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Further Analysis of Clinton Interview; Bush on Iraq; Palmeiro Speaks to the Press; Abramoff's Troubles; Pirro's Announcement

Aired August 11, 2005 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's move on and talk a little bit about Iraq. The president -- the former president, Candy, he was reluctant to say it was a mistake although he signaled it was a mistake, although he signaled it was a mistake broadly enough.
Let's listen to a little excerpt from the interview.


BLITZER: The answer is yes, the war was a mistake. Is that your answer?

WILLIAM CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 the Iraqis voted in the last election, that's more than we had turn out in 2004. And we've got a lot of people working hard to train the security forces.

My answer is whether it was a mistake or not, we are where we are, and we ought to try to make the strategy succeed.


BLITZER: Candy, why can't he just say what he probably believes, yes, it was a mistake.

CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not his first rodeo, you know, because he's a former president. There is still that kind of club that's there.

But there was something for everybody in this. He said look, I don't think we went in because it was going to make us safer. I didn't think this about al Qaeda. But now we are where we are. And by the way 58 percent of the people in Iraq want to have elections. So you know, everybody can come away from this happy.

He's a former president. He's not the president. He has, as many of them do, a real feel for what it's like in there when you make decisions and you have all that incoming missiles. So, he gave everybody just enough.

BLITZER: John, you and I covered the Clinton White House. We remember those Clinton years very, very well. Was there any doubt in anyone's mind, the President Clinton, Al Gore, his national security advisers, at that time, at the end of his eight years in the White House, that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. They had no doubt. They believed he had those, which is one of the reasons this president gives the current president a little bit of slack, because he knows what it's like to be disappointed, or to find out the intelligence you're looking at is not exactly right -- or in some cases, is dreadfully wrong.

But I think his answers in that interview were much more to what Candy was saying. He is in the club right now, the very exclusive club, of former presidents. It will be interesting if Hillary Clinton does run for president, is he more partisan then? What role does he take in that campaign? Because it is in his blood, you know it. It is hard for him not to be political, but he thinks he must be.

BLITZER: And then there's no doubt, Jeff Greenfield, that when we say he's in that club, he's very close to the first President Bush, as we all know, those trips to tsunami relief areas. This is -- some would suggest the ultimate odd couple.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's actually the second odd couple of presidents who's ran against each other. Jerry Ford and Jimmy Carter formed a kind of an alliance after they both left the White House for various good government activities. And now you've got GHW Bush and Bill Clinton doing things.

Now look, there's nothing controversial in what they're up to. It's not as though they're campaigning for some contentious issue like, you know, tax policy or campaign finance reform. They're doing the Lord's work, if you will, in trying to raise a lot of money for a cause that nobody can be against.

And I do think it's what happens after the sturm und drang is over. These guys have gone through what, you know, virtually nobody else has gone through. And I do think they have an understanding about what each of them has faced that the rest of us can only kind of scratch our heads and look from the outside in on.

BLITZER: In that interview, Candy, Bill Clinton reminded us what a great politician he was and remains.

CROWLEY: And what -- and how good he is with the English language, how he can -- he really does leave something on the table for everybody. And we saw that in each of his answers.

I also think that when you are out of the Oval Office, you do have a much broader, if not mellower -- you know, a larger look at things. And he's doing -- I totally agree with Jeff that when they come off, the president -- we saw this in Jimmy Carter at least until recently, they want to take on something that's really going to help.

When you're in the Oval Office, what are you worried about? Is there going to be a war? Where do I send this missile? And what are we going to do about tax cuts?

Here, they can do things where he can go to Africa and see the person-to-person and he is nothing but a person-to-person kind of president.

KING: And make no mistake, he is still thinking about his legacy. He left office a very polarizing figure who had gone through the impeachment battle and every thing else. He made that joke about why didn't Republicans have that view when they wanted documents from my administration?

So, he is trying to broaden his base, if you will. He's not on a ballot, but he's trying to broaden his base as he builds a legacy.

So, partisan Democrats will be disappointed. They are trying to turn the current Republican president into a lame duck. They think the polls are on their side. This president said let's not go back and revisit why we went to war in Iraq, let's finish the job. That is the Bush policy.

He split the difference on the documents issue, where he could have been more partisan on that fight. He is being nonpartisan, which is not the Bill Clinton we know very well. But he's not only a former president, he still knows history. They're still writing the books on him.

BLITZER: And if his voice sounded raspy, he reminded me before the interview, off camera when we were just talking during that commercial break, he does suffer, as we remember, from allergies. And he blamed allergies as opposed to any health problem. He looked pretty good, John, didn't you think?

KING: I've heard that raspy voice quite a bit. He's quite all right.

BLITZER: I think all of us have.

All right. John King, thanks. Candy Crowley.

Jeff Greenfield, did you want to button it up? Is there something else you wanted to say?

GREENFIELD: Yeah. You know how much I despise 25 polls a day. But there is one poll I'd be very curious about. If you could run an election right now, would people vote for Bill Clinton or George W. Bush? I'd be really intrigued to find out. I haven't a clue what the answer of that would be.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to ask Keating Holland, our pollster, to maybe order one of those polls. And we'll get back to you.

Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much. John King, also, Candy Crowley.

Rafael Palmeiro, the Baltimore Orioles slugger, is speaking right now. Let's listen in and hear what he's saying on this day after his ten-day suspension for allegedly using steroids.


RAFAEL PALMEIRO, BALTIMORE ORIOLES: I'm just going to wait on that situation to be over with.

QUESTION: Are you anxious to do it? Are you anxious to tell your side of the story?

PALMEIRO: I'm just taking it one day at a time. I'm anxious to get back to playing baseball and helping my team, you know. I know they're playing well now. And you know, we need to get back into this race.

QUESTION: When do you expect to play and how do you (INAUDIBLE).

PALMEIRO: I'm not sure when I'm going to play. I'm sure in the next couple of days, I'll get back out there on the field. I haven't really done much, baseball-wise.

As far as the fans, you know, these are great fans. I've always enjoyed playing here. These are the best fans in the game. And, you know, I hope that they can understand my situation right now. And you know, I'll accept however they react.

QUESTION: Raffy, without getting into any specifics, how concerned are you about where this whole experience leaves your credibility?

PALMEIRO: You know what? I can't answer that right now. I'll answer that when the time is right.

QUESTION: What was it like seeing your team again? And what did you say to your teammates individually when you went in the locker room today?

PALMEIRO: I said it was just good to see them. I've been gone for a while. And when you're in a team situation, and you get to be with a bunch of guys for eight months, you know, it's tough.

I've been playing baseball now for 20 years. And this is all that I've done. This is all that I know. And you know, it was tough being away. But it was good to see them. You know, they're happy that I'm back. And they're anxious for me to get back there on the field.

QUESTION: What did you do in the last 10 days? And did you watch much of the media coverage around the country on this story?

PALMEIRO: No. I just got away and tried to spend time with my family and some friends, and just took it one day at a time.

QUESTION: What do you expect -- when do you expect to hear from fans? Do you expect to get booed?

PALMEIRO: I'm not sure. I can't really worry about that right now. I hope that they cheer. I mean, I think every player likes to be cheered and no one likes to be booed. But I'll accept whatever happens.

QUESTION: Do you think the suspension was fair?

QUESTION: Rafael, do you plan on playing tonight?

PALMEIRO: Not tonight. I'm going to probably just take it one day at a time and try to get back into it a little bit.

QUESTION: Are you available to pinch hit if you had to?

PALMEIRO: I'm fine. I just don't want to rush back into it.




BLITZER: Rafael Palmeiro, the Baltimore Orioles' slugger. His first comments, at least in public, since his suspension for 10 days as a result of steroid use, at least alleged by Major League Baseball.

Rafael Palmeiro refusing to answer specific questions about suggestions that he perjured himself when he recently testified before Congress, insisting he never, ever used steroids.

We'll have much more from Baltimore. Brian Todd is on the scene. We'll get over there shortly.

In the meanwhile, the markets have now closed. Let's bring in CNN's Ali Velshi in New York. How did the markets do, given this record oil price jump today, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You'd think that would have a negative impact on the markets, wouldn't you?

Well, all the major indices, the Dow Jones, the S&P 500, the NASDAQ, they're all closing at the high for the day. The Dow gaining almost 100 points -- 91-and-a-half points -- closing at 10,685. The NASDAQ gaining almost 17 points, 2,174. And the one set of earnings that people who don't even find earnings interesting, that coming out after bell, Dell reporting that they sold 9.1 million computers in the last three months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ali Velshi will be having -- we'll be joining you shortly for some more. Thank you very much.

If you try to figure out how the markets react to anything, you're bound to be wrong, because we don't understand that at all.

Let's turn now to the current president of the United States. That would be George W. Bush. He's back at the ranch today. He's been meeting with his top national security advisers. High on the agenda, topic number one, Iraq at a time when anti-war sentiment is on display in the president's back yard.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is joining us now live from Crawford, Texas, with more -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, President Bush says that he has heard the voices of those who say they want U.S. troops out of Iraq now. But, he says, he strongly disagrees with them.


QUIJANO (voice over): At the annual Crawford gathering of his defense and foreign policy teams, President Bush continued to defend his Iraq strategy and made clear he thinks the Iraqis can meet a deadline next week to put together a draft constitution.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm operating on the assumption that it will be agreed upon by August the 15th.

QUIJANO: The president says the constitution is a critical step, a benchmark showing Iraqis are moving ahead. And he insists U.S. forces are succeeding in training Iraqis to handle their own security.

BUSH: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.

QUIJANO: But a CNN/"USE Today"/Gallup poll shows 56 percent of people said they believe things are going badly for the U.S. in Iraq.

Cindy Sheehan is one of them. Her son Casey was killed in Baghdad last year, and she wants U.S troops out immediately. She's camping out a few miles from the president's ranch until she can tell him in person.

