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Interview With FEMA Director David Paulison; Interview With Hoshyar Zebari; Tim Russert Remembered

Aired June 15, 2008 - 11:00   ET


BLITZER: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: This campaign is about change. It's got to be the right kind of change.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: I often say that John McCain is running to serve out George Bush's third term.

BLITZER (voice-over): Barack Obama versus John McCain. We'll discuss where the candidates stand on the key issues with House Republican Leader John Boehner, Arizona Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano, Republican Senator Arlen Specter and Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

And we'll assess the first week of the general election campaign with three of the best political team on television.

The way ahead in Iraq. Will U.S. troops have a permanent presence there? And what will be Iran's role? Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari joins us for an interview.

Midwest misery. We'll get the latest on the epic floods and recovery efforts from FEMA director David Paulison.

And remembering Tim Russert.

TIM RUSSERT: Because if it's Sunday, it's "Meet the Press."

BLITZER: This Sunday, "Meet the Press" went out without the man who was both competitor and friend. We'll look at the life and times of a journalism great. The first hour of LATE EDITION begins right now.


BLITZER: It's 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles and 6:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for LATE EDITION. We'll get to our coverage of the floods in the Midwest and the race for the White House in just a few moments. But I want to start this Sunday with this -- if you're a regular viewer of the Sunday morning talk shows, you no doubt tuned in today with a deep sense of sadness. This morning Tim Russert did not, as he had for the past 17 years, host NBC's "Meet the Press." The veteran journalist died Friday doing what he loved, working and preparing for his Sunday program. He was 58-years-old.


BLITZER (voice-over): Tim Russert's life revolved around two deep loves -- first was his family. His parents, his wife, his son. The friends and relatives who molded his character as a young man growing up Catholic in Buffalo, New York.

RUSSERT: There's no place I'd rather to be than on the front lines of journalism.

BLITZER: His second love was politics. He began in the political front lines, working for the election campaigns of legendary politicians Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Mario Cuomo. CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider remember when they worked together on Capitol Hill 30 years ago.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it was an Irish gene. He could figure out the interests of everyone in the room and he knew how to deal with them. That was brilliant.

BLITZER: After almost a decade of practicing politics, he turned to covering politics in 1984 when he joined NBC News and a few years later was named Washington bureau chief.

RUSSERT: This is "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert.

BLITZER: But most will remember him in this chair as the host of NBC's "Meet the Press." He raised the Sunday morning talk show to a new level, combining his deep knowledge of politics with a willingness to probe and challenge his guests, continuing what he described as a mission.

RUSSERT: Learn as much as can you about your guest and his and her position on the issue and take the other side. Be persistent, but be polite.

BLITZER: He played key roles on other NBC shows. He always worked to make politics as clear to the viewer as it was to him. It was something he said came from his father, Big Russ.

RUSSERT: When I first took over the show, he said pretend you're talking to me. Just don't get caught up in all the Washington fancy talk and try to keep it basic, as he would say.

BLITZER: For everything he brought to journalism, he was always first and foremost a family man. He was married for 25 years to Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth and among all the awards and honors he won in his life, his official biography highlights father of the year and dream dad. He often talked lovingly of his son Luke, now a radio sports anchor with James Carville. And in "Big Russ & Me," a best- selling memoir, he wrote about his own father with clear admiration.

RUSSERT: I learned more by the quiet eloquence of his hard work, by his decency, by his loyalty than I could ever learn in any textbook.

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: I'm Tom Brokaw, NBC News. And it is my sad duty to report this afternoon that my friend and colleague Tim Russert, moderator of "Meet the Press" and NBC's Washington bureau chief, collapsed and died early this afternoon.

BLITZER: When the news broke of his death, words of praise came in from the journalists who competed with him and the people he covered.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've had the privilege of being interviewed by Tim Russert. I found him to be a hard-working, thorough, decent man.

BLITZER: We're the last word in Sunday talk. You know that, right?

RUSSERT: Because if it's Sunday, it's "Meet the Press."

BLITZER: On a personal note, Tim Russert was far more than a competitor, he was my friend. Together we had the opportunity to meet the pope, enjoyed Washington Wizards basketball games and talked about our families. Sunday mornings will not be the same without him.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.

RUSSERT: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congratulations and good luck.

RUSSERT: Go buffalo.


BLITZER: We're going to have many more remembrances of Tim Russert throughout our program today. But right now, we want to turn to a very important story we're following, massive flooding in the Midwestern parts of the United States. Let's go live to CNN's Sean Callebs. He's in hard-hit Cedar Rapids, Iowa right now, with the latest. What is going on? The pictures have simply been awful, Sean.

CALLEBS: Yeah. It's a horrific scene here. You're looking at the Cedar River. It jumped its banks a couple days ago, crested a couple of days ago. The cleanup is expected to begin in earnest tomorrow. You can see a couple of DNR boats just pulled up beside me.

This is where the river stands at now. It has dumped hundreds of millions of dollars, about $700 million of damage to this city alone. You can see how it's just blown out windows. And how high was the water? Well look, you can see the water mark right here. However this is just one city in Iowa and so many have been hammered. Nine rivers are now at historic highs here in the state. If we go to Des Moines, a levee broke there yesterday flooding a suburban neighborhood. Iowa City, rivers there also jumping their banks. They're expected to crest in a couple days. We have some really dramatic pictures, Wolf, I want to show you of a southwest neighborhood here in Cedar Rapids. This is what many communities throughout the state are going to have to face and they're going to be turning to the federal government for help. The big reason -- this is the 500-year flood plain, not the 100-year, 500- year. So many of these people did not have flood insurance. They simply thought they didn't need it. So there are so many people out there homeless right now. Everything they owned simply washed away. It looks a little bit like the images we saw in New Orleans in 2005.

Wolf, and a little disappointing news to tell you as well. They found somebody who chose not to evacuate who had drowned in their home earlier today and authorities are worried they're going to see more of that as they make their way into these flooded out neighborhoods. Wolf?

BLITZER: What a sad story. We'll stay on top of it with you, Sean. Thanks very much. Let's discuss the federal government's response to the Midwestern floods. Joining us now is the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency David Paulison. He's heading out. He just came back from the flooded areas late last night. Mr. Paulison, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Give us a sense of how bad from FEMA's perspective it is, what you saw. We just saw Sean Callebs report.

PAULISON: Some of the worst flooding I've seen since Katrina. I was there over the last couple of days. I went into Iowa, went into Indiana and then into Wisconsin. All three states have significant flooding. The worst, obviously, is right there in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The downtown is underwater. The residential area right next door, all I saw was roof tops. That's all you saw is the tops of the homes. And you get further out in the city, a little bit drier. But a significant area, not just in Cedar Rapids but across the entire state. A lot of people have lost their homes.

BLITZER: What is FEMA doing right now?

PAULISON: What we're doing is working with the state. By the way, I have to tell that you all three governors are fully engaged in this, really involved. I was extremely pleased with the cooperation I saw from the city, the county and the state and into the federal government. It is truly a partnership for developing there. And that's the way it should operate which we did not see in Katrina. What we're doing is working with the state, giving them the supplies they need.

BLITZER: What do they need? PAULISON: Right now is bottled water. We have shipped almost two million liters of bottled watt near Iowa itself and the other states. We've been moving in MREs.

BLITZER: MREs are meals ready to eat. PAULISON: Sorry. They have not asked for those yet. But we're stocking them up just to make sure in case they do need it.

BLITZER: Do you have a ballpark estimate of how many people are affected by the floods?

PAULISON: It's really hard to tell right now. They're still gathering information. I know that just in certain areas out of Cedar Rapids they evacuated 25,000 people. All the other cities we went to, they did mandatory evacuations. So don't have a number yet on how many total evacuations. Not too many people in shelters right now. Just several hundred people. But that shows you the resiliency of the Midwest people, how they move in.

BLITZER: But if people are told to evacuate, they should evacuate.

PAULISON: Absolutely. And some towns did it perfectly, very smoothly. Some of them as you heard a few minutes ago, some of them did not and they suffered the consequence.

BLITZER: Compare and contrast this with Katrina. Katrina, obviously, a much more horrendous.

PAULISON: There's no question about it.

PAULISON: We had a hurricane in Katrina. We didn't have a hurricane here. But they did have notice of the flooding coming down with the rivers cresting and people moved very quickly to get out of the homes, most everyone did.

The water didn't rise as fast as it did. We didn't have a tidal surge, so to speak. So a little bit different scenario. The aftermath is similar. The fact that we have a lot of people whose homes have been destroyed. They're living elsewhere and we're going to have to make sure they have the water and the food they need.

The Red Cross is in there with over 2,000 people. They're moving food kitchens in. They're prepared to feed over 100,000 people a day. The Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the National Guard, all working together to make sure that we take care the people.

BLITZER: What lessons did you learn from the failures of Katrina, from FEMA's perspective that you're now implementing in terms of dealing with the horrendous floods?

PAULISON: There were several, Wolf. One, having the partnerships that we did not have before. Making sure they're working with the state and local government.

