CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Adel Al-Jubeir; McConnell, Nelson Discuss War on Terrorism; Cisneros, Rohrabacher Debate Illegal Immigration
Aired May 18, 2003 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 4:00 p.m. in Casablanca, and 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for Late Edition.
We'll get to our interview with Saudi Arabia's foreign policy adviser, Adel Al-Jubeir, shortly. But first, let's check in with CNN reporters covering the hour's top stories around the world.
And we begin in Jerusalem, where the new road map toward peace is already on hold barely before it even gets started. Seven people were killed, 26 others wounded after a suicide bombing today on a commuter bus in Jerusalem.
CNN's Kelly Wallace is covering the story for us. She's on the scene. She's joining us now live with details.
BLITZER: Meanwhile, this has been a weekend, a week indeed, of suicide bombings throughout the Middle East. In Morocco, 27 people have been detained for questioning about Friday night's suicide bombing in Casablanca. Those attacks, which occurred at five different locations, killed 28 people, wounded more than 100 others.
U.S. security officials are assisting Moroccan authorities in the investigation. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but a U.S. counterterrorism official says there is strong suspicion al Qaeda is responsible.
Saudi Arabia, there were other suicide bombings, as all of us know, earlier in the week. Thirty-four people, including nine suspected terrorists, were killed, including Americans.
Joining us now to talk about all the latest developments involving Saudi Arabia is the chief foreign policy adviser to the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah, Adel al-Jubeir.
Mr. Al-Jubeir, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's get right to the issue at hand. Will the FBI and other U.S. officials who are on the scene to investigate what happened in Riyadh, will they be allowed to investigate, or are they there simply as observers? ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI ARABIAN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: The officials from the FBI and other agencies are there to help Saudi Arabia with the investigation. This is a partnership. We both are targets of al Qaeda, and we both have an interest in arriving at the truth, finding the perpetrators who did this, bringing them to justice and punishing them severely.
BLITZER: Because, as you know, Prince Nayef, the interior minister of Saudi Arabia, saying this morning and in the past few days something very significantly different.
Let me put it up on the screen what he said only yesterday. He said they are not, referring to the FBI agents on the scene, "They are not investigators. They will not probe anything. These officials came to inspect the incidents only."
AL-JUBEIR: I think we could differ on how we put things, but the bottom line of it is the FBI will be very satisfied with what it is able to do and how it will be able to interact with our security services.
I believe that the FBI director, Mueller, spoke to that, and he was very complimentary about Saudi Arabia's efforts. American officials have also been complimentary about the access and the extent of cooperation and the ability of our two services to work with each other and how that has been positive over the past few days in particular.
BLITZER: Well, they won't be satisfied if they can't investigate, which is what Prince Nayef is suggesting. Is he simply saying that for domestic public opinion in Saudi Arabia, or will he prevent the FBI from doing its job trying to find out what happened?
AL-JUBEIR: Wolf, I haven't seen the exact quote. I mean, I saw the quote that you referred to, but I don't know if this is, in fact, what Prince Nayef said or not.
What I do know is that our services are appreciative of all the assistance that they can get from American services, as well as any other services that can provide help in this investigation.
Our objective is to find out very quickly who did this, find out where they are, go after them, punish them severely, and then move on so we can eliminate the scourge of terrorism.
BLITZER: The key question is, will they be allowed to question witnesses, suspects, U.S. officials, FBI agents, or will they simply be able to get reports from Saudi investigators who will be doing the questioning?
AL-JUBEIR: I believe that the effort will be a mutual effort. It will be cooperative. I believe that there will be no complaints from the American side about what they're able to do in Saudi Arabia with their Saudi counterparts. I believe that both countries are committed to fighting this war against terrorism. And let's not prejudge things. Let's see how things unfold. I think ultimately a lot of critics who think that Saudi Arabia is not serious will be very surprised.
BLITZER: There have been extensive reporting over the past 48 hours or so suggesting that some al Qaeda operatives directly responsible for the Riyadh attacks are now in Iran. Do you know that to be true?
AL-JUBEIR: I have heard those reports, but I don't know that we have been able to verify them yet.
There are -- we know that there are al Qaeda cells in Saudi Arabia. We have broken up a number of them. We know that a number of the individuals who committed this attack, their bodies were identified as those that were part of an al Qaeda cell that we came very close to apprehending. So, yes, I think all indications are that this was an al Qaeda operation.
BLITZER: An al Qaeda operation, but you don't know whether the operatives were based in Iran?
AL-JUBEIR: I don't think we have that conclusive proof yet.
BLITZER: But are you suspicious that that may be the situation?
AL-JUBEIR: We can speculate. Everything is possible.
BLITZER: Because there's been a lot of suggestions from U.S. sources, suggesting that some of the operatives may have been receiving safe harbor in Iran right now.
AL-JUBEIR: Yes, although I would find it very difficult to believe that the Iranians would want to support bin Laden or al Qaeda. al Qaeda has declared war on virtually the whole world. I do not believe it would be wise for any country to harbor them, to provide them with safe haven. That would be a very, very serious undertaking by any government, and I believe that the world community will not stand for it.
BLITZER: I want to read to you what the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia said this past week on what -- he was obviously frustrated that your government didn't take enough steps to protect those individuals at those compounds, those residential compounds in Riyadh.
"We contacted the Saudi government, in fact on several occasions, to request that added security be provided to all Western residential compounds and government installations in the kingdom. They did not, as of the time of this particular tragic event, provide the security that we'd requested."
AL-JUBEIR: I think -- and I've seen the comments of the ambassador -- the following day the ambassador came back and said that even if the security had been provided, it would not have made a difference because of the way the operation was planned and the intensity of the explosives. We take all issues involving security very seriously. We're not talking about four, five, six, eight residential compounds. We are talking about hundreds, if not thousands, of them throughout Saudi Arabia.
They are not western in the sense of being western compounds. These are gated communities in which everybody lives including Saudis. Two of the three communities that were hit, two-thirds of the residents were Saudis and other Middle Eastern nationals. And then, of course, there were Americans there.
When you get an information regarding a potential threat, you look at it, you assess it, you track it with your intelligence, you send a team to survey the location. They come up with recommendations, and then you implement the recommendations. It involves security analysts. It involves contractors, and it involves whoever is going to end up paying for this.
BLITZER: But you know that the U.S....
AL-JUBEIR: He sent us a note at the last communication was three days before the attack indicating that they believed that one of the compounds, the Jadawel compound, was targeted and that the house in which we discovered the explosives was a staging area, they believed, for that. This is three days before.
BLITZER: And you went to that house. You found the explosives.
BLITZER: But 19 suspects escaped, and a lot of people are saying, "How is it possible that the 19 suspects who supposedly brought these explosives to this location could have slipped through Saudi law enforcement?"
AL-JUBEIR: It was the other way around. The police car saw a suspicious vehicle, followed the vehicle. The vehicle drove off. The people in the vehicle hijacked or carjacked other cars and escaped. When they searched the vehicle, they found evidence. And those leads led them to the house where they found the...
BLITZER: But you know the accusation...
BLITZER: ... that there are certain elements in the Saudi security services who either turn a blind eye or are actively cooperating with some of these al Qaeda terrorist suspects to let them escape.
AL-JUBEIR: But that's nonsense. That's absolutely ridiculous. We have broken up a number of al Qaeda cells in Saudi Arabia as well as outside Saudi Arabia. Virtually, with every passing week, we discover people trying to smuggle explosives into Saudi Arabia. We have questioned thousands of individuals. We have hundreds of individuals in detention. We've referred a hundred of them to trials. If our security services were infiltrated, this would not be the case.
BLITZER: The current deputy national security adviser to the president, President Bush, Steven Hadley, was in Saudi Arabia recently, made certain specific requests that apparently your government decided to ignore.
AL-JUBEIR: That is not correct.
BLITZER: Well, let me read to you, or let me play what Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, said here this past week. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE BANDAR BIN SULTAN, SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: When he made the request, our security agencies took the request seriously, assessed the situation and decided the measures were adequate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The existing measures were adequate. They didn't have to take additional measures. That's what Prince Bandar suggested.
AL-JUBEIR: Yes, this was in response to the communications from the American ambassador.
The compound that the American ambassador was talking about is probably the most heavily guarded residential area in Saudi Arabia. It is guarded by the security forces from the Saudi air force. It is the only compound that the terrorists were not able to penetrate, and as a consequence, they blew themselves up outside the gates.
And so, when we look at hundreds or thousands of these residential areas, you go for those that are most vulnerable and you try to work with owners in order to beef up security. That's what we did.
With regards to Mr. Hadley's visit to Saudi Arabia, he did not come with a target list, nor did he come with specific measures that Saudi Arabia should do. He came with ideas on how the two countries can further strengthen and broaden and deepen the counterterrorism effort between them. And he was going to leave these ideas behind and have us come back and respond to them or see what we thought about them at a latter date.
The crown prince on the spot accepted all of these suggestions, and we offered even more suggestions for making things better. Mr. Hadley came back to the U.S. and, shortly thereafter, indicated that the U.S. government at the highest level would accept our recommendations.
BLITZER: We have to take a quick break Mr. al-Jubeir. Stand by, because we have many more questions to ask you, but just be patient for a minute.
We'll continue our conversation with the Saudi foreign policy adviser, Adel al-Jubeir. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should have been dealing with the Saudis a long time ago. They have been an uneven and unpredictable ally in the war against terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Bob Graham of Florida, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaking out earlier in the week. Senator Graham now a Democratic presidential hopeful.
Welcom back to LATE EDITION. We're talking with the foreign policy adviser to the Saudi royal family, to Crown Prince Abdullah, Adel Al-Jubeir.
And what do you make of senators like Senator Graham, influential, privy to the nation's top secrets as the former chairman of the Intelligence Committee, saying Saudi Arabia, in his words, an uneven, unpredictable ally in the war against terror?
AL-JUBEIR: Oh, I think that we have been predictable and we have been steady, in terms of fighting terrorism. We are threatened by terrorists. We are threatened by al Qaeda. The two countries that Osama bin Laden is going after are the United States and Saudi Arabia. We would be foolish if we didn't exert every possible effort to try to destroy this murderous organization.
BLITZER: The argument they make is that after the Khobar Towers attack, in 1996, killing 19 U.S. service members, the Saudis still didn't take the concern seriously that the money going to various Islamic groups, the promotion of various educational opportunities, educational alliance for the religious fundamentalists, positions adopted by al Qaeda, that that in effect was creating this terrorist movement.
AL-JUBEIR: But I believe, if we look at history, the 1996 bombings in Khobar were not an al Qaeda operation, they were -- it was a different animal.
What we had also in 1996 was the first attempt by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to work together in countering terrorism. And incidentally we took the initiative in trying to set this up. We have had a number of complaints, legitimate complaints, by American security services about lack of cooperation from their Saudi counterparts, and we have had complaints by Saudi law-enforcement agencies about...
BLITZER: The fundamental argument is that, if you listen, if you go into the mosques, you listen to the imams, you listen to the sermons, you look at the textbooks, describing Christians, Jews, others, Westerners as "infidels," "monkeys," whatever.
The Los Angeles Times wrote an editorial Thursday. I'll read a paragraph from it: "The government's sponsorship of the fundamentalist Wahhabi wing of Islam creates an atmosphere that leads many mosques to echo with anti-American tirades. Saudi Arabia cannot remain blind to the links between government-sanctioned Islamic extremists and terrorism like Monday's."
They're referring to the attacks in Riyadh.
