new terrorism law that was enacted in Virginia after 9/11.

I want you to listen to what Paul Ebert, the prosecutor in Prince William County, said on Friday about this other law upon which they're basing their case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL EBERT, PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, VIRGINIA, PROSECUTOR: We know the grand jury last month returned four indictments, two of those charging capital murder. One of them is a new statute, relatively new, that involves murder in the course of what has been deemed terrorism. That's an untested statute, but we believe that it applies in this case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Attorney General, how significant is that terrorism statute in building the case?

KILGORE: You know, this was a bill that we sponsored out of the Attorney General's Office last year in response to 9/11. We believe the anti-terrorism bill gives a new tool, a new weapon in the arsenal of these prosecutors to prove that these two individuals were terrorizing entire communities.

And we know that was going on. Shopping centers were seeing little activity. Gas stations were seeing almost no activity because of the snipers moving around the Washington suburbs. The new terrorism law would allow them to prove their case without actually having to show which one of the individuals was the trigger person.

It's a new law that is untested, I agree with Mr. Ebert, of course. But it's an opportunity for these prosecutors to move on and trial the new law.

BLITZER: Is that a risky strategy, Attorney General Thornburgh? THORNBURGH: No, I think it's a belt-and-suspenders type of approach. New statutes raise new questions inevitably, and these will be thrashed out in the courts. But they have a solid case under the capital murder statute in Virginia, and using this terrorism statute is a logical extension of that.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds left, Lanny Davis. But before I go, I understand you spoke to Harold Ford, who wants to be the next Democratic leader in the House of Representatives. He's challenging Nancy Pelosi, who says she has the votes already to become the minority leader.

DAVIS: Well, first of all, I'm not sure that people who publicly announce their commitments are actually still to be counted, since Congressman Ford has just recently indicated after these public commitments.

Secondly, Nancy Pelosi is an old friend of mine. I'm an unapologetic progressive Democrat, but I think we need a new voice. And Harold Ford is one of the most exciting new voices our party has, if not as minority leader, he certainly should be out there speaking on our behalf and perhaps as head of our party some day.

But now I think Harold Ford is a new face, a new voice that ought to be given serious consideration by the House Democratic caucus.

BLITZER: But is he telling you that some of those votes that she says she has, she doesn't have?

DAVIS: Well, let me just say that Congressman Ford believes that many of the people who are publicly committed to my old friend Nancy Pelosi now are reevaluating that they have an alternative. It doesn't mean that they've changed their minds, but they shouldn't necessarily be counted as inevitable.

BLITZER: All right. Lanny Davis, we'll leave the political world right there. Thanks so much for joining us.

Dick Thornburgh, always a pleasure.

Attorney General Kilgore, I hope you'll come back on our program. Thanks for spending time with us. Good luck to you and all of your people in Virginia.

KILGORE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, our "Final Round." Our panel weighs in on Iraq, the election results and much more. "The Final Round," right after a news alert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our "Final Round." Joining me, Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, Ryan Lizza of the "New Republic," Jonah Goldberg of the "National Review Online," and Robert George of the "New York Post." We begin with a major international victory for President Bush. The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Friday for a resolution demanding that Iraq disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction.

Earlier on this program, the secretary of state, Colin Powell, said the U.N.'s actions represent one of the final -- a final chance for Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: The 17th resolution is a lot different from all the previous ones. This time, a mechanism has been put into this resolution, so that if he does not cooperate with the inspectors, they can't get their job done, they are told to report back to the Security Council, not play rope-a-dope in the desert with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Ryan, this time he really, really means it. Is it going to work?

RYAN LIZZA, NEW REPUBLIC: I think it will. Right now we have two options. There's either going to be the 100 percent voluntary disarmament of Iraq by Saddam, or you're going to have a U.S. multilateral coalition disarm him by force.

I think the great irony of this is, before the election, George Bush went to Congress and asked for authorization to unilaterally depose Saddam without going to the U.N. All along he planned to go to the U.N., not ask the U.N. to depose Saddam, and do it multilaterally.

So I think the Democrats probably right now feel like suckers over this. But it was a good policy.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask a Democrat.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: There'll be more than enough time to discuss that.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Did the president make you feel like a sucker?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, no question. I think Democrats were sucker-punched on the timing of this escalation. And ultimately we see the president and Colin Powell, who deserve great praise today for his stature, putting his statute on the line and going to the U.N.

