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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Al Franken; Pakistan and al Qaeda; Behind the Lines in Iraq

Aired September 28, 2006 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information 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: He helped break the Watergate scandal. Now he's breaking news on the war in Iraq, Bob Woodward. In one stunning claim after another, his new book suggests the Bush administration is in what he calls a state of denial. And Woodward says the administration is hiding the war's true realities from you.

Also, a top terrorist calls Westerners Christian dogs, and urges Muslims to attack. It's 1:00 a.m. in Iraq, where the al Qaeda chief is now launching a sort of terrorist recruitment drive to launch an even bigger jihad against foreigners.

And "The Truth With Jokes," at least according to the author, the comedian Al Franken. Might he run for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota, especially with Republicans holding their 2008 presidential convention there? I will ask Al Franken -- he's standing by live -- this hour.

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

He's one of the country's most respected reporters. Now Bob Woodward is making some stunning allegations about the war in Iraq, including allegations the Bush administration is not telling the truth about the level of violence, and that intelligence experts predict things will get even worse next year.

Standing by for us this hour, our senior United Nations correspondent, Richard Roth. Michael Ware is standing by in Baghdad.

Let's begin our coverage with Mary Snow, though, in New York -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this latest book, "State of Denial: Bush at War Part III," is claimed to reveal damaging secrets from inside the White House about the war in Iraq, especially the level of violence.

Among them, Bob Woodward tells CBS' "60 Minutes" that the administration is not making it known that there are insurgent attacks against coalition troops every 15 minutes. And he says -- quote -- "The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that, next year, 2007, is going to get worse.

And, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon saying, oh, no, things are going to get better.

Now in reaction to the book, a senior administration official tells CNN -- quote -- "It doesn't appear to be anything new. The president has been very frank with the country about the challenges we face in the war on terror, how ruthless, violent and determined our enemy is."

Now, on getting advice on Iraq, Woodward tells CBS that Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meets often with the president and vice president as an adviser, giving them the advice that victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.

Kissinger was traveling and unavailable for comment.

And, on the president's determination to stay the course in Iraq, Woodward tells "60 Minutes" that the president told key Republicans -- quote -- "I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me."

The book is slated to hit the bookstores on Monday -- Wolf.

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

Meanwhile, there's a new audiotape out believed to be from the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. He's warning his group is launching a major military campaign, and he urges other Muslims in Iraq to join in as well. CNN is unable, so far, to independently verify the speaker's identity.

For more, though, on the tape and the allegations by Bob Woodward, we go to the Iraqi capital.

And joining us now from Baghdad, our correspondent Michael Ware.

Michael, there's a suggestion, word beginning to circulate now in this new Bob Woodward book, that, perhaps, in 2007, the insurgency, the sectarian violence, the bloodshed in Iraq, is going to be even worse than it's been in 2006 and 2005.

Looking down the road, based on everything you have been seeing and hearing -- you have been embedded with U.S. troops -- you are speaking to various forces out there -- does it look like the situation next year is going to be worse or better?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's in absolutely no one's interest within the insurgency or the militias which currently hold sway with the governments or among these lethal sectarian death squads to let up.

There's simply no incentive for them to do so. In fact, it is the extremes of both the Sunni and the Shia communities, that are not only dominating the insurgency, but also increasingly dominating the political agenda, whom are benefiting from all this violence, which there simply are not enough U.S. forces or Iraqi forces, for what they are worth, to contain it. So, there's no reason for this to decrease. In fact, there's every reason to suggest it should increase. And we have every sign that these insurgents and militias have this well within their capabilities -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But what about the suggestion that the Iraqi military, the Iraqi police forces, that they are becoming increasingly more successful, or more -- better prepared, better trained, to deal with this, and, as a result, the burden on the international forces, especially the U.S. forces, will be reduced?

WARE: Well, I mean that's the -- that's the crux of the whole plan, isn't it? Train them up, until they can withstand the al Qaeda onslaught, even though we don't have enough troops now to withstand the al Qaeda onslaught, and then leave them to it.

Well, that's paper-thin. That is a deck of cards. And, offline, most American commanders will concede the drastic limitations of the Iraqi forces that they work with. And this is -- this is not even touching on the fact that key elements, large sections of these Iraqi security forces are in the sway of the Iranian-backed militias, the surrogates, as U.S. military intelligence calls them.

