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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With David Kay; Interview With Joe Lieberman
Aired February 1, 2004 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington and here in Atlanta, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 8 p.m. in Mecca, and 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching, from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
In just a few minutes, we'll get live reports from the Democratic presidential campaign trail here in the United States. Plus a special interview with the former chief U.S. weapons hunter in Iraq, David Kay.
First, though, let's go to Washington for a quick check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: First, more on that deadly stampede in Saudi Arabia, as some 2 million Muslim pilgrims gathered to worship in Mecca, one of Islam's holiest sites.
CNN's Adil Bradlow is joining us on the phone with more -- Adil.
ADIL BRADLOW, CNN PRODUCER: Indeed, Wolf, tragedy has stuck again at the annual Muslim pilgrimage, or hajj. 244 pilgrims were trampled to death, and another 244 injured, some of these seriously, during the ritual stoning of the devil ceremony, which marks the climax of the five-day pilgrimage.
According to the Saudi minister in charge of the hajj, Iyad Madani (ph), the stampede began at around 9 a.m. local time on the upper level of the Jamarat (ph) Bridge, and went on for nearly 30 minutes, as police and rescue workers attempted to reach the victims who were trapped around the circular retaining wall that protects the stone pillar that symbolizes the devil.
The stoning ritual was described by the minister as the most dangerous part of the pilgrimage, and has in recent years seen scores of pilgrims being killed, but not since 1994, when 270 pilgrims died in a similar incident, has the hajj witnessed such a tragedy.
The minister went on to say that a large number of the victims were believed to be Saudi nationals who had not been authorized to perform the hajj. In recent years, the Saudis have instituted a quota system, in an effort to limit the number of pilgrims and thus reduce the strain on resources and facilities -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Adil Bradlow, with a shocking, shocking story indeed. Thanks very much for that report.
Now to Iraq, where there's more death and destruction. Two suicide bombings in Irbil in the northern part of the country today, killing dozens of people at the headquarters of two Kurdish political parties.
CNN's Michael Holmes is following the story for us. He is joining us now live -- Michael.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESOPNDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, related in some way to the hajj, as well, it's the beginning of the four-day Muslim holiday Eid Al-Adha, which marks the end of the hajj.
And what was happening in northern Iraq at the headquarters of the two main political parties there, rival political parties, but recently working together, officials there were welcoming hundreds, literally hundreds of people at those centers to mark the start of Eid Al-Adha, when two suicide bombers almost simultaneously detonated themselves, one actually inside one of the buildings.
As you pointed out at the top of the program, Wolf, more than 50 dead, dozens, many dozens of people have been wounded.
This is, ironically, a relatively stable part of Iraq. A signal, perhaps, being sent that no one is safe nowhere in the country.
Now, lost in the blast some of the political leadership, as you would imagine, including the deputy prime minister, if you like, of the KDP. The two parties involved, the Kurdish Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, obviously big blow being dealt to them, both in terms of political structure and, of course, in just the simple terms of the loss of life.
The coalition again pointing out, spokesman today pointing out, that they believe that attacks like this that involve suicide attacks, bear all the hallmarks of what they call "foreign fighters." An investigation, of course, is under way, Wolf.
BLITZER: CNN's Michael Holmes in Baghdad.
Thanks, Michael, for that report.
On the terrorism front, new security concerns have prompted the cancellation of a number of flights between Europe and the United States. CNN's Elaine Quijano is watching the story for us from Dulles International Airport. That's just outside Washington, D.C.
Elaine, tell our viewers around the world what's going on.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf.
Well, three named airlines, two specific dates today and tomorrow, those just some of the details that U.S. officials say they have pieced together from information they have gathered over the past few days, information that they believe indicates al Qaeda may be targeting international flights into the United States.
Now, the information prompted the cancellation of several flights, including British Airways flights 223, London to Washington. These flights being canceled today and tomorrow. Now, you recall, B.A. flight 223, the same flight grounded twice in January for security.
Also canceled: B.A. flight 207, London to Miami; Air France flight 26, Paris to Washington; and, finally, a U.S.-based carrier named Continental Airlines, flight number 17 from Glasgow, Scotland, to Los Angeles via Newark.
Now, government officials say the intelligence they have gathered is specific and credible, in their words, that it was information from a credible source corroborated by other intelligence.
Now, despite the security concerns, however, officials say there are no plans to raise the nation's terror threat level. Part of the reason, according to one U.S. official, because of the very specific nature of the threat information that is coming in at this time.
Meantime, here at Dulles, some passengers that we have talked to who are traveling to and from Europe say that they are concerned, although it's not enough to stop them from boarding flights at this time -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Elaine Quijano at Dulles International Airport, outside Washington, D.C.
Elaine, thanks very much.
And now to U.S. politics. Democratic presidential candidates are sprinting toward the next round of contests in seven states. That's coming up this Tuesday. Our national correspondent Bob Franken is in one of those key states, namely South Carolina.
Bob, set the stage for us.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you pointed out, there's a sprint going on, but unlike the first two events, this is a seven-state sprint. It's going to be the rest of the campaign now a battle for delegates, with multistate elections going on.
And the polls show some interesting results right now. A CNN-Los Angeles Times poll shows just how the race is beginning to shape up. If you go to Arizona, you see that John Kerry is in the lead, with Clark in second place. In Missouri, Kerry is so far in the lead, it's almost you don't even need to talk about second place.
Here South Carolina, the story is a different one. You have John Edwards who is running, in effect, as a favorite son. He has a lead, but Kerry is breathing down his neck.
One of the other things you'll see in these polls is that Howard Dean is nowhere, or it seems that way. And we're also hearing, as they've tabulated the money that is being taken and spent, that Dean has gone through $32 million of $41 million, saying that the expenditures were part of a grand strategy that wasn't so grand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: We spent a lot of money in Iowa and New Hampshire trying to win. We were trying to do what, essentially, what John Kerry is now doing. We were planning on trying to get the huge momentum out of Iowa, and it didn't work. We took an enormous gamble, and it didn't work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: It didn't work, but he's trying to recover now, and Dean says that he's in this no matter how he does on Tuesday.
One of the other candidates that's been the subject of a lot of speculation about pulling out is Joe Lieberman. Lieberman, in fact, in this state that is supposed to be the Edwards home territory, Lieberman got the endorsement of two of the state's largest newspapers today, including the largest, a paper that's called The State.
FRANKEN: It's a very confusing race, Wolf.
BLITZER: Bob Franken is there, fortunately for us, to help us explain all the confusion.
Bob, thanks very much for that report. We'll be checking in with you throughout the day and in coming days as well.
Up next, shock and awe over new revelations about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. We'll speak live with the former U.S. top weapons inspector, David Kay, and his very controversial conclusions.
And up later, will this Tuesday be Joe Lieberman's last stand in his run for the White House, or will he carry on? We'll have my interview with the Democratic presidential candidate.
Our "LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID KAY, FORMER U.S. CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: It turns out we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay testifying before a U.S. Senate panel earlier this week and causing quite a stir.
Joining us now live from Washington is David Kay.
Mr. Kay, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.
I know you support some sort of outside investigation, an independent investigation, to take a look back at U.S. intelligence -- how good it was, how bad it was. What form do you believe this investigation should take?
KAY: Wolf, it can take many forms. And I'm certainly not an expert on that.
I think it'd be important -- it's important that it be outside the normal political process, so it can have the maximum credibility.
This is important for domestic support of the intelligence community and of our foreign policy. It's important for national security. And it's certainly important for our ability to lead other countries in the future against threats that we may think threaten us.
BLITZER: What do you believe, knowing what you do know -- you spent nine months in Iraq, you've gone through all the intelligence. Knowing what you know right now, what's your bottom-line conclusion, what went wrong? How could the U.S. intelligence community have gotten it so wrong?
KAY: Well, Wolf, I don't think it's a single explanation. I think there are multiple.
First of all, give the Iraqis their credit. They carried out an active deception campaign, in part to influence what we thought of them.
Secondly, I think the intelligence communities -- not just ours, but those around the world -- became too addicted to having U.N. inspectors on the ground and didn't have their own independent sources of information. When those inspectors left in '98, they were left without any human intelligence. And so they relied increasingly on defectors and technical intelligence -- spy satellites and communication intercepts. I think that led them wrong.
BLITZER: When you came out with your interim report last October, you said, among other things, you said, "My advice to everyone is still don't be surprised by surprises in Iraq."
You don't anticipate any more surprises right now, as far as WMD are concerned?