But look, we all know that Saddam Hussein is going to bob and weave and try to get out of this. And ultimately the administration hawks might win the victory that they really want to win, which is to go to war.

BLITZER: You have no doubt that there will be a war, do you?

GEORGE: I would say that there is a 20 or 30 percent chance of there not being a war.

BLITZER: That high?

GEORGE: Yes. I mean, I think most likely there is, indeed, going to be a war, but I think it's absolutely fascinating, and it is truly a major victory for Bush, it's a major victory for Powell that you have the entire Security Council, including Syria, which was on the axis-of-just-as-evil list...

(LAUGHTER)

... as Jonah told us several months ago.

But I think, you know, Saddam is definitely in a box, and I mean, there's still obviously the likelihood he's going to try and get out of it, as he has the previous 16 resolutions. But there is a small chance that there won't be a war, because the U.N. is going to go ahead with the inspections.

BLITZER: You know, even as we're speaking right now, Jonah, the Arab League, the foreign ministers, are meeting in Cairo. They've urged support for this U.N. Security Council resolution. And in a joint statement they also say that any strike, though, against Iraq -- and I'll read it precisely from the statement, says, "Arab countries utterly reject any strike against Iraq as a threat to all Arab countries' national security."

In other words, they're saying, Saddam Hussein, accept the resolution, but they're also saying to the U.S. and the others, don't strike Iraq.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Yes, they've been saying this for a while, and if you want to lose a lot of money, go to Vegas and bet that the rest of the Arab world will join forces with Saddam Hussein against the United States if there's a war. The Arab League is a lot of talk and very little action.

I do agree that there's a low percentage or possibility for a war. If Saddam Hussein is alive, there will be a war. But there are reasons to think that he may be killed by his own people before we actually get a war up and going.

BLITZER: But that's wishful thinking.

GOLDBERG: It is wishful thinking.

And I also want to throw a little cold water on this notion that necessarily this resolution is going to work. I do think it was brilliant politically. I do think it was brilliant diplomatically.

But there's every reason to think that, at the end of the day, it could still be the United States, working with a coalition outside of the U.N. authority, to do what has to be done in Iraq, because it's not clear at all that, you know, the United Nations is going to support the United States.

GEORGE: Rhetorically speaking, though, the president even in his press conference on Wednesday, I don't think he ever used the phrase "regime change." He said Saddam must disarm, must disarm.

BLITZER: Thursday.

GEORGE: Thursday.

LIZZA: He's redefined regime change...

GEORGE: Yes, so there is, in a sense, rhetorically...

BLITZER: The bottom line, though, is, as I think I saw a headline in the new issue of U.S. News and World Report, "George W. Bush 15, Saddam Hussein 0."

GOLDBERG: Right. No, that's right.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: Although who thinks it's a moral victory to get Syria's vote on anything? I mean, the idea that somehow the U.N. giving you authority to do something is somehow a moral victory I have never understood.

We bought these votes by allowing Russia to clamp down on Chechens, the Chinese to clamp down on Muslims in their own country, and by guaranteeing all of their oil contracts. And to me that doesn't seem like a huge moral victory.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about another big victory for the president, namely the midterm elections. In addition to strengthening their majority in the House of Representatives, Republicans actually gained control of the Senate.

Today the soon-to-be Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, suggested things won't necessarily be a cakewalk for his own party in the new Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: I think some people tend to get their expectations too high. Being majority leader in the Senate is a tough job. I know it, Tom Daschle knows it. You know, you're not a ruler. You got procedures that make it difficult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Robert, how lightly should the new leader of the Senate tread?

GEORGE: The only thing worse than being minority leader in the Senate is being majority leader with one vote. You have to be very careful. I mean, certainly the wind is at the back of the Republicans on this because Bush is obviously is an enhanced leader, and so that gives them a little bit more strength.

But one vote can hold up a whole lot of legislation because of the filibuster in the Senate, and Trent Lott recognizes that reality.

BLITZER: Ryan, you know that on any important vote in the Senate, if you don't have 60 votes, you're not going to get it passed.

LIZZA: Yes, and that's why they're playing down expectations. And the great irony of the post-election analysis is the only people gloating right now are some Democrats who are saying, "Oh, this is great" -- maybe not great, but saying this is -- "What's going to happen now, is Republicans are going to overreach. They control Congress, they control the presidency, this will set us up set for 2004." And there's no reason to think that Bush and the Republicans are going to be as stupid as Gingrich was in '94 and play into the Democrats' hands.

