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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

Tenet Takes Responsibility for State of the Union Speech

Aired July 11, 2003 - 22:00   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Daryn Kagan. I'm in for Aaron Brown tonight.
Let's start out with a question. Is it possible to point a finger in one place and feel the sting thousands of miles away? Well, the answer today is clearly yes.

Today, the finger of the national security adviser traveling in Africa was pointed straight at the CIA director back in Langley, Virginia over the false claim about Iraq that made it into the president's State of the Union address and that pointed finger led the director to admit early this evening his agency made a mistake.

And, it's that admission leading off the whip tonight. Jamie McIntyre is following that one for us, Jamie the headline please.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, it was 16 words in the president's State of the Union address. Tonight, CIA Director George Tenet says those words were factually accurate but, nevertheless, allowing the president to say them was his mistake.

KAGAN: Jamie, thank you, we'll be with you in just a moment.

More on the storm on Capitol Hill over the Iraq uranium controversy, Jonathan Karl is on that one tonight, Jon a headline.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, the CIA director may be taking responsibility for what happened but Democrats are pointing to the White House and saying the buck stops over there.

KAGAN: The latest now on the floods that have hit the Midwest hard this week, Jeff Flock is in Fort Wayne, Indiana with that tonight, Jeff the headline.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CHICAGO BUREAU CHIEF: Daryn, the headline is that President Bush agreed today that Indiana, or at least some of it, is a disaster area. The flood waters are on the way down but what a week it has been. I'll have a full report.

KAGAN: And we will be back with all of you in just a moment.

Also coming up tonight on NEWSNIGHT, Nic Robertson has the latest from Iraq as American forces cut their presence in the town of Fallujah. That is where there's been a lot of violence in the past. It's hard to decide these days whether he is more rock star than activist, Bono tonight on why the U.S. cannot retreat from helping Africa stop the spiral of AIDS and poverty.

And, a bunch of young, attractive men and women on a boat cruising around the world, no, this is not some hack reality show. This is an effort to help underprivileged kids reach the world, our latest look at a business that is on the rise.

We are going to start with those 16 words that created a week's worth of political uproar, the now infamous claim made in the president's State of the Union that: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Well, after a day of intense criticism from the White House and Capitol Hill, CIA Director George Tenet said that including those 16 words was a mistake. That announcement came on Friday night in July when late-breaking news tends to disappear into a black hole but it seems unlikely that Tenet's admission will be the last we hear of this controversy.

Once again, here's Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): In an exceptional statement issued by CIA Director George Tenet, the intelligence chief admitted his agency should never have let President Bush make this statement in his January State of the Union address.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

MCINTYRE: Accepting responsibility Tenet said: "These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president. This was a mistake." Tenet's statement backed up accounts given earlier in the day by both President Bush and his national security adviser that the CIA approved the speech in its entirety.

BUSH: I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services.

MCINTYRE: Condoleezza Rice told reporters traveling with the president in Africa that while she wasn't blaming anybody: "If the CIA, the director of Central Intelligence, had said take this out of the speech, it would have been gone without question."

In his two-page statement Tenet stopped short of saying the British intelligence dossier was inaccurate, only that it was inconclusive. The statement cites other intelligence suggesting Iraq was attempting to obtain uranium in Africa, including suspicious meetings of Iraq officials in Niger and intelligence reports from other countries. But, if the CIA had reservations, the State Department was openly skeptical calling the claims highly dubious. The statement from Tenet concludes: "Agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct, i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa" but: "This did not rise to the certainty which should be required for presidential speeches and the CIA should have ensured it was removed."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: And, Daryn, tonight a CIA spokesman tells CNN that George Tenet has not offered nor has he been asked to resign - Daryn.

KAGAN: Jamie, looking just at the subject of intelligence, clearly there was enough there that somebody believed it. There were questions about this intelligence. The British believed it.

But is this just a reminder to those of us outside the spy community that gathering intelligence and even more importantly interpreting it, it's more of an art than a black and white science?

MCINTYRE: Well, it is an art, particularly when the intelligence, as it often is, is inconclusive or sometimes somewhat contradictory and the fact that there was a split between the State Department and the CIA over how definitive this intelligence was should have been a warning flag right there that it's not the kind of thing you want to go to the bank with.

In fact, in his statement tonight, George Tenet acknowledged that that was really one of the most troubling parts of this that there was a clear debate, a clear division of opinion among analysts about the veracity of this claim and, given that, it never should have made its way into the president's State of the Union address.

