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THE SITUATION ROOM

Tom DeLay: Fall & Fallout; Federal Prosecutors Reviewing Case Against Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney; Behind the Lines of Insurgency in Iraq

Aired April 4, 2006 - 19:00   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 are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.

Happening now, it's 7:00 p.m. on Capitol Hill, where they are hanging up the vacancy sign tonight. The former majority leader, Tom DeLay, is hanging up his hammer and leaving Congress. I'll speak with that once-powerful Texas Republican and with Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean.

It's 3:00 a.m. in Baghdad. As the sectarian slaughter rages, he's gone behind the lines and inside the insurgency. I'll speak with "TIME" magazine's Michael Ware.

And she's certainly not afraid to stand up for herself. But as Democrats keep their distance, is Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney standing alone after a Capitol scuffle?

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

He got a hero's welcome from his Capitol Hill staff, but some other Republicans may be breathing sighs of relief tonight after the embattled Texas Republican, the former majority leader Tom DeLay, announced he's giving up his congressional seat and his re-election ballot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: I'm a fighter. I'm willing to fight it. But 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)

BLITZER: Tom DeLay was forced out as the majority leader last year after he was indicted in Texas on corruption charges. He'll join me live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up shortly.

First, though, for DeLay's fall and the fallout, let's turn to our chief national correspondent, John King -- John. JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is a tough day for the Republican Party, a day of transition for the Republican majority. Think back to 1994. When the Republicans came into power, they ran against the Democrats, saying they were lazy, they were corrupt, they were captive to money and the special interests and the lobbyists in Washington.

Call around town today, here's what many Republicans say sadly, we've become just like them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice over): A dozen years ago on the steps of the Capitol, a defining moment in what would become the Republican revolution.

REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R), GEORGIA: The fact is that America is in trouble and our trouble extends beyond the White House.

KING: Consider the tables turned. The man of the moment, the face of a Republican congressional majority, tainted by mushrooming lobbying scandal.

SCOTT REED, FMR. REP. NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHIEF OF STAFF: Tom DeLay, like it or not, became a symbol of Republican excessiveness with power.

KING: Add in a Republican president struggling because of an unpopular war and internal party struggles over record deficits and issues like immigration, and what you find are mounting worries of drift, even rot on the right.

STEVE SCHEFFLER, IOWA CHRISTIAN ALLIANCE: There is some frustration at the grassroots, I think, because they are wondering, you know, why did we elect Republicans to see this?

REP. WALTER JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Absolute power, absolutely corrupt.

KING: Congressman Walter Jones proudly signed the Republican Contract with America back in 1994 but is better known now for signing letters of condolences to families of soldiers killed in Iraq and for sparring with a leadership of a party he believes has lost its way.

JONES: Power corrupts. And money buys power and power -- you know, money is part of the game here in Washington. And if nothing else good comes from all this, maybe there will be a purification for both parties.

KING: Survival, as in holding their fragile House and Senate majorities, is the immediate Republican worry. And as he wished Mr. DeLay well, the president tried to sound an optimistic note.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My own judgment is, is that our party will continue to succeed because we are the party of ideas. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: But most Republicans are not so optimistic. They also believe the president and his White House are preoccupied with their own political troubles. Principally, the war in Iraq.

They say it is up to the Republican leadership in Congress to come up with a new agenda, something to energize the Republican base. And Wolf, that used to be Tom DeLay's job, energizing the base with his trademark whacks at the liberals. Some of those whacks in his farewell speeches today, but Mr. DeLay finally coming to the very hard conclusion that he was doing his party and his cause more harm than good.

BLITZER: John King, thank you very much.

And this note. Coming up later this hour, Tom DeLay, he'll join me live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Also, my interview with Howard Dean, one on one. I'll ask both of them some of the tough questions on your mind.

It's like a surprise twist to a reality TV show. A woman prone to controversy scuffles with police. She suggests she was racially profiled. Police strongly deny it. Meanwhile, fellow Democrats are not rushing to her side.

The real-life script concerning Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney have some asking this question: Where's the party?

