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THE SITUATION ROOM

Death Toll Climbing for American Troops in Iraq; CNN Sticks to Decision of Showing Dangers Troops Face; Is Do-Nothing Congress At Heart of Broken Government?

Aired October 23, 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, bombs, bullets and bodies in the heart of Baghdad. It's midnight in Iraq, where the toll is climbing. For American troops, it's the deadliest month this year.

Is the Bush administration straying from its motto of staying the course?

CNN takes heat for a controversial report from Iraq, but is sticking by its tough decision to show more of the dangers U.S. troops face on the streets of Iraq. Some members of Congress call it propaganda. I'll speak with a key critic, the House Armed Services Chairman, Duncan Hunter.

And it's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington. They work part-time and according to the public have little to show for it.

Is a do nothing Congress at the heart of a broken government?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Brazen and bloody insurgent attacks took the lives of at least a dozen Iraqis today in Baghdad alone. This as U.S. forces face their deadliest month of the year. That's all led to more high level huddles today within the Bush administration, even as top officials suggest it's time to rethink key elements of the strategy in Iraq.

In our latest poll, only 20 percent say the United States is winning the war. Eighteen say -- 18 percent, that is -- say the insurgents are winning. Sixty percent say neither side is winning.

The political consequences?

Two weeks ahead of the Congressional elections, 51 percent say Democrats would do a better job on Iraq, 40 percent say Republicans would do a better job.

We'll bring in CNN's Michael Ware.

He's standing by in Baghdad.

We'll also bring in our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

But let's start our coverage this hour with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, crusader this -- so far this month alone, 580 American troops have been wounded in Iraq. But there is even tougher news about what a difficult month it's turning out to be.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

STARR (voice-over): With at least 86 Americans killed so far this month in Iraq, it's the worst month for the military in a year.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There's been a pattern that incidents have gone up during Ramadan.

STARR: Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, the two top commanders, now believe sending in large numbers of additional U.S. troops might only provide more targets and not improve security, according to military sources.

Instead, they are focused on getting Iraqis to take more control.

The White House may not be talking timetables, but Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is doing just that.

RUMSFELD: The question is, Wolf, when do you think that might happen? When do you think the Iraqis might be ready to do that, to assume those responsibilities?

STARR: U.S. commanders say they asked for six Iraqi Army battalions to fight death squads in Baghdad. Only two have shown up so far, leaving the U.S. short of 2,000 badly needed Iraqi troops in the city.

The real questions is whether Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki can stand up to the militias and assure the U.S. of progress.

RUMSFELD: I think people have to be realistic and our hope is that we can assist them, the coalition can assist them in assuming responsibility for their -- their country -- as I said the other day, sooner rather than later.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: And, Wolf, looking ahead tomorrow, General George Casey and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalman Khalilzad, will hold a rare joint press conference in Baghdad to talk about the situation. It's just another indicator of the very high level of concern about what is going on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for that. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

A senior State Department diplomat has apologized for saying publicly that history may judge the United States to have shown arrogance and stupidity in handling the Iraq war.

Alberto Fernandez made the remarks this weekend to an Arab TV network.

And joining us now from Baghdad, our correspondent, Michael Ware -- Michael, I'm sure you've heard about these comments on Al Jazeera from a senior State Department official, Alberto Fernandez, suggesting in Arabic that U.S. policy in Iraq has been -- has shown "arrogance and stupidity."

You speak to U.S. diplomats, officials, military commanders on the ground all the time.

Is there a sense that U.S. policy over the past three-and-a-half years has shown "arrogance and stupidity?"

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's clear, what is common consensus and taken as fact here on the ground, Wolf, by senior U.S. commanders, by top U.S. diplomats is that grave errors were made, particularly in the first year of the occupation in Iraq. Most often cited was the way in which the disbandment of Saddam's military was handled, the extent and depth of de-Baathification and a host of other issues.

There's a whole range of reasons postulated as to explain those mistakes, from ideology run-amok to people not listening to those on the ground to people simply being unaware or unaccepting of the realities to suggestions that people were far too cloistered and shrouded within the green zone and other fortified bases.

I think implicit in most of those is some element or charge of arrogance and/or stupidity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Why is October of this year, this month, shaping up already as the worst month of the year for the U.S. military in Iraq?

WARE: Well, there's a whole host of factors at play here, as well, Wolf.

I mean, firstly, this has been the month of Eve (ph), of the holy month of Ramadan. This is a time traditionally of an offensive by the insurgents. Indeed, this is the fourth Ramadan offensive of this war. So there's naturally an increase in insurgent activity.

