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CNN Late Edition
Madeleine Albright Discusses the Clinton-Putin Summit; Court Sends Elian Gonzalez One Step Closer to CubaAired June 4, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5 p.m. in London and 8 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this 90- minute LATE EDITION.
We'll get to our interview with Secretary of State Madeline Albright in just a moment. But first, the latest on the summit between Presidents Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin.
The two leaders have just concluded a joint news conference over at the Kremlin in Moscow. CNN's senior White House correspondent, John King, joins us live with details -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this summit ushers in a new era in U.S.-Russia relations -- comes at a very interesting political moment. President Vladimir Putin just getting his term under way; President Clinton, obviously, winding his down.
The two leaders today signed two modest agreements, one to reduce the amount of weapons-grade plutonium that could be available to say sneak out of Russia to some country that Washington would define as a rogue nation. The other agreement calls for a new joint session -- unprecedented, U.S. and Russian military officers side-by-side on -- to watch -- to monitor for early missile launches.
No agreement on the big issue: the Russian objections to the U.S. plans for a new national missile defense. The two leaders did agree on a statement that acknowledges a threat that a quote, unquote "rogue nation" could launch a missile, but the United States believes you need a military system to defeat that threat. President Putin saying that he believes that would be a cure worse than the disease itself.
Economic reform, obviously, discussed. President Clinton saying he likes the Putin team on that front, and the president publicly restating the U.S. opposition to the Russian military campaign in Chechnya.
On a personal note, both of these leaders saluting each other as solid politicians and as good negotiators. No hugs like there were in the Yeltsin days, but these men say they're comfortable with themselves. They're to meet three more times before Mr. Clinton leaves office next January -- Wolf. BLITZER: OK. John King reporting live from Moscow. Thank you.
And let's take a listen to some of that news conference. First, Vladimir Putin. He was asked about the possibility of joining the United States in some sort of limited nuclear defense shield, and Vladimir Putin warned that any such action would have to be very, very carefully considered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): We're against having a cure which is worse than the disease. We understand that there are ways and a basis that we can build upon in order to solve even this issue, an issue which seems to be one of the most difficult to solve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Russian military and political leaders are hoping to see the United States reduce its overall number of nuclear warheads as well. And President Clinton was asked about that possibility -- about the U.S. going below the number already agreed in agreements between the United States and Russia. President Clinton was very cautions, knowing that the U.S. military is concerned about going too low.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have previously agreed to a range of 2,000 and 2,500 on Start III. If we were to come down below that, it would require us to change our strategic plan, and we believe it would be much better if we were going to do that if we could also know that we were defending ourselves against a new threat, which we believe is real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Among those who have joined President Clinton at this summit in Moscow and participated in all the high level discussions with Russian officials, is the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She joins us now live from Moscow.
Madam Secretary, welcome back to LATE EDITION, thank you for joining us.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Let's get right to the issue that Vladimir Putin proposed, even in advance of the summit. Jointly working with the U.S. in an effort to develop some sort of missile defense shield, is that something that is on the agenda as far as the U.S. is concerned, a joint U.S.-Russian project?
ALBRIGHT: Well, interestingly enough, Wolf, he didn't really pursue it in the discussions here. We have talked about it before when the Russians have come to the United States and at other levels and we believe that it could be a supplement but not a substitute for the ideas of the national missile defense. So, it is an idea that is out there, but it cannot take the place in order to protect the U.S. national interests.
BLITZER: Interestingly enough, earlier today Senator John McCain was on "Meet the Press" and he pooh-poohed this whole notion suggesting the Russians really don't have a whole lot to offer. Listen to what Senator McCain had to say about a joint U.S.-Russian technological development. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Given the state of Russian technology, I don't think it's plausible because I don't think they have that capability. I don't expect the Russians to be able to contribute significantly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is that your sense as well, they really couldn't contribute much significantly?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think at this stage, this whole idea doesn't really answer the need. And we have talked generally about the importance of sharing various aspects of the process and technology but our -- as I said, this idea does not really deal with the problem. And we obviously can continue to talk about it, but it is not a substitute for what we need.
BLITZER: The other proposal that Vladimir Putin raised in advance of the summit was developing some sort of anti-missile system that dealt at a much lower phase in an actual missile launch, at what's called the boost phase in the missile launch, as opposed to dealing with missiles when they're already up in space. Is that something that the U.S. is considering at this point?
ALBRIGHT: It's my understanding, Wolf, that there is not technology to do that and that we need to focus on the way that we are suggesting, that be done in the later phase.
BLITZER: The European allies, as you well know, are concerned about a unilateral move towards a limited missile defense shield, Gerhard Schroeder, the West -- excuse me, the German chancellor, earlier this week made clear that he didn't think this was necessarily a good idea. Listen to what he said. He said, "neither economically nor politically can we afford a new round of the arms race. No one can dispute the Americans right to develop what they believe is right for national defense. On the other hand we are partners in a common alliance."
The concern the Europeans are expressing is that this will just simply escalate, revive an arms race.
ALBRIGHT: Wolf, we actually spent a lot of time this week with the Europeans, first President Clinton had a summit with the EU presidency, that is Portugal at this point, Prime Minister Guterres and then we were in Berlin. And in both places obviously the subject of NMD came up and what the United States considers in our national interest and what the Europeans think about the whole discussion. In both places what was interesting and evident was that they understand that the United States has a sovereign decision to make.
They want to continue to be briefed about our thinking. And in the discussions that we had, I would say that Chancellor Schroeder was interested, listened very carefully to what President Clinton had to say. And we will continue to talk with them.
We do not want to fuel an arms race. That is not the purpose here. The purpose here is to continue to have stability, to try to make sure that the offensive and defensive weapons systems continue to be linked to each other, not to separate that concept, to work within the ABM Treaty and to recognize the fact that there is a threat. And those are the things that the president spoke about with the Europeans, with Guterres and with Schroeder and obviously, also with President Putin.
