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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Fatah, Hamas Spokesmen; Interview With Hoshyar Zebari
Aired June 17, 2007 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And this is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. It's 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Gaza, 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
My conversations with leaders from Fatah and Hamas in just a moment, but first, there's another breaking story out of Israel we want to get to right away. Let's go to CNN's Atika Shubert. She's joining us from Jerusalem.
Atika, what's the latest along the border between Israel and Lebanon?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Israeli police have confirmed that two Katyusha rockets fell in an industrial area north of the town of Kiryat Shmona. Of course, that's in northern Israel. They fell apparently in a factory and near a car. Neither rocket caused any injuries. There was a little bit of damage there, particularly to the car but, again, no one injured.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. And no one -- we don't know for certain who launched the attack, though we know the rockets apparently came from inside Lebanon, Wolf.
BLITZER: These were the first Katyusha rockets, I believe, Atika, that landed in northern Israel from southern Lebanon since the Israeli war with Hezbollah last summer. It's almost a year since then. Is that right?
SHUBERT: That's exactly right. It's the first ones to have landed since the war in Lebanon last summer when about 4,000 rockets actually landed in this area.
Now, there's a number of possibilities. It could be Hezbollah as was done in last summer's war. But there are also a number of Palestinian militant groups along that border there. So there's still a number of possibilities as to who launched these rockets.
BLITZER: Atika Shubert is watching this developing story for us, a very worrying story. Atika, we're going to get back to you as more information becomes available. Once again, two Katyusha rockets landing in northern Israel near Kiryat Shmona just a little while ago, the first such rocket attack from Lebanon into Israel since the war last summer between the Israelis and Hezbollah. We are watching this story.
But it comes at a time of extreme tension throughout the region. A new Palestinian government was sworn in today, a government, though, without Hamas. While the radical Islamic Palestinian faction remains firmly in control of Gaza right now, its rival group, Fatah, is intent on maintaining control on the West Bank.
Just a short while ago, I spoke with the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, a long-time Fatah member, about the current state of emergency.
BLITZER: Saeb Erekat, thanks very much for joining us. Ismail Haniyeh says he is still the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Is that your position?
SAEB EREKAT, FATAH SPOKESMAN: No, Wolf. Ismail Haniyeh is the ex-prime minister. The group that had the coup d'etat in Gaza, control Gaza by fait accompli, by means of force. Gaza, it is true that it is outside the control of the Palestinian Authority.
President Abu Mazen today swore in the government in accordance with Article 110 to the basic law, state of emergency. We don't have two governments. We have one legal, official government headed by Dr. Salam Fayyad.
What is happening in Gaza now is a state of emergency. It is a situation out of our hands. You have seen who are sitting in Abu Mazen's office -- President Abbas' office yesterday, gangsters and so on.
And we believe that our situation is very dire, very difficult. But President Abbas and Dr. Fayyad and us are working in accordance with the basic law by appointing this new emergency government. This is our right.
Now as far as the Gaza Strip is concerned, we consider the West Bank and Gaza a single territorial unit. At this moment, Gaza is outside out control. This is...
BLITZER: So what do you do, Saeb Erekat, to take control of Gaza? How do you hope to recapture the authority in Gaza?
EREKAT: Well, look, we have -- we are a people under occupation in the West Bank and in Gaza. And now we have an official government in the West Bank headed by Salam Fayyad and coup d'etat and a forced control in Gaza.
Do we have the military power to take back what we have in Gaza? I don't think so at this stage. But I believe that the good people in Gaza, the 1.5 million people in Gaza, will not stand for this operation, will not stand for this coup d'etat. They will not stand for this lawlessness and chaos. Our priorities now, Wolf, number one for this government is to act in the West Bank in terms of maintaining the one authority, the one gun, the rule of law. We have a policy now of zero tolerance to multiple guns and multiple authorities.
And secondly, we want to maintain that the Gaza Strip gets its water, its fuel and supplies, its food, its medical supplies. There are 1.5 million people in Gaza who have been suffering more than enough. We don't want to add to their complexities.
We need the international community to help us and we need the Israelis also to help us in order to acquire this basic needs to them.
BLITZER: But let me ask you a question...
EREKAT: Now there will be a morning after...
BLITZER: Saeb Erekat, let me ask you a question about the decree that the president, Mahmoud Abbas, issued today, outlawing the Hamas government and saying that the armed groups of Hamas would be prosecuted, would be arrested.
What exactly does that mean?
EREKAT: That means that this group now is out of the box of Palestinian law. They are outlawed. And in the West Bank, the new government will not target those who have political affiliations to this group or that.
All we are saying from today, one authority, one gun, the rule of law. We will not allow what happened in Gaza and the chaos and lawlessness and the multiple authorities and the multiple guns that led to what the catastrophe that has happened in Gaza to reach the West Bank.
That is number one. So those who claim to be part of this, those who have guns in accordance with Article 2 to the basic law, there is one authority, one gun and the rule of law. And that is what the decree is all about.
BLITZER: All right. What about the suggestion -- you seemed to imply the other day that the Palestinians were now pawns, there was a bigger battle underway in the region that other outside forces were trying to exploit the Palestinians for their own political purposes.
When I heard you say that, I thought maybe you were referring to Iran or Syria. I wasn't exactly sure whom you were referring to. What were you referring to?
EREKAT: I will tell you something, Wolf. I think -- there is a saying in my mind that this region has never missed an opportunity to exploit Palestinians without exploiting them. I really believe that we are being exploited. I really believe that is what happening in Nahr el-Bared in northern Lebanon, it is part of what is happening in Gaza, what is happening in the bigger picture in this region.
Now, Wolf, do I have evidence to refer to this country or to this group or that? No, I don't. But I know when I see the streets of Gaza, when I see these gunmen, when I see these hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when President Abbas could not pay salaries for our police forces, when our police forces did not have bullets or guns to maintain the rule of law and public order, where did these hundreds of millions of dollars, where did these guns and arms and state-of-art machine guns and heavy equipment come from?
I don't have any evidence, and without evidence, I will not name anybody. But all I can tell you, Gaza is very -- the poorest area on Earth. Gaza doesn't have the means for these hundreds of millions of dollars and these weapons and equipment.
And I believe what is happening in this region is being now played in the streets of Gaza and the streets of Nahr el-Bared in my name, in the name of the Palestinians. We are being exploited again.
Look, Wolf, I'm 53 years old, and since 1967, I have never seen a worse situation. My dream, my aspiration for independence and a Palestinian state has been set back today. I see a catastrophe. I see the separation of Gaza and the West Bank.
We have overloaded wagon of complexities, and I believe there are some in this bigger region here who are exploiting the Palestinian situation. I don't have any evidence.
Even to those who I feel about, I will not name anyone because I lack the evidence. But once we have the evidence -- and I hope we will know very soon -- I'm sure you will know it before us, Wolf.
BLITZER: One final question, Saeb Erekat, before I let you go. When you saw those pictures, those still photos of Hamas gunmen ransacking the home of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Gaza, stepping on his photographs, stomping on pictures of the late Yasser Arafat, indications that that whole compound had been ransacked, I wonder what went through your mind.
EREKAT: I cried. I felt so sorry. I felt helpless. I felt this was the -- you know, I said to my mind that I was happy that Arafat died before he saw this. And it was a very painful experience.
But look, there will always be a day after. We are determined to stay the course. We are a people who seek their independence. We are a people who seek their freedom. We are a people who are -- abide by the rule of law. There are those of us who are determined to stay the course.
And we need the international community to stand shoulder to shoulder with us at this moment of extreme dire situation, at this moment of difficulty, because we are determined to stay the course of peace, to stay the course of establishing the rule of law, and to stay the course of independence.
Those forces of gangsters -- I remembered Abkhazia in Georgia; I remembered Rwanda; I remembered Biafra in Nigeria; I remembered Chechnya. I remembered so many places.
That's what I thought. I said to myself that we have reached that level. But, Wolf, all I can end here by saying, we are determined to stay the course because we believe there is a morning after.
BLITZER: Saeb Erekat, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to the Palestinian people.
EREKAT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And up next on "Late Edition," we'll get reaction from the other side of the Palestinian struggle. I'll speak with Hamas spokesman Ahmed Yousef. He's in Gaza right now.
And later, what should the United States be doing to try to reverse the escalation of violence throughout the Middle East?
