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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Israeli Forces Move Into Lebanon; President Bush Facing World of Crises; Rudy Giuliani For President?; When Should Elderly Citizens Stop Driving

Aired July 12, 2006 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And thank you all for joining us. Glad to have you with us.
Tonight's "Top Story" is a world full of crises, all of them at the boiling point. In our control room, we're watching the latest fighting in the Middle East, Iraq teetering on the edge of civil war, United Nations diplomats agonizing about North Korea and Iran.

We're going in depth on all of those issues tonight, a world of crises confronting President Bush. What he doing about it? Well, he's heading for one most crucial meetings ever of the world's economic superpowers, the G8.

Our "Top Story" coverage begins with White House correspondent Ed Henry, who's traveling with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush is stopping in Germany on his way to the G8 Summit in Russia, where a mountain of foreign policy headaches await him.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on a separate diplomatic mission to Paris to deal with Iran, again refusing to answer the U.S. offer for talks in exchange for suspending its nuclear enrichment program. As Rice threatened tough U.N. sanctions against Iran, she had to deal with by phone with yet another Middle East flare-up.

Israeli troops stormed into Lebanon, after Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed three more, which the Israeli prime minister dubbed an act of war and the White House called an unprovoked act of terrorism. Then, there's the nuclear threat from North Korea, as well as Iran, which the White House seems to be reacting to from a defensive posture.

STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We'll have to see. I think the diplomacy has set it up well. We will have to see what these countries decide.

HENRY: This has inflamed some conservatives, with Bill Kristol charging, the approach to North Korea is Clintonian.

But yet another hot spot, the ongoing war in Iraq, has left the president with a weakened hand. MIKE ALLEN, "TIME": The White House says the president has always said that approaches will change as circumstances change. But one of the circumstances that has changed, of course, is the president's standing at home and in the world.

HENRY: In need of allies, the president is making a special stop in Germany to further bond with new chancellor Angela Merkel.

CHARLES KUPCHAN, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Bush has focused on Germany, now that Chancellor Merkel is in office, as the key link to Europe. And that's important, because Tony Blair is very weak. And that gives the United States a new foothold in Europe.

HENRY: But there may be cracks in the president's one-time alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the eve of their own one-on-one talks before the G8 Summit. President Putin is reacting bitterly to a speech Vice President Cheney recently delivered in Lithuania, charging, Russia may be backsliding on the way to full democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I think your vice president's expression there is like his bad shot on his hunting trip.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY (on camera): The vice president's office declined to comment on that blast from Mr. Putin, which will only turn the heat up on Mr. Bush to really press his Russian counterpart harder this week, not just on the issue of reform, but bringing Mr. Putin on board to fight both Iran and North Korea in their thirst for nuclear weapons.

Ed Henry, CNN, with the president in Rostock, Germany.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And now we want to focus our "Top Story" coverage on the individual crises awaiting action by the president and other world leaders.

The hottest fighting right now, of course, is in the Middle East. Tonight, an Israeli airstrike hit the Palestinian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Gaza City -- Israeli troops on the move in southern Lebanon, after a new wave of attacks and the capture of two Israeli soldiers.

John Vause is monitoring the events along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Israeli offensive has been fast and fierce, by air, sea and ground, hitting Hezbollah camps and buildings in southern Lebanon. Bridges and roads have also been bombed. The strikes are devastating and widespread.

Many Lebanese were sent running to cover, while, on the Israeli side, residents have been ordered to bomb shelters, after Hezbollah fired dozens of Katyusha rockets and mortars. At least four people were hurt.

For the first time since Israeli withdrew from Lebanon six years ago, Israeli tanks and soldiers are heading back in force, on a rescue mission to save two Israeli soldiers kidnapped while on patrol on the Israeli side of the border by Hezbollah guerrillas.

Three other soldiers were killed in that attack. And in the hours which followed, another four Israelis died when their tank hit an explosive planted just inside Lebanese territory. Another Israeli was killed by gunfire trying to reach them.

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, is holding the government in Beirut responsible, saying the kidnappings and attacks are an act of war.

"The events this morning are not a terror attack," he said, "but an action of a sovereign state, which attacked Israeli for no reason and without having been provoked."

Amid celebrations in Lebanon, the government said it did not condone Hezbollah's attack. It's calling for urgent U.N. intervention to stop what it calls Israel's aggressive retaliation.

The leader of Hezbollah, which controls much of south Lebanon, says the two Israeli soldiers will be released only in exchange for Lebanese prisoners.

"If the Israeli thinks that, through military action, he will get the prisoners, then he is delusional, delusional, delusional," he said.

Israel is now facing a double dilemma. Despite a wide-scale military operation in Gaza, one soldier has already been held captive there for more than two weeks. The militant group Hamas is also demanding freedom for prisoners. And now another two soldiers are hostage somewhere in Lebanon.