AL-JUBEIR: We have, over the past two years, reviewed our educational systems, we have made adjustments to them. We have set up pilot programs in Riyadh and Jeddah for new ways of teaching things. We are assessing those. If they are successful, we may implement them nationwide.
We have worked to educate imams at mosques, to make sure that they do not stray into the political area, that they do not incite people. Our top religious authority and body in Saudi Arabia issued a ruling, a religious ruling saying that it is un-Islamic to call people "infidels," because that's inciteful, and incitefulness leads to violence and the killing of innocents.
BLITZER: Let me ask you this.
AL-JUBEIR: ... steps to punish preachers who have strayed. We have dismissed many hundreds of imams from their positions because they ventured into the political area.
What we haven't done is we haven't done it publicly.
Monday for us was a massive jolt. We now have to deal with these issues head-on. We cannot deal with them quietly, the way we have in the past. Our public demands action. Our public demands forceful action. And we will engage in this...
BLITZER: Will the government of Saudi Arabia say the same thing about suicide bombings against Israeli civilians?
AL-JUBEIR: Our grand mufti, our chief religious theologian in Saudi Arabia, two years ago spoke out against suicide bombings. He said that they violate the basic tenets of Islam. We are not allowed to take our own souls, much less the souls of innocent people, and that suicide bombings are un-Islamic.
BLITZER: So, a group like Hamas, or Islamic Jihad, which supports suicide bombings, in Tel Aviv or Haifa or elsewhere, will Saudi Arabia stop funneling money to those organizations?
AL-JUBEIR: We have taken a position two years that, when our grand mufti spoke about this issue, that suicide bombings are wrong, that they kill innocents, that the taking of one's own life is un- Islamic, regardless of what the reason is.
We have worked to try to clamp down financing that goes to group that support terrorism, regardless of where they are. And we continue -- we give money to the Palestinians as aid, but we do not give it to them in order to turn them into suicide bombers or to support violence.
BLITZER: When I was in Saudi Arabia in December, as you well know, I went to the Prince Sultan Air Base. I saw a very robust U.S. military presence, a very sophisticated presence, but that apparently is going to disappear in the coming months.
I'll put some numbers up on the screen. Some 10,000 U.S. troops were in Saudi Arabia during the war in Iraq. Now, as opposed to 5,000 before the war, about 4,400 are there right now. But within the next few months, only a few hundred are going to be left.
Why has Saudi Arabia decided that it's in Saudi Arabia's best interest now to basically remove that U.S. military presence in the kingdom?
AL-JUBEIR: That was really, Wolf, not a Saudi decision. The American forces in Saudi Arabia were there to enforce the no-fly zone, along with forces from France and Britain.
When the issue of enforcing the no-fly zone no longer was an issue, the United States decided that it would redeploy its forces elsewhere. It was a purely American decision. We did not ask the American forces to leave. They left because the mission was accomplished.
BLITZER: Because, you know the argument that Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, since the first Gulf War a dozen years ago, has been railing, their major issue has been the U.S. military presence on holy Saudi soil, and now, in effect, that military presence is going to be gone, in effect, giving al Qaeda what they originally sought.
AL-JUBEIR: Well, there is nothing holy about Saudi Arabia. There are the holy places in Mecca and Medina, which are well defined and have been. The rest of Saudi Arabia is not -- there's nothing holy about it.
With regards to bin Laden, I believe that the issue of the American presence, which he made a rallying cry, was really a non- issue. Now that they're no longer there, why did he commit this attack?
He marshalled or lobbied or for support for the Palestinians, what, a year and a half ago? Where was he 10 years ago? Why didn't he speak up for the rights of the Palestinians? Two months ago he spoke out in support of Saddam Hussein. Where was he 10 years ago speaking out in support of Saddam Hussein? I think what we have here is a murderous organization that's looking for a cause, any cause. It seems to me like it's the flavor of the week that they try to rally and generate support behind.
The Riyadh bombing, and the bombings in Casablanca, I believe, will turn public opinion massively against them.
BLITZER: In Saudi Arabia?
AL-JUBEIR: In Saudi Arabia and in the Arab world and in the Muslim world.
BLITZER: Adel al-Jubeir, good to have you on the program. Thank you very much.
AL-JUBEIR: Thanks, Wolf. Always a pleasure.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Up next, the U.S. and its allies grapple with fresh terror strikes in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and elsewhere, as concern grows about governing the new Iraq.
Did the war against Saddam Hussein strengthen the terrorists' hands? We'll get some insight from the Senate Republican whip, Mitchell McConnell of Kentucky, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I have not received any additional information, but it certainly has all the fingerprints of an al Qaeda operation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell, commenting on Monday's deadly terrorist attacks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
The attacks in Riyadh, and now in Casablanca, are raising new questions about how much headway, if any, is being made against al Qaeda and other terror groups, especially now that the United States is faced with rebuilding post-war Iraq.
Joining us now to talk about that and other issues are two key members of the United States Senate. Here in Washington, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. And in his home state of Florida, the Democratic senator, Bill Nelson. He serves on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senators, welcome to LATE EDITION.
Senator McConnell, I'll begin with you. We just heard from Adel al-Jubeir, saying they're going to do everything they can to get to the bottom of this.
Are you convinced that Saudi Arabia is fully cooperating as much as possible in the war on terror?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, there's no question that in the past, Wolf, they tried to have it both ways. Now, this attack has occurred. It's an opportunity to see whether the kingdom really can pivot and be fully on board in the war on terrorism. And fully on board means doing something about the madrassas, doing something...
BLITZER: Those are the religious schools.
MCCONNELL: The religious schools. Doing something about the clerics and their wild anti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric. And indeed, fully cooperating with the FBI, allowing the FBI in and fully cooperating with them in finding who did this. We didn't have that full cooperation after the Khobar Towers incident in 1996.
BLITZER: Well, Senator Nelson, do you believe that they will allow the FBI agents on the scene in Saudi Arabia to investigate, to question suspects, eyewitnesses? Because you heard Prince Nayef, the interior minister, say they're basically there as observers; they're not going to be really investigators.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Well, they had better let them in, for Saudi Arabia's own protection.
Mitch is exactly right. They do this double game because they've got this constituency that is so inflammable and can rise up and threaten the kingdom. But at the same time, they know that we are the one ally that they can really rely on.
So, they better let the FBI in. It's -- remember, it's been the FBI, along with the CIA and the Pakistani forces in Pakistan, that have been so successful in rounding up the al Qaeda principals in that country.
BLITZER: Well, what happens, Senator Nelson, if they don't, if they don't let the FBI question the suspects, the eyewitnesses, don't do the forensic kind of evidence that they really want to do on the scene?
NELSON: Well, they do so at their own peril. I think Saudi Arabia now clearly understands that it's in their interest to get rid of the al Qaeda element there. They are under the gun. Now war has been declared. They better cooperate.
BLITZER: Osama bin Laden, as you know, Senator McConnell -- 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudis. Was that a coincidence, or are the Saudis friends or foes to the United States in this war on terror?
MCCONNELL: Well, it's clear that Osama bin Laden is hostile to the Saudi regime. It's inexplicable, it seems to me, they're not completely on our side on this. But obviously, they've tried to have it both ways. They want to pander to the elements inside Saudi Arabia who are sympathetic to Osama bin Laden, and at the same time realize in many ways the survival of the regime depends upon cooperation with us.
This is an opportunity for them, as I said earlier, to pivot and get fully on board 100 percent in the war on terrorism. I think it's the only way this regime is going to survive. It's reforming itself and getting fully on board with us in the war on terrorism.
BLITZER: I think there's no doubt, Senator Nelson, that there are elements in the Saudi government, and Adel al-Jubeir certainly is one of them, that wants to see this kind of full cooperation. But there appear to be others who are resisting. Prince Nayef, the interior minister, seems to be one of those.
Is there a split, as far as you know, within the Saudi royal family?
NELSON: I think there's been a split, but I think that that split is going to have to come together now for their own survival. We've seen these madrassas, the religious schools, allowed to be able to foment and produce terrorists.
We've seen the financing coming out of Saudi Arabia. We've seen that the terrorists in 9/11 came out of Saudi Arabia.
So I think it's getting down close to that situation where, for example, in Pakistan, the day after 9/11, President Musharraf had to decide whose side was he going to be on. He made that decision, and I think for his own survival's sake.
BLITZER: It looks, Senator McConnell, like it was an al Qaeda operation in Saudi Arabia, and it looks like an al Qaeda operation in Morocco. Do you accept that assumption?
MCCONNELL: Well, that seems to be the case. Everybody who is an expert on al Qaeda seems to believe that it was an operation...
BLITZER: So does that mean that Osama bin Laden and his group are resurfacing now and still have this kind of capability to cause this kind of death and destruction?
MCCONNELL: Well, the president said consistently the war on terrorism is not over and some people didn't believe him. The war on terrorism isn't over, and they've demonstrated that they can carry out, on foreign soil, attacks against relatively soft targets here in this week. We should not be surprised. The president said consistently this war is not over.
BLITZER: And, Senator Nelson, we're going to take a quick break but let me let you weigh in. Does that mean they can go after soft targets here in the United States as well?
NELSON: Oh, indeed. And, by the way, the implication coming out of the president was that the war was not over but it was being won, and I think anybody who thinks that now is going to think twice. BLITZER: Why do you say that? Do you think just because of these two incidents in Morocco and Saudi Arabia?
NELSON: Indeed. Indeed. We've seen a coordinated attack by what appears to be al Qaeda and if not them, then other international organizations that are allied with them, and so we've got a long way to go on this war against terrorists.
BLITZER: All right. I'm going to let Senator McConnell just quickly weigh in before we take a break. Go ahead.
MCCONNELL: Yes, well, I mean the Democrats have been wanting to change the subject back to the economy, the argument being that somehow the war on terrorism is moving along nicely. It's been the president who said the war on terrorism is not over. Obviously, it isn't, and I'm glad that my friend Bill Nelson and all of those Democrats who are running for president now understand that.
BLITZER: All right. I don't think Bill Nelson is running for president...
NELSON: No, I'm not running for president.
BLITZER: ... but he might be running one of these days. We're going to take a quick break.
NELSON: Don't count on it.
BLITZER: Senators, stand by.
We have much more to discuss with Senators McConnell and Nelson. We'll also be looking forward to getting some of your phone calls for the two senators. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with the U.S. Senate majority whip, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and the Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator McConnell, another terrorist bus bombing, suicide bombing in Jerusalem earlier today. Israelis very angry, understandably so.
Some Israeli members of the cabinet apparently suggesting that it's time for Prime Minister Sharon to kick out Yasser Arafat from Ramallah, from the West Bank, now that there's a new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmud Abbas, in place. Would that be a good idea?
MCCONNELL: Well, certainly marginalizing Arafat is the policy of the United States and of Israel. That's why we have Abu Mazen now as the prime minister. We hope that he's going to actually have some real authority to move the PLO in the direction of peace.
Arafat is a problem, a serious problem. That's why we're not dealing with him. BLITZER: And do you think he personally is behind some of the terrorist actions?
MCCONNELL: It is not a coincidence that any time Arafat is in the ascendancy, nothing happens good. Violence, terrorism, all the problems that keep this settlement from ever occurring.
BLITZER: So you see him more of a problem, as opposed to a solution.
MCCONNELL: He's not the solution, we know that.
BLITZER: What about that, Senator Nelson, do you agree?
NELSON: I agree with Mitch. Arafat has got to be phased out, and that is the trick. How do you delicately move him aside, while bringing Abbas into the full power, someone with whom the Israelis can deal?
And that -- the road for peace assumes that that will occur, and then down the road, you do the Palestinian state after you have made sure that there's the security for Israel.
