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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Assassinated
Aired December 27, 2007 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight in Pakistan, there is grief and anger, grief, anger and more chaos than ever.
These are the raw and graphic images just after an assassin shot and killed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto at a campaign rally in the city of Rawalpindi. He shot her, then blew himself up.
Now, tonight, only on CNN, a secret e-mail is revealed from Ms. Bhutto anticipating her own death and pointing the finger of blame. We will get to that in a moment.
But, first, look at this. This may in fact be the weapon that killed her. Pakistan TV ran video of it, showing the gun. Look closely. Part of the grip appears to be smeared in blood. Much of the ground around it is also stained in blood.
Some details are still unclear, exactly what happened. And, in a few moments, we will talk to a man who heard the shots and saw Bhutto go down.
But, so far, here's what we know about Bhutto's last moments alive. Take a look at the scene shortly before the attack. There she is, the former prime minister, attending a political rally at a park in Rawalpindi, just outside Islamabad. Now, this is the military center of Pakistan.
There were hundreds of supporters in the crowd. She greeted many of them and spoke to the crowd as well. When the rally ended, Bhutto walked to a waiting SUV.
Now, you can see the videos. They are some of the last taken of the opposition leader. She was surrounded by civilians and her security guards. Bhutto entered the armored SUV. The area was swarming with people and vehicles, though, if you look closely, not too many, not an overwhelming number of Pakistani policemen, at least not uniformed ones.
From there, the SUV drove away, Bhutto standing from the sunroof of the vehicle, smiling and waving at the throngs who had lined the road. This is one of the last pictures of her taken before her death.
Now, a short time later, witnesses say a man in a motorcycle approached Bhutto's vehicles, jumped on the back and opened fire with a gun. Reports say she was shot at least twice, once in the neck, once in the chest.
The man, a suicide bomber, blew himself up. Now, the explosion left at least 20 people dead, covering the streets in blood and bodies -- the images, devastation, chaos, horror.
Bhutto was rushed to the hospital. People there say doctors tried for a half-an-hour to save her. Mortally wounded, she died in the operating room at the age of 54. By nightfall, word of her death spreads across Pakistan. So do the protests, rioters clashing with police in Karachi and other major cities across Pakistan, flames erupting from the streets as demonstrators set fires in response to the assassination. There is anger and hate on those streets.
Later on, still at the hospital, Bhutto's body, now in a casket, was carried by hundreds of mourners. A sea of hands raise and move the coffin through the masses, their faces angry. Many wept. A day that started out with so much promise for Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan ends in grief and in shock.
As for who's responsible, Benazir Bhutto said she knew. This past October, she e-mailed her longtime friend and U.S. spokesman Mark Siegel.
Now, in the e-mail, she wrote -- and I quote -- "Nothing will, God willing, happen. Just wanted you to know, if it does, in addition to the names in my letter to Musharraf of October 16, I would hold Musharraf responsible. I have been made to feel insecure by his minions. And there is no way what is happening, in terms of stopping me from taking private cars or using tinted windows or giving jammers or four police mobiles to cover all sides, could happen without him."
At Ms. Bhutto's request, Mark Siegel forwarded that e-mail to CNN's Wolf Blitzer the day he received it, October 26. But he told Wolf not to report on it unless Ms. Bhutto was killed.
Wolf joins us now.
What was your reaction when you got that e-mail?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, I was pretty scared for her, because even before I got that e-mail, I knew she was going into an extremely dangerous situation. I interviewed her at the end of September. And I pressed her. I said, why are you doing this? You're living in exile. You're in a secure area in Dubai or London. You come to New York or Washington all the time. Why would you do this? You're a young woman, in her early 50s, really, mid-50s. You have a whole life. You have kids. Why are you doing this?
And she said her hands -- it was all in the hands of Allah. She was a fairly religion woman in that sense. And she just thought she would be OK. But...
COOPER: And I remember her saying to you that she cared about the children of Pakistan as about her own three children.
BLITZER: She thought she could really make a difference. And, in a situation like that, you just think it's not going to really happen. COOPER: Clearly, she had big concerns about her security. They -- they feel that Pakistan government and General Musharraf did not grant them the kind of apparatus that they needed.
I want to play some of what Mark Siegel, her spokesman, said on your program earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE SITUATION ROOM")
MARK SIEGEL, FRIEND OF BENAZIR BHUTTO: Former Prime Minister Bhutto was very concerned that she was not getting the security that she had asked for and that her husband had asked for. It was very, very specific that they had asked for jammers to -- to set off IEDs. That was denied to be allowed in by the government of General Musharraf.
