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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Suicide Bomber Believed to be Behind Mosul Attack; Interview With Senator John Cornyn
Aired December 22, 2004 - 15:36 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening to a news conference at the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joined by General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answering many questions about yesterday's bombing, yesterday's attack in Mosul, killing 19, including 13 U.S. service members and others. The big news out of this news conference from General Myers, confirming what other sources have been saying, is that it appears this was the work of a suicide bomber. In the words of General Myers, "An improvised explosive device worn by an attacker."
With us now on the phone, CNN military intelligence analyst Ken Robinson.
Ken, we didn't get much from either the secretary or General Myers in terms of what evidence they found. We know the investigation is still under way. But what would it take to make that determination that this was the work of a suicide bomber?
KEN ROBINSON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Several things, Judy. The first would be the components of the explosive, the remnants of those that are found. They unfortunately have quite a bit of experience in analyzing that from all the IEDs.
Second would be anything that was used as a casualty-producing device, like the ball bearings. That's not something typically associated with a missile or a mortar. And so those two indicators alone would lead them pretty quickly to an assumption that it had to have been carried in by a man or a woman.
WOODRUFF: And in fact, Ken, we know military officials already today have been saying that there was found among the remnants, the shrapnel found in the room, small ball bearings which, as you say, are often used in these suicide attacks. Ken, what does it say that someone who wanted to carry out something like this could get right in the middle of the mess hall, the place where U.S. servicemen and women are having lunch?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, when we were embedded with the military prior to the war and prior to the invasion in Kuwait, as we were queuing up we went through several mess hall areas where the guest workers were all queued up and were searched very carefully and went through metal detectors. I don't know specifically on this specific camp as they have moved forward into Iraq if they had that level of sophistication. But clearly, one of the Achilles heels of this are Iraqis themselves who are in the military who have been shown to be sympathizers with the insurgencies. WOODRUFF: And Ken, we know -- I know from yesterday speaking with the former defense secretary, William Cohen, who said -- he said it wouldn't be surprising to know that one of the methods used by the insurgents is to threaten the families of anyone working inside a military base and saying either you cooperate with us or else.
ROBINSON: Well, Secretary Cohen is correct. That actually -- that tactic has been used in the past where there have been suicide bombers who have been found chained to the vehicles that they were in, and there have been reports of families who were being held hostage until the suicide bomber carried out his mission by other Sunnis. This has been -- this has been the monstrous problem, and there's been reporting on that in the -- in intelligence circles.
WOODRUFF: Ken Robinson, who is a CNN intelligence analyst, thank you very much. Ken's on the phone with us. And we may want you to stand by, Ken. Thank you.
Also with us now, CNN's Kathleen Koch, who was at the Pentagon taking part in that news conference.
And Kathleen, we just saw you asking the question. It struck me that this was -- these were some of the most personal comments we've seen coming from Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Judy. And, of course, the defense secretary himself is the one who has come under such fire in recent weeks for what some, in particular lawmakers up on Capitol Hill, felt was a callousness or a disregard, a seeming insensitivity to the -- to the needs of the troops.
That coming in part after that exchange with a soldier in Kuwait who was concerned about the lack of armored vehicles, and in which the secretary responded, "You go to war with the army you have, not the one that you would wish to have or might have at some point in the future." And then, also, the revelation over the weekend that the secretary had an automated machine sign his condolence letters to the families of those killed in Iraq instead of signing them personally, a practice he says he will now adopt.
But, yes, he was -- he really did personally address those concerns, saying it deeply saddened him that anyone might think that he wasn't very, very concerned about the needs and the well-being of the military. I believe he said, "I feel their loss" -- let me flip to my notes here.
Just a second, Judy. It's hard, when you are holding a microphone in your hand. You can't move around as well.
But he said, "Their grief is something that I feel to my core." So that was indeed a very personal -- and also then we had that revelation, going to the investigation about what happened in Camp Marez from -- from the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers. And why don't we take a listen quickly to what he said about what they have found there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Investigators are about to conclude their look into the exact cause of the blast. At this point, it looks like it was an improvised explosive device worn by an attacker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOCH: And this is really a very knew tactic, Judy, because in the past, as a matter of fact at this particular camp, Camp Marez, there had been at least over the last year alone some 30 attempts to mortar this very dining hall. Obviously they had all been unsuccessful.
