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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Iraqi Parliament Member Mahmoud Othman; Interviews With Senators Casey, Bond

Aired August 19, 2007 - 11:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's 11 a.m. in Washington, 10 a.m. in Kingston, Jamaica, 7 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
We'll speak with an outspoken member of the Iraqi parliament, Mahmoud Othman, in a few minutes. First, though, let's go to Susan Candiotti. She's in Jamaica right now, where they're bracing for the landfall of Hurricane Dean. Susan, when do they expect the worst to occur in Jamaica?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Probably around the dinner hour. That's what they are expecting at this hour. But Wolf, as you can see over my shoulder here in Montego Bay, which is on the north side of the island, the sun is still out, and the sea is as calm as it can be.

However, in Kingston to the south, they are already feeling the outer bands of Hurricane Dean, and power is expected within the hour to be cut off across the island. That's in an effort to preserve the power grids as best as possible and avoid the most amount of damage.

Now, so far, Hurricane Dean has taken its toll in the Caribbean Sea as it marches toward Jamaica. So far it is being blamed for five deaths in the lesser Antilles, including one man in St. Lucia, who was reported to have drowned in a river trying to save a cow.

And in Dominica, a mother and son died in a landslide. Two more deaths were reported in Martinique. Here in Jamaica, Wolf, about 20 shelters are open so far, housing nearly 400 people. The airports have been closed since last night.

Residents who are here tell us they are worried. Some tourists are, some aren't as they brace for the storm and what it has to offer. Back to you.

BLITZER: A lot of the tourists, did they all manage, at least most of them, to get out or are a lot of them stuck in Jamaica? CANDIOTTI: Wolf, a good number of them, thousands and thousands, did leave yesterday. They were able to get out on the last planes out. However some elected, quite frankly, to stay. The usual reasons. They either didn't want to cut off the rest of their holiday and others who hadn't been through a storm frankly wanted to experience one. Well, it looks like they'll get their wishes.

This is a category four storm which is a major hurricane. All right, we're watching it every step of the way. Susan, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you.

Let's turn to our CNN Severe Weather Center right now. Reynolds Wolf is standing by with the latest update on the path of this hurricane. What is that latest forecast, Reynolds?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The latest forecast path, Wolf, still brings the storm just to the south of Jamaica. But one thing you need to remember, this storm is nearly the size of Texas when you include the outflow. Just an immense system.

And for all things considered, Jamaica's a fairly small island. So the storm, even though it's expected to pass just to the south, it's big enough to cause quite a bit of damage.

We're talking about the potential of 20 inches of rainfall in the highest elevations near Blue Mountain. Lower elevations face anywhere from five to ten inches of rainfall, heavy storm surge and course those damaging winds.

Now, here's the forecast path from the National Hurricane Center, Wolf. It's expected to pass just to the south of the island. The eye, not all the wind and all the damage. Then as we get to 8 a.m. on Monday the storm's still a category four. Then as we fast-forward to the next 24 hours, it brings it right into the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula as a category four on Tuesday.

And then back out into the Bay of Campeche, then the Gulf of Mexico as a category three on Wednesday. However, with this increment, this 24-hour increment on Tuesday, remember, that includes the area inside the Yucatan. Before it makes landfall, it is forecast to be a category five landing south of Cancun at this time.

So we're talking about a very, very powerful storm. Right now the most powerful storm on the planet. Then when you also look at that cone of probability, Wolf, the storm may veer a little bit more north or possibly to the south. so you have that margin of error. There is a possibility the storm could veer a few ways between now, Monday, Tuesday and of course, Wednesday.

BLITZER: It looks, Reynolds, like Florida is in the clear, but Texas by no means in the clear yet. It certainly could hit Texas unless it completely stays to the south and just devastates portions of Mexico.

WOLF: That's an excellent point. A lot can happen between now and then. You'll remember back in 2004, Hurricane Charlie that was going right up the Florida coast, looked like it was headed towards Tampa, and then to everyone's surprise, made that sharp right turn into Punta Gorda.

There is every possibility this storm between now and Monday and Tuesday could veer up and go into the Gulf of Mexico. And then it's anybody's ball game.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch it every step of the way with you, Reynolds. Thanks very much. Reynolds is going to stay on top of this story for us. And we're going to be sure to bring you all the latest information throughout the next two hours here on "Late Edition."

We'll move on to the situation in Iraq right now. Another huge blow this week to an Iraqi government already in the hot seat. Suicide bomb attacks in two northern Iraqi villages Tuesday killed hundreds of people. The target members of Iraqi's minority Yazidi religious community.

It was the deadliest terrorist attack since the start of the war back in March of 2003. Joining us from London is Iraqi parliament member Mahmoud Othman.

Mr. Othman, thanks very much. Welcome back to "Late Edition." I want to get to the attack in northern Iraq in a moment. But first I want your reaction to what U.S. Army Major General Rick Lynch said over the weekend. He said this. He said, "We are concerned primarily about the training of Shiite extremists. We think there are about 50 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard right now in Iraq."

What is your sense on this statement from General Lynch?

MAHMOUD OTHMAN, IRAQI PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Well, I think there are helps given to the Shiite militia by the Iranian side. I don't know how many people have crossed or not. It may be less, it may be more. But definitely, there is help going to some of the militias from the Iranian side. And whether it's inside Iraq or outside Iraq, I think generally speaking this is right. But I don't have details the general talks about.

BLITZER: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has a very cordial relationship with the Iranian leadership, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and has refused to acknowledge that the Iranians are playing this kind of negative role killing Iraqi and U.S. forces in Iraq. What's your assessment of the Iranian role?

OTHMAN: Well, I think there have been always a controversy and some differences between the American point of view and the Iraqi government's point of view over this issue. The Iranians, are they a friend? Are they an enemy? Are they interfering? Are they not interfering?

BLITZER: What do you think, Mr. Othman?

OTHMAN: I think definitely there is Iranian interference. There are forces in Iraq which are friendly to the Iranian. They have been always friendly to them. They have relation. They are now in the government, and they think Iran is a friend. But Americans say it's an enemy.

I think this question is very much important, and the Americans and the Iraqi government side, they should sit together, sort it out, and make sure and there should be a common policy issued. Because Iraqis are suffering from this conflict or this difference of opinion or controversy between both sides. BLITZER: Here is what you said back in early May, some three months ago. I'm going to read it to you. You said, "If Maliki does something different quickly to show he has initiatives, then he can stay in, but I'm not optimistic. If he doesn't, this government has no more than three months. It can't survive more."

That was more than three months ago. What is your current assessment of the government of Nouri al-Maliki. Can it survive?

OTHMAN: Well, I think still the government is weak, the performance is weak. And I think a lot of things, the problems, security problems, services, the question of militias, the question of tackling unemployment and also corruption, the government has not been very successful.

Lately, the Iraqi political forces are trying in Baghdad. They are meeting these days to try to enforce the government and make it better. I think this government could still do some things.

And maybe in September -- if by September they don't do anything new, they do not change, no political, no executive change, then one should think about some changes that may take place, because the government couldn't go on like this.

Half of the ministers have already resigned and the government hasn't been successful in performing its real duties.

BLITZER: The former prime minister, Ayad Allawi, goes further than you in an op-ed in an article he wrote in The Washington Post this weekend.

He writes this: he says, "Prime Minister Maliki has squandered Iraq's credibility in Arab politics and he cannot restore it. It is past time for a change at the top of the government. Without that, no American military strategy or orderly withdrawal will succeed, and Iraq and the region will be left in chaos."

Are you ready to go as far as the former prime minister, Ayad Allawi, and suggest Nouri al-Maliki must go?

OTHMAN: No, I'm not. And I think it's one sided, that of Allawi, because we have not to put the blame on al-Maliki. The blame should put on the Americans also and their policy in Iraq. They haven't been very successful either.

And also the blame should go to the Iraqi political powers, political forces which made this government. They appointed the ministers. They made the list for parliament. So I think Maliki has always been complaining about these forces who aren't cooperating with each other.

BLITZER: What have been the mistakes -- Mr. Othman, what have been the mistakes that the U.S. has made?

OTHMAN: Well, I think the U.S. in their evaluation of the Iraqi situation before the war, they haven't been successful. The information that got to them were not so correct. They were ill- informed and ill-advised and I think they have made a lot of mistakes in Iraq. And they themselves sometimes talk about it.

So I think the U.S. has a responsibility, Maliki's government's has, and the political forces which leading the scene in Iraq, actually, Iraqi-wise, they are more responsible than Maliki himself for what happened. Of course, regional countries, especially the neighbors also, are responsible because they have been intervening in a negative way in the Iraqi situation.

BLITZER: We saw the deadliest terrorist attack in Iraq since the start of the war this week in northern Iraq -- 400 people killed, maybe even more. It's unclear how many exactly. Who, first of all, do you believe is responsible for this attack?

