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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Josh Bolten; Interview With Nancy Pelosi
Aired November 12, 2006 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's 11 a.m. in Washington, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles, 4 p.m. in London, and 7 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for "Late Edition." We'll get to my interview with the White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, in just a moment. First, though, let's check in with CNN's Fredricka Whitfield for a quick check of what's in the news right now. Hi, Fred.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred. A day of chaos and carnage claiming the lives of dozens of Iraqis in Baghdad, with many, many more injured. This coming as Iraq's prime minister now calls for some major changes in his own government. CNN's Arwa Damon is joining us now live from the Iraqi capital with more. Arwa, what's the latest?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, those changes he is calling for is actually a major reshuffling of his cabinet, according to a press release coming out of his office, based on the needs of the current security situation. Now, there is an ongoing meeting between the cabinet and the prime minister at this point in time, and the government is being very tight-lipped as to exactly what this reshuffling would entail, who will stay in their jobs as minister and who will be removed.
But what we do know from national security adviser Mowaffak al Rubaie is that the prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, has been meeting with his inner circle for quite some time to discuss reshuffling his cabinet. Apparently, it is based on a number of reasons.
The prime minister feels that some of his ministers are not working for the benefit of the country, for the benefit of Iraq as a whole. They have not signed on to his national unity, his national reconciliation plan. He accuses some of the ministers of purely working for the benefit of their own political parties, accusing some of incompetence.
Now we don't know, again, the exact details of how this reshuffling will occur, but this does come at a time when many Iraqis on the streets are crying out for any kind of a change that will bring an end to this violence, Wolf.
BLITZER: A clearly desperate situation unfolding. Arwa, we'll stay in touch with you. Thank you very much.
Now that the dust is settling from the midterm elections, a key question is what impact will a Democratic-controlled House and Senate here in Washington have on President Bush's agenda and specifically the overall U.S. mission in Iraq? Just a little while ago, I spoke with the White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, about the new political realities facing the president in his final two years in office.
BLITZER: Josh Bolten, thanks very much for coming in.
JOSH BOLTEN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: A couple of days before the election, the vice president, Dick Cheney, said this to ABC News. He said: "The president has made clear what his objective is, it's victory in Iraq, and full speed ahead on that basis. And that's exactly what we are going to do."
And the question was irrespective of what happened in the elections. Here is the question. Is that statement from the vice president still applicable?
BOLTEN: Sure. Everybody's objective here is to succeed in Iraq. I think that's true of Democrats as well as Republicans. What the president has said is that we need to get fresh eyes on the problem. We need a fresh perspective. And that's why he has asked his Pentagon, General Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs, conducting a review of all of our options in Iraq.
He's asked his other national security agencies to do the same in parallel. We're looking forward to the recommendations of the Baker- Hamilton bipartisan Iraq Study Group. And we're looking forward to a dialogue with bipartisan leaders in Congress.
BLITZER: So you're ready to make a course adjustment right now?
BOLTEN: Always been ready to make course adjustments. You know, nobody can be happy with the situation in Iraq right now. Everybody's been working hard. But what we have been doing has not worked well enough or fast enough.
So it is clearly time to put fresh eyes on the problem. And the president has always been interested in tactical adjustments. But the ultimate goal remains the same, which is success in Iraq.
And that means a democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror and not a haven, a failed state for more terrorists.
BLITZER: Is the president open to convening the regional powers, the neighbors, if you will, of Iraq, including Iran and Syria, to try to focus in and see if there's something that can be done?
BOLTEN: Well, nothing is off the table. All of the options will be considered... BLITZER: Including talking to Iran and Syria?
BOLTEN: You know, there's been lots of talking with Iran and Syria over the years. The administration spent the first four years talking with the Syrians with no effect. The important thing is, what do the Iraqis want?
They have a sovereign, elected, democratically elected government that's trying very hard to hold that country together. And I think the most important thing is to support them in their desires.
BLITZER: Well, the Iraqis have a pretty good relationship with the Iranians and the Syrians.
BOLTEN: Well, if they want to sit down with the Iranians and Syrians, then they have -- they'll bring that proposal to us. Right now, what they want to do is work out their own problems internally. And what we, the United States and the rest of the international community ought to be doing is...
BOLTEN: ... trying to support them in that, and not do what the Iranians and Syrians are doing right now, which is making it much more difficult by actually fomenting more of the violence that's going on in Iraq.
BLITZER: But if the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group makes that as a recommendation to convene the regional parties, you're open to that?
BOLTEN: You know, the problem hasn't been a lack of communication, but we will look at whatever the Baker-Hamilton Commission comes up with because there are a lot of good, smart people there, and see what their recommendations and go from there.
BLITZER: Now there's been some suggestion, sources close to the study group, that they also want to link movement on the Iraq front to the Israeli-Palestinian front, to get more U.S. involvement to try to jump start what has been basically nothing right now, Israeli- Palestinian peace negotiations.
Are you ready to make a major new effort to get involved in trying to get Israeli-Palestinian negotiations going? Because the Arabs keep saying that that is so much of the source of tension in the region.
BOLTEN: That's always been true in the Middle East, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a source of tension there. And the United States will always be ready at the right moment to move forward.
BLITZER: With a new initiative?
BOLTEN: We will see. The timing has to be right. I mean, it has to be something that both the Israelis and the Palestinians want. We need to have the Israelis and the Palestinians come together and for the Israelis to have a partner in peace in those discussions. As soon as the moment is right, sure, the United States is going to want to move forward, and move forward aggressively.
BLITZER: What about creating three sort of semi-autonomous regions in Iraq, which is what Senator Joe Biden, among others, have recommended, with a strong central Iraqi government but a Shiite, Kurdish and a Sunni autonomous area in Iraq? Is that a good idea?
BOLTEN: You know, most of the experts that I have heard from and certainly almost all of the Iraqis that have been heard from think that some sort of partition is a bad idea. Now, federalism is a notion that has always been in mind in constructing a modern, democratic and multi-ethnic Iraq.
So somewhere on that continuum there is the right solution. Partition does not seem to be the right solution. That might actually lead to a far worse situation than we face today.
Some elements of federalism certainly ought to be plausible. But once again, this is something that the Iraqis themselves ought to work out. And we ought to support them in doing that.
BLITZER: Would the president be open to authorizing this inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction to continue his work beyond October of next year, when that office is supposed to shut down, based on legislation that the president signed into law?
BOLTEN: Yes. We will be open to that.
You know, this was an office that was originally set up to be temporary. I think only a year was supposed its term. It has been extended a couple of times.
In the most recent legislation, it was extended for an additional year, through the end of 2007. If it looks like it's still going to be needed after that, the administration will support it, instead of reverting, as was the original intention, to the normal inspector general mechanisms.
But look, the administration is as interested as everybody else is in making sure that the taxpayers' dollars are spent prudently and wisely in Iraq. And if the inspector general can help us do it, that's what we're going to want as well.
BLITZER: Why was Donald Rumsfeld fired?
BOLTEN: Donald Rumsfeld went into a series of conversations with the president, over the last several weeks, in which they agreed that we need fresh eyes on the problem in Iraq, that we need fresh perspective.
And he and the president came to the conclusion, really just in the last week, that it would be best if he stepped down at this moment. The president was reluctant to move forward unless and until he had a good, strong replacement. He found that replacement in Bob Gates. And so both he and Secretary Rumsfeld agreed that now was the time to make the change.
BLITZER: He has been in these discussions with Rumsfeld for weeks, you say. I'm going to read to you this exchange the president had with wire service reporters a few days before the election. "You see them staying with you until the end?" asked Terence Hunt of the Associated Press, referring to Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney.
"I do," Bush replied.
"So you are expecting Rumsfeld -- Secretary Rumsfeld to stay on the rest of your time here?" asked Steve Holland of Reuters.
"Yes, I am," the president said -- that according to The Washington Post.