BLITZER: For the radio frequencies, is everybody on the same radio frequencies now?

PAULISON: It wasn't the radio frequency so much as the fact that we're working out of a joint field office out of a unified command system. We put people at the state emergency management center. So we know what the needs are immediately without having to ask for them. We knew immediately they were going to need water. We started doing that, food, all the Corps of Engineers moved in quickly to start doing some assessments on how to fix some levee breech that have happened across all three states.

BLITZER: Why did the levees break?

PAULISON: A lot of them were older earthen dams, the ones that I saw. Just a lot of water that did not anticipated, you know, like you heard earlier, 500-year flood possibly. They waters rose very rapidly. A lot higher than people thought it was going to rise. These levees simply couldn't withstand the pressure.

BLITZER: Mr. Paulison, while I have you, I want you to react to a special investigations report that we did this week. Our Abbie Boudreau, our correspondent working for months on these, what, $85 million dollars in supplies that were either donated from the public for private citizens or given by the federal government for victims of Katrina that were held in storage for two years, badly needed supplies that suddenly FEMA decided to distribute to the state and not give to the FEMA victims even though there are plenty of FEMA victims out there right now who say they could have desperately used the home supplies that they've been asking FEMA for a reaction for this for some time. And FEMA has simply said this is old news or didn't really give an appropriate statement. But what exactly happened?

PAULISON: First, I'm glad you asked that question because I felt the story just really missed the mark. The supplies were received and they were not all donated for Katrina. A lot of the stuff we bought and FEMA bought. A lot of stuff they donated for other disasters around the country.

BLITZER: But when everything was bought or donated, it was supposed to go to Katrina victims.

PAULISON: That's not accurate.


PAULISON: They were donated from disasters all around the entire country. We've been storing these things. Things we don't normally store, refrigerators, stoves, coolers, diapers, things like that. And states have been asking for these things. We decided to open them up and give them to the people who could use them. We did offer them to Louisiana. They said, no, they didn't want them. So 16 states did step up. They said, yes, we need these supplies. We offered it to them through the General Services Administration, GSA, like we normally do with the excess materials.

We gave out over 90,000 living kits to Louisiana residents, people who lost their homes and had to move somewhere else. This included kitchen supplies, living supplies, cleaning supplies, mops, brooms, pots and pans, everything they needed to set up a new home. We have 90,000 of those out. We still have quite a few left if Louisiana needs those. But we did find out, we did ask Louisiana do you want these? They said, no, we don't need them. So we offered them to the other states.

BLITZER: I guess that begs the question, why didn't you explain this to Abbie Boudreau and our special investigations unit? They repeatedly for weeks and weeks have been seek something sort of comments, some sort of explanation from FEMA.

PAULISON: I can't answer that because I don't know where she was doing and most of my time was tied up with the flooding. But I can tell you now that that's the real story what I'm telling you. These supplies were there for the states to use. The states have been asking for them. It was -- didn't make any sense for FEMA to sit on this much stuff and supplies we normally don't even keep. We have plenty of supplies in place if we have another disaster. We can duplicate that type of commodities and get them for people in need.

BLITZER: Mr. Paulison, good luck with these floods out in the Midwest. Everyone is counting on you.

PAULISON: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.

Just ahead, skyrocketing gas prices. What is Congress doing to help ease the pain at the pump? We'll talk about it with the House Republican Leader John Boehner. We'll also talk about the times he faced off with Tim Russert on "Meet the Press." Stay with us. You're watching LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Throughout the program, we're going to reflect a little bit on the life and legacy of NBC's Tim Russert. Tim was a consummate journalist and one of the toughest interviewers on television. Here's a little sample.


BOEHNER: We're going to have Republicans who are skeptical of this plan who will probably vote for this.

RUSSERT: How many?

BOEHNER: And while --

RUSSERT: How many do you think?

BOEHNER: We may lose the vote on this, we will not lose the debate on this.

RUSSERT: You lose a third of the Republicans?

BOEHNER: I don't think we'll lose a third.

RUSSERT: Ten percent?

(CROSSTALK) RUSSERT: You had said that this resolution would demoralize the troops. But the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs said that is just not true.


BLITZER: Joining us now from Cincinnati is the man who got some pressure that day, pretty hard pressure, from Tim Russert, the House Republican Leader John Boehner. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

BOEHNER: Wolf, good morning.

BLITZER: Before we get to some of the other issues, the economy, taxes, energy, your thoughts right now? I know you were on the receiving end sometimes of some tough questions from Tim Russert. But give us your thoughts on this very sad Father's Day weekend.

BOEHNER: Wolf, he was a tough journalist and clearly the preeminent political journalist in Washington. But Tim and I had a very special relationship. We kind of grew up in the same kind of blue collar neighborhoods. He in Buffalo, I here in Cincinnati. My dad owns a tavern. We both went to Jesuit schools. And, you know, growing up Catholic together.

And so after he wrote his book about "Big Russ & Me," I had a chance to talk to Tim about his experiences growing up with his father, my experiences growing up with my father and I can tell that you the two of us shed a tear together one day. He was a great human being. Someone who clearly loved his family and did a marvelous job covering those of us in politics. But let me tell you, he was a tough, well-prepared interviewer.

BLITZER: He certainly was and we will all miss him. We're going to have some more reflections on Tim coming up here on LATE EDITION.

Let's get to the most important issues out on the agenda right now. And you're the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives. In our latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, we asked registered voters all across the United States who would handle the economy better. Fifty percent said Barack Obama. John McCain got 44 percent. Among registered voters, we asked your choice for Congress. Look at this.

BLITZER: Do you support a Democratic Congress? Fifty-four percent said they do, 44 percent said they would support Republicans in Congress. You've got a huge problem awaiting you come November because it looks, if you believe in these numbers, congressman, you believe in some of the special elections that have recently taken place, you're on the verge of suffering even greater losses in your minority status in the House of Representatives.

BOEHNER: Well, Wolf, we've got a steep hill to climb. It's a challenging year for Republicans. I think Republicans, we have to do is show that we're agents of change. We have to go out there and show the American people that we have solutions, which we do, for the economy, gas prices, our national security and health care. And I think if we're able to go out there and present a clear choice to the American people, I think we'll do much better than the people expect in this election cycle.

BLITZER: Senator Obama, the new leader of the Democrats, now says that if the Republicans take over, if McCain gets elected, it's simply going to be more tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans. Listen to Senator Obama.


OBAMA: Senator McCain is now calling for this new round of tax giveaways that are twice as expensive, twice as expensive as the original Bush plan and nearly three times -- nearly three times as regressive. Understand regressive means it is skewed to hurt low income and middle income people and that help rich people.


BLITZER: All right. You want to respond to Senator Obama?

BOEHNER: Wolf, if you look back over the -- really the last 27 years, since 1981 when Ronald Reagan cut the top tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent, we've been cutting taxes for the last 27 years by and large.

And what's happened? We've allowed the American people to keep more of their own money, to invest in our economy, to expand the jobs in our economy and, guess what? We've got more people working, a healthier economy. More people are paying taxes. More revenue coming to the federal government.

Washington doesn't have a revenue problem. Washington has a spending problem. And I think that reducing taxes, allowing the American people to invest in their own future is a much better prescription than what Barack Obama and the liberal Democrats want which is higher taxes, bigger government in Washington and more control from Washington.

BLITZER: During the past almost eight years when the Republicans were -- except for the last year or so were in charge of both the White House and the Congress, the national debt went from around $5 trillion to more than $9 trillion. This is the debt that our children and grandchildren and their grandchildren are going to be paying off for a long time to come. Why should the voters trust the Republicans?

BOEHNER: Well, the real issue here is that you look at the additional domestic spending, it was mostly for our -- the efforts after 9/11. Homeland security, war in Afghanistan, war in Iraq and a growing entitlement problem.

The president is trying to address the Social Security entitlement program and got nowhere. If we don't address the long- term problem of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid where we've made promises, we, the baby boomers, have made promises to ourselves that our kids and their kids cannot afford. We need to address these programs because that's where the real run-up in the national debt is occurring. And I can tell you the Republicans earn back the majority of the Congress, we will address this entitlement crisis head on and be straight up and honest with the American people.

BLITZER: The price of a gallon of gas here in the United States, the average now over $4. And in some parts of country even approaching $4.50 and even $5 a gallon. Many Republicans including you, you want to start drilling. Especially drilling in Alaska, the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. The leader of the republicans now John McCain says bad idea. Listen to this.


MCCAIN: I understand that the attractiveness of it. I would also say to you I would not drill in the Grand Canyon. I wouldn't drill in the Everglades. And I believe that this area should be kept in pristine preservation.


BLITZER: He is referring to what's called the Anwar oil reserves, the oil fields out there. Why he is wrong?

BOEHNER: Well, in my opinion, we can drill in Anwar in an environmentally safe way. And so John McCain and I disagree. But we do agree we could have more domestic drilling here in the United States in an environmentally safe way.