But these attacks on this U.S. facility, on numerous others around Iraq, they had been relatively imprecise. And so, using this sort of a tactic, taking a bomber and someone who infiltrated the camp, walked right into the midst of the camp, right into the midst of hundreds of soldiers where they were dining, this certainly does show a new tactic and perhaps something that they will begin, the insurgents, to adopt in trying to seek more accuracy and obviously greater damage.
WOODRUFF: And Kathleen, despite what's happened yesterday, despite the ongoing violence, Secretary Rumsfeld, General Myers, continued to argue that the U.S.-led forces are winning the battle against these insurgents.
KOCH: They do. And there's been an interesting sort of back and forth on that with them continuing to say, since the battle of Falluja, that, yes, violence has dropped dramatically.
They still believe they are winning. They insist the insurgents have no safe haven, the insurgents have nowhere to hide, they can't operate with impunity. But then you see these attacks, the deadly attacks over the weekend that killed dozens and dozens of Iraqis, the three election officials murder in the street. And now this would certainly seem, at least to many people's eyes, that they are operating with impunity.
WOODRUFF: All right. CNN's Kathleen Koch, who has just been taking part in that nuns conference at the Pentagon. Kathleen, thank you very much.
And we want to go now to Baghdad and to CNN's own Karl Penhaul who, of course, is covering the war, the story for us over there.
Karl, with the word from the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Myers, that they do believe that it was apparently a suicide bomber, what effect does that have on operations going forward, on morale, the whole picture?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly all the telltale signs were there since early this morning that this was the work of a suicide bomber. In communications with military personnel up there at Camp Marez who are working very closely with that team of FBI experts who have been combing through the wreckage for the last 20 hours, they said one of the clear telltale signs was the fact of these small, symmetrical, perfectly round perforations in some of the stainless steel food service equipment in that dining hall indicative that ball bearings had been used in the explosive device.
Ball bearings, of course, a favorite of bomb makers the world over to use as shrapnel within inside any bomb. But, of course, this isn't the first time that a suicide bomber has penetrated heavily- fortified U.S. compounds.
Remember the Green Zone bombing? We're talking back in October, if my memory serves me. A suicide bomber gets into one of the most heavily-defended compounds in the whole of Iraq and sets off a suicide bomb there.
But, again, what lessons have been learned from that? What lessons will be applied going forward? These type of attacks are very difficult to defend against, as Mr. Rumsfeld and General Myers were saying themselves. Somebody who is intent on blowing themselves up is a very difficult person to stop.
That said, it would indicate that in this particular attack there has been some kind of confidence given to that person, because typically a person trying to enter any of these U.S. military bases will, first of all, have to be known to U.S. military personnel at the gate, they will go through a variety of checks. They will have to have a purpose for being there.
So this could indicate that this person has been there before or has built up some kind of trust that he was ale to clear all the security and just walk into a packed dining hall at a key time. And, of course, couple this with the claim of responsibility by the insurgent group Ansar Al-Sunnah on an insurgent Web site, but, also in pamphlets that are being handed around Mosul today, we understand.
We do know that Ansar Al-Sunnah is very skilled, if that's the right word, in suicide bombings. Only back in February in the city of Irbil two suicide bombers walked into two separate political party offices of the main Kurdish parties there and took suicide bombs with them, set those off, killing more than 106 people. So if it does prove to be Ansar Al-Sunnah, then certainly there they do have a track record of this type of attack -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Karl, you are talking to military every day, to people working with the U.S. military. When you hear General Myers and Secretary Rumsfeld say it's inherent in every -- in the heart of this mission that these forces should be protected, is that how the troops there feel? Do they feel everything is being done that could be done to keep them safe?