KAY: Iraq has always been full of surprises, Wolf. About 12 years of my life has been involved with it.
I do not expect surprises that would reverse my conclusion that there were no large stockpiles of weaponized WMD at the time Operation Iraqi Freedom began.
BLITZER: And this came as a huge surprise, not only to every -- but to you as well, because going into the war, you were convinced there were significant stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq. KAY: Yes, and it's -- you know, Wolf, it's hard for people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) outside and not spent a lot of time on this to realize how broad the consensus was. It included not only American intelligence officials. It included the British, the French, the Germans and, yes, even the Russians, who held the view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
Now, they differed on how serious a threat and what the course of action should be. But there was very little difference around the world on the issue, "Does he have weapons?" Yes, he did, was the consensus.
BLITZER: How much of this bad intelligence -- the conclusions, the analysis -- do you think was the result of just simply wanting to believe what defectors were saying, defectors telling the U.S. and other allies information they thought that the allies, including the U.S., wanted to hear, and, of course, getting it all wrong?
KAY: Well, I think from the analyst's perspective, it was not a case of wanting to believe what they said. It was a case of there was no other regular source of information.
You know, we talk about connecting dots. I think we will conclude, when we look back that, Iraq was a case where we did not have enough collection. There was not enough dots. The dots that were there tended to get connected when they should not have been connected.
BLITZER: Here is what the CIA is still saying. They have someone, Charles Duelfer, been appointed to replace you to continue the search. They're suggesting that there are still millions, in their words, millions of documents that have to be translated, hundreds of sites that have to be visited and thousands of Iraqi scientists and officials yet to be interrogated.
Do they have a point?
KAY: Well, certainly, there is more to be done. And, Wolf, I'm first among those who believe that the inspection effort ought to continue.
But look, this is a little bit like Apollo 13. "Houston, we have a problem." And Houston's saying, "Well, we're not sure there's a -- you're a long way from the moon. Why don't you continue and see if you make it."
Look, we know we have a problem now. Now's the time to start understanding the source of that problem and correcting it, not to wait until the very end.
BLITZER: Why did you resign at this particular time?
KAY: It was because the essential tools that I had said were essential for my continuing -- that is, an Iraqi survey group totally focused on WMD, the search for WMD -- and the resources were starting to be bled away for other quite important purposes, let me be clear about it -- counterterrorism and force protection.
I thought those resources should come from somewhere else other than the search for WMD. Those who make those decisions thought otherwise.
BLITZER: Does Charles Duelfer, the man who has been named to replace you to continue the hunt for WMD in Iraq, does he have the resources, adequate resources to continue this job?
KAY: I think you'll have to ask Charles whether he's happy with the resource level. I can only speak for my unhappiness with the resources and chain of command that I had. I won't comment for him.
BLITZER: One point that you did make in your testimony before the Congress was that the U.S. government simply does not have enough Arabic-speaking analysts and officers to be able to find out precisely what's going on, that this is perhaps the biggest intelligence-related problem the U.S. intelligence community has.
KAY: Well, it certainly was one of the surprises I had, because Iraq's been on our radar screen, certainly the Middle East has been a center of attention, for decades. One would have thought we would have ginned up the intelligence analysts and case officers who were capable of operating in that area. In fact, Arabic speakers are in extraordinary short supply.
BLITZER: Here's what the president said this week in the aftermath of your very outspoken, blunt assessment and your resignation. Listen to President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a grave and gathering threat to America and the world. There's just no doubt in my mind. And I say that based upon intelligence that I saw prior to the decision to go into Iraq, and I say that based upon what I know today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The second part of that intrigues me, what he knows today. The intelligence going in apparently was not that good, but is there current intelligence that suggests that -- to back up what the president just said?
KAY: Well, you really ought to ask the president that question rather than me. I don't know what intelligence he's seen.
I certainly believe that Saddam was a gathering threat. In fact, I told the Senate I think, in many ways, it will probably turn out that Saddam and that regime was more dangerous than we anticipated, because, in fact, it was falling apart into unbelievable depravity and corruption. Everything was for sale at a price, and no one was watching it.
So I think, over another five-year period, it would have been more than a gathering threat, as people tried to acquire the technology, the talent that they had for making weapons of mass destruction.
BLITZER: Should George Tenet, the CIA director, the director of Central Intelligence, resign in the aftermath of this blunder?
KAY: Wolf, I hope we don't descend into a scalp hunt, to nail a scalp on the wall and think we've solved the problem by doing that.
I suspect what we're dealing here with are fundamental problems. They go back at least to our misinterpretation of the structure of the Soviet Union, as it neared its end in the '80s.
Senator Roberts used a phrase I like. He was tired of chairing "Oh, my God" hearings, and he named a list: the USS Cole, Khobar Towers, 9/11.
Look, we've got serious problems here, and we should not enjoy the Washington sport of thinking, "If we can only find an individual to take the fall, we've solved the problem."
BLITZER: You had earlier been quoted as saying that perhaps the Iraqis had sent some of the sensitive weapons of mass destruction stockpiles to a neighboring country, perhaps Syria. Do you believe that?
KAY: That was a compressed and rather inaccurate part of what I said. I said we had ample evidence that, before the war, a vast amount of material moved across the Iraqi-Syrian border. We don't know what that is.
And in fact, the strategy we followed, since we couldn't get Syrian cooperation, was try to go back to the first principles and see if there was any indication that large amounts of weapons had, in fact, been produced prior to the war and were stockpiled. We came to the conclusion that they had not.
BLITZER: I know that you spent a lot of time speaking with all the -- at least most of the captured Iraqis who were involved in WMD. Did you have a chance to sit down with Saddam Hussein himself?
KAY: No, I did not, but certainly others who worked with for the Iraqi Survey Group and U.S. intelligence have done that.
BLITZER: And the reason, you didn't want to do that, or they didn't want you to do it?
KAY: No, no, I was, literally, I was in transit back home.
BLITZER: One final question, because it's come up in the new issue of U.S. News and World Report, suggesting than in your decision to blame the intelligence community, as opposed to the Bush administration, for trying to pressure the intelligence, they write in the current issue, "Some have even questioned the motives of Kay, who in the last four years has given political contribution to both President Bush and the Republican National Committee." I want to give a chance to respond to that, if you're now tailoring your comments for political purposes?
KAY: Wolf, I think if you ask anyone at the White House if they thought I was tailoring my comments to their advantage, there would be shock and horror.
No. It has nothing at all to do with that.
BLITZER: And a final question on U.S. credibility, looking down the road, Iran, certainly North Korea. What has this done, this whole experience done to damage, if you will, U.S. credibility the next time the U.S. says the United States must preempt because of the intelligence available?
KAY: Well, I think our credibility not only with foreigners, countries we'd asked to support us, but probably domestically in our own country, is at stake now.
And that's, I think, one reason we in fact do need an investigation, to try to understand what went wrong, is because it is at stake. It's quite clear there have been things that have been wrong, errors of interpretation and analysis, and we need to understand why.
BLITZER: David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector, thanks very much for joining us once again.
KAY: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, we'll get a quick check of the hour's top stories.
Then, the weapons fallout: We'll talk with two key U.S. senators about the controversy over the Bush administration's prewar claims.
And later, the Reverend Al Sharpton's southern strategy: Will it put him in the thick of the Democratic presidential race, or will he simply be a spoiler? A conversation with the candidate and civil rights activist.
All that, much more. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Joining us now, two key members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee: in his home state of Delaware, the committee's top Democrat, Senator Joe Biden; and in Washington, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. He also serves on the Intelligence Committee.
Senators, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Senator Hagel, let me begin with you. Is it time for an outside, independent investigation to take a look at pre-war intelligence on WMD, weapons of mass destruction, in Iraq?
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I don't think there's any way around it, Wolf. We obviously have very serious gaps in our intelligence capabilities. And I think institutional reform within the intelligence community is going to have to be dealt with, and I think sooner rather than later.
My only adjustment to that answer would be that I think it's important that the Senate Intelligence Committee be allowed to complete its report, which should be finished within the next few weeks, and let's see what we learn from that report. Maybe there will be recommendations attached to it before we charge off on another independent commission effort.
But clearly, it is going to require outside effort, probably through an outside commission, to deal with some of these very serious problems.
BLITZER: I assume you agree, Senator Biden?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Yes, I do, Wolf. America's credibility's at stake. This isn't about politics anymore.
