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THE SITUATION ROOM

Top Democrats Showing Splits Over Iraq; Ken Mehlman Interview; Cindy Sheehan Interview; War Of Words Over Iraq Continues

Aired December 6, 2005 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Ali. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
Happening now, Iraq crossfire. President Bush and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean spar over the war and whether it's winnable. It's $ p.m. here in Washington where Democrats are showing some divisions, serious divisions, over Iraq.

Also this hour, Iraq rallies and realities. The vice president, Dick Cheney, talking up the mission to the troops against the backdrop of new blood shed and an American, another one, apparently taken hostage.

Plus, Clinton and company. The senator getting some high-powered campaign help. But can she outrun her would be presidential rivals, now dashing to keep up with one another? I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There's a lot of political pushing and shoving going on today over Iraq. First, more grim news out of Baghdad. A militant Islamic group has released a new video said to show an American security consultant kidnapped in Iraq. If true, he would be the seventh westerner abducted in the past ten days alone.

Also this hour, al Qaeda claiming responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a police academy east of Baghdad. At least 36 police officers and academy students were killed along with two suicide bombers. More than 70 others were wounded.

And in Saddam Hussein's trial, another day of dramatic testimony. And ranting by the defendant. The former dictator complained of wearing the same clothes for several days and told court officials, and I'm quoting now, "Go to Hell."

Five people testified against Saddam Hussein from behind a curtain to protect their identities. They described brutality, they say they endured during a crackdown by the Saddam Hussein regime, including beatings, electric shock and torture of their family members.

Let's move to the politics of Iraq right here at home. President Bush firing back today at Democrat Howard Dean. The often outspoken party chairman is causing quite a stir once again for charging that the Iraq war, in his words, is not winnable. Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, standing by, our Congressional Correspondent, Ed Henry, as well. Dana, let's start with you.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, White House aides were quick to point out that Howard Dean has been against the war since he was a presidential candidate, and they noted this is just the latest example, they say, of fractures within the party on how to approach Iraq. But the president responded anyway, and Wolf, how he said it, what he said was quite telling.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): In the oval office, a pointed rebuttal to the latest Democrat to call the Iraq mission doomed to failure.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, there's pessimists, you know, and politicians who try to score points. But our strategy is one that is -- will lead to us victory.

BASH: At issue, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean's accusation the White House is repeating mistakes from Vietnam.

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong.

BASH: The president was quick to respond to that because it was a direct challenge to the new Bush playbook, Americans want to hear they can and will win. But once again, developments in Iraq underscore both the policy and political challenges facing the president.

An Islamic militant group claims it is holding an American hostage in Iraq, a response, the organization says, to the president's alleged strategy for victory.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We of course, don't pay ransom for any hostages. What we will do, of course, is use our intelligence gathering to see if we can't help locate them.

BASH: Also, two suicide bombers not only reminded Americans how violent Iraq is, but killed at least three dozen new Iraqi police officers so critical to the president's exit strategy.

Meanwhile at Fort Drum, New York the vice president was warmly welcomed by members of the Army's Tenth Mountain Division, awarding two Purple Hearts and echoing the president's criticism of those who favor swift withdrawal.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This would be unwise in the extreme. A victory for terrorists, bad for the Iraqi people. And bad for the United States. To leave that country before the job is done would be to hand Iraq over to car bombers and assassins.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And the president will make a second in a series of speeches leading up to the elections in Iraq December 15, and Bush aides say the focus this time will be reconstruction and building the economy.

Once again, Wolf, Bush aides say that the president will talk about adjustments the administration has had to make to its approach in dealing with issues in Iraq.

BLITZER: Dana Bash, thanks very much.

Over on Capitol Hill, the Iraq battle lines aren't falling the way you might think. Some Democrats are uncomfortable with their party leader's latest stand, and others are going so far as to say they side with the White House.

To the hill now and our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry. What's going on?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A few moments ago, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid was crowing about the fact that he thinks Democrats have shifted the entire debate over Iraq, have put the president on the defensive.

As you noted, Democrats themselves now on the defensive a bit. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi calling for a quick pullout of U.S. troops. Her number two, Steny Hoyer, once again today saying he thinks that's not a good idea.

