Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Severe Weather From Southwest to Midwest; Senate Vents Iraq War Policy Frustrations; President Bush In Japan; Senate Decides On Detainee Torture; Baseball's New Steroids Policy; Dole On Bush;
Aired November 15, 2005 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John King and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington. Happening now, fellow Republicans put new pressure on President Bush to explain his Iraq policy. But they derail a Democratic push to get a firm timetable for a troop pullout. Are senators adding to the president's problems while he is off in Asia?
Also this hour, terror suspects and torture. A new compromise clears the Senate. But will the Bush administration's rules for interrogation change?
And steroids in Major League sports. Baseball players and owners strike a deal. Is it tough enough to keep Congress off their backs?
I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Thanks for joining us. Wolf is off today. First up this hour, a developing story. We're on a severe weather watch from the Southwest to the Midwest. Forecasters say conditions are ripe for twisters across the heartland. More than 50 tornado warnings have been posted and we now have reports of a tornado touching down in Kentucky just in the last few minutes.
Let's get the latest with our severe weather expert Chad Myers.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Now the reports are coming in very fast. Washington, Indiana; Canilsberg (ph), Indiana; as you said, Benton, Kentucky; and Paris, Tennessee, all tornadoes on the ground with damage in those towns. We don't know how severe yet. But, crews on the way to those.
Look at every county you see here in red. That is a tornado warning, which means either a tornado has been sighted or a tornado has been indicated by Doppler radar seeing the rotation in the storm enough to put down a tornado warning.
And the biggest one we have here going to a big city: Evansville, Indiana. This storm right here obviously covered up in red, let me get rid of the red for you. There's Henderson, remember the other tornado that came through here. This is almost in exactly the similar track.
We don't know whether that tornado is on the ground but there is a warning for that storm. Farther to the south, significant tornado near Princeton, to the southwest of you. We do know there was damage with that storm. Also some damage in parts of Arkansas, as well. We'll keep you up-to-date. I'll keep you up to date if we see anything significant, we'll definitely break in.
KING: Chad, stand by for just a second. I want to let our viewers know what we're seeing here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We have tower cameras from across the Midwest tracking the situation. You have the weather maps from Chad at the Weather Center, you have these tower cameras so we can watch as things develop.
A simple question. Why, Chad? What is unique about today that we have so much of a threat?
MYERS: It's 30 degrees in Denver and 80 in Memphis. It's the hot and cold. It's a spring-type storm right now even though it isn't spring. It's fall, clearly. But it's a big cold front, lots of energy in the jet stream. We could literally have 100 tornadoes on the ground today. We don't know really know right now. Obviously we've had so many reports. It's only getting bigger now.
Madison County, Southwest Tennessee, The National Weather Service indicated a tornado near Jackson in Tennessee moving northeast at 70. If this is moving 70, you have very little time to get out of the way, John. If you're in this area, have the kids inside, keep them close and make sure you have a plan before you hear or see the warning for your county.
KING: I heard you yesterday on this very point. The guy with the camera who has gone outside during it. Let's go through this again. We have so many storms in so many places. If you're watching this at home right now and you see your community lit up in red, what should you be doing?
MYERS: Stay away from the windows. Get inside. If you have a basement, get there. If you don't have a basement, get into a room that's the closest to the center of your house. If you ever see tornado damage, the outside of the houses are always knocked down but the inside are usually still there, a small closet, a bathroom, whatever it might be.
Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. You got a wall, then a living room, then a dining room, then you got a kitchen or something small or a little closet, get in that. If not, get downstairs.
The big myth in the past was open up the windows because it will stop the house from blowing. Stay away from the windows, stay away from the glass and don't go outside. I know sometimes we ask you to get pictures of things. Not this time. This is way too dangerous. Tornado watches and tornado warnings completely over the Ohio Valley. Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky and obviously tornadoes on the ground in Missouri earlier.
KING: Help us, Chad. I know you're busy tracking all this, but help us understand. You just mentioned possible tornado in Jackson, Tennessee. When you get a report like that, how fast are they going, how far can they go? If we're looking at a map of Jackson, Tennessee. Just the community there or should people in the surrounding communities be worried?
MYERS: We already know that there was a tornado in Paris just to the north of there. Here's the storm for Jackson, there's one moving to the north, another one back behind it. Here's the Interstate. All the way down toward Memphis. A big storm just came out of Memphis with hail and wind damage, not tornado damage there. If a storm is headed your way, you'll hear it for one, and you'll also probably see it coming, as well. Get inside.
Marshall County, Renee says they have confirmed deputies on the scene south of Paducah, Kentucky. No reports of injuries. Locations: Marshall County, near the town of Brewers. Also, a second location near Benton, Kentucky, on Swatter Road touched down. And a third touchdown at a trailer park in Dunns Cemetery Road on the south side of Benton. Whenever you hear about a trailer park getting hit by anything, you have really bad feelings, don't you, because they just don't stand up to mother nature's winds.