PENHAUL: Not necessarily, and not all the time. Yes, it's a familiar saying that a -- that a happy soldier is a bitchin' (ph) soldier, if you pardon the phrase. That because there are recurrent complaints that soldiers make that aren't really any indication of low morale. But there are some indications they think that they could do things better were they in charge. But the question of armored Humvees and armored trucks has been a recurrent complaint since the start of the invasion. We have seen soldiers improvising their own armor for Humvees. We saw the complaints of that supply convoy a few months ago when some soldiers refused to go on a fuel supply run because they felt that their trucks weren't armored enough. So we have seen this recurrently, that soldiers don't believe all the time that they have the right equipment to do this job -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Karl Penhaul, who has been covering the war in Iraq for CNN. Karl, thank you very much.
And now we want to turn to CNN security analyst Mike Brook, who is with us on the telephone from Minneapolis.
Mike, what does it say to you that a security -- I mean, I'm sorry, that a suicide bomber could get inside a facility like the one in Mosul?
MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Judy, force protection is job one with our U.S. troops over there, especially on their own base, in their own home. But it's very, very difficult to vet some of the contract workers, the Iraqis, other third country nationals that are working there on the bases and in the dining hall. It's very difficult to do that.
But as the investigation goes on, hopefully they will be able to glean more evidence, find out a little bit more about maybe who is responsible for this, exactly what groups. There's the FBI task force that Karl Penhaul was talking about, that is called the combined explosive exploitation cell. It's made up of military, department of intelligence -- Department of Defense, intelligence agents, the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, other civilian law enforcement agencies here from the U.S.
WOODRUFF: Mike, why is it so hard to vet or to screen these contract workers?
BROOKS: Well, Judy, in the United States, you know, when you go for a security clearance and you go to work at a government facility, you put your name in, you fill about out an 18-page application with all your information going back to when you were in high school.
Here -- there in Iraq, it's very difficult to do that. It's very difficult to go back and vet that far back some of these Iraqis and third country nationals. They have to go with what they have.
They have to go with trust, with the people who have been working with them. And the terrorists are going to look for vulnerabilities in the U.S. compounds. And they can sit back, wait, see what the weaknesses are, and then exploit them, as it seems like they did yesterday.
WOODRUFF: Mike Brooks, CNN security analyst, on the phone for us from Minneapolis.
Our coverage continues. We'll be back in just a moment.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. As you saw, just saw here on CNN, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Richard Myers told reporters that a suicide bomber is believed to have caused the explosion that killed at least 22 people at a U.S. military mess in Iraq. Myers made his comments at a news conference earlier this hour with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.
Rumsfeld expressed his sympathy for those killed and wounded in the mess hall attack. And he made a point of defending the overall U.S. strategy in the region. Among the first questions for the defense secretary, why was the mess hall tent left vulnerable to attack?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It is something that one has to put into context. And I say that in respect for the military commanders on the ground who are -- have multiple tasks, are challenged constantly.
I mean, think of the murders that take place in every major city in the world. And one could say, well, why aren't they stopped? Or the fires that take place, and things that happen. And it's -- they are terrible things, and the loss of life is heartbreaking, and it's a normal human instinct. But the other way to think about it, or an additional way to think about it is, think about turning that country over and letting them win, those people who are doing those things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Earlier today, between 40 and 50 troops who were injured in the Mosul attack arrived at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for medical treatment. Eight of the attacked survivors are said to be in extremely critical condition.
Updating the casualties in the mess hall explosion, 13 U.S. soldiers were killed, along with five U.S. civilians, three members of the Iraqi security forces, and one unidentified person who is not an American. At least 69 are reported injured.
Just a few hours ago, I talked about the situation in Iraq with Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee. And I started by asking Senator Cornyn about his own recent trip to Iraq and his comments that progress was being made there. I asked him about that statement, with the attack, such as the one that took place yesterday, still going on.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, it's terrible to see the loss of life and particularly American life, but I think it's -- they understand that they are a part of an important cause, a noble cause. And what I mean by positive is the elections appear to be on track, and everyone that we talked to when we were in Iraq seems to be very, very committed to making sure they are successful, from the U.N. to the Iraqi election commission to Prime Minister Allawi and others.
WOODRUFF: The president himself yesterday expressed confidence. He said -- he said, "I'm confident democracy will prevail in Iraq." But I think many Americans are asking, at what cost?
