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May 15, 2001

As Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh weighs his options, conservative Pat Buchanan and liberal Mario Cuomo hold a no-holds- barred debate on the death penalty. And we'll tell you what the International Olympic Committee has to say about China's bid to host the games. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. He was to have been executed tomorrow, actually in only 12 hours, but Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh will instead meet with his attorneys to weigh his legal options. McVeigh's attorneys do not rule out an appeal. Meantime, the FBI is stepping up its search for documents that may have been withheld from McVeigh's defense team: this after word that seven more files have turned up on top of the 700 documents, more than 3,000 pages, that the FBI failed to provide McVeigh's attorneys before his trial. The Justice Department last week postponed McVeigh's execution until June 11th.

The death penalty has long been a hotly debated issue among Americans. And a short while ago, that issue was debated, hotly, as I was joined by former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and former Democratic New York Governor Mario Cuomo. They make it clear that their shared Catholic heritage does not lead to any shared viewpoints.


BLITZER: Pat Buchanan, Governor Cuomo, thanks for joining us.

And I want to begin with you, Governor Cuomo. A lot of people make the point that if there was ever a slam-dunk case justifying capital punishment, it's the case of Timothy McVeigh. He's confessed to the crime. He killed 168 people, 19 children. Why not execute him?

MARIO CUOMO, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Well, the death penalty in the United States of America is not limited to cases like McVeigh's. So you have to deal with the whole law. And the principle which tells almost all of the industrial world -- because all the industrialized nations have given up the death penalty -- the principles that they argue for would cover even the horrible situation like this one.

Here, the United States government is responding to this terrible brutality that took 168 lives by the brutality of taking another life. That won't deter anything. It won't inspire anybody. It won't bring back any life. It won't deter any evil conduct. As a matter of fact, it might even promote some. It's very expensive as a process. Life imprisonment without parole would have been cheaper. It reduces us.

And this is why most of the developed world has given it up. And one thing more: It may be reasonably clear that McVeigh is not as guilty as -- is guilty. It may be reasonably clear. Perhaps it won't be. We don't know what the FBI records said. And even if it's clear here, the United States of America knows that its judicial system is sufficiently imperfect so that other innocent lives will be taken and have been taken. BLITZER: All right, Pat Buchanan, what do you say about those arguments?

PATRICK BUCHANAN, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: Well, I would say this: The one thing I think the governor neglects is the idea of justice. This man killed 168 people. He has no remorse. He killed 19 children. He said it was collateral damage. He sees himself as a warrior against the United States of America.

And if the United States is not going to be send a message of timidity and befuddlement and confusion, I think it's got to tell people like McVeigh we're going to take your life for the lives you have taken.

That is justice. I believe it clearly is a deterrent. If imprisonment is a deterrent, certainly the death penalty, which is far more severe, is a deterrent.

And as for the European countries, many of those countries, the people in those countries, want a death penalty: 65 percent in Great Britain do. They are led and dominated basically by elites who have imposed their views and values on Europe.

For example, the Turks are an Islamic country. They want the death penalty. The Europeans say the only way you can get into the European Union is to give it up. But I believe we need it.

BLITZER: But let me interrupt. Pat Buchanan, let me interrupt you and point out you're an observant Catholic. The pope has appealed to the United States to spare the life of Timothy McVeigh. When the pope was here in the United States in St. Louis in 1999, he said this: "The dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil."

You disagree with the pope on this.

BUCHANAN: Yeah. I don't believe you take away the dignity of a human being by simply putting someone to death, in my judgment. I don't think we ought to use revenge or torture or anything like that. But I do believe we have to, in the United States of America -- the pope is speaking personally. But the Catholic church, I would remind you, Wolf, in scripture and tradition authorizes the state to use the power of the sword to defend the people and to do justice.

Christ himself, when He was before Pilate, Pilate said, "I have the power to take your life," and Christ said, "That power comes from God." St. Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, Pius the 10th. Vatican City had a death penalty up until 1969.

BLITZER: All right, Governor Cuomo, you're...

CUOMO: No, I know -- I know...

BLITZER: You're also an observant Catholic.

CUOMO: Well, I know Pat is a confident guy, but I've never heard this kind of confidence from a Catholic. He's smarter than the pope, and he disputes the pope. And as a matter of fact, he cites people like Aquinas.

