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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Former President Bill Clinton; Fuel Truck Threat?; Canines Guarding America

Aired August 11, 2005 - 15:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive in one place simultaneously, on these screens behind me, data feeds coming in right now from Time.com, CNN.com, Reuters, the "Wall Street Journal," other sources, crossing in, real time. Happening now, it's 3:00 p.m. in New York, where former President Bill Clinton is standing by to talk with me about war, terror and a possible Hillary Clinton candidacy. That's coming up live this hour.
In Crawford, Texas, where it's 2:00 p.m., President Bush and his top aides holding a strategy session on Iraq, as the war takes a rising toll and polls -- plunge.

And it's 3:00 p.m. in Front Royal, Virginia, where a newly- trained canine corps may soon play a bigger role in defending America's borders.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The 42nd president of the United States is rarely at a loss for words. And we expect Bill Clinton will have lots to say about the way his successor is handling the war in Iraq and his wife's possible designs on the White House. It's a SITUATION ROOM exclusive. It will happen this hour. Stand by for that.

Meanwhile, we are watching an important story. The FBI field office in Los Angeles has advised law enforcement personnel that there's information to suggest al Qaeda may use trucks to ram into gas tankers in a major American city between now and mid-September. But some U.S. government officials are playing down that threat information.

Let's bring in CNN's Deborah Feyerick in New York. She's got all the details -- Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, since, 9/11, officials have worried that al Qaeda could use some sort of a truck bomb in some sort of an attack against the United States.

Today, FBI in Los Angeles put out an advisory and it does say that al Qaeda might use some sort of a small truck to ram into a gasoline tanker, sort of like an improvised explosive device, and that it could happen in either New York, Los Angeles or Chicago between now and September 19. Now, the question that has everyone hopping is, is the information legitimate? Homeland Security official tells CNN that it is being evaluated, but that official says the source is of questionable reliability. A second government source tells CNN that the information does not appear to be very credible.

So, while everyone is seeing just what the status of this is, law enforcement agencies around the country are trying to analyze it and they're staying alert. What they are doing right now is, they are just checking to see whether there are trucks that are parked where they shouldn't be or also deliveries that have been unscheduled. Those are the kinds of things that they want to stay tuned to. This going on right now, but, again, officials trying to see just whether, in fact there's anything to this latest information -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope they are erring on the side of caution.

Deb Feyerick in New York, thank you very much.

And stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

As violence rages around them, Iraqi leaders are trying to put together a draft constitution. Meeting with his defense and foreign policy teams today at the Texas ranch, President Bush called the Iraq situation -- and I'm quoting now -- "tough," but he vowed to stay the course.

CNN's Aneesh Raman is standing by in Baghdad.

But let's head over to Crawford, Texas, for CNN's Elaine Quijano, joining us from the press filing center outside the Texas ranch.

Elaine, what's the latest?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, President Bush says that he is operating under the assumption that that draft constitution will be ready by that August 15 deadline. Now, of course, constitution so vitally important because the White House is well aware that Americans are looking for benchmarks, any signs of progress that the Iraqis are, in fact, moving ahead.

Now, the president also said, though, today, that he has heard the calls for immediate U.S. troop withdrawal out of Iraq. He says he's thought about people's desire to reduce the casualty numbers. But as he's done before, the president explained why he thinks that would be a mistake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pulling troops out prematurely will betray the Iraqis. Our mission in Iraq, as I said earlier, is to fight the terrorists, is to train the Iraqis. And we're making progress training the Iraqis.

Oh, I know it's hard for some Americans to see that progress. But we are making progress. More and more Iraqi units are becoming more and more capable of fighting off the terrorists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Now, President Bush today was asked also about Cindy Sheehan. She, of course, is the mother who has been camped out near the Bush ranch. Her son, Casey, was killed in Baghdad last year.

Now, Cindy Sheehan is vehemently opposed to the Iraq conflict. She would like to see U.S. forces out of Iraq immediately. She is vowing to stay put near the president's ranch until, she says, she can actually see him and talk to him and tell him about her concerns in person, but the president today saying that he sympathizes with Cindy Sheehan. He understands. He's thought about her position, he says. But the president again saying that he feels that would be a mistake.

