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THE SITUATION ROOM

Governor Schwarzenegger Denies Clemency for Stanley "Tookie" Williams; Iraqi Election

Aired December 12, 2005 - 16:59   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive in one place at the same time.
Happening now, it's 2:00 p.m. in California, San Quentin Prison. Convicted killer-turned-anti-violence-campaigner Tookie Williams faces execution just hours from now. Does he have one last chance at life?

The governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, wrestling with the life-or- death decision, finally deciding to deny clemency. We'll tell you why he was unswayed by petitions, protests and pleas from Hollywood stars and others.

In Baghdad, where it's 1:00 a.m., some Iraqis have already cast early votes in a crucial election. President Bush calls it a turning point but concedes a heavy price has been paid in blood.

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

His plea for clemency has been denied. Now the wheels are in motion for the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams. He's scheduled to die at one minute past midnight in California's San Quentin Prison.

Standing by, CNN's Chris Lawrence. He's outside of the prison. Also, Brian Todd, he's here in Washington -- Jeff Toobin, your senior legal analyst.

Chris, we'll start with you.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're standing just outside the gates of San Quentin Prison. Tookie Williams is inside that prison. He's got about four hours left to receive visitors. He will be executed just about 10 hours from now.

There's a tremendous amount of disappointment from a lot of his supporters here. You can take a look over there, you can see some of the people in T-shirts with signs, "Campaign to End the Death Penalty." And there is an equal amount of satisfaction from victims' rights advocates and law enforcement and some of the victims' families that the jury's decision will now be carried out.

Now, the governor gave several reasons as to why he decided not to grant Williams' request for clemency.

Williams was convicted of four murders: murdering a convenience store clerk during a robbery in 1979, and then a few weeks later, murdering a man, his wife and his daughter during a hotel robbery. In his statement, the governor said the closeness of those two crimes, the murders of the family at the motel, coming just two weeks after, showed a callous disregard for human life. And the governor also went to the point of redemption.

Williams' supporters have been saying this is a man who has dedicated his life to peace, that he's brokered peace deals, that he's written books that have been helpful in keeping kids out of gangs like The Crips street gang that he founded. In his statement, the governor said he has never admitted to these murders. He's been convicted of them but never admitted to them, and therefore not shown any remorse.

Williams says he cannot admit to murders that he did not do, but the governor says without that remorse, without that admittance of guilt, there can be no full redemption -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris, hold on for a moment. Let me read to our viewers the statement that the governor issued, at least part of it, the operative part.

"Clemency cases," Governor Schwarzenegger says, "are always difficult. And this one is no exception. After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments, and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find know justification for granting clemency. The facts do not justify overturning the jury's verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case."

A quick -- a quick question, Chris Lawrence, to you. Is the governor planning on going public, making any on-camera statements, or having a news conference to further explain? I know there's a long written statement, an explanation why he reached this decision, but are we going to be hearing from him publicly?

LAWRENCE: We don't expect to. His office said that it has no press conference planned, although I'm sure his next public appearance, people will put that question to him and try to draw out a little more as to what went into the decision, who he talked to, and when he talked to them in order to reach this decision.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence, outside of San Quentin Prison for us.

Chris, thank you very much.

Now that the California governor has denied clemency for Stanley "Tookie" Williams, what will happen over the next few hours to prepare for the grim task at hand?

Our Brian Todd has been looking into that. He's joining us now live -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we keep hearing one time mentioned for this execution, 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time, just after midnight Tuesday morning. But for Tookie Williams, this day has many other critical deadlines. And we spoke to a prison official about what that entails. Now, Williams has visiting hours until 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Then he is moved to a special death watch cell next to the execution chamber.

At 11:30 p.m. Pacific, he's given a new pair of blue jeans and a new blue work shirt to wear.

11:45, the first group of witnesses is lead to the witness viewing area of the death chamber.

At exactly midnight Pacific Time, final calls are made to see if any last-minute stays have been ordered.

12:01 a.m., three guards lead Williams into the execution chamber. After the guards secure his arms and legs, a medic and an assistant enter the room and attach a cardiac monitor and needles into each arm.

