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THE SITUATION ROOM

Tom DeLay Dropping Re-election Bid And Resigning From Congress; Saddam Hussein Charged With Genocide; Iran Says It's Now Equipped To Defend Itself From Outside Invasion; Howard Dean Interview; Hurricane Predictions; Protecting Kids From Sexual Predators Online

Aired April 4, 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: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, it's 5:00 p.m. on Capitol Hill, where the days of the former House majority leader, Tom DeLay, are numbered. He's quitting his re-election campaign. He's leaving Congress under the shadow of a criminal indictment.

Will DeLay's departure help or hurt Democrats as they try to regain control of at least one of the houses of Congress this fall? I'll ask the Democratic Party chairman. Howard Dean is standing by live.

And it's 3:00 p.m. in Colorado, where a team of weather experts is releasing its forecast for the upcoming hurricane season not that far off. Will it match last year's record-breaking season? And will we see another killer like Katrina?

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

Reaction is pouring in this afternoon to the stunning news that the indicted former House majority leader Tom DeLay is dropping his re-election bid and resigning from Congress. It's a story with major political implications.

We have complete coverage for you this hour, beginning with our congressional correspondent Dana Bash -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Tom DeLay hasn't been majority leader for about seven months now. So he didn't have the posh Capitol office that he used to have to come back to, but nevertheless, his aides definitely practiced some stage craft this afternoon when he arrived back on the Hill.

There you see him arriving at the Cannon Building, where his office now is. The halls lined with staffers trying to portray an image of somebody who is a political hero, not a fallen politician. The imagery there you see is pretty much obvious.

Now, in fact, the way Tom DeLay orchestrated this entire surprise announcement was vintage DeLay. Carefully organized and also was very defiant in terms of what Tom DeLay has been saying.

He simply said that he is a political pragmatist. And he counted the votes, as he always has, and he realized that he simply could not, or at least potentially could not, beat his Democratic challenger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: None of it was I had it. I'm a fighter. I'm willing to fight it. But it's -- it's too big a risk.

My constituents don't deserve that. They don't deserve a nasty campaign, they don't deserve an expensive campaign. What they deserve is a Republican.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, Democrats have tried to make Tom DeLay the poster child for what they call the culture of corruption. And they are making the case today that they will try to continue that campaign, really a major tenet of their campaign going into the fall.

Listen to the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Every House Republican has been an accomplice to this corruption because they have resisted every initiative that we have put forth to investigate the corruption that is here. They have chosen to ignore it because they benefit from it. So, it's not about vindication, it's about doing the right thing for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, DeLay will be stepping down soon, perhaps as early as next month, as you heard him say earlier, because he wants to make sure that his --- what has been a very safe Republican seat stays Republican. He also has been saying today that he feels liberated. And I can tell you, Wolf, though publicly most of his Republican colleagues are heaping praise on Tom DeLay, privately, there is a sense they share that sentiment of liberation, and perhaps more so, relief.

They feel, many of them, that fair or unfair, Tom DeLay has had a shadow of corruption, of scandal over him, and that has been a shadow over them, the entire Republican Congress. And they are very eager to get out from under that -- Wolf.

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

Dana Bash on the Hill.

And please be sure to join us in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour. Tom DeLay will join us live in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about his resignation. It's an interview you won't want to miss. That's coming up, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, tonight. And we'll also have more on the story later this hour, including reaction from the Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean. He's standing by to join us live in THE SITUATION ROOM as well. That's coming up this hour.

A senator from Louisiana is putting President Bush on notice: act now are else. Right now, the Democratic senator Mary Landrieu is threatening to block the president's executive appointments. That's if the president doesn't soon seek the money needed to provide adequate levee and flood protection for Landrieu's home state. That's what she says.

Of course, Louisiana was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Senator Landrieu had this to say just a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: Until significant progress is made, I will be compelled to use the power of my office as a senator to hold all executive nominations until we can get a response from the administration. The people of Louisiana have waited so long for accurate numbers, for construction of levees, and for adequate funding for housing rebuilding. We simply cannot wait much longer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The 2006 hurricane season starts June 1st. That's not very far down the road. Today, experts are out with their forecast. And our Mary Snow will tell us what they are predicting. That's coming up later this hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Now to another story we are following. In a startling turn of events today in Iraq, Saddam Hussein is now accused of crimes comparable to atrocities committed by the Nazi regime in the Holocaust. Saddam Hussein is being charged for the first time with genocide, partly defined as trying to destroy an ethnic or religious group.