Also, one more thing to tell you, Wolf. The president also was asked about Iran, specifically this development about the IAEA today expressing concern about Iran resuming nuclear activities. The president said that's a positive first step, but he feels the best way to continue dealing with Iran is through the Europeans, the so-called EU3 -- Britain, France and Great -- British, France and Germany. The president saying that he feels they should continue to take the lead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Elaine Quijano, stand by. We will be getting back to you. Elaine Quijano reporting for us from the press filing center outside the Crawford ranch of the president.

In Iraq, meanwhile, violence rages, as officials race to write a new constitution against the looming deadline.

Let's go live to CNN's Aneesh Raman. He's joining us from Baghdad.

What is the latest, Aneesh?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it could undermine this entire process -- leaders within the Shia community in the country's south today, amid big demonstrations, calling for an autonomous region there, similar to what the Kurds have in the north.

Immediate objections coming from the Sunni minority, as well as from Shiites in the government, including the prime minister. Why? They say that two autonomous regions would weaken Iraq as a country. And there's the issue of finances. The majority of oil, Wolf, in Iraq is in the north and in the south. If there are two autonomous governments there, do they get the money? That a big question.

Time is running out, though, for them to finalize this document, as is, Wolf. Time to reach a deal and compromise.

BLITZER: Aneesh, is there a widely expected spike in violence as this process, this political process, drafting a constitution, the elections scheduled later this year? Do U.S. military commanders expect insurgents to raise the ante, if you will?

RAMAN: Well, there is a lot heightened sense of alert in the country, especially in the capital. Insurgents, as you say, often scale up attacks leading up to big dates. But the Iraqi government wants to push ahead, wants to meet Monday's deadline. They know that all politics here is global, Wolf, that the world is watching.

BLITZER: Aneesh Raman reporting for us from Baghdad. He'll be back. Thanks very much, Aneesh.

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

Wildfires. Washington's governor getting ready to declare an emergency, as firefighters scrambling to deal with half-a-dozen major wildfires in that state.

Check this out. In London, a strike by food workers is causing chaos, literally, at London's Heathrow Airport, forcing British Airways to cancel flights. Lots of American tourists going to be in trouble over there.

And a man has been arrested at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. Federal officials say a small explosive device was found in one of his bags. We are watching this story as well.

With Iran's nuclear program now back in business, the United Nations' watchdog agency is voicing -- and I'm quoting now -- "serious concern." Iran, though, at least the government there, is not impressed.

Our senior international correspondent, Walter Rodgers, is joining us now live from the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

Walt, what's the latest?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the International Atomic Energy Agency has decided to give diplomacy one more chance. They are sending a delegation to Tehran tomorrow to test the Iranians' intentions, when the Iranians say they're willing to negotiate an end to this crisis.

In the meantime, the 35-member panel of the board of governors here passed a resolution today expressing the international's community serious concern that Iran has resumed the nuclear conversion process at Isfahan plant. The IAEA resolution also called on Iran to immediately suspend the nuclear conversion process, which it restarted at Isfahan earlier this week.

The difficulty for the IAEA is that its statements, its resolutions are political. They are not at all legally binding, and the Iranians know that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are they saying, the Iranians, Iranian officials? RODGERS: They said the IAEA's resolutions are -- quote -- "absurd." They are not going to pay any attention to the calls for a suspension of this nuclear -- fuel conversion process. The Iranians say they are going to go ahead with this. They are not going to bend. The Iranian delegate to the IAEA said within 10 years, Iran is going to be a major player in the nuclear energy business. It's going to be exporting nuclear energy.

And there was a tough warning to the United States from the Iranians again today saying that Iran is not Iraq and the United States better learn that it's no longer the world's only superpower policeman -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Walter Rodgers in Vienna, thank you very much for that report.

Still to come, Bill Clinton live in THE SITUATION ROOM, one on one. We will have an exclusive. I will ask him the questions on your mind as well.

Plus, border dogs. They are trained to find drugs, explosives and other hidden threats. Find out how man's best friend is protecting the nation.

And, a little later, Hollywood religion. "Passion of the Christ" hit it big and "The Da Vinci Code" is in the making. So, will L.A. turn to the Bible more for inspiration? We are taking a closer look.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time for a quick check of some other stories we are following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. CNN's Zain Verjee joining us from the CNN Center.

Zain, what are you following?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's a major row at Heathrow Airport. British Airways cancels its flights out of the London airport. And it has diverted others after a food worker strike.

