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THE SITUATION ROOM

Clinton's Challenge; Survey Says; Presidential Energy; Monroe Drugged?

Aired August 8, 2005 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 4:00 p.m. in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive at one place simultaneously. On these screens behind me data feeds coming in right now from CNN.com, other online sources. They're crossing in real time.
We're also watching stories happening right now.

Has Hillary Clinton met her match? This hour in New York, a high-profile woman with a strong resume and baggage running against Senator Clinton for the New York State Senate job. We'll have details.

Also in New York, the death of an anchorman. Tributes to Peter Jennings, they're flooding in right now. We'll also remember one of the things he loved to do best, and that would be cover politics.

And it's one of the great women of Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe. But her legacy as a screen bombshell endures to this very day. So do theories about her death and her relationship with the Kennedys. Do newly revealed audiotapes tell the true story?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up first, Hillary Clinton's challenge, potential challenge. A prominent district attorney in New York State want to go head to head, woman to woman against Senator Clinton next fall.

Standing by right now, CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York. Ed Henry is up on Capitol Hill. Let's begin with Mary.

Who is this woman who wants Senator Clinton's job, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, her name is Jeanine Pirro, she is 54 years old. She's a prosecutor from Westchester County, outside of New York City. And strategists say that she and Hillary Clinton share one thing, and that's star quality.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice over): Some have dubbed her the golden girl of New York's Republican Party. Jeanine Pirro is a New York prosecutor, telegenic, and has a reputation for being tough on crime. Political observers say Republicans are expecting her to be tough on target number one: Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they can't beat her, they want to kick her around a little bit.

SNOW: The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Hillary Clinton with more than a two-to-one lead over potential opponents, including Pirro. Pirro is a guest legal TV commentator and a moderate Republican.

Observers say Republicans acknowledge they may not be able to beat Clinton, but want to weaken her ahead of a potential run for president in 2008. Pirro, however, says she's in this to win, and in a statement says she is never been one to back down from a fight.

Both women are supporters of abortion rights. Both also have husbands who have battled legal troubles. Senator Clinton with the former president's sex scandal, and Pirro's husband was jailed for tax fraud.

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: It will be very hard to imagine a case under which a spot attacking either other husband, a television commercial, would work, because then it gives her the opportunity to defend herself as a woman and mother.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Hillary Clinton's campaign released a statement saying, "While the GOP sorts out its nominating and primary process, Senator Clinton will continue her hard work on behalf of the people of New York."

And before Hillary Clinton can face Jeanine Pirro one on one, Jeanine Pirro has to challenge first Ed Cox, who last month announced that he is seeking the Republican nomination here in New York for the U.S. Senate, saying today that he believes he will ultimately be the nominee -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I love politics in my home state of New York. Mary, what kind of attacks can we expect these Republicans to launch against Senator Clinton?

SNOW: Clearly, her ambitions. And today Jeanine Pirro, in a statement, asked whether or not Hillary Clinton will serve out her term for the Senate, saying that she wants to use her Senate term as a springboard to the presidency, saying she's asking us, meaning New York, to become her doormat. And political strategists say that they expect a pretty tough fight.

BLITZER: All right. Mary Snow, I assume it will be. Thanks very much, Mary, for that.

Let's bring in our Congressional Correspondent Ed Henry now.

Ed, how is Senator Clinton's camp defending herself, defending Senator Clinton from this potential onslaught?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the strategy for the Clinton camp is simple: focus on New York State like a laser beam. The senator learned a very valuable lesson from her husband, who looked ahead to national office in the 1980s and then ended up getting bounced from the governor's office in Arkansas.

So the senator is trying to keep her eye on the ball. In fact, while this news was breaking today, the senator was in the Bronx. She was unveiling a new plan to bring the Internet to poor children.

Tomorrow she's going to be in the western part of New York State, doing three events, including one with dairy farmers. As one Democratic strategist told me, Jeanine Pirro couldn't find Buffalo with MapQuest. So you already Democrats trying to take some shots, firing them right back at Jeanine Pirro.

And in fact, also, one other factor here that the Clinton camp feels very good about, Wolf, is the fact that she has some big bucks in the bank, $12.5 million to be precise, and they're saying this money obviously will be used for the Senate campaign, but any leftover funds could be used for a White House bid -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. This is going to be fun. Ed Henry will help us learn more about this. Ed, thank you very much.

Here in THE SITUATION ROOM we can bring you lots of information simultaneously. Here's what's incoming right now. Following lots of stories.

Insurgents struck in southern Iraq today. They fired rocket- propelled grenades at Iraqi forces. Behind-the-scenes pictures. These are them. They're coming in from Iraq.

