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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Rumsfeld Steps Down; Interview With Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid; Interview With Former Congressman Tom DeLay
Aired November 8, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to move on now. And Anderson Cooper will be joining us in a little bit as well.
In the meantime, the voters certainly demanded change. That was very clear from their message last night. And, tonight, they are already getting it.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats are making plans to take control of the House of Representatives. And they say they have a very good shot at capturing the U.S. Senate. But before Virginia finishes counting and possibly recounting its votes, we have got an even bigger surprise, what Wolf, Lou and I were just talking about.
Just minutes before President Bush stepped in front of the cameras to talk about his party's stinging losses in the midterm elections, word began to leak out that he would announce a huge change in his Cabinet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, after a series of thoughtful conversations, Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed that the timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has become a lightning rod for criticism of the president's war policy, yes, he is resigning.
As recently as last week, you probably remember the president was telling reporters -- and Wolf just addressed that, when he talked about the -- the interview he had done with some of the print reporters -- that Rumsfeld would be staying until the end of his administration.
But now, even though the president still says Rumsfeld is doing a -- quote -- "fantastic job," the defense secretary has become part of the high price of living in a new political landscape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Don Rumsfeld has been a superb leader during a time of change. Yet he also appreciates the value of bringing in a fresh perspective during a critical period in this war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: That fresh perspective, as the president calls it, will come from a seasoned Washington veteran. The president is nominating former CIA Director Robert Gates to succeed Rumsfeld.
For the behind-the-scenes story of what led to today's stunning announcement of Rumsfeld's departure, I'm joined by White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.
So, Suzanne, was he fired, or did he resign?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the way the White House explains it is that it was a joint December that was made.
But it was also the result of a series of discussions that were taking place between the president and Rumsfeld for the last couple of weeks. And, Paula, you have to realize here there have been various phases where Rumsfeld's job has been on the line. He submitted his letter of resignation, or at least offered it, two times before.
But key moments here, of course, is when there was the new chief of staff, Josh Bolten. There was a lot of pressure from Republicans who have influence with the White House here to -- to get rid of him at that time. The president outright rejected that. But the understanding was, is, let's look to the midterm elections. Let's see how this plays out.
And, clearly, after it did not work in the Republicans or the White House's way, those same Republicans strategists, those White House insiders who have close ties with this administration, put the pressure back on this administration, and said, hey, we need to do something bold, dramatic, and quickly.
And, so, it turned from that conversation for the last couple of weeks to Sunday, when he actually did an interview with Bob Gates, the possible replacement, to Tuesday, when Rumsfeld and Secretary -- when Rumsfeld and -- and Bush sat down together. He submitted his letter of resignation, and then they went forward today -- Paula.
ZAHN: You are saying the initial, more informal contact started with Bob Gates two weeks ago about this prospect?
MALVEAUX: This -- this was Sunday, when he was at his Crawford ranch. As you know he was campaigning. And it was Sunday. He was at his Crawford ranch. And that was really his home base. Then, he would go off to campaign. So, we are talking three days ago.
ZAHN: Three days ago. OK.
ZAHN: Because I heard from someone at the Pentagon that maybe some of the -- the original contacts were made weeks before that.
So, when did the president decide that this was something he absolutely was going to follow through with?
MALVEAUX: Well, from our understanding, is, that happened yesterday, Tuesday, when these two men sat down together and decided this is the right time to make this happen.
But, Paula, also, the president actually acknowledged that they had been in a series of discussions about the possibility of him stepping down. So, this was not something that they hadn't been considering. And -- and you may recall, as well, the president also acknowledged one week ago -- he had an interview with print reporters. And he denied that Rumsfeld was going anywhere.
He admitted today in the press conference that he had not been completely forthcoming about that to those reporters, because he said he didn't want, essentially, to influence the elections in any way and to look like he was trying to score political points.
ZAHN: You -- you seemed to get the president's attention today with a -- with a question you posed to him. Described to us his overall demeanor as he was peppered with questions about these decisions.
MALVEAUX: You know, it was very interesting, because I found a president who essentially was very different than he was two days ago.
He was riled up on the campaign trial. You heard language. He -- he was yelling, essentially saying that, if the Democrats win here, it is going to be a win for the terrorists. That was the bottom line. That was the message.
What we saw today was someone who was trying to be much more conciliatory, somebody who essentially seemed like he was relieved at all of this, and even made some jokes during the press conference.
But, clearly, this is a pragmatic move on this president's part. He's not known, as his friends will say, at navel-gazing and looking back. But, clearly, he made a decision, a very pragmatic and political decision, that he needs to work with the Democrats to get anything done in the next two years.
ZAHN: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much -- a member of the best political team in TV.
