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Bombings Rock Iraq, Israel

Aired August 19, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: An explosion of terror at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. With deaths and danger on the rise, what can President Bush do? And what, if anything, did he do wrong?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The civilized world will not be intimidated. These killers will not determine the future of Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: From California, a makeover story. Governor Davis prepares to give a big speech confronting the recall, his faults, and Republicans.

Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks for joining us. I'm John King. Judy is off this week.

Double bombings in the Middle East today testing President Bush's efforts at peacemaking on two fronts. Less than two hours ago, a powerful bomb exploded aboard a bus in Jerusalem, killing at least 20 people, including some children. At least 80 others were hurt. We've just learned that the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad is claiming responsibility. The Bush administration already was scrambling to respond to the boldest act of terror yet in postwar Iraq.

A news conference was under way at the United Nations' headquarters in Baghdad when a truck bomb tore through the building. At least 17 people were killed, including the top U.N. special envoy to Iraq. At least 100 were wounded. The rescue and recover efforts still continuing.

President Bush responded by saying the civilized world will not be intimidated by killers. And the United Nations says it will not be deterred from its efforts to help the Iraqi people. But the president's critics say this tragedy is to them more proof the administration significantly underestimated the post-war security challenge in Iraq. Democratic presidential candidate and Senator, Bob Graham, says Mr. Bush should admit he made a mistake by declaring major combat was over back in May.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: I think that the President failed in a fundamental element of leadership to let the American people know before the war in Iraq commenced what the consequences would be in terms of casualties, duration of occupation and cost. But that's in the past.

What the present should do immediately is to speak to the American people about the current conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan. What's going to be required in order to stabilize those two countries, and what is the president's plan to do so? Is it going to be to send more American troops, to not have a rotation of those who are already there? Or will it be to change policy and attempt to get other nations more fully involved?


KING: Another Democratic presidential contender, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, says the terror attack in Iraq today should "explode the illusions of post-war progress and stability the Bush administration continues to cling to."

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is tracking the White House reaction. She's with the President in Crawford, Texas. Suzanne, the administration, what is it saying about this tough new criticism?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, of course, the administration is saying that they are on top of all of this and of course they know that this is a difficult situation to deal with inside of Iraq, but that it is going to take the resolve of the American people, as well as the international community. We're expected to get a statement. The communication team going to be releasing a statement, a reaction on de Mello's death. But President Bush earlier today did offer his condolences on those who were hurt and killed in this bomb blast.

The President was actually on the golf course when he got a call from his national security adviser telling him about what had occurred. He immediately went back to the Crawford ranch, where he made some calls to Ambassador Paul Bremer on the ground, as well as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to try to offer some assistance.

The message from the President today, however, is that the United States, the international community will be resolved in fighting terrorism. We know that there are at least 18 countries that have troops that are helping with the U.S. peacekeeping mission on the ground. The United Nations primarily responsible for the humanitarian assistance. But the Bush administration really framing this attack as an attack against the Iraqi people, using this bombing to make a plea for their help.


BUSH: All nations in the world face a challenge and a choice. By attempting to spread chaos and fear, terrorists are testing our will. Across the world they're finding that our will cannot be shaken.

We will persevere through every hardship. We will continue this war on terror until the killers are brought to justice. And we will prevail.


MALVEAUX: Now, John, as you know, of course, the concern from the Bush administration is whether or not they're going to lose some of that international support. There are not only, of course, troops on the ground aiding with the U.S. peacekeeping effort, but also you have this huge humanitarian mission by the United Nations. The administration has gone country to country asking for assistance, asking for troops.

Clearly, this is a setback to the administration, realizing just how dangerous the situation is on the ground. But also, one of the Bush aides said that of course he hopes that this really galvanizes the international community; that this is a defining moment in which people should unite against these terrorists, and including, most importantly, the Iraqi people -- John.

