CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Jon Kyl, Frank Lautenberg; Interview With John Podesta, Ken Duberstein
Aired October 12, 2003 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6 p.m. in Rome and 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
We'll get to our guests in just a moment. First, though, let's check in with CNN reporters covering the top stories around the world.
And we begin this hour, as we often do, in Baghdad after a deadly car-bomb explosion outside a hotel where U.S. personnel are based. A U.S. official says two cars were involved in the blast. Iraqi and U.S. officials put the death toll -- at least six people dead, another 32 wounded.
Let's go straight to the capital. CNN's Harris Whitbeck standing by with the latest. Harris?
HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf.
At this hour, investigators from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Iraqi investigators as well are sifting through evidence they might have found at the site of that blast, which occurred at around lunchtime today near the Baghdad Hotel on a busy Baghdad street.
Hospitals in the area were filled with wounded people. The toll of those wounded now stands at more than 30. Doctors say that they were coming in and out. Some of the wounded were seriously -- were considered to be in serious condition. Others were treated and left to go home.
The streets around the Baghdad Hotel were chaotic for several hours as people tried to get close to take a look at this latest terrorist attack. In the Baghdad capital, U.S. soldiers and Iraqi policemen were controlling the scene. They put up cordons around the area of the Baghdad Hotel to get people out of there and to let investigators in to do their work.
Again, the blast a suicide bomb. A car was driven past one Iraqi checkpoint and then before it reached the Baghdad Hotel, it blew up. Again, it was within 70 yards of the Baghdad Hotel, which houses U.S. personnel and some members of the Iraqi Governing Council.
BLITZER: Harris, has anyone claimed responsibility for this terrorist action?
WHITBECK: No, Wolf, nobody has claimed responsibility. In fact, no one has claimed responsibility for any of the recent terrorist attacks in the Baghdad area.
You will recall, just last Thursday there was a similar suicide bombing at an Iraqi police station in Sadr City. In that incident, six people were killed. Many people on the street then were also very upset at what was happening. And then, as today, many of those people were blaming the U.S. for what's going on. They were saying that the -- it's because of the American occupation that these terrorist attacks are taking place.
BLITZER: CNN's Harris Whitbeck for us in Baghdad. Thanks, Harris, very much.
This past week, President Bush and his top aides began a new public-relations effort to try to curb the growing criticism over U.S. actions in Iraq.
The president, the vice president, the national security adviser, the defense secretary, they all delivered major speeches around the United States touting what they called the positive steps the administration has been making in the global war on terror.
Joining us now to discuss Iraq and more are two guests. In Phoenix, Arizona, the Republican senator, Jon Kyl. And in our New York bureau, the Democratic senator, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.
Senators, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Let me begin with you, Senator Kyl. This latest terrorist bombing at this Baghdad hotel today, what does it say to you about the extent of the opposition that seems to be escalating against the U.S. military occupation?
SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Well, here's what it says. You led your program with a couple of minutes of film. Now, it never got closer than 70 yards to the hotel by the reporter's own comment. That's almost the length of a football field.
Nobody inside the hotel was hurt. The hotel itself wasn't damaged. And yet this is the big news today. And that's why the president and the secretary of state and the vice president and Condi Rice have to go on television and say, look, the real news is the good things that are happening, the schools that are opening, the hospitals that are opening, the reconstruction of the country, the democratic councils that are being created.
But none of that shows on the news. And so they have to go out and try to show the American people that great progress is being made. I understand that even on our own news, if you tune in on the evening news, you're going to see the latest car accident and the latest murder and all the bad things that happen, because I guess that's what makes news. But it's not the reality of what's happening on the ground in Iraq.
BLITZER: All right.
Senator Lautenberg, does Senator Kyl make a fair point?
SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, I have great respect for Senator Kyl, but I think he's wrong on this.
What we see is a continuation of the violence that we've seen for now, ever since the combat was supposed to be over. The other day we lost three American soldiers. Try to tell those families that we're making progress there. They're bewildered by what they see happening, and now, wonder whether or not we're going to take money from American needs and put it into Iraq when they're sitting on $200 billion worth of liquid gold. That makes it very difficult.
I think that the president has to get his priorities squared away. Is the most important thing to him to preserve the tax cut, maybe even make it permanent for the wealthiest among us, or is it the -- going square with the American people and telling them what the problems are?
BLITZER: I take it, Senator Lautenberg, you're not going to support the $87 billion request that the president has sought in terms of grants to fund this war on terror?
LAUTENBERG: Look, I'm going to support whatever is needed to take care of our military needs. That's $67 billion of the $87 billion. In terms of the $20 billion, I think we've got to talk about it and see if we can't find better ways to do it than simply to give it to the Iraqis, while we need to rebuild schools and infrastructure in this country. People don't understand the rationale for that.
BLITZER: Senator Kyl, going into the war, top administration officials, including the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, suggested the Iraqis eventually, with their oil exports, and they have a lot of oil, would be able to finance their own reconstruction. Why not, as many Democrats and some Republicans are now suggesting, why not give this aid to the Iraqis in the form of loans, which they later could repay once they become a major oil-exporting nation?
KYL: First of all, it is true that in the long run, the Iraqis will be able to accomplish reconstruction and continue with their life with the great wealth of oil that they have, but only if we're able to get it up and running so that they can export it and make money.
And that's what a large part of this reconstruction aid is designed to do, especially to help to build the electric grid up so that the pumps can operate so that it can get the oil out of the ground and through the pipes to the places where it can be exported and sold. But until that's done, they don't have any money to do this. And that's why we've got to provide the money.
Now, why a grant rather than a loan? In the first place, they don't have the money to repay us, and it's going to be a long time before they do. And they need that revenue from the oil that they sell to further their own reconstruction of their country. If they have to repay it to us, it's going to be a long time before they're ever back on their feet and we'll not have the moral high ground in arguing to the Russians and the French and the other countries that have loaned Saddam Hussein a lot of money, that they should forgive those debts, those loans.
If all we do...
LAUTENBERG: Wolf, there's another way...
KYL: Let me just finish my point here. If all we do is say, we will only loan you the money, then we can never argue to those countries that they've got to forgive those debts. And they should do that.
BLITZER: What about that, Senator Lautenberg?
LAUTENBERG: Well, there is another way. And that is for America to lend credit support to guarantee that the Iraqis will pay it back, use the oil for collateral, and go to the international banks and get it from them, and let us be exposed to the tune of a total bankruptcy there, fine. But at least we're not having another direct loan competing with repayments to Russia and France and other countries around the world.
LAUTENBERG: I think there's a better way.
BLITZER: Senator Lautenberg, the president and his top aides are on a major public-relations campaign to convince the American public that they were right in going to war against Saddam Hussein.
Listen to this little excerpt of what the president said this past week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I acted because I was not about to leave the security of the American people in the hands of a madman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I think you will acknowledge the world is better off because Saddam Hussein is gone. Is that right?
LAUTENBERG: Oh, sure. I also believe that in Bosnia we were wise to go to Kosovo and stop the inhumane treatment of people. But that's not the reason that was put forward to go there, and that's the thing that has us all puzzled, I must tell you.
BLITZER: What about the disarray? According to a lot of reports, Senator Kyl, the differences within the administration, Rumsfeld on the one hand, Powell on the other hand, and now the president asking his national security adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, to effectively control what seems to be different strains in a policy trying to emerge.
KYL: I think two things are true.
First of all, I've never known an administration that didn't have some differences of opinion, especially between the State Department and the Defense Department. That's always been what's called a "constructive tension" in every administration.
And second, I think that the evidence of that is grossly exaggerated with respect to this administration. Can you think of any four better people to be in charge of this policy than President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Colin Powell, and Secretary Don Rumsfeld? They are all stars. That is a four-star line up, and you may find some conflicts between them from time to time, but the president, by asking Condi Rice to make sure that we speak with one voice, I think is doing the right thing.
And it is very true that we're not getting the message out. And, as I said before, when you lead the news with a bombing that occurred and there's no evidence whatsoever of all of the good things that are happening, it's no wonder the president says to Dr. Rice, help me get the good news out.
BLITZER: She was speaking this past week in Chicago, Dr. Rice, Senator Lautenberg. Listen to the message delivered by Condoleezza Rice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: When you let a threat fester, you eventually pay a price for it. You either have an option of dealing with it now, or dealing with it later. And this president decided to deal with it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you have as much confidence in this team of top leaders in the Bush administration as Senator Kyl has?