Senators Jack Reed and John Cornyn -- they're standing by live. We'll get their take on that and a lot more. Also, there are new revelations today about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh talks about what he's learned. He's standing by live as well. Stay with us. You're watching "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Now to Hamas's side of the story. It contends the emergency government sworn in today by the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is illegal.
Just a little while ago, I spoke, in Gaza, with Ahmed Yousef, a top adviser to the deposed Palestinian prime minister and Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh. He rejected the decree from President Abbas outlawing the Hamas-led government and calling for the prosecution of Hamas fighters.
AHMED YOUSEF, HAMAS SPOKESMAN: My reaction is, the same things has happened in the West Bank, the people actually attacking Hamas institution and killing people and set fire in their places. And President Abbas has not -- is doing nothing to protect the Palestinian people in the West Bank.
So I think also this is another violation and the president should take this -- it is his responsibility for the protection of the people in the West Bank.
BLITZER: Do you still consider... YOUSEF: And what is happening in Gaza...
BLITZER: ... Ismail Haniyeh to be the prime minister of the Palestinians?
YOUSEF: We do still believe that Prime Minister Haniyeh is the legitimate prime minister. And the legitimacy is in Gaza. And if there is a mistake that has been committed, or any wrongdoing here in Gaza, there is something in the constitution, how to correct and fix these things.
What happened actually, an attempt to -- actually, to strengthening the law and order and ending the chaos in Gaza, which we failed before, because those few people in the unity forces all the time tried to put an end to this government and to sink Hamas and to sink their unity government because the Americans don't like this unity government.
BLITZER: It looks like there is a civil war going on right now within the Palestinian community, between Hamas on the one hand, and Fatah on the other hand. Is that right?
YOUSEF: No, this is not a civil war. The Palestinian people are a very homogeneous society. But there are certain elements, what they call it, the fifth column, who try to disturb the government all the time, and nobody is able to actually dismantle these groups. We failed in strengthening the law and order and ending the chaos.
So there are the people who decided, actually, since we failed to form a joint, force because those people are all the time working against the government. So that is like a surgical operation. We have to do it. I mean, Hamas decided. And the government, the ministry of interior decided to put an end for this lack of law and order and to strengthen the unity among the Palestinians.
If you look to the Palestinians -- to Gaza today, it's a new face; it's security; it's calm and has stability today. And we hope that all the corrupted people will be brought to justice, and we can organize the situation in Gaza. And I hope everybody today feels happy, at least in Gaza.
BLITZER: Ahmed Yousef, senior adviser to the prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, thank you very much for joining us.
YOUSEF: You are welcome.
BLITZER: And up next on "Late Edition," two influential members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican John Cornyn, Democrat Jack Reed. They're standing by live to weigh in on what the U.S. might be able to do about this crisis situation in Gaza, and much more. And later, we'll talk live to the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, about accusations that, while U.S. troops continue to fight and die to give Iraqis time, his government is simply moving far too slowly on essential political reforms.
You are watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington.
The White House is standing solidly behind the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but the fighting between Hamas and Fatah could have enormous repercussions for U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Joining us now, two key members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Jack reed is a Democrat of Rhode Island. John Cornyn is a Republican of Texas.
Senators, welcome back to "Late Edition."
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thank you.
BLITZER: And this region, Senator Reed, seems to be exploding right now between what's happening in Gaza and the West Bank, what's happening in Lebanon and now, once again, Katyusha rockets as we saw at the top of this hour coming into northern Israel from southern Lebanon, what's happening in Iraq, tensions between Turkey and Kurdistan. This is not the way, Senator Reed, this was supposed to be turning out.
REED: No, but this is the consequences of a failed strategy by the administration going back several years, particularly with the invasion of Iraq, the concentration of resources and attention there; the animosity that was developed there because of Abu Ghraib and other incidents among the Islamic world; and the inability, really, to focus in on some much more serious threats: the Iranians, their connection to Hezbollah, their support of...
BLITZER: But I don't think you want to say that the United States, the Bush administration, is to blame for all of these problems erupting in the Middle East, do you?
REED: I think that they have not taken the appropriate steps several years ago. I think there was a need and a recognition to support Abbas several years ago when there was more of a chance that he could succeed as a moderate leader.
And we didn't provide that kind of effort. There was not, I think, a consistent plan to do that. And today, he finds himself overwhelmed in Gaza by Hamas, indeed, probably challenged within the West Bank. And I think that is a growing area of concern. BLITZER: All right. What do you say, Senator Cornyn? I suspect you disagree.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, Wolf, this just didn't happen overnight or during this administration. We've had challenges in the Middle East for a long time, ever since the creation of the state of Israel.
But this is a reminder that you can't look at each of these conflicts in isolation: Islamic extremism that animates the actions of not only Hamas, but Hezbollah in Lebanon with Iranian support, and where Al Qaida consider Iraq to be the central front in their war against the West. I'm afraid that some of the prescriptions from some of my colleagues that say we ought to just withdraw from Iraq and...
BLITZER: But the criticism, Senator Cornyn, of the administration is that they -- by focusing so much, almost exclusively on Iraq, the administration neglected so many of the other problems in the region: the hunt for Al Qaida, for example, in Afghanistan; what's happening between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and now amongst the Palestinians themselves; the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, that the administration was negligent in not taking a leadership role in dealing with all of these issues.
CORNYN: Well, I'm not sure any administration, Republican or Democrat, could deal with this in a nice, neat, little package and tie a ribbon around it and call it success. This has been a challenge for a long time.
But I think it's simply naive to look at Iraq and say that what's happening in Iraq is causing these other problems. These have been longstanding problems born out of an ideology that threatens the United States.
BLITZER: All right. What do you say?
REED: Well, I think the administration walked away from the issues, serious consideration of issues, between the state of Israel and Palestine. Up until this administration, there always was a senior American on the ground trying to -- not often successfully, but trying to broker some type of arrangements. This administration walked away from that.
And then when they had a situation where they could have strongly supported Mahmoud Abbas after the death of his predecessor, they vacillated. They continue to vacillate.
The elections, which they trumpeted as the key to progress, put in power Hamas, which has now, up until recently running the state, at least as the prime minister. So there's a series of, I think, mistakes. But the most difficult criticism, the most serious one, is that they simply sort of stepped away from it too long.
BLITZER: Do you, Senator Cornyn -- you heard what Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, suggested that the Palestinians were now being used sort of as pawns by others in the region to score whatever political points they are trying to use.
I believe -- he didn't say it, but I believe he was referring either to Iran or Syria. Do you believe the hand of Iran, let's say, is fomenting this kind of instability, this chaos in the region?
CORNYN: There's no question in my mind. And this, again, is the why this looking through a soda straw at Iraq is a mistake. It doesn't take into account the broader, aggressive aims of Iran and of Islamic extremism in all of its manifestations throughout the Middle East.
BLITZER: Do you agree, Senator?
REED: Well, when you look at Iraq, for example, you find that the Iranian government has quite a bit of influence with the government of Maliki that we are trying to support, that they have a strong presence there, that there's been accusations, in fact, they are moving military material in to support these fighters.
So one of the unfortunate consequences of this present strategy is that Iran is now a much more forceful presence not just in Iraq, but in Lebanon and in Gaza.
BLITZER: There was a report yesterday in The New York Times that said among this -- it suggested that there's a feud going on, a debate within the Bush administration over what to do with Iran and its nuclear program. "The debate has pitted Ms. Rice, the secretary of state, and her deputies who appear to be winning so far against a few remaining hawks inside the administration, especially those in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, who, according to some people familiar with discussions, are pressing for greater consideration of military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities."
Are you hearing similar things? You are a key member of the Armed Services Committee.
CORNYN: Well, Wolf, I think the question is whether we are going to show a face of weakness or strength to Iran or whether we are going to respond, as Joe Lieberman has recommended, to Iranian incursions in Iraq in supporting weapons like explosively-formed penetrators, which are killing Americans, or whether we're just going to ignore it.
BLITZER: What do you think we should do?
CORNYN: Well, I think we should not ignore it and I think we should -- as we continue to defend ourselves against those sorts of attacks, we need to continue to support pro-democratic forces in Iran so we can see a more responsible government take hold. We can't just sit idly by and hope for the best when they get their nuclear capability which they are working on day and night.
