Return to Transcripts main page


Interviews With John Edwards, Joe Biden, Mike Huckabee

Aired December 16, 2007 - 11:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, and 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
The White House is rejecting calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the CIA's decision to destroy those interrogation video tapes.

In addition, the Justice Department is now moving to try to delay any congressional probe. But one critic of both actions, the Democratic presidential candidate, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden -- he's joining us now from the campaign trail in Iowa.

Senator, welcome back to "Late Edition."

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Hey, Wolf, great to be with you. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Here's the explanation given by the Justice Department to go forward for the -- to go forward with an appeal to Congress to stop any kind of investigation, right now, oversight by the Congress.

Their explanation is, simply put, that would interfere with their preliminary inquiry into possible -- possible criminal action.

What's wrong with their argument?

BIDEN: Their argument makes the point here that the very department that destroyed the tapes and the very head of the department who said he's not sure waterboarding is torture, even though we've been prosecuting it as such for over 100 years, is now saying -- Congress, a bipartisan committee, in the house, bipartisan committee in the Senate, said we want some answers, subpoenaed information and they've refused to give it to them.

I find it making -- their refusal makes the case why we need an independent prosecutor.

BLITZER: But if some of these individuals, they suggest, are called to testify before the various intelligence committees or the judiciary committees, that could interfere with any investigation that the Justice Department could launch and could undermine any potential -- potential criminal charges that could come forward. BIDEN: Well, first of all, the idea that they're going to, in the secret committees, two committees holding these hearings, in secret, to try to get to the bottom of this, is going to somehow impede their investigation, I find not believable.

Look, the law says, Wolf, if, in fact, there is any reason for a conflict of interest, or that the public would be better satisfied by knowing that there's an independent observer going after this, that's when you should appoint a special counsel.

I can't think of a Justice Department that's been riddled with as much politicizing of everything from firing prosecutors to making up tapes -- excuse me -- memorandum justifying torture. That is the last place we should be using as the investigative tool.

This calls for an independent, a totally independent forum for -- which the law calls for -- to find out what happened here. Because there are criminal charges that are likely to flow, and it means -- and no one knows how high up this goes.

No one -- we know, for example, the White House has been implicated, at least in Harriet Miers. We heard that she said, don't destroy the tapes. We've heard that -- we just don't know how far this goes.

BLITZER: Harriet Miers...

BIDEN: I think it needs just a clear, independent shot.

BLITZER: Harriet Miers...

BIDEN: The former adviser to the president.

BLITZER: White House special -- White House legal counsel.


BLITZER: You made this proposal, last Sunday, for a special counsel. I believe you were the first major political figure to call for it. Senator Jay Rockefeller, who's the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- he immediately came out and said, "I don't think there's a need for a special counsel and I don't think there's a need for a special commission. It is the job of the intelligence committees to do that oversight."

BIDEN: Right.

BLITZER: You want to explain...

BIDEN: And what happened here?


BLITZER: ... the distinction here?

BIDEN: Sure. Jay just made my point. Jay said, OK, no, we don't need a special investigator. And I respect Jay greatly. He's one of my friends. He's really good.

But you heard the second part of what he said. He said this is a job of the Intelligence Committee. Now, what did the Justice Department just do? Jay Rockefeller, hush up; we're not giving you anything, Jay Rockefeller; we're not giving you Intelligence Committee anything.

Jay is making my point. The fact of the matter is, it was clear to me this Justice Department is not going to do the kind of investigation that will lead the American public to believe that it's been thorough and fair.

They're shutting down bipartisan committees in the Congress right now. When Jay said, I disagree with Joe; no special prosecutors, but we'll do the job, we meaning the Congress.

Now along comes the administration, no, no, Congress, you're not in on this deal; you're not in on this deal.


BIDEN: I think that makes my point.

BLITZER: What I hear you saying is that you don't really have confidence in the new attorney general, Michael Mukasey.

BIDEN: I don't have confidence in the president. I don't have confidence in the vice president. And I don't have confidence in the Justice Department. That's as simple as I can put it.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about another key issue right now. That would be Pakistan. This is a Muslim country with a nuclear weapons stockpile already, not just planning on building a nuclear bomb; they have an arsenal right now.

Yesterday the president, Pervez Musharraf, went ahead and lifted the state of national emergency. Do you now have confidence that he's back on track and he will do the right thing?

BIDEN: No, I don't. Because, if you look at the state of emergency he lifted, there's still incredible restrictions on the press.

He's lifted it at the very last minute. There's only three or four weeks left to campaign, for any other parties to go out and campaign. He's does the bare minimum.

He fired the entire supreme court and replaced it with a hand- picked group of an entirely new supreme court in that country.

And now we have to keep the pressure on to make sure that these are as fair as they can possibly be in the remaining four weeks, that there's total access, on the part of both Sharif and Bhutto, to be able to go out there and campaign.

I mean, he took his uniform off and he's done the bare minimum of lifting -- he actually, before he lifted them, he unilaterally amended the constitution in several parts.

And so our only hope here is that there's a possibility of people turning out for an election that is not fair in the sense that there's been adequate time to campaign, but that, in polls that we're showing now, is that 70 percent of the people of Pakistan say they don't support Musharraf; 68 percent say he should leave now.

If that's reflected of the polls in the democratic election, then we are able to continue to move from a Musharraf policy to a Pakistani policy and support those democratic pieces in there.

BLITZER: On November 28, I was over at the White House. I interviewed President Bush and I asked him about President Musharraf. And I want to play a little clip of what he said. Listen to this.


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: He has been an absolute reliable partner in dealing with extremists and radicals. And you know, it's a tough situation in the remote parts of Pakistan. But there's many examples of where the Pakistanis have, in cooperation with the U.S., brought to justice members of Al Qaida's hierarchy. And I'm thankful for that.


BLITZER: Do you agree with the president?

BIDEN: I agree that they helped some. I don't agree they've been great partners. I mean they've basically made a deal in Waziristan. That's a tribal area that is where the Taliban is, as well as Al Qaida. They basically made a deal, as we pulled our forces out of Afghanistan and left their flank expose there had, they made their own deal, which is basically, you leave us alone; we'll leave you alone, that meaning the Taliban and Al Qaida. And they've done the bare minimum.

They had a recent strike north of there that was successful, but the idea that there's been a consistent effort here to really go after them -- there's no facts to back that up. And they've actually backed off.

And I find it -- I find relying totally on what Musharraf is going to do for our security here, rather than promoting, much more strongly than we are, the democratic movement within that country, where 70 percent of the people in Pakistan are moderate and not sectarian, I find it a misplaced policy.

I think the president -- you know, he looked into Putin's eyes and he listens to Musharraf. I mean, he think he's been taken on both scores.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Iraq for a moment. John McCain was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal this weekend. And he suggested, because he says the surge -- the military surge, as it's called -- is working, and things are beginning, he says, to fall into place in Iraq, that the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate were totally mistaken.

He also made the charge about Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, and Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader. He spoke about their, quote, their "lack of patriotism because they're not supporting this new military strategy."

I know you admire John McCain. He's running for president right now on the Republican side. But I wonder if you want to respond to those strong words suggesting that the Democratic leadership in the Senate and the House have a lack of patriotism.

BIDEN: Look, you're right, I am close to John. But I think that's over the top. They're both incredibly patriotic people. And whether the surge is working or not, let's measure it by the terms the president set out when he started the surge.

He said the reason for the surge is to allow some, quote, "breathing room" in order to have the Pakistani -- excuse me, the Iraqi officials get together and come up with a consensus government. What are you hearing from Petraeus and our number two man there? You are hearing that the window is very small. This surge cannot last.

In fact, there's virtually no political movement being made. There's no political reconciliation going on at the central government level, and the troops always do the job we give them. Every time we ask them to do something, they do them, and they've done their job.

Now the president has to do his. The idea that this surge has worked and produced political stability in Iraq I find not one scintilla of evidence for that. This is the time the president should move.

The Congress sent him an authorization bill with the Biden- Brownback amendment in it, saying Mr. President, your strategy is wrong. Now's the time for you to move, enforce the Iraqi constitution with the international community bringing in all of the neighbors and the -- excuse me, and Iranians -- excuse me, the Iraqis cooperating in terms of implementing their constitution in a federal system. Give them more local control. This is a time the president can move because there is some breathing room.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time...

BIDEN: He's doing nothing.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Senator, but I want your quick reaction. The Des Moines Register in their editorial has endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. They raise this question in there: "Should the party place its trust in two senators, Joe Biden or Chris Dodd, who have served their nation with distinction for more than 30 years each?"

They raise that question, but then they go on to endorse Hillary Clinton, which is a significant development out in Iowa where you are right now.