OTHMAN: Well, I think the blame goes more than anybody else to Al Qaida because these activities are typical -- these crimes are typical of Al Qaida organization. Of course, they have chosen this soft spot. It's a soft spot. It is not well protected.

These people are Kurds of another religion, but are not protected by the Kurdish government because the Kurdish government is not allowed -- it is not within its boundaries.

At the same time, because it is a remote area they are not well- protected neither by American nor by Iraqi forces. So that's why they have been very hard hit because of being Kurds, because of being another religion and because just terrorists, they hit anywhere. They don't care about the victim. They hit anywhere, civilians or anybody else.

BLITZER: Is it time, Mr. Othman, for what's being called a soft partition of Iraq into separate areas: a Kurdish area, a Shiite area and a Sunni area?

OTHMAN: Well, I think some people talk about that because the situation is not going well. Had Iraq been united together and people been in peace and security and services were offered to people and people had a normal life, nobody would have thought about this.

But I think because of this and they see there are different areas, different communities, each community may be better off ruling its area. So maybe people gradually are going, because of this and because of sectarian cleansing and having about two million Iraqis displaced on a sectarian basis inside Iraq, many millions outside.

So some people think that why not having three areas, each community ruling its own area within a federation or a confederation? This is an idea which some sources talk about.

BLITZER: Two million Iraqis in exile since the start of the war, another two million displaced inside Iraq. Mahmoud Othman, thanks very much for joining us from London.

OTHMAN: Thank you. BLITZER: And coming up, the Democrats duked it out this morning at a president debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. We're going to talk about that, the important foreign and domestic policy issues, with top advisers to the Clinton, Obama and Edwards campaign when "Late Edition" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." This morning, the Democratic presidential candidates squared off over at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Polls is that state show a very tight race between the three front-runners.

Out in Des Moines if former Congressman Brad Carson. He's representing Senator Barack Obama's campaign. And joining us here in Washington is Howard Wolfson, communications director for the Hillary Clinton campaign, and Chris Kofinis, the communications director for the John Edwards campaign.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us. I want to play a clip, first of all, from Senator Obama, what he said earlier today at this debate at Drake University.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: I do think that there is a substantive difference between myself and Senator Clinton when it comes to meeting with our adversaries. I think that strong countries and strong presidents meet and talk with our adversaries. We shouldn't be afraid to do so. We tried the other way. It didn't work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Howard Wolfson, you work with Senator Clinton on a day- to-day basis. What's wrong, if you believe anything is wrong, with that statement from Senator Obama?

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, Senator Clinton gave her answer in a snippet after that that you didn't show, and they have a disagreement on this. Obviously, you talk with your allies. Obviously, you engage in vigorous diplomacy. We have to close the door on the Bush-Cheney cowboy diplomacy. Senator Clinton has said that time and time again.

But when the question was asked, "Would you commit to meet with five of the world's worst dictators in the first year of your presidency without any preconditions," Senator Obama said yes, Senator Clinton said no. She doesn't believe that a president ought to be giving away his negotiating leverage by precommitting in that way.

BLITZER: Would Senator Obama, Congressman Carson, be doing that?

BRAD CARSON, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Senator Obama has always said that we have to have a change from the past. We tried it a different way. The American people -- and I've talked to them here in Iowa, back home in the small towns of Oklahoma which I represented in Congress. They want a strong nation to talk to our adversaries.

That doesn't mean we cave in, we do so without preparation or preconditions, but that we talk to our adversaries because we have tried it the other way and the American people are tired of the kind of foreign policy we've had for the last few years.

CARSON: And they would like a sharp change, and that's what Senator Obama is promising.

BLITZER: All right. There's a clear difference there between the campaigns of Clinton and Obama. What about Senator Edwards, Chris? Where does he come down on this?

CHRIS KOFINIS, EDWARDS CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Senator Edwards said clearly he understands that Senator Obama has his opinion. From his perspective, We have to walk away from a foreign policy of convenience that defines the last many years of the Bush administration that has clearly had a terribly negative impact, not only on our moral standing in the world, but the way we are able to attract allies and build a type of global consensus that allows us to isolate our enemies.

BLITZER: But would he do as Senator Obama would do, meet with these dictators during the first year of his presidency or would he wait to see to make sure that they weren't simply using him for propaganda?

KOFINIS: Senator Edwards has made it very clear that, you know, he would only meet with people after there were steps were taken to make sure that it wasn't used for propaganda purposes.

BLITZER: So he agrees with Senator Clinton?

KOFINIS: Yes, but I think there is one important distinction, I think that we have to be very clear that we have to walk away from the type of foreign policy that has not only defined I think the last seven years. And I think this was kind of the point that Senator Obama was trying to make. In the sense we have to look in a different way to the way that our country works with other countries. I think that has been one of the fundamental mistakes that we've made over the last few years of this administration.

BLITZER: All right. Let's have another excerpt from the debate earlier today in Iowa. Here's Senator Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: We shouldn't use hypotheticals. You know, words do matter. And this campaign, just like every other thing that happens in the United States, is looked at and followed with very great interest.

And, you know, Pakistan is on a nice edge. It is easily, unfortunately, a target for the jihadists. And therefore, you've got to be very careful what you say with respect to Pakistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: She was critical, Brad Carson, of your candidate, Senator Obama, for suggesting if all else fails, the U.S. had actionable intelligence on where Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan, the U.S. should go in and capture or kill him with or without the consent of President Musharraf, the leader of Pakistan.

Do you want to respond to what Senator Clinton said today?

CARSON: Well, this is perhaps a clear difference between the candidates. When you go to the coffee shops, the small towns, the big cities of this country, I have not anyone, Liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, who doesn't think if Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden is in some mountain hideout in Pakistan, that we shouldn't go in, get him and kill him, with or without the permission of anyone else in the world.

The first duty of a president is to protect the people of this country. And we will hunt down Osama bin Laden no matter what he is. This is basic common sense.

And you know, there's really two campaigns going on. There's this Washington campaign where people debate these kinds of, you know, really silly matters. And then there's back home, where everyone agrees that we should kill Osama bin Laden no matter where he might be found. And I think everyone agrees that Senator Barack Obama is exactly right on this point.

BLITZER: What about you? Do you think, Howard Wolfson, and you work for Senator Clinton, that Senator Obama is right on this point?

WOLFSON: Well, Senator Clinton, as a New Yorker, Senator Clinton knows that if we have actionable intelligence, we know where Osama bin Laden is, we've got to do everything we can to capture or kill him.

BLITZER: So you agree with him?

WOLFSON: The question is whether or -- of course. There's no American who wouldn't take out Osama bin Laden if we knew where he was. The question is whether or not you have the capacity to do it and the willingness to do it, and whether you advertise you'd do it.

After Senator Obama made those remarks, we had demonstrations in Pakistan, we had the terrible sight of people burning an American flag. There is a difference between doing something and advertising you are going to do something.

BLITZER: Because when I interviewed President Bush last year, September last year, I asked the same question, if you had actionable intelligence, you knew where Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan, would you go in and violate Pakistani sovereignty to capture and kill him? And he said absolutely.

WOLFSON: Maybe this is an area where Senator Obama and President Bush are using the same kind of diplomacy. I'll leave that up to Congressman Carson to answer. BLITZER: But you're saying that if Hillary Clinton became president of the United States, and if she had actionable intelligence to capture or kill bin Laden, she would go in and violate another country's sovereignty, if necessary?

WOLFSON: I don't think what you want to do is poke a stick in the eye of an adversary, OK? All Americans want to make sure that we capture or kill Osama bin Laden, no more so than the people who are from New York like Senator Clinton and myself. But there's a difference about whether or not you're going to advertise that fact, you're going to poke a stick in the eye of an adversary or whether you're just going to get it done.

BLITZER: Where does Senator Edwards come down on this?

KOFINIS: I mean, Senator Edwards I think has been very clear, that we have to apply as much diplomatic pressure on our allies, including Musharraf, to basically isolate and capture bin Laden and destroy Al Qaeda. But if he has actionable intelligence, he'll respond.

But I think this goes to a bigger point. You know, when Senator Barack Obama talked about the use of nuclear weapons, and he was criticized for being naive and irresponsible by the Clinton campaign, and then we find out Senator Clinton said the exact same thing, more or less, I mean, this, I think, speaks to the way what's wrong with Washington.

You know, we have a fundamental choice. This is what this election is about. Either we're going to do the same thing that we've been doing the last four, eight, 12 years. This politics of usual, where we attack each other for these minor differences.

Or we are going to actually move in a new direction. This election is about, I think, a very simple choice. Either we're going to have real fundamental change, and that's what Senator Edwards believes, or we're going to basically allow the establishment and the status quo to persist. that is why, when Senator Edwards...

BLITZER: And let me just interrupt, because we're going to take a break, but you think Hillary Clinton is part of the establishment and the status quo?