(on camera): The head of Israel's northern forces says all of Lebanon is now a legitimate target, a clear and dangerous indication that this military operation could spread beyond Hezbollah's strongholds in the south.

John Vause, CNN, on the Israel-Lebanon border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And our next crisis spot tonight is Iraq, where the violence between Sunnis and Shiites continues to grow. In just the past few days alone, 100 Iraqis have been killed in Baghdad alone.

And today, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld touched down to visit U.S. forces there. With all that violence, the last thing he wanted to talk about was sending American forces home.

Here's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Donald Rumsfeld's day began well, amid tight security and a cheer from exactly the type of troops any commander would like to lead in war.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I am delighted to be able to be here and have a chance to thank each of you personally for your service.

ROBERTSON: But, as on previous visits to this conflict, he was dogged by soldiers' frustrations they don't have the equipment they need in war. This soldier was complaining about armored vehicles.

CORPORAL ARTHUR KING, U.S. ARMY: Our company, we go out and look for IEDs. And, right now, we have one of the oldest pieces of equipment in country. It's called a buffalo. And ours is the oldest. And we -- the other day, two weeks ago, we saw a brand-new one in downtown New York City.

ROBERTSON: For many soldiers gathered for Rumsfeld at the massive U.S. air base in Balad, IEDs or roadside bombs are the biggest concern. They are the biggest killers.

RUMSFELD: We have got $3.6 billion that dwarfs anything New York City does just for IED work.

ROBERTSON: Rumsfeld flew the roughly 45 miles to his next meeting in Baghdad, the roads booby-trapped with explosives deemed too dangerous to drive.

He met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who, only hours earlier, was being grilled by his parliament over his handling of a surge in sectarian violence over the weekend. More than 140 people have been killed since last Friday. And there are fears Iraq may be slipping towards civil war.

In the short time Secretary Rumsfeld was in town, a suicide bomber killed seven and wounded 20 in a Baghdad restaurant. A car bomber killed two and wounded two others. And, north of the capital, 20 people kidnapped earlier in the day were later found dead.

The U.S. commanding general suggested, more troops may have to be deployed in Baghdad to control the violence. And Rumsfeld said it was too early to estimate when troop pullouts from Iraq might begin.

RUMSFELD: The Iraqi security forces have improved in experience, in training, in equipment, in professionalism, and have, in my view, been performing a great service for the Iraqi people.

ROBERTSON: Amid the same secrecy that cloaked his arrival in Iraq, Rumsfeld was whisked away quietly, better informed, albeit from inside a very tight and exclusive security bubble.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, with so many crises to confront, can the Bush administration handle it all, and how will it pull it off? We will get into that in just a few minutes with a -- a team of really smart "Top Story" contributors.

First, our first countdown of the top 10 most popular stories on CNN.com.

And, for that, we welcome a brand-new member of our team, Melissa Long of CNN Pipeline, which is on our site. And it's a great way to stay on top of the news when you can't watch TV.

MELISSA LONG, CNN PIPELINE: Mmm-hmm.

ZAHN: Of course, we expect people to be watching TV 24 hours a day, Melissa.

LONG: Of course.

ZAHN: But she's going to bring us the countdown every night from the Pipeline studio in Atlanta.

Welcome aboard. Glad to have you with us.

LONG: Thank you very much. Delighted to join you, Paula.

All day, we have been monitoring CNN.com. Nearly 20 million people have checked out the site so far. And here's a story that's coming in at number 10 on the countdown.

It was the third and final space walk of the shuttle Discovery's 13-day mission. It took two astronauts seven hours to inspect the shuttle's heat shield and practice making repairs. Discovery, in case you're keeping track, is scheduled to return to Earth Monday.

Number 9 -- one day after concrete ceiling panels killed a woman in a Boston tunnel, city officials have found 60 other trouble spots in that same ceiling. Prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation.

And, Paula, I will have the numbers eight and seven on our countdown in just a little bit -- back to you.

ZAHN: We appreciate that. I was living in Boston when that Big Dig was under way. And, I can tell you, it was just as controversial then as it is tonight.

Look forward to...

LONG: And an extremely expensive project.

ZAHN: ... the rest of the countdown.

LONG: OK. Looking forward to it.

ZAHN: Thanks, Melissa.

Still to come, we have got several other top stories we're following tonight, including a terrifying disaster that seems barely under control.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): The "Top Story" right now out west: wildfires, parched conditions, flames running out of control, thousands of people at the mercy of shifting winds -- and there's no end in sight.

Plus, our "Top Story" in politics: Is Rudy already running? Nine-Eleven made him American's mayor, but does a liberal Republican stand a chance to be president?

All that and more just ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

The "Top Story" out West tonight: wildfires. In a little bit, we're going to take you live to a huge one that's been out of control for most of the day. Will it be contained? We will see.

Right now, though, we continue our "Top Story" coverage of a world of crises. As we speak, President Bush is in Germany on his way to the G8 Summit.

