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THE SITUATION ROOM

GOP Campaign Touts Embarrassing Passages From Novels By Democratic Senate Candidate Jim Webb; Lynne Cheney Interview

Aired October 27, 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: Susan, thanks very much.
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: Novel sex scenes now an issue in the Virginia Senate race. Democrat Jim Webb's books are under attack by the incumbent Senator George Allen's campaign. It's 4:00 p.m., here in Washington as well as in Virginia. We're close and bitter race is getting even nastier.

Also this hour -- torturous comments. Vice President Dick Cheney on the defensive after calling the dunking of a terror suspect a no- brainer. I'll ask his wife, Lynne Cheney, about that and why her name is also now coming up in that very bitter Senate race in Virginia. She's coming out swinging. You're going to want to see the fireworks in this interview.

Also, we're on the frontlines in the battle over abortion. It's 3:00 p.m. in Sioux Falls, where South Dakotans are preparing to vote on a near total abortion ban. What will their decision 11 days from now mean for the rest of the nation?

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

Virginia Senate race already was a volatile mix of bare-knuckled attacks and self-inflicted wounds. And now this: Republicans are pointing to sexually explicit passages in novels written by the Democratic challenger Jim Webb. Incumbent George Allen's campaign says Webb's novel are, at the very least, demeaning to women. Others are saying much, much worse. And now Webb trying to explain himself.

Our Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash is following this story for us and she is joining us live -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, no surprise the tighter the race, the closer the election, the uglier the campaign gets. And the Virginia Senate race is nasty.

George Allen and Republicans had been trying to appeal to the all-important female vote in Virginia by pointing out, in TV ads and elsewhere, that Democrat Jim Webb, a former Navy secretary, declared the Naval Academy, quote, "a horny woman's dream" and "women psychologically unfit for combat." Now the Allen campaign has mined Webb's novels in an attempt to send more signals to women, and conservatives, that Webb should not be Virginia's pick for the U.S. Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Democrat James Webb insists sexually graphic passages that peppers several novels he wrote between 1981 and 2001 are taken out of context from works of literature.

JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Those incidents were either illuminating characters or showing the average reader environments around the world they may never have been able to see with their own eyes.

BASH: Webb's Republican opponent, Senator George Allen, admits he stirred this pot.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: My opponent says he's a writer. He talks about that, he's running it in his ads, so people can judge some of his writings.

BASH: Allen's campaign compiled this document and gave it to the gossip web site, "The Drudge Report." Ten sexually explicit passages plucked from five of Webb's novels, saying they portray women as servile, subordinate, inept, incompetent, promiscuous, perverted, or some combination of these."

ALLEN: From those excerpts that I read they are certainly demeaning to women.

BASH (on camera): You're critics in Senator Allen's campaign says that what you choose to write in your novels is indicative of how you think.

WEBB: I think it's absolutely -- you know, to pull, you know, one and two sentences out of a body of work, and try to use it for political purposes is just absurd and they know that.

BASH (voice-over): In one passage, too explicit to quote from directly, Webb writes graphically about a stripper performing a sexual act with a piece of fruit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What his position is on women in the military --

BASH: At a Washington radio show, Webb defended it as an illustration for a military novel, about the lives of servicemen abroad.

WEBB: That is the sort of thing that happened. That's from Alongapo (ph) in the Philippines. There are hundreds of thousands of American servicemen who have been in that environment.

BASH: The Allen campaign highlighted another passage from Webb's book "Lost Soldiers," where he describes what appears to be a man performing a sexual act on his son. Again, Webb called it something he witnessed.

WEBB: When an individual picks up his son and does that in front of a hundred people and there is an acceptance, culturally, of what he just did, that illuminates a culture and how can someone be a serious writer and not write about these things?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Webb reminded reporters over and over that he is an acclaimed novelist. A top campaign official issued this statement, just a short while ago, saying "George Allen, you have not earned the right to question Jim Webb's recollections so just shut up." That was a quote from one of Webb's top campaign advisors.

Now Webb also charged that Republicans like Lynne Cheney have also written some salacious novels. In fact, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a document listing GOP authors from Newt Gingrich to Scooter Libby, who put some racy passages in their novels as well.

Democrats, Wolf, also point out that Webb's military fictions, like this book, "A Lost Soldier" has been praised by conservatives from Tom Clancy to John McCain who wrote glowing reviews.

BLITZER: Wait till you hear, Dana, and the rest of our viewers what Lynne Cheney says about Jim Webb, and his novels, this race in Virginia. She's clearly on fire. And she also comes out blasting CNN as well. This interview, we're going to air it here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Dana Bash, thank you very much.