Let's bring in our Brian Todd. He's covering this story for us -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with possible charges pending, Congresswoman McKinney may be growing more isolated on Capitol Hill, not getting resounding support at this very crucial time from some of the people she may be counting on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): Are Cynthia McKinney's fellow Democrats running away from her? Last week, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi sought to downplay the scuffle between McKinney and a Capitol Hill police officer. But with the Georgia congresswoman now facing possible criminal charges, Pelosi was asked if she thought McKinney should resign.

PELOSI: It would be hard to see any set of facts that would justify striking a police officer.

TODD: And this from Pelosi's second in command, Congressman Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip...

REP. STENY HOYER, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC WHIP: Every one of us who visits the Capitol or any of our office buildings, whether we be members, whether we be visitors, whether we be staff, have a responsibility to fully cooperate with every member of the Capitol Police.

TODD: McKinney's attorney tells CNN she reacted instinctively after the officer inappropriately touched her. And McKinney raised a very sensitive issue in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on THE SITUATION ROOM.

REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), GEORGIA: It doesn't matter if you are in the United States Capitol or the Georgia Capitol, the issue is racial profiling.

TODD: But the Congressional Black Caucus isn't exactly rushing to McKinney's side. Contacted by CNN, an aide to caucus chairman Mel Watt said he wouldn't comment on McKinney's case because the facts aren't yet clear. And the executive director of the Black Caucus had high praise for the Capitol Hill police, many of whom are black.

Also, Chief Terrance Gainer defends his officer.

CHIEF TERRANCE GAINER, CAPITOL HILL POLICE: This is a case in which the officer didn't recognize the member, and simply took the next prudent procedure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: We called Cynthia McKinney's office for a reaction to all of this. Her press aide wouldn't comment directly on the remarks by Pelosi, Hoyer or the Black Caucus. He would only say at the end of the day, her office believes it will be proven that she did nothing wrong -- Wolf.

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

Our Zain Verjee is off today. Betty Nguyen joining now from the CNN global headquarters with a closer look at some other stories making news.

Hi, Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Wolf.

Saddam Hussein will stand trial on genocide charges. Iraqi officials announced the new charges against the deposed Iraqi president today. They stem from the killings of tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s.

Saddam Hussein is already, as you know, on trial in the torture and killings of more than 140 Iraqi Shiites after a failed assassination attempt in 1982. That proceeding resumes tomorrow.

More than a million demonstrators took to the streets across France today. They were trying to derail a newly-signed labor law that allows employers to hire and fire younger workers more easily. In Paris, some protesters threw rocks and debris at riot police. More than 600 people were arrested. But, in what could be a positive sign, union representatives have agreed to meet with government officials tomorrow. Well, a trailer park in Merced, California, is flooded and other homes could flood, too, after two rain-swollen levees broke today. Take a look at these pictures.

Eighteen inches of floodwater gushed through the mobile home park. Two hundred people were evacuated from there and two other trailer parks. Heavy rains have drenched northern California for the past month.

Near San Francisco, some people are evacuating their homes because of landslide threats. And more rain is expected through next week.

Just what they need -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Betty, thank you very much.

Betty Nguyen reporting.

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

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, Wolf.

The sectarian violence in Iraq is getting much worse. I hope the administration will forgive us if we tell you what's going on there.

Explosions and a shooting left 18 people dead today in Baghdad and Samarra. Authorities found the bodies of 16 more people. They had all been shot in the head.

In the 29 days following the mosque attack, 955 people were murdered in Baghdad. That's more than the number of murders in New York City, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta, Boston and Seattle combined for all of 2004, according to FBI figures.

Thomas Friedman wrote in his "New York Times" column this last week that the war in Iraq has entered a dangerous new phase, what he called a "phase of barbaric identity card violence between Sunnis and Shias." Friedman writes, "Once this kind of venom gets unleashed with members of each community literally beheading each other on the basis of their religious identities, it poisons everything. You enter a realm that is beyond politics, a realm where fear and revenge dominate everyone's thinking -- and that is where Iraq is heading."

Members of the Bush administration blame the news media for not reporting the good news in Iraq. Here's the question for this hour: Do you believe the media's reporting on Iraq?