But Israeli troops are moving deeper into Lebanon. The violence in Iraq is spiraling out of control. At the U.N., continued U.S. pressure hasn't ended the stalemate over stopping North Korea's missile tests. And the Security Council has put Iran's nuclear program back on the agenda. Is this all too much for the president to handle?

Well, that's certainly what "TIME" magazine's cover implies this week. It proclaims "The End of Cowboy Diplomacy" and talks about the limits of going it alone. But will a slow diplomatic approach do any good right now?

Let's ask our "Top Story" panel of experts, Steve Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations, and "U.S. News & World Report" columnist Mort Zuckerman.

Good to see both of you. Welcome.

STEVE COOK, DOUGLAS DILLON FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Pleasure to be here. Thank you. ZAHN: Have either one ever -- of you ever seen this complicated series of issues confronting a president at any given time?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": No, I don't think we have.

But, on the other hand, what we are -- it's not as lethal a threat, for example, as President Roosevelt faced in the 1940s in World War II, but it is an enormously complicated and difficult threat for us, because it's all interconnected.

We're not dealing with powerful countries. We're dealing with weak countries. We're dealing with terrorists, people who are, for the first time, not subject to normal deterrents, because they're perfectly willing to die in the service of whatever they think their cause is.

So, you have Hezbollah in Lebanon. You have Hamas in Gaza. They're all connected to Iran. Iran is also helping out the Shia and supporting the Shia in -- in Iraq. And the reasons why we're concerned with a weak state like North Korea and, indeed, with a weak state, relatively like Iran, is because they have the capacity or are about to have the capacity to distribute nuclear weapons to people who we do not wish to have nuclear weapons in their hands.

So, it's all interconnected. And it's a very complicated and new challenge for America.

ZAHN: So, Steve, how does the administration approach this all at once?

COOK: Well, they really have no choice. They have to approach each and every issue at the same time, with the same kind of level of intensity.

So, we're talking about White House staffers working 18-, 19-, 20-hour days. It's a good thing that the administration has moved toward diplomacy, rather than unilateral steps in trying to solve these problems.

As Mort said, all of these issues are interconnected. And Washington's power in the world is based on the alliances that it has. And it needs to bring its friends' influence to bear on these issues as well.

ZAHN: But alliances that everybody concedes have been degraded by the prosecution of this war. How does that compromise the ability of the U.S. to move forward on these very complex and dangerous issues?

ZUCKERMAN: Well, there's no doubt but that the -- it's not so much that we entered the war in Iraq. It's how the war in Iraq has been fought and how it's gone.

It's absorbed a tremendous amount of our energy. It's taken the oxygen out of the room in so many different parts of the world. But you take a country like Russia. We need Russia in the Security Council, as a part of multilateral diplomacy, as Steve was referring to, in order to put pressure on Iran and the Security Council and pressure on North Korea.

Both Russia and China are really unwilling to impose sanctions, which means we have no effective way of forcing them, in effect, to abandon their nuclear weapons programs.

ZAHN: Sure.

ZUCKERMAN: So, if...

ZAHN: And very little progress...

ZUCKERMAN: The world...

ZAHN: ... made between China...

ZUCKERMAN: Right.

ZAHN: ... and North Korea today.

ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

I don't think China would like to be isolated in the Security Council. If we had Russia, I think there would be a much better chance that we would get China. But that's the kind of problem that we're facing. We're in a multipolar world, where we're not dealing with strong countries -- we're dealing with weak countries -- and where we have a limited effect on some of these countries, in terms of getting them to do what we want them to do.

ZAHN: With many people out there saying Iraq is on the brink of civil war, we did thought hear Donald Rumsfeld address the issue of bringing American troops home.

ZUCKERMAN: No.

ZAHN: So, what can we expect in the weeks to come?

(CROSSTALK)

COOK: Well, I don't think that a suggestion that American troops coming home any time soon in the next 12, 18, or 24 months is a wise move for the United States.

If Iraq is on the brink of civil war, with 130,000-some-odd troops there at the moment, they're the only thing that's essentially keeping this country together. So, bringing them home would only make a very, very difficult situation much worse.

ZAHN: Back to the issue of North Korea.

ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

ZAHN: Just a quick final thought on how you think this plays out in the next two, three weeks?

ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, I think, in the next two, three weeks, nothing much is going to happen. The U.N., I think, is going to be, basically, toothless, in terms of its ability to get North Korea to do what we want, unless we can impose serious sanctions.

And I don't see that's going to come out of the United Nations. So, we're going to be doing just jaw, jaw, jaw, without any real ability to put any pressure on North Korea. On the other hand, their -- their -- their weapons system collapsed, which we may have had something to do with.

But, be that as it may, they are still going to be a long-term threat, particularly because they can sell and will sell anything to anybody. That's what they have done.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, good to have you with us.

COOK: Pleasure.

ZAHN: A "Top Story" team here tonight. We hope to bring you back.

ZUCKERMAN: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Will you come back?