You remember that story when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred and the president of the United States sent the secretary of state to see Charles de Gaulle, and he was telling Charles de Gaulle we needed his help, and there may be a nuclear war. And he looked at Charles de Gaulle and said President Kennedy authorized me to show you these satellite reconnaissance photos, and de Gaulle put his hand up and said, "Mr. Secretary, it's not necessary. I know the president, I trust him. I need not see it." We've got to get back to that place, because no leader in the world would respond to President Bush that way today.
And everything is at stake here, whether you are talking about Iran, whether you're talking about North Korea in the future. So it's absolutely necessary that we have a look.
BLITZER: Senator Hagel, I want you to listen to what David Kay, what he told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week on who is responsible primarily for this failure. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAY: Let me take one of the explanations most commonly given: Analysts were pressured to reach conclusions that would fit the political agenda of one or another administration.
I deeply think that is a wrong explanation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You know the career professionals in the intelligence community, Senator Hagel. You also know the administration's mindset, many of the top administration officials clearly wanting to go after Saddam Hussein. Was there undue pressure to tailor estimates? HAGEL: Well, I think David Kay's comment speaks for itself.
As I just noted, and certainly you are aware, I think most of the country is, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has been reviewing the pre-war intelligence for the last few months, and we've had many hearings. We've literally spent hundreds of hours, especially the staff, at this. And so far, I think Dr. Kay's analysis is correct. We have been unable to find any overt pressure that came from the administration on the analysts changing their opinions.
However, that said, we are realistically attuned to this, too. And there is a certain environment that goes with a line of questioning. And the nuances and the subtleties that go with that. That's another reason, I think, why an outside commission is going to be required to take a look at the entire universe of our intelligence community.
BLITZER: I want you to respond to that as well, Senator Biden. But listen to what President Bush said about it earlier in the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I want the American people to know that I, too, want to know the facts. I want to be able to compare what the Iraqi Survey Group has found with what we thought prior to going into Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Democratic presidential candidate, Howard Dean, once again, insisted this morning that Vice President Cheney went over to the CIA, met with mid-level officials, analysts and, in effect, pressured them to come up with what he wanted to hear.
Do you have any evidence at all to accept that?
BIDEN: No, I don't have any evidence to accept that, but I do have evidence to know that Vice President Cheney said things that weren't accurate.
Vice President Cheney, when I was on "Face the Nation," excuse the reference, the same day he was on "Meet the Press," said on "Meet the Press," "The Iraqis have reconstituted their nuclear capability." Asked why, he said he had intelligence to that. I said, "I've got the intelligence, I saw no evidence of that. None whatsoever."
There was never any evidence of that. No intelligence person ever said that that I'm aware of. And Vice President Cheney went ahead and blandly and baldly stated it. It was not accurate.
So one of the things we have to look at is not whether or not just whether there was pressure, but whether or not the information given to the administration was properly used.
And if you notice, what you had the president on a moment ago in a clip, and he said, and I quote, there is -- he is convinced, quote, "There is a grave and gathering threat." That's fundamentally different than what he said before the war. He said there was an imminent threat. If you noticed, Wolf, he dropped "imminent" for "gathering."
BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt you for one second. Some of his aides repeatedly used the word "imminent," but the president, in his defense, he repeats he never used, personally, the word "imminent," though some of his top aides used that word. He used the word "gathering," if you will. It might be nitpicking, but that's just a point that the White House makes.
BIDEN: Well, I don't think it's nitpicking. I think it's important. And if that's correct, then I stand corrected.
But everybody I spoke to, everybody that came before our committee, all the administration officials, talked about an imminent threat.
If it was a gathering threat, Wolf, then there was no need to move when we did without the help of the rest of the world.
The whole reason for making it appear that there was a nuclear reconstituted capability and weaponized material -- and I, again, on your show, you asked me whether I thought there was weaponized material at the time, and I said I saw zero evidence from the intelligence community that he had weaponized it, to use the phrase of administration officials, to be able to kill millions of people.
There was simply no evidence that I was ever shown, as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and then the ranking member, that would lead one to reasonably believe any of those assertions made by any administration official who said it was true.
BLITZER: Well, let me let Senator Hagel weigh in on that.
And I'll just agree with Senator Biden that other aides repeatedly used the word "imminent," though the president -- we've looked, and we haven't found any reference where the president publicly used the word "imminent."
BIDEN: I take your word for that. I take your word for that. I don't -- and I'm not questioning you.
BLITZER: All right, go ahead, Senator Hagel.
HAGEL: Well, there's no question that the language used by -- from the president, the vice president, on down, in the Bush administration, in the build-up to go to war with Iraq.
Go back to the vice president's speech before the VFW convention in August of 2002. These were very defined dynamics of all the reasons that -- in a very assured way -- that were presented in his speech why we must go to war with Iraq. And there was a build-up to that.
And that's why I say that we need to open this up in a very nonpartisan, outside commission, to see where we are. It is just as Senator Biden said. It's not just that the intelligence capability of this country, but it is far beyond that in some ways, and that is the credibility of who we are around the world and the trust of our government and our leaders.
BLITZER: All right. Senators, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. Senator Biden, Senator Hagel, always good to have you on "LATE EDITION."
HAGEL: Thanks, Wolf.
BIDEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. When we come back, Senator Joe Lieberman will join us. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Although putting on the best face on his showing in New Hampshire, the Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman came in a distant and disappointing fifth place. He's now counting on a rebound in Tuesday's spate of presidential contests.
I spoke with Senator Lieberman earlier today.
BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Before we talk about politics, let's talk about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or, perhaps, lack thereof. Is it time now for an outside independent commission to take a look at the intelligence, which apparently was faulty?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely. I gather that the administration may be changing its mind on its original position against such a commission. It just didn't make any sense.
The fact is, almost everybody agrees that the intelligence we had on the weapons of mass destruction before the war against Saddam was faulty. And we ought to find out why -- the president ought to want more than anybody else to find out why.
But I do want to make clear, Wolf, that we know that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction in the '80s, because he used them against the Kurds and the Iranians. And in the '90s, he declared to the United Nations that he had enormous quantities of chemical and biological which could have killed tens of millions of people.
So what he did with them, why he didn't -- why we haven't found those weapons now, those are all critically important questions for us to answer, answer for our future security. And one thing I would do that George Bush hasn't done, a total reform of our intelligence agencies. It's tough work. It's not science. But they've let us down now a couple of times, and somebody has to be held accountable.
BLITZER: So you're suggesting it's the career professionals in the intelligence community largely responsible for this blunder, as opposed to the Bush administration top officials squeezing intelligence analysts to come up with an analysis that they prefer to justify war?
LIEBERMAN: That seems to be what David Kay is saying. I'm not sure, and that's one of the questions that I would want an independent commission to investigate. Where did the intelligence agencies fall short, and were they under pressure from the Bush administration to present a story more graphic, so that the administration could go with what they thought was the best argument, even if it wasn't the most fact-based argument? And did the administration oversell the case?
See, what angers me -- because I always felt overthrowing Saddam was in the interest of America's security -- is that we didn't have to stress the weapons of mass destruction argument more than the facts allowed.
This man was a brutal dictator, a homicidal maniac, killed hundreds of thousands of his own people, hated the United States, tried to kill former President Bush, supported terrorism. He was a ticking time bomb. And the fact that we've taken him out definitely makes our future and our children's a lot safer.
So it's too bad that the administration and/or the intelligence agencies created a circumstance where they put clouds of doubt over the reasons for which we took action. This was a just cause, and I will always believe that.
BLITZER: As you know, there already is an outside commission that's been looking into the events leading up to 9/11, whether there was bad intelligence, whether 9/11 could have been prevented.
You and Senator McCain have been looking at this commission, and you're ready to ask that it continue, even though it's supposedly wrapping up its business.
LIEBERMAN: Right. I mean, look, John McCain and I, about a month after September 11th, got together, across party lines, as we often do, and said we've got to have an independent commission investigating September 11th to find out everything about how it could have happened, so we can do everything we can to make sure it never happens again.
The Bush administration's reaction to this commission has been really unacceptable and unbelievable. They fought it for a year. We finally pushed it through with the help of the families of those who were killed on September 11th. The administration has not fully cooperated with the commission.
Now it's running up against a deadline. And the commission asked for an extension. The administration seemed to be opposing it.
And John McCain and I tomorrow are going to introduce legislation that will extend it for six months.
It gets it beyond the election day. The families don't want this search for how their loved ones died to be politicized in any way.
It's the right thing to do, and I sure hope the administration, which has opposed a two-month extension, will now support a six-month extension. Because there ought not to be any time limit or any defensiveness, as the administration has shown, on the search for truth about how September 11th happened.