BIDEN: It is. Yeah.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BIDEN: Well, first of all, they gave us a fair shot. They had me back there twice. In the editorial, they mentioned I was qualified to be president, but they chose Hillary over me. I can't complain about that.

I think it is a great coup for Hillary. I congratulate her on it. But the Register has been fair. Unlike a lot of other national papers, they've actually sat down, they listened to me, they actually went through and asked the same questions they asked other people.

And they came to the conclusion in their editorial that on a, I won't say a close call, but in a call, they decided Hillary was more, prepared to be president, or would be a better president, than Joe Biden would be.

But they are the only major outfit out here that's actually taken the time to listen to us all. They gave me a fair shake. I think they gave the others a fair shake as well, and they chose Hillary. And she should be congratulated.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, good luck to you out on the campaign trail. Thanks for joining us.

BIDEN: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Thank you. And just ahead, will Congress move ahead with its own investigation of those destroyed CIA tapes? We'll talk with two top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Plus, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He's standing by. He'll join us live to weigh in on the surprise turnaround of his once-underdog campaign.

You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up in our next hour, by the way, the Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. He'll assess his chances of winning in Iowa and more. He's on the cover, by the way, of the new issue of Newsweek magazine that's just coming out. They're calling him "the sleeper."

But joining us now, two key members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. Kit Bond of Missouri is the panel's Republican vice chairman, and Evan Bayh is the Democratic senator from Indiana. He's also on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senators, thanks to both of you for joining us.

Mr. Vice Chairman, I'll start with you. You heard Joe Biden make the case that, a, the intelligence committee should go forward, calling these witnesses from the CIA despite the appeal by the Justice Department to back off. And, b, he's calling for a special counsel. He doesn't trust the new attorney general Michael Mukasey to do a fair job in investigating allegations of possible criminal conduct on the part of officials at the CIA.

You're right in the middle of this whole deal. What do you say?

SEN. KIT BOND (R), MISSOURI: Well, number "c," Joe is right that we should look into it, but he is wrong saying that we're not looking into it. About ten days ago, we were briefed in detail. I think about five members of the committee were there, when we had a full discussion of many of the items that -- actually, that was on the NIE.

Last week we had General Hayden, the head of the CIA, who testified before our committee. He testified -- he was not there, he testified on the record of what happened.

BLITZER: He testified behind closed doors. You're supposed to go forward...

BOND: And we will next...

BLITZER: ... with more witnesses. You will call these witnesses, even though the justice...

BOND: We have John Rizzo, the general counsel, and the inspector general, Helgerson, is coming before our committee. But I think Attorney General Mukasey is right that when it gets into areas where they -- the Department of Justice may be investigating criminal activities by, I would guess, by somebody in the CIA, we should not mess up that investigation.

BLITZER: So the director of -- the man who was in charge of clandestine operations, a guy by the name of Rodriguez, you're not going to call him? Is that what you're saying? Because he's the one who ordered the destruction of those two videotapes.

BOND: At this point, he's not been called. I imagine -- well, first of all, I think it was a real mistake to destroy the tapes, and General Mukasey should be able to complete his investigation. I have every reason to have confidence in him. I'm sorry that my good friend Joe Biden took the usual political shot, slamming everybody in the executive branch. That's sort of a standard line for all Democratic candidates.

BLITZER: You're a member, Senator Bayh, of this committee. What do you say?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: I think the administration should cooperate, Wolf. We have a system of laws in this country, not of men. And the reason we have confidence in our process is because there are checks and balances. And we simply cannot do the job of legitimate oversight without all the facts. It's true, General Hayden did come before the committee, but a lot of what he said was, look, I simply don't know. I wasn't the head at that time. As you pointed out, the real question is, why did Mr. Rodriguez do what he did? What was he advised? There's a lot about that we simply don't know. And the Justice Department offered advice. The legal counsel's office in the White House offered advice. This is kind of a classic case where you've got to have Congressional oversight.

We can't do it without the facts. So, can I get to a bottom line? I think Kit may agree on this, and that is, it's entirely possible there was nothing illegal on those tapes. It's even entirely possible that their destruction was not illegal. But the way they're going about this makes it looks like they're trying to hide something which may embarrass them when, otherwise, by being more forthcoming, they could avoid that.

BLITZER: Because they're saying to you, the Justice Department, in this letter that they've submitted, they're saying don't even call these people. Hold off right now, let us, the Justice Department, begin our preliminary investigation, and then you guys can do your oversight later down the road.

BOND: It's important that we not mess up a criminal prosecution if one is to occur.

BLITZER: And you don't feel you could do that by holding your hearings?

BOND: Well, if you question people who are under investigation, then that becomes a problem.

BLITZER: So that's why you won't call Rodriguez, the man who ordered the destruction?

BOND: We have not -- I have not personally seen the letter, but we will at some point call anybody that we think is needed for the investigation. Now, if the attorney general objects to somebody who is a possible subject of the investigation, and might possibly be subjected to criminal proceedings, then we don't want to get in the middle of the criminal prosecution. Nevertheless, if there are no criminal prosecutions, we will call anybody we feel is necessary for us to get a full...

BLITZER: Does that caveat hold water?

BAYH: Well, what they ought to do is come in and say, look, here's who we're looking at, here's why we're looking at them. This is why you can't go there. But they're just having this blanket, nope, we're not making anybody available, we're not going to talk to you. I understand they've even said that to the federal courts. So, Congress is out. The courts are out. The executive branch can't investigate itself.

BLITZER: So, do you agree with Senator Biden there should a special counsel?

BAYH: Well, I'm not a big fan of special counsels. I first think we ought to see whether the committees can do their jobs. It's pretty hard when they won't give us the facts. And I would just point out, Wolf, that the lead Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and the lead Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee agree that the administration should cooperate.

BLITZER: Here's what Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, told me on "Late Edition" last Sunday. Listen to this.


SEN. JON KYL, R-ARIZ.: The Abu Ghraib tapes, for example, that leaked out, everybody in the world saw them. That did us a lot of harm. So you can understand why the CIA would be concerned about wanting to protect something like this.


BLITZER: Suggesting why they destroyed those hundreds of hours of interrogation. Do you buy that? Because it was embarrassing?

BOND: No, I think there are other reasons as well. But I agree with Evan, number one, it was a serious mistake to get -- to destroy the tapes. Number two, we really don't need a special counsel. Special counsels are not, I don't believe, effective.

But what Jon Kyl said is one of three reasons that the CIA has given. Number one, if those tapes leak out, there are clandestine members of the CIA, undercover agents whose identity would be blown. Number two, the showing how an interrogation works gives a handbook to Al Qaida or the Taliban or Hezbollah on how to resist the CIA interrogations. And number three, yes, if it leaked out, it would appear on Al Jazeera, and Al Jazeera is already full of information.

BAYH: These things were locked in a safe. The chances of them leaking out were at a minimal. So would it have been embarrassing? Probably would have been embarrassing. Was there anything illegal on there? Maybe not.

But the way they're handling it makes it look like there might have been something when otherwise there wouldn't. Can I make one point here, Wolf?


BAYH: One of the key mysteries here we need to get to the bottom of, Mr. Rodriguez was apparently advised by almost everybody, look, don't destroy the tapes. Even if it's legally permissible, don't do it. He went ahead and did it. No disciplinary action has been taken against him.

Now if you just violate your superiors' orders like that on something that's pretty sensitive like this and nothing happens to you, it kind of raises questions about, well, was the advice really forceful or was there kind of a wink and a nod? These are the kind of things we need to get to the bottom of. That's why the administration should cooperate. BLITZER: That's normally the prerogative of the intelligence committees that are charged with oversight, to make sure that they're doing what they're supposed to be doing. Isn't that right?

BOND: We will continue to investigate it. If we have to hold off questioning somebody who's under criminal investigation, we will come back to that. But I think the important thing to know is, we in the Intelligence Committee have had extensive investigations, and one of the problems in the intelligence community is they have not held anybody accountable for anything.

Other mistakes that were made. Billions of dollars that were wasted in the overhead satellite programs. We are continuing to push to see that accountability exists.

BLITZER: Are you and Senator Rockefeller, the chairmen, basically on the same page, or is there a serious disagreement between the two of you?

BOND: I think to date, what Jay and I have agreed on is we're going to go ahead with the inquiries. We have a very important measure coming on the floor on Monday.

BLITZER: We're going to talk about that in a moment.

BOND: Yeah. But we will continue to get to the bottom of it, and I believe, and Evan has said, and I think that Chairman Rockefeller agrees, that we ought to be doing it, not a special counsel. That I think are -- those are the key elements.

BLITZER: Senators, stand by, because we're going to continue this conversation. Much more with senators Bond and Bayh. They're going to stay with us. We're also going to be talking about the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. Has it really stopped building a nuclear bomb? Is it time for diplomatic talks now that Iran apparently has stopped that nuclear weapons program?

