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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Showdown: Iraq -- The Weapons Report

Aired January 26, 2003 - 12:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in San Diego, 6:00 p.m. in Paris, and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq -- the Weapons Report.
In just a few minutes, we'll talk about the showdown and look ahead to President Bush's State of the Union address on Tuesday with the White House communications director, Dan Bartlett.

But first, a CNN "News Alert."

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: All right. Kickoff scheduled for about six hours from now. Josie Karp in San Diego. Thanks for that report. Let's get back to the showdown with Iraq.

Tuesday night, President Bush will give his State of the Union address before a joint session of the U.S. Congress. This showdown with Iraq is expected to be one of the key topics in that address.

We're joined now by the White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett. Thank you, Mr. Bartlett. Welcome to LATE EDITION. Good to have you on...

DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Good to have you on the show. What is the imminent threat from Iraq right now that would justify putting young men and women in harm's way?

BARTLETT: Well, I think it's important to understand, President Bush on Tuesday night is going to talk about the state of our union. We have great challenges.

And he knows, and he's going to talk about how the American people are equal to the task. He'll talk about the challenges here at home. We'll talk about how we need to create more jobs in America. We'll talk about how we need to improve our health care system, particularly providing prescription drugs to our seniors, how we need to be more compassionate in society to help those who can't help themselves.

On the challenges abroad, President Bush outlined last year the very real concern about rogue regimes, lawless regimes, developing and acquiring and procuring weapons of mass destruction. And the most frightening example would be is if a rogue regime like this were to marry up a terrorist organization...

BLITZER: You mean like Iraq? You mean iraq?

BARTLETT: That is correct. And there have been others. But in particular, when it comes to Iraq, President Bush has made very clear back in September, he went before the United Nations Security Council and outlined why this is a threat to the United States and to the world. That's why the Security Council responded with a resolution, 1441. Then the United States Congress followed up and recognized the threat as well. This is a very important matter. And what we're seeing tomorrow in the report that will come from Dr. Blix is whether the Iraqi regime is living up to its commitments that it has made in 1441.

BLITZER: So the basic imminent threat, and that's what a lot of Americans are concerned about, what is the imminent threat right now that can't wait, in other words, for the U.S. to start deploying troops and putting young men and women in harm's way?

BARTLETT: As it was described in more than 16 resolutions over the last decade, what we know from U.N. inspectors over the course of the last decade is that Saddam Hussein possesses thousands of chemical warheads, that he possesses hundreds of liters of very dangerous toxins that can kill millions of people.

This is a man who has a history of using these type of weapons on his own people. The New York Times reports today that of 22 million people, is the population of Iraq, he may be responsible for the killing of a million people.

That is an incredible statistic that will go down in history as one of the most brutal dictators in the world. He's invaded his neighbors. That's why the war began in 1991 when he invaded Kuwait.

What we see now is that after 1998 there's been no inspectors, there's been nobody in this country. He has not proven to anybody that he's gotten rid of these weapons.

BLITZER: But the question is, he's a threat based on what the information you're suggesting, to his own people, to his neighbors.

But is he an imminent threat to U.S. interests, either in that part of the world or to Americans right here at home?

BARTLETT: Well, of course he is. He has made it very clear his hatred for the United States of America. He's made it very clear through the past years and since he's been in power his desire to dominate the region.

And as he acquires these weapons, particularly if he were to get a nuclear weapon, it would change the game in the entire world if Saddam Hussein, based on his past, based on his history of aggression, to acquire the type of weapons and then potentially to marry up with terrorists so he wouldn't have the finger prints, is a scenario that we can't afford to take.

BLITZER: But you're saying there is evidence that he would do that, he would provide some of those weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, biological weapons, to known terrorist organizations?

BARTLETT: The history is clear. He has them, he's used them in the past on his own people and on invading, in invading other countries, he has a relationship, his regime has had a relationship with terrorist organizations throughout his tenure, particularly with al Qaeda, as well.

This is the type of scenario we can't afford to wait until the last minute. We cannot let this threat materialize to the point where there's nothing we can do about it.

BLITZER: All right, we have some new poll numbers. And CNN/USA Today Gallup poll numbers that are coming out this hour, right now. And they suggest that you, the administration, the Bush administration, has a lot of work to do, Tuesday night and beyond, convincing a skeptical American public.

We'll put some of these numbers on the screen right now. Look at this. As far as favoring sending U.S. troops to Iraq right now, it's at 52 percent. It was at 56 percent, it was at 58 percent, that number, 13 percent, is wrong over there.

That number should be at 58 percent in December, 56 percent now, 52 percent, excuse me, 56 percent in January, 52 percent right now.

So it's gone down. Let's put another poll number up there. Should the U.S. invade Iraq without European allies giving their support? U.S. should not invade Iraq unless European allies give their support: 57 percent agree with that, 39 percent disagree.

Should the, the U.S. should not invade Iraq unless second U.N. vote authorizing military action is approved: 56 percent agree with that, 39 percent disagree.

Who do you trust more to make the right decisions on Iraq? Look at this, this is amazing -- 47 percent say the Bush administration, 47 percent say the United Nations.

All of these numbers suggesting the American public remains divided, bitterly divided on these questions.

BARTLETT: First and foremost, President Bush as commander in chief makes his decisions based on the protection of the American people. It is his responsibility to look at all the information, to look at all of the threats that are materializing and come to an assessment and make the right decisions based on what is going to best protect the American people.

He's not doing that based on polls. He's not doing that based on public opinions changing from day-in, day-out, snapshots of this number or that number. He's making these decisions based on what he believes is the best way to protect the American people. Now, when you get to the poll numbers, I think it's important to give a little historical perspectives. The similar numbers we're talking about here back in 1991, which was a very successful Gulf War the first time around, the numbers were less than they are today in this case.

The majority of Americans do support using ground troops. And I think that number has been relatively steady.

Secondly, I think there's been actually a false choice provided to the American people. We hear all this go-it-alone. And I don't think that's appropriate, because what the president has said all along, and what is very clear, is that the decision about Saddam Hussein disarming has been made.

That is in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. The question is is how do we do it? And that is what the choice that Saddam Hussein has right now.

He can do it peacefully. He can come forward and disclose and destroy and verify all the weapons of mass destruction that everybody in the world knows he has, or there will be a coalition of the willing.

It's not going alone. There are many countries who understand the threat that he poses. So I think it's been sort of a false choice.

BLITZER: Will there be some hard new evidence that the administration will release in the coming days or weeks to make that case?

BARTLETT: Well, it's interesting. The evidence is clear to the world right now. Because I think you have to focus on what the purpose of 1441 is. It's for the Iraqi regime to fully comply with disarming. Not only did they provide a declaration that does nothing of the sort, it actually has gaping holes in which it doesn't account for anything that they have produced, they have now actively are deceiving and defying these weapons inspectors. They're more interested in having four to five or six inspectors falling around...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But will there be a photo, some pictures,...

BARTLETT: Well, let's take this, for example.

BLITZER: ... some hard intelligence that will make the case that, yes, look, these are biological weapons, they exist at this location in Iraq?

BARTLETT: Well, Wolf, let's take, for example, one example. Back in 1998 U.N. inspectors concluded that the Iraqi regime had approximately 30,000 chemical warheads. They had an opportunity to disclose that. They did not. BLITZER: I think what they -- 30,000 liters of chemical weapons -- of anthrax and --

BARTLETT: Well, they had the warheads, the missiles, enabled to the 30,000 munitions that are capable of carrying the chemical agents that would inflict this harm. 30,000 of them. That was by UNSCOM.

What we found out during the first two months is that, not by the cooperation of the Iraqi regime, but by weapons inspectors going in, they found 18. 18 out of 30,000. At this rate, without the Iraqi cooperation, we'll be doing this for another 280-some-odd years. Because it requires, as the resolution says, is, they need to cooperate and disclose. Where are the other 29,000-and-so (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Do you know where they are?

BARTLETT: This is the whole point. The fact of the matter is, is that, in a country the size of California, that 100 weapons inspectors are not going to be able to find the equivalent of a needle in a haystack.

They've been defying the world for a decade. That is why it's important that they step forward and account for them.

The purpose is, they say they don't have them any more, yet there is no evidence whatsoever that they ever destroyed them.

If they were so convinced that they didn't have them, wouldn't you think they'd want to explain to the entire world where they are and how they destroyed them? They haven't, because they haven't, they're hiding them, and they have a reason to hide them, because he wants to continue his ambitions to terrorize the world.

BLITZER: So how do you explain that some of the closest NATO allies, France and Germany in particular, say, what's the rush, give it some more time, let those inspectors do their job, and see if they can find some of that hard evidence?

BARTLETT: I think the question is, is, what is the inspectors' job? The inspectors' job is not to go on a scavenger hunt looking for a needle in a haystack. The inspectors' job is to verify whether the regime is willingly disarming.

And I think it's important to understand that, because 1441, the resolution in which the inspectors are working under, requires the regime to fully cooperate, not half-measures, not, you know, fits and starts, not a little bit here or a little bit there. Full cooperation. And what we've been hearing, and what they've clearly been demonstrating is that they're not interested in that.

BLITZER: All right. So how much time do the Iraqis have to fully cooperate?

BARTLETT: Well, time is running out. But we and...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: How much time do they have left?

BARTLETT: This is a diplomatic process. We will wait for the report tomorrow. President Bush will talk directly to the American people on Tuesday night about the continuing threat that Saddam Hussein poses and the fact that he is not making the strategic decision to disarm.

We will have, the U.N. Security Council members will then have to digest what the Blix report says, and then we'll continue to consult as we go forward, but there's no question: time is running out.

BLITZER: Is it a matter of only a few weeks, or do they have several more months?

BARTLETT: Well, again, I think it's important to understand, as we enter this last phase, that we let the diplomatic process work, the inspectors can only have a successful mission if the Iraqi regime makes a strategic decision to disarm. They have not made it.

BLITZER: There was a report in the Los Angeles Times suggesting that you're not ruling out the use of nuclear weapons against Iraq.

BARTLETT: Well, it's not my position to say what is being ruled in or ruled out. What is clear -- and the message that President Bush has sent unequivocally -- is that, if the Iraqi regime, if Saddam Hussein and his generals decide for one second to use weapons of mass destruction against allied forces of the United States of America and our allies, we will make sure it doesn't happen. But it's not my role to say what is ruled in or ruled out.

BLITZER: The king of Jordan, King Abdullah, is saying today it will take a miracle to avoid another war in the Persian Gulf. Do you agree with that assessment?

BARTLETT: I think what he is indicating is that he sees what the entire world sees, and that is that Saddam Hussein could have made it very clear very early in this process that he made the strategic decision to say, the game is up, I know I've been fooling everybody for 10 years, I can no longer do it, the world demand now is saying that we should get rid of these weapons that everybody knows I have. He hasn't done it, and in fact he has taken contrary steps to try to deceive the world once again.

I think what people are saying is, unless Saddam Hussein makes that strategic decision, the disarming of Iraq is all but a certainty (ph).

BLITZER: How much evidence do you have linking Iraq, the regime of Saddam Hussein, to al Qaeda?

BARTLETT: Well, what President Bush has talked about in the U.N. speech back in September, and what has been known to the world, is that the Iraqi regime has had a lot of participation and cooperation with terrorist groups, including al Qaeda. He talked about, in that speech before the U.N., the fact that al Qaeda members received training in biological and chemical warfare, that some were seeking and finding refuge in Baghdad. These are very troubling concerns.

Again, going back to the larger strategic concern of this president, what makes it a threat to the American people and the entire world, is if this Iraqi regime, married up with these terrorists and giving them the know-how or the ability to either hand over these weapons of mass destruction or to teach them to do it on their own in other parts of the world, is of grave concern. And that's exactly why the president brought it to the world's attention, and that's exactly why we are where we are today.

BLITZER: But just update us on the alleged connection between Iraq and 9/11. Is there any hard evidence connecting?

BARTLETT: Well, you're talking about two different things. You said al Qaeda or 9/11.

BLITZER: Right.

BARTLETT: I'm not in a position right now to share intelligence information. That is not the role of the administration at this point.

What is clear is that there has been a long relationship in which Baghdad and al Qaeda have had a nexus relationship -- it's been of troubling concern -- providing training, providing refuge. And this is a real concern, and it's something that the president takes very seriously.

BLITZER: So the president is certainly not bluffing when you say that he's getting ready for the possibility of war?

BARTLETT: It's unfortunate, and it's -- as the president has said himself, we reluctantly put ourselves in this position to defend the peace. Saddam Hussein has the choice. It is up to him whether it is done peacefully or if it's done by force. President Bush understands that the need to disarm Saddam Hussein is necessary. He has made that case to the United Nations Security Council. He's made that case to the United States Congress. The entire world rallied behind this resolution that gives him one last chance. He has that chance, but time is running out.

BLITZER: You don't think he'll live up and accept that challenge, do you?