And, just a little bit earlier on, I spoke with a man who could well be the next majority leader of the Senate, Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the current minority leader.
ZAHN: Senator Harry Reid now joins us.
Always good to see you. Welcome back.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Thank you very much.
ZAHN: And congratulations. We start with the Rumsfeld resignation tonight. Do you really think his successor will change the course of this war?
REID: Well, it is not any one thing that's going to change the course of this war.
Certainly, the personality of Rumsfeld had become an abstract -- an abstraction from what we were trying to accomplish. And I think that we all recognize that it is not personality, as much as policy. And we would hope, with the new secretary of defense, there will be some policy changes. That is what is, I think, key to success in Iraq, is, change the policy.
ZAHN: Do you think Robert Gates would be a man that will buck the president and say that we do need to change our strategy here?
REID: I have not had the privilege of looking over the briefing papers about Mr. Gates.
This is so important. We have to do it right. And I hope everything works out well with Mr. Gates. At this stage, I don't know.
ZAHN: What are your concerns about Robert Gates?
REID: Well, the only thing that I have heard that could be negative is what he did with Iran-Contra.
As you know, that was an issue that caused a lot of consternation. People went to jail over it. People lost their jobs over it. And we need to find out what his total involvement is with the Iran-Contra situation that took place in Nicaragua many years ago.
ZAHN: So, Senator Reid, today, you asked the president to convene this bipartisan summit on Iraq. Do you think he will follow through? Do you think he will give you what you want?
REID: I don't know.
The president, I talked to him today. He was in a good mood. He was -- congratulated me, and said he wanted to work with us.
I said: "Mr. President, that's what you said two years ago, and we have gotten nothing done. I really mean it. I hope you really mean it. And I look forward to doing this."
ZAHN: Senator, finally, tonight, We have been watching those numbers very closely in Virginia. Do you believe you have control of the Senate, as we speak?
REID: It appears that's clearly the case.
We were waiting for Montana to come in. It came in. And I have been through mechanical recounts. They really mean nothing. You just run the numbers through again. So, it seems pretty clear. All the analysts and experts say that Virginia, basically, is all through. ZAHN: If, in fact, you have won control of the Senate, you are going to have a big challenge on your hands, getting 60 votes to stave off or prevent a filibuster altogether. Do you think you will have success at that?
REID: Listen, the Senate is the Senate. It has been this way for more than 200 years. And, over the years, great progress has been made in a bipartisan base in the Senate. That's what I look forward to doing.
ZAHN: Senator Reid, good to see you. I know you haven't had much sleep. Most of us have been up all night long. So, we will let you go get some shut-eye.
REID: Thank you very much.
ZAHN: Thank you.
And, again, congratulations.
ZAHN: And, while the exit polls point to Iraq as the big reason for the Democratic victory, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says, the Democrats didn't win; the Republicans lost.
And Tom DeLay now joins Lou and me.
So, why do you think that the Republicans blew it so badly last night, sir?
REP. TOM DELAY (R), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, we didn't stand on principle. We didn't articulate what we believe in, where we wanted to take the -- the country, did not articulate the war very well, to be honest with you.
And our -- our voters, our base, stayed home. And many of them came -- that did vote voted for Democrats. We didn't appeal to the independents very well.
So, the -- the Democrats maximized their votes. If we would have maximized our votes, we would have won.
ZAHN: You keep using the collective form of "we." How much blame does the president deserve for these losses?
DELAY: Oh, I don't think the president -- no one is really to blame.
It is -- it is -- it is -- it is part of the campaign season, and what happens in campaigns. The president did what he had to do. He campaigned hard. He raised money. He -- he -- they -- the Republicans had a very good turnout mechanism. It just wasn't good enough.
DOBBS: Mr. DeLay, the idea that the Republicans did not assert their principles, I -- I have to ask you, with -- with the -- the K Street follies, the Abramoff scandal, with the -- the conduct of this war in Iraq not suiting even the president of the United States, and certainly not the American voters, as demonstrated by this poll, the war in Iraq and corruption playing central roles -- in the exit polls at least -- as to the reason for their votes, what principle could be asserted that would overcome that?
DELAY: Well, first of all, you're -- you are right about the corruption. We -- we gave the Democrats 10 seats.
There were 10 seats that had ethics problems. And that was -- that was just given to the Democrats. And that's really unfortunate. But the principles are articulating what we -- what the House did in 2005. I mean, we gave the president three tort reform bills, an energy bill. We cut real spending in discretionary spending.
We -- they reformed every entitlement program. And the House passed a very good immigration reform package. No one knew it. And -- and -- and last year -- I mean, and, this year, what we should have been doing is talking about the future, the fundamental tax reform, redefining government, judicial activism, all these issues, turning around the culture on death. No one was talking about an agenda for the future.