Now other ground staff supporting the food workers have walked off the job as well. The union says it went on strike because the caterer for British Airways fired workers. A spokesman for the caterer calls the situation regrettable.

Britain continues its crackdown on suspected terrorists. Today, British officials detained 10 foreign nationals who they say may threaten Britain's national security. Eventually, they plan to deport them. One of them is a Jordanian described as al Qaeda's spiritual ambassador in Europe.

In Iraq, at least five civilians are hurt from a fierce gun battle between U.S. forces and insurgents. It happened yesterday in Ramadi. Witnesses say the gun battle came after an insurgent attack against a U.S. convoy.

And, in Los Angeles, director Oliver Stone pleads no contest to a misdemeanor -- misdemeanor marijuana charge. Prosecutors say his lawyer entered the plea for him yesterday. Stone paid a $100 fine and court assessments as well. Back in May, police arrested Stone, charging him with possession of marijuana while driving -- Wolf.

BLITZER: On that deportation story you just reported, Zain, what are people on all sides saying about possible concerns that some of those detainees who are sent back could be tortured, jailed? What's the latest on that?

VERJEE: Well, rights groups are worried about exactly that. I mean, Britain is actually a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, so what that basically means is, they can't just get rid of people and dump them in countries that may treat them badly. So, what British officials are saying is that they're working on agreements with countries like Egypt and Algeria to get some sort of assurances that none of these people are going to be mistreated.

But, you know, Wolf, rights groups also add that, you know, some of those assurances just are not worth the paper they are even written on.

BLITZER: CNN's Zain Verjee, stand by. We will be getting back to you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Still to come this hour, Bill Clinton one on one. He's joining us live. That's coming up shortly.

Plus, oil prices shattering all records once again. Find out what it means for your pocketbook.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes, I have succeeded. Sometimes, I have failed.

ANNOUNCER: This week in history, the political scandal known as Watergate resulted in President Nixon's resignation, effective August 9, 1974.

NIXON: I shall resign the presidency at noon tomorrow.

ANNOUNCER: On August 13, 1995, baseball legend Mickey Mantle lost his life to cancer.

And, in 1998, the twin bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania claimed more than 200 lives.

And that is "This Week in History".

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get to the bottom line on money matters that hit Americans and people all over the world where they live. That's Ali Velshi's job. He's joining us now live from New York.

What's happening today, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Busy, busy day, Wolf.

Once again, we have a record price, closing price for a barrel of oil, $65.80 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, got as high as $66 today intraday. And those, of course, are record highs.

Now, what we are seeing today is a response again from the airlines. We have been hearing them complain about the price of oil. Now we have United with $5 to $7 per-leg increase in ticket prices. Delta and Continental followed right after that with increases of their own. They always all match each other on those kind of things.

And we are seeing a lot of activity in oil. We have also got this news that actually hits a little closer to home. Some Domino's franchises in California, when you call to order your pizza, are telling you that there's a $1.50 surcharge for your pizza because of fuel charges per pizza. That's kind of interesting.

Let's take it over to the other side of the world. You are going to be talking to President Clinton in a little while. And, as you know, Wolf, one of the things he's very involved in is the fight of AIDS in Africa. So, I just wanted to give our viewers a quick overview of what is going on with AIDS in Africa right now.

AIDS around the world, there are 40 million sufferers estimated. Thirty million of those are in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the hardest hit, with an average of more than 10 percent of the population with AIDS. In countries like Botswana and Swaziland, 40 percent of the population is believed to be infected with AIDS. South Africa, for instance, population of 45 million people, they think six million of them are infected. But only about 180,000 have been tested.

Now, the challenges are, of course, the drugs, which are expensive. And they need to be stored in a certain way. They need to be temperature-controlled. Now, a lot of the -- the U.S. drug companies, Pfizer, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, involved in providing some of those drugs at cost prices.

But even the testing equipment, Wolf, is expensive and needs to be stored a certain way. I was talking to some people today who said perhaps the biggest gains, in addition to providing medication in Africa, have been the fact that there's cheaper, faster testing available. There's an oral test and a very quick blood test, both made by U.S. companies. And that is going to help in that fight against AIDS -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are those big drug companies doing, Ali, to deal with this enormous problems of AIDS/HIV in Africa?