ZUCKERMAN: Yes, of course.

ZAHN: The right answer there.

Mort Zuckerman, Steve Cook, again, thanks.

ZAHN: Right now, we are going to go straight back to Melissa Long in Atlanta for the CNN.com countdown.

Hi again, Melissa.

LONG: Hello, Paula.

Once again counting down the top stories on CNN.com -- at number eight, you heard about it earlier in Ed Henry's report, Russian President Vladimir Putin reacting to Vice President Dick Cheney's recent criticism of Russia. Putin called it -- and I quote -- "an unsuccessful hunting shot."

And number seven -- Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar has put his Aspen, Colorado, mansion on the market. The prince's getaway has -- get this -- 15 bedrooms, 16 bathrooms, sits on 95 acres. Not sure how many people can actually afford this, the asking price, $135 million.

Maybe if we pool everybody's piggy banks together, we will be able to afford it. I don't know.

We will have numbers...

ZAHN: To give you an idea of how big that house is...

LONG: Please.

ZAHN: ... you know what glider pilots tell you?

LONG: No.

ZAHN: That they actually fly over that house to pick up the thermals -- it's so big -- coming off the air-conditioning ducts. It -- it makes them go aloft.

LONG: Well...

ZAHN: That's a big house.

LONG: Yes. That kind of puts it into perspective. Pretty amazing.

ZUCKERMAN: Fifty-six thousand square feet.

ZAHN: Melissa, Mort just added a fun fact, 56,000-square-foot home.

LONG: Fifty-six thousand.

ZUCKERMAN: And 10,000 square feet for the log cabin next door to the house.

COOK: Sounds like you have been there.

ZUCKERMAN: I have been there. And that's exactly what it is. It's astounding.

ZAHN: Is it worth what he's charging?

ZUCKERMAN: If he can -- it will be worth whatever -- whatever -- whatever he can sell it -- sell it for. There are not too many people who want to have 56 rooms and 55 bathrooms.

ZAHN: Who knew that I would have to have the important world affairs columnist comment on real estate, which is also his second love.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: All right, Melissa, thank you.

Thank you again, team, here.

It is blazing hot and tinder dry out West, the perfect recipe for another "Top Story" -- coming up next, tremendous wildfires. Is there any progress at all in containing one of the biggest ones?

And, then, a little bit later on, a top health story for every baby boomer -- your eyes and your reflexes, yes, we have to admit, they're getting worse. Is it time to hang up your car keys or get your mom and dad to? Well, there's a big debate raging around the country about what kind of tests all of us should take after the age of 60. No, I'm not there yet, but I hope to be one of these days.

We're going to take a short break. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight, the "Top Story" in the West: There is a wildfire raging in Yucca Valley, California. Thirty-seven thousand acres have been burned. Firefighters have been able to contain just 16 percent of the fire so far. In the process, 30 buildings have already been destroyed, and 1,500 more are threatened.

Hundreds of people have had to flee their homes already.

We're going to get the very latest now from Chris Lawrence, who joins me from nearby in Morongo Valley, California.

So, Chris, how bad is it out there tonight?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, just got an update.

Fire officials now tell us, 37,000 acres have burned, but the fire is now 16 percent contained. It doesn't sound like much, but you have to consider, we started this day at zero, so, it indicates they are making some progress.

When the fire came through here, it literally scorched the earth. I mean, you can see, it left nothing but ash all the way -- all the way up there. You can see, the fire ran almost right up to the driveway of that one house. Fortunately, for the person who lived there, it stopped right there, and the line held.

Not so fortunate were a lot of other structures in the area. What we have been told is, as you take a look at some of the video from -- from around this area, Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, and here in Pioneertown, structures were burned. The fire crews have been out all day, a lot of them saying it is incredibly hot.

It topped out at maybe about 100, a little over 100 degrees today, in extremely, extremely dry conditions out here. They have been dropping water from helicopters. They have been going down, trying to stamp out some of the fire. And, right now, their biggest goal is to establish a 30-mile fire line to try to slow this fire down -- Paula.

ZAHN: What is it they expect in days to come? The greatest fear is, of course, that the winds shift at the last minute here.

LAWRENCE: Yes.

And, especially, right now, what we're hearing is, the forecast is warm and dry, which basically means bad and worse. And if it's anything like last night -- you know, normally, around this time, as the sun starts to set, the firefighters get a little bit of a break. Last night, there was almost no moisture overnight. So, the fire did not lie down, as it normally does.

If that's the case again tonight, which, right now, it looks like it will be, we -- we don't expect it to be a lot of progress overnight.

ZAHN: You know, we're looking at an aerial view now, Chris. And it's so hard to get a sense of what it means to have 37,000 acres go up in a flame. How big of an area can you translate that to, to help us understand how huge an area we're talking about?

LAWRENCE: Well, the -- the one thing I would say is that these areas aren't densely populated.