KOFINIS: I think Senator Clinton has made it very clear when she took her position to basically side with lobbyists instead of the people. Senator Edwards has made it very clear that he is going to be a candidate, and he is going to fight for a party. The Democratic Party that is a party of the people. That's a very simple choice.

BLITZER: All right. We'll let the other campaigns respond in a moment. We're going to cover a lot more ground here. We have a lot more to talk about. The Democratic presidential race with these three surrogates.

Also coming up, much more on Hurricane Dean. It's a monster storm. It's getting ready to go after Jamaica. We'll have the latest on this massive storm as it churns through the Caribbean heading toward Mexico and potentially the United States. You are watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll get back to the surrogates for the Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama and John Edwards campaigns in a moment. But first, we want to update you on what's happening with Hurricane Dean. Reynolds Wolf once again joining us from the CNN Hurricane Headquarters. He's watching the path of this storm. What's the latest information, Reynolds?

WOLF: The latest we have with this immense storm is it remain a category four storm. Winds right now sustained at 145 miles per hour. Some gusts that will get up to 180.

The storm center is about 128 miles just from Kingston, Jamaica. The storm expected to pass just to the south of the island. The eye coming fairly close to the southern shore and should do so around the 4 or 5 o'clock hour.

However, even though it's going to remain to the south, it's still going to bring quite a bit of rainfall, possibly 20 inches of rainfall in the highest elevations. Anywhere else from, say, 5 to 10 inches of rain for the southern shore. Still the storm will surge its way to the west by 8 a.m. Monday, still a category four, strengthening into a category five at 8 p.m. Monday and then crossing into the Yucatan Peninsula by 8 a.m. Tuesday. That path continues onward into southern Mexico, just near Tampico by 8 a.m. Wednesday, winds around 115 miles per hour.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: So it slows down after it goes over the Yucatan. Those hotels at Cancun, which a lot of Americans certainly are familiar with, are they being evacuated right now? What do we know?

WOLF: That's a great question. I haven't heard of any widespread evacuations just yet. But you're absolutely right. Cancun has had a long history of these kind of tropical systems roaring through that part of the world.

I mean, the Yucatan peninsula sits up like a giant thumb. It's good in one sense that it helps slow these storms down, but terrible for those communities right along the eastern shores of that peninsula. Certainly, a rough time for Cancun.

And I would expect, Wolf, from Monday evening, especially into early Tuesday, you are going to see conditions deteriorate there and do so at a very quick pace, possibly the storm making landfall near Cancun as a Category 5 storm.

BLITZER: That's the largest, the most massive of those storms -- of the categories. Thanks very much, Reynolds.

WOLF: Yes, sir. BLITZER: Don't go away. We're going to be checking back with you throughout "Late Edition."

Up next, though, we're going to go back to the three top advisers for the top Democratic campaigns, the front-runners in Iowa, the candidates most fit to be president. We're going to ask the question, are they the most fit to be president, which one of those from the Democratic Party perspective?

Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. In our next hour, we'll talk more about the Iraq war strategy with the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kit Bond, and Democratic Senator Bob Casey. He's just back from a visit to Iraq.

First though, we are continuing our discussion with the race for the Democratic presidential nomination with top advisers to the Clinton, Obama and Edwards campaigns.

Here is what John Edwards said earlier today, guys, at the debate at Drake University in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C.: We are not the party of Washington insiders. And we can say it clearly and unequivocally by saying we will never take another dime from a Washington lobbyist.

(APPLAUSE)

I've asked the other candidates to join me in that, and at least until now, Senator Clinton has not done it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Is Senator Clinton going to change her position on that, Howard Wolfson?

WOLFSON: No. She made it clear in the debate. But you know, there was a good...

BLITZER: Why not? Why does she want to take money from Washington lobbyists?

WOLFSON: Because look, Wolf, it's a false distinction, OK, that on the one hand we're not going to take money from Washington lobbyists, but on the other hand, we can take money from lobbyists in states or on the other hand we can take money from the people who employ them.

And this is a phony distinction. What we need is fundamental, real reform. We need public financing of our elections. But there was in important question...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFSON: Let me finish. There is an important question that was asked at the beginning of the debate that had to do with change and experience, change versus experience. And with Senator Clinton, you get both. She has spent 35 years gaining experience fighting for change. And that's the kind of experience she'll bring fighting for change in Washington.

BLITZER: Let me let Chris, who represents John Edwards, respond. He says it's a phony distinction whether or not you should accept...

KOFINIS: With all due respect, the experience that Senator Clinton learned -- and Senator Edwards made it very clear. In '93, you had Senator Clinton or first lady leading the charge at the time in terms of universal health care. The reason why that was stopped was because of the lobbyists and special interests that allayed against her.

And now you flash forward and now she's decided the experience she learned from that is to basically sit down and deal with these lobbyists. This is American Government 101. Is it not by accident that lobbyists are paid to influence members of the Congress. This is a fundamental point as to whether we going to have the bold, transformational change in this country. It is not a phony distinction.

BLITZER: All right.

KOFINIS: To suggest it is minimizes how much problems we have in this country, we don't have energy policy, why we don't have...

BLITZER: Hold on, Howard. I want you to hold your fire for a second because I want to let Brad Carson, who is supporting Barack Obama, weigh in on this point as well. Is Senator Obama ready to forego campaign fund-raising from Washington lobbyists?

CARSON: Senator Obama has never taken a single dollar in campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists. Senator Obama has always been out there on that issue. And, you know, this campaign is about change.

And I thought the most revealing thing of the debate today was that every candidate on that stage in the course of that debate acknowledged that there was one candidate that embodied change. That was Senator Barack Obama.

And it's one thing for all of us to talk about it, and the people in Washington and the media. What the people are talking about in the focus groups that the media has commissioned right after this debate today said one thing, that Senator Barack Obama was the overwhelming winner of this debate because they want real, fundamental change.

BLITZER: But Congressman...

CARSON: And the candidates themselves said Obama is that person.

BLITZER: Congressman Carson, they acknowledge he's a candidate of change, but they also insist he's a candidate of inexperience.

CARSON: I don't think anyone is insisting that. They know that he is a man of wisdom who got the key foreign policy decision of our generation right when so many other people got it wrong, including the other major candidates in this race.

On the question of should we go into Iraq or should we not, Senator Obama was right. That's the kind of wisdom, the kind of judgment that it takes to be president, the kind of wisdom and judgment we haven't had for the last six years and which I think the American people crave.

And so this combination of the wisdom, the ability to lead change, the vision and commitment to do it is why Senator Obama was seen by those focus groups as the overwhelming winner of the debate.

BLITZER: Howard Wolfson, go ahead and respond.

WOLFSON: Just to correct the record, Senator Obama did take money from Washington lobbyists up until the time he decided to run for president. He took a lot of it. So just to correct the record there.

CARSON: I'm saying there has been no money from Washington lobbyists.

WOLFSON: Right. I understand, but when he ran for Senate he decided that he was going to take money from Washington lobbyists and he takes money now from state lobbyists. And, of course, Senator Edwards, as I said, takes money from the people who employ by lobbyists.

You can make these distinctions that work in the context of a campaign that are political, or you can fight for real change as Senator Clinton has been for her entire life, with a proven track record of making real change and getting it done.

KOFINIS: I think that's incredibly disingenuous. What we are talking about here is the presidency of the United States. This is not a contest for "American Idol." This is an American presidency we're talking about. And fundamental change is what this country needs.

This is what John Edwards is fighting for every single day. This is the type of bold, transformational change he wants. This is why he wants universal health care. He wants to address poverty. He wants to do something about the environment and global warming and why he wants to end the war in Iraq.

And one of the factors, if not one of the most significant factors that blocks this type of transformational change in Washington is lobbyists. To suggest that there's a phony distinction, I think, minimizes what the American people know. BLITZER: Go ahead, Howard.

WOLFSON: Look, you know, last week or a couple of weeks ago, Senator Edwards called on other candidates in the race to take money they had received from News Corp. Then it turned out that Senator Edwards himself had taken $800,000 from a book publisher with News Corp. So, you know, these are phony distinctions.

Let's talk about the real issues. The real issue is the candidate who has the strength and the experience fighting for 35 years and getting things done and who is going to come into Washington with that strength and experience to make real change on day one.

BLITZER: I want to just wrap it up and go back to Brad Carson who is supporting Senator Barack Obama for a moment, read to you what Barack Obama said in The Washington Post earlier in the week, Brad. Here's what he said: "I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than she can," referring to Hillary Clinton. 'I will add, by the way, that is not entirely a problem of her making. Some of those battles in '90s that she went through were the result of some unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do.' "

I wonder if you want to elaborate on that point and why you think she is so divisive, if you will, and Senator Obama is so inclusive?

CARSON: Senator Obama is uniquely qualified to bridge this gap that has, you know, hurt this country over the last 20 years, this red-blue gap. You know, unlike most of the other guests who you'll have today, I live out in a small town in rural eastern Oklahoma. My family has been there 150 years.

