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THE SITUATION ROOM

Rumsfeld Strikes Back; Bush in Asia

Aired November 15, 2005 - 17:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. Wolf is off today.
Right now there are tornado touchdowns, watches and warnings in the Midwest and the Southeast. We're following it all here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CNN meteorologists Dave Hennen and Chad Myers are keeping track of the storms.

Gentlemen -- Chad, you first.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I'm going to need about six more guys in here before the end of the night, I'm afraid, John. This is going to be one very difficult night really to -- to almost put your hands around.

The number of tornado watch boxes now covering up -- they're all covering each other up now, one box after another. And the tornado warnings now, there have been about 20 tornado warnings at a time it seems like now for the past three hours.

One of the bigger ones now to the south of Indianapolis. That storm there a rotating storm, not all that far from Columbus. It did move through Nashville, Indiana, earlier.

There have been many reports of damage, probably 20 reports of towns being damaged. Another tornado warning for the town, the city of Terre Haute. The storm is still well back out to the border, back into Indiana and Illinois there, but it will be moving into the Terre Haute area, and that one is also rotating there.

If we get further down to the south, we have a storm spotter with a tornado on the ground with that storm through Madisonville, moving to the northeast at 60 miles per hour. So these storms are moving so quickly, it's going to be difficult to even get out of the way of some of them.

Right along I-40, tornado warning for Jackson. That town was hit three, four years ago by a very large tornado.

And then moving on up toward here, and if you notice what's behind me, that's Nashville, Tennessee. These storms aren't that far from there.

And there's another bigger storm down here with a tornado rotating around it. And that's not all that far south and southwest of Nashville. And obviously with the motion going here, even through Monroe, Louisiana, seeing a tornado warning at this hour. It is going to be one tough night.

Dave, this is a big storm.

DAVE HENNEN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, exactly, Chad. Covering a very large area.

I think we have six tornado watches in effect at the present time. Still have our high risks. That's from the Storm Prediction Center. They issue the watches. And they put much of the area from Ohio, all the way back down to Mississippi under a high risk of severe weather. We only see this one or two times a season, and that's in effect on through the evening hours.

Let's show you the map. And I want to show you how far this extends.

We counted just a little bit ago. We had 20 counties under tornado warnings. We've added to that. That's just tornado warnings. They extend over a large area. I'm just going to hit my space bar here and show you the difference.

Seven hundred and fifty miles this line of thunderstorms extends from. You can see the live lightning going on as well. Each one of these little flashes a live lightning strike. We've seen thousands of strikes in the last couple of hours or so.

We continue to watch a couple areas we are concerned of. Just south of Indianapolis, a couple of tornado warnings. Chad was just showing you those.

And the other area we're watching further to the south, that extends back down towards the Nashville area. And west of Nashville right, we see a number of tornado warnings, you can see them right there highlighted. Jackson included. The storms will be approaching Nashville in the next couple of hours. There's the line of thunderstorms -- each of those storms capable of producing large hail, damaging winds, and even tornadoes. So we'll continue to keep a close eye on that system.

Chad, do you have anything?

MYERS: Dave, I just have one thing over here.

Debris being reported falling from the sky in Bloomington, Indiana. Now, that means that that debris was picked up by a tornado to the west or to the southwest of that city, and now that's being blown into the town of Bloomington. That came in about 20 minutes ago, and then from -- into Saline County in Illinois, a tornado on the ground there. Hopkins County in Kentucky, a tornado on the ground there.

This is just going to be one very difficult night.

John.

KING: Chad Myers, Dave Hennen in the Weather Center. Stand by and continue tracking as you do there.

Let's get more details on these storms from Russell Schneider. He's chief of the Science and Support Branch at NOAA, the federal government Storm Prediction Center, and he's on the phone.

Mr. Schneider, you heard I think Chad and Dave Hennen describing this 750-mile stretch, I think Dave Hennen put it. Who is most at risk right now? And help us look forward a bit.

RUSSELL SCHNEIDER, NOAA STORM PREDICTION CENTER: Well, the strongest storms, as you've been discussing, are moving out of Illinois and Indiana. Portions of Illinois are still in risk -- at risk, in southeast Illinois.

But very dangerous thunderstorms extending the line much further to the south, they're moving into central Kentucky and out of western Tennessee, toward central Tennessee, or middle Tennessee. We expect them to continue through the night with a possibility of very damaging tornadoes, as we've already seen. The threat area will be increasing to the east.

Folks that are cool right now can expect their conditions, the winds to be very strong, and can moisten very rapidly in storms like this. So you shouldn't let down your guard just because you're in cool conditions right now if you're in one of the threat areas

KING: And Mr. Schneider, as you look at the maps and your projections, what are the most populated areas that you see currently in the path where you would be worried?

