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Bush Plans Social Security Reforms; Arafat's Condition Worsens; Elizabeth Edwards Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Aired November 4, 2004 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now. You're looking at a live picture of the French military hospital near Paris. Inside, a rapidly deteriorating Yasser Arafat. Tonight, political vacuum, a growing crisis.
The modern Middle East has never faced a change of leadership among Palestinians. What will happen when Yasser Arafat dies? And why did so many believe he was already dead?

Stand by for hard news on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.


BLITZER (voice-over): Second term, the president says he's ready.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.

BLITZER: Is there already a battle brewing?

BUSH: We're start on Social Security now.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Edwards, a devastating defeat, and now a disturbing diagnosis.

Arafat's fate.

BUSH: God bless his soul.

BLITZER: A flurry of reports, a fog of confusion, and finally, a denial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Arafat is not dead.

BLITZER: Urban combat.

SGT. JOSE DUCASSE, U.S. MARINE CORPS: We're going to be looking for RPG fire from the rooftops.


BUSH: ... to continue to work for a free Palestinian state that's at peace with Israel.

BLITZER: On political issues, Mr. Bush again reached out to Democrats, asking for their support.

He acknowledged that he got greater support than John Kerry at the polls from religious Americans, but he promised he would never impose his faith on others.

BUSH: The great tradition of America is one where people can worship the way they want to worship. And if you choose not to worship, you're just as patriotic as your neighbor. That is an essential part of why we are a great nation.

BLITZER: Earlier in the day the president met with his cabinet, amid already widespread speculation that some members would be leaving sooner rather than later.

BUSH: There will be changes. I don't know who they will be. It's inevitable there will be changes. It happens in every administration.


BLITZER: One of the possible cabinet changes the president spoke about may be the attorney general, John Ashcroft.

Sources close to Ashcroft tell CNN they think the attorney general will submit his resignation in the near future, possibly, possibly within the next two weeks. Some sources say that's -- that Ashcroft's health is a factor. He suffered from inflammation of the pancreas earlier this year.

One item on the Bush second term agenda attracting lots of attention is Social Security, and the president's plan to privatize it partially.

CNN's Kathleen Hays is in New York. She's joining us now live with more on that -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN HAYS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Social Security has enough money now, but if nothing changes, the government will start cutting benefits by 2042. That's why President Bush is charging ahead to touch what has long been known as the third rail of politics.


HAYS (voice-over): President Bush is adamant the time has come to reform Social Security.

BUSH: We'll start on Social Security now. We'll start bringing together those in Congress who agree with my assessment that we need to work together. We've got a good blueprint to go by.

HAYS: The president's plan is to allow young workers to start investing some of their government retirement money in the stock and bond markets, using a select group of mutual funds.

DAVID JOHN, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: What President Bush is talking about is modernizing Social Security to allow workers to take a small portion of the taxes that they now pay, and to put them into some sort of a private investment. And this would be carefully controlled, probably by a government entity, and this would improve their retirement benefits.

HAYS: The AARP and others who oppose this say the cost of moving to such a plan is too high. President Bush's own Social Security reform commission estimated the costs associated with this could range from $1.5 to $2 trillion over a 15-year period. That's more than half the size of the entire federal budget for 2005.

But advocates say there are costs associated with any reform plan that keeps Social Security from running out of money. Higher taxes could be one; reduced benefits could be another. And Bush's plan to set up personal accounts would allow even low-income families to start building wealth, just like richer ones.

ERIC ENGEN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: And what this would be is a way with government guidance to help particularly lower income households generate some financial assets, and be a part of the build- up in financial assets that households that have 401(k) accounts or mutual funds have been able to enjoy.


HAYS: It's not clear if the government would bail out workers who invest in personal accounts and fail to make a good return. That remains to be hammered out in Congress.

Advocates are confident that low-risk funds run by conservative money managers would prevent that from happening. This will sure be part of the debate, though, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kathleen Hays, thanks very much for that report.

To our viewers, here's your chance to weigh in on this story. Our web question of the day is this: "Are you optimistic about President Bush's second term in office?" You can vote right now. Go to We'll have the results coming up later in this broadcast.

