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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With John Edwards; Interview With Benazir Bhutto

Aired November 18, 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 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles and 9:00 p.m. in Islamabad. Wherever are you watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
The gloves came off and the sparks flew at the most watched presidential debate of the primary season here in the United States. And right here on CNN, the Democrats went toe-to-toe in Las Vegas Thursday night with some spirited exchange between the front-runner, Hillary Clinton, and her two top rivals, Barack Obama and John Edwards. The former senator, John Edwards, is joining us now from Los Angeles.

Senator, welcome back to "Late Edition."

JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thank you. Good morning, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good morning. Iowa is critical for you, clearly. You have to do really, really well in order to propel yourself into New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and beyond.

The latest American Research Group poll in Iowa shows that among likely Democratic caucus-goers, Hillary Clinton is now at 27 percent, Obama, 21. You're at 20, Bill Richardson down at 12 percent. But it's very, very competitive if you take a look at the sampling error of plus or minus 4 percent.

What do you need to do right now in these remaining six-and-a- half weeks or so in order to win -- to win -- in Iowa?

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I think if you look at all the polling over the last week or so, it shows basically a dead heat. Some are a little different than the one you just read.

But I think what I need to do is make it clear that I'm the person who has fought against powerful interests my whole life. I did it in courtrooms for 20 years against powerful corporations and beat them consistently over and over and over. And this is the fight I've carried on in public life.

And this is the fight I'll carry on as president of the United States on behalf of the American people to do something about reducing the influence of very powerful interests that are rigging the system against ordinary Americans. I mean, and that's what people need to hear. And they want to hear the specifics of what I will do as president, which is why I've laid out a very specific, positive agenda on health care, on energy, on global warming, on the war in Iraq, I mean, poverty. Those are the issues that people want to hear us talking about.

And then, I think, last, they are looking for a winner, Wolf. They want somebody who they believe can win in the general election. And I'm the candidate on the Democratic side who's actually won in a red state, grew up in a small town in rural America, which means I can compete everywhere in the country.

So I feel very good about my chances. But it will be a tough fight there.

BLITZER: Do you think the front-runner, Hillary Clinton, could win in the general election?

EDWARDS: I don't have any idea. I mean, I think that remains to be seen. That's why we have campaigns. I mean, what I know is that I can. And I think the empirical evidence supports that.

And I think, most importantly, my message of weeding out corruption, of change -- real change, substantive change, making this -- taking the democracy back for Americans instead of just the small group of moneyed interests that seem to be running and corrupting the government now, I think that message will resonate everywhere in America.

I can go anyplace in this country and talk about -- to both Democrats and to independents and to Republicans, Wolf.

BLITZER: In the last debate, Hillary Clinton seemed to change her strategy. She had earlier tried to remain sort of above the fray, but she took the gloves off in Las Vegas. She went directly after you on some of the substantive issues and she made a serious accusation as well. I want to play this little clip. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: Senator Edwards raised health care again. When Senator Edwards ran in 2004, he wasn't for universal health care. I'm glad he is now. But for him to be throwing this mud and making these charges, I think really detracts from what we're trying to do here tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about both of the points that she just raised in that little clip. "Throwing the mud," the mud- slinging -- you want to respond to that?

EDWARDS: It's complete nonsense. What I had just spoken about was -- were differences that I have with Senator Clinton about what we need to do in Iraq, what we should be doing about Iran, what we should be doing about Social Security. I mean, these are huge issues. The first two are issues of war and peace that the next president of the United States will have to deal with. And there is no purpose to having a debate if we aren't going to talk about what we stand for.

And I was speaking the truth, both today and in that debate on Thursday night, and I will continue to speak the truth. And there's nothing -- this is not mud.

And, by the way, the answer to each of those things is for senator Clinton to lay out her position, which is different than mine. She's totally entitled to her position. That's what presidential campaigns are about. But using poll-tested slogans is not an answer.

BLITZER: But what about...

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: And then last -- can I say one last thing about this, Wolf?

BLITZER: OK. Go ahead and wrap it up, and then I'll ask you a question.

EDWARDS: I just wanted to say one last thing. What's important for next fall is what we're doing now is complete milk toast compared to what's coming. I mean, I've lived through a general election. I've been through the hard, tough fight of a general election. I know what's required.

And what we're doing now is just making sure the Democratic voters know what our respective positions are on the big issues that are facing this country. And we need somebody in that battle -- and it will be me, next fall -- standing beside the Republican to present people with very clear choices. And that's exactly what I intend to do. And we better be ready for it.

BLITZER: So what you're saying is that none of the accusations, none of the differences that you've highlighted between yourself and Senator Clinton would represent mud-slinging, if you will?

EDWARDS: It's absurd. I mean, there's nothing personal about this. I've said over and over Senator Clinton is entitled to her view. You know, she defends lobbyists and the way the system works in Washington. She's entitled to that view.

I have a very different one. I think that we have to change the system in order to have universal health care and attack global warming and attack poverty.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk about universal health care for a moment. Did you oppose universal health care on the campaign in 2004?

EDWARDS: What -- my response to what she just said and what she said in the debate on Thursday night is I was for universal health care for children in 2004. I believe that now we are at a crisis stage. We have a dysfunctional health care system and the only true answer is universal health care for everybody.

And I might add, Senator Clinton was not for universal health care at the beginning of this year, at the beginning of the campaign. I was the first candidate to come out -- I believe it was in February -- Democrat or Republican, with a very specific, substantive, truly universal health care proposal, which I've done on issue after issue. I think health care was the first of those.

BLITZER: You've also suggested that if the Congress doesn't pass universal health care, you would, as president, take away health care insurance, health care privileges for members of Congress, to which the Clinton campaign issued a statement saying: "Senator Edwards is proposing unconstitutional gimmickry to pass universal health care."

Would this be constitutional or unconstitutional simply to strip members of Congress of their health care given the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches?

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, when I talk about shaking up Washington and making this place actually work for the American people, it is an interesting thing to watch that the people who are inside Washington, including Senator Clinton and her campaign, they circle the wagons and start protecting Washington politicians.

Who cares? I mean, what this is -- the answer to the question is, yes, the president of the United States has enormous power. He has the veto power over the budget. The president of the United States has the bully pulpit to make this proposal to America and to the Congress and to go around America -- by the way, every Democrat would vote for universal health care. So it would not be an issue for Democrats.

But if you go across this country and say, "Your Congressman or your Congresswoman is for their own health care and their family's health care but they're not for health care for you" -- the whole point of this is to shake the place up.

And it's fascinating to watch how quickly Washington insiders, including the Clinton campaign, rally the forces and circle the wagons to protect politicians instead of talking about what we can do together to bring universal health care to the country. I will be the first to tell you, I'm going in there to shake the place up and make it work for America.

BLITZER: On the issue of Social Security, there was a spirited exchange between Senator Clinton and Senator Barack Obama on whether or not to increase taxes on income levels for Social Security. Right now the cap, maximum, that is taxed is $97,500.

Senator Obama suggested it go up, that the wealthy can afford to pay more in order to keep Social Security robust. Senator Clinton was not ready to do that by any means, and she said this in explaining her stance. Listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: It is absolutely the case that there are people who would find that burdensome. I represent firefighters. I represent school supervisors. I'm not talking -- I mean, you know, different parts of the country. So you have to look at this across the board, and the numbers are staggering.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I guess her point is that there are firefighters, there are school supervisors making more than $97,500 in New York City, perhaps elsewhere in New York State. Does she have a point? Where do you stand on this?

EDWARDS: Well, she has a point. But the point doesn't go as far as it needs to go. The problem is that what Senator Clinton is saying is, she's not for privatizing, not for reducing benefits, not for raising the retirement age. I completely agree with all that.

But she's made no proposal about what we're going to do. So what is her proposal? That she set up a bipartisan commission, and they'll solve the problem? The president of the United States has to lead on these issues.