BLITZER: Senator Reed, General David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, was on Fox News Sunday earlier today. And among things, he offered this assessment of what's happening in the Al-Anbar province.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR., MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Anbar province is an area that, as you'll recall, was assessed to be lost less than a year or so ago by the military intelligence folks that were in Anbar province. There's been a stunning reversal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That sounds pretty encouraging, "a stunning reversal" in the Al-Anbar province.
REED: Well, the reversal is the consequences of very good activity on the ground by American Marine and Army units, small unit leaders, who have enlisted the aid of Sunni tribesmen. And the real cause of their, sort of change of heart is that they are now offended by the violence, the ruthlessness, of some of these Al Qaida elements. So in the sense that this struggle between Sunnis, the Al Qaida elements and the traditional Sunni tribes, that's a hopeful point.
But it misses the larger point here, which is the ultimate struggle politically in Iraq is not between Sunni insurgents, Al Qaida types and Sunni tribesmen. It's between a Shia government and the Sunnis who feel marginalized.
And that's where there's no real progress being made on the political level. And until that progress is made, the continuing battles between Sunni and Shia, I think, will dominate and be decisive in terms of the future of Iraq.
BLITZER: The U.S. position has always been that the only Iraqi elements who should be armed would be members of the Iraqi military or the Iraqi police force. But now we've learned, in recent days, that the U.S. itself is not only disarming some of these militias, but is actually arming Sunni militias in the Al-Anbar province who are promising their tribal leaders, their sheikhs, to go ahead and fight Al Qaida.
And this is causing a lot of consternation, including the prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, who is wondering in a new interview in Newsweek magazine why the United States is doing this. They don't like the fact, these Shiite leaders in the Iraqi government, that the U.S. is arming these Sunni groups in the Al-Anbar province.
CORNYN: Well, Wolf, A number of these groups in the Al-Anbar province are being armed because they are joining the police force or joining the Iraqi military. But I do agree that it's dangerous to let anyone other than the government have a monopoly on the use of power. That's the problem with the Shiite militias.
But we're having to adjust the best we can. And I think the one thing I would hope we would agree on is a basic security, such as happening in al Anbar province, is a prerequisite to the kind of political reconciliation that Senator Reed talked about, which I agree is necessary.
BLITZER: We're going to take a break, but a quick reaction, Senator Reed?
It seems like a huge gamble that the U.S. military is undertaking now, providing weapons to these Sunni militia groups in the Al Anbar province, hoping they'll use them against Al Qaida, but fearing, potentially, that they could be used against Iraqis or against the U.S. itself.
REED: Well, it's a short-run gamble, Wolf. And I think part of it is the notion that they don't have much time out there, in Anbar or any place else, to make tremendous progress.
So they are pulling out all the stops to see if they can reverse the level of violence.
And the Shia regime in Baghdad is absolutely paranoid about the Sunni population in general, and particularly paranoid that they see them being armed and trained by us.
BLITZER: Given the history of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, and the Shia, that's perhaps understandable.
All right, Senators, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about. When we come back, we'll ask Senators Cornyn and Reed about the immigration reform bill here in the United States. It has some new life, but will it win Senate approval?
And later, we'll dish a full plate of politics from the immigration bill to the impact of the Internet on the race for the White House.
CNN's Ed Henry, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Human Events Magazine's Terry Jeffrey -- they're stand buying live. Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: This bill is the best way to enforce our border. I believe, without the bill, it's going to be harder to enforce the border. The status quo is unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush, making a major pitch to revive the immigration reform legislation right now before the U.S. Senate.
Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We are continuing our conversation with Democrat senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republican senator John Cornyn of Texas.
Did he convince you, a fellow Republican, Senator Cornyn, that it's time to get this immigration package off the ground and simply pass it?
CORNYN: Well, I share the broad goals that the president articulated, border security and an effective system of work site enforcement so we can eliminate document fraud and identity theft, and then a reasonable guest worker program.
But the problem is this bill, I don't think, yet meets the standard of actually -- will it work? It ensures, actually, failure in one instance.
Let me just mention briefly Z visa applicants. The 12 million people who are here can apply for a probationary Z visa that calls for a 24-hour background check that any law enforcement officer in the country will tell you cannot be done.
There's a story in The Washington Post today talking about the backlog at the FBI alone, in doing security checks.
BLITZER: But in principle, if you could get that passed, if you could get a better background check, make sure these 12 million or so who are here illegally would eventually be able to qualify for that new Z visa which would let them stay here and have legal status, you'd be before this bill?
CORNYN: I think it takes -- all these pieces have to come together at one time in order to build the political critical mass in order to actually pass it.
But part of the problem is the American people look at this and they remember what happened in '86 when they were told, if you'll accept a one-time amnesty, then we'll get true enforcement.
Well, we all know what happened. We got an amnesty, but no enforcement. And I just think we need an open, transparent process on the Senate floor, with no limitation on amendments, so we can then debate and vote on these important amendments and improve the bill.
BLITZER: If there's no limitation to amendments, it's going to go on and on and on. And Harry Reid says that's not going to happen. They need some sort of limit on how many amendments can be introduced. Where do you stand, Senator Reed?
REED: I hope we can pass a comprehensive immigration reform. The status quo is not working for anyone. I mean, Americans are very concerned about this. They are sensitive to securing the borders, most particularly sensitive.
But they also understand that doing nothing is just going to continue to make a bad situation worse. The comprehensive approach, I think, makes sense. The president's intervention this week, committing $4 billion, making sure it's targeted at border security, make sure it's money that will be spent -- I hope is a good jump start to the program.
BLITZER: The president did say that he wanted to use about $4.4 billion revenue collected by these 12 million or so illegal immigrants -- as part of the process of becoming legal, they'd have to pay some fines and pay some other fees -- he wants to use that money to beef up security along the border between the United States and Mexico. A good idea?
CORNYN: It is a good idea. And it's one that was proposed by a number of people years ago. But I'm glad it's been embraced. Because I do think it's important.
But that alone is not going to satisfy the concerns about whether we are really going to build a workable system. I think people are profoundly skeptical with, I think, a good cause, that this big complex bill that was negotiated behind closed doors and on which we've only had six full days of debates and a limited number of minutes offered, that they don't really know what's in the bill, for one thing.
And I think there are a lot of senators who would like to offer amendments that would help improve it, make it stronger.
BLITZER: If this is so important, Senator Reed, explain to our viewers who may be confused out there the point that Senator Cornyn is making.
Why not have committee hearings?
Why not have a debate?
Why not let all these amendments come up?
This is the most sweeping reform of immigration in 20 years.
REED: Well, it is. Frankly, last Congress, we passed in the Senate, through amendment process and through debate, a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The Republicans were the leaders of the Senate then. Democrats supported it. We didn't insist upon indefinite amendments because we wanted to get something accomplished, not perfectly, but get the process going.
Here, I think, the call for unlimited amendments is just a very -- I think the real message is so unlimited, that it will never get a bill. I think we need a bill.
BLITZER: That's the argument. The argument is, a lot of people, including Republicans, some of who support this are, saying that your position is simply a recipe for failure. And I want you to listen to what Harry Reid, majority leader, said on Tuesday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: Eighty percent of the Democrats -- we've done our job. It's not a question of Democrats doing anything. It's a question of Republicans supporting their own president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are there any circumstances that you will support the president, Ted Kennedy, John McCain, Jon Kyl and come up with a deal within a reasonable period of time, a few more days of this debate? That's what they are saying is a reasonable piece of time. Do you think any circumstances you'll go for it before July 4th, let's say?
CORNYN: Well, I think, if we could have an open process rather than this bill that's basically been written behind closed doors, to learn more of what's in it, to highlight it, to debate it and then actually have votes, I'm happy to have the process run its course.
And I'll reserve judgment as to whether I can support it based on amendments that get adopted. But the idea that we have a secret process and that's better than a transparent, open, democratic process is, to me, just -- it's hard to understand.
BLITZER: All right. And we'll leave it right there. I just want to wish both of you senators a happy Father's Day, especially to the newest father here, Senator Reed. Your little girl is, what, six months old?
REED: Emily is five months old.
BLITZER: Happy Father's Day to you. Happy -- Your little girls are a little older than that.
REED: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, senators, for coming in.
And coming up here on "Late Edition," when did President Bush and Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld find out about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal? The New Yorker Magazine's Seymour Hersh has new information in a brand-new article that's just coming out today. Stay tuned. Seymour Hersh will be here live, right here on "Late Edition."
