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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Woman Accused of Killing Pregnant Woman Makes Court Appearance; Bush Stands By Rumsfeld

Aired December 20, 2004 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, a crime that's shocked the nation. Lisa Montgomery is accused of killing a pregnant woman and cutting out her fetus. This hour, she makes her first court appearance. Also, President Bush standing by his embattled defense secretary. Stand by for hard news on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): A White House warning. Hands off Iraq.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I said the other day that I expect these countries to honor the political process in Iraq without meddling, I meant it.

BLITZER: Violence surges in that country ahead of elections. Dozens killed in the last two days. What the interim government plans to do to secure the vote.

Day in court. The woman accused of killing an expectant mother and stealing her fetus has her first hearing.

A child's burden. His name is Osama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd get pushed around. Sometimes I'd have to ask the teacher a couple of times because it was severe.

ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS for Monday, December 20, 2004.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: One day after one of the bloodiest days in Iraq in months President Bush faced reporters at the White House and was peppered with questions about an Iraqi insurgency that seems to be getting stronger as next month's scheduled elections draw closer. Our White House correspondent Dana Bash joins us live with the latest.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president took about 15 questions during his 53-minute news conference. It was his chance to get on record and talk about his second term agenda before the holidays. As you mentioned, he also wanted to talk once again about the fact that he believes the Iraqi elections will go forward as scheduled January 30 but he would not give a timetable for U.S. troops leaving Iraq. He was uncharacteristically forthcoming about why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): The president was strikingly candid about a problem in Iraq. The effort to build up its army so American troops can start coming home is not going to plan.

BUSH: I would call the results mixed in terms of standing up Iraqi units who are willing to fight. There's been some cases where, when the heat got on, they left the battlefield. That's unacceptable.

BASH: One goal of the end of the year news conference was to talk up Iraq's progress. He also conceded this, about a spike in suicide bombings.

BUSH: No question about it. The bombers are having an effect.

BASH: Mr. Bush stood firmly by his embattled defense secretary whom critics called responsible for Iraq's policy failures. Rumsfeld's been most recently under fire for ignoring pleas for more armored vehicles in Iraq and using an autopen not his own hand to sign letters for families of troops killed there.

BUSH: I have seen the anguish and heard the anguish in his voice and seen his eyes when we talk about the danger in Iraq. Sometimes perhaps his demeanor is rough and gruff. Beneath that rough and gruff and no nonsense demeanor is a good human being.

BASH: The president expressed disappointment but no regret for the ill-fated choice of Bernard Kerik for homeland security secretary offering a veiled nod to critics of the White House vetting process.

BUSH: The lessons learned is to continue to vet and ask good questions.

BASH: Controversy over Iraq and Rumsfeld may have already dimmed the president's post election glow. A new CNN/"USA Today/Gallup poll shows his approval rating back below 49 percent, down six points in just a month. Bush aides understand building up his standing is crucial to pushing second-term goals like reforming Social Security. There the president deflected questions on specifics beyond wanting private accounts for younger workers.

BUSH: I will propose a solution at the appropriate time but the law will be written in the halls of Congress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Another reason White House aides know President Bush has to get his public support back up is because as he insisted again today he does plan to cut the deficit in half in five years. That as he also said today will mean a tough budget. That is code for cuts upcoming in the budget he'll offer and perhaps some unhappy people around Washington.

BLITZER: Dana Bash at the White House. Thanks very much. At that same news conference, the president minced no words in warning Syria and Iran not to do anything that might disrupt the Iraqi elections set for next month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Nothing's taken off the table. When I said the other day I expect these countries to honor the political process in Iraq without meddling, I meant it. Hopefully those governments heard what I said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Asked for what he might specifically do if his warning is ignored, this president said he might step up diplomatic and economic pressure and he said nothing is off the table and that's often code for military action.

Our latest poll out today touching on some of the same issues the president discussed at his news conference in the CNN/"USA Today/Gallup poll out today. 58 percent said they disapprove of the way the United States handled the situation in Iraq over the past few months. 39 percent approve U.S. policy on Iraq. Asked if they would support sending more American troops to Iraq to help with next month's election, 50 percent of those questioned said they would favor such a move. 48 percent said they would oppose such a deployment. On the issue of the embattled defense secretary, 52 percent said Donald Rumsfeld should resign, 36 percent said he should remain on the job.

