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THE SITUATION ROOM

Did Rep. Kolbe Know About Foley Scandal?; Interview with Chris Hill; Fallout from North Korea's Nuclear Test

Aired October 9, 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: 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, tonight, fallout from North Korea's announcement it tested a nuclear bomb. How will the United States respond? I'll ask the U.S. point man on North Korea, the assistant secretary of state Chris Hill. He's standing by life.

Who among U.S. administration bears more blame for the escalating situation, the Bush administration or the Clinton administration?

And it's 5 p.m. here in Washington. Did an openly gay Republican congressman previously unnamed in the Mark Foley know about inappropriate behavior as far back as the year 2000?

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

Questions and condemnation are swirling this afternoon around North Korea's claim it carried out a successful underground nuclear test. The Bush administration is now leading the charge for international sanctions against North Korea, while experts are trying to determine exactly what the Pyongyang government has done.

We have complete coverage for you this hour. CNN's Dan Rivers standing by in the South Korean capital. First though, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, with efforts under way to learn exactly what the North Koreans have done -- Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. U.S. officials are still not sure what to make of North Korea's claim that it has joined the nuclear club because the underground explosion it set off was so small.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Senior U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN North Korea's underground detonation was so small it could have been caused by several hundred tons of conventional explosives, such as TNT. One U.S. official told CNN it was a sub-kiloton explosive event, adding, "We cannot confirm if it was a nuclear explosion."

The U.S. Geological Survey detected a seismic event at 10:35 Monday morning North Korean time some 240 miles northeast of the capital of Pyongyang, matching the announced location of the test, but it registered a magnitude 4.2, indicating the yield was much smaller than the several kilotons from a typical nuclear test. Still, experts argue that really doesn't matter.

MIKE CHINOY, PACIFIC COUNCIL ON INTERNATIONAL POLICY: It would be irresponsible for any serious policymaker in Washington, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, or elsewhere to go on the assumption that, simply because it was small, that the North Koreans don't have a nuclear bomb.

MCINTYRE: The relatively small blast raises several possibilities: the test was not nuclear, an elaborate charade; the test was nuclear, but intentionally small, perhaps to limit radiation and conserve fissile material; or the test was supposed to be bigger but something went wrong, as one U.S. official put it, "more fizzle than pop."

Still, if the idea was to get the world's attention and increase North Korea's leverage at the bargaining table, it was a booming success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Essentially, this test was a political act and not a military act. And all the political consequences are going to happen whether it was fake or true, whether it was fizzle or a success.

MCINTYRE: Few in the U.S. government doubted North Korea had the ability to conduct a simple nuclear test, and it still believes it lacks the technology to miniaturize a bomb and put it on a missile that could hit the United States. But there are real fears the move will spark an Asian arms race.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER WEAPONS INSPECTOR: We could be on a spiral, where the tensions will be ratcheted up, the chance of military conflict will go up. And in that, you'll have a greater chance that countries like Japan and South Korea will start to reevaluate whether they should get nuclear weapons, too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: For now, Wolf, the working assumption is that the test was, in fact, a nuclear event and that further tests of the air and ground samples for radiation might confirm that. In fact, experts say the pattern of the seismic wave put off is already consistent with that of a nuclear blast -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Jamie, thank you very much.

Right now, the Bush administration pushing hard for sanctions against North Korea, including an embargo on money or materials that could support the country's missile and nuclear programs. President Bush is condemning the test and warning North Korea's weapons could wind up elsewhere.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The North Korean regime remains one of the world's leading proliferator of missile technology, including transfers to Iran and Syria. The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable the consequences of such action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Nuclear or not, the North Korean test blast is prompting an international outcry, especially from the country's neighbors. CNN's Dan Rivers is joining us now live from Seoul, South Korea, with more.

Dan, what about the reaction of the South Korean government? It seems they have the most at stake right now.

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. I think the government of Roh Moo-Hyun, the South Korean president, is shocked at what's happened. They've said that they're going to carry on with a stern but fair response.

They're going to halt food aid to their secretive northern neighbor, which is worth millions of dollars each year, and they're going to end their policy of engagement, the so-called "Sunshine Doctrine," which had been pursued for the past few years, a doctrine now which has clearly come unstuck and which is getting ever more criticism here in Seoul -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Well, what about the pressure that is clearly building on South Korea to go ahead and build a bomb itself?

RIVERS: Absolutely. There will be massive pressure here for them to up their armaments, for them to get a nuclear deterrent. Of course, at the moment, they fall under the protective deterrent of the United States.