BLITZER: Let's take a caller from Michigan.
Go ahead, Michigan, with your question.
CALLER: Hi, Wolf.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
CALLER: Nice to talk to you. Yes, I have a question for the senators. I would like to know how they can prove to us, all in the country here, that Iran is harboring terrorists and supporting terrorists, especially al Qaeda members, Iran...
BLITZER: Well, let me ask Senator McConnell, the reports that some of those al Qaeda operatives who planned the Riyadh terror strike are actually being protected, based in Iran right now.
MCCONNELL: Well, we know that Iran has sponsored Hezbollah, no question about it, everyone agrees on that. It would not be surprising that they might be sponsoring al Qaeda as well, and those are the reports that have been covered in the paper today.
BLITZER: Well, what, if anything, Senator Nelson, should the U.S. be doing about that, if in fact al Qaeda operatives are being harbored, if you will, in Iran?
NELSON: We're going to have to come down on Iran very hard, and not only just for the reasons of the terrorists, but also Iran is developing a nuclear weapon.
And so number one on our radar scope are the nukes in North Korea -- and we have to get those out, we have no other choice -- but we've got to stop Iran from developing the nuclear capability. BLITZER: Senator McConnell, let me read to you from an editorial in a paper close to your heart, the Louisville Courier-Journal, that ran this editorial on Thursday.
Among other things, it said, "The president's now standard gunslinger promise to find the bombers and bring them to justice is becoming tiresome, especially since the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, the anthrax mailer, Saddam Hussein, and the entirety of Iraq's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction remain unknown."
Strong words from your hometown newspaper.
MCCONNELL: Yes. And you'd like for me to respond?
BLITZER: I wonder if you'd like to respond to the editorial writer.
MCCONNELL: With regard to the weapons of mass destruction part of it, the people who wanted to give the U.N. inspectors years to find them seem to expect us to be able to find them in a month. Clearly, it's going to take a while to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
But we have no doubt that we'll find either the weapons or evidence that the weapons were there.
BLITZER: Do you have confidence, Senator Nelson, in the way the administration is handling this post-war situation in Baghdad, elsewhere in Iraq right now?
NELSON: I'm a little uneasy about it, Wolf, but I will agree with Mitch on what he just said. I think that we will find the weapons of mass destruction, but the problem was that we went into this war on Iraq with the administration not being able to tell our Foreign Relations Committee or our Armed Services Committee how long that they thought we were going to have to be there, and they finally said, oh, about two years, and way less than what General Shinseki had said, which was about 200,000 troops.
Well, I think now the hard reality is becoming apparent. We're going to be there for a long time. It's going to take a lot of effort. It's going to take a lot of money. And it's going to take a lot of troops, albeit we need to reduce the visibility of those troops.
BLITZER: General Shinseki being the Army chief of staff, who's retiring.
Senators, stand by. We're going to take another quick break.
Much more to talk about with Senators McConnell and Nelson. More of your phone calls as well. LATE EDITION will continue in a moment.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking with two members of the United States Senate: Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida.
We have a caller from Colorado. Go ahead, Colorado, with your question.
CALLER: I'm calling from Colorado. My question is, how safe are our troops in Iraq? What about if al Qaeda is grouping in Iraq, how safe are our troops and the American nationals in Iraq?
BLITZER: Those are good questions. About 200,000 or so U.S. troops, other Americans, trying to create a new Iraq.
Senator Nelson, what do you say?
NELSON: It's a tough situation. When you're trying to be friendly and crowds are around you, suddenly you're exposed as a soldier. And that's not a good situation to be in.
And I think what increasingly you will find, the attempts to set up their own Iraqi police force, which will allow our U.S. troops to retreat and also have a much lower profile, there will be more in controlled circumstances.
BLITZER: Senator McConnell, Senator John Kerry, your Democratic colleague from Massachusetts who wants to be the Democratic presidential nominee, really blasted the administration earlier today on CBS' Face the Nation. Listen to what he said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This administration has told us it is not a question of if, it is a question of when.
It raises the extraordinary question of why we have not fully funded communities in their efforts to have adequate homeland security and relieve the pressure on states instead of giving the wealthiest Americans yet another tax cut.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, those are pretty strong words, saying that you're more interested in giving rich people tax cuts as opposed to protecting the national security of the American people.
MCCONNELL: Well, these were the same guys who, last fall, were delaying passage of the homeland security bill.
Clearly, the president -- and all you have to do is look at the polls to understand the American people have enormous confidence in the president to lead the war on terror and to protect us here at home.
And I think the administration is doing everything it possibly can to get us up to speed here at home. I think it is noteworthy that we have not had an additional attack in the United States since September the 11th, 2001. Not that that will never happen, but we've had a pretty good period here.
There have also been a lot of top operatives of al Qaeda that have been arrested. We've made significant progress.
BLITZER: But, Senator Nelson, you think the administration is spending too much, if you will, on tax cuts, not enough on homeland security?
NELSON: In a word, yes. And I wish that this were not put in the context of a political campaign and go straight to the substance. And if you did that, all you'd have to do is to ask state and local officials, can they afford to continue all of these increased costs for homeland security? And the answer to that is, no.
And that's why time and time again, the Congress has been given an opportunity to vote more assistance for homeland security, and it's not -- time and time again it's been turned down.
BLITZER: We only have a few seconds, Senator McConnell. Will there be a compromised version -- the House tax cut proposal, the Senate tax cut proposal -- that is passed before Memorial Day next weekend?
MCCONNELL: It would be pretty hard to do it by Memorial Day. This package is about growing the economy. If we grow the economy, everybody is going to have more revenue, both the federal government and the state governments. It is going to be hard to get this package together in one week.
BLITZER: Well, if the House wants $550 billion in tax cuts, the Senate approved $350 billion, what, do you just split the difference and come up with $450 billion? I assume you'd be happy with that.
MCCONNELL: I'd be happy with that. We may have a hard time going about $350 billion because of the situation in the Senate. But we want to put as much oomph, as much juice, into this growth package as we can, even if, Wolf, we're left with the $350 billion amount.
BLITZER: So, it would probably be closer to $350 billion than $550 billion.
MCCONNELL: It probably will.
BLITZER: All right, Senator McConnell, we have to leave it right there. Thanks very much.
Senator Nelson, thanks for joining us as well.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION: tracking the terrorists. We'll get insight from our panel of experts. Plus, the debate over tax cuts, more on that. Are they an answer for a slumping economy?
It's all ahead in the next hour of LATE EDITION.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We begin in Saudi Arabia, where four people are in custody in connection with Monday's triple suicide bombings. There, 34 people, including nine suspected terrorists, were killed in the attack.
CNN's senior international correspondent, Sheila MacVicar, is in Riyadh following this story. She's joining us now on the phone with late-breaking developments.
BLITZER: But let's go to Iraq right now where there are serious questions and frustrations regarding the establishment of an interim Iraqi government. CNN's John Vause is following that part of the story. He's joining us now live from Baghdad.
BLITZER: The White House is condemning today's suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem. Seven people were killed, 26 others injured in a blast on a commuter bus. And it came just hours after a meeting between the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
Sharon had been scheduled to arrive in Washington today for meetings tomorrow with -- Tuesday, that is, with President Bush at the White House to discuss the so-called Middle East peace road map, but the Israeli leader has decided to postpone that trip for now to deal with these latest terror strikes.
U.S. sources tell CNN there's evidence that the terrorists involved in Monday's Saudi Arabia attack believed they were acting on direct orders from top al Qaeda leaders.
Is Osama bin Laden behind the terror attack? Let's get some perspective. And for that, we turn to three special guests. Richard Murphy is the former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Pat Lang is a former chief Middle East analyst with the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency. Peter Bergen is a terrorism analyst for CNN, a well-known author on the subject.
Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION.
Ambassador Murphy, I'll begin with you. Last February, this past February, there was an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden, released by Al-Jazeera, translated by the Associated Press. Let me read a quote from Osama bin Laden, what he said last February. "In order to break free from these tyrannic and apostate regimes which is enslaved by America, in order to establish the rule of Allah on Earth among regions ready for liberation are" -- and he cited these -- "Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, the country of the two shrines," meaning Saudi Arabia, "Yemen and Pakistan."
In other words, it seems like Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are back in business.
RICHARD MURPHY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Well, I don't even know if he's alive, Wolf. He may well be and that may be a well-identified voice print that they got in February.
But even if he's just the inspiration, they're trying to get the message across that there is a network, an effective operation and "Look out, we're coming. We're going to defend Islam at any cost."
BLITZER: Because there have been attacks in Jordan. The U.S. diplomat was killed there. Saudi Arabia this week, Morocco this week.
Peter Bergen, what's going on? Is this a new al Qaeda, a resurfacing al Qaeda, or the same old al Qaeda?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I think that it's a doing- what-they-can al Qaeda. I mean, the likelihood of al Qaeda attacking in this country, I think, is pretty low.
BLITZER: Why do you say that?
BERGEN: I mean, I think they would have if they could have. I think the 19 hijackers, clearly, there was a huge investigation. We haven't turned up confederates that were part of the 19 hijackers in this country. And they're attacking in places where they have a large reservoir of support: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, we're seeing in Morocco just now, places where they have a network in place already.
And I think we're going to continue seeing these attacks. In the next week or two, I think we'll see -- if they follow previous patterns, in October and November, they had a series of attacks in Yemen, in Indonesia, in Kuwait, and they could do that again. I think that's what they would like to do.
BLITZER: Is that because, in these countries, there are certain al Qaeda operatives who are from these countries? I remember when that synagogue in Tunisia was blown up, I was told by intelligence sources that, presumably, there was a Tunisian who was working for al Qaeda who knew that area, and that's why he went in.
Is that why Saudi Arabia targets are now -- there are Saudis, al Qaeda operatives, or Moroccan al Qaeda operatives or Filipino al Qaeda operatives?
PAT LANG, FORMER CHIEF MIDDLE EAST ANALYST, PENTAGON'S DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: I think you have to think of this as their -- first of all, starting with the fact that there's a very large base of sympathizers to the cause of jihadi Islam around the world. And that these people form a kind of recruiting base, out of which groups that wish to imitate al Qaeda or sympathize with it or coordinate their actions can be formed. And there are some of these people in every one of these countries.
And so, Saudi Arabia is particularly prone to this because of the Wahhabi sect has had such a strong influence there. And many of their doctrines are inimical to friendliness to the West.
And I think you're apt to see this crop up everywhere. And there's this pool of people that is self-regenerating. And so, it's a long struggle.
BLITZER: Let's take a quick call from Florida. Go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Yes, my question is, what can the United States do to strengthen the ties with Saudi Arabia? We see so many ties deteriorating, and it's tragic.
BLITZER: All right. What about that, Mr. Ambassador? You spent years in Saudi Arabia.
If there is this policy that Prince Nayef, the interior minister, is publicly expressing, that they're not going to let the FBI really investigate, only observe, that would -- I'm sure the FBI agents who would come back to Washington would be pretty angry about that.
MURPHY: And you would hear about it very quickly. Remember, this is the same prince who, for months after 9/11, said there were no Arabs involved, it was probably an Israeli effort.
BLITZER: It was all a Zionist plot.
MURPHY: It was a Zionist plot.
So, the fact that he's saying now, yes, the FBI's here, but they're just going to look at the site, I don't take that at face value. That may be the words he used, but I look for a better cooperation, much better than there was after Khobar, and has gradually been building...
BLITZER: But isn't there a serious split in the Saudi leadership as to how far they should go in cooperating with the United States?
MURPHY: Well, how far they should go, certainly, in public cooperation. But I think the scope for cooperation with both the FBI, with the CIA.
