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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With John Edwards; Interview With Joseph Lieberman; Interview With Edward Kennedy
Aired January 25, 2004 - 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 and here in New Hampshire, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5 p.m. in London and 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for this special "LATE EDITION" from Manchester, New Hampshire.
Over the next two hours we're going to preview the first U.S. presidential primary of 2004, including special interviews with the Democratic presidential candidates John Edwards and Joe Lieberman, plus an exclusive interview with Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, who has endorsed Senator John Kerry, the current front-runner.
All that coming up. First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: On Tuesday, voters here in New Hampshire will take a major step in helping Democrats determine who will be their presidential nominee in the November election against President Bush.
Helping us understand all the latest poll numbers here in the homestretch, CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
Bill, thanks very much. What are the latest numbers showing us?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Let's take a look. This is getting interesting. All these people were interviewed since -- that is since -- the debate on Thursday night.
Kerry continues to surge into the lead. He's got the big mo, 38 percent. Dean is second at 25. His support seems to have stabilized. The interview with his wife, the kinder, gentler Dean may be helping him. He's at 25 percent. The question is, has he hit the base and is his support now stable?
But look at this. We've got a close three-way race in this poll for third place, with Joe Lieberman -- some mo for Joe going on here. Independents seem to be attracted to him in large numbers. His performance in the debate, his advertising concerning the war in Iraq, seem to be drawing a lot of conservative independents who are supporting Joe Lieberman.
But just behind him, Wesley Clark at 10. He's been declining since the debate, where his performance was widely criticized. And John Edwards, he remains a wild card. Some polls show him up, some polls show him down.
A very tight race between Lieberman, Clark and Edwards for third place, which could be a ticket out of New Hampshire to the later primaries.
BLITZER: Now, you've been looking closely over the past six days, basically these tracking polls that we have here at CNN. And what it also shows is considerable increase for John Kerry but a huge slide for General Wesley Clark.
What are those numbers showing you?
SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, there is a joke going around that Wesley Clark is like the spare tire in the Democrats' trunk. That is, they would use him if they had a flat. Meaning if Howard Dean had won Iowa big and looks like he was winning New Hampshire, and they were worried, "Oh, my God, how are we going to win this election," they'd bring out the spare tire and a lot of people would go to Wesley Clark.
But they didn't have a flat. So the result is, Wesley Clark is still in the trunk. And certainly since the debate, his support has been declining. In fact, it's been declining all week.
BLITZER: All right. Bill Schneider, we'll be checking back with you. Thanks very much.
BLITZER: Vice President Dick Cheney is in Rome today after a fresh pitch to European allies for cooperation in the war against terror, and amidst new questions about the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Our senior White House correspondent, John King, is traveling with the vice president, and he's joining us live from Rome with more.
John, what's going on?
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, of course, the vice president has been perhaps most aggressive in the Bush administration in making the case before the war, and even after the war, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
We tried to ask Mr. Cheney this morning about this latest controversy, but he is having a day of only sightseeing here in Rome, Wolf. We tried to ask him one question about this as he headed into a spectacular museum here in Rome this morning, but the vice president saying, "Nice to see you all," and heading on with his day of sightseeing.
At issue, of course, the comments by David Kay, the administration's point man in the search of weapons of mass destruction, in which he says he does not believe any weapons will be found, and he does not believe that Saddam Hussein was producing such weapons in the 1990s.
Now, the administration is dealing with this blockbuster by dividing it into two questions: Number one, the administration says it will aggressively rebut anyone who tries to make the political case that the administration "cooked," as one senior official put it, the intelligence.
One senior official on this trip, in fact, quoting from an declassified CIA assessment, saying that the CIA told President Bush, before he decided to go to war, that it had, quote, "high confidence" that Saddam Hussein had those banned chemical and biological weapons. The official noting also that was the conclusion back in the Clinton administration.
This official acknowledging there is a legitimate question, though, now, about the quality of that intelligence. And the administration would like a little bit more time for the search to continue in Iraq, Wolf, but it is clear they are making political preparations to, perhaps, concede that the intelligence was inaccurate.
Senior officials back in Washington say the administration is looking into this question. They know Congress will look into this question, as well. They expect the CIA director, George Tenet, perhaps, to make a statement on this in the weeks to come. Again, they would like a little bit more time for the search, perhaps, and some congressional testimony.
BLITZER: John, as you will recall, and many of our viewers will recall, when Secretary of State Colin Powell testified on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in February, just before the war last year, almost a year or so ago, almost exactly a year or so ago, George Tenet, the director of the CIA, pointedly was sitting right behind him to underscore this was not just a political statement by the Bush administration, the intelligence community supported every word he was saying.
Is there a sense that Vice President Cheney has, other Bush administration officials have, that the intelligence community needs to give them a better explanation what may have gone wrong in the whole assessment of what Iraq had, as far as WMD is concerned?
KING: Certainly if David Kay's comments hold up as the search continues and no weapons are found, there is no question that there will be a fundamental review of how it could be that the United States -- but, Wolf, this is the point the administration makes: Not only this administration, but the Clinton administration, some at the United Nations and other Western governments all made the conclusion that Saddam Hussein still had active weapons of mass destruction program. And many of those conclusions were that he had active stockpiles of those weapons.
So there will be a fundamental question about the quality of U.S. intelligence. One senior official, again, on this trip saying Iraq, of course, is perhaps one of the most secretive societies -- was one of the most secretive societies on the planet, so it is a very difficult question.
And, of course, the administration, knowing we are in a campaign year back in the United States, says this should not be a political question.
And on that front, Wolf, they are heartened by statements David Kay made today in a National Public Radio interview in which he said he does not believe President Bush owes the American people an apology. He believes the intelligence community owes an apology to the president.
BLITZER: CNN's John King, traveling with the vice president in Rome today after meetings in Davos, Switzerland.
Thanks, John, very much for that report.
Up next: Fighting to lead the primary pack. Can Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards repeat his surprising Iowa performance in New Hampshire? We'll have my interview with the North Carolina senator. That's coming up.
Plus, a special conversation, as well, with a Democratic senator, Joe Lieberman, about his climbing poll numbers.
And while the focus is in on the Democrats, there's some stumping going on this weekend for President Bush, as well, right here in New Hampshire. We'll ask New York's Republican governor, George Pataki, why the president deserves a second term.
Also, Democrats give the president's State of the Union speech a rather chilly reception. We'll talk about that and more with Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.
Our special "LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), NORTH CAROLINA: The people of Iowa tonight confirmed that they believe in a positive, uplifting vision to change America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, clearly pleased by his strong second-place showing in Monday night's Iowa caucuses.
Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION." The North Carolina senator is hoping to ride the momentum of his Iowa performance to a very strong showing here in New Hampshire and beyond. I spoke with John Edwards about his candidacy on his campaign bus.
BLITZER: Senator Edwards, thanks very much for joining us, and congratulations on that big win in Iowa.
EDWARDS: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: You're seeing a bounce here in New Hampshire.
BLITZER: What do you have to do in New Hampshire to come out of here in a strong position?
EDWARDS: I just have to continue what I did in Iowa. I mean, what's happening here in New Hampshire in the last few days is what I saw in the last week in Iowa.
The events I go to, I'm expecting 100, 150, and we had an event in Portsmouth that was 600 people, 100 more outside who couldn't get in. Had the same thing at Dartmouth yesterday; 400 or so and another couple hundred who couldn't get in.
So this is the same kind of momentum that I saw there. And I just have to keep it going and keep moving.
BLITZER: Right now all the polls show you in fourth, but increasing, modestly, but increasing almost every day in these tracking polls.
BLITZER: What do you have to -- you want to emerge third?
EDWARDS: Similar to what happened in Iowa, by the way.
BLITZER: In Iowa what really helped you was that editorial, the endorsement of the Des Moines Register.
EDWARDS: It did help. No question.
BLITZER: That was a big psychological boost.
EDWARDS: It was.
BLITZER: But what do you have to finish in New Hampshire that would make you happy going to South Carolina and the other states on February 3rd?
EDWARDS: Well, honestly I think that how well I did in Iowa, which was a close, strong second to Senator Kerry, and going from, what, 5 percent to 32 percent in a matter of just two or three weeks was an incredible surge.
So I think that has already put me in a place where I have momentum going into South Carolina and subsequent states.
But I want to keep that momentum going here in New Hampshire. I don't make predictions. I don't know what that means in terms of place finishes and so forth, but I do need to keep this momentum going.
BLITZER: At one point, you were thinking of skipping New Hampshire and going right to South Carolina. But after Iowa, you had a change of strategy.
EDWARDS: No, I'm going to compete everywhere in the country. And I think if you're running for the...
BLITZER: As robustly in New Hampshire as -- you're competing a lot more robustly than some had would thought you would do.
