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THE SITUATION ROOM

Florida State Rep. Negron to Replace Foley in Midterms; Three Killed In Pennsylvania School Shooting

Aired October 2, 2006 - 16:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you Susan and to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, a Capitol scandal still exploding. Did a former Congressman commit a crime by sending inappropriate message to teenage pages and what did House Republicans leaders know about Mark Foley's actions? It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington where the speaker of the House spoke out just a short while ago. We're following the investigations and the political consequences.

Also this hour, the fallout in Florida. Are voters outraged by the Foley scandal and will they take it out on Republicans? The GOP now is scrambling to try to keep the House seat that Foley gave up in disgrace.

And a deadly shooting in an Amish schoolhouse. A man opens fire on students and then turns the gun on himself. We'll have a live report on the bloodshed and the horror in Pennsylvania.

I'm John King. Wolf Blitzer is off today. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First this hour, the horrific breaking news out of Pennsylvania. The deadly shooting at a school in Amish country. Our Mary Snow joins us live with all the details. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well John, here is what we know so far. Police say a truck driver barricaded himself in a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania' Lancaster County. He was armed with a shotgun and semi-automatic pistol. Police say he sent 15 male students out of the room, bound the girls and then shot them execution style by a blackboard. Police say three females were killed, seven were wounded before the gunman killed himself.

Now authorities say some of the injured girls were shot in the head. The state police commissioner identified the gunman as 32-year- old Charles Carl Roberts IV. While he was in the schoolhouse, police say he told his wife in a phone call that he was seeking revenge against females for something that happened 20 years ago. Exactly what, they still don't know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMM. JEFFREY MILLER, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: I believe, just from what we understand, it appears that all of the female students were shot, as well as perhaps an aide, at least one aide, which is a student older than the age of 13 that would be assisting in a classroom, was shot and I believe the one aide was killed.

QUESTION: Male or female?

MILLER: Female. Everybody that died today was female that we know of right now, except for the shooter who was a male.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Now the students were between the ages of 6 and 13. Police say the gunman was in the Nickel Mine School for approximately 45 minutes before police were called. They say when the boys were released a teacher got out, dialed 911 at around 10:35 this morning. Police say the shooter started firing when state troopers arrived on the scene. At this point they don't believe the shooter has a criminal history, John.

KING: Mary Snow, thank you. Mary tracking these breaking details. We'll have much more on this ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM, including a live report from Amish country, we hope, and also an interview just moments away with the chief police investigator, involved in this horrific shooting today.

Now, though, to our top political story. Right now the former congressman at the center of a still unfolding scandal is in rehab. Mark Foley's lawyer confirms the Florida Republican is being treated for alcoholism and emotional problems. Foley abruptly quit Congress on Friday after revelations about inappropriate e-mails and instant messages he sent to teenage pages on Capitol Hill. Foley now says he accepts full responsibility for the harm he has caused. Investigations by the FBI, Florida authorities and the House of Representatives are underway.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert has asked the Justice Department to look into not only Foley's behavior, but also the way his leadership team handled questions about Foley's conduct. Hastert told reporters today that no Republican congressional leader saw what he calls vile and repulsive instant messages sent by Foley in 2003 until this past Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The instant messages reportedly between Congress Foley and a former page, set in 2003, were vile and repulsive and both to myself and to my colleagues. No one in the Republican leadership, nor Congressman Shimkus, saw those messages until last Friday when ABC News released them to the public. When they were released, Congressman Foley resigned. I'm glad he did. If he had not, I would have demanded his expulsion from the House of Representatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Hastert says he was lied to and deceived by Mark Foley. Now the speaker says he is concerned about keeping congressional pages safe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASTERT: Since I've been speaker, we have moved aggressively to ensure the safety of these kids. We constructed new living quarters with the state of art security systems. We have added even more adult supervision. But we, obviously, need to do more, including providing assistance to these kids after they return home. After all, this vile instant messaging exchange reportedly took place after the page had returned home. Moms and dads all across America know what a challenge it is to monitor contacts with their kids in this new world of instant communications in cyberspace. It's our challenge as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But some top House Democrats say they are hardly satisfied by Hastert's comments or by his actions. A Democratic member of the House page board, Dale Kildey (ph) of Michigan, issued a statement saying, quote, I was outraged to learn that the House Republican leadership kept it to itself the knowledge of Mr. Foley's despicable behavior toward the House pages. I am equally outraged to learn that the Republican House speaker Dennis Hastert announced today that there will be changes in the policies of the House page program. Once again, I was not informed of the meeting today, nor was I consulted in any way about any proposed changes.

