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THE SITUATION ROOM
No Significant Increase in Polls after Bush Address; Hayden Undergoes Questioning by Senate Intelligence Committee; Feingold and Specter Exchange Harsh Words in Judiciary Committee Hearing
Aired May 18, 2006 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What they need to get the job done. Where we're making progress and where we aren't making progress. I think it helps to have the president out here seeing the part of the area of the country that one time was overrun by people coming in here that's beginning to get settled down because of our strategy that's being employed.
I really want to thank you all for greeting me plus I like riding in the dune buggy. I appreciate very much your governor for being here. Governor Napolitano is with us today. Thank you very much for coming. I'm honored you're here. She is an important person, is part of helping to implement this strategy. After all, she's the commander-in-chief of the Arizona National Guard.
And we'll talk a little bit about the guard's presence here on the border to help the border patrol do its job. But I also want to thank members of the United States Congress who flew out here with me. It's a good bunch, a little rambunctious at times. But I enjoy being with them. I call them friends. Congressman Coble, Hayworth, Shadegg, Flake and Franks, I appreciate you guys taking time out of your day to come down. You care a lot about your state and you care a lot about the issue and I appreciate your being here.
I want to thank Senator Ken Bennett, president of the Arizona Senate. Senator, you didn't need to come down but I'm grateful you did. And I also want to thank Speaker Wires (ph) for being here as well. I appreciate your interest in the subject. The mayor -- Mayor Larry Nelson is with us. Mr. Mayor, thank you for coming.
I want to thank all the other state and local officials. I want to thank Major General David Rataczak who is head of the Arizona National Guard. We're going to be working with our guard. Don't go overboard for the guy.
We're going to be working closely with our guard around the country to help the border patrol do its job. I want to thank all the folks who are here for taking time out of your day to give me a chance to come and visit. I particularly want to thank the local law enforcement officials as well.
I understand that illegal immigration is a serious problem. And one of our jobs in public office is to fix problems, is to deal with the problem in a rational way and not pass them on to other people. And I spoke to the country the other night because I want to fix the problem and I want to work with people in Washington to do so. People here know firsthand that illegal immigration put big pressure on our local communities. It puts pressures on the schools, puts pressure on the hospitals, puts pressure on the state and local budgets. It puts pressure on the penal system. I know that.
Our country is a country of laws and we've got to enforce our laws. But we're also a nation of immigrants and we've got to remember that proud tradition as well, which has strengthened our country in many ways. These are not contradictory goals, to remember our heritage and uphold our laws.
America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time. There's a debate in Washington and the House started the debate by passing a strong enforcement bill last December. And now the Senate is debating. And I do want to compliment the senators from this state, Senator McCain and Senator Kyl for taking the lead. They understand the importance of getting this issue solved. And they're on the floor of the Senate debating good immigration bills.
They've offered thoughtful proposals for which I am grateful. The Senate needs to get the bill out and get it to what they call the conference committee so we can work hard to iron out the difference between the House and the Senate. I support -- strongly support a comprehensive reform bill, though.
It needs to have five key elements to it. First, as I mentioned to you, we're going to secure our borders. That is the duty of our country. It's a sovereign responsibility. We want the border to be open to trade and lawful immigration and we want our borders shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals and drug dealers and terrorists. That's the objective.
You might remember I was the governor of a border state. So I understand how big the border is. I would suggest to members of Congress as they debate this issue that they ought to come down and take a look at the border and see what it is really like. It requires an intense focus of resources and assets in order to secure this border. But it also requires a comprehensive strategy, as well.
Since I became the president, we've increased funding for our border security by 66 percent. That's helped upgrade equipment, infrastructure. Border patrol agents have gone from about 9,000 to nearly 12,000. Significant increase of border patrol agents so that we can have more people on the front lines of doing our duty.
Here we've added about more than a hundred border patrol agents in the Yuma sector in the last year. In other words, people are beginning to see those on the front line are protecting the border. Beginning to see additional agents coming on board. It's about an increase of 20 percent to more than 660 agents. This sector was overwhelmed at one time from people coming across illegally and I understand that.
One way to help deal with that problem is decrease the number of agents on the front line, which is what the leadership of the border patrol has done. We saw some new fencing taking place. It makes sense to use fencing along the border in key locations in order to do our job. We saw lighting. I just saw the cameras in place where we're beginning to install, modernize the border is what I'm telling you.
We're in the process of making our border the most technologically advanced border in the world. Interestingly enough I don't think most Americans know this. But over the past five years federal agents, border patrol agents, have apprehended and sent home about six million people. Six million people, since 2001 have come into this country illegally.
I mean, we've got some people working hard. Last year agents in the Yuma sector apprehended more than 70,000 illegal entrants. It's up from 14 percent. People's work is making a difference, but we do not have full control of the border. That's what I want you all to understand. I realize and a lot of people in Congress realize.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going to continue to monitor the president's speech in Yuma, Arizona. He's speaking about immigration. We're going to have a lot on the subject coming up.