First there were urgent reports that Yasser Arafat was dead, then an unusual denial from a French hospital spokesman. Now they're still confusion over the condition of the Palestinian leader.

For the latest, let's go live to CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney in Paris.

Fionnuala, what exactly are you hearing from your sources about Yasser Arafat's condition right now?

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're hearing lots of things, Wolf, but one thing that seems to be consistent is that Yasser Arafat is in critical condition.

He has been slipping in and out of consciousness throughout the day. He is in intensive care in the military hospital behind me, and by all accounts, he is fighting the battle of his life.

Throughout the day the media had been expecting a news conference from the hospital here. When it did come, it actually shed very little light on the president's -- Palestinian Authority president's situation. In fact, if anything, it probably contributed to more speculation following those media reports elsewhere that he had actually died or was believed to be clinically dead.

Now, those statements from other media have not been confirmed. The hospital only issuing a denial that he was dead, but it was not particularly convincing to the ears of many journalists here and the followers of Yasser Arafat and his health condition since he's been here since last Friday.

What we do know is that he was admitted with a blood disorder a week ago. On Tuesday, Leila Shahid (ph), who is the Palestinian envoy to Paris, issued a rather upbeat medical bulletin, saying that preliminary tests had revealed he did not have leukemia.

He did have a low blood platelet count and he also had high numbers of white cells in his blood, but that he was responding to treatment so well that doctors believed he was be able to undergo further tests.

And as a result, we believe of those tests yesterday that he felt ill. His condition took a sudden deterioration, and as I said, having the fight of his life.

And I should just mention that earlier in the day, the French president, Jacques Chirac, swept up here in a motorcade. He spent 30 minutes, we're told by the Elysee Paris (ph) with Yasser Arafat before he went to an evening summit in Brussels.

A vigil here not just of media tonight, Wolf, but also of about 100 or so Palestinian supporters who also are waiting for further news.

BLITZER: Talk a little bit, Fionnuala, about the scene over at that military hospital. What's going on outside, best as we can tell?

SWEENEY: Well, there has been an absolute influx of the world's media as the day has gone on and news of the deterioration of Yasser Arafat's condition has spread.

I mean, literally the street has now been cordoned off this evening on either side of me for quite some distance, the entire road, indeed, preventing journalists from even just walking up and down the street behind me.

The gates of the hospital have been closed. That's usually where behind me there is a news conference, if there is to be any news. To my left there are a number of supporters of Yasser Arafat gathering, following that statement from the hospital that he was not dead but that his situation was now, quote," more complicated."

And it's an overnight vigil, really, for more news on his condition, but really nobody's expecting we're going to hear anything more definitive this evening. But as I said, you never know -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fionnuala Sweeney in Paris for us. Thank you, Fionnuala, very much.

Palestinians have been on pins and needles ever since Arafat was air lifted out of the West Bank last week. CNN's John Vause has been taking the pulse of the city of Ramallah.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After very confusing and conflicting statements, the Palestinian Authority now says that Yasser Arafat is still alive. Reports of his death, they say, are simply baseless media reports. Although one source tells CNN that, yes, Yasser Arafat is still alive but his health has now deteriorated to a point where he is no longer expected to recover and death is just a matter of time.

There's been a flurry of activity here in Ramallah and across the West Bank, meetings, we are told, by Palestinian sources at the highest of levels.

Also, security across the West Bank in Gaza has also been increased. Palestinian sources tell CNN that the prime minister, Ahmed Qorei, and the former prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, the man who's now effectively running the PLO in Arafat's absence, now plan to travel to Gaza tomorrow to meet with the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

In Jerusalem, meantime, Jewish extremists have gathered to celebrate the death of Arafat. And they say if he's not dead, they will pray for his death.

Also, one note. If Arafat does die on this day, November 4, it will be nine years to the day when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in Tel Aviv.

John Vause, CNN, Ramallah.


BLITZER: Here in the United States, a sad and shocking announcement regarding the wife of the former vice presidential candidate, John Edwards. Elizabeth Edwards has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Details on her condition and how she learned about the cancer. That's coming up next.