KING: Suzanne Malveaux, live from Crawford, Texas, thank you.

A seven-member congressional delegation was in Baghdad at the time of the bombing. It has now moved on to Kuwait City. Joining us live on the telephone, a leader of that delegation, Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Senator, the Democrats are saying not enough troops on the ground, the President is not being candid enough with the American people about the security challenge in Iraq. You are hours removed from Baghdad. Your assessment, sir?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, it's a terrible tragedy. Our sympathy and sorrow goes out to the families of those who were killed. The U.N. envoy there was a superb individual.

This is a terrible blow. You can't interpret it any other way. But we have been making progress there, there's no doubt about that. And that fact is obviously lost when you have a cataclysmic event like this.

But, John, the fundamental point is here we cannot afford to lose here. The future of the Middle East is at stake here and we need to do whatever is necessary. In any situation like this you learn and you make adjustments.

There has been a reduction in the number of incidents, but you have a very volatile mixture here of people who were Iraqi military, who melted into the population, Ba'athists, and now we have people coming in from Iran and Syria. And this makes it for a very difficult situation. But not one that can't be handled and one -- and it must be handled because there is so much at stake here.

We can't afford another Beirut or a Sudan. And I believe the American people will support the President when they are told what's at stake here and what will be necessary.

KING: Well, Senator, in your briefings in Baghdad, any sense on the intelligence of this apparent shift in tactics? You had the pipeline to Turkey twice blown up, the water main blown up, going after the U.N. building today. The terrorists, as the President calls them, the killers are certainly picking bigger targets, if you will.

MCCAIN: There's no doubt that the level of sophistication of these targets has improved from launching an RPG or AK-47 fire to fairly well orchestrated and sophisticated attacks. We have to get the basic services to the Iraqi people, and that's water and that's electricity and other services, and we have to continue towards the process of democratization.

But yes, their attacks are more sophisticated. We'll have to react. It may require some more people with different skills, it may require a larger army. I think that that may be because we are stretched thin, but this is also a process we cannot abandon.

KING: Stretched thin, sir. Do you mean if the administration perhaps will say, let's get some more international help, but as you well know, that will take time. Will your recommendation after this trip be, Mr. President, send in more U.S. troops and send them in now?

MCCAIN: My recommendation would be to evaluate what troops are there and what their skills are and what additional skills are needed. I believe for a long time that we need a larger army than the one we have now, but that's a process that takes -- it evolves over time. But we do need a larger army, but I also think that in light of the new kinds of challenges we're facing, we may need people with different skills. We may not need people with some of the skills they have there.

We obviously need better intelligence, John.

KING: On the question of intelligence, many are saying that, of course, if you are a terrorist and you want to target the United States in the Middle East, Iraq is now the place to go. Did you receive any hard intelligence that people are coming in from the outside with personnel, with explosives, with coordination, or is that just a suspicion? Did you see hard intelligence that that is the case?

MCCAIN: I did not see hard intelligence. I have talked to many people who are absolutely certain that there are individuals coming in, particularly more from Syria, some from Iran and other places through there. But the major problem remains these Ba'athists and others who melted into the population with the rapidity of our victory.

Hindsight is 20-20. There is no doubt that we have made mistakes, but the fact is we won an impressive and overwhelming victory. And we gave the Iraqi people and are giving them an opportunity to achieve democracy and freedom. We cannot abandon that effort. KING: Senator John McCain of Arizona, we thank you, sir, for calling us from Kuwait City. And we are thankful on this tragic day that you and your colleagues from Congress are safe and have moved on.

We want to go now to our Jane Arraf, who is inside that complex. We have been showing you the grim pictures all day. It is now dark in Iraq. The recovery efforts continue.

Jane, I believe, joins us on the telephone from the U.N. complex in Baghdad. Jane, what is the scene at this hour? Is the recovery effort continuing?

