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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview with Ted Koppel; Vice President Cheney Speaks At Conservative Rally

Aired November 16, 2005 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much, Lou, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters bringing you the day's top stories.

Happening now, it's 3:00 a.m. Thursday in Iraq where the Pentagon admits U.S. forces have used white phosphorus against insurgents in Falluja. We'll show you what it is and why it's causing so much controversy around the world.

It's 8:00 p.m. in Havana, where some believe Fidel Castro is suffering from Parkinson's disease. We'll take a closer look at the reasons why and what it could mean for the future of Cuba.

And it's 7:00 p.m. here in Washington where Ted Koppel is getting set to retire from "Nightline" for the final time. I'll talk to him about his career, the state of TV news and we'll even surprise him with a few unexpected guests. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, here in Washington, the war of words over Iraq is about to get harsher. The Vice President Dick Cheney is about to blast charges that the Bush administration misled the country into war. Charges he will call dishonest and reprehensible. The rhetoric and the anger have been building for days. This expected, though, to be the toughest push-back yet by the administration against its Democratic critics. The speech scheduled to begin only minutes from now. We will go there live in THE SITUATION ROOM once it does.

Also, this hour, a weapon of war that produces enough heat to sizzle flesh and it's adding to international outrage against the U.S. mission in Iraq. The Pentagon today acknowledged it did use white phosphorus against insurgents in Falluja last year. But, and this is a critical but, the Pentagon is vigorously denying that WP, as it's known, was used against civilians.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is standing by. Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if it were true that the U.S. military used an incendiary weapon against civilians indiscriminately, it would be a war crime. But the Pentagon insists it didn't happen that way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MCINTYRE (voice-over): The Italian TV documentary says during the siege of Falluja a year ago, the U.S. military used white phosphorus artillery shells in a massive and indiscriminant way against civilians and the result was that noncombatants, including Iraqi women and children were burned to the bone.

The U.S. military was quick to deny the report and said it did not know how these people died.

BRIG. GEN. DONALD ALSTON, USAF: We have not changed our position that in fact we did not use white phosphorus against civilians in Falluja during Operation.

MCINTYRE: While strongly denying civilians were targeted, the Pentagon has belatedly admitted the phosphorus shells, which burn hot and produce thick smoke were used against enemy positions in Falluja. An initial State Department response claimed incorrectly the shells were only fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters.

Unlike napalm, which is designed to set large areas ablaze, and which the U.S. no longer uses white phosphorus is used to mark a target or produce a smoke screen to hide troop movements. But the U.S. troops attacking Falluja in November 2004 had another use for the super-hot burning munition, which they call shake and bake missions.

According to an after action report published in "Field Artillery Magazine," U.S. troops used white phosphorus as a potent psychological weapon against insurgents in trench lines and spider holes. Firing the incendiary rounds against enemy positions to flush them out, then using high explosives to take them out.

The United States never signed an international ban against using incendiary weapons, but experts say that doesn't matter. Because the ban didn't apply to legitimate military targets.

JOHN PIKE, DIR., GLOBAL SECURITY.ORG: There is a Geneva protocol against using it against civilians the way we used firebombs in cities in World War II. It's legitimate under that Geneva protocol to use it against military targets, like in Falluja.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (on camera): Any munition can produce unintended civilian casualties, but the Pentagon insists in this case it worked very hard to prevent the loss of innocent lives. In addition, the U.S. military says it urged civilians for weeks to get out of Falluja. And by the time the siege took place, it believes most of the people there were either insurgents or their sympathizers. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Jamie, thanks very much.

Let's bring in a leading expert on defense policy to help us understand what white phosphorus can do and how it should and should not be used. You saw him in Jamie's report just now, he's John Pike, director of globalsecurity.org.

John, thanks very much for joining us. What's the military advantage of using these munitions, these white phosphorus munitions?

PIKE: Well, the field artillery has a variety of different types of ammunition that they can fire from their weapons, incendiary rounds being one of them. In the case of Falluja, they were basically going up against an enemy that was dug in. And in order to get them out in the open so they could attack them with the explosive rounds, they were firing these incendiary munitions at them.

BLITZER: You write on your Web site, "these weapons are particularly nasty because white phosphorus continues to burn until it disappears. If service members are hit by pieces of white phosphorus, it could burn right down to the bone." It sounds awful.