BLITZER: Now the proposal that's been put forward by George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, goes much further than what the Clinton administration even at this point, is considering, a much broader kind of defense against all sorts of missile launches. Listen to what George W. Bush said earlier this week on what he envisages going forward with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America must build effective missile defenses based on the best available options at the earliest possible date. Our missile defense must be designed to protect all 50 states and our friends and allies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you disagree with that basic concept, as general as he stated it?
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, the idea that President Clinton is putting forward does protect all 50 states. And he spoke, when he was in Europe, about sharing some technology with allies. I think that it's very important, as Secretary Cohen suggested, that Governor Bush get briefed on the various ideas that are out on the table now.
BLITZER: Get briefed by the Pentagon, by the Joint Chiefs, as well as by the Defense Secretary. Is that what you're suggesting?
ALBRIGHT: Well, that's what Secretary Cohen suggested. And I think that it's the appropriate thing to do. And I hope that Governor Bush takes up the offer.
BLITZER: Would it be appropriate for you to brief Governor Bush as well? ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that depending upon what -- obviously what begins to happen is that the people that are in office now begin to have briefings and discussions with the candidates. That is appropriate because ultimately what I hope very much is that we have a good foreign policy discussion during the campaign. But that also, we understand that we need to have a common approach to our national security. That's what we are supposed to be doing is to have a bipartisan foreign policy which keeps the national interests of the United States firmly in mind.
BLITZER: As you know, Madame Secretary, Governor Bush did say in his speech that he would hope this president would not do anything that would tie the hands of the next president when it comes to missile defense, arms control, echoing a statement made by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jesse Helms, who last month -- yes, last month also warned President Clinton not to make any agreements now at this late stage in his presidency. Listen to what Senator Helms had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JESSE HELMS (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: After dragging his feet on missile defense for nearly eight years, Mr. Clinton now fervently hopes that he will be permitted in his final eight months in office to tie the hands of the next president of the United States. Not on my watch. It's not going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And the general -- the general principle, though, that it's so late in the Clinton presidency, don't make any agreements at this point because it would be unfair to whoever the next president is. What do you say about that?
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me just say that here in Moscow, the agreements that have been made and the discussions that have been had have not foreclosed any options for President Clinton. And he has made very clear that he has not made a decision.
When he makes a decision, it will be based on the criteria that he has talked about: the existence of the threat, the technology, whether it works, how much it costs and how it affects our arms control regimes and national security in general. Our relationship with allies and friends.
So, he has a responsibility to not be on any kind of an artificial calendar. He needs to take those criteria into consideration.
ALBRIGHT: I also think that one thing that's really important to remember here is that actually there's been a lot of continuity in arms control policy, and I hope your viewers will remember that actually President Bush had signed the START II Treaty, and then it was President Clinton who took it to the Senate to be ratified. And I don't think it's appropriate for us to take a pause in trying to deal with very important national security issues, and while President Clinton and his team is in office, we're going to do everything we can to follow through on what needs to be done on national security issues, and obviously arms control is a central part of that.
BLITZER: All right, Madam Secretary, we have to take a quick break.
Just ahead, Secretary Albright heads to the Middle East later this week to help facilitate more Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. We'll ask about her latest Mid-East mission and more, when LATE EDITION continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I can only tell you that I'm still convinced that they have the courage, the vision and the ability to do this. And the United States will do everything we can to help them pass this milestone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Clinton talking about the painstaking Middle East peace process after meeting with Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak earlier this week in Lisbon, Portugal.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're talking with the U.S. secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who joins us live from Moscow.
Madame Secretary, this September 13th deadline for an Israeli- Palestinian agreement, is that realistic at all, or is this one of these deadlines that as so often happens in the Middle East, that's simply going to come and go?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that Chairman Arafat is saying that he will declare a state at that point. And I do think that we need to work as hard as we can with the parties over the summer, because as President Clinton has said, both publicly and to Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat, separately -- privately, there's an opportunity here to move the process forward and we're going to be working very hard. As you know, I leave from here to go to the Middle East and I will do everything I can to press the process forward.
BLITZER: Is this strictly on the Israeli-Palestinian track, or will you also be trying to revive the Israeli-Syrian track now that Israel has withdrawn from Lebanon?
ALBRIGHT: Well, there's no question that the withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon has changed the dynamic. I think that, as President Clinton said, it was a very courageous thing for Prime Minister Barak to do, and it has changed some of the relationships in the region. I am going to be concentrating, however, on the Israeli- Palestinian track. We obviously have left the door open on the Syrian track, and what we're looking towards is a comprehensive peace. That has been our goal and President Clinton has worked very hard on this as have I, as has Ambassador Ross.
BLITZER: Madam Secretary, a congressionally appointed commission is going to be releasing a report -- formal report, tomorrow, making recommendations to deal with counterterrorism -- controversial recommendations. For example, monitoring all international students studying in the United States, their studies, their activities. Another proposal that the U.S. military, as opposed to the FBI, would deal with counterterrorism here in the United States, and that countries like Greece and Pakistan be cited as not fully cooperating with the United States in the fight against terrorism.
What do you think about these controversial proposals?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I obviously haven't seen the commission report and obviously we are very concerned with terrorism and how to fight it. And in fact, it's been very much a part of the discussions here in Moscow. But I think that in looking at how to fight it, we have to remember what kind of a society we are. We have to look at what the appropriate means are to deal with this.
And it's obviously a very serious problem and I don't want to comment on the specific recommendations, but as far as Greece and Pakistan are concerned, it is a subject of discussion with them and was raised both when President Clinton and I were in Pakistan and in Greece recently. And we are pressing them on it, but we are not considering sanctions.
BLITZER: What can you tell us, Madam Secretary, about this report that's going to air on "60 Minutes" tonight here in the United States on CBS, suggesting that an Iranian defector, someone who allegedly had been involved in plotting terrorist operations around the world, is now cooperating with the West, including the United States, and is insisting that Iran, not Libya, was responsible for the Pan Am 103 downing?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think obviously it's an interesting report. You know, we'll have to see it. But you have to remember that the Pan Am 103 trial is going on now. I think it's inappropriate to comment on the specifics of it, because that trial is in the process and the prosecutors are working on it and it's been in preparation a long time. I'm sure that they will consider all the facts.
