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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bush Signs Transportation Bill; Conservatives Concerned by New Roberts Revelations; NCAA Outlaws Native American Names; Police Search for Escaped Convict, Wife; Immigration Issue Splits Republicans

Aired August 10, 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: Before I call my broker, what's Time Warner stock at? Do you know?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Time Warner is one of the most heavily traded stocks today. And the last trade on Time Warner was $18.24.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens on that stock. We'll see what's happening on all the stocks. Ali, we'll be checking back with you shortly. Ali Velshi reporting for us.

It's just after 4:00 p.m. here 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 right behind me, we're getting data feeds, CNN.com, other news sources. They're crossing in, in real time.

And happening right now, President Bush brings home the bacon. It's 3:00 p.m. in Montgomery, Illinois, where Mr. Bush signed a highway bill that many say is jam-packed with pork. Will you get anything out of it?

One supreme battle harkens back to another. This hour in Washington, some conservatives are having doubts about the high court nominee John Roberts -- not many, but some. And -- as a result of his stand on the recent life and death saga of Terri Schiavo.

And it's 4:00 p.m. in Tallahassee, Florida, where Governor Jeb Bush has a beef with the overseers of college sports. Does a new ban on American Indian mascots take political correctness too far?

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

First up this hour, a roadmap to a just signed law. President Bush says the transportation legislation will put more jobless Americans to work. Critics, however, liken it to a goodie bag for members of Congress trying to impress the voters back home.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is joining us now live. She's covering the president. She's at -- near the Crawford Ranch in Texas. Elaine, tell our viewers what's going on.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf.

Well, for the second time in just three days, President Bush hit the road to stage a bill signing ceremony, but with $24 billion in special projects, critics say this transportation bill is fiscally irresponsible.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO (voice-over): He traveled to Illinois for a speech and ceremonial bill signing that took less than 15 minutes. But President Bush wants to ensure he gets credit for the more than $286 billion Transportation Equity Act.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bill I'm signing is going to help give hundreds of thousands of Americans good paying jobs. This bill upgrades our transportation infrastructure. It will help save lives.

QUIJANO: The bill is more than $2 billion over the spending limit President Bush himself set, but still considerably lower, the White House argues, than the $400 billion some in Congress originally wanted.

BUSH: And it accomplishes goals in a fiscally responsible way.

QUIJANO: Critics argue the bill is stuffed with billions of dollars of pork, the pet projects lawmakers bring to their home states and then tout during reelection campaigns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't help Americans get out of congestion, but it helps to send billions of dollars of special interest projects to powerful lawmakers.

QUIJANO: Among the special projects? More than $200 million for a bridge connecting an Alaskan island to the mainland, an island with 50 people.

Nearly $6 million for a snowmobile trail in Vermont.

And $3 million for dust control mitigation on rural Arkansas roads.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO: Now, as for the state the president chose today for his backdrop, Illinois, it was second only to California for money set aside for special projects, $1.3 billion, according to the group Taxpayers for Common Sense -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elaine, take us behind the scenes. I understand most of our colleagues who cover the president couldn't actually go with him on that trip to Illinois today. What happened?

QUIJANO: Well, the reason I'm inside is actually a big part of the story itself. We're inside the Western White House briefing room, a.k.a. the Crawford School Gym here, because Mother Nature essentially has been working against us all day. Essentially, the press charter coming in from Dallas to take all of us over to Chicago and then drive out to that event in Montgomery got delayed. So by the time it got here, it was just too late for us to make that event, to hop that plane, get there ahead of the president like we normally do. So there was a decision made for me to stay behind. Some of my colleagues from CNN went on sort of just in case protectively. But that's the reason I'm here in Crawford right now.

BLITZER: All right. Elaine Quijano, reporting for us. Thanks very much, Elaine.

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

Check this out. You're looking at these live pictures. The Shuttle Discovery astronauts are back in Houston where they're reuniting with their families this hour. Lots of drama. We're going to go there.

And look at this. A school bus overturns in Orlando, Florida, after a four-vehicle accident that also involved a daycare van. Officials say at least six people are hurt.

And Irene is back. Yes, Irene is back. It went from tropical storm to tropical depression, but forecasters say it could hit the United States as a hurricane. Right now, Irene is hundreds of miles away. We're keeping track. We'll watch it for you.

Let's go back to Houston, Texas, that reunion. The astronauts meeting with their families after all the drama of the past several days. Let's listen in a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on with the program and we also, don't let me forget, have some of the leadership from the Japanese space people. And so it's a great crowd here.

First, let me introduce my boss, the administrator of NASA, Dr. Mike Griffin.