KAGAN: And just, finally, why are there no fingers pointed at the intelligence situation that's within the Pentagon, the DIA?

MCINTYRE: Well, the DIA wasn't part of this assessment. Most of this came from what's called the National Intelligence Assessment, which is a collection of all of the intelligence assets, a consensus of opinion of what U.S. intelligence believes and that comes squarely under the Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet.

KAGAN: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, Jamie thank you for that.

Next, to the political equation which certainly got more complicated tonight, the story is already front and center among a number of Democratic presidential contenders as well as some top Republican lawmakers whose job it is to oversee the intelligence community.

Here again, CNN's Jonathan Karl.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL (voice-over): CIA Director George Tenet's mea culpa came hours after the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee placed the blame squarely on Tenet for allowing false information to get into the president's State of the Union address.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: The director of Central Intelligence is the principal adviser to the president on intelligence matters. He should have told the president he failed. He failed to do so.

KARL: Tenet's attempt to take the blame is not likely to satisfy Democrats who say the buck stops with the president.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's beginning to sound a little like Watergate. They start throwing people over the side but the deeper you go, the more interesting it will be.

It's very clear that it may be George Tenet's responsibility but that information also existed in the State Department. It also existed in the vice president's office, so they will not get away with simply throwing George Tenet over the side.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the end the president is responsible for the information that's put out to the American people wherever he got it from.

KARL: In closed hearings, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been investigating pre-war intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. It's now clear there will be public hearings as well and that the false information in the president's speech will be a part of the investigation.

ROBERTS: I think in September we'll have public hearings and we will get to the bottom of this and we will let the chips fall where they may.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: The top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee expects some of those chips to fall down at the White House. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, after speaking with George Tenet today, put out a statement saying: "Even if the CIA approved the Niger statement as factually accurate, the speech was still blatantly misleading and a lot of senior officials in the administration and in the intelligence community knew it."

Now, Tenet is expected to testify in closed session before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week. It was a previously scheduled appearance about the situation in Iraq and the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction but you can imagine, Daryn that this will certainly be a major topic of that hearing. We wont' be hearing it though. It's a closed hearing.

KAGAN: Somehow I have a feeling maybe you with your sources might hear exactly what happens behind those closed doors.

KARL: We'll try. KAGAN: We'll raise the bar and have the challenge out there for you on that. But, Jon, let me ask you this. Is this just a matter, not simply a matter, but is this a Democrat smelling blood, looking for a political opportunity as we come into election season?

KARL: There is clearly an element of that. I mean Democrats have been running to the microphones trying to come and criticize the president on this. Finally, they can take him on on the area where he has been strongest, the area of national security.

But, Daryn, look there is a lot of very serious and substantive Republican concern on this. You saw that reflected in Pat Roberts' criticism of the director of Central Intelligence, of George Tenet, and Republicans privately up here have been raising a lot of questions.

They're wondering what was going on with the pre-war intelligence situation even beyond this one statement, still getting to that troubling question why have no weapons of mass destruction been found yet in Iraq? Those are questions that are coming loudest from Democrats but privately from a lot of Republicans too.

KAGAN: Well, speaking of the noise out there, what happened to the old tradition that you don't criticize the president when he's out of the country?

KARL: That is a great point. If you remember it was just two years ago when Tom Daschle uttered some relatively mild criticism of the president compared to what we're hearing now when the president was not even in foreign land yet. He was just leaving.

Daschle was roundly criticized. He came out and said that he regretted making that statement. Somehow it doesn't seem to matter anymore. You've got, you know, everybody coming out, all these Democrats coming out very strongly criticizing the president even while he's traveling around Africa.

KAGAN: And we did hear quite a bit. Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill tonight, appreciate that Jon.

KARL: Sure.

KAGAN: Let's get more on the fallout and today's rhetorical falling on the sword you could call it. Is this the end of the story? If so would it be a first for Washington where vulnerability on politics or policy rarely goes unanswered?

With us tonight Dan Klaidman, Washington Bureau Chief for "Newsweek" magazine, Dan good evening thanks for being with us.

DAN KLAIDMAN, "NEWSWEEK": Thanks for having me, Daryn.

KAGAN: This has been a quickly developing story as the evening goes on. What do you make of George Tenet taking the blame?

