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Interview With Ahmed Chalabi; Interview With Cardinal Justin Rigali

Aired April 24, 2005 - 12:00   ET


JOHN KING, GUEST HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Rome, and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you are watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
I'm John King, sitting in for Wolf Blitzer.

We'll get to our interview with the former Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi in just a few minutes. But first, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now.


The latest round of violence in Iraq occurred as the national assembly met yet again to try to form a new government, but no decisions were announced.

A bit early I spoke with former Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi who was involved in those negotiations about the new government, the deadly insurgency and more.


KING: Ahmed Chalabi, thank you so much for joining us today on LATE EDITION from Baghdad.

You are just moments removed from the latest meeting of the interim assembly, trying to reach an agreement on the new Iraqi government. No announcement of any deals, sir. What is the holdup to reaching a new government?

AHMED CHALABI, FORMER IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER: We are now down to the representation of Sunnis in the government and also on the distribution of responsibilities within the cabinet. These are the two issues that are in question now, and negotiations are going on.

KING: And when, sir, do you think those negotiations will be resolved? As you know, one of the key questions is we've seen an escalation of violence in recent weeks, and many say the post-election calm, if you will, has given way almost three months later to a political vacuum, essentially encouraging the insurgents, if you will, because there is no new government in place as yet.

CHALABI: We need a government immediately, and the delay in forming the cabinet has encouraged the terrorists, and I believe that we must move forward very, very quickly.

KING: When you say very quickly and you say the disagreement is on the responsibilities, what is the single hangup? Is it over one individual? Is it over Mr. al-Jaafari?

CHALABI: No. There is no disagreement. It's a matter of negotiations about the division of responsibilities. Mr. Jaafari is the candidate of the United Iraqi Alliance List, which has the majority in parliament. And he has the full support of the list, and I believe that he will form the cabinet.

KING: You mentioned that the lack of a government is encouraging the insurgents. Another alarming thing to many here in the United States, and I'd like your perspective, is that there continues to be criticism of the Iraqi security forces.

The Pentagon from time to time says those forces are being better trained and better equipped, and yet when we see the violence that we have seen just over the past week and including on this day, sir, many question whether those forces are aggressive as they need to be in rooting out the insurgency.

CHALABI: The men and women of the Iraqi security forces are very brave, very dedicated people. It is the leadership that is lacking. We need leadership, and it doesn't come by reinstituting Baathists and Saddam loyalists into the service.

This has been done too much under the previous government. We need to have desist from doing that. And we need to have people lead the forces who are loyal to the new order, who are loyal to the Democratic government of Iraq.

KING: You say, sir, desist, allowing Baathists, former officers under Saddam Hussein to take leadership roles in the security forces. You know full well, sir, on that issue, you are at odds with the United States including the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who recently traveled to your country to warn against such a purge.

The Pentagon would say it is those officers with the experience from Saddam Hussein's army who are beginning to help the security forces. You say purge them out. Would that not extend the period of time it takes the forces to be up and ready? And, in fact, then extend the period of time your country will need U.S. troops?

CHALABI: I say that this policy has not worked so far. We have heard this mantra for many, many times. Where is the security of these people are effective? It is a sham issue here. The people who are doing the terrorism are sometimes close to the leaders and the commanders of the security forces. And the U.S. military admits that many times. These are not military issues.

These are political issues. The Sunni population of Iraq will not be confined to Baathists to represent them. I believe that there are Iraqis from all communities who are not Baathists, who are victims of Saddam, who can actually lead the forces. We are not calling for a wholesale purge. We are calling for not giving leadership positions to people who are high up in Saddam's pecking order in the security services. And we say that loyalty, if it does count, it's very important to have loyal and competent people in these top jobs.

KING: Another question, sir, facing the new government will be the issue of amnesty. The interim president, Mr. Talabani was on this program earlier this month. I want you to listen to what he said on the idea of offering amnesty to those who have been involved in the insurgency but not those who have attacked Iraqi civilians. Let's listen to Mr. Talabani first.


JALAL TALABANI, IRAQI PRESIDENT: We have some groups: from Iraqis, from the Baath party and some people who were angered by some acts of Iraqi government or police forces. Those Iraqis -- we can, I hope, we can reach an agreement with them to ask them to come back to the Democratic process in Iraq.


KING: Ahmed Chalabi, should members of the insurgency not be given amnesty but invited to participate in the political process, as President Talabani says?

CHALABI: No amnesty for terrorists. No amnesty for the killers who continue to kill and maim and blow up institutions in Iraq. I believe that those people must be held to account. However, those who genuinely say they resist foreign occupation and who have not committed crimes, those people we need to have a dialogue with. And I believe also this is the position of the United States. They say let us have dialogue with every one who has not committed crimes and who has not killed, and who has not participated in terrorism. If we are going to have a government that represents all the Iraqi people, there are many people who have many misunderstandings. I think reaching out to the Sunni community is very important. As we did, in fact, reach out to the southern followers back in May and June and August and September. And we succeeded in stopping them from doing the fighting and coming back into the political fold where they have now 23 members in the national assembly. They are now part of the political process. This is a model we should follow despite the fact that many people at the time did not approve of the methods we followed to integrate the Sadr followers into the political process in Iraq.

KING: I want to be clear on this issue because I believe it is critical to people here in the United States, especially the family members of U.S. troops deployed to Iraq -- many of whom have been killed and maimed. When you say crimes and terrorists, some in Iraq have said anyone who has not killed Iraqis could be granted amnesty. Would you include those who have attacked U.S. troops or is that protesting for an occupation?

CHALABI: The issue here is that anyone who killed in violence against the Iraqi government and against those invited by the Iraqi government to be part of the Multi-National force is not included.

KING: Help us, sir, understand, based on your best estimates today, how long do you think the U.S. troops -- and you have had disagreements with the United States government from time to time -- but how long do you think, sir, your country will need U.S. troops on the ground?

CHALABI: This is a question that cannot be answered by giving you an estimate quickly. I don't have a crystal ball. However, I will tell you that, had we proceeded down the path that we had suggested two years ago, we would have had better security and a reduction of U.S. troops now. The most important thing is the issue of sovereignty. The Iraqi government must have sovereignty. It is in the interest of Iraq and of the United States, working together.

Sovereignty means also control over the Iraqi armed forces, from recruiting to training, to equipment, to deployment. All these issues must be under the control of the Iraqi government.

We are very happy, we're very glad to have assistance from the United States and from the multinational force. We cannot do without that now, but the issue of control of these forces, especially on the recruitment and the training, must be in the hands of the Iraqi government, because that is the way to move forward, and that is the way to have this issue resolved. The security and intelligence in Iraq are best controlled by the Iraqi government. We need to talk about that with the U.S. government.

KING: Well, sir, to have those talks, you need a new government in place. What is your best estimate of when you will have an agreement on a new government, and do you have any doubts at all, sir, that that new government will meet the August deadline to have a constitution in place?

CHALABI: Again, I do not have a crystal ball. The negotiations are going on, and I do not want to make further statements, but we are committed to our candidate for prime minister, Mr. Jaafari, and the United Iraqi Alliance is negotiating with the Kurds and Kurdish list also, so that we can come to an agreement to form a government. There is no question that the deadline will be met and we will have a constitution, and we will have a referendum. And there is no need to delay this process at all. This is the will of the Iraqi people, and they need to move forward and get a permanent constitution and a government elected on the basis of this constitution.