Other large chunks are heavily penetrated by the insurgency. So, really, this is a -- this is a mirage in so many ways -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We -- we heard a new audiotape from the new al Qaeda leader in Iraq. After Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces, it was going to get better. But now this guy shows up, and making all sorts of threats out there. What's your take on what we heard from Abu Ayyub al-Masri?

WARE: Well, I think this message is -- is a declaration. I mean, this is the first chapter of al-Muhajir's manifesto. He's establishing the new platform for al Qaeda in Iraq.

Zarqawi, and his assassinated religious right-hand man, Abu Anas al-Shami, both carved out a certain path. Well, with Zarqawi's death, the question was, would that path be followed?

But the replacement for Zarqawi being an Egyptian, a veteran of the Afghan al Qaeda camps, and coming from the Egyptian strain of jihad, which is increasingly growing greater influence inside al Qaeda itself, it signaled a return to classic al Qaeda.

And this platform suggests that here he is starting to spell it out. And, most menacingly, he vows that he now unleashes a new military campaign against the infidels in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story. Michael, thanks very much for joining us.

And there are some disturbing findings in a new United Nations report on Iraq as well. It falls in line with those declassified portions of a national intelligence estimate released Tuesday saying the war in Iraq is fueling terrorism. The U.N. report also cites new links between insurgents in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Let's bring in our senior United Nations correspondent, Richard Roth -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, ready for another Iraq report? This one by the U.N., saying al Qaeda playing a central role there, but hints its prominent position may begin to diminish.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROTH (voice-over): It didn't take long for the projected Ramadan offensive to begin in Baghdad. Iraqi police discovered 60 mutilated bodies, all showing signs of torture. The U.S. military blames death squads for most of the recent killings in Baghdad.

There has also been a spike in insurgent attacks around the city, where roadside bombings killed seven and wounded dozens. A report prepared for the United Nations says, "al Qaeda continues to play a central role in the fighting and in encouraging the sectarian violence."

The U.N. report says Iraq has become al Qaeda's training ground for new recruits, and seems to support the U.S. national intelligence estimate released earlier this week.

Al Qaeda is also more adept at exporting the technology of war, the U.N. says. It concludes, new explosive devices are now used in Afghanistan within a month of their first appearance in Iraq.

The U.S. ambassador says the conclusions about Iraq in both reports should be no surprise.

JOHN BOLTON, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: If you said, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, that the American response had increased violence in the Pacific, you would be right, wouldn't you? Because violence did increase after the attack and after our response. When you are in a war, that tends to happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROTH: And, of course, critics and opponents would say President Bush himself has said that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Richard, thank you -- Richard Roth at the U.N.

Let's stay in New York. Jack Cafferty joining us once again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Interesting story in "USA Today," Wolf.

Most married people vote Republican. Most people who have never been married vote Democrat. And when you look at the House of Representatives, Republicans in fact control seats representing the most married people. And Democrats control the seats with most people who have never been married. You follow this so far?

This -- we have a long way to go, but it will be worth it when we get there. Look at the midterm elections. Democrats have to get 15 seats in order to control the House. If Republicans want to hang onto those seats, they are going to have to count heavily on married voters, if you buy the premise of this thing.

But in the seats that are up for grabs, where the Democrats are mounting a serious challenge to the Republicans, the marriage rate is comparatively low. I know. It's a long way to go. But here's the question: Why are married people, do you suppose, more likely to vote Republican and those who have never been married more likely to vote Democrat?

E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. We post these on the Internet before the show. And we have already received some rather amusing theories on why this may be the case.

BLITZER: I will be interested to hear. It sounds like a -- a great question. Anxious to know what our viewers think, Jack. Thank you.

And, by the way, if you want sneak preview of Jack's questions, plus an early read on the day's political news and what's ahead right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, you can sign up for our daily e-mail alert. Just go to CNN.com/SITUATIONROOM.

Up ahead, we're going to take you to the front lines of the battle for Iraq. Once again, CNN's Michael Ware has been embedded with U.S. forces in Ramadi. We are going to show you his gripping report from the battlefield.

And Al Franken standing by to join us live in THE SITUATION ROOM this hour. We will talk about his possible bid for the United States Senate, cash problems at Air America, and his new movie, and more.

And a major change in Afghanistan that will impact thousands of U.S. troops fighting resurgent Taliban forces -- we're going to get the details from the Pentagon.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New questions being raised about a key U.S. ally in the war on terror and his country's relationship, supposedly, with al Qaeda.