When is it OK for the president to mislead the American public?
BOLTEN: Yes -- he wasn't. He had not made a decision at that point. At the time that that interview was held, the president hadn't even met Bob Gates. Now he started his conversations with Secretary Rumsfeld about possibly getting fresh eyes on the problem.
But the president, as I said, wasn't going to be comfortable making a change at the critical role of secretary of defense until he was sure he had somebody very strong to put in place.
BLITZER: But he was clearly thinking about replacing Rumsfeld. And when he said, "Yes, I am," to the question, "you are expecting Rumsfeld to stay on for the rest of your time here," he wasn't expecting Rumsfeld to stay on for the rest his time there.
BOLTEN: He was expecting him to stay, unless and until he had a good, solid replacement, which he did not get until after that interview. He did not sit down and talk with Bob Gates until three or four days after that interview was held.
Look, if the president had said anything else at that moment, that would have started the warranted -- there is always speculation -- but it would have started warranted speculation about a change at the secretary of defense.
And that's a terrible thing to do in the middle of a conflict if you are not actually going to make a change. You undermine your secretary of defense by starting that kind of talk.
And I think it would have been irresponsible for the president to do anything else but give full support to his secretary of defense unless and until he definitively decided to make a change. He did not make that decision until several days after that interview.
BLITZER: You know, a lot of Republicans are very angry that the decision came the day after the election. I will read to you what Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, said: "If the president had replaced Rumsfeld two weeks ago, the Republicans would still control the Senate and they would probably have 10 more House members. For the president to have suggested for the last two weeks that there would be no change and then change the day after the election is very disheartening." The argument that these Republicans are making is that the Democrats won in Virginia by what, only about 7,000 votes out of 2.5 million cast; the Democrats won in Montana by only a couple of thousand out of hundreds of thousands of votes cast.
And that signal, earlier, that there was going to be, perhaps, an adjustment in strategy toward Iraq and getting rid of Rumsfeld might have tipped the balance for you, the Republicans, in the Senate.
BOLTEN: You know, I could argue the politics of it either way. You know, it might have been disheartening for people to see a sudden change at that moment, two or three weeks before the election.
But however you view the politics of it, it doesn't matter. The president wasn't ready to make the decision until the last week. And he was determined not to inject politics into one of the most important national security decisions he has got to make.
That would have been a terrible signal to send to our troops, to our allies, to our enemies, that this president is prepared to make important national security decisions based on politics. And the president just isn't going to do it.
The American people, I think, ought to be comforted and not disheartened that the president isn't going to make those kind of decisions based on politics.
And, you know, if it affected votes one way or the other, maybe it did. I'm skeptical about what the effect would have been. But I think the president did the right thing in the right timing.
BLITZER: And coming up next, more of my interview with the White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten. We'll speak about efforts to avoid a confirmation fight in the Senate over the U.N. ambassador, John Bolton and about immigration reform and raising the minimum wage.
Then: both sides pledging bipartisanship, but is a rocky relationship between President Bush and a Democratic-run Capitol Hill inevitable? We'll talk about that with Republican Senator Arlen Specter and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.
And coming up for our North American viewers right after "Late Edition," at 1 p.m. Eastern, John Roberts hosts a special "This Week at War" from Baghdad.
"Late Edition" will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Just a short while ago, I spoke with the White House chief of Staff, Josh Bolten. Here's part two of that interview.
BLITZER: The president wants John Bolton, no relation to Josh Bolten, to be confirmed as the United States ambassador to the United Nations. And he is going to re-submit that nomination, we're told.
His recess appointment, as it's called, is set to expire in January. If the Senate doesn't approve it right now -- and all of the indications from Senator Biden and Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee are that they don't want to do that -- will the president do a second recess appointment for John Bolton?
BOLTEN: That's difficult to do. But right now, we're working on getting Ambassador Bolton confirmed. He's done a terrific job there. He's been the opposite of what many of his critics expected him to be. And that is, he has been a good consensus builder. He has helped lead the U.N. Security Council to good resolutions on Lebanon, on North Korea, a variety of other issues. So he's actually been a very effective U.N. ambassador, and I think the country's well-served to have him where he is.
Now we're going to be making the case to the members, to ask them to formally confirm him, which is the way we'd like to go. Some members have concluded that their earlier views about him weren't on target. Senator Voinovich is one of those who has decided that based on Ambassador Bolton's performance, I believe he's prepared to support him.
So we hope other members will see that, and that we'll be able to get him confirmed.
BLITZER: Very quickly, because we are almost out of time, why would it be difficult to do a second recess appointment?
BOLTEN: There are technical problems with that, one of them being that Ambassador Bolton couldn't get paid. But, look, right now we're hopeful that we'll be able to get him confirmed in the normal course of things. And we hope to get cooperation from a -- bipartisan cooperation in getting that done.
BLITZER: Are you ready to work with the Democrats to raise the minimum wage?
BOLTEN: We're ready to work with the Democrats on a whole range of issues...
BLITZER: Including the minimum wage?
BOLTEN: Including the minimum wage. The president's always said that he would support a minimum wage that didn't end up pricing a lot of people at the lower end of the income scale out of the market, that is, costing them jobs. So, we've always been ready to do that. And we're ready work with Democrats on that issue. A whole bunch of other issues that, Wolf -- the president met this week with Speaker Pelosi, or incoming Speaker Pelosi. He met with Leader Reid. The tone in those conversations was excellent.
Now, you know, nobody's expecting that either side is going to compromise principle. We probably shouldn't. But there is, I think, a lot of area for possible common ground and...
BLITZER: What about comprehensive immigration reform? Is that one of the top priorities you want to get through, including a guest worker program with this new Senate and House?
BOLTEN: It is. And I think there's an opportunity for real bipartisan cooperation on immigration reform. It's one of the issues that the president discussed with Congresswoman Pelosi and Senator Reid. And we're cautiously optimistic about making progress on them.
BLITZER: So bottom line, with a Democratic majority in the House, a Democratic majority in the Senate, the situation changes in Washington for you?
BOLTEN: It does change, but, you know, it -- there are still a lot of opportunities in it. Every modern president has to some degree or another faced the kind of situation that this president now faces with a Democratic House and Senate.
The president has experience as governor of Texas working very successfully with a legislature controlled by Democrats. The body language so far is very good from the Democratic -- the incoming Democratic leadership. We're prepared to work with them.
And, you know, there are going to be areas where we can't work together. But they don't need to contaminate the many areas where we can. So we go into this new season of politics in Washington, D.C., with some cautious optimism.
BLITZER: Josh Bolten, thanks very much for coming in.
BOLTEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: And coming up at the top of the hour, the next hour, that is, she'll be making history as the first female speaker of the House of Representatives. My special interview with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.
But up next, a check of what's in the news right now, including a top Senate Democrat's decision about a run for the White House in 2008.
And this programming note: CNN goes beyond the headlines to show the frantic fight to save the lives of wounded U.S. troops. You won't want to miss "CNN Presents: Combat Hospital" tonight, 8 p.m. Eastern. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The elections are over. The problems haven't gone away. And I assured the senators that we will cooperate as closely as we can to solve common problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush offering a post-election olive branch to Senate Democrats. Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Joining us now, from Philadelphia, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, and in New York, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. As the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, he's getting a lot of credit for the Democrats winning control of the U.S. Senate.
Senators, welcome back to "Late Edition." And Senator Schumer, I'll start with you. First of all, congratulations. I'm not even sure you were convinced the Democrats would get those six seats you needed to become the majority. But you did it.
And I assume Senator Specter is going to congratulate you as well. Go ahead, Senator Specter.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I've already congratulated Senator Schumer as the leader of that group. He deserves congratulations. And now let's move on to tomorrow.
BLITZER: And just for the record, Senator Schumer, are you planning on doing this again, looking ahead to the Senate in 2008, running that Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee?
