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Interview With Arlen Specter, Chuck Hagel; President Bush Names Replacement For Ashcroft; Senator-Elect Thune Promises to Work with Democrats; Write-In Could be New San Diego Mayor; Cosby to Discuss Controversial Comments

Aired November 10, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome to PRIME TIME POLITICS. Thanks so much for joining us on a day when the president moved quickly to introduce the man he wants as his new attorney general, Alberto Gonzales. We'll get the reaction to that appointment and look back at the controversial years of retiring Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Also, the embattled Republican Senator Arlen Specter and the conservative campaign that is raging against him. He'll be joining us.

Then, from sun sand and maybe all the way to the top job at City Hall, one California surfer's wild and unlikely political ride.

But we begin tonight with the changing face of the Bush administration. In choosing Alberto Gonzales to replace Attorney General John Ashcroft, President Bush says he's trying to protect all Americans from discrimination so they can live the American dream, as Gonzales himself has done.


ZAHN (voice-over): Alberto Gonzales was born in 1955, the son of migrant workers, the first in his family to graduate from college and then on to Harvard Law School.

He was Governor George W. Bush's legal adviser, then served on the Texas Supreme Court. Four years ago, he followed the new president to Washington, again, as his legal counsel.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As the nation's chief law enforcement officer, Al will continue our administration's great progress in fighting crime and strengthening the FBI and improving our domestic efforts in the war on terror.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Within the Hispanic community, there is assured hope for an opportunity to succeed. Just give me a chance to prove myself. And that is a common prayer for those in my community.

Mr. President, thank you for that chance.

ZAHN: Gonzales' record contains items that worry both Republican and Democrats. Liberals worry that in the White House Gonzales helped write the rules limiting the rights of suspected terrorists. He was also involved in the administration's decision that terror suspects are not covered by the Geneva Conventions, something critics say led to the abuse of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib.

Conservatives worry because on the Texas Supreme Court Gonzales often sided with the moderates, even on a case involving abortion. Outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft stayed out of sight today, but not out of mind.

BUSH: The nation is safer and more just today because John Ashcroft has served our country so well.

ZAHN: Not everyone agrees with that. In a written statement, Senator John Kerry called John Ashcroft one of the most divisive faces in this administration.

But from a corner you might not expect, a call for unity.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have no call to go into the future divided based on who's a good or a bad person or a good or a bad party. And once you get to the point when you're making a decision in politics without regard to evidence, just based on identity, you can get in a lot of trouble in a hurry.

ZAHN: Clinton says there will be great opportunities for good things to happen over the next four years if the Republicans and Democrats in Washington work together.


ZAHN: Well, let's see. And you'd expect Democrats and Republicans to have problems finding some common ground, but here we are, barely a week beyond the election, and it is the Republican Party's unity that seems to be fraying.

Conservatives are furious with Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter because of some very public advice Specter gave the president about not trying to appoint judges who are against abortion rights. Well, now Senator Specter is fighting back himself.

Here's congressional correspondent Ed Henry.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Arlen Specter ramped up his damage control campaign with an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" insisting he never warned the president he would block judges who oppose abortion rights. But conservative activists continue to whip up opposition to Specter. They say the senator is pretending to be a friend of the right to get the chairmanship of the judiciary panel.

RICHARD VIGUERIE, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN TARGET ADVERTISING: I don't think you can trust Senator Specter. He has got a long track record of getting religion so to speak one year out of every six years, right before he runs for reelection. HENRY: Republican senators will not vote on Specter's fate until January, ample time for conservatives to mobilize more opposition. The situation has grown so serious, Specter now tells CNN he is seeking a closed-door meeting with his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to explain himself.

John Cornyn, a conservative on the judiciary panel, says he's withholding judgment until next week's meeting.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Ultimately, it's up to Senator Specter to convince his colleagues that he is going to be of course free to exercise his own conscious in his individual vote, but that, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he has a responsibility to the rest of the Republicans in the conference, as well as the president.

HENRY: Specter has won the vote of at least one Republican colleague.

SEN. JUDD GREGG (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I think Arlen Specter should be the next chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He has served his time. He is the senior member. And in the last four years, he has supported every judgeship that has been put forward by the president.

HENRY: Senior Republicans privately say that, if Specter gets the chairmanship, he'll be in debt it Republican leaders when a Supreme Court nomination arises. The senator insists he will retain his independence.