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


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're talking with two leading members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Kit Bond of Missouri and Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana.

Senator Bayh, the new National Intelligence Estimate, the declassified summary, began with these words: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

Couldn't be more specific than that. You agree? Do you accept that assessment that they stopped trying to build a bomb back in 2003?

BAYH: Well, it's a little more complicated than that, Wolf. And that quote is accurate but it's taken out of a larger context. Which, if you read the whole thing, which I actually sat down and did, and it's about 120...

BLITZER: The declassified version.

BAYH: I read the classified and the declassified. And when you read the whole thing, essentially, it's this. They had a military nuclear program. Part of it was suspended. The construction of the device was suspended in 2003.

BLITZER: You accept that they did that. You believe that?

BAYH: Yeah, but that's only one part. Everybody agrees they're going full-bore ahead with their fissile material effort.

BLITZER: They're enriching uranium, which they are allowed under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, for peaceful purposes.

BAYH: Well, if they fully disclose it, and they haven't done that.

So they're going forward with that aspect, which could lead to a bomb. But the important point is this, Wolf. We assessed it. In all likelihood, they will recommence their efforts. When they do, it will be difficult to detect that. And ultimately, they will be successful, if they keep going forward.

So that's -- what this has done is put off the day of reckoning. This rush to attack or that kind of thing, that's been put off. And that's a good thing...

BLITZER: What it's also done, Senator Bond -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- is pull the rug out from the entire effort to get Russia and China, the Europeans, to get them on board to strengthen the sanctions against Iran. That pressure has now been eased dramatically, as a result of this statement from the CIA.

BOND: That's unfortunate. And I agree with Evan's description of the NIE. We also know that Iran is moving forward with a missile program which could conceivably be used to deliver a nuclear device.

So, right now, the long pole in the tent, or the long lead time article in the whole nuclear weapons program is the enrichment of uranium. And that is going forward, we believe, with great effort. And it's unfortunate that the lead paragraph was that they'd stopped it.


BLITZER: Well, because...

BOND: They do...

BLITZER: But let me press you on this point.

Is there an agenda -- because some have suggested that the new leadership of the intelligence community, whether Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence or General Michael Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, that they were trying to stop this movement toward a U.S. military strike against Iran, and as a result, they put forward this public version of this document.

Do you accept that argument that has been made? BOND: No, that's totally wrong. I've talked with Mike McConnell and Mike Hayden. Number one, there is no rush to take military action. That's a figment of the imagination of some of the people who are running for president.

There is every effort to heighten the push for diplomatic sanctions. We have been very successful, through the Treasury Department, in encouraging banks not to deal with them. And that is putting pressure on.

Iran has many, many well-educated moderate citizens. And to show the support of the international community, putting economic pressure on, is our best hope of encouraging and promoting the ability of the citizens themselves to change it. And that's all that I've ever heard discussed.

BLITZER: Was there a hidden agenda that the intelligence community had in releasing this document and writing it the way they did?

BAYH: I don't think so, Wolf. But I do think the way it was reported -- possibly the emphasis in the way it was written lent itself to these stories that, oh, well, Iran's given up their aspirations. When you read the whole thing, that's not the case.

Can I -- the major concern is not whether there was some hidden agenda. The major concern is that, in the intel world, there's a risk to reacting to your most recent failure.

Following 9/11, they were embarrassed; they were a little too aggressive on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They were wrong about that. Now maybe they were reacting to that and they're being a little too lenient here. So that's what you've got to watch out for.

BLITZER: The Israelis are upset. A lot of the moderate Arab countries that are worried about Iran's nuclear program -- they're nervous, including the Saudis and some of the countries in the Gulf.

Here's what the Israeli deputy minister of defense said on Tuesday. "According to the NIE, some time during the 2010, 2015 time frame, Iran would have enough enriched uranium for a weapon. The ballistic missiles that can deliver such a weapon to Israel, as well as Gulf and European countries, are already operational."

How long would it take the Iranians to weaponize their nuclear program, if they were to make that decision?

BOND: First, I agree with what Evan said. I thought his description was very accurate.

I can understand the concern of the Israelis, because this it report, this NIE confirms that they were working on a nuclear program. They said they stopped it, halted it, suspended it, but, as Evan said, they can restart it.

And I won't get into any more specifics, other than what the NIE said, about somewhere in 2010, 2015 having the nuclear fuel available, the explosive devices available. And right now, that is still a danger. That's still a threat. And Israel is quite right to be concerned about it.

If I were -- if I had the same raw intelligence, I think I might have reorganized it a little differently, put the emphasis on a different area.


BLITZER: All right, very quickly...


BAYH: One thing everybody doesn't understand, that we've learned is this is an inexact science. And If you're the Israelis and people in Tehran have made comments about destroying Tel Aviv, of course you assume the worst.

And we've got to try and make a reasonable assessment here, but understand that, in all likelihood, the Iranians have not changed their long-term strategic objectives, which are to become a nuclear power and a preeminent player in that part of the world.

BLITZER: All right. We've got to leave it there. Evan Bayh, Kit Bond, thanks to both of you for coming in.

BAYH: Thank you, Wolf.

BOND: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next on "Late Edition," Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He's standing by, live, to respond to the latest scrutiny he's getting as the new GOP front-runner in Iowa.

"Late Edition" will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Mike Huckabee has something extra to celebrate this Christmas. He's moved from underdog to the top Republican presidential contender in Iowa. And that means a lot more scrutiny and some controversy for the former governor of Arkansas.

The former governor is joining us now from Little Rock, the state capital.

Governor, thanks very much for joining us on "Late Edition."

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS: Well, thank you, Wolf. It's a real pleasure to come back and be on the show. BLITZER: You've entered the world of foreign policy, now, with a major article in the magazine Foreign Affairs, in which you've discussed some of your foreign policy objectives, if you were to be elected president.

And you also take a swipe at the Bush administration, writing this, among other things. "The Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. My administration will recognize that the United States' main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists."

You want to revise or amend any of those words?

Because some are coming down pretty hard on you, within the Republican Party, for slamming the president's foreign policy.

HUCKABEE: Well, the some who are coming down pretty hard happen to be running for president. They happen to be wanting to get a little attention, standing and waving their arms and say, look, I've spent millions and millions of dollars trying to be president; I'm behind, and I'm behind this guy that doesn't have a whole lot of money and just happens to have a message that's resonating with the American people.

And the reason is, is because I'm telling the truth, even about our foreign policy. I didn't say the president was arrogant. And one of my opponents has mistaken, maybe purposefully, my position on that.

I've said that the policies have been arrogant and, by that I mean that we've sort of said, look, this is what we're going to do, and whether or not anyone is willing to sit down and talk with us about it, we're going to do it. And if you don't go along with us, then you're with the enemy, not with us.

Well, I agree that people ought to come with us on this fight against terrorism. Islamo-fascism is a serious threat to us. But it's up to us to persuade them to realize that it is not just a threat to the United States, but a threat to the rest of the world.

BLITZER: You're referring to your rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. Here's how Mitt Romney responded to your article in Foreign Affairs.


MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, did this come from Barack Obama or from Hillary Clinton? Did it come from John Edwards? No, it was one of our own. It was Governor Huckabee. He said the Bush administration is guilty of an arrogant bunker mentality that's been counterproductive here and abroad.

I simply can't believe that. I can't believe he'd say that. I'm afraid he's running for the wrong party. The truth of the matter is, this president has kept us safe these last six years.


BLITZER: And this morning, Governor, he was on "Meet the Press," and he went one step further. I'll play this little clip.


ROMNEY: That's an insult to the president, and Mike Huckabee should apologize to the president.


BLITZER: All right, he wants you to apologize to the president. What do you say?

HUCKABEE: Well, I think he needs to read the article. It would really help if he would do that. Because if he did, he would see that there's no apology necessary to the president. I'm the one who actually supported the president's surge. I supported the Bush tax cuts when Mr. Romney didn't. I was with President Bush on gun control when Mitt Romney wasn't. I was with the president on the president's pro-life position when Mitt Romney wasn't. I was with the president on his position on same-sex relationships and marriage when Mitt Romney wasn't. I was with the president on the legacy of the president's dad and Ronald Reagan when Mitt Romney wasn't.

So, you know, I don't have anything to apologize for. But I'm running for president of the United States. I've got to show that I do have my own mind when it comes to how this country ought to lead, not only within its own borders but across the world.

And what I demonstrated in that article -- and I invite people to actually read it and not just take what my opponents say that it says, what they're going to see is that I believe America has to have the strongest possible military on the face of the planet. So strong that nobody wants to engage us in battle.

But also a nation that recognizes that we do better when we are partners with the entire world standing against the threat of Islamo- fascism than when we simply say that we're going to do it our way, and if you don't want to do it our way, then we brand you as being with the other side.

