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THE SITUATION ROOM

Homeland Security Advised NFL of Potential Stadium Threat; Possible Signs of Another Nuclear Test in North Korea; New Report Finds 22 Democratic Candidates Raised At Least $1 Million Each To Challenge Republican Incumbents In House Races; Congressional TV Ads Not Police; McCartney and Mills Go Through Ugly Divorce

Aired October 18, 2006 - 16:00   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, breaking news, a potential threat to pro-football stadiums across the United States. We'll have the very latest on this developing story about all of our security.

Also this hour, Ground Zero in the North Korea crisis. U.S. analysts see more signs that another nuclear test may be in the works. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promising to protect allies in the region. It is 5:00 a.m. Thursday in Japan where the secretary is trying to ease fears of a new nuclear arms race.

Plus, is the American dream out of reach? Is the United States Congress out of touch? It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington. Our new CNN poll asks questions that hit at the heart of voter concerns only 20 days before the midterm elections.

And the importance of cold-hard cash and negative commercials in these final weeks of the campaign. It's 3:00 p.m. in Missouri, one of the most crucial battleground states in the battle for Congress. We'll have an inside look at the air and ground wars.

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

We begin with breaking news in our CNN security watch. New red flags are being raised about safety at NFL stadiums around the country. Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is following this story. She's on the phone with us now from Michigan. Jeanne, update our viewers on precisely what the Department of Homeland Security is saying right now about NFL stadiums this weekend?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (on phone): Wolf, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security is saying there is no credible intelligence to support claims that are being made on a Web site called thefriendsociety.com (ph).

There, there is a posting by someone by the name of "Jabnis" (ph). He says that this Sunday, October 22nd, there will be seven dirty bomb explosive devices detonated outside NFL games in Miami, New York, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland, according to this posting.

The death toll would approach 100,000 from the initial blast and other fatalities that would occur as a result of radioactive fallout. The Web site says that the bombs would be delivered via trucks.

Now, the Department of Homeland Security became aware of this posting and sent out a private sector notice to the NFL and state and local officials and other appropriate parties. They informed them of this claim on the Web site, but say there is no credible intelligence to support these. No credible information to indicate such attacks are imminent.

They are simply disseminating this information out of an abundance of caution so these authorities can make, on their own, the decisions they think are appropriate to secure their facilities and their communities. This note that has been sent out says we are treating this with strong skepticism given the spectacular nature of the threat.

I can tell you that Greg Aiello, a spokesman for the NFL, says that the NFL was notified yesterday afternoon of this posting. We've been given no reason by the government he said, to believe there is a credible threat. Our stadiums are very well protected and we have comprehensive security procedures in place. Those patdowns and bag searches.

Now, the Department of Homeland Security is making a very strong recommendation that the American public go about its business as usual. That they plan to attend large gatherings including these specific football games on Sunday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne, is the federal government, in addition to just giving this information to the NFL and to these various stadiums, these teams across the United States -- is the federal government planning on taking any specific additional security precautions itself to beef up security at these stadiums this weekend?

MESERVE: I was told, no, no protective measures were being taken by the federal government. However, federal law enforcement official tells CNN that there are meetings going on with representatives of the individual teams involving the FBI and the DHS. I'm sure they'll be talking about possible protective measures that might be taken.

BLITZER: If in fact the Department of Homeland Security is making this information available, Jeanne, to various NFL teams, the NFL as a league, it's obviously going to cause some concern among the fans who want to go to these games. What kind of threshold do they have to get to before they would pass this kind of information along? Because as you point out, it is out of an abundance of caution, but they know this is going to come out and they assume it's going to cause some deep concern, anxiety among fans out there.

MESERVE: The threshold is, I'm sure, a moving target. It depends on the specific threat involved, the severity of the threat, kind of target that's being talked about. In this instance, obviously they felt they'd met that threshold at least for informing people what was going on. But let me underline again that the department is saying this is not credible. They do not have any intelligence that supports this. However, of course, they're continuing to monitor all sorts of streams of intelligence to see if they do come up with anything that could possibly corroborate what has been posted on this Web site.

BLITZER: And just to be precise, as you've been reporting, Jeanne, this Web site suggesting that a radiological dirty bomb would be -- or dirty bombs would be placed at seven stadiums. I want to repeat those cities around the country: Miami, New York, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland. What do we know about this specific Web site that's making this threat?

MESERVE: I don't know much about it besides its name. One official did tell me that it was posted by Penguin and a group called Voxel Dot Net, Incorporated out of Troy, New York, is involved with this Web site. Beyond that, I was given no specific information. But this posting by this person who identifies himself here as Jabnis is quite specific.

Says these bombs are going to be delivered by truck, they'll pull up to the stadium in each of these stadiums. The stadiums targeted are open air excluding the Atlanta Georgia Dome. That's an enclosed stadium. It says due to the open air, the fallout will destroy those not killed in the initial explosion. It says this is being timed to mark the final day of Ramadan, as it would fall in Mecca.