You know, you're talking about, a lot of these homes have a couple acres around them, so, we're not talking about the level of damage if it was in a more densely populated area, but, still, an incredible, incredible area. And a lot of homeowners here say they have never seen anything like it.

When the fire came by, it scorched the earth so bad, they felt like they were living, in one woman's words, on another planet.

ZAHN: Just looking from the pictures, it's easy to understand that.

Chris Lawrence, thanks so much. Stay safe. And keep the reports coming for us.

And, right now, we're going to go straight back to Melissa Long for more of CNN.com count -- that would be dot-com countdown, backwards. Wow, I'm speaking a little fast there tonight.

LONG: Thank you, Paula. Oh, trying to cram a lot of news in tonight. That's why, I'm sure.

Number six on the list -- Joey Buttafuoco, who made headlines in the 1990s, when his teenage girlfriend shot his ex-wife, well, Buttafuoco has been sentenced to a year in jail. He pleaded no contest to possessing a weapon as a felon. He was already on probation, after pleading guilty to insurance fraud.

Number five on that list -- the United Nations. The U.N. has agreed to a request from Poland to rename the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It will now be known as the Former Nazi German Concentration Camp of Auschwitz. Poland says, this change stresses that Nazi Germany established the camp.

Numbers four and three are still ahead -- back to you, Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Melissa. See you in a little bit.

LONG: OK.

ZAHN: So, what's tonight's "Top Story" in politics? He's a very familiar face, household name. Is Rudy Giuliani going to go for the White House?

And the "Top Story" in health, a question all of us baby boomers need to ask ourselves, and especially our parents: When is it time to stop driving?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. The top story in politics tonight, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on what looks like a whole lot like the presidential campaign trail this week. His tough but compassionate tone after 9/11 put him on the national political map. But could a liberal Republican really have a chance of winning his party's nomination? Here's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Talk about your big tent. That's Rudy Giuliani, the former Republican mayor of New York, pro-abortion rights, pro-gun licensing, pro-gay rights.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: How it going senator?

SEN. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: We're doing great, we're having a great day here in Pittsburgh.

CROWLEY: Campaigning for one of the Senate's most conservative members, Rick Santorum, who is none of the above.

GIULIANI: Over that wall there?

CROWLEY: Whether they are running for Senate or House or burrow president, his honor is happy to make headlines and raise money for them. In a season of dimmed hopes for Republicans, he still has 9/11 shine, and he shares.

DEWINE: This man symbolizes for the country the battle against terrorism to come in and endorse me here in Cleveland today is very, very important.

CROWLEY: Monday, Cleveland, Tuesday, Little Rock, Chicago and Pittsburgh. Wednesday, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania by day, Baltimore tonight. Has ambition, will travel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayor, when are you going to make a decision about running for president?

GIULIANI: Not tonight.

CROWLEY: Thinking about running for president often involves this kind of thing, a kind of surrogate's race, campaigning for everyone else.

GIULIANI: You know, quite honestly, also as part of it, saying to myself, "Does it look like I have a chance in 2008 and make that decision after the 2006 election?"

CROWLEY: The point is to see how it goes. It goes well.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, NEW YORK POST: He is a rock star. Rudy Giuliani is treated like some different level of celebrity politician, Bill Clinton like. People clamor to be around him, clamor to see him.

CROWLEY: Though a fiscal conservative, Giuliani's positions on bedrock social issues like abortion and gay rights put him at odds with much of his party, which is to say just because they really, really like him, doesn't mean they'll vote for him.

DEWINE: The Republican Party is a big tent party, there certainly is room for him to run. Whether he gets the nomination, certainly is another question.

CROWLEY: And the decision to run for president is not just about whether you have a chance. It's about whether you want to take it.

HABERMAN: I'm not sure that Rudy Giuliani necessarily wants to go through the level of scrutiny that presidential level candidates have to go through.

CROWLEY: It's hard to keep the shine on when you're under the glaring lights of your campaign trail. Still, there are some interesting tea leaves. Giuliani has recently hired more people for his political action committee, which last month raised $2 million at a New York fundraiser. His inner circle immediately pointed out that's $1 million more than another Republican alpha male, John McCain had raised the night before. All signs of a guy who may be ramping up.

GIULIANI: Questions?

QUESTION: Any presidential plans you want to share with us tonight?

GIULIANI: None that I want to share with you right now.

CROWLEY: For now, Giuliani is happy with his '06 role, playing the part of super star without the burn.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: With senior national correspondent John Roberts and senior political analyst Bill Schneider, all part of the best political team on T.V., welcome all.

So Candy, you just did a very good job of outlining some of the social issues that would probably make Rudy Giuliani one of the most liberal candidates perhaps running for the Republican nomination. The question is, would the conservative base of President Bush ever embrace him under any circumstances?

CROWLEY: Well, look, he's running on the fact that he's the fiscal conservative. He said look, what binds us here as Republicans is the fact that we believe in smaller government. We believe in the power of the people, we believe in tax cuts, and those certainly ring true to conservatives.