CINDY SHEEHAN, MOTHER OF SOLDIER KILLED IN IRAQ: He is on vacation here for five weeks. I don't understand why he can't take an hour to speak with somebody whose life he has devastated.

BUSH: Listen, I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. And I've thought long and hard about her position. I've heard her position from others, which is get out of Iraq now. And it would be -- it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do so.


QUIJANO: Now, despite reports about plans for decreasing troop levels in Iraq, President Bush says there have been no decisions made just yet. As he's said before, the president said that he looks to his commanders on the ground for their recommendations on that.

BLITZER: All right, good report. Solid reporting from Elaine Quijano in Crawford, Texas. Thank you very much.

Each hour, you have a chance to weigh in on the big stories we're following here in THE SITUATION. Our Jack Cafferty joining us from New York now with the "Cafferty File," appropriately named. Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, Wolf. The former president, I was watching that interview, former President Clinton, he hasn't lost his fastball. He's still pretty smooth.

I got to thinking though what it might be like to have a Clinton back in the White House. We all remember the relatively peaceful pre- 9/11 days when President Clinton was in office. There was no war on terror; no U.S. troops getting killed in Iraq; budget surpluses; a booming economy; impeachment. His last year in office, oil cost about $30 a barrel. Gasoline was a buck and a half a gallon. Sex scandals. Whitewater. If Hillary is ever elected, Mr. Clinton would become the first, first husband in our nation's history. Consider those possibilities. All that time and no responsibility for running the country.

Here's the question, would you like to see President Bill Clinton back in the White House? You can e-mail us at CaffertyFile -- which is one word -- We'll read some of the responses a little later in the program.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. But that has a double meaning. Would you like to see President Clinton back in the White House as first spouse or as president?

CAFFERTY: Well, yeah, I mean -- no, well, he can't be president. That's -- you know, it's constitutionally prohibited. No, the only way he'd be back in the White House is presumably that he remains married to Hillary and Hillary becomes the nation's president.

BLITZER: So what you're saying is -- in effect, you're saying, would you like to see Hillary be the president of the United States? Is that the question?

CAFFERTY: No, that's not the question. Where is it? Wait a minute. Let me read the question. Would you like to see President Bill Clinton back in the White House? Maybe it's a little misleading. In the capacity of first husband.

BLITZER: I get it now. Okay, I get it. As opposed to hypothetically if they changed the Constitution, and he could be president. He's only what, 59 years old.

CAFFERTY: Well, that's true. Here's the problem. If we didn't have that damn music behind me, I'd be able to concentrate a lot better, and I wouldn't be at all vague or misleading.

BLITZER: Bill, the music -- stop with the music already. The music is part of our lives forever and ever. Love music.

CAFFERTY: Speak for yourself.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, we'll see you later this hour.

Still ahead, an indictment reportedly in the works against a lobbyist who's had some very close ties to Washington's top power brokers. We'll have more on who this man is and who else may suffer along with him.

Also ahead, remember "Passion of the Christ"? You certainly do. It was a huge screen blockbuster. But has Hollywood forgotten all about it?

And later, a former president returns to sea. That would be Jimmy Carter. We'll tell you what he's doing. Stay with us.


BLITZER: This hour here in Washington, a developing story we're following about a big-time Washington lobbyist who's been under scrutiny and who soon may be under indictment. If you've never heard the name Jack Abramoff, you probably have heard of some of the high- powered people he's been tied to, including the House majority leader, Tom DeLay.

Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry.

There's been a development involving Jack Abramoff. What's going on?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Two government sources that are now telling CNN that there is in fact an arrest warrant for Jack Abramoff in connection with a case down in Miami. A grand jury will soon announce down there that there are going to be federal bank fraud charges against Abramoff.

This is dealing with the fact that Abramoff and a couple of his partners bought SunCruz Casinos, a fleet of gambling boats down there in Florida. They allegedly bought it with a fraudulent wire transfer of some $23 million.

It's important to note that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was one of Jack Abramoff's biggest buddies. DeLay has not been implicated at all in this Miami case, but there are allegations that Abramoff used some of the casino money to help fund some big-time fundraising here in Washington for DeLay and a lot of other high-profile politicians in both parties. So while this indictment is down in Miami, I can tell you, a lot of power players here in Washington are watching it very, very closely, Wolf.

BLITZER: But there's absolutely no connection to Tom DeLay involving the Miami issue, but there could be some political fallout. Is that what you're saying, Ed?

HENRY: Absolutely. But also, Wolf, it's important to note that a separate second grand jury -- federal grand jury here based in Washington is also investigating this lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And CNN has learned from some people familiar with that investigation that in fact investigators have been taking a close look at Abramoff's relationship with various lawmakers, including DeLay, and whether or not Abramoff showered all kinds of improper gifts on these lawmakers, ranging from expensive meals, foreign trips, also some sports tickets to various events in Washington.

The bottom line is that Tom DeLay's attorney has already told us previously that he has not been contacted by federal investigators, and DeLay has denied any wrongdoing in connection with Abramoff. BLITZER: And I just want to be precise. There's one grand jury in Miami, one here in Washington, D.C. But there's also a prosecutor back in Texas who's looking at Tom DeLay, is that right?

