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THE SITUATION ROOM

Border Battle Lines; Minutemen Begin 30-Day Patrol of Borders; Body Armor Controversy

Aired March 31, 2006 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
Happening now, the battle over immigration reform. President Bush ends his summit south of the border. But a group he calls vigilantes just getting started. The minutemen, as they're called, hours from now they will start an effort aimed at embarrassing the federal government.

With immigration reform and other issues dividing Republicans, is it time for the party to sound the alarm? One loyal member thinks so. He says Republicans should break the glass for what he considers a real emergency.

And 911 on 9/11. Chilling calls for help from victims trapped in burning buildings during the World Trade Center attacks. Victims' families fought hard to get the tapes released, but some say they're not enough.

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

President Bush says the immigration debate should not pit neighbor against neighbor. But while he's away, members of the Congress are not acting neighborly over the issue. Right now, the president is at his ranch in Texas after wrapping up a summit in Cancun with the leaders of Mexico and Canada.

Meanwhile, Americans are expressing their thoughts about immigration. A brand new "TIME" magazine poll just out says 79 percent of Americans favor the idea of a guest worker program in this country. And less than half favor a tough deportation measure that many conservatives in the House of Representatives support.

We have two reports. Our Brian Todd is standing by with more on the minutemen.

But let's go to the White House first. Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, standing by -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from Cancun to Crawford, the president is now back in Texas to spend the weekend at the ranch, contemplate what happened, what the real results from this summit down in Mexico. And the bottom line is it has changed virtually nothing about the political problem the president had when he first left the country. And that is this immigration issue is still splitting the Republican Party right down the middle.

Various conservatives on Capitol Hill saying they want this immigration reform bill to focus solely on border security. The president insists he shares that goal, but he wants to go a step further.

He wants border security, plus some sort of a guest worker plan to deal with the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants already in this country. Conservatives insist that amounts to amnesty, and there you see the basic problem, the divide.

The president used the final press conference of this summit, where he was standing beside the Mexican president, as well as the Canadian prime minister, to once again insist he does not favor amnesty and to try to reassure conservatives that he is serious about betting tough with border security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got long borders, and we've got to make sure we work hard to secure the borders. We also have got to make sure we've got smart borders. And so the whole vision of our borders has got to be to enhance trade and tourism, but to prevent smugglers and terrorists and dope runners from polluting our countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: The president basically ducked a question about whether or not he would veto any final legislation that does not include a guest worker program, but many leaders, in fact, in both parties believe that he may never get to make that choice. That, in fact, Congress may stalemate.

This is too hot of a political issue. They may not get it done in this midterm election year. And that could be another legislative loss for a president who's desperate for some political victories -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House.

Thank you very much.

President Bush calls his proposal a guest worker program. Some in his own party are calling it am amnesty. Some -- but some watching the nation's borders use an even more colorful name. They're calling it shamnesty. They call themselves the "minutemen."

Our Brian Todd is joining us now with more on the minutemen -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And the minutemen are back with a vengeance, Wolf, stepping up patrols along the border with Mexico starting tomorrow. And again raising the question, are they helpful volunteers or vigilantes?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): They claim to do what fences and federal officers do not, claim to help the Border Patrol arrest thousands of illegal immigrants. And starting Saturday, the minutemen will be back in force, boosting their numbers to between 6,000 and 10,000 volunteers, conducting what the group calls citizen patrols on the U.S.-Mexico border during April.

CHRIS SIMCOX, MINUTEMAN CIVIL DEFENSE CORPS.: We're out there, number one, to bring attention to the greatest threat to national security and public safety, to embarrass the federal government into doing their job.

TODD: The job of stopping what Chris Simcox calls a tidal wave of humanity coming across the border. But President Bush has called the minutemen vigilantes, and immigrant advocates say the patrols are periless.

CECILIA MUNOZ, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA: There are a lot of people out there who worry that having civilian patrols, people who in many cases are armed, is a dangerous thing.

TODD: CNN cameras caught several armed minutemen along the border recently.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Defense and protection.

TODD: Minutemen officials tell CNN binoculars and cell phones are their main weapons. They discourage guns, never engage in violent confrontation, and actually rescue hundreds of migrants.

SIMCOX: We have an impeccable reputation of restraint and orderly behavior on that border.