MIKE GRIFFIN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: Good afternoon. Old friends from many years past and new friends and people I have yet to meet, thank you for having me here today.

It's a thrill to be here as the administrator and to welcome our distinguished visitors, Senator Hutchison, Majority Leader Delay, Minister Tachakawa (ph), many others here today on behalf of the agency.

We're here to celebrate today the very best that NASA has. Our astronauts, flight crew of SDS-114, the flight directors, the engineers who made it happen, the operations folks. In the last two and a half years, we've been through the very worst that manned space flight can bring us. And over the last two weeks, we've seen the very best.

BLITZER: A happy reunion for the astronauts, their families, friends, loved ones. We'll listen in. We'll watch this, monitor it for you. We'll get back to there with a report later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Meanwhile, other news we're following, new red flags -- new red flags being raised about the Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts. And they're coming from a direction that might surprise all of us, namely the right.

Our congressional correspondent Ed Henry following the fight over John Roberts' nomination. He's joining us now live from Capitol Hill.

What's going on, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this nomination has been sailing along, but suddenly some choppy waters, if you will, as conservatives raise some concerns about where Judge Roberts stands on some key cultural issues.

Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Judge Roberts was meeting with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. The "New York Times" is reporting that in response to a question from the senator, Judge Roberts expressed concerns about Congress intervening in the case of Terri Schiavo. That would put the judge squarely at odds with leading conservatives in this country.

But today, White House advisor Ed Gillespie fired off a letter to the "New York Times," demanding a correction, saying that in fact, Judge Roberts did not comment on the Schiavo case.

And I can tell you that Senator Wyden's office is telling CNN that on that point, the White House is correct, that there was no comment directly on Schiavo. But Senator Wyden and three of his staffers who were in the room are saying and maintaining that, in fact, when asked hypothetically about the constitutionality of Congress usurping the authority of courts in an end of life case like the Schiavo case, Judge Roberts, in fact, did express concerns about that.

The White House is saying yes, he may have answered a hypothetical question, but they're disputing the actual remarks, saying they're being taken out of context.

What's interesting, though, is that this controversy is coming on the heels of last week's revelation that, as a lawyer, Judge Roberts actually did pro bono work on a gay rights case. That is catching the attention of leading conservatives like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, our position is trust but verify. We trust the administration to make the appropriate nominations. We trust the record that we've looked at of Judge Roberts, that he is one who understands and embraces judicial restraints. But we will verify that through the hearing process, just as the other side will be trying to uncover things.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HENRY: A small conservative group, Public Advocate of the United States, came out last night, became the first conservative group to say they will not support the Roberts nomination because of his work on that gay rights case.

But I can tell you, a top Republican strategist told me today that this is a fringe group. White House allies are not concerned at all. They think this group is just out for publicity. They think this nomination is still on track -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about the Democrats? They're still pushing for lots more documents, aren't they, Ed?

HENRY: That's right. The Democrats were dealt a blow, though, today when Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter said he will not support their efforts to demand documents from when Judge Roberts was in the first Bush administration -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Ed Henry watching the story for us. Thank you, Ed, very much.

Another culture clash in the Roberts nomination. The conservative group Progress for America is launching a new ad, accusing liberals of desperate and false attacks on Roberts' record.

It's a direct response -- it's a direct response to an ad we dissected for you yesterday. That spot by the abortion rights group NARAL suggests Roberts once advocated for people connected to abortion clinic attacks. Roberts' supporters say that's a huge lie.

Both advocacy groups have placed orders with CNN, and their ads will air on our network this week. The groups also say they've bought airtime on FOX News Channel.

Florida State University's board is holding an emergency meeting today on the NAA -- NCAA's ban, excuse me, on Native American mascots during postseason games. This is a new skirmish in the culture wars. The Florida governor, Jeb Bush, is taking sides.

We have Tom Foreman here. He's watching this story for us on the NCAA. Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what it is, Wolf. And talk about throwing gasoline on the barbecue. This ruling has lit up what I call the militant middle. All sorts of people out in this country are either on the far right, far left, they're going nuts over this thing.

And now add to the list the president's brother down in Florida, Governor Jeb Bush, who says this is political correctness run amok.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): The governor says calling the Florida State Seminoles' mascot an insult to the actual Native American Seminoles living in Florida is outrageous, in part because members of that tribe consider it a tribute to their own great heritage. GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: If they insult those people by telling them, "You're not smart enough to understand this. You should be feeling really horrible about it." That's ridiculous.

FOREMAN: The NCAA has nonetheless targeted 18 teams with names relating to American Indian tribes, saying, "We believe that mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin should not be visible at the championship events that we control."

And some Native Americans clearly like that idea.

