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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Transportation Secretary Mary Peters; Interview With Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani

Aired August 12, 2007 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOE JOHNS, HOST: It's 11:00 a.m. in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles and 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you are -- you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for "Late Edition." I'm Joe Johns, in this week in for Wolf Blitzer.
Later this hour, we'll go to Utah to get the latest news on the rescue effort to find the six trapped miners.

But first, teams investigating the Minnesota bridge collapse are hoping a new aerial image of the structure just before it fell might help them learn what happened.

For his part, President Bush is promising the federal government's help in rebuilding the bridge as quickly as possible. But there are still many questions about how safe the U.S. transportation infrastructure really is.

Joining us is Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. She's just back from her third trip to Minnesota since the bridge collapse. Welcome. Thanks for coming in.

MARY PETERS, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Thank you, Joe.

JOHNS: Update us on the investigation, if you will. Where do we stand? What do we know?

PETERS: Well, we don't know yet what caused the collapse, Joe. I had the opportunity when I was in Minneapolis on Friday to meet with the NTSB team. And they are still looking at a variety of things, but we just don't know yet what happened, what caused that bridge to collapse.

JOHNS: Are there any assumption we can make? Are there things we can rule out, things we can rule in, as far as you know?

PETERS: Well, the investigators don't want any of us to jump to conclusions prematurely without really understanding what the cause is. I have issued two advisories since the collapse occurred based on discussions that I've had with the NTSB inspectors. One of those was to inspect similar bridges to this type.

And then the second advisory was to look very carefully at the placement of construction materials and equipment when bridges are under construction. Those are the things that we know today. I think as this investigation proceeds, the sympathy that goes out to the families who lost loved ones or those who were injured, and just the incredible team of first responders and Navy divers that are on the scene there, that will all help us find out what happened.

JOHNS: So it's really possible then, that one of the things you're looking at is whether there was too much weight on the bridge at the time it collapsed simply from the construction vehicles and equipment?

PETERS: That's correct. That's one of the things we are looking at. And that's why the aerial photograph that you mentioned earlier was so important to the NTSB inspectors because that lets them know the placement just shortly before the actual collapse occurred.

JOHNS: But my guess is there would be regulations that guide how much equipment you can have on a bridge when you're doing repairs. Yes, no?

PETERS: Joe, most definitely, yes. And in fact, before construction projects start, the whole issue of load factors, how much weight is going to be on the bridge, what's the placement, all of those things should be examined before a construction project ever starts.

JOHNS: Of course, this has brought up that larger issue of infrastructure across the United States. I can show you a graphic now. It talks about structurally deficient bridges, a fancy way really of saying bridge in need of repair. More than 73,000, almost 74,000 nationwide, 300 million vehicles per day, repair would cost $188 billion with a B -- where do you start to find that kind of money?

PETERS: Well, Joe, I think the best way for all of us to start is to look at how and where we're spending money today, and are we spending that money on the right priorities? That's going to be very important.

Transportation funding -- surface transportation -- has doubled since 1991. But even with that massive influx of funding, we've seen some moderate improvements in the condition of our infrastructure, but we've seen a big degradation of how that infrastructure operates during that time.

JOHNS: The president talked this week about Congress reexamining its priorities when it comes to improving the infrastructure around the country. But the fact is, he did sign the highways bill the last time it came around.

PETERS: Oh, he certainly did. We did. But I think we've learned a lot since then about how we need to set our priorities. You know, most Americans, Joe, when they go pump gas in their car would be astonished to know that only about 60 percent of that funding actually goes to construction, maintenance and operation of infrastructure. And some of it is being either earmarked or put into special programs -- for example, to public art programs, to look at building underpasses for animals, restoring lighthouses and museums. I just don't think Americans expect that's where their dollars are going.

JOHNS: According to some of the numbers I've seen, right now we are not quite paying enough to properly maintain all the bridges as they are, let alone fix them up. Is that true?

PETERS: Well, again, it's not so much how much money are we spending, but are we spending that money in the right places? And I think that's the very important discussion that we have to have with Congress in the ensuing months. Are we prioritizing correctly? Are we putting that money where it best preserves the assets that our national transportation system are?

JOHNS: This is one of those issues that has really caught the attention of the public. We have a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll numbers that show -- people were asked if they were worried that a bridge somewhere in the U.S. might collapse. The answer was yes, 52 percent versus no, 47 percent.

So the American public is certainly paying attention to this thing. But it's not just bridges. It's also issues of roads and other infrastructure around the country. And the bottom line question some Democrats are even suggesting, "Look, we're going to have to raise taxes." I think Jim Oberstar last week talking about a bridge trust fund.

Do you see raising taxes in the stars, perhaps, not even under Mr. Bush who said no?

PETERS: You know, in my family if we have a new expense, we look at where we are spending money today and decide if that's the best way to spend it. And I think we owe it to the American people before we ask them to dig into their pockets and businesses to pay more taxes, what are we doing with the money that we're collecting today and are we using that in the best measure possible?

Are we prioritizing that correctly? And that's the question that we first have to answer before we talk about putting additional burden on America's families and America's businesses.

JOHNS: The unspoken word here, of course, is congressional earmarks.

PETERS: Ah.

JOHNS: Oftentimes people say the congressional earmarks that each member of Congress gets actually takes away from the money that can go to the states for things like maintenance, not necessarily flashy.

But I have to ask you this: We heard so much in the last year, year-and-a-half about the bridges to nowhere in Alaska, to become that's part of the American conversation now. Do you think that the talk about bridges to nowhere in Alaska has sort of put a pall over the issue of infrastructure and government spending money to do these kinds of things? PETERS: Well, certainly, it's caused a lack of confidence in the American public. And I think your poll demonstrates that. Even though they have concerns, they are not in support of increasing gas taxes. You now, the bridge of nowhere is just the tip of the iceberg.

There were over 6,000 earmarks valued at $24 billion. Almost 10 percent of the whole program were marked in build some of these things that I talked about -- restoring lighthouses, museums, public art, things that just really don't help protect our infrastructure.

JOHNS: And there is the issue, of course, of getting things done in government. We here at CNN have talked a lot about broken government, if you will. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in fact, also addressed that issue earlier this week. Let's roll that sound bite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: The fact is there is a real parallel between the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis and the collapse of the levees in New Orleans. Bureaucratic government does not work. It is collapsing all around you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Newt Gingrich has a way of saying things, a real way with words. Do you think that's an overstatement or about right?

PETERS: No, I think he's got it about right. I think that when the public has entrusted their funds, as they have, and they have been misspent, as they have, across a broad spectrum, it's a lack of investor confidence, Joe, is what I call it.

People aren't at all confident that if they pay more, things will be done differently. And that's why we really have to change the way that we both fund and administer the funds for infrastructure, including giving the private sector more opportunities to come in.

JOHNS: It has been a long time though, hasn't it, since the gas tax was increased?

PETERS: 1993 was the last time the gas tax was raised.

JOHNS: And the president is just adamantly against raising any taxes?

PETERS: What the president has said and what I'm saying as well is, before we place an additional burden on American families and businesses, let's very closely examine where we're spending money today and perhaps stop spending it in some ways that really aren't helping resolve infrastructure issues in the U.S.

JOHNS: Is this bridge going to sort of change things in America, this bridge in Minnesota? Is this a sort of new day, a time for the entire country to really reexamine the issue of infrastructure? Because it hasn't been that sexy to the American public so far. They ride across the bridges, but they don't think about the bridges until something bad happens.

PETERS: Yeah, Joe, I've often said that I've never see a politician getting misty-eyed cutting a ribbon on a maintenance project. Most of them don't want to do those. But I think the bridge collapse, this terrible tragedy -- and our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers continue to be with those in Minnesota -- is keying up a very, very important discussion that we need to have about infrastructure in the United States.

JOHNS: Madam Secretary, I want to thank you so much for coming in and talking to us on this Sunday morning.

PETERS: Thank you, Joe.

JOHNS: Just ahead, Mitt Romney won the Iowa straw poll this weekend. But will it matter to voters when Rudy Giuliani and John McCain weren't even there? We'll talk to top advisers from all three campaigns when we come back. Stay with "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Joe Johns in for Wolf Blitzer. Coming up in the next hour, two key members of the Congress debate the president's Iraq war strategy. But first, the battle for the Republican presidential nomination.