BASH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Will Jim Webb's novels sink his campaign? Coming up, Donna Brazile and J.C. Watts will dive into this controversy coming up in our "Strategy Session."

Another pre-election uproar today. Vice President Dick Cheney latest comments on torture and a tactic that he calls a no-brainer. Is he giving new ammunition to critics who call him the VP of torture? Let's bring in our White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, really it's a firestorm that has erupted.

These are comments the vice president made on Tuesday to a conservative talk show, radio, this is WDAY, out of Fargo, North Dakota. The vice president was asked about whether or not he endorsed a certain kind of torture technique, it is known as water boarding. Water boarding, of course, the victim would experience some sort of simulated drowning. The White House, the vice president's office, all says this is a big misunderstanding. That it's been taken out of context. Take a listen for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a no- brainer for me. But I -- for a while there I was criticized for being the vice president "for torture." We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in. We live up to our obligations and international treaties that we're party to and so forth.

But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture."

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No-brainer, number one, is we don't torture. No-brainer, number two, we don't break the law, our own or international law. No-brainer, number three, the vice president doesn't give away questioning techniques. And number four, the administration does believe in legal questioning techniques of known killers, whose questioning can in fact be used to save American lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, Wolf, the question that the vice president was asked in quotes here, "Would you agree a dunk in the water is a no- brainer if it can save lives?" That is what they're referring to. And of course, this "no-brainer" really getting a lot of people thinking over what all of this means.

And really what the confusion here is, is that there was a law that was passed last month, essentially that does not outline whether or not water boarding, this kind of technique, is actually permissible under the law. There are some Republican lawmakers believe it is banned. There is some wiggle room, however, for the Bush administration to take this law and look at techniques on a case-by- case basis, so it is unclear whether or not that technique is actually legal, and that is what everybody is talking about.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thank you very much. Suzanne is at the White House.

Jack Cafferty, by the way, is going to have a lot more on the vice president and this whole issue of torture; that's coming up ahead.

And in our next hour, Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne Cheney, gives us a no-holds-barred defense of her husband and the Bush administration; she is equally outraged that she has been dragged into the Virginia Senate showdown and the new controversy over those sexually explicit scenes.

She is strongly defending her husband in this excerpt. Let's give you a preview of what you're going to hear.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: It made it sound -- and there's been interpretation to this effect -- that he was in effect confirming that the United States used this water boarding, this technique that has been rejected by the international community, that simulates prisoner being drowned, if you will. And he was, in effect, supposedly, confirming that the United States has been using that.

LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF V.P. DICK CHENEY: Oh, Wolf, that is a mighty house you're building on top of that mole hill there, or a mighty mountain. No, this is complete distortion. He didn't say anything of the kind.

BLITZER: Because of the dunking, you know, using the water and the dunking?

CHENEY: I understand your point. It's kind of the point of a lot of people right now to try to distort the administration's position. And if you really want to talk about that, I watched the program on CNN last night, which I thought as your 2006 voter program? Which I thought was a terrible distortion of both the president and the vice president's position on many issues.

It seemed almost straight out of the Democratic talking points, using phrases like "domestic surveillance." When it is not domestic surveillance that anybody has talked about, or ever done. It's surveillance of terrorists. It's people who have Al Qaeda connections calling into the United States.

So I think we're in the season of distortion, and this is just one more.

BLITZER: But there have been some cases where innocent people have been picked up, interrogated, held for long periods of time, then simply said never mind, they're let go?

L. CHENEY: Well, are you sure these people are innocent?

BLITZER: They're walking around free right now and nobody has arrested them.

L. CHENEY: You made a point last night, of a man who had a book store in London where radical Islamist gathered, who was in Afghanistan when the Taliban were there, who went to Pakistan. You know, I think that you might be a little careful before you declare this as a person with clean hands.

BLITZER: You're referring to the CNN "BROKEN GOVERNMENT" special?

L. CHENEY: I certainly am.

BLITZER: This was the one that John King reported on last night?

L. CHENEY: Well, you know, right there -- right there, Wolf, "BROKEN GOVERNMENT." What kind of stance is that?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more of this interview with Lynne Cheney coming up. I want to go to Jack Cafferty, though, right now. She hates the fact that we're calling this series, Jack, and you've been part of it, as you well know, "BROKEN GOVERNMENT" because she says this is talking points from the Democratic Party.

The government, she says, is not broken, it's working rather well. The economy is doing quite well. She makes that point, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: So? Who cares?

You know, they want to complain about this guy Webb in Virginia writing something in a novel about sex. How does that compare to Mark Foley drooling after 16-year-old boys in the page program in Washington, D.C.? And I think he's a Republican.