(on camera): But, after this bruising fight, if you do get the chairmanship, are you going to be your own person or now are you going to on a short leash?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I've always been my own person. I've always been my own person.

HENRY (voice-over): Indeed, conservative activists say Specter has always been a maverick and will not feel indebted to anyone and that's why he needs to be stopped.


ZAHN: And Senator Arlen Specter joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Always good to see you, sir. Welcome.

SPECTER: Nice to be with you, Paula. Thank you for the invitation.

ZAHN: Thank you, Senator.

I want to start off this evening by talking about this political storm you set off last week. When you talked about Roe v. Wade -- quote -- "being inviolate" and you went on to say that appointment of judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade would be unlikely.

Let's listen to more of what you had to say.


SPECTER: I don't want to prejudge what the president is going to do, but the president is well aware of what happened when a number of his nominees were sent up with a filibuster. And the president has said he is not going to impose a litmus test. He faced that issue squarely in the third debate. And I would not expect the president to -- I would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I've mentioned.


ZAHN: Did that amount to a warning to the president to not consider putting conservative judges before your committee?

SPECTER: Absolutely not, Paula. That was not a warning. I was simply stating a political fact of life.

But the experience has been that the Democrats have been filibustering the judges. The fact is that I have never had a litmus test and I have voted for Supreme Court nominees who have been strongly pro-life, Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Scalia and Justice Kennedy and O'Connor. And you may remember back to the confirmation proceeding on Clarence Thomas, where I took the lead and Thomas was very strong pro-life. And my taking the lead almost cost me my Senate seat. So, there's no doubt that I have never had a litmus test.

ZAHN: I'm having trouble understanding, though, exactly where the spin is, because we just played your comments right now. And I think our viewers heard you say that you won't believe the president has a litmus test, but you also stated clearly what his conservative judges would be up against with Democrats and maybe perhaps moderate Republicans.

SPECTER: Well, not moderate Republicans, now.

There has been support for the president on the filibusters to oppose them. I've gone to the floor 17 times. The part you just quoted was where I said that I thought the president would be mindful of the filibusters which the Democrats have waged in the past. That is a political fact of life. That's not an Arlen Specter invention.

ZAHN: So where is the spin here?

SPECTER: The spin is where it was said that I warned the president.

ZAHN: Basically, Senator, our audience has just heard exactly what you had to say. All you're charging tonight is that was subject to a number of different interpretations.

SPECTER: We are subject to no difference of interpretations, Paula, on what the Democrats have done on mounting filibusters. And I think the president knows that and, obviously, will keep it in mind. ZAHN: But, Senator, in spite of your clearly laying out your record for us this evening, apparently, people like Dennis Hastert aren't hearing you, nor is a group focused on family excepting what you have to say. They are calling you a big-time problem. Why? They've seen your transcripts. They've seen your record. They're making a different judgment here.

SPECTER: Well, they would like to see me not become the chairman.

ZAHN: Sir, is that because you're pro-choice?

SPECTER: That's the reason. I'm the only pro-choice Republican on the Judiciary Committee. And I'm known for calling it as I see it and that's the source of the concern.

ZAHN: So you don't think this latest controversy has anything to do with their judgment right now?

SPECTER: I think it has a lot to do with their preference that I not be the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

ZAHN: What are they afraid you're going to do if you get that job?

SPECTER: Well, I don't know. I have talked to the president about it.

Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, said last Sunday that Arlen Specter made a commitment to the president to bring his nominees out of committee on to the floor and that Karl Rove said that Arlen Specter is a man of his word and that we take him at his word. And no one, Paula, has ever doubted my integrity.

ZAHN: Finally tonight, sir, how would you describe where you are in this fight to try to get this chairmanship?

SPECTER: Well, I am responding to your interviews, Paula, responding to many other interviews. I have talked to my colleagues. And I'm working at it. That's my stock in trade, is to work at it.


ZAHN: Are you optimistic or pessimistic it will come through for you?

SPECTER: I wouldn't characterize it one way or another. I'm working at it, like I'm doing right now.

ZAHN: And our viewers, I'm sure, will hear you loud and clear, as I have this evening.


ZAHN: Senator Specter, thanks so much for your time.

SPECTER: Great talking to you, Paula. Thank you.

ZAHN: Thank you very much.

And with that, we turn to our voting booth question. Should Senator Arlen Specter become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee? Log on to Click away. The vote results coming up at the end of the hour.