Tomorrow, house Democrats going behind closed doors trying to figure out a way to present a united front on Iraq. That task made all the more difficult today by Vice President Cheney, trying to drive an even deeper divide within the Democratic party by citing the words of Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, who has said that all of the progress in Iraq could be lost if U.S. troops are taken out too quickly. Then Lieberman himself chided some of his fellow Democrats saying they should cool the attacks on President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (D) CONNECTICUT: It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years. And that in matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: But then Senator Lieberman also prodded President Bush a little bit saying he needs to set up what Lieberman called a war cabinet, a bipartisan working group of congressional leaders both parties to try to craft a bipartisan strategy to get out of Iraq.

That was immediately met by Senator Reid who put cold water on it and said it's a bad idea. The problem is the president, not the Congress, Wolf. BLITZER: What are Democrats specifically saying about Howard Dean's comments that this war is no longer winnable?

HENRY: They're trying to back pedal as quickly they can. In fact, I asked Senator Reid that question a few moments ago. He said he believes that we can win the war in Iraq.

But another Democratic leader, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, I asked her four different ways what her reaction was to Howard Dean and whether or not she believes we can win the war in Iraq. She had difficulty, could not bring herself to say we can win the war in Iraq. Finally said she believes basically the president has messed up so much it's hard to define victory. Take a listen to how difficult it was for her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW, (D) MICHIGAN: What does success look like? I believe success begins with the Iraqi people taking control of their own government, taking control of their own security so that we can appropriately phase out and be able to bring our folks home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now, Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert saying he believes the Dean comments show, quote, "The Democratic party sides with those who wish to surrender." And that the Democrats are being pessimistic about the war in Iraq. Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed henry on Capitol Hill. You can bet the Republican Party Chairman has plenty to say about Howard Dean's latest attack on the situation in Iraq. The RNC chief Ken Mehlman, he's is here in THE SITUATION ROOM standing by only minutes from now.

And another prominent guest on Iraq, the anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. What's she doing now to help keep her cause in the spotlight and to defend against critics?

Our interview with Cindy Sheehan. That's coming up this hour, as well, right here on THE SITUATION ROOM. Meanwhile, let's go over to the CNN Center in Atlanta and our Zain Verjee is standing by with a quick look at other stories making news.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. The Associated Press is reporting that a former Florida professor has been acquitted on a key charge this day that he helped A Palestinian terror group carry out suicide bombings against Israel. His name Sami Al-Arian.

He's been acquitted of eight of 17 counts against him, including a charge of conspiring to maim and murder people abroad. The jury, Wolf, deadlocked on several other charges including the one that he helped terrorists.

He is a former University of South Florida professor, a professor of computer engineering. He's actually considered one of the most important terrorist figures to be brought to trial in the U.S. since September 11's terror attacks, but it appears as though he has been acquitted of eight of the 17 charges against him.

The government initially alleged that he was part of a Tampa terror cell that took a lead role in determining the structure, the goals of the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. That, as you know, is a group that The State Department has listed as a terrorist group.

In other news, one man was shot in the entrance to a Detroit high school this afternoon. School authorities say that the shooting didn't involve any students or any school employees, but the gunman reportedly did hit several students with pepper spray before getting away. There's no immediate word on the condition of the man who was shot.

At least 116 people are dead after an Iranian military plane crashed into a 10-story apartment building in a densely populated section of Tehran. Authorities say at least 94 people, all of them aboard the C-130 transport plane were killed.

Many of those were journalists being transported to the coast to cover military exercises. Witnesses report flames shooting out of the building and cars on fire on the ground. There was no immediate word on the number of injured.

The United Nations fired its top elections official over allegations that include sexual harassment. As she was escorted from U.N. headquarters in New York today, Carina Perelli vowed that she would fight the charges.

The agency Perelli headed is charged with overseeing the upcoming Iraqi elections. She's also been widely praised for helping to set up elections in countries as far-flung as Afghanistan and even East Timor.

"The Los Angeles Times" is reporting that Valerie Plame is leaving the CIA. Syndicated columnist Robert Novak named Plame as an undercover agent in 2003, leading to the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the leak. Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff was indicted last month and the investigation is still continuing. Plame's last day at the agency will reportedly be on Friday. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right Zain, thanks very much. Zain Verjee reporting for us. Jack Cafferty is off today. He'll be off all of this week. He'll be back next week.

Coming up, Howard Dean says it's just plain wrong. But can the Iraq war be won? Dean's Republican counterpart, Ken Mehlman. He's joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up next.

