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THE SITUATION ROOM

Cheney Accidentally Shoots Hunting Partner; Should U.S. Send Troops to Darfur?

Aired February 13, 2006 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: To our viewers, you're now in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you the day's top stories.
Happening now, it's 6:00 p.m. in Texas, where a hunting companion is in the hospital after Vice President Cheney blasted him with birdshot. The White House is being blasted for mishandling Cheney's misfire.

Should U.S. troops be sent to Africa's desperate Darfur region? I'll ask the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a SITUATION ROOM exclusive.

And it's 6:00 p.m. in New Orleans. Homeless hurricane victims face eviction from FEMA-paid hotel rooms as the feds face blistering criticism from congressional investigators over the Katrina disaster.

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

Accidents happen, but this one involved the vice president of the United States. He shot a hunting companion at a south Texas ranch over the weekend. Tonight, there are questions about the way the White House handled the news. It was made public by a private citizen a day later, and even then only to a local newspaper.

We have comprehensive coverage for you this hour, beginning with our White House correspondent, Dana Bash -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this incident happened essentially because of broken protocol when it comes to the rules of hunting. But the whole issue here at the White House today was another question of protocol, and that is the public's right to know these things in a timely way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Vice President Cheney was back at work to find a White House under fire for why it took nearly 24 hours to alert the public that he shot a man.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, I always look back at these issues and look at how to do a better job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; Well, it's not really a hindsight issue here. BASH: It was 5:30 p.m. Saturday when Mr. Cheney, quail hunting in Texas, accidentally shot Harry Whittington. But it did not become public until Sunday afternoon, and not by the vice president's office.

KATHARINE ARMSTRONG, RANCH OWNER: Mr. Whittington was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty well.

BASH: But by his host and eyewitness, Katharine Armstrong, who called her local paper. The White House says this is why.

MCCLELLAN: The vice president felt that Mrs. Armstrong should be the first one to go out there and provide that information to the public, which she did.

BASH: The story appeared on the "Corpus Christi Caller" Web site Sunday afternoon. The Associated Press got wind about 3:00 p.m. Sunday, and it was not until about a half an hour later, nearly a day after the incident, Mr. Cheney's office confirmed he shot Mr. Whittington, and gave CNN and others Armstrong's number for details.

Armstrong tells CNN she and Mr. Cheney did not even discuss making it public until the night of the incident.

MCCLELLAN: The first priority was making sure that Harry Whittington, Mr. Whittington, was getting the medical care that he needed.

BASH: In a highly contentious White House briefing, the president's spokesman tried to explain why they didn't release the information themselves and sooner. But in a striking move, Scott McClellan made clear it wasn't his call, or how he'd handle it.

MCCLELLAN: I was urging that that information be made available as quickly as possible, and the vice president's office was working to get that information out.

BASH: The president was informed at about 8:00 p.m. Saturday night, but in fact, McClellan himself did not know the details of the incident until Sunday morning.

Longtime friend and former senator, Alan Simpson, concedes it is a window into how Mr. Cheney operates.

ALAN SIMPSON (R), FORMER WYOMING SENATOR: He's always been tight-lipped with the media. He's never been expansive with the media. What's new? And they didn't like it. They didn't like it 20 years ago, they didn't like it 30 years ago, they don't like it today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: In fact, the vice president's office routinely doesn't tell the press where the vice president is, even give information about his regular work day meetings or recreation trips, Wolf. We did not know about this one.

BLITZER: Dana Bash at the White House, thank you very much. The man the vice president accidentally shot, Harry Whittington, is a well-known attorney with a long history in Texas Republican politics.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live outside the hospital, where he's being treated in Corpus Christi. Ed, what is the latest on his condition?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is actually very good news for Mr. Whittington. He's been taken out of the intensive care unit here at this hospital in Corpus Christi. Everyone around him says that he's alert, has been paying a little bit of attention to all of the hoopla surrounding his accident. And in fact, he's been -- we're told that he's been joking around with nurses about his newfound fame, because he was shot by the vice president.

All in all, doing very well, talking. Of course, a little bit sore because many of the pellets from the shotgun blast that hit him hit him across the face, the neck and the chest.

To give you a little bit of an idea what he's dealing with -- you know, hunters already know a lot about this, but for those of you in the audience that don't know, this is kind of a similar shotgun shell that probably would have been used by the vice president. These pellets are actually a little bit bigger than what you see, but you get an idea of what happens inside these shotgun shells. They're just full -- these are the BB's. As it leaves the shotgun shell, these all kind of stay together. The further away it goes from the shotgun shell, the wider it spreads out. So these -- all of these little pellets essentially peppering Mr. Whittington, and that is what has been lodged into his skin.