You know, if we're going to get serious about getting off of our dependence on foreign energy, we got to do what I call all of the above. We need more conservation. We need an alternative fuels. We need biofuels. We need to look at nuclear energy in a more serious way. And, yes, we need to drill more and to develop more domestic production.

And over the 18 years that I've been in Congress, there have been 46 votes to bring more domestic production online. And I voted 46 times to have more production in the United States. Nancy Pelosi on those same 46 votes, only voted twice to bring more domestic production.

And if you look at the record over the last 18 years, Republicans have been for more domestic production, trying to get off of our dependence of foreign energy and about 90 percent of the time the Democrats have opposed this. And I can tell you, Wolf, that each and every day over the next five months leading up to this election, Republicans are going to force the Congress to deal with this issue. It's time to be honest with the American people and show them if you don't want to drill, show the American people you don't want to drill.

BLITZER: Congressman Boehner, thanks very much for joining us. Happy Father's Day.

BOEHNER: Thank you, Wolf. You, too. BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll get a different perspective, a very different perspective, the Democratic Party's perspective. What the is majority party's plan for aiding the economy, dealing with these gas prices? We'll talk about it with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen. LATE EDITION continues right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. The Democrats are hoping not only to win the White House this fall, but also to increase their majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives. We're joined now by the man in charge of that effort in the House, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen. He is a Democratic congressman from Maryland. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

VAN HOLLEN: It's good to be with you.

BLITZER: You happen to be my congressman as well since I live in your district. But that's not going to make this any easier for you.

VAN HOLLEN: Come on, Wolf.

BLITZER: No favorites. All right. Let's talk a little bit about what we just heard from John Boehner. Why not start drilling? There are enormous amounts of oil right here in the United States on the coast, on the East Coast, the West Coast and Alaska. That could dramatically increase supply and as a result reduce the price per barrel and the price at the pump. What is wrong with that?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, we are drilling. There is nothing wrong with drilling. We have lots of oil companies in the United States that are drilling.

BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi votes against every one of these drilling propositions.

VAN HOLLEN: And in fact, there are 60 million acres of federal land that are currently leased to the oil and gas companies that are sitting idle. They're not drilling. They like the status quo. They like the way things are going. We're going to have legislation that is going to be considered shortly that is use it or lose it. If you are going to hold up these 68 million of federal lands, you've got to start drilling for oil or else somebody else should have an opportunity to do it.

VAN HOLLEN: Because the fact of the matter is they've been idle for all these many years. So the point is there's lots of acreage out there already under lease...


BLITZER: Here is Congressman Roy blunt, the number two Republican in the House, speaking out on this issue this week.


REP. ROY BLUNT, R-MO.: Who's to blame are policies that wouldn't allow us to use our own resources. Every other country in the world looks at their natural resources and sees them as an economic asset. Democrats in Washington look at our natural resources and see them as an environmental hazard. That's a mistake.


BLITZER: All right. What do you say?

VAN HOLLEN: Facts are stubborn things. Sixty-eight million acres of federal lands, currently leased to the oil and gas industry, sitting idle. We're going to say to them, "Use it or lose it. Get pumping."

The issue isn't whether or not we should use our natural resources. The issue is exactly where. And what you're saying is, when you've got 68 million acres of federal lands already leased, you should use that before you start looking elsewhere.

BLITZER: They say they can drill in Alaska in an environmental safe way. You just heard Congressman Boehner say that.

VAN HOLLEN: As John McCain said, there are already areas where they can drill. We shouldn't be drilling there.

And let me point out that the Department of Energy, our own department of Energy, has said, if you drill in Alaska, first of all, you won't see any results at the pump for 10 years. And after 20 years, you might see a reduction of two cents per gallon.

This is not a way to solve our energy problem. The problem is the oil -- the Republican Party has been very tight with the oil and gas industry for many years. And all they're proposing is more of the same, more subsidies for the oil and gas industry. I think it's important to point out that, since George Bush was elected president, the oil and gas industry has contributed over $94 million to the Republican Party and its candidates. So I'm not surprised...

BLITZER: How much have they contributed to the Republicans?

VAN HOLLEN: A whole lot less. I mean, we're talking about, maybe, 80 percent to Republicans, 20 percent to Democratic candidates, generally.

The DCCC -- we don't take money from oil and gas PACs. And I think what you see, in the results, is the policy.

They're calling for more of the same. We should not be giving more subsidies to the oil and gas industry. Our proposal is to say, let's take those funds and invest them in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

BLITZER: The DCCC is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which you're in charge of. You're the chairman and your job is to get more Democrats elected to the House of Representatives.

You say that you don't accept money from the oil and gas PACs. But you do accept money from lobbyists and other PACs, even though Barack Obama doesn't accept that money for his campaign. And he's now told the DNC not to accept that kind of money.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, we did something very new this time around. In fact, I led the effort in the House; Barack Obama led the effort in the Senate, to require transparency, for the first time, of bundling by lobbyists.

That means that, when registered lobbyists are raising money, not just their own contribution but they're going out and raising it from other people, that we're now going to disclose that.

So what we believe is you should have total transparency. People can make up their mind. But when we tried to do that under the Republican-controlled Congress, when we tried to get that transparency, they said no. So we've seen a dramatic change already.

BLITZER: But just to clear, unlike the DNC or the Obama campaign, you'll still take that PAC money, that lobbying money?

VAN HOLLEN: The DCCC is a multicandidate committee, unlike the presidential campaign committee where one person gets to make a decision.

BLITZER: Listen to John McCain rail against Senator Obama on the issue of taxes. Because he says that, if Obama is elected president, taxes won't only go up for the wealthy, but they'll go up for the middle class as well. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCAIN: When Senator Obama talks about raising income tax rates on those making over $250,000, that includes these businesses as well. He also proposes increases in dividends and capital gains taxes. Under Senator Obama's tax plan, Americans of every background would see their taxes rise.


BLITZER: That's going to scare a lot of voters out there.

VAN HOLLEN: But it's flat-out untrue. And people need to go and look at what Barack Obama is proposing. What he has proposed is a middle-class tax cut. People in the middle income category will get a tax cut. If you're over $250,000 a year, you may see your Bush tax breaks rolled back some.

So this is an issue where people have got to look at the facts. Because the Democrats have been pushing for AMT reform. We want to get rid of the alternative minimum tax. We want middle-class tax relief.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have focused on providing tax breaks to people at the very, very top.


BLITZER: A lot of middle-class families have investments where they get capital gains, where they get, you know, dividends. And he says, under Obama's proposals, they would be paying more tax.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, what Obama has said is that you shouldn't give a break to leisure over labor.

In other words, people who are making money simply by investing it, rather than through their work in the labor force, shouldn't be getting a break over the people who are going to work every day. That's essentially his position. And I think that makes sense to most people, that if you're working every day, you shouldn't carry a larger burden than other...


BLITZER: So you have no problem seeing the capital gains tax rate go up?

Because Obama has clearly suggested, if he had his way, it would go up.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, we're going to be looking at Senator Obama's proposal. We haven't adopted any particular position on that issue, in the House, as Democrats. But I just want to be clear that that's what he said.

I think what you're seeing here, Wolf, is a feeling in the country -- we saw it in these polls -- that the Republican leadership in Washington is in a bubble. They're very much out of touch with the economic pain Americans are feeling.

John McCain said, not long ago, that we have seen great progress under the Bush administration. And if you like George Bush's economic policies, you're going to love John McCain's economic policies.

What we've seen is unemployment has gone up. In fact, last month, we saw the largest increase...


VAN HOLLEN: But we proposed unemployment insurance compensation. John Boehner and the Republicans opposed that. When people are struggling with their mortgages, they were there to bail out Bear Stearns, but the fact of the matter is they voted against a housing stabilization plan.

So I think people see this disconnect between the Democrats, who are trying to connect with middle-class families, and Republicans, who are always looking out for the very folks at the top and the oil and gas industry.

BLITZER: Congressman Van Hollen, thanks for coming in.

VAN HOLLEN: Thanks for having me. BLITZER: Happy Fathers Day.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: I appreciate it very much.

And just ahead, even when Tim Russert and I shared the same set, we couldn't often resist a little friendly competition. We'll have a look back at one of those times, when "Late Edition" continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." It was always a treat for me to spend some time with Tim Russert. Our own Larry King interviewed both of us together, back in May of 2006.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": What is it? How many years in a row now, you're number one?

RUSSERT: Five years on Sunday morning. That's a long haul, each and every Sunday.

KING: Does that surprise you, too?

RUSSERT: It's hard work. We started off in third place amongst the networks. But there's no secret to it, Larry. It's all about preparation and trying to get the best guests, talk about the most important subject. And people gravitate, I think, and watch when there's an expectation that you're going to do a professional job, whether it's a Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative; take the other side, challenge them; always be civil.

RUSSERT: We don't have yelling and screaming on "Meet the Press." It's just not part of what we want to be. It's 59-years-old now, the longest running television program in the history of the world.