SCHNEIDER: Well, certainly Indianapolis, as you talked about; Nashville; Lexington, Kentucky; and then extending into western Ohio. Can't name all the cities. It's a very large area, and folks need to monitor their local media and national media and take cover when these storms approach, because they're moving very rapidly and there won't be much time if a tornado is actually accompanying one of these very strong thunderstorms.

KING: Well, Russell Schneider, we thank you for your help keeping track of the severe weather this afternoon. We will check back in with you and with our weather center as well.

And for more on the severe weather, let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: John, at the National Weather Service Web site, you can track the severe weather online. Look at the large area affected in the United States right now, but also zoom in on your county, see what is coming up.

This section here looks at the tornadoes that have just recently touched down in the United States, updated constantly. In the last three hours, we just saw it was at 12 tornadoes, just gone up to 13. Also, zooming in on a particular area so you can see what's going on near to you. We zoomed in on the area Paducah, Kentucky. Around there you see all the areas in yellow. Those are counties under a tornado watch right now. The areas in red, tornado warnings.

John.

KING: Abbi Tatton. Thank you very much. We'll continue to track the storms on the Internet as well.

Here in Washington, of course, a debate simmering in the United States Senate. In recent days, President Bush has been firing back at his critics, the critics of his Iraq policy.

Now the Defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is joining the administration's counterattack. Today, Secretary Rumsfeld detailed how Democrats, too, had once viewed Saddam Hussein as a menace who needed to be dealt with.

For more on that, let's go live to CNN's Kathleen Koch at the Pentagon. Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it was clearly the case today of the defense secretary certainly going on the offensive, taking the battle to Democrats who have really been giving the administration a pounding. And the defense secretary retraced what he called the actual history of how the U.S. got involved in Iraq

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: "Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again."

KOCH (voice over): One by one, Donald Rumsfeld threw the words of Democrats back in their faces. Former National Security Adviser Samuel Berger on Saddam Hussein...

RUMSFELD: "He will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. And some day, some way I am certain he will use that arsenal again."

KOCH: Similar quotes from President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, all expressing concern about the threat posed by the Iraqi leader and his weapons of mass destruction. All, Rumsfeld said, to prove a point

RUMSFELD: We have people suggesting that the reason we're there was because this president decided to go in based on information that was unique to him. And it wasn't unique to him. The information that he based his decision on was the same information that President Clinton and the previous administration had.

KOCH: Democrats in Congress were not amused.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: What is wrong with this picture? What was Al Gore's access to intelligence before our invasion in Iraq? The answer is little or no access. This administration portrayed a situation in Iraq that was not true, it was not accurate. They need to be held accountable.

KOCH: Despite their anger, Senate Democrats could not get the votes for a measure managing a timetable for a withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, the Senate overwhelmingly endorsed a statement calling on the Bush administration to explain its Iraq policy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld did acknowledge that what he called honest mistakes were made in prewar intelligence, the intelligence used to base the decision to go to war in Iraq. But he did insist the United States needs to stand firm in the global war against what he called Islamic fascists who want to impose their dark vision on free societies.

John.

KING: Kathleen Koch. An interesting day at the Pentagon. Thank you, Kathleen.

And while they're exchanging broadsides here in Washington, the president is in Japan, the first stop on a four-nation trip aimed at boosting U.S. standing in Asia.

Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is with the president and joins us now live from Kyoto. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Well, what's interesting about what Kathleen was just reporting is that part of the president's trip throughout Asia is to actually highlight some of the allies when it comes to Iraq.

Japan, where the president is of course today, has about 500 troops in Iraq. And actually, the prime minister, one of the president's closest friends, is going to likely extend the deadline for bringing those home. That deadline was in December.

His next stop is South Korea. They have the third largest contingent in Iraq.

And Mr. Bush will be the first president ever to visit the country of Mongolia. Why? Primarily because they, too, have a small contingent of troops in Iraq.

So there is no question that the last thing the White House wanted was any kind of even symbolic vote back home while the president was here, showing dissatisfaction, or even discontent with the president's Iraq policy. But the line at the White House, John, is that they say -- their sort of look on the bright side line is that Democrats showed that they were maybe split on the big issue of whether or not to set a deadline to bring troops home.

But they also note, John, that they understand Republicans who are going to be home with their constituents for some time during the holidays needed to have some kind of vote, needed to be on the record saying that they wanted some kind of answers as to when the Iraq war and when the troops would come home eventually, or at least some kind of line from the White House giving them updates.

KING: But Dana, that has to frustrate them a great deal that, sure, they may think Republicans need something, some political argument to go home with. But they -- they controlled the Senate. They could have delayed this debate, one would imagine, until after the president came home.