So where I stand, to answer your question, is I think that -- I agree mostly with what Senator Obama is saying. We have a slight difference. And this goes to the point that Senator Clinton was just making.

I do think we have to do something about the cap. It caps at about $97,000 of income which means if you make $85,000, every dime of your income is taxed for Social Security. But if you work on Wall Street and make $100 million, then the first $97,000 is taxed and the rest is not. I think we have to do something about the cap. My difference with Senator Obama is, I do think there are people between $97,000, up to about $200,000, who, because of where they live, because of the cost of living where they live, are in fact in the middle class. And we don't want to raise taxes on those people. And so I would create a buffer zone between about $97,000 and $200,000.

But I don't think -- and beyond that I would raise the cap. I'd lift the cap. But I think we have to have some really specific ideas about what we want to do. I don't agree with Senator Obama exactly on what he's proposing, but at least he's proposing something. He's not walking away from his leadership role as a presidential candidate.

We're not legislators. We are running for the presidency of the United States of America. And Social Security is an enormous issue facing this country. And voters deserve to hear the truth, and they deserve to hear specifics. That's what I intend to do.

BLITZER: Stand by, Senator, because we have a lot more to talk about. When we come back, we're going to ask Senator Edwards how he'd handle the crisis in Pakistan if he were president today.

Then, did any of the underdog candidates break through to the top tier at CNN's Las Vegas debate? We're going to bring you some of the highlights, some analysis with the Emmy-award winning best political team on television. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Coming up, by the way, at the top of the next hour, the former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will be joining us to discuss the state of emergency in her country. That interview coming up in the next hour.

First, though, we're continuing our conversation with Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. Senator Edwards, the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants has become a major issue. Senator Clinton has changed her position apparently over the past couple weeks on this issue.

But back in 2004, in an interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, you were asked about it, and you suggested that you were for giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. At the debate Thursday night in Las Vegas, the position had changed. I'll play a little clip of what you said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: What I do support, and what I will do as president of the United States is move this country toward comprehensive immigration reform. And anyone who's on the path to earning American citizenship should be able to have a driver's license. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Has the position changed? Maybe I'm misreading what you were suggesting.

EDWARDS: No, I don't think it has. What I said several years ago still holds true. I mean, we want people to have training and education and to be licensed if they're going to operate vehicles.

But I think now we're in the context of what are we going to do about the bigger issue of immigration reform. And obviously, that's a dominant issue, something that I as president of the United States would have a responsibility to lead on and make sure we got done.

My view is that, in that context, if we have a path to citizenship, that anybody who's on that path to citizenship, undocumented, should have a right to have a driver's license. If they're not making an effort to become an American citizen and have that path available to them, then I think they shouldn't have a driver's license. But I think we want to...

BLITZER: What about in the interim, before there's comprehensive immigration reform? Should states be allowed to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants? EDWARDS: Well, first of all, it is not the job of the president of the United States to make that decision. That's for states to decide. I personally would not be in favor of that because I think we need to make this part of immigration reform.

BLITZER: Here's what Dennis Kucinich, another Democratic presidential candidate, said at the debate about you on a sensitive issue involving free trade. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS J. KUCINICH, D-OHIO: I think in the last debate, I think Hillary Clinton was criticized by John Edwards for some trade- related issue. But the fact of the matter is, John, you voted for China trade understanding that workers were going to be hurt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You want to respond to what Senator -- excuse me -- Congressman Kucinich said?

EDWARDS: Yeah. He's wrong. The answer is that if you look at my record through the entire time that I was in the Senate and when I was campaigning for the United States Senate, I opposed NAFTA, I opposed CAFTA, I opposed the Colombia trade deal, I opposed the African Caribbean trade deal, I'm opposed to the South Korean trade deal, I'm opposed today to the proposal for a new trade deal with Peru. I think I've actually been very consistent.

And on the issue of China, bringing China into the WTO, if we have a president that will actually enforce their trading obligations, actually gives us power over controlling their trading obligations. Unfortunately, we've had George Bush for seven years, who's done none of that. We need a president who will enforce their trading obligations.

And I might add just on this last issue of Peru, here's another issue on which there are some differences between Senator Clinton and myself. She's for the Peru trade deal. I'm against it. But she has said she's for the Peru trade deal and also for a moratorium, stopping any further trade deals.

And I'm not sure why those two things go together, but I am against that trade deal because I think it is a continuation of the NAFTA model that's cost American workers millions of jobs. And I've seen personally the devastating effect it can have because my dad worked in mills all his life, and I saw what happened when the mill in my hometown closed.

BLITZER: So, I just want to be precise. On the issue of NAFTA, which was obviously approved during the Bill Clinton administration, and a lot of us remember the Al Gore as vice president debate with Ross Perot. At that time you opposed NAFTA as well?

EDWARDS: Yes. I want to be completely open about this. I was not in the Senate then. But when I ran for the Senate, I was very vocally opposed to NAFTA because I had seen in a very personal way what effect it had on the people that I grew up with.

BLITZER: There was an intriguing paragraph in the new issue of Newsweek magazine that just came out today, Senator, a paragraph involving one of your campaign advisers, Joe Trippi, who was a top campaign adviser to Howard Dean four years ago when he was running for president.

I'm going to read to you the paragraph. I'll put it up on the screen.

"If there's one person who knows the perils of running too hot, it's Joe Trippi. Four years ago, he managed Howard Dean's angry outsider campaign, which came to a screeching stop in Iowa. This time it's Edwards playing the anti-establishment Dean role, and one of his top advisers is Trippi, who is once again urging his candidate not to hold back.

Quote, " 'After all he's been through,' Trippi says, 'he understands it's not worth selling your soul to win an election.' Trippi's experience with Dean also should that taught him there is a line a candidate has to be careful not to cross on the campaign trail. No one wants to hear you scream."

All right, what about that paragraph from Newsweek magazine? EDWARDS: Well, with all due respect to it, first of all, I make the decisions about what I'm going to do, what I will do as president of the United States. No campaign adviser does that.

Second, what I stand for and what I speak out on are things that I choose to speak out on. And it's a huge mistake to equate anger with strength and passion. What I have is strength and passion, and I do believe both those things are present in me in this campaign.

I'm not angry. I'm the same human being I was four years ago. None of that has changed. I run for president for exactly the same reason that I've been in politics all my life, and for the 20 years before that fought every single opportunity I had for children and families against very powerful corporate interests.

All of it's for the same reason, so that people who -- the kind of people I grew up with, Wolf, have the same kind of chances I've had. None of that has changed. It hasn't changed at all.

And when I was in courtrooms -- I still remember one of the last cases I hand. I represented a little girl who was very badly hurt on a bad product that the company knew was bad. And I sat with that family and I told them, we can help you. I gave them hope.

And then I turned around and walked into the courtroom and I gave the company hell, and that's what we need in a president. We need somebody that will inspire America and give them hope. But somebody who's also willing to give hell to those interests in Washington that stand between them and what they need. That's exactly what I'm going to do. That's what I'll fight for.

BLITZER: Let me ask one final question, Senator, on Pakistan, arguably one of the key crisis -- international crises facing the United States right now, a nuclear-armed country with a large Al Qaida/Taliban presence, no doubt about that.

President Musharraf spoke out over the past several weeks about his national state of emergency. I'll play a little clip for you, and I want to ask you what you would do if you were president on the other side. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: I should be a civilian president, that I should remove my uniform. This is very important. And number two, that elections must be held on schedule. I am on record on saying these things, so this is not an issue with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How worried are you, Senator, that as imperfect as General Musharraf might be, it could be a whole lot worse for the United States and Pakistan if obviously Al Qaida or the Taliban took over?

EDWARDS: Oh, it's very troublesome. I mean, it's a precarious situation. Musharraf, as you just pointed out, is not a wonderful leader. He's done a lot of bad things. But at the same time, there is a dangerous radical element within Pakistan. I think there is a smart path for America on this, understanding how volatile the situation is.