Mitt Romney is the big winner of this weekend's Iowa straw poll. How significant is the prize with Rudy Giuliani and John McCain taking a pass on the contest? In St. Louis is Romney supporter former Missouri Senator Jim Talent. In Los Angeles, Giuliani supporter Congressman David Dreier. And representing the McCain campaign in New Orleans, former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer.

Senator Talent, I'd like to start with you. Lots of money spent (ph) here, obviously. Do you think it was worth it?

JIM TALENT, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Oh, yeah. It was a huge victory for Mitt Romney. Look, this guy came out from the northeast seven, eight months ago to Iowa, has the message, he has the charisma. He put the organization together, forced his two biggest rivals out of the race and then won with a bigger vote than George Bush had.

He got as much as number two and three combined in the heartland. And the second and third guys were from the heartland. It shows that Mitt Romney and only Mitt Romney in this race is the guy who can unite the Republican Party, energize the base and energize the electorate behind the message of change in Washington. I think it was very big, and you can't really diminish it.

JOHNS: We've heard up to now, he spent anywhere between $2 million and $4 million in Iowa alone. Can you sort of refine that for us? How much money has he spent up to now?

TALENT: Well, I think that's about right. He's put together the big organization. He has the message. He has the charisma. You have to do all those things to win now and next year. I mean, we have to have a candidate who can do it all and take the fight everywhere. And Mitt Romney's the one who can do it. And the others, with all due respect, I mean, they didn't play because they knew they didn't have the support.

Well, you're not going to be able to skip Iowa in the caucuses, and you're not going to be able to skip it in the general. We've got to have a candidate who can take the fight everywhere.

JOHNS: So, let's take a closer look at those results right now. We have a graphic to show you of the final results in the Iowa straw poll. Mitt Romney with 32 percent, Mike Huckabee 18 percent, Sam Brownback 15 percent, Tom Tancredo 14, Ron Paul 9 percent, Tommy Thompson 7. And the rest, the entire rest of the field 1 percent or less.

So, the other story here that we probably want to talk about right off the top is the issue of Mike Huckabee with 18 percent. Now, here is a guy we're told probably didn't put more than $150,000 or so into this and ended up getting an awful lot of support in there, as opposed to the question for any Giuliani supporter would really be, hey, what would a ticket with Rudy Giuliani and Huckabee look like? How do they get along, Mr. Dreier?

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Oh, I think they'd be great. Actually, I might even encourage Rudy to start a band now, because we've seen Huckabee do so well with his guitar.

But you know, the fact of the matter is, I truly do believe Rudy Giuliani is, in fact, the candidate who has this amazing combination. I call it the trifecta. He's a man of ideas. He is a very, very inspiring leader, and he's a superb manager. All three of those things. and he's demonstrated that.

I've just been reading his book entitled "Leadership," and he has shown it. Rudy has the greatest respect for the voters of Iowa. This obviously was a poll, which, this straw poll is just that, a straw poll. He knows the caucus is very important as that approaches later in the fall.

But this is a long campaign. It's going to be taking a while. But you know, here I am 3,000 miles away from New York City and I'm proud to be with many of my colleagues in the Congressional delegation from California and people all over the largest, most important state of the union strongly supporting Giuliani. And we know he continues to have strong leads in national poll and in key states as we look toward this primary season.

JOHNS: So, it's safe to say he really didn't compete there in Iowa. And neither did Senator John McCain, who came up with about seven-tenths of one percent. Governor Roemer, do you think the whole issue of Iraq has caused problems for him? Is this really why Senator McCain has just been lagging so badly in the polls?

BUDDY ROEMER, FORMER LOUISIANA GOVERNOR: Well, I think John is -- I've known him for 25 years. Served in the Congress with him. And on the issues of our time, commander in chief, leadership, team building, problem-solving, John's the man.

But as David said, this is not a straw poll to elect a president. If you think a president was elected in Iowa yesterday, you're looking at the wrong case. I mean, what did Mitt get -- and congratulations on his win. Less than 5,000 votes.

This is a nation of 300 million Americans. This is a campaign that will last for more than a year. This is about ideas and ideals. This is about people who can lead and people who can solve problems.

And let's take one example, Joe, if you'll let me. And that's what you talked about earlier on infrastructure. Who is the leader in the United States Congress at eliminating earmarks which amounted to $24 billion in the last transportation budget?

Money that could be used to rebuild bridges, money that could be used to expand our highways. Monies that could be used to defend our borders wasted on personal pet projects and bridges to nowhere. When John McCain is president, those bills get vetoed.

JOHNS: You know, Mr. Romney obviously has his own and separate take on why some of the other candidates really did not compete in Iowa. Let's listen to what Mr. Romney said earlier today on another network.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what you are seeing is that they looked at the field and said, gosh, Mitt Romney's message and his resources and his ground team is so strong, we can't compete there. And if you can't compete in the heartland, if you can't compete in Iowa in August, how are you going to compete in January, when the caucuses are held? And then how are you going to compete in November of '08?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: So I think probably the question here is, is it really possible that Romney just had a very good day because he poured so much money into this?

The fact of the matter is around the country, he's really not at the top of the polls, but he's just done pretty well yesterday.

ROEMER: It's a marathon, Joe. It's not about a straw poll. And Governor Romney did well, and he ought to be congratulated on that. But he spent millions of dollars for the few thousand votes he got.

And we made a decision to campaign across the country and in Iowa, and we knew when the real day was, the caucus day. Let me give you an example. It was an NFL exhibition football day yesterday. It didn't count. The first team quarterbacks didn't play. If you think an exhibition game makes the season, I think you are wrong.

TALENT: Joe, it's the only major... DREIER: Boy, we sure miss Buddy Roemer in Congress. Let me just say, we miss Buddy Roemer in Congress. I wish you were still working with all your eloquence, Buddy.

ROEMER: Thanks, David.

TALENT: David, what about me? You don't miss me in Congress?

DREIER: We miss you, too, Jim.

JOHNS: We miss all of you. I'll tell you that.

DREIER: The Giuliani campaign will welcome onboard both Jim Talent and Buddy Roemer as we move towards...

(CROSSTALK)

TALENT: And vice versa. This is the only major test, formal test of Republican strength this year is the straw poll in Iowa. Mitt Romney went out there. Those are the most active, thoughtful people in the Republican party in Iowa. They came in 96-degree heat to support a northeastern governor because he is good night who can unite and energize this party.

ROEMER: Jim, he wanted to raise money...

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: Mr. Dreier, let me ask you -- just sort of turn around here a little bit and ask you whether you think we're going to see a difficult time in the long run for your candidate simply because he has the issue of homeland security. But there are a lot of other things that Republicans will really look askance at, including perhaps the issue of abortion. Do you think it's going to be a tough time out there for him in the long run?

DREIER: I will tell you, Joe, many people thought early on that that might have been the case. But in fact, he has continued to dominate the national polls, and in key states he's doing extraordinarily well.

The fact of the matter is, Rudy Giuliani is a Ronald Reagan conservative. He's the happiest warrior I've seen since Ronald Reagan when it comes to campaigning. And he is focused on decreasing the number of abortions. He's very, very committed to that and nominating strict constructions to the bench, his opposition to federal funding of abortion.

I mean, I believe that he represents the mainstream conservative view that Republicans across this country hold. And at the same time, he's got this unique ability to reach out to an awful lot of Democrats.

And I will tell you, is there a high level of support for him. Last night I was at dinner with some friends, and a woman who was a survivor, escaped the Dachau concentration camp told me that she believed that Rudy Giuliani -- and she's a very, very strong conservative -- Rudy Giuliani offered the best hope for the future of the United States of America.

And he's provided real inspiration to so many people. And that's a Republican and really an American view.

JOHNS: Mr. Talent, it's been a tough week for your candidate. A lot of people have really been piling on him, particularly on the issue of abortion. Has he sort of come through that now?

TALENT: Well, I mean, Look at the result in Iowa. I mean, he was the one who contested that race. He went to the base of the party, the people you have to energize to win. I put think the way, Joe. All these candidates -- and all three of us know them all -- I mean, they're all fine people. And I think they each have a piece of what you need to put together a winning presidential campaign.

But the only one who can unite the party, energize that base -- and he proved that yesterday -- and then energize the center on behalf of a message of change in Washington is Mitt Romney. He just did it in the heartland yesterday.

And the two candidates my friends represent, they'd have played in that caucus if they thought they could win. That's how significant that was. Mitt Romney got as many votes as the next two combined. And those two were from the heartland. This is the guy who can energize the base.

DREIER: Jim, you know very well that it's also a question of resources. And Rudy Giuliani is running not only a campaign focused on Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, but also a national campaign.