KING: And sir, finally, in April of 2003, you said, quote, "I do not seek office." There is talk now that you hope to be deputy prime minister or some senior position in the new government. What role do you see Ahmed Chalabi playing, if and when this new government is reached?

CHALABI: I do not know what the outcome of these negotiations. It is a very different matter from seeking office. The issue here is that it is a matter of service. There is a need now for Iraqis to come together and work out the problems. We must work out the various issues. One of the most important issues that we must work out is the issue of public corruption, and I think that this is impacting on the security situation, on the development issues, and on the expenditure of Iraqi funds, and also on foreign aid, and I believe the new government will have to tackle this issue head on and quickly.

KING: Ahmed Chalabi, thank you so much for joining us today on LATE EDITION from Baghdad, sir.

CHALABI: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.


KING: For us now, a quick break, but just ahead, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his inaugural mass today. We'll speak with an American cardinal in Rome about his hopes for the new pontiff, and the challenges facing the Catholic Church.

And later, a Senate showdown. Can President Bush's pick for ambassador to the United Nations survive the survive the scrutiny. We'll get perspective from a former ambassador to the United Nations and a former secretary of state.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


KING: Our Web question of the week asks this: "Should John Bolton serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations?

Cast your vote at And we welcome your questions for our guests. E-mail us now at We'll try to read some of your questions on the air.

But straight ahead, we'll ask about Cardinal Justin Rigali about Pope Benedict XVI and his difficult task of uniting the catholic church. You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday Talk.


KING: Today an open-air mass in St. Peter's Square marked the formal installation of Pope Benedict XVI as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. After the service, Benedict greeted the hundreds of thousands of wellwishers who lined the streets to cheer the new pontiff.

A bit earlier today, I spoke with Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, from our bureau in Rome.


KING: Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, thank you, sir, for joining us on LATE EDITION.

Today a majestic, a historic day for the Catholic Church, the inaugural mass this morning of Pope Benedict XVI. I want to ask you first, sir, just in a sentence or two, what came across to you as the most significant thing you heard from the new Holy Father's first homily?

CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI, ARCHBISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA: Well, one of the things that was very impressive is when he said, "The church is alive, and the church is young." And he obviously referred to the millions of young people who have participated in the various events in different ways, and so it was a very exhilarating experience today, just as it was at the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

KING: I want to ask you, sir, on this hopeful day for the church, it is also a day of many challenges. And as you prepare to come back to the United States, as you are well aware, one of the big challenges is the sex abuse scandal and the fallout over it, the doubts some Catholics have about the church here in the United States.

Some victims are seizing on a comment the new Holy Father made a few years ago, about two years ago, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, when he said this, quote: "In the United States, there is constant news on this topic. But less than 1 percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type. Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the church."

Now, Cardinal Rigali, since then, others who have worked closely with the new Holy Father say that he has come to understand the scope of this problem. He has spoken of filth in the church at one point. I wonder, from your conversations in Rome with him and other key Vatican officials in the past week or two, what is your sense of his perspective on the sex abuse scandal going forward?

RIGALI: Well, it's my particular conviction that Pope Benedict XVI has a great deal of experience in this field and that he will do everything possible to support the bishops of the United States in their efforts to extirpate, to eradicate, to wipe out any of this abuse that has indeed taken place and that is deplorable.

So we count on his support, and we're very, very confident that he will support us. And we will continue the efforts made in this regard.

KING: Do you expect any policy change, any more authority for the U.S. Catholic bishops to deal with this issue without going back to the Vatican, or more power in the Vatican, any change in the policies that were put in place under John Paul II?

RIGALI: I think the norms that we have are very good norms. I think it is very important that they be applied. It is for the good of the church. It is for the good of victims. It is for the good of everyone. And I am confident that this indeed will take place.

KING: I want to move on to other issues, but quickly, one more on this subject. I sat down and interviewed a victim earlier this week who said that victims groups plan to petition the Vatican to see if they could get a meeting with the new Holy Father.

Do you think that would be a good idea on his part?

RIGALI: I think the pope will know what meetings are possible for him, what meetings he believes will be advantageous, so I would leave that to him. For the rest, as I mentioned, the American bishops are intent on doing everything possible in this regard to continue to apply the norms that are very successful at the beginning of his pontificate, just as we have tried to do during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.

KING: Cardinal, you mentioned your optimistic sense after the homily today. In that, the new Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, did speak of sheep lost in the desert.

Want to give you some polling numbers from here in the United States. We asked United States Catholics, on difficult moral questions, are you more likely to follow your conscience or the teachings of Pope Benedict? Seventy-four percent said they would follow their own conscience. Only 20 percent said they would follow the teachings of Pope Benedict. A significant challenge for the new Holy Father, and for you, sir, to convince Catholics, whether the issue be contraception, views of homosexuality, that they are supposed to listen to the church, is it not?

RIGALI: Well, I think all of us realize -- and it's very important that we do -- the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which talks about conscience. Conscience is for all of us a supreme voice. It is the voice of God coming out of our hearts. What must be added to this, however, in order to have the full picture, is the fact that our consciences must be formed.

RIGALI: We must be instructed. We must realize what it is that the law of God requires of us. And it is only then that when our consciences are informed, that our consciences are truly a very safe rule for us to follow.

But conscience is a gift of God. And conscience has always been recognized, by the Second Vatican Council, by the church, as what we follow. But we must be sure. We must be sure that our consciences are well-informed.

KING: In closing, Cardinal, his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was known to have deep concerns about the use of power by the United States as the world's only, many would argue, superpower. Has the new pope relayed to you, either in present-day conversations or in prior conversations when he was a senior Vatican official, his perspective on the use of military force, for example, the war in Iraq, his views of President Bush?

RIGALI: I am not aware of what the Cardinal Ratzinger, his positions, but I am sure that he shares the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. I'm sure he shares the teaching of the church, and one of that is to do everything possible to avoid war, and at the same time to be conscious of the church's teaching on the right to self- defense.

So the new pope certainly, it is to be expected that he will continue to follow the teaching of the church as was put forth so ably by Pope John Paul II.

KING: Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia. Sir, we thank you for your time on "LATE EDITION," and we wish you safe travels home from this historic period in Rome. Thank you, sir.

RIGALI: Thank you, John.


KING: Ahead on "LATE EDITION," debating the nuclear option: Should the senate change the rules and limit filibusters? We'll ask the top members of the senate judiciary committee, Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy. Also ahead, a check of what's in the news right now, including Vice President Cheney's diplomatic mission. Stay with "LATE EDITION."


KING: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

It's been a busy week on Capitol Hill from the debate over ending or limiting filibusters, to the delay in voting on President Bush's choice to be ambassador to the United Nations.

Here to discuss the politics and policy and perhaps a little more, are two distinguished guests: in Philadelphia, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. He is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. And here in Washington, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. He is the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democratic member.

Senators, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Nice to be with you. Thank you.

KING: Let's begin on the controversial nomination of John Bolton to be the United States ambassador to the United Nations. And let me begin by trying to set a benchmark in our conversation, beginning with you, Senator Spector.

Do you believe John Bolton will be confirmed as the next ambassador?

