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THE SITUATION ROOM

Kinky Friedman Interview; Bush Numbers Down Further; Hurricane Katrina Moves into the Gulf; Dallas Principals Required to Speak Spanish; FDA Looking for Public Comment on "Emergency" Birth Control Pill; BRAC Causing Heartache and Elation; Cindy Sheehan's Protest Continues

Aired August 26, 2005 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 4:00 p.m., just after, here in Washington. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM where news and information from around the world arrive at one place simultaneously. Happening now, several stories we're watching. Hurricane Katrina, growing stronger over open water after slamming South Florida. This hour residents are cleaning up, and others farther north are bracing for the storm's second strike.
President Bush on shakier ground. We have a new eye-popping poll. It's 3:00 p.m. in Crawford, Texas. How much are the antiwar protesters contributing to Mr. Bush's political problems?

And Kinky ideas. The author and the musician with a memorable name, running for governor of Texas. This hour, Kinky Friedman, he'll be my guest. Should we take his campaign seriously?

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

We're tracking Hurricane Katrina on the move over the Gulf of Mexico and predictions about where the storm will hit next. Katrina left Miami and other parts of South Florida drenched and battered after making landfall yesterday evening. The Florida governor, Jeb Bush, wants the hardest hit counties declared federal disaster areas. He's touring those areas today.

At least six deaths now being blamed on the storm, four of them in Broward County. The clean-up continues, but more than a million customers still don't have power.

Our reporters in Florida are standing by. So is our meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras. We'll have live reports from all of them coming up shortly.

But first, new evidence that President Bush is in some serious political trouble. Let's get to the latest poll numbers released within the past hour. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider is joining us. He has those numbers. Bill?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, President Bush set a new record, but not the kind of record he wants to set.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Bush's latest job approval rating in the Gallup Poll, 40 percent. The lowest Gallup rating ever for this president. Forty percent means trouble. Look at previous presidents who have hit 40 percent or lower. The usual problem, a bad economy.

Gerald Ford dropped below 40 during the stagflation of 1975. He lost in 1976.

The malaise crisis -- remember gas lines? -- lowered Jimmy Carter to blow 40 in 1978 and '80. Carter lost, too.

Did Ronald Reagan ever dip below 40 percent? Yes, briefly in 1983 when unemployment was over 10 percent. His party had just suffered a setback in 1982. The economy recovered and so did Reagan, who never hit 40 again, not even during Iran-Contra.

The first President Bush was below 40 for most of 1992, when the economy once again hit the skids and cut short his presidency.

It's not always the economy, stupid.

The Watergate scandal brought down Richard Nixon, whose ratings were in the 20s.

Bill Clinton hit 40 percent briefly during his first two years when he overreached with his health care plan. That spelled disaster for the Democrats in 1994. But like Reagan, Clinton recovered. During the impeachment scandal, his ratings actually went up, into the 60s.

Bad wars can drag a president down.

Harry Truman had Korea. Truman's ratings were in the 20s and 30s for three years.

The Vietnam War pulled Lyndon Johnson down in 1967 and '68. LBJ was at 36 percent when he decided not to seek re-election in March 1968.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (on camera): What's dragging President Bush down? Iraq, certainly. But Americans aren't too happy about the economy. Gas prices, you know. ,There's a whiff of scandal, who leaked that CIA agent's name? Overreaching? Well, there's Social Security.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill, if Iraq, the situation in Iraq does improve, fewer American troops are killed, democracy takes hold, the constitution is ratified, presumably that in and of itself, what happens on the ground in Iraq that could have a significant impact on the president's poll numbers?

SCHNEIDER: Well, certainly it could, but those are very big ifs right now, Wolf, and there -- remember there are still the problems with gas lines, and the president's going to retake up the issue of Social Security this fall to see if he can push it along.

BLITZER: As you correctly point out, those are huge ifs and it could certainly go the other direction as well. Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst, appreciate it very much.

The president's critics and supporters are competing for attention, and tomorrow they square off directly in the president's backyard.

CNN's Ed Lavendera is following all of the antiwar protests, the counter-protests. He's joining us now live from Crawford. Ed, sounds confusing, but what's going on over there?

ED LAVENDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think it's safe to say that Crawford is turning into the crucible where all of these voices will be heard over the next several days. In fact, Cindy Sheehan speaking today saying that she that hopes everything will remain peaceful in the coming days, although there sure hasn't been any signs that anything would escalate to any kind of dangerous levels.