Doctors here say most of these wounds are superficial at best -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera on the scene for us. Thank you very much for that.

Is Dick Cheney fair game for critics after his hunting misfire? Old friends, including some who have hunted with the vice president, are coming to his defense. Brian Todd has been looking at this part of the story. He's joining us now live from the newsroom -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some of the vice president's friends are concerned about this whole lightning rod component here. They fear what's coming in the talk shows and the comedy routines. What they want people to see is the context of this man's life as a hunter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Friends and hunting partners say the vice president has had an affinity for this sport since he was a young boy, going after game from South Dakota to South America. And when you ask about his track record, the response is consistent.

ARMSTRONG: He's an excellent shot, a very conscientious shot, and I would never think twice about shooting very comfortably with the vice president.

TODD: Former Senator Alan Simpson, from Cheney's home state of Wyoming, says he's shot with Cheney several times. Simpson said he's worried his friend will be demonized by the incident in south Texas.

SIMPSON: These are things that must be barbaric to some who are within range of my voice. They're snarling, snarling at the barbarism of Cheney. Ah, the monster. I knew that he would do something like this. I knew it. That's the way he is, he's evil, he's got horns and cloven hooves and a red tail sticking out of his bum. He's a foul, foul man. And there would be plenty of that on this one.

TODD: The last time Cheney made headlines hunting, it was because of his partner, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. It was Scalia who took the flack then, because he was about to hear a case involving Cheney.

Later that year, in 2004, Cheney made headlines when he accepted a vintage rifle from NRA leaders.

What Simpson wants people to understand is the culture and ethic of hunting in Wyoming, where kids are given BB guns, then more sophisticated models, always with safety drummed in.

SIMPSON: Dick Cheney is the most sensitive of hunters. I have seen him draw up when a dog would run in front. I've seen him draw up when a car might come by on a road in front of a shot, where he just pull up. Doesn't shoot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, experienced hunters might say that's what you're supposed to do in those situations, but Alan Simpson doesn't believe much of this is going to matter to those who he says have been waiting for this kind of story. This will be theater, he says, but deep down, he believes it's just an attempt to get Dick Cheney -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much. We're going to have much more on this story coming up throughout this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Zain Verjee is on loan to "AMERICAN MORNING" this week. Betty Nguyen is joining us now from the CNN Center with a closer look at headlines making news -- Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Wolf. President Bush is slipping again in the polls. Our new CNN/"USA Today" Gallup survey show his approval rating is back down to 39 percent, the first time he's been under 40 percent since last November.

Mr. Bush appears to have lost any ground he gained during a recent attempt to rally Americans behind him, and his Iraq war strategy.

Saddam Hussein's torture trial is scheduled to resume in Baghdad tomorrow after a drama-filled session today. The ousted Iraqi leader entered the courtroom shouting "down with Bush." He cursed the chief judge and called him a criminal. Two of Hussein's former aides took the witness stand, but they claimed they were being forced to testify against their will.

Hundreds of county jail inmates are on the move in Los Angeles. They're being transferred to California's state correctional system. L.A. authorities say this is in response to a series of recent racially charged brawls, which left two inmates dead.

About 200 inmates have already been moved out. Another 400 are expected to be transferred this week. L.A. county jails remain on lockdown.

And a University of Florida researcher says shark attacks dropped worldwide last year for the fifth year in a row. He says there were 58 shark attacks in 2005. That is down from 65 attacks in 2004. There are also fewer fatalities. Now, he credits the decline to the fact that more people are fighting back when threatened, and there are fewer shark attacks.

Does that make you want to go back into the water, Wolf?

BLITZER: Not yet, but maybe not too far down the road. Thanks, Betty, very much.

NGUYEN: All right.

BLITZER: Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty standing by with "The Cafferty File." Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. So it took almost 24 hours for the vice president's office to confirm reports that Cheney bagged a lawyer instead of a quail, and that was only because a witness to the incident called a local newspaper down there in Texas. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said it was because the focus was on making sure the wounded man got medical attention. There was an ambulance with the hunting party. The vice president's office says they were waiting for the ranch owner, where the hunting accident occurred, to announce what happened. I want to be sure I understand this right. A Texas ranch owner is responsible for telling the American people that the vice president of the United States shot someone.