EDWARDS: I'm doing everything I know how to do, working my heart out. I've got 100 town hall meetings. I'm here every day, campaigning. And I'll continue to do that.
BLITZER: Were you disappointed that Senator Fritz Hollings endorsed John Kerry?
EDWARDS: I love Fritz Hollings. He's a wonderful guy.
Well, what we learned in Iowa, Wolf, was that the endorsements just don't have a lot of impact. And I suspect that will be true, both of the endorsements I've gotten and the endorsements that others have gotten.
BLITZER: What does have an impact?
EDWARDS: You seeing voters in person.
I mean, what I saw happening in Iowa and I now see happening in New Hampshire is when you're at the end stage, when people are deciding what to do, they're looking for a president.
You know, early on, there's a lot of window shopping going on. Sort of, well, I'm kind of interested in him, kind of interested in her. But what's happened now is we're at the end stage. And people are looking for vision, they're looking for strength.
And in my case, one of the things that we haven't talked about that happened in Iowa, and I see happening in New Hampshire, is I have had the strongest, most positive, optimistic, hopeful vision for the country. And it drives through a lot of the crossfire.
BLITZER: What did you make of Howard Dean's -- I guess some people are calling it rant, this concession speech, and the fallout from that?
EDWARDS: Well, it's clearly had an impact. I don't -- I don't know why Howard -- I don't know why he did what he did. I can't speak to that. I don't know.
But I notice that my events here, that there are a lot of people coming who were Dean supporters. So I think they're listening, listening to other candidates. So we'll see.
BLITZER: Because you know Howard Dean. Was this characteristic, or was this just an explosion, some one-of-a-kind kind of outburst?
EDWARDS: Well, I've seen him get very animated and excited like that when he's speaking in front of a big crowd. He's not been like that when he interacts with me.
BLITZER: The whole notion, though, of this race being wide open right now, and John Kerry, at least coming out of Iowa and the polls showing in New Hampshire, emerging as a very, very strong candidate. If he does win decisively in New Hampshire, is it basically all over? Will he get that nomination?
EDWARDS: No, of course not. No. Once we leave New Hampshire, we go to places where I'm very strong: South Carolina, Oklahoma. Subsequently, we go to Tennessee, Virginia.
So no, no. This is going to be a long process, this nomination.
BLITZER: You're fighting for third, or at least some say, between Dean and Clark, fighting for second here in New Hampshire. But General Clark is a Southerner, as well. He's from Arkansas. Is he your main competition in the South?
EDWARDS: No. I don't think of it that way. I mean, there are differences between the two of us. I mean, I grew up in the South. I have lived there almost my entire life. And not only that, I've represented the South in the Senate, which means I've dealt with the day-to-day problems that Southerners face: the rural economy, the loss of jobs, all the problems that they face. I know them intimately.
And I think there are real -- because of that, there are real differences between myself and General Clark.
BLITZER: Are you suggesting he's not a real Southerner?
EDWARDS: Oh, no, no, I'd never say that. No, I'm just saying that I've been out there representing a Southern state for a period of years now, so I know very well what the problems are.
BLITZER: Some people suggested that in the South you may not necessarily be as strong as you like to think. In North Carolina, you're not seeking reelection. Some of the polls showed you would have had a tough time getting reelected in North Carolina.
EDWARDS: Actually, the last poll that we did before I decided to run for president had me winning by 25 to 30 points over any of the other opponents. So no, I would have won the Senate seat in North Carolina.
BLITZER: And the decision you've made to drop out and not seek reelection was?
EDWARDS: Because I don't think you can run for president of the United States while you're holding onto the side of the swimming pool. I mean, you have to be very serious and totally committed. And no one can have any doubt.
When you ask a caucus-goer in Iowa to caucus for you or a voter in New Hampshire to vote for you for president, they can't be thinking, "Well, if this doesn't work, he's going to go do something else."
BLITZER: You've run a very positive campaign, unlike several of your other Democratic colleagues, and people like that. They clearly liked it in Iowa. I was there. They like that here in New Hampshire.
But there is this memo that surfaced, apparently has your signature on it, which suggests talking points for belittling the other Democratic candidates. I want you to react to that.
Well, first of all, I didn't -- the letter has my signature on it. The memo I had never seen. I found out about it two or three days after the Iowa caucuses. It was wrong. I take responsibility for it.
I think that -- what it is, just to be clear, was, it was a long memo that was sent to our supporters about a lot of subjects, and it had a very short section that was critical of some of the other candidates. And it shouldn't have been done.
And I have -- first of all, I have severely reprimanded the person who was responsible for it and ordered that nothing like this is to happen again in my campaign.
BLITZER: Let's talk about this editorial that appears in Friday's Washington Post, in which it criticizes you for not fully disclosing the source of all the income, the campaign contributions that you're getting.
Among other things, it says this: "It's no secret that the backbone of Mr. Edwards's financial support has been his fellow trial lawyers, nor does Mr. Edwards minimize that part of his biography. Rather, he embraces it as a role in which he fought for ordinary citizens against powerful corporations."
Then it goes on to say, "What's beyond dispute is that trial lawyers are a special interest. They pump millions of dollars into Democratic coffers because their livelihoods depend on such legislative issues as caps on damages in medical malpractice cases, limits on class action lawsuits, and the settlement of asbestos litigation." The newspaper wants you to disclose all of these sources of campaign fund-raising.
EDWARDS: Well, The Washington Post doesn't make the law. What we have is the highest compliance record of any presidential candidate for disclosing all the information about our donors, number one.
Number two, I, unlike some of my opponents, have actually stayed within the public finance system.
Number three, I myself have worked as hard as I know how and fought for campaign finance reform. And not only that, I voluntarily don't take money from either Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs, even though both those kinds of contributions are completely legal.
So, my response is, I've not only done what the law requires, I've gone way beyond what the law requires. And this newspaper does not make the rules.
BLITZER: Well, they're saying that you don't go as far as the president does in explaining the source of the income. It says, "Why won't he reveal more about the interests and individuals that he would owe if elected president?"
EDWARDS: Well, I disclosed the name of every donor and what they do. I mean, I give all the information about the people who make contributions to my campaign.
BLITZER: But you don't necessarily say that this person is a trial lawyer or...
EDWARDS: Yes, we do.
BLITZER: In the...
EDWARDS: We say what -- there's an occupation section, and we say what their occupation is.
BLITZER: So the bottom line is, you don't think you have to do anything else in order to be fully transparent...
EDWARDS: I have...
BLITZER: ... with the voters?
EDWARDS: I have the highest compliance record of any of these presidential candidates.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about another issue that's come up: John Kerry.
He was critical of you, suggesting that when he was fighting in Vietnam, he said something along the lines, you were still in diapers.
Which raises the issue -- you weren't in diapers. You were 16 years old, you were in high school.
BLITZER: Which raises the issue, you're 50 years old. And you -- but you look younger than 50 years old. How much of a factor is that when people look at you, they think, "Well, he's too young, he's too inexperienced. Maybe he's ready to be vice president but not yet ready to be president"?
EDWARDS: This is a case where initial impressions are deceiving. And what we saw happen in Iowa, and what I see happening in New Hampshire right now, it was when people get a closer look at you, they get a chance to test you. They test your character. They test what your substantive knowledge is, what your vision is for the country.
For example, people sometimes ask me, "What's been your involvement in national security?" Well, the truth is, I've been on the Senate Intelligence Committee, investigated September 11th, helped write the laws to respond to it and not take our liberties away in the process.
I've been in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Middle East -- these parts of the world. Met with leaders. Met with our own security operations in these parts of the world to see what's working and what's not.
I've laid out the most detailed vision for what America's role in the world should be among all the presidential candidates.
But the most important thing that people see at the end, Wolf, which is what happened in Iowa, is the reason there was this big upsurge, is what's happening here in New Hampshire, is they see that these are battles I have been fighting my entire life. I mean, I have a lifelong history of taking on very tough, tough battles and winning them. And they've had the chance to see that in me. And that's what will continue to have happen as we go forward.
BLITZER: People forget that Bill Clinton was in his mid-40s when he was elected president of the United States.
EDWARDS: That's right.
BLITZER: I guess you're blessed that you look younger than 50. And in any other profession, that would be great.
EDWARDS: I got lots of scars on the inside, I promise you.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk a little bit about some of the substantive issues that are certainly going to be a factor if you get the Democratic presidential nomination. You have to go head to head with President Bush.