To our viewers, you're now in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world, to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now. The president's choice to lead the CIA is under interrogation. It's 4:00 PM here in Washington, where senators still are pressing General Michael Hayden about domestic spying and much more.
Also this hour, as we've just seen, the president is on the border with Mexico. It's 1:00 PM in Yuma, Arizona, where Mr. Bush is promoting a middle ground on immigration reform. We'll bring you his one-on-one interview with our Suzanne Malveaux. That's coming up.
The issues of border security is domestic surveillance couldn't be much hotter than they are right now. Are they helping or hurting the president? We're just seconds away from unveiling a brand-new poll number.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, a long day of questioning continuing for the CIA director nominee General Michael Hayden. We're monitoring the Senate hearing. We'll bring you live updates.
Also at this hour, President Bush is at a hot spot for illegal border crossings. That would be in Yuma, Arizona. It's the backdrop for his latest push for immigration reform. We're going to bring you our interview with the president. Our Suzanne Malveaux spent some time with him just a little while ago.
But first, we want to go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's got brand-new poll numbers on many of the issues facing the president -- Bill. WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, Americans watched President Bush talk about immigration Monday night. Let's see if it made any difference.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Did his prime time speech on immigration help President Bush at all? Yes. Is he out of trouble? No. The president's latest job approval rating, 36 percent. That's up 2 two points since early May, not much change.
Did the immigration speech have any impact? Look at the issues: 47 percent approve the way President Bush is handling terrorism, down 5 points since January. Iraq, down 5 points since January. Economy, down 5. Gas prices, down a whopping 12 points since December. The only issue where the president's rating has gone up, immigration.
Why didn't it help the president's overall job rating more? Only 36 percent approve of the president's performance on immigration. And voters say other issues, like terrorism, Iraq and gas prices, are more important to them than immigration.
Bush's approval rating among Democrats and Independents has changed very little since January. Most of the slippage has been among his fellow Republicans, down 10 points. Some Republicans heard things they didn't like in the president's speech.
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Therefore, I support a temporary worker program that would create a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country in an orderly way for a limited period of time.
SCHNEIDER: What about the issue of wiretaps without a court order of conversations between Americans and suspected terrorists in other countries? By a narrow margin, Americans think the Bush administration should not be doing that. Last week, the president offered the public this assurance.
BUSH: The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval.
SCHNEIDER: Nevertheless, 63 percent of Americans believe the government has wiretapped conversations of U.S. citizens not suspected of terrorism without first obtaining a court order, 63 percent don't buy the president's assurances. That's a credibility problem -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And this poll -- I just want to be precise, Bill -- was taken after the president's nationally televised address from the Oval Office Tuesday night, is that right?
SCHNEIDER: Well, it was Monday night...
BLITZER: Monday night.
SCHNEIDER: ... when he spoke, and it was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday night, yes.
BLITZER: So it's a poll that people had a chance to absorb what the president had to say on immigration. So he got a slight little bump, but the plus or minus sampling error is 4.5 percent.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. It was almost entirely on the issue of immigration itself, and it did not help his overall rating very much.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thanks for bringing us those new numbers.
Let's move on to the Hayden confirmation hearing. The nominee for the CIA chief got things started today by promising to try to take the politics out of intelligence gathering. But he General Hayden may be feeling like a political football himself, as questioning by the Senate Intelligence Committee members continues.
Our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel, has been there all day just overlooking the hearing room, and she's joining us now with an update -- Andrea.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for almost seven hours, this committee hearing room and the Senate Intelligence Committee has become a bit of a battleground primarily over the controversial national security agent's surveillance programs. But you could say that the battle lines were drawn even before the questioning began.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Today in Congress and throughout Washington, leaks and misinformation are endangering our efforts. We cannot get to the point where we are unilaterally disarming ourselves in the war against terror! If we do, it will be game, set, match al Qaeda.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's not hard to see how Americans could feel that their privacy has been intruded upon if the government has, as "USA Today" reports, a database of phone numbers calling and being called by tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.
KOPPEL (voice-over): Under friendly questioning by Republicans, General Hayden defended the controversial warrantless wiretap program, which he developed when he headed up the NSA.
SEN. KIT BOND (R-MO), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Did you believe that your primary responsibility as director of NSA was to execute a program that your NSA lawyers, that Justice Department lawyers and White House officials all told you was legal, and that you were ordered to carry it out by the president of the United States?
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: Sir, when I had to make this personal decision in early October 2001, and it was a personal decision, the math was pretty straightforward. I could not not do this. KOPPEL: Democrat Ron Wyden was more blunt.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Now, General, having evaluated your words, I now have a difficult time with your credibility.