PIKE: Well, it really is that's why it was effective in Falluja and that's why it continues to be part of the United States arsenal. Because if you're up against a dug-in enemy and they are in sniper nests or in trench lines that you can't get at in any other way, this is basically a way of getting them out in the open where you can get at them.

BLITZER: Is it similar to napalm which we all remember from Vietnam and which the Pentagon now insists it no longer uses?

PIKE: Well, the Pentagon claims that it's not using napalm but I'm afraid that this is another place where they are being economical with the truth. The old napalm was mixed at the factory. The new and improved napalm they mix the aviation gas, the petrol and the Styrofoam thickener out on the flight line.

That's also been used, early in the war that was something they denied using, but finally had to admit that in fact they were using. The white phosphorus is different in the case that if you are hit by napalm, it can burn all over your body. Where as the white phosphorus, there is going to be a small chunk of it, a pellet that is going to burn you in one specific place without burning you all over your body.

BLITZER: What do they call the new version of napalm?

PIKE: They call it a flame bomb. But it's napalm simply by another name. It has the same effect and it's dropped in the same bomb body that the bad old napalm was dropped in.

BLITZER: John Pike, thanks very much for joining us. John Pike, who knows a lot about this subject.

Let's get more now from ore Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, who is monitoring the situation online. What are you picking up, Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I wanted to show you an example of a story that bumped around the blogs a little bit before it hit the mainstream media, at least here in the United States. Here's where it started with Daily Kos. This is the big liberal blog, it's got 700,000 views a day.

One of their diarists, Paper Tigress people picked up on the Italian report that Jamie had mentioned in his package.

They state on the story a couple of days later, trying to find some information to corroborate the evidence. They did so. That article, entitled "The Fight for Falluja," also available online, you can read that through the army magazine "Field Artillery.

All of this is available via the Internet. The other thing they found over at Kos was this news report from early 2004 from a reporter with a California newspaper who was embedded with the marines.

All of this talking about the use of white phosphorus.

As for the official government statements, those are available online from the State Department, and what you can read is they are initially talking about chemical weapons, the U.S. was not using them. There were some Islamic Web sites online that were accusing the United States of using them.

This is their official statement. They also go on a couple of days ago and talk about the use of white phosphorus and how it is being used not just for illumination but also for screening purposes. Smokescreens.

Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Jacki, thanks very much.

Moving on to other news we're watching. That trademark beard, black beard is graying, but after all, he's almost 80 years old. More than four decades after he seized power, Fidel Castro is still in charge of Cuba. But for how much longer? There are new indications tonight that President Castro is ailing. Let's go to our national security correspondent David Ensor. He's watching this story.

David?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's a new U.S. intelligence assessment indicating that Fidel Castro has a disease that while it is seldom fatal can be serious.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR (voice-over): A new CIA assessment made in September says that Fidel Castro is likely suffering from Parkinson's disease, and that his health is deteriorating, several U.S. officials say.

BRIAN LATELL, AUTHOR, "AFTER FIDEL": He's falling, stumbling, broken bones, he's mumbling. He's become incoherent on a number of occasions that have been videoed or televised.

ENSOR: There is pubic evidence to support the assessment. Medicine for Parkinson's can make people feint, as Castro did in 2001. The disease can make the gait go stiff, causing falls. And when Castro gave up his trademark combat boots for sneakers in 2000, that raised eyebrows.

The 79-year-old Cuban leader's heir apparent is his 74-year-old brother Raul, whose health is also in some question.

LATELL: He drinks a lot. It's pretty widely believed. I think he's a alcoholic, unreformed.

ENSOR: But Castro has been counted out too early many times before. He has recently found opportunity to push his socialist views through friendship with Venezuela's leader Hugo Chavez.

In a recent TV appearance with an Argentine soccer, he looked reasonably well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR (on camera): Officials say when Fidel and Raul Castro do go, Cuban communism may not long survive. They are hoping when it ends it ends without bloodshed. But an official said that is by no means certain. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, David. Thank you very much. David Ensor reporting. Let's go u to New York. Check in with Jack Cafferty. He's watching an important story for us tonight as well.

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. How are you doing? The "Washington Post" Pulitzer prize winning report Bob Woodward said today that he learned the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame almost a month before her identity became public knowledge in July of 2003. Woodward withheld that information from his bosses at the "Washington Post."