BLITZER: Who are your principal foreign policy advisers, Governor?

HUCKABEE: Well, I have a number of people from whom I get policy. I'm talking to Frank Gaffney, I talk to Richard Haas, I talk to a number of military people, some of whom I can't name because they're active in the military. They probably wouldn't appreciate being outed.

I've got conversations coming up with John Bolton. I try to get views from as many people as possible. I believe that a Colin Powell- Norman Schwarzkopf concept of dealing with foreign aggression is the best one. And that is you have an extraordinarily strong military objective and an incredible capability to carry it out. And that once you commit to it, you don't let politicians get in the way of those on the ground who are actually having to make the field decisions, and you allow those military people to carry out the mission as you have given it to them. I believe that some of our best days as a nation in terms of not only international relationships but also in terms of our effectiveness was when we followed that Powell doctrine.

I support General Petreaus. His concept of starting with the local communities and building up is a lot more effective than the original plan we had in Iraq, which was try to create a strong central government and hoping that it trickled down to the local provinces.

BLITZER: And just in case some of our viewers aren't familiar with some of those names, Frank Gaffney served in the Reagan administration at the Pentagon. Richard Haas served under Colin Powell during this Bush administration over at the State Department. He's now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And John Bolton, of course, was the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in this administration.

The Des Moines Register this weekend has endorsed John McCain to be the next Republican presidential nominee, among other things, saying this: "But with McCain, Americans would know what they're getting. He doesn't parse words. And on tough calls he usually lands on the side of goodness, of compassion for illegal immigrants, of concern for the environment for future generations. The force of John McCain's moral authority could go a long way toward restoring Americans' trust in government."

I know you would have loved to have get that endorsement. But what's your reaction?

HUCKABEE: I congratulate Senator McCain. You're right, I would love to have had that endorsement. It would have been disingenuous for me to sit here and say it, oh, doesn't mean anything. I would have loved to have had it. I didn't get it. They don't know me as well as they know Senator McCain.

And I've said publicly and privately I have nothing but utmost respect for John McCain, I think he's one of the most honorable individuals in this nation. I personally like him. I also professionally respect him. You won't ever hear me saying something unkind or untoward toward this person who I believe to be a great American hero.

And all I can do is congratulate him and say I wish it were me. But on the other hand I believe when the people of Iowa make a decision about who they'll support, I believe it will be me. And ultimately that's what's going to matter on caucus night is not hot individual editors around the editorial board pick, but who all those folks out in Sioux City and Muscatine and all around Des Moines and Clive and all the other places around Iowa, they'll make the decision as to who wins the caucus.

BLITZER: Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review, a conservative publication here, he really went after you. He slammed you big-time, saying this, and I'll read it to you: "Like Howard Dean, Huckabee is an undervetted former governor who is manifestly unprepared to be president of the United States. Like Dean, he is rising toward the top of the polls in a crowded field based on his appeal to a particular niche of his party.

"As with Dean, his vulnerabilities in a general election are so screamingly obvious that it's hard to believe that primary voters, once they focus seriously on their choice, will nominate him."

Those are very strong words from a conservative out there who's the editor of the National Review.

HUCKABEE: Well, should I get my towel out and start crying now or wait until when I win the entire nomination, and then everybody suddenly loves me? I mean, look, the reality is, I'm not the choice of the chattering class, never have been, don't really care if I am. The Wall Street and Washington punditry does not think I'm going to be the next president. And they don't want me to be. You know why? Because they don't understand that I'm connecting to the people they don't know. I'm connecting to the people out there who are waiting tables and driving cabs and handling bags.

They don't know those people. I do. I come from those people. And the people of this country are looking for a president who understands what America really needs in a president, and that's somebody who doesn't just talk to the people on Wall Street and in the Washington social circles, but who actually has had to work for a living and get where he has by struggling every step of the way.

And Wolf, if people look at my record as a governor, here's what they can find. After 10 1/2 years, the most executive experience of anybody running for president. Our schools were better. Our roads were better. Our health care system was better. In fact, got national awards for what we did to improve it, and particularly to help kids with obesity.

I can point to a dozen different things, and here's what I would finally say. If the Republicans don't want a candidate who has a record of getting things done, working with Democrats to do it, they've got a lot of picks. But if they want somebody who can actually get problems solved and make things better, that's why I think they're coming my way.

BLITZER: Is it true, Governor, as Mitt Romney repeatedly is saying in recent days, that during your ten-plus years of governor of Arkansas, you oversaw 1,033 pardons and commutations of prisoners, including 12 murders?

HUCKABEE: What he won't tell you is I did something he never did. I actually carried out the death penalty 16 times more than any governor in my state's history, and the crime rate in my state went down. If you look at the background of some of these, it meant that people who are 40 years old who had done a joyride or written a hot check when they were 18 had never been to prison. This wasn't like I stood there with a key at the prison door and let people out. Background checks kept them from even so much as getting a job emptying the bedpans in a nursing home. And often the pardons were in order to let them get in the work force.

The real issue is, was I tough on crime? And the statistics prove, yes, I was. And I did my duty, I would do it again.

Were there mistakes made in 10 1/2 years? Yes, there were. You pay people to be governor or president to make tough decisions, not easy ones. When you make tough ones you'll sometimes make some wrong ones. You'll scrape yourself up off the floor, you'll apologize, you'll do the best you can not to make them twice. But you also know that that's what the job of being an executive is all about, not making excuses, but making decisions.

BLITZER: Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

HUCKABEE: Wolf, it's a pleasure, always. Thank you.

BLITZER: Good luck on the campaign trail.


BLITZER: And up next, Major League Baseball's bombshell. The former senator, George Mitchell, discusses his stunning report that revealed some of the biggest names in the game were on steroids. Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back. You're watching "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. After a 21-month investigation, former senator George Mitchell released his report, this week, on steroid use in Major League baseball.

It included a roster of some of the game's biggest names. I spoke with Senator Mitchell in "The Situation Room" and I asked him whether those baseball players mentioned by name in the report had a chance to respond before this report was made public.


FMR. SEN. GEORGE MITCHELL: Almost without exception, current players refused my invitation to meet with me. We did talk with many former players.

BLITZER: You spoke with former players but current players, by and large, said -- you told them, we're going to go ahead and name names; we're going to mention your names allegedly linked to steroid use or other banned substances, and they still declined to talk to you, to deny it or anything like that?

Because some people are raising questions, why would George Mitchell, in this report go ahead and name all these names, knowing that, in effect, you're going to ruin their careers and question marks are forever going to be asked about what they did as major league players.

MITCHELL: That's correct. I notified each player about whom I received an allegation, through their bargaining representative, the Players Association, that I'd received allegations. And I invited each player to meet with me.

I wanted to convey to them the information that I had received, give them a chance to hear the allegations, to see whatever documents I had and to give them a chance to respond.

Almost without exception, all current players declined my invitation and refused to meet or talk with me.

BLITZER: And the allegations that were forwarded to you from other players, from trainers, from people who worked in the clubhouses -- how reliable did you feel those allegations were? Because to name a name, a great baseball player, let's say, like Roger Clemens and to go forward with publicizing this allegation -- and you, as a former judge, you make it clear, these are allegations; these are not necessarily the final word -- it's still a big deal because the average fan out there is going to say these guys are guilty.

MITCHELL: Well, we made every effort to corroborate the testimony that we received.

Keep in mind, Wolf, that several of the witnesses came to us through federal law enforcement agencies. And they were warned by the federal agencies that, if they did not tell the truth, they would face criminal prosecution for making false statements.

We told them, simply, we wanted the truth. That's all I wanted. I said, look, don't exaggerate; don't minimize; just tell us the truth; that's all we want.


BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, speaking with me earlier.

Still ahead, Senator John Edwards. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


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


BLITZER (voice over): A fight to the finish.

EDWARDS: I'm laying out a very specific, very substantive positive agenda for America.

BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards discusses his chances in Iowa and beyond.

What role will the immigration debate play in the race for the White House?

Conservative commentator and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan weighs in on that and his new book, "The Day of Reckoning."

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: I believe that I am ready, day one, to be the president that America requires.

FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: Slow and steady wins this race, and I'm planning on winning.

BLITZER: But are Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney losing ground?

We'll assess the race for the White House with three of the best political team on television. "Late Edition's" second hour begins right now.


ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Welcome back to the second hour of "Late Edition." The first official contest of the presidential race, the Iowa Caucus, is now less than three weeks away.

The candidates are making a hard push to the finish line. On the Democratic side, polls show John Edwards locked in a statistical dead heat with Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

I spoke with Senator Edwards just a short while ago from the campaign trail in Iowa.


BLITZER: Senator Edwards, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition.

JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thanks, Wolf. Glad to be with you.

