>

BREAKING NEWS

Canada identifies Muslim convert Michael Zehaf-Bibeau as suspected shooter in Ottawa attack, U.S. officials tell CNN.
Click here to skip to main content.
CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About CNN.com Preferences
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
TRANSCRIPTS
Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Showdown: Iraq

Aired December 8, 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, D.C., 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 8:00 p.m. here in Doha, Qatar, as well as 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf.
We'll get to our interview with U.S. Senators Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel in just a moment, but first this CNN news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: There's other news that we're following in the war against terrorism. Osama bin Laden's terror group has now purportedly claimed responsibility for that terrorist strike at that Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya late last month.

A statement attributed to al Qaeda made the claim on an Islamic website, declaring, quote, "The Jewish crusader alliance will not, God willing, be safe from attacks anywhere. We will attack strategic interests with every means we have," unquote.

The statement was attributed to a man obviously closely associated with Osama bin Laden. CNN has not independently confirmed that.

Meanwhile, two leading members of the United States Foreign Relations Committee are currently here in Qatar in the Persian Gulf. They've been traveling over the past several days throughout the region. Senators Joseph Biden and Chuck Hagel have gone to Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and northern Iraq.

This morning they met here in Qatar with General Tommy Franks, the commander of the Central Command. He's the man put in charge of organizing a possible war against Iraq.

Earlier today I spoke with the two senators.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Joining us now, two influential members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the chairman, the outgoing chairman, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, and Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

You've just arrived here in Qatar from an incredible journey through northern Iraq. A lot of U.S. officials, U.S. lawmakers are not going through northern Iraq.

Senator Biden, what did you see, how did you get there, what did you do?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, we saw a unity among the Kurds that, quite frankly, I didn't fully expect. And we saw a progress -- the Kurds have essentially run northern Iraq since we put the no-fly zone in, and they've made great progress, I mean, physical progress, in terms of what the landscape was, how people were living, schools they built, hospitals.

But we also, I think, came away with a clear understanding, this is going to be a significant undertaking on our part if we need to use force in Iraq in terms of what is expected of us in the aftermath of a victory. How do you build a peace? We went to see whether or not the Kurds were committed to a united Iraq...

BLITZER: The opposition forces.

BIDEN: The opposition forces. And so, we -- I came away at least with a sense of how much progress they've made, how difficult it's going to be to pull together and keep together a united Iraq, and a lot of other things.

BLITZER: It's not going to be an easy mission.

Senator Hagel, in the past, the Kurds themselves have been deeply divided between the Barzani faction and the Talabani faction, as you well know. Will these opposition forces in northern Iraq be with the United States as a unified force if the president of the United States gives the order to go to war?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I think the answer to that is yes. That was confirmed to us clearly from the Talabani and the Barzani leadership.

I, like Joe, was impressed with a realism that has developed based on the reality of what's ahead, but also the hope they have. They know that there is an opportunity here, if they unite. If they work together through this one common coalition of common interests, they can make their lives better. And they've done a remarkable job in the last 10 years.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, this trek you made to northern Iraq was not an easy little junket, a congressional delegation going on an overseas trip. First of all, it had a lot of risk. How dangerous was it?

BIDEN: Well, I'm not sure it was all that dangerous. I think the most dangerous part was riding for six hours in the back of a car on windy roads. But you know, every place we looked, there was someone carrying his own little submachine gun. But it is -- I never felt in any personal danger.

What impressed me was how incredibly impressed they were that two United States senators would make a six-hour drive into the middle of Iraq to Arbil to meet with them. We spoke to their parliament. It was -- that's what impressed me and made me realize how isolated they have been and how isolated northern Iraq has been and how much they yearn for the possibility of being able to develop into -- and to run their country.

It's -- but it was -- I don't think it was that dangerous.

BLITZER: Was there any...

BIDEN: I wouldn't recommend the trip.

BLITZER: I believe you're the first United States senators to have made that trip, at least recently, to northern Iraq.

HAGEL: First ever. They told us that we were the first ever.

BLITZER: And you got authorization from the State Department, from the Bush administration to do it, I assume?

HAGEL: The Bush administration was very cooperative. This is in their interest, very clearly. We'll obviously debrief some of the senior officials when we get back, and this was in the full cooperation with their assistance, and they were very encouraging with it as well.

BLITZER: Senator Hagel, I think it's fair to describe you as among those senators cautious in making that decision to go to war.

Did you see or feel anything as a result of this journey to northern Iraq that changed your mind about getting rid of Saddam Hussein?

HAGEL: I don't think there's ever been a question among members of Congress, probably the world, about the future of Saddam Hussein. That's an easy one. This guy needs to go.

How he goes is the tough question. And one of the issues here that the United States is going to have to deal with, and it became very clear to us -- clearer to us, as a result of our trip into northern Iraq, is the expectations these people have.

BIDEN: Exactly.

HAGEL: What do they expect the United States to do? How long will we stay there? Reparations. What do we intend to do to cure every problem they've ever had? There are high expectations.

BLITZER: High expectations, and they've been deeply disappointed, if not betrayed, in the past, as you well know, Senator Biden.

BIDEN: You've been all over the world, Wolf. You know there is not a place in the world you've been that we're not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that portion of the world's problems (UNINTELLIGIBLE) solution.

And part of our job was to -- self-appointed job -- was also to give them realistic expectations.

We wanted to know, basically, though, three really important things. One, were they committed to stay together?

BLITZER: And the answer is yes to that.

BIDEN: And the answer is yes to that, at least for the time being. Now, what happens in a year or two I'm not prepared to predict.

Number two, were they committed to a united Iraq? Were they -- because, you know, the Turks, the Iranians, everyone has always been concerned about an independent...

BLITZER: The answer to that is yes?

BIDEN: The answer to that is yes, and I think that's borne out of a stark realism. They realize they have no place else to go. They have no choice, and this is their single best option.

And the third question was, what did they expect of us? Because as you say, they feel very, very betrayed. It's been centuries they've felt betrayed, but in the last decade they've felt betrayed.

And that was -- let me put it this way, I passed a note to Senator Hagel in the middle of one of our meetings and I said, "We're getting into a whole hell of a lot here." This is a gigantic undertaking. The American people should understand this, how complicated this is going to be after Saddam comes down, if that happens. And it's going to take some real, sophisticated and significant investment and management.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Up next, the former chief United Nations weapons inspector, Richard Butler, joins me. We'll talk about what to expect now that these weapons inspections have resumed. What might they yield now that the Iraqis have handed over thousands of pages of documents?

This special LATE EDITION, live from the Pesrian Gulf, will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf.

Some 12,000 pages of Iraqi documents are making their way to the United Nations and to Vienna, Austria, where the International Atomic Energy Agency is headquartered. Those documents in New York are expected to be handed over to the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, as early as later tonight in New York.

I spoke earlier today with the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, Richard Butler. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: If you were still working on the job on the U.N. inspection team and you had access to these thousands of pages of Iraqi documents, what would be the first thing you'd be looking for?

RICHARD BUTLER, FORMER CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: The first thing to do, Wolf, is to lay all this out next to the existing database. People should not forget that we previously had 1 million pages of Iraqi documents from the past.

I would be looking in particular to see how what is now being delivered compares with the past record and to identify significant variations, especially as a guide to what they may have done in the four years without inspections.

Wolf, I'd be doing this in each of the areas -- missile, nuclear, chemical and biological -- and deploying the team of the best experts we had separately in each of those areas to try to solve the riddle of what someone has called the telephone book, 11,000 pages of documents. It's a big job.

BLITZER: But, presumably, and correct me if I'm wrong, Ambassador Butler, but there is information that will be useful to the inspectors there, even though the Iraqis insist their bottom line is they have no weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

BUTLER: Yes, of course there will be useful information there, Wolf. Iraq has followed a technique that it's used in the past of almost trying to kill with kindness, you know, giving so much information that it doesn't necessarily clarify, it actually to some extent makes the task more difficult. But leaving that aside, the basic political and real construct here is that Iraq is obliged under international law not only to have no weapons of mass destruction but now to declare to the Security Council the exact status of all its relevant programs, weapons-related and those that could be weapons-related.

The job of the inspectors is to verify that declaration, is to see where it stands up, where it's true and where it's false. And this is what we're now going to see play out. Iraq has made its declaration. The inspectors will now conduct the act of verification.

It's a big job and there will be useful information in what Iraq has said. I guess, Wolf, the point that also has to be made, and it's a bit like Sherlock Holmes, it's real forensic work, is the inspectors will want to also discern from this document what Iraq has not said.

BLITZER: And presumably the Bush administration and the U.S. intelligence community, the British intelligence community, others, will have contradictory information that they may or may not share with the security council and the U.N. inspectors if they want to try to prove that the Iraqis are lying. That could be a critical step in this entire process.

BUTLER: I think that presumption is absolutely correct, Wolf. I agree with you. You see, that's the other stage. I talked about the inspectors having the past database. It now has this new purported database from Iraq.

Now, of course, key countries, as one of the people you were interviewing a moment ago said, you know, with a serious intelligence service, they also have another database, material that has come to their hands through their efforts around the world.

They will compare what Iraq has now tabled with what they hold privately. And here, Wolf, is the potentiality, I think, for real contention and possible difficulty.

BUTLER: What will be the situation if the United States, for example, says of the Iraqi declaration, here is a part of it that we do not accept, because of what it says, which they say is wrong, or what it omits to say, and we are saying this because of information we hold separately.

The world will want to know what that information is, that intelligence information. And, if the United States or the United Kingdom says, "Well, no, you can't know that, because we hold it privately, it's our intelligence information," then, as you know very well, Wolf, there will be serious trouble in that conflict of information, and let's hope that doesn't happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll hear directly from the leader of the Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate. Tom Daschle weighs in on Iraq, the war on terrorism and much more.

This special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf, will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Doha in Qatar.

Earlier today I spoke with the leader of the Democratic Party in the United States Senate, Tom Daschle, about Iraq and much more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Senator Daschle, thanks for joining us, as usual.

Now that the Iraqis have gone ahead and made their declaration, providing the U.N. weapons inspectors with thousands of pages of documents, if it comes out that they didn't provide the whole story, didn't provide the whole truth, is it time then for the U.S. and its coalition partners to go to war?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, Wolf, I think that's too speculative at this point. I don't trust Saddam Hussein any more than the president does, and I think we have to be absolutely certain that they live up to all the expectations of the U.N. resolution.

But the inspectors are just beginning to do their work. We're just beginning to get the information, so I think we need to look at it very carefully and make some decision as that information becomes more evident.

BLITZER: How do you think President Bush is handling this issue right now?

DASCHLE: I think the president is doing it about right. He's firm. He is working in a cooperative way with the United Nations and our allies around the world. I think he's put Saddam Hussein on very clear notice that we expect complete truth.

Saddam Hussein has given no indication at this point that he will do anything different than what he's done over the last 10 years. Eight times he's asserted that he has no weapons of mass destruction, and on eight separate occasions he's proved to be lying.

So the question now is, is he lying again? We don't know that today. But certainly with the effort under way now we'll be in a much better position to make that assessment in the weeks ahead. BLITZER: Well, it sounds like what you're suggesting, Senator, is let the process play out, the process with the inspectors, the U.N. Security Council resolution, but when the dust settles, whether it's a few weeks or a few months from now, there's almost certainly going to be a war, because you don't believe Saddam Hussein has come clean.

DASCHLE: Well, I don't think you can base this whole effort on Saddam Hussein's assertions one way or the other. Clearly, he's lied in the past, and we can't hold him to any other standard but the truth. And we won't know the truth until we can prove one way or the other.

The administration has asserted over and over that they know that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. We need to make sure we have that evidence. We need to make sure that we pour over these documents very carefully and make our best judgment based upon those documents and the inspection team effort, which is just getting under way.

After that, I think we're going to be in a much better position to make some judgment about what the next course of action ought to be.

BLITZER: Would you recommend, though, since you're privy to some of the sensitive details, some of the sensitive intelligence, that if the U.S. does have information that contradicts what Saddam Hussein has said in this latest declaration, that the U.S. take that information to the Security Council and go public with it and make that information known to everyone around the world?

DASCHLE: Absolutely, Wolf. I think it's important for us to share the information that we have available to us. In fact, I think all of the intelligence communities internationally ought to do the same. We ought to put our best evidence forward, especially if it's a question of Saddam Hussein again denying all of these assertions and these allegations.