I think that what we found is that Rudy Giuliani has the unique ability to not only have the chance to win the Iowa caucuses, but at the same time to be able to win states like my state of California. I truly believe that Rudy Giuliani is the candidate who can put into play states like California, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

TALENT: Let me respond to that. Because I come from a heartland swing state.

DREIER: I do, too, your state.

TALENT: That's right. You come from the western part of it, great part of it.

JOHNS: Let me jump in just for a minute. Let me jump in just for a minute. We're going to take a break and continue this discussion on the other side.

ROEMER: Give me a chance when you come back, Joe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're back talking about the race for the Republican presidential nomination with former Missouri Senator Jim Talent from the Romney Campaign, Congressman David Dreier with the Giuliani campaign and former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer with the McCain campaign.

And just before we went to the break there, Senator Talent, you were talking basically about the issue of electability here among these candidates. What's the point?

TALENT: Because David was talking about it. I mean, look, in states like Missouri, swing states, heartland states, Missouri -- Iowa's another -- whoever the nominee is, the day after the convention, they're going to have to look at their numbers, and they need to be getting 95 percent of self-identified Republicans or they're not going to be able to get their message out in the general election.

Now, Mitt Romney showed yesterday he can do that. And I think there's a real question, with all due respect to the mayor, about whether he can.

DREIER: Let me say, Jim, that I clearly believe that Rudy Giuliani is going to carry both Missouri and Iowa. And the point is, he has the ability that Republicans have not had in the past. And that is to carry my state of California, the largest, most important state of the union, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Florida. I believe that he will win those states.

And I think that that is a very, very important point as we look to this. But really, it's not just electability. It is the fact that Giuliani has been such a phenomenal and inspiring leader, which has drawn support from across the spectrum within the Republican Party.

ROEMER: Let me make a point. Two good men, Romney, Giuliani, but they're not going to be president. The president is a person who can address two issues, two issues, not 15. Commander in chief from the first day. A guy who can go anywhere on earth and be respected. And that's John McCain.

Everybody's seen him work under President Reagan to redevelop our military and our civilian capability. And number two, we're going to be looking for a problem solver, a team builder. And John McCain, beginning with Ronald Reagan and starting right now, with earmarks is building a team.

I was a Democrat in the United States Congress. Worked for eight years with John McCain as a Republican. Team-building. It's not good enough to win the Republican nomination. We must win America. And the only way to do that is to be committed to building a team. From earmarks to Iraq, it's John McCain.

JOHNS: Governor Roemer, there's been some suggestion that there is good news that might come here to Washington, D.C. from General Petraeus as far as the military part of the equation in Iraq.

However, as you know, there continues to be concerns about fixing the political problems there that just seem to expand and expand. ROEMER: Well, those problems -- look at the field manual of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, written by David Petraeus, the general you are talking about, a great American, a Princeton Ph.D., a different kind of warrior.

He says it's not enough to win the battle. If we are killing civilians, Al Qaida will recruit more members the next day and we lose. We are turning it around in Iraq because of the criticisms of John McCain and the specific recommendations of David Petraeus.

The president, bless his heart, is finally listening to what it takes to win a counterinsurgency. Let me say it again: Bombs are not enough. The military alone is not enough. We need to take care of civilians and their needs and bring in security. And for the first time in four years, you are beginning to see a crack in the Al Qaida front in Iraq.

We are going to win that war. It's not going to happen overnight. And we are going to have to stay the course. And that's what John McCain has said, year after year and day after day, and the proof is coming in.

TALENT: And, Joe, you have to do this in the context of a broader vision, a post-Cold War foreign policy that includes new kinds of international institutions. We can't be paralyzed in the U.N. anymore, but we can't go it alone either. Mitt Romney has given speech after speech. This is the president for the future, to do what really, I have to say, the last two presidents have not done the way they should, which is to construct an American foreign policy that defines who we are in the post-Cold War. It's within that context that we can win the war on terror, and win in Iraq, as well.

JOHNS: I'd like to ask each of you very quickly, now that we have had the straw poll and it's passed, do you see the race shaking out a little bit? Some people perhaps getting their names out of the mix after looking at those numbers?

TALENT: I think it likely. As I said before, I think all the candidates are fine people, and they each have a piece of what it takes. Mitt Romney showed yesterday he can put it all together. And it was an example of what we've seen in other states. Where he goes and gets known, where people find out about Mitt Romney, they like him. And so we are going to go -- we are in New Hampshire, going to go to South Carolina and Florida and do the same thing.

JOHNS: So who gets out of the race now?

DREIER: Joe, I will tell you, I mean, I congratulate Mitt and Mike for the success that they had yesterday. And I will tell you that Rudy Giuliani has constantly been a individual throughout his career who has reached out to others. And he welcomes the support. He'll welcome the support, as I said, of Jim Talent and Buddy Roemer and all of the others who are involved in these campaigns. Because Jim Talent is right. It is going to be absolutely essential that when this nomination has been determined, that we come together and have the ability to reach out to like-minded independents and Democrats. And that's the reason that I believe that Giuliani has the ability, after winning the nomination, which is priority No. 1, to do that. And I believe that he has the leadership skills to deal with these foreign policy questions and the war on terror.

I mean, his priority No. 1 is we will keep America on offense in the terrorist war on us. He recognizes that they chose to fight us, and we have the responsibility to make sure that we stay on offense, and that's what Rudy wants to do.

JOHNS: Well, let's leave it there then. I want to thank the three of you, David Dreier, Jim Talent and Buddy Roemer, for coming...

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: And I'll see you again soon. Nobody is going to answer my question there about who is getting out of the race, huh?

Up next, we'll go to Utah to see if the latest efforts to find the six trapped miners have produced any new information about their conditions. "Late Edition" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: You are watching "Late Edition." I'm Joe Johns, in for Wolf Blitzer.

A story we are following closely here in the United States, the fate of six missing miners in Utah. This weekend, authorities drilled a second hole into the mine in an effort to signal the men. CNN's John Zarrella joins us live from Huntington, Utah with the details -- John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, well, it's been now going on about 18 hours since we have had any word from mine officials on how the effort, this rescue effort is going. The last word late yesterday afternoon during a briefing was that they had lowered the camera down into that shaft that they burrowed into the cavity where they believe the six miners are. And the vertical lens worked, and actually showed them that they had about a 7.5-foot of floor-to- ceiling space in there, about two feet of debris on the bottom with some water in it, but certainly breathable, livable space if the miners are there and alive, and if the oxygen level is good enough, which we don't know yet as well. But the horizontal camera, they had some problems with it, so they brought it back up to the surface and are trying to build a new housing for it, and then put it back down, which will give them a 360 look inside that cavity.

At the same time, they released some photographs, still photographs of the drill up at 1,800 feet on the top of the mountain that actually drilled down into that cavity. And they showed some pictures of that and how that was working. And also, a couple of images of the camera that they used.

But again, Joe, no word on how the effort in the main tunnel was going to dig the miners out. They had said yesterday, acknowledged that it's going painfully slow, slower than they had hoped, but they are working around the clock. And no word on whether they've gotten that camera back down into the shaft and into that cavity. And no word from the miners -- Joe.

JOHNS: Certainly disturbing at least, scary almost news that they haven't heard anything, not a peep.

ZARRELLA: No, not a peep. Joe, and in fact, they did what they normally do, what miners are trained to do. They tapped on that metal casing to reverberate down into the ground, and miners are trained then of course to tap back and to signal that they are down there. And when they did that before they put the camera in, they heard nothing back.

JOHNS: Thanks, John.

Mining is a dangerous job, but some practices carry more risks than others. In the past, the Crandall Canyon mine used techniques that collapsed the roof of the mine on purpose. Earlier this week, I took a look at retreat mining.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): The Crandall Canyon mine has been on the industry's radar screen for a long time. The state of Utah's coal report last year said that complicated geology and shape of the coal deposits underground make mining very difficult.

But it's not the geology, it's the method of mining at Crandall Canyon that has been a greater source of concern. Federal regulators say they approved a plan filed by the mine last year to conduct retreat mining, which is when pillars of coal are used to hold up the mine roof, then removed, collapsing the roof of the mine in the process.

TONY OPPEGARD, FORMER FEDERAL MINE SAFETY OFFICIAL: Retreat mining is the most dangerous type of mining there is, and that's because you are intentionally inducing a roof fall.

JOHNS: This kind of work, collapsing the pillars in the mine, is responsible for more than 30 percent of all mine roof fall fatalities, according to federal researchers.