DOBBS: Your -- Your seat, Sugar Land, now -- the seat that you vacated now represented by a Democrat, how does that make you feel?
DELAY: Oh, it doesn't make me feel very good.
What does make me do -- feel good is, he is going to be a one- term Democrat. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, in the special election on that ballot, got more votes than he did in the general election, which tells me that, when she is allowed by -- by the courts or anybody else to be on the ballot, or any Republican on the ballot, he loses.
So, he's not going to come back after '08.
ZAHN: Mr. DeLay, I wanted to come back to the stunning announcement that Donald Rumsfeld will be leaving the Pentagon. Why do you think the president told reporters that he would be staying until the end of his term, and, here we are, a day after the election; he reverses that?
DELAY: Well, I don't know. You will have to ask the president that question.
But I do know that discussions about Rumsfeld leaving have been held over years. Rumsfeld twice, way before this, offered his resignation to the president, and he did not accept it. So, I don't find any fault in the president not wanting to prematurely announce his decision before he made it. I think that's -- that's the simple fact of it all.
ZAHN: Do you really think it will make any appreciable difference, if Mr. Gates is confirmed, in the strategy?
DELAY: Well, I'm -- I'm kind of -- I'm worried about two things.
One, I'm worried that the president is going to run this war by consensus or committee by -- by giving the Democrats what they want. We did that in Korea, Vietnam, Central America, and -- and we ended up coming out on the short end of those wars. We cannot run a war on terror by consensus.
Secondly, Robert Gates comes from the Scowcroft-Brzezinski-James Baker ilk, in -- in that they -- they think we ought to reach out and negotiate with Iran, with -- with Syria, with terrorists. You cannot negotiate with terrorists.
And that's a -- that's a big change from Rumsfeld or where those of us that supported the president's leadership are. So, it is going to be interesting.
ZAHN: All right.
DELAY: I hope the president will come out and say, you know, we're -- we are going to win this war. This is not, as Pelosi said this afternoon, a situation that needs a solution.
ZAHN: Sir, I -- I'm told I only have 10 seconds left.
If I'm to read between the lines, are you telling me Mr. Gates is not the best choice for Mr. Rumsfeld's successor?
DELAY: Well, I don't know yet. I want to -- I want to know his world view. And I want to know if he believes in negotiating with terrorists. That's a big, big change in -- in the philosophy of the president, if he is accepting that -- a person that believes that.
ZAHN: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, thank you for joining Lou and me.
DELAY: Thank you.
DOBBS: And good to be with you, Paula.
ZAHN: And thank you for extending your hours.
DOBBS: Well, my -- my pleasure.
ZAHN: Do you think we have worked enough hours over the last 24 hours?
DOBBS: Well, you know, it is -- it's all -- it's all to the good.
ZAHN: We will look forward to seeing you tomorrow night at 6:00.
DOBBS: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: Thanks, Lou.
Coming up, we are going to take a short break. And, when we come back, we are going to find out a little bit more about what led to the decision to replace Donald Rumsfeld. Did he do it on his own volition, or was he fired?
And, in a minute, we are going to look at the prospect of any change at all at the top of the Defense Department. We will hear what folks at the Pentagon had to say about that.
And, then, over in Iraq, our John Roberts has been listening to what U.S. troops are saying, both on and off camera, about Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation.
And, later, she will be the first woman in history to be the speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi sits down with Wolf -- as our "America Votes 2006" special continues.
Please stay with us.
ZAHN: And welcome back to our "America Votes 2006" special.
We are tracking today's surprising reaction to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation announcement and the bombshell announcement and the president's decision to replace him with former CIA Director Robert Gates -- this after one of the most violent months in Iraq and calls from members of both parties for Rumsfeld to be fired.
Will this be a fresh start for the military and its troops?
Here's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Hello, folks.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Returning at day's end to his home in Washington, Donald Rumsfeld showed no sign he had been abruptly replaced by his boss, President Bush, who, just last week, gave him a public endorsement.
As the chief architect of an increasingly unpopular war, Rumsfeld had become a political liability, who Mr. Bush says admitted in private conversations over the past few days that the Iraq war needed a fresh perspective.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He himself understands that Iraq is not working well enough, fast enough.
MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld, who always said he served at the pleasure of the president, and gave no indication he would leave on his own, said, in his parting statement, the war against terrorism he oversaw is little understood.
RUMSFELD: It is not well-known. It was not well-understood. It is complex for people to comprehend.
MCINTYRE: While the Pentagon denied Rumsfeld had lost the respect of top military commanders, his departure was greeted by a blizzard of statements from Capitol Hill, both Republicans and Democrats, welcoming the opportunity for a fresh start.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Now we can have a -- a new beginning, a new face at the Pentagon, who doesn't carry the baggage that Secretary Rumsfeld carried.