She had asked for special vehicles. That was denied to her. She had asked for special tinted cars. She had asked for four police vehicles to surround her at all times. She basically asked for all that was required for someone of the standing of a former prime minister. All of that was denied to her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, in the e-mail, she's not saying, Musharraf killed me. She's saying, I hold him responsible for not allowing these things, these security things, to happen intentionally.
BLITZER: That's right. She's not saying he specifically ordered that she be killed or anything like that. What she is suggesting, though, that he's complicit in not giving her the kind of security precautions she felt she needed to survive.
COOPER: And it is shocking -- it is shocking, when you see those images, particularly that last photo of her when she's standing outside the sunroof. No president in the United States would be standing outside a sunroof in an open car like that.
BLITZER: And no pope, for example, would do that either, given the history of political assassinations.
COOPER: With people allowed to get so close to her at all times.
BLITZER: She just wanted to reach out and be with the Pakistani people. This was something that was very dear to her. And I guess she felt safe, that she could -- she could do this. It was obviously a very dangerous situation to -- to get up and stand up in that sunroof, and -- and just try to reach out and talk to these people.
COOPER: I want to play the response to Mr. Siegel's comments. This is from the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAHMUD ALI DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: I think it is a bit naive if you try and blame the government of Musharraf or the government of Pakistan that this happened because there were inadequate protection. When she came to Karachi -- let me put the record straight for everybody -- that there were, I think, a sea of security people.
There was -- she was surrounded by police vehicles. And, had it not been one of the police vehicles which took the blast in Karachi, unfortunately, she would have died there. There was a bubble around her of security. The PPP insisted that they have their own private loyalists around. They were there, too.
And there were about 7,800 to 8,000 security people deployed just for that. And that is more security than anybody deploys anywhere in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: This is obviously going to provide fuel for critics on all sides, and perhaps inflame things on the ground there.
What do you think is going to happen?
BLITZER: It's anyone's guess.
But I do know this, Anderson, that the stakes are enormous. This is a Muslim country, influential in the region, with a nuclear arsenal. It's not a country that is trying to build a nuclear weapon. It has, and scores, by all accounts, of nuclear warheads already.
There is a strong al Qaeda presence, a strong Taliban presence. But, probably much more significant, there are sympathizers out there, whether in the Pakistani military or the Pakistani intelligence service. You go out there, you don't know that -- with whom you're dealing. It's a very, very tenuous situation.
COOPER: And it's a country not fully in control of all the territory within its borders and a government not necessarily in control of all the people who are working for them.
BLITZER: I have spoken with U.S. experts, who insist that -- that Pervez Musharraf and the military, they do have the nuclear arsenal under control. They are confident about that.
But, you know, what happens if -- if he goes? Who might come instead? If there's an Islamic fundamentalist, al Qaeda-oriented Taliban regime, it's anyone's guess. So, the -- for the United States, for people all over the region and the world, the ramifications are really significant.
COOPER: Yes, high stakes, indeed.
Wolf, thanks, and appreciate it.
CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen joins us now. He's a frequent visitor to Pakistan and Afghanistan and is the author of "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader."
ABC News has been reporting that al Qaeda -- an al Qaeda in Afghanistan commander has claimed responsibility to an Italian news organization. Does it make sense that al Qaeda would have a hand in this?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: It certainly makes sense that al Qaeda would have a hand in it. They have threatened to do precisely this in the past. Al Qaeda and the Taliban has sort of morphed together and it could be a joint operation.
Certainly, when they tried to kill Musharraf himself back in 2003, it was these sort of like-minded militants who got together and did the operation. So, you could imagine a range of Islamic extremists and groups, including al Qaeda, being behind it.
COOPER: "The Times" online was reporting that some militants in Waziristan had previously threatened Benazir Bhutto, one writing a letter in which he said something about killing her like killing a goat, they would also be, I guess, potential suspects.
BERGEN: Yes. And that guy is actually a Pakistani Taliban. So..
BERGEN: Yes. That's very plausible, too.
COOPER: There's also some who would point a finger at the security services in Pakistan, who traditionally has had links with Islamic groups, direct connection with Islamic groups, and may have a reason for wanting Benazir Bhutto out of the picture. If she got elected, they would lose some power.
BERGEN: Oh, I think there's no doubt that there's some element of the security service who were involved. Was it sort of sanctioned from the top? I very much doubt that.
Was there low-level penetration of the army by Islamist extremists, who have also tried to kill Musharraf in the past? Yes, I think that's very plausible. I mean, the only people who could have got this sort of access required in this garrison town of Rawalpindi must be somebody with some military connection.
Also, if you think about shooting somebody in the neck with one shot, I mean, that's a pretty -- in a kind of crowded situation, with a moving vehicle, somebody who did that was quite well-trained.