Here's the question, should the vice president's office have revealed the hunting accident sooner? You can e-mail us at caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. And with all due respect to the former senator from Wyoming, the story is not about whether or not hunting accidents happen. Everybody understands they do. I've hunted since I was 10-years-old. The story is about whether or not if this person hadn't called the local newspaper down in Texas, Wolf, whether this story would ever have become public or not. I think that's the issue.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much. I'm sure we'll get some excellent e-mail from our viewers. Coming up, a scathing congressional report coming out on the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. CNN has obtained excerpts. We're going to show you who's getting the blame. Also, fresh from a meeting with President Bush over at the White House, the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, joins here in THE SITUATION ROOM for an exclusive interview. Plus, more on the hunting accident involving Vice President Dick Cheney. We're going to go to that ranch and show you where it occurred, what happened. That ranch, by the way, has hosted many big-name hunters. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight, the White House insists the president was hotly engaged in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. But a new congressional report paints a very different and very disturbing picture. Part of it says, let me quote for you now, it says, "if this is what happens when we have advance warning, we shudder to imagine the consequences when is we do not." Four and a half years after 9/11, America, the report says, is still not ready for prime time. Susan Roesgen is in New Orleans for us, but let's go over to the White House first. Our correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is standing by. Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that report also saying it was a failure of initiative, a failure of leadership. Clearly the White House is trying to desperately change that perception.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): The White House is under no illusion at just how badly it's perceived in its handling of Hurricane Katrina.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: We must restore and re-earn your confidence and trust so that when somebody says "I'm from the federal government and I'm here to help," you can believe it and not laugh.

MALVEAUX: That, from the president's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, charged with investigating the White House's Katrina failures and lessons learned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want me to say?

MALVEAUX: Faced with grillings from the Senate and now scathing reports from the House, the administration is pushing back, specifically on two points from the Republican House panel's report. First, at the suggestion, the enormity of Katrina seemed not to have been fully understood by the White House until at least Tuesday August 30th, after the storm hit.

TOWNSEND: I reject outright the suggestion that President Bush was anything less than fully involved.

MALVEAUX: Townsend says Mr. Bush made calls to the area governors and New Orleans mayor, issued emergency declarations and delivered this warning from his Crawford ranch.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane poses to Gulf Coast communities.

MALVEAUX: Second, the White House rejected the panel's conclusion that had the president gotten confirmation of the levee breaches early on, it would have changed his response, leading Mr. Bush to push for an even earlier evacuation of New Orleans.

TOWNSEND: Levees like those in New Orleans cannot be repaired in a matter of hours or even days. So knowing exactly when they deteriorated would not have dramatically changed our response posture at the time.

MALVEAUX: Townsend says the priority then was on saving lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And Townsend will go ahead and issue the internal White House review in the next couple of weeks, identifying 17 different areas the administration wants to make improvements on. Wolf?

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thanks very much. Let's go from the White House to New Orleans. Susan Roesgen is standing by. Susan, even tonight, what, thousands of the victims are being forced to leave hotels, what's going on?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, until today, FEMA was still paying for about 12,000 hotel rooms. Most of those hotel rooms are in Louisiana and most of the people were able to get a March 1st extension. But about 1,000 people in Louisiana alone, including some people in the hotel behind me on Canal Street, are now evicted evacuees.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROESGEN (voice-over): Tiffany Smith (ph) and Latasha Correrr carried their bags out of a New Orleans hotel heading for relatives in Baton Rouge. After living in the hotel for three months, they got the boot, and they're not happy about it.

LATASHA CORRERR, KATRINA EVACUEE: They want you here, telling you to come back, now all of the sudden you've got to leave again. I think they must have forgot that this is a chocolate city. This is our city. Why are they doing this to us?

ROESGEN: FEMA says most of the evicted evacuees have either refused to take rental assistance instead of a hotel room or they've been getting rental assistance and a hotel room. FEMA will continue to pay for 4,100 rooms in Louisiana through March 1st. But for hotels in New Orleans that normally charge sky-high rates for Mardi Gras at the end of February, that's not such good news. They will get far less per room from FEMA.

LIBBY WUNSCH, ASTOR CROWNE PLAZA HOTEL: That's true. But times are different and we're just having to go day-by-day.

ROESGEN: Day by day, something evacuees are getting used to. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROESGEN: Wolf, today a judge refused to force FEMA to keep people in these hotel rooms. And yet FEMA on its own again is trying to keep some evacuees in their rooms until March 1st. And the hotel folks I talked to too say, "Well, you know, we don't want to see anybody out here on the street." They're trying to help some of these evacuees with discounted rooms. But Wolf, you could go up and down Canal Street here tonight and you'd find a lot of people who are still waiting for a FEMA trailer and really don't have any other place to live.