BASH: Well, what they say is they could try. But they also understand the rules of the Senate, and that Democrats were intent on putting this amendment up. And their amendment, of course, which did not pass would have actually called for some kind of date certain to bring troops home from Iraq. And this is essentially the best thing Republicans had to offer, which is to offer an alternative, something for even some Democrats, and certainly Republicans, to vote for and not have sort of that date certain.

But you're right, John. There's no question that any kind of vote, even if it's symbolic, does underscore the feeling that we are seeing in our poll and many other polls about what is going on in terms of public discontent when it comes to Iraq. John?

KING: Dana Bash for us in Kyoto, Japan, tracking domestic politics while traveling with the president overseas. Dana, thank you very much.

And more on this debate and this big defining day here in Washington with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein a bit later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Time now for the "Cafferty File." Our Jack Cafferty in New York with the question for this hour. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Dana just reported that President Bush will be the first American president ever to go to Mongolia, right?

KING: Yes. You were at this yesterday. I think we're sending you and Zain Verjee on a SITUATION ROOM-paid trip to find Wolf Blitzer in Mongolia.

CAFFERTY: Why do you suppose that is, that no president has ever gone there before?

KING: You know, you went through this yesterday with Mr. Blitzer. This is his room. I'm going to let his answer stand.

CAFFERTY: Couldn't you just call and say thank you for -- I mean, you could just call them.

And as far as putting off that vote is concerned -- and John, check me on this if I'm wrong, this country boy's theory from out of the state of Nevada -- based on the poll numbers, there are probably Republicans in the Senate who are anxious to begin pushing away from the -- from the policy as it comes from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, particularly those who might be up for reelection next year.

KING: You don't need to read the big fancy papers here in Washington. Your eyes are working just fine.

CAFFERTY: There you go, John. All right.

Get off the couch, but not until after THE SITUATION ROOM. A new study shows exercising almost every day can add four years to your life. Researchers have found that American adults who have moderate to high levels of activity -- talking five days a week here -- lived between 1.3 and 3.7 years longer than those who got little exercise.

It's a Dutch study. It also found it's never too late to start exercising. Middle-aged people who begin working out can also add years to their lives.

Meanwhile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most Americans don't exercise regularly.

So here is the question: Would you exercise every day in order to live four years longer? CaffertyFile@CNN.com, and we already know up front that a lot of you who write in and say yes are lying.

John.

KING: Now, now, now, now, now.

CAFFERTY: Well, they're going to say, yes, I'd be willing to, but they really don't. I mean, five days a week, that's a -- that's a heavy commitment.

KING: I was at the gym this morning. I was looking for you the whole time I was there.

CAFFERTY: I actually -- I don't go to a gym. But I walk a lot. I probably walk 20 miles a week.

KING: Pacing the halls with Jack Cafferty, the video coming soon to Blockbuster. Thank you, Jack. We'll be back to you a bit later.

And up ahead, we'll continue to track the severe weather across the Midwest and Southeast. Several tornado watches and warnings in effect.

And her work in the Senate. California's Dianne Feinstein is familiar with intelligence matters and confirming Supreme Court nominees. After the break I'll ask her about the Iraq war and confirmation hearings ahead for the president's Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alit.

And she's the cell phone suspect who allegedly robbed banks while talking on her cell phone. Could her next few calls be from a prison cell? New details in this bizarre case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Senators found some measure of common ground on Iraq today, calling on the Bush administration to explain its policy there. Can they find common ground on Mr. Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court?

Well, as a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is an active voice on both issues. She joins be now live from Capitol Hill.

Senator Feinstein, I want to start with the remarkable debate in the United States Senate today. Just before he flew across the Pacific, the president was quite vehement in saying that he thought a debate about the war now was sending the wrong message to the troops, and the wrong message, the president said, to the enemy.

How would you answer that?

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I would not agree with that at all. I think the time has come to begin to re-evaluate the mission in Iraq.

The Iraqis now have a constitution. December 15, they will have their first permanent elected leadership. My own view is that our military presence there, so high profile, creates its own set of problems. And I think we ought to begin to redeploy, to downsize, to move out our troops at the beginning of next year.

The Shia and the Sunni really have to come to terms with one another. And with our high-profile presence, I believe, we prevent that coming to terms.

KING: As -- you're looking forward now, but as part of this debate in the Senate today and in recent days and weeks here in Washington, there's been a highly partisan debate about how we got to war in the first place, with some members of your party saying the president hyped, exaggerated, some used the term "disingenuous," some have even suggested lied about the intelligence to go to the war in Iraq.

I want you to listen to the Defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, on this issue a bit earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: There's no doubt in my mind that people made honest mistakes in that set of -- the pieces of that intelligence that were presented at the United Nations. They certainly were not intentional, and they were clearly honest mistakes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Do you accept that, Senator Feinstein, honest mistakes?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I can't say at this time. One of the things the Intelligence Committee is looking into right now is the use of intelligence and what intelligence did a leader have at the time they made a major statement. I think it's important that we examine that very carefully. It's very clear, and it should be clear to everybody, the president has access, the White House owns intelligence. They have access to unfinished intelligence. We do not. We have no idea what the president is briefed on every morning at his briefs.