But up on the Demilitarized Zone -- we've been there within the last few hours -- it is the most heavily fortified border anywhere in the world. There are 2 million soldiers either side of that 151-mile border, and clearly tensions have been ratcheted up with the news that the North Koreans have detonated a nuclear bomb -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Dan Rivers, thanks very much for that.

Joining us now, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson. He spent time in North Korea as an envoy and as former U.S. energy secretary, as well.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in. Is there blame -- do you blame the Bush administration's refusal to deal directly with North Korea? The North Koreans wanted respect, if you will. Do you blame the Bush administration for the current predicament?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: It's a combination of factors, Wolf. I think three things have to happen. The Bush administration needs to, one, push for the sanctions of military technology, financial transactions at the United Nations, get international support for our position.

Secondly, China has to step up and put real pressure on the North Koreans. They've refused to do that; I think now is the time to do it.

The third step that I would take, which the administration has not done, is send their very capable negotiator, Chris Hill, to talk directly to the North Koreans, to negotiate the deal that we had a year ago, which basically says, in exchange for North Korea not getting attacked by the United States in the six-party talks, they dismantle their nuclear weapons.

So it's a matter of psychological warfare here, but by ignoring North Korea, by not talking to them, by being obsessed with our Iraqi policy and not confronting the major problems in Iran, and in Syria, and North Korea, as James Baker has said, we should talk directly. This is what I would do.

BLITZER: The administration does point out correctly that there have been direct talks between U.S. diplomats and North Korean diplomats within the framework of bigger negotiations on the sidelines, as the diplomats call it. What's wrong with that?

RICHARDSON: Well, nothing's wrong with that. The trouble is that the North Koreans have not gone back to the talks, and what is needed now is a direct face-to-face approach. You don't have to give anything by talking directly to the North Koreans.

And failure to do that, Chris, I think has made the North Koreans more belligerent. They have proceeded with a missile test, now a nuclear weapons test. There's an arm race in Asia. I think what you do is you shift gears. You're not necessarily changing policy, because at one point we did talk directly to the North Koreans. But, quite frankly, we've refused to do so for sometime.

Chris Hill is a very good negotiator. I'd send him out there immediately to talk turkey about dismantling their nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: Here's what you said, Governor -- we did some checking -- back on January 12, 2003, when you were on ABC. You said, "You know what always happens when you negotiate with the North Koreans. There's always the private position and the public position. Right now, they're intensifying their rhetoric; they're laying out their cards; they're being belligerent in preparation, I believe, for a negotiation. They always do that."

Do you still believe that?

RICHARDSON: Yes, I do, but I think the window is closing. I do think that they feel that their direct talk's potential has diminished. They feel squeezed by financial transactions and squeezing of their Macao bank accounts -- I think properly so -- by the administration.

Now the time has come to, I believe, offer a carrot-and-stick policy. The carrot is you dismantle your nuclear weapons, we don't attack you, and you get food and fuel from the six-party talks. That deal was negotiated about a year and a half ago. That's a good deal. Let's just move forward and get it done before this escalation continues, and an arms race in Asia continues, and North Korea has time to develop even more nuclear weapons. They probably have anywhere from three to six.

BLITZER: You know, there are some Republicans out there who are criticizing the Clinton administration for being "duped" by the North Koreans back in '93-'93, when an earlier deal was made to provide them light-water reactors for civilian purposes, a lot of humanitarian assistance. The North Koreans said, yes, they used that material, supposedly, though, clandestinely to help them with their current nuclear program.

Here's what a report for Dennis Hastert in 1999 said: "Through the provision of two light-water reactors on framework under the framework, the United States will provide North Korea with the capacity to produce annually enough fissile material for nearly 100 nuclear bombs."

You served in the Clinton administration. With hindsight, was that a huge blunder to offer the North Koreans that kind of assistance, nuclear assistance, humanitarian assistance, economic assistance, given their track record as a Stalinist regime?

RICHARDSON: No, it was not a blunder. In fact, it was a success for eight years, because of the agreed framework agreement negotiated by the Clinton administration, the North Koreans did not develop any nuclear weapons. They didn't enrich uranium. Look what's happened since then, because we have not talked to them directly and negotiated directly.

Now, it doesn't make sense to blame each other. I think we've got to move forward in a bipartisan way, because these are nuclear weapons. We have 38,000 American troops in the Peninsula. We've got treaties with South Korea. They've got missiles pointed at South Korea.