And coming up for our North American viewers, right after "Late Edition," Jamie McIntyre hosts "This Week At War." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: You are watching "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. My interview with Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker Magazine, that's coming up. He's here live to talk about his new article in the magazine, but first, this "Situation Room" minute.
Tom Daschle is the former Senate leader of the Democrats. Bill Frist is the former leader of the Republicans. Both were political rivals in Congress. So what is now bringing them together? It's called One Vote '08. I spoke to them both about it this week in "The Situation Room."
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about One Vote '08. This is a new initiative that has brought the two of you together. Tell our viewers what you are doing, why you are doing it? BILL FRIST (R), FMR. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Wolf, One Vote '08 is an initiative kicked off just today. It will last 18 months and it is an unprecedented approach whereby using high tech and using the American people, we will engage millions of people surrounding extreme poverty and using medicine and health as...
BLITZER: And you're going to lobby all of these 18, maybe 19, maybe 20 presidential candidates to get to committed? Let me put up on the screen the five areas that you want action taken including these: fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; improving child and maternal health; increasing access to basic education, particularly for girls; providing access to clean water and sanitation; and reduced by half the number of people worldwide who suffer from hunger.
Enormous challenges, Senator Daschle. But tell our viewers how you hope this can get done.
TOM DASCHLE (D), FMR. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I think it can get done, in large measure, because the American people are beginning to realize, Wolf, that this isn't just a humanitarian issue. It isn't just a question of compassion.
Our own national interest is at stake here, our own national security, to the degree we can stabilize economically some of the developing parts of the world, to the degree we can address the tremendous problems we have economically and politically as a result is the degree to which we ourselves are going to be a lot more secure. That's in part what this is about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And coming up next, did former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top military officials ignore early warnings about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal? We'll talk about it with The New Yorker Magazine's Seymour Hersh. He's got a new article, new revelations. He is standing by live.
And if you would like a recap of today's program, you can get highlights on our new and improved "Late Edition" podcast. Simply go to CNN.com/podcast. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
The Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq was a serious blow to the reputation of the United States. Top U.S. military officials insisted that until the photos of Iraqi prisoners became public in 2004, they were unaware of the seriousness of the scandal.
But an article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in the new issue of The New Yorker Magazine about the Abu Ghraib investigation contradicts that claim, and has a lot more new information. Seymour Hersh is joining us here on "Late Edition."
Sy, thanks very much for coming in. Give us the immediate headline that pops out, in your mind, based on all the reporting, all the new information that you collected in this article.
SEYMOUR HERSH, "NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: Very simply that the notion, as they told Congress, that our leader, Rumsfeld, Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense and his aides, they all went and testified in May after the stories about Abu Ghraib became public that "Oh, my god, we just didn't know about it until -- we didn't realize how serious it was" is simply not true.
The fact is that, within a few days of the incident first getting reported internally, which was in January of '04, the back channel was flying. There were messages going.
And the back channel showed very clearly the documents -- the actual cables show that Rumsfeld and his aides and Wolfowitz and his aides and the director of the Joint staff, all these senior people at the Pentagon were getting very detailed -- they didn't see the photographs; they were getting verbal accounts of the photographs that made it very clear.
It was taken very seriously, within days, from the top to bottom of the government.
BLITZER: And there's a quote that you have from Major General Antonio Taguba, who was in charge of the investigation, a two-star U.S. Army general, highly respected.
He was brought in early on to investigate. Then, on May 6, 2004, he's at a meeting with Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, all the top brass at the Pentagon. And he's told you, in an interview, on the record with you, in this new article.
He said this. "I described the naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum and said, 'That's not abuse. That's torture.' There was quiet."
Now, that's what he said, according to himself on May 6.
Here's what Rumsfeld said the next day, on May 7, when he was testifying before the House Armed Services Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It breaks our hearts that, in fact, someone didn't say, wait, look, this is terrible; we need to do something to manage -- the legal part of it was proceeding along fine.
What wasn't proceeding along fine is the fact that the president didn't know and you didn't know and I didn't know. And as a result, somebody just sent a secret report to the press, and there they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right. So you want to comment on what you've learned, based on your reporting?
HERSH: What he's talking about is Taguba did a report that, probably, he finished in late February, early March of '04.
BLITZER: Because he was brought in, in January?
HERSH: He's out there -- he's in Kuwait. He's a two-star general involved in the war, highly, as you say -- I found nobody that said anything adverse. He's a highly respected officer.
It's just randomness. They needed a senior officer to investigate; you're it, buddy. He goes and does it. And right away, he feels the heat because -- I don't know what made him so special. Maybe there was the fact that he was born in the Philippines and he had to work his way up to two-star, which is a tough thing. He's not a big guy. He had to show many different ways how competent he was.
But he just resolved to tell it straight. And it was a tough story. And he wrote about systematic abuse and torture. And he was discouraged, from the very beginning, to go all the way with the report. But he kept on doing it.
His report was filed, as I say, probably March 1. It was not even put out or promulgated. I got a copy of it, not from him -- I only met him a year ago. I got a copy of it and published it in the New Yorker in late April of '04.
And Rummy, of course -- Rumsfeld, instead of focusing on what Taguba reported and fixing it, his first reaction is, why did somebody leak it?
It's, sort of, ridiculous. The fact of the matter is, everybody at the top, by the middle of January, knew. The only question I raised, at the end of the article -- and I'm sure you'll ask me about this in a minute -- is what did the president know, when.
BLITZER: Well, we're going to get to that in a minute, but here is what Taguba is quote by you in the article as saying. "There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff -- the explicit images, the photographs -- was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The president had to be aware of this."
That's his assumption. He doesn't know it, for sure. The president says he didn't know about it; he didn't see these pictures until he saw them on television.
HERSH: It's not a question of seeing the pictures. Once they had the back channel e-mails describing everything, from the field, guys were saying, hey, boss, let me tell you what's going on.
It was very serious stuff. The messages were all high priority. And they go to Rumsfeld's military aide, who is now a four-star general running NATO, General Craddock. And the question is, Rumsfeld acknowledged, sort of, in and out -- it was unclear in his testimony exactly when he told the president, but certainly, by March, he's talking to the president quite a bit about this.
BLITZER: This was before your article?
HERSH: Oh, my God, two months. Is it possible -- you know, the question you have to ask about the president is this. No matter when he learned, and certainly he learned before it became public, and no matter how detailed it was, is there any evidence that the president of the United States said to Rumsfeld, what's going on there, Don? Let's get an investigation going.
Did he do anything? Did he ask for a -- did he want to have the generals come in and talk to him about it?
Did he want to change the rules? Did he want to improve the conditions?
BLITZER: And what's the answer?
HERSH: Nada. He did nothing. And you know what it meant?
Inside the chain of command, the military, you get a bad case like this; it's all known inside; nobody at the top says another word to you. Everybody understands one thing: this is not a way to get ahead in a career, to start being very tough...
BLITZER: Here's the White House response. We asked the White House for a response to your article. "The president addressed this fully. He first saw the pictures on TV and he was upset by them. He called for the investigation to go forward. He found the actions abhorrent and urged the Defense Department to get to the bottom of the matter.
HERSH: It's not when they saw the photographs. It's when they learned how serious it was. They were told in memos what the photographs showed. They showed this. They showed that.
And you know, something else I wrote about -- they showed other, more sexual abuse than we knew, the sodomy of women prisoners by American soldiers, a father and a son forced to do acts together. There was more stuff that's been made public.
And you didn't need a photograph if you get a verbal description of it. And it's quite explicit. It's reprinted in the New Yorker article. They knew very quickly this was bad.
BLITZER: One of the most disturbing parts of the article is the way General Taguba, after he filed his report, was treated by the U.S. military, by the U.S. army, effectively forced out.
At one point, I believe you wrote this -- basically, he was told to get out.
HERSH: What happened was, he was in Doha, working as a two-star general involved...
BLITZER: In Qatar?
HERSH: Yes, in Qatar, involved in the war. And he was supposed to go -- his assignment was to be, in June, to go to the third Army headquarters. Whether he was going to be a three-star general or not, he was certainly highly respected and very well regarded.
Suddenly, he's told, in April, you're going back to the Pentagon, being assigned to Reserve Affairs. And you're going to be -- he was told by, actually, a very senior general, they're going to watch you there.
His career was effectively shunted. And there's a scene -- there's a horrible scene I described, in the locker room, here, a few months after he does his report.