We're also watching the shuttle. Discovery's return flight was waved off early this morning. Too many clouds over Florida. Next chance to land tomorrow morning.

In the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Irene now a tropical depression. We're keeping track of what's going on.

All of that coming up.

Let's get back now to politics, as we do every day at this hour, and our lead story, Hillary Clinton's political prospects, not only in the Senate, but possibly in the White House as well.

Joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM, our Bill Schneider with some new poll numbers on what this all means.

Bill, let's talk about this. How does the public rate Senator Clinton now in this brand new CNN "USA-Today"-Gallup poll that's just out?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a national poll, and nationally her image may surprise you, Wolf. Strong, decisive, those are words people have always used about President Bush. But they think Senator Clinton is a strong and decisive leader as well, 68 percent.

Do people believe she shares their values? Fifty-one percent say no. If she runs for president, Senator Clinton may be more vulnerable on values than on leadership.

Her biggest problem? Fifty-three percent believe that she would divide the country and not unite it.

President Bush promised to be a uniter and not a divider, and I think it's fair to say he didn't fulfill that promise. But the public doesn't believe that Senator Clinton would unite the country either.

Does the fact that she's married to Bill Clinton make people more or less likely to vote for her for president? Forty-three percent say less likely, 30 percent say more likely.

You know, Wolf, it's not just a woman president that would be a whole new experience. It would also be a president married to a former president. What kind of role would her husband play?

BLITZER: All right. Let's pick some -- look at some other numbers in our new poll, Bill.

How's the president doing? And specifically involving the conflict in Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: Well, his numbers are still stuck in the mid 40s, 45 percent approval rating right now. A solid majority of Americans believe the war with Iraq -- well, that's not up yet, but -- there it is. A solid majority of Americans, 57 percent, believe the war with Iraq has made the United States less safe from terrorism. Only 34 percent believe it's made the country safer.

That was the crux of the administration's argument for its Iraq policy. And it's gone.

BLITZER: What about some other numbers in this new poll that seems to have grabbed your attention?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. Roberts, Judge Roberts, what about his confirmation for the Supreme Court?

After an initial burst of enthusiasm, support for Roberts' confirmation has slipped. We see it here, from 59 to 51 percent. And it's not just Democrats who are becoming more critical. The polls show slippage among Republicans and conservatives as well.

Now, as you see here, the public still supports Roberts' confirmation, 51 to 28 percent. But more and more questions are being raised about the nominee.

BLITZER: All right. We'll have more hours coming up throughout this hour and the next hour. CNN's Bill Schneider.

Thank you very much.

Poll numbers aside, President Bush has at least one reason to feel upbeat on this Monday. Energy legislation he pushed for since his early days in the White House now the law of the land.

Let's go over to the White House. Our correspondence Suzanne Malveaux is standing by.

Suzanne, I guess they must be pretty happy about that.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.

I want to show you, first, this is a picture you rarely gets to see here at the White House. We're looking at empty banks of lights, as well as cameras, and really a very quiet west wing here. That is because the White House Press Corps is in the air traveling with the president at this hour from New Mexico back to his Crawford ranch. And of course it is quiet here at the west wing. Just renovations and moving furniture.

But do not be surprised, of course. Do not be fooled. This was a big political day for the president. He signed landmark energy legislation in New Mexico earlier today.

This is something that he was really pushing for, campaigning for, for the last four years of his presidency. And, of course, what does it do? A couple of things.

It offers some tax credits if you actually want to decide that you're going to have improvements in your own home, install some solar panels, or perhaps even purchase a hybrid car, a gas-electric powered car. It also extends Daylight Saving Time by one month. That takes place starting in 2007. And as well, creates new standards for the electric grid, as you may have remember, to try to prevent that big power outage we saw across the country just a couple summers ago.

Of course what critics talk about is what this legislation does not do. Despite the fact we're talking about $14.5 billion to energy companies, it does not address those really high gas prices -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What's the president going to do when he gets back to the ranch, Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Well, of course he's going to have his economic team, as well as his national security team out there. They'll be holding some meetings, some press conferences.

But a big distraction for this White House has been Cindy Sheehan. She is the mother who lost her son in Iraq last year. She has been camped outside of the Crawford ranch, essentially wanting to talk with the president.

She met with him last year with a number of some other families. She's met with some senior administration officials who have come out to try to talk to her this time around. But essentially what she is saying, Wolf, is that she wants to make this priority number one. She wants to put the spotlight on Iraq and she wants those soldiering to come home -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Thanks, Suzanne, very much. And we want to hear what you're saying, what you're thinking about all these stories that we're covering here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Jack Cafferty bringing us a different question each hour.