Couple that with an increased presence of U.S. troops on the streets of the capital in what's the now ailing if not failing Operation Together Forward, or Battle of Baghdad. That increases the U.S. troop exposure. And don't forget, the insurgency took a number of hits this year in terms of its leadership, most spectacularly Al Qaeda in Iraq losing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, its charismatic leader. These insurgents, these groups, had to re-gather. And we see them now lay out yet another offensive platform.

And don't forget, once more, the insurgents here are savvy politically. They're attuned to what's happening elsewhere in the world, and particularly what's happening with American domestic policy. So I'm sure that's a factor in this upswing in American casualties -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad.

Michael, thanks very much.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So is the White House moving toward a timetable for a U.S. troop presence in Iraq?

Following high level weekend talks, top members of the president's national security team met once again today, as the Bush administration offers some more flexible sounding public statements about its overall Iraq strategy.

Let's go live to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, clearly the White House is under a great deal of political pressure here to make sure that Republicans do not suffer because of the Iraq war in the elections. The mid-term elections just more than two weeks away here.

So, in a indication that they are really going -- bending over backwards to seem flexible to the American people, today the White House announcing through its press secretary that the president has essentially abandoned the rallying cry "stay the course."

You may recall it was his last press conference, the president himself said that stay the course was only a quarter correct. He said, "Stay the course means keep doing what you're doing. My attitude is don't do what you're doing if it's not working, change."

And so Snow today said that the president has abandoned this message. He hasn't used it since August.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Because it left the wrong impression about what was going on and it allowed critics to say well, here's an administration that's just embarked upon a policy of not looking at what the situation is, when, in fact, it's just the opposite.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So, essentially, Wolf, the White House acknowledging here that it just didn't work. That strategy and that message was not resonating with the American people. Democrats were able to take full advantage of this kind of stay the course message. The White House wants to convince Americans, and voters in particular, that they get it and that they are willing to be more flexible when it comes to tactics.

And, of course, a lot of attention was paid over the weekend, President Bush meeting with his top military here at the White House.

The readout is that it certainly was not a call for more or less U.S. troops, but rather putting more pressure on the Iraqis essentially to take over their own security -- Wolf.

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

President Bush's job approval rating has slightly inched up. Our new CNN survey now puts the president's approval rating at 39 percent. That's up 3 percentage points from mid-October. And that brings President Bush back to where he was in our two previous surveys.

Meanwhile, members of the president's party should be concerned about their numbers. According to our CNN poll, if the mid-term elections were he'd right now, 57 percent say they'd vote for a Democrat in their district, while 40 percent say they'd vote for a Republican.

And as we head into the crucial mid-term elections just more than two weeks away, stay up to date with the CNN Political Ticker. The daily news service on cnn.com gives you an inside view of the day's political stories. See for yourself. Go to cnn.com/ticker.

Jack Cafferty is off today. He'll be back on Wednesday.

Up ahead, a congressman takes on CNN for a controversial report from Iraq. Critics call it insurgent propaganda. CNN stands by its difficult decision to report the news. I'll speak with one of the critics, the main critics of that decision, the House Armed Services Chairman, Duncan Hunter. He's standing by live.

Also, it's a state that has not sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate in more than 30 years. So you'd think Democrats aren't afraid about the race in New Jersey. But Democrats actually have much to fear right now.

And what has Congress done for you lately?

We'll have your surprising answer in a new poll and a special look at what many are calling a do nothing Congress.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Let's check in with Zain Verjee to give us a quick check of some other important stories making news -- Zane. ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at least one worker is dead after a coal mine accident in eastern Pennsylvania. It happened this morning in Schuykillhaven. Pennsylvania authorities tell CNN no other miners are trapped. There's been no confirmation of an explosion. Authorities, though, are investigating.

Hurricane Paul is slowly headed toward the southern tip of Mexico's Baja, California peninsula. It's expected to make landfall on Wednesday. Paul is now a category one hurricane. It's centered about 440 miles south-southwest of the resort town of Cabo San Lucas.

It's the harshest sentence yet in the Enron scandal. Late this afternoon, former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to 24 years, four months in prison. Skilling was convicted of fraud, insider trading and conspiracy in one of the biggest corporate scandals in U.S. history. He denies any wrongdoing. The collapse of Enron led to the loss of thousands of jobs and more than $2 billion in employee pension plans.