Tax cuts -- the president says you will raise taxes if you're elected president. You'll at least try to raise taxes. Will you raise taxes on the American people if you're elected president? EDWARDS: If you are an American taxpayer who earns under $200,000 a year, not only will I not raise your taxes, I will do very specific things to help you. For example, matching what you're able to save, for middle- to lower-income families, up to $1,000 a family. Giving you a tax credit to allow you to make a downpayment on your first home. Lowering the capital gains and dividend rates for people in the middle and lower income tax brackets. I mean, I've laid out -- plus cracking down on predatory...
BLITZER: You'll keep the middle-class tax cuts that were passed by...
EDWARDS: More than that. I'll keep the middle-class tax cuts. Not only that, I go further.
BLITZER: Whose taxes will you raise?
EDWARDS: People who earn over $200,000...
BLITZER: Anybody who earns under $200,000 won't get tax increases?
EDWARDS: That's correct.
BLITZER: If you earn more than $200,000, you will.
Now, the argument he'll make is that, by raising their taxes, you're going to slow the possibility of economic growth, and you're not going to stimulate the economy as he has done, he will say, by cutting taxes on everybody who pays taxes.
EDWARDS: Well, there's a fundamental difference between George Bush and John Edwards on this: George Bush believes if you put more money in the pockets of people who have wealth, that they'll spend it, it will trickle down, and somehow the whole economy will do better. He's wrong about that.
BLITZER: But hasn't that happened?
EDWARDS: No, it hasn't happened. Let me go back. If you look back -- first of all, you have to look at this over longer periods of time than a quarter or two quarters. If you look back over the last 50 to 60 years, we have had real, sustained economic growth and job creation in America where we strengthened and expanded the middle class. It happened for 20-some-odd years after World War II, happened in the second half of the Clinton administration.
And what's happening is, the middle class in America is struggling mightily. They're financially insecure. Middle-class families aren't saving now. Not only that, they're going into debt.
So what the president's doing is actually shifting the tax burden onto the backs of these very families who are already struggling. That's what he does when he eliminates or tries to eliminate capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, the taxes on big estates. There's no place for that tax burden to go except straight onto the backs of these middle-class families.
I believe, different than George Bush, that the middle class is actually the engine of this economy. And the key to sustaining long- term economic growth is to strengthen the financial security of the middle class.
BLITZER: Where do you stand exactly on what the president said in his State of the Union address, that, if necessary, he would support a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as a union between man and woman?
EDWARDS: I'm against it.
EDWARDS: Because I don't think it's necessary. I think that this is something that individual states should be allowed to decide.
BLITZER: You heard Al Sharpton say that this should not be an issue that states should decide, because the issue of civil rights and states' rights, there is a history there.
EDWARDS: I disagree with him. I think that this is an issue that the right decision at this moment in our country's history is to let individual states decide.
BLITZER: So if a state decides -- let's say, Vermont, as they have decided -- that there should be civil unions, should other states recognize those unions as legitimate?
EDWARDS: I don't think you can require one state to -- for example, you can't allow the state of Massachusetts, if they decide that they're going to recognize gay marriage, to impose that standard on the rest of the country.
BLITZER: So the federal government should stay out of it?
EDWARDS: With this exception: The federal government should recognize what the individual state decisions are. For example, if Massachusetts -- we'll use Massachusetts, they're an obvious example. If they recognize gay marriage, then for purposes of federal benefits, they should recognize people who live in Massachusetts being eligible.
BLITZER: Do you support the president's decision to send a person back to the moon and perhaps beyond, to Mars?
EDWARDS: Well, I think it makes sense. Space exploration makes sense. I think that we saw what happened during the Kennedy administration and thereafter, how it inspired lots of generations of young people to be interested in science, math, technology, which I think is important.
But the president has to be able to do two things at once. And what he's doing is diverting attention from the problems that we have here at home. For example, there are lots of these issues, but health care. I mean, I've never heard the president present any kind of health care plan. I mean, we have a health care system in crisis in this country.
BLITZER: He pushed through Medicare reform that will give prescription drug benefits for seniors.
EDWARDS: Yes, what he's going to do is give billions of dollars of taxpayer money to HMOs, drive seniors out of Medicare into HMOs. And all the provisions that could have been used to bring down the cost of prescription drugs -- reimportation from Canada, do something about drug company advertising, using the power of the government to negotiate a better price -- the drug companies were all against that, so the president was against it. Well, see, those provisions needed to be in the bill to bring down costs.
But, if I can just step back, besides this important issue of prescription drugs for seniors, what about the bigger, broader issue of health care in America? He's proposing no kind of plan for that, which means he's out of touch with what's happening.
BLITZER: All right. We're out of time, but a quick question on the Patriot Act. The president wants to renew all of the provisions of the Patriot Act when they come up. Some of them expire, as you well know. You voted for the Patriot Act.
EDWARDS: I did.
BLITZER: What will be your position when some of the more controversial aspects of it come up for renewal?
EDWARDS: It has to be changed. The Patriot Act needs to be changed. There are provisions in the Patriot Act that never get any attention that are very good, allowing us to do a better job of going after terrorist money laundering, bringing the law up to date with technology.
So, you know, it used to be, way even before this law, that if you go get the search warrant, you'd get an answering machine but you couldn't get to voicemail. Well, we obviously need to update the law to comply with technology.
And better information sharing. Those are all good things.
The provisions that need to changed are the sneak and peak provisions that allow the government to go into someone's house, search, without, in my view, adequate safeguards in place, and leave and never tell you that they were there, allowing the government to go into libraries, book stores without adequate safeguards. Those things, I think, need to be changed.
BLITZER: One final quick question. Your vote authorizing war, potentially, to go to war against Iraq. Looking back, now that all the dust has settled, the U.S. is there, Saddam Hussein is under arrest, there's a new government potentially going to take over Iraq, was it the right thing to do, your vote? EDWARDS: I think Saddam Hussein being gone is a very good thing. And going back and looking at it in hindsight, that's a luxury nobody has. I did what I believed was the right thing to do at the time.
BLITZER: Senator Edwards, thanks very much.
EDWARDS: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And from the Edwards campaign bus, you're looking live now at pictures of Senator Edwards. He's at an event in Rochester, New Hampshire, about 600 people have crammed into a full gymnasium for this rally for the senator from North Carolina. He's been getting very, very large groups throughout this state in the aftermath of what happened a week ago in Iowa. We'll continue to watch this event with Senator Edwards and report any news, if, in fact, it should develop.
But just ahead, we'll have a quick check of the hour's top stories. Then, the hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -- it's coming up empty. What happened? We'll get special insight from two leading United States senators.
Our "LATE EDITION" will continue after the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're trying to shake the will of our country and our friends, but the United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush vowing to pursue the war on terror during his State of the Union address this past week in Washington.
Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION."
Joining us now from Washington, two top members of the United States Senate: Kansas Republican Pat Roberts is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Florida Democrat Bob Graham is the panel's former chairman.
Senators, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Good morning -- or good afternoon.
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator Roberts.
Let me begin with you and ask you to react to what we're hearing from David Kay, who, until the last few days, was the chief U.S. official looking for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. He was asked in an interview on Friday just after he stepped down, "Do you think they destroyed it," referring to Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction, and he says bluntly, "No, I don't think they existed," flatly insisting that there's no evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the war.
If that is true, that is a huge intelligence blunder by the United States government.
ROBERTS: I don't know if it's a blunder so much as it is a real challenge for us to get to the bottom of it. We'll know a lot better in about two to three weeks. The inquiry that we are conducting, probably the most thorough inquiry that has been conducted on the intelligence community in maybe say 10 or 20 years, will be made available to members of the Intelligence Committee as of Wednesday.
I am surprised by David Kay's assumption. I am surprised that they did not find some semblance of WMD. He indicates it's about 85 percent done in terms of the efforts, and they've turned it over to Charles Duelfer. I'm sure he'll do a good job, but it was David Kay who said, "Don't be surprised if there's a surprise." I don't think when he said that he thought the surprise would be that there would be no WMD.
BLITZER: Senator Graham, what's your assessment about the lack of any evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction stockpiles in the '90s?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: Well, I think it's very important that we get to the bottom of this, because a solid, reliable intelligence capability is a key to not only our security but also our international credibility.
The issue here, we'll need to look at the entire process. What did our intelligence community rely on, in order to reach the information that they passed on to decision-makers? How did decision- makers utilize that information which they received? And then, finally, what were the decisions made to communicate that to the world community, particularly through the United Nations, and to the people of the United States of America?
And when we find the soft spots, then we need to be prepared to move to reforms, so that we won't have a repetition of flawed intelligence, which got us into September the 11th and, again, flawed intelligence which may have given the wrong basis for our war in Iraq.
BLITZER: There's a possibility, Senator Roberts, that Saddam Hussein was telling the truth to the international weapons inspectors, the international community, when he said in recent years there were no weapons of mass destruction.