But Cindy Sheehan saying she's welcoming and opening -- and sending out an invitation to the people caravanning here to Crawford in support of President Bush and would like to meet with him privately.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY SHEEHAN, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: Democracy only works when people are willing to be a participant in democracy. And that's what's happening. We don't agree with them, certainly, but we honor their right to have their beliefs, and we honor their willingness to stand up for those beliefs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVENDERA: Wolf, we're standing along the main street of Crawford here, and behind me you see a section of town that's been turned into Ft. Qualls. That was the initial place set up as the anti-Cindy Sheehan protest site. That's where we expect many people coming to is the president bush will be gathering. This caravan that has moving from California to Texas has made stops in L.A., Phoenix, Amarillo, in Dallas today, and they're expected to be here in Crawford tomorrow.

And Wolf, I want to say later today on ANDERSON COOPER 360 we're taking a closer look at the strategy that all of these different groups are incorporating. I think a lot of times we have a romanticized vision of what these groups are trying to do here, but in the media age there's a lot going on behind the scenes to get their message out. We'll take a closer look at that.

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Ed Lavendera, reporting for us from Crawford, Texas. ANDERSON COOPER 360 airs at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Let's check back with Jack Cafferty, the "Cafferty File." Jack is in New York. And what are you working on, Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Al Sharpton is either down there or on his way. He's going to go join the protest. You can't really have a protest without old Al.

BLITZER: He'll be there Sunday. There will be a vigil and some prayer moment he's involved in with -- with Cindy Sheehan.

CAFFERTY: I wonder if Reverend Jesse Jackson is going to show up this weekend, too. They'll all be in the same place.

BLITZER: You'll have to watch CNN on Sunday to find out.

CAFFERTY: There's an idea. President Bush has yet to RSVP to a recent invitation. One of the largest Muslim groups wants the president to attend a conference in Chicago over the Labor Day weekend. The president's top aide, Karen Hughes, will be attending. But officials of the Islamic Society of North America say that Mr. Bush's presence would send a powerful message of respect to the world's 1.2 billion Muslims. They point to president's visit to a Washington mosque right after September 11, and say this is another chance for him to support law-abiding Muslims. The group has invited President Bush to speak every year since he was elected.

Here's the question. Should President Bush attend the Islamic Society of North America convention over Labor Day? CaffertFfile -- one word -- @CNN.com. We'll read some letters in about a half hour or so.

BLITZER: All right. I'll be anxious to hear what our viewers think. A good question. Thanks very much, Jack. Jack Cafferty with the "Cafferty File."

We'll have extensive coverage up on Hurricane Katrina, where it's moving right now, where it's heading. We'll go back to that story.

But there are other stories we're following this hour as well, including a freshman senator. He probably feels like doing some back- flips today. Coming up, Republican John Thune's big victory. Why was today's vote by the base closing commission so important to him? We'll have details.

Plus, the bloggers are zooming in on the verdict about South Dakota's Ellsworth Air Force Base. We'll find out what they're saying.

And later, an unconventional candidate. Should Kinky Friedman be the next governor of Texas? His motto, why the hell not? You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's a developing story happening here in Washington. Let's immediately go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's watching on what's going on. Update our viewers, Mary, on the latest. MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're listening right now to a news conference from the FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford who has announced the FDA has put on hold a decision whether the FDA will approve over- the-counter sales of morning after pills.

An advisory panel had suggested earlier in the week that the FDA go ahead and approve this. But the FDA commissioner is now saying, in his words, this is too profound of a decision to make behind closed doors. And he's calling for a public forum, right now, delaying this decision on whether to allow sales over-the-counter of the emergency contraceptive pill known as Plan B.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Have they explained, based on what you've heard so far, their rationale? Why they decided--- because everybody was expecting a decision one way or another today, whether they would allow over-the- counter sales without prescriptions for the so-called morning after pill. Have they explained why they decided they need more time to weigh the pros and cons?

SNOW: One question that came up, the FDA commissioner said, he wants the question asked, does the FDA have the authority to make these drugs available both by prescription and over the counter. You can see this news conference still going on. We're going to listen in, get more information about exactly why they need this public forum.

BLITZER: All right, Mary. We'll check back with you. It's an important issue for many of our viewers. Thanks very much.

SNOW: Sure.

ANNOUNCER: CNN, your hurricane headquarters.

BLITZER: And from your hurricane headquarters, live coverage of where the storm called Katrina has been and where it's going. Our meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras is at the CNN Weather Center. Our meteorologist Rob Marciano is in Miami-Dade County, South Florida.

Let's go to Jacqui first with the latest. Jacqui?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I can't hear anybody, just you.

BLITZER: All right. Hold off, Jacqui. Maybe Rob Marciano is there. Rob, can you hear me?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Wolf I can. I'm in Cutler Ridge, just south of Miami by about 15 minutes. This is where most of the rain -- or the most flooding, damaging rain came on shore last night, with the center of the storm still 40 miles away. So this flooding, you know, it can happen in spots. But it's widespread across much of this neighborhood, mostly because they got 15 to 18 inches of rainfall from this storm. So even if you've got great drainage canals, you're going to get this sort of flooding. So these waters are going to be slow to recede. What we have seen in the past couple of hours is a slow tapering off of the rain squalls that have been continuing to pepper this area all morning long. So we've talked a lot about the rain, especially the past couple of days in anticipation of the storm. We said it would be mostly a rain maker, obviously it has. But one of the big surprises is how strong hurricane force winds are, even if they're Category 1. Take a look at this.