BLITZER: Susan Roesgen in New Orleans for us. Thank you, Susan, very much.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, he's here, exclusively. Will the United States send troops to support peacekeeping in Sudan? That's a question I'm going to ask him.

And you don't have to stay up until after 11:00 tonight to see how the late night comics are handling the Dick Cheney hunting misfire. We're going to give you a sneak peak at David Letterman's top 10 list and more. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Dick Cheney was gunning for quail, wound up wounding a companion. Do hunting and politics mix?

Here's our national correspondent Bruce Morton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Do politicians love to hunt? Well, some. Theodore Roosevelt went after big game, went exploring, a genuine enthusiast.

Dick Cheney loves to hunt. There's been story after story about his hunting trips, though none, fair is fair, quite as dramatic as this last one.

Harry Truman, he rather would have played poker. Dwight Eisenhower, organized a partridge hunt in North Africa during World War II and hunted as president, but when he had his druthers, you would find him on a golf course.

John Kennedy, a biographer recalls that Lyndon Johnson bullied him into shooting a deer once on the LBJ ranch, but he didn't like it and didn't fish much either, though, of course, he loved to sail.

Johnson himself hunted deer and doves on his ranch though he sometimes stocked game so heavily, you could argue there wasn't much sport in it. Richard Nixon, this man was so out of tune with nature, he went walking on a beach in a business suit. Stalking game in the wild? Forget it. Jimmy Carter grew up in rural Georgia, fished as a child, went hunting with his father when he was a kid who could only carry a bee- bee gun. Ronald Reagan? No. Chopped brush and rode at his ranch but cared so much about wildlife there, he had rattlesnakes trapped and carted away, not killed.

George Herbert Walker Bush loved fishing, grew up in Maine after all, hunted some. Bill Clinton went duck hunting in Arkansas, but one friend recalled, liked the people, the camaraderie, more than actually seeing how many ducks he could kill.

This president likes to hunt quail with family and friends especially on New Years day. John Kerry, the main he beat, spent time posing with guns, but voters probably saw more of him pursuing exotic sports, wind surfing and so on.

So some do and some don't, but if I were a quail or maybe even just a hunting companion, I know who I'd steer clear of. The vice president is often in what's called a secure location, but that may be secure for him.

The last vice president to hit anyone, by the way, was Aaron Burr who killed Alexander Hamilton in duel in 1804. Harry Whittington was much luckier.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER:: We're getting some new information that we'll have details on shortly. Did the vice president have a proper hunting license in Texas? There's some new information coming out. We'll bring it to you shortly.

Just ahead, though, my exclusive interview with the United Nations Secretary, Kofi Annan, on the war in Iraq, the oil for food scandal and much more. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan was over at the White House today discussing his worries over the desperate situation in Sudan's war torn Darfur region, Iran's nuclear program and the United Nation's own battle to try to reform itself.

The secretary general has a pile of problems on his plate as he nears the end of his tenure at the United Nations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Iraq right now. This is what you told the BBC on September 16, 2004, "I have indicated it," referring to the invasion of Iraq, "was not in conformity with the U.N. charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal."

Do you still believe that?

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: I think this is an issue that we have flocked over the period and we have discussed it, and I wasn't putting out any new doctrine. And I don't think I want to rehash that.

BLITZER: Because it raises the question, are the Iraqi people today, with all the violence, the insurgency--are they better off today than they were under Saddam Hussein, the 27, 28 million people who live there?

ANNAN: That would be a question for the Iraqis to answer.

BLITZER: What do you think?

ANNAN: But let me say that I'm sure there are many Iraqis who are happy that Saddam Hussein is no longer in office. There are others who are disappointed, and we know the reasons for some of the actions on the ground.

But I think the in the long run, what is important, is for us to stabilize Iraq. It is for us to ensure that there's improvement in the life of the average Iraqi, for us to ensure that the average Iraqi family can be relaxed when the child goes to school and knows it will come back.

We need to make sure that they have sanitation. They have clean water. They have the energy that they need. They have a free and Democratic government. They have gone through two elections, a pretty new constitution, and they are making progress. And I think we need to work with them to make that progress.

BLITZER: So you see some optimism there?

