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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bush's Approval Rating at All-Time Low; Egyptian Resort Bombings

Aired April 24, 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: And 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. here in Washington. President Bush heading back from a trip out West with some extra baggage, a record low in our latest poll. What's weighing him down in the eyes of the American public?

Rising gas prices and rising tempers. Lawmakers are now feeling the heat from voters and they're putting the heat on the Bush administration to go after any gougers. New feel for the election fight?

And an open microphone and an open mouth a dangerous combination. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney gets caught again. But she's not the only one to be bitten by her own sound bite.

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

Tonight, President Bush is in more dangerous political territory. His approval rating is lower than it's ever been in any publicly released poll taken during his presidency.

Take a look at this. Just 32 percent of the American people now say they approve of the way Mr. Bush is doing his job. A solid majority, 60 percent, say they disapprove.

And this may help explain the continue slide. More than two- thirds of Americans now say rising gas prices are a hardship for them or their family.

Our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel, is standing by. But let's go to the White House. Our correspondent Suzanne Malveaux has the latest -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Bush, of course, is running out of time. His critics say it is simply a matter of time before you start to hear the quack of a lame duck.

The White House has seven months before the November midterm elections to turn this whole thing around. President Bush very much determined to do just that, and he is starting with the message on Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we're going to win in Iraq.

MALVEAUX (voice over): Mr. Bush is staking his presidency on it. But with polls now showing his job approval rating hovering in the low 30s, he's got a long way to go.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LA TIMES": Presidents tend to be judged by results.

MALVEAUX: The president's final speech on his West Coast swing was billed as a big push for immigration reform. But from the beginning Iraq took center stage. And there was an element of deja vu.

BUSH: And here's the danger of having an enemy with a safe haven in Iraq: Iraq has had weapons of mass destruction and has the knowledge as to how produce weapons of mass destruction.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush invoked a line he often used three years ago to justify going to war. Now to justify staying.

BUSH: The confluence of a terrorist network with weapons of mass destruction is the biggest threat the United States of America faces.

MALVEAUX: But why is the president still trying to convince Americans the war was not a mistake? Political analysts say it's about restoring what's left of his credibility.

BROWNSTEIN: The percentage of Americans who say that he's honest and trustworthy has been declining. The percentage who say he's a strong leader has been declining as well.

MALVEAUX: And that decline has led some Americans to blame the administration for other hardships; namely, pressure at the pumps.

BROWNSTEIN: Gas prices really are, along with Iraq, it seems right now, the principal threat that this president is facing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: But, Wolf, White House officials acknowledge and they realize, of course, that it's not speeches or even the symbolism of White House staff change that is ultimately going to turn things around, but rather, what happens on the ground in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks.

Another sign of hard times for the Bush White House, for the first time a major American newspaper is now calling for Vice President Dick Cheney to step down. The "Los Angeles Times" editorial says President Bush would truly shake up its administration by forcing Cheney into early retirement. And "The Times" says it would be an implicit repudiation of what it calls the administration's hawkish foreign policy.

Tonight, many Republicans are worried they'll pay a serious political price for the rising cost of gasoline as well. So their top leaders in Congress are now calling for new action from President Bush.

Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as lawmakers began trickling back into town today, it was clear they had received an earful from voters back home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOPPEL (voice over): Fresh from a two-week recess filled with daily reports of rising gas prices, Republican leaders rushed to respond. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sent a letter to President Bush urging him to crack down on lawbreakers, asking Mr. Bush to direct the Department of Justice and the Federal Trace Commission to "... investigate any potential collusion, price-fixing or gouging in the sale or distribution of gasoline." But an official at the FTC told CNN the commission is already investigating many of these types of complaints.

Seven months out from hotly-contested congressional elections, Republicans especially are feeling the heat. A new CNN poll shows that more than two-thirds of all Americans say rising gas price are causing hardships at home. Those who say gas prices are causing severe hardships also say they're most likely to vote for Democrats.

STU ROTHENBERG, POLITICAL ANALYST: Gas prices now are a symbol of the larger political environment, which is unfavorable if you're a Republican candidate for Congress.

KOPPEL: Which is why Democrats have been quick to blame high gas prices on what they say is the Bush administration's failure to address possible price gouging at the pumps. And, on the lack of a windfall profits tax, to reign in record oil industry profits.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Does anyone think it's fair to have consumers pay $100 a week to fill their fuel tanks and the big energy bosses fill their bank tanks with hundreds of millions of dollars?