And earlier today on THE SITUATION ROOM, the "Post's" executive editor Len Downie told us Woodward should have shared the information with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEN DOWNIE, "WASHINGTON POST" EXEC EDITOR: Bob owed me and the newspaper an apology for not telling me. If he had told me, I don't know what we would have been able to publish in the newspaper because of the confidentiality agreement under which this was stated. We still are not able to publish details of it. We are eager to. We are eager to be free from that pledge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAFFERTY: Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been indicted in connection with the CIA leak investigation. And today his lawyer immediately said the Woodward revelations undermine the government's case against Libby. But Libby wasn't indicted for leaking Valerie Plame's name for anyone. He was indicted for perjury and on obstruction of justice and making false statements. Five counts in all. Woodward told the special prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald that the revelation of Valerie Plame's name was, quote, "casual and offhand and did not appear to be either classified or sensitive," unquote. So, what?

It's either illegal to reveal her identity or isn't so here's the question this hour. What does Bob Woodward's revelation have to do with the CIA leak investigation, if anything? You can email us at caffertyfile@cnn.com and we'll read some of your thoughts in a half hour or so. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Good question. Thanks very much, Jack Cafferty.

Coming up, we are standing by for a speech from the Vice President Dick Cheney. He's about to launch a new attack on democrats and other critics in a war of words that's raging over the war in Iraq. Also -- Ted Koppel, about to mark a milestone, as he leaves "Nightline" after 26 years. My interview with Ted Koppel.

Plus a few surprise guests who will join us, including one close to his own heart.

And we will show you which country is now reporting its first human cases of bird flu, including at least one that proved deadly.

But first, let's go to Dick Cheney, the vice president, speaking out, blasting Democrats before a partisan Republican group, right now.

DICK CHENEY, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you.

Thank you all. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 2008!!!

CHENEY: Not on your life. Thank you very much and good evening to all of you. I heard about your gathering since I work just down the street from here. I thought I would say hello. Let me thank the good people of Frontiers of Freedom, of course, George Landreth (ph), Carrie Houston (ph), Al Lee (ph), for bringing us all together this evening.

And I see many good friends in the room, including current and former officeholders, as well.

It's a pleasure to see all of you I'm sorry we couldn't be joined by senators Harry Reid, John Kerry and Jay Rockefeller. They were unable to attend due to a prior lack of commitment. Let you think about that one for a minute.

I hope you'll permit me, ladies and gentlemen, to say a few words that were not part of my remarks that I had planned, originally this evening but which concern a matter of great importance to our entire nation. Most of you know I've spent a lot of years in public service. I first came to work in Washington back in the late 1960s.

I know what it's like to operate in a highly charged political environment in which the players on all sides of an issue feel passionately and speak forcefully. In such an environment people sometimes lose their cool, and yet in Washington, you can rely upon some measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate.

But in the last weeks, we have seen a wild departure from that tradition. And the suggestion that's been made by some U.S. Senators that the president of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.

Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of using force against Saddam Hussein. These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence and were free to draw their own conclusions. They arrived at the same judgment about Iraq's capabilities and intentions that made by the administration, and by the previous administration.

There was broad-based bipartisan agreement that Saddam Hussein was a threat. That he had violated UN Security Council resolutions. And that in a post 9/11 world, we could not afford to take the word of a dictator who had a history of mass destruction programs, who had excluded weapons inspectors. Who had defied the demands of the international community, whose nation had been designated an official state sponsor of terror and who had committed mass murder. Those are the facts.

What we are hearing now is some politicians, contradicting their own statements and making a play for political advantage in the middle of the war. The saddest part is our people in uniform have been subjected to these falsehoods day in and day out. American soldiers and marines are out there every day, in dangerous situations in desert temperatures, conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons and capturing killers, and back home, a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle on a lie.

The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory or their backbone. But we are not going to let them sit by and rewrite history.

We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them, and far more important, we are going to continue sending a consistent message to the men and women who are fighting the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and many other fronts.

We can never say enough, how much we appreciate them, and how proud they make us.

They and their families can be certain this cause is right and just and the performance of our military has been brave and honorable. And this nation will stand behind our fighting forces with pride and without wavering until the day of victory. Returning to the purpose of this gathering ...