To our viewers, here's your chance to weigh in on this story. Our web question of the day is this. Do you think Donald Rumsfeld should stay on as defense secretary? You can vote now at CNN.com/wolf and we'll have the results later in this broadcast.

In Iraq, thousands of mourners turned out for funerals of some of the 68 people killed in insurgent attacks yesterday. Officials blamed most of the attacks on Sunni Muslim rebels. And the interim prime minister Ayad Allawi said their aim is to destroy the unity of the country and derail next month's elections. CNN's Chris Lawrence is in Baghdad with more on the violence and preparations for the elections.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were the deadliest attacks in Iraq since the summer the day after twin bombings in Najaf and Karbala, American and Iraqi officials are promising it won't derail the election. By Monday, the survivors had all been accounted for in Najaf where Iraqi authorities have arrested 50 suspects (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cars from driving through downtown. On Sunday, a suicide bomber detonated his car in a center town square crowded with people watching a funeral procession. 50 miles away, another bomb exploded at a bus station in Karbala. The blast destroyed buses, cars, and buildings and by Monday the cleanup around the crater was just getting started. Both attacks occurred in cities considered holy by Shiite Muslims but Iraqi officials say they won't let insurgents start a civil war to disrupt the upcoming election.

IBRAHIM JAAFARI (through translator): They are trying to incite such violence between the Sunnis and the Shiites. LAWRENCE: U.S. officials won't talk about the specifics of securing polling places but the Iraqis confirm American troops will be heavily involved.

BARHAM SALAA, DEP. IRAQI PRIME MINISTER: People have to depend on the presence of multi-national forces and significant numbers in certain areas in order to prevent the terrorists from destabilizing the process.

LAWRENCE: On Monday, Iraq's electoral commission drew balls from a drum and randomly selected where competing parties will rank on the paper ballot. It looked a lot like a national lottery but one in which the country as a whole can't afford to lose.

Since Iraqis have no experience with democratic elections, the order of names on the ballot could influence voters. Officials are still trying to come up with a way to keep long lines from forming outside polling stations fearing that large crowds could attract insurgents. Chris Lawrence, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A baby stolen from her murdered mother's womb. The woman arrested for the shocking crime appearing right now in court for the first time. We'll go there. We'll have details also.

Cruel target and a horrifying trend. We'll take a closer look at violence against pregnant women.

And later...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt bad and it made me feel down and horrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A boy named Osama. A difficult reality for the child who shares the same name as America's most wanted terrorist. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A first court appearance this afternoon for a woman accused of a horrific crime, killing a pregnant woman and stealing her baby from the womb. Tom Gauer of CNN affiliate WDAF is in Kansas City, Missouri, now with the latest on a story that shocked everyone.

Tom, what has just happened?

TOM GAUER, WDAF REPORTER: Well, today is first of the legal process that Ms. Montgomery will be going through. Now this is the federal district court in Kansas City, Kansas, that is where Montgomery was arrested. The crime itself took place on the Missouri side of the state line. Right now, there's a little bit of legal posturing going on.

Today was initial appearance in federal court. The judge read the charge to Montgomery, who sat motionless, never looked up from a copy of the federal complaint placed in front of her.

She has two federal defenders the court appointed for her that answered all the questions. Now those defenders right now are trying to keep information away from the media. As you can see behind me, there is a whole passle of reporters waiting for family members to come out who are attending the hearing today.

The request for a gag order was made of the court. Judge David Wax (ph) said he wasn't going to impose a gag order, he's just asking the lawyers to, simply put, behave themselves. They know what they're allowed to say and what they're not allowed to say.

The judge also asked the defendant's lawyers if they wanted to waive an appearance, what they call an identity hearing. Simply put, that is since Montgomery was arrested on the Kansas state line, the charges filed in Missouri, they want to make sure that they have the right person on both sides of the state line.

They will be doing that as well as a formal arraignment coming up two days from now. Both sides agreed to a continuance to get their ducks in order since this all went very, very quickly.