BLITZER: Finally, Madam Secretary, because we don't have much time left, we're going to be discussing later in this program the Elian Gonzalez case. How comfortable are you personally with the prospect that seems likely now that within the next few weeks Elian Gonzalez and his father will be going back to Cuba, to a communist regime?
ALBRIGHT: We have said all along that it's very important for the law to be followed and for the family to be reunited. And that is the position that we have all taken. I believe that it's very important for the case to be carried out in a legal way and for the family to be reunited.
BLITZER: Madam Secretary, always good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thank you so much for joining us from Moscow. Good luck in the Middle East this week. We hope you'll be back on this program in the not too distant future.
ALBRIGHT: Always happy to do it. Good to talk to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And when we return, Governor George W. Bush offers an alternative to the Clinton administration's international and military policies. We'll talk about the Republican presidential candidate's global view with his top national security adviser, Condoleeza Rice.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BUSH: The services have had to meet a growing number of commitments without a growing commitment from the White House. So something is amiss and I intend to do something about it. I intend to keep the peace by making sure our military is strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush in Denver earlier this week challenging the Clinton administration's international and defense policy.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We now get some perspective on how Governor Bush would handle international matters if he wins the White House. Joining us from Palo Alto, California is the governor's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.
Dr. Rice, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thank you for joining us.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, GEORGE W. BUSH FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Thank you. Nice to be with you.
BLITZER: Before we get to the substantive questions, I know that your professor at the University of Denver was -- tell our worldwide audience your connection to Madeline Albright.
RICE: That's right. Well, Josef Korbel, who is Madeline's father, was my dissertation adviser and the person who got me into this field. So, we've known each other for a very long time.
BLITZER: So you have a good personal relationship with the secretary. RICE: I do. I am very much an admirer of the secretary's.
BLITZER: All right. Let's now talk a little bit about U.S.- Russian relations, the joint statement that you probably saw earlier today here on CNN. Presidents Clinton and Putin unable to reach any agreement, substantive agreement on a defense shield.
What George W. Bush is proposing, or what you're advocating, goes way beyond what the Clinton administration is even contemplating, isn't it?
RICE: Well, in fact, I think the governor is saying that we need to look at all the options before us. We have a problem currently in our missile defense program. The governor is a proponent of early deployment of missile defenses to meet the threat that is emerging and growing from rogue states. But he does not believe that the current course on which we find ourselves, that is toward a single site deployment in Alaska, is necessarily the best course for us. There are other options. He would like to look at them.
And most importantly, he would like to make certain that the option covers both the threats that we face, the forces of America abroad and of our allies. So it is still against a limited threat. He is not talking about trying to defend against hundreds or thousands of missiles, as was the case in the '80s. But he is talking about different options that might be available to us.
BLITZER: And what do you say to the argument that's being made, not only by Clinton administration officials and by Vice President Gore, but by Europeans and others that these kinds of ambitious proposals would escalate, would revive, the arms race? Make it not only difficult for Russia to stand by for China, and as a result, India and Pakistan, but this would just be devastating for the stability of the world, as far as the nuclear proliferation situation is concerned.
RICE: Well, the reason that the governor spoke about these defenses in the context of an entirely new strategic environment, an entirely new strategic concept, is that he believes that this is really an issue for diplomacy. That if we can convince others, including the Russians, who have a lot at stake in this, that we are dealing with a new world in which the mix between offensive and defensive forces needs to be reconsidered. That people will come to see that the United States is not trying to seek advantage with a missile defense, but rather to seek a more stable and secure world.
I was very interested in the fact that President Putin admitted that there is a new threat out there. I thought that that was a positive move forward. And suggests that perhaps there is an opening with the Russians to discuss how we deal with the emerging new threats.
BLITZER: You heard Secretary Albright say today, and last week on this program, the National Security Adviser, Samuel Berger, said that he reject -- they reject this notion argued by George W. Bush, by Jesse Helms, that Mr. Clinton's a lame duck, should not enter into any agreements during these final months of his presidency. Just as George Bush, the president, made an agreement in '92, at the end of his presidency, it would be appropriate for President Clinton to do so if it were in the U.S. national interest.
What do you say to that?
RICE: The governor was not saying that the president of the United States, who is president after all until January, when there is a new president, does not have the right or the obligation, indeed, to try to push the agenda forward.
He was only saying that we are at a stage in missile defense where we are going to face some very important decisions.
RICE: There are options on the table that may be better than the option that the administration is currently considering.
And to sign agreements is fine. To sign agreements that clearly will not move the ball forward, that will leave us ham strung on the most effective missile defense for both the United States and for its allies would be problematic. And so he was only asking President Clinton to look forward, to understand that U.S.-Russian relations is a long-term game, and to look beyond this set of agreements to what the next president may have to negotiate.
BLITZER: Dr. Rice, we have to take a quick commercial break. We have a lot more to talk about, including this question, Will George W. Bush agree to a briefing over at the Pentagon?
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're continuing our conversation with Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.
Dr. Rice, the Defense Secretary, William Cohen, a Republican, has proposed that the governor meet with him, with members of the joint chiefs of staff, to get a real substantive briefing on this whole issue of nuclear missile defense system. Your campaign, the Republican candidate's campaign, doesn't seem to be interested. Why?
RICE: Let's put this in context. First of all, the kinds of issues that the secretary was talking about, talking about counting rules for arms control treaties, talking about issues about strategic stability, clearly the governor has very good advice on this, including from Colin Powell, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Dick Cheney, former secretary of defense and by the way, the last team to have substantive agreements with the Russians on arms control.
So the governor is getting very good advice. The kinds of things that Secretary Cohen talked about were incorporated and considered in his proposal. Now, that said, the time will come when traditionally candidates receive briefings from national security team, from the intelligence teams, and Governor Bush and his team will be more than happy to do that.