VELSHI: Well, there's -- there's a lot of -- and this is what President Clinton is involved in. They are trying to coordinate efforts to get the drugs to Africans at a low price. But, really, there's a bottleneck, because there has to be distribution and delivery in place.

A lot of it is logistics. But you know what? If people can get those drugs, that -- that death rate can come way down, Wolf.

BLITZER: How's the -- how are the markets looking, oh, a little bit more than a half-an-hour from closing bell?

VELSHI: They pulled back. They pulled back because of the price of oil. But, as you can see, the Dow is still up 63 points, 10,658. Nasdaq up 12 points to 2,170. We will keep an eye on that closely over the next half-an-hour, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We will be getting back to you. Ali Velshi in New York, thank you.

The war in Iraq, a Supreme Court nominee, what would Bill Clinton do? I will ask him. The former president is standing by to join us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, schools and businesses closed, an entire country threatened by a smog emergency. We will tell you what that country is and what's going on.

Plus, unlikely warriors on the front lines of homeland security. We will show you what they are doing and what they are doing best.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

We are standing by for our exclusive interview with Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States. That's coming up shortly here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Meanwhile, in our "Security Watch," new steps to guard America against terror.

CNN's Dan Lothian is standing by in Boston, where students are majoring in protecting ports.

But we begin with CNN's Jeanne Meserve. She's in our America bureau. Actually, she's today live in Front Royal, Virginia, where dogs -- dogs -- are being trained to detect hidden humans on America's borders.

A lovely dog there, Jeanne. What's going on?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is Skeet (ph). Skeet is an explosive detection dog. He is handled by P.J. Dowling, who joins us here.

P.J., what makes Skeet a good dog for this?

PATRICK DOWLING, CBP CANINE INSTRUCTOR: I believe Skeet's ability, for his insatiable desire to retrieve and willingness to please the handler is his best asset. MESERVE: And you're going to show us what he can do.

DOWLING: Yes, ma'am.

MESERVE: Why don't you do a run around this car for us?

DOWLING: Good boy. Come here, Skeet. Ready? Let's go. Find it. Find it, Skeet. Where is it? Find it.

Stay. Oh, good boy. What a good dog. Oh, good boy, Skeet.

(CROSSTALK)

DOWLING: Good boy.

MESERVE: Well, Skeet found something here. We are going to take a look at what it was.

(CROSSTALK)

MESERVE: In the trunk of this car, an SA-7. This is a shoulder- fired missile that this dog was able to find.

You are probably wondering how these dogs learn how to do this? Here's a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good dog. Come on, boy. Let's go. Let's go.

MESERVE (voice-over): For Kyra (ph), a Belgian Malinois, searching for drugs is a game of hide-and-seek, with play and praise as a prize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay. Oh, good girl! That's my baby!

BILLY ROSS, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: Play with this towel, play a big -- good game with her. And that makes her want to work more. This here -- I mean, we could do this all day. She would never get tired, you know, never get tried.

MESERVE: Kyra has learned to search out concealed humans, as well as drugs, during a 13-week course at Customs and Border Protection Canine Enforcement Training Center in Front Royal, Virginia.

ROSS: Stay.

MESERVE: Soon, she and her handler, Billy Ross, will be helping guard the nation's southern border.

ROSS: I would rather have this one than another human for a teammate. I mean, we work so good together. And I don't have to worry about him calling in sick. You know, he's always there. He's always with me. Whenever I need something, he's there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Find it. MESERVE: Fetch with a simple rolled towel is the foundation for training. When a small bag of marijuana is attached, a dog associates the smell with play and wants more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

MESERVE: After only seven days, dogs are sniffing out marijuana in packages. Over time, their repertoire will expand.

The dogs learn to distinguish a driver or passenger in a vehicle from someone hiding inside by getting a towel reward for ferreting out the stowaway.

(on camera): Since 9/11, the demand for dogs appropriate for training has become so great that Customs and Border Protection has begun breeding its own.

(voice-over): So far, the program has produced more than 21 litters, each one so precious that a closed-circuit camera monitors an expectant mom 24 hours a day.

KENT WAGER, CANINE TRAINING CENTER: I would say there's never enough dogs ever -- ever.