Also ahead, whatever you may think about their marriage, they make quite a pair when it comes to campaigning. We'll catch up with Hillary and Bill Clinton on the campaign trail and on the Internet.

And will timing be everything for Tom DeLay? The indicted congressman's lawyer may think so. The DeLay trial on our political radar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Ken Mehlman is here, he's going to be responding to Howard Dean's comments that this war in Iraq is not winnable. We'll get to Ken Mehlman in a moment.

But there's a developing story out of Florida we're watching right now. John Zarrella, our correspondent in Miami, has been covering the trial of Sami Al-Arian for a long time. John, update our viewers what has happened today.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, it appears that there is a major setback to the federal government. The federal government in 2003 had indicted Sami Al-Arian and three co-defendants on charges that they basically ran a fundraising operation that raised money for the Islamic Jihad and funneled that money into -- into the Middle East. Funding terrorist bombings, terrorists that ultimately ended up in many deaths in Israel.

Well, today, a federal jury found Sami Al-Arian, they acquitted him on eight of 17 charges against him and were deadlocked on the other charges. So also a major setback for the use of the Patriot Act here. It was considered a test case for the Patriot Act, with the expanded surveillance powers and search and surveillance powers of the Patriot Act.

But the jury, again, finding Sami Al-Arian, acquitting him on eight of the 17 charges against him. And also acquitting the others involved in this alleged conspiracy. Al-Arian is not going to be getting out of prison though, right now.

That will have to wait until after the federal government, which has so much invested in this case. The indictment went down in 2003, they had begun this investigation about 1990. So he will remain in jail, Wolf, at least till they decide whether they are going to try and retry him on those charges, Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, John, thanks very much. John Zarrella reporting on this development involving Sami Al-Arian in Florida.

Let's move on now. Earlier today, President Bush called Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean a pessimist for saying the Iraq war isn't winnable. The Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman may have some stronger words for his Democratic counterpart. Ken Mehlman's here in THE SITUATION ROOM, joining us live.

KEN MEHLMAN, RNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Ken, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's listen precisely to the words of Howard Dean. I'll play the entire clip. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DEAN: This is ultimately what America had to do in Vietnam. Ultimately, they said we're going to turn this over to the Vietnamese. And of course the South Vietnamese couldn't manage to take care of their own country.

And you know, as I said, I supported President Bush, the first President Bush's war in Iraq. I supported this president's war in Afghanistan. But I do not believe in making the same mistake twice.

And America appears to have made the same mistake twice. I wish the president had paid more attention to the history of Iraq before we'd gotten in there. The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: Just plain wrong. I know you're very angry about what the chairman has to say. I read some of the statements you've issued in the course of the day.

But the comparison to Vietnam, he lived through Vietnam. You're a little young to remember that firsthand. But is there a point that he's making that is worth at least some consideration that Iraq is becoming another Vietnam?

MEHLMAN: Well, Wolf, there's a couple thoughts. I thought Senator McCain, who really lived through Vietnam in a way that few other Americans did, laid it on the line. He explained how important Iraq was, much more important than the war in Vietnam.

He's not the only one that mentioned Vietnam. Mr. al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 guy in al Qaeda said that their goal is for America to withdraw from Iraq, the way we withdrew from Vietnam.

And now for Howard Dean to echo that and for Howard Dean to say to our troops who are fighting right now: the war you're fighting, you can't win. I think is an outrageous statement, and I think that it sends the wrong message to our troops, sends the wrong message to the Iraqi people, who in 10 days are going to vote in elections.

And it certainly sends the wrong message to the enemy who likes what they hear, probably, because Mr. al-Zawahiri said something somewhat similar just a few weeks ago in a letter that was intercepted.

BLITZER: The American public though, as you know, according to all the most recent polls, are very worried what's happening in Iraq right now. The most recent "TIME Magazine" poll asked how the Americans are -- if they approve or disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq. Only 38 percent approve of the way he's doing his job as far as Iraq is concerned, 60 percent disapprove. Seems a lot of Americans might agree with Howard Dean right now.

MEHLMAN: Well, Wolf, they don't. The American people also overwhelming have told pollsters they think it's a mistake for us to retreat and defeat, for us to leave Iraq and not finish the job, for us to leave it in the hands of terrorists. They understand what the stakes would be. It's not just...

BLITZER: ... well why do so many Americans -- why are so many Americans not confident in the way the president's handling his job, as far as the war in Iraq is concerned?