Construction at the World Trade Center site will continue despite the discovery of apparent remains of 9/11 victims. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this morning the work will go ahead as scheduled. The remains were found near the site in recent days. Some of the victims' family members demanded that officials halt construction and begin intensive searches.

But Bloomberg says the site's been thoroughly gone through and excavated -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zane, thanks very much.

Still to come, broken government -- that's how many are describing Congress, as lawmakers fail to accomplish what they say are many of the most important tasks.

Our Ed Henry standing by with a closer look.

We'll take a quick break.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's a disturbing story coming in from the battlefield in Iraq.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara, what's going on?

STARR: Well, Wolf, very few details at this hour, but a press release has just been issued by the multinational force in Iraq saying that a U.S. Army soldier at 7:30 tonight in Baghdad was now officially listed by the military as "duty status: whereabouts unknown."

And that means exactly what it says. There is some U.S. soldier out there and they do not know where this person is. No other details are really available at this hour.

The statement goes on to say: "Coalition and Iraqi security forces immediately responded to attempt to locate the soldier. The search is ongoing."

There simply is no other information available at this hour. But, again, according to a statement coming out of Baghdad, a U.S. Army soldier is now listed by the military, at 7:30 tonight Baghdad time, as "duty status: whereabouts unknown." They are looking for this person and they say as soon as they have additional information, they will make it available -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A very disturbing report.

Barbara, thanks very much.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Lots more coming up, including win or lose?

The New Jersey Senate race -- Democrats are hungry to maintain their more than 30-year blue streak, while Republicans are savoring a major potential red win.

Also, you may have heard of fantasy football, but how about fantasy Congress?

It's popular on the Internet right now.

Abbi Tatton will explain what's going on.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He's the man who used the word "stupidity" while describing the war in Iraq. But while you might think he's a critic of President Bush, he actually works in the Bush administration.

Let's bring in CNN's Zain Verjee.

She's got an explanation of what's going on -- Zane.

VERJEE: Wolf, two words got him in trouble on TV. Alberto Fernandez is saying oops and has apologized.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): He whipped up a firestorm over comments he made about U.S.-Iraq policy and now he's trying to pour cold water on them.

Senior State Department diplomat Alberto Fernandez says he's sorry. He told the Arab TV network Al Jazeera that: "There's a strong likelihood history will show the U.S. displayed arrogance and stupidity in how it handled the Iraq war." In a statement released Sunday night by the State Department, Fernandez says: "Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on Al Jazeera, I realized that I seriously misspoke by using the phrase 'there has been arrogance and stupidity by the U.S. in Iraq.' This represents neither my views nor those of the State Department. I apologize." Earlier, Fernandez told CNN that he was just answering questions about how the United States would be judged in the future, defending U.S. policy in a region where no one likes America.

At today's State Department briefing, Spokesman Sean McCormack had this to say about the Fernandez uproar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Was he rebuked by his superiors for this?

STAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: He's still in the job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: While Fernandez's comments ignited furor, he insists he didn't say anything that hadn't been said before by other officials, including the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalman Khalilzad, who said earlier this month: "Although well-intentioned, there have been times when U.S. officials behaved arrogantly."

Even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has acknowledged U.S. mistakes in Iraq, like what she said in Blackburn, England earlier this year.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them, I'm sure.

VERJEE: She later tried to clarify her comments.

RICE: I meant it figuratively, not literally.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

VERJEE: Fernandez has been described to CNN as someone who's passionate about issues in the Middle East, someone who wants to engage the viewer in a debate rather than give the party line.

But this time he may have gone a little too far -- Wolf.

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

CNN is taking heat for a controversial report from Iraq. Some Congressional critics are calling it insurgent propaganda. But CNN is sticking by its decision to show the dangers U.S. troops face on the streets of Iraq.

Let's bring in our Brian Todd.

He has the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Bush himself has acknowledged that the insurgents in Iraq have a strategy for influencing public opinion in the U.S. Now, part of that, he says, is to videotape their attacks on American servicemen.

Well, one such videotape has stirred opinions in Congress and on the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TODD (voice-over): When a U.S. serviceman is killed by a sniper in Iraq, it is often officially designated only as a death from small arms fire. The randomness, the sudden brutality of life taken is not mentioned.

Last Wednesday, CNN not only mentioned it, but showed it to viewers on video taken by an insurgent sniper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM VIDEO)

WARE (voice-over): People are around them, warns the sniper's spotter, who seems to be operating the video camera.

"Want me to find another place?"