KOPPEL: And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is not alone. The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee suggested such attacks should be considered.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think windfall profits, eliminating the antitrust exemption, considering the excessive concentration of power are all items we ought to be addressing.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KOPPEL: Republicans respond that Democrats are hypocrites, on the one hand, complaining about high energy costs, while on the other, voting to limit energy production. For instance, by refusing to support oil exploration in the Alaskan wilderness -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Andrea, for that.

The blasts came in quick succession. Three of them ripping through a crowded tourist area in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Dahab. Egypt's interior minister is now saying that dozens of people are dead and wounded, but the extent of the carnage is still not clear.

Let's bring in CNN's Ben Wedeman. He's on the phone from Cairo with this developing story.

What's the latest information we're getting, Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Just minutes ago, I received a statement from the interior ministry here in Cairo with new figures on the death toll.

It says that 23 people were killed, including 20 Egyptians and three foreigners. Among the foreigners, a German child. In addition to that, 62 people were wounded, 42 Egyptians, 20 foreigners, including Danes, Italians, Koreans, English, Israelis, Palestinians, one American and one Australian.

Now, just a few moments ago, I was watching the live broadcast on Egyptian TV from -- from Dahab, and it's incredible scenes of destruction and bloodshed. Very graphic pictures of bodies and body parts strewn around the main part of town around restaurants where two of the blasts took place, in addition to a supermarket, as well. So, Egyptian officials really reeling after these attacks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ben, we'll get back to you as we get more information. Thank you.

President Bush quickly condemned the bombings, calling the attack a heinous act against civilians. He vowed, in his words, to stay on the offense against terror, saying, "America will not waiver and will not tire."

For more on this story, we now have something that's highly unusual, a rare interview with a former director of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency. Efraim Halevy, who just wrote a new book called "Man in the Shadows," spoke with me earlier, and I asked him if the terror attack in Egypt could be the work of al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EFRAIM HALEVY, FMR. DIRECTOR, MOSSAD: I believe it is the work of al Qaeda, whether directly or a link that they have inside that territory. It's the nature of the threat, which the world as a whole is facing. And the fact that even in Egypt which has a very effective security intelligence network, this kind of act can be carried out, a test to the nature and seriousness of the threat. BLITZER: Is it your sense, as we look at all of this unfold, that Ayman al Zawahiri, the number two leader in al Qaeda, who himself is an Egyptian, that has a special axe to grind with Egypt?

HALEVY: He does have a special act to grind with Egypt, just as Mr. Zarqawi has a special axe to grind in Jordan, but they're linked together in a much greater conspiracy, which is a conspiracy which is worldwide.

BLITZER: Here's what you write in your book, "Man in the Shadows." You write, "Al Qaeda has its sights on the entire world with the goal effecting an Islamic international revolution that will encompass the entire planet. It is as simple and diabolical as that."

I never heard an expert say they want to take over the whole world, but that is your assessment.

HALEVY: My assessment is that they want to destabilize the whole of the world. They wish, ultimately, that the world as a whole would be governed by the tenets of Islam. And as strange and as extreme as this sounds, this is their dream and this is their vision.

BLITZER: We heard another audiotape from Osama bin Laden this past weekend making direct threats against the United States, the West, but also going after what he calls the Zionists and the crusaders. Have there been al Qaeda attacks against Israelis, per se. Most of the attacks against Israel have come from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, but have there been al Qaeda attacks against Israel?

HALEVY: Al Qaeda has not succeeded so far in carrying out an attack against Israel. There have been cases in which an al Qaeda attempt has been foiled, but Israel is on the list, it's not number one on the list, maybe not number two on the list but Israel is definitely on the list together with the other targets which they have.

BLITZER: Here's what you write in your book, "Although the troops have been on the ground for some time now in both theaters of operation, Iraq and Afghanistan, victory on these battlefronts appears further away than ever. In realistic terms the war may last a generation or more before it comes to an end."

Are you talking a generation, 20 years?

HALEVY: Well generations are can be gauged in different ways. Sometimes a generation was 10 years. Dean Acheson, when he was founding NATO that it would last a generation and when asked what he meant by that he said 10 years. I believe it will take several years. There will be a generation span before, ultimately, this threat can be taken care of.

BLITZER: From Israel's narrow perspective, was the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq good or bad?