So we have three things. First, our own intelligence information; second, the documents that Saddam Hussein has now just released; and third, the inspection team effort that is only beginning now in Iraq. All three of those efforts ought to be done to the maximum degree possible, and our assessment needs to be made after that about what our next course of action should be.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence, Senator Daschle, in Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector?

DASCHLE: I do. I think that he's in a very tough position, but I think he's doing it admirably. It is not easy. Obviously when you've got a country the size of California, with the team as he has, the logistical challenges are overwhelming. But I think he's done a good job of trying to keep our coalition partners together, responding to all of the concerns raised, and I give him good marks so far.

BLITZER: A lot of hawks in the administration, in the Bush administration and on Capitol Hill, are suggesting that he go ahead and find some nuclear scientists in Iraq or chemical or weapons experts, get them to defect, seek political asylum, take them abroad outside of Iraq with their families, as authorized under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, and then question those experts, those Iraqi experts. Only then will they they be able to find the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Is that a good idea?

DASCHLE: Well, I don't think it ought to be the exclusive idea. Certainly there's nothing that can be lost in taking actions of that kind. If we can find the defectors, if we can find people who are willing to tell the inside story, it may be our single best way with which to extract the truth. That happens in crime investigations all the time. I don't see any reason why that wouldn't be very relevant here.

But we can't rely on that. I don't think our success or failure can depend on whether or not we're capable of accomplishing something like that.

We need to do what we said we were going to do: inspect, examine the documents, and make our best judgment based on our own intelligence.

BLITZER: Senator Daschle, The Washington Post hammered the Democratic Party this past week in an editorial on Friday which I'm sure you saw.

Let me read a little excerpt from it. "Many would-be Democratic leaders have settled on a weasely third way to criticize almost everything Mr. Bush does in his Iraq policy, without actually opposing war. That way, if anything goes wrong, they will have presciently warned the country, but if war comes and is a success, they will not face the same kind of second-guessing as occurred after 1991, when most Democrats had voted against the Persian Gulf War."

I assume they're referring to some of those Democratic would-be presidential candidates out there who voted for the authorizing resolution but have been quite critical of the president in the process.

Is that fair criticism?

DASCHLE: I don't think it's fair at all, Wolf. You know, The Washington Post is very good about criticizing, but very rarely do they come up with any real alternatives that provide alternative direction.

I think in this case clearly we're going to do the best we can. We support the president's efforts. And just because we're Democrats, I don't think we have to come up with an alternative point of view if we think he's right. We think he's right, by and large, on the war on terror. We think he's right, by and large, in the war -- in the effort in Iraq.

What I have said in the past is that the president himself, with regard to the war on terror, needs to do two things. First, as he noted, we've got to find bin Laden and those operatives. And we're under way in that.

The second is, of course, we can do a lot better in making our communities and our country a lot safer. I don't think we've done nearly enough in that regard, but we're making some progress. And I think it's important to note the progress as well as the shortcomings.

But I don't think that it's important necessarily for us to be harshly critical of the president, especially if we don't think that it's deserved. We're going to criticize him where we think he's wrong, we're going to support him where we think he's right.

BLITZER: On the issue of terrorism, though, you've been criticized for your criticism of the president, saying that, until Osama bin Laden is found, this war on terrorism really won't be seen as a success.

I want to give you an opportunity to explain precisely what you mean, because there still is some lingering confusion out there where you stand, as far as the president's efforts against terrorism are concerned.

DASCHLE: Well, first, Wolf, I want to say I think we all applaud the extraordinary effort made by our troops. They've done a phenomenal job under extremely difficult circumstances.

I only, again, quoted the president about a year or so ago when he said, "We won't be satisfied, we won't be successful until we find bin Laden, dead or alive." Well, I said, by that standard, we haven't been successful. We have been successful in finding some of the lower-level operatives, but we still have a lot of work to do in apprehending bin Laden.

I also said that I think we can do a better job of making our communities safer. There's a lot more we can do. The president vetoed a multi-million dollar effort to ensure that we have the resources for homeland security just last year. I don't think we ought to be vetoing resources for homeland security. I think we ought to continue to build and making our communities a lot safer than they are today.

We're still vulnerable to attack. We've got to recognize that. There's a lot more we can do, and that's all I was saying.

BLITZER: Is it time for the U.S., the new Homeland Security Department, if you will, to have a new domestic intelligence agency along the lines of the British MI-5, for example, to try to fight this war on terrorism?

DASCHLE: Well, I know, as you know, there is a good deal of effort under way in making the best judgment about how we create the right infrastructure for domestic intelligence. Whether it has to be an independent agency or an extension of the current efforts through the FBI is something that I think we'll leave to another day.

I think that there is a lot to be said for enhancing our ability, for finding ways with which to ensure that, when we have occasion to suspect activity, that we're in a better position of assessing the level of threat that that activity poses and how we might do a better job of enforcing the current laws with regard to apprehension.

So there's no doubt that, as we look to the future, strengthening homeland security from an intelligence point of view is something that has to be examined very carefully.

BLITZER: As you know, the Saudi government came out this week denying that it's not cooperating with the U.S. in the war on terrorism.

I want you to listen to this excerpt from what Adel al- Jubeir, the national security adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, said in the wake of all of these accusations that the Saudis are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADEL Al-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: The atmosphere in the United States unfortunately is it's a feeding frenzy. It's "let's bash the Saudis" time. We are guilty before we say anything. We are guilty as charged. Nobody looks at the evidence. Nobody tries to prove these points.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Are the Saudis doing everything they should be doing to help the United States fight al Qaeda and other terror networks?

DASCHLE: No, they are not, Wolf. I think that they have done some good and they have been partners in certain circumstances. I appreciate it very much, their willingness to come forth with a plan for normalization of relations with Israel. They have provided cooperation to the United States in some areas. But every world organization, or I should say most of the organizations, who have examined the facts have concluded that they are the single biggest source, that is, the Saudi, the country of Saudi Arabia is the single biggest source of financing for the terrorist activity in al Qaeda. That alone raises questions about whether or not we have done as good a job.

They also continue to fund the extremist schools within their country. And there are a lot of other ways with which I think we have serious doubt about the degree to which they are doing all that they can.

So I don't -- I think the jury is still out. But clearly there is a lot of evidence to suggest they could be doing a whole lot more than they are today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We have to take a quick break. When we come back, more of my interview with Senator Daschle. We'll speak about, among other things, the economic shakeup back in Washington at the White House.

This special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from Doha in Qatar in the Persian Gulf, will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf.

We're now hearing that the first batch of documents, those thousands of pages of documents from the Iraqi government handed over to U.N. weapons inspectors, have arrived in Vienna, Austria. That's where the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters is located. A second batch of documents on their way to the United Nations in New York, where they'll be handed over to the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix.

More now of my conversation earlier today with the Democratic leader in the United States Senate, Tom Daschle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Senator Daschle, let's make a turn to some domestic issues, especially the shakeup at the Bush economic team, the departure of the treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, the White House chief economic adviser, Larry Lindsey.

What are you looking for when the president comes up with a new team, a new economic team?

DASCHLE: Well, first, Wolf, I'd say that this is long overdue. Many of us have called for this for a long period of time.

But simply changing the team if you don't change the plan doesn't do anything at all. They squandered $5.5 trillion of scandal. We now have 2 million people unemployed, 48,000 more just in November alone.

So all of the economic indicators would point to reasons for serious concern. Their trickle-down economic theories have been a miserable failure, and this is an admission of that miserable failure today. So in addition to changing the players, they've got to change the play. And I don't know that there is any evidence to suggest that they understand that today.

BLITZER: You probably listened to what former President Clinton had to say this week, and he was quite critical about his own fellow Democrats in not coming up with plans on foreign policy issues or domestic economic issues.

I want you to listen to this excerpt of what Bill Clinton said at the DLC, a Democratic Leadership Council meeting earlier in the week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We were missing in action on national security, and we had no positive plan for America's domestic future. When people feel uncertain, they'd rather have somebody that's strong and wrong than somebody who's weak and right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What about that? What about his criticism of the Democratic Party for not coming up with any new initiatives?

DASCHLE: Well, the president is right when he said that people sometimes prefer people who are strong and wrong. We've seen a lot of strength in rhetoric, but we've seen a lot of wrong policy, and he's absolutely right about that.

He's also right in that we can do a whole lot more -- going back to your earlier question, Wolf -- about homeland security and making this country a lot safer.

So I think the president is right, there is a lot of work that we can do, and there is a whole lot of issues that we as Democrats will continue to raise.

We're going to go hit this economy awfully hard in the coming months. We will be laying out a plan that is immediate, that is targeted directly to the middle class and that doesn't exacerbate the debt.

We're not going to subscribe to the terrible trickle-down economics, the unfair trickle-down theories of the age-old, ideological approach used by this administration. It didn't work in the '80s, it isn't going to work now. And you're going to see Democrats coming out very strongly in support of alternative policies that draw a clear distinction between Bush and us.

BLITZER: Senator, we don't have a whole lot of time left, but I want to get your response to the latest comments from Rush Limbaugh, the radio talk show host, who's hammered you, along with many other conservatives out there, saying that you're the problem, certainly not the solution.

Here's what he told our own Howie Kurtz on CNN's Reliable Sources only within the past week or so. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He attacked my president. He attacked our effort in the war on terrorism. He said he sees no evidence of any victory because we haven't gotten bin Laden. He's out there broadcasting this to the world. This is getting such coverage, who knows what kind of aid and comfort it might be providing the people that we're attempting to bring to justice here, you know, legally or militarily? And to say we're not having success is just not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Well, what about that? What about those comments from Rush Limbaugh, this whole battle that's been going on between him, many of his fellow conservatives and you?

DASCHLE: Well, Wolf, this isn't at all about me. Basically, the point I was making, and I still feel very strongly about, is that, Wolf -- I mean that Rush Limbaugh is a, you know, is an entertainer. And sometimes in the effort to entertain he goes beyond the line. I think he distorts fact, and oftentimes his distortions are believed by a lot of people that ought to take another look. He's an entertainer. He's a far right-wing ideologue, and that's just the way it is.

But this isn't about me. It's about having a good, civil debate, having discourse about serious issues that bring it back from entertainment to a question of good policy and a question of how we might approach these very important issues in a meaningful way.

I don't deny him the right to say whatever he wants. That's his choice. But I think we just have to remember that largely it's entertainment. It isn't fact. And I think it does a disservice to the civility we need in debate oftentimes in this country on serious issues, like those we've been talking about this morning.

BLITZER: You have a news conference scheduled for tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. What's that all about?

DASCHLE: Well, I'll talk more about that in the morning but, first of all, to celebrate a huge victory in Louisiana last night. I am so pleased with the results. Mary Landrieu won, and not only that -- in a surprise victory, we won that congressional race, as well.

This is a great opportunity for Democrats. It's really the first victory of the 2004 cycle, Wolf, and we couldn't be more pleased.

But we'll be talking more about the 2004 cycle and our plans for that tomorrow morning. BLITZER: It sounds, Senator Daschle, like we're going to be hearing some sort of presidential discussion tomorrow morning. Is that a fair guess?

DASCHLE: No. No, this isn't about presidential politics tomorrow. This is about senatorial politics and some exciting news and an opportunity for us to draw attention once more to the sweet victory and the tremendous success we've enjoyed.

Senator Landrieu deserved to win that election. I congratulate her. She did an outstanding job, along with Senator Breaux. And it proves the Democrats are alive and well and kicking and full of energy and enthusiasm and ready to go on to fight the battles of the 108th Congress.

BLITZER: All these Senate races, congressional races, they're now over. It gives you and other Democrats an opportunity to think about presidential politics. Will you be a candidate?

DASCHLE: It's too early to make that decision, Wolf. I am going to take a look at it. I'm looking at it very carefully at this point. I haven't made any decisions. It's still too early to do that. I'm beginning to talk to people and will make some additional comment about that as time goes on.

Right now I'm going to stay focused on making sure we're set up well, as I know we will be, for the 2004 Senate cycle.

BLITZER: Senator Daschle, always good to speak with you. You're in Washington, I'm here in Qatar. I'll see you back when I get back there.

Thanks very much for joining us.

DASCHLE: Safe travels, Wolf. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Up next, the major shakeup in the Bush economic team. We'll have some coverage of that. The chief economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, is out. The treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, is out.

How will that impact on the U.S. and global economies? We'll ask the former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, Leon Panetta, and the former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of President Bush. He's just back from Camp David in Maryland, the weekend. You see his father, the elder President Bush, putting his arm around him. Don Evans, the secretary of commerce -- I believe that's Don Evans in between. They're walking in the White House from a snowy South Lawn over at the White House. Some friends, the president usually goes over and shakes some hands. Some tourists who have gathered.

