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Interview With Condoleezza Rice; Interview With Pat Buchanan

Aired September 12, 2004 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5 p.m. in London, 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
In just a few moments, the latest on Hurricane Ivan, plus my interview with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of what's in the news right now.


BLITZER: Tens of millions of people are watching Hurricane Ivan as it leaves death and destruction behind in Jamaica and now moves toward the Cayman Islands, Cuba and possibly northwest Florida in the coming days.

Our meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is keeping track of Hurricane Ivan. She's joining us now live with the latest update.


JACQUI JERAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Ivan is almost a category five hurricane again, packing winds at 155 miles per hour, very close to Grand Cayman Island right now. And they are just getting lashed at this hour. Thirty miles, the center of rotation is 30 miles southwest of Grand Cayman.

We're going to zoom in here and give you a closer look. And just check how close that eye came to Grand Cayman Island. So, really, it could have been worse, but certainly a very bad situation because the hurricane-force winds extend out 90 miles from this. It's certainly getting very intense gusts at this hour.

The outer edges, look at that, all across western and central parts of Cuba at this hour. The tropical-storm-force winds extend out almost 200 hours. So they're going to start to feel this.

Hurricane warning in effect across western Cuba, including the Isle of Youth. And now tropical storm watches have been put into effect across the Florida Keys, from the seven-mile bridge on southward, because this thing is going to be moving up toward Cuba here within about 24 hours or so.

Here's that forecast track moving right over the western tip of Cuba. Likely by tomorrow, late afternoon into the early evening hours and then into the Gulf of Mexico. We're probably going to see a little weakening here with Ivan likely before it makes landfall again with the United States.

Remember, this cone of air here most likely -- forecast track does have it right in the Florida panhandle. But if you live anywhere from New Orleans extending all the way across the state of Florida, across the peninsula there, you do need to keep on alert because we may see some changes in this forecast track.

The steering winds right now are very, very light, and so it's still a little bit iffy exactly where this should be headed. So the good news is it's probably going to weaken a little bit, maybe a category three by landfall.


BLITZER: And landfall, once again, when is the best estimate right now, Jacqui?

JERAS: There you go. Right here, Wolf, 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning, so very close to making landfall Wednesday in the morning.

BLITZER: All right. Jacqui Jeras, we'll be checking back with you. Thanks very much.

Much more coverage of this Hurricane Ivan coming up.

But let's move on. On this weekend of looking back to 9/11 and looking forward to unknown risks of new terror attacks, I spoke just a little while ago with the U.S. national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice.


BLITZER: Dr. Rice, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."


BLITZER: North Korea, a charter member of the axis of evil. What's going on? Did they have a nuclear bomb test?

RICE: Well, of course we're looking at what this event might have been. But we don't think at this point that it was a nuclear event. But we're looking at, and we'll get further analysis.

But the North Koreans have to realize at some point in time that their neighbors are now united against them in the issue of their pursuit of a nuclear weapons program. That's what the six-party talks are about.

And so we'll continue to pursue with China and Russia and Japan and South Korea satisfactory ways to have the North Koreans abandon their nuclear weapons program.

BLITZER: What does it look like it was? Because there are reports that some sort of mushroom clouds emerged over the skies of North Korea.

RICE: There are all kinds of reports and there are all kinds of assessments that are going on. Maybe it was a fire of some kind, a forest fire of some kind. But we don't believe at this point that it was a nuclear event.

BLITZER: There are strong indications, we're told, that there appear to be preparations under way in North Korea for some sort of test, testing of a nuclear bomb. Are you seeing those indications?

RICE: Well, we're certainly watching certain indicators to see whether it looks like just routine activity or whether something more is going on.

But it would obviously not be smart for the North Koreans to test, because, again, this is not just the United States that has said that there needs to be a nuclear-free Korean peninsula; it is North Korea's neighbors, with which they have a lot at stake -- places like China, with which they have a lot at stake.

And so the North Koreans would only succeed in isolating themselves further if they're somehow trying to gain negotiating leverage or their own October surprise. We don't know. They would simply serve to isolate themselves even further.

BLITZER: Is the military option, from the U.S. perspective, on the table if they go ahead and test?

RICE: Well, the president never takes any option off the table, but we believe that the way to resolve this is diplomatically.

And again, if the North Koreans were to test, and so far, we don't know if they are planning to, but if they were, they would simply isolate themselves further. The international community has spoken with one voice about it.

And most importantly, the United States is no longer, as it was with the agreed framework in 1994, in a bilateral agreement with North Korea. This is a six-party arrangement in which North Korea's neighbors are saying that North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons programs.

BLITZER: In the buildup to the Iraq war, you had a famous quote when you said you don't want a smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

It looks like North Korea, certainly according to the CIA estimates, have developed one or two nuclear bombs already. And they potentially have that mushroom cloud ready to go.

RICE: Well, we're dealing with a North Korea that has been pursuing nuclear weapons since probably the late 1960s, that signed an agreement with the United States in 1994, called the framework agreement, that they then began violating.

It is this president, though, that has put in place a policy and a framework that brings to the table not just the United States, but Japan and South Korea and Russia and, perhaps most importantly, China, with which the North Koreans have a lot at stake.

And to have China unhappy with the North Koreans about their nuclear activities is something that I think the North Koreans can ultimately not ignore.

BLITZER: You say the military option is on the table. The president has not ruled out any options as far as North Korea is concerned.

RICE: The president never rules out options, but I want to emphasize, this is something that we believe can be dealt with diplomatically.

South Korea and the United States have a strong alliance that deters North Korea from any aggressive action. We have a powerful alliance there, and now we have a diplomatic set of arrangements that we believe will work to help the North Koreans understand that their interests don't lie in further pursuit of nuclear weapons.

So we really do believe that this is something that can be resolved diplomatically.

BLITZER: The third member of the axis of evil, Iran. Is the military option on the table if Iran moves forward and develops a nuclear bomb?

RICE: It is never the case that the president's going to get into hypotheticals about the use of military force. And the president never takes any option off the table. It's just the way that foreign policy ought to be done.

But again, we believe that this is something that is best resolved by diplomatic means, and that can be resolved by diplomatic means.

The IAEA has been very tough with the Iranians. It turned out that an Iranian group, a kind of rejectionist group, actually exposed the Iranian uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz.

And the world is again united in saying to the Iranians that it is not acceptable for them, under cover of a civilian nuclear program, to engage in activities that might allow them to build a military program.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying is that you're patient and using the diplomatic option with both Iran and North Korea, as opposed to Iraq, for example, when you obviously used the military option.

RICE: Well, I don't think you had to be impatient with Iraq to finally hold Iraq accountable for its insistence to defy the international community.

Iraq had been, for 12 years, defying the international community, directly defying an international community that had put Iraq under sanctions, that had tried to have reasonable inspections of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs. Iraq was given one final chance in November of 2002, and it still didn't come clean about what was going on.

And we have to remember that Iraq is sort of in a category of one. This was a dictator who'd actually used weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors, against his own people.

This was a dictator who had actually invaded his neighbors, sending us to war against him in 1991. This was a dictator who was shooting at our aircraft practically every day in the no-fly zone as we tried to enforce the Security Council resolutions. And this was a dictator who was a destabilizing force in the world's most unstable region.

Saddam Hussein was in a category by himself.

BLITZER: Let's move on to some other news of the day. Seymour Hersh, the writer for the New Yorker, has a new book out, called "Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib."

Among the allegations, the charges he makes in there, quoting anonymous sources, is that you personally were told about abuses of prisoners at Guantanamo, at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo. You went up to Rumsfeld, you discussed all of this, but then you forgot about it and neglected it.

RICE: Well, I simply don't know to what he's referring. And I will say that...

BLITZER: It says that your General Gordon...

RICE: Yes...

BLITZER: ... specifically told you about it after he had visited Guantanamo.

RICE: No. In the fall of 2002, we were made aware that there were some concerns that people might have been held at Guantanamo who didn't meet the definition of unlawful combatant.

There were also early on some concerns about conditions of overcrowding.