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: John, it's the scene of intense activity as the army is here; it has been here for several hours. They brought in heavy-moving equipment, bulldozers that are trying to clear these huge blocks of concrete. They've thrown up flood lights, and they are trying to clear immense pieces of rubble to try to find out who exactly might still be trapped, whether there are still people alive in this rubble.

The devastation is just amazing. It's almost as if a knife had sheered off the top part of this building.

A truck bomb, which appeared to have been a sizable one, a truck attached with explosives, detonated just beneath the office of the special envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello. And there are huge amounts of destruction here. Tangled metal that used to be cars. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) quite a long ways.

And the soldiers here were saying that there is a base nearby, as well as a base a couple of miles away. They heard the explosion from there. But now there are dozens of army people and military people here and bulldozers -- you may be able to hear them -- just trying to clear away along this rubble to get to people who might still be inside -- John.

KING: Jane Arraf, live in Baghdad at the site of an urgent rescue and recovery effort at the U.N. headquarters devastated today by a truck bombing.

The other sad story we are following on this day, a very violent day in the Middle East, is that deadly bus bombing in Israel. The White House is condemning the attack, saying the Palestinian Authority must do more to dismantle terror groups.

Tracking the latest for us is our Michael Holmes, who joins us live from Jerusalem. Michael, 20 dead, 80 injured, is that the latest?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is the latest, John. There could be more than 80 by the end of this -- what is going to be a very long night here. But 20 dead is the latest we've heard.

And I can also tell you that our people, CNN's people in Gaza have also received another claim of responsibility. It wasn't an hour ago that we had a call from Islamic Jihad giving us sufficient information to believe it was a credible claim from them that they had carried out this bombing. And we've now had a call from Hamas saying that they did it.

So we have two claims of responsibility from two groups that are supposedly engaging in a cease-fire at the moment. This bombing coming, according to Islamic Jihad, in response for the killing of one of their members by Israeli troops in Hebron last week. But this was quite a response, if indeed that's true.

Twenty dead, as you say, more than 80 injured. This was a long bus, a double-length bus. And it would appear that many of those on board the bus were actually orthodox observant Jews returning from the Western Wall near the old city, the Wailing Wall as it's known to many people.

Our Jerrold Kessel is actually at the scene of this bombing. He joins us now. Jerrold, bring us the latest from on the ground where you are.

Jerrold's not quite ready yet, but I can tell you, John, that the scene there was horrific. And anybody who has been anywhere near a suicide bombing can tell you that they're an awful scene. There were body parts all over and an awful (ph) job being done by those ambulance officers and medical workers who are tragically well versed in the routine.

As I said, I was myself having dinner not a mile away and heard this take place. Jerusalem has been very relaxed in the last few days as this cease-fire continues, and that's not the case anymore.

Jerrold Kessel has come on line now. Jerrold, bring us up to date with what you know on the ground there.

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN JERUSALEM DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF: Michael, grim scenes continuing here as the bodies continue to be evacuated, taken away one by one into the waiting ambulances. I'll move aside as maybe our camera can (UNINTELLIGIBLE) across.

As you see beyond the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the Israeli police into that waiting ambulance, another body. Regrettably, just a few minutes ago a very small body was carried away, judging by the size inside that white plastic bag. And there are still, perhaps, 10 or 12, but there is a number. No. 20 has been written on the last of the stretchers.

Now, I don't know if that includes the suicide bomber or not, but it does seem that there are 20 people that the police believe are accounted for. They'll still do their final forensic work and identifying of the dead. And we have 100 wounded.

So very grim scenes continuing here, Michael, as we await to see what will be the political and security fallout. Back to you.

HOLMES: Jerrold, give us some more information, if you can, on those who were on the bus. Now we understand that many of them were observant Jews. This was near an ultra -- or near an ultra Orthodox neighborhood. They were returning from the Wailing Wall, that's your understanding?