There's a concrete overpass that they were in the process of constructing on one of the highways around here, and it came down because of wind alone, not because of the water saturating either side of the bridge, but because of wind. Tremendous amount of wind damage around Miami. At Miami International Airport some planes damaged because of wind, thousands of trees downed around the area, obviously taking power with it. So power is slow to resume.

So one of the bigger surprises with this storm has not only been the rain, but the wind. Sometimes we forget how strong hurricane force winds are. There's really so such thing as a minimal hurricane, we found out. And now the storm in the Gulf of Mexico, getting stronger by the minute.

Back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Rob. Thanks very much. Let's check in with Jacqui Jeras now, who has got the latest forecast. Jacqui, what's going on?

JERAS: Wolf, if you think it was bad in South Florida, wait until you see what Katrina's going to do as it heads toward the Gulf Coast. It is going be a major hurricane, probably Category 3 or 4. Right now it's packing winds around 100 miles an hour and that puts it in the Category 2 range, and it's continuing to strengthen at this time.

It's also dipped a little farther to the south, so that's keeping it hovering around the Florida Keys and just whipping them with those winds that Rob was talking about, tropical storm strength. In Rob's area, we want to show you the map here. This is Cutler Ridge. That's where he's located, and that's the area that had all the flooding.

Take a look at this. We just had some thunderstorms and squalls move through the area in the last hour, and that dumped an additional about a half of an inch on top of what they already have. Here's the Doppler radar estimates from this region, showing the 15 to 18 inches in this bright purple area. Lesser amounts, maybe even as much as five inches just south of Miami, and then amounts around one to three inches of rainfall.

The Keys could still see somewhere between five and eight inches atop of what they already have, and that's going to bring their totals to about 15, maybe even 20 inches.

So that's why we have flash flood warnings in effect from my Miami-Dade, down into Morgan County, and flood watches for much of Southern Florida because the western shore here is going to continue to get battered throughout much of today and tonight. Where is this going? Well, it's in the Gulf of Mexico and it's going to be hovering in this area. It will be taking a turn up to the north and strengthen as it does so -- in fact, Category 3, we think, by Saturday -- continuing to move on a northerly track. But there's still a lot of uncertainty. And the new forecast models have been coming in, Wolf, and they're starting to shift this storm a little bit farther off to the west, pushing it closer to towards New Orleans. So we'll have to wait and see. The 5:00 advisory is just around the corner. We'll see if there are any changes in this forecast track.

BLITZER: Lots of nervous people in the Gulf of Mexico, understandably. Thanks, Jacqui.

To our viewers, if you have good pictures or video of the hurricane damage, become what we call a citizen journalist. Send us your images. Simply log onto CNN.com/stories. Please include your name, location, and phone number. And remember to stay with CNN, your hurricane headquarters, for everything you need to know about this powerful storm.

Moving on other news. The base closing commission just said no again today to the Pentagon, voting to keep open air force bases in both South Dakota and New Mexico. The decision, a crucial win for the junior senator from South Dakota.

Let's head over to our congressional correspondent Ed Henry. He's been watching all of this very carefully. Ed, what happened?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, before this process, John Thune was a rising Republican star. He came crashing down to Earth, but now he may be soaring yet again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): As he waited for the verdict, Republican John Thune was a bundle of nervous energy.

SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R) SD: It's exhausting, you know, emotionally. We've been out for the last three months, have been working virtually night and day to get our arguments and our case in front of these BRAC commissioners.

HENRY: Economic anxiety because Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota's second largest employer, was on the base closure commission's hit list.

THUNE: A $278 million annual economic impact. The entire -- all of western South Dakota would have been set back 25 years had this gone down.

HENRY: But also political anxiety. Last year Thune beat Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in part because Republicans vowed a Thune victory would ensure White House protection of Ellsworth. Thune was stunned in the spring when the Bush administration put Ellsworth on the chopping block. THUNE: We were surprised when Ellsworth was on the list. We had been hopeful that we wouldn't. And obviously, my preference would have been that the administration would have, perhaps, intervened in some fashion.

HENRY: A miffed Thune stopped raising campaign money for fellow Republicans, a not so subtle signal to the White House. And he forged an unlikely alliance with a rival, Democratic Senator Tim Johnson. The duo launched a desperate lobbying effort, and it paid off. Republicans have been whispering Thune's credibility was on the line, so he basked in the victory and tried to put the White House friction behind him.