Jack, with "The Cafferty File" is joining us now live from New York. What's the question this hour, Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Did you hear what one of those women said that was running for the Senate about buffalo, couldn't find buffalo with MapQuest?

BLITZER: You know where I'm from.

CAFFERTY: Isn't that where you're from?

BLITZER: I'm from Buffalo.

CAFFERTY: That's right. Do the people there have any idea what's become of you?

BLITZER: The people in Buffalo know. I'm not sure other people know, but a lot of people in Buffalo still remember me.

CAFFERTY: Hey, you know that energy bill, thing, too? Forty percent of the oil that we use in this country goes into cars, passenger cars and trucks. There is virtually nothing in the bill that addresses the fuel efficiency standards of American vehicles, and yet a recent study indicated that the fuel efficiency of American cars is worse today, worse than it was in the 1980s. And there's virtually nothing in there about how Detroit ought to build more fuel-efficient cars.

That's not why you asked me on here this hour, but I just thought I would offer that up. I think that's kind of an empty shell, part of that energy thing.

Jeanine Pirro, she's a Republican, she lives in this very wealthy Republican suburb of Westchester up here in northern New York City. But she's got as much chance of beating Hillary for the Senate as I do.

It's not going to happen. I guess what they want to do is try and bloody up Senator Clinton in advance of maybe a run for the White House.

Who could -- would could defeat her in the race for the U.S. Senate is the question this hour. And remember that Hillary Clinton did not live in New York at the time she decided to run for the Senate, so it doesn't necessarily, I guess, have to be a New Yorker, but somebody who says a seat available and would like to challenge Senator Clinton.

Give us your thoughts, caffertyfile@CNN.com. We'll read some answers a bit later. BLITZER: I noticed, Jack, that Rudy Giuliani decided not to challenge her. George Pataki decided not to challenge her. Jeanine Pirro challenging her.

CAFFERTY: Yes. It's got to be a sacrificial lamb, Wolf. She's got no chance of winning.

I'll eat all the trees in Central Park if she wins. How's that?

BLITZER: All right. Rudy Giuliani, by the way, will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow, Jack. You'll be excited to hear that.

CAFFERTY: Good. I like him. He's a good man.

BLITZER: All right. He is a good man. Thanks very much, Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File."

From the Clintons back to the Kennedys. Peter Jennings also covered politics and enjoyed every minute of it. We'll take a closer look at the late ABC News anchor's influence over campaigns throughout the decades.

Also ahead, the culture wars. Will there be a change in what you watch on TV now that the FCC has hired a former lobbyist for Christian groups?

And an update on the extreme sandstorm in Iraq and how it's affecting the forecast for the country's future.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's what's on our political radar here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We do lots of politics during this hour.

A leading abortion rights group is out with a new ad against John Roberts' nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. It sites briefs Roberts filed supporting a convicted abortion bomber. NARAL is spending $500,000 to air the spot.

On the other side, the conservative group Progress for America is launching a new 20-state coalition to support Roberts' nomination. The group also is going up with new pro-Roberts Web ads today at a price tag of $60,000.

Senator Hillary Clinton is far and away the leader of the Democratic pack in our new poll on the 2008 race for the White House. She gets 41 percent support of Democrats surveyed nationwide. 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry is a distant second with 16 percent.

On the Republican race, the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and Senator John McCain are the top contenders, with 28 percent and 24 percent support respectively.

Now the situation online. Here in THE SITUATION ROOM we'll be watching almost everything that's happening on the Internet as much as we can, and only CNN has teams dedicated solely to cyberspace.

Right now we return to our top political story of the hour. That would be the challenge that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's reelection is now facing.

Our Internet reporters Jacki Schechner and Abbi Tatton standing by with what they're saying on the Web.

Abbi, let's start with you.

ABBI TATTON, INTERNET REPORTER: Well, there's definitely some excitement today, Wolf, at this announcement. In the conservative blogs here, this is FreshPolitics.us, a group of conservative students who are looking at Jeanine Pirro and saying, "We're definitely big fans" today.

Over to PoliPundit.com, this is a conservative group blog, a fairly popular one, where they look at elections and politics with a conservative bent. They were quick to post on this one earlier on today when the news came out, saying that they're looking forward to the match-up between the senator and this razor-sharp woman, although they do point out Hillary is not at risk of actually losing her Senate reelection, in their thoughts.

JACKI SCHECHNER, INTERNET REPORTER: Another conservative weighing in. This one in Manhattan. This is LawHawk.blogspot.com.