COOPER: But the fact that this was in Rawalpindi, I mean, this is a military town.
COOPER: This is the equivalent of someone being shot right next to the Pentagon. BERGEN: Yes. It would be like if the president was shot right next to the Pentagon or right next to the CIA. It's fairly extraordinary.
COOPER: I mean, so, the only way you get access is if you have some connections with the military?
BERGEN: That is -- I think this is the case. Certainly, when Musharraf was assassinated -- there was an attempted assassination against him in that area, the people involved were low-level members of the military. When I say low-level, nobody above the rank of major.
So, that's very plausible to me that that sort of combination of extremists, plus some Pakistani military support on the low level, might have been involved.
COOPER: There's now this e-mail from Benazir Bhutto that was given to Wolf Blitzer, told to read after -- after her demise, if in fact she got killed. She has.
She says, basically, I will hold Musharraf responsible, and complains about the security arrangements that were granted to her.
Does it seem odd to you that -- I mean, you look at these pictures. There are people all around here. It doesn't look like there's a huge security force protecting her.
BERGEN: Yes. I mean, part of the problem is, wherever she was going, she was being greeted by tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of people. And how you control those situations in a place like Pakistan is very, very complicated.
But, I mean, the broad point that that e-mail made, which is that she sort of blames the Musharraf government for not doing enough about her personal security, I mean, the fact that she has been assassinated sort of speaks for itself. Clearly, not enough was done, whatever is said by the Pakistani government at this stage.
That's certainly not to say that Musharraf was in any way complicit, but not enough was being done in terms of the kinds of jamming devices that might stop radio-controlled bombs or just people around her who are really trained to deal with these situations.
COOPER: An amazing day.
Peter Bergen, thanks.
BERGEN: Thank you.
COOPER: In a moment, the photographer who took what may be the last photo of Bhutto alive. He actually heard the shots. He saw her fall. I'm going to talk to him next, really the first credible eyewitness accounts of what happened in those moments before and after her killing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: I put my faith in God. I feel that what I'm doing is for a good cause, for a right cause, to save Pakistan from extremists and militants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Some of the dramatic pictures taken in the seconds and minutes after the assassination on Benazir Bhutto by photographer John Moore from Getty Images -- that picture incredibly dramatic right there.
What's important about Mr. Moore is, he took -- several things are important. One, he took what may be the last picture of Benazir Bhutto alive, that picture taken just minutes or seconds before she was killed. You see her standing up in the vehicle, obviously, against a lot of security people's advice. But we will talk about that a little bit later on in the program.
John Moore also actually heard the shots, three shots, he says, and saw Benazir Bhutto go down. His account is one of the first eyewitness accounts and most credible eyewitness accounts we have so far gotten.
Let's listen to what he said, what he saw before and after the assassination, in his own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MOORE, GETTY IMAGES: The vehicle was moving very slowly, because the crowd was all around, and it was pushing through. She clearly wanted to get close to her people.
I was very surprised that she was coming out of the sunroof of this car, considering what happened in Karachi a while back. And I had been photographing her pushing through the crowd. And the vehicle sort of surged forward. And I got out of the way and moved a little bit ahead of it.
And, suddenly -- well, I turned around and heard three shots go off, and saw her go down, fall down through the sunroof down into the car. And, just at that moment, I raised my camera and started photographing with the high-speed motor drive. And that's how I was ability to capture some of the explosion when it went off and then the aftermath.
As you can see, the photo is a bit blurry, because I was being shoved around. The crowd was pushing. They were very emotional. And it was -- it was a bit chaotic even before the blast went off.
Of course, people were scattered all about. People were in different states of medical crisis. Some could still walk. Others were blown to bits. Others were maimed and just crying out for help.
It was just -- it was just a horrible scene. The carnage was just everywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The final minutes of Benazir Bhutto's life and the terrible aftermath.
In a moment, a closer look at where the events today leave the United States and the nightmare scenario of a disintegrating nuclear- armed, corrupt Islamic country -- that and more tonight on this special edition of 360.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King. Back to Anderson in a moment. First, though, a 360 bulletin, starting with the tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo that left a young man dead, two others injured.
Was the tiger taunted? According to a local newspaper, police are investigating that possibility. Also, zoo officials today said that a wall in that exhibit is nearly four feet shorter than industry standards. An official says inspectors visiting the zoo three years ago never mentioned the shortcoming.
Long Island next, where Martin Tankleff got out of prison this morning. He spent 17 years behind bars in the fatal stabbing and bludgeoning of his parents back in 1988. Last week, he was granted a new trial based on evidence he was coerced into confessing. He's now free on a $1 million bond.