BLITZER: All right, the vice president of the United States, delivering what the White House had told us would be the case, another punch at Democratic critics for accusing the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense, the Bush administration in short, of misleading the country into war, even before the vice president spoke, but after his remarks, were already known, the Democratic leader in the Senate, lashed out. Listen to Harry Reid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, (R) NV: He's repeating the same tired attacks we've heard from administrative officials over the last two weeks. Mr. President, in the last 24 hours, and far away Iraq, 10 of our brave soldiers have been killed. On such a night, you would think the vice president would give a speech that honors the fallen and those still fighting, by laying out a strategy for success. But no. Instead we have the vice president of the United States playing politics like he's in the middle of a presidential campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Harry Reid, the Democratic leader on the U.S. Senate speaking on the Senate floor only moments ago. We will continue to watch this story for you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, Ted Koppel. He's giving up "Nightline" after 26 years. My interview, with Ted Koppel including some surprise guests. Including one guest very close to his heart. We'll tell you what's going on. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREKAK)

BLITZER: My interview with Ted Koppel coming up. But first let's go to CNN's Zain Verjee at the CNN Center at Atlanta with a closer look at some other stories making news around the world.

Hi, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. President Bush is in South Korea for the annual summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation -- The president arrived there today as part of his eight-day trip to Asia on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Mr. Bush says he'll encourage Asian leaders at the summit to press North Korea to abandon its program.

Today China confirmed three new human cases of bird flu. Two of them were fatalities. The World Health Organization says 24-year-old female poultry worker from a province in the east is dead. And the death of a 12-year-old girl from central China is being recorded as a suspected bird flu case. China says the girl's brother is the third new human case of bird flu in the country.

In northwest Mexico, 38 people are dead after a tanker truck with tons of toxic ammonium chloride slammed into a passenger bus. Police say the collision caused both vehicles plunged down the slopes on the side of a highway. Many of the victims had chemical burns. There is no immediate information on survivors.

And a bizarre turn of events from three anti-drug officials from Guatemala. The country's anti-drug chief and two of his senior deputies have been arrested in a drug bust in the U.S. Officials say they were conspiring to import cocaine here in the United States. The defendants are being indicted and face a minimum sentence of 10 years in jail.

Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Pretty amazing story. Thanks, very much, Zain.

Let's check in with CNN's Anderson Cooper right now with a preview of what's coming up on his program later tonight. Hi, Anderson. What are you working on tonight?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey Wolf.

At 10:00 tonight, coming up, a dose of accountability. Why after so many weeks people in New Orleans still getting the run around on identifying dead loved ones? So far a lot of finger pointing, state local and federal. We are going to try for some answers from the governor of Louisiana. We call the segment "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight, how can you live to see 100? We're traveling the globe in search of longevity secrets. What do they know in Japan, the Mediterranean and some parts of California that you may not, and can doing what they do extend your life? That's coming up at 10:00 on 360.

BLITZER: All right. Anderson. I'll be watching. I like that, last night, especially, thanks very much.

Just ahead, after a quarter century, he's signing off from "Nightline." What does the long time ABC anchor Ted Koppel think about TV news today? We will find out when he joins us here in THE SITUATION ROOM along with some special guests that Ted doesn't know anything about.

Also, reporter Bob Woodward says he learned the identity of the outed CIA operative but chose not to tell anyone. Is there anything wrong with that? Jack Cafferty is going through your emails. Stay with us

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Twenty-six years is an extraordinary run for any television program. But ABC's "Nightline" is not just any program. Under the guidance of anchor and managing editor Ted Koppel, "Nightline" has won every major broadcasting award. Including 37 Emmys, six Peabodies and 10 Dupont Columbia awards.

Next week, Ted Koppel will sign off from "Nigthline" for the final time, though the show will continue with some new anchors. I spoke with Ted Koppel earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Ted Koppel, thanks very much for joining us. We're thrilled you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

TED KOPPEL, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Where are we again?

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

KOPPEL: In THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: I just want to make sure that's clear to you.

KOPPEL: It's clear. Now, what kind of a situation are we going to have today?

BLITZER: We're going to talk a little bit about "Nightline."

KOPPEL: Excellent.

BLITZER: Forty-two years, I believe, you've worked at ABC News, 25 at "Nightline." Is that correct?

KOPPEL: Actually, if you count "America Held Hostage" and "Why Not?", it's over 26 now.

BLITZER: Over 26 years at "Nightline," which was so important to so many of us, millions of people around the world, especially those of us in the professional journalistic community here in Washington. Are you satisfied, are you happy, with the state of television journalism in the United States today?