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, Senator Reid has asked me. I'm thinking about it long and hard. And I'll give Senator Reid an answer tomorrow or the next day.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Iraq right now.
Senator Schumer, you heard Josh Bolten, the White House chief of staff, say that they're open to new ideas, although he's lukewarm at best to any fixed timetable the Democrats might have in mind.
He is open to a regional conference, including Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, a dialogue with them, potentially, even. What do you make of this?
SCHUMER: Well, I think it's all to the good, Wolf. You know, one thing is clear. The present strategy in Iraq is not working, and there needs to be a change in course. Many of us took the fact that Secretary Rumsfeld is no longer defense secretary as a first step, a signal that they were open to new ideas. And we'd like very much to work with the president and try to get some kind of change of course in Iraq.
BLITZER: What kind of timetable, Senator Schumer, would you like to see implemented, to get U.S. troops out of Iraq?
SCHUMER: Well, basically, I've been supportive of, basically, the consensus Democratic plan. We call it the Levin-Reed Resolution. It was voted on. I think 39 of the 45 Democrats supported it.
And it basically says, let us stop patrolling a civil war. What's happened is something we all never bargained for, that we seem to just be policing the war between the Shiites and the Sunnis.
Instead, let's make 2007 a year of transition, where we redeploy a large number of our troops out of harm's way. Some would remain in Iraq. Some would be outside of Iraq.
And the troops should focus on four goals, not policing a civil war, but rather counterterrorism, force protection, logistics and training.
As we do that, we should also let the Iraqis know that we're not going to stay there forever and they better get their act together because the United States presence isn't a forever proposition.
BLITZER: All right, Senator Specter, what do you think?
SPECTER: Well, I think it's a good sign that the Iraqi foreign minister is going to shake up his cabinet. There's been a lot of disunity there, and I think, before any significant progress can be made, the Iraqis have to come to terms. They have got to quell the infighting between the Shiites and the Sunnis and make some very serious political adjustments.
With respect to withdrawal, listen, had we known that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction, I don't think we would have gone on, in the first place.
And being there, we don't want to withdraw if we're going to leave chaos. Troop withdrawals are definitely in the offing, but it's a military decision to determine when there's sufficient military force in the Iraqi army and in their police to maintain stability.
But the election is not only a clarion call to the administration, but it's also notice to the Iraqi government that we're not going to be there forever.
BLITZER: Are you comfortable, Senator Specter, with the United States, assuming the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group Commission recommends a regional conference with Iraq's neighbors, including Syria and Iran, to bring them in to try to work something out?
Are you comfortable with that kind of dialogue? SPECTER: Yes. I think that would be a good starting point. I have always thought that we ought to be talking to Syria -- the United States should be. And I think we ought to be talking to Iran.
I have made efforts and have talked to the Iranian ambassador to the U.N. and the Syrian minister. And, of course, I'm not in charge of foreign policy, but I think talking is always good.
And if you have to structure it in a regional context, if that's what makes President Bush comfortable, let's start there.
BLITZER: What do you think, Senator Schumer?
SCHUMER: I agree it's a good idea. You don't have to like people, agree with them or give in to them to talk to them.
And what we've learned, throughout the world, Wolf, is no matter how strong we are militarily, we can't do this on our own.
Look at what's happening in both Iran, with their process for nuclear weapons, with North Korea.
We depend on other countries, some of whom are not our allies. But in this war on terror, where small groups of bad people can hurt us, a more multilateral approach is important in the Middle East and elsewhere.
BLITZER: Let me read to you from the editorial in "The Economist," Senator Schumer: "Anyone expecting an immediate American withdrawal will be disappointed. Mr. Bush, so he says, is 'committed to victory.' Unless they are planning to cut off funding to our troops in the field, an unthinkable option so close to the next presidential election, the Democrats can do nothing about it."
Is that true?
SCHUMER: No, that's not true at all. As Arlen knows, you know, when you're in the majority and the president is of the other party, there are many ways that you can exert persuasion, exert pressure, et cetera -- obviously, holding hearings.
Now, we're not going to hold a whole raft of hearings pointing the finger back at what happened in 2001. We've had enough commissions on that.
But for instance, I'd like to know why the top generals feel Iraqization isn't working. This is the ninth new plan we've had on Iraqization. A hearing on that would be worthwhile and productive in pointing to the future.
There are other things you can do as well. The Economist is right in that just a dramatic cut-off and saying "no funds for Iraq" isn't going to happen. It would be unfair to our troops.
But there are many ways that a Congress can exert pressure short of that. BLITZER: Senator Specter, are you happy the president dumped Donald Rumsfeld as his defense secretary?
BLITZER: And what does that signal, as far as you're concerned?
SPECTER: Well, there's no doubt that it signals that our policies have not been working. I said, some time ago, that the decision as to a change in policy ought not to wait on an election, that we ought to do it as soon as it was evident and we had something better to say.
Jim Baker had said, weeks ago, that there were alternatives between staying the course, on one side, and cutting and running, on the other. And I think that change should have come some time ago.
And I was not about to call for secretary Rumsfeld's ouster because I think the president is the commander in chief. And look, it's the president's policies. He's really the one in charge. But once he had said Rumsfeld's going, he had my wholehearted support.
BLITZER: You think he should have done this before the election?
And if he would have, would it have made a difference?
SPECTER: He should have done it as soon as he had made up his mind. And that's a hard thing to calculate. But it's highly doubtful that he made up his mind between the time the election returns came in on Tuesday and Wednesday when Rumsfeld was out.
And if Rumsfeld had been out, you bet it would have made a difference. I'd still be chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
BLITZER: And he might be right, Senator Schumer, because in Virginia and Montana, only a few thousand votes made the difference. And presumably, if the president, a few weeks earlier, would have signaled a major change in Iraq strategy by getting rid of Rumsfeld, that might have made a difference.
SCHUMER: Well, you never know. It's very possible it would have, but it's also possible it wouldn't have. The president's base might have become disillusioned and more of them would have stayed home.
The people are really asking for a change in Iraq, not just a change in tactics but a change in strategy. And I think they were looking for that change. I think, just to say Rumsfeld's leaving without enunciating a change in strategy would have had less of an effect than most people think.
BLITZER: Will you plan, Senator Schumer, on confirming Robert Gates to be the next defense secretary? SCHUMER: Well, I think the inclination of Democrats is to give the president latitude on an executive appointment, particularly one that involves defense or foreign policy.
But there will be questions asked. The number one question I have of Mr. Gates is, is he going to really entertain different points of view?
When you talk to the generals, even those who are on duty now, it was known that Secretary Rumsfeld never wanted to hear a point of view that was different than his own. He was not likely to want to entertain facts on the ground that didn't square with his own little narrow viewpoint. And I think that's one of the reasons we had trouble. As Arlen said, the buck stops with the president. But if his top adviser in charge isn't listening to other points of view, it's trouble.
Will Gates be a man who is more open, whatever his own views are, to entertaining other points of view, given that our policy in Iraq is not doing well.
BLITZER: We're going to take a break, but Senator Specter, are you going to vote to confirm the nominee for the defense secretary?
SPECTER: I would. I know Bob Gates. I was on the intelligence committee when he was head of CIA. I like what Senator Schumer just said about giving the president latitude on foreign policy matters. Chuck, let's apply that to Ambassador Bolton. John Bolton had some problems in the past, but he's done a first-rate job as ambassador to the U.N. Got 15 to nothing on sanctions on Iran.
I'm going to adopt the Schumer approach of giving the president latitude on foreign policy.
SPECTER: That means Ambassador Bolton's confirmed.
BLITZER: Hold on, don't answer that, Senator Schumer. Don't answer that question. We're going to pick up on John Bolton when we come back. We're going to take a quick break. Lots more with Senator Schumer, Senator Specter. We'll also talk about the new incoming Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill. Will it really be ready to work with President Bush now that there's been this enormous power shift here in Washington?