But I think that we do have to look at the context here. And the way that it was offered on a Sunday morning television show, suggested that it was really more political than substantive. But clearly, the governor will be very happy to have his team and indeed for the governor himself, to be briefed at an appropriate time. But he under these issues, he has very good advice on these issues.
BLITZER: At an appropriate time, does that mean three months, six months? When?
RICE: Well, the tradition is that the candidates are briefed -- both candidates are briefed after their conventions. I don't think it has to be necessarily just after the convention. But I just want to be clear about the context. It is in the tradition and the normal course of things that the governor would expect to receive a briefing on an entire range of issues. On this issue, however, to suggest that he was somehow ill informed is simply not correct.
BLITZER: The Vice President, Al Gore, who is the Democratic candidate, he has been very, very outspoken in criticizing what he and his supporters would argue George W. Bush's lack of experience and other aspects of his international policy. On April 30, for example, in Boston, listen to what Gore said at that time referring to Governor Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One has to assume that these gaps in Governor Bush's foreign policy views and experience will be filled by the ideologies and inveterate antipathies of his party: the right wing partisan isolationism of the Republican Congressional leadership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is that a fair blast? Is that a fair criticism that the isolationist wing of the Republican Party will have control or a big part of the decision-making process in a Bush administration?
RICE: I frankly think it's a rather bizarre claim when you consider that over the last month, Governor Bush supported the administration, supported President Clinton in permanent national -- permanent normal trade relations for China. In fact, much more supportive than Vice President Gore was. That Governor Bush opposed the time limitation on American forces in Kosovo for a July 2001 deadline. Even though he has some reservations about what is going on in Kosovo, he understands the role of Congress and the role of the president in deploying American forces abroad.
Governor Bush is in the internationalist tradition of the Republican Party. He's squarely someone who believes in free trade, who believes in engagement, America's role in the world. I think it's frankly just a bizarre claim.
BLITZER: One thing that has been noted is that Governor Bush in a statement says the U.S. should deploy military forces abroad only if there's a vital U.S. national security interest, not simply to do it for humanitarian reasons.
Here's a case that possibly could develop. I would be interested in advice you would offer Governor Bush if this were to happen. If President Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia were to move militarily into Montenegro as there has been threats to that effect, would you support the introduction of U.S. military and NATO power to deal with that contingency?
RICE: Well, Wolf, I think it's never wise to deal with a hypothetical like that. The circumstances are everything.
But let's be realistic. Governor Bush supported the Kosovo intervention because he believed that America's strategic interests were at stake. This was our chief alliance in NATO, this was in the backyard of a country that we had just taken into NATO, Hungary. So clearly, the Balkans has a strategic overlay, a strategic interest for the United States.
But what the governor was saying is that while one can't ignore the many humanitarian crises around the world -- certainly it would not be in accordance with American values to ignore it -- America cannot deploy military force every time there is a humanitarian problem in the world. We have to husband our forces for those times when America's military force is actually going to be needed and might be effective.
So he was making a statement about the future, not about the past. And I think he understands perhaps better than most, that you cannot deploy America's military forces at 300 percent operations tempo of where we were in the Cold War, underfund them and expect them to be ready for large contingencies, for instance in the Gulf or on the Korean peninsula, or in the Taiwan Straits.
RICE: And so, from the governor's point of view, this is an issue of using American military force selectively.
BLITZER: OK. Condoleezza Rice, I'm sure this is the first of many times you'll be on this program and other programs here on CNN. Thank you so much for joining us from Palo Alto, California.
RICE: Pleasure to be with you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And when we return, we'll shift gears. We'll talk about the Elian Gonzalez saga. A federal appeals court puts the 6-year-old one step closer to returning home to Cuba with his father. We'll talk about the case with Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are pleased that the court has upheld our decision that only Juan Miguel Gonzalez can speak for his son Elian on federal immigration matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno praising a federal appeals panel's ruling that 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez does not have a right to a political asylum hearing.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
The panel's decision Thursday was a big legal victory for the Justice Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. All have maintained that Elian should be allowed to return to Cuba with his father.
Joining us now to talk about the decision and where the case is headed, is the deputy U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder.
Mr. Holder, welcome to LATE EDITION. Good to have you on our program.
ERIC HOLDER, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be here.
BLITZER: The Miami relatives' lawyers saying area already saying they're going to appeal, they're going to either appeal to the full 11th circuit or they're going to appeal to the Supreme Court. One of the arguments they're making is that the federal appeals courts are not unanimous on this issue whether an asylum hearing should be given to someone like 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez.
Listen to what Kendall Coffey, one of the Miami relatives, said earlier today on ABC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS' "THIS WEEK")
KENDALL COFFEY, MIAMI GONZALEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: Is there a constitutional right to seek asylum? The Atlanta court has long held that there is no such right. Other courts disagree. The court, the 5th circuit headquartered in New Orleans, the 2nd circuit in New York find that there is a constitutional right to seek asylum.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I guess that's going to be the thrust of the argument they're going to make. What do you say to that?
HOLDER: Well, I don't necessarily agree with Kendall's understanding of the law. I don't think the circuits really are split. The situation we're facing here is one that is unique. The cases that he's talking about really are not cases in point that deal with a 6-year-old who's trying to seek a political asylum hearing, and as a result, I think those other decisions may be in some ways instructive, but I think this case really stands on its own facts.
BLITZER: Well, do you think, knowing your knowledge of the law and precedent, that the Supreme Court will accept, will hear this case, which obviously could delay this process for months?
HOLDER: Well, I'd be very surprised if the 11th circuit decides to rehear it sitting in its entirety, and I'd be very, very surprised if the Supreme Court decided to hear the case. I think we are at the beginning of the end here, and I would expect that this matter, as far as legal matter, would be over in a matter of weeks and not months.