And it also claims that later through Al-Jazeera, Osama bin Laden will issue a video message claiming responsibility, what he will dub America's Hiroshima. But many caution you of course, that many things are posted on the Internet. Many of them are not true. Some however, are. That is why the department has taken the step of sending out this note to local authorities and others.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne, I want you to stand by. Our Homeland Security analyst Clark Kent Ervin is joining us right now on the phone as well.

Clark, this Web site posted October 12th suggested in the title of this threat "New Attack on America: Be Afraid." It mentioned these NFL stadiums in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland, where games are scheduled to be held this weekend.

I want to double check and make sure that there are games scheduled in those cities, home games, this weekend. But how unusual is this for the Department of Homeland Security to be informing the NFL of this threat, which they don't deem necessarily to be all that credible, but at the same time certainly raising a lot of anxiety out there?

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST (on phone): Well, this particular threat to the NFL I think is unprecedented, Wolf. I've not heard of this particular kind of threat against NFL before. But on the other hand, there have been other instances, where in an abundance of caution, the Department of Homeland Security has advised potential targets of a potential threat.

I'm reminded a few months ago of a threat against the New York subways, I guess this was last year. And again, it was unclear of whether the reports were credible. But in a safe rather than sorry fashion, the department passed the information on and left it up to the local and state officials there to do what they thought prudent under the circumstances. In the post 9/11 world, that's exactly what needs to happen.

BLITZER: Because in this particular threat Clark, its very, very specific. They mention stadiums, they mention cities, they mention when, they mention specific targets, namely these NFL games and they also mention the specific mode of this terrorism, which would be a radiological dirty bomb. All that specific information would presumably give it a little more credibility or is that not necessarily the case?

ERVIN: No, you're quite right. The more specific as to timing, as to targets, as to locales, the more seriously the government needs to take it. I think a number of other things need to be said about this.

Just a few months ago, congressional investigators working for the Government Accountability Office were able to bring enough radioactive material to make two dirty bombs past border inspectors at our borders with Mexico and Canada. So it's possible to do this. There has been lots of concern about dirty bombs because a relatively small amount of radiation is necessary in order to make them.

Furthermore, these particular target stadiums, those are what are called soft targets by counterterrorism officials. They're called soft targets because, unlike, say, nuclear plants or military bases or the White House or the Capitol, they're relatively lightly defended.

And one of the paradoxes in the post-09/11 world is that the harder we've made it to attack hard targets, the more attractive it is for terrorists to go after soft targets, like sports stadiums. So there is reason for concern here.

I think, again, we need to stress that it's not been validated, but the department did exactly the right thing in passing this on to local officials, and I'm sure that they'll take steps, like increasing police presence and having radiation sensors at those games. We can confirm that there are, in fact, games in those cities, and also doing some random back searches.

BLITZER: We just did confirm. We did double-check, Clark, to make sure there are home games in these seven NFL stadiums this weekend. And, in fact, there are. And I'll just repeat those cities another time. New York, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland.

There are games, in fact, scheduled for this weekend. When our viewers hear the words "radiological dirty bomb", tell our viewers what that means. It sounds terrifying, but a lot of viewers probably don't understand what these terrorists may have in mind. ERVIN: Well, that's right. Well, it's interesting, in a way it sounds more serious than it really is. If we were talking about a massive nuclear explosion, that could kill millions of people, tens of millions of people.

But with regard to a dirty bomb, we're talking about a relatively small amount of radioactive material in a conventional explosive. And the number of people who could be killed would be relatively small, in the thousands, but the number of people who are affected would be larger.

And certainly the psychic impact would be huge, because of the very term radiation, because it's never happened in our country. I think people would be very much at a loss as to what to do. So there's real concern here. And as you say, the more specific it is, the more reason for us to be concerned about it.

BLITZER: The statement coming out of the NFL, Brian McCarthy, the NFL director of communications, put out this statement. Jeanne mentioned it earlier. Let me read it specifically.

"The Department of Homeland Security has judged that the threat is not credible. Our stadiums are very well protected through the comprehensive security procedures we have in place, including secure facility perimeters, pat-downs and bag searches."

Here's a question that jumps out at me, Clark, if the Department of Homeland Security has judged the threat to be not credible, why are they passing this on to the NFL owners, to the NFL teams and why are we learning about it? Because as I said before, it's going to create alarm automatically.

ERVIN: Well, they're passing it on, again, out of an abundance of caution. In the post 9/11 environment, the last thing the government should do is have information that may or may not be credible, and then to sit on it, and not pass it on to those governmental officials and private sector officials who are in a position to do something about it, on the off chance that the threat might in fact be real.

So I think they're quite right to do that. We furthermore -- the notion that this is time for the end of Ramadan makes it also very, very impactful. I think it's an additional reason why the government would want to pass this on.