BLITZER: Because you heard Sheila MacVicar say that there is disappointment. They were already bulldozing the crime scene, if you will, in order to get rid of, presumably, some evidence.
MURPHY: No, that's unfortunate. But that's to pretty it up, not to destroy evidence. That's just -- it's passed. Let's help forget -- people forget about it on the spot.
BLITZER: Pat, what do you make of that?
LANG: Well, I think there is a kind of major cleavage in the family. And it isn't just about this. It's about the whole issue of to what extent reform should be instituted in the kingdom, you know. And people stand on different sides of this. You've heard some of them expressed very, very recently.
And -- but in a way, this -- and I have had Saudis tell me this recently, that this shock presents the reformers with the opportunity, in fact, to push forward lot of reforms in schooling and law and all kinds of other things -- government. And it remains to be seen, now, if they're going to be able to perform on their aspirations, do that the way Ambassador Murphy said.
BLITZER: So, what do you think, Peter? Is Prince Nayef the final word in this, or is that simply for domestic consumption?
BERGEN: Prince Nayef has made a number of -- as the ambassador, you know, he's -- the way he -- around the time of the first anniversary of 9/11, he continued to maintain it was a Zionist plot to attack the United States.
He also, recently, this last week, was saying that al Qaeda was weak or nonexistent in Saudi Arabia. So, he's had a track record of making up inaccurate statements, to put it mildly.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break, but we have a lot more to talk about. Terrorism a hot subject and an important subject, critically important subject, for all of us. We'll continue our conversation with our panel. More of your phone calls coming up as well.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about the war on terror, the search for Osama bin Laden, among other subjects, with the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Richard Murphy; the former U.S. intelligence analyst, Pat Lang; and CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen.
I want you to listen, Ambassador Murphy, to what the secretary of defense, Don Rumsfeld, said earlier in the week about the ability of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to operate in this new world. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It is a much more difficult world than it had been previous. It's more difficult in terms of raising money. It's more difficult in terms of moving people and things and weapons and money. It's more difficult to recruit. It's more difficult to retain. And that's a good thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: It's still possible, though, for them to be quite destructive, even though the secretary of defense is right on all of those fronts.
MURPHY: Yes, it's still certainly dangerous. It may get less professional, as I tend to view that Moroccan bombing a couple nights ago, compared to the Riyadh bombing and perhaps some of the earlier ones.
BLITZER: Well, why do you say the Moroccan bombing was less professional? It looked like there was the simultaneous aspect that al Qaeda likes to have, multiple bombs going off at the same time. And also specific Western targets, a Belgian, a Spanish target, a Jewish nightclub.
MURPHY: Yes, everybody has a wrist watch. You can tell the guys to go out and set something off in a half hour, but it just struck me as a lower level of expertise than we had seen, and in potency of the explosives used.
BLITZER: But you know Morocco. That's a pretty -- the security services there are pretty tight, it's not easy to get those kinds of explosives in and cause that kind destruction in Casablanca.
MURPHY: Fine, but you remember a year ago there were Saudis picked up in Morocco planning an attack, I think, in the Straits of Gibraltar.
BLITZER: So you agree with the ambassador on that, that the attack in Casablanca was less sophisticated than, let's say, the attack in Riyadh?
BERGEN: Possibly. I mean, I think maybe a point to amplify this, al Qaeda is not just an organization, it's also an ideology. So, you don't necessary -- the people in Morocco may well not have actually been part of al Qaeda, the organization. They just signed up to, you know, basically attack Westerners, which is a pretty widely shared, I guess, idea. We're talking about tens of thousands of people who might sign up for that.
BLITZER: What do you make of it?
LANG: Yes, and if we're talking about Morocco, I mean, underneath this surface level of Westernization and great culture, in fact, there's a really large population which is devoted to various extreme Sufi sects and things like that that are a good recruiting base for things like this.
And it's extremely hard to extirpate an organization like this. You can make it difficult for them. For example, in Northern Ireland, I mean, the forces of the Crown have been trying to extirpate the IRA forever, and they could never get it down below a certain level because of the mass of supporters from which new people can be recruited.
So you just have to accept the fact that you're going to have to fight them on and on and on.
BLITZER: But at the highest levels of the government, King Mohammed VI and all of his top government, there's extensively good cooperation with the U.S.
LANG: Yes, absolutely. And the fact that an incident takes place there does not, in fact, indicate that the government of Morocco is unfriendly to the United States, any more than it does that in Saudi Arabia.
In fact, the ability of these people to survive and operate there doesn't mean, as I hear people saying, asking the question, is Saudi Arabia a friend or an enemy? I mean, this is a ridiculous question. In fact, the government obviously has every reason to want to help us in this fight.
BLITZER: Let's get back to Saudi Arabia for a moment, because I want to deal with some of what Senator Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday.
He's now running for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he's obviously someone who has been privy to some of the most sensitive intelligence information in the U.S. government. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: This will be another test, and it comes in a climate of a very mixed Saudi role in the war on terror, which we know and they know we know. So I would imagine this tragedy will be used as an opportunity for them to try to ingratiate themselves with us by being very cooperative.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You're shaking your head.
MURPHY: Well, if the emphasis is on ingratiating themselves, I don't agree with that, because I think it's now seen very much in their interest to cooperate with us.
Look, their intelligence can do things that ours can't. They have an ability to penetrate some of these organizations much better, more easily than we do. We have perhaps a more, quote, unquote, "scientific" approach on the investigation.
MURPHY: There's grounds to work together, and I hope that they are seeing that now, in contrast to '96 and even the first months after 9/11.
BLITZER: And on that point, the attorney general, John Ashcroft, Peter, was very blunt in warning of the dangers to Saudi Arabia itself from al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Saudi Arabia must deal with the fact that it has terrorists inside its country, and those terrorists are as much a threat to Saudi Arabia as they are to other nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How much of a threat, though, is al Qaeda to the leadership, to the royal family in Saudi Arabia?
BERGEN: Well, certainly al Qaeda wants regime change in Saudi Arabia, and Saudi officials said that there were recent attempts to assassinate leading members of the royal family. So in that sense they are a danger.
Are they -- you know, is there going to be an Iranian-style revolution in Saudi Arabia? I don't think so, necessarily. But al Qaeda is interested in regime change in Saudi Arabia and will do anything it can to effect that.
BLITZER: When the U.S. tipped off the Saudis that there was a plot, they went and found the weapons, the explosives, the cache of weapons, but the 19 suspects evaporated. They were gone. Was that just bad law enforcement, or is there some real hanky panky going on?
LANG: Well, I think it's a couple of things. One thing is, we have a tendency to forget that this is in fact still a less-developed country or a developing country. All the money and the material things and everything tend to disguise that. But in fact the mechanisms of government in Saudi Arabia don't work all that well.
I had a very senior guy in Riyadh tell me this week that they desperately need our help, because they cannot in fact do a very good job of tracking these people down.
So there's some of that. Plus, there's a kind of ambiguity in a lot of Saudi society that you see expressed in the fact that, on the one hand, they need to help us to protect themselves; on the other hand, some of them don't want to.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, gentlemen.
We're going to take another quick break. Much more to talk about, including more of your phone calls. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The war on terror is not over, yet it is not endless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush pledging ultimate victory in the war against terrorism. Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Pat Lang, I want you to listen to what the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss, said earlier today about other threats, terror threats beyond al Qaeda. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PORTER GOSS (R), FLORIDA: I would hesitate to say that al Qaeda is the only terrorist organization, or even the strongest. I would say perhaps that the edict that came out of Hamas is, to me, more discouraging this morning, that they are not going to let the peace process go forward at this time. I think that is a huge challenge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And a suggestion that Hamas, the Palestinian group, might even be planning terrorist actions outside Israel or the West Bank and Gaza.
LANG: Well, as I started to say before, you know, I think there is this worldwide base of sympathy in the Islamic world among some people for these things, and these things that pop up as specific organizations are manifestations of that larger tendency and sympathy.
And one of the unifying things that brings us all together is, I think, the Iranian government and their ministry of intelligence, which plays a direct role in supporting a lot of these organizations.
So I think it's quite possible you can have different groups expressing the same kind of thing through action. And in the case of Hamas, if the road map fails, as they seem to want to have it do, they will surely blame us, as well as the Israelis, and may do something.
BLITZER: How big of a problem is Hamas to U.S. interests?
MURPHY: Well, our interest is in getting those parties to peace. Now, the only way to deal with Hamas, in my opinion, is to get effective negotiations moving and shrink them down. That was Arafat's oldest line with Hamas...
BLITZER: But what about the argument that some Israelis make, the argument that President Bush makes about al Qaeda, you can't negotiate or deal with these people, you have to simply crush them?
MURPHY: No, you can circle around them. They will be out there wishing bad things for the Israelis. They don't want to see the state of Israel survive. OK. But hey, in the Knesset today there are elements in office who feel the only solution is to expel all Palestinians from Israel.
BLITZER: Do you believe that the al Qaeda operatives, if they were responsible for the Riyadh attack, that they may have gotten their orders from al Qaeda operatives in Iran?
BERGEN: Well, The Washington Post is reporting that today. And David Ensor and I both reported recently that Saifal al-Adel (ph), the leader -- basically the number three in the organization is in Iran, as is the Suleiman Abu Gheit, the spokesman.
So there are senior al Qaeda leaders in Iran. It's not clear if a signal went from Iran to Riyadh, but it is possible.
BLITZER: Isn't that suicidal, though, for the Iranian regime to be doing that?
BERGEN: Well, but you know, senior leaders of al Qaeda are in Pakistan. Just because senior leaders of, you know, al Qaeda are in any country doesn't necessarily mean they're there with the connivance of the government.
BLITZER: But you think it's possible that al Qaeda is operating out of Iran without the knowledge of the Iranian government.
BERGEN: I don't know the answer to that.
BLITZER: What do you think?
LANG: I would think that surely not. You know, it's a -- I don't think I'd agree with your premise there though that this is suicidal behavior on the part of the Iranians. I mean, there are certain people in the Iranian government who would like to have better relations with the west, but the ruling faction is still intent on pushing Islamic revolution as far as it can. So it wouldn't surprise me at all to have them give shelter to some elements of al Qaeda.
BLITZER: You don't think they got the message when President Bush removed Saddam Hussein from power?
LANG: No, I don't think they got the message at all. I think they know very well that Iran is a much larger country, it would be much more difficult to deal with. If we had been focused on some smaller country, then those people would certainly be much more worried than the Iranians are.
BLITZER: What do you think? Iran, one of the charter members of the so-called axis of evil that President Bush put forward.
MURPHY: I think it's a government divided, very much divided among themselves on relations with the West, on the peace process, on eventual recognition of Israel.
Some of them have said, "Look, whatever the Palestinians agree to, we're not going to be more royalist than the pope," or whatever the Iranian expression was.
BLITZER: All right. So, unfortunately we're going to have to leave it right there, because we're all out of time.
Ambassador Murphy, as usual, thanks very much.
Peter Bergen, thank you very much.
BLITZER: ... thank you.
Up next, we'll turn to money matters. Will the new Bush tax cuts fuel consumer confidence and spending, and what will the impact be on the global economy?
We'll go inside the numbers with the former Clinton economic adviser Gene Sperling and the former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes. They strongly disagree on all, all of the numbers.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: For the sake of economy vitality, Congress has got to act, and act boldly, on this plan to get more of your own money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush lobbying hard on the road this past week for his tax cut plan.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
The House of Representatives has passed a $550 billion plan over 10 years, cutting taxes across the board, while the Senate just approved a more modest $350 billion, 10-year plan.