Then, from behind the chamber's walls and out of view of the witnesses, three buttons are pushed, releasing the chemicals that will put Tookie Williams to death. Many of these different jobs are done by different people. And we asked an expert on capital punishment the reason for that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD DIETER, DEATH PENALTY INFORMATION CENTER: I think there's the desire to make sure that people are just doing part of the job, that in a sense they're not killing a human being, they're distancing themselves by having to just apply the straps or just put the needle in place, or determine the chemicals or something. No one person is responsible for the execution. I think that's necessary to -- for the people to be able to carry on their job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Now, once a doctor determines that Williams is dead, the curtains close between the chamber and the witness area, a prison official writes up a short notice that the execution is over.

Now, in giving us this timetable, Wolf, an official at San Quentin stressed the entire schedule can be delayed depending on any action by the courts throughout the night -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us.

Brian, thanks very much.

Let's get a little bit more analysis now on this decision. For that, we're joined by our senior legal analyst. Jeffrey Toobin is joining us from New York.

I suppose it's all up to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor right now. We heard from one of his attorneys, Stanley "Tookie" Williams, that she is the final appeal. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: That's right, Wolf, although the way it tends to work in circumstances like this is that the circuit justice, the justice in charge of the circuit, when it's truly a life-or-death decision like this, they accept the last petition for -- for a stay and refer it to the full Supreme Court. So, in fact, the usually practice is for the entire court to deny a stay at this point.

And given all that's gone on, it seems very likely that a stay will be denied. But it's unlikely just to be Sandra Day O'Connor. It will probably be the entire Supreme Court.

BLITZER: Do they actually, the justices, do they, all nine of them, do they get together and meet? Or is this done by staff work, phone calls? How do they do it?

TOOBIN: It's almost always done by phone calls. The law clerks tend to stay in the Supreme Court through the night when an execution is scheduled and there are still pending legal proceedings. And they're in touch with the justices by telephone. But I've never heard of a situation where the justices stay in the Supreme Court building to decide a case like this. It's done by phone.

BLITZER: How often would the U.S. Supreme Court stay an execution? I mean, it's pretty rare.

TOOBIN: It's very rare at this stage of the process. I mean, the Tookie Williams' case has been litigated an enormous amount.

There were five separate state habeas corpus proceedings. Those are new proceedings to challenge the convictions.

There have been eight lengthy legal opinions written about this case by various courts in the course of the 26 -- 24 years since he was convicted, 1981, 26 years since the murders. So this has been a very heavily litigated case, which -- which means the odds that the U.S. Supreme Court will step in at this late date are really very remote.

BLITZER: We'll watch all of these hours between now at midnight Pacific Time, 3:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

Jeff Toobin, thanks very much.

Let's go back to New York State. In New York, Jack Cafferty is watching this case with us, as well -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf.

Governor Schwarzenegger is up, of course, for re-election next year. I don't know, it's probably cynical to suggest that anything that went into this decision on Tookie Williams was related to his re- election bid, but hey, politicians are what they are, they're politicians.

His political future, following last month's failed ballot initiatives in California, is best described as grim. There's probably not much chance he's going to be reelected.

And one of your guests that was on in the last hour suggested that had he -- he, the governor -- granted clemency to Tookie Williams, he possibly would have hurt himself politically. The majority of the people in the state of California are in favor of the death penalty.

He was unmoved by pleas from the Hollywood crowd, Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dogg, Bianca Jagger. There were also petitions from 50,000 people that said Williams had made amends. He also murdered four people.

The governor decided that the execution should proceed. It will happen at midnight tonight. It has taken 24 years to carry out the sentence of a court that found him guilty and the decision of a jury to have him executed.

You know, if you don't like death penalty law, then change the law. But the law says, if you murder four people in cold blood, and the jury thinks you ought to, you know, be executed for your crimes, then that's what ought to happen. It doesn't say you should live another 25 years in some prison with three squares a day and heat and color TV and barbells and a gym, write a bunch of books, become pen pals with the Hollywood community.

That's not in the law. The law says timely punishment for the crime that's committed.

Anyway, the question is this: Will the Tookie Williams' decision -- I got sidetracked there a little bit -- affect Governor Schwarzenegger's political future?

You can e-mail us your thoughts at caffertyfile@cnn.com. And I'm sure you will.

BLITZER: I'm sure you're going to get a few e-mails, Jack. Thank you very much.

Jack Cafferty, back here in THE SITUATION ROOM after a week's well-deserved vacation.

Up ahead, the workings of democracy. Voting is now under way in Iraq's national elections. It's a critical process leading to an all- important result. We'll have a live report coming up from Baghdad.