BARTLETT: All evidence points to the fact that Saddam Hussein has not made that decision, that instead of finally coming clean, finally saying the game is up, he has not.

In fact, he is taking active and aggressive steps to avoid detection of his weapons of mass terror. These are the worst weapons that can do harm to the entire civilized world. And it's our obligation to make sure we remove them.

Dan Bartlett, thanks for joining us on "LATE EDITION." BARTLETT: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Thank you. We'll be watching the State of the Union on Tuesday night.

BARTLETT: Thanks.

BLITZER: And for the Bush administration, a key day tomorrow as weapons inspectors in Iraq submit their long-awaited report to the U.N. Security Council. Will this lead the U.S. further down the path toward war with Iraq? We'll talk with two key members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Democrat Barbara Boxer of California and the chairman, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's not disarming. As a matter of fact, it appears to be a rerun of a bad movie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush making it clear he has no confidence Saddam Hussein is cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq -- The Weapons Report. Joining us now are two leading members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here in Washington, the committee's chairman, Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. And in her home state of California, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer. Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Mr. Chairman, let me begin with you. Are you convinced the threat from Iraq is that imminent right now that it requires, it demands the president to order U.S. men and women into harm's way?

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: Well, the president hasn't ordered them into harm's way as yet. But we would not be having any inspections, any diplomacy in Iraq if we did not have 150,000 troops that were pretty close by that Saddam could see on your network or anywhere else.

The fact of the matter is, it is only that armed force plus that of Great Britain and a few others that make any diplomacy possible.

BLITZER: So you're suggesting that the whole deployment is not necessarily needed to go to war but to have that threat of war that is convincing the Iraqis to cooperate with the U.N. Security Council?

LUGAR: Yes.

BLITZER: Is that what your point is? LUGAR: Ideally, Saddam will come to a conclusion that he should not hide the weapons, that he should take a look at the report, as should many Americans. Many Americans say, "Where's the beef?" Well, the beef is in U.N. reports.

All these weapons have been found before, they've been listed. Saddam has admitted the whole lot and hidden the rest. Now, the question is will he bring them out of hiding or will he show documentation they've been destroyed?

But he clearly will not do is that without there being a credible threat of force and a president who is resolute, who says he will be disarmed. He will be disarmed at the end of the day.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Boxer? Are you convinced that it's essential for the U.S. to have this fire power, the troop deployment in the region, in order to convince Saddam Hussein to cooperate with those inspectors?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Showing our resolve to Saddam Hussein is fine. I think more important is showing the world's resolve. And that's why I was so happy when, after a great deal of pressure from Richard Lugar for one, many Democrats and Colin Powell, the president decided to pursue the U.N.

And having the inspectors there, I think, is absolutely crucial. So right now, I would hope we can avoid war.

And your question to Senator Lugar was "Are we in imminent danger?" I don't think anyone's made that case yet, not even your guest from the White House. He really ducked that question.

The issue is how do we get this man to disarm? And the fact is the inspectors there is very important. Let them do their work, and they will find those weapons, they will destroy those weapons, and we can avoid war. And that's the key thing.

BLITZER: You really believe, Senator Boxer, that if the inspectors are there even for many, many more months in a state the size of your home state of California, they'll be able to find the weapons inside Iraq?

BOXER: I think if you look back at history, you will find, as Secretary Albright testified before our Foreign Relations Committee, that the inspectors actually destroyed more weapons of mass destruction than all of our bombs. So they're very good at this work and we should give them a chance.

If we really meant it when we went to the U.N. -- and I don't think the president really wanted to do it, but I give him credit for doing it -- then let's let it play out and let us not divide the world. For a president who said he's a uniter, not a divider, the world is looking at us in a way that says to them we seem a bit arrogant right now. And I would hope that we would not pursue this course of go it alone. BLITZER: All right. We're just beginning over here our conversation. We're going to take a quick break, but we have a lot more to talk about with Senators Lugar and Boxer. They'll also be taking your phone calls when LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq. The Weapons Report returns right after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The burden is on Iraq. Iraq must comply, or it will be made to comply with military force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Davos, Switzerland, this weekend, trying to shore up support among European allies for possible war with Iraq.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION: Showdown: Iraq. The Weapons Report." We're continuing our conversation with the Republican senator, the Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Richard Lugar of Indiana. And the Democratic senator, Barbara Boxer of California, also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Lugar, let's talk about the evidence that at least a lot of people want out there. The secretary of state spoke about it earlier in the week in an interview with Jim Lehrer. Listen to what the secretary said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: I believe that we have more information and knowledge, much of it highly classified, that others do not have access to, or at least say they are not aware of -- things that have gone on inside of Iraq. And I hope that we will have the opportunity to present this in the debate that's coming up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He wants to present more evidence. What's stopping him from just showing the evidence, other than leaving the impression that the administration is simply saying to the American public and to the European allies, "Trust us -- we know what's going on, you don't know"?

LUGAR: Well, the secretary doesn't have to ask anybody to trust anyone. He can cite the reports of the U.N. inspectors. The stuff was real. It's either there or it isn't.

The fact is that Saddam, by omitting it in his reports, or omitting any evidence that he's destroyed it, has left clearly the burden of proof there. People who are looking for pictures -- maybe we can produce some. Maybe this is a deficiency of all of us, not just the secretary. Maybe our office ought to publish pictures of what these things look like or how gas... BLITZER: Or where they are, specifically.

LUGAR: Yes, where gas was. I would just say that we know that if you hide this, and you can do so easily, you can move it down the road in 15 minutes later. You might have been there and thought you saw it, but you don't see it again. These are not huge installations, huge things that aerial photography looks at.

BLITZER: All right, Senator Boxer, what would it take for the secretary of state, the Bush administration to present to convince you that there was an imminent threat that justifies war right now?

BOXER: I want to see the inspection process continue. I want to see the administration give all of its proof, everything it has, to the U.N. inspectors.

Now, we know that we are giving them information, but we haven't yet given them all the information. And until that process is completed, I think, before we send our beautiful sons and daughters to face the possibility of the worst type of a war, we have to play this out.

And that's what I hope will happen, that we will continue to give the inspectors the time they need, we will give them the information that we have that Senator Lugar talks about, and make sure that they can track down all those leads.

BLITZER: The French and the Germans, Senator Lugar, as you well know, are resisting. They agree with Senator Boxer, if you will, that let the U. N. inspectors take as long as they need. There's no real threat right now. Let them get the job done.

Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary of the United States, had this response, a pointed response, earlier in the week, in response to the opposition coming from France and Germany. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's Old Europe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you make of that? Because the European -- the French and the Germans -- were pretty irritated at that notion, that they're part of Old Europe as opposed to the New Europe.

LUGAR: Well, Secretary Rumsfeld was very unhappy, so was Secretary Powell, when he was undercut by the French foreign secretary during the Security Council meeting. Undercut because the French clearly said, "If this is the last chance, produce the stuff. There are consequences." But suddenly they're talking about vetoing a second resolution which they had wanted. So there is irritation.

Now, my hope is that we will all realize that Europe is a big place, the French and the Germans are very important. This is why Powell will be going back to the U.N. on Wednesday and for many more days.

I agree that the diplomacy thing really ought to run. We felt that before. He created a miracle, I think, in seven or eight weeks getting a 15-0 resolution. He may do so again.

You know, people can say, "Well, it's very clear what ought to happen." But the opinion in Germany and in France and in a lot of countries, and including the United States, is skeptical.

It's saying "Where's the beef, and where's the evidence?" and the questions you asked before.

I think we really have to recognize that, and although people that discuss this every day and think they know all about it are impatient, we need to at least spell it out and try to get these resolutions moving ahead.

BLITZER: Senator Boxer, I want you to listen to what Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder, the leaders of France and Germany, said this week in the face of this drum beat for war, actually Chirac saying war always means failure, therefore everything must be done to avoid war.

Schroeder echoing that, "I have made it clear that on Germany's behalf we cannot agree to a legitimization of war."

Are you basically on the same page, Senator Boxer, as Germany and France?

BOXER: I'm on my own page. This is what I believe. I believe sometimes you have to use force. I gave the president the right to use force after 9/11.

I gave President Clinton the right to use force to bring down Milosevic because he was committing a genocide.

But I do believe, in this particular case, to turn on your friends and say, "You're old-fashioned, you're Old Europe," first of all it's ridiculous, because the oldest Europe is Britain, and they are sticking with the president.

Second of all, it's dividing the world. And I would say this. When the president speaks to us, I've got to say, the state of the union is anxious. about this war. And divided on this war. And anxious about this economy.

And now we've managed to get the whole world anxious. And I just think that this foreign policy is not working, to be honest.

BLITZER: You know, the son of Saddam Hussein issued a rather chilling statement this week. I think we have an excerpt from it. I want to play it for you and ask you a question. But listen to this. Uday Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UDAY HUSSEIN, SON OF SADDAM HUSSEIN (through translator): If they come, what they cried about on September 11th and what they saw as a big thing will seem like a picnic to them, a real picnic. They will be hurt, and they will pay an unimaginable price.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Lugar, you're privy to all the most sensitive information. Is he bluffing, or can he deliver when he says that 9/11 will look like a picnic compared to what the Iraqis will do to the United States if the U.S. attacks Iraq?

LUGAR: Well, presumably, Saddam's son is saying is they have weapons of mass destruction and they will use them. Now, you can't have it both ways, deny that you have any weapons of mass destruction and say try to find them, on the other hand threaten the United States with all sorts of things.

BLITZER: So you're saying he's not bluffing, he can deliver on that threat.

LUGAR: Oh, I think it's very possible. I think, you know, the last time we had the relatives, the son-in-law who went to Jordan, he spilled the beans, and that's the reasons that weapons inspectors came in and had a house cleaning.

They went through a lot of stuff. We just, I wish that the son of Saddam would go to Jordan and give us the information again, or somebody in the royal family, because that is probably the proximate cause of getting on with this.

BLITZER: It's a pretty chilling, it's a pretty chilling development, Senator Boxer, to hear Uday Hussein say that, that 9/11 will be a picnic compared to what the Iraqis are going to do the U.S. if they go to war.

BOXER: The threats of brutal dictators shouldn't dictate our policy. You should hear them that are coming out of North Korea. The bottom line is we need to disarm Saddam Hussein, we need to make sure those inspectors go and find those weapons, and we should listen to our own CIA instead of these brutal dictators and their propaganda.

Our own CIA, what do they say? They say that Saddam is much more apt to use whatever he's got if his back is against the wall. And he will use it against our beautiful people, and he will use it against his own people.

And we know he's done that before. So isn't it better to let the inspectors do their job? We have the no-fly zones over the north and the south.

He cannot stick his toe outside that country. He cannot do anything as long as the whole world is watching. Why don't we do what we did after 9/11 and keep the world with us?

And that's the policy, I think, that will work, and it's the policy I talked about on your show a way long time ago, when I said let's take the high road, and the high road is intrusive inspections and disarmament.

BLITZER: All right. Let me ask Senator Lugar. You know a lot about nuclear weapons, Lugar-Nunn, as the legislation, of course, designed simply to deal with the elimination of these kinds of nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration apparently is not ruling out the possibility of a first strike nuclear strike against Iraq if necessary, if it comes down to that.

You just heard Dan Bartlett refuse to rule it out. Earlier Andy Card refusing to rule it out. What do you make of this refusal to rule out a nuclear strike against Iraq?

LUGAR: Well, I've not heard any discussion of that at all. I would go back to what Senator Boxer just said. Our policy is negotiation. Powell at the U.N., bringing together the U.N., trying to get Saddam to declare, hoping the inspectors against hope will find something.

All we're saying, our president and all the rest of us, at the end of the day, Saddam has to realize he will be disarmed. He doesn't understand that. I don't think he believes it. And that's the critical point.

BLITZER: All right.

Senator Boxer, you probably saw that story in the Los Angeles Times yesterday about not ruling out a nuclear strike if necessary against Iraq. What do you make of it?

BOXER: It's very chilling to talk about first use of nuclear weapons. And I wish we didn't go down to that path. The whole world knows that we are the superpower, we are for sure the only superpower, we have an arsenal that could destroy every man, woman, and child in the world ten times over.

We don't have to, it seems to me, go around beating the drums for war. The real test of our leadership is bringing the world together, as we did after 9/11, and resolving these issues in the best way we can with the least loss of life. And if we were to do this, I think it would be a new day.

But right now I have to tell you I am concerned about it, I am anxious about it, I think the administration has been divided. I think up to now Colin Powell has been a voice for reason. I don't know now if he is still pushing for a diplomatic solution. And I'm very concerned.

And I want to say, in behalf of many people in this country, let's lay out a path to resolve this peacefully that will lead to disarmament.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Boxer, we're going to have to end it right there.

Thank you very much for joining us. Senator Lugar, thanks to you as well.

I want to take a quick commercial, but before I leave I want to just point out one of the other questions in our new CNN/"Usa Today" Gallup poll asked, should the U.N. inspectors be given more time? The answers, yes, 56 percent. No, 41 percent. That's in our latest CNN/"Usa Today"/Gallup poll being released this hour. 56-41, the inspectors should be given more time.