Fresh from a high-profile White House visit, the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, arrived in London today, amid allegations his intelligence service is indirectly supporting terrorism.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching this story -- Brian. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, those questions about Mr. Musharraf's commitment to the war are growing more serious. And the report in London put him immediately on the defensive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): At every stop, Pervez Musharraf confronts growing pressure about his role in the war on terror.

In London, a research document prepared for the British Ministry of Defense and leaked to the BBC says Pakistan's security service, the ISI, has indirectly supported terrorism by backing religious parties. The Ministry of Defense distances itself from that document.

Musharraf's response.

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTANI PRESIDENT: Now, these aspersions against ISI are by vested interests and whoever -- and by those who don't understand ground realities. I don't accept them at all. And I reject them fully.

TODD: But Musharraf reportedly admits to NBC News, former Pakistani intelligence officials may be working with the Taliban.

Musharraf promises to keep a tight watch on those officials. Analysts say it's significant if Musharraf admitted that connection. On the relationship between Pakistani intelligence and the Taliban:

HUSAIN HAQQANI, FORMER PAKISTANI DIPLOMAT: The Taliban could not have grown without the support of the ISI. They became an Afghan national group primarily because of the arms and training provided by the ISI.

TODD: And new information on Musharraf's recent deal with tribal elders near the Afghan border in the dangerous Waziristan region -- those leaders, some sympathetic to the Taliban, agreed to stop fighting Pakistani troops there. In return, the elders would stop cross-border attacks against U.S. forces and their allies in Afghanistan.

But a U.S. military official in Afghanistan tells CNN, attacks against U.S. forces in that area have gone up since the deal was reached, and says American soldiers have reported, in some cases, they have increased threefold.

CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen just returned from a U.S. fire base in that area.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: There were already rocket attacks when we were there. But the rocket attacks have spiked, apparently, in one case up to 40 rockets landing on the base that we were at, since this peace agreement has been signed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: A short time ago, I spoke with Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., who denies that these attacks are coming from inside Pakistan. He says, neither the Taliban, nor al Qaeda are operating in that Waziristan region.

And he also denies reports that the Pakistani military has pulled back from there. He says Pakistani troops are patrolling the border -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you are working this story. You will have more tomorrow, Brian. Thank you very much -- Brian Todd reporting.

Let's check in with Zain Verjee. She's taking a closer look at some other important stories making news -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a welcome close call for Wall Street today -- the Dow Jones industrial average briefly topped its record-closing high of 11722 in early-morning trading. It finished the day up 29 points, its highest close yet this year. Analysts say falling oil prices and growing confidence about the economy are helping fuel the Dow's rise.

A massive manhunt is under way in Lakeland, Florida, for an armed suspect accused of shooting two sheriff's deputies. Authorities say one of the deputies, a 12-year veteran, was killed. The other deputy was shot in the leg. Now, he's expected to make a full recovery.

The suspect also allegedly shot and killed a police dog. Authorities say it happened after the deputies pulled the suspect over for speeding.

Colorado police say a gunman who held six female high school students hostage sexually assaulted some of them. The suspect has been identified at Duane Morrison. He kept police at bay for four harrowing hours during a standoff at a Bailey high school yesterday. A SWAT team stormed in when they heard two hostages screaming. They say Morrison shot and killed the 16-year-old student, and then himself -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain, thank you very much.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM: He's overseen two major wars, but some of his biggest battles are on the home front. CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno, standing by, he will join us with a preview of his documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, "Man of War."

Plus, CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin has an exclusive interview with not one, but two United States Supreme Court justices.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Fierce fights, a deadly resurgence in Afghanistan -- the Taliban are on a bloody comeback. And NATO is asking for more troops to battle them. Now the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is responding.

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

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is at a NATO meeting in Slovenia.

And he has indicated that the NATO nations will come up with those 2,500 additional troops that NATO commanders want to battle the Taliban in Afghanistan. And he also confirmed something CNN reported last week, that, when the U.S. takes over the eastern sector in Afghanistan, either later this year, or perhaps even early next year, the -- the NATO -- a four-star American general will be put in charge of the NATO mission, and about 10,000 U.S. troops will be transferred over to NATO command.

That will put a total of 10,000 -- about 12,000 under NATO command, another 10,000 or so under U.S. command in Afghanistan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, changes being made in Afghanistan, reacting to what's happening on the ground.

Jamie, thank you very much.

There's a developing story out of Ventura County, California, we are following. CNN is keeping an eye on the fires. More than 4,000 firefighters are fighting the flames right now.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, is monitoring the spread of those wildfires online.