THUNE: Politics is politics. It's a tough business.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (on camera): That tough business continues. President Bush and Congress still need to sign off on this plan, but John Thune is confident they will do so.

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ed Henry with that. Thanks very much, Ed.

Just ahead, complete coverage of Hurricane Katrina. We'll show you where it's been, the damage it's left behind. Remember, CNN is your hurricane headquarters.

He's a country singer and a mystery writer. He's a humorist. But is he serious about running for governor of Texas? I'll speak live with the candidate, Kinky Friedman. He'll join us from Austin.

And should President Bush send a signal by meting with American Muslims over Labor Day weekend? We want to hear what you think. Jack Cafferty standing by for your e-mails.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In our "Culture Wars" this Friday, a showdown in Texas involving public school principals and the languages they speak.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here. He's got the story. Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest on this, Wolf, things are happening this afternoon. A group called Pro-English here in Washington threatening a lawsuit against the Dallas schools over this issue, saying there is a difference between helping out immigrant families with special needs and surrendering to them. That's what they're asking.

Last night the Dallas School Board decided that in most schools where at least half the students speak primarily Spanish, the principals must be bilingual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): This is not a small thing. Well over 60 percent of the students in Dallas are Hispanic. Almost 50,000 of them do not speak English well or at all. So supporters say it just makes sense to have administrators who can communicate effectively with those students and their parents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's nice to speak with somebody who can understand you. My English is so bad. That's why -- it's a problem, you know.

FOREMAN: Opponents argue such a measure could needlessly drive skilled principals from the system.

ROSSI WALTER, DALLAS COUNCIL OF PTAS: If you have a principal who is compassionate towards their students, who can encourage the staff persons, and who can administer the affairs of the campus effectively, what you'll have a positive student experience regardless of whether the principal speaks Spanish or not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: This is the kind of thing that just lights up what I always call the militant middle in this country -- people who just don't want things to go far to one extreme or the other.

To point something out, the people at Pro-English say Mexico's official language is Spanish. There's no official language in this country, that's what that group is trying to change. Their fundamental argument is, as long as you make it easy for people not to learn, they're not going to learn.

This fight is just going to get bigger and bigger. Forty million Hispanic people in this country, Wolf. That's an awful lot of people, getting bigger. That's eight New York cities across this nation right now.

BLITZER: And in our first hour you heard Jack Cafferty ask the question. He got hundreds of e-mails within a matter of minutes, I suspect most of them pretty angry.

FOREMAN: I'll give you a dollar when you throw it back to him say que pasa, Jack to start things off.

BLITZER: I don't think so. Thanks very much, Tom Foreman.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Iraq and the president's poll numbers. As long as the troops are there, will Mr. Bush have problems here? A question that will be in our "Strategy Session."

Plus, a very popular country singer getting slammed by officials in, of all places, Tennessee. We'll tell you why.

And pictures of a dramatic rescue by the U.S. Coast Guard in Oregon.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Take a look at this fire in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida -- not connected, we don't believe, to Hurricane Katrina. A warehouse, two-alarm fire in Ft. Lauderdale. Very dramatic pictures coming in. We'll check this out and see what exactly has happened there.

In today's "Strategy Session," new poll numbers on how well President Bush is handling his job, and new numbers on how things are going in the country.

Here to talk about that and more, CNN political analyst Paul Begala -- he's a former Democratic strategist -- and CNN contributor and president of American Cause, Bay Buchanan. She's a good Republican strategist as well.

Let's check out these numbers, Bay. I'll go to you first. How is President Bush handling his job as president? Only a couple of weeks ago, 45 percent approval. Now it's down to 40 percent. That's pretty low.

BAY BUCHANAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's -- it's not good news. There's no question about it. I can't tell you that there's any good news in those numbers. Not only is the number low, they're going in the wrong direction, and they're going in the wrong direction fast.

BLITZER: Is it because of Iraq primarily, or high gasoline prices, or other issues?

BUCHANAN: Everything I've seen in these polls, the two big things are Iraq and the economy. And the president, unfortunately, has lost the ability to influence these polls, because Iraq is being influenced by what's going on over there. We don't see the kind of progress the American people expected by this time.

And the economy -- gas prices are going up. And you have American consumer confidence is down. And in addition to that, they're looking for heating, come this winter. And those prices are going up, too.

BLITZER: And if I were in the White House right now -- you were in the White House for many years, Paul, this next...

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You were harassing me every day, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah. I reported from there. If I were looking at this next poll number, I would even be more concerned about the job approval number, 40 percent. How are things going in the country? Only 34 percent of the American public is satisfied, 62 percent dissatisfied. That's a number that should be presumably more worrisome.

BEGALA: Long term for the president, it is. And I think Bay has a good point. The president has a reality problem, it's not a communications problem, it's not a political problem. Beating up on Democrats won't help -- and he's good at it, and it worked in the election, but it won't help now.