MESERVE: Never enough because of what they produce on the job. Last year alone, seizures of more than 1 million pounds of narcotics, and more than 40,000 concealed humans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: And we are back in Front Royal with Skeet and Skeet's handler PJ Dowling.

PJ, let me ask you, a lot of money being spent on machines to screen for things like explosives. Which is better, the machines or the dogs?

DOWLING: Ma'am, I believe the director of Homeland Security, Robert Bonner, approves of the canines. He has faith in our ability to detect explosives, as opposed to some of the mechanical which has a limited capacity. I believe that we can search in a far greater capacity to protect the public for national security and protect our nation's borders.

MESERVE: OK. PJ Dowling, thanks so much. And a little update for you, Marci (ph) who was the pregnant dog you saw in that piece, she gave birth. There were seven puppies, four females, three males.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Congratulations to Marci. Thanks very much, Jeanne. A very, very good report. I will take my chances with the dogs, as well. Appreciate it very much.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, students are training for a hot new field: that would be homeland security. Graduates will play a key role in protecting New England's ports. Let's get some details. Go to Boston.

CNN's Dan Lothian joining us from our bureau there -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And not just for students who will be graduating and living here in Massachusetts, but pretty much going across the world. We are in our editing room where we are currently putting together that story, focusing on how more and more colleges and universities are putting together programs, degree programs and certificate programs, focusing on homeland security.

Take a look at one of the programs at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. One of the things they are doing there is they have a simulation which all the students have to work with. And it simulates an attack, a missile attack, on a natural gas tanker in Boston Harbor. It's very explosive, causing a lot of damage, and they can analyze.

This is a way for students to respond to terrorism, or also prevent terrorism. We will look at that program. Also another program at the University of Massachusetts -- putting together now, Lou. And it all comes up -- or rather Wolf -- it all comes up tonight on NEWSNIGHT.

BLITZER: All right. We'll be watching. They didn't have that major when I was in high school. Thanks very much, Dan Lothian.

And for Dan's full story about these homeland security students, you can tune in to CNN's NEWSNIGHT with Aaron Brown. That's tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern. And stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

It's Thursday, August 11. Up next, a SITUATION ROOM exclusive. The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, on issues around the world and politics here in the United States including, of course, his wife's plans. Bill Clinton will be my guest. We are standing by for that.

And depicting faith in films. Many movies have done it, but rarely without controversy. So where does Tinsel Town stand now on religion and films? We'll tell you.

And hazardous haze in Malaysia. One person says the air is so bad, his eyes are stinging. Find out what's causing it, and what Malaysia is doing about it. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're standing by to speak live with the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. We will go there shortly. Meantime, in Arkansas, a convicted school shooter turns 21 years old and will be able to celebrate outside his place of detention. Seven years after he and a friend opened fire at a school in Jonesboro, Mitchell Johnson is able to walk free, angering many in Arkansas.

CNN's Ed Lavendera is joining us now live. He's got more. Ed what is the reaction there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, there's a lot of reaction coming from Jonesboro today. We are inside the satellite truck here in Jonesboro where we are working on this evening's piece. The question of the day is, where is Mitchell Johnson, released today. But the bigger question here, and one that has not been answered in seven years is why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITNEY IRVING, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I would want to know have you -- do you know what you did? Have you seen the footage? Have you heard from the families? Known how much you've hurt everyone? You know, it's just -- I don't know if I'll get that day to find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: That was Whitney Irving, one of the victims who survived the attack on the school here at Westside Middle School here seven years ago. You will hear more from her and one of her friends later on this evening on CNN as we work here to continue putting our piece together for later tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And quickly, Ed, why is he being allowed to not only go free but with a clean slate, given the fact he was convicted of murdering these kids?

LAVANDERA: Well, back at the time of this shooting, the way Arkansas law was set up at the time, he was tried as a juvenile which means he had to -- even if he was convicted of murder, as he was, he had to be released by the age of 18. There was a federal charge -- a gun charge he was convict of as well a gun charge as well that allowed authorities to keep him in prison for three more years. But this is it.

Twenty-one years old, Mitchell Johnson walking free and his slate wiped entirely clean. He walks out today as if none of this ever happened on his record.