We'll watch the president as we open up our discussion on the economic shakeup that occurred at the White House earlier this week.

Joining me now from Monterey, California, the former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, Leon Panetta; and in New York Steve Forbes, the CEO of Forbes, Inc., the former Republican presidential candidate.

Gentlemen, thanks for watching.

You just heard, Steve Forbes, Tom Daschle say it's not the personnel, it's the policy that is the root problem, the root cause of the economic problems facing the United States, it really doesn't make any difference if there is this shakeup, they have to change the economic strategy, the policy of the Bush administration. What do you say to Senator Daschle?

STEVE FORBES, CEO, FORBES, INC.: Well, I think that's precisely the point, to bring in new personnel to add muscle to their economic program, starting with a massive tax cut that I think the president will unveil early next year.

We do need more economic -- not only military security, but economic security, economic opportunity and growth. And massive tax cuts are one way to do it, especially in light of state and local taxes going up next year.

So I think it's a change of policy, adding more muscle to that policy, and I think it's a good move. You need personnel to do it. That leads to policy changes.

BLITZER: Personnel are important, Leon Panetta, as you well know from the shakeups that occurred early on during the first term of the Clinton administration, when you were brought into the White House from the OMB, the Office of Management and Budget.

Is it a matter of personnel to shake up policy?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, it always helps to bring in some new personalities, to try to help with regards to policy, but in the end it is about policy.

And I think, as Steve Forbes mentioned, if the administration just focuses on some kind of massive tax cut, that, in and of itself, is not going to solve the problems of our economy.

We are facing a myriad of challenges right now -- 6 percent unemployment in this country, continuing layoffs, a major airline, that's probably going to go bankrupt this next week, huge deficits, both at the federal level and at the state level, and the continuing uncertainty of what happens if we go to war in Iraq or an attack from terrorists.

All of those factors are impacting on our economy, and there is no silver bullet that's going to take care of it. You need to have a comprehensive new strategy, economic strategy, that's put in place. Hopefully a new team can help do that.

BLITZER: But, Leon Panetta, you heard Steve Forbes say that economic strategy should include even more tax cuts than have already been passed. A lot of Democrats think that's exactly the wrong strategy the president should endorse.

PANETTA: Well, I think, you know, the problem is that if you simply approach it by saying we need another huge tax cut -- I mean, we just enacted a $1.3, 1.4 trillion tax cut. It didn't do much in terms of strengthening this economy, and as a matter of fact, it's put us into deficit.

So those that argue that simply -- you know, the answer to everything is a huge tax cut have to keep in mind that the worst tax of all is the tax we pass on to our children as we increase this deficit. And right now the administration is headed toward a deficit that could range anywhere from another $900 billion to a trillion dollars. That is wrong, and it's going to continue to weaken this economy.

BLITZER: All right. Let me let Steve Forbes respond to that.

FORBES: Well, the worst thing you can...

BLITZER: Steve Forbes, go ahead. You heard Leon Panetta express the concerns about deficits ballooning.

FORBES: Well, that's what they did in the '70s, and they trashed tax cuts in the early '80s. We do need another round of tax cuts on all levels for across the board. It's essential to get this economy moving. By reducing tax cuts, tax rates, you allow people to have more incentive, allow people to keep more of what they earn. That's how you get an economy moving.

And the worst thing you can do for adults and for children is to have a weak economy, especially as we have to fight this war on terrorism.

And this tax cut, Wolf, that we got a little over a year ago, even though they bandy about big numbers, which are over 10 years, when you actually look at those numbers, they come to about one penny on the economic dollar.

That's why we need much stronger tax cuts, whether it's capital gains, whether it's double taxation of dividends, increasing exemptions, so that middle-income people can keep more of what they earn. It all ties together.

FORBES: You give the American people the resources, they will do the job. And that's what we need to do this January.

BLITZER: All right. Leon Panetta, I want you to respond, but in your response, address also this point: How critical is it for President Bush to turn around the economy over the next year and a half, two years, if he wants to get reelected? PANETTA: There's no question that the lessons of his father have to be involved here, in terms of what happened to both the secretary of the treasury as well as the head of the Economic Council.

There's the concern that, very frankly, you can go to war, you can win in war, but if you aren't dealing with the economic strength of this country, and people ultimately are being impacted in terms of their jobs and their security and their pocketbook, make no mistake about it, ultimately you will pay the price, because people vote their pocketbook in the end. So he has to be very concerned about that because, in the end, this is about economic strength.

Now, again, to Mr. Forbes' comment that somehow just increasing and multiplying huge tax cuts is the only way to solve this, I think that is exactly the kind of mistake that was made by the team that just got fired.

If you're going to do it, you've got to do it comprehensively. Yes, you can target some tax cuts, but target them at working families and businesses. You've got to restore some fiscal discipline at the federal level, and that's something nobody seems to want to focus on. But that needs to be focused on. In addition to that, they ought to pass the budget. And right now they haven't even passed the budget for this next fiscal year. All of those things have to be done.

BLITZER: Steve Forbes, I want you to respond to that. Go ahead.

FORBES: Well, in terms of a tax cut, we do need to do things like the alternative minimum tax, get rid of that, which is now ensnaring millions and millions of middle-class Americans.

And in terms of fiscal discipline, yes, we do need to get Congress to stop spending so much. Both sides in Congress, Democrat and Republican, there has been a spending binge.

But the key thing is, we do need to reduce the burden on the American people. We also have to make sure that Alan Greenspan does not tighten up on money. He has lowered the price of money, but there's been a credit crunch for small and medium businesses because he hasn't provided sufficient credit to the banking system.

We need regulatory reform, so we can stop this telecommunications disaster.

And overseas, we've got to reform the International Monetary Fund, which is destroying countries like Turkey, Argentina and now Brazil. And if we don't deal with the problem of the IMF, then we're going to really hurt ourselves on the war on terror because we're going to have too much distress around the world, economic distress.

BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, gentlemen, we have to leave it right there. We could go on. We will on another occasion. Steve Forbes and Leon Panetta, always good to have you on our program.

We have much coverage of the Persian Gulf, the war on terror and a possible war against Iraq coming up. Our coverage from here, live in the Persian Gulf, will continue.

We'll focus in our war games. They're beginning here in Qatar here tomorrow. Extensive details with three military generals, retired generals; also three former U.N. weapons inspectors.

Much more in the next hour of LATE EDITION.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Doha in Qatar in the Persian Gulf.

We'll get to my interview with three retired U.S. military generals, but first, this CNN news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get some insight now in the possibility of a military confrontation between the United States and Iraq. Joining me now, three retired U.S. military generals, three men who have led men and women into battle.

Among my guests, in Washington, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, the retired U.S. Army general and CNN military analyst, Wesley Clark. In Charlotte, North Carolina, retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Buster Glosson. He headed the Central Command's air campaign during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. And here in Qatar, the retired U.S. Air Force major general and CNN military analyst, Don Shepperd.

Generals, thanks so much for joining us.

General Clark, I'll begin with you. How close is the United States to war right now?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think possibly six to eight weeks at the closest. I think that there's going to be some time required to go through the Iraqi declaration.

I think the final moves have to be made into the region. And I think we're several different iterations of dialogue, discussion at the U.N. and with allies away from the initiation of strikes.

BLITZER: General Glosson, what is your assessment?

LT. GEN. BUSTER GLOSSON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: Very much the same as Wes. I would say 1 March. I'd be very surprised if we get beyond that date.

BLITZER: When you say 1 March, you mean that there's going to be a war presumably before the 1st of March? Is that what you're saying?

GLOSSON: Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Prior to 1 March, unless something changes to radically change the political scene.

BLITZER: And that's because of the weather? Is that an assessment, is that a factor that weighs heavily in your assessment?

GLOSSON: Well, I think that that's a factor. No one can be oblivious to that because it's not going to change. And you have to deal with it.

And it's extremely important to those that are on the ground, as Wes can articulate very well.

BLITZER: General Shepperd, you're here in Doha with me. Weather. How significant is it? Right now the weather's pretty nice in this part of the world, but around the 1st of March it gets very, very hot.

MAJ. GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, it does get very, very hot, and weather is always a factor. But we have new weapons that enable us to operate through the weather that we did not have at the time of the Gulf War, Wolf.

But I agree with the other generals. We are a ways away from combat. It's not imminent. It takes time to move the forces and it also takes time for diplomacy to play out.

BLITZER: General Clark, if you take a look at the readiness level of the U.S. military right now, how long can the U.S. troops stationed in this part of the world be at that high state of readiness without losing perhaps some of their edge if they just have to sit and sit and sit?

CLARK: Well, I think the plan as it's evolved now will enable us to keep our edge for a long time, Wolf, because we don't have all of our forces deployed. The forces that are deployed are doing exercises and training. They'd be doing the same type of training back at home station, although not in the same environmental conditions probably.

And if we reach the point where we don't want to go to war in the next six to eight weeks, it's always possible to rotate those brigades in Kuwait out and put new brigades in. Same thing with the Air Force squadrons that are deployed.

BLITZER: But, General Glosson, it's not that simple to get the best troops, the most elite units to be able to make those kinds of rotations, fighter pilots, something you know a lot about. How easy would it be to have those kinds of rotations?

GLOSSON: It would be very easy. We do it all the time. We just don't advertise it, and it doesn't get very much publicity. But Wes is exactly right. The units rotate routinely, and this is nothing different. And if we have a delay that's caused for political reasons, then obviously the rotation will be a necessity, but it will not in any way impede effectiveness or readiness as far as the war is concerned.

BLITZER: What about you, General Shepperd? Are you on board with the other two generals?

SHEPPERD: Absolutely. The last thing you have to worry about is the troops and all services. We don't select elite groups to put in there. We select groups based upon their capabilities, and we expect them to be ready and trained and exercised, and they are. You don't have to worry about the troops, Wolf. They'll be ready.

BLITZER: What about the coalition, General Clark? The British forces, presumably, will be with the U.S., the Australians, some of their troops are already here in Doha at the Central Command's temporary headquarters that General Tommy Franks has established at the As Sayliyah military facility here in Qatar.

But politically speaking, putting together that kind robust coalition that the U.S. had a dozen years ago is not necessarily going to be that simple, given the very sophisticated strategy the Iraqis have engaged in.

CLARK: I think that's exactly right, Wolf. I think we're going to have a much smaller coalition. The heart of the coalition, of course, will be the U.S. forces. We'll probably have a British brigade, a couple of armored battalions, a couple of MEK (ph) battalions, some British aircraft. Maybe the French will join with us, the Italians perhaps, maybe we'll get the Turks in there on the ground, the Australians certainly. And there may be a few other countries that come in with us, but not to the extent that we had in 1991.

The diplomacy for this is already under way. Our allies and partners here don't have the same robust forces that we do, so they can't rotate the same way we would. And they'll be coming in at the last minute as they see the diplomacy developing and pointing unavoidably to war.

BLITZER: I remember, General Glosson, from my days back at the Pentagon during the Gulf War, sometimes some of your colleagues would say that bringing in all of those coalition partners turned out to be, at least militarily speaking, more of a burden than a benefit. Are you among those who feels that way?

GLOSSON: Certainly, Wolf. The political significantly outweighs the military here. It's quite obvious that a force from one nation is much more easy to deploy, fight, and everything else associated with war because that's the way you train for most part. You do get some training with your allies, but it's always easier.

And so it's more difficult, the larger the coalition is. There's no question about that. But for political reasons, obviously, the larger the coalition the better we are as a nation, and so we all have to keep that in mind.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Georgia. Go ahead with your question, please, Georgia.

CALLER: Yes, Wolf. I'd like to ask your outstanding -- all three members of your outstanding panel -- are they convinced beyond doubt that we have the proper equipment and the proper troops and personnel to successfully invade if that decision is made?

BLITZER: Let me ask General Shepperd for that. Go ahead, General.

SHEPPERD: Absolutely. Although you're never ready for the war you enter. You always wish you just had something that's on the drawing board and you get it a couple, three years later.

But we are so far better equipped than we were during the Gulf War with precision munitions, this time night fading capability, the ability to use all that stuff which we've just seen in Afghanistan, we are very much better off. I'm very confident.

BLITZER: General Clark, let me pick up on that question from our caller in Georgia. I think the U.S. military, the Army, the Marine Corps, the ground forces are pretty well prepared for the possibility of chemical or gas warfare, but how do they prepare for biological warfare? CLARK: Well, we have some biological agent detection capacity. But we also are going to do everything we can to impede his ability to strike us. So I wouldn't expect to see any piper cubs flying over our forces with spray canisters attached to them.