He has got to turn things around in the sense -- in the people sense where the country's going. And that means facts on the ground in Iraq. That means the economy, gas prices. And I think the sleeper issue is immigration, where I think even Republicans believe the president is not doing a very good job in patrolling our borders.

BLITZER: You want to change (ph) (INAUDIBLE), Bay?

BUCHANAN: Yeah, I do. And the president is foolish because he's now said that the number one issue for the fall is immigration. And so he's already got the other two issues he's hurting. And the other big issue out there -- and I think Paul is right -- is immigration. He's going to push amnesty. And I'll tell you, you're going to see the Republican Congress moving so far away from this fellow and as fast as they can.

BLITZER: They'll move closer to Congressman Tom Tancredo.

BUCHANAN: Absolutely. They need some issue to make certain they distinguish themselves as different from the president, and as a populist. And the best issue out there right now is immigration.

BLITZER: How much credit or blame does Cindy Sheehan get for these bad poll numbers, from your perspective?

BEGALA: I think some, but not much. I think it's -- Ariel Sharon, when he built all those settlements in Israel, called them facts on the ground. And I think the facts on the ground in Iraq are what is driving us.

I think Mrs. Sheehan has done a good job of coalescing the people who had doubts about the war. And I think the president has done a bad job in attacking her. I think they would have better served in a strategic matter, if they would have just embraced her metaphorically as a Gold Star mother, but then stressed why we can't pull the troops out, and take it to an argument about whether we should leave the troops in or pull them out. Instead, they're trashing Mrs. Sheehan. And I think that hasn't worked.

BUCHANAN: Well, the White House certainly hasn't trashed her. But I think she deserves a lot of credit, because this was an issue that kind of was out there, but she's given it focus. The national media went down there day after day. She's a very compassionate -- somebody that draws your compassion and concern. And I think she's a very good spokesperson for the antiwar movement.

BLITZER: She's got credentials.

BUCHANAN: Certainly does.

BEGALA: Let's talk about what she's not. What she's not is a politician. And what she's not is some long-haired hippy from the '60s burning a flag. I've been really impressed at how prayerful and patriotic and reverential and respectful she has been and some of those around her -- most of those around her -- have been. BLITZER: The base closing commission story. That's an important story. It affects thousands -- hundreds of thousands of jobs all over the country. Ray LaHood, a conservative Republican Congress from Illinois, is quoted in the "USA Today" as saying this -- "I think they are going to have trouble with some of us. Bush and Rumsfeld should have paid a lot more attention to those of us who supported them in Afghanistan and Iraq." He's clearly fighting to save a National Guard base in his district.

But what do you make of the whole effort? John Thune, the junior senator from South Dakota gets a big win today to keep Ellsworth Air Force Base alive.

BUCHANAN: The best thing to happen to John Thune is to have it -- Ellsworth put on the chopping block and then pulled off. He was re- elected today. I mean, he managed to pull that off. And he gets all the credit. And so he's stronger now.

There's no question, if you're going to lose a base in your district, I don't care if you're Democrat or Republican, you're going to have to come out swinging. You're going to have to fight for it. You're going to have to be in your local papers, as outraged that this would happen. And they're going to put the pressure on the president to see if they can reverse some of these. They can't once it hits the Congress. And I don't know if they have enough Republicans to vote against the proposal.

BLITZER: When I was at the Pentagon, reporting from the Pentagon, all the military brass said, just get the politics out of this. There shouldn't be any politics. This should be based on what the national security needs of the United States are, simple, where the best bases should be, and how the U.S. military can be most effective. Why are you laughing?

BEGALA: It's hogwash. This is a democracy. Politics is good. It's our life's blood. In fact, I think this Base Realignment and Closure Commission process, they call it BRAC here in Washington, has been terrible because it's tried to take the politics out.

Politics is how we hold people accountable. John Thune said if you elect me instead of Tom Daschle, I'll save Ellsworth Air Force Base. Well you know what? He did. And so Bay's right. He's going to get the credit anyway. He's getting re-elected.

But I took a look. There are states where President Bush carried it and two Republican senators getting hurt: Kansas, Misissippi, Georgia, Texas, Utah. It's going to hurt Republicans.

BLITZER: Have a good weekend, both of you.

BUCHANAN: Thanks.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. I think John Thune will have a great weekend.

BEGALA: I think he will. BLITZER: Straight ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Here's something to chew on. She made the song "Redneck Woman" and waves a can of smokeless tobacco while she sings. Now, one state official has asked her to stop.

And it's already blown ashore, howled back out to sea and could come back for another hit: Hurricane Katrina, where is it now? We'll tell you. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a quick look at some of the hot shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

Arlington National Cemetery. Army Sergeant Edward Eisley of South Carolina being laid to rest. He was killed in Afghanistan during what was supposed to be a routine mine clearing mission.