Also ahead...


SGT. MICHAEL CHAMBERS, U.S. MARINE CORPS: That's what's kind of scary. You're rolling right by, thinking it's secure. And then they pop up off that rooftop behind you and then here comes an RPG.

BLITZER (voice-over): U.S. Marines preparing for urban combat in an expected assault on enemy fighters in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. We'll take you inside their training.

And later...

The star factor, how celebrity endorsements impacted the presidential election for better and for worse.



BLITZER: Yesterday was clearly a difficult day for the Democratic candidates and their families, but we now know it was even worse for John Edwards and his family, who got some very alarming news about his wife's health.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In this hour, I'm held up by the love of my life, Elizabeth, and by our beautiful children. And...

BLITZER (voice-over): On the same day that Senator John Edwards conceded defeat in his vice presidential race, his wife learned she had breast cancer.

A spokesperson says Elizabeth Edwards discovered a lump in her right breast during a campaign trip last week. On Friday, her family doctor told her the lump appeared to be cancerous, but Mrs. Edwards put off an appointment with a specialist until the campaign was over.

A biopsy conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston Wednesday confirmed that Mrs. Edwards has invasive ductal cancer, the most common form. More tests are be conducted to determine the appropriate treatment.

In a written statement, Senator Edwards said, quote, "Elizabeth is as strong a person as I've ever known. Together our family will beat this," unquote.

Elizabeth Edwards is 55 years old. She was born in Florida but went to law school in North Carolina, where she met John Edwards. They married in 1977 and had two children.

After their teenage son died in a 1996 car wreck, Mrs. Edwards gave up her law practice to being a full-time mother to their daughter. She underwent a vigorous hormone regimen in hopes of having more children, and gave birth to another daughter at the age of 48, and another son at the age of 50.


BLITZER: For more now on the specific type of breast cancer Elizabeth Edwards has and her prognosis, I'm joined by Dr. Claudine Isaacs of Georgetown University Hospital here in Washington.

Doctor Isaacs, thanks very much for joining us. DR. CLAUDINE ISAACS, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: What happens to her now? What does she have to go through?

ISAACS: Well, from the information that we have, Mrs. Edwards has just had a biopsy done to make a diagnosis of breast cancer. She has been diagnosed with the most common subtype of invasive breast cancer, called invasive ductal cancer.

And the usual next steps are that she will undergo further surgery. From the information that's been released she's had what's called a needle biopsy, which is really just a means of determining what the lump is.

And the next usual step in this is more surgery to take out the lump, and the surgeon will also do an analysis or take out a sampling of the lymph nodes in the underarm area.

BLITZER: To see if it's spread to other part of the body?

ISAACS: To see if it spread to the lymph node area under the -- in the underarm area, which is the most common site for it to go to.

BLITZER: Now, we know there are various forms of surgery. There's the mastectomy and there's also a lumpectomy -- a lumpectomy. Explain the difference, what the options she may have before her.

ISAACS: From most women with a diagnosis of breast cancer, it's a personal choice, whether to undergo a lumpectomy, which is coupled with radiation therapy following that, and then the other choice is to undergo a mastectomy.

What the lumpectomy means is that the tumor lump itself, or mass, is taken out, and the lymph nodes in the underarm air are sampled. And then following that, in terms of local treatment for the breast itself, women then undergo radiation therapy to the breast.

The other option, as you mention, is what's called a mastectomy, which involves a removal of the breast itself, and at the same time, the lymph nodes are sampled in the underarm area.

BLITZER: And what of the -- why would some women decide for one option as opposed to the other option? From a medical standpoint, which is better in treating breast cancer?

ISAACS: For -- most women are good candidates for both of them. So for a woman who is a candidate for both of them, there have been a number of very large randomized clinical trials that have extremely long follow-up now that indicates that the survival is exactly the same between both of these options.

So for most women for whom it's an option, it's a personal choice. Some women, and many women do prefer to undergo a lumpectomy followed by radiation, because they preserve their breast, but some women don't want to do that for a variety of reasons, and so they elect to undergo a mastectomy.