KOPPEL: Senator Ron Wyden also claimed that only briefing a few select senators and representatives fell far short of sufficient congressional oversight.
WYDEN: Despite yesterday's last-minute briefing, for years -- years, General -- you and the Bush administration have not kept the committee fully and currently informed of all appropriate intelligence activities.
KOPPEL: This brought a sharp rebuke from the committee chairman, one of those who had been briefed from the beginning.
ROBERTS: I felt that I was acting independently, asked tough questions, and they were answered to my satisfaction. I obviously cannot speak for the other members.
BLITZER: General Hayden responded that in all his briefings, he had never gotten any indication from Congress that the NSA's programs crossed the line.
HAYDEN: I never left the room thinking I had to do anything differently.
KOPPEL: Now, in between the firefights over his old job at the NSA, there were lots of questions about how he'd handle his new job, if he's confirmed at the CIA. And he was questioned quite sharply about how he would deal with the -- transformation that was begun by Porter Goss, Wolf. General Hayden admitted that there had been many mistakes made in intelligence gathering in recent years, and he promised that he would try to continue an aggressive reshaping of the CIA, if he were to go there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Andrea, originally, we woke up this morning thinking there could be a vote in the Senate Intelligence Committee perhaps as early as today. I take it that schedule has slipped.
KOPPEL: We don't know, actually, at this point. They have just started what appears to be the second round of questioning. The committee chairman, Pat Roberts, had said that he might have two or three rounds, if that were necessary, with each round lasting about 20 minutes, before they would then go into the closed-door briefing. So there's certainly a possibility they could still have a vote this evening, Wolf, but there's also a possibility the hearing could continue either tomorrow or next week -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Andrea. Thank you very much.
President Bush is trying right now to keep the pressure on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and he's doing it outside of Washington, on a front line in the immigration wars. That would be in the state of Arizona. Just a short while ago, the president sat down with our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. Suzanne is joining us now from Yuma. Suzanne, you spoke with the president.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, Wolf, as a matter of fact about six-and-a-half minutes or so. We talked about a number of issues, but of course, the primary one being immigration reform. He is here in Yuma, Arizona. This is really considered ground zero for this particular issue. I mean, this is where the temperatures rise to about 120 degrees during the day, where people die on the border, trying to cross over from Mexico, and they can capture anywhere up to 450 illegal immigrants a day at this particular site. That is where the president decided that he would go to highlight his comprehensive immigration reform plan.
He's gotten a lot of -- a lot of hit-back, of course, a lot of pushback from members of the House, Republicans, his own party. I asked him specifically about one issue that has been causing quite a bit of controversy. That is the fact that some people see this as a racial issue.
MALVEAUX: There are a lot of people who listen to this debate, and the fact that we focus on the southern border, Mexican immigrants, they believe that there are racial, if not, racist overtones in this debate. There were a couple days ago when you said -- I'm quoting here -- "We are not just going to discriminate against people." What did you mean by that "discriminate"? Do you get a sense that there is racism that is creeping into this debate?
BUSH: I think it'd be too harsh a judgment to say to somebody who doesn't support a comprehensive immigration plan that they're racist. I don't believe that. I do believe legitimate -- I mean, citizens have got legitimate concerns, realizing that parts of this border have been open for anybody who wants to come across. And we've got to stop that. I mean, we must enforce our border.
So for those who call for border enforcement, I think it'd be certainly not a racist statement. But what I don't want is, I don't want people condemned, ever condemned based upon their personal beliefs or based upon their religion or based upon their background. And I truly believe the genius of America has been one where we welcome people, we help them to assimilate into society and we become, you know, one nation under God.
MALVEAUX: And Wolf, of course, there's a number of elements that he has been running into trouble from his own party, essentially, the guest worker program. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who is really going to move -- or at least try to move this debate forward in the House, will be the chief negotiator, outright criticized Karl Rove's efforts and outreach yesterday, saying that he simply thought that the Republicans in the House were dissed and that the president really didn't get this idea and he didn't get this issue that it was not satisfactory to them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne, thank you very much. Suzanne is on the scene for us.
And this note to our viewers. We're going to bring you her full interview with the president. That will air here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the next hour -- Suzanne Malveaux and the president of the United States.
Let's continue now. While the president was making his case for immigration reform in Arizona, the debate certainly did not stop here in Washington on Capitol Hill. There's been a new round of fireworks. CNN's Kathleen Koch is following all the action -- Kathleen.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, very interesting and controversial issues being debated in the Senate today, that while a leading House Republican has criticized President Bush's approach to immigration reform.
KOCH: (voice-over): Backtracking was the Senate's first order of business, lawmakers reconsidering a Wednesday vote that would have required temporary workers go through their employer to get a green card.
SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The self-petition (ph) gives that worker some rights and respect as an employee, instead of being subject to the dangers, which you have seen in the past, of exploitation by an employer that knows that that worker can never get a chance to have a petition and can never get in the path for a green card without the employer giving the thumps-up signal.