BLITZER: Donna, what happened to the Democrats this time around? You were expecting so much better.

BRAZILE: Well, clearly what happened was many Republicans got out there and campaigned like Democrats did, ran on Democratic issues. They stole from Democrats some of the biggest issues that we had to take to the American people -- the economy, prescription drugs, Social Security.

So I think they undercut our argument. We never, you know, spoke with one voice on the economy or Iraq. And as a result of it, I think Republicans did well. But it wasn't...

BLITZER: They got out their base better than the Democrats did.

BRAZILE: Well, absolutely wrong. They managed to get out their base; we got out our base. But they managed to grab independents and moderates, and we all know we live in a country where one-third Democrats, one-third Republicans and one-third independents. And those independents went with the Republicans.

BLITZER: You accept Donna's assessment of what happened?

GOLDBERG: In some part, yes. I mean, there was all this talk about how the Republicans were going to suppress the black vote and all that kind of thing. Didn't happen. The black vote was actually pretty respectable in most of these elections. And it turns out that the Republicans were able to win the middle-of-the-roaders, the moderates, the centrists. And in many ways, that gives the Republicans -- should give the Republicans a clear message about where they should be governing for the next year or two.

And I think that highlights one the problems with Ryan's analysis of where the Democrats are thinking, is if the Democratic Party thinks that their best philosophy and best strategy is to wait for Republicans to make mistakes, that's really not a positive agenda for the future. It is simply saying, "We're going to sit on our hands, and if the Republicans screw up, we win, and if they don't, then we're the minority party for a long time."

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break, but we'll continue this. We're going to pick this up.

Don't get nervous.

(LAUGHTER)

Just ahead, the Democrats try to pick up the pieces. Will they tap the right leader? We'll debate that, much more, when our Final Round continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our "Final Round."

The man who was losing his majority leader status, the Democrat Tom Daschle, today said despite the Republican victory, there is still significant support of the country for his party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DASCHLE: I don't think that there's any mandate here. There isn't any seismic shift in direction. We still have a 50-50 breakdown in our country's voters, and I think we have to respect that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is Tom Daschle setting the stage for something bigger in his political ambition right now?

BRAZILE: Well, he's smart to look at the results and not comment, as some people did, on Wednesday that Democrats were just totally defeated at the polls.

Look, 40,000 votes could have changed this back into the hands of the Democrats in New Hampshire as well as Missouri and some other states. Democrats also did very well at state houses, picking up Tennessee, a state that Bush won in 2000. Of course picking up Kansas and Wyoming, of all places. That's not clearly Democratic country.

So I think Democrats need to take the lessons from this chapter and begin to rebuild for 2004 and beyond.

BLITZER: She makes a valid point. There weren't a whole lot of votes that caused this great shift in the balance of power.

GOLDBERG: Yes, and Donna's such a glass-is-half-full kind of gal...

(LAUGHTER)

... that it makes sense that she'd see it that way. The reality is, is that, I agree, the electorate was split basically 50-50 on Election Day, but to use a football metaphor, it was essentially frozen at the 50-yard line, and after this election, Bush has opened ground. And it is entirely possible -- and I think this is the way they're going to govern -- is that they are going to govern so as to seal a mandate for the Republican Party over these next two years, and that puts the Democrats in a terrible defensive catch-up game.

BLITZER: It does put the Republicans, though, in a somewhat awkward position. They really have to deliver now.

GEORGE: They do have to deliver, but I think with Rove and Bush running things...

BLITZER: Karl Rove.

GEORGE: ... with Karl Rove and Bush running things, they are going to focus on the important issues such as prescription drugs -- you know, stealing another issue away from the Democrats -- plus, obviously, focusing on the main issue of national security, domestic security and so forth.

But I will also speak to Donna's other point, though. Republicans, though, I mean, got really significant victories in Georgia, Maryland, Hawaii, states that they had been wiped out for generations.

BLITZER: If the economy's still bad in two years, will the Republicans still be able to blame Bill Clinton and the Democrats?