ZAHN (voice-over): And still to come on PRIME TIME POLITICS, two politicians who want to shake up the status quo. He's a conservative from the plains of South Dakota who defeated the Senate's top Democrat.

And she's a California surfer riding a wave of voter resentment against big-city politics, kicking sand in the face of the Republican establishment. Tonight, I'll be talking with both when PRIME TIME POLITICS continues.



ZAHN: Now that we've heard about the president's nominee for attorney general and talked with Senator Arlen Specter about his own political fight, let's debate these issues.

Joining me from Washington tonight, the Reverend Barry Lynn. He's the executive director of Americans United For Separation of Church and State. And from Colorado Springs tonight, Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family, a Christian group dedicated to preserving traditional values and the family.

Good to see both of you. Welcome.



ZAHN: So, Carrie, I don't know how much of my interview you could hear with Senator Specter, but he clearly laid out what his record has been. He has certainly supported pro-life judicial choices in the past. He says he has no litmus test. Do you trust him?

CARRIE GORDON EARLL, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Well, Paula, Senator Specter has been on a one-man P.R. campaign. I think he had more face time on CNN this week than you have.

ZAHN: Do you trust him?


EARLL: Well, he's acting like he's drowning here. No, we don't trust him. We don't trust him because of his words and his deeds. His op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning said to look at his record. We are looking at his record. Just two weeks ago, he was quoted as telling "The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" that -- quote -- "no extremist would be approved for the bench under his watch." Now, that translates into pro-life judges.

And just 14 days later, when his chairmanship is in trouble, on CNN, he announces that he is going to not block nominees who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Now, he's also boasted that he has voted against the White House many times. So our question is, would the real Arlen Specter please stand up?


ZAHN: But, Carrie, has he or has he not confirmed pro-life judges?

EARLL: He has. And we don't dispute his voting record in that regard, Paula. But we're not talking about voting. We're talking about running the Judiciary Committee. We're talking about shepherding the president's nominees, one of his most important priorities.

To shepherd, you must have trust. And Arlen Specter does not have trust.

ZAHN: All right.

So, let me ask you this, Reverend Lynn. As you hear Carrie talk, do you think the position to Arlen Specter has more to do with the fact that he is pro-choice or that conservatives really believe he will hold up conservative nominees to the bench?

LYNN: I think, frankly, this is an effort by some on the religious right to just flex their muscle and continue this fiction that somehow the last election was all about support for the most conservative, most extreme of values in the country. And that's clearly not the case.

ZAHN: But, Reverend Lynn, at its very core, what do you think the opposition is there for to Arlen Specter?

LYNN: I think they don't like the fact that Senator Specter has on many occasions supported the principle of a woman's right to choose. And I have known Senator Specter for 20 years and frankly I've probably been on the opposite side of him as many times as I've been on the same side of him.

But he is a man of unquestioned integrity. And the truth of the matter is, this has all the feel of a distasteful smear campaign against a man of great integrity and a man who understands, by the way, that with power comes authority and responsibility. And I think Senator Specter would, in fact, exercise that were he to be chosen as the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as I fully expect that he will be. (CROSSTALK)

LYNN: But, again, this is a lot about bigger issues, Paula. My friends on the right refuse to acknowledge the idea that 55 percent of Americans in those exit polls said there should be few, if any, restrictions on a woman's right to choose. And they simply can't accept the fact that that is where America is. It's not on extreme side with Focus on the Family.

ZAHN: Carrie, what I want you to explain to me tonight are the battle lines within your own party. Karl Rove, who everybody believes is the architect of the president's win, has stated his support for Arlen Specter, as has Reverend Pat Robertson. And then you have other conservatives who say they can't trust him. Why this disconnect?

EARLL: Well, first of all, Karl Rove said in his interview Sunday, twice he used the word if, that if Arlen Specter were appointed to this chairmanship.

He did not say -- and the White House has not come out with a ringing endorsement, nor have any other GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. So I think the P.R. campaign that is going on right now by Senator Specter is evidence that he knows his chairmanship is in trouble. I would dispute many things Mr. Lynn just said.


EARLL: However, let me say, this is about judicial philosophy.

Arlen Specter's judicial philosophy is that the U.S. Constitution is a growing, living document. That is in direct conflict to President Bush's judicial philosophy. CNN's own exit poll of voters last week found that one of the top qualities that voters liked about President Bush was that he is clear on the issues.