Now, a good reason for passing this information on to the public is that it could well have a deterrent effect. If, in fact, this threat turns out to be real, and, of course, we hope that it isn't, but if it is real, getting this out into the public, ratcheting up security measures at these stadiums on Saturday, in advance of Saturday, could well deter the terrorists from attacking if that's what they intend to do. And of course, that would be the best of all possible outcomes.

BLITZER: The other point that jumps out at me, Clark, is there a -- are there precedents where they have actually issued these warnings in advance, and then have gone through with terror attacks? Because you would think that they wouldn't want to give anyone a heads up if they were planning this, if in fact, it was a serious threat.

ERVIN: Well, I mean, you know, after all, we now know that there were some messages indicating that 9/11 was about to happen, that the NSA intercepted. They didn't intercept it until -- actually, they intercepted it before 9/11, but they didn't grasp the significance of it until afterwards.

And of course, there have been lots of generic warnings from bin Laden himself and from Zawahiri and from other terrorists as to potential plots. So I don't think it is unprecedented in that regard.

BLITZER: And I just want to be precise, Clark. You used to work in the Department of Homeland Security. You were the inspector general. Officials there are telling Jeanne that if you have tickets, you should go to the game and not necessarily be overly concerned. What's your advice?

ERVIN: Well, I agree with that. After all, the whole purpose of terrorism is to terrorize, that means to instill such fear in the public that they won't go about their daily lives, that they will be essentially immobilized and paralyzed because of fear of terrorism.

It's incumbent upon the government to pass these warnings on to those in positions of authority. It's incumbent upon those in position of authority to take prudent precautionary measures. And it sounds like that's exactly what's going on. That being so, it seem to me the public is well advised to go about their business and to attend the games, if that had been their plan to do so beforehand.

BLITZER: One bottom line assessment right now, and I just want to update our viewers before I hear from you what is going on, for those viewers who may just be tuning in.

Out of an abundance of caution, the NFL has been notified by the Department of Homeland Security here in Washington of a threat. It's deemed a noncredible threat, but it's a threat on an Islamic Web site suggesting that seven NFL stadiums will be targeted this weekend with a radiological dirty bomb.

You can see up on the map, New York, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Cleveland, Oakland, Seattle, all those cities, hosting home games this weekend, and the Department of Homeland Security saying, while it's not a credible threat, out of an abundance of caution, they've notified the NFL and these teams of this threat.

Bottom line assessment, Clark Kent Ervin right now, what do you think about this whole situation?

ERVIN: Well, I think it's a good news story, based on what we're learning right now. It is exactly right for the government, once it learns of a threat like this, given the specificity, given in terms of targets, locale, date, et cetera, to pass that information on to federal, state, local and private sector officials, and for those officials to take some prudent precautionary steps, even if, as we all hope, of course, the threat proves not to be real.

This is exactly how the government should be working and I think the American people should be cheered by the efforts that the government is undertaking today.

BLITZER: All right. Good advice from Clark Kent Ervin, our homeland security analyst.

Clark, stand by, we're not going to be leaving this story. But I want to check in with Jack Cafferty. He's joining us from New York with the "Cafferty File".

Never dull, Jack, in our business.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, apparently not, Wolf.

October is shaping up to be one of the deadliest months yet to the U.S. military in Iraq. Ten more of our troops were killed there yesterday, nine soldiers, one Marine, bringing the total number of U.S. military deaths for October to 67. And today is only October the 18th. Since the start of the war, 2,782 troops have died. More than 20,000 have been wounded. It's estimated hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died since this fighting started, maybe as many as 600,000.

And today the Iraqi government announced 54,000 families have been displaced because of the war. That's another half a million people whose lives have been ripped apart by this failed enterprise.

The architect of a lot of the failure in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, says the U.S. military is too strong to lose the war in Iraq. Really? If this is winning, I'm sure glad we're not losing.

He said, quote, "You've got a situation where it's not possible to lose militarily." And he added, "It's also going to require more than military power to prevail." Rumsfeld was referring to political solutions within the Iraqi government. So far those have been pretty much nonexistent.

So here's the question, why do you think the violence is escalating in Iraq? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com, or got to CNN.com/CafffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's escalating big time, Jack, and it doesn't look like there's any end in sight right now. We'll get back to you shortly.

And as Jack has just been reporting, we'll have much more on this latest upsurge in the violence in Iraq. Coming up at the top of the hour, we'll go live to the Pentagon. I'll also speak with our Michael Ware in Baghdad. He's watching this deadly situation unfold in Iraq.

Up next, we'll have more on what's going on in this threat that's being made to NFL stadiums. Also, we'll get into politics, the ad wars. Both parties smothering all of our TVs with negative campaign commercials. But will it make a difference in the battle for the control of Congress? And, later, Barack Obama, will he or won't he? The junior senator from Illinois kicking off his book tour. But does he have presidential ambitions on his mind? Lots more news coming up. Stay with us, you're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll continue to watch this story, this Web site making this threat that seven NFL stadiums will be targeted this weekend with a radiological dirty bomb. The Department of Homeland Security saying it is not a credible threat, but out of an abundance of caution, they've notified the NFL about this threat. We're watching this story. Those seven stadiums include New York, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland. More on this story coming up.