So I think it's very necessary to take a look at how intelligence was used. We have finally gotten to the point where we have commenced that part of the Intelligence Committee's investigation.

KING: Well, you make a -- I'm sorry for interrupting you, but you make an interesting point, because one of the things the White House has said is that the members of Congress saw the intelligence too.

I want to read to you this quote from October 10, 2002, from -- this is a quote from you, Senator Dianne Feinstein -- "Disarming Iraq under Saddam Hussein is necessary and vital to the safety and security of America. Evidence indicates that he has engaged in developing nuclear weapons."

Are you saying now that you think maybe you didn't have all of the evidence, or that the administration selectively decided what you could see?

FEINSTEIN: Well, clearly, I read what I had, which was the national intelligence estimates, which were briefings, which were open source materials. And really, to a great extent, was conditioned by many of the statements made by the administration, which I believed.

Now, part of the problem is, all of the intelligence was apparently wrong. It was apparently bad.

Was all this bad intelligence really the product of the decision- making project -- process, or was it, in some way, shape or form skewed to be much more positive than it should have been? We don't know this yet.

And so I think it's really important that the committee be able to move ahead with its investigation. It wasn't only Secretary Rumsfeld -- I mean, it was everybody.

It was secretary of state, who, before the Security Council, spoke about biological and chemical weapons with a real degree of certainty, and had said publicly that this was somewhat disastrous, that he subsequently found out that none of this was true, that all of the sources were discredited.

KING: Senator, I want to turn your attention now to what you, yourself, have described as your unique role on the Senate Judiciary Committee. You have said as the only woman on the committee that you essentially will be the firewall, that you want to be the defender of Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights decision.

You met today with the president's nominee, Samuel Alito. That meeting coming just one day after a 1985 document written by Mr. Alito came to light in which he said, "I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."

Did Judge Alito tell you in the private meeting whether or not he would vote if he were on the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade came up again? Did he tell you how he would vote?

FEINSTEIN: No, not precisely. And that's really a question that has to be on the record and answered.

You're right about how I feel -- and I believe a majority of the American people feel as I do -- that Roe has been on the books now since 1973, that there have been 32 attempts to change it, that it has been modified by cases, and that it should remain the law of the land.

So I have said that if I believe that a nominee may overturn Roe, I won't be a vote for that nominee. Now, what...

KING: Well, you are unlikely, Senator -- excuse me, but you are unlikely to get a direct answer. The White House has said its candidates -- you went through this with Chief Justice Roberts now -- will not answer how they will vote on specific cases. If he refuses to answer specifically, are you a no vote?

FEINSTEIN: If he refuses to answer that the Constitution does provide a woman a right of privacy, and that Roe has been tested sufficiently enough, if I feel at the end of everyone's questions, which will be a long, multi-day process, that I believe he will overturn Roe, yes, I will vote against him.

KING: Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. Thank you for your thoughts on two very critical issues today. Thank you, Senator.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you, Senator. Take care.

And coming up, we'll get a Republican take on the president's Iraq policy from a GOP lawmaker who's been pressuring the White House to spell out its end game for months, Congressman Walter Jones.

And coming up, twisters hovering over the heartland. We have severe weather watches in much of the Midwest. We'll help you keep track of the storms.

And are Republicans breaking ranks with the Bush administration? I'll ask one staunch defender of U.S. troops if he's concerned about Iraq war policies.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: New developments now in the case of a woman being called the cell phone bank robber, who held up banks all the while chatting away on a cell phone.

Our Brian Todd is here with the details of this remarkable, I guess is the right word. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it sure is remarkable. And we've learned this young lady now identified as Candice Rose Martinez has confessed to robbing four Wachovia banks in the Washington area and is cooperating with law enforcement.

She was taken into custody early this morning, ending a crime spree that has captivated this area and much of the country.

(VOICE OVER):

TODD (voice over): For nearly a month, she was chased by the FBI and law enforcement agencies in four jurisdictions. During that time she became something of a celebrity for her brazen tactic of holding up banks in Northern Virginia while on a cell phone.

Now that this 19-year-old community college student is in custody and cooperating, we asked the FBI agent who arrested her a key question about Candice Rose Martinez, if her confession was truthful...

(on camera): What do you think her motive was in these robberies? Can you say anything about that?

RON CHAVARRO, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: You know, it's hard to say. It varies from individual to individual. But with Ms. Martinez, it's going to involve further debriefings.

TODD (voice over): FBI Agent Ron Chavarro tells CNN that in the four robberies, Candice Martinez netted nearly $50,000. According to a detective's affidavit, during one of the robberies, Martinez presented the teller a note demanding money, then said, "You're taking too long. You have 40 seconds."