Actress Mischa Barton also out of jail tonight, a much shorter stretch in her case. The former "O.C." star did about seven hours in jail after being busted in West Hollywood on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. She also made bail, $10,000.
Back to our top story now -- the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is only the latest chapter in the tangled and bloody story of Pakistan, America's shaky ally.
For the last two years, CNN's Nic Robertson has been reporting on Pakistan's efforts against Islamic extremism for his documentary "Pakistan: Terror Central," which airs at the top of the hour.
Here's a preview.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, many in al Qaeda and the Taliban fled across the border into Pakistan. But now Musharraf claims the U.S. bullied him into joining the war on terror, leaving no doubt what his country risked if he refused to cooperate.
KING: That's a "SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE UNIT" report, "Pakistan: Terror Central," at the top of the hour.
Straight ahead tonight, though, the shaky but vital relationship between the United States and Pakistan, and how the terrible events today could affect it. We have got reaction from the White House and a closer look at how little some believe America is getting...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BHUTTO: I have three small children. They're young children. And I'm a mother. I wouldn't be taking this risk to be prime minister a third time. What's the difference whether you have been there twice or thrice? I'm taking the risk with my life, and I'm taking the risk in facing the dangers in my country because I believe that all the children of Pakistan are as dear to me as my own children.
I want to see the children of Pakistan bequeathed a better future than the children of my generation were.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And her three children are without a mother tonight.
The problem is this: America relies on Pakistan, from prevailing in Afghanistan, to catching bin Laden, to stopping nuclear weapons from spreading around the Muslim world. Washington needs Islamabad, and Islamabad knows it.
Now, Pakistan has taken billions of dollars in U.S. aid with some very real questions about what that money is buying. Up close tonight, we will look at that and how much worse things in Pakistan could get.
Again, here's CNN's Peter Bergen.
BERGEN (voice-over): Is this an end to any hope for democracy in Pakistan? The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has not only thrown the country deeper into turmoil; it may have also confirmed the Bush administration's greatest fear, that Pakistan will become tomorrow's pre-9/11 Afghanistan, a lawless home base for extremists, where al Qaeda can regroup to plot and prepare future large-scale terrorist attacks.
After September 11, the White House relied on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to eliminate or at least contain the radical elements in his country. Even with all the chaos and questions, President Bush remains steadfast in his support.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Musharraf has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals.
BERGEN: Well, yes and no. Pakistan has provided the United States with valuable intelligence. But, in the past few years, the Taliban and al Qaeda have been rebuilding in Pakistan's wild tribal regions, and attacking U.S. troops over the Afghan border.
Musharraf had vowed to drive the extremists out, first through military force and then by negotiating through tribal leaders. Meeting in Washington last year, President Bush sounded confident.
BUSH: When the president looks me in the eye and says the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people and that there won't be a Taliban and there won't be al Qaeda, I believe him.
BERGEN: But Musharraf's government has not delivered.
STEPHEN COHEN, SENIOR FELLOW IN FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Their cooperation in the so-called war on terrorism has been -- has been mediocre, at best.
BERGEN: Terrorist attacks on the border have escalated.
Pakistan expert Stephen Cohen argues, the Bush administration expected too much of Musharraf.
COHEN: We wanted him to round up al Qaeda. We wanted him to deal with Taliban. Now we want him to expand democracy in Pakistan. No Pakistani leader could have delivered all of those items.
BERGEN: Now the terrorist threat has spread throughout Pakistan. Look at the devastating October attacks in Karachi, and then today the suicide bombing that killed the former prime minister.
And with the country ripping apart, the United States worries that a post-Musharraf Pakistan could become dominated by radicals, opening a major new front in the war on terror.
The nightmare scenario?
COHEN: Larger and larger amounts of Pakistani territory will be, in a sense, ungoverned. And, in those areas, you would see Taliban, but also al Qaeda, move units, moving into those regions as a safe haven. Then, we would be back exactly where we were with Afghanistan before 9/11.
BERGEN: A potential catastrophe and one that some fear may soon come true.
Peter Bergen, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Well, the White House is reacting today, of course, to the assassination.
President Bush is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where CNN's Ed Henry joins us now -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the stakes are enormous for the Bush administration, obviously. This is going to be even more difficult now because of the chaos we're seeing on the streets of Pakistan, even more difficult for the government there to focus in on the war on terror, hunting down Osama bin Laden.
And that's one of the many reasons why President Bush interrupted his vacation briefly today to speak out about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy.