We have much more to talk about. We'll get some additional perspective from a panel of experts. All that, much more coming up. Our special LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq -- The Weapons Report. For some further insight into the challenges facing U.N. weapons inspectors, we turn to four distinguished guests.

Richard Spertzel is the former head of the United Nations Biological Weapons Inspection Team. Terrence Taylor is a former U.N. inspector, now Assistant Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Jonathan Tucker is also a former U.N. weapons inspector. And Pat Lang is a former Pentagon Middle East intelligence analyst.

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION. Always good to have all of you on our program.

Mr. Taylor, let me begin with you. And as concisely as you can, what do you expect to hear from Hans Blix and Dr. Mohammed El-Baradei tomorrow when they make this report to the U.N. Security Council?

TERRENCE TAYLOR, FORMER U.N. INSPECTOR: Well, I would expect to hear that there will be cooperation from the Iraqis in terms of giving access to the inspectors and certain other aspects like that.

But I think we'll expect them to say again, as they've said quite recently, that the Iraqis are not fully cooperating in the sense of giving new information. There's nothing that's been added to their -- what was supposed to be their full and final complete declaration on the 7th of December.

BLITZER: So if they don't proactively -- if they don't volunteer information...

TAYLOR: That's right.

BLITZER: ... along the lines that South Africa did when they disarmed and they eliminated their nuclear program in the late '80s. Is that, in your opinion, justification for war?

TAYLOR: Well, it's certainly a material breach not to deliver all this information and it hasn't moved the inspection process forward at all. And the inspectors are going to have a tough job unless the Iraqis come up with new information.

BLITZER: Mr. Spertzel, do you agree?

RICHARD SPERTZEL, FORMER HEAD, U.N. BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS INSPECTION TEAM: One hundred percent, Wolf. The -- it's apparent from the very beginning that Iraq really isn't going to be cooperating. And without that cooperation, the inspectors don't have a chance.

BLITZER: They can't find the stuff. Is that what you're saying?

SPERTZEL: If they find anything, it will be pure luck. It's unreasonable to expect them to find a loaded gun, a loaded munition. It took -- in biology, because Iraq chose to deny it -- it took four and a half years to even identify the program and forced their recognition that we knew about it.

BLITZER: The only way the U.N. inspectors, therefore, if you believe what Mr. Spertzel is saying and he's an expert on this, Mr. Tucker, is that if there are scientists, defectors or others, who cooperate and spill the beans, if you will, and say where the material is.

JONATHAN TUCKER, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, that is one way. There are other ways of piecing together a mosaic of evidence indicating that Iraq has not been fully forthcoming in its declaration. So there could be, for example, trade import data. It could be aerial surveillance information that indicates that a new facility has been built and that is suspicious.

So piecing together those bits of information can give the inspectors a way to put pressure on Iraq to come forward with additional information.

BLITZER: You used to do this for a living, when you were at the Pentagon, look for those little tiny pieces of evidence and try to understand what's going on. Do you believe they're going to be able to do that without active cooperation from the Iraqi government?

PAT LANG, FORMER PENTAGON MIDDLE EAST INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, I think probably if you put together all the bits and pieces of information that U.S. and British intelligence have now of the kind that this gentleman was referring to, you can already construct a very nice inferential conclusion, you know, that in fact, Iraq has done all these things that we accuse them of. And I believe, in fact, they have done these things.

You've heard this expressed before, in what Mr. Blair has said and what Paul Wolfowitz said the other day. But in fact, that's a big problem in that the public doesn't, I think, find that to be altogether convincing as a basis for going to war, that you can reach a conclusion by inference as to what is probably going on.

They want to, in fact, see something like the photographs that John Hughes at DIA showed of the Cuban missile -- of Soviet missiles going to Cuba in '62. And, as to the issue of interviewing scientists, you know, I've said this before. The mechanics of how you, in a totalitarian state, you in fact, get some guy to tell you that he wants to be taken out at the risk of his family. It's hard for me to imagine. So, I think, odds are not running in the right direction here.

BLITZER: Let's take a quick call right away from Georgia. Go ahead Georgia with your question for our panel.

CALLER: Yes, my name is Ken. I'm calling from Georgia. My question to your panel would be why wouldn't the Bush Administration give the weapons inspectors more time to do their job?

BLITZER: That's a fair question a lot of people are asking. What's wrong, Mr. Taylor, with just letting the inspectors continue on, not only for months, but maybe for years?

TAYLOR: Well, I think, we don't want a repeat of the 1990s. I think keeping the status quo is too dangerous. We knew that in the 1990s, the Iraqis were continuing their weapons programs. They were continuing to build, for example, their main biological weapons production sites.

BLITZER: But the argument that some have made is that, as long as they're being contained, and the inspectors are there, they're watching, what's the rush to war, they're not going to be able to do anything really harmful to U.S. or coalition national security interests.

TAYLOR: Well, I think they would be able to continue working on their weapons of mass destruction programs. It's clear that they did that during...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Even with the inspectors on the ground?

TAYLOR: Even with the inspectors on the ground.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that Mr. Spertzel?

SPERTZEL: I fully agree with it. And I think you're overlooking something extremely vital, and that is I believe the greatest risk to the United States is in Iraq's providing some of the WMD material to terrorists.

And I can tell you right now that you would not -- the inspectors being present would not prevent that from happening.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to pick up that point in a moment and ask you this question, because I know all of you have opinions. Has there ever been any evidence that Iraq ever has provided weapons of mass destruction material, biological or chemical, to any terrorist group, individuals or groups? We're going to pick that up when we come back. We have a lot more in the next hour of LATE EDITION. We'll get some more insight from our weapons and intelligence analysts.

Plus crafting a State of the Union address. We'll get the inside story from two former presidential speech writers.

All that plus Pakistan's foreign minister, he'll be here live with me. Much more. And your phone calls.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is a special "LATE EDITION," "Showdown Iraq: The Weapons Report."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U. HUSSEIN: If they come, what they cried about on Sept. 11 and what they saw as a big thing, will seem like a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A chilling threat from Saddam Hussein's son. Now, a day before U.N. weapons inspectors report to the U.N. Security Council, our panel of experts tells us whether Iraq can deliver on that threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: I don't think we'll have to worry about going it alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Will a key player in the war against terror also support a possible war against Iraq? We'll talk with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The state of our union has never been stronger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush prepares to address a nation on the brink of a possible war and a troubled economy. We'll get a State of the Union preview from two former presidential speechwriters.

And Bruce Morton on the widening rift between two continents.

Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION." We'll continue our conversation about weapons inspections inside Iraq in just a moment. But first, here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a CNN News Alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Fredricka.

We're going to continue our discussion now on weapons inspections with a panel of experts. The former weapons inspectors Richard Spertzel, Terence Taylor, Jonathan Tucker and the former Pentagon intelligence analyst, Pat Lang.

Mr. Tucker, we left off on this question: Is there any evidence Iraq has ever supplied biological or chemical agents, weapons of mass destruction, to any terrorist group out there?

TUCKER: There is absolutely no evidence of that. And in fact, the CIA has assessed that the most likely contingency under which that would occur would be a U.S. invasion of Iraq, that we would provoke the very thing that we most fear.

So I think it would be wiser for the inspection process to continue until the U.S. has built an international coalition and until we have persuaded the U.S. public that there is an imminent threat from Iraq that we need to address.

BLITZER: Do you have any evidence that contradicts that, Mr. Spertzel?

SPERTZEL: With all due regard to the FBI and their investigation of the anthrax letters, until the origin of that material is identified, I hold out that the most likely source of that is Iraq.

BLITZER: Why do you say that?

SPERTZEL: Because of the quality of the product, the additive material that's been -- apparently is in it. That is a better product than anything that the U.S. or the Soviets ever made. It requires a superior program, not something that alone, terrorists would do in his back yard or his garage or his basement.

BLITZER: You agree with that assessment, that Iraq might be the source of those anthrax-laced letters that were sent to various senators and media personalities, killed a bunch of people here in the United States?

LANG: Well, I think there's no evidence to support that allegation. Until we come up with much stronger evidence, I think it would be irresponsible to come to that conclusion.

BLITZER: Have you seen any evidence to suggest the Iraqis are giving weapons of mass destruction to terrorists?

TAYLOR: Not that actual act, but we do know that terrorist groups who might use these kinds of weapons do operate in Iraq and do visit Iraq and are in regular touch with Iraqi officials. That's clear.

I think it's too dangerous not -- to leave this question not dealt with efficiently over the next few months.

BLITZER: Pat Lang, what do you say? LANG: Well, the presence of these people in Iraq over the years, I think, is not conclusive, because Saddam thinks himself a mastermind of Middle Eastern politics, you know. And, as far as he's concerned, all these terrorist groups are players in the Middle Eastern world of violent politics.

And so the fact that he would have them around or conduct meetings with them I don't think necessarily means that there is a connection there. And I have a tough time believing that, other than an extremist, as some have said, that he would hand over things of quite this kind of nature to groups that he thinks are undisciplined.

BLITZER: Well, which raises the question about Syria. Last week on this program the Israeli foreign minister Benjamin Netanyahu, exactly one week ago, said that the Israelis believe there's no doubt that the Iraqis have sent various weapons of mass destruction for storage, for safekeeping to Syria. Is that within the realm of possibility, as far as your assessment's concerned?

LANG: Yes, you know, I was really intrigued by that. There have been a number of stories that indicate the Israelis think that's true.

Of course, a lot of people pooh pooh that, they say, well, this is the Israelis pushing their point of view for their own advantage. So I looked into this. And I had -- from within Syria itself, I have some very good information, I think, which would indicate that there probably is a faction in Syria which may well have done this for money, fearing, in fact, that they're next on the list over noncooperation over Hezbollah and one thing or another, and that they might as well get as much money out of the Iraqis before they have to go live on the Riviera or something.

So I think there's a pretty good chance that this might be true. I don't think it implicates the president of Syria himself.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But you think that something could happen without President Al-Asad knowing, within that very closed society, what's going on?

LANG: Yes, it's a closed society, but it's a closed society which is riven by a number of factions of various kinds between Sunnis and Shiahs and people who are partisans of this foreign government and that foreign government.

And there are an awful lot of people who do not have full confidence in the fearsomeness of this president and are willing to play their own game for their own benefit.

BLITZER: All right. Let me go around the table and just get everybody's assessment. Is that credible in your opinion, based on what you know, that the Iraqis may have sent some sensitive weapons of mass destruction material to Syria, its neighbor?

TAYLOR: They may have done, indeed. I don't think necessarily even at the behest of the heads of the governments or with the agreement of the heads of the government, this is the danger.

As someone who's been an inspector in Iraq, I've been constantly surprised: all our sort of assessments over how they might use these weapons, and so on, surprise after surprise, after working, being involved with it over about four and a half years. And Dick Spertzel has been involved much longer than that.

And so I would worry about this deeply. And I think heads of governments need to take this into account.

BLITZER: Mr. Spertzel?

SPERTZEL: Oh, very much. You know, we need to recall that Iraq sent their planes to Iran, a country they had just ended a war with, in 1990.

So...

BLITZER: They're still in Iran as far as we know, right now.

SPERTZEL: They're still in Iran.

And so it wouldn't surprise me whatsoever that they would move their weapons of mass destruction out of any place that they think the inspectors might possibly go.

BLITZER: What do you think, Mr. Tucker?

TUCKER: I think it would be extremely unlikely. Saddam has always maintained extremely tight control over these weapons because of their enormous power.

And it would be really very, very unusual and not at all typical of Saddam's behavior for him to transfer any control of these weapons to another organization, let alone another state.

LANG: I think you're probably not talking about weapons here. You're talking about the materiels that go into the precursor chemicals...

TAYLOR: Exactly.

LANG: ... and large amounts of machines of various kinds that they need, infrastructure that they need for their programs.

I think I believe what the Iraqis are trying to do right now is outplay us in the political and inspection game, in the belief that eventually it'll become impossible for us, we'll go away, and they can bring the stuff back.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I think we have a caller from Iowa. If you're there, Iowa, go ahead and ask your question.

CALLER: I'm a Naval Reserve officer and do have a security clearance, and I'm very, very concerned because the onus seems to have shifted from Saddam coming clean with what he has to the inspectors playing this cat-and-mouse game. And I'm very concerned about that shift of responsibility, and how do we shift the responsibility back to Saddam, and then fill in the disconnect with the public that exists?

BLITZER: Let me let Mr. Tucker answer that. Go ahead.

TUCKER: OK. Well, I think the onus is on Saddam, but, because he has not come forward and there is a lack of compelling information, I believe that the U.S. government has some obligation to provide the intelligence it has to the inspectors, so that they can come up with more compelling information that will make the case to the international community and the U.S. population.

BLITZER: Because the American public is confused right now. What's wrong? You used to work -- you spent a career in the intelligence community. What's wrong with making this information public, so that you have strong public backing if it does come down to a war?