Agent Chavarro and Martinez's own father tell CNN to their knowledge she has no prior arrests.

FBI officials say her boyfriend, David Williams, who said he once worked at a Wachovia bank, was also arrested and has confessed to being her accomplice. But they either can't or won't answer another key question.

(on camera): Who was on the other end of the phone when she was making these calls, allegedly, from the bank during these robberies? Have you been able to ascertain that? Has she said anything about it?

CHAVARRO: At this point in time, unfortunately, because it is an ongoing investigation, I'm not at liberty to discuss that aspect of the investigation.

TODD (voice over): Candice Martinez came to the D.C. area from this small home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to attend Northern Virginia Community College. Officials there tell CNN she took courses at two locations, including their medical education campus, but hadn't been to class for a couple of weeks. Her father tells CNN he hasn't spoken to her for about a month. He tells a CNN affiliate he would have tried to turn her in if he had known what was going on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: I asked Agent Ron Chavarro, assuming her confession holds up, if he believes Candice Martinez would have kept robbing banks if she hadn't been apprehended. He said in these cases bank robbers usually don't stop their crimes just to stop.

Candice Martinez expected to face at least one federal count of bank robbery.

John.

KING: Still trying to find a better word than "remarkable." Brian Todd keeping track of this story today. Thank you very much, Brian.

Coming up, we're tracking severe weather from Mississippi to Indiana and beyond. We'll have details of the latest tornado touchdowns.

Plus, are plummeting poll numbers creating problems for President Bush with his own party? We'll have more from Senator Bob Dole.

Plus, Republican Congressman Walter Jones will join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The GOP-controlled Senate sent President Bush a clear message today by voting to get regular updates on the progress of the mission in Iraq. Mr. Bush has been on the defensive against his Iraq war critics, accusing Democrats of being irresponsible and playing politics.

But Republicans are breaking with him as well.

I talked about Iraq politics today with the former Senate majority leader, Bob Dole.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Why is it, sir, that you believe so many Republicans right now are breaking from this Republican president?

BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER AND FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they look at poll numbers. I think they -- I don't know why. They're a little faint-hearted, too, I guess. Maybe all those who are looking that way are running -- are up for reelection next cycle. I don't know.

But I remember supporting President Clinton when they said we ought to have an exit strategy in Bosnia. I think we are still in Bosnia. It's cost about $35 billion. You know, we were trying to force Clinton to give us a date certain. That was almost 10 years ago. And we're still there.

So I mean, all this exit strategy makes good debate. It appeals to a certain number of American people. But let's face it. That's not -- the exit strategy is not the goal. Success is the goal. And then we will -- we will -- we will exit with honor.

KING: Well, you mentioned faint-hearted Republicans -- your term -- perhaps looking at the polls and breaking from their president.

I want to get -- cite one of those polls. The new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup shows the president right now with a 37 percent approval rating. Sixty percent, six in 10, of the American people disapprove of how he's doing his job right now. You know how this works, sir. You were the leader...

DOLE: Yes. Right.

KING: ... of the Republicans in the Senate during the Reagan years, during the Clinton years. Is this president in danger of becoming a lame duck?

DOLE: I -- I don't think so. I mean, I -- you know, given another three months, even maybe now two months. But, if the president conducts himself as he has the last few days and defends his policy for the right reasons and speaks directly to the American people, I think he will recoup much of his loss.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: That's former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole a bit earlier here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Are Republicans breaking with the Bush administration on its Iraq war policies?

Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina is a big supporter of U.S. troops and their families, but he was one of the first Republicans to ask the president, when will the troops start coming home? Congressman Jones joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Congressman, when you called on the administration several months ago to lay out an exit strategy, many conservatives came pretty close to accusing you of almost treason, saying that you were getting in the face of the president, that you were being unpatriotic. The Senate had a debate today. Will the House have the same debate?

REP. WALTER JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: John, I think so. And let me, if you will, for just a moment -- Senator Dole was talking about President Clinton and talking about the Army being in the Kosovo. And let me quote Governor Bush at that time, in 1999. It's "Houston Chronicle." It was April 9, 1999. Again, this is Governor Bush, who is now President Bush. This is what he said: "Victory means exit strategy. And it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is."

That, again, is Governor Bush in 1999, saying to President Clinton, tell us what the plan is.

And, John, I'm very pleased that the Senate took that action today in a bipartisan way. It passed overwhelmingly, as you know. And I think that's going to help the initiative on our side.

All we're saying to the president is -- and I have learned this from many people who were in Vietnam. And they told me since, they said, Congressman, you cannot have a war strategy unless you have an end point to the war strategy.