And so, you know, I hear what people are talking about at the Wal-Mart, the coffee shops, these kinds of places, at churches. And what they say, people who used to be Democrats turned a deaf year to the Democratic party over the last 25 years, they listen to what Barack Obama has to say.

They're interested in what he has to say. They think his message of hope, optimism and change is something that resonates with them, and it can bring them back into the fold of the Democratic Party. And so I think he's uniquely positioned to do that, and I see it in my own hometown.

BLITZER: How does she, Hillary Clinton, Howard Wolfson, get over the high negatives that she has?

WOLFSON: Well, Wolf, the reason she's 20 points up in the polls in the Democratic primary and the reason she's beating all of the leading Republicans in polls for presidency is because Americans know she is the candidate, as I've said, with the strength and the experience to bring real change.

BLITZER: But it's very tight in Iowa. Very tight in Iowa. WOLFSON: Of course. Look, Senator Edwards is very well- positioned in Iowa. This is a very close race in Iowa. It's going to be a close race, there's no question about that. But Senator Clinton is in very good shape. And the reason she's in good shape is because Americans know she's fighting for them, and she's got the strength and experience to do it.

BLITZER: Ten seconds. Wrap it up. KOFINIS: Senator Edwards I think is going to be the kind of candidate who can go into Iowa, New Hampshire, all across the country, red states, purple states, blue states, and unite this country around one simple theme, real change. Bold transformational change that's going to make this country better for Republicans, Democrats, independents.

That's the kind of president John Edwards would be.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, guys. Thank you very much. Chris Kofinis, Howard Wolfson, Brad Carson, thanks to all of you for joining us. An excellent debate.

Coming up here on "Late Edition," it was a wild week on Wall Street that sent mutual funds, mortgage lenders into a panic. We're going to tell you what it all means for you, the investors, what it means for the economy and your wallet, when we come back. Stay with "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Financial markets in turmoil triggered by a deepening mortgage loan crisis made for a very rough week for investors. Wall Street did a bit of a calm on Friday after the Federal Reserve cut an important credit rate by half a percentage point.

But there are still deep worries on the U.S. economy, the world economy, consumers' wallets globally as well. In San Francisco, joining us right now, the Berkeley professor Laura Tyson. She's a former economic adviser to President Clinton. And here in Washington, Stephen Moore. He's the former president of the Club for Growth. He's now on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to both of you very much for coming in.

Laura Tyson, first to you. How worried should investors be when the markets open Monday morning?

LAURA TYSON, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Well, that's a question that's on everyone's mind. And truthfully, we don't know. I think what the Fed did on Friday is very important. And I think it will help stabilize the situation. It's not that we're through the situation, but the Fed did a couple of things Friday besides lowering a key rate to keep banks liquid.

It signalled that it was going to look at its own interest rate policy based on the downside risk to the economy which had increased appreciably. The fed was signalling that it may continue to lower rates, including a cut in its rate at the next meeting. BLITZER: It was a pretty extraordinary move by this Fed. Stephen, I think you'll agree on that. So here's the question to you: How worried should investors be tomorrow morning that this roller coaster is going to just hit them once again?

STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER PRESIDENT, CLUB FOR GROWTH: Yeah, it has been a roller coaster. I haven't seen anything like this in years where you see one day the market is up 300 points, the next day down 350 points. So it's been topsy-turvy.

I guess as I look at the situation, the key is containing this sort of flu-like symptoms to the housing market to make sure that this doesn't contaminate the other sectors of the economy, which, in my opinion, Wolf, look pretty strong. If you look at industrial production, it's good, if you look at the retail sector, it's good, manufacturing, technology sector.

So the key is to make sure that we contain this. You may see in the course of the next few months a few bank failures, banks that made bad loans. You might see some investment firms that face some tough times. But again, I think that this market is still strong and I'm still pretty bullish on the economy.

BLITZER: And that's what President Bush, Laura Tyson, said this week, as well. I want you to listen to this statement from the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Since we began cutting taxes in 2001, our economy has expanded by more than $1.9 trillion. Since the tax cuts took full effect in 2003, our economy has added more than 8.3 million new jobs and almost four years of uninterrupted growth. The American economy is the envy of the world and we need to keep it that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you basically agree with the president on that last point?

TYSON: I think the U.S. economy has done quite well. I would disagree on the interpretation of the role of the tax cuts. But the important thing here is that the global economy is very healthy. In fact, in 2007, Europe has been outpacing the U.S. And much of Asia has been outpacing the U.S. The world economy has become somewhat more decoupled from U.S. growth.

So even if Hank Paulson, who also spoke last week and said that the changes in the financial markets were going to exact a penalty on growth. That's what Hank Paulson said, the secretary treasury. But even if the U.S. growth rate does slow down as is now widely anticipated in the second half of this year going into next year, the global economy is strong.

So we no longer depend upon the U.S. locomotive. And I think I would be quite optimistic -- again, I agree completely with Stephen. It all depends upon containing this financial disruption to the subprime market, to the hedge funds and to the institutions that were highly leveraged and highly risky investments.

MOORE: One thing...

BLITZER: Hold on a second, Stephen. I want to read what Henry Paulson told the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, just to be precise. He's the treasury secretary. "Looking over periods of stress that I've seen, this is the strongest global economy we've had. There is nothing, in my judgment, that we should be doing in terms of guaranteeing market participants against losses or in terms of restraining risk taking."

Is that consistent with what Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve did, what, 48 hours later?

MOORE: Not entirely, but I think there's a difference between putting liquidity in the market, which is what Ben Bernanke did on Friday, and the talk of many Republicans and Democrats of expanding FHA, Fannie Mae, which are mortgage insurers, which create a problem of what we, as economists, call a moral hazard, which is if the government rushes in and provides a kind of bailout for these banks and investment firms that made bad loans, it only encourages that kind of behavior to pass.

The one thing I would only disagree a little bit with Laura on is I do think the tax cuts did have a big impact. And as I look at sort of look how Congress is responding to this crisis and the noises made out of the Democratic side, it's all a very bearish kind of agenda: raising taxes which is not going to help the market.

You've heard just today in the Democratic debate a lot of talk about trade protectionism, expanded welfare and entitlement programs. All of those things, I think, are negatives for the market at a time when the market needs some reassures...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I'll let you quickly respond, Laura. Go ahead.

TYSON: Well, I think that actually, an important set of things being discussed, we have to distinguish what the Fed needs to do right now and continue to do to contain the crisis. We need to look at what are the sources of the crisis.

And for example, several Democrats, including Senator Clinton, have been talking about the need to really tighten up some of the oversight on mortgage lenders. We have a situation in the United States where it's oftentimes harder to get a license as a hairdresser than it is as a mortgage broker. So we have to look at that.

We should also look at -- frankly, we have a number of very poor, low-income families with serious housing problems and we have a very serious problem of defaults. We have to look at issues of what we can do to help these families. That's not a moral hazard problem. The moral hazard problem is in the hedge funds. The moral hazard problem is in the financial services firms and I think the Fed is kind of in a very difficult situation here because in order to contain the crisis, they may, indeed, have to bail out some bad investors. That's happened before. It happened in 1998. It may happen again.

BLITZER: Well, let me bring Stephen back into this. Henry Paulson, he's the Treasury secretary, former chairman of Goldman Sachs -- Ben Bernanke took over for Alan Greenspan, who was there almost forever. Do you have confidence in these two gentlemen, Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson, that they know what they're doing to guide this economy through this rough period?

MOORE: Oh, I really do. I think everybody gives Ben Bernanke very high marks for intervening when he did on Friday. I think it was exactly the right call. That's what central banks do. When there is a liquidity crisis, you put some money out there.

The only thing that I would disagree a little bit with Laura about is this idea of having this expanded -- you look at these bad loans that were made. And, to some extent, it was government that urged banks to make these bad loans.

I remember back in the late '80s and the '90s, the federal government was saying to banks, "You're not making enough loans to low-income people and to minorities." And they've done that and now people are saying, "Oh my gosh, these loans are bad."

One other quick word about this. Let me just say -- one quick thing.

BLITZER: Let me ask Laura Tyson to respond specifically to the -- hold on one second.

MOORE: Only -- if you look at the entire mortgage market, only about 4 percent of the loans are in bad shape. So 96 percent of the loans are still performing.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead and respond, but also tell me if you have confidence in Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson.

TYSON: Yes, I do. I think both of them are very sensible and know a tremendous amount about the financial markets. I think we should all recognize that even the best minds in financial markets did not really see this coming. And, frankly, everybody is in unchartered waters.

We're using new kinds of securities, these mortgage-backed securities and collateralized instruments, that people can't predict. You know, we've had models last week going off into 25 standard deviations away from where the model predicted normal behavior. So I respect both of these men greatly but I also recognize -- and I'm sure they do -- that this is a very uncertain situation.

BLITZER: Yes or no from both of you, and then we've got to leave it. Laura, first to you. Will you be looking for bargains on the stock market tomorrow morning?