TODD: A Border Patrol spokesman tells CNN the agency can't address minutemen claims of apprehensions and rescues. But they did issue a statement on the group's planned patrols, saying in part, "Securing the border is a dangerous task meant for highly-trained law enforcement agents -- Border Patrol -- who are equipped to perform official duties of federal law enforcement officials."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: In that statement, the Border Patrol said it has seen a 100 percent increase recently in violence against its agents and encourages citizens to call its 800 numbers to report crossers rather than go on patrol themselves.

On the assertion the government's not doing its job, a Border Patrol spokesman says the agency had more than 10,000 agents along the border with Mexico last year and is adding another 1,500 this year. But the minutemen say they plan to stage these stepped-up patrols every year -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you very much.

We're going to have a lot more on this border debate, the immigration reform debate coming up this hour.

Jack Cafferty is standing by to weigh in, as well.

Other news we're following, fresh violence echoed through Baghdad tonight. Police sources tell CNN there were four explosions in the southern part of the city. Two car bombs, followed by two possible mortar or IED explosions. At least six people were injured.

And there's new controversy over body armor worn by U.S. troops in Iraq. Some have been buying their own. But now the Pentagon says no more.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is joining us from the Pentagon with details -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Army has told soldiers not to wear commercially available vests. And in doing -- sending out that order, they have singled out one California-based company in particular, a company that takes strong exception to what the Army says. In fact, it accuses them of deliberate deceit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice over): In company-sponsored demonstrations like this one, Pinnacle Armor of Fresno, California, touts its Dragon Skin vest as "state-of-the-art protection" for police and military alike. But the Army has issued what it calls a safety of use message, banning the vest and other commercial body armor from the battlefield, warning, danger, death or serious injury could result if soldiers use the over-the-counter vest instead of their standard-issued body armor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact of the matter is, they have not met the Army standard to date.

MCINTYRE: The Army says while there was a body armor shortage for about a year right after the invasion of Iraq, it insists since early 2004, every soldier in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been issued body armor. And as of early this year, all soldiers have access to improved armor, including shoulder pads and side protection.

Some soldiers say they prefer the more comfortable design of the Dragon Skin vest. But the Army says it's gone to a lot of expense getting the best protection for its troops and it doesn't want them wearing anything less.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the facts of life. I mean, you can meet the Army standard, we'll field. You can't meet, we don't field.

MCINTYRE: The Army says it will pay for soldiers to ship the substandard vests home, but not for the vests themselves, unless the soldiers qualify under a law passed by Congress to reimburse troops for necessary equipment.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCINTYRE: Now, Wolf, I just got off the phone with Murray Neal, who is the president of Pinnacle Armor, the inventor of Dragon Skin. He takes very strong exception to what the Army said. In fact, he said what General Sorensen (ph) says was, in his words, "a boldfaced lie."

He says General Sorensen (ph) has an inch thick of documentation showing that the Dragon Skin vest, in fact, exceed Army standards. And he said what we would like to see the Army do is take his vests and their vests, put them side by side, and shoot them up. He said he thinks the vests without the holes should go to the troops. And he insists it would be his vest, not the Army's.

There you go.

BLITZER: All right. Maybe they will do that. Jamie, thank you very much.

Jamie McIntyre reporting.

Let's get some more on this military armor story from our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, there are some other developments unfolding as well, right?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORT: About the body armor, yes.

First of all, this is the Pinnacle site, that California company cited today in this Army ban. They detail online -- they advertise their body armor there.

The Army standard issue body armor is also detailed online at official military sites. But Wolf, we found that for a year now or more cropping up elsewhere for sale.

Just today, in fact, we found it on eBay. An examine of this Army standard issue body armor going for about $280. On that site there from a seller in South Korea.

We contacted eBay and showed them this. They said it's against their policy to sell this online. They have now taken that down -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much.

Let's go back to New York and Jack Cafferty. He's standing by.

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, as the battle over illegal immigration rages on Capitol Hill and all across this country, there's a new poll that suggests Americans are increasingly worried about immigration in general.

Fifty-two percent of us, more than half, say immigrants are a burden because they take jobs, housing and health care. That's compared to 41 percent who say immigrants strengthen our country with their hard work and talents.

In fact, the percentage of people who say immigrants are a burden is higher now than at any time since 1997. Last year, 44 percent of those polled said immigrants were a burden, 38 percent responded that way in 2000. Now the number is 52 percent.