EARLL: His judicial philosophy was clearly -- I didn't interrupt you, Barry. Please let me finish.


ZAHN: Quickly here, Carrie.

EARLL: His judicial philosophy was laid out. And the public voted for George Bush, instead of John Kerry. Specter is more like John Kerry's judicial philosophy than George Bush's.

ZAHN: Reverend Lynn, you get the last word tonight.

LYNN: The truth of the matter is that this issue, including judicial philosophy, was very, very little discussed in the entire presidential election debate.

In fact, when George Bush was asked about a litmus test, he said he didn't have it. Some of us are a little skeptical about that answer, but the truth is, he never said he would guarantee to the religious right that he would only appoint judges who agreed with them. Now, they've decided that, among the other rose gardens that they were promised, was this guarantee about every judge. And they're taking it out on Arlen Specter.

And I think it's really a terrible thing. I've been around this town for many, many decades, and I don't think I've ever seen anything that is quite as quick and as nasty a campaign to smear a man of great honor and distinction. Whether one agrees with him or disagrees with him, it's hard to argue that this is a man who deserves this position and who should be given it and who will honor and faithfully execute that position.

ZAHN: Well, it is certainly something we're going to be talking about for a while. As we understand it, the senator might not find out until January whether he will be moved to that chairmanship position.

Reverend Lynn, Carrie Gordon Earll, thank you both.

LYNN: Thank you.

EARLL: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Appreciate your time.

There is more on the expected political fireworks over the president's appoint appointments coming up. Then, one Republican's candid view of the fight for Iraq.


SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: We're in deep trouble. Sure, we are. This is a longtime effort.


ZAHN: Senator Chuck Hagel on the future of the war on Iraq later on PRIME TIME POLITICS.



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST: I am one who is not afraid to say I am sorry to see John Ashcroft step aside as the attorney general of the United States. This guy was the wartime consigliere who didn't get his just due, got beat up by all the hate types. It is his name that became the laugh line for the Kerry campaign, but it's one of the reasons why I felt the president had assembled a good team to fight the war on terror.


ZAHN: That was a fond farewell to John Ashcroft from radio talk show host with Smerconish.

We have heard from Democrats today, including Senator John Kerry, saying he was one of the most divisive faces of the Bush administration. A lot to talk about. We're talking about the president's nominee to replace Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, and about Senator Arlen Specter's chances of becoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Joining me now from Washington, Viveca Novak, who covers legal issues for "TIME" magazine, and Linda Feldmann, White House correspondent for "The Christian Science Monitor."

Glad to have both of you with us tonight.

I would like to quickly review the remarks that Senator Specter made that set off this firestorm. Let's listen to them together.


SPECTER: I don't want to prejudge what the president is going to do, but the president is well aware of what happened when a number of his nominees were sent up with a filibuster. And the president has said he is not going to impose a litmus test. He faced that issue squarely in the third debate. And I would not expect the president to -- I would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I've mentioned.


ZAHN: So, Viveca, was that a warning to the president or did the media spin this, as Senator Specter has suggested?

VIVECA NOVAK, "TIME": Well, I don't know about the media. The media may have helped to spin it.

Certainly, the movement conservatives who have never trusted Senator Specter on issues of abortion, they certainly went after it like red meat. I personally don't think it was so much of a warning as it was, as he says, a statement of political fact. But keeping in mind that he has always been pro-choice, this was the red meat that the conservatives were looking for.

ZAHN: Linda, how do you view it?

LINDA FELDMANN, "THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": Yes, I think that Senator Specter's words were pretty clear.

I think he was perhaps not wise to say that. Everybody knows that he's pro-choice and he didn't need to remind the world that he is, just as he is about to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But I would also point out that, for the White House, it's, in many ways, in their interest to keep them in there as chairman or to allow him to become chairman of Senate Judiciary, because he can be instrumental as a bridge to conservative Democrats who might be needed to break a filibuster when we get to a nomination. ZAHN: But, Viveca, there is another way of looking at that. And some folks are telling me that conservatives now are secretly hoping he does get in, because then Arlen Specter will owe them one down the road. Is there any truth to that?

NOVAK: Well, it's hard to say. All I know is that the Democrats feel like they want to stay a million miles away from this little internal scrap within the Republican Party.