HENRY: That's right. Well, technically though, he is looking at Tom DeLay's associates. Three of DeLay's associates down in Texas have been indicted in a completely separate fundraising situation involving DeLay's PAC. But, you're right. There are investigations all over the country. That's why Democrats have been pouncing on this. But as DeLay's people point out, he himself has not been implicated in any wrongdoing. He consistently has denied any wrongdoing, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Ed Henry on Capitol Hill, thank you very much. Good report.

Sources tell CNN Major League Baseball will hand over documents to the House Government Reform Committee tomorrow on the baseball steroid scandal. The papers pertain to Baltimore Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro who returns tonight after a 10-day suspension for a positive steroid test. He was among the players who testified before the committee in March. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Solemnly swear the testimony you're about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? PALMEIRO: I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.


BLITZER: Under oath, Palmeiro adamantly denied ever using steroids, only to test positive weeks later.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now live from Baltimore.

We just had some remarks. He spoke with reporters, Rafael Palmeiro. Update our viewers what's going on, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the big news as you mentioned just a moment ago, the first time since his suspension was announced on August 1, we heard from the mouth of Rafael Palmeiro himself. He addressed the media in person just moments ago from the dugout here at Oriole Park in Camden Yards, noncommittal about the steroid scandal.

Here's a look at what he said.


PALMEIRO: I'm anxious to get back on the field and, you know, playing the game that I love very much. It's been a tough time for me and my family over the last couple weeks. And you know, at this time, really, I'm -- I've been instructed by my attorneys not to comment on the situation. But the time will come -- and soon hopefully -- where I can explain my situation.


TODD: Now, another question that he was asked is how will you accept the fans' reaction?

Because that's a big question. Will he be booed? Will people show up? Will people turn their backs on him? He said that he will accept whatever fan reaction comes. And he will take it as it comes. Now I've got to tell you, Wolf, Rafael Palmeiro has been skewered in the local media. "Baltimore Sun," two columnists said he's lawyering up, he's clamming up. He's got to come forward. One columnist, David Steel, has even called for fans to boycott this game tonight. This is his first game back.

I'll tell who's not boycotting the game, is the media. I'm going to ask my cameraman, Bob Sasek (ph), to pan over here. You can see a little bit of the media. The remnants of what was here just a moment ago when Palmeiro came to the dugout.

Now, a Baltimore Orioles official tells me, five times the normal number of normal media members are here today, as they normally have at a game.

So, we will see what the fans' reaction is. We will see what everyone else's reaction is. I can tell you, also, that I just was in the clubhouse with Palmeiro. It was kind of a bizarre scene. We were not allowed to talk to him in the clubhouse. I did see the line-up tonight. He is not in the starting line-up, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see if he plays, though. Thanks very much. Brian Todd in Baltimore for us. A huge story there. The issue, perjury potentially, perjury charges against Rafael Palmeiro.

"The Passion of the Christ" was a major moneymaker at the box office. So will that film's amazing success drive Hollywood to green- light more religious movies? The story, that's next in our culture wars.

Is Hillary Clinton's new opponent ready for prime-time? We'll tell you how a missing page tripped up the Senate hopeful.

Plus, grounded in Great Britain. We'll tell you why tens of thousands of passengers are striking out at London's largest airport -- Heathrow.

All that and more. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Now to a frontline in the culture wars, Hollywood. The movie industry has been accused more than once of being too liberal and not paying enough attention to people of faith. Actor-director Mel Gibson tried to single-handedly change that, but did he?

Let's go to CNN entertainment correspondent Sibila Vargas in Los Angeles. She's got more -- Sibila.

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, religious conservatives definitely sent a message to Hollywood by turning Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" into one of the biggest hits of recent years. The question is, was the message received?


VARGAS (voice-over): After the success of "The Passion of the Christ" -- it made over $370 million in North America alone -- some thought Hollywood would get religion, and quick.

GOVINIDINI MURTY, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER: Everybody would have expected that in the wake of "The Passion," people would have attempted to make more traditionally religious movies, like traditional Christian movies. But there's been nothing of the sort.

VARGAS: Instead of green lighting a new generation of Biblical epics, like the "Ten Commandments," Hollywood has mostly stayed the course. Of the films released since "The Passion," the greatest number of films related have been rated R for violent or sexual content: 47 percent overall. Only 2 percent were rated G.

Box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian says Hollywood regards "The Passion" as a blip.

PAUL DERGARABEDIAN, EXHIBITOR RELATIONS: I think the studio executives in Hollywood realized that very early on that this movie was a total anomaly. As a genre, religious-based films are not a huge money maker.

VARGAS: That doesn't mean Hollywood is ignoring people of faith. Since "The Passion," studios have been hiring specialists in Christian marketing to court religious audiences. Warner Brothers brought in Paul Lauer, the man behind "The Passion's" marketing to work on "Polar Express."