KLAIDMAN: Well, George Tenet is obviously a very loyal soldier and he did this in part because I'm sure he believed that the CIA was to blame here but I think also he has been loyal to this president and he has been rewarded by this president, so there may be an element of political loyalty going on here as well.

KAGAN: But when you read through the statement, the two-page statement, he does take the blame but it's kind of a qualified apology where he says all right, all right, it's my bad but, you know, just for the record we did have a lot of questions about this.

KLAIDMAN: Well, that's right. On the one hand he's saying we did have questions about this. On the other hand he's saying, you know, it's factually correct because it was sourced to the Brits and the Brits did report this. That is the sort of legalistic, lawyerly side of George Tenet.

In the end what everyone remembers is the CIA director saying we made a mistake. Those are the headlines. That's what's absorbed by the American people and that's where the political fallout will be.

KAGAN: It's been amazing how many things he has survived as CIA director. He was appointed by Clinton and he's still in. He didn't lose his job after 9/11. He didn't lose his job after the attempted strike right before the war began in Iraq. But now, finally, do you think George Tenet will be out of the CIA?

KLAIDMAN: I don't know. I don't think it bodes well that Republicans, and particularly Republicans like Pat Roberts, who have been very, you know, big defenders of the administration have come out and said some pretty harsh things about George Tenet and his CIA.

On the other hand, these things are very difficult to predict. The administration has said that they are standing by him. They have confidence in him. On the other hand, again, these kinds of stories take on a momentum of their own and it is conceivable that by next week or sometime soon he won't be able to withstand the pressure.

KAGAN: Whether or not George Tenet is out, does this put an end to the story? Does this clear President Bush or will the heat stay on?

KLAIDMAN: I don't think it does put an end to the story and the reason is that this story is intimately linked to the situation in Iraq and it may not resonate right now with the American people.

But, to the extent to which Iraq continues to be a problem, that it continues to be messy, that more soldiers continue to die, that Americans are concerned about the amount of money that's being spent there and that we don't start seeing real progress there, then I think the story will continue and will continue to be a political problem for this president.

I did notice before coming on tonight a new Washington Post/ABC poll that shows that the president's approval ratings have gone down substantially. We'll have to see how that plays out over the coming weeks and months. KAGAN: And then I just want to take a look at the political picture from a different standpoint. You have the White House pointing the finger at the CIA saying you didn't keep us from keeping this out but what about the other picture about who was pushing to keep that statement in?

There definitely has been criticism of the White House only wanting to hear and use the type of information and intelligence that would support the case for going to war.

KLAIDMAN: Well, that's a very good point and I think that that is really what may be at the heart of this whole burgeoning controversy over intelligence and how it was analyzed and used and it is true to say that intelligence is an art not a science.

But at the end of the day, policymakers and the president of the United States are responsible for how that intelligence is interpreted and what kinds of policy decisions are made based on that intelligence and, of course, going to war is the most serious kind of policy decision that anybody can make, and so I think this is something that will continue to be probed and could continue to be a political problem.

KAGAN: I'm sure we will see it on the pages of "Newsweek." Dan Klaidman from Washington, thank you for being with us appreciate it.

KLAIDMAN: Thank you.

KAGAN: Well, let's go to Iraq now where a political and military fine tuning is underway. Troops today began pulling out in places making their presence somewhat lower key in others, the aim to calm local sensitivities and, at the end of the day, present a smaller target.

Here now, CNN's Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gouged tarmac and a shredded barricade signs the attackers were in a hurry to get away, their haste and poor aim in throwing the grenades used in this latest attack saving these soldiers from serious injury.

"A car drove past very quickly" says this eyewitness. "Someone threw a grenade or a bomb."

Not long after the early evening attack in central Baghdad, the soldiers back at work policing the streets nearby rounding up a suspected looter. Sixty miles or 100 kilometers to the west, the aftermath of a mortar attack on the U.S. base in Ramadi. No U.S. casualties here unlike the attack on the U.S. base in Samarra to the north where two U.S. soldiers were hurt.

And, in the town of Fallujah, 30 miles or 50 kilometers west of Baghdad, where relations between U.S. troops and townspeople have been strained the U.S. soldiers pulled out of their base at the police station.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They went out so we could provide a better service to the people of Fallujah. It will be easier to help people more quickly with the Americans out of town.

ROBERTSON: At a demonstration the day before Iraqi police said they felt unsafe working alongside the U.S. troops an indication the killing of seven police cadets, apparently for working with U.S. troops in the neighboring town of Ramadi the week before, resonates in Fallujah.