LAUTENBERG: Well, it would be more interesting if they spoke with one voice. Right now you see each one kind of chipping away at the other, Vice President Cheney coming out very strident -- what -- challenging those who would disagree, almost calling them disloyal. That's outrageous.
I had a conversation with Condoleezza Rice last week, and she asked for my help, asked for it very diplomatically, in casting the vote. And I explained to her how I felt about the $20 billion, and just don't want to give a grant to those folks.
But I don't share the view that -- you can't have a team that has all-stars, you can't do it in football, you can't do it in baseball, you need a cohesive policy direction, and that's the thing that I think we're missing.
BLITZER: Senator Kyl, when Vice President Cheney spoke at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank here in Washington, on Friday, he made the case why the U.S. occasionally must go it alone. I want you to listen precisely to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States is committed to multilateral action wherever possible. Yet this commitment does not require us to stop everything and neglect our own defense merely on the say-so of a single foreign government. Ultimately, America must be in charge of her own national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As you know, Senator Kyl, a lot of criticism that the U.S. should have done what the first President Bush did, assemble an international team, get the kind of U.N. mandate, so that the post-war situation would have a lot more international support, not only political, but military, as well as financial support.
Was the administration wrong in going with Britain, Australia, a few other allies, without bringing together that kind of international coalition that clearly could have helped right now?
KYL: First of all, I don't see how anybody could disagree with what Vice President Cheney said.
Secondly, remember the history of the run-up to the Iraqi war. For months, we tried to get the United Nations to support this. We went there. We argued. Colin Powell went there. And at the end of the day the French were simply never going to agree with us, and they had the veto.
So it's not like the president didn't try. But at some point, as Vice President Cheney says, you have to finally conclude that you're not going to get the support of the United Nations Security Council, and therefore you have to make a tough decision: do we go with the allies that'll support us, or do we sit back and do nothing?
And I think the president was wise to conclude at that point, having tried everything else, that it was time to move.
BLITZER: I want to put up on the screen, Senator Lautenberg, some of the achievements that the administration and its coalition partners have made since the war -- 13,000 reconstruction projects, 40,000 Iraqi police officers now on duty, 22 Iraqi universities have opened, 170 newspapers have been set up.
At the same time, if you take a look at this new Newsweek poll that's just out this weekend, "Do you approve of the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq?" The American public pretty evenly split, 44 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove.
In a nutshell, Senator Lautenberg, what must the administration do right now, very briefly, because we're almost out of time, to get those numbers higher?
LAUTENBERG: Well, I think he has to work harder at getting support from the international community. We're walking around with a tin cup. Colin Powell is knocking on the doors, pleading with people for help.
We're spending money to buy help to come there. And I don't think that we have a cohesive message that says, "This is what we're going to do, this is what the long-term costs are going to be," because they're going to be substantially higher than the $87 billion.
BLITZER: Senator Kyl, I'll give you a chance to have a brief last word. Go ahead.
KYL: Well, this point that there's no plan is ludicrous. Look at what the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee did. They went through painstakingly the page after page after page of item, and they picked a bunch of things they didn't think we need to do and cut about a billion dollars from it.
There's a plan, if you simply want to read it, it's there. You may not agree with it all, but it's certainly there.
BLITZER: Two smart members of the United States Senate, Senator Kyl, Senator Lautenberg, always good to have you on "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.
Up next, could the California recall spread to other states around the United States? Two political veterans look ahead to the future of recall politics, the race for the White House, and much more.
Then, Rush Limbaugh admits an addiction to painkillers and checks himself into rehab. Will he be able to keep radio listeners tuned in?
And later, from the basketball court to the courtroom, Kobe Bryant struggles to keep on his game in the midst of a legal battle, a legal battle of his life. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR-ELECT ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Today, California has given me the greatest gift of all. You have given me your trust by voting for me. Thank you very much to all the people of California for giving me their great trust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: California's governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger giving his acceptance speech Tuesday night.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Joining us now to talk about the future of recall politics in the United States, the 2004 race for the White House and more, two guests: John Podesta served as President Clinton's chief of staff over at the White House. He's now the CEO of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank here in Washington.
And Ken Duberstein served as President Reagan's chief of staff. He's currently the chairman and CEO of the Duberstein Group here in Washington.
Gentlemen, welcome to "LATE EDITION."
Ken Duberstein, let me begin with you. The fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger won decisively in California -- what message does that send for 2004 national presidential politics?
KEN DUBERSTEIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think it sends a message that hope is alive. That, in fact, an actor can do damn, damn well. That it is important to be positive, to go against tax increases.
I think Schwarzenegger's victory is quite significant, not only for California, but as it leads into 2004. It is also...
BLITZER: Is it good for President Bush's...
DUBERSTEIN: Oh, it is absolutely good. Not simply making California in play, but more importantly, the politics of hope, which is Arnold Schwarzenegger, is also George W. Bush. I think this has great ramifications.
Also, the fact that the Democrats ran so negatively, so badly.
BLITZER: All right.
DUBERSTEIN: It was so many hissy fits in California. Even when they brought in Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton...
BLITZER: You've got to take a look at the vote tallies. If you add up what Arnold Schwarzenegger got and what Tom McClintock, the other Republican who was running, you get close to 60 percent of the vote.
The Democrat, Cruz Bustamante, in the low 30s. It does suggest -- well, let me ask you, does it suggest that California, a traditionally Democratic state, is in play next year?
JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I don't think so. But, you know, if I fully understood California, I would probably be as wealthy as Ken.
But I think that what -- it was a little bit idiosyncratic. I think it really reflects a couple of things. One is that Arnold Schwarzenegger ran against the stream of his party. He ran as a moderate. He ran as a person who was positioned in the center, unlike where the president is these days and unlike, I think, where Tom DeLay and the leadership in the Congress is taking the Republican Party.
I think the other thing it reflected was the fact that people are very frustrated by the economy and by the way things were going in California, especially the energy crisis, which, I think, Gray Davis wasn't the cause of, but he bore the brunt of.
BLITZER: And he bore a lot of responsibility, at least in the minds of a lot of the voters...
PODESTA: So, if you're a Republican governor sitting around with a 33-percent approval rating, I wouldn't take much out of this...
BLITZER: Let me let you respond -- hold on, Ken -- but let me read to you from an editorial in the Washington Post. And what John was talking about was the fact that he did run as a moderate on many of the social issues like abortion, gun control, affirmative action.
The editorial, it said, among other things, it said this:
"As for the larger lessons of Tuesday's vote, incumbents of all stripes have some reason to be nervous. Angry voters, once roused, aren't easy to placate."
DUBERSTEIN: And I think what is important is what Arnold Schwarzenegger demonstrated, as George W. Bush is demonstrating, is that we are big-tent Republicans.
We are not fighting, as John and his party are, for the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, but, in fact, we are broadening, broadening the Republican base.
So that you have Schwarzenegger, who is clearly a moderate on issues, and you also have the compassionate conservatives. And you're putting people together, and it is truly the big tent.
BLITZER: A big debate this week for the Democrats. Let's move on and talk a little bit about Democratic presidential politics.
If you take a look at the latest polls -- and these are the Newsweek polls we could put -- registered Democrats: General Clark, Wesley Clark, with 15 percent. Lieberman, Kerry and Dean follow. I don't know how significant that is at this early stage although Clark seems to be atop a lot of these polls.
On the more significant question, Newsweek asked registered voters who their choice for president: Bush 47 percent; General Clark, 43 percent.
That's relatively not that far away from the margin of error, which is three points, Bush beating the other major Democratic candidates by six, seven, eight, nine points as well. What do you say about the Democrats right now? Who would be their most formidable candidate against President Bush?
PODESTA: Well, you know, I think you don't know that. This is spring training. We're looking at these candidates. General Clark's, I think, addition to the race has mixed things up a little bit.
I think the fact that the former supreme allied commander of NATO decided to run as a Democrat against President Bush, he hadn't been involved in electoral politics before, shows that what one of the things Ken just said really isn't true, that President Bush is really taking the country in the course of a radical right agenda on economics and foreign policy.
This doctrine of preemption and imperialism that we see playing out on the foreign policy side, I think it's offended the mainstream, and I think that almost any of these top-tier candidates can effectively make the case against President Bush.
BLITZER: Senator Lieberman really went after General Clark, General Clark responded. I want you to listen to these two excerpts from the debate that was here on CNN. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I must say that I've been very disappointed since Wes Clark came into this race about the various positions he has taken on the war against Saddam Hussein.
WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to attack a fellow Democrat, because I think everybody on this stage shares the same goals.