KING: Chad, we're showing our viewers a live picture from our affiliate WHBQ Memphis, Tennessee. You see the clouds over Memphis. Obviously, we're on the watch for storms there and elsewhere. You explained a bit about what makes this unique. In terms of where we are on the calendar, time of the season, unusual, usual?
MYERS: A little unusual. We should have about 30 tornadoes in the month of November. And we should have, on the average, about four fatalities. John, we've already had about 20 tornadoes so far, even before today. The problem is the tornadoes have hit towns. Twenty- three dead this November. So we just have to be very careful with this event. There is warm and there is cold.
There's always what we call a fall-type maximum, a maximum for a little bit of severe weather in the fall when the cold tries to come down from Canada. The warm air is not ready to relinquish its grip yet from summer and we get the storms that pop up.
There's Memphis. Look at this huge cell to the west of Memphis. West of Shelby County again and back up here. The cells are just increasing in size and intensity and rotation. At 1:00, 2:00, we really thought we were in the thick of it. Now I think it's even getting worse.
KING: Even getting worse. Chad Myers, stand by for a second and help me out with a question, perhaps.
We have on the telephone Russell Schneider. He's from the federal government's Storm Prevention Center. Russell, I don't know if you've been listening to Chad explaining the scope of all this. Tell us what you're seeing right now and where you think the greatest risk is.
RUSSELL SCHNEIDER, NOAA: We have numerous potentially tornadic thunderstorms throughout the Mississippi and Ohio River Valley extending from Southern Illinois, Southern Indiana, down along the Mississippi River near Memphis as you were talking about.
We're expecting this threat to continue and actually expand northward as this powerful low pressure system lifts northeastward into the upper Midwest. So we have a high risk of severe thunderstorms, including potentially damaging tornadoes. All the way from Northern Indiana, Western Ohio, down through Western Kentucky, Tennessee and into Northern Mississippi.
KING: And in terms, sir, of what the government does in terms of warning to local communities, explain how that system would work. And if you are in one of these communities or nearby and the storms could be heading your way, what should you be looking for and listening for?
SCHNEIDER: You certainly should be paying attention to your local media. If you have already purchased a NOAA weather radio, you can get a tone alert. When your target -- your county is specifically in danger. But certainly local media is as good as anything. Siren systems are usually blown when a tornado has been identified. But sirens are sometimes difficult to hear. So it's always best to stay close to a radio or television.
KING: Mr. Schneider, we thank you, sir, we may check back in with you throughout this afternoon.
Do we still have Chad standing by?
MYERS: Yes, John, and I just got a brand new warning for the city of Bloomington, in Indiana. And here it is: the problem is most of the early afternoon hours, we have been in areas that basically are farmland. Now we're moving into cities. Now we're moving into significantly different places where we're going to see bigger tornado damage if a tornado does touch down.
The storm itself here from Bloomington, Indiana -- here's the tornado warning. Bloomington. If you get all the way up, here's Indianapolis, there's another storm that will move toward Indianapolis. These are very large storms.
Another storm here with maybe a little bit of a hook signature moving to the north and maybe to the northwest of Indianapolis, and then on up toward Anderson. They are just lining up now, John. They're coming in one after another, and they are all what we call super cells. They are more dangerous than what we call a squall line. We have squall lines down to the south.
A squall line is when all of the storms line up and they kind of move through with some wind. When you have them not attached to each other, when they are super cells, one, two, three, four, and they're not attached one after another, those are the kind that rotate and we have so many. We must have 20 tornado warnings right now on the ground. John?
KING: We're going to keep track of this throughout the day. Chad, we'll be back to you throughout the afternoon. I'll let you take a quick look there. MYERS: A tornado near Cairo, in Illinois. Cairo. That is actually moving toward La Center and Gauge. This is an area that has been moved through earlier. This area had tornado earlier on the ground. So now we're seeing one after another on top of areas that already had -- usually you get a storm to go by and you think you're in the clear. Not today.
KING: A remarkably busy day in the Weather Center. We'll be checking back with our man, Chad Myers, throughout the program. Thank you, Chad. And throughout the afternoon, stay right here on CNN.
And now to the political climate here in Washington. The Republican-controlled Senate today vented its frustration with President Bush's Iraq policy at a time when Mr. Bush's poll numbers are at a new low. Members voted overwhelmingly for the administration to give updates on how the war is going, with an eye on how its going to end.