BLITZER: What would -- most women, I assume, would not want to remove their breasts, but -- so why would there, if there's no difference medically for both of these, why go with a full mastectomy?

ISAACS: Some women feel more comfortable with that approach. Some women are far from radiation facilities. And radiation, at least the standard of radiation, involves daily treatment for about 6 1/2 weeks in a row, Monday through Friday. So for some women that's not a feasible option.

There are a lot of personal choices that go into the decisions that women make about breast cancer treatment. The important thing to understand, though, is that for the women who are candidates for both of these options, that it really is simply a personal choice and not a medical decision.

BLITZER: How treatable is breast cancer? I assume it depends on how early it's detected?

ISAACS: And obviously, you're right. We don't have a lot of information, but I think the most important thing for people to understand and for the population as a whole to understand is that breast cancer is extraordinarily treatable.

Breast cancer mortality continues to diminish. The vast majority of women with breast cancer will be cured of their disease. So it is an enormously treatable disease and a disease that most women survive and beat.

BLITZER: She had hormone treatment in order to get pregnant at a relatively late stage in a woman's life. In her late 40's, she had two little kids. Is that -- could that possibly have aggravated this problem or has nothing to do with it?

ISAACS: The data suggests that women who get fertility treatment for pregnancy purposes, that there is no increased risk of breast cancer associated with fertility treatment.

There's different information when we're talking about hormone replacement therapy, post-menopausally. And most people have seen some of these studies that have come out that have shown that there's an increased risk of breast cancer in women who take post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy.

But there are no studies that suggest that taking fertility treatments, hormones for fertility treatments increase the risk for breast cancer.

BLITZER: As you know, there's a lot of weird things out there, a lot of people speculate causes of cancer. Is stress or tension or anything along those lines, especially during a campaign, is that something that could bring on a problem like this?

ISAACS: No, there are absolutely no indications that stress is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer. The other thing about breast cancer is we think that for -- by the time somebody's been diagnosed, the breast cancer has been there for quite a while. So that short period of time -- I'm sure it didn't feel so short. But the campaign period of time, one couldn't even have implicated in any way.

BLITZER: She apparently discovered this in her own personal examination. She felt a lump and then she went to the doctor. She waited a few days before she had the needle biopsy.

Help our viewers understand better what they should be doing right now in order to make sure that they don't have breast cancer. They should do some self-examinations themselves.

ISAACS: That's a prudent thing to do. The most important thing to do and the thing that has been proven -- has been demonstrated to -- to be a good screening tool is mammography. So annual mammography is recommended for women over the age of 50.

And also many women should -- most women should discuss with their doctor whether they should begin having annual or every two-year mammograms between the ages of 40 or 50.

BLITZER: If your mother or a relative had breast cancer, are you more likely to get it yourself?

ISAACS: That is an increased -- that increases somebody's risk for the disease.

BLITZER: And there's scientific evidence showing that it could be hereditary?

ISAACS: Absolutely. But that's different than having a mother or a relative. Most people who have a family history of breast cancer don't have hereditary breast cancer. They have a familial predisposition to this disease. But when we say hereditary, we mean that somebody inherits an alteration, a specific gene that significantly increases the risk for this disease.

BLITZER: But are there other causes beyond genes?

ISAACS: Yes, there are. There are a number of factors that are associated with women's reproductive history, like early age at first menstrual period, late age of menopause, relatively later age at first full-term pregnancy. There are also certain uncommon benign breast conditions that are associated with an increased risk for this disease.

BLITZER: And one final question. As much as we associate women, of course, with breast cancer, men can get breast cancer, as well.

ISAACS: Absolutely. It's very uncommon in males, but it's important if a man feels a breast lump to bring to the attention of their doctor for evaluation.

BLITZER: Dr. Claudine Isaacs, thanks very much for joining us. ISAACS: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Very useful information for our viewers.

Preparing for urban warfare in Iraq. Where is the U.S. Marine Corps as they brush up on their urban combat skills ahead of a possible assault on Fallujah? We'll check in with that.

Nuclear ambitions abroad. The national security challenges facing President Bush in a second term.