I think it's a little -- I think it's really embarrassing that a group of candidates up here are working on changing the leadership in this country and can't get their own stories straight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you make of this infighting among the nine Democratic candidates, the attacks by several of them against not only General Clark, but Howard Dean, another top-tier candidate as well?
DUBERSTEIN: Well, I'll tell you, I took time out from the Yankees game to watch the debate on CNN.
BLITZER: What a sacrifice.
DUBERSTEIN: And what I saw was a hissy fit among the Democrats. Everybody going after one another. You know, I remember the politics of Ronald Reagan, which was the 11th commandment, thou shalt not attack a fellow Republican. And what I saw was all the infighting, fighting over who could be the furthest to the left, who could have the ideological purity. And I don't think that helps the Democratic base. It certainly helps George W. Bush.
BLITZER: John, what, I was going to move...
PODESTA: If I recall, I think Ken supported Senator McCain in the 2000 primaries. I think he probably remembers what then-Governor Bush did to Senator McCain in the South Carolina primary.
BLITZER: You have a powerful piece in the Washington Post, on the op-ed page today, giving some advice to the current president, how he should handle this whole issue of the CIA leak, the operative whose name was revealed supposedly as punishment to the former U.S. acting ambassador to Iraq, Joe Wilson, who opposed the administration's policy.
One thing you suggest is get everyone in the White House to sign an affidavit right now saying what?
PODESTA: Saying that they didn't leak, and that they didn't push the story.
BLITZER: What would be the point of that?
PODESTA: The point of that is is that if they sign such an affidavit, they'd be subject to a subsequent criminal charge for a violation of lying to the government.
BLITZER: And what you're saying is that could quickly resolve this matter? Is that what you're saying?
PODESTA: Well, I think it's a step in the right direction. And I think what it would mean is that people would have to, on penalty of their oath, say that they didn't do it.
BLITZER: Of perjury, in effect?
PODESTA: Yes, it's 1001 violation under the...
BLITZER: They could go to jail if they lied about that.
PODESTA: Absolutely, a criminal offense. And I think that's the one thing that could get to the bottom of this.
BLITZER: John Podesta, a lot of experience dealing with investigations at the White House. He was there under Bill Clinton, but you have a lot of experience as well, you were there during Iran- Contra.
Is this a good idea, that John Podesta is suggesting, a president asking every one of his top staff members, all of the staff, in effect, to sign an oath, to sign a document, an affidavit saying, they didn't give this information to Bob Novak, the syndicated columnist? DUBERSTEIN: I think what the president is doing, not only calling on the White House, but making sure the career lawyers at the Justice Department are following up, is in fact the right course.
This is not partisan. This is getting to the bottom of it. It is incredibly serious, i.e. a leak on a CIA agent, and I think the White House under Al Gonzalez in the counsel's office is right on the right track.
You know, I think it's terribly ironic that we're hearing from the Clinton administration about how to pursue investigations.
BLITZER: They have a lot of experience.
DUBERSTEIN: Absolutely they do.
BLITZER: John Podesta is also a professor of law at Georgetown University Law School.
PODESTA: I teach congressional investigations.
BLITZER: So you know a lot about this, you've dealt with it.
BLITZER: There's a human side of all of this as well. All these White House officials, they have to, at least some of them have to start hiring lawyers at their own expense.
PODESTA: That's exactly right. But, you know, I think this is a very, very serious charge. It's a very serious allegation.
In 1982, I actually was on the Senate Judiciary Committee working on the statute that's at issue here, naming the identities of covert agents, and we changed 60 years of law with regard to national security in that statute, because we saw that that offense as so important.
BLITZER: And I think, Ken, you have to agree that, potentially, the cover-up could be worse than the original crime.
DUBERSTEIN: Well, usually, as we found under Clinton, et cetera, that the cover-up is usually worse than the crime. You always have to go back and do things the right way. There's no second-guessing. Just go and do it and turn over the information. I think that's what the White House is doing. Remember, last Tuesday, all the White House staff had to turn over all of their files and information. I think they're on the right track.
BLITZER: Good advice from two good guests. Thanks very much for joining us.
PODESTA: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, we'll go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's top stories.
Then, can NBA superstar Kobe Bryant get back in the game? Or will his legal troubles keep him on the bench? We'll have two journalists who know him. And don't forget to weigh in on our "LATE EDITION" Web question of the week: Do you think at this point Kobe Bryant is guilty of sexual assault? You can cast your vote, cnn.com/lateedition. We'll tell you the results later in this program.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOBE BRYANT, NBA PLAYER: I have a job to do, and I love playing basketball, so, you know, come out here and give it my best effort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant tries to keep his eye on the ball in Hawaii while fighting a legal battle in Colorado.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
This past week, Bryant was at a preliminary hearing in Colorado, where the prosecution laid out its sexual-assault case against him.
Joining us now to discuss the NBA all-star on and off the court are two sports writers, two excellent journalists. In Los Angeles, Allison Samuels of Newsweek magazine, and in New York City, Mike Wise of the New York Times.
Thanks for joining us. Welcome back to our program.
Allison, let me begin with you, and you did an excellent cover story in Newsweek magazine this past week. In all of the reporting you did, did you find any pattern here, any evidence, any indications that Kobe Bryant has ever been rough with women, sexually assaulted women, has been nasty to women -- anything at all along those lines?
ALLISON SAMUELS, NEWSWEEK: No, absolutely not. Completely the opposite. Every young lady that I spoke to who had dated Kobe had nothing but pleasant things to say about him, even if the relationship ended in a way that they didn't like. They said he was always a gentleman, always understood the word "no" and treated them very well.
SAMUELS: I'm sorry.
BLITZER: Yes. I was going to say, Mike Wise, same question to you. Any history here? Any pattern that you could come up with in all of the reporting you did on who Kobe Bryant really is? MIKE WISE, NEW YORK TIMES: I don't profess to know him as well as, obviously, some of his teammates, some of his friends. So I think it'd be unfair for me to go completely in that direction, Wolf.
But I will say, in the time that I have spent with him, I would -- you know, the guess is that, no. I mean, this is something that is totally out of character. And I think that, unlike Mike Tyson, who had a past, this is a person who doesn't have one, seemingly with any problems with women.
BLITZER: You were just out at Honolulu in Hawaii, Mike, covering the training of the Los Angeles Lakers, the practice sessions. How did he look? How did he appear to you?
WISE: A little shell-shocked, to be honest. I got the feeling that his mind was not on basketball. And anybody that's been around Kobe Bryant knows that that's about as -- that's probably the first thing in his mind most of the time.
So, you know, a little bit, I guess, on the defensive. I think he felt like he had to get out his personal image as much as possible, that he's not a bad guy and he's not the accused rapist that people have made him out to be. That's what he's trying to get across to the people right now.
BLITZER: Allison, in your excellent cover story in Newsweek magazine, you write this, and I'll put it up on the screen:
"Selfish is a word lobbed with amazing frequency at the 25-year- old Bryant. Despite being one of basketball's biggest stars, with a boy-next-door demeanor to match, Bryant has suffered from a reputation as an aloof ball hog who doesn't quite know what it means to be a team player."
What's the point of that, as far as the bigger picture now, when you report that?
SAMUELS: Well, I think it was just important to let people know that this is a guy who, you know, has suffered from some negativity around the league because of his selfishness. But, I mean, I don't think it actually, you know, makes the decision or leads you to believe anything about this trial.
But I think it's a character sort of situation with him on him being very distant from his teammates and from other guys in the league. That's just, you know, who he is.
BLITZER: Yes, I think it's fair enough to say, Allison -- correct me if I'm wrong -- just because you're selfish on the court, the basketball court, you're a ball hog, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to go out and rape a woman?
SAMUELS: Oh, I don't think it means that at all. I think what we were trying to do was build a character profile of Kobe. And that is, you know, something that guys say about Kobe all the time. It has nothing to do with whether or not, you know, this happened or not. It's just a matter of, that is the main thing you hear from other guys on the team and in the league.
BLITZER: That's fair enough. Phil Jackson, the coach of the L.A. Lakers, Mike, said this on Friday about Kobe and his focus:
"Kobe won't fall behind. He knows what we're doing. He's on queue. His basketball is relatively close. The only thing I would think is that there are some situations I wouldn't want him in right now, just because of the conditioning and the strength he's at."
A lot of reporting that he's lost weight. He's not necessarily as strong this year as he was last, which presumably would be totally understandable, given the enormous legal problems he's facing.