LANG: Well, at the beginning of this extended discussion, you know, I kind of bought the idea that sources and methods, protection of sources and methods justified only handing out, you know, complicated inferential judgment on this.

But I think we're down to a point now where you see a steadily slow decline of American public support for war in Iraq, a war that will probably occur in any event.

And we're down to the point now where the rubber meets the road, from the Bush administration's point of view. And they ought to take into consideration the fact that that may well overrule the sources and methods arguments. I think they ought to show what they've got.

BLITZER: Should they show to it the inspectors first, so that the inspectors can actually go out and look at these places, or would that be dangerous to U.S. intelligence gathering capabilities?

TAYLOR: Well, I think it would need to be handed over very carefully in order not to compromise the sources and not to let the intelligence in any case leak out. So it's very difficult for an international organization to contain it.

But certainly there needs to be more public explanation. But I think there's a responsibility on political leaders, from whatever part of the spectrum they come from, to actually not deny the facts.

There's a whole mountain of evidence in the public domain from the last inspection period in the 1990s. It should not be ignored. It didn't all start with Resolution 1441 last December.

So I think people need to take account of the full spectrum of the evidence that is publicly available.

BLITZER: Presumably tomorrow, Mr. Spertzel, Hans Blix and Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, the chief inspectors, will say that they're getting good cooperation as far as Iraqis letting them go where they want to go.

Yes, there's some problems with U-2 overflights, and yes, the Iraqi scientists want to have minders or Iraqi government officials sitting in on the interviews when the inspectors want these interviews to be private.

But I want you to listen to what General Hossam Amin of the Iraqi National Monitoring committee, the liaison with the inspectors, said about their level of cooperation. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL HOSSAM AMIN, IRAQI NATIONAL MONITORING DIRECTORATE: As we promised that we shall encourage the scientists to make the interviews, we did our best to push the scientists and to send them to the site. But they refuse to make such interviews without the presence of National Monitoring Directorate representatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: If the inspectors get to these scientists and the scientists say, "I'll do the interview, but I want somebody from my government to be there," can you blame them?

SPERTZEL: I can't blame them, particularly because I believe they have been told what will happen to them or their families or both if they don't.

I know one particular individual that I believe would, in fact, be forthcoming. But there's no way the individual can afford to do it unless you can safely get the individual and his extended family out of Iraq.

And as Mr. Lang mentioned earlier, I don't know how that can be accomplished.

BLITZER: So far nobody's been taken outside of Iraq, as far as we know, for questioning.

TUCKER: Right. There have been defectors but nobody who has come forward has been taken out of the country.

BLITZER: In the last 60 days since the inspections resumed.

TUCKER: That's right.

BLITZER: You expect that might happen?

TUCKER: It's unlikely under the current circumstances unless Iraq can guarantee the safety not only of the individuals but their extended families.

SPERTZEL: Wolf, if I may add, I've already noted, for example, that Iraq has won one major point on the interviews, and that is if interviews are conducted, they're conducted at, quote, "A hotel," which is neutral territory.

It's maybe neutral but it's probably loaded with recording devices and television cameras. And so that's not a neutral venue, even in Iraq.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break but we have a lot more to talk about, including more additional phone calls for our guests. Stay with us, our special LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: He wants to focus the attention of the world on inspectors. This is not about inspectors. This is about a disarmed Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush keeping up the pressure on Saddam Hussein. Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking with former U.N. weapons inspectors Richard Spertzel, Terrence Taylor, Jonathan Tucker and former Pentagon intelligence analyst Pat Lang.

We have a caller from South Carolina. Go ahead with your question, South Carolina.

CALLER: If we produce the smoking gun, how do we insure the safety of U.N. inspectors?

BLITZER: That's a good question. What about that, the safety of U.N. inspectors? The presumption is that before the U.S. would go to war, the inspectors would be pulled out.

TAYLOR: That would have the be the case. Certainly, they'd have to be removed, as was the case in the 1990s when, of course, certain bombing took place on certain occasions. So certainly, that would be the case.

So I think the uncovering, the unlikely event, I might say the uncovering of a smoking gun, as it's called, which is more of a political statement than a technical statement, there would be time for that to happen.

BLITZER: When you were there, how worried were you about your personal safety when you were an inspector?

SPERTZEL: Initially, for the first couple of years, I really wasn't concerned because I always felt that Iraq could not afford to have something happen to an inspector, particularly if it could be shown that the government was behind it.

There were, later on, when some very specific threats were made to me by very, very senior people within Iraq, like a finger pointing across the table and saying, "You'll pay for this." BLITZER: That's when you got worried?

SPERTZEL: That's when I got worried.

BLITZER: Were you ever worried about your safety?

TUCKER: I wasn't, though we didn't -- the team I was on did not go to particularly sensitive facilities. I have a colleague, Tim McCarthy, who was on a number of more sensitive inspections in which he felt directly threatened, guns pointed at him, threats made in his presence.

So it really depended on the type of site that was visited in terms of the Iraqi response.

BLITZER: Based on everything we're hearing, Mr. Taylor, right now, it doesn't look like those kinds of threats are being made at the current team that's been in there for a couple of months.

TAYLOR: That's right, because the Iraqis are trying to prove and demonstrate cooperation. Because this was the case in the early '90s when they feared, of course, an immediate repast with a substantial military force. There wouldn't be any inspectors at all in Iraq now were it not for this credible use of the substantial use of force. It would sweep away the regime. This is a thing that makes a difference.

BLITZER: All right.

SPERTZEL: If I may add something quick. It also depends the type of sites. And with a couple exceptions, the present group of inspectors have not yet gone to any sensitive sites. These are sites that we had under monitoring. Iraq welcomed us to go to those sites.

BLITZER: One of the places they've been going are these mosques. At least they went to one mosque. And I've heard from various U.S. officials suggest there's been the bonanza of the building of mosques in Iraq because, presumably, they might be able to put weapons or sensitive material in or around mosques where they might not be bombed.

LANG: Well, I think they're certainly not above doing something like that. That's quite possible. Although you can also explain the construction of mosques and grand buildings as an attempt by Saddam Hussein to glorify his regime as the golden age of Iraqi independence, things like this.

But you have to remember about it, mosques -- that they're not, in fact, consecrated buildings. You know, they are, in fact, places that you go to pray. The word in Arabic is masjid, you know, which means place of prostration, in fact.

And it's not the same thing as a Christian church, which is consecrated to God's service. It's a building, in fact. And so all this posturing in the pulpit last week by (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Baghdad about the violation of the sanctity of a mosque, I think is just absolutely sort of pointless and meaningless. BLITZER: I think Muslims might disagree with you. But we'll leave that on another occasion. We have a caller from California. Go ahead, California.

CALLER: Hello. My questions is, does anyone on the panel believe Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction? And if you believe they do, what do you believe they have?

BLITZER: All right, well, let's go around, then ask Mr. Tucker first.

TUCKER: Well, I think it's very likely they have a residual capability in chemical and biological weapons. It's unlikely they have more than a research program in the nuclear area, because that program seems to have been pretty effectively eliminated by UNSCOM -- by the IAEA action team.

BLITZER: But, not necessarily if you listen to what the president said last Sept. 12, when he addressed the U.N. General Assembly. I want our viewers to listen to what the president said only a few months ago. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, that's a serious charge, which apparently some U.N. nuclear inspectors are now suggesting from the IAEA doesn't warrant the accusation the president said.

TUCKER: Well, I'm not a nuclear expert, but my understanding is that the Iraqi nuclear program has been basically emasculated, that it would be very difficult, it would take a period of years for Iraq to rebuild that program to the point of actually constructing a nuclear device.

BLITZER: Your expertise is biological weapons, but, you want to weigh in on the nuclear issue?

SPERTZEL: Well, I think that there are a number of people, such as (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and some of the IAEA people that were inspecting Iraq in the 1990s may disagree. I heard one very, very senior inspector with the IAEA at the time state that without inspectors present, that Iraq probably could have a nuclear weapon within a period of about three to six years, and the problem was you didn't know when that three to six years began.

BLITZER: Mr. Taylor?

TAYLOR: Well, I think it's a thing that we should be deeply worried about on the nuclear side, that something that I looked at as a commissioner, looking at the overall state of development of Iraqi programs.

My assessment is that we never found any of the bomb components. Certainly, the uranium enrichment facilities were found and dismantled -- that's absolutely right -- but they didn't find the bomb components. And so, Iraq has had 25 years working on these programs. They certainly, absolutely certain in my mind, they have the capable to build a bomb once they got their hands on fissile material, which they might get from abroad. In my view, it would only take months. I think it's slightly less than the president said.

BLITZER: Really.

TAYLOR: I think it's very serious. That's my nightmare scenario.

BLITZER: And I'll let you have the last word, Pat Lang.

LANG: Well, actually, I think the issue of how long it would take them to build a first weapon is kind of irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, as he says, they have the intellectual capital to do this. They've had the programs. They've worked on this for a long time. And no matter how long it takes to do it, once they achieve nuclear weaponization, they automatically become like North Korea -- sort of untouchable and able to strategically play a very different role in the region than they are now. They will become then someone you really have to deal with on the basis of something approaching parity in international affairs. That is not a situation that we want to have in dealing with this Iraqi government.

BLITZER: We're going to have to leave it right there. Pat Lang, thanks very much. Terrence Taylor, Richard Spertzel, Jonathan Tucker. Good of you to join us today on this important day as we await the U.N. weapons inspectors' report tomorrow.

Up next: simmering anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. Can the United States still count on that country's support in the showdown with Iraq and the war on terror? We'll ask Pakistan's foreign minister. LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION. Since September 11th, Pakistan has been a key U.S. ally in the war on terror. But the showdown with Iraq and the North Korean nuclear standoff are raising some concerns about the U.S.-Pakistani relationship.

Joining us now is Pakistan's foreign minister, Khurshid Kasuri.

Mr. Kasuri, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thank you very much for joining us.

KHURSHID KASURI, PAKISTAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you very much (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

BLITZER: Welcome to the United States. Pakistan is now a member of the U.N. Security Council...

KASURI: Yes.

BLITZER: ... so your country, one of 15, will play an important role in deciding what, if anything, should be done about Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction.

How imminent of a threat does Pakistan believe Iraq is to the region, to its neighbors, if you believe Iraq is a threat at all?

KASURI: Before I answer that question, just be fair to look at it from Pakistani perspective, also. And that is that we already have the situation of the Afghanistan borders.

Most of your viewers may know, but it's worthwhile reminding them that we hosted the largest refugee concentration of troops in history. 4 million people at one time were refugees.

And whatever happens in Afghanistan has ramifications in Pakistan. We've been an ally of the United States, a close ally in the war on terror, but there are political costs. And the political costs are our political opponents, the extremist parties, the fundamentalist parties would leave no opportunity to attack us if they got an opportunity.

And that's what brings me to Iraq.

BLITZER: So are you concerned that, if there's a war with Iraq, there could be a dangerous spill over against Pakistan?

KASURI: Well, there is bound to be repercussions. Whether "dangerous spill over" is the right way of putting it I don't know as yet.

It will really all depend on how we go about it from here. Now, for instance, in my opinion, it is absolutely vital that we give an impression that we are carrying international public opinion with us, but more importantly public opinion in the Islamic countries. They should not see it as hostile to Islamic world or to Islamic countries.

As far as the person of Mr. Saddam Hussein is concerned, that is not what is of particular worry to us, because, you know, whether he is there or he is not, there are some other Iraqis there.

But the issue is, will the action that is being contemplated lead to a large number of civilian casualties? If that is the -- if the answer is in the affirmative, it will have repercussions.

BLITZER: It could have a destabilizing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not only in Pakistan...

(CROSSTALK)

KASURI: Not just in Pakistan.

BLITZER: ... but other Muslim countries in the region.

KASURI: And let me say, there'll be repercussions in Europe and in your own country, where the public may be more divisive.

BLITZER: So, the bottom line is that what you're saying is, give the inspectors more time, let the inspectors do what they need to do, no rush to war.

KASURI: The bottom line is, carry the international community with you. And that, as reflected in the United Nations, is, carry the Security Council with you.

BLITZER: But it's not always to get that kind of international consensus on a sensitive issue like Iraq.

KASURI: No. Normally it is possible. And we're not on consensus at the moment, we have a situation in which United States very strong allies -- and Germany's not a permanent member but that's there, France is there. Russia is now an ally of the United States. No longer the old Soviet Union. China, you have a very good relationship with.

Of course France is there, permanent member. At the moment it seems like they're all in favor of giving the -- you know, the inspectors some time if the inspectors want time. We don't have the report as yet.

BLITZER: Should there be a second resolution, another U.N. Security Council resolution, passed before any action is taken?

KASURI: Now you come to the technical side of it. I will try and answer it politically. , whatever is required to carry public opinion with you should be done. And that'll make our position much easier.