Michael likes to talk about New York politics quite a bit. He calls it "Let's get it on." He says it's going to be the "marquee match-up for the 2006 election." Going on to say, "You can expect plenty of negative campaigning and records in advertising spending."

Wolf, we'll send it back to you.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We'll be checking back with you throughout this program.

The president and the polls. Should Mr. Bush be concerned about our new poll numbers? Find out in our "Strategy Session." That's only minutes away.

Plus, can Jeanine Pirro give Hillary Clinton a run for her money? You just heard what they're saying on the blogs. We'll get some expert opinion. That's coming up next.

And later, a CNN exclusive. We'll take you live inside the U.S. military's northern command headquarters. Once again, Kyra Philips standing by for that.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for a look at some other stories we're following in THE SITUATION ROOM. Zain Verjee joining us once again from the CNN Center. Zain, what's going on?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Wolf, the nation is remembering Peter Jennings. President Bush says Jennings helped define the world as we know it today.

For 22 years, Jennings was the face of ABC News. He died in New York yesterday after battling lung cancer. He was 67 years old.

Right now in Saudi Arabia, U.S. diplomatic facilities are closed. Officials tell CNN the State Department shut down its embassy and consulates in Saudi Arabia because of specific and credible threats against its facilities there. Officials even say one unusually specific threat mentioned a vehicle bombing at one American facility.

In Iraq, a blinding sandstorm whipped up overnight and is now reducing visibility to just a few feet, slowing down traffic, and even causing officials to cancel a key meeting on the Iraqi constitution. It is the worst sandstorm in Iraq in two years.

Also in Iraq, this report coming in from The Associated Press. A judge says Saddam Hussein will go on trial within two months. Hussein face charges related to the mass killings of Shia Muslim villagers in 1982. Hussein allegedly played a role in killing 150 men in a village after an assassination attempt on his life -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Getting back to the Saudi story, I know, Zain -- I remember, and our viewers I'm sure remember when you were in Saudi Arabia earlier in the year covering the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage. How unusual is this crackdown by the Saudi authorities, the crackdown that we're seeing right now?

VERJEE: Well, ever since the House of Saud has realized its own existence is threatened by al Qaeda, they've taken a pretty hard line against extremists and against any sort of militant activity in Saudi Arabia. Ever since 2003, since May of 2003, there have been hundreds of militants that have been arrested with links to al Qaeda or suspected links to al Qaeda.

They've also cracked down on clerics that use mosques, Wolf, to spread the message of militancies. They've also called for greater accounting and monitoring of the charities that are suspected of being a source of financing for terrorists.

So all in all, they have cracked down, analysts say, quite substantially since May of 2003. One expert I spoke to, Wolf, said, "You know what? Really there's a larger problem here, and that's that you've got to look at the domestic context, where a lot of young Saudis are disaffected, unemployed, a real recruitment hotbed for terrorists for al Qaeda looking to recruit, and that's really what the House of Saud has to grapple with.

BLITZER: All right. Zain, we'll be getting back to you in the next hour.

Zain Verjee reporting from the CNN Center. Let's get back to our top political story this hour, another potential challenger for Senator Hillary Clinton. Jeanine Pirro, the high-profile district attorney from New York State's Westchester County, she's seeking the Republican nomination to challenge the Democratic senator and the former first lady, who's up for reelection in New York State next year.

Also, another story we're following, the president's plunging poll numbers. We have new numbers out this hour on his approval rating and the support for the war in Iraq.

We're going to take on both of these subjects now in our "Strategy Session." Here to weigh in on that and more, former Clinton adviser and CNN political analyst Paul Begala, and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause, a good Republican strategist.

Paul, let me start with you. And forget about the fact that you love Hillary Clinton.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALSYT: I do.

VERJEE: You're a good Democrat, but if you were a political strategist advising Jeanine Pirro right now what to do, what should she do?

BEGALA: I would say, first, she's largely she's getting into this race, I'm told, because of pressure from the White House. Well, why do they want you in, Jeanine? It's not because they care about your career. It's that they want to beat up Hillary.

There's a better strategy for her. Not just to negative campaign, where she would lose and then go inte oblivion, but instead to run an issues-based, ideas-based campaign. She'd still lose, but she might get closer. She could be like Christie Todd Whitman, who took on Bill Bradley, who was an unbeatable senator, but she got close with a positive and smart campaign.

She wound up being a popular two-term governor and a cabinet member. That's the better strategy for Jeanine, not just being a battering ram against Hillary.