To Capitol Hill now and CNN correspondent Ed Henry. Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, so much for the tradition of Congress playing nice while the president is overseas. Mr. Bush got a clear, direct bipartisan message from the Senate back here in Washington. Time to explain the plan to end the war in Iraq.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Every day that goes by, it becomes increasingly clear that the administration's Iraq policy is adrift and rudderless. All they're offering is a bumper sticker slogan, stay the course. Staying the course is not a winning strategy.
HENRY (voice-over): Republicans directed their criticism at the Iraqi people. But were also prodding the White House.
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: This amendment as drawn is very powerful, very powerful. Statement by Congress of the need to tell the Iraqi people that we have done our share, we're not going to leave them. But, we expect from them equal, if not greater support, than they've given to this date.
HENRY: The amendment to the defense policy bill passed overwhelmingly, 79 to19, demanding the Bush administration explain quote, its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq.
But the Senate rejected a Democratic move to also require the president to craft a flexible timetable to start withdrawing U.S. troops.
Some have referred to this as the cut-and-run provision. That is, pick an arbitrary timeline and get out of Iraq regardless of what is happening on the ground.
(END VIDEOTAPE) HENRY (on camera): This still could be watered down by House Republicans, but it's still a wakeup call to the White House. Republicans up here nervous, they're looking at the polls. They have to face the voters next year. The president does not.
KING: And Ed, in the debate on the floor, not only about an exit strategy, but also about the treatment of terror suspects -- some would say torture, some would say heavy abuse of treatment of those suspects -- what happened on that front?
HENRY: Well, the bottom line is that John McCain's amendment basically cracking down, banning torture of detainees, is included in this defense bill, as well.
Yet another sign that it's in there despite the strong objections from Vice President Cheney -- another sign that Republicans on the Hill are no longer afraid to stand up to this White House on a whole range of issues, following on the Harriet Miers confirmation battle, the rejection of her nomination.
Republicans are standing up to this White House. They're looking at the polls not just on Iraq. They're looking at the president's sinking popularity. They're standing up to him.
KING: Ed Henry on Capitol Hill.
A tough day for the president, and yet Mr. Bush's top allies are defending him on Iraq today as Mr. Bush himself tries to stay focused on his trip to Asia.
Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is with the president in Japan and joins us now. Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, of course, President Bush really receiving a warm welcome, a warm reception here from one of his greatest allies, Junichiro Koizumi.
Of course, the president will be thanking Japan for its contributions, reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But also pushing Koizumi quietly to keep those Japanese troops on the ground in Iraq, at least through Iraq's December elections.
But the White House, the administration, making it very clear this morning as the president has said before, that they think it would undermine the mission in Iraq if they set a specific timetable for U.S. troops to come home.
We heard earlier today from Secretary Rumsfeld.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Timing of the hand over of responsibility to Iraqis depends on conditions on the ground. And already, some responsibilities are being assumed by the Iraqi security forces. We must be careful not to give terrorists the false hope that if they can simply hold on long enough, that they can outlast us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And John, what we expect today is the president is going to be making a major speech later today, essentially not only to Japan, but the larger audience of Asia and specifically to the United States. He'll be talking about thanking them for their efforts when it comes to the war in Iraq, their help in Afghanistan. He will also broaden it out, of course, to talk about democracy, promoting free trade, specifically talking about China.
There's been a lot of pressure from Congress and other sectors to get tough on China on opening its markets. We expect to hear some tough words when it comes to China, as well.
KING: Suzanne, the president and public will stick to the message he wants to deliver in Asia. But privately, they have to be embarrassed. I can't find a better word for what is happening.
A Republican-controlled Senate essentially putting the president's war policy on debate when he's visiting three countries on this trip, Japan, South Korea and Mongolia, that have troops in Iraq.
MALVEAUX: Well certainly, this is not helpful as the administration likes to say, as Rumsfeld likes to say, in particular. But here's the larger context.
Each one of these individual countries and their leaders make decisions based on their own domestic politics, as well. Japan as you know, pushing to get its own troops out of there have already withdrawn, but also looking to that agreement of U.S. troops in Okinawa.
Looking to push back, pull back from there. South Korea, the same. The realignment with U.S. troops in Mongolia, that essentially is landlocked by Russia and China, looking for some U.S. assistance, really. Some political might to back it up, as well.
Each one of those leaders taking those political calculations into effect. But as you said, of course, John, this is not helpful and somewhat embarrassing for this president.
KING: Suzanne Malveaux for us at stop one of the president's week-long trip to Asia, Kyoto, Japan. Thank you, Suzanne.
President Bush's problems were driven home at this time yesterday when we released our new poll showing his approval rating down to just 37 percent.
Now we have some even newer numbers to tell you about, on the tough issue taken up by the Senate earlier today, the treatment of terror suspects and whether that should ever include torture.