He's exercising and he's getting dressed. And there is Rumsfeld with Larry DiRita, at that time the spokesman. And he says hello to the secretary. He says, hello, General. And then DiRita says, it was a bad day in the press about Abu Ghraib, or something.
DiRita says to him, look what you started, General; you see what you did?
Taguba said to me, it's as if I'm the problem now.
BLITZER: We got a reaction from Larry DiRita to that element. He said, "General Taguba managed a difficult assignment to the best of his abilities. I never heard the secretary express any view other than that about General Taguba's work. General Taguba's assertions to the contrary are unfair and wrong."
Sy Hersh, we've got to leave it right there, unfortunately. Strong article, as usual, in The New Yorker Magazine. Thanks for coming in.
HERSH: Glad to be here.
BLITZER: There's much more ahead here on "Late Edition," including Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari on the spiralling sectarian violence in his country and concerns his government simply isn't doing its part to stop it.
Then, YouTube politics: We'll talk about whether the Web can make or break a presidential candidate, with the best political team on television. "Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
Security crackdown in Baghdad and beyond. A Shiite religious shrine, bombed into rubble.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIG. GEN. KEVIN BERGNER, U.S. ARMY: Today's attack on the Al- Askariya mosque, is an affront to the values and dignity of people from all religions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is Iraq spiralling down into even more sectarian violence? We'll get the latest from the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Mr. President, let's build the border fence. Let's not condition it on anything, much less an amnesty bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Republican Congressmen and presidential candidate, Duncan Hunter, on the immigration compromise, border security and much more.
YouTube politics -- what impact will the Internet generation have on the race for the White House? Insight from CNN's Ed Henry, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and conservative Terry Jeffrey.
The second hour of "Late Edition" starts right now.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition," with Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll get to my interview with Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari in just a moment. But first, the street battles between Palestinian factions may have died down at least on this day but the political infighting continues.
For more on that and a new rocket attack on northern Israel, let's go to CNN's Ben Wedeman. He's joining us now from the Eres (ph) Crossing between Israel and Gaza.
First of all, on this rocket attack, coming in from Lebanon into northern Israel, it's been almost a year, Ben, since we've seen Katyusha rockets coming into northern Israel. What do we know?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we know, Wolf, is that two Katyusha rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, hitting the town of Kiryat Shmona. Now, according to Israeli security sources, there are no casualties and very minimal damage.
Now, Lebanese police say that these were fired with a timer. And Hezbollah, for instance, has denied any involvement with the rocket attack. But, obviously, this further complicates a very volatile and complicated situation between Israel and the Palestinians.
We saw today that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has sworn in a new government, led by the Salam Fayyad, the former finance minister of the Palestinian Authority.
But we've heard that the Hamas government -- for lack of a better description of it -- led by Ismail Haniyeh has rejected that saying that the government of Mahmoud Abbas and the Salam Fayyad is illegitimate. So we really have an impasse here.
The fighting in Gaza has subsided significantly. It does appear that Hamas is in full control of the Gaza Strip. There continue to be incidents in the West Bank where Fatah gunmen are essentially rounding up Hamas leaders and destroying their offices.
Meanwhile, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has gone to the United States to try to get the United States to bolster the rule of Mahmoud Abbas. But as I said, Wolf, it is a very volatile situation on the northern border of Israel, in the West Bank, and in the Gaza Strip -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And Prime Minister Olmert will be meeting with President Bush Tuesday here in Washington.
I know there's a lot of speculation today, Ben, that this BBC reporter who has been held in Gaza for months now, there's speculation he could be released. What do we know?
WEDEMAN: Well, I just got off the phone with one of our good sources in Gaza, and he says it could be minutes away. It could be hours away. It could be days away. But what he says is positive is that Hamas has taken the decision that they're going to do everything possible to get Alan Johnston released.
Of course, Alan was kidnapped on the 12th of March. Our understanding is that he is held by family in Gaza. They are going under the name of Jaish al-Islam, the army of Islam. On the 1st of June, they put out a video with video and a statement from Alan Johnston. Little is really known about his condition.
And as I said, Hamas wants him to released to show the world that now that they have established authority in Gaza, that they can prevent kidnappings from happening in the future and can put an end to those that are still ongoing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope he's freed soon. Thank you very much, Ben Wedeman, on the border between Israel and Gaza for us.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was in Baghdad this weekend with some blunt criticism of how little progress the Iraqi government seems to be making right now on the political front.
Let's get some reaction to this and a lot more on the current situation in Iraq. For that, I'm joined by Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister. He's joining us today from New York.
Minister, welcome to the United States. Thanks for coming in.
HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: It's my pleasure, Wolf. BLITZER: A lot of people around the world were concerned about the second bombing of the Samarra mosque this past week. Given what happened in February a year ago, when the first attack occurred and the violence that unfolded as a result of that, one would have thought the security around this mosque would have been even more intense -- Iraqi security, U.S. security. How could this have happened?
ZEBARI: Well, Wolf, yes. In fact, the perpetrators on the first attacks on Samarra, who wanted to show sectarian division, had the same goal in their mind for the second attack, the recent one.
Security was boosted, in fact, by the Interior Ministry. But it seems according to the investigation, there was some breaches. And those people who are responsible were under investigation. But an important point...
BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting, Minister, but you say breaches. You mean that infiltrators had gotten within the security apparatus to conduct this bombing?
ZEBARI: Well, I believe the force that was responsible for the protection, the responsibility for allowing whoever to get into the vicinity and to lay the charges and the bombs. But the important difference, Wolf, here -- in fact, unlike last time, the government ruled very -- faster this time and controlled the situation.
And we didn't see the backlash and the killing we saw a year-and- a-half ago, when the first bombing happened. This time, in fact, a curfew was imposed. And the religious political leaders were united to prevent the kind of sectarian killing we saw last time. So this is a positive thing for the government, I think.
BLITZER: The prime minister, your prime minister, Nouri al- Maliki, says in an interview in Newsweek magazine, that just came out, that he's deeply concerned about the U.S. arming some of these Sunni militias in the Anbar province, where the U.S. has made a major focus in trying to stop the violence there.
Nouri al-Maliki saying, "Some U.S. field commanders make mistakes since they do not know the facts about people they deal with. I believe the coalition forces do not know the background of the tribes. They make mistakes by arming tribes sometimes. And this is dangerous because this will create new militias."
How worried are you about this new strategy of General David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, to go ahead and arm these Sunni groups in the Al-Anbar province?
ZEBARI: Well, this is one of the counterinsurgency tactics General Petraeus and commanders are following, in fact, to encourage local leaders, local tribes, to start up against Al Qaida. That has produced some positive results, especially in Anbar.
But the concerns of the government is, this really should be controlled in a way that -- not to see these tribes or these chiefs will turn into other kinds of militias, and would pose some challenges to the government and its authority in the future -- in the near future.
I think this is what the prime minister is alluding to. But there has been a major transformation in Anbar, in fact, by encouraging the local leaders, the local chiefs, to stand up against Al Qaida and foreign fighters. And this strategy has worked. And I think it's going to be applied to other provinces in Diyala or elsewhere, maybe in Salaheddin or Mosul.
BLITZER: But part of the strategy is to provide these Sunni groups with weapons. And what I hear you saying is you're concerned but it doesn't sound you're as concerned as the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
ZEBARI: Well, I think the prime minister wants this to be coordinated, definitely, between the government and U.S. commanders on the field, and should not be one-sided. Definitely, the Iraqi government knows the background of these people, how loyal they are, how committed they are and should not be an act of expediency for a short period of time and then, those people would pose a problem, later on in the future. That is where the government is coming from.
BLITZER: This week, we've seen almost a parade of high-level U.S. officials coming to Baghdad, urging your government to take some decisive political steps to meet these so-called benchmarks that so far have not been met.
John Negroponte, the deputy secretary of state, was there. Admiral William Fallon, the commander of the U.S. military Central Command came. The defense secretary, this weekend, Robert Gates, and they're all urging Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take the steps that so far, your government has not taken.
Let me go through a few of them -- oil sharing, an agreement that would allow the wealth to be distributed. When do you think that's going to pass?
ZEBARI: Well, let me make a general point here. We welcome all these visitors. In fact, I'm going to Washington to put the view of my government to Washington also at the same time. But I believe these visits are very important.