ANNAN: I see some optimism. There are major hurdles ahead, and I don't want to underestimate the challenges ahead. But they need the help of the international community. No one has an interest in -- in Iraq that is -- that would be a destabilizing influence in that important region of the world. And we need to work with them to settle the situation.

BLITZER: I want to ask you about the U.S. naval base, the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Detainees are being held. There's a story in the "Los Angeles Times" even as we speak today, quoting Manfred Novak, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, who's got a draft report out that suggests this: "We concluded that the situation at GITMO" -- the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay -- "in several areas violates international law and conventions on human rights and torture."

Do you believe that the United States engaged in torture at Guantanamo Bay? And do you believe the U.S. should shut down that facility? ANNAN: Let me say that, first of all, I've read -- I haven't read the full report, but I've seen the newspaper report of the -- of the work done by independent rapporteur of the human rights commission, working as individual rapporteur.

I think the debate on Guantanamo Bay has gone on for a long time and the question of treatment of the prisoners and the respect for the Geneva Convention on the human rights has been on the table for a long time.

I will need to study this particular report to make my own judgment. But I have said in the past that we need to be careful to draw -- ensure that we have an effective balance between action against terrorism, effective action against terrorism, and civil liberties and human rights.

If you are asked to give up your liberties and your human rights for security, and you do, do you in the end have security? So it is a very delicate balance, and we have to make sure that we do not think that there's (ph) a dramatic tradeoff.

BLITZER: I know you spent some time talking to the president today about reform at the United Nations. You've been there, secretary-general, for nine years.

ANNAN: Yes.

BLITZER: Now the U.S. ambassador, John Bolton, to the U.N. said the other day it's not just simply this incident or that incident of corruption or mismanagement but a culture problem at the U.N. that we're facing here. Is he right?

ANNAN: Well, Mr. Bolton is relatively new at the U.N. Obviously, he has a right to his judgment. But in fact, I was discussing this -- the whole issue of who is U.N. and what is U.N. with the -- in the Oval Office.

I said it's an interesting situation. When we get into trouble or there's a problem with the U.N., they refer to the U.N. as if it's a secretary or some satellite out there. The member states have nothing to do with it. And yet, the U.N. is its members. The U.N. can be as effective as its member states want it to be.

And we've been slammed as corrupt, inefficient, oil-for-food. And yet when you analyzed the report of Volcker, the scandal was with the member states and the governments and the companies.

(CROSSTALK)

ANNAN: Wait a minute. Let me say secretariat (ph) -- we -- there was some mismanagement, but when it comes to corruption, only one staff member was found to have possibly have made $150,000 of the $11 billion that was smuggled out. The secretariat had nothing to do with it.

The 1.8 that was made through deals between companies and Saddam Hussein, companies promoted by their own governments, companies with contracts approved by the 661 committee. You don't hear anything about the corruption of the -- of the...

BLITZER: Here's the problem. With hindsight, I want your thoughts. The perception that your son, Kojo...

ANNAN: Yes.

BLITZER: ... got involved in a business deal in this oil-for- food, a United Nations sponsored program. With hindsight, was that a mistake, to let him do that?

ANNAN: I did not let him do that. I mean, to say to let him do that, it...

BLITZER: Did you know about it in advance?

ANNAN: I did not know about it in advance, and not until...

BLITZER: You wish he wouldn't have?

ANNAN: Absolutely. I wish he had not been involved, but also, in the whole investigation, at the end of the report, they did not find that -- it was said that he called the procurement department and they did not come up at the end that he had really influenced the contract. And not -- and not only that...

BLITZER: But the perception, the son of the secretary-general involved, that -- that would help that...

ANNAN: It was -- it was not pleasant for me. I wish that it had not been done. It gave me lots of grief. You must also know that he -- the "Sunday Times of London" came up with an article that he had been involved with the Iraqi oil-for-food contract. And he won -- he took them. He came up with a libel suit and they settled out of court, because he knew it was wrong.

But what it is is, yes, that was true, but when you read the story, the issue of secretary-general's son may have influenced a company to get a contract. A staff member took some money and so forth and so forth. But the big picture was lost.

BLITZER: I want to talk to you...

ANNAN: ... I can't condone that.

BLITZER: We are limited in time. I want to talk to you about Darfur and Sudan. The U.S. a couple of years ago called it genocide. You met with the president today. Did you ask the president of the United States to dispatch U.S. military forces to help save the lives of these people in Darfur?