HALEVY: I think from Israel's perspective, once the Twin Towers were attacked, once this attack emanated from Middle East it was a question of time before the United States came into the Middle East to deal with the threat against the United States. Any threat against the United States as the leader of the free world is an attack also against the allies of the United States and as such I think from Israel's point of view, the decisiveness of the American decision to go ahead has been a very important one and a very important plus in our estimation.

BLITZER: A plus for Israel, even though Saddam Hussein by almost all accounts now had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11?

HALEVY: Yes, but Saddam Hussein was a man who was ultimately a threat to the stability of the region as a whole. After the role he played in the Iraq/Iran War which was a role supported by the United States, he turned against the United States and this resulted in Desert Storm, the first entry of the United States into the region against Saddam Hussein, the first time around. And once this happened, it was obvious that from our point of view the die had been cast and it was a question of time before the United States had to come in again and deal with the threat against international stability.

BLITZER: Efraim Halevy is the former director of the Mossad, the author of the new book "Man in the Shadows."

Mr. Halevy, thanks very much for joining us.

HALEVY: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Efraim Halevy, the former director of the Mossad, speaking with me earlier.

Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty standing by -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Pretty scary stuff, isn't it?

BLITZER: Yes, very.

CAFFERTY: All right. On to another topic, Wolf.

The Catholic Church getting involved big-time in the illegal immigration debate out in California. Archbishop George Niederauer was part of group of 10,000 protesters in San Francisco yesterday demanding that Congress enact more immigrant-friendly policies.

The archbishop read a joint statement supported by other religious leaders. He said that immigration reform should give illegal aliens "a just path to lawful permanent residence and citizenship." Niederauer criticized proposals in Congress such as the one for building a fence along the Mexican border or the one for imposing criminal penalties on illegal aliens, calling them both very shortsighted and even mean-spirited.

So, here's the question: Should the Catholic Church be part of the debate over illegal immigration? Your thoughts, you can e-mail them to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, President Bush snubbed in California today while speaking out about immigration reform. An outspoken Republican congressman explains why he kept his distance from the president.

Plus, training for terror. A rare glimpse inside an al Qaeda boot camp. And frequent visits there by Osama bin Laden.

And if you're reeling from $3-a-gallon gasoline, imagine paying $4 or $5 or even $6. How high could prices can go? You're going to find out right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Bush is sending a blunt message to fellow Republicans about immigration reform. Speaking in California today, Mr. Bush said sending all the nation's illegal immigrations back to their home countries is absolutely not realistic.

A California Republican who backs tough new immigration measures sent his own message to Mr. Bush. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher declined to appear with Mr. Bush in California.

I asked Congressman Rohrabacher why he snubbed the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: My lack of attendance had more to do with my respect for the president. I certainly agree with him on most of the issues. I respect and appreciate his leadership on most issues. But I so strongly disagree with him on this illegal immigration issue that I felt it would be more respectful for me to stay away rather than to show up and look glum and refuse to applaud and things like that.

BLITZER: He strongly made the pitch for a guest worker or temporary worker program involving those 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. I want you to listen to the little clip from what the president said.

BUSH: You can come on a temporary basis to do a job Americans won't do. So you don't have to sneak across. Don't have to pay money to a coyote that stuffs you in the back of a truck. So you don't have to burden our borders. We want our border patrol hunting down gun smugglers and dope runners.

BLITZER: You strongly disagree with him on the guest worker proposal he put forward?

ROHRABACHER: Absolutely. First of all, any guest worker proposal that he's made or the Senate is making includes the provision to normalize the status of those 15 million to 20 million illegals, of course that number is being underestimated, but there's 15 to 20 million illegals. They are going to have their status normalized which will just invite 20 million more illegals into our country.

But the fact is whatever job they are doing, and I disagree with the president, the fact is Americans will do that work if they are paid more money to do the jobs.

BLITZER: Here's what the governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger said to ABC this weekend. Listen to this.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: The other thing that people talk about, which is let's send them all back. Think about that, how do you do that logistically? How does that work to send 12 million people back? It will cost $500 billion. Who is going to pay for that? I mean it's ludicrous to think this way.

BLITZER: Strongly disagree with your own governor as well.

ROHRABACHER: The president made the same point today. It's all bogus. This is a bogus false alternative.

The fact is, no one I know is advocating mass deportations. If we simply prevent people who are here illegally from getting jobs and we stop giving them benefits like free health care and free education for their children and all sorts of other subsidies we give our own citizens. If we don't do that for these legals they will go home on their own. They won't be able to sustain themselves here.