Also, then and now. Is Howard Dean a modern-day version of Minnesota's late former senator Eugene McCarthy? We'll look at the similarities and the differences between both of these men.

And he's the strong and silent type who always pays attention and never has a bad word to say. But one woman says he's no substitute for the real thing. It's her way of coping with a spouse in the service. We'll tell you what's going on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Iraq's parliamentary election is still a few days away, but some Iraqis already are casting their ballots. The vote is seen as a critical milestone on what has been a painful path toward democracy. President Bush today conceded the price has been steep.

Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, is standing by.

But first, let's go to Baghdad. CNN's Aneesh Raman with the latest form there -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've seen throughout the year from the administration really diminished ambitions around these political moments. They don't want to present them as cure-alls for the situation here. But for Iraqis, these elections are hugely consequential. And as you mentioned, voting already under way.

Early voting today by patients at hospitals, by detainees who haven't been convicted, also by soldiers in the Iraqi army. Tomorrow, Iraq's police force will vote so that the entire country's security apparatus is in place for Thursday's election.

Now, up for grabs are 275 seats, essentially the equivalent of the House of Representatives. This is different than January, because every province is guaranteed a base number of seats. And that means the Sunnis, for example, are guaranteed a base number in the actual national assembly.

Now, when they vote, they'll be voting for the tickets, not for the exact local representatives. But no one party will come out of this with an absolute win. To be a ruling coalition, you need 184 seats, two-thirds of the national assembly.

So what we expect, then, is a vote on Thursday, perhaps two weeks until that vote is certified. And then, Wolf, weeks, if not a month or two, of political wrangling these various lists: Ayad Allawi's secular list, the ruling Shia coalition, Ahmed Chalabi, also Muqtada al-Sadr, set to play an increasingly powerful role.

They will all negotiate, and then it could be well into next year when we actually have a prime minister. But again, huge elections for Iraqis, a four-year government. The two previous ones have been inherently lame duck. Iraqis hope this election and this government will affect their daily life, will fix the security situation, and will guarantee them the basic services they still need -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh, even as Iraqis prepare to vote, there are new reports from the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad of prisoner abuse. What's going on?

RAMAN: Yes, the second time in a month, Wolf, that allegations of prisoner abuse by Iraqi security forces have surfaced. It came today when Iraq's Human Rights Ministry announced that last week it investigated a detainee bunker in Baghdad. They found some 600 detainees in a cramped space, 13 of them were sent to a hospital because they had suffered from severe torture. Now, this was part of an overall investigation launched by the prime minister after a bunker, a hidden bunker, was found in mid November. Over 160 detainees cramped in that bunker. A number of them had been abused.

Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, today said that they will look into these allegations, they do not condone any human rights violations. But again, there could be political ramifications. This is a government up for re-election. It's a government that could face anger by Iraqis -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh Raman is going to be a busy man this week.

Aneesh, thank you very much.

Aneesh reporting from Baghdad.

Defending his Iraq policy, President Bush today said Iraq has now reached a turning point but still has a difficult road to travel

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This week elections won't be perfect, and a successful vote is not the end of the process. Iraqis still have more difficult work ahead, and our coalition and the new Iraqi government will face many challenges, including in four critical areas: ensuring Iraqi security, forming an inclusive Iraqi government, encouraging Iraqi reconciliation, and maintaining Iraqi democracy in a tough neighborhood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's go over to the White House. Our correspondent Dana Bash is standing by.

What's the strategy that the White House has in mind for the president? And do they think it's working?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do they think it's working? Well, they certainly are hoping that it's working, but they are very clear in saying that it's going to take some time to tell whether or not they're actually having some success in this speech and the others that he's giving. But one thing that was interesting about that particular sound bite in the speech today, Wolf, is it pretty much summed up what the president tried to say, the theme here, which is a delicate balance, trying to say, yes, there is progress.

Just the fact that there are elections coming up this week and there were two other elections, he made a pretty broad, bold statement, if you will, a sweeping one, saying that these elections will mark a turning point in the Middle East. But at the same time, in the same breath, saying, look, this is just the beginning of the process.

So he is trying to lower expectations and raise expectations for what this week could mean, at the same time, which is not easy. The other interesting thing, Wolf, is when you ask about whether or not this is helping or hurting, we do have a new poll that could signal, perhaps, at least, when it comes to the president, that he's getting a little bit of an uptick in the polls. You see that his personal approval rating is now 42 percent. That is up from 38 percent last month.