TYSON: I think that given the strength of the underlying global economy, given that this did not start in much of the U.S. economy, which is very strong, there are, indeed, places where investors can make a very sound equity investment. And by the way, this didn't start in equity markets in general. It started in...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I'll take that as a yes.

Stephen?

TYSON: Yes.

MOORE: I agree. You know, you look at corporate profits right now -- as you know, Laura, corporate profits are still very strong. And that's what drives the stock market. So this is a pretty good buying opportunity for the long term. Nobody knows what's going to happen in the next couple of weeks.

TYSON: I agree.

BLITZER: All right, we've got to leave it there, guys. Stephen Moore, Laura Tyson, thanks to both of you for helping us better understand this turbulent economic period.

Coming up, Hurricane Dean -- it's only hours away from landfall in Jamaica. We'll have all the latest news on where it's going, where it's heading next. All that coming up right here on "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We'll speak with senators Kit Bond and Bob Casey in just a few moments.

First, though, Hurricane Dean is a monster. It's barrelling across the Caribbean right now. Jamaica in the eye of the storm. Susan Candiotti is joining us now live from Montego Bay. Susan, it's relatively calm now. I think we can say this is the calm before the storm, if you will. But what are people in Jamaica bracing for?

CANDIOTTI: Well, I can tell you this, that they are already feeling the outer bands of this storm in Kingston, the capital city to the south. Up north, here, the northwest, in Montego Bay, we haven't started feeling any of the effects as of yet, but we will.

For the first time now, the cloud cover is starting to roll in. And just a little while ago, for the very first time, we heard and saw a police van going through the streets yelling through a bullhorn to people to please stay off the streets. There is not a lot of traffic at this hour, but they're telling people to clear the streets and telling them that the buses are available to take them to shelters.

What's of concern to the authorities here -- and I just spoke to the head of disaster preparedness, who just got off the phone himself with the prime minister. The prime minister is urging people to take advantage of these shelters. Only 20 of them, again, are opened so far. That's only about a quarter of them that are available. Only 400 people have sought shelter.

So far, we've talked to people and we've seen interviews with others saying they prefer to stay at home and protect their own property and some have even said they think they'll be able to walk to a shelter during the storm if things get bad enough. Obviously, no one thinks that would be a very good idea.

The power was supposed to be turned off within the last hour, but so far it remains on across the island, the idea being to protect the power grid as best as is possible. So far, Hurricane Dean has done serious damage and is blamed for five deaths so far. In St. Lucia, a report of a man who drowned in a river, and listen to this, trying to rescue a cow. A mother and a son drowned in Dominica and two more reports of people being killed in Martinique. So, everyone knows that the storm is a very serious one and will be enveloping the entire island of Jamaica in the coming hours.

BLITZER: You know, it's a little surprising to hear what you're saying, Susan, given the fact that this is a category 4 storm, what 140, 150 miles an hour approaching that. At least, given the history of some of the recent hurricanes, including Katrina and Rita, you'd think people in Jamaica would be much more nervous about the potential disaster that awaits them.

CANDIOTTI: Well, I think a large number of them are, certainly. And the people we're talking about who are not taking advantage of the shelters are those who live in structures where they do really need to be worried. But, you know, it's part of human nature to want to stay with your own stuff, not to leave your home. But the fact of the matter is, they do need to be concerned about that.

Other people are, indeed, hunkered down and have boarded up homes and businesses here. So, you do have anxiety about what lies ahead. Others are, frankly, treating this, as we often hear, a bit of an adventure to see what it's going to be like.

But I don't want to say that people, generally speaking, are taking it lightly. Many have had days to prepare for this and do have food and water ready for the hours and days ahead.

BLITZER: All right, Susan, we'll be checking back with you early and often. Thank you, Susan. Let's get the latest forecast from the CNN Hurricane Headquarters. Reynolds Wolf is tracking the storm's path. Show us where it is now, Reynolds, and where it's headed.

WOLF: Well, right now, Wolf, it's leaving the Dominican Republic and Haiti in its wake. And now it's moving into Jamaica. Kingston is already getting some precipitation from the outer bands.

However, on the other side of the island, we're not seeing a whole lot of activity there just yet. So, just give it, I'd say, the next 30, 40 minutes, they're going to start experiencing stronger wind gusts, and the rain is really going to pile in. Some places in the higher elevations could get up to 20 inches of rainfall.

The question you were asking, Wolf, where is this thing headed. Well, the latest path of the National Hurricane Center brings the center of this storm -- not the entire storm, but just the eye -- south of the island of Jamaica. But considering this is a storm that's hundreds of miles across, it will easily affect that island, bringing that heavy rainfall, that storm surge that could get up to 18 feet in some locations, and of course that damaging wind.

As we fast-forward from 8 p.m. Sunday south of the island to 8 a.m. Monday, it'll still be a category 4, expected to strengthen to a category 5 storm with winds of 160 miles per hour by 8 p.m. on Monday. It might make landfall south of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula as we get into Tuesday.

By Tuesday 8 a.m., we're looking at it as a category 4 in the middle of the Yucatan, then rushing back out into the Bay of Campeche into the Gulf of Mexico, and just to the south of Corpus Christi, moving near Tampico by 8 a.m. Wednesday with winds of 115 miles per hour. Back to you.

BLITZER: Is it fair to say, Reynolds, that most of the projections -- and we know that they can alter over the next two, three, four days -- show this hurricane hitting landfall in Mexico, south of Texas?

WOLF: Well, I mean, that's a great question. I would definitely hold a lot more weight in what we're going to see over the next 12 to 24 to 48 hours opposed to what I would see all the way out into Wednesday. I mean, that's a very good question.

But you still look at that cone of error. There's a chance that the storm could deviate from this path, moving more to the north, possibly right into the Gulf of Mexico, but not hitting the Yucatan altogether. Or it could travel south and hit the coast of Belize. So there's a lot that could happen in a very short time. We just have to be patient.

BLITZER: And the temperatures of those waters obviously have an impact. Give our viewers, Reynolds, a sense of how massive this storm is, the size of Hurricane Dean.

WOLF: OK. I'll go one greater for you. Think about this. This storm is, as we mentioned, a category 4 storm. We've got the criteria for it with winds of 131 miles an hour, 155 miles an hour. But to give you an idea of how big this thing is, try this on for size.

It is nearly 270,000 square miles, Wolf, when you include not just the brightly colored area that's enhanced, but the outflow. This is nearly as big as the state of Texas. Now, in comparison, Jamaica is roughly 4,500 square miles. So this dwarfs in comparison to the size of this enormous storm, the biggest storm on the planet.

BLITZER: All right, Reynolds, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you. We're going to be watching this storm very, very closely, Hurricane Dean unfolding right now. Reynolds Wolf reporting for us. We'll move on, though, to some other important news.

This has been a very rough week in Iraq. There have been a series of mortar bomb attacks across the country this weekend following Tuesday's highly coordinated quadruple truck bombing that has proven to be the deadliest terror attack in Iraq during the entire history of the war, going back to March 2003.

In Baghdad, meanwhile Iraqi politicians have been meeting in efforts to try to strengthen the government of Nouri al-Maliki. And over all of this is the countdown to next month's progress report by General David Petraeus and the U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker.

To help us sort all this out, in a moment we'll be joined from Scranton, Pennsylvania, by Democratic Senator Bob Casey. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, recently returned from Iraq.

But right now, joining us here in our Washington studio is Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri. He's the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. KIT BOND (R), MISSOURI: Thank you, Wolf. Appreciate the chance.

BLITZER: First of all, your son has now been deployed, he's a U.S. Marine, for a second time to Iraq.

BOND: That's correct.

BLITZER: He was there, what, for 13 months, the first tour of duty?

BOND: That's correct. I'm very proud of him. I'm proud of all the great men and women we have in the Marines, Army, the Guard, the reserves. These people are doing a fabulous job. Obviously, all of us are concerned and pray for their well-being. But we're very fortunate that we have such a fine corps of young volunteers willing to help protect our country's safety.

BLITZER: Do you know where he is? Are you in contact with him? Do you hear from him?

BOND: I do hear from him. For security reasons, I'm not going to mention where he is. But I had a good e-mail from him just a couple of days ago. And he said they're making tremendous progress.

The thing that concerns the Marines and others there is when they have tremendous progress and all of a sudden areas previously, highly volatile, unsafe to walk, are now manned by local police, who are keeping order.

People walking freely on the street. Businesses, schools, hospitals open. And that's the kind of progress that, I guess, they're satisfied because there's nothing going wrong. BLITZER; You've heard the argument that it's almost like a whac- a-mole kind of situation. You control the situation in the al-Anbar Province, maybe even the Diyala Province, but then all hell breaks loose in some of the other provinces. We saw what happened this week in northern Iraq. What, 400 people were killed in this highly coordinated truck bombing.