This idea that it is either sweeps and mass deportations versus normalization. It's an insult to the American people to offer that as a reason to go for normalizing the status of illegals in our country.

BLITZER: When I spoke with Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, yesterday, he still thought there was a chance that you could work out a compromise between the Senate version and the House version, which already passed. Some middle ground that would get through this year and including the opportunity for these illegal immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens. How far are you willing to go to prevent that sort of compromise from happening?

ROHRABACHER: Well, let's put it this way. The House passed a good bill. We have provisions to strengthen the border and then to help people so that they -- and to hold businessmen accountable for hiring illegals. So it's a good bill.

If the president wants a compromise and the Senate wants a compromise and they are so insistent on the guest worker program the compromise is simple. Support the House bill and then propose another piece of legislation that has the guest worker program and let it stand or fall based on its own merit.

However, these people are so intent on normalizing, meaning given amnesty to those illegals who are already here, that's the real intent. And the fact is what the president is proposing, what the Senate is proposing, will make the legal immigration problem worse. We'll have even more people flooding into our country after we sent that message to the rest of the world.

BLITZER: Dana Rohrabacher is a Republican Congressman from California.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

ROHRABACHER: My pleasure. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And still to come tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, a CNN exclusive. We'll hear from the new leader of Iraq and how long he thinks U.S. forces will have to remain there

President Bush, meanwhile, hitting a new low in the polls. We'll take a closer look at what keeps dragging him down and what he needs to do for a rebound. That's coming up in our "Strategy Session."

Gas price outrage. How high can it go? We'll take a look at some other places where the price at the pump right now is topping, get this, $6 a gallon. Can that happen here?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Zain Verjee joining us tonight from the CNN headquarters in Atlanta with a closer look at some other headlines right now -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the prosecution says Zacarias Moussaoui represents an unforgivable evil and should be put to death. But Moussaoui's lawyers say he's a sacrificial lamb who should receive life in prison.

Those comments came during closing arguments at the trial for the al Qaeda conspirator. Jury deliberations began today. Moussaoui faces a life or death sentence for his involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

And first lady Laura Bush announces a global conference on literacy. Mrs. Bush says the conference will be in New York in September at the 61st session of the United Nations. The first lady says the literacy conference is essentially designed to combat the problem of illiteracy among 800 million people who can't read around the world.

In Nepal, demonstrations turned into celebrations. This after Nepal's King Gyanendra announced that he would give in to the demands of some political parties and protesters. The king says he'll reinstate parliament, the same parliament that he dissolved back in May of 2002, and that the parliament would convene this Friday. For three weeks, protests have paralyzed Nepal as pro-democracy clashed with police -- Wolf. BLITZER: Zain, thank you.

The U.S. State Department has just issued a travel warning for Nepal. Let's get some quick details from our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, that announcement made earlier today before the latest news, but the State Department puts this information on its Web site, travel alerts, areas that it thinks Americans should avoid. You can go to the State Department Web site and take a look.

The latest on the top of that list is, in fact, Nepal. Now, they are also directing people to the U.S. embassy in Kathmandu for information. It says non-emergency staff and families are advised to leave the early.

Also, is information about the demonstrations that are taking place, the areas those tend to be, Wolf, and they tend to center around universities. So they posted a map online of areas to avoid -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If you were thinking of climbing Mount Everest right now, not a good idea.

Thanks, Jacki, for that.

Just ahead, a new low in the polls for an embattled president. We'll talk about it. That's coming up in our "Strategy Session."

Plus, prices soaring, along with outrage among the American people. Now some experts say gas could hit $5 a gallon. We're going to have details of why prices will likely get worse before they get better, if they get better.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

President Bush hits a new low in the polls. We'll have more on our top story in a moment.

But first, this: the Iraqis finally are taking some dramatic steps toward the creation of a new government in Baghdad. But the violent actions of some appear to be an attempt to throw that path off track. In a CNN exclusive, the politician chosen to be Iraq's next prime minister talked about his plan to stem the violence.

Our Ryan Chilcote is in Baghdad with details -- Ryan.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at least eight killed, 74 wounded in bombings in Baghdad alone. All of this just two days after Iraqi lawmakers put a four-month political vacuum to rest and chose a prime minister. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHILCOTE (voice over): In just six hours, more than half of a dozen explosions in Baghdad, more than a dozen bodies surface. The victims, Sunni Muslims, not killed in the bombings, but shot to death. A daily reminder Iraq is so racked by insurgency and sectarian violence, it is under threat of falling apart.