The vice president says dunking terror suspects in water during interrogations is a no-brainer. As part of that radio interview Mr. Cheney went on to say that does not mean that the U.S. does not torture. Some people aren't so sure. They think Cheney was endorsing the use of water boarding, as Suzanne mentioned, a controversial torture technique.

Not to worry the White House was all over it today. President Bush, once again, said the U.S. doesn't torture; although he wouldn't specifically address Cheney's comments.

Press Secretary Tony Snow, who these days resembles a member of the bucket brigade at the Chicago fire denied that Cheney was talking about water boarding. He said the question posed to the vice president was loosely worded.

And how about this? When he was asked to define "dunk in the water", Snow said, quote, "it's a dunk in the water."

Meanwhile, a piece in "The Nation" suggests that Republican leaders have, in fact, tried to turn this election into a referendum on torture. Let me read you a quote.

"The administration, far from concealing its abuses of power, including the torture of prisoners, would up giving them top billing in it's legal strategy", unquote.

So the question is this. What do you think it means when Vice President Cheney says dunking terror suspects in water is "a no- brainer"?

E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

Didn't they just go to the Congress, Wolf, and get a law passed that would allow them to circumvent certain provisions of the Geneva Convention when it comes to interrogating detainees?

BLITZER: They wanted to make sure that CIA interrogators could not be eligible to be sued. And as a result, they needed to pass that congressional legislation. CAFFERTY: So -- but it also contained provisions that will allow for these aggressive interrogation techniques, did it not?

BLITZER: But they're not spelling out exactly what the techniques are. They say that if you do that, it gives an undue advantage to the suspected terrorists. And as a result they're not saying what is allowed and what is not allowed. That's why this water boarding issue has now become so sensitive, because the vice president seemed to confirm it, although the White House now saying he never meant water boarding, when he was talking about dunking somebody in water.

CAFFERTY: But if we subscribe, as the vice president said in that radio interview to the international treaties and conventions, like the Geneva Conventions, why was it necessary to go get a separate piece of legislation written, do you suppose?

BLITZER: Because the CIA wanted it to protect their civilian personnel. That's what they needed so they wouldn't be subject to criminal action. But that's another matter. We're going to have a lot more on this, Jack --

CAFFERTY: That's not another matter at all.

BLITZER: You're going to want to see this whole interview. We're going to air it with Lynne Cheney, because she was really, really irate. We're going to tell you why. Much more of the interview with Lynne Cheney, coming up.

And this note, tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, our "BROKEN GOVERNMENT" special series continues. Jeff Greenfield tonight takes a close look at "Where the Right Went Wrong" at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, here on CNN.

Coming up, administration officials say the darnedest things. Are Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld making matters worse for Republican candidates? J.C. Watts and Donna Brazile, they're standing by to square off in our "Strategy Session.

Plus, 11 days and counting. Where does the battle for Congress stand right now? We'll get up to the minute snapshot of the closest and most critical races.

Another firefighter's life hanging in the balance, right now, as a wildfire keeps raging in Southern California. Much more of our coverage coming up. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Still to come, we're going to play the entire interview I had, just a little while ago, with the wife of the vice president, Dick Cheney. Lynne Cheney was here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We taped a rather long interview and she was clearly very angry on several issues, including CNN itself. You're going to want to see this interview. That will be airing here in THE SITUATION ROOM. In the lead up to Election Day President Bush says the battle for Congress will be decided, in part, on the state of the economy. Polls suggest that may be wishful thinking on his part. Let's bring in our Senior Political Analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, if the economy is doing OK, why isn't it helping Republicans? Because this year, it's not the economy, stupid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've always felt the economy is -- is a determinant issue, if not the determinant issue in campaigns. We've had a little history of that in our family.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): His dad found that out in 1992. When the economy is really bad, or really good, the economy is the issue. How can you tell? Here's a handy indicator. For over 30 years, polls for CNN and "Time" magazine have been asking people, how well are things going in the country today? In economic bad times, no more than 40 percent say things are going well.

Like 1974, after the first oil shock and the Watergate scandal; and 1980, the malaise election; and the deep recession of 1982 and 1990. And 1992, when it was the economy, stupid.

In good times, 60 percent or more say things are going well. Like 1984, when Ronald Reagan proclaimed it was "Morning in America." And the "Reagan Recovery" in 1986 and 1988. And the Clinton boom of the late 1990s. Good times were the main reason why Democrats did well in 1998, even though President Clinton was facing impeachment.

What happens when the number who say things are going well falls in the middle? Then you don't get a pocketbook election. The election is about something else.