Let's just shift gears, stop the blame game, get the politics out of this issue. Talk to them directly. Get sanctions at the United Nations. Build an international support. And get China. I mean, China has enormous leverage with food and fuel assistance. Get them to do something. That is diplomacy, all of that, carrot and stick, talk smart diplomacy.

We've failed to do that. Instead, we call them "axis of evil." Let's talk to them directly. They've got good negotiators in that administration. Chris Hill is one of them. Send him to Pyongyang tomorrow to try to get this thing straightened out. Couple that with sanctions, and get the Chinese to do things. That will at least bring some stability to the issue.

It's not going to resolve it, but being right now strong-headed, we don't talk to regimes that have bad behavior, that's not working. Look at the tension that this bomb has caused. BLITZER: All right. Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, thanks very much for joining us. Always good to have you in THE SITUATION ROOM.

RICHARDSON: Thanks, Chris.

BLITZER: Wolf, not Chris. I don't know who Chris is, but it's Wolf.

RICHARDSON: Wolf. Thank you, Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thank you.

And just in a few minutes, we're going to get more on the U.S. government's response to what President Bush calls a provocative act. I'll speak live with the assistant secretary of state, Chris Hill. Maybe he was referring to Chris Hill.

Jack Cafferty is standing by in New York -- Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, 776 U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq last month, the highest monthly total in two years. So far, this month is looking even worse: 300 more Americans were wounded in just the first week of October.

Since the United States invaded Iraq, 20,000-plus American soldiers have been wounded, and some experts say the number of wounded is actually a better reflection on how intense the fighting is than the number killed, and that's because medical and technological advances help people survive today who would have died in earlier wars.

Nevertheless, our young people continue to die in Iraq, a lot of them: 31 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq in just the first nine days of October. That brings the total number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq to 2,745.

Today in Baghdad, there was a mass kidnapping of Iraqi soldiers at a military checkpoint. Attackers shot and killed the brother of Iraq's vice president. Iraqi police found another 35 bodies in Baghdad yesterday, some of them showing signs of torture; more than 250 bodies have been found in similar conditions in the capital city alone over the last few weeks.

So here's the question: What should the U.S. do about the sharp rise in casualties in Iraq? E-mail your thoughts to Caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

Back to you, Chris.

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

Up ahead, what impact is the Foley scandal having on Republican efforts to keep control of Congress? With the election now only four weeks away, we're going to have some new poll numbers to share with you.

Also, the scandal putting the spotlight on gay Republicans. Will there be a party backlash? I'll speak live about it with the executive vice president of the gay political group, Log Cabin Republicans.

And hundreds of Iraqi policemen stricken by a mysterious illness. We're going to show you why some think they may have been poisoned. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're now on our top story, North Korea's claim it successfully tested a nuclear bomb and the worldwide condemnation that is now following. Joining us is the top U.S. negotiator dealing with this whole North Korea issue, the assistant secretary of state, Chris Hill.

Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for coming in. It's now been almost, what, 24 hours. Have you confirmed that, in fact, the North Koreans did test a nuclear bomb?

CHRISTOPHER HILL, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we have a lot of people looking at a lot of very fancy equipment, and I'm sure they'll be able to tell in the next day or two. What we do know is there was a seismic event. Something happened in North Korea. Plus, we have a government that has said proudly that it has exploded a nuclear device. So I thin it's going to take a couple days or so to figure out precisely what happened.

BLITZER: But you're working under the assumption this was a nuclear test?

HILL: Well, I think we have to work under the assumption that North Korea did what it said it was doing, that is, making a nuclear test. But we have to see precisely from our own sensors what exactly happened there.

BLITZER: Here's what you said last week. You said, "We are not going to live with a nuclear North Korea. We are not going to accept it." It looks like that there is a nuclear North Korea now. And the question is: How do you live up to that threat that you made last week, when you said "we are not going to accept it"?

HILL: Well, you know, the North Koreans, I think, had the idea they would explode a nuclear device, and then, after everything settled down, we would accept North Korea as a nuclear weapon state and begin to negotiate with them accordingly on some sort of arms reduction agreement.

Well, I can tell you that's not going to happen. We're just not going to accept that North Korea, with its starving population, is going to be able to join the nuclear club.

And so we're going to work very hard to make sure North Korea understands the cost of this. We're going to work very hard with other partners, with North Korea's neighbors, with our allies to make sure that we make this a very, very costly decision such that North Korea will want to come back to the bargaining table and get rid of these weapons and programs.