Let's get back to other issues we're following, from international diplomacy to politics. With just 20 days left until congressional elections, both parties are flinging open their war chests and pulling out all the stops. But in the end will the mood of the voters matter most on November 7th?

Our Bob Franken is following all the 11th hour strategizing, but let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He has got some brand new poll numbers. He's out in Kansas City, Missouri with the CNN Election Express.

What are these numbers showing us, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, you heard the stock market figures. The economic numbers out of New York and Washington are pretty good. So why are Americans so angry?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Many Americans feel like the man who is about to drown crossing a stream that on the average is three-feet deep. On the average, the economy's doing well.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The budget numbers are proof that pro-growth economic policies work.

SCHNEIDER: But not for people who feel themselves slipping under water.

MARIO CUOMO (D), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: The people who are really doing well in this country now are the very wealthy people and not the working middle class. That's slipping.

SCHNEIDER: In a new CNN poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, a majority of Americans say the American dream has become the impossible dream for most people. Those with no college degree have lost faith in the American dream.

College graduates still believe, but only about 30 percent of Americans have finished college. There's a lot of middle class frustration out there, and it's focused on Washington. Even Republicans are running against Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know what you're feeling. Washington has no clue what's going on in your life.

SCHNEIDER: About three-quarters of the public sees Congress as out of touch with average Americans, about the same as in 1994, the last time voters overthrew the majority in Congress.

But it's not just Congress. Nearly 80 percent of Americans feel big business has too much influence over the Bush administration. Democrats are nearly unanimous in that sentiment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Washington, we have a White House that has rolled over for the oil companies.

SCHNEIDER: As it happens, most Republicans also feel that way, a rare instance of bipartisan agreement.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: What's driving all that anti-Washington sentiment? Not just scandals, but also the view that we send people to Washington who aren't solving problems, like healthcare and illegal immigration and energy, and, of course, Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider reporting from Kansas City. Bill, thank you.

And we'll have more on Americans' shattered dreams tonight in a Lou Dobbs special report, "WAR ON THE MIDDLE CLASS." Lou explores problems in healthcare, housing, education and in Congress, tonight 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll stand down here in THE SITUATION ROOM so Lou can host this one-hour live event from Kansas City, Missouri. You're going to want to see this.

In the battle for Congress, the ground war is critical, along with the cash that pays for it. A new report finds a record 22 Democratic candidates have raised at least $1 million each to challenge Republican incumbents in some of the most heated House races. It's another reason for Republicans to fear that their days of controlling Congress may -- repeat may -- be numbered.

Let's bring in our national correspondent Bob Franken -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, usually by this time the consultants, the experts will tell you that the scope of an election is clearly defined. But as we found at an event at the National Press Club today, it certainly is not the case this time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN (voice-over): It's an incredibly turbulent campaign where Republicans have been thunderstruck. Democrats are hoping to take advantage, not just of Mark Foley, but the months and months of constant surprises. REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: There's a real sense around the country that what has been the people's house has become an auction house.

FRANKEN: Republicans are furiously trying to refocus the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're dealing with fierce contests fought by local personalities.

FRANKEN: And in the midst of this remarkable campaign fury sit the political professionals who play the multimillion dollar chess game.

EVAN TRACEY, CNN CONSULTANT: Cash is always king.

FRANKEN: CNN consultant Evan Tracey says the money people are now deciding where to put their advertising resources. As best they can figure it out.

TRACEY: The reality is the playing field keeps expanding. It is not shrinking.

FRANKEN: In fact, Democrats are now trying to spread their unaccustomed wealth to nearly 60 House races they now believe are in play, even debating whether the party should take out millions more in loans to finance a growing list of candidates the party feels are potential winners.

VAN HOLLEN: Now what you're seeing is these emerging candidates, people we had on that list, are now surging.

FRANKEN: Republicans insist the field is much smaller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three dozen seats will be the hotly contested races around the country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: But it will only take a net gain of 15 seats for the Democrats to take over the House. So, Wolf, clearly there are enough seats in play.

BLITZER: Bob Franken, thanks very much. Bob reporting from here in Washington.

We're also keeping an eye on that developing story. The Department of Homeland Security has sent an advisory to the National Football League and local officials advising of a possible uncorroborated threat against some NFL stadiums, seven, specifically for this weekend. We're going to go back and check in with our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve. That's coming up.

Plus, much more on the battle for Congress and our new poll numbers. Are lawmakers up for reelection really in this much trouble? Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan, they're standing by live for tomorrow's "Strategy Session." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following that developing story, the Department of Homeland Security advising the National Football League of a potential problem out there, uncorroborated, a Web site -- a Web site -- suggesting that seven NFL stadiums could be targeted with a radiological dirty bomb this weekend.