PAUL LAUER, MOTIVE MARKETING: I'd love to believe that our campaign really helped boost "Polar Express," gave it that extra chug. Nobody knows for sure.

VARGAS: Disney is marketing the upcoming "Chronicles of Narnia" to religious groups. Sony is doing likewise with "The Da Vinci Code," despite what some consider the book's anti-Catholic message.

But other films marketed to Christian audiences have fizzled, like "Cinderella Man" and "Christmas With the Cranks." That begs the question, are religious conservatives really looking for moral content in movies?

DERGARABEDIAN: People ultimately just want to be entertained. They're paying their money -- their hard earned money. They want to be entertained.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VARGAS: And that certainly seems to be the bottom line. And according to a recent survey by the firm Market Cast, religious conservatives are actually more likely to see a violent R rated film than liberals. And when you look at television, the salacious "Desperate Housewives" is a hit from red states to blue, but "Joan of Arcadia," despite its religious theme, was canceled because of low ratings. So Wolf, it's really hard to predict what audiences of any kind will respond to. And that includes the faith-based audience. Back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Sibila Vargas in LA for us. Appreciate it.

Let's get a quick check of some other stories we're following. CNN's Zain Verjee joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. They were first on the run, then caught. Now they'll likely face first-degree murder charges. Officials say George and Jennifer Hyatte will be extradited to Tennessee for a likely hearing tomorrow morning. The once fugitives were arrested at a motel in Columbus, Ohio. Police say Jennifer Hyatte shot and killed a guard while freeing her inmate husband outside a Kingston, Tennessee courthouse on Tuesday.

Anger in Arkansas today as one of the gunmen in the deadly Jonesboro School shootings goes free. Mitchell Johnson was 13 years old when he and another student killed four classmates and a teacher at their middle school seven years ago. He was convicted as a minor. And under law, could only be held until his twenty-first birthday, and that's today. Johnson is being released with a clean record.

In London, British Airways cancels its European flights out of Heathrow Airport and diverts others after a food workers' strike. Now, other ground staff, supporting the food workers, have walked off the job, as well. The union says it went on strike because a caterer for British Airways fired workers. A spokesman for the caterer calls the situation regrettable.

And NASA's postponing its latest journey to Mars. A software glitch is being blamed for delaying the launch of Mars reconnaissance orbiter. NASA hopes that the orbiter will eventually help determine if the Red Planet can support human outposts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain, we'll get back to you. Zain Verjee at the CNN Center. Thank you.

An old sailor, heading back to sea. We'll tell you why the former president, Jimmy Carter, is on the high seas this hour. That story -- that's coming up next in our political radar.

Plus, my exclusive interview with another former president, Bill Clinton. We'll discuss it next, here in the "Strategy Session." And you can hear the entire interview. That's coming up in the next hour.

The woman who wants to oust Hillary Rodham Clinton from the United States Senate, stumbles at the start of her campaign. Will yesterday's gaffe actually make a difference? I'll ask our experts when we come back.


BLITZER: Right now, the ups and downs of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and her new competition, Republican Senate candidate Jeanine Pirro. Back in April, the Marist poll showed Clinton leading Pirro in a hypothetical matchup by a whopping 36 points.

But now, the week of Pirro's official campaign announcement, Senator Clinton leads by 22 points. It's still a lot, but a slide nonetheless. Meantime, Pirro's campaign kickoff hasn't been going quite as planned.

Here's our national correspondent, Bruce Morton -- Bruce?

BRUCE MORTON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Jeanine Pirro, district attorney of New York's suburban Westchester County, announced in New York that's she's running for the Senate against Hillary Clinton. What a first day she had.


JEANINE PIRRO (R), NEW YORK STATE SENATE CANDIDATE: By holding schools accountable for the jobs...

MORTON (voice-over): There she was announcing away. And suddenly she stopped.

PIRRO: Hillary Clinton --

MORTON: The pause lasted 32 seconds. A long time on live TV and she was live. Then she said --

PIRRO: Do I have page 10?

MORTON: Then there was the question about the federal deficit, which she seemed to think was going down.

PIRRO: It's my first day on this campaign, but I will certainly be able to give you the exact numbers of the federal deficit.

MORTON: Then on to Albany to announce again. Bound to be better, right?

PIRRO: You have no sound?

MORTON: And there are bound to be questions about her husband, not present, who fathered a child with another woman in the 1990s and served 11 months in federal prison for tax fraud.

PIRRO: Do you have page 10?


MORTON: It's like when George Herbert Walker Bush was running for president against Ronald Reagan in 1980 and losing primaries. He stared at a group of reporters after one bad Tuesday and said, "Nobody said it was going to be easy."

Nobody was right. Mrs. Pirro knows exactly what he meant -- Wolf?

BLITZER: I suspect she'll learn a lot more in the coming weeks and months. Thanks very much, Bruce Morton, for that.

Some other stories on our political radar. Something for possible presidential contender John McCain to crow about. The GOP senator has a solid lead in a new pole of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, where he defeated George W. Bush in the 2000 GOP primary.