MEHLMAN: Well, Wolf, look, war is incredibly hard. This war is also hard. In past wars, whether it was World War II or Korea or other wars, you could follow on a map with flags, how your forces were doing.

When it's a war against terrorists, it's a very different kind of battle. The fact is, we're making progress. We're going to see that progress next week when the Iraqi people vote. There are more than 200,000 Iraqi troops who have been trained.

And again, the question is, does saying we can't win the war, which is what Mr. Dean said, does saying it -- comparing our troops to terrorists, which John Kerry did this past weekend? Does saying retreat and defeat is the right strategy with Nancy Pelosi?

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) because these are very sensitive points you're making. First of all, you say 200,000 Iraqi troops have been trained. Only one Iraqi battalion, 500 to 700 Iraqi troops can operate on their own, without U.S. assistance.

MEHLMAN: Well, look, there's different standards you can have in explaining it different ways. The fact is, the latest number is 200,000. And the fact also is, there are more than -- a large number of battalions that are right now operating on their own, independently. The question is, are we making progress. Are we moving forward so that Iraqis can assume Iraqi responsibilities? The answer is undeniably yes.

BLITZER: Now, what were you saying about John Kerry?

MEHLMAN: John Kerry was on "Face The Nation" this past weekend and talked about American troops terrorizing Iraqi people, going into Iraqis' homes. I thought that was an incredibly irresponsible comment. I thought that Nancy Pelosi's echoing the retreat and defeat strategy that was laid out earlier was also wrong. I think Democrats all around the country need to stand up and be counted.

BLITZER: What about -- arguing the Murtha -- the Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania, who wants a six-month phased pullout, redeploy the U.S. troops over the horizon in Kuwait and elsewhere?

MEHLMAN: I don't agree with Mr. Murtha. I think he's wrong about that. I think it would be a very problematic policy. The Iraqi prime minister came out just this past couple days and made the same point, and so did Joe Lieberman.

But here's the question, Wolf. Do Democrats stand with Joe Lieberman who says we're making progress, we have to win this victory, or do they stand with Dean who says we can't win the war, with Kerry who says -- who compared American troops to terrorists, and with Nancy Pelosi who's adopted retreat and defeat? That's an important question that every American ought to ask if you're represented by a Democratic Congressman or Senator. Where do you stand on this issue?

BLITZER: We'll leave it there. Unfortunately, we're out of time. Ken Mehlman, thanks for joining us.

MEHLMAN: Thanks a lot . Thanks.

BLITZER: Ken Mehlman here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Coming up, we've got a very different point of view of this conflict in Iraq when we speak with anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan. She'll join us live, as well.

Plus, 2008 seems like a long way away, but the next race for the White House is already heating up. That story ahead in today's "Political Radar." Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The timing of Congressman Tom DeLay's trial is on our "Political Radar." DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin says he hopes the indicted Republican's trial can start by mid-January and done in two weeks.

On a radio show earlier today, DeGuerin sounded hopeful that DeLay would be exonerated and able to reclaim his post as House Majority Leader early next year. That may be an ambitious timetable. Stay tuned. We'll see what happens on that front.

President Bush is spending time today raising campaign cash for his party. Our Dana Bash reports Mr. Bush was expected to rake in a cool $1 million or so for the RNC during the noon hour.

Possible candidates for Mr. Bush's job are on the move today, as well. The Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is making several stops in the lead off primary state of New Hampshire. Another Republican, New York Governor George Pataki, is raising campaign money in the kickoff caucus state of Iowa.

And on the Democratic side, the Virginia governor, Mark Warner, expected to raise $1.5 million in his home state today, financial groundwork for his possible -- repeat possible -- White House bid.

Senator Hillary Clinton is pulling out a big political gun tonight. That would be her husband. The former president of the United States headlines a fundraiser for his wife's reelection campaign, a possible sign of what's to come if -- if -- she runs for president. We'll have a live report in our 7:00 p.m. hour of THE SITUATION ROOM on what's going on in New York. Mary Snow watching that story for us.

Is Hillary Clinton looking ahead to 2008? The Hillary Clinton for President Committee is convinced. Our reporter Jacki Schechner is joining us now. She has got more on the story.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: As far as we know, Wolf, no, she's not running for president. We have to make that very clear. But at least one guy, Peter Feddo, thinks that she should and he filed with the FEC today. He registered his action committee, his political action committee, and this is the Web arm of that called votehillary.org.