BOND: The whac-a-mole approach that we took previously, I think turned out to be the wrong approach. General Petraeus's approach now is, you go ahead and whac-a-mole, and when you go in and clean out the area, you leave Iraqi security forces with American forces there, Marines or Army, until they have control of the area.

But you don't leave the area. You go in and you work with the provincial reconstruction teams to build the economy of the area. You work to gain -- you help the local populace, and they start reporting to you when they see Al Qaida members trying to come back in, weapons caches. And that is how you gain control permanently.

BLITZER: Here is what we're hearing a lot from a lot of experienced reporters, observers on the scene. They're suggesting militarily, they're making some progress. They're making some progress in dealing with some of the local leaders out there, but the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki continues to be a mess.

BOND: I'm a student of American history. And when you look at from 1776 to 1789 for us to get the Constitution, from 1860 to clear up the fissures, democracy -- setting up a democracy is not a quick process. And al-Maliki is popularly elected. There are major groups that are going to have to come together, whether it's within the al- Maliki government or another government.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence in this prime minister?

BOND: I don't know. We haven't seen him do his job yet. But the important thing for...

BLITZER: Because the argument is that he's not doing the so- called benchmarks, the so-called deals that he was supposed to do...

BOND: The benchmarks...

BLITZER: ... disbanding the various militias out there, which, if anything, have become stronger in recent years.

BOND: Well, we're disbanding the Jaish al-Mahdi for him. Our important mission there, and our national security depends upon securing a general stability in the country so that the Iraqi security forces, with some help from us, can prevent widespread outbreak of violence, the Jaish al-Mahdi, the right-wing militia, or Al Qaida. That will give the government the opportunity to set -- to work towards a political solution and prevent Al Qaida from establishing a...

BLITZER: When you see this ally, this so-called ally, I should say, of the United States, Nouri al-Maliki, sitting with the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and having very cordial relations with Iran, what does that say to you?

BOND: Well, they're going to have to -- they're going to have to develop the resistance to Iranian influence. Iranian influence is very strong. The Shia ties, obviously, are strong. But just recently, al-Maliki met with the Kurdish leaders to talk about how they want to keep Iraq from being controlled by Iran. Iran is a very large player in the area. They are too active in the region.

But right now, we are helping the Iraqi security forces maintain general control of the country.

There are going to be suicide attacks. The Al Qaida knows to play to our media, and you'll see tragic attacks going up to the September 15th.

BLITZER: We heard a top U.S. general today say that they're tracking, supposedly, 50 members of the Iraq Revolutionary Guard, who have now moved into Iraq to train...

BOND: You mean the Iranian?

BLITZER: Iranian Revolutionary Guard, excuse me, to go into Iraq. They're there right now. They're training Iraqi Shiites to kill Americans.

BOND: And when we catch them, we're going to kill them all. We absolutely -- and we have told Iraq...

BLITZER: But how do you balance that kind of statement with the leadership of the Iraqi government having a very good relationship with the Iranian government?

BOND: Well, I'm not sure -- you can't say it's a good relationship. They are going to have to defend their country from the Quds Force, the Iranian Guard, and they are going to have to establish it. If al-Maliki can't do it, somebody else will. But we will help assure that the Iraqi security forces get a secure country. If Iran comes in, we're going to find Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Sunni states coming in from the other side. And Al-Maliki and the others must know that they have to maintain their independence from Iran, unless they want to be attacked by the Sunnis.

BLITZER: You're the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

BOND: That's correct.

BLITZER: You're the ranking Republican on that panel. How confident are you that the intelligence you're getting on Iraq, Iran, what's happening out there right now is excellent?

BOND: It's a whole lot better than it was. We went through and looked at what was wrong with the intelligence gathering. As the 9/11 Commission reported, there were lots of problems. We're fixing many of those problems. We have a top-notch intelligence operation now in the non-military sector and the military sector. We don't -- we don't know follow on a day-to-day basis the tactical intelligence that the military is working on, but we follow what the intelligence community is getting through the...

BLITZER: Are you satisfied with the intelligence you're getting?

BOND: I think it's very good. It can always be better. We were hamstrung by...

BLITZER: Because I've heard from a lot of colleagues of yours who suggest, you know, the more that the U.S. learns about what's going on in Iraq -- it's so complicated -- the more it realizes how much more it needs to know.

BOND: We need to know more. We lost our human assets in the mid-'90s. They cut our human assets. We don't -- we have to reestablish the human intelligence side, which was hurt very gravely during the '90s as the budgets were slashed. And we are in the process of rebuilding that, and we are making strides across the community. And we're watching the entire community. It's much better. But it could always be better.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, I want you to react to this story that was in the New York Times today. I assume you saw it, on the surveillance, on the latest U.S. government's efforts to make sure that terrorists are not engaging in operations here in the United States.

Let me read to you from today's New York Times and get your response. "Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include -- without court approval -- certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans' business records. The dispute illustrates how lawmakers in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble, passed legislation they may not have fully understood and may have given the administration more surveillance powers than it sought." I wonder...

BOND: I was the author of that legislation.

BLITZER: That's why I want you to react to this story.

BOND: And that is totally wrong. I wish they would read the bill. I have got the bill right in front of me. It applies only to communication. It does not expand the ability of the intelligence community to capture information.

The intelligence community has always been able to capture foreign intelligence coming in. This is what this bill does. It makes sure that the new technology is not blocked by the old law from being collected. We are set up to collect intelligence on -- against foreign targets, people reasonably believed to be outside the United States. If you want to collect on something inside the United States, you have to get a warrant from the FISA court. And...

BLITZER: So what you're saying is that they will need court approval for any physical searches here in the United States.

BOND: Well, unless the president uses his Article II power, which President Clinton did, to search the home of the CIA counterspy Aldrich Ames. President Clinton searched the home of Aldrich Ames -- his agents did -- without a warrant, under the president's Article II authority.

But there is nothing in this law that gives the intelligence community the right to search any United States facility. It deals only with communications. And I've offered to -- an op-ed to the New York Times and the Washington Post to try to set the record straight. They won't take it. So I appreciate CNN at least letting me say that these people are just flat wrong, and I'm sorry they won't listen to the facts.

BLITZER: Senator Kit Bond. He is the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, the vice chairman. Thanks for coming in.

BOND: Thank you very much, Wolf. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: And when we come back, we'll get a different perspective. Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. He is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee himself, just back from Iraq. We'll assess what's going on with him right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Joining us now from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Democratic Senator Bob Casey. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He's just back from Iraq.

Senator, thanks very much. We're happy you're back safe and sound.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: What's your assessment? Is it working, this so-called surge, or is it not?

CASEY: Well, Wolf, I think the real question here with regard to the surge or what's better known, I think, as an escalation of our troops, which I voted against way back in January and February -- but the real question here is whether or not this increase in troops has led to political progress.

And from where I sit, from the discussions we had in Iraq with Iraqi leaders, as well as what you can read in the public press, the Iraqi leadership have not done the job. There's no sense of urgency to achieve the political progress which I think is the true measurement of whether or not the surge had the intended effect.

BLITZER: So you've lost confidence, if you've ever had any confidence, in the prime minister Nouri al-Maliki? CASEY: I think I join a lot of Americans in really questioning whether or not he can create a government of national unity. I mean, I know we see this week where he had a meeting with some of the Iraqi leaders, but this kind of work should be done every day, month after month after month.

And I'm afraid that we're reaching a point where the Iraqi leadership can't make the kind of progress that our troops deserve. The troops are doing everything we ask of them. They're, in fact, refereeing a civil war, which we should never ask them to do.

But because of that valor and that sacrifice, I think the Iraqi progress has to match that sacrifice of our troops, and we haven't seen that yet. And I think the president has to, at long last, seriously consider -- which he hasn't done before -- a change in course.

BLITZER: Well, did you have a chance to meet with General David Petraeus, the overall U.S. military commander, the U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker? They are the ones that are going to be submitting this report to the U.S. and to the Congress in mid-September.

CASEY: I met with both of them. General Petraeus gave us a briefing, Senator Durbin and I. We had dinner with both Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus.

And I sensed directly and also by what they said about the progress they think the military is making, the frustration they feel that the Iraqi government isn't doing what it must do to create a government of national unity. So I think that that feeling is shared by both of them.

BLITZER: Well, will you have confidence, Senator...

CASEY: And I hope that...

BLITZER: Senator Casey, excuse me for interrupting. Will you have confidence in their recommendations when they make their recommendations in September?

CASEY: Well, I'll consider them very carefully, as we all should, but I really worry about -- because of what's happened with this White House -- that the White House and the Bush administration will put a spin on the reports by both the general and the ambassador, which will be contrary to the reality.

The reality right now is that our troops are refereeing a civil war. And they shouldn't be asked to do that. That's why we should transition this mission to focus in on a couple of things, first of all, to kill terrorists in Iraq and outside of Iraq all around the world.