CINDY LA MARR, NATIONAL INDIAN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: When you go to games or you hear taunts and names, "Kill the Redskins," "Kill the Indians," you know, all of those things have an effect on you. It's terrible -- terribly psychologically damaging.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Well, clearly, nobody wants to be intentionally offending anybody out there. That doesn't seem to be the case these days.

But I went through all of the NCAA names, and about a third of these more than 300 teams have names that potentially offend someone: Fighting Irish, Aggies, Raging Cajuns, Cowboys, Rebels, Cornhuskers, Devils. All of these could offend someone.

The NCAA has not indicated what it will do about any of those names, or if it intends to do anything, or if it's going to listen to more moderate voices. As far as I could tell, you could name your team the Pocket Lint or the Silver Bells and that would be OK, but that's about it.

BLITZER: Let's not forget, in pro sports, the Washington Redskins right here.

FOREMAN: This is not going to end with this, and it's not going to end with these 18 teams if the NCAA keeps pushing it. Florida right now is pushing right back.

BLITZER: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

That leads us straight to the "Cafferty File," your chance to weigh in on major stories of the hour. CNN's Jack Cafferty standing by in New York with our question of the hour.

I guess it's pretty predictable, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, the political correctness in this country is just wearing me out. I mean, it's out of control. It makes my teeth hurt.

Maybe -- maybe if the NCAA were to worry more about tightening the academic standards for student athletes, we wouldn't have so many ex-jocks running around after graduation who can't write a declarative sentence or balance check books.

Listen to this. Last year, two men's teams did not graduate a single basketball player. And the number two -- or the two number one seeded teams -- these are NCAA schools -- graduated less than half of their players. And the NCAA is worried about the Florida State Seminoles? Come on.

The question this hour, has the NCAA become too P.C. when it comes to sports mascots? And let's be careful about that Fighting Irish thing. I mean, I'm Irish, and that's a negative stereotype on my people, and I'm just outraged.

Nonsense. Just nonsense.

BLITZER: Jack, we'll get some answers, some e-mail later this hour. Jack Cafferty with the "Cafferty File." Thank you.

Coming up, the stakes are getting higher in the debate over illegal immigration. Is that dividing Republicans or helping them get reelected? That's just one of the tough questions for Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman when he steps into THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up.

You won't want to miss our guest tomorrow. The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, will talk about the battle against AIDS in Africa and other subjects. I'll pick his brain about politics, including his wife's campaign. Bill Clinton will be in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: CNN's Bob Franken is monitoring that manhunt in Tennessee, and perhaps beyond for that, for a husband and wife. They escaped -- he escaped from a prison, thanks to her yesterday.

What's the latest that you're getting, Bob?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a search going on just every facet of the search you can imagine. Door-to-door searches, both here in the Kingston area and far beyond. Helicopter searches.

Investigators are talking to any known associates of George Hyatte and Jennifer Hyatte, trying to find out if they have knowledge of this, and frankly, if they were involved or if there is another accomplice.

Now, after Jennifer Hyatte fired her weapon and killed a prison guard as her husband, George Hyatte, was being walked to the vehicle, they drove from here and headed just about a half mile from here to a Subway sandwich shop, where there was another van waiting. And they took off in that van.

The first one, however, has a lot of blood in the driver's seat. And officials believe that in the hail of gunfire that accompanied all of this, she was badly wounded. And they don't know what her fate is or where they are right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope they find this couple very, very quickly. Thanks very much, Bob Franken. We'll be getting back to you in Tennessee.

The Democratic Party chairman, Howard Dean, is predicting that Republicans will make illegal immigrants scapegoats in the 2006 national elections. I'll ask Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman about that in just a moment.

First, though, our senior political analyst Bill Schneider has been getting an up-close look at immigration politics.

What are you finding, Bill?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what issue is most likely to divide Republicans? Abortion? Stem cell research? Iraq? Social Security? Guess again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The stakes in the debate over illegal immigration have escalated. It had been a local issue here in the town of Herndon, Virginia, where day laborers -- some of them illegal immigrants -- gather daily at a convenience store parking lot to solicit construction work in the booming Washington, D.C., area.

The issue? Whether the town should support a tax-supported labor site where contractors and homeowners can find workers.

MAYOR MICHAEL O'REILLY, HERNDON, VIRGINIA: If we have too many people standing on the street corner, we have to rely on whatever resources we have available to us to try to solve that problem.

SCHNEIDER: A purely local issue, right? Not any more. This week, Jerry Kilgore, the Republican candidate for governor, came out in opposition to taxpayer-funded worksites unless they verify the legal status of the workers. A legislative ally who made the announcement with Kilgore says...