CORNYN: Well, unfortunately it's -- it's a high cost. We've had slightly more than 1,300 Americans who have lost their lives in this conflict, and many Iraqis now are the source of these attacks by those who are trying to intimidate them.
But we know that now for the first time in a long time that about 50 million people now have the chance for self-government, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it's unfortunate we found that democracy and freedom come at a high cost. But god bless the young men and women of the United States military for committing themselves to fight such a noble and worthy cause.
WOODRUFF: Senator, you're aware of the back and forth lately over -- particularly over how well protected U.S. troops are in Iraq. And now with this incident yesterday, out in a very vulnerable area, a tent, they are still investigating it. But do you have questions about how well protected the American servicemen and women are?
CORNYN: Well, I know force protection is a high priority for our military leadership. And my understanding is they are unable to determine whether this was a rocket or mortar attack or possibly a suicide bomber. The problem we have is, not only are our troops having to deal with improvised explosive devices, but vehicle-born explosive devices by suicide bombers.
And it's very, very difficult to stop somebody who is intent on killing you and causing havoc and losing their own life in the process. But we continue to adapt to the tactics by the insurgents which are fluid.
But I'm convinced that our military leadership is doing the very best job they can under difficult circumstances. And ultimately, what we need to do is to train Iraqi forces to stand up. I think those are going to be our -- that's going to be our ticket home.
WOODRUFF: But you think -- but you're saying you believe everything is being done that could be done to protect these troops?
CORNYN: I think so. You know, this is -- unfortunately this is a war. And in war the enemy gets a vote.
And we are the most powerful military force on the face of the planet. Fortunately, our losses, our casualties have been by historical standards relatively small. But, of course, we mourn with the families and grieve at the loss of any life. But that's the nature, unfortunately, of war, and what we're engaged in defeating the war on terrorism on the offensive in places like Iraq and elsewhere.
WOODRUFF: You called it a noble cause, Senator. So what do you say to Americans who are asking today, are these lives that are lost and these young men and women who are grievously wounded, will this have been for a reason?
CORNYN: Well, I think so. I mean, 25 million or so people living in Iraq lived under Saddam's brutal boot heel. More than 300,000 lie dead in mass graves. More than a million Iraqis simply missing who fled Saddam's blood thirsty regime.
This is tough. I don't mean to minimize it at all. But thank goodness we have these young men and women who are volunteers who are part of the most professional, best-trained, most-effective fighting force on the face of the planet who believe that they are engaged in something important. And they are.
WOODRUFF: Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. I talked to him just a couple of hours ago.
Welcome back. As you've been hearing, Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers told reporters this afternoon that a suicide bomber is believed to have caused the explosion that killed at least 22 people, including 13 U.S. soldiers at a U.S. military mess hall in Iraq. Myers made those comments at a Pentagon news conference with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Myers said investigators have not reached a final conclusion, but he described the evidence found so far. That includes finding evidence that ball bearings were used in whatever the device was. A little bit earlier, between 40 and 50 U.S. troops who were injured in the Mosul attack arrived at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to get medical treatment.
With me now to talk about all this and to talk beyond what happened to the political ramifications, CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein at the "Los Angeles Times." He joins me here in Washington. And joining us from Los Angeles, Bill Schneider, CNN's well-known political analyst.
Ron, let me begin with you. We don't want to turn this political too quickly. But clearly, this is George Bush's war. This is a war that President Bush wanted. His defense secretary is defending it, his joint chiefs -- chairman of the joint chiefs of staff is defending it. Does it have an effect on his ability to lead the country with these kinds of attacks ongoing on U.S. troops?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Inescapably, Judy. In tangible and atmospheric ways, this kind of pattern in Iraq affects the president. Obviously, the most tangible way is it inhibits his ability to set the agenda. One of the great powers of the presidency is to define -- to point the media and the public in the direction of what he wants to talk about. He has a very ambitious domestic agenda he'd like to spotlight. We're not talking about that right now.
And as long as this violence stays at this level in Iraq, we're going to talking about it both in the media and in Congress. So it diminishes a tangible power. It affects the atmospherics as well, because when things go badly in Iraq, it does exert -- exact a price on President Bush's approval rating with the public.