It's back to the future for former President Jimmy Carter. He and his wife Rosalynn went on an overnight dive with the crew of the newly commissioned nuclear sub -- you're right -- the USS Jimmy Carter. This was the first time Carter had been submerged in a sub since his naval career ended way back in 1953.

And California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has found just the ticket to raise money to push his agenda in a November 8, special election. For big bucks, you can rock the night away with the governor at the kickoff of the Rolling Stones tour in Boston this month. For $10,000, you can attend a private pre-concert reception and get front- row seats to the show. For $100,000, you can watch the contest -- the concert with Mick and the governor in his luxury box.

Sounds like a great gig unless the Republican governor gets an earful about that new Stone's song, seen by many as a not-so-veiled attack on President Bush.

Still ahead, our "Strategy Session." There's plenty to chew on from our exclusive interview with the former president, Bill Clinton. And you can hear that interview by the when -- once again, by the way, that's coming up in our next hour.

And also coming up, trimming the fat. Can New York officials encourage restaurants to make their meals better for your health?


BLITZER: A stumble out of the gate for Hillary Clinton's new challenger and reaction to my interview last hour with former President Bill Clinton.

Here in our "Strategy Session," are our guests -- former Clinton adviser and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

Gentlemen, let's talk about the Clinton interview for a moment. When I pressed him on what Senator Clinton should do, I want you to listen to what he said. Listen to this...


CLINTON: 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'm 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.


BLITZER: And he goes on to say there'll be lots of time down the road to worry about a presidential race. But he really wants her, down the road, assuming she gets reelected, to run.

BEGALA: Well, I certainly do. I don't know if he does. I thought, you know, boy's got a future in this business, doesn't he, Wolf, watching you interview. He's smoother than a baby's bottom.

But when he said we have a rule in our family, I suspect he learned that rule from the Bush family, who he's been spending a whole lot of time with lately. I think Barbara Bush is calling him her additional son. And they've used that rule to great effect and with great wisdom. Governor Bush in Texas, everybody wanted him to run for president in 1998, but he was up for reelection. And he said what I suspect Hillary says, which is, I'm going to let the future take care of itself. But I've got a good job now, and I just want to serve the people of my state.

BLITZER: Is that going to be a big problem for her if she refuses to make a flat six-year commitment to the people of New York state, that she will serve for another six years?

CASTELLANOS: No, I don't think so. I think a lot of people in New York frankly would love to see their senator promoted from a Senate seat to a presidential seat. I'm not sure of Pirro's strategy of saying that, hey, could Hillary Clinton do more for New York if she were president? I'm not sure that's the right way to start a campaign.

BLITZER: It's not necessarily smart politics.


BLITZER: Was it, in your sense, Paul -- and you're a good Democratic Party strategist -- was it your sense that if she does get the reelection, that she's going to follow in the footsteps of her husband, because remember, in Arkansas, way back in '90, when he was seeking reelection as governor, he made a flat commitment to the people of Arkansas he would not -- he would serve out his term, and he would not seek the presidency. Then he went on a listening tour, as you remember, and the people said, go ahead and run.

BEGALA: Yeah. I suspect she won't make any such pledge. I hope she won't, because a lot of Democrats want her to run. My goodness, I saw the poll you ran earlier -- 41 percent of all Democrats --

BLITZER: Registered Democrats.

BEGALA: -- registered Democrats -- want her to run for president. So I think she'll make no such pledge. And again, the model here is the Bush family for the Clinton family, oddly enough. They got it right back home in Texas, and I think she'll get it right in New York.

CASTELLANOS: But they're doing -- they're shunning the politics, but they're getting the policy right. When Bill Clinton got on there, I thought he made some news today. He said the president's strategy in Iraq is the only strategy that could work. Interesting.

You're seeing that she does not want to -- he does not want Hillary Clinton, if she runs, to be the George McGovern anti-war candidate. She's been to Iraq. The smartest Democrat, as it was for years, it is again, the Clintons.

BLITZER: He certainly does support the current strategy, because he says the alternative would be awful. It's clear that he has reservations about the reasons for going to war. He made that clear. But it's also clear, he doesn't want to cut and run right now.

BEGALA: Absolutely. And I've traveled with him for years, and I worked for him for years, and I hope I'm not overstepping my role here, but I could see the wheels spinning. And I'm telling you, there were two audiences he was thinking about when he was talking to you. The first is his wife -- a senator who's got to vote on these issues and who supported that war.

But I think almost equal to that is the current occupant of the White House. He is a former president. He has enormous respect for the office. And he's been remarkably supportive of George W. Bush, even though he's from the other party, some because of his loyalty to the office; also I think his remarkable friendship he has struck up with President Bush's father.

CASTELLANOS: But there's another audience, too, and that's the general election voter for president next time around. Hillary looks like she is putting aside the primary voters. She's counting on that in her pocket. And she's already campaigning in the general election. I think a lot of electorate remembers Hillary-care, remembers a lot of tax increases, big government spending, those kind of things. So she's moving right on foreign policy.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting she might be able to get the Democratic presidential nomination, but it's unlikely she could win a national election?