DAVE ALBO (R), VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES: What we're trying to do is we're trying to preserve our taxpayer resources to help citizens and legal immigrants.

SCHNEIDER: That seems to put Kilgore at odds with President Bush, who has never supported punitive measures against illegal immigrants.

BUSH: Many undocumented workers have walked mile after mile through the heat of the day and the cold of the night.

SCHNEIDER: Kilgore and his allies oppose President Bush's plan to give temporary amnesty to illegal aliens.

ALBO: Jerry Kilgore and myself believe we should be taking a more aggressive role in kicking them out of the country. SCHNEIDER: The Virginia campaign has turned the spotlight on the issue of illegal immigration, an issue that is splitting the Republican Party.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: President Bush is likely to campaign in Virginia this fall. If he comes to Herndon, where I was today, it could make the split in the Republican Party painfully apparent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Bill Schneider reporting for us. Thank you, Bill, very much.

So will the battle over immigration, embryonic stem cell research, split the Republican Party? I'll ask Ken Mehlman. He's standing by. He's the party's chairman. He joins us here in THE SITUATION ROOM next.

Plus, the supreme battle over Judge Roberts, heating up. We'll get some expert opinion in today's "Strategy Session."

And is the Rolling Stone's Mick Jagger taking a direct swipe at President Bush? That story coming up in our next hour.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here in Washington, Republicans are very much in charge, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're always on the same page. The party is grappling with some very divisive issues. Let's get to some of them.

Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the Republican National Committee chairman, Ken Mehlman. Ken, thanks very much. Welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM.

KEN MEHLMAN, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Glad to be here.

BLITZER: Good to have you. Let's talk a little bit about immigration. Howard Dean says do you know who the scapegoats are going to be? The Republicans are going to make scapegoats of immigrants. Is that going to be the big issue that you're going to try to exploit?

MEHLMAN: Wolf, the only folks that are going to be scapegoats are Americans who want their problems solved. And they're going to be scapegoated by Howard Dean and the other Democrats who have no solutions.

The reason you hear Chairman Dean and you hear Mr. Reid and Nancy Pelosi all over the country attacking Republicans is because they have nothing to offer. Rather than an agenda, they have insults. And the American people can see through that, and the American people know better. BLITZER: But you know there are plenty of conservatives, plenty of Republicans out there disappointed, to put it mildly, with the administration's stance on immigration. They hate some of the proposals the president is putting forward.

MEHLMAN: Well, the president has put forward some principles and people in Congress, people like Jon Kyl and John Cornyn and others, are looking forward to legislation that are consistent with those principles.

And the principles are we need more Border Patrol, more money, more technology. We've got to control our borders. We have already passed legislation that deals with the problems of people's I.D.s and licenses being faked. We need to deal with the question of a temporary worker program, because that will take some pressure off the border.

BLITZER: Republican Congressman -- excuse me for interrupting -- Tom Tancredo, I interviewed him just the other day. He's outspoken, saying he may -- he may even run for the White House, because he's so angry at how the administration has avoided some of these immigration issues, the burst of illegal immigrants coming into this country over the past four or five years.

MEHLMAN: I disagree with Congressman Tancredo. The fact is, this president has led on some important issues like the fact that we need the border patrol to be part of the Department of Homeland Security. If you're not securing who comes in our country, you're not protecting the homeland.

Like the Real I.D. Act, which makes sure your driver's license can't be faked. We need to continue working on a comprehensive solution. This president is committed to make sure that America is open for business, compassionate to families and closed for drug dealers and terrorists.

BLITZER: Another issue that's deeply dividing the Republican Party right now, expanding research for embryonic stem cell research. You have Republicans like Nancy Reagan, good Republican; Orrin Hatch, good Republican; the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, only the other day saying it should be expanded. The president threatening to veto anything that does that.

How do you deal with that issue?

MEHLMAN: Well, Wolf, we all agree on certain important things. We all agree on the importance of medical research. This administration has increased by 80 percent the level of funding of stem cell research that occurs.

We also, in the case of George Bush and Bill Frist, these are two people that are pro-life and committed to protecting innocent human life.

BLITZER: But they totally disagree when it comes to expanding the research for these discarded cells that potentially would be discarded, the embryonic cells. Let me show you this poll, CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll out this week. Should the government fund research using new embryonic stem cells? Fifty-six percent of the American public say yes. Forty percent say no -- the president being in the minority.

MEHLMAN: Well, this isn't a matter of polls for the president or for Bill Frist, I think. This is a matter of principle. And what you have is two people who are good people who draw the line in a slightly different place.