The Department of Homeland Security saying this is not necessarily a credible threat, but, out of an abundance of precaution, they're alerting the NFL, alerting the public to this threat that has been posted on a Web site.

Our Carol Costello is following this story for us, as well, getting some additional information.

Carol, what are you picking up?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I just talked to Barbara Casey in Tampa. She's in charge of the stadium in Tampa Bay. I know Tampa was not on the list, but all NFL teams are paying attention to this.

In fact, Barbara just told me that they met with the FBI, local officials, and the Department of Homeland Security. They are going to be providing extra security during the game. She wouldn't go into specifics, of course, for obvious reasons.

I asked her if she's concerned about truck traffic at the stadium. She said: Well, we have a great perimeter around the stadium. And it pretty much keeps truck traffic away. So, they're not worried about that. She is telling fans: Come on to the game. We have the situation well in hand -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, Carol.

Jeanne Meserve is our homeland security correspondent.

Jeanne, for those viewers who are just tuning in, update them, precisely what -- what we know.

MESERVE: This was a threat that appeared on a Web site. It said that dirty bombs would be detonated this Sunday outside NFL games in seven U.S. cities: Miami, New York, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland, and Cleveland.

The Department of Homeland Security is saying there is no credible intelligence to support these claims, no credible information to indicate such attacks will take place. But, out of an abundance of caution, they informed the NFL and other officials, so they can take the actions that they deem to be appropriate.

The NFL has issued a statement, saying that their stadiums are very well protected, and have comprehensive security procedures, including pat-downs and bag searches. However, meetings are going on. And it is likely that security will be increased this Sunday around games in those cities, at least -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne, we will check back with you -- Jeanne Meserve reporting on this developing story for us.

Let's move on now.

Slowly going away, sadly, that's how a majority of Americans feel about the American dream -- that according to a new CNN poll we reported on earlier. You just heard Bill Schneider give us all the specifics. Also, many Americans also believe that so many members of Congress are simply out of touch.

Here to discuss all of this in our "Strategy Session," our two CNN political analysts. Paul Begala is a Democratic strategist. Bay Buchanan is president American Cause.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Specifically on that poll, Paul, most Americans of -- Congress are out of touch with average Americans. That was the question.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

BLITZER: Seventy-four percent now say they believe that, that the members of Congress are out of touch with average Americans.

We had to go back to 1994, a year you remember quite well.

BEGALA: Yes.

BLITZER: Seventy-five percent at that time thought most members of Congress were out of touch with average Americans.

And Democrats and the Clinton administration, as you remember, in '94 paid a huge price with that attitude.

BEGALA: Democrats lost more than 50 seats in the House in 1994, and I think nine seats in the Senate. It was the worst year for my party in a generation. This is shaping up to be the worst year for the Republicans in a generation.

And they're going to do everything that they can. There's a whole lot of people today, they are going to watch the first 15 minutes of our broadcast today, and say, isn't that interesting? We're 19 days before an election, and they raise the threat level -- or -- they didn't actually raise the threat level. That's not true.

But they hyped this potential threat to the NFL, even though...

BLITZER: Well, let me just...

BEGALA: ... the reporting is that it's not...

BLITZER: Let me just press you on this, because...

BEGALA: ... credible. BLITZER: ... because I know that there are people out there who are going to think that the Department of Homeland Security, which is part of the Bush administration....

BEGALA: Right.

BLITZER: ... is...

BEGALA: Which is run by a guy who was a political hatchet guy for Al D'Amato, the Republican senator who ran all that Whitewater stuff, Michael Chertoff.

BLITZER: But if a Web site, in fact, made this specific threat, wouldn't...

BEGALA: Right.

BLITZER: ... they be derelict in their duty if they didn't alert the NFL and the American public...

BEGALA: It's...

BLITZER: ... to that kind of a threat?

BEGALA: That's the problem.

It -- the -- clearly, the president was derelict, when he ignored the warnings before 9/11. And, so, they are in a box. And I feel for them in that respect. And I always try to give them the benefit of the doubt. But it is interesting that these things always seem to spike right before an election.

BLITZER: You know, and he makes a point that a lot of our viewers are going to think that this administration, the Republicans, desperate to try to get themselves reelected, they're going to make Americans fearful of another terrorist attack, and they might vote for Republicans.

BAY BUCHANAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I just want to get it straight here.

I'm just wondering, are we suggesting here, Paul, that Republicans have somehow created this -- this scare, this frightening possibility that's been proposed with these National Football League stadiums? Is this something you're saying that we have just put...

BEGALA: No.

BUCHANAN: ... out there because it is a couple days...

BEGALA: No, but...

BUCHANAN: ... a couple weeks before an election?