SPECTER: Well, at this point, John, I think it's too close to call. I think the best policy is to have his nomination come to the full Senate, not decided by a committee because the Constitution says that advice and consent are the province of the Senate itself. And I have always followed that practice even when I was firmly opposed to Judge Bork. I thought the nomination should come to the full Senate for decision by the full Senate.

We have our procedures for reviewing the committee reports. We don't follow everything that's in the newspaper or on television unless, of course, it's on CNN.


But I think it's a matter that the full Senate ought to consider as a matter of policy.

KING: Well, Senator Leahy, a Republican just said too close to call. I'm going to go way out on a limb here and say the Democrats are not going to say yes to my question: Will he be the next ambassador?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Well, you know, one, I agree with much of what Arlen was saying. But if he's voted down in a Republican-controlled committee, a highly respected Republican- controlled committee of people like George Voinovich, conservative Republican, highly respected -- he says that he has doubts -- if that committee votes him down, even if he came to the floor, I would suspect he'd be voted down on the floor because there are enough Republicans who express concerns about him.

This man is a proverbial bull in the china shop. The same reason I voted against him on being the assistant secretary in charge of nuclear proliferation: his way of doing it. Look what's happened under him. India and Pakistan had the bomb. Iran is building one. North Korea has gone way beyond anything that the United States said it would tolerate.

This man does not have a sterling track record. And then when you find that he wanted the CIA and others basically to shade intelligence to fit his political agenda, well I would hope we'd think that we've seen enough of that after what happened in Iraq.

KING: Well, let's deal with some of that -- the substance, if you will, or at least the allegations of substantive problems with the Bolton nomination. Some aides say that he is abrasive. People he's worked with in the State Department. Some have gone further and said that in some cases he's been abusive.

Now the White House, of course, has been tracking this. The president came out this week and said he stands by this nomination fully. Someone else was the president of the Senate, who happens to be of course the vice president of the United States. I want you to listen what Dick Cheney said earlier this week.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: I have looked at all of the charges that have been made. I don't think any of them stand up to scrutiny. And if being occasionally tough and aggressive and abrasive were a problem, a lot of members of the United States wouldn't qualify.


They're all friends of mine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Now, half in jest there the vice president talking about it. You know, some members of Congress -- and I'm with two gentlemen right now, Senators Specter and Leahy, two men known as gentlemen -- some of your colleagues are known for being sometimes abrasive with their staff.

LEAHY: All of us can be abrasive. And I have no problem. I voted for both Republicans and Democrats who are certainly abrasive, had tempers. But if the abrasiveness is being done to change an independent intelligence report or to hide or to change policies just to fit one individual's agenda, especially when that individual is not the one who is in charge, then that bothers me. That goes way beyond being abrasive and abusive.

KING: Senator Specter, have you heard anything that raises that alarm, that perhaps John Bolton has gone beyond being a combustible personality, if you will, into using that temper to change facts?

SPECTER: John, I want to look at the record. We have procedures in the United States Senate for making these decisions. We have a committee which will make a recommendation.

They'll file a report. It will then come before the Senate. It will then be the time for people who are not on the committee like Senator Leahy and me and others to take a hard look at the facts.

This is an important matter for the president who is setting the tone for our foreign policy. It's an important matter for the nominee. And it's very, very important for how we handle the United Nations.

We are in a very delicate period. And we need to be sure that whoever is there is going to be able to work with many diverse groups across the globe. And these are not decisions to be made on the sound bytes on Sunday talk shows or even by reading the newspapers. These are matters which we ought to lock at long and hard.

And what I would hope we would do would be for the senators to make independent judgments. You have that displayed now in the committee. And that is something which I think is really necessary for Democrats not to follow a straight party line on voting for filibusters and Republicans not to follow a straight party line on voting for the so-called constitutional nuclear option.

But I think if we exercise our independence on John Bolton we'll come to the right decision after we review the record.

KING: We will get to the nuclear option quickly.

LEAHY: Could I add to what Senator Specter said? I happen to agree with him on this. Look at this case individually.

Remember -- also remember what it's for. It's to an ambassador to the United Nations. This is a man that said we could lock the top 10 floors off, wouldn't make any difference.

Well, whoever goes to the U.N., of course, the United States can be critical. We have been critical of things at the U.N.

But I feel the privilege of both President Clinton and President Bush appointed me on different occasions to be one of our representatives to the U.N. I know how much work is done behind the scene by our ambassador, sometimes talking to other countries that this is our only way of talking with them. You can't have a bull in a china shop doing that.

Strong personality, fine. But if somebody comes in with a total disdain for the institution they are being appointed to be a representative to, I think you start so many steps behind that it hurts the United States' interests.

KING: Well, one of the arguments the Bush administration puts forward is that they want that right now. They believe, based on the history, what happened in the Iraq debate, the oil-for-food program, the coming debates over Iran and North Korea, they don't necessarily want a diplomat. Someone who wants to go to all of the receptions...


KING: I want you to hear some of John Bolton here. This is a speech John Bolton gave back in 2003 that was criticized at the time. I believe it led the leader of North Korea to label him human scum. The man has a tart tongue. There's no question about that. Let's listen to a bit of John Bolton.


JOHN BOLTON: While he lives like royalty in Pyongyang, he keeps hundreds of thousands of his people locked in prison camps with millions more mired in abject poverty. For many in North Korea, life is a hellish nightmare.


KING: A hellish nightmare. Senator Leahy, to you first. That is not language that would be approved at charm school or even by many at the State Department. But is there anything John Bolton said in that dramatic statement that you disagree with factually?

LEAHY: I don't disagree with it factually. But if I was the one who was in there negotiating to get the North Koreans to cut back on the use of nuclear weapons, if that was in my portfolio, I might reserve that speech for after I finished that job.

KING: Senator Specter, as you comment, what the White House would say is that the Clinton administration politely and diplomatically did cut a deal for North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program. And Kim Jong-Il promptly said, "nevermind," and violated the deal and that they need somebody to kick the can a bit.

SPECTER: Well, the North Koreans breached the deal that was made back in 1993. But look here, John, to be criticized by the head of North Korea is not all bad.


KING: That's true.

So I guess that is the issue. At this moment in time the White House makes the argument: We don't want a Capital 'D' diplomat at the United Nations. We want somebody who will stir it up. We want somebody who will represent the United States. There will be no doubt about who they are speaking for, not someone who's going to worry about what anyone else thinks about them. Senator Specter?

SPECTER: Well, I think that's a very valid consideration.

John, that point of view has not been articulated in the media. The media stories have been all critical of Mr. Bolton. And that's why you have the Senate report.

You are going to have a Senate report which is going to be balanced. You're going to have it presented by the chairman, Senator Lugar, by the ranking member, Senator Biden. And then we're going to look at arguments on both sides. We're going to examine the record, and we're going to make a judgment.

And to repeat, this is not a matter for a Sunday show sound bite or for just looking at a media approach. This is a matter for looking at really hard facts and coming to an independent judgment.

KING: In closing before we need to take a break, Senator Leahy, is there anything wrong with that view? The president gets to pick his team? They want someone that will stir things up.

LEAHY: I agree with Senator Specter. It's what the Senate should do. But remember, we advise and consent. You have to do both. And this is now the question. I don't think we were ever asked for our advice, but now we are at least being asked for our consent.