And certainly the movement conservatives feel like they deserve a lot after this last election, because they turned out, they worked hard. And I think they -- you know, they feel like they should get a lot of credit and they should get a lot of what they want.


And I'd like to add that I think -- the Republicans, it's very important right out of the box, right after the election for President Bush to prove that his party is a big tent party. And if the first thing that happens after reelection is that Senator Specter is kicked out of his chance to be chairman of the Senate Judiciary, then it really makes the party look narrow-minded.

ZAHN: On to the issue of Alberto Gonzales, who the president named as the person he wants to replace John Ashcroft, Viveca. There are some controversial things he has been involved in in this administration, particularly his stance on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo.

Could that affect his confirmation?

NOVAK: Well, it will certainly be an issue in the hearings. Senator Pat Leahy, who is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, today said, well, I like Alberto Gonzales, but I do think we need to talk about these torture memos, which is shorthand for this series of memos that went back and forth in 2001, 2002.

And he feels and a lot of Democrats feel that these memos have never been given a full airing and never a full investigation in Congress. And so, they will very much want to air this. In the end, I think he'll be confirmed. It is going to be very tough for the Democrats to oppose the first Hispanic attorney general. And a lot of Hispanics did turn out for George Bush this time around.

ZAHN: Linda, though, is there the slight possibility that his confirmation could be sunk by a more thorough examination of these memos that he was responsible for?

FELDMANN: I tend to doubt it. I think there is a lot of goodwill toward Alberto Gonzales. He has a very affable personality. He is very different from John Ashcroft, who had a much harder edge to him.

And I tend to think that -- and, in fact, there's a lot of support -- even though the torture memos were very controversial, there's a lot of support for the administration and the Senate to take a hardball approach to fighting terrorism.

ZAHN: Well, Linda Feldmann, Viveca Novak, we appreciate both of your perspectives tonight. Thanks.

NOVAK: Good to be with you, Paula.

FELDMANN: Great. Thank you.

ZAHN: Thank you.

And coming up next, the continuing military campaign to rid Iraq of insurgents, two deadly days and a blood-chilling discovery. A Republican Senator who has raised doubts about the U.S. mission in Iraq weighs in on the latest developments, Senator Chuck Hagel.


ZAHN: Tonight, as fighting continues in Falluja, officials say American and Iraqi forces now control 70 percent of the city. Earlier today they seized several important buildings, including the mayor's office as well as some of the mosques and bridges there. Troops have also found what the commander of Iraqi forces calls hostage slaughter houses. Buildings used by kidnappers to hold and kill hostages.

And in Baghdad today, at least two members of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's family were kidnapped by a group demanding that Iraqi prisoners be released and the assault on Falluja be stopped.

The situation in Iraq is a starting point, but there's a lot to talk about tonight with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. He serves on the Senate foreign relations committee and he's famous for speaking his mind, even if it occasionally rubs the White House the wrong way. He is also a Vietnam veteran and contributor to the new book called "Voices of War." Senator Hagel joins me now from Washington. Always good to see you. Welcome, sir.

So it wasn't all that long ago where you criticized the administration's reconstruction plan in Iraq calling it pitiful, embarrassing. Do you still believe that today?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Well, I think the administration has made significant progress, Paula, toward getting those reconstruction funds down into the communities that they were originally intended for. Now, security is obviously a key part of this. You work all these tracks on a parallel basis. I think from what I know now and I talked with Secretary Powell and Secretary Armitage last week that progress has been made and we need to continue to make that progress.

ZAHN: So that means you don't think we're in deep trouble any more there?

HAGEL: No, we're in deep trouble. Sure we are. This is a longtime effort. The president has said that and others have said it, we won't know the outcome of this for some time to come. But I think we're moving in the right direction. The elections are going to be key, obviously the Fallujah battle is key to this. There are many milestones along the way, Paula, but it's too early to tell how this comes out. Bottom line is the Iraqi people will make the final decision on what kind of country they want.

ZAHN: And Senator, in spite of the fact that we now believe the American and Iraqi forces control 70 percent of Falluja, they haven't captured or killed the insurgents they were hoping to. How concerned are you about that? What does that mean for us down the road?

HAGEL: Well, I don't think you can judge these kind of battles and efforts in a day or two or measure it in how many we captured or how many killed for the moment. This is a long-term effort. It's going to take a sustained focus and effort and, again, it seems to me what is really key here is winning the Iraqi people over to, at this phase, the interim Iraqi government supporting that government, having confidence in that government and building towards elections in January. But this is measured, Paula, by one step at a time.