The West Bank. A foreign activist protest in front of soldiers over the building of a barrier separating Israel from the Palestinians.

Swaziland. An AIDS orphan and a plate of food, the children at this shelter are fed just once a day.

Detroit. A swim with a polar bear, a cub wrestles his mom for the ball.

Hot shots, from the best photographers around the world, capturing the news for all of us. Thank you to the Associated Press.

On our "Political Radar", a new attack ad on Judge John Roberts. The abortion rights group NARAL's new spot focuses in on the Supreme Court nominee's past writings and what he called -- quote -- "a so- called right to privacy." Republicans are pouncing on the ad, accusing NARAL of disregarding the truth again. NARAL had to pull another ad targeting Roberts after it was widely criticized as being misleading. NARAL says the new ad is running on local cable in Washington and on CNN.

Some Christian leaders are demanding an investigation of religious broadcaster Pat Robertson. They held a vigil here in Washington today to ask the Federal Communications Commission to look into Robertson's call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Robertson has since apologized for that remark.

And country singer Gretchen Wilson agreed today to quit holding up a smokeless tobacco product during her concerts. Tennessee's attorney general had accused Wilson of glamouring -- glamorizing, that is, the smokeless tobacco brand Skoal. And he asked her to stop. Wilson is best known for the hit "Redneck Woman." Her newest song is entitled "Skoal Ring."

Coming up, it's not every day you can meet a politician named Kinky, but that's just what we're about to do. The author, the musician, now the Texas gubernatorial candidate, Kinky Friedman. He's standing by to join us live. Does he really think he can win?

And when we go Inside the blogs, base decisions are getting plenty of play online.

Later, Lance Armstrong opens up and fights back against allegations in France he used performance-enhancing drugs.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a campaign slogan you don't see every day. He ain't Kinky, he's my governor. The humorist, the author, the performer Kinky Friedman doesn't take himself all too seriously, but do voters see his Independent campaign to be the Texas governor as anything more than a joke?

Kinky Friedman is joining us live from Austin, Texas. Thank you for joining us. I'm glad to see you're smiling.

KINKY FRIEDMAN, (I) TEXAS GOV. CANDIDATE: A pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's talk a little bit about the chances that you have to be Texas's next governor. Do you think you have a shot?

FRIEDMAN: I think we got a real good shot. If you talk to any politician, they'll tell you that an Independent can't win in Texas. But if you talk to anybody in Texas, they'll say the same thing, which is, if that little bugger gets on the ballot, I'm going to vote for him.

BLITZER: Well, are you going to get on the ballot?

FRIEDMAN: Of course.

BLITZER: How do you go get on the ballot? What do you need?

FRIEDMAN: Well, Wolf, that's the story. Starting in March, right after the primaries we have two months to collect over 50,000 signatures to get on the ballot. And the trick is, anybody who votes in any primary in '06 can't sign the petition. So we asked everybody to save yourself for Kinky. Do not vote in the '06 primaries.

BLITZER: You also have something very cute, free golf, a round of golf, if you will, Kinky Friedman -- I want to show our viewers this if we want to put it up on the screen -- with Willie Nelson, the former governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, lunch or golf -- what, $5,000 to play golf with you guys?

FRIEDMAN: It's $5,000 for the golf outing, nine holes with Willie and Jesse, and $1,000 to have lunch, hang out, photographs. It's going to be a great day. September 24 at Willie's golf course. And people can sign up on the Website, KinkyFriedman.com. I'm not going to be playing golf myself. I don't play golf. Only two good balls I ever hit was when I stepped on a garden rake. BLITZER: OK. Let's leave that alone. Do you see Jesse Ventura, sort of, who was elected, coming out of seemingly nowhere, a former professional wrestler, do you see him as your role model in trying to win the gubernatorial slot in Texas?

FRIEDMAN: I admire him greatly, because he believed the guy with the most money shouldn't always win. He thought that was not the American dream. It wasn't the American way. And as I've said before, Jesse just didn't realize that wrestling is real and politics is fixed.

BLITZER: Kinky, unfortunately, we've got to leave it right there. But we'll be talking to you many times in the coming weeks and months.

The governor of Florida, Jeb Bush is speaking to reporters now about Hurricane Katrina. Let's listen in.

JEB BUSH, (R) FLORIDA GOVERNOR: He thought maybe you were going to say you got a good deal on your car insurance. But we'll be ready for what comes. But it's -- the folks up in Northwest Florida have gone through a lot, and this is -

MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: And even if it does go to the west, this is going to expand in size, and it will have an impact over the Florida Panhandle, even if it makes landfall well to the west of it.