"No, no," comes the reply. "Give me a moment."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: This insurgent video showing sniper attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq was given to CNN by insurgents calling themselves the Islamic Army after CNN sent e-mail questions to the group.

In correspondent Michael Ware's report, CNN only used images shot from a distance and never showed a serviceman being hit, dissolving to black before the impact. The network made clear it is not known what happened to the targeted soldiers.

CNN made something else clear in the indication.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Our decision to run-it has not been taken lightly.

TODD: In the days that followed, three U.S. lawmakers, led by House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter, a Vietnam veteran, wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saying that CNN was serving as a publicist for the insurgents and asking that CNN reporters who are embedded with U.S. soldiers be removed from those positions.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CF), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: CNN is a world observer and they're watching what they view to be a football game between one side and another side. They don't see the insurgents as the enemy. They don't see our soldiers as our friends. They see this as a -- as something to be covered, to sell commercials. TODD: In a statement, CNN said: "The decision to air the insurgents' videotape was a difficult one, but for a news organization, the right one. Our responsibility is to report the news. As an organization, we stand by our decision and respect the rights of others to disagree with it."

The controversy made its way to the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To who was he referring when he talked about opinion leaders in the way?

SNOW: Well, I mean your network has shown pictures of snipers hitting Americans, which was used as a propaganda tool.

TODD: Despite becoming part of the debate, CNN continued to take part in it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "RELIABLE SOURCES")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is manipulation and propaganda and CNN should not have been part of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I don't think we do American troops any favors by shielding the American public from the kinds of dangers they're facing on the battlefield in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: In that piece from Michael Ware, CNN repeatedly tried to put the video in context, mentioning the increasing threat to U.S. servicemen from snipers and the efforts to counter that threat.

Still, the fallout continues. One of those lawmakers that wrote to Secretary Rumsfeld calls this "a snuff film," even though CNN again never showed anyone actually being hit -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us.

Thanks very much.

And joining us now from Manchester, New Hampshire, California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter.

He's the chairman of the House Armed Services.

And from Minneapolis, our CNN military analyst, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange.

Thanks to both of you for coming in.

I know on Friday, Mr. Chairman, when you announced your clear concern about this report on CNN, this insurgent video that was shown, you said you hadn't actually seen it.

Have you seen the full five minute report by now?

HUNTER: I've seen the shooting of the American serviceman -- I haven't, but I've seen -- I've seen the text of your analysis and of the CNN reasoning that went -- that went behind your decision to show it.

BLITZER: Because, you know, we never actually showed a U.S. military officer or serviceman being killed. We went to black before anyone was shot.

HUNTER: Well, the one that I saw appears that it goes right up to the point where he's shot and it looks like you see them going down. It's a fairly -- it's a somewhat blurry film, but it does appear to me to show an impact, Wolf.

So maybe we need to stop it and show it in slow frames.

But I think there's a -- I think the danger of this is several fold.

One, this is propaganda by the bad guys. It has almost no value in terms of the overall strategy of the war. It simply shows somebody being shot. Everybody who is killed in Iraq, every one of the 271 -- or 2,791 -- soldiers who has died is listed the next day in thousands of newspapers and media across the nation. So this isn't -- this isn't a case of people not knowing that soldiers are being shot.

But the idea that in the invasion of Normandy, if Hitler sent us a film, sent CNN a film showing Americans going down under .50 caliber bullets on the -- on the beaches of Normandy or in Iowa Jima, the Imperial Government of Japan sending CNN images of American Marines -- 5,000 of them were killed at Iowa Jima -- going down under the impact of rounds as they hit that beach, or went out on Mount Suribachi would have been outrageous.

BLITZER: All right. All right.

Let -- let me bring in retired U.S. Army General David Grange, our military analyst.

General Grange, you speak with some authority on this. You are not only a retired general. You're a former U.S. Army Ranger, a Green Beret, a member of the elite Delta Force.

You were involved. You helped us better appreciate this insurgent video that was given to our Michael Ware in Baghdad. And you had some initial concerns. Talk a little bit about your -- your involvement in this decision.

RETIRED BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, my involvement was, I was asked to review the -- the full tape to see if it was authentic, to see if it was, in fact, a -- just it was set up to be props, in other words, it wasn't actual combat footage.

I also looked at it in my own accord to look at the capabilities that their snipers were using, because what's key in this is that our forces find out how they are doing things, because the tape was not given to our military, and we can counter that.