And look at this, some remarkable images from Iceland, a volcano erupting beneath a glacier, creating one spectacular show. We'll tell you of what's happening in Iceland. Stay with us.


BLITZER: In Iraq three British soldiers were killed and eight others wounded in an ambush in the central part of the country. A civilian interpreter was also killed. The soldiers were members of the Black Watch regiment recently deployed to Iraq to free up American troops, gearing up for an assault on the militant stronghold of Fallujah.

Seventy-three British soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war.

U.S. forces today pounded parts of Fallujah with air strikes and artillery, and ahead of the expected assault on the city, U.S. Marines have been brushing up on urban warfare tactics.

Some commanders gained experience during the brutal street fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia. That was a decade or so ago. Others have been studying urban battles in Chechnya and Vietnam.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is with the U.S. Marines near Fallujah.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make sure you hang out behind me a little bit so I can give you some cover.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Getting ready to storm out of the desert and into an urban jungle. The assault on Fallujah promises to be a close quarter street fight. Marine infantrymen and tanks will have to work in harmony against rebel fighters in buildings and alleys.

CHAMBERS: That's what's kind of scary. You're rolling right by, thinking it's secure. And then they pop up off that rooftop behind you and then here comes an RPG.

PENHAUL: Remote controlled explosives and suicide car bombs are likely to be major threats.

(on camera) The history books recall how some of the world's most powerful armies became bogged down in urban guerrilla warfare. Hue City (ph), Vietnam; Mogadishu, Somalia; Grozny, Chechnya.

CAPT. TOM TENNANT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Urban warfare is a dirty business. The defender initially has the advantage because they know he knows the terrain much better than the attacker. If they defender is able to use the defense to his advantage, the attacker will be slowed and have to reorient his offense.

PENHAUL: When the Marines roll in, insurgent gunmen could be lurking in any window or doorway. Armored vehicles and tanks will become magnets for attack.

DUCASSE: We're going to be looking for RPG fire from the rooftops, and intersections and stuff like that, make sure we don't hit any tank mines.


PENHAUL: Mortar crews run through drills.



PENHAUL: Inside the city they could, if needed, lob charges over buildings or onto rooftops to destroy concealed insurgent positions.

This explosives team is measuring out detonation cord. Depending on how they tie the knots, they can blow out doors and race in to clear potential insurgent hideouts.

Intelligence suggests Falluja's defenders may have rigged buildings with homemade bombs.

LANCE CPL. WILLIAM SABIN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Will it cause us to maybe slow down our attacks a little bit because we have to take into account all of these kinds of obstacles as far as booby traps? Yes. But will it cause us to not be able to complete the mission? Absolutely not.

PENHAUL: U.S. commanders say the keys to victory in Falluja are moving fast and coordinating their weapons on the ground and in the air. A battle field where marine and machine works as one. Karl Penhaul, CNN, near Falluja.


BLITZER: Another humanitarian group is pulling out of Iraq. Doctors Without Borders says it's become impossible to provide security for its staff because of escalating violence. The group says warring parties in Iraq have repeatedly shown disrespect for independent humanitarian assistance. Doctors Without Borders says its clinics in Iraq have provided 100,000 medical consultations since January.

How could an F-16 jet plane fire on an elementary school right here in the United States? It happened. We'll tell you where and when.

Plus, national security challenges. An Iraq exit strategy tops the list, but it's not the only trouble spot for President Bush in his second term.

Not masking their disappointment, but still looking for a fresh start. The Europeans are weighing in on the U.S. election.

Plus this. Too close for comfort. A zoo visitor's dangerous encounter with a lion.


BLITZER: Welcome back. The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat in critical condition. The latest on this developing story. And it is developing. Including the impact on relations between the United States and the Middle East, all that coming up.

First though, a quick check of some other stories now in the news.

A judge today rejected a defense effort to remove the prosecutor in the Michael Jackson child molestation case. He said the law makes clear that he can remove direct attorney Tom Sneddon only if there's a conflict that would prevent Jackson from getting a fair trial. Defense attorneys say Sneddon is motivated by personal animosity toward Jackson. The judge said he'll keep a watch on Sneddon to make sure he doesn't go too far.