So, when you ask people at the White House, they take a look at this poll, some other polls that show that perhaps he is seeing an uptick. But they also do note that 42 percent is not exactly the same place where his predecessors had been when they were at this point in their second terms. Certainly much, much lower.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thank you very much.

Dana Bash over at the White House.

Democrats say that in three speeches the president still hasn't spelled out what they call an exit strategy for American troops or a future role for United States in Iraq. And they say he still hasn't warned Iraqis to make the tough choices necessary for their own future.

Earlier, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, I spoke with Democratic Senator Jack Reed of the Armed Services Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Everyone I meet around the country are concerned that he doesn't have a plan, that he hasn't articulated how long we'll be there, the course for our engagement there, and, frankly, what will be the result. These speeches are design today do that, but so far I don't think he's laid out in some detail enough to assuage the American public as to where he's going, where we should go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Jack Reed saying he's also encountering plenty of concern that President Bush has spelled out a plan for a way out of Iraq. The Rhode Island Democrat says the U.S. can't pull out unilaterally, but says the administration has to make clear the Iraqis must shoulder more of the load.

Coming up, more on the political fallout from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision, his refusal to grant clemency to Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Jack Cafferty is going through your e-mail. We'll have your comments. That's coming up.

Also coming up, Hurricane Katrina evacuees want some extra time to check out of their hotels. FEMA wants them to leave by January. We'll tell you what a federal judge has to say about all of this.

And the recent snowstorm in the Northeast was bad enough for humans, but was even worse for a group of whales. We'll tell you what happened to them. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go right to CNN's Zain Verjee at the CNN Center in Atlanta. She's following an important story. An earthquake has just been reported.

Zain, what are you picking up?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: We're learning that just moments ago there was an earthquake in Afghanistan of a magnitude of 6.7 in the Hindu Kush region. Now, that's the region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What you get here, Wolf, is mainly mountain villages. They're isolated villages. They've existed almost in some sort of time warp, unchanged for hundreds of years.

They are mainly people who live off of livestock. They're subsistence farmers there.

It's a really, really beautiful region, though. These mountains stretch across Afghanistan, into Pakistan. It's known for very austere, but at the same time, a majestic beauty.

Like I said, it is a very sparsely-populated area, and mainly subsistence farmers. And if my history serves me right, I believe there are some communities here that claim some sort of descendency from Alexander the Great.

It's a -- it's a -- it's a very large mountain range, about 500 miles and 7,600 or so high in meters. But all we know right now is there has been an earthquake of magnitude of 6.7 in the Hindu Kush region between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thanks very much.

Jacki Schechner is also following this.

What are you picking up, Jacki, on the Internet?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, preliminary information coming in online from the U.S. Geological Survey. These are computer-generated messages giving you the information similar to what Zain just said, the magnitude 6.7 in Hindu Kush region.

Now, a seismologist has not gone through this yet to verify any of this information, according to the Web site, but this is where you can go online and get it as it's breaking -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jacki. Thanks very much.

And this -- only a few weeks ago, a devastating earthquake in Pakistan. Now a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. We'll follow this story, get more information. We'll watch it for you here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Coming up, barring an unexpected intervention from the United States Supreme Court, Stanley "Tookie" Williams will die one minute past midnight Pacific Time. How difficult a decision was it for the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to refuse clemency?

And it's certainly a surprise and a shock. A single mother is called to serve in Iraq, even though she's been inactive for 20 years. Now she needs to sell her house and find someone to take care of her son. We'll tell you that story as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

There's been an earthquake, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. Syed Naqvi is in Lahore. He's a journalist in Lahore, Pakistan.

Syed, you felt this earthquake where you are. Tell our viewers what it felt like.

SYED MOSHIN-NAQVI, CNN PRODUCER: Wolf, just a half an hour back, less than half an hour back, there was an earthquake, a magnitude of 6.7. And it -- well, let me tell you, it was a really bad one.

And on 8 of October, the earthquake which we felt, that was 7.4. But this one we just felt half an hour back, this was 6.7.

I have talked to several people near the Afghanistan border, where this epicenter was, and people all said that it was a really bad one, and they all felt it. And buildings were jolted, and people are still outside their homes right now and they are not going inside because their fear right now and, you know, all the local, general (ph), are giving the breaking news, and everybody felt it was a really bad one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How -- how populated is this Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan?