First of all, I think we should reform the nature of our aid and use aid as the -- as our leverage tool. I mean, what we've been doing is essentially aiding Musharraf as opposed to aiding the Pakistani people, you know, with F-16s, funding for F-16s, which does not help in the fight against terrorism, does not help with security for America. But we obviously have to push to get these northwest territories in Pakistan under control and secure.

The second thing is, you know, there was a report in the last week that we don't have the kind of expertise within our government and within the State Department on Pakistan and on the Pakistani people and their history that we desperately need.

And we've also been approaching this unilaterally, which is a consistent pattern with the Bush administration, and we ought to have a multi-lateral approach to this problem. We shouldn't be doing this alone. Other countries have an interest. Other countries have a stake in what's happening there.

And finally, we need to intensify our diplomacy. So, I mean, I think all these things in combination are the comprehensive way to deal with what is a very volatile, dangerous situation. They have a nuclear weapon. They are in constant conflict with India over Kashmir, and it's a volatile political situation. So, it's something America needs to be paying a lot of attention to.

BLITZER: Senator Edwards, thanks very much for joining us here on "Late Edition."

EDWARDS: Thank you, Wolf, for having me.

BLITZER: Coming up, the Democratic presidential candidates put all their political chips on the table at this week's debate in Las Vegas. When we come back, we'll tell you who hit blackjack, who got busted, and a lot more. "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All eyes were on the front-runner Hillary Clinton as presidential candidates scared off in Las Vegas Thursday night. Her main rivals, Senator Barack Obama and John Edwards, managed to get in some jabs while the other candidates also had spotlight-grabbing moments. Here now are some of the highlights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: First of all, I'm really happy to be here in Nevada, and I appreciate this opportunity. Senator Clinton I think is a capable politician and I think that she has run a terrific campaign. But what the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions, and that is not what we've seen out of Senator Clinton on a host of issues. On the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, we saw in the last debate that it took not just that debate but two more weeks before we could get a clear answer in terms of what her position was.

The same is true on Social Security. We have serious disagreements about how we're going to make sure that Social Security is there for the people who need it. And what I'm absolutely convinced of is that right now, we need a different kind of politics.

EDWARDS: Nobody on this stage is perfect, and that certainly includes me. And I don't claim perfection -- far from it. What I would say is that the issue is whether we can have a president that can restore trust for the American people, in the president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

Because I think this president has destroyed that trust, and I think there are fair questions to be asked of all of us, including Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton says she will end the war. She also says she will continue to keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq.

She says she will turn up the heat on George Bush and the Republicans. But when the crucial vote came on stopping Bush, Cheney and the neocons on Iran, she voted with Bush and Cheney.

CLINTON: We're Democrats and we're trying to nominate the very best person we can to win. And I don't mind taking hits on my record, on issues, but when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it's both accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook.

(APPLAUSE)

Because what I believe is important is that we put forth what we stand for. I have been active for 35 years. The American people know where I stand.

You know, Senator Edwards raised health care again. When Senator Edwards ran in 2004, he wasn't for universal health care. I'm glad he is now. But for him to be throwing this mud and making these charges, I think really detracts from what we're trying to do here tonight.

SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., D-DEL.: The American people don't give a darn about any of this stuff that's going on up here. Look, they're sitting down -- seriously. Think about it.

They're sitting down at their tables tonight, they put their kids to bed and they're worried about whether or not their child is going to run into a drug dealer on the way to school, they're worried about whether or not they're going to be able to pay for their mortgage because even if they didn't have one of those subprime mortgages, things are looking bad for them.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, D-N.M.: Do our plans give health care to every American? Are we creating jobs and economic growth? Are we resolving the real problems affecting this country?

You know, let's stop this mud-slinging. Let's stop this going after each other on character, on trust. Let us debate the issues that affect the American people and let us be positive. Let's be positive.

REP. DENNIS J. KUCINICH, D-OHIO: The president of United States is called upon to make the right decision at the right time. And you've seen here tonight, people who voted for the war, voted to fund the war and now they have a different position.

People voted for the Patriot Act, now they have a different position. People voted for China trade. Now they have a different position. People who voted for Yucca Mountain, now have a different position. Just imagine what it will be like to have a president of the United States who's right the first time?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.: It's going to take more than just getting people in our own party to support us. We're going to have to reach out. There is a shrillness to the debate. The American people want results. They want the job done, exactly what Joe Biden talked about here.

When people get up in the morning and go to work, they sit around and they worry about their jobs, their retirement, their health care, their kid' education and they wonder if anybody in Washington is paying any attention to them and whether or not the job is being done on their behalf.

And, frankly, when the campaign is about turning up the heat or who's angrier or who's yelling louder, the American people turn off.

CLINTON: I'm not playing, as some people say, the gender card here in Las Vegas. I'm just trying to play the winning card.

(APPLAUSE)

And I understand very well that people are not attacking me because I'm a woman; they're attacking me because I'm ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

And I understand that, you know, as Harry Truman famously said, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." And I feel very comfortable in the kitchen, and I'm going to withstand the heat.

(LAUGHTER)

But, you know, this is really one of the kind of issues that we can laugh about because it's exciting when you look at this field of candidates.

You know, several of us would never have had a chance to stand here and run for president -- a Latino, an African-American, a woman -- if it hadn't been for the progress of America over my lifetime. And I am thrilled to be running to be the first woman president.

(APPLAUSE)

EDWARDS: I think there are differences between us. And voters are entitled to know what those differences are, without it being personal, without it being attack-oriented.

I spoke earlier about the difference between corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans and how critical it is for us to give the power and the democracy back to the American people so we can give a better life to our children as 20 generations before us have done.

And, my point is, some of us have taken a different approach to that. Senator Clinton defends the system, takes money from lobbyists, does all those things.

(BOOING)

And my point is simply that people have -- no, wait a minute. Voters have those choices. Voters have those choices. And they deserve to know that they have those choices and that there are, in fact, differences between us.

BIDEN: One of the ways you work in the House and the Senate is over time, you gain respect. Find me a Republican on the other side who doesn't respect my judgment and doesn't think I tell them straight-up the truth. I've worked with them. I've already done it. I would also include Republicans in my administration.

OBAMA: I agree with Hillary that we've got to initiate bold diplomacy. I think the next president has to lead that diplomacy. It can't just be envoys.

And one of the reason I'm running for president -- and Hillary and I have a disagreement on this -- I said I would meet with not just our friends, but also with our enemies, because that's what strong countries and that's what strong presidents do is meet with our adversaries, tell them where we stand.

(APPLAUSE)

RICHARDSON: You know, it seems that John wants to start a class war. It seems that Barack wants to start a generational war. It seems that Senator Clinton, with all due respect on her plan on Iraq, doesn't end the war. All I want to do is give peace a chance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Some of the highlights from the debate. It was a very lively evening indeed.

Up next, our political panel. We'll pick the winners, the losers from the Democratic debate.

And a reminder -- you can see the entire replay of the Democratic presidential debate tonight at both 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Also CNN and YouTube are teaming up once again, this time for a Republican presidential debate. That airs on Wednesday night, November 28th. Just go to CNN.com/YouTube debates and post your questions for the presidential candidates. The Republican YouTube debate coming up.

"Late Edition" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: That's where all the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates eventually want for live at least for a few years. Let's get their take now on the Democratic debate.

I'm referring to three of the Emmy-award winning, best political team on television: our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash; our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley; and our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in. All right, the consensus I guess, Candy, is that Hillary Clinton won this last debate Thursday night. What do you think?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, no matter what the headline was going to be, Hillary Clinton lost or Hillary Clinton won. So, yes, this was her time to kind of get back on terra firma. She was back on her heels. Obviously, she did very well.

BLITZER: What do you think? You were there, Suzanne. You were with me inside that hall and there were a couple of thousand people in there. And many of them made their views known, even as those two hours were unfolding.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think the other winner, too, is really the audience because they played such a significant role. I mean, twice they booed Senator Edwards, they booed Senator Obama.