So right now, Montgomery is still in federal custody. She will remain here on the Kansas side of the state line pending any action that gets her to Missouri, which is where the murder trial will take place.

Tom Gauer, live in Kansas City, Kansas. Wolf, back to you in Washington.

BLITZER: Quick question, Tom, before I let you go. What about her husband? Where is he? Has he been charged with anything or is he out and around?

GAUER: As of yet, no charges against Montgomery's husband. Now we were told this is an investigation that continues on. He was not in court today. However we are waiting to see if any other charges -- and since a request is made for a gag order here on the Kansas side, we can expect that very, very little information will be coming down until another complaint is actually filed if one is ever filed.

BLITZER: Tom Gauer is with our affiliate -- our CNN affiliate WDAF. Tom, thanks very much for that information. This has been a gruesome case as I think everyone will acknowledge. But the murder of a pregnant woman is not as rare as all of us might think. By one count more than 1,000 have been killed in this country in the last decade alone.

CNN's Mary Snow joining us now from New York with more on this -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's no official way to track just how many pregnant women die from violence in this country each year. The Washington Post, though, did a year-long investigation and found that of the pregnant women who were killed, 67 percent of them were killed with firearms and many of them were at their own home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Bobbie Jo Stinnett's murder with her 8-month- old baby pulled from her womb is a crime even seasoned psychiatrists deem deeply disturbing and rare. But they say what is not so rare is violence against pregnant women.

DR. CATHERINE BIRINDORF, NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: I think this brings attention to a really under addressed issue that is more of a trend than we would like to admit. I think the public doesn't like to hear about these things because it's so abominable.

SNOW: While the murder of Laci Peterson and her unborn baby were widely reported, homicides of pregnant women are not specifically tracked. But a Washington Post investigation found that since 1990, more than 1300 pregnant women and new mothers were murdered. And a 2001 study in Maryland found homicide was the leading cause of death among pregnant women.

The report cites in most cases men committed the murders. In the few cases where women killed another woman for a baby, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Stone says he found a common thread.

DR. MICHAEL STONE, COLUMBIA UNIV. MEDICAL SCHOOL: The only thing I can think of that they all had in common was a desperate wish to be able to show the world that they had a child, not all for the same reason, but the desperate wish to prove motherhood.

SNOW: Stone worked on a 1987 Oregon case in which a woman used a car key to perform a Cesarean. Doctors say that desperate wish to become pregnant can even convince some women to they are expecting a child when they are not.

BIRINDORF: They can actually become somewhat swollen in the abdominal area, have belly swelling so that they appear somewhat pregnant. They may gain weight. They may become nauseous and vomit. And they may have breast tenderness. And they convince themselves and people around them that they are in fact pregnant.

SNOW: Authorities say Lisa Montgomery, the suspect in Bobbie Jo Stinnett's murder, had told people in past months that she had been pregnant and miscarried.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And there are states like California that have began tracking when a woman who has died has been pregnant or not. That death certificate process was changed about a year ago. Officials say it's too early to report findings just yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This is all so shocking. Thanks, Mary. Mary Snow reporting for us in New York. Mary, thank you.

Two other high profile cases to tell you about in our justice report. A California jury heard opening statements today in the Robert Blake trial. The former "Baretta" star is accused of gunning down his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley in the parking lot of a Los Angeles restaurant. Prosecutors told the jury Blake was obsessed with their child and having his wife killed.

Also in California, Michael Jackson's attorneys went to court today, asking for a delay in his child molestation trial. Jackson's attorneys say prosecutors are trying to sandbag the defense team by providing an updated witness list filled with incorrect and misspelled names. The judge is expected to rule on the request in the next few days.

Political enemies face off in a verbal duel in Ukraine. Plus a stern warning to President Bush to Syria and Iran. Stay out of Iraq or face the consequences.

A name tied to terror. What it's like for a young Muslim- American boy who shares the same name as al Qaeda's leader.