BLITZER: All right. Senator, let's make the turn to a subject close to your heart right now: presidential politics.
I want you listen to what the chairman of the Democratic Party said a couple weeks ago, looking ahead to the big contest this Tuesday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think, on the morning of February 4th, if you are a Democratic candidate for president and you haven't won one of those nine contests, I would assume, at that point, you really need to assess your candidacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I assume that that means, Terry McAuliffe suggests, that you should drop out.
Right now you're nationally and in most of these states up for these political contests on Tuesday, you're not doing very well. Are you assessing whether you should stay in the race?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I think we're going to let the voters speak. And, you know, I intend to do well on Tuesday, Wolf. There's no question John Kerry has got a bounce from his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. But Iowa and New Hampshire -- great states, great people -- are not the country.
You know, I was very gratified that I got endorsed today by the largest paper in South Carolina, The State. And they say in there if people of South Carolina are just going to follow along with what New Hampshire did, why hold a primary?
I mean, let's choose the moderate Democrat in the race who's got a record of conviction, of independence, of bringing together people across party lines to make the country safer and better. And that's me. And that's the same thing the Arizona Republic said in its editorial a couple of days ago, so I...
BLITZER: And you got the -- you got the endorsement of the Manchester Union Leader in New Hampshire. That didn't exactly bring you to the top.
But let's take a look at the latest CNN-Los Angeles Times polls that we've just released today.
In Arizona, look at this. You are only at 3 percent in this poll. In South Carolina, a state you just mentioned, Lieberman is only at 4 percent in this poll.
The CNN-L.A. Times in Missouri, an important state, the biggest prize on Tuesday: You're only at 6 percent in this poll.
And even in Delaware, where you've invested a lot of time -- and you're there right now, in fact -- this most recent American Research Group poll has you second with 16 percent, but John Kerry with 27 percent.
It doesn't look very good, does it?
LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, our numbers that we've seen -- not just in our polls, but other polls -- show me higher, particularly in Arizona, South Carolina and Delaware. We're very competitive in Oklahoma.
You know, it's up to the voters. Fortunately, polls don't pick presidents. People do.
And I'm reaching out to the people in these states and saying, "Do you want to beat George Bush? The way you're going to do it is by nominating a moderate Democrat."
I'm the only moderate Democrat in this race with 30 years of experience, a record of independence, as strong on defense as I am, in fighting for the middle class, for tax cuts and cheaper and more affordable health insurance. And that's the package that has won before for Democrats like Bill Clinton and will win again.
So, I'm asking the voters, don't be an echo of what's happened in two states. Make your own decision, as these newspaper endorsements -- from South Carolina to Oklahoma to Arizona, and today the Seattle Times endorsed me -- are saying to the voters. Go with the centrist Democrat, because centrist Democrats win elections, unite the country...
BLITZER: All right.
LIEBERMAN: ... and then actually get something done for the people. Too much division in America.
BLITZER: You probably saw the op-ed article that the former labor secretary in the Clinton administration, Robert Reich, wrote on Friday. I'll put a little excerpt up from it.
"Senator Lieberman's defeat on Tuesday could be a good indicator of which side is ahead. To their detriment, Mr. Lieberman and the perennially dour Democratic Leadership Council have been deeply wary of any hint of a progressive movement, preferring instead an uninspired centrist message that echoes Republican themes."
Those are pretty strong words from your Democratic colleague, Robert Reich.
LIEBERMAN: Well, strong and absolutely wrong. I mean, look at my record of progressive leadership on civil rights, on women's rights, on environmental protection, on health insurance reform, on education reform, on tax reform. I've got the most progressive tax reform proposal, helping the middle class more than any other candidate in this race.
But, you know, Robert Reich and some of the other candidates, I think. are heading down a path that has always been a losing path for Democrats. And that's the path of class warfare.
I'm tough on businesspeople who don't play by the rules. I've got the best program for mutual fund reform. I believe in criminal penalties for business leaders who don't play by the rules. But I'm not anti-business, because business creates jobs. I mean, the question -- I'm pro-business.
The question is, are we going to grow apart, or are we going to grow this economy together? And class warfare never works. It doesn't reflect the values and desires of America's middle class.
Robert Reich has framed exactly the alternative that I'm against, and the alternative that he frames is one that always leads to defeat for Democrats. I don't want to go that way. I want to get back to the White House, bring us together, create a better life for the middle class and a safer future through tough defense for our people.
BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, one final question. We're seeing your former running-mate, Al Gore, the former vice president, campaigning in Michigan today for Howard Dean. Howard Dean's new strategy, apparently, to jump over these seven contests on Tuesday, look ahead to Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington state and big elections, California and New York, in early March.
What's wrong with that strategy, and would you consider pursuing it?
LIEBERMAN: I sure would. I mean, when I do as well as I intend to do on Tuesday, we've got a couple -- for instance, we're holding our party Tuesday night in Virginia. The reason for that is that Virginia's primary is a week from Tuesday. That's the next place I'm going to go. And we'll continue to go that way right through March 2nd.
So, you know, the very fact that Howard Dean is where he is now after, about three weeks ago, everybody said he had a lock on the nomination, ought to make both the pundits and the voters hesitant to seal this up for the current front-runner before more of the voters across America have had a chance to vote for a truly electable Democrat. And that's me.
BLITZER: So that means you're not going to drop out after Tuesday, is that right?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I've got a plan, and the plan is to keep going. And we're going to do well on Tuesday, go to Virginia, and then pick some other states on the way to March 2nd, which is New York and California, where we have great organizations and great strength.
I'm running for a reason, Wolf. I believe I've got what it takes to win this election and then be the president America needs to unite us and make us stronger in the world and here at home. That's my pledge, my promise, and the opportunity that my candidacy offers the voters.
BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, thanks very much for joining us.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Wolf. Be well.
BLITZER: Be well yourself.
BLITZER: Coming up, picking the winner in Tuesday's tests. We'll talk to governors from two key states.
And don't forget our Web question of the week: Do you believe coalition forces will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote.
"LATE EDITION" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
We'll check in with our CNN reporters around the world in just a few minutes. First, though, let's go to Washington for a quick check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: Saudi Arabian security forces were on guard, in place, and, still, hundreds of people were trampled to death today in Mecca, one of the Islam's most holy sites.
CNN producer Adil Bradlow is on the telephone. He's joining us now live with details -- Adil.
BRADLOW: Indeed, Wolf, tragedy has again struck at the annual Muslim pilgrimage, or hajj. Two-hundred-and-forty-four pilgrims, as you said, were trampled to death, and another 244 injured -- several of these are believed to be in a serious condition -- during the ritual stoning of the devil ceremony, which marks the climax of the five-day pilgrimage.
According to the Saudi minister in charge of the hajj, Iyad Madani (ph), the stampede began around 9 a.m. local time on the upper level of the Jamarat (ph) Bridge and went on for nearly 30 minutes, as police and rescue workers attempted to reach the victims who were trapped around the circular retaining wall that protects the stone pillars that symbolize the devil.
The stoning ritual was described by the minister as the most dangerous part of the hajj, and has in recent years seen scores of pilgrims being killed. But not since 1994, when 270 pilgrims died in a similar incident, has the hajj witnessed such a tragedy.
The minister went on to say that a large number of the victims were to believed to be Saudi nationals who had not been authorized to perform the hajj. In recent years, the Saudis have instituted a quota system, in an effort to limit the number of pilgrims, and thus reduce the strain on resources and facilities -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Adil Bradlow joining us from Saudi Arabia with the shocking story.
Thanks, Adil, very much for that report.
And we're just getting this in from the Associated Press in Tikrit. In Iraq, one American soldier was killed, 12 others injured, in a rocket attack Sunday on a U.S. army base in central Iraq. This, according to the U.S. military. The rocket landed inside a logistic support base of the 4th Infantry Division in Balad, 80 kilometers, or 50 miles, south of the division's headquarters in Tikrit.
According to this U.S. Army statement, it said two of the injured soldiers are in serious condition following the attack. According to the Associated Press, troops detained 16 people, including four women, for questioning. There was no elaboration on that.
We'll continue to monitor this latest attack. One American soldier killed, 12 others injured.
There's also fresh violence in northern Iraq as well, targeting the headquarters of two Kurdish political parties at Irbil. CNN's Michael Holmes is joining us now live from Baghdad. He has more on that -- Michael.
HOLMES: Wolf, this is the start, the first day of Eid Al-Adha, which is the four-day Muslim holiday, which actually begins with the last day of the hajj.