And Secretary of State Powell, responding to David Kay's most recent comment, said this. He said, "I think the answer to the question is 'I don't know yet.' Last year, when I made my presentation, it was based on the best intelligence that we had at the time," suggesting that it's possible that intelligence was simply wrong. ROBERTS: Well, basically that intelligence was shared by virtually every country, even the U.N. It appears now that that intelligence -- there's a lot of questions about it.
I hesitate to give you my personal opinion, and it would be very premature. As I say, again, the draft report of an inquiry that we've been working on for the better part of a year will be made available to members as of Wednesday. We'll go about two weeks, then hopefully we can come with a report that can be declassified to some extent and have public hearings.
But, in regards to Saddam Hussein, if in fact he didn't have them, why on earth didn't he let the U.N. inspectors in and avoid the war? That is a real puzzlement to me.
BLITZER: You know, Senator Graham, I want you to listen to what the president said in his State of the Union address on this very specific subject, and listen to his wording precisely. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We're seeking all the facts. Already the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: If you listen precisely to what he said, "program activities" and "significant amounts of equipment," but never says that there were actual weapons of mass destruction stockpiles, the mustard gas, the VX, the anthrax, the quantities that all of us, of course, including yourself, were led to believe existed on the eve of the war.
GRAHAM: Yes. And another phrase that was used prior to the war was the phrase "imminent," that these were items that weren't just in a warehouse somewhere, or a laboratory, but they were ready to be used. In fact, the British at one time said they could be used on a 45-minute-notice basis.
So there are a lot of...
BLITZER: On that point, Senator Graham, on that point, the president himself, though, never used the word "imminent." What he said, there was a "gathering" storm raising the specter of the threat. The British, as you correctly point out, were much more specific in their warning of some sort of imminent danger, 45 minutes at one point.
But go ahead and finish your thought.
GRAHAM: Well, this was one of the few preventive wars that the United States has gone to. This wasn't preemptive, even, where we were dealing with a threat that was almost minute-to-minute. There has to be some sense of urgency to use our military forces on a preventive-war basis, and I certainly got the impression that the rationale was that not only did Saddam Hussein have significant weapons of mass destruction, but that they were on a trigger, ready for use at a time that would be threatening to the security of the people of the United States.
BLITZER: In an interview published in the Sunday Telegraph in London, Senator Roberts, David Kay says this about those weapons of mass destruction capabilities, or what the Iraqis may or may not have had.
He said, "We know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of the material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD program. Precisely what went to Syria and what has happened to it is a major issue that needs to be resolved."
What can you tell us about this entire alleged Syrian connection?
ROBERTS: Well, that was the thing I was going to bring out, Wolf, before everybody decides it was no, say, WMD anywhere, there is a 15 percent chance -- it's 85 percent done, in terms of the search, but there was a large caravan of trucks who left Iraq and went to Syria. If, in fact, they did not exist now, does not mean they weren't simply taken out of the country or destroyed.
Now, with the 15 percent of the work yet to be done, and with General Dayton making every effort to find out in Syria if, in fact, there is some WMD in regards to that country, if that is the case, there's going to be a lot of people who are critics that have egg or WMD all over their face.
BLITZER: Senator Graham, do you want to respond to that?
GRAHAM: I think Syria's going to be a bigger and bigger part of this puzzle. We know that Syria has been providing sanctuary for Hezbollah, a group that many feel is more violent than al Qaeda. Now we have this suggestion that Saddam Hussein was allowed to unload a lot of his weapons of mass destruction or capabilities onto Syria.
I think Syria needs to be elevated much higher in our list of concerns in the world, in terms of our own national security.
BLITZER: Senator Graham, Senator Roberts, unfortunately we have to leave it right there, but it was kind of both of you to join us on "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Wolf.
ROBERTS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Still ahead, politicking for the president -- I'll talk live with New York's Republican governor, George Pataki, about President Bush and the Democrats who want to replace him. And then, will New Hampshire turn out to be a rocky road for presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman? We'll have a special interview with the Connecticut Democratic senator.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
BLITZER: The CNN Election Express bus, it's been traveling throughout Iowa, now New Hampshire. It's going to be continuing to move. You'll a want to stay with CNN for all the latest on that.
Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION," live from New Hampshire.
While the Democrats are getting most of the attention here, supporters of President Bush are still out making the case for their man. One of them, New York Republican Governor George Pataki, he's joining us now live.
Governor, thanks very much for joining us.
There's no competition in the primary, effectively speaking, for the president. Why do you have to come here now?
GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: Well, Wolf, I am going to go out on a limb and predict that the president will win the Republican convention on Tuesday and win the primary here.
But in all seriousness, I think it's important that the people of New Hampshire and the people of America hear both sides of the story. They've been inundated with months of negativism from the Democratic candidates -- not just from the candidates themselves, but millions of dollars of advertising.
And I think the American people have to understand and hear that we do have a president who's provided tremendous leadership to help make us safer in a new era of war on terror; a president who's provided economic leadership, the tax cuts that helping to bring jobs back to America.
BLITZER: All right, well, let me...
PATAKI: So you have to hear both sides.
BLITZER: We'll hear both sides. But let me show you some numbers. Maybe some of those months of negativism is beginning to pay off for the Democrats. A nationwide poll of registered voters, in Newsweek that came out, showed this. Look at this. John Kerry could beat President Bush, 49 percent, 46 percent, if the race were right now.
That does not necessarily bode well for the president.
PATAKI: Well, Wolf, I'll tell you, whenever I see poll numbers like that, I think of two things. First is the fact that I think it was three days before my election against Mario Cuomo, that all the polls had me down 17 points, and I won.
You don't base policies or base your decisions on polling. You base them on the principles that you believe in and the policies you want to advance. And that's what this president has done.
And the second point being, when the American people hear this president, they will, I think, understand the importance of continuing him in office.
BLITZER: All right. Let's get to a couple of those points, by the way. Would you re-elect Bush, the Newsweek asks. Yes, 44 percent; no, 52 percent registered voters.
And as you point out correctly, still a long time between now and November.
But they listened to him deliver the State of the Union address. In the CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll that followed people who actually watched, take a look at these numbers, and I want you to study them.
After his State of the Union in 2002, and that was after 9/11, 74 percent had a positive reaction. Last year, 50 percent. This particular speech, only 45 percent told our poll that they had a positive reaction to his State of the Union.
PATAKI: Well, I think it's just the inevitable result of the fact that we have seen these months of relentless attacks against the president. And the president has had this one chance, in the State of the Union, to get his message out to the people of America.
But that's going to change. When the appropriate time comes, this president will hit the campaign trail. The people of America saw the president, heard the president in 2000, when he was running as the governor of Texas. And they understood that he was the person to lead the country.
BLITZER: I think it's fair to say he's already hit the campaign trail. He's raised more than $100 million, and he's going out campaigning in all sorts of battleground states almost every week.
PATAKI: Well, I think it's very different. I think he is governing, he is leading our country, and he is working very hard to advance the principles that he thinks are essential to make our country stronger -- most particularly, protecting us in this new era of the threat of global terrorism. And I think the American people will appreciate that.
BLITZER: The New York Times writes in an editorial on Wednesday, "The president's domestic policy comes down to one disastrous fact: His insistence on huge tax cuts for the wealthy has robbed the country of the money it needs to address its problems and has threatened its long-term economic security. Everything else is beside the point."
And to underscore that, here's some numbers. New York, unemployment, in January 2001, when he took office, it was at 4.2 percent. November 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up to 6.1 percent.
BLITZER: ... a critical element, in terms of getting re-elected.
PATAKI: Wolf, absolutely. And I think those numbers are totally unfair because you're talking about January of '01. September of '01, we had a horrible, horrible tragedy occur to the people of America. On that day and in the days thereafter, in New York alone, we lost over 100,000 jobs instantaneously. We went into a global, not just a national, but a global recession.
And when you think about this president's economic policies, it's since his tax cuts that our economy has begun to come back. We have begun creating more jobs. We have seen greater consumer confidence. We have seen more investment by the private sector and the facilities that are going to bring jobs to America.
And it always gets me that the Democrats talk about, "We have to be more competitive and have jobs in New Hampshire and jobs in America, and we're going to do it by raising taxes in an era when there's a global economy and we have to be more competitive."
So I believe this president has the right economic policies, particularly the tax cuts that are going to make us stronger and give my kids and their kids the chance to have jobs in the global economy.
BLITZER: And let's not forget the Republican convention this summer is where?
PATAKI: It's in New York. And, Wolf, it's going to be a spectacular convention, different from any one you've ever seen.
BLITZER: Can he carry New York in November?
PATAKI: There's no question the people of New York appreciate very much what the president has done for us. Not just on September 11th, but more than $20 billion toward the rebuilding effort. And his policies have helped make New York safer, so we're going to do our best.