Illegal immigration is a growing cancer in the United States. Our leaders in Washington refuse to enforce our laws against entering this country illegally. But because it's an election year, they suddenly feign lots of concern and they begin a debate, and the illegal aliens just keep coming.

So, here's the question: Are illegal aliens a burden or do they strengthen the United States?

You can e-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

Wolf, I was talking to Christine Romans, one of Lou Dobbs' fine correspondents on his program. She's doing a story on those kids in San Diego tonight that were out of school protesting. And she mentioned that something like 60 percent of them won't graduate high school. So maybe it would be a good idea if they went back into the classrooms and tried to get that diploma instead of, you know, spending their day out and marching around, jumping up and down and being silly.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty in New York.

Thank you very much.

CAFFERTY: You're welcome.

BLITZER: To our viewers, thanks, as well.

Up ahead, the horror of 9/11 captured in desperate 911 phone calls. We are going to show you the controversy over the tapes that have just been released. Our Mary Snow is standing by with that.

Also, our own Larry King, he'll join us in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about his one-on-one interview today with the former president, Bill Clinton. That's coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

And we're standing by for a news conference by the Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. She is expected to talk about her scuffle with Capitol Hill police.

That's coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: They are certainly gripping, yet very difficult to listen to, recordings of 911 calls from inside the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us now with some just-released tapes and the controversy behind them -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the city didn't want to release these tapes, trying to protect the privacy of the families. But some victims' families went to court, saying that the full story of what happened on September 11th needs to be told.

The city was forced to release more than eight hours of tapes, but erased voices of victims.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FIRE: You said you've got a hundred people where?

106th floor. You guys trapped in there?

SNOW (voice over): Another call at 9:02, just one minute before the second plane hit.

POLICE: Do what you think is best.

No, I cannot do that. We are getting millions -- millions of calls, sir.

SNOW: One after another, operators try to keep callers calm.

FIRE: All right. Just keep some windows open. If you can open up windows and just sit tight.

NORMAN SIEGEL, ATTORNEY FOR 9/11 FAMILIES: You know and we know that you can't open the windows at the World Trade Center.

SNOW: Norman Siegel represented nine families who joined "The New York Times" in forcing New York City to release all the tapes.

AL REGENHARD, FATHER OF 9/11 VICTIM: I think we can learn from our mistakes, the mistakes that were made. And the only thing that can come from this -- and I owe it to me son and all those that died -- that we do better in the future.

SNOW: One of the 28 callers the city identified was Chris Hanley, trapped on the 106th floor of the north tower. His family chose to share his final moments.

HANLEY: OK. Please hurry.

FIRE: All right. Just keep the windows open. If you can open up windows and just sit tight. It's going to be a while because there's a fire going on downstairs.

HANLEY: We can't open the windows unless we break them.

FIRE: OK. Just sit tight. Just sit tight. We're on the way.

HANLEY: All right. Please hurry.

JOSEPH HANLEY, FATHER OF 9/11 VICTIM: It's kind of painful to hear it again, to hear him, you know, alive like that. But I thought he distinguished himself very nicely under a great deal of pressure.

SNOW: Also on the recordings, examples of operators expressing helplessness to each other.

FIRE: It's an awful thing. It's an awful, awful, awful thing to call somebody and tell them you're going to die.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor at the time, released a statement saying, "Hearing that day replayed not only brings to mind how many lives were lost, but also serves as a reminder that so many were rescued and evacuated" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thank you very much for that.

Zain Verjee is joining us from the CNN Center with a closer look at some other stories making news -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, no verdict yet in the death penalty trial of admitted 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, and the jury has gone home for the weekend. The federal panel has so far deliberated for more than 12 hours since receiving the case on Wednesday.

There are only -- they are deciding only if Moussaoui should receive the death penalty for his role in the 9/11 attacks. The jury's 12 members must be unanimous.

U.S. Customs officers says that they captured two Guyanese nationals trying to sneak into the country in a commercial truck. Now, what makes the capture especially interesting is the technology used to find the stowaways.

Border Patrol officials in Buffalo, New York, used gamma imaging to root out the two people. The man and woman were found hiding in a container of Styrofoam trays. They and the driver face federal smuggling charges.