U.S. troops did patrol Fallujah but said they were trying to give more control to Iraqi police. Back in Baghdad, and for the first time since the Korean War, American reservists awarded medals for combat, Specialist Willie Harris receiving the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

(on camera): Also, in Baghdad, top civil administrator Paul Bremer edging closer to announcing a new governing council for Iraq. Local politicians saying they expect the announcement of the multi- ethnic and religiously diverse 21 to 25 person group in the next few days.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, it's a riverfront view but in all directions we're going to tour the Midwest where the waters just keep rising.

And, then on to sunny California where things really aren't looking so hot for Governor Gray Davis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: On to the Midwest now, Indiana in particular, where a lot of people still believe Larry Bird can walk on water. Today came the news that the retired NBA star will take a front office job with the Indiana Pacers. That was one of two big headlines.

The other continues to be the flooding. President Bush today declared more than two dozen counties federal disaster areas. Here again, CNN's Jeff Flock.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FLOCK (voice-over): Doug Hackbarth (ph) wades in to check the damage to his nursery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I bet that's fried. This computer screen has no picture and it's on.

FLOCK: He shows us equipment drowned, plants floating in muddy brown water, greenhouses swamped, his cooler flooded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we can open it. FLOCK: Just one of hundreds of businesses and homes wrecked in the disaster area that is now Indiana. What a week it's been, Fort Wayne residents awakened and driven from their homes in the middle of the night Wednesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't expect for it to get this bad.

FLOCK: To the south in Bluffton, 350 buildings damaged, sandbag levees everywhere. Across the border in Wilshire, Ohio, more levees, not enough to save this grocery store.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First asked me about a dumpster, I said we'll just bring dump trucks down and start hauling it.

FLOCK: This was the sandbag scene in Decatur, Indiana, where volunteers poured in as fast as the water, one man moved by the kindness of strangers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People don't even know me are following me home to help me unload it.

FLOCK: And the fight continues success stories side by side with disaster. You've been running this night and day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I have.

FLOCK: And, as the result of that you've been able to pump the water out on this side and keep this side dry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we kept the neighborhood from going under.

FLOCK: A whining pump and a leaky blue hose keep one side of this Fort Wayne street dry while across the way houses closer to the river are lost behind a white sandbag levee. That's Deborah Englehart's (ph) house over there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't have enough people. We just couldn't keep up with it. It came too fast for us.

FLOCK: Just as the cleanup figures to be all too slow.

I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Weather also dominates the picture south of the border. Tropical Storm Claudette which dealt Mexico only a glancing blow is once again out to sea. The problem now, though, being it can gather strength and jeopardize big offshore oil platforms nearby.

Still to come on NEWSNIGHT, the question on many Californians minds, should Governor Gray Davis stay or should he go? Our Jeff Greenfield tackles the recall issue up next.

And then, Reach the World is an effort to connect children and classrooms from around the globe, the latest in our "On the Rise" series a little bit later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: Years ago the political satire of Tom Lehrer wrote a tune sending up the hot topic of the time. It was the new math. So simple, he wrote, only a child can do it. That was back in 1967.

These days, Mr. Lehrer lives in Santa Cruz, California, hasn't written a song in years but we can imagine the lyric he'd spin on the effort to recall his governor, Gray Davis, complicated enough to send a child screaming right back to that new math, the rest of tonight's song from CNN's Jeff Greenfield.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST (voice-over): When Californians learned early this year that the budget woes were far worse than they'd thought, a drive to recall the governor began.

That seemed like a long shot until California Congressman Darrell Issa, a mega-millionaire Republican with gubernatorial ambitions of his own, channeled more than $1 million into the effort. Now, recall supporters say they've got the signatures to force Davis into a fight at the polls for his job.

GOV. GRAY DAVID (D), CALIFORNIA: I was elected by eight million people or eight million people went to the polls last November and asked me to finish the job. That's what I'm focused on. If a recall qualifies we'll deal with that then.

GREENFIELD (on camera): It sounds like a simple enough question. Does Governor Gray Davis stay or go? But it doesn't begin to measure the mind boggling possibilities of what this kind of California recall election would mean, un-chartered waters, we're talking Gilligan's three-hour tour.

(voice-over): So, here's a handy guide to just some of the key questions. First, will the recall happen? Supporters say they've got way more than the 897,000 signatures they need but are they valid signatures? Were they collected legally? Was the drive financed legally?