But both are committed to increased federal funding for research. This administration's done it. Both believe we also need to protect life. And the question is where you draw the line. And that, ultimately is a debate that is occurring. I think it's good for the country that it's occurring.

BLITZER: Do you want the president to veto legislation if it does pass the House and Senate?

MEHLMAN: Well, the president has said he would veto that legislation. It's inconsistent with his principles. His spokesman has said that. And I think he's a man of his word, a man of principle. And I think he ought to stick with his principled approach.

BLITZER: The whole John Roberts nomination right now, it seems to be it started off on a very, very positive note, but it seems to be deteriorating. In fact, you have some Republicans, not many, but a few conservative Republicans who aren't sure where he stands on gay rights, for example, on other issues. What do you make of that?

MEHLMAN: Well, Wolf, you look at this nominee, you look at the fact that he's meeting on the Hill with people, you look at the statements that have been made in the past, this is someone who's impartial, who has impeccable credentials.

The more the American people get to see him in the hearings in the fall, I have every confidence they're going to recognize what a great choice this is.

The fact is, what we've seen, though, is outrage on the other side. A new NARAL ad has come out, an ad which is knowingly false and misleading. We have sent this station a letter on behalf of our general counsel, asking you not to run it. If you've got an ad that you know is misleading, seems to me that's an ad you shouldn't run.

And I think the desperation you see out of an extremist group like NARAL really reveals what's happening, which is that as John Roberts meets more people, they understand he's an impartial man who will faithfully interpret the Constitution, not legislate from the bench.

BLITZER: CNN's attitude is you bend over to allow all political parties, all political advocacy groups to show the kinds of ads, barring something that's totally, totally outrageous. Let me briefly read to you what Newt Gingrich said in the aftermath of that very close Ohio congressional race in Cincinnati -- a Democrat almost, almost upset the Republican.

"Clearly, there's a pretty strong signal for Republicans thinking about 2006 that they need to do some very serious planning and not just assume that everything is going to be automatically okay."

Do you agree with Newt Gingrich?

MEHLMAN: Look, after every single election -- after the '04 election, which was historic and positive for the president, we did an after-action review and said what can we do better. I always believe in doing that, but if the Democrats' new mantra is going to be, "we're going to lose close," that's fine with me.

BLITZER: That's going to be it. All right. We'll leave it right there. Ken Mehlman, first time in THE SITUATION ROOM and not the last.

MEHLMAN: I enjoyed it.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

MEHLMAN: Thanks a lot.

BLITZER: As we just mentioned, the ad wars over Judge Roberts, heating up. But do the TV commercials really change minds? Much more on the fierce fight over Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. That's coming up next in our "Strategy Session."

Plus, there's a massive manhunt underway right now for an escaped inmate and his wife, after a deadly shootout. We'll go live again, to the scene of the crime.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: After subsiding just a little bit, the controversy over the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court, heating up a little bit.

Once again, starting today, interest groups are battling it out in television ads and counter ads. We're going to talk a little bit about more of that -- talk about that more in our "Strategy Session" with Democratic strategist James Carville and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.

You know, James, it looks by almost all accounts -- any astute political observer thinks that Roberts is going to be confirmed when all is said and done. Why are so many liberals and Democrats making this big issue right now?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Wolf, first of all, I think if the body of knowledge of what we know now is consistent with what we know in mid to late September whenever this vote is on, then I think he will be confirmed.

However, he's a story-and-a-half away from this thing getting interesting. I think some people on the right were shook up about this gay rights thing. I mean this is almost -- this is...

BLITZER: But what about the liberals and the Democrats...

CARVILLE: Again, if there's some sort of uncertainty -- you don't know what else is out there -- the White House is going through 50,000 sheets of paper. My guess is he'll be confirmed -- he'll certainly be confirmed if what we know a month from now, is what we know today, or six weeks from now, is what we know today.

But you know, a Supreme Court appointment is a lifetime appointment and they've got to air these things out a little bit. I mean, it's a pretty important thing and I don't think -- I think people should get active...

BLITZER: You don't they should be saving their ammo for down the road?

CARVILLE: Strategically, they may, but you know, these interest groups, they've got contributors and they've got to show something and they've got to deal back and forth. I don't know how helpful all this is, frankly.

BLITZER: What about this threat, if it is a threat, from the right -- some of the right raising questions now about his stance on gay rights and other issues?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: I think the group that came out and has withdrawn their support of him, Wolf, I think that helps this nomination. I think it shows -- you have NARAL on one side, you've got some groups on the other unhappy. He appears to be middle- of-the-road. He's upsetting these two extreme sides. The American people are going to support him and I think the senators are going to be less likely to take a position against him.

BLITZER: Are you happy with his nomination?