Now, I know for a fact that I -- I gave my comments. They asked if I would be involved in talking about it. I said I would not, unless certain conditions were met. One, they did not show an American soldier going down. They did far pictures. They did blackout. And they said up front, which I -- I believe Anderson Cooper did say, that this was, in fact, a propaganda film, and that I would talk about this as typical, just like of beheadings, of how our enemies use propaganda information warfare to influence public opinion, both overseas and in the United States.

So, I -- I do know that they went through a very difficult decision on this. I'm not saying it was right or wrong. I think what came out of it, knowing that something was going to be shown, that they -- they did it the best they could, because it's a very gruesome film, if you look at the whole thing.

BLITZER: Did -- did the conditions that you put forward, did CNN meet those conditions?

GRANGE: Things I asked for, yes, they did.

What's another interesting piece, in "USA" newspaper, "USA Today," they talked about capturing a sniper team in Baghdad that used a vehicle with a hole cut out of it with a video camera in the back of the car, which is the same thing we said was happening last week on the technique used in these particular sniper cuts. I think there were 10 incidents altogether.

BLITZER: Is -- is this appropriate, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Hunter, for the American public to see how awful, to see how brutal the war can actually be?

Because I -- I guess there has been criticism from the other side that we sort of whitewash, and we don't really convey to the American public the full extent of the brutality of the enemy. Do the American people have a right to know what war is like?

HUNTER: Well -- well, first, Wolf, the American people aren't made out of cotton candy. They understand, when you see 2,791 battlefield deaths, that people are killed, and they are killed in bad ways.

This is the first generation of Americans that could actually go online and watch an American be decapitated, have his head cut off by al-Zarqawi, as they watch. So, I would say that, contrary to what you are saying, this is a war in which more brutality is shown than probably any other.

But the point is that -- that this one killing of one American doesn't really tell any statistic. Of -- of the people killed in Iraq, 524 of our Americans have been killed in accidents, mainly automobile accidents. Now, you don't show automobile accidents, because it's not sexy. It's not violent. It doesn't draw a big audience. Showing the impact of a single bullet, a single shooting doesn't tell you anything. If you isolated one American going down on Omaha Beach at Normandy, what would that tell the American public?

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt...

HUNTER: But how...

BLITZER: ... Mr. Chairman.

HUNTER: But -- but I guess my question to you is -- is, Wolf, how instructive would that be with respect to the conduct of the war? It tells you nothing, except an American was struck by a bullet and went down.

BLITZER: But we never actually showed the impact. And you can take a look at that five-minute report. And you will see that we never saw -- we went to black before that insurgent video, that propaganda video, which we ourselves called it a propaganda piece of footage...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTER: Then -- then, what's the value, Wolf? What's the possible value, then?

BLITZER: The value -- some of -- some of the thinking -- and let me bring in General Grange on this.

When the Pentagon announces killed in action, they -- they don't refer to snipers specifically. They refer to small-arms fire. And there have been hundreds of American troops who have been killed in small-arms fire. And -- and one of the things that we saw in this video -- and, General Grange, let me let you elaborate -- is the nature of the enemy, how they stalk and try to kill American troops with these kinds of snipers.

But, go ahead, General, and -- and talk a little bit about that.

GRANGE: No, I mean, you can argue whether the tape should be shown or not.

I mean, I just looked back. Since 9/11, I mean, a different -- when you are asked to do a -- to make comment on a different segment, quite often, it's a decision you have to make, at least in my case, as a retired G.I., and working with the media periodically, that I always have a tough decision whether I should even comment or not.

In this case, this thing is shown overseas. And I knew it would be shown in some extent. Thank God that we show it in a -- in a better way than it is showed in its raw footage.

But point is that I guess I cheated a little bit, because we kind of -- my comments were kind of to turn it around and show the -- and capabilities of the enemy in this regard, and -- and how they use civilians for cover, and abuse civilian neighborhoods, and -- and just the way they operate, which is against the land -- rule of land warfare, to expose those things.

So, you know, in a difficult situation like this, showing it or not, I think it's also an opportunity to exploit these guys, and give the information to our people, so we can survive and take them down.

HUNTER: General, I look at it just the opposite.

I think showing Americans being killed by terrorists, with -- apparently, with impunity, because the film doesn't show the terrorists then being pursued and killed. And lots of terrorists who have shot at Americans took their last shot at the Americans, because they themselves were killed in turn.

But showing the world a film, and lots of terrorists out there watching their TV sets, a picture of an American being killed in a crowd by a terrorist who operates, apparently, with impunity, and gets away, is highly suggestive, I think, and highly instructive to them.