BLITZER: We've seen some very anti-American protests in your country, in Pakistan. And we'll show some of the pictures on our screen. How is the mood in Pakistan right now, as far as the United States is concerned? How much anti-American sentiment is there?

KASURI: You see, it's very interesting you raise it. There was a demonstration of half a million in an Italian town recently. It didn't draw so much attention.

There are much larger demonstrations in London, Paris, Hamburg and maybe even in Washington. But Pakistan, for some reason, has come in the eye of the storm, as it were, since Afghanistan.

Every TV camera is present there, every network is present there. And since they have to make news, you have a demonstration of 500, and even this demonstration that you are showing has probably about 20 or 50 girls. But you can make it look like 2 million. Now, this is, you know ...

BLITZER: So you're saying it's not representative of the mood of the country as a whole? KASURI: No, it's not representative. There is no hostility to the United States, but I will be failing in my duty if I don't comment upon the fact that when there are civilian deaths, particularly in neighboring Muslim countries, bound to have repercussions.

But when you talk of anti-Americanism as a phenomenon, that, I think, is grossly exaggerated. And when you talk about demonstrations, there are definitely bigger demonstrations in European cities and even United States.

BLITZER: We remember almost exactly one year ago Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter, was kidnapped, taken and executed in Pakistan.

KASURI: Yes.

BLITZER: The widespread fear is that al Qaeda still operates inside Pakistan.

KASURI: Well, let me come to Daniel Pearl first. Pakistani security forces have managed to nab the killers, and they will meet the end that they deserve.

As far as incidents, unfortunate incidents of that type are concerned, my advice is the following: Foreign journalists, when they go to Pakistan, we are quite prepared to give them all help and all protection that they need.

But when they go to an original story they sometime take risks. In fact, many more of the journalists were killed in Afghanistan than there were in Pakistan.

And we regret the death of Mr. Pearl. The government did everything to nab the killers.

But that does not mean, you can have an incident in London, Hamburg, Paris, Philippines, anywhere.

BLITZER: That's fair enough, but here have been some ...

KASURI: You have questioned our security forces. Our security forces are very focused on that.

BLITZER: There have been some terrorist incidents at churches, Christian churches, in Pakistan, in Islamabad and elsewhere.

KASURI: Yes.

BLITZER: The question is, has al Qaeda resurfaced, or perhaps never left as a terror base within Pakistan?

KASURI: Let's put it like this. al Qaeda, from when you said never left, it was assumed that's their home. Not at all. They started in Afghanistan, but when Americans bombings started, now it's a question of philosophy, or it's am question of the strategy, what did they have in mind? Now, if they had closed the borders of Afghanistan, al Qaeda would not have escaped. But when you start bombarding Kabul and Jalalabad, where do they run?

They run to Pakistan, to Iran, to Uzbekistan, to Tadjikistan, to Turkmenistan, wherever they can go. So they have to go somewhere. But to say that they are regrouping in large numbers is simply not correct for the following reasons.

We have, despite the fact that we had 1 million Indian troops concentrated near our border during the year, we spared 70,000 troops for our American allies to seal the border with Afghanistan.

No country which has been threatened on one front has ever done that before. But we did that.

BLITZER: Let me ask you a question about an article in the New Yorker, which I'm sure you read, by Seymour Hersch, the investigative journalist.

Among other things he writes this, and I'll read it to you and put it up on the screen: "Since 1997, the CIA said, Pakistan had been sharing sophisticated technology, warhead design information and weapons testing data with the Pyongyang regime in North Korea. Pakistan, one of the Bush administration's important allies in the war against terrorism, was helping North Korea build the bomb." Is that true?

KASURI: No, it's not true. First of all, I'd like to draw attention to two or three factors. Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken to President Musharraf.

I have been foreign minister only for two months, and I've had the, this showed the level of interaction between Pakistan and the United States at the highest level, I've had four conversations, including a meeting with the secretary of state, and I have another meeting on the 29th.

There's very close coordination between CIA in Pakistan and ISI. Nothing is hidden. Now we come to this report specifically, the one that you refer to.

First of all, our program is very advanced and it's entirely indigenous. There are thousands ...

BLITZER: Your nuclear program?

KASURI: Yes, nuclear and missile program.

BLITZER: Have you provided information or expertise or material to North Korea?

KASURI: No, we have not. And in fact, when some American officials raised it indirectly in our conversations, we said there's no question. The secretary of state when he was quoting the president of Pakistan said "He's given me 400 percent assurance," it implied, although he was just quoting, that he agreed, he believed in those assertions of the president of Pakistan.

Nothing has happened while President Musharraf was the president. Nothing has happened since we've been in power. And I can tell you something else, that there is a lot of focus on Pakistan.

Nothing has happened while President Musharraf was president. Nothing has happened since we've been in power. And I can tell you something else, that there is a lot of focus on Pakistani nuclear program.

Why doesn't Mr. Hersch, and some of his colleagues tell us why did Canada stop helping India on it's nuclear program? Because there was a violation of the agreements from the government of Canada and the government of India.

Why has there been no investigation how India was able to build a bomb with the help of Soviet Union? And it had help from many other sources.

There's a reason why there's a focus on Pakistan's activities. There are a lot of people who are unhappy with the growing relationship between Pakistan and the United States, and they will miss no opportunity to drive a wedge between the two.

BLITZER: We don't have a lot of time...

KASURI: Yes, yes.

BLITZER: ... but let me talk about India for a moment, India/Pakistan. I was in India and Pakistan. I was in Kashmir which, until recently, a lot of people thought was the most dangerous spot on earth because of the nuclear tensions, between India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers.

Right now, your assessment. How dangerous is the situation between India and Pakistan especially in the aftermath of some Indian missile testing that's been going on these past several weeks?

KASURI: India has been trying to up the end, because it suits India to built rhetoric against Pakistan, the Muslims of India. Because they find, as in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that it yields electoral dividends.

That is the greatest threat. It's even bigger threat than the nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan. When a political party thinks that it's to its political advantage to use this, and this has happened repeatedly, that now they have four elections coming in states of different states of India leading to 2004 elections in (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

I would therefore appeal to the international community, particularly to our American friends, to apply pressure so that both India and Pakistan, two countries nuclear armed, some of the largest standing armies in the world. India has 1 million plus, we have 500,000 plus. That's a recipe for disaster. And what do we say to them? When I became Foreign Minister of Pakistan, my first statement, and I drew a lot of flack in the local press for that, was that one of the priorities in my tenure should be the improvement of relations with India. Prime Minister Jamali himself offered to the Indian Prime Minister to come to Islamabad for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Conference as did I invite him and my counterpart.

BLITZER: So the bottom line, is there a threat, is there a real danger, realistic danger right now of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan?

KASURI: Nobody in his right mind would contemplate using nuclear weapons. But there is a real danger when you have a political party which has a vested interest, as the case of subsections of the BJP in ratcheting up tensions towards Pakistan and towards the Muslims of India.

BLITZER: All right. I'm sure the Indian government has a very different assessment. And we'll get that on another occasion, but unfortunately, we have to...

KASURI: The Indian -- even the Indian polity is divided on that. Let me say without fear of contradiction, the Congress party and many other political parties of India are very unhappy of the fact that a person who is blamed as violator of human rights by international human rights organizations is now the chief minister of that state of Gujarat.

BLITZER: Well, we'll talk about that on another occasion.

KASURI: Yes.

BLITZER: We'll continue it. Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister, for coming to Washington. Thank you for joining us on LATE EDITION.

KASURI: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure being with you.

BLITZER: I hope this is the first of several appearances on our program.

KASURI: I look forward to meeting you in the future.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

KASURI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, Bruce Morton's essay on the rift between the United States and Europe. As President Bush prepares for his State of the Union address on Tuesday, we'll go behind the scenes as well with two former presidential speech writers about crafting a message for the nation and, indeed, for the world. Our special LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Now time for Bruce Morton on the U.S./European rift over Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A scholar named Robert Kagan wrote a paper, now out as a small book, which argues that Europe and America now have very different views of the world. "Europe," he says, is turning away from power, moving into a self- contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation." "United States," Kagan writes, "lives in a world where international laws and rules are unreliable, and where true security still depends on the possession and use of military might."

Well, Europe, of course, is trying to become one, a single currency, plans for a European military force, talk of a constitution and so on. And the United States certainly seems ready to use military force alone against Iraq.

BUSH: If Saddam Hussein will not disarm, the United States of America and friends of freedom will disarm Saddam Hussein.

(APPLAUSE)

MORTON: And, Bush warned Iraqis: Don't resist us.

BUSH: If you choose to do so, when Iraq is liberated, you will be treated, tried and persecuted as a war criminal.

MORTON: That certainly is the U.S. going it alone. Or, is it just the U.S. president?

SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The threat from Iraq is not imminent, and it will distract America from the two more immediate threats to our security. The clear and present danger of terrorism and the crisis with North Korea.

MORTON: And a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows more Americans worry the U.S. might move too quickly against Iraq than too slowly. Other polls show Americans think the U.S. should invade only if the United Nations approves the attack.

So, there's a question: Is America in a more "lone-wolf, for-us- or-against-or-against-us mood"? Or is mostly President Bush who wants Saddam's head on a platter?

And if it is Mr. Bush, why? Because his father chose not to finish off the dictator, fearing it would wreck the coalition he had assembled? Or because he sees Saddam as a genuine danger without so far having really convinced the voters? Hard to know.

Also hard to know: how costly an invasion would be and how Americans would react to heavy U.S. casualties. What we do know is the economy is shaky. Voters are skeptical about the president's tilting toward the rich proposed tax cut. Deficit spending is soaring, and Americans tell pollsters the country is headed in the wrong direction. Mr. Bush is still a good bet to win a second term. Polls show just under 50 percent say they'd vote for him. But he's not as good a bet as he was six months ago.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce. Up next, we'll talk about Tuesday's State of the Union address by the president. We'll speak with two former presidential speechwriters.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: As we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession, and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet the state of our union has never been stronger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush giving a State of the Union address last year, as the United States was still recovering, of course, from the September 11th attacks. I think we're still recovering even today.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining me now to preview this year's speech are two special guests: in New York, the former chief Clinton speechwriter, Michael Waldman, and here in Washington, the former Reagan speechwriter Clark Judge.

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION, thanks for joining us.

Mr. Judge, walk us through behind the scenes right now, the 48 hours before the speech Tuesday night. What is President Bush doing to prepare for this speech?

CLARK JUDGE, FORMER REAGAN SPEECHWRITER: Well, it varies from administration to administration. For example, in some administrations they'd still be working on the speech at this time. Not in ours, in the Reagan administration, we'd have been done with the speech. If there were any changes, they'd be minor at the end.

In this administration, which is unusually disciplined, they've probably been done with the speech for more than a week. The president's rehearsing it. He may be putting last-minute touches on it. But the bulk of the lifting is done.

BLITZER: I remember, the first few years at least of the Clinton administration, Michael -- and I'm sure you remember as well -- I think the president was tweaking with his speech, President Clinton at that time, even as he was driving up to Capitol Hill in his limo. Is that fair?

MICHAEL WALDMAN, FORMER CHIEF CLINTON SPEECHWRITER: Well, we all still have some gray hairs from all that.

It's true that President Clinton would work on it up until the very end, and actually part of what he would do is, he would rehearse for days on end, and rewrite at the podium as he was rehearsing.

President Bush, I know, is rehearsing now. I'm guessing that the section that is perhaps going to undergo revision hour by hour are the parts dealing with Iraq and foreign policy.

BLITZER: Well, why do you say that? Because it seems that this is a very disciplined administration, and they probably had those sections ready to go at least within the past several days, as we just heard.

WALDMAN: I'm sure there's some truth to that. And I'm sure that what they're doing is checking what they have against the reality day by day. Not necessarily writing a new justification for war with Iraq or for trying to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction. But making sure that there's nothing in the inspectors' report that needs responding to, that kind of thing.

But it's definitely true. They've probably figured out what they're going to say long ago.

JUDGE: Yes, the inspectors' report is the one likely wild card in this.

But...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: That report's coming out tomorrow.

JUDGE: That report's coming out tomorrow.

But if you looked at some of your competition this morning, and other statements out of the administration over the last couple of day, it's clear that they have their message down. They're foreshadowing what's going to be in the speech on Tuesday night. You see the same phrases keep coming up and up.

So they clearly have their act together. They've thought it through, and they're doing a runup to the speech right now.

BLITZER: Michael, there's -- obviously this administration has its work cut out for themselves. The president and his speech to convince a confused American public.

I'll put some numbers up from our newest CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, which is just coming out this afternoon. U.S. troops to Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Look at this. 31 percent favor the use of U.S. troops regardless of the U.N. inspections. 14 percent oppose regardless of the U.N. inspections. 50 percent say it depends on the outcome of the U.N. inspections, which suggests that the president has a lot of explaining to do. Would you agree?