BLITZER: You're on the cover of the new Newsweek magazine that is about to go about. The banner headline's saying, "The Sleeper," and suggesting, and I'm quoting now: "Even if he loses in Iowa's bigger cities, Edwards can still win by wrapping up smaller, far-flung precincts."

Are you going to be the winner in Iowa?

EDWARDS: Oh, that remains to be seen. There are three of us out here competing awfully hard for it. And I can tell you that I'm having fun right now. I mean, we're down to the nitty-gritty, 2 1/2, three weeks to go to the caucus. Snow's on the ground; it's cold; it feels caucus season.

And all of my events have huge, overflowing crowds. There's a lot of energy and momentum. So I'm having a good time, but I think it is still 2 1/2 weeks of hard work left to do.

BLITZER: All right. We are going to talk more about what is happening in Iowa in a few moments.

But let's get through some of the substantive issues on the agenda right now, specifically the Bush administration, the Justice Department asking the Senate and the House intelligence committees to hold off on calling witnesses, holding oversight hearings on this whole issue of the destruction of those CIA videotapes of harsh interrogation techniques involving two Al Qaida suspects.

In their letter to Congress, the Justice Department said this: "We fully appreciate the committees' oversight interest in this matter, but want to advise you of concerns that actions responsive to your requests would represent significant risk to our preliminary inquiry."

In other words, they're saying, if you have these hearings, it's going to upset their own inquiry, and so don't do it. What do you say?

EDWARDS: I say the only thing it will upset is, if they stop, don't have the hearings, it will upset getting to the truth.

I mean, my reaction to that is, they want to, sort of, get their act together before the Congress finds out what the facts are. And I think it's the responsibility -- the oversight responsibility of the United States Congress to get to the bottom of this and to do it as quickly as they can do it.

I think what's happened is an abomination. And the Congress has a responsibility to act and act now. I do not think they should back down.

BLITZER: Well, do you not trust the career professionals in the criminal division at the Justice Department and elsewhere in the Justice Department to look into this matter?

EDWARDS: Well, the Justice Department is part of the Bush administration, Wolf, as you know.

And I'm not suggesting -- there are some good people who are career people within the Justice Department, but it is by nature a political arm of the government. And so it does not make sense to have the Bush administration investigating their own conduct.

And so I think what we need here is we need the Congress, number one, to be independently engaging in its oversight responsibility. And number two, there ought to be a special prosecutor, an independent prosecutor whose job it is to investigate this.

BLITZER: The Des Moines Register endorsed Hillary Clinton for the nomination for -- in the Democratic caucuses.

Among other things, they said this about you. And I'm going to read it: "Edwards was our pick for the 2004 nomination, but this is a different race with different candidates. We too seldom saw the positive, optimistic campaign we found appealing in 2004. His harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change."

That is, in part, the reason that they're not endorsing you, unlike 2004. They are endorsing Hillary Clinton. I wonder if you want to react to that.

EDWARDS: Sure. Well, first of all, Wolf, congratulations to Senator Clinton. The Des Moines Register is a great newspaper and they are great people who work over there, including the people at the editorial board. And I have huge respect for them.

We did -- we just had a fundamental disagreement. And I'm as positive as I've ever been. My campaign, if anybody came to see me or hear what I have to say, I'm laying out a very specific, very substantive, positive agenda for America.

But I do have a fundamental disagreement with them. And they raise it in this editorial. It happened when I went to interview with them. We had a great debate about it then.

I mean, they seem to believe that you can forge big change in this country by working with oil companies, gas companies, power companies, insurance companies, drug companies and think that, somehow or other, they'll just give away their power.

I think it's a fantasy. And I don't think it is ever going to happen. I think if we actually -- if that would work, then we would already have universal health care and energy transformation. We would have a different tax policy, a different trade policy. I think if we actually want to bring about change, we're going to have to have a president of the United States, a la Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, who had the strength and the backbone and the fight to take these people on, not to fight with politicians -- the president should work with the leaders of the Congress and I will do that -- but to fight with these entrenched interests and to push them out of the way to get the change that we need.

BLITZER: Here is what...

EDWARDS: And I don't think it will happen without it.

BLITZER: Here is how they explain their endorsement of Senator Clinton: "The choice comes down to preparedness. Who is best prepared to confront the enormous challenges the nation faces, from ending the Iraq War to shoring up America's middle class to confronting global climate change?

"The job requires a president who not only understands the changes needed to move the country forward but also possesses the discipline and skill to navigate the reality of the resistant Washington power structure to get things done. That candidate is New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton."

That's their explanation. You disagree with them on that? EDWARDS: I respectfully disagree with them. I think that that just feeds the notion that we're going to keep a broken system in operation.

You know, the idea is, as I understand it -- and Senator Clinton makes the same argument -- the idea is that what we need is we need a politician who knows how to be a politician inside a political system in Washington that hasn't worked for a long time.

And what's happening is the American people are demanding change. They're demanding that we have something different than what's happened over the last decade-and-a-half.

Because they're worried, Wolf. They're worried about -- you know, their parents and their grandparents left them a better life and they want to make sure they do that for their own children. And they see what's going on and it seems like everything gets distorted...

BLITZER: And you are suggesting...

EDWARDS: ... by these powerful companies.

BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting. You're suggesting that Senator Clinton can't do it?

EDWARDS: No. What I'm suggesting is she defends the system. And she says she will operate her way through it. And I think, if that worked, we would have universal health care already. We wouldn't be so dependent on oil. We wouldn't have a tax system that favors the wealthiest Americans in big companies. We wouldn't have a trade policy that gives us NAFTA and CAFTA and trade deals that help the profits of companies but do not help jobs and working middle-class Americans.

So I think we just have a fundamental difference about that.

BLITZER: All the recent polls in Iowa show, effectively, a three-person statistical tie, if you will: you, Senator Clinton, Senator Barack Obama.

Obama is beginning to go after you in some mailers that are being sent out.

Among the points he's making is this: "John Edwards voted for permanent normalized trade relations with China, saying, quote: 'There are people who may be hurt by this.'"

When you were a senator, you did vote for that. But I take it, since then, you've come to reassess your vote?

EDWARDS: Here's what I think.

And the vote description is accurate. But if you have to -- it's like everything. If you pick out on vote from the U.S. Senate, you get a distorted view of what is happening. I opposed NAFTA. I opposed CAFTA. I opposed the Peru trade deal, which is recent, which, by the way, Senator Obama supported, and so did Senator Clinton. I opposed the African-Caribbean trade deal. There are whole groups of trade proposals that I did not think were good for working middle-class Americans, which I opposed.

On China, my thought was then, is, bring them into the WTO and let's start enforcing their trade obligations instead of letting them just operate as a renegade. The problem has been is no one has enforced those obligations. And that's exactly what needs to be done.

Because the president -- this president doesn't enforce anybody's trade obligations, which is one of the reasons, by the way, that we should never have supported the Peru trade deal. I mean, we're counting on George Bush to support some other country's trade obligations?

He hasn't done it in seven years. I don't know why in the world anybody, including Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, would think he would do it now. I think that is a mistake.

But what I would do as president of the United States is I would enforce China's trade obligations in multiple ways. Stop their manipulation of their currency. Stop these dangerous products that they're sending into the United States of America, toys, pharmaceutical products.

We have got to -- you know, there are a whole group of things -- enforcement of country of origin labeling laws. There are a whole group of things that the president should be doing that gives America economic strength in its relationship with China.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, Senator. But let me leave it with the way we started it, with the new Newsweek magazine cover. You're called "The Sleeper," suggesting you might surprise a lot of people and win in Iowa. And who knows what might happen after that.

Good luck out on the campaign trail, Senator.

EDWARDS: Thanks, Wolf. Thank you for having me.


BLITZER: And coming up, what does the former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan think is about to happen? Who will win the GOP nomination, and why does he think the United States is now facing a day of reckoning?

You're going to want to hear what Pat Buchanan has to say. He's standing by live. He's walking in right now. Pat Buchanan, that's coming up next.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Here with his unique perspective on the presidential contest is the former Republican presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan.

We're also going to be speaking to him about some grim scenarios he outlines in his brand new book entitled, "Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart." It's a best- seller already, Pat. Thanks for coming in.

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You just heard John Edwards. Newsweek magazine, they put him on the cover in the new issue just coming out. They call him "The Sleeper." Does he have a shot at getting the Democratic nomination?

BUCHANAN: Well, he's certainly got a shot at Iowa. And I listened to him today, and he's touching on the fact of the people who are losing jobs because of these trade deals and the whole Democratic party has moved away from the NAFTA, GATT, WTO regime, and I think that's going to help him. He could win Iowa.

But, Wolf, I really find it hard to see how he's going to overcome both Obama and Hillary in New Hampshire. South Carolina, I've seen a poll where he's only at 10 percent. So, I think if he won a victory, he would come up, but I wonder whether he could go the distance.