BLITZER: All right. Ed Lavendera, thanks very much for that report in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Coming up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton one on one. It's a SITUATION ROOM exclusive. The former president standing by to take my questions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now, a SITUATION ROOM exclusive. The 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton, is with us live from New York. We're going to speak at length about some of the big global issues and the hot political topics, among other things. The president -- former president -- is preparing to host world leaders in New York City next month in support of his global initiative that was formed to tackle some of the toughest problems on the planet, including the AIDS epidemic and more. The initiative helps hard-hit places, such as Africa, expand for the disease and prevention. Twenty-five million people in sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV/AIDS right now.

Mr. President, we're going to get to all of that in just a moment, but let's talk about the biggest issue facing the United States, arguably right now. That would be the war in Iraq. Looking back, with 20/20 hindsight, was it a mistake?

WILLIAM CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, at the time, Wolf, I thought that we should not have gone in there until we let the U.N. inspectors finish their job. That was, after all, the understanding the Senate had when it was asked to vote to Congress to give the president authority to go in.

But that's really not relevant anymore. We did what we did. We are where we are. Fifty-eight percent of the Iraqis showed up to vote; 1,800-plus brave Americans have given their lives there. Thousands and thousands of Iraqis have died in fighting the insurgency and trying to give their country a future.

So I think where we are now, it's important to try to continue this effort to train the security forces and the military forces which the administration and our military have undertaken. They are good people. They're trying to do a good job. And there will come a time when the Iraqis will want us to go, and where we should go. But we got to try to make this work. I still think there's a chance it could work, and it's the only strategy that will work.

BLITZER: The reason I ask was it a mistake because in our latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, we asked this question, has the war in Iraq made the U.S. safer from terrorism? Thirty-four percent said yes. Fifty-seven percent said no. How would you answer that question?

CLINTON: Oh, I would agree with that. I don't think -- I never thought it had much to do with the war on terror, except that we were looking to see if there were biological and chemical agents there.

I thought we should have done that. I thought the U.N. inspections were well-advised. But it was clearly not going to have anything to do with al Qaeda. They had never been involved before and that was where our focus, I thought, should have been.

So I would agree with that. But independent of that, we are there now, and there now are terrorists operating there. And there is a clear majority of people in Iraq who are supporting the idea that their country should be free, independent and at peace. And they're trying to come up with a constitution and we're trying to train the security and the military forces.

So I think -- that's what I hope we can do, and do it successfully. And if we can do that, then our people can come home.

BLITZER: So I assume that the answer is, yes, the war was a mistake. Is that your answer? CLINTON: You're trying to get me to make news, and I'm trying to educate people. It doesn't matter whether it was a mistake to go in or not at the time. I thought we should have let the U.N. inspectors finish.

We are where we are. We can't undo what has happened. Fifty-eight percent of Iraqis voted in the last election. That's more than we had turn out in 2004. And we've got a lot of good people there working hard to train the security forces and the military forces.

My answer is, whether it was a mistake or not, we are where we are and we ought to try to make this strategy succeed, support that strategy. It's the only option that will get us out in an honorable way, having made these sacrifices mean something.

BLITZER: That's my job. I'm a newsman. That's what I try to do, is make news. And you try to avoid news. That's your job.

Let's talk about some domestic issues. Right now, very important issue, the next potential United States Supreme Court associate justice.

Your former White House Counsel and friend Jack Quinn said this recently. He said, it would be terrible if the public had unfettered access to the advice that a president gets. If that is the case, presidents won't get very good advice. The suggestion being some of those documents that Democrats want from his terms in the White House or at the Justice Department shouldn't necessarily be forced to be handed over.

What do you say about that?

CLINTON: I think it depends on what the documents were. If he was giving advice to the Justice Department on policy and competing policy -- for example, his idea that the Congress could actually deprive the Supreme Court of the right to hear appeals in cases involving busing or school prayer or abortion -- I think that should be available because it deals with organic constitutional matters where the government was trying to decide on what policy it should have. That, I think, should be public.

If he gave President Reagan a legal memo on something relating to a particular decision he was going to make as president, then I think that should be subject to the privilege. I do think it's interesting that a lot of these Republicans in Congress who didn't believe there was anything such thing as executive privilege when I was president now want to protect these documents. But I think that some of them should be protected. I agree with Jack Quinn on that.

But on the other hand, I think if Judge Roberts wrote memos which were generally about his view of the Constitution and law and policy, and generally about the policies the administration was going to embrace or not, then those don't fall within the definition of a confidential legal advice.