BLITZER: Do you have a commitment from China, which has leverage on North Korea, that it will do what it's refused to do in the past and use that leverage?

HILL: Well, you know, I can't speak for the Chinese, but I can assure you we are very much in touch with the Chinese. Secretary Rice was up half the night last night, and one of her prime people that she was talking with were the Chinese.

So we're going to really intensify our consultations with China. China is clearly, clearly upset. And if you looked at China's condemnatory statement today, I've never seen anything like it, that it said by the Chinese...

BLITZER: Will China support United Nations-imposed sanctions?

HILL: Well, the Chinese have indicated they're going to work with us in New York, and we'll see what we get. But I think we can get something that will be far more than just some sort of angry letter, I can assure you of that.

BLITZER: Will it be a blockade? There's a U.S. government official in the "Washington Post" quoted today as saying, "This won't exactly be a blockade, which is an act of war, but we could stop and inspect all ships in and out of North Korea." Is that on the table?

HILL: Well, at this point, I'm not prepared to say precisely what the elements are. But I can assure you we're looking for ways to make it very, very difficult, very costly for North Korea to get the technology for these weapons of mass destruction, very difficult for them to get the money for these weapons of mass destruction. So I'm not going to characterize how we do that; we have some ideas. We're working with our partners there, and let's see how we do.

BLITZER: The president of the United States was firm today in issuing this warning to the North Koreans. Listen to this little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. They've transferred missile technology to other countries, including Iran and Syria, as the president says. What does the president mean, "a grave threat"? How far would the U.S. go if the North Koreans start transferring nuclear technology to other states or what the president calls "non-state entities," referring to terrorist groups? HILL: Well, Wolf, I think the president's words speak for themselves. I'm not going to interpret the president, except to say very clearly we are going to take all actions we can, working with our partners, to make it very difficult for the North Koreans to get the equipment, get the technology, get the funding, and their ability to market these weapons around the world.

So we're going to work very hard on that, and that's a main, main purpose of this U.N. Security Council discussion that took place today. And I might add that the atmosphere was very positive: Nobody, absolutely nobody, is supporting North Korea.

BLITZER: But it doesn't look like Kim Jong Il is very worried. He's sort of snubbing his nose -- he's saying, "You know what? I don't care what you say. I'm going to go ahead and do what I want to do." He feels this is protecting his regime.

HILL: Well, he can feel whatever he wants, and I'm sure he has some advisers who help him feel that he's in charge there, but I'm telling you he is going to really rue the day that he made this decision.

BLITZER: And could you elaborate, "rue the day," meaning economic and political sanctions?

HILL: Again...

BLITZER: Or is there a military option that the U.S. and its allies are weighing right now? Because you know the Japanese are nervous, the South Koreans are nervous. And you can't blame them, if they say they want to go ahead and build their own nuclear bombs now.

HILL: Well, I think there have always been two main problems with North Korea doing this: first of all, destabilizing the region, encouraging proliferation in the region; secondly, selling or transferring fissile material to non-state actors.

So we are concerned on both scores, and we really have to do something about this, but, you know, we can't do it unilaterally. This is not a U.S. problem. We need to deal with our partners, allies, and that's what we're doing. And I think a key country in all of this will be China.

BLITZER: When are you going to start talking directly to North Korea? And without the other members of the so-called six-party talks, when will the United States begin a direct, bilateral discussion with North Korea, under what circumstances?

HILL: Well, as you know, in the six-party process, we had many, many, many bilateral discussions. These were discussions where, you know, it was just me in the room and the head of the North Korean delegation in the room. I mean, we had very small meetings, one-on- one, across the table. We did a lot of this type of bilateral discussion.

This is not a question of the format of the discussion. This is a question of a regime that basically hasn't made the fundamental decision to get rid of these weapons programs that it's been working on developing for some 30 years. You know, this didn't just happen last year or during the Clinton administration. This happened way back in the 1970s when they first put that ramshackle nuclear reactor together.

BLITZER: Chris Hill is the assistant secretary of state, the U.S. point man for North Korea. You're in the hot seat, Mr. Secretary. Good luck.

HILL: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.

And coming up, it's not always a pretty sight, not necessarily very friendly to watch. What impact will the Foley scandal have on gay Republicans? I'll ask the head of the country's largest gay GOP group.

Also, another food scare you need to know about. New fears of possible e. Coli contamination in our food supply. Our Internet reporter standing by to show us the situation online. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now: fallout from the Foley scandal. Is it impacting gay Republicans? And how is the party handling it? I'll ask that of the country's largest gay GOP group, the Log Cabin Republicans.