And for our North American viewers, tonight 7 p.m. Eastern, CNN and Lou Dobbs salute America's heroes, the men and women in uniform protecting Americans at home and abroad.
"Late Edition" continues right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're continuing our conversation with the Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. We were talking, Senator Schumer, about John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. His recess appointment is about to end in January. The president signaling he's going to resubmit his nomination to the Senate in the coming days. Are you ready to confirm him now?
SCHUMER: No, I'm not. And let me just say, first of all, in this Congress it's still a 55-45 Congress -- Senate. The president hasn't been able to get the votes. Early on, George Voinovich opposed him. Now Voinovich has changed his mind. Senator Hagel expressed some doubts, also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I don't know if he still has the doubts.
But Senator Chafee has said he's voting against him. So I think it's kind of moot until the president can get his own ducks in order. But as for Bolton himself, I mean, for me, he's something of a mixed bag.
On the one hand, I fully support his full support of Israel. I think he understands that there are lots of people in the Middle East, including Hamas, that believes Israel has no right to exist, and you can't talk with anyone if they don't believe you have a right to exist.
On the other hand, Bolton's philosophy has been very unilateral. The U.S. can do it all. To heck with the rest of the world, to heck the rest of the nations. And in this new world, where we have to fight a war on terrorism, a global war on terrorism, we can't fight it alone.
BLITZER: Well, let me press you, Senator Schumer, on that. Don't you think in the past year, while he's been at the United Nations, he has tried to reach out, and Senator Specter did point out he did get a 15 to nothing vote on sanctions through the United Nations Security Council.
SCHUMER: He did get a 15-nothing vote, but it was a very weak resolution. Maybe with somebody who had more trust among the other players in the U.N. that we would have gotten a stronger resolution.
And there's still, from what I am told and certainly some of our experts, Senator Biden and others, Senator Dodd, that there's lots of bad blood between Bolton and others. And you don't need that when you're trying to build a world consensus on Iraq, on Iran, on North Korea.
BLITZER: Let's move on. Senator Specter, let me read to you three Newsweek polls that are just out. This question, can President Bush be effective during his last two years in office? Thirty percent said yes, 66 percent said no. How is President Bush handling his job as president? Thirty-one percent approve, 63 percent disapprove. And are you satisfied with the way things are going in the United States? Twenty-nine percent say yes, 63 percent say no. In your opinion, Senator Specter, was this election and the Democratic victory in the House and Senate and the gubernatorial races out there across the country a referendum, a vote of no confidence in the president?
SPECTER: I don't think so. On your first question, can he succeed in his last two years? Yes, but he's going to have to be open. He's going to have to carry out what he's already started.
The election against the Republican Congress turned on a lot of factors. We couldn't pass an immigration reform bill, which was inexcusable. We had the White House and both houses of Congress. We cut out habeas corpus. Only three Republicans in the United States Senate voted to retain habeas corpus, which is a very fundamental constitutional right.
We were against stem cells on the Republican side, by and large. We got into a fight, Republicans got into a fight with Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's. There were a lot of reasons why the Republicans were out of kilter with what the American people wanted.
Not only was there gridlock between Republicans and Democrats -- and that doesn't have to be. Leahy and I have worked together, Harkin and I have worked together. But we Republicans couldn't even agree among ourselves. So the American people were really fed up with what we were doing in Congress. Totally separate from the president. And of course, the war in Iraq was a very, very heavy negative overhang.
BLITZER: And in the new issue of Time magazine, Senator Schumer, Karl Rove, the president's top political strategist, says this, and I'll read it to you: "The profile of corruption in the exit polls was bigger than I'd expected. Abramoff, lobbying, Foley, Haggard" -- the disgraced evangelical leader -- "added to the general distaste that people have for all things Washington, and it just reached critical mass."
Is that part of your assessment as well?
SCHUMER: Well, it's part of the assessment, but let's not forget all of the things Arlen mentioned the president strongly opposed. He has strongly opposed habeas, he's strongly opposed stem-cell research, he's strongly opposed many of these other things. It's not just the fights among Republicans. The president proved to be out of touch.
Now, if this election is a wake-up call to him, and he decides to move more to the center and work in a bipartisan way with Democrats, I know that Leader Reid, Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic rank and file, we're eager to work with the president and try to get things done. Everyone, not just the people outside Washington, but I think even those of us within the Beltway, are tired of the partisanship, and we can work together.
In the past, the president has not reached out much to Democrats except on a few isolated issues. Arlen Specter has always reached out to us, but the president usually didn't follow. If he changes, we could really get some things done, and he could retrieve his presidency.
BLITZER: We heard Josh Bolten, the White House chief of staff, Senator Specter, say one of the first priorities on the president's legislative calendar with the new Congress will be comprehensive immigration reform, including a guest worker program, and some sort of path toward citizenship for the 12 million or so illegal immigrants in this country right now. You've supported the president on this. Senator Schumer, I believe you've supported the president on this. Is this likely to be the first major piece of new legislation that both parties will work on and get through? Senator Specter, first to you.
SPECTER: Let's not wait. We're going back into session tomorrow. We've passed a comprehensive bill in the Senate. The House passed one on border control, and border control is indispensable, but it's not the end of the process.
I have a call in to Chairman Sensenbrenner. He's still the chairman. I'm still the chairman. We'll be in for at least a couple of weeks. Let's get it done now. No reason not to move ahead with guest worker. Conservative Speaker Hastert is for the it. The president is for it.
We have to deal with the 11 million undocumented immigrants. No amnesty. But we can work it out, and we ought to do it now. If we wait until next year, January will turn into February, and February will turn into March. And it will be midyear at best before anything is done.
BLITZER: All right, we unfortunately have to leave it right there. Senator Specter, thanks very much. Senator Schumer...
SPECTER: Nice being with you.
BLITZER: ... once again, congratulations to you. Clearly you did a pretty good job for your fellow Democrats.
Coming up next, in case you missed it, we'll have some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States, where the election results were the hot topic.
And coming up for our north American viewers right after "Late Edition," an hour from now, 1 p.m. Eastern, John Roberts hosts a special "This Week at War" from Baghdad. Much more "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. They all focused in on the midterm election results.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: There's a lot of time for this president and this Congress to work together to address the big issues our country faces. And I think that's the real lesson from this election this past Tuesday, is that the American people want to see their political parties in Washington work together to achieve the great goals our country faces right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR CARL LEVIN, D-MICHIGAN: The people spoke dramatically, overwhelmingly, resoundingly to change the course in Iraq in a message that was heard around the world. I hope it was heard in the White House.
But the first order of business, I believe, is to join hopefully with some Republicans who I think now will emerge to press the administration to change course in Iraq by telling the Iraqis that our presence there is not open-ended.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZONA: Many of our spending, the scandals, the ongoing scandals, the large government programs, in other words, one of the pillars of the Republican Party is fiscal conservatives. They were alienated by the fact that we let spending lurch out of control. I think that that had a very significant effect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR HARRY REID, D-NEVADA, MINORITY LEADER: I think that what we're going to try to do, and we need the cooperation of the president, is to try to have programs that are paid for. We need to recognize that the tax system, we may need to take a look at it, but we're not going to do this in the first six months or the first year, maybe not even during this Congress. But we are going to stop the bleeding of red ink.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
Let's take a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States. Time's special report on the midterm elections shows why the center is the new place to be. Newsweek explores why father -- that would be George Herbert Walker Bush -- knows best. And U.S. News and World Report says, "America Changes Course." There's much more ahead on "Late Edition," including my conversation with the lawmaker poised to be the next speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi. She'll be the first woman ever to hold that position. Plus, will post-election changes at the Pentagon result in a strategy shift on the ground in Iraq? Much more coming up. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The American people voted for change and they voted for Democrats to take our country in a new direction.