What are you seeing, Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, want to give you some details about this fire that has now burned some 250 square miles -- that's about 160,000 acres -- in the Los Padres National Forest. That is 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

This fire, called the Day fire, started on Labor Day. Somebody burned debris. It's now been raging for four weeks, again, 4,000 firefighters, at a cost of now $53 million. It is 43 percent contained at this point. But there is a low humidity in the area. And that's making it harder to fight this fire.

Now, no residential areas have been effected -- these photographs coming to us from the Ventura County Fire Department. But they do say that they have preliminarily asked that there's an evacuation of remote Ventura County areas -- all of that information available online from the Ventura County Fire Department. But, again, the Day fire started Labor Day, and still burning now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jacki, we will watch it together with you. Thank you.

Coming up: Some call it the killing zone, perhaps the most dangerous area in Iraq. That would be Ramadi. American Marines go head to head against suicidal jihadis there on a daily basis. Our Michael Ware has a gripping inside account of the mortal combat that you should stick around and see. This is important.

And which would you rather hear, the truth with jokes, or lies with a straight face? The author and comedian Al Franken can answer that question with the title of his book. He will be here to talk about the state of politics and his own political ambitions -- Al Franken, all that, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.

Happening now: mortal combat in the killing zone. With dangers everywhere you turn in Iraq, Ramadi is perhaps the most dangerous. There, U.S. Marines fight gun to gun with suicidal jihadis. Our Michael Ware has an unbelievable account. You're going to want to see this.

Also, man of war -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says it's impossible to know if wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed more terrorists than they have created. We will preview a special documentary on the defense secretary.

And the truth and nothing but the truth, except with jokes. Al Franken has his version of the truth in politics. He will be here to tell us. We will also talk about his own political ambitions.

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

They are fierce fights, fights the likes of which are rarely experienced with an inside look, the likes of which are rarely seen. In Iraq, one of the deadliest places is where U.S. Marines often enter what they call a meat grinder to fight suicidal jihadis bent on killing Americans.

Our Michael Ware was embedded with one U.S. Marine unit, and brings us this gripping account.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LANCE CORPORAL BEAMER DIAZ, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Most people here are willing die for each other. So, pretty much, it's -- it happens over here.

WARE (voice-over): And happen it did.

This is Ramadi, the worst of the Iraq front line -- this day in May, marines closing around a fallen comrade, shielding him from fire. It begins as a patrol, two teams watching al Qaeda-held streets -- an insurgent sniper hunting one of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy God damn! Whew!

WARE: Until they all push 115 meters home, the U.S. Marine outpost. And they're hit, caught in a killing zone, fire from two directions. Somehow, only one Marine, Lance Corporal Phillip Tussey (ph), is hit.

DIAZ: Yes, it -- it gets pretty crazy. It's -- so, there's a lot -- a lot of times you're just sitting, nothing is going on. And, all of a sudden, two seconds later, you're in a big firefight, just fighting, trying to stay alive.

WARE: This was the 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment's war, 600- plus men ordered to go head to head with al Qaeda's suicidal jihadis in downtown Ramadi, in a battle their general admits he does not have enough troops to win, into what their commanders call a meat grinder.

CORPORAL DONALD BRIER, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Definitely that I -- I lost one good friend. And -- but I have talked to his wife. I have talked to his family. And they're all coping well. So, I know I can cope well. If they can, I can. So...

WARE: These Marines fought day in, day out, repelling al Qaeda assaults from their outpost.

BRIER: There's a part of me that says it will. A bigger part of me says I think I will be fine. I have got a lot of support back home. People have told me, we expect you to be different, things like that.

But I think I will be fine. I think -- I think a lot of these guys will be fine. It's just -- I don't know. A lot of people think it will change you here.

WARE: Dangled like bait in the streets. Luring out al Qaeda letting a detainee into vehicles. A few blocks down, the men draw ambush in another square. The fight looms through a rooftop. In seven months, this battalion suffered 17 killed in action. More than many brigades of 5,000 in Iraq lose in a year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to leave the blood and the lives of several marines, the memory of their lives here. We won't forget them. But all of us will leave something here.

WARE: Their presence made a dent in al Qaeda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dangerous -- how dangerous the mission is. We've stopped a lot of attacks, we stop them cold in their tracks. Never really took any great pride in -- how many people we've stopped, I have no idea.