BLITZER: And in the terms of the financial and the organizational structure, he's got an excellent opportunity in Iowa right now, but it's one thing to carry Iowa and then take that momentum and move on.

BUCHANAN: And both Hillary and Obama have bench strength and depth and money, and they got the polls all over the country in favor of them. I've got to think it's going to be Obama or Hillary.

BLITZER: Would you want to narrow it down, if you had to predict right now who would be the Democratic presidential nominee?

BUCHANAN: Sure. If Hillary wins Iowa, she's the nominee. I think that's it for Obama. I think he will fade. She will win New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina. If Obama wins, I think given the polls now, Obama could take New Hampshire. He foolishly dropped out of Michigan. He could take Nevada and he could take South Carolina, and if you get that explosion, he has the potential, I think, really to explode and excite a tremendous constituency, and that could drive him through all the way through February 5th. And so I think if Obama wins Iowa and New Hampshire, it is a dead-even race, and you might put your money on Obama because...

BLITZER: Who's the stronger Democratic candidate in terms of beating a Republican, whoever that Republican might be in November of next year?

BUCHANAN: They can both be beat. Hillary because she bumps her head around 50 percent or 51, 52 percent, and about 47 percent won't vote for her. She's controversial. People don't want to go back, and the Republican candidate will be a lot fresher. But I think Obama has moved so far to the left outside the mainstream, it does not hurt him in Iowa and the Democratic Party, but I've watched some of his moves and statements, and the Republicans are filing all those. And I think they could beat him.

BLITZER: Let's see who the Republicans -- let's talk a little bit about who the Republican might be. And our CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll, a national poll, registered Republicans across the country, Giuliani still atop at 24, but it's a lot less than it used to be.

Huckabee has made a dramatic inroad. He is at 22, a statistical dead heat with Giuliani. Romney's at 16, McCain 13, Fred Thompson 10, Ron Paul 6, Hunter and Tancredo at 2 and 1 respectively.

BUCHANAN: Giuliani's got real problems. He's fallen third in Florida, which was to be his firewall after four straight losses. And now he's running third down there behind Romney and behind Huckabee, who's in the lead. As of right now, this is a Huckabee-Romney race.

And because all the media is focussing on Iowa, all the rest of the states go dark. And people who are ahead like McCain -- he's doing very well -- they're going dark, and it's going to be a focus on those two.

And I think the winner of Iowa, as in the Democratic Party, the winner of Iowa is the person to bet on not only because of Iowa, but because the winner of Iowa is liable to be the winner of New Hampshire unless Huckabee wins Iowa. Then I think McCain has a shot in New Hampshire.

BLITZER: Because Huckabee is doing incredibly well in Iowa right now. This Hotline poll has him at 36 percent. Romney at 23 percent, Giuliani down at 12 percent. He is not doing all that great yet in New Hampshire, but there's still four weeks or so.

BUCHANAN: And there's four guys, too, ahead of him.

BLITZER: Yeah, I mean, it's...

BUCHANAN: I don't think he wins New Hampshire.

BLITZER: That could change if he wins in Iowa.

BUCHANAN: It could change, but you can't shoot through that many people. What he's got going for him in Iowa is two aces. He's a Christian. He is a conservative.

And he's played that card very well. And he's got the populist touch. You heard it today, where he's talking about working people and people who are left outside the great glorious Bush economy.

And there are. People whose real wages have not risen, families have not risen, that's why we're losing Ohio Republicans, that's why we're losing Michigan. The Reagan Democrats are going home. He is touching them with his message. BLITZER: In South Carolina in our CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll, Huckabee's at 24, Fred Thompson at 17, Giuliani, Romney at 16, McCain at 13, Ron Paul at 11. He's doing well among those Christian evangelical Republican voters.

BUCHANAN; If I were Huckabee, what I'd do, if you win Iowa, I'd go to New Hampshire and say, we love you people, and I'd head straight to South Carolina. Because that is where he's going to come back.

Let's suppose Romney wins New Hampshire. Then it is a Huckabee- Romney race. If McCain wins New Hampshire and Huckabee comes back and wins South Carolina, I think you ought to bet on Mike Huckabee winning Florida the next week and, frankly, running the distance.

Because, after Florida, Wolf, I don't care what all these people say; we're not like the Democrats. Nobody has a big, deep organization or a lot of money, out there, like Obama and Hillary do.

After that, it is wide-open country.

BLITZER: Could be anybody?

All right. Here is Huckabee's excerpt from the article he wrote in the new issue of Foreign Affairs. We spoke about it in the interview.


BLITZER: And I'll read you this couple sentences. "America's foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up and reach out. The Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad."

You can accept that, right?

BUCHANAN: He is exactly right. We've gotten in Russia's face. We've carried a stick. We've been bellicose. I think many of the policies of this country, I think, have been -- remember President Clinton, you know, the indispensable nation talk?

And I think...

BLITZER: Romney says he's insulted the president and he should apologize to the president for uttering -- or for writing those words in Foreign Affairs.

BUCHANAN: Am I going to have to apologize for the title of my book, too?


BLITZER: You've said some nasty things...


BUCHANAN: I said "hubris." BLITZER: ... about the president.

BUCHANAN: Hubris is arrogance of power. I think Huckabee is exactly right on this. We get in people's faces. This isn't Ronald Reagan's conservative. It's not Richard Nixon's. It's not Gerald Ford. It's not Bush I.

These people were respectful even of adversaries. But this administration has been bellicose and belligerent almost every time it speaks up -- you know, the bring 'em on sort of attitude.

And, Wolf, the "axis of evil" talk and this nonsense -- none of that has helped this country.

I mean, the United States is the strongest country in the world. We can afford to speak softly and we can afford to engage even with our worst enemies.

I was in China on the official delegation where Richard Nixon talked to the greatest mass murder of the 20th century, and we didn't get up and insult him, much as we detested everything he had done.

BLITZER: Mao was worst than Hitler, you think?

BUCHANAN: Well, he killed more people, 30 million. Stalin killed 20 million. Hitler killed 10 million or 15 million. They're all in one box.

BLITZER: Bad guys, all of them?

BUCHANAN: Bad guys, all of them -- and you had to talk to all of them.

BLITZER: All right. Here's what you write in your book, "Day of Reckoning."

Let me read what you say about Iran, speaking of the "axis of evil." "The United States has three options in dealing with Iran. We can launch a war, the outcome of which could be disastrous for both nations. We can continue to sanction and contain Iran, but that will not halt her nuclear progress. We can try to negotiate to determine what Tehran will require to curtail its nuclear program, short of reaching the capacity to build atomic weapons. History argues that America should have attempted that third option years ago."

On this issue, you agree with Barack Obama?

BUCHANAN: On this issue, I agree, for this reason. Iran is gaining knowledge every day. I don't think they're doing as well as they say. Every day they're gaining knowledge of how to produce fissile material.

We want to get in there and stop them before they do. I think, to do that, you engage these people and say, look, we've got offers on the table.

See, I don't think Iran -- what you see in that NIE report, NIE, Iran is acting on a cost-benefit analysis.

If they get a nuclear weapon, Wolf, and test it, the Israelis put theirs on a hair trigger. There are 300 weapons. The United States targets weapons on them. Turkey gets one. The Saudis get one. The Iranians have got to say, look, this isn't going to make us any more secure, and in a Sunni-Shia world, the Sunnis will have nuclear weapons, and we will have them. That's the argument you play upon.

BLITZER: This is where Pat Buchanan agrees, basically, with Barack Obama, and a lot of the liberals and Democrats say, talk, don't threaten so much, whereas Rudy Giuliani -- you disagree with him when it comes to Iran.

I'll play this clip, what he said this week.


FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI: It underscores the need for a strong position on Iran, not the weak position that the Democrats have or the rush the Democrats have made to, kind of, interpret this to support taking a very weak position with regard to Iran.


BLITZER: He interprets the line you're taking, Barack Obama, as, sort of, a weak position that would merely embolden the Iranians to go further with their nuclear program.

BUCHANAN: Did we -- when I was with Reagan in Geneva, did we take a weak position with Gorbachev?

We did not. We went and stood up for our beliefs and what we -- and we were in the Cold War then. Reagan was driving them to the wall, but he said, we can do a deal and "Trust but verify."

Look, this is the way you deal with enemies in this world, Wolf, if you don't want to go to war with them. And we've got enough wars going.

We can be very tough with the Iranians. I don't say give up anything, but if you can get them to give up those nuclear weapons, cut back on the age of Hamas and Hezbollah and really -- look what we did with Libya. That guy is a mass murderer and we brought him out of the penalty box. I think he's a detestable character. But you can deal with these folks.

BLITZER: So we've got to go. But in your assessment, right now, it's not going to be Giuliani on the Republican side?