And the government feels that there is a need to move faster on this issue because the military strategy or the surge strategy can only be maintained only if it's backed by political initiative, a national reconciliation, constitutional review, an oil law and a review of the de-Baathification measurement and so on.
And the government is committed. These are Iraqi benchmarks. In fact, they're not American or any other country's benchmarks. We made a commitment that our responsibility...
BLITZER: Let me go through that -- excuse me for interrupting -- oil sharing agreement, de-Baathification laws, amending the Iraqi constitution. Here's the question -- when do you think these will be enacted?
And I ask you the question in the context of this statement by Sheik Humam Hamoudi, who is an Iraqi member of Parliament, himself a Shiite. He was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "We have not committed to doing it by September. Maybe the American Congress has made such a commitment, but we have not." When do you believe these benchmarks will be met?
ZEBARI: Well, I think it's very important to go hand in hand or closely with the military strategy because these things are interrelated, really. And I believe that. So, the government feels the pressure that it has to move faster. I think it's doing its best to do.
But remember, Wolf, even the United States took 13 years to move from independence to constitution. Some of the issues that is being debated and discussed are extensional issued related to the future of Iraq, future generations. And really, the view is we must get them right instead of, you know, forcing them by certain timetable and so on.
The timetable is important. But these are very, very critical issues. I believe the oil law has the highest possibility to be passed, hopefully before September. Also, the constitutional commission, or the constitutional review, is going to report to the parliament at the end of this month.
So there is movement on this but not the speed that the -- our American friends would like to see to be combined with the reports that General Petraeus is preparing for the president and Congress in September.
But we are doing our best, in fact, to move faster along these lines because these are our benchmarks. And we are doing our best to get them resolved. Again...
BLITZER: Is the parliament going to take its two-month recess vacation situation as has been widely feared by a lot of officials here in Washington?
ZEBARI: No, Wolf, in fact, we reached an understanding with parliament not to take a summer recess of two months because business is not as usual in our country and they have a responsibility.
And therefore, they have cut short their recess to a week or a couple of weeks, maybe, not the long, summer recess, because they have a full agenda. And as a sense of national responsibility, they have to work harder, you see, on those legislations.
BLITZER: Let me ask you one final question, Foreign Minister, before I let you go. And I ask you this question because you're a Kurd and there's an alarming -- there's a fear that there could be serious tensions between Turkey and Kurdistan, that Turkey is massing a large number of troops along the border with Kurdistan in northern Iraq.
How worried are you that this tense situation could get out of control, that Turkey could actually invade, looking for PKK rebels?
ZEBARI: Yes, well, I'm the foreign minister of Iraq although I'm a Kurd, Wolf, but really it's my responsibility to ease tension with Turkey. And we have done that to our best to address Turkish legitimate security concerns over the PKK, over the cross-border attacks and so on.
I think Turkey has some genuine concerns here on the Iraqi government and the regional authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan. But we have a forum to resolve these issues. We have a tripartite commission: the United States, Iraq and Turkey. The United States is represented by General Ralston, and this commission was created in the first place to address Turkey's legitimate security concern over the PKK. So far, this commission has not been activated.
As for the Turkish troops buildup, we are concerned, definitely. And really, our position will oppose any military incursion, because this will destabilize the only part of Iraq at the moment. And it will create more violence and more instability. So we have urged repeatedly not to take any military actions.
We're encouraged by the prime minister of Turkey's statement that really, the Turkish army has to address the PKK issue inside Turkey first before thinking about going across the border to other countries.
And we're in consultation with the Turkish government in order to ease this tension, because any more confrontation would not be in the interest of Iraq or Turkey or anybody else.
BLITZER: Hoshyar Zebari is the foreign minister of Iraq. Foreign Minister, thanks very much.
ZEBARI: You're welcome.
BLITZER: See you here in Washington, hopefully, when you get here.
ZEBARI: Thank you. Thank you.
BLITZER: And coming up on "Late Edition," politics and the power of the Web. We'll talk about how the presidential candidates are courting the Internet generation.
Also coming up, an outspoken conservative fighting hard for the race in the Republican presidential nomination. Representative Duncan Hunter, he is standing by live. He'll join us right here on "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: The contest for the Republican presidential nomination is clearly far from over as GOP voters continue to look for alternatives. One of those hoping to break out of the pack is joining us today from San Diego. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, a former chairman of that panel. He wants to be president of the United States.
Thanks very much for coming in, Congressman.
HUNTER: Good to be with you, Wolf. Happy Father's Day.
BLITZER: Thank you. Happy Father's Day to you, as well. We'll talk about your son a little bit later. He's serving right now in Afghanistan.
But let's talk about immigration reform first. And I'm going to play a clip for you from what the president said this week. He'd desperately trying to get this legislation through the Senate, so then it will come to your chamber, the House of Representatives.
And he offered this idea. Listen to what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I support an amendment that will provide $4.4 million in immediate, additional funding for securing our borders and enforcing our laws at the work site. The funding will come from the fines and penalties that we collect from those who have come to our country illegally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. What do you think about that idea. That $4.4 billion is a lot of money to beef up the border between the U.S. and Mexico, something you desperately want.
HUNTER: Well, you know, Wolf, I think it's terrible. I like the president. But I think it's a terrible trade for the president of the United States or the Senate, which really has this amendment, to trade border security for amnesty.
Border security is the obligation of the American government. That's like saying we'll send enough bullets to our troops in the field in Iraq or Afghanistan if you do something else, if you in Congress will make the right move.
That should be a given. So the idea of trading border security, basically, with this money that's going to come from the administration of amnesty, for amnesty processing, I think, is terrible.
I think we need to do what we did -- what we passed last October. That was the bill that I wrote, that the Senate passed, overwhelmingly the House passed, and the president signed, that provided for 854 miles of border fence.
And Wolf, right now, that fence would go across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
BLITZER: I don't know if you heard, in the last hour, Republican senator John Cornyn of Texas, like you, another critic of a lot of this immigration reform -- he thought it was a pretty good idea, actually, that the president could use $4.4 billion from the revenue that would come in by legalizing these 12 million or so illegal immigrants who would have to pay these fees, these penalties, in order to get that legal status.
HUNTER: OK, let's walk this thing down, Wolf. Let's see what would happen. The Senate has passed -- in their bill, they have 370 miles of border fence.
We already have passed into law and statute the mandate that we build 854 miles. If you build 370 miles, that doesn't even take you all the way across Arizona, across the smuggler's routes of Arizona. That leaves New Mexico and Texas wide open.
BLITZER: But it sounds to me -- excuse me for interrupting, Congressman -- it sounds to me you certainly don't like the idea of legalizing the 12 million illegal immigrants in any way.
HUNTER: No. No.
BLITZER: But I could be wrong on that.
HUNTER: No. I absolutely think that giving amnesty is going to create a stampede for the borders for people who think they're going to catch...
BLITZER: So what do you want to do?
The president keeps asking -- you have no alternative. What do you do...
HUNTER: I do have an alternative.
BLITZER: What do you do with 12 million people?
Can you deport them?
HUNTER: Wolf, we deport -- people don't understand it, but we deport thousands of people every month. And the idea that a guy that came here in December, which is what the Senate bill says, if you came here up to January 1, you are now going to be legalized in the United States.
And let me tell you what's going to happen. We passed the amnesty bill in '86. We wrote in the fine print, now, nobody else can come. That didn't even slow them down from packing their bags. And another wave of 12 million people came in.
The Senate has no idea, and you're met with blank stares if you say, now, if we pass a second amnesty, what's going to keep another wave of another 12 million people from coming to catch what they perceive will be the third amnesty?
The Senate bill goes against common sense.
BLITZER: But what they're saying -- and I'll interrupt you for a second because I spoke to Carlos Gutierrez, the secretary of Commerce, and the Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff.
What they are promising this time is that there will be much tighter border security; there will be new ID cards that will have to be implemented, that will prevent this. And there will be a much greater enforcement, making sure that employers don't hire illegal immigrants.
So they say they've learned the lessons of 1986, and you're going to see a whole new different situation.
HUNTER: So, here's a question for Mr. Chertoff. If you're going to have more border enforcement, why do you cut the border fence in half and leave New Mexico and Texas wide open, for people to come in?
And what magic wand are you going to have that's going to turn those people back who think they're going to come in and catch the third amnesty?