You can e-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.

Amazing statistic, Wolf. In about five and a half weeks, more people murdered in Baghdad than in five of America's largest cities during an entire year of 2004.

BLITZER: It's an awful situation, what's going on over there. Jack, thank you very much for that.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, more on Iraq's insurgency. We'll go inside. What's driving them to fight? We'll talk to one man, a reporter who's risked his life to go behind the front lines to get answers.

That's coming up.

And Congressman Tom DeLay, he'll join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's resigning his office, faces felony charges back in Texas. I'll ask him some of the tough questions.

Plus, the Democratic Party chairman, Howard Dean, he'll go one on one with me as well. The Republicans have a handful of trouble, so why aren't the Democrats getting traction? I'll ask Howard Dean.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Sectarian slaughter raging on in Iraq. In the latest violence, at least 10 people were killed when a truck bomb blew up in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad.

Let's turn now to someone who has 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 Shia 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.'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 still to come tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, a Catholic leader backing illegal immigrants. We'll find out why he's vowing to break the law if Congress, he says, goes too far.

Plus, Tom DeLay and Howard Dean, both of them in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask them the tough questions. That's coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As the Senate debates the illegal immigration bill, Republican John McCain said today there probably aren't enough votes to push through the guest worker program endorsed by President Bush.

Meanwhile, a U.S. cardinal is vowing to break the law if the toughest immigration bill is passed.

CNN's Chris Lawrence has the story -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Cardinal Roger Mahony presides over the largest archdiocese in the country, nearly five million Catholics. And he's asking all of them to fast and pray tomorrow to show solidarity with illegal immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Cardinal Roger Mahony is putting the weight of his Catholic diocese squarely on the side of more liberal immigration policy.

ROGER MAHONY, CARDINAL, LOS ANGELES: This a very important week.

LAWRENCE: His friendship with the United Farm Workers Union is nothing new to this California native.

MAHONY: My father had a poultry processing plant here in Los Angeles area. And in fact, were all Mexican Americans working there.

LAWRENCE: Mahony says his views on immigration started to take shape when he was 12-years-old.

MAHONY: So I was there one day when we had this raid by the border patrol. And these guys come flying in the doors with guns out. I had no idea what was happening, and terrified all of us, something awful. And I just never got that feeling or that image or that day out of my mind ever.

LAWRENCE: He studied for the priesthood in the San Joaquin Valley and practiced his Spanish with the immigrant farm workers. Mahony has said publicly he'll ignore any law that criminalizes assistance to illegal immigrants.

MAHONY: The church has to follow the law like everybody else. But that's not a law now. And I said if it became law, it certainly would be superseded by a higher law.

LAWRENCE: Mahony says strict anti-immigration policies won't work, especially those that try to deport illegals already in the country.

MAHONY: The federal government, the state government and the city government, could not evacuate New Orleans with 250,000 people. And we're now expecting them to pick up 11 million people and deport them? Hello, I don't think so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Cardinal Mahony is hardly a maverick. I spoke with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and they say many of them agree with the cardinal. They support the McCain-Kennedy bill and oppose the stricter legislation already passed by the House of Representatives -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence, thank you very much for that.

Just ahead, Congressman Tom DeLay. He's standing by to join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about his resignation from Congress, his legal battles, and a lot more.

We'll also get reaction to DeLay's departure from Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean.

All that coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. More now on our top story.

There was a good measure of fear and trembling on Capitol Hill when he was the House majority leader. He was known as "The Hammer." But Tom DeLay was forced out of his post last year when he was indicted in Texas on corruption charges.

Now, in the middle of a tight re-election battle, the Texas Republican says he'll quit Congress altogether.

Joining us now here in "The Situation Room," Congressman Tom DeLay.

Congressman, welcome to "The Situation Room."

REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: Good evening.

BLITZER: Here's what you said on January 7th. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DELAY: As you know, I am still a candidate for re-election this November and I plan to run a very vigorous campaign and I plan to win it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Since then, you won your primary. What has changed since January 7th?