And House minority leader Nancy Pelosi issued this response, "Speaker Hastert again failed to answer the question that every mother and father in America is asking: how could Republican leaders choose partisan politics over protecting children? Republican leaders admitted to knowing about Mr. Foley's abhorrent behavior for six months to a year and failed to protect the children in their trust. Republican leaders must be investigated by the ethics committee and immediately questioned under oath"

Now House leaders aren't the only senior Republicans whose statements on the Foley matter are raising eyebrows. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow now says the administration is horrified by the allegations against Foley, but he says it's up to the House and criminal investigators to decide just how to respond. In his afternoon White House briefing, Snow took a much tougher line than he did in an interview this morning with CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not always pretty up there on Capitol Hill and there have been other scandals, as you know, that have been more than simply not e-mails. I can tell you, you know, look again, I'll reiterate my point. I think it's important to protect these kids and make sure that they have a good experience. And look, like you, I want to find out what happened, but before we prosecute, let's figure out what all the facts are. That's probably the most important thing to do, is to be fair to all parties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Snow later acknowledged those comments about not e-mails on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" were out of line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: You're right, that may sound a little bit too glim. I think I've already -- I've used the words horrifying, appalling, disturbing, fill in the blanks. It's absolutely inappropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And now to Florida where Mark Foley's name still will be on the November ballot, even though he has quit the Congress. A short while ago state Republican leaders chose a candidate to replace Foley if he gets the most votes on election day, now just five weeks away. The Democrats now have high hopes of picking up a seat that Foley had been a shoo-in to win. CNN's John Zarella is in the district in West Palm Beach, Florida, John.

JOHN ZARELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Tim Mahoney, who was running against Mr. Foley is in a very, very different place today than he was a few days ago. He's gone from underdog to top dog. And he told me that for a political newcomer, he's just a little unsettled as to where he is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZARELLA (voice-over): Democrat Tim Mahoney is suddenly on the radar. Suddenly becoming a household name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tim Mahoney will be the candidate.

ZARELLA: From his headquarters in North Palm Beach, Mahoney, running for the 16th congressional district seat, held until last Friday by Republican Mark Foley, suddenly finds himself the front runner. Until last week even his own political party gave him only limited support.

TIM MAHONEY (D), FLORIDA CONG. CANDIDATE: We had it to a different degree. I mean, you know, what we have now is whatever it takes, it's going to be.

ZARELLA: Mahoney, a wealthy investment banker had never run for political office before, but insists he only got in the race because he felt Foley was beatable.

MAHONEY: I think that if any of the experts were to come down and spend a week with me, take a look at our polling data, take a look at the district, take a look at who I am as a candidate, I think everybody would have walked away with a very clear understanding that our race was winnable.

ZARELLA: Political experts say Mahoney didn't have a realistic shot. Foley was hugely popular in a district stretching from Port Charlotte on the West Coast to the Palm Beaches. Palm Beach Post political editor Brian Crowley (ph) believes the Republicans are very likely to lose the seat they thought was entirely safe. BRIAN CROWLEY, PALM BEACH POST POLITICAL EDITOR: It's going to be very difficult for the Republicans to pull this out. Part of the problem is that Mark Foley's name remains on the ballot, so they have to educate their supporters that when they pull the lever for Mark Foley, they're voting for the other guy.

ZARELLA: Florida's Republican leadership met today in Orlando to pick that other guy.

COREY TILLEY, FLORIDA GOP SPOKESPERSON: Voters can make an educated choice and we're confident in the end, we'll keep the seat.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: Late this afternoon, that state Republican committee, by unanimous vote, 37-0, voted that Joe Negron, who is a state representative, gets the nod to run against Tim Mahoney. Negron, in his first public appearance, distanced himself, of course, from Mark Foley, calling Foley's actions indefensible and reprehensible.

And he also said, John, that just because his name won't be on the ballot and Foley's name will be, he said that's no reason for them to lose this seat, that the people of the 16th Congressional District, he said, are smart enough to figure it out -- John.

KING: Well, he's putting a bright face on what will be a difficult campaign. John, give is your assessment from talking to people in the district today and throughout the weekend. A level of disgust, is that fair to say?

ZARRELLA: Yes, I certainly think so. There is certainly a level of disgust. There is certainly, on the Republican side, a feeling they were betrayed here in this district.

He was hugely popular, no question about it. This was a man who was in his district a lot on weekends, came here, he was very visible. People really did love this man, so they certainly feel betrayed.

And on the Democratic side, John, they feel like this is an opportunity that just fell in their laps that they never thought they would have -- John.

KING: John Zarrella, for us in West Palm Beach.