But nothing that suggested, to my recollection, that there were abuses, anything -- abuses going on at Guantanamo, and certainly nothing that would suggest the kind of thing that went on in Abu Ghraib.

What we did when we learned that there might be people who were being held there who didn't meet the standard is that we went back, we looked at the cases, we put together a process to try and make sure that the right people were being held.

But of course, it's not easy, because the first goal is to protect the American people. And we did make a lot of -- several releases as a result of this review.

I will say that at least a couple of the people that we released we encountered again on the battlefield.

So we have worked hard on Guantanamo to improve conditions there, to make sure that the right people are being held. But no, I do not recall being told of anything concerning prisoner abuse.

BLITZER: By General Gordon.

RICE: General Gordon and I talked about conditions at Guantanamo. We worked with the Defense Department to build more facilities to ease the overcrowding there. And I was also informed that there were concerns that people might have been held there who shouldn't have been held there.

We held several meetings then, and all of this was referred to the Defense Department for action.

BLITZER: Were you aware that some prisoners were being held in Iraq and that they were hidden from inspectors, from the International Committee for the Red Cross during visits, in violation of the Geneva Conventions and international law?

RICE: We were to follow the Geneva Conventions in Iraq, and we believe that we were following the dictates of the Geneva Convention in Iraq.

The secretary of defense has looked into this and has cooperated fully, as has the director of the CIA, to find out what precisely might have gone on there. But it was our full intention to follow the dictates of the Geneva Accords in Iraq.

BLITZER: But were you personally aware that some prisoners were deliberately hidden from Red Cross representatives?

RICE: My understanding was that we were following the requirements of the Geneva Accords.

BLITZER: Well, that's not necessarily answering the question. Were there -- is there a loophole there that you could hide prisoners?

RICE: No. There is no loophole here. We were to follow the dictates of the Geneva Accords.

Wolf, it is very important, when talking about detainees and talking about particularly the detainees that were picked up in places like Afghanistan, to remember that it is the goal of this president to protect the American people and to make certain that we are able to get the kind of intelligence that we need and that we keep people off the streets who would, in fact, be dangerous to American people.

BLITZER: So who was responsible for hiding those prisoners from the Red Cross?

RICE: This is being investigated. The secretary of defense is in the lead of that investigation. The CIA is cooperating in that investigation, and we will see what it finds.

BLITZER: And there is no doubt that they were hidden, right?

RICE: We will find what is found when this investigation is completed.


BLITZER: Just ahead, more of my interview with Condoleezza Rice, her comments on a sobering military milestone, more than 1,000 U.S. troops now dead in Iraq.

Also, the U.S.-Saudi alliance. I'll speak live with two U.S. senators, Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Bob Graham, the author of a new book on Saudi Arabia and U.S. failures in the war on terror.

Plus, trouble on the right for President Bush. Pat Buchanan claims neoconservatives subverted Ronald Reagan and hijacked George W. Bush.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.


BLITZER: "LATE EDITION"'s Web question of the week: Three years after September 11th, do you feel safer? You can cast your vote. Go to We'll have the results later in this program.

Also coming up, more of my interview with Condoleezza Rice, what she thinks about a new al Qaeda message surfacing on the eve of 9/11. Is Osama bin Laden planning a new attack?

You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Often at the president's side, always in the group of his most important advisors, Condoleezza Rice. I spoke with the national security advisor just a short while ago.


BLITZER: This past week, the U.S. went over the 1,000 mark in terms of deaths in Iraq. In fact, right now, as of right now, 1,009 U.S. troops have been killed since the war started a year ago back in March.

John Kerry says he has an exit strategy. He believes, in the current issue of Time magazine, within the first four years if elected, he could bring those troops home, and he could start withdrawing troops within one year after he's elected.

What is the exit strategy that the Bush administration has?

RICE: First of all, we don't believe in trying to create artificial timelines. The important thing is to make certain that circumstances on the ground are being served by whatever strategy one pursues.

I'll remind people, for instance, when we went into the Balkans, we were supposed to be out in a year back in the 1990s, and of course we're still in the Balkans. And we support the fact that we're still in the Balkans, because you do what you need to do to get the job done.

The Bush administration and the president believe very strongly that our goal has to be to get to elections in December and January, and then the Iraqis will elect a transitional government that will write a constitution, and they'll have permanent elections.

Moreover, they are very rapidly developing their security forces, which will take more and more of the burden of security for Iraq.

So the goal here is success, and success will be an Iraqi government that has gone through the legitimacy process of being elected and an Iraqi government that can defend itself.

BLITZER: But there are several cities, major areas of Iraq, where U.S. troops and Iraqi forces, allied with the U.S. from the interim government, are afraid to even go in, because of the dangers there -- Samarra, Fallujah, Sadr City, a suburb of Baghdad.

RICE: Well, it's just not true, and let's not conflate...

BLITZER: Well, Fallujah, for example...

RICE: No, but Sadr City, there are active engagements with the Mahdi militia.

Now, when one looks at Fallujah, there was a decision made, largely on the ground, that a kind of all-out assault at Fallujah, in the middle of trying to get the political process in place and trying to get an interim government in place, was not a wise policy.

But every other day, or practically every day, there are strikes against insurgent strongholds. There are strikes against safe houses for foreign terrorists in Fallujah. And it's just not right to say that the Iraqi government is not engaged in Fallujah.

The prime minister is engaged in discussions with the Fallujan leaders, with the population there, to say these elections are going to take place and you need to be in a position to participate.

BLITZER: The allegation being made against the Bush administration is that you're not going to go into Fallujah, you're not going to go into Ramadi, into Samarra, some of these other towns, where there are insurgent strongholds, Sunnis in this particular case, in advance of the elections, because you're afraid of casualties, more casualties between now and November 2nd.

RICE: No, this is just not right. We made the decision, again, largely from the ground, not to do this back in May, because Fallujah has always been a difficult place. Even for Saddam's government, Fallujah was a difficult place.

But the understanding that an insurgency is both political and military is very important. And you have to have a strategy that both deals with separating people from the insurgency politically and dealing them blows militarily.

It's also the case that the Iraqis want to have, and I think rightly -- need to have more of their own security forces able to be involved in any fighting.

And if you look at Najaf, where the blending of a political strategy and the presence of Iraqi forces did succeed in getting Muqtada al-Sadr out of the Najaf shrines without an assault on the shrines, you see that these political and military strategies can work.

BLITZER: So can you say categorically that the presidential election, the campaign right now, is having no impact whatsoever on U.S. military strategy in Iraq?

RICE: Categorically, categorically.

BLITZER: It never comes into consideration.

RICE: The issue is what will work on the ground, what will leave the Iraqi government in the best position politically, as well as militarily, because you defeat insurgencies politically as much as you defeat them militarily.

BLITZER: How can the Iraqi government have elections scheduled for January if they're ceding, together with the U.S., whole areas to the insurgents?

RICE: Well, it's just not right to say that they're ceding anything. Nothing is being ceded.

BLITZER: Fallujah basically...

RICE: No, Fallujah has not been ceded. Prime Minister Allawi has been engaged with the leadership of Fallujah, with the people of Fallujah, in talking about how to separate them from the insurgents, how to make the insurgency weaker there, and how to hold elections.

I just go back to the fact that nobody thought we were going to be able to transfer sovereignty on June 30th. There were all kinds of skeptics. Then you weren't going to be able to find an Iraqi government. Then they wouldn't be able to hold their national conference.

They have been on schedule for their political evolution since June. They're doing very well, and they will begin to register people and to create the conditions for political solutions.

But again, insurgencies are not just defeated military. It's a political-military strategy. Sometimes the emphasis is on the politics, sometimes the emphasis is on the military strategy. BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the third anniversary, briefly, of 9/11. We heard from, we believe he was Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number-two al Qaeda operative, in that videotape that was released this week.

Is al Qaeda poised, in your best assessment, to attack the U.S. between now and November 2nd, the presidential election?

RICE: Well, we've said a number of times that we're concerned about some pre-election attack, that there's been some discussion of that among the terrorist circles. And that's why we've had a very active policy. The alert levels are up in places where there's specific information.