And we have to take a long view of it. Keep in mind the administration, the last diplomat there, one they expected to stay on, former Senator Danforth, entirely different mode than John Bolton, and the president himself said, I was perfectly happy with him. I would feel more comfortable with somebody like that: somebody who's perfectly willing to criticize when the U.N.'s done something wrong, but can come in a way that can work with the other countries that we need to work with.

But I agree with Senator Specter. We should look at it, each one of us, not as Republicans or Democrats but what's best for the country and vote accordingly.

KING: OK. We're going to take a quick timeout right here for a short break. Much more to talk about with senators Specter and Leahy. Stay with us.

And later, also, a diplomatic view of the John Bolton nomination from two former diplomats: former Secretary of State Al Haig, and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Governor Bill Richardson. And please, don't forget to vote in this week's Web poll: Should John Bolton serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations? Cast your vote at We'll be right back.


KING: Welcome back. We're joined once again by the top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Chairman Arlen Specter and ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy.

Gentlemen, let's move on to this discussion about the president's judicial nominees, and plans by the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, to try an attempt, anyway, to change the rules of the Senate, to pass what some call would invoke the nuclear option, so that any nominee for the appellate level would get an up or down vote on the floor.

Now, Senator Frist, as part of the campaign for this, is appearing in a telecast tonight that is sponsored by social conservative groups, some would say religious right groups. I want you to listen to a bit of Senator Frist's statement in the telecast that will air tonight.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN): My Democratic counterpart, Senator Reid, calls me a "radical Republican." I don't think it's radical to ask senators to vote. I don't think it's radical to expect senators to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities. I don't think it's radical to restore precedents that worked so well for 214 years.


KING: Senator Specter, you're the chairman of the key committee that gets involved. The issue here is judicial nominees. That is your committee. You are a Republican that the leadership might be a bit nervous about.

Will you vote for this proposal, if the majority leader brings it to the floor?

SPECTER: I have taken a position on it, John, because what I'm trying to do, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is get judges confirmed, to defuse the situation, try to work toward a compromise, so that we don't come to a vote on the so-called nuclear or constitutional option.

Right now, we're moving ahead, and Senator Leahy and I are working very, very cooperatively. We now have Tom Griffith moved out of committee, an indication the Democrats will not filibuster, I've been advised. It's informal, and not binding, that there'll be no filibuster as to Judge Boyle. We're working to try to get William Myers in the Ninth Circuit. A lot of negotiations to try to get three circuit judges from Michigan for the 6th Circuit.

And if we could confirm these judges, we would take out a lot of pressure. And what I want to do is, I'm trying to urge my colleagues on the Democratic side -- and I made a substantial, significant -- but a long speech this past week, urging independence, that my Republican colleagues ought not to vote for the nuclear option as a matter of party loyalty, and the Democrats ought not to be voting in lockstep on filibusters as a matter of party loyalty, and signing cases where the Senate independence, save the independence of the judiciary, and the impeachment proceeding against Supreme Court Justice Chase in 1805 and the power of the presidency, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868, and cited extensively from then Senator John F. Kennedy in his book "Profiles in Courage," that that kind of independence is necessary.

And I think, if we voted our consciences, we wouldn't have filibusters, and we wouldn't have a nuclear option.

KING: Well, Senator Specter raises some historical points.

Senator Leahy, one that Senator Frist raises is, he says, when it came to appellate court nominees, the tradition always was, no filibuster. Do you concede that point?

LEAHY: That must be before he started running for president, because of course he voted to filibuster one of President Clinton's nominees, an Hispanic, Justice Paez. He voted not to allow cloture to go through.

Now, fortunately, over 70 of the senators voted for cloture, and Judge Paez finally, after having made to wait year after year after year, by the Republicans, he was allowed to go forward.

Now, I guess Senator Frist wasn't running for president then. He voted for the filibuster. He is running for president now. And he's opposed to it.

So I guess times changes, but historically, historically the Senate has been one of the major parts of checks and balances in this country. When Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the Supreme Court, even though it was a heavily Democratic Senate, we said, no. And it's a good thing that we stood up and said no.

George Washington had members of his own party -- he was the most popular man in America -- turn down some of his judges.

Now, we put through 95 percent. Let's understand this. We put through 95 percent of President Bush's judges, one of the highest percentage any president's gotten. And that's been with Democratic help.

KING: Well, let's spend a little bit more time on the politics of this, because your leader, Harry Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, says he feels burned by President Bush. There was a bipartisan meeting at the White House in which the president -- and we've confirmed this from other sources -- told the leaders essentially that he didn't any part of this debate, that this was a Senate debate, whether to change the rules, and that he was going to stay out of it, and yet then the vice president says this on Friday. Of course, he has a key role in the Senate. Listen again to the vice president of the United States.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT: If the Senate majority decides to move forward, and if the issue is presented to me in my elected office as president of the Senate, and presiding officer, I will support bringing those nominations to the floor for an up-or-down vote.



KING: Did the president lie to Harry Reid?

LEAHY: I was not at the meeting with the president but I know the president has had an active interest in this. When I was chairman of the committee -- and we actually put through an unprecedented number in a very, very short period of time of President Bush's nominees when I was there -- I told them, I said, "Look, you're going to get probably anywhere from 90 to 95 percent of your nominees."

I said actually, "It's probably a record you probably wish you had when you owned a baseball team." He said, "If I get 90 percent, I'm going to be really happy." Well, he's gotten more than 90 percent. No president gets all their judges.

But this idea of doing away with checks and balances, which would require Vice President Cheney actually to violate the rules of the Senate because the parliamentarian will rule that the nuclear option is not allowed under our precedent -- they will just run rough shod over that.

If you end up doing something like that, you've ruined checks and balances. Actually, whoever, whether have you a Democratic president or Republican president, they should not be able to make the independent judiciary an arm of their party. I think the whole country suffers.

I agree with Senator Specter. We ought to find some way to back away from this because I think the Senate would be hurt. But ultimately the country would be hurt if you remove an area of checks and balances.

SPECTER: John, let me comment on that last question. I think it is really not helpful -- and that's a very mild word -- for Senator Reid to say that the president was not honest. And that's been picked up by the media to say that Senator Reid said the president told a lie, which is not what the precise quotation is.

When you have Vice President Cheney making a comment, he has a role in the Senate to vote in the event that there is a tie. That's a constitutional responsibility of his. And coming back to what Senator Frist has had to say, he's working hard with Senator Reid -- and this is behind the scenes but not so far behind the scenes that it ought not be mentioned -- in trying to work out a compromise. And we have seen a good part of the Republican base speak out against the nuclear option.

KING: Senator Specter, I hate to stop the conversation but we're running up against the top of the hour. We have a few more weeks on this. It is both a constitutional question and a very heated political question.

I want to thank the chairman, Arlen Specter.

SPECTER: Nice being with you. Thank you.

KING: Thank you. And Senator Leahy here in Washington.

LEAHY: Thank you, John.

KING: Stay with us. We'll be right back.


KING: This is "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday Talk.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is the right man at the right time for this important assignment.



SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: I think John Bolton is damaged goods.



SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton.