You can go to this Web site and contribute money to her potential campaign. They are saying they are raising money for their grassroots, netroots organization.

The question then is why do we pay attention to stuff like this? Well, it worked with some other people. We're seeing a lot of these vote so and so sites pop up. Draft Clark was one of them. Wesley Clark, by the way, paid big attention to this.

They raised close to $2 million back in 2004, at least in pledges to get him to run. Then the money was in place when he decided to do so, at least for the Democratic nomination. So that's why we pay attention, because when these action committees pop up online, we like to see where the momentum is going. And we're seeing a lot of this in anticipation of '08, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jacki, thanks very much.

And just to point out, we don't know if Hillary Rodham Clinton is going to run for the 2008 presidential nomination, although I've got to tell you, this is no huge surprise, a lot of people very, very close to the New York senator believe she will.

Up next, the debate over Iraq takes a new turn. Our Bill Schneider joins us with the latest war of words over the war in Iraq.

Plus, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lands smack in the middle of a huge controversy over the fight against terrorism. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. President Bush and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean are arguing about it, and so are many other Americans. Is the war in Iraq winnable? Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is getting into the debate himself. He's joining us from the newsroom -- Bill?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, the Iraq debate has just taken a new turn. The issue? Can the United States win a victory?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Time of war.

SCHNEIDER: The V word, victory, was all over the president's speech in Annapolis last week, on the backdrop behind him, in the president's remarks.

BUSH: Helping us bring victory in the war on terror. Clear strategy for victory. Critical to the victory. And they are bringing us victory. I will settle for nothing less than complete victory.

SCHNEIDER: The White House released a National Security Council document called "Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." The table of contents mentions victory six times. The turning point in the Vietnam War came in 1968, when newscaster Walter Cronkite returned from Vietnam and told Americans that, in his opinion, the war had become a stalemate. The U.S. could not win.

"If we've lost Walter Cronkite, we've lost the country," President Johnson is reported to have said. Now the chairman of the Democratic Party is trying to play the Cronkite role.

DEAN: The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong.

SCHNEIDER: This time, the president responded quickly with the V word.

BUSH: Our troops need to know that the American people stand with them, and we have a strategy for victory.

SCHNEIDER: Is the public wants the same thing in Iraq as it did in Vietnam. To win and get out. The U.S. did not win in Vietnam. In 2003, the Bush administration claimed to win in Iraq. But the U.S. has not been able to get out. The longer it takes to get out and the higher the casualties, the more Americans sour on the idea of winning.

Last week, most Americans said they did not believe the president's plan would achieve victory. The administration is struggling to convince them otherwise.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: A lot of Democrats worry that if they say the U.S. can't win, they'll sound defeatist. So some argue the U.S. can win by getting out, thereby depriving the insurgents of a target. You know, it sounds like the solution former Vermont Senator George Aiken once recommended to President Johnson back in 1966: Declare victory and go home -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Bill, thank you very much. And this note, James Carville and Bay Buchanan, they're getting ready to go at it over Howard Dean's comments and the politics of victory. Our strategy session only minutes away here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Bush responding today to a flash point in the war on terror. He says the United States does not secretly move terror suspects to foreign countries that torture in hopes of getting information. The treatment of suspects is getting renewed attention after reports of secret CIA-run prisons in Europe.

A new poll shows most people in eight countries allied with the United States don't want the U.S. conducting secret interrogations of terror suspects in their homelands.

Meanwhile, a German man is filing a lawsuit charging the CIA held him captive and tortured him in Afghanistan last year. He says the spy agency mistakenly identified him as an associate of the 9/11 hijackers. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing him.

In Germany today, meanwhile, the secretary of state Condoleezza Rice refused to discuss that lawsuit with reporters, but the new German chancellor Angela Merkel said the U.S. has acknowledged making a mistake in the man's arrest.

Rice finds herself defending the administration's treatment of terror suspects during her current European tour. She made a brief visit today to Romania. Their Romanian president said allegations his country tolerates secret prisons on its soil are, quote, "misplaced."