On the social agenda side, he clearly is out of step, particularly with those who vote in the primary. But the school of thought within the Giuliani camp and those around him who support him is, look if there's a very bad year for Republicans this year, maybe Republicans start looking around saying, should we get outside the template?

And in the end, what every party wants when they go to pick their nominee is who's going to win and they think that Giuliani could have the credentials that could go across parties and could win in that general and a lot of people say that's what they'll vote on in the primary.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Paula, you know, a lot of it could have to do as well with who it looks like is going to be the Democratic nominee. If it looks like Hillary Clinton is the one who's going to take it, Republicans who are against Giuliani's positions on gun licensing, gay rights and abortion may hold their nose and vote for him because they think that not only would he attract all of the voters for the Republican Party, but he could peel off an awful lot of Democrats in a general election as well.

ZAHN: All right but John, are you really saying they would ignore the fact that this is a candidate that's had no national experience to speak with, nor any experience in international affairs?

ROBERTS: They know that this fellow is a great manager, he's a hero still from the 9/11 afterglow. He's the one person who still has a lot of that, and if they're looking for somebody that can be a standard bearer on national security ,which is what the Republican Party likes to think it stands for, Giuliani could be their guy.

ZAHN: But national security also is an area, Bill Schneider, where John McCain has some pretty good numbers. And it strikes me that they're both going to be fighting for maybe some of those Democrats or -- and both have equal problems with conservatives, so how does that play out?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. McCain stands right in the path of Rudy Giuliani. McCain is making more overtures to conservatives, he's catering to the Bush base, collecting a lot of money from Bush supporters.

You know, when you go to Republican meetings as I've been to as an observer, I always get the same question. Who can beat Hillary? Just like when you go to Democratic meetings, they always ask the same question. Can Hillary win? Well the answer is Rudy Giuliani may be able to beat Hillary, but so can John McCain, and John McCain probably at this point has better ties, more ties to Bush supporters and to conservatives.

CROWLEY: And what's interesting Paula, is that the two men are good friends, and in fact people around both of them say particularly around Giuliani say yes, he's watching what McCain is doing, not that he wouldn't go ahead and run if McCain runs, but the fact that they're both friends and they both sort of appeal to the same sort of people and do not appeal to the same sort of people makes it really interesting to watch.

ZAHN: And John, we have seen Rudy Giuliani now go into the Republican strongholds and raise a tremendous amount of money for various congressional races and we've also seen how coy he was in this piece preceding our discussion here about whether he's going to run or not. So what's holding him back from telling us what his real inclination is?

ROBERTS: I think it's the same thing that's holding most Republicans back, and that is that right now it's all about 2006, and they don't want to be seen getting out there blowing their own horns. They are going to be measured, and this is what Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the RNC told me -- they are going to be measured by how well they do for Republican candidates in 2006. So for somebody to get out there and say yes, I'm running for president, puts the focus on them, takes it off of the congressional candidates, and that's going to be very bad in the eyes of the rest.

ZAHN: All right you three are under fire now. Will he or won't he? Candy Crowley, quick yes or no? John Roberts, Bill Schneider, will Rudy Giuliani really put his hat in the ring? Candy, you first?

CROWLEY: Boy, based on absolutely nothing but my gut instinct, I think he'd like to, I think in the end he won't.

ZAHN: John Roberts.

ROBERTS: I'd like to bet a dollar, so I'll put one on this, yes.

SCHNEIDER: And I'll say no.

ZAHN: John, you're so generous tonight. Handing that money around.

ROBERTS: If I ever bet any more than a dollar I'm destined to lose so that's as high as I go.

ZAHN: Alright, a wise man then learns from his previous mistakes. John Roberts, Bill Schneider, Candy Crowley, thank you all.

"LARRY KING LIVE is coming up in a few minutes. Hi, Larry, you're back in L.A. Man, you've racked up those bonus miles. You have a very special guest tonight, a former colleague of mine, Dan Rather.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: I sent him your best.

ZAHN: You did, good. Thank you.

KING: In fact, I came in, and he was sitting at my producer, Greg Christianson's desk, working the terminal. ZAHN: Well, we're out routing for him. You're going to open up the phone lines tonight too, with Dan Rather?

KING: We are. We've got phone lines, emails and lots of questions for Dan Rather and that exit from CBS. Dan rather for the hour, the top of the hour, that's 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific Paula.

ZAHN: And as you know Larry, a lot of his colleagues are pretty upset about the way that whole thing was handled. It will be interesting to see what the supreme gentleman himself has to say. I've never seen Dan Rather betray that. We'll be watching to see if you break him down.

KING: By the way, he sends his best to you.

ZAHN: Thank you, all my best to him as well. Look forward to watching you tonight. Appreciate it.

Moving on to Melissa Long who's back with our CNN.com countdown. Sort of forgot where we were on the list. What number do we start with here?