KING: Can President Bush's pick for ambassador to the United Nations survive the scrutiny in Washington. We'll ask former Secretary of State Alexander Haig and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Governor Bill Richardson.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates an inaugural mass, but can the new pontiff build a bridge between Catholics and other faiths around the globe? Our expert panel weighs in on the mission and the challenges.

Welcome back, I'm John King, sitting in for Wolf Blitzer. Coming up, two statesman debate John Bolton's controversial nomination to be the United States ambassador to the United Nations.

And later we'll examine the new pontiff's daunting mission to unite the Catholic Church while reaching out to other faiths.

But first, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.


KING: Pope Benedict XVI is now officially the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church after this morning's inaugural mass. The Vatican says some 350,000 people from the curious to global dignitaries were on hand. The new pope asked for prayers to help him undergo the enormous task in front of him.

CNN's Jennifer Eccleston covered the ceremony, and she joins us now live from Rome with more. Jennifer?

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Well the solemn inauguration mass of Pope Benedict XVI was steeped in centuries of tradition.

But the new pontiff's homily was a modern message: the church as an instrument of dialogue, not only among Christians but among other religions. He said the church was a living vessel for the young, a church that is alive, a church that is vibrant.

There were political messages, too: opposition to violence, to atheism and what he called carefree consumerism.

But the thrust of the homily was an impassioned cry for the world to rediscover its spirituality.

But of course the highlight of the day for the some 350,000 people that joined in the Vatican was the first major interaction of the pontiff with his flock, a trip in the open-top pope mobile around St. Peter's Square.

And as you can imagine, John, the security around the Vatican in Rome was intense, given the fact that there were hundreds of dignitaries, heads of states, kings and queens and given the fact that the U.S. delegation was here headed by President George Bush's brother, Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida. And with that there were 7,000 police on hand, and the air above the Vatican and Rome was closed during the mass.


KING: Jennifer Eccleston, live for us on this historic day in Rome.

Thank you, Jennifer.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee postponed the vote on John Bolton's nomination to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations until May 12. This delay allows time for more debate after Democrats and several Republicans raised concerns about Mr. Bolton's temperament and credibility.

Joining us to discuss this development and Mr. Bolton's confirmation process are two distinguished guests: In West Palm Beach, Florida, the former U.S. Secretary State Alexander Haig, who served under President Reagan; and in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Governor Bill Richardson, he is a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, appointed by President Clinton. Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Secretary Haig, I want to begin with this question. As we were preparing for the show, we had a phone call from the State Department. They were looking for you. Did they make an attempt to, shall we say, influence your testimony?

ALEXANDER HAIG, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: No, not at all. That wasn't the issue that was discussed. It was: Did I have enough information, and that's all they offered? And that's fine. And it was John Bolton himself who offered that.

Now, this is a very interesting issue we're dealing with. And I guess I can be crassly political because that's what this is. And there's an old saying that to the winner belongs spoils.

This is an executive branch appointment. And here's a man that is endorsed by the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, and an ex-secretary in this case.

And I think it's very important that the president has his way. You know, if you start turning these things into political litmus tests and whether or not the incumbent or the fellow who's being nominated is a little bit too much in the direction of the conservative wing of the Republican party, then you are overturning an election that the American people have already endorsed by a rather substantial margin.

So I think it's very important to remember executive branch appointments are not judicial appointments. They go on after a president. But they are a reflection of the president and the winner of the election. And they should be supported. And if they don't work out, then vote them out of office. That's the way the American system works.

KING: Well, Governor Richardson, how would you respond to Secretary Haig, Governor Richardson? He says this is the president's man. Give the president his man.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, I would agree with that point. This is one of the top three positions in American foreign policy, along with the secretary of state, the national security adviser. The president should be given that latitude. However, I don't agree with the secretary that this has been politicized. This is four Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asking questions.

I think the issue has become, John, one of whether the concerns about the behavior with the intelligence agents, the issue of ambassador Tom Hubbard -- I've served with him. He's a total straight arrow, a diplomat. I was tending to give Mr. Bolton the benefit of the doubt until Tom Hubbard, as ambassador to South Korea, basically said that Undersecretary Bolton was veering a bit from policy on a speech to North Korea.

On the other hand, I do believe it's important that -- the Foreign Relations Committee, I think, has done a great job in scrutinizing, in getting all the answers, in delaying. I was delayed a couple of times when I was confirmed. That's the role of the committee. I don't think it's a political process.

In the end, I do think that Mr. Bolton is going to get confirmed. But it's going to be through a very thorough and, I think, appropriate grilling by the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican and Democrat.

KING: I want to ask both of you to stand by. I want to listen to the secretary of state for a moment here. Condoleezza Rice, while in Moscow this week, sat down for an interview with CNN. The administration obviously realizing it needs to rally the troops, if you will, behind this nomination. The allegations are that Mr. Bolton has been sometimes abrasive. One allegation, at least, that he has been at times abusive. Let's listen to the secretary of state and how she describes this debate, at least in her view.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The president deserves to have the person at the United Nations that he thinks best to carry out this job. I think will make a mistake if suddenly comments about management style become part of the confirmation process.


KING: By management style, Governor Richardson, let me offer you a translation this way: They want a bull in the china shop of the United Nations right now. They think you need someone who's a bit combustible at times, perhaps. And someone who, without a question, will be loyal to the White House. What's wrong with that?

RICHARDSON: Well, there's nothing wrong with that. However, with the United Nations, you have to recognize that you're one vote out of 190: the most important, the most powerful one. You've got to get along with people. You've got to work with -- mainly in the United Nations, it's a Third World institution.

You've got the five permanent members. You've got Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States. The Security Council is mainly where the action is. But you also have to influence all these other countries on issues like terrorism, Israel, the Palestinian issue, refugees, AIDS.

So you have got to be able to work with others, get along. It helps if you are some type of a schmoozer. Now, obviously, everybody has a different style. But our most successful ambassadors have been those that are able to engage in the United Nations. It's a multilateral institution. You've got to show the strength of America. But also, you've got to get all those countries to support foreign policy goals by the administration in a multiplicity of capacities.

KING: Secretary Haig, you said at the top that the person who wanted to speak to you at the State Department was none other than the man in question, John Bolton. Did he say anything to you that would answer some of the concerns just raised by Governor Richardson?

HAIG: Well, I don't know. He didn't have time for that. He just thanked me for appearing on his behalf. And that's very appropriate.

But, listen: This is not a popularity contest, the United Nations.

This is a world body that's put together by the world nations at the time, the victors in World War II primarily, and it doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to go along with us.

In fact, recent experience suggests there are far more against the United States than for them. What we have to have is an effective functioning body. The president wants reform. And I think Mr. Bolton is the kind of a fellow that's going to demand reform or there are going to be revisions that could be rather fundamental.

And it's very, very important that the corruption and kinds of things we've witnessed in recent years at the United Nations -- and I've tried to do business up there myself. And let me tell you, it's all under the table and it's all back door. And it's got to be corrected.

We are supporting it financially in large measure. It hasn't been a force for peace. It's been a force for enforcing peaces that have already been achieved. But it never gets there. So let's see what we can do with trying the other approach. And that is standing for something and fighting for it and insisting on it when we're right.

KING: Standing for something and fighting for it, Governor Richardson, you know the debates that are coming. The Bush administration thinks the United States -- the United Nations, excuse me, failed the test on Iraq. You have debates over Iran and North Korea to come. They want someone who will stand up and fight.