And later, the best of WOLF BLITZER REPORTS, some of the best, at least from this past year. We'll have a look back at my interview of with the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It goes without saying that the stakes are very high in the rerun of Ukraine's presidential election six days from now. Things nearly got out of hand when the two candidates faced off each other earlier today. CNN's senior international correspondent Walter Rodgers has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: The Ukrainian presidential debate began as a verbal duel that nearly turned into a brawl. More than a dozen times, Viktor Yuschenko who says was cheated out of the presidency in the November 21st election reminded voters the Ukrainian supreme court since ruled that election involved massive voter fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The result of the election on the 21st of November was stolen. More than 3 million voices -- votes.

RODGERS: That verbal blow so telling Viktor Yanukovich decided to apologize toward the end of the debate but first he skillfully used the pro-Yuschenko crowds who took to the streets last month to play on fears of anarchy. Yanukovich portraying himself as the moderate, unifier in the upcoming December 26 rerun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You have to be calm during the elections and stop the pressure. I suggest don't bring people in the streets from either side. RODGERS: Yanukovich also skillfully used Soviet era xenophobia, scaring people into thinking his opponent was the candidate of the outsiders, the Europeans and the dreaded Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): You agree with me that you have to have a law which was restrict the interference of foreign organization.

RODGERS: Yuschenko tried to point out it was Russian president Vladimir Putin who was seen interfering in the Ukraine and then he complained Yanukovich not only stole the election but hogged more than his share of time in the debate. The TV moderator sided with Yuschenko.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Please, not more than three minutes, and you have spoken for over five minutes.

RODGERS: The Ukrainian moderator tried to rein in Yanukovich, a brave step in a former communist republic, but it had little effect. Yanukovich then got very personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am thankful to you that we have seen your real face. You have opened it.

RODGERS: That seemed a pointed reference to the lesions formed on Yuschenko's face, lesions doctors say are the effects of unnamed persons having tried to poison the candidate with dioxin. In the end, the two Ukrainian candidates shook hands, a democratic gesture in a venue where politics still seems very much Soviet vintage. Walter Rodgers, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A White House warning. Why President Bush is telling Syria and Iran to keep their hands off Iraq. And Donald Rumsfeld under fire again, this time about condolence letters sent to family members who have lost loved ones in Iraq. We'll have former defense secretary William Cohen to weigh in on all of this.

In the line of duty, dramatic new pictures that take you inside a deadly fire right here in the nation's capital.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Strong warnings from President Bush to Iraq's neighbors. Severe consequences if they meddle in the upcoming elections in Iraq. We'll get to that in a moment. First, a quick check of other stories now in the news.

Just a few hours ago, fire crews found the body of a fourth person killed in a house fire right here in Washington D.C. overnight. The victims include two girls ages 5 and 11 and two adults. No word yet on the cause of that fire.

A similar fire killed four members of a Milwaukee family overnight including two young children. Extra crews were called in to battle the flames in 12-degree weather. No word on the cause of that fire either.

An update on a story we've been following for days. 50 private cable TV operators in Beirut have stop carrying the French television network TV 5. The move is in retaliation for a French ban on the Almanar network which French officials declared anti-Semitic and a platform for the militant group Hezbollah.

President Bush's blunt warnings today to Syria and Iran, not to interfere in Iraq. Joining us with more on that our state department correspondent, Andrea Koppel -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: For the second time in a week, President Bush has threatened two of Iraq's neighbors, warning both of them to stop supporting, or at least alleged support of Iraqi insurgents by allegedly allowing money and individuals to cross over their border into Iraq. Mr. Bush also threatened consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BUSH: We have tools at our disposal. A variety of tools, ranging from diplomatic tools to economic pressure. Nothing is taken off the table. When I said the other day that I expect these countries to honor the political process in Iraq without meddling I meant it. And hopefully those governments heard what I said.

KOPPEL: In May President Bush imposed a series of sanctions on Syria stopping short of cutting off exports of food and medicine.

U.S. officials suggest, any new sanctions could include a ban on financial transactions with Syria, freezing assets of high-ranking Syrian officials, and the possible downgrading of diplomatic relations. But with Iran, the U.S. has fewer options. Diplomatic options were severed in 1979 and sweeping sanctions have already been in place for years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOPPEL: Iran does not deny that hundreds of its citizens do cross the border into Iraq, but insists that it's purely religious, making pilgrimages to holy sites in Iraq.