BLITZER (voice over): Democrats take control of the House and Senate after big gains in the midterm elections.
But how will the transfer of power affect policy for the American people?
We'll talk to the congresswoman slated to become the next speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am making a change at the secretary of defense to bring a fresh perspective as to how to achieve something I think most Americans want, which is a victory.
BLITZER: And after the elections, President Bush makes a major change at the Pentagon. Does Donald Rumsfeld's departure signal a new strategy for the military mission in Iraq?
We'll get insight and analysis from three Pentagon insiders: former defense secretary, William Cohen; former NATO supreme allied commander, General George Joulwan; and New York Times military correspondent and co-author of the best-selling book "Cobra II," Michael Gordon.
Searching for Osama bin Laden: Where is the world's most wanted man? We'll discuss that and the war on terror with Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll get to my interview with the woman poised to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, in just a moment.
First, though, here's Fredricka Whitfield with a quick check of what's in the news right now. Fred?
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred.
This week, after Democrats gained control of both houses of the United States Congress, I had the chance to speak with the incoming House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.
We spoke in her office on Capitol Hill about the election results, the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld and her plans for a Democratic-run House.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us. I don't know whether to call you Madam Speaker-designate or -- what's the formal title until you're actually sworn in as speaker, what, January 3?
PELOSI: Well, this week's still Nancy.
BLITZER: I'm not going call you Nancy. But the president, when he spoke with you on the phone this morning, he called you...
PELOSI: He called me speaker-elect, but technically, the caucus still has to act. Once they act -- the speaker is a constitutional officer elected by the House of Representatives, so that happens in the first week of January.
BLITZER: I'll call you Congresswoman for the time being. But there will be plenty of time later to call you "Speaker." It's obviously an historic moment, a woman becoming speaker of the House of Representatives.
What is the impact? What does that mean for you?
PELOSI: Well, what it means for our country, I think, is something very important. The Congress of the United States, as you know, Wolf, is an institution steeped in history and tradition. For a woman to break through what I call the marble ceiling here is something quite remarkable. It sends a message that women can do anything.
BLITZER: And do you feel a special responsibility, knowing that historically this has never happened in our country before, that a woman becomes the speaker of the House?
PELOSI: I do. I feel a very special responsibility. I feel responsibility to have the most honest and open Congress, to have a Congress that has civility as its hallmark, bipartisanship in our debate, in our deliberations and fiscal soundness, as a woman would want to have, not heaping mountains of debt on future generations.
And as the first woman speaker, I would want to conduct myself, perform my duties in a way that would be sure that it wouldn't be too long before we would have another woman speaker of the House.
BLITZER: It puts a little added pressure on you, but we'll get back to that. Let's talk about the news of the day.
Lots of news, but we'll start with Donald Rumsfeld, a bombshell announcement. Only a few days ago, the president said he was doing a fantastic job, together with the vice president, Dick Cheney.
Is this what you wanted, Rumsfeld to step down?
PELOSI: Yes. Well, there were two major interventions since the president's last reaffirmation of his support for Secretary Rumsfeld. One was, of course, the vote and the voice of the American people yesterday, rejecting the "stay the course" policy of the president in Iraq.
And just before that, the voice of the military, in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps Times saying that "Rumsfeld Must Go," to use their words.
The president got the message, thank heavens. And I think it signals a new change, I hope, for the better in Iraq.
BLITZER: What do you think of his designated successor, the former CIA director, Robert Gates?
PELOSI: Well, this is a matter for the Senate to deliberate on. And the president has proposed they will confirm. And I very much look forward to the hearings on that nomination.
BLITZER: But fundamentally, do you think there will be a real change in U.S. policy toward Iraq, or this is simply changing the cast of characters?
Will the president, in other words, do what you want him to do?
PELOSI: Well, first of all, the president is the commander in chief. Donald Rumsfeld and whoever the president appoints or is confirmed -- Mr. Gates in this case -- is an employee of the president. So the policy is the president's.
The implementation of the policy is Mr. Rumsfeld. And that's why I think it was very important for him to go.
BLITZER: If the president pursues the current policies, as you call it "stay the course," which he no longer uses that phrase, one option would be, in the House of Representatives, the power of the purse to cut funding for the war in Iraq.
Is that on the table?
PELOSI: Not really. We would never...
BLITZER: Why isn't it on the table?
PELOSI: Well, because our troops are in harm's way. They have been sent there, whether you agree with the policy or not, and I certainly did not agree with the resolution to go to war. We would not withhold our funding for the troops there.
BLITZER: So what can the House of Representatives do, with you as speaker, if the president, over the next two years, continues the strategy, the policy as is? PELOSI: Well, what we have done, the House and Senate now, with a Democratic majority in the Senate, I anticipate, Senator Reid and I -- the Democratic leader there -- have put forth some principles for solving the problem in Iraq.
BLITZER: You can make recommendations, basically, but there's not much more -- if you're not going to use the power of the purse, there's not much more that you can do. You can do some oversight.
PELOSI: Well, the oversight will be very important because then the truth would be revealed. But, remember that "stay the course" has with it -- whether the president changed the slogan, he hasn't changed the strategy or the approach.
And "stay the course" also implies staying the course of having a one-party policy in Iraq. Even his own Republicans, in some cases, are deserting him on this.
So I think, in the interest of our national security and protecting the American people and bringing stability to the region and to honoring our commitment to our troops, we need a different approach.
And extending the hand of partnership to the president, not partisanship but partnership, to say, let's work together to come to some common ground where we can solve the problem in Iraq.
BLITZER: Can you work with this president?
Because he was asked, at the news conference earlier today, about some things you've said of him. Our Suzanne Malveaux asked a very pointed question of the president, quoting some of the remarks, "a liar," "misleading the country."
PELOSI: I never called the president a liar. I never called him that.
BLITZER: But you have a problem working with this president. Is all that in the past now?
Are you ready to start afresh in working as the incoming speaker?
PELOSI: Absolutely. You know, the campaign is over. Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern, and absolutely willing to work in a bipartisan way, in partnership, not partisanship, with the Republicans in the Congress and with the president of the United States.
BLITZER: The vice president said, the other day "... the president has made clear what his objective is. It's victory in Iraq and full speed ahead on that basis, and that's exactly what we're going to do."
Do you consider that statement -- that was pre-election -- still operative? PELOSI: I would say to the vice president that it's a little too late for full speed ahead. We've been in Iraq for 3 1/2 years, longer than the U.S. was in Europe during World War II. So "full speed ahead" -- I don't think so.
Right now, again, we need a new direction that brings stability to the region and makes the American people safer.
BLITZER: The power that you will have as the majority is subpoena power, when you conduct your investigations, your oversight.
You said on "Meet the Press," back on May 7, "Well, we will have subpoena power. Investigation does not equate to impeachment. Investigation is the requirement of Congress. It's about checks and balances."
Tell us how you plan on pursuing -- using this subpoena power.
PELOSI: Well, first of all, others have said to us, do the Democrats want to get even now that we're in the majority?
We're not about wanting to get even. What we want to do is to help the American people get ahead, not to get even with the Republicans.
And so as we go forward with our hearing process, which is the normal checks and balance responsibility of Congress, it will be to what is in furtherance of passing legislation that makes the policy better, that improves the lives of the American people. In order to make important decisions, you have to base them on facts. That's the only way your judgment...
BLITZER: So you'll use that subpoena power as appropriate.
PELOSI: Well, it's not a question -- well, subpoena power is a last resort. We would hope that there would be cooperation from the executive branch in terms of investigating the prewar intelligence. I don't know what those -- those decisions will be made by our caucus with the wisdom of the committees of jurisdiction. They may or may not be a priority.
We're a brand new caucus. We have many new excellent members coming in, and we will establish our priorities together, but we will not abdicate our responsibility as the first branch of government, Article One, the legislative branch, and our checks and balances responsibility.