BEGALA: No, no. What I'm saying is that the -- Jeanne Meserve's... BUCHANAN: Then, did...

BEGALA: ... own reporting was that this is not a credible threat.

BUCHANAN: It is -- and that's -- well, who said that? Homeland Security said that.

BEGALA: Right.

BUCHANAN: But who is making national attention? CNN and others are telling the people in the country, because they feel they have an obligation to let them know.

BEGALA: It is a tough call.

BUCHANAN: This administration is doing their job.

BEGALA: As I said, my heart goes out to them.

BUCHANAN: Yes, but you're criticizing them, suggesting this is some ploy. That's outrageous. And I believe...

BEGALA: It has been used in the past.

BUCHANAN: ... it's this kind of attitude that is going to...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Tom Ridge, the former director of Homeland Security, has said -- I'm paraphrasing -- but he has said that he thinks there have been times when the White House exerted pressure, political pressure, on terrorism politics and terrorism press matters.

I don't know if this is one of those occasions. But let's go back and see what Secretary Ridge said. And I just think a lot of voters are going to be deeply skeptical.

BUCHANAN: Let's talk about today and what you're suggesting.

BLITZER: Let me get this back to politics a little bit.

BUCHANAN: All right.

BLITZER: Karl Rove, and President Bush, for that matter, they have been now widely quoted over these last few days as firmly believing the Republicans are going to hold on to their majority.

Do they simply, Bay, have to say that to their supporters out there? Or do you think they know something the rest of us don't necessarily know?

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: Well, obviously, they're being optimistic. And I think that's what every coach should do. You're going into the fourth quarter.

They're going to into the fourth quarter. There's plenty of time, 20 days here. You have got $100 million, Wolf, that has not been spent -- a lot of things happening in the world. The president is going to make his case for Republican majorities to be kept in both houses.

So, sure, they're optimistic. They see that things can be turned around here. We're -- no question, we're coming. It's a tough game. We're behind. But this is long from over.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BEGALA: I think they always go to their last-ditch strategy, which is fear and smear.

Maybe we're seeing fear now. We're certainly seeing smear. That $100 million, Republicans even say, over 90 percent of that will be spent on attack ads, personally attacking Democrats.

BLITZER: Well, Democrats have plenty of attack ads, too.

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

BEGALA: Oh, absolutely. But they're winning because people agree with the Democratic attacks. They think that Congress is out of touch. The president has done a bad job. We need a new direction. So...

BUCHANAN: You...

BEGALA: ... the Republicans are going to try this fear and smear at the end.

BUCHANAN: You know...

BEGALA: And I don't think it is going to work. But it is interesting how...

BUCHANAN: Wolf...

BEGALA: ... remarkably confident...

BUCHANAN: There's...

BEGALA: ... Mr. Rove and the president seem to be...

BUCHANAN: There's...

BEGALA: ... in the face of all evidence. I wonder why.

BUCHANAN: There's a basic difference between 1994 and today.

And that is that the Republicans, with Newt Gingrich, made an incredible proposal to the American people. They gave them a plan. They told them what their strategy was going to be. And the American people responded.

What have Democrats done? They are doing nothing. They offer nothing whatsoever. And that's what I believe gives the Republicans an opening to let them know: We might not have done everything you wanted us to, but these guys offer absolutely nothing, but grim and -- and sarcasm, et cetera.

BLITZER: Newt Gingrich did have, as you well remember, the Contract for America.

BEGALA: He did. And, on the Election Day, in the exit polling, seven out of 10 Americans had never heard of it.

Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, have put out plan after plan, energy security, health care, trying to bring down the deficit, creating new jobs, cleaning up this cesspool of corruption in Washington.

You can go look it up. The problem is, we in the media never cover that kind of stuff. But you can go to -- to look at these Democratic campaigns. And they have actually put forward-looking ideas out there. It is the Republicans who have a four-word strategy, which is "more of the same."

BLITZER: I just want to pick your brain briefly, because...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... he's making a big splash right now, Barack Obama.

BUCHANAN: Sure.

BLITZER: He was on the cover of "TIME" magazine, as you know. He's going out. He's going to be on "LARRY KING LIVE" tomorrow night.

And is he, in your opinion, Bay, a credible Democratic potential White House presidential candidate?

BUCHANAN: For only one reason, because Democrats are desperately looking for somebody other than Hillary. She's -- he's an alternative to Hillary.

The only way you are going to stop that woman is to come up with somebody with star power. Mark Warner stepped out. All of a sudden, Osama is the one that the -- Obama is the name that is going out there now. And I think he has star power.

He is nothing but a rookie, though. He's had no prime-time experience. That's how desperate they are for a national leader to beat Hillary.

BLITZER: All right, you get the last word on this one.