In his first interview with an international news organization since taking office, the man Iraqis are looking to to stop it promised it won't come to that.

JAWAD AL-MALIKI, IRAQ PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE (through translator): We have a constitution. We have a parliament. And a new government will be formed soon. They won't succeed in starting a civil war.

CHILCOTE: Mr. Maliki's nomination to the job of prime minister Saturday marks a moment of hope for the Iraqi people. After four months of political stalemate, the country's vying ethnic and religious groups overcame their differences and backed Mr. Maliki. A fierce opponent of Saddam's rule who spent 23 years in exile between Iran and Syria, Mr. Maliki now has a month by law to put together his cabinet. The Shiite leader is promising to include politicians from across the political spectrum. If he fails to form a government of national unity, fear is Iraq insurgency and sectarian violence will only grow.

Even with a strong unifying government, the new prime minister says Iraq is not ready for life without the U.S. military.

AL-MALIKI (through translator): We need to continue our cooperation until we have fully built up our security forces so they can control the security situation. The day we won't need them anymore, we'll tell the multinational forces, thank you and they can go back to their countries knowing that took part in building democracy in this region.

CHILCOTE: But for now, Iraq is still a nation still under threat. It's future, to a large extent, rests on Mr. Maliki's shoulders.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHILCOTE: Mr. Maliki says one of the keys to keeping the country together is to integrate the militias into the nation's security forces. There are countless young armed men in these militias who owe their allegiance not to Iraq but to the various religious and ethnic groups.

BLITZER: Back to our top story. A new low point for President Bush in polls. Our brand new CNN survey shows Mr. Bush's approval rating down to 32 percent. That is the lowest it's ever been.

Joining us now, Democratic analyst and radio talk show host Bill Press and CNN political analyst and former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts. Let's show our viewers who may just be tuning in. How is President Bush handling his job as president, 32 percent in our new poll approve, 60 percent disapprove. Look at this, this may be also very worrisome to the president. Is Bush honest and trustworthy, which he ran on in 2000. Only 40 percent believe he is, 55 percent, a clear majority J.C., think he's not honest and trustworthy. What a challenge he faces.

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: These numbers will be all over the board over the next four to five months. I think as I said last week the president has four challenges that I think he is correcting. I think he has a communication problem. He has a relational problem with Congress. The communication challenge gets you a new press secretary. He's got a policy and a political problem.

The policy, I think Josh Bolten and his new guy Kaplan will help there. And putting Karl over in the political area, where he probably should have been, is a good thing so voter turnout will be key.

BLITZER: He's referring to Karl Rove. I want you to respond. Respond in the context of what Donald Fowler, a former DNC chairman, said on Sunday. He said, "I don't think we can coast through this election year by pointing out the shortcomings, which are multiple and gargantuan, of the Bush administration. I don't think we can do that." Democrats can't assume that things are going to fall into place.

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No they can't. I think Don is right. I think Democrats are doing that. You just saw Rahm Emanuel Friday, he was on the Bill Maher show. He laid out five things that Democrats stand for. And other Democrats are echoing that.

J.C., you're usually right. Most polls go up, most polls go down. George Bush's polls are going down, down, down. This is really stunning and troubling. I don't think gas prices are yet reflected in this poll. I think it's mostly Iraq. This is after the president has gone out in 15 speeches saying we're going to stay the course.

Why I think this is really troubling for Republicans is because these 2006 elections are going to be a referendum on the president. Playing musical chairs at the White House is not going to fix it.

BLITZER: It's not just a referendum on the president. The republicans control both houses of Congress. I want you to also respond, J.C., we have heard a lot of calls for the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

Now a major newspaper, The Los Angeles Times, says it's time for Dick Cheney the vice president to go. I'll read you a paragraph of what it says. "President Bush hopes the shakeup of his administration initiated last week will re-energize his listless presidency. He is bound to be disappointed. A far more audacious makeover is needed, one that sends Vice President Dick Cheney into early retirement."

That's pretty -- almost, pretty amazing to have a major paper like The Los Angeles Times say the elected vice president of the United States should retire. WATTS: Wolf, you nailed it. Elected vice president. Editorial pages don't select presidents. American people do. Again, I don't think that Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld -- I have had my differences with Donald Rumsfeld. I don't think they are the issue. I think we need to get back on offense as we've said all along. We need to get some policy wins.