And that is the reason that hundreds of people had gathered at the headquarters of these two political parties, political rivals in northern Iraq, in Kurdish-controlled territory. They had turned up to mark the start of this Muslim holiday, a very important holiday for Muslims.
They were gathered at the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Two suicide bombers almost simultaneously detonating their explosives.
And the carnage was widespread. More than 50 have been killed. Dozens, many dozens in fact -- according to some reports, more than 200 -- people wounded. Now, lost in the blast, some of the leadership of these two major political parties in northern Iraq. The impact will be on the parties themselves, of course, on the families of those who have been killed and wounded. But many of those people were former fighters, pesh mergas, who fought again Saddam's regime.
And also, perhaps, the fact that both parties were hit simultaneously, a signal, too, that anyone can be hit at any time.
Certainly a very major development in the north. It's been a relatively stable area. There have been attacks up there, but nowhere near on the scale elsewhere in the country. The northern part around where this attack occurred has really had an open-for-business sign out. They've been trying to attract foreign investment. It was seen as politically stable and socially stable as well. And this has thrown a lot of doubt into the mix there and caused a great deal of concern in northern Iraq.
Michael Holmes, CNN, Baghdad.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Michael, for that report.
Here in the United States, the debate continues over how President Bush made the case for the Iraq war, and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction.
While first opposing an independent outside investigation, now the administration seems to be edging toward accepting just that.
Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, joining us now live from the White House with more.
What's the latest from there, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, publicly President Bush has been dismissive of these calls for an independent inquiry into pre-war intelligence. But privately, Wolf, administration and congressional sources are telling us the White House is now open to the idea.
Now, the thinking behind this strategy is that the White House can show that it's cooperating, while at the same time robbing Democrats, as well as critics, from using this whole intelligence debacle as political ammunition during this reelection season.
Now, this comes following a growing numbers of calls from Congress -- now Republicans as well as Democrats -- calling for this independent inquiry.
Earlier this morning, we heard from Senator Chuck Hagel of the Senator Select Committee on Intelligence on this program calling for such an inquiry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAGEL: I don't think there's any way around it, Wolf. We obviously have very serious gaps in our intelligence capabilities. And I think institutional reform within the intelligence community is going to have to be dealt with, and I think sooner rather than later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And our sources tell us that Vice President Dick Cheney has been making calls to lawmakers, that first started on Friday, indicating that the White House was open to this independent investigation.
The big question here, Wolf, is the timing of all of this. Are they going to wait for these other six panels to issue their own reports and, perhaps, put off this independent inquiry until after the election, which might be likely? Or are they going to simply say let's do it as quickly as possible, hoping that they'll wrap up before the election -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.
Suzanne, thanks very much.
Iraq and the administration's case for war, of course, spill over into the U.S. presidential race. Democratic candidates are racing toward this coming Tuesday and contests in seven states around the country.
Our national correspondent, Bob Franken, is watching all this campaign activity today from Charleston, South Carolina -- Bob.
FRANKEN: And our magnet TV camera has brought down people from the various political camps. You can see by the sign carriers in back of me, Wolf, that the Dean supporters far outnumber the Edwards supporters, which, sadly for the Dean supporters, does not reflect reality of the polls.
In any case, the polls are really showing that John Kerry is the man. He is probably going to win, according to the polls, in five of the states, and competitive in the others. States include Arizona, where Kerry is in the lead, and Missouri, with all of its delegates, where Kerry is in the lead by a wide margin.
Here in South Carolina, he's not in the lead, but he's breathing down the neck of the man who is, in effect, the favorite son, John Edwards. John Edwards is leading in this poll. Very interesting race.
Also interesting is how the money has been spent; in particular, the money that has been spent by Howard Dean in what has, thus far, been, for him, a disappointing campaign. He's gone through about $32 million of $41 million in campaign collections in what he acknowledges has been a bit of a failed strategy, with its emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire.
As for John Edwards, the issue of the day, once again, for him is all the controversy, particularly over Senator Kerry and his use of special interest money that has been disclosed by The Washington Post. Edwards sort of took a sideways slap at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm like all the other presidential candidates. We all raise money. I mean, to run a serious presidential campaign, you have to raise money. So I don't mean for a minute to sound holier than thou.
But what I am saying is, I think that we need to make some real changes in Washington. I think these Washington lobbyists have way too much influence. I think they're taking away the power of the democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: Once the results of the polls and the primaries are in, Wolf, on this Tuesday, there could possibly be changes in the lineup of the candidates -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bob Franken in Charleston, South Carolina.
Thanks, Bob, very much.
Coming up, I'll be speaking with one of those Democratic presidential candidates, Al Sharpton, about whether South Carolina will speed him along the road to the White House or will it end his road to the White House?
And I'll also ask religious broadcaster Pat Robertson about his predictions for Election 2004. He says God -- that's right, he says God has already told him who will win.
Lots more ahead on "LATE EDITION."
BLITZER: Ahead on "LATE EDITION," I'll talk with Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton about the race for the White House and how long he and others can keep up the pace.
And there's still time for you to weigh in on our Web question of the week: Do you believe coalition forces will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Simply go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
We want to go to Columbia, South Carolina -- North Carolina. Senator John Edwards speaking right now at a church, a predominantly African-American church. Let's listen in briefly to his message.
EDWARDS: ... pay their taxes every year, you're carrying the tax burden in this country.
We shouldn't have two economies in America: one for those families who never have to worry about a thing -- their kids, their grandkids are going to be just fine, and they know it -- and then one for everybody else, millions of families who just work hard, they can't save any money because it takes every dime you make just to pay your bills. You know what I'm talking about.
We can help those families. We can strengthen those families.
And I want to talk about, just for a moment, an issue that I've talked about everywhere in the country -- in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in New Mexico yesterday, in Missouri, in Oklahoma and here in South Carolina. And it's an issue you don't hear political leaders talking about anymore, and I'm talking now about 35 million Americans who live in poverty every single day.
I know why the politicians don't talk about it, because, for the most part, these folks don't vote. If you took a poll, they'd be way down the list of issues on the poll.
I'll tell you why we should not only talk about millions of Americans who live in poverty but we should do something about it, and the reason is very simple: It is wrong. You and I have a moral responsibility to lift these families out of poverty.
We can do it in a country of our wealth. In our prosperity, to have children going to bed hungry, to have children who don't have the clothes to keep them warm, to have millions of Americans who work full-time every day to provide for their families, working for minimum wage and living in poverty is wrong.
You and I -- this is what we're going to do together. We're going to build an America where we say no to kids going to bed hungry, no to kids who don't have the clothes to keep them warm, and no forever to any American working full-time and living in poverty.
Not in our America, not in our America. You and I can do something about this.
Not only that. We have two different governments in Washington, D.C. You know, we've got one for the insiders, the people that are there every single day. And then whatever is left is there for you.
You all have seen it. I don't know how many of you watched this recent prescription drug debate, the bill that passed the Congress. Here we go again. Millions of seniors desperately need prescription drugs. Look what we got. We got billions of dollars in your taxpayer money going to HMOs instead of going to seniors. We're driving seniors out of Medicare into HMOs.
And everything we could have done to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, using the power of the government to negotiate a better price, making sure we allowed prescription drugs to be brought in from Canada, doing something about these drug company ads on TV -- you all seen these ads on TV?
You know who's paying for them, don't you? You're paying for them every time you go to the pharmacy.
We tried to put some limits on it. Every one of those things, the drug companies were against, so they all came out.
Let me say this in very simple language: This democracy, this government, it does not belong to that crowd of insiders in Washington that are lobbyists, it belongs to you. And we're going to restore the power of this democracy to you, which is where it belongs...
... where it began. That's what this campaign is about.
And I don't have to tell the people in this room, we still live in an America that, in far too many ways, is divided by race. Now, this is something I feel an enormous personal responsibility about. Having grown up in the South in the '50s and '60s, I saw the same things all of you saw, you know.
And we have such an enormous responsibility. Those of us from the South, we shouldn't be following, we should be leading, when it comes to civil rights.
We should be showing the rest of the country what it is we're about, what we care about.
And we have work to do, for educational empowerment, economic empowerment, to try to bring real equality in, to make sure that we have judges that we know with a certainty will enforce our civil rights laws, so important to moving this country forward.
And I want to say one other thing. I have heard on television some of the pundits...
BLITZER: All right. Senator John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat, the presidential candidate, speaking before a predominantly African-American church in Columbia, South Carolina, making his pitch.