A National Guard F-16 fighter jet sprayed an elementary school in New Jersey with 25 rounds of live ammunition. Fortunately, no one was injured. Officials say it happened last night in Little Egg Harbor during a nighttime training mission. They say the pilot was supposed to fire at a ground target 3 1/2 miles from the school.

Hamid Karzai today formally accepted his election as president of Afghanistan. He says his top priorities will be smashing the country's drug smugglers and cracking down on war lords. The move came a day after a joint U.N./Afghan electoral board proclaimed Mr. Karzai the winner in last month's election.

A fairly smooth election, but the lines and wait at many polling stations were too long. That's the assessment of election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The American government asked the group to observe Tuesday's election. By and large, everything went very smoothly.

He was courted by the Clinton administration and kept at arm's length by the current president. Now as the Palestinian leader lies critically ill, we turn to our State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel for a closer look at Yasser Arafat's ties with America -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, alive or dead, throughout the day, conflicting reports were rampant.


(voice-over): At his first press conference as a newly re- elected president, Mr. Bush was told by a reporter incorrectly that Yasser Arafat had died.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My first reaction is God bless his soul. My second reaction is that we will continue to work for a free Palestinian state that's at peace with Israel.

KOPPEL: Unlike president Bill Clinton who during his two terms in office had more meetings with Arafat than with any other foreign leader, President Bush declined to meet the Palestinian leader anywhere. In fact, midway through his first term as president, President Bush openly called for Arafat to step down.

BUSH: When the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state.

KOPPEL: Arafat has never stepped aside, a symbol of Palestinian defiance, and according to one former U.S. negotiator, who over the years spent hundreds of hours with Arafat, the U.S. should not expect his immediate successor to be much different.

AARON DAVID MILLER, SEEDS OF PEACE: It's unlikely that you're going to get anyone who would differ markedly, frankly, from Mr. Arafat's position on any of the core issues in this conflict, whether they concern Jerusalem, borders, or refugees.

KOPPEL: Rob Malley, too, spent years getting to know Arafat. He says because of Arafat's credentials as founder of the PLO, other potential Palestinian leaders may fall short, lacking the credibility to close an Israeli/Palestinian peace deal.

ROB MALLEY, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: If Arafat goes, we don't know that we have anything or anyone who's capable of holding the entirety of the national movement together.

KOPPEL: Even though Arafat did sign the Oslo peace agreement with then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in October 1993, he refused to accept an historic deal offered by Ehud Barak at Camp David in August 2000. Arafat also refused subsequent Israeli offers brokered by Bill Clinton before he left office.


(on camera): From the U.S. perspective, Arafat's legacy will be two-fold, as a former guerrilla leader who used terrorism to try to achieve a Palestinian state, and as a failed leader who could have achieved that life-long goal if he hadn't rejected what the U.S. believes, Wolf, was the best deal Israel would ever offer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea Koppel at the State Department. Thanks very much. From finishing the job in Iraq or finding a way out to tackling the terror threat and looming nuclear threats, President Bush faces pressing national security concerns in his second term. For more of that, let's turn to our national security correspondent David Ensor -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATL. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the issues are pressing and difficult and ranging from developments in today's news to the tough slog in Iraq.


(voice-over): With U.S. forces preparing an assault on Falluja and other Sunni insurgency strongholds, and with Iraqi elections scheduled for January, President Bush's toughest immediate effort, Iraq, appears to have some new momentum after his election victory.

RICHARD FALKENRATH, FMR. WHITE HOUSE AIDE: It helps the morale of the administration and the troops, and it may help him with the international partners. They need to contribute to that effort in various ways.

ENSOR: For his part the president made clear he'll reach out to other nations, whether they agreed with the Iraq war or not, asking for much more help building democracy in Iraq.

BUSH: I understand that in certain capitals and certain countries, those decisions were not popular.

ENSOR: But critics say in a second term, the greatest challenge for Mr. Bush may be to repair the damage to America's credibility over the last few years.