MOSHIN-NAQVI: Wolf, this is the same region where -- the Tora Bora Mountains are also very close to the -- the epicenter was very close to the Tora Bora.

It's right on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. And the last one was inside Pakistan, where the epicenter was, but this was in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Is this an area where Osama bin Laden, supposedly, might be hiding out?

MOSHIN-NAQVI: In -- Yes, there were some reports -- when this Tora Bora thing happened, there were reports that that Osama bin Laden was in the mountain region at that time.

And, so, it is the same mountain region. You know, we still don't know where he is right now, but there are some doubts that he's in that region.

BLITZER: What a -- what a tragedy for these people -- the Pakistani killing tens of thousands of people -- now another earthquake in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake.

Syed Naqvi, we will check back with you. Thanks very much for that. We will continue to watch the fallout from this earthquake in Afghanistan.

We will move on to some other news we're watching.

With early balloting already under way in Iraq's crucial parliamentary election, President Bush today said that country had reached a turning point on the road toward democracy. Are fears of a civil war unjustified?

Joining us here, our world affairs analyst, the former Defense Secretary William Cohen. He's the chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group here in Washington.

Secretary Cohen, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let me play a clip from the Bush speech earlier today. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know some fear the possibility that Iraq could break apart and fall into a civil war. I don't believe these fears are justified. They're not justified so long as we do not abandon the Iraqi people in their hour of need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How worried are you about a civil war, irrespective of this election in Iraq?

WILLIAM COHEN, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think it's always something to worry about, in terms how long the United States must be there to shore up the new Iraqi government once it takes office, as such.

But I think what the president is saying, and we have to wait the outcome -- or await the outcome of that, is, let's see what happens after this -- this vote takes place. Let's see -- now we have a -- quote -- "legitimate government," no longer interim government. What will the Iraqi people then do and demand? And it may come to a point where the Iraqi government decides that they would want us to depart.

So, I think we have to wait and see. But this is, in fact, a turning point. And it could be for the better or it could be for the worse. We have to wait and see how this all takes -- you know, turns out. BLITZER: You're a close observer of what is going on. You have spent a long time watching the situation in Iraq. What does your gut instinct tell you? What is going to happen Thursday in this election? And will it bring some semblance of stability there?

COHEN: I think that, when the Iraqis go to the poll this third time, that this is going to be a positive development, that we're going to see some change in the dynamic of what has been taking place over there.

I think the president's change, as far as the military recommendation of the clear, hold and build, is starting to pay some dividends, going into small areas, building up the infrastructure, clearing out the insurgents, and staying there to make sure they can't come back and destroy it. I think that's starting to pay some dividends.

How this is all going to unfold, again, remains to be seen. But I think there is a turning point. It seems to be more positive than negative. We will have to wait and see whether that can hold.

BLITZER: You were a Republican senator from Maine, long time in the Senate, before that, in the House of Representatives. And you were tapped by a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, to come in to the Defense Department and become the secretary of defense.

Now there are rumors that Joe Lieberman, a longtime Democratic senator...

COHEN: Right.

BLITZER: ... could possibly be tapped by this Republican president to come in and become defense secretary.

First of all, what does your gut tell you? Is that even realistic to think about?

COHEN: Well, I attended a Southeastern defense ministerial recently with Secretary Rumsfeld. I did not get the impression that he has any plans to resign.

Number two, he has indicated publicly he has no intent to resign. Number three, he has submitted his resignation twice in the past. It has been refused. President Bush is the one who determine, both -- well, two people. Secretary Rumsfeld, himself, does he feel that he's doing a good job and he is carrying out the president's wishes?

Number two, is the president satisfied with the job he's doing? Those are the only two people who really can decide this. Ultimately, should he decide that he wants him to retire at -- or the president wants him to retire, then Joe Lieberman would be an outstanding choice.

He's someone who is from the middle of the political spectrum. He is willing to take tough stands. He would be a -- a very good choice. The -- the other issue, however, is that he is moving into a situation where there is an ongoing conflict or war.

That's somewhat different than when I went in. And, frankly, I was quite critical of the Clinton foreign policy at that time. And I was rather surprised that he would ask me to join his administration.

Now, Senator Lieberman, by contrast, is very much in favor what the president is doing. And, so, the question then will become, could he hold the Democrats in any kind of a consensus? And would he have some appeal to independents? I think those are the kind of issues that the president will want to examine, in the event he decides that Secretary Rumsfeld is not carrying out his wishes.