Let's get some details from CNN's Aneesh Raman. He's joining us in Baghdad -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Saddam Hussein, for the first time today, charged with the crime of genocide. It came amid a second indictment issued by the Iraqi high tribunal.

Saddam and six co-defendants being tried for what was dubbed the "Anfal campaign" that took place in the late 1980s. Prosecutors allege it was a campaign meant to systematically destroy the Kurdish people of Iraq. Conservative estimates say that well over 100,000 Kurds were killed in the course of that campaign.

Now, it is unclear when this trial could begin, but keep in mind it's the second trial Saddam faces. He's currently in the midst of the first one. The court hasn't decided whether they'll wait for the first to end before they begin the second. Also unclear is whether if Saddam is found guilty and sentenced to death in this first trial that execution will be carried out despite the fact there are further trials at hand.

Meantime, Saddam Hussein set to appear in court again tomorrow amid this first trial where he is charged with crimes against humanity. He is set to testify and could face cross-examination -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh Raman, in Baghdad.

Thank you very much.

Iran says it's now equipped to defend itself from an outside invasion after the successful test of yet another missile they claim can evade radar. It's the latest in a series of missile tests that come -- and it comes amid increasing tension with the West over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Let's bring in our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

Jamie, what are your Pentagon sources saying about these missile tests the Iranians are now -- are now highlighting, if you will?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the Iranians have been involved in a war game for a couple days now called "The Great Prophet." Pentagon officials are dismissing it largely as sable rattling that's more rattle than saber.

They're taking a look at some of these highly-touted weapons that Iran is putting on display such as what they call a super-secret flying boat. This is a -- what looks like an airplane, but it's a boat that can skim over the top of the water. Iran says it can evade radar and launch precision missiles. And as you said, they also tested another missile, both an undersea torpedo and also an above- ground missile that they said was radar-evading.

The Pentagon is dismissing a lot of these claims as overblown. They say some of the technology is not homegrown, it's Russian. And, in fact, they say that while Iran is a threat, it's not because of these weapons. It's because of its desire to develop nuclear weapons.

And they do concede that if there were a war with Iraq (ph), while the U.S. out-matches Iran technology, Iran might have the ability to disrupt shipping in the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, where two-fifths of the world's oil goes through. And so they are a threat, but not necessarily because of these weapons that they say are slightly over-described.

BLITZER: A little hype on the part of the Iranians, apparently.

Thanks very much for that, Jamie.

Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

Let's check in with Jack once again in New York. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, in the end, all the tough talk was reduced to, "I quit." To borrow a phrase from Roberto Duran, "No mas."

When a second aide to Congressman Tom DeLay pled guilty in the Abramoff investigation and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, Mr. DeLay suddenly became just another disgraced public servant who couldn't take the heat. DeLay is also under criminal indictment in a separate case in Texas.

He was known as "The Hammer" when he was majority leader in the House. A big, tough-talking, strong-arm artist who could deliver votes to the Bush White House. He would strut around on Capitol Hill like a cocky little bandy rooster. But today he slithered away from Congress to await his fate at the hands of the criminal justice system.

Good riddance.

Here's the question: What does Representative Tom DeLay's resignation mean for the Republican Party?

E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

Jack Cafferty, with his question for this hour.

Coming up tonight for our viewers, the former House majority leader Tom DeLay himself. He's going to join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about his resignation from Congress, the fallout, and his future as he fights corruption charges back home in Texas. My interview with Tom DeLay, that's coming up 7:00 p.m. Eastern here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Still ahead this hour, Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean. I will ask him what DeLay's departure means for Democrats. That's coming up live this hour.

Plus, the forecast for the upcoming hurricane season. After a record number of storms and the devastation of Katrina, what can we expect starting June 1st?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Violence raged across Iraq today. The worst of it came when a car bomb blew up in Sadr City, a mostly Shiite area of Baghdad. Place say at least 10 people were killed, 28 others were hurt.

As sectarian slaughter rages, we turn to someone who's gone behind the lines of the insurgency.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now is Michael Ware of "TIME" magazine.