French president Jacques Chirac says that he will sign his country's controversial youth labor contract into law, but with a couple of changes. In a televised announcement, Chirac said that he wants the two-year probationary period reduced to one year, and he says that employers have to give reasons for termination.

His announcement came as hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Bastille Square in protest. Chirac says that it's time to diffuse the situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Zain, for that.

Coming up, Republicans locked in some bitter battles within their own party, and a crucial election just months away. How serious is their situation? I'll ask radio talk show host and author Hugh Hewitt. Plus, street wars. Hundreds of people playing "Assassin" in cities across the United States. Why this popular game has police very concerned. We're going to show you what it's all about.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Ali Velshi. He's got "The Bottom Line." Ali's in Washington today -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good to see you again.

(BUSINESS REPORT)

BLITZER: This programming note for our viewers. Ali also hosts "ON THE STORY" this weekend. It's a show that takes our viewers behind the scenes with our CNN reporters as they cover the big stories of the week. He does it at George Washington University before a huge studio audience.

"ON THE STORY" will air this weekend, Sunday, 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Sunday, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, right after CNN's "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

Now a CNN investigation into a growing scam online. It's called phishing, with a P-H. There are millions of those fraudulent e-mail out there that direct you to fake Web sites where you're tricked into providing some very sensitive personal information.

Don't do this.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's identified a twist on the scam that will surprise you -- Abbi.

TATTON: Wolf, this is an e-mail we received in our Yahoo! account just last night claiming to be from Yahoo!, threatening us with deactivation of our account unless we gave up pretty much every single piece of information about ourselves that we had.

Now, this was clearly a phishing attempt. There were certain things that gave it away. Look at those spelling mistakes there, also the urgency of this message. That's one thing that you can always see from a phishing attempt.

We see these all the time, but there was something about this one that really -- two things that really caught our eye.

First of all, the amount of things they were asking for, pages and pages of information, pin numbers. They even asked for us to give the routing number of our bank.

The other thing was that it showed up in a Yahoo! account purportedly from Yahoo!, even though it wasn't, and got through Yahoo's own filters. We spoke to Yahoo! today. What they told us is that their spam filters do grab 95 percent of spam, but some things do get through because scrammers are getting more and more sophisticated -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's pretty frightening stuff out there. Thanks, Abbi, for that.

Coming up, are Republicans in trouble? I'll speak about that very serious issue with a radio talk show host and the author Hugh Hewitt. You might be surprised by some of his views.

And coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, the immigration debate. CNN's Lou Dobbs and Univision's Jorge Ramos, they'll face off right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

As we've been reporting, today the Senate continued debating a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to work toward becoming legal immigrants. Senate Republicans are deeply divided over that issue and over other specifics in the push toward immigration reform.

Some support President Bush's proposal for a guest worker program, while other Republicans dismiss that as nothing more than a form of amnesty. The divisive issue of immigration reform is just one of the issues dogging and dividing the Republican Party. And one Republican says there are several others.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, the syndicated radio talk show host and author of this new book "Painting the Map Red: The Fight to Create a Permanent Republican Majority," Hugh Hewitt.

Hugh, thanks very much for joining us.

HUGH HEWITT, AUTHOR, "PAINTING THE MAP RED": Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let me read to you from page one of your new book.

"An overconfident and complacent Republican Party could be facing electoral disaster. Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean and a host of others would be looming in our future and undoing all the good we've tried to do. It is break the glass and pull the alarm time for the Republican Party."

Is it time to panic?

HEWITT: Oh, it is. It is way past panic time.

The -- what I told some conservatives today is, what do the Jets in the third Super Bowl, the American hockey team in 1980 at Lake Placid, and the Democrats in 2006 have in common? Nobody thought they could win it all. The Democrats could win it all. They could take the Senate. They could take the House. And a lot of Republicans don't believe that. They have talked themselves into politics by numbers, not politics by wave. And politics by wave is very much alive.

BLITZER: Our most recent "TIME" magazine poll, our sister news organization, generic congressional map up -- matchup -- has Democrats taking 50 percent of the Congress, Republican 41 percent. That's a generic question.

But -- but -- but you're worried. You're deeply worried.

HEWITT: Oh, I'm very worried.

I was on the air doing a show like this in Los Angeles in 1994, when the wave hit that took out the -- the long-serving Democratic majority in the Senate and the House. And Chris Cox, now at the SEC, stopped in. And he said, "Hugh, anyone who told you they saw this coming is lying."