RICHARDSON: Well, I was a U.N. ambassador. I did the same for my administration, as did Secretary Albright, as did John Danforth.

That's not the issue, John.

I believe that -- and I don't know Mr. Bolton. I've never met the man. But I'm troubled by some of the characteristics that he might bring into the job, the opinion of a lot of diplomats, like Hubbard, that I respect.

On the other hand, I'm tugged by the fact that the president does have the right to name his top team. This is why I believe the next two weeks are very important. Examine some of these issues about the intelligence analyst, issues relating to was he veering from policy on North Korea and Iran.

The U.N. is a fascinating arena where you have got to be effective on a personal level with people, with 190 ambassadors, with nations, with Third World countries, and within the Security Council, where you're debating Iraq, you're going to be debating probably North Korea.

So you've got to be able to bring people together, and that's some of the questions I have about Mr. Bolton. And if he does get in, I wish him the best and I'll do everything I can to help him, but it's going to be very interesting what happens.

KING: I take from that, Governor Richardson, you did not get your phone call today.

Gentlemen, I want you to pause for just a second.

We need to take a short break. Coming up, much more on the John Bolton nomination.

Plus, deadly attacks continue in Iraq. Is the insurgency once again out of control? And what can be done to stop the violence? We'll ask Secretary Haig and Governor Richardson.

And later, papal politics: Our panel reveals an intimate look at Pope Benedict XVI before he became the head of the Catholic Church. LATE EDITION continues in 90 seconds.


KING: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our conversation with the former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig and Governor Bill Richardson, who of course is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Gentlemen, let's continue to talk about the John Bolton nomination to be the U.N. ambassador and the stakes beyond just Mr. Bolton, whether or not he is confirmed by the United States Senate.

I want to read to you a snippet from a Wall Street Journal editorial this past week, outlining what it views as the stakes of this nomination. The editorial, called "The Bolton Mugging," says this: "If Mr. Bolton loses, so does the president. The United Nations will take it as a sign that it can move ahead with Potemkin reform, while Democrats will be emboldened to take down other nominees. Mr. Bush's appointees will also understand that defending his priorities against the bureaucracy is a bad career choice."

Secretary Haig, do you agree with that?

HAIG: Well, I do, basically, but I don't think it's an overriding issue. What's really important is that the president have a team that is going to espouse his policies, not the State Department's policies. And the State Department employees come from all parties and all points of view, and they are always going to clash. And these clashes that have become the grist of this whole argument are a sign that the system is working, not that it's not working.

So we ought to welcome that.

What we're looking at is a man that is competent, he held a position in the State Department, did it well, and is now being promoted, in effect, because he has done it so well, in the view of the president, the vice president and the newly appointed secretary of state, who had a good eye on all of this from day one.

KING: And, Governor Richardson, you know the debates at the United Nations. There are questions about corruption. There are questions about Kofi Annan's leadership. There is a debate about changing, enlarging the Security Council. The debate's to come over Iran and North Korea, as we discussed a bit earlier.

What would happen in the culture, if you will, of the U.N. if they see the president's choice go down?

RICHARDSON: I don't believe it would have an effect, John. The last five ambassadors, Republican and Democrats, we all worked very hard on U.N. reform, reducing staffing. We all worked hard to make, for instance, the Security Council more responsive, open it up to countries like Germany and Japan and Third World representation from Asia, Latin America and Africa.

The implication in the editorial is that, because John Bolton is a tough guy, that U.S. policy is going to necessarily be more effective. I don't believe that's the case. I believe what is needed at the United Nations is you do need a diplomat that can bring nations together, to achieve America's goals, which are to reform the U.N., which are to make it more responsive to U.S. interests.

So in the end, I believe it's important to respect the president's choice, but at the same time scrutinize all of these issues that are legitimate. And I think the unsung heroes are the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, four Republicans that are asking questions about past management issues.

What bothered me was the intelligence officers. An intelligence officer should tell you straight. If you don't like it, you should accept it. You shouldn't try to remove him.

I don't know if that's the case. I don't have the facts. I'm governor of New Mexico. I don't get my daily intelligence brief.

But in the end I think this debate is good and healthy. The United Nations, I believe, is going to be there, and we can use it more effectively to pursue our interests than we have before.

KING: Secretary Haig, what about that one specific point, an allegation raised that John Bolton tried to shape or shade intelligence or would not accept the findings? You are here to defend him, of course, and you have made the case, the president should get his man. If that could be proven -- and I emphasize, if -- that he abused intelligence, if you will, would that be enough for you? HAIG: No, I wouldn't -- I would be very skeptical of it, given the forum, the way it's being presented and the press handling of these things.

You know, the press is out there to make news and make money. And that's what they do. And I wouldn't have it differently than that.

But this is, after all, an executive prerogative. It comes from winning an election, which the president did handily, and his request should be honored. And they should, unless there is some grievous crime is evident, or incompetence is evident -- this is not the case. This fellow's served. And he served very, very well.

So what is all the fuss suddenly about this? It's not the U.N. being something special. Of course the U.N. is a very important position. And I know we had a very good one when we had Governor Richardson in that job, and I admire him greatly for his objectivity.

But this is a political issue. It's philosophic. And the left is now trying to undermine the right, which has won an election endorsed by the American people.

And that's what it's basically all about.

KING: I want to ask each of you gentlemen. You have the luxury, if you will, of distance from Washington. Sometimes in Washington we debate things over and over and over, we begin stealing each other's language.

Thirty seconds to each of you. Looking at what you see unfolding in Iraq right now, the violence is escalating again, they're having trouble, although they are apparently closer to naming this interim government. Just 30 seconds of observation on what you see as the problem, and perhaps something the United States could do, beginning with you, Secretary Haig.

HAIG: Well, this is still an evolutionary process, and the new government is not in place yet. It's in the process of being formed. The old government has been somewhat disemboweled in the context of going to the new government.

So it's a very dangerous and troublesome period, and it's going to remain that way for some time until this new government gets into position.

But it's obvious that things are getting better, and there are Iraqi people and Kurds who are moving together effectively to control the situation, but it's going to take a lot of time and a lot more sacrifice.

KING: Governor Richardson?

RICHARDSON: Well, I agree with the basic points of Secretary Haig. I think the sooner the Iraqis take over responsibility for the functioning of government, of security, the better off we will be. I just have a little bit of advice to the administration. I think it still makes sense to try to make this as multinational, multilateral as possible, bring in other actors into the reconstruction, into the government. Keep the U.N. in there. We're talking about the U.N. The U.N. conducted, I believe, successful elections. And I believe it makes sense to continue making other nations support our goals there, to make Iraq democratic. And that's what this debate about Secretary Bolton is all about.

KING: Governor Richardson in New Mexico, Secretary Haig in Florida, gentlemen, we thank you both.


KING: Enjoy, gentlemen. Thank you.

And up, we'll get a check of what's in the news right now, including the latest on another deadly day in Iraq. Two car bombings reported in the Baghdad area, 15 dead. CNN trying to get additional details.

And it's a new era for the Catholic Church. Our panel examines the role of Pope Benedict XVI as he reaches out to the faithful of all regions and all religions.

Stay with us.