Here's our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: John, the treatment of terrorist suspects involves some difficult choices. Let's see where the public stands.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Bush has made his commitment clear.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our government has the obligation to protect the American people.
SCHNEIDER: But he also drew a line.
BUSH: We do not torture.
SCHNEIDER: Do Americans believe the president? Nearly three- quartz of the public believes U.S. troops or government officials have tortured prisoners in Iraq or other countries. They've seen the pictures.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Nothing hurt us more, than I can think of, than the Abu Ghraib pictures that ran 24/7 on Al-Jazeera.
SCHNEIDER: Senator McCain is leading an effort to get Congress to prohibit the cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of prisoners held overseas.
Is the public willing to have the U.S. government torture suspected terrorists if they may know details about future terrorist attacks against the U.S.? The answer is no, 56 to 38 percent.
It's a tough choice for many Americans. Men are divided. Women are not. By two-to-one, women say no torture. But a narrow majority of Republicans say they would be willing to allow torture if it would help prevent future terrorist attacks.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): The White House wants to exempt the CIA from any ban. A Pentagon spokesman argues that captured prisoners are trained to resist U.S. interrogation methods. And for that reason, it may be better if they don't know how far their captors are willing to go.
KING: Bill Schneider for us in Los Angeles. More tough numbers for the president. Thank you, Bill.
Time now for the "Cafferty File." That's your chance, of course, to sound off on today's big story. Our Jack Cafferty joins us now live from New York. Hey Jack. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How you doing? Where is his Wolfness today?
KING: I can't tell you, that's top secret. You don't have proper clearance.
CAFFERTY: He's at an undisclosed location.
KING: Yes. We have the data here in THE SITUATION ROOM, but you don't have the clearance.
CAFFERTY: I'm not qualified. It's on a need-to-know basis. As a career milestone, let me ask you, John, how does hosting THE SITUATION ROOM stack up with, say, like covering the White House, which by the way, you did very, very well for this company for a long time?
KING: This is like being out on a prisoner-release program, I think, is what I would categorize it. How about that?
CAFFERTY: That will work.
Judge Samuel Alito is inching away from past comments that there is no constitutional right to get an abortion. The Supreme Court nominee told Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein today that when he made that remark in 1985, he was an advocate seeking a job.
I guess, unlike now, when is he not an advocate seeking a job? He's wanting to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Anyway, he said he now doesn't give heed to his personal views.
Supporters of Alito say there's nothing surprising about his statement on abortion, but opponents worry that if Alito is named to the high court, there would, in effect, be nothing then to prevent him from allowing his personal beliefs to influence his decisions. Including a possible decision down the road on Roe v. Wade.
So here's the question, how much will Judge Alito's past statements on abortion matter? Our email address is CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
It should be pointed out his Wolfness did not consult anybody on the staff here in New York. I mean, just kind of dropped out of sight here on us today. Do you know if he's going to be back tomorrow?
KING: We have that information. Perhaps we'll share it with you later in the program.
CAFFERTY: Or perhaps you won't. Nice to see you, John.
KING: See you in a bit, Jack. Thank you, much.
And coming up, steroid use in baseball. Major League owners and players agree on a three strikes and you're out policy. Will it solve a problem that's made many fans, not to mention the Congress, furious?
Also ahead, former Senate Republican leader Bob Dole on President Bush's political predicament. How worried is he about the fallout for his Republican party?
Plus, storm alert. We're tracking severe weather and dozens, dozens of tornado warnings. Stay right here for up to the minute coverage in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: We're tracking severe weather, tornadoes especially, in the Midwest, other areas of the country this afternoon. We want to check right back in now with our sever weather expert, Chad Meyers, at the CNN Weather Center -- Chad.
MYERS: John, it's just going to really go downhill from here. It's hard to even -- to keep track of some of these smaller town tornadoes. But now, at least 13 towns have been hit by tornadoes today alone. And we're just really getting going.
Now the heat of the day is going. The storms are getting stronger. Storms to the south of Indianapolis, some of them very severe with a tornado warning for Bloomington, Indiana. There is the storm right there. Just give it a second, it will come in. There is the big red box, Bloomington right under the gun for a very large super cell coming over the top of you.
A little bit farther to the south, we had a storm, tornado for Evansville. The warning is still there, but the storm looks like it has really gotten a whole lot weaker than it was when it actually had the tornado signature earlier.
And then we take a line, and the line goes all the way from Carbondale, and goes all the way up into parts of Illinois and Indiana. The storms are just so hard to keep track of at this point. We're doing our best, but tornadoes with damage through Paris, into Tennessee and then even farther to the east.
And I'll take you to even one more spot. I know everybody to the south of here is saying wait, wait. I know you're talking about all of this, but it's raining in my place too. And there's severe weather all the way into parts of Arkansas. Here's Jackson, Mississippi through Louisiana and not all that far from about Houston southward into Galveston.