John, thank you very much.

And I'll speak to Joe Negron, who is the new Republican candidate in that district, in the next hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to go live now back -- we're going to be joined on the phone -- Control Room, can you tell me where we're going here?

Jeffrey Miller joining us. Jeffrey Miller from the Pennsylvania State Police, I believe.

Commander Miller, thank you. Sorry for the confusion there. We want you to update us on the latest in this investigation into this horrific shooting.

JEFFREY MILLER: Well, we're still working at the scene. We had to pull our personnel out of the schoolhouse because there is a backpack we discovered that we know is connected to the shooter that we had some concerns with. So we're going to have our explosives team go in and render that safe before we continue with the scene.

So we still have some bodies at the scene, we still have a lot of processing to do at the scene.

KING: And the death toll now, sir, is at?

MILLER: As far as I know, right now, we still have three individuals from the school, two students and one we believe student aide, which is somebody that is a little older than the six to 13 year age group of the students, all female, that were killed at the scene, as well as the shooter who took his own life.

KING: And the shooter dropped his children at the school bus this morning, according to reports of CNN, and then went and did this horrific crime. Any idea why?

MILLER: Well, we're working on that. He left some detailed suicide notes at his home, which his wife discovered. She tried to contact him, wasn't able to contact him. And he called her from the school and told her he wasn't coming home, and that he was seeking revenge over an incident that occurred some 20 years ago in his life.

And we feel that he was seeking out girls, female victims within this age group. And he lived in the community, so he would know of the school, and he would know it wouldn't be as difficult to get in a school like this. And that's what we theorized he was trying to do when he entered the school.

He came armed with a shotgun, also with an automatic handgun, as well as 2x6s and 2x4s, which he used to barricade the structure.

KING: And you say he left detailed suicide notes and his wife tried to reach him. Did she alert the police at any time?

MILLER: Well, what happened was his wife tried to reach him. He called her back and shortly thereafter, I mean, she tried to reach out to authorities. But about the same time, he called the dispatch center and said that if the state police don't remove themselves from the scene, that he would start shooting in about ten seconds.

Well, as soon as we got that information, our people were already getting the ballistic shields out and were getting into position to go in. And he began to fire within, almost immediately, within seconds. And ten of our personnel assaulted the school at that time and, you know, they weren't sure where he was.

And it wasn't until they were able to break in through the windows, because the doors were blocked, that they found that he was dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on the floor, and that many kids were shot. And, as I said, seven were serious head wounds, as well as gunshot wounds to other parts of their body that were taken out of here. So I don't have a status on them right now, but it will be a miracle if we don't lose any more kids out of this horrific crime.

KING: And inside the school, do you have anything from witnesses about specifically what he said when he entered the school?

MILLER: Just from what I understand, when he came into the school, he had a handgun. And he had the handgun in an open hand, and he was talking to the students. And this was seen by one of the teachers who, obviously, was immediately very concerned. And she was able to sneak out when he allowed some adult females with infant children and one pregnant adult female to leave. And he let the 15 male students leave.

At that time, she was able to sneak out and get to a farmhouse, where there was a phone. And she was able to make a call and report that information. We don't know what else he said when he was in there after that, because, obviously, for obvious reasons.

KING: And you say he was familiar with this area, familiar with this school. Did he go to the school, or can you connect any dots that tie him to this specific place?

MILLER: Well, what ties him to this community is he lived in Bark, Pennsylvania (ph), which is, you know, this area. This school is located near Bark Township in Lancaster Counter, near Lancaster, and he lived in the area. He didn't go to the school, as I understand, but he grew up in this area and has family in the area. So he would know where the school is, and who might be at the school and that it was a target of opportunity as far as we can tell.

KING: Jeffrey Miller with Pennsylvania State Police, thank you for updating us on this information. A horrific day, sir, and our thoughts with you as you continue this investigation, sir.

MILLER: Thank you very much, John.

KING: Thank you.

And time now for the "Cafferty File". Jack joins us of course from New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right. John, thanks.

Don't you hate it when somebody tells you how to do your job? Attorney General Alberto Gonzales did that this last Friday when he was giving a speech at a conference at Georgetown University Law Center.

Gonzales said that federal judges should not interfere with the president's judgment and decisions in wartime. He didn't point to a specific case, but referred rather to general military and foreign affair issues. Now, there are a handful of court cases pending around the country, contesting the president's anti-terrorism tactics, including the detention and trial of terror suspects and the NSA wiretapping program where they tap peoples' without getting a warrant first.