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: I think he is. To the extent that the president wants this policy, Secretary Rumsfeld is carrying it out.

BLITZER: And the other question is, would the president want an independent thinker, like Joe Lieberman, in such a critical position? That's always a...

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: Particularly if he comes under attack from the Democratic base.

BLITZER: Right.

COHEN: So, it remains to be seen.

I think, right now, reports about his retirement, Secretary Rumsfeld, are greatly exaggerated, as Mark Twain might say.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, William Cohen, as usual.

COHEN: OK. OK.

BLITZER: And, for the first time, today, you heard President Bush make mention of 30,000 Iraqi deaths since the war began in March 2003. What's the origin of that number? Part of the answer may be online.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has been doing some digging -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, 30,000 deaths, that's the number cited in media reports and on this cite, Iraqbodycount.org.

This is a U.K.-based research group. They have an online databases where they track news reports of civilian deaths and put them on the Web. Their number, they are citing today between 27,000 and 30,000. They are a group of peace activists. And methodology is clear on the Web site. And they also have this database where you can see, line by line, all those cases.

The Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution also uses some of their data for their own Iraq reporting -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi Tatton, good to have you back as well.

Abbi took a few days off last week.

In denying clemency for Stanley Tookie Williams, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he considered the past judicial decisions in the case. But did political considerations play a role in the governor's decision?

Here with more on that is our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Candy -- Candy, this decision, can it be seen as a surprise?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly not to -- when -- when -- look, when this case began to take on urgency, this death sentence, a couple of weeks ago, when it hit the national scene, we talked to any number of Republican and Democratic politicos in California.

All of them said, I don't think he's going to grant clemency here. But they all said, first of all, we grant Governor Schwarzenegger that he will look at this case, that this is one of those decisions that's life and death. In fact, the governor himself said, look, this is about what's right. There's a man's life at stake.

So, while they were reluctant to say that there was a political rationale for what Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, they do believe there are political ramifications, and most of them would have been had he decided to grant clemency.

I was told, then, by a number of people, that -- that, should he grant -- grant clemency, they really felt there would be a Republican challenge within the primary system next year, when the governor goes to run for reelection.

BLITZER: What other ramifications, politically, Candy, from this decision?

CROWLEY: Again, the -- this -- I heard much more about, well, if he granted clemency, here is what is -- what will happen.

The governor is in a lot of trouble, both with his base and with the -- the more liberal or independents in California. He just recently appointed a Democrat to be his chief of staff. He took a lot of incoming on that from conservatives in the state.

So, he has a lot of mending to do. This particular case is in keeping with the California psyche. There was a -- a 2004 Field poll that showed that 68 percent of Californians believed in the death penalty.

His predecessor, who Arnold Schwarzenegger was responsible for getting out of office, Gray Davis, never granted clemency. It's been some time since there has been any in the state. So, this looks like kind of a wash for Schwarzenegger, at least in the long run.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley, reporting for us -- Candy, thank you very much.

Jack Cafferty is standing by with some of your e-mail on this decision by the California governor to deny clemency to Stanley "Tookie" Williams. We will read some of his comments. Jack will, at least. That's coming up.

Also ahead, days of rage -- another night of racial unrest in Australia that the prime minister is calling sickening. We will tell you what is happening right now and what sparked the violent clashes.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program, right at the top of the hour.

Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you very much.

Coming up here on CNN, President Bush face to face with his Iraq war critics -- a new shift in strategy for a president -- president increasingly on the defensive in the Iraq war debate.

Also tonight, a staggering new report of the number of illegal aliens living in this country today and why deep divisions in Congress could doom efforts to deal with our nation's border emergency. And I will be talking with two leading Hispanic advocates about immigration reform and the critical importance of border security tonight.

And China's aggressive new push to conquer the world technology market -- remember, we are a technology company. Don't worry about those manufacturing jobs, the millions of them we have lost. China, however, is now beating the United States at what we're told is our game. We will see you at 6:00 -- now back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much -- Lou Dobbs reporting.

Australia is reeling from two nights of violence that have forced the country to ask some very tough questions about the state of race relations in that country.

Zain Verjee is joining us once again from the CNN Center with more on this story -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's Tuesday morning in Australia.