WISE: Yes, he -- when I got to camp in Hawaii, the first thing I saw, Wolf, was a person that was -- he had lost some pounds. Clearly, he wasn't in the physical condition he was.
And I also think that this -- he had some minor shoulder surgery and knee surgery that took him away from his training.
The larger picture, when you hear Phil Jackson's quote is, that here's a coach who's walking a fine line between worrying about the off-court battle that his player faces, and the -- and his job, which is trying to get the Lakers to win a championship. And I think he's going to find that this might be his most difficult season to do that, with all the things going around Kobe Bryant right now.
BLITZER: One thing, Allison, I learned from your article -- I learned a great deal, but one thing I learned was that Kobe Bryant and his beautiful young wife, Vanessa, were apparently having some marital problems of their own. You write this in the article:
"Bryant had been drifting away from his wife for some time. Friends say, by March, Bryant was in contact with a divorce lawyer. When Vanessa learned about the meeting, people close to Bryant say, she had to be rushed to the hospital." That was the famous 911 call that came up at the home? Is that what you're reporting, Allison?
SAMUELS: Yes. That is what we're reporting. But I think it's understandable, given his age, given her age, I think that's why so many people were hoping that he would wait, because they're very young. They had just had a baby, which, of course, puts all kinds of pressure on a new couple. And I think they were going through the typical things couples go through. But because they're so young, maybe not handling it as well as they possibly could.
BLITZER: Can you tell now, Allison, how tight, how close are these two? Because we saw her at his side early on. She didn't come with him to Eagle, Colorado, for these last two court appearances. What, if anything, should we make of that?
SAMUELS: I don't think you should make much of that. I mean, when you look at the evidence that was presented, I'm not sure that he would want his wife there for that anyway. I think this has brought them closer, because it has to. I mean, they have to sort of, you know, stand together if they hope to sort of get through this and if he has any sort of chance of just, you know, recapturing his life if he isn't found guilty.
BLITZER: Kobe Bryant spoke out on October 4th, Mike, in Hawaii. Took some time to speak about these problems in a Q&A session with reporters. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYANT: My wife and my family and I, we've been dealing with this for a while now. We're going to continue to deal with it. We're going to continue to fight through it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Can this guy, who's a great ballplayer, really have an effective season this year -- the NBA, the games are about to begin -- with what's hovering over his head right now, the implications of that?
WISE: I think, you know, basketball's one of those things that really becomes a sanctuary for a lot of these guys who have off-court problems, Wolf. I wouldn't be surprised if he had a decent season. I do think that this is going to be playing on his mind so much. Some columnists around the country have surmised that he should just take the year off, concentrate on this, and the Lakers should, if not compensate him, work out some kind of settlement.
I don't know if I completely disagree with that. This is going to be such a distraction for Kobe Bryant in the coming year. I mean, this isn't -- you're not worried about reclaiming the NBA title. You're worried about staying out of prison for life. And with Colorado's sexual assault laws, I've got to think that that's got to be weighing on him every morning he gets up, not whether or not he's in condition, not whether or not the Lakers are winning and losing. So I guess the long-winded answer, I think it's going to be a real problem for him.
BLITZER: Mike, you also know that in a lot of these arenas, these stadiums around the country, when he shows up for a game, there are going to be fans out there, especially after they've had a beer or two, that are going to be shouting some ugly words at Kobe Bryant. There are celebrities in L.A., where the Los Angeles Lakers play. We're seeing a few of them right now. But you know that when he goes out of town with the team, there could be some ugly incidences. Is he prepared, do you believe, to deal with that?
WISE: Kobe Bryant's prepared to deal with anything basketball- related. I always think that sometimes in life, Wolf, we don't give these guys the handicap to grow up that we get in regular life. I think if people were printing the jokes and things I did at 21 years old, I might not have my job at the New York Times. So I do think that he's going to be able to handle it. I don't think it's going to be as ugly as we think it is. I think there's going to be a curiosity factor, you know, in our wild celebrity culture now.
Everybody kind of thinks this is part of the act, just like Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan sort of brought that casual fan into figure skating. I think there will be a lot of people looking at Kobe and pointing a figure like, hey, that's the guy.
So I would be surprised if he -- you know, there will be some cities where he's going to get some of that. But I don't think it's going to be an outpouring. You know, what would bother me if I were him were probably some of the women's rights groups that will probably be picketing some of the arenas. I think that would be pretty disheartening if I were him.
BLITZER: Allison, in your reporting on Kobe Bryant, have you seen a change in this young man? He's 25 years old. Over the past few years, suggestions he's following the examples of some of the other high-profile ball players with tattoos, jewelry, a more ostentatious way of going about going about his day-to-day activities? Has Kobe changed?
SAMUELS: Well, I thought he had changed just in terms of sort of being a little bit more closed off. You know, when I first met him, when he first entered the league, a lot, you know, more sort of friendly, a lot more open to sort of people coming into his world. And over the last two or three years, he definitely has sort of, you know, become just he and his wife, not letting any new people in, not sort of opening himself up to other things.
But as far as the earrings and the tattoos, that is incredibly new, and I'm not sure, because he always said he didn't want to be a typical ballplayer. So where this is coming from, I don't know. I don't know if it's an attempt to get other players to sort of realize that he's one of them. I'm not sure what this is about.
BLITZER: What does it say to you, very briefly, Mike, because we're almost out of time?
WISE: Well, real quick, just as a whole, Wolf, I think that the same things we used to sort of deify Kobe Bryant six months ago now we're using to demonize him, in some ways. And I think that the truth lies somewhere in between. I think there's some gray areas there.
I don't -- you know, we all, a lot of people said, oh, he's not from the hood, he didn't have a hard-scrabble background, like a lot of these guys. Well, that was the reason why supposedly we thought he was somewhat above a lot of the guys in the league. Now we're realizing -- now we're calling him an insulated loner.
I think that the truth lies somewhere in between. I don't think we know everything we want to know about him at this age.
BLITZER: We'll know a lot more in the coming weeks and months.
Mike Wise, Allison Samuels, thanks to both of you for joining us. Thanks for your good reporting.
In the next hour of "LATE EDITION," we'll talk to two lawyers, some of the legal issues Kobe Bryant's facing right now.
Also ahead, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States. Then, how will the White House investigate the CIA leak? We'll get inside analysis from a former U.S. attorney general and a former White House special counsel.
"LATE EDITION" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Don't forget to weigh in on our "LATE EDITION" Web question of the week: Do you think Kobe Bryant is guilty of sexual assault?
You can cast your vote at cnn.com/lateedition, and we'll reveal the results later in this program.
Now let's take a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines here in the United States.
On the cover of Newsweek magazine, "Rush's World of Pain," detailing the radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's addiction to painkillers.
U.S. News & World Report asked this question, "Does Arnold Matter?" with the California governor-elect on the cover.
And Time magazine reveals, "The Secrets of Eating Smarter. The best ways to lose weight and live longer."
We have to take a short break. Much more "LATE EDITION" coming up right after the break.
ANNOUNCER: Time now for "LATE EDITION"'s picture of the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Bodybuilding oil will stain the mansion's Italian silk sofa. You could solve the deficit problem simply by donating your salary from "Terminator 3."
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Yes, how about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIS: It's pronounced "California."
LETTERMAN: There you go!
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Former governor -- the outgoing governor -- that is, Gray Davis, having some fun on the Letterman show.
Coming up in the next hour of "LATE EDITION," we'll take a close look at the hour's top stories.
Then we'll investigate the CIA leak with the former Clinton White House special counsel Lanny Davis and former attorney general Richard Thornburg.
All that and much more. Another hour of "LATE EDITION." Stay with us.
BLITZER: This is "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I want to know the truth. I want to see to it that the truth prevailed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Searching for leaks -- how hard is President Bush looking for the official who blew the cover of a CIA spy? We'll ask former U.S. attorney general Richard Thornburgh and former White House special counsel Lanny Davis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO SHOW HOST: Let's face it, Wolf, the mainstream press plays a large role in determining what sticks to people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Rush Limbaugh, the top radio talk-show host in America, admits his addiction. Could the conservative icon also end up in jail? His fellow talk-show hosts react.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOBE BRYANT: It's like a roller coaster. You have your good days; you have your bad days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Shocking courtroom revelations in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case. Former prosecutor Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom and CNN contributor Michael Smerconish discuss the burden of proof.
And Bruce Morton on President Bush's public-relations push on Iraq. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We'll get to our guests in just a moment. But first, let's get a quick check of the hour's top story, and for that, let's go back to Baghdad.