KOPPEL: Oh, hell no. But having said that, you know, as you pointed out, I joined ABC Television 42 years ago. Actually, I joined ABC Radio back then. But when I joined ABC back in 1963, you know, ABC was fifth among three networks. And television news in those days was so bad and so simple and so under-whelming in so many different ways that to compare the television of the early '60s to the television of today, things are terrific.

I would say that today, television news is as good as its ever been, and as bad as its ever been. And the trick is to get rid of the bad and keep the good.

BLITZER: Here is what you're quoted as having told our colleague Howie Kurtz of "The Washington Post" on November 8th.

At a time that we really have to worry about what's going on in the rest of the world, what people in our countries think of us, we are less well-informed by television news than we have been in many years.

KOPPEL: I think that's true. I think part of the problem is, when many of us began in this business, you and I included, we had a number. I mean, certainly, 25, 30 years ago.

We had a lot of foreign correspondents. We had a lot of bureaus around the world. I'm talking about ABC, NBC and CBS. Those bureaus are expensive to maintain, but they are terribly important at a time when there is so much hostility towards the United States. We are all better served by knowing what's going on in the countries. If we had 25 or 30 foreign correspondents 30 years ago, now we have four or five. That's not enough.

BLITZER: I read in "USA Today" or someplace a quote from you suggesting that cable news, the 24/7 cable news networks, like ours, do a great job reporting what happened five minutes ago, but not necessarily a great job reporting the news in -- in perspective and context and meaning. Could you elaborate what you really mean?

TED KOPPEL, ABC NEWS: Sure.

I think -- I think all the cable networks are in a desperate race to be first with the obvious. You are constantly -- I mean, your -- your news managers constantly have their eyes on a -- on a row of television screens. And the thought that MSNBC might be getting a -- you know, might be getting a leg up on you or that FOX might be two seconds ahead of you on some story terrifies you.

That has always struck me as crazy. Even back in the days when ABC desk men were watching CBS and NBC, you know, the notion that, somehow, people at home are sitting in front of three or four or five television monitors wondering which of the networks got it first is obviously ludicrous. Nobody does that.

I would much prefer that everyone is focusing on what is really important. I mean important, not just in terms of what is happening today, but important over the long haul. And I'm afraid, in that sense, as good as much of the work is that you guys do, in that sense, I think the cable networks are letting us down.

BLITZER: Well, let's bring in one of our CNN analysts, our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, who used to work at "Nightline" and ABC News with you.

(CROSSTALK)

KOPPEL: Yes. But he's -- he's no good. Don't you have anybody better than Greenfield?

BLITZER: Well, he's the best we got.

KOPPEL: All right.

BLITZER: So, what can I say.

Jeff, it must be a bittersweet moment for you, having grown up with "Nightline" in many respects. But talk a little bit about Ted Koppel, "Nightline," what this means to you. And ask Ted a good question.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: A good question. OK.

I should point out to our audience that -- that one of the really remarkable achievements of this man is that he has done what he has done in spite of the fact that, on the two most critical areas of American life, rock 'n roll and baseball, he's an utter moron.

KOPPEL: Knows nothing.

GREENFIELD: Yes.

Now, having said -- having said that, to what extent, Ted, is this just the consequence of abundance? That is, given a lot of options out there, dozens, hundreds, limitless with the Web, that viewers themselves are saying, we don't need in-depth analysis; we will just take the surface and get our information elsewhere?

KOPPEL: I think part of the problem, Jeff, is that we have become -- and -- and this sounds elitist, and I fully expect to be criticized for -- for offering an elitist point of view.

I think the sense that we ought to be taking the temperature of the viewers to see what the viewers want to watch is the wrong way of going about it.

You and I and Wolf, we get paid to spend, eight, ten, twelve hours a day examining, sifting through, editing what is important and what is not. We're the ones who should be telling the audience what is important, not the other way around.

GREENFIELD: In your view then, let me be a little provocative of my own current house. If one of the cable networks said, you know what? We'll turn off some of those the monitors and we'll be second by 50 seconds and maybe we'll take a half an hour to look at a subject that maybe even doesn't involve a missing teenage girl.

Do you think that there would be an audience that would find it? If we built it, would they come?

KOPPEL: Yes. Not immediately, I don't think they would.

You know, the caveat with all of this is, we have to do it well. We have to do it in an interesting fashion. You can't just put it out there and say, here it is, here's your spinach, now eat it.

It's got to be dressed up properly, it's got to be produced well, it's got to reported well, and the relevance of that story to the lives of our audience has to be made.