BLITZER: There was a Quinnipiac University poll, Bay, that came out at the end of last month, July 27, August 1, a hypothetical match- up between Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Pirro. Sixty-three percent said they would vote for Clinton, 29 percent said they would vote for Pirro.

If you're Hillary Clinton's political strategist -- that will never happen, but assume it might -- what does she have to do to make sure she not only wins, but wins decisively and positions herself potentially to be the Democratic presidential candidate?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: You know, Wolf, this is the worst possible opponent she could have, to be quite honest. She's got up -- she's going to be up against Jeanine Pirro, who's an aggressive, smart, accomplished woman who will come after her and who is extremely articulate and will be excellent in a debate. So what's Hillary -- initially, she's going to have to try to ignore her, to hope that there's grassroots support, that the polls keep her under 40 percent and she can ignore her. I suspect that's not going to happen, and what Hillary is going to have to be ready for is one very tough, competitive race, because Jeanine -- I disagree with Paul on this -- Jeanine is in this for one reason. She believes she can win.

And she's got the D'Amato machinery coming right behind her. If anybody can beat Hillary -- and I know it's uphill -- this is the lady who can.

BLITZER: Here's another question, an interesting question, a relevant question. The Quinnipiac University poll asked, "Should Senator Clinton pledge to serve a full six-year term if reelected?"

Sixty percent of those in New York State questioned said yes, 30 percent said no. She made such a pledge in 2000, back when I interviewed her in 2000 at the University of Buffalo. She made that pledge she'd serve six years.

What kind of reaction, what kind of statement can she make now?

BEGALA: Well, I don't think she should take that pledge. I want her to run for president and Democrats all over the country...

BLITZER: Wouldn't New York State residents be upset, though, if she -- if she says, you know, I can't promise to serve a full six years because I'm ambitious and I want to run for president in 2008?

BEGALA: Well, I don't think she's decided. I've actually talked to her about it, and what she says is -- this is what I suspect she'll tell her voters, which is, "I love this job."

BLITZER: But how does -- but how does she major that pledge? What is she saying?

BEGALA: The same way George W. Bush did in my state of Texas. He was the popular governor in Texas just like Hillary's a popular senator in New York. Republicans in 1998 were begging Bush to run for president, and he was already the frontrunner. But he had to win his reelection, and he said, you know, I love this job and I want to keep it. We'll let the future take care of itself.

He did not make a pledge to serve his whole term, and people didn't care in Texas. They reelected him. That's what's going to happen in February.

BLITZER: Bay, hold on one second, because I want to get to these other poll numbers involving the president of the United States. Our new, brand new, just out CNN "USA-Today"-Gallup poll, "How is President Bush handling his job as president?" Forty-five percent approve, 51 percent disapprove.

And look at this: "Was it a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq?" Back in July, 46 percent said yes, 53 percent said no. Look how only a month -- only a few days actually -- changed things: 54 percent now say it was a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq; 44 percent say it wasn't a mistake.

BUCHANAN: Seriously, these are troubling numbers for the White House. You cannot continue a war overseas without the American people supporting you. At some stage, you're going to have to make a call. So, they've got to look at these numbers. If they keep dropping like this, they're going to have to take action to buoy them up and I don't believe words are enough today.

I think we're past the critical point where American people will believe a good speech or two. I think what they're going to want to see is troops moving home. I think that's the only thing they're going to have in their arsenal and so, you might see something at Christmas time. I know they hope for next spring. I don't know if they can sustain it until next spring.

BEGALA: I think Bay is exactly right. The president just a month or so ago gave a nationally televised address. We covered it live. Everybody did.

BLITZER: Primetime.

BEGALA: But it was more of the same, though. It was mostly saying that terrorists are trying to shake our will and the terrorists are evil, and we're good. Well, the American people know all of that. What they don't know is: What's the strategy to win?

The other problem, Wolf, that's driving the president's poll numbers down is people think he didn't tell the truth about Iraq and now other things. And when President Bush, who was mostly elected because he would be an honest, straight Texas truth-teller, when people start thinking he's not telling the truth, that is very difficult to recover from.

BLITZER: Very quickly...

BUCHANAN: His other problem is London. The people -- this country saw that, they started becoming unnerved. They realized we could come home. They took a look at what Tony Blair did over there -- very strong, very tough and I don't think they believe that our president is as strong and as tough as Tony Blair was. So, I think we've moved into another era here where the president is going to have to speak up more loudly and take more action.

BLITZER: Bay and Paul in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much. Our first show. Good to -- How did it feel?

BEGALA: Great. Great and you know, everybody back in Buffalo is watching. I was there recently, they still love you.

BUCHANAN: At least your family.