LONG: Number four, Paula. We have more on the investigation in yesterday's deadly terror attack in Mumbai, India. CNN's sister network is now reporting that timers hidden in pencils have been found in three of the seven sites where the bombs went off, 185 people were killed. More than 700 injured.

Number three, tony award winning actor Barnard Hughes has died. He was best-known for his work on the big screen, on TV, also especially on Broadway. Mr. Hughes was 90. Stories two and one on our countdown just minutes away. Back to you, Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much Melissa. We'll check back with you in just a little bit.

Now, remember when you couldn't wait until you were old enough to drive. Well, that was probably quite a while ago, wasn't it? Well, coming up tonight's top health story, have you gotten too old to drive? How about your parents, and should there be a limit? At what age do you need to give up those keys?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Coming up next our top story in health tonight and one that could alarm anyone with an older parent who still drives. Now, just look at the aftermath of this tragic accident last weekend in Connecticut. An 85-year-old man drove his car into a crowd in New London, 27 people were hurt. No one has been charged, the accident still under investigation tonight, but with millions of baby boomers cruising into retirement, many of them with no intention of giving up the wheel, accidents with elderly drivers are increasing at a disturbing rate. Here's Brianna Keilar.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The scene was horrific. Three years ago an 86-year-old driver lost control of his car. He plowed into a farmer's market in Santa Monica, California, killing ten people, including a 7-month-old baby. This September George Russell Weller will stand trial on ten counts of vehicular manslaughter. He's pleaded not guilty, saying he accidentally stepped on the gas instead of the brake. Many pointed to his age as a factor in the crash. While the story got national attention and prompted calls for new legislation, state lawmakers have found no easy solution.

PETER KISSINGER, AAA FDN. FOR TRAFFIC SAFETY: This is a serious public health situation which is only going to get worse as more and more people move into that age bracket.

KEILAR: A study by the American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety found the risk of a fatal crash increases dramatically after age 65. Peter Kissinger is president.

KISSINGER: By 2030, one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. So, unless we lower the risk associated with that age group, again, we will see a commensurate increase in the number of crashes and the number of serious crashes in this country, and I don't think we as a society are prepared for that. Only two states, Illinois and New Hampshire require older Americans to renew their driver's license, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

MORTY MORRISON, TEACHES ELDERLY DRIVING: The speed limit up here is 15 miles per hour.

KEILAR (on camera): Do you really go 15 miles per hour around here.

MORRISON: Personally?

KEILAR: Personally?

MORRISON: Not for publication.

KEILAR (voice-over): When Mr. Morrison went to renew his license this year in Connecticut he was surprised he didn't get an exam.

(on camera): Did they check your sight?

MORRISON: They didn't check to see if I have anything.

KEILAR: Morty teaches a course to the elderly on how best to avoid accidents and when seniors should stop driving.

MORRISON: We are not as nimble nor do we have the strength. Some people can't handle a wheel in an emergency.

KEILAR: The Insurance Institute says older drivers have higher rates of fatal crashes based on miles driven than any other group except very young drivers.

(on camera): Do you think elderly drivers get a bad wrap? MORRISON: You have to be tolerant. They generalize that all elderly are. In other words you see one accident and therefore you attribute it to all people of a certain age group.

KEILAR: Peter Kissinger says for the most part older drivers do exercise caution.

KISSINGER: They tend not to drink and drive, they tend to wear their seat belts, they tend not to speed, and they tend to exercise the judgment that they've developed for many years of driving.

KEILAR: Morty is aware of his limitations but still feels he's a good driver. His license will be up for renewal when he turns 100 and for now he has no intention of hanging up his keys. Brianna Keilar, CNN, Danbury, Connecticut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: We still don't know how much he speeds. George Weller, the 86-year-old you saw in Brianna's piece, who is accused of plowing into the farmers market is no longer driving, but when should the keys be taken away from an older driver?

Joining me now from Green Valley, Arizona, Hershel McGriff, who retired from NASCAR racing in his 70s, but still plans to race again when he's 80. And from Virginia Beach, Dr. Barbara Freund, a geriontologist at the Eastern Virginia Medical School. And in Buffalo, New York, automotive expert Lauren Fix. Glad to have all three of you with us.

So Hershel, you are 78-years-old right now? What would it take for someone to your keys away from you?

HERSHEL MCGRIFF, RETIRED NASCAR DRIVER: Well, it would take quite a bit because I feel I'm as talented a driver as I've ever been because I run a big motor home, a 45-motor home with a car behind. I drive my pickup with boats, I drive at work all the time, so I'm constantly in a car or some kind of equipment.

So it would take quite a bit to wrestle them away from me. I just feel that in the low 80s -- when you're 78, you've got a lot of friends that are older, and 82, 83, I just think that they shouldn't be judged on what they're doing now. But I'd say around 84, 85, they ought to stop, take a physical, and have a driver's test every couple years.