And really I think they kind of framed and changed kind of tone of the debate because you saw Edwards kind of take a backseat after Hillary Clinton went after him on mud-slinging. And you saw Obama on the defensive here. And that largely had to do with the role the audience played.

BLITZER: What did you think?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that's exactly right. I mean, both of their points were exactly right. What Hillary Clinton needed to do was rebound, and she did that and then some.

But now the question, of course, becomes beyond what's going on a national level, which is essentially what this debate was, what is going to happen in Iowa? And that's a place where she's still in a neck-and-neck race when you look at the polls.

And if you really look at the polls, Wolf, there, she only has about 20 percent support there. That means most -- the vast majority of Democrats are not behind her in Iowa and that's where the focus is by and large right now of her campaign.

CROWLEY: I thought the other thing that was interesting about the debate is when she made her mud-slinging remark, he really was talking about issues. I mean, it was very funny because he was going, "Well, you know, she did this and she did that and she did the other thing." I think he talked about trade. I think he talked about -- oh -- Iran, talked about her vote for Iran, her vote for the Iraq -- and she came back and said, "Well, this mud-slinging."

You know, so it really worked. I mean, when Barack Obama said "Hillary doesn't tell the truth," she said, "Well, your health care program doesn't cover people."

BLITZER: As far as John Edwards and Barack Obama are concerned, they really have to do well in Iowa. Namely, they have to win it. If they're planning on stopping or slowing down certainly in New Hampshire and South Carolina, beyond, they really have to win in Iowa.

Let me read to you what Gordon Fischer, the former Iowa Democratic Party chairman, told The New York Times last Tuesday: "It really made me question his authenticity as person and as a candidate. I wasn't sure which John Edwards was the real John Edwards. Was it the southern moderate of 2004 or the full-throated liberal of 2008?"

And he has been accused of changing his position from 2004 to 2008, John Edwards.

MALVEAUX: And one of the problems really is, like, I thought that question was perfect when Campbell asked, you know -- or I think it was John Roberts -- you know, "Why haven't you flip-flopped? Why is it acceptable for you to vote for the Iraq war, for the Patriot Act, for Yucca Mountain, that nuclear facility, and yet change your position on this?"

And he really tried to make a distinction between what he's done and what Senator Clinton has done. I'm not sure he was really successful.

BASH: And it really is true. I mean, look, you know, just in watching him in the Senate back when he was in the Senate, what he did is he ran then as a southern Democrat. That means he ran as a moderate. He has changed so much since then and really since the last time he ran for president in 2004.

And, you know, his campaign says, well, he's running to reflect the growing anger among Democratic primary and caucus voters, but certainly that may be part of the reason why it seems so hard for him to get traction at these debates because of the fact that he is trying to attack Hillary Clinton for being evasive, for maybe flip-flopping, when he has really changed himself.

BLITZER: And, you know, Candy, David Yepsen, a political columnist for The Des Moines Register, someone we all know -- he's been covering these Iowa caucuses for a long, long time -- he wrote this after the debate Thursday night: "John Edwards should have stayed home. The differences between his votes as a U.S. senator and his talk now come into clear focus. He voted for the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and using Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste disposal site. Those votes are at odds with the populous rhetoric he serves up today and it will undermine the credibility of his message." He's an influential columnist there.

CROWLEY: I was going to say, you don't want that appearing in the Des Moines paper, which it did, I mean -- so, look, I think John Edwards does have a problem for all those reasons, but I think he also has another problem which is he may be a little bit too angry.

I mean, he's sort of stuck here. The only way to bring down her poll numbers is to go at her and to underline what her problems are. On the other hand, you can, like, cross that little line there in the delicate balance and have people go, "Whoa, he's a little too much."

Now, his campaign says people in Iowa don't think he's too angry. But, nonetheless, when you see him on a national stage, he really does look -- I mean, he's the firebrand and that turns some people off.

BLITZER: At the debate, he did take a firm position when I asked would he definitely endorse, support the Democratic nominee, whoever that person is. And he said yes.

Earlier in the week, he seemed to be leaving the door open slightly for not necessarily supporting that candidate, at least The New York Times reported that. He says he was sort of -- his comments were distorted.

Chris Dodd was reacting to The New York Times earlier in the week and he said this: "I'm surprised at just how angry John has become. This is not the same John Edwards I once knew. Of course, we should all come together to support the nominee. I wonder which of the Republicans John prefers to Hillary."

I guess that's a problem he faces, Suzanne. How far do you go in expressing that anger without potentially turning off some Democrats?

MALVEAUX: We saw that. I mean, we saw the audience react and respond to some of the negative criticism. And even -- it gave some opportunities for the second tier candidates like Governor Richardson to appear above the fray, or even Biden to appear as if he was the grown-up in all of this because you had all this fighting back and forth.

So it really is a problem for him, because he has stepped out of the box here, but polls show that people don't like that kind of negativity.

BLITZER: I want to talk a little bit about Barack Obama as well because he was on the offensive. But Hillary Clinton managed to quickly put him on the defensive at one point during that debate -- maybe a few points.

Karl Rove, the former White House political adviser, was on C- SPAN before the debate. He's now a Newsweek columnist. He just announced that this week. I want you to hear, Dana, what he said about Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FMR. WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: His comments were weak and vague and nebulous and he missed the opportunity if he'd stood there and said, "Senator, with all due respect, it is entirely within the power of you and your husband to order the immediate release of those documents and your failure to do so raises legitimate questions in the minds of ordinary Americans about what you might be hiding, and that's not going to be good for the Democratic Party."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He was referring to some of the documents when she was the first lady, the internal White House communications which remain undisclosed, at least as of now.

What about that point though that he's making that Barack Obama simply is not aggressive enough and going enough on the offensive against Hillary Clinton?

BASH: I think that speaks to the problem that Barack Obama had in this last debate and really in all of the debates, which is the fact that he tries to make his point but then he gives six or seven other sort of reasons why he is sort of making the point that he's making.

I think, you made this point, Candy, earlier in the week about that's sort of his M.O. on the stump. It really speaks to the kind of performance that he gives. He's sort of the classroom lawyer in these debates and John Edwards, who we were talking about before, he is sort of the courtroom lawyer. He goes for the jugular. And what that means is that puts Hillary Clinton as sort of the president of the debating society up there because she knows exactly how she wants to say her points, how she wants to make them and she makes them in such a specific and incredibly -- at least this past debate -- articulate way.

CROWLEY: So let's, A, hear it for the debate preparers because we know that Hillary Clinton had those things down pat. I think part of the problem with Barack Obama is that he isn't a soundbite kind of guy. This is clearly not his forum, hasn't been from the get-go.

The other problem is, when he got so tangled up in that question about driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, you have to wonder where were the debate preparers? Hello? We've been talking about it for two weeks. You don't think someone would say to him, "Now, Senator, this is going to come up and let me hear your answer." And, I mean, it was just amazing.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by, because both -- all of you are going to be back in the next hour. We'll talk about the Republican side of this presidential contest as well among other subjects. Stand by for that.

Also coming up, Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo says terrorists are crossing the border into the United States in a controversial new ad. We're going to hear what Tom Tancredo has to say. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're watching "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from Washington.

Illegal immigration is the centerpiece of Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo's campaign. Now he's raising some eyebrows, though, with a very controversial new ad about the issue. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: There are consequences to open borders beyond the 20 million aliens who have come to take our jobs.

Islamic terrorists now freely roam U.S. soil.

Jihadists who froth with hate, here to do as they have in London, Spain, Russia. The price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who come to kill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Earlier this week here in "The Situation Room," I asked Congressman Tom Tancredo if he's using scare tactics to try to get votes.

REP. TOM TANCREDO, R-COLO.: I am asking all of the candidates who are involved in this race, anybody who thinks they should be president of the United States had better pay attention to this. Do you think, Wolf, that this is not a serious issue? Do you think there is a candidate out there who should not discuss this?