For its part, Syria denies the charges, insisting that it has been working with the U.S. in recent months to try to tighten up its border, which runs hundreds of miles mostly across the desert. But President Bush, Wolf, is clearly worried enough about the rising violence in Iraq with parliamentary elections scheduled to take place at the end of next month. And he is ratcheting up the diplomatic rhetoric -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea Koppel at the State Department -- Andrea, thank you very much.

Let's get the assessment of someone who's been there before, our world affairs analyst, the former Defense Secretary of the United States William Cohen. Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.

WILLIAM COHEN, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Wolf.

BLITZER: When the president says all options are on the table, he's not ruling out any option and he hopes people in Syria and Iran hear what he's saying, what is he saying?

COHEN: Well, implicitly, he's saying that military option is still on the table. That has not been taken off. The principal focus will be that of economic and diplomatic activity, but ultimately that option of military action still there.

In this particular case, it's rather remote, given the fact that we're pretty much preoccupied by the upcoming elections in Iraq and that we're pretty stretched right now, in terms of not taking on long military operations. But that option is available., In extreme circumstances, could it be employed? The answer is yes.

But, from a military point of view, that's a very difficult mission to undertake, particular which respect to Iran.

BLITZER: It would be a huge military operation to engage in regime change, to overthrow the regime in Iran or Syria, for that matter, especially given the deployment in Iraq.

But it wouldn't necessarily be a huge military action to have some limited actions along the border, to send in a missile or two, or to just send a message that you better stop interfering in Iraq.

COHEN: It could be a limited military action. It could be covert activity. There are a variety of tools that one could send a message through, and that may be what the president is also expressing.

You may recall, he issued a similar message about three weeks after we went to Baghdad. At that particular time, it looked as if we were going to be able to subjugate all those who were resisting. A message went forward at that time, saying, Syria, Iran, do not engage here. That was a much more I think powerful message at that time.

Right now, we're certainly consumed with trying to stabilize Iraq in time for the election at the end of January.

BLITZER: When you were defense secretary, indeed, throughout the '90s, there were contingency plans at the Pentagon, as there always are contingency plans, military options, if you will, on how to engage in regime change to get rid of Saddam Hussein, beginning with General Norman Schwarzkopf after the first Gulf War that required, what, 300,000, 400,000 troops, 500,000 U.S. troops, roughly the same number as were used to liberate Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion.

COHEN: That's correct. Those war plans were on the shelf, so to speak. They were regarded, as I understand it, as being insufficient to deal with the Saddam Hussein regime change that was undertaken by the Bush administration. But, nonetheless, it was a very large operation that was planned in order to not invade the country, should it become necessary, but then to actually occupy it in a way that would secure it and stabilize it.

But, frankly, we didn't anticipate moving into Iraq or attacking it in the absence of any move by Saddam against his neighbors or by his -- any attack upon U.S. forces.

BLITZER: But you had a huge contingency plan on the shelf, as you say.

COHEN: Yes.

BLITZER: But when Rumsfeld came in, they scaled that back dramatically. They thought that was old-line thinking.

COHEN: Well, that's my understanding, that they wanted a new approach, that we're trying to transform the military, lighter, faster, more mobile, more lethal. And certainly that was the case for going into Baghdad.

The difficulty is now securing the peace by having a stable Iraq. That means crushing the enemy. That means stabilizing the borders, making sure that there isn't any entry by Syrians or Iranians or other groups trying to come in. But that was a plan that certainly was on the shelf at the time that we left, yes.

BLITZER: When you were defense secretary, were there American military personnel killed in combat?

COHEN: Well, there were.

We lost some military personnel in the bombings of the embassies in East Africa. We also lost sailors during the bombing of the USS Cole.

BLITZER: Did you send condolence letters to their relatives, to their family members?

COHEN: Actually, I and my wife, we met with the individual family members to express our deep condolences and gratitude for the sacrifice of the people who were lost. It's one of the most moving experiences one can have.

And that's go and look into the eyes of the family and saying, we're sorry you lost your son or daughter. And all we can tell you is, we're grateful for the sacrifice that they've made and you've made on behalf of our country. But it was a very personal thing to do.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The question, I guess, because it's come up, did you have a machine, as many members of Congress have a handwriting machine, because they send out thousands of letters, send condolence letters to the families? COHEN: Well, I'm sure that there was machine available.