Kevin Shelley, California's Secretary of State oversees election laws.

KEVIN SHELLEY (D), CALIFORNIA SECRETARY OF STATE: On July 24th, I'll say both how many raw signatures they have and how many valid signatures.

GREENFIELD: Davis supporters probably cannot stop the recall legal moves but they might be able to delay it which leads to a second key question. When will the recall happen?

If it's the fall, that's bad news for Davis because a special election tends to attract the most intense voters, more likely his opponents. If the election happens next March, it will happen on the same day as the Democratic Presidential Primary, obviously more Democrats will show up for that one.

SHELLEY: If I certify this election to occur September 3 or before then it's a special election, if I certify it September 4 or beyond it's a March election.

GREENFIELD: And now it really gets interesting. Whenever the election happens voters must make two choices as the same time. First, does Davis get the boot, and voters move to part two, who replaces him?

Davis can't be on that part of the ballot but just about everyone else in California can be, anyone with 65 valid signatures and $3,500 or 10,000 valid signatures is in, and whoever gets the most votes on that part of the ballot is the next governor.

Among Republicans, Representative Issa, the conservative whose money fueled the recall says he'll run. So might Bill Simon, another conservative who lost to Davis last November.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a liberal Republican could run but reports are he won't if this man, actor and child advocate Arnold Schwarzenegger does. One of the actor's aides said Thursday he likely will enter that race.

But it's the Democrats with the really tough call. All the statewide Democrats, Lieutenant Governor Bustamante, Treasurer Angelides, Controller Wessley, Attorney General Lockyer, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein have said they won't run but can they really risk a recall election in which voters have only Republicans and minor party candidates to choose from?

If somebody had said guess what you're going to be doing for the rest of this year.

SHELLEY: Right.

GREENFIELD: What would you have said to that?

SHELLEY: Well, I would have said that they had spent too much time in the bar the night before.

GREENFIELD: Beyond all the political questions are some serious policy questions. Does the idea of recalling the governor a good way to put power in the hands of the people or is it a threat to government stability?

(on camera): But there is one question that is easy to answer. Would this recall join the Florida recount as one of the weirdest political stories of all time? For sure.

Jeff Greenfield CNN, Sacramento, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: And as it unfolds you know Jeff will be following every move. A few more now from around the country starting in Springer country, talking about some strange politics here, Jerry Springer today filing papers allowing him to start fund-raising for a Senate run in Ohio. He's a Democrat and no political novice having once been mayor of Cincinnati. A poll done back in March showed him enjoying high name recognition but not too much support.

The board investigating the loss of space shuttle Columbia released what it called a working scenario today, 189 pages detailing how one major piece of foam and at least two smaller chunks broke free and doomed the orbiter about 22 seconds after launch.

And authorities in Eagle County, Colorado, today released this. It's Kobe Bryant's mug shot, that even though a decision on whether or not to bring sexual assault charges against the Lakers star isn't expected until some time next week.

Coming up a little bit later: a new name and a new face in the world of the advice columns. We are going to talk with the new Ann Landers. She will say she is Amy. But we'll be talking with her.

And this is a recognizable face, rock star and president on the same common ground. Bono stops by to talk to us about Africa and the president's trip.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: And ahead on NEWSNIGHT: my conversation with Bono about his efforts in Africa and the president's trip.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: We have spent a lot of time this week looking at the controversies surrounding false information in the president's State of the Union address, about Iraq, uranium and Africa. Well, there was something else in that speech about Africa, but this was cause for surprise and jubilation to many activists, the president supporting a big increase in funding to fight AIDS in Africa.

Mr. Bush has repeated that support this week on his trip to Africa. Today, he visited a place ravaged by AIDS, but also hugely successful in stemming the spread, Uganda. Mr. Bush met about two- dozen patients at an AIDS clinic there.

Well, this was the same clinic that the rock star and activist Bono visited last year on his tour of Africa with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. Like many supporters of Africa, Bono was thrilled by the president's interest. He also, though, is deeply worried that Congress won't follow through.

I had a chance to talk with Bono earlier from Dublin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Has this president surprised you with his interest in Africa? BONO, MUSICIAN: I think we should really -- this is -- I think this is an extraordinary moment in time for America, for Africa. This is potentially saying we are going to put a man on the moon.