MCINTYRE: Many Democrats advocate a strategic redeployment of U.S. troops away from the front lines. By picking Robert Gates as Rumsfeld's replacement, President Bush appears to be signaling he will give greater weight to the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, of which Gates was a member and whose recommendations are due out soon.
BUSH: He has traveled to Iraq and met with the country's leaders and our military commanders on the ground. He will provide the department with a fresh perspective and new ideas on how America can achieve our goals in Iraq.
MCINTYRE: The removal of Rumsfeld clears the way for a major course correction in Iraq, if that's what both Democrats and Republicans agree to. It is also smart politics. It takes away an easy target for the Democrats, and increases the pressure on them to agree to any new Iraq strategy in the future -- Paula.
ZAHN: Jamie, you are more hooked into the Pentagon than almost any reporter. Did you have any inkling this announcement was going to happen today?
MCINTYRE: No, not a bit. I was completely thrown off the scent by President Bush's statement last week.
And I can tell you, as you -- as you said earlier this hour, even the closest aides had no idea. Rumsfeld was completely poker-faced in those meetings he had about Afghanistan and Iraq, gave no hint that this was coming.
And even some of his closest aides didn't know until just hours before the announcement.
ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, thanks so much.
Now we're going to go to my colleague Anderson Cooper for more on defense secretary nominee Robert Gates.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, a fascinating day, Paula.
ZAHN: Hi, Anderson.
COOPER: Thanks. If the name Robert Gates rings a bell, it should. Right now, Gates is president of Texas A&M University. But he's the latest adviser that President Bush has tapped from his father's administration in the early '90s. Robert Gates spent nearly 27 years at the CIA, and became CIA director in 1991, the youngest ever to do that.
He was the only one to work his way to the top from an entry- level post at the spy agency. Before that, Gates was chosen to be an assistant to the first President Bush, and his deputy national security adviser from 1989 to 1991.
And the most recent and probably most telling item on his resume, Gates is a member of the Iraq Study Group that President Bush appointed earlier to recommend a change of course in the Iraq war.
As you can imagine, news of the surprise shakeup at the top of the Pentagon spread like wildfire among the nearly 150,000 American troops now serving in Iraq.
Senior correspondent John Roberts is embedded with American soldiers in Iraq. He joins us now.
John, what has been the reaction among the troops you have talked to?
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was nothing short of a shock among the people that I talked to earlier tonight, Anderson.
Of course, it's the -- the middle of the night here. But, just before people went to bed, I knocked on a few doors, and talked with a few commanders. And -- and they said that they were stunned to hear the news. They were actually watching it on CNN Pipeline at the time that I walked in.
But, upon further reflection, they thought, well, you know, perhaps it's -- it is not such a bad thing. You know, changing commanders in the middle of a war is always a little bit of a strange thing and always has an effect on the troops.
But they thought, you know, things in Iraq are not going as they hoped that they were. Some commanders have described it at a point of stasis, neither moving ahead, nor, really, moving backward for U.S. troops. They are really trying to hold their ground in these neighborhoods. And they thought that, perhaps, a fresh pair of eyes at the top might help to -- to kick things out of where they are now.
Another commander that I -- we talked to over e-mail said, well, you c'est la vie. It's all -- the grasses always seems to be greener on the other side. But let's see if the new guy can do any better than the current guy in there, Anderson.
So, you know, there's some hope that maybe things might change. But -- but, as I said, any time you change horses, particularly in the middle of a war, it's always going to have some effect on troops, get a lot of people talking.
COOPER: Yes. As we just heard from Jamie McIntyre, Rumsfeld him -- himself admitted in private conversations with the president that the Iraq war needed a fresh perspective.
Do -- do folks serving there now believe that -- that a -- any kind of sweeping change may actually mean the beginning of a redeployment and withdrawal? I mean, are they talking about that?
ROBERTS: Well, they are expect something sort of change, Anderson.
As to whether it is a sweeping redeployment, as to whether or not it is an acceleration of the buildup of Iraqi forces, they don't know. But they know that the -- the results of the Baker-Hamilton report, of which Bob Gates was a part, is coming. They -- they are expecting some sort of new shift on the ground here. They -- they're are just not sure, at this point, what to make of it.
COOPER: John Roberts in Iraq -- John, thanks very much.
The election results mean a new day for the left and the right in Washington.
Coming up in our elect -- in our election special, how do early proponents of the war, top neoconservatives, view Rumsfeld's resignation? I will talk with Kenneth Adelman, a top neoconservatives, next.