Bob Murray, co-owner of the Utah mine, was asked at his news conference about reports that retreat mining was going on when the miners were trapped.

BOB MURRAY, CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORP.: Retreat mining had absolutely nothing to do with the disaster that happened here, nor was there any retreat mining that happening at the time of the disaster.

JOHNS: He blames the reports on retreat mining on a couple of men who are well-known in the mining industry.

MURRAY: Number one, I wish you would take the word retreat mining out of your vocabulary. Those were words invented by Davit McAteer and Oppegard who are lackeys for the United Mine Workers. JOHNS (on camera): We asked the experts -- Davitt McAteer of West Virginia, who once worked for the United Mine workers, and Tony Oppegard, a lawyer from Kentucky -- to respond. Both said the term retreat mining goes back decades and that Murray is probably talking about different mining techniques.

DAVITT MCATEER, FORMER MINE SAFETY OFFICIAL: He is suggesting that the traditional use of retreat mining was an older scheme and this is a new scheme.

MURRAY: The area where these men are is entirely surrounded by solid, firm, strong pillars of coal. There was no retreat mining in the immediate vicinity of these miners.

JOHNS (voice-over): Still, if anything like retreat mining ever occurred at the site, investigators may want to know whether this location, with its complicated geology, should have been approved for this kind of work.

OPPEGARD: There are certain -- I think, certain mines where retreat mining should not be done.

JOHNS: So the debate will go on with the co-owner of the mine adamantly claiming the accident was a natural disaster, another claim open to question. But the only hope of finding out really was going on is to first reach the miners.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: This just in, some sad news to report to you. 82-year- old Merv Griffin, the talk show host who set the standard for television programs today across America has died at the age of 82. No other information. That information coming to us from the Associated Press this morning. Again, Merv Griffin, the talk show host who set the standard for millions of viewers, as well as people who came to host television shows, is dead. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Welcome back to "Late Edition," I'm Joe Johns in for Wolf Blitzer. Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, is facing enormous challenges from both Islamic militants and a pro-democracy movement. At the same time, Washington is challenging Musharraf to step the campaign against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida up.

Joining us to talk about Pakistan's perspective is that country's ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani. Thank you so much for coming in.

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: It's a pleasure, Joe.

JOHNS: We'll get straight to it. Earlier this week, the headlines said your country narrowly averted the calling of a state of emergency. What went into that and how certain are we that a state of emergency won't be declared in the future? DURRANI: Well, declaring a state of emergency is a part of our constitution. It's been done by civilian governments, military governments in Pakistan. It's not what people think it is. If a state of emergency was to be applied on Pakistan, it does not mean that the judiciary is going away or the parliament is going away or normal rights.

It is for a limited period, limited time. The government considered it seriously, fundamentally because of the spate of suicide bombings, against terrorism. It was a counterterrorism strategy, but they looked at all the pros and cons and then the president decided, no, we shouldn't do it.

JOHNS: There have been great suspicions, obviously, here in the West that this was really at least a consideration by the president of consolidating of power, a power grab, if you will.

DURRANI: No. I am afraid that is not true. I think he is solidly in power. That's not an issue. It was basically to defeat extremism, terrorism in the wake of this. That was the purpose that I knew of that they were thinking of because we've had a spate of suicide bombings.

Basically, it was for that, not for power grabbing. He is there. He is the constitutional president and he has a parliament. He has a prime minister. The whole thing is working, so what's the problem? And why should he grab power which he already has?

JOHNS: There has been talk about Benazir Bhutto returning. Of course, she was on this program very recently. What's your view on that?

DURRANI: I heard talk of that too. There is no specific information. I believe there has been some talk. The president has been talking to all political parties. And her party is one of the major political parties of Pakistan.

JOHNS: You've been giving a lot of interviews lately. And some of the questions that continually come up are questions -- I'm not sure whether you like to answer them. You certainly know how to answer them now.

One of them of course is the issue of Osama bin Laden and his whereabouts. Great discussions about whether he is in your country, in Afghanistan. What is your view on that? What's intelligence tell you?

DURRANI: Joe, I tell you honestly, and people need to understand this -- neither our intelligence nor your intelligence knows exactly where he is. This is all speculation, some assessment. He may be in the border regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan. I certainly have no information that he is either here or wherever.

If we knew exactly where he was, we would get him and your intelligence would get him, too. Hypothetically, let's say he was sitting in Waziristan or someplace. You think your intelligence would let us sit on our rear ends? No, that is not true.

We don't know. These are speculations and a lot of people are in this business. They make money out of this, a living out of this. The reality is, nobody knows where Osama bin Laden is. So I think both our intelligence agencies need to get closer, work together and find out where he is.

JOHNS: How aggressively do you pursue Al Qaida operatives in the country? When you have someone like Osama bin Laden, who certainly splits the population in terms of public opinion, and perhaps others in Al Qaida, is there really an appetite for this, I suppose, in your country?

DURRANI: Appetite? I think our appetite should be visible for what we have done, Joe. We put 85,000 troops in our tribal area which is 1/20 the size of Afghanistan and you have half the number of troops. So what do you call appetite?

I think we have got a great appetite, and we are doing more than our share of lifting. So I really don't understand when people suspect us. We are -- let me tell you, we are totally, utterly committed to destroying extremism and terrorism in our region.

JOHNS: When you talk about intelligence and getting information, the whereabouts of these people who are being sought, who is getting the bad information, I guess, is the simple question.

Is it the United States with its intelligence community or is it your country? Who has the best information?

DURRANI: I think on our side of the border we have better information.

JOHNS: Why?

DURRANI: Because we are on the ground. We know the area we know the people. You have an advantage in the air for your video birds and electronic intelligence. So a combination of the two can...

JOHNS: You're talking about human intelligence.

DURRANI: Our human intelligence in our area is obviously much better. There is no debate about that.

JOHNS: Explain to our viewers why.

DURRANI: You see, because we have been a part of that area. That is part of our country. We know the people. We can go in. Let's say, if you put in somebody, he'll stand out like a sore thumb.

So our people know the history, the geography, the people, the current situation. So obviously, they have better human intelligence, as they call it. And you have, of course, the advantage of better satellite and electronic intelligence. What I'm saying is a combination of both will take us places, rather than accusing each other. That won't help us one bit. JOHNS: Let me go back, because I asked you a question and I didn't hear your end of the answer. And that was, where do you think Osama bin Laden is? Do you think he's in Afghanistan?

DURRANI: No. It would be presumptuous of me. I can only estimate, and that's a guess. So, this is what everybody is doing. I think he's somewhere in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

JOHNS: It's a tough question because, you know, and I suppose a related question now as we move along in the progression of events there in that part of the world, there's a lot of talk this week about Iran and meddling in a variety of different countries. Or other words might be used. Americans prefer to call it meddling. Is Iran active in Pakistan?

DURRANI: What does that mean, active? They are not meddling in our affairs, if that is what you mean.

JOHNS: Right.

DURRANI: We have a good working relationship with Iran, and we don't see any problems with them.

JOHNS: Sort of soft diplomacy, I guess, or soft power, as it's been called, where they bring money and they bring skills and they bring social services and like that. Is that going on in Pakistan?

DURRANI: No. Not like that.

JOHNS: Sure. Well, I think probably the thing we want to leave our viewers with is a sense from you of the level of cooperation with the United States government on the issue of the terrorists that the United States has been pursuing for so long. This is something that you've worked again and again to try to get out there to the public. But there's a lot of suspicion, if you will.

DURRANI: Yes. I think, broadly speaking, I think the level of cooperation both at the operation level with our militaries and at the level of intelligence, I think is pretty good. There are areas of dispute, disagreement. And we need to tidy those over.

I think what worries me most, Joe, is that Pakistan, or we say or I say that there are hideouts and there may be some Taliban. They are not in a state to plan operations. While your intelligence say there are safe havens. This is bad.

You know, we're two serious allies. If the difference is so great, I think this doesn't speak well. I think this is the bridge, the gap that needs to be bridged between the two intelligence areas. That's what we need to focus on.

JOHNS: Mr. Ambassador, a pleasure to meet you. And thank you so much for coming in.

DURRANI: My pleasure. JOHNS: Coming up, some members of Congress are saying the war in Iraq is draining resources from the war on terror. We'll talk about that and more with two key members of the House Armed Services Committee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Happening now, the death of an icon. The Associated Press reporting this morning that Merv Griffin, the TV talk show host who spoke for a generation, has died at the age of 82. We'll have more at the top of the hour.