BLITZER: The decision that was given by the 11th circuit court -- federal court in Atlanta this week, said that the INS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service does has discretion in dealing with these matters, and that the courts should not interfere in the discretion but it did -- in the ruling they were pretty tough on what the prospects were. Let me read one section of the decision.
"We acknowledge as a widely accepted truth that Cuba does violate human rights and fundamental freedoms and does not guarantee the rule of law to people living in Cuba. Persons living in such a totalitarian state may be unable to assert freely their own legal rights, much less the legal rights of others."
On the basis of that, given the discretion -- the wide discretion that was available to the INS, the Justice Department, why not simply have allowed Elian Gonzalez to have this asylum hearing to deal with all of these issues up front?
HOLDER: Well, I think one thing we have focus on is that in spite of that language the court decided that the INS had acted reasonably, and I think one has to play this out to its logical conclusion. Elian will have to stand on his own and say -- try to prove that he had a legitimate fear of persecution because of his political beliefs if we were have an asylum hearing. As one of the judges indicated in the oral argument, we don't even know if Elian has the capability of signing his last name; he was able to scratch out his first name in the application.
This is really all about whether or not a father can stand act for his son or distance relatives. Given the fact that Juan Miguel by all accounts, everyone agrees has done a good job in raising this boy, making him intelligent, resilient, it seems to me that the fathers wishes ought to be recognized.
Now, I don't necessarily agree with the decision Juan Miguel has made and yet I respect his ability as a father to make that decision for his son.
BLITZER: To go back to Cuba?
HOLDER: Go back to Cuba.
BLITZER: You know, some human rights activists are concerned about this ruling, this decision that came out this week. Elisa Massamino of the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, writing in "The New York Times" on Friday, offered these hypothetical contingencies that makes her feel uncomfortable. This is what she said.
"What about a West African girl fleeing her father's command that she undergo genital mutilation on? What about a 17-year-old Pakistani whose family wants her killed for wishing to marry out of her faith? Will courts in the future, looking to this case as a precedent, leave it the INS to decide whether to accept their applications if their parents object?"
HOLDER: Well, I mean clearly there is abuse of discretion standard and the courts could decide that if the INS had gone beyond that level of discretion, that it is entitled to employ, that the courts could step in and in the situation that you have just outlined, I'd be shocked to see INS say that a child in those circumstances even given the parents wishes should be returned to those countries. We're dealing with something I think is fundamentally different here.
BLITZER: The other point -- the criticism comes from the vice president, Al Gore himself.
He was on this program a few weeks ago. And he made it clear he does not support the administration's stance on the whole Elian Gonzalez matter. Saying that other options were available.
Listen to what the vice president said on LATE EDITION.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: I've said from the start that normally a surviving parent's wishes are determinative of the case, not always. And a family court with the expertise to make that decision should evaluate what is in the best interest of the child. That's the simple point that's guided me from the very start.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Saying a family court was best to deal with this and there was a change of heart on the part of the administration early on.
HOLDER: Well, I mean, obviously the vice president has taken a different position. And I respect him for expressing that view. It has been our contention that Juan Miguel Gonzalez, showing himself to be a competent father, a fit father, a person who's done a good job in raising this boy, should be the one who ultimately speaks for him and not distant relatives.
I also have to say if this were to go to a family court, I think it would be, one, a decision that would be relatively easy to make. A father, closest in terms of his connection to the boy, trying to speak for him, as opposed to distant relatives. No indication that the father has done anything other than a good job in raising him.
And so I think even if you were to go to a state court and do a custody determination, that the father would ultimately win.
BLITZER: Finally, shifting gears completely. On this terrorism report that's coming out tomorrow, it was on the front page of "The Washington Post" today, suggesting that the U.S. military really should be in charge of counter-terrorism if it occurs on U.S. soil as opposed to the FBI, which of course is part of the Justice Department. What do you say about that concept, in principle, that the military is better equipped to deal with international terrorism in the United States than the FBI?
HOLDER: Well, I'd have to look at the report and see exactly what the reasons were that they came to that conclusion. But I'd be a little wary of involving the military in domestic matters. We have had a long history where we have tried to rely on civilian law enforcement to deal with criminal matters. And that in essence is what we're talking about here.
This is obviously a matter that deserves a great deal attention. It's something that we have focused a lot of attention on given what has happened with Osama bin Laden around the millenial celebration. And also what's happened to the embassy bombings. And I think the FBI has done a good job.
I've not had a chance to look at the report, and I certainly would look at it. But I'd be wary of involving the military unless there was some really strong showing that civilian law enforcement has not been doing their job.
BLITZER: OK. Eric Holder, the deputy U.S. attorney general, thank you so much for joining us on LATE EDITION.
HOLDER: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: And when we return, we'll look at the next step for Elian's Miami relatives. The big question now, will they make a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. We'll ask one of their attorney's, Manny Diaz, when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're talking about the Elian Gonzalez case, and joining us now from Miami is Manny Diaz. He's one of the attorneys representing Elian's Miami relatives.
Mr. Diaz, good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thank you for joining us.
MANNY DIAZ, ATTORNEY FOR MIAMI GONZALEZ FAMILY: Good morning.
BLITZER: The attorney for Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Greg Craig, was on CBS earlier today. And he appealed once again to the Miami relatives, to simply drop it, forget about the appeals and let Elian and his father go back to Cuba or do whatever they want.
Listen to what he said as far as his assessment of the appeals process, what it would represent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG: I think it's bullet proof. I don't think the Court of Appeals will reconsider it. I think it's even less likely that the Supreme Court will accept review. So the likelihood is that the only impact is to prolong this legal battle unnecessarily.
BLITZER: What do you think of that advice from Gregory Craig?
DIAZ: Well, I'm not surprised that that's his position. We disagree with it, obviously, and we do for several reasons.
One, this case has really now reached proportions that effect many, many people. For example, you mentioned, you made reference earlier to my partner Kendall Coffey's comments regarding the constitutional rights of aliens in this country to seek an asylum hearing. There are issues dealing with the independent constitutional rights of children, when those interests may conflict with the rights of parents.