LIZZA: Yes, that's a good question, but so far the economy has cut the right way for Bush in 2000 and 2002. In 2000 we thought that there was no way that Bush could overcome the incredible Clinton economy and beat Gore. Obviously he did. This year a lot of Democrats thought the economy was going to sink Bush. He changed the CW again and he won. There's no reason to think that the economy's going to affect reelection chance in 2004.

BLITZER: CW is conventional wisdom.

GOLDBERG: That's right, Wolf. And this is the WB network for Wolf Blitzer.

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE: It's not country and western?

GOLDBERG: But there's every reason to think that even if the economy goes back into a little bit of a double-dip recession, which it kind of looks like right now, that the economy won't be better by 2004. And if the economy is good in 2004, then I would hate to be the Democrats running against George Bush.

BRAZILE: Well, I hope he creates some jobs, because all we see right now are people losing their jobs. And maybe they'll deliver like the Postal Service.

GEORGE: Or Harvey Pitt, another job lost under George W. Bush.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about this. The results were barely in before some Democrats began calling for new leadership. That's about to happen. The House minority leader, Dick Gephardt, is stepping down after falling short of helping his party gain the majority yet once again.

One of the House's most liberal members, Nancy Pelosi of California, says she has more than enough votes to replace Gephardt. But Pelosi is being challenged by her upstart fellow Democrat, Harold Ford of Tennessee, who spoke about his candidacy earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAROLD FORD, JR. (D), TENNESSEE: There was a time in our party where people had an opportunity to listen to those who wanted to run for leader and make selections. I will tell you this: Our list is growing. I will tell you that the race is not over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jonah, is the race over?

GOLDBERG: It sounds like the race is over. From every reason that I think -- it sounds like Nancy Pelosi thinks she's won it, and everyone in Washington thinks she's won it.

BLITZER: Is she what the Democrats need?

GOLDBERG: No. She's not what the Democrats need. She's literally a San Francisco Democrat. And she is -- you know, the Democratic Party has a choice here. It has a choice between choosing between Harold Ford, who may not have the political connections necessarily to win this race but who says the right things -- he's a Southern moderate who is able to reach out to Republicans -- versus a hardened liberal.

And it really does sound like that what the Democrats have done is read the tea leaves of this election, saw that they couldn't win moderates and instead just decided that they're going to turn their backs on them, which is a prescription for a 40 percent party.

BRAZILE: Well, that's -- I understand how Republicans would like to focus on her voting record and not her vision. Because I think Democrats are going to look at Nancy's vision and how she brings the caucus together and what program and what strategy she will offer the party in 2004 and beyond in winning elections.

The role of the majority leader is to bring consensus within the House Democratic caucus, and not to put one's voting record ahead of one's vision. And I think Nancy Pelosi is going to be a great leader. That's not to say that Harold Ford does not deserve a seat at the table, in some role, in some capacity, because he speaks not only for a region that our party must galvanize for the future of the South, but also a group of voters, young voters, who also need a place at the table.

GOLDBERG: But, Donna, I somehow don't remember you guys saying that Tom DeLay's voting record was irrelevant to the kind of leader he was going to be.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, voting records matter.

LIZZA: No, but it doesn't -- DeLay's going to be majority leader now. I don't hear Republicans saying, "Oh, we're so worried that the most conservative member of the House is going to have an elevated platform to work from."

It doesn't matter. Pelosi -- what matters for a leader in the House on the Democratic side is your leadership ability, her fund- raising ability. To a certain extent you have to suppress your ideology and bring the caucus together, and she's not stupid. She understands that.

But to the extent that the Democrats' problem after the election is that they have a huge disadvantage on national security issues, maybe that's a little bit of a problem.

GEORGE: Well, I think Pelosi basically has it wrapped up, though I think Ford will make an interesting showing over the next few days. But I don't think we should automatically reject Pelosi because she's so liberal, because take a look at what Republicans did.

Republicans recognized that their strength was in the South, and their leaders from Newt Gingrich to Trent Lott to George W. Bush came from their strongest region.

Nancy Pelosi -- the strongest regions for Democrats are on the two coasts. Nancy Pelosi is coming from that. And so, in a sense, she represents a large segment of where Democrats are going in the future.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to end that little conversation there.

We have to take another quick break. Our Lightning Round is just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture from Cairo, where the Arab League has been meeting, foreign ministers from the Arab world meeting on the U.N. Security Council resolution, a resolution approved unanimously, 15 to nothing, on Friday, urging the Iraqis, demanding from the Iraqis that they comply, cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.