I want them to discuss it. I want to know what they're going to do about it specifically. Do they have the guts to do what is necessary to do to protect this country? If not, they don't deserve to be president. They sure as heck should be forced into discussing it.

BLITZER: You know your critics are already suggesting these are -- these ads -- this ad specifically is an act of political desperation, given your low numbers in the polls. For example, in this latest New Hampshire poll, you're at 1 percent. In Iowa you're at 2 percent. In South Carolina you're at 1 percent. Is this an act of political desperation right now? TANCREDO: I tell you, Wolf, never, ever did I expect to be a top-tier candidate. Certainly at this point in time, never. I am not surprised by this. And it's certainly -- it's nothing new.

All I'm saying to you is this: I believe my candidacy at 1 percent or 2 percent, I believe my candidacy has forced the issue of immigration to the top-tier of debate topics. I'll tell you that.

And, now I'm trying to force it to the next level, to the really important part of this debate. And you know what? Whether it gets me 1 percent or no percent, it doesn't matter. Is the issue something we as presidential candidates, we as a nation, should be confronting? I certainly believe that's true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Tom Tancredo speaking with me in "The Situation Room" earlier in the week.

Later on "Late Edition," should Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf step down from power? We'll hear from his chief political rival, the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. That's coming up on "Late Edition." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: My interview with Benazir Bhutto when "Late Edition" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

On the brink.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: The situation in Pakistan is very grave. Pakistan is imploding from within.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We'll talk with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YASUO FUKUDA, PRIME MINISTER, JAPAN: They have a regime that is totally different from our free regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: In his first television interview, Japan's prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, speaks out exclusively with CNN and weighs in on a nuclear North Korea, China's military, and his country's relations with the United States.

And from the White House to the campaign trail, we'll take on the week's big stories with three of the best political team on television. The second hour of "Late Edition" begins right now.

Welcome back to the second hour of "Late Edition." Let's go to the exclusive interview with Benazir Bhutto. She was in her home in Karachi when we spoke by telephone just a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Prime Minister Bhutto, thanks very much for joining us. You are no longer under house arrest I take it. Are you free to walk around, to travel around Pakistan?

BHUTTO: Yes, Wolf. I was freed yesterday evening. And now I'm back at my home in Karachi. I still have to find out whether I will be free to meet with people once I start traveling again. But right now I'm free. BLITZER: So what does that mean? Does that mean in terms of President Musharraf, does it mean he's easing up? What conclusions can we draw from this fact that you are now no longer under house arrest?

BHUTTO: Yesterday Mr. Negroponte, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, visited Pakistan, and I believe that my release as well as the release of other political prisoners was meant to coincide with his arrival to send a positive signal to Washington that some of the leaders had been freed.

But I'm afraid there are still several thousand behind bars, including those from my party as well as the leaders of other political parties.

BLITZER: Are you satisfied, based on what you know, with the message that was delivered to General Musharraf from Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte?

BHUTTO: Yes. I believe Mr. Negroponte did the right thing in asking General Musharraf to lift the gags on the media, to release the thousands of opposition and human rights leaders, as well as to retire as chief of army staff. But this nation is waiting for General Musharraf to give a date to keep -- to retire as army chief. He was supposed to retire on November 15th. And he hasn't done so. And we just wonder how we can have fair elections when so many people are under arrest and the media is gagged.

BLITZER: The Pakistani leader, President Musharraf, said this on Wednesday about the possibility of working with you down the road. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTANI PRESIDENT: It depends on her, on whether she wants to be on a confrontationist course or on a conciliatory. She came here on conciliatory mode. Taking advantage of this situation of being in conciliation mode. And then she comes -- before she reaches (ph), she gets on to a confrontationist course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. So what do say? Is there a possibility you might be able to cooperate, to work together with President Musharraf in forging some sort of political alliance?

BHUTTO: Wolf, if General Musharraf is not responding to Washington's call to retire as chief of army staff, and Washington is giving him $10 billion, I wonder how he will be ever ready to respond to my calls for free elections.

I negotiated with him for a peaceful political transfer to a democratic Pakistan. I did that to avoid the mess that we are in today. But instead of following the road map that we had worked out, General Musharraf suspended the constitution.

And I came to the conclusion that he simply wasn't interested in giving the opposition a fair chance in the elections. And this is why we find ourselves at odds with each other.

BLITZER: But if he does, even at this late date, decide to take those steps, give up his military uniform, allow free and fair elections, end the state of national emergency, would you then consider working with him?

BHUTTO: Wolf, I know where you're taking me, but I'd like to just say, let's stop a moment and see whether he first responds to Washington. Let's first see whether Mr. Negroponte's visit bears fruit in terms of General Musharraf retiring as chief of army staff before the new date that he has set himself.

But even if he does, there are other issues. A fair election doesn't just happen because one says one wants a fair election. We have to see proof of that. We have to see whether our election commission is reconstituted, whether the present caretaker government is reshuffled, whether the mayors who control the guns and the funds and influence elections at the local level are suspended for the duration of the election period. And I would also like to see him send a powerful message to the militants that they can't get away with terrorist attacks on anyone, leave alone political leaders, by calling in international investigators to investigate the terrorist attack that took place on my return cavalcade and resulted in the deaths -- now the total is 178 people. That's a huge number.

BLITZER: The former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, said on Friday that as bad as President Musharraf might be to some, the situation in Pakistan could still be a whole lot worse. I want you to listen to what the former secretary said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: General Musharraf, for all his faults, has in fact been helping in a number of ways to fight terrorism, which is a genuine issue. The people that hit us on 9/11 came out of Afghanistan. And Pakistan has been a very important country in helping us fight that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what do you want to say in -- because she represents a view that is pretty prevalent here among some that it could be a whole lot worse.

BHUTTO: I understand and respect Madeleine Albright. And I understand that view. But I want to say that what General Musharraf has done is simply not enough, because Al Qaida and Taliban have regrouped, and pro-Taliban elements now control the tribal areas of Pakistan. They have entered into the settled areas of the frontier province of Pakistan. And there is a fierce battle taking place between the military and the militants. Now the military is engaged in blanket bombing at times, and instead of targeting just the terrorists, this actually ends up targeting the local population, too.

We'd like to see the local population co-opted. We'd like to see the military go in instead for combat against the militants like the Americans did in Pujera (ph) in -- what was that place in Baghdad -- near Baghdad, the holdout of the militants? That's the kind of support we need from our military.

And we need to support our military by also co-opting the local population. I know the local population would have defended their towns if we had given them the arms and the guns. They turned to me and asked me to get them some help, and I spoke about this at the diplomatic reception, too, to caution the government that the militants were coming.

But unfortunately, the people aren't given the support they need to fight and face the militants themselves. And in the meantime, the militants spread. So I think that what General Musharraf has done may have been a little bit, but it hasn't stopped the spread of militancy or extremism in Pakistan.

BLITZER: Prime Minister, there was an angry article that was written in the Los Angeles Times this week by your niece, a woman by the name of Fatima Bhutto, who made some major accusations against you.

And one of them is this: "Ms. Bhutto's political posturing is sheer pantomime," she writes. "Her negotiations with the military and her unseemly willingness until just a few days ago to take part in Musharraf's regime have signaled once and for all to the growing legions of fundamentalists across South Asia that democracy is just a guise for dictatorship."

Do you want to react to these -- I'm sure you have seen her article. Do you want to react to what your niece has now written about you?

BHUTTO: Well, I know my niece is angry with me, but I love her nonetheless. The issue for me isn't what my niece thinks. The issue for me is to have fair elections and allow the people of Pakistan to express their view.

I believe that the attempts to block my leadership and to block democracy are actually paving the way for the extremists to spread their influence. And I feel that the focus ought to be really on the extremists, not diverting the attention away from the real battle in Pakistan.

In my view, it's the threat by the extremists that threatens today to disintegrate Pakistan. They're already into the Valley of Swat and soon they will spreading towards -- outwards towards our capital city of Islamabad.