There are issues of whether or not a particular agency of the United States government is going to be given unbridled discretion to exercise its authority in the way it did in this case. These are fundamental legal questions that effect many, many people and many, many groups in this country. And we should pursue those.
BLITZER: So you definitely will appeal. Will you appeal to the entire 11th circuit court or will you go right to the Supreme Court?
DIAZ: We haven't made that decision yet. We're working diligently, This is not about delay, we have been expeditious throughout this entire process, in moving ahead with our case and we intend to do that here as well.
BLITZER: If the appeal does go forward, and obviously you're saying it will go forward, briefly cite to us the main argument that you will make why Elian should not be allowed to go back to Cuba with his father.
DIAZ: Well, fundamentally as I just mentioned, we believe that there are issues regarding an alien's right to -- constitutional right to apply for political asylum and be granted a hearing. There is the independent rights of children, constitutionally protected when those rights may conflict with the interest of a parent. There is the issue...
BLITZER: But you know that in order for the full court or the Supreme Court to reverse this decision, there has to be a major, major problem with the way these three judges unanimously came up with their ruling.
DIAZ: Yes, and the last issue that I was going to mention was the issue of agency discretion, and whether deference was proper in this case. Now those are fundamental issues and those are the kinds of issues -- on the issue of asylum, for example, we do believe that there is a split among the circuits. Those are fundamental issues that the Supreme Court can look at and perhaps other judges in the 11th circuit would want to look at as well.
BLITZER: In the meantime, obviously there's been no contact between if Miami relatives and Elian Gonzalez despite the fact that Marisleysis and Lazaro Gonzalez, they all want to have these kinds of meetings. Is there anything you're about to do that -- to try to convince Juan Miguel Gonzalez to allow this kind of reunion?
DIAZ: Well, as you know, we have attempted to communicate with the government on several occasions. And we've gotten nothing but stumbling blocks in materials of any possible meeting with the family.
We heard the other day, Marisleysis herself, indicated that she had called the house and attempted to get through and was unsuccessful. I believe that one of the members of our legal team was going to contact Mr. Craig on Friday. I don't know if that's occurred or not. I've been working on the appeal. But we will try that and if none of that works, then we have a group of lawyers that are potentially considering some kind of legal challenge to make that possible.
BLITZER: All right, Manny Diaz, we have the take a quick commercial break.
For our international viewers, "WORLD NEWS" is next.
For our North American audience, there is still another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION. We'll check the hour's top stories and take your phone calls for Manny Diaz, plus our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's "Last Word."
It's all ahead when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We'll get back to the Elian Gonzalez case and your phone calls for Miami attorney Manny Diaz in just a moment. But first let's go to Jeanne Meserve for a check of the hour's top stories -- Jeanne.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jeanne.
Now back to our conversation about the next steps in the Elian Gonzalez case with Manny Diaz, one of the attorneys for Elian's Miami relatives.
Before the break, Mr. Diaz, you were saying that you're going to try to facilitate a meeting between the Miami relatives and Elian Gonzalez, and you also suggested that if the -- Gregory Craig and Juan Miguel Gonzalez don't agree there might be some legal steps that you could envisage. Tell us what you may have in mind.
DIAZ: Well, that's all under study right now, and frankly, I'd rather not get into the specifics of what the action would look like. But that is under serious consideration right now.
BLITZER: You know, some of the criticisms have been -- in newspaper editorials of the Miami relatives have been pretty blunt. For example, on Friday in the newspaper USA Today, the editorial writers wrote this: "As a matter of state law, international treaty and simply family values, the authority of a parent trumps all comers, absent evidence of child abuse or neglect. In this case, Juan Miguel has undisputed custody based on a complete lack of evidence of abuse. Why should anyone else speak for the child?"
This is a key question, the question of abuse, because early on some supporters of the Miami relatives were suggesting there was a record of abuse. Can you tell us, is there any evidence whatsoever that Juan Miguel Gonzalez was abusing his son?
DIAZ: Well, in terms of the appeal at the moment, I don't see where that's relevant. But clearly we did submit evidence to the government early on, most of it under seal, which would have indicated at least enough of a question where somebody should have looked seriously at those types of allegations.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and take a caller from Madison, New Jersey. Please go ahead with your question for Manny Diaz.
CALLER: Yes, Mr. Diaz. I'd like to know, you seem to be, against all odds, still struggling with the weight of the executive department against you, all of Cuba, Greg Craig, personal friend of the Clinton's. What keeps you motivated? What keeps you fighting?
DIAZ: Well, we believe very strongly in the cause. I obviously can't separate myself from my own personal experiences. I arrived in the United States when I was 6 years old as well and with my mother. My father being -- having stayed behind because they wouldn't let him leave. So obviously that has an affect on the way I feel.
But even so, I mean, fundamentally, I think this is the right position to take legally and we will continue to fight for as long as we can.
BLITZER: Mr. Diaz, we have another caller from Pittsgrove, New Jersey. Please go ahead with your question.
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Diaz.
QUESTION: I'd like to know why our money -- the taxpayer's money, should be paying all this money every day to keep a little boy in the United States when he belongs in Cuba with his father. He is his guardian and not Miami relatives.
DIAZ: Right, right.
QUESTION: Does he have a clean record?
DIAZ: All right, let's talk about the cost that this government is incurring.
DIAZ: It is interesting that on the normal circumstances perhaps Juan Miguel would be in a situation where he could just be in a home in Washington or Miami or anywhere else, without the necessity for numerous U.S. marshals to be protecting him against what? It's not protection against somebody invading his territory, but I guess it's the fear that Castro may have of him being exposed to our system of government and to our values and perhaps his decision after that to stay in the United States. Unfortunately that is why I believe all this money is being spent.
BLITZER: Manny Diaz, we only have a few seconds. Looking back on all these many, many difficult months, if you had to do it all over again, is there anything you would have done differently to get to a different point in this legal proceeding right now?