Secondly, we need a real surge in diplomacy, more than anything else over there. We need to make sure that we protect our infrastructure, but we should be redeploying our troops, a phased redeployment in a responsible way over time. And that's the only way that the Iraqis are going to get the message that it's their government, they have to continue to fight the enemy and our troops cannot continue to do all the bleeding and all the sacrificing and all the dying. It's about time the president changed course.

BLITZER: Senator John McCain has a very different assessment of what's going on, the stakes for the United States. Listen to what he told our Larry King earlier in the week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: If we declare a date for withdrawal -- and that view is shared by many experts who, whether they agreed or disagreed on the initial entry into Iraq, that it will be chaos and genocide in the region. And I think that they will follow us home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You want to respond? Chaos and genocide and the terrorists would follow us here to the United States.

CASEY: Well, with all due respect to Senator McCain, he doesn't know exactly what will happen. No one does. So, anyone who tries to tell you that is really misleading people.

What we do know right now is that American forces -- more than 3,700 now getting to that number -- have died. In Pennsylvania, over 170 lives have been lost, third highest death toll. And they've been asked to do what no fighting men or women have ever been asked to do: referee a civil war.

And I know that there are members of the Republican caucus who read the Republican talking points and mouth what the president says. What they should focus on is what's best for the troops and our national security interest and not what's best to the president.

But I'm afraid you're seeing that in the Republican caucus. It's about time that they listen to the will of the American people, which is to focus the mission on killing terrorists and redeploying and doing that in a responsible way.

BLITZER: Well, under the best of circumstances, from your perspective, Senator Casey, what do you see happening, realistically, over the next year or two?

Because we keep hearing reports from administration officials, military personnel that, if anything, they might reduce the troop level to where it was before the so-called surge. It's now about 160,000 U.S. troops. It could go down to 130,000, but that level is going to stay there, at least for a year, if not longer.

CASEY: Well, what I see is if we stay on this course, Wolf, we're going to see more of the same. When the Iraqi leaders, as they did in our meetings, some of which were pretty tense, because Senator Durbin and I kept pressing on them the fact that the American people are losing patience, that our troops have to do all the sacrificing, and they talk about turning back the American clock to synchronize with the Iraqi clock.

We can't do that. We have to make sure that this mission gets transitioned, that we focus on the urgent priority of killing terrorists and making sure that our troops don't have to do all the fighting and all the dying.

But over and over again, when people say in the administration or when they say in the Iraqi government, "Give us more time," the only people who will pay the price aren't politicians in Washington, but the troops and their families. And those troops have demonstrated bravery and valor and commitment.

It's about time that the Congress and the president gets this policy right so we can then, I think, prove ourselves worthy of the valor of our troops and not worry about what this does to the president and not be spouting his talking points.

BLITZER: Senator Bob Casey, welcome back from Iraq. Thanks for joining us here on "Late Edition."

CASEY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, we'll see where the presidential candidates will be on the campaign trail over the next few days. We'll also get a full analysis of the week's political ups and downs from the best political team on television. Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.

We're also watching Hurricane Dean. We'll give you a complete forecast, where it's heading next. In the hours to come, Jamaica in the bull's eye.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Hurricane Dean, it's a monster Category 4. It's approaching Jamaica right now. Reynolds Wolf is at the CNN hurricane headquarters. Update our viewers, Reynolds, with this hurricane.

WOLF: Well, the latest we have, Wolf, is, as you mentioned, it is a Category 4 storm. It is the most powerful storm on the planet. It has just left Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It's moving towards Jamaica.

The eye of this storm is expected to pass just to the south of the island. And by the time we get to 8:00 p.m. Sunday, the storm is expected to be a Category 5 storm with winds at 145. It's going to continue its march to the north and rather to the west and northwest. And winds around 150 as of 8:00 a.m. Monday. Then it's going to strengthen to a Category 5, 160-mile-per-hour winds by late Monday evening, at 8:00 p.m., and then into the Yucatan Peninsula as Category 4.

However, it should make landfall around Category 5. And as we go forth, even more, as we look into Wednesday, at 8:00 a.m., landing near Tampico, around 8:00, with winds at 115. But a lot can happen, a lot can change between now and over the next 12 to 24 to 48 hours. We'll keep you updated on the very latest here in the weather center. Back to you.

BLITZER: Reynolds, stand by. We're going to be checking back with you often. Reynolds Wolf at the CNN hurricane headquarters. We'll take another quick break.

When we come back, the Democratic presidential candidates debate. Who won, who lost? What's going on? Right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

In Iowa today, the Democratic presidential candidates debated, and the Republicans, meanwhile, are doing a lot of traditional campaigning in Iowa and elsewhere.

Joining us now to discuss all of this and a lot more, including Karl Rove, three of the best political team on television. Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. She's in Crawford, Texas, as the president spends some time at his ranch. And here in Washington, our congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin. And CNN's political editor, Mark Preston.

Mark, let me start with you. Play a little clip. This was cute. Senator Barack Obama at the Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines earlier today. He uttered these words.

Unfortunately, we don't have it, but I'll read it to you. He said, "Well, you know, to prepare for this debate, I rode in the bumper car at the state fair. They've worked terrifically."

I guess he feels he's being ganged up a little bit by some of the other Democratic presidential candidates?

MARK PRESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, we saw a little bit of that today at the beginning of the debate, but there were really no knock-out punches today. There were really no winners today in today's debate. But Barack Obama was clearly trying to send a message, look, don't criticize me for things that I've said in the past. Your experience has gotten us into the Iraq war. My judgment would have not put us there.

BLITZER: Did you get that sense as well, that these candidates -- they've been doing these debates now for a few months -- that it seems to be falling into some sort of pattern. They snipe a little bit, but they really don't deliver any knock-out punches by any means.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The only one who really gets knock-out punches is Hillary Clinton. And right now, when -- we were talking about this before -- when no one else comes out a winner, she's the winner. She's the one who comes across as the sort of real adult in the crowd and the standout frontrunner. So when no one else is sort of making their name, distinguishing themselves, Hillary, once again, walks away with it.

BLITZER: And, Suzanne, I know you have had a chance to see at least some of this debate earlier. You've got some other work you're doing over there, covering the president in Crawford, Texas. But it seems pretty apparent that, as long as Hillary Clinton doesn't make some sort of fatal mistake, some sort of huge blunder, she's going to remain at least on top of the national polls, although in Iowa and some of the other early states, the statewide poll shows it's a pretty tough race.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're absolutely right, Wolf. I mean, really, her lead, her spread from the other candidates, particularly Barack Obama, is quite significant when you look on a national level.

But also wanted to point out, too, Barack Obama's strategy seems to be changing a little bit. They obviously know that this point about experience is a vulnerability. We've heard him say and really stress here, though, that experience isn't everything. He has brought up the fact that Cheney and Rumsfeld, he says, have made very bad decisions for all their experience. And he really is focusing on judgment. He is trying to make that case that Senator Clinton doesn't necessarily have the right judgment. She may have the experience.

And today, we saw him trying to use humor to disarm them.

BLITZER: And I guess that's always a pretty effective tool, if you can do it.

Mark, here is Senator John Edwards on one of his major issues right now, taking money from federal lobbyists. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER U.S. SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS: I've said, why don't we all make an absolutely clear statement that we are the Democratic Party, we're the party of the people. We are not the party of Washington insiders, and we can say it clearly and unequivocally, by saying we will never take another dime from a Washington lobbyists. I've asked the other candidates to join me in that. And at least until now, Senator Clinton has not done that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And she's still not doing that. And Howard Wolfson, her communications director, was here on "Late Edition" in the first hour, making it clear that he calls this some sort of phony argument. But I suspect the Edwards argument will resonate with a lot of Democrats out there.

PRESTON: Well, I think so, and this shows that John Edwards is trying to separate himself from the rest of the pack. While he was a U.S. senator, he's trying to portray himself as not a Washington insider. You know, this is something we've heard in past presidential campaigns. John Edwards is really trying to make that point.

Whether it really works down the road, I'm not quite sure. But that's clearly what he's trying to do. And by going after Senator Clinton, he's trying to show a distinction between himself and her.

BLITZER: And Senator Obama is not taking the kind of funds from federal, from Washington lobbyists either. Is this going to resonate, do you think, Jessica, with Democratic primary voters out there, this kind of argument that she's taking this cash in from lobbyists from all the various interest groups?

YELLIN: I think it would as a message. But the problem is the messenger. Right now, John Edwards is the champion of the underdog, the little guy, the populist candidate. But there are all these marks against him. He had the $400 hair cut, which you know has been pooh- poohed.

But now all this talk of how he invested in a hedge fund that invested in loans that foreclosed on Katrina victims. It goes to the core of his message. It goes to the core of his campaign that he is the champion for the little guy against the corporate interests. It's all a wash for him, because he doesn't have the credibility on that issue.