You know the Democrats, and Bill and I were talking about this. I don't think Democrats are Republicans' problems. I think Republicans are Republicans' problems. We've had some policy gaffes. I think Josh Bolten and Joe Kaplan will do a lot there. We need relationships with Congress. I think the president's making some changes to correct those things.

PRESS: I call this L.A. Times idea a good start. It's not going to happen. If you really want to show you're serious about the shake- up of this White House, get Cheney to resign. If you really want to show you're serious about 2008 and having somebody in place who is going to carry the policies in there, get a vice president who can do that.

It's not going to happen, we all know that Dick Cheney won't let President Bush do it.

WATTS: We should change Dick Cheney because we don't like him -- you can't get into those kind of games. There's a lot of people who didn't like Bill Clinton, but I don't think we should try to change --

PRESS: You tried to. Let me remind you, you tried to impeach him. You tried to throw him out of office for a lot less than what George Bush and Dick Cheney have done.

WATTS: What they have done?

PRESS: Lied to American people about the war in Iraq. About wiretapping their telephones.

WATTS: You need to be sent to bed with no dinner for starting that.

BLITZER: Just for the record, J.C. Did you vote for impeachment?

WATTS: I did. The facts supported it. The facts don't support that this president lied concerning the war. Bill, come on.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We got to end it right there. Bill and J.C. Thank you very much.

Up ahead, tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, gas price outrage, how high can it go. We're going to take a closer look to some other places where the price at the pump, right now, is topping, get this -- $6 a gallon. Plus Cynthia McKinney lets loose while miked up. She's not alone by any means. Jeanne Moos takes a closer look at some other politicians caught on tape. You'll want to see this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Get this, in many parts of the country, gasoline is now selling, as you know, for more than $3 a gallon. But some experts are already saying we may soon be looking back at today's prices as cheap. How high it will go?

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us now from a gas station in New York City -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in the last couple of minutes alone here at this gas station, prices have inched higher. Now to fill up your tank, $3.13. And that is pretty typical of New York City. The analysts say not only here, but around the country it is going to get worse before it gets any better.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice over): As prices at the pump continue rising, so does anger. With more drivers expected to hit the road as summertime approaches, there is no sign of prices easing.

JOHN KILDUFF, ENERGY ANALYST, FIMAT: A lot of people are going to be seeing $3.50 to $3.75. A small minority will be seeing upwards of $4. And there is going to be probably an unlucky few who even see the $4.50, $5 a gallon.

SNOW: A public transportation association says it is already seeing more people turning to buses and trains in big and smaller cities including Washington, D.C., Dallas, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

WILLIAM MILLAR, PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION ASSN.: We have been getting reports from our members all across the country, that they're seeing their ridership spike as gas prices go above $3 a gallon.

SNOW: But Americans won't find much sympathy outside the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it comes to Americans complaining about gas prices, Europeans view us as big babies.

SNOW: Drivers not only in Europe but in Asia, pay about twice the amount for gasoline that Americans pay. A sampling of some of the most expensive cities include Oslo, where people pay about $6.62 a gallon. In London and Rome it is just under $6. In Hong Kong, $6.25. Tokyo, just about $5.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Europeans and some of the Asian countries have chosen to tax gasoline heavily the way we tax other items.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: And analysts point out that Europeans, for example, never experienced cheap gas prices in the 1990s the way the U.S. did. And therefore, they learned to adapt by driving smaller cars and also driving less. So it remains to be seen though, whether Americans will follow suit -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I think we are going to be in for a rude awakening. Mary, thank you very much.

Ali Velshi standing by in New York, as well, with "The Bottom Line" -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the testimony, Wolf, that the country has waited nearly four years to hear took place today or at least started today. Enron's former Chairman and CEO took the witness stand. He says he is innocent. He didn't waste any time pointing the finger at who he thinks is guilty. He told the Enron trial that his biggest mistake was hiring Andy Fastow and making him chief financial officer of Enron.

Federal prosecutors are expected to get their crack at Lay later this week. And we'll keep you posted on the fireworks.

Now, Wolf, if Bill Gates said he was making a big bet on something, you would probably listen. I do. Start taking notes because the world's richest man, according to new Security and Exchange Commission filings, holds a 25 percent stake in Pacific Ethanol. That is a California company that builds plants that produce the corn-based fuel.