ZAHN: Right. But as you know, the statistics show, Hershel, that these accidents seem to dramatically increase after the age of 65, so do you think it would be a good idea to have mandatory tests at that point, have your vision checked every year? Have your reflexes tests?

MCGRIFF: Well, I think that would -- you know, I think that would be hard to accomplish at that young. I can't believe anyone that's 65 can't drive good. According to like I say, I drove a race car up to the time I was 74, reflexes were good. I only quit because you know my life was getting so good, I didn't want to get hurt, and so I pulled out and retired and that's the car behind me that I was driving at the time.

ZAHN: Yes, smart guy not to have a false sense of security there as you're barreling around at over 100 miles-an-hour. Now Lauren, you did run dead-on into this issue where you really had to take the keys from someone in your family, your grandmother? And that's something that we all face in our families.

LAUREN FIX, AUTOMOTIVE EXPERT: It's a tough situation, Paula.

ZAHN: Go ahead, Lauren.

FIX: It was a tough situation, Paula. I think the situation is, my grandmother liked her freedom, she was alone, and she lived on the east coast of Florida where there's a lot of people need to get around.

And there was a point where I got a call from her insurance company saying she had another accident, should we get this car fixed? And I said hold on, I got in a plane, and went down there and we made it a process of her agreeing this is costing you money for this car, it's your insurance costs a certain amount, let's trade this in.

We went through the process, she actually traded in her license with me, and you can convince someone to do it for their safety, for other's people's safety. I mean, think about it. When she started driving, and she's in her 90s now, and this is when she was 80, she had been driving for 64 years.

And cars in 1943 had no safety features, they were basically metal tanks. And even though I race and racers do have a different type of reaction, the average driver doesn't. They don't maintain their cars, nine out of 10 vehicles on the road aren't maintained. And if they're not maintaining their cars, their reactions are a little slower, they put you at risk and they put themselves at risk.

ZAHN: So Barbara, what is really the answer here? We heard Hershel say he thought it would be acceptable to have people start being tested at the age of 84, but other folks would like to see mandatory testing begin at the age of 65 when we know statistically these accidents tend to dramatically increase.

BARBARA FREUND, EASTERN VIRGINIA MEDICAL SCHOOL: Yes. Actually, aging isn't necessarily the marker here. You can be a good driver or a bad driver at any age. But the reality is there are conditions that are associated with aging that can impair driving.

And so, you know, Hershel made the point that he doesn't know anybody as young as 65 who would be a bad driver or who couldn't pass a test and in fact in my clinic, I've had people in their early 50s who have a cognitive impairment or a dementia that was sufficient enough to impair their driving.

And then I've had people at the other end who were well into their early 90s who passed the driving test without any difficulty at all. So the rate of decline is so highly individually variable that we really need to look at testing the individuals.

Do you want to pick an age? You know, sure, we can pick 65, we can pick 70. It really wouldn't make that much difference. We know that as you get older, the declines are going to be much more prevalent.

ZAHN: All right, but Hershel seems to think that he's just as astute at the wheel as he was maybe 10 years ago. Is that really true? Do you really think your reflexes are what they were a decade ago?

MCGRIFF: Well, I really do because my vision's good. Another thing, if they were going to give a driving test at 65, I could get the tester lessons, I think, as much as I drive. And I think you're going way too young.

I think you're going to have to get about maybe 80 or above because it's just hard to pick out that occasional driver. I think it's the people that have relatives that know that maybe there's a problem and have them tested, and it's going to be up to individuals to kind of make some assessments on what they should do with some of their relatives.

ZAHN: Well, you all make some very interesting points. Lauren Fix, Barbara Freund, Hershel McGriff. Hershel, best of luck when you race at 80. We'll probably be there with our cameras watching you. Thanks again, really appreciate you all being with us.

Now onto Melissa Long, who has a look at what's topping out on the CNN.com countdown.

LONG: Once again, hello Paula. Coming in at No. 2, a story we covered earlier during the program. Fighting between Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon. And the top story today, supermodel Christie Brinkley and her fourth husband Peter Cooke have separated after 10 years together. Back to you, Paula.

ZAHN: We're going to leave it there, Melissa. And the government has unveiled a new emergency alert system ready for the digital age. We're going to show you in just a minute and then top of the hour on "LARRY KING LOVE," he'll be joined by Dan Rather on life after CBS. And he's going to be taking your phone calls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Remember the old civil defense alerts on radio and T.V.? Well, times, they are a changing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a test of the digital emergency alert system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Some folks were dazzled by that today. FEMA showed off a brand-new digital emergency alert system that can send simultaneous instant warnings about natural or manmade emergencies to cell phones, BlackBerrys, to anyone logged onto the Internet, to every cable T.V. channel and satellite radio as well. The system should be up and running in all 50 states, we're told, by the end of next year.

And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. We're so glad you dropped by and we hope you'll join us, same time, same place, tomorrow night. We'll be here, we hope you will be too. Again, thanks for joining us. Have a great night. Larry King joins Dan Rather right now.

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

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