And people in some of the Sydney suburbs are cleaning up after a second night of rioting. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEN MORONEY, NEW SOUTH WALES STATE POLICE CHIEF: We have witnessed this weekend among the worst violence that I have ever seen in my policing service of 40 years.

VERJEE (voice-over): It continued Monday night, as gangs of young people drove through the suburbs, smashing windows.

The trouble started on Sunday, when a mob of 5,000 white men the police say included some neo-Nazis went on a rampage. They attacked men they believed to be of Arab descent, in retaliation, say police, for an earlier assault on two lifeguards, which allegedly was carried out by youths of Lebanese decent.

Sixteen people were arrested and more than two dozen injured. Even as police struggled to keep control, Australian political leaders argued about the cause of the violence.

MORRIS LEMMA, NEW SOUTH WALES PREMIER: What it showed on the weekend was the ugly face of racism in this country.

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country.

VERJEE: There are 300,000 Muslims in Australia. And some say prejudice against them started brewing after 9/11 and was fueled by the Bali bombing in 2002, which killed 88 Australians.

RAMDAS SANKARAN, ETHNIC COMMUNITIES COUNCIL: They have escalated, you know, this fear and insecurity in our -- in our -- in our midst. And I'm not surprised that, you know, incidents like this can quite easily inflame, you know, Australians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't belong here. Innocent families are suffering. Their cars are getting smashed. No one really deserves this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was brought in this country, like everybody else. This is not the Australian way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: And, Wolf, the violence is especially shocking, since Australia really prides itself on being a society of tolerance. The country has got a long-standing tradition of welcoming immigrants. Nearly one quarter of the population in Australia was born overseas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, a very much important story -- thanks, Zain, very much.

Up next, when you're in a store, you can always pay cash, and you can keep your eyes on your credit card. But is your Internet shopping really all that secure? We will tell you about that on our situation online. Plus, she's a single mom in her 40s. Now, 20 years after her active service, the Army is calling her back to active duty. But who will take care of her son?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A private burial is planned Wednesday for former Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. He died over the weekend at the age of 89.

For CNN national correspondent Bruce Morton, McCarthy recalls to mind another anti-war Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is Howard Dean the Eugene McCarthy of today? Let's see.

McCarthy, like Dean, was an ambitious politician. But he was an intellectual, a poet, a religious man who had briefly studied for the priesthood. And he had a wicked sense of humor, always insisting, for instance, that one of his Senate colleagues was really a Hobbit: "I see him in the Senate gym, you know, little furry feet." You can't imagine him uttering a primal scream.

He didn't exactly run for president, even, just said he was willing to serve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gave people a chance to register their opposition to the war.

MORTON: Indeed it did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in World War II, fellow.

MORTON: Hippies got haircuts. College kids worked precincts in New Hampshire. Neat and clean for Gene, they said. And he almost won, losing to President Lyndon Johnson by roughly 4,000 votes out of 50,000 cast. Johnson got the message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: Dean had no such effect. He fizzled in the primaries. George W. Bush ran as a war president and won. In '68, McCarthy lost the nomination. Robert Kennedy, who might have won the presidency, was murdered after winning the California primary.

The Democrats wound up nominating Hubert Humphrey, Johnson's vice president, who never quite broke with his boss over the war. And Republican Richard Nixon won the '68 election. The war, which would eventually claim 58,000 American live, went on. Nixon agreed to an armistice five years into his presidency, and Saigon, as it then was, fell two years after that.

So, neither man ended the war he opposed, but McCarthy energized a generation of young people, got them into politics and protests. We don't know what lasting political effect, if any, Howard Dean will have.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Haven't started or finished your holiday shopping yet? Now may be the best time to find the best deals.

Many retailers are offering some steep discounts to lure you into their stores. Prices on toys and clothing are seeing the deepest cuts. Yet, even with the bait, some retailers say buyers are not biting. Many stores say sales are mixed, at least right now. Some analysts think more people are waiting to shop at the last moment.

Before you do some holiday shopping online, you're going to want to hear what our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has to say.

She's joining us now live -- Abbi.

TATTON: Wolf, if you're doing your holiday shopping on the Web, how can you be sure that your financial information isn't getting into the wrong hands?

Well, consumer groups tell you that when you're clicking through to a page where you're giving out your credit card information, for example, on Amazon.com here, you want to look in the Web address for the letters https. That means you're on a secure page.