He's now in an extraordinary situation, as Bill could tell you, to be a re-elected president back under 50 percent approval in the theoretical honeymoon between the election and the inaugural. It has got to be almost unprecedented. That limits his ability to leverage members of Congress, especially Democrats, who have less reason to go along with him when his approval rating among voters in their own party, is back down to 15 percent.
WOODRUFF: And in fact, Bill, and you've talked about this earlier this week, the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, you asked people do they approve of the way the president's handling his job? In November, after the election, 55 percent approval. Now it's 49 percent approval.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And he's the only re-elected president we could find whose approval rating is below 50 percent. I mean, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, LBJ, Eisenhower, all were well above 50 percent. And what it means really is there is no second honeymoon for this president. And the reason, of course, is Iraq. Americans are upset, they're exasperated by the situation.
That's not to say that there is a strong feeling there that the United States should cut and run. We're not finding any evidence of that. People believe we're there, we have to see the task through, and they're willing to continue to trying to make this thing work. But there is an event in the near future that's going to be a real test. They all talked about it, including Rumsfeld and Myers today and that's the election, which the president is determined to see through at the end of January.
That election is going to be a real test, not just for the Iraqis and for the American forces, but also for this administration. Because it will be determined to be either a success in the sense that it creates a stable government that can begin managing things in Iraq or it could be seen as a catastrophic failure that just -- makes the situation much, much worse over there and does not create any kind of a governing consensus.
WOODRUFF: And Ron, it seems to me we went through something similar with the handover last summer, when the expectation was, or at least -- even unspoken expectation was that there would be some measure of increased stability after the handover. Now people are expecting that to happen again after these elections.
BROWNSTEIN: And the basic construct that we've had and the dialogue from the administration for months has been the path that we are on is toward putting in place an elected Iraqi government and training an Iraqi military that would bear more of this burden over time, and the implicit guarantee there to the public was that Americans would be bearing less of the burden over time.
Now, obviously, they are very determined to put this election forward, but the president has been forced to acknowledge that the training side is not going as well as we'd like, and it appears -- certainly no one would believe this new government is going to defend itself any time soon. It appears Americans are going to be bearing this burden for a while. As Bill said, the initial impulse may be to get tougher when something like this happens, but over time, you see the numbers begin to deteriorate and it's unclear -- the big question, what will that do on Capitol Hill?
WOODRUFF: And Bill, what can the administration do to keep expectations from getting so high that they couldn't possibly be met after this election in January?
SCHNEIDER: Well, look, what Americans are looking for is to use an unfortunate Vietnam analogy, but one that I think applies, the light at the end of the tunnel. Americans want to see that there is some end game here for the United States forces in Iraq, that there's some goal, that we have a plan, that we're working towards it and that eventually, even if it takes a long time, eventually there's a point at which American forces can begin to extricate themselves and the Iraqis can take over.
The Americans are willing to put up with this for some time, as long as they believe that there is a plan on the ground. The fact that this was found to be a suicide bomber is enormously consequential. Because as many of your military commentators have said in the last few minutes, it is very difficult to defend yourself against people who are intent upon killing themselves.
We found that out on September 11, 2001. The Israelis have found it difficult to defend themselves against suicide bombers. They ended up building a wall between Israeli and Palestinian areas and sometimes through those various areas. This is going to make the situation immensely more complicated because every Iraqi and many third party nationals becomes a potential weapon.
BROWNSTEIN: You know, Judy, right now, Donald Rumsfeld is sort of, I think, a pressure valve for the discontent over the way things are going in Iraq, both among Democrats -- even among Republicans. Republicans who are uneasy with the way this is going can criticize Donald Rumsfeld without directly challenging a president who has a 90 percent approval rating in their own party.
But there's only so far that can go. Sooner or later for those on Capitol Hill who have complaining about the strategy, you do wonder if they can keep the focus solely on the secretary of defense. At some point, do they have to question the commander-in-chief, who after all, is the final arbiter on the questions that they are raising themselves?
WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to leave it there. Ron Brownstein. Bill Schneider, thank you both. And we appreciate it.