Speaking of Secretary Rice, on December 18th, "Time" magazine will announce its person of the year. And for the next two weeks, we're looking at potential candidates. The magazine gives the title to the person who the magazine believes had the greatest impact on the year's events for better or for worse. Condoleezza Rice is a candidate for person of the year. Here's why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMESH RATNESAR, WORLD EDITOR, "TIME": Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, in my mind has had a significant impact on the way in which American foreign policy has changed direction over the last year. In lots of ways, I think the last 12 months have been the most productive period for American diplomacy probably since this president took office.

And a lot of that is due to Secretary of State Rice, who has reinvigorated the state department. I think she's taken much more control over the direction of American foreign policy. She's repaired some of our relationships with our allies.

And then in important areas, both in Iran and North Korea, two of the major crises facing the world, she has really put the United States firmly in the camp in terms of working with our allies to try to resolve those situations. And in that sense, I think she would be someone who you could make a case is the person of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: "Time" magazine announces the person of the year on December 18th.

Coming up, she's become the face of the anti-war protest movement. That would be Cindy Sheehan. Her son Casey died in Iraq. Now she's out with a new book. It's called "Not One More Mother's child." I'll ask Cindy Sheehan about her passionate and personal crusade. She's standing by here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And Saddam Hussein as defiant defendant. He's complaining about how he's being treated, even saying he doesn't have a change of clothes. We'll take you live to Baghdad for all the developments in his trial. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Many of Cindy Sheehan's supporters credit her with giving new life to the anti-war movement. Many of her critics accuse her of politicizing her son's death in Iraq. Cindy Sheehan has a new book that's just come out. It's entitled "Not One More Mother's Child." Cindy Sheehan is joining us now live from New York.

Cindy, thanks very much for joining us.

CINDY SHEEHAN, ANTIWAR ACTIVIST: Thank you for inviting me.

BLITZER: Well, what do you say to those critics who say you're exploiting your son Casey's death in Iraq?

SHEEHAN: Well, it's not about politics to me, Wolf. Casey was a living, breathing human being. And I have criticized leaders on the left or Democratic leaders as much as leaders on the right for getting us into this mess and for not speaking out against it.

To me, it's not about right or left, it's about right or wrong and flesh and blood. And all I'm trying to do, and since my son has been killed, all I've been trying to do is end the occupation of Iraq so no other families or mothers have to go through what I'm going through.

It's not about politics or exploiting anything. It's about getting the fact out that killing people to solve problems is barbaric. And nobody wants it to happen to them what has happened to my family.

BLITZER: I know you've been very critical of the president and his advisors. We all remember the protests outside his ranch in Crawford. But you correctly point out, you've also been critical of Democrats, including the junior senator from New York state, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

SHEEHAN: Right.

BLITZER: What are you criticizing her for?

SHEEHAN: Well, she believes that the war is a mistake. She believes that she was lied to and that the president is mishandling it, but she is not calling for a withdrawal of the troops. To me, it's not rocket science. Our troops are over there because of lies and betrayals. They're being killed, innocent Iraqis are being killed.

And to me, I side with people like John Murtha who say they're not the solution. Our military presence there is not the solution, it's a problem. And we have to get our kids out of there. And I wish she would come out and vocalize that point if she knows that it's a mistake.

BLITZER: But it's not just her, it's John Kerry, it's Joe Biden, it's Joe Lieberman.

SHEEHAN: Right, right.

BLITZER: A lot of mainstream leaders of the Democratic Party say, "Yes, there were mistakes, plenty of mistakes that were made, and maybe the U.S. should not have gotten into this war to begin with, but the U.S.," in their world, "simply can't cut and run right now."

SHEEHAN: And I totally disagree with that point. I believe that it's time for us to get our military presence out of there, send in an army of diplomats, help them solve their problems, and rebuild their country. But we don't need our military there to do that.

And I disagree with the Democratic leadership who keeps on saying those points over and over again. John Kerry came home and said, "How can we ask a soldier to be the last one to die for a mistake" when he came home from Vietnam.

I asked him about that this time. And he knows that it's wrong, and we need to come out and just start saying. We need to back up people like John Murtha, who are true American patriots and true American heroes, as is John Kerry, and say, "Let's get our kids out of there."

BLITZER: In the new book that you've just written, "Not One More Mother's Child," throughout the book, and I've gone through it, you repeatedly refer to the president as George.

SHEEHAN: Right.

BLITZER: And a lot of people will come away from that and say, "You know what? She can oppose the president's policies, but that seems so very disrespectful of the president of the United States to simply call him George, even if he calls you Cindy."