Galveston today was 83 degrees. You ask yourself, why is there this much severe weather? It's clearly not spring. Well, that's the reason why. We have the warm and the cold air clashing. Cold air coming down -- it's snowing in Des Moines.
It's snowing in the towns that had the tornadoes on Saturday, Ames and parts of Iowa. Snowing in Kansas city, some pictures from Kansas city just a little bit ago. These pictures just in, snow flurries coming down, visibility about four miles. Airports are a little bit slow.
Also Des Moines a little bit slow today because of that snow that's actually coming in behind the storm itself. Severe weather on this side, snow on the backside. John, you can see, as it's just like, lighting up now, storm after storm. And they are rotating, super cell, tornadic thunderstorms. And there are at least now 30 counties with tornado warnings. I can't read them all.
KING: Thirty plus counties. Chad, we will keep in touch with you. We will hope the damage is minimal. We'll get back to Chad a bit later in the program. Thank you, Chad.
And still ahead, even many Republicans now are eager for an end game in Iraq. But is President Bush getting the message? One White House setback after another up in our "Strategy Session."
Plus, another message for President Bush, this one from angry protesters. Details ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. Our Zain Verjee now joins us from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at other stories making news -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Firstly though, John, how long is your prisoner release program in THE SITUATION ROOM going to be for?
KING: Like the location of Mr. Blitzer and the maps to Mongolia, that is sensitive information.
VERJEE: Where is he? How long are we going to be stuck with you? Oh, gosh. All right, well ...
KING: I love to see the joy on your face. I'm sure the most happy man to see you sulking like that is a guy named Blitzer, Wolf Blitzer.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice showed her staying power really playing the heavy, supervising all night negotiations on her 51st birthday and brokering an Israeli/Palestinian deal on Gaza border crossings. The agreement will open the border between Gaza and Egypt with security overseen by European monitors.
The deal will let Palestinians travel across Israel in convoys to and from the West Bank. Construction of a Gaza seaport is also to begin. Israel recently withdrew from Gaza after decades of occupation.
Thousands of farmers battled, many armed with pipes and sticks, battled riot police today in South Korea's capital. Dozens of people were reported hurt in clashes prompted by a move to open up the country's rice market to imports. Police used water cannons to break up the Seoul protest which comes as world leaders head to a economic summit in the port city of Pusan.
Iraq's investigating the abuse of prisoners found packed into a government bunker in Baghdad. U.S. troops on Sunday discovered 161 detainees in the building controlled by the Interior Ministry. Iraqi police say some of the prisoners were tortured and Iraq's deputy defense minister says the abuse cannot be denied, calling it the worst he's seen in the past two years.
The deadly strain of avian flu spreading out of the far east has reached Britain, although it's limited to a quarantine center. The British government announced today that more than 50 song birds imported from Taiwan died at the center last month. Lab tests turned up evidence of the strain, although officials note it is impossible to say if the virus was the only cause of death -- John?
KING: All right, Zain, I'm sorry you're sulking. I'm happy to be here with you, though. And our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner...
VERJEE: Well, that makes one of us.
KING: We're going to keep this going, aren't we? Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner is also here with more on the bird flu threat -- Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, INTERNET REPORTER: I'm not taking anybody's side on this one. So the U.K.'s preparing online, the same way we are in the United States, for bird flu at DEFRA. This is their Department for Environment, Food, and World Affairs. They also have a page for bird flu. Think USDA, that's what's comparable to here in the United States.
They have a full report on those birds that were found sick and quarantined in Essex. Some of the birds from Taiwan, other birds in that quarantine also from South America, but those were not the ones that were found with bird flu.
Something interesting online from here, we have yet to see before, pictures of birds with bird flu. This is what they look like. This one not so bad, the swelling of the waddle. The next one's kind of gross, I'll warn you. This is congestion and blood spots on the skin of hawks and shanks. I'll switch that one off to this. This is a blue discolored comb, that's the one the left, that's the infected chicken. The one on the right is a normal chicken. So in case, John, you run into one, you'll know what you're looking at.
KING: I'm going to try to avoid that, Jacki. Thank you very much.
Up next, we will go back to our weather center, update you on these thunderstorms, tornadoes hitting most of the Midwest part of the country today. That ahead.
Also, President Bush dealt a blow on Iraq from members of his own party. What can he or should he do next? Free advice in our strategy session.
And stolen works of art from some of the masters. The FBI is on the case and wants your help. Crimes against culture in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: Keeping track this afternoon of severe weather across much of the central United States. Let's go straight back to Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center -- Chad?