But reconciling these bills could send Congress back to the drawing board and reopen the debate on whether tax cuts are what the ailing U.S. economy really needs.
Joining us now are two guests with very different perspectives. Here in Washington, Gene Sperling, a former Clinton White House economic adviser. And in New York, Steve Forbes. He is the president and CEO of Forbes Inc., a former Republican presidential candidate.
Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Steve Forbes, I'll begin with you. Do you really believe that a cut in taxes across the board right now -- let's say it's $350 billion, including a modest cut in dividend taxes -- they're going to -- is going to dramatically stimulate the U.S. economy in the short run?
STEVE FORBES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, FORBES MAGAZINE: It will do it both short-term and long-term. You'll see it first in the financial markets, especially if you get a package like the House passed, which deals with both dividends and capital gains, as well as cutting individual rates.
When you lower rates, every time we've lowered rates, the economy has been stronger, and the government ends up with more revenue. BLITZER: All right. What about that, Gene Sperling?
GENE SPERLING, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Well, we disagree. I think this is an enormous political victory for President Bush. He's gotten virtually everything he wants.
But I think it's probably the worst of all worlds.
BLITZER: But when you say he gotten everything. He wanted $726 billion...
BLITZER: ... in tax cuts. The House cut it down to $550 billion, and the Senate, $350 billion.
SPERLING: Give them credit. This is not really $350 billion or $550 billion. These are the Cinderella tax cuts that they pretend are going to suddenly disappear in a few years.
Of course, as the administration does, they'll try to make them permanent. They'll accuse people of raising taxes if they don't make them permanent.
So, I think the president is going to get pretty much what he wants. I think what's unfortunate is, I don't think it's what the economy needs. It's not designed to strongly jumpstart the economy. Look at what Goldman Sachs and economy.com are saying. They're saying things like the dividend tax cut and the capital gains tax cut do very little to jumpstart job growth. And we've lost 2.7 million jobs.
BLITZER: All right. Steve Forbes, if the president is getting what he wants, basically, but when it comes to reelection time, in a year or two years down the road, not even, as of this point, the economy is still sputtering along, hasn't rebounded, won't the Democrats be able to say the president is responsible for this failed economy?
FORBES: I think the economy will be stronger next year. And before the Iraq crisis perked up in February, the economy was showing signs of life. You'd never know it from all the wailing out there and the sluggishness in the economy, which is very real. We feel it in our business, this sluggishness.
The fact of the matter is, payrolls in America, the number of people working today, is about 1.8 million higher than it was a year ago.
If we get these tax cuts in, and remove a whole layer of taxation on capital, which means people would have more tools, able to get higher wages, create new jobs, you'll see a much more vibrant economy next years, and years thereafter.
BLITZER: All right. Gene?
SPERLING: Well, we are down 2.7 million private-sector jobs. I don't give President Bush all the blame for that. What I blame him for is not doing the things that could effectively jump-start job growth right now. You've got 23 to 25 states raising or considering raising taxes, cutting education, raising tuition. These things are all hurting growth at the state level.
Rather than President Bush helping, giving the states aid so they don't have to raise taxes, he's off doing things like the dividend, other expensive tax cuts that will hurt the deficit in the future and not helping jumpstart job growth right now.
And I think he will have to take some responsibility, not for everything bad that's happened, but for not focusing on the practical steps that could jumpstart job growth right now.
BLITZER: I want you to respond to that, Steve Forbes, but I also want to put up on the screen some of the highlights of what the Senate approved very narrowly, by one vote, this past week. The Senate bill would temporarily eliminate the tax on dividends, it would reduce income tax rates across the board, increase the child tax credit, give small business a tax break, give states some additional financial aid.
But go ahead and respond to what Gene just said about what he could be doing right now to help the U.S. economy get back on its feet.
FORBES: I'm delighted that indirectly Gene acknowledged that the bubble really grew to its horrible dimensions during the Clinton administration, and we're dealing with the aftermath today.
But in terms of states being in financial trouble, other than their own overspending in the '90s, the best thing that could happen is a more vibrant economy. We saw, in the '90s and '80s, when you have a good growth economy, revenues come in.
So the president's tax cut package is precisely designed to get investment back again, get job creation going, and get the economy moving. He has a stake in it, and he's doing the right thing. I asked Gene, when have we reduced tax rates substantially and not had a vibrant economy as a result, whether under a Democrat like Kennedy, or under Reagan? When hasn't it happened?
SPERLING: Well, Steve, you may feel that the 1980s were all peaches and roses, but I think what a lot of people saw was that the incomes for most Americans did not go up, and we had this huge deficit, which hurt the world economy, which hurt our economy, and through very hard work, with President Clinton's leadership, but I'll say also at times with bipartisan help, Republicans and Democrats, we turned this situation around, and what's very sad right now is that we are now building a huge hole that is going to make it extremely difficult for us to ever deal with Medicare and Social Security.
And what Alan Greenspan...
FORBES: Anyone, Gene... SPERLING: Just a second, Steve.
What Alan Greenspan and Steve Forbes, what the Joint Tax Committee itself has all told President Bush is that the long-term cost to the deficit does more harm to the long-term economy.
And, Steve, you only focus on the benefits of tax cuts. You have to focus on the harm to our long-term economic future of having such high debt, poor savings and high deficits in the future.
BLITZER: And, Steve Forbes, on that point I want you to respond -- hold on one second -- I want you to respond to that point, because you always, throughout your political career, were always concerned about these huge deficits that have been out there.
In the past couple of years, the surpluses as far as the eye could see have turned into deficits as far as the eye could see, hundreds of billions of dollars in annual deficits. What do you make to what Gene Sperling said about the concern, the cost to the U.S. economy, to average Americans, by these foreseeable deficits?
FORBES: Well, first of all, the idea that deficits cause higher interest rates is preposterous. As we've seen in the last couple of years, deficits have gone up, and interest rates have gone down.
Same thing happened in the 1980s.
As for debt, we took on huge debt during World War II, and financed it with 2.5, 3 percent debt.
The key is, if the economy's healthy, if the economy's growing. In the 1980s, even with horrific deficits, the nation's economy grew, 20 million new jobs were created, and people who were working in 1981 had higher pay in 1989. The reason the average stayed level in the 1980s was, we added 20 million new jobs, so it was a prosperous period, with growth rates even higher than the 1990s. I don't know what Gene has against prosperity. And the wealth of the nation increased $10 for each dollar of deficit we took in the 1980s. 10-1 ratio, pretty good, sounds to me.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to let Gene Sperling respond to that, but we're going to take a quick break first. We'll continue our conversation with Gene Sperling and Steve Forbes, they'll also be taking your phone calls. Call us right now.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about jumpstarting the U.S. economy as well as the global economy, with the former White House economic adviser Gene Sperling. He worked for the former President Bill Clinton, and the former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes.
We have a caller from Maryland. I want you to answer this caller's question, Gene, and get into your response as well to what Steve Forbes had to say.
Go ahead, caller.
CALLER: Hi. I have been a Republican for over 20 years, and I'm seriously considering switching parties because the economy was terrific back before Bush. Now it's gone to hell in a handbasket. My husband got less than a 2 percent raise the last two years and has been asked to work a lot more hours.
And if he's trying to help the American family, he doesn't have any family values, because he's putting stress on us as to what we're going to do with our -- how we're going to make our bills...
BLITZER: What's the question, caller?
CALLER: The question is, what are -- what is Bush going to do to help our families with this economy? My husband...
BLITZER: All right. All right.
CALLER: ... is working more and getting less.
BLITZER: I think the better question for you, Gene Sperling, if the Democrats were in power, what would they do?
SPERLING: Well, you know, first of all, as the caller implied and as I was going to say to Steve, trying to describe the 1990s as not being a period of prosperity doesn't wash.
Obviously we had 40 consecutive months of unemployment under 5 percent, both the lowest unemployment and inflation, doubling of productivity, the longest expansion in history and the strongest fiscal situation. And those situations did create a stronger economy that led to income growth across the board, to people like the family that this woman is talking about, her personal situation.
I think what you want to do is do -- I would do a few things. I would, one, I would focus on jumpstarting this economy. I would have even taken some of the things President Bush was talking about.
But the goal is: invigorate the economy now with tax cuts, with helping states not raise taxes, with getting businesses spending, but do it in a way that doesn't mortgage our long-term fiscal future. Because the real harm to families like this down the road is that, 10 years from now, when we realize that this tax cut has taken three times the amount of money...
BLITZER: You know...
SPERLING: ... that we need to fix Social Security, people are going to wonder why we acted so irresponsibly at this point.
BLITZER: Steve Forbes, correct me if I'm wrong. I remember when the Clinton administration came into office in '93, the Republicans were the ones that were always worried about the spiraling deficits, and the Clinton administration officials, including Gene Sperling, were saying, "Look, you got to deal with it in perspective. You first have to get the economy going." Has there been a reversal of roles, if you will?
FORBES: No. During the 1980s, the Ronald Reagan administration was willing to take on deficits to get the economy moving by passing good income tax rate cuts, which created long-term prosperity.
Also financed a huge financial, I mean, a military build-up to win the Cold War against the then-Soviet Union.
So the terms of deficits, when you have a sluggish economy, you're going to have deficits. When you fight a war, you're going to have deficits.
But now is precisely the time we should be laying the foundations for prosperity in the months ahead and in the years ahead. And the way you do that is, remove the burden on the American people.
By getting rid of, for example, double taxation of dividends, you create more capital, which enables people to get more tools...
BLITZER: But, are you at all...
FORBES: ... It's a basic difference.
BLITZER: But, Steve Forbes, are you at all concerned about what they call the "sunset provision" on this removal of the taxes for the dividends? They'll put it in for three years, but then it comes back? Listen to what Senator Max Baucus, how he described this sunset provision as a bookkeeping procedure designed to get this tax cut through. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: This is a huge yo-yo tax provision. Now you see it, now you don't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: In order to get under that $350 billion budget ceiling that they put in, they only removed the taxes for three years, but then they come back.
FORBES: Well, that's right. And I think what concerns Senator Baucus is not the stupidity of Senate rules which puts them through these pretzel-like procedures, but the fact that the tax cut now passed is probably going to stay, if that's what comes out of conference and is enacted into law.
And the fact of the matter is, these estimates of these deficits, five years, 10 years down the road, aren't worth the paper they're written on. Nobody knows what the economy's going to be.
But we do know from history, we do know from experience that whenever we reduce tax rates, as President Bush is proposing now, the economy has always been the stronger. BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Gene.
SPERLING: First, let's figure out where we disagree and where we agree. Steve and I both agree that it's OK to let the deficit go up for a year or two when you have a weak economy and war. And we both would favor some tax cuts that only -- that impact the economy this year.
Where I strongly disagree with Steve and with President Bush is that their tax cuts and their plans are not just geared toward increasing the deficit now. They are about making them permanent. And if there's one thing I would like to leave people watching this show with, it's the following.
The size of this tax cut made permanent and extended, as the White House would like, is more than three times the cost of what it would take to fix social security. It's enough resources to fix both Medicare and social security.
BLITZER: All right.
SPERLING: And that's a huge trade-off we're making that's going to do a lot of harm to our country and children's future.
BLITZER: I'm going to give Steve Forbes the last word. That's a serious allegation made by Gene Sperling that, in effect, the tax cuts, if envisaged completely by the president, would be enough to save social security for the long term. What do you make of that Steve Forbes?
FORBES: The fact of the matter is, the only way we're going to meet the future obligations of social security and Medicare is if we have a strong economy at the time those obligations come due. When that money comes in today into social security, it either goes in the government paper and gets spent or it's spent directly.