BLITZER: A few relatives. Thanks very much.

When we come back, a controversial hiring that could impact what you see on television. It's part of the culture war.

Plus, previously unknown taped recordings of Marilyn Monroe: Why they're raising new questions about her death.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM where video and reporters from around the world are coming into CNN in real time. We also have the capability to bring you live data feed from news organizations at home and abroad. Let's take a look and see what's incoming right now; following several stories.

In the United States and around the world: Irene. It's not a tropical storm anymore. Now it's a tropical depression, but it's still out there in the Caribbean and we're keeping a close eye on it.

There's certainly a leak in this pipe. Check this out, a water main bursting in Atlanta and it's shooting water seemingly all over the place. You don't see that every day.

And too many clouds for the shuttle to land early this morning. NASA will try again very, very early tomorrow morning. We'll have live coverage throughout the morning, on that.

Now we dive into the culture wars, the political divide over matters of church and state and influences on our everyday lives. Today, a very controversial new advisor to the Federal Communications Commission, the group that regulates what all of us watch on television. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, is here in THE SITUATION. Candy, what's going on?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We are talking about a woman named Penny Nance. She has been taken on as a senior adviser to the FCC at a really interesting time. It's very hard to gauge what the FCC is doing, how many cases it's looking at, even who it's looking at, but we're told by people who watch the FCC that maybe about 50 or so cases are in front of the commission on indecency.

Now, Penny Nance is well-known in conservative circles. She has been with a number of conservative groups over the past 15 years or so. She has been in the forefront of trying to get pornography and children off the -- watching the Internet -- Internet safety regulations.

What's interesting, Wolf and this is a little bit parochial, at least for those of us in cable, is what's happening here is that Penney Nance has wanted to and is part of a group, that believes that cable operators ought to offer a family package.

That is, they argue that, "look, if you want to get the Disney channel, you get a lot of other channels that you don't want and don't want your children to watch and you're therefore subsidizing them." So, she's in the -- also has been in with that. So, she is a conservative hired on to the FCC. It'll be really interesting to see the reaction.

BLITZER: Now, she doesn't need -- it's not a confirmation or anything like that?

CROWLEY: She doesn't and you also need to know that the cultural wars do not, in fact, divide very evenly. You have Hillary Clinton, who's now trying to do something about video games. You have Blanche Lincoln, who's also trying to do things about Internet porn. So, it's not so easy to say this is a conservative, this is a liberal that are different sides of the culture war, because they aren't always.

BLITZER: Candy Crowely, we'll be -- you'll be regularly here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as well, especially during our 4:00 hour when we do politics. A lot of politics, but we'll do it at 5:00. We'll do it at 3:00. We'll do it when appropriate. Candy, thanks very much.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM: They're all household names. Peter Jennings, outstanding journalist and follower of all things political. As we remember his life and his work, we'll take a look back at his love of politics.

Marilyn Monroe: Did she really commit suicide or was she murdered? There are new tapes with Monroe's own voice. Our Brian Todd, standing by with that.

And Hillary Rodham Clinton: Before any talk of a presidential run, she must first be reelected to the Senate. Now, one woman from New York state says she'll try to stop her.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He covered many important events, events that helped define the world as we know it today. A lot of Americans relied upon Peter Jennings for their news. He became a part of the life of a lot of our fellow citizens, and he will be missed. May God bless his soul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president and the nation remembering Peter Jennings. Jennings died last night after battling lung cancer. For 22 years, he was the face of ABC News and right now, many are remembering him as not only an outstanding journalist, but a very warm and decent man.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here with a look back at his special love of politics. Tom, tell us about that.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know it's funny seeing the president right here. The first time I met George Bush, I had been sent to meet him by Peter Jennings...

BLITZER: When you worked at ABC News?

FOREMAN: Yes, when he was running to become the governor of Texas. And that was the first time I've met him. So it's interesting to see him paying tribute to Peter. If you ask me who Peter Jennings is, I will tell you that he was a friend and he was a mentor and he was a colleague for a long time.

If you asked Peter Jennings for many, many years, one of the things he would have said about himself was that he was a lifelong student of politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Peter was offered his first job with ABC while reporting at the 1964 Democratic Convention for a Canadian network, and he insisted ever after that conventions remain worth covering.

PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: You know, I also think -- this may be a little corny -- I also think it is part of what we're supposed to do, particularly those of us who run free television. We're supposed to participate in the Democratic process and give them the time to project their message to the country.

FOREMAN: He interviewed almost every major political leader in the world, thought politics was enormously exciting, and often proved it.

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I will go to my grave being at peace about it. And I don't really care what they think.