Michael, the goal of the insurgency right now, is it to create a civil war in Iraq or to drive the American forces out? MICHAEL WARE, "TIME": Well, according to U.S. military intelligence -- and I've spoken to their upper echelons, Wolf -- and according to the insurgents themselves -- this is both the Sunni insurgents and the Shi militias -- no one wants civil war. And a senior U.S. military intelligence officer told me it's not in anyone's interest except Zarqawi's right now. And by and large, for what it's worth, that's what the mainstream of the insurgency is also saying.

They are saying, the Shia, the Sunni are not our natural enemies. We need to focus on the main fight, which is that against the common enemy, the U.S. soldier.

BLITZER: But there seems to be a war, in effect, under way between the largely Sunni-led insurgents and these Shiite militia groups that operate on their own. One thing they both have in common is seemingly their anti-American stance, even though they may hate each other.

WARE: Absolutely. It seems that there's a certain level of violence here that, you know, U.S. officials will say, 25 bodies are found each day, former prime minister Ayad Allawi says between 50 and 60 a day. That seems to be almost not tolerated but bearable.

The insurgents themselves say they do not believe, despite this violence, that right now they're in civil war. However, they say, should it spark, they are all ready to fight it.

But they want to avoid this. They, like U.S. military intelligence, say it's the extremists on each end who are trying to drag the middle into a civil war.

BLITZER: You've met with some of these Sunni insurgents, these Saddam loyalists. Talk a little bit about their motivation. What's driving them right now? Where they get their money, where they get their equipment, what their zealotry is all about.

WARE: All right. Talking about the Sunni insurgents, the mainstream, the main body, by and large, these are former military officers, former Ba'athists, members of the intelligence services, secret police. These are relatively well-trained individuals. Many of them, the U.S.' former allies from the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.

These guys are essentially jockeying for some kind of power, some kind of a carve up at the political table. It's very (INAUDIBLE). But then the military action is really just an extension of the politics.

They believe that by putting military pressure on, that gives them a stake that they didn't otherwise have in the military game. Unlike the al Qaeda extremists, unlike the Islamic militants, they are not fighting a global holy war. They are not fighting to create an Islamic state, like these Sunnis on one side and the extremist Shia on the other.

They want largely a secular society. They've said they're prepared to host U.S. bases, akin to Germany and Japan. Let's normalize relations. We share common enemies, Iran and al Qaeda. How did we end up on the wrong side of this?

BLITZER: It's really an amazing situation when you look at it. Now, you've also met with some of these Shiite militia groups, those loyal to the anti-American young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, among others. What's motivating them?

WARE: Well, there's a great feeling of disenfranchisement among these man, these very impoverished, largely poorly educated and poorly serviced men from the slums and ghettos of Baghdad and beyond. The infrastructure in their neighborhoods is appalling, Wolf.

I was there with the army of Muqtada al Sadr's men on Sunday when there was a torrential downpour. Sadr City, home to 2.5 to 3 million people, flooded with raw sewage up to your knees.

These men, these women, these families had very little delivered. So there is a lot of anger there. And they follow the cleric, the anti-American firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr religiously, devotedly. Anything he says, they take as an order.

For now, he says hold back, we're gaining at the political table. But they Sadrists have been the king makers. They're the ones who have kept Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in power for now.

As we have seen with Secretary Rice's visit, there's a move perhaps afoot to shunt him aside. If that happens, if Jaafari loses, the Sadrists lose.

Goodness knows what will happen then. They are threatening another war with the American soldiers.

BLITZER: Michael, this is one of the most dangerous stories ever for journalists to cover. You're one of the most courageous journalists on the scene right now. Talk a little bit about how you do it, how you go out there, you meet with insurgents, you meet with Shiite militia factions, you go about doing the job of being a reporter under these incredibly dangerous circumstances.

What's it like?

WARE: Well, Wolf, we all live with a certain level of stress from the fear of kidnapping when you step outside your front gate, to the fear of car bombs when you are inside your gate, to the fear of mortars or rockets raining down on your compound, to the fear of an IED as you're driving or being caught in a firefight at a moment's notice, or running into the wrong checkpoint. Goodness knows all this stress just adds up on you. And it plays like a steady white noise that every now and then breaks into your daily transmission.

It's a lot to live with day to day. Security is your waking concern.

Now, to get out and about, you can't do that in an armored convoy heading into insurgent-controlled territories. The only way to do that is to place yourself in the hands, in the custody of these very insurgents.