Two cars exploded at a checkpoint outside a hotel where U.S. personnel are based. Iraqi and U.S. officials are putting the death toll right now -- at least six people dead, another 32 wounded, including three Americans.
For the latest, let's turn to our Baghdad bureau chief, Jane Arraf. She's joining us now live.
JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, not too far from here, U.S. officials have come in with heavy equipment to try to put back some of those barricades, those concrete barriers that were blown out by the force of the blast. It's completely dark, but they do have floodlights up as well as heavy equipment, cranes and other equipment, trying to gather some of the evidence and trying to make sure that that place is secure.
Now, this is, of course, in the aftermath of what now appear to be two car bombs. Initially, witnesses were saying that they saw a first car speeding through a checkpoint before it detonated. Let's just listen to one of those.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I saw a car coming very fast. It was a small white one. It hit the barrier, and one of the guards said, "Shoot it." He fired at it, and it exploded immediately. It burned the others.
I want to say that it was a cowardly act. What are those terrorists aiming at? What do they want? All the injured are Iraqis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ARRAF: Now, it turns out that some of the injured are, in fact, American soldiers. There were three injured U.S. soldiers, all of them lightly wounded and, in fact, all of the fatalities do appear to have been Iraqis. Six Iraqis killed as well as at least one car bomber.
Now, in the area around the scene, they have blocked it off, but people on the edges of it are angry at pretty well everyone -- angry at the Iraqis who presumably or other Arabs who presumably were responsible for this, angry at the Americans for being here. There just, to them, doesn't seem to be any solution right now.
BLITZER: Jane, when we say that U.S. personnel were housed at that Baghdad Hotel, could we be more specific? What kind of U.S. personnel? ARRAF: Certainly, security forces of different kinds. There were State Department people who were there. There were coalition officials. And there were also governing council members. Now, this is the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, and there were several members who were in that hotel.
These were people who either had moved out of their homes for security reasons after the assassination of one of the members at her home as she was going to work, or who were from other places in Iraq or from outside Iraq.
Now, we had seen that hotel and toured it quite extensively before the U.S. took it over, and it really did have very good security arrangements in that it was set far back from the street, it had a security compound, a perimeter, a secure parking lot.
And that seems to be part of the reason why that car bomb didn't quite get to it. In fact, it seemed to have detonated quite a long way back, the impact felt in the surrounding buildings at the start of that alley where it meets the main road rather than at the Baghdad Hotel.
BLITZER: Clearly, it could have been a whole lot worse. CNN's Jane Arraf in Baghdad covering the story. We'll be checking back with her throughout the day here on CNN.
Turning now to a story that's shaking the highest levels of the Bush administration. An explosive story: the investigation into the leak of an undercover CIA operative's identity. It's continuing -- that investigation -- this week.
White House employees have been instructed to turn over any and all relevant documents to the White House legal counsel. FBI officials have interviewed several White House employees already in addition to the CIA operative, her husband --namely, the former U.S. ambassador, Joe Wilson -- and the newspaper columnist and CNN "Crossfire" co-host, Robert Novak, who revealed her identity way back in July.
Joining us now to discuss the roles -- to discuss what's happening in the case are two special guests. Dick Thornburgh was the attorney general under the first President Bush. Lanny Davis was President Clinton's White House special counsel.
Gentlemen, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Dick Thornburgh, does this case -- and I want to show our viewers some pictures as we talk about this, of President Bush arriving back at the White House only a few moments ago. But as we see, the president returning to the White House, does this case cry out for a special counsel to investigate as opposed to the career and political appointees over at the Justice Department?
DICK THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's much too early to tell, Wolf. Clearly, career professional investigators are in charge of this matter now. They will go where the evidence leads, as they always do. And at somewhere down the line, of course, if there is a conflict that develops, the attorney general will have to take that into account. But I think for the moment, it's premature to speculate on whether or not there'll have to be someone from outside there.
BLITZER: Do you agree, Lanny, on that point?
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I do agree that it's premature, but I do have to say there's the double standard here, not suggesting my friend Dick has a double standard, but if John Ashcroft were senator and Janet Reno were attorney general, you can imagine that he'd be asking Janet Reno to recuse herself, probably calling for an independent counsel. And maybe even other Republicans would be doing the same if it were about Janet Reno, and they did.
So I think we, Democrats, have to avoid exploiting this critically. We have to let the process take place, as Dick has suggested. And I do think that the White House has to take it seriously and be ready to seek a special counsel if there is evidence that somebody actually did the leak.
BLITZER: In October '97, during the Clinton administration when John Ashcroft was then a United States senator from Missouri, he was on our program "Evans & Novak," and he did say that at that time that there was a need for a special counsel, an outside-the-Justice Department investigator. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN ASHCROFT (R), MISSOURI: A single allegation can be most worthy of a special prosecutor. If you're abusing government property, if you're abusing your status in office, it can be a single fact that makes the difference on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is there a double standard when there were allegations against the Clinton administration, he was ready to say, yes, a single allegation is worthy of a special outside prosecutor, but now he's resisting?
THORNBURGH: Two things to remember. One, that was under the now-discredited, hair-trigger independent counsel statute of which we are mercifully now relieved. Secondly, the criticism against the Clinton administration was that Janet Reno's own career professionals had recommended the appointment of an independent counsel, and she'd ignored that recommendation. And I think that brought the fire storm of criticism.
BLITZER: Lanny, what about that?
DAVIS: Actually, one of the professionals at the Justice Department, very, very highly respected, Lee Radek, opposed the independent counsel decision, at least with respect to Vice President Gore and has since been removed by Mr. Ashcroft from his professional position.
So I have some concerns about whether the professionals at the Justice Department -- when Dick Thornburgh was a great attorney general, he would protect those professionals. I have concern about Attorney General Ashcroft compromising those professionals, and at the very least, he needs to give public reassurance who's doing the investigation over there and how do we know that they're going to be independent? And especially how do we know he isn't going to try to influence it?
BLITZER: You raise the issue of the independent counsel statute, Ken Starr, a lot of our viewers, of course, will remember that, almost all of them. That statute has lapsed. It's no longer the law of the land. But there is a separate provision for the attorney general to go out and name an outside special counsel. How beholden would that special counsel be, though, to the attorney general?
THORNBURGH: Well, you have to remember that a lot of the important independent investigations that have been carried out were carried out by people not appointed under that ill-starred statute. The Watergate investigation, for example, was carried out by Archibald Cox, who was appointed by Attorney General Elliott Richardson. The Teapot Dome scandal was investigated by an independent counsel appointed by the attorney general. So there's nothing magic about...
BLITZER: So going back to Watergate, Robert Fisk (ph) was appointed by the attorney general, but he wasn't good enough because Janet Reno appointed him, right?
THORNBURGH: Well, I think that was a decision made by the court. And getting the court involved in this to me was a great mistake, because it violates the separation of powers. But that was decided otherwise in the Supreme Court. Let me say one thing. These leak investigations are notoriously unproductive. Very seldom is the culprit identified.
BLTIZER: And in fact the president spoke out about that this week. I want you to listen, Lanny Davis, to what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is, partially because in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president makes a good point. Journalists, Robert Novak and others, they're not going to say who told them who about this CIA operative.
DAVIS: Look, let's remember the big picture here.
A senior Bush administration official told the Washington Post about the two leakers endangering national security and compromising the intelligence. That was in the Washington Post. The source was a senior administration official.
Whoever that person is ought to be telling the president who the two leakers are, because he knows. He told the Washington Post.
This is a serious issue. I think President Bush is acting as if it's serious. I think his White House counsel is doing what he needs to do. A little bit may be delayed.
But I do think that the Justice Department investigation is going to be under a lot of scrutiny, and that's why I think the attorney general has to reassure Democrats and Republicans that this will be in the hands of professionals, with no influence whatsoever, so that they can do their jobs. Then we'll see whether we need a special counsel.
BLITZER: The White House press secretary caused some sort of commotion, Scott McClellan, when he specifically ruled out three top aides as the source of the information, leaking the name of the CIA spy, if you will, the covert operative.
He -- I want you to listen to what he said, and then I'll tell our viewers who they were. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They're good individuals. They're important members of our White House team. And that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The three officials he's referring to, Karl Rove, the chief political adviser to the president, Lewis Libby, also known as "Scooter" Libby, who's the chief of staff to the vice president, Dick Cheney, and Elliott Abrams, who's involved in Middle East affairs over at the National Security Council.
Is that smart for the White House press secretary to start ruling out certain individuals already at this, I guess, preliminary stage in the investigation.