When those obligations come due in 10 or 15 or 20 years, you have to have a vibrant economy or people are going to have to pay higher taxes or deal with less benefits. This is what the tax cuts are all about, a long term strategy to make the economy stronger. They've always worked in the past. They'll work again now and in the future.
BLITZER: All right. Steve Forbes, I said you'd have the last word and you have it. Gene Sperling, thanks to you...
SPERLING: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: ... as well. A good debate which will continue.
FORBES: Thank you.
BLITZER: We say goodbye now to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching. Coming up for our North American audience, much more, including a deadly border crossing reigniting the debate over illegal immigration. We'll talk with the former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros and California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
Then, Bruce Morton's essay reminds us what really is the main weapon of terror. Plus, LATE EDITION's Final Round.
It's all ahead in the third hour of LATE EDITION.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
A gruesome discovery near San Antonio, Texas, this week. More than 100 illegal immigrants holed up in an abandoned trailer in Texas, 19 of them died from dehydration and suffocation, dozens more were hospitalized.
The incident is raising new concerns about U.S. border security and immigration.
Joining us now are two special guests. In his home state of California, Republican Congressman, Dana Rohrbacher. He's a leading immigration reform expert in the U.S. Congress. And in San Antonio, Texas, the former U.S. housing secretary, as well as the former mayor of San Antonio, Henry Cisneros.
Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Let me begin with you, Congressman. What does it say to you, this incident that we saw, this horrific incident in Texas, Victoria, Texas? Nineteen people died, suffocated in a hot tractor-trailer, in a trailer as they simply sought to find work in the United States?
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, we have very good- hearted people here who do not want to clamp down on the millions of illegal immigrants that are coming into our country, and they maybe have good hearts, but it leads to these types of tragedies.
If people around the world know that if they can get across our borders they're going to get a free education for their children, they're going to be able to have all the benefits that we Americans have, they can get good jobs here, what's going to, even if they're here illegally, they're going to come pouring into our country and there are going to be tragedies like this.
The people who are really guilty of these deaths are the ones that have refused to get serious about the illegal flow of immigration into our country, and to deny the services that are attracting these people to our country.
BLITZER: And who are those people, Congressman?
ROHRABACHER: Well, it's two groups of people, as far as I can see. One, there are big businessmen that want to profit by keeping wages low and exploiting their labor.
And then there is the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that thinks if they can flood this country with illegals it's going to help them politically.
BLITZER: Secretary Cisneros, what do you make of that?
HENRY CISNEROS, FORMER MAYOR OF SAN ANTONIO: Well, Wolf, I couldn't disagree with the congressman more intensely. This is not about people who are coming to get services in the United States. It simply is not.
These are people who are coming here to work because the American economy requires them, because we have industry after industry across the country that couldn't function without people who are here willing to do that work.
Every time we pick up fruit in a restaurant and look at the quality of that fruit, it has been picked by workers in California who are here doing that work. Poultry workers in Arkansas, textile workers in Georgia. People picking other crops like Apples in Washington and cherries in Michigan, and other fruits in Maine.
And construction, frankly, you can't go to a construction job, commercial or residential construction in the American southwest, it couldn't function without these Mexican workers and Central American workers.
So what we have is a disjuncture between American immigration policy as it exists today and the simple realities of how our economy works.
CISNEROS: These people were coming here to work, and it is a sad, heartbreaking thing to see that the cruelty, which results in people dying that way, 19 people, including a 7-year-old child. And of course, this made the news this week...
BLITZER: All right.
CISNEROS: ... because it was one incident, but there's 500 cases in 2000.
ROHRABACHER: I guess the secretary...
BLITZER: Congressman, go ahead.
ROHRABACHER: I guess the secretary thinks that 7-year-old child was coming here to work. No, he wasn't coming here to work. People bring their families here because they're getting free services.
If you had a family, if you were a father or a mother down in either Mexico or Guatemala or Costa Rica or in China, and you heard that your child was going to get free health care, free education, and your family was welcome to all the services that are available to Americans, there would be nothing that could keep you out. You would even cram yourself into the back of a trailer truck to get here.
Now, in terms of what work? Yes, illegal immigrants do come here and work by the millions, and it keeps our wages down. If our wages were higher, maybe those industries would build up different types of technology so that the average person, an American hopefully, would be able to handle a machine that could do the job of 20 illegal immigrants. No. We've kept the wages low, and thus that one American doesn't have a good paying job.
CISNEROS: Wolf, I can...
BLITZER: All right. Go ahead.
CISNEROS: I can only tell you, from living in a neighborhood surrounded by persons who are, many of them, recent arrivals, legal and illegal, that they are not here for services. These are principally people who are here to work.
ROHRABACHER: I can tell you I come from California...
CISNEROS: Now, they do establish their families.
ROHRABACHER: ... and our services are breaking down right now. Education, health care, and everything.
CISNEROS: They do establish families, and families then want to be together after they're here for a number of years. But this is -- we've got to be realistic about just how important these people are to the functioning of our economy, and that's principally the reason that they're here.
CISNEROS: But they're also a great...
BLITZER: I was going to say, Secretary Cisneros, what do you make of the argument that there are laws, and if you violate the laws trying to get into the country, perhaps for noble purposes, to simply work, you're still violating the laws. And what kind of message does that send out there that you can break the law, get into this country and work, and presumably get the benefits of living in the United States?
CISNEROS: Well, there are laws, and the laws need to be observed, and the laws need to be enforced. And we're working harder to enforce them.
But we also need to recognize, in a policy context, the kinds of discussions that President Bush was starting with President Fox before 9/11, that there need to be adjustments in those laws because they are out of sync with the reality of what both economies require.
But the American economy draws and pulls people across, and the Mexican and Central American economies tend to push people across.
ROHRABACHER: Yes, as long as we don't control the border, it doesn't. Let me give you an example. When I was in college, I cleaned toilets. I was a janitor for a while. And yes, I didn't earn much money, but I earned enough. Well, the pay of janitors really hasn't gone up that much because we have a flow of illegals coming into this country. The fact is, if we wouldn't have had those illegals, we'd probably have machines that one janitor could use to clean maybe 100 toilets a night, where I used to clean about 15 or 20. The fact is those machines haven't been developed, that American doesn't have that higher-paying job now that he would have. Wages of those working class Americans haven't gone up because we have not enforced our laws.
ROHRABACHER: And furthermore...
BLITZER: All right.
ROHRABACHER: ... those people who come in and clean the toilets, we end up paying for their whole family, the taxpayers, for their health care for their education, and many other social benefits.
BLITZER: All right. Secretary Cisneros, go ahead.
CISNEROS: The Congressman has been on the job, on the appropriate congressional committees, and pushing enforcement and pushing the laws, and they haven't worked. Because the realities on the ground overwhelm the technical structures of the laws and even the enforcement.
So we end up with situations like this where people have to go underground, and we have this network of "coyotes" they're called, both on the U.S. side and the Mexican side, which put people in the backs of trailers and create situations like this.
As I said a moment ago, Wolf...
ROHRABACHER: There will be no...
CISNEROS: As I said a moment ago, there were 500 deaths in 2000.
ROHRABACHER: You can't enforce this in the law. You'll never be able to enforce the border as long as you're offering people a treasure if they can get across the border.
BLITZER: Well, what would you do? I know you want reform in immigration, Congressman. What would you do? What do you want to do to seal up the border, in effect?
ROHRABACHER: Well, I don't want to seal up the border. We have the most generous legal immigration policy in the world. In fact, we bring in more legal immigrants into this country, which I support, over a million, than all the other countries in the world combined. And that's a good thing.
But when we have 3 or 4 million illegals pouring across the border, in order to get their hands either on jobs or government services for their families, we've got to put an end to it.
ROHRABACHER: How I would do it, I would just simply say, anyone who's here illegally is not going to get any benefits, either education, health care, you name it, they're not going to get these benefits, and every American, including those people, our educators, our health-care providers, our police have got to help enforce that immigration law and get illegals back home.
CISNEROS: The reason why the congressman's not been able to do that is because it is not in sync with the reality of what exists, and American business, for example, wouldn't allow that.
ROHRABACHER: Cheap labor.
CISNEROS: The construction industry, the agricultural industry couldn't function if they were in the position of enforcing immigration laws.
ROHRABACHER: Oh, they could function, they'd have to pay more money, they'd have to pay more money to our people, and I think that would be a good thing, to actually have wages rise in our country.
CISNEROS: Well, what I want Americans to understand is, because frequently there's an underlying dimension to this, and that is concerns about Hispanics per se, or their role in the country, the Hispanization of the Southwest, those kinds of canards that are simply not true.
These people have the potential to bring great energy and capacity and work and pay taxes and raise children and revitalize communities, and that's exactly what happens.
ROHRABACHER: This is not anti-Hispanic, when...
CISNEROS: And places like Chicago have reversed five decades of decline because of the growth of their immigrant population. New York revitalized because of the growth of their immigrant population.
ROHRABACHER: I need to say this.
CISNEROS: This is a huge positive thing for the country.
ROHRABACHER: Mr. Secretary, this is not anti-Hispanic. The people in California who are the worst hit by illegal immigration is our Hispanic population, and we -- Mexican-Americans out here are proud to be Americans, and they deserve a better lot in life than illegals or people from another country.
And by the way, we've got a huge illegal immigration problem from Asia and China, and so this is not anti-Hispanic.
BLITZER: All right.
ROHRABACHER: I consider it pro-Hispanic.
CISNEROS: Most analysts of the prosperity of the last decade acknowledge that a big portion of that has been immigration...
BLITZER: All right.
CISNEROS: ... and some of it has been immigration that is not...
ROHRABACHER: A lot of people were left out in that, a lot of working people, because their wages didn't go up.
BLITZER: All right, gentlemen. Stand by, because we're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to discuss.
We'll continue our conversation with Congressman Rohrabacher and the former housing secretary, Henry Cisneros. They'll also be taking your phone calls, so call us now if you have questions. We'll also discuss what's happening with Cubans trying to get into the United States.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about immigration reform and the security of U.S. borders with California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros.
Congressman, there's been some confusion out there as far as what some call a double standard for Cubans who seek to illegally gain entry into the United States as opposed to everyone else.
We saw dramatic pictures over the past few days of Cubans trying to swim ashore to evade the U.S. Coast Guard, ordering them to get on board a Coast Guard vessel. Perhaps they would be sent back to Cuba if they did. But if they get onto U.S. soil, they're allowed to stay in the United States.
Is there a double standard here for Cubans on the one hand and Mexicans and everyone else on the other?
ROHRABACHER: Yes, of course there is. The fact is that there are political considerations in terms of strategic implications for the United States about what's happening in Cuba. You have a dictatorship in Cuba that is headed by a group of Communists who hate the United States and, over the years, have been dedicated to hurting us.
Thus we have had a different policy, and that policy has been aimed at something that will hinder the government of Cuba. And just -- you have to make those types of considerations sometime.
BLITZER: So would you support that kind of double standard for other immigrants who want to get to the United States from dictatorships, from brutal regimes? If they had a good excuse, you'd let them get here just as the Cubans?
ROHRABACHER: No. If it is -- if it can be demonstrated that letting some people into the United States from a dictatorship that hates us, that is -- and that this will, perhaps, weaken that dictatorship, we should seriously consider it and put that into the mix in terms of what formula we're making in terms of who we permit in.
By the way, we permit in well over a million legal immigrants into our country a year. As I said, more than every other country in the world combined. So we have nothing to apologize in terms of our immigration policy.