MYERS: Hi, John. Back to the map behind me now. We do know that Lilbourn, Missouri, was hit by a tornado earlier today. It's probably the same long-life tornado that went from Lilbourn right through East Prairie and then into Wyatt, and then across the river and into parts of Kentucky.
We do know that the sheriff has confirmed that the storm did touch down in that town, and they are going home to home checking for injuries. There's Lilbourn. This storm is completely gone, now. This was about two hours ago. It has moved well on up toward the north and toward the northeast.
Indianapolis down to Bloomington, you have some weather under your radar now. Indianapolis, just on the southwest side of you, southwest of speedway, seeing weather, not a tornado on that storm yet, but there is one down here moving to the south and just to the southeast of Bloomington.
A little bit farther to the south, here's Nashville. Severe weather moving into the Nashville area, and also even into Louisiana. These storms are now extending all the way down into parts of Texas. Here's Paris. The storm here when it moved through Paris, Tennessee, did have a tornado on the ground with damage there. Now we have about 17 reports of damage, and I think they're going to be coming in by the dozens tonight, John.
KING: And Chad, I want to show our viewers some video just in to CNN from our affiliate KCTV in Kansas city. Snow in Kansas City. Explain to us, does this anything to do with this? You see it falling here. It looks like a wet snow there in Kansas City. How does that complicate and how does it factor in to what you're seeing.
MYERS: Absolutely no question, it's all part of the same storm. There is cold weather back to the west. The high today in Denver, 34. That's the current temperature. And then, I just checked, 83 in Galveston. You have this big cold air mass, and then the snow is coming on the backside of it, very heave snow, into parts of Omaha and Des Moines and all the way back down. Obviously, we saw the pictures into Kansas City.
About six inches on the ground in parts of Iowa. And then this very warm bubble of air, moist air as well. That warm bubble is the significant moisture that a storm needs. We talk about these hurricanes all the time, how a hurricane needs warm water to grow. Well, these thunderstorms need warm air and humidity and moisture. That's what they have. That's what all that red stuff is there.
At 4:24, National Weather Service Doppler radar indicated a tornado with a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado 20 miles southwest of Nashville. That's in Indiana. Or about nine miles north of Bedford, moving to the northeast at 60 miles per hour. That is Nashville, Indiana. Tornado on the ground, there. Actually indicated by Doppler, enough spin to the storm to indicate that the storm is on the ground.
So we're getting them one after another. You need to be very careful, John. We're talking Ohio Valley, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio now probably, all the way down to Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas. If you're in that area, if you're in any of those states or states to the east, you need to pay attention today. This is a very dangerous situation.
KING: That's good advice from Chad Myers in our weather center. We'll check back later in the program. Very busy day, Chad. Thank you very much.
And now we're going to move on. In the Iraq war, as the U.S. death toll climbs and public support declines, many Democrats and Republicans want a clearly defined strategy for winning the was and getting the troops home. Here to talk about that, Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Charlie Black a Republican strategist close to the Bush White House.
Gentlemen, I want to start with this extraordinary day in the United States Senate. The president of the United States is in Asia, a trip that will take him to three countries that have sent troops to Iraq, some of those countries getting political heat for doing that.
And as the president travels, the United States Senate is debating bringing the troops home. I want to start with you, Charlie Black. You have to just call that embarrassing for the Republican president of the United States.
CHARLIE BLACK, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it's not embarrassing to have a debate, John. I mean, the Senate leadership wants to carry out their reasonable oversight duties. But they certainly do not want to interfere with the commander-in-chief's ability to wage the war. Now, some Democrats would like to set a timetable or otherwise handcuff the president in his ability to lead the war. That's not what the Senate's going to do.
KING: Terry, I'll come to you in just a second. But Charlie Black, the Republicans control the Senate. I assume that if there were not rising doubts among the Republicans, they could have held this debate off and until the president had his feet on U.S. soil.
BLACK: Well, again, a debate is perfectly legitimate. The question is, will they take action that would tie the president's hands, interfere with his ability to wage the war? They're not going to do that. They're not going to do that. The president's still in charge.
KING: Terry McAuliffe, many of the Democrats leading this debate voted for the war. The Republicans, including the president of the United States, say revisionist history, all politics.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: We go to the basic fact that George Bush is the one who presided this intelligence data to the members in the House and Senate.
But today was extraordinary. George Bush ran for president five years ago saying that he was going to be a uniter. Well, what he did today is he united the Democrats and the Republicans, who put there you a vote today which was a no confidence vote in George Bush on his handling of Iraq.
There was no end in sight, no plan, and the American people have said enough is enough, and I think our hats are off to the members of the Senate today who, in a bipartisan, I'll remind you bipartisan vote, went and told the president they didn't like the way he was handling Iraq.