THORNBURGH: It's a smart political response, but it's in no way going to be binding on the investigators from the Department of Justice. They're not going to pay any attention to that. They will follow the evidence wherever it leads, and we'll have to let the chips fall where it may.
BLITZER: What about that, Lanny?
DAVIS: Well, I think that he is in danger of being contradicted by facts that subsequently come up, but I believe that he's talked to those three individuals, and I believe those three individuals told him the truth, that they weren't involved in identifying the individual. But they may have been involved in encouraging the story to be written, as a political purpose, to discrediting Ambassador Wilson. I hope that the investigation makes a distinction between political strategies versus violating the law. In this case, identifying that agent would have been violating the law.
BLITZER: And it's one thing to get involved in the politics of this, but you have to have intent, you have to have known that by releasing the name of this woman to a reporter, she was in fact a covert operative, had what they call "NOC," non-official cover, when she went overseas -- not representing, supposedly, the United States, but really being a covert agent of the United -- you had to have known that, and it's not clear, Dick Thornburgh, that the official or officials who leaked the information themselves knew her true job.
THORNBURGH: That's why it's triply important, as Lanny said, to let this in the hands of the professional investigators who can apply the law. There's so much uncertainty here. There's bound to be a political response, and there has been, hot and heavy, from both sides. But in the final analysis, it's the investigators who are armed with the power of subpoena, and can force testimony from reluctant witnesses who are going to make the decision.
DAVIS: A real quick final comment, as a matter of professional crisis-management, if I could shamelessly promote the subtitle of my book to President Bush, tell it early, tell it all, tell it yourself. He's got to get out in front of this story, do everything he can to get the truth out and put it behind him. I'm very experienced where, if you don't do that, it hurts your presidency.
THORNBURGH: Let me add just one caveat to that. There have been suggestions that the president ought to call everybody in and talk to them and say, did you do it, did you -- that is a very risky thing to do, because it would run the risk of being characterized as an obstruction of justice in and of itself.
BLITZER: What about what John Podesta proposed in the Washington Post this morning and on this program, that everybody in the White House staff sign an affidavit saying -- a legally binding affidavit that he had nothing to do with this story?
THORNBURGH: I think that's a risky thing to do. I think what you would there run the risk of is being involved in the very thing you're trying to avoid, an obstruction of justice.
Let the investigators and prosecutors investigate. Let them call it as they see it. And let the chips fall where they may.
THORNBURGH: And I think Lanny would agree with that.
BLITZER: And in this case, though, Lanny, as you well know from your enormous experience with crisis management and White House investigations, the cover-up can be worse than the crime.
DAVIS: Look, John Podesta has put his finger on what's wrong now. The White House has allowed this story to overtake them rather than to be in front of it.
One way it can be handled better by the White House is for President Bush and everybody there to make it clear that they've done their best to find out who is the source of this leak, and remember, again, a senior Bush administration official blew this up by talking to the Washington Post about two other people. That's where they have to try to find out the truth.
BLITZER: All right.
THORNBURGH: We've been looking for Deep Throat for 30 years.
BLITZER: Still haven't found him.
THORNBURGH: We can look at another 30 years for that senior administration official.
BLITZER: He's still very, very deep.
Thanks very much, Dick Thornburgh, for joining us. Lanny Davis, good to have you back on the program.
BLITZER: Just ahead, a conservative icon's stunning admission. The top radio talk-show host in the United States, Rush Limbaugh, reveals he's addicted to drugs. We'll get reaction from his fellow radio talk-show hosts.
And later, did Kobe Bryant's defense attorney play by the rules in his preliminary hearing this past week? Our legal panel will weigh in on that sensational case.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
The conservative icon, Rush Limbaugh, by far the most popular and influential radio talk show host in the United States, stunned his listening audience on Friday, announcing he was checking himself into a medical facility to combat his addiction to painkillers.
Joining us now for some reaction to Limbaugh's revelation are three of his fellow radio talk show hosts. In Philadelphia, CNN contributor and WPHT radio host, Michael Smerconish.
In Los Angeles, the veteran radio talk show host, Michael Jackson. And here in Washington, the radio host and syndicated columnist, Armstrong Williams.
Gentlemen, welcome to "LATE EDITION."
The cover of Newsweek magazine, and I'll put it up on the screen shows this: "Rush's World of Pain." The subhead, "His path to pill addiction, hypocrisy and the media wars. The scourge of oxycontin."
Let me begin with you, Michael Smerconish. This is a huge story. Why is it as big as it is?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, because there is a lot of hypocrisy, at least in the eyes of the media who are covering this story. He has always had a very moralistic tone to his program, and as a result, I think that his credibility has been permanently wounded.
In the same way that I can't look at Bill Bennett the way that I used to look at him, talking about virtues, now knowing that he likes thousand-dollar pulls of the slot machine. You've got the same issue with Rush.
BLITZER: Armstrong Williams, the story was originally broken in the National Enquirer: "Rush Limbaugh Caught in Drug Ring, Cops' Probe Nails Him." Michael Smerconish says that there's an element of hypocrisy here. Is there?
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, of course. I mean, he's talked about Darryl Strawberry and others on his show. No one can deny that. But even if there was not an element of hypocrisy, Wolf, I mean, it is still a huge story.
This has been going on for years. The man is addicted to drugs. Some would say that he is a junkie. The fact that he could cover this and involve other people in his behavior, we don't know, all the facts have not come out yet, the smart thing that he's doing right now is that he has not said anything.
But it's amazing that he was able to do this. And now all of a sudden he's checked himself into drug rehab for 30 days, and we know that it's going to take much more than that, that he's been in denial.
And for other people who've been in these conditions, I mean, he has such a mountain to climb. It's just shocking and devastating, regardless of whether he's a hypocrite or not.
BLITZER: Let me let Michael Jackson in Los Angeles weigh in as well. Michael, how big of a problem does Rush Limbaugh have right now?
MICHAEL JACKSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He has a problem with drugs. He does not have a problem with his audience, the most ardent of his fans calling themselves ditto-heads.
In fact, I think ditto-heads would apply to many of the conservative talk show hosts who try to emulate Rush, but they can't. He is the most significant and important radio talk show host ever. That means the past half-century.
When I listen to him, which is seldom, I disagree with him. When he went on the air with his hearing problems, I was amazed at the man's stamina and fortitude.
I am not bowled over by the way in which he's reacted to the revelations about of his drug problems. I've heard talk show hosts of conservative bent saying that the man was brave and honest. Oh, baloney.
He was outed by the National Enquirer. That's why he was honest. There was no other path, no other course of action that he possibly could have taken.
I don't think he will see a diminished audience at all. I know he cannot cure himself in 30 days, or be helped by experts. Twice before, at least, he was unable to.
I hope he's giving authorities the information about the people with whom he dealt. I know how he relished jumping on Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. He's a little more humble when his own failings are shown.
BLITZER: Well, let me -- let's let our viewers listen to what precisely what Rush Limbaugh said at the end of his broadcast on Friday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: Immediately following this broadcast, I will check myself into a treatment center for the next 30 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, shortly thereafter, I interviewed Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, who had to say this in response to Rush Limbaugh's decision to check himself into a rehab center.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: The checking in is a legal tactic. That's not something his doctor told him to do. That's something his lawyer told him to do. You always check yourself in when there is an investigation of that kind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Michael Smerconish, among other things, you're a lawyer. Legally speaking, he's got some serious problems. Checking into a rehab center, is that part of the legal strategy?
SMERCONISH: No. I think that's a cheap shot by Alan Dershowitz. I mean, I don't think it will ever get to the point, Wolf, where they'll go after Rush for this type of a transaction.
If you believe everything that has been printed in the National Enquirer, and I've read it, they never go after a person who is at the bottom end of that chain of custody of the drugs. They'll go after the people who are the suppliers, but it will -- and I also think there'll be a perception that Rush has suffered enough with the public outing. No prosecution of Rush Limbaugh, in my view.
BLITZER: Well, you know, in the Newsweek magazine, that cover story that I just read that's coming out today, Michael, they make the point that that's not true, that in Florida they very often do go after those buying the illegal prescription painkillers, especially if they are personalities, someone that they can make an example of to show the rest of the community how bad this is.
Hold on, let Michael Smerconish respond.
SMERCONISH: I don't buy it. I think that Roy Black is the best in the business. If I ever got myself into a jam, he'd probably be the first guy that I'd want to call as well.
But you cannot convince me that it was a legal strategy for Rush to check in. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and accept the fact that he really wants to be treated.