J. BUSH: Well, we appreciate what you do. We really do. I'd be happy to answer any questions, I guess if that's --

QUESTION: Did you go on tour? And what did you see and how do you react to it?

J. BUSH: Well, what we saw was we flew down the turnpike and went to Homestead and there's significant flooding in the Homestead area. It's also for a resident that -- a weekend resident of Miami, I had forgotten how much development has taken place down there, which makes the flooding even -- I think it exacerbates the flooding even more. But it didn't look like there was as much damage to property other than flooding. And you can't tell from a helicopter how much damage -- that damage takes place. And Treasurer Gallagher pointed out that people had flood insurance. A lot of times people don't take it if they're not required to.

QUESTION: Governor, now that (INAUDIBLE)

J. BUSH: Well I hope so. It was certainly the admonitions of the local authorities was the right ones. You know, the real challenge here is, you get fixated on listening and watching the news, and you can lose sight of the fact that these are not linear storms. They don't just go in a straight direction. And the little skinny black line that Max talks about is really not as relevant as it would appear on a graph. And in fact, it's -- these are large systems that have great impact on entire regions. And I hope that we learned from that with each storm. Each storm's different. And we can't -- it's the cumulative experience that hopefully will make us better prepared, not remembering what the last storm looked like.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on any preparations for emergency, federal funding, FEMA issues?

J. BUSH: We asked for a presidential declaration this morning. And the FEMA assessment teams will be down here tomorrow, I believe, assessing in Broward and Dade county. We hope to hear by Monday what their response will be.

And we have 1,000 National Guard that have been activated -- that may subside now -- at the points of distribution system that we've set up and organized, there will be one of those -- two of those here in Dade County, none in Broward County, as I understand it. So we'll probably de-activate them or move them to prepare for the next storm, which is the same storm, in Northwest Florida.

But I'm proud of the team and I'm proud of the cooperation that exists between the local governments and state government. And then our national partners are exceptional. Sometimes I get frustrated --

BLITZER: We're going to break away briefly from the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush. At the beginning he made some news. He announced with Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, a new projected course for Hurricane Katrina.

Jacqui Jeras, our meteorologist, has been listening and watching. What did he say exactly?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well I didn't hear what Max said, actually, Wolf. But what I can tell you from the information that I'm receiving, this is an automatic plot in from the National Hurricane Center, and their official forecast. And this has tracked significantly farther to the west. So this is a very significant change.

Earlier that skinny red line was coming in somewhere around here. And now we're talking about miles and miles off to the west. And the skinny line -- which we don't want to focus on, by the way -- is over towards Biloxi, Mississippi.

Keep in mind, there's still a margin of error, so that would still keep Florida in the track. But what's been happening, Wolf, is that we've been seeing this Hurricane today has been dipping down to the west-southwest. And we've been talking about that for a while. And what that has done is kept it much farther to the south. It gives it more time to strengthen. And it's also been pushing it a little farther west. And it's going to take longer to make that turn now. And the longer it takes, the farther west, overall, the storm will become. So that's why we're seeing this shift in the models.

The hurricane forecast models that we've been tracking all day originally had lines all over the place. Some of the models were bringing it over here, some way over here. They were kind of all over. Now they're starting to come together and looking a lot more uniform. And so that means we have a lot more confidence in our forecast track, and also possibly in the intensity. Take a look at the number that you see here. We've been talking about possibly a major hurricane when it makes landfall. Well right now, it's looking like this will likely be a strong 3, maybe even a weak 4 as it makes landfall.

Wolf.

BLITZER: A weak 4. How high are those numbers?

JERAS: Well, at least 131 miles per hour, possibly as strong as 155.

BLITZER: That's an enormous number. All right. Well, we'll watch it closely ever step of the way. Jacqui, thanks very much.

Let's go back to Florida. Jeb Bush -- well, actually Jeb Bush is wrapping up over there. We'll dip in later, get the latest from him.

In the meantime, let's check in with Jack Cafferty who's monitoring your e-mail. Jack?

CAFFERTY: Wolf, one of the questions we're addressing during today's SITUATION ROOM has to do with an invitation that President Bush got from one of the nation's largest Muslim groups to attend their annual convention in Chicago over Labor Day weekend. Officials of the Islamic Society of North America say that the president's presence would send a powerful message of respect to the world's 1.2 billion Muslims. We are getting a ton of mail on this Friday. Unusual. A Friday in August, and a lot of you are writing to us today.

James writes, "I think everything we can do to show support for non-terrorists is good for the public image of the country as a whole."

Joseph in Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania, "President Bush should only attend if they agree to issue a denunciation of terrorism. The majority of Muslims in this country have remained silent on the topic for much too long."

Craig writes, "A Muslim convention. I'd be happy if President Bush could speak at anything but a highly orchestrated military pep rally."