WALDMAN: Well, I think he's going to have a very attentive audience in the American people. My sense is that a lot of citizens haven't really focused on this until quite recently, and are willing to believe if it's persuaded that this is something we have to do.

I think that the tone, if he's wise in this, that he should strike, is very similar to the one he took before the United Nations last September 12th. Really lay out some facts.

I don't think people, as eloquent as he has been on some of these occasions -- and he has terrific speech writers, and his speeches have been quite good -- I think it's the hard facts, the prose of those facts, rather than the poetry of the rhetoric, that's going to matter this time.

BLITZER: A slight majority still, Mr. Judge, continues to support the use of force to get rid of Saddam Hussein. And this poll number, we'll put it up: U.S. troops to remove Saddam Hussein from power: 52 percent of the American public, a small majority, favor the use of such troops to remove him from power; 43 percent oppose.

JUDGE: Yes, we've seen a lot of talk in the media over the last week about slipping numbers for the president, slipping support.

But, if you look at the desire for the U.N. to sign off, that's been pretty consistent all the way through. The president's numbers, while they've slipped -- I think one of the other networks this morning said they'd slipped from 79 percent to 59 percent. In most presidential terms, that's not a slip. Fifty-nine percent's a strong number...

BLITZER: Relatively speaking...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... they're still good numbers for a president...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... and at this term...

JUDGE: Some of the best numbers actually on record for a president at this stage.

BLITZER: All right, Michael, stand by. We're going to continue this. We're going to continue our conversation. But right now it's time to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.

Coming up for our North American audience, your phone calls for two former presidential speechwriters -- Michael Waldman and Clark Judge. Then we'll go live to San Diego, where security is incredibly tight for the big game coming up in about four hours. We'll be right back.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq -- The Weapons Report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The dictator of Iraq has got weapons of mass destruction. He has used weapons of mass destruction. He can't stand America and what we stand for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president prepares to deliver a crucial speech. The whole world will be watching and listening. How far will he go in setting the stage for war? We'll ask two former White House speech writers.

A different kind of showdown. East meets west. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers versus the Oakland Raiders. We'll talk to three mayors who have a lot on the line on this Super Bowl Sunday. Tampa's Dick Greco, Oakland's Jerry Brown and San Diego's Dick Murphy.

Then, fast-paced talk, Sunday style.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: It's not about a smoking gun. It's about whether Saddam is voluntarily disarming.

ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: The administration has jumped around from saying it's not going to negotiate with North Korea and suddenly, "Oh, sure we'll give them food."

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: The biggest problem for the anti-war movement today is that whenever their leaders speak, they discredit themselves.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They captivated moms and pops across the country and say, "Look, it's time to have another dialogue."

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BLITZER: LATE EDITION's "Final Round." You've got questions; they've got answers.

Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION. We'll get to your phone calls about the president's State of the Union speech in just a few minutes, but first, here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a CNN News Alert.

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Fredricka. I'm going to ask our guests to stand by for a few minutes because I want to go to Baghdad right now. Joining us is Dennis Halliday. He's the former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and the former U.N. coordinator to oversee Iraq's Oil for Food program. He's just met with Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

Mr. Halliday, thanks so much for joining us. What was the upshot of the message you heard from Tariq Aziz?

DENNIS HALLIDAY, FORMER U.N. ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL: Well, Wolf, thank you. It's a pleasure to see you again. Next time you should come with me.

But seeing Mr. Tariq Aziz is always a pleasure. He's a very articulate man. He gave me the concerns of the Iraqi government in terms of what he sees as the aggression of Washington and Mr. Bush. They're determined, of course, to defend their country, their sovereignty, the lives of their people.

They feel they're working, bending backwards to work with UNMOVIC and that should be appreciated. But there's deep concern here about the danger of warfare, the type of warfare that will take place and the cost of Iraqi lives.

BLITZER: Did you get the impression, Mr. Halliday, that the Iraqi government actually believes that war is inevitable, it doesn't make any difference what they do, what they say, that there's going to be a war?

HALLIDAY: That, I think, is the unofficial position of the people I've met with in government and certainly those I've met on the streets of Baghdad in the last few days. They don't see how we can stop Mr. Bush.

They don't feel there is anything to do with UNMOVIC or elsewhere that will change his mind.

And the secret for change, they feel, lies with the public opinion in the United States. And they're hopeful that many more Americans will begin to understand that war does not serve the best interest of the United States nor the best interests, of course, of the Iraqi people.

BLITZER: As you well know, the Bush administration, the president of the United States, they insist that the burden of proof must be on the Iraqis to volunteer information, to come clean as far as weapons of mass destruction capabilities are concerned, not simply to passively cooperate with inspectors.

In your meeting with Tariq Aziz did you get into that point?

HALLIDAY: No. You know, I'm not an arms person, I'm not a Scott Ritter, so I didn't get into arms per se. But, you know, having met General Saadi recently, the position is that they find it impossible to prove what they do not have.

And until we realize that and we accept what we find or don't find, I think we're never going to make any serious progress here. BLITZER: How worried are you personally, as someone who has spent many years studying the humanitarian situation inside Iraq, how worried are you about the potential devastation to average people in Iraq that a war could cause?

HALLIDAY: Well, I fear despite the horrors of the 1991 attack and the bombing of parts of this country, I think we're going to see more damage because I believe the focus will be on the towns and cities of Iraq, where some 70 percent of Iraqis live.

They are urban people primarily. There will be horrific damage. No matter how smart these bombs are supposed to be, there will be horrific damage, I fear, on the civilian population.

And if the United States uses depleted uranium again on missiles or heavy bombing of Baghdad, for example, I think we're going to see contamination for many years to come.

And that's a really frightening concept for Iraqi families, their children who are already suffering psychologically from the build-up, what they see on television. I think we have a very tragic situation in the building here in Baghdad.

BLITZER: And finally, Mr. Halliday, before I let you go, this notion of the Iraqis themselves, the Iraqi military unleashing a so- called scorched-earth policy, blowing up their own oil fields, for example, the way they did the Kuwaiti oil fields upon their retreat from Kuwait, how serious of a concern do you believe that is?

HALLIDAY: Well, I have assurance from friends in government that there is no intention to damage the resources of this country, the resources that belong to the people of Iraq.

So I don't think that's really an issue at all. I think that is part of our spin on what we anticipate. So let's not, I think, assume that there's going to be that sort of damage.

BLITZER: Dennis Halliday in Baghdad, just out of a meeting with Tariq Aziz and other Iraqi officials. Thanks, Mr. Halliday, for spending a few moments with us. Appreciate it very much.

HALLIDAY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's continue our conversation now with two former White House speech writers, Michael Waldman, who worked for President Clinton, and Clark Judge, who worked for President Reagan.

Let me pick it up with Clark Judge first. You heard Tariq Aziz say that he thinks that whether or not there'll be a war will depend on the battle for public opinion here in the United States when the president addresses the American public in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

That's going to be a huge burden on him.

JUDGE: Well, we just heard a big amount of spin out of Baghdad. He said he had assurances from the Iraqi government, his friends in the Iraqi government, and that, therefore, that was some sign of anything.

The Iraqi government is well-known and has a long history of lying at the drop of a hat, particularly about weapons of mass destruction, and with all the discoveries over the last week or so in Iraq of missile canisters prepared for biological and chemical weapons, it's pretty cheeky for him to get on and say that it's impossible for them to prove what they don't, that they don't have what they don't have.

As to Tuesday night, the president has been extremely effective in presenting the case repeatedly. He presented it before the U.N., he presented it numerous times over the last year or so.

He'll present it again Tuesday night. But what's going to drive actions with Iraq, whether we have war with Iraq, is what Iraq does. Do they give up their weapons of mass destruction?

We know that from their report to the U.N. recently that there were a lot of things that we knew they had when inspectors were not allowed in that they do not report now and they don't explain where they are.

So there's a lot of explaining they have to do. They're very dangerous.

The worry is, and as you know, Wolf, that when they hold these back, if we don't get them, if we don't stop them, that these weapons will be, one way or another, transferred to terrorists who will then use them in the United States and elsewhere.

BLITZER: Michael, last year there was a memorable line from the president's State of the Union address. I want you to listen to that line right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world by seeking weapons of mass destruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: As you know, Michael, the president repeated that "axis of evil" phrase several times, but more recently, he hasn't been using it much, presumably because of the North Korean situation that has developed.

How significant are these little phrases that presidents come up with in their State of the Union that speechwriters write for them in trying to shape, not only attitudes but, presumably, it could have an effect on foreign policy?

WALDMAN: We haven't heard much about the axis of evil lately; we haven't heard much about Osama bin Laden. There is some oldies but goodies that we probably aren't going to hear too much.

Every word a president says counts, and every word in a State of the Union counts even more. And, of course, this one, with so much converging all at once, really matters.

I think it would be a tremendous mistake for the president to repeat something like the axis of evil, which sounds good -- it's alliterative, it has a ring -- but really did, in my view, an enormous amount of damage to the foreign policy and diplomacy of the United States.

It is basically when a president of the United States gets up and says the three countries are the axis of anything, it's almost a rhetorical declaration of World War III. And by all accounts, including the account of former Bush speech writer David Frum, who Clark and I both know, North Korea's inclusion in that nice phrase was perhaps as much of an afterthought as anything.

BLITZER: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

WALDMAN: He should stick to the facts this time.

BLITZER: Let me let Clark weigh in on that. Go ahead, Clark.

JUDGE: We've had, we saw for a long time during the Clinton years the buildup of concern about these three nations in particular: their sponsorship of terror, their interest in weapons of mass destruction. What the president said last year was, the culmination of several years of concern about inaction that had been building and about the particular danger of these three countries.

You'll recall under the Clinton administration there was a move to downplay the danger posed by rogue states. They started calling them "states of concern." In the meantime, the danger built, we got September 11, and there was a strong feeling in the White House and, I think, in the country that we had to address these issues rather than let them fester more.

So, North Korea's proven itself to be that kind of a dangerous country since then, and in its recent announcements, and it's important to put these things on the table.

BLITZER: And we're told the president is going to continue some of his rehearsals even this afternoon.

Clark Judge, thanks very much for joining us.

Michael Waldman, always good to see you as well. Thank you very much.

Up next, as football fans gear up for the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl XXXVII, we'll speak with San Diego's mayor about hosting the main event, plus the mayors of Tampa and Oakland about cheering their teams on to victory. LATE EDITION will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders will be battling it out for football's biggest prize in just about 4 hours.

Joining us now from San Diego are three men who have a lot, a lot riding on this huge game: the mayor of Tampa, Dick Greco, the mayor of Oakland, Jerry Brown, and the mayor of San Diego, Dick Murphy.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. Welcome to LATE EDITION.

And, Mayor Murphy, let me begin with you, and talk to me about security. I understand security at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego is unprecedented. How tight is it?

MAYOR DICK MURPHY, SAN DIEGO: It is probably the most secure Super Bowl of all time. We have magnetometers checking people that come into the stadium. It's entirely fenced. We have a no-fly zone over the stadium, military aircraft in the air. This is probably the safest place in America, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you have a big port in San Diego, a lot of U.S. military personnel there. You're not far away from the Mexican border.

This has been a unique challenge for local, state, and federal law enforcement, hasn't it?

MURPHY: It has been, but we have a long history of working -- of the San Diego Police Department working with navy intelligence, with the FBI. We really consider ourselves safer in San Diego because of the military's presence, because of the intelligence and the manpower they provide us.

BLITZER: Mayor Brown, as our viewers of course remember, you were once the governor of California. Is there any reason at all, as far as you're concerned, for any serious concern about security going into the Super Bowl?

MAYOR JERRY BROWN, OAKLAND: Yes, I always think you have some concern. Given the kind of world we're in, and the advances in technology and motivation that exists with a lot of people. No, I think you have to be cautious, and you can never be absolutely sure that you've eliminated all risks. That's the way I see it.

BLITZER: In Tampa there's a huge air force base, McDill Air Force Base, Mayor Greco, so you're familiar with security situations, security considerations. How tight is it, from what you've seen in San Diego?

MAYOR DICK GRECO, TAMPA: It's quite tight and it's very well done. But security today is a way of life, Wolf. It's going to be for a long, time.

We're very familiar with it, all of us in our business today. Briefed constantly. In our case, with McDill Air Force Base, with FBI, with others, you take -- everything you can do you can do today, but it's a way of life. It will be with us for a long, long time.

They're doing a great job here from what I see.

BLITZER: Mayor Murphy, how different is this Super Bowl in San Diego from previous Super Bowls that have been in San Diego?

MURPHY: Well, the major difference is the security. In terms of the game planning and the events around the city, it's been pretty similar. But we had nothing like the security we have this year, back in the last time we had the Super Bowl.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: How important is this game, though, for San Diego?

MURPHY: Well, we consider it to be real important. It's a $300- million economic boon to the city. It's an opportunity for San Diego to show off our city to America.

You may notice that it's 80 degrees and sunny in San Diego today. I don't think that's the way around most of the country.