BLITZER: I ask the question about subpoena power because the vice president, once again, made clear if you subpoena him, he's not necessarily going to play ball. "I have no idea that I'm going to be subpoenaed," he said the other day. "And, obviously, we'd sit down and look at it at the time. But probably not, in the sense that the president and the vice president are constitutional officers and don't appear before the Congress."
PELOSI: Well, as you know, President Ford did, and he wasn't subpoenaed, because he came without a subpoena. But why are we even talking about this? We're so far from that. We're at a place where we're here about the future.
Whatever information we need to make the future better, to go forward, whether it's to protect our country, to end our engagement in Iraq, to make our economy fair, whatever it is -- we need to move toward energy independence, I might add -- that's where our priorities are. Information is central to that. So, we would have hearings to obtain information.
BLITZER: Here's what you said on "60 Minutes" back in October: "This election is about them. This is a referendum on them. Making them lame ducks is good enough for me."
PELOSI: Well, that was in answer to their question about impeachment. I said impeachment is off the table. Making the president a lame duck, that is to say, not a president with total power where there's no Congressional questioning, oversight, or hearings about his policy when there should be, so we will now work together. The campaign, as I said, is over. We're ready to lead, prepared to govern and look forward to working with them.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time, but a couple of housekeeping questions. The majority leader in the new Congress. We know Steny Hoyer wants it. John Murtha, an outspoken critic in the war in Iraq, wants it. Who do you want to be the majority leader?
PELOSI: I don't even know completely who is running. All kinds of ambition emerges after you win a majority, as I am learning, and so when we see all of that, we'll go forward. I will say, though, both of them have served our party very well. Steny Hoyer I've known since we were interns in Senator Brewster's office here. I'm from Maryland, as you know. And then Jack Murtha performed a great service to the country in blowing the whistle on this war one year ago.
BLITZER: And finally, can we assume that the ranking members, now the minority members, of the various committees, will automatically step up and become the chairmen of those committees?
PELOSI: Well, again, that will be a decision of the House Democratic Caucus. Merit, seniority, diversity and the support of the caucus are some of the criteria that are spelled out in our own rules. Most of them, I think, will go forward, but I can't speak for the entire caucus.
BLITZER: What about the Intelligence Committee?
PELOSI: What about it?
BLITZER: Do you think Jane Harman would be the appropriate chair, Alcee Hastings would be the appropriate chairman?
PELOSI: What you have to understand about the Intelligence Committee is the speaker of the House and the minority leader on the first day of Congress appoint a whole new intelligence committee each term. Sometimes they reappoint the same people. Sometimes they don't. But there is no seniority on the intelligence committee.
BLITZER: Let me just congratulate you and wish you the best of luck. This is going to be an exciting ride. We started off that you are going to be the first woman to be the speaker of House, so you have an enormous amount of responsibility that comes with the job. A little bit extra because you are making history.
PELOSI: Well, I appreciate your saying that, and I think one of my first acts as, post-election will be to become a grandmother for the sixth time. We're anxiously awaiting the birth of our grandchild, who was due the first week in November. So a good omen. We'll get ready for our new grandbaby as we get ready for a new Congress.
BLITZER: Well, we'll wish you only the best on that front as well.
PELOSI: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up next, would setting a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq hurt or help the overall situation there? We'll get special insight from former Defense Secretary William Cohen, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General George Joulwan, and New York Times military correspondent Michael Gordon. They'll also assess former CIA Director Robert Gates, the man President Bush has chosen to replace Donald Rumsfeld over at the Pentagon.
Then, where are Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden? We'll discuss the hunt for al Qaida's top leadership with the Pakistani prime minister, Shaukat Aziz.
And coming up for our North American viewers right after "Late Edition" at 1 p.m. Eastern, John Roberts hosts a special "This Week at War" from Baghdad. Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: It's been the highest honor of my life to serve with the talented men and women of the Department of Defense, the amazing men and women, young men and women in uniform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The outgoing defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, speaking after President Bush's surprise announcement that the Pentagon's top man is stepping aside.
Joining us now to talk about Rumsfeld's departure and a lot more, including the man who will be replacing him, the impact on U.S. Strategy in Iraq, three guests: former Defense Secretary William Cohen, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General George Joulwan and New York Times chief military correspondent Michael Gordon. He's the co-author of the best-selling book, "Cobra II, the Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq."
Thanks very much, gentlemen, for coming in. Secretary Cohen, let me start with you. Will the departure of Donald Rumsfeld have any impact, significant impact, on overall U.S. policy strategy toward Iraq?
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Oh, I think clearly any time you bring someone new in that that individual is going have a different relationship with the president, with Capitol Hill, which is critically important, not to mention with the joint chiefs of staffs and the commanders on the field. So, a different person brings a different viewpoint and a different dynamic with all of those groups.
If the policy -- it's not enough to change the person. If the policy's going to remain the same, then in the final analysis, that won't make much difference. But I think in the beginning, a lot will change in terms of the relationships.
BLITZER: General Joulwan, in terms of fighting a war, the men and women who actually have to go to the front, nearly 150,000 of whom are on the ground in Iraq right now, does a new defense secretary make a difference?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN, FORMER NATO ALLIED SUPREME COMMANDER: Of course it makes a difference, but I think that the men and women in the armed forces will adapt to this. And I think they will continue with the mission until they get further instructions, and what they're eagerly awaiting is what will those instructions be, what are these different groups that are meeting, and what will come down to them. But for the men and women on the ground, they'll continue with the mission as it is.
BLITZER: Is there a sense -- and you covered this, Pentagon, the U.S. military, on a day-to-day basis, Michael. Is there a sense that a major shift is in the works right now as far as day-to-day tactics and strategy toward Iraq, dealing with the crisis in Iraq?
MICHAEL GORDON, NEW YORK TIMES: I think have you to differentiate between the situation on the ground in Iraq -- and I was there a few weeks ago -- and the overarching policy in Washington. In terms of day-to-day tactics in Iraq, there's not a change. The troops go about doing what they're doing, which is trying and prevent Iraqis from killing other Iraqis. In Washington, there is a sense that there's going to be a major course correction.
BLITZER: And based on the Iraq study group, whatever recommendations they come up with, the former Secretary of State James Baker, the former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton and his team, this is a 10-member panel. Is that what everyone's waiting for in December, to see what the recommendations are?
GORDON: It's become the principal vehicle for the course correction, also because one of its former members, Bob Gates, is being installed as Don Rumsfeld's successor at the Pentagon. So I think the expectation is the commission will try to come up with something every panel member can agree on, and then Gates will implement it at the defense department.
BLITZER: I want to talk about Robert Gates in a moment, but Ken Adelman, who is a former Pentagon official during the Reagan administration, is quoted in the Vanity Fair article that's caused a lot of buzz out there, saying this of Rumsfeld: "I'm crushed by his performance. Did he change or were we wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged before? I don't know. He certainly fooled me."
Assess six years of Donald Rumsfeld. He was your successor. You were the defense secretary during the final years of the Clinton administration. Give us your assessment six years of Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.
COHEN: Well, I don't want to assess Donald Rumsfeld. I think he is correct; history will judge his performance during those six years. But it's clear that there were a number of assumptions made that turned out to be without foundation in terms of what it would take in terms of maintaining stability following that lightning strike into Baghdad, in terms of how we would be greeted as liberators and in fact how we'd pay for the entire operation.
So I think those mistakes, miscalculations are pretty well- established by the press. And history will judge whether or not we were able to adapt in the face of that. Clearly, we are still bogged down, and I would follow up with the initial question.
We ought to be careful about having too much irrational exuberance about the Baker Commission coming forward with a consensus. It seems to me, based on recent reports, there's still some division in terms of how they should proceed. If there is going to be a division, that will certainly have an impact in terms of overall policy.