Look, we are living in a time when there are more people around the world plotting bad things for the United States of America, and yet we are also at a time when we know less about what's going on in those countries.

And I must say, having said, some less than flattering things about the cable networks, I think the cable networks are still doing a better job these days of covering what's happening overseas than we are.

But I'd feel a lot more comfortable, if instead of just having local reporters covering events in their own countries, we had more American reporters who were specialists in those countries and reporting it the way that we used to, 20, 30 years ago.

BLITZER: I will point out to you, Ted, that CNN does have an excellent documentary series called, "CNN PRESENTS," that we air on Sunday nights, over the weekend. Last weekend, a fabulous one-hour look inside North Korea.

KOPPEL: Tell me, again, when is that on?

BLITZER: It's on Sunday nights.

KOPPEL: Sunday nights. I see.

BLITZER: Sunday nights, a lot of people watch television on Sunday nights, you might be surprised.

KOPPEL: Not that many. You know, if CNN was serious about that, it would put it on Monday evenings and Tuesday evenings and Wednesday evenings.

You know, those are the times, compete with the networks. Go up against the networks in primetime with some of those broadcasts. I agree with you. You do some fantastic stuff. I'm talking about CNN, but don't bury it on a Sunday night.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let's bring in another one of your former colleagues from "Nightline," David Bohrman, our Washington bureau chief.

One of the original producers of "Nightline." A much younger David Bohrman then, a much younger Ted Koppel then. David, what goes through your mind as "Nightline" moves on to a new iteration?

DAVID BOHRMAN, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, a couple of things. Just picking up on what Ted said. When "Nightline" began, 11:30 at night was burying the program to some extent.

It was an unknown part of the day that no one realized there was an audience and there could be money made. And the money-making side of it may be part of the calculus that has gone into what's happening to "Nightline," sort of as we speak.

But, Jeff's point about rock and roll and pop culture reminds me of two programs. Ted, I remember you hated at the time.

And I'm just wondering, looking back, if there any value to them, or if you ended up being right about at the end of all this.

One, when John Belushi, I think I tried to convince the executive editor to change the program to talk about it. And I think you were resistant to that. The other was one Mount Everest, which you talk about in the book. We spent a fair about of time and money setting up live programs from the top of Mount Everest. And it was on the one level, meaningless, and on the other, really interesting. And I'm just wondering now, 20, 25 years after those, how that fits into this evolution of TV news you've talked about?

KOPPEL: You have very cunningly picked two particular programs on which I was dead wrong and you were right and I hope you're satisfied.

BOHRMAN: We can end now. That's fine.

KOPPEL: My point on Mount Everest, and what year was it? It was in the early '80s?

BOHRMAN: It was '82.

KOPPEL: Your point, and the point of our then-executive producer Bill Lord was, we had to prove what could be done with this new satellite technology. And when you guys came to me and said, "Look, we're going to show the viewers live pictures of Mount Everest," my reaction was, "Explain to me what the difference is between a live picture of Mount Everest and a postcard of Mount Everest." Mount Everest doesn't do anything. It just sits there. If we're lucky, a cloud will go by as we show this live picture.

You understood, and I did not, that it was important to prove what the technology was capable of. If we could come back with a live picture of Mount Everest, then we could come back with live pictures of stories all over the world. That was the importance of that story.

With John Belushi, the only thing I would say in my defense was, that was the day when unemployment in the United States went into double-figures for the first time. It was up at ten percent. And my feeling was that unemployment at ten percent was a bigger story of greater impact to the American public than John Belushi.

But the fact of the matter is, I was just being elitist. John Belushi's death was a big deal, and you were right again. So two for two.

BLITZER: And up next, more of our interview with Nightline's Ted Koppel. We'll have another surprise guest for him. One who has some real inside information. Someone very, very close to his heart.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now, more of my interview with Ted Koppel, who is leaving "Nightline" next week after 26 years. We had one more surprise in store for him before our interview ended.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We have another CNN correspondent who wants to weigh in as well. Go ahead.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: I was just trying to get my laundry and my dry cleaning taken care of, and give you a sense, dad, as to the slave drivers that I work for. They called me in even on my day off to talk to you.

TED KOPPEL, ABC NEWS: Just so that you're back by 11:00 tonight, and I don't want to hear any excuses.