ZAHN: On to the issue of the politics of your party right now. How ugly is it going to get between conservative Republicans and more moderate ones?

HAGEL: We've got to grow up and we've got to mature a little bit here. Much of the future of the world depends on American leadership over the next few years and that resides to some extent in the Congress, within our parties and I think we'll put this country first and that will be the common denominator within our own party and within both parties.

ZAHN: And Senator, as you know, some of the president's critics suggest he has to grow up and that he really needs to make a serious bipartisan effort to solve the nation's problems. Are you confident he will?

HAGEL: Well, I thought the president got off to a good start last week in what he said. It seems to me it's important that in the early stages of the 109th Congress, the next Congress, that the leadership of our parties and the president tried to reach out and be inclusive with the Democrats and find some common denominator issues where there's some common purpose both parties can work on, legislation that's in the interest, certainly of the country, but also where both parties can participate and build on that new confidence and foundation and then we'll work our way into some of these more controversial issues.

ZAHN: Tomorrow, sir, of course, is Veteran's Day. You were an army sergeant, a highly decorated Vietnam War vet, given an Purple Heart for your service in Vietnam. If you would through "The Voices of War," which is this new book out which gives readers an intimate idea of what it's like to be on the front lines, reflect on where we are in Iraq right now and what lies ahead for the men and women serving there.

HAGEL: You know, I've always thought, Paula, when we think of war and especially the younger generations, they think in abstractions. They think like video games. Like it's a policy and even many in Congress I think think that way, but we too often let the humanness of war and the consequences of that slip by us and that's what we should be thinking about tomorrow as we think of veterans, we think of our men and women around the world. The human dynamic. The sacrifices they make, as well as their families.

ZAHN: Do you think this war in Iraq was a necessary war?

HAGEL: I think it will be determined as we play this out, Paula. As to the necessity of the war, I don't know. We, the United States, the world, were faced, are faced with great challenges and threats. It is difficult for a president, for world leaders to make these decisions. They don't have all the facts, they never will. But you have to always understand and leaders do, that the primary responsibility of the government of any nation is the protection and security of its people. And you can't second guess that.

ZAHN: Well, Senator Hagel, thank you for joining us tonight and covering so much ground with us and we, along with you, will honor the debt of the great men and women serving our country. Thanks for your time tonight.

HAGEL: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: And in January, one of the new faces joining Senator Hagel in the Senate will be a Republican who defeated a Democratic giant. John Thune's victory will add conservative power to the Senate. I'll ask him what he plans to do with that power next.


ZAHN: Senator Arlen Specter's future, moral values. What's ahead on those fronts? Let's ask a giant killer, South Dakota Republican John Thune, who ended one of the career of one of the most powerful senators, Democrat Tom Daschle.

Joining me now from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the senator-elect.

Congratulations. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

JOHN THUNE (R), SENATOR-ELECT, SOUTH DAKOTA: Thank you, Paula. It's nice to be on your program.

ZAHN: Thank you.

I don't know whether you were able to hear all of what your new colleague to be had to say, Senator Hagel, but he has some grave concerns about this war. He says he is not sure if this was a necessary war and he's not certain how it will turn out.

How do you think it will look at the end of this?

THUNE: Well, you know, I think right now the key is, and Senator Hagel hit up on this, that getting a democracy stood up in Iraq, getting the Iraqi army so that they can be prepare -- they're prepared to train -- or trained, I should say, to defend the Iraqi people. And, you know, I think those things are in process now, and I think Senator Hagel pointed out that there is a plan and that we made progress. And I think we're going to make more progress. We've secured much of Falluja. We need to get the insurgencies under control and make sure that the country is safe and secure so they could move forward with setting up a Democratic government.

ZAHN: How concerned are you...

THUNE: you know, I mean...

ZAHN: How concerned are you, Senator-elect, that it appears as those these insurgents have scattered? Fanned out, perhaps, across the country.

THUNE: Well, I think that there will be -- I mean, this is -- they're not going to go away overnight. But I think the sooner that they receive a message that that we're not going to go away overnight either, that we're going to finish this job.

I think that the question of whether or not and all the questions that were -- that were raised during the debate about the resolution authorizing the use of force, that -- you know, there was a time to do that. Now that we are there, we need to prevail.