KING: Lawrence Spivak.

RUSSERT: And Martha Roundtree, Spivak and Roundtree.

KING: It was a radio show, right?

RUSSERT: Yes, it was for two years. I love to go back and watch the archives.

KING: I like when you do that.

RUSSERT: Yes, Jimmy Hoffa has one of the best, Jimmy Hoffa sitting there at the table and people are challenging his integrity and he says "Let me tell you something. Anybody at this table match your integrity against Jimmy Hoffa." So, if they ever find the body we have that tape cued up.

KING: So what makes Sunday morning different?

BLITZER: I think people want some thoughtful newsmaker interviews go a little longer. These are not short, three or four minute quick hits. These are long substantive interviews. And I think all of the Sunday morning talk show hosts we prepare a lot. We have a staff. We go through good, tough questions, fair questions but we want to make sure nobody gets a free pass. People appreciates that.

KING: Who watches? Give me a type.

RUSSERT: It's appointment television. What we have found is that the movers and shakers, the opinion makers, not only in Washington but across the country -- if I travel someplace, St. Louis or Omaha, Larry -- could be the librarian, head of the chamber, head of the local union, local politicians. It's high profile people who have an active interest in politics and current affairs. It's one that I think they have high expectations and I hope we deliver.

BLITZER: And a it's a lot of people who work during the week and don't necessarily have as much time to watch a lot of television. Sunday mornings, a lot of them go to church, come home and they want a good thoughtful interview.

KING: You discuss on your show what was said on other shows.

BLITZER: Because we're the last word in Sunday talk. You know that, right?

RUSSERT: Because if it's Sunday, it's "Meet the Press."

BLITZER: We're the only one seen that's live around the world in 240 countries.

KING: Very competitive. Do you respect each other?

Is there a Sunday morning clique?

BLITZER: I respect all of the competition. I think these are all smart guys who know what they're been doing. Been at a long time. And it's a collegial thing. A lot of times, Larry, if it's a really big guest, we all do the same guest. It's a Ginsburg.

RUSSERT: When we share facilities around the world. There's a deep and abiding respect because we know how hard it is. It's a lot of work, a lot of preparation.

KING: And you also often make Monday morning newspapers.

RUSSERT: It plays out all day Sunday, all day Monday. You go to the White House briefing and often some of the exchanges on the Sunday programs are the basis of the questions at the White House briefings. It resonates for a long time.


BLITZER: And we're going to have more memories of Tim Russert throughout this program.

But up next, our political panel will take a closer look at which candidate fared better in this the first week of the general election campaign. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Contentious week in the race between Barack Obama and John McCain. And we're only just getting started. Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst Bill Schneider, our correspondent Joe Johns and our congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin. The latest Bill, CNN poll of polls, our average of the national polls among registered voters has Obama at 47 percent nationwide, McCain at 43 percent, a four-point spread. Unsure, 10 percent. That's a considerable number out there. What is your take on where we stand right now?

SCHNEIDER: Well, you just said Obama -- I'm sorry, McCain is at 43 percent. George Bush is at 32 percent. That is a big difference. McCain ought to be just about where Bush is. If this were a typical election, either the president would be running for re-election and he'd be in deep trouble or the vice president would be running to succeed him and he'd be in deep trouble. McCain is not in that much trouble at this point. He's about 10 points ahead.

BLITZER: It is relatively close, Joe, and a lot of people are surprised given the nature of the economic problems, the young popularity of the war in Iraq. A lot of people have suggested the Republicans really lucked out in getting John McCain, who does appeal to a certain Independent moderate middle of the road voter.

JOHNS: That is certainly true. He is perceived as a maverick by a lot of people because on some important issues, he certainly has bluffed the president. He certainly has bluffed the party. He's been very loud out there talking about earmarks and that kind of thing.

So people look at John McCain and say he certainly a different breed and that is something I can live with. There is also a lot of questions about Barack Obama in specific areas, Appalachia particularly. There are people who don't know him, there are people who are a little bit suspicious of him. That plays into it as well. So McCain continues to hold his own.

BLITZER: And he's aggressively going after some of Hillary Clinton's most ardent, passionate supporters, the women who are so bitterly disappointed, at least Hillary Clinton's women supporters that she didn't get the nomination.

YELLIN: In fact, he held a virtual town hall with several Ohio -- a group of Ohio voters that was organized by several former Hillary Clinton supporters in Ohio who mutinied to McCain. And they are so disappointed with the way they felt the primary unfolded, the way they felt the DNC treated Hillary that they say they're going to stick with McCain. Now I talked to a bunch of democratic strategists because I really looked into this issue, who are quite confident that Hillary's more liberal based and will ultimately go back to Obama because of the issues that matter so much to the most progressive elements of the party. It's the blue collar women and older women that are going to be a real struggle.

BLITZER: And among those older women, they vote disproportionately high numbers.

SCHNEIDER: They do. But McCain's problem isn't primarily women. Women are voting -- I'm sorry, Obama's problem. Obama's problem is not primarily women. They're voting for him. There is a little bit of slippage, but not a lot. I think the Democrats can recover.

The problem is older voters. We're going to see an age division in this election bigger than we have usually seen. Older voters have been trending more Republican ever since 1992. The main reason for that is very simple. The Depression generation who live through the Depression and World War II, they're passing from the scene. They were deeply and intensely Democratic. So the result is that they have to be replaced, Democrats hope with a new generation of Democratic voters. That's what Obama is trying to do.

BLITZER: They do vote in disproportionately larger numbers, older Americans, compared to middle aged and younger voters who don't vote. Although that could change. This time, Barack Obama does have a lot of young support out there. Listen to this exchange that John McCain had with Matt Lauer on the "Today Show" earlier this week as it generated commotion.


MATT LAUER, TODAY SHOW: Do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?

MCCAIN: No, but that's not too important. What's important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea. Americans in Japan. American troops are in Germany. That's all fine. American casualties and the ability to withdraw.


BLITZER: Now he was slammed because he said the words "that's not too important" in terms of how long the U.S. troops would have to stay in Iraq. As I said, it caused a lot of uproar.

JOHNS: It is certainly a huge issue. And that is the big fault line right now that a lot of people see. You say certainly economy is the number one issue. But there is also the war. And there are voters out there who believe very strongly that it's time for a change on Iraq.

JOHNS: And a lot of people who say John McCain stands for sort of the old guard, stands with George W. Bush on that very important issue. And that's a tough pill for those folks to swallow.

BLITZER: There is a huge difference between McCain and Obama when it comes to troop withdrawals from Iraq. YELLIN: There is a huge difference. And if that is the cleavage line in this campaign, there is going to be a lot of support for Barack Obama among the most liberal elements. Obama would still rather make this a fight about the economy. Even though he knows he had this positive position on the war that is more popular now, John McCain is so strong in the national security arena in general that the Democrats really would prefer this to be a referendum on the economy.

BLITZER: Do you think?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, I do. I think Obama knows that when he talks about national security, people trust McCain more, even on Iraq. It's very odd. The polls show he would do a better job handling Iraq even though they don't agree with him on Iraq because he has more military experience.

In the end, this looks like a very powerful change election. And when people want change, I've seen it happen with Jimmy Carter and with Ronald Reagan, whether people want change, sometimes often they'll take a chance to vote for something they're not entirely sure of.

BLITZER: Guys, stand by because you're all going to be back in our next hour. We have much more to discuss. We'll also look back and share some memories our friend and colleague Tim Russert. That's coming up. Also coming up, my last interview with Tim and why he thought the wisdom of our fathers was so important. Stay with LATE EDITION, we'll be right back.


BLITZER: Family was paramount in Tim Russert's life. That was very, very evident in his first book, the story of his dad entitled "Big Russ & Me." The importance of fatherhood prompted him to write a second best-selling book entitled "Wisdom of our Fathers," which he spoke about in my last interview with him right here in May of 2006.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RUSSERT: After I had written "Big Russ & Me," I went around the country. And people said, you know, Big Russ is a great guy. Would you make out the book to my dad though, Big Stan, Big Mike, Big Herb, Big Mario, Big Manuel? They perceived it as an invitation to talk about their dad.

And then I received 60,000 letters and e-mails from all across the country, daughters and sons, talking about not a special vacation or a material gift but "Let me tell you, Tim, about what I learned from my dad."

And in fact, a friend of mine from Oklahoma put it this way. "The best advice is I want to see a sermon, not hear a sermon." They taught us through their actions, their hard work, their sacrifice, their devotion.

One father said to his daughter, "You worry too much." He built her a little box and said put all your worries -- write them down and put them in this box. Two weeks later he opened up and said, "This one's gone. Don't worry about it. This one's gone. Don't worry about it. You have to understand; don't let these worries get to you. Understand what's important in life and deal with it." Best advice ever. Wolf, we had a Web site, It still exists, People flooded it saying let me tell you about my dad.