SHEEHAN: He called me Cindy, he called me mom. His lies and deceit of the American public in the world killed my son. I don't believe that we respect somebody just because of the office they sit in. I think they have to earn our respect. And once a president lies to the American public, I don't think he deserves that title. And, you know, his lies are responsible for killing my son.

BLITZER: Was your son supportive of this war when he went off to Iraq?

SHEEHAN: No, he wasn't. He didn't believe that the president, or George, was using he or his buddies wisely. And I begged him not to go, and I think I've told you this story before. I said, "Casey, I will take you to Canada. I'll run you over with a car. But please don't go because you know it's wrong."

And he said, "Mom, I have to go. My buddies are going." And he was there for five days and he was killed saving the lives of his buddies. But, Wolf, my question is, why were and of them there in the first place?

BLITZER: Cindy Sheehan's got a new book out entitled "Not One More Mother's Child." Cindy Sheehan, our heart goes out to you, our condolences once again for the loss of your son. There's no greater tragedy in the world. Thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

SHEEHAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And up next, Senator John Kerry's office has already responded to the interview we just did with the chairman of the Republican Party, Ken Mehlman. They have sent CNN a statement. We'll bring it to you. That's coming up next.

And more on the war of words over the war in Iraq. President Bush responding to Howard Dean. We'll talk about it in our strategy session.

And coming up in our next hour, Saddam Hussein's courtroom outburst. We'll get the latest on the trial from one of his attorneys, that would be Ramsey Clark. The former United States attorney general is now part of Saddam's legal defense team. I'll speak with Ramsey Clark. That's coming up in the next hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Getting a quick reaction to my interview only in the past few minutes with the chairman of the Republican Party, Ken Mehlman, who took a strong swipe at John Kerry for comments he made on "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer this past Sunday.

David Wade, a spokesman for John Kerry, just sent this over, a statement saying, "Ken Mehlman's filthy and shameful lie about a decorated combat veteran is disgraceful. Political hack Ken Mehlman and draft-dodging doughnut-eating Rush Limbaugh have something in common. Neither of them know anything about how to make American troops safe. John Kerry will continue to speak out about how to succeed in Iraq and protect brave American troops."

Mehlman had suggested that on "Face the Nation", Kerry compared U.S. troops to terrorists. What, specifically, John Kerry told Bob Schieffer was this, and let me read it to you: "There is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children. You know, women breaking sort of customs of the historical customs, religious customs."

Specifically, that's what John Kerry told Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation". It's obvious, with all of these exchanges, the fierce fighting continuing, neither side backing down at all. It's not the actual war I'm talking about, but the warring opinions of what's happening in Iraq.

Joining us now, two CNN political analysts, James Carville is a Democratic strategist, Bay Buchanan, the president of American Cause. James, what do you make of this Howard Dean comment last night that this war is not winnable?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, this whole thing about victory was out of a right-wing college professor who actually wrote the so-called victory plan.

BLITZER: The strategist who's working at the White House.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: From Duke University.

CARVILLE: Right. What's happened here is 55 percent of the American people say this war is not winnable under President Bush's plan. Pat Buchanan said that this war is not winnable as late as November of this year unless you have a massive influx of troops. Senator Chuck Hagel, a decorated combat veteran, a Republican of Nebraska, said we're not winning this war.

So what is -- some things Howard Dean says that I think are sort of out of it. This is a mainstream thought. I hope that Howard Dean is wrong. However, I fear that he's right. But he has certainly said something that is hardly this -- let's get out of breath that he would suggest this.

Senator McCain has said we're not going to win this war unless we have considerably more troops than we do. So 55 percent of the American public say that this war is not winnable under President Bush's plan. If John McCain and Chuck Hagel and Pat Buchanan say it's not winnable under this strategy, then why are we acting like we're all out of breath?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Well, first of all, what he said is we can't win. He didn't say under some other plan we can, he said we cannot win. It was a terrible mistake, it was a real blunder strategically, because the key here is the American people.

The Pew Poll, as of November 17th, said 56 percent of Americans believe we can win, that we can win. And it's instinctively American to think that we can get in there and take care of this problem. Things have not gone as well as we've liked, but Americans want to win.

The president has a very strong, aggressive approach now. It's a smart strategy. And in one month, look what has happened. We went from having to defend whether we should have gone to war or not to a position where we now have the Democrats on the run saying we should stay the course and some saying we should cut and run.