WARE: But listening to them from the kids in gun pits to those who lead them, you hear in their own words how the price for this war is being paid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get nervous when you come over but once you are here, you are nervous, aren't you? Of course you are nervous. You've come into a combat zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a hell of a thing to come to grips with, but yeah. That's what we are. You know. That's the meaning of who we are as marines is be prepared to do that, if necessary. And in my perspective, in my mind, there was no greater calling.

WARE: Michael Ware, CNN, Ramadi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Donald Rumsfeld is one of the men responsible for conducting the war in Iraq. Recently he talked about the raging insurgency in Iraq and a special CNN documentary. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, I think that anyone who looks at it with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight has to say that there was not an anticipation of the level of the insurgency would be anything approximating what it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: In a new CNN poll, 35 percent of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of Donald Rumsfeld. That's down from a 58 percent favorable rating back in 2003.

But what do Americans really know about the defense secretary? That new CNN documentary we just mentioned profiles Donald Rumsfeld. It's called "Man of War" and is narrated, contributed by our own CNN special contributor Frank Sesno. Frank is joining us now live from the CNN Center.

You learned a lot about Donald Rumsfeld. In going back, you had an opportunity to speak with him. Give us a couple of points that stand out in your mind, Frank.

FRANK SESNO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all for all the criticism that Rumsfeld is coming under. And it's coming from all sides. Politicians on the Hill, especially Democrats who want to make election year hay out of this thing. From groups of retired former generals who think he should pay with his head in the press. Among certain pundits.

Rumsfeld shrugs that off. He says anybody who has taken America to war in the past has come under criticism, it goes with the territory.

As to any suggestion that somehow America is on the wrong track in Iraq, he completely rejects that. He says insurgencies last for a long time. But the way this insurgency is going to come to a close is if and when the Iraqis fight it. He still says that foreign forces are not the way to get there.

But that acknowledgment that you played really sort of stopped me in my tracks when I was talking to him, Wolf. Because Rumsfeld among many things, he's a lot of different things. But he's not a guy who looks back or second guesses. So that took a little bit of prodding, but he said it.

BLITZER: Does he ever have any doubts about some of his strategy? Some of his policies?

SESNO: I don't think so. And if he does, he's certainly not talking about it with me. Or anybody else in front of a camera. He believes that Iraq is the forefront in the war on terror. Forget weapons of mass destruction and all that kind of business. I think if you got him in a really private moment he'd acknowledge some mistakes along the way or whatever. But I doubt he'd go into much detail on it.

His focus is what's happening now and what's going to happen in the future. That piece, that Michael Ware piece you played a moment ago. The bravery of the men and women in the field. That's what he'll talk about.

So this guy is very focused. Key eye on history in his office. Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower. You know, he see himself at a similar crossroads in history. So he puts it on a big plane.

I pushed him and he got a little testy at one point about the eroding support for the war in the United States. And how divisive and difficult it's been. He says look. On the big issues the American people are right and you have got to take it over time. And this one is the right fight to be fighting at this moment in history.

BLITZER: Frank Sesno doing some excellent reporting for us. Frank, thank you very much. And to our viewers, you can see Frank's entire documentary entitled "Man of War" this Saturday night and Sunday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Once again, Rumsfeld, "Man of War." 8:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday night Eastern.

Now to news regarding the U.S. Supreme Court. The court will begin its new term next week. And on the docket are issues of very serious concern to the American people. Issues such as abortion and affirmative action. Just before the start of this new term, our CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin got an exclusive interview with justices past and present. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: As I went through the last few years of service here at the court, I saw increasing indicators of unhappiness with justice. And it was erupting all over the country. We heard all kinds of statements by members of Congress, by state legislators. We saw legislation introduced to somehow restrict or affect judges at both the state and federal levels.

And even public opinion polls about courts and judges showed an increase in dissatisfaction with the American public. And there was a great deal of rhetoric which I'm sure you've heard too about activist judges. JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, SUPREME COURT: Someone has to have the last word. It isn't a question of knowing better. You won't find any judge in this room or any other room who doesn't admit that he or she can make a mistake. It flows from the necessity that someone have the last word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And Jeff Toobin is joining us now in New York. Pretty good stuff you got there. Give us a little sense of what you're picking up right now as we get ready for this new session.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know Justices O'Connor and Breyer are today hosting a conference at Georgetown on the issue that Justice O'Connor was talking about. Judicial independence.

Also today, the Senate voted 51-48 to strip the courts of the ability to look at claims by the detainees at Guantanamo. So they are on to something. The Congress doesn't like judges now and the judges are trying to fight back in the way that they can.