He's atop the polls right now, at least for the time being, in South Carolina. That's a make-or-break state for Senator John Edwards, by his own admission.
Let's bring in two guests right now to discuss presidential politics and more. Joining us from South Carolina is the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford. He's a Republican. And joining us from Arizona is the Democratic governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano. She's joining us live, as well. Let's begin with you, Governor Sanford, because we were just listening to Senator John Edwards make this pitch in your state of South Carolina. We've got some poll numbers. I want to put them up on the screen, what our latest polls are showing in South Carolina.
And they do show Senator Edwards atop, at least for the time being, the CNN-Los Angeles Times poll. Senator Edwards in South Carolina, you see it right there, at 32 percent, Senator Kerry at 20 percent.
Give us your lay of the land right now, as someone who knows South Carolina politics well.
GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I would say there are a couple different things, I think, to watch in the South Carolina primary.
One would be economics. If you actually look at the area of South Carolina where Edwards is doing a little bit better than Kerry, it's up in the upstate. And people are really hurting there, in terms of jobs and the economy.
I would say Iraq and the Middle East, if you look at the coast where Kerry seems to be doing a little bit better, you have a large number of military retirees in that part of South Carolina.
And the third thing I'd say you've got to watch for is the weather. We had a ice storm a week ago that had 200,000 people without electricity in South Carolina. We may be having another ice storm come tonight/tomorrow morning.
BLITZER: So that could be a factor as well, getting people to show up on Tuesday? Is that what you're saying, Governor?
SANFORD: Absolutely. I mean, if you have that kind of inclement weather -- and we, again, had schools that were shut down for three days last week -- it could be an issue. We don't know that it will be. But I'd say that's probably a third thing you've got to watch out for.
And the fourth thing, I guess, if I was to throw in a fourth, it'd be indeed that this is, sort of, Bush country. If you want to call South Carolina, it's more conservative, it's a very different litmus test than what we've seen in, let's say, Iowa or New Hampshire.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to get into that a little bit more coming up. But let's bring in the governor of Arizona, Governor Napolitano.
Governor, if you take a look at the Arizona situation right now, a key state on Tuesday, let's put up our latest CNN-Los Angeles Times poll numbers. Right now, John Kerry ahead, but General Wesley Clark, the retired four-star general, not all that far behind at 22 percent, Howard Dean at 13 percent.
What's your understanding right now? What's likely to happen on Tuesday?
GOV. JANET NAPOLITANO (D), ARIZONA: Well, I think it's hard to say. We still have a large number of undecided voters. We haven't had a primary in Arizona, a Democratic primary, ever, so this is a first time, and so we don't really know who's going to actually vote.
And one thing the polls don't take into account is the large number of people who have already voted by mail. Because in our state, people actually started voting the day of the Iowa caucuses.
BLITZER: And presumably those people might have voted in bigger numbers for Howard Dean. Is that the conventional wisdom out there?
NAPOLITANO: Conventional, and also we know from just looking at what campaigns we're getting, in terms of soliciting mail ballots, that Dean had a very aggressive vote-by-mail campaign out here. And those votes are already in.
BLITZER: So they may not be reflected, necessarily, in these polling numbers.
Why do you think in general, though, Governor Napolitano, why do you think Howard Dean's campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire fizzled and apparently is going to fizzle even further on Tuesday?
NAPOLITANO: Well, you know, I don't know. There's going to be a lot of second-guessing about the Dean campaign, that they should have done this or done that.
Both Governor Sanford and I have been there. When you're the candidate, everybody wants to tell you what to do.
But ultimately, I think people are paying attention to this race. We have a number of very good candidates. And one of the great things about this primary is that it has really opened up a dialogue about what the presidency is about.
BLITZER: Let me put some numbers up for you, Governor Sanford, national numbers, a new Newsweek poll. Take a look at this.
In a hypothetical contest between the president and John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts, once again -- they had a similar poll last week -- a second poll this week shows Kerry slightly atop, although within that three-point margin of error. Clearly very, very competitive.
Is it your assessment that John Kerry represents the most formidable threat/challenge to President Bush?
SANFORD: I mean, that's for the voters to decide here in the Democratic primaries that are coming our way.
What I would say is, for instance, in a state like South Carolina, I think it will be very interesting to watch how Edwards and how Kerry do versus the rest of the crowd. What I think has been interesting is that a lot of the anti-war, a lot of the fervor that you heard with the Dean campaign, really hasn't resonated in South Carolina. If you look at the number of military retirees, if you look at the number of military bases in South Carolina, you have a very strong personal connection, in some form or another, to soldiers, frankly, that are deployed in that part of the world. So I'd say that's been much less of an issue here.
As to whether or not Kerry, should he be the nominee, would fare well, or at the margin against the president, time remains to tell. What I would say is the president is much more in sync where, certainly, South Carolinians are coming from.
And I think that what we haven't seen here is a real campaign. What Governor Napolitano or myself would tell you, in being in these kinds of races, is there's a glow that goes with the primary. The president hasn't yet been able to get his message out there.
BLITZER: Governor Napolitano, electability a key issue for Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire and around the country. They want someone they think can challenge the president of the United States rather effectively.
In your opinion, right now, who has that highest degree of electability among these Democratic candidates?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I think we have a number of candidates who are electable. I mean, ultimately this is -- election is going to be a referendum on President Bush and what he has done or not done over the past four years.
So, you know, I'm looking forward to Tuesday, let the voters go in Arizona, let them go to the polls, and we'll see what comes out.
BLITZER: Governor Sanford, a lot of questions being asked now about the president's credibility going into this election season right now on several issues, including the budget deficits that are growing, the huge increase in the planned cost for Medicare prescription drug benefits going from $400 billion that had been earlier estimated, now over $500 billion, maybe almost $550 billion.
How big of a concern is this for you, as a good, conservative Republican, that these budget deficit numbers and this new entitlement for prescription drug benefits for seniors, is simply going above and beyond what a lot of Republicans had hoped?
SANFORD: Well, I would say, you know, everything in politics is by degree. And I think what's relevant is if you look at the different Democratic nominees, you're looking at an increase in spending, beyond what the president would have proposed, from somewhere between $160 billion to $1.3 trillion.
So, you know, as out of hand as things may get, because you got 535 folks in the Congress up there, at times dissipating what the president would try to do in terms of fiscal restraint, I think that there are a lot of cross-currents up there. And I think that the relevant question is, would there be more spending under a Democratic president? And I think that what these plans that we've seen so far suggest is, A, that'd be the case.
B, there's been a certain recklessness with some of the rhetoric that we've seen go on. Terry McAuliffe was on television this morning calling the president AWOL, which, I think, is a real insult to a lot of Guardsmen and reservists who are out there serving the country and, in fact, deployed in the Middle East right now, taking shots at him for being a Guardsman.
I think that, you know, what we're talking about here over the next couple of weeks, as we go through this primary process, is a chance to sort all this out.
BLITZER: Governor Sanford of South Carolina, Governor Napolitano of Arizona, two wonderful states, two of 50 wonderful states in the United States, thanks to both of you for joining us. Good luck to all your voters coming up on Tuesday. I hope everything goes smoothly in both states.
NAPOLITANO: Thank you.
BLITZER: And when we come back, we'll speak with one of the Democratic presidential hopefuls, the Reverend Al Sharpton. He's trying to make a mark in South Carolina, where an estimated 50 percent of the Democratic voters on Tuesday will be African-American.
We'll speak to the Reverend Al Sharpton right after a quick check of the headlines and more. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Dramatic changes in the opening weeks of the Democratic presidential campaign. Dean down, Kerry up, but still, a big field of candidates waiting for lightning to strike or, as some critics suggest, enjoying the attention for themselves and their ideas.
Low in votes but certainly high in energy is Al Sharpton. He's joining us from North Augusta, South Carolina.
Reverend Sharpton, thanks very much for joining us.
REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
BLITZER: What is it with you -- do you really, at this point, believe you have a shot at getting the Democratic presidential nomination, or are you simply more interested in getting your views out there to the American people?
SHARPTON: Oh, well, not only do we have a shot, I don't think it's one or the other, I think it's both. And we have, from the beginning, had a strategy to pick up enough delegates to go to the convention to win and, at worst, make a strong enough showing that our concerns are there with delegate strength. I think we can have enough delegates to win. That is why we, on Tuesday, will win delegates in South Carolina, in Missouri and Delaware, go on from there to Michigan, three days later on to Virginia and on and on.