JENNINGS: Oh, yes, you do, Mr. President.

CLINTON: They have no idea...

JENNINGS: Oh, excuse me, Mr. President. You care. I can feel it across the room.

CLINTON: No, no. I care...

JENNINGS: You feel it very deeply.

CLINTON: You don't want to go here, Peter. You don't want to go here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: That moment, so laden with electricity. And that was what Peter was all about. He told us the same thing. Never let them off the hook. Ask the hard questions, no matter how big they are. Stand there, make it happen. He once said to me at dinner in Denver, everything that happens in this country of importance happens because of politics. I told him everything happens despite politics, but we agreed that he was the anchor and I was the reporter, and we'd follow his lead. BLITZER: And I think what's -- a lot of people, especially those who worked closest with Peter will remember, he wasn't just an anchor, a news reader who read the prompter. He got in your face when you were working. When you were a reporter on his show, he demanded only the best.

FOREMAN: I think Peter took more seriously the role of being the managing editor than he did the anchor. And I'll tell you, I never put a word on that show in ten years that I know Peter Jennings didn't look at himself and say yes or no to.

BLITZER: All right. Tom Foreman. We're going to have a lot more on Peter Jennings in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Tom, thanks very much.

It's August 8th, and coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, shocking new tales about Marilyn Monroe's life and death from Marilyn Monroe herself. We'll bring you her words, newly revealed.

And she was our first lady, and she's now serving in the U.S. Senate from New York state. Who hopes to sink Hillary Clinton's reelection hopes? Our Jack Cafferty will be here with your thoughts. He's getting tons of e-mail.

And we'll rejoin our Kyra Phillips and her exclusive access to the U.S. military's Northern Command, protecting Americans from attacks.

You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some previously unknown information about Marilyn Monroe is raising new questions about her death and whether it was really a suicide.

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into the story. He's joining us live in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there seem to be as many conspiracy theories about Marilyn Monroe's death as there are on President Kennedy's. And new details released in a transcript of audio tapes recorded by Monroe herself will likely add fuel to those theories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): From the mind of Hollywood's ultimate starlet, intimate details about Marilyn Monroe's personal life, transcripts of audio tapes the actress recorded for her psychiatrist shortly before her death. The transcripts come from former L.A. County Prosecutor John Miner, who investigated her death. The psychiatrist has since died and the tapes were believed to have been destroyed.

Monroe's body was discovered on August 5th, 1962. The coroner said she died of barbiturate poisoning and the death was ruled a probable suicide, but Miner has always believed otherwise.

JOHN MINER, FORMER L.A. COUNTY PROSECUTOR: No one who heard those tapes or read the transcripts of what she said could possibly believe that this woman killed herself.

TODD: One example from the transcript -- the ending of Monroe's alleged affair with Bobby Kennedy. Quote, "Doctor, what should I do about Bobby? As you see, there is no room in my life for him. I guess I don't have the courage to face up to it and hurt him. I want someone else to tell him it's over. I tried to get the president to do it, but I couldn't reach him."

On the tapes, Monroe also details plans for her career.

MINER: She had very elaborate plans for the future. She said that she would become the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.

TODD: As almost an aside, she says, "I have thrown all of my pills in the toilet. You see how serious I am about this."

MARILYN MONROE, ACTRESS (singing): Happy birthday, Mr. President

TODD: We also see glimpses of Monroe's legendary love life. Perhaps most surprising, what seems to be a one-time tryst with Joan Crawford. Quote: "Next time I saw Crawford, she wanted another round. I told her straight out I didn't much enjoy doing it with a woman. After I turned her down, she became spiteful."

Ultimately, Miner believes Monroe was unwittingly drugged. He won't speculate on who could have given her the lethal dose.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But we need to point out again, in 1962, and in a reinvestigation of the case 20 years later, it was concluded both times that Monroe likely took her own life -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd. Very interesting material. I suspect there's a lot more there, as well. Thanks, Brian, very much.

Let's see what you're saying about the "Question of the Hour." CNN's Jack Cafferty has been getting tons of e-mails. He's joining us live with "The Cafferty File," once again from New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I got stopped stone-cold on the Joan Crawford thing there. I'm having trouble getting past that. Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro has said that she'll run against Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate seat here in New York next year. Note to Jeanine Pirro: If you want to kill yourself, just go out and throw yourself in front of a cross-town bus. I mean, she has no shot. All the polls show Hillary a runaway winner in this thing.

So we thought we'd ask you folks if you can think of anybody who might beat Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate race here in New York next year? And granted, it's a year away, so there's some time. Here's some of what you've written.