ANNAN: We had a very good conversation on that for the president is fully seized (ph) of the issue. We did agree that we need a much more effective force on the ground. We were both very grateful for the way the African Union has done. They took on that noble challenge. With all the constraints, they've done a great job, wherever they were deployed, they did well.

BLITZER: But when you say they've done a great job, it's been pretty much an awful job, it seems like.

ANNAN: No, within the constraints -- within the constraints of where they have been deployed, things have been reasonably stable. It's a huge territory and so it wasn't the most appropriate force. That's what I'm saying.

BLITZER: The African Union has done virtually nothing to save these people's lives.

ANNAN: The African Union was the only group that puts in a force.

BLITZER: But their military force has been incompetent.

ANNAN: Well, I wouldn't say -- I said they've been effective where they have been deployed. They have not been everywhere, and now we need a much -- we are trying to transition from them to the United Nations. And the next force, in my judgment, should be quite a different force with a completely different force structure.

It should be highly mobile, both on the ground and in the air, with effective communication, to be able to be on the ground when really needed. When there is a new SOS, to prevent the people from being attacked or molested and not come after the damage has been done. And this is going to require troops from governments with capacity -- well- trained, well-equipped troops. It should include troops from Western countries, troops from Third World countries, who have participated over the years in peace-keeping.

And we all need to pull together to make it happen. And the president is in agreement with me.

BLITZER: Did he indicate he would send American forces, logistical combat boots on the ground, as they say, to help you?

ANNAN: We hadn't got to that stage yet because we are doing the planning and I think when the planning is done and we come up with detailed requirements, then each government will have to indicate what they will offer and what they can do. And I hope U.S. and other governments with capacity will pull together and work with us in putting the forces on the ground and making it happen.

BLITZER: Secretary-General, thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNAN: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

And up next -- Vice President Cheney, as we all know by now, he shot a hunting partner over the weekend. We're learning new details that the Vice President may have actually been in violation of the hunting laws in Texas. We're going live to the White House. We have new information.

Later, cartoonists and comics finding laughs in the Cheney hunting fiasco. We get an early look at their work before the newspapers come out, and the late-night funny men go on the air. We're going to tell you what they're saying right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More now on the top story. The vice president accidentally shooting a hunting companion. We're getting new word right now from Texas officials. The vice president may have been hunting illegally out in Texas.

Dana Bash is over at the White House.

What are they saying there, Dana?

BASH: Well, Wolf, apparently, the vice president is going to get a warning from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife because he didn't have a $7 stamp on what he thought was his legal license to hunt for upland birds.

The vice president's office just actually issued a statement saying his staff did ask beforehand for all permits needed. And they say that they weren't informed about the $7 stamp.

But the vice president's office also says that Mr. Cheney has sent a $7 check to that Texas department to try to rectify this.

If you're looking for any evidence of how perhaps how much scrutiny this is under and how much things have changed, this could be it. Because of course we didn't even necessarily know that the vice president was on this trip. He does these all the time without us knowing about them or certainly searching for whether or not he has got a legal license.

BLITZER: So what's the penalty? What's the fine? Does he get some sort of punishment for failing to have that $7 stamp?

BASH: Well, apparently, he's going to be issued a warning, which suggests that he's not going to get a fine. Unclear if that's going to be at the end of the story there.

But I can tell you that the sheriff's office in Texas where this happened did clear the vice president of all wrongdoing. He was actually interviewed on Sunday morning about this. And apparently, Harry Whittington was interviewed today about it. And they cleared him of all wrongdoing.

But one of the questions is, Wolf, why was the vice president questioned about this by the sheriff's department on Sunday and not Saturday night when it happened? BLITZER:: Dana Bash at the White House.

Lots of questions still remain to be answered.

Thank you very much.

Abbi Tatton is watching this as well, our Internet reporter.

Abbi, what are you getting?

ABBI TATTON, INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we've just seen that hunting accident report show up online in the last few hours.

This is the Smoking Gun web site. They have got the whole report there. You can see clearly that the shooter involved here was Richard Cheney. There's also information what about they were wearing, exactly what happened at this site. And also the box is checked when it said game law violated in the yes section. So, yes, it was--Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much.

Abbi Tatton on that.

The south Texas ranch where the accident happened and its owners are no strangers to big name hunters and big name political donors.

CNN's David Mattingly has tonight's "Bottom Line"--David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, before W, before Crawford, it was the Armstrong Ranch that became the place for influential Republicans to relax in the state of Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (voice over): To those who have been fortunate enough to get an invitation to the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, it was no surprise to learn a GOP vice president and an ambassador were hunting quail alongside a wealthy Republican attorney from Austin.