BLITZER: If he does, it will be the first time in two decades that a Republican presidential candidate has won New York.
PATAKI: We're going to make the case, Wolf, and I believe the people of New York will listen.
BLITZER: Governor, thanks very much.
PATAKI: Good being on with you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
PATAKI: Thank you. BLITZER: Still ahead: Which of the Democratic presidential candidates is President Bush likely to face next fall? We'll size up the race for the White House with the chairmen of the Republican and the Democratic parties.
And don't forget our Web question of the week: Are the media making too big a deal of Howard Dean's controversial Iowa speech? Simply go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION."
Only two days left before the nation's first primary election on Tuesday. The stakes will be enormous for the Democratic presidential hopefuls. We'll get live reports from the campaign trail in just a few minutes.
First, though, let's go to the CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: The candidates, the campaigns, all of rest of us. We're digesting the latest poll numbers about the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. Joining us now, Judy Woodruff, the anchor of "Inside Politics."
Judy, you've been looking at all these numbers, and there are some consistencies in all of the various tracking polls and polls that we're seeing.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Wolf. Consistencies and inconsistencies, to a degree. I mean, you could get dizzy looking at all the polls. There are now nine polls that we find, six tracking polls and three other polls.
Here's what's consistent: John Kerry, we are seeing at 36 to 38 percent in five out of the six tracking polls.
But the interesting thing is what we're seeing in second place. In the CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, we've got Dean in second place at 25 percent. Most other polls also have him in second place as well, but with lower numbers, ranging anywhere from 15 to 20 percent.
But you've got, in our poll, interesting, too, Joe Lieberman moving into third place with 12 percent, but he is bunched, as you see, very close to Wesley Clark and John Edwards, while, Wolf, if you can keep up with all this, the other polls are showing Clark and Edwards in the mid-teens or single digits, at third or fourth place, Lieberman at fifth.
Bottom line here, I think, Wolf, is to what extent these polls are looking at independent voters. Because, for example, Joe Lieberman, if you've got more independent voters in there, more centrist-minded, they might be giving him a boost, in a way that just looking at Democrats or mostly Democrats might not.
BLITZER: Yes, what a lot of our viewers might not be familiar with, the rules of the game Tuesday, independents -- not necessarily registered Democrats -- but independents can actually come out and vote.
WOODRUFF: Exactly right. You can come in, you can register. You don't have to be a registered Democrat. And that is really changing the mix. That's not going to be true in states down the line. Each one of the campaigns is having to factor that into their campaign.
BLITZER: All right, Judy Woodruff, thanks. You'll be with us Tuesday night, the road to Tuesday. A lot of coverage here on CNN.
WOODRUFF: I will. Right. Thanks.
BLITZER: Let's get a little bit more coverage, right now. Democratic candidate Wesley Clark is back in the pack, but says he can fight on for a new day here in New Hampshire.
CNN's Dan Lothian is following the Clark campaign. He's joining us now live from Nashua.
What's the latest there, Dan?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello, Wolf. We are waiting for Mr. Clark to show up here at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, where a large crowd is waiting for his rally. These are the sort of crowds that we have been seeing at his events over the last few days.
But no doubt, there is some disappointment in the campaign about these latest poll numbers showing that Clark is in fourth place, although the campaign continues to insist that they are not watching the polls. They continue focusing on the voters. They say those are the only people who really count.
One thing, though, this campaign continues to stress, while they are focusing on the issues at their campaign stops, at their rallies, they always try to emphasize the fact that Clark is the one Democrat who can beat George Bush. Electability, we've been hearing so much about that word. That is how they begin their rallies. That is how they end their rallies, by showing the audience that Clark is the person who can beat George Bush.
Now, the campaign telling us today, aides telling us that they have the resources, they have about $10 million to $12 million on hand to move forward from New Hampshire. They fully expect to have some momentum as they move into the Southern states. And they say they have the organization there to propel this campaign forward.
Back to you.
BLITZER: CNN's Dan Lothian is covering the Clark campaign, and there's clearly a lot of excitement there.
In Iraq, though, there is some serious developments unfolding right now. U.S. forces are searching for a missing -- for the missing crew after a helicopter crash, after a weekend of other deadly attacks as well.
Our senior international correspondent, Sheila MacVicar is joining us now live from Baghdad with a complete rundown of all the latest developments.
Sheila, first of all, this latest helicopter crash -- what, precisely, are you hearing in Baghdad?
SHEILA MACVICAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this U.S. Army helicopter went down in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Now we're told that this helicopter was on a search-and-rescue mission, looking over the Tigris river for a U.S. serviceman missing in a previous incident, when the patrol boat he was riding in capsized.
Now, the early indications are that this helicopter hit a power line and went into the river. Obviously, it would have been flying very low. And there is now another search-and-rescue mission under way to try to find the two pilots from that downed helicopter. At this point, Wolf, we've had no indications that it is anything other than an accident.
Now, this incident comes at a time when, in the last 24 hours, six U.S. soldiers have died, each of them in separate incidents. Five died yesterday as a result of separate incidents, and one died today as a result of injuries received yesterday when a grenade was tossed at his Bradley fighting vehicle, giving you an idea that there is still certainly a level of unrest continuing here.
Two important notes, political notes, to look at this weekend. First, from Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister of the current Governing Council, telling CNN that he believes that U.N. chief Kofi Annan may announce as early as tomorrow that he is prepared to send a team to Iraq to evaluate the possibility of holding elections. What kinds of things would need to be done, and if those things could be accomplished in the time available.
One of the big issues, of course, is the question of security and whether or not elections could be safely held here, whether or not U.N. personnel could safely return to Iraq after they gradually withdrew following the devastating bomb last year.
BLITZER: CNN's Sheila MacVicar in Baghdad.
Sheila, thank you very much for that report.
Coming up, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman counting on a strong showing here in New Hampshire. Our new polls show he's moving up somewhat. We'll have my special interview with the Connecticut senator. That's coming up. And later, is President Bush beatable? The chairmen of the Republican and the Democratic parties will square off.
And I'll also have an exclusive interview with Senator Ted Kennedy. He's here in New Hampshire campaigning for John Kerry.
"LATE EDITION" will be right back.
BLITZER: Just ahead on "LATE EDITION," there's still time for you to weigh in on our Web question of the week: Are the media making too big a deal of Howard Dean's controversial speech? Go to cnn.com/lateedition. That's where you can vote.
Up next, my interview with the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Lieberman. Can he keep his campaign from sputtering out here in New Hampshire? New poll numbers encouraging him right now.
Much more of our coverage, right after this short break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've said from the beginning that my goal here was to do better than expected. It's the beginning, and we're moving on from here, south and west.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman setting his goal in New Hampshire as he fights to stay in the race.
I spoke to Senator Lieberman earlier today, here in Manchester.
BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back.
LIEBERMAN: Good to be back, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to get to politics and New Hampshire in a moment, but let's talk Iraq first.
BLITZER: Some really startling comments from David Kay, who until recently was in charge of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction. Guess what, he says, there weren't any on the eve of the war, there aren't any now.
In an interview with Reuters, he was asked, "Do you think they destroyed it," referring to the Iraqis, did they destroy the weapons of mass destruction? Kay says, "No, I don't think they existed." LIEBERMAN: Yes.
BLITZER: What does that say to you?
LIEBERMAN: I'd like to hear in more detail what David Kay had to say. And obviously these are very important comments.
Here's what I want to say. We know Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in the '90s. He obviously used gas against the Kurds and the Iranians. In the '90s he...
BLITZER: That was in the '80s, before the First Gulf War.
LIEBERMAN: In the '80s, excuse me.
He declared in the '90s to the United Nations that he had enormous quantities of chemical and biological, not nuclear -- and that's why we're so concerned about those 16 words in President Bush's State of the Union -- that he told the U.N. he had enough to kill millions and millions of people.
So, the fact that David Kay now says they weren't there doesn't say he never had them, it says for some reason they're not there now. We ought to ask for a full-scale investigation of exactly why our intelligence community said otherwise.
But let me say a final word, Wolf. For me, Saddam Hussein was a weapon of mass destruction. And what do I mean? He caused the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of people.
So for me the war against Iraq was always about getting Saddam Hussein out of power before he killed more of his people and killed more Americans. And that's why I continue to believe that the war against Saddam was just, and that we're safer with him in prison and not in power.
BLITZER: Because you're running an ad here in New Hampshire which tries to distinguish yourself from the other candidates. I want to run a little excerpt...
BLITZER: ... from that ad. Let's watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Only one candidate was clear we are safer with Saddam Hussein in prison, not in power. He was warning about al Qaeda long before George Bush knew who they were.