BLITZER: Let's briefly talk about your wife, junior senator from New York State. She now has another woman who's challenging her for the New York state, for her reelection, Jeanine Pirro. Listen to what she said. The Westchester County district attorney. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANINE PIRRO, (R) NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: When Hillary first came to New York and said she wanted to be a New Yorker, she asked us to put out the welcome mat, and New York did. But now she wants to use it as a doormat to the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is Jeanine Pirro right?

CLINTON: Jeanine Pirro is wrong. Hillary has not used any doormat. And, by the way, she even doesn't have a Republican opponent, yet. I don't know who the Republicans are going to nominate and I don't think you do.

But I know one thing. She has been a great senator for New York. She's served with distinction on the Armed Services Committee. She's been to the battle zones on more than one occasion. She has been a terrific senator for New York after 9/11, getting funds for the city to start again. She's gotten a large amount of money for working families to get health care for their kids. She's done amazing things on economic projects in upstate New York.

And, you know, if it hadn't been for my illness, she would have voted 99 percent of the time she's been in the Senate. I think she's still at 97-and-a-half.

So I'm really proud of the job she did as senator. And according to all the surveys, so are all New Yorkers. I think they know she's been a good senator. She's been a good senator for Republicans and independents and Democrats and for every section of the state. And I think the people will support her service in the election next year. That's what I think is going to happen.

BLITZER: Yes. You saw, perhaps, our recent CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. A lot of Democrats want her to run for the party's nomination in 2008. Forty-six percent of registered Democrats prefer her. Only 16 percent -- 41 percent, excuse me --16 percent for John Kerry, 15 percent for John Edwards, 8 percent for Joe Biden. She's the frontrunner right now, isn't she?

CLINTON: No, because she's not a candidate. And I don't know that she will be. We have a rule in our family that I always followed and now she does. Don't look past the next election or you might not get past the next election. So I am convinced in my own mind she hasn't decided on that. I believe I would know if she had. And I don't want her to even think about it. I want her to focus on getting reelected and on doing her job as a senator. There will be lots of time to think about that down the road. I just don't think she should do that.

BLITZER: Is the U.S. government doing enough right now to deal with the issue of AIDS/HIV in Africa? CLINTON: Well, we're doing more. And I am really grateful that I have been able to work with PEPFAR, the Bush administration's initiative. The president asked me what I doing when we flew together to the pope's funeral, and I explained it. And we're working -- I just got back from Africa, and we're working very closely with the Bush program.

Let me tell you what, together, the world is doing. We're trying to get up to speed on getting more people more medicine, but about 6 million people in the poor worlds, in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the former Soviet Union need the medicine to stay alive. Today less -- fewer than one million are getting it -- a big percentage of them in two countries, Brazil and Thailand, where they produce their own medicine. So, I have negotiated a price for this generic medicine of $139 a year. And we are directly, through my foundation effort, serving 110,000 people. We'll be up to 300,000 by the end of the year.

I hope the world will be at 1.5 million or 2 million by sometime early next year. And if we just keep going, we can turn this around. I think there's a reasonable chance. I feel this for the first time, I might say, in three or four years. I think there is reasonable chance that by a year-and-a-half from now, we will think we've finally got a hold of this and we're going in the other direction.

I can't tell you for sure, yet, Wolf, but I do think that America's doing more, the private foundations, people like me are doing more. The global fund on HTB and malaria has been terrific. I think if we'll all keep working together with UNICEF, with other groups, we can turn it around.

BLITZER: Mr. President, what is the most important thing you hope to accomplish by you global initiative, this meeting you're having in the middle of September in New York?

You're bringing all these world leaders, many of whom are coming for the U.N. General Assembly opening. What is the single most- important thing you hope to accomplish?

CLINTON: I hope to get every private person who comes there, whether they're a wealthy business person, a philanthropist, a leader of nongovernmental organization, to make a commitment to take some specific action in the coming year in one of these four areas -- in the reduction of poverty; improving government in emerging countries and finding an economic opportunity; and combating climate change and global warming; and promoting religious reconciliation.

I want them to take one of these areas and do one specific thing. And I want everybody who comes, to make a commitment to do it and do it.