DELAY: Well, it became quite obvious to me that this election was going to be a referendum on me and not the values and priorities of my constituents. It's going to be nasty. Millions of dollars would be spent by the Democrats to take this seat.

I have worked my entire adult life for the Republican majority and the conservative movement, and I felt like that the best course of action would be to step aside so a Republican who -- any Republican can take this seat. And I can take my talents elsewhere and work for the conservative movement outside the House.

BLITZER: You mean someone who is new to the business, in effect, not as experienced as you, a Republican, would have a better chance of winning that seat than Tom DeLay?

DELAY: Yes, they would.

I think I could win. But the damage that would be done not only to me personally in my career, but the damage to the district that would be done isn't good for the district. And my constituents deserve better, they deserve a Republican.

BLITZER: Some of your critics already have come out, and you know this quite well, and they say there are other reasons in effect right now; that the timing of your decision coming on the heels of a couple of your former top aides pleading guilty and now cooperating with federal prosecutors in this expanding lobbying investigation involving Jack Abramoff; that, that may have had a role to play in your decision to step down.

DELAY: I made this decision before I even knew that Tony Rudy was going to plead guilty. Those are people that believe in the politics of personal destruction. They've been trying to destroy my reputation for 10 years.

They're trying to criminalize politics. The Democrats have no agenda. They have no ideas. They have no solutions. All they have is the politics of personal destruction.

There is nothing that connects me to Abramoff or any of the activities that they have. I am not a target of this investigation. I haven't even been interviewed by these investigators.

BLITZER: How do you know you're not a target of the investigation?

DELAY: The Department of Justice has told my lawyers that I am not a target.

BLITZER: They have formally told your lawyers you are not a target?

DELAY: Exactly right.

BLITZER: Because in the past, sometimes that can be conflicting. That doesn't necessarily mean you're not a target, even if they say so.

DELAY: Well, I know I'm not a target because I know I haven't done anything wrong. I've paid lawyers. They spent four months investigating me as if they were prosecuting me -- looking through everything for the 20 years I've been in Congress, and they have found nothing that is even unethical, much less illegal.

BLITZER: What about your wife?

DELAY: My wife is the same. She's an honorable woman of great integrity. She has the right to work in this country, just like anybody else. And she has the right to be paid.

BLITZER: The suggestion by federal prosecutors, these former aides of yours -- Tony Rudy and Michael Scanlon -- that there was, in their words, a far-reaching criminal operation being run out of your office when you were the House majority leader. That's a powerful accusation.

DELAY: No, that's a powerful indictment of what they were doing. And none of us...

BLITZER: And then they pleaded guilty and they're cooperating with federal prosecutors right now.

DELAY: It has nothing to do with the people that worked in my office or us. They were doing that on their own.

You know, I have hundreds of people that have worked for me -- wonderful young people. These are two that may have done something wrong.

And a leader's office is a whirlwind of activity every day. And so you hire people and you trust them with the responsibility that you give them.

If they violate that trust, they do that on their own. It has nothing to do with our operation or the way we do things and did things in my office.

BLITZER: The normal procedure with these federal prosecutors -- as you well know, these investigations -- they go after relatively small fish to find and catch a big fish. You would obviously be a huge fish in this operation.

How worried are you that these former aides of yours might say something or provide some sort of evidence or suggestion that could further cause you grave, serious legal problems?

DELAY: I'm not worried at all. I know I haven't done anything wrong.

Wolf, I'm not stupid. The Democrats have scrutinized my operation -- every part of my operation -- for 20 years and, most particularly, in the 11 years we've been in the majority.

I would be incredibly stupid to do anything illegal, because they would find it -- even if I wanted to, and I don't.

I have lawyers check every decision that I make. If I come up with an idea, we make sure it's within the spirit of the law or in the House rules. We check everything.

BLITZER: What would you have done differently involving your relationship with the now-indicted Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist? Looking back on that relationship that you had with him, what would you have done differently given what you know right now?

DELAY: I wouldn't have done anything differently. The Jack Abramoff...

BLITZER: You would have still gone on that trip to Scotland and played golf at St. Andrews?