Tom in Alma, West Virginia: "A good Democrat could beat Hillary Clinton in the primaries. A well-liked Republican could beat her in the general election. Either would collect a lot of conservative money, but Jeanine Pirro is neither."

Shirley in Florida writes: "Beat Hillary for the Senate? Bill might be able to beat her, but everyone else I can think of is dead. Glad to have you back, Jack."

Thomas in Desoto, Missouri: "I'm a life-long Democrat and I can never vote for Hillary Clinton. If the Democrats select her as a presidential candidate, the Republicans could almost run almost anyone and win."

And Ian, an old friend in Providence, writes: "Three questions in three hours? Are you kidding me? Here's a news flash, Jack. Your fans aren't that quick. It took three weeks for me to figure out you weren't on 'AMERICAN MORNING' anymore."

Well, maybe we'll get some faster ones here on THE SITUATION ROOM -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. He said -- he wrote, actually, "Your fans ain't that quick." I want to be precise with the e-mail, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes, they're not very smart, either.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, we'll see you in the next hour. Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File."

BLITZER: Coming up, Peter Jennings remembered for the mark he left on journalism, and the reminder he gave all of us about the dangers of lung cancer. A roundtable discussion, that's coming up ahead.

Plus, another exclusive look inside NORAD, the command center, for a potential crisis in this country. Are emergency teams there ready for anything and everything?

And the nuclear threat in Iran, a new blow to American and European officials.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're plugged into everything happening online, at least as much as we can find. Our Internet reporters, Jacki Schechner, Abbi Tatton. They're back to tell us a little bit what's abuzz on the Internet right now. Jacki, let's start with you.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, right now, the tributes to Peter Jennings are pouring in, as you might imagine. Everyone talking about the great loss of a legends. We went over to TVNewser. This is a blog that focuses primarily on the television news industry. They have quotes from colleagues who will remember him fondly. They also have a wonderful photo essay. And I particularly like this photograph of Peter Jennings' great smile.

The other thing we wanted to show you is how ABC News is handling the loss online. They posted a message board, allowing people to write in with how they feel. Things like "I am weeping for a man I never met." Wonderful sentiment online, Wolf.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Not just the media blogs that are weighing in on this today. The political blogs across the board are talking about Peter Jennings. Stories about him, the most linked to today, therefore the most talked-about on the blogs. Wizbang Blog, this is Kevin Aylward, a conservative site, is one of them weighing in today.

But back to a media site, another one. This is FishBowlDC, also at the Media Bistro site. This is Garrett Graff in Washington, who talks about news and politics here in Washington. A tribute to Peter Jennings from last night. But also, it's interesting that he was posting prayers for Peter Jennings earlier on than that. There was a lot of rumors in the online community before his passing, people wondering what was going on, seeing that some rumors were leaking out there.

SCHECHNER: If you opened up a newspaper this morning and saw that Peter Jennings had passed and you had not been online over the weekend, it may have been a tremendous shock. We all knew he was sick. We did not know how sick. Online over the weekend, as Abbi mentioned, people were posting say your prayers to him.

Now, there were a lot of message boards out there, a lot of them that people in the industry like to use. And people were posting rumors and sort of speculation that ABC affiliates had been given some information ahead of time. ABC affiliates posting back that they had not heard anything thus far.

What we wanted to show is technorati.com. This is a site that we often use to search the blogs, to find out what they're talking about. Over the weekend, Peter Jennings' name was in the top ten of searches. Today, it is clearly number one. But it was a way that people were trying to find information, Wolf, on Peter Jennings. Did somebody out there know something that we weren't hearing? And then, unfortunately, now we know that he did, in fact, pass at the age of 67.

Wolf, we'll send it back to you.

BLITZER: Jacki, is there any way of really knowing how many people are reading these blogs out there? Is there any way of finding that kind of specific information?

SCHECHNER: It's hard to tell how many actual people are reading them, Wolf, but what you can do is focus on something like hits. How many hits a Web site or blog is getting will tell you what kind of traffic they're generating. And they are ranked. What we'll do at some point is show you some of the ranking systems, so you can see where the top blogs are and how many hits they're getting a day.

BLITZER: And these hits, Abbi, they're pretty reliable, but we have no idea what a hit really means.

TATTON: Well, it just means that somebody is clicking on that site. It could be the same person going many, many times to the same site. But, yes, there are site meters on some of these sites that show how many tens of thousands -- hundreds of thousands, sometimes -- like Daily Cos (ph) is one of the highest ranked out there. How many clicks they're getting per day.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi and Jacki, thanks very much for that information.

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