One daughter said her mother died at an early age. Her father became Mr. Mom. He sewed the dresses and he went off to work. She sent him a Mother's Day card and a Father's Day card.

And my goal in reading these letters was that, one, they deserved to be read. Two, they deserved to be remembered.

And can I construct a book like "Wisdom of our Fathers," which is a road map for every parent, young or old; this is how to get it right. What will your kids say about you 10, 20, 30 years from now?

They remember the small moments that make the big difference in their lives. That's what the book's all about.


BLITZER: And there is much more ahead on LATE EDITION, including Tim Russert's influence on the Washington political scene. Plus, the presidential race now in full swing. We'll talk about it with top supporters of both candidates. Much more LATE EDITION right at the top of the hour.


BLITZER: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.


OBAMA: We did not arrive at the doorstep of our current economic situation by some accident of history.

MCCAIN: I was right about the surge. Senator Obama was wrong about the surge.

BLITZER: From the war in Iraq to the struggling U.S. economy, Barack Obama and John McCain go toe to toe. We'll talk about the campaign and more with Republican senator and McCain supporter Arlen Specter, and Democratic Governor and Obama supporter Janet Napolitano.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Iraq is changing for the better. People are beginning to realize the blessings of a free and peaceful society.

BLITZER: We'll discuss the future of U.S. troops in Iraq and the influence of Iran with Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.

And throughout our program...

RUSSERT: The first time in a half-century when you don't have an incumbent president or vice president seeking the nomination. BLITZER: ... the worlds of journalism and politics lose a giant. We'll remember my competitor and friend, Tim Russert. "Late Edition's" second hour begins right now.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the second hour of "Late Edition." We'll get to my interview with Senator Arlen Specter in just a moment. He's standing by live.

But first, we're following a developing story out in the Midwest. In Iowa, there are massive floods throughout the Midwest right now, causing major problems for residents. You're looking at live pictures from Coralville in Iowa right now. Let's get the latest from our own Reynolds Wolf. He's at the severe weather center in Atlanta.

How bad is this, Reynolds?

WOLF: Oh, this is of epic proportions. And the bad thing, Wolf, is the last thing we need in the Midwest this time would be additional rainfall. Unfortunately, that's precisely what is going to be in the cards today.

In fact, right behind me, you'll notice a couple of shapes popping up on the map. These yellow shapes indicate severe thunderstorm watches there in effect, which means more rain for parts of the Corn Belt.

As we zoom in a bit more in parts of Des Moines, we're going to see that rain begin to move into that area. This area has just been ravaged with the floodwaters. Also, we're seeing heavy rains move into parts of Missouri.

Now, the problem is, all this floodwater and all these waters are going to move right into the Mississippi River, which is the nation's largest river. And what we're going to be dealing with is massive flooding in days to come.

For example, Wednesday afternoon in the town of Kierkut (ph), Iowa, we're looking at flood stage around 16 feet. Currently, the water is at 24, but expected to rise to 28.6 feet.

Farther downstream in Hannibal, Missouri, flood stage is at 16, already at 25.77. On Thursday morning, Wolf, we're looking at it to go to about 32.1 feet. And then in St. Louis, pretty bad situation there, too. Currently at 33.49, just your flood would be right around 30. Forecasting around 39.4 feet by Friday afternoon.

Again, remember, we're talking Sunday now, we're looking at most of next week we're going to be dealing with this big wall of water moving down the Mississippi River.

What's more shocking, Wolf, is that the rainfall we can see today not factored into these forecasts. So by tomorrow, these numbers could be far more alarming. Back to you.

BLITZER: Reynolds, we'll stay on top of this with you and we won't go very far away. Thank you very much.

While we do our jobs today asking some of the tough questions of politicians and policymakers, we also are pausing to remember how well NBC's Tim Russert did his job. Tragically, Tim died on Friday at work preparing for this Sunday's "Meet the Press."

While Tim could certainly be the toughest of questioners, he would always add a personal touch, as well. Here's a little sample.


SPECTER: My own view is that Roe versus Wade is secure in the culture of our country. So, I'm going to do my job and take my chances.

RUSSERT: And I bet you hope the Pittsburgh Steelers do their job today?

SPECTER: I'm rooting for the Steelers. My only regret, Tim, is that this hearing was set at 9:30 tomorrow morning, and the earliest I could get back from Detroit was about 3:00 a.m. So, I'll be watching it on television.

RUSSERT: Senator Specter, thanks very much and we'll be covering that hearing tomorrow. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And joining us now from Philadelphia is the man who often joined Tim Russert on Sundays, the Pennsylvania Republican senator, Arlen Specter. Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

SPECTER: Glad to be with you, Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: I know you're thinking about Tim Russert a little bit on this day, and all of us are very sad. He died at only the age of 58. You're going through some serious health problems yourself right now. We'll talk about that later. But give us a thought on what it was like to sit on "Meet the Press" versus Tim Russert.

SPECTER: Well, it was always an experience, Wolf. He was a very, very tough cross-examiner. I think if Tim had decided to be a lawyer, he would have been at the top of his game. But really a unique journalist, and to go at 58 was just quite a shock. It leaves a big void in the journalist political field. We'll all miss Tim very much, no doubt about that.

BLITZER: We heard you just tell him on that clip we just ran that you have confidence that Roe versus Wade is ingrained in the country. It gives women the right to have an abortion, something you strongly support. But at the same time, John McCain's critics point out that he says he would nominate Supreme Court justices along the lines of Samuel Alito or the chief justice, John Roberts, or for that matter Antonin Scalia, who might decide, given the narrow nature of the fragile balance right now on the Supreme Court, to get rid of Roe versus Wade. Yet you support John McCain. Tell us why.

SPECTER: Well, I support John McCain because I think his experience is critical at a time with very, very severe international problems, terrorism, and he's an expert on foreign policy.

When you talk about Roe versus Wade, you talk about Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, I questioned them in great detail when they were up for confirmation. They respect stare decisis and precedent, so that's a complicated question. But I think that we have to let the Supreme Court find its own way.

But beyond the issue of Supreme Court justices, I've known John McCain for 22 years in the Senate. I've also known Senator Obama now for almost four years, and I have a lot of respect for him. I think that we have two good candidates. My preference is McCain.

BLITZER: McCain was outspoken this week, speaking of the Supreme Court, the narrow balance, 5-4 decision -- as you know this week, giving the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, nearly 300 of them, the Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba, the right to have a civilian federal procedure, not simply military tribunals, if you will. Here's how John McCain reacted to that 5-4 decision.


MCCAIN: The United States Supreme Court yesterday rendered a decision which I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country. These are enemy combatants. These are people who are not citizens. They do not and never have been given the rights that citizens of this country have.


BLITZER: Now, correct me if I'm wrong, Senator, but you think this was an excellent decision by the Supreme Court.

SPECTER: I think it was the correct decision. I believe that where you have people in detention for six years, they're entitled to have evidence produced which justifies their continued detention. The procedures that had been in effect for combat status review board simply wasn't measuring up to fairness or to due process.

But bear this in mind, that Senator McCain has come out in favor of restrictive tactics on what is called enhanced interrogation from his own experience as a prisoner of war. He's come out in favor of the closing of Guantanamo. And I think that Senator McCain has had a balanced view, but on this particular point, from my legal background and knowing what it means, the great writ coming down since 1215, if you are going to hold people in detention, there has to be a determination if there is sufficient cause to do so.

Maybe when Senator McCain has a chance to digest the opinion -- and it's very long and complicated -- he may moderate his...

BLITZER: As you know, right now, Senator, and you're the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee -- you were the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- there are four liberals on the Supreme Court, four conservatives, and Anthony Kennedy sort of is the swing vote right now. But among the liberals, several of them are relatively old, and there will be an opportunity for the new president of the United States, whether it's Barack Obama or John McCain, to effect the Supreme Court, not just for four or eight years but for 20 or 30 years, maybe even longer.

He says this Supreme Court decision, which came down this week, was "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country," a decision you support. Does this give you any pause in your support for John McCain, who will have an enormous impact on the Supreme Court if he's president?

SPECTER: It does not give me pause, because the court will make decisions based upon the precedence and the law.

Bear this in mind, Wolf, and we really haven't fully digested this opinion. The court did not order the freeing of anybody in Guantanamo. What they did was to say that there had to be a hearing before a federal judge, who was independent and impartial, to see if the evidence was sufficient.

SPECTER: Now, I think a lot of times there's an instantaneous reaction to the decision reading a few of the headlines. But if you take a close look at it, they didn't let anybody from Guantanamo go free. They said they were entitled to a hearing for sufficient evidence. And let's let it settle for a while. Let's let Senator McCain have a chance to get some advice from people like Arlen Specter and talk it over.

BLITZER: Will you go around Pennsylvania and campaign with him? As you know, Pennsylvania is a key battleground state.

SPECTER: Absolutely I will, Wolf. John McCain has been a very strong voice of the Senate. And he's been an Independent. And if you take a look at the two candidates, he has a lot more experience.