In 1976, Watergate and the Nixon pardon. In 1978, the tax revolt. 1994, the Republican revolution; 2002 and 2004, the war on terror.

So where are we in 2006? According to a CNN poll, by the Opinion Research Corporation, about half the country says things are going well, while half say things are going badly.

Here's the good news. The stock market has reached record highs. Gas prices have dropped. Now here's the bad news. Wages are stagnant. Home values are dropping. Manufacturing jobs are fleeing overseas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: The punch line? For most voters, 2006 is not a pocketbook election. It's about something else. And more than anything else, war -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider reporting for us. Thanks, Bill, very much.

On our political radar, this Friday, we compare three of the latest polls in the battle for Congress, all giving Democrats the advantage. Our CNN poll and A.P./Ipsos poll both show Democrats with a 17 point edge over Republicans. A new Pew Center survey gives Democrats an 11 point lead, among registered voters, asked to name their choice for Congress.

A top Democrat is promising an aggressive investigation of pre- Iraq war intelligence failures if his party wins back control of the Senate. The Senate Democratic Policy Chairman Byron Dorgan says the probes would not be retribution. He says it would be an attempt to make up for Republicans, who he says have "abdicated oversight", his words, of the war.

Remember, for the latest campaign news at any time, check out the CNN political ticker. Simple way to do it. Go to CNN.com/ticker.

Still ahead from the Reagan Revolution to the Bush administration, has the "Right Gone Wrong?" Our Jeff Greenfield, standing by, he'll preview his special report on the conservative movement heading into a critical election day test.

And, later, the vice president's wife, Lynne Cheney, loaded for bear in defense of her husband, and the Bush administration. This is a CNN exclusive you won't want to miss. The full interview, that's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington. Let's check in with Zain Verjee for a closer look at some other important stories making news.

Hi, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.

Rewards for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the deadly Southern California wildfire, now total $300,000. This comes as firefighters are trying to keep the 24,000- acre blaze from reaching homes in several communities near Palm Springs.

Shifting winds are making it even tougher. Hundreds of people have been evacuated. The fire killed four firefighters yesterday; a fifth is critically injured with severe burns. Authorities say someone deliberately set the fire and timed it to cause maximum damage.

The Taliban in Afghanistan topped President Bush's agenda at the White House today. He met with the NATO secretary-general. They talked about the Taliban's use of innocent Afghan civilians as human shields. More than 32,000 NATO and U.S. forces are in Afghanistan. The country's president is ordering an investigation into reports of civilian casualties from NATO air strikes. Former Bush administration official, David Safavian will spend 18 months behind bars. A federal judge sentenced him today. Earlier, Safavian wept as he asked the judge for leniency. He was convicted in June of lying to investigators about his relationship with disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He apologized today and said he didn't intend to defraud anybody, and he was manipulated by Abramoff -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much for that.

Still ahead, Lynne Cheney caught up in the web of controversy of the Virginia Senate race. I'll ask her about some steamy passages in her own books and about her husband's controversial new comments on torture. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, in the next hour.

Also coming up, President Bush ran as a compassionate conservative, but has he steered the Republican right in the wrong direction? Our Senior Analyst Jeff Greenfield is standing by live. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Republicans fighting to keep control of Congress are counting on conservative voters to come through for them 11 days from now. But the Republican right hasn't been marching in lockstep with the Bush administration.

Let's bring in our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield. He reports on what we're calling, as part of our CNN's "Broken Government" series, "Where the Right Went Wrong."

Give our viewers a little sense of your special that airs at 8:00 p.m. tonight, Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, Wolf, going back 50 years, the modern conservative movement has steadily fought its way from the margins into political dominance. An avowedly conservative president, with the Congress in control of avowed conservatives, for the first time in -- since the dawning of the New Deal seemed to promise the fulfillment of a conservative agenda.

And, yet, for a growing number of conservatives, what has been done in their name by the president, and particularly by the Congress, has produced a great deal of disaffection.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BUSH: The bill I signed today authorizes $400 million.

This legislation will authorize $200 million per year.

There's no doubt we increased our budgets.

GREENFIELD (voice-over): The biggest increase in discretionary domestic spending of any administration since LBJ's.

BUSH: Our government is finally bringing prescription drug coverage to the seniors of America.

GREENFIELD: The biggest new entitlement, the prescription drug program, since Medicare.

BUSH: In order to fight and win the war, it requires an expenditure of money.

GREENFIELD: A war in Iraq premised on a foreign policy that aimed to bring democracy to every corner of the globe...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is an investigation going on by the Justice Department.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREENFIELD: ... and embraced by congressional Republicans of the very behavior...

BUSH: I don't know him.