JESSICA MATTHEWS, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: Confidence in our leadership was replaced by resentment and bafflement about what our intentions were, and even fear of what we would do next. The question is, does the president recognize that? If he does, he'll take steps to fix it. If he doesn't, I think we're in deep trouble.

ENSOR: Even before the month is over, the administration must grapple, too, with how to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

FALKENRATH: We have to lead, but we have to recognize in this case, as much as almost any other, we need to lead a multilateral coalition to stop that country from acquiring these weapons.

ENSOR: And, again, events may drive the agenda. The likely end of Yasser Arafat's leadership may oblige Mr. Bush to wade further into the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

MATTHEWS: If that happens, it is of overwhelming importance for the United States to seize that opportunity and make progress happen.


(on camera): On top of all that, there's the need to challenge North Korea on nuclear weapons and concerns about a more autocratic Russia. Historically presidents tend to focus more time on foreign policy than domestic matters in a second term. Mr. Bush made clear in his news conference today he wants to try to do both.

BLITZER: He has got a crazy agenda. There's a lot of things he's going to have on his plate. David Ensor, thanks very much.

And the president in the midst of all of that is facing challenges still from Europe. Coming up, will the bitter fights of the first term carry over or will both sides now agree to bury the hatchet?

And this...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Moore was a very interesting phenomenon this year. I think in the end he ended up bringing votes both for Kerry and Bush.


BLITZER: The celebrity factor, the impact of many of the stars on the stump.

Also, a deadly blast at a fireworks factory. The latest from Denmark. That's just ahead.


BLITZER: There was extremely high interest in Europe in the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. CNN's Zane Verjee is joining us now live from the CNN Center with a closer look at how Europeans are reacting to the Bush reelection -- Zane.

ZANE VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in many European cities, streets, cafes and restaurants, conversation revolved around the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. And newspaper headlines mirrored much of that conversation.


"Oops, They Did It Again" mocks Germany's left-leaning "Tageszeihung" newspaper. And on the front page of German tabloid, "Berliner Kurier" "God be with us."

In London, the "Daily Mirror" feels the same. "Doh! 4 More Years of Dubya. How Could 59,054,087 People Be So Dumb?"

But the headline in the conservative "Figaro" in France reads simply "Le Triomphe De Bush." "La Libre" even more simply "W."

From the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris Europeans were by and large disappointed.

"My fears have come true," says Brouhard Chisler (ph) a tourist visiting Berlin from southern Germany.

And making his way to work, Rania Ludman (ph) says he fears the U.S. will now pursue its policies with more decisiveness and a lot less consideration.

In Paris Xavier (ph) is also downcast.

He says Bush's reelection is a pity for the world because it will perpetuate American power. In old Europe, he says, everyone hoped Kerry would win.

But European leaders whose relations with the U.S. have been derailed by the Iraq war know that they have to deal with the White House and are looking for a fresh start. French President Jacques Chirac sent a letter of congratulations to President Bush saying he hoped the second term would be the occasion for strengthening the French-American friendship. While the German leader Gerhard Schroeder's letter to Mr. Bush spoke of great expectations for more cooperation.

And Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a major European ally in Iraq says Bush's re-election ensures the political role of the U.S. will be to further promote freedom and democracy in the world.


(on camera): Many European newspaper editorials expressed hope that the next Bush administration term would take on a different tone from the first and lead to rapprochement with old Europe. One French newspaper said "this is the moment that needs to be seized to reestablish trust with America" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Zane Verjee joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta. Thank you, Zane, very much.

Glitter and power. In the end did celebrities on the campaign trail really rock the vote? A critical look at the stars' impact in 2004.

Plus, Santa School. A new crop of Kris Kringles ready for the holiday season. We'll tell you what's going on.

First though a quick look at some other headlines making headlines around the world.

Several thousand Iranians took to the streets of Tehran to mark the 25th anniversary of the takeover of the American embassy. Iranians seized the embassy in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Denmark explosion. Fire engulfed a fireworks factory triggering massive explosions in the town of Kolding. One firefighter is confirmed dead. Hundreds of buildings are damaged.