But we always are cognizant of the fact that the terrorists only have to be right once, we have to be right 100 percent of the time. So of course you're always vigilant.

But, Wolf, if one looks at where we were three years ago to where we are now, look at where Zawahiri is. He's sitting someplace in a cave trying to run this operation. Three years ago, they had Afghanistan as a base of operations. They were protected and helped by the Taliban regime. That regime is gone. They're fighting Afghan fighters now who are allies in the war on terrorism.

Pakistan was an ally of the Taliban three years ago. Now Pakistan is pursuing them aggressively along that Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They've lost three-quarters of their members and leaders, including some of their best field generals like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who plotted 9/11.

So their world is getting smaller.

BLITZER: But Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, his boss, they are still at large.

RICE: They're still at large, but they're at large and on the run. They're not sitting and directing operations from a base in Afghanistan.

It doesn't make them not dangerous. Of course they're dangerous. But we have to look at the tremendous progress that we've made over the last three years in making their lives miserable.

BLITZER: You don't think they're directing any operations?

RICE: I don't know, but I do know that they don't sit in Afghanistan planning with impunity. I know they don't sit in Afghanistan training terrorists. I know that they're being pursued by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and around the world, and that life is a lot tougher for al Qaeda as a result.

BLITZER: Cofer Black, the State Department counterterrorism official, suggested the other day that the U.S. and Pakistan, the allies, were getting closer and closer to nabbing Osama bin Laden. Is he right? RICE: I'm going to believe that we're closer to him on the day I get the phone call that we've gotten him. I think it's a mistake to try and figure out how close we are or not. But it is true that their world is getting smaller.

BLITZER: Genocide in Sudan. Secretary of State Powell this week said it was genocide what the Sudanese government and their militia allies are doing against Africans in the Darfur province.

All right, that's a strong statement. The U.S. government, the first government to undertake, to issue that statement.

But what are you going to do about that in terms of practical steps to stop the slaughter?

RICE: Well, the United States, of course, has been in the lead, both in awakening the world community to this tragedy and in taking practical steps. It is the United States that arranged the cease-fire in April. That has not held as well as we would like, but that has given some relief.

It is the United States that has led the charge with the Khartoum government to insist that they allow humanitarian assistance to go in, opening a third route through Libya.

That at least is providing some access for nongovernmental organizations to provide humanitarian relief.

It is the United States that has led the effort to get strong Security Council resolutions, warning Khartoum that it should live up to its obligations.

It is the United States that has given $200 million in humanitarian relief and is preparing to give more.

It's Secretary Powell who went to Darfur to dramatize the situation.

And it is the United States who has been in the lead in supporting the African Union, both politically, to try and get a political settlement, and in getting African Union monitors into Darfur.

BLITZER: All right. So now that you've declared genocide, though, what are you going to do now to stop the genocide?

RICE: We have been involved in trying to stop the tragedy that is there, that we have now labeled genocide, for months. This is not the beginning of our efforts. Our efforts have been going on for a long time.

But I think it is everybody's assessment that the key is for the African Union to remain in the lead, to get an augmentation of the African Union force that is already on the ground. Rwandans are ready to go, Nigerians are ready to go. We are prepared with others to help get them there. And so, we're actively involved in trying to get Khartoum to stop this terrible tragedy.

BLITZER: Well, good luck on that mission.

Thanks very much, Dr. Rice.

RICE: Thank you.


BLITZER: Still ahead, we'll have the latest on Ivan's march north, how Jamaica is counting the cost of that deadly storm right now.

And can the CIA win the terrorism war? I'll ask Senator Pat Roberts. He's the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. And Senator Bob Graham is the author of a new book, "Intelligence Matters."

Plus, we'll have a quick check of what's making news right now.

All that coming up on "LATE EDITION."



DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The lives that were lost on September 11th have meaning. They live on as a testament to a country that is courageous.


BLITZER: The U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, marking the third anniversary yesterday of the terror attacks.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Two men who spend their time thinking about how to avoid the next terror attack are joining us now: Live from Kansas City, the present chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee, Pat Roberts; and here in Washington, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham. He's also the author of a new book entitled "Intelligence Matters: The CIA, The FBI, Saudi Arabia and the Failure of America's War on Terror." More on that coming up.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

But let's begin with some important developments in the news, Senator Roberts. I'll begin with you. Have you seen these reports suggesting suspicious activity in North Korea, potentially perhaps setting the stage for some sort of nuclear test?

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Well, the Senate Intelligence Committee will get a briefing on that even as of this week. And I know Bob will recognize already, in terms of the information that we do have, that these are mixed reports. And you can never quite get it tied down to a certainty. Of course, we've had a lot of events in the past several years that indicate that. But it is of concern. It is a worry.

I was listening to your interview with Condi Rice. I think the approach is correct with the six-nation talks, and I think China is an absolute key.

It wouldn't surprise me a bit if Kim Jong Il would think in some deranged way that if he had some kind of a test that that would affect the election. I don't know if that's the case, but that could be one of the conjecturing that is going on in the intelligence assessment.

BLITZER: What would be his motive in trying to affect the U.S. election, Senator Roberts?

ROBERTS: Oh, just to cause, you know, more concern in regards to possible terrorist attack, and they would then be the eighth nation that would have the kind of nuclear capability and what we're working against.

We were able to convince Libya to, you know, go the other way; same thing with Pakistan; same thing with other countries. But it's very hard to predict what Kim Jong Il will do. He's just not very predictable.

BLITZER: Before we move on, are you suggesting he would like to see President Bush defeated?

ROBERTS: Well, I think that's probably the case. I'm not going to go out on a limb and say he's endorsing -- or anybody that would want any kind of endorsement from Kim Jong Il.

I'm just thinking in terms of what he is up to, we have to very closely monitor it. And I'm saying the intelligence is mixed, and we'll continue that monitoring.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Graham, what's your assessment?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: Well, two things. First, Dr. Rice said that she did not believe the information pointed to a nuclear event. That probably came from our best intelligence agency, which is the National Security Agency, which monitors those types of events, so I would give her evaluation a lot of credibility.

Second problem, is this demonstrates how much damage has been done by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, even though we made such strong statements as to their existence. It has created a question in the minds of key countries around the world, particularly China, as to just how credible the United States is. Here we've got a country trying to negotiate with the North Koreans doubtful about the information upon which we have given them to negotiate.

BLITZER: Well, let me let Senator Roberts weigh in on that.

That's a very serious suggestion that U.S. credibility right now is in doubt. Senator Roberts?

ROBERTS: Well, I think the premise that Bob is raising was certainly buttressed, to some degree at least, by the 511-page report that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released, 511 pages indicating basically that the intelligence got it wrong, not only in the United States, but worldwide. This was a community intelligence failure. It became sort of an assumption train or, say, maybe, well, we called it "groupthink."

Now, I was in Beijing just not too long ago with several other senators, and we were talking about intelligence matters, and we were especially talking about North Korea. I did not see any failure on their part or any question in regards to our intelligence as opposed to a commitment to take part in these talks to make sure that Kim Jong Il understands that he would be isolated and that this would be a useless exercise and contrary to what we want to have happen, which is stability in the area.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, at what point should the military option be used?

GRAHAM: That's a decision which the president is going to have to make eventually, whoever that president is. But certainly it should be at the end of everything else that we can do -- diplomatic, economic, investigators on the scene inside North Korea.

BLITZER: Senator Roberts, can the U.S. and its allies around North Korea accept a nuclear North Korea, a North Korea that's tested a nuclear bomb?

ROBERTS: I don't think so. I don't think that's in our best national interest. It certainly isn't in that region's national interest. That's why we are working with the Chinese to step up their influence.

The key is China. All you have to take a look at is, in terms of Russia, who now understands very well the kind of situation that they're facing, so hopefully they can weigh in, as well.

I certainly agree with Bob that a military action or a military contingency -- we have those, but that would be the last resort. I would hope that would not happen.