They're not going to get that close, and we're not going to have any trucks that are moving out there with blowers on them blowing things in our direction. We're going to have our antenna up, we're going to have our reconnaissance out, and we're going to keep the Iraqis' delivery capability at bay.

CLARK: So the important thing here is we're not going to get struck in the first place. If we do, we can detect it. We'll have our people inoculated. We'll have some treatment means. But the basic thing is to stay out of the way, to strike fast, strike hard.

BLITZER: General Glosson, during the Gulf War, which I remember very vividly, you were in charge of putting together the air campaign. How concerned were you at that time that the Iraqi military might use chemical or biological warfare?

GLOSSON: We were concerned, but -- and that's the reason we attacked the storage areas and tried to make sure that any of the weapons or capabilities they had for delivery, we destroyed them.

But this time, Wolf, I'd like also to emphasize one thing. We seem to lose track of that occasionally, and that is the intensity, the mass that's going to occur, that wasn't available in the Gulf War. In the first 12 hours, there will be more targets destroyed, there will be more movement than there were in the first seven days of the Gulf War.

This is going to be a simultaneous operation, with the special forces, the CIA operatives, the air power and selective units of the Army and Marines. And once that occurs, it's going to create the condition for then hopefully those Republican Guards and those leadership people throughout Iraq the opportunity to overthrow or dispose of Saddam. And I've always used the term, nothing could be better than seeing them drag him in the streets of Baghdad.

But we don't need to do anything other than what we're really good at, and that is using the weapons, both in the Army and the Air Force and all the other services that we have. We have such a great amount of weapons and capability that we did not have the last time.

Sanctuaries are off limits this time, because we have the deep- penetrating weapons, and, as Don said, they're all-weather. So it's a total different situation.

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

We have a lot more to talk about, military strategy, a possible war between the United States and Iraq, and war games about to begin, within a few hours, here in Qatar in the Persian Gulf. Much more, including your phone calls, when this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf, continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Delay and defiance will invite the severest consequences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Vice President Dick Cheney issuing another warning to the Iraqi leadership.

Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Doha, Qatar.

We're continuing our conversation with three retired U.S. military generals, former NATO supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark, the retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general, Buster Glosson, and the retired U.S. Air Force major general, Don Shepperd.

General Shepperd, I'll begin with you because you're here, you're covering this Internal Look, this war game, this exercise that General Tommy Franks, the commander of the Central Command, will begin tomorrow morning, only a few hours away here in Qatar.

The purpose is what?

SHEPPERD: Well, the purpose is to exercise the command and control capabilities of the new CentCom deployable headquarters. It's a brand new headquarters, and he's going to be exercising electrons, not troops, not airplanes and not ships, Wolf. It's an important exercise, though.

BLITZER: General Clark, I've never understood why the Central Command has its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, at McDill Air Force Base, as opposed to someplace in the region where it belongs.

CLARK: Well, when the command was set up back in the late '70s as a rapid deployment force task force, and then into the '80s, it was politically impossible to get the right kind of basing overseas to put in American troops and family members into the Middle East. And so it was determined to keep the headquarters there in McDill. It's been looked at several times, and it basically has, they've evolved a workable system with the forward subordinate commands.

BLITZER: General Glosson, you were the, in charge of the air campaign during the Gulf War. Were you at Central Command when Internal Look, the first Internal Look exercise was occurring just as the Iraqis were getting ready to invade Kuwait August 1st, 1990?

GLOSSON: No. Actually, I was already in the Gulf in another capacity, but I had access to all of the data and all of the so-to- speak electronic lessons learned and so forth.

BLITZER: How useful was that first internal look exercise, that war game that occurred in the summer of 1990, eventually in setting the stage for Operation Desert Storm in January of 1991?

GLOSSON: Well, it was very useful, and just as Don implied, it was an electronics, so to speak, exercise, and you always want to make sure that you have the capacity to do things that you think you're going to do once the actual war starts.

And you've got to be able to have that support, that communication, command and control capability, and you can't get surprised by being able to think you can, for example, communicate and control 3,000 airplanes at once and find out that electronically something gets saturated and you can only control 2,000.

That would be devastating to you if you didn't find that out until after the war started. And so it was very useful from that standpoint as well as the ground operation standpoint.

BLITZER: So, General Glosson, is it fair to say that this current exercise which will go for about a week or 10 days here in the Persian Gulf, allowing General Franks the central commander an opportunity to stay in touch, to communicate with all of his forces throughout the region as well as back in the United States, effectively could be seen as a dress rehearsal for the real thing?

GLOSSON: I know everybody wants to use those type words. I'm not going to try to talk you out of it, Wolf. Certainly he's not over there doing this exercise just for the heck of it or at this particular time. So we all are aware that he's making sure that everything's ready if that political decision is made. To pretend it was otherwise would be less than candid.

BLITZER: And you're always a straight shooter.

General Shepperd, I want to put up on the screen, show our viewers some of the command sites, some of the other facilities the United States has in this region. An Army command at Camp Doha in Kuwait, a Navy and Marine command in Bahrain, an Air Force command at the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, the central command headquarters, as we all know, As Sayliyah here in Qatar.

Communicating with all these various commands, General Franks, that's not going to be an easy assignment. SHEPPERD: No, and that's why he's here and that's why this exercise is very important. You have the central command, General Franks' CENTCOM command if you will, that's the overall headquarters. And then you have subordinate commanders in the field and you have the component commanders, ARCENT, AFCENT, NAVCENT, et cetera, that make up your force.

You have to be able to talk to all of these people, and again, that's what it's here, that's what General Franks is here to test, to make sure he can do so if he's called upon to use them in combat.

BLITZER: You were the Supreme Allied Commander, General Clark. You were in charge of the European command, which oversees a vast area as well. How difficult of an assignment does General Franks have right now in putting the pieces, the electronic pieces, the actual hardware pieces together?

CLARK: Well, it is challenging because there's a lot of information that has to be moved back and forth, but I think you also have to recognize that one of the things I hope he's going to do in this exercise is he's going to actually test out not just talking but the process of moving the orders and instructions back and forth and the timing from one echelon to another to a third echelon, how long it takes to receive an order, digest it, prepare a subordinate order, get the results from it, pass that information back, take action on it.

So you're running through decision loops. You're looking at alternatives to plans. And so he's going to be very intensely engaged. He's going to do everything he can to learn from this exercise.

BLITZER: How much of a setback, General Glosson, is it for the central command that they have the headquarters here in Qatar as opposed to what was the case during the first Gulf War at the Prince Sultan Air Base outside of Riyadh?

GLOSSON: I think the best way to summarize that, Wolf, is saying that's one of the advantages of being a super power. We never put all our eggs in one basket, and in this case we were very fortunate that we didn't do that. And I don't think it will be any setback whatsoever.

I would like to also piggyback on what Wes said in this respect. Remember, during the Gulf War we started things in a sequential way, if you would, with air first and then we walked down the road over about a six-week period.

This time it's going to start, in my opinion, very simultaneous. And so that makes this particular exercise that is being conducted much more critical and much more important just as Wes laid out, because you've got to make sure all of those things can happen simultaneously from the very start. And it is a very important exercise, as we said, and we cannot overstate its importance.

BLITZER: All right, General, stand by. We have much more to talk about, including the possibility of weapons of mass destruction being used against U.S. military forces. That, including more of your phone calls, when this special edition of LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf continues from Doha in Qatar.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, live from the Persian Gulf.

General Shepperd, how will General Franks know if this exercise, this wargame in Tirnaluk (ph) will be a success?

SHEPPERD: Well, he's going to have briefings every day, and he's going to have debriefings every day. And then there'll be an overall debriefing at the end that'll do lessons learned. I guarantee you he will find glitches, and I guarantee you, even after the exercise is complete and the glitches are found, when real operations start, something else will go wrong.

The rule in military operations is, whatever can go wrong will. It'll go wrong at the worst possible time, you'll lose a satellite, you'll have an airplane crash. That's what we do in the military, and these exercises enable us to deal with things like that, Wolf.

BLITZER: General Clark, Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister of Iraq, was on Nightline earlier in the week and was very, very forceful in saying the U.S. military is not going to have an easy assignment. I want you to listen to what Tariq Aziz said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TARIQ AZIZ, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ: This American aggression on Iraq is not going to be a picnic, as people like Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz or Perle think that they can settle it, end it in three weeks or a few weeks, you see, and then govern Iraq, invade Iraq, topple the government, create a government led by Mr. Tommy Franks, et cetera.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What about that? How difficult an assignment will this be for the U.S. military, if in fact the president orders U.S. troops into battle?

CLARK: Well, nobody's taking this lightly, Wolf. But I think Tariq Aziz is playing poker with a very weak hand there.

Obviously, he'd like the Iraqi troops to be able to fight, but the simple facts are that, when the bombs start falling and the troops recognize they have a whole lot more to fear from remaining at their posts and facing the Americans than they do from being shot in the back by their own security forces, they're going to start surrendering to the Americans, and I think that Iraqi military machine's going to crumble relatively rapidly. I think there'll be some elements of it that fight pretty hard. You may have some special Republican Guards that stay loyal for a while. But lots of these soldiers are conscripts, and they are basically a country that could be Westernized, and they're a country that doesn't -- they're not hard-line Islamic fundamentalists, and they don't want to die. And so I think that you're going to see that machine crumble pretty quickly under the American assault if it comes.

BLITZER: General Glosson, the down side, though, the risk, the fear is -- and you've heard this before -- that, if Saddam Hussein has nothing to lose, if he's pushed into a corner, he'll order his troops to use chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction. How concerned should the U.S. military be about that?

GLOSSON: Well, you always have to be concerned when anybody has chemical or biological weapons. And I think that, given the opportunity, he certainly would do that. But I don't think he'll be given the opportunity.

When this starts, it's going to start in a very, as I said, a sequenced and simultaneous way that, in a matter of days, the only thing that's going to be remaining, if that's remaining, is Baghdad itself. And so Saddam Hussein is not going to be controlling anything as he thinks he is, and this is not going to be any different in a sense than it was of all of Tariq Aziz's comments before the Gulf War, that you'll recall, Wolf. He made almost identical comments. And they proved to be totally false. They'll prove to be totally false this time. It's wishful thinking.

BLITZER: General Shepperd, what about the Israel factor, if the Israelis are once again targeted with Scud missiles?

SHEPPERD: That's a tough card. Last time we kept them out of the war through diplomacy. Hopefully we're going to be able to do it again.

But Mr. Sharon has basically said that Israel reserves the right to respond when it's attacked. So we don't know what will happen if Israel's attacked. We would like to seize western Iraq and keep Saddam Hussein out of Scud range of Israel, and of course Israel has good air defenses, the Arrow system, et cetera.

So that's a tough wild card that we don't know what will happen.

BLITZER: And let me let you have the last word, General Clark, on that Israeli issue, that the anti-missile system, the Arrow system, the Israelis have built together with the United States, the Patriot system, which didn't, apparently, work that well during the Gulf War, but has been improved over these past 12 years.

Will they work this time, if in fact Scuds are launched against the Israelis or the Saudis or anyone else?

CLARK: Well, first of all, I do think these are pretty effective systems. They'll work, by and large. But more importantly than that, we'll be taking the initiative this time, getting in there on the ground, and preventing the Iraqis from launching those systems at Israel.

So, unless they have made some remarkable technological progress that none of us could foresee, I don't think that the threat to Israel is as great this time as it was in the previous Gulf War.

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

General Clark, General Glosson, General Shepperd, thanks to all three of you for joining us. I hope you'll join us in the coming days and weeks, as this showdown with Iraq no doubt will continue.

Just ahead, much more special coverage live from the Persian Gulf, here. After a week or so of inspections by U.N. inspectors in Iraq, what exactly is going on? Now that the Iraqi government has handed over nearly 12,000 pages of documents to the U.N. weapons inspectors, is Baghdad already coming clean, or are they still concealing some of their capabilities? We'll get some insight from three former weapons inspectors, men who have been there before, on the ground in Iraq.

Our special coverage will continue live from Doha in Qatar, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIMITRI PERRICOS, U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: It's the United Nations that sent us here. We are not serving the U.S. We are not serving the U.K. We are not serving individual nations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Dimitri Perricos, a U.N. weapons inspector team leader, talking this past week about the inspections currently under way inside Iraq.

Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Doha in Qatar.

Joining me now to discuss these inspections, what has happened already, what's happening right now, what we can anticipate now that the Iraqis have handed over several thousands of pages of documents about their weapons program.

Three special guests: in Washington, Richard Spertzel, he's a former U.N. chief bioweapons inspector; a former U.N. weapons inspector, Jonathan Tucker, and former U.N. weapons inspector Tim McCarthy.

Gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us. Let me begin with you, Jonathan Tucker, and ask what is happening right now. These documents have been presented. They're making their way to Vienna. They're already in Vienna. Soon they'll be at the United Nations.

What are they going to be looking for once they have these nearly 12,000 pages?

JONATHAN TUCKER, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, first, the Arabic portions have to be translated into English, obviously. And then the UNMOVIC officials will go through the declaration and remove any information that could be of use to other countries in developing weapons of mass destruction in order to prevent further proliferation of these weapons.

And then they will do a thorough analysis of the content of the declarations to determine if they are consistent with other information already in the possession of UNMOVIC and possibly in the hands of the Security Council members, as well.

BLITZER: Richard Spertzel, you want to elaborate and say what else they're going to be doing with these documents, if anything else?

RICHARD SPERTZEL, FORMER U.N. CHIEF BIOWEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, yes and no. To start with, in biology, I can't imagine what Iraq would include in there that would be an aid in proliferation unless they acknowledge that they had dried weapons- grade material.

And I don't think they're prepared to do that. In addition to the, checking it against all their records and against the reports, particularly those of 1998, the technical evaluation meetings in all the disciplines, missile, chemical, and biology, as well as after they're passed on to the Security Council, I would expect a thorough going over by all members of the Security Council.

BLITZER: Tim McCarthy, I assume at some point the U.N. inspection teams will hand over those documents, or at least copies of those documents, to members of the U.N. Security Council, meaning the U.S. intelligence community, the British intelligence community would get access to those documents.

But they're saying, Hans Blix and others, they want to sanitize those documents first. What do they mean by that?

TIM MCCARTHY, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, Wolf, as Jonathan mentioned, UNMOVIC has come out and said, well, they were concerned about information that's in these disclosures that may help other countries should the information become public for their own paths to developing weapons of mass destruction.

This is a rather strange assertion, by the way. These declarations have been made by Iraq in the past. They're very detailed, including lists of suppliers.

We've had these declarations throughout '95, '96, '97, '98. So I don't think there's really anything fundamentally different about these particular, these particular declarations that would make them sensitive in that way.

And by the way, Wolf, I just wanted to mention that in terms of the review of these materials there are some very specific issues that have been established by the UNSCOM, by the previous team, priority issues we called them, that Iraq must come forward and answer in this new declaration.

It has to do with VX and some other very important issues. If Iraq does not answer these questions in this document, then we're in for a crisis, I believe.

BLITZER: I suspect, Mr. McCarthy, you don't believe they have answered those questions adequately. Am I right?

MCCARTHY: There's no question that they had not answered them adequately in 1998. The Security Council agreed with the inspectors.

At that time we gave a list, again. We called it a road map to disarmament, approved by the security council, provided to Iraq, and even we gave Iraq the specific information that we required from them to verify these disarmament questions. Now, I can't prejudge exactly what's in this declaration, but frankly I would be surprised if all of those answers were provided by Iraq.

BLITZER: Jonathan Tucker, I want you to listen to what a high- ranking Iraqi scientific adviser said only within the past few hours in Baghdad, effectively challenging the U.S. and Britain to come clean on their own, to come out with their own evidence if in fact they have evidence to deny what the Iraqis are saying in this 12,000-page document. Listen to what Amar al-Saadi had to say just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMAR AL-SAADI, IRAQI ADVISER: We hope that it will satisfy because it is currently accurate as they have asked for and comprehensive, truthful, everything. If they have anything to the contrary, let them forthwith come up with it, give it to the IAEA, give it to UNMOVIC. They are here. They could check it. Why play this game?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What about that challenge to the west from this Iraqi official?

TUCKER: Well, the U.S. and British governments have claimed that they have compelling evidence that Iraq does retain weapons of mass destruction. And I believe they should provide that evidence, perhaps in sanitized form, to UNMOVIC so that it can follow down those leads. I think that is a reasonable road to follow.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Mr. Spertzel? Because some U.S. intelligence officials have expressed concern to me that if they were to hand over all of their information to the U.N. it could compromise the so-called crown jewels of any intelligence organization, the so-called sources and methods, how they've actually gone out and collected this information, and endanger those sources.

SPERTZEL: Quite clearly, Wolf, some of the material either cannot be disclosed at all or even partially because of the risk of having somebody killed.

By the way, that statement by General Saadi is not a new one. He had challenged the technical evaluation meetings, and I'll quote him now. You know, "Show us your evidence. Show us everything that you have and I'm sure we can explain it all away."

BLITZER: And in the past, Mr. Spertzel, correct me if I'm wrong, there's been a concern that by showing the Iraqis what the U.S. intelligence community, for example, has collected has helped them deal with these issues and perhaps even go forward and find better ways to conceal what they might have.

SPERTZEL: Absolutely, Wolf. In many respects a lot of the inspection efforts that were taken from '91 through '98 has been a road map for Iraq to better conceal, better deceive any future inspectors.

BLITZER: But, Mr. McCarthy, let me bring you into this discussion. If the U.S. were not, and the British, for example, were not to come forward with that information, a lot of the world would be skeptical that they have that kind of information to negate what the Iraqis claim.

MCCARTHY: Yes, there's no question.

BLITZER: It's a Catch-22 almost.

MCCARTHY: Yes. No, I agree, Wolf. I mean, there is a political problem here. And the Bush administration is going to have to figure out how to deal with that, how to present this evidence when the time comes.

I mean, are we going to have a case of again, you know, October 1962, with Adlai Stevenson and the photos, the satellite photos of the missiles in Cuba yelling at Ambassador Zoren in the security council? Or is there going to be some other venue to try to vet this information and provide it to security council members?

And by the way, there's an additional problem of providing information to UNMOVIC, to the new inspectors, which is if you're not certain that the team, the team that's in the country, can really prosecute this information effectively, and my sense is that there is a concern within the intelligence community, not just about sources and methods but about the ability of the team on the ground to follow the information appropriately and effectively.

BLITZER: Well, you're raising an important question, which we'll elaborate on right after this next commercial break. Is this current team that is put in place by Hans Blix and Mohamed el-Baradei, are they up to the task?

Our special coverage will continue right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Bush made it clear this week that he is not interested in any hide-and-seek games between the U.N. weapons inspection teams in Iraq and the Iraqi government.

Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf. We're continuing our conversation with three former United Nations weapons inspectors: Richard Spertzel is joining us from Washington, as is Jonathan Tucker and Tim McCarthy.

Jonathan Tucker, Tim McCarthy made an important point at the end of that last segment, wondering about the capability of this current team, this current U.N. inspection team that Hans Blix and Mohamed al- Baradei have put together. Are you concerned about their capabilities?

TUCKER: Not particularly. I think they're facing an enormously difficult task, but any inspectors would have a very difficult time finding a smoking gun in Iraq. I think what they are capable of doing is finding inconsistencies between Iraq's declarations and what we already know about Iraq's weapons programs and what the inspectors can find on the ground.

So maybe not find actually weapons but -- yes. Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let me ask Dr. Spertzel.

Do you have confidence in the current team?

SPERTZEL: Well, basically, we have no reason not to have confidence in them at this time.

Again, I think it's worth citing, however, that the inspection teams are most unlikely to find a smoking gun, a loaded munition filled with chemical or biological agents.

As Jonathan has said, most likely is to take the Iraqi declarations which they have now submitted, and you can readily prove that they're inaccurate. You may not be able to prove what they still have. After all, if we knew exactly everything they had, it would be far easier to go in and disarm them.

BLITZER: Tim McCarthy, I want to show our viewers some pictures that we just got in here at CNN, pictures of the documents, the thousands of pages of documents arriving in Vienna at the airport. They're on their way to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is headquartered in Austria. A second batch of those documents on their way to the United Nations in New York as well.

In the end, do you think that any of these inspections, these declarations by the Iraqis, are really going to make a difference, or that there's going to be a war no matter what happens in the next few weeks, as far as the inspection process is concerned? MCCARTHY: Yes, Wolf, I -- fundamentally, I don't think this is an issue about these declarations sort of in effect solving this problem.

One very important point, additional point we need to keep in mind about the declaration, Hosam Amin, the head of the national monitoring directorate, has said, these declarations do not say that Iraq currently has weapons of mass destruction. This is very interesting, because the United States government, in a report in October of 2002, the British dossier in September of 2002, they both said that Iraq is currently producing chemical and biological agents.

So we have a fundamental hurdle here, regardless of what the Iraqis say about what happened in the past, and regardless of what their declarations about dual-use facilities, there's a very fundamental issue at stake, which is current production of these weapons systems, and, as far as I understand, these declarations say nothing about that.

BLITZER: Mr. Tucker, I want to ask you about this most recent inspection this past week of some of these presidential palaces in Iraq. The U.N. inspectors went in, they went in, they got in after six or seven minutes at the door, but they did get in. They walked around.

Time magazine has an interesting report coming out in their new issue, suggesting that the U.S. intelligence community gave some information to the inspectors to go ahead and check out these palaces. They wanted to see if their information about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein were accurate. And as a result they wanted to see the inspections of the palaces go forward.

All of this raises a sensitive issue. How much cooperation is there between the U.S. intelligence community and these inspection teams, and how much intelligence cooperation should there be? Go ahead.

TUCKER: I think Hans Blix has bent over backwards to maintain an arm's length relationship with the U.S. intelligence community because of the perception that UNSCOM was tainted by too close a cooperation.

So there have actually been complaints recently by U.N. inspectors that the U.S. is not providing enough intelligence to UNMOVIC.

So I think it's more that there isn't enough cooperation rather than too much at the moment.

BLITZER: As you know, Dr. Spertzel, the Iraqis have long accused these U.N. inspection teams, only in the past few days, once again, of merely being spies for the U.S. or for Israel.

How do you deal with that kind of accusation?

SPERTZEL: Wolf, as an inspector you cannot be thin-skinned. You just have to accept it. Iraq repeatedly accused all of us of being CIA spies or spies for the Israeli Mossad, or spies for somebody else.

We were accused of meeting on one occasion with Israeli Mossad people in New York at the same time we were meeting with Iraqi officials. I mean, it's just sheer nonsense.

But you have to live with it and ignore it. I might say that it appears that the UNMOVIC inspectors might be coming of age, whenever Iraq starts complaining about them.

BLITZER: We did hear that complaint from Taha Yassin Ramadan, the vice president of Iraq, earlier this week.

We have to leave it right there. I want to thank our three former U.N. weapons inspectors for joining us, Jonathan Tucker, Richard Spertzel, and Tim McCarthy. We'll have you back. Thanks very much.

Up next, Bruce Morton's essay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: French fries are at least as American as apple pie. Can't eat a burger or a hot dog without them, can you? And fish without chips?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Bruce laments the latest word on some popular food. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for Bruce Morton's essay.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (on camera): Wolf, you need to come home. The Middle East matters, of course, and you're where the generals will be when the U.S. invades Iraq, and invading another country is important. And figuring out what to do afterward is important. And trying to get some sort of peace agreement that includes a Palestine is important.

But you've got to come home anyway. The American way of life is being attacked.

No, it isn't al Qaeda. Well, heck, maybe it is al Qaeda. How would we know? But the plain, brutal fact is that our very own Food and Drug Administration has found high levels of a potentially cancer- causing substance, acrylamide, in a wide range, The Washington Post says, a wide range of fried and baked products, especially, brace yourself, Wolf, french fries and potato chips.

Now, is that a threat to the American way or what? I mean, french fries are at least as American as apple pie. Can't eat a burger or a hot dog without them, can you? And fish without chips? And if you're not having the fries, you're having the potato chips, right? And they're bad, too? And I thought it was just the salt on fries we had to worry about. What did I know?

There'll be an investigation, of course. The homeland security folks really blew it, letting this carcinogen into our fries supply. Maybe they could get Henry Kissinger to head it up. He likes being in charge of things. No, that's right, he already has a job. Maybe Rudy Giuliani?

It isn't a total disaster. The FDA says it's not sure yet that acrylamide is so risky that Americans should start changing how they cook or what they eat. And while they know it's bad for animals, they're not sure it's bad for people. And some fries have more than others. Popeyes' fries had more of this stuff than Burger King's, for instance. And different bags of Lay's potato chips showed different levels, even when they came off the same factory line.