KING: Well, I -- obviously, the president disagrees with you. I want you to listen to this. This is the president last night, just before flying across the Pacific to Asia, the president talking about the political debate about the war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them into war continue to stand behind them.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: My apologies there, Congressman Jones. You voted for the war.

JONES: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Was your vote a mistake?

JONES: John, let me say that I think many of us, if we had known then what we know today about the justification of going into Iraq, probably would not have voted for that resolution.

But, again, we have a responsibility to support our troops. They're doing a magnificent job. But we also have a responsibility based on our constitutional responsibility to discuss policy and the future of that policy.

KING: Is -- is that saying it's -- knowing what you know, your vote was a mistake, sir?

JONES: Yes. I would say, I -- if I had known then what I know today, I would not have voted to send our troops to Iraq.

KING: Let's talk about the mood in the country.

Senator Dole attributed some of this, what he called faint- hearted Republicans, to the president's standing in the polls. As you know, I came to see you in your district over the summer, when many thought that perhaps they would find a Republican to run against you. There were some conservatives who are unhappy.

You represent a very conservative district, one your father represented before you. It has military bases there, the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Camp Lejeune, other Marine facilities. What are military families asking, the men and women who are either going to fight the war, or that they are the spouses, the parents? What are they asking you to ask the president?

JONES: John, the majority of those in the military are doing their duty and they're doing it extremely well.

What I do know that people want to hear is exactly what I said just a moment ago. They want to know that there's an end point, which means, will they be able to recognize victory? And that's what the American people want. It's not a date certain or a timetable. It's just to be able to say that we will recognize victory. And, at that point, we can say to the Iraqis, this is your country; this is your fight.

KING: So, why, sir, then, does the president say, to have that debate now sends the wrong message to the troops and the wrong message to the enemy? Why does the president say that, then?

JONES: John, I can't answer that. Apparently, the Senate did not hear his speech. They passed the resolution.

KING: And, sir, are you still sending letters...

JONES: Because they -- they passed the resolution.

KING: Yes, they did, sir.

When I came to visit you, you were in the process of sending -- you were going to be past the 2,000 mark of sending letters to each serviceman killed in Iraq, killed in Afghanistan. You're still in the process, sir, or have you done that?

JONES: Yes, sir. John, we -- I have 30 letters on my desk to be signed today. And I can tell you that, every time I sign that letter, I look at the name of that soldier and that Marine who was killed. And my heart aches, as I say in the first sentence to the families.

KING: Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, sir, thank you for your time today.

JONES: Thank you, John.

KING: We will keep in touch as this debate certainly continues here in Washington.

And, still to come, severe weather, from the South through the Midwest, tornadoes, thunderstorms and torrential downpours. We have it covered.

And the big bears have bounced back. Now the government wants them off the endangered list. But are some grizzlies heading for a grisly fate?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK).

KING: They own much of Alaska, but Grizzly bears have been scarce in the lower 48. But now the big bears are back, but are they back to stay?

CNN's Mary Snow is live in New York with the answer to that question. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John.

With little fanfare, the government today marked a milestone of sorts for the Grizzly bear. And while no one would ever accuse the animals of being soft and cuddly, some environmentalists worry that they're being edged out of their protective nests a little too soon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): It's an icon of the American West, the Grizzly bear, instilling terror in many who get in its path. Now it's gained a representation as the big comeback kid, clawing its way off the endangered species list after 30 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our grandchildren's grandchildren will see Grizzly bears roaming the mountains, forests and river of the Yellowstone area.

SNOW: With the welcome back comes a warning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hope you get a glimpse of the Grizzly. We hope you do not have an encounter with the grizzly.

SNOW: Its fierce encounters with humans caused their population to dwindle in the first place. In 1975, there were roughly 200 Grizzlies in the Yellowstone area. Now, in that same place, the federal government puts that number over 600. It's taken the first step in removing them from the endangered species list.

BILL WEBER, NORTH AMERICA PROGRAM DIRECTOR, WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY: The good news is that the bear numbers have recovered. Maybe the bad news for them is, they have to enter the real world now. And the real world can be a dangerous place.

SNOW: Mainly, that real world for bears means hunters and modern life. Some environmentalists are critical of the government's plan to de-list the grizzlies, fearing it will backfire.

JON COIFMAN, SPOKESMAN, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: Without the protections of the Endangered Species Act, we are afraid that it's going to mean declaring open season on these bears.

SNOW: Can this Old West icon survive in the West of new with fewer places to roam because of roadways and massive developments?

(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: Now, if the de-listing plan does go through, it would only affect the three state areas surrounding Yellowstone National Park -- Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

John.

SNOW: Mary Snow for us in New York. Thank you, Mary.

And for more now on those Grizzly bears in Yellowstone, let's bring in our Internet reporter, our online park ranger, Jacki Schechner.

(LAUGHTER)

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: I'm a Jacki of all trades, John.