KING: You're looking at pictures here from the inaugural mass for Pope Benedict XVI held a bit earlier today in Vatican City. The new pontiff declared that, quote, "The entire hosts of saints," end quote, would guide him during his papacy.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Joining us now to discuss the mission and the many challenges for this new pope are three guests who knew the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger quite well.

From Rome, CNN Vatican Analyst John Allen; he's a correspondent with the National Catholic Reporter and author of the book, "Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith."

Also in Rome, Father Joseph Fessio; he's the provost and professor of theology at Ave Maria University.

And here in Washington, David Schindler; he is the dean of the John Paul II Institute.

Welcome to you all and gentlemen, as we begin our discussion, I want to begin with a snippet of the homily this morning, the first mass after the official installation of Pope Benedict XVI, and in the homily, I want you to listen to this. It is a hopeful day for the Catholic church, but this pontiff certainly seems quite cognizant of the steep challenge ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): We live in alienation, in the saltwaters of suffering and death. In a sea of darkness without light, the net of the Gospels pull us out of the waters of death and brings us into the splendor of the light of God into true life.


KING: Father Fessio, let me begin with you. "A sea of darkness without light": The pope seems well aware he has quite a task ahead of him.

FR. JOSEPH FESSIO, AVE MARIA UNIVERSITY: There's probably no one better informed on the state of the church and world than Pope Benedict.

And I wish you could have heard that and listened to it in Italian. It was just beautiful, fluid Italian, and you could see his heart was really in it -- another inspiring homily. We'll get more of those from this pope.

KING: John Allen, you know this pope well. You're the author of a new book on him. Did you discern any particular message that you thought this pope was, if you will, adamant about making right out of the box?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Well, John, I mean, Pope Benedict this morning himself said that this was not a program of governance. So he did not layout any kind of detailed blueprint of where he wants to go.

But I do think there were some telling indications there. I mean, the clip that you played certainly does show us the realist Joseph Ratzinger, the man who is not under illusions about the challenges facing Catholicism.

But also in that homily, there were also, I think, fascinating signs of the transformation we have been watching this week from Joseph Ratzinger, the doctrinal policeman, to Pope Benedict XVI, the universal pastor and public face of Catholicism.

So you saw him saying over and over again, the church is alive, which is both, I think, a propositional sentence, but it's also a statement of hope, a statement of aspiration.

You saw him talking about outreach to those who are not yet in full communion with the church; in other words, the 750 million Christians around the world who are not Roman Catholic. You saw him talking about the young.

These are not themes that we have associated with then-Cardinal Ratzinger over his 24 years at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. And that of course is because he has a different job. He's playing a different role today.

And I think, just as somebody who has watched this man over the years, it is fascinating to watch him growing into this new role.

KING: David Schindler, your thoughts on that specific point: the transformation, the evolution, if you will, from cardinal to pope.

DAVID SCHINDLER, DEAN, JOHN PAUL II INSTITUTE: Well, first of all, I think just to follow up on the comments here, I think that what he signals in that homily is a point that he's made over and over again; namely that the problems that face us are not only problems of this or that moral question but really go to the question of the meaning of existence as such.

I mean, is life worth living? Is it something worth -- is it something beautiful? And is it a gift?

And I think in this context the selection of the name Benedict is extremely significant -- to go back and recover really the significance of the fact that he took the name of St. Benedict in the 5th Century, and Benedict's response to the cultural situation of that day, which was really to found a community that would recuperate the meaning of existence in all aspects of existence, the meaning of work. Under what conditions is life really worth living and so forth?

KING: The leader now of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics, 60 something million here in the United States, I want to show you this recent polling of Catholics here in the United States. I think it underscores the challenge ahead.

We asked in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll: Pope Benedict will move the Catholic church in the right direction, 39 percent said that; the wrong direction, 13 percent of U.S. Catholics said that; unsure, 48 percent said that.

Father Fessio, back to you in Rome. I had six years of a Catholic school as a child and my left hand still hurts a bit from it a few years later.


KING: But we were taught that the pope is infallible. If almost half of American Catholics are unsure about the direction the pope will lead the church, does that not underscore some doubts, not only about this pope, but the church itself?

FESSIO: John, the infallibility of the pope does extend to certain statements which he makes. But a very well-defined statements and strange statements.

But I think we're talking here more about the way he will implement his papacy. And I think he showed us in the first talk he gave Wednesday morning. He was elected Tuesday afternoon or even evening. By the next morning, early, he had four single-spaced pages in Latin, and he outlined the blueprint of his papacy, which was very good.

But I think it's not a question of which doctoral statements he's going to make here or there but what he's going to emphasize, what he's going to do.

And I think the cardinals, and I've talked to Cardinal Schindler at length about this, they (inaudible) into the conclave asking themselves, "Who does God want? Who does the Holy Spirit want to lead the church?" And they were move in that conclave. They believed that that was the name that god had held in his heart. And they choose the man that god wanted to lead the church.

Jesus told us that he who hears you hears me. So forget the polls. You can be sure of this: When Cardinal Ratzinger speaks, he will be speaking out of a deep love of Jesus Christ and of the church.

As he said, it was very important -- in his homily today, he said this is not something from my ideas or my opinions. I'm going to put (inaudible) I'm going to put myself at the hearing of the Holy Spirit to learn god's will and god's plan and god's words.

So we have a leader who I think is going to represent for us Christ whose victory is. And we'll let the polls fall where they may. KING: And John Allen, as we wait for more words from this new holy father, the world saw today stylistically, if you will, Pope Benedict XVI getting in the opened-air pope mobile, for lack of a better term, saying thank you to the tens and tens of thousands who thronged to hear his inaugural mass.

KING: What is your sense stylistically of the tone this new holy father is trying to set in his earliest days.

ALLEN: Well John, first of all, this has been a smiling, I would say almost beaming, Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. I think he understands that people fundamentally are not convinced of the Christian message on the basis of the fine points of doctrinal debates. In the first place, they're convinced on the basis of what seems to them a life that provides joy and hope. And I think he's trying to project that.

But John, let me come back very quickly to those poll numbers. Because I think there is some good news there for the pope. If you remember, that same CNN/Gallup poll found that 31 percent of American Catholics had essentially a favorable reaction to the new pope, 9 percent unfavorable, and almost 60 percent said they didn't know enough to come to a conclusion.

I think what's fascinating about that is that those of us who follow the church tend to assume that everyone in the world has their mind made up about Joseph Ratzinger. But what that poll tells us is that simply isn't true. He has a broad swathe of opinion out there that is taking a look at this man for the first time.

And so I think he has an opportunity to introduce himself with perhaps less baggage so to speak than some of us had thought.

KING: And as we watch the pictures...

FESSIO: John, could I add something?

KING: We're going to take a quick break.

FESSIO: I want to add this.

KING: Go ahead, Father, quickly.

FESSIO: This pope was not an unknown quantity. There are 25 books in English that he's written. And if you want to know what he thinks and what his views are, they've been out there for quite a few years. So it's interesting now to go back and see who this man is.

KING: Gentlemen, we need to...

FESSIO: By the way, Ignatius Press publishes those. KING: ... take a quick break there. Getting in a plug for the book. That always helps. When we come back, more with our panel as we go inside the Vatican. Stay with "LATE EDITION."