And I think it's dangerous to Americans, not only uniformed Americans, but also tourists, Americans who might go abroad and be in one of those crowds one day, when somebody who saw that film, how you just walk up and kill them while they are in a crowd, decides to replicate that action.

BLITZER: All right.

HUNTER: Well, sir, if I may, it's a point well taken. And -- and I recognize that.

And -- and I would say that, in the comments that were said in this, that, in my evaluation, they were not all -- they did not kill a lot of the Americans in this shot. They missed. There were some wounds. And, in fact, the -- they were not that good, and which would have been a different slant, the way it was shown internationally, compared to how it was shown by -- in the United States.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Mr. Chairman, but let me just wrap it up.

In your -- your letter, you suggest that CNN reporters no longer be allowed to be embedded with U.S. military forces in Iraq. We have several of our reporters all the time embedded, literally risking their lives, very courageous reporters, whether Michael Ware. John Roberts is embedded with the U.S. Army in Iraq right now. And -- and we have -- we have -- we have been doing that for three-and-a-half years.

Are you at least open to this notion that good people, like you and General Grange, can disagree on this, without questioning the -- the credibility, the patriotism of CNN?

HUNTER: I think that -- I think the question I asked when I saw this, Wolf, is, does CNN want America to win this thing?

And, if I was a platoon leader there, as I once was, and I had a -- and I had a news organization which had shown, had -- had taken film from the enemy, showing them killing one of my soldiers, and they asked if they could be embedded in my platoon, my answer would be no.

I go back to the -- to the -- the days of guys like Joe Rosenthal, who filmed the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, and Ernie Pyle, who was a soldier's reporter, the guys who were on our side -- even though they reported the rough and the tough of the war, they were on our side.

You can't be on both sides. And I would say, if I was that platoon leader, I would say, absolutely not. Take CNN out of there. You can't be on both sides.

BLITZER: I will -- I will give you a -- just a quick second to wrap it up, General Grange.

GRANGE: Well, as a platoon leader in Vietnam, I would have said the same thing. I agree with you on that -- or even in Iraq today.

My -- my concern is the power of information warfare, and how they use it. And I -- and I look at opportunities that we can turn around on the enemy, because they are winning the information warfare front. You can argue that our -- our -- the media in the United States supports that somewhat.

I don't know if it's -- talking to people I talked to, that was not the intent. But it is a very dicey situation. I understand that. And -- and, hopefully, it is -- it's going to all get sorted out, and they will get the people that did this. I know they got some today.

BLITZER: All right. We will continue to watch this story.

Duncan Hunter is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much...

HUNTER: Sure.

BLITZER: ... for coming in.

And, General Grange, as usual, thanks to you as well.

I want to get some more now on that developing story, breaking story, we're following out of Iraq: a missing United States serviceman.

Right now, CNN's John Roberts, he is embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq. John is joining us on the phone.

John, what are you picking up?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf, it was about 5:30 this afternoon. I have been traveling with the 117 Infantry Battalion, the 177 Stryker Brigade. We were in out in the Strykers in -- in Baghdad today.

About half past 5:00, Baghdad time, we got the call that a U.S. soldier had gone missing. And they tasked the unit that I was with to -- to lead the charge to -- to try to locate what they believe may have been an abducted soldier.

We searched for a -- a time in Baghdad in an area where the soldier, was believed, might be located. The search, which lasted at least a couple of hours, failed to turn up anything. But then we got into an area around al-Furat television. There was a bit of a security concern on the part of the -- the unit that I was with. And, so, they got all the security guards for this television station on one side.

They brought out all the weapons that were supposed to be associated with them. And there were far more weapons than there were security people. So, they decided that, as part of the search for this -- this missing soldier, and, as well, just to preserve security, that they would go inside the al-Furat television station.

It created quite a political stir here in Baghdad, ended up with the national security adviser, Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, coming at the end to say, all of these weapons that you have confiscated, you need to give them back.

And it just -- just goes to show, Wolf, how unusual and how -- how changing this situation here is in Iraq. What started out with the search for a soldier who was missing, possibly believed to have been abducted, ended up at this al-Furat television station, which is a station that's associated with the largest party here in Iraq that has the largest block of seats in the Iraqi parliament, ends up with the United States confiscating some weapons -- the national security adviser coming in to say, give back the weapons.