Also, did the Clinton administration help set the stage for North Korea's alleged nuclear tests? We'll talk about that with President Clinton's former defense secretary, our world affairs analyst, Bill Cohen.

And as tension heats up on the North Korean peninsula, a South Korean is poised to become the next United Nations secretary-general. The nomination to the former foreign minister, Ban Ki-Moon, to replace Kofi Annan is expected to be approved by the General Assembly within weeks.

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

It's a scandal involving sexually explicit Internet messages, politics, and questions of who knew what and when. In the Mark Foley scandal, federal, local and congressional officials are probing any wrongdoing. But what's the prevailing view in the court of public opinion?

Our brand-new CNN poll says many voters are upset over the matter: 53 percent of those described Mark Foley's actions as illegal; 40 percent say it's immoral; and just 2 percent say Mark Foley did not do anything seriously wrong. As for how Republican leaders are handling the matter, check this out: 17 percent of Americans say appropriately; 75 percent, though, say Republicans have not done a good job handling this situation.

And concerning likely voters' choice for Congress in the midterm elections only a month away, 58 percent of Americans say they intend to vote Democrat; 37 percent say they intend to vote Republican.

Meanwhile, the Foley scandal plays out with new bombshell claims from Capitol Hill. Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's got more -- Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, new information from a number of sources today indicates that Republicans on Capitol Hill, including a House colleague, knew about Mark Foley's inappropriate conduct with pages years ago. It's new information that raises fresh questions for investigators and adds a new wrinkle in the political debate over whether Republican leaders did enough and whether they did it soon enough.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): As far back as the year 2000, six years before Mark Foley's inappropriate conduct with pages became public, a former page contacted Congressman Jim Kolbe's office to complain about an e-mail he got from Foley. We got a complaint that this made the former page uncomfortable, Kolbe spokeswoman Koreanna Cline confirms to CNN. Cline says it's unclear if Kolbe directly confronted Foley about the complaint or if it was handled by staff. It was Kolbe's understanding that corrective action was taken and the matter was resolved, but his office did not know specifics. Kolbe is retiring from Congress this year. Like Foley he is a gay Republican, but unlike Foley Kolbe has been open about his sexuality since 1996.

Even as Kolbe's awareness of Foley's behavior is becoming public another Republican is emerging as a central figure in this drama, former House clerk Jeff Trandle. CNN is told Trandle repeatedly raised red flags about Foley's behavior towards pages years before Republicans confronted Foley about an e-mail with a former page, according to several sources familiar with the situation. Trandle took his concerns to Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, many times, the sources tell CNN. Both men are also gay according to friends and associates. As clerk, Trandle had authority over pages and was one of a handful of Republicans who met with Foley at the end of 2005 about a non-explicit e-mail between Foley and a former male page. Multiple sources including one familiar with Trandle's version of events tells CNN that Trandle had both observed and was told about worrisome Foley behavior in the House cloakroom and elsewhere and was actively monitoring Foley's interaction with pages.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now Jeff Trandle did not return multiple calls from CNN but Kirk Fordham's version of events is that he took his and Trandle's concerns up the chain of command arranging a meeting with Mark Foley and the House Speaker's chief of staff Scott Palmer. Now this according to Fordham's attorney will be one of the things that the House Ethics Committee is expected to hear about from Fordham perhaps as early as this week.

BLITZER: Dana thanks very much for that.

BLITZER: My next guest is Patrick Sammon. He's the executive vice-president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group consisting of gay Republicans. Patrick thanks very much for coming in.

PATRICK SAMMON, EXEC. V.P. LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: I have to tell you a lot of our viewers have emailed me and they're wondering how is it possible for there to be gay Republicans given some of the positions of the Republican Party when it comes to opposition to same-sex marriage and other issues of such concern to gays. You're a gay Republican why?

SAMMON: Well there are hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian Americans just like me. And we don't believe government is the solution to every problem. We believe in a strong national defense limited government, low taxes. And we believe in the core values of the Republican Party, but we also think it's important to work from with inside the party to make it more inclusive on gay and lesbian issues.

BLITZER: And so you don't think that the current position of the Republican Party is stepping on your human rights as a gay American?

SAMMON: Well certainly we haven't been afraid to speak up and say that it's wrong to use gay and lesbian people to score political points, and we'll continue working from with inside the party to educate people about why it's in the --

BLITZER: So you're sticking with the Republican Party.