This is a Republican president going to the poorest place on Earth and saying, we want to be part of your story. This is what America's all about. I think it's potentially history. But, of course, if the rocket doesn't have any fuel, if the money doesn't follow the rhetoric, then it's the worst thing of all. It's tourism in people's tragedies. And I don't believe that. I believe President Bush is what he says he is on this one.

I really believe his convictions. I believe the team around him are genuine about this. My friends, people out banging the dustpan lids on the streets, they don't have the same confidence that I do. And when they see what's going on in Congress this week, where they're cutting the president's budget on Africa and on these drugs, they say that I'm being duped. I think they're wrong. I believe the president will keep his word. I think he's a man of his word.

KAGAN: Well, let's talk about some of the skepticism that's out there. First of all, you mentioned Congress. The president is pushing for $15 billion over the next five years. But there's a couple of problems. One, not everybody in Congress supports that. So there's a good chance it won't go through. And then there are those critics who say that money might come forward, but it's just coming from different pots to be put into this place.

BONO: Yes, this has to be new money. We can't be robbing Peter to pay Paul, especially if Peter's broke. There's perfectly good programs that are lacking funding in America.

We have to find this money -- or, rather, the president has to find this money from other places. But it's not big money. For the big impact it will have on these lives, we're talking about $3 billion this year. The defense budget has gone up by $100 billion this year, just to put it in proportion. But the impact is enormous on the way -- not just the moral imperative here, but just the way America is seen by Africa and the developing world.

This story has brought a lot of goodwill to America. I'm just reading it in cynical papers, where people are saying, wow, they can't believe their eyes. And I can. And this is the kind of America I'm a fan of. And I'm sure that there's -- I'm sure there's more visits like this on the way. This can't be the end of the story. It's just the beginning.

KAGAN: Let me flip around. Instead of how America's seen in Africa, let's talk about how Africa is seen in America. And when President Bush made his stop in South Africa, he's dangling the money in front of Mr. Mbeki, the president. But he's saying, we need to make sure this money is well spent.

And the understanding there is that, here in America, there are many people who believe, you can throw as much money as you want at Africa, but the continent is so corrupt, the money is not going to be well spent and not go to good use.

BONO: The corruption argument is, of course, real. But it's often just an excuse for inaction.

And we just got to -- in the light of the size of the tragedy that that AIDS pandemic brings -- I think it's 7,000 people a day. How about that, 7,000 people a day dying of a preventable, treatable disease? We need to stop prevaricating. All these initiatives, the president's Millennium Challenge Account, which is $10 billion over three years, that is predicated on there being -- on government's tackling corruption and there being good governance and clear and transparent process in place.

This is smart of the president. And this is the kind of thing that we have to have in Africa. Of course we've got deal with corruption. But it isn't corruption, finally, that's killing 7,000 people a day. It's a disease called HIV/AIDS.

KAGAN: And let me just ask you this for my last question. When you talk about those huge numbers that are just so mind-boggling, how do you remain so optimistic? How do you keep your passion going? And do you ever have a time when you are ready to throw in the towel?

BONO: Yes. I got very depressed just over the last week about this. I was so excited, elated, at the pictures of the president arriving in Africa and the people who are with him that I respect, like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. And I was very excited. He told me he was going to take this on and he followed through on it.

And then just the sense of disappointment when I hear what's going on in Congress. And it really -- I despair of it, because there's this sense of expectation now in Africa. We've raised the expectations of these people, the most vulnerable people on Earth. And we mustn't raise it, only to dash it. I know people in Congress are -- there's some people who are -- who are minding the purse strings of America. And so they should.

The money has to be well spent. But this is the best thing America could be doing right now. This is rebranding the USA, for the cold, clinical commercial people. Look at it like that. Look at these AIDS drugs as advertisements for the USA. Paint them red, white and blue, whatever. Just think about them. Just get them to the people. Wherever they go, I'll tell you, evil-minded ideas about the United States will be run out of town. This is the best money -- the best value for money, the best bang for your buck you're going to get.

KAGAN: Your passion keeps a spotlight on the issue.

Bono, thanks for joining us.

BONO: Thanks, Daryn.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: And those were just some comments from Bono earlier today from Dublin, Ireland. Still ahead on NEWSNIGHT: Ask Amy. The woman who now has Ann Landers' job, she joins us live. That's coming up next.

Then our "On the Rise" series -- this one takes us to the high seas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: We were sitting around trying to think of the letter that Amy Dickinson might send to the great Eppie Lederer, who died last year. Now, you might not recognize the name Eppie Lederer, but she's better known to millions as Ann Landers.