BLITZER: All right, let's listen to another excerpt of what Rush Limbaugh told his listeners on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: I'm not making any excuses, and I don't intend to.
You know, over the years, athletes, celebrities have emerged from these treatment centers. They've come out to great fanfare and praise for conquering great demons. They are said to be great role models and examples for others. They've gotten a lot of praise for doing this.
I want you to know that I'm no role model.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, because when I listen to that comment from Rush Limbaugh, I was reminded of what he told me almost exactly three years ago, when I interviewed him on the eve of the presidential election.
There were stories circulating that then-Governor George W. Bush had had a run-in, he had a traffic accident while he was drunk, supposedly, and at that time, listen to what Rush Limbaugh told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: I think the thing for the American people to focus on is the present and the future -- how he's dealing with it.
With George W. Bush, if I may, there's no pattern of behavior here. This is a one-time thing. He faced the cameras, he didn't lie, he didn't make excuses, didn't try to make himself a victim, didn't blame it on anybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Armstrong, how is he handling this right now, Rush Limbaugh, based on the advice he had for a lot of other people who had similar problems, their fall from glory, if you will?
WILLIAMS: I think he's handling it in an exceptional way. The fact of the matter is, someone said here today that he was outed; he had no choice. I just think this guy has been in a lot of pain. He's suffered. I just think these drugs has really impacted his thinking.
But the fact is, he has not lied. He has not made excuses. He's -- as he just said, "I'm no role model." He has flaws. He's dealing with it. And he says to his audience, "When I'm able to give you more information, I will." And he did just that.
I think he's handling it, and I think he's a fine example.
BLITZER: Michael Jackson, let me let you respond. But as you respond, I want to put up on the screen a quote, a widely publicized quote from 1995.
Rush Limbaugh said this: "Too many whites are getting away with drug use. Too many whites are getting away with drug sales. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river."
A lot of people recalling that quote, referring to the problems -- potential legal problems -- Rush Limbaugh has right now.
JACKSON: I was watching Barbara Walters the other night with Courteney Cox and her husband, who talked about smoking heroin. If you're white and a celebrity, you go on television, mea culpa, and not only is all forgiven, you become almost a hero.
This guy has a sickness. OxyContin, Lorcet -- they are terribly powerful drugs. He's got a problem.
But he's the same guy, over and over again on -- over the years, has said put them behind bars, those who abuse drugs.
Drugs are abusing him right now. I feel great pity for him. He will be treated fairly. His celebrity, I don't think, will help him at all, because we love to make an example of people who have stature or high visibility.
This man has problems. Though I disagree with him, he's a brilliant, brilliant broadcaster. He's wrong on so many issues. I love combating him. He'll come back. He'll be stronger than ever.
BLITZER: And a lot of our viewers, Michael Smerconish, will remember that it was only a couple of years ago he signed a $285 million, nine-year contract to continue that very popular radio program.
Friday night, Al Franken, who has been a great critic -- a great nemesis to Rush Limbaugh over the years, the author of "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations," was on "Newsnight" with Aaron Brown, and he said this. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL FRANKEN, AUTHOR: I don't think you can do it rigorously on a show. I have listened to him enough, done enough books on him that he is always -- he's a dishonest demagogue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think? Can Rush Limbaugh, Michael Smerconish, survive this, go back to his listeners as Michael Jackson suggests and have a successful program in the years to come?
SMERCONISH: Yes is the answer to that question. I think what happens is that when he cleans himself up and gets back on the air, his audience is actually enhanced, because everybody is going to want to listen to the new Rush Limbaugh and was he able to weather the storm.
Long-term I think he can hold his base intact, but his credibility suffers, because the next time that he launches into a diatribe that's moralistic in nature, you're going to have to sit back and listen and take it with more of a grain of salt. And, Wolf, that comes from somebody who likes Rush. I consider his politics to be much the same as mine. But I have to be honest. He's taken a huge blow credibility-wise.
BLITZER: All right, Michael Smerconish, I'm going to ask you to stand by. I want you to stand by for our next segment.
But Michael Jackson, Armstrong Williams, I want to thank both of you for joining us.
And just to remind our viewers, the allegations against Rush Limbaugh purchasing illegal prescription painkillers in Florida are simply that, allegations at this point. He hasn't been charged. There's been no confirmation of anything along those lines. Let's not rush to judgment on that front.
Up next, we'll get a quick check of the hour's top stories. Then, Kobe Bryant back in the courtroom. Our legal panel debates the controversial defense strategy during the preliminary hearing.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after a quick check of the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRYANT: Sometimes it seems like there's light at the end of the tunnel, you know? You just, you know, you pray, you have faith, and next thing you know, the light is brighter than ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Kobe Bryant commenting on the court case, his court case, that is, during a training camp period in Hawaii in recent days.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Joining us now to discuss the NBA all-star's legal troubles are two guests. Working double-duty for us in Philadelphia, the attorney and CNN contributor, Michael Smerconish.
And in our San Francisco bureau, the former assistant district attorney, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom.
Welcome to both of you to "LATE EDITION."
And Kimberly, you were in Eagle, Colorado, for this preliminary hearing this past week on Thursday. Was it smart, in your opinion, for the criminal defense attorney representing Kobe Bryant to go forward with this hearing? Because, as you know, they could have waived it.
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE NEWSOM, FORMER ASSISTANT D.A.: That's absolutely correct, Wolf. And it's interesting, because I was uncertain whether they were going to proceed forward. But then again, if there was any possible advantage that they felt they could have gained by proceeding forward, by creating inconsistent statements, getting the detective to nail down certain parts of the stories, then it was worth it.
Keep in mind, they had to look beyond whether this was a good PR move, because it's not about Nike contracts anymore and endorsements. He is looking at a possibility of a lifetime in prison.
Now, on balance, after the evidence came out, which I think was very powerful and damaging to Kobe Bryant, I don't know that it was the best idea, although she did bring up things about the victim's past that I think perhaps cast some doubt on her credibility and promiscuity of the victim in this case.
BLITZER: Based on this one day of hearings, and they will continue next week on Wednesday, Michael Smerconish, who gained, who lost?
SMERCONISH: Kobe Bryant was a definite winner, in my view, on what has transpired so far. And I was dubious, Wolf, as to whether there would be a preliminary hearing, just as Kimberly said that she was.
But on balance, I believe you've now got the country, and that would include people in Eagle County, Colorado, walking around and saying things like, "My God, is it possible that she had sex with three men within three days close in time to this particular incident?"
Now, I think that Pamela Mackey better have the goods, because if she can't justify that question, that statement, then I think she did something that was unethical.
But if she has those three witnesses, it's a whole new ballgame for Kobe Bryant.
BLITZER: And on that point, Pamela Mackey, Kimberly, the defense attorney representing Kobe Bryant, at the end of the hearing on Thursday, stunned everyone when she suggested that some of the physical results of the -- in the private parts of the alleged victim, she said were consistent with someone who's had sex with three different guys in three days.
If there is no evidence backing that up, as Michael suggests, she could be in potential legal problem, sanctioned or worse.
NEWSOM: She could still be. The bottom line is that violates the Rape Shield Law. And there's different opinions on this as to whether or not it does, because technically there wasn't a jury present, and it wasn't a trial proceeding, but a preliminary hearing.
So it's definitely pushing the envelope. She knows the rules, and I think that she did that on purpose. Now, I spoke with the victim's attorney, her representative, that day, just hours after the preliminary hearing, and he flat-out denies that on behalf of his client that there was anything like that, or any truth to that whatsoever.
If that is the case, not only did she violate the Rape Shield Law, but she also violated rules of professional conduct. That was not the way to bring that up in a courtroom, she did that because all the members in the media were present, and we knew that that would be disseminated across the country, and it was.
The proper way was to proffer that evidence in a pretrial hearing with the judge and opposing counsel, and then provide that evidence and offer proof that she could bring it up and get a ruling by the judge. Instead, she released an explosive bombshell in the courtroom.
SMERCOMISH: Wolf, if I might just add, exception number two to the Colorado Rape Shield Law says that if you have an alternative explanation for physical evidence, such as semen or a vaginal tear, then it does come in.
So, if the prosecution in this case says that there's a particular type of injury, and if Pamela Mackey has an alternative explanation for it, that evidence is coming into court. I believe that it is not a rape-shield issue, when all is said and done.
NEWSOM: Michael is right, Wolf, about that...
BLITZER: Go ahead, Kimberly. NEWSOM: He's right if it is used to overcome physical evidence, and the testimony in the courtroom was that her injuries were not consistent with consensual sex.