BLITZER: Was it smart -- nine or ten days before these elections in Iraq for a new parliament, for a new national assembly, a new government, is it smart to simply raise your hands and say, "You know what? It's not winnable."

CARVILLE: You know, again, according to our own poll, 55 percent of the people say...

BLITZER: Is it smart for the chairman of the party to say it?

CARVILLE: You know what? It is what 55 percent of the American public, say it's what Pat Buchanan's saying, it's what John McCain's saying, it's what Chuck Hagel is saying. I think it's -- in America, we have the right to question things, we have the right to bring it up.

I think what Dean said -- like I say, I hope he's wrong. I hope that we can win. We're not going to have any massive influx of troops. And this plan was concocted out of the minds of a college professor, which is stunning to me. And I think there's every right to question the wisdom of the president's plan, to question a fact of whether or not you want to put 400,000 troops in there. John Murtha, a decorated war veteran, says we're not winning this war.

BUCHANAN: You sure can question it, but as a leader of a party, to take this position, it does there define the party. It gives the information to the American people that this is where the Democrats stand. And it is a cut and run, because if you can't win, you should pull out. And Pat Buchanan does not say to pull out. He definitely says we're in trouble over there, but he does not say we should pull our troops out.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: "The only way America can win this war is with a massive infusion of U.S. troops."

BUCHANAN: Well, there's a way we can win.

BLITZER: Here's what Joe Lieberman, who was the vice president presidential nominee in 2000, here's what he says. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander-in-chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Those are strong words from Joe Lieberman.

CARVILLE: You know what? Senator Lieberman is certainly -- he's been in this position the whole time. I don't think that -- I think that it is every right to question the conduct of this. It's very right to question the objective of this.

It was the president, under the advice of a college professor, that started this six times of victory (ph). We now have a college professor who's determining our war strategy. The man is training the Iraqi troops. The lieutenant general there said he never saw this document.

BUCHANAN: You know, I don't know what it matters if it's a college professor or a consultant that makes a recommendation to how you address an issue. This is not the strategy of the war. It's information. The president has picked up a way to sell this to the American people.

And if they can continue and move like the secretary of defense suggests, that there is real progress over there, have these elections, progress, the referendum next November could be one that the Republicans do very well by.

CARVILLE: I hope our people come home and we win and we have a big parade. But it is certainly not outside of the mainstream to suggest that this war is not going very well. A lot of people have suggested that. And we're not winning it under some college professor's strategy, I'll tell you that.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We'll leave it there. The only thing that professor did, based on what I hear, is he came up with a strategy, a strategy for victory.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We'll leave it there. We'll leave it there, guys. Thanks very much.

Still to come, it's slightly longer than a cat with red fur and a long tail. But what is it? Officials in Switzerland want to know about this strange and mysterious animal. We'll tell you their best guess.

Can colleges which accept federal funding bar military recruiters from their campuses? That issue was debated today before the U.S. Supreme Court. We'll have details. Much more here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's head down to the CNN Center in Atlanta once again for a closer look at some other stories making news. That means Zain Verjee is standing by -- Zain?

VERJEE: HI, Wolf. China's reporting that a 10-year-old girl has tested positive for bird flu. It's the fourth confirmed case of the virus moving to humans in China. Two of the four people to come down with the disease in China have died. Chinese authorities have reported 25 bird flu outbreaks in poultry in the past two months.

Weather forecasters are issuing a grim warning to earthquake survivors in Pakistan. A blast of cold Himalayan air will be hitting affected areas later this week with rain and snow to follow. The weather's expected to hamper aid deliveries and further worsen conditions for the 3.5 million people left homeless by the quake. The quake killed at least 73,000 people.

So after enduring the most expensive hurricane season in history, can residents of the southeast expect a break next year? Well, not according to a noted group of forecasters. The Colorado State Hurricane Research Team's predicting nine hurricanes in the Atlantic next year. And average season produces only six storms that reach hurricane strength. And as for this past season, there were 14 hurricanes and a record-breaking 26 tropical storms.

A Swiss-based environmental group has released photographs of what biologists say may be a new species of carnivore. Look at this. This animal is described as looking like a cross between a cat and a fox. It lives in dense rainforests on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. It would be the first time a new carnivore has been discovered on the island in more than a century. Scientists say that they plan to trap the animal to study it a lot closer - Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope they. Thanks very much, Zain. Good work.

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