BLITZER: What else can they do besides just go about and do their jobs?

TOOBIN: Well actually they can do something very unusual. Which is what Justice O'Connor is doing now. She's traveling the country. She is giving interviews to me and conducting this conference. And she's saying look, judicial independence is part of our constitutional history. It's indispensable, you can't let judges be pushed to the side.

But she has got a real battle on her hands. She knows that because the Republican Congress is out to try to limit the power of judges in a way that judges haven't been limited in a long, long time.

BLITZER: So did you get a sense they sort of feel under siege right now?

TOOBIN: That's exactly how I felt, Wolf. I was very startled. Justice O'Connor knew that after she retired, the first woman justice would give a lot of publicity to any cause that she embraced. But she's taking on judicial independence because she knows it really matters. It really matters to her and it matters her colleagues.

And at Georgetown today they have got Justice Thomas, they have got Justice Souter there. Both people who don't make a lot of public appearances. Chief Justice Roberts is going to speak there.

So the justices across the political sphere are coming together on this. But, you know, they don't run for office. They don't appear in public very much. And the people who are running for office do. And judges are real targets right now and they know it.

BLITZER: All right Jeff, thanks very much. Jeff Toobin reporting for us. And still to come, Jack Cafferty is wondering why are married people more likely to vote Republican and those who have never been married more likely to vote Democrat?

And will Al Franken run for the United States Senate? I'm going to ask him. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Al Franken straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Truth of politics with accusations of lies. What's a voter to think? My next guest often has plenty to think about and plenty say regarding the state of American politics and his own political future. Al Franken is a comedian and an author. He's here to talk about his book which is out on paperback, "The Truth with Jokes." Also about a new movie he's involved in, "Al Franken: God Spoke." We are going to talk about that.

I have got to ask you first, are you seriously thinking about running for the United States Senate from your home state of Minnesota?

AL FRANKEN, COMEDIAN: Yes.

BLITZER: So what does that mean? Are you doing anything?

FRANKEN: No.

BLITZER: You've raised money. You have a staff. You want to run against Norm Coleman, the incumbent Republican.

FRANKEN: Yes. I've been doing a lot. I've moved back January 1st of this year.

BLITZER: After leaving for many years.

FRANKEN: Well I've been back and forth because my parents were there, of course, until they passed. I've started a PAC called Midwest Values PAC. We've raised about $800,000 which were given to Democrats. I'm doing everything I think I would have to do if I actually decided. So that when ...

BLITZER: So you want to run for the Democratic primary first. I assume there will be other Democrats who will want to challenge Norm Coleman.

FRANKEN: I want to scare them out.

BLITZER: How can you do that?

FRANKEN: I don't know.

BLITZER: Eight hundred thousand dollars doesn't sound like a huge sum of money.

FRANKEN: That's not my money. Money I gave to ... BLITZER: But you are raising that for other democrats.

FRANKEN: It's essentially a lot to raise when you are not in political, when you don't hold office. I can't do anyone any favors. And also when you are not a candidate yourself. So I've done actually, it's considered raising a lot of money.

BLITZER: Why would a serious comedian, a writer.

FRANKEN: A serious comedian.

BLITZER: Very successful, why would you want to give that all up and become a United States senator?

FRANKEN: Well, because I think maybe I can do more in the Senate than I can elsewhere. And I actually think that our country is going to pot. That's what I think.

BLITZER: And so when will you actually start getting the political wheels going?

FRANKEN: Well I have. I have. As I said, I don't want to get to wherever I would decide not to have done what I need to have done. But I won't decide until probably beginning to middle of next year.

BLITZER: You know the Republicans are going to have their presidential convention in Minneapolis in 2008.

FRANKEN: I'm glad they are. It's a beautiful spot. I wish the Democrats were. They seem to be following me around. I was living in New York in 2004.

BLITZER: That's when they had their convention last time. We all seem to remember that. Here's what you write in the book "The Truth with Jokes." "The Bush administration does not care what you or I think should happen in Iraq. Six to eight people make the decisions and they don't listen to anybody else and the Republican Congress has let them get away with it. Every day they have a chance to do their job and they don't do it. We have to throw these guys out."

Do you think that that is doable this time around? That the Democrats, your party, will become the majority in the House and the Senate?

FRANKEN: I'm not sure it will be House and Senate. I think we need one house. In order to do some oversight. You know, when you look at the reconstruction in Iraq, I mean this is one piece of it. By the way the piece on Rumsfeld was fascinating. Because he wouldn't acknowledge that there was an insurgency for a couple of years as you know. Remember? He said it was just a few dead enders? You remember that, right?