Those who committed this crime must be brought to justice. Mrs. Bhutto served her nation twice as prime minister, and she knew that her return to Pakistan earlier this year put her life at risk. Yet, she refused to allow assassins to dictate the course of her country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, after those comments, President Bush then called the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, to reiterate those condolences, but also to try to get an idea of what the situation is like on the ground.
Short term, U.S. officials say they're very concerned about this violence getting worse, people taking out their anger about the assassination, and just the cycle of violence getting worse and worse, long term, medium term, as well, U.S. officials concerned about the nuclear weapons that the Pakistani government has getting into the hands of extremists -- Anderson.
COOPER: You know, there are some who say Benazir Bhutto was plan B for the Bush administration. They had encouraged her to play some sort of a role in Pakistan, to return there. Is there a plan C, or is everything right now riding on Musharraf for this administration?
HENRY: It really is relying on plan E. You're absolutely right. There is really no plan C. They were hoping that Bhutto may have a chance at coming back to power in some way. They didn't want to meddle in the Pakistani elections, but they certainly encouraged her privately to go back to Pakistan.
And, while U.S. officials realize that Musharraf is not perfect, he's really their only option right now -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, and that is very frightening, indeed.
Ed Henry, appreciate it. Thanks, Ed.
Just ahead on this 360 special, we dig deeper into why what happened in Pakistan today is such a huge deal for America and for the rest of the world -- all the angles on that.
Up next, though, John King speaks with David Gergen and foreign policy analyst Richard Haass.
We will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: I'm John King in New York.
Still unclear who was behind Benazir Bhutto's assassination, but tonight the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are looking into an unconfirmed claim of responsibility by al Qaeda, first reported earlier by an Italian news agency.
We want to get the latest now from Pakistan. With us on the telephone from Islamabad, Shahan Mufti. He's the Pakistan correspondent for "The Christian Science Monitor."
Shahan, thanks for joining us. It is about 8:30 in the morning there now. I'm wondering what is the situation as day breaks in Pakistan, the security situation in Islamabad and the best, as you know it, around the country?
SHAHAN MUFTI, PAKISTAN CORRESPONDENT, "THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": Well, I haven't had a chance yet to go out this morning. But things started to cool down late last night. I think it was the cold that sort of drove everybody in.
Last night there was riots and violence all across the country. Rawalpindi (ph), the city adjacent to Islamabad, the city of Islamabad, was possibly one of the worst hit. That's where the rally was, and the protesters came out and started burning tires, cars, people. There was also a lot of violent interaction between the capital and the Sindh province, which was Benazir's homeland, political (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: Always a significant security presence in Pakistan. How dramatically was that increased on the streets after the assassination?
MUFTI: Well, Islamabad at this point has been sealed off. So all entry and exit points were actually sealed off last night. They will be monitored for the foreseeable future, which means there will be police checkpoints and cars being checked going in and out of the capital.
At this point, the civilian forces are the only forces involved. There are a few places in the country where paramilitary forces and military forces have been involved, especially in the province of Sindh, like I have said, which is the homeland, Benazir Bhutto's homeland, and that's where the violence has been the most extreme and threatening.
KING: And tell us what Pakistan has heard from President Musharraf and has the president given any indication that the elections will still go forward on the 8th of January?
MUFTI: Well, President Musharraf did come on the air soon after the news of Benazir Bhutto's death came in. He announced a three-day period of mourning. The entire country, the flag will fly at half mast. He did not say much at all about the election, and that is a huge question mark right now, is what the election schedule will be like. Major political parties like Nawaz Sharif's party, who is the other major opposition leader in Pakistan, his party has announced that they will boycott the election. So that's a major development.
And even MQM (ph), which is the party that's been very loyal to Musharraf, is asking for at least a two- to three-month delay in the elections. So I think it would be fair to assume that there might be a delay in the elections in the cart (ph).
KING: Shahan Mufti, the Pakistan correspondent for "Christian Science Monitor." Sir, thank you for your time this morning.
Again, 8:30 a.m. in Pakistan, a few hours away from the funeral, scheduled funeral of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Digging deeper now into the political and foreign policy ramifications, earlier tonight I spoke with Richard Haass. He's the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.
KING: Richard Haass, let me begin with you. How big of a setback is this to what was already a questionable path for Pakistan back to democracy? Is there anyone in the wings who can replace Benazir Bhutto?
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The short answer, there's no one who can replace Benazir Bhutto. She had a legacy and a family connection that is simply unique.
That said, this is not the end of the democratic possibility in Pakistan, but it certainly is a setback. It will make it that much harder for President Musharraf to find a partner, that much harder to make a transition. And ultimately, it will take much longer before you have a government in place that can begin to address the fundamental security challenges that the government of Pakistan clearly faces.