And I've looked at the stuff that they've put in the bill. They put in four airplanes. That means you'll have two on the ground; you'll have four airplanes working 2,000 miles of border.
Wolf, that's nothing. And Mr. Chertoff needs to answer a question. He was given a law on October 26 of last year, seven months ago, a mandate by the president of the United States and the U.S. Congress, both houses voting in overwhelming fashion, to build 854 miles of border fence.
And if you ask him today how much he's built, he's built precisely 13 miles of one layer of a double fence, meaning it's going to take him 40 years, at that rate, to build the border face.
Mr. Chertoff is charged with securing the border. And the one thing he's not doing -- he's appearing on lots of talk shows. He is not securing the border.
We need to secure that border. And let me tell you, Wolf. There's no reason not to do it. You just did a major special on the terrorist acts that are taking place around the world. We've got a 2,000-mile open border. And for some reason, this administration does not want to secure that border in a very simple way.
BLITZER: Here's this poll, the L.A. Times-Bloomberg poll, that asked, "Do you support the bill that gives illegal immigrants a path to citizenship?"
Sixty-three percent of the American public, in this poll, said yes; 23 percent said no; 14 percent said they don't know. You'd be under the "no" category, I take it?
HUNTER: Well, I'm under the "no." And you know, Wolf, it depends on how you ask that question.
If you ask the people about the 250,000 criminal aliens who are presently in our penitentiaries and our prisons, who came over to hurt Americans, people say overwhelmingly no. And if you ask them about the drug dealers, they say overwhelmingly no.
And if you ask about the person that came in just a couple of months ago, who still has a home in Mexico or in Guadalajara or some place in Europe, in one of the 150 countries they come from, people would say no; I want that person to go home.
So a lot of the polls -- I mean, I could show you polls that are the flip side of that, that say, no, we think we should secure our borders.
BLITZER: All right. Let me briefly ask you about the situation in Iraq. I'm going to put some numbers up on the screen.
BLITZER: You're a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. In last year, among U.S. troop deaths in May of last year, 69 U.S. troops died; in May of this year, 123.
Last year in May, there were 3,500 monthly attacks against coalition and civilians; 4,200 this past May.
One hundred fifty Iraqi security forces were killed in May of 2005; 198 this past May. These numbers coming from the Brookings institution.
Those numbers aren't very encouraging. Because it looks, statistically, like the situation is going in the wrong direction.
And I want to play for you what the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell said earlier today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: I think everybody anticipate that there's going to be a new strategy in the fall. I don't think we'll have the same level of troops, in all likelihood, that we have now. The Iraqis will have to step up, not only on the political side but on the military side, to a greater extent. We're not there forever. I think they understand that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It sounds like he certainly is losing patience with the Iraqi government for not stepping up to the plate, as they should be. What do you say?
HUNTER: Well, Wolf, as I've said for the last couple of years, I don't think that the political steps that they're taking are as important as simply standing up their military. Because in the end, having self-determination is self-determination.
And that means you're going to have politicians who are recalcitrant, who are voting with their constituencies. That often is not consistent with what we'd like to see.
The one thing we need to do is to stand up and to get into battle all 129 Iraqi battalions that comprise the Iraqi army.
And once we've done that and the Iraqi army can start displacing American heavy combat forces on the battlefield, let them have political fights, as long as they're voting -- they still have that government; they're voting there with ballots, not bullets.
It's a dangerous place. And I've always said you'll always have bombs going on in Iraq, just like you'll always have bombs going off in Israel, because it's that part of the neighborhood.
But standing up the Iraqi forces is the key thing the Americans do here. And when we get the Iraqi battalions, and there's 129 of them, reliable enough to be able to displace our heavy combat forces on the battlefield, the American units rotate out of there.
And let them have their political fights. And let them take a while to do the oil division or whatever else it takes.
We should not be reliant on a political accommodation here between parties which are going to take a long time to get together. What we need to do is have the security infrastructure in place. And then the United States can hand off that burden and we can leave.
BLITZER: Duncan Hunter is a Republican congressman from California who wants to be president of the United States. He's running for the Republican nomination.
Happy Father's day to you. I know your son is serving, right now, with U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He served earlier in Iraq. If he's watching right now, I know he's wishing you a Happy Father's day, as well.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
HUNTER: Hey, thank you, Wolf.
And to all fathers out there, wearing the uniform of the United States, and mothers, thanks for what you're doing for our country. We appreciate you.
BLITZER: All right. Thank you, Congressman. Lots more coming up here on "Late Edition."
Another presidential hopeful, Democratic Senator Joe Biden, was on television today. We're going to tell you what he had to say in our "In Case You Missed It" segment.
And straight ahead, our political panel on the fallout for the Middle East chaos, the battle over immigration reform, the impact of the Internet on the presidential campaign.
Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Let's take a look at where some of the presidential candidates will be spending some time over the next few days.
On the campaign trail, on Monday, Republican Senator Sam Brownback will kick off a four-day, 27-town marathon bus tour through Iowa.
Former Senator John Edwards will be in Iowa today, holding several town meetings.
Representative Duncan Hunter -- you just say him here -- he's slated to spend Monday and Tuesday campaigning in South Carolina.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich was scheduled to speak at a Unitarian church in Palm Beach, Florida earlier today.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will be hosting an ice cream social in Iowa this afternoon.
And Senator Barack Obama was in Iowa Saturday. And after a day off, he'll be back in search of those elusive Iowa voters on Monday.
On the campaign trail with some -- repeat, some -- of the presidential candidates.
Coming up next here on "Late Edition," our political panel. We're going to take a much closer look at what's happening on the campaign trail, including this. We'll check out how a homemade video's affecting the 2008 presidential race and the rest of the week's political happenings with the best political team on television.
And coming up on the top of the hour, our Jamie McIntyre hosts "This Week at War."
BLITZER: There probably aren't two places further apart than the cornfields of Iowa and the brave, new world of the Internet. But both are playing major roles in the contest for the 2008 presidential nomination.
Joining us now to discuss these battlegrounds, everything in between, our guests: Our White House correspondent Ed Henry; Terry Jeffrey, the editor-at-large of the conservative magazine, "Human Events"; and Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Ed, I'll start with you. Can the president save this immigration bill, first of all, right now in the Senate?
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He can, but it's going to be an uphill battle. I think he took a first good step with this $4.4 billion effort you were talking about before to try to secure the borders. But I raised this with a senior White House official this week. Why doesn't the president break up this whole issue and just deal with border security first, as we've heard so many conservatives say, that that might help him build credibility on the issue.
Use this $4.4 billion to show, "Look, we're really serious about it now," and deal with the guest worker program down the road. But the White House says they just won't go for that.
BLITZER: But the $4.4 billion comes from the revenue that these illegal immigrants, once they become legal...
HENRY: From the fines.
BLITZER: ... would have to pay.
HENRY: But, in fact, the federal government is going to put that money up front before they start collecting fines. And the fact of the matter is, the federal government could borrow $4.4 billion. They're borrowing money day by day on every other issue in the world, especially the war in Iraq.
BLITZER: Even in Washington, I guess, 4.4 not that much in the scheme of things.
Listen to Senators DeMint and Sessions, Terry, because they're making it clear they're good conservatives, they're good Republicans, but they're not with the president on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.: I'm not convinced. And I don't there's going to be a signing ceremony anytime soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R-ALA.: There's no way he would have read this entire bill and actually studied it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, what do you think? You're a good conservative too. You think the president is right or these senators are right?
TERRY JEFFREY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, ironically, the president's key allies in the Senate on this are Teddy Kennedy, and he hopes Harry Reid who pulled this bill the first time. It's the Democrats, Wolf, who have a tremendous political incentive to move forward with this bill.
Not only will it amnesty 12 million people, most of whom probably down the road could be anticipated to be Democratic voters, but it also will drive a stake through the heart of the conservative base of the Republican Party, depressing turnout for Republicans in 2008. It could really have an impact on the future of the GOP not just in 2008, but down the road.
BLITZER: Those sound like incentives for Democrats to go ahead and push this through legislation. What do you think?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the truth is, is that Harry Reid has delivered 80 percent of his Democratic caucus. He is behind this bill. Ted Kennedy has had enormous support and help from senators on the Republican Side, Senator Kyl, Senator Graham, who put forward this $4.4 billion. So it's up to Republicans to come up with the 22 votes that's needed to end the debate.