In other news, a news conference expected around noon Eastern time today to talk about those miners trapped in Utah. All that and more. Stay with us on "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. The Iraq war debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Long-term consequences will face our country if we leave before the job is done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Republican Congressman and presidential candidate Duncan Hunter and Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak weigh in.

High poll numbers for Hillary Clinton while Mitt Romney wins early bragging rights in Iowa. We'll assess the Democratic and Republican race for the White House with the best political team on TV. The second hour of "Late Edition" begins right now.

Welcome back. I'm Joe Johns, in for Wolf Blitzer today. We'll talk with Congressman Duncan Hunter and Joe Sestak in a minute.

And we're expecting a news conference on the mine rescue effort in Utah at this hour. Of course, we will bring you the latest news as we get it.

But first, the death of a television legend. Let's go to Fredricka Whitfield at the "Late Edition" update desk. Fredricka?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Joe. Well, he was the creator of shows like "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune." Merv Griffin, he died this morning at the age of 82 of prostate cancer. Our Brooke Anderson looks back now at his career and his television empire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN: With a wide, welcoming grin and a twinkle in his eye, Merv Griffin had an easy demeanor and a hardy laugh that was infectious. The epitome of versatility, Griffin was a singer...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MERV GRIFFIN: (singing) Thanks for the memories...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: ... band leader, actor and media mogul. But he's probably best known as host of "The Merv Griffin Show."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: If the talk shows were good at the time, they chronicled, even better than the history books, the times that we were living in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: His talk show began in 1962 and ran for nearly a quarter of a century, during which time Griffin interviewed 25,000 guests.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: There's only one person who ever intimidated me in 23 years I was doing this show, and that was Mrs. Rose Kennedy. You knew that she ruled the roost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: In April 2006, Griffin's production company, Merv Griffin Entertainment, released a DVD set featuring his most memorable interviews, including Rose Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and a fresh-faced Tom Cruise in 1983.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: You seem a little shy about all of that applause.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: No. Fine with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Griffin was a native Californian, born in the San Francisco suburb of San Mateo on July 6, 1925. At 19, he began his singing career on the radio, working his way into the nightclubs as a solo performer. In 1950, Griffin scored a hit with "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts," which sold 3 million copies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: (singing) I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Merv Griffin became a household name, in part because he created two of the most successful game shows in television syndication history, "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy," and for writing their theme songs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: The "Jeopardy" theme is amazing. I wrote it in about 15 minutes. Just sat down at the piano and wrote this simple little folk song.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: In 1986, Griffin sold "Jeopardy" and "Wheel" to Columbia Pictures Television for $250 million. That same year, he was named the richest Hollywood performer in history on Forbes's annual list of the 400 wealthiest people in America.

Griffin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996. He recovered and told CNN in early 2006 he felt great and hadn't changed a thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: I do everything that I'm not supposed to do, and I don't do it intentionally. I've just smoked all my life, and I still smoke. And I eat too much. And I don't exercise. I take a taxi to a taxi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Over the course of his career, Griffin received 17 Emmy awards, and in 1994 was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. But Griffin measured success not by accolades, but by his ability to make people laugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: I just hope I entertain the most people, and they had fun with it and stuff. And my tombstone will read, "I will not be right back after this message".

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: His sense of humor always intact, Merv Griffin was the consummate entertainer. Brooke Anderson, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Merv Griffin dead at the age of 82. Now back to Joe Johns in for Wolf Blitzer.

JOHNS: Fredricka, thanks so much.

When Congress returns from recess next month, there are expectations of another showdown between the White House and Democrats and possibly more Republicans over the war in Iraq. Joining us with their take on where things are headed regarding the war and much more are two members of the House Armed Services Committee. On the campaign trail in Des Moines, Iowa, is Republican Congressman, presidential candidate and Vietnam War veteran Duncan Hunter. And in Philadelphia, Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania. He's a retired admiral who served 31 years in the United States Navy.

And Congressman Sestak, let me start with you. Good news we're hearing is going to come out of Iraq. General Petraeus expected to announce military progress. The surge perhaps is working a bit better than many Democrats might have given the administration and the pentagon credit for.

Nonetheless, political challenges remain. That is sort of the lay of the land, at least as we hear it. Do you think this is a cause for real optimism in Iraq at this stage?

REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Joe, let's hope that the military situation, the security for our troops does improve. However, we just finished three months where over 100 deaths have occurred of our soldiers, the first time that's ever happened in Iraq.

What I'm worried about is that we are beginning to think that the tactical situation and the military resolve this problem. Look what happened in Basra as our British compatriots withdrew without a political accommodation. And now it's rife with sectarian violence.

Second, what I'm most concerned about is that we have permitted a general, who I respect, to set the tone of debate for our national political future in September. How we've abrogated that responsibility -- and I'm a military man -- to a general to set the debate.

Because my concern is that when I was in Iraq with Senator Hagel and asked General Petraeus, what about the impact on our Army? Which General McCaffrey has said will accelerate -- will unravel with acceleration if we don't begin to redeploy. He says, my focus is on Iraq.

Who is setting the terms of the debate on the impact of overall security throughout this world and, more so, in the political accommodation that must be achieved? And that bipartisan approach, particularly in Congress, as well as trying to get the Baker-Hamilton study renewed, is missing to set what a general is going to say in September.

JOHNS: Congressman Hunter, do you buy that? Should General Petraeus actually be the person sort of setting the agenda here?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, you know, Joe, I think it's interesting. I think the Democrats need to have a strategy session and come up with a game plan. Because the Democrat complaint about the Bush administration, from going into Iraq all the way to the present time, is that the president hasn't been listening to his generals. That's what the Democrats have said.

Now you've got a general who, by all accounts, is a star, is highly talented, and he's coming back to us with a report. And the Democrat message is now, well, you can't listen to those old generals, because they may have good news.

And secondly, Joe, the most important point here is this. The Marines have turned things around in Anbar Province. Now, they're not perfect, but they have turned things around. They've gotten the population there to turn against Al Qaida.

You know, I listen to hours of the committee hearings, and I haven't heard a single Democrat member -- and many of them are my friends -- saying to the Marines, good job. You're doing a good job. You're accomplishing something in Anbar Province.

Bill Perry, former sec def, appeared before us on the Democrat side. Didn't spend one sentence talking about the accomplishments that we have undertaken and that we have seen in Anbar Province. And the whip for the Democrat Party, Mr. Clyburn, said a successful report with respect to the battlefield will be bad news for Democrats.

I think our friends on the other side, the Democrats, need to get on board in terms of at least thanking our troops and complimenting them when parts of this surge are working. And in Anbar Province, they are working well. And yes, I do think that General Petraeus -- his report coming out on the 15th of September should be a very, very important report for everybody.

And that should be the benchmark that we take. And I'm a little different from other folks in the Congress, Democrat and Republican. I think that the standup of the Iraqi forces, of their 129 battalions, is probably more important than what I would call political benchmarks.

Because I think the Iraqis, now that they have a free government, are going to go up and down. They're going to go back and forth on these tough issues like oil distribution. But the standup of the Iraqi forces, the 129 battalions, is, I think, very important. And General Petraeus's report will be very important on the 15th.

JOHNS: I also have to say...

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: Go ahead.

SESTAK: If I might, Joe. And with respect to my colleague, I was in Anbar Province. And that security improvement began actually last fall, when the tribal sheikhs came to the U.S. Marine leadership there and said, you know, our sons are being run over by the Al Qaida, and we want to join with you.

So that began prior to the surge. The problem is that as they told us when I was there with Senator Hagel, is they look to the east, to Baghdad.

The Baghdad government doesn't want them. And as we were in there with the highest levels of the Baghdad government, they said the re-Baathification to bring the Sunnis into government was appeasement and not important.

My point is this. One, the Army will begin to unravel with acceleration. Two, to begin a redeployment will take easily 15 to 24 months. It took us six months to get out of Somalia after six months, Black Hawk Down. We had to insert 19,000 troops. So it's going to take a certain amount of time.

So what I want to do is reach across the aisle to men like Duncan Hunter and others to say, "Let's come together and in a bipartisan approach," because the length of time it will take to redeploy gives us an ability to use the last arsenal -- the last arrow in our arsenal that we haven't used.

The road out of Iraq is through Tehran, diplomatically. Let's sit down, deal with the surrounding countries who have a long-term interest in the stability there, remain in the region strong and bring about a political accommodation which even General Petraeus says is necessary if ever we are to have a security situation in Iraq.