So, you saw, John, in Mary's package interviewing about the Natural Resources Defense Council. This is an environmental action group. They're taking the fight online to help save what they call biogems. These are areas like Yellowstone National Park. The Grizzly effort is part of that.

Take a look at what you can do. You can click through. You can sign a petition online to protect the Grizzly bears. You send this off the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services. Sign your name at the bottom of that. You can also send a postcard to your friends to tell them to get on the cause.

The other thing they have there is some interesting resources online, some maps, show where the bears are now, where they used to be, where they're -- where they're nearly gone; the areas in orange are where they're nearly gone -- and also some interesting facts about them, that they use today roam as far south as Mexico. And now they're only in that Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain area.

The other thing which is really interesting is that they have an average life span of about 30 years. They only reproduce every three years, John. And they only have one or two cubs per litter.

KING: Jacki Schechner, thank you very much.

And Lou Dobbs, who I know is a huge fan of Grizzly bears, is getting ready for his show at the top of the hour.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, increasingly so, I'm becoming a fan. Thank you very much, John.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: Coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, the Senate is demanding answers from the Bush White House on the war in Iraq. We will have a special report for you from Capitol Hill.

And President Bush to call on China and other countries in Asia to introduce democracy. Will the communist Chinese party be listening?

And charges tonight the Food and Drug Administration putting politics over science when it made a major decision on the fate of a contraceptive drug. We will have that special report.

And I will be talking with Congressman Curt Weldon, who says the Able Danger scandal is bigger than Watergate.

We will have all of that and a great deal more. Please join us at the top of the hour. Now back to you, John.

KING: Thank you very much, Lou.

And, in the meantime, stay right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're tracking tornadoes and severe weather moving across the South and Midwest. We will bring you live updates as soon as we get them.

And a royal fairy tale in reverse. Find out what the Japanese princess did for love.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We have been keeping close track this afternoon of severe weather across the Midwest, some of the Southeast.

We want to check back in quickly now with our Chad Myers at the Weather Center. Chad?

MYERS: Hey, John. And even yesterday and the day before, we knew that Evansville was going to be under the gun for some tornadoes and, obviously, the place that was hit so hard by the tornadoes last Saturday -- a new tornado warning for Vanderburgh and also for Henderson counties in Indiana and Kentucky.

And that does, include -- obviously, that's the town, basically, of Evansville and into Henderson. We will zoom you into a couple of other spots up here -- Anderson, Indiana, tornado warning for you.

Richmond, Indiana, the home of Tom Raper RV, tornado warning for you. This storm is still well to your southwest, but it's on its way. And then the spin right here for the Evansville storm, look at that, just to your southwest. This is almost the exact path that the storm took. If there's a tornado here, it moved across from Kentucky to Indiana, back to Kentucky and then back to Indiana again. And this storm is really well on the way to being on the same path.

We don't know if there's a tornado on the ground, but there's a tornado warning for it indicated by Doppler radar.

John.

BLITZER: All right, thank you, Chad. We will stay in touch with you. And viewers should stay with CNN throughout the evening, as we keep track of this severe weather.

She woke up this morning a royal, but she's now just a commoner.

Our Zain Verjee is live for us at the CNN Center with details of the wedding that cost a Japanese princess, some would say, everything. Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, marriage bringing big changes for everyone, I think you could say. But few people have experienced the kind of dramatic transformation Japan's former Princess Sayako has just gone through.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): She left behind not only her home, but her entire way of life. Sayako, the only daughter of Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, was on her way to marry a commoner.

(APPLAUSE)

VERJEE: Thousands of people cheered the princess as she was driven from the imperial palace to a nearby hotel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is a very happy occasion. The imperial princess has never been as formal as other the imperial family members, so I feel a strong affinity for her.

VERJEE: Wearing a simple white Western-style dress, Sayako was married in a traditional Shinto ceremony to Yoshiki Kuroda, a civil servant she's known since childhood.

Thirty-one relatives attended the wedding, including the emperor, the empress and the Crown Prince Naruhito. Under Japanese law, female members of the imperial family who marry commoners lose their royal status. Sayako is to live with her new husband in his Tokyo apartment. She's been preparing for the tremendous transition from royal to commoner, taking driving lessons and visiting supermarkets.

After the ceremony, both bride and groom spoke indirectly of the changes in store.

SAYAKO KURODA, FORMER JAPANESE PRINCESS (through translator): The emperor advised me that I should develop further what I have been cultivating from my past life. I don't know yet how to make the most of his advice, for I don't have a clue what will happen from here on.

YOSHIKI KURODA, HUSBAND OF SAYAKO (through translator): I suppose we will confront a lot of things to which we're unaccustomed and will be unexpected at this first stage of our new life, but we will join forces together to proceed step by step.