GREENFIELD: ... trading legislative favors for campaign cash and personal enrichment, that outraged conservatives when Democrats were in control.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: I believe that, as a movement, that we have veered off course into the dangerous and uncharted waters of big-government Republicanism.

GREENFIELD: Mike Pence is far from alone.

In recent months, conservative have penned a stack of books, accusing Bush and congressional Republicans of abandoning the conservative cause. And a growing number of conservatives have been asking out loud, what ever happened to the core conservative notion proclaimed by Ronald Reagan in his first inaugural?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD: Now, there are plenty of areas in which conservatives are happy with what's happened: the appointment of judges to the federal bench, tax cuts, and for most, though not all, the approach to the war on terror.

But, Wolf, as you will hear tonight at 8:00 -- and we have talked only to conservatives for this hour -- there are a fair number of conservatives who said: Our use of the power we have gained has come, to some extent, at the cost of the very things we most believed in -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's going to be a strong hour. Jeff, thanks very much.

And, to our viewers, please make sure you watch Jeff Greenfield's special report, "Where the Right Went Wrong." That airs tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 Pacific, only here on CNN.

Eleven days and counting until America votes, 11 days for Democrats to try to seal the deal, seize control of Congress. It's time for our weekly snapshot of the battle for Capitol Hill.

CNN's political analyst Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report" is here, and Stuart Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report."

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Big picture, first, Amy. How is it looking now, 11 days to go?

AMY WALTER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, 11 days to go, and things haven't changed that much for Republicans. In fact, the spotlight remains on the issues that are the most problematic for them, obviously, Iraq, and, then, the dysfunction in Congress.

And, so, what we're looking at still is a -- a political environment that is defining these elections. And individual Republican candidates find themselves unable to get any traction outside of that.

BLITZER: Big picture, Stuart. Eleven days to go, what is the bottom line?

STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Still questions of Republican turnout. I think that means the Democrats are headed to take over the House. The U.S. Senate, Wolf, is too close to call. It's up for grabs.

BLITZER: All right.

Let's talk a little bit about the Senate, the New Jersey race -- Tom Kean Jr., the Republican challenger, the incumbent Democrat, Bob Menendez.

We have a poll -- at least the "New York Times"/CBS poll -- likely voters for the Senate, shows it's neck and neck, 40 percent Menendez, 39 percent for Kean -- margin of error 4 percent. Is it that close?

ROTHENBERG: I think it is pretty close. This is the race that won't go away, even though Democrats insist that it should.

There's Democratic polling that shows Menendez with an eight- to 10-point lead. There's some private Republican polling that is closer to this CBS/"New York Times" than to the Democratic numbers.

I think this is really a competitive race, because Tom Kean has made the race about Bob Menendez and about corruption. And this is one place where ethics and change message, those two messages, are playing for the Republican, very different than nationally.

BLITZER: This is the only incumbent Democrat who is really in trouble; is that right?

ROTHENBERG: Yes, that's right. That's right.

And Menendez, remember, was an appointed senator. He was not elected to the Senate. So, he doesn't have the six years of goodwill to rely on. He's a relatively recent appointee by a governor who is not particularly popular. And he came with baggage. We all knew he came with baggage.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Virginia -- George Allen, the incumbent Republican; Jim Webb, the Democratic challenger. Now there's all these nasty ads, these allegations against Jim Webb, allegations against George Allen.

What is the...

ROTHENBERG: Well...

BLITZER: What is the current snapshot?

ROTHENBERG: I think, for the first time in this race, it is now about Jim Webb. Allen is on -- on the attack. Questions have been raised about Jim Webb's writings, about his views.

And we will see how he performs. I think there was -- he had a performance earlier today that was not ideal, in terms of responding to questions about his writing. This is still a close race. Allen is way under 50 percent. Maybe he is up by a point or two. Maybe Webb is ahead. The race is too close to call.

But, for the first time, Allen appears to be the aggressor. And, plus, Wolf, we now have gay marriage as an issue that was interjected in New Jersey. That is now being interjected in Virginia. That could help the Republicans.

BLITZER: That would mobilize that conservative base.

Let's talk about the House of Representatives.

Amy, you study these races very closely. Florida, 16th Congressional District, this was Mark Foley's district. His name is still going to be on the ballot.

WALTER: That's right.

BLITZER: It was obviously a Republican-leaning district. But, with Foley and his name on the ballot, it looked like the Democrats were about to take charge. But maybe not so fast? WALTER: Well, you're exactly right.

When we knew that Foley's name could not be removed from the ballot, and, then, more recently, a judge ruled that you could not put notices in the polling place that said that a vote for Foley is a vote for the Republican replacement for him, State Rep Joe Negron, that also looked like it was going to be very problematic.