KESSEL: Yes it is. In fact, the bus -- bus No. 2, that's the stricken bus here, had started its route from the Wailing Wall, the Western Wall, the place to which Jews go to pray, the remnant of their temples. And it could have been there were lots of families there, because we do understand there were a lot of children on the bus, too.

The bus would have then come from the old city, made its way here. We're just about 300, 400 yards from the outer perimeter wall of the old city, but about a mile, I would say, from the beginning of the route coming to this orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. And here, as the bus turned the corner, the explosion took place. And as you see, Michael, a double length bus counting for the huge number of casualties aboard the vehicle -- Michael.

HOLMES: Jerrold Kessel there on the scene of this tragic incident taking place tonight. Twenty dead, Jerrold now saying up to 100 wounded -- John.

KING: Michael Holmes and Jerrold Kessel live in Jerusalem. Thank you for your work on this difficult day.

And already some evidence of the political fallout. An Israeli government spokesman saying talks aimed at handing back four Palestinian cities and towns to Palestinian security forces will be at least suspended because of this tragic development today.

We'll have much more on the bombings in Iraq and Israel ahead on CNN. But up next, we'll turn to California politics and take a look at Arnold Schwarzenegger's new ads.

Plus, what does Governor Gray Davis hope to accomplish tonight in his first major speech on the drive to oust him from office? I'll ask a veteran political strategist when INSIDE POLITICS returns.



ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: A historic election has come about because there's a tremendous disconnect between the people of California and the leaders of California. We the people are doing our job. Working hard, raising our families and paying taxes. But the politicians are not doing their job.

We can do better than that. After all, we are California, always at the forefront of innovation. Our farm products feed the world and our technology is second to none.

I'm running for governor to lead the movement for change and give California back its future. I stand for fiscally responsible government: rebuilding California's economic engine, putting the needs of children first, and reforming our political system so that the public interest comes before special interest. I want to be the people's governor. I will work honestly without fear or favor to do what is right for all Californians.

ANNOUNCER: Join Arnold and let's bring California back.


KING: Let's bring in now our Charles Feldman for a little bit of analysis of this ad. Charles, "let's bring California back," an upbeat message there in the first TV ad.

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sure is. And, in fact, not much different, John, than his message almost two weeks ago on "The Tonight Show" when he announced that he was running for governor. No specifics, nothing about what he intends to do. But all this stuff about how he wants to make life better in California for children and how he wants to be the people's governor.

Tomorrow there's going to be an economic summit. So we're hoping there will be some more specifics out of that.

KING: The beginning. Charles Feldman, live in Los Angeles, who will be keeping track of the beginning of the fleshing out, if you will, of the Schwarzenegger campaign strategy.

In Los Angeles tonight, another major recall event. Embattled Governor Gray Davis will call on his constituents to give him another chance. In what is being billed as a major speech, the governor is expected to acknowledge his personal political shortcomings, while defending his leadership of the nation's largest state.

Davis aides say the governor will cast the recall effort as part of the decade-long pattern of Republican (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They say he'll compare it to the Clinton impeachment crisis. GOP efforts to redraw congressional lines in Texas and perhaps the Florida election debacle.

Davis has quite a bit at stake tonight. Veteran political strategist Clint Reilly joins me now to discuss the governor's next move.

Clint Reilly, I have to say the governor has been out campaigning every day. Aides say this is his first major speech. Some would say it is the first major sign of desperation.

CLINT REILLY, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, I think the last week's field poll showed Davis almost 20 points behind. And the first thing he's got to do is narrow the gap to high single digits or ten points at the most.

The best way for him to do that is to do what he's doing, which is to try to bring Democrats home. Democrats are still nearly half the vote in California. And if he can get a good chunk of them, he can get this race down back into contention.

KING: And we have heard, Clint Reilly, of perhaps tensions with Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, who of course is on the ballot. We have heard that perhaps Labor will not come up with that $10 million it promised Governor Davis to fight the recall. How many people are waiting to see maybe he has a week, maybe he has two, if he can turn this around before they just pull the plug?