VERJEE: Sayako changed into a traditional kimono for the wedding banquet, which included about 120 guests and a French menu. And, in a break with tradition, the couple sat with their guests, rather than on a raised platform.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Sayako loses not only her title and status, but also her royal allowance, although the government did give her a one-time stipend, John, of almost $1.3 million, you know, to -- to ease the transition a little bit.

And I'm just wondering what Jack Cafferty thinks of this marriage. Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, let's see. You leave the royal palace and the royal family and go live in an apartment in Tokyo and learn how to drive yourself around. It makes a lot of sense to me.

(LAUGHTER)

VERJEE: But she's marrying for love, not power, Jack.

KING: She's marrying...

CAFFERTY: Oh, come on. Give me a break. Say schedule.

KING: Oh, cynic, cynic, cynic.

VERJEE: Why don't you say -- you say tomato.

CAFFERTY: Say schedule.

VERJEE: Say Pentagon.

CAFFERTY: Say chemistry.

VERJEE: Say hurricane.

CAFFERTY: I'm not talking to you anymore.

KING: OK, say, let's get back -- say, let's get back to the program.

Your highness, Ms. Verjee, we passed on you.

Mr. Cafferty, you have the floor.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: A new study shows exercising almost every day can add four years to your life. Research has found American adults who had moderate of high levels activity five days a week lived 1.3 to 3.7 years longer than those who get little exercise.

So, the question is, would you exercise every day in order to live four years longer?

Anna in Kenesville, North Carolina -- Kernersville. I'm sorry, Anna: "Sure I would exercise every day to live an extra four years. But it doesn't mean I'm going to stop drinking, smoking and eating at McDonald's."

Ken in Yuma, Arizona: "No, I don't believe exercising every day makes you live that much longer. It just seems that way."

Scott in Chillicothe, Ohio: "I exercise four days a week. I sit on my couch, watch THE SITUATION ROOM, and do 12-ounce curls until my six-pack is gone. Is the Wolf man out on the prowl?"

Dale in Anadarko, Oklahoma: "I want Jack's job, because I don't see him exercise anything but eyes, vocal cords and one arm every day. If it's good enough for Jack, it's good enough for me."

I wonder what she means by one arm every day.

Tim in Valley Falls, Kansas: "Jack London said it best. The proper function of man is to live, not exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."

John.

KING: Tim is quite the philosopher there.

Jack, thank you very much. That's what I call my time at the gym, recycling, out with yesterday's poisons to make room for today's.

CAFFERTY: For -- for the today's -- right.

KING: Jack, thank you very much.

And, up next, a potentially big problem for small businesses, as they gear up for holiday shopping season. Our Ali Velshi is on the story for us.

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The country's major retailers are gearing up for the all- important holiday shopping season. But that's not necessarily so easy for small businesses.

CNN's Ali Velshi is in -- is live for us in New York with that story. Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: You know, this is the -- the thing that we business geeks know a lot about, about what day is more important than any other, in terms of shopping -- traditionally, Black Friday, which is the day after Thanksgiving, the Friday after Thanksgiving, and the Saturday that comes right after it. So next Friday and Saturday together make up the busiest shopping days of the all- important shopping days.

We say all-important, because, for retailers, John, it's skewed towards this final season of the year. Most of their stuff is done, in most businesses. Obviously, if you're in the ice cream business, that's not true.

But we have been getting mixed reports. Most people think it will be OK. Wal-Mart came out the other day -- yesterday -- and said that it looks like there is a strong start to this selling season. Target, on the other hand, said they're a little bit concerned.

It's a little unclear as to how it's going to look. But let me give you a picture how things sell during the holiday shopping season. Let's take a look at a calendar of last December, December 2004, and get a sense of the busy shopping days.

If you notice, from the 15th through the 24th and including the 25th, actually, those are some of the busiest shopping days of the season. The point is that more than 50 percent of all of our holiday shopping is done in the last 10 or 11 days of the holiday shopping season.

Now, the big companies, like Target and Wal-Mart, all the big retailers, can adjust for this sort of thing. But what do the small businesses do? They can't necessarily adjust. So, what they do -- what -- here's some advice that we have got for small businesses. Track your sales. Most small businesses today have point-of-sale terminals. So, they can compare how each day's sales are against the same time last year.

Track them and take a markdown fast. If things aren't moving off the shelves, take a markdown and move it off the shelf. One of the adages in retail that we have heard is that your first markdown is your best markdown. There's a chicken-and-egg game -- egg game -- going between -- between consumers and retailers about whether the sales are going to come earlier or later. That's some advice for small businesses this year.

Happy shopping, John.

KING: Call me in a month, so I get started, will you?

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: Excellent.

KING: Thank you, Ali.

And we're in the THE SITUATION ROOM every weekday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. And we are back on the air at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's just one hour from now.

Until then, I'm John King.

LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starts right now. Lou's in New York.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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