That's a very, very difficult and complicated thing to do. You need to take out insurance, you need to test the waters, you need to have a certain kind of faith and hope that they will bring you home safely.

BLITZER: Michael Ware, be careful over there. We will check back with you in a few days. Thanks very much for joining us.

WARE: My pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And coming up, hundreds of thousands of people protesting a controversial new law. We are going to show what it's all about.

Also, the Democratic party chairman, Howard Dean, he's standing by live to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about Tom DeLay's resignation, what it means for his party, what it means for the country.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Betty Nguyen joining us once again from the CNN Center with a closer look at some other stories making news.

Hi, Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Wolf.

I want you to take a look at this. More than a million protesters took to the streets in Paris today and in 150 cities across France. They are trying to derail a just-signed labor law which makes it easier to hire and fire younger employees.

Now, some protests turned violent as demonstrators threw rocks and bottles at riot police. Police fired back, paint balls. The strike even shut down the Eiffel Tower.

Union representatives say they will talk with government officials tomorrow. We'll stay on top of that.

Tennessee's governor got a first-hand look today at the destruction from Sunday's deadly tornadoes. And Governor Phil Bredesen says it is so bad, it looks like the wrath of god.

He toured hard-hit parts of Tennessee by helicopter today. At least 28 people were killed when violent storms tore across eight states Sunday. Seventy-five people were injured, more than a thousand homes and buildings were destroyed.

Well, there has been another church fire in Alabama. Authorities are still trying to figure out what caused the fire that gutted the Blackberry Lane Community Church near Talladega. A rash of arson fires destroyed nine rural Alabama churches in February.

Remember that? Three Birmingham College students were arrested in connection with those fires.

No one was injured in today's predawn blaze -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Betty, thank you very much.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, are the Democrats delighting in Tom DeLay's departure? Many have planned to use the congressman as a poster boy for alleged Republican corruption. I will ask Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic Party, about that. He's standing by live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, I'll ask Tom DeLay himself about his decision to bow out. One on one with Tom DeLay, that's coming up live during our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

More now on our top story. If a book were written covering most of Tom DeLay's political career, it might be called "Rise to Power." But with today's development, surely a chapter of that book could be called, "Fall From Grace."

Here now with a nonfictional account of congressman -- the congressman's career is our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley --Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, DeLay had already lost his leadership post, but to lose his seat in an election year which could bring down the House he helped build would be to hand Democrats a head in a year Republicans can ill afford to lose one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice over): Tom DeLay says he's leaving for the most basic reason, giving up politics before it spit him out.

DELAY: The primary was a good vote. I appreciate everybody that voted for me. I got 62 percent of the vote. But for a 21-year incumbent, 62 percent isn't very good.

CROWLEY: Twenty-one years. What a long, strange trip it's been.

DeLay was a bug exterminator who got into politics because he was furious with environmental laws. He came to the national scene as a Congress backbencher in a Congress run by Democrats. He leaves with Republicans in control of Congress and in jeopardy of losing it. He has had a hand in both. STUART ROY, FORMER AIDE TO CONGRESSMAN TOM DELAY: Every morning, when he wakes up, he's trying to figure out a way that the conservatives can win, and that the Democrats lose.

CROWLEY: In 11 years in the party leadership, DeLay helped elect Republicans, who gave him their loyalty and their votes, as Democrats watched victory after victory go down the tubes.

ERIK SMITH, FORMER AIDE TO FORMER CONGRESSMAN RICHARD GEPHARDT: And the clock of the vote would stop, and Tom DeLay would appear on the floor, and Republican members would start walking to the well of the House to change their votes.

CROWLEY: Power beget power. Donors wanted to give him money. In 2004, DeLay gave more to congressional campaigns than any other lawmaker. Lobbyists wanted his ear and his company.

Washington's corridor of lobbyists, known as K Street, is populated by former DeLay friends, former aides and allies. He was arguably the second most powerful man in Washington, with the perks and the press that goes along with that.

He was feared and loved. He made friends and enemies, and broke some eggs, never charged, but warned by the Ethics Committee four different times.

DELAY: I have no fear whatsoever about any investigation into me or my personal or professional activities.

CROWLEY: DeLay says he will be exonerated in a campaign money- laundering case in Texas, one he says is motivated by politics.