But, in my particular case, again, I had the opportunity to meet with the families directly, or to call them. On a couple of occasions, I had to call the parents of the -- who had lost their son or daughter in the military in battle or in a major exercise. And so it's something that's important. And I'm sure Secretary Rumsfeld understands that he needs to connect in a way that perhaps he hasn't in the past, but it's a tough issue for any secretary to deal with.

BLITZER: You've been around Washington for a long time, going back to when you were a young Republican member of the House, then a Republican senator and then the secretary of defense.

Give us your bottom-line assessment. What's happening with Donald Rumsfeld right now politically, the mood, as we see some Republican senators like McCain and Hagel and others express a lack of confidence in Rumsfeld?

COHEN: Well, much has to do with the way in which the war is going right now. And so that expression of a lack of confidence is coming to the surface.

But we have to remember that Secretary Rumsfeld serves at the pleasure of the president of the United States. He serves at the pleasure of the commander in chief. And to the extent that President Bush has confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld, then he is going to stay, until such time as either Secretary Rumsfeld believes that he no longer can be effective. And I think he himself has recognized that in the past and wrestled with it, saying, if I am convinced I can no longer be effective, then certainly I won't hang on.

I don't think that he has reached that conclusion. The president of United States hasn't reached that conclusion. And so he ultimately will stay until the president decides that he no longer serves at his pleasure.

BLITZER: William Cohen, our world affairs analyst, thanks very much.

COHEN: Pleasure.

BLITZER: Let's take a quick look at some other news making headlines around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): A deadly legacy of World War II has been destroyed in Northern China. More than 3,000 bombs abandoned by Japanese forces were blown up in a controlled explosion. Japan occupied much of China until its defeat in 1945.

Odious protest. Environmentalists dumped 11,000 dead fish in front of the European Union headquarters in Brussels. The protest comes on the eve of crucial talks on catch limits for threatened fish species in E.U. waters. Tropical paradise. A Malaysian investor's dream to bring the tropics to Germany is now a reality. The $80-plus million Tropical Islands theme park is now open for business near Berlin. Visitors can enjoy a beach, a huge swimming pool and plenty of palm trees and other tropical plants.

Christmas spirit. Pope John Paul II is urging Christians to keep the symbols of Christmas a center of their celebrations. He spoke to thousands of pilgrims gathered around a life-size nativity scene in Saint Peter's Square.

And that's our look around the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A young Muslim-American's major burden. What's life like for an 11-year-old American boy who shares the same name as the world's most wanted terrorist?

Arson probe. New arrest in a series of house fires in suburban Washington.

And my interview with the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, from earlier this year. We'll take a look back on what he said about calls for a constitutional amendment, among other things, to ban gay marriage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A new poll shows how tough it is to be a Muslim in post-9/11 America. The Cornell national poll finds 44 percent of the people questioned believes civil liberties for Muslim-Americans should be restricted; 48 percent say no.

For perspective on this, imagine the life of a young Muslim- American boy named Osama.

CNN's Brian Todd has this story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We can't show the boy's shoes, but try put yourself in them. We can't show you his face, can't use his voice, can't tell you where he goes to school, the specific area where he lives or even the state where he lives. His parents are that concerned about potential retaliation.

We can tell you the boy's first name, Osama. He can tell you, in a stranger's voice, what he's been through at age 11.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "You get pushed around and sometimes you'd have -- I'd have to ask the teacher a couple of times, because it was severe. So -- and it was -- you know, it was bad. I felt bad. And it made me feel down and horrible."

TODD: This was a care-free kid born to Muslim parents with a name that was, until that day, simply different.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "When I came home that day, I can still remember just saying today was a good day. But then my mom said, didn't you hear that it's -- you know what happened? And I'm just asking what happened? And she said -- she gave me the whole event and she told me what happened. And so I realized that my name was unique in this part of the world in what I was going to do."

TODD: What he didn't tell me and his parents did is that he also had sand and rocks thrown at him and he endured what his mother called tremendous torture. It was enough to prompt his parents to consult their pediatrician about changing Osama's name.

(on camera): Did you want to change your name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Not really."