BLITZER: What about -- and I want to move on and get to Saudi Arabia and other issues, Senator Graham. But Iran, by all accounts, according to U.S. intelligence, and you know this better than I, is working on developing a nuclear bomb. Are they? How close are they, and how concerned are you about that?

GRAHAM: Well, I am concerned.

And I think we don't want to send any false signals. For instance, going back to Korea, the announcement that we were going to pull about a third of our troops out of South Korea sends the wrong signal to North Korea as to just what is the level of our commitment.

We don't want to send any such signals to Iran, such as we don't want to do anything that indicates that we're not fully supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the one that is inside Iran trying to determine what is the state of Iran's nuclear program.

BLITZER: Is that an important issue, a critical issue, a vital issue for the U.S., whether Iran develops a nuclear bomb?

GRAHAM: Absolutely. To have a country in the middle of the Middle East with nuclear capacity is almost going to assuredly cause nervousness among other countries and a desire for them to develop nuclear weapons.

One of the unfortunate things of the many unfortunate things about the war in Iraq is it sent a very clear message: If you are aspiring to get the bomb, you're subject to attack. If you've got the bomb, you're much less likely to be attacked.

BLITZER: Senator Roberts, I'm going to move on, but a quick question on Iran: There already is one country in the Middle East that almost by all accounts has a nuclear capability, namely Israel. What should the U.S. strategy be in trying to deal with the threat from the U.S. perspective of a nuclear Iran?

ROBERTS: Well, basically you keep doing what we've been trying to do. Several months ago, as Bob indicated, the International Atomic Energy folks at least cracked the door open. But it was shut, you know, very quickly by the Iranian government, led by the clerics, not so much the moderates in that government.

I was encouraged that finally Europe has decided, at least from the press reports we have, to step up their activities to support the IAEA, along with the United States. If they do that and they can really consider some actions, and, you know, you can have a whole range, a whole kind of a calibrated approach on what you do with Iran, that's 70 million people, Iraq has 26 million, that's the big bully on the block.

And that would really reverse the progress we've seen in regards to Libya, in regards to Tunisia, in regards to, say, Morocco, what's happening in Qatar and Kuwait, and yes, even now, Saudi Arabia.

BLITZER: All right. Senators, stand by. We're going to take a quick break.

We have much more ahead, more questions as we look over the week that saw 1,000 Americans -- a milestone -- now 1,009, to be specific, Americans have died in Iraq.

And later, I'll speak with two women of 9/11 as the nation marks this third anniversary of the terror attacks.

More "LATE EDITION" right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: I'm back with the former and present chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee here in Washington, Democrat Bob Graham of Florida, and in Kansas City, Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas.

Thanks to both of you once again.

Senator Graham, let's start off with your new book entitled, "Intelligence Matters: The CIA, The FBI, Saudi Arabia and the Failure of America's War on Terror."

Among other things, you make this very serious allegation, and I'm quoting now: "Having spent a significant amount of time with those 27 pages that were classified" -- in your Intelligence Committee report -- "I can say unequivocally that the information they contain raises serious questions about Saudi Arabia's governmental support for at least some of the 9/11 terrorists."

That's an extremely explosive charge. Back it up.

GRAHAM: Well, first, it would be best backed up if the president would reverse the decision that he made in the summer of 2003 to classify all those provisions of the report and let the American people make their own judgment as to what the facts mean.

In my judgment, there is a trail that starts from a Saudi governmental organization, goes through a company which is owned by a major supporter of al Qaeda, through a firm which had been paying a ghost employee, who ends up being a Saudi agent in San Diego, who was the conduit for $30,000 to $40,000 going to the two terrorists.

BLITZER: But the 9/11 commission, Senator, looked at all this and they couldn't -- they don't agree with you.

GRAHAM: Well, I'd like to ask them to put on the table the facts upon which they reached their conclusion. They seem to put a lot of emphasis on an interview that took place in Saudi Arabia of the gentleman who I described as the Saudi spy or agent, allegedly with Saudi officers in the room while the interview was being conducted. I don't think the chances of him being forthcoming as to his role in supporting the terrorists is very high.

BLITZER: You've looked into this, Senator Roberts. What's your bottom line? Did Saudi Arabia, the government of Saudi Arabia, have a direct role in supporting some of those 9/11 terrorists?

ROBERTS: Well, basically I think I agree with the 9/11 Commission.

And I must apologize to Bob. Bob, I haven't read your book. There's been about a book a day here in this election campaign, and I don't mean that it is entirely political.

I like the title, "Intelligence Matters," which is why we are working overtime now in behalf of intelligence reform, and I hope we can get that done. Although I will say that there -- if you listen real quietly, Wolf, in Washington, you can hear bulldozers moving the turf around the committee so that we can't have any change in the oversight responsibility that we must do to get better intelligence.

I'll say this about the Saudis. I think through their charitable organizations, they either directly or indirectly aided and abetted the terrorist organizations, but after Riyadh, that stopped. After their 9/11, they have made efforts to stop that, and we are working better with the Saudis in regards to our intelligence.

BLITZER: But there's a difference between directly and indirectly aiding the terrorists, Senator Roberts.

ROBERTS: I can't say that it is directly, but I don't think there's any question about the fact that they were very lax in that case. There's 30,000 members of the royal family. I think they were trying to have it both ways. That may be too strong a statement. I don't know. But I do know now the situation is better.

And I'm going to say one other thing. I know a lot -- I'm not writing a book, OK? I know Tommy Franks wrote a book. I don't know how many other people are writing books. I'm not even, you know, keeping a journal.

All I'm really trying to do is focus on getting this intelligence reform done this session of Congress despite the politics, despite the turf and despite -- we have to do this.

Bob will tell you; he knows this. We have tried 24 times since 1949 to do intelligence -- the reform of the intelligence community, plus the way that we handled it up in Washington in regards to the Congress. The time is now, and that window is shutting, that door is shutting. We have to move.

BLITZER: All right. We have to move, too. We're almost out of time.

But a quick question on your home state of Florida, Senator Graham. Is the state ready, is the federal government ready, in case Hurricane Ivan, which would be the third hurricane within a month to hit Florida -- is everything in place that needs to be in place?

GRAHAM: Wolf, I am confident it is. There's been an excellent response before and after Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Frances by the federal, state and local agencies. I'm confident that that same level of response is now being put in place for Hurricane Ivan.

BLITZER: All right. Good luck to all the Floridians. Good luck to all the people along the Gulf of Mexico if, in fact, that Hurricane Ivan moves toward there. Good luck to the people of the Cayman Islands right now. They're undergoing this Hurricane Ivan.

Senator Graham, congratulations on your new book. Thanks very much for joining us.

GRAHAM: And best wishes for the new year.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And thanks, Senator Roberts, as well, as usual.

ROBERTS: OK, thanks very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

ROBERTS: OK, you bet.

BLITZER: And please don't forget our Web poll question of the week. Three years after September 11th, do you feel safer? You can vote right now. Go to We'll have the results in our next hour.

Also ahead, I'll speak live with Pat Buchanan and ask him why he's so critical, sharply critical, of his fellow Republican, George W. Bush.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We're on the trail of Hurricane Ivan, a complete update. What's in store? That's coming up.

Plus, we'll be talking to Pat Buchanan and to two women who lost loved ones in the 9/11 terror attacks three years ago. All that coming up.

First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of what's in the news right now.


BLITZER: More details now in the deadly track of Hurricane Ivan. Let's go to CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. She's got the latest.


JERAS: Well, Wolf, the center of Ivan now just to the south and west of the Cayman Islands. It was really a close call. The eye wall making its way on shore there. And this is likely going to cause some major, major damage, as it's still a category four hurricane, just one mile an hour away from a category five.

It's moving west-northwest at nine miles per hour. It is expected to be hitting Cuba for tomorrow. This is the latest forecast track. You can see it's moving in toward the Florida panhandle likely sometime on Wednesday.

Here's the bottom line for you. Hurricane-force winds, 155 miles per hour, making it a category four. Most likely U.S. landfall in the Florida panhandle on Wednesday. But there's still a lot of room for error here. So we really need to pay close attention as this is still three days away. Tropical storm watch is in effect for the Florida Keys. And tropical storm winds are expected to be reaching the Keys by Monday night with some very high seas, and you also start to see some of those showers and thunderstorms move in.