Also: Wolf's interview with Nancy Pelosi, the liberal Democrat from California who will soon be holding a job that no woman in U.S. history has held before.
BLITZER: By far, the number-one issue that gave Democrats control of the House was Iraq.
And, when Congress convenes in January, the Democrats will take over chairmanship of committees that are key to running the war. Based on seniority, in order to -- in line to chair the Armed Services Committee is Missouri's Ike Skelton, who has been critical of how the war has been run, and has promised to open oversight hearings.
Also critical of the handling of the war is California's Tom Lantos, who is likely to be the new chairman of the International Relations Committee. He also wants greater oversight. The Appropriations Committee's new chairman would be David Obey of Wisconsin. He has called for bringing home some troops by the end of this year.
And, of course, the new speaker of the House is almost certainly going to be California's Nancy Pelosi, also against the way the war is being run. On top of that, she's also outlining some other goals for her first 100 hours as speaker. Pelosi wants to try to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, enact the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, cut interest rates for student loans, and try to lower prescription drug prices under Medicare.
I sat down with Congresswoman Pelosi earlier today, and asked her about becoming the first female speaker of the House.
BLITZER: It's obviously an historic moment, a woman becoming speaker of the House of Representatives. What is the impact? What does that mean for you?
PELOSI: Well, what it means for our country, I think, is something very important. The Congress is -- of the United States, as you know, Wolf, is an institution steeped in history and tradition.
For a woman to break through what I call the marble ceiling here is something quite remarkable. It sends a message that women can do anything.
BLITZER: And do you feel a special responsibility, knowing that, historically, this has never happened in our country before, that a woman becomes the speaker of the House?
PELOSI: I do. I feel a very special responsibility.
I feel a responsibility to have the most honest and open Congress, to have a Congress that has civility as its hallmark, bipartisanship in our debate, in our deliberations, and fiscal soundness, as a woman would -- would want to have, not heaping mountains of debt on future generations.
And, as the first woman speaker, I would want to conduct myself, perform my duties, in a way that would be sure that it wouldn't be too long before we would have another woman speaker of the House.
BLITZER: Can you work with this president?
BLITZER: Because he was asked at the news conference earlier today about some things you've said of him. Our Suzanne Malveaux asked a very pointed question of the president, quoting some of the remarks, "a liar," and "misleading the country."
PELOSI: I never called the president a liar. I never called him that.
BLITZER: But do you have a problem working with this president? Is all that in the past now? Are you ready to start fresh in working as the incoming speaker?
PELOSI: Absolutely. You know, the campaign is over. Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern, and absolutely willing to work in a bipartisan way in partnership, not partisanship, with the Republicans in the Congress and with the president of the United States.
BLITZER: Let me just congratulate you and wish you the best of luck. You have an enormous amount of responsibility that comes with the job, a little bit extra because you're making history.
PELOSI: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
BLITZER: The election completely changed the fortunes of Washington's liberals. Up next in our election special, the other end of the political spectrum. What's next for neo-conservatives like Ken Adelman who had such high hopes for the Bush White House?
Also, Senator George Allen's campaign has just put out a written statement about the razor close vote count in Virginia. Ed Henry standing by. He will have the very latest on this developing story.
COOPER: And welcome back to our "America Votes 2006" special.
The sudden resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today is being talked about all across the country, especially among those who once were his biggest supporters. Some of the neo-conservatives who were early advocates for the war in Iraq have, in recent months, become much more outspoken in their criticism of the way the war has been conducted.
Ken Adelman joins me now. He served in the Pentagon during Donald Rumsfeld's first tour of duty as Defense Secretary in the Ford administration.
Mr. Adelman, thanks for being with us.
KEN ADELMAN, FMR. ASST. TO SECY. DEF. RUMSFELD, 1975-77: You're welcome.
COOPER: Donald Rumsfeld is an old friend, an old colleague of yours. Your thoughts on his resignation?
ADELMAN: Well, I was sad about it, to tell you the truth. And I worked for him three times in my life. And, believe me, we went around the world together. We spent a lot of vacations together and he is a wonderful person. He is just a wonderful person. He has been wonderful to me. He's been wonderful to my family, to my daughters, and we think the world of him as a person of character, of patriotism, of dedication. He's tops.
COOPER: In terms of how he has performed in this job, however, in an upcoming issue of "Vanity Fair," you are quoted as saying about the war in Iraq, "The problem here is not a selling job. The problem is a performance job. Rumsfeld has said that the war could never lost in Iraq. It could only be lost in Washington. I don't think that's true at all. We are losing in Iraq. I worked with Rumsfeld three times in my life. I'm very, very fond of him, but I'm crushed by his performance. Did he change or were we wrong in the past? Or was it that he was never really challenged before? I don't know. He certainly fooled me."
