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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer - Transcript

Location: Unknown


SECTION: News; Domestic

HEADLINE: Interview With John Edwards; Interview With Guy Phillipe

GUESTS: Dianne Feinstein, David Dreier, Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Kenneth Starr, Alan Derschowitz, Benjamin Netanyahu, Guy Phillipe

BYLINE: Wolf Blitzer, Lucia Newman, Suzanne Malveaux, Candy Crowley

Interview with Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. Then, interview with Haitian rebel leader Guy Phillipe.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: It's a very good idea, Wolf. Clearly, we are facing the potential of revenge killings throughout Haiti now in the aftermath of President Aristide's departure.

So having an international force there to avoid that is critically important. It's also important that we provide some immediate humanitarian assistance, particularly food and medical services, which have been severely disrupted as a result of the recent violence.

BLITZER: How worried are you that Haitians might seek to-go to the sea and start building boats and might try to reach U.S. shores?

GRAHAM: One thing I've heard is that there are so many boats in Haiti today, that what had previously been a harbinger of refugee flight may not be so significant today, that is, the building of new boats. There are plenty of boats already there.

I am concerned that we might have another major flow. There's been some 500-plus people in the last few weeks who have tried to leave Haiti. Getting humanitarian relief, getting some sense of law and order on the streets of Haiti will be a very significant factor in avoiding that refugee flight.

BLITZER: You've covered, you've watched this Haiti situation unfold for a long time, former governor of Florida, now a long-time senator from Florida. Your two Democratic colleagues, Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry, earlier today, both very critical of President Bush for failure, they say, in the whole Haitian policy.

Do you share their criticism that president Bush was negligent in dealing with this brewing crisis?

GRAHAM: One of the surprising things about the Bush administration has been its indifference to the Caribbean and Latin America in general. When running in 2000, candidate Bush made a lot of statements about how engaged he would be as president with Latin America. Almost none of those have come to pass. And Haiti is a good example of it.

If we had moved over the last several years more effectively, I think there would have been a good chance we could have avoid avoided the violence and anarchy which has occurred in Haiti in the last few weeks. We should have put and led an international force to provide security for the people and possibly, therefore, not had the 70-plus deaths that have occurred and the thousands of people who have been wounded and the tremendous looting and disorder that is a fact of life in Haiti today.

BLITZER: But was the president right and the administration right, Secretary of State Colin Powell right, in effectively forcing President Aristide or strongly urging him behind the scenes to read the handwriting on the wall, step down and leave Haiti?

GRAHAM: There are going to be some real consequences to this approach, one of which is how do we maintain confidence in the electoral process if, as we have had yet again in Haiti, an elected president has been removed by force.

But the exit of President Aristide, who, frankly, was a great disappointment to me-I had known him when he was a priest in the 1980s and then in his two terms as president-does give us a new page in Haitian history.

We need to learn the lessons of what we didn't do in 1994 after he was replaced in office, and that is, we didn't stay there long enough. We didn't make a deep enough commitment to security, to building the institutions of democracy, and to building an economy that will give the people of Haiti-who have the lowest per capita income of any nation in the Western Hemisphere-some hope for a future at home.

BLITZER: Do you agree or disagree with Congressman Charlie Rangel, who earlier today said: By this policy over the last few days, in effectively telling Aristide to leave, the U.S. was participating in what he called a coup d'etat against an elected, democratic official in Haiti?

GRAHAM: Well, I would describe what has happened in Haiti has been a coup d'etat against an elected presidential office holder. The degree of the United States involvement in that, I think, is still unknown. But I believe that we now need to not think about the past, but focus on how can we build a better future?

The Haitian people are wonderful people. We have several tens of thousands of them living in my state of Florida. And they have been family-oriented, they're hard-working, they're industrious. They seek advancement through education, all the values that we admire in the United States. And there's no reason to believe they can't apply those same values in their home country.

BLITZER: Listen to what the president said earlier in the week, warning Haitians not to get on boats and attempt to reach the United States. Listen to this, Senator.


BUSH: I have made it abundantly clear to the Coast Guard that we will turn back any refugee that attempts to reach our shore. And that message needs to be very clear as well to the Haitian people.


BLITZER: Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, say that's a racist policy that should be condemned. Do you agree or disagree with this policy?

GRAHAM: My principal criticism of the president's statement are the words "any refugee." We've recognized throughout this country's history the difference between economic refugees, people who are fleeing their home countries because they want a better job and a better life, and political refugees, who are fleeing because of a legitimate concern about their being persecuted.

I think that we should make that distinction today. If a person can make the case that, if they were to be forcefully returned to Haiti that their life would be in jeopardy, they should be granted the opportunity to prove that through the immigration process. If they can't, then they should be returned.

BLITZER: Senator Graham of Florida, thanks very much for joining us on this important day. The president of the United States saying perhaps a new chapter has started in Haiti's history. We shall see. Appreciate it very much.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

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