KOCH: Senators instead decided guest workers could seek legal status on their own, if the government determined there were no American workers for the job. Opponents were frustrated.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: The senator from Massachusetts has now offered an amendment that would literally gut the amendment that was adopted yesterday and put American workers in the back seat and foreign workers who wanted to come here and participate in a guest worker program in the front seat.
KOCH: Also debated but not yet voted on, making English the official U.S. language. It would require all government forms and publications be printed in English only.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: We have a common national language that is part of our identity. We don't want to be based on race. We don't want to be based on ancestry. We want to be unified by a few things, the unifying principles and our national common language.
KOCH: The debate moved forward as a powerful House Republican publicly blasted President Bush's handling of immigration reform. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner told reporters on a conference call that if President Bush intended to mollify conservatives with new border security measures announced in his Monday speech, quote, "he failed in that completely. I was very disappointed in the speech," added Sensenbrenner. "I think he doesn't get it."
Sensenbrenner accused President Bush of, quote, "running away" from tough provisions put in the House bill at the request of the administration.
A White House spokesman said the administration stands by its past statements on the house bill, insisting it, quote, "strongly supports provisions that would crack down on alien smuggling and unlawful entry into the U.S."
Still, Sensenbrenner's is certainly not the sort of criticism that President Bush wants to see from someone who will be helping to craft the final bill, if one indeed does emerge from Congress, Wolf.
BLITZER: He's the powerful chairman of the Judiciary Committee, as you point out, Kathleen. Thank you for that. Kathleen Koch, Bill Schneider, Suzanne Malveaux, Andrea Koppel, part of the best political team on television. CNN, America's campaign headquarters.
Jack Cafferty also part of the team. He's joining us with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, let's go back to the confirmation hearings for General Michael Hayden for a minute. During those hearings today, he was asked at one point about the legal footing for the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. He assured the committee that exhaustive steps were taken to be sure that what they were doing was legal.
First, they asked John Ashcroft, the guy President Bush appointed to run the Justice Department, if it was OK to spy on Americans without a warrant. Being the good administration lapdog that he was, Ashcroft said, Sure, no problem. Then they went to the White House lawyers, and surprise, surprise, they, too, said, Sure, no problem. Then they went to some lawyers inside the NSA. And guess what? They got the same answer. No problem.
Did they go to the FISA court to find out if it was legal? Hayden refused to answer that question in open hearings but said he'd be glad to answer it in a closed session.
Oh, and Bill Bennett said it'd be OK, too.
Here's the question. Should the Senate confirm General Michael Hayden as the next CIA director? You can e-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: Well, you know, originally, they went to the number two attorney general, the deputy attorney general, James Comey, and he said he didn't want to approve it. They then went to Ashcroft, who was recuperating in a hospital room. And he eventually approved it from the hospital bed. You forgot to mention that, Jack.
CAFFERTY: I said Ashcroft approved it, didn't I?
BLITZER: I know you did, but I'm just pointing out a little color, that he did it from his hospital bed.
CAFFERTY: And Bill Bennett said it was OK, too.
BLITZER: Later, when he found out about it, he said it was OK. Jack, thanks very much.
If you want a sneak preview of Jack's questions, plus an early read on the day's political news and what's ahead in THE SITUATION, you can sign up for our daily e-mail alert. Just go to CNN.com/SITUATIONROOM.
Coming up: General Hayden in the hot seat. Right now, senators are grilling the president's pick to head the CIA. We're going to have some updates. That's coming up live.
Also, America's best known anti-war protester is back. We're going to tell you what Cindy Sheehan's march on Donald Rumsfeld's home was all about.
And later: Is Rudy Giuliani the next presidential hopeful to move to the right? We'll tell you why he's teaming up right now with Ralph Reed.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Zain Verjee with a big smile, standing by to join us from the CNN Center with a good look at some other important news- making headlines -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, it was the bloodiest day in Afghanistan since 2001, where pockets of violence dotted (ph) a trail of death. The U.S. embassy says an American working with the U.S. State Department is dead after a car bombing today in western Afghanistan, also, a Canadian officer, Canada's first woman killed in action since World War II. At least 25 Taliban fighters are dead after a fight with coalition forces in the Kandahar region. By the end of the day, about 100 people were dead.
There are also mounting casualties in Iraq. Recent violence has increased the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the war began to 2,454.
Right now, peace mother and anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan is taking part in a protest procession to the home of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. She is joined by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who recently pummeled Rumsfeld with questions during an appearance in Atlanta. Calling themselves "the religious left," Sheehan, McGovern and the others have collected 40,000 signatures on a petition opposing a U.S. attack on Iran. Sheehan tried to deliver those signatures to the White House today, but no one there would accept it.