And -- and, in fact, no one can see it coming until it hits them. The Republicans are on the record to be the least active House since the 1948 do-nothing Congress that will be there the fewest number of days. They are in this knife fight with each other on immigration at exactly the wrong time. And they are not doing what they have to do, which is make this a referendum on the war.

Now, I know a lot of people, oh, say the war is unpopular. The president's numbers are down. No, that's the edge over the Democrats. If it's a choice about the war, the Republicans can indeed paint the map red, but not if it's about the performance of the congressional delegations.

BLITZER: Here's what you write in the book. You write: "Candidates have to look closely at George W. Bush and realize that they cannot win by running away from the leader of their party. Rather, they have to identify the single greatest strength the president embodies and put it front and center in their campaigns." "That greatest strength," you write, "is, in fact, trustworthiness."

Now, we looked at our most recent CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. In February 2004, two years ago, 55 percent thought Bush was honest and trustworthy. That has gone down now, in February 2006, to 47 percent, not even a majority.

HEWITT: Yes. But that's still much better than most of his other numbers on performance. It's his strongest calling card.

And I think, when you remind voters he said he would give a prescription medical benefit; he got the prescription drug benefit; he said he would go to Iraq; he went to Iraq; he said he would go to Afghanistan; he went to Afghanistan; he promised judges in the mold of Scalia and Thomas; he delivered judges in the mold of Scalia and Thomas -- this president has got one strength that people have to remind them about.

If he says he's going to do A, he is going to try and do A. He couldn't deliver Social Security, but he spent a year trying, in the face of an obstructionist Democratic Senate.

BLITZER: Let's talk about 2008 for a moment. Among registered Republicans in our poll, Rudy Giuliani comes in with 33 percent. John McCain comes in with 28 percent. And everybody else is in single digits, George Allen, Bill Frist.

You don't believe that either Giuliani or McCain can, A, get the Republican nomination or win.

HEWITT: Oh, no.

About McCain, I would say, he's a great American, a lousy senator, a terrible Republican. He cannot get the nomination. Rudy could get the nomination, although I'm told that he's not running and that most people are going to be surprised by that.

BLITZER: He can get the nomination...

HEWITT: Yes.

BLITZER: ... even though he supports abortion rights for women?

HEWITT: Yes. I go out on the -- on the blue-hair circuit, we like to call it, Wolf, and I talk to them. And I always take a poll.

People want to be alive four years later. They are willing to set aside -- they need to hear some assurances about the kind of judges he would appoint. But Rudy Giuliani walks towards the building. Rudy Giuliani is a leader in time of war. I think George Allen and Mitt Romney...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You know, he supports not only abortion rights. He supports gay rights.

HEWITT: Yes.

BLITZER: He is opposed to gun control. He has got -- he supports affirmative action. On so many of these social issues, he disagrees with the Republican base.

HEWITT: Yes, but he serves the party. And the Republicans -- as I write in the book, Republican primary voters support long service and loyalty. He has been a very loyal Republican, though one of moderate views. He has not done any of the things that Senator McCain...

BLITZER: So...

HEWITT: ... has done.

BLITZER: ... you could support Rudy Giuliani...

HEWITT: Oh, sure.

BLITZER: ... but you couldn't support John McCain?

HEWITT: Well, if he is the nominee, I would. But I just don't see him repairing the gang of 14, McCain-Feingold, now McCain-Kennedy. There are too many whiffs and misses from a party standpoint. And I am big believer in party, like Disraeli was, Wolf. That is what makes the world go around. John McCain is not a party man. Rudy Giuliani is.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the blogs for a moment...

HEWITT: Sure.

BLITZER: ... because I know you, you are active on your blog.

"The blogosphere," you write, "can expose the Democratic left for what it truly is, in all its conspiracy-loving, anti-American glory. Yet, if understood rightly, it can also offer a decisive and enduring advantage for the GOP."

Some have argued that the blogs, the blogosphere is to Democrats what talk radio is to Republicans.

HEWITT: No, that's not right, because talk radio, when you look at Rush, at Sean, at myself, at Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, we all conduct ourselves appropriately on the air, or the FCC will smack -- smite -- smack us down.

The blogosphere on the left came into being just at the moment the Democratic Party was the angriest, after the Florida 2000 election. And it has captured that anger. And there were no grownups there to direct it to legitimate and constructive political activity. They are training a generation of young Democratic activists to be angry, vulgar, profane, and cruel.