Now, I'm not underplaying anything about Senator Obama and candidly he's been a phenomenon, but we don't know too much about him yet. Now, he's going to have a chance to show himself in the course of the campaign, but I'm with McCain because I know him well and have a lot of confidence in him.

BLITZER: You recently wrote a book, Senator Specter, entitled "Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate." You see the book jacket up on the screen. Shortly after the book came out, you were interviewed by me. We were all very, very shocked, saddened to learn the cancer had come back. I know you're going through treatment right now and I'd like you to give our viewers in the United States and around the world an update on how you're doing.

SPECTER: Wolf, it's been a little recurrence of Hodgkins. It's a bump in the world, but I have good shock absorbers. I beat it before and I'm eight treatments through, and got four more to go. I'm bald and pale and thin and I'm getting more mail now on my hair do than public policy. I'm getting a lot of people urging me to shave my head and become a sex symbol, Wolf. I'm not going to do that for two reasons.

One is my wife Joan is against it and, second, I don't qualify. But I've been on the job, I've been on the floor, I've been in hearings, I've been appearing on television. Been maintaining my voting record and my travels. So, I'm doing fine. I'm in there pitching and I'm going full steam now and I'll be just fine.

BLITZER: Thank god. We wish you a speedy, speedy recovery, senator. We hope you'll be joining us here on LATE EDITION for many, many more years to come. Happy Father's Day. SPECTER: Thank you, Wolf, nice to be with you. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: Thank you and coming up next, some of John McCain's supporters are comparing an Obama presidency to that of Jimmy Carter's. We'll get a response from Arizona governor and Obama supporter Janet Napolitano. She's standing by live.

And more reflections on the life and times of Tim Russert as well. LATE EDITION continue right after this.


BLITZER: You just heard from a key supporter of the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain. Now let's turn to an early and very strong backer of the presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama. That would be Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. She's joining us now live from Tempe out in Arizona. Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

NAPOLITANO: Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: Here's what Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, the former Republican candidate now a supporter of John McCain said of your candidate this week.


MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: As I look at Barack Obama, what he's proposing is very much like what Jimmy Carter proposed and that of course led to a disastrous economy, raising taxes in tough times, particularly taxes on energy, but the worst thing you can do.


BLITZER: Now, Barack Obama and you may say John McCain could be a third term of George Bush but you heard Mitt Romney say and other Republicans are saying it, as well, that Barack Obama would be a second term of Jimmy Carter. If you liked Jimmy Carter back then, you'll love Barack Obama. What do you say?

NAPOLITANO: Oh, they're just wrong. They're just wrong. What Barack Obama is talking about is tax relief that's geared for the middle class, those who make less than $250,000 a year. To pay for it you have to get rid of the Bush tax cut, the Bush/McCain tax cut now that only benefits a few at the upper end of the spectrum.

What he's talking about in terms of energy is really investing in alternative forms of energy and paying for that by having a windfall profit tax when oil goes above $80 a barrel and the windfall profit tax would then be plowed into alternative forms of energy. So you manage to move the country forward, you've managed to wean us from oil and you have a method to pay for it.

BLITZER: But a lot of economists and even Barack Obama himself seems to agrees that it would be unwise to go ahead and raise taxes during troubled economic times because that would further hurt the overall economy.

NAPOLITANO: I think you have to be -- yes, you have to be very cautious here, but what he's talking about is overall how do you right the American economy? How do we move it forward? How do we make it not only productive, but also more fair. These are the major themes he has proposed.

BLITZER: Here's Senator McCain going after some comments of Barack Obama at a fundraiser during the Democratic primary, largely against Hillary Clinton when he spoke, as you remember, about some Americans clinging to their religion, clinging to their guns. That debate was then, but now John McCain is bringing it back with these words. Listen to this.


MCCAIN: We're going to go to the small towns in Pennsylvania and I'm going to tell them, I don't agree with Senator Obama that they cling to their religion and the constitution because they're bitter.


BLITZER: All right. Are we going to have more of this you expect in this general election campaign?

NAPOLITANO: Yeah, I think that Senator McCain, being a little bit small here. It's a comment taken out of context that Senator Obama had explained. When you look at Senator Obama's own background, the child of a single mother. Everything he has done he has earned by his own his energy and intellect and that's what he is proposing and we want to do it in such a way that really gives every American the chance to succeed.

BLITZER: How worried are you, governor, that a lot of the women who supported Hillary Clinton and they are passionate, outspoken, bitterly disappointed, they believe she was treated unfairly, there was sexism in the campaign and if you look at those exit polls, even some of the current polls, a nice chunk of them, a minority, but a chunk of them are saying they're either not going to vote or they're going to vote for John McCain. What are you going to do to get their support?

NAPOLITANO: Well, first of all, I would say they should take their lead from the candidate that they supported, Hillary Clinton, who could not have been more strong and more gracious last week. And then, secondly, just as importantly, they need to look at Senator McCain's own positions on the issues from choice, from whom he would point to the federal courts to his votes against children's health insurance. NAPOLITANO: His nonsupport of equal pay, all of those things which are issues near and dear to many of the women who supported Hillary's hearts, that John McCain's on the other side and Barack Obama and Hillary agree on.

So, if they listen to Hillary; if they listen to the candidates and their own positions on the issues, I am confident that they will vote for Barack, come November.

BLITZER: Here's an article -- from an article that Susan Page, the correspondent for USA Today, wrote, on five lessons for picking a running mate. Let me put it up on the screen.

"This year, gender balance might be a factor. Obama could reach out to female voters unhappy about Clinton's failure to win the nomination by putting another woman on the ticket, Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, perhaps, or Arizona governor Janet Napolitano.

That would be you, Governor. What do you think?


NAPOLITANO: Well, that's very flattering, but I have a job that I like a lot. And my focus is on getting Barack Obama elected president.

BLITZER: Can Barack Obama win Arizona, your state?

John McCain, as you well know, he's the senator from Arizona.

NAPOLITANO: Yes, and by dint of that, he undoubtedly is the front-runner, but a few stats: a quarter of the voters this fall will never have seen McCain on the ticket because of the rapid growth our in Arizona.

And a significant percentage above that have only seen him once on the ticket. And, you know, he's been campaigning for president the last few years. We haven't seen actually seen a lot of him in Arizona.

So, a lot of Arizonans, in many respects, are meeting senator McCain for the first time. And I will tell you this. I will tell you the latest poll had Senator Obama within double digits of Senator McCain. And, to me, that means that Senator McCain cannot take his own state...

BLITZER: When you say -- double digits or single digits?

NAPOLITANO: Within single digits -- within about nine points.

BLITZER: That's a single digit.

NAPOLITANO: Yes, I'm sorry. I misspoke.

BLITZER: OK, just wanted to make sure I understood what you were saying. NAPOLITANO: You got it.

BLITZER: The economy is hurting in Arizona, right now, as it is in so many other parts of the country. The housing market in Arizona is pretty bad, right now. Gas prices are pretty bad.

I assume you believe that will help contribute to some success, potentially, for Barack Obama.

NAPOLITANO: Well, yes, I think voters are listening carefully to who they think has the most commonsensical economic plan for getting the U.S. economy back on track.

You're right. The Arizona economy is hurting. We actually, because we're so housing-dependent, probably hit the downturn more quickly than most every other state. And we're deep in it. I'm deep in trying to resolve our state budget right now, getting no help from Washington, D.C., I might add, and no help from the policies of the Bush administration that Senator McCain wants to further.

So, I think, as a governor, I'm listening very carefully to what these candidates are saying.

BLITZER: Governor, thanks for coming in.

NAPOLITANO: Thank you.

BLITZER: And coming up next, is the a new treaty that would allow the U.S. military to have a long-term presence in Iraq dead? Is it dead in the water or is it still alive?

The country's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari -- he's here in Washington for high-level talks. He's standing by to join us live, right here on "Late Edition." We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. The Bush administration has been negotiating with the Iraqi government now, for some time, about an ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq. But an agreement remains elusive right now.

Hoshyar Zebari is Iraq's foreign minister. He's been here in Washington. He's meeting with top administration officials, just came over here to "Late Edition" from a meeting with John McCain. He's going to be speaking on the phone with Barack Obama. Foreign Minister, thanks for coming in.

ZEBARI: Thank you.

BLITZER: It's not easy to get involved in what's going on in the United States. You have to stay out of domestic American politics.

ZEBARI: We do need to stay away from American domestic politics, actually. This is an election season, and we are mindful, really, because the situation is very sensitive. We are not here to take positions. I think we respect the will of the American public. But, for us, it's very important to put both candidates in the true picture of what's going on...

BLITZER: All right. So who do you like better?

ZEBARI: No, I leave that judgment, let's say, for the American public, actually, to choose. I'm not going to...


BLITZER: John McCain says U.S. troops should remain in Iraq until victory has been achieved, a thriving, secure, Democratic Iraq. Barack Obama says the troops should start leaving, U.S. troops, over 16 months; there should be a withdrawal, if he's president. Because he says you need that, kind of, timeline in order to force the Iraqi government, your government, to do what you know you need to do.