And although it's not totally consistent with -- for everybody, this isn't set up to be fair for the world. It's set up for what's good for the United States of America. To permit a few more people from Cuba coming in, to weaken the dictatorship there that hates us, is a good policy.
BLITZER: All right. Let me let Secretary Cisneros weigh in.
The congressman makes some good points.
CISNEROS: I have no objection to our policy vis-a-vis Cuba and how we treat immigrants from Cuba or other countries, as in the case of Nicaragua and El Salvador during the civil wars there, when we made arrangements for people to be able to come to the United States. But I do think it is time for the administration to reinitiate the discussion that was well under way.
And, as a matter of fact, they were days away from meetings between President Bush and President Fox when 9/11 occurred. And then the fears of terrorism from the southern borders, which has not been a serious question. The 9/11 terrorists entered through Canada; Portland, Maine; and Boston. Nothing to do with the Southwest.
But that put Americans in a frame of mind where we didn't want to talk about border issues and recognize the need to tighten up the border. And certainly, from a terrorism standpoint, every kind of protection needs to be put in place.
But it is time to start the discussion about how we're going to regulate the flows of people who are needed to work. And I'll say once again, these are people who come here to make a substantial contribution, and they do. Our economy couldn't function without them. They've been part of our prosperity. And they bring values which are important to the American future.
As our traditional population is beginning to age, and we need workers, here are young, energetic, youthful workers who bring the right values, including the seven people who died in the battles in Iraq who were Mexican-born and served in the U.S. armed forces, and died among all the Americans.
BLITZER: All right.
ROHRABACHER: And we're very proud of them, and there's no doubt about that. Look, Mexican Americans contribute an enormous amount to our society. Look, I'm a Californian -- who cannot appreciate what the Mexican-American culture has done here and the great -- our neighbors? And we lost a young man in the Marines here. We appreciate that.
But we also know that this flow of illegal immigration into our country is hurting these very people more than anybody else. They're the ones who are being elbowed out of a job or that their wages are being kept low.
CISNEROS: Congressman, I just don't think that's correct.
BLITZER: Do you still believe, Secretary Cisneros, do you still believe that the 3 million or 4 million -- some say many more than that -- illegal immigrants in the United States -- some of them have been living here for 10, 20 years, maybe even longer -- should be able to get citizenship to start a process of becoming legal U.S. citizens?
CISNEROS: I do believe that there is, you fix a point in time and you say people who have been here as of that point and been here for a considerable time, paying taxes, living within the rules, should be eligible for citizenship, as we did with the amnesty of 19, that took effect in 1982, a 1986 law that took effect in 1982.
We'll need to do that again at some point as a practical matter, because there's just a lot of people. And I would say to the congressman, in your area out in the inland empire of San Bernardino and Riverside, one of the fastest growing regions in America, native- born Americans and Mexican-Americans are benefiting from the economic juggernaut that is in part due to the immigration that's occurring there.
ROHRABACHER: Well, let me put it this way. Mexican-Americans are native-born Americans. They are no different than the rest of us. So don't give me this.
CISNEROS: I'm making a point.
ROHRABACHER: It's illegals from Mexico that we're talking about here. And China, and Costa Rica, and illegals that are coming here. We have a massive flow of illegals coming in from China.
We're just as concerned about that. If they were coming from Ireland I would be just as concerned about that.
CISNEROS: Congressman, the California economy is a marvel to behold.
ROHRABACHER: Come out here and tell us that. Our health care system is breaking down. The education system is getting worse every day. Our jails, our criminal justice system under the pressure of illegal immigration is going to hell.
Our people are suffering from crime. Their kids aren't getting the education.
CISNEROS: Congressman, it is simply not ...
ROHRABACHER: All of this can be shifted back to illegal immigrants by the millions who come into our state.
CISNEROS: It is simply not correct to blame those issues on people who are here to work. It is not correct, it is false.
ROHRABACHER: Come out and talk to Californians and you'll find, in the Mexican-American community, as I say, native-born Americans who happen to be of Mexican descent, they supported Prop 187, about 40 percent of them supported Prop 187, and they're hurt the most by this illegal immigration.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to have to wrap it up on that note, unfortunately. Thanks to both of you for joining us. Congressman Rohrabacher, Secretary Cisneros.
This debate will continue, and we'll have both of you back. Thank you very much. When we return, Bruce Morton's essay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Afghans struggling against the Soviet Union used guerrilla terror tactics because that's what they had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Will the war on terror ever end? Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're following a developing story out of Jerusalem right now. CNN's Kelly Wallace is standing by with details.
Kelly, in the aftermath of the suicide bombing attack aboard a Jerusalem bus, what is the Israeli government doing now?
KELLY WALLACE, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one step, the Israeli defense forces announcing that it is closing access for Palestinians from the West Bank into Israel. And the idea of saying this is directly connected to what we have seen in the region, four terror attacks over 12 hours.
Now, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has been huddling with his advisers, convening an emergency cabinet meeting Sunday evening. Still not clear if there will be other moves by the Israeli administration. There was discussion by some cabinet ministers, we are told, at that meeting of deporting the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. But Israeli officials say that Prime Minister Sharon absolutely will not support such a move right now.
The prime minister's office also issued a very strongly worded statement, saying that the Israeli government will fight terror everywhere and anywhere and also saying that the only way to have peace is after "terror has been eradicated and there is quiet here," and also "until there is proof that there's someone on the other side who will fight terror."
Now, the Israeli position continues to be, until it sees the Palestinians taking steps to crack down on radical Palestinian groups, the Israelis feel they can't take steps, such as pulling troops out of Palestinian towns. But the Palestinians say the big problem here is Prime Minister Sharon and Israeli activities over the past couple of years, saying until Israel accepts and starts implementing that road map, including pulling troops out of Palestinian towns and freezing settlement activity, the Palestinians won't have the political power they need to stand up to these radical Palestinian groups and try and stop these terror attacks.
So it looks like, Wolf, the two sides very, very, very much not seeing eye to eye right now. And again, the first move by the Israeli government after these attacks, closing off access for Palestinians into Israel from the West Bank. Wolf?
BLITZER: A total closure, according to a statement released by the Israeli defense forces. Kelly Wallace, thanks for that report.
We'll continue to monitor all of these late breaking developments. In the meantime, let's get back to Bruce Morton and what's at the heart of the war on terror.
RUMSFELD: In this global war on terrorism.
BUSH: The war on terror continues.
POWELL: On the global war against terrorism.
MORTON (voice-over): We keep talking about the war on terror, but it isn't really. Terror isn't a philosophy like democracy or capitalism. It isn't a religion. It's a technique, and it's used usually by the side that doesn't have more elaborate weapons.
The Afghans struggling against the Soviet Union used guerrilla terror tactics because that's what they had. The Israelis struggling to create a country used terror in the 1940s because that's what they had. Menachem Begin, later a prime minister, blew up a hotel in Jerusalem.
The people who blew up the housing compounds in Riyadh used terror because that's what they have. If they had intercontinental ballistic missiles and hydrogen bombs, they'd use those.
What we really face is a war against hatred, and there's no likelihood it will end any time soon. Jim Hoagland wrote persuasively in The Washington Post this past week that it's a hatred wider than the region. An independent Palestinian state would be a good thing on its merits, but that's not the point.
Withdrawing U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia makes sense in these post-Saddam times, but that's not the point. What these Muslim extremists -- who, of course, are a small minority of the Muslim world -- what they hate is the whole Western thing. Hoagland wrote, our trade and technology, education levels they don't have -- all of that. And what they'd really like to do is blow it all to smithereens.
I remember an interview with Ronald Reagan when he was president -- Reagan talking about all the backyard swimming pools he'd see when Air Force One was coming in for a landing somewhere, and how that's what people all around the world in other countries wanted, that kind of comfortable, easy American life.
That's not what the Muslim extremists want. Their goal is destruction, not negotiation. Not this piece of territory or that, but destruction on which they can impose their hatred, their extremist religion.
All of which means a struggle which will go on for generations probably. All of which means Americans will have to get used to searches and restrictions many of us don't like.
It's hard and sad. Just to try to walk, nevermind drive, around the White House now. So many streets closed. So many barriers up.
But if Hoagland is right, and the evidence surely suggests that he is, these are restrictions we are probably all going to have to live with for a very long time.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.
It's time now for your letters, letters to LATE EDITION. We're getting tons of e-mail.
Glenn (ph) writes this from New Jersey: "The most frustrating aspect of this economy is the continued partisan bickering over what's to be done. Republicans and Democrats are more interested in being right than in really making progress."
This from C. McBride (ph) in California: "If citizens who don't march in lock-step with the current administration are unpatriotic, then what, exactly, is the definition of the democracy we are fighting to preserve? Democracy means we have the right to our own beliefs."
We always welcome your comments. The e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to receive my weekly e-mail previewing our program, go to cnn.com/lateedition. That's where you can sign up.
Up next, our Final Round. Our panel is ready to weigh in on the week's big stories. LATE EDITION's Final Round, right after the hour's headlines.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our Final Round. Joining me: Eric Liu, the author and the former Clinton speechwriter; Peter Beinart of the New Republic; Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online; and Robert George of the New York Post.
We begin with new and deadly strikes in the war on terror. Since Monday, a series of terror attacks in Jerusalem, Morocco and Saudi Arabia have left dozens of people dead and many others injured.
The White House has been saying al Qaeda is on the run. But today Massachusetts Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry said the Bush administration is not add adequately protecting Americans in the event of another attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: This administration has told us it is not a question of if, it is a question of when. Those are their words.
So if those words are true, it also raises the question of why firefighters are being laid off in America, why police programs have been cut.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you make of that, Robert? Has the Bush administration been overplaying the progress in the war on terror?
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: No, I don't think so. I mean, he may -- they may have misspoken when they said about al Qaeda being on the run, but Bush has said from, you know, going back, since 9/11, this is going to be a long, protracted war. We're going to have many successes. They're going -- there are still going to be more terror -- there are going to be still more terror attacks.
I think, Kerry, though, was seriously overstating the case when he knows full well that there was a money -- there was money allocated in the war budget that was passed just a couple of months ago specifically for homeland defense.
BLITZER: What do you make in this debate?
ERIC LIU, FORMER CLINTON SPEECHWRITER: Well, sure, there is money allocated for homeland defense. The question isn't whether it was zero. The question is whether it's been adequate.
And I think, you know, I don't think the administration has been overplaying the success in the war on terror; they have just been not doing enough to actually to put their money where their mouths are.
And, particularly on, you know, out in Seattle, where I'm from, ports and airports and police departments, first responders, people at the front lines there, are not getting the resources and support they need. That's just a fact right now.
And however well we may be doing in chasing al Qaeda, that fact remains, and it leaves us vulnerable.
JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: This strikes me as a huge apples-and-oranges argument. First responders, by definition, respond to terrorist attacks. They don't prevent terrorist attacks.
The Democratic Party and the Democratic candidates have been beating up the Bush administration on how they've been lax in the war on terrorism because they haven't been hiring more first responders, while, at the same time, they're beating up the Justice Department for the incredible progress that is has made in the terrorist cells that is has and terrorist attacks it has actually prevented.
It's fine if the Democratic Party wants more firemen and more police. I think that sounds fine. But you can't have it both ways. You can't say the Bush administration isn't doing enough and, at the same time, saying the Justice Department is being too draconian.
PETER BEINART, THE NEW REPUBLIC: I think you can completely have it both ways.
I mean, you can say that there are certain things the Justice Department does -- you don't want it to do because you think it violates the civil liberties of immigrants. And you can also say, one of the best things we can do so we don't have to violate people's civil liberties is actually spend a lot more money than we are on homeland security.