And a compelling guessing game of "whodunnit" is now back in focus. Who killed Jimmy Hoffa, and where are his remains? Right now, the FBI is literally digging for answers on a farm near Detroit. A tipster who officials consider reliable reported seeing suspicious activity on the farm back on the 30th of July, 1975, and that was the day that Hoffa was last seen alive. Hoffa was the head -- the former head of the Teamsters Union -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A great mystery. Let's see if there's any progress, Zain. Thank you for that.
Up next, the political battle over gay marriage. There were heated words between two U.S. senators today. All the action. That's coming up in our culture wars.
Plus: He's heading south, but is he moving right? We're going to tell you why Rudy Giuliani is teaming up with Ralph Reed in Atlanta today.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
In the culture wars, gay marriage and a testy exchange today between two United States senators. The Senate Judiciary Committee today gave its approval to a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Republicans on the panel voted yes, Democrats all voted no. And one Democrat walked out of the session that was held in a private chamber just off the Senate floor. Senator Russ Feingold complained to Chairman Arlen Specter that the meeting wasn't sufficiently open to the public.
We're told that led to this exchange. Specter told Feingold, "I don't need to be lectured by you. You are no more of a protector of the Constitution than am I. If you want to leave, good riddance." Feingold then responded, "I've enjoyed your lecture, too, Mr. Chairman. See you."
Another addition to our file on political odd couples. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani headlined a fundraiser in Georgia today for the lieutenant governor candidate Ralph Reed. Reed is a conservative, a former leader of the Christian Coalition, founded by Pat Robertson. Giuliani is a moderate Republican who, as you probably know, is considering -- considering -- a run for the White House.
Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, who's been watching this story -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what else could either of them get out of this, Wolf, but a little political boost for both of them. Ralph Reed, as you know, is the former head of the Christian Coalition, who wants to be lieutenant governor in Georgia. He gets a marquee player in Giuliani, who will help him raise money for what looks to be a to-the-wire primary fight. And Giuliani, who's thinking about running for president, gets the attention of Reed's core supporters, which is to say culturally conservative Republicans, something the pro-gay rights, pro-abortion rights, pro-gun licensing former mayor of New York is not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: On some of these social issues, we have disagreements that are very, very broad. I mean, we're a broad party, and there'll be some things I disagree about. And it's no different than any other candidate. There are things I agree with, things I disagree with. But in Ralph's case, I know him, and I think he's going to be a really effective leader.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Reed, who brought Giuliani in because his rock star status draws attention and cash, seemed a little put off that reporters were paying attention to Giuliani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALPH REED (R), GEORGIA LT. GOV. CANDIDATE: We're here about my election, so we're really focused on 2006. I learned a long time ago an 80 percent friend is not a 20 percent enemy. So I'm honored to have his support. He's a good friend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: In truth, Giuliani has done this dance before. More often than not, he and the Republican he campaigns for do disagree on basic social issues. His Honor's stock answer is that what really makes a Republican a Republican are economic issues -- lower taxes, smaller government, broader international trade. On social issues, Giuliani says the party is big enough to include people with pro- abortion rights, pro-gay rights positions. The real question for His Honor is whether the party is big enough to nominate one of those people, and even he's not sure. promising to do more campaigning for Reed, Giuliani told Reed, Well, I'll campaign for your opponent, if it helps.
BLITZER: Candy, so here's the question. Is Rudy Giuliani, though, moving to the right?
CROWLEY: He can't, and he knows he can't, at this point. I mean, what do we know about Rudy Giuliani, other than he has been a big-city mayor in New York and that he is pro-gay rights, pro-abortion rights, pro-gun licensing. So what he needs to do is change the conversation. That's what he does in all of these appearances because it always comes up. And he says, Listen, it's a big-tent party. They can take (ph) me. But here's what Republicans are about. We're about smaller government, bigger belief in people. So he needs to really change the conversation, obviously, for the primaries, when conservative Christians, conservative Republicans, the right wing of the party tend to vote in bigger numbers.
BLITZER: It's interesting. In recent days we have seen John McCain go to Liberty University, the Reverend Jerry Falwell's university in Virginia. Now we're going to see Giuliani going on a campaign swing for Ralph Reed. We'll continue to watch. Politics certainly makes strange bedfellows from time to time. Candy Crowley, part of the best political team on television, CNN, America's campaign headquarters.
Another presidential prospect is on our "Political Radar" today. The former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle says he's taking the next step in the process of deciding whether he will run for president. Daschle says he will visit three key presidential battlefields next month, that will be Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan.
New chapter in Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's relationship with the Capitol Hill police. As you remember, the Georgia Democrat was accused of hitting an officer who tried to stop her from entering the Capitol without proper identification. As she waits for word on whether she will be charged in the incident, McKinney has signed on as one of 41 sponsors of a House resolution praising the capitol police.