ZEBARI: Yes. Wolf, I think Iraq would be a major issue in the campaign.

BLITZER: Here in the United States.

ZEBARI: In the United States -- I mean, as the campaign develops, toward November, I'm sure Iraq will come back to haunt both candidates. But I would say one thing, I think, that's my message to both Senator McCain and Senator Obama, who I have the chance to speak to him tomorrow, that, really, Iraq has gone a long way.

I mean, Iraq has been to hell many times and back. And now we have the right policies, the right personnel, and we have a committed government to accomplish its national agenda.

And the surge strategy has worked. I have just reported to the Security Council, a couple of days ago, that Iraq is witnessing the lowest level of violence and terrorist attacks...

BLITZER: So that would suggest that it is a moment, right now, an opportunity for the U.S. to start to withdraw troops?

ZEBARI: Well, those troops, those American units, actually, who came and participated in the surge strategy have already started...

BLITZER: Not all of them. There's still about 150,000 troops in Iraq. ZEBARI: I know. But they've started to pull out, actually. And as we develop our security forces, our capabilities, definitely, we'll be less reliant on American support and military presence.

But this is a process. I think we are not there yet. I think both candidates have to look hard at the issues. Because Iraq is not an island; it's not isolated. It lives that heart of the Arab world and Islamic world.

BLITZER: So you want U.S. troops to stay?

ZEBARI: I think, for the time being, it's very important, you see, that we need this continued support of the U.S. forces, of the multi-national forces, because of the gains we have gained, both security, military, economic, are still vulnerable, and we need to capitalize on them, to make them durable.

BLITZER: Here's the issue on the agenda right now, this authorization for 150,000, which is the current number of U.S. troops in Iraq, to remain beyond the end of this year when the United Nations mandate ends.

There's negotiations under way between the Bush administration and your government on what's called a status of forces agreement, that would define the terms allowing the U.S. to maintain a significant military presence in Iraq.

What would be the terms?

Your prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said on Friday -- and I'm quoting, and I'll put it up on the screen -- "The Iraqi demands are unacceptable to the Americans and the American demands are unacceptable to the Iraqis, and the result is that we have reached an impasse. The Iraqis will not consent to an agreement that infringes their sovereignty."

BLITZER: Now, if there's a deadlock, there's not going to be an authorization for American troops to stay in Iraq beyond December 31st. What happens then?

ZEBARI: Wolf, before come coming to your show I spoke to Baghdad, to the prime minister office, just to clarify this issue. So I'm pleased to report to you, really, that statement has been corrected.

BLITZER: The prime minister's statement is no longer operable.

ZEBARI: I think it's been corrected and clarified. Let's say to the media that this negotiation, these talks are ongoing. They're not dead.

BLITZER: So you have not reached an impasse?

ZEBARI: Definitely. There hasn't been an impasse and there are options as the prime minister has explained to the Iraqi people and to the public opinion that this is ongoing and I'm a member of the negotiating team. So, I know what's going on. We made a great deal of progress on finalizing the strategic framework agreement.

BLITZER: One of the key issues, correct me if I'm wrong, foreign minister, is that you want American troops confined to their bases in Iraq and they can't leave without permission from the Iraqi government and the U.S. government, the Bush administration says that's not going to happen.

ZEBARI: In fact, clarify this issue, this strategic framework agreement would govern the relations between Iraq and the United States for a long term, as two strategic partners. A component of the strategic framework agreement is the status of forces agreement, the SOFA.

Here we have some difficult issues we need to resolve, issues of sovereignty, of immunities, of the authorization to launch military operations. But in all the areas, in fact, every negotiation is a difficult one. But in all these areas, there has been flexibility from the U.S. negotiating team. And they have offered some alternative proposal. That's why these talks are ongoing and it's promising. I'm confident that we will be able to secure the strategic framework agreement by the end of July.

BLITZER: By the end of July.

ZEBARI: By the end of July.

BLITZER: Because you know the Iranians, your neighbors next door, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was just in Tehran, he met with the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. We've all seen the pictures. The Iranians say this is a U.S. military occupation of Iraq and they don't want any U.S. troops to stay in Iraq.

ZEBARI: Wolf, this is a sovereign decision by the Iraqi elected legitimate government to make. Of course, Iran has certain concerns which we appreciate, we recognize. But in that agreement, we made it absolutely clear that Iraq will not be used for any offensive actions or for any attacks against any of Iraq's neighbors.

BLITZER: What if the U.S. has evidence, for example, that there are camps inside Iran training forces to go into Iraq and kill American troops. Would the U.S. be barred from sending warplanes from Iraqi bases over Iran to go after those bases?

ZEBARI: Wolf, here the U.S. military ability goes beyond Iraq, you see. I think if they have such intentions whatsoever, it has other alternatives.

BLITZER: So you say they get to fly from Turkey or from other bases in the region?

ZEBARI: I don't know, they have plenty of forces in the Mediterranean.

BLITZER: You understand how that sounds to an American audience, foreign minister.

ZEBARI: I know. But here with Iran, actually, our relations are difficult, not easy. But at the same time, we have always sought healthy relations between two sovereign nations and the prime minister in his recent visit was very clear with the Iranian leadership that we as an elected government, as a friendly government to you, we need to be supported by words and by needs at the same time.

BLITZER: One final question, we're out of time. How worried are you at Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shiite cleric, is now saying he has got special forces ready to go to fight the Americans and to fight your forces as well and he's got a lot of support. How worried are you that this so-called civil war could return? ZEBARI: Wolf, I think we've passed the civil war. We passed the sectarian war. We passed the fears of Iraq being divided also. These statements are unacceptable by Muqtada or whoever. And the government proved its seriousness actually when it phased Muqtada, the Mehdi Army, head on.

BLITZER: Are you going to wipe them out?

ZEBARI: And Sadr City and other places and now as we speak, their ongoing operation against some of the remnants of the Mehdi Army or the special groups and problems adjacent to the Iranian border. So, the government is really not compromising. Americans are there, they're our friends, they're sacrificing. So, therefore, whatever happens to them, actually, we should feel that pain. And this is unacceptable. The American are there with the consent and the approval of the Iraqi elected government and when the time comes, there will be no need for them to leave then. It's another story.

BLITZER: Hoshyar Zebari is the foreign minister of Iraq. Welcome to Washington. It's always a pleasure having you here.

ZEBARI: Always a pleasure.

BLITZER: You have a tough assignment, as we all know.

ZEBARI: Don't worry.

BLITZER: Good luck.

ZEBARI: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, the Sunday morning talk shows tip their halt to one of their own today. We'll tell you what his NBC colleagues said about Tim Russert in our "In Case You Missed It" segment. Stay with us. LATE EDITION continues right after this.


BLITZER: Now, "In Case You Missed It." This is where we usually check highlights from all the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. They all pay tribute to Tim Russert on this day and on NBC, his network colleagues share their memories.


GWEN IFILL, PBS: You could study as a journalist the way he asked a question and then the way you listen for an answer. Tim didn't just -- if somebody said, oh, by the way, I killed my wife, Tim heard that. A lot of journalists would just keep going. And so he was always -- and because bottom up, because he was so fundamentally curious about people and about issues, he knew instinctively what it was that you had said which was going to be interesting to people at home.

MARIA SHRIVER, FORMER NBC CORRESPONDENT: He would call me all the time to check on me, see how I was doing and then he'd kind of veer the question to, Arnold needs to come on the show. He can't get respect until he comes on the show. Rite of passage, he needs to be on the show and, you know, he's not going to be anybody until he comes on the show and eventually he was right.

BROKAW: It is worth remembering this would not have been just another Sunday on "Meet the Press" for Tim. For all, this is Father's Day, a Sunday in June in which we honor fathers. With his books, "Big Russ & Me" and "Wisdom of our Fathers," Tim gave voice to the father and child. He explored the generational differences from the World War II generation to his own baby boomer experience as a dad. He touched off a national dialogue within families and communities about the enduring lessons of fatherhood for dads and their offspring alike.

BROKAW: Away from this setting, he had no greater calling and no greater pride than fulfilling his obligation to Maureen as her husband, and also as a son and as a father. He shared that well beyond his relationship with Big Russ and Luke, Tim's son, his pride and joy.


BLITZER: And yet another tribute today to Tim. The mayor of Buffalo proclaimed Father's Day Tim Russert's Day in that city, his hometown.

Just ahead, what impact did Tim Russert have on the way we cover politics here in Washington? We'll get our own memories from three of the best political team on television, all of whom had a chance to work with Tim over the years. "Late Edition" continues right after this.


BLITZER: If you were lucky enough to work with and know Tim Russert, there is no doubt he left an indelible impression. We are back with three of the best political team on television.

Bill Schneider actually worked on Capitol Hill with Tim many, many years ago when both of them really were starting out. Joe Johns worked with Tim over at NBC News. Jessica Yellin worked alongside Tim on the campaign trail fairly recently as well.