KING: And so David Gergen, if you are in the West Wing inside the White House right now trying to counsel this president, and already there are critics who say you've given Musharraf too long of a leash, should have pushed for democratic reforms sooner. You've sent billions and billions of dollars to Pakistan, and the critics would say not enough progress on the economic front, the political front or the hunt for al Qaeda and the security front.
What are your options now as the president of the United States?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think you have many options. I think Richard Haass is exactly right that there's no successor in the wings. And he's almost -- the president is almost forced to try to work with Musharraf now, and I don't think he can pull the plug on that.
You know, Bill Richardson was saying on the campaign trail today that he ought to try to force his ouster. I would imagine that would be Dick Haass's view on this, that that would be exactly the wrong way to go right now, that you've got to roll the dice with Musharraf and try to push him toward democratic reforms, postpone this election and then form the best alliances you can to try to -- to try to heal as best you can, but don't seek -- seek a total change there right now.
KING: Richard, what is the answer to that question? And do you allow or do you try to get in the way if Musharraf says he needs to impose emergency powers again? Or do you want to go as fast as you can to elections or is it best to take a time-out?
HAASS: It is best to take a time-out. It's impossible to imagine people in Pakistan doing what you need to do, John, in order to have an election: to gather, to rally, to have public meetings. Clearly, you can't have that.
It wasn't simply Benazir Bhutto who got attacked today. Others got attacked, as well. So the idea that you can have an open political process now is ridiculous.
This country is on the verge, it's on the precipice of becoming a failed state. And we're facing, as a result, not simply a humanitarian crisis, but this could be a strategic crisis of the first order, given Pakistan's reality as the epicenter of terrorism and also its dozens of nuclear weapons.
So we have got to proceed very carefully, very slowly with gradual pushes in the direction of democratization. But right now, we have to work with General Musharraf, not against him.
KING: And David, Richard just mentioned the precipice of a failed state. I saw a posting you made earlier today on our 360 blog about a meeting you were in recently with a four-star general who said he worried much more about Pakistan than Iraq. Share that, the essence of that meeting with us
GERGEN: Well, it was a -- it was a private gathering, but it was a four-star general from the Army who said, "Look, in the near term, we're all preoccupied with Iraq, but I can just tell you that the real issue is Pakistan."
And he predicted -- he said, "Look, Pakistan is going to be on the knife edge within just a matter of months." And here we are on that knife edge.
I -- and by the way, it was also -- he also counseled in the long-term we should be -- we should be concerned about Saudi Arabia and the stability there.
But given the fact that we're on the knife edge, to go back to Richard Haass's point, you know, we do need to -- we do need to go slowly here, but I would think in the White House they would also be forming contingency plans, working with the State Department.
In the event that there's total chaos, we have to make sure that those nuclear weapons are secure. And we need some backup plans in the event this government falls, or this government falls into the hands of more militant types, that the al Qaeda up here near Pakistan- Afghan border are not given free hand here. That's going to be a -- these are going to be very tough calls for the Bush administration and for candidates on the campaign trail.
KING: David Gergen, Richard Haass, unfortunately we're short on time tonight. Gentlemen, thank you for your insights.
GERGEN: Thank you.
KING: I mentioned the 360 blog. A busy day for the blog because of the tragedy in Pakistan. Check it out at CNN.com/360.
Just ahead, Anderson on the American political dimension. Can Benazir Bhutto's death change the shape of the presidential race and its outcome?
Plus, her final moments: retracing the day that ended so tragically for this politician and mother of three. That's next on this 360 special report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: Yes, of course, they would like to go against me. There's a threats, because under military dictatorship, and now this situation has developed that terrorists and Osama have exploited. They don't want democracy. They don't want me back, and they don't believe in women governing nations. So they will try to plot against me, but these are risks that must be taken. I'm prepared to take them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Benazir Bhutto assassinated today. Now, as soon as news of her death broke this morning, the U.S. presidential candidates scrambled to respond. With the first contest in the 2007 presidential race, the Iowa caucuses, just a few weeks -- or just a week away, the attack in Rawalpindi took center stage on the campaign trail.
CNN's Candy Crowley tonight has the "Raw Politics" from Iowa.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's the thing about the campaign trail: the world has a way of finding it. The Bhutto assassination instantly changed the conversation, offering a kind of test run for the people who would be commander-in-chief.
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, the stakes are incredibly high. They are incredibly high. If Pakistan falls into complete turmoil, martial law is declared again, you end up with a state that is being run by a dictator, ladies and gentlemen, that does not bode well for Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, India.
CROWLEY: In a campaign that has been drifting toward economic issues, Bhutto's death and turmoil inside a nuclear-armed country could refocus voters on foreign policy.