This is a very large hurricane with the hurricane-force winds extending out about 90 miles. Tropical storm-force winds about 170 miles. So that is getting close to the size of Frances.

We'll keep a close eye on it for you and an update from the National Hurricane Center by the top of the hour.


BLITZER: All right, Jacqui Jeras. Thanks very much.

Cuba is getting very ready, evacuating hundreds of thousands of people from coastal areas. CNN's Havana bureau chief Lucia Newman joining us now live via videophone with the latest from there.

What's it like, Lucia?

LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Wolf. It's getting very, very windy here, and the seas that you see behind me are getting choppier by the minute.

I'm speaking to you from a place called La Puntilla, which means "the point" here in Havana. And there are a lot of tall buildings in front of me which have already been evacuated. The same is true for those that you see behind me, including the famous Riviera hotel.

Tourists who are still caught are unable to leave the island when they heard of the hurricane coming have been moved to other hotels further away from the shore.

There is a lot of anxiety here, a lot of angst about this hurricane. It is expected to be the strongest to hit or to even come near the capital, Havana, in the last 60 years, Wolf.

Now, people are preparing. They're doing everything they can, stocking up on water, food, candles, if they can find it, just the way they are in Florida.

But, unlike in Florida, here it is very, very difficult, if not impossible, for people to get plywood and other materials with which to try and secure their homes. There are no hardware stores, for example, here. Whatever wood or plywood and boards are available are used to secure government buildings and hotels.

In the meantime, over 400,000 people, Wolf, have already been evacuated from central and eastern Cuba, which isn't even in the path, the direct path, of Hurricane Ivan. But there has been flooding. Flooding has been reported in those areas. And more is expected to occur as the hurricane nears us.

Wolf? BLITZER: Lucia Newman reporting from Havana, Cuba.

Good luck to you, Lucia. Good luck to all the people in Cuba as well.

This hurricane season with its one, two, three punch, Charley, Frances and now Ivan, has placed enormous demands on ordinary people as well as the government agencies sent to help them. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has had to suspend some of its response to earlier storms until Ivan now makes its move.

Michael Brown is the head of FEMA. He's joining us now live from its Washington headquarters.

Mr. Brown, thanks very much for joining us.

Is FEMA ready for this Hurricane Ivan?

MICHAEL BROWN, DIRECTOR, FEMA: We are, Wolf. We have all of our personnel in place. We have moved in additional supplies to logistics centers. We're ready to move in no matter where Ivan goes.

Now, I want to caution people that even though the forecasts talk about Ivan maybe being further out in the Gulf, those tropical force winds and the storm surge are still going to affect the Gulf Coast of Florida. So people still need to be very, very careful with Ivan.

BLITZER: And some of those areas were badly hit by Hurricane Charley and, later, Hurricane Frances. Have you already fixed all of those problems even as you await Hurricane Ivan?

BROWN: Oh, no. I wish we had. But the devastation was so widespread that we'll be in Florida for a long time helping people rebuild their lives, rebuild their homes.

You know, some people got punched first by Charley, and then Frances moved across so slowly, and now Ivan's probably going to cause flooding within the peninsula and up on the panhandle areas, too. So they're just getting struck three times. It's just awful for them.

BLITZER: Is there a price tag, how much these hurricanes already have cost the federal government?

BROWN: We don't know yet. But to put it in perspective, President Bush went to Congress last Monday, on Labor Day, requested $2 billion. The president will probably go back again this week and ask for some additional resources simply because we're spending so much money preparing for Ivan now. Regardless, he may go into Alabama, Georgia, South, North Carolina. So we've got to be ready in all of those states to help those folks recover once Ivan makes landfall.

BLITZER: There's word the president as early as tomorrow will ask for some more funds. Do you have any idea how much that's going to be? BROWN: I don't yet. We're working those numbers. We've had meetings all day today to try to figure out what things are costing. We'll have a recommendation to him, I think, first thing tomorrow morning.

BLITZER: What's the bottom-line piece of advice you want to give people in Florida, throughout the Gulf of Mexico coastal area right now, potentially in harm's way as they await landfall, now expected Wednesday morning?

BROWN: They need to help us help them. They need to listen to the evacuation orders. If Governor Bush says to leave a certain area, they should do that.

They need to prepare themselves to take care of themselves for maybe one or two days while Ivan makes its progress across the Florida coast. They need to be prepared. Now is the time to do that. With Ivan slowing down, you've got maybe 24 hours. Put those kits together, get your evacuation plans together, know what to do.

BLITZER: Michael Brown of FEMA, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to all the men and women who work at FEMA and do the important work that they do do.

BROWN: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's move on now. We'll have more on Hurricane Ivan coming up. But let's get to some politics.

He's not running, but he's still raising a ruckus on the campaign trail -- specifically, the conservative commentator, the sometime candidate, and now the author Pat Buchanan. His new book, "Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency."

Pat Buchanan, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're not running this time.

BUCHANAN: No, not yet.


BLITZER: But you sound in this book like you're really, really angry at the president.

BUCHANAN: Well, I'm not angry at the president, but I do believe the president, certainly in the course he took in Iraq, I believe that is not conservative at all.

We invaded a country that had not attacked us, did not threaten us, did not want war with us. We now know it didn't have weapons of mass destruction. We invaded and occupied. And I think we've radicalized the entire Arab world here, and we've created a situation where we've removed one devil, but seven more may come in his place.

BLITZER: So you don't think the American people -- that's your primary concern -- are better off with Saddam Hussein in jail and his two sons, Uday and Qusay, dead?

BUCHANAN: Oh, I think it's a good thing he's in jail and they're dead, but I'm not sure it's a good we got 140,000 soldiers fighting a guerrilla war in Iraq, and we've got imams from Morocco to Malaysia telling the people of the Islamic world to rise up and throw the Americans out.

BLITZER: They were telling their people that before the U.S. invaded Iraq.

BUCHANAN: Well, I disagree. I think the president of the United States and the United States' prestige, according to President Mubarak, have never been lower in the Islamic and Arab world.

I think, during Afghanistan, I think the president had the passive support even of Iran, even of Libya, even of Sudan...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt.


BLITZER: Even before the U.S. invaded Iraq, look what they did on 9/11, they killed almost 3,000 Americans.

BUCHANAN: Well, look, I am 100 percent behind running down al Qaeda and killing them, but what the president has done by going into Iraq, I believe, is created a vast spawning pool for new recruits for Osama bin Laden.

I think Osama rejoiced at the fact that the Americans are going to invade the country that was the seat of the caliphate for 500 years, we're going to occupy an Arab country. That is exactly what they wanted.

BLITZER: You heard Condoleezza Rice say on this program just within the past hour, he's now in some cave, Ayman al-Zawahiri, his deputy, in some cave. They're not doing anything of any significant threat along the lines of what they used to be able to do.

BUCHANAN: Well, that's excellent. I mean, the president's focus on Afghanistan, the Taliban, al Qaeda was exactly right.

What I'm saying is, to me, Iraq was a total distraction, we went after a secular despot who had his country under control. That place could wind up as a haven for terrorists now, Wolf. Whatever you say, before we went in it was not that.

BLITZER: You write this in the book, in the book entitled "Where the Right Went Wrong": "Those of us who were called unpatriotic for opposing an invasion of Iraq and who warned we would inherit our own Lebanon of 25 million Iraqis were proven right."

Now, Condoleezza Rice will say there's a good chance there's going to be elections, this interim government in Iraq is moving along; yes, there are problems, but the final chapter of Iraq and the move toward democracy is by no means over.

BUCHANAN: Well, I hope she's right. But let me tell you, you've got 25 million people, and if you had a referendum, should the American occupiers get out, I would think that 90 percent would vote for the removal of the United States of America.

We don't know how it's going to come out. But you don't go to war, Wolf, to set up democracies. You go to war when you are threatened. Potentially, we have a problem in Iran, and potentially in North Korea. There was no threat from Saddam Hussein for the United States of America.