It might go something like this, something like: "Dear, Ann, how do I pick up where you left off, choosing from thousands of letters, giving the commonsense advice to all of those 'Sleepless in Seattle' out there and not lose my mind? Sincerely, Curious in Chicago."

Well, sadly for millions, Ann Landers isn't around anymore to help. So Amy Dickinson will rely her on good judgment when she begins a new advice column next weekend for "The Chicago Tribune." It's called "Ask Amy," not to replace Ann Landers, but to carry on that fantastic tradition.

And we have a chance to ask Amy, because she's joining us tonight from Chicago.

Amy Dickinson, good evening. Thanks for being with us.

AMY DICKINSON, ADVICE COLUMNIST: Hey, thank you.

KAGAN: I had a chance to look over your resume, which is not exactly a usual resume. Some very interesting experiences you bring into this job. Among them, you've been a receptionist, a news producer, a lounge singer, and a single mom.

DICKINSON: Yes.

KAGAN: How do you get a job like this?

DICKINSON: I know.

Well, I have also been a reporter for a long time and a writer. And I've been out there living my life. I have been living life and taking notes. That's huge.

KAGAN: And been doing some of this advice stuff before online, right?

DICKINSON: Yes.

KAGAN: So you come into it well-qualified. I imagine there were a lot of people out there who wanted this job.

DICKINSON: Yes. KAGAN: What do you find, of the letters that you've gotten before when you were with AOL and even the letters that have come in now, what does America want to know?

DICKINSON: I think one thing I've learned is that there are enough problems out there for everyone. There are a lot of advice columns out there, but there are as many different problems as there are different people.

And I think the letters I've looked at so far that have come in, I have gotten several hundred e-mails and actually received my first piece of U.S. mail yesterday. And I'm thrilled.

KAGAN: Congratulations on that.

DICKINSON: But that letter, for instance, is wonderful. And, actually, when I opened it and read it, I got kind of a lump in my throat, because it reminded me of what I'm doing and why I want to do it.

It's from a 78-year-old woman, who told me that she feels invisible, that she feels ignored as she gets older, not included in neighborhood events and even family gatherings, like she is kind of shuffled off to the side. And when I read this letter, I felt like I absolutely knew what she was talking about. I come from a huge family. And we have lots of older members of our family.

And just a few weeks ago, I was at home. And one of them was describing that very thing. So I understand.

KAGAN: Well, let's ask Amy. What would your advice be to that 78-year-old woman who sent you that letter?

DICKINSON: Well, one of the things I would say to her is, No. 1, she's not missing that much. I mean...

KAGAN: Might be catching a break by avoiding some of us out there, yes.

DICKINSON: Really.

But I would also encourage her. First of all, I would say, I completely understand what she is saying, but I would also encourage her to mix with people her own age, people who have shared her experiences and who can kind of empathize with her. And I would suggest a couple of organizations she might want to get involved with.

KAGAN: That sounds like a very good answer.

DICKINSON: Yes.

KAGAN: Let me ask you this. Leading up this job, in doing the advice gig up until now, have you ever been stumped?

DICKINSON: Oh, I'm stumped in my own life. I was stumped 10 minutes ago. I am like Ms. Stumped. Yes. Oh, sure. But the good thing about this is, I get to -- I don't have to sit and come up with snappy instant answers. I get to sit and be thoughtful and think. And it gives me an opportunity that I kind of don't have in my own life sometimes, is to sit and think and be thoughtful and wise. It's great.

KAGAN: Well, let's look at something you are facing in your own life. How do you follow-up a class, amazing, famous act like Ann Landers?

DICKINSON: I don't know. I don't know. I'm trying. I'm tap dancing as fast as I can, you know?

KAGAN: Are you going to try -- of course, you're not going to be Ann Landers. Ann Landers was one a kind.

DICKINSON: Yes.

KAGAN: But are you going to try to kind of craft your own style and make your own space there at "The Trib"?

DICKINSON: Oh, yes, I totally do. And that's what they want. And that's why they hired me. I have my own narrative voice. I have got my own range of experience and my own kind of life choices and point of view. And they like that. And I'm comfortable with that.

KAGAN: And would you have one -- way of wrapping up -- we have asked you what America wants to ask you, but do you have one thing that you would like to teach America and the world? Because I imagine you are going to get letters and e-mail from all around the world.