And though Two of his former aides have pled guilty to corruption, DeLay also says he will not be touched by the investigation involving his old friend, former lobbyist, confessed felon Jack Abramoff.

It might happen just as DeLay says it will, but not soon enough to save his political career, nor soon enough for some Republicans who wish DeLay had left before. Fairly or not, he became the Democrats' poster child.

PELOSI: Mr. DeLay's departure from Congress is just one piece of the change that is necessary to end the culture of corruption in -- of this Republican Congress.

CROWLEY: Live by the headlines, die by the headlines.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: In the end, it appears that Republicans are mostly relieved to have DeLay off the congressional stage. But do not expect Democrats to let this player go very easily. They are already talking about what Democrats are calling the legacy of DeLay's corruption -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thank you very much.

So, with Tom DeLay soon to be out of the way, who will Democrats use to illustrate their claim that the Republican Party right now is beset with what they call a culture of corruption?

Joining us now from Memphis, Tennessee, is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, former Governor of Vermont Howard Dean.

Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

HOWARD DEAN (D), DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, is this good or bad for the Democrats, the fact that Howard -- that Tom DeLay has now decided to step aside?

DEAN: Well, I don't know if it is good or bad for the Democrats, but it's very good for the country.

There's an awful lot of corruption, not just, of course, Tom DeLay, but Bill Frist, the leader of the Senate is under investigation for insider trading. Karl Rove still has his security counsel -- security clearance, despite the fact that he has leaked information to the CIA -- for the CIA identifications in a time of war.

The vice president's chief of staff is under indictment. So, this is a very deep problem, this Republican culture of corruption. But, certainly, for the country, it's a good thing that Tom DeLay has left.

BLITZER: Well, let's forget about the country for a moment. Talk about Democrats.

You're the chairman of the Democratic Party. Do you see this as a net political gain for the Democrats, or a loss, given the fact that so many Democrats were trying to make Tom DeLay sort of a whipping boy for the Republican Party?

DEAN: You know, in general, I think whatever is good for America is good for the Democratic Party.

The big problem with the Republicans is, they put their party in front of their country. And that -- Tom DeLay did it. Others have done it. And that is what we are trying to get away from. We are going to offer a real change, Wolf, in this election.

Do you want more of the same or do you want real change? Do you want ethics legislation that really means something? Do you want American jobs that will stay in America? Do you want real security, instead of just talk about security?

So, the theme of the election is not just going to be about Tom DeLay and the corruption the Republicans have brought to Washington. It's going to be about a real change for America, putting America back in the right direction again.

BLITZER: Here's how Tom DeLay explained his decision last night. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DELAY: The voters of the 22nd District of Texas deserve a campaign about the vital national issues that they care most about and that affect their lives every day, and not a campaign focused solely as a referendum on me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You believe him?

DEAN: Well, I do think that's what they deserve. And Nick Lampson is a terrific candidate. He has represented part of that district before. And we do have a chance of taking back that seat.

But, again, if you look at the big issues, I think what voters want is real change. Republicans and Democrats have something in common. None of the Republican or Democratic voters like corruption in government. We have a Republican culture of corruption that the -- this administration has brought to Washington. Now voters have a chance to say no to that. And I think they really sort of did in the Republican primary in Tom DeLay's district.

BLITZER: Tom DeLay has never been shy about lashing out at Democrats. And even in his announcement to step down from the Congress, he continued that theme.

Listen to what he said. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DELAY: A Democrat Congress in 2007 would, without doubt or remorse, raise hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes, summarily cut and run from the war on terror, and immediately initiate an unconstitutional impeachment of President Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Would you, as the leader of the Democratic Party, take those three steps?

DEAN: No, we're not going to do any of that.

That's why the Republicans are going to lose in 2006. They're -- I think the American people have finally figured out that what the president and the Republicans do is divide people and name-call.

What we are going to do is balance the budget. Nobody has done that in a long time, other than Bill Clinton. Not one Republican has balanced the budget in 40 years. Balancing the budget is a moral value, not simply a good-government piece.

What we are going to do is restore a real defense policy to America. And we're going to restore the moral imperative that the United States had before President Bush came into office. BLITZER: You...

DEAN: What we are going to do is make sure we have a health care system that includes everybody, instead of adding to the number of insured people.