REILLY: Well, I think, first of all, the Republicans are in deep trouble in this race. The Field Poll showed Schwarzenegger lagging behind Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante. And that's because the Republicans are splitting the vote.

Bustamante currently has a long history of tension, antagonism with Gray Davis. Insiders are saying they need to repair that relationship or it may end up rupturing the Democratic chances of winning this race.

KING: You say repturing. Is it reptured now in your sense? You know these folks quite well. Are they already deciding, let's just go with Lieutenant Governor Bustamante?

REILLY: Well, I think there are a couple of things happening here, first of all. First of all, you're seeing the emergence of the Latino vote in this race. Latinos are 15 members in the state legislature, eight members in the state Senate. They're 15 percent of the statewide vote and a third of California's population.

Bustamante represents the coming out of Latino power in this state. Governor Davis has some real serious negative history with Bustamante, and some of it, quite frankly, is his own doing.

KING: I want to ask you, sir, your thoughts on the strategy of recalling the Clinton impeachment, recalling perhaps the Florida debacle and saying, don't let the Republicans take this away from us. Is that likely to work, or are voters already -- have they already made up their mind that they're mad at Gray Davis?

REILLY: Well, first of all, Gray Davis has got to get this race back into contention. He has to make it winnable. It's not winnable at the present time.

The first step in making it winnable is to call upon his Democratic surrogates: Bill Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, fellow statewide office holders to condemn the recall and to bring Democratic votes back to the no on recall position. If he does that, if he can consolidate 75 percent of the Democratic vote, this is a 50 to 40 percent race on recall and he has a shot at defeating the recall in the last 30 days of the election.

KING: Clint Reilly, live from San Francisco, thank you, sir, for helping us understand the major challenge facing Governor Gray Davis when he gives that major speech in Los Angeles tonight.

REILLY: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, sir.

Now the leading Democrat on the ballot to replace Davis is talking dollars and cents. That story when we return.


KING: California's lieutenant governor insists the recall is a bad idea and says he still opposes it. But if voters want to remove Gray Davis, Cruz Bustamante wants to be their first choice.

A few hours ago, he unveiled his plan to solve the state's economic crisis. The proposal requires spending cuts, as well as $8 billion in new tax hikes. His campaign equates that to "tough love." Bustamante says he has the skills to move beyond all the political finger pointing.


LT. GOV. CRUZ BUSTAMANTE (D), CALIFORNIA: It is time for everyone to stop blaming everyone else. There are those who blame the stock market's fall; others say it was the dot-com bust. Others blame the Bush economic policies or the Davis administration budget estimates. The Republicans say that the Democrats are overspending, but it was the Republicans who held up the budget until they got $270 million more in spending.


KING: Tomorrow will, without a doubt, be another very busy day in the campaign. In addition to launching his first TV ad, Arnold Schwarzenegger holds a meeting with his high profile economic team, which includes the legendary investor, Warren Buffett, and former Reagan administration secretary of state, George Schultz.

Also tomorrow, former Los Angeles Olympics chief and baseball commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, plans a big kick-off to his campaign. He is expected to offer his economic plan for the state and begin a series of interviews with major state newspapers.

Now checking the headlines in Campaign News Daily, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards is dismissing talk that he may drop his presidential campaign to focus on recapturing his North Carolina Senate seat. When asked by reporters in Iowa about speculation, he may get out of the White House race, Edwards said, "I am totally in this race to stay." His home state "Raleigh News Observer" says Edwards described the rumors as "fantasy."

President Bush's reelection team has launched its official campaign Web site: The site includes ways for supporters to organize and to donate money to the Bush-Cheney reelection effort. It also features a special tool enabling so-called loggers to spread the Bush campaign message.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS today. Thanks for watching. I'm John King.


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