Polly Sowell, former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, has been a regular guest of the Armstrongs since the 60's.

POLLY SOWELL, FORMER TEXAS REPUBLICAN OFFICIAL: The only other family that I can think of that might have been more influential would be the Bushes.

MATTINGLY: Among Sowell's photographs, memories of lunch under old oaks, lounging by the pool, open-air safari-like vehicles for hunting parties.

And in this picture, a young Karl Rove after a successful day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a favored destination spot for this type of a Republican with social connections, a fair amount of wealth. This happens quite frequently in the Armstrong Ranch. MATTINGLY: The Bushes and James Baker have been among the guests treated to the abundance of well-managed game across the 50,000-acre ranch. But for many, an invitation to the ranch was prized for more than just the hunting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, if you have access to the vice president or other high-level administration officials, corporate officials, it gives you really a unique opportunity to kind of relax, talk, and who knows what happens from there.

MATTINGLY: Anne and Tobin Armstrong were Republicans in Texas decades before being a lone star Republican was cool. Before his death in 2005, Tobin Armstrong was a rancher, a conservationist and an influential figure in the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Vice President Cheney delivered a eulogy at his funeral.

Anne Armstrong was a member of the board of Halliburton when Cheney was CEO. Their ties go back to the Ford administration when she was U.S. ambassador to Great Britain.

Together their hospitality became legendary, as they cultivated the family ranch into a private getaway where they helped build a state Republican Party one relaxing weekend at a time.

SOWELL: They were certainly uniters. Of course, that's a politically charged phrase nowadays. But they certainly were very good at bringing people together.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: Friends of the Armstrongs call them the peacemakers within the ranks of the state Republican Party--Wolf.

BLITZER: David Mattingly reporting for us.

David, thank you very much.

Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." That means Paula is standing by.

Hi Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.

Just about 13 minutes from now, we are going to take you beyond the headlines over the way the news of Dick Cheney's hunting accident was managed by the White House, or as some are suggesting tonight, not managed by the White House. Why did it take so long for the story to come out?

And does this woman look like she needs a nose job to you? How about three of them? And that's just for starters. What lengths will people go to for the perfect body? We're talking tonight, Wolf, about a woman who is not even 30 yet who has had a couple dozen procedures.

BLITZER: OK. Paula, thank you very much. ZAHN: One of those amazing mysteries of the mind we're going to tackle.

BLITZER: Amazing.

Thank you very much, Paula. We will be watching.

When we come back, what will Jay Leno and other late-night comics have to say tonight about the Cheney hunting trip gone awry? Stay here. WE are going to give you a little preview, some of the punch lines. Those shows have already been taped.

Plus, should the vice president's office have revealed the hunting accident sooner? It's our question of the hour.

Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Not surprisingly, Vice President Cheney's hunting accident is giving fresh fodder to comedy and headline writers. And you don't need to stay up late to hear it. CNN's Mary Snow is live in New York. She's got a closer look at what they're working on right now. They have already taped some of those shows, right, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did, Wolf. And you know, for comedians, writing jokes can earn a paycheck; making people laugh, a bonus. And one of the most powerful men in the world serves up the punchline on a silver platter -- priceless.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): It took no time for news of Vice President Cheney's hunting mishap to turn into comic headlines. Like, "Duck, it's Dick," from "The New York Daily News," and "Big Shot" at "The New York Post."

The accident is natural fodder for comedy writers. Late-night comedian David Letterman, for one, makes it a constant theme throughout his show.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": By the way, they've finally located weapons of mass destruction. It's Dick Cheney.

SNOW: "The Late Show" provided CNN with a sneak peek of tonight's top 10 Dick Cheney excuses. Number four, "I thought the guy was trying to go gay cowboy on me."

Cartoonist Mike Luckovich says he considers the Cheney story a gift.

MIKE LUCKOVICH, EDITORIAL CARTOONIST: This is just humanity showing its face, and humans are fallible. And this is a major screwup, and so we're all loving it. SNOW: Especially loving it are the editors at the spoof newspaper "The Onion," known for delving into the absurd for its satirical stories.

JOE GARDEN, FEATURES EDITOR, "THE ONION": You'll always be one- upped by reality. And in this case, we were five-upped by reality.

SNOW: Instead of their usual contrived stories, editors decided to just simply ask for opinions about the real event.

Cheney's fowl shot is giving comics and cartoonists plenty to work with, and in the end, that is what cartoonist Mike Luckovich decided to go with.