Still, this is serious. I mean, fries are fries. You can't parboil them. And are Americans going to give them up just because some dude from homeland security says they have to? Sure. And then the next week we'll all agree not to drink beer at the game.

So the Middle East matters, but the fate of paunchy, fries-eating America is being decided right here. Do you think bin Laden is smart enough to have invented this stuff?

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much for that advice, Bruce. I'll be back in the coming days, and we'll get on that big story directly. Forget about this story over here. Thanks very much, Bruce Morton, for that essay.

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

Coming up for our North American audience, another hour of LATE EDITION. I'll speak with three journalists covering this showdown with Iraq, journalists joining me here in Doha, in Qatar. We'll assess what's going on. Among our journalists, a reporter for the Associated Press, one for The Washington Post, and one for Al Jazeera, which is based here in Qatar.

Much more of our special LATE EDITION, live from the Persian Gulf, is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special edition of LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting live from Doha in Qatar.

We'll get to our reporters' roundtable in just a moment, but first, here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta, with a CNN news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Joining me now, three journalists covering this showdown with Iraq, covering the entire situation here in the Persian Gulf region. Among my guests, Daniel Williams, he's the roving correspondent, in fact, for The Washington Post; Chris Tomlinson of the Associated Press; and Mohammed Safi, who's joining us here from Al Jazeera.

Thanks to all of you for joining us.

Mohammed, let me begin with you. How are the people of Qatar reacting to this Internal Look wargame, this exercise that General Tommy Franks is scheduled to begin in the morning?

MOHAMMED SAFI, AL-JAZEERA: Well, the vision here in Qatar, as well in the Gulf, or in the Arab nations, is suspicious, a little bit, about what's going here and what will happen and what is seen as a sign of war against Iraq.

I mean, the effects will be terrible here in the region, and in the Arab nations, and in the Islamic world, if the effects of what has happened in Afghanistan, since Afghanistan is an Islamic country only, was terrible.

SAFI: I think that what will happen if there is any war against Iraq, any attack against Iraq, I think the effects in the Arab world and the Islamic world will be more dangerous than what has happened in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: When you say the effects in Afghanistan were terrible, wasn't Afghanistan, quote, "liberated" from the Taliban and there's now a free government in Afghanistan led by the President Hamid Karzai? Why should the effects be so terrible?

SAFI: This is what is viewed by the Americans and what is viewed by the foreign governments. But it's not what is really viewed by the Arab and Islamic spectators here in the Gulf, in the region, in the Arab countries.

BLITZER: But do you believe the situation in Afghanistan was better before under the rule of Mullah Mohammed Omar and the Taliban than it is today?

SAFI: This is irrespective of what you believe. I am speaking here about the feeling of the nations.

BLITZER: But do the people here believe that?

SAFI: No, I don't think so. I don't think so. I think that the events here, if there is any attack against Iraq, what is seen is seen here as a blackmail against Iraq. All over the world, all over the Islamic world and the Arab world, it's seen as a blackmail against Iraq and tentative by the Americans to topple a government, the Iraqi government, and to throw it and to put what they call a puppet regime like what has been put in Kabul, what they consider being put in Kabul, the Karzai government.

BLITZER: Chris, you've been around this part of the world for a while. You've been here in Qatar covering this story. I don't sense, at least on the surface, a lot of anger toward the United States. But what's your impression?

CHRIS TOMLINSON, AP: Well, when I've talked to residents of the Gulf, what they've told me is that they don't really trust the United States government's motives. They'll welcome you into their coffee shops. They'll share tea with you. They're very pro-American. They watch a lot of American television programs and such. They listen to American music.

But the Arabs in the Gulf, they don't trust the United States government to do what's best for them.

BLITZER: But at the same time, they want the United States government to protect them?

TOMLINSON: Well, I think that's part of the paradox. I mean, certainly, I think Qatar's a unique example in the region because it's taken a different path than most of its neighbors. And perhaps that's why they've invited the U.S. presence here as much as they have.

BLITZER: Let me bring Dan Williams in and get your sense, and then I'll let Mohammed weigh in as well. Go ahead, Dan.

DANIEL WILLIAMS, WASHINGTON POST: Well, yes, there's kind of a split personality here, and maybe it will become clearer as possible war approaches. On the one hand there's a desire for American protection. There's a desire for friendship. On the other hand there's, you know, lots of questions over why America does this with Iraq. It's a very common thing. Why do they do this with Iraq and not North Korea? Why isn't the Palestinian issue resolved?

So again, they haven't -- I don't hear they've totally focused on what's going to happen out of here. It's been Ramadan. People have kind of put aside the presence of these bases here.

I think in the coming weeks when they're going to have a sports festival here that's clearly going to be disrupted, that is, who's going to come visit Qatar -- Qatar is a nerve center for a possible war -- people have to think about this more and maybe express their views more.

BLITZER: Mohammed, you're anxious to weigh in as well. Go ahead and...

SAFI: Well, Wolf, as far as the Iraqi government is concerned, there is no sense of danger here in the Arab countries and the Islamic countries. There was a danger in the case of Kuwait, but it has been marginalized after the war, the Gulf War, the first Gulf War.

But what I mean here, don't forget what has happened in Kuwait, the attack against the American troops, what has happened here previously in Qatar, what is happening in Saudi Arabia, what is happening in Lebanon, which is really strange that it happens in such a country, some attacks against some American interests -- and American symbols, not only interests.

What my colleague has said, that the Arabs and the Muslims are seeing that what is happening is a conspiracy against Islam, against an Arab coutry, against a Muslim country, what's happening also...

BLITZER: Well, so why is the leader of Qatar...

SAFI: ... the consolidation also of the Americans, of the United States, of what's happening in the Palestinian territory also is something which trigger also more, between brackets, furious (ph) Arab and Muslim states to see what's happening now in Iraq in the context.

BLITZER: So explain why -- you live here in Doha, you work for Al Jazeera, which is headquartered here in Qatar. Why is the emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, so anxious to invite the United States, the Central Command, to establish a temporary headquarters here, have airbases here, facilities here, and go forward with this enormous kind of military cooperation?

SAFI: What is the point that I want to clarify in the beginning. If the United States wants its policy in the region to be understood it has to give the information before the point of view to the Arab audiences.

We are in Al Jazeera, and we have tried to cover what's happening here in Doha, the maneuvers by the American troops, the computer simulation, but there is a total blackout of what's...

BLITZER: Well, on that point I think all of us will agree, the Associated Press, The Washington Post, and CNN, we've been effectively shut out, as well.

Chris, you work for the major news agency in the world, the Associated Press, the wire service. Have you had any significant access to As Sayliyah, the military base that General Franks (inaudible) war games at?

TOMLINSON: No, Wolf, we haven't had any access more than any other journalist that I know of, be it American or foreign or Qatari. They're just not letting us in. They're not talking to us about what's happening out at As Sayliyah. Now, whether that's going to stay the case until the end of the exercise, I'm not sure.

BLITZER: I'm sure there'll be a photo opportunity at some point. But, Dan Williams, you work for The Washington Post, arguably one of the two or three most important newspapers in the United States. Have you had more access than Al Jazeera has had?

WILLIAMS: I don't think -- as far as I know no one's had access. It's been sort of a mystery because they've boasted about having a press center there, and now no press man that I know of has actually set foot in this press center.

I sense there's a suspicion and a control. How long this will last, I don't know. But I've been here eight days, and I've seen a lot more of the inside of my hotel than I have I have of any military activity.

BLITZER: Mohammed, why -- because our viewers don't normally hear from Al Jazeera, and I think it's a good perspective to be able to get -- why is there such suspicion of the United States military when, if you take a look over the past 10, 12 years, every war the U.S. military has been involved in, whether liberating Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation or in Bosnia or Kosovo or Afghanistan or Somalia, have tried to help Muslims? Muslims were the ones the United States were trying to help, yet there's this impression that the U.S. is anti-Muslim.

SAFI: Well, first of all, my colleague is a little bit lucky if he has got a bit of access to what's happening here in Qatar. We have got no access at all of what's happening here in Qatar.

Second, I think that the Americans, the U.S. government, has to address the Arab masses, has to address the Arab countries and the Muslim countries, Bush and, before Bush, Clinton was addressing the Romanian people, I mean, the people in the Eastern Europe...

BLITZER: But you saw President Bush at this Islamic mosque in Washington the other day on the occasion of the Eid al Fitr, the end of the month of Ramadan...

SAFI: He's addressing the internal Muslims of the United States, the Muslim and the Arab presence in the United States. I mean by the masses, the Arab countries, the Muslims who are in the Arab countries, in the...

BLITZER: So what advice, specifically, would you give President Bush to try to change the attitude, the impression they have of him and the United States right now?

SAFI: There should be no double standard. What's happening in the Palestinian territory is, above all, is seen as a barbaric act from Israel and from the Israeli occupation forces. I mean, there should be no double standard.

What's happening in -- you have to put into focus what's happening in Palestine, what's happening in Iraq, what's happening in North Korea. You don't have what the Arabs are seeing now and what the Muslims are seeing, that there is a double standard between what's happening in some events and what's happening in other events.

BLITZER: Chris, why is the U.S. apparently, the Bush administration, the U.S. government, so ineffective in trying to get its message out to people in this part of the world?

TOMLINSON: Well, I think my colleague's absolutely right, because every time I speak to an Arab, the first thing that comes up is U.S. support for Israel and the situation of the Palestinians. That's what dominates their opinion of the United States government. They see everything through that prism. And while you make these other points, the Palestinian issue is incredibly important to the Arab people, and that is what they judge the United States by.

BLITZER: And in part, Al Jazeera's broadcasting, among other Arab satellite channels, a lot of these images coming from the West Bank, from Gaza, which does have a big impact on what the thinking is here, Dan. You speak to people over here. You know what's going on.

WILLIAMS: Well, yes, I mean, there's of course a danger for all the governments that host American forces, especially, as in this case, as Mohammed pointed out, that, for the moment -- this country does not have a long history. It's not like Italy, that was liberated by the Americans, and therefore, you know, has a dozen bases over there. They have no history here. And yet, until now, it has pretty much been using it as kind of a parking lot.

They have not addressed the Qatari. They have not addressed anyone on the issue. I don't know how long the American government ought to go without addressing the people who actually live here.

The danger for the government of Qatar, of course, is that there -- a distance grows between the people's feelings and their long-range plans. They look at these bases as part of a large complex of development in this country. They're having the sports festivals, they want -- they have Jazeera here. Jazeera is a media outlet. They want high-tech here. So they want to join the world.

That said, this kind of, so far, idea that you can just plunk down a 15,000-foot runway here and, in fact, not address the Qatari people about this -- and maybe this is also true of the Qatar government...

BLITZER: Hold on one second. We're going to take a break, because we have commercial obligations, as I'm sure Al Jazeera probably has some commercial obligations as well. So we're going to take a quick break.

We have a lot more to talk about, our reporters' roundtable, including your phone calls for our reporters. Call us if you can. We'll be right back.

We're live in Doha in Qatar.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Doha in Qatar.

Mohammed Safi of Al Jazeera, how much freedom does Al Jazeera have to report the news?

SAFI: Well, we can hail ourself a lot, but I think what the others view Al Jazeera as a news agency, as a news channel. I think we have a big margin of freedom to report whatever news that we have, putting into effect that we know that it is true and, I mean, it is authentic.

And as far as I work in Al Jazeera since two years and a half, three years, I am the assignments editor, I'm the responsible of all the correspondents of Al Jazeera all over the world, I don't have -- I didn't have -- see any censor of any news broadcasted or based to be broadcasted in Al Jazeera.

BLITZER: By all accounts, the press here in Qatar is, relatively speaking, pretty free compared to almost every place else in the Arab world.

TOMLINSON: I think that's absolutely right. Our experience has been that the Qatari media is among the most aggressive and most open in the region.

BLITZER: And, Dan, is that your experience as well?

WILLIAMS: Yes, well, that's right. I mean, there's a lot of complaints of other governments about Jazeera, but in the countries that I visited Jazeera is still preferred to the local or the often state-run outlets or even the commercial outlets.

So on the one hand there's complaints about it from several governments, as there's been recently I think from Jordan, Saudi, perhaps Kuwait. But the alternatives aren't on offer.

BLITZER: Why -- and I ask this as a fair question, I think -- why is Al Jazeera seen as the venue of choice for these al Qaeda statements that come out? Another one just came out from Abu Weith (ph), a spokesman for Osama bin Laden. How do you guys manage to get these statements?