CASTELLANOS: Well, it'll be a lot -- she's right now -- I think her numbers in a Democratic primary are incredibly strong. It's a much more polarized general election. And that's what she's concentrating on.

BLITZER: Paul, in the latest Marist poll -- and we just reported this a little while ago -- a little slippage in this hypothetical contest between Mrs. Clinton and Jeanine Pirro. It was 64/28 just in April. It's now 50/28. A lot can change though over the course of the next year.

BEGALA: Well, I looked at that. Generally I don't try to argue with...

BLITZER: Typical?

BEGALA: Yes. Undecided here was about 5 percent four months ago, and now it's 22 percent. There's no race with Hillary on the ballot's going to have 22 percent undecided. I just -- they're a good survey operation at Marist, but I think this one is wrong, because I just don't see 22 percent undecided with Hillary on the ballot.

BLITZER: Alex, I was going to ask you, she did screw up a little bit yesterday in slipping with her comments. Is that a -- that stumble...

CASTELLANOS: You mean Jeanine Pirro, not Hillary.

BLITZER: Jeanine Pirro, of course, yes. Jeanine Pirro. Can she overcome that initial first impression for a lot of voters?

BLITZER: I think it's a very clever strategy to say nothing. And it's going to be -- and then implement that as a senator in the Senate. Less government obviously. But no, I think always a few stumbles coming out of the gate like that. It's a long way. She's got a tremendous opportunity to make a good impression between now and then.

But you know, it's not just Hillary's numbers that have tumbled. It's Republicans in Congress. It's Democrats in Congress. It's even the administration. Right now, everybody's confidence in government is down a little bit, and I think that may be what we're seeing here.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BEGALA: Maybe. I still am suspicious of any poll that has undecided...

BLITZER: No, no, no. But how does she overcome, Jeanine Pirro, that little initial stumble?

BEGALA: You know, mama said you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and New York is the most unforgiving media in America. She really looked like she had been pushed into this race, perhaps by the White House. I know Karl Rove -- I'm told Karl Rove has been lobbying her to go and make this race. And I think that she made a big mistake. It's going to be hard to recover.

CASTELLANOS: But she's got a lot of pluses. She's originally from upstate New York. She's won elections before. Tough-on-crime prosecutor. She's got a good story to tell. And she's a very personable candidate.

BLITZER: And I love politics in New York State. Thanks very much guys, very much for joining us, Alex and Paul.

It's August 11. Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the high cost of oil. Guess what? It's getting higher. How much and why? We'll tell you.

And a mourning mother on a peaceful protest against the war is waiting to talk to President Bush. It's a hot topic on the Internet.


BLITZER: Let's get a quick check on some other stories we're following. CNN's Zain Verjee joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta. What's going on, Zain?

VERJEE: Wolf, oil prices are once again on the rise. Crude oil is trading at record levels, hitting $66 a barrel at one point today before decreasing slightly. There are lingering worries about supplies because of a report that upped global demand estimates for this year and next.

In New York, a top Roman Catholic leader resigned from his church post today. Monsignor Eugene Clark had been the rector of St. Patrick's Cathedral. He resigned after being named as the other man in a divorce case. Clark denies he's been carrying on an affair with his private secretary. A statement says Clark resigned -- quote -- "for the good of the archdiocese."

Pakistan has successfully test fired its first cruise missile. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf is hailing the test today, on his birthday. Mr. Pervez Musharraf calls it a step toward military balance in the region. The test missile has a range of 310 miles and can carry nuclear and conventional warheads.

Sudan's new first vice president is urging unity and healing. Salva Kiir was sworn in today, less than two weeks after his predecessor, John Garang, died in a helicopter crash. Garang's death sparked violence and rioting. And today, Kiir said -- quote -- "The only way to do justice to Garang's memory and to be worthy of him, is to follow his path --" Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Zain Verjee reporting. Let's get to Jack Cafferty, right away. He's standing by in New York with the "Cafferty File."

Remind our viewers, Jack, what the question was and what our viewers are telling us.

CAFFERTY: Well, we had former President Bill Clinton on THE SITUATION ROOM earlier and so we thought we'd ask in light of the fact that everybody thinks Hillary, his wife, may run for president in 2008. That would, by being married to her, put him back in the White House.

We asked this question, would you like to see President Bill Clinton back in the White House?

Love him or hate him, Wolf, we got over 1,000 e-mails in the last hour on this, which is a huge response.

Reed in Norwood, New York, writes this: "I'd be happy to see President Clinton back in the White House. As a matter of fact, I'd be happy if Alfred E. Newman was in the White House. Anyone could do the job that is being done today." Tyler in Kentucky: "It took a Clinton to clean up the last Bush mess and it will take a Clinton to clean up this Bush mess.

Ron says "no."

As Able Danger is showing us, "Enough damage was done to this country by the Beverly Hillbillies during their eight years of lies, deceit and shame."