Bill, let me start with you. Senator Moynihan, who has this powerful presence here in Washington, a legend on Capitol Hill, that's where you got to know Tim Russert.

SCHNEIDER: That's where I got to know him. And Senator Moynihan, of course, was a towering intellect. He wrote a book every year when he was in the Senate, imagine that. And of course, Tim Russert was this young guy from Buffalo, New York. And I think he kept Moynihan grounded in reality. He also worked with Mario Cuomo, another towering intellect. He kept people grounded in reality. That was his great virtue.

Viewers identified with him. Their values were his values. Their virtues were his virtues. And when they saw him interrogating politicians, they said, you go. You know, you're our voice.

BLITZER: When you came, you were coming from Harvard to go work for Senator Moynihan, and that's where he was. That's how you got to know him.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. And he always called me the Professor, called me Dr. Schneider. He did a wicked imitation of Senator Moynihan, I've got to tell you. Sometimes when he called, I couldn't tell the difference between the two of them.

But he was someone who maybe a little bit self-conscious about the fact that he didn't go to an elite Ivy League school. That's one of the reasons why he was loved here in Washington. He was at the pinnacle of the Washington establishment, but he always behaved like a big kid who was just excited to be here.

BLITZER: He went to John Carroll, a Jesuit school out in Cleveland, and then he went to the Franklin -- the Cleveland-Marshall Law School out there as well, and actually became a lawyer. You, of course, got a Ph.D. from Harvard. So you're one of those elitists, right?

SCHNEIDER: I guess so.

BLITZER: You worked for him. He actually found Joe Johns. You were working for WRC, local television here in Washington. We used to see you during fires and car chases and all sorts of stuff, and he picked you and said "we want you to work for NBC News."

JOHNS: Yes. Well, it was a peculiar situation, because I had seen him in the building -- it's the same building, you know -- and talked to him. The first time I ever met him, I was asking him to play on the local TV basketball team.

But one day, I went into his office and sat down with him for about five minutes, and I said, "you know, why don't you hire me to be a network news correspondent?" And he looked at me and he said, "you know, I think we can do that." And that was about the end of it. And a few weeks later, I was working for NBC News.

He was like that. He was very decisive as an administrator.

And the other thing I think that was really interesting about him -- if you went to him and said, "I want to take a risk, I want to do something that's going to be really hard, going to take a lot of time." Like, I went to him and said I wanted to go to law school. Tim...

BLITZER: At night.

JOHNS: Yes, at night. And Tim says, "sure, go do it." And it was crazy, because any other network news executive would have looked at me and said, "what are you, nuts? You work for the Today Show."

BLITZER: So you worked -- you spent four nights going at night to American University Law School... JOHNS: Right.

BLITZER: And then you would get up really early to go on "The Today Show."

JOHNS: Exactly. And it was...

BLITZER: And he didn't have a problem as your boss.

JOHNS: He did not have a problem. It was a hard time, too. I started law school the year of the impeachment, which was a time when Tim Russert was in my ear constantly.

BLITZER: 1998.

JOHNS: Yes. And he was in my ear constantly. He was calling every other day. You would hear him sort of whispering from his office. You always wonder why he was whispering. He said, "Joe, man, you heard anything?" And I would tell him what I heard. And so, we worked very closely together, but at the same time, I was getting up and going to law school at night. Very challenging. He never said a word. As long as I got my work done, that was all he cared about.

BLITZER: You were Joe man, I was Wolf man.


What about your experiences, Jessica?

YELLIN: I never had the opportunity to work directly for him or with him, but he was generous with his advice and mentoring other people. I wasn't at his network, but he still was generous giving me advice and guidance when I asked for it.

And I saw him last when we were in Iowa, all covering the lead-up to the caucuses. And I remember distinctly, one day, we had all gone out to do morning live shots, the morning reporters, and we were up at 4:00 a.m. And it was -- it felt like it was negative 8 out, and we were complaining and whining about how tired we were, and no sleep, and how exhausting this is. And we all dragged ourselves back into the hotels hours later, and found Tim Russert in the breakfast room, where we were all going to get breakfast -- it was like 8:00 a.m. -- and he had just arrived and he was like, guys, what is it like out there, what are people talking about? Introducing himself to the cameramen, the producers. It's like everybody there, he wanted their take. He was so excited about the process. It reminded us why we were doing this, how lucky we are. And it just gave us that shot of adrenaline we needed to say, stop, you know, complaining about being tired. This is thrilling.

BLITZER: Yes, because as hard as all of us work -- and we work long hours, we work hard -- he always, Bill, remembered his own dad, who would get up at 5:00 in the morning, was a sanitation worker. He would come home later, maybe get a little sleep, and then go out on a second job on a truck, come home late at night, and then start all over the next morning to put food on the table for his family in south Buffalo.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. And that's why people identified with him, because they saw him as someone who shared their values. He wasn't part of them -- the Washington establishment, the political elite -- he was part of us. And that's why it was exciting for them to see him interrogating politicians, holding their feet to the fire. He spoke for the people. His values, their values were the same.

JOHNS: You really wondered -- when I looked at him, he'd come in at like 6:00 in the morning.

BLITZER: To get ready for "The Today Show."

JOHNS: For "The Today Show." And he'd work all the way through and end up doing on big days, "Nightly News." And so, that's 12-, 14- hour days you're talking about, especially when you have got to get up.

And my problem was, you know, how can I go and complain to anyone about the hours I'm working when the boss, the guy who hired me, who runs this bureau, is working like this? So he sort of set a standard for everybody.

BLITZER: Like Big Russ. He set a standard by his own example...

JOHNS: Exactly.

BLITZER: And that was the way he lived.

All right, guys, we're going to continue this conversation. Thanks very much.

Coming up, a Father's Day tribute both to and from Tim Russert.


BLITZER: Tim Russert was second to none when it came to being a dad to his son, Luke. That he isn't here today to celebrate this Father's Day is so profoundly sad. But we thought it was fitting to look back at my interview with him back in May of 2004, when he talked about his father, the man Tim affectionately referred to and we all came to know as Big Russ.


RUSSERT: My dad is the most innate, optimistic man I ever met. His glad is two-thirds full. He was born in the Depression, Wolf. He left school in the tenth grade to go fight in World War II. He was in a terrible plane crash, his B-24 Liberator. He came -- six months in the hospital.

He then came home and worked two full-time jobs as a sanitation man and a truck driver. His only mission was to educate his kids. Everything else was secondary.

I learned more by the quiet eloquence of his hard work, by his decency, by his loyalty, than I could ever learn in any textbook.

BLITZER: And these lessons are applicable to everyone, not just those of us who grew up, like you and me, from Buffalo, New York.

RUSSERT: But we were blessed by growing up in God's country.

BLITZER: You grew up in the south side. I grew up in Kenmore, which is a northern suburb.

RUSSERT: Rather affluent, you were.

BLITZER: It was real affluent, yes, it was...


RUSSERT: No, but I was stunned by the reaction across the country to "Big Russ & Me." It's universal in its application. People say to me, you know, "Big Russ is unique to you, but I have a Big Russ too."

People want to talk about their dads, the influence they had in their lives. All the times they would say something to us, when we rolled our eyes and said, "Yes, right, here comes another sermon." They're right, every step of the way. And particularly now, when I have my own son, and I'm trying to teach him in 2004 that he's always, always loved but never, never entitled. That's what Big Russ taught me. You've got to be prepared. You've got to work hard. You've got to be accountable for your behavior. Those lessons will last a lifetime, if you can learn them and pass them on to your son.


BLITZER: And let me wish all the fathers out there a very happy Father's Day on this day. That is certainly what Tim would have done today and what he would have wanted all of us to do on this day. He was so passionate about his family, his friends, his love of sports, especially the Buffalo Bills. His faith and his love of politics. He made all of us in this news business better simply by doing what he did so well. We certainly will miss him and on behalf of all of us at CNN, our deepest condolences to his wife, Maureen, his son, Luke, his dad, Big Russ, and the entire family.


BLITZER: There's a new show coming up right after LATE EDITION here on CNN that you don't want to miss. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" takes a comprehensive look at international affairs with world leaders, policy experts and journalists. This week Fareed talks to Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.


MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The most intriguing question here, Fareed, is what Obama will say about 2009. I think that is far too soon, still, to do the drawdown that he has proposed, the one to two brigades per month that he wants to begin almost upon becoming president. If he's elected, I think he's going to have to rethink what he does that year. That's the year when we need to create a little bit of stability for a few reasons. The Iraqis are going to have some big elections that year. We've got to let them consolidate that process.


BLITZER: And for an in-depth understanding of the week's global developments, stay tuned. Don't go anywhere, right here, coming up "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," that starts in just a moment. That is your LATE EDITION for this Sunday, June 15th. Please be sure to join us against next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for what we call the last word in Sunday talk. I'm also in "THE SITUATION ROOM" Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. Eastern. We've got lots of stuff coming up for you tomorrow.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right after a check of what's in the news right now.