ADELMAN: Well, it was painful to see because I think there were avoidable mistakes that were made. We did something very, very big and very tough and very difficult to sort through. I mean, he was brilliant and the whole operation was brilliant in taking out the army of Saddam Hussein.
Once the looting started, once the occupation started, once we started the Jerry Bremer phase, it really -- it was a series of bad decisions, Cooper, and they were painful to see.
Like I say, I worked for him first in 1970, '71, '72, and then was with him the whole time he was in the Pentagon -- '75, '76, '77. And he was really a mentor to me, and he was a guide and he was a dear friend. And, you know, I hope he will be friends -- and we will be friends the rest of my life.
COOPER: What do you think his legacy is going to be? I mean, the president said history is going to judge him kindly. Do you think that's true in?
ADELMAN: Well, it certainly will...
COOPER: In terms of the war in Iraq. I'm sorry.
ADELMAN: OK, overall, it will say he's a man who really wanted to serve and served his country time and time again. Number two, he was a man of extraordinary intelligence and energy. And number three, that there were some big mistakes made on Iraq. I think those will be the tagline of history.
COOPER: Also in this "Vanity Fair" article, you said that I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent" -- you're talking about the White House team. "They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them individually have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional." Are you including Donald Rumsfeld in that?
ADELMAN: Well, you have to, because the way they worked together with the Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, just not getting their acts together with each other. Condi Rice, I guess, trying to coordinate but not doing a very good job of it, to tell you the truth, and the president just letting this go on so that there was, you know, really disarray in the administration.
And that normally is OK, but we are not in normal times. We are in times of war. We are in times of terrorism. We are in times of serious pursuits and we are in a time where we had responsibility for Iraq.
And it was ours, and we could have introduced freedom there, and we could have really done what the president wanted to do which excited all of us conservatives so much, change the dynamics of the Middle East from this repressive, totalitarian, authoritarian regimes there, and start introducing freedom.
COOPER: So what went so badly wrong? In 2002, you famously wrote an article, an op-ed, saying that overthrowing Saddam, the war would be cake walk. What did you get wrong, what did the administration get wrong and Rumsfeld get wrong in the way the war was executed and is being executed?
ADELMAN: Well, actually, my article, Cooper, was right in one big respect, that overthrowing the government of Saddam Hussein and the army of Saddam Hussein was a cake walk by any measure. That was 21 days.
And what I got wrong was that there was really a plan and execution and a competence after the statue fell, after April 9th of 2003, and that we knew how to organize so that the country of Iraq was going to go long, introduce freedom right there, but introduce a government that was going to develop and was going to make a better life for these people.
I mean, it was very easy to have a better life for these people. You started from the base of Saddam Hussein absolutely raping and looting and terrorizing the country and, surely, America could do better than that. And that's what we all believed and that's what we all prayed for and that's why we supported this administration.
COOPER: And it certainly has not worked out the way many people wanted. Kenneth Adelman, we appreciate your perspective tonight. Thank you very much.
ADELMAN: Thank you.
ZAHN: Thanks, Anderson.
We're going to get some late-breaking news to you, developments in the Senate race in Virginia. Coming up next, Senator George Allen's brand-new statement, plus what some of his top aides are telling our correspondents in the field.
And one news organization is making some news, and we will share that with you.
Later, the president prepares to take on a Democratic Congress. Is Washington gridlock headed to new heights? We will try to answer that question when we come back. Please stay with us.
ZAHN: Beautiful shot there of Washington, D.C. tonight. Tonight, Democrats know they will have control of the House even though 10 House races are still undecided at this hour. In the Senate, one race was settled just past noon Eastern today. That's in Montana where CNN projects the Democrat Jon Tester is the winner over incumbent Republican Conrad Burns. Burns, however, has not yet conceded that race.
Still, Democrats have a 50-49 advantage right now counting the two Independent senators, who line up with the Democrats. But control of the Senate still hangs tonight on the Senate race in Virginia. Democrat James Webb has a slim lead over incumbent Republican George Allen. The race is just too close to call.
But just a little bit earlier tonight, I spoke with Democratic leader Harry Reid and he told me his party will take Virginia whether the recount continues or not. Let's check in with Ed Henry now who joins us live from Richmond. Is anybody else confirming what Harry Reid believes to be case, that they've taken Virginia?
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are not -- not quite confirming. But the Democrats are, you're right, operating as if James Webb has won.
In fact, Mr. Webb is calling himself the senator-elect. He's talking about getting an office on Capitol Hill already. The Democrats are trying to get an aura of inevitability, almost here. And that is partly with some justification in the fact that when you talk to experts about potential recounts, a 7,000-vote margin is more significant than say a 300-vote margin obviously, where it could actually be overturned, it could change in the recount. 7,000 votes is a fairly big margin in this kind of a race. Certainly smaller than Jim Webb would have liked it.