JOHNS: The question of people power has raised its head again. U.S. Army Lieutenant General Douglas Lute talking on Friday about the issue of the draft. He, of course, is the war czar. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LT. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE, U.S. ARMY: I think it makes sense to certainly consider it. And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But, ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another. Today, the current means -- the all-volunteer force -- is serving us exceptionally well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Congressman Hunter, is this just loose talk? Is this just a hypothetical? Is the administration floating the idea of the draft?

HUNTER: Well, listen, my old friend, Charlie Rangel, a Democrat who served in the 2nd Division in Korea, offered a bill for the draft a year-and-a-half ago. And when we put it up for a vote, even Charlie Rangel, the author of the bill, did not vote for it.

So I would say this: If you look at the numbers of reenlistments, which is very key because those are senior people, and you look at the accession numbers coming into the Marine Corps and the Army, which are the ground combat forces that are serving in these two war-fighting theaters, they are doing very well.

And it was predicted a year ago, two years ago, that right now we would be out of soldiers, that you would not have people volunteering. In fact, you have.

And you know, the interesting thing about the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps? The people who are volunteering for reenlistment typically come from the combat units. The one area where we've had trouble has been the Naval reserve, which hasn't been in the thick of the war fighting theater in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So the idea of a draft only makes sense if you need a lot of people that you can't get otherwise. And if you have enough volunteers volunteering, to have a draft means you're taking somebody who hasn't signed up to go and you're pushing a person who volunteered out of the way so you can put a draftee in his place. That doesn't make sense. And I like the idea of the volunteer force continuing to be the mainstay of the U.S. military.

JOHNS: Congressman?

SESTAK: Yes. I have a similar opinion, but for different reasons. I joined up during Vietnam, as Duncan Hunter did. I saw a draft and I saw a volunteer army. People who join because they want to be there really help us.

That said, is what we are -- I am a bit concerned about is that, one, when you have a volunteer army, it now takes us, because of the high technical prowess that's needed, a long time to train them. So therefore, we need a return on their investment.

However, I differ from Duncan Hunter. Look at who we're recruiting. Up before this war, just two years ago, we -- two-and-a- half years ago, we used to get in only 0.1 percent of what's called category four, the lowest level of mental ability. Now we are at the maximum allowed by regulation, 0.4 percent.

Not only that, when you look at the bottom two categories, over 38 percent, the lowest since the mid '80s -- excuse me, late '80s -- 38 percent in the below average mental category.

So this impact of this war on our military is one where not only is no unit -- no unit active guard or reserve here at home is in a state of readiness to deploy anywhere in the world, for instance, to support our 30,000 troops in South Korea.

But second, those we're recruiting who are good men and women are definitely at a lower level of mental ability than we used to when we want to transform our Army, our military, for a more technologically prowessed ability.

HUNTER: One point though, Joe, that I think you have to concede is this. We were taking people from the top 30 percent of that pool of young Americans who were available to join the U.S. military. Now, you're saying, "Well, it's lower than it was."

It is still above the 50th percentile. That means that our troops -- a majority of our troops -- are coming from above the 50th percentile of that pool of America's young men and women. I don't think that's bad. I think that's right in the center.

JOHNS: If you all will...

SESTAK: Unfortunately, it's gone from 70 or 80 down to 50. JOHNS: OK, let me jump in there just a minute.

HUNTER: I think those are good people.

JOHNS: We have a lot more to discuss with Congressmen Hunter and Sestak. How should the U.S. deal with the threat from Iran? We'll ask that question and a lot more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Joe Johns in for Wolf Blitzer. Later this hour, the best team in television will get into all of this, the hits and misses on the campaign trail.

But right now, we're back talking with two members of the House Armed Services Committee, Republican Congressman and president candidate Duncan Hunter of California and Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania. He's also a retired admiral.

I have a graphic to show you all right now that talks about where the American public is on the issue of Iraq. Is the U.S. winning the war in Iraq? They say, 32 percent, yes; 63 percent, no. A lot of nos there.

And the second question, can the U.S. win the war in Iraq? Fifty- four percent said yes and 43 percent said no. So, there's quite a bit of skepticism out there, as you can see. The American public, very much split on this issue.

And one of the reasons that things may be getting more difficult, at least politically for the United States, is the issue of Iran. A lot of questions about whether Iran is helping or hurting the situation, providing arms versus trying to keep the peace.

What's your view, Congressman Hunter? Do you think Iran is actively causing more problems than it is helping the situation out?

HUNTER: Well, Joe, we know this. We know that Iran is moving and has moved some of these deadly devices that are used in the most effective roadside bombs across the border.

That's been proven beyond a doubt, that they've moved some of those devices across. They've trained some of the people who have ambushed American convoys. They have helped to hurt Americans on the battlefield. That's very, very clear.

And I think, at this point, the United States has license, whether it's with Special Operation Forces or intelligent activities, to deal with that because Iran is definitely weighed in, in the battlefield.

Now, with respect to their relationship with Iraq, it's obviously a very complicated one. They align with the Shiite community. They would, undoubtedly, have some leaders who would like to have Iraq become a part, an appendage to Iran. But the thing that I'm most concerned are the centrifuges that are refining material that could be used, at some point, in a nuclear device. And they're moving ahead with that. We've been trying to stop that. And yet, every time we try to impose severe sanctions, the Russians and the Chinese, which have an appetite for Iranian oil, will stop us.

So we're going to have a point of crisis at some point in the next five or six years in which we see Iran very close to developing a nuclear device. And it's time for the United States to plan for that.

And I think we should take action before we get to what I call the edge of the cliff. That is getting some of this nuclear material refined to the point where it's very close to being utilized in a nuclear device.

JOHNS: The question then is, what should the United States' response be, short of military action, Congressman Sestak?

SESTAK: Well, first, I think your poll shows exactly what I hear in the district. Americans are tired of this war, and yet they want to salvage the best they can of the situation, both in that country and for overall security. So ending this war is necessary but insufficient.

How -- and the means by which we do so has a lot to do with the safety of our troops and for our security. Iran is key to that. Absolutely key. Everywhere I was in Iraq, I heard, "Iran has influence."

What we need to do is have a lot more diplomatic competence to deal with a nation that just, in early July, had riots because it raised its fuel oil prices for a gallon of gasoline from 25 cents to 38 cents because it imports 50 percent of the refinery products.

We have power. We're able to sit down with Iran and say, "You don't want instability in that country, like the head of our National Intelligence Council said in testimony before Duncan Hunter and me at the HASC.

And so therefore, they don't want a proxy war between it -- Shia -- and the Sunni-led Syrian government if they're not there. Nor do they want their 2 million refugees that have been dislocated and have to overflow their borders to go there.

So let's sit down across the board on all the issues there, including nuclear weapons, and have the competence to be able to forestall them from that and move them with the incentive of our redeployment from Iraq, with -- deliberately and security, to be able to A, have them work for stability there, like they did as our going three-star general said in Afghanistan, to work for stability there, to have it done there.

Second, we cannot permit them to ever have a nuclear weapon. We outsourced our leadership on that some years ago to the European Union. Diplomacy and engagement with consequences, including economic sanctions such as on those refinery products and travel and financial -- financial -- impositions on them can go a long way. The military is not always and should never be your first -- first -- offensive action.

HUNTER: Here's the problem with that, Joe. I think that the Iranians have decided -- they've looked at the Korean model -- the North Korean model, and I think they have decided to walk down this path to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Now, if you asked our people the other day -- I asked our State Department people to line up all the sanctions we've undertaken, and the bottom line was, have we really inconvenienced the Iranians? The answer is no, we haven't inconvenienced them. They've got lots of other sources for lots of material, lots of products.

And so if you come to the conclusion that they have decided to acquire a nuclear device and they're not going to let us persuade them not to have it, the picture becomes a very, very tough one.

I think we have to plan, right now, with our allies in Western Europe. We have to plan for the contingency that we may see in four or five years and maybe earlier if they get centrifuges in place.

JOHNS: Now, Congressman...

(CROSSTALK)

SESTAK: You never have to worry about -- you do need to plan, without a question, but we never put teeth into our engagement. I'm sorry, Joe. You...

JOHNS: Yes, I just wanted to jump in because I don't want Congressman Hunter to get away without my asking him about the results of the straw poll. You were, I think, down in that group of people who were running for president who essentially got about 1 percent there. There you can see it, 1 percent of the vote in the Iowa straw poll.