But, no, we're not going to raise hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax -- taxes. Not one Republican -- Democrat -- not one Democrat I know of is talking about cutting and running.

BLITZER: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: Look, I opposed the war. It was a big mistake to get into it. Now we are there. We need to come home gradually and carefully.

BLITZER: But, if you would eliminate the tax cuts that were approved by the Bush administration and the Congress in the first term, in effect, you would be raising taxes.

DEAN: Wolf, you know, I never used to like to say what I'm about to say when I was governor. But, in this administration, there is so much waste, fraud and abuse.

Just before Christmas, the Republicans passed a bill to put $20 billion into the pockets of HMOs, $10 billion into the pockets of oil companies. There is so much bad stuff the Republicans have spent out money on. All we have got to do is get rid of a lot of that, and we can go well on the way to balancing the budget.

BLITZER: All right.

You clearly have a tough road ahead of you, based on our sister publication, "TIME" magazine, and its most recent poll. "Do Democrats have a clear set of policies for the country?" Only 36 percent of those who responded said yes. Fifty-six percent said no.

Why are you, the Democrats, having such a hard -- tough time convincing Americans that you do have a set of policies for the country?

DEAN: Well, we do have a set of policies. And I just laid out some of them, in terms of health care, jobs -- American jobs that will stay in America, security, and honesty in government, retirement security. But, when you're in the minority party, you don't have a bully pulpit.

What I have told the House and the Senate -- and I believe this in all -- with all my heart -- that, if we have 435 members running for Congress with the same message, our values message and our agenda, from now until the election, we're going to win. But that's what it's going to take to get our message out, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to get your thoughts on another issue that a lot of Democrats are speaking out on today, Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, who charges that she was racially profiled as she tried to walk into the Longworth House Office Building, and stopped by a Capitol Hill police officer.

Here is what she said to me last night here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), GEORGIA: The bottom line on this is that it doesn't matter if you are in the United States Capitol or the Georgia Capitol. The issue is racial profiling. And that is something that we are going to have to deal with as a country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What -- what do you -- what do you think of this uproar over Cynthia McKinney?

DEAN: I think there's two separate issues.

First of all, racial profiling is a real issue. But, secondly, I have absolutely no knowledge of what happened to Congresswoman McKinney at that checkpoint. I wasn't there. I don't know any of the people involved, and I haven't talked to them. So, I have no comment on what went on when Congresswoman McKinney was going into the Capitol, since I have no knowledge of what went on.

If there's a separate question, do we still have a problem with racial profiling, yes. It's getting better, but we still have a problem.

BLITZER: Howard Dean is the chairman of the Democratic Party.

Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

DEAN: Wolf, thanks for having me on.

BLITZER: And Tom DeLay will be my guest coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM during our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour -- my one-on-one interview live with the former House majority leader, that comes up, 7:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

Still to come, the 2006 hurricane season, only weeks away, will it be quiet or violent, like last year? We are going to tell you about the newest hurricane report. The forecast is just out.

And Wal-Mart sells perhaps millions of movie titles on DVD all the time. So, what movie is now angering some Wal-Mart shoppers? We're going to tell you.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program -- that begins right at the top of the hour. And he's going to tell us what he is working on.

Hi, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: How you doing, Wolf?

Coming up at 6:00 here on CNN, we will be reporting on the deadlock in the Senate over the illegal immigration crisis. Will U.S. senators be defending the integrity of our laws and the security of our borders, or will they give away amnesty?

Also tonight, the White House appears to be manipulating the language in the national immigration crisis and border security debate. Is the Bush administration trying to debate the issues or are they conducting deception? We will have a special report.

And some public school administrators in this country are suspending students who display American flags in their schools. Are they following the law in doing so, or are they violating our constitutional rights?

We will have that report as well, and a great deal more, coming up at 6:00 right here on CNN. We hope you will join us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Lou. We certainly will.

Last year, Hurricane Katrina unleashed a level of death and destruction rarely seen in the United States. But with the new hurricane season fast approaching, what will this year hold?

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us in New York. She has got new details, a new forecast that just has come out -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, yes, that forecast just coming out.

And the man who predicts how bad these storms are expects an active season, but not as bad as 2005. This year, he predicts 17 named storms, nine of them to be hurricanes, and he's keeping an eye on the East Coast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): On the heels of Katrina, veteran hurricane forecaster William Gray predicts, there's an 81 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall. And the East Coast may have a bullseye on it.