The question is this: should the Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, be advising federal judges about how to do their jobs? You can't make these things up. The e-mail address is CaffertyFile@CNN.com. Or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

The other question is do you think these people in this administration are presumptive and arrogant enough, John?

KING: I'm going to leave that one, Jack, to your e-mails and I'm going to stay here in the middle of the road where I belong.

We'll be back here in a little bit.

Thank you, Jack.

Coming up, more on that deadly day in Pennsylvania's Amish country. Why did a gunman open fire on students in a schoolhouse and then on himself? We'll go live to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Plus, much more on the Foley scandal and the political fallout. Just how damaging is this controversy for the Republican Party? I'll ask Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan in today's "Strategy Session".

Plus, the White House goes on the attack against the Bob Woodward book. We'll tell you what they're saying today.

Stay right here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: More now on top political story of the day: the scandal surrounding former Congressman Mark Foley.

Foley's conduct is stunning in any event, but what gives this story even more weight is his high profile role in legislative debates about protecting children.

Consider this scene, Foley on hand when President Bush signed legislation to crack down on online predators and criminalize child pornography on the Internet. He had been a key backer of the bill. Foley also touted his work protecting children in his campaign ads. He served while in Congress as co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus.

We'll have much more on that angle of the scandal in our next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Multiple probes are under way to former Congressman Foley's conduct. In the meantime, there's a growing discussion online of who knew what when. And that conversation includes a number of former Washington pages. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton is standing by with the details -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: John, there are multiple forums out there online when current and former pages discuss everything from politics to the uniforms that they had to wear. And we've been accessing some of them.

The pages on the U.S. House Page Alumni Association are currently offline. But we looked at some of the archived versions and found multiple references to now former Congressman Mark Foley.

2004 discussion about rumors about the former congressman's sexual orientation.

This post also from 2004 about the congressman and how much time he took to learn the names of the congressional pages.

And here's another one from the following year, 2005. One perspective page saying that they'd applied to be a page with Mark Foley and the response from a former page was just "eeeeeeeeeeee Foley."

Now jump forward to this weekend and the discussion today on the multiple web sites on social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook where former pages have set up sites to communicate with each other. There are comments posting that this is sick, posting the transcript. Much discussion about who this might be.

We should say that multiple posts here many, many people expressing their positive experience with the page program, really wanting to communicate that online. But we're also seeing a couple of people setting up forums discussing the fact that Congressman Foley did make them uncomfortable, too -- John.

KING: Abbi Tatton tracking this all for us online, a fascinating look. Thank you, Abbi.

And our Zain Verjee joins us now with a closer look at other stories making news. Hi, Zain.

(NEWSBREAK)

KING: An angry new response today from the White House to journalist Bob Woodward's new book "State of Denial." Among other things, Woodward contains the declarations that terrorists in Iraq are in retreat don't match the secret intelligence assessment the president is being given.

Press Secretary Tony Snow says the notion the president is in denial about Iraq war losses or that he is trying to cover up things is, quote, "an outrage."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You've got a lot of juicy gossip in the book. And people will have all the time they want to go through it. But the fundamental question about whether the president is, quote, "in denial," flat wrong, absolutely wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Bob Woodward spells out his reporting on the president's Iraq policy tonight on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE." that's a 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific right here on CNN.

And still ahead, political fallout from the Foley scandal that's rocking Capitol Hill. What impact will it have on the mid-term elections now just five weeks away? We will talk about it in our strategy session with Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan.

Plus, the battle for control of Congress. We'll have the latest on some of the most closely watched races. They're on our political radar just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm John King in Washington.

In our "Strategy Session," the bombshell dropped on Capitol Hill five weeks before election day. Top Republicans today are blasting their former colleague Mark Foley calling the computer messages he sent to teenage pages vile and reprehensible.

But will the president's party pay a price for Foley's behavior on November 7. Joining us now are CNN political analyst, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Bay Buchanon, president of the American Cause.

The speaker was out today. They spent the weekend trying to figure out what it is the Republican leadership should say about this. Obviously, Congressman Foley is in rehab. He's a former Congressman now. But many are questioning the actions, the judgment, the behavior of the congressional leadership.

Let's listen to something the speaker said at his press conference just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS HASTERT, (D-IL) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Moms and dads all across America know what a challenge it is to monitor contacts with their kids in this new world of instant communications in cyberspace. It's our challenge as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's our challenge as well, the speaker says. Bay Buchanan, a member of the leadership team came to the speaker months ago, says he told him about this questionable one e-mail exchange. Not a sexual one of nature, but a questionable e-mail exchange in which then Congressman Foley asked a 16-year-old to send him a picture. That is a red flag for pedophilia and inappropriate conduct.