DELAY: Excuse me, but those trips were vital trips. I was working with Margaret Thatcher in building a conservative movement in England. She had asked me to come over and work with conservatives in England because they had just lost an election and they wanted my advice on how to rebuild their conservative movement.

I worked very, very hard on that trip. And yes, at the end of the trip, I went and played golf. I love golf.

BLITZER: Was that a mistake?

DELAY: No.

BLITZER: Given the appearance that some might say, you know, "He's going to one of the great golf courses in the world at St. Andrews. He's playing golf and" -- what the argument is -- "on somebody else's dime."

DELAY: That's an appearance created by the national media and my detractors. There is nothing wrong. There was nothing illegal. There was nothing against the House rules in taking that trip to help build a conservative movement.

I'm involved all around the world. I've been involved in Christian persecution in China. I'm involved in Jewish persecution in Russia. I'm involved in supporting Israel. I'm involved in the war on terror in Indonesia and in Malaysia. I have been heavily involved in a lot of issues -- and I travel. And I also play golf.

BLITZER: But everybody makes mistakes, right? You're not perfect.

DELAY: No, I'm not perfect.

BLITZER: You've got to look back and say to yourself: "It's only normal. Yes, I would have done a few things differently."

DELAY: No.

BLITZER: There's nothing you would have done differently that could have avoided some of this embarrassment?

DELAY: No. This is trying to create a strawman and trying to demonize me and making me look different than I really am. I am very involved. I have never done anything -- while I've been in elective office -- for my own personal gain. Yes, I have a hobby. It's called golf. It's the only thing I do for myself. And if people want to criticize me for playing golf after I've worked hard for seven days, then go ahead and criticize me.

I'd still -- wherever I go, I try to play golf.

BLITZER: What do you want to do next?

Because a lot of your colleagues when they leave Congress, you know what they do -- they go out and become lobbyists.

DELAY: I want to continue my effort to work with the conservative movement.

I think I can bring a unifying force to the conservative movement. I want to continue to elect Republicans and grow the Republican majority, something I've worked on for 21 years.

And I'm very proud of our record of building a good conservative movement not just here in Washington, D.C., but all over the country. I think I can do that. And I think I have the experience and the talent to accomplish some pretty amazing things.

BLITZER: Do you want to be a lobbyist?

DELAY: I don't know what the future holds for me.

I'm in God's hands and he guides me. And whatever I can do to help this country by leading it in a conservative direction, I'm going to do.

BLITZER: There have been a lot of Republicans out there today at least privately saying, you know, it's sort of a collective sigh of relief -- Tom DeLay is stepping down, one less problem that they have to worry about given the enormous problems the Republicans face right now.

Do you feel a sense of betrayal given the enormously important work that you did, the hard work as the majority whip and then the majority leader? You really hammered that place and got the votes you wanted for the Republicans.

DELAY: Well, that's what brought this all upon me.

We were effective in changing this country. We were effective in changing the culture of this town. We were effective in advancing the conservative movement. Some people...

BLITZER: Is there a sense of betrayal that you feel right now?

DELAY: Some people don't want to stand up and fight for what they believe in. They would rather just sit in a job and carry on.

I am passionate about what I believe in and I feel like I have a mandate to stand up for what I believe in, and I'm very proud of that.

BLITZER: You feel let down, though, a sense of betrayal at all by some of these comments that are coming out by your fellow Republicans?

DELAY: No, that's their problem.

I keep focused on what I believe in and standing up for what I believe in.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming in. We hope you come back.

DELAY: My pleasure.

Good to see you.

BLITZER: Tom DeLay.

Thank you.

DELAY: Thank you.

BLITZER: And still ahead tonight, we'll get reactions to Tom DeLay's departure. The reaction will come in from Howard Dean, the Democratic Party chairman. He's next in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, a new hurricane forecast is out for this season's storms. We're going to tell you what the experts are predicting. Remember, hurricane season begins June 1st, not very far down the road. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Are the Democrats delighting in Congressman Tom DeLay's departure? Many had planned to use the former majority leader as a poster boy for alleged Republican corruption. We just heard from Tom DeLay here in THE SITUATION ROOM. No, let's get reaction from the other side to DeLay's departure.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: 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: 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 our 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And up ahead, will we see another Katrina this coming hurricane season? Starts June 1st, there's a new forecast that's just out. We are going to show you how many storms the experts are now predicting.