TODD: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Probably because it's sort of special. Really, when you grow older, they won't remember back. I don't know how many, 20 years back, because they don't -- if your name is Jack, they don't refer to you as Jack the Ripper."

TODD (voice-over): They did refer to him, he says, as a -- quote -- "towel head." I asked this boy, only 8 years old on September 11, his opinion of the United States and American children since that day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "I'm not blaming anybody for that. I wouldn't be happy if I saw so many people die in my own country. I wouldn't be that happy. And I was born in America, so I can understand their temper, too."

TODD: He says things have gotten better in recent months, but his parents are again worried. Osama's entering middle school next year. But their child may be more resilient than even they know.

Asked what he wants to be as he gets older, this targeted, shadowed 11-year-old say he's not sure. He just wants to make the world a better place.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's take a look at some stories you may have missed this past weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Arson arrests. Three more people were taken into custody in connection with a series of fires in a Maryland subdivision. Court papers say the men admitted to investigators they were involved in the fires which caused $10 million damage to 45 houses. Pennsylvania pileup. An estimated 70 vehicles collided in near whiteout conditions yesterday on Interstate 80 near the Ohio border. More than a dozen people were taken to the hospital. But even Highway Patrol officers were surprised there were no deaths or even serious injuries.

That sinking feeling. A sinkhole formed near Orlando, Florida, growing from 12 feet to 225 feet. And officials say it could continue to grow for a week. It shut down a road used by tens of thousands of drivers each day.

The end of an era. Washington's old Convention Center was demolished in a spectacular implosion that brought the building down in just 20 seconds.

And that's our weekend snapshot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Just ahead, some of the best of WOLF BLITZER REPORTS from this past year. We'll take a look back at the interview I had with the vice president, Dick Cheney. He speaks out on same-sex marriage and his ties to his former company, Halliburton.

That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Beginning today and continuing everyday until the end of this year, we're going to take a look back at some our more compelling interviews of 2004.

In many ways, Dick Cheney has been a lightning rod for the Bush administration. I sat down with the vice president on March 2.

Here's part of that interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You said before the war, and I think I'm quoting, you said this: "There's no doubt Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. There's no doubt he's amassing them to use."

The U.S. has not found any significant stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Were you wrong, or was the U.S. intelligence community giving you bad information?

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, my statements tracked with what we were getting from the intelligence community. You look at the national intelligence estimate on Iraq's WMD, and my statements, they track almost perfectly to that period of time.

I think it's important to distinguish between stockpiles and capability.

BLITZER: But they found no stockpiles.

CHENEY: They've not yet found stockpiles.

BLITZER: Do you think they still might?

CHENEY: Don't know. We've still got a lot of work to do before we can say we've been through all the documents and we've interviewed all the detainees and we've looked in all the corners of an area as big as California before we'll be able to say there's nothing there.

The Iraqi survey group will be at work there, probably, for a couple of more years before we'll be able to completely resolve all those outstanding questions.

But we do know they had capability. David Kay said they had the capability. David Kay said he was capable of producing biological weapons in relatively short order. He had the technology. He had the technical experts to do it. He had basic raw materials, the labs, whatever he needed to produce biological weapons.

He had a nuclear program that had been robust back in the early '90s. Remember, when you and I were at the Pentagon...

BLITZER: That was -- that was before the first Gulf War.

CHENEY: That was before the first Gulf War, and it was evidence that he had, according to the agency, the reporting we got before this go around, in the NIE was...

BLITZER: Well, let's cut to the chase right now.

CHENEY: ... was that he had, in fact, reconstituted his nuclear programs.

BLITZER: Did you go over to the CIA before the war and try to influence U.S. intelligence analysts as the accusation has been made against you that you were pressuring them to come up with an assessment that you liked, and that you ignored conclusions that you didn't like?

CHENEY: No, that's absolutely not true, Wolf. And there's a lot of testimony from David Kay, who's talked to dozens of their analysts, the Senate Intelligence Committee, that's interviewed a couple hundred analysts from the CIA that they found not one single individual who felt that they were in any way coerced with respect to their findings.