I think other candidates opted not to Iowa with an escalated agenda, Wolf. We're no longer dealing with a January to June agenda. Everyone had to choose where they were going to concentrate to get their delegates.
So we are right on time, and we are very confident that our strategy will work.
BLITZER: There had been a poll as recently as last week showing you with about 15 percent of the potential Democratic vote in South Carolina where you are right now.
Our latest CNN-Los Angeles Times poll, we'll put it up on the screen, shows you not doing all that well. You're down at 5 percent in this poll, with Senator Edwards at 32 percent, Senator Kerry at 20 percent.
Is that consistent with other polls that you're seeing, including your own polls, if you have any?
SHARPTON: Well, no, it is not. Your polls have always had us low. You're right, another poll had us at 15. Other polls have been closer to the other poll, but I'm not dealing with polls. I'm dealing with, as I move around the state, I spoke at three churches this morning. One, I did a full sermon.
I think that people that have not been polled, and even more important have been ignored, in terms of their needs and in terms of their desires to see this party really represent working-class people that have lost their jobs and represent people that have been marginalized, I think that they're going to surprise people.
I was in Delaware yesterday, hundreds came out. I was in St. Louis the other day, hundreds came out. I think the real poll will be on Tuesday.
If you recall, during the statehood primary three weeks ago in Washington, the night before, people said I would get 6 or 7 percent. I got 34 percent of that vote.
And I think that when you look at the fact that we're going to do much better than the pollsters say, you will then begin to understand that a lot of people are tired of being ignored by a party that wants to take them for granted and assumes that they will be there.
BLITZER: As you know, Reverend Sharpton, it's been estimated that about half, maybe as high as 50 percent of the voter turnout, the Democrats voting in South Carolina, will be black voters, but some of the key African-American political leaders in South Carolina are not supporting you. Representative Clyburn, for example, has endorsed the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry. And Senator Kerry himself is clearly appealing to African- American votes. He's got an ad that's running in the state. I want you to listen and watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the bullets began to hit the side of the boats, the boom, the pow-pow-pow, we found out that John Kerry can lead.
This man would make a great president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you understand why many African-Americans in South Carolina support John Kerry?
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I think many African-Americans will support different candidates. I think many will support me. I think many whites in South Carolina will support different candidates; many will support me.
There are other elected officials and clergy around the state, from Representative Joe Neal to any number of ministers that are supporting me.
You must remember, 20 years ago when Jesse Jackson ran, most of the black members of Congress didn't support him. It didn't stop him from winning their districts. Most black mayors didn't.
So I'm not at all bothered by some people not supporting me. I think that the support is based on the votes. And when voters say who has been there for me, who has stood by the issues that I'm concerned about -- when it comes to civil rights, if that's your issue, there's no comparison. There's no one in this race that has ever done anything in civil rights other than me. They're taking positions where I've led that fight.
BLITZER: Well, wait a minute, let me interrupt you on that civil rights issue. Didn't Joe Lieberman go down in Mississippi and fight for civil rights in the '60s, when it was a rather dangerous thing to do?
SHARPTON: Yes, but we're now in 2004. So I don't have to go back 40 years. I'm talking about what I did for civil rights since the '60s. And I think that if someone has to go back to the '60s and talk about civil rights, I mean, that's a little stretch to tell voters in 2004.
Now, again, I think Lieberman and the others have taken good positions, but they have not taken leadership. And I think people want people that take positions of leadership and help to guide us where we need to go.
I've been the first candidate in this race to come out against the war, to come out for a single-payer health care plan, to deal with the fact that NAFTA was wrong. Many of the other guys running had supported NAFTA. NAFTA has cost 75,000 jobs to the people in this state.
BLITZER: All right.
SHARPTON: So I think people are going to go by the issues, not go by who cosigned for them. Usually, when you need a cosigner, it means your credit is bad.
BLITZER: The New York Times editorial page may not be your favorite in the country, but I'll read an excerpt from their editorial that ran on Thursday.
"Representative Dennis Kucinich has every right to keep campaigning despite his minuscule vote tallies, but he should not be allowed to take up time in future candidate debates. Neither should the Reverend Al Sharpton, who is running to continue running, not to win."
Strong words from The New York Times.
SHARPTON: I think that they're the most undemocratic words I've heard them say.
First of all, how do they know why I'm running?
Second of all, if these are the first primaries that we had on- the-ground troops in, then what is their assessment? Are they suggesting now that Iowa and New Hampshire should be the only barometer of who a Democratic nominee should be? They didn't even wait on the states that have a broader base of support, a wider demographic. You're going to take two states that are 99-percent white and tell the rest of us we shouldn't run if we don't engage in those states?
I think that that is the height of irresponsibility in The New York Times.
BLITZER: But, as you know, Howard Dean is now going to bypass these seven contests on Tuesday, saying he's looking down the road to Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington State, big contests early March in California and New York.
I assume that's been your strategy from the beginning.
SHARPTON: I said it. The difference between Dean and I -- as I said in the beginning, we will bypass Iowa and New Hampshire. So is The New York Times saying, because he decides to bypass, he shouldn't be allowed in the debates?
The other part of that is, I think that clearly everyone -- Mr. Clark bypassed Iowa. Mr. Lieberman did. I think everyone has the right to strategies when you have an escalated agenda.
The question is, who achieves enough delegates to make a difference in Boston? That's what we are determined to do, and that's what we will do. People that want to stand for the things that we represented, that I've outlined here will vote for us.
And I think that we are just beginning this fight. A month ago, people were saying, when I did your show, Dean was the runaway winner. Look at him today. Many of the black officials you named endorsed Gephardt. People that are on absentee ballots voted for Gephardt, wasted their vote. He's not even in the race.
So, people are not as silly or immature as people think. They know that their best bet...
BLITZER: All right.
SHARPTON: ... is voting for Al Sharpton. Not only can you win, you can't lose.
BLITZER: One final question. We're almost out of time, Reverend Sharpton. I know you're very good friends with the godfather of soul, James Brown; spent some time with his daughter in church today.
He's got some legal problems, as you well know, as our viewers know, around the world. What's the latest? How's he doing?
SHARPTON: I've not spoken with him. His daughter was in church with me today, and I've asked people to pray for him and his wife. I don't know what happened. I certainly would not condone, nor would he, as far as I've known him through the years -- a man has no right to touch a woman. I don't know if that's what happened. But I pray for healing there, and I certainly stand with Mr. Brown. Even if he's wrong, he must be healed, and he must pay the consequences. If he's right, I hope he can establish that. But I'm asking people to pray for him and not prejudge him, but we can never condone a man touching a woman in any way, shape or form.
BLITZER: Reverend Sharpton, thanks so much for taking a few moments off from your busy campaigning in South Carolina to join us.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
BLITZER: And just ahead, church and state, how separate should they be? Joining us, the religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, on politics, religion and his new book, "The Ten Offenses." He also says God has told him who will win this U.S. presidential contest.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush at last month's State of the Union address, calling for the defense of sanctity of marriage.
Marriage, how to define it, how to regulate it -- just one social issue on the election-year agenda.
And one voice in that debate is joining us now live. Pat Robertson is the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and himself a former Republican presidential candidate. He's also the author of a new book on religion and morality in the United States. It's entitled, "The Ten Offenses."
Reverend Robertson, thanks very much for joining us. Congratulations on the new book.
REV. PAT ROBERTSON, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to get to that extensively in just a few minutes.
ROBERTSON: All right.
BLITZER: Let's talk politics first.
BLITZER: You said on January 2nd on the Christian Broadcasting Network -- and I'll put it up on the screen -- "The Lord has just blessed him. He could make terrible mistakes and comes out of it. It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad. God picks him up because he's a man of prayer."
You're talking about the president of the United States, George W. Bush. And you said God told you he would be reelected.
ROBERTSON: Well, Wolf, you know, I spend -- probably for the last 30 years, I've spent several days after Christmas on a prayer retreat, and I pray and ask the Lord to show me a few things, and I've had a pretty remarkable track record. He showed me that Reagan was going to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) his second term. He showed me that the first Gulf war was going to be a breeze for the first George Bush. He told me that this one was going to be messy, and, actually, a disaster.
And in this case, it was a question of the prosperity of America, that this is going to be a very prosperous year for the United States and that, consequently of that, that George Bush is, in my opinion -- I think I heard from the Lord -- is going to win this thing in a walk. But, as I say, I could be wrong. But that's my feeling.
BLITZER: If you are wrong, what do you do then, if he doesn't win in a walk, let's say, in November? Do you have to reassess that relationship you have with God?