And the fact is, the tax cut which has just been pushed through is going to make it much more difficult to spend that money on homeland security. I think it's a completely consistent position.
GOLDBERG: No, but, Peter, the Democrats makes it sound as if what what they're really looking for is more municipal pork. I mean, that is what I hear when I hear these people saying...
BEINART: It's not municipal pork to say you want to secure ports.
GOLDBERG: Well, but that's not what we just heard from Kerry. What we heard from Kerry is that we need more firemen. And that's what we hear from Hillary Clinton. And that's what we hear in that debate from among all the Democrats.
BEINART: Well, if they blow up another building, we will need more firemen. We clearly didn't have enough -- a good enough system in New York.
GOLDBERG: Yes, but at the same time, there's this talk as if everything the Justice Department is doing is too much, while the Justice Department has actually foiled all sorts of attacks, and there have been none since September 11th.
LIU: That's the same red herring from the other direction. I mean, the reality is you need both prevention and interdiction. GEORGE: And that's exactly what Jonah's saying.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I have no problem with that.
BLITZER: All right...
GOLDBERG: But it seems to me -- well, anyway...
... I'm on the record.
BLITZER: You made your point.
The Saudi government is facing criticism for failing to do enough to prevent Monday's terrorist attacks in Riyadh that killed 34 people, including eight Americans.
Today, the Saudi foreign policy adviser, Adel al-Jubeir, told me his government is redoubling its efforts against terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL-JUBEIR: We have been steady in terms of fighting terrorism. We are threatened by terrorists, we are threatened by al Qaeda. The two countries that Osama bin Laden is going after are the United States and Saudi Arabia.
We would be foolish if we didn't exert every possible effort to try to destroy this murderous organization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you make of that?
GOLDBERG: All of a sudden the Saudis are saying this is a wakeup call, we're going to take terrorism seriously. It sort of underscores the point that they weren't taking it all that seriously before.
And are we supposed to say -- we supposed to interpret all of their former assurances that they were doing everything they could as actually not being true?
The Saudis are caught in a fundamental problem, which is that they are a corrupt regime which is dedicated to its own preservation more than any other principle, and you're always going to have these problems as long as that's your overarching goal.
BEINART: I think that's right. And the real question is America's long-term relationship with Saudi Arabia. I think one of the best things about this war on Iraq is that it will allow us to withdraw our troops from Saudi Arabia.
But the truth is, if you want to become less dependent on Saudi Arabia, it again goes back to the home front. I mean, unless we do something about energy efficiency, about energy dependence, even with Iraq we're still going to be very dependent on Saudi Arabia, on a government that I think's future is very uncertain.
BLITZER: Well, the Saudis have been supportive of the United States. They've worked militarily, in the intelligence community, albeit not as robustly as the U.S. would like.
The situation could be much worse for the U.S. if there was some sort of Islamic, Iran-like theocracy in place in Saudi Arabia.
LIU: Well, that's absolutely right. It is a case of be careful what you wish for. You know, right now the Saudi regime, as inept as they've been on the war on terror, at least right now are committed to making some efforts.
The reality is that even as we disengage militarily from that country, it's going to remain a major problem for us in the region. When you have the high percentages of the population there in support of bin Laden, in support of terror against America, the mere withdrawal of our forces there isn't going to change the fact that's a festering spot in that region that's going to come back to haunt us.
GEORGE: Bit part of it is, as Jonah says, comes down to the basic corruption of the regime, and unfortunately that the corruption that's within that regime also creates that -- becomes a festering ground, because the mullahs and the imams in Saudi Arabia feel that they look at that corruption as Saudis, see they're closest to the West, and use that to foment anti-American hatred.
LIU: The thing we ought to be doing is not just withdrawing our troops. It ought to be working with this regime to figure out ways they can get on a path to a stable kind liberalization.
BLITZER: Is that do-able in Saudi Arabia?
BEINART: Well, the problem is, if you were to go through all the countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia would be the last one that you think would have a shot at democracy.
The truth is, the opposition is probably more fanatical than the government itself. And this has been a decades-long failure by the United States to ever take this problem seriously while we were just getting oil of there. It's really a tragedy.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break.
We have much more to talk about, including our Final Round's Lightning Round. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our Final Round.
The new U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, is denying reports that plans to establish an interim Iraqi government have been put on hold indefinitely. Bremer says he's moving forward with the process. Meanwhile, frustration remains high over the lawlessness and basic services in Iraq.
Eric, is the U.S. botching the reconstruction effort in Iraq?
LIU: Well, so far it is. You know, I think what happened right now is the administration's pursuing this as if they've won a victory at halftime. You know, they've done a substantial thing here by liberating Iraq, but they haven't done the second half of that, which is to just get the basic building blocks of security and trust in that society to enable them to build something from the rubble of liberation.
BLITZER: But it's only been, Jonah, five, six weeks since the liberation of Iraq. Don't you understandably need more time, a big country like that, to get the job done, bring some basic law and order?
GOLDBERG: Yes, we all knew this was going to be hard, and I think it's encouraging that they're willing to leave their script when they show that it's not working.
But I do think we've learned something pretty important here, which is that Don Rumsfeld was absolutely right that it doesn't take a whole huge army anymore to win a war. But he was wrong that it does take a huge army to keep a peace. And technology doesn't change the fact that you need a cop on every corner and we need a cop on every corner there.
BEINART: But the real scandal here is that people in the administration knew that. Eric Shinseki got up and he was slapped down by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz for political reasons because they didn't want to say that because they thought it would undermine selling the war. And the truth is, Bremer is actually doing a good job, but we have plans to draw down our troops so fast over the next six months, to 30,000 by the fall, it's an absolute scandal, and the talk about creating a democracy in Iraq is a complete farce if we take our troops down like that.
BLITZER: Eric Shinseki being the Army chief of staff who predicted 200,000 U.S. troops would be needed for an extended period of time. And Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, later said that was simply wrong.
GEORGE: All right. That's exactly right. In fact, my paper, The Post, still has a reporter over there.
BLITZER: The New York Post.
GEORGE: The New York Post, the good Post, still has a reporter over there. He's interviewed soldiers there, and they are actually -- they are fearful that, if there aren't -- the services aren't restored, the lawlessness doesn't end, they're really fearful that they're going to be facing a (inaudible) of their own within a year.
LIU: This is a predictable situation. GOLDBERG: Although...
LIU: You know, when you set the wheels of war in motion, the first thing you could have predicted was that there would be a vacuum that existed.
BEINART: I think someone should lose their job over this.
BLITZER: Well, somebody did lose their job, Jay Garner.
GOLDBERG: Yes, exactly.
BEINART: But he was the fall guy. Someone higher up...
GOLDBERG: The Shinseki point is a perfectly valid point, but it doesn't win the argument, because there were a lot of generals at the time -- I believe Shinseki might have been one of them, as well -- was also saying we needed a lot more troops to win the war, and we didn't.
And it's easy to go back and say that he was right about this and wrong about that, but look, I mean, we all knew this was going to be hard.
BEINART: ... peace-keeping in Bosnia. I mean, he knew peace keeping unlike Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld.
GEORGE: And he said this actually in testimony when he was asked about it.
BLITZER: Let's move on and switch gears. The fallout continues from the Jayson Blair New York Times scandal. Blair has already met with an agent about a possible book deal.
BLITZER: And the latest issue of Newsweek magazine has the first public comments from Blair since news broke that he fabricated dozens, dozens of stories, maybe more.
Blair says this, and I'm quoting: "I feel a range of emotions, including guilty, shame, sadness, betrayal, freedom, and appreciation for those who have stood by me, been tough on me, and have taken the time to understand that there's a deeper story, and not to believe everything they read in the newspapers."
BLITZER: Why are you laughing?
GEORGE: Not believe everything you read in the newspapers? I mean, you can't -- I mean, talk about...
GEORGE: Well, actually, I guess he could.
The story you have here really -- I mean, it's a management problem, it's a divorce the issues, and so forth. Obviously, you've got an incredibly venal individual, and you had higher-ups in the Times who for a mixture of ideological and management issues, you know, didn't get rid of him. Unfortunately, the culture means that he's going to be...
BLITZER: Should the editor, Howell Raines, resign?
BEINART: I honestly don't know. I mean, what frustrates me about this is, the people inside the Times want him to resign, that's one thing. What really frustrates me about this is that I think a lot of people who want his scalp really wanted his scalp before they even heard of Jayson Blair, because their real animus with him is political, because they feel he's made the Times too liberal.
And it seems to me people should be honest about that, that what we're having here is one conversation about journalistic ethics and another conversation about politics, and we should keep the two separate.
GOLDBERG: Oh, I think there are a lot of conversations going on. This is in many ways a perfect storm. You've got the arrogance of the management, you've got the issue of race and diversity, you've got the plagiarism itself. I mean, there are all sorts of things that are going on.
And I agree, Peter, it'd be wonderful if we could disentangle all of them, but they're all together because they're all in a real story. And for critics of the New York Times, I don't think -- who I count myself as one -- I don't think we ever hid the fact that we thought Howell Raines had problems distinct from Jayson Blair.
And I think -- I don't have to have that much disclosure to say that this does, though, highlight many of the problems with Howell Raines, and many of the problems of the New York Times.
LIU: You know, I think the reason why this is a story that resonates beyond just the media circles on the East Coast is that race has been injected in this, and I think we've got to be able to speak a lot more honestly than we've been able to about the role that race played in here.
Was race a factor in Jayson Blair's being hired? Sure. Was it a factor in his being promoted? Sure, it was. It absolutely was.
That doesn't mean therefore that affirmative action is illegitimate. The idea is that race also played too much of a role, perhaps, in Howell Raines's overlooking failure after failure on this one reporter's part. BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about new revelations about John F. Kennedy's love life. A New York woman, Mimi Fahrenstock, has acknowledged that she had an affair with the president when she was 19 years old, working as a White House intern.
Is there ever too much we can know about the presidents' personal lives, Robert?
GEORGE: JFK had an affair in the White House. I mean, we've done this story I think 150 times before, and...
GEORGE: Yes. I mean, we've done it so many times before, I don't think this is really any news, except the fact, if you want to make some kind of comparison to Monica.
BEINART: Yes, I think that's right. I mean, what I actually like about the story is, this woman was allowed to keep her privacy and her dignity for 41 years. I mean, and she was able to live a normal life, and I actually think that -- although JFK was obviously a sleazeball, and obviously women were exploited back then in a way that they aren't today, that's actually a good side of the story, and it's too bad that can't happen now.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I think that's basically right. I mean, there's another apples-and-oranges thing in some ways, because this is history versus news. And so the debates about what is pertinent and what is relevant are completely different.
And JFK and Bill Clinton are also completely different people from totally different eras and different climates with different rules governing these kinds of issues.
BLITZER: You've got the last word.
LIU: Well, I think the key is that presidents set the tone themselves for how much of their own personal lives are going to brought onto the public sphere. And if they want to, as presidents or as candidates, reveal a lot about their past lives and their histories, that becomes, unfortunately, fair game.
BLITZER: All right. Gentlemen, thanks very much.
LIU: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, May 18th.
Coming up at the top of the hour, In the Money looks at the brand-new college grads and how they can cope with a tough job market. That's following at 4:00 p.m. Eastern by CNN Live Sunday with the day's latest developments. At 5:00 p.m. Eastern, Next at CNN explores the controversy over violence in video games.
Be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. I'll be here Monday through Friday, noon and 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
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War on Terrorism; Cisneros, Rohrabacher Debate Illegal Immigration>