The speaker says he doesn't dispute that Mr. Reynolds told him that, but he can't recall that conversation. What does that say about the speaker?

BAY BUCHANAN, AMERICAN CAUSE: You know -- I tell you what, I don't know who knew what when and who is remembering correctly. I know one thing, that e-mail they call an overly friendly e-mail, that had predator stamped all over it. There's just no one in this country that can suggest otherwise.

You're in a leadership position. You have a colleague that you know is at least a potential predator. And we have the pages coming through his office every day. They had an obligation, that same day, to investigate him further, to call in the FBI, if that was an appropriate action, and also to call in those pages, and make certain every one of them was interviewed to see if there's any problems here that goes deeper than what they already knew.

They failed -- they failed the parents of this country, is what they did.

KING: Standing next to the speaker at this press conference was John Shimkus, who is the Republican chairman the Page Board. It oversees the page program.

He says he went to Mark Foley. But a Democrat on the Page Board, Dale Kildee, who is not known as a flaming partisan...

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Right.

KING: ... like Paul Begala, and even a Republican on the Page Board, Shelley Capito from West Virginia, says, whoa, nobody told me about this.

What does that tell you?

BEGALA: They covered it up, you know? And this is not a partisan thing. This is what happens when you're in power too long.

You know, Lord Acton was right. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It was a moment of crisis. It was a moment of conscience. It was a moment that shows character. And Dennis Hastert showed himself to be a man unfit for high office. So did anyone else who knew about this and did nothing.

I think Bay is right. Most normal people, even political people, react to this like moms and dads. I'm a dad. Somebody sends an e- mail like that to my kid, they are going to deal with the law firm of Smith & Wesson, OK?

It ain't going to go to no Page Board.

BUCHANAN: Absolutely.

It's going to go to my .12-gauge. And -- and the fact that -- that, somehow, the speaker has -- has just been so corrupted by power -- he's not an evil man, but he's been too powerful for too long. He can't even see beyond his partisan interests.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I want to read -- before you go on...

BUCHANAN: Sure.

KING: ... I want to read something that Dennis Hastert said on October 8, 1998.

At the time, the House was preparing to impeach the president that Paul Begala worked for. And Dennis Hastert said this: "In these times, we need leadership that people can trust if our democracy is to work. Confidence in government is built upon trust."

Bay, should any parent in the United States of America have trust in this leadership? And, to be fair, they did not know of any sexually explicit messages. But -- but some of them did know that a Republican congressman in his 50s asked a 16-year-old boy...

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

KING: ... to send him a picture.

BUCHANAN: John, that was all they needed to know.

I mean, I -- I will repeat myself. This is a known homosexual who is writing e-mails to the home of a 16-year-old boy, asking for pictures. There -- that's all you need to know. It's done.

That is enough to demand that anyone who knew that, who had authority to make certain they shook things up enough, so that they would make certain the pages understood that: We want to know what is going on. We need an investigation. Bring in the FBI. Stop this guy. Make certain that, if indeed he was the predator he could be, he was stopped that day.

They failed that. You cannot spin this. And I don't know that I would call it a cover-up. I think you hear from the congressman who talked to Foley: I believed my congressman.

He wanted to believe him. He wanted -- Paul was correct. They are so removed from real world. You know, as parents, we say, no, we don't want to believe anybody who is sending these kind of e-mails. We want to protect the children. We are going to -- they sent a message to the pages: Fend for yourself, young people. Fend for yourself.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Well, they -- they had to make a judgment that day about what to do -- or several days. They had to make judgments of what to do.

BUCHANAN: Yes.

KING: Their judgment was, go to Mark Foley, and say, don't do it again.

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

KING: Not get a lawyer, not get a Democrat. The thing that strikes me is, there's no evidence that they said, Mark, we believe you, but you better see a counselor. You better do something. They didn't do anything like that.

BUCHANAN: They should have beat the living daylights out of the guy, is what they should have done...

BEGALA: I'm with Bay.

BUCHANAN: ... and said -- within an inch of your life, and, the next time, you are not going to be that lucky.

BEGALA: I'm with Bay on this.

And what is stunning is the White House response to this. This is a story that has nothing to do with the White House, right? I mean, and they generally have better sense than this.

Tony Snow dives into it today, the president's spokesman, who is otherwise a delightful guy, but not thinking like a dad, not even thinking like a human being. He comes on our air. Soledad O'Brien this morning interviewed him on "AMERICAN MORNING." And he describes this as naughty e-mails, sort of par for the course for Capitol Hill, he says.