But what we're hearing now is, you know, voters are actually very educated. Because of the intense focus, the media focus on this race, voters know that Negron is the candidate, and not Foley. This is a very Republican district. Negron already starts with an established political base. He has gotten Jeb Bush to cut an ad for him. Bush is -- Jeb Bush is very popular, the governor there.

So, this, I think, is a lot closer, this contest, than we assumed it would be right when the Foley story broke.

BLITZER: Well, what about another race that wasn't supposed to be much of a race, but apparently now is a race in New Hampshire, the 2nd District. The Republican incumbent, Charlie Bass, he is being challenged by Paul Hodes, the Democrat. This is a -- this has become a contest now.

WALTER: Well, we saw today that the Republican Campaign Committee just decided to invest money in the media market here that covers this district. That's a brand-new development. This was a race that was on people's radar screens, and then fell off.

Paul Hodes, the Democrat, lost to Charlie Bass by a significant margin in 2004. And Bass has been running ads, they're quite good, where he really is trying to establish himself as an independent. This is one of those seats, Wolf -- when we talk about is there going to be a wave for Democrats on election night, this is one of the seats that we're going to watch, because, under any other circumstances, in a normal year, Bass should win this race. He loses if there is just a strong tide on the left side.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, but this talk of a wave, is that premature if -- going in, 11 days in advance?

ROTHENBERG: Well, Wolf, the national environment is terrific for Democrats. And Democratic candidates are doing pretty well.

We now think that, in Missouri, Claire McCaskill has a slight edge over Jim Talent. We're moving that race. There is a Democratic advantage. Whether it's a little wave, a medium wave, or a huge wave, we don't quite know yet.

BLITZER: We will leave it right there. We will see if there's any wave. And we will see what happens, only 11 days to go.

Thanks to both of you for coming in...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... Stu and Amy.

ROTHENBERG: Sure.

BLITZER: Coming up: Controversial comments by Dick Cheney has our Jack Cafferty wondering, what does it mean when the vice president says, dunking terror suspects in water is a no-brainer? Your thoughts in "The Cafferty File."

Plus: more of my exclusive interview with Lynne Cheney. Her name is brought up in connection with the bitter George Allen-Jim Webb Senate race. I will get her response. She is not very happy about it. In fact, she's pretty angry, not only at that race, but lots of other things, including CNN.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The issue of same-sex marriage rallied thousands of conservative voters to go to the polls back in 2004. Will it do the same thing once again on November 7?

Joining us now in today's "Strategy Session," CNN Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts.

Thanks very much, guys, for coming in.

Want to get to all of that, but I want to play another clip from the interview I taped earlier today with the wife of the vice president, Dick Cheney, Lynne Cheney. We spoke about this very bitter Senate race in Virginia. Listen to this excerpt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The Democrats are now complaining bitterly in this Virginia race, George Allen, using novels, novels that Jim Webb, his Democratic challenger, has written, in which there are sexual references. And they're making a big deal out of this.

I want you to listen to what Jim Webb said today, in responding to this very sharp attack from George Allen.

LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Now, do you promise, Wolf, that we're going to talk about my book?

BLITZER: I do promise.

CHENEY: Because this seems to me a mighty long trip around the merry-go-round.

BLITZER: I want to -- I want you to respond. This is in the news today. And your name has come up. So, that's why we're talking about it. But listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: There's nothing that has been in any of my novels that, in my view, hasn't been either illuminating surroundings or defining a character or moving a plot. I'm a serious writer. I mean, we can go and read Lynne Cheney's lesbian love scenes, if you want to, you know, get graphic on stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: You know, Jim Webb is full of baloney. I have never written anything sexually explicit. His novels are full of sexually explicit references to incest, sexually explicit references -- well, you know, I just don't want my grandchildren to turn on the television set.

This morning, Imus was reading from the novels. And it is XXX- rated.

BLITZER: Here is what the Democratic Party put out today, the Democratic Congressional -- Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"Lynn Cheney's book featured brothels and attempted rape. In 1981, Vice President Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne, wrote a book called 'Sisters,' which featured a lesbian love affair, brothels, and attempted rapes."

CHENEY: You know...

BLITZER: "In 1998, Lynne Cheney wrote about a Republican vice president who dies of a heart attack while having sex with his mistress."

Is that true?

CHENEY: Nothing explicit. And, actually, that is full of lies. It's not -- it's just -- it's absolutely not true.

BLITZER: But you did write a book entitled "Sisters"?

CHENEY: I did write a book entitled "Sisters."

BLITZER: And it did have lesbian characters.