BUCHANAN: I am thrilled with his nomination, personally.

CARVILLE: It is -- what the problem here is, is that supposedly, they don't like the Colorado thing was a big cause celeb and a conservative cause. He argued against that and so, to the people out there, it seems like the conservative interest groups are more interested in power than they are in kind of defending him.

And they run in -- they're going to run into a real problem and say, well, if this is OK, then why do we -- why do you come out and gas us up during the election when it's OK for somebody to do a pro bono brief? And I think it -- I think there's going to be some problems out there...

BUCHANAN: NO.

CARVILLE: ... with the sort of Christian conservative base.

BUCHANAN: Christian conservatives, all they're saying for the most part, is let's ask him appropriate questions, make certain we do due diligence.

They are continuing to support him and I think they'll very enthusiastic supporters during the hearings. But the NARAL group, they also have helped this nominee, because to have a good political commercial, Wolf, you have to have -- even as outrageous as it might be -- it has to have some element of credibility. This is so outrageous to suggest that this fellow may indeed support people who bomb abortion clinics.

James, as good as he is, couldn't convince people that I would support such a ridiculous position. So, they are way out and I think they hurt themselves in the long run as being less and less creditable.

BLITZER: Way, way out. Do you agree?

CARVILLE: You know, I don't think that they -- I mean, I went through it today and looked at all of the people that have come in on this and I don't think that they have sort of helped push this thing one way or another.

But again, these are people that have to respond to their contributors and they were probably under enormous pressure to do something. It would probably be wise if they let this thing go for a couple days and then pulled it and moved on to something else.

But it is -- the idea that somehow or another nobody should attack Judge Roberts or nobody should do this, is loony. It's part of the political system and -- I'm sorry, go ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: I was going to say: Let me change the subject, briefly. From the Democracy Corps, your group, Stan Greenberg another good Democratic strategist -- this was quoted in today's "Washington Post:" "No matter how disaffected they are over Republican failures in Iraq and here at home, a large chunk of white, non-college voters, particularly in rural areas, will remain unreachable for Democrats at the national level."

That sounds pretty worrying from your perspective.

CARVILLE: It's troubling -- the fact that we didn't do as well as we'd hoped to in the rural vote. It's troubling and I think it's quite honestly sad. Now, having said that, if we get a third of white, rural voters -- we win everywhere -- we run the table.

BLITZER: But they, no matter how angry some of these white, rural voters are about the war in Iraq, let's say, or the jobs or economy, they're not going to vote for Democrats, because of some of these other so-called cultural issues -- gay rights...

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: ... abortion rights, stuff that really resonates with many of these voters.

BUCHANAN: And that is exactly the case. If you look at -- and many of these people are friends of mine. I mean, we do disagree with the president on a lot of issues, but when it comes down to it, we want the judges.

It's about the judges, because the judges have thrown God out of the schools and prayer out of the schools. They're talking gay marriage out there. It's abortion. It's the judges, that's what defines where this cultural war is going and that's why we're going to keep supporting Republicans.

BLITZER: So how can the Democrats deal with that problem?

CARVILLE: Again, let me go back and say that Democrats don't need to win the white, rural vote to win elections. I mean, under President Clinton, we got about 30 to 33 percent, won two elections with that.

So, -- and if you go into -- in depth of what was said, -- is that this was taking a segment. We need about a third of that. I think that there are many things that we can do. I certainly think to have a better, clearer message about what it is -- the villains that you're against.

I think people are upset, because Democrats don't look like they're concerned as much as they should be about the sort of difficulties people have in the culture, raising kids and dealing with things. I think there are many things that Democrats can do, but I come back to say the Democrats don't need, nor will they get a majority of the white, rural vote.

BLITZER: Tomorrow, your former boss, the president, Bill Clinton, will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CARVILLE: He did pretty good in there with that vote.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Bay Buchanan, thank you. James Carville.

Should you vote Christian in the next presidential election? Jerry Falwell says yes. And that has some people angry. The story when we come back.

And later, how much pork is actually in the plan? We'll take a closer look at some of the outrageous items in the new transportation law. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's what's on our "Political Radar" this Wednesday.

Republican Jeanine Pirro is officially a candidate for Hillary Clinton's Clinton's U.S. Senate seat. On her announcement day in New York, abortion rights activists say they're stunned by something Pirro said right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. She told us yesterday she does not support so-called partial birth abortion. Pirro once supported that late term procedure to protect a woman's health. Now, she says she opposes it with only one exception: when a woman's life is in danger.

A leading Jewish organization is asking the reverend Jerry Falwell to retract his call for supporters to - quote -- "vote Christian in 2008." Falwell made the appeal in a fundraising letter for his ministries. The Anti-Defamation League says the pitch was at odds with the American ideal. Falwell says the statement was not intended to be anti-Semitic.