SAMMON: Oh absolutely.

BLITZER: Are you satisfied with the way the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has dealt with Mark Foley and the fallout?

SAMMON: Clearly there weren't enough questions asked early on. There were clearly some mistakes made and the investigation that's going on will determine who's responsible for not asking enough questions early on. But it's clear to point out that Foley's behavior was shameful and despicable, and if he broke the law he should be prosecuted.

BLITZER: The fact that he was suspected of being a gay Republican, a gay American if you will, but he had never come out of the closet until this whole thing erupted and he resigned from Congress. What was the impact of that on the way this scandal unfolded?

SAMMON: Well, this whole situation is sexual orientation is really irrelevant to this whole situation. His behavior was shameful and despicable, and he should be prosecuted if he broke the law, but sexual orientation had certainly nothing to do with this situation.

BLITZER: Newt Gingrich said this the other day, the former speaker. He said well, you could have had second thoughts about it, but I think had they overly aggressively reacted to the initial round, they would also have been accused of gay bashing because as you know there was widespread assumption among Republicans that Mark Foley was gay?

SAMMON: That's just an absolutely absurd allegation. The fact is if they had started an investigation when questions were first asked, there's no gay rights organization that would have defended him. The fact of the matter is questions should have been asked sooner, and people who are trying to spin this now are just completely wrong.

BLITZER: Here's from the "New York Times" on Saturday a quote, I'll read it to you. One gay republican campaign strategist said he feared that conservatives would play to the base and redouble their efforts to vilify homosexuals. It's one of the places the party goes when it's in trouble he said. A lot of us are holding our breath to see how this plays out. As a gay Republican are you holding your breath fearful that this scenario could unfold?

SAMMON: Well it's unfortunate that the antigay groups are trying to score political points with this whole situation. They should be ashamed that they're trying to spread false stereotypes, and they should be ashamed that they're trying to use gay and lesbian people to score political points. And the fact of the matter is that they are going to end up on the wrong side of history because most Americans believe that gay and lesbian people should be treated fairly.

BLITZER: What does it mean if anything that several of the key players involved in investigating the rumors about Mark Foley and his inappropriate exchanges or contacts with congressional male pages, the fact that several of them are gay themselves, gay Republicans including Jim Kolbe, the Republican congressman, and Jeff Trandle, Kirk Fordham, these top congressional aides?

SAMMON: Mistakes were made, but it was made by both gay people and straight people. Sexual orientation simply had nothing to do with this situation.

BLITZER: And the fact that the speaker or the majority leader or Tom Reynolds who runs the congressional campaign for the Republicans, that they decided that they weren't going to really investigate as thoroughly as they clearly should have, what does that say?

SAMMON: Well, it says that they should have asked more questions earlier on, but to try and bring sexual orientation into this situation, it just is irrelevant.

BLITZER: Should Hastert resign?

SAMMON: Foley's behavior was despicable. BLITZER: Should Hastert resign?

SAMMON: I think we have to learn more about what exactly happened, what people knew, and when they knew it before we can answer that.

BLITZER: Patrick Sammon is the executive vice-president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group. Thanks for coming in.

SAMMON: Thanks a lot.

BLITZER: And coming up, two well-known names on the internet join forces. We're going to tell you how Google's search led to a very big find.

And in our 7:00 p.m. eastern hour, more on North Korea. Jeanne Moos takes a unique look at the intense worries, the scrutiny North Korea's claims are causing. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's get more now on our top story. North Korea's claim it successfully tested a nuclear bomb. Joining us now are world affairs analyst William Cohen, he's a former defense secretary under President Clinton. He's the chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group here in Washington. Mr. Secretary, thanks as usual for coming in. You heard Chris Hill, you heard Bill Richardson earlier. What do you make of this situation because it looks like this guy, Kim Jong-Il, he doesn't care what the United States is threatening, what the rest of the world is threatening. He's building a bomb, he's going forward.

WILLIAM COHEN, WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well he'll have to care because he depends upon the rest of the world to sustain his country.

BLITZER: So far China hasn't been willing to do much to punish him.

COHEN: Several interesting things have been taking place. You'll note on most of the front pages of the world's newspapers you'll find the new prime minister of Japan making his first visit reviewing the troops of China. This is a historic first where the new prime minister makes his first visit to China. So this is something quite significant. Secondly we now have the South Korean foreign minister who's going to become the secretary-general of the United Nations. So you have two major countries of the six-party talks who now are occupying positions of greater certainly authority and prominence. That may play some factor in this decision by North Korea to go forward.