The U.S. is trying to provide security here, wants to make sure that there aren't more weapons than there should be, and that is more weapons than -- than have been allocated to legitimate security services.

And, then, in the end, it all becomes a big political mess, and -- and what was taken is given back. And it goes on Iraqi television as the U.S. raiding the offices of this al-Furat television, whereas, in fact, we were inside. It was a very thoroughly and professionally conducted search. Didn't appear to be a -- a raid. They were just looking for a soldier who they believe may have been kidnapped -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will continue to watch this.

John Roberts is embedded with U.S. military forces, bringing us the very latest, an American soldier missing right now in Iraq.

We're going to stay on top of this story. Thanks to John and our other reporters.

Still to come: Polls show you think it's broken, but how might it be fixed? That would be America's government. We are going to tell you what Congress has not done for you. And two men in New Jersey hope to be part of the solution, not the problem, of so-called broken government. We are going to tell you why the U.S. Senate race in New Jersey has many Democrats worried, many Republicans hopeful. We will tell you what is going on. Mary Snow is on the scene.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: What have they done for you lately? Not much, Americans say. When asked what members of Congress have accomplished this year, our new CNN poll says, just 13 percent of Americans are satisfied with what Congress has accomplished in its current session, while a whopping 85 percent of Americans say they wish Congress had done more.

Dismal numbers like those have been -- have many using phrases like do-nothing Congress. CNN reporters are looking into this perceived broken government.

And our White House correspondent Ed Henry is joining us now with more -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's important to remember, when Democrats controlled -- controlled Congress for decades, they got arrogant and faced all kinds of ethical scandals. But now even some conservatives admit, while it took Democrats 40 years to get drunk on power, it may have only taken Republicans 12 years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM DASCHLE (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Senator Lott and I used to joke that, if we really wanted everybody here for every important vote, the only time we could actually schedule it was Wednesday afternoon.

HENRY (voice-over): Congress has become the Tuesday-through- Thursday club, with lawmakers enjoying a work schedule most Americans can only dream of, pulling in $165,000 for what has essentially become a part-time job.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: You're looking good, girl. Keep those arms moving, now.

(LAUGHTER)

HENRY: Former Majority Leader Trent Lott recalls senators routinely lining up in front of his office, begging for their four-day weekends.

LOTT: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. They would just -- oh, please, let me get out of here on Thursday night. I would rather stay until midnight on Thursday, so I can catch the 7:30 flight out. Or, please, don't have votes after about 7:30, so, I can catch that.

And some of them would get pretty aggressive about it. HENRY: A recent "New York Times" poll found most Americans can't name a single piece of legislation that made its way through this Congress. Social Security reform? Didn't happen. Tougher immigration laws? Nope. Tighter ethics standards? Not a chance.

In the 1960s and '70s, Congress met an average of 161 days a year. In the '80s and '90s, that number dropped to 139 days. This year, Congress will probably end up working just about 100 days.

DAN ROSTENKOWSKI, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It isn't a legislative process anymore. Work one day a week? Work a day-and-a- half a week? I mean, it's crazy. It's just crazy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, another reason why people are frustrated at Congress right now are all these various ethical scandals.

Important to point out, Dan Rostenkowski right there -- I went to interview him in Chicago -- he went to prison because of some of the Democratic scandals of the early 1990s -- now Republicans facing some of those as well. And, in fact, Dan Rostenkowski told me: We were the rascals back in the early '90s. Now he thinks the Republicans are the rascals. The shoe is on the other foot -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're going to -- you are going to have a lot more on this tonight...

HENRY: Yes.

BLITZER: ... 8:00 p.m. Eastern?

HENRY: That's right.

Dan Rostenkowski had a lot of interesting things to say about how different the place is now from it was a decade ago. And we take a close look at Joel Hefley, a Republican congressman who stood up and tried to clean up some of these ethical scandals, and paid a pretty heavy price.

BLITZER: Eight p.m. Eastern tonight.

Ed Henry, he's got a great report.

Thanks very much for that, Ed.

HENRY: Thank you.

BLITZER: We will be watching.

And coming up: Could Democrats pick up the Republican seats they need to control in the Senate, but lose it all by losing a key seat of their own? That would be the Senate battle in New Jersey.

And Jeanne Moos looks at the buzz surrounding Senator Barack Obama. Will he or won't he? That's coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour.

Lou, give us a preview.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you.

We will be reporting tonight on Mexico's dangerous and rising addiction to the proceeds of drug trafficking. Mexican drug violence is spreading deeper into this country -- the Mexican government doing virtually nothing to stop it.