What? What -- what could be more callous, arrogant, or removed from people's lives? The -- the fact that the White House does not even acknowledge that this is a -- a -- a monstrous crisis of a child predator loose on Capitol Hill.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let me stop you for one second.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let's listen -- let's listen to that exchange. Let's listen to that exchange, first on -- with Soledad this morning. And then Tony Snow tries to correct himself at the White House briefing.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "AMERICAN MORNING")

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There have been other scandals, as you know, that have been more than simply naughty e- mails.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: You're right. That may sound a little bit too glib. I think I have -- I have already said -- I have used the words horrifying, appalling, disturbing, fill in the blanks. It's absolutely inappropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We -- we all -- we're standing here on live television. We all do live television. We say things we regret in live television. Should we cut Tony Snow some slack, or is that reprehensible?

BUCHANAN: He -- he made a mistake. He corrected it. I think that is a non-story, to be quite honest.

I think the real story here is, we -- we have to make certain now. I think the Republicans have done all the right things, called in all the proper investigations. But this investigation should not be just about Foley. They should get into the pages, talk to every one of them, see if we have any more predators in the halls of Congress, whether they be staffers or -- or members.

And let's clean them all out now, because this is just inexcusable, that we have leadership that actually thinks that -- that, you know -- and believes the predator, believes the predator: Oh, I didn't mean anything.

We knew what he meant.

BEGALA: Why -- why did they? To -- to -- to quote Bob Woodward -- he's going to be on "LARRY KING" tonight -- in the Watergate scandal, follow the money.

One of the House leadership members who knew about this, reportedly, was Tom Reynolds. He's the head of the Republican Campaign Committee. He knew that this was -- that Foley at least was exchanging inappropriate e-mails with a -- a young boy. He did nothing, except he -- he passed it on to Hastert, he says. I shouldn't say nothing.

But he didn't call the FBI. He didn't call in investigators. After that exchange, after he became aware of that, Congressman Foley's PAC gives Reynolds and the Congressional Campaign Committee over $100,000 in campaign donations.

So, you know, you follow the money. You wonder why they were bought off.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: To be fair, all members of the leadership...

BUCHANAN: Yes. Exactly.

KING: And Mark Foley was a member of the leadership. They are urged, especially if you don't have a close race...

BEGALA: Right.

KING: ... which he didn't have, to raise as much money as you can, and give it to the committee to help other people. So, I want to be fair.

BEGALA: You take $100,000 from a guy who...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... think is a sexual predator...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: We have only have a...

BEGALA: ... then you don't report him to the cops? That's -- you know?

KING: We want to have a -- we only have about a minute left.

This is from Representative Peter King of New York. He says this. It's on the ABCNews.com Web site: "We should be rushing to get all the facts out. Certainly, anyone in the Republican leadership, any member of the Congress who knew anything about this, should tell exactly what they knew and when they knew it."

We're going to have five weeks left in the congressional election. I assume that this is one of those things -- people often don't get what happens here in Washington. They think we're crazy. They think we speak a different language. They think the Congress and people in my business are off on wacky tangents that have nothing to do with their lives.

Do you think this is the issue now for five weeks, who should be in charge?

BEGALA: This matters a lot. And -- and I have no idea. Honestly, I haven't talked to any of the Democrats in the leadership today.

If the Democrats take back the House, they ought not let this lie. They ought to swear out every single one of these guys under oath, figure on what they knew, when they knew it, and what they did about it. This is about children. This is -- and, you know, if the Democrats were part of it, fine. There is no evidence that there is. There's no suggestion that there is.

But Bay is right. They have to clean house. And -- and that's what I mean when I say it's become corrupt, in the Lord Acton sense, just too much power in too few hands for too long.

BUCHANAN: This -- this is the most serious issue that the Republicans face, because, you know, we can have a debate about Iraq and immigration and -- and not sure here and there. It's not all real clear. But one thing they know -- they expect the people in their community and the people in Washington to do whatever they can to protect children, under all costs.

You don't even think twice. This is an immediate and instinctive reaction to protect young people. They failed in the most important responsibility. Their -- their priorities must be so screwed up, that they wouldn't react immediately on something like this.

And -- and I think that that's how the American people are going to react to this. This is not the kind of people that we expect to have as our leaders.

KING: We need to end it here for today. I suspect we will be talking about this for the next five weeks and beyond.

Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan, two thoughtful parents, also part of the best political team on television.

And we want to know what you think about the Foley scandal and the possible political fallout: Will allegations that the former Republican congressman exchanged sexually explicit instant-messages with a former 16-year-old congressional page make it less likely you will vote Republican in November? That's our political question of the day.