BLITZER: So there's a good chance, a decent chance, I think, it will get past the Senate, a bigger question whether it gets past the House of Representatives.
HENRY: Terry is right though that, broadly speaking, the Democrats, though, not just on immigration, have to start getting some things done. I mean, the president needs these things like immigration reform for his legacy. But he's not facing the voters in 2008. The Democrats are and they have to start proving they can get some of these things through the Hill.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the political fallout from the chaos that's escalating clearly throughout the Middle East right now.
This is not, Terry, the way it was supposed to be. Let me read to you what Martin Indyk, a former Clinton administration, Middle East expert, said, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, assistant secretary of state: "For the Bush administration, the outcome in Gaza is am embarrassment. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has committed her last 18 months in office to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A failed terrorist state in Gaza is hardly what she had in mind for a legacy."
Is the political fallout from what's happening not only in Iraq, but in Gaza, in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region going to be significant in terms of the political situation here?
JEFFREY: Well, there's no doubt about it. I think really what -- this is theoretically, what was going to be another major part of George Bush's legacy. He embraced this policy that the United States was going to spread democracy to the Middle East as the ultimate key to stopping terrorists from coming out of the Middle East.
Three years ago in his State of the Union Address, he ridiculed those who said that we really couldn't do that. Now, what we have is, Iraq is in shambles. You have Hamas has taken power, not just in Gaza, through use of force. They took power in the Palestinian Authority through Democratic elections.
The president's policy is not working, Wolf. And I think that part of what's going to happen in the future isn't just that the '08 election is going to be a referendum on that. There's going to be a tremendous debate within the Republican Party that how we go forward with a foreign policy that deals with the terrorist threat that isn't necessary following through with what President Bush originally did.
BRAZILE: There's no question that Iran is the victim (sic) in all of this for the simple reason they're funding Hezbollah. They're funding Hamas. And unless this administration really go after Iran at some point and talk to them or negotiate something, we're in trouble throughout the entire Middle East.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by because we have a lot more to talk about including the role of the Internet in this presidential campaign. Our political panel will be back in just a moment.
Straight ahead also, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, talked about the much anticipated September progress report. We're going to bring you his comments in our "In Case You Missed It" segment. "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk, will be right back.
BLITZER: We'll get back to our political panel in a moment. But, first, "In Case You Missed It," let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.
On NBC, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, addressed expectations for his and General Petraeus' September progress report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: What we'll do is we will come back and jointly, we will give an honest, forthright assessment. General Petraeus will speak to security conditions. I'll be evaluating where matters stand in the political and economic arenas. It will be a snapshot, obviously, but that film can't be developed until we're there in September.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On Fox, General Petraeus warned that there isn't a quick fix for stabilizing Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR., MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: I think just about everybody out there recognizes that a situation like this, with the many, many challenges that Iraq is contending with, is not one that's going to be resolved in a year or even two years. In fact, typically, I think, historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or 10 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On ABC, Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Joe Biden defended his vote to continue funding the war in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., D-DEL.: There's some things worth losing elections over. I could not, in good faith, after having worked so hard to put that money into the bill to be able to rapidly build these vehicles that reduce by two-thirds the number of injuries and the number of deaths, I could not even countenance the idea of not voting to get the bill immediately, knowing there was no prospect -- emphasize none, zero -- of anybody being able in the Congress, with 50 Democratic votes, to force the president to override his veto.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights on the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
Up next, we'll continue our discussion our political panel. Lots happening in the world of presidential politics, including the Internet. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Back to our political roundtable. Joining us once again are White House correspondent Ed Henry, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Terry Jeffrey, the editor-at-large of the conservative magazine Human Events.
Donna, even in the past four years, the impact of the Internet on these presidential campaigns, presidential politics, has been enormous.
Right now, we see the Internet playing an increasingly important roll that a lot of us couldn't have envisioned only a year a two or ago.
BRAZILE: Well, it has revolutionized politics in this country. It has allowed people at the grassroot level to have a greater voice in campaigns. It allows ordinary people to meet up, to face off, to contact each other.
And it's energized and changed the way we communicate with the public because everything you say is on the Internet instantly. People can respond, blog you and you know, give you instant feedback.
BLITZER: And they can pick it up. There's a guy named James Koteki. From his dorm room, he interviews presidential candidates. He puts it up on his YouTube. He's interviewed Kucinich, Gravel, Paul, Huckabee. And that's just one guy. But a lot of people watch those interviews.
JEFFREY: Well, it's tremendous, Wolf. I mean, there's huge upside potential for a presidential candidate and downside potential, with video going on the Internet now. George Allen, the senator from Virginia, saw how this could affect a campaign in 2006. And right now...
BLITZER: To the worst, for him. JEFFREY: To his detriment. But we're seeing presidential campaigns -- the way they used to take video, create an ad that you didn't really plan to put on TV and pay for but you'd feed it to CNN and hope that they'd put it up and give you free advertising. Now they're doing that on the Internet.
BLITZER: And that happens. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner. Watch this little clip. Because she's asking people out there to come up with a theme song for her campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, D-N.Y.: I'm so gratified that all of you thought this was such a wonderful idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's insulting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stupid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disappointing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you freaking kidding me?
So, keep voting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. What do you think? I mean, it's a very creative form.
But if she's trying to bring younger people in, get them involved, this is clearly one way to do it.
HENRY: I think it can help if you're showing -- especially someone like Hillary Clinton, who's seen as someone who might be distant from the average voter because of her celebrity status.
If you can show a lighter side, pick a campaign song, that can help.
On the other hand, when we hear about all the MySpace, and how many friends, so-called friends Barack Obama has on MySpace, do we really think Barack Obama is reading all the e-mails from those MySpace people?
BLITZER: But he's got a staff that is.
HENRY: Maybe his staff is. But you know, so, on one hand, I think it's certainly democratizing the process. On the other hand, I'm not sure that all those people with those voices are necessarily being heard.
BLITZER: Speaking of Barack Obama, listen to this little clip. This is a homemade video that's called "The Obama Girl." But it's getting an enormous, enormous reaction out there. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SINGER FROM "OBAMA GIRL" VIDEO (singing): You're into border security. Let's break this border between you and me. Universal health care reform, it makes me warm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: She's going to be famous now, that Obama Girl. I love the line, "Universal health care reform, it makes me warm."
BRAZILE: And I'm sure it makes Michelle even hotter...
... his wife.
BLITZER: Mrs. Obama.
BRAZILE: But look, I mean, again this is a way that ordinary people can get involved. And it's a very creative video.
BLITZER: We're going to be having our own presidential debates, together, with YouTube, together with Google. And we're asking people to send their questions in, on YouTube.
Here's a little clip. I want to put this out for you, Terry. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can you do to improve the lives that exist for mentally and physically challenged, which I am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No matter what side of the issue you believe in, the global climate crisis definitely needs to be addressed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please try to avoid the political cliches that we constantly hear all the time. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Those are just some sampling of questions. But people are going to be asked to give these questions. We'll have the debate here on CNN. What do you think of this? JEFFREY: I think it's a great thing. It's a great idea. In fact, earlier this year, when moveon.org interviewed the Democratic candidates, the best questions came from people out in the country, coming through on the Internet. So I think it's an excellent addition to the presidential campaign.
BLITZER: It's a whole new feature. And it'd going to make people out there feel a lot closer, I think, to politics.
HENRY: And that's one of the positives is adding transparency to the process.
I mean, in previous debates, you've seen, well, we have an e-mail question from Joe in Dubuque, or something like that. And you never really know, did that person really write the question, or who is that person?
Now you actually put the name to the face. And if the candidate doesn't answer the question, there's someone who's going to hold their feet to the fire.
BLITZER: Ed Henry, Donna Brazile, Terry Jeffrey, guys, thanks for coming in.
And if you want highlights from today's "Late Edition," you can download our video podcast. Just go to cnn.com/podcast. Click on the link for "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Let's take a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines here in the United States. Time Magazine's cover story is a feature on New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's entitled, "Who Needs Washington?"
Newsweek's cover is "Why Gaza Matters."
And U.S. News and World Report features "Smart Fitness for Grown- Ups."
And that is your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, June 17. Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. We're also in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern, and then another hour at 7 p.m. Eastern.
Until them, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Happy Father's Day to all our fathers out there. For our international viewers, stand by for "World News." And for those of you in North America, "This Week at War" with Jamie McIntyre starts right now.
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