So if the defense has the opportunity to say, "Hey, listen, there is another explanation for this physical trauma that we saw in the vaginal area," then she would be allowed to bring it up.
But again, she must have the proof to back it up.
And it was very salacious, bringing up the number of people. One other individual, not Kobe Bryant, could have been responsible for that. Instead, she discussed three possible other individuals over a three-day period, which blatantly suggests promiscuity on the part of the victim.
BLITZER: Kimberly, I just want to pick up on one point you made. You spoke with her, the accuser's lawyer, after this hearing, and the lawyer flatly denied she had sex with three different men on three different days -- on three consecutive days?
NEWSOM: That is correct...
NEWSOM: That is correct.
BLITZER: Which raises the question of the gag order. I thought the attorneys for the various parties were not supposed to be discussing the case.
NEWSOM: Well, he is not a party to the case. He is her representative, the victim's advocate, in this matter and specifically was upset about what had occurred in the courtroom.
But again, they say that there is no truth to that. Then it begs the question, does Pamela Mackey have something that, perhaps, the victim's representative is unaware of? And that goes back to what Michael Smerconish said, which is, they'd better have the proof; perhaps she does.
They have had private investigators in Eagle and surrounding areas for months digging up every possible thing. So, does it -- is there a possibility that there is evidence to suggest? Sure. But right now, the information we're getting is that there is no truth to that.
Keep in mind, someone could be feeding the defense a bunch of lies about the victim as well.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Wolf, I have a hunch that the intended audience for that exchange in the courtroom was both Eagle County prospective jurors and also the alleged victim.
I mean, my interpretation, and Kimberly was there, I was not, but my interpretation of what went on is that Pamela Mackey, the defense lawyer, wanted the alleged victim to know the gloves are off, this is hardball and we are coming after you -- maybe to see if she's going to back down in this whole process.
BLITZER: There is a...
NEWSOM: It is definitely a strategy.
BLITZER: Another bit of -- potentially damning evidence against Kobe Bryant, Kimberly. The note -- the evidence that they submitted to prosecution that there was blood found on his shirt, blood that matched her blood type. What does that say to you?
NEWSOM: Well, I think that's very damaging evidence. Again, any bit of physical evidence that can corroborate the victim's story in this case is going to be powerful and persuasive. You match the physical evidence to her rendition of the fact, and then it makes sense.
In addition, Wolf, her blood was also on her panty area. She had suffered vaginal trauma, bruising, severe laceration, and was still in pain and discomfort on the morning after she gave this interview.
So again, that would be consistent with non-consensual sex. Of course, the defense will say that this was consensual rough sex. But they're -- they have a lot of explaining to do.
BLITZER: The bellhop in this particular case, Michael Smerconish, is supposedly ready to testify that she was distraught, she was very upset when she emerged from his room that night. He was so concerned about her that he followed her home to make sure she got home OK. That testimony could also be powerfully damning against Kobe Bryant.
SMERCONISH: It can indeed. You know, we haven't gotten a look at this fellow yet, but by all accounts, it would seem like he's going to play the role of the Kato Kalin in the Kobe Bryant case. He's going to be very, very important in terms of the ultimate outcome.
BLITZER: The other -- but the other side of the story, Kimberly, she voluntarily, she willingly went up to his room. She says she flirted with him. She says she consented to kissing and some other initial activity, but that things got out of control.
How will that play in terms of a jury pool, when they hear that, you know what, she wanted to go up there, even though legally, as far as the law's concerned, that probably it almost certainly shouldn't have a role to play?
NEWSOM: No, you're right, and that's the problem. This case is going to come down to jury selection, because a lot of people, including members of the media, had problems with that, the fact that she did go to his room, she did admit to being flattered and enjoyed the contact with him, she did engage in consensual kissing and hugging and that type of thing, but then she said that's when she said, no more, and that's when he in fact put his hands around her neck and bent her over the chair and the rest of the facts that have come out in the press occurred.
And she was crying during the whole time, during this sexual intercourse. So, if this is consensual sexual intercourse, why is she crying, why is she telling him no, why is she asking to leave? That's her side of the story, of course. Kobe has a markedly different version.
BLITZER: There will be two different sides of the story.
And, Michael Smerconish, has the jury pool in Eagle, Colorado, a small community, already effectively been tainted? In other words, should this trial be moved to another location in Colorado?
SMERCONISH: Probably to Mars, because I think that's the only locale that's left in the United States. I mean, I'm here in Philadelphia. I think the Philadelphia jury pool has probably been tainted as well. The whole country is fixated on this one, Wolf.
BLITZER: I think you make a fair point. Michael Smerconish, thanks for your double duty today.
Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, as always, thanks very much for joining us on "LATE EDITION."
NEWSOM: Thank you.
BLITZER: This subject not going away. We'll have both of you back.
And just ahead, the results are now in on our "LATE EDITION" Web question of the week: Do you think Kobe Bryant is guilty of sexual assault? We'll give you the results, plus I'll read some of your letters to "LATE EDITION." We've been getting flooded with e-mail. It's all just ahead.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
We have a breaking story to report to you. Right now, after 26 hours of surgery, those conjoined twin boys, 2-year-old twin boys, have successfully -- successfully -- been separated. Doctors at Children's Medical Center in Dallas spent the night trying to -- they spent more than a day, in fact, trying to separate the brains of Ahmed and Muhammad Ibrahim. They came from Egypt.
Within the past few minutes, Dr. Jim Thompson says they're now within striking distance of living independent lives. The next procedure, though, could take as long as six hours. It will involve reconstructing their skulls, covering the wounds with skin. But they have successfully -- successfully -- been separated. Much more on this important story coming up here on CNN throughout the day and evening. Let's get to the results now of our "LATE EDITION" Web question of the week: Do you think Kobe Bryant is guilty of sexual assault? Look at this. Sixteen percent of you said yes. Eighty-four percent said no. But remember, this is not -- repeat not -- a scientific poll.
Up next, Bruce Morton's last word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There was always a case to be made that Saddam was a killer, a dictator, and that overthrowing him would be a kindness to the Iraqi people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Six months after the fall of Baghdad, does the case for war still stand? Stay with us.
BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on the case for war against Iraq.
MORTON (voice-over): The Bush administration has announced a new public-relations campaign to convince Americans that things in Iraq are going better than some of us think they are. It's just what's needed, of course, with an election looming. If we're going to spend $87 billion in Iraq, who could object to a little more money for PR here at home?
But there are some questions. First, what about charges that a lot of the money is earmarked for American firms who were awarded contracts without having to bid competitively for them? And shouldn't as much work and money as possible go to Iraqi firms, since the U.S. is trying to teach them about free markets and competition and so on?
But a more important question is, why did the U.S. go to war there? Before the war, the administration line was that Saddam Hussein's regime posed a direct threat to the United States. Postwar investigations suggest that was false. Researchers have not found weapons of mass destruction.
There was always a case to be made that Saddam was a killer, a dictator and that overthrowing him would be of kindness to the Iraqi people.
But that's not the case the administration made. Mr. Bush instead offered a brand new foreign policy asserting that the U.S. had the right to invade any country it thought posed a threat and could do this unilaterally with no need for coalitions or alliances.
That would be a good issue to debate in a presidential election. But most of the current crop of Democratic candidates will have trouble raising it. Almost all the ones in Congress -- Senators Joe Lieberman, John Kerry and John Edwards, Representative Dick Gephardt -- voted to give the president the right to invade. Only Representative Dennis Kucinich voted against.
MORTON: Dr. Howard Dean, an outsider, opposed the war from the start. General Wesley Clark has said different things about where he stood.
(on-camera): And the country is pretty evenly divided. In a Gallup poll this past week, the sample split right down the middle: 50 percent thought the U.S. should always or usually attack a country it thinks is a threat; 49 percent said no, only sometimes, or never.
(voice-over): So it's a good issue for presidential hopefuls to argue about, complicated in the case of Iraq by the fact that the threat seems to have been much less than the administration claimed it was.
Were they honestly mistaken? Or did they want to sell the American people on the war for other reasons?
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.
That's your "LATE EDITION," our "LATE EDITION" in fact as well, for Sunday, October 12th.
For our international viewers, "World News" is next.
For our North American audience, "People in the News" is next. That's followed at 3 p.m. Eastern by "In the Money," and at 4 p.m. Eastern, "CNN Live Sunday."
Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. I'm here Monday through Friday twice a day, both noon and 5 p.m. Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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