If so, the advantage shifts to candidates selling their experience. If voters see a high-stakes drama in Pakistan, they may gravitate away from candidates like Mike Huckabee who today did not seem to know that President Musharraf lifted the state of emergency two weeks ago.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What impact does it have on whether or not there's going to be martial law continued in Pakistan?
CROWLEY: And Pakistan could give new life to someone like John McCain.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My theme has been throughout this campaign that I'm the one with the experience, the knowledge and the judgment. So, perhaps it may serve to enhance those credentials.
CROWLEY: Certainly, across the spectrum, foreign policy credentials were the topic of the day. Former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson called on Musharraf to resign. Others just called him.
JOHN EDWARDS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I actually spoke to President Musharraf just a few minutes ago as I was about to come in here. And he was in Islamabad. And I urged him to continue this democratization process.
CROWLEY: Locked inside a tough three-way battle for Iowa, Hillary Clinton has spent a year calling herself the most experienced, most qualified candidate. Today she stressed ties with Bhutto on the tragedy of the death, but inside the campaign, they believe the more voters see the stakes as high, the better she does.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is one of the most important elections of our lifetime. And it certainly raises the stakes high for what we have to expect from our next president.
CROWLEY: Camp Obama, which has spent a year pushing back on criticism that he lacks experience, insists they welcome a renewed discussion on foreign policy, because when talk turns to a troubled world, the Obama campaign turns to Clinton's "yes" vote on the Iraq war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit is one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan, al Qaeda, who may have been players in this event today. So that's a judgment she'll have to defend.
CROWLEY: The Clinton campaign said the suggestion that her vote caused unrest in Pakistan is baseless, adding that this is a time to focus on the people of Pakistan, not politics.
In fact most of the candidates say they didn't want to turn the assassination into a talking point, but it's a week before the Iowa caucuses, and world events not only change a conversation; they can change a campaign.
KING: Candy, what are the chances this is going to have an impact on the caucuses, on the campaign trail?
CROWLEY: You know, it's so close here in the polls, with Edwards, Obama, Clinton, you know, all within a hair's breadth of each other, that almost anything can move this campaign now here in Iowa.
But I think it also depends on what happens over the next week. There is -- it is not the assassination per se, I think, that will move it so much as the tension. I mean we're talking about a nuclear power. Will there be turmoil in the streets? Will there be some sense that Pakistan is getting out of control?
So, you know, the more it adds on to this, I think the more a lot of these candidate also argue, "Listen, this has to be about experience. The world can change on a dime."
So I think the next week and what happens on the ground in Pakistan could have an increasing affect on the outcome on the third.
COOPER: it was interesting today, though, to see which candidates made sure to mentioned that they had met Benazir Bhutto and had met Musharraf and to spend time there and those who just kind of were mum on the subject.
CROWLEY: Yes. Yes. I mean, it's just interesting because they all had to flash their foreign policy credentials. I mean, that was the bottom line there.
COOPER: And that they did. Candy, thanks.
Just ahead, two presidential front-runners tell us how they would respond in the wake of Bhutto's assassination if they were president. We'll hear from Senator John McCain and Governor Mitt Romney next on 360.
COOPER: The scene in those terrible moments after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. As we've been reporting the assassination had an immediate affect on the U.S. presidential campaign trail in Iowa.
Earlier today we reached out to the Democratic and Republican presidential front-runners and asked them to tell us how they'd responsibility to today's bloody events in Pakistan if they were president. Two were able to talk with us directly. Tonight, we start with Governor Mitt Romney.
COOPER: Governor Romney, if you were president of the United States, how would you respond to this attack in Pakistan?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, of course, you bring together your national security advisors. That would, of course, include officers, the leaders of the CIA and national intelligence team.
You'd also want to hear directly from your offices in Islamabad, from our State Department personnel on the ground, from military personnel on the ground, our CIA station chief and others. And -- and I presume the president would also want to place a call to General Musharraf to get his perspective on what's occurring.
COOPER: How much confidence do you have in Pakistan's president, President Musharraf as a leader? I mean, certainly, a weakened leadership position nowadays. Are you confident in him as a leader and as an ally in the war on terror?
ROMNEY: Well, he has been a faithful ally in the war on terror and has -- has done a very extensive effort to round up al Qaeda and Taliban operatives. But he has been less than effective in being able to build the kind of public support around a democratic process that includes him.
But nonetheless, as long as he has the support of the military and the senior leadership of the military, he should be able to retain a degree of order there that would keep the country from falling into some kind of major conflict.
COOPER: Governor John McCain said today this crisis underscores why the next president must have extensive foreign policy experience. How do you respond to that? Does he have a point?