DIAZ: No, I think we would have done exactly what we've done, and we are hopeful that either the appellate court or the Supreme Court review the issues, the way that we view them and will seriously consider them.
BLITZER: And we'll be watching your next move in the coming days, Manny Diaz, thank you so much for joining us on LATE EDITION.
DIAZ: Thank you.
BLITZER: And just ahead, the race for commander in chief, does Al Gore or George Bush have the upper hand on international U.S. policy? We'll talk about that and much more when we go round the table with Roberts, Page and Carlson.
LATE EDITION continues right after this.
BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable.
Joining me, Susan Page, White House bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report"; and Tucker Carlson, political writer for "The Weekly Standard."
You know the summit that we saw today live here on CNN, the summit between Clinton and Putin, Clinton lame duck, but he didn't seem like a lame duck at that joint statement in the news conference. Is he effectively a lame duck?
STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, in some ways of course. There's a striking comparison, Putin just coming into office. He is the future of Russia, and it's obvious that most of his dealings are going to have to be with the new president, whoever he is.
But I think Bill Clinton can still play an important and constructive role in defining the debate. George Bush has proposed a missile defense system which he can't figure out how to pay for it. He can't assure anybody that the Russians and the Chinese won't react by building more missiles. So I think there's a continuing role for Clinton, but in the end, the decisions are going to be made by the next president, not by Bill Clinton.
BLITZER: You heard Condoleezza Rice, George Bush's national security adviser, once again say to the president, Don't tie the next president's hands overly in these kinds of very sensitive issues.
Is that the advice Clinton's going to listen to?
TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: No, of course not. I mean, he's not going to take his cues from the Republican candidate's foreign policy adviser.
I think the great thing about Clinton's trip is that it shows again that the office of the president is distinct from the man who occupies it; that Clinton, whatever his faults and the fact that his term is coming to an end, still represents the interests of the U.S. government. So it's sort of a triumph itself for the rule of law. I'm in favor of you know, recognizing he's still the president.
BLITZER: Susan, you and I have covered a lot of summits between President Clinton and former President Boris Yeltsin -- bombastic in that same room over at the Kremlin in Moscow. The warmth, body language between presidents Clinton and Putin did not sort of jump from the screen.
SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: And we're still trying to think -- our analysts, U.S. analysts are still trying to figure out who Putin is, and what kind of course will he follow. I don't think we know that yet. This is still a very young president.
I think it's hard to imagine President Clinton coming to some kind of conclusion with Russia in the remaining months of his term on a big issue. But you could see him doing things in other parts of the world.
You talked to Madeleine Albright about her trip to the Mideast. It's possible that we would see a conclusion of peace agreements with Israel and the Palestinians and Syria. That's conceivable. And Northern Ireland might be a place where there might still be a big event to come during Clinton's presidency.
But it's hard to see that on these issues, especially on missile defense, where it was clear in the interview with Secretary Albright, we're not at all sure that the Russians have thought through their own proposal on that issue.
CARLSON: But it is true that the summit does highlight the fact even while Russia is no longer a strategic adversary, that relations with Russia is important; that a president is preeminently a foreign policy leader; and that this is going to be, at least on the margins, an important issue in the campaign.
And Al Gore can rightly argue he has been there, he has had experience. And it highlights the fact that George Bush has never dealt with foreign leaders and has no experience. Now, people might want a fresher face, but if they want experience, Gore is going to have an advantage. PAGE: I'm going to say though, that's exactly the argument that was made against Bill Clinton by President Bush.
CARLSON: That's true.
PAGE: And to not very much effect. There was no question that President Bush had much more experience on these issues than Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton didn't even effectively counter that argument, but in the end the American people made a decision based on domestic economics, not on foreign affairs.
BLITZER: And Tucker, sometimes people know -- for example on Vice President Al Gore, they know he has lot of experience in international affairs, dealt with world leaders but they just don't like him. And they know that and as a result, they say, Let's give another fresh face a chance.
CARLSON: It's deeply unfair. Yes, I mean, Gore, when he was in the Senate, probably knew more about arms control than any other member of the Senate. He spent the last seven years pretty involved in Russia policy, but if you look at the polling, Bush creams him when you ask the question of who's a better leader. Which is kind of not only the key question in foreign policy, but generally. It's unfair.
ROBERTS: When Al Gore was in the House, I remember once covering him when he was still a House member, and he sat down one day in this little area right off the House floor, trying to explain to me, you know, multiple warheads and he was drawing all of these sketch plans. I mean this guy really knows what he's talking about.
But in the end, I do agree, that relatively few people will make a judgment based on that; that they will make it more based on a gut feeling about who can I trust? Who is more competent? And while Gore might have an advantage on certain issues, Bush certainly right now has the advantage when people are simply judging the two characters.
PAGE: Let me just add a story like your story when Al Gore was a House member. In the 1992 election, I remember doing an interview with Al Gore, where he tried to explain the information superhighway to me, which was a very difficult task, I got to say.
BLITZER: You know, the fact of the matter also is, at least this is the impression we're getting, that in recent weeks, George W. Bush on international affairs, on national security military matters, is taking the lead, and Gore is in the position of reacting to statements coming from George W. Bush.
CARLSON: Risky statements, risky schemes. That's absolutely right. Bush is just driven and defined more importantly the news coverage completely, it's amazing.
BLITZER: And you can't really argue, though, you heard Condoleezza Rice respond to this argument that Gore made a couple months ago, the isolationist right wing of the Republican party would be in charge. When you have people like Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell or Dick Cheney or George Schultz, these are internationalists. ROBERTS: Well, there's no doubt about it, he's trying, what Gore is trying to do is link Bush to Jesse Helms who is clearly an isolationist, and a very destructive voice on these matters. But Condoleezza Rice was absolutely right, George Bush was certainly more in support of the trade agreement than Al Gore was and in that sense, is very much an internationalist. But this is going to be the pattern. You're going to have Gore over and over again trying to associate Bush with the rightist right wing elements of his party. I think it's going to very hard to do, (A) because George Bush is genuinely a centrist and (B), his whole body language, his whole persona is not of a hard edged raving idealog.