I may have my critics, but I leave the decision of Pakistan's destiny to the people of Pakistan. And the people of Pakistan have stood by me. Three million of them turned up at Karachi Airport to receive me. Eighteen thousand were imprisoned in the witch hunt launched to stop our long march to apply pressure for the restoration of democracy.

The people want a democracy. They're marching with their feet so that their voices can be heard so that their march can be heard. And I would make a plea for fair elections.

My concern is that if the elections are rigged, and I think they're heading towards rigged elections, well, General Musharraf's team might end up giving more control to the religious parties under whose influence these extremists have spread. And then we would really be in the soup.

BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto is the former prime minister of Pakistan. She's joining us from Karachi. Good luck, be careful over there. Thanks very much.

BHUTTO: Thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And there's a lot more coming up on "Late Edition." We'll analyze the week's political news with the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television. But straight ahead, the new Japanese prime minister has some very tough talk for North Korea. My exclusive interview with the Japanese leader. That's coming up. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

This week marked Japanese Prime Minister Yusuo Fukuda's first official visit to the United States, and we took that opportunity to sit down with him and speak exclusively about many of the issues facing Japan. It was his first television interview. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Prime Minister, welcome to the United States. Welcome to CNN and "Late Edition."

FUKUDA (through translator): Wolf, thank you very much for having me on your program.

BLITZER: Let's talk about U.S.-Japanese relations right now, which have been excellent over these many years. But there are some differences, including your country's refusal right now to refuel U.S. naval ships in the Indian Ocean, ships bringing badly needed cargo to U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan.

When do you believe that policy will change and your government will resume refueling U.S. naval ships in the Indian Ocean?

FUKUDA: Oh, there is this Japanese domestic political situation which has changed at the end of August. There was the House of Councilors election. And the ruling parties lost. The opposition won. Until now, in both houses, the upper and lower houses, the ruling parties had a majority. But now the opposition has the majority, though the ruling party, we have the majority in the lower house.

And that is the major reason for the discontinuation of the refueling law, and that is why the Japanese Naval Force had to come to Japan.

BLITZER: So does that mean, Mr. Prime Minister, that there is nothing you can do about this? That U.S. naval ships will never again be allowed to be refueled by Japanese vessels in the Indian Ocean? Because as you know, this is a critical issue for U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan right now. Part of the bigger war on terror.

FUKUDA: The Japanese public opinion, and I believe Japanese politicians, I believe, are not necessarily in concurrence with discontinuing the refueling operations. But there was a major change in the political (ph) situation because of the House of Councilors election. And as a symbol, the opposition refused the continuation of operations in the House of Councilors. As the government of Japan, we have resubmitted a law to the Diet and that is being deliberated on. It passed the House of Representatives, and the discussion will start in the House of Councilors. And we would like to see that the law would pass the House of Councilors so that we can continue the refueling operations.

BLITZER: Do you have any idea how long that will take?

FUKUDA: Well, whether the law will pass or not, I think that will be determined in a matter of a month or two. In the meantime, I'll appeal to the Japanese public and the Diet, the purport (ph) of this law and the importance of these operations and how significant that is. And in the meantime, I hope that the situation will be such that many people will support this idea. BLITZER: I want you to listen, Prime Minister, to the U.S. defense secretary, Robert Gates. He spoke at Sophia University in Tokyo on November 9 and he made some direct, blunt comments. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT M. GATES: Japan has the opportunity and an obligation to take on a role that reflects it's political, economic and military capacity. We hope and expect Japan will choose to accept more global security responsibilities in the years ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Are you ready to do what the defense secretary is asking, for Japan to, in his words, accept more global security responsibilities in the years ahead?

FUKUDA: Well, to date, Japan has made contributions towards the -- contributed to the international community, if not exactly to the resolution of conflicts, but we have supported people and their independence. And that policy will not change.

However, as far as military actions are concerned, as you may know, the Japanese Constitution would not allow us to do that. That is a special case (ph) circumstance, so we cannot do that.

But apart from such military contributions, like in Iraq we have been providing humanitarian assistance to improve the welfare of the people and been helping reconstruction in Iraq and will continue such activities.

Conflicts are not just a matter of fighting war. They are also reconstruction, improvement of welfare and various aspects. And we are doing all we can in Afghanistan as well, and also we have cooperated to a great extent in Iraq as well. And such activities will be kept up in the future as well. And if possible, we would like to consider various ways of supporting U.S. activities.

BLITZER: Is it at all within the realm of possibility that Japan should take another look at its Constitution and think about revising it so that it would give you an opportunity to play the kind of global security responsible role that the U.S. and others would like to see Japan play?

FUKUDA: Well, there is this constraint of the Japanese constitution and right now the constitution prohibits Japan from engaging in military operations. So our idea is to do whatever we can outside those military operations.

And that is why we have -- we are implementing more than $5 billion of cooperation to Iraq and $1.5 billion as grant aid and $2.5 billion are loans. But we've already given $4 billion and there is a remaining $1 billion that can be used and we'd like to make effective use of that money.

And also with regard to Afghanistan, we have provided 140 billion yen in assistance and we will continue to provide significant financial support and by doing so, we would like to contribute to their reconstruction and improvement of welfare.

BLITZER: So I was just going to say, Mr. Prime Minister, you're not thinking about reopening, revising, amending your constitution to give you more flexibility in the defense and security area?

FUKUDA: Well, when you speak of security, I think there are various security matters like economic security and improved security on the ground, welfare, so -- and to the extent permissible, Japan will engage in such activities.

And how to increase such activities, whether military activities will be part of that, I think that is a matter that will be -- that needs to be debated by the Japanese public and we'd like to do that as rarely as possible.

BLITZER: I ask you these questions in the context of the fact that Japan imports about 80 percent of its oil from -- a lot of coming obviously from the Middle East.

I want to move on, but just -- I haven't heard a direct answer on the question of changing, revising, amending the constitution. Is that something that is simply never going to happen?

FUKUDA: Well, military operations, no. But if the U.S. military are to carry out military operations in other areas, Japan has provided support like in Iraq. And also currently, we have the (inaudible) force, about 400, 500 people supporting air lift in Iraq.

And they are providing air lift service to U.S. and other countries as well. But that is supportive activity or logistic activity. Apart from those activities, I think we need more time and we need further debate among the Japanese people.

BLITZER: All right. Fair enough on that point.

Let's talk about North Korea right now. Do you really believe, as someone who has studied the North Korean nuclear program that Kim Jong Il, the dictator, the leader in North Korea, is serious about giving up his nuclear military capability? FUKUDA: Well, whether he is serious about that or not, I very much hope he will give them up and I am sure the U.S. thinks the same way. So in order that North Korea will give up nuclear weapons, we will make our efforts.

Of course, the U.S. is the main player in negotiating and I hope the U.S. will be successful with their negotiations and we really count on it.

At the same time, nuclear proliferation, if that is taking place, that needs to be resolved at the same level as well.

BLITZER: Because there are some here, including the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, who served in the Bush administration, who simply don't believe it's realistic that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons. He also doesn't believe that Iran, for example, would abandon its reported nuclear weapons program.

But I just want to get your opinion. You think under the right circumstances North Korea would dismantle its nuclear weapons?

FUKUDA: As an independent country, if North Korea, wishes to survive, then I think they need to give up their nuclear weapons. And at that same time, I think if -- their economic independence, they need Japan's economic cooperation as well. And, therefore, the abduction issue needs to be settled as well.

There are, of course, disparate views regarding these matters but as far as we're concerned, to the extent they are a threat to neighboring countries, I think it is very difficult for them to survive as an independent state.

BLITZER: And I just want to be precise, Prime Minister. When you said that if they want to survive, they must give up their nuclear weapons, that could be seen as a threat that if they don't give up their nuclear weapons, they are going to be destroyed. I want you to clarify exactly what you mean by that.

FUKUDA: Well, whether they will be destroyed or not, setting that apart, I don't think they can really become truly independent with their current stance as a very closed or hermit country. The people will be very unhappy and miserable.