BLITZER: One of the recommendations that has been mooted out there could be bringing in the neighbors of Iraq. Not only Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but also Iran and Syria and some sort of regional dialogue to deal with this issue. What do you make of that?
JOULWAN: Well, I think that dialogue would be good in this case. I think, also, to add on to what's been said, there is also, under the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, a group of senior military folks also coming up with the way ahead.
And I think part of that will be negotiation, will be how do we get this wider Middle East strategy, not just Iraq, but Afghanistan, in southern Lebanon with Syria, and include Iran in a broader comprehensive strategic look at what needs to be done, and I think our military is going to play a major role if doing that.
BLITZER: The comparison has been made to the Dayton conference on Bosnia that was instrumental in trying to stop the fighting there during the Clinton administration. Is that a worthy comparison?
GORDON: I think it's a little strained historically, but I think, to my mind, there is certainly no harm and some advantages potentially in talking, for the United States to talk to Iraq's neighbors. The Iraqi government already does that.
But I think a lot of the ideas that have been kicked around for how to deal with Iraq now look good simply because they haven't been put to the test. I think Iraq is a very, very difficult situation, and I think we're going to find out that even when we try to do this course correction, that that's not going to be a magic solution, that there's still a very difficult road ahead.
BLITZER: By nominating Robert Gates, a former CIA director, to be the next defense secretary, someone who served during the first president's administration and someone closely aligned with James Baker, former secretary of state, Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser, more of what's called the realistic, the realist school of foreign policy as opposed to the neoconservative school of foreign policy, that sends an important signal, I assume, to the men and women of the armed forces.
COHEN: Well, I think it sends an important signal, but we ought not to oversimplify it. Jim Mann, who has written about the Vulcans, which this administration's cabinet has been called, has pointed out that Bob Gates was not necessarily on the same page with Secretary Baker during the Bush administration and did, in fact, have his conflict with Secretary Shultz. So it doesn't necessarily mean that he's going to simply be a carbon copy of whatever Secretary Baker recommends.
But it does, by virtue of his position on the commission, give him an added ability to see these options more clearly. And once again, depending upon whether there can be a consensus reached by the commission, if they are going to be divided, we are simply going to find ourselves divided on Capitol Hill and with the administration and the American people. That does not bode well for the American people and for the people who are out there fighting on our behalf.
BLITZER: What's your take on Robert Gates?
JOULWAN: Well, first of all, I was appointed to my first four- star position under the first Bush administration in Panama as the commander of southern command. And during that time, we not only fought the first Gulf War, but we also brought peace to El Salvador in 1992 with a limit of 55 advisers on the ground, and we were successful. The government was successful against the FMLN insurgents, and integrated those into the police, into the military, and into the political structure.
I think at that time we took a 10-year look at Panama. I think you need to have a five- or 10-year plan for Iraq and Afghanistan and how we're going to proceed, and I hope that this administration would be up to that sort of long-range look.
BLITZER: And in 1991, as all of you remember, not only was the first Gulf War waged early in 1991, by the end of 1991 there was the collapse of the Soviet Union. All of that taking place during that first Bush administration.
Guys, we're going to continue this conversation. A lot more to talk about with our guests about the way forward in Iraq. What happens next? What steps should the U.S. be taking? We'll get to that, but up next a quick check of what's in the news right now, including the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert. He has arrived here in Washington for talks with President Bush and Secretary of State Rice.
And don't forget to catch "CNN Presents: Combat Hospital." An up-close look at the effort to save wounded U.S. troops. That airs tonight 8 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition."
We're talking about U.S. military strategy in Iraq with New York Times military correspondent Michael Gordon, the foreman defense secretary William Cohen, former NATO supreme allied commander General John Joulwan.
General Joulwan, listen to John Murtha, a very ardent congressional critic of the war. Listen to what he said this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REP. JOHN MURTHA (D-PA): We can't win this militarily now, since we've lost the hearts and minds of the people. So I'm convinced the first step towards stability is to redeploy our troops to the periphery so that, if something happens that affects our national security, the national security of our allies, they'd be prepared to go back in.
BLITZER: Is that a sound military strategy?
JOULWAN: Well, I think what really needs to happen here is, you know, what is the mission? What is it that we're trying to accomplish? And then match resources with those requirements.
I don't think an immediate withdrawal of forces is the right way to go, but let's leave it up to what the military commanders come up with and what they recommend to the new secretary of defense and the president, of the way to go.
I think that some sort of putting together, development with combat operations, the police, the military in Iraq, coupling all that together in a broader mission and meet those objectives and then have a phased withdrawal of troops is the way to go.
But I think you need a five or 10-year plan, not a one-year or a two-year.
BLITZER: A lot of Americans don't have a lot of patience for a five-or 10-year plan right now.
Is there a clearly defined mission that the military commanders on the ground in Iraq have?
You were just there, and you met with all of them.
GORDON: Well, we have a very difficult situation, now, in Iraq. And I don't think it would be adequately addressed, from a personal standpoint, by Congressman Murtha's suggestion.
The big problem we have is we're trying to hand over responsibility to the Iraqi security forces for protecting their own citizens, and they're not up to the task.
The Iraqi police are penetrated by the Shiite militia. And we had a story in the New York Times today about how the Iraqi army in the Baquba area is suffering from the same problem.
So we don't have an adequate security partner. And only the American forces stand between what is called, sort of, low-level violence in Iraq and an all-out civil war. That's the problem in Iraq right now.
BLITZER: Because in many of your dispatches, and I read them all, you point out that the Iraqi military and police force -- they're simply not stepping up to the plate and not getting the job done.
Mr. Secretary, listen to Lawrence Korb. He served during the Reagan administration. He's another critic of the current U.S. strategy in Iraq. Listen to what he said earlier in the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE KORB: Unless we start on phased withdrawal, the Iraqis will never make the political compromises necessary to create an Iraq that's worth fighting and dying for.
And until you do that, it doesn't matter how long we stay. And the big lever we have is the troops. Because right now, they're not doing what they need to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's referring to the Iraqi troops. I guess he makes a pretty fair point, that if you don't put the pressure on the Iraqi government, they're going to just assume Uncle Sam will get the job done for them.
COHEN: It doesn't matter how many forces you have on the ground. Under those circumstances, unless the government is willing to take on the hard task of de-militarizing of the Shia militias and the Sunni militias, the corresponding militias, then you simply won't have any chance of success.
So I think that he is correct to the extent that you have to make it very clear, whether you call it benchmarks or timetables, that the United States military can't stay for any length of time if there's no political will on the part of the government to do what has to be done.
BLITZER: Because if they don't crack down on the death squads and the militias, it doesn't make any difference what the United States does.
COHEN: Ultimately, it will not change the situation on the ground. Right now, you have a level of violence which simply puts every Iraqi citizen at risk every day.
BLITZER: Do you see Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, having the guts to take that step in clamping down, especially on his fellow Shiite militias, the ones that are loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, this young, radical Shiite cleric who is clearly pushing members of parliament that he is aligned with toward Nouri al-Maliki?
COHEN: I don't think he has any choice but to try and crack down. The loss of 100 citizens a day or more is not a prescription for success, as far as his political survivability is concerned.
I don't think any government can survive with that level of violence continuing on a day-to-day basis.
So I think, if he has the indication of support coming from the Baker commission, supported by a consensus in Congress, that they're prepared to continue for some time in the future, that has to be tied to his willingness to take the hard steps.
Absent that, I think you'll see Larry Korb and others' view prevail and simply start to disengage.
BLITZER: Now, General Joulwan, there's the other side of the equation, some recommending an infusion of a lot more U.S. troops, including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think we need a bigger Army and a Marine Corps. I'm not a battlefield commander, but I do have common sense. You'll never convince me that the security apparatus that we have in place now is working. We need more Iraqi troops. We need more American troops, coalition troops in the short- term. To have a democracy, you can't have this level of violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So do you send tens of thousands of more U.S. troops right now?