And the rising threat to our middle class from this country's failed trade policies -- incredibly, our government depending on communist China to keep our interest rates low in this country.

And one of the bleakest warnings so far about the threat to our democracy from e-voting machines, with just two weeks before Election Day -- two top former election officials say the very integrity of our democracy is at stake. They're among our guests here tonight -- all of that, a great deal more, at the top of the hour.

We hope you will be with us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: So, is it time for a withdrawal timetable in Iraq?

Joining us now, a key member of our CNN Security Council, our world affairs analyst, former secretary William Cohen. He's the chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group in Washington.

So, is it time now, given the situation on the ground, for a withdrawal timetable?

WILLIAM COHEN, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think that you will see this proposal, in one form or another, coming after the election. I think it's unfortunate -- unfortunate we have to wait until after the election.

But I think the Baker report is going to involve some form of suggestion about a timetable. I mean, when the White House says they have never given these kind of instructions to Maliki or his government, what goes unspoken doesn't necessarily go unheard. There are signals sent from our own ambassador to -- to Iraq and to others, to generals on the ground from the British and others, that this current situation cannot be sustained. The status quo is not an option here.

And, so, I think you will see some change, in terms of how they go about it, putting the -- the pressure on Maliki himself: Either get control of the -- the violence, the sectarian violence, or we will have to have a different arrangement.

BLITZER: You know, put on your political hat for a moment. You were elected for many, many years...

COHEN: Right.

BLITZER: ... in the House of Representatives, then the Senate. It looks like the Democrats have the momentum behind them right now. But a lot can still happen in the final two weeks.

COHEN: There are two -- two things I would say.

Number one, the Democrats should be very careful about not appearing to be -- quote -- "giddy," which has been quoted on -- on several accounts here. That is something that can only fire up the Republican base, which may not be quite as enthusiastic about going to the polls on this occasion. And I think it doesn't serve the Democrats well.

Secondly, I think the Republicans have to be careful, also, in terms of not engaging in conduct. And I was watching the -- the Tennessee race, specifically. It reminded me of what happened in North Carolina with Harvey Gantt, a purely overt racist approach.

BLITZER: You are talking about the new RNC ad which has this white woman talking about Playboy and the -- the African-American candidate, Harold Ford Jr., the Democratic candidate.

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: It's -- to me, at least as I watch that, is a very serious appeal to a racist sentiment.

And when the question is always asked, why -- he would be the first African-American since Reconstruction elected to the Senate, you say, well, why is that the case? So, why is the South different? Why would they not elect someone...

BLITZER: So, you're a former Republican senator. Is the RNC playing the racial card against Harold Ford in Tennessee right now?

COHEN: I think they are coming very close to it, if not doing it exactly. And I think they ought to stop it. I think that they have a candidate, and discuss the -- the issues on the merits, and not get into that kind of personal type of an attack.

We know that negative attacks -- attack work. But we're living in a country now when we have to come together. Once this election is over, we have to find some way of getting together with Democrats, if they take the majority in the House, or come close in the Senate. They have to work together. You cannot govern from the extremes. You must govern from the center. And it's very important that we try to do that.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming in, William Cohen, as usual.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Appreciate it. Up next: It's a state that has not sent a Republican to the Senate in more than 30 years. So, why are some Democrats worried?

We will take you there.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In New Jersey, some Democrats are feeling a little blue over their prospects for a win, while some Republicans are certainly hopeful about their chances of breaking a streak that is decades long.

Let's go to New Jersey. Mary Snow is standing by.

Actually, you are in New York, but it's right near New Jersey -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it's such a closely watched race, Wolf.

The last time a Republican was elected to a New Jersey U.S. Senate seat was in 1972. This year, the race is considered a toss-up. And it's crucial, since it will decide which party controls the Senate.

Even if Democrats gain six new seats, they still must hold on to New Jersey. Now, to consider just how high the stakes are, one just needs to look at who has been on the campaign trail. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigned yesterday for Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. Senator John McCain campaigned for Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr.

We will take a look at this race in our 7:00 hour, and take a look at the factors that may decide the outcome -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thanks very much -- Mary Snow reporting for us. She will have a full report coming up during our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour -- lots more coming up at that time.

Remember, we're in THE SITUATION ROOM weekdays afternoons from 4:00 to 6:00 -- back for another hour at 7:00 p.m. We will be standing by for that.

In the meantime, let's go to Lou Dobbs. He's standing by in New York -- Lou.

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