ROMNEY: Well, I think it's very important that the next president has experience making important decisions, making them on a deliberate basis, knowing how to bring together brilliant people, listening to them, gathering data, analyzing data and making good decisions based upon that kind of information.
COOPER: So foreign policy experience, per se, is not essential, just experience?
ROMNEY: Well, if -- if foreign policy experience were the measure for selecting a president, we'd just go to the State Department and pick up one of the thousands and thousands of people who've spent their whole life in foreign policy, and frankly, becoming a United States senator does not make one a foreign policy expert, either.
What you want is people who have the ability to assemble a team of capable individuals, hear them out, listen to data and make important decisions. That, after all, is what Ronald Reagan did. He was not a foreign policy expert. He just happened to lead America to the greatest foreign policy achievement of the last half of the last century.
COOPER: Governor Mitt Romney, appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.
ROMNEY: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, Senator John McCain also agreed to speak with us tonight. He's, of course, a long-time member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and joins us from the campaign trail in Iowa.
COOPER: Senator, you said today's events show how important it is for a president to have foreign policy experience. If you were president today, what would your moves be toward Pakistan?
MCCAIN: Well, my first move would be to make sure that the nuclear arsenal is safeguarded and would be secure under any scenario that might transpire.
The second thing that I would do would be in constant communication with Musharraf, who I have known for many years and known pretty well, as well as other players there. I would urge that they continue with the process of a free and fair election, that as little force as possible can be displayed if there is continued riots and demonstrations.
I would also continue my advocacy for the return of a -- the judicial system and, frankly, all the trappings of democracy.
And Musharraf has been moving in our direction. We've got to ask who wins in this scenario, and I think it's the jihadists. The extremists win in this kind of scenario. It's very dicey right now.
COOPER: Is there any other option but Musharraf?
MCCAIN: I think that the new chief of staff of the army is a person who's clearly going to be a player, because the army will play a role in whatever and however any unrest is addressed.
But I think Musharraf, as the president of the country, is probably -- and he has stepped down from his military position, as you know. Is probably also a key element.
But I would also get together with the former -- with the members of former Benazir Bhutto's party and find out what their plans are and whether they will have a candidate and whether they can coalesce around one. As you know in Pakistan politics, it's much more personality-driven than party-driven.
COOPER: I talked to Governor Romney a short time ago. I asked him about his foreign policy experience. He said he thought experience is what matters, not necessarily foreign policy experience. He says, frankly, you can get anyone from the State Department. They all have foreign policy experience. They wouldn't make a good president, necessarily. And he said, frankly, becoming a U.S. senator does not make one a foreign policy expert, either.
What do you make of that?
MCCAIN: I think he's in a tailspin. I'm familiar with those. I've been involved in every major national security issue for the last 20 years. I understand the issues.
On Iraq, I rejected Rumsfeld's strategy. I strongly supported the Petraeus strategy that's succeeding. It's obvious that my credentials are very well known and very important in this very dangerous world, in which we have two wars and a constant struggle against radical Islamist extremism.
COOPER: Senator McCain joining us from Iowa tonight. Sir, thank you very much for your time.
COOPER: One program note: I'll be reporting from Pakistan tomorrow night to cover the funeral of Benazir Bhutto.
Still ahead, "Pakistan: Terror Central." Nic Robertson reports on President Musharraf's precarious situation with al Qaeda, the Taliban and other religious extremists as he also allies with the U.S. in the war on terror.
A CNN special investigation unit premiere coming up tonight.
KING: John King again with another "360 Bulletin."
A Seattle area woman and her boyfriend have reportedly confessed to fatally shooting six members of her family on Christmas Eve. Authorities say Michelle Anderson and her boyfriend John McEnroe, admit they planned to kill Anderson's parents. Then, they say, the pair killed Anderson's brother and his family when they later showed up. No word yet on a motive.
Thirteen-year-old Francesca Lewis reunited with her parents after surviving a plane crash in Panama. She's being treated at a Panama hospital for a broken arm after enduring two days of freezing temperatures and heavy rain in the mountains of Panama, where her plane crashed, killing three others.
Stocks on Wall Street lost ground after four days of gain. The Dow fell 192 points. Hurting investor sentiment: the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, oil prices climbing to near $97 a barrel, and disappointing economic data.
And no luck if you're one of the millions of Americans who paid the alternative minimum tax and are waiting for a refund. Congressional delay passing a tax bill means your refund will not be coming as soon as expected. No sooner, the government says, than February.
And that's 360 for tonight. Anderson will be reporting from Pakistan tomorrow.
Coming up next, Nic Robertson with "Pakistan: Terror Central." Have a good night.
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