On the other hand, the Republican bloggers, Power Line blog, Instapundit blog, the NationalReview.com blogs, responsible, oriented towards issues, always constructive.

So, I think what we have got is basically a monopoly on responsible new media on the center-right side, and talk radio is responsible new media, even though that fever swamp on the left, the Michael Moore-disease-ridden Democrats on the left, they don't want to admit that, so they won't. But, in fact, talk radio is quite responsible.

BLITZER: The -- the book is called "Painting the Map Red: The Fight to Create a Permanent Republican Majority."

Hugh Hewitt is the author,

Hugh, thanks for joining us.

HEWITT: Wolf, thanks for having me.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner.

Jacki I know you have spoken with Hugh. What do make of his argument that Democrats on the left haven't used -- used the blogosphere constructively. He says Democrats, in his words, were -- have been angry, vulgar, profane, cruel. What do you make of that?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, it's the Internet, and there's chatter like that on both sides.

But the Democrats are learning to harness this medium in a very responsible, progressive, and constructive way. It's interesting to take a note. They are having conversation in very public, very large forum.

But, even more interesting than that, they are learning how to use this medium to raise a lot of money, and a lot of money in a short period of time from individual donors.

A couple of interesting things to note: For example, Paul Hackett for Congress in the Ohio 2nd District. He came very close to Jean Schmidt. He didn't win, but they raised a lot of money, half-a- million dollars. And they consider him coming that close a big victory.

Another thing to take a look at would be Ciro Rodriguez. Again, they breathed a little bit of life into a campaign that both sides admitted to me wasn't really on the best footing.

So, it's interesting to take a note. There was a study that came out, Wolf, from the Institute For Politics, Democracy and the Internet. They looked at 2004, and Democrats did raise more money than Republicans online.

So, we will have to keep that in mind, looking ahead to 2008.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much.

And, remember, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where political news is arriving all the time -- CNN, America's campaign headquarters.

We're standing by -- Cynthia McKinney, the congresswoman from Georgia, expected to make some comments about that altercation she had earlier in the week up on Capitol Hill with a Capitol Hill Police officer. There is a news conference about to take place, we believe. This is a live picture you are seeing from Howard University, here in Washington. We will go there live once it starts.

Still to come, also, here in THE SITUATION ROOM in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, what does the former President Bill Clinton think about the raging debate over immigration reform? He sat down today with CNN's Larry King. We will give you a preview.

And you might remember Shrek, not the lovable cartoon character, but the lovable sheep found years ago in New Zealand. Now he has some company. We will introduce you to Tweedledee and Tweedledum and their fabulous fleece.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There she is, Zain. Once again, she's joining us with a quick look at some other stories making headlines around the world -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, Iran has not replied yet, but President Bush has offered assistance to help victims of strong earthquakes that hit the country this morning. Three quakes, measuring between magnitudes 4.7 and 6.0, were followed by a string of aftershocks. They struck mountainous western Iran, killing at least 66 people and flattening entire villages. More than 1,400 more people are hurt, and tens of thousands are displaced.

One survivor of a leisure ship that capsized in the Persian Gulf on Thursday says he fell to the floor and then just slid into the sea. The boat's owner says that it may have been overcrowded with revelers celebrating a major construction project in Bahrain's capital. At least 126 people were on board for the party of Bahrain's coast. Sixty-seven people survived. Fifty-seven drowned. The others are still unaccounted for.

In Dresden, in Germany, officials say that at least 1,000 people may have to be evacuated over the weekend. Rising waters from the Elbe River forced them to take out the first 100 people today. Rivers stand at more than three times normal levels, thanks to melted snow and some really -- really relentless rain. Elsewhere in Europe, flooding is reported in the Czech Republic and in Rumania.

Shrek, the unshorn sheep, has competition. Shrek captured the world's attention two years ago by avoiding his annual shearing for six years straight. But two 8-year-old hermit rams were found hiding on the same hillside where Shrek took refuge. And the length of their wool rivals their predecessor's by leaps and bounds. They have been named, Wolf, Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

BLITZER: That's a lot of wool...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: ... over there on Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much.

Up ahead in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, kill or be killed, that's the goal of some determined assassins roaming the streets of Los Angeles right now. So, why do some find that funny?