CHENEY: This description -- this -- no, not necessarily. This description is a lie. I will stand on that.

BLITZER: There was nothing in there about rapes and brothels?

CHENEY: Wolf, Wolf, Wolf, could we talk about a children's book for a minute?

BLITZER: We can talk about the children's book. But I just wanted to...

CHENEY: I think our segment is like 15 minutes long.

BLITZER: I just... (CROSSTALK)

CHENEY: And we have now done 10 minutes of...

BLITZER: I just wanted to clarify what is in the news today.

CHENEY: Sex, lies and distortion, that is what it is.

BLITZER: This is an opportunity for you to explain on these sensitive issues.

CHENEY: Wolf, I have nothing to explain. Jim Webb has a lot to explain.

BLITZER: Well, he...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to run the whole interview in the next hour, unedited. You are going to want to stick around and see that.

But let's talk a little bit about this latest twist in this very bitter Virginia battle.

What is your reaction, first of all, to what you heard from Mrs. Cheney?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I haven't read the books. And I don't know if -- if she is, you know, telling the truth or whatever about her book.

Look, I don't think one paragraph in a long novel -- he's a fiction writer -- should matter at all in Virginia. What should matter is Iraq, our struggle in Iraq. What should matter is job creation. What should matter is a new direction.

And I think, for the Allen campaign or the Webb campaign to go off page and start talking about what is in books, I'm sorry. I will stick with "Harry Potter."

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I haven't read "Harry Potter."

BRAZILE: Oh, you should.

WATTS: I didn't read the Jim Webb book. I hadn't read, you know, Mrs. Cheney's book.

But, Wolf, I did read some of the excerpts what they were distributing. And I did...

BLITZER: From the Jim Webb novel?

WATTS: From the Jim Webb novel. And it was pretty -- it was pretty raunchy. Now, I feel like this. The voters will deal with that. I'm not a voter in Virginia. I'm a voter in Oklahoma. But I do feel like there's some people in Virginia that will be offended by some of those things.

BRAZILE: He's describing a Thailand sex ritual, J.C.

WATTS: I understand.

Fact or fiction, there are some people that would think, why would someone that wants to be a United States senator, why would he write about those things?

BRAZILE: He was describing a so-called sexual act. That's...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Donna, hold on one second.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold on.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: J.C., hold on.

(CROSSTALK)

WATTS: The voters will address that.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I will play an excerpt of what he said today.

WATTS: The voters will address that.

BRAZILE: Oh, my...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And listen to Jim Webb and his explanation. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEBB: And to take these things out, and to pull excerpts out, and force them on people, sort of like pound them over the head with them, rather than someone enjoying themselves, going through a learning process, or the normal process when you read a book, is just a classic example of the way this campaign has worked. You know, it's smear after smear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Donna, I -- I interrupted you. So, go ahead.

BRAZILE: Well, that's the point I wanted to make.

I mean, he -- they're taking just a couple of sentences in a fiction. Look, I read fiction. I don't write fiction, but I read fiction. And, often, you get to that point in a book where it's a little, you know, racy. And perhaps that's what he did it. I don't know. I haven't read Jim Webb's book. And I don't intend to buy it.

BLITZER: Here's George Allen...

BRAZILE: Or Lynn Cheney's.

BLITZER: ... what he said about this uproar today.

J.C., listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: My opponent hasn't been in public office, but he talks about the books he's written, and the -- and his creative writing, or his novels. And, so, those are some of his writings. That's an open book. People can make that judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, what do you think of that explanation?

WATTS: Exactly.

As I said earlier, before he made -- gave that explanation, I think people will make their judgment. The voters of Virginia will make a determination, if they think that is a factor in them voting for Jim Webb. And I think that's the way it should be.

BRAZILE: Twenty-five years in public service, and George Allen, you know, 11 days before the campaign, is talking about one chapter in a book, not talking about a strategy for Iraq, not talking about job creation, not talking about keeping Americans safe and secure. He's talking about a racy chapter. That is outrageous.

WATTS: But I would also remind us, it's happened on both sides.

And I don't actually think -- and I have said this before, Wolf -- I don't think you should be able to go back 25 years ago and take a snapshot of someone's life, and make a determination that that's who they are, if they run for Senate or school board.

But the fact is, the campaign is ugly. It's happened on both sides. So, again, the people -- the voters in Virginia will make a determination if George Allen or Jim Webb should be the senator. And, if they factor that in, that's up to them.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Donna, but ever since George Allen made the macaca comment...

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... against that Indian-American from the opposition, who was filming his -- his events, all of these stories have come out, many of them in "The Washington Post," about alleged racist comments that George Allen has made over the years, many -- some -- some of them, allegedly, many, many years ago. Is that fair game?