Well, earlier today, military personnel who served in Iraq and are now at Walter Reed Army Hospital joined a group of volunteers on the mall here in Washington. The event was part of the annual holiday tree at the wall, the Vietnam Wall, a ceremony at the Veterans' Memorial there. The ceremony featured personal greetings from the American people, honoring veterans and honoring active duty personnel in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to say happy holidays to all the servicemen and women serving overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your courage and dedication to the freedom of our country will always be remembered by our family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God bless you and keep you throughout eternity. And I hope all our guys come home and our women. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to send my thoughts and prayers to my comrades who are over there now, and all the soldiers, especially the ones in Mosul yesterday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May the joy and spirit of the holiday season heal the hearts of the families and friends of the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of you war heroes are truly honorable men and women with dignity. I salute you and support you to the fullest. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas. And thanks for the service and devotion to this great country.
DAVID FONDREN, SON HURT IN IRAQ: With our son in the hospital, we didn't want to go anywhere but be by his side. But the one place I did want to come to is the Vietnam Memorial. He was hit on Thanksgiving day just north of Sadr city by IED. He lost both his legs and his right thumb. We found out Thanksgiving. We said this is the best Thanksgiving we had, and this is the best Christmas. It's really, you know, your child is born, it's like our child was born twice to us, we're getting back another time, and it's just a blessing.
WOODRUFF: I was at the Vietnam Wall for that ceremony this morning. It was very moving, as you just heard.
Well, we turn to the CNN "Security Watch." When we return, a shift in government money to the benefit of the nation's largest cities.
Also, my conversation with political veterans Jack Valenti and Ed Rollins on the policy effect and the political effect of the mess hall attack. Stay with us.
WOODRUFF: After receiving some criticism, the department of homeland security is shifting a bigger portion of its anti-terrorism grants to some of the nation's biggest cities. The "New York Times" reports that New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago and Boston will all see a boost in their funds. New York's share jumps from $47 million to $208 million in the coming fiscal year. Orlando, Memphis and New Haven, Connecticut are among cities that will no longer get grants for being at higher risk of attack. This shift comes after repeated calls from big city mayors for a larger share of the department's $3.5 billion in anti-terrorism grants.
Later on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" CNN's "Security Watch" will focus on terror threats and the holidays. That's coming up at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: Retiring United States Senator Bob Graham is bringing a long tradition to an end today. The Florida Democrat is holding his final work day, as he delivers toys and clothing to children in the Florida Keys. Graham, who is retiring from politics after 18 years in the Senate, started his work days, 30 years ago. And today's work day is his 408th. I recently spoke with Graham about his exit from politics. And I started by asking him if he thinks he's leaving the country in good hands.
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: In our democracy, the people decide who those good hands will be, and they clearly decided that it was going to be another four years of President Bush. I think the president has gotten off to a good start. This intelligence reform bill that recently passed, which I think will be very important to the security of the American people, would not have passed but for the president's personal involvement over the last several weeks. So I commend him for that. I hope that will be an example of the way in which he will conduct his second term, personal involvement, bipartisan bringing people together and focusing on the truly major issues.
WOODRUFF: What are you hopeful about for the next several years, and what worries you?
GRAHAM: Let me answer the second question first. What worries me is the accumulating deficits that we're developing. It's not just a budgetary deficit, although that is daunting, but also a trade deficit, and an unseen deficit in our transportation systems, our public utilities, those things that are basic to the functioning of our society. We are going have to face up to the fact that our generation has a responsibility to pay its own bills, and see that the America that we leave to our children and grandchildren is a better America, not a heavily indebted America.
WOODRUFF: You were, obviously, very vocally against the war in Iraq. You voted against that war. What's your assessment of how it's going?
GRAHAM: Well, I think the war is going with difficulty, and we see it every day on CNN. I also think that what we've done is to increase the threat of the real terrorists, the terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans on September the 11th. We have, by our actions, erected recruiting billboards throughout the Middle East. We probably increased the number of trained terrorists in the world by at least 50, if not 100 percent. We've split the alliances that are going to be critical to winning the war on terror. So we have got a lot of work to do, if we are going to seriously get reengaged and then win the war on terror.