BLITZER: And what about for you, Mayor Brown, for Oakland? How important is this game for your city which, of course, is not necessarily as wealthy a city as San Diego is?

BROWN: Well, not by a long shot. But we're a gritty city, we're a come-back city, it's been growing, it's on the move. And the Raiders very much symbolize that fighting spirit, that underdog spirit. And so we're looking for a victory and we're looking for the Oakland name and reality and image to be projected all over the world.

So I think it's real positive. It's exciting, and I'll tell you, I'm not know as the big sports fan by any means, but I have to say in the city of Oakland, I have never experienced the kind of enthusiasm that that Raider nation has. They are something for the history books and the folks in San Diego are starting to get acquainted with them.

BLITZER: Mayor Brown, if Oakland...

BROWN: Hopefully, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: ... if Oakland were to win this game, would that translate into increased dollars for the city of Oakland?

BROWN: I don't know about that. You know, though, the direct benefits are somewhere. You know, they're speculative and people argue about that. And I mean, this is a form of entertainment. People enjoy it. They get very excited about it. But I wouldn't overstate the economic impact, particularly when this game is being played in San Diego and not in Oakland.

But it does give, I think, a sense of solidarity and enthusiasm to all our citizens. And we can well use that. So I think it's a plus. And, you know, that's all I can say. It's a great game and we're going to enjoy it.

BLITZER: Let me ask the same question to the Mayor of Tampa. Mayor Greco, what do you say?

GRECO: Well, we've hosted three Super Bowls in Tampa. I have never seen people so excited in my life. I've lived in Tampa all of my life, been in politics over the years with a small break, about 18 and a half years.

People are bananas in our town. They're absolutely crazy. They've waited 27 years for this. Mayor Brown and I were discussing earlier, I think one of the reasons everybody's so tremendously excited this year, there's a lot of downers going on, which you're participating in every day.

There's a lot of things in the world that are tremendously serious, and I think people are looking for something to have a good time with and they're certainly doing it at this Super Bowl. It's wonderful for all the cities. You can't measure what it means. People have something to rally around and for. It's tremendous. The excitement in Tampa is like I've never seen it.

BLITZER: Mayor Murphy, I want to show our viewers a poll that was done about the Super Bowl. The question was, what is the most entertaining part of the Super Bowl? Look at this: 33 percent of those who responded in this Gallup poll said the commercials were the most entertaining part of the Super Bowl, 48 percent the actual game, only nine percent said the half-time show was the most entertaining part of the Super Bowl.

As far as your concerned, Mr. Mayor, what do you say the most entertaining part of the game is?

MURPHY: Well, you know, I've been a long-time sports fan, so you know, I enjoy the game itself. So, you know, half-time will be fun, but the game will be the biggest part.

BLITZER: What do you like the best, Mayor Brown?

BROWN: Well, since I'm at the game, I won't be able to speak for the commercials, so I'm pretty focused on the game. I like it. I like as it gets toward the end, particularly if it's close. And I like -- hey, well you know, one thing, the Raider fans are pretty entertaining too.

BLITZER: All right.

BROWN: So you keep the cameras focused on them, and you'll see some hijinks you've never seen before.

BLITZER: I don't know if security is going to let them dress up as they normally do when they're playing in Oakland. But Mayor Greco, you like the commercials or the actual game or both?

GRECO: I like the fact that the people in Tampa are just absolutely crazy about this game and they're so excited. As far as being here at the Super Bowl, what I really like is how friendly everybody has been on both sides of the fence here and the people of San Diego have just been great.

You walk up and down the street, Raider fans say hi, Bucs fans say hi. It's been a wonderful, wonderful relationship with everybody. And I like Mayor Brown, too.

BLITZER: You want, hey look, we want to see this lovey-doveyness between Oakland and Tampa Bay. Let me get your final predictions on the final score. Mayor Greco, what's the final score?

GRECO: 20-10, Bucs.

BLITZER: All right, what about that, Mayor Brown?

BROWN: I think the Raiders will win by two touchdowns.

BLITZER: Two touchdowns -- you heard that. That's 12 points. Are you doing 12 points, or 14 with the extra point?

BROWN: I wanted to leave a little bit of ambiguity there.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, Mayor Murphy, what do you say?

MURPHY: You know, I am the mayor of the host city, Wolf. I can't take a position one way or the other. I want to make both cities happy.

BLITZER: Very diplomatic. Mayor Murphy, Mayor Greco, Mayor Brown -- let's hope for just a great game. Thanks to all of you for joining us. Good luck.

Thank you. Up next, "LATE EDITION's" final round: our panel -- ready to face off on the week's big stories. Our final round -- right after a CNN "News Alert."

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION "Final Round."

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

We begin with the showdown with Iraq. France and Germany are openly warning the U.S. against rushing into war, and they're urging more time for the inspections. But today the secretary of state, Colin Powell, told the World Economic Forum in Switzerland the Bush administration isn't willing to wait indefinitely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) POWELL: The United States believes that time is running out. We will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. We continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action against Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Peter, should the administration give the inspectors more time?

BEINART: I actually don't think so. I don't think they're going to find very much, because the truth is, they didn't find a lot even in the 1990s, when they were there for many years.

And the political reality is that France and Germany, other countries really don't want this war. They will go along with this war for only one reason, if they're convinced it's inevitable. And that's what the Bush administration has to do, to show them it's inevitable. It's like a bicycle, if it stops going forward, this war effort, it's going to fall down.

The Bush administration needs to make it clear it's inevitable. Then they may go along.

BLITZER: Donna, what do you think?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I think this showdown is now about to become a slowdown until Colin Powell can work his diplomatic magic and perhaps slow down until Tony Blair and the president can convince the doubting Thomases to be part of the coalition of the willing, and I think the administration should take this time to build a coalition and convince the American people why we're going to war.

BLITZER: What's wrong with giving the inspectors more time? It doesn't look like there's an imminent threat from Iraq that could affect the U.S. or its allies right now.

GOLDBERG: Well, first of all, there's a military window. There's only so much time where you can be effective on the ground, because later on it gets too hot, you can't use chemical suits and that sort of thing, and what is so outrageous about the French position -- I mean, forget the Germans, they've already said they're not going to have anything to do with this, no matter what, so why they have anything to say is beyond me.

But the French have been against containment for throughout most of the last part of the 1990s. They got out of the no-fly zone stuff, they called for repeal of sanctions, and for them to now say that they are in favor of containment is a level of chutzpah that is beyond belief. When they say they want more time, they basically mean they want no war. And the only way they're going to get into the war is if America goes anyway.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Robert, the U.S. contained the former Soviet Union during the Cold War for decades, and we all lived through that. What's wrong with containing Iraq right now, for months if not years to come?

GEORGE: Well, I think you've got a different situation here, and, while the rest of the world doesn't want to look at it, the United States sees the upcoming war against Iraq as part of the war on terror.

The concern, obviously, is that technology from Iraq and other such states can get in the hands of terrorists in a way that the United States, obviously, can't control.

So the containment strategy, where you had an opponent where you knew if they attacked us we could attack and destroy them, just does not work in this particular situation.

But I also want to add that you can see that Powell is now, there's no real distinction between the so-called hawks and the State Department in the current administration.

I think the French overreaching has brought, really, Powell on board.

BLITZER: So everybody seems to be on the same page right no.

GEORGE: Exactly.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that?

GOLDBERG: Yes, I think that's right, yes.

BLITZER: Everybody agree with that?

BRAZILE: Well, they're on the same page but I still don't believe that there's evidence to turn that page into, you know, preparing for war and actually going to war.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about this. Iraq is expected, of course, to be a major part of the president's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Today the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, said the president would attempt to quell the nation's anxiety about a possible war and, of course, a shaky economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The primary objective on Tuesday night, when the president talks about the United States of America and the state of our union, he will talk about more than just the situation in Iraq or the situation with inspectors or the situation with Saddam Hussein.

He'll be talking about our country and the expectations that we have. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What does the president, Robert, need to say Tuesday night?

GEORGE: This is really a values speech. As Card said, he's not going to get into the minutiae of inspections and everything else. I think he's going to talk about what the role of the world is.

We're no longer in the immediate post-9/11 situation. We're now, in a sense, embarking on this adventure against Iraq. But he really wants to say what the role of the world, the role of the United States is in the world, and in a sense to chart that leadership.

And I think that's what he's going to address.

BLITZER: When you say values, what do you mean by that?

GEORGE: Well, it's, I think, it's a sense of, the United States, we are the sole superpower and with that comes, in a sense, a heavy burden of leadership.

So, you know, what does that mean? And sometimes it means staring down the members of the alliance like, you know, France and Germany, saying, you know, not just because of our power, we have a vision of what the world looks like in a very dangerous time and you should follow us.

BLITZER: Donna, what does the president need to say Tuesday night?

BRAZILE: Well, there's no question that he's going to focus a lot of his time on the domestic agenda. The economy's dogging this president. He hasn't created one job.

Health care is no longer just an issue, it's a crisis. So I think the president's going to spend a bulk of his time trying to shore up his re-elect numbers and address the American people on the state of compassionate conservatism, which I think right now is in bad shape.

BLITZER: Two and a half million jobs lost since he took office. It's unfair to blame him for that, but that's a fact.

GOLDBERG: Oh, sure -- he'll get blamed for it, you know, no matter what, and that's politics. I think, first of all, the president needs to make a forceful case for a regime change in Paris...

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: ... no, and seriously, what he needs to do is, he needs to reframe, in terms of the foreign affairs, he needs to reframe this debate, to stop making it about the burden of proof for the United States and more about the burden of proof for Saddam Hussein. And explain why we cannot wait and we have to do what we have to do. Explain why all the bickering of our allies is really them bickering about their own self-interest and the fact that they are free riders on the stability that the United States brings. And sometimes we have to do things that stir the pot in order to assure stability for generations to come.

On the domestic front, you know, he's in a tough place. He has got to explain his tax cut package and all of that which has gotten a little lost right now. I'm in favor of it, but he needs to be more forceful about it.

BLITZER: What do you think he needs to say Tuesday night?

BEINART: I think that's right, and I would add to what Jonah said. He needs to do something his administration, I think, hasn't done as well as they could have, which is that, America is not going to war purely for national security reasons. There also always has to be, when America goes to war, a moral case. There even was during the last Gulf war, where really, the moral case was much weaker than it is today. And I think they need to invoke that. They need to say that yes, civilians would die in a war, but our country would also be free and liberated, and I think they need to get that point across in a way they haven't done...

BLITZER: When you say the case was weaker, the last time they invaded a neighboring country -- namely Kuwait.

BEINART: It was stronger in terms of international law, but it was weaker in terms of promotional democracy and human rights, because we were essentially restoring a monarchy.

Here we have the potential of taking a terrible, terrible tyranny and making it into a progressive government, and that hasn't come across very strongly.

GEORGE: There is a wonderful piece in the "New York Times" -- you don't normally hear me saying that -- but there's a wonderful piece in the "New York Times" today by John Byrnes about how many people Saddam Hussein has killed and the regime that he holds, and how similar it is to Stalinism. And it is full of anecdotes and numbers about hundreds of thousands of people murdered and tortured -- families murdered in front of their husbands to get them to confess to crimes they didn't commit, and that kind of thing. And, I think if the American people were a deeply moralistic nation when it comes to foreign policy and domestic policy, alas, you could really see numbers move on that argument.

BLITZER: John Byrnes, just out of Iraq, just outside of Baghdad, he was there he spent several weeks, if not months, there. He did some excellent reporting while he was there, as well.

We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more ground to cover. Just ahead: where's the best plan for your wallet? President Bush or the Democrats? We'll hash that out and more. Our final round is right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to our "Final Round."

Democrats are countering President Bush's economic plan with one of their own, or at least the one among several. It includes a $300 tax rebate for every American.

Today one of the Senate's top Republicans, Mitch McConnell, gave the Democratic proposal guess what, a thumbs-down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: This strikes me as somewhat like a welfare check from the IRS. I mean, that may be fine for those who are receiving the $300, but does that really have any impact on the economy long-term? I think not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What about that, Jonah?

GOLDBERG: I think it was silly to call it a "welfare check," because everyone who gets the $300 thinks they deserve it, but that doesn't mean it's a good policy either. It's basically so much Keynesianism, smearing money around for short-term stimulus.

What's preferable about Bush's tax-cut plan is that it actually affects structural aspects of our tax code, and, you know, the short- term stimulus is going to take care of itself. You want to look as far down the road as possible.

BLITZER: Donna, Republicans love to say the money is not the government's money, it's our money, so, if they give it back to us in the form of a $300 tax rebate, or whatever, it's our money. Shouldn't we get that?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. We are the people. We're the people who could use that $300. We will spend it quickly. We'll help jump-start the economy, and prove that the Democratic plan is right. If you give people money in the short term, that will help spark economic growth in the long term.

BLITZER: So are the Democrats onto something?

GEORGE: Yes, actually I think they are. That was actually one of the weirdest comments I've ever heard Mitch McConnell say. I mean, any money that is going back to the American people, I think, in and of itself, is good.