David writes: "I long to see Bill Clinton back in the White House as first spouse or in any other capacity that's possible. Every passing day makes his presidency look better and more competent. As a bumper sticker I saw said, when Clinton lied, nobody died."

And of course, you've got of figure were going to get this one. Jim writes, "Sure, he can be in charge of the White House intern program."

That's awful.

BLITZER: You know you're going to get a lot of those e-mails. When you say 1,000 e-mails came within only a few minutes, that...

CAFFERTY: Yes. Less than an hour.

BLITZER: ... shows that viewers are interested in this subject.

CAFFERTY: He's, you know -- he's a polarizing figure. He's a compelling figure and based on what I saw and I watched the whole interview, he's still got a lot of charisma. So, people respond to that.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, we'll check back with you in the next hour. Jack, as usual, thanks very much.

And stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Coming up, she's the talk of the Internet, at least much of the Internet right now. Cindy Sheehan. She's mourning her son's death in Iraq and wants to talk directly to President Bush, once again, about ending the war. We'll tell you what bloggers are saying.

And trimming the fat in the Big Apple. A new plan in New York City to offer diners delicious yet -- some delicious food, yet options better for everyone's health. We'll tell you what's on the menu.

And only minutes ago, here in THE SITUATION ROOM exclusive, I spoke with former President Bill Clinton. Coming up in the next hour, we'll bring you more from that conversation. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're plugged into virtually everything that's happening on-line. Only CNN has teams dedicated solely to cyberspace.

Today the Associated Press is reporting that Republican -- the Republican National Committee has spent more than $700,000 on the legal defense of a former Bush campaign official.

James Tobin has been accused of being part of a conspiracy to jam Democratic phone banks in New Hampshire back in 2002. Our Internet reporters Jacki Schechner and Abbi Tatton are joining us to take us inside the blogs. What's going on today, Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, this was an A.P. wire story that the liberal bloggers are making sure does not fall through the cracks. There's plenty of them linking to it today, ones like the Democratic Daily and they have a link to the article and then a summary of what it's talking about.

But really who's all over this right now, is Josh Marshall (ph) at the liberal This is a big liberal blog. So, you can be sure that if he's blogging about it, there are plenty of people reading about it. He has been on this story, basically since it started. We said it -- or it did happen in 2002. He's been blogging since February of 2003. So, literally years now, he says. His two conclusions today, here's what this means, he says, "The fact that the RNC is paying means either that he was acting under their authorization at the time or that they are trying to keep him quiet." Those are his assumptions.

Also odd, NowThat' (ph). This is a guy who was an Ohio delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. He's picking up on an interesting other part of that A.P. article: The fact that the Republican National Committee reaffirmed their zero- tolerance policy just a few days ago for voter fraud and he says, "Well, zero tolerance means zero. Otherwise, it would be littler tolerance with a few exceptions."

Another story they're talking today, we should show you, is Cindy Sheehan. We talked about this a few days ago. It is still picking up steam in the blogs.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Yes. This is absolutely a story we couldn't ignore out there today. It really is all over the place. We've talked about it a couple of times this week. Cindy Sheehan, the mother whose son was killed in Iraq, who's currently camped-out in Crawford, Texas, hoping to get a meeting with President Bush.

It's still out there on the blogs, but it's been getting a little bit of help to stay out there. This is You'll remember the Joe Trippi, the former campaign manager for Howard Dean, presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, back in 2000 -- sorry, running for the -- for the nomination in 2004, I should say.

Joe Trippi, his campaign manager then. He's no stranger to on- line organizing and he's organized a conference call. He did that yesterday with liberal bloggers; lots of them joining in. And you go all over the liberal blogs today, you'll see them talking about this.

What about Cindy Sheehan's blog? Well, you'll find that, actually, if you click to enter here at That's where Cindy Sheehan's blog is appearing right now. She's talking about her experience in Crawford, Texas. What she's saying is all the interviews she's doing, "People" magazine, "Time" magazine, lots of publicity that she's getting here.

A story that's big in the liberal blogs, of course, is going to have a counter side in the conservative blogs. Michelle Malkin is a very popular conservative blogger. She's been leading this, really, for the conservatives.

Lots of people talking about it, but she's been talking about it a lot. She was saying a couple of days ago, wondering what her son would make of all this. Cindy Sheehan attacked her for talking about this, but Michelle Malkin is saying today, that the tenacity of Cindy Sheehan is impressive. It's not her she has a problem with, it's her benefactors; the people behind this that she's finding dishonest and intolerable.

SCHECHNER: One of the things we wanted to show you is how polarizing this story actually is. If you go to the left and right, two totally different points of view. Over at (ph), this is on the left, he's calling this whole thing bad politics, pointing out that picking on Cindy Sheehan in a political vein is really the wrong way to go, that she is just a mom. She could be one of 1800 moms at this point. She just wants to talk to the president.

Over on the right, they're saying, "Please stop, Cindy. Cindy, Go home." Wolf, really you could hit any site left or right. They've got pictures of Cindy right now and it's really two totally different points of view.

BLITZER: All right. Very interesting. Jacki and Abbi, thank you very much.


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