BEGALA: He's a special guy. I want to see how -- what he says to Larry King when he goes on -- on the program. He's someone -- he will be under tremendous pressure to run. As my buddy Carville points out, if Harold Ford Jr. wins that Senate race in Tennessee, an African-American, the pressure on Barack Obama to run for president, as an African-American, will be huge, because they will say, if an African-American can win in Tennessee, which Al Gore couldn't even carry. And Gore is white. I have seen him dance. I can vouch for the fact he's completely white.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: So, if Harold can win that race, people will turn to Barack and say, hey, you can do it, too, buddy. And the pressure will be enormous on him to run.

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up as well, guys.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

And, as our viewers know, Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan are part of the best political team on television.

Coming up: It seems like the problems are mounting for Republicans. I will speak with conservative radio talk show host Bill Bennett, to see just how upset Republican voters really are. That's coming up in the next hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's sort of a rule of thumb in political campaigns, especially the very close ones: The nearer Election Day gets, the nastier the campaign ads get.

Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He's in Kansas City, Missouri, with the CNN Election Express.

You're picking up information around the country, John, on these ad wars that are out there.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you were talking a bit about it earlier, less than three weeks to go now, an expanding number of hotly contested House and Senate races -- tens of millions of dollars left to spend. Look for a lot of that money to go into TV ads that are, shall we say, not so polite.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): Three weeks out, the sharper rhetoric tells you, Republican incumbent Jim Talent knows he could be a former senator come January.

SEN. JIM TALENT (R), MISSOURI: I don't know if you know all this about my opponent, but, you know, she had property she didn't pay taxes on three years in a row? This is an auditor.

KING: Tough stuff, yet tame compared to the negative shift the TV ad war is taking as the midterm campaign enters crunch time.

NARRATOR: But, as Jackson County prosecutor, McCaskill violated ethical standards and misled a special prosecutor investigating drug use by her employees.

KING: Over the line, in the eyes of one watchdog group.

BROOKS JACKSON, FACTCHECK.ORG DIRECTOR, ANNENBERG PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Some of those quotes in the Talent ads really are not the words of the newspaper. They're words of people being quoted by the newspaper, McCaskill critics. That's a misrepresentation, and really out of bounds.

KING: McCaskill suggests the negative tone will backfire.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSION SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: They're character attacks. They're unfair. They're distorted.

KING: Not that her ads are so gentle.

NARRATOR: Votes 11 times against increasing the minimum wage, but takes six congressional pay raises. What kind of a person does this, then tells us he's changing Washington?

KING: Missouri's Senate race is hardly unique. The Mark Foley scandal is a weapon in an Indiana House race.

NARRATOR: ... where Sodrel took thousands from congressional leaders who were embroiled in a revolting scandal and alleged cover- up.

KING: And consider this from Republican Senate challenger Tom Kean Jr. in New Jersey.

NARRATOR: Listen carefully to Bob Menendez's top lieutenant pressuring a doctor in a Menendez kickback scheme.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only reason I stuck my nose into this Ruiz thing is because Menendez asked me, you know, to -- to do it.

NARRATOR: Kickback schemes, federal criminal probes, that's what you get with Bob Menendez.

KING: The high stakes, with control of both the House and Senate up for grabs, translate into record spending: just since Labor Day, six weeks ago, nearly $80 million in ad spending on House races, and more than $107 million for the TV war and Senate campaigns.

JACKSON: The worst of them are the misleading ads, the ones that are false or twisted or -- or out of context. And we're seeing a lot of that from both sides.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And, as you noted at the top, Wolf, the closer you get to Election Day, the more negative, some would say nasty, the ads get. In every campaign cycle, the voters complain. They say they -- they don't like it. So, why do the campaigns use them? Ask any consultant in a close race, he will tell you, they work -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's why they do it. John, thanks very much -- John King reporting for us.

Coming up: an apology from the campaign trail. We are going to tell you who is saying sorry and what they're sorry about in today's "Political Radar."

And, at the top of the hour, much more on our "Top Story": the potential dirty bomb threat at some NFL pro football stadiums. Among others, I will speak live with Congressman Peter King. He's the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now a check of our "Political Radar" this Wednesday.

The number-two Democrat in the House of Representatives is apologizing for his choice of words in criticizing a Republican Senate candidate. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer says he never should have accused Michael Steele, an African-American, of -- quote -- "slavishly supporting the GOP."

And Hoyer says no offense was intended. Steele told a Baltimore newspaper that Hoyer showed -- quote -- "the height of arrogance" by referring to him with what Steele calls racist terms. But Steele and Hoyer are from Maryland. Hoyer made the remark about Steele while introducing Steele's Democratic rival, Ben Cardin, to a group of black business owners on Sunday.

President Bush is in North Carolina today, promoting his education agenda at elementary schools. Mr. Bush also attends a Republican fund-raiser in the state tonight.

Meantime, the president is delivering an ominous warning to GOP activists. In a new e-mail, Mr. Bush says, if Democrats win control of Congress, it will make it harder for him to enact conservative policies in the last two years of his term. He urges Republican activists to volunteer for campaigns, or face the threat that Democrats will roll back the Patriot Act, raise taxes, and prevent conservative judges from being appointed to the bench.