The Arab League issuing a statement supporting the resolution, but also warning that any attack against Iraq would be an attack, in their words, against the entire Arab countries', entire Arab world's national security.

We're monitoring that situation at the Arab League in Cairo. We'll have more details, of course, as they become available.

Now back to our "Lightning Round."

Congress returned this week -- it will return this week to finish out what's called a lame-duck session. First item on the agenda, homeland security, a Homeland Security Department.

Will there be approval for this Homeland Security Department, as envisaged by the president?

GOLDBERG: I think so. It's the way I would bet.

Trent Lott didn't want to have a lame-duck session, and he agreed to because Bush wanted to get this through. And I think the Democrats learned from Georgia that this is not something you want to be too obstreperous on.

BRAZILE: I think it will pass, and it's unfortunate that they are going to strip workers of their hard-earned collective bargaining rights. And what's next? Stripping policemen and firemen?

I think Max Cleland should be the first up to debate this issue.

GEORGE: I think -- actually, to be specific, Lott didn't mind the lame-duck session, but he didn't want to do homeland security.

I think it will end up passing, though Robert Byrd is the unpredictable member, is an unpredictable person. He may just say that it's not going to pass in this session over -- and try and filibuster it, yes.

LIZZA: I'm not quite sure, but I don't buy the fact that, because Cleland lost, that the Democrats all of a sudden have to cave on this issue. The fact is, the election's over. They don't have to worry about an election for quite a while, and there's no incentive for them to just suddenly give in.

But it's definitely the test of George Bush's mandate, the first test.

BLITZER: Tomorrow, as we know, is Veterans Day. Is the war against terrorism giving this observance some greater meaning, Donna?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. I think all Americans will remember those who have sacrificed for their country, as well as those who are prepared now to sacrifice again.

GEORGE: Yes, I think so. For so many years, the false lessons from Vietnam kind of froze American foreign policy in a number of ways, and now we're being forced to reconnect with the world. And I think, just seeing all those names being mentioned, you recognize the sacrifice they made.

LIZZA: Yes, it's kind of a sober time for the leaders in the country, Bush and Congress, to think about what we're about to embark on in Iraq, and...

BLITZER: It's a good time to think about the future veterans.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: And also to keep in mind, in a way that really wasn't the case throughout much of the Cold War, that the people who are risking their lives in the military are doing it to save American lives here at home, in a very concrete way, because, you know, things like September 11th show that we're all vulnerable.

BLITZER: And going from very, very serious to not so serious. On a much lighter note, of course, a lot of attention this past week on the actress Winona Ryder. She was convicted, of course, of grand theft, vandalism, as a result of shoplifting more than $5,000 worth of items from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.

This isn't a good career move for her, or is it?

GEORGE: In Hollywood they say there's no such thing as bad publicity, so I think, you know, Ms. Ryder is going to be -- I'd like her to be starring in "Girl, Incarcerated," but unfortunately that's not going to be the case...

(LAUGHTER)

... since they say she's not going to spend any time behind jail.

BLITZER: Well, what's going to happen?

LIZZA: I kind of feel bad for Winona Ryder. I'm just kind of shocked at the coverage. And I just think it's great that the cable networks had time to cover this this week, when, you know, we had the U.N. resolution and the elections, and it's good...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We've got 24 hours a day. We've got a lot of time.

(LAUGHTER)

What do you think?

GOLDBERG: I have no sympathy for Winona Ryder whatsoever, and I'm fascinated that people do. And frankly, I think she still owes me $8.50 for "Aliens 4," which was a total robbery. So -- but I do think this is probably good for her career.

BLITZER: Good for her? GOLDBERG: Yes. Because it wasn't going very well before, and now she's like a bad girl, and people like bad girls.

BRAZILE: I'm no fan of thieves, any thief, and I think she should spend a night in jail along with those who steal for groceries and drugs and every other bad habit out there.

So, I'm sorry to see that this is going to boost her career.

GEORGE: And Donna has learned her lesson because she didn't connect that to Republicans stealing the election.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: You didn't say Riders on the Storm.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We're going to leave it there. That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, November 10. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

Don't forget, I'm here Monday through Friday, noon Eastern, for Showdown: Iraq, later in the day, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.

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

We leave you now with pictures from the Vietnam War Memorial Wall, where they're remembering those who died during the Vietnam War.

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