An Air Force colonel in Colorado is accused of defacing cars with bumper stickers supporting President Bush. It happened at the Denver International Airport. Police say they set up a bait car and caught Alexis Fecteau in the act. Prosecutors are deciding whether to press criminal charges.

Time for a check of other stories we're following right now. CNN's Zain Verjee joining us once again from the CNN Center -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNNHN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.

In Tennessee, a massive manhunt is under way now. Police and the FBI are searching for an escaped prisoner and his wife now on the run. The husband is a convicted robber. The wife allegedly helped him escape during a court appearance yesterday, shooting a guard to death. They're both considered armed and very dangerous.

In New Mexico, authorities now say gunfire brought down a sheriff's department helicopter over the weekend. The chopper crashed into a backyard in Albuquerque on Saturday while assisting on a burglary call. The pilot and a deputy on call suffered minor injuries.

And from Utah, amazing images of a hit and run. Now, take a look at this. This new video just out from the incident that happened last week. Police say the two teenagers were leaving a mall when three men confronted them. The teens say the men were trying to pick a fight. And the melee was the result.

Wolf, back to you in the SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: All right. That's scary stuff. Thanks very much, Zain Verjee at the CNN Center.

Coming up, you can say there's something for everybody in that just signed highway bill. Did lawmakers go hog wild? Our Bruce Morton shares his thoughts on pork and politics.

Also ahead, was he drunk or just too enthusiastic about a baseball game? We have the score on the fan who took a plunge.

And don't forget, former President Bill Clinton will be our guest live tomorrow. We have plenty to talk about, including his wife's chances of winning his old job.

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 in live data feeds from news organizations at home and abroad.

Let's check out some stories that are incoming right now.

Check this out. These are live pictures from New York. That New York Yankee fan Scott Harper who jumped on that screen behind home plate at Yankee Stadium last night has gone to court. We're awaiting his emergence from that court.

We're also getting these live pictures, crew of the Shuttle Discovery back in Houston, safe and sound, thank God. They're being reunited this hour with their families, their friends, their colleagues. We'll continue to watch this story for you.

And also, we're watching the aftermath of that four-vehicle accident in Orlando, Florida that left a school bus lying on its side, left six people hurt. A daycare van was also involved in the crash.

Let's see what you're saying about our question of the hour.

Jack Cafferty standing by live in New York with the Cafferty Report. Or the "Cafferty File." Is it the Cafferty Report or the "Cafferty File"?

CAFFERTY: Wolf, you're the anchor, it's whatever you say it is.

BLITZER: I think it's the "Cafferty File."

CAFFERTY: Good enough. We'll go with that.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has banned American Indian mascots from postseason games, calling the symbols hostile and abusive. This will affect 18 schools, but Florida State University says the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida is not insulted by the use of their name, and in fact, has a close relationship with that school. The question this hour, has the NCAA become too PC when it comes to sports mascots. Question next hour was, will this hour's question have too many letters in it?

Next hour -- before we get to that, Steve says, "as a Native American who lives on an Indian reservation here in the United States, I find any names that insult the Native Americans wrong and unjust. That includes the Washington Redskins. How would they like it if we named teams, the Virginia Hillbillies or the Georgia Inbreds?"

Sherri in Portland, Oregon. "My impression is the names chosen for teams are names of strength. When my team is winning, I wear the name with an air of pride and respect. What's degrading? There may be some light-heartedness involved, but certainly not degradation."

Karen in Sacramento, California, writes: "I went to Muhlenberg College, where our mascot was a mule." And we know where this is going. "Or as my friend from Franklin and Marshall called our team, the jackasses. Now that's a mascot that should be replaced by something less offensive."

And Terry writes, "How would you like it if the next NBA expansion team was named the Crotchety Old Bald Guys?"

Wonder who he's talking about, Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of bald guys, but they're not that old, I got to tell you, in the NBA. Jack Cafferty, thank you very much.

We've been telling you this hour about that mega-transportation bill that's now the law of the land. A lot of people have a lot of different takes on what's in it and what could have been left out of it.

Let's hear now from our national correspondent Bruce Morton. Bruce?

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president signed the highway bill today. Vitally needed roads and highways, right? Maybe just too much vitally needed pork.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (Voice over.) The bill includes more than 6,000 earmarks -- special projects in their districts congressmen tack onto the bill. Two-hundred ninety million dollars of projects in House Speaker Dennis Hastert's district, according to the Cato Institute, a Washington- based think-tank.