SAFI: Well, I don't think that we manage to get these tapes. For example, the last tape of Abu Gheith, I managed, I was searching in the Internet in one website, which is alfitr.com, and I turned to find that there was a new statement of Abu Gheith. So I have downloaded from the alfitr.com, and it was an audio file, and we have broadcast it on Al Jazeera.

BLITZER: And it was as simple as that?

SAFI: Yes.

BLITZER: So nobody actually walks in or meets some reporter?

SAFI: No. No, no, no.

BLITZER: But you have a reporter in London, an investigative reporter, well known, your top investigative reporter, who actually goes out and digs up some of this stuff.

SAFI: Yes. This has been managed by al Qaeda to visit their prisons in Pakistan, their prisons in Afghanistan, and it has been broadcast in Al Jazeera in a big program in the events of 11th of September. But apart from that, we -- either a tape is given to our correspondents in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, or we can find it as the new -- I mean the new tactics of al Qaeda, to put it in the internet, that a variety of people, a lot of people can see it and can hear it.

BLITZER: If there's another war between the United States and its partners and Iraq, Chris, how important will Al Jazeera be because of the access it has to what's going on, let's say, in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq?

TOMLINSON: Well, I think just having an Arab-language 24-hour news channel that's as aggressive as Al Jazeera is very important. I think it gives us an opportunity to see a side of the conflict that we didn't see during the first Gulf War.

BLITZER: Dan, go ahead, button up this conversation.

WILLIAMS: Well, if the impact that Jazeera has had with the Palestinian uprisings, is any gauge, it will be very big because they offer a whole view of that uprising that's seen throughout the Arab world that is frankly not seen throughout the United States.

BLITZER: Will you give us access, not necessarily CNN, but the entire electronic news media, access to the pictures, the images you'll be broadcasting from Iraq?

SAFI: Well, again, I have to say and to put into points that again, in Iraq, many events we fail to cover in Iraq and CNN has covered, AP has covered, Reuters has covered. I mean, there is -- the situation now is no more than the situation which was in during the war of '91, '92, where the CNN has excelled and...

BLITZER: We had the monopoly.

SAFI: Yes.

BLITZER: What you're saying now is we won't have the monopoly anymore?

SAFI: Yes.

BLITZER: Al Jazeera might have a little bit more access. But we'll have to wait and see. I want to thank all three of you for coming in.

But before you go, I want you and our viewers in the United States, in North America, to take a look at what our colleague, John Vause, has been up to over the past day or so. He's got a little report here on what's going on in Qatar.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To quote the lonely planet guide, there's nothing wrong with Doha, it's just a sleepy, quiet little town. To be fair, there are some highlights, like the national museum. But it's closed. (on camera): So it's closed? Open?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's closed now.

VAUSE: When will it be open?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: January.

VAUSE: January?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

VAUSE: 2003?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.

VAUSE (voice-over): He told me to come back next year, once the renovations are done.

There's a pretty big library. That was closed as well. And our guide took us to one of the famous coffee shops by the water. Business seems a little slow.

There are two movie theaters, which show English-language films. One really big shopping mall. Some nice hotels. Al Jazeera Television. And the kanish (ph), the waterfront boardwalk where it seems most Qataris spend their free time.

(on camera): Is there anything exciting in Doha, anywhere exciting to go?

You don't know? Nowhere? OK. Thank you.

(voice-over): On Monday night, the reggae singer Shaggy will perform. He's a favorite of the emir's son, so the tickets are subsidized, about $30 apiece.

(on camera): In fact, Doha has a reputation in the Persian Gulf of being the dullest place on earth. That could be a little harsh. Still, if there is a war with Iraq, this tiny country could find itself on center stage. And maybe then it will be longing for those quiet days.

John Vause, CNN, Doha, Qatar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, John Vause, for that report. We'll be having some fun despite that report over the next several days.

That's it for me for this edition, this special edition of LATE EDITION. I'll be back, though, later tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, for a special CNN Presents, Showdown: Iraq.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Doha, in Qatar in the Persian Gulf.

Up next, our LATE EDITION Final Round. Jonathan Karl is back in Washington with our Final Round panelists. They'll review all the big stories of the week.

That and much more coming up right after this CNN news alert. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm CNN congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl. It's time for LATE EDITION's Final Round.

Joining me, Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, Peter Beinart of the New Republic, Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online, and Robert George of the esteemed New York Post.

As some 12,000 pages of documents detailing what Iraq says is in its weapons program makes its way to the U.N., the White House and members of Congress are already expressing skepticism about the report's truthfulness.

Today, a scientific adviser to Saddam Hussein says, if the United States has evidence to the contrary, make it public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL-SAADI: We hope that it will satisfy, because it is currently accurate, as they have asked for, and comprehensive, truthful, everything. If they have anything to the contrary, let them forthwith come up with it, give it to the IAEA, give it to UNMOVIC. They are here. They could check it. Why play this game?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: All right. Peter, has Iraq turned a new leaf? Is this a new spirit of cooperation from Saddam Hussein?

PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: No, of course not. In fact, given that they said they had nothing, it actually would have been better if they had given us nothing. What they've given is a vast amount of false leads and misinformation.

The real question for the Bush administration is, they have two options. Do they go ahead and publicly put out their intelligence, or, which I think would be better, give it instead to the inspectors, let them go, blow the whistle, and find it, because then it seems less like a U.S. versus Iraq thing? You've got a better chance of getting U.N. support for war.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I'm actually impressed, really. Iraq, realizing it can't win a real war with the United States, has decided to go into a PR war. And this was actually one of the best bits of PR obfuscation I've seen since the old days of the Clinton White House, where, you remember, what they would do is deny that they had done anything, and then, when they finally revealed information, they put out so much information that reporters and everybody had to take hours, days, weeks and so forth to get through it, and then, when they come back to them, they say, oh, this is old news, this is old news.

KARL: The Clinton administration would have done it on a Friday afternoon, though.

GOLDBERG: They would have done it on Friday afternoon.

(CROSSTALK)

But, you know, we're talking about Iraq on a Sunday.

KARL: But as a serious point here, Jonah, I mean, isn't it up to the administration to come up with some proof, a la, you know, Cuban Missile Crisis, come up and say, this is the evidence?

GOLDBERG: Let's leave Allah out of it, but...

(LAUGHTER)

Look, the thing is, it doesn't take 100 pounds of paper to tell the truth, it takes 100 pounds of paper to lie, and this is obviously a giant smokescreen, and I do think it puts the burden back -- you know, the ball is in the Bush camp. I think Peter is probably right: the way to do this is to leak some of the intelligence that we have, not necessarily all of it, but some good smoking-gun intelligence to the weapons inspectors, and make those guys go out there and find something that's not in this piece of paper, and then say, you guys lied, that's a material breach, whole new ballgame.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, they've showed us theirs, and we've got to show them ours at some point. But, before we do that, perhaps we should take a look at the information, have our intelligence people scrub it up, and then, if we need to prepare a document to respond, we should reveal or declassify this information.

But clearly if the administration decides to pursue this war with Iraq they're going to have to reveal some of the intelligence and make a case to the American people. And right now it's a game of they've showed us theirs and we know what we have.

ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: The U.N., by the way, should not be complicit in this by, you know, trying to scurry away the information and holding on to it without letting us have a full look at it as well.

BRAZILE: But we need to get some translators. Much of this information is in Arabic, and as you know...

KARL: We'll see how much of that is. We have some translators right here on the CNN payroll. We'll be happy to help out with that process.

(LAUGHTER) All right, let's move on. President Bush says disarming Saddam Hussein is the key to winning the war on terrorism. But earlier today former Vice President Al Gore, friend of Donna's here, criticized the White House for making that link.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: The assertion that al Qaeda, run by Osama bin Laden, is virtually the same thing, as the White House has implied and directly said, as Saddam Hussein and Iraq, that's -- there's no evidence that's been presented for that. It appears not to be true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: All right, Jonah, is the vice president, former vice president correct?

GOLDBERG: No. And actually this is a line he's been taking since his San Francisco speech a few months ago, where basically doves, or Democrats who oppose the war or oppose the Bush administration on Iraq, they want to cite the war on Iraq as a distraction from the war on al Qaeda.

And it's a real false choice because, first of all, no one says that Saddam has to be as bad as Osama or as much of a threat as Osama because, first of all, we're already at war with Osama.

The question is whether or not it makes sense to go after Iraq on its own terms. And this whole thing of comparing al Qaeda or bringing al Qaeda into it is a red herring, in large part because, as Peter has actually written in the New Republic, the war on Iraq is actually getting a lot of allies who are against us on Iraq to help more on the war on terrorism and against al Qaeda.

KARL: But, I mean, really, it's the president, I mean, it's the White House that first started talking about this link between al Qaeda and Iraq.

BEINART: Yes, I think Gore is right in the limited sense. The administration has, I think, pushed probably too far in trying to imply that there's more of a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda than there is.

But as Jonah said, that's not the rationale for war. The rationale for war is that you don't want Saddam Hussein to have a nuclear weapon with which he can blackmail his neighbors and the world. It doesn't have anything to do with al Qaeda.

And Democrats who are trying to conflate this because they want to say, "No, we're for one war, we're for the war on terrorism," but everyone's for the war on terrorism. The issue is the war with Iraq, and you can do both.

GEORGE: Yes, and it's pretty amazing, too, Gore coming from an administration that had no problem in terms of overextending U.S. forces in any number of issues, whether it was going to Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo and other peacekeeping initiatives in other places. Now they're basically saying that we cannot go after Iraq and al Qaeda at the same time. It's counterintuitive.

BRAZILE: Well, I don't think all Democrats are saying that. And I didn't watch Al Gore, by the way, this morning. I can't wait to see it on videotape later today.

But I believe what Democrats are trying to say is that we need to finish this war on terrorism and we need to put more resources into what we're doing in Afghanistan, what we're doing in trying to locate Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and all of the rest of them.

At the same time, what Democrats are saying is that we must be prepared for the consequences of going to war with Iraq, not only the financial but also the political and the burden and the crisis that it will create in the Middle East and perhaps, you know, losing support, you know, with the war on terrorism.

That's what Gore and I think many other Democrats are saying, but we're not saying that we can't walk and chew gum. We've proven that we can talk out of both sides of our mouth.

KARL: All right, weve got to move on, from a national security issue to a major shakeup on President Bush's economics team.

KARL: In a surprise move, or somewhat of a surprise, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill resigned Friday, along with chief White House economic adviser Larry Lindsey. The resignations were submitted at the request of the president.

Robert, is this an admission that this administration has dropped the ball on economic policy?

GEORGE: No, I think it's just an admission that Paul O'Neill was the wrong man for the job. He was -- you know, he was somebody who was sort of like living in his own little world. He never really bought into the Bush philosophy of pushing tax cuts and so forth. And he was just -- you know, he was just your basic loose cannon.

Lindsey, on the other hand, did buy into the tax cut philosophy but couldn't work with Congress. And you know, given the way the economy is performing, it was time for them to go.

KARL: And this came on the day that the unemployment rate was revealed to be at 6 percent.

BRAZILE: Well, you know, what took them so long?

GEORGE: 6.2 after the announcement.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: That's right. I guess they finally figured out that they couldn't blame Bill Clinton and the Clinton-Gore administration for all of the problems. I don't think this administration has a clue in terms of how to get the economy back on track. And look, I think they should take away the unemployment benefits and perhaps they should be like the other millions of Americans who will be without work in the next couple of weeks.

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, let's not buy too much into this idea that somehow we are entering a new depression. I mean, the economy actually isn't in that bad of shape. It's not in as good of shape as it should be or could be, but it's not in terrible shape.

But no, Bush didn't drop the ball firing this guy, he dropped the ball hiring this guy. And I have yet to find a constituency in Washington that loves Lindsey. And I think -- not Lindsey, I apologize, O'Neill. And I think O'Neill's basic problem was that he didn't want to be treasury secretary, he wanted to be secretary of education or secretary for global warming or...

KARL: And the vice president broke the news by offering to take him out for a stiff drink. What was that all about?

BEINART: Yes, well, evidently, the vice president is really the one on whose recommendation he was hired.

But the fundamental issue is here, it doesn't matter who they get to replace these guys. It doesn't matter who they have in these economic jobs because the economic policies in the Bush administration come from the political team, because their fundamental issue when it comes to taxes is to keep the right on board, is to keep the Republican base happy.