WILLIAM GRAY, PROFESSOR OF ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE, COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY: The probabilities of a landfalling major storm along the East Coast are perhaps twice this year what the long-term average is.

SNOW: The Northeast is also vulnerable. The last major hurricane to hit New York was the Long Island Express in 1938. One forecaster says, the Northeast is overdue.

NICHOLAS COCH, PROFESSOR OF GEOLOGY, QUEENS COLLEGE: We don't need a big one. A 3 will bring New York serious trouble. A borderline 4, like 1938, would be a true national disaster.

SNOW: Other hurricane specialists say, pinpointing a target is just too early.

JACK BEVEN, HURRICANE SPECIALIST, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: It is hard to say that their -- their luck is going to run out in 2006. Just no real way to tell that.

SNOW: Hollywood hyped what would happen to New York City, showing scenes of a flooded-out Manhattan during a super-hurricane in the movie "The Day After Tomorrow."

In real life, Baltimore experienced a storm-surge event from Isabel in 2003. Forecasters say, this is what would happen to Brooklyn's Battery Tunnel, leading to Lower Manhattan, during a Category 2 hurricane storm surge.

Manhattan is vulnerable because it is surrounded by water, the New York Harbor to the south and the Hudson and East rivers on its west and east. City officials point out, there are no parts of New York City below sea level. Still, the city is pointing to lessons of the past to point out the dangers of the future.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, New York City has had a public-awareness campaign it plans to resume at the start of hurricane season, which is two months away. And New York City officials say that they have been revising evacuation plans for some 3.4 million people -- Wolf.

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

You, too, can get a closer look at the hurricane forecast.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, for details -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, Dr. Gray's forecast is available online, called the Tropical Meteorology Project from Colorado State University.

You can read through it yourself. Some of the things we thought were interesting in this report that Mary didn't mention, the chance that a major, meaning a Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane is going to hit land in the United States, the entire U.S. coastline, 81 percent. The East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, that would be 64 percent.

And then the Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas, that drops down considerably, down to 47 percent.

Taking a look at how accurate these forecasts are, this same time last year, the prediction was 13 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three intense hurricanes, again, Category 3, 4, or 5. I don't think anyone could have predicted last year's season accurately, because we had 27 named storms, 15 hurricanes, and seven intense hurricanes.

You can get all of your information come hurricane season, which, again, is not very far away, from the National Hurricane Center, also from NOAA -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much.

Up ahead, Wal-Mart under fire for selling DVDs of a hit movie -- Ali Velshi joining us with the "Bottom Line" on a new country.

And, coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, my live interview with Congressman Tom DeLay -- the indicted former majority leader will join us right here THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about his resignation from Congress.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Do you know who your kids are chatting with online? Protecting children from Internet sexual predators was the focus of a hearing today by the House Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee.

A college freshman told the lawmakers he was manipulated into taking off his clothes while others watched him via Webcam. Justin Berry testified, it began when he was only 13 years old and continued for several years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTIN BERRY, SEXUAL PREDATOR VICTIM: I am here to speak about a danger facing this nation's children, one that threatens not only their emotional health, but their physical safety.

Unless something changes, hundreds, or even thousands, of children will be lost forever.

I guarantee you, there are also children in your district on the Internet right now being contacted and seduced by online sexual predators.

I speak from experience. For five years, beginning when I was 13 years old, I operated a pornographic Web site.

This is not the story of a few bad kids whose parents paid no attention.

She occasionally took away my computer keyboard, but she was no match for the child predators, who worked hard to make sure my child porn shows continued.

Soon, I was swamped with videos, CDs and computer equipment, including better Webcams, all free from my new friends. He would pay me $50 if I took off my shirt for a few minutes while sitting in front of my Webcam. He explained to me how to set up an account on PayPal.com.

More gifts and money arrived, along with increasingly explicit requests.

After my first molestation, I began to act out sexually. I was reckless. Part of me wanted to die. And every day, on camera, part of me did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Berry also testified, he gave 1,500 names to authorities, but he says they never followed up.