KING: I want you both to standby and watch your monitors if you haven't for just a second. This is a web ad being run by the Republican National Committee, part of an effort by the Republican Party, by the White House, to remind the American people what some Democrats said back at the beginning of the war. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Or we take some ambiguous third route, which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction and continue to press for the release of the sanctions and continue to ignore the solemn commitments that he made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Terry McAuliffe, that's your friend and your former President Bill Clinton saying Saddam Hussein was a great threat to this country.
MCAULIFFE: You bet. And what President Clinton did is had a policy of containment. And that policy worked. It is George Bush who looked at the evidence and decided to send our troops to war. We've lost 2,000 troops, we've spent over $200 billion. And we have a mess on our hands in Iraq today. And the prestige of the United States of America, the moral authority of the United States has been greatly diminished by this president.
BLACK: First of all, a majority of Democratic senators and almost a majority of Democratic House members voted for the war resolution. They understood that Saddam Hussein was a threat. They should still be supporting the war. Just because public popularity of the war is down a little bit, the president's not going to cut and run.
We're killing terrorists in Iraq much better than having to kill terrorists or face them in the U.S. You need to get your Democrats who voted for the war to buck up and continue to support the war until the job is finished in Iraq.
KING: Republican Charlie Black, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, thank you for joining us today in THE SITUATION ROOM strategy session. Thank you both.
BLACK: Thank you, John.
KING: Take care.
Now, we're keeping a close eye on the weather this afternoon here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll go back live to our Chad Myers, our severe weather expert.
Also coming up, for baseball players, they're fairly simple. You do the drugs, you're either suspended or kicked out of the league. Tough new penalties set forth today over players using steroids. We'll go through them rule by rule.
KING: There's a developing story this afternoon affecting our national pastime. A new deal between major league baseball owners and players on steroid use. CNN's Ali Velshi has the bottom line from New York -- Ali?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If sports and business can come together every day, this would be a better job than it already is, John. We've got a deal, as you said, between the major league baseball players and owners, under threat of legislation, having to do with steroid use and the penalties that are imposed.
Now under the old deal, as we know, a first strike, as it were, by a player would get them a ten-day suspension, second strike 30 days, third strike 60 days, fourth strike one-year suspension. And the fifth strike a lifetime ban at the commissioner's discretion.
The new rules, which were announced today, agreed to by both sides, a lot tougher. One strike, one failed steroid test, 50-game suspension to think about it. Second strike, 100 games. And on the third time that you're tested for steroid use, a lifetime suspension from baseball. John, this should send a very clear message out about steroid use. MLB also going to be testing for amphetamine use for the first time.
KING: Fascinating story. Ali Velshi in New York. And we will keep track also on Capitol Hill. Key lawmakers involved in putting the pressure on baseball may have something to say about this a bit later today. You see the site where those lawmakers scheduled to speak shortly. News of note, we will bring it to you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, up next, with plunging popularity and even some Republicans increasing their distance, how might President Bush get back on track? I'll ask a Republican with years of Washington experience. After the break, my interview with the former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.
And police say the woman who allegedly robbed banks while talking on her cell phone will now be making any of her phone calls from jail. We'll have the latest on the cell phone suspect.
KING: He's been reviewing your emails, applying for security clearance, and now our Jack Cafferty is back with "The Cafferty File" in New York -- Jack?
CAFFERTY: They wouldn't let me stand guard outside the stationary cabinet in this building. Judge Samuel Alito is inching away from past comments that there's no constitutional right to get an abortion.
He said when he made that remark, and he did in 1985, that he was an advocate seeking a job. He said now he doesn't give heed to personal views. The question we've asked is, how much will Judge Alito's past statements on abortion matter?
Mike in Iowa writes, "None. He's an honorable man that will make decisions based on the law, no matter what his personal views are."
Judy in Nevada writes, "Judge Alito explains his written opinion regarding abortion by saying that he was applying for a job and told his prospective employers what they wanted to hear. The question is, is he now telling his prospective employers what they want to hear?"
S writers, "If Alito signed a pledge not to adjudicate financial institutions managing his money and then did just that, how can he be trusted on abortion, or anything else, for that matter?"
Debbie writes from Las Gatos, California, "You can't tell me his past opinions won't affect his future opinion on the high court. He's been extremely vocal about this subject, so why should we believe that he'd perform otherwise? I don't trust this candidate, and I hope the Democrats grow some spine and overturn this nomination."
And Chuck writes from Iowa, "There is a god. John King is back. I will watch your show today." Is Chuck's last name King, John?
KING: I think you might have made that one up. If not, if Chuck's out there watching, lower case G. That's good. Chuck, thanks for watching. There are no gods in THE SITUATION ROOM, though.
CAFFERTY: John's brother Chuck out there in Iowa.