BLITZER: It's either going to be Huckabee or Romney. Who's it going to be?

BUCHANAN: I would say it's going to be -- it depends on -- the one that wins Iowa, bet on him. McCain has an outside chance because he could win New Hampshire if Romney is beaten in Iowa.

If Romney's beaten in Iowa and McCain wins New Hampshire, then I think McCain becomes the alternative to Huckabee. But in that case, I'd bet on the kid from Arkansas.

BLITZER: We'll see.


Another president from Hope, Arkansas. It's amazing...

BUCHANAN: He said "Give us another chance."


BLITZER: Patrick J. Buchanan's book is called "Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing Apart."

Pat, thanks for coming in.

BUCHANAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up next, we're going to get a live report from the campaign trail in Iowa. Plus, special insight on the Democratic and Republican horse race with the best political team on television.

"Late Edition" will continue right after this.


BLITZER: The countdown is on in Iowa, where the first official presidential contest will be held in less than three weeks, on January 3.

Some of the candidates are shopping this weekend, hoping, hoping, to try to seal the deal with voters. Let's go to our Suzanne Malveaux. She's out on the campaign trail, watching all of this unfold.

Update our viewers a little bit, Suzanne. What's happening today?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, they're really blanketing the state today. We're at a livestock auction house, and this is in Dunlap, Iowa. This is the western tip of Iowa. This is where Senator Hillary Clinton is going to be speaking before an audience in a couple of hours.

The whole idea here is to try to hit as many small towns as possible within the weekend, this short period of time, this window before the Iowa caucuses. We're seeing Senator Clinton do it, as well as Senator Barack Obama with his express tour, as well as Senator Edwards, hitting the campaign trail.

But the big news, of course, is that endorsement that Hillary Clinton got from the Des Moines Register, the most coveted endorsement when it comes to that very influential newspaper.

And they made the case in this morning's paper that it was about experience, that that is what really matters. That is what Senator Clinton has been talking about. The paper saying, "The job requires a president who will not only understand the changes needed to move the country forward, but also possesses the discipline and skill to navigate the reality of the resistant Washington power structure to get things done. That candidate is New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton."

So, obviously, a big win for her. We saw, as well, Senator Barack Obama getting the endorsement of The Boston Globe. Very important on that score because very important paper. Popular paper among the Democrats in New Hampshire. Their primary right around the corner.

And on the Republican side, Wolf, very interesting. The nod from three major papers all going to Senator John McCain: The Boston Globe, The Des Moines Register, as well as New Hampshire's Union Leader.

Big question whether or not it makes a really big difference with these endorsements. When the race is close, it certainly does. So they're all taking a look at this, and some of them coming away thinking this is a good thing, particularly for Hillary Clinton. Wolf.

BLITZER: How much is the snow and the ice in both Iowa and New Hampshire, for that matter, affecting this campaigning?

MALVEAUX: Well, it was called the helicopter tour. That was because Hillary Clinton was going to go in a helicopter and try to get as many counties as possible. That tour has been grounded because of weather, so she like the rest of us mortals are taking ground transportation.

So, you know that it is -- it's actually inhibiting some of the candidates to get where they need to go. They're trying to do it as quickly as possible. One thing that plays to Senator Edwards's advantage is the fact that his loyal faithful followers, they seem to be able to trek through all of the snow and ice, no matter where he has these events. That is something that they're all kind of calculating and taking into account. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Suzanne Malveaux out on the campaign trail for us in Iowa. Coming up, how much of a problem does the Democratic presidential front-runner, Hillary Clinton, have? Do any of the Republican candidates have close to a lock on the party's nomination? We're going to sort through all of this and a lot more with three of the best political team on television. "Late Edition" continues right after this.


BLITZER: So much happening right now on the campaign trail and in the Congress, so let's get right to it with our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, and our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. Three of the best political team on television.

Bill Clinton weighing in on how his wife is doing right now in Iowa. Short answer, not so well compared to the way she used to be doing. Listen to what he said on "Charlie Rose" Friday night.


FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I think it's a miracle that Hillary's got a chance to win. She might witness that in Iowa. And I'm not lowballing it. You can look at the facts here. I think it's a miracle because of the way the thing has played out.


BLITZER: Candy, it's a miracle that she's even got a chance.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know. I know. And you know, Barack Obama's from next door and John Edwards has been there forever, and the dog ate her homework, and, you know, look, this is -- a couple things could happen here. She could lose big. She could come in third. I mean, there is that possibility there, at any rate, if not probability.

So, when you start putting this stuff out there, it's like, well, here are all the reasons why she didn't do as well, and it's always been close. If she wins, she looked like she fought back, so this is an all-purpose excuse.

BLITZER: You know, there's no doubt that this Des Moines Register endorsement that she got -- and you were just out in Iowa -- is going to help her, I suspect. It's helped other candidates in the past. Not necessarily to win, but to help them get some votes.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, there's no way it can hurt her. It was a bit of a surprise that Hillary Clinton got this endorsement. But just following on what Candy said, I mean, look, what Bill Clinton said, that's sort of Politics 101, Political Rhetoric 101. You lower expectations.

But meanwhile, as you know, at the same time they've got the entire Clinton campaign out on the ground in Iowa. The head of her campaign in New Hampshire has moved out there. They've moved out Michael Whouley, who is the man who really helped John Kerry win in 2004 and before that, you know, many other candidates.

So, they're sort of talking a good game of lowering expectations in public, Wolf, but on the ground they are working extremely hard to get really the creme de la creme out there to organize. Because that's what it's all about.

BLITZER: How much of a setback was it, the fact that she had to apologize to Barack Obama for what her co-chairman out in New Hampshire, Billy Shaheen said, raising questions about Barack Obama's use of some drugs while he was a teenager, you know, way, way back? She had to issue this statement. I'll play this little clip. Ed, listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: Well, as soon as I found out that one of my supporters and co-chairs in New Hampshire made a statement, asked a series of questions, I made it clear it was not authorized. It was in no way condoned. I didn't know about it. And he stepped down.


ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly it slowed her momentum just ever so slightly, but in the long scheme of things, it's a flap. And you know, and you move on. And she could probably turn the page. Let's not, you know, overplay that. And I think for Barack Obama, a lesson here that he can show other politicians is it was smart for him to get that drug use out in his book.

So many other politicians try to cover things up, keep it inside. And here was a case where...

BLITZER: Ten years ago.

HENRY: ... he put it out there, and he put it out there. And that has helped inoculate him somewhat by putting it out there, and I think this endorsement, as Dana said, you cannot underplay it. I've heard some people underplay this on other networks, said, well, it's not a big deal that Clinton got it.

If Hillary Clinton had not gotten The Des Moines Register endorsement and it went to Obama, the national media would have been saying, slide continues. Another blow to Hillary Clinton. It's big that she got this.

BLITZER: Obama did get an endorsement from The Boston Globe. Now, you could argue, who cares about The Boston Globe. But in the southern part of New Hampshire, which is the more populated part of the state, a lot of people commute into Boston, and they read The Boston Globe.

They said this: "It is true that other Democratic contenders have more conventional resumes and have spent more time in Washington, but that exposure has tended to give them a sense of government's constraints. Obama is more animated by its possibilities."

CROWLEY: Well, and also, The Des Moines Register had nice things to say about Obama. So, you know, if you're going to not get selected, it's nice that they still say good things about you, that you're a person of substance and, you know, that you're, you know, the next generation. They compared him to JFK.

So, you know, that's not bad for not getting endorsed. This, you know, may help in New Hampshire if he does well in Iowa. I'm not sure how much it's going to mean at this point if he does badly, comes in third.

BLITZER: But do you think that New Hampshire voters care about what the Iowa voters are going to do? CROWLEY: I do. I think -- yes, I think you get play out of there.

BLITZER: But they tell us they don't.

CROWLEY: I know they tell us they don't.


But, I mean, look, to the victor goes the media. And so you've three days of great play, going in there. And you've got the sense of momentum. And people want to be behind a winner.

BLITZER: I don't to forget about John Edwards.

He's on the cover of Newsweek Magazine. They call him "The Sleeper."

You've been out to Iowa, and you know he's got a very sophisticated organization out there. He did exceedingly well four years ago. He came in second.

BASH: He's lived there for the past two years. Candy did a nice piece on this, just past this week, about the fact that they -- the campaign is banking on the fact that he is a sleeper.

What they say, Wolf, is that they're hoping that there is, sort of, you know, mutually assured destruction between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and then John Edwards will basically rise out from that.

That is what they're hoping that they are going to see with this, sort of, slew of last-minute media. But, you know...

BLITZER: There is a historic precedent to that.

BASH: There absolutely is a historic precedent. And that's what they're banking on. They're banking on the history. They're banking on, basically, ironically, John Edwards being like John Kerry was four years ago, in that.