Gate is investing $84 million in all. That's kind of chump change for him. But there's money to be made in ethanol. You may recall on Friday we told you it was a supply and logistical issue with ethanol, not oil, that has gas stations up and down the East Coast experiencing some spot shortages. The gas industry is forced to switch to gas containing ethanol instead of the fuel additive, MTBE. So there is some money to be made in that.

Oil prices cooled off today. It down nearly $2 to $73.35 a barrel. Oil prices, however, even though that they were lower, they did not bring out the bulls on Wall Street. The Dow was down 11 points to 11,336. And the Nasdaq, as you can see there, about nine points lower to 23,033 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ali, thanks.

Up ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM, we are going to have a rare look inside the basic training of terrorists. This is something you are going to want to see. We have some new details of how al Qaeda turns raw recruits into terrorists. Brian Todd standing by.

And burned by the hot microphone, this embattled congresswoman is hardly the first. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us some of the most memorable moments caught on tape. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: As jurors deliberate the fate of confessed al Qaeda plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, we are now learning some brand new details about al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden.

Let's get the story from CNN's Brian Todd in the news room -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, those details come from the Moussaoui trial, the accounts of a man who U.S. officials say came close to becoming the 20th hijacker on September 11.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): An inside look at al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, documents from the interrogation of a would-be 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed al-Qahtani.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: The snapshot that we have from the documents is really what al Qaeda was doing at sort of the height of its power.

TODD: Early morning, trainees called students wake up and pray. Then physical training. According to the documents, all students participate in calisthenics, sports, running and marching. After breakfast, there would be weapons training. But also, instruction in geography, religion and other subjects.

After lunch and more prayer, siesta. Students go back to camp to spend some free time. Then more intense training, which might entail how to travel through rough terrain, such as mountains, how to resist hunger, how to deal with hurt or killed comrades.

BERGEN: They were training for real situations. It wasn't like some notional training.

TODD: An examples, after lights out, quote, "Students were sometimes woken at 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. to march long distances of perform other military training missions." A frequent visitor to the camps Osama bin Laden. But camp graduates also visited him.

According to the documents, al Qahtani spent time at a guest house in Kandahar, where transportation to UBL's house was always available via a special van.

BERGEN: It retraces the question, why didn't American intelligence get, you know, somebody in there as a lower-level al Qaeda recruit and maybe actually get into the inner circle of bin Laden?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Mohammed al Qahtani certainly got into that inner circle. At the end of his training in the spring of 2001, the documents say bin Laden took al Qahtani's hand, and said a special mission in America awaited him. But al Qahtani never made it. He was stopped at the Orlando airport later that summer and sent back to the Middle East, left waiting for him at the airport parking lot in Orlando, Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker on 9/11 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks.

It's a rare sight for American journalists, CNN is now in Iran as the country's hard line president seemingly dared the United Nations today to do something about his country's nuclear program.

Our Aneesh Raman is in Tehran. Aneesh?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a rare press conference by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today. Made more so by the fact that for only the second time, foreign journalists like myself were allowed to attend.

The president was joking at times, defiant at others, saying Iran would not suspend its enrichment of uranium towards what the country says is a peaceful civilian nuclear program.

The Iranian president said that if the U.N. issued sanctions against Iran, those sanctions would hurt more those who were issuing them than it would hurt Iran. He also hinted at the fact that the country could withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, depending on the actions of the U.N. in the weeks to come.

For the U.S., the Iranian president said talks over Iraq were off the table. Those in the recent weeks had been suggested to soon take place in Baghdad. He also suggested the U.S. is really behind the efforts to isolate Iran from the international community/

Now over the past few days, we have been able to go out on the streets on Tehran throughout the capital here, at will talk to Iranians, who in turn -- the few that were willing to talk to us on camera and they largely support the country's civilian nuclear program. They see it as something that will lead to economic development. And there is a lot of pride here that it is Iran's right and it is its success and it has developed this program. Wolf?

BLITZER: Aneesh, thanks. We'll check back with you tomorrow.

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Just about eight minutes from now, we'll have breaking news out of Washington state. A 16-year-old boy has been arrested for an alleged plot to randomly kill 15 people at his high school, because apparently he wanted them to, quote, "feel his pain." Police have confiscated guns, a bomb, and an anarchist cookbook.

We will also look at what authorities have discovered so far about five boys in Kansas and separate plots involving students in Alaska, all plots to kill students at their schools.

Also some incredible pictures from hidden police cameras in stolen cars. How brazen are these guys? What do they listen to on the radio? You're going to see and be surprised by some of the answers. All coming up at the top of the hour, Wolf. But this story out of Washington is really chilling. You're talking about three of these alleged plots uncovered in less than a week.