Now, what Jonah says is correct, that the president is trying to look at some structural parts of the economy. However, I think, just like during the last tax cut, the Democrats are, in a sense, using a populist approach by targeting the $300, and the fact is, when the last tax cut came through, the Republicans ended up taking credit for it anyway.

BLITZER: Peter, button this up for us. BEINART: Yes, I mean, the dishonesty here is breathtaking. The Republicans, the Bush administration is selling this as a stimulus, and then McConnell says, well, the Democrats' plan doesn't do anything in the long term, only the short term. You can't have it both ways.

The truth is, in the long term, we don't need a big tax cut, because we're facing a looming fiscal crisis with the retirement of the Baby Boomers, and the Democrats have a big opportunity here. You know why? Because Bush is massively shortchanging homeland security to pay for this tax cut. If the Democrats can make an issue, to show that he is making the country unsafe, they may be able to get back on their feet.

BLITZER: The inside-the-Beltway National Journal has issued grades for President Bush's cabinet. Secretary of State Colin Powell gets an A, the attorney general, John Ashcroft, gets an A minus, the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, gets a B plus, the outgoing -- the former treasury secretary now, Paul O'Neill, gets a D, a D, as in "David."

Robert, which cabinet members get passing and failing grades as far as you're concerned?

GEORGE: Well, the very fact that Paul O'Neill is the former treasury secretary I think means that he actually got an F.

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE: I mean, you usually get kicked out of school if you flunk that badly.

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE: I think most of those are good. I think I would probably upgrade Rumsfeld to an A, because I think he and Powell make a good...

BLITZER: Who fails, then?

Besides O'Neill?

GEORGE: Probably those that you don't hear about too much, like the agriculture secretary,...

BLITZER: Anne Veneman.

GEORGE: ... Anne Veneman. The fact that you know that, and hardly anybody else does, I think suggests...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Agricultural subsidies, I listen to those.

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE: Exactly. Then, of course, you've got a number of cabinets that are less important in Republican administrations, such as HUD, for example, which maybe gets a C or a C minus.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BRAZILE: Well, I'm quite a liberal, but I do believe those grades were a little bit of a stretch. I would judge the entire administration and give them a C minus, D plus because of the economy, because of health care and pressing domestic issues that they've left off the table.

BLITZER: You're tough. You're a tough grader.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Jonah, you're a tough grader too?

GOLDBERG: Yes, well, first of all, I have to recuse myself from judging John Ashcroft, because he is my wife's boss.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Forget about Ashcroft.

GOLDBERG: Yes, but I would say I agree that O'Neill gets an F. Another person who gets maybe a D, in terms of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) status, is George Tenet of the CIA. You can't allow September 11th to happen and assign blame to nobody and still get away with a passing grade if you're head of the CIA.

And I would up Rumsfeld's grade to an A minus, because he has been an incredible spokesman and an effective leader on the war on terrorism.

BLITZER: All right. Peter?

BEINART: I would give Spencer Abraham, the Energy Secretary, a passing grade because he did push through this Yucca Mountain storage of nuclear waste, which is actually a very good thing, which the Democrats demogogued.

I would mark down Donald Rumsfeld because I think that when we look back historically, we will see that his single-handed opposition to allowing the U.N. peace keeping force to spread out throughout the country of Afghanistan may have doomed that country once again. A terrible, terrible mistake.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about the next item in the news this past week. The former U.N. inspector, the weapons inspector Scott Ritter who's now an outspoken critic of a possible war against Iraq was arrested in 2001 for allegedly communicating over the internet with an undercover police officer who was posing as a 16 year old girl. In an interview on CNN's News Night with Aaron Brown, Ritter declined to comment on the specifics of the case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT RITTER, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I stood before a judge and law, you know, the due process of law was carried forth. And now we have a situation where the media has turned this into a feeding frenzy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Donna, is Scott Ritter's credibility now destroyed?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. It shows that he has poor judgment. I don't want to even get into the fact that he tried to lure her into Burger King, because that will bring up a lot of stories from my youth and what men used to do to try to lure women to McDonald's and Burger King and what that meant.

(LAUGHTER)

That aside, let me just say this. The guy has -- he said it was poor timing. I said this is a bad move. He has no credibility, no judgment, and no one should listen to him.

BLITZER: Is he, as Aaron Brown suggested the other night, radioactive right now?

GEORGE: Well, I mean, I think his isotope level's been rising for a long time. He took hundreds of thousands of dollars from Saddam Hussein's regime, in effect.

BLITZER: From an Iraqi who lives in the United States.

GEORGE: A pro-Saddam guy, to make basically a piece of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in favor of the Iraqi regime. If you talk to people in the national security business, they've been trying to figure out for years why Scott Ritter went from being basically a hawk against Iraq to overnight becoming this incredible defender of Iraq and Saddam Hussein, and who knows if this is the explanation but it feeds a lot of conspiracy theories.

BLITZER: Peter?

BEINART: Yes, I agree. Without slandering Burger King and McDonald's, you know, I think that he didn't have any credibility to begin with.

I mean, this is the guy who never really explained, as Jonah said, why he flipped 180 degrees and became a Saddam mouthpiece. So for me it's irrelevant. I never listened to what he had to say on Iraq to begin with.

GOLDBERG: Yes, I agree with everybody. He's now just basically joined Pete Townsend on the Magic School Bus. BLITZER: For our viewers...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... what does that mean?

GOLDBERG: Pete Townsend of the WHO has also been implicated in child porn and things of that nature. But as everybody said, Ritter's credibility, just on the basics of Iraq, was completely shot and now there's even less reason to listen to him.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Oh, absolutely.

BLITZER: Let's move on now.

Another huge event this week, elections in Israel on Tuesday. Polls there show the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and his conservative Likud Party have a sizable lead.

Donna, will a victory for Sharon help or hurt the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian peace?

BRAZILE: Well, it's clear that Mr. Sharon will win, and Israel's security will continue to be at stake, and therefore I think it's important the administration gets involved and try to help mediate this. Right now they've allowed the parties to just stew.

It's time that the administration get back at the diplomatic table.

BLITZER: Jonah?

GOLDBERG: Yes, well, I don't know if it's going to help or hurt, you know, peace there. I mean, lots of things have happened that haven't helped or hurt peace.

But I do think that if you come from the position that I do, which is that Israel has to negotiate from strength, this will certainly help if Sharon is re-elected.

And Sharon has dropped hints that he's going to have to make some hard sacrifices. If the United States goes to war with Iraq and wins, and Sharon is re-elected, that will be Sharon's moment to prove that United States and Sharon were serious about doing something about Israeli peace.

BLITZER: You know, Peter, there's some suggestion in the polls out there that Labor, normally the number one or two-biggest parties in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, might come in third behind Shinui, this change party, which is anti the religious elements within Israel.

BEINART: Yes, Israeli politics is very complicated because it's basically a grid. On one side you have one axis, you basically have national security, on the other you have religion, which makes for very complicated dynamics.

Basically, the problem, I think, is less Sharon himself than if he governs with these right-wing parties that are basically pro- settlement parties. If he has them in his coalition, he will never, he will never make serious concessions for peace, settlements will expand and things will get worse.

BLITZER: Button it up.

GEORGE: Well, basically, the whole Intifada occurred under the previous Labor Party. I think Sharon is, as Jonah said, going to be governing from strength, and the Palestinians can either deal with him or suffer their fate.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break. We have much more coming up, including our "Lightning Round." Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our "Lightning Round."

Today, the White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was asked whether the president's economic stimulus plan would be a subject to a lot of compromise in Congress. He gave an interesting answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARD: We gave the sausage machine all of the right ingredients. They have to churn, and I'm confident that when they turn that sausage out, it will be the right kind of sausage for America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Sausage in Congress. Is that any way to pass laws?

GOLDBERG: I guess what he's referring to this old axiom that making laws is like making sausage: you don't want to actually see how it's done. I think Bismarck was the first to do it, or maybe Churchill was. Just a bad line, and he used it on two Sunday shows, and that should be his quota for the rest of his career.

BRAZILE: Well, American democracy has been described as a lot of things, but to compare it to the making of sausage -- I've seen sausage being made. It's called (UNINTELLIGIBLE) where I'm from...

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: It really tells you a lot about this administration, but I must tell you this: it's a masterpiece, and they should make more of it.

BLITZER: All right. What about it?

GEORGE: Bad phraseology to say on television. I mean, we need to somehow inspire the kids at home.

BEINART: I frankly don't know which kind of sausage is the right kind of sausage for America.

GOLDBERG: Well, you're a liberal, so you like pork sausage.

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: Well, certainly Joe Lieberman would oppose all pork sausage. It seems to me it's a bad road to go down.

BLITZER: Let's move on our lightning round already. The TV talk show host, Jerry Springer, get this, is considering a run for the U.S. Senate. The Ohio Democrat says he's got the money to make it happen. But is Jerry Springer what the Senate needs, Robert?

GEORGE: Absolutely. I mean, with Thurmond and Helms gone, we need somebody that's going...

BLITZER: So if he runs against George Voinovich, you're going to support Jerry Springer.

GEORGE: I don't know if I would quite go that far. It would certainly raise the level of debate, though. You can just hear people yelling, "Jerry, Jerry" when he's giving a floor statement.

BLITZER: It would (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pretty cool, huh?

BEINART: That's right. Right now, I think Americans trust the Democrats too much on family values. They need to get kind of get back to their lofty position they held in the 1990s, where they were a little more edgy. It does show how decrepit the Democratic party is in Ohio, by the way, which is supposedly a swing state.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Is the Democratic party -- now I am serious right now -- is the Democratic party seriously considering letting Jerry Springer run as a Democrat for the Senate?

BRAZILE: I think you will have a lot of credible candidates who will get involved in that primary and Jerry Springer may be one of them. Look, I guess he looked in his wallet and said, "Look, I'm a millionaire. This is a millionaire club. I should belong." But I don't think so. We're not that desperate.

BLITZER: Wasn't he once the Mayor of Cincinnati?

GOLDBERG: He was and I think he got in trouble, because he paid a hooker with a personal check, which is a no, no.

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: Money orders, right Jonah?

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: We're going to get back to the substance of our rich American democracy, as Donna was referring to it. To me this proves that voter turn out is not this glorious thing in the world. Because if Jerry Springer shows up, he'll bring all these new people to the polls, they will be slack-jawed yokels, hicks, weirdoes, pervs and whatnot.

And the idea that our democracy is rich...

BEINART: So you say he's going to win.

GOLDBERG: Well, yes. The idea that our democracy is rich for the Jerry Springer crowd...

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE: I mean, look what happened to Jesse Ventura. I mean, other words, in other words, a similar situation.

BLITZER: This programming note, Jerry Springer will be a guest on Wolf Blitzer Reports this coming week.

BRAZILE: We'll watch it.

GOLDBERG: Wolf Blitzer Reports, you decide.

BLITZER: A commission on the reform of Title IX, the law responsible for increasing the number of female college athletes is considering a proposal to limit the number of athletic scholarships for women. Should Title IX be left alone?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. I'm a proud product of Title IX and let me just say this. It has not allowed women to gain all the access that we need, but it's leveled the playing field and now we can play.

BLITZER: Are you against women?

GOLDBERG: I'm hardly against women in all forms. My wife, actually, to plug my wife again, wrote the definitive book on Title IX called Tilting the Playing Field, and it is simply propaganda that Title IX is responsible for the explosion of women in collegiate sports.

Title IX did good things. It's gotten out of hand. The vast majority of improvement of women in collegiate participation occurred before Title IX was implemented. Title IX wasn't implemented until 1979. Six hundred percent increase in women's participation before this law was ever enforced.

BLITZER: I've heard enough about Title IX. We're not talking about Title IX any more. We're talking quick predictions, Super Bowl.

BEINART: Buccaneers, I hope.

GEORGE: Oakland Raiders.

BRAZILE: Raiders.

GOLDBERG: Raiders. BLITZER: Raiders, everybody's picking the Raiders. I made my prediction already and I'm not going to repeat it.

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE: Oh, come on, Wolf. Don't leave us hanging.

BLITZER: You have to look at the videotape from Friday's show.

That's all the time we have. Thanks to our Final Rounders. Thank you very much.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

GEORGE: Thank you.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

BLITZER: And by the way, our own Donna Brazile is featured in the Washington Post magazine this Sunday. She's talking about her passion for politics. There's a great picture of Donna. We're going to read that article. I haven't read it yet, but I know you said some profound things, Donna.

BRAZILE: Cooking with grease.

BLITZER: Oh, that's good.

BEINART: With sausage or without.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, January 26th. Please be sure to join me again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. I'll be here Monday through Friday, noon eastern for Showdown: Iraq, later in the day 5 p.m. eastern.

Tomorrow, by the way, a special conversation with Bob Schieffer of CBS News. Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Have a great Super Bowl. I'm Wolf Blitzer 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


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