But in any event, the Democrats certainly do feel like they have it in the bag. A recount is still possible. But it's seeming less and less likely, Paula.
ZAHN: All right. So I understand as this canvassing is going on, it doesn't appear to people watching that the numbers are changing a whole lot. Have you gotten any word at all that Senator Allen might concede before this whole recount process is finished?
HENRY: Well, there have been rumblings about that. The Democrats are certainly trying to spread that and get Senator Allen to concede. There are some Republicans now privately saying that they think Senator Allen may be edging and I stress edging closer to some sort of a concession.
Just because as you point out there is a state mandated review that lasts about a week. That's what's going on right now, as you referred to it. That has nothing to do with Allen seeking a recount. It is done by the state.
And what the bottom line is in that review, they're not finding anything sinister yet. They are not finding any major fraud that would suggest this is going to be overturned. And the longer that goes without finding any major problem, the less and less likely it is that there will be a recount and more and more likely that Senator Allen will concede, Paula.
ZAHN: So what is the Webb campaign doing tonight? I guess you can't call it campaigning any more, but the Webb camp.
HENRY: They're celebrating, I just talked to -- they are calling him Senator-Elect Webb. I just talked to one Webb staffer who is out celebrating. I mean, they're operating as if he is the senator-elect.
They're getting ready for the transition. And as you mentioned, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is operating as if he's about to become the majority leader, that he's no longer the minority leader. And that obviously doubles the impact of the Democratic sweep last night. It is not just now about taking over the House. They really feel like they have also taken over the Senate, Paula.
ZAHN: Ed Henry, thanks for the update. So could control of the Senate come down to a drawn-out recount like the presidential race six years ago? Joining me now, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: I'm the only one who is hoping that.
ZAHN: You are? You love recounts.
TOOBIN: I like the recounts.
ZAHN: But Ed just made it very clear. You are talking about a 7,000-vote differential out of a couple million votes. Do you think this leads to a recount? Or is it, as he just described, you have the state mandated process that they must go through?
TOOBIN: Well certainly they will go through that. You can't even apply for a recount in Virginia until this -- what's called canvas is done and that's not until next Monday.
But the number you have to keep in mind here is 37. Because last year, there was a recount in Virginia. Using virtually the identical machines, the identical law, and it was the state attorney general's race.
The initial -- initial margin between the two candidates was 323 votes. And after a week after week of recounts, that ended on December 22, three days before Christmas, the winner gained 37 votes. How can George Allen expect to gain 7,000 votes? It just doesn't seem possible.
ZAHN: So at what point in this process do you think we will have a winner? Because I should say tonight that "Associated Press" is winning -- is reporting that Mr. Webb has won this race. The race has gone to the Democrats. Now that is something that CNN is not reporting.
TOOBIN: As you know, CNN's projections are made way above my pay grade. But I mean, I think we have a winner. I mean, I think -- in my personal opinion, not CNN's opinion, I think it is over. You know, it doesn't matter whether Allen concedes. The winner -- I mean, all that matters is that vacates his office when his term is over, because his term is going to be over. I mean, there is no way to catch up 7,000 votes. And if you notice, his aide, Ed Gillespie today held a press conference and didn't even commit really to saying they are going to have a recount. It was not let's storm the barricades kind of situation. It was like let's wait and hope.
ZAHN: All right, but if they change their mind and there is a recount, how does that work with all these electronic voting machines? There's no paper trail.
TOOBIN: That's the thing. That's why it is so hard to pick up any votes. No chads staring at the ceiling. All you can do with these electronic voting machines is go back to them and check the read out. This is why a lot of people don't like them because there is no way of checking that that was actually the votes that were cast. But there is no way of getting behind the machine and finding out what the votes were.
ZAHN: I want to provide some context to your personal supposition about you think that Mr. Webb has taken this. We should make it clear as policy of CNN as organization that we don't call any races closer than one percent. What else are you hearing from what we learned last night about voting irregularities as a preview or precursor to what might happen in 2008?
TOOBIN: What happens in all of our voting systems is that they are basically lousy. They don't work very well. There are too many systems. But we never pay any attention unless the race is really close.
I mean, what happened in Denver was a disgrace. All those people waiting online for so long. That's inexcusable. But there was no close race. So we don't really pursue it. Our government only spends money on things that there is a constituency pressing them to spend money on whether it is a business or a union or some sort of group. There is no constituency for elections. There's no one out there forcing the government to buy good election machines. So they do it on the cheap.
ZAHN: Did you see what happened to Chelsea Clinton yesterday? She had the moves. She had to change polling places, a lot of confusion.