And, remember, for the latest campaign news at any time, check out our CNN Political Ticker. Easy way to do it, go to CNN.com/ticker.

Up next: the bloodshed, the bodies in Iraq. We know the violence keeps growing, but why?

Jack Cafferty back with your e-mail.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's got "The Cafferty File." He's joining us now live -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf.

Another 10 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq yesterday, bringing the total for October so far to 67. Today is the 18th. October could be the deadliest month so far for our military in Iraq.

The question is: Why do you think the violence over there is escalating?

Barry writes from El Cajon, California: "Most Iraqis, Jack, now want the U.S. to leave Iraq. And they probably also know the United States is having an election soon. Increasing violence aimed at American military personnel, in advance of the U.S. elections, might move the U.S. occupation closer to that end."

Matthew in Amherst, New Hampshire: "The enemy is going for the jugular. They know we're on the ropes, politically speaking, and they're coming in for the quick kill. They know exactly how to defeat us. They know full well it is a matter of time before we leave Iraq running, with our tails between our legs, you know, Saigon-style."

W. writes: "I'm sending this, knowing you will never read it on the air."

Wrong again, W.

"The reason the violence and killing of Americans has increased is because it is sponsored by Iran to influence our midterm elections. Iran wants the Democrats in, knowing they will stop the war, and then Iran can take over the Middle East."

L. in Clarksville, Tennessee: "They don't want us there. This part of the world has been fighting since biblical times. Nothing we do, no matter how many troops we send or keep there, will change that. I live near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne Division. We have lost many of our brave men and women for this cause, as have other branches of the armed forces. We support our troops. And I feel like the majority of the troops support our president. But it just seems that we're fighting a losing battle in this mission."

J. in Atlanta: "Our enemies smell blood. They see President Bush is -- and probably always has been -- a very lame duck. They feel we don't have the resolve to trade much more blood and money for whatever it is we're trying to accomplish. They're probably right. We have been here before."

We invite you to join us tomorrow at 7:00. We're going to take a look at the broken government in this country, see what can be done to fix it, four basic areas, White House, Congress, immigration, and e- voting.

E-mail your thoughts to JackBrokenGovernment@CNN.com. Or you can send us your video at CNN.com/ireport. We hope you will join us at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.

And that means you, Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: I will be watching.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Are you getting any of those video, thanks to the CNN/ireport?

CAFFERTY: Yes, I think we are. But I -- you're in an area of the technology that I'm not conversant in. So -- but, yes -- I think the answer is yes.

BLITZER: We will be watching tomorrow night...

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: ... 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN -- Jack Cafferty.

You are going to want to see this.

Still to come: stunning new allegations in divorce proceedings of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. We are going to have a report from London.

And we're keeping you up to date on the breaking news we're following: a potential -- repeat, potential -- security threat to NFL stadiums this weekend. We will have another live report. That's coming up at the top of the hour.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: She says he treated her badly. He says he's been advised not to respond publicly. But the breakup of the Paul McCartney McCartney-Heather Mills marriage has, nevertheless, taken a very public turn, with the leak of alleged court papers to the British media.

Here is CNN's Paula Hancocks in London with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was described as a lavish wedding, held in a 17th century castle in Ireland. Thanking well-wishers who camped out at the castle gates, former Beatle Paul McCartney and Heather Mills looked happy and in love.

But, four years later, they are in the process of a bitter divorce, a divorce which is fast becoming one of the most acrimonious and high profile in years. And a court date hasn't even been set yet.

British tabloid "The Daily Mail" says it received leaked court papers allegedly filed by Heather Mills, citing unreasonable conduct and mistreatment by Paul McCartney. The law firm for Mills says it will "not comment on leaked or allegedly leaked documents," but their client "stands by everything that has been filed at court on her behalf, and intends to prove its truth in due course, should this be necessary."

And McCartney's lawyers say McCartney would "very much like to respond in public and in detail to the allegations," but he recognizes, on advice, "that the only correct forum for his response is in the current divorce proceedings. Our client will be defending these allegations vigorously and appropriately."

But could this alleged leak have any impact on the divorce itself?

BARBARA SIMPSON, DIVORCE ATTORNEY: It's about two people. And, when there's that level of invective being bandied around against them, and there's one way of stopping it, then, that way is settlement. So, really, it puts pressure on the person who feels worst about it.

HANCOCKS: When the couple initially announced their separation in May of this year, they suggested they wanted amicable proceedings, for the sake of their 3-year-old daughter, Beatrice.

But that hasn't happened. In an echo of the bitter fight between Britain's Prince Charles and Princess Diana, McCartney and Mills have hired the same divorce lawyers as the royal couple.

And there's a lot at stake. McCartney stands to lose a substantial part of his $1.5 billion fortune.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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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