Plus, do you believe the media's reporting on Iraq? It's our question of the hour. Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The "Bottom Line" on the markets today, the Dow, the NASDAQ, the S&P all gained ground thanks, in part, to positive corporate news and lower oil prices. The NASDAQ managed to close at another five-year high.

Violent storms, pounding rains and dangerous winds. That was last year during Hurricane Katrina and a very busy hurricane season. But what does nature have in store for this year? CNN's Mary Snow is joining us now live from New York with the latest forecast -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the man who predicts how bad these storms will be doesn't see this hurricane season matching last year's record. Still he's forecasting 17 named storms, nine of them 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 bull's eye 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, 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, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: It's hard to say that their luck's going to run out in 2006. Just no real way to tell that.

SNOW: Hollywood hype, 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: And here in New York, emergency officials say they are keeping close tabs on all things hurricane related with the hurricane season two months away -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a nightmare that would be. Mary, thank you very much for that report.

Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour. That means Paula is standing by. Hi, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Thanks so much.

We are going to be focusing in on something else that was happening on Capitol Hill today. A teenage boy told a Congressional committee how he was lured into the world of Internet pornography. What does his story tell all of us who are parents about what else we should do to keep our children safe, who are on the Internet? Any of us who has kids is really disturbed by this story.

Also coming up, new drugs are helping AIDS patients live a lot longer than anyone expected. So who would see that as a problem? Well, it all has to do with gambles that insurance companies are making. An eye-opening investigation at the top of the hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching, Paula. Thank you very much.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, your answers to our question of the hour. Do you believe the media's reporting on Iraq? Jack Cafferty, he's standing by with your e-mail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Take a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In France, at least a million protesters hit the streets and demand the repeal of a youth labor law.

In China, makeshift glasses, this man using a magnifying glass to boost his vision after a local hospital botched up his eye surgery.

In Massachusetts, a rare, big whale washes up on a sandy beach.

And in Vermont, a highlander fears weather. This in the snow. Take a look at that. Some of the "Hot Shots," pictures often worth a thousand words.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's quite a critter there you had on that last picture. The question this hour, Wolf, do you believe the media's reporting on Iraq?

Bill in Morganza, Louisiana: "The media shows us what the military allows us to see. I feel like everything that comes from Iraq is censored to a certain extent."

Greg in Broomfield, Colorado: "The media have risked, and in many cases lost their lives, to tell us the true story of Iraq. Let's face it: It's a huge mess and I don't know if our country will ever be the same."

Kirstin in Ben Lomond, California: "I say the media should get its butt out of the nice, safe Green Zone and go out and cover the huge progress being made in the rest of the country. Oh, wait, it isn't actually safe for them to go outside the Green Zone, is it, without getting kidnapped, tortured, blown up or beheaded. So much for the progress."

Topsy in Aptos, California: "I think you have to sample many media sources, both here and abroad, to get a fair picture. But, in general, I believe the media are reporting the truth about Iraq. Blaming the media is an old trick."

Francis (ph) in Atlanta: "The media's reporting of Iraq and its civil war seems to be very accurate. Their former prime minister calls it a civil war. The only people who don't are members of the Bush administration. When people in a country divide up and take sides, then take up arms and killing each other, that's a civil war, right?"

And finally, Chris writes, "Of course not! Believe you? You must be kidding! You guys are in it for the commercials" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They don't believe us? Is that what you're saying?

CAFFERTY: Well, that one last guy is just being silly, I think.

BLITZER: Very silly.

CAFFERTY: I think most people give us credit for trying. It is a censored situation, and movements of reporters are very tightly controlled over there. You know, it's tough.

BLITZER: As someone who's been there, it's very, very dangerous. My hat off to all of our journalistic colleagues.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. We'll see you tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're on 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Let's go to New York. Paula Zahn is standing by -- Paula.

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