To cast your ballot, head to our main page at CNN.com, and you will find the question in the lower right-hand corner. We will show you the results to today's question in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And up next: the midterm election now just five weeks away. We will scan our "Political Radar" and update you on some of the tightest races, as Democrats and Republicans battle for control of Congress.

Plus, we're following developments in that deadly school shooting in Pennsylvania. We will have the latest for you.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: On our "Political Radar" this Monday: a new TV offensive by Virginia Senator George Allen.

The Republican plans to give a major statewide address on local television tonight. His campaign aides say it's an opportunity to try to bypass what they call tabloid-centric media coverage, and bring a positive message to voters. A new Mason-Dixon poll of likely Virginia voters shows Allen tied with Democratic challenger James Webb at 43 percent each.

In Ohio, another Republican incumbent fighting for political survival -- Senator Mike DeWine now trails or is in a dead heat with his Democratic challenger, Sherrod Brown, in a new Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters. The survey shows DeWine with 43 percent, to 45 percent with Brown, within the poll's margin of error. In Tennessee, a tight race to fill the Senate seat now held by Majority Leader Bill Frist. Democratic Congressman Harold Ford and former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker are running neck and neck in a new poll. The Mason-Dixon survey on likely Tennessee voters show Ford with 43 percent, Corker with 42 percent.

In Rhode Island, moderate Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee is facing a stiff challenge from Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. A new Mason-Dixon poll shows Whitehouse with 42 percent support among likely voters, to Chafee's 41 percent -- another tough race.

And another close-as-they-come race in Missouri. Republican senator Jim Talent is tied with Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill in another new Mason-Dixon poll. Each gets 43 percent support among likely voters.

And some apparent tightening in the Senate race in Maryland. Democratic Congressman Ben Cardin now holds a six-point lead over Republican Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele. The Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters show Cardin with 47 percent and Steele with 41 percent in the race for the seat now held by Democrat Paul Sarbanes.

And, remember, for the latest political stories any time, go to CNN.com/ticker.

Coming up: the latest on the massacre at an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. We will take you live to the scene in the next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus: Some news organization got word of the Foley sex scandal last year. So, why didn't the story come out then?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Just moments ago, Speaker Dennis Hastert, whose handling of Mark Foley sex scandal is, of course, a question being asked around -- across Washington and across the country, sat down, one on one, with our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel.

Andrea joins us now live on Capitol Hill -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, a lot of what we heard in this interview with Speaker Hastert is a lot of what we have been hearing from him over the last couple of days, although there was one discrepancy.

He does dispute the fact that he knew about this or was told about this by Congressman Tom Reynolds in the spring. Congressman Reynolds is adamant that he told Speaker Hastert. Speaker Hastert says that he only learned about it on Friday.

My first question to him was when he knew about it and what he was told.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The first time I was really aware of this was last Friday, when it happened. And, all of a sudden, the press came out and that -- said that there were these e-mails that were from 2003, I guess, and Congressman Foley resigned. That's when I learned of it, at that point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOPPEL: Now, there were lots of questions in this -- in this interview, John, as you might imagine -- among them, why the speaker has only included one of the three members of this review board, of this page review board, and the one member is a Republican from Illinois, John Shimkus.

Speaker Hastert said that it was an urgent matter, and that that is why only Shimkus was involved back in the fall of last year. In addition, he said that's why he was only involved now. Nevertheless, you have one of the Democratic members of that board, somebody who has been on -- on the Page Board for 21 years, Dale Kildee, who says it is absolutely outrageous.

He is infuriated, John, that Speaker Hastert and Congressman Kildee have gone -- excuse me -- and Congressman Shimkus have gone on their own and made some changes to the way that the -- the page review board is going to be conducting itself from here on out.

KING: Andrea Koppel for us on Capitol Hill.

We will have much more of Andrea's one-on-one sit-down with the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, in our next hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But, next, we will show you why two Florida newspapers held the Foley sex scandal story for almost a year, and why they are now being criticized for that decision.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: There are questions, of course, being raised directly about Mark Foley's conduct with young former congressional pages, a question as well to be answered by the congressional leadership, as we have been discussing, also questions to be answered by the news media and about its contacts, its knowledge of Foley's conduct.

Here is Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: John, Congressman Mark Foley was on an easy path to reek election until ABC's Brian Ross got on his electronic trail and uncovered some disturbing evidence. Within 24 hours, the Republican's career was over. BRIAN ROSS, ABC NEWS: Foley's resignation came just hours after ABC News questioned the congressman about a series of sexually explicit instant-messages involving the congressional pages, high school students who are under 18 years of age.