BLITZER: He doesn't seem terrified though?

COHEN: Well he's not terrified, but he has to be concerned about how does he survive. He's been depending upon the rest of the world to feed his people, to provide energy. You have basically a failed state because he's been sitting on top of missiles rather than on an economy which was productive for his people. So the key will be will China, will Russia, in fact, back up their words with the responsibility and responsible action now by going to the U.N.? Let's see if the United Nations is willing to impose sanctions, and once they express that willingness then we can see whether or not the United States could in fact sit down in the context of the six-party talks and deal with him.

BLITZER: We're hearing the blame game starting now, which is not to be something of a surprise. Republicans, at least some Republicans are saying, you know what, it was the Clinton administration, especially the first term, you came in, in the second term of the Clinton administration where they were duped, they were taken on a ride by Kim Jong-Il, they promised hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance -- technical assistance to build these light water nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes. He took all of that, and it has helped him get to his nuclear position right now.

COHEN: In fact he didn't get the two reactors. What was supplied to him was fuel oil for his conventional power plants. He didn't get the light reactors. But this blame game is so I think really out of sorts today, to point the finger back eight years ago and say well, President Clinton didn't do enough. I think President Clinton went pretty far and we didn't see much activity coming from North Korea. You've got President Bush now has had six years, so let's not try to measure the aid versus the sick. Let's just say what do we do now. And what we have to do now is we have to be serious about getting a consolidated position. The Chinese, the Russians, the South Koreans, the Japanese, the United States, we need to be together on this. And if that happens then I think you'll see Kim Jong Il stand up and say well wait a minute, maybe I'm doing the wrong thing here. Maybe this is a good deal that the United States and the other countries are offering us. Maybe I have puffed up my chest, but now's the time to make a deal. And I think that if we in fact hang together, we'll see some positive reaction coming out of it. Absent that I think if we just have words, no deeds, then we'll see another nuclear power continue to develop with the proliferation of weapons in many parts of the world.

BLITZER: And that escalation could begin pretty quickly unless these steps are taken. Mr. Secretary, thanks very much.

COHEN: Good to be with you Wolf.

BLITZER: And still to come, were hundreds of Iraqi police officers poisoned? We're going to have details of what some fear could be a frightening new tactic by the insurgents and the terrorists in Iraq.

Plus, new details of the latest E. Coli scare here in the United States. We're going to tell you what the latest recall is all about. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is here in Washington, welcome to Washington Lou. You've got a hot book, but first of all can you tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well like you, we're going to be focusing and like everybody else on this network today, we're going to be focusing on North Korea. The fact that the United States government has made it clear that this will not be tolerated, we're going to look tonight at what that means. Is the United States government in point of fact bluffing and what will be the implications for foreign policy? I'll be talking with the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations tonight, John Bolten about what we can expect to happen in the days and weeks ahead.

BLITZER: This is a huge, huge story. The ramifications are enormous not only for us but for the whole world.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And with all that is going on with Congressman Mark Foley and the Republicans scrambling and damage control, what is the responsibility of leadership, and in what ways have they failed and in what ways if any have they succeeded?

BLITZER: Your viewers know you have a hot new book that's out. I'm not sure my viewers necessarily know. Tell our viewers what your new book is. Because I know it's selling big time.

DOBBS: "War on the Middle Class." Today is the first day that it's been out. And it's basically my manifesto on what the middle class of this country as the least represented in this very city, in the most besieged economically and financially has to do. And it's not going to please Republicans, and it's not going to please Democrats.

BLITZER: Well you very often don't please Republicans, you don't please Democrats. "War on the Middle Class," how the government, big business and special interest groups are waging war on the American dream and how to fight back.

DOBBS: Thank you, kind sir.

BLITZER: Nice book.

DOBBS: Appreciate it.

BLITZER: Would you sign it for me during the next commercial break?

DOBBS: Absolutely. It's done.

BLITZER: Thanks, stand by. Let's check in with Zain. She's got a quick look at some other important stories. Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Negligence or an intentional attack that caused food poisoning on a grand scale? Iraqi authorities want to know why hundreds of Iraqi police officers fell ill after eating their Sunday evening meal, breaking their daily Ramadan fast? The head of the mess hall and workers serving the food have been detained and are under investigation. Military brass hope their new recruitment mantra will have new soldiers lining to sign up. Army Secretary Francis Harvey today unveiled the branch's new slogan, "Army Strong." A new 200 million dollar a year multimedia campaign will replace the current army of one drive. Lagging recruitment numbers prompted the new approach. The military will roll out the new campaign around Veteran's Day.