The House finally approved a 2007 budget plan very early this morning. But Republican leaders had to make additional concessions to members of their own party to get the 2.8 trillion dollar plan passed. GOP moderates want promises for modest increases in education and health and other social programs.
What was the pop star Moby doing on Capitol Hill this morning and what exactly does he have in common with Gun Owners of America and the Christian Coalition? They are all trying to save the Internet. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has the story. Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, save the Internet, indeed, was the cry on this rally today on Capitol Hill featuring the Congressman Ed Markey as well as Moby in support of what's called net neutrality. This is the idea that everything traveling backwards and forward online should go at the same speed and free for everyone. Their concern along with a group of diverse group of about 600 different groups, their concern is a House bill that could allow the big phone companies to charge for faster delivery on line meaning when you surf around on line some Web sites will load up quicker than others. The Web sites that have paid would load up quicker than the others. The diverse group includes strange bedfellows like moveon.org and the Christian Coalition. Some of the big phone sites are supporting this counter-side saying that net neutrality amounts to nothing more than government regulation of the Internet.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Abbi. Up next, the general in the hot seat on Capitol Hill. We are going to have some live updates on today's confirmation hearings for the CIA chief nominee Michael Hayden. Plus the president heads to the border. As the political battle over immigration plays out in congress. It's all smack in the middle of our "Strategy Session." Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Getting a story coming in from Florida. Let's check in with Zain Verjee once again for this developing story. Zain, what is going on?
VERJEE: Wolf, we want to show you some pictures from Hialeah in Florida of a school bus that crashed into a house that sits on the corner of a street. The bus is lying directly on the front yard of the house and as you can see in that video it is perched on the side of the house pressed up against a palm tree.
The traffic lights have also seem to have been destroyed in an earlier picture that I saw. We don't know if there actually is anybody in the house. We know, though, there are injuries. School kids have been put on stretchers. They have been put in the ambulances there that are on the scene already. They've been taken to hospital.
Emergency services appear in control of the situation, Wolf. The area has been cordoned off, as well. We don't know the cause of this crash. We also don't know how many children have been injured and we also don't know their ages. We're working on getting that information.
And just -- As the camera pulls out you see two cars that also appear to be involved in the accident. One was lying on the side. We don't know if any of the drivers of those cars have been injured. We do know though that the bus is run by a private company. We'll bring you more details when we have them. We know only that there are injuries. We don't know the cause of the crash or how many people have been injured. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Zain, awful picture there. Thanks for that. We'll continue to update our viewers on what is going on in Hialeah, Florida.
Today in our "Strategy Session" General Michael Hayden is certainly in the Senate hot seat as hearings continue on whether he is the best man to lead the CIA. Will he be able to win confirmation? Has he answered concerns over NSA surveillance?
Joining us today, Democratic analyst and radio talk show host Bill Press and Bay Buchanan the president of American Cause.
Senator Ron Widen, Democrat of Oregon made this point during a course of exchange he had with General Hayden earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WIDEN (D), OREGON: For me values are about following the law and doing what you say you're going to do. When it comes to values credibility is at the top of my list. Now general, having evaluated your words, I now have a difficult time with your credibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's let Bay respond to that. He clearly says I have a difficult time with your credibility. Based on the briefings he's had in the past, based on what he's learned, he says largely from the news media about what the NSA is up to.
BAY BUCHANAN, AMERICAN CAUSE: Well, there's no question, Wolf, what the Democrats want to do is come back again, hit the president again on this wiretapping. They don't agree with what he did. But as the general said, and I thought he was very good. Very forthright. I watched him some this morning. And his position is listen, "I felt this was necessary. I felt it was legal and the president gave me authority to do it. So I moved ahead."
You can't take - you can't question that General Hayden did what he thought was in the best interest of the American people. Security first in a time of war. So I think that's where it is going to end up.
BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: First of all, Wolf, I think he was in the warm seat. Not the hot seat. I thought the Democrats were much too kind to him, maybe with the exception of Ron Widen and Russ Feingold. But these are some serious questions. This is a man who is an architect of an illegal and an unconstitutional program. It seems to me as his duty, as Jack Cafferty pointed out, was to go to the FISA court and say do we need a court warrant here? Not to go to the White House and say is it OK to do this without a court warrant?
Number one. Number two, I thought he was very shifty today when he refused to confirm or deny the second phone record gathering program of 10 of millions of Americans. And he won't say it exists yet alone defend it. I think the American people deserve some answers.
BUCHANAN: In fairness what he said was I will answer that. Let's take that up in private session. There is no indication he will not answer that in private session. And he's a person that should make the decision as to what we do not want to release publicly because there's a national security threat out there today.
PRESS: But Bay, these are your calls. These are my calls. These are the calls of 10 of millions of Americans. Americans deserve to know if Big Brother is snooping into our bank records, our medical errors and our phone records.
BUCHANAN: There is oversight by the Senate. They are doing the appropriate thing. Let's take it right into private session.