KING: I have friends in Iowa, no brothers. Thank you, Jack.
And still to come, former Senator Bob Dole is my guest here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also ahead, police say she was busy talking and robbing a bank. Now, this alleged cell phone robber is under arrest. We'll bring you the FBI agent who cracked the case.
KING: Former Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole tried more than once to win the White House. He may be grateful not to have the job, at least right, given the problems President Bush is facing. I spoke at length today with Senator Dole about Mr. Bush's troubles.
KING: I want to begin with an extraordinary debate today in the chamber where you were once the leader. The United States Senate debating an exit strategy for the war in Iraq at a time the president is overseas in Asia, visiting three countries that have troops in Iraq.
Used to be, sir, that politics stopped at the water's edge when the president was traveling. Why is it, and is it appropriate in your view, that the Senate is having this debate now?
BOB DOLE (R), FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I think it's a close call. I remember once when Clinton was overseas, and I can't recall the specifics. But we had some debate on foreign policy. And we were criticized for it. I'm not -- I think it depends on what they're doing. If they're shouting and screaming and saying, "Pull out the troops today or tomorrow or next week," then I think it goes too far. But a debate, I don't think so.
KING: Well, the president himself stoked this fire, if you will. I want you to listen briefly. This is the president last night in Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on the way, just before he left the United States, he certainly added his voice to this debate, accusing the Democrats of crossing the line. Listen to the president.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They're playing politics with this issue. And they are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. And that's irresponsible.
KING: Do you agree with that, Senator? If you question the president's strategy on the war, are you sending mixed signals to the troops and enemy?
DOLE: Well, I'm not certain about that. But I think it's time that President Bush came out slugging. I mean, these guys have been beating him up for the last six months. And he's hunkered down and took it. I think he's going to recover some ground with the American people if he fights for what he believes in. If it's not worth fighting for, it's not worth doing.
KING: Why has the government and other advocates, I guess including yourself, failed to explain to people what this is?
DOLE: Well, we've been doing that now for the past several months. And we think starting today, they're going to have all the information they can handle. And there's all kinds of, you know, availability, information is available, www.medicare.gov is operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 1-800-medicare, that's where you get your 24 hours a week, seven days a week.
I'm worried about too much information, not a lack of information. We had a good crowd today in Tampa, Florida, of seniors. It's a voluntary program. They don't have to do anything, but for particularly low-income seniors, this is really a bonanza.
KING: I remember a Bob Dole in the Senate, and I remember a Bob Dole campaigning for the presidency who worried quite a bit about the federal government running up deficit spending. Do you worry now, as you know, many of your Republican colleagues in Congress opposed this new Medicare drug benefit, and they look at the cost and they say it is helping to explode the federal debt?
DOLE: Well, if they can keep it within the $700 plus billion they're talking about over ten years is one thing. But I've found, in most massive federal programs, you generally underestimate the cost. Maybe I don't say intentionally, but the cost is generally underestimated. And if it balloons beyond that very much, then we do have a problem.
KING: A bit of a technical glitch in our edit, there. Senator Dole out today in part to discuss today's deadline for signing up for that new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Medicare has launched a web site to accompany that new plan. Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner is here with more -- Jacki?
SCHECHNER: John, Senator Dole mentioned the Web site, it's medicare.gov. I have to warn you, it does sometimes take some time to load. Be patient. They are well aware of it. We spoke to someone at CMS today. They said they have been overwhelmed, and they are working to fix the problem.
If you do get on, this is what it looks like. A couple of sections you want to take a look at. The first is "Compare Medicare Prescription Drug Plans." If you go to that, you can do two things. You can search generally, or you can search specifically for yourself, a personalized claim. You're going to need your Medicare claim number for that and some other personal information.
Through that, what you can do is put in the drugs that you take. It'll tell you what plans are best for you. You can also go through a second section on that site called Formulary Finder. We plugged in a couple of random drugs for you just to give you an idea what it looks like. It will tell you what plans in your area cover those specific drugs.
The other thing I just want to mention is if you don't have Internet access or if this is just too daunting for you, you can call that 1-800 number, 1-800-medicare, and they will help you out, they will talk you through it, and then they will print out whatever they came up with and mail it to you via snail mail -- John?
KING: Jacki Schechner, thank you very much.
And it's just before 5:00 p.m. in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive at one place at the same time.
Happening now, on alert in tornado alley. From funnel clouds to flooding. Midwest residents get a severe weather warning.
The Senate sends a strong message. Iraq must pull itself together so U.S. troops can pull out. But Defense Secretary Rumsfeld lashes out at Iraq war critics.
And officials say she chatted on her cell phone while robbing one bank after another after another. Now that she's in custody, new details emerge about the so-called cell phone bandit. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com