WOODRUFF: What about the Democratic party? It's your party, a lot of people think it's got enormous problems.
GRAHAM: I don't think there are enormous problems. We won the popular vote in 2000, we lost it in 2004 by approximately 3 percentage points. Disappointing but not disastrous. I think what the Democratic party has got to do is to reconnect with those values and activities that have been its traditional strength. Democratic party is the party of education. We believe in an investment, in preparing our next generation to participate and lead America. We also believe in economic opportunity. And I think if we can get back some of those basic principles that we'll start to reconnect with the American people.
WOODRUFF: In your farewell remarks, good-bye remarks to the Senate, to your colleagues, you said among other things you urged your fellow senators to place country before party. Have they been putting party first?
GRAHAM: I'm afraid there has been a growing amount of partisanship, which has intruded on people seeing the things that we share in common and the path to solving problems. Listen, again, this intelligence bill was an outstanding example of members of the House and the Senate, not trying to shape a Republican bill or a Democratic bill, but taking advantage of the good work that has been done over years by a number of Americans, including the work of the Senate/House joint inquiry two years ago, and then last year's 9/11 commission, and I think America will be a better place, and it would not have happened if it had been treated as a partisan matter.
WOODRUFF: Senator Bob Graham who leaves after how many years in the Senate?
GRAHAM: Eighteen years in the Senate.
WOODRUFF: Eighteen years in the Senate. And 8 years as governor of the state of Florida.
GRAHAM: People of Florida have been very kind and generous, and I am extremely appreciative.
WOODRUFF: Senator Bob Graham leaving the Senate, we talked to him a few days ago.
Coming up, I talk with Jack Valenti and Ed Rollins more on yesterday's what apparently was a suicide attack in Iraq. The effect it's having on public opinion in this country. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WOODRUFF: More fallout from the abrupt withdrawal of Bernard Kerik from being nominated to head the department of homeland security. Kerik has just held a news conference in New York City, announcing he is resigning from Giuliani Partners, a company owned by or run primarily by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Kerik, for many years, having been close to the mayor, originally was his driver, security aide, worked his way up to New York City police commissioner, and just a matter of weeks ago, President Bush had named Kerik to be his choice to run the department of homeland security. Then, after a cascade of information came out to -- negative information about Mr. Kerik and allegations that one assumed would cause problems with confirmation, Kerik withdrew his name, and now we're learning today the latest episode in all of this, Kerik stepping down from the firm run by Rudy Giuliani. We're told that Giuliani will hold a news conference or at least talk to reporters within the hour.
Back now to our story that has led off this hour and every other hour this Wednesday, and that is the news from Iraq. The reports that it was apparently a suicide bomb that was the cause of yesterday's attack at a military mess hall inside Iraq. Polls are showing that most Americans now disapprove of the way the Bush administration has handled the situation in Iraq over the last few months. The question is will yesterday's deadly attack in Mosul have a major effect on the public's view?
With me now Jack Valenti, a former aide to president Lyndon Johnson and in New York, Republican strategist Ed Rollins. Ed, what is your sense of this? Is this something which, you know, at some point after you have so many episodes like this one, it does begin to affect the public view of the war and the president.
ED ROLLINS, GOP STRATEGIST: There's no question it does. It's -- I think most people are not for the war, but they felt after this election that it was very important we finish the job that we started. The problem that you have in these unconventional-type things is very similar to the war that Jack was very involved in with Lyndon Johnson. After a while these kinds of casualty figures, innocent people being killed eating their lunch, innocent kids being killed off of trucks, pretty soon that dominates the news and people keep saying, well, what are we doing there? Why are we there? What's the end game here? And I think that to a certain extent has a big impact and certainly will have more of an impact as the president attempts to move forward on his domestic front. And then it all gets down to money. We're spending tons and tons of money there in manpower and where are the resources to do the things we want to do domestically.
WOODRUFF: Along with the loss of life. And in fact, Jack Valenti, you have people saying when you're asked, how has the U.S. handled Iraq in the last few months. 58 percent of Americans say they disapprove. That number has risen sharply from a year ago, and certainly from the time, the beginning of the war?