LUCKOVICH: Cheney is holding a shotgun and he's saying to his friend, "I want to make the cartoonists' week easy. Hold still."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And Wolf, just a short while ago, we got a preview from "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, TONIGHT SHOW: There was so much snow in Washington, D.C., Dick Cheney actually shot a fat guy thinking it was a polar bear. Wow. Unbelievable.

Over the weekend, on a quail hunting trip in Texas, Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter, a 78-year-old lawyer. When people found out he shot a lawyer, his popularity now 92 percent!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: And Wolf, you can be sure there will be plenty more jokes to come.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mary. We'll be watching. Appreciate it very much.

In fact, the online community already is having a field day with the Cheney story. Let's get the latest. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has that -- Abbi.

TATTON: Yes, Wolf, the news broke on one local Texas newspaper and Web site, and now it's everywhere, so much so that you can even read a report, as we mentioned earlier, of what went wrong at the TheSmokingGun.com.

Political bloggers are all over this, and there's a lot of fun to be had. Wonkette, the gossip blog here in Washington, offering some information for future reference for the vice president. The difference between a quail and a wealthy attorney.

Lots of photo editing going along on the Web as well. Vice President Dick Cheney as Elmer Fudd is a popular one out there today.

Online betting sites getting in on the action as well and in on the jokes. This one is offering odds on who the vice president might shoot next. In case you're interested, Al Sharpton there is at about 1,000 to 1.

And if you've got a little bit of a time on your hands, check out TheHuffingtonPost.com. This is a blog that has a game to play. You can shoot along with the vice president here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi, very much. Everyone is going to have a field day with this.

Still ahead, should the vice president's office have revealed the hunting accident to the American public sooner? It's our question of the hour. Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail, and he's getting a ton of it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go right to New York and Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File." Hi, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Hi, Wolf. The question we're asking is should the vice president's office have revealed the hunting accident story sooner?

Tony in Morgantown, West Virginia. "Just you wait. Whittington" -- the guy who was shot -- "will emerge as the guy who can tie Abramoff to Cheney, and this was nothing but a botched attempt at political damage control."

Monty in Pacific Grove, California -- "A supposed conversation between Cheney and Scott McClellan about the shooting's aftermath. Cheney: 'It was hell. It was shoot quail, carry Harry. Shoot quail, carry Harry until we had out limit."

Ron in Decatur, Alabama -- "Report? Surely he didn't shoot over the daily bag limit of lawyers in Texas."

Virg in Cape Coral, Florida -- "When I used to quail hunt, we shot the birds in the air. We also used to actually look at the target. It was pretty hard to shoot one of your buddies, unless he was either dressed in a bird costume or flying. I can only presume the vice president had received intelligence that the quail were hunting caps and carrying guns."

Tim in Westerly, Rhode Island -- "The White House announced today the vice president has now asked Senator Hillary Clinton to be his new hunting partner. The White House quickly added they saw no risk to the senator, as the vice president knows that the senator always stands far to the left of him."

And Cindy in Brookline, Massachusetts -- "I think the hot potato news story is that Republicans, Cheney and Whittington were hunting Quayle. Why haven't we heard more about this party infighting and bloodshed?"

BLITZER: You know, earlier, Ed Lavandera, our reporter on the scene, showed us some of those pellets, and he pointed out they weren't like this. But you, yourself, are a hunter. Explain to our viewers the nature of that birdshot?

CAFFERTY: I don't know if you have got that tape handy, but the shotgun shell that Ed held up was filled with what they call double-ot buckshot. And it's called buckshot for a reason. They're used to hunt deer. And those shotgun shells only contain about nine pellets. And from a distance of 30 yards, if one of those had hit the hunting partner of Mr. Cheney, in all likelihood he would have been killed.

It is much more likely that the hunters, Cheney and the rest of his group, were using either number 8 or number 9 birdshot, which is a much tinier pellet. There are hundreds of them in a shotgun shell. And those from a distance of 30 yards would likely have penetrated the skin a little bit, but would not have caused fatal wounds, although there's no discounting the danger. You hit somebody in the face with one of those things from 30 yards, you could lose an eye or who knows what. But not with double-ot buckshot. That could have been fatal from 30 yards.

BLITZER: Well, thank God it wasn't, Jack. Thanks very much for that explanation. Thanks for all your excellent work.

CAFFERTY: My pleasure.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And that's it for us. We're here weekdays, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Let's send it up to New York. Paula Zahn standing by with "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Hi, Paula.

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