My job is to go ask tough questions, and I do. I do that regularly and frequently. Either have analysts come in and visit with me on a subject or I've been out there many, many times to pursue various subjects, important topics.

If you're going to advise the president of the United States, as the intelligence community does, on these important issues, that can affect matters of life and death, you have to be prepared to answer tough questions. And they are. I find that most analysts respond very favorably to that. They want to explain why they believe what they believe.

So the notion that that should be a one-way flow, that the president should sit here and just receive input in and never have any questions being asked back out, makes no sense at all. That would be a weak administration if that was the way to run the operation.

BLITZER: The other criticism that the Democrats, a lot of Democrats are making against you involves your former company, Halliburton, which is now under criminal investigation by the Department of Defense for all sorts of potentially wrongdoing, sordid acts.

And the charge is you made millions of dollars working there, and you're still getting, supposedly, deferred compensation from Halliburton. Is that true?

CHENEY: Well, what happened, I did work there, but I severed my ties nearly four years ago when I ran for vice president. Halliburton still owes me money. Money that was set aside for my retirement out of my salary back in about 1999. Pursuant to the Office of Government Ethics, what I have done is take out an insurance policy that will guarantee the payment of what Halliburton wasn't able -- if Halliburton succeeds of fails.

If they go belly-up tomorrow, it will not affect my financial status one iota.

So I've done everything. I've gone farther than the rules require, in terms of making certain I had no financial interest or stake in Halliburton. I don't today. I severed those ties back in 2000, and haven't had any interest since.

BLITZER: How much do they owe you?

CHENEY: It's one more payment. I deferred half my salary, to be paid out over a five-year period of time after I left the company. And there's one more, one payment left.

BLITZER: Of what?

CHENEY: One hundred and some thousand dollars.

BLITZER: One hundred and some thousand dollars?

BLITZER: Alan Greenspan said in recent days that because of this huge budget deficit, $500 billion, at least for the foreseeable future, if you want to keep those tax cuts which you pushed through Congress, you're going to have to start thinking of reducing Social Security benefits for the baby boomers, future generations.

Is he right?

CHENEY: Well, I read his testimony in a slightly different fashion.

He talked about the current tax cuts that we've got to pledge. He's supportive of those, believes they ought to be made permanent. And talks specifically about those in terms of what they've done for the economy in encouraging savings and investment and economic growth.

Taken apart from that is the long-term problem we have in entitlement, in particular on Social Security and Medicare. And those were the issues he was addressing, the long-term that will kick in five, 10 years down the road as we have more and more people retire than fewer, fewer people actually working to support those retirees.

BLITZER: A very sensitive issue. The president now calling for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

In the 2000 debate against Joe Lieberman, you said you thought this should be regulated by the states. You said, "I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that's appropriate. I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area."

You still believe that?

CHENEY: Well, I restated my position previously. The president's made a decision, partly because of what's happened in Massachusetts in terms of -- the administration has supported a constitutional amendment. And that's his decision to make.

BLITZER: So you support it?

CHENEY: I support the president.

BLITZER: That means -- so now you support a constitutional amendment?

CHENEY: My view of the president is that I would advise him on the issues of the day. I never discuss the advice I provide him with anybody else. That's always private. He makes the decisions. He sets policy for the administration. And I support him and the administration.

BLITZER: The vice presidential running mate slot, is there any doubt whatsoever that you will be on the ticket with the president?

CHENEY: Not in my mind. He's asked me to serve again, and I said I'd be happy to do that. And I think that will be the ticket in 2004.

BLITZER: How do you feel?

CHENEY: Very good.

BLITZER: Everything all right?

CHENEY: Everything's great.

BLITZER: Thanks, Mr. Vice President.

CHENEY: Thank you, Wolf. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The vice president from earlier this year in our interview. We're going to continue looking back at some of the interviews during the course of WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.

Tomorrow, the CNN founder, the always outspoken Ted Turner. We'll take a look back at the interview I had with him earlier this year.

And we'll have the results of our Web question of the day. That's coming up next.

Plus, showing off before the big day, thousands of Santas on parade.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's our Web question of the day. Remember, the results, not scientific.

Thousands of people dressed as Santa Claus paraded through the streets of Portugal. It's our picture of the day.

That's all the time we have.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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