CARLSON: He doesn't look scary?
ROBERTS: No, he doesn't look scary and in the same way that Rick Lazio doesn't look scary in New York. There's a certain personality that Bush has which I think is one of the reasons why people are ranking him high on that quality.
BLITZER: All right, we have to take a quick break. A lot more to talk about, the latest on Al Gore, is he reinventing himself on the campaign trail once again, the round table will weigh in when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.
You know, Susan, this week a lot of stories that Al Gore is trying to reinvent himself, a kindler, gentler Al Gore. That prompted Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, a Republican, earlier today on "Fox News Sunday" to offer this assessment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")
GOV. TOM RIDGE (R), PENNSYLVANIA: The one thing you know about Vice President Gore is that if he needs to change his position, over a period of time he will. And I think it's kind of awkward. I think it's got to be pretty difficult for someone in the middle of a presidential campaign trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for.
And I think you're probably going to see him change his point of view and his approach during the next several months as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are we going to see that?
PAGE: I don't think it's a matter so much of changing positions. I think it's a matter more of projecting a different persona. I do think that each of these candidates has a question to answer.
And for George W. Bush, the question is, are you ready to be president? Do you have the intellectual curiosity and the willingness to embrace complexity that's required in the president? And the question for Gore, I think, is something different. I think it's is this a likable, fully rounded human being that you'd feel comfortable or you'd like to elect president? Which is a different sort of question to answer.
I do think that he needs to address that question and build some kind of connection with voters if he's going to be elected.
ROBERTS: What is this, the third new Gore, the fourth new Gore? I've lost count in this campaign. And I think that belies a certain shakiness, I agree with you. And I think that this kind of thrashing around -- well, we've got to go to plan B or plan C because he hasn't, on that very basic level -- if you look at Bill Clinton, why do his polls defy gravity? During that whole year we all sat around here and wondered about that. Because voters said he understands people like me. Because there's a connection. They just haven't connected with Al Gore yet.
BLITZER: Well, Tucker, Bill Clinton was known as the "Comeback Kid".
Is Al Gore going to prove that he too is the "Comeback Kid".
CARLSON: Well, sure. I mean, it's June. I mean, he can -- he definitely -- I mean, there'll be many cycles here. But I think that the one thing that voters really are uncomfortable about Clinton on is this idea that he stands for nothing, that he has no core beliefs.
And the last thing Gore needs to do is show voters that he's the same way. And I hate to look at it all through the lens of press relations, but I think every time Gore opens up, relaxes, does a lot more interviews and sort of exposes himself to the press, he goes up in the polls. And I hope he does again.
ROBERTS: But let's say one thing on the other side. There was Tom Ridge, mentioned strongly as a possible vice presidential candidate, accusing Gore of changing his view. And we agree, that's a problem for him.
But here is George Bush this week changing his view on the death penalty. After having presided over 130 convictions, he now decides to stay the execution. Now, he would portray that as compassionate conservatism, pragmatism. He would say that's a good thing.
So on one hand, you can't always say that changing your mind is a bad thing and then portray yourself as an open-minded pragmatic person.
BLITZER: Well, we have to leave it there. But we have more on the death penalty coming up in Bruce Morton's "Last Word."
I want to thank our roundtable once again, Tucker, Susan, Steve, as usual.
And up next, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Plus, of course, Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on the death penalty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And that's the heart of the new debate, not the old, is it cruel and unusual punishment, but hey, are the states sometimes getting it wrong and killing the innocent?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is America rethinking the ultimate punishment?
BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on state- sanctioned killing.
MORTON (voice-over): The United States is having second thoughts about the death penalty. Straws in the changing wind?
One, Texas Governor George W. Bush this past week granted a 30- day stay to Ricky Nolan McGinn to see if new DNA tests would prove definitely whether he raped and killed his stepdaughter in 1993.
BUSH: Any time DNA evidence can be used in its context and can be relevant as to the guilt or innocence of a person on death row, we need to use it.
MORTON: It's the first such stay Bush has granted as governor. He can commute a death sentence only if a majority of the board of pardons and paroles recommends it. That's happened once in Bush's governorship too; 131 people have been executed.
Straw two, the New Hampshire House, 191 to 163 and Senate 14 to 10, voted to abolish that state's death penalty though Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen vetoed the bill. New Hampshire's last execution was in 1939, and there are no death row prisoners in the state.
Straw three, Illinois's Republican governor, George Ryan, imposed a moratorium on executions in January. Thirteen Illinois inmates, one within two days of execution, have been proved innocent since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977.
The Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in '76, 38 states have it, and that's the heart of the new debate, not the old is it cruel and unusual punishment, but hey, are the states getting it wrong sometimes and killing the innocent.
Newsweek reports that nowadays when police arrest somebody for rape or rape-murder, they routinely send DNA samples to an FBI lab for analysis. Of the first 18,000 samples the FBI handled, the DNA result excluded the principle suspect 26 percent of the time. That's a number that will get your attention.
In a Gallup poll last February, 66 percent of Americans favored the death penalty, more men than women were for it, more whites than non-whites, more old than young, more Southerners than people from other regions, more with a high school education or less than among more highly educated groups.
Sixty-six percent is a majority that would make any politician proud, but it's the lowest level of support for the death penalty since 1981. Support peaked at 80 percent in 1994, and has declined since. So some of Americans are having second thoughts, not so much is the death penalty wrong, but are governments killing innocent people along with guilty ones?
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks Bruce.
Now a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. The death penalty is also on the cover of "Newsweek" with the growing debate over who should die.
"TIME" looks at "How To Improve Your Memory; The Pills The Fads And The Science" on the cover.
And on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report": "Beating Pain; How New Treatments Can End The Agony."
And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, June 4.
Be sure to catch us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. I'll be back tomorrow night at 8 p.m. Eastern on "THE WORLD TODAY."
For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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