KING: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our discussion on the mission of Pope Benedict XVI with our panel. Before the break, David Schindler, we were discussing some public opinion polling in the United States.

I want to come to you for your perspective, but I want to bring one more poll into the equation first. Our CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of U.S. Catholics: Are you bothered by the pope's position on birth control? Fifty-six percent say yes. Forty-three percent say no. Meaningful?

SCHINDLER: Well, I would go back. First, I would say that I think that this country has yet to learn really a lot about this pope. He's really not known. And I think people are going to be surprised at the humility of the man, the self-effacing qualities, even a kind of childlike wonder.

And I think that's a very engaging set of qualities he has. But he understands that the faith is not his to invent. It's his to pass on in its integrity. So there will be clarifying in the context of problems like contraception and so on. He will continue the teaching of the church in its integrity.

But the point there that I want to make is I think people will find that this is a profound teacher with a compelling quality of clarity in the capacity to communicate in an engaging fashion. And I think it's not that that will not provoke people, but also will resonate and speak to the restlessness of our culture and our youth especially.

KING: I want to follow up with that, and bring back our guests in Rome as well, as to what to expect from this new pope. Pope John Paul II, of course, was known for standing up to communism, especially in eastern Europe, for lecturing the current president of the United States, George W. Bush, about going to war in Iraq.

What do we know about now Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Ratzinger's willingness. And which issues do we know that he wants, is most inclined to speak out about? And as I ask, and I want to start with you, John Allen, I want to bring in a memo he wrote to Cardinal McCarrick here in Washington in the middle of the presidential campaign in 2004.

The Democrat, of course, was a Catholic, John Kerry. But he favored abortion rights. And then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote this: "A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation with evil and unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate, precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia."

So, John Allen, no reluctance from then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now the new Holy Father, to get involved in a political debate if he deems it necessary.

ALLEN: No, John. I don't think reluctance would be a characteristic we associate much with Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. But I would actually broaden the focus out a little bit from the specific sort of attention to that question.

And say that, you know, I think if you want to know where this pope is going to go, at least in broad strokes, you could look at the homily he gave at the Mass for electing the pope on the morning the conclave opened. He laid out, I think, in very unflinching terms what he saw as challenges facing the church. He mentioned things like Marxism, secularism, rampant individualism, relativism above all.

And you'll recall, he talked about this dictatorship of relativism in the West. But I actually think there's a comparison here. In the early stages of John Paul II's pontificate, of course, the primary challenge facing the church in a sense came from the East in the Soviet dictatorship, the deliberate suppression of human freedom.

I think this pope, being very much a pope of the West, sees a more subtle and more insidious kind of dictatorship in the West in the form of this kind of relativistic climate, which has abandoned confidence in the idea of objective truth. And I think this is going to be a pope who is going to do battle against that relativism.

Now, the tools he uses and the way he goes about it, you know, remains to be seen. But I think if you're looking for a big picture sense of what this pope is about, it is about restoring the idea that there is an objective truth, an objective meaning and purpose of human existence. And it is the church's job to proclaim that.

KING: Father Fessio, I want to bring you in as you think ahead to what this pope's legacy might be. Many have questioned: Why would the cardinals turn to a 78 year old man? Why would they have what even the new holy father himself called a short reign? I want to flip the coin, if you will. What are the advantages of age and experience?

FESSIO: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, they chose the man they thought was the best qualified to lead the church. And I think they made the right choice. Even what John just said, I agree totally with it. He believes that we have to present to people objective truths, which will make them free and give them to joy.

And the question of politicians who support abortion not receiving Communion is simply an instance of that -- objective of what we know is that what's in a woman's womb is a young baby, is a young child, is a human being. And to destroy that human being who's innocent is simply atrocious. And so the Catholic church upholds the moral law, which is a natural moral law.

And it's simply inconsistent for someone to say, "I'm a Catholic in good standing and yet I favor the killing of innocent unborn children." So sometimes, people who say those kinds of things have to be told by authority, "Look, you're welcome to that opinion if you want. But you can't call yourself a Catholic in good standing."

So there, Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict is simply going to implement what he's always done in his whole life, which is trying to make the teachings of Christ visible and acceptable, especially to those who claim to follow Christ.

KING: David Schindler, we've spent time looking back at past writings, looking back at past homilies. Look forward for me, if you will. What two questions do you have for this new pope that you think maybe in six months you'll come back and try to answer.

SCHINDLER: Questions that I would have -- I mean, I guess would simply first affirm my agreement with the preceding two remarks and underscore that even though this surely is going to be a much shorter papacy than the last one, I think it's a profound mistake to think of this as a caretaker sort of situation.

He is a man of courage and a man of humility. And I think he will lead in the way that the past two comments have indicated. And I really do think the characteristic of his pontificate will be a clarity and depth at articulating the inner meaning of the faith as an articulation of the truth of the love that's revealed in Jesus Christ.

And in that context, you will see great humility but also a great courage to speak in that vein. And without a concern for himself, he's been entrusted with something. And you can see that. It's very moving in the homilies that he's given. But it's something that's been entrusted to him. And he has care for it but it's not his own ego that's at stake here. It's the integrity of the faith as an answer to the question of what existence is all about.

KING: David Schindler, we thank you for your thoughts here in Washington. We also thank Father Fessio and John Allen in Rome for your thoughts on this historic day for the Roman Catholic Church, the formal installation of the new pope.

Thank you, gentlemen.

And up next, the results of our Web question of the week: Should John Bolton serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations? Plus, LATE EDITION Sunday morning talk show round-up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: And now, in case you missed it, maybe because you've been glued to CNN, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows.

The conservative group, the Family Research Council, is hosting a nationwide simulcast tonight to encourage voters to weigh in on the filibuster of judicial nominees. On "Fox News Sunday" this morning, the head of that organization, Tony Perkins, weighed in.


TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: What this boils down to is that the philosophy of that minority of liberal senators in the United States Senate has been repudiated in almost election after election, almost every recent election.

And so in order to shape the culture and drive public policy, they're holding onto the courts, and they're using the filibuster as if it's a junkyard dog to keep people from invading their territory.


KING: And more than one show turned into a heated battle over John Bolton, President Bush's nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations.

On ABC's "This Week," Republican Senator John Kyl of Arizona said that Bolton's much-criticized attributes are in his view a plus, not a minus.


SEN. JOHN KYL (R), ARIZONA: Because he's a tough guy, who supports the president's policies, try to get at him by dragging allegations from the past, 25 years ago, when somebody felt that they were put down by the guy -- we need a tough guy over at the United Nations. It has become a corrupt and ineffective institution, and the president wants to send somebody over there that can get the job done.


KING: And on CBS's "Face the Nation," Democratic Senator Chris Dodd said President Bush should reconsider Bolton's nomination.


SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I think he's going to embarrass the president. I think he's going to have a very difficult job serving, if he's confirmed narrowly by the Senate. He should withdraw, or the president ought to withdraw this nomination. There are plenty of other good people who embrace his ideological views. John Bolton is not that individual.


KING: Our LATE EDITION Web question asked: Should John Bolton serve as ambassador to the United Nations? Here is how you voted: 9 percent said yes; 91 percent said no. Remember, perhaps especially in this case, this is not a scientific poll.

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday April 24th. Wolf will be back next Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'm John King. Thanks for watching.


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