And economically, if they have a regime that is totally different from our free regime -- and I don't think you can call that an independent country -- and the way they are, their country will sort of taper off and perhaps at the end of the day will disappear. BLITZER: I want to play another clip, another excerpt of what the defense secretary, Robert Gates said, this one referring to China and its military ambitions. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GATES: I have concerns with a variety of the military programs that they have underway, the developmental programs. I have concern with the lack of transparency. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How much of a threat, how much of a threat, Prime Minister, does Japan see from China and its military program right now?

FUKUDA: As far as military threat is concerned, there's a question of whether they will exercise that military capability or not. The United States is the country with the largest military capabilities, but do we feel threatened by the United States? No.

As for China, I believe their military capability today is not really that great, but if at the current pace they continue to build up their military, then in the future they could become a major threat.

The issue, however, is not whether you have a capability. Whether the country has a will to use it, that's the crux of the matter. And if China owns offensive capability, they could become a threat for the entire world, but I don't think they will opt to do that. And, therefore, if anything, I am quite optimistic about that.

BLITZER: The United States and Japan, two of the great economic powers in the world, but this past Tuesday, your governor of the Bank of Japan said this -- and I'll read it to you what he said.

"If adjustments in the U.S. housing market worsen and negatively affect private consumption and capital investment, the global economy would deteriorate. This would have a negative impact on the Japanese economy."

How worried are you that there could be a worldwide recession based on some of the housing problems, market problems here, in the United States?

FUKUDA: With regard to the current problem in the United States, I thought it was a domestic problem but now we see impact in Europe.

In Japan, we do see some impact but, fortunately, it is still limited. Yet, I very much hope that the problem will be resolved as early as possible. Today, I had a meeting with President Bush and the president, I believe, feels that it can be resolved although it may have lingering effects. So I believe at the end of the day, this problem will disappear, I hope.

As for its impact on the world economy, of course no single economy is independent, especially a giant economy like the U.S. economy. We certainly have to watch very carefully and we hope that the United States will manage its economic policy correctly.

BLITZER: So you're -- I just want to button this up. You're not all that concerned about some sort of global recession unfolding in the coming months?

FUKUDA: That's right. Well, I'm not sure what sort of impact the current U.S. problem is having on the European economy but, to date, it has not been a major impact on the Japanese economy.

And I'd like to watch when the U.S. economy will recover and I very much hope that it will recover because I believe essentially the U.S. economy is not in a poor state. If this is the only serious issue, then I hope it will overcome this issue as earlier as possible.

BLITZER: This is your first visit to the United States since you've become prime minister. It's a lightning visit, only what, 25, 26 hours here in Washington. What do you think?

FUKUDA: Well, just like your name. Like Blitzer, I will be coming and then I will be gone. In a short, limited time, I think it is important that I come and engage in such substantive discussions and I would like to come back on another quick trip.

BLITZER: Well, we hope you'll be a frequent visitor to the United States and we hope you'll be a frequent visitor here to CNN. Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to the United States. Thanks very much for joining us.

FUKUDA: Thank you very much indeed, Wolf.

And I hope, Wolf, you will come to Japan as well, because I am sure you will have many fans of yours in Japan. I guarantee that.

BLITZER: Thank you so much.

FUKUDA: Thank you. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And up next, we're going to go on the campaign trail to see where the U.S. presidential candidates are going to be over the next few days. And then our political panel is back, ready to give you the lowdown on the Republican side of the race for the White House. Don't miss it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's take a look and see where some of the U.S. presidential candidates will be spending some time over the next few days on the campaign trail. Rudy Giuliani is in Florida today, campaigning among NASCAR fans over at the NASCAR Cup final. Hillary Clinton is spending the day in California fund raising.

Fred Thompson heads south to Jackson, Mississippi, tomorrow to headline a Republican Party event. Dennis Kucinich will be at Hastings on the Hudson in New York for a fund-raiser later today. And Mitt Romney starts tomorrow at Boise, Idaho, at a breakfast fund- raiser. Ends the day in Seattle at a dinner fund-raiser. John Edwards holds a community meeting in Iowa tomorrow. He'll be joined by singers Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne.

On the campaign trail, with some of the U.S. presidential candidates. Up next, the Democrats are in a new fight for the White House over funding the war in Iraq. We'll handicap their new strategy with our political panel. Stay with us. "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. The Democratic debate aside, there was lots of other action here in Washington and on the presidential campaign this past week. So let's get right to it with our Congressional correspondent Dana Bash, our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley and our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

Candy, in the last hour we spoke about the Democrats, what happened at the debate, what's happening out there on the trail. Let's talk a little bit about the Republicans. And I'm going to put up on the screen the latest Republican caucus poll in Iowa, because some surprising numbers. Mitt Romney is ahead at 26 percent. But look at this. Mike Huckabee is a close second at 24 percent. Sampling error of 4 percent. It's neck and neck.

Giuliani's at 11, Thompson at 11, McCain at 10. This is the first Republican contest. Mike Huckabee, all of a sudden, with no money is doing really, really well. What is going on? You were just in Iowa.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. I mean, first of all, he benefits by the fact that only Romney's in there with advertisements, so that helps. He's sort of like moved into the hole and really done well on the ground.

BLITZER: Huckabee has no money to advertise.

CROWLEY: Well, right. That's what I mean. So he's moved to that hole. He's been on the ground there, sort of using up his time because there are not a lot of people on the air. The fact of the matter is, I think a Huckabee victory in Iowa would probably hurt Romney more than it would help Huckabee in some ways. When you look ahead to New Hampshire, I think it's pretty tough for him. But it is, you know -- look, it reflects the Republican base in Iowa, which is conservative Christian.

BLITZER: Sorry about getting in your shot like that, but I had to pick something up from the floor. I want to play a little clip of what Mike Huckabee said earlier today on one of the Sunday talk shows. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We think we are on target not only to do well in Iowa but to go on with that momentum, do better than expected in New Hampshire. Go to South Carolina. Then it's a whole new ball game. By that time you may have the folks who have been riding the waves of the front-runners. They may be bowing out by then. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Why is he such an attractive candidate to a lot of conservative base out there in Iowa and beyond?

BASH: Because he's one of them, literally one of them. Because especially in a place like Iowa, where the base is largely evangelical. He is a Southern Baptist pastor. That is -- a preacher. That is what he was before he was governor of Arkansas.

And I'm actually going out there tomorrow to look more closely at this phenomenon. But just even in talking to some on the phone, they say he speaks our language. He gets us. And that's why we support him.

The problem for Mike Huckabee, if you look at some of the larger, sort of Republican grassroots organizations is they look at it in a much more practical way. And they say, wait a minute.

He might be most like us when it comes to social issues, but he's just not going to get it when it comes to electability. And we need to put our money and our power behind a horse that will.

BLITZER: There's no doubt, Suzanne, that Mitt Romney, arguably the front-runner among the Republicans, sees Mike Huckabee as a direct threat.

MALVEAUX: And he's, perhaps, the one who has the most to lose. I mean, he's the one who's really invested the most on the ground when it comes to visits, when it comes to advertising.

And you look at some of the other candidate where that -- I mean, it just doesn't even compare. And then you see Giuliani who's just beginning to get into the game there in Iowa, really kind of playing it down and realizing that he's quite far behind. So that's going to be a real problem for him.

BLITZER: There's serious problems -- I guess serious political problems, for Rudy Giuliani involving Bernard Kerik, who was his police commissioner and he's now formerly under indictment for all sorts of serious allegations.

And now that Judith Regan, who was a book publisher, has come forward and said she was told by certain individuals not to say bad things about Bernard Kerik because it could adversely affect the Giuliani campaign, here's a little clip of how Giuliani reacted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER MAYOR RUDOLPH W. GIULIANI, R-NEW YORK CITY: I don't respond to the story at all. I have -- I don't know anything about it. And it sounds to me like a -- kind of a gossip column story more than a real story. The last thing in the world you want to do when you run for president is respond to gossip column-type stories.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: And just to be clear, Bernard Kerik was having an affair with Judith Regan. She is now suing the parent company of Harper-Collins, her former employer, the News Corporation, for $100 million or so.