BLITZER: Suzanne, I want to turn to Karl Rove. He announced this week he's stepping down in the next couple of weeks as the president's top political adviser, the deputy White House chief of staff. He was on "Meet the Press" earlier today. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Is the Republican Party a little bit behind the curve? You bet. I'll tell you why. Because we're in an unpopular war and because we got defeated in the last election. You know what the number one issue was in the last election for people who voted Democrat '06 and Republican in '04? It was corruption.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: If you watch his appearances on some of the other shows, Suzanne, this guy has got a lot of statistics right off the top of his head. He still knows politics quite well.

MALVEAUX: And Wolf, he was very defiant until the very end here. I mean, this is somebody who hasn't gone before the cameras to answer a lot of questions. And he remains steadfast. He said, yeah, while the party itself may be weakened at this point, he doesn't place blame on himself or the administration.

He says when it comes to the Iraq war, he still believes they did the right thing. He is very partisan. He blames the Democrats, saying that many of them didn't even believe in the legitimacy of the president, so that that is the reason why they are so weakened at this point. And that was fascinating to see. I mean, Karl Rove says that he's going to do well for the party, that if people reach out to him, he will go ahead and give his candid advice. I think the big question here, Wolf, is whether or not people are going to reach out to him and whether they still want his advice.

BLITZER: Suzanne, stand by. We're going to continue this discussion with our political panel. Much more coming up on Karl Rove. Also the Republican presidential candidates. What's going on, on that front? All that coming up right here on "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More of our political panel coming up. Now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.

On NBC, President Bush's outgoing top aide, Karl Rove, defended his rejection of a Congressional subpoena to testify about what role he might have played in the firing of eight federal prosecutors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROVE: Here's the issue. There is a tension between Congress and the executive. Congress wants to be able to call -- this Congress in particular wants to be able to call presidential aides up at its whim and convenience and have them testify. That would have a chilling effect on the ability of a president to get candid, straightforward advice from his aides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On CBS, Senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain stuck to his assessment of the war strategy in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: We are winning. Why I'm not positive is because I'm not sure we are able to convince the American people that we've had a very short period of time where we have had a winning strategy, and it is succeeding, and I believe over time that it will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. Up next, much more politics. The Republican presidential candidates, what's happening? Part of the best political team on television standing by to join us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Hurricane Dean is a monster. Let's go back to Reynolds Wolf at the CNN Hurricane Headquarters with more on what we know right now.

We're also getting some pictures in, Reynolds.

WOLF: That's right. We've got a lot of bases to cover here, starting first and foremost with Dean. It is a tremendous storm, a Category 4 storm, expected to pass just to the south of Jamaica, bringing heavy rainfall, some incredible surf conditions and also the wind is going to continue for quite some time for Jamaica with sustained winds at 145 miles per hour, but some gusts topping 180.

And the storm not expected to make a direct hit on Jamaica, passing just to the south by Monday at 8:00 a.m., winds at 150, strengthening to a Category 5 storm as we get into Monday evening at 8:00 p.m. And then by -- let's see. This is 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, back to a Category 4 as it moves across the Yucatan Peninsula. But still expected to make landfall as a Category 5 storm.

Now, let's switch gears a bit and talk about another big story that we have in Oklahoma. Remember Erin? Remember Tropical Storm Erin? Well, remnants of that have been moving into the Central Plains, dropping rainfall totals anywhere from eight to 10, even 11 inches of rain around the Oklahoma City area.

Take a look at this video. It is just mind-boggling. You see the effects of all of this rainfall that fell in this area this morning. They've had rescues. This is actually in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, compliments of KWTV. People going from house to house in boats to try to take people away from those homes that have just been hit by those floodwaters. This is actually from earlier today.

Here is some more of that video that you see. Many of this just happened just over a very quick time, over the last couple of hours. This one resident on top of his roof, waiting for help. And we can expect things to get a little bit better there, but still that runoff is going to cause many issues throughout the Oklahoma City area.

We had closures on I-40, as well as I-35 earlier in the day, and all due to a dying tropical system, what was left of Erin. So, of course, we've got Erin. Of course, we're going to keep you updated through the rest of the day, not just on this system, but the biggest storm and that, of course, is Hurricane Dean. Let's send it back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll stay on top of both of these stories, the floodings out in Oklahoma and Minnesota, elsewhere, as well as Hurricane Dean. You can see the pictures, very dramatic stuff going on. Don't go far away from CNN for all the latest on both of these stories.

Let's get back to politics a little bit more right now. We're talking with our political panel.

Mark Preston, the Karl Rove resignation at this late point -- what, about 17 months left to go -- politically speaking, what's the impact?

PRESTON: You know, I don't know how much of an impact there's actually going to be, Wolf. I still believe that Karl Rove is going to be in touch with President Bush every day, if not every couple days.

What's interesting is that this was paired up with Tony Snow, with revelation the that Tony Snow, the spokesman for the White House, was going to step down as well. I mean, certainly seeing somebody who has spent a lot of years with President Bush and he saw it for himself to step aside.

BLITZER: And Dennis Hastert, the former speaker, announcing he's not going to seek reelection. A lot of these Congressmen and Congresswomen, they have to make some major decisions right now, especially Republicans who don't necessarily like being in the minority.

They would much rather be a chair of a committee as opposed to a ranking member. And I suspect that bodes well, looking ahead for the Democrats, at least retaining, if not expanding their majority.

YELLIN: Absolutely, Wolf. The Democrats are feeling bullish about '08. Republicans aren't walking away with their tail between their legs, but they're very concerned. They keep talking about 2010 as the big year for them. So this is a moment where a lot of folks are wondering if there are going to be more Republican retirements in the House after Deborah Pryce, Chip Pickering, Ray LaHood and Dennis Hastert, and maybe more to come.

BLITZER: Was it a surprise, Suzanne Malveaux, Tony Snow's decision to step down, I assume relatively soon, as opposed to trying to stay throughout the balance of this administration?

MALVEAUX: It really wasn't a surprise, Wolf. I mean, Tony Snow has mentioned before, he has talked about how much he loves this job, but also it comes with financial sacrifices. He has got kids who are heading to college, as you know, ongoing chemotherapy cancer treatments. So he has talked about that before.

But also Chief of Staff Josh Bolten basically told senior aides, "Look, if you're going to stay beyond Labor Day, then expect to stay for the remainder of the 17 months." So, no, not really a surprise.

And I did want to also talk a little bit about the impact of Rove's departure. We're actually already beginning to see that because the way the president is going to govern the next 17 months is going to be very different. We're talking about not necessarily working on big initiatives, working with Congress, but executive orders.

Already when it comes to energy initiatives, immigration, border security, those types of things, you're going to see him use more of the power of the pen, the presidential pen, these kind of executive orders coming down, not necessarily trying to work with Congress on big items and legislation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mark, let's talk a little bit -- Republican presidential politics. We're seeing Mitt Romney, who won the Iowa straw poll, really go at it with Rudy Giuliani, especially on the issue of immigration. Listen to Mitt Romney on this issue. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: We have to shut down the magnet of the sanctuary cities, of these cities that call themselves zones of protection where their city workers and other agencies are providing cover for those that are here illegally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, Giuliani has what's called a sanctuary city in New York when he was the mayor of New York. So, that seemed like a direct attack against him.

PRESTON: And it absolutely was. Now, the Giuliani folks will fire back and say when Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, there were sanctuary cities within his own state.

Right now, you're seeing these two front-runners who are fighting right now for the heart and soul of conservative voters. Giuliani already has one strike against him because of his views on social issues and on gun control. But you know something? Right now, Giuliani is not going to seed any turf on immigration and that's where you see Romney trying to chip away at him.

BLITZER: Here is Giuliani responding to suggestions that he has got his own family problems. And he went on the offense when it came to this.

Listen to this, Jessica.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER MAYOR RUDOLPH W. GIULIANI, R-NEW YORK CITY: And the best thing I can say is, kind of leave my family alone, you know, just like I'll leave your family alone.

(APPLAUSE) And if you want to judge me -- if you want to judge me or I want to judge you -- we judge each other on our public performance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I suspect that's going to resonate with a lot of voters out there. He has his own problems, but what family doesn't?

YELLIN: And beyond that, this isn't what Giuliani is campaigning on. He is not the family values guy. His message is law and order, tough against terrorism. It doesn't go to the core of his campaign message if he has troubles at home.

So I think people will give him a pass on this I think. And the media, of course, there will continue to be stories, but it's really not going to undermine him in the end.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, thanks for joining us. Welcome to CNN. Good to have you on board. YELLIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Mark Preston is always welcome here on "Late Edition." Thanks to you. And Suzanne Malveaux, she's actually working down in Crawford, Texas, for all of us as well.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, the latest on all the disasters, including -- take a look at this -- flooding in Oklahoma right now. Plus, Hurricane Dean. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: That's it for this "Late Edition." For our international viewers, "World News" is next. For our North American viewers, let's go to Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center for the latest on the weather.

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