And I think if we do that next year and every year for a decade, we can have a huge impact on the problems of the world. That's what I believe and I think that the evidence that I've seen, just since I've been out of the White House about what I and others have been able to do bears that out. BLITZER: We will be covering it, Mr. President. We're out of time, but a quick question. I want to put a picture up. You're not going to see it, but it's you in the situation room in the West Wing of the White House. The former vice president is there. You're former national adviser -- it's a good picture.

You're now in the CNN SITUATION ROOM, at least via satellite, how do you feel?

CLINTON: Well, I like being in the other situation room, but I like this one better: There's less pressure and more freedom and I know I can walk out on you. I couldn't walk out of those other situations.

BLITZER: Well, this is a lot less stressful to be sure. Physically, are you OK, Mr. President?

CLINTON: I feel great. I've been blessed. I was lucky to get over it. My family was great. My medical team was great and I'm doing what I'm told and I hope I'm fine.

BLITZER: Well, we hope you'll be a frequent visitor here for many, many years to come in THE CNN SITUATION ROOM. Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States, always a pleasure speaking with you.

CLINTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, a round table. CNN reporters and analysts standing by. We'll digest what we just heard from the former president.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You heard him here in THE SITUATION ROOM only a few moments ago: The former president, Bill Clinton. He had lots to say. We want -- we always have lots to talk about and we have three of our best talkers, Clinton-watchers, all joining us -- our chief national correspondent, John King, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley and our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield.

Candy, he makes it abundantly clear, Bill Clinton, he wants Hillary Clinton to seek the Democratic nomination in 2008.

CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I tell you, he can dance on the head of a pin, can't he? I mean, this is -- I thought -- you know, looking at this or all the reasons why he was so successful, obviously, you know, he says, well, we've got to look at that next election coming up, that election for the Senate, but she's done this, this, this and this.

It's abundantly clear and has been before this, that in fact he would like Hillary Clinton to run, but you will not get that out of him. That's going to come out of her. BLITZER: Is this going to be a tough race in New York State, her reelection in 2006, with Jeanine Pirro, assuming she gets the Republican nomination -- the Westchester D.A. -- the Westchester County D.A.?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now -- emphasis on right now, it does not look like a tough race. That's why he sort of took an underhanded swipe at Jeanine Pirro, saying we don't even know who the Republican candidate's going to be yet.

But remember, when he was governor, he gave a commitment when he last ran for reelection that he would not seek the presidency, that he would fulfill his term. She is going to get the same question and he knows it. Arkansas is a small state. He could go around to three or four town meetings and say, they have freed me from my pledge. They want me to run for president.

It's going to be much harder in a big state like New York, where they have rock-them-sock-them politics, for Hillary Clinton when she gets asked that question, will you serve out your term. How does she answer?

BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, since you live in New York State, let's bring you in. In 2000, when she ran, I asked her, will you serve all six years? She committed. She and said, yes. How does she answer that question this time?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She says, I'm only focused on the reelection and serving the people of New York. And from what I can tell, you know, looking back on political history, I can't find a case where a potential presidential candidate was hurt because the voters of the state that he, or now she, was in, thought that she might be running for president.

Or -- you know, it just doesn't happen. John Kennedy in 1958. Did anybody in Massachusetts hold it against him that he was going to run for president in 1960? That issue was settled here in New York in 2000 and Mrs. Pirro -- Yes?

BLITZER: Go ahead, Jeff.

GREENFIELD: No. I'm sorry. So, I think that, that will be a non- issue next year.

BLITZER: What will be the issue, if any, in New York State?

GREENFIELD: Well, you know, it is a year-and-a-quarter away and I realize that it is the Tourette Syndrome of people like us, to think we know what's going to happen a year, three years, eight years into the future.

You know, it is, I suppose, conceivable that some vote Hillary Clinton might cast, some misstep might throw her into trouble. She has an enormous approval rating here. The carpetbagger issue was alive and well in 2000. It's on of the reasons she ran a million votes behind Al Gore. That issue's dead and buried. She has worked very hard in places like small towns, rural towns in upstate New York and she is in very good shape right now.

BLITZER: All right.

GREENFIELD: And that's why I think Mrs. Pirro made the sole issue, she only wants your vote next year so she can run for president. And as I've said, you find me past election anywhere in the country where voters are insulted at the idea that their person that they might vote for, might go on and run for president. I don't know of one.

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