A lot of people say that when you finish like that, you start thinking about whether you should continue to try to do this. Have you given any thought to jumping out, Congressman, or are you going to keep going?

HUNTER: Well, Joe, actually, I just got here. And because Joe and I have been working on issues like the Iraq issue, I have been camped in Washington, D.C. until Saturday night. In fact, I barely got out in time for the debate on Sunday.

This is the first full week that I've spent in Iowa in this campaign. And after the speeches at the convention yesterday, I got lots of people that came up and signed up for my campaign. I've been out at the state fair this morning getting great responses from folks. So this is the first full week I've undertaken to campaign in Iowa.

This is a start of my campaign. And the other guys have been camped here for a number of months. And we're going to get out, work hard. The election is five months away. But I think it's a bright morning in Iowa, as it is across America. There's lots of opportunity. I think I'll do very well in Iowa.

JOHNS: All right. Then we'll leave it there. Congressman Duncan Hunter...

HUNTER: Thanks.

JOHNS: ... Congressman Joe Sestak, thanks so much for coming in on a Sunday.

HUNTER: Thank you, Joe.

SESTAK: Thank you for having us.

JOHNS: Still ahead, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee told Republican voters he was born to be wild at the Iowa straw poll yesterday. Find out how his message and his music resonated with the crowd.

Expert analysis from the best political team on TV, right here on "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Joe Johns in Washington.

The results of the Iowa straw poll are in. CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider was there for the action.

Bill?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, Joe, this was a contest between Mitt Romney and a candidate named expected. Question, did he do as well as expected?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Mitt Romney needed a substantial victory in the Iowa straw poll and he got one. With 11 candidates on the ballot, Romney came in a solid first with nearly a third of the vote. What about the front-runners in the national polls, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson and John McCain? They skipped the Iowa straw poll. They forfeited, Romney charged.

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: Well, it's too bad the other guys weren't competing here. If they had thought they could have been successful here, they would have been here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Romney campaigned hard and spent big in Iowa. Now he hopes it will pay off by bringing him more national support and more attention to his message. Romney wants to be the candidate of change, even though there's already a Republican in the White House. ROMNEY: Change begins in Iowa and change begins today.

SCHNEIDER: And the other winners? Mike Huckabee's second-place finish will keep him going and very likely pump up his standing with religious conservatives. The Baptist minister saw the straw poll as David versus Goliath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not the best-funded candidate in America. I can't buy you. I don't have the money. I've got another thing: I can't even rent you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo came in close behind Huckabee to take third and fourth place, close enough to keep going, especially since they were the only other candidates to get more than 10 percent. The other contenders, not so good. Could we see one or more of them hang it up?

A straw poll is supposed to separate the starters from the non- starters, and that process starts right now. Joe?

JOHNS: Thanks, Bill. We'll talk more in just a minute. Stick around.

Next, from the Republican Iowa straw poll to the flurry of Democratic debates. Insight on who's up, who's down and what it all means from the best political team on television. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows. On all of them, discussion focused on the 2008 presidential race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I've got a long way to go. I'm not terribly well-known across the nation. But what's encouraging and pleasing to me is that the state or states where I've really spent my time, the first two, New Hampshire and Iowa, I'm doing well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNTER: I wanted to win it. But we're still in it. And I think third is a ticket on forward to the caucuses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DENNIS J. KUCINICH, D-OHIO: I think that the support is building in my direction, which is why you're starting to hear those cheers, and they're very loud, and they seem to be coming from everywhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE: I'm one of the few Republican candidates that's having the courage to talk about how we need to separate ourselves from being the Wall Street Republican crowd. We need to be the Main Street Republican crowd. We need to quit being a wholly-owned subsidiary of the major fund managers on Wall Street and start being more concerned about people out there in places like Iowa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAROLD FORD, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: The national elections, I believe to win, you have to cross three hurdles. First you have to demonstrate your strength and trustworthiness on national security. You have to demonstrate that your values are squarely in the mainstream of America. And three, you have to demonstrate as a Democrat that you can be trusted on taxes, economic and fiscal policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARKOS MOULITSAS, FOUNDER AND PUBLISHER, DAILYKOS WEB SITE: We've had 20 years of Democrats arguing that we can't show passion, that we can't really stand strong for being Democrats, that we must blur the distinctions. We started organizing. We started pushing Democrats to be proud to be Democrats. This had nothing to do with being centrist or liberal or conservative. It had to do withstanding tall for core progressive principles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

When we come back, we'll talk about all of the political hot topics of the week with the best political team on TV. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Welcome back to "Late Edition." Mitt Romney gets bragging rights in Iowa for now as Hillary Clinton stays strong in the national polls. Here to talk about the week in politics, three of the best in the business. On the campaign trail in Iowa, CNN's political editor, Mark Preston, and CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. And here in Washington with me, Amy Walter, editor in chief of The Hotline and a CNN political contributor. Mr. Schneider, I'd like to start with you. I guess one of the questions here, what was the turnout like for the straw poll?

SCHNEIDER: Low. Surprisingly low. It was estimated early that there might be 30, 35,000 participants. In the end, they got less than half of that. They got just over 14,000 voters in the Iowa straw poll.

That is substantially less than the 23,000 who participated in 1999, eight years ago, which was the last time there was a competitive Republican race. Doesn't look good for the Republicans in terms of the excitement and enthusiasm in this Iowa race.

JOHNS: That was my question, is sort of an issue of energy among the Republicans. Does it suggest to us, perhaps, they're a little depressed with the field, which we've already known, right?

SCHNEIDER: That's right. And it suggests there's no candidate yet who's really caught fire. Yeah, Romney won, and it was an impressive victory. But the turnout was really so modest that you can't yet say there's a candidate who has caught fire.

JOHNS: For sure. Now, we want to take look at a couple of graphics here. One, which you've already seen, the straw poll results there in Iowa. It shows Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, and the rest of course down around 1 percent.

That's the straw poll results.

Now, let's look at the Republican horse race pilot, which shows a very different situation: Rudy Giuliani with 29 percent, Fred Thompson with 22 percent, John McCain with 16 percent. So, Amy Walter, I guess the question for you is, what does the Iowa straw poll really mean?

AMY WALTER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's right. It depends on who you are. If you're Rudy Giuliani, what you're hoping is that the straw poll is not indicative of what the caucus is going to bring in January, although maybe it will be December. Although we now know that the primary calendar is pushing itself up, Iowans are saying, "We're going to definitely still hold it in January.

But the earlier in January, the longer the lag time between the Iowa poll, the caucus, the real poll, and Florida, where Giuliani really wants to have his breakthrough. That's on January 29th.

Giuliani runs great as a national candidate. And we know that on February 5th, there's basically a national primary election, because so many states are competing at that time.

The earlier states, like Iowa -- Bill pointed this out -- it's very heavily populated by conservatives. This is not an area where somebody like Rudy Giuliani is going to do very well. He hopes to do better in states where you're going to see a more diluted conservative base.

JOHNS: Mark Preston, now to you. I guess they've been calling it Super-duper Tuesday. Is that still the term they're using for it? And are we really going to know who's in and who's out for sure by -- what, the end of March?

MARK PRESTON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Actually, Joe, I think by midnight on February 5, 2008, we'll know who the nominee is for the Democratic Party and Republican nominee as well. There's going to be more than 20-plus states that are going to be voting on that day.

And, you know, look what happened in Iowa yesterday, is Mitt Romney is really hoping to use the momentum out of this straw poll to try to work it into the caucuses and try to win the caucuses and try to steam roll into New Hampshire. These are two states that Mitt Romney has really spent a lot of time in, and then try to ride the road down. Now, as Amy said, if you look at what Giuliani is doing, he's really trying to do more of a national campaign. He's looking at larger states such as Florida and California, and he's really targeting those. So we are going to see certainly different types of campaigning over the next couple of months.

JOHNS: We certainly are. One of the things, as we now turn to sort of the Democrats, make a real quick turn, because we haven't talked much about them -- it's all been about the Republicans.

We've noticed with Hillary Clinton, for example, she already has started tailoring her image. People have looked at her and said she's too tough. And there's been a lot of discussions about who was the person who was looking out for women's interest and some people said she wasn't.

Well, we have a sound bite now from the AFL-CIO debate where Hillary Clinton at least sounded like she was trying to put a little bit more personality into it. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.,: I have stood up against the right-wing machine and I've come out stronger. So, if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: I'm your girl, Amy Walter. That sounds a little different from the sort of iron maiden image she has had for so long. Is she trying to soften herself up?