JACK VALENTI, FMR. AIDE TO PRES. JOHNSON: That's very true. And this is why I think that Don Rumsfeld is not going to be removed. Because if the president removed him and put someone else in there, there would be the declaration that this successor will fix what is wrong. It can't be fixed. There's a law of politics in war that can never be repealed. It is, this the people grow tired of a confusion whose end is not in sight. The president is doing, I think, the only alternative he has. That is to hold the elections come what may in January, and no matter if part of the Sunnis don't vote or a couple of the cities boycott, go forward with it, get some government into place that can begin to find its stability. And then we can get out. Until then, and this reminds me of Vietnam.
WOODRUFF: Ed, is that what it reminds you of?
ROLLINS: The casualty figures aren't certainly as high as Vietnam was. And the country is not quite as divided as it was, but it all begins somewhere, and I think to a certain extent a year from now, before Christmas we're sitting here having the same discussion, I think there will be real outrage in the country and a real questioning. I don't disagree in any way, shape, or form with Jack's assessment of Rumsfeld. I don't know who else could go in there and do a better job or the president. I think he believes in what he believed in deeply. At this point in time he's got to finish it and finish it as quickly as he can. I do think the one thing we have to do is make sure we have maximum resources. You go to Wall Street, a few blocks from where I sit today and you can't get into a building without identification and all the rest of it and it would be impossible to have a suicide bombing there, let alone inside of our troops' cafeteria someone can get access and blow them up.
WOODRUFF: Isn't that the kind of thing that makes people angry, Jack?
VALENTI: It makes them angry and also bewildered. How could this happen? That's why I think if it turns out that suicide bombers were the principal progenitors of this bombing, I think it is could have a deadly effect on the future of what we're doing there. Keep in mind, if we don't find some way to get a government in there and then begin to get out, I think the year 2006, the principal subject of debate and the cause of discontent, not only in the blue states but in the red states as well will be this ever lasting fungus of Iraq.
WOODRUFF: I think many people still wondering not only 2006 but how does the United States get through 2005. We have to leave it there. Ed Rollins in New York, Jack Valenti here in Washington. Thank you, both, and we hope you have a wonderful holiday.
We're back in a minute.
WOODRUFF: Celebrities are clearly a mainstay of American culture, so which ones have been naughty, and which ones have been nice this year? Our pollsters have come up with some interesting answers.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I wish you all a very merry Christmas.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): Many of us have wanted to play Santa Claus. Well, we've given some the chance to do that. This past weekend, we gave Americans some names and asked whom they would put on their Christmas list. Who was naughty and who was nice. Topping our CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, Britney Spears...
67 percent of those polled say she was naughty. That quick Vegas marriage and divorce didn't help her image. But there's more.
KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: A lot of mothers of small children really dislike the example that Britney Spears sets for their daughter. For example, the wife of the governor of Maryland in jest said she wanted to shoot Britney Spears.
WOODRUFF: Remember last year's Super Bowl halftime show? Thanks to the wardrobe malfunction Janet Jackson comes in second. 64 percent of those questioned say she was naughty. A close third, Paris Hilton. Her starring role in an amateur sex video landed her just one percentage point behind Jackson, in our Santa Claus poll of public opinion. In fourth place, Martha Stewart. 57 percent of those polled say the jailed homemaker was naughty. Also worth noting, Barry Bonds and filmmaker Michael Moore were in the high 40s. So was Donald Trump.
HOLLAND: Donald Trump is a very interesting character. The country is split on him. About half the country thinks he's naughty, about half the country thinks he's nice.
WOODRUFF: So who topped the list of good guys? 90 percent of those we questioned say Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey were nice. Tiger Woods and Mel Gibson were right behind them polling in the upper 80s. And if you're wondering why we didn't ask whether political figures were naughty or nice, here's why...
HOLLAND: We didn't want to offend anyone that we were polling by implying that someone they had just voted for was naughty and also let's face it, after a year of boring polling about boring political characters it was time to have some fun.
WOODRUFF: Actually around here we don't think politics is so boring. We love it. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Wednesday. Have a great evening. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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