KURTZ (voice-over): Almost immediately, reporters began questioning why House Speaker Dennis Hastert had not moved more aggressively against Foley, after having been months ago about an earlier milder e-mail that the Florida congressman had sent a 16-year- old page, asking for a picture.

But Hastert isn't the only one who had an early indication that something was amiss. Two South Florida newspapers, "The Saint Petersburg Times" and "Miami Herald," obtained copes of the earlier e- mail to the teenage page last fall, but did not run a story.

Why not? Reporters for the Saint Petersburg paper talked to the 16-year-old boy, but he refused to go on the record. The paper found another former page who would talk on the record, but said nothing inappropriate had occurred with Foley. And the congressman told "The Times" that his note to the 16-year-old asking for the picture had been innocent.

Other journalists criticize the decision.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: I do wish "The Times" had been aggressive in finding other pages, and also going to the leadership, and perhaps smoking out the fact that the leadership knew about this, and effectively covered it up.

BOB ZELNICK, FORMER ABC NEWS PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Following up and doing some real shoe-leather reporting would have produced results earlier. And I -- I think the paper is to be faulted for that.

KURTZ: "Times" executive editor Neil Brown says that -- quote -- "We just didn't feel like we had the story," and he was uncomfortable relying on an unnamed source. "With 20/20 hindsight," he says, "the paper should have been more aggressive."

"Miami Herald" editor Tom Fiedler offered a similar explanation.

TOM FIEDLER, EDITOR, "THE MIAMI HERALD": What -- what we feared was, if, for whatever reason, a political vendetta, political advantage, whatever reason, this allegation was false, and if we published it, even if we published it with all the -- maybe the -- the caveats around it, recognizing this is an allegation, hasn't been proven, or whatnot, just simply putting it out there gives it a substance and almost gives it a life that would irrevocably stain whoever it was about.

KURTZ (on camera): In the end, ABC cracked the case through the Internet.

Brian Ross, with the same limited evidence the Florida papers had, posted a story online, which led other former pages to flood him with copies of sexually explicit instant-messages from Foley. The congressman's office asked Ross whether he would withhold the graphic messages in exchange for exclusive on Foley's resignation. No deal, said Ross. And Foley promptly resigned -- John.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Howie Kurtz of "The Washington Post" and CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

And still to come: bossing around. Should Attorney General Alberto Gonzales be telling federal judges about how to do their jobs? Jack Cafferty will be back with your e-mails.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We go straight now to our Zain Verjee for developments in what you might call a political drama at the United Nations -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the South Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki Moon, has won a crucial informal vote over at the U.N. to be next U.N. secretary-general. He got the majority of votes, 14 out of 15, at the Security Council.

He also got the critical backing of the five permanent members. Someone is expected to replace Kofi Annan by the end of the year, on December the 31st. And he's a step closer to it -- John.

KING: Difficult job.

Zain Verjee with a big update for us -- thank you very much, Zain.

And Jack is back now with "The Cafferty File."

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I had my money on that South Korean from the get-go. I -- he was a shoo-in. I knew it. I just knew it all the time.

Conference on the judiciary last Friday -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales warned federal judges not to interfere with the president's judgment and decisions in wartime. Don't mess with the decider.

The question is: Should the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, be telling federal judges how to do their jobs?

Robert in New York: "Since Congress never actually made a formal declaration of war, as required by the Constitution, then, legally, the U.S. is currently not at war. I'm not surprised the attorney general, Gonzales, doesn't understand or recognize this, but I am comforted to know that there are judges all over who are competent enough to remind him or the president of constitutional law every time they need reminding, which is becoming increasingly often."

Mary in Blauvelt, New York: "Could you imagine the uproar if Janet Reno advised federal judges? Enough said."

Chuck writes: "How many boxes of Cracker Jacks do you figure Alberto Gonzales had to buy before he found one with a law degree in it? Of course, he fits the incompetence which flows throughout this administration. Next time, I hope that people aren't so afraid to vote for people of intellect, because these lesser -- lesser lights, Bush, et cetera -- get it, Bush light? -- are steering the country straight toward the iceberg."

Brett writes from Wapakoneta, Ohio: "Gonzales tells judges what they should or shouldn't do. Snow says it was just horseplay, what Foley did. Bush, Cheney and the rest lie -- yes, lie -- and do whatever they want, and nobody does anything."

Stephen: "Mr. Gonzales should try reading the U.S. Constitution, as it's clearly obvious he never has."

And Doug in Knoxville, Tennessee: "I'm sure that, for Attorney General "Abu Ghraib" Gonzales, having federal judges is quaint."

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: John. John.

KING: Thank you, Jack.

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