WALTER: Well, listen, and to show her comfort level. And I think that when you've been watching her in the last couple of debates here between the AFL-CIO debate and then the Human Rights Campaign and LOGO had one on Thursday night, you're starting to see her try to look just more comfortable and affable, trying to connect more with voters. It's very hard to do that when you're at a podium. It's very hard to do that in front of a big crowd. But people who can do that very well, namely her husband, set a very high bar. And so what she's trying to do is to tell those weary Democratic voters who say, "I know, but can she really show that side of herself? Can we see something beyond just a package?" And I think we saw that in both of those instances.

JOHNS: Bill Schneider, we've talked about the high negatives of Hillary Rodham Clinton among certain segments of the population of voters out there. Who are the people she really needs to reduce those negatives? Is there a certain demographic that's very concerned and doesn't like her as much as some other demographic?

SCHNEIDER: Well, of course, Republicans and conservatives don't like her. They didn't like her husband. They don't like her. As far as they're concerned, she's the bride of Satan. So they're never going to like her and she's never going to win them over. What she has to do is build up her image with independents. Democrats do like here. They respect here. They think she's electable. They think she's professional and she's looking better and better as the campaign goes on.

Independents are really split. And there is one problem that shows up in the polls about Hillary Clinton. I'm not sure what's behind it, but I know it's a problem, and that's likability. Amy referred to it a minute ago. She rates high on every quality, including electability, among Democrats, but a lot of people just don't warm up to her very well. She's not rated high on likability. That's where Obama is a better liked candidate.

So she's trying to compensate. She's trying to acquire some of the personality, the warmth, the ability to connect with people that was so important for her husband because, you know, likability really does matter in a presidential contest. People want to vote for someone they like.

JOHNS: The other thing, Mark Preston, do we have any sense as to whether she's made any inroads with women voters? There seemed to have been sort of a dual-edged support there. Some people thought she was great, some people, among women, didn't think she was great at all.

PRESTON: Well, you know, I think that Hillary Clinton actually is going to win the women vote in this fight for the nomination. I think women look at her as probably the best possibility ever to become the first woman to become president of the United States.

So I think that Hillary Clinton is certainly trying to reach out to them. There are organizations that are dedicated to electing women candidates that are really trying to do all they can to try to help her win this nomination.

And even the other day, when she was at the forum and she said, "I'm the girl, you know, who can deliver," I mean, that was certainly, I think, a message she was sending out that, like, "Look, I'm a woman and I can fight for your ideals." So I think that she'll do OK, Joe.

JOHNS: All right. Good enough. Well, there's a lot more to sort through with our political panel. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: We're serving up a hot dish of presidential politics with CNN's Bill Schneider and Mark Preston out in Iowa, and The Hotline's editor in chief and CNN political contributor, Amy Walter.

Talking a little bit about the Democrats trying to tailor their images and their positions to get those voters out there excited. And Obama -- Senator Barack Obama -- certainly comes to mind. Let's listen to what he had to say about the Iraq war at the AFL-CIO Democratic debate.

We don't that at this time. The point of it though -- I can read it to you. It says, "I find it amusing that those who helped to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me for making sure that we're on the right battlefield and not on the wrong battlefield in the war on terrorism."

What he's referring to is the whole dust up over his comments about Pakistan. And how is that playing out there in the public? We know that he's trying to be a little different. And it sounds like he's trying to put a sharper edge to some of his comments.

WALTER: It is unfortunate we didn't have the clip, only because you would have heard the big applause line after that. That was probably his biggest applause line of the entire forum. And that was his crowd. That was a very Democratic, liberal audience that does want to hear a strong anti-war, anti-Bush message.

They didn't respond as favorably to when Senator Clinton made a comment saying, you know, when you're president, you have to be careful what you say. They didn't appreciate that all that much.

The question is, though, how much more traction can Barack Obama really get on this issue of the war, which I think, quite frankly, he's sort of played himself out here and gotten his base vote. How he expands it, he's hoping, is by showing Democratic voters on one hand he's going to be different from George Bush and by saying to them, too, but I'm electable because I can stand strong on issues like Pakistan. I can make a very substantive foreign policy speech.

The problem is that in the mainstream press, at least, his comments on Pakistan really got him a lot of blowback, both from Republicans and in that debate. What you heard between the other candidates, like Joe Biden or Chris Dodd and Hillary Clinton, all coming and making comments about that Pakistan comment.

So, while he's trying in some ways to make himself look stronger as a general election candidate, in essence what he ended up doing was, I think, helping Hillary Clinton look like the more experienced, more comfortable and confident on issues of foreign policy. JOHNS: Bill Schneider, obviously you've been at this for a long time. It's been a week now. Was that a mistake for Barack Obama, at least among the people you would consider the base that he's trying to appeal to right now?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think what he did was, he committed what I call "not supposed to's." He said a number of things you're not supposed to say if you're trying to be president of the United States. Now, a lot of the base thought, well, why not? He's just saying what we all believe.

He said that, you know, he'd be willing, he would set aside the use of nuclear weapons if there would be civilian deaths, even if we could target known terrorists. You're not supposed to say that. Hillary Clinton was quick to respond.

The base says, well, of course we wouldn't use nuclear weapons if there would be civilian deaths. No president would do that. And Clinton's response was, well, we're not supposed to say whether or not we would or whether or not we wouldn't.

He said that he might invade Pakistan if we could target Osama bin Laden and other known terrorists. Hillary Clinton said, you're not supposed to threaten an ally, particularly one that's in a very unstable situation. So she gets credit for professionalism, but I think with the base that you asked me about, I think they don't understand what you're not supposed to say. And a lot of them like what Obama's been saying.

JOHNS: We should stay now with both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. If we had them, we could play two sound bites for you from the National Association of Black Journalists convention this week. We're talking about these two candidates trying to appeal to the African American vote. Do we have that?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: I want to apologize for being a little bit late, but you guys keep on asking whether I'm black enough.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN: Are you black enough...

(LAUGHTER)

UNKNOWN: ... to sustain the kind of support that you got from your husband? And what makes you the better candidate over a black man in representing the issues regarding the African-American community?

CLINTON: I am really thrilled to be running at a time in our history when on a stage you can see an African American man, a Hispanic man and a woman. You don't see that on the other side of the aisle when they have their debates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: So, Mark Preston, I guess the question, when you look at this, this is the kind of thing we've heard quite a few times out there. Is this being overplayed? Are we hearing a little bit too much about it now?

PRESTON: No, Joe, I don't think so, because, arguably, African Americans are the most important constituency in the Democratic primary. They reliably vote Democratic. There's church spread out all across the country that help drive out the vote. So, no, I don't think we're hearing enough about it. There certainly is an intense fight right now with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the black vote. You know, Hillary Clinton is certainly trying to live on her husband's legacy, trying to build on her husband's legacy.

A lot of people call him the first black president. Of course, Barack Obama, you know, some would say is arguably the first black who might have a shot at winning the White House. So, no, I don't think we are hearing enough about it.

JOHNS: Amy, when look at this thing, is Senator Clinton still getting strong support in the African American community as you might expect?

WALTER: She is. She is still getting strong support from the African American community. And I want to go back to the point we made earlier about getting support from women and how that's going for her.

You know, I mean, again, I think, and Mark had made this point, that she's going to be able to, and is continuing to lead among women voters in all the polling. Where she's starting to make some improvement, at least in the last poll that we took at The Hotline, we started to see some real big jumps for her in approval ratings among Democratic men. And that's really the place where she's going to have to try to make those inroads to lock up the Democratic nomination.

JOHNS: OK. Good enough. All right, Amy Walter, thank you so much. Thank you, Mark Preston. Also out there, Bill Schneider. Thanks all. And we'll see you guys back in Washington soon.

Coming up, we're waiting for a news conference on the rescue effort to find six trapped miners in Utah. CNN will bring it to you live when it happens. 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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Let's take a look at what's on the cover of this week's major U.S. newsmagazines. Time magazine looks at "The Political Confessions of Billy Graham" with an exclusive conversation with the influential evangelist and presidential confidant. And Newsweek's cover is "The Facebook Effect," about the popular social networking Web site. U.S. News was a double issue last week.

And that's your "Late Edition" for Sunday, August 12. Wolf Blitzer will be back next Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

A reminder that CNN will bring you that news conference updating efforts to reach six trapped miners in Utah when it happens. Until then, thanks for watching. I'm Joe Johns in Washington. For our international viewers, stand by for world news.

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