BRAZILE: Well, look, when you make that kind of comment, macaca, it leads reporters and others to go back into his life, and say, OK, where does this come from?

When you hang a Confederate flag or a Confederate noose in your office, that makes people go back and say, is there something more there? George Allen inflicted many of these wounds himself. But to open up a book, a dirty book, a good book, a trash book, voters should vote on the character of these individuals. They should vote on their record. And they should vote for a new direction. That's why I think Jim Webb has an advantage in this race.

WATTS: But -- but a book and articles and other things that kind of lead people to believe that maybe George Allen is racist, based on some of the macaca statements -- maybe Jim Allen, maybe he has some problems with women, based on some of things that he wrote in the book, in articles that he's written.

You know, it -- that is a sickness of politics. but it is the reality of what we're dealing with. And...

BRAZILE: I agree.

WATTS: ... the voters will have to make that determination.

BLITZER: Two men, and they have flaws, both of them, clearly. And the people of Virginia are going to have to make a decision.

BRAZILE: I...

WATTS: And the next two candidates that they put up, they are going to have flaws as well.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: I agree with you on that.

BLITZER: And they both have, also, some strong points as well.

And we will continue this discussion.

BRAZILE: But it appears that J.C. and I need a better reading list.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Donna and J.C., thanks very much. BRAZILE: Yes.

BLITZER: Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM: more of my exclusive interview with the vice president's wife, Lynne Cheney. We're going to play the full interview for you, unedited. You're going to want to see this. That's coming up in the next hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also ahead: turning the tables in the courtroom. Should citizens be allowed to sue judges? Why voters in one state may say yes on November 7.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: While we're all busy talking about lesbian sex scenes in novels and macaca, and all of the other mud-slinging that's going on here, another American soldier was killed in Iraq today, bringing the total for the month of October now to 97, the bloodiest month over there in more than a year. And we still have several days to go. It's worth keeping our eye on the ball, I suppose.

The question this hour is: What does it mean when Vice President Cheney says, dunking terror suspects in water is a no-brainer?

Shirley in Atlanta writes: "According to the Geneva Conventions, it's torture to use water-boarding in interrogations. What is wrong with our government, when they parse words about such serious matters? No longer we have lost the respect of the rest of the world, when we even consider such methods to be appropriate."

Jeffrey in Garden Grove, California: "This is not a Democratic talking point. The fact is, Dick Cheney lobbied against a ban on torture. I find it hard to spin that, cover it up, or walk away from it. It's public knowledge."

Mike in Willow Springs, Missouri: "Dunking them in water to encourage them to talk? Is that all? These are terrorist combatants and cronies, not POWs. We should charge their parent governments for the water."

Chris in Denver: "It means that 'We do not torture' is the new 'I'm not a crook.'"

Dan in Des Moines writes: "Jack, your efforts to distort the Bush administration's terror policies are repulsive, and only serve to help the enemy."

L. in Paris, Texas: "Dick Cheney scares the hell out of me."

Joe in Milton, Delaware: "Jack, this is standard administration doublespeak. Obviously, he meant giving the terrorists a bath." This weekend on, "IN THE MONEY," what issues matter most to the voters in the midterm elections? And is a third political party a reasonable possibility in this country? "IN THE MONEY" airs Saturdays at 1:00, Sundays at 3:00 Eastern time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM: It's the nation's deadliest wildfire disaster in five years, and it's not over yet -- hundreds of firefighters trying to gain ground on that massive wildfire in Southern California. We will take you there live to the fire command center.

And judges are used -- used to being in the courtroom, but not necessarily as defendants. Why that could all change when voters go to the polls November 7 -- much more of our coverage.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On November 7, voters in South Dakota will weigh in on an unprecedented amendment that would allow citizens to sue judges.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is following this story -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, Amendment E in South Dakota would allow the people there to haul judges into court.

It would establish a jury of 13 ordinary citizens, who would hear complaints about judges, and have the power to strip them of their immunity. Judges could ultimately pay fines, be removed from office, even face jail.

Supporters of the amendment gathered the 34,000 signatures needed to get this on the ballot on November 7. A spokesman for the measure, Jake Hanes, said the idea is to hold judges accountable for deliberate violations of law. This amendment has brought strong reactions.

The Web site Vote No on E represents a broad coalition of South Dakota voters and organizations. A spokesman, Tom Barnett, executive director of the South Dakota Bar Association, which opposes the amendment, says it would impede courts' ability to fairly and impartially apply the law and discourage and jurors from serving.

Barnett says there's no need for this legislation, as existing South Dakota law already hold judges accountable -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

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