Japan quake, a strong earthquake shook northern Japan in the same region that was hit by a quake last month that killed 39 people. Today's tremor injured at least one person.

Flights disrupted. Ash from a volcano in eastern Iceland is disrupting flights over parts of Europe. The volcano first erupted Monday and continues to shoot ash and lava as much as 45,000 feet into the air.

Simply bizarre. A lion mauled a man who jumped into its den at a zoo in Taiwan. The lion ripped the man's jacket off and bit his arm and clawed at his trousers. At one point the man shouted, "Jesus will save you." The man climbed out of the den himself and was taken to a hospital. And that's our look at around the world.


BLITZER: As the election postmortems continues, both winners and losers are looking at the so-called star factor.

Did the use of celebrity endorsements make a difference for either candidate?

CNN Brian Todd is here and he's got that story for us -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly got a lot of attention this year, and that was part of the plan. When we drove a little deeper into the actual impact of stars on the campaign trail, we found some surprises.


TODD, (voice-over): It's getting harder to find one without the other.

MICHAEL MOORE, DIRECTOR: The general vs. the deserter.

TODD: Celebrities and the candidates of their choice were more intertwined in 2004 than they've ever been.

DARRELL WEST, AUTHOR, "CELEBRITY POLITICS": Celebrities were a huge growth industry this year. We had celebrities from Hollywood, sports stars, and other people come out of the woodwork to support various presidential candidates.

TODD: With the stakes so high this year, observers say stars from Streistand to Springsteen felt a more urgent need to assert their voices in the campaign. But did glitter translate to power? One survey that tracked congressional campaigns who got campaign help and money from candidates showed a very good success rate. On the other hand, actor George Clooney couldn't help his own father win a House race in Kentucky.

VAUGHN VERVERS, "THE HOTLINE": If you can't get your own father elected, I don't think you're going to make any other difference on any other level, either.

TODD: There does seem to be a clear demarcation in celebrity values. Experts say stars like Robert Redford proved again this year that they're great at raising money, recruiting campaign volunteers and generating publicity. They also proved again, they can't influence voters.

WEST: Popularity is not transferable these days. I mean, Bruce Springsteen is one of the most popular singers in the country, but yet his word is not sufficient to convince people to vote for John Kerry.

TODD: Like Springsteen, Michael Moore was seen as one of the most important stars on the trail this year. His film, "Fahrenheit 9/11" provoked widespread heated debate. Moore actually impact on the vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's probably a wash for both sides, it kind of rally the bases within both parties, gave some Democrats talking points, something to keep saying about the race, and it made Republicans very angry.

Even the credit celebrities get for attracting new voters may be negligible. For all of P. Diddy's vote or die rhetoric, targeting the youth vote, only 17 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 actually went to the polls this year, the same percentage as in 2000.


TODD: Now, observers say don't look for this to dissuade celebrities. But one expert has a word of caution for politicians, while you can get money and buzz from a celebrity, he says, you cannot control them. And in politics, control is everything -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd, good piece. Thanks very much. We'll have the results of our web "Question of the Day." That's coming up next.


BLITZER: On this week in history in 1994, antiabortion activists, Paul Hill, was convicted of murdering a Florida abortion doctor and his escort.

SUSAN SMITH: Please bring him home.

BLITZER: Susan Smith is charged with drowning her two sons in a lake in 1994. On November 6, 1998 the Republican house speaker Newt Gingrich gave up his post and resigned from Congress all together. That is this week in history.


BLITZER: Here's how you weighed in on our web "Question of the Day."

Are you optimistic about President Bush's second term in office? Look at this, 42 percent say yes, 58 percent of you say no. Remember this is not a scientific poll, even though we got responses from 168,000 of you.

Graduation day at Santa U, it's our "Picture of the Day."

With Christmas coming up, London's so called ministry of fun graduated another class of Santa Clauses, or Father Christmas as he's known in the UK. Classes included make up, the latest toys, and tips on dealing with problem children. Congratulations to the new Santas.

A reminder, you can always catch WOLF BLITZER REPORTS 5:00 p.m. Eastern. See you tomorrow. LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starts right now.


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