BLITZER: Here's how he explained the views on his whole issue of accountability. General Hayden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYDEN: Accountability is one thing. And it is a very valuable thing and we will have it. But true accountability is not served by inaccurate, harmful or illegal public disclosures. I will draw a clear line between what we owe the American public by way of openness and what must remain secret in order for us to continue to do our job.
BLITZER: Let me let Bay weigh in on that. What do you think?
BUCHANAN: I think, Wolf, it's key. And he's absolutely correct. He's not one that's going to be able to say, listen, now I'm going to tell the public. He has to go by the rules. And they have decided certain things should be kept private for national security purposes. If the Senate listens to this information and says -- this particular committee hears it and says look it, we disagree with you then let them take it up with the president or whomever you need to take it up with. But first you go through channels. And they feel this is a national security threat. That this information should be not made public. That's where we have to stay until otherwise.
BLITZER: They just wrapped up, by the way, their open session. They're going to go into closed session with General Hayden. The members of the Senate Intelligence Committee will have a chance to get into some more specifics.
PRESS: Closed session he's going to tell them where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. Back on this point, Bay, look. I remember when conservatives were for openness and open government and transparency. Again, these are the phone records of millions of Americans to put it off and just say we don't deserve. We do deserve to know. It's not a matter between the president and the head of the CIA and the NSA. Not at all.
BLITZER: But Bill Press and Jack Cafferty, earlier, make a very fair point that the lawyers they consulted were all lawyers from the executive branch of government. There were no lawyers from the judicial branch or from the legislative branch that weighed in on this decision to go ahead with the warrantless wiretaps.
BUCHANAN: You know what that suggests the lawyers that work in the administration are not honest and forthright and good citizens. Good Americans. That they can't analyze the law. And that they're going to be yes-men. I don't buy that argument whatsoever. I think that they would absolutely say what they think is correct.
Just because Bill Press says it was not legal or Jack Cafferty or anyone else. Let's have an investigation. That's where we're going. There's a side of legals (ph) that say it is absolutely fine. And others that said it is not fine. Let's go from there.
PRESS: Bay, it doesn't prove they are not good citizens. What it proves is they are all team players. They are yes-men. It's the NSA director's job. And I would hope the CIA director's job to be independent and be an independent voice within the administration. Not just another yes man. I think that's the biggest question about General Hayden. Who is obviously very smart and knows intelligence. Is he independent enough?
BUCHANAN: I worked in the government. I had lawyers. They told me I could do things. They told me when I couldn't do things.
PRESS: You worked in a different administration.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit while we have some time on the immigration battle that is clearly unfolding. The president today, as we just saw in Yuma, Arizona, on the border with Mexico making his pitch. Making his appeal for comprehensive legislation. A common ground. A middle ground that will bring together both camps if you will. You're in one camp, Bay. Did he bring you together?
BUCHANAN: Absolutely not what he's proposing. When he talks about border security, Wolf, the real problem is his proposal was a joke. You can't take it seriously. I mean, 6,000 national guardsmen with two-week intervals to be trained unarmed. And then he says going to help them down there build structures. Well excuse me, the border agents don't build structures I think the Corps of Engineers that come in and do that.
This will never work. He's not serious about securing the border. All this was was appeasement to the American people so he can get amnesty through.
PRESS: Obviously Bay's problem with the president is not that he's sending the guard but he's not sending enough guard and he's not building a long enough fence. I think the president -- to me this is a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. And you have got the people like the president who want to solve it. You have got people, I think, like Bay and J.D. Hayworth and Tom Tancredo and others who want to grandstand on the issue.
I think the president has said when you start out, secure the border, enforce the sanctions, a guest worker program and path to citizenship. That's the way to go.
BLITZER: What is wrong with this picture? Bill Press supporting the president. Bay Buchanan opposing the president.
BUCHANAN: I tell you, that's exactly where we are. It's Democrats and the president who are pushing through amnesty and guest worker. This bill, if it passes, 66 million new immigrants living in this country in 20 years. That is being overrun.
PRESS: Let me tell you something. You know what? Here's the thing you forget. They are all going to vote and their families are going to vote. You're going to be dead forever.
BUCHANAN: That's why you guys are supporting it. Not what is good for America but what is good for Democrats.
BLITZER: We've got to move on now. Bill and Bay, thank you very much.
Coming up, he's a Duke University student accused of rape. Today he got his day in court. And we're going to tell you why he wants to be tried as soon as possible.
And with gas prices hitting record highs, will you be hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend? There's a new study that asks that very question and has some surprising results. We'll share them with you. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Zain once again for a closer look at some other stories making news. Zain?