BLITZER: Of course.

FRANKEN: OK. Now he's talking about this insurgency is going to last forever. Well two years into the war he didn't acknowledge that it existed at all.

Now, the reconstruction was corrupt. We have a new book now about the Green Zone. The emerald, "Life Inside the Emerald City." Which says that they only pick Republicans to do the reconstruction.

BLITZER: We had the author of this in THE SITUATION ROOM the other day.

FRANKEN: There is $8.8 billion unaccounted for in the Coalition Provisional Authority.

BLITZER: So in other words, if you were a United States senator, you'd be involved deeply involved in that?

FRANKEN: Absolutely. I mean that is the job of the Congress. Norm Coleman has the number one oversight responsibility in the Senate. He is chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The forerunner of that committee was the Truman Committee that investigated war contracting all throughout World War II with a Democratic president and Democratic Senate and Democratic House. They found billions of dollars, today billions of dollars, saved a lot of lives. The money that was wasted in Iraq and stolen in Iraq is killing our young men and women.

BLITZER: Let me ask you about Air America the radio station you've been on in recent years. You were quoted in the "New York Sun" September 14th as saying, "No cash has been flowing to me. That's the first inkling I got of a cash flow problem."

FRANKEN: Right.

BLITZER: Is Air America in financial trouble right now? Is it going to go off the air?

FRANKEN: I don't believe it is. But -- I know I did a show today. And I know I'm doing a show tomorrow.

BLITZER: So it's a day-to-day situation?

FRANKEN: Does that sound like it's day-to-day? Yes.

BLITZER: "Al Franken, God Spoke." A film by these two guys.

FRANKEN: Nick Doob (ph) and Chris ...

BLITZER: They did the "War Room" ...

FRANKEN: They did the "War Room."

BLITZER: ... which was a very successful documentary. Give us 30 seconds. What's this about?

FRANKEN: It's about me. Except I had nothing to do with it. They just shot me and they edited it. And I was very nervous when I went to see it. Because, you know, you forget the camera is there. I saw the movie and it turns out I'm a wonderful guy. I'm hilarious. I'm real, I'm just smart as the dickens.

BLITZER: Who is that guy, that character on "Saturday Night Live" --

FRANKEN: Stuart Smalley?

BLITZER: Because you are sounding a little bit like him.

FRANKEN: Well, Leslie. Now, by the way, let's clear this up once and for all. I made a joke once that at renaissance weekend I learned at a panel that your name was originally Leslie Blitzer and you changed it. That's not true?

BLITZER: Correct.

FRANKEN: That was a joke.

BLITZER: You made it up. But there are people who still believe it thanks to you.

FRANKEN: That's why I wanted to clear it up. But now I've cleared it up, haven't I?

BLITZER: Al Franken. What's your real name?

FRANKEN: It's Alan. The other day I was on a show with Tony Blankley and he kept calling me Alan. I was angry at Tony for the discussion because but I liked him. Because only my parents call me Alan.

BLITZER: Al Franken a distant cousin of Bob Franken I learned today.

FRANKEN: Every time someone calls me and said I really liked your dad on CNN, I call Bob. He knows me. I call him every time.

BLITZER: We'll be talking. Thanks very much.

FRANKEN: Thanks Leslie.

BLITZER: Not Leslie.

FRANKEN: Wolf. Wolf. I forget.

BLITZER: Up ahead, a book tour unlike any other. That would be from the Pakistani president. Mixing diplomacy with P.R. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up at the next hour. Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST: Wolf, thank you.

Coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. Tonight we report on the Bush administration's determination to turn the United States, Mexico and Canada into what amounts to one giant country. You didn't vote on that? Well incredibly, the White House is apparently putting the commercial interests of corporate America ahead of our national security and sovereignty. We'll have that special report as we seek answers to very important questions.

Also tonight, civil liberties groups blasting state police in Rhode Island for simply enforcing the law and protecting the country from illegal immigration. It's a case that's been watched by law enforcement agencies all around this country. We'll have that report.

And tonight, shocking testimony on Capitol Hill. About the vulnerability of e-voting machines to fraud, corruption, political manipulation as well. And the threat to the integrity of our legislation in this country. We'll have a special report, democracy at risk.

All of that and a great deal more at the top of the hour here on CNN. We hope you'll join us. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Lou, we will. Thank you. Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He is in New York as well. Jack?