And, also, look for this icon in the corner. This little padlock means that the site you're on, the page you're on, is more secure. However, in some cases, you can't always trust that padlock. This is in the case of phishing. This is when you receive an e-mail, unsolicited -- unsolicited in your inbox, that directs you to a site that may actually be fraudulent.

Here's one I just received today from eBay, not actually from eBay, but pretending to be, telling me to give my information very quickly and urgently, and directing me to a fraudulent site. Some scammers are even including the padlock on those fraudulent sites?

So, how can you avoid this problem? You can always just don't click through on those unsolicited e-mails. If you want to go shopping online, use a search engine to find the site that you want on your own -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi, thank you very much. Up next, your answers to our question of the hour: How will the Stanley "Tookie" Williams decision affect Governor Schwarzenegger's political future? -- Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHERINE HARRIS (R), FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: But please understand...

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): She was the first lady of the election night that lasted 36 days, when the Sunshine State was in the spotlight. As Florida's secretary of state, Katherine Harris ended the 2000 vote recount.

HARRIS: I hereby declare Governor George W. Bush the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And many thousands of votes that were cast on Election Day have not yet been counted at all.

O'BRIEN: Her decision was challenged and overturned by the state Supreme Court, but later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout the election debacle, Harris endured ridicule about everything from her right-leaning politics to her hair and makeup.

HARRIS: I think they had to learn that I really wasn't Cruella De Vil. I think that was a learning curve.

O'BRIEN: Harris is now in her second term as a U.S. congresswoman representing Florida's 13th District. She keeps a bronze statue of the famous Florida ballot in her office on Capitol Hill, complete with pregnant and dangling chads.

HARRIS: Number one, it's in my office, so that people don't feel awkward about bringing it up. It's just sort of -- it kind of takes the edge away.

O'BRIEN: She has written a book called "Center of the Storm" about her experiences during election 2000.

HARRIS: It was a remarkable experience. I learned a great deal.

O'BRIEN: Harris makes her home in Sarasota, Florida with her husband and stepdaughter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go right back to New York and Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf.

The question this hour is, how will the Tookie Williams decision affect Governor Schwarzenegger's political future?

John writes from Rohnert Park, California: "What political future? The guy doesn't even have a decent political past. Tookie will be dead tonight, followed by the upcoming political death of the governor. Thank God for both funerals."

John in Seaside, California: "Short of switching his political affiliation, the Terminator stands to be terminated in 2006."

D. writes: "The Tookie Williams case should not define Arnold's political career. Let Arnold be judged on what he does for California, not on the life of a convicted murderer."

James in Powell, Tennessee: "Arnold is fair and just. He studied the case of Williams, came to the same conclusion the jury did. He deserves to die for the murder of the people he killed. The verdict of the jury should always stand, or the jury trial is nothing."

Jimmy writes: "My balcony overlooks the Capitol Building in downtown Sacramento. And if The number of people protesting with different causes daily is any indication, he may be back making movies again come Election Day."

A lot of people felt like the only reason he got elected anyway was there so much hatred for Gray Davis, Wolf, that he kind of rode the -- the backlash against Davis into the governor's mansion. I don't know. Those initiatives that he had on the ballot, that special election, cost those people in California all that money, and they were all voted down. I don't know. I wouldn't bet on his future. Would you?

BLITZER: Well, it's still almost a year to go. So, we don't know who is his opponent is going to be either yet.

CAFFERTY: Well, that's true. Who do they have out there?

BLITZER: They got a lot of movie stars.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I guess that's right.

Warren Beatty, there's a -- there's a great choice. And who was the other one that was thinking about running for governor?

BLITZER: Yes, Rob...

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: There was somebody else...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It was Rob Reiner, but he decided not to.

CAFFERTY: Oh. Those poor people in California.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, we will see... (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We will see what happens.

How was your vacation?

CAFFERTY: It was great. I spent last Friday trying to remove eight inches of partly cloudy from driveway and sidewalks.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Other than that, it was fine. We didn't do much, hung out. I got a bunch of animals at home. I got deer and wild turkeys come around the place in the afternoon to visit. I commune with the creatures.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: I do better with them with -- than with the people.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: See you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM in an hour.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: And we are in THE SITUATION ROOM 4:00 to 6:00 Eastern, as well as 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Much more on Tookie Williams coming up, 7:00 p.m., later tonight.

Lou Dobbs getting ready to pick up our coverage -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.

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