BLITZER: All right, Paula, we'll be watching. Breaking news at the top of the hour, thank you very much.

Still ahead, Cynthia McKinney goes off while mic'ed up. But she's not the first politician by any means caught on tape unwillingly. Jeanne Moos will have that, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Today we look at what happens when politicians says things they don't think they're be recorded. That happened to Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. And our Jeanne Moos explained, she's not only one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For a politician, it can be a tiny but deadly weapon, the open mic that you forgot you had on. Congressman (sic) Cynthia McKinney was all cheery as she arrived for district today, a time to meet with her constituents. Reporters kept asking about the alleged scuffle with the security guard at the nation's capitol. McKinney got miffed.

REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), GEORGIA: Well you're a distraction because that seems to be all you want to talk about.

MOOS: McKinney finally got up and left, telling WGCL's reporter "I'll be back." That's when her open mic picked up this.

MCKINNEY: Oh, crap. You know what? They lied to Coz and Coz is a fool.

MOOS: Coz is Coz Carson, McKinney's aide to set up the interview.

COZ CARSON, MCKINNEY SPOKESMAN: It's a pleasure to work with someone who believes in taking care of the people.

MOOS: After McKinney realized her mic was on, she returned to the interview.

MCKINNEY: Anything that's captured by your audio, that is captured while I'm not seated in this chair, is off the record and is not permissible to be used. Is that understood?

MOOS: Understood, but ignored. McKinney in royal company. Remember Prince Charles hissing about a BBC reporter during a photo op with his sons?

PRINCE CHARLES, PRINCE OF WALES: These bloody people. I can't bear that mean. I mean, he's so...

MOOS: President Bush was even more graphic, referring to a "New York Times" reporter.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Major league (BLEEP).

MOOS (on camera): It's incredibly easy to forget that you're wearing a mic like this. After all, it's completely wireless. We always have to remind folks to turn it off.

(voice-over): Right before President Reagan made a radio speech, he famously into a live mic about bombing Russia.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We begin bombing in five minutes.

MOOS: Everyone a pop star sometimes pops off her mouth, forgetting she's mic'ed. A concert in Rio, Britney Spears was backstage letting her dancers have it.

BRITNEY SPEARS, SINGER: Oh my god, this is retarded. They told me they were going to do a vamp. Oh no, what are they doing?

MOOS: Oh her people said later, that wasn't her voice. In this age of the sound byte, when you get bitten, you can't take it back.

MCKINNEY: Is that understood?

MOOS: No matter how much you smile. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And here's a man who's always smiling, Jack Cafferty. Jack?

CAFFERTY: She just doesn't get it, does she? Not on any level. If she's re-elected to Congress, I'll leave my shoes on THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Don't say that, don't say that.

CAFFERTY: San Francisco archbishop George Niederauer was part of a group of 10,000 protesters in San Francisco yesterday, demanding that Congress enact more immigrant-friendly policy.

So the question we ask, should the Catholic Church be part of the debate over illegal immigration?

Paul in Middletown, Rhode Island writes: As a former business manager for an archdiocese in the Caribbean, I would suggest your question is moot. The business of the church and the spirituality of the church have very little to do with one another. With cash receipts down, putting the pious in the pews is their only concern these days.

Elsa in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania: The debate over illegal immigrations and whether or not they are to be considered criminals is not up to the clergy. This is solely a political debate and one that the church doesn't need to take part in, nor should it.

Kevin in Bonduel, Wisconsin: Absolutely not. Revoke their tax- exempt status. Those captains of morality bleed compassion for lawbreaking illegals, but not compassion for those of us who have to foot the bill for all the freebies they and their minions get. Oh, how about all that extra cash in the collection plate from a grateful illegal congregation? Praise the lord.

Michael in Lynchburg, Virginia: All aspects of society need to be part of the debate, not just the groups you agree with, Jack. That's part of democracy.

And Valerie in Erie, Pennsylvania: As a parochial school educated Catholic, I was taught about right and wrong and good and evil. Legal immigration is right and illegal immigration is wrong. Young children are good, and recycling perverted priests for years is evil. I think the Catholic Church has forgotten its own teaching.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Jack, we'll see you tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM, thanks very much. Tomorrow, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, plus Senator Ted Kennedy, both here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Until then, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Up next, "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Paula.

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