VERJEE: Wolf, today one of three Duke students accused of rape appeared in court. An attorney for Reade Seligmann wants prosecutors to turn over any evidence that they have collected. Among the items they want, the cell phone logs of the accuser as well any mentions of a criminal past. The defense attorney says the 20-year-old wants to be tried as soon as possible so he will be able to resume classes at Duke in the fall.
It's the latest chapter in the legal saga of Lionel Tate. The Florida teen once the youngest person ever in U.S. history sentenced for life in prison. That conviction for killing a six-year-old playmate was overturned. Today Tate got 30 years behind bars for violating parole by using a gun to allegedly rob a pizza delivery man about a year ago. He still faces trial on the robbery charge in September.
Prices may rise but apparently nothing will come between Americans and their summer travel plans. Today, AAA reports drivers are intent on driving more this Memorial Day weekend than they did last year. This despite record high gas prices.
AAA says the number of Americans traveling 50 or more miles from home will increase almost one percent to just over 37 million. We're going to bring you more in a full report in our 7:00 p.m. hour. Wolf?
BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much. We'll check back with you soon.
Up next, he's a prominent senator and a former vice-presidential candidate but now Joe Lieberman is facing a challenge online.
And President Bush on the border. Still ahead, his one on one interview with our Suzanne Malveaux on immigration, Iraq and his own shrinking political capital. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's a new development in the whole issue of the government and the report that the government has been monitoring phone call records. Ali Velshi is joining us from New York. Ali, what's going on?
ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: A potentially big development, Wolf. BellSouth, one of the three companies named specifically in the article of "USA Today" article of May 11th has now demanded a retraction, a full retraction from "USA Today" of the false and unsubstantiated statement in the article particularly those which allege that BellSouth had some sort of arrangement or handed over phone call records of customers to the National Security Administration. BellSouth says those are false. It issued a statement earlier this week saying so.
Now it has sent a letter to "USA Today" and its publisher and its lawyers saying they want a retraction of the false and unsubstantiated statements outlined in the article. This of course puts some pressure on "USA Today" which cited sources to actually discuss what they know and what proof they have, Wolf.
BLITZER: Ali, thank you. The story clearly escalating.
Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman is facing an instate challenge from a fellow democrat in his race for reelection. Now his challenger, businessman Ed Lamont is taking his fight to the TV air waves with a little help from the Internet. Jacki Schechner has the details. Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Lamont has been getting a push from liberal blogs and Web sites for months. A lot of them really angry with Lieberman over his stance on the war in Iraq. Now Lamont is tapping back into that online support. A new series of TV ads have just come out and one of them features somebody you'll know of by name but not necessarily by face.
This guy right is Markos Moulitsas and he runs a top liberal blog, dailykos.com. We mentioned it often on this show. Ned Lamont has also got a blog where he is hosting these videos and trying to raise money to help keep these ads on television. We spoke to Lieberman's campaign today and they said the ads are cute. But basically cute never saved a job or stood up to big oil
They also say that featuring a blogger from California means the Lamont campaign is really out of touch with the Connecticut voter. Lieberman's site also has his own advertisements on it where he speaks frankly about his position on the war in Iraq. And he reaches out to Connecticut voters through that.
We should mention the Democratic state convention is this weekend and Lamont needs 15 percent of the delegate vote in order to get onto the ballot. Wolf?
BLITZER: In the latest poll, we should mention, Jacki, that Lieberman is still way, way ahead.
Still to come, senators will make the final decision but what do you think? Should General Michael Hayden head the CIA? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.
And Arnold Schwarzenegger refusing to fall in line with the president on immigration. We'll take a closer look at the California governor's independent streak. That's coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack once again for the "Cafferty File." Hi, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Hi, Wolf. In today's confirmation hearings General Michael Hayden insisted the administration's domestic warrantless surveillance program is legal. He says it was designed to catch terrorists, not spy on ordinary citizens.
The question is should the Senate confirm General Michael Hayden as the next director of the CIA?
Nick writes, "If he stays in the military, Rumsfeld will still be his boss. If Rumsfeld gives him an order and he disobeys, he could be court martialed. So who is really in charge?"
Marc in Aliso Viejo, California. "Yes, we should install a qualified and experienced General Hayden as head of the CIA. We're in a war on terrorism and we need a warrior with a war mentality to combat it now more than ever. Perhaps at a later date in peacetime we can install a non-military person."
Johnny in St. Petersburg, Florida. "If Hayden is confirmed as director of the CIA, it will be yet another rubber stamp on an administration that veils anything they do with an American flag and a Bible, regardless of how illegal or irresponsible."
Elaine in Canton, Ohio. "Yes, Hayden is the best we can get at this time and I believe he has integrity."
Kathleen in New London, Connecticut, "Should the CIA be headed by someone who advocates breaking the law? If so, call the Sopranos. They're better at getting their guy and Osama would have been wearing cement shoes by now."
And Matt in Carlsbad, California, "I will be happy to answer your question regarding Hayden's confirmation during a closed session."
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.
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