Alaska's only Congressman, Don Young, is chairman of the Transportation Committee, so his state, with the third fewest people, gets the fourth most money. Of course, there is oil up there.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas snagged about a thousand dollars a voter for his district, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group.

In Los Angeles County, crowded highways but no clout-rich committee chairmen, gets about 60 bucks a voter.

And no, the money in the highway bill isn't just for highways.

STEPHEN SLIVINSKY, CATO INSTITUTE: There's also millions of dollars being spent on museums across the nation. There's the 1.2 million for the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. There's the Packard Museum in Ohio, whose getting a million or so. Makes me wonder why we're spending money to showcase vehicles that don't even move any more in museums, much less spending money on various and sundry other transportation projects.

MORTON: And yes, it's way more money than the president asked for, but hey, he signed the bill, didn't he?

(END VIDEOTAPE) MORTON: Deficit spending, big-time? Sure. But as they say in the halls of Congress, oink. Wolf?

BLITZER: But this has been going on for a long time, Bruce, as you and I well know.

MORTON: Oh, yes. Getting bigger.

BLITZER: All right. Well, that's interesting. All right, thanks very much, Bruce Morton reporting for us.

It's August 10, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Coming up, in only minutes, Mick Jagger hits a sour note. The legendary Rolling Stone is singing about politics. But it's not necessarily music to some people's ears.

And this Yankee fan may need a legal safety net. Hear about his daring fall that landed him in hot water.

And tomorrow, this reminder: The former president, Bill Clinton, is my guest. He'll talk about the battle against AIDS in Africa. And I'll pick his brain about politics, including his wife's campaign.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're plugged into virtually everything that's happening online. Only CNN has teams dedicated solely to cyberspace. Right now, a controversial ad opposing Supreme Court nominee John Roberts has some conservative bloggers crying foul.

Our Internet reporters, Jacki Schechner, Abbi Tatton, they're standing by to take us "Inside the Blogs."

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, you're going to know what we're talking about. We have heard a lot about this ad. This is the one by NARAL, the abortion-rights group. And what they essentially said is John Roberts worked on a case that had to do with an abortion clinic bomber, and he was on the side in support of him. Well, factcheck.org, which describes themselves as a nonpartisan, non- profit advocacy group came out and said essentially that ad is false, that there was an abortion clinic bomber involved in that case that John Roberts worked on, but it had to do with the illegality of blockades more so than bombings itself.

Conservative bloggers, you might imagine, rallying around this, linking to factcheck.org. Big ones, like MicheleMalkin.com, tracking to that. People tracking back to her.

We didn't find many liberals talking about this case. But what we did find is some centrists and moderate Republicans discussing it. Donklephant.com, a new centrist weblog, that's one that's talking about the factcheck.org piece, saying that NARAL should pull the ad. "It is shameful." Another one we took a look at was balloonjuice.com. This is John Cole. He's a moderate Republican -- tends to be very sensible when he says things. He says NARAL's new ad: "simply despicable," pointing out that the strongly worded condemnation of factcheck.org is about as fair and balanced an organization as you'll find, that you can't get any strongly worded than that.

Also QandO.net. This is a neo-libertarian They make an interesting point. What they said is that President Bush made an interesting choice to nominate John Roberts at the time that he did, because with Congress in recess, this gives his enemies plenty of time to build up an arsenal, pointing out that millions of people will see this ad. How many people are going to read factcheck.org?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Another story that's big out there today is about the conservative group Public Advocate of the United States, in their words, yanking support from John Roberts. Couple of people on both sides commenting on that one. More on the right, but we'll bring you the left first from the liberal blog The Blue State. They're saying it's not everyday that you find a liberal organization like moveon.org and the conservative group Public Advocate on the same side of an issue.

Well, we've done Blue State blog. Now over to redstate.org. This is a conservative group blog, a popular one that's also looking at Public Advocate. And what they're asking is, who is this group? They're saying we've never heard of them. This is not a mainstream group, going on to say that mainstream prominent conservative organizations are supporting this nominee.

So John Roberts is a big story in the blogs, in the news, obviously, this summer. And lots of -- there are lots of stories out there every day. And I know, Wolf, that you're very interested in how we're finding these stories. What's big online on any given day. And there's a great tool that we wanted to show you.

This is at PatrickRuffini.com. This is the former Web master of the Bush-Cheney Campaign. He has something called SCOTUSWire, which aggregates all the blog and news stories out there, seeing what's popular. The most popular rise to the top of the chart. And the ones that aren't that popular just simply drop off the bottom. He's tracking 160 stories today.

Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, very interesting. Thanks for sharing all the trade secrets with our viewers. Abbi and Jackie, as usual, thank you very much.

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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