BLITZER: You keep calling those U.S. troops in Iraq occupiers. Zell Miller, the Democratic senator from Georgia who spoke at the Republican Convention, hates that. You heard his speech.

BUCHANAN: The American troops...

BLITZER: He says they're liberators.

BUCHANAN: They did. They went in and liberated the country from Saddam Hussein. But the perception almost of 100 percent of the Iraqi people is that they are occupiers. And the president of the United States has said himself, "I can understand how people do not like an occupation."

BLITZER: Here's another quote from your book. You write, "We are not hated for who we are. We are hated for what we do. It is not our principles that have spawned pandemic hatred of America in the Islamic world. It is our policies."

Now, the president of the United States totally disagrees with that.

BUCHANAN: The president is wrong.

BLITZER: Listen to what President Bush says.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The terrorists are fighting freedom with all their cunning and cruelty, because freedom is their greatest fear. And they should be afraid, because freedom is on the march.


BLITZER: He says that -- he totally disagrees with you.

BUCHANAN: Osama bin Laden and his crew up there in Tora Bora did not stumble on a copy of the Bill of Rights and go berserk that Americans are free in the United States. Read his fatwa, his jihad. He declared war on us for three reasons, Wolf.

One, we're sitting with an imperial footprint on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia. Second, we have these sanctions that are persecuting the Iraqi people, killing 1 million, which was an exaggeration. And third, we have an uncritical support of the state of Israel, which is stealing Palestinian land, dispossessing those people of rights which we preach to the whole world.

That is what they say why they are attacking us. I think we should listen to them, since they're the ones attacking us, rather than folks here who say they don't like us because we have a Bill of Rights and separation of church and state, which is an argument I think which is unpersuasive to a second-grader.

BLITZER: But some people would say that what your book is suggesting is that the United States and its policies are to blame for 9/11.

BUCHANAN: The United States and its policies are what are hated in the Arab world. The United States and its policies are what they are attacking.

Now, the policies may be right, but they -- the policies are that to which they object. Listen, Wolf, we have been free, wealthy, independent for 220 or 30 years, and the last time we had any trouble with these people before we went over there was with the Barbary pirates.

BLITZER: Isn't this the old Pat Buchanan, forever an isolationist, who simply doesn't like the United States getting involved in other countries?

BUCHANAN: Pat Buchanan was a strong Cold Warrior. I supported every single military action in the Cold War, except the intervention in Lebanon because that had nothing to do with the war with the Soviet Union.

Once the Soviet Union and Soviet empire collapsed, the country broke apart. There's no threat.

BLITZER: But you opposed the liberation of Kuwait.

BUCHANAN: I opposed -- look, I opposed the war in Kuwait, that's right, for the simple reason that in the long run, quite frankly, Kuwait is going to go to Iran or it's going to go to Iraq. The balance of power in that part of the world -- the only check you have for Iran's power is Iraq, and we have smashed that.

BLITZER: Even now you believe the U.S. with its allies going to war to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1991, even now you believe that was a mistake?

BUCHANAN: Well, I'll tell you what I wrote exactly. I said going in here is the first Arab-American war. It is not the last. We will have more wars because we are in here. Wolf, we cannot stay in the Gulf forever. And they are going to decide their own destiny there, and I felt what we should have done was defend the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, keep the pressure on Iraq and not invade. That's right.

BLITZER: The subtitle of your book, "How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency." What do you mean by that?

BUCHANAN: What I mean is the neoconservatives, who used to be allies of the old conservatives, they have themselves in positions of power in the administration. They have an agenda that Perle and Wolfowitz and Wurmser and the others, working with Netanyahu, had an agenda for war with Iraq that was going nowhere.

9/11 happens, and they put this agenda before a president, who in my judgment was untutored, as his father was not. Reagan would not have done this. I don't think his father would have done this.

They captured Rumsfeld, and they captured Cheney, and I think they captured the president...

BLITZER: You think the president of the United States, the vice president of the United States, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the national security advisor are all little puppets that were manipulated by these so-called neoconservatives?

BUCHANAN: They were not manipulated. I think Rumsfeld was sold on the agenda as far back as 1998, and maybe Cheney was, on the agenda of the neoconservatives. And I think what happened -- it was going nowhere, though. The president was not going to war.

After 9/11, Wolfowitz comes in the day after and says, "Forget Afghanistan, let's do Iraq. It's doable." The neoconservatives moved at once. The president, however, went to Afghanistan, did the right thing. Then I think he said, "Where do we go next," and they said, "Here's where we go next."

BLITZER: But you make it sound like the president of the United States is an idiot.

BUCHANAN: No, the president of the United States was untutored in foreign policy. He didn't know Slovenia from Slovakia when he came into office.

I don't believe his father or Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan -- I think they would have listened to Wolfowitz, who Time magazine calls the intellectual architect of this. They would have listened, and they would have said, "No, I don't think so. I don't think that is a real, immediate, grave threat. So I don't think we're going to do it."

BLITZER: And you believe these neoconservatives, Wolfowitz and the others, were simply acting along the wishes of Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Israeli prime minister? BUCHANAN: No, I think they all basically agree. Wolfowitz has a global vision. Many of the neoconservatives have argued for benevolent global hegemony. They believe when the Cold War's over, we use our power to impose our system, our ideas on the world. We focus obsessively on the Middle East.

But all of them are very close to Likud. No question about it.

BLITZER: You know, once again, you're being accused of some anti-Semitism in this book. There's an editorial writer in the Los Angeles Times, Jacob Heilbrun, who refers to one section in your book when you talk about Richard Perle.

He writes in the LA Times, "Buchanan likens, in a blatantly anti- Semitic reference, former Bush advisor Richard Perle to Charles Dickens' Fagan, instructing young Oliver Twist."

BUCHANAN: Look, Fagan is a fictional character in a Dickens novel. And it's a funny comparison of young George Bush as Oliver Twist. Why is that offensive...

BLITZER: Did you think of the Jewish line of Fagan when you wrote that and Richard Perle being Jewish?

BUCHANAN: Well, I mean, obviously Fagan was Jewish. But the thing about it is he was a leader of pick-pockets in a fictional book. Why is it unacceptable for me to use a literary allusion when I am called routinely Father Charles Coughlin of the modern era who was alleged to be an anti-Semitic priest? That is an outrage because that's a real character.

But I'll tell you this. Look, my views with regard to the security of this country -- I disagree with Sharon's agenda. I think we have outsourced Middle East policy to Ariel Sharon. I think that's a disaster for this country. It's damaging our relations over the world.

And we cannot allow ourselves to be silenced because people call us names. My objection to the neoconservatives is not their ethnicity, Wolf. It is their war-mongering.

BLITZER: The notion that a lot of these neoconservatives are Jewish, that's come up several times, and that you're pointing to that is seen by some as anti-Semitism.

BUCHANAN: I can't help it that many of these folks -- if Norman Podhoretz calls for World War IV, an invasion of six or seven countries, and I go after him, he cannot defend himself on the grounds that he is simply Jewish.

Bill Bennett's a neoconservative. Jeane Kirkpatrick's a neoconservative. Robert Bartley's a neoconservative. John Bolton's a neoconservative. None of them are Jewish. All of them are mentioned in that book.

BLITZER: We're going to -- I want you to stand by. The president of the United States and his wife...

BUCHANAN: Is he responding?

BLITZER: No, no, no. He's not responding to you.


He's gone over to the Russian embassy here in Washington to pay respects for what happened in south Russia only the other day, that siege on that school. Some 330 people were killed, many of them children.

Together with Condoleezza Rice, Mrs. Bush, they went over there. I want our viewers to see precisely this tape that's coming in right now.


BUSH: Mr. Ambassador, thank you for receiving Laura and me.

I'm here to express my country's heartfelt sympathies for the victims and the families who suffered at the hands of the evil terrorists.

The United States stands side by side with Russia as we fight off terrorism, as we stand shoulder to shoulder to make the world a more peaceful place and a free place.