And I think that, you know, the new government and Prime Minister Allawi and others are moving forward. I think the American military is working with the Iraqi military to ensure that the country is secure so that they can move to free elections and -- and stand up a democracy in Iraq. And, you know, ultimately, that's the goal. And I believe...

ZAHN: Do you think you can do that?

THUNE: Pardon me?

ZAHN: I'm sorry, because of the delay between the two of us here. But do you think that can be done without additional troops on the ground?

THUNE: You know, I think that we have to rely on our military leadership for that decision. If they suggest that they need additional troops, then we have to be prepared to send them.

But, you know, right now things are -- things are on schedule for January, and if we can, again, get this area secured and make sure that the Iraqi army is trained and prepared and equipped to defend the Iraqi people, we're going to get this job done.

But nobody said it would be easy, and the war on terror is going to be a, you know -- this is something that's not going to get away overnight. We're going to have to continue to proceed in a way that enables our troops to have the resources they need to get the job done there and that keeps, you know, America safe and secure from the threat of terror around the world. ZAHN: The other thing Senator Hagel said that fascinated me was the idea that both parties need to grow up and as he said, mature a little here.

As an incoming Senator who is considered a conservative, how would you suggest allaying the fears of the other 48 percent of the American public, many whom believe women should have the right to choose, many who believe that gays should be entitled to particular legal standards and rights and then, of course, the whole issue of religion and politics not mixing?

THUNE: Well, you know, Senator Hagel and I share a border. He's from the state of Nebraska, and -- and I think that his comment about both sides growing up, I think we have to. We have to work together.

And one of the central themes of my campaign here in South Dakota was the importance of putting aside the obstructionism, the politics of block and blame and actually focusing on moving the agenda forward. And I think that is what the American people and what people here South Dakota expect us to do.

I do think that the issues that you mentioned are issues that are important to a majority of people in this country. I think a lot of people went to the polls a week ago Tuesday and voted based upon a concern that the country was drifting further and further left on some of these traditional values-type issues.

And -- but what I told people here in South Dakota and I think that around the country is that once the elections are over, we have to work together for the common good. And we've got to reach out to people who, you know, supported us and people who didn't support us and make sure that we're getting an agenda moving forward that, you know, addresses the high cost of health care...

ZAHN: Sure.

THUNE: ... gets energy policy in place, helps create the, you know, jobs and grow the economy and gets, you know, judges voted on in the United States Senate. And I think those are all things that people agree upon in this country. And some of the other issues...


THUNE: ... the issues that you mentioned, are felt strongly by a lot of people, as well.

ZAHN: Well, we'll be watching you closely from here, best of luck to you. Thank you again for joining us tonight, Senator-Elect Thune.

THUNE: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: And again, sorry about the slight delays between my questions and his answers.

If you like stories about political underdogs, you'll want to stick around for this one. One of these California surfers could ride a wave of ride-in ballots all the way to city hall. Which one and where, when we come back.

But first, some friendly advice for the Democrats from the talk radio's Ed Schultz.


ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You will not change the minds of the people in small town America in the red states with an editorial in some major newspaper because, you know what? They don't get it. They don't get these major newspaper editorials.

You know what they get? You know what they hear repeatedly? Is audio. You know what they see on cable television? Is the constant face just pounding away at Kerry, just pounding away at the liberals, just pounding away at the Democrats. And until the lefties get together and until they decide they want to get into this battle of electronic media, you will lose.



ZAHN: Just when you thought we'd get through the election year without lawsuits and battles over who won this or who won that, well, here comes the next wave.

In San Diego, city council member, environmentalist and surf shop owner Donna Frye, wife of well-known surfer Skip Frye, ran for mayor as write-in, getting into the race only five weeks before the election. And while the final vote count won't be known for a few weeks, many people think she has won.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit has been filed, contending that San Diego city charter doesn't allow for write-ins, so her whole candidacy could be a wipeout.

And Donna Frye herself joins us tonight from San Diego.

Good to see you, Donna. So do you think you're going to end up winning this?

DONNA FRYE, SAN DIEGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely. I plan on December 6 to be sworn in as the next mayor of our city of San Diego.

ZAHN: Are you at all concerned about this legal fight?

FRYE: No, I think that the legal challenge is no more than sour grapes, and I really think it's just kind of the politics as, as usual, which is one of the main reasons that I ran.