BLITZER: Because, four years ago, Gephardt was battling with Howard Dean. They were killing each other. And then, all of a sudden, Iowa voters said, we don't like either of them. And they elevated John Kerry and John Edwards, almost from nothing, and they came in first and second.

BASH: Exactly.

HENRY: But then, in this Des Moines Register endorsement of Clinton today -- as you know, they endorsed Edwards, as you said, last time, and they point out, well, he's angrier this time. And they pointed out what some of his critics have said, which is that the populist rhetoric comes across as, sort of, angry.

And, obviously, as you pointed out before on your program, John Edwards is trying to deal with that now and have, sort of, a sunnier personality and turn it from angry to hopeful.

CROWLEY: Right. I mean, that's why he is so sweet now, basically. I mean, it's the last -- the last month of this campaign. He's watched them go at each other. He's stepped back. He's counter- programming all of that.

I mean, I think the other thing -- first of all, I think, in the Edwards camp, they must be praying for ice, because he has loyal caucus-goers.

To a certain extent, Hillary, to a great extent Obama, are counting on these new caucus-goers to come in. If you get a really, you know, bad storm, Edwards voters are -- have proven ability to be able to go to their caucuses. It's also why he's been in those rural areas, because they count as much as those urban areas.

BLITZER: It's a major commitment. On January 3, if it's a cold, snowy, icy evening with a major football game on television...


... and it's not just going and voting for a minute. You've got to spent an hour or two or three listening to all this. So it's a huge commitment that 100,000, 120,000 and maybe fewer, will be doing out in Iowa.

All right, guys. Stand by, because I want to move on and take a closer look at the Republican -- the Republican side of this equation, as well. Our political panel is standing by for that.

Also, coming up, Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson -- he was on one of the other Sunday morning talk shows. We're going to tell you what he had to say in our very popular "In Case You Missed It" segment -- that coming up.


BLITZER: 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, two leading members of Congress on intelligence matters, Republican Peter Hoekstra and Democrat Jane Harman, had some tough words about the CIA, over those destroyed interrogation tapes.


REP. PETER HOEKSTRA, R-MICH.: The CIA did not tell us about the existence of these tapes. They did not tell us that they were going to be destroyed. They need -- there's a constitutional responsibility for them to keep Congress informed, and they have not. And we need to hold them accountable.



REP. JANE HARMAN, D-CALIF.: Congress, specifically I, warned them not to destroy the videotapes. I sent them a letter in 2003. And they did it anyway, and they didn't tell us. So I am worried. It smells like the cover-up of the cover-up.


BLITZER: On NBC, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney denied that he changed his positions on key issues for political expediency.


FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: If you're looking for someone who has never changed any positions on any policies, then I'm not your guy.

I do learn from experience. If you want someone who doesn't learn from experience, who stubbornly takes a position on a particular act and says, well, I'll never change my view based on what I have learned, that doesn't make sense.


BLITZER: On CBS, Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson assessed his chances in Iowa.


FMR. SEN. FRED THOMPSON, R-TENN.: We need to do well in Iowa. There's no question about that. But others do too.

And it seems like the name of the game is to stick with your game plan, do what you set out to do with your message; don't try to change your message; don't try to be something that you're not.


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

Up next, more with our political panel, the best political team on television. Stick around. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We're talking about the week's big political stories with CNN's Dana Bash, Candy Crowley, Ed Henry. They're all part of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television.

Candy, Mike Huckabee, he's got an article in Foreign Affairs, the prestigious publication here in the United States. And he writes about the Bush administration's "arrogant bunker mentality." Mitt Romney, his rival, was on TV this morning, saying he should apologize to President Bush for slamming him like that, to which Huckabee told me this in the last hour here on "Late Edition."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HUCKABEE: I don't have anything to apologize for, but I'm running for president of the United States. I've got to show that I do have my own mind when it comes to how this country ought to lead. Not only within its own borders, but across the world.


BLITZER: This is getting tense between Huckabee and Romney right now. Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. These guys, I suspect, don't like each other.

CROWLEY: Yeah. I suspect you're right. Look, there's a lot at stake in Iowa, actually, for both Romney and Huckabee, and that's what it's going to come down to in Iowa is the two of them. Now, I must say that I think probably if they could caucus, John McCain, Thompson, as well as Giuliani would caucus for Huckabee at this point because they'd really like to see him win.

So, it's getting very tense. I sort of question a little bit what Huckabee wrote, only because he is playing to a group. I mean, that 33 percent that still supports Bush are the 33 percent they're going to caucus. So I do wonder about, you know, how he did that.

BLITZER: His strategy.


BLITZER: What do you think?

BASH: Well, I think that it should. He does run a big risk in writing something like that about the president's foreign policy, but a couple of things. Number one is, the other answer -- the rest of the answer that he gave to you -- was so telling, Wolf, because he then went on to say, well, at least I have agreed with the president on guns, on same-sex marriage, on abortion, and went through a litany of things, making it very clear without naming his name, that -- of things that Mitt Romney has disagreed with the president on.

So, to me, that was so classic Huckabee, and what I have witnessed from him time and time again on the campaign trail, that he's sort of a nice guy, man of God candidate, but he is not afraid in his very own subtle way, which might be most effective, to really get at some of the soft spots, weak spots, of his opponents.

HENRY: The guy to pay attention to is John McCain, though. I mean, he won The Des Moines Register endorsement on the Republican side. We talked a lot about Clinton on the Democratic side. And McCain is not even really playing in Iowa. He's not really competing there, focusing on New Hampshire.

Very unlikely he's going to win because of this endorsement, but if he just places, say, third in Iowa and all of a sudden becomes a media story, as Candy was talking about before, the free media you get, you can sort of win Iowa without actually coming in first. We've seen that before. BASH: To me, that John McCain endorsement by The Des Moines Register was nothing short of bizarre, because the editor of the paper started out the Republican debate that they hosted this past week saying, we're not going to talk about the war at all. We're going to take it off the table, and then they endorse the John McCain based on his leadership on military affairs and foreign affairs.

And then the second thing is, John McCain has basically not been -- basically not set foot in Iowa besides this past week, and he's given it up. So, the idea that they've endorsed John McCain is really telling in terms of what they think and don't think of the other candidates who have spent a lot of the time in Iowa.

BLITZER: The National Review, a major conservative publication, endorsed Mitt Romney. Is the whole issue of Mitt Romney -- he made that big speech the other day about his Mormon faith -- is that over with right now, or is that Mormon issue -- because you've been out there in Iowa. Is that still an issue out there among Republican likely caucusgoers?

CROWLEY: It's still an issue among those for whom it was an issue. I mean, a speech is not going to...

BLITZER: He didn't resolve any of the (inaudible)?

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I think that he might have settled people who were sort of, those people going, I don't know if this matters to me. But the people who have thought all along that Mormonism is a cult, that it's not a Christian religion, the evangelicals in Iowa are not going to flock to Mitt Romney. I mean, they're just -- that's not -- a speech is not going to change them. And they've got an alternative in Mike Huckabee. Whether or not it did any good, you know, ask me again after South Carolina. But I just don't think among the core of people that were not inclined to vote for Mitt Romney because of his religion, the speech is just not going to do it.

BLITZER: I'm going to play a little clip from somebody we have not heard a lot from lately, Al Gore. He was at Bali, Indonesia, but he was asked by our Jonathan Mann about the possibility of getting back into politics. Listen to this.


FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I haven't ruled out the idea of getting back into the political process at some point in the future. Don't expect to, but if I did get back, it would be as a candidate for president. Not in any other position. But I don't -- I don't expect to ever get back into the political process.


BLITZER: Wow. Is he a shadow still hovering over the Democratic field?

BASH: I think he wants to be, and certainly just because of what happened in the year 2000, because that still -- the fact that Democrats are still so upset about Florida and about the fact that they think that he won and he should have been in the White House, not George Bush, that is always going to be some of the benefits Al Gore with the Democratic base. There's no question about it.

HENRY: He wants to be. I don't really think he is a shadow over the Democratic side because the Democratic field is not as unsettled as the Republican side is.

CROWLEY: Democrats love the Democratic field. I mean, they would take really any of these guys at this point. You know, Al Gore has basically been saying the same thing for some time. I also think this has a lot more to do with his cause and keeping a light on that cause than it does about actually getting back into the race.

BLITZER: Candy, Ed and Dana are all part of the best political team on television. Guys, thanks very much.

And if you'd like a recap of today's program, you can get highlights on our new and improved "Late Edition" podcast. Simply go to

Coming up at the top of the hour, "This Week at War" with Tom Foreman. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: And that's your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, December 16. Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. For our international viewers, "World News" is next. For those of you in North America, "This Week at War" with Tom Foreman.