H. Handcock writes, "Of course the president should attend. He's done nothing but anger the world's Muslims and thereby put us in danger. This visit would be the least he could do and something he owes to Americans as much as to anybody else."

And Jason writes, "This is a golden opportunity. Not only would it improve President Bush's image to the world's Muslims, it would showcase the rarely seen image of Muslim support for the president."

BLITZER: When you say you've been getting a lot of e-mail on a Friday, Jack, give us some numbers. How many?

CAFFERTY: In 90 minutes, over 1,200 letters. That's -- I mean, that's a lot.

BLITZER: That is a lot.

CAFFERTY: Yes. I mean, we've got an hour to go. And the question next hour is just -- it's terrific.

BLITZER: Don't tell us. We'll get back to you.

CAFFERTY: I forgot what it was.

BLITZER: Coming up, aftermath of a hurricane, Katrina's already eying new targets, but back in South Florida, residents are still trying to take in the damage of the storm.

Say it ain't so, Lance Armstrong is speaking out about that latest doping allegation. We have the inside story.

And it's not what the Pentagon wanted, but an Air Force base in South Dakota will stay in business. We'll talk with a local blogger who's covered the base for two decades. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get an update from Mary Snow on what we've been reporting for some time. The FDA deciding on that so-called morning after pill. Mary what do we know?

SNOW: Well Wolf, the FDA saying that it's going to have a 60-day waiting period. And the essential question is on this emergency contraception known as the morning after pill is how the FDA should handle it when it comes to teenagers. So, it's saying now that it is going to hold public comment. And this is the plan, for 17 years old and older, sell this pill over the counter, for 16 and under, by prescription. That is what the FDA is looking at. And it's looking for public comment for a 60-day period.

In other news, as waters recede, Central and Southern Europeans are beginning a major cleanup. In Austria, crews worked to clear mud and debris left behind by flooding and land slides. Power is expected to be out for a little while. People will be allowed to return home this weekend. The death toll in the region has edged higher -- 43 people are now known dead from the disastrous weather.

And a father and son are high and dry now thanks to the keen-eyed crew from the boat that plucked them from the waters of the Columbia River in Oregon. The Coast Guard responded to a call from the research vessel Point Surf who said its crew had rescued the pair. The father and son had been on a 28-foot jet drive boat when it was swamped and capsized.

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Mary, we'll check back with you. Thanks very much.

Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're plugged into everything that's happening on line. A hot issue today, military base closings, or in this case, a base that's not closing. It's staying open.

Our Internet reporters Jacki Schechner and Abbi Tatton are taking us "Inside the Blogs". Ladies?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. It's Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota that is off the DOD closure list, and that is a victory for South Dakota. Also not lost on the political blogs, the fact that this is a political victory for Senator John Thune. The headlines say it all over at the Corner, "The National Review Online" "Thune Saved." GOPBloggers.org, "Thune Comes Through."

Locally, taking a look at SouthDakotaPolitics.blogs.com. They are self-described Thune partisans. They say this is a team victory, but cannot resist the urge to say that Thune must be feeling a sense of vindication.

And also liberals in South Dakota, very happy that Ellsworth is staying open. Proud liberal here, admitting that we on the left were set to blame Thune should the Air Force base close. Worried that there might be a little of gloating from the Republican side, but going on to say, it's not a bad day for South Dakota's Democratic Party, it's a great day for all South Dakotans.

The celebrating going on there recorded at the RapidCityJournal.com which is also the home of Mt. Blogmoore. Reporter Bill Harlan is joining us via Web cam. He was blogging the celebrations earlier at Mt. Blogmoore -- Bill? Bill, if can you hear us. I'm not hearing you right now. But if you can hear us, describe the celebrations on the ground there in Rapid City and also in South Dakota today.

BILL HARLAN, RAPIDCITYJOURNAL.COM: I can hear you. Can you hear me?

TATTON: Yeah, go ahead.

HARLAN: Great. Well, it's ecstasy in Rapid City. There were cheers at the civic center downtown. And my wife teaches at the school district that's right next to Ellsworth Air Force Base, and I talked to her over the noon hour. She said by the way that she was watching CNN at school this morning about 7:20, and there was a big cheer and everybody poured into the halls and there were hugs and tears and quite a scene.

SCHECHNER: Now what was at stake here for the people of Rapid City? If Ellsworth had closed, what was at stake?

HARLAN: Well, in a nutshell, we could have lost maybe 10 percent of the people in the Rapid City area. We could have lost about eight- and-a-half percent of the jobs. We would have lost about $280 million a year that's injected into our local economy by the base. On personal terms, there'd be people who would face the simultaneous pressure of losing their jobs and seeing their housing values decline.

SCHECHNER: Bill, thank you so much. Unfortunately, we're out of time -- a real quick one for you. But we appreciate it. And celebration today, Wolf, in South Dakota. We'll send it back to you.

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

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