ZAHN: Why do you think you could end up being elected? This is a city that has mostly elected conservatives. You ran no ads. You basically really had no campaign platform. Why do you think in the end this is going to work for you? FRYE: Well, I think that the public is very tired of the politics as usual, the business as usual, the closed-door meetings, the backroom deals, elected officials that have forgotten, that have absolutely forgotten what it is to be a public servant and what their job really is.

I haven't forgotten that. I know what my job is, I know it's to serve the public, and I know it is to represent the public. So I think that that has resonated. Plus, I tell people the truth. I just give them real basic answers, and I tell them what my position is and answer their questions.

ZAHN: And it seems to me from reading about your record you like to tweak people, particularly as a city council member. You liked doing unpopular things, didn't you?

FRYE: Well, it's not so much doing unpopular things. I think it's a case of not doing dumb things. For example, I was the only council member who voted not to increase benefits, which was added to the under funding of the city's pension.

ZAHN: And do you think that took a lot of courage to do that?

FRYE: Well, I think it took a lot of common sense, which is what I have. I don't know if that's necessarily courage, but it's to understand what is really in the best interest of the public. And I think sometimes elected officials forget that.

ZAHN: What -- what has been the worst thing for you to put on the political establishment there?

FRYE: What is what?

ZAHN: The worst part of taking on the political establishment there.

FRYE: I think sometimes the negativity, the negativity that comes from it. I'm a very upbeat, positive person, and it's difficult sometimes when the negativity is -- is not directed at me in person but is, instead, done behind my back. And people will say one thing to my face and then do something else behind my back. I think that's really hard for me.

I like people that are open and honest and direct. And if they have something to say to me, if they have a disagreement, want to have a civil, you know, discussion with me, I welcome it.

But so often what happens is that I will read things about me in the newspaper from people I've never met in my life...

ZAHN: Sure.

FRYE: ... and have never had the courtesy to pick up a telephone and call me.

ZAHN: Yes, the costs of being in public life. Quick yes or no, do you think you're going to be able to surf if you end up being elected mayor?

FRYE: Yes.

ZAHN: Yes. I'm sure you'll make time for that after a life devoted to it.

FRYE: Yes.

ZAHN: Donna Frye, thank you, we'll be watching the legal fight from here.

FRYE: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Thank you.

And we'll be right back with the results of tonight's "Voting Booth" question.


ZAHN: Time for tonight's results from our "Voting Booth" question. Not a scientific poll, remember, just a sampling from our web site.

Tomorrow, a PAULA ZAHN NOW exclusive. After so many Americans voted their values, the one and only Bill Cosby talks about a controversy that he ignited about missing values in his own African- American community. It has set him off on a new journey.


ZAHN: Do you ever get tired of having to be funny?

BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: It has been like this for 40 years, 41 years. It's been like this.

ZAHN (voice-over) Bill Cosby is one of America's beloved entertainers.

COSBY: Because he has found a way to make a living even though he is stupid.

ZAHN: For the past six months he has also become a lightning rod for controversy.

COSBY: Your strength and your empowerment, the more you invest in that child, the more you're not going to let some CD tell your child how to curse.

ZAHN: Cosby's out and out offensive against parental irresponsibility, juvenile delinquency and personal values in the low- income African-American community has led to harsh criticism.

COSBY: Do they really say something? ZAHN: We met for his first in-depth interview about the controversy months after it began.

(on camera) Some of your harshest critics agree with what you're saying needs to be done in these communities. What they objected to was the airing of dirty laundry in public. They were mad at you.

COSBY: Let them stay mad as long as they don't have good sense. That's the other part that I said. I don't care what right-wing white people are thinking. How long are you going to whisper about a smallpox epidemic in your apartment building when bodies are coming out under the sheets?

ZAHN (voice-over): Cosby refuses to whisper. His message is loud and clear.

COSBY: I didn't take this as a job. I took this as an emotion. No, and I'm not stopping either.

This is about little children and people not giving them better choices. You can't blame other things yet. You've got to straighten up your house, straighten up your apartment, straighten up your child.


ZAHN: And Bill Cosby isn't just pointing fingers; he's putting his time and money on the line, believing he can help open doors for African-Americans.

You'll hear much more from him tomorrow night, including his response to being called a race trader who ignores white racism. An exclusive interview tomorrow night. We hope you will join us then.

That wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks again for dropping by. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Have a good night.


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