A. KOPPEL: Well, you know, that's what I figure. I figure, why would Wolf Blitzer want to bring me in on THE SITUATION ROOM when you have your esteemed former colleagues David Boreman and Jeff Greenfield there? And I think that the only reason that I could come up with is that they want me to let the skeletons out of the closet. And I've actually -- right, Wolf?

BLITZER: If you want to do that, Andrea, this is a free press. Go ahead.

A. KOPPEL: Yes. So I've been wracking my brain ever since they called me to think how I can best embarrass you. And I figure, you know, what you guys don't know -- obviously, David and Jeff have spoken about your many accomplishments as a journalists.

T. KOPPEL: Actually, they haven't done nearly enough of that, Andrea, but, you know, maybe they'll catch up with that a little later.

(CROSSTALK)

A. KOPPEL: But what they don't know is that Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire have nothing on you.

BLITZER: Really?

A. KOPPEL: So I was thinking that he could either do the kitchen dance or he could do the song that he used to woo my mother back when they met as graduate students at Stanford University. So, Dad, this is payback for all those times that you've humiliated me in front of my dates and forced me to come home at an absurdly early hour from all those high school parties.

T. KOPPEL: Young lady, you're grounded for a month.

BLITZER: You should be very proud of your daughter.

T. KOPPEL: I am very proud of my daughter.

BLITZER: She's doing an excellent job. When we first met, you were a mere State Department correspondent. Now, Andrea Koppel is our State Department correspondent. We love seeing this second generation move on and do it as well as she does.

T. KOPPEL: And a much better one. And, in fact, I should point that you have another fine young woman correspondent there, Dana Bash, who's over at the White House. And Dana was a good friend of Andrea's youngest sister, Tara, and I remember the two of the them -- I mean, if you want to embarrass people. I remember the two of them bouncing up and down on the couch in my office at "Nightline" on Friday evenings. They, of course, then were about 11 years old.

A. KOPPEL: But you know what, Dad? You still haven't sung the song.

T. KOPPEL: No, nor am I going to.

BLITZER: Andrea, we have to leave it there. I know Jeff Greenfield wants to make one final thought. Jeff, go ahead.

GREENFIELD: Just as splendid as that show was -- and I know you want me to do a roast, but I'm not going to do it. If people could have been at the "Nightline" office when the show's are being put together, if those things had been taped, you could call up every journalism class in the country and just have people listen to those conversations about how you do this right.

T. KOPPEL: Well, that's very nice of you. And I must say, if I'd known what fun THE SITUATION ROOM was, I would have come before.

BLITZER: One final question, Ted, before we let you out of THE SITUATION ROOM. Of all the thousands of "Nightlines," which one was your favorite?

T. KOPPEL: I can't do that, Wolf. Over the course of the past 26 years, I've done over 6,500 broadcasts. And to pick out one -- we're going to do, obviously, just one, because that's all we have room for in our final broadcast.

And we're going to take excerpts of the interviews I did with Morrie Schwartz, who was the sociology professor up at Brandeis University who died ultimately of Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS. It's a terrible, terrible disease.

And I went up to do a series of three interviews with him as he was dying, and we talked about the process of death and dying. And they have become, over the years, the most requested "Nightline" programs on DVDs and tapes. And so, I have interviewed Mitch Albom, who went on to write a beautiful book about Morrie called "Tuesdays with Morrie."

And we have intercut that interview with some of the interviews I did with Morrie. Those will be our last broadcast, next Tuesday on the 22nd. And I suppose if I have to pick one out of 6,500, that's as good as any.

BLITZER: All right. And it was a fine broadcast. And we'll all be watching, we'll be missing you. But we hope to see you, and we know we'll be seeing you, on television in the not-too-distant future someplace, but you don't have to tell us where, because I know you're not going to. Right?

T. KOPPEL: That's true, I'm not going to.

BLITZER: All right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Ted Koppel speaking with us earlier today.

Up next, the famed journalist, Bob Woodward, apologizing for not disclosing his involvement in the CIA leak saga. What will Woodward's revelations mean for the investigation, if anything? It's our question of the hour, Jack Cafferty standing by. He will be back with your e-mail.

Plus, we're just getting this word into THE SITUATION ROOM, of a racing accident that's claimed the life of a teenage jockey. We'll have late details. Stay with us for this sad story. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here are a look at some of the hot shots coming in from our friends over at the Associate Press. Pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Indiana, severe destruction: Residents cleaning up a home hit hard by a tornado.

In Germany, the flag-draped coffin of the soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan returns home.