And burden or blessing? What's your view on illegal immigrants? Jack Cafferty will be back with your e-mail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia was in an altercation with Capitol Hill Police earlier in the week. She has just made a statement to reporters at Howard University, here in Washington.

Let's listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), GEORGIA: Thank you very much.

Apparently, the case against me may be referred for prosecution. Therefore, I have been advised by my attorneys not to discuss the facts of this case.

However, let me be clear. This whole incident was instigated by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female, black congresswoman.

I deeply regret that this incident occurred. And I am certain that, after a full review of the facts, I will be exonerated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Cynthia McKinney, the congresswoman from Georgia, speaking out, only moments ago, on this incident that occurred on Capitol Hill. She was going through security, apparently was not wearing -- not wearing -- that little pin that identifies her as a congresswoman.

A police officer asked her to stop. There were some words exchanged. And what happened as a result, not clear -- but you just heard her statement, and we're going to continue to this follow story for you. Her attorneys are speaking right now as well. We will monitor what they are saying, bring you more as we get it.

Moving on now, he's a high-profile attorney often in the limelight for representing celebrities, like Johnny Carson, O.J. Simpson, and others. But now he's taking the spotlight over what he says is a deadly disease that can afflict anyone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the famed criminal defense attorney Robert Shapiro.

Bob, welcome to Washington.

And -- and you're not here to do any criminal cases. You have a very personal story that you have testified to Congress about. Tell our viewers what you are doing in Washington.

ROBERT SHAPIRO, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I'm -- I'm here because my son, who passed away October the 10th, from taking a half a ecstasy, after he had been sober for 18 months, to create awareness of the disease of the addiction of drugs, that it's not unlike any other disease, it should be treated as a disease, and that we have created the Brent Shapiro Foundation For Drug Awareness to attack it as a disease, to do what we have created in the PACE program.

BLITZER: He was -- he was so young. How old was he?

SHAPIRO: He was 24, turning 25 in about 30 days.

BLITZER: And -- and tell us his story. What -- what exactly happened, briefly?

SHAPIRO: Brent had been sober, as I said, for 18 months. He went to a USC football game that Saturday afternoon. It was a hot day. He had always said he was a drug addict and would never use drugs.

But he tried to convince himself that he wasn't an alcoholic, and that maybe he could drink a little. He had two beers at the afternoon, in a hot day at the Colosseum in California, went out that night to a party, a 30-year-old birthday party, not a particularly group of people who were using drugs. And we were reported that he had a couple of drinks there.

And, for some reason that escapes me, he took a half a ecstasy. He...

BLITZER: And then what happened?

SHAPIRO: He got very, very sick from it. He started to get delusional. He was losing his thought processes. And people said, well, he just had too much to drink. Take him home and put him in bed. Nobody called the paramedics. Nobody took any emergency procedures.

And, at 7:00 the next morning, Wolf, you get that call that you don't want: "Brent is not breathing."

And when we beat the paramedics to the emergency room, I knew that there was a terrible problem. And there was.

BLITZER: Now, from this tragedy -- and our heart goes out to you, our deepest condolences -- you want to try to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. And that's why you testified this week before Congress.

SHAPIRO: That's correct.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Tell our viewers what you are trying to do, and -- and what -- maybe what they can do to help. SHAPIRO: What we are trying to do is this. We want to create awareness of the fact that this is a disease, like any other disease.

One hundred and twenty thousand people died last year, directly from alcohol and drug use. And an equal number...

BLITZER: Mixing these two?

SHAPIRO: No, alcohol separate, drugs separate -- and an equal number as a result of people either using or being under the influence of. So, 250,000 people died as a result of alcohol and drugs.

BLITZER: So, what do you want Congress to do?

SHAPIRO: What we want Congress to do is focus on what we have created, called the PACE program.

Prevention: Start with the kids. Let them know to be smart, don't smart.

Awareness: This is a disease, like any other disease. We need to create protocols for treating this as a disease. This is not something that people can say, I don't want to have this disease anymore. And it doesn't matter whether it is an acquired disease, or whether or not it's as a result of partying too much.

If you get Vicodin from the dentist, and you happen to take your 30-day supply in three days, you're going to be addicted to Vicodin, whether you took it for legitimate reasons or not.