CAFFERTY: Somebody did a study, Wolf. The question is why are married people more likely to vote Republican and those who have never been more married more likely to vote Democrat.

Tom writes from Iowa, "It means married adults are dumber than single adults. Heck, they were dumb enough to get married, weren't they?"

Doug in California, "Married people tend to vote Republican? They already know when to shut up, obey, take out the trash and never, ever, ever question someone else's decisions."

Karen in New York. "Married people vote Republican because they have more invested in their lives, the world and their children. They pay more taxes, they have loved enough to commit to something. Married people are just plain smarter than these single and selfish Democrats."

Richard in Seattle, "Married people have mortgages, debts and kids outgrown shoes to buy that single people don't have. Republicans target those family values with promises their homes will always increase in value, their debts can be erased with $300 tax cuts and their kids feet won't grow any faster than the cost of a pair of Chinese shoes. All Democrats can promise is abortions and gay marriage."

Cindy in Crockett, Texas. "They aren't getting enough sex. Republicans are too busy going to church to find out who they should hate or condemn and they don't spend enough time just loving one another like us hot, hot, hot Democrats."

We'll try to get you Cindy's phone number for the next hour. And Tom in St. Paul, Minnesota. "The premise of your question was so convoluted that my mind began to wander in the midst of it to: Does Jack look like Bill O'Reilly or does Bill look like Jack Cafferty."

I'm much better looking than O'Reilly, wouldn't you agree?

BLITZER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

CAFFERTY: If you didn't see your e-mail here you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and read more of them online.

BLITZER: He wishes he looked like you.

CAFFERTY: Exactly right.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

Up next, a story made for CNN's Jeanne Moos. Pakistan's president turning his U.S. visit into a book tour. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It was business unusual as Pakistan's president made a high-profile visit to the United States mixing diplomacy with some good old-fashioned P.R.. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When's the last time you saw a sitting president sitting down with everyone to flog his book?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pervez Musharraf's autobiography.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appropriately called ...

JON STEWART, TALK SHOW HOST: "In the Line of Fire."

MOOS: It's hard to get out of the line of fire of this book.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You write in the book ...

BLITZER: You also write in the book ...

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTANI PRESIDENT: ... explained in the book.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are going to make some money from this book.

MOOS: The climax came when the president of Pakistan showed up on the fake news, "The Daily Show." Saluting and being served.

STEWART: This is an American delicacy. It's called a Twinkie.

MOOS: Twinkies and jasmine green tea.

STEWART: Is it good? Where's Osama bin Laden?

MUSHARRAF: You know where he is? You lead on, we'll follow you.

MOOS: Bullet proof panels were installed to protect the president. Here's what "The Daily Show's" set looks like normally. Here it is with the special panels. Over at NBC, they showed sharpshooters on the roof.

Musharraf happened to give his book the same title as a Clint Eastwood movie in which a Secret Service agent takes a bullet to protect the president.

STEWART: You describe two assassination attempts. Both on the same bridge, by the way. I come up with a new way to go to work.

MOOS: Now the White House may not be on par with Oprah's book club. But it sure doesn't hurt to deflect a question with your book.

MUSHARRAF: And I'm honor bound to Simon and Schuster not to comment on the book before that day. So ...

MOOS: Reporters looked stunned.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: In other words, buy the book is what he's saying.

MOOS: How much money does Musharraf stand to make?

MUSHARRAF: That would be confidential.

MOOS: He plans to donate some of the royalties to charity. The back is dedicated to the people of Pakistan and ...

MUSHARRAF: To my mother.

MOOS: Some have managed to miss the book tour.

Who is this guy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have no idea.

MOOS: Never saw him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God, Chavez?

MOOS: Nope, not Venezuela's president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a guy, Rushdie?

MOOS: Nope, not the author of "The Satanic Verses."

He's Musharraf from Pakistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's right. Good looking guy.

MOOS: Jon Stewart put President Musharraf on what's called the "Seat of Heat."

STEWART: George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. Be truthful. Who would win a popular vote in Pakistan?

MUSHARRAF: They would both lose miserably.

MOOS: His book is a best seller. Even if he's not yet the best known.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Musharraf. That's not any relation to Moo- sheriff?

MOOS: Who's moo-sheriff?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably a cow that's got a lot of authority.

MOOS: There's a moo sheriff in town. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That book is number five on amazon.com. Let's go to Lou Dobbs. He is in New York. Lou?

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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