Well, Pat, if you're going to cite Aquinas, what do you say about Aquinas' position on abortion? Which is that life does not begin at conception. So you better be careful about your authorities.

Now, let's be clear on the Catholic teaching, please. The pope's position is clear, and the catechism is clear. There is a new catechism: The death penalty is absolutely prohibited unless you can prove that you can't protect yourself from the killer through incarceration. And of course, in this country, which leads the world in incarceration, it's an absurdity to say we can't protect ourselves from the killer except by killing him.

BUCHANAN: Well, let me...


CUOMO: Now, that's the teaching. Now, that's -- wait a minute, Wolf.

BUCHANAN: Let me get into the teaching.

CUOMO: That -- that should not...

BLITZER: Let's let Pat Buchanan respond.

BUCHANAN: I've got to respond, governor.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Pat.

CUOMO: Sure, go ahead.

BUCHANAN: Governor -- it's wonderful that the governor quotes the Holy Father, the pope. He just in that same...


CUOMO: No, the catechism. The catechism. The catechism.


BUCHANAN: ... where he talks about -- he talks about Catholic teaching.

CUOMO: That's not the pope. The catechism.

BUCHANAN: With due respect, governor, I think you won't let me answer, because the point is the Holy Father teaches infallibly that you can never under any circumstances take innocent human life by abortion.

CUOMO: That is not true.

BUCHANAN: 40 million have been done in the United States: 40 million have been done since Roe v. Wade.

CUOMO: That is not true, Pat.

BUCHANAN: I would like to see Governor Cuomo stand up and say that abortion is everywhere wrong as the pope and the Catholic Church have taught infallibly for 2,000 years. CUOMO: Well...

BLITZER: All right...

BUCHANAN: The church teaches the death penalty...

CUOMO: Excuse me. Pat -- Pat...

BUCHANAN: ... is acceptable.

CUOMO: Pat, I can't let you get away with this. This is a misuse of your religion. The pope has not taught this subject infallibly. This should not be the argument, incidentally, against the death penalty, and it's never been my argument, the church's teaching, because for a long time they were too quiet on this issue.

But you brought it up now: Let the world understand that infallibility has been used only two or three times in the modern history of the church. It was not used on the subject of abortion. Your favorite quote, Aquinas, Thomas Aquinas, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, all held that life does not begin at conception. It begins perhaps 40 days later. Are you telling me...

BUCHANAN: Governor...

CUOMO: Just a minute. Are you telling me...

BUCHANAN: Governor, governor...

CUOMO: ... that the saints were wrong, and....

BUCHANAN: No, I'm telling...

CUOMO: Look, he doesn't...

BUCHANAN: I'll tell you what I'm...

BLITZER: Let's let Pat Buchanan respond to that.

CUOMO: He doesn't teach abortion through infallibility.

BUCHANAN: I'm telling you -- what I'm telling you, governor -- what I'm telling you -- what I'm telling you, governor, is Mario Cuomo is in moral error. While the church does not get up and define a dogma, scripture and tradition and Catholic teaching for 2,000 years say that abortion is intrinsically evil. It is taking the life of an innocent...

CUOMO: I didn't say it's not evil.

BUCHANAN: ... taking the life of an innocent human being, and never permissible, never right, and the Holy Father has so stated repeatedly, governor. And I think your position is wrong on this.

CUOMO: Yeah, he's stated...


BLITZER: Governor, we only have 10 seconds. Governor, 10 seconds.

CUOMO: Well, you allowed him to convert this into an argument over religion, which doesn't belong on this issue. The death penalty does not deter.

My position is not that the Catholic Church doesn't teach that abortion is evil -- has nothing to do with the death penalty. As a Catholic, I'm inclined to and must believe that. That's not the question.

The question is, should the death penalty be the law of the land, should abortion be the law of the land? For Catholics and non- Catholics, for believers and non-believers?

BUCHANAN: And the vast majority of Americans want the death penalty. It's constitutional.

CUOMO: But you dismissed that.


BLITZER: Gentlemen!


BUCHANAN: They have it...


CUOMO: You dismissed that as an argument when it came to Europe. You said...

BLITZER: Unfortunately, gentlemen...

CUOMO: ... it was the elitists that were making the law. But here the people...

BUCHANAN: That is the truth in Europe.

BLITZER: Governor Cuomo, Pat Buchanan, unfortunately, we're not going to resolve this debate tonight, but I want to thank both of you for joining us on our program.

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