TOOBIN: And it happened to the governor of South Carolina, too. He didn't have the right I.D.
ZAHN: Well it didn't happen in my polling place. And it literally took three minutes to vote, which is as efficient as it could be.
TOOBIN: And I got to vote too and I brought my dog, which was a first for me.
ZAHN: Well that was nice, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much. President Bush wasn't on any ballot yesterday, of course. But our exit polling confirms that millions of voters went to the polls to send him a powerful message.
Coming up next, we're going to ask some political experts if it will get through.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to "America Votes 2006".
I'm Wolf Blitzer on Capitol Hill.
As you just heard tonight everyone's still awaiting the official outcome in the Virginia Senate race. Could very well break in favor of Democrats and give them the majority in both houses of Congress, an incredible development that holds out all kinds of ramifications.
Joining us now is Larry Sabato, he's the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, and columnist John Fund of the "Wall Street Journal".
Larry, I'll start with you.
If in fact the Democrats not only become the majority in the House, but also the Senate, which looks increasingly, increasingly likely, that is a political earthquake here in Washington.
LARRY SABATO, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIV. OF VIRGINIA: Absolutely. And of course, six presidents since World War II have had to deal with divided government. George Bush briefly did when the Senate was controlled by the Democrats in part of 2001 and through 2002.
It's going to produce gridlock. And I think -- by the way, I'm in Virginia and I think that the Virginia seat is certainly going to belong to the Democrats. And Jim Webb is correct, he used the title, Senator Elect Webb.
So you're going to have gridlock. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, Wolf. It just means that the Republicans check the Democrats and the Democrats check the Republicans, and we the people don't have to worry about the excesses from either side.
BLITZER: There are all sorts of signs out there, John, that Senator Allen is perhaps getting ready to concede. What do you make of this?
JOHN FUND, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, a recount in Virginia, as Larry knows, is basically a retabulation of the canvass. They don't go into a lot of research. They basically say, were all the i's dotted and the t's crossed.
So unless there's something dramatic, a recount simply confirms what the final vote is. So I would have to say the overwhelming chance is that George Allen cannot make up the difference. BLITZER: So it looks -- in other words, what you're saying that Jim Webb is going to be the senator. That means the Democrats will have 51 seats in the United States Senate and they will be the majority.
FUND: Well, actually, there's a little ambiguity in Montana because there are a lot of provisional and absentee ballots still out in Montana. It's a very rural state.
I would actually have to say, I think in Virginia, it's probably not Senator Allen's day. It's probably Senator Webb's day. In Montana there's still some doubt.
BLITZER: All right. Let's get to that issue that you raised, Larry, for a moment. You think there's going to be gridlock. Some people are suggesting that in these final two years the president might find a way of reaching out to these Democrats and forging some common ground, for example, on immigration reform.
SABATO: Well, anything's possible, and pigs could fly. But I think this is a very polarized period in American history. Both parties and their activist cores know what they believe, and they don't believe what the other side believes.
There's very deep division over Iraq, very deep division over these social issues that just keep coming up election after election. I don't think there's going to be any end to it.
The American people are going to have to break the deadlock in 2008. They'll either keep that divided Congress and president, or they'll elect a president and Congress of the same party.
BLITZER: Looks like that race for 2008 has already started, guys.
Thanks very much for coming in, Larry Sabato and John Fund -- Paula.
ZAHN: And I'm sitting actually right next to John Fund.
You were pretty depressed last night?
FUND: No, not at all. Not at all.
ZAHN: Just not the numbers you were expecting?
FUND: I have to tell you, I think conservatives benefit when they are punished for their proper mistakes, and when they're forced to reevaluate what should be done and return to the principles of Ronald Reagan, which some of them had forgotten.
ZAHN: Well, as the president said today, they got thumped.
FUND: Well, they got thumped sometimes for the right reasons.
ZAHN: All right. Thanks, John. We're just minutes away from the top of "LARRY KING LIVE". Larry's going to get reaction to the day's surprise announcement that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is resigning.
And then comedian Bill Maher joins Larry for a unique election wrap-up. He always says stuff we haven't heard before in any show.
Please stay tuned.
ZAHN: And we close tonight with the latest out of Virginia, Wolf. It's interesting to note the canvassing of the Senate race continues at this hour. We're told by reporters on the ground it's moving along pretty quickly to the point -- given the 7,000 vote spread that we may have a call on the race. But Democrats already acting like it's theirs, aren't they?
BLITZER: They certainly are. They think they've won. They think they've won Virginia and the majority in the Senate, as well.
Paula, good working with you.
ZAHN: Nice to work with you, too, Wolf.
And that's it for all of us here.
Thanks so much for joining us. Good night.
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