JOULWAN: Let me go back to the mission again. If you would have asked me that question two or three years ago and if the mission was to, after Baghdad, to create a secure environment for agencies to work, for Iraqis to be trained, police units to be stood up, you need more troops to do that.
You need a secure environment to control the borders, to control the population, et cetera. Now, I think we've gone too far down that road, personally. I think we've got to come up with, what is the mission? Where do we want to be? And when I say five or 10 years, I don't think you need troops there for five or 10 years, but we have to understand not an end date, not an exit strategy, but an end state, and how do we get to that end state and what's going to be part, and that's much more than military. So I think we need this clarity here that I hope comes out of the Baker group and from the joint chiefs of staff.
BLITZER: A lot of pressure on these guys and this Baker-Hamilton Commission. Thanks very much, gentlemen, for coming in. General Joulwan, Secretary Cohen, Michael Gordon, thanks to you as well.
And coming up, tracking terror. So far, attempts to capture al Qaida's top leaders have fallen short. We'll talk about why with the Pakistani prime minister, Shaukat Aziz. I'll get his reaction as well to the political upheaval right here in Washington.
And if you missed any of our show today, you can download a video podcast of the entire two hours. Just go to cnn.com/pot podcast. Click on the link for "Late Edition." And just like you did on election night, please stay with CNN and the best political team as the countdown -- get this -- towards 2008, begins.
BLITZER: And coming up next, what's the international impact of the Democratic victory in the U.S. Congress? We'll talk to the Pakistani prime minister on how his country sees the results of the midterm elections in the U.S. And at the top of the hour, for our North American viewers, a special "This Week at War" from Baghdad. Here's John Roberts with a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Roberts reporting from Baghdad. Coming up on "This Week at War" what's the fallout here of the U.S. election, rejection of Iraq policy and the ouster of Donald Rumsfeld? I'll talk to our correspondents here, at the Pentagon, the White House and Congress.
Plus, what was it like to be in the courtroom when Saddam Hussein heard his death sentence? And the outlook for rebuilding Iraq from the man inspecting it all. All coming up on "This Week at War."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." Much of the world kept a very close eye on the midterm elections here in the United States for signals of potential changes in U.S. foreign policy. During his visit to the United States this week, I spoke with Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, about the election results as well as the war on terror.
BLITZER: Prime Minister, welcome back to "Late Edition." Always good to have you on the program.
SHAUKAT AZIZ, PRIME MINISTER, PAKISTAN: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be here.
BLITZER: I want your quick reaction to this major political change here in Washington. The Democrats now the majority in the House of Representatives as well as in the United States Senate. From the Pakistani perspective, what, if anything, do you see changing in terms of U.S. foreign policy?
AZIZ: Well, Wolf, any election reflects the voice of the people, and that is what the whole world has seen in the last few days. I think in terms of Pakistan and the whole foreign policy paradigm, clearly it is for the United States and its government and the elected representatives to decide what they have to do, but I'm sure that the U.S. will continue to pursue the path of peace, fighting terrorism, and hoping for a better and safer world for all of us. The challenges the world faces go way beyond party lines, and collectively, we all have to work hard to make this world a better place to live.
BLITZER: A lot of international observers say they're encouraged by this political upheaval here in the United States. Do you want to characterize it from your perspective?
AZIZ: Well, we've always said that the issues which are being dealt with today -- Iraq, Afghanistan, et cetera -- we need to work harder to win the hearts and minds of the people. We need to choreograph very carefully crafted exit strategies.
That doesn't mean one has to leave tomorrow, but these are aspects of policy which need to be addressed, and I think perhaps this result will help focus more on these issues.
So far as we are concerned, Afghanistan and Iraq are major challenges the world faces in the whole war against terror, which -- terrorism is not going to disappear overnight, but perhaps it will induce all of us to look at the root causes of terrorism and address them so that we gradually eliminate this threat which knows no borders, is linked to no faith or geography and can affect anybody any time.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about some issues involving Pakistan directly.
On Friday, a story appeared in the New York Times, the headline "American Strike in January Missed Al Qaida's Number Two by a few hours."
Could you confirm that a U.S. predator drone fired a missile at a house in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan and missed the number two Al Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, by about two hours?
AZIZ: You are talking about the previous incident several months ago?
BLITZER: Yes, in January of this year in an area called Adamadohla (ph).
AZIZ: Yes. At that time, Wolf, as you know, we had said that this was done, as you just described, and there were high-value targets in the area.
So I think there is a fair element of truth in the report. I haven't personally read it, but there was talk of high-value targets in that area. And Pakistan...
BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting, Prime Minister. But when you say "high-value targets," specifically Ayman al-Zawahiri?
AZIZ: It's very difficult to say who was there because, as you just mentioned, the individual in question got away, so one doesn't know who was there.
But clearly, the indications from various intelligence sources was that there are high-value targets there and that's what resulted in the action at the time.
BLITZER: Is it authorized? Does Pakistan allow the United States to use these drone predator aircraft to fire missiles inside Pakistani territory against high- value terrorist targets?
AZIZ: No. We've always said that we are very capable of tackling such activities ourselves. Our armed forces are well- equipped. We do not allow any country to violate our sovereignty.
We are committed to fighting terrorism, but it has to be fought together.
And if we go into each other's countries and take unilateral action, that does not help the cause of fighting terrorism or building relations and respecting each other's integrity and sovereignty.
BLITZER: Because when I interviewed President Bush a few weeks ago, I specifically asked him if he would authorize going -- launching strikes into Pakistan if he suspected Osama bin Laden or another high- value target were there, and he said, "Absolutely."
That caused somewhat of a rift in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship.
AZIZ: Yes. What I just said, Wolf, is what we stand by. We are totally capable of taking care of activities within our borders. And we do not encourage or allow any country to violate this understanding because our borders and sovereignty cannot be compromised.
BLITZER: The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, was here on "Late Edition" on September 24. And he made this statement, implying that Osama bin Laden is hiding out inside your country, Pakistan. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: He has never been in our country after September 11, after the strikes against him, after we chased his organization out of Afghanistan. There were reports from time to time, but generally he has been outside of Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A lot of other experts suspect Osama bin Laden is hiding out someplace in Pakistan as well.
What's the latest information that you have?
AZIZ: Wolf, the truth is, nobody knows where he is. Because if anybody knew where he is, they would go after him.
To say that he was in Afghanistan and now may have gone across, I think it's very simplistic because we know that the territory and the landscape is such that it's very difficult to know who is where.
And frankly, because of the situation in Afghanistan, it is not always possible to know who is where. We have no clue where he is. If he were ever in our territory and we found out, we would go after him.
BLITZER: The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, also insists that the former leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, is hiding out in Pakistan.
He said on October 17, "We know he (Mullah Mohammed Omar) is in Quetta," a Pakistani city.
Do you know that to be true?
AZIZ: This is totally incorrect. In fact, let me say, Wolf, I was in Quetta a couple of weeks ago and spent two days there. And we have a very effective security system and intelligence network there.
There is no evidence that he or any of his immediate colleagues are there. And we have asked the Afghan government to give us whatever information they have about our own city. And whenever we've got such information and leads have been followed, they have led nowhere.
So I would, again, say that such targets, no matter where they are, all governments are committed to going after them, but they certainly are not in Pakistan.
If they at some point cross over, then naturally, we will go after them. We understand that the command-and-control network of the Taliban is very much deep inside Afghanistan. And if you see the incidents which take place, they are far from our borders. They are deep inside Afghan territory.
BLITZER: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. Welcome back to the United States. Always good to have you here on "Late Edition."
AZIZ: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And a reminder for our North America viewers: Right at the top of the hour, "This Week at War" looks at what's next in Iraq after Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. John Roberts reports from Baghdad.
"Late Edition" will be right back.
BLITZER: And that's your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, November 12. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'm also in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern and then again at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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