That is what their criteria is, not what's good for the economy. Sometimes it may dovetail with what's good for the economy, but the economic decisions don't come from the economic team. It doesn't matter who they hire in these jobs.

BRAZILE: And they fired those guys to inoculate themselves against the charges that Democrats will once again make, that these guys just don't get it.

KARL: For an administration that prides itself on timing, why did they fire them on the eve of the Louisiana Senate race?

BEINART: Well, I think they thought that it was a Friday, you know, it wouldn't get that much attention. But they didn't realize they had Donna to reckon with in the Louisiana Senate race.

KARL: And we're going to get to that next, but we've got to take a quick break.

Just ahead, the final episode of campaign 2002 plays out. We'll talk about what the results mean and all that when the Final Round continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: Welcome back to the Final Round.

Democrats are smiling today. The incumbent senator from Louisiana, Mary Landrieu, beat her Republican challenger, Suzie Terrell, in the state's runoff race.

Earlier today, on this program, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle weighed in on the outcome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DASCHLE: I am so pleased with the results. Mary Landrieu won, and not only that, in a surprise victory, we won that congressional race as well. This is a great opportunity for Democrats. It's really the first victory of the 2004 cycle, Wolf, and we couldn't be more pleased.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: So, Donna, have all those reports of the death of the Democratic Party been a little exaggerated?

BRAZILE: Well, there's no question that the Democratic Party's been on the political obituary page now for the last three weeks, but over the last 32 days, people in Louisiana got it.

I mean, Mary Landrieu ran a very good campaign, was a very aggressive, grass-root campaign. She managed to keep rural whites and suburban independents, as well as have a significant black turnout across the state. It shows that a Democrat with moderate appeal can win in the Deep South. It made us a two-party system.

I have to say that these Republicans -- we have not had a Republican in Louisiana since Reconstruction, and if I live to be 100, like Strom Thurmond, I would...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: ... happens on my watch.

KARL: And full disclosure, you were down there. I think you have some sugar cane to talk about it. But you were down there trying to win this thing for the Democrats.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: This was about sugar, and Mary Landrieu -- we found out about a little secret deal where the Bush administration is contemplating dumping 300 tons of sugar in Louisiana. We love our sugar, pralines, all of that other great staples...

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: Is that Mexican sugar, or is that this...

BRAZILE: This is from Carville country, down in...

KARL: James Carville, huh?

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: And I brought this over to CNN to give them to my man James, so he won't have to wear a garbage can again on CNN. We have sugar now.

GEORGE: I guess it's like that Def Leppard song that's on the commercial, "Pour Some Sugar On Me." I guess that's the reason they won.

But no, what this shows is, Democrats are still going to do well when it comes to a local race, which is what Mary Landrieu...

KARL: Wait a minute. Whenever they win, it's a national, you know, mandate. When they lose, it's a local race.

GEORGE: No, no, Republicans win when they make races about national issues. The national issues have been pushed off the front pages, because the homeland security bill had been passed, a lot of these other bills have been passed. And so, you know, the fervor to push Bush's agenda wasn't there, as it had been on Election Day. So Landrieu made this about local issues, and she ran a good campaign.

BEINART: Yes, I actually think Robert is largely right. I mean, I think the Landrieu campaign, with a lot of good work from Donna, found a way of crystallizing the economic issue, which is economic problems, through this local issue of sugar.

But the Democrats' larger problem, which is not having a vision on the war on terrorism, not having a position on Iraq, you can see that with Gore on TV today, you could see it with Kerry last week, Bill Clinton talked about it, that is still a major problem for the party, this doesn't alleviate it.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: Donna sort of made the point for us. This isn't so much a defeat of George Bush as a victory for Donna Brazile.

(LAUGHTER)

And the reality is when she says there hasn't been a Republican down there since Reconstruction, you can hardly say that that long- term historic trend is irrelevant to the fact that, you know, it went Democrat again.

And, you know, it was a local race. I mean, we heard in all of Donna's, you know, victory dance this morning was all about how she made it a local race. And good for her, but you can't then say it has a national impact. BRAZILE: Well, first of all, it was a victory for Mary Landrieu, John Breaux, Bill Jefferson, who is our congressman, and Chris John (ph).

And let me tell you, Mary had a little lamb, and that's Rodney Alexander. She had coat tails, and I believe...

KARL: This was the House race down there. I mean, the Democrats also picked up...

BRAZILE: We won the House race, we had momentum. Mary Landrieu has coat tails. They threw everything but the kitchen sink at Mary Landrieu but she stood her ground and she fought hard and she took it to the people. And the people of Louisiana, we know a mud when we see it, and we look past mud and we elected a centrist Democrat. KARL: All right, and Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, said this was the first race of campaign 2004, which might be wishful thinking.

BRAZILE: I want to say that every member of my family voted yesterday. One time.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: Well, we've got to move on. Meanwhile, moving right along, incoming Majority Leader Trent Lott is in a little hot water. He's being criticized for remarks he made at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday celebration, noting that Mississippi voted for Thurmond when he ran for president as a pro-segregation Dixiecrat in 1948.

Lott said, quote, "If the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years."

Robert, what was Trent Lott talking about?

GEORGE: I have no idea. Look, to be as charitable as possible, as some friends of Mr. Lott are saying, is that, you know, he was kind of caught up in the celebration. He wanted to say something nice to this guy, he's turning 100.

I mean, it's absolutely absurd. And frankly, this is why a number of Republican senators had problems with Lott when he was majority leader the first time. He has this tendency to open his mouth without thinking. I mean, it's an absolute embarrassment.

And I hate to say this, exactly where is Mississippi on a whole lot of national criteria in terms of education, the economy, and so forth? Goodness knows where the rest of the country would have been had Strom Thurmond become president.

BRAZILE: I thought this was now becoming the party of Lincoln. Now it's the party of Lott. I think he needs to explain himself. He needs to explain what he was talking about in terms of those little problems. Was he talking about race relations, the Civil Rights Act?

I think he really put his foot in his mouth, and he should come out... GEORGE: He's talking about Truman's anti-segregation and anti- lynching plans.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

GEORGE: I mean, it's outrageous.

KARL: Let's remind ourselves who Strom Thurmond was in 1948.

BEINART: Strom Thurmond -- the guiding ideology of Strom Thurmond's political career was -- and I've said it before -- white supremacy. It was the idea that black Americans should be second- class citizens in the United States.

The Republican Party and people like Trent Lott have got to quit playing this double game, where with a wink and a nod -- you saw it in the Georgia race with the flag, you saw it with McCain down in South Carolina during the primary -- when things get tough and they need it, they turn to race-baiting. And this is a moral test for conservatives in Washington.

They all said, "Strom Thurmond's a nice guy, he's 100. Yes, sure, he was a segregationist, but let's not talk about it." Now they've got to denounce this.

GOLDBERG: Yes, but Peter, first of all, Thurmond rejected much of this stuff and apologized for his previous positions on race.

BEINART: And got about 5 percent of the black vote when he ran in South Carolina year after year.

GOLDBERG: OK. Fine. Fine.

BEINART: Black South Carolinians knew that he was still not on their side.

GOLDBERG: Peter, we also believe in politicians having some sort of sign of being able to have redemption and changing their positions, and he did so. I'm not going to stand up here and beat the drums for Strom Thurmond's political career.

But, you know, the fact is that Thurmond rejected his policies. Apparently Trent Lott hasn't. And that is the real embarrassment.

KARL: That's the larger question.

GOLDBERG: And also, I just have to point out that Lott was not playing a political game here trying to win marginal votes in some race. Lott was doing what he does so regularly, which is say stupid things for no discernible reason whatsoever. And it was a mistake...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: Very quick. Very quick.

GEORGE: Does he realize that he's becoming Senate majority leader, not white majority leader? That's my question.

KARL: OK.

BRAZILE: Whew.

GEORGE: We've got to take a quick break. The Lightning Round is just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: Time now for our Lightning Round.

The White House is planning to authorize cash bonuses for political appointees. Should career federal employees be upset, Jonah?

GOLDBERG: No, they shouldn't, and this has been blown way out of proportion.

But I will say that, a matter of full disclosure, my wife is a political appointee and is eligible for the bonus, and I want her to get one.

(LAUGHTER)

But that -- go ahead, go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: I'm just taking myself out of the loop.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: Donna, Donna.

BRAZILE: You know, baby's coming, you know, extra bedroom that need to be painted.

(LAUGHTER)

I understand. But no, they should be upset, and this is outrageous. This administration is looking like Scrooge every week.

GEORGE: I think it could have been handled a whole lot better. The bonuses for political appointees had actually been around for decades. It had been gotten rid of in the previous administration.

KARL: By that reformer, Bill Clinton.

GOLDBERG: And for civil appointees.

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE: And for civil appointees. KARL: Peter.

BEINART: I have to say, the administration, since Election Day, has had a tin ear on a couple of things, I think. First this issue about government contracts for companies that leave the United States. Now this issue, when you've not extended unemployment insurance. I really think that, politically, the administration's not as sharp as it was.

KARL: OK, next up, this week, demonstrations are scheduled around the country to protest the possible war with Iraq. Is the anti-war movement gaining traction?

What do you say, Donna?

BRAZILE: Well, the peace movement, the old peace movement is coming back, and that's a good thing. They're back, and I'm glad they're back, because they're now talking about jobs and justice and economic development. They've broadened their reach. It's now mothers and ordinary citizens, and I can't wait to get the bumper sticker.

GEORGE: There will always be a, what do you want to call it, a peace movement or an anti-war movement that's going to be out there. But the fact of the matter is, the broad center of the American people, A, are supportive, obviously, on the war on terror, and also supportive on getting rid of people like Saddam Hussein, who are threats to the entire world.

KARL: We had sizable demonstrations in this country in 1991, in advance of the first Persian Gulf War.

BEINART: Yes, and what people remember...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: Are we going to see it again?

BEINART: Public opinion is significantly more pro-war now than it was on the eve of the last Gulf War, and that's partly because it's easier to make a moral case now against Saddam than it was in favor of the Kuwaiti government.

I don't want to be too cynical here, but the truth is, we will never have a massive anti-war movement if we don't have a draft, and that's the fundamental reality. It's not going to be a big political factor.

KARL: We got a quick -- very quick.

GOLDBERG: OK, it's not an anti-war movement, because it's actually going nowhere. It's frozen in amber. It's full of nostalgia. It's people wanting to play games in the street.

KARL: All right. The New York District Attorney's Office is recommending that all charges against the young men convicted in the 1989 Central Park jogger beating and rape case be dismissed. Another man has admitted the crime, and DNA evidence has backed his confession.

Was this, Robert, a miscarriage of justice?

GEORGE: Not completely. Obviously, they screwed up on the rape case, since this other guy, Reyes, has come forward.

GEORGE: However, there is still some circumstantial evidence that suggests that these guys were at least tangentially involved.

Also, the D.A. should not have gotten rid of the rioting, robbery and assault charges, because, actually, at least two of the five admitted that they were involved in that.

KARL: They also admitted they were involved in the rape.

BRAZILE: Well, Robert has clearly no more...

GEORGE: They admitted this after they'd gotten out of jail, though.

BRAZILE: It's clearly an explicit miscarriage of justice, and I'm glad to see that these young guys are being free. And hopefully they have a future and they can put their lives back together.

GOLDBERG: Something about the story stinks to high heaven. These allegedly coerced confessions were in the presence of their parents. They're incredibly detailed. You look at the videotapes. These do not look like frightened, scared kids.

I think that there's more to this story than meets the eye. Clearly the rape case was screwed up, and, you know, maybe that's good enough.

BEINART: Yes, you know, Robert and Jonah both know more about this than me. But I do think the larger context is that race relations are better in New York, significantly better in New York than they were in 1989. And that, at least, is some comfort.

KARL: But the interesting thing is Linda Fairstein, who was the legendary head of the, you know, crimes unit, dealt with cases like this for the Manhattan D.A., still thinks these boys were involved.

GEORGE: Yes, they are, because, again, even though the DNA obviously links it to this guy, Matias Reyes, who has since confessed, there's a lot of circumstantial evidence that suggests he could not have done it himself completely.

KARL: All right. Well, that is about it. Thank you all very much.

GOLDBERG: On that cheery note.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: On that cheery note.

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, December 8th. Be sure to join Wolf Blitzer every Sunday at noon eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

And tonight, at 8:00 Eastern, Wolf will be back with a CNN Special Report, Showdown: Iraq, Deadline for a Declaration.

Until then, thanks for watching. I'm Jonathan Karl in Washington.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

9

© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.