CROWLEY: Look, I think this is part of the drip, drip, drip about Rudy Giuliani, which has not hurt him much in the Republican primary season, which will hurt him in the general primary this way. Let's say it's a Clinton-Giuliani race. So many things are taken off the table. The social issues are taken off the table. That kind of, oh, do we want that drama again taken off the table. It would be really interesting to have them -- the two of them up against each other with their big minuses off the table.

BASH: Exactly. And there's something else that would be potentially off the table which is, the sort of -- the soap opera that comes along with both of their lives and that is when you talk to Republicans, who are -- the rivals of Giuliani, they will say that is part of the problem with getting -- with a Rudy Giuliani nomination which is it makes harder for Republicans to go after the Clintons in the way that we have seen Republicans go after Clintons for years and years and years.

BLITZER: There was really a tough column by Frank Rich in The New York Times today on this Rudy Giuliani business involving Judith Regan and Bernard Kerik with all sorts of ramifications potentially for the Giuliani campaign if, in fact, more sordid material were to emerge.

MALVEAUX: And there's all kinds of rumors right now too as well. What kind of stories are actually going to pop out or what kind of stories are out there on both sides? And it's really going to be fascinating to see if it's really going to weigh that much on the Giuliani camp. But they are very concerned about it.

BLITZER: Stand by, guys, because we have more to talk about -- a lot more to talk about on our political panel.

But, up next, two Republican presidential candidates who say they best represent conservatives were on the other Sunday morning talk shows today. We're going to tell you what Fred Thompson and more of what Mike Huckabee had to say. That's coming up in our very popular "In Case You Missed It" segment. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More of our political panel coming up, but 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 Fox, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was asked about a prominent anti-abortion group's decision to endorse Fred Thompson instead of Mike Huckabee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE, R-ARK.: I was surprised by the endorsement for Thompson but, you know, my surprise was nothing compared to the surprise of the people out in America who have been faithful supporters of right to life.

Fred's never had a 100 percent record on right to life in his Senate career. The records reflect that. And he doesn't support the human life amendment, which is most amazing because that's been a part of the Republican platform since 1980.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On ABC, Fred Thompson blasted a top Romney campaign advisor's suggestion that he bought the endorsement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER SEN. FRED THOMPSON, R-TENN.: I'm glad to know that they think we've got enough money to go around buying endorsements, and I'm really perplexed as to why they would insult the very people who they have been assiduously courting now for months trying to get that endorsement. And when they don't get it, they whine and they complain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

Up next, one U.S. senator says Congress is broken. We're going to talk about that, a lot more with our political panel. "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. And we're back with three of the best political team on television: CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, Dana Bash, Candy Crowley.

Candy, Mitt Romney, he's clearly ahead in the polls in Iowa. Not by much, but ahead. In New Hampshire, even in South Carolina. Some are suggesting he go out and give a speech on his Mormon faith, which has been an issue at least with some.

He said this the other day. He said, "I'm happy to answer any questions people have about my faith, and do so pretty regularly. Is there going to be a special speech? Perhaps, at some point. I sort of like the idea myself. The political advisers tell me no, no, no. It's not a good idea. It draws too much attention to that issue alone."

You speak to those guys all the time. What do you think?

CROWLEY: Well, first of all, to sort of go on record saying, I think it's a great idea but the advisers tell me no is probably not what you want to be saying in public. That sort of -- you know, I looked at that and thought, you know, bad idea.

Having said that, they were much more bullish about doing this early on. I mean, their plan was always to go, you know, win in Iowa. Win in New Hampshire. That way, if you took a loss in South Carolina, you could sustain it.

Now they look at the polls in South Carolina and say, well, wait a second. You know, he's been down there. He's been pounding away. He's been talking about values rather than religion, saying we share values. So that's why they have sort of backed it up a little. I think they're looking more toward the general at this point.

BLITZER: The idea was that John F. Kennedy back in 1960 delivered a speech about his Catholic faith, and it obviously helped him a lot.

BASH: Exactly. And I actually spoke with several of those political advisers this past week about that. And basically what they say is, first of all, it's interesting. Many of them have watched -- most of them, actually, have watched that JFK speech, which he gave in September of the election year, September of 1960, right before the general election. And what they say is that, you know, they're not really clear that that helped him. The speech explaining his Catholicism, explaining his religion. And what they say is at this point, because there's such an uncertainly about whether it would help or hurt, they're probably going to wait until at least after Iowa, see how it goes there.

BLITZER: Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Well, the one thing that I was noticing is that Giuliani, I mean, he could benefit from the fact that all of the conservatives, the social conservatives, could be split, where it really is anybody's game at this point. You've got Romney, you've got Thompson. I mean, it could sway in his favor.

BLITZER: And that's what he's counting on, dividing up that conservative, the social conservative vote. Dana, Dennis Hastert retiring now, making a speech on the House floor, the speaker, former speaker of the House saying he's going back to Illinois, basically. I want to play a little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. J. DENNIS HASTERT, R-ILL.: I continue to worry about the breakdown of civility in our political discourse. I tried my best, but I wish I had been more successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, some will argue that he wasn't successful at all. It got about as ugly and poisonous out in the Congress in a long time under his watch while he was the speaker. What do you think?

BASH: Absolutely. I mean, there's no question about it. You talk to any of his colleagues, and they -- most of his colleagues, and they fully admit that that was a big, big problem that really was exacerbated while he was sort of the head of the Republican Party in the house. But the bottom line in looking at that, Wolf, is to just -- it just is a reminder of what a difference it is between now and just a few years ago.

I mean, Denny Hastert really was emblematic and symbolic of the Republican rise of the 1990s, and now to see him say, you know, see ya, on the House floor like that in a way that really -- it's surprising in the fact it isn't surprising is sort of remarkable. He really is a symbol, not just of the rise of the '90s but of their fall right now.

BLITZER: And the Democrats in Congress, the House especially, this week and in the Senate saying they're going to pass some sort of limited funding for the war in Iraq, but they're going to continue to try to link it to a troop withdrawal. Listen to Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: The president and his enablers in Congress are so afraid of being held accountable for this disastrous war policy that they'd rather leave the men and women in uniform empty-handed than work to change course in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You cover the White House. What's the White House strategy in dealing with this?

MALVEAUX: The White House thinks it has a winner in this one, because they think as long as this goes on, the Democrats are really not -- they're going to push and push and seem weak and ineffective, and essentially that the president, in holding off when he talks about spending and taxes, that these are the issues, obviously, that the Republicans and the independents are very interested in.

And they feel they lost a lot of ground in the midterm elections. So they're putting everything, all of his political capital. They believe that the Democrats are going to fall on this one.

BLITZER: Thanks, guys. We've got to leave it right there. Suzanne, Dana, Candy, three of the best political team on television.

Up next, you're going to see what's on the cover of major newsmagazines here in the United States. And if you'd like a recap of today's program, you can get highlights on our "Late Edition" podcast. Simply go to cnn.come/podcast.

And coming up at the top of the hour, "This Week at War" with host Tom Foreman.

TOM FOREMAN, HOST, "THIS WEEK AT WAR": Thanks, Wolf. Today we'll be looking at signs that the military situation in Iraq is improving. But will that mean anything if the politicians in Baghdad can't do their job? And in both Pakistan and Venezuela, democracy is taking a beating as they appear to be moving closer to dictatorship. What are the dangers for U.S. policy there? All this and much more coming up on "This Week at War."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's take a quick look at what's on the cover of this week's major newsmagazines in the United States. Time magazine has a special report on America by the numbers. Newsweek claims that books aren't dead, they're just going digital. And U.S. News and World Report explores the world's sacred sites.

And that is your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, November 18. For our international viewers, stand by for world news. For those of you in North America, "This Week at War" with Tom Foreman starts right now. Tom?

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