C, communication: Teachers have to communication with parents. Students have to communicate with themselves. If another student or another friend is in trouble, tell that person. Get that person help. Tell the parents. It's better to be a snitch than to be giving a eulogy at a funeral.

And, finally, education: Tell the truth about what's going on. This is an epidemic in America. We are never going to stop the supply of drugs, whether it be elicit drugs that come in on the black market, drugs that are manufactured here from legitimate drugs, methamphetamine, which is manufactured from Sudafed, an over-the- counter drug, or prescription pills. We're not going to stop that.

BLITZER: Is there a place where our viewers could get more information?

SHAPIRO: Yes, BrentShapiro.org.

BLITZER: And that's it.

Well, our heart goes out to you. And, hopefully, some good will come out of this horrible tragedy.

Bob Shapiro, thanks very much.

SHAPIRO: We are going to save some lives. Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: God willing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Bob is also promoting his cause by announcing the creation of a special day. It's called Sober Day USA. Shapiro's foundation has marked it for Monday, May 1. That day, the group asks that families, schools, other organizations host what he calls sober parties at their homes.

Let's check in with Lou -- Lou Dobbs, that is. He's bringing us his program, as he has this week, from Cancun. He's standing by to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you very much.

President Bush, Mexican President Fox, Canadian Prime Minister Harper, they have wrapped up a two-day, trilateral summit that included discussion of, at least, border issues such as security, illegal immigration and even so-called free trade.

At this summit, President Bush failed to win any new agreement with Mexico on the issue of border security, even as he continues to push -- and push hard -- Mexico's illegal alien amnesty agenda. And speaking of agendas, tonight, we will report on the reconquista movement that is growing in this country -- why some groups of Mexican citizens and Mexican-Americans are now trying to take back the entire Southwestern United States from local authorities and turn it over to Mexico.

We will have that special report and more on Mexico's hypocrisy on the issue of border security. Mexicans citizens can invest in the United States, but American investors are continually shut out of Mexico -- all of that and a great deal more coming right up.

We hope you will be with us -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Lou, thank you very much.

Lou is going to be joining us in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour as well, together with Jorge Ramos. They will be wrapping up what happened, what didn't happen at this summit in Cancun.

Up next, Jack Cafferty is back with your thoughts about immigration. His question this hour: Are illegal immigrants a burden, or do they strengthen the U.S.? We are going to hear what you have to say.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, you like that music?

CAFFERTY: I can't hear the music.

BLITZER: Oh, good.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I -- because I know you don't like it.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Tell our viewers what our -- what our -- what our viewers think.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: Tell our viewers what our viewers think? All our viewers probably know what they think.

As the battle over illegal immigration rages on Capitol Hill and across the country, there's a new poll that suggests Americans are increasingly worried about immigration in general. Fifty-say percent of those polled say that immigration -- immigrants are a burden. Forty-one percent say immigrants strengthen the United States.

The question is: Are illegal immigrants a burden, or do they strengthen the U.S.?

Sylvia writes from Denver: "Illegals are both. Some of them get a lot of good work done. Others are a drain on social services and the legal system. Figure out which is which and some big problems are solved. When they register for social services, it could be documented and handled then."

Mary in Conroe, Texas: "Until we take care of our own citizens' needs, I don't think we should be providing services to illegals. Everyday U.S. citizens are denied medical and other services that illegals obtain readily. I resent paying taxes for people who send their money out of the U.S. and don't try to mainstream into our culture."

Sonia in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania: "How could it be good for a country to have people entering illegally, protesting in the streets, waving Mexican flags, burning school districts -- burdening schools districts that have to teach Spanish, and burdening the public health systems? There's nothing wrong with immigration, as long as it's done legally. These illegals have no respect for the laws of the United States."

Molly writes from Washington, D.C.: "I ardently support immigrants, legal and illegal. With very strong work ethics and industrious characteristics, they strengthen our economy and enrich our nation as a whole."

And Rich writes from South Bend, Indiana, home of the Fighting Irish:" They are definitely a burden to anyone working construction. The same employer who used to pay me $22 an hour as a master carpenter now only offers now $8, because -- quote -- 'That's what the Mexicans will take' -- unquote -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty with the e-mail -- thanks, Jack.

I will see you back here in one hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And, to our viewers, remember, we're in THE SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoons from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We are back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That is coming up an hour from now.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," live from Cancun, starts right now.

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

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