A Department of Justice spokesman says protecting minors from sexual predators is one of the law enforcement agency's highest priorities. He adds, there has been a threefold increase in federal prosecution of child pornography and abuse. Justin Berry, by the way, will be on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight. That airs 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Let's get some more on today's hearing from our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, also speaking of that hearing today, representatives from group -- from groups trying to make the Internet a safer place for children, like WiredSafety.org. This is a Web site that has tips, advice for parents and children about how to use the Internet safely.

Also, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, since 1998, they have been operating a cyber tip line, where you can report potential criminal activity online. That group has partnered with the FBI. They have long had advice on the FBI's site about safe use of the Internet for children.

They have also got something new this week, which focuses on social networking sites, these immensely popular sites like MySpace.com. What the FBI is saying on this new site online is that these -- criminal activity on these sites are rare; however, they have opened dozens of cases -- Wolf.

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

Let's check in with CNN's Ali Velshi. He's standing by in New York with the "Bottom Line" -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Wolf, some things we all know: Smoking causes cancer. Too much fat will kill you. And seat belts save lives. And that's all pretty obvious.

But how about this one? You need to save for retirement. Nearly seventy percent of workers, Wolf, say that they will have enough money to retire, but, actually, less than half of those people are saving the money they need.

Most people who were surveyed in a survey that was just released have less than $25,000 in the bank for their golden years. Now, that is a tough pill to swallow, considering how much we report about pensions that are being sort of dissolved left and right, and Social Security, whether or not it will be there, and the fact that we are all living longer. So, save us for retirement.

Some news we heard earlier -- pilots at Delta Air Lines have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. Now, don't worry about your travel plans immediately. As of now, there's no date set for a walkout. But Delta's management and the unions are locked in negotiations.

And it's all about another round of wage cuts. An arbitration panel will decide on the 15th of April whether the airline can dump its pilots contract. Delta, as you know, has been operating in bankruptcy since December. And even a small strike will shut that airline down.

Now, this might come as a surprise to you, but America's biggest retailer has started selling DVDs of "Brokeback Mountain." That's the controversial depiction of a gay love affair between two ranchers. Not a surprise they are selling it. It's not a surprise, either, that conservative groups are fuming about it.

The three-million-strong American Family Association, Wolf, says Wal-Mart is -- and this is a quote -- "trying to normalize homosexuality in society." Wal-Mart says it is just offering titles that people want to buy.

Let's take a look at how markets did, Wolf. The Dow closed about 58 points higher, almost 59 points higher, to 11203. The NASDAQ closed eight points higher, to 2345 -- And Google topping $400 for the first time in a couple months -- Wolf.

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

Up next, what does Representative Tom DeLay's resignation mean for the Republican Party? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go right back to Jack in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, Tom DeLay quit today. He's not going to run for reelection. He's resigning. Two of his top aides have pleaded guilty in the Abramoff investigation and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. And he's under criminal indictment in a separate investigation in Texas.

So, the question is: What does his resignation from Congress mean for the Republican Party? Some of these e-mails, we couldn't even begin to read you. Elizabeth in Garland, Texas: "I really don't what it means for the Republican Party. But, for Texas, it is one less embarrassment in Washington."

Cliff in Rotonda West, Florida: "Just like the old joke about the sudden demise of lawyers, DeLay's departure is a good start."

Rocky in San Antonio, Texas: "As the saying goes, if you're going to be run out of town, get out of in front and make it look like a parade. They still don't get it. Republican or Democrat, all incumbents should be voted out of office."

Linda in New York: "DeLay's delayed departure definitely delighted disciples. Defenders depressed. Democrats delirious."

Don in Baton Rouge: "Bullies always get their due, whether an 800-pound gorilla or a Napoleonic syndrome-suffering former pest control runt. Thank God the sensible arm of the Republican Party are gaining the upper hand."

And Chris in Melbourne Beach, Florida: "You made him laugh. My husband, who finds no humor in any discussion that is critical of any Republican, laughed out loud when he heard your description of the soon-to-be-former Congressman Tom DeLay. Jack, do not ever change. Wolf and Jack, perfect together" -- Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: That's...

CAFFERTY: Wolf.

BLITZER: You heard it. And we will be perfect together at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Jack, that's coming up in one hour. Thank you very much.

Remember, we're in THE SITUATION ROOM weekdays, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern -- among my guests later tonight, my live interview with the congressman making all the big headlines today. That would be Tom DeLay. He will join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now -- Lou.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you very much.

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