A 13-year-old Missouri middle schooler is in custody after bringing an assault rifle to school and firing one round. Police in Joplin say the unnamed 7th grader pointed the weapon at two students. An administrator tried to talk him into giving up the rifle. The boy refused and fired the shot into the ceiling. The weapon jammed, the boy left and police arrested him. No one was hurt. Wolf?

BLITZER: Zain, thanks for that.

Zain Verjee reporting. A California lettuce company is voluntarily recalling some of its lettuce over concerns of possible E. Coli contamination. This comes less than one week after the Food and Drug Administration lifted a warning on fresh spinach grown in the same area. Our internet reporter Jacki Schechner is standing by with more. Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf we saw the big brand behind you, it's called the Nunez company that makes this brand "Foxy" and you can get all of the recall information on their website at foxy.com, very simple. We're talking about green leaf lettuce specifically that was distributed in seven states. Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Now this is just a precautionary measure. There's no illnesses that have been reported yet, but what they said is that water that was used to irrigate this lettuce shows signs of E. Coli, so they're just being careful. Now the good news is, that more than 97 percent of the possibly affected cartons have been located up to this point. Of course, this comes on the heel of the spinach E. Coli outbreak that affected 199 people with illness, three died Wolf, and it was in 26 different states.

BLITZER: Jacki thank you.

And just ahead, what should the U.S. do about the sharp rise in casualties in Iraq? Jack Cafferty is standing by with your email.

And in our 7:00 p.m. eastern hour, North Korea's nuclear card is raising the stakes. What are the military options for both sides? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty. Jack?

CAFFERTY: Wolf, 776 U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq last month, the highest monthly total in almost two years. So the question is what should the United States do about the sharp rise in casualties in Iraq. Doug writes, "That's an easy one, leave, cut your losses, run, whatever you want to call it. The United States is not going to win this one, it's going to go on bloody year after bloody year, because your president can't admit he made a mistake. And your brave soldiers are paying the price. Terri in Ontario writes, "Pull out of the cities, secure the borders and make the Iraqi's stand up for their nation."

Concerned soldier wrote to us from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, as a soldier who as severely wounded in action in Afghanistan, I feel for the soldiers over there in Iraq every day. Everyone in the military knows we don't have enough soldiers over there to do the job. The administration should start listening to them and not to suits in Washington, D.C." Mar writes, "When will President Bush admit he was wrong and change the plan. Either send in 300,000 more troops or make the Iraqis take this on while we control it from the green zone. Anything's better than this rising death toll coming from an invisible enemy."

Bob in Phoenix writes, "I read recently where 71 percent of the Iraqis want the U.S. troops to leave their country. I suggest we do exactly that. Let's move all our troops and equipment down to Kuwait as quickly as we can safely. We can hold them there for 30 days, see what happens, or send a large number of them to Afghanistan." And Louise writes from Florida, "Reinstitute the draft and the soccer moms will end this war overnight." If you didn't see your e-mail here you can go to cnn.com/cafferty file and read more of them online. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jack thank you. See you back here in an hour, 7:00 p.m. eastern.

Up next, Google goes shopping. There may soon be a merger of two of America's most popular internet sites. Our internet reporter Jacki Schechner will have details when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHECHNER: The internet's leading search engine Google has decided it ought to be in pictures. Google has just announced it will acquire the popular online video site Youtube. And the deal comes with a hefty price. Our internet reporter Jacki Schechner once again with details. Jacki?

SCHECHNER: We heard the rumors Wolf, now its true. One-poin-65 billion in stock. That's what Google's going to pay to acquire Youtube.com. The video sharing site. Youtube says that more than 100 million clips are watched a day and 65,000 are uploaded every day. A lot of traffic for a site that was just founded in February of 2005. Google according to Alexa which ranks internet sites is the third most popular website in the world. Youtube ranking at number 10. Also strategic partnerships announced by the two companies today. Google announced it was partnering with Sony BMG Music Entertainment and with Warner Music Group. Youtube announcing partnerships with Sony, Universal, and CBS. Wolf?

BLITZER: What a deal. Thanks very much Jacki for that. Remember we're in THE SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoons 4:00 to 6:00. Back in one hour at 7:00 p.m. Lou is here in Washington. Let's go to Lou Dobbs. 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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