ROBERTSON: No, I don't really think so. I just say I missed the Lord, because, you know, I'm fallible like everybody else. And so, you think you hear the voice of the Lord, but I have -- I've walked with him for many, many years, and I've had extraordinary success, if I can use that term, of hearing his voice and seeing things that happen in the years to come.
BLITZER: Has the Lord told you who will be the Democratic nominee?
ROBERTSON: No, I don't have a clue.
I tell you what -- Bush's election was a whole lot more sure with Dean the candidate than with Kerry, however. I'll say that.
BLITZER: Do you think Kerry is a more formidable challenger to the president?
ROBERTSON: Oh, I don't think there's any question about it. Kerry is going to be tough.
But, you know, it's amazing, the Democrats have declared war on the investor class. And if they come through with, oh, "Let's suck up to the United Nations, and let's raise taxes," I'm not sure that platform's going to score with the American people.
But we'll see. Kerry's going to be extremely formidable. There's no question about it.
BLITZER: In your new book, "The Ten Offenses," you write this: "A politician laces a few biblical quotations through his speeches to court the conservative Christian vote when he himself has no real interest in honoring God. As a result of this kind of manipulation, unsuspecting people let down their guard. Sometimes the results are disastrous."
Did you have any specific candidates, politicians in mind when writing those words?
ROBERTSON: Well, I would hesitate to name them, but I have seen it.
You know, I was the head of the Stevenson for President Committee on Staten Island in my days of being a Democrat. And my thought was, get me a guy with a white turnaround collar to put up on the stage to say religious platitudes.
I didn't have any particular religious interest, but it's kind of like you paper these things over with religion, and I've seen it so often in campaigns.
But I didn't have anybody specifically in mind. If I did, I wouldn't name him on this program.
BLITZER: All right, because I was suspicious that maybe you were speaking about Howard Dean because of, in recent weeks, as you know, he started referring to his own religious beliefs. ROBERTSON: Well, you know, it was just shocking what he did. I mean, he said he had very little interest, he thought that fundamentalist preachers were a pain in the neck, et cetera, et cetera, and then he turns completely around, he believes in Jesus and all this.
Well, I'll tell you, the classic example, very frankly, was our last president, who used to position himself in the choir in Arkansas right behind the preacher, in front of the TV cameras, and he always went to church with a big black bible and that kind of thing, and I think a lifestyle that didn't exactly back it up.
BLITZER: You wrote your book, "The Ten Offenses," in response to the uproar over that statue of the ten commandments in Alabama that the courts in Alabama decided had to be removed because of the issue of separation of church and state.
Bill Pryor, the Alabama attorney general, went ahead and made that announcement, made that decision upheld. Listen to what he said in condemning what the judge, Roy Moore, had done in insisting that that statue remain in that judicial court building.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL PRYOR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF ALABAMA: The rule of law means that no person, including the chief justice of Alabama, is above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That decision was upheld by all the other members of the Alabama supreme court. Judge Moore did violate the law, and he deserved to be reprimanded. Is that your conclusion as well?
ROBERTSON: Wolf, the thing about that was is the tactics, the way he went at it. First of all, when a certain decision came down, he should have issued a prompt writ, asking for a stay of execution. I understand he didn't do that.
Then he should have appealed that decision immediately, and appealed it not only from, I think, the 11th circuit all the way to the Supreme Court.
His legal team just didn't do him justice, and then what he was, you know, faced with was defying a federal court order. And once you do that, you're in hot water.
So that Bill Pryor is a good friend of mine, and I think his decision was exactly right under the circumstances.
BLITZER: Under the circumstances, Judge Moore deserved to be kicked off the bench, is that what you're saying?
ROBERTSON: No, I wouldn't say he deserved to be kicked off the bench. And I support Judge Moore. I think it's an outrage, frankly, for a district court judge, one of many, many district court judges, to think he's superior to the supreme court chief justice of a sovereign state.
And what Judge Moore was saying is, look, there's a mention of God in the Alabama constitution, and I'm sworn to uphold that constitution.
And I think the district court judge was wrong, but it's just a question of procedure. When a court judge issues a ruling, you ask for a stay, and then you appeal it in the appropriate fashion, and he didn't do it. That was all.
BLITZER: Reverend Robertson, do you believe that the Vice President Dick Cheney is a moral man?
ROBERTSON: To the best of my knowledge, although I don't know him that well, I would certainly think he is. I know his wife Lynne is an extraordinary fine person. I don't know him as well as I do her.
BLITZER: Because I say that in the context of what he said in the debate in 2000 on the whole issue of gay marriage, civil unions, what states should be doing.
I want to play for you what he said at that time, almost four years ago. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business, in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard.
I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that's appropriate. I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You agree with him on that?
ROBERTSON: Well, not exactly. You know, he has a daughter who's a lesbian, and so he's somewhat conflicted. What is he going to say? He's going to condemn his own daughter? And which he's not doing.
What he's basically saying in that one, though, is that I don't think this should be a federal policy. Well, I feel the same thing about abortion. I think that Roe v. Wade federalized the matter of abortion. I think that should have been left to the states and left to the several legislatures to work out.
And possibly, that's what we should do in terms of the these civil unions and so forth. They should be the policy of the state legislature.
But, you know, like in Massachusetts, the legislature has come out clearly against gay marriage, and yet the Supreme Court of Massachusetts is saying, "We're going to trump the legislature."
And that was one of the things that I'm pointing out in my book, that the courts have arrogated power to themselves that should be given to the legislature.
BLITZER: One final question: Should the president keep Dick Cheney on his ticket this time around?
ROBERTSON: Oh, I think definitely. I think Cheney's very strong. And it would be a terrible thing to the conservatives. They like Cheney a lot. He's had a very distinguished service in the government. And to dump him, I think, would be a tragic mistake.
BLITZER: Reverend Pat Robertson's got a new book out called "The Ten Offenses." It will cause a lot of controversy among a lot of Americans, but I'm sure it will be well read by many of your supporters.
Reverend Robertson, thanks very much for joining us.
ROBERTSON: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break. Much more when we come back.
BLITZER: Our Web question of the week is this: Do you believe coalition forces will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Take a look at this: Nine percent of you say yes, 91 percent of you say no. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.
Time now for Bruce Morton's last word about how terrorism closed off an important American symbol.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The attacks of September 11 were more than two years ago. They repaired the Pentagon, approved a design for a memorial where the World Trade Center once stood. Can you think of a victim of that attack whose wounds have not been treated?
It took a story in The Washington Post this past week to remind me the victim is the Statue of Liberty, the lady with a lamp, still closed to visitors, yellow police tape around the perimeter to keep folks out.
The Post quotes the president of the foundation which helps raise money for the lady, that it means the symbol of this country has had to bow to terrorism, and it's hard to disagree with that.
The National Park Service says it can't afford the estimated $5 million it would take to add emergency exits and reopen the statue. Five million bucks? Well, you don't want to mess with the $87 billion the president has set aside for rebuilding Iraq, of course, or the money he needs to put men back on the moon. And a lot of monuments, the Vietnam Wall on Washington's mall, for instance, were built with private funds. And, yes, Ronald Reagan as president got Lee Iacocca to head up the last fund-raising to restore the lady.
But five million bucks is, for the federal government, about the equivalent of a one-way bus fare. And you could argue the closed lady as a war casualty, couldn't you? And don't we try to look after them?
New Yorkers say it just shows they don't get no respect from Washington, and maybe they don't. But isn't the lady a National treasure, something for all of us?
Sure, the immigration policy isn't so popular anymore, "send me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" and all that. Many Americans favor quotas now.
And yes, she came from France, and we know how this president feels about them. But it's all right, sir, you wouldn't have to invite her to the ranch.
The lady, for all that, is special. The way the U.S. Capitol, the people's house, is; the way the White House, where one family lives, is not. She is a symbol of what we are when we're being our best, and our government ought to be able to afford some fresh lipstick and mascara for her.
Or maybe I'll just send a check to that foundation. You've got to start somewhere.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.
Let's take a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States.
Newsweek quotes former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay as saying, "We were all wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."
Time magazine has the Democratic presidential front-runner on the cover and asks this question: What kind of president would John Kerry be?
And U.S. News and World Report looks at the weight debate: Is obesity really a disease?
That's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, February 1st.
Please join me again Tuesday night for CNN's expanded coverage, extended coverage of the Democratic presidential race from Delaware, South Carolina and beyond. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Atlanta.
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