When you think about the dangers facing our country, think about Joe Lieberman's courage and conviction. It just might make all the difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The problem that you have is that, now, especially with David Kay saying there were no weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the war, there might have been some in the '80s but none existed before, by all accounts that was the major rationale...
BLITZER: ... for going to war.
BLITZER: It wasn't just to remove Saddam Hussein.
LIEBERMAN: No, no, no. You missed my point.
John McCain and I, in 1998, made it the law of the United States of America to change the regime in Baghdad. It was about Saddam, a mass murderer, a brutal dictator, invaded two of his neighbors, tried to kill former President Bush, supported terrorists, an enemy of the United States. Weapons of mass destruction, which in the '90s he said he had, were part of the argument.
You know what that's all about? Among the seven Democratic candidates, I'm the strongest on security. In an age of terrorism and tyranny, the American people are not going to vote for a candidate, no matter how angry they are at George Bush about their lost jobs, their higher-cost health insurance, the desecration of our environment and compromise of our rights. Not going to vote for a Democrat unless they believe that Democrat can keep them safe. And I'm the one, based on my record, who will do that.
BLITZER: Howard Dean says you and some of your colleagues are personally responsible for the death, the continuing death of American soldiers. Listen to what he said in the debate Thursday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Someone earlier made a remark about losing 500 soldiers and 2,200 wounded. Those soldiers were sent there by the vote of Senator Lieberman and Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's blaming you for the almost-daily deaths of American troops in Iraq.
LIEBERMAN: Wolf, that was an irresponsible statement. You could say that about the soldiers who died in the Second World War, who saved the lives of millions of people here and around the world from Nazism and fascism. You could say the same about those who died in President Clinton's just war to stop aggression and genocide in the Balkans.
The fact is that the most difficult decision a commander in chief makes is to send America's sons and daughters into battle. And I will never do it unless there is no other alternative.
And once I do it, I will stand totally behind our troops, giving them all the support they need -- monetary, equipment, political, moral -- until we can bring them home safe and in victory.
There was a man I talked about at the debate who I met the other day, a security guard at a hotel in Nashua, New Hampshire, came over to me and said, "I'm voting for you because I have a son who's a Marine who's going to be deployed to Iraq. I trust his life to you as commander in chief because I know you will not send him unless you need to, and if you send him, you will support him totally."
And here's the point about Howard Dean...
BLITZER: Let me interrupt...
LIEBERMAN: The lives that have been lost, they're heroes, but they're going to save thousands and thousands of other lives that Saddam Hussein would have ended, American lives.
BLITZER: Was this war, this war in Iraq, just as just, as justified as World War II?
LIEBERMAN: Here's the point. Every war is different.
Some people say to me, Saddam wasn't Hitler. Somebody said that to me. I said, you know, Hitler wasn't Hitler until the world let him become Hitler. Saddam Hussein was responsible for the deaths of a million people. This man was brutal, a homicidal maniac. Most of his own people, a lot of them Kurdish Iraqis and Iranians.
You let someone like this go, you let evil like this go in the world, there's no question that he would have ended up being the cause of the deaths of thousands and thousands of Americans. That's why we're all safer with this tyrant in prison.
BLITZER: Here's the latest poll numbers that we have. I want to put them up on the screen. The CNN-USA Today-Gallup tracking poll shows John Kerry at 38 percent; Howard Dean, 25. You are now in third place with 12 percent; General Clark, 10 percent; Senator Edwards at 9 percent.
It shows some momentum for you, although you're still a distant third.
LIEBERMAN: Wolf, be excited.
This is "Joementum" here in New Hampshire. You and everybody else was reading me out of this. The experts were saying, "This guy is nowhere in the race."
Since the debate Thursday night, the people of New Hampshire are making up their minds, and you know what? They're sick of the outside experts telling them who's going to do what in this primary on Tuesday. Thank God they have the last word.
They also have a great sense of responsibility, that because they're the first-in-the-nation primary, they want to nominate somebody who could actually defeat George Bush, bring the American people together and get a fresh start. It's only going to be a centrist mainstream Democrat like me who can do that.
So I'm excited. We're building something here.
BLITZER: Over the past six days, Kerry has gone, in our tracking poll, from 25 to 38. Howard Dean has gone from 32 down to 25. You have gone from 7 to 12. But look at this: General Clark has gone from 21 down to 10 percent. Senator Edwards, about the same, 7 to 9 percent.
What happened to General Clark? It looks like his campaign is really hurting.
LIEBERMAN: Yes. I mean, here's the point of those numbers, which I've been feeling the last few days here, as people are coming up to me and saying, "I'm making up my mind. I trust you to level with me. I know you're not going to pander. I know you're not going to cave into the special interest groups and the ideological extremists. I know you're going to do what's right for the country."
And what they've done is taken a second look at some of the candidates. I congratulate John Kerry on how he's doing.
The numbers show what I've been feeling. There are two candidates in New Hampshire whose support is rising -- John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. Everybody else is going down.
And if that trend continues, we're going to do exactly what I always said I was confident the people of New Hampshire would do: give me a better than expected finish here, which will give me the momentum, or the "Joementum" to go on to the next phase of the primaries. And I'm very grateful for that confidence.
BLITZER: Was it a mistake, with hindsight -- and be honest, you're a candid, straight-shooting kind of guy -- to skip Iowa?
LIEBERMAN: Always honest with you.
Well, look at those numbers. It sure was. I mean, we made a decision based on time allocation that I want to invest my time...
BLITZER: So, in other words, you -- with hindsight, you should have gone to Iowa?
LIEBERMAN: No, no. It was the right thing to do. I made the right decision, based on limited time, resources. We were going to start here. I've always said, not that I would win here, but I'd do better than expected, and it sure looks like it's happening.
And then we'd go on to the other states in the South and West -- Delaware, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Arizona and the others -- and surprise people...
BLITZER: What do you need to do to win -- to come out of New Hampshire with a ticket to February 3rd and those other campaigns?
LIEBERMAN: Well, we're doing a lot better than everybody expected in the numbers you say. And I think it's going to keep building to a surprising finish, because the voters -- Democrats and independents -- today we're announcing over 900 independent voters here in New Hampshire, a lot of them people who voted for John McCain in 2000. They can vote here in the Democratic primary. They're coming out in big numbers to vote for me.
And that's a message: You can't win an election in America with only your own party. I can get Democrats, independents and a growing number of Republicans who are disappointed with George Bush but won't vote for any Democrat. They'll vote for me. I can beat this guy and start a new chapter in America.
BLITZER: And here in New Hampshire, independents can vote on Tuesday...
BLITZER: ... which is a significant factor.
February 3rd, a week from Tuesday, contests in Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina. Which one of those contests do you have to win to remain viable?
LIEBERMAN: Well, we're going to do best in Delaware, South Carolina, Arizona and Oklahoma. That's the place where we've invested most resources.
But I'll say this to you: If this trend, this "Joementum" here in New Hampshire continues, we may surprise and go actively in a few of those other states, particularly with the great Dick Gephardt out now. He was obviously going to be strong in Missouri, maybe in North Dakota.
General Clark looked like he was doing well in North Dakota, but I think people are taking a second look at General Clark.
And they're going to turn to somebody who's got 30 years of experience, a record of independence, integrity, and unifying people across party lines to win elections and then make the government work.
BLITZER: Do you have enough money to be competitive in all of those states?
LIEBERMAN: I sure do. And if the results continue in the direction that they look like they're going here, we know there's going to be an outpouring of more money coming in.
Since the debate last Thursday night, the money has been coming in in increasing amounts. The political support has been coming in. I mean, this is a thrilling moment for me, very gratifying. I've worked hard for it. I've put my confidence in the people of New Hampshire.
BLITZER: Were you surprised by Howard Dean's overly exuberant concession speech in Iowa?
LIEBERMAN: Well, sure. But, you know, it was an emotional night. It speaks for itself. And the campaign goes on.
This is ultimately about who the American people, Democrats here, independents, trust to lead this country forward, make the tough decisions, life and death decisions, over the next four years. Restore security and prosperity, and bring a lot more fairness to the White House than we've had in the last three years.
BLITZER: One final question: When General Clark was asked to comment on a statement that Michael Moore, one of his supporters, had made that President Bush was a deserter, and he refused to comment at the time, referring to when President Bush was in the National Guard, what do you say about that?
LIEBERMAN: I thought Michael Moore's statement was over the edge. Lord knows I've said a lot of critical things about George W. Bush, about the policies, about his failure to get the economy going. Three million lost jobs, 43 million people without health insurance, a lot more can't do anything to afford it, and he hasn't done anything for them.
But to call him a deserter is just wrong. It's wrong on the facts, and it's wrong on the kind of political debate we should have in a campaign.
BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, thanks for joining us.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Good luck to you.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, a check of what's making headlines right now, and what about the sharp divisions in the U.S. Congress over the president's State of the Union address? We'll talk to the chairman of the Republican Party and the chairman of the Democratic Party. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The American people are showing that the state of our union is confident and strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush speaking on Tuesday. Many millions heard the speech here in the United States, indeed around the world. But much of the reaction had certain political spin to it.
Joining us now, two people at the top of the two major political parties in the United States: Ed Gillespie is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Terry McAuliffe is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. They're both joining us from Washington.
Thanks very much for joining us.
Terry, let me show you the latest CNN-USA Today-Gallup tracking poll numbers here in New Hampshire, get your response to them. Look at this, John Kerry with 38 percent, Howard Dean at 25 percent, Joe Lieberman at 12, General Clark at 10 percent, Senator Edwards down at 9 percent.
Give us your bottom-line assessment, what this means for the Democratic Party.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, what I'm excited about, Wolf, is that finally we have voters actually going to the polls and voting. We had Iowa, which I was very excited about. As you know, we had the biggest turnout in the history of the Iowa caucuses.
But what was more exciting is that 55 percent of the voters who went to the polls were first-time voters. I think you're going to see a historic turnout on Tuesday in New Hampshire. And we're moving forward. We're going to have a nominee, as I've always said, probably by March 10th.
We've got two polls out this week, one showing George Bush's reelect at 41. The Newsweek poll out today, 44 percent say he deserves re-election, 52 say he does not deserve re-election.
So I'm very excited. We're into the political season, and our candidates are getting the message out, and it's working.
BLITZER: All right. Ed Gillespie, in that same Newsweek poll, in a head-to-head match-up, hypothetical one right now, registered voters out there, 49 percent say they support Senator John Kerry, 46 percent say they'd support George W. Bush.
Long time between now and November, but this has to raise some alarm bells for you, doesn't it?
ED GILLESPIE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Actually, Wolf, I said just last week on one of the Sunday shows that these polls were going to be up and down. There's another poll out that has the president with seven points over Kerry and with the other candidates in the Democratic field.
And the fact is, like I said Sunday, I predicted then that the president, at some point, would trail the eventual nominee. It'll happen again and again. We'll be up and down.
But at the end of the day, the fact is most voters appreciate the president's strong and principled leadership, and they share his views on critical issues involving our national security, creation of jobs, and who shares their values.
So I'm confident that at the end of the day, the president will be reelected. His approval rating, even in that head-to-head was at 50 percent, so the fact is, he enjoys strong support amongst most voters.
BLITZER: Some of our viewers, Terry McAuliffe, around the world may not have seen the statement, the speech, the concession speech, that Howard Dean gave last Monday night after he came in a distant third in the Iowa caucuses. Let me briefly play a snippet of that because I want to talk a little bit about the impact that it's had.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico. We're going to California and Texas and New York. And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. And then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Terry McAuliffe, how much of a problem has that speech been for you? I'm referring to the Democratic Party in general.
MCAULIFFE: Well, I got to tell you, I think the media have a little bit overreacted. Many of the reporters who were in the room -- he was speaking to 3,000 people, many of these young folks who had come into the state, who had been in zero-degree temperature for weeks on end, going door-to-door, he needed to get them rallied. Governor Dean came in third place. He wanted to show his supporters that he was off, he was moving. And, you know, listen, the voters got to take a candidate in the total context of what they're saying.
So, you know, it was hot for television. I think the governor would probably admit that. But let's remember what he was doing. He was trying to energize folks.
But what I think is much more important was the president's State of the Union, another speech that was given. You know, that wasn't a State of the Union. That was a speech that he should have given to Jerry Falwell's convention. It was a speech that did not excite people, it did not address the concerns of job creation, health care, education.
You know, listen, all honorable goals about abstinence in high school, and to train prisoners, and athletes ought to get off steroids. But you know what? They want to know, how are we going to get this economy moving again? How are we going to create jobs? Forty-three-and-a-half million Americans with no health insurance. Let's go.
BLITZER: All right, Terry, let me let Ed respond to that.
Go ahead. GILLESPIE: Well, the fact is, the president did address all those big issues. The fact is, he talked about winning the war against terror, and he's exactly right in the policies he's pursuing there.
He talked about the need to make the tax relief permanent, that was passed by the United States Congress, so we don't have a tax increase fall on the American people just as we are seeing momentum added to the recovery.
The fact is, the president is not going to rest, and neither will the Republicans in Congress, until every American who wants to find a job can find a job.
But we are seeing the benefit of their policies right now in the economy. We've seen over 500,000 jobs created since August. We're seeing unemployment down 0.6 percent. We've seen the gross domestic product growth rate at 8.2 percent in the last quarter for which data are available. That's a white-hot rate. The fact is, productivity is at a 20-year high.
So the president's policies are working. There's more we need to do. He made the case strongly for those things.
BLITZER: All right.
GILLESPIE: And when it comes to health care, he made the point in his Saturday radio address, as well as touching it in the State of the Union address, about his agenda to make health care more affordable, more accessible for America's families.
BLITZER: Terry McAuliffe, when Wesley Clark was on that stage with Michael Moore, one of his campaign supporters, and Moore called President Bush a deserter and General Clark refused to distance himself from that comment right away, was that a huge blunder? You don't believe that President Bush was a deserter, do you?
MCAULIFFE: Well, Wolf, in order to to be a deserter, you have to actually show up.
Let's just deal with the facts. As you know, when President Bush got out of college in 1968, it was at the height of the draft. It's well known that the president, former president, used some of his influence to get George Bush into the Texas National Guard.
He then wanted to go to Alabama and work on a Senate campaign. So he went to Alabama for a year while he was in the National Guard, and he never showed up.
I mean, I would call it AWOL. You call it whatever you want. But the issue is the president did not show up for the year he was in Alabama, when he was supposed to show up for the National Guard.
BLITZER: All right.
MCAULIFFE: And I think that's what Mr. Moore was trying to say. GILLESPIE: Wolf...
BLITZER: Hold on one second. I'm going to let you respond.
But I want to make sure I heard you right. Are you saying you don't dispute what Michael Moore was saying, branding the president of the United States as having been a deserter?
MCAULIFFE: He never should have called him a deserter. There are other issues that you can say -- AWOL, just didn't show up for duty. But he shouldn't have called him a deserter. Let's get out of this discourse in American politics. Let's just deal with the facts.
BLITZER: All right.
MCAULIFFE: The facts are that George Bush didn't show up when he was supposed to in the National Guard, and that's just the fact.
But I wouldn't call him a deserter, nor should anybody call the president a deserter.
GILLESPIE: Well, Wolf, I'm glad to hear Terry acknowledge that what Michael Moore said was reprehensible. But Terry's wrong that the president was AWOL in the National Guard. That is not accurate. The president served honorably in the National Guard.
This is one of the -- the Democrats throw these charges out there. They're just completely inaccurate, and it's unfortunate that they stoop to this kind of politics.
But we're going to hear more of these kind of attacks against the president, personal attacks, because they don't want to talk about their policies because their policies are wrong for America. Raising taxes, reducing our national security expenditures and making us weaker when it comes to winning the war against terror are the wrong policies for America. That's the bottom line, and that's why President Bush is going to be successful in November.
BLITZER: Ted Gillespie and Terry McAuliffe, we'll leave it right there. But we'll have both of you back. I understand both of you will be here in New Hampshire on Tuesday. You'll probably be on one of our shows here on CNN. Thanks very much for joining us.
MCAULIFFE: Thanks, Wolf.
GILLESPIE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, one of the senior leaders of the Democratic Party and a lightning rod for Republican criticism: Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. I'll speak with him live about the president's State of the Union address this week and much more, and why he supports John Kerry for the presidency.
Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. Joining us now from Nashua, New Hampshire, the senior senator from Massachusetts, Senator Ted Kennedy.
Senator Kennedy, you're here campaigning for your colleague, Senator John Kerry. He's doing very well in all of the polls. He's still atop here in New Hampshire. He won in Iowa.
As far as you're concerned, and you're a long-time observer of these kinds of things, does he have the nomination in his pocket?
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, he's in a very strong position, and he shares a very fundamental belief, and that is that you have to ask people for their help and their support. That's what he's doing now. He's taking nothing for granted. He's a tireless, disciplined worker.
He's been listening to the concerns of families all over this country, and he has spoken to those concerns, and he has spoken to their hopes and aspirations.
And I think what people in New Hampshire and across the country are finding out, that John has a steady hand. He has the strength, the steeliness, the determination, a follow-through; he has the real steady qualities of leadership that we look for in a president and for American leadership in the world.
BLITZER: A lot of people ask this question. You strongly opposed the resolution in October before the war in Iraq, giving the president the authority to go to war. Senator Kerry voted in favor of it. How do you reconcile that? That's a critical issue in this campaign.
KENNEDY: Well, it's really not very difficult. I had talked to John extensively prior to that vote. I think John Kerry was thinking, if I were president, wouldn't I want that authority? And if he had been president, we never would have been in this war. So we were really very much along the same line in terms of how we viewed it, but we voted differently.
But the real kind of question now is over 18 years of experience in the United States Senate, in foreign policy, his leadership in the Vietnam War, he is a leader in the Senate of the United States on defense and foreign policy. He's steady. He's constant. He's strong. He's a natural leader. Those are the qualities that I've seen in him since I've known him some 35 years, and I think that's what people are finding out.
BLITZER: Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, in all the latest polls coming in second right now, at least in New Hampshire. He really went after John Kerry earlier in the week, in fact yesterday. Listen to what he said. He said this:
"Here is a gentleman who is running who votes no in 1991, when there are Iraqi troops in Kuwait and the oil wells are on fire, and then votes yes in 2002 and then there turns out not to be a threat. I would be deeply concerned about that kind of judgment in the White House."
That's Howard Dean, what he said yesterday.
KENNEDY: Well, I think it's a little desperate, quite frankly. And I don't know, I didn't hear Governor Dean speak during that period of time about that particular involvement that we had over in the Gulf, but there's no question that John Kerry has the qualities of leadership. Although he had questions about going to Vietnam, he responded to the requirements of service. Served his country, led the veterans. He's never left anybody behind; honored for bravery and courage.
One of the most touching moments of this whole campaign is when one of his crewmen came back, a Republican, and said he wanted to be a part of the Kerry team because he saw that steeliness, that determination. When John Kerry turned that boat around and went back, risked his own live and saved his, John Kerry never left a crew mate behind. He'll never leave a child behind, a worker behind, a senior behind, when he's elected president of the United States.
BLITZER: I want you to listen to what Senator Lieberman is putting out now, an ad that he's running here in New Hampshire, that recalls your brother, the late president of the United States, and get you to respond to this. Listen to this Lieberman ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While this year it may be a Catholic, in other years it may someday be a Jew.
LIEBERMAN: I am a candidate for president of the United States.
ANNOUNCER: His grandparents came to this country full of the dream of America, but they never dreamed this big.
LIEBERMAN: Is America a great country or what?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMAN: Senator Kennedy, your brother was the first Catholic to be elected president of the United States. Is the country ready for a Jewish president?
KENNEDY: Well, he believed very, very strongly that America will never be America until we free ourselves from all forms of discrimination. Obviously, this country has been faced with racial discrimination over the -- from the time of its founding. But it has also faced discrimination against women, the disabled, religious discrimination.
And I take that honorably, that Joe Lieberman is mentioning the fact that President Kennedy believed that we ought to judge an individual on the basis of their values, but also on the basis of -- as individuals, and not in terms of their religious affiliation.
So, I think that was a strong belief of President Kennedy, and I think that's a strong belief by the American people.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the president's State of the Union address. You were there. We all saw you reacting to certain parts of it.
Let me run a brief excerpt of what the president said, defending his policy toward Iraq. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: From the beginning, America has sought international support for our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained much support. There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Kennedy, you don't disagree with the president on that point, do you?
KENNEDY: Well, look, I take the State of the Union very, very, very seriously, and I have high regard and respect for the office of the president.
But I'm not going to stand up and cheer, particularly on a policy where we're talking about Iraq, which is basically on the basis of a plan that the administration had when it first came into office and understood the politics of it and misrepresented, distorted the intelligence on it.
And all we have to do is look at what Dr. Kay, who was the administration's own official about weapons of mass destruction, joined a whole group of leaders that understood that the reasons and the rationale that Iraq did not present an imminent threat to the United States.
And I'm mindful that today five more Americans were killed. We've lost 15 in Massachusetts. The number now is, what, 508, or 509?
This was a war that never should have been fought. All of us were against Saddam Hussein, but the fact is, we should have given our efforts and energy to focus on al Qaeda and terror.
And now we have to do the best that we can, but I'm not going to just be a robot...
BLITZER: But let me ask you...
KENNEDY: ... and stand up and cheer whenever the president has an applause line which is based upon a mistaken policy.
BLITZER: You didn't realize it at the time, you were sitting in the Congress listening to the president, but there were plenty of what we call "cutaway shots," reaction shots from you during the course of the speech that clearly showed your disdain.
Many commentators, Republican commentators, saying you were showing disrespect for the president. I want to give you a chance to respond to that.
KENNEDY: Well, as I say, I take the State of the Union seriously, and I respect the presidency. But I'm not going to jump up and down for a misguided, mistaken, misleading policy.
You know, there are 19 cameras in that hall, and good luck to them. But I'm not going to be one that's just going to be an automatic jump in the box every time that the president has an applause line that is not based upon -- a policy that's mistaken and misrepresent.
You could look at his policies about prescription drugs. None of the Republicans support that. They didn't stand up then, because it is not -- it's a mistaken policy.
That's true in education, the failed funding of this administration. It's true in terms of health care. And most of all, the failed and flawed economy.
BLITZER: All right.
KENNEDY: Up here in New Hampshire, every job that has now -- new job, has a pay of 35 percent less than the job that it replaced.
We are facing serious economic challenges in New Hampshire, New England, the rest of the country. And this president just isn't getting it.
BLITZER: How much are you looking forward to a possible race between President Bush and Senator Kerry?
KENNEDY: Well, I think it would be enormously -- present enormous difference in where the country is today and where we want to lead it into the future.
The one thing that we do know is that John Kerry has the credentials as a leader in defense and in foreign policy. And he has also demonstrated that he understands what's happening here at home, in terms of working families, average families, in terms of the failure to meet our responsibility to our children, to working families and to seniors.
I would welcome that particular challenge.
BLITZER: Senator Ted Kennedy, on the campaign trail for his good friend, his colleague from Massachusetts, Senator John Kerry, joining us from Nashua.
Senator Kennedy, thanks for taking some time with us.
KENNEDY: Thanks very much. Good to talk to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll have the results of our Web question of the week: Are the media making too big a deal of Howard Dean's controversial speech? We'll have the results immediately when we come back.
BLITZER: Here are the results of our Web question of the week. Let's put them up on the screen right now. Eighty-nine percent of you say yes, 11 percent of you say no, too much of a big deal of Howard Dean's controversial speech.
Time now for Bruce Morton's last word.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The United States stands for democracy, right? Elections? Well, not always.
In Iraq, a grand ayatollah named Ali Al-Husseini Al-Sistani is demanding elections saying that elected, not appointed, Iraqis should draft a new constitution for the country. The United States says no, but is looking for a compromise.
One question: Could the U.S. guarantee peaceful elections?
Sistani, of course, represents the Shiite Muslims, who are a majority in Iraq. But if elections were held, and Shiites won most of the seats, what sort of constitution would they write? How much autonomy, how much freedom would they leave the Sunni Muslims and the Kurds?
Nobody knows, of course, but the Americans may remember another ayatollah, Ruhollah Khomeini, next door in Iran some years ago. Khomeini led a rebellion which toppled a U.S.-backed dictator, Reza Pahlavi, the shah of Iran, and went on to impose a sternly religious government.
Revolutionaries held U.S. Embassy employees hostage. President Jimmy Carter couldn't free them, and that's one reason why he lost the White House to Ronald Reagan. Khomeini freed the hostages on Reagan's inauguration day.
History doesn't repeat itself, of course. Iran has an elected president now, though the ayatollahs could overrule him. But they're getting older, the country's population is young, and they seem to want openness, contact with the West.
In Iraq, pretty clearly, the need is for some kind of constitution which allows Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, some degree of autonomy, some system of laws which isn't narrowly restricting. Some degree of regional autonomy? Maybe. Some guarantee of freedom of religion? Probably be a good thing. Something, anyway, that would one group -- presumably the majority Shiites -- from suppressing the other two the way Saddam Hussein's Baath Party Sunnis oppressed everyone else when he was in power.
I have no idea what kind of a constitution Sistani Shiites would write, or what kind the other factions would.
One of the reasons America works fairly well is that we tolerate religious differences. One of the reasons Northern Ireland hasn't worked very well is that they don't.
Tolerance would be a good goal there, a good in a new Iraqi government as well. The question is, "How do we achieve it?"
Tolerance between Israel and the Arab states would be good, too, of course, but that seems a very distant hope at best.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: That's it for this "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.
Tomorrow on "Wolf Blitzer Reports," a special interview with Howard Dean.
See you then.
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Lieberman; Interview With Edward Kennedy>