DICKINSON: I don't know if I could nail it down to one thing.

But I do really want to talk about parenting. I am real interested in parenting. I am a deeply involved parent myself. And I would like to talk to parents and hear from parents about the choices they're making when they're guiding their kids. I feel like some of the stuff that's going on is kind of interesting right now.

KAGAN: Yes, you have a 14-year-old.

DICKINSON: Yes.

KAGAN: Yes. That can make a column unto itself.

DICKINSON: Oh, yes.

KAGAN: If people do have questions for you, how do they get in touch?

DICKINSON: I would love to hear from anybody out there at AskAmy@Tribune.com. Or write to me in care of "The Chicago Tribune."

KAGAN: Very, very simple. And if anybody has any advice for shortcuts for unpacking boxes, Amy has just moved to Chicago and probably would appreciate the tips. DICKINSON: Definitely.

KAGAN: Very good. We wish you well.

DICKINSON: Thank you.

KAGAN: Amy Dickinson, "Ask Amy," nice to meet you.

Well, ahead on NEWSNIGHT: a sailboat and its crew, they're trying to link classrooms all around the world. The story in our "On the Rise" series, it's up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: Finally from us, the segment we call "On the Rise." We have brought you these profiles before. Mostly, they're businesses that were started by bright young people looking to make a fortune.

Tonight, though, we focus on an organization where success is measured in how many kids get on reach the world, kids who have never had the young on their own, bright young people bringing a sailing adventure around the globe into an inner-city classroom.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reach the World is an educational nonprofit set up for underprivileged students in New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have done written research, Internet research to discover many new cultures.

HEATHER HALSTEAD, FOUNDER, REACH THE WORLD: We try to provide children with new insight into normal, everyday life in countries around the world, so that they can begin to relate their normal, everyday life to what goes on elsewhere.

I am Heather Halstead. I'm the executive director and founder of Reach the World Company. The boat's name is Makulu. Currently, Makulu is doing a 2 1/2 year circumnavigation around the world. And as we travel, we document our journey on our Web site. Right now, we have five people on board, which allows us to have one person in each academic discipline, so math, science, English, history, and then also to have a camera operator on board to do the video work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all coming from different backgrounds. And to have that work so quickly is amazing.

HALSTEAD: Have you started on working on any of the edits to the Caribbean section yet?

I had the idea for Reach the World when I was a senior in college. I had spent a lot of time working with teachers all over the nation. Teachers said: I'm getting all this pressure to teach with technology, but I'm not get any training. And there are no resources out there for me to use. What do I do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Through e-mail, they've been able to communicate with the crew of the Makulu.

HALSTEAD: Reach the World is designed to be customizable to a teacher's needs. Children who are in school can go to the Internet and pull up the ship's log, read the reports of crew members who are right now aboard an around-the-world expedition on a school ship.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're scheduled right now to do a launch tomorrow afternoon. We have a nine-day passage (INAUDIBLE) to make the mental change to some longer passages.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whenever you enter a port, the fact that you've arrived on a boat, there are so many things that you need to do that really get you out into the community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So is it a problem to get a boat? We oftentimes do school visits.

Yes, how do you write it?

And that's a way for us to ask questions to other kids in other parts of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you get to school?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On foot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On foot, OK.

HALSTEAD: For the most part, they are separated from the kids in New York.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When your radar is broken and you can't see any stars, how do you find your way?

HALSTEAD: When they get come to the classroom and visit with kids who have been studying the voyage of the Makulu...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we were going to Indonesia, we did a little project with you guys.

HALSTEAD: ... for them, that is the absolute cream of the crop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aaron (ph) and John (ph) and I got to enjoy some traditional Chinese tea at a Chinese tea house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's your water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know how long it took you to go to each places?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We started way over here.

HALSTEAD: One of the most important goals for Reach the World is to teach kids about teamwork and about risk assessment and about working together as a team to make something happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when we're on board the boat, we have batteries. But in order...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then we look at the chart. Have you guys ever heard of a chart? It's like a map that's for the ocean.

HALSTEAD: It's an idea that's on the move and will some day become a much larger resource that helps out kids all over the country and hopefully all over the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: And that is perfect inspiration for us to sail out of here for the weekend.

That's going to do it for us. I'm Daryn Kagan. Aaron Brown will be back in this seat on Monday night. And I will see you Monday morning from Atlanta.

Have a great weekend.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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