In Connecticut now for a very different kind of homecoming. This sailor hugs his wife after a six month tour at sea on the USS Philadelphia. The nuclear submarine collided with a Turkish cargo ship back in September.

And in Idaho -- look at this -- a bald eagle snatches a salmon out of a lake. That's some of today's hot shots. Pictures worth a thousand words.

Let's go to New York. Jack Cafferty is standing by with his question, your e-mail. Jack, what are you picking up?

CAFFERTY: Got a couple things, Wolf. The "Washington Post's" Bob Woodward said today he learned the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame almost a month before her identity became public knowledge back in July of 2003. Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby's been indicted in connection with the CIA leak investigation. And today his lawyer immediately said the Woodward revelations undermine the case against Libby.

Our question is, what does Bob Woodward's revelation have to do with CIA leak investigation, if anything? We've gotten some fast mail.

Mark in Prince George, British Columbia, "isn't it amazing how Bob Woodward always turns up in a room full of liars, leakers and crooks? Is he invisible?" Andy writes, "the Woodward revelation shows a troubling trend. Top reporters have kept secrets from the American people about Administration efforts to hide lies that got this nation into war. And they did this before an election, when the voters deserved to have that information. For shame."

Mike in Iowa writes, "it has nothing to do with anything. It's a slow news day, and the press needs something to rant about."

Sandy in West Hills, California, "so once again, Bob Woodward is making news, only this time he's not covering it at the same time. From the tone of his Bush book, and his description of how the Plame information was imparted to him, it's beginning to appear that if we lifted his stoic mask, we might a Bush-doped, Bush-spinning Judith Miller under there."

Vick in Roxboro, North Carolina, "it has nothing to do with the CIA leak: different time, different place. But it does beg the question, what else does Bob Woodward know?"

And finally, a guy in Daytona Beach, Florida, Robert, with too much time on his hands. "THE SITUATION ROOM theme song, where can I get it in mp3 format It rocks!" Robert, no it doesn't.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jack.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, see you tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to go straight to CNN's Zain Verjee in Atlanta with a story just in about a tragic accident in the world of sports. What happened, Zain?

VERJEE: Wolf, we have just received word that a 16-year-old horse jockey is dead after falling during a race in Ohio. Jockey Josh Rotocervich (ph) died from his injuries. He was among ten racers in the field of Buliff Park (ph) when he and his horse turned into the final stretch of the race and apparently the horse broke a front leg. And it caused an incredibly nasty tumble.

After his death, the remaining races at Buliff Park (ph) were canceled.

BLITZER: What a sad story that is. Zain, thank you very much.

Let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour. Paula Zahn is standing by with that. Hi, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I'd love to lighten things up, Wolf, but what we have at the top of the hour for you I think will make everybody frightened. It's a warning for anybody that drives an SUV.

You know you have got a blind spot out of your back window, but you will be shocked how big it is and how many children could be standing in the space you simply can't see.

There's also some news today that will make your next airline flight pretty darned uncomfortable. Guess how much of that cargo that's right underneath your feet has been inspected for bombs. Here's a hint, Wolf, virtually none.

Please join us at the top of the hour for a special CNN investigation into cargo at airports.

BLITZER: We'll see you in five minutes, Paula. Thank you very much. Paula Zahn reporting.

Still ahead, senators demanding answers from oil company executives. We'll show you why some lawmakers are demanding an explanation, others want an investigation. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's head back to Zain Verjee at the CNN center once again in Atlanta for a closer look at some business stories making news -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, some oil company executives are coming under renewed scrutiny in the Senate. At hearings last week on industry profits, they testified their companies did not take place in Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force four years ago. But the "Washington Post" is reporting that representatives from four oil companies did meet with task force officials in 2001. So, now, some senators are asking for clarification from the executives as well as a Justice Department investigation.

He's one step closer to confirmation as the next federal reserve . Today, the Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination of Ben Bernanke to replace outgoing chairman Alan Greenspan. The nomination now goes before the full senate.

(MARKET REPORT)

BLITZER: Zain, thanks very much. We'll see you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow.

And to our viewers, don't forget we're in THE SITUATION ROOM weekdays 4:00 to 6:00 pm Eastern as well as 7:00 pm Eastern every weekday.

Tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM, my special guest, Senator John Kerry. He's firing right back at President Bush over the war in Iraq. My interview with the Democratic presidential nominee of last year. That's coming up tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Let's go to Paula Zahn. She's standing by in New York -- Paula.

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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