The atrocities that took place in the school were beyond comprehension. Many in America, and I know many in Russia, simply cannot conceive the hearts of a person that would mow down innocent children.

And the killers once again remind us of the duties we have as free people, to work in concert, to work in unity, to make this world a better place.

So, Mr. Ambassador, I'm honored. Please pass on my very best wishes to President Vladimir Putin, a man who -- a man who I admire.

I talked to Vladimir right after the incident. We had a very good discussion about the need for us to continue to work together. I pledged our government would continue to work with the Russian government and the Russian people.

May God bless the people of Russia, and may God bless those who suffer.

Thank you all very much.


BLITZER: The president at the Russian embassy, signing a condolence book expressing his deep regret for what happened in Russia only within the past few days. I want to thank Pat Buchanan for joining us. Unfortunately, we've got to leave it right there. Pat Buchanan's new book, "Where the Right Went Wrong."

We'll take a quick break. More of our coverage when we come back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Joining us now, two campaign insiders. Gene Sperling is economic adviser to the Kerry presidential campaign. He served in the Clinton White House. Tim Adams is policy director for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Gentlemen, welcome to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.

I'll begin with you, Tim. And John Kerry went on the offensive this week. He made a serious charge on the cost of the war in Iraq and the impact on the American people. Listen to this.


KERRY: While we're spending that $200 billion in Iraq -- that's to this date; it will go on -- 8 million Americans are looking for work here in America -- 2 million more, 2 million more than when George W. Bush took office.

And we're told that we can't afford to invest in job creation, in job training here at home.


BLITZER: Tim, you support the president. You work for him. You used to work in the Treasury Department under him. What do you say to that charge?

TIM ADAMS, POLICY DIRECTOR, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN: Well, first of all, it's not $200 billion. It's about 60 percent of that.

And two, and it wasn't too long ago John Kerry said we'll spend whatever it takes to win this war. And that's what the president believes.

We don't have to make the tradeoffs that John Kerry has talked about. This president has invested in education. We invested in job training. We have invested in research and innovation. So I don't buy the argument that there are tradeoffs to be made here. We can win the war on terror, and we can invest in important domestic priorities.

BLITZER: Gene, where did he come up with the $200 billion number?

GENE SPERLING, FORMER CLINTON ECONOMIC ADVISER: $200 billion is the projected cost for this war in Iraq going through fiscal year 2005. Let's be honest. I mean, we're debating whether it's 160, 220. We think $200 billion is the right number.

But, Wolf, let's remember that in Desert Storm our allies picked up 95 percent of the cost. Of course, Senator Kerry believes America should do what it has to, but he's talking about waging a war wisely when you have to. And when you bring your allies together, it not only reduces the cost of human life, it reduces the economic -- cost of human life in the United States, it reduces the economic cost as well.

And it's totally legitimate for him to show that this go-it-alone approach could be costing the American public just $200 billion over these two years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated it could be as high as $400 billion over 10 years when everything is added up.

BLITZER: Go ahead and respond, Tim.

ADAMS: Well, the president has said that we'll spend whatever it takes. John Kerry said we'll spend whatever it takes. It's interesting that Gene brings up the '91 Gulf War, which then Senator Kerry voted against. So again, I think we see...

BLITZER: The point he's making, the Gulf War in '91 cost about $75 billion, and $70 billion of that was paid for by the allies, the Saudis, the other Arab countries, the Europeans, the Japanese.

ADAMS: There are enormous contributions from our 30-plus allies there. They are giving their contribution in the form...

BLITZER: Financial contributions there aren't that many.

ADAMS: But there is a financial contribution, and there is a financial contribution with respect to eliminating the Iraqi debt, which will allow this government to start with a clean slate. And that's been billions of dollars. And this administration has done a very effective job at lobbying our allies with respect to that particular aspect.

BLITZER: All right. Here's the president going after John Kerry this week. I want you to listen to this.


BUSH: If you drive a car, Senator Kerry's voted for higher taxes on you. If you have a job, he's voted for higher taxes on you. If you're married or have children, he voted for higher taxes on you.


The good news is the 2nd of November you have a chance to vote.


BLITZER: All right. It's the old tax-and-spend liberal John Kerry. That's the charge the president makes.

SPERLING: You're right it's old. It's the same old charge, the same old calculations.

BLITZER: But is it true?

SPERLING: It's not true. In fact, the calculations they use would mean that Dick Cheney had raised taxes -- or voted for tax increases 144 times.

Here's a fact: John Kerry voted for the $500 child tax credit that passed, capital gains cuts, IRA cuts, small-business tax cuts. That's in his record. Of course they don't mention that.

But let's look at what he's done this year, what he's proposed. In the Democratic primaries, when it was quite unpopular to do so, Senator Kerry stood by and said he was going to extend the middle- class tax cut for 98 percent of Americans making under $200,000. He's proposed more middle-class tax cuts than President Bush has, including a four-year, $4,000 tuition tax credit for families.

Now, what's President Bush done?

BLITZER: All right.

SPERLING: He has given people who average $1 million 77 times more tax cuts than typical middle-income families.

As a result, we now see that the tax burden has shifted to the middle class, so that those who are the most fortunate are actually paying a less share of taxes than they were.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Mr. Adams.

ADAMS: Well, John Kerry talks about 98 percent getting a tax cut, but, if you look at the tax cuts that are in your budget, it only accounts for about 20 percent of taxpayers.

He talks about middle-class taxes, but nowhere does he pay for it. I looked at your budget; I actually have a copy of it with me...

BLITZER: When he says he's ready to keep the taxes, the tax cuts that the president got through Congress in his first term, with the exception of those individuals making more than $200,000 a year.

ADAMS: But many of those expire over the coming years. Three of them expire at the end of this year, and nowhere in Kerry's budget does he actually pay for them.

BLITZER: All right. Does he?

SPERLING: Well, that's ironic, because we take the same budget approach that they do on that. We say that we are for extending the middle-class tax cuts. If there's any question, let me end that. We're for extending all of the middle-class tax cuts. What's the difference? The difference is that we are also doing a middle-class tax cut for college, for child care and health care. And we're being very specific on how we pay for it, and in fact we're being attacked for it all the time.

BLITZER: The difference is...

SPERLING: Rolling back the tax cuts for those making over $200,000 to pay for health care, education, and middle-class tax cuts.

BLITZER: The difference is that...

SPERLING: It's a clear choice.

BLITZER: To rephrase what you just said, individuals making $200,000 a year or more will get a tax increase.

SPERLING: They will get their taxes rolled back to the exact same level...

BLITZER: But they would get a tax increase?

SPERLING: Well, Wolf, they actually pay somewhat less taxes than they did under President Clinton, but the new taxes that they received under President Bush would be rolled back, so that we could provide health-care coverage for 27 million Americans, bring down health-care costs, keep our promises on education, and afford middle-class tax cuts.

That's a clear choice we can debate.

BLITZER: I'm going to take a break, but I want Tim to respond to that.

What's wrong with making individuals who make more than $200,000 a year pay a little bit more in taxes?

ADAMS: Because it includes 900,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs. We don't think that you ought to be raising taxes at this point in the economic recovery.

Again, their budget does not account for making these middle- class taxes permanent. And that is about $700 billion or $800 billion over 10 years that they don't account for, which again calls into question Senator Kerry's budget.

BLITZER: Meanwhile, you're smirking?

SPERLING: Well, it's just completely ironic. We are both for extending the middle-class tax cuts.

You know, Goldman Sachs just did...

ADAMS: But it's in our budget; it's not in yours.

SPERLING: Your budget -- Goldman Sachs just did an analysis of both of our budgets and found that the Kerry budget was more credible, that he cared more about deficit, that he had more tougher budget rules.

You want to talk about deficits? President Bush has the worst fiscal record of any president in history. He inherited a $5.6 trillion surplus and now is looking at $3 trillion, $4 trillion of deficits as far as the eye can see. I mean, President Bush has no standing to talk about deficit reduction with anybody.

BLITZER: All right. On this deficit issue, $450 billion this year alone, the largest single deficit ever.

ADAMS: As a percentage of GDP, it's 3.7 percent, which is well within historical norms. It's also well within the norms of what we see in other industrialized economies.

Look, no one is happy about this deficit. The president wants to get this deficit down as quickly as possible. But we had to do two things. We had to fight the war on terror and we had to get this economy moving again. And the best way we thought to do that was cut taxes across the board for all Americans.

BLITZER: Here is the 2003 census numbers: 1.4 million lost health care in addition to those who didn't have it. 1.3 million fell into poverty.

These are not encouraging numbers.

ADAMS: 14.6 percent of the population does not have health insurance -- exactly the same number that existed when Bill Clinton was running for reelection in 1996.

And if you look at the percentage of children without health insurance, it's actually lower now than in 1996.

Back then, I didn't hear Bill Clinton or Gene Sperling talking about a health-care crisis. But when a Republican's running with the same set of data, then it becomes a crisis.

BLITZER: Well, they tried to do something about it but they failed in the first year of the Clinton administration.

SPERLING: I have to take on this issue, that somehow the economy and economic performance is the same now as when President Clinton was running for reelection. Let's have that discussion.

At this point in President Clinton's reelection, 10 million private-sector jobs had been created, 10 million. Average incomes for families were up $2,400 in his first term.

Let's look under President Bush. We have actually lost 1.6 million private-sector jobs. That will be the first time that's happened to any president in the last 11 presidents. Typical incomes are down $1,500. Average health care is up $3,500.

The difference is night and day when you ask how middle-income families are doing.

BLITZER: We're out of time, but go ahead.

ADAMS: 5.4 percent unemployment, the same when Bill Clinton was reelected in November of 1996. And if you look at the underlying elements of most of the unemployment numbers, they're superior now or equal to what we saw in 1996. I'd be more than happy to run through those.

SPERLING: Just not true.

BLITZER: We'll continue this debate down the road.

Thanks to both of you for joining us. Tim, Gene, thanks very much.

Ceremonies around the country this weekend remembering the victims of 9/11. Up next, two women who lost their husbands in the terror attacks. They'll talk about their loss, the lessons learned, and their activist lives ever since that day.

"LATE EDITION" will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Two women who lost loved ones on 9/11: Kristen Breitweiser's husband died in the World Trade Center. She's an important voice for 9/11 families and pushed for the creation of the September 11th Commission. Deena Burnett's husband died as he and other passengers aboard Flight 93 fought to take back the plane from the hijackers. She's leading a lawsuit against terrorist organizations and governments.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Kristen, let me begin with you and get your initial thoughts. What's it been like these past three years?

KRISTEN BREITWEISER, LOST HUSBAND ON 9/11: Unfortunately, I've spent a lot of time in the last three years battling down in Washington to try and get some attention paid to the many failures that occurred on the morning of 9/11 so that we could learn from those failures, take an examination of the mistakes made, fix the problems, overhaul our intelligence community, hold people accountable.

And, unfortunately, it's been a long slog. We haven't had too much success, and hopefully, with the release of the 9/11 Commission report earlier this summer, we have some momentum in Congress and we can hopefully finally get some intelligence community reforms done.

BLITZER: What's it been like for you, Deena?

DEENA BURNETT, LOST HUSBAND ON 9/11: I have been busy with many different avenues. I have established the Tom Burnett Family Foundation, which we are working to educate youth to be active citizens and tomorrow's leaders. I volunteer for the Republican Party in supporting President Bush. I also sit on the board of Ballet Arkansas. And I have the lawsuit that is working to bankrupt terrorist organizations and dignitaries who knowingly fund terrorist organizations.

BLITZER: Talk a little bit about that lawsuit, Deena, because our viewers may not be familiar with it. Whom specifically are you suing?

BURNETT: We have over 300 defendants that we have named who actually provided funding to either the al Qaeda or to other terrorist organizations around the world. And we know this through banking transactions. I believe we've gathered over 2 million documents that show connections between al Qaeda and terrorist organizations and Saudi Arabian dignitaries, royal family members, banks, charities throughout the United States and other nations.

We take that information, compile it, examine it, cross-reference it, and then also provide it back to our government to assist them in the war on terrorism.

BLITZER: Kristen, do you believe the American people have learned important lessons from what happened three years ago on 9/11?

BREITWEISER: I think more than anything one of the things that the 9/11 Commission report succeeded in doing was giving the access to the American people that they needed to learn about the sort of mistakes that occurred.

Never before in our history did we have such access to such information, a presidential daily briefing, notes from the National Security Council. And I think we live in a democracy, and that's what we need. We need the people's voice to be heard.

And in order to have your voice heard, you need to be properly educated. And I think in three years, when you look at what the American people are now paying attention to, certainly we are all committed to the fight against terrorism. And I think that we're all educated and fully motivated to a committed effort to do that.

BLITZER: Deena, talk a little bit, if you don't mind, about your husband, Thomas.

BURNETT: He was just a terrific guy, highly intelligent, had a wonderful sense of humor. He was the kind of guy that people gravitated to. Everyone wanted to be his best friend. Whatever Tom was doing, that was the thing that everyone else wanted to do. He was a man of honor and integrity, lifted up those around him, and was very successful in the business community, was actually voted the top 40 under 40 in the Bay Area just before he died.

BLITZER: And, Kristen, what about your late husband?

BREITWEISER: My husband, Ron, was a good man, and he was the father of my little girl, Caroline. And he brought himself up from humble beginnings and was a ferocious reader and a good husband and a great dad.

And I will always remember his final words to me, that he was OK, he didn't want me to worry and that he loved me.

And I think going forward I want to know that my daughter and I are safe living here and that we are OK. Which is why myself and the other widows that I've worked with in the last three years have worked as hard as we have, because we don't believe that we are as safe as we can be.

BLITZER: Deena, the latest CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll asked the American people if they're worried that you or a family member will be a victim of terrorism. Look at this. In January, 28 percent said they were worried. In August, it went up to 34 percent. Now it's up to 43 percent are worried that they or a family member could be a victim of terrorism.

Clearly, the American people are deeply, deeply concerned on this third anniversary. Should they be, based on what you know?

BURNETT: I think that, yes, I think that it would be a shame to let our guard down at any point. We have seen what happened on September 11th. Our government has told us that it can happen again. It is likely to happen again. It's one of the reasons that we now have a Homeland Security and why we have the code that shows us the level of a terrorist threat.

I think that they have every right and every reason to be afraid. It's one of the most important reasons for deciding who our leaders should continue to be in November.

BLITZER: Kristen, what do you think?

BREITWEISER: I think that in November, certainly, every American citizen should look at the record for the last four years from this president. And if you're concerned about national security, you should closely examine that record.

I would encourage everyone to visit the family steering committee's website,, and see the record, the facts.

We spent an enormous amount of time getting attention to these 9/11 issues, to the failures, to trying to get people to be held accountable. And what's happened in reality is very little has been done compared to what could have been done. And no one has been held accountable. In fact, some people have been actually promoted, which really is illogical because we are not as safe as we can be.

And we need a concerted, committed effort to focus on things like border security, to make sure our Department of Homeland Security is properly communicating with our intelligence agencies, with the National Security Council, with the Department of Justice, to make sure our FBI and CIA are talking.

All of these things need to be seriously addressed. They have not been addressed properly in the last four years.

BLITZER: We unfortunately have to leave it there. I want to thank both of you, though. Kristen Breitweiser, Deena Burnett, our deepest condolences on this third anniversary of 9/11 to both of you. Thanks for spending a few moments with us.


BURNETT: You're welcome.

BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. Up next, we'll tell you the results of our Web poll question of the week. Three years after September 11th, do you feel safer? We'll give you the results when we come back.


BLITZER: Our "LATE EDITION" Web question asked this question: Three years after September 11th, do you feel safer?

Here's how you voted. Look at this: 12 percent of you said yes, 88 percent of you said no.

But, remember, this is not a scientific poll.

More "LATE